A is for Alyn

I started writing this series in high school and despite multiple revisions, the main plotline never changed, nor did most of the original primary characters. The initial concept I had for the book was simply “a group of adventurers going on some sort of quest”. Deep and thoughtful, I know. With that in mind, I scribbled out a list of random possible characters and then rolled a 20-diced die to determine which would make the final cut. (I still have this list, stuffed away in a folder full of random notes.) The first three were as follows:

The Bridegroom

The Assassin

The Horsemistress

There were actually six in the original lineup and they immediately gave me a quick framework with which to work, and the story expanded from there. Four of the main characters are men, and two are women. Looking back, I’m thankful that I didn’t make them all men, not realizing at the time that there was a dearth of active female characters in fantasy. With that said, Alyn, the whip-cracking, horseback-riding, Toryn-hating Akarskan, is not my favorite character. I’ve tried to like her, I really have, but she is abrasive and hard-headed. She is mercurial and sometimes doesn’t know what she wants from one moment to the next. She is angry a lot. She frequently falls for the wrong men. She may be the fictional embodiment of some of the qualities I don’t like about myself, which could explain why I don’t care for her very much.

While it wasn’t intentional, Alyn ended up being similar to the main character, Brydon. They are both rather single-minded, exhibit near-extreme loyalty to their personal beliefs and adherence to duty, and they will hotly leap into battle when they perceive an injustice. They are both superior with a bow, although Alyn’s whip-wielding skills makes her a unique and handy person to have in a fight. Personality-wise, however, she differs vastly from Brydon. Where he is open and friendly, trusting and patient, Alyn is guarded and frequently hostile. She trusts with difficulty, if at all, and is impatient to the point of explosive. When she meets Toryn, these qualities acted like oil on flame, igniting an ongoing antagonistic war, the sparks of which re-kindle each time they see one another. The sexual tension between them is obvious from the beginning, noticed even by Brydon who can, admittedly, be a little oblivious when it comes to affairs of the heart..

By Cgoodwin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Little is known about Alyn’s past, and it’s hard to say what motivates her, as well as what shaped her into the hardened warrior first encountered by Brydon and Toryn in The Gauntlet Thrown. We might have learned more about her had she not traveled with two men who were far more concerned with their own troubles to bother asking about hers, although it was likely that her prickly nature prevented them from digging too deeply into her affairs.

I like to think she has grown as a character, evolving from a self-absorbed hothead into a vital member of Brydon’s team. She exhibits both vulnerability and strength, and discovers that there are things worth fighting for beyond the ideals with which one has been raised. As the author, I can congratulate myself on Alyn’s successes and failures, and revel in the fact that she is a relatively solid character at the end of the day. But I still don’t have to like her.

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A – Z Blog Challenge

Since I utterly, utterly fail at regular blogging, I’m taking part in Tonia Brown’s 26-week blog challenge. I’m gonna put the rules here so I don’t forget them:

1) You must blog once a week for 26 weeks beginning Sunday February 1st and ending Saturday August 1st.
2) Each week starts Sunday 00:00:00 and ends Saturday 23:59:59. You will use your own time zone. You may blog any time in that week, as long as it is before the Saturday limit. (ex. You can blog at 23:58 Saturday night, then also blog 00:10 Sunday morning and cover two weeks. It’s a cheesy and sneaky way to do it, but it is allowed.)
3) Each blog must total at least 500 words. To give you an idea of how many words that, this list of rules is words.
4) The theme for this blog challenge is A-Z. You must include a letter of the alphabet in your blog, starting with A and ending on Z 26 weeks later. The blog doesn’t need to be entirely about the letter. Just use it as a prompt for the blog. The title, the ending, a slight mention, as long as you include it you will satisfy the rules.
5) You may employ guest blogs to fill out your weekly requirement. In other words, you can trick someone else into writing a blog post for you, or use an interview or even a feature about someone else’s work. As long as the posts are 500 words and include the letter of the week.
6) This is limited to one blog. You cannot carry the week to week across blogs. Please announce the blog you are going to use on under the “What blog are you using” post on this page.
7) You may also make a new post here about your blog, but only post once about your blog. Don’t flood the group. If you want to keep us updated, please use the comments section to post your links to your own blog under your own post header. This isn’t required. Don’t tag everyone in the group if you post it on other pages or places.
8) If you fail to post on any given week, you must announce your withdrawal. There are no passes. Learn to use your blog tools to prepare for vacations and the likes. If you must withdraw for personal reasons, please feel free to message me and I can announce your withdrawal if you’re unable to deal with it.
9) At the end of 26 weeks I will issue three levels of digital prizes.
a. A “Participatory” badge for you to display on your blog. These are for everyone who participated.
b. An “Almost There” badge. These are for folks who completed over half the challenge.
c. A “Winner” badge. These are for everyone who completed the challenge.
10) As a bonus, I will include all of the “Winners” into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card. There is only one gift card and everyone who finishes the challenge will be eligible.
11) This is a self policed challenge. The only time I will check up on folks is when I draw the wining gift card. I will go through the winner’s page, and if they failed to meet the rules, I will discard their entry and draw another.
12) Have fun! If you aren’t enjoying, then what is the point?

