Tag Archives: Huw The Bard

Billy Ninefingers #amreading #books

My newest novel in the Billy’s Revenge series, Billy Ninefingers is now on sale at Amazon and all other fine eBook sellers. A literary fantasy, it is set in the same world as Huw the Bard and features some of the same characters.

Billy’s story was begun in 2010. My original view of my protagonist, Billy MacNess, was more callous, more of a pirate than he is today.

For a variety of reasons, I set Billy’s novel aside and moved on to writing Huw the Bard, which was a more intriguing story to me at the time. (I’m still in love with Huw.) Billy appears toward the end of Huw’s book, much as he is today. But, instead of going back to Billy’s story, I wrote three more novels in the Tower of Bones series, and many short stories, both contemporary and fantasy.

In the back of my mind, I always intended to get back to Billy’s story, but never really did until 2016. Over the course of six years, he had appeared in several other works set in his world, which set him and his circumstances more clearly in my mind.

I went back and pulled the original manuscript out of storage and rediscovered a character I had always loved but didn’t know well. With a new goal in mind, I began rewriting it.

Billy’s story is more lighthearted than Huw’s, but it does have its dark moments. His loyal dog, Bisket, keeps him grounded when everything is about to fly apart.

Excerpt: About an hour before supper, a knock sounded on his door. “Captain Billy! It’s me, Willie.”

“I know it’s you. What do you need?”

“It’s Bisket. He almost fell down that old, dry well again. This time he was chasing a skunk.”

Billy opened the door, gazing down at his beloved yellow hound of uncertain parentage. All he needed was for the pooch to fall into a well. Reaching down with his good hand, he scratched Bisket’s ears, receiving an apologetic lick in return. “What am I going to do about you?”

“I only just barely caught him by the tail before he went down.” Willie shivered. “I don’t think Slippery Jack would have let you lower him down it again, just to save a dog that’s stupid enough to keep falling down the same well.”

Billy laughed. “You’re probably right. Lay some boards over it. I’ll do something about it next week, once I’ve healed up a bit. There’s a lot of things I’ve let go around here, and filling in that abandoned well is one of them.” Considering all the projects he and his dad had never gotten around to, he thought that at least he wouldn’t be too bored.

Billy’s story had always intrigued me. I admired how he took the hard knocks life had handed him and made them into something he could live with. The people he attracted were wonderful, and in so many ways their story was his story too.

And so, dear readers, Billy Ninefingers is now available at all fine eBook retailers, including Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Apple, and many, many more. He is also available in paper from Amazon.


But first, THE BLURB:

Billy Ninefingers knows three things.

First, the feud that cost him the use of his sword hand is not over.

Second, if he doesn’t pull himself together and become the leader the Rowdies need, he’ll lose everything his father left him.

Third, despite Bastard John’s best efforts, there’s no way he’ll ever take up farming.

All he needs is a plan, a mountain of luck, and the love of a good woman.

Well, she doesn’t have to be good, but a few scruples would make a nice change. A plan would be nice too, since luck is never on Billy’s side.

Billy Ninefingers knows one thing.

He’s doomed.


Billy Ninefingers is available at Amazon for $2.99 Kindle and $12.99 paperback

Not a fan of Amazon? Click here to purchase Billy Ninefingers from these fine Ebook Sellers for $2.99

5 Comments

Filed under writing

#FlashFictionFriday: Ballad of Jennet Adair (reprise)

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the white rose tree

And never again will she

Play false to me

 

T’was not my hands

Round her lily-white throat

But would that I could

Drown her deep in the moat

 

Her hair was as dark

As summer is fair

Her lips were for kissing

Sweet Rose of Adair

 

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the rose tree white

My brother will hang

For her murder tonight

 

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the white rose tree

Never again will

Those lips lie to me

 

T’was not my hands

Round her lily-white throat

She ruined my brother

She ruined us both

 

Played us like pawns

In the age-old game

Until she did misstep

To her sorrow and shame

 

My brother will hang

‘Neath the town hall light

And who will tell mother

What happened tonight?

 

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the white rose tree

And never again will she

Play false to me.


Ballad of Jennet Adair © Connie J. Jasperson 2016-2017, All Rights Reserved

The Ballad of Jennet Adair by Connie J. Jasperson was first published July 31, 2015 on Edgewise Words Inn, as a song her character, Huw the Bard, might have written. It is a story poem, written in a traditional, bardic style, and was inspired by the Child Ballads collected in the 19th century by Francis James Child.

