Thursday, February 26, 2009

Words You Never Want to Hear the Three Year Old Say When Coming Out of An Unsupervised Room

"I feed fish!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Story Behind the Wen Quaar

OK, so I hinted at this a few days ago and here it is. One of the characters in Thunder Canyon is a thirty foot tall stone giant from a race called the Wen Quaar. Where did I get this name? Like I said, I stole it from myself. Several years ago I was stuck in New Orleans for a year thanks to the Marine Corps Reserve. After realizing that I was going to be activated for a while, I thought 'what a great opportunity to write a book.'

So I started with grand hopes and ended with dashed hopes. 300 pages into the story it all fell apart. It was an epic fantasy tale of a spy trying to save a woman spy, and her small daughter, whom he caused to be compromised. They ran from bad guys and several people died and then I just couldn't keep the thing moving. But that's not the important part.

Along the way I had them running through some mountains and thought a group of ogres would be a good thing to have appear. But after some more thought I didn't want to just call them ogres so I came up with the name Wen Quaar. The name came from a sort of free thinking combination of the Wendigo and the Sasquatch. You know, you just keep rolling the words around in your brain until something connects. I wanted something with a sense of mystery and remoteness. Something set apart, just barely, from our world. Entirely after the fact I realized that I could accomplish that with the juxtaposing of 'Men' and 'Wen' as if they were two races that diverged somewhere in the mythic past; one a shadow of the other. (And you don't really know which is the form and which is the shadow.)

Well, since that story never went anywhere I felt perfectly at ease with stealing the idea and the name and labeling my mysterious stone giant a Wen Quaar. In the story and its sequels, I play up the differences and similarities between the two races. I also refer to the Wen as 'Men of Stone' and 'Sons of the First Stone' as a way to make them more spookier and mysteriouser.

And that's How The Leopard Got Its Spots.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Above Average is Better Than Nothing

A new review of Return of the Sword is up at a long running fiction review site called Not Free SF Reader. I'm happy to say that "The Battle of Raven Kill" scored 3.5 out of 5. Also, be sure to watch Abandoned Towers for a follow up story set in the same world.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thunder Canyon

This is the announcement that Thunder Canyon will be appearing in Rage of the Behemoth this summer along with a whole host of other excellent authors of heroic fantasy. I'm thrilled to be a part of it, mostly because I've seen it build from the ground up. Some of the more astute of you may raise an eyebrow at how an RotB slush reader just happens to get past the slush pile and accepted into the anthology itself. Well, in the words of Michael Westen, "Let me tell you a story."

Through my involvement in Return of the Sword, I was asked by the newly formed Rogue Blades Entertainment to read the submissions for the next anthology and pass up my comments and thoughts. Clicking on the Rage of the Behemoth tag to the right will give you all the details of that situation. I was asked to read slush because I shared the vision of the final product with editor Jason Waltz. In the course of reading I kept getting frustrated that the stories were not capturing two important things: 1) Rage, and 2) Behemoths. My thoughts quickly coalesced into the exact style of story I thought should be accepted. At first I resisted but as the characters began to form I could hold back no longer and I wrote Thunder Canyon in secret. So I suppose I had a bit of an advantage in that I knew what wasn't working but personally, I was ready to write the type of story that was needed. Luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. So I submitted the story (read by other slush readers) and it fell favorably upon Jason's eyes.

Now for the story itself. It is the tale of Rath, a simple blacksmith who never asked to be a hero but is plunged into a situation that requires steely determination, brutal and unrelenting anger, and a sharp blade. Here is an excerpt from the opening scene:

"Rath slid a knife between the guard’s ribs while holding the man’s mouth shut from behind... His revenge had begun."

The other prominent character in the story is the behemoth, a thirty foot tall stone giant from a hidden race called the Wen Quaar. (The origin of the name is a blog post all its own. Suffice is to say I stole it from myself.) The giant is also in a position he doesn't want to be in and looks forward to correcting it and enacting a little revenge of his own. So the basic plot is: Anger + Large Things + Target Rich Environment = Blood + Wreckage.

All that and a love story as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cyndere's Midnight

This month the CSFF brings you Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet. This book continues the story began in Auralia's Colors which you should also check out. If I'd had more time between Hawaii and Korea next month I would have done a better job of prepping comments but Overstreet is a pretty competent writer so if these books fit your agenda you should go for it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hawaii in the Rear View Mirror

This morning finds me back on the mainland (where we spell Hawaii correctly) and safely returned to normal life. As usual, it's like I never left. All the same stuff is here. All the same issues are still moving along their prescribed paths. There's the same comfort of a beautiful family and the same space downstairs where I spend weekend mornings writing. All in all, Hawaii is nice but I'd rather be here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Granite Strand

The next story I've begun in my current series is called "The Granite Strand" in keeping with my theme of including a word from the world of nature in the titles. The current stories within the series, which I still can't give a whole lot of details on, are:

