E is for Eryka (and Eaglecrest)

Eryka is the intended love interest for Brydon, the main character, or more specifically he is the intended love interest from Eryka’s perspective. Most of the residents of Falara are also firmly behind them as a romantic pairing, since Brydon is an upstanding citizen, a knight-priest of the Brotherhood of the Lance, and came from humble working stock. They also make a fine-looking couple and there is little doubt that they would produce beautiful children. Their relationship is complicated, however, as much of their time together was spent with Brydon doing Eryka’s bidding while she ordered him around like a glorified servant. To be fair, they were both children and she was exceedingly spoiled. Brydon spent quite a lot of time in the castle Eaglecrest while his father was a royal smith, but when his father died he joined the knight-priests in order to obtain a steady income and support his mother, who moved back to the small village where Brydon had spent most of his early childhood.

"Blacksmith tools" by Lacen - National park Krka, Croatia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG

“Blacksmith tools” by Lacen – National park Krka, Croatia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG

Eaglecrest itself can refer to either the city or the castle that overlooks it. The royal palace was carved into the immense stone cliffs that tower above the city like watchful guardians. The place is practically impregnable, reached only by a narrow, winding path that crawls up to the massive gates midway up the wall. Eaglecrest Castle has never been under assault, partly due to the fact that the Redolian forces seldom make it as far as the city, even at their most organized, but also because one would have to be mad to attempt it. The defenses of the city itself are minimal, as the citizens rely on the fact that they can flee to the castle for protection in the event of a rare attack.

Brydon is not sure about Eryka’s motivation in regards to his quest. They never had a romantic connection and, in fact, he often wondered if she liked him at all. At best she seemed to tolerate him and at worst she treated him like a scullery. He suspected she had been pressured into making a decision as her birthday approached and, in desperation, had chosen the least offensive option available. Despite his puzzlement, Brydon was gratified at her trust in him, although he was not particularly happy at the idea of leaving his mother alone while he jaunted halfway across the world in search of an item that might be nothing but a myth. As for the quest itself, he frequently wondered why she had chosen the Gauntlet of Ven-Kerrick. He had asked her point-blank on the day she had chosen him as a suitor and she had replied with a cryptic, “Because I want it.” As he was accustomed to hearing that particular phrasing and seeing the entitled jut of her chin that accompanied the words, he had known there would be no additional information forthcoming. At the end of the day, Eryka was still the future queen of Falara and Brydon would always be a loyal subject. Whatever her motivation, he would do his duty and fulfill the terms of the quest to the end.

At least, he always thought he would.

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D is for Davin

Davin is one of the more interesting characters in the series, and one that I feel achieves a great deal of growth. He starts out as someone with no interest in life after suffering through a traumatic and abusive childhood, and then losing his best friend through a situation involving paranoid jealousy. He meets Alyn after she is kidnapped by slavers and she finds herself oddly bonded to him. Her reliance on him begins to shake him out of his self-imposed distaste for living and although he is resistant to joining Brydon and the others on their quest, it eventually becomes clear that he has skills necessary to the survival of the group.

Davin’s history is never quite revealed in the series, although it is hinted at. His mother, Faan, is a full Vai who became mentally unstable for unknown reasons. She exists in human form but shuns people, except for rare villagers or travelers who seek her out for assistance. Davin’s father is a complete mystery. Davin grew up hearing an assortment of tales from his mother, each wilder than the last, until he began to wonder if she even remembered how he had been conceived. At times, Davin’s father was said to be a wandering bard, a prince from a faraway land, a fanged demon, or a black were-panther wearing man-flesh by night and a furred pelt by day. In one memorable tale she likened him to the wind itself. Davin tried to gather any kernels of truth from the stories, but had no idea what was fantasy and what was real. As a child he always felt that his father would return one day, possibly to come and claim him as his precious son, but as time passed Davin realized it was unlikely he would ever meet the man, if man he was at all. In hindsight, it’s entirely possible that Davin’s pureblooded Vai sire went off to study rocks or trees or ocean dwelling creatures, unconcerned about any progeny he might have left behind.

Blackleopard

“Blackleopard” by Qilinmon at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blackleopard.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Blackleopard.JPG

Due to his mother’s madness, Davin grew up having little idea who or what he was. His mother was content to remain in her human form, living in seclusion, selling herbs and cures and magical charms to locals who called her a madwoman or a sorceress, fearing her even while seeking out her special gifts. Thankfully there is no stigma against magic on Tarma, as the most common tales of the supernatural involve Kerrick and the gauntlet. There are stories of magical beings, but most are considered to be helpful or at least harmless. The Vai themselves are known only to a few, mainly the highest scholars of the church or those that have some sort of connection to existing Vai.

As Davin’s abilities began to manifest, he had no idea that there were others like him. Instead, he believed himself to be a freak, especially when he learned that he could alter his shape into that of any animal. Although desperate to know where his abilities had come from, he had no desire to ask his mother. Her thoughts had become an open book to him, broadcasting wildly until he had learned to block them out. They were no more coherent in raw form than they were articulated. Finally unable to tolerate his mother’s madness, Davin fled his childhood home and went to seek out someone, anyone, who might know who or what he was.

