Now available through the Createspace estore!
This hefty tome includes all five novellas: Transformation, Regression, Fabrication, Purification, and Dissimulation - 430 pages of heroes, villains, monsters, and myths in an epic story of discovery, action, and deception.
Terminals: The Complete Saga
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Thursday, March 31, 2016
It shouldn't be any mystery to the readers of my stories that I write strong female characters.
It's a real toss-up as to which female character in my stories is the strongest - Falraan is perhaps the most aggressive. Abby Danson is definitely the smartest.. but if they were all to be placed in a room together, Iris would be leading them all. Why is that?
I recently read a thesis on the strong female character, it was written primarily regarding film and television. It's stance was basically that a strong female character has masculine qualities - they're a man in a woman's body. I don't agree with this, and neither do the characters as the live in my head.
There is something else I don't buy and that is attaching masculine and feminine markers to personality traits. I think we're past that now. To say that aggression is masculine and passivity is feminine is worn out to me - Gandhi was passive and look at how powerfully he affected the world. The list of traits goes on and on with nurturing and creative going to female while independent and competitive going to males. These are gender roles, and they are stereotypes.
To me, stereotyping is the same as profiling, and what's the line? "Profiling is wrong!"
I feel either gender can have a host of traits or roles - why should a character be limited? Why should we be limited? I am not trying to spark a sexuality debate, that's a different issue. Neither am I lecturing. I am simply stating my standpoint.
It's part of my upbringing.
I don't see aggressiveness as a purely masculine trait. Neither is aggressiveness the only quality that makes a character strong. I have a long list of them from proactive to stoic. My dad could be painfully stoic, but he also wept whenever he saw the flag flying or a space launch. He was also artistic, creative, and introverted which are all feminine characteristics, yet he was very masculine.
My mother cooks like a chef, is one of the best artists I have ever seen, sews and quilts, loves dogs and cats, reads western mail-order bride stories - and she is a very strong woman by any standard. She has always managed at least one business and she is an excellent salesperson.
If those two didn't make me who I am, then I am not sure who did other than the mountain of adventure stories I read - and still read.
Characters are born in my head. They take life on the page and every word I write begins to define them. I love nothing more than when a character becomes full enough that I can just feed them plot points and they will tell me how they react.
The strong women are happening because I see women as strong. I see women as being assertive and independent - I can find them in my daily life without much effort at all.
Do I place unreasonable standards on any young woman who picks up one of my stories? Barring the supernatural aspects of some of my women, no. I know that women can be leaders and that they are. I am under no pretenses that men have to be stronger or that men have to be in charge. It doesn't have to be a man that goes into the cave to fight the dragon. It doesn't have to be a man that sits at the head of the boardroom.
What about vulnerability? Vulnerability is a feminine trait, right? No, we are all vulnerable. Don't think for a minute that every rational person out there, male or female, isn't affected by loss. Even Superman, the most invulnerable being ever created is hurt by loss. There are so many things that can be vulnerabilities... Two recent characters of mine are grossly powerful, but they are vulnerable to secrets, they each have their own that they struggle to protect.They will go through extreme hoops to protect their secrets.
It's part of a characterization process to give a character something they care deeply about, something that is important to them. If a character doesn't have that special something, then they are flat or perhaps psychotic. Put that special something at risk and BOOM! you have a character who is vulnerable. This transcends male and female roles and it affects us in real life - I think it affects every rational person.
I'll keep writing characters that transcend gender roles. I have a hunch there are people out there that enjoy reading the adventures of such characters.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
What do you look at when you are fantasy world building? Where do you start? A map? I read a lot of epic fantasy, and that’s what I think I am seeing. Writers will take medieval humans, a hidden vale of elves, a mine full of dwarves, and plop them on a map—job’s done, right?
Not quite. They’ll put the stronghold of the antagonist somewhere remote and barren. There’s got to be a race of bad things too. Let’s tuck those somewhere.
Now let’s write some history. Five hundred years ago, Lord Suchansuch carved out an empire and drove off the evil Bugnuggins. Since then, the Rangers of Thwip have patrolled the borderlands.
