Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cover update

I thought I would show some process here.

My main goal tonight was to help right some wrongs I had with the figure and the perspective. I cleaned up the red cloak, changed the collar and such to aid the form of the figure. I shortened the waist a bit. Tilted the head back--face is still sketchy--and had some fun with the updraft of wind in his hair. He is fairly malleable still, as long as I keep everything on dozens of layers. Seperating shapes from shading workds well for me.

Did more refinement to the face and got a start on painting the chain.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Progress on Lord of Vengeance cover

Hey, who's this little flying guy? The cover art for Lord of Vengeance is coming along just fine. I am putting one to two hours in on it each night. The setting is a sunset over an ocean and my POV is looking east, so the background probably needs to cool down a lot and the figure needs to warm up. I am happy with my anatomy and perspective, though I have to do a bit more to show that we are looking upward at him, probaby have to lift his chin a lot.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A word about magic

When you have magic or magic abilities/powers, you have to imagine the grossest thing someone can do with it. Not because they WILL do it, it is your character after all, but the reader may wonder why they didn't use it during a time of desperation when the bad guy had his loved ones at their mercy, etc.

Have you ever thought something like this while reading about a character with a nice little utilitarian magic ability?
"Oh, I can only create an ounce of water at a time, but I can create it - IN YOUR EYEBALL! muahahah!"

Is that gross? Not gross as in "ewww sick!" but gross as in that's way more deadly/harmful than you had intended. Solve the problem in a simple and logical manner. Perhaps they can only make an ounce of water in free space, in a cup, over the palm of their hand or over someones head, perhaps in their mouth if it's open (minor choking hazard meh) and the problem is solved. Again, you don't have to pad it down to child safety regulations, but you may want a reason why the character doesn't just unleash his seemingly utilitarian magic ability in a method that would give the villain a very bad day--and in some cases, this works very well in line with the story.

The guy that can shape stone: can he turn the pebbles under someones feet into nail-like shapes? Can he flatten rocks at the base of a cliff until he creates an avalanche? Perhaps he can make hand and footholds in the same cliff and scamper right up it...bad guy chases him and poof he makes the holes go away making bad guy fall to his death. Is it gross or just very effective in the right situations? As the writer, explore his ability and what YOU want it to do, think of logical limits and where the line of power is for your story.

A simple fix if its gross- he has to touch the rock he is shaping, where he is shaping it. Now he can carry a bag of rocks and turn them into barbed missiles one at a time and throw them...or can he shape a bigger stone into a shield, block the bad guy's sword with it and shape it around the bad guys sword and arm to trap him while he pokes him in the eye with a long thin lance of a stone that he makes longer and thinner to penetrate deeper...OK so now he can only shape stone he is touching slooowwwly, or he has to say something very specific out-loud so its a dead giveaway that he is about to do something.

And soon an actual working magic system begins to take shape, with checks and balances and abilities that can still be unique and colorful.

There is a great anime called "Read or Die" where three characters can only manipulate paper, and they each do so in different forms. It is an awesome exploration on magical material manipulation.

The main thing is to really think about what the capabilities of your magic are and how they could be misused and overused. It is also fun to explore how your characters magic may grow with them...does it gain power with practice? Does the longer the character goes without using it make it stronger, like he was building up energy over time?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Final City of Thunder cover

Final cover art for City of Thunder! I am really impressed with where this went--if I can toot my own horn. Perhaps I should acknowledge to all that I am every bit as insecure about my cover art as I am about my writing, so maybe my statement was simply self-affirming. Regardless, here it is at about 1:10 orginal pixel size:

This scene depicts the sorceress, Scythe, and a portion of the Zuxran host before the south walls of Halversome. To see how I start out with one of these forays into the realm of cover illustration, I am posting here my first sketch of Lorace for the cover of Lord of Vengeance, book 3 of Gifts of Vorallon. My goal is to have this up to the level of the first two covers in a short amount of time.

We shall see.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Next Big Thing Post!