Bouquet of Roses at the Window, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller 1892 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Comments Off on #FlashFictionFriday: Ballad of Jennet Adair (reprise)

Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry, writing

#FlashFictionFriday: Ballad of Jennet Adair

Arthur_Wardle_-_A_Fairy_Tale

A Fairy Tale, Arthur Wardle, via Wikimedia Commons

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the white rose tree

And never again will she

Play false to me

 

T’was not my hands

Round her lily-white throat

But would that I could

Drown her deep in the moat

 

Her hair was as dark

As summer is fair

Her lips were for kissing

Sweet Rose of Adair

 

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the rose tree white

My brother will hang

For her murder tonight

 

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the white rose tree

Never again will

Those lips lie to me

 

T’was not my hands

Round her lily-white throat

She ruined my brother

She ruined us both

 

Played us like pawns

In the age-old game

Until she did misstep

To her sorrow and shame

 

My brother will hang

‘Neath the town hall light

And who will tell mother

What happened tonight?

 

Jennet, she lies

‘Neath the white rose tree

And never again will she

Play false to me.


Ballad of Jennet Adair (as composed by Huw the Bard) © Connie J. Jasperson 2016, All Rights Reserved

The Ballad of Jennet Adair was first published July 31, 2015 on Edgewise Words Inn

4 Comments

Filed under #FlashFictionFriday

#amwriting: Morality and Conscience

Severus_Snape memeSeveral years ago, I posted on a writer’s responsibility in regard to portraying morality in his/her work. I think some of those ideas are worth rehashing.

Much of what I discussed back then still stands: When we write a tale that involves human beings, it is likely morality will enter into it at some point.

What is our responsibility as authors, when it comes to telling our tales?  Do we sugar-coat it and pretend our heroes have no flaws, or do we portray them, warts and all?

For myself, I gravitate to tales written with guts and substance. Works like L. E. Modesitt Jr.’s Scion of Cyador, where the hero is a man who struggles with ambition and the desire to have it all. He is a dutiful son, devoted lover, and loyal soldier, gifted with great ability that he must keep secret. He is also a cold-blooded murderer with an unspoken agenda, a man completely devoted to salvaging what he perceives as all that is good and beautiful in his world regardless of the cost. What (or who) does Lorn have to sacrifice in the end to achieve his ambition? And what toll does it take on him in the end?

I said this in my post three years ago, and I still say it: give me the Flawed Hero over the Bland Prince any day.

HTB Stamp copyIn my book,  Huw, The Bard, I describe a murder, committed in cold blood.  I take you from what is the worst moment in Huw’s life, and follow him as he journeys to a place and an act which, if you had asked him two months prior, he would have sworn he was not capable of committing. This terrible deed is not the lowest point in his tale.  It is, however, the beginning of his journey into manhood.

Does my writing the story of this reprehensible act mean I personally advocate revenge murders?  Absolutely not.  But I have lived for 62 years, and my view of morality is that of a person with some experience of life. Personally I believe  no human being has the right to take another’s life, or do harm to anyone for any reason.

Still, I write stories about people who might have existed, and who have their own views of morality. When writing, my characters stories don’t always follow the outline I had in mind for them. They sometimes go in directions I never planned for them to go, which throws my whole story-arc into disarray until I figure out how this new development fits.

In my first completed novel, I never intended for my main character and a companion to fall in love. They did though, and that took the story in a direction that was a surprise to me–and I think was one of my favorite side-plots.

In each story I write, I try to get into the characters’ heads, to understand why they make the sometimes terrible choices that change their lives so profoundly.

Some flawed heroes’ stories end well, and some don’t–those whose ends are less than happily are the tragic heroes.

hamartia definitionPepperdine University’s website says this about the tragic hero:

“Tragic Flaw (Hamartia): the tragic hero must “fall” due to some flaw in his own personality. The most common tragic flaw is hubris (excessive pride). One who tries to attain too much possesses hubris.” 

I believe authors have a responsibility to tell the best story they are able to tell, even if they are only writing for their own consumption.

This means sometimes I stretch the bounds of accepted morality, and make every effort to do it, not for the shock value, but because the story demands it.

I write stories for entertainment, yes. But more than that, I want the tale to remain with the reader after they have finished it. If I am somehow able to tap into the emotions of the moment, and bring the reader into the story, I have achieved my goal.

GRRM MemeMy life is a constant journey to the land of knowledge. I seek understanding, and sometimes I think I have a grasp on it…but not quite. More lessons await.

I am learning the skills of story-telling.  More than anything I want my work to  stand up and measure well beside the works of my literary heroes such as Tad Williams, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and George Saunders, great authors who describe terrible moments and conflicts of morality with such grace and understanding.

