Something of a launch of the launch of a book

Our Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace

I had written up two posts on the themes of writing; the motivations and problems of writings and suchwhich. You know how it goes. They had been completed, saved and filed away in a folder (I love my folders, I have folders for folders- ok getting side-tracked…must stop taking about the joys of filing……). And I was going to return to them to edit, tidy and ‘someforth’ before posting up.

Then because of a certain headiness about completing a book, I started writing a lot about it, which is not really my  historical way of doing things. Previously it’s been a case of: ‘Ok. That’s done. That’s in print or on an e-book platform. There its is folks, Take it or leave it,’ Which explains volumes about why I don’t sell many books. OK there were a clutch of posts with extracts, which tended to be as examples on writing itself and a few throw away comments but going ‘heavy’ on a forthcoming novel. Gee, gosha…Heavens T’Betsy (no not the riot girrrl band)…. The very idea!

Anyway I thought since I had been fussing about this volume it would be best to write  a  post giving some detail of the content, themes and motivations. Therefore here is a book launch, my way-

Our Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace. Vol II of The Precipice Dominions. (Preceded by Of Patchwork Warriors.) Set in a world where there is a power known as The Stommigheid, or the Ethereal or Astatheia depending on which organisation or beliefs you subscribe to. You can be born with it, you can work with it through machines, you can achieve some elemental control through study and effort, or you can get accidentally imbued.  It can be a physical force, a means of travel, a way to view other worlds and has multiple applications.

Of the three principal characters ‘Force of Nature’, Karlyn  was born with it; Trelli (with her feet on the ground) was given it by pure accident; Arketre (soldier in the elite LifeGuard) does not like it very much and does not get on with the many machines attuned to it. The first book was mostly about these three bonding and learning to work together while taking down a cabal; concluding with Karlyn and Arketre falling in love and Trelli going onto higher things.

The second volume takes up a few months after these events. Karlyn and Arketre are on an extended working ‘honeymoon’ and staying low in Terasonia the north-eastern princedom of a sort of European located empire. They are despatched by Arketre’s commanders in the LifeGuard to investigate the near house arrest of the local prince by one of his nobles. Trelli meanwhile has been under the mentorship of The Libratery the all-women branch of the official very institutionalised religion. They wish to hone her new skills, so she can be sent on a mission of their own. Because of the bond between the three women their paths will cross, and the trio will be a unit again

The narrative spans the empire. Most action taking place in Terasonia. It transpires in addition to the local political problems Terasonia is scheduled to be a staging ground of the invasion of the world by a long exiled humanish race The Shadow Lords. This draws in other unworldly  powers.

Whereas Karlyn, Arketre and Trelli are the central characters they are never in control or even remotely alpha. Arketre in particular is left ‘out the dry’ by her own commanders with only the most slender of orders. Karlyn has to deal with her own possible heritage with the Shadow Lords. Trelli is trying to make common sense of a time and place where nothing is straight forward, and she fears for her friends falling into the morass of factions, plot and counter plots where no one’s plans truly go as expected.

Despite these numerous challenges and dangers, being united at various levels the three women’s combined and individual actions impact on those plans of various players.

When I set down to write this, I wanted to throw a number of themes and genres into the mix, along with several influences. This was to see if the narrative, whereas not always linear  would be an understandable account of the chaos which is war and its attendant politics; the effect this has on those in the front-line, the major players when things go awry and also, those caught in the middle. As it is part of a series with no particular end, some minor narratives are introduced as they will be major later on, whereas some given space now might well take a back-seat in the next volume.

Whereas in the fantasy tradition there are also elements of science, although these are far from comprehensively understood and also religion(s). The narrative combines elements of comedy, mystery, tragedy, sacrifice, crime, adventure, compassion, cruelty, battlefield violence and romance; the latter two being quite graphic at times although in context. No one character has a monopoly on or always exempt from any of these elements.

Being a fantasy of high adventure the book does run into 430+ pages to ensure everyone gets their fair share on the stage and to rationalise why some actions take place. I admit to indulging here because being self-publishing I was having an entertaining time with the world and background building, though I did try to avoid long explanations by one character to others. The bulk of the narrative focusing on characters’ reactions to events and situations. The general motivation is to hopefully provide at the end of the day an entertaining read

Currently all the work has been done, save for the arrival of a cover, general tidying up of the appearance of chapters and then the launching onto, probably Amazon Kindle .

At this stage if anyone is interesting in reading the tale just contact me by email on nnqp1863@yahoo.co.uk and state whether you would prefer a Word or pdf copy. I do not expect anyone to drop everything and go into beta-reading mode, my intention is more to give folk an opportunity to see the book for themselves.

