Happy Easter

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy Easter everyone. I’m taking the Friday to play with my daughter and paint some eggs. Relax, spend time with family, and enjoy the salvation.

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Categories: Admin

Dragon-slaying and Ballroom Dancing

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Today, I came across this article (PDF). It’s a game theory research paper discussing the circumstances under which an individual will provide a public good. In other words, it examines the math of when one person will, having had enough of a dragon killing people, rise up and attempt to slay said dragon.

The math isn’t, for me and what I do, all that interesting, but the conclusions we can infer from the math point me in the direction of things I do care about. For instance, the people who have the most to gain from a public good (e.g., a slain dragon) are also the people who are least able to provide the public good. This makes sense. Poor farmers cannot slay a dragon as easily as adventurers, who could also just walk away from the poor hypothetical village.

The math also indicates the pressure to provide the public good increases over time. This pressure is weighed against the cost of providing it until someone decides he can no longer wait. This is the inflection point of adventurers. Math tell us adventurers are people who have low costs for dragon-slaying and the highest valuation of the lives of those they save.

Heroes, even reluctant heroes, are playing a game of chicken- they wait for someone else with a lower cost to step forward. In a narrative, that is unlikely to ever be the case. It is my job to demonstrate to the character, and the reader, what that cost is and how much the character values life. All heroes will wait until the cost of waiting is unbearable. The key to interesting heroes is to make that pain point fairly high. We don’t want to read about heroes for whom the cost of dragon-slaying is minimal. We want to read about heroes whose cost is almost everything. And it follows, if their cost is almost everything, they will wait a long time to see if anyone else steps forward first.

No one else will, though. Because I, as the author, have chosen these characters for action. Whether they like it or not.

Edit: Ballroom dancing, the economists note, is similar to dragon-slaying. The music starts and there is a pregnant pause. Everyone waits for the first couple to step onto the floor. Until one person (or couple) reaches his cost point. Once the public good has been provided, more people step forward to dance as well.

Categories: Lessons Tags:

I’m Back

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m back from a nice, long, relaxing, unannounced vacation. I’m recharged and raring to go. The first bits of feedback are coming to me about the latest draft of Wolf. Generally, it’s better. There are still issues, but they are more minor in scope. Though, I do still have at least one character whose name I change halfway through the narrative. Gah.

I’ve started on what’s next, now. I’ve worked on it the last two days. I’m pretty jazzed. I don’t think it’ll fit all of the things I really wanted for what’s next, but it should fit many of them. I’m kicking around elsewhere in the Five Nations. I’ve spent the time to give the world a history and to invent, or cobble together from disparate sources, a system of magic I find interesting. It would be a shame to waste that. So, I’m write a novel about a mage from the northern nation of Syt. His life is not as great as one might think. I’m only a few thousand words in and I can promise you that.

The working title of my next novel is The Mage’s Price, but, really, it’s too early to know what I’ll end up calling it. For now, the above will work. I’ll keep plugging away here, too. With tidbits and thoughts.

The highlight of my day yesterday was the discovery of ‘contranyms’. Contranyms are words that are their own antonyms. The word ‘contranym’ is a neologism, but it works. The specific word that caused my exploration was ‘unravel’. I , innocently enough, wanted a synonym and an antonym. I was a little surprised to find ‘ravel’ as acceptable for both. Apparently, the idea with ‘ravel’ in particular is that as threads become unwoven, they oft become tangled. The act of unraveling and raveling is one and the same. It’s very yin-yang. Words are the bomb.

Categories: Admin, Lessons

What’s Next

April 7, 2011 2 comments

Having finished draft four of Wolf: Sins of the Father, I thought it might be fun to brainstorm in public a bit.

What follows is roughly the shape of the world my next novel will occupy. It may be the world of the Five Nations. It may be something else, but these are roughly the things I am thinking. Of course, anything I write here has a long way to travel before it makes it into a novel I write. And I’m not talking about the story so much as the general feel of it all.

  • The Golden Age is in the distant past or never came.
  • People are flawed. Some do the right thing for horrible reasons and some do horrible things for what seem to be the right reasons.
  • True evil only exists in the supernatural. In the mortal, we get shades of grey.
  • True good exists only in the supernatural as well.
  • There are supernatural forces of good and evil. And there is magic.
  • Magic is difficult and mysterious. It is not science by another name. It is an ineffable ‘black box’ of logic and rules.
  • Heroes and villains both come from humble origins.
  • Humble origin <> blacksmith’s apprentice. From a certain perspective, just about anything can be of humble origin.
  • Evil seeks the destruction or subjugation of all life.
  • Good fights this.
  • But. For whatever reason, Good chooses to fight through flawed mortals in far more subtle ways than evil.
  • People, generally, lack faith in anything but themselves.
  • Friendship and camaraderie are important
  • and horribly fragile.
  • and nigh impossible to reconstruct after breaking.
  • Resources are limited. In the Golden Age, they were far less limited than the current age. Remnants of this Golden Age still scatter the landscape in ruins.
  • The Golden Age was marked by hope. The death of the age meant the death of hope for the common man.
  • The Golden Age cannot be recovered. The best one can hope for is an age less horrible than the current one.
  • Cowboys are cool, but I’m still too close to the Dark Tower. So, no cowboys.
  • Hobbes was right. Locke was wrong. The state of nature is: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Locke would weep.