At this point the fantasy author is ready tip the domino that creates an inciting incident. This seems to be the case for many epic fantasy stories—it also creates a world and story full of tropes, clichés, and worn out ideas.
The savvy author may spice this up with an inventive magic system, or the inclusion of technological elements like gunpowder or flying machines. Perhaps they’ll throw in a convoluted political system of antagonistic ruling families.
Now we’re getting nowhere. Are we going about things the wrong way? Even the spice is looking overused and retreaded. Where have we missed something? What have we missed? How do we keep our world from circling the drain of ‘been there, done that’?
So what’s my problem? This is the way of a huge percent of fantasy worlds—why am I putting on the brakes?
I think it goes back to where we started. We love the setting of an epic fantasy. We love maps with castles dotting the landscape, dark forests, jagged mountains, and swamps of no hope. It’s the Disneyland of fantasy where the heroes and heroines can rise from a downtrodden farmhand to fulfill the destiny of the chosen one.
Let’s not throw that out. It’s what keeps us coming back, but we have to change things up.
That’s where I am going here. I have some suggestions to change things up.
Instead of starting with the map, we need to deconstruct things. We have to think about why the world looks the way it does. When we start breaking that down, it lets up build up a world that still has all the bells and whistles we want, but it’s going to have unique depth which will allow us to take ownership of all the elements and make them uniquely our own. When you make a trope your own, it ceases being a trope.
Let’s tackle one aspect of world building that is typically glossed over, competition with other intelligent species. This aspect is as large as you want to make it, and it could affect nearly every feature of a fantasy world. We have lots of human history to build upon, but that’s only good for the humans of our landscape. We know their nature. We can understand what brings them together into extended families, villages, towns, and cities. They are going to gather for protection against wolves and bears. They are going to make castles and forts to defend their lands from rival countries.
Now for something to put in your juicer and squeeze. This is how humans formed into social structures for strength against natural creatures and their rivals. In the real world it was just us against beast, nature, and more of us. In the fantasy world, however, humans are not alone. They did not form their social structures in isolation.
Does your world have a rival intelligent race of non-humans? Are they naturally stronger than humans, more warlike? Do they eat humans? Does the world have supernatural creatures who prey upon humans? How do your medieval era humans cope with such issues? How did they survive prehistory?
On Earth, there was a rival species—Neanderthals. They went extinct, killed off by Cro-Magnon, our ancestors. Neanderthals had 95% of our DNA, but they were seen as competitors and rivals. Humans are a nasty bunch to tangle with.
Yet how would we have survived against the predations of ogres, trolls, vampires, werewolves, or even dragons? What would have kept humans from washing over elves, or dwarves, and snuffing them out? I am just plugging in fantasy trope races here—you can substitute any non-human intelligent species. They are all going to fight for their own survival and success in different ways. Remember, we’re not talking about different races of humans here, we are talking different species entirely. Their own solutions should be quite unhuman.
The answers are up to you—this is where the fantasy begins. Possibilities are quite endless, and it’s the thinking of how those possibilities could play out that builds worlds. One thing not to do is assume that the landscape itself kept these rival species separated. That would be a mistake, and too easy of a way out. Humankind spread to every corner of the globe, we didn’t stop at inhospitable wilderness, desert, high mountains, or even wide seas. And we did this spreading early on in our rise to civilization.
Your answers will have a direct effect on those castles dotting your landscape—were they built to withstand giants and dragons hungry for a human morsel? How did that change them? How close will people build a village to the haunted forest when it’s not just superstition that keeps them afraid of the place, but the man-eating trolls who live within? How far will the trolls travel beyond their forest for a meal? How would mankind mount a defense to protect their farmers and cattle against a foe much smarter and stronger than wolves?
Don’t just say magic here… If you do, why don’t the trolls have magic too? If men have magic to stop the trolls, what prevents men from exterminating the trolls? Our ancestors had better spears and clubs than the Neanderthals—we wiped them out—and not because they ate our babies, they were just in land we wanted. How much more desperately and violently would we have fought against an intelligent species that saw us as food?