This may happen, or it may not, but I won’t stop trying because with every tale I write, I grow as a writer.

I read the words penned by those who have attained mastery of this skill, I am awed, and fired with the knowledge it can be done.

2 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Mapping the Story

Billy's Revenge Floor plan ground floor

Billy’s Revenge © Connie Jasperson 2015

I was worried I wouldn’t have a blog post for today. The power was out most of Saturday due to a large storm here, and there have been times when that  lasts three days here.  When that happens I have no way to post my blog, although I hear you can post them from cell phones if you know the magic words.

I’ll just say that if I have to key my blog on a cell phone, it will take 5 years to get it ready for posting.  I am the world’s slowest text-message-er. Of course, if you have predictive texting set up, and make good use of auto-fill, you could have some real fun, and do it quickly! But that was another blog post.

After the power outage, my printer/scanner was not speaking to my computer, so I couldn’t print or scan. I did behave, no temper tantrums here. My IT man, (a.k.a. my beloved, long-suffering husband with the patience of a saint) took the time to rectify that situation. I was at the limits of my endurance with that thing.

So, because our power was out, I worked on a pencil sketch of a new map for an upcoming novel, Billy’s Revenge. On Sunday, I digitalized it. It isn’t complete, and is out of proportion in some places but when it is finished, it will tell me everything I need to know about Limpwater.

Map of Limpwater copy

Map of Limpwater, © Connie Jasperson 2015

I always have some sort of map to work with, even if it’s just scribbled, when I am writing in a world of my invention, and they all start out as pencil sketches. Eventually, they become the digital versions you see in my books.

That book will consist of 1 novel and 4 short stories that all revolve around the inn known as Billy’s Revenge. Huw the Bard returns, as does Julian Lackland. Billy Ninefingers has a few misadventures that threaten his career, mess with his chances  to convince Dame Bess to marry him, and set him on a path he never thought he would find himself traveling.

In the opening short story, we meet Eddie, Billy’s father, and see the origins of the Rowdies. Eddie’s story sets the stage for Billy’s trouble with Bastard John. Several short stories that were cut from The Last Good Knight will be included at the end of Billy’s novel, as they don’t pertain to Julian Lackland as much as they do the entire group of Rowdies, Billy Ninefingers included, and they are fun stories.

BNF sign

BR Pub Sign © Connie Jasperson

I’ve had the sign that will hang over the porch in front of Billy’s inn ready for quite a while–hanging it is going to be the trick.

When the power went out, I had Photoshop open and was working on the cover for Valley of Sorrows. But while I know how the graphics will be and I am happy with their layout, I’m not really happy with the art I have located so far, but it’s still early days. I will keep searching, which I enjoy doing.

Anyway Saturday  was not as productive as it could have been.

And Sunday was a busy, catch-up day. Fortunately, it rained off and on all day, so I was able to finish a lot of what I needed to get done.  Today will be as crazy as any Monday ever is, and I will simply have to make time for revisions.  All I need is an hour here and there. I am close to having it ready for editing. I will have Valley of Sorrows published in the spring of 2016, if all continues to go well.

4 Comments

Filed under Books, Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Norwescon 2015

NorWesCon 2015 - 1This weekend I am at Norwescon in Seattle, Washington, along with fellow Myrddin Publishing Group author, Lee French. This is where I get to do both the work and the fun stuff that goes along with being an author–AND Huw the Bard will be offered on the NIWA table!  How cool is that?

Norwescon is a gamer-scifi-fantasy addict’s paradise.  The guests of honor are George R. R. Martin (Author), Julie Dillon (Artist), Amy Mainzer (Science), and Random House (Spotlight Publisher) represented by Anne Groell and Tricia Narwani.

Plus, there will be a large number number of seminars and special events: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night each feature a DJ’d dance in the grand ballrooms, and Lazer Tag and many other games. Friday features an 18-and-over special event. And, don’t forget the Masquerade, complete with Children’s Masquerade. Holy cosplay!

Michael Tinker Pearce came by our booth on Thursday,  and I have to say I loved his work, Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman. I really enjoyed meeting him–he’s a charming man.

000510Of course, food is tricky–the vegan must provide for herself while on the road. One can only hope that the room she ordered at her hotel that is within walking distance of the event will have the kitchenette as she had requested. Otherwise she will be downstairs at the breakfast area using the microwave at all hours.

