Introducing Rook, a new character for Our Solemn Hour

I am trying something new.  I've been playing around with Anchor, and I thought it would be a fun way to document the Behind the Scenes of the new series.  I can add to the recording over time, and even answer your questions.  You can either follow me on Anchor, or keep an eye our for these posts.

Rook is a member of the Phersu, and a key member of the crew of the Archangel.  But just who is he?

How writing a prelude can really help the book

Spent most of the day working on the outline in Dramatica for Sands of Time, the prelude to the book I am working on, and it is helping me with the book a lot more than I thought it would.

With this book, which I am tentatively calling Hallowed be Thy Name, I have started writing short stories for a lot of the back story instead of just writing notes about it. 

This prelude are the events that lead up to the start of the book, and explores why the book has to happen in the way it does.

Through working on this as a novelette that I will be giving away for free to subscribers of the newsletter, it is making me grapple with a lot of questions that I won't have had to answer otherwise.

I knew the gist of the story, but not exactly how it played out.  I am learning so much about the motivations of the lead characters Tancred and Seraph, and the discovery that sparks the book.

I am so glad I decided to write this story instead of just jotting down ideas in my notebook.  If you are a writer, I recommend you try this some time.  Turn your back story and research into stories.  It will change you so much for the better.

What is the place of Medievalism, Feudalism, and Power in Epic Scifi and Fantasy?

Why are there so many Princesses and Lords in Epic Science Fiction and Fantasy?  The roots of both genres is in the Romances and legends of Europe.  Those original stories were written during a time when Kings and Nobles ruled the continent.

As fantasy and early space opera/planetary romance emerged, they picked up these tropes from the earlier legends.  It also provided a good handle for readers.  If I tell you that character X is a Dark Lord or a Princess, even without a familiarity with the genre, an image comes into mind.

A dark lord is obviously a tyrant or dictator who is evil.  You don't need to know anything else to know that.  The problem is that a trope can become a cliche easily, and that is a problem with a lot of genre fiction right now.

Getting a handle on Tropes

There are many ways to deal with genre tropes.  Dan helped me understand how George R R Martin is using the the tropes of epic fantasy to deconstruct the genre and comment on it.  I have to say, his frame made me want to try to read the books again.

I can agree that medievalism should bring with it a historic level of violence.  Kings more often than not ruled through terror and oppression.  There is a need for more realism, but I would also say that there is a need for some honesty too.

Feudalism didn't end in the dark ages

The promise of the corporation was that it would end feudalism and mercantilism.  It promised freedom... In many ways, it ushered in a new tier of the old feudal system.

In the earlier system, nobles ruled serfs.  Now, corporations rule politicians who rule citizens.  This new system makes more increasingly interested in making this neofeudalism part of the story and setting.

Are Lords and Ladies still relevant?

When I look at celebrity culture and the rise of the plutocracies around the world, I cannot help but believe that their needs to be some titles of nobility in the setting to allow for representation and commentary.  They will be part of the setting, but not the majority of the setting.

If I know anything that I do want for sure is an end to "Great Man" fiction.  Heroes are groups, and not individuals.

Tanukis in Shine Like Thunder

When I wrote Shine Like Thunder, Japanese mythology was first and foremost in my mind.  I was reading a lot of Japanese books (in translation), manga, and watching a lot of Anime.  I wanted to mix elements of that into what I was doing.

As I start thinking about working on Book 2, I have to ask myself how does this book fit into the reboot of the setting?

Shine Like Thunder is Our Solemn Hour

This book represents many of the elements of the setting I am refining into Our Solemn Hour.  It is everything I want to see in the books going forward.

It doesn't surprise me that this book is one people ask about most.  It is one of my favorites.  Why wouldn't it be one of yours?

Vitus the Tanuki of Nubti

Transient

I want Vitus to be more important in the next book, but I am not sure what I want to do with him exactly.  He is a fun character, and a great counterpoint to Jalal.

Maybe I should go into more of his back story, and make him more central to the story going forward.

What do you want to see Vitus do in the next Tales of the Silver Fox book?  What are your favorite aspects of Tanukis?

Fate's Harrow is out!

After 5 years in the void of copyright limbo, Fate's Harrow is back out just in time for it's 7th anniversary.

This edition contains not only the original run of the serial, but the original unpublished prologue, Dreaming of Midnight, and previously unpublished final chapter, Wings of Destiny.

To celebrate the release, it will be free from Monday, December 16th, through Friday, December 20th.

A special thanks goes out to everyone who helped me get this book ready for release, and everyone who encouraged me to make this day happen.

Now, comes the fun work of getting the Christmas special ready.

Which Fate's Harrow Cover do you like best?

I made three possible covers for the reprint of Fate's Harrow.  Since I always hated the original covers, I gave a lot of thought to what I would like it to look like. 

The first 2, I painted in ArtRage and the 3rd is a 3D render that I did.  I am not sure which one I like best, so I need your input.

Which cover do you like best?

Why Our Solemn Hour?

This song is a mind worm, it dug in and wouldn’t let go.
Our Solemn Hour: How it all began, August 23, 2011

I can't believe it has been that long since the idea for Our Solemn Hour first wormed its way into my mind.  It is a very reluctant idea.  It doesn't want to come out easily. 

The story wouldn't flow.  A character popped into my head, and proposed such an interesting idea:

Ronan popped into my head and said, “I am a survivor from the lost city of Parthalan. I was there when it fell. I tried to save it, to save anything... but in the end, it all fell apart. I hate what the moon brings.”

I perked up immediately. That is interesting, and I recognized that last phrase.

H. P. Lovecraft wrote a vignette called, What the Moon Brings, on June 5, 1922 that starts with the line, “I hate the moon.” It is a gastly short about unspeakable horrors bleeding into the world through the moon light. The story is powerful and evocative, but it posed a problem for me.
Our Solemn Hour: How it all began, August 23, 2011

So, what happened to Ronan?  Well, after that, he never came back.  That was the first and last time I heard his voice.  Why?

Ronan was a bridge, a gate to introduce me to the world, and not a character in it.  Imagine a world where shades and horrors haunt the night.  A world where light is our only defense from the vile monsters that lurk in the darkness.  That is just how the world is.

If such horrors are a feature of the setting, and not something our heroes are gathered to stop, that would make this world very different from most of the ones I have ever read about or encountered.

Even back then, I realized that the story needed several ingredients:

The swordplay and organization in the world will draw on Wuxia and Jedaigeki sources rather than European legends and Romances. This may not be new for anime or manga, but I am not familiar with much prose fiction like that. The idea of writing an anime type sword and sorcery is exciting. I allow myself a lot more freedom than I would have ordinarily to do things differently.
Our Solemn Hour: How it all began, August 23, 2011

 I love the idea of swordsmen and pikemen.  Heroes who can fly through the air simply by leaping into it.  Spirits walking alongside humans, and other races that are somewhere in between.

I have toyed around with this idea before, but I have never really committed myself wholeheartedly to crafting such a mystical world.

The setting will eschew (I use that word in honor of Mark Twain) medievalism with a world resembling Steampunk, Westerns, Swashbuckling fiction, and Gaslight fiction. No squabbling nobles, royals, or the like. The stories will be about individuals rather than nations at war, and the stakes will be personal.
Our Solemn Hour: How it all began, August 23, 2011

I'm not sure how much I'm going to hold myself to this idea.  While I would still like to avoid medievalism, the idea of an Elizabethan Queen is intriguing to me.  I would like to stick with the general principle though.

These would be stories about people not empires.  Game of Thrones is a good example of the type of story I do not want to do.  While it is entertaining, it is nothing but the story of squabbling nobles.  I want to do something different.

I've always found it fun to try to hold in my mind the reality that Queen Victoria was on the throne while cowboys were moving through the American West.  The juxtaposition is a beautiful thing, sort of like a Zen koan.

Characterization will be as important as the Action/Adventure elements. Many Sword and Sorcery stories miss that part. I am not saying that I will be perfect with it, but I really want the stories to be character driven.
Our Solemn Hour: How it all began, August 23, 2011

Character driven stories are neither natural nor native to epic fantasy.  It would be fun to try to change that.

I thought it would be interesting to bring up this first image of Our Solemn Hour.  If nothing else, it is proven to me that the idea continued to bubble in the back of my head.  The world that is starting to take shape owes its origin to this little idea, but it has grown into something more.

I would love to know what you think about the broad contour's I've laid out in this post.  Is there anything that you would add or subtract? Let me know in the comments.

Why Summoners Fascinate Me

The first time I encountered Summoners that I remember was in the Final Fantasy Games.  I watched as the characters I played called upon various energies to manifest these powerful creatures to aide them.

In Japanese, a summoner is a Caller or Invoker (召喚士, Shōkanshi). It is a powerful image.  This is not a simple sorcerer casting a spell or wizard  chanting an incantation.  They are focusing energy through will and faith to manifest an entity.

Not to be over aggrandizing, but in a lot of ways that is what it means to me to be a writer.

I have learned over the years, for good or for ill, that I can only write a story that I have faith in.  If I lose faith in story, or in its characters, I will never be able to finish it.

This is why I've been having a hard time writing over the past year.  It is not that I've lost faith in stories, I lost faith in me.  I invoked an image of an idealized me.  I could not live up to it.  My faith was first shaken about two years ago, but this year is the year I fell apart.  I forgot to write for the simple joy of telling the story.  I started worrying about what people wanted to read, and lost my passion for telling stories themselves.

The writer is a summoner.  Through the right words, we gather the energies of the imagination of our readers to manifest people, places, and events that never existed.

No wonder I have become so obsessed with summoners.  I sought out a proxy for my own frustrated creativity.

Summoners and summoning magic will definitely have a home in Our Solemn Hour.

Do you have any suggestions, thoughts, or inspirations to share?  Let me know in the comments.