Friday, December 29, 2017

Writing & Blogging Plans for 2018

Then plan for next year is to do the following:

  • Weekly serial fiction posts on this blog. Tuesdays or Wednesdays; haven't decided yet.
  • Weekly commentary posts on the business and related matters at this blog, on another day. This will remain Fridays.
  • Quarterly novelettes, wholly separate from the serial stories. These will also be set in the same Feudal Future, with Sir Ramsey as my hero character.
  • Annual collection of the serials completed during the year to be published in a single volume.

The last part is the most difficult. Yes, I can write them, make a basic cover, and sell them on Amazon in the Kindle store. That's an option, but I know that covers do matter and so does having someone with a clue edit the manuscript. This requires more than I can do at the moment on my own, so I'm considering my options.

I also want to follow a scheme where I put out the ebook first, then the print version as POD some time thereafter. Folks who've been down this road, and have advice, hit me up in the comments or by email.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Miscellanous Setting Notes for the Feudal Future

Space is Big, and Writers (Typically) Have No Sense of Scale.

So, if you don't mind my indulgence, some setting notes.

  • Earth has a population of 10 billion people. Yet most people are not urbanites. Those on Earth proper are spread out across all of its landmass (including Antartica) and do not cluster in coastal cities, reducing the congestion of population accordingly. Further relieving this pressure are the floating settlements on the oceans, and their seabed counterparts deep below the waves. High-speed rail transit forms relgional networks that link up at major hubs into a global network. Air travel links with orbital connections to complete the Earth transit network. The orbital habitation is half the population, clustered around the Lagrange points using the model from the Universal Century timeline of the Gundam franchise (sans terminology).
  • Mars and Venus are similarly populated, maintaining familiarity with Earth-normal living standards for extra-planetary populations; this practice repeated itself outside of the Terran System. Terraforming efforts are minimized by preferring Earth-like planets when viable, but the means to change a planet into something suitable for Mankind does exist and has for some time- including the means to increase or decrease the gravity of a world into Earth-friendly ranges.
  • Faster Than Light Travel exists. Multiple forms exist, but most people know only of the hyperspace travel that requires starships with FTL drives. Gate-based travel exists. (Yes, that means that the gate at Garmil's Gate is a literal stargate.) The reason for both FTL travel and space-based population expansion stems from the same reason as the following technologies: The Nephalim and their Fallen Angel fathers.
  • Mecha: Powered armor arose during the Wars of the Damned in the era immediately after the Coming of the Azure Flames. It was the best option to leverage a reduced Mankind's odds against the undead horde of the Necromancer, allowing a single man to fight against a thousand or more at a time- unarmed. Armed suits increased the leverage yet again, reducing the hordes from billions to nothing within a few generations, a deed done when The Emperor arose to establish the Empire of Man over the ruined Earth and bring war to the Nephalim. Giant robots arose when they became needed to fight the great monsters as well as the Nephalim and their fathers face-to-face. First those of the Real Robot sort, and then when the Church escaped its hobbling it joined in earnest and the Super Robots came in their wake to allow Man to fight Angel on even footing.
  • Blasters: Arose when the need for firepower exceeding what then-conventional firearms allowed, with the creation of practical plasma-casting technology. Using the existing infrastructure to minimize downtime during the turnover, and increase redundancy, a situation akin to the 19th century's introduction of the metallic cartridge occurred. The first generation blasters were conversions of conventional cartridge firearms; the second generation were purpose-designed and built to use plasma cartridges, but could use more conventional ones if required. Eventually blasters became the norm, and the older firearms became historical relics like those they formerly displaced. Newer technologies are eliminating the need for shells, but those are naval technologies only at this time.
  • Cloning/Drones/AI: Either banned or highly-regulated by the Church. Bodies with ego but no soul are ridiculously open to demonic possession, so to prevent demonic Terminator incidents these are banned from usage or highly restricted. Alas, this ban passed only after a high-profile incident in the past; the possessed AI warship is still out there, and still seeking to Kill All Humans. The use of cloning is strictly and tightly regulated, allowing for medical usage so long as it is neither contrary to dogma nor otherwise a criminal act. In either case, the Inquisitors are not shy about nuking the site from orbit just to be sure. This means that vehicles of all sizes still have men at the controls, with only some levels of remote piloting allowed.
  • Personal Weapons: Most people carry a knife, or walk with a cane or staff. Those able to afford a blaster pistol carry it, and few places are so foolish or venal as to ban the practice and try to enforce it. Beam swords are commonplace for noblemen, knights, and those aspiring to such status (often gentlemen).
  • Medical technology: In a properly established and maintain facility, almost nothing immediately fatal will keep you down; gene therapy (see Cloning), self-derived clones of vital parts (clone your own liver; swap it out for a damaged one), and similar such technologies along with therapeutic techniques to support recovery make many injuries survivable. Lost limbs remain an issue, but for now cyborg replacements are the norm and are fitted as soon as possible.

And that's just some of them. Merry Christmas, folks.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Setting the Story: Welcome to Garmil's Gate

Sir Ramsey's debut adventure occurs on the far-away rimward world of Garmil's Gate.

It's called that for two reasons. The first is that the discoverer was Saint Garmil, martyred during the very expedition to this world which now bears his name. The second is the gate itself, found in the possession of an evil cult sworn to a demonic master said to be on the far side of the gate, a master known to the cult as "Dess Lok". The cult held the gate in the hopes of opening it so their master could come forth, conquer the galaxy, and raise them up as the lords of this galactic satrapy. This was the first encounter with a nation of blue-skinned mutants, whose own lore claimed Dess Lok to be their liberator from a slavelord god that yoked them to his will, and encouraged hostility to all outside their own kind accordingly.

That cult long ago died by sword and blaster, in return for their own ambush of Saint Garmil's party and deliberate butchery thereof. The specific records are vague, but it seemed that the cult believed the gate to be powered by the souls of those sacrificed ritually before the power-generators. (It didn't work.) After a time of cleansing and exorcism, Garmil's Gate became a colony world; first a garrison arose in orbit, working out of an orbital colony known as "Gatewatch" and manned initially by the Knights of Saint George. (Now the garrison's compliment is the household militia of Sir Han Fang, the 10th Lord Garmil, held in fief ultimately to Duke Far as part of House Far's holdings.)

Aside from religious pilgrimage, Garmil's Gate is notable as being an industrial world- specifically, a mining world whose output of strategic minerals is matched by orbital facilities that process the raw ore and ship out the materials to other words for crafting into whatever is required. (A portion is retained for local use in that manner.) This means that a lot of shipping, much of it bulk shipping, comes to and leaves from Garmil's Gate. Accordingly, Lord Garmil oversees not only a vigil over the gate but also the colony population of workers on the mine concern on the planet's surface.

The Mining Guild, as per treaty at the Court of Stars generations before, runs the mining operation. They import their workforce from offworld, taking from the refuse of the galaxy to consume here as if wood into a stove, so the local clergy spend a lot of their time between Sunday services conducting funerals and administering treatment (while filing reports with their superiors on matters here). While Lord Garmil accepts the Guild's operations, he has warned the Guild's man here that these are conditions ripe to explode into violent unrest if management cannot maintain its power, and a disruption of operations is bad for all concerned.

The rest of the planet is open to settlement, but few dwell here. One island is a penal colony for criminals who, for whatever reason, merit execution but cannot be put to death; it is isolated from the rest of planet due to being deep in the middle of one ocean. Some noble families maintain holiday retreats here, catering to hunting lodges for expeditions against the savage fauna to be found outside pacified territories, and military testing of ordinance and vehicles goes on in the wastelands near the mining colony's operations.

Lord Garmil isn't here most of the time, preferring the more civilized environments of the Fang's holdings elsewhere, leaving the day-to-day administrations to a disfavored son: Sir Kei Fang, banished in all but name to Garmil's Gate for an embarrassing incident at his elder brother's wedding some years back, as he is forbidden by his father from leaving the world without his leave or that of his lord. Lord Garmil finds his visits to the world be bothersome intrusions upon his time. There are no other worlds in this system, so all attention is focused on this planet, and Lord Garmil finds it lacking despite the wealth it generates for him.

A savvy predator learns to read the scene before him, and pirates are no different. Red Eyes, and his master, see weakness here and with it an opportunity to break big into Galactic Christendom. That is why Red Eyes sent Dashing Jack to Garmil's Gate, first to scout, but there is more in play here than the ravenous reavers' seeking to slake their thirst for plunder- secrets revealed when Sir Ramsey comes in the Baden-Powell to deal with the Red Eyes pirates.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Meet The Knight-Errant: Sir Ramsey Hennepin

The first serial I'm going to publish here next year is something of a shakedown cruise for me. These stories will focus around the adventures of a Knight of the Solar Guard, Sir Ramsey Hennepin, as he plays the role of trouble-shooter for the Court of Stars. The cruise will lay the groundwork for bigger stories, allowing Sir Ramsey's adventures to also introduce characters, concepts, and conflicts that get proper focus down the road.

Sir Ramsey runs around the galaxy in a personal starship (the S.S. Baden-Powell, a Longboat-class scout ship, commissioned by the Church for the Solar Guard from the Terran Shipwrights' Guild on Earth) acting as a mobile base of operations for himself and his lance: Sibley, his sergeant-at-arms; and Creton, Sibley's son who acts as Ramsey's page.

Most of Ramsey's missions require him to act independently, wholly or as a detached component of a larger unit. He's earned this status through years of valorous, distinguished service- first as a squire, then as a knight in his own right. He begins this cruise without a squire, as he recently knighted his last one and Creton's getting into the age where a boy serving as a page begins being groomed for life as a squire. This puts Ramsey at about 30 years of age, and as-yet still a bachelor (normal for Solar Guard knights), so he's in his prime.