Feeding myself at these events is always a challenge, even at conventions where they claim to provide for “special” dietary needs.  How hard is it to bake a damned potato and garnish it with a little guacamole, and some veggies sauteed in olive oil?  Apparently impossible, as proven by my annual PNWA conference dietary fiasco at the Hilton. I look forward to seeing how they manage to screw up “special” needs every year. Last year I was literally the last person to be served at the banquet, and the food arrived cold and inedible–and my table mates had long since finished theirs when mine was delivered.

Being glared at by the servers for wistfully hoping to eventually see a plate of food was also to be expected–after all, “special dietary needs” are a selfish fad designed to draw attention to ones self, don’t you know.

But Norwescon will be different. It’s far less expensive to attend, less than 1/5 the cost of PNWA (indies pay their own way, you know) and they proved snacks but you aren’t tied to their menu.

The difference is this: PNWA is a writer-focused event with seminars, agent, and editors attending and presenting seminars. I’ve found the writers who give the seminars there to be really entertaining and THAT is why I attend. It is an awesome, inspiring conference that recharges me.

Julie Dillon will be speaking at Norwescon, and as a wannabe artist myself, I’m quite intrigued by her work. The covers art she does for mainstream fantasy authors is just as high a quality as that of the legendary Michael Whelan.

George R. R. Martin photoSo I get to hang out in the dealers area with my friends from NIWA, buy a new T shirt or two designed by some crazy-gifted people, and I will get to hear George R.R. Martin speak on Sunday morning. Don’t love his work, but I adore him as a man and as a speaker.

If I am really crafty, I can get my pristine, barely-been-read first edition of A Game of Thrones signed during one of George’s 3 scheduled signing events–wowsers.

During the hippie era, of which I was a late entry to, most hippies did not refer to themselves as hippies as that was really term used when our parents were complaining about us. Mostly we referred to ourselves as freaks, since the mainstream society considered our willful desire for world peace to be aberrant. But out of that culture grew some of the best scifi and fantasy authors and artists of all time.

And so I say, it’s good to be a freak in a land where freaks really know how to freak! Norwescon will be an adventure for sure!

8 Comments

Filed under Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

To swag or not to swag

HTB Bookmark side B copyI’ve several multi-author events coming along in the near future, and I’ve been preparing accordingly. I’m now technologically able to accept any sort of payment for my sales at these events: I actually own a portable store.

Now I have to consider swag–that portable bit of treasure to keep others thinking about you and your books.

It’s always hard to know what sort of swag to invest in, what is going to pay for itself. I can’t really afford to go nuts here, so I’m going to see what my author friends are pushing, and try to determine just what is going to be the right fit for me.  So I ordered the old standby indie swag-item, book marks.  I’ll make sure each book I sell has one in it, and if a passerby asks for one I will hand them out. Some folks like them so I’ll make sure I have some for them, but at various different conferences and conventions, I’ve observed that a lot of things like that just get tossed unless the person actually asked for it. Why invest in something that will just end up littering the mall?

I went to an event and met a lovely man from Alaska who practically forced me to take a cardboard replica of his book cover. As I said, he was friendly and nice, but…it must have been costly and I had no idea what to do with it. By the time I arrived home it was a mangled mess and went out with the recycling. Thus, I don’t even remember his name, or his book.

That incident got me to asking myself: what do I really want out of this? After all, I am selling my brand, and that brand is my author name.  I want people to remember it.

Business card MockupSO: Business Cards–These are an absolute must. They’re cheap and easy to make on my home computer and good to hand out when asked for one. Keep it simple and readable, with just the facts:

  • Your Author Name
  • Your website
  • Your Fan Email Address
  • Any other contact information you feel comfortable giving out
  • Your book title (s)

Remember: Don’t Junk It Up.  Simple and readable is the way to go with business cards.

I have another friend who is investing in postcards that have to do with his book, and each one will have a coupon to redeem a free paper copy of his forthcoming novella–and that’s a good idea, but also costly. I need to keep my costs a low as possible, so that will not be an option for me. Romance authors are encouraged to offer all sorts of little swag items–chap-stick, makeup mirrors, even tote bags–these are costly though. Whatever I do, it has to be effective and low-cost.

HTB Stamp copyI do think custom post it notes might be a good idea.  They seem reasonably priced, and fairly easy to do. Again, I think the key is to do it like business cards and book marks–keep it simple and just the facts: Author Name, website, and book title. If I decide to do those, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I had fun finding clip-art and designing a special Huw the Bard Stamp for an event that will happen in June–each participating author will have a stamp and will stamp the programs of the crowd as they pass through.  This was intriguing, and something I can use later in so many ways. Plus it was only $ 7.95 + shipping.

Anyway, I’m sure my little stamp will be great fun for the grandkids–heh heh…hold still and let grandma stamp this little tattoo on you….