Maybe extinction is something you want to go with. Ancient ruins of extinct races can hold a wealth of story.
I call this aspect of world building ‘world roleplaying’—every single viable solution you come up with is going to make your world unique and deep with lore.
Perhaps humans become a slave race to a more powerful species. Deities aren’t just worshipped, they are running a protection racket for their worshippers. Demons are summoned as guardians for cattle ranches. Castles aren’t made of stone, but magical force fields. Borders are defended by wards which rivals are constantly trying to break through.
The list is endless, and as each solution survives the test of time and alters to withstand changing threats, things become more and more uniquely your own. How will your hero travel this landscape? How do these factors affect your map? What about trade between species? Who have become allies with humans? How has this affected human culture and the family unit?
These things should all affect the story you want to tell.
More questions—and again, each time you come up with an answer, you are making your world more unique, claiming tropes as your own, and doing away with clichés. You are also making a world which could have a story all its own. Embrace your world as another character in your story. This is a world with a story that I want to read!
How would these exercises apply to an urban fantasy? Can you even see a modern day New York where a fantasy element lives? What hoops does one have to jump through to keep the world as we know it, yet populated with wizards and ogres on the fringes?
You don’t need to be a Cultural Anthropologist, or a Social Scientist, or a History Professor—I’m certainly not. But it does help to be able to honestly roleplay. Also helpful is a friend to bounce things off of and play devil’s advocate. I built dozens of worlds around a gaming table, and I loved to throw in these twists to what people were expecting—I could do so because I fueled myself with the answers to every ‘what if’ I could come up with. Don’t be satisfied with things being the way they are because they just are the way they are.
The next time you read a fantasy, watch for these issues. Even some of your favorite authors may not have seen the issues you can see if you sit and think about it for a while. Don’t grade too hard. It’s fair for an author to put the things they don’t want “messing things up” behind a very high wall, just watch out for the ones who have no wall, yet expect everything to just be life as usual.
Whether you are writing, or reading, I hope this helps you embrace the fantastic world.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Thursday, February 18, 2016
I have posted the rest of chapter one and now chapter two of The Allero Genesis on Amazon's WriteOn - It's like Wattpad for writers and aspiring writers, only different. I am using it as critique resource as well as a marketing platform to increase awareness of my stories. Please check it out, and give The Allero Genesis a read - like it and comment if you would, this increases awareness in the community and gives me much needed feedback.
The Allero Genesis
The Allero Genesis
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Here's a couple first pages. They haven't been edited or proofed, but I thought I'd share the start.
The Allero Genesis
By Thomas Cardin
Jaarda strode the catwalk looking down upon the flower-like concerts of observers. They watched over Allero while he and his shift partner watched over them. The observers lay like sleepers, twelve to each concert, suspended in the vast tank of bio-gel. Their bodies were engineered thin to require a minimum of nutrients, but their eyes were large, almost luminous.
They lay on their backs, faces just above the gel. Their eyes were open, yet they did not look upon Jaarda. Data from around the world fed directly to their optic and auditory nerves.
Jaarda pulled his timepiece from his pocket as he did at the completion of each circuit around the chamber. Glowing numbers suspended above its surface gave the time. The archaic piece passed to him from his ancestors in a line he traced back six generations before becoming lost in the chaos of the eighteenth era.
The voice filled the vast chamber, projected from one of the observers. A line raced away from Jaarda’s feet along the catwalk, directing him toward the speaker. He dropped his timepiece into his pocket, and ran down the catwalk.
Anomalies happened every shift. Other than maintenance of the observers, it fell to him to assess the severity of any anomaly, and choose a course of action.
A quarter of the way around the chamber the line halted him before a single concert. He checked their designation. They watched over one of the preserves.
He smoothed his uniform and caught his breath.
“Tender Jaarda present,” he said. “Report anomaly.”
One of the observers spoke, “Following the accidental termination of subject designation ‘Sir Wallen’, there has been an interruption in the destruct sequence of his harness.”