OK I’m done.

Back to those posts…

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Writing Your Book- When The Feeling Arrives- Embrace it!

Firstly to the new writer, just starting out.

Yes, you’ve made progress on your work, but suddenly you are assailed by a whispering dread. ’Is it worth all this time and effort? What happens if someone reads it and doesn’t like it?’

If those sly words haven’t reached you yet, they will.

Follow me as I turn to writers of some experience, not all of it good.

Hi folks. I have a new writer here who I’ve scared a bit about the ‘D’ word. Yes, I agree with you, would that ‘doubt’ were banished from the lexicon of the writer’s experiences, but what can we do? We’re all human and apart from the most obnoxious egotists we are all prone to it, being part of the human composition.

Let us consider not those tendrils curling about your creativity in an effort to stifle your efforts. Instead let us consider those signs pointing out you are doing your level best.

I Really Must Catch Up On Everyone’s Blogs….Sometime, Soon

This one needs addressing promptly because it is the most challenging. You’re reading this  thus you are in the blogosphere. You read them, your write them. You form bonds with other bloggers. You like their posts and you get to ‘chat’ with them, exchange views, support, ask questions and so forth. You might do this on a daily or other regular basis. And then one day you suddenly drop off the radar. Why? Well you know don’t you?

Yes, you are caught up in your writing. The time you have available to ‘tap’ the keyboards have been inexorably taken up with your latest project. It’s not that you don’t care about these folks, got bored with them, or become selfish. Oh no, you have been drawn into your work, deep. There is exploration on plot, motivations, characters to be attended to. Re-writes, checking for typos. You try and snatch some time on WP to let folk know you are there and well, for you know the dear genuine folk will worry if you are not around, it’s that sort of good community. Meanwhile it is back to your work, for this has become the principal attention of your creativity. Within the part of you which is the writer a spark has ignited, one beyond the usual chemistry of writing. You are now in the centre of the  writing equivalent of the nuclear fusion process which brings in birth a star. And here you are. Your writing has ascended and drawn you upwards. Embrace this, the future of your valuable work is calling you.

Hey! How Have You Guys Been? I Missed You!

You finally find the time in your day to sit at your laptop and pick up where you left off. You want to speak with your characters, you’ve been thinking about them all day, wondering how they will react to your latest idea. You want to know if this will work for them. You’ve missed their approach to life or been worrying how they’ve been coping. There are various views about characters taking hold of the narrative from a writer or whether they should be kept under control. Whichever viewpoint you take if you are engaging with your characters to the point, they are not pieces on a gameboard or out of cliché central to move along the Plot Above All Else, then they are alive and they are vibrant. Work with them for sometimes you just have to listen to them.

Are You Feeling OK?

Yes, it can be a bit disconcerting for the person who happens to be in the same room as you. They are sitting there working on some craft project, doing a jig-saw, reading or attending to their own laptop, you are ‘tip-taping away when suddenly from your direction they hear a sibilant ‘Yesssssss!’ and notice one of your fists is clenched and shaking in what can only be described as a gesture of triumph. Then there will be the occasion when odd words spring from your lips such as ‘Alll-right!’ Got—-It!!’ ‘Rock AND Roll!’ or other such random and statements unconnected to the current surroundings. There might even be a gentle laugh followed by ‘Oh yeah. It works,’ or even nothing apart from the laugh.

After a while a patient and astute companion will realise you are simply expressing delight that amongst all of the words you are producing there are some passages which you are particularly enthusiastic about or proud of.

We all have to admit we are plagued by worry over parts of the book and if left to our own devices might be tinkering with the thing for decades. However if you do encounter yourself lapsing into one of these episodes of vocalised joy, you should realise you are certainly on the right track. Those nagging little parts might just well have to be steam rollered over. If you are connecting this way with even one small part of your work you are mining your true potential. Keep on keeping on.

So What? I mean, Like So **** What? You Don’t Like It? This Is Me Not Caring! 

This may be a ‘just me then’ interlude. However I do feel it is worth voicing. There are many useful, cogently constructed and intelligently helpful posts, blogs, even books about what to do and what not to do when writing. I accept this to be so.

However where my teeth start to bare (I picked up the habit from one of my characters Arketre, fierce person when provoked), hackles rise and fists clench in a not happy way is when would be krit-tiks, folk who never wrote anything apart from snark and the literary fashionista start to pick, pry and come up with cliched or lazy commentary which proves they never read the whole thing, or it offends them(Hah!). Where I dig my heels in and snort derision or scratch my head around above my left ear and say ‘yeah, yeah’ is when someone tells me my work is ‘interesting’, but……..