There is more, but that’s a good broad stroke. The more gets into specific things this list has got me thinking about.  No specifics will find their way here, yet. 

Categories: Admin, Fiction, Novel Tags:

Fourth Draft Finished

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

I had things I wanted to write about today. Instead, I finished my fourth draft. It’s continuing to improve.

It’s a personal story, as the subtitle Sins of the Father implies. I‘ve enjoyed that. It’s somewhat different for a fantasy novel. The armies marching to war are more peripheral than central. It’s a story about a man and his father. And their fathers.

My next novel, I want to write something more epic. World shattering. I don’t know if I’ll shatter the world of the Five Nations or another one, but whichever world grabs my eye next should tremble. It will not fare well. The very foundations will shake.

Categories: Fiction, Novel Tags:

An Autumn War (Review)

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I just finished book three of the Long Price Quartet by David Abraham. I’m fairly late to the party on this series, but it also isn’t as well known as it should be. Book three, like the first two, is excellently written. In this novel two cultures go to war. As in real life conflicts, neither side is pure. There are the characters we’ve followed for two novels, so we’ve grown attached to them. But the general of the army building against them has a very different perspective on the culture and way of life than we’ve been given over the first two books.

Abraham does a great job of capturing human frailty and weakness. How even when we try to be our best, we often do it for the wrong reasons. The cultures of his world are both rich and feel real. This is in part because they are drawn from real life analogs. The Khaiem are Asian in nature, and the Galts are European. But he doesn’t stop there, he invents rich histories that he layers into the tale to flesh out his world.

It’s almost a fictionalized version of of Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theory, which is, in short, that cultures, not nations, will war in our modern era. Huntington theorizes that as a single, dominant hegemon loses power, there is a period where cultures vie for dominance.  This fits with the world of The Long Price, as the power of an ancient empire fades, other cultures rise to fight against its previous dominance.

Diffidence also figures into this in abundance. In Thomas Hobbes-speak, diffidence is the idea that we as people, or nations, can never truly know the motivations of our neighbors. Because of this, we tend to expect the worst of people.

The characters of An Autumn War all expect the worst of the other side. Each side fears the other will attempt to wipe them out, these fears, of course, become self-fulfilling. It is all very marvelous and well-written.

Unfortunately, Abraham and the series’ original publisher have, seemingly, split, so the four books are not all available in paperback. The first three are, but the fourth is hardback only. However, Abraham has a new publisher who has published the four novels in two ‘omnibus’ editions. As a person who reads primarily on the kindle, I am torn between supporting his new publisher and buying the, cheaper, omnibus edition and buying the, too expensive, kindle edition from the original publisher.

I also wonder if a forth book in the series is needed. I feel fairly sated. Terrible things happen by the end, but not things the world can’t recover from. I will likely pick up the fourth simply because I’ve enjoyed the first three so much- not out of a burning desire to ‘find out what happens’.

Categories: Review

Pronouns, Pronouns- They are everywhere.

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Some days I have to struggle to come up with a topic to write about her. Other days, a topic hits me in the face. Today was one of the latter.

I highly overused pronouns in my novel. I think it’s only becoming apparent to me because the novel is only beginning to become genuinely readable. As it approaches readability like light approaches the center of a black hole (perhaps never to actually reach), I notice increasingly small details and problems. Today, I spent most of my reading time adding in proper nouns. Because maybe, just maybe, the reader would like to have some idea who is speaking other than ‘she’ or ‘he’. Bah. I’m so horrible at this.

Other than the aforementioned pronoun problem, things are looking pretty decent. I think the voice is smoother, and my foreshadowing is less jarring, which is nice. I read a third of the novel so far today, which means it’s reading faster or I’ve just about got it memorized. Perhaps a bit of both. It does pull me along, though. I had to fight to get through it when I worked on Draft 2. That was many moons ago. My narrator is a different person these days.

This is a story on blogkindle.com about an author who sent out review copies of her self-published book when they weren’t quite ready. A reviewer nailed her for it. She, apparently, considered cussing like a poorly spelling sailor an appropriate escalation. I want to take this as an abject lesson- there will be bad reviews of my books. I will not take it personally. People are entitled to their opinions. Even when they are being dumb-headed.

Categories: Fiction, Lessons, Novel Tags: