Posts Tagged ‘On Writing’

My Competition

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

The Honted Class Room

There once was a Honted class room. But kids still line tare. But all of them are ded!  They rom the class room. Hers how it happend. One nasty kid lit a fire in the room! But the door was loked! He didint chek befor because he thot it was not loked. He was wrogn! Onle one little girl did not diy. Her name is Sue. She fond the keys and unloked it! She never went to that school again! That nasty kid was the first one to die! Thats haw it happend.

Did you know that one little boy dard to go in the class room…  And got eten!  BOO………

Is that you? Yes it is! I am a ghosts! I live in a cemetaries.

Wate am I?

Why do I write such freakin’ long books???

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

BFF RANT (tip of the hat to Miss Snark)

Two of my books are POD published and for sale. Both are consistently criticized for two things:

  1. My funny words (scroll down to the entry in April–there’s a blog all about them)
  2. My page count

Why do I write Big Fat Fantasies???

The fact of the matter is that I LOVE long books. I always have. A book that I can finish in one afternoon is just disappointing to me. Invarably (to me at least), the story is just getting started when the book ends.

(David Brin’s The Practice Effect is an EXCELLENT example of this. Good book, very short, has a climax, but the ending absolutely suggests that the adventure is just beginning. Fark that. Tack on another 400 pages, and tell me the whole story.)

I like books that take an investment to read, that let you settle into the characters, get to know them, become really involved in their conflicts. I like books where you actually feel like you’re going to miss the characters after the book is over. I don’t think you can really get that with the shorties.

I read on Miss Snark once that “a long book is a sign of an author not in control of their story.” That might be true. You might think that is true of me. But the length and structure of my books is actually very deliberate.

I work my day job as a technical writer. In personality tests, I’m actually ranked very high in the analytical/intellectual areas. Why I’m a writer of High Fantasy fiction, I have no idea. I should probably be writing mathematical analysis textbooks or something. What it does mean is I have a very systematic approach to my writing.

My books have a three-act story arc, much like a TV or movie screenplay. My ideal is a Prologue, 3 Parts (or Acts) of 10 chapters each, and an Epilogue. Each chapter would be about 10 pages long, small enough to be consumed in a single sitting if that was desired, for a total of 320 pages. (Of course in the production and layout phases of publication, my page counts went all to hell.)

Page count was more of a guideline than a rule. Some chapters ended organically after about six pages, others went over. I’ve yet to need to pad my books to fulfill my 1/10/10/10/1 format. In fact, mostly I’ve had to prune. I’ve had to drop scenes, subplots, etc to keep things manageable, but that has probably been a good thing.

I have two manuscripts currently “sitting under the bed.” Book three is a BFF and so is awaiting an unknown future.

I wrote the fourth book to address my critics’ concerns. Smaller book, fewer “funny words.” It is just 1/10/1 chapters. Basically, it is just the first Part of what would have been the larger work. It’s been in the query phase for about 6 months now. So far, no bites. Whatever. I’m trying.

Fantasy Language

Monday, May 21st, 2007

One of the most consistent criticisms I’ve received on my writing is my use of language. Not the naughty poopy kind of language, but the foreign kind.

If a fellow is from a different continent, kingdom, or even tribe, the language he would use may be very different from the main character’s, and I have endeavored in my books to capture that diversity. The events in my books take place in a vast, complicated multi-cultural world. In many cases, people from multiple nations and cultures are forced to interact. Each of them brings their own ideas on civilization, mores, and language. When cultures mix and meet, that’s where friction starts.

I live in one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. I see and hear this mixing every day. It is an important part of life, and I tried to convey that in my story-telling.

Often times, however, reviewers didn’t appreciate my efforts.

…imagine if you will that throughout this review I inexplicably referred to collymongers and zvixl in place of, say, characters and plot. Such is the use of language in Witch Ember…

Stuart Carter, (not to be confused with) The Truth

While others seemed to get what I was going for:

Sometimes the dialect is a little difficult to read but it separates the different cultures within the Seven Kingdoms. It does not seem like everything is molded into one and the reader definitely knows when the main character is being addressed by a different culture while on her travels.