In short, if you have written it, it is yours. You did a damn good job to get it completed and if some part of the world doesn’t like it, or not understand it, you cannot be held responsible for their lack of comprehension.

If you believe your work has the right to be put out there in one form or another. Then, you dear writer are cookin’. Advice is one thing. Guidance is helpful. As for the rest…LIKE I (bad word) CARED!

Might not sell books, but it will ensure you get your book completed.

 

Therefore fellow writer, if you are experiencing one or more of these , you are on your way and more power to you. If you are not, well keep on they will turn up sooner or later.

Keep writing.

The world might well be waiting for you.

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Writing Your Book- The Plot Thing

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

Writing Your Book-A Journey Barefooted and Treading on Glass under a Hot Sun- facing challenges you’d prefer to avoid

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

Characters eh?

 

I swear by the blade of Dark Agnes and the pen Robert E Howard I cannot explain why the creative process of writing within me always leads to the principal characters being women. Particularly as it causes some much initial bother.

As a male to mention I find it easier to write women as principal characters in a Fantasy setting and some folk think ‘Uh-huh male in his late 60s writing about fantasy girls…yeh got it!’.

So part-time psychiatrists and psychologists form an orderly Q. Tea and biscuits will be served while you are waiting.

Now it’s no use citing other male authors who do this either in Fantasy or SF for a few commentators are bound to say ‘Yes but the characters are sssso stereo-typical’ or ‘Oh another alpha-female’ (this is often quoted by males who are secretly scared of girls and also are wont take tape measures with them on visits to the bathroom)

The whole business if fraught with difficulties. By happenstance since my work is only destined to be self-published and not as a source of income, therein lies my freedom to continue as my writing muse leads me.

Which is, truth be known, of small comfort.

So let us, dear reader, travel down one writer’s path, signposted ‘Problem With Principal Characters’ and see if by the spirits of The Parallel you can relate with your own problems getting the folk to fit into the narrative.

The first problem most authors meets is they are usually not in the same mould as the character. In my case this would be fairly flash-light- in- one’s- face- obvious, ie how does a male writer relate to a female character? Well in my case having been married to the same gal for 45 years, having two daughters and one granddaughter in her twenties is of some help; having worked in an office environment for 40+ years where the majority of staff were women was another plus. This however does not the answer to all the issues, maybe 15%’s worth in that there as many types of women as there are men, and that surprisingly women and men are different, physically and in perspectives. This as far as I dare go without being lynched (allegorically). So characters might not think as you do, you have to work outside of your own head, imaginations, experience and contemplation on the subject are necessary.

Next problem, when confronting the issue of gender-specific (sorry I’ve been itching to use that phrase, I’m sure I don’t know why) fantasy-genre figures (as opposed to ahem…fantasy figures; heck this post is tougher than was first envisaged!). Now unless we are dealing with the area of comic book novels let us try to avoid the warrior woman who for some reason finds it easier to fight in a costume more suitable to the beach or as underwear; I mean do you know any women who walk about snowy mountains in bikinis or underwear…Uh? So, girls wear clothes, and since I’m setting this in northern climes heavy duty clothes. Why are clothes important in a novel’s narrative, because they in part define the characters.

Yes ‘Characters’. Despite what was written earlier, falling into stereo-types is something to be wary of, we all do it, when it a hurry, or making a point, or…(fill in the blanks). My own solution was to bring in three central characters, each with their own jumble of features. (As I see it, we are all a ‘jumble’ of gifts, flaws, quirks, sensitivities, strengths etc). This avoided the danger of a narrative of many parts ending up revolving around one character. It also allowed me to have characters engage with each on level terms, wherein one could be ‘up’, one ‘down’ and one in the middle, or any permutation, but not always the same ones in the same order.

This is how they panned out in order of introduction:

Karlyn Nahtinee. The standard trope in Fantasy would be the mischievous acrobatic thief who has a heart of gold, a cheeky sense of humour and is a bane to authority. Karlyn’s propensity to set fire to places or folk she thought were ‘evil’ wiped out some of the trope. The principal danger though was for folk to read a few lines and yell… ‘Ha Harley Quinn!!’ or ‘Chiana-Farscape!’. Mindful of this meant a great deal of effort trying work with Karlyn to ensure she did not do things these two would do while still retaining her skewed sometimes comic viewpoint. Bringing a vague back-story that her ancestry might not be all human, explained her ability to ‘talk’ with trees, various animals, birds, insects; smell things which can’t be smelt and walk between worlds. This would evolve with in her a general air of confusion and irritation at the way others see the world. She starts a new career as the assistant to an unconventional Custodian (think inquisitor) Even so the cloud of Harley Quinn still hovers. In a way it’s good, made me concentrate. She still develops, sometimes she shifts in character to a more regal type indicating her possible heritage.

