Monday, December 17, 2012

The Next Big Thing – Writers' Blog Journey

I was recently tagged for The Next Big Thing by Maria DeVivo. Her YA Dark Fanasy novel, The Coal Elf, came out last month. Check it out. It's really cool. Her blog can be found at: Beneath The Ash

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

The title of my work in progress is, The Last Clan. It's the second book in my series, The Chronicles of the Knights Elementalis. I'm currently shopping the first book, Knight of Flame, around to agents and publishers.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I can't point to a single spark of inspiration. The characters and storyline evolved over time. Fire has always captivated me. I can watch a dancing flame for hours, losing myself in its chaotic energy and dazzling display. Why not create a character with the ability to wield and control such a destructive force of nature?

What genre does your book fall under?

The series falls under the Contemporary Fantasy genre.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That's a great question. I mean, what writer out there hasn't dreamed about their book becoming a movie, and the perfect actors to cast. My family has discussed it at length, but it also pop ups out of nowhere. We can be watching a movie and someone blurts out who the current actor on screen would be perfect to play
-Develore Quinteele, Knight of Flame, played by Daniel Craig.
-Magnus Siggurson, Knight of Earth, played by Gerard Butler.
-Wren Sasaki played by Crystal Liu.
-Cassidy Sinclair played by Anne Hathaway.
-The casting for the villain, Alexander Gray, remains cloaked in secrecy. Actually, I don't have him picked out yet. We need someone suave, intense, handsome, and able to pull of brooding menace with a touch of vulnerability.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A modern-day Knight must overcome the tragedy of his past and rediscover the purifying force of love that, when balanced against his out-of-control rage, unlocks his potential to save the world.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I do not intend to self-publish, so I'll either sell directly to a publisher or sign with an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I rewrote the first one hundred pages several times before I got the traction to write the rest. All told, including the rewrites of the first section, about six months. Once I was happy with the opening, I raced through the next three hundred sixty pages in about eight weeks.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I find this a tough question. Most contemporary fantasy I've read falls into the Urban Fantasy category. Those books tend to be written in a single character's point of view, and have a darker, grittier story to tell—the detective noire of the fantasy genre. The Chronicles of the Knights Elementalis is more like an epic fantasy set in the modern world. I tried to capture the camaraderie of R.A. Salvatore's Companions of the Hall in my small cadre of elemental knights. Though their situation is dire and their foes nigh invincible, they manage to bring out the best in each other.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My family is my inspiration. It's only through their support that I find the time to dream and write about the trials and triumphs of my knights and future characters.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers will get to know each of the members of the Knights Elementalis—Knights of Flame, Water, Air and Earth. While certain characters' points of view will persist through the series, each new book will introduce a new perspective. With it comes a host of new thoughts, motives, and all around juicy goodness.

Other Authors to check out in The Next Big Thing:
Jen Greyson
Lori DiNardi
Their posts will be up next week.
Have fun,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blog Post #4 – Wisdom from Dragon*Con 2012 Part 1 – Genre Confusion (Doh!)


Hello. My name is Scott, and I write Urban Fantasy. Wait, no, that's what I did two weeks ago, before the revelation, before Dragon*Con.  Today, in my post-D*C era, I write Contemporary Fantasy. And the funny thing is that I haven't changed a thing. I still write the same novels, but my genre perception has shifted thanks to the wisdom presented at Dragon*Con. 

I've heard the advice not to worry about genre. Let an agent or editor figure out into which Fantasy subgenre the book should fall since the writer is not typically the best judge. That's all well and good after the fact, once the book is sold and the decisions on how to market it are made. What about when a writer is discussing his work with publishing professionals or other authors?   

When talking about my book, framing it in terms of genre is a natural thing. It's meant to set a certain expectation or set of rules in which the plot unfolds and the characters develop. So, when talking about my book, Knight of Flame, I start off by telling people it's Urban Fantasy with strong romantic elements. Here’s the kicker…I was wrong.

But, Scott, say it aint so. I wish I could. I feel kinda silly about it, actually. Thank goodness I came to the realization myself instead of having someone have to point it out to me. I don't claim to know a lot about this industry into which I'm trying hard to break into. In fact, I know fairly little.  That's why I keep asking questions, hanging with those who do know about this crazy business, and attending different cons and seminars. Look out World Fantasy, you're next.

I got my first inkling of my genre faux pas early on. I'd been trying to identify my niche, my stand-out factor. What made my Urban Fantasy novel unique? I realized that one of the differences is POV. My novel has multiple POVs. I haven't seen that much in UF. Most UF stories turn upon the axis of a single driving character—typically a badass detective or bounty hunter protecting their slice of the world from the nefarious creatures of the night.

I was good with the multiple POV thing. I started talking that up and building my case on how my book differed from the others. That went well until I started asking questions of NYT bestselling UF authors about it and got some strange looks. Perhaps there's a reason there isn't much multiple POV in UF. 

It seems that the general consensus about UF is that the pacing is very fast. That single POV ass-kicker drives through the story at a very fast pace. The characters don't typically amble about smelling the flowers. They find and fight the badies threatening their town. The tone is dark and gritty, like the dirty streets and water of the cityscape in which they prowl. UF is the noire of the Fantasy genre.

And that's where it all went crazy. Yeah, I see the dark and the grit and the detective aspect of UF stories. Mine decidedly did not have those elements. I realized the only things my novel and UF had in common was that it occurred in a city (for a little while) and brought magical elements into a real-world setting.

Sorry, but that's just not enough. So, Knight of Flame is not Urban Fantasy. It's Contemporary or Modern Fantasy. It doesn't have the grit and dark tones of a Faith Hunter, Jim Butcher, or Kim Harrison novel. It's more like the sense of wonder and camaraderie of the Companions of the Hall from R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms books. I loved the interplay between Drizzt, King Bruenor, Wulfgar, Regis, and Cattie-brie. They fed off each other while they saved the world from utter destruction time and again. I wanted to make sure that my characters had that type of relationship and wrote that in from the beginning. Duh. I should have realized.     

The book held true to genre, but the writer got lost somewhere along the way.

That's not the only place I got lost. This being my first trip to Dragon*Con, I spent a fair amount of time wandering the floors of the Hyatt and the Marriott. When I did find the right room at the right time, I learned and I'll be passing some of those other lessons on in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

Have fun,
Against the Shadow, burns a noble light.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Blog Post #1 - An Auspicious Beginning

I've never had a blog of my own before, never thought I really needed one. Didn't think I had all that much to say.  When I promoted a new ebook under a different pseudonym, a different genre, a different life, I'd guest blog at a dozen or so other sites to extol the virtues of my latest release. I'd write about a salient, real-world topic that tied into the story and hope that my clever snippet of prose would win over new readers and drive sales. Wrong.  Wrong. Wrong. Sure, I sold a couple of extra copies from the blogs, but not much, nothing to write home about.       

What I didn't realize then, but have since had drummed into my writing core, is that I need a voice and a platform and a nice place to interact with, what I hope to be, a growing readership.  The Mad Muncle's Forge is the place where I step outside the fiction and talk about life, the universe, and pretty much anything else. I'm flexible.  What comes up, comes up.  I've got a couple of future topics in mind, but the rest will be whatever hot nugget o' thought-splat I transcribe into a coherent thousand words or less. 

And I want the Forge to be comfortable. I'll ask the Muncles to turn up the air conditioning so the heat doesn't become oppressive and stifle the creative juices.  Come on over and set a spell. Feel free to comment on the posts and let me know what you think.  I'm not a prude, nor am I the language police, but I do ask that you be courteous and not use language that you wouldn't want your mother to hear you say.  My grandmother legalized cursing in my house when I was thirteen years old, so I may drop the occasional s-bomb or damn or Hell or…you get the idea. Keep it reasonable and we'll all have a good time.

After I get this going for a little while, beat the bushes for a couple of interested parties beyond my close friends and family, I'll invite some of my author friends to hawk their wares and tell you what's going on with them.  Until then, it's all about me.  Hehe.

I'd like to introduce you to some special friends of mine.  In my first book, KNIGHT OF FLAME, I introduce readers to a race of elemental beings that live in the stone of the Cradle of the Elements—the Knight's headquarters.  Originally created by the Lord of Earth to maintain and protect the Cradle, the muncles (short for homunculus) have evolved into so much more. There are several different muncle types, but when I thought up the name of this blog, I pictured Jester. A patchwork of different colored stone—tan, brown, gold, and white—Jester stands no more than three feet tall with spindly arms and legs, big stone hands and feet, and a flat, stone-block head.  He's a clever little bugger, communicating his thoughts and emotions through his gemstone eyes and the versatile mouth groove carved across his face. 

KNIGHT OF FLAME is not available for general consumption just yet.  I'm working on that.  While the book itself is ready to go, I'm searching for the right publishing home. I'll keep everyone posted on progress.       

Alright. That's all for now. Have fun.

