Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life after internet

Yes! There is life after internet! After the humongous storm that swept through here last Wednesday, I was without power for four days and only got internet access back today. Talk about internet withdrawal! But you know what? I got so much done: one book for my publisher edited, one book of my own revised and turned in, and some actual time for just...reading. For fun. What a concept.

I am suddenly quite grateful for the fact that my low-output wells have resulted in many unsuccessful attempts at getting trees to grow around my house. Two big pines at the end of the driveway (far from the house) snapped off about 15 feet above the ground. Fortunately the horses were well down in the pasture far from any trees. The damage farther toward town, though, was awesome and rather miraculous in that no one was hurt, let alone killed, despite falling trees smashing 44 homes in a trailer park where I once briefly lived 20-odd years ago. I have always believed in Fate (for good reason). Days like that sort of reinforce my belief in the universe.

Stay safe, everyone, through heat and drought and ice storms and thunderbangers!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Art imitating life in The Mask of God

The Mask of God
I am deep in revisions of the latter books of the Fate's Arrow series, which starts with The Mask of God. I set out to write Mask based on the conflict in the Middle East. This was 1989, mind you, before bin Laden, before 911, but deep in the midst of the endless conflict over there. I wanted to sort of turn the whole "infidels" and "heathens" thing inside out, with the agnostic folk of Sevakand as the so-called infidels and a wild variety of warring Christian sects as the barbarians. This is in no way a slam at any religion; I only wanted to look at how alien people who live right down the block can be to people who refuse to make an effort to understand them. This applies to both sides.

This is an overriding theme throughout the series, but now that I've come to the fourth book, and the characters have achieved a good deal of new understanding, I find myself struck by the very strong parallels between the protagonist's dilemma and what is currently happening on the southern border of the U.S. Alarion, my young and charismatic prince, really, really doesn't want to be messiah to the "heathens" south of his own borders, all those warring tribes. On the other hand, he is a prince of Sevakand. His House claims sovereignty over those tribes, which means he is obligated not to leave things as they are. The tribes are desperate, cut off from technology and better medicines, food, luxuries, etc. that are prevalent in Sevakand.

Helping them would be the noble thing to do. But... how could you possibly assimilate hundreds of thousands of nomadic people who refuse to farm and think raiding the neighbors is fine sport? Where would you put their horse herds? What if they refuse to get along? Is it right to put his own people in danger or deprive them of necessities to accommodate the newcomers?

Tough questions, in the book and the real world.

What feeling do you get when you discover the book you're reading seems to echo the real world (especially if it's an older book?) That there is no hope of changing the human race? Or is that why we are so strongly attracted to heroes--because they routinely do? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

If you'd like to explore the world of Ariel and its interesting problems, check out the Mask of God page on my website.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Behind the scenes of the writing life

I’ve been challenged! My editor, Irene Radford (http://ireneradford.com/) included me in a blog tour soliciting information about various writers’ process and work. So here goes:

What am I working on?
The Mask of God: Book 1 of Fate's Arrow
New writing has been set aside for the moment. I delivered the fourth book in The Masters of the Elements series, Delver, to my publisher earlier this year, and now I’m revising the latter books in my Fate’s Arrow series. The first book, The Mask of God, is out, with books 2 (The Mark of God), and 3 (The Heart of God) already delivered. I also have one book to critique for my writing group and one that I’m editing for my publisher. So...I’m busy.

Oh, and I’ve been happily creating trailers for my various books, which you can check out on YouTube:

There is also a trailer for The Masters of the Elements, created by Deby Fredericks.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I try to turn the tropes inside out. The Masters of the Elements has nary a sword or dragon or king in sight, but the struggle is very real, if different. The elements (Wind, Fire, Water, Earth) are all very much alive and intelligent, and quite careless of the mortals who co-exist with them. The magic is different as well: a dance, a song, the ability to listen and communicate, are the keys to controlling them. 

In Fate’s Arrow, I went 180 degrees from the usual dysfunctional royal families found in fantasy. I wanted to explore the relationship between two brothers who must stand together, and what happens when both gods and immortals start trying to drive wedges between them. How far will love stretch when duty demands unconscionable choices? And watching one character whose entire reason for existence is to create chaos fulfill his purpose...well, that was just bonus fun!

In Heaven’s Shadow is way, way out there when it comes to defying classification. It is at once a ghost story, a historical novel, fantasy, and a sweet sort of romance, with a heroine who embodies innocence and yet still manages to get herself in hot water over and over.

Mostly, I write the stories I want to write, and they tend to be genre mash-ups in many cases, bringing in whatever interesting elements I feel are necessary for the story.

Why do I write what I do?
 I love history, fantasy, and works that stretch the imagination, so my stuff tends to combine all three. I started out to write straight historical fiction, but fantasy called, so now the history is usually found as a foundational element, or an overlay on a fantasy world. Like George R. R. Martin, I mine history for real situations that inspire (or depress) but always reflect real human choices and behavior.

How does your writing process work?
I am a total pantser when it comes to story. All I need is a blank page, a bloody ritual to force my muse to cooperate, and a first line conjured from...somewhere. After that, the story just builds line by line, the characters take charge, and it all somehow races off to a conclusion I had no idea was out there. The writing process is rather amazing. I don’t know where those words come from. They just do.

With historical stuff, when I know the story will be set in a certain time or centered around a particular event, I will do my homework first, so I don’t write in some incongruous detail that leads the plot off in totally implausible directions. It’s better to prevent than to correct, in that situation. I try very, very hard to get the particulars right for any era and character, which means hours and hours delving through books and internet sites and asking questions.

That's it! I now challenge Clare L. Deming and Deby Fredericks to hop with me!

Clare once applied to be an astronaut, but when that didn't work out she turned to writing fantasy and science fiction so that she could tell stories about stars, planets, and other fantastical places. You can find her here

Deby Fredericks  is the author of Seven Exalted Orders and creator of Wyrmflight, a blog for kids (and anyone else) who love dragons. You can find her here