Author, Fantasy, Science Fiction, AD&D

My editor and I are tearing through chapter six. One of the things I really like about my editor is that she is very good at asking about anything that doesn’t make sense or she doesn’t recognize or understand. The reason I like this so much is because she challenges me to explain my reasoning and indeed provide believable scenarios, personalities, plots, and environments—just to name a few. This is all great help, and drives me to peer deeper into my characters, their plots, and even into the history of the whole planet.

As an example, in one such inquiry, my editor asked, “So he doesn’t think much of them, but wants to help them anyway? Does this indicate a White Man’s Burden mindset?” That wasn’t at all what it was, but to explain it to her would require something more than a simple “No, that’s not it at all.” This is what I ended up saying to her after some serious thought:

No, this character is a complicated mon, and quite frankly a complicated character to write. There are many facets to his personality, and very good reasons for each of them. I don’t want to reveal too much, but for the sake of answering your question, I’ll choose one branch.

On the one hand, the Tawl-Korian’s dislike of him, their disrespect, their loathing, even their fear cast at him behind his back and from the shadows makes them look like cowards in his eyes. On the other hand, you can’t teach a sheep to be become a bear. So whether or not you like sheep, because they may be your food, your income, or your lawnmower, you will still watch over them knowing they cannot do it for themselves. It would immoral and unethical to do otherwise.

Now, let’s take this a step further. Imagine you hate sheep. You have never owned one, nor do you have any desire to. Then one evening, seven of them come bleating through the field behind your home, leap the fence, and trample your garden on their way up to your porch where they knock over your potted plants and chairs.

Now what?

Are you pissed off? Maybe just a little or a whole bunch? As you get to the sliding glass door to get a better look at the damage, you realize three of them are lambs, and they are quite young.

Still, you don’t have the ability to care for them, you can’t hope to keep them fed, and you don’t have the facilities to keep them dry and protected until they are ready to leave. They got to go back over the fence, that’s the only way this’ll end, right?

So, you go get your shoes on, grab a light jacket, and slip through the back door. Once shut, you begin to try to usher them back to the fence, but they just run away from you. If you weren’t mad before, chances are they are trying your patience now! And then it happens–

You sneeze.

Then again, and after ten or fifteen more minutes, your nose is getting stuffy. If it wasn’t bad enough already, you now realize you are allergic to them, or maybe to their coat, even something they have rubbed up against somewhere earlier. Whatever the case, it’s hard to tell for sure, but that doesn’t help your allergy to it or them, nor does it make you like them anymore.

Finally, you manage to get the four adults back over the fence. You’re about to drop one of the lambs over when the adults start acting very nervous and start trying to push back through the fence.

As you look out at the field, a set of pointed ears pops up from the weeds and grass. A bushy tail follows them; then another, and then another, and before long, you’ve counted at least twelve pairs. They all slow as they get nearer. Soon, one by one, they pop their heads into view through the weeds. Wolves!

Now what? Are you going to leave them all on the other side of the fence to their obvious fate? Are you going to grab the adults and lift them back over the fence? Maybe you have a shotgun near the back door for just such a case. Maybe a cougar wandered on to your property last year and that rattled you enough to purchase one for self preservation.

You could run to the house, slam the door behind you, and close the drapes, but you know what will happen next, and if you don’t see it, it’s likely you’ll hear it. Once done, you’re stuck with that memory.

You could just get to the door and grab the gun and the box of shells beside it, load it, and return to the fence, but having not used it much, how sure are you of hitting every one of them? What if all the wolves charge at once?

Or, you could walk backwards toward the garden where you have a rake leaning up against the fence, and then slowly make for the house still walking backwards knowing the adult sheep will leap back over the fence out of fear, which in hindsight, you suspect is what caused them to do it the first time.

We will assume that you decide on the last option. Things happen much the way you anticipated, but by the time you make it to the middle of the yard, the wolves start growling and suddenly leap from the brush and race toward you.

Your adrenaline kicks in, and your feet burst into overdrive with the bleating sheep nearly tripping you they are so close. Leaping up to the deck past three steps, you glance back as you reach the door. The wolves are bounding over the fence! Shoving the door open, you try to run through, but the sheep are scrambling into your house leaving no room in the doorway for yourself. As the last two squeeze in, you verily fly inside, slamming the door behind you and locking it.