Now, let’s see if I can do this thing. *FISTPUMP*

I plan to write about characters and places in The Gauntlet Series, with hope that it will motivate me to get off my arse and finish the damn thing. I have been working on it, just slower than Frodo’s trip to Mordor, apparently.

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Tagging Time!

Xina Marie Uhl tagged me in a blog hop and although I’m late, I figured I would get on with it and then prod some fellow authors because this is fun.

1) What am I working on? Well, this is a terrible question because it makes me feel guilty. I should be working on part three of The Gauntlet Trilogy, but I keep getting sidetracked with new ideas. I took a bit of a hiatus and sketched out some plot ideas for about six new novels. I’ve also been in something of a writing slump where the internet is shiny and writing feels like work. I skipped the scene in The Choice of Weapons that was bogging me down and although it’s been plaguing me, I think once I get back to the meat of the story that I can go back and fix it. In the meantime, I’ve been getting a few random ideas on how to rewrite that section to make it more interesting for the reader, and thereby more interesting for me to write.

Not procrastinating at all!

I also just got back from Norwescon where I sat down and did my first out loud reading ever. Wow, was that an eye-opener! I really need to read all of my books in front of an audience because it becomes glaringly obvious where things need to be cut. In the middle of an action scene, one shall not wax eloquent about what the characters are wearing. *facepalm*

2) How does my work differ from others of my genre? That’s a tough question because I fully admit that my fantasy novel is rather cliché. However, I wrote it because I love cliché novels of heroes on epic quests and having adventures, and I tend to get bored with authors that constantly try to inject new ideas in order to be fresh and original. While I do enjoy unique concepts, I find that I can handle just about any tried and true formula if I love the characters. I have a habit of adoring my characters and developing complex subplots and motivations for even the minor characters. Ninety percent of their backstory will never make it into the books, but the fact that they all have their own lives and motives make for more interesting characters, I think.

Seth’s neighbor’s house?

3) Why do I write what I do? Somewhat selfishly, I write because I am rarely satisfied with the books that I read. On very rare occasions I will locate a real treasure–a book that I love and will read over and over. Those, however, are few and far between, so when I was a youngster I started to write stories that I wanted to read. As a bonus, I discovered that other people wanted to read those stories also, and so I just kept writing.

4) How does my writing process work? I open a blank document and I write. That pretty much covers most of my writing. There are occasions, however, when I will make outlines, character sketches, timelines, and spreadsheets, but for the post part I just sit down and start cranking out the words, with pauses here and there for research. I also tend to shut everything off and write the next scene in my mind (usually before I go to sleep) and hammer out any inconsistencies or try several variations. Then I’ll get up in the morning and write the scene. Yes, I get annoyed when I can’t always remember the perfect line I’d come up with the night before. No, I don’t get annoyed to the point where I bother to turn on a light and write it down. (Except on sporadic instances when it’s too perfect to let slip away.)

NEEDS MOAR SPREADSHEET.