Jaarda winced at the designation. Only peacekeepers were named ‘Sir’. Within the preserve a peacekeeper lay dead and his weapons and armor had failed to destroy themselves. His hand dropped to his pocket, feeling the weight of his timepiece like a steady anchor. Still, there remained a simple fix to prevent the gear from falling into unauthorized hands. “Engage genetic lockouts.”
“Failure. Genetic keying has been set to neutral.”
This went way beyond an anomaly. A malfunction of two independent safeguards could not happen without direct interference. An external agency had broken into the system.
Jaarda assigned three additional concerts to the same preserve. He raised his eyes from the observers and sought retinal contact with the system. “This is Tender Jaarda. I am authorizing full scans on preserve designation four-four-zero-three. Incursion event detected. Acknowledge, Authority.”
A moment later another voice filled the air. “This is over-watch officer, Perone. Acknowledged and approved. Linking in system protectors. Report, Tender Jaarda. Are you absolutely sure about this?”
Jaarda swallowed hard. Every day, he prepared himself for such an incursion event, and every day he prayed to his ancestors that it would never occur. Allero Security existed as a closed system. There were no external agencies. Nothing and no one should have access to the devices that monitored and safeguarded the world outside of Allero Security.
“I am certain, Authority. We just had two system failures…”
One of the observers twitched in the gel sending a slow ripple to her neighbors. “Anomaly,” she said.
Jaarda clenched the rail and leaned over his floating charges. “Report.”
“Telemetry implant subverted in subject designation ‘Rindal’. We are receiving, but otherwise we have been locked out.”
“Project status on subject Rindal. Is he in proximity of previous anomaly?”
In the diffuse haze above the observer tank, imagery appeared. Jaarda’s eyes flew over the information. Heartrate and respiration were elevated. Rindal was a master-work prime youth in a state of severe distress. As genetically perfect as the preserve could make, youths like Rindal were the goal Jaarda and every member of the Authority worked toward.
“Proximity confirmed. Subject Rindal is converging on the remains of Sir Wallen. He is being pursued by an adult male bear.”
Imagery showed Rindal running through thick woods, weaving between trees in an effort to stay ahead of the bear. There were no protocols to divert the bear. Wildlife on the preserves had no restrictions upon them, they were there for the subjects to struggle against and survive on. They were allowed to make weapons from natural materials, but Rindal carried none. Not that even a well-made spear would give him more than a fighting chance against a bear.
Survival instincts had to be rebuilt and reinforced since mankind’s near collapse.
Rindal’s panting and the thuds of his footfalls in the loam of the forest floor filled the observer chamber. Even with his master-work genes, large frame, and rippling muscles, the youth had no chance against the bear.
“Turn to your left, Rindal.”
The voice came through the youth’s telemetry. It came from the incursion. It turned Rindal toward the remains of Sir Wallen.
“Run a trace on that communication,” Jaarda said. “Isolate and lock down the source.”
“Ambient reception,” the observer reported. “No external sources traced.”
Jaarda blew out a breath and raised his eyes again to connect to the system. The incursion could not be denied. It had entrenched itself deep within Allero Security. Ambient reception meant that the voice had originated from the system itself.
“I think we need to initiate the Artificial Intelligence Protocols,” he said to the listening Authority.
The danger to their entire system had reared its head. Mankind had almost been extinguished during the eighteenth era. The entire purpose of Allero Security was to prevent the spontaneous rise of another intelligence among the tech they relied upon to repopulate the world. Calculating machines did only that, and nothing else without passing through a human or observer interface.
Safeguards were in place. The cost to their efforts would be heavy: a generation of embryos and a year or more to sweep the system clean. Allero Security had to find the source, the flaw in the world-wide system that allowed the rise of an artificial intelligence. They had to shut everything down now before more of the system could be subverted.
“Acknowledged, Tender Jaarda.” Over-watch officer Perone paused. “Ancestors protect us. We cannot shut down the systems. We are locked out.”