Saturday, June 20, 2015

New Release: "Memoirs of a Girl Who Loves God"

This author I met at Clean Indie Reads released a new book the other day so I'm helping to spread the word. Her author name is C.L. Wells and her book's name is "Memoirs of a Girl Who Loves God".  The rest of this post is from the Press page of her own blog.
Synopsis Back Cover Blurb
Fourteen-year-old Krystal finds herself flailing when her parents separate. Unable to cope, she begins cutting. No one knows.
At her new school, she makes one single friend, Em, who invites her to volunteer at the local homeless shelter. There, Krystal discovers fellow misfits, including Brandon, a boy from her school. How can Krystal start a new life when the scars of her old one will never fully heal?

What readers are saying about “Memoirs of a Girl Who Loves God”
“This is a heartwarming story that was written from the heart. It brought real meaning to me––of some things in life––that never made sense before. It made me smile, and also brought tears to my eyes. This is a must read. I wasn’t able to put it down once I started.”
“A compelling story that will have readers touched and unable to put it down. I’ve read it more than once and each and every time it brings tears to my eyes.”
“WOW!  It is not an easy book to read, but it is a powerful book. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, challenging and uplifting.”

You may purchase at Amazon via this link.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What Can You Do In A Dungeon?

In an earlier post I talked about the importance of "getting to the dungeon" when writing action/adventure stories (the same concept can be in other stories but it takes some more abstract or metaphorical thinking in that case). Now I'll talk about the sort of things you can do once you get there.
First and foremost is the adventure and exploration aspect. This is where you build the environment for your Reader. Describe for them what the character (in this case, The Hero) is experiencing through his senses. What does he see in this dangerous place? What is he searching for? What kinds of sounds does he hear or the smells that he encounters? That sensory thing adds to the action that, even when included in non-dungeony scenes, is more staid than in dungeon scenes instead of being part of the action.
When writing the Journey to Chaos series, I can get a lot of mileage out of the environment that Eric or someone else is entering. I also like world building and showing off this new area and what it means in a bigger picture. Sometimes I get carried away and talk about the history of some minor thing that does nothing but clutter up the narrative.
There's challenges to find. The typical Indiana Jones dungeon would have some pit traps and giant rolling boulders.  There can also be some puzzles and physical obstacles.  Most exciting can be anything living in these areas. That's right; MONSTERS!
Monsters, whatever their form, are my favorite part of the dungeon. Designing them and pitting my hero against them is great fun whether I'm the player, the reader, or the writer. In fact, just last week I wrote about Eric fighting a golem in the draft of Journey To Chaos book 4 and it was the most fun part of that chapter. Not only that, but it led into the first scene with that arc's major villain.
That's the other thing about dungeons and the main narrative reason for them. Without a plot purpose, the hero is just going into a place to do cool things without a reason. Granted, this can certainly be a legitimate plot and a good one (who doesn't like a wandering blood knight?) but most heroes will have a reason for going into the dungeon.  A lot of stuff can happen here: An existential hero's journey through the darkness and monsters, a bonding event between two or more characters, a driven pursuit to strike down a foe, rescue someone dear, or both. There are endless reasons to send your hero into this dangerous area known as a dungeon. It is a conflict creator.
This is why the trope In Media Res is employed and it is also the point my other post about whether Origin Episodes are necessary.  Why not skip the foreplay and jump right into the action? You have the characters talk about that stuff while they're in the dungeon, between the traps and the monsters and the intra-character conflict and bonding. That way the information is present and available to the reader but the main thrust of the story is unrestricted.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Answering Review Request: Dark Expanse, Surviving the Collapse

Paul M. Joy Jr, the  Head of Community Relations Deorc Enterprise, asked me to read an anthology of science fiction stories. It is called  Dark Expanse, Surviving the Collapse and it's a collection of stories that share a background and setting but are otherwise unrelated. A race of beings known as the Zyxlar created this vast interstellar empire and then disappeared without warning. Being the micro managers they were, this caused quite a shake up. I will examine plot, characters and polish and then assign a grade.


Being an anthology, there is no overall plot. A couple of them reference the myth arc of why the Zyxlar disappeared, where they went and what they're planning, but that is all. As it becoming standard, I will only discuss a couple in brief and give my opinion of the work as a whole.

Most of these are great. They have this solid plot that is quickly set up, built up, executed and resolved satisfactorily.  It's not easy to do that in a short story format. There are some exceptions, stories that leave too much hanging for once thing, or stories that feel too thin/flat on characterization, or too bareboned in their plots. However, these are indeed exceptions.

Some of them feel like complete stories ("Dominos Falling" and "Fires of Night") and others like the start of a story ("Hellfire Unleashed").  A third group could have moved on if they wanted, but as they are now they a sense of thematic completion, if not narrative completion ("Ten Suns" and "Castles of Night"). Of those that feel like the start of a story, that is a compliment; Hellfire Unleashed leaves off at the point of its greatest world building potential. I wanted to read more of that plot line.
Many of them also incorporate the Short Story Twist. Some of them do it better than others. Some don't use it at all. 
Some of them make great use of meaningful echoes and other repeating narrative tropes, with others it feels lame.
"Fires of Night" is fun, deep, and doesn't pull some last minute twist. It also has this Dececptive Disciple, Master-Apprentice Team that is usually a martial arts story angle, not a space intrigue thing.

"Gorlack the Destroyer's All You Can Eat Adventure" has a great degree of humor. It can vary from Black Comedy to Ironic Humor and then twist around and and become pretty scary.

"Betrayal, Clear as Kanzai Glass" is fascinating in terms of a species origin story.


Characters on the whole are good throughout the stories. It was a fun exercise to determine what species the protagonist is in each story. It is not always obvious and you can't assume it to be human. With one or two exceptions, they and the others in the story are created to be distinct individiuals isntead of simple view ports for the story.

The protagonist from "They Cannot Scare Me With Their Empty Spaces" is complicated a character (also a Silicate, by the way). At first he sounds like some dim witted muscle guy that's part of a comedy act, then he goes out and does some insightful philosophizing without meaning to. You can say he is both dumb and wise at the same time.

Chaplain  Theodore from "A Small and Secret Freedom" is also one of my favorites. He's like this perfect mix of Chaotic Good, Church Militant, and Good Shepherd. In other words, he's a badass that doesn't need to have bulging muscles and a huge laser chainsaw; a mental strength that is quietly dignified and heroic.


It looks good. No spelling or grammar problems

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse" a B+

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Are Origin Episodes Necessary?

Are Origin Episodes Necessary?

I watched this video on youtube "7 Things That Need to Happen in the Deadpool movie" the other day. It's the one that slated to be released in 2016.  One of those things was that Deadpool's origin should be established to provide a basis for his madness and skill set, but "that should not be mistaken for a full blown origins".  It was about getting to the meat of the matter rather than starting from scratch.  This got me thinking: Is an origins episode necessary?

I can certainly see their point. It's possible to get so tied up in how your character becomes whatever it is you want them to be (in this case, a deranged and superpowered mercenary) that you spend the whole story getting them to that point. By the time they become this great and fascinating and over all FUN character, the story is over. Also, there is a question of exposition. There's a lot of explaining and definitions of things; this is X and that is Y and this plot point Z is very important or the universe will explode. This can make the story drag. It's spending so much time in development that the author and audience together don't see the payout.

I had a case of this when I started writing "A Mage's Power", the first book of my Journey to Chaos series. The first chapter had a lot of stuff about Eric's world that is irrelevant to the story as a whole because he's going to another world at the end of the first chapter. It was just filling in Eric's past in order to establish his personality so as to explain why this trickster spirit needs to help him. I cut a whole bunch of stuff out and the first chapter is still much the same way, just a lot leaner. The next two chapters are similar: I was so caught up in world building that I forgot to add a plot (specifically Eric's plot). Again, rewriting had to go in to make sure that there was a purpose to all this and it wasn't too info dumpy.

A third point against origin episodes is about starting from scratch. To use the Deadpool movie as an example, do we really want to start the movie with Wade Wilson as some Canadian kid playing hockey? No. We want to see Deadpool, the adult mercenary dual-wielding a katana and a gun against assorted villians. For this reason, the video stated a quick flashback or something more creative should be used to reveal the horrific events that lead to the creation of Deadpool. They used X-Men Days of Future's Past as an example of successfully putting the audience into a story without explaining every little thing. I pefer using 300.

In the prologue of 300, there's this narration about what a typical Spartan childhood is like. The boy we see is Leonidas himself, from the moment he was born. This skips through his life up until he is this grown and married man who is about to march off to Thermoplayae. The bulk of the movie is this battle. Thus, the bulk of the movie can show the badass army stomping on the mooks until their Last Stand. They don't try to show Leonaidas' whole entire life, just glimpses of it for Sparta in general. I recall other epics (which I will not name because I don't want to provoke any fans) but they do a TERRIBLE job of this. They cram their hero's entire life into 1.5 hours and as a result, nothing is well developed. It would have been better to skip forward to their epic hero time instead of jumping through their childhood.

Another idea I had while writing is this is the opening part of a RPG like Final Fantasy. At the start, the player characters have no skills, no abilities, and no special equipment. They have to learn, acquire and master these things over the course of the game. This can be rather dull because all the characters can do is attack, run, use items (which they don't have) etc. You need to get past chapter/arc/disc 1 before you have some variety.

On a contrasting note, origins episodes set stuff up. Without the explanations and the info dump and the build up, you just have a bunch of nonsense because you don't understand the situation. There's no sense of progression. There's no depth. That's why the video said that SOME backstory has to happen. If you know Deadpool's backstory then there are more dimensions to him and his actions in the present can be seen as being influenced by them. There's a framework for the character and the plot to move on from.  The trick is to do this in a concise manner.