And that’s about enough blathering. Time to tag three other authors, so I’m going to go with the lovely people below:

Jennifer Douwes – Her awesome blog is awesome and although she doesn’t have a book out quite yet, we plan to keep pestering her until she does. 😀

Nicole Delacroix – She has a paranormal romance novel, Glimpse of Darkness, available here, and she is made of excellence. Do follow!

Mara Alten – If you are a fan of werewolves, the paranormal, and twisty mysteries, be sure to check out her various books in progress on her site!

Authors, remember to tag three others after posting to your own blog! And happy writing!

 

 

 

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Character Interview #1 – Brydon Redwing

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Killing Those Who Annoy You – A How-to Guide

Remember your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend? The controlling Narcissist that called you seven hundred and fifty times a day to make sure you weren’t flirting with the cute sales rep at your office? Or think about that boss you had who made every working hour torture with her micro-managing soul-destroying decisions (that she would conveniently forget were her idea the moment everything went to hell).

Now, think about the minor characters that your protagonist encounters. I say minor characters because those jerks don’t deserve a starring role. Now, imbue their (evil) souls into those pesky, rude characters that lurk in your novel and then kill them in horrible, tragic, and epically satisfying ways. Need someone to randomly die from drinking poison? How about that obnoxious bouncer that won’t let your character into the club? He looks just like the jerk in the Lexus that nearly ran me down last week. Knife-fight, anyone?

You’ll never convince me that George R. R. Martin didn’t create Joffery in the image of every seat-kicking little monster child that inhabits every airline ever, whining for treats and talking about super-irritating crap (my Gameboy died and I’m boooooored) well into the fifth hour of a delayed flight.

It can be hard to pull off this feat if you write romance or stories with less violence, but it’s still possible. Fiction is always better with a red-herring antagonist or some minor character that needs to die in order to move the plot along. Feel free to kill off that upstairs neighbor you had – the one that played the same seventeen notes on his electric guitar at three o’clock in the morning, trying to perfect his “moves” for his upcoming gig. Remember that guy? I just pushed him off a cliff. You’re welcome.

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How to Write Action Scenes!

When I write action scenes, I like to play with toys. Not always, because some scenes are easy enough to visualize, but when I have multiple characters (such as a large battle scene) it is much easier to lay out the scene with visual aids. I prefer to use things that are fun to play with, although I sometimes get sidetracked actually playing with them…

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Heroscape for the win!

So it might be a better idea to use toys with a minimal fun factor.

But any objects will work. I’ve been on the train and blocked action scenes with coins scrounged from my purse. Chess pieces work nicely, as do dice and any small objects such as wrapped candies. I don’t like to use items that are too similar because it can be easy to forget who is who.

As an example, let us suggest we have three characters battling three other characters and a dog. I set the scene as it would be in the beginning and identify each person (or animal). I move each of them into place for the first bit of action and write it out.

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But with better dialog…

This way, you won’t lose track of a character and your readers won’t wonder if one is off picking his nails with a dagger while his friends are being slaughtered. It’s also easier to visualize what each character will do instantly without trying to conjure up the scene in your head. If Badass Girl kills her enemy, she can hurry over and attack the dog that is mauling the leg of her companion.

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You know she could have taken them all herself.

This also allows you to account for time—how long will it take her to get to her friend? Will she need to run? Will she have to hurtle a dead body to get there? It will also allow you to focus on details you might miss while trying to juggle the whole scene in your head. (Did her sword get caught on a bit of armor—or bone?) What if one character trips? He’ll be down for a minute while the others are still moving.

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You get extra points for making sound effects while maneuvering them. *gurgle*

This works with any action scene that has multiple players, even non-battle scenes. Picture a large ballroom with two characters dancing while a third tries to get to them. Blocking it out this way and using tangible objects can make the scene much quicker to write, and more realistic in the long run. It is also a lot of fun.

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He’s no Legolas, but he’ll do in a pinch.

You heard the man.