7 Comments

Filed under Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Worldbuilding part 3—Magic

Mårten_Eskil_Winge_-_Tor's_Fight_with_the_Giants_-_Google_Art_ProjectEvery now and then I read a book where it’s clear the author has no concept of his own magic system.  You, as the reader,  are sailing; the story is flowing; and then suddenly you realize that Bart the Mage seems to have unlimited magic ability.  Well, that’s no good, because now there is no tension; no great ordeal for Bart to overcome. Bart can do anything–game over–end of story. The book goes into the recycling bin, unfinished and you never buy that author’s work again.

Every author has their own way of doing this, but I approach it from an engineering and scientific viewpoint–I spend time designing the system:

Let’s talk about Bart. He’s a lowly journeyman mage. For a multitude of reasons he has decided that he must rid the world of Evil Badguy; a very powerful, very naughty wizard.  Evil Badguy is very strong, and has great magic, and he seems unstoppable! But fortunately for our story, there are rules, so he is not omnipotent. He has a weakness and your protagonists now have the opportunity to grow and develop to their fullest potential in process of finding and exploiting that weakness.

Now let’s say that Bart is a mage with offensive magic – maybe he can cast lightning at an enemy, or perhaps he can set fires with his magic.  Can he also use magic to heal people?  Can he heal himself?  What are the rules governing these abilities and how do these rules affect the progress of the story?  When it comes to magic, limitations open up many possibilities for plot development.

Let’s say that Bart can only reliably use one sort of magic. This is good, because now you have need for other several characters with other abilities. They each have a story which will come out and which will contribute to the advancement of the plot. Each character will have limits to their abilities and because of that they will need to interact and work with each other and with Bart whether they like each other or not if they want to win the final battle against Evil Badguy.  This gives you ample opportunity to introduce tension into the story. Each time you make parameters and frameworks for your magic you make opportunities for conflict within your fantasy world, and conflict is what drives the plot.

VAYNE final-fantasy-xii_305674What challenge does Bart have to overcome in order to win the day?

  • Is he unable to fully use his own abilities?
  • If that is so, why is he hampered in that way?
  • How does that inability affect his companions and how do they feel about it?
  • Are they hampered in any way themselves?
  • What has to happen before Bart can fully realize his abilities?

Without rules, there would be no conflict, no reason for Bart to struggle and no story to tell.

So now, you realize that you must create the ‘rules of magic.’  Take the time to write it out, and don’t break the laws, without having a damned good explanation for why that particular breaking of the rules is possible.

Each world should be unique, and so we need to tailor the magic to fit each unique situation.

  • Who can use magic?
  • What kind of magic can they use?
  • How are they trained?
  • What happens to those who abuse their gifts?
  • How common is magic?
  • How does the ability to wield magic fit into the political system?

I have two worlds that I am currently writing in, and their magic systems are radically different.

The following was my first list from 2009 for creating the world when we were originally designing a game that eventually became The World of Neveyah series.

Elemental Battle Magic of Neveyah

 Water:   non battle-use can fill water jugs and basins

  • Water spout (novice)
  • Gully Washer (intermediate)
  • High Seas (Advanced)
  • Raging River (Advanced)

Earth:   non-battle use, putting out campfires, digging holes, gardening

  • Square Dance (novice)
  • Landslide (intermediate)
  • Mudslide (advanced)
  • Mountain Drop (Advanced)

Fire:  non battle use – can light candles, and ignite fire in fireplace

  • Hot Shot (novice)
  • Fire Ball (Intermediate)
  • Inferno (advanced)
  • Hell Fire (Advanced)

Lightning:  non-battle use for lightning: creating finish on armor, glazing pottery

  • Cat-Zapper (novice)   Zippety-Doo-Dah (novice-spell)
  • Thunder Fist (intermediate)
  • Curtain Call (Advanced)
  • Thunder Walking (Advanced)

This basic grocery list has since evolved into a complete curriculum for domestic uses, and the names for most of those spells has changed, but it remains relevant because it shows how I divided it. A game player would have had to gain in strength in order to use those spells, and that is how my characters do in the Neveyah books.

Saint_georges_dragon_grasset_beguleIt’s very different in the Billy’s Revenge series which set in Waldeyn, an alternate-medieval earth which is the setting for Huw the Bard. There, the actual environment is magic and Huw’s journey involves his overcoming its inherent dangers. The plants and animals of Waldeyn are shaped by the overwhelming abundance of magic in that world, like radioactivity affects and mutates life here.  Many of the most dangerous creatures are born of twisted magic, or as they call it, majik.