With his beam sword always at hand, Sir Ramsey cuts a dashing, romantic figure- especially when in action. Be it at the stick of the Baden-Powell as it swoops into the fray, fighting pirates man-to-man to rescue hostages with sword and blaster, chasing heretics conspiring to bring forth infernal fiends, or courtly manners with local nobles while inquiring into issues that brought him hence, Ramsey's a Man of Action that is more at home sailing the Sea of Stars than at his estate in the central North American lake country on Earth.

When the enemies of Mankind see Ramsey's brilliant sun-yellow beam sword, they know they face the wrath of someone greater than the local nobleman and his men-at-arms- and that's before considering what he has available to him when truly extreme situations arise. I have one story already in outline, and will begin writing it before the year is up; I hope you enjoy reading it as much I do writing.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Coming Soon: The Return of Serial Stories!

As you can see on the Popular Post sidebar on the blog, I used this as an outlet for serialized storytelling for years before I changed to the current conception of this blog. Well, that's going to change again after the new year; the serial stories are going to come back starting next year in January.

They will NOT replace the present weekly blog posts. That's right, they will be additions to the schedule, not replacements! As I explained in previous posts, I will use the serialized stories to tell stories that otherwise get consigned to the bin because they aren't relevant to the larger works I'm working on; they will not be required to get the full experience of a book I publish, but rather be something to keep you happy between releases or flesh out characters and ideas that aren't the focus of a given story.

And I will be using this blog to tell you, my readers, more about this Feudal Future Fantasy I'm creating. Eventually I'll put this all together into a wiki, but for now this will be sufficient.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Making the Setting: The Church & the Solar Guard

The far future setting has the vast galaxy divided into holdings by noble families, organized into Houses, due to a combination of a significant time without Faster-Than-Light travel sufficiently speedy to enable the sort of casual travel common people enjoy today on Earth and a similar lack of tele-communications technologies that allow vastly-distributed populations to interact as if living together. It is during this time that the Church returned to prominence as an institution, deliberately moving itself into the central Axis Mundi, filling the conceptual and political space usually taken by secular hegemons, again- successfully, this time.

The Church owns the entire solar system where Earth--still center of Christendom--and rules it directly, a deliberate revival and upscaling of the old Papal States. Possessed of all the Church's archives, the lessons of past mistakes get avoided by the Papacy of the post-Apocalyptic era, allowing for new ones to occur instead.

With an upscaling of the Papal States comes an upscaling of the Swiss Guard. In addition to the deliberate revival and reinvigoration of the old military orders, the Swiss Guard also came into the new age with a revitalization on their core purpose of protecting the Papacy and acting as the Vatican's armed guard. The Guard became the Solar Guard as the Church expanded into space and assumed ownership of the system, with additional duties including supervision of the military orders. As the years wore on, practices that began as pragmatic necessities became political policies, such as the shunning of noble-born recruits in favor of common-born and the right to claim orphans as wards of the Church.

Today, well into the future, the Solar Guard represents the Church, the Pope, and the Court of Stars. While not a monastic order as such, its long association with the monastic orders (military and otherwise) as well as the Church in general means that certain norms of military life in noble houses are believed--but not required by Church law or Guard regulation--to be for retirement, such as marriage and family life. Instead, the Guard is regarded as a fraternal military order of Knights-Errant; a life of military service directly to all Mankind via the Church, and a knighthood to go with it, but to wait until one's adventuring days close to enjoy the joy of family life- thinking that any foes of a Knight of the Guard are long rendered moot by then, and so avoiding the vulnerability that a heroic knight has in love and fatherhood.

This is a long-standing dispute within the Guard and the wider Church, citing both examples both historical and mythical in the arguments that fly back and forth--yes, including Star Wars--to no decisive conclusion as yet. As our story cycle opens, one such senior Knight of the Guard (Sir Ramsey Hennepin) travels on dispatch from the Court of Stars in Rome on Earth to the distant world of Gamil's Gate due to the depredations of Red Eyes and his pirate fleet, where the dispute (and other issues) will seem so far away.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Making the Setting: The Villains of the Piece (Part Four)

This week we're descending from meta-narrative to narrative. Of those two mastermind-level villains I described previously, I'm putting work in on Red Eyes, so I'm writing a story about space pirates. As Red Eyes is the Pirate Admiral, his chief henchmen are going to be his subordinates and staff. At this point< i have a choice to make, which is to decide on the scale of Red Eyes' fleet. It's quite tempting to go with something small, as that's a clear historical parallel, but equally tempting is to go large- very large, such that Red Eyes' immediate subordinates are Admirals themselves.

I'll let you find out what choice I made when the story is ready for purchase, but for now it's time to get down to more immediate narrative concerns.

The reader demands that you capture his attention right away, which is why you ought to start your story as close to the Inciting Incident as it gets. For this tale, I'm starting with a pirate attack that targets our Space Princess for abduction. Our pirate leader is one of the more colorful crooks in the fleet: Dashing Jack. This is one of my double-meaning names, as he's both charismatic and fleet of foot, but nonetheless a thoroughly despicable cad.

Everything about this opening sequence is open for use in establishing Jack as the antagonist, as well as displaying Red Eyes as the greater threat behind him. Exactly what ruse is used, how it is used, and those executing the attack are important characterization details. A brutal, bloody-minded pirate uses intimidation to demoralize targets prior to straight-forward assaults that pound targets into submission. Then get on with plundering the prize and butchering those he cannot justify as booty.

Jack isn't that. Jack prides himself on deceiving his targets, and then taunting them when his cunning gets what he wants before they can do anything about it. From women to warfare, he's all about showing off how clever he is to display his superiority; he's with Red Eyes because the notorious barbarian see Jack as akin to himself- a superior man, entitled to take what he wants because he can.

(And yes, Dashing Jack will be wearing a mask.)

When using a lesser villain, remember that he has to reflect whom he's the stand-in for in some manner. Readers will expect it, so make that expectation work for you. Jack's mask will have red eye lenses, and that's just the most obvious reflections of being a man under Red Eyes' banner. Key words and phrases, operational habits, attire, and more are all there to show symbolically how Jack is the stand-in for Red Eyes in this story. The question I need to answer is "What aspect of Red Eyes does Jack represent most?", and you will have to wait for that answer also.

That about does it here. Leave questions below and I'll get to them as I can. Next week will be something different.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Making the Setting: The Villains of the Piece (Part Three)

When setting up a meta-narrative, there's care that needs to be done upfront well before a reader sees your first release. The mastermind's chief lieutenants must, at first look, appear to be wholly independent and autonomous actors pursuing their own agenda of villainy. Only those taking a galactic perspective at how these schemes' effects interact, and at first that's not your reader; for all intents and purposes, those first few releases are stand-alone works with--at most--themes and motifs shared across them.

Your mastermind sorts aren't that varied. They split between Threat Without and Threat Within, or Warlord vs. Courtier. The rest is all shading on those differences, accounting for specifics of individual villain and their environment, and the better ones can mask one as the other as necessity dictates.

So let's talk masterminds.

Our first Warlord is a charismatic Genghis Khan type, originally from one of the barbarian worlds outside civilized space. He's a giant of a man, and may well be a Nephalim descendent: Red Eyes the Pirate King. He leads a star-faring horde that preys upon civilian shipping throughout the rimward arm of the galactic west, including brazen raids and invasions of worlds believed too tough for such a man to crack. His brilliance comes from his deceptive demeanor, hiding a keen intellect capable of warfighting on a scope and scale that many think to be only for a formal navy.

The catch is that he does run a formal navy. It's not one that civilized space recognizes, but it is formal nonetheless. Most of the core crew comes from Red Eyes' homeworld and related colonies, where severe population pressures push the majority of young men into a berth on a ship in Red's fleet. They seek wealth and women, as they are denied both at home; rampant polygyny means that high-status men take most of the desirable womenfolk for themselves.

Red's reason to bend the knee to his mysterious master, a terrifying figure he knows only as "The Master", is due to the promise by The Master to swing wide the gates into civilized space and allow him and his men all the wealth and women they can carry off- and let them lay waste to all that resist their will.

Our first Courtier is a struggling idealist, leader of a reform movement within the Court of Stars that calls itself "The Speakers for the Obliged" and style themselves advocates for the common man throughout the galaxy. He is young, popular, and charismatic- but as the younger son of a Baron, Lord Gallford has no serious political capital and no prospects for gaining so legitimately.

He bent the knee due to promises of reform of the galactic structure to better ensure that the nobility acts in service to the commonfolk on their lands, and his master now poisons him towards greater acts of covert defiance using honeyed words well-curated to distort the lord's perception of history. "1917 was not a mistake, but a warning" is now a catchprhase of his- as is his increasing willingness to use disposable minions in deniable ways to remove opposition.

You can see how important the key villains are even if they don't appear front-and-center in the narrative at-hand. Their presence will be felt, and must be felt to have the desired effect upon the reader. But villains need henchmen and minions, and more on that next week.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Making the Setting: The Villains of the Piece (Part Two)

Having the Nephilim as their fallen angel fathers around as the penultimate villains (because we know who the ultimate Enemy is), the face of evil first wears a more familiar form. For my purposes, that face is a character that's not going to be revealed yet due to the prominent position that character has in the narrative, but is nonetheless an otherwise normal member of the nobility who has secretly concealed practice of forbidden arts and allegiance to the Enemy in the pursuit of personal power and dreams of empire.

It is this character that plays the narrative role of mastermind, conspiring with lesser villains which are actually pawns used to advance the overall objectives of centralizing power and authority into a single entity- all with the aim of making another attempt (this time on the galactic scope and scale) of uniting--yoking--all nations to one master directly.