Arketre Beritt: The standard trope; woman soldier/warrior. Women soldiers in Fantasy aside from sometimes being alpha-leaders tend to be hard folk, short on humour, often taller than average and either voluptuous or plain and everyone reading the book is waiting for the ‘right man’ to come along. Arketre was thus shorter than average, pretty, the equivalent of a ‘medic’ with apparently a tender heart, but able to stand up for herself. In short, in common parlance she started out as ‘a grunt’. Initially a counterpoint to some of Karlyn’s more acerbic characteristics, but as time goes on some military truths come out. She is part of an elite organisation The LifeGuard a cross between special forces and secret police like they had an ethical streak.  As a solider she complains about the equipment, she moans about officers, she dislikes being left without orders when she has responsibility. She sometimes kills in a rather unsettlingly detached manner. She can suffer from the ‘red mist’. She was content as a ‘medic’ but embraces the role of fighter. She is volatile. She has been made suited to war. But she will not let her friends down. She is ill-at-ease with the power Karlyn and Trelli embrace or come to terms with.

Trelli, aka Trelyvana Waywanderer: The innocent abroad. A once humble housemaid who accidentally ended up with powers and became the focus of a hunt by officialdom in the form of the Arketre’s LifeGuard and Karlyn’s Custodian, which is how all three meet. This type of character can spend their time being terrified, rescued and being the recipient of long involved explanations. Yes, she was terrified, yes, she was sort of rescued by the other two, but shows an ability to grow up very quickly and have the good sense not to take her powers for granted even to be suspicious of them. She also brings a level of domestic practicality and is therefore a sometime leader of two otherwise very assertive but mule-headed folk. She can reach a ‘enough is enough’ stage and speak her mind, forcibly. Somewhere along the developing of her back-story she became an orphaned babe whose parents were of what we would call sub-Saharan Africa. Living in a modest but thriving port town in a sort of European setting fitted in to this origin. Most of the time the colour of her skin simply does not matter. In the environments she encounters it is ability which counts.

The three of them were thus learning to interact, sometimes leader, sometimes being lead, bonding, while stumbling through a web of situations which none of them had much understanding. This enabled more development of quirks, foibles, strengths and general characteristics. Thus by the second book I felt I knew the three of them quite well, although each would surprise me from time to time. Trelli is asserting herself and not to be pushed around by various authorities, Karlyn struggling with her ancestry while Arketre becomes subsumed in the aggressive side of soldiering (and we learn she had been quite the rogue when off duty).

Fantasy wouldn’t be Fantasy without romance which was another problem for me when one involved Karlyn and Arketre. Aside from trying to avoid prurient, set-piece, out of context gratuitous scenes (that’s a whole different post!), there was now the dynamic of not having Trelli as the proverbial third wheel. This was an issue, but gave me a greater opportunity to bring out Trelli’s strengths, level of compassion, friendship and maturity. In addition this gave cause for a sisterly/friendship bond between her and Karlyn; Karlyn confessing she thinks Trelli understands the relationship the ‘the power’ better than Arketre, now Karlyn’s lover.

As the second volume involved a great deal of action, the three were relying on that original bonding dynamic to keep each other and themselves alive (Actually Trelli has her own romantic ‘moments’ which also allowed for some divergence of opinions between Karlyn and Arketre and added depths to their own characters).

Thus by the time this second Volume comes to an end I felt I had three people, who all happened to be women, one of whom had black skin, one of whom might not be quite human, two of whom were involved with ‘powers’, one of whom didn’t like those powers and two of whom developed a lesbian relationship and all three relying on each other to survive.

Two books in it has been quite a journey. Another book is twitching away to start. The challenge, not to repeat the same events of the first two in different places and different times. There will probably be a large scale disturbance of the empire which should present opportunities.

I think I have avoided stock-characters in the three.

But is an author ever certain? Not when they have to read through the narrative again to look out for spelling mistokes, typos, syntax issues etc.

Hope this is of some use to compare and contrast.

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Writing Your Book- The Plot Thing

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Choosing your ground

 

If you are reading this, then there is quite a good chance you have an urge to or are already writing in one form or another.  You may be just starting out, you may have been writing for some time, or you be thinking about writing and are working through several blogs getting an idea as to the commitment involved.

This post and subsequent ones will be about some of the issues involved, the platform used will be my latest project ‘Our Skirmishers of Lace, Steel and Fire,’ I will be trying to avoid:

Preaching for this to be the ‘true and only way’ to write

This being a marketing feature.

These posts are one writer’s experiences, you can take notes, compare or resolve to do the opposite. Whatever. As long as you are writing or starting to write.

Thus said;

A daunting aspect of writing is starting off. Most folk will go through an episode of staring at a blank paper or screen. All the words which were tumbling around in their head have either evaporated and lie condensed in the sub-conscious or are blocked up somewhere along the creative channel. The poor writer in a creative panic, thinking, whispering or muttering: ‘Where do I start?’

Nothing unusual there.

A writer might have a plot line but still can’t get the details onto ‘paper’. If you are on a laptop, by the way and are listening to music do not be tempted to go onto YouTube to watch the music ‘live’; more chapters, ideas and writing time are lost that way than through state censorship.

One way to ease in is to have your backdrop, environment and underlying themes set out as a motivation. Let me elaborate here using myself as a laboratory specimen.

As the years go on, I find myself becoming increasingly picky about subject matter. The moment the words ‘serial killer’ crop or ‘conspiracy at highest levels’ crop up, I am off and away. The former repel me, the latter I have had my fill of. There you go; my choice. Also, after reading so much political and military history there is a tendency for me to go for happy or at least equitable endings.

After reading a great deal a writer (or writer in situ) will have a sneaking whisper in their head ‘Yeh, fine, but I think I could do better’; nothing wrong with that just so long as you keep the feeling under control and don’t publicly savage all writers rather than write.

A writer may also feel they have a voice and just want it to be heard/read.

Putting those aspects all into my head and mixing them up this is the universe which began to form, the one most comfortable for me to write in. In this instance ‘comfortable’ does not mean cosy or easy, the usage refers to the most productive way the words come out.

In my case. Firstly being a Calvin (Calvin & Hobbes) type-dreamer I am hopeless at writing about the normal world. I am at my ease when writing fantasy for being incurably impatient researching science to create a credible SF background would just not work for me. Give me a place where laws of physics and chemistry are working which have not yet been uncovered or fully realised. But may I stick with some of continuity!

My familiarity geographically is with northern Europe, as this book is set in another time after monumental events this gives me some leeway to juggle about with peoples, places and locations. Thus, a great deal is given up to the readers imagination.

As stated above since everything is geared towards a certain type of ending it is easier to move along while creating ‘bumps’ in the road, in fact flooding out the road on occasions, or putting in a divert.

My own interests have always been in matters military, my work experience has been in the UK civil service thus I approach neither subject with a rigidity or clichés. The principal characters are also the ones at the bottom rungs, so they are focused or trying to carry or survive orders.

I like romance as a feature of a story. Setting this in a narrative is not a problem, avoiding the cliched predictable, highly unrealistic settings, interactions and terrible descriptions are! ( more about that later…later I said!)

Evil does not triumph in my books. Evil has one hell of a (‘hell of a’!..you gotta laugh folks, I got dozens like that!) time in my worlds, in fact my challenge is having the thing hang around enough to create a feasible contest. The main methods of destruction and unhappiness in my worlds are. (A) The well-meaning authoritarians who think they know best (B) The folks whose plans are not very good (C) The opportunists waiting for the ‘main’ chance (D) The thoughtless idiot (E) The unforeseen collision of plans.

I personally cannot write very long without some sort of humour creeping it. This may take the form of a satirical comment on today or some of the lazier troupes of Fantasy writing. It can be bawdy or downright slapstick. It may be knockabout verbal. Being a male as we never grow up it could be very, very juvenile. Since all these happen in Life anyhow, I have no problems with putting any of them into the narrative.

And finally, tying in with the ‘evil’ thing as those who have read my posts know I have no tolerance level for cruelty, bigotry, and violence on the weak, so I work out a few ‘issues’ without being too obvious and straining the narrative.

The above are therefore my ways of giving myself a setting I can work with, to enable me to concentrate upon plot and characters. Some of the facets I have listed in fact encourage me to get on with the work, because I do so want to write about them; the problem being not to rush into these or keep repeating unless there might be good cause (a really valid ‘might’). Thus, there is my environment to work within.

If you take a ‘Living World’ analogy it can be seen there are many environments in which Life flourishes. Therefore, what is my favoured environment, might well be another’s arid desert, frozen tundra, crushing sea bottom depths or any other comparison you might care to make which will stifle your creativity. The important facet being you create your own in which your own flora and fauna of a book may flourish.

Keep on keeping.

The Return of The Wayward Writer

The Return of The Wayward Writer

My Absence

 

There are times when it just gets you. Y’know?.

I appeal you who are writers of fiction to back me up on this. The time when The Book takes over, and all of your creative powers are drawing into the swirling nascent stellar body which is, to use the vernacular ‘Your Baby’.