Mind-majik, healing, and the ability to imbue their healing majik into a potion or salve is the feminine side of majik, governed by the Sisters of Anan.

The ability to bind the elements into weapons and wield them is the male side, and they are governed by the Brotherhood of St. Aelfrid.

Part of their political/religious power comes from the fact that it has been determined the majik is a God-given gift, and all who’ve been granted that ability must be bound to the church.

There are strict rules, and if a gifted person doesn’t choose to serve the people through being bound to the church, the ability to sense majik is taken from them by the Mother Church.

I don’t have any main characters in Waldeyn who are majik wielders, although one side character in the forthcoming novel, Billy Ninefingers, is a member of the Brotherhood of St. Aelfrid: the Fat Friar, Robert DeBolt. However, many times these characters are in need of healing. (Heh heh.)

Because of my characters’ frequent tendency to bleed, gaining and acquiring good healing potions and salves is important.

In the World of Neveyah, which is where the Tower of Bones series is set, the situation was different—The Tower of Bones grew out of what was originally the walk-through for a computer-based RPG that was never built. Thus the constraints of magic are quite strict, but as you saw in the list above, they are game-based.

final-fantasy-guys-xii-basch_255851In the forthcoming prequel to Tower of Bones, Mountains of the Moon, a mage is either a healer or a battle-mage. Healing is building and preserving, battle-magic is death and destruction. It is thought that one can’t be both, because on the rare occasions that a dually-gifted mage is born, they go mad. There is a strict system in place for controlling magic and those who are able to use it, and this creates the conflict.

Once again, there is a governing body for mages–in Neveyah it is the Temple of Aeos. Children with the gifts are taken to the Temple and trained in the use of their gifts until they are adults. They are sworn to serve and protect the Goddess Aeos and her people, or die doing so.

But forty years after Wynn Farmer’s tale, during the time in which the Tower of Bones takes place, the clergy has been decimated by a great war that took place twenty years before. The goddess Aeos is in danger of losing the battle with Tauron the Bull God. She slightly changes the way her magic works. Wynn’s grandson, Edwin Farmer, is the first to be born with the ability to wield both sides of the magic who also has the force of character to survive the learning process. His biggest problem is there is no one who can teach him how to use his dual gifts—his teachers only know how one side or the other works.

That learning process forms a huge part of his story. Yes, Edwin has access to power, but so does the antagonist, Stefyn D’Mal, and he is completely mad. Even so, he has rigid constraints. These constraints create the conflict.

Remember, unlimited power in a mage equals unlimited boredom to the reader. Magic without rules is tiresome and unbelievable, and no one wants to read that story.

Thor-Everything-Loki

 

 

11 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Worldbuilding part 1: Infrastructure

Book- onstruction-sign copyWorldbuilding is the term commonly used for the art of unobtrusively creating the world in which your characters live. Of course, fantasy and science fiction authors clearly need this skill, but all authors must be able to create the world in which their characters live, on the printed page. You, as the author, may know what Seattle looks and smells like, but the reader in London will not.

Many new authors say, “Well, just make it real in your mind, and it will feel solid in your story.”

That’s not precisely true, because things that are solid in your mind tend to evolve and change with every new day. That is bad for a fantasy world, which is what books are. We are going to make a style sheet, describing the rules of how our world works–because the universe has rules, and if we accidentally break them, the reader will throw our book away. Yes, you are going to write it down and refer back to it as the story progresses.

We begin by thinking about the basic necessities our characters will need to survive. Take a look at the world around us, and see what supports us, what nourishes and shelters us. This is called infrastructure. We need to have this support system completely solid in our minds as we write, so that the reader has the sense of a solid, well-thought out world.

  1. BUILD YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE: All societies have an economic component to them, whether they are set in space, in Middle Earth, or in Seattle. In any case, there’s nothing worse than a fictional world where there are elaborate social structures that seem completely disassociated from the realities of acquiring food, shelter and clothing. Authors of fiction don’t just write stories—we create whole societies and the economies that support them.
  • MH900438718FOOD and WATER: How do they eat? What do they eat? How does it get delivered? It doesn’t have to be central to the story, but it will come into it at some point because everyone, even vegans, likes to sit down and enjoy a conversation over a good meal, and a society that has no food descends into chaos and war ensues. Do they have certain rituals at meals, a prayer, or do they have formal manners? If they are at home, a small sentence mentioning a napkin or the kind of food will help to set the scene for the reader. If they are in a restaurant or a mess hall, most people will be able to build the picture just from that clue.