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The Dreaded Backstory

THE DREADED BACKSTORY

Ask a novelist one thing they hate about writing and they will probably list “backstory” as pretty high up on the list. Sometimes we’ve taken great pains (and weeks and weeks of research) to create an amazing world and populate it with a multitude of persons, creatures, warring factions, pious religions, and every sort of thing in between. It’s tempting to dump as much of this on our readers as we can, all at once, preferably at the beginning of the story. It’s also a good way to lose your readers within the first page.

Grass and Sky

Cool world, bro.

Most writers are told to “show don’t tell” and since it’s difficult to convey things like backstory without pages and pages of telling them how things are, one preferred method is through dialog. Most readers don’t want to sit through a long exposition about where and how each character lived prior to beginning their careers as a part of your novel, so one good way to bring out their history is through discussions with other characters.

Ideally, backstory is revealed gradually and dialog is an excellent vehicle for doling out information piecemeal. This allows the reader to put your character together as though collecting bits of a puzzle. Sometimes we don’t even know what the character looks like until it’s handed to us through some sort of dialog. It can be difficult for the POV character to convey self-description, but fairly easy to utilize others. “Gross, now I have your blond hairs stuck to my comb,” one character can say, or they can latch onto your POV character’s arm and make a quip about their bulky muscles (or lack thereof).

cute little blond girl

I am 172 years old.

It can be tough to use dialog to give away backstory without it becoming just as boring as a block of text. A long, rambling discussion about the political history of warring factions can have your reader skipping pages or shutting the book for good. However, a rollicking argument will have the reader eagerly reading ahead to find out exactly why one character “expected that sort of crass behavior from a dirty carpet-seller from Pugnasia” or why a Summoned demon was ignoring the wizard and ransacking the house for liquor.

If time permits, your characters should reveal snippets of backstory during multiple scenes, giving away only what is vital and holding the remainder back for later revelation. A personal chosen method is to have one character reveal something interesting to another character, which can pique the curiosity of the reader to learn more.

ombres 1

Man, your backstory
is really long.

One of my favorite series contains an amazing method of revealing backstory as the main character wakes up in a hospital bed with amnesia. As he knows very little about himself, we are pulled along for the ride as he learns random tidbits from others and pieces together his past using only dialog and observation.

However you choose to do it, always remember one thing: if you are bored writing it, your readers will be bored reading it. Try to come up with interesting ways to reveal the dreaded backstory.

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The Hero – Balance in Pairs

A bit of background…

I recently read that one of the keys to a successful blog is knowing who you are blogging to. Since I am a writer, obviously my blog readers should be, well, readers. Not just blog readers, but novel readers, and probably not just blog and novel readers but the sort of readers who sit down with their morning cereal and read the box because there are words on it and you simply can’t resist. So with that in mind, I plan to blog to readers and talk about characters and plot and all the things we love about reading fiction.

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Riboflavin? Interesting…

The Hero

Firstly I want to talk about characters and what we love and hate about them. The most common person in my books tends to be the Hero. *cue dramatic music* Or, even more commonly, the Heroes. Many heroes come in two flavors – the good to the core hero, and the anti-hero. With the first sort, you never have to question his character. Throughout the whole story, you know he will make the right choices, follow the moral path, listen to his conscience, and choose good over evil. Harry Potter is good to the core; even at the ultimate moment when he can choose to be selfish or save the world, did anyone have any doubt which path he would choose? I don’t think so.

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Have wand, have glasses, have school tie and magic. Now what?

The Anti-Hero

On the other side of the coin we have the anti-hero. His motives are grayer, his morals ambiguous (or even non-existent or flat-out evil), and his choices sometimes gripping and unexpected. This can make for a more intense story, but sometimes we simply don’t like them very much. Many times the anti-hero is willing to sacrifice characters we love in order to fulfill their own personal goals.

Hey, let’s put them together!

Opposites can be really wonderful when combined. Lemons and sugar make lemonade! Vinegar and pineapple make sweet and sour sauce! The hero and the anti-hero make the perfect heroic duo! Many authors have capitalized on this and have come up with some amazing pairs for us to love. Often the anti-hero will be a source of conflict for the hero as he attempts to fulfill his honorable mission without being waylaid by the machinations of the anti-hero.