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C is for Church

The Church in the Gauntlet Series is pretty much a cobbled-together mess with a loose basis in Christianity with several references lifted directly from the pages of their most popular book. Brydon worships Adona, a direct variant of Adonai, and there are frequent mentions of Shaitan and Sheol. There is a strong patriarchal element to the primary religion, as evidenced by only a single Order that allows female participants. I created the religious background for Brydon’s world with the intention of making him a paladin-like figure, not quite realizing how important the different elements of the Church would become. The religious heirarchy is divided into four main branches:

The Order of Might – Warriors, soldiers, and the organized armed militia. They may or may not work directly for the ruling party, depending on the region. In Falara, the Church is autonomous; in Ven-Kerrick they work for the Overking. There are five branches of the Order of Might – Brotherhoods of the Lance, the Shield, the Ring, the Sword, and the Gauntlet.

The Order of Knowledge – There are three branches of this order, each with a different specialty. The Brotherhood of the Book is responsible for research and the maintenance of tradition, as well as the establishment and upkeep of all of the Temples. They are the church bookkeepers. The Order of the Pen are scribes and messengers, dealing with all things written, while the Brotherhood of the Path are traveling scholars, taking knowledge of the church far and wide, and performing rituals and ceremonies in far villages. Some settle long enough to teach the willing how to read and write.

The Order of Healing – The healers are the least diverse of all the religious orders, mingling freely in each city and temple without much rivalry or division. The Order of the Rose is the only branch of the church that allows women to “take the robe” although there is a large movement in Kaneelis demanding their acceptance into the other three. All healers wear yellow robes, with only the sash colors differentiating them between the orders of the Rose (red), the Leaf (green), and the Chalice (white).

The Bardic Order is the final branch of the Church and they far less defined than the others. They possess no temples of their own and instead have a scattering of schools wherein they learn a variety of musical instruction. From there, each bard takes up a robe and sash (or sometimes merely a badge) and heads out into the world to provide entertainment to the masses. There are five aspirations in the Bardic Order and only a handful of men have attained all five in their lifetimes. With talent and a lot of hard work, one may become a Minister of Song, Harp, Lyre, Pipes, or the Lute. With at least one Ministry Badge pinned to robe or vest, the new bard may go out into the world and provide the gift of music to the culture-starved masses. In return, bards tend to look for new material, seeking out interesting songs, instruments, and stories handed down from village to village and family to family.

Anyway, it’s possible I may have a few too many notes regarding the social, political, and religious history of the world in which my novel is set. Oh wait, it’s not possible to have TOO MANY NOTES. (It’s finding them later that’s the trick.)

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B is for Brydon

Brydon is the main character in the Gauntlet Series, so it’s lucky for me his name starts with an early letter. He’s also my favorite character, despite Toryn’s endless charm. Although Brydon is almost a cookie-cutter version of a “good guy” I think it works for him and he’s grown into the part and made it his own. He’s almost too good, at times, and his fatal flaw might be that he trusts too easily and actually believes things will always turn out all right in the end.

Brydon’s morality is rather black and white and seldom strays into the greyer areas, whereas Toryn muddles around in so much grey that nothing is ever black and white in his world. I think they make a nice contrast as a team. Brydon has a clear view of good and evil, us and them, right and wrong, and he has no problem acting on those visions. He had no qualms about killing the assassins attacking him in the first chapter of the series, but once Toryn was down and wounded, he would never have cold-bloodedly finished him off.

Part of the fun of writing the story has been testing Brydon’s moral fiber. Everything is crystal clear to him in the beginning. He plans to find the magical object, return to his wonderful country, marry the princess, and rule with her in peaceful harmony. He believes the neighboring country of Redol is populated with barbaric enemies filled with hatred. He thinks his own path is righteous and and good. Meeting Toryn is the catalyst that doesn’t necessarily change any of that for Brydon, but rather diverts it a bit. Brydon’s path, initially, is like a paved road leading straight to his goals. Toryn takes great delight in pointing out every potential tangent path and divergent possibility.

Although Brydon’s vision is clear in regards to what he needs to do, he is frequently sidetracked from his good intentions by falling for the wrong women. He first meets Sellaris and, although he despises her moral viewpoints, he finds himself unwillingly attracted to her. While he manages to resist her, he later encounters Shevyn, and her fiery silence draws him in and ends up entangling him so completely that he begins to question fulfilling the quest.

While Toryn despises Sellaris, he is more than happy enough to encourage Brydon into falling for Shevyn, despite the fact that he thinks Brydon might make an excellent king back in Falara, and might even have the potential to end the decades-long war between their countries. Brydon dives headlong into danger in order to retrieve the Gauntlet from the hands of his enemies, and to save his friends along the way. His simple quest becomes far less simple as the story unfolds, and at the end it is obvious that Brydon is going to have to make a choice, and his decision will affect more than just himself and his immediate friends.

Whatever he ends up doing in the end, Toryn will most likely be there to tell him he made the wrong choice.

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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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