You and the sheep are safe. Your hands and legs shake and your heart pounds. The wolves investigate the yard, then climb up on your porch. Quickly, you shut the drapes and back away from the door still breathing heavily. The sheep have lain down near your couch, their ears turning this way and that, their noses quivering, and their eyes wide and jittery.

You sneeze again.

So what now? Are you going to send them back over that fence tomorrow? Maybe the following weekend? Would you want them to send you back to field?

Perhaps, you could manage to keep them long enough to find them a safe place to go. You could put some ads in the paper and make some phone calls in the morning. Tomorrow, it wouldn’t take much to empty your tool shed and throw a few bales of hay on the floor for them. You probably could get a bale or two of alfalfa from the local feed store. You might even give some thought to a hot wire strung a foot higher than the fence all the way around the back yard, after all, if the wolves jumped it once, they could easily do it again, even without any sheep in the yard. Next time, it might just be you, your husband, or your children.

But it is very likely there will be no further consideration to putting those sheep back over that fence because whatever else you think of them, it would be unethical and immoral to do so—just like this character.

He will not under any circumstance, regardless of his personal feelings, put those people out for the Darkfeeders to hunt until there is a better choice, or all the Darkfeeders are dead. Like you, he will do his duty and follow his conscience.

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With all the many things I have going on in my life, I haven’t had near the time I would like to read other people’s books. A very good friend of mine however, suggested this one to me and then stuffed his copy into my hand at a reading awhile back. It’s been sitting on my shelf with a number of other books I’ve collected here and there that I also would like to read. I’m a fantasy/ sci-fi lover, and it’s hard to not choose every one of them out there. My wife managed to read it first. She pulled it off while I drove us back and forth across the Cascades during several adventures. She also told me she thought I was going to like it. Now that I finally read it, here are my thoughts.

I found Mr. Siem’s, After Day One, an interesting and engaging book. He’s filled it with many colorful characters, and kept a great balance between the action and dialogues they experience. I did find the dialogue between the protagonist and his closest sidekick a bit confusing at times; however, I want to add here that I too use this type of dialogue in my novels, and I find this type the most difficult to write.

The author kept my attention, left me with questions that drove me to keep reading, and supplied great tension between the different characters amid well timed salt and pepperings of back story. I also thought he did a great job with his fight scenes: not too long or too short with added details as they were needed. The book’s chapters range from close to twenty pages and as little as one or two. Mr. Seims is skilled at keeping up the tempo through the whole of the book while mixing in slower chapters for more character building and important dialogue.

After Day One contains a prelude and epilogue with twenty eight well written chapters between them. There are many carefully spun similes, metaphors, and beautifully inscribed descriptions of all kinds throughout the tale. Here is one example:

“Brilliant lights line the inside of the tent, green, gold, white, blue, red, purple, and silver. Fires glowed orange in brass parts on long metal pillars along the periphery of the giant tent. As they followed the lights and the shadows from the fires, they saw the figure of a female flying through the air.” They “gasped as she fell like a stone toward the ground below, and then gasped again as another acrobat swept in, grabbed the falling lady by her ankles, swung her high in the air, and then dropped her again. This time the lady stopped in mid air, apparently catching something, and swung in a long arc to a tall platform at the top of the tent.”

I did find myself wondering why one of the characters hadn’t warmed up a bit more toward  the protagonist by the second third of the book. Though she has issues with him, he has shown time and time again that he can be trusted, and cares enough about her and her other half to keep helping them even though he really would rather not. Given her level of insight, she could easily discern his real feelings at any point and had not yet learned the ethics to embrace restraint. Maybe I’ll get lucky enough to sit down with him sometime and hear the answer personally.

Finally, Mr Seims did great with leading his audience one way and ending up somewhere else. He uses clear foreshadowing of what the next challenge will be. The final twist toward the end of the story was well thought out, and quite possibly my favorite part of the story. I recommend this book to anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy. In addition, this book should prove interesting to anyone from YA on up. Lastly, I think that After Day One would do well at the box office. Thanks for a great story, Mr Seims, I’m definitely looking forward to your next addition.

Winter Storm

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It’s been a bit since last I made a post. Why? I’ve been hit by a winter blizzard of challenges and problems.

