Just Shut Up and Do It

My mother gave me some advice a number of years back. Like… back when I was the age of the heart-wrenching children I like to put in my stories. Seven or eight, perhaps.

Regardless, I had to make bread. (Yes, we’ve made our own homemade bread for as long as I can remember. Long enough we don’t appreciate it like everyone else seems to. Or maybe we all just have picky tastes.)

But I didn’t want to make bread. Like really, really didn’t want to. Procrastination comes young, trust me.

Continue reading

Between Two Worlds: the danger of writing

Writing isn’t safe.

It’s not that words are powerful (though they are). It’s not that everyone will end up thinking you insane (most generally do anyway).
It’s a deeper problem than a questionable mental state.

And it’s something I end up writing as a free verse poem around the end of last year because there was no other way to put it into words.

Continue reading

The Stealthmaster’s Shadow Collage Winner!

I’m going to forgoe my normal ‘this is me post’ of the month. Suffice it to say it’s been crazy between outlining, traveling, and getting ready for the launch that starts tomorrow.

Today, however, I have a collage for you all. Not my own collage this time.

Some of you might remember I posted contest entries a week or two back for you to vote one.

Well, a winner has been decided (thanks to all of your votes).

And the winner is…

Continue reading

Using Fantasy Cliches the Right Way

Clichés abound in fantasy. The dashing prince rescues the helpless princess. The mentor dies and his student going on to save the world. The villain dresses in a long black cape with a pet snake on a staff.

A cliché, by definition, is anything which is trite or commonplace through overuse. These can be phrases, such as ‘right as rain’ or ‘red as a cherry’. They can also be a character, such as the carefree friend or the grim mentor. And, of course, there are cliché scenes: a handsome prince glimpsing a beautiful princess through a tower window and falling desperately in love. The mentor dying. The villain telling the captured hero all his plans.

How to Use Cliches

Many clichés remain popular because they work. Who doesn’t thrill over the heroic rescue or ache for the main character as his mentor dies saving him? Yet, because of the overuse, once exciting scenes can lose a bit of their luster. Don’t throw out all clichés at once, however. They have their uses.

Twist clichés

It is amusing to take a cliché and twist it just enough that it’s recognizable. Keep the grim mentor, but let him make puns with a straight face to infuriate his apprentice. Perhaps the foolish antics of the court jester covers a formal character who drops hints about his king’s table manners along with his jests. Maybe the new knight tries desperately to be heroic, completely fumbling the bows and formalities of rescuing his betrothed, while the demure maiden provokes her captors with irritating pranks they can’t trace back to anyone.how to use fantasy cliches the right way

This is especially pleasing when done with phrases. Start with a common cliché phrase, then twist it into something completely new. Instead of ‘pale as death’, find something suiting the character, the setting, and the emotion for ‘pale as the marshmallows he inhaled by the dozen’. Instead of ‘all’s fair in love and war’ change it to ‘all’s fair in love and the pursuit of chocolate’.

Make fun of clichés

Or, instead of simply freshening a cliché, you can make fun of it. If something is cliché, and the character recognizes it as cliché, the possibilities are enormous. They may embrace it, or make fun of it, or use is as a starting point for other actions. ‘Well, since I’m obviously the villain and wearing black, I decided I’d better take a trip to the pet store and find an intimidating animal’ *presents hamster* *alternately presents snake, holding it as far from self as possible with thinly disguised disgust, then quickly depositing it back in its box*

Change cliché endings

Opening with a clichéd line or scene and then changing it halfway through can be hilarious. Although not fantasy, one of my favorite moments in Avengers: Age of Ultron is where Iron Man asks Ultron about something. Ultron replies with ‘I’m glad you asked that, because I wanted to take this time to explain my evil plan…’ and then proceeds to attack.

Note the normal course of events in clichés, then turn the character or setting on its head. Maybe it’s the apprentice who dies and the mentor has to go save the land. Maybe it’s the dragon who rescues the prince from the princess.

Overused fantasy clichés

While clichés can be twisted or sometimes used outright, there are several main ones which have lost their effect through extreme overuse.

The villain monologue

These are easy for the writer because we can give our character and reader the information they clearly need. It’s also lazy on our part.

A scene where the villain tells the character his plans could work in the right setting, but it needs to fit with the characters and the themes. Is it something the villain would really do? Does he need recognition? Is he someone who has to prove what he can do or rub it in the main character’s face? Or is he cautious and quiet? There are other ways the main characters can figure out what has happened: vague comments and orders, notes, letters…

The mentor’s death

No matter how heartbreaking the scene, too many mentors have died. Your reader’s eyes will begin to glaze. Yes, they might be sad your mentor is dead, but the death of a more unexpected character, such as a best friend, will have a deeper emotional impact.

Sometimes mentors need to die in a story. But since they are generally wiser and more skilled than the main character, don’t let them die for a minor reason. Only kill them if you must. And, if you do kill them, make the scene as fresh and memorable as you can and make sure there is a valid reason for their death.

Villain security

He’s reached his position by being cautious and smart. His security is going to be tight. He’s going to hire good soldiers. If your character is attacked by several guards, he’ll have to be very good to defeat or escape them. Slipping past the villain either for infiltration or escape is not an easy task.

Clichés are still used nowadays because they worked. They had power. Even the ones fading from overuse can be dissected. Figure out how they pull on emotions, then build up a new idea around that grain.

Keeping clichés in mind can be very useful. But, because of how common they are, work on freshening your clichés, making fun of them, or turning them on their heads.

In the end, you’ll get a story worth its weight in gold. Or chocolate. Or maybe even moon gems.

I Need Your Voice

No, I’m not going to steal your voice and lock it inside a shell or any such. I do need your vote though. See, in honor of the upcoming launch of The Stealthmaster’s Shadow, I’m running a collage contest.

All you need to do is enjoy the pretty pictures then vote in the Google form.

Continue reading

Brandon Sanderson – To Read or Not To Read?

Everyone has that one book or movie. They love it to a thousand pieces but have reservations about recommending.

“Yesssss! It was amazing. The arcs were so real, and the characters. And I can’t believe the plot twists. But…” *tries to explain what others might consider objectionable content without making it seem the worst piece of work on the face of the earth.*

There are a few things like this for me. The musical Hamilton. Movies like Hart’s War. And Brandon Sanderson.

Continue reading

Save the Chocolate

Off World Reports

A newly discovered excerpt from Kirin’s report book documenting when Elena brought him to this world for the first time. You can read the story of Elena and Kirin’s meeting here.

Day 1:

I hope I don’t die. I’m seriously beginning to wonder about agreeing to meet Elena’s employer. I mean, bringing that battle standard back to Shangar without claiming a reward would normally be all the concession I’d permit even under the most extreme circumstances. Then again, one doesn’t normally get offers of a job involving realm leaping.

Except this world Elena has brought me to in the Terra Realm is so crowded we can’t risk netherjumping from place to place. Meaning I’ve been forced into a metal box. On wheels. Which is now hurtling over some sort of pavement at breakneck speeds with other vehicles of the same kind. Yes, I know what they’re called, but they don’t really deserve the name of ‘car’.

save the chocolate short story

As a realm leaper, I love speed. I’ve ridden horses and dragons. I’ve flown in sleek skyhawks that dart and dive through the sky. Now those are fun. But these…these Terra cars have less speed and no network connecting them to keep them at safe distances from each other. Instead, they are manually handled by normal humans, some who pay attention and some who don’t. Meaning there must be a terrible amount of crashes.

Crashing aside, Elena’s driving is not the smoothest I’ve ever witness. And the fact she currently has a grin on her face as she passes huge trucks is not helping matters in the least.

Later:

I’m out of the car. Thankfully. I’m torn between not stepping in one again, and not stepping in one unless I can drive it. They can’t be that hard to maneuver.