Thunder Canyon
River of Bones
Broken Rocks
The Granite Strand

I'm 2000 words into this story and reaching an interesting point in the overall tale as a whole. The stakes are increasing, the complications are complicating, and the cast of characters is expanding. The more the hero continues on his quest, the more things get in his way. (Usually to their detriment.) While this poses challenges to the writer it is also a more fertile ground for cool story elements. For example, the Granite Strand is envisioned as a massive, miles long terrain feature of rock that fractures and separates into towers of granite along the seacoast, with water moving around them like a flooded cityscape. Throw in a ship with precious cargo, angry warlock hunter-killers, merchant lords with their own agendas, a hero who has to watch his back, and a surprise special guest… shoot, you've got yourself a party.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mini Interview Up At RBE

As part of Rogue Blades Entertainment's continuing support of Return of the Sword, I've got a brief interview posted on their site. If you wish to know more stuff about me (that I may or may not have already blurted out on this blog) you may go here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Weekend In Hawai'i

Tired of being cooped up in my room or in an office all week, I decided to get out and see the island. Driving up to the North Shore with the sun overhead and reggae music on the radio was a blast. (Interesting side note: Reggae is an amazing musical form and I don't just mean the constraints of the melodies. Every song is either about never ending, blissful devotion to your one and only love... or violent revolution. Ain't a lot of middle ground in Jamaica, mon.)

The beaches at Hale'iwa are very nice and I had a good time watching surfers do their thing, and do it impressively. This is no Waikiki. These guys were sliding down into pipelines created by ten to twelve foot waves. According the the movie Point Break this is like riding on the nose of a freight train, and I believe it. Then back down the valley, with a stop at the Dole Plantation (which seemed interesting but is really just a way for Dole to get tourist money) and that mostly wrapped up Saturday.

Sunday started early with another sunrise swim in the ocean and then I went off to find two of the most important historical spots on Oahu. No, not the Arizona Memorial. No, not Diamond Head. No, not the Ford Island airfield. No, not the USS Missouri. Come on, people! I'm talking about Robin's Nest from Magnum P.I. and Da Kine Bail Bonds!

For those of you who loved Magnum, you'll remember that long, lonely stretch of road that the red Ferrari always drove in and out of the driveway on. Well, 20 years later it's not so lonely. I can see where they always filmed from one direction because the other way has several houses and fences along it. As for Dog the Bounty Hunter, their bail bonds shop is just a simple door and window on the street as part of a larger building complex. Funny thing, they're right next door to a church.

So that was the weekend of being out and about. I wisely got back in to the room before noon because I'm half a mile away from the Pro Bowl and traffic was already getting crazy.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

How to Stop an Overextended Metaphor In One Easy Step

You announce that March 1st will see the publication of one of your next stories.

Abandoned Towers Issue 2 will 'hit the stands' that day and it includes That First Roman Story called Sunset at the End of Empire. I received the .pdf this morning and I was pleasantly surprised by two things. First, the publisher put in an illustration to go with it, which is always fun. And Second, Bruce Durham also has a Roman Empire centered story in it. Today is a good day, and not only because I'm about to drive up to the North Shore of Oahu.

(Of course, if Return of the Sword is any indicator, Bruce's story will be better than mine.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Striking While the Iron is Hot

"Broken Rocks" has been finished in rough draft form. It clocked in at 10,400 words and I have to say... the end both made me laugh and brought tears to my eyes. That's the sort of payoff that makes it all worth it. It's really part of the driving force that makes all writers write. When we sit down wherever we are, we know there's a story out there that needs to be discovered. We hope that we can be the ones to do it and do it well. When we get that kind of lift from the story we're writing, we know we've done it right.

Since I'm on a roll, plotting and opening scenes for the next story began this afternoon.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Striking Gold

Writing is an interesting art; you find gold in the oddest places. (There's a reason it's been called "The Spooky Art.") You're sitting there, you know what you're supposed to do, you don't do it, then you lean back and wonder why something isn't working. You think for a while, you remember what you're supposed to do, you do it, everything works out nicely and you commend yourself for your cleverness.

In "Broken Rocks" (now at 9200 words) I set up the confrontation with the chief bad guy one scene too early. When I got to the next scene I realized that there was nothing providing the 'oomph' I needed. I'm staring at the screen and I realize that I'm stuck because, dramatically speaking, I'm right where the chief bad guy is supposed to enter stage left. Problem was, he'd been dealt with in the previous scene. Correcting that mistake on the fly, I just wrote him in where he was supposed to be and everything started rolling again. Problem solved, cleverly.

So anyone out there trying your hand at this, remember: If there's no 'oomph' your bad guy is in the wrong spot.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Striking the Right Chord

Today was almost a perfect day. Sunrise swimming at Ala Moana Beach in Hawai'i is a good way to start. Traditional Hawaiian breakfast of eggs, Portuguese sausage, and sticky white rice is a good way to continue. Lazing around Borders with a couple of paperbacks will pretty much cap off a perfect morning. Begin the afternoon by adding a thousand good words to your latest story and things are looking good. Then the Pittsburgh Steelers had to mar the whole thing. Oh well. A trip to Jack in the Box goes a long way to fixing that.

Anyhow, since Perfection is not attainable in this life, I'll have to settle for Pretty Darn Good.