I was invited to participate by the incomparable Eddie Louise, a wonderful writer and fantastic person, always helpful and encouraging.

  1. What is the working title of your next book?
City of Thunder, book two of the Gifts of Vorallon trilogy. I will be self-publishing this title by the end of February 2013.

  1. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for the Gifts of Vorallon books came to me over twenty years ago. I had been doing a ton of worldbuilding for my role-playing game campaign. My friends were absolutely insatiable for gaming. We exchanged games weekly, taking turns exploring one another’s worlds. Within a year of this, I had built up a milk crate worth of notes, papers, maps, monsters, and non-player characters. I looked at all of it and said to myself “If I had put all this work toward writing a book, I would have a tome big enough to stun an ox!” At that time, I wrote fifty pages towards that book before losing my nerve.

A few years ago that memory came back to me as I was going through that same milk crate of paper artifacts and I found the guts to pull out those pages and take another look. I started rewriting, one line at a time, the book I had begun all those years ago, and everything I wrote for gaming has all become research material.

  1. What genre does your book fall under?
There are men, elves, dwarves, gods, and demons, on a world with a living spirit. Despite all those tropes, I have tried to answer questions I have never seen answered and build a unique world. I am going with High Fantasy, but the jury is still out regarding the exact classification. I hope it will carry the reader into another world and they will define it based on the success of that escape.

  1. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Wow, I have a big cast of young characters. This is a tough question, and I really want the reader to envision the characters for themselves, even to the point of seeing themselves and their friends within the roles.

My own personal cast of characters in City of Thunder stars Amanda Seyfried in the role of Scythe, she has the petite stature and the huge, expressive eyes. Since seeing the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I can’t get Aidan Turner (Kili) out of my head when I picture Lorace. Dina Meyer, tough and beautiful wild-haired redhead in the role of Captain Falraan. A young Alexander Skarsgard definitely plays Tornin, tall, blonde, chisled, and I think he could even pull off the innocence required. A slightly older Chris Hemsworth might be able to pull off Sir Rindal. Dominic West could wrangle a good General Moyan and his brother, Hethal, could be played by Adrian Brody quite well. High Priest Oen is tough, but I really see about a 45 year old Joe Don Baker.

  1. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Lorace must solve the mysteries of the Chain of Vengeance and conquer the fires of rage that still burn within him before he can be the master of his own destiny.

  1. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published, but nothing is outside the realm of possibility.

  1. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
If I recall correctly, the first draft for the whole trilogy took five months and ended up at just under 200k words.

  1. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A great many authors influence my writing. The Gifts of Vorallon goes further into the technical side of things regarding magic and gods, but the high fantasy aspects undeniably compares to Dennis L. Mckiernan’s Mithgar books. Some themes within my story also compare to the Elenium books by David Eddings. The heroic, moral, and purposeful characters of my story are attributable to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

  1. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Hugh Howey, author of Wool and all around awesome guy inspired me. He is so upfront with his fans and very present and communicative to them about his writing and his life. Hugh is a very brave writer who showed me that I could do it all myself.

I also have to add my gaming friends, who are my best friends, to the list of inspirations. Our role-playing allowed us to experience and interact with wildly imaginative fantasy worlds and we all learned that it is not the game master vs. the players. One of the worst things a game master can do his players is run a power play on them, forcing them to do something or ride the rails that only lead to the adventure he has planned out for them. A man fighting against the destiny forced upon him, and an intimate understanding of his struggle and outrage is key to this story.

  1. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
The whole trilogy is a prequel to many more adventures, and the events within are set during a time when magic is young and primordial. Some of the future stories take place soon after this, but many more will reference the events within these books as ancient myth.

I happily send this onward to WJ Davies, a powerful writer who brought us The Runner, a brilliant story set in the world of Hugh Howey's WOOL.

Monday, February 11, 2013

City of Thunder due end of February

I have just sent for my proof copies and I expect no major issues. City of Thunder final edits went much better than The Final Warden (I still have some things I want to clean up in there, perhaps for an omnibus edition). Here is the current cover, I will be adding a few more details to it, mostly to break up the hard lines of the background, but I need to see how the final image appears with the book in my hands to get the lighting right. I had to brighten up the art for The Final Warden a lot, so here you see things very bright which I expect to show up much darker on the actual cover.

For a little spoiler, here's the blurb from the back:

Lorace’s godstone has been forged into a weapon of destiny, the mysterious Chain of Vengeance, and the elves and dwarves have been roused to honor the Guardian’s Pact.
He has unlocked his past, but in doing so he has raised more questions about his future. The Old Gods orchestrated the darkest tragedy of his childhood, but to what ends? His brothers are still alive and guiding him with the aid of Lord Aran, but toward what destiny?

The Devourer has dispatched the gifted sorceress Scythe to destroy the Final Warden and the Lord of Nefryt has brought his entire demon host to Vorallon to defend his crown. All are on course to collide before the walls of Halversome, the City of Thunder.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Today's bit of Vorallon

So nobody has asked me yet, but I am sure there are some who wonder what this symbol is that appears at the head of each chapter and on the spine of the print version of The Final Warden:

This is a glyph, very much like that which is inlaid into every stone of Halversome's walls. This exact glyph is crafted in book three, Lord of Vengeance. I thought it a good symbol of the story (as is a chain for obvious reasons to those of have finished The Final Warden).

In the story, these glyph's are made to focus and project an incredibly bright blue-white light that is imbued with the life of Vorallon. Their presence does not end with the trilogy, rather their importance extends into planned, future, volumes. In that aspect, I have taken it as a symbol of the world of Vorallon and plan on using it to symbolize all future works that take place in the same realm.

A simple writing tip

I posted the following on Absolute Write in a discussion on extending the length of a story from novella to full novel length. All of this a just a retelling of some tips I have picked up along the way from various sources, and it describes some of the processes I went through in applying them to my own work.

Find a random page in the middle of your book, blindfolded if you have to. Right at that point in your story, have something go wrong, even if things were going wrong already. It can be anything in the context of your story, you are the best judge, but make the train skip the tracks, even derailing. Are you imagining something that could possibly go wrong with your story at this point? Good.

Now, how does this effect things? What will the MC have to do to get things back on track? What will the villain do to take advantage of this situation? What will the MC's love interest think about this sudden change? Spend some time resolving whatever went wrong, apply its effects to everything downstream where it is applicable.

Now you have some idea of how to lengthen your story, you are not tacking things onto the end, or pushing your plot past its logical conclusion, but you are adding drama and adversity to the situation, now there is more that must be resolved and a greater challenge. This means some significant re-writes that's true, but if you MUST get the size of your stories up, it may just be that your plots right now are too easily resolved and can use a boost of conflict.

Are you holding on those peaks of drama? Take a look at a scene where the drama has built to a crux situation. An example would be the bad guy cutting off the hand of the MC and announcing that he is his father, bad day huh? How does that scene play out, does your MC fall immediately as he screams "NOOO!" and then you cut to the next scene of his rescue? Or are you holding on that moment, what is going through his head as his world crashes down around his ears and the pain of a severed limb competes for his strength and will? He is slipping, but holding on, he is crying, but solidly resolute and spitting in the villain's face.

Find those places in your story, there should be several, even if they are not that could be where your MC's dog slips her leash and runs off into traffic. Initially you might have your MC take off running, catch the dog and cuddle it in relief...but you could do all that while your MC's is imagining the dog being run over, what will she tell her mother? She loves that dog! Her day potentially went from good to horrifying in an instant, HOLD ON THAT. Not for long, not even a 1000 words, perhaps just a few hundred. Now find more places like that in your book, tune the drama, don't allow things to instantly resolve without repercussions.

Both of these solutions require downstream re-writing, the second option is the least intrusive because it can all be interior to the MC...but either will yield better results, in my opinion, than tacking on more material at the beginning or end of your story, before or after the logical plot. And niether is simply padding the story, they are adding to the drama.