Jennifer Andrew, BookPleasures.com

To my mind, the very clashes of language and the (lack of) communication between the actors helps build the tension of the scene. The reader is experiencing the same discomfit of the main character. (Stu Carter would say I’m full of it and that there are better ways to convey language barriers and build tension than to simply have the characters speak in made-up pidgin tongues. Maybe so, but I prefer to write what is actually seen and heard, rather than try to be coy about it.)

Lemme tell you about an event that brought to light for me the importance of language.

Some years ago, I was sent to Norway for a month on business. During my first week or so, I began to experience an odd sense of discomfort. I felt increasingly uneasy, even disorientated and distracted. It was more than just the waning jetlag and the pressures of my deadline.

Then one day, as I was standing in a bank line waiting to cash some travelers’ checks, it struck me. I couldn’t understand a thing the couple in front of me was saying. I couldn’t understand the conversations of the tellers and their customers. I couldn’t understand the singing on the Muzak above me. I came to the realization that we depend on that continual buzz of humanity around us. We listen without actually listening, and when it becomes gibberish, it throws us for a loop. I discovered that it was even affecting my vision, as my eyes were constantly wandering across the posters and brochures around me, looking for something recognizable to settle upon and finding nothing.

I throw my characters into the same situations without sympathy, remorse, or reprieve, and I let them muddle through it on their own. My hope is that the reader gleans as much meaning from what is not understood as what is. My hope is that the reader experiences the sense that they’re dealing with very alien, very different people and cultures and, hopefully, they can experience the vastness of the world I tried to create.

I don’t read a lot of traditional Fantasy. The last serious Fantasy book I read (because I do read all the Terry Pratchett books) was the first of a series by one of the industry’s most famous, most renown, most seasoned SciFi/Fantasy authors.

It offered a tantalizing setup, the gist of which was that the main character had to travel across the known (and unknown) world and complete a task. It was a quest book. As the story progressed, the hero and his friends passed through many lands, encountered countless peoples, nations, and cultures. And no matter where they went, no matter who they met, everyone, everyone spoke the same language.

Now, this was a Fantasy book, and you can most certainly establish some kind of mythic explanation for why all human (and inhuman) peoples share the same tongue (though the author didn’t do this). There could also be magical or religious explanations for what was going on (which the author also didn’t provide).

Whatever. One could almost make allowances for the lack of lingual diversity in his world. Just as the above reviewers observed, foreign language may be a device more distracting than useful. So you might be willing to excuse the author this omission.

Everyone in that world spoke the same language.

Except for the hero’s best friend.

Who spoke everything with an accent.

I really really am trying to do better than that!

In Defense of Darkness

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Or, What Are My books About?

No really, what?

Well, I suppose I should first refer to you my website, which provides chapter samples, galleries, and reviews. I’ve been fairly pleased with the reviews so far, assuming they were impartial… they’re SUPPOSED to be impartial… but I can’t help but get the feeling that some of these people are being overly kind simply because they received the books for free. Whatever.

Actually… one guy struck me as being a little harsh, and I wonder if he was because he was trying overly-hard to be impartial. One of his criticisms was so off-base, I almost felt embarrassed for him. Of course, I can’t expect other people to catch his mistake, so I guess I gotta take the hit.

OK, OK, I can’t just pass you off to the website. You’re looking for a more personalized description. I get that.

Most people would call my books “Fantasy” or “Dark Fantasy”. “Dark” because I don’t pull punches or candy-coat. I don’t write light stories about idealized elvies flitting through green forests. I mean, geeze, I write about a time and place where people ran around and hit each other with 3 foot razors. Things can get ugly. Booboos happen.

I consider myself a science-fiction author–rather than fantasy–primarily because scifi holds itself to a certain degree of plausibility. Stuff has to be based on science (or pseudo science) and has to have a certain degree of realism. You can have alien races in scifi, just so long as they’re not so outlandish that you can’t imagine them evolving on a distant planet.

I consider my books science-fiction… they just take place in the past. My characters exist in a post-Renaissance/pre-Industrial Age society. Gunpowder and gaslights exist, as does magic and non-human races. But while many of my creatures are variations of the genre versions, I did my best not to anthropomorphize them. My elves aren’t androgynous she-males dancing through forests. My dwarves aren’t short, grouchy Scottsmen.

The same goes for magic. I did a bit of research on how people think “magic” works in our own real world and applied some of their theories to my own world. I also mixed in the few bits of physics that I retained from high school.

I also tried to portray the social structures accurately, including the darker abuses that occurred. Women are not considered equals, children are property, and racial and religious differences are very very real.

My books are very dark and are considered disturbing by some. I get the impression that people either love them or are horrified by them. I have one reviewer who appears to be currently having difficulties finishing my second book, which surprises me, because she reviewed the first just fine. I always figured my first book is darker than the second (although my wife disagrees). I suppose the second is more hack-and-slash, blood-and-guts, while the first is psychologically darker. They both have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Not trying to scare you off, but I figure I should try to be impartial and thorough. It’s the fact that the main characters of my books exist in this dark world, pass through it, and still evolve into something we might consider moral is part of strength of the story-telling. They struggle, and they overcome. Just like our own ancestors did, except our precursors didn’t have magic or a tangible God to rely on.

In that sense, I consider our world darker than the one in my books.

Getting Started

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

In 2002, I published Witch Ember, a book about a young woman who discovers the great power at her fingertips and her struggles to maintain her freedom even as others vie to control her.

In the days when gods walked the earth and the clay of Man was still wet, a Stone of Power was shattered. From that day forward, all humankind carried a piece. Most have just a little—just the tiniest speck of dust—but some have one of the bigger grains- or even a pebble—and they are the most powerful of sorcerers. In the paranoid, magically-barren lands of the Seven Kingdoms, the street urchin Esmeree is born to carry a stone of unprecedented size and power. As she struggles to survive the unforgiving streets of Cliffs Reach, she endeavors to master the sorcery of her stone and understand its purpose. But time is running out for her for others have discovered her skills and seek to use or destroy her. The Inquisition, the Superbus Tyrannus, the Primate of the Holy Median church. Esmeree must determine her own path, or she will die their slave.

 

In 2006, I published the sequel, The Raven. Picking up where Witch Ember left off, it follows the path of a different character, a fallen knight in search of redemption.

Guiromélans is a knight, a sacred paladin, seeking nothing more than to obey the commandments of God. But when God betrays him and allows a hells-condemned witch to defeat him in battle, he is forced to reexamine his faith. What did he do to merit such disgrace? What can he do to atone for his sins? Facing challenges both of the flesh and of the soul, Guiromélans begins a pilgrimage across the known world. In search of redemption and forgiveness, he discovers the true meaning of God’s will. The Raven is the sequel to John Lawson’s first novel, Witch Ember.

 

These books included quality artwork by Jason Nunes, Walter Moore, and Jon Hastings.

Since then, I have moved on to different projects. The Loathly Lady is a prequel, taking place nearly 1000 years before the events of Witch Ember and The Raven. Sorrow’s Onset is concurrent to Witch Ember and The Raven.

One of the chief criticisms I’ve received on my writing from literary agents is that my books are too long. (Too long, at least, for an unknown author.) Conventional publishers are hesitant to take on big books from new authors because of the financial risk involved. It costs a lot to publish big books, and chances are, no one will buy from an author they don’t recognize. Hence why POD publishing was the option left to me.

I’m not a big fan of short books. I like the investment and the deep plots involved with longer books. This is why I write the books I do (3 parts of 10 chapters each, with a prologue, epilogue, and glossary, for a total of 33 chapters). The Loathly Lady follows this template, so chances are, it will see a POD release as well… eventually.

But taking the advice of the people who know the industry, my fourth project is a shorter book, only 12 chapters. My current focus is to find representation and get Sorrow’s Onset published by a traditional publishing house.