I would tease out the cosmological analogy a smidge more by way of explanation. Stars commence as clouds of dust, an event causes the cloud to contract, gravity kicks in more and more dust gathers together, pressures build up, the event grows hot building up to a crucial temperature when nuclear fusion takes place and what was dust becomes a star.

There is a risk with using this description. Mean folk of negligible talent who carp but never write will pass cheap comments about arrogance and vanity for the writer daring to compare their work to a stellar event. HA! I say…in fact I say ‘HA!’ again. In a writer’s own universe, the creation of their book is as such, and a writer has good cause to celebrate.

Anyway, to clarify:

My Second Volume preceded by ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’. Book Cover 9(kindle -Amazon)
My second volume: ‘Our Skirmishers of Lace, Fire and Steel’ (or maybe ‘Our Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace’, I’ve not quite decided). This continues the involvement of Arketre Beritt, Karlyn Nahtinee, and Trelyvana Waywanderer (an adopted name. For most of her life she was simply known as ‘Trelli’) in events in the physical world of the Oakhostian Empire, the otherworldly power which going by many names permeates all, the unsettling other realms which its existence made possible and the beings inhabiting therein.

Those of you who were following my many travails will know the original version of the novel when tested on the re-write suffered from instant ‘wheels falling off’. Here are few of the errors:

Humour, and pretty puerile humour at that, in the wrong places.

Plots wandering off into sub-plots with no immediate relevance.

Characters who made a big fuss at the beginning fading into obscurity half way through with no good reason

Circumstances from Vol I being repeated with new scenery in Vol II.

Minor characters who should have been important wandering in and out with a confused air about them to blurt out a few hurried lines then vanish again.

An excess of sub-plots.

A rushed conclusion with previously unforeseen events forced in to make it work.

And whereas I do like sort of happy endings, riding off into the sunrise just looked…. odd

Naahh it wasn’t working.

For those of you who have been through similar experiences you know the agony and the weariness which assails the writer on having to start up again, having to shed yourself of the notion all the time previously was a waste. The latter is a falsehood. If you’ve not been along this road yet you have to appreciate the first draft is always bad and the second one won’t be much better and so on and so on, you’ve simply found the way which won’t work.

A re-write is like that only far heavier. But what must be done must be done.

It was fairly plodding to begin with, trying to use large chunks of the previous writing, having to ditch them, pondering here, pondering there.

Then back to the star analogy, around about December the narrative took on a very strong momentum all of its own, the whole work was demanding to be finished, all the necessary parts were in place on paper on in my head, heart and spirit; the final coalescence was taking place. So, what with the seasonal activities joining in everything else had to take its place in line, all creativity was being fed into the book, all writing time subsumed into the finish. My own version of nuclear fusion was taking place right here in my universe.

And so, here I am on the re-read. Sure, aside from spelling, syntax and so forth one or two bits are being edited out, but only so the good of the main narrative.

Over the next few posts I will be going into this. This will not be an exercise in how I expertly navigated problems, nor a course in ‘How-To’ (In this blog?…….The very idea!). These will be simply one writer’s journal of their experiences. The reason for cataloguing them will be to share with other writers along the lines of:

Oh. Not just me then.

Hmm. Must make sure I don’t do that.

Oh yeah. That’s interesting I think I could improve on it though.

Ahh, I wonder if something similar might work for me.

Hey, there’s hope for me yet!

There might even be some time given to ‘The Marketing Thing’.

 

I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

PS: Thanks to Charles for pointing out it’s ‘fusion’ not ‘fission’…..curse that cup of coffee!

 

 

 

 

Of Protagonists, The Unexpected and The Go-Figure (Adventures in the World of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”

One of the advantages of having no illusions about ever being a great success (as opposed to dreams and wishes that is) in writing is one is able to experiment and not be afraid whichever what-way matters go. Once more, dear reader and fellow writer, feel free to take out notebook and notate either ‘Hey I must try that’ or ‘No, must avoid that’ or ‘Oh boy that is so not going to work for me!’. To repeat my blog is all about pitfalls, wrong turnings, but best of all ‘Wow! The blessed thing actually worked! Who’d thought it??’ So gentle follower let us take another sojourn, shall we?Williamterriss7

Many successful and also good writers (the two do not necessarily go together) will hold fast to the idea of there being at least one strong protagonist. To have a hero or central character who forges though a book with no particularly effective opposition is not going to work. (unless the writer might be the latest Commercial Thing- which we are not are we?)   This is a good point and is undeniable.