The mastermind's allies (pawns) think themselves masterminds in turn, and replicate the web of conspiracy and criminality required to surreptitiously advance their own agendas, resulting in lesser schemes collecting together to achieve greater ends. I will start writing stories about these lesser schemes, hinting as their greater importance as I go. The purpose is to introduce multiple heroes into the setting, giving each one the attention that they are due, and slowly building towards the bigger meta-narrative.

This is nothing new. E.E. Smith used it shamelessly for the Lensman books, and by making each of these adventures self-contained I need not impose the burden of continuity upon the reader; it's a bonus, not a requirement, because Transmedia Doesn't Work. You, the reader, ought to be able to pick up and put down my works as you like without getting confused or lost.

As for these lesser masterminds, each one will be a different expression of the archetype. As their presence isn't always one that I need to conceal for narrative purposes, I will name a few next week.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Making the Setting: The Villains of the Piece (Part One)

This post follows on from this post I did a few weeks ago. Since that post, there's been one change worthy of noting here: the agreed-upon title is "Archduke", not "Duke"; the former is for the head of the house, while the latter is for the heads of the vassal families immediately under him as well as that of the heir apparent.

There's a thread running through this setting from the ancient past to the far future: the consequences of Genesis 6. The angels that went AWOL on God because the local women were too hot to resist never repented of their errors. Instead, they lied about it, doubled-down, and projected their failings on to others. In the time immediately before the Coming of the Azure Flames, these angels returned to the world and renewed the very activities that got them imprisoned in the first place. It is due to their actions that an otherwise flawless plan by the other notable bunch of fallen angels to do their Pinky & The Brain impression failed so dramatically and unleashed the worst of the Nephilim--the demon Legion--upon the world (in the form of a zombie apocalypse). (Lew's not happy about that.)

During these times, some peoples took the promises of false gods and other saviors and escaped certain death in exchange for loyal service; many of these were also of that same bunch of fallen angels, playing those roles, aiming to establish herds of their own to play with as they wish. The more far-sighted and capable of them took their herds off-world, establishing Conveniently Human Aliens for Mankind to encounter once Earth got sorted and going to the stars once more became a viable course of action.

What does this do?

  • A single point of origin for Evil.
  • A single point of origin for "non-humans": they're corrupted Men. (Hybrids, if you will.)
  • A believable explanation for other setting elements: a lack of AI (too easily possessed, as they are soulless egos), why undeath is a bad thing (it's not really you, but a specific demon running your body like a corpse-puppet; think like you're playing one in a game), Full-Conversion Cyborgs require the blessing of the Church (too close to death), a taboo on the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (part practical and part dogma; irradiated land can't be settled, and "Steward of Creation" dogma applied on the stellar scale)
  • A Big Bad you can punch in the face, good and hard, like Superman can do to Darkseid. Even if you can't truly destroy them, you can beat the crap out of them and put them down for a long time. (And I haven't decided if true death is beyond a protagonist to do or not, yet; this is just for necessary reader morale purposes.) If Tolkien can do this with Morgoth and Sauron, I can do this sort of thing too.

The fundamental thread here is that of violating taboos in the name of some seaming good because the consequences cannot be seen, or if seen then accepted. Fear, pride, envy- all common elements in tales where these guys have a presence, even when not literally present. Same as it ever was, but concrete in forms that the Fall From Eden is not to a lot of people. From here, we can branch off into other themes and motifs.

Friday, October 20, 2017

On The Books: "Fanfiction to Pro Fiction"

Dragon-Award winner and nominee Brian Niemeier presented a new episode of "On The Books" this past Wednesday. He has on author Lucas Flint, and they spent the episode talking about the transition from writing fan fiction as a hobby to writing professionally as a fiction writer.

Those who wish to make that transition will find it easier to do so now than at any time previously. While the necessary requirement to develop professional-grade skills at writing still exist, and the increasing need to develop related skills in marketing and book development (editing, etc.) are complicating things, once you have something to put to market you are able to do so without needing a publisher thanks to Amazon (and others).

This is not to be dismissed lightly. Every time I talk about forking Star Wars (or, as Seth MacFarlane has done, Star Trek), that's a clear signal that there is an opportunity for fan writers who are ready and able to make that jump waiting to be seized and exploited.

I can't say that there's a similar rise in opportunities for doing Work For Hire on those franchises you write fan fiction about, as I'm not as tuned into the Work For Hire scene, but if you're willing to play the Hired Gun game then have at it. Just don't get an ego about it, like Karen Traviss did; it's rumored (which means "Some blather on the Internet", so don't get your hackles up) that the new Star Wars canon change of Jango and Boba Fett to be merely pretenders to being Mandalorean is to undo that damage.

What I can say is that this is a fantastic time to be a professional writer, be it of fiction or non-fiction or both, due to that lack of gatekeepers choosing winners and losers for any reason other than commercial viability. (Looking at you, Big 5.) For any of you looking to make your writing pay some bills, making that leap is easier now than ever before. Even if it just covers what you spend on groceries or the water bill, you're already ahead of the game and success as a professional writer. Go for it, and don't be shy; you'll find friends and allies along the way willing and able to help you succeed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hired Guns and Intellectual Property

Let's talk about the problem that Lucasfilm has with Darth Vader.

Like Boba Fett, Darth Vader has become a meme-infused character due to fan enthusiasm born of his depictions in the Original Trilogy of films. In the first film, he was just a heavy for the film's actual villain: Grand Moff Tarkin. Aside from interactions with Obi-Wan Kenobi, he didn't exhibit the character that fans came to love from him yet. That arrived with The Empire Strikes Back, and his humanization came with Return of the Jedi.

The Expanded Universe is mostly to blame for turning Darth Vader into the meme monster that he's become, which fueled (and got fueled by) the Prequel Trilogy. Early on George Lucas hired people to write stories to expand the property, and stories featuring Darth Vader became and remained very popular due to audience demand. The result is what we've seen (post-Disney buyout) with the Darth Vader comics, where the Ascended Fans who went professional and now write as hired guns for Lucasfilm or one of its licensees give up the version of Vader that Rogue One summarized so succinctly in that now-famous sequence at the very end of the film.

I'm talking about this because, if you are at all serious about paying bills by writing fiction, then you're going to consider taking Work For Hire contracts. That's you as a hired gun, and you're not only following the orders of the paymaster, you're also using their material to do your work. You are using your skills as a creator to produce product that the paymaster owns, and (by default) get no residuals after the fact; if you do your part, you get paid and have something to point to for future Work For Hire contracts.

Yet you are on the hook, so far as the audience cares, for anything in that book. Just as R.A. Salvatore about having a moon dropped on Chewbacca in Vector Prime. It's one thing to get flak over something that is utterly yours. It's something else to get it when all you did was follow another's orders, which is what you're doing when you're writing Darth Vader.

The other problem comes from your hired gun status also. Be it writing a novel, a script, or whatever you're not the shot-caller; you have some wigging room, but you're still just someone else's tool used to make their vision happen. Sometimes that means you get stuck facilitating something that doesn't make narrative sense because it's good for business (such as all the Vader and Fett stuff), and it becomes your job to make it work as they intend- to use your creative skills to trouble-shoot their problem.

If you get a reasonable liason representing the property owner, this can be mostly painless; by all accounts, Christie Golden's relationship with Blizzard Entertainment was fantastic (she's now on the payroll as an employee) and Timothy Zahn continues to have a good one with Lucasfilm. Likewise, poor ones can be disastrous; bail as soon as you can and never go back.

So, if you get an opportunity to get hired to write sanctioned fan-fic for a property, don't turn it down out of hand; it worked well for Jon del Arroz, Jeff Grubb, Timothy Zahn, Richard Knack, R.A. Salvatore, and many others- Walter B. Gibson being the most successful example. Take the bad experiences as the cautions that they are, and watch for the red flags. Writer Beware, but Fortune Favors The Bold.

Friday, October 6, 2017

On The Books: "How To Polish Your Prose" w/ Brian Neimeier

There's not much for me to add here. You can listen to this over your lunch break, so find a quiet-enough niche and so do. Brian goes over common misconceptions of what makes a story readable and relatable to the audience. In short, that literary fiction bullshit you learned at University is wrong. If you actually want your writing to let you pay bills, buy you stuff, or put gas into the tank then that means writing prose that Just Fucking Works. Less Fine Dining bullshit, More Denny's solid food service.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Behind the Scenes: More Practical Worldbuilding

My Space Opera setting has Space Feudalism. While the real thing tends to be messing, complex, and organic I'm keeping it simple because I need only enough for my creative works. In short, it works like this:

  • This is our galaxy far into the future, where Mankind long ago became a mature star-faring species and thus is omnipresent in the galaxy.
  • During this time, the successors to today's powers on Earth decided to Get Off This Rock after fighting a series of wars that almost wiped out Mankind several times. Not all of them were Man-on-Man either; other entities were involved, which had the consequence of revitalizing the Church and becoming the unifying force keeping Mankind from extinction.
  • Nationalist movements today become national powers in the future, and how huge swaths of space are dominated by a single nation. As communications technology improved, internal tensions between houses within a nation increased until one house became the dominant one; the wiser dominators made allies of enemies, leading to feudalism's resurgence.
  • The Church aided this resurgence, as a peace-improving measure, and made Rome on Earth into the host for the galactic nations to meet and dispute loudly--but peacefully--in the forum dubbed "The Court of Stars".
  • By treaty, no house is acknowledged as Emperor. The position of "Speaker" is chosen by the electors, which are the Dukes of each nation (or their chosen agents, acting on the Duke's behalf), and is mostly ceremonial and parliamentarian in nature. The process is a deliberate blend of the models used for selecting the Pope and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • "Duke" is the title (with attendant forms of address) used with outsiders for diplomatic reasons. Internally, a Duke may also be a King or Prince- but never a lesser title. The practice is meant to preserve face for nations particularly concerned with how prestige influences politics and culture; it gives all concerned a way out of otherwise inevitable conflict.
  • The Church, learning from centuries of experience, recruits clergy only from the sons of common households across the galaxy; noblemen and their retainers are not permitted to be more than Deacons, and its militant orders are also closed to those of the noble houses. The current pope, Justinian XXV, is a shipwright's eighth son.
  • A Duke controls the dominant house of his nation, with it the sector of space his nation controls. Counts control entire systems. Barons entire planets. Landed lords control significant subsets of a planet's mass. As with their historical counterparts, nobles are not only expected to be competent soldiers and warriors themselves, but also be capable of raising and fielding significant forces as required. The Dukes maintain standing militaries for this purpose, with nobility routinely comprising the professional officer corps.
  • The houses have autonomy over internal affairs, aside from where the Church exercises its dominion. This is a Christian galaxy, but one where all of the nations of Mankind strong enough to survive the dark times of the Age of Azure Flames stand proud in their own ways.
  • Inhuman threats exist, material and spiritual alike. The greatest is still out there.

