Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sandbox Kings

With the first day of spring here, I thought I'd spill the beans on the new project that I've been working on. The working title is Sandbox Kings. Since I've been dabbling in art lately, I decided to go ahead and give inspiration a head start and do a few caricatures of my characters. The story revolves around 5 mad dukes of the Sando Realm and one pissed off fisherman girl that wants nothing to do with them. Alas......


Introducing...................... The gallant lover, snappy dresser, and the overall dandy of the realm -- his grace Levont de Chaud, Duke of the 1st chair. You'll get along great, as long as you don't bring your children to court, laugh, play music, or touch his parakeets.

I'm hoping to get all the characters fleshed out before continuing on.... the plot is twisting and turning in my head like a confetti hooker on LSD. The spring is making my hands shake and eyes wander to places they shouldn't. 

On the subject of naughty discoveries: Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer is well... wondrous. If you flip through the demented illustrations, complete with a horde of cartoon helpers and author interviews, you'd wonder how he's not in a penitentiary. Some wonderful insights from the wonderfully mad author. Today's favorite, as I am on the subject of that preachy mindfulness shoved down our throats by therapists and preachers:

"Immediacy: Your imagination thrives best when you live in the moment and fully experience everything that is going on around you. Even a fantasy writer -- especially a fantasy writer -- requires stimuli from the surrounding world. ... Being distracted from your environment is a direct hindrance to your imagination -- it blocks receptivity, it redirects passion and it ultimately channels your curiosity down well-worn and uninteresting paths."

As I was sitting today on the shore of a river, having a smoke after a healthful run, I thought how a rested mind opens and discovers new things. Fills the vacuum. How do you find that vacuum? Clutter is everywhere nowadays. Where do we find ideas and stories when our thoughts are blasted with daily garbage of the modern world? In the middle of my uneasy thoughts, I realized that I forgot to enjoy this beautiful spring day. Throw away the phone. Feed the ducks, people. Feed them and forget about the world for a day.

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's Been a Long Time Coming.... Desert Marker

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." -- Henry David Thoreau

It was my turn to do some living. I think I'll stick to writing...

After finishing Oko (re-vamped chapters available here I got dragged down into a writing rut that lasted longer than I care to admit. But! It seems when the words fail, the images flourish, I am starting to run out of canvas and paint. Next post, I will give you guys a link where you can see my art adventures, need to clean up some images and post them on etsy proper.

Thank you, Phil Partington for playing a role in getting me out of my writing rut and forcing me, through a crackling win in a virtual underwear pillow fight, to contribute to his Campfire Story the Desert Marker.

First 2 chapters are here:

The Desert Marker (Chapter 2): A Campfire Story

And here the saga continues: Ch. 3 -- Desert Marker (A Campfire Story)


James staggered back, his arms flying to protect his face, but the man was gone, not a footprint or a whiff of tobacco. Like he had never existed outside of James’s imagination. James shook his head to clear the sound of the wind and the laughter. The wind was gone, but every time a breeze stirred his hair, he could hear an echo of the old man’s merriment.
Po. He had found him at last.
He should have known that finding a guide that cheap this far away from the cities was no mere coincidence. But, it was that or wander in the desert aimlessly, with nothing but a flask of horse water. So, he parted with his last three khans. There would be no use for them anyway – he had no time to spend the money before the gate to his home-world closed. And if he didn’t make it on time… James shuddered as he looked at the sun. So bright, so unyielding in its journey across the sky. If he didn’t make it… Nothing would matter.
He squinted at the doubling shadow on the mountain, careful not to look directly at it, and started walking. City of Flames was waiting. And Po had returned there, James was sure of it.
The desert air was hot on his forehead and the bridge of his nose, and he toyed with the amulet around his neck that protected his delicate skin from the ravages of the Rock World. The string had been woven out of the hair of the First Mother and the sapphire was blessed in the streams of the holy river. He kissed the cool stone and tucked in under this shirt.
To pass the time, he counted stones and watched lizards as they basked in the afternoon sun, not paying him any attention. Unlike a human’s, his steps soothed, not stirred the wildlife. Stooping, he scooped up a sleeping horned lizard and placed it, still undisturbed, into his pocket. He would give it to his little sister, Luna. She would laugh with delight and wrinkle her funny freckled nose at its long tongue. He promised himself he would see her again as he tilted his flask and took a sip of the stale, lukewarm water.
As the sun moved across the sky, the shadows changed. The caves and folds of the mountain deepened, slurred, and shifted. But every time James needed to check his course, he turned his gaze to the side, and there it was again, the one shadow, unmoving like it was tattooed into the side of the mountain. When the night came, James dreamt of the shadow. In his mind, it glowed a barbaric orange, hot and enormous, like the light of a thousand pyres.
In the morning his eyelids were crusted with tears and fine sand. Probing his dry mouth with his tongue, he reached for the flask. A boot descended on his wrist and James yelped. A shadow crossed his face, and he looked up, squinting at the sun that brimmed the stranger’s head. 
Five men surrounded him. Their mouths and noses were bound with cloth, and their eyes were a vicious black. Scimitars gleamed on their hips, and their clothes were made of tough leather. James jerked his wrist, but the leader pressed down harder. The man’s voice was a crackling tenor when he spoke.
“Who are you?”

Well, enough of this silly merriment, although feel free to add to it on Phil's Campfire Story Home Page. He is a man who isn't afraid of the light of strange new authors and will be delighted if you participate.

All is well in the land of Oko. Namaste.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


With such beautiful weather outside, everything seems to be looking up. My progress on Oko has been very fast lately, mostly due to an agent contact that caught me unawares and unprepared. I decided that next time I get a letter, I will be prepared with a complete manuscript. So, off I write. The Dead Walk crossing is in full swing, and the clouds are gathering, making Kadri "man up" to her challenges to prove Iliya wrong (he'll secretly enjoy it).

In today's over-sated market, it's very important to keep the focus on the strength and depth of the character - there can be only so many interesting plots, but the possibilities of an interesting character are endless.

The most important thing however is to create an active character. Some of the comments I've received from my beta readers lately was on passiveness of the main character in some instances of a story. Once I fixed those areas where the character loses his "character" and starts reacting where he should've been acting, the character got a much better response from the readers.

Here's an excerpt from Orson Scott Card's "Character and Viewpoint", where he addresses the issue of a passive character:

"Beginning writers often make the mistake of having their hero always react to the events of the story. The hero's reactions may all be perfectly reasonable, but the result is a character who seems to have no initiative -- a puppet being pushed around on the end of a stick."

An active character takes action. We need to read about a person who takes action to achieve his/her goals.

"When the story is about character's plan -- a quest or caper story -- or when the story is about the character's need -- as all character stories are -- then this tool makes the character almost irresistibly sympathetic."

Keep in mind that taking action doesn't necessarily mean the character is not vulnerable. In fact, vulnerable and flawed characters are the ones that readers sympathize with the most. But if a character has to get over obstacles such as fear and guilt to take action, that's even better.

The activeness of the character has been much discussed when the topic of "damsel in distress" comes along. Feminists have long argued that the character who is rescued may appear weak in the story, and since most of them are women, this creates a stereotype. I agree with this notion, however, just because the character might need rescuing, there is no need to make her appear weak.

I've recently watched the movie "Raven" where Edgar Poe wrestles with a killer who took his precious lover and committed a series of murders based on Poe's stories to boot. The movie didn't work for me for many reasons that are better addressed by movie critics, however, one scene in particular worked really well for me and it ties in with today's blog.

When the main character's lover first appears on the scene, she sparks a little interest, even though, of course, she's quite an attractive lady. She does sneak around behind her father's back to be with her lover, but this didn't quite sell her to me completely. However, once she is kidnapped by the killer and put in a wooden box with dirt sprinkled on top, she shows a real initiative to set herself free. After a scene of crying and uselessly beating on the lid, she takes a rib out of her corset and pokes a whole in the lid to get more air. She is terrified, of course, once a killer's eye appears in the same hole, but I absolutely loved it when she tried to get him in the eye with the same rib. My companions felt the same, crying an excited "Ow! Get 'im! Right in the eye!" Before that scene I couldn't care less whether she lived or died, but her initiative and fearlessness made me root for her survival.

And now back to ruining my eyesight in the never-ending pursuit of a writing career. Last thought -- definitely set goals for yourself. If you don't get everything done, you'll at least get something done, and in writing, paragraphs and pages add up quick.

Friday, April 6, 2012


First entry in “Oko” blog. Snowing today, Utah weather is highly neurotic with weather rising and dropping 20 degrees within couple of days. Currently working on chapter 18, the Dead Walk. For those of you who are familiar with the setting of “Oko” should know that Dead Walk a wasteland that was once the Finnish Gulf, but thanks to the bombing of the underwater factory in WW4 is now dried-out and uninhabitable. As Kadri embarks on her journey, I have plenty of trouble saved up for her during the crossing. As if she doesn’t have enough already.

Received the revisions for “Suume” today, a laundry list of items to change in the story. Some very good suggestions from the editors, and I can’t wait to fully dive into them this weekend.
Lately I have been doing research on writing an effective villain. As I’m fleshing out “Eks”, I have picked up a few interesting things about creating memorable villains. My main source of reference is the fantastic book by Jessica Morrell “Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches”. Here are few handy things I’ve picked up in my recent readings:

1. Learn your main character’s fears. It’s important to create a villain who will make sure to exploit those fears and terrorize the character to the max.
2. Know how far your villain will go. By knowing his limits, you can create a situation (closer to the climax) when the villain loses it and takes the threat to the next level.
3. Make sure your villain is at least as powerful as your main character. He has to make the reader genuinely worried.
4. Give the evil in your story a face. Even if it’s a powerful organization, make sure to select one person in particular who is actively involved in making your protagonist’s life a nightmare.
5. Know your villain as well as your protagonists. By writing out a detailed bio, you will ensure that the bad guy is alive in your head so he can be alive in your reader’s heads.

The research of fear can also valuable. By knowing some basic things like fight-or-flight reaction, types of phobias, and levels of sociopathy you can reach into the depth of your readers’ fears and create some truly memorable, and terrifying, bad guys. 

Here’s to the bad boys and gals! By the way, those of you who truly want to experience the bad guy you want to strangle in his sleep, give Kathleen Duey’s book “Sacred Scars” a read. Somiss could turn a bunny into a killing machine. Happy writing!