Once more I have to admit, villains are my weak spot, they are there to be humiliated or slaughtered. Morally, elastic types who drift between ethical and legal borders, not so bad with those. Real fearsome, terrifying, evil folk…..not going to have a good time in my pages, if they do hang around it’s only to suffer…So sue me.200px-Advokat,_Engelsk_advokatdräkt,_Nordisk_familjebok

Anyway, a solution to this dilemma and to give my characters more to do than just than having a fun time or a challenging romp? Ah there was the rub! (Pause for Shakespearean interlude of silent staring off-stage).Othell0-8_2-1924-Jago

Now speaking for myself I read a history, mostly military, and after reading a lot of this it began to dawn, very little every goes to plan. In fact, after many amendments to the original we have the military saying, ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’ (the original is much longer and slightly turgid). Thus, it occurred to me in the real world would you have a seemingly all-powerful and cunning protagonist whose plans went along so smoothly until the last few heroic efforts of the central characters?…. Nah! Great military geniuses and shrewd political operators were often wrong footed by the unexpected and had to adapt… if they were that good at their job!

To get around my prejudice (yes, it is a prejudice, must admit it) I thought about the many events in history and how these overwhelmed the participants maybe permanently, maybe temporarily and set the protagonist as The Situation the world was in.

To re-cap or to introduce. The World, which is ours set in a future at some stage was overwhelmed by a force which has many names (Ethereal, Stommigheid to name but two). Its true nature is not to date revealed, however can be utilised by machines, mind or physical effort, but NOT, NOT controlled. Think of an ocean or a river, think of water. Now in this future the World may be split or have given rise to other satellite worlds as a result of the arrival of this force, which is subject to its own relationships to the Universe and using the Water analogy there are tides (aka tydes- just liked the ‘y’) and storms. The stories are taking place at one of these junctures.

The first volume……..

Patchwork (See Amazon Kindle for your copy of ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’)

understanding-anger_183x90_184933693(if he does that again, I swear….)

set up the central characters, a familiarity on how this force affects the world and also an insight into some of the life forms other than what we might think of as human. This second volume looks into how the coming turbulence is affecting the plans, strategies and intentions of disparate folk, organisations, and races. The principal theme here is that no one is control, there are no superior beings, everyone is in the same boat, most just don’t realise it, they are floundering, or adjusting all the time.

Thus my central characters are working in constantly shifting states, whereas they remain true to reach other. The often comic and wacky Karlyn is drifting or being driven closer to learn about her background; Every Soldier Arketre is being shunted up the ladder of responsibility and getting some tough orders. While Trelli is still continuing her journey of discovery and adaptability to her new ‘powers’ although her journey parallels her two comrades she has a more ethical dimension to cope with. Not that matters are any easier for Karlyn and Arketre whose actions are decisions are always overlaid by their emotional and physical love for each other. They, all three are facing the ramifications of actions by several agencies and individuals, who themselves are linked in some case.

Yeh, great fun. The challenge is to keep the whole business fairly easy to follow. No one cares for a book which has them going ‘Huh?’ Confused person on Brexitand then flipping back through a few chapters to find out who was what, doing which then. Nor do they like to read a narrative interrupted by a brief resumé of that character’s actions another few chapters back. Lavery_Maiss_AurasNope it all needs balance. AND making sure the central characters aren’t swamped by everyone else’s business.

In fact, at times writing this novel seems to have parallels to writing a history. The basic facts have to be there, the important characters must be given their full due, but attention must be given to those lesser folk who turn up and spoil everything AND there are always circumstances outside of any player’s control; usually weather. (smart folk should always take into account weather, it happens)

This makes for a degree of flexibility too, as you never know who will rise to the occasion and who will get overwhelmed and fall out. The only spoiler I have three is the continual presence of the three centrals Arketre Beritt (solider), Karlyn Nahtinee (adventurer and enigma) and Trelli (Professional Name Currently Trelyvana Waywanderer, and she’s regretting choosing it. The Everyone of the saga).

The best part is, there I am wandering about the house doing my share of chores, when suddenly I get a ‘Hey! ‘They’ would do ‘that’. Of course ‘they’ would,’ interlude, which was not planned, but bubbled up from the whole brew.

I just love writing by the proverbial seat of my laptop. The first draft was OK, but now the real fun has begun.

So I thus end with a familiar refrain. You can think about this approach. You can shake your head in sad despair at my hapless ways. You can recoil in horror and sprinkle your laptop screen with sacred coffee (or tea) at such heresies. Your choice.  Just do me one small favour.

Keep writing. Never, ever give up on your writing.

Wishing you Good Journeys People!