This is how you can fork something and make it your own. I'm very much going with the emphasis on the fantastic that George Lucas drew upon for Star Wars, only more concrete. What's above is meant to focus my attention on what sorts of stories I want to tell here, and where to place the emphasis of attention. This isn't a setting where Space Submarines face off without ever seeing each other, letting computers do all the heavy lifting. This isn't a place where hopeless masses get drafted by the billions to die screaming in desperate crusades against inevitable foes hoping to buy another day for a false messiah to return. This is a setting where faith matters, hope is vital, fidelity is rewarded, and even the lowest-born can change the course of the galaxy merely by being the utmost example of his kind. Princess love their princes. Princes risk life and limb for faith and family, and the common folk follow the noble examples.

And there is NO modern architecture, aside from where the villains dwell. Less Coruscant, More Naboo.

I look forward to bringing it to life and sharing with you all.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Behind the Scenes: How I Did Some Practical Worldbuilding

Over on the main blog, I did a post this week about practical worldbuilding, using the blasters of Star Wars as an example. Allow me to expand a bit here.

For my own Space Opera stories, I use blasters. Not just for immediate familiarity, but also because it makes illustration and any adaptations easier to do. It also makes things easier for me to write; if I know what Duke Far's sidearm looks like, then I can write more fun things he can do with it that may not be so with others.

I'll summarize here how they work: they're plasma casters. The "ammunition" is gas sealed in the cartridge, and the action has the electronic power required to ignite the gas and discharge it down the barrel. You think it's "pew pew" until you see the hits, where you get a fist-sized (for sidearms) burn that goes into the target. Shields can defeat them until overloaded, but they aren't cheaper than blasters by a long shot; personal armor isn't to stop the hit from doing damage, but rather to keep it from killing you through some level of heat dispersion.

Personal blasters I model on rimfire-chambered pistols and rifles. Duke Far's sidearm, in particular, is modeled on a Ruger Mk.IV Target model like this one here. Just imagine that pistol discharge discrete blasts of plasma upon Baron Sheelak's minions while leading his loyal marines in the story I wrote for the PulpRev Sampler: "The Ghost Fist Gambit"

The end result gives me what I want out of blasters. Not only do I get to signal character by having a character prefer to use a specific item--using character's preferences in aesthetics as shorthand--but I also get to preserve the use of the logistical problem of ammunition, something that I can turn into plot-relevant complications with ease. Also, if I get enough people wanting to do fan art, official illustration, I have easy guides to point people to.

Now, I'm under no delusions that folks with money and connections are going to read my short and back dump trucks to my door looking to buy this or that set of rights. However, if I get anywhere in this hustle then I had better be ready for that possibility. (If you want a good reason as to why, read Brian Niemeier's post on protecting your IP as a writer.) Yes, it's the Boy Scout talking, but I've never gone wrong by being prepared.

So yeah, I'll be doing what Brian's done and boning up on the negotiation thing for when that dumptruck backs up to the door, and making that event happen down the road will be because I've done some practical worldbuilding to make it easy to adapt to other media.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Good Anthology News & A Bit of Wish-Casting

On this day last week, I sent in my revisions for my contribution to the PulpRev Sampler Anthology. My story, "The Ghost Fist Gambit", benefited significantly from the efforts of my editor (N.A. Roberts) and I am grateful for his suggestions. Each one made it a better work, and I look forward to seeing it in its final published form. There is no release date as of this post, but as soon as one is announced you'll see me on all the socials proclaiming it loud and proud.

Which reminds me of Brian Niemeier's post the other day on casting the characters in The Secret Kings. Since I'm shameless about hyping my own stuff, and have no problems with swiping a good idea, here's my take on the protagonist and antagonist for "The Ghost Fist Gambit".

Duke Far: Tony Leung

Tony Leung played historical warrior roles, real and fictional, for much of his career. Moving that sort of character into a Space Opera setting works just as well as moving Toshiro Mifune's many samurai roles forward (as Lucas did by all-but-remaking The Hidden Fortress into A New Hope), and adapting Chinese wusha isn't any harder. It's not like Chinese forms don't work with beam swords, as Ray Park's portrayal of Darth Maul proves conclusively.

Baron Sheelak: Sam Witwer

Sam Witwer's career in live-action may not have what we're looking for, but his voice-over career does. He played Darth Maul in The Clone Wars and Rebels, and played Vader's secret apprentice in Force Unleashed. Giving this man the opportunity to mix that experience with the creepy physicality he's made his bones doing with this character would be a god-send, especially if I expanded this story into something long enough to be an ideal feature film story.

Once that language barrier got sorted, I think he and Tony would work well on screen. Sam's stage-fighting experience isn't Tony's (and doesn't have Tony's past experience in action, what with Tony being a John Woo associate), but he's the best fit for the role I can think of- and, unlike Tony, is cheap enough to actually be affordable to any production.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"On The Books" Talks Dragon Awards & Indie Publishing

The Dragon Awards got announced and handed out last weekend at Dragon Con. While previous winner Brian Niemeier didn't win again this year, he's hardly broken up about it, and explains why here. He spent this week's episode of Geek Gab: On The Books talking about that with another nominee: Daniel Humphreys, author of A Place Outside the Wild. Settle in and take a listen over your lunch break.

If there is one consistent theme to a lot of Brian's posts at his blog, and his episodes of this podcast, is that the old model that the Big 5 and their London counterparts built into massive corporate empires is not only decaying, it's collapsing and there is no future in it for most authors- no matter if they have a contract or not.

Furthermore, the attempt by the SJWs dominating SF/F publishing to control the narrative concerning their control through the Hugos is also collapsing. The Dragons' second year makes it crystal clear that the Hugos are not relevant, do not give voice to the fans, and has no business purporting itself to be a marker of quality. The fans came out big for the Dragons this year, and they will come out even bigger next year. The SJWs can't get more than half of the votes in a single Dragon's category to vote at all; they're done, and the smarter ones know it.

The business is changing, and the fact is now becoming obvious to the unobservant. Time to seize the future for ourselves.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Craft: Characters Are Tools. Handle Them Accordingly.

Over at the main blog, I posted a follow-on to Razorfist's last video for Mad Max Month. I hit upon my chief objection, which is that George Millar lied to me. He sold a Mad Max story, where the story itself just had Max in its as some extraneous character that has no justification for being there at all (in narrative terms). This is a tell of fan fiction.

And, as much as folks want to believe otherwise, "fan fiction" is synonymous with "bad writing" for a reason. One of them is the insertion of characters that cannot justify their presence in the story's narrative, and that's what happened here.

Writing is a craft because there are such things as Best Practices. It is a body of knowledge that accumulates over time, can be learned, can be mastered, and improved upon by those masters. Best Practices arise through the repeated trials, errors, and successes that previous generations attempt and observe. They are passed on because they reliably, repeatedly, work; you might as well argue that gravity isn't real.

Which means that characters are tools, just like every other element of the writing craft, and as such you use only those characters that are required to execute the narrative properly. Surplus elements get the chop. Editing identify them, and revision culls them. Your characters are there to do things, and once their job is done you need to hustle them off the stage because they have no further authorization to be present in the narrative. You know this is true because you've seen, first-hand, what it looks like when a story doesn't do this.

That's why editors are are useful. Engage one if you are able to do so. Brian Niemeier's post today at Kairos addresses this very matter. Listen to them, learn from them; one of the most reliable ways to improve your craft is to heed your editor's reasons for revision. If you want to do more than dabble--if you want your writing to pay bills--then heed this and master your craft. Cut the fat, and that includes characters you do not need, and prosper.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Anthology News & Related Plans

Earlier this week, I received formal word that my submission to the #PulpRev Sampler Anthology got accepted. Contract terms have already been agreed upon. Look forward to "The Ghost Fist Gambit" seeing publication in e-book format when the editors finish their end, final revisions are done and accepted, and I hear about a release date. Will likely cost much less than a Scalzi e-book.

That's the second anthology this year that I've been accepted for. (Granted, the first one was by invitation, but that still counts and no serious writer will gainsay that.) Once I have some release dates to share (and related information), I will do so here; I will also do my best to have something else ready to go at the same time.

As for what I will have ready, that depends on which anthology comes out first. The plan I have is to have something complimentary available at the same time, so the Sampler Anthology will see me release a Space Opera story and Six Salvations will have an old-school adventure tale go with it. In addition to writing the manuscript, I'll have to sort out how to make the rest of the book presently.

And now, a little more from Stuff In Progress:

"This is the new starfighter, Sir Jeremiah."

Jeremiah look on at the sleek craft. Its fuselage ran long and narrowed to a point. The cockpit sat on the bigger backend, capped with an aerodynamic canopy. Two large cylindrical engines sat on either side of the fuselage, from which two wide wings extended- wings whose ends held powerful cannons.

"Does it have a name, Harry?" Jeremiah said, look over at the old man in charge of the hangar.

"Not yet."

Jeremiah picked up a nearby tablet, took a photograph of it, and then digitally painted the photo in the yellow-gold and purple colors of the Solar Guard. "I dub this the 'Cataphract' class." he said, "Paint it so, and put my arms on the wings and the fuselage as per custom."

Old Man Harry took the tablet from Sir Jeremiah, looked at the mockup, smiled and nodded. "Very good, sir. I'll put the robots to work immediately. She will be ready to fly by the time you take up Combat Air Patrol duty."

Jeremiah chuckled. "If this performs as well as the simulations say it does, we'll sweep the oath-breakers from the skies."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Razorfist Presents a Storytelling Masterclass

Learning how to tell a story isn't as easy as it looks once you go from "Dude talking about his fishing trip." to "Entertaining people as a means of making a living." While I--like many of you reading this--deal in the written word (short stories, novels, etc.) we are unwise to not pay attention to other storytelling media.

Today, as part of a month-long retrospective on the franchise, Razorfist revisits the most meme-worthy entry of the Mad Max series: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

For a writer of fiction, the reason to study film, television and comics as storytelling media is to see and hear what good storytelling looks and sounds like. You'll pick up characterization, pacing, plot construction, narrative threading, etc. faster by putting that analytical eye to more than the written word- and you'll be ready to learn how to write scripts for them in doing so. (You do want more means to make money by writing, right?)

You'll also see how to make an entertaining critical review, something Razorfist is competent--approaching mastery--at doing. Use of language, sentence structure and phrasing, use of emphasis for effect, and so on are all things you can--and should--learn from watching Razorfist's videos. That's incredible value for your time spent watching them, so if you're still learning you will benefit from doing so; if you're already up to speed you can still benefit by seeing how his style can inform yours, something that can only make you better.

So don't just read. Watch. Listen. This is not a world of pure written media anymore, despite what some writers want to believe. Learn from the storytellers in all media if you want to write as well as your talent allows.

Friday, August 11, 2017

PulpRev's Sampler, Development, & Dragon Awards Drama

I sent in a submission to the PulpRev Sampler Anthology a few days ago, and with submissions now close it's Wait Time as those who volunteered to read and edit get on with the pile before them. I hammered mine out quick, using notes I had laying around, about an event in this Star Wars fork I'm developing.

The story itself is simple: two admirals fighting a fleet action try to outwit each other, only one is much better than the other and wins hands-down by exploiting a blindspot in the other's thinking. If I were to rewrite it, I'd get far more into the back-and-forth of that matchup as each strives to see through the other's moves for the overall plan before committing to the big reveal that starts the climax.

With each fragment and short I write, I'm getting a better sense of this environment. Far more medieval-to-early modern, and I'm quite leaning towards medieval. (Never mistake technology for civilization.) Hierarchy matters here. Religion matters here, so I'm using more of that in dialog and presentation as I go. Sure, there's cars and ships and beam swords. So what? Dune has plenty of high technology also, and no one whines about that being an issue. It wasn't with Crest/Banner of the Stars or my beloved Legend of the Galactic Heroes either. This can, and will, work just fine.

And because of that--and this week being when my great uncle's remains came home from Pearl Harbor--I had little time to devote to the petty drama (and SJW entryism) at the Dragon Awards. I'm taking a pass on commenting about it; if you want some, hit up Kairos in the Blogroll and read Brian Niemeier's account. Or listen to this week's "On The Books", which I will embed below.

Friday, August 4, 2017

On The Books Does Pulp Speed, The Dragons Final Ballot Is Live, and Story Fragments

First, Brian Niemeier had a great episode of "On The Books" talking with Name about "Pulp Speed". Less than 30 minutes, so give it a listen over your break(s), and take in the conversation.

Second, the final ballot of the Dragon Awards are out. Brian, Declan Finn, John C. Wright, Jon Arroz, and several others previously on either Geek Gab Prime or On The Books made the final ballot in one or more categories. Congratulations, and good luck on winning your category. The final results will be announced at DragonCon, so you won't have to wait long.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Story Fragments: My Own Star Wars Fork

A little something from a work in progress:

"That will be 100 credits." the shopkeeper said.

Tom handed over a handful of coins to the old man across the counter. He took the receipt in return, and a boy followed Tom outside pulling a hoversled full of parts. As the boy loaded the parts into Tom's car, they heard an explosion erupt down by the smaller docks. Looking up, they see a plume of fire rise from one of the smaller fuel depots, one near where the yacht belonging to House Peregrin sat moored.

"I've got a bad feeling about this." the boy said, hurrying up.

"You're not the only one." Tom said, "Get inside and close up as soon as you're done."

"What is it?" the boy said as he closed the trunk.

"Trouble. I bet it has to do with that noblewoman I saw earlier. Now go!"

Tom turned over the engine as the boy ran back inside. As the engine roared to life, he looked over to see the shopkeeper locking up. Tom nodded, and the shopkeeper gave him a thumbs-up.

"This will be worth Mom and Dad being mad at me for coming back late." Tom said, and off he went towards that trouble. He headed towards the square in the Merchant's Quarter, knowing that any trouble at the docks has to go through there to get deeper into town, and that's where he last saw the girl he told the shopkeeper's boy about.

He turned his comlink on, tuning to the security band. "Target is under Court jurisdiction. Speaker's Seal confirmed. All personnel are directed to keep others away from pursuit."

"This girl's in a heap of trouble." Tom said as he prowled the backstreets to avoid Security patrols, "She has to tied to Uncle Jack somehow."

Tom saw a veiled woman wave him down. He stopped and let her approach, hoping to ask about the pursuit, when he saw the noblewoman's face looking back at him

"I saw you before. Please, let me in." she said, whispering. Without thinking, Tom complied. She hurried to the other side and got in the car, sitting across from him in the front seat. "Drive."

Tom pulled away, and then turned around the block to begin heading out of town. "Who are you?" Tom said, "And why are you here?"

The girl paused a beat. Then she said "Andrea." She turned to Tom, looked at him with a disarming smile and a pair of big blue eyes, "Andrea Peregrin."

Tom felt a surge of heat in his chest and face, and he returned that smile with his own. "Tom Walton" he said.

"Walton? Would you know a Sir Jeremiah Walton?" Andrea said, "He's be old enough to be your father."

Tom shook his head as he turned the car towards the gate out of the Merchant Quarter. "Doesn't ring a bell, and my parents aren't the sort to know either, but maybe my uncle Jack does. If there's any other Walton around this part of the galaxy, he'd know."

Andrea sank into her seat. "I see."

The comlink blared again. "Target eludes Court trackers in the Merchant Quarter. Suspected of taking a disguise. Requesting local support to locate. Lethal force authorized against accomplices."

Andrea turned to Tom, but found him unconcerned. "They can't hit the broadside of a barn." he said, "Tell me about these trackers."

"Bounty hunters, acting with the authority of the Court of Stars, specifically of the Speaker's Office." Andrea said, her voice trembling a bit, "My mother warned me that they would come after me."

Tom took her hand. "Just sit tight. I'll get you to Uncle Jack, and he can help you from there."

Tom turned the car to approach the gate. A Security android stopped them, and Tom presented his credentials. The android then pointed to Andrea. "Identify."

Tom looked over at Andrea, flashed her that smile again, then turned back to the android. "Protocol GOSG-77." Tom said, and the android seemed to short-circuit for a moment. "Understood, General. Carry on. Victory to the Loyalists!"

Tom saluted and moved along before the android's programming reset. "What was that?" Andrea said.

"Something Uncle Jack told me. He noticed that the androids are all holdovers from the civil war, but the reprogramming wasn't done well so old protocols remains as backdoors. Uncle Jack and I use them whenever we get into jams like that."

Andrea smiled, and she felt relieved. "I can't wait to meet your uncle. He sounds like a delightful man."

The comlink blared. "Target detected escaping Merchant Quarter with accomplice. Pursuit engaged. All personnel ordered to respond and support."

"Strap in, princess." Tom said, "We're in for it now."

Andrea did as Tom asked. "How did you know that I am a princess?"

Without thought, Tom said "How you move." Then a moment later, the gravity of that revelation hit him just as the first pursuit car fired on them. This is a Princess of the Peregrin Dynasty! Tom shifted up a gear and floored the accelerator petal.

"Tom!" Andrea said, "Please tell me that you know what you are doing!"

"I know what I'm doing!" Tom said as the car burst into the main street, sideswiped another pursuit car, and then gunned it for the main gate leading out of town. "Once we're past the gate, I can lose them, and after that you're seeing Uncle Jack."

And before that.

Tom stood in the doorway to his uncle's garage, where he saw the burly old man put away an open-faced cylinder. "Uncle Jack?"

"Your father told me that you saw some girl in town this morning." Jack pulled up a stool and took a seat. "I would've just laughed at him for being too much like your grandfather, but then he said he sent you here over that girl. That usually means one thing."

Tom shuffled his feet, looking down at them in embarrassment. "I don't get it." Tom said, "I just saw this really pretty rich girl in the Merchant Quarter while I got stuff Mom and Dad wanted."

Jack chuckled. "Tell you what, my boy. I'll give you another excuse to see this girl, see if she's what you think she is."

"Really?" Tom said.

Jack pulled a list from a back pocket on his pants. "Get in the car and go pick up my parts. The shopkeeper told me that they're in, and I know your father won't mind. Get the receipt; I'll reimburse your father when you get back."

"But your parts shop isn't in the Merchant Quarter." Tom said.

Jack laughed. "It wouldn't be a plausible excuse if it didn't give you a reason to take a scenic detour now, would it?"

A moment later, Tom grasped the concept, and he jumped for joy. "Thanks, Uncle Jack!"

"Don't blow it, kid." Jack said, "You're a Walton, and we don't do romance by half-measures. She'd better be worth it."