The main one consists of my computer slowing down over the past six months to the speed of a drip of molasses running down a kitchen-cabinet door. I did a number of things to try to find the problem, and came up with no real solutions. Finally, I was left with one leap of faith: reformat the hard drive and hope that will remove the problem.

I figured on about two to three days to pull that off. How wrong I was with that prediction! It began smooth and easy enough; hard disk reformatted in a few hours, and the rest of the day I reinstalled Windows. The next day I began updates which took three days. To my chagrin, my computer still ran like a scared clam. Word had one problem after another. Every time I tried to open a document, a window popped up saying that there was a problem. Then it took about a minute or more for the document to appear, and sometimes it didn’t appear at all.

When I could get them to load up, everything was read-only. And even after I figured out how to remove that, once I shut the document down and reopened it the next day, everything I had done was gone. I was so angry I took a day to cool off. I lost the better half of a new chapter in my new book, and several painstakingly written book reviews. It took me another two days, two very long irritating days, before I finally stumbled across the solution: kill the “read only” option by going through properties and then advanced settings.

Now finally done with that, it was now Christmas Eve and Christmas. So of course my computer waited quietly for another three days before I could begin uploading things like Campaign Cartographer 3 and Dragon Naturally Speaking and other programs, all of which requires Word working properly.

But lo, this morning my word programs and other Windows programs were still taking excruciating amounts of time to open. So what did I miss? It took me a while to figure out. Internet Explorer of course! After deleting it, everything began working smoothly. The rest of today will be clean up and a lot of shoveling. Tomorrow I have to begin looking for a new project in book manager. Hopefully this won’t amount to more than a squall and one or two flurries.12-22-2015 Snowstorm (1a altered)

I find myself with little time today. Between  Atolovus’ edits, writing the beginning of chapter thirteen of the second book,  and continuing  on with chapter two of a third book unrelated to the first two, well, ninty-nine percent unrelated anyway, and a dozen other things poking me in the back of my mind, I have elected to keep this post simple. This is the most updated version of chapter two before our current run of edits, which by the way, should the final. We are still playing with the book cover, and our cover designer has introduced some nice beginning versions, but I’m still looking for the right images to complete it. Anyway, I hope you all have a great week, and thanks for reading!

Chapter 2

Atolovus

“Holy Quorydun, what is that putrid smell?” Druhahn exclaims, glancing about as his hand retreats to his sword handle. He then turns and calls back good-naturedly, “Sarge, you been eating bergin again or what?” The other six soldiers begin laughing quietly as they smile at each other and their leader. Sergeant Sarcius Konstantin and the other five mon catch up to Druhahn and the hair on the back of Sarcius’ neck rises the moment the stench of death reaches his nostrils.

Sarcius forces himself to ignore it as he replies in tandem with shifting and suspicious hazel eyes. “Druhahn, there is nothing I would eat that would make me smell like this—inside or out!” Their leader raises his broad tip spear and motions toward the vegetation around them, his eyes shooting back to his mon. “Stay focused,” he growls, “We need to determine the source of this smell. I reckon this’ll get worse before it gets better.” Sarcius’ mon nod in agreement before they begin looking around.

Each soldier pulls a square piece of green material out from within their armor, quickly wrapping the cloths over the lower half of their faces then tying them off behind their necks. Without further word, they split up in pairs and begin poking about with their spears and swords among the undergrowth to each side of the road while two young mon stand guard back to back in the middle of the road, their quivers uncapped, arrows nocked, and bows drawn.

After a short time and from further into the orange brush, Sarcius comes to an abrupt standstill, all color draining from his face as the red-orange hair on his arms stands up. He starts looking around wildly as panic rises in his chest and neck for just a few moments before his training takes over. “Mon, get over here—now!” All the rangers quickly converge on Sarcius’ location as their imaginations swim. When they finally break through the sudden clearing, even the most seasoned mon stops and gags.

 

The Results

Not surprisingly, I survived my first signing. I think there were about fifteen of us in all. In the two hours I was there, I sold two copies—better than none! I had a lot of people asking if I’d created the anthology to which I honestly said no, but that a number of authors locally had stories of their own in it. Most people looked, they flipped through it, read the back cover, and asked me an assortment of questions about it. About a third looked interested enough that I thought they might purchase it. I think the first thing I learned is that most people are looking for a single book produced by one or two authors.

I did meet plenty of people, mostly locals. I also learned that I’m more known than I thought I was. I think that is encouraging. And many of them were asking if this was my first novel before they got a good look at it. I’m betting most of those people have seen me at the local writer’s conference I attend every year. I guess that means the writer’s conferences are doing its job in more than one way.

I’m going to have to jot down some notes about the type of stories in Babyshoes. That was one of the problems that I felt sent people away. The usual question, “What is the book about,” is much trickier for me.”

“It’s about lots of things, perspectives from all the world,” I told them. This isn’t the normal novel spanning a single plot line or just a few. I think that might have attributed to a number of them walking away from it.

I also found out there are two signings per year, and I’m hoping to participate in the one in spring. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, and it wasn’t like people were staring at me as if I were holding a sign on the corner, begging for money, or trying to pass me by uncomfortably as their eyes seek any other object to cling to until they’re past the table. Overall, was a good experience, and I’ll be more prepared next time.

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Every year Pybus market hosts a two hour book signing  event created by Bookbuzz. This year, it’s being held from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Saturday, November 7th. Local authors from all over the area who wish to participate are welcome to attend if they meet the qualifications. Thankfully I do. I also have a local writer who is a part of my writing group attending with me. Her name is Jane Nagler, and she will be signing her memoir titled, By The River. Another member of my writing group, Robbie Scott will be there too. I will be signing our flash fiction anthology, Baby Shoes: 100 Stories by 100 Authors. My story, titled How Many Leaves, can be found on page 200.Janes’ is on page 255.

 

This will be my first book signing anywhere, and I openly admit I’m rather nervous about it. I’ve never been much of a salesperson mostly because I feel like a hypocrite. Why? Because people trying to push me to buy things I’m not really interested in annoys me. Ironically, I now find myself in a similar situation. I think I’m going to try the Q&A approach, meaning I’m going to try to treat this more like a social event and less like a selling event. I’m hoping there be enough curiosity that I can do that, and in the process, I can sell the rest of the books that I have. I’m coming with twelve copies and Jane has some as well. In fact, there a number of other local authors who also have short-stories featured in our Baby Shoes Anthology. If nothing else, it will be a good experience for me.

If you are another one of Babyshoes authors, I’d be honored to meet you. We can trade signings if you are interested. Should any of you have time to drop by, please do! I hope to see some of you there! Also, if for some reason anyone is interested in my book, or wants your copy you bought signed, but can’t make the signing, my wife and I will be enjoying the wine-walk event downtown afterwards. Feel free to catch me there.

I’ll talk more about the signing Monday when I’ll relate my experiences, and how I felt about it, and what I learned. Have a great weekend!

The Conduit

Winter is coming. George R.R. Martin gave this phrase a life of its own. I’m using it as it has always been used. The mountians above us have been buried in white over the weekend, and is only a matter of time now before it drifts into the valleys. I’ve been trying to catch up on all things I should’ve done over the summer. I’ve done fairly well, I’ve gone through three full lists, and I’m on my fourth. Most of it is remodels to the interior of the house and some yardwork on the side. I’ve only gotten about a third of the fence watersealed, and I still need to touch up areas of the backyard decks.

But that is not what is really on my mind right now. With winter on its way in and all my projects coming to a close whether I like it or not, the new project list contains the seven separate books that I’m working on. The reason my current project’s list brings this up is because I find very often that I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I could be writing in my books. I think about characters. I think about their personalities, I even think about their backgrounds, but what I find myself doing the most is listening to dialogue between them. Unfortunately by the time I get done with what I’m working on, there’s no way for me to remember all of it or even get it written down.

I do this at other times as well, like when I’m running. It seems like when I’m off doing something else, the keyboard is not in front of me and my recorder is not near, I feel much like an artist staring at a blank canvas. As I think about what to say or what to think or what to explain or describe, it all becomes very clear. Sometimes it’s a lot like watching a movie. I can see the characters, and I watch what they’re doing and listen to their conversations. I can even feel what they feel, but the moment I turn about to pick up the brush, it disappears like a clear dream upon waking. Perhaps it’s true what they say: the best picture is the one never drawn, and the best book is the one never written, or perhaps it’s simpler than that. Maybe when we are not trying, our mind is more open to what we’re being sent.

 

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