Winning Back Your Novel (Adventures in the Writing of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”)

Winning Back Your Novel (Adventures in the Writing of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”)

 

Pencils and notebooks out time folks.Victorian writing

Here is another delve into my writing career (the word for me in uncomfortably close to ‘careen’). For you to take note of, or…if you so wish to say ‘Nah…I wouldn’t do it that way!

For those of you who have been familiar with my blog know full well how much of a problem I have with THE PLOT. This item coming down the list of priorities in my writing. Characters- no problem, narrative not so bad, humour- loads of it.

Plot?

Hmmm.

Anyway, as alluded to in my previous post having completed the first draft of Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire I began to address THE PLOT. And in doing so a suspicion was finally confirmed.

Not only had my characters started to influence my writing, as in the previous volume ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’ Book Cover 9

(See Amazon Kindle “Of Patchwork Warriors” by R J Llewellyn)

fed_up_woman-620x412
I wish he wouldn’t do that

where they had snatched a sub-text and turned it into an entire facet of the plot; in this case they had taken hold of the whole durn book.

It’s not that I mind them having their moments of glory, adventure, romance, humour, clever schemes and narrow escapes, after all it is those aspects which give a book its flavour and zest. The issue in contention here being they felt inclined to fill every corner up with how they saw things and coped with them, BUT not allowing me to explain WHY these things were happening. Or if I did get a sentence in, matters came across as hurried and ‘Oh By The Way’ the empire is falling over and the emperor has gone vicious for no apparently good reason and I appear to have lost three minor characters who were to have conveyed certain major plot elements. Either that or there was only enough space for some other lesser characters to gather and engage in cryptic or enigmatic conversations.

(At this stage I should point out to new readers; it is my opinion I do not create these characters, they exist in another part of Creation and by some wonderous osmosis we have tuned into each other. You will appreciate I have a mixed blessing here.)

At first there was a problem of shoe-horning in ‘facts’ of the current geo-mystical-political situation in the world of this story. Some characters were unhappy at having bits of their own favourite business cut out and tried to be awkward in obstructing the flow of the narrative. Then there was the issue of avoiding the dire ‘Let me explain’ in which one previously minor character stands up and proceeds to suck the oxygen out of the flow by explaining some history or process with all the verve of a bad lecturer in economics; some successful authors get away with this; I’m not successful.

So stern and tough-love measures had to be taken, being the one who knew the world in which these stories were taken place I contrived to throw in events which I knew would fit in but were surprises to the characters. This did cause some flummoxing amongst the cast, so much so they quite overlooked me cutting out chunks of their personal activities and speeches. As is the case in normal life, they had to deal with the random and unexpected.

Since the narrative was now back in my hands I started to inject the themes encountered in history, not events, themes. Reading of political and military histories suggests there is a constant unpredictable factor be it natural such as weather, unknown folk rising suddenly, or established subordinates thinking ‘I Know Better’ and going off on a tangent; in addition you must also consider bodies of folk who have not read or forgotten the script. There is a military adage that no plan survives first contact with the enemy; thus the notion of some all-power (usually grinning) who until the last chapter is two steps ahead of the hero(es) goes straight out of the window.

In this novel there are Patchwork (ooohh, where have I heard that word before?) alliances which are fragile and not based on trust and no one is really in control of the situation, because no group really wants to work for another group. This gives an air of uncertainty and makes for interesting situations, hopefully the reader will as all writers hope ‘want more’.

This comes with its own set of problems.

For a start off it’s necessary to make sure every character is an individual but none of the lesser ones steal the plot in some unexpected way.

Secondly there should not be too much plot and sub-plots lest the reader eventually thinks….Uhh? and finally……Hah! Who cares!…..

Thirdly, structure. Even in chaos, there is structure. In writing this part of the series I ask myself a hard question. Would the background stand up to an historian’s scrutiny as a possible series of plausible events?

Jerk
Err?

Still, nothing worthwhile in writing comes easy. At least it shouldn’t.

So far, so sort of good. There has been a lot of alteration and some deletion of banter and ‘business’. However, the atmosphere of crisis and varied approaches to it is starting to seep in; it is meant to seep in, all being well this series is a long haul (heck I’m only 67, plenty of time). And the central characters?

They are struggling to keep balance and focus (Well apart from Karlyn, but if you knew her you would  not be surprised. This said she is not going to be allowed to scamper and giggle through the whole lot; even if she is difficult to rein in).

In conclusion.200px-Advokat,_Engelsk_advokatdräkt,_Nordisk_familjebok

Never be afraid to let go on a tight narrative. Life is not ordered, predictable or convenient, so why should you story?

Re-rewrites, Highlights and Reality-Bites (A journey through writing of The Skirmishes of Lace, Steel and Fire-Part II of a Fantasy )