Hero: I must achieve my goal at any cost.

Anti-Hero: But look at this shiny thing you might want instead!

Hero: Must. Resist.

Anti-Hero: SHINY THING!

Also, it can spur some great dialog and keep potentially boring scenes from getting dull. Two oppositely-motivated people traveling together for long distances (whether walking, riding horse-giraffes, or taking a car or train) can make for some entertaining interactions, arguments, and encourage tougher choices and introduce greater conflict in the long run.

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You know you want one.

Sometimes the anti-hero can be mistaken for the hero’s comedic sidekick, but in most cases they have a larger role than that and end up being vital to the plot, whereas the comedic sidekick could be removed from the story completely without affecting the overall story.

In conclusion, opposites attract, or sometimes repel, and in either case can make for interesting reading.

 Who are your favorite heroic pairs?

 

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The Idea Stork

The Stork, Of Course

“Where do you get your ideas?”

I hear this question frequently and it always makes me laugh. “From the Idea Stork,” I want to reply, “similar to the one that brings babies and those spiders that randomly show up in the bathtub.” It might be a more satisfying answer than the truth, which is: “Everywhere.”

I usually don’t elaborate, either on everywhere or idea storks, but since this is a writing blog wherein I blog about writing, I shall give it a go. I think it’s important for writers (especially fiction writers) to constantly explore possibilities. In my case, I can’t seem to shut it off.

People Watching For Fun And Fodder

My primary source of information is simply people. I have a very long commute to and from my day job and this has been both a curse and a blessing. A curse because it takes precious time away from the process of actual writing, and a blessing because of the never-ending creativity fodder. Let’s face it, people are incredibly interesting.

I once encountered a man in the bus with a self-made tattoo. “Melissa” it said, scrawled down his forearm in a rough print, uneven and, frankly, unattractive. My mind spun crazily. Who was Melissa and why had this man felt the need to permanently mark himself with her name? Had he done it himself or had he recruited his ten-year-old  nephew to help? Was she an unrequited love? Old girlfriend? Book character? Favorite dog? (The paths my imagination took were likely far better than reality; I didn’t ask and he departed at the next stop.)

Create Your Own Club

Then there are the men with the handlebar mustaches, seen at different places and different times. “Why?” I want to ask. Do they think those enormous, curling mustaches are attractive? Are they part of a cult? A secret handlebar mustache society? Do they meet on Tuesdays and discuss twirling techniques and villain stereotyping? (The urge to put such a club in a story is great, I assure you.)

Tattoo

Not-so-secret Society?

Give Them A Backstory

And what about the beautiful black man dressed like a street thug while clutching a magazine written in French? He opened it next to me and began to read. With less than a minute to my exit, I did not have the time to ask him anything. “Who are you? Where are you going? Is your family, friend, lover from France? Canada? Did you learn the language as a child or an adult?” Without actual answers, my imagination had to fill in the blanks; just like that, a character was born. Perhaps one day he will interact with the icy blond businesswoman who sat near the front of the bus with perfect posture and unshakeable poise, looking utterly out of place on the grungy city bus. Where was her Mercedes? Had she fought with her boyfriend/husband/best friend/sister and stormed out of the car/condo/office to get on the bus and flee to her mother’s/the bank/the airport…?

And We’re Off!

The possibilities are endless. Maybe one day on the pages of a book she will bump into Mr. French Magazine and speak to him in flawless French. He will introduce her to his best friend, who has a handwritten tattoo scrawled on his forearm…

“Where do you get your ideas?” they ask.

Everywhere.

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The Challenge Accepted!

Promo time!  The BOOK has finally been released after much trauma and epic stress.

The first one, The Gauntlet Thrown, is FREE and can be downloaded all over the dang place, but the most versions are on Smashwords HERE.

And the sequel, which is not free, but still pretty inexpensive is HERE.

You can follow updates and find extras on the Facebook page or the Livejournal site, plus we’re on Twitter and all the social medias in the universe.

Feel free to ask questions or pester us for whatever reason!

And the cover art just because I like it.

Book cover!

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