If your story is set on a space station or on a space ship, acquiring food becomes central to the tale, because a certain amount of space inside must be devoted either to storage or to hydroponic gardening.

If you set your tale in 1845 Paris, you must remember that this was the Little Ice Age, and was a time of global famine.

  • CLOTHING: People get cold, and need protection. What are they wearing? How do they get it? In some genres, clear descriptions of the garments is needed—most romance novels require some attention to clothing, and if your tale is set in another world or in the past, knowing what they wear becomes very important. You absolutely must understand the constraints certain kinds of clothing will add to your plot.

498px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_088If your romance is set in a medieval world, you will want to dress them with some accuracy. Readers are savvy—they will know you haven’t thought it out well if your fully armored knight is suddenly indulging in a moment of passion with fully dressed Lady Gwen. Think about the many layers of what your characters are actually wearing—it can’t be done! For that you must undress your characters, and if they are full armored or wearing Victorian undergarments, it becomes a bit involved. This means they must plan ahead for their romantic trysts and leave the armor at home.

My book, Huw the Bard is set in a mash-up world—one that has many elements of medieval Britain, but with a few Victorian amenities. I didn’t want clothes to take up a lot of space in the tale, but some mention had to be made.

The trouble Huw had at the outset of the tale was that he was on the run and traveling in disguise. The borrowed shirts of a common working man were made closer-fitting than his traditional bards’ robes, because cloth was expensive and no laborer could afford to waste it on something like big loose sleeves just for fashion. I had to make it so that the straps that ran up his arms and crossed his chest and kept his specially crafted knife sheaths in place didn’t show at all above the rawhide laces at his throat, even when he drew his knives.

It’s only given about three sentences in the actual book, but I had to research what real knife-sheathes are like and how cumbersome they are to wear. In the process I discovered how useless they truly can be. This concept created a certain amount of tension for my plot—he would have to get used to throwing his knives without giving himself away, as he didn’t have the robes to disguise his movements.

When writing fiction, it is important to remember that people are not really that much different nowadays than they ever were. They get cold, so they wear clothes, in many layers. The warmer the weather, the fewer the layers your characters will wear. Inside a warm building, they may be lightly clad. Keep that in mind as you are writing, and convey the idea of their attire with a minimum of words, and your reader will get more enjoyment from the tale.

So, Back to Infrastructure:

  • GARBAGE: Who takes away the garbage? Who deals with their bodily wastes? This also doesn’t have to a large part of the story, but in the morning my husband and I are sometimes woken up by the garbage trucks at our house, so it is a part of the environment. And I don’t know about you, but using an outhouse or emptying a chamber pot is the least romantic thing there is, so if your tale is set in the middle ages, be aware that sanitation was minimal and that dealing with it consumed a certain portion of their day.
  • TRANSPORTATION: How do they get around? Are they riding horses, or driving cars? If you’ve set your story on a space station, do they get around in some sort of shuttle? It’s a good idea to have some idea of distance, and how far people can travel in a day. Draw a map if your world is a fantasy world, or get a map if it is set in our world. You need to have some idea of where places are in relation to each other, and what the distances between those places are, and what the roads are like because that will have an affect your characters too. If people are flying between London and Toronto, there are certain time constraints that must be adhered to—it’s not an instantaneous thing. The wait at each airport, the time spent in a taxi, the time spent in flight—that is a good chunk of time, so make sure it is considered in your storyline.
  • 490px-Henry_Singleton_The_Ale-House_Door_c._1790

    The Ale-house door by Henry Singleton c. 1790

    WORK: What do the majority of your people do to survive? Are they working in a lawyer’s office, or a hospital? Are they farmers? People need to work to survive. In our society today, people identify themselves by their work—”I am an accountant” or “I am an office manager.” We spend 8-10 hours a day at our work, so it is crucial to have your characters’ employment clearly visualized for the reader.

When I decided to set my first book in a medieval setting, I did a certain amount of research on Wikipedia, and found it is actually a good source for quick reference.  However, many people whom I admire and respect regularly tell me it’s not the best source for real information about anything. (!!!) SO, ever the intrepid seeker of information, I resorted to investigating in some rather obscure places, but I did find what I needed.

It just took a little time, and a lot of effort. Do the research, and lay the groundwork for your infrastructure. Your readers won’t thank you, but they will be so immersed in the story, they won’t realize the world is a fantasy, and THAT is what you want.

The next installment of this series will explore the world itself–creating the environment and the geography.

6 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Finding demographics is not finding Nemo

My New Year’s resolution this year is to identify who I am writing for, and tailor my marketing strategy to that segment of the population.

I should have picked something simple, like losing weight, or bringing about world peace.