The only good thing which has come out of this trip to Terra is chocolate. Seriously, that stuff is wonderful. Creamy, sweet, dark, a hint of bitterness. I’m contemplating bringing seeds to other realms. This food deserves to be spread about.

Oh, yes. And about that meeting with my employer; apparently she’s out today. Somewhere. So Elena and I have been passing time setting up a campsite outside. And eating chocolate, of course. There were some stray books lying around the house (yes, I went inside. The locks in this realm are pathetic. Fine; I netherjumped. Into a wall. But never mind the details). But she had these books on the history of chocolate and so I’m going to go read those for a bit. Maybe figure out where I can jump to get this stuff in bulk…

Day 2:

Elena helpfully told me that the month is July and the date is the 12th. As if that means anything to someone who is constantly leaping between realms. So, Day 2 on Terra it is.

I met my employer today. She’s not much to look at. On the small side with wispy red hair twisting out from under her newsboy cap. Don’t ask me why they call it a newsboy cap. All I know is that it’s flat and kinda cute. Anyhow, that doesn’t matter. What I really liked was her daggers. She’d several of them. And throwing knives. And even a recurve bow. She wasn’t wearing that…I tested it when I was in her house yesterday. Yes, Elena, I put everything back where I left it.

Anyway, my employer goes by a number of names. She calls herself Scarlett while talking with us. And she seemed quite taken with me, if I say so myself. She demanded story after story while jotting down all kinds of notes. By the time the evening was advanced, she officially offered me a position, working with Elena to research projects and write articles.

After several minutes of careful consideration (and chocolate) I officially accepted.

Of course, that meant payment details and meeting details and drop-boxes…nothing interesting to write about. At least not until that night.

I was lying awake, the fire snapping away. And I’ll give you one guess about what I was thinking about.

Yep, that’s right.

Apparently, chocolate, before being made into bars, was a drink. I was already on Terra, what harm could a time jump do? No one could see it from here.

I closed my eyes, focusing back nearly five hundred years.

I hadn’t counted on the landing. Great fires blazed in all directions – thankfully I didn’t land in one – and figures moved in all directions. Great ships lay off the cost and a warm wind hovered in the air. I managed to stumble into the shadows before being spotted.

A celebration of some sort seemed to be taking place. Men in silver armor… the Spanish, I thought. And the Maya, at least that’s what I assumed from the book I’d read. There were gifts too, which I’d heard about, jewels and feathers… and gourds filled with chocolate.

In the half-light, no one noticed as I slipped up, claimed a gourd for myself, and took a deep drink.

Then staggered, choking and spitting out the liquid. Who ever thought that bitter chocolate was a good idea?

I straightened, wiping my eyes. So much for secrecy. The Mayas were glaring at me. The Spaniards’ hands were on their sword’s hilts. One tall man advanced, his hand closing about the front of my shirt as he lifted me off my feet and growled something in Spanish which I didn’t understand but which also didn’t sound like a nice ‘how are you this fine evening?’

I did the only thing I could think of.

I netherjumped back to my camp.

Day 3:

I woke up to a disaster.

Elena was gone, but besides dreams filled with warriors and seas of bitter drinks which washed over the land, the time excursion hadn’t had any lasting effects. Or so I thought until I rose with the comforting intention of drinking a cup of real, sweet hot chocolate before realm leaping off to begin my duties.

“Chocolate?” Scarlett’s brow furrowed when I stumbled into the house, rubbing my eyes. “You’ve your realms mixed up. There’s nothing by that name here.”

“But…” I stared at her.

A hand closed over my arm as Elena appeared from shadows know where. Her lips pressed tight. “With me.”

“What… where is…?”

Elena glared at me. “How about you tell me what’s happened?” She lifted a book.

“I don’t—”

“The Mayans offered Cortes gourds filled with a bittersweet drink,” she read out loud. “But even as he lifted it to his lips, a wild lad appeared, sputtering and showing it for the poison it really was. He vanished moments later. The Spanish were convinced an angel had appeared to warn them about the evil of the drink –” She paused, raising her eyebrows. “Shall I go on?”

“An angel?” I looked down at myself. “In this outfit?”

“Kirin!” Elena snapped. “You’ve changed history within two days of coming here, and no one even knows what they are missing. Chocolate vanished several hundred years ago.”

I sobered instantly. “I’ll get it back.”

Elena scowled. “Well, hurry. Or I’ll be sorry I ever recommended you to Scarlett.”

“You recommended me?”

“Just get moving.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m a time traveler. Since when has hurrying made any difference?” I netherjumped before Elena could reply, landing back in the shadows of the feast I’d left the night before. Or five hundred years ago. Whatever.

All was confusion. The Spaniards had their guns to their shoulders. The Mayans were leveling their spears. Insulting myself for even starting on this mad venture in the first place, I netherleapt between the two peoples.

Both sides stared at me. I suspect they were debating between bowing or running me through. I didn’t give them a chance for either option.

With firm steps, I march back to the Mayan side. A few men still held the gourds of chocolate. At least I hoped it was chocolate. I held out a hand and he gave it to me, still staring.

Slowly I lifted it to my lips and drank. It really wasn’t half bad, once I knew it was bitter. After draining half the gourd, I turned and strode to the Spaniards’ side.

“It needs sugar,” I announced dramatically, waving my hand over the gourd and sincerely hoping no one spoke English.

The Spanish leader slowly took the gourd and I turned, striding into the darkness. Once I was out of sight, netherjumped back to Elena without looking back.

She was waiting with a cup of hot chocolate.

“Don’t ever do something like that again.” She warned me.

I scowled, but nodded. If Scarlett ever finds out what I almost did, I’d be sure to lose my position. Besides, this world is hard enough to get used to as it is. It can’t afford to lose the small number of treats which endear it to strangers such as myself.

Like my second favorite treat after chocolate, the smooth drink frintellino.

 

I have power now *cue evil laugh*

I’ve always been one for organizing and telling people what to do.

An INTJ who likes ordering others around. Who would have thought?

So I decided to get a job where I could tell people what to do. Something like… becoming a manager at Culvers. It was kinda an accident. I didn’t start planning to become a manager. It just kinda happened. But I got my white shirt and official title last week!

*grins*

I’m really not as tiny as I look in that picture. I don’t think… it’s just angle and distance and such. Though my brother is taller than me.

 

My Writing

WIPs:

  • Finished line edits on The Stealthmaster’s Shadow
  • Wrote up one of my favorite legends in Marsadon – somewhere around 9,500 words
  • Got a lot of planning and backstory done on Disguised for Peace
  • Also, I was published on The Rebelution this month! Check out my article here: Don’t Settle For Good Enough

Goals for May:

  • Get everything ready to publish The Stealthmaster’s Shadow
  • Start Disguised for Peace
  • Write up a number of articles for the upcoming Indy e-con

Google Searches:

  • How long will tears stay in the eyes of a corpse don’t judge. Also, I still don’t know, but apparently there’s a thing called Lacrima Mortis that occasionally happens where a final tear slips from someone’s eye as they die. It may find it’s way into a book at some point
  • Root of English language West Germanic originating from Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain in the mid 5th to 7th centuries AD – not sure what I’m doing with this info
  • Alphabet systems I have at least three languages I need to create to some degree. I need to base them off something…
  • Can you marry your third cousin? Hey, royal family trees are complicated. And yes. At least according to some studies, it’s actually beneficial because it’s far enough apart they don’t have genetic problems but close enough there aren’t genetic incompatibilities. *adds to strange random facts I know because I’m a writer*
  • how long does a scar take to form? Three to four weeks – it won’t fade to white for up to a year or two. Hmm; I guess Jethren will have a red one across his face then

Disguised for Peace Collages

Well, just one for today. But I love making these.

Acedren and Jethren

How about all of you? How have you been this fine spring month that keeps insisting it is still winter?

  • Click HERE to sign up to my newsletter and claim your free novelette, Rose of the Night