Tom smiled and saluted. "She is!" he said, and out the door he went. As Tom ran back to his parents' house to take the car out, again, Jack went to a safe inside his house. There he retrieved a faded photograph of himself, proud in the uniform of the Solar Guard, from 20 years ago. In his arms, a radiant princess royal kissing him with all the passion of the stars combined.

"So was she." Jack said, a tear running down his cheek. "So was she."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Audiobooks, Castalia Signs McCarthy, & My Updates

First: Brian Niemeier's "On The Books" had Jim Fear on this week to talk about audiobooks. The show went well into the topic, which means that it dealt with the business of the matter and what it means for you, Mr. Indie Author, as it gives you an opportunity for your book to produce yet another revenue stream. This one's well worth your time.

Second: Tara McCarthy, one half of "Virtue of the West" (w/ Brittany Pettibone, also an author w/ her twin sister of Hatred Day), signed a contract with Castalia House. Her first book is Irreplacable: How And Why We Must Save The West and the link will take you to a page where you can opt-in for email notifications.

Third: Now that Astounding Frontiers is live, I know of five outlets that are friendly to all things Pulp, Superversive, and pro-Puppy (i.e. anti-SJW and the Pink Slime fake SF/F crap that SJWs produce). (The others being Lyonesse, Sci-Phi Journal, Story Hack, and Cirsova.) This is good news. I can only hope that (a) these succeed beyond the wishes of their founders and (b) more come online as the marketplace for non-converged stories once more shows itself.

Fourth: The anthology is still in the editors' hands, so I have nothing else I can say at this time. As for my own projects, I've gone over my novel manuscript and picked it apart. Revising has begun, using everything I've learned since I wrote that thing to make the work into something good that sells. The revision's objective is to produce three not-fat-fucking-tomes (so, around 60K words) and release them in quick succession. Cut material will either be put up here or reworked into shorts (initially intended to be offered to the above outlets) before being collected and published in a volume. Once I have a manuscript done, I'll get more in detail about this.

Oh, and I may throw out another post this weekend with some stuff I'm thinking of cutting.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Don't Fear The Adaptation!

The description for this week's On The Books says it all: Author Brian Niemeier and Geek Gab Prime host Daddy Warpig chat with Mike Lermon and Richard Rosenthal, the producers of John Ringo's Black Tide Rising TV project.

Anyone going "OH, JOHN RINGO, NO!" can go fuck themselves. This is an awesome development, and I am thrilled that Ringo gets to have any of his books adapted into another medium. In this case, it's a television serial aimed at streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, but I wouldn't care if it was by Animal Planet as a docu-drama starring lemurs. The very fact that someone cut a check for the rights to do it means that Ringo did his job well enough to merit a second payday, and "Writer Gets Paid" is the fundamental measure of acumen for a professional writer.

This is why, as best you can, you need to retain rights to your work because your ability to negotiate the license of those rights to other parties is a vital secondary source of income for your work- and you need not write another word to make it happen. You'll likely need to turn around some of that income to a lawyer to help you navigate the contract and ensure compliance, but it's worth it.

The stories you create are valuable property in and of themselves, able to generate wealth well after you die in a passive manner, so don't fear the adaptation. Even if it's a dumpster fire, they still had to cut you a respectable check to make that happen, and you get to learn from your mistake without too much pain. Know your rights and guard then well; they can make the effort to write that book pay off for decades to come.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Geek Gab's "On The Books" Nails It Again

Brian Niemeier's mid-week show on the growing Geek Gab podcast network nailed it again with this week's show. (You are subscribed to the Geek Gab channel, somehow, right? You should be!) This week he talks with Jon Del Arroz about Jon's new novel, For Steam and Country, and the inevitable necessity for authors to be competent businessmen- especially as indie authors.

It's unfortunate that YouTube doesn't do Chat Replay. As usual for a Geek Gab show, the live chat is a value-added experience that the show itself cannot possibly take full advantage of for later listeners. I encourage you to, if you can, make it when the show is live (until such time as Chat Replay is a thing). The chat conversations are often as good as one's going on in the show itself.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Taking the Turtle Route: Slowly Working Towards Overnight Success

First: No dice at Cirsova; maybe next time, if I'm lucky enough to be invited to do so. Got a submission at Storyhack now, and I hope to get in there. Still waiting on Jesse; man's busier than I thought, but other anthology elements are coming along and I look forward to seeing the final product.

Second: My daily blogging (most of it at the main blog) has gotten me access to posting on the Superversive Press blog, two appearances on Geek Gab, and now a guest post on the Castalia House blog. I've gotten to a solid regular readership at the main blog, many of whom are also writers, bloggers, and gamers. This ground-up approach is working.

This one and Empire have smaller readership, but that's due to a combination of topics and frequency; daily posting in particular is a big contributor to building and maintaining readership. It's that readership that lead to the opportunities aforementioned, and this slow-but-steady pace is entirely mine; no one gifted it to me, so I owe no one but my audience anything, and that is important to me- this success, or failure, is wholly and entirely MINE. No one to blame, and no one to claim.

Which is why I will keep at this blogging. It's the daily writing habit that every successful writer insists is the basis for their success. Jesse Lucas launched PulpRev recently, and I'll be posting there when I can figure out what I can contribute. In the meantime, I'll put the finish on another short or two and get those out there- and yes, novel plans are still being worked out. (By the time I think I've got something I can handle, new info comes my way that has me reconsidering because said info is too good to ignore.)

Third: Gotta learn from the betters. So when masters show up where I can easily see or hear them I pay attention. This week that meant being there for Geek Gab: On The Books, where John C. Wright appeared and he talked with host Brian Niemeier (both award winners and successful writers) and talked shop. Embedded below.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Business of Writing: "On The Books" Does Book Covers

This week's episode of "Geek Gab: On The Books", Dragon-Award winner Brian Niemeier talks with author Yakov Merkin on Yakov's new book, A Greater Duty, and how he got long-time Palladium Books artist John Zelezink to do the cover. In so doing, they talked about commissioning works for your own books, a valuable conversation for all of the independent authors out there looking to actually get paid for their work. Put this in your Watch Later queue; you'll want to revisit it when you're ready for this step.

If you haven't already, subscribe to Geek Gab and click the bell to get email notifications so you don't miss the live shows.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Observation on the Business of Writing

First, I sent off my submission to Cirsova. Fingers crossed. Eyeing a few others that do short stories, so I'll see to sending them something in the near future.

Now, I've been following Nick Cole and Russel Newquist's blogging about the business side of writing, and Russel in particular has had quite a bit to say on marketing yourself and your wares as of it. His most recent post confirmed what I'd suspected for some time, that this is as much (if not more) art than science, and as such I've taken to thinking about how I'm going to go about this thing.

The "do a series" thing keeps showing itself as valid, so that's on the table. Not writing fucking obese tomes of filler is also on the table. I have one manuscript ready for revision into a series, and the new giant robot stories are meant to be a series also; the idea being to come up with stuff that's evergreen for me, and easily forkable should the audience attach itself to something or someone that I did not expect. I'm planning for the unexpected.

But the thing that keeps coming back to me is that novels need to return to the short lengths that they had before the Big 5 had its brains eaten by the first wave of SJWs and suddenly book lengths got fatter than George R.R. Martin. 40-60,000 words is more than enough to tell a complete novel-length story, as Michael Moorcock demonstrated back in his heyday, and as the primary means of book-selling is now digital (be the book itself in print or not), shelf space (the excuse for the fat fucking folios) is not at issue anymore. There's no good reason to not write a lean manuscript. So that's what I'm aiming for. Good enough for Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, so good enough for me.

Time to get on with the outlining.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Greatest Game Goes Universal

Homsar Delgana arrived at the Universal Headquarters for the Patrol, a building as old--yet plain and austere--in its style as his own gray uniform. The white marble made it seem like a ground-level cloud against Terra's blue skies on clear days. A young man, a Patrol cadet, greeted him as he exited the car.

"Good morning, sir." the young man said, saluting while in his full dress black-with-silver trim uniform, "The Grand Coordinator expects you."

"Good morning, cadet." Homsar said with a smile, "Take care. This thing's an antique."

"Yes, sir. Very good, sir." The cadet got in the car and drove into the parking garage underground. Homsar chuckled as he saw the cadet struggle a bit to control the old thing, but the youth got the hang of it fast. Homsar resolved to send a note of appreciation to his commander after this.

Homsar entered the building, saluting the Patrolman on sentry duty. "Homsar Delgana, Unattached. The Grand Coorindator expects me."

The young Patrolman stood ready with a blaster and wore a personal screen over his full dress uniform. He stood there a moment, and Homsar knew that the man had sent word telepathically, as per protocol. Homsar felt the remove presence of the man he came to see, and knew what the Patrolman would say next.

"You may pass, Homsar Delgana. Have a nice day." he said, and the Patrolman took his hand off his weapon to unbar the way.

Homsar passed through the ground floor lobby to where the lifts to various levels went. No doors or cars were part of this system for centuries now, as the lift shafts themselves were open. Homsar turned on his personal inertialess drive, reached inside for one of the handles and pulled himself in and up. Up and up and he went until he reached the top floor a couple of minutes later. He stood at the top doorway for a moment, and then switched off his drive- a habit of his space-faring profession, even when velocities are so low as in personal travel over short distances under controlled conditions.

Homsar threw his announcement ahead telepathically, so the secretary at the door just smiled at him as he entered the room. Homsar remembered to give that girl another date soon as he passed her, smiling at nodding at her, and then he entered his superior's office.

"Homsar Delgana, Unattached, reporting as requested." Homsar saluted and stood at attention.

His superior rose from his desk, itself just off-center of a room design that better resembled a Command Center than an administrative office. The man was white-haired, yet still in fighting shape, and wore the same plain and austere gray uniform.

"At ease, Lensman." the man said, "This conversation is under Seal."

Homsar relaxed into parade rest, and switched from speaking to thinking as a Sealed conversation required.

"I presume this is about my report, sir." Homsar said.

"My sisters and I took to your report with great interest. Complete, concise, comprehensive- and concerning."

"And my proposal?"

The room's screens turned into a series of detailed maps of the galaxies of Civilization. "Your review of the actions leading up to the fall of Boskone, and then the subsequent measures to mop-up the remnants, in like of the position that the Arisians found themselves in prompted Mentor to visit us for the first time in years."

"Openly so?"

"For us, and our immediate counsel, yes. You were away at the time, as were the others I've decided to invite to participate in this operation."

The Grand Coordinator pointed to the screens. "While we reviewed and discussed your report, the stellar cartography scout reports came in. The results for the five galaxies closest to Civilization are on the screens."

Homsar looked at the screens. While it was well-known that the Second Galaxy had uncanny similarities to the Milky Way, most dismissed it as anomalous. But what Homsar saw did not allow for random chance; each of the five galaxies before him were nothing more than variations of the Milky Way.

"Sir, this is not accidental." Homsar said, "Furthermore, this means that the conditions that produced Boskone and Civilization alike exist in each of these near-identical clones of our own galaxy."

"You're correct, Homsar. The scouts, those that survived, did find threats in each galaxy compatible to Boskone."

"Yet we are not expanding the Patrol to confront any of them."

"Not directly." the Grand Coordinator walked up to Homsar and clapped him on the shoulder, "But you're up for the job. I want you to become Galactic Coordinator for one of these five galaxies. Your primary task will be the Mentor to their civilized peoples, and in that way you will be responsible for expanding Civilization- and with it, the Patrol. What do you say?"

Homsar smiled. "Challenge accepted, sir! Just let me read the scouting reports, pick one, and I'll get to work."

"Good. When you and the other four are ready, the five of you will report to Arisia. You're going to need to be Second-Stage Stable to pull this off."

"When do the others get here?"

"They're waiting for you in the War Room."

* * * * *

"Welcome to P-Galaxy Headquarters, Coordinator." a young Patrol officer said to Homsar, "We're at the optimum range for telepathic communication with the other galaxies. Where do we start?"

Homsar looked at a picture of a pyramid-like building with the middle missing. "Here, Lieutenant. The core of our galaxy's corps has to have men like the ones reported at this laboratory. I also want a full investigation of this 'photon' power that they've got here, and see how it compares to something out of G-Galaxy."

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Dance Card To Date

Now that Cirvosa is open for submissions, this is what my dance card looks like for writing projects:

  • Anthology: Waiting for Jesse to get back to me.
  • Cirvosa: Time carved out this weekend to hammer one out.
  • Giant Robot: Still gathering ingredients; there's some world-building questions that need answering and I lack information required to do so, and those answers directly shape the plot's direction.
  • 10K Pots: I figured out how to write the damned thing. Answering that quest solved the structure problem for the book.

And that's not including the ongoing effort to learn the business side of writing, which why when I see posts like what Brian Niemeier put out today at his blog or what Russell Newquist the other day posted at his blog I pay attention and read it at least twice. Once I've got stuff to flog, I know that this will be necessary towards getting people to pay me for it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

In Development: My Love Letter to Mecha & Mythology

Come, witness the ways a writer gets to creating.

I love giant robots. That means I love my mecha anime, and while I got into Super Robot Wars V I began digging into the series mashed up in that game. The Mazinger series got my attention due to their blending of Ancient Aliens with Super Robot tropes, and the excellent blend of that series with Getter Robo got my attention.

I've run around Crazytown for years now. Ancient Aliens, Art Bell, David Icke, etc. are my jam. So, when some of my pals got into Attack on Titan, I--spoiler junky that I am--hit up the wiki and read deep into the lore. That manga, and I presume the anime in time, will reveal the severe conspiratorial element holding up the plot.

So I got to thinking, especially after seeing how well the Titans of the aforementioned comic and series correspond to the Nephilim of Christian mythology and its pagan counterparts worldwide. (Man-eating giants are common mythological elements.) We already had the Godzilla films and Pacific Rim do Giant Robots vs. Giants, and there's plenty of stories about smaller robots and powered armor versus monsters, but if it's well-known it's either old or Japanese (with a few exceptions).

So I got out the metaphorical blender and threw my ingredients together.

I'm still adjusting the results to suit; I want a thrilling and entertaining story first and foremost, so adjustments for that sake are ongoing, but I have a clear plan following a proven pattern. Initially you're looking as something that wouldn't be out of line for an X Files episode, and if I can get favorable comparisons to Bio-Booster Armor Guyver then I know I'm hitting the mark. Each escalation is a defacto genre shift, eventually going full Super Robot.

And no, none of this blackpill despair porn. (Looking at you, Evangelion.) I know my sources, and I know how those end. There will be a future for the loyal, for the faithful, for those that never give up and never give in, but you've got to grit those teeth to get it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Space Opera Week: The Call Rings Forth Again

The old man heard the rapid footsteps of someone running his way. He put down the tools, got up from his workbench, and walked to the door, meeting the runner at the doorway. It was a boy, about 14 years of age, and his face told the old man enough to skip all of the usual questions.

"What trouble is it this time?" the old man, leading the boy inside and sitting him down.

The boy took a moment to gather himself. "A girl."

The old man took a pair of bottles out of a small refrigerator. Handing one to the boy, he said "That's not unexpected at your age. Slow down, have a drink, and start at the beginning."

The boy took the bottle, popped off the top, and took a big swig. "Dad told me to head into town to pick up some power converters, so I did. I was about to head back to the house when I saw this girl burst into the market square. She had some guys after her, a lot of them. She looked rich, really rich, which is why I thought the guys were after her. Given that they weren't shooting at her, I figured they wanted her alive."

"Rich girl, running from thugs, through the center of town." the old man said, sitting down, "So, what did you do?"

The boy perked up, smiling. "I cut between her and them, knocking a bunch of them down with the car, and told her to get in. Then I floored it out of there."

"Car chase?"

"And how!" the boy said, "They came after us in three cars, and a fourth in a supercar soon joined. Then we had the cops after us."

The old man observed the lack of a rich girl, or a car. "So, what happened?"

"I took them into Beggar's Canyon, and I forced the three cars to wreck despite them shooting at us. The fourth car had guns mount on it, and I didn't expect that. He was good, real good, and he got us when I tried that hairpin turn you told me about. We wrecked, and that's when we got separated."

"Your father's going to be mad about this."

The boy sighed. "I know, but if he only saw her face he'd understand."

"So you came to me first." the old man said, with a chuckle, "Did you get the girl's name?"

The boy nodded. "Better, I got her picture too." He pulled out a palm-sized holoviewer, and he produced the bust of the girl in question: long red hair, about shoulder-length, eyes blue like purest water, and skin like smooth marble. The old man stood there, remembering another like this from long ago, and then blinked himself back to the moment.

"Her name."

"Nadia." the boy said, "She said she's a princess from off-world."

The old man nodded along. "Okay, now what?"

"The last thing she said before we got separated was that if I could find someone called 'The Rose Knight', tell him to look for a golden yacht in the starport district."

The old man went to his safe, opened it, and retrieved an old photo of an armored man and a girl much like the boy's princess.

"You found him." the old man said, "Drink up, we've got princesses to save."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Putting Together a Brand Franchise

Earlier this week, over at the main blog, I posted about an idea I had in the wake of digging Super Robot Wars V. This is how I would use the idea for the purpose of writing fiction.

It starts as being similar to how I would use it for gaming, but it quickly diverges. The purpose for gaming is to set up a meta-framework for campaign play; the purpose here is to set up Shared Milieu.

You still have Civilization vs. Empire (Law vs. Chaos) as your overarching theme, personified by the Lensman and his enemy counterpart, but after that it's wide open. Were I so fortunate as to have the blessing of the Smith Estate, I would gladly do this openly to establish a franchise that starts with stories ostensibly in separate and distinct genres, but slowly merging over time to mashup into a complete and coherent whole- in effect undoing the splitting and ghettoization of SF/F that happened when the Pulps fell.

I don't, so I'll have to find ways around that to get what I want out of such a structure. An idea like this has an eye on building a brand and a franchise with it, over the long term, something I think a lot of authors in fiction don't think through and suffer for it should they get anywhere (including selling adaptation rights). Most reading this may not realize it, but that is what Marvel Comics and D.C. Comics accidentally created (themselves iterating on Street & Smith's The Shadow, who created all of the core superhero tropes that all of superhero comics use to this day).

In time, this would be something I'd put into my estate (i.e. in a family trust) so that it could continue to produce revenue for my future beneficiaries. (The risk, of course, is that post-mortem installments go the way of Disney's take on Star Wars and just produces sanctioned fanfic. (That can be worked around, but you need a good legal construct for it.)

There is NO attempt at Literary Realism. If I want anything like that, I'll do it as wiki articles; there's no audience for it, and therefore no one willing to pay me to write it. This is a structure for proper pulp stories, the way they used to write, with an eye towards allowing awesome big stories like the aforementioned game. (And it is; at the least, watch some playthroughs and see how they not only blended the narratives of the mashed up shows, but also added the united original elements that ties them all together. Brilliant work.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Getting Back Into the Review Game

I won a book from a giveaway done by Military History Now done via their Twitter account, and that book--Fort Enterprize, by Kevin Emmet Foley--arrived today.

I mention this because I will read this book, and then write a review of it. It will appear here first, and then I'll summarize it for the book's Amazon listing. The full review will have a section aimed at writers, talking about craft.

Many years ago, I wrote reviews for stuff at RPGNet. That was where I began my writing habit, and man those reviews such balls; I had no idea what I was doing, so I made it all up as I went. 10,000 pots, folks. The early pots will always blow harder than a black hole; just accept that and move on. The same goes with blogging and stories and every other form of writing; you're going to suck early on, so just do it and improve as you go.