I would be lying if I said I write for one particular type of person–although Huw the Bard falls into the not-for-children category. I like to think my books can be enjoyed by both men and women.

Who are youIt’s just that I write whatever I’m in the mood to read, and I read everything, Fantasy first, sci-fi second, then mystery, historical, paranormal, books of political intrigue, books filled with naughty vampires. Romance, YA, hard sci-fi, epic fantasy–I read it all. This makes it difficult to categorize myself .

Looking in the mirror doesn’t help.

At IHop, I am a 55+, getting discounts and a special old people’s menu. I am a senior, according to AARP, and am entitled certain discounts when I produce that all-important AARP card.

These things tell me I am an older person, as does the mirror.

However, these visible signs don’t show the woman with mad kick-ball-skills, who plays Lego Star Wars until the grandchild says she’s had enough games for one day, and he’d like to play outside now. They don’t shed any light on me. the person who will read and reread a book until it is nothing but shreds–if I fell in love with it. The gray hair, the slightly less-than-svelte physique–these clues don’t offer a hint about my obsession with Final Fantasy XII.

And that is the problem.

I write for me, and I don’t know who I am.

The Creative Penn offers 5 tips to assist me in this process:

1. First we must isolate what types and/or groups of people the content of the book would interest.

Well-that is just the problem, isn’t it…but they do give an idea on how to approach that:

 "Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

“Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

“Example: If your book is about an archaeologist who uses Stone Henge to travel into the future, your book would probably interest history buffs as well as fans of speculative fiction/sci-fi.  If that hero happens to be a former Marine, your book might also interest military personnel and/or the families.” (It’s a direct quote, so I am ignoring the terrible itch to edit out the misspelling of Stonehenge.)

Okay–I think I can do this. My book details the adventures of a bard who is forced to  flee his comfortable existence and who finds himself running from one disaster to another with death-defying regularity.

2. Second, we must: identify other books that are comparable to your book and look at the profiles of those books’ main buyers/readers.

They also explain that concept a little further “The target audience isn’t always who the book was written for, but rather, who it ends up appealing to.  Twilight draws in tween and teenage girls with its premise involving a normal, everyday girl falling into a romance with an young, attractive male (the bread and butter of many young girls’ dreams), but it’s appeal stretched to the cross-section of middle-age female readers who love romance and enjoyed Anne Rice in her heyday.”  

Alrighty then–I was heavily drawn, as a reader, to David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Tad Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, P.D. James, Carl Sagan, Agatha Christie, Piers Anthony, and Fritz Lieber–so I suppose my books reflects a certain amount of their (rather jumbled) influence.

Oh, and don’t forget Roger Zelazney. And Mercedes Lackey.

Well that has narrowed it down quite a bit! (Sarcasm–I know, it’s a nasty habit.) I could have included Tolstoy, James Joyce, Horace Walpole, and Louisa May Alcott, but I didn’t have time.

330px-Pin-artsy3. You are next encouraged to pinpoint what is special about your book.

Again, the Creative Penn offers us some insights on how to go about this: “If you tell someone you’re writing a book about a witch who uses her power of communing with animals to rescue a lost dog from an evil dog-napper, then A. Wow, you have an interesting imagination!  B. You may or may not have taken in 101 Dalmatians too much as a child and C. With such a premise, chances are, your story is more light-hearted than scary, so your target readers to which the mystery aspect of your story will entice are more cozy-type mystery consumers.” So what are the few key words, the hook I can use to sell Huw the Bard? How do I boil the plot down to a few key words? This could take a while, but I’m sure I can do it.

Honest.

4. Now we need to determine some demographics.

That’s the problem–I am the demographic, and I don’t know who I am. Mature Audiences, definitely. There is some graphic sex, although it doesn’t devolve into a porn-fest, There is violence, a witnessed rape, and murder. These are all there because they are watershed moments in Huw’s life, things that change his view of the world. There are also a haunted village and a bisexual knight who talks to his horse, so there is humor midst the misery.

chekhov's gun5. Finally, the Creative Penn suggests we feed the previous four tips into each other to gain even more insight and narrow down who our target audience/s is/are.

Just give me Chekhov’s gunnow. I need to shoot something.

Several times.

Seriously–the article I’ve drawn these suggestions from is a good article, and it goes on to discuss how to use your target audience, which I did find somewhat illuminating.

At this point, if I can get even ONE concrete idea that works, I am feeling good about it. After all, it’s January! I’ve got a whole year to get this down, before I have to admit that this New Year’s resolution has gone the way of my weight-loss dreams and visions of world peace.

2 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing