Tag Archives: fairy tale

What I wanted out of this story

Hey gang, I'm over at Emily Martens' blog today. The topic is personal goals as an author.

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What I wanted out of this story
I've blogged many times about how I set challenges for myself with each novel. These won't be evident to the reader, but they help me grow as an author. At various times, the challenge is as simple as writing a buddy story, or using fairy tale structure… Read more over at Emily's place.



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What I’m Working On

I’m knee deep in edits for The Cock of the South. It helps me sometimes to talk about it, and I decided to take you along for the ride.

This is an epic fantasy set in a Greco Roman environment. The main character is a dwarf nick-named Cobby. I wanted to change a few historical facts around and establish this as an alternate environment early on. I decided that Remus defeated Romulus. This makes the dominant civilization the Remsians. (Not the Romans for you non history buffs.)

Cobby was raised in Remus by humans, and never actually told he’s a dwarf. Disaster strikes early on and Cobby runs for his life. He finds more than dwarves along the way and they all have a common problem; Remus.

Cobby is a member of the Southern Dwarves, a destroyed race whose remnants are scattered. He meets other fantasy creatures along the way, some intelligent, some animalistic.

The story takes on an exodus quality and gains a cast of thousands. (Don’t worry, they don’t all get dialog.) I mixed in a little bit of American “hang together or hang separately,” put it in a cocktail shaker with a generous helping of blood and shook my ass off.

I acknowledged the fact that some problems can’t be solved. Missing persons can’t always be accounted for. There is no Interpol or milk carton to put pictures on. I’m back to The Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” People are cruel and death is brutal. This one may not be for children.

I decided to acknowledge the gods, but didn’t bring them into the story. They don’t give a crap anyway.

Fairy tale structure has always appealed to me, and I wanted to try it. There are a few threads built into the story. Cobby’s father is a soldier, statesman, and merchant. There are three sons that reflect one of these qualities. Cobby is the merchant. To succeed in his story, he has to accomplish all of these. I included some other elements too, like gifts from friends, an oracle of dubious quality, and more.

I’m pretty happy with the story and the environment. I’m going through it word for word, yet again. I still need to do a word search for my personal sin words. This might take some time, but I have time. I refuse to hermit myself away and give up date night and such.

I’m also searching for a cover artist who can do some Frazetta style fantasy art within my budget. I’m sure I’ll find something, but I’m open to suggestions if you know someone. I’ve looked at some fantastic art recently, but none of it has been exactly what I want. I may have to take The Rolling Stones’ advice myself.


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I don’t believe in Happily Ever After

I love fairy tale structure in stories. I first caught on to the idea from an author named Alexandra Sokoloff. She goes into it in some detail in her book Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. Her breakdown of The Godfather as a fairy tale is wonderful. Here is a taste of it from one of her old blog posts: here. You have to read her book to get the full gist of it all. It’s a good book, if you’re interested.

There’s one part of a fairy tale that I don’t agree with, and that’s when they all lived happily ever after. I get that it’s supposed to be a reward at the end of a story, but it feels shallow to me. I’m sure it had more impact 500 years ago when security was a much bigger deal to us. Palaces are safe and warm (in a fairy tale). Most of the rest of the world had to worry about being jumped by a tiger when you stepped outside for your morning piss.

In real life, HEA doesn’t exist. We accomplish something and it leads to the next problem. Sometimes it causes the next problem. We struggle for years to build a better mousetrap, and eureka! The new problem is how to market it, and when we’ve done that, maybe the evil Victor mousetrap people come along and set up roadblocks. (No offense intended. Love ya Victor.)

My point is that life goes on, and that means struggles. I’m not saying Snow White’s first daughter looked a lot like Dopey, but damn. Have you seen her ears? Maybe Princess Jasmine developed a gambling problem and their lives changed in ten years.

I try to write satisfying and logical endings to my stories. Sometimes I even hint at future problems setting themselves up. I don’t do this for the purpose of selling sequels. I want to illustrate that life goes on. Sure, I write science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal stories, but I want your suspension of disbelief to happen for the right reasons. I don’t want to go to the well too often.

There is a risk of not sewing up loose plot threads, and it’s a fine line. The truth of the matter is that evil is never truly defeated. They hunted Nazis for decades after WWII.

For me, I don’t mind a hot new relationship at the end of a story. I don’t even mind a palace on the hill. I just don’t like the idea that nothing bad ever happened again – ever.

I like to mix and match story structures. I love using the number three, mentor characters, predictions, and other fairy tale items. I just don’t buy that they all lived happily ever after.

What do the readers and writers out there have to say? I’d love to hear from you on this.


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Meet Lorelei, the Muse

It was the early 1980s and I was pouting. I was working as a pen and ink draftsman. There were no fancy computers to make maps back then. I can say with some certainly, that I was the best Leroy man in Northern Nevada. (If you know what that means, you’re getting old.) We’d just bought a new computer, and this one was pretty high tech. It came with two floppy disk drives. (It didn’t have a hard drive.)

My boss told me I’d have to use the computer to add all the sworn statements and jurats to my maps. They were printed on a sticker, and were about as soulless as they sound.

That’s when she approached me for the first time. She had poofy brunette hair, spandex pants, and roller-skates. They were the old kind, before they put the wheels inline. Her body was curvy in all the right places, but solid, like an athlete.

“Why don’t you just slip in after hours and learn to use the word processor?” she asked.

“Who are you, and how do you know about our computer?” I asked back.

“I’m Lorelei, and I’m a muse. These things are going to change the world, and you’d better get used to them.”

“I don’t recall any muse named Lorelei.”

“The first muses were named thousands of years ago. Did you ever read stories where the Gods kept their pants zipped?”

“I see where you’re going. What do you think I should do?”

She talked me into trying, nothing more. I went back to the office in the evenings and wrote Star Trek fan fiction for months. I never finished a story. The word processor became just another tool, and I moved on. I printed my work, on tractor paper, and lost it when I moved.

We lost touch. Maps became soulless things drawn entirely by computer. I might as well have been the village blacksmith for all the value my training had.

Decades later I got my first iPad. It was winter, and I’d just conquered the internet. I swear, there wasn’t one thing I hadn’t seen or done online. It was too cold to go fishing, and times were so bad I couldn’t afford the fuel anyway.

“Why don’t you try it again?” I heard over my shoulder.

I snapped around, and there she was. It was five AM, and she was in my living room. She had on a pair of Sponge Bob pajamas and brought fresh coffee. Her hair was just as long, but the style was different.

“I’ve held down several careers since I saw you. Why come back now?” I asked.

“It hasn’t been that long to me. You have imagination, and you really need to try again. It looks like you have time available too.”

“What am I even supposed to do?”

“Like I told you before, just try. You have a pretty powerful device there. These things have really improved since the last time.”

I started writing. My first complete novel was written using the iPad and two thumbs, seriously.

She stopped in from time to time and helped me get unstuck. Sometimes she rode in the car during my commute. She encouraged me to start reading everything I could about writing. Bulletin boards, articles, and blogs flashed before my eyes. There were even a few books she told me to get.

My first story sucked, but I enjoyed it. I wrote another one, using the same characters. Lorelei wasn’t intrusive, she just let me write whatever I wanted. She encouraged me to drop whole chapters, and change thoughts days after writing them down. I had two steampunk stories finished, and she never said a disparaging word. I even went so far as to ask for a bluetooth keyboard for Christmas.

We were driving home from work one day and she said, “You need an office.”

“I can’t afford a space on my income,” I said. “You know that.”

“Not that kind of office, Slick. This kind exists in your mind. It’s the next step in your education. You go there, and I’ll send characters for you to interview. Check them out, when one feels right you write down a few lines and see where it goes.”

“So are you telling me it’s time to give up my steampunk world and those characters?”

“Yup. There are more places for you to visit and stories for you to tell.”

“Could it be a cabin in the woods somewhere, instead of a cubicle of some kind?”

“Sure, it’s anything you want it to be. Your steampunk characters can come visit. In fact, all your characters can stop by for coffee or something. It’s just time to think a little bigger.”

The writing cabin became a regular thing. I wrote four more novels, and they got better. Some of my characters visit on occasion, and Lisa, from Wild Concept, sticks around and works as my secretary. She’s a robot whose story will go up on Amazon someday soon.

Lorelei visits all the time now. It seems like the more I write, the more she visits. She’s never judgmental, and always encourages me to try a bit harder. Now she wants me to put some of my stories online. Whether they sell or not, isn’t the important thing. This is a growth phase for me. I trust Lorelei enough to try.

I really hope they sell, and I’m going to put some of them out for the world to see. I know I’ll learn something, and some of you might enjoy the ride.

Let’s get these comments going. Does anyone else have a muse? I know Lorelei has sisters, her sister Lucille has her name written across a guitar neck.

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Idea’s and where to find them.

The blog is new and shiny right now. I intend to post about twice per month, like payday. I don’t want to blow up anyone’s mailbox, but I want to have a few posts to get the conversations going.

They say a good writer has to read as much as he writes. I agree with this, and I’m a failure at it. I’d rather write than read, for now. I manage to get by with articles and comics. This isn’t the same, but it’s better than nothing.

I don’t want to talk about big concepts, just little seeds. If you water them, they will grow. My sources are mainly my RSS reader, and Zite Magazine. Google and others are just too time consuming.

I get all kinds of stuff in my RSS feed. There are food foragers, archaeology posts, comics, and many other things. I also get posts from other writers. Don’t be afraid to subscribe to feeds that interest you. If an article or two aren’t your cup of tea, you have permission to move to the next one.

Zite Magazine is a cool app. It works like Pandora radio in that it learns what you like. You choose topics that interest you, they send articles to your magazine. When you go through your posts, you can give a thumbs up, or down, and the magazine gets smarter.

Many ideas will never go on the page. Few will become stories on their own. These feeds are great for the little things that help you stay true to your genre. Maybe your science fiction needs a gadget. It’s nice to know what cutting edge science is doing. I wrote a couple of steampunk stories years ago, and needed gadgets. It worked great.

Items in the news recently include excavation of supposed vampire graves in Europe, Comet Ison, and giant killer hornets from China. I may never use these, but they bring a lot to the table.

There are people excavating ancient breweries. They scrape the crocks for yeast samples and plant material. Today someone is making beer, mead, whatever, from those ancient “recipes” using the same yeast. If you were writing a paranormal piece, the unintended side effects could make a whole novel. They were culturing the yeast, what did they get by accident…

Writers never really struggle for ideas. We usually have too many ideas. These tools are great for giving a story some extra oomph. I wrote a story once that just needed a special something. I read about new electronic circuits that are so thin they dissolve in water. Real scientists hope to use them in surgical situations someday. In my story, an arsonist used them, and the fire crew washed the evidence away. This one will go up on Amazon eventually.

What sources do you use? I’d love to see some suggestions in the comments.

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My First Blog Post

I suppose the first post ought to be an introduction. I’m just a working stiff who likes to write in my spare time.

Like so many other writers, I hold down a full time job. I’m on the verge of being an empty nester, and have more time for my own projects now.

I write at work too, but that has a different tone to it. Those products have to be professional, and I’m not allowed to cuss or talk about boobs.

Fiction is different. I can go into anything I like. This is my personal form of escapism. I always loved the arts, I was just never really good at anything. Writing clicked with me, and it’s going to be a lifelong relationship.

My best efforts deal with something in the real world. I seem to need a root into history, modern society, or even a slightly futuristic society. I don’t create other worlds as well as some others.

I’m proud of my characters, and there are several supporting characters I just love. I just have to remember to dole out the supporting characters in small doses. They are the spice, not the meal.

My work always has a bit of the strange involved. It could be science fiction, paranormal, or fantasy.

I’ve written six novels, two of which will never see the light of day. The other four I’d like to publish online. Writing is a journey, and I hope you’ll take it with me.

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