Blog Post #2 - Split in Two

So…I've been working on the second book in my Knights Elementalis series. It's been going kinda slow. I make progress every day. It's not the kind of machine gun typing I'd like to see, blurping out 3k, 4k, or even 5k words in a clip. Man, that would be SWEET. Lately my pace is more like a sedate 2, 2.5k. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

I've been distracted. Another story idea, one that's percolated behind my eyes for a while, one which I've tried to write out twice already, won't leave me alone. In the middle of a scene with Dev and Magnus, I start thinking about this other idea and how the character should react to his given situation. What the hell? I'm trying to help Dev deal with his fury and this other character steals the spotlight.

It's rude, if you ask me. Take your ticket and wait your turn, buddy. You'll get your chance. But no, that's not good enough.

I've been split in two. During the Superstars Writing Seminar, Kevin J. Anderson said we should have multiple projects going on in different stages of the writing process. If you get stalled on one project, you can slide over and tackle one of the others. Great advice. I'm all over it. I figured I'd focus and write out The Last Clan while I plot the new story. Cool.

I plotted the story. Now what? The Last Clan moves ahead slowly while this upstart project siphons off my creative power. It's like a having a new puppy in the house. As soon as you leave it alone behind the gate in the kitchen to go and do something else, the fuzzy ball of cute whines and yips and growls until you're forced to come back into the room and play with him.

Somehow, someway, I've got a metaphorical new puppy. Not as fuzzy and definitely easier on the newspapers, he demands just as much attention.

And…grrrr, I gave in. This weekend I could resist those sad, doggy eyes and lifted him over the fence. I started writing the story and I hope that, once he hits the page, he'll let me concentrate on The Last Clan.

Don't get me wrong. I'm super excited about this new project. I believe it will be my next gihugic thing after the Knights. It's got the kind of cinnamony depth swirled with chocolaty conflict topped with flawed character sprinkles into which I as a reader love to sink my brain. I just wish it would be a little less insistent and play nice with the other creative children in my head.

But there's a big risk here. What if I get so enamored with the new project that I don't go back and finish the first? To that I say, "Hogwash." I'm not going to leave the Knights hanging in their fight against the Gray Lords. The world is at stake and I, in good conscience, must write it out of jeopardy or let it fall into darkness. Either way, there must be closure.

The shiny new work, while uber cool and exciting, will not derail my Knights Elementalis train. I simply switched KE off the main track for a few days while I test out a new engine.

No worries. I got this.

Have fun,


Against the Shadow, burns a noble light.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blog Post #3 - Creativity is a Ninja

You never know when the solutions will come, so be open and be ready.

As a music fan, it's been a week of keen despair.  Queensryche, the prog-metal masters who recently celebrated their 30th year together, announced that they would continue on without lead singer Geoff Tate. Holy crap. Much like people who were alive during the Kennedy assassination and the attack on the towers of the World Trade Center, I'll never forget where I was when I heard the news.  My son and I were driving back from the bowling alley when a DJ blurted a cryptic comment about the band having a new singer. No, I must have heard wrong. Geoff Tate is one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, surely his band mates wouldn't kick him out.  

I drove home in a numb haze of denial, assuring myself that this disaster couldn't possibly be true. Queensryche's music has always been there for me, helping me through the myriad highs and lows that life has thrown at me. In essence, they've provided the soundtrack to my life.

Alas, I Googled and found the truth. The band will never be the same. For good or ill, all members are moving forward into an unknown future and I wish them all well. 

As a writer, though, it's been an amazing week. I've been trying to figure things out, flesh out the details for the overall story arc of my Knights Elementalis series. I wrote the first book on a basic premise, but now I need more…more details, more design, just more. I've come up with a lot of groovy ideas, but none that spiked my thermometer into the red until…

After the Queensryche bombshell, I sat on the couch. Numb, not ready to accept the truth, I stared mindlessly at the TV. The kids from one of those inane Nickelodeon shows pranced around on the screen. With a tween daughter I learned to tune those shows out a long time ago, but in the chirpy, happy background noise that it provided…

Blammo. I got it. I know what happens. The final scene of book four came to me as clear as if I were watching the movie adaptation.  One by one, the info for the blanks I needed to fill came to me. Revelation.

Creativity is a ninja, sneaks up and attacks at improbable moments. I've been attacked in the shower, on the throne, driving, shooting hoops with the kids.  And now, while looking the other way at the Queensryche deal, I took a shuriken to the temple, which unlocked the secrets I've been looking for.

Rock on, Ninja, rock on.

Have fun,
Against the Shadow, burns a noble light.