Reacquainting yourself with a skill you set aside will go much faster. It's been a while since I wrote a review, so there's some rust to grind off, but it'll come back soon enough and then you're back in the game again. It'll be done when it's done; I have more pressing matters right now, but soon those will end and my schedule opens up. Soon.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Geek Gab Gaiden: "On the Books", w/ Brian Niemeier

Dragon-award winning author Brian Niemeier, one of the triumverate of hosts for Geek Gab, now has his own side-show project that focus on writing:

On the Books will bring you expert writing advice, discussion, and interviews without all the fluff and scope creep. Instead of setting a hard and fast fifteen minute time limit that risks arbitrarily curtailing informative discussion, my goal is to set up a flexible format with a base running time of ten minutes for a solo episode, plus five additional minutes per guest (in which case I get five minutes and give the bulk of the show to the guests).

You can read the full announcement post here, and I encourage you to not only read the full post but to give the first episode a go. That I embedded below for your convenience.

This is a welcome addition. I concur with his assessment that most writers, editors, etc. doing this are going about it all wrong and give bad advice that people looking to get paid and make a living (in whole or in part) satisfying readers (i.e. do what Larry Correia does), instead giving advice for those that preen for the hope of getting table scraps from the SocJus Death Cultists in New York or London.

If you're a working writer, or want to be one, put this in your feed and listen to each episode as soon as you can- live, if you can manage it. Brian's one of the up-and-comers, and he's got wisdom for you to heed. (Oh, and buy his books; they're getting real awards by real readers and real fans for real reasons- and not the fake shit the WorldCon set pushes on you.)

Friday, April 28, 2017

You're Competing with Japan, Not WorldCon

If you think that the Pulps are only in the past, you're not looking east to Japan. There the Pulps are normal, and all of their pop-culture juggernauts have some degree of the Pulp aesthetic to it. Sure, it's Japanese Pulp, but it's still Pulp and you're a fool to disregard it- your young audience doesn't, because that's where they're getting most of their satisfaction these days (and have for many years now).

This is your competition going forward, and not the shit out of WorldCon. Your audience already has established alternatives, alternatives that are masters at audience engagement and understand the psychology of fandom well enough to give Lucasfilm cause for worry. Knowing the past and learning from the masters is good, but that's not enough; you need to get familiar with what the current masters do if you want to bring that Pulp diaspora home.

(Not to knock the European comics scene, but you guys are nowhere near the juggernaut that Japan erected.)

I'm not kidding. Watch that Thunderbotl episode and see how shameless they are in mixing up things that Western authors wouldn't even conceive of doing. Meanwhile, they tell stories featuring women being women (and man, that tatted chick looks like she came out of a Return of Kings article; based Japan is based) and men being men- hero and villain alike. No wonder they have so much pull in the West, such that Hollywood's had to play catchup (and still fail): Japan doesn't lie to the audience.

Nevermind the Big 5. Your real rivals are in Tokyo.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Suddenly, ANTHOLOGY!

I got invited to contribute to my first fiction anthology recently. After a group chat last Sunday, I got clarification that we can talk about this publically now that we're all working on it, so here it is: Six Salvations

Daddy Warpig gave us our prompt last Sunday. Where we've gone with it is very, very different from one to the next. As far as I know, I'm the only one opting for a historical setting. Everyone else is (more or less) contemporary or in the future, and we're going for very different takes on the McGuffin we're given in the prompt and what it means. I'm confident that readers will enjoy our stories, and therefore the anthology as a whole.

No, this doesn't mean I'm benching Blood Moon. After having some beta readers give me feedback, I'm going to rewrite it and the new goal will be to have it ready when the anthology drops so I can take advantage of cross-promotion. After I finish these two stories, I'm moving on to another right away. Dragon Award winner Brian Niemeier has a great post on how the giants of the Pulp Era made their fortunes today, and what that means for me is that I've got a lot of professional development to do this year.

In short, Trad Pub is so wrong that they're not even in the same galaxy as right- and hasn't been for decades. Those who want to prosper need to stop with the obese books and get back to the historical norm--the mean--that is the 40-60K word novel. That sort of length is proven to sustain reader interest, and it's time we got back to it. All of the years I've written for free are finally starting to pay off.

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Blood Moon" Needs Beta Readers

The latest draft of "Lacann Pell and the Blood Moon of Rammagar" is complete. I'm going to spend some time tonight after dinner cleaning it up. I'm soliciting Beta Readers; some of you I'll contact directly when I'm done cleaning it up. If you want to play, drop a comment below.

No, the story is not in a state I would want to publish it, yet. I anticipate one more round of revision, minimum, but no more than three. At this point I'm on paper and it's just a matter of making corrections before I nail that bullseye; I will finish this as a short story, but I anticipate that readers can easily see the potential for this being expanded into a novel of the length Moorcock made his bones writing- or about that Howard did for Conan.

I want to get this done by the end of this month, past which I will want to either find a short fiction outlet to buy and publish it, or finish setting up at Amazon and doing it myself.

Friday, April 7, 2017

"Blood Moon" Almost Ready For Beta Readers

The current draft of Lacann Pell and the Blood Moon of Rammagar will be finished this weekend, and when it's done I'll be looking for some folks to play Beta Reader before I give it three days to cool, then one more round of polish before I start considering my publication options. It's going to come out between 6000 and 7500 words; it's short, but readers should be able to see where the potential for either building this out into a novella or a novel (in the historic sense of about 50K words, not in the current Doorstopper Drek on the shelves) or to make this Part One of a larger novel-length work (ala Moorcock expanding Dent's formula to novels).

I'll start asking some of you if you're game to play the reader roll in a few days.

After I decide what to do (expand into larger work, make it Part One of an old-school serial, or just publish it as a stand-alone) and get on with doing that, I'm going to start digging through the (virtual) drawer to see what's worth my attention next.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Writing Factory Coming Online

Well, it's time to get it done.

I hate bitchwork--that tedious bullshit that gets in the way of the important stuff--so I am quite happy to accept anything that cuts out bitchwork, and for writing fiction that means I would rather study and master proven methods and techniques over flailing pointlessly reinventing the wheel. I am quite capable of learning from others' mistakes, and I am proud of doing so; learning from others' more generally is nothing more than a step removed from witnessing or reviewing said mistakes.

So, when Michael Moorcock's formula for writing novels in three days (meaning 60K word manuscripts for his adventure stories), a formula built upon Lester Dent's 6K short story formula, gets a prominent blog article I paid attention and bookmarked that.

What we've got is proof that the literary obesity that Traditional Publishing veered into as a means of competing by consuming shelf space is just that- arbitrary, artificial, and driven by the egos of corporations and not by actual audience demand. Consider that Moorcock's Elric novels--slim, succinct, and still fucking popular--hit the same notes (however different the path) as E.R. Burroughs' Mars books or Howard's Conan stories in much the same space shows that Moorcock understood the territory even if he didn't like its norms.

As I get older, my tolerance for bullshit--especially bitchwork--crashes like the Hindenberg, and I sure as hell don't want to do it when I'm the other side. Get in, do the thing, get out. Writing lean, tightly-focused, and fast-paced stories of adventure is the thing I am willing to master because I deliver what I desire; it compels efficiency, and efficiency compels mastery. SO yeah, I'm going to use these models for my efforts because they are the right tools for the job. (If I write a book about why John Locke was a shill, that's a task needing different tools.)

So, now that I'm prepared, it's time to get on it with it. Work time blocked out, and when it's done I'll say so here so you folks can lend me a hand on the next step.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Opening Crawl In Practice

As promised, this is the Opening Crawl in the current draft of Lacann Pell and the Blood Moon of Rammagar:

The Privy Wars are over. The Free Lords lost. The Solar Guard is gone. The Electoral Collage is abolished. Only the Usurper Vidun won. In the wake of the death of Duke Navare's death, most survivors ceased overt dissent for fear of retaliation. Those not willing to surrender went underground.

Young Duke Ireton, a Free Lord in exile, joined with a Privy Lord- Duke Farr. They cooperated on a course of action against The Usurper, starting with establishing a logistical network outside of the Usurper's control. Operating from a former Free Lord outpost never discovered during the war, the dukes and their chief allies organized their campaign and dispatched agents to execute it.

One mission is to establish sanctuaries beyond the Usurper's reach. The lost colony world of Rammagar promises to be such a world, if it still exists and if it remains inhabitable. Veteran scout, former Free Lord commando, and Ireton family retainer Lacann Pell traveled to Rammagar in one of Farr's shuttle accompanied only by a pair of automatons. Duke Ireton stands by awaiting Lacann's report.

There you are. The resemblance to what you see in a Star Wars film is deliberate, as was Lucas' use of this device being deliberate invocations of the serials of the 30s and 40s, summarizing what lead up to the events of that episode so if you missed them you weren't a ship out of water. If you're doing things that are fantastic, or you're looking to establishing a mood quickly, spending three fucking paragraphs setting it up isn't a bad thing.

Yes, even if you end up not using it in the final manuscript. Having that crystal-fucking-clear in your mind makes everything going forward easier, because when you cut immediately to the inciting incident (in media res) (which Blood Moon does, starting when Lacann arrives at Rammagar) you will know what to tell the reader and how to say it to hook them into your story as fast as your skills allow. (Ideally, with the first sentence.)

If you do use it, then going in media res is the go-to follow-up technique to use. No need to spend pages doing this when you can skip the boring shit and get on with the adventure that your reader is there for, and that's why I'm stomping about here- it's a very good tool to identify that point and get you (and your reader) there right away (and from there, for you the writer, to quickly outline the rest of your story and know where to do your beats and likely how and why to do so).