11/28/13
katabasis_cover_biblio

Guest Post: Joseph Brassey of Mongoliad Fame!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey everyone. As you might know, earlier this year I was commissioned by Kindle Worlds to write in the Foreworld Universe. I jumped at the chance to piggyback onto the universe of The Mongoliad. A universe already created, with an established mystique and resonance. I really enjoyed writing Kingdom of Glass, and it is still one of my favorites. Joseph Brassey was one of the original writers of The Mongoliad series, and today, he talks about his work, as part of the Writing Process blog tour.

What am I working on?
Currently, a contemporary fantasy. After three years of Foreworld Historical Fantasy, I wanted to do something off the wall, completely different, and considerably more supernatural.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a weird question for me to answer, because it’s not a type of comparative thinking that comes naturally to me. “How is your cake different from those of the other bakers?” It posits. “Is it perhaps more moist? Is it’s center perhaps full of nice, creamy chocolate? Or rampaging fire-ants?”

One should always drink *red* wine when eating Rampaging Fire-Ant Cake.

Okay that’s not a perfect analogy. I like to focus on relationships. As such my work tends to be emotion driven rather than concept-driven. I have a tone I’m going for, usually, or an image, a moment, an intersection of passions and ambitions. When you pick up something of mine, you’re more than likely to find something driven by the human element. I cannot promise explanations. I often dislike them, and can seldom conjure up ones that feel emotionally satisfying. I aim to drag my reader through the flurry of events, chasing after the mad, feverish dash of the protagonists and their motives intersecting violently with adversity. Feverishness is important to me. Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap. I like flashy things that go “boom.”

Please, don’t take this as an advisement to roll up my books and smoke them. That won’t do it for you. Well, it might, but you’ll probably get sick.

Why do I write what I do?
Because if I didn’t, I’d be miserable. That’s blunt and simple, but it’s probably the truest answer. The other one is that I’m fascinated by interpersonal interaction. I’m obsessed with exploring the meeting place between reality and personal narrative, where they clash, and what comes about as a consequence. A lot of writers say that it’s about being “grabbed” by an idea. They’re dead on. The idea in question can be anything. Sometimes it’s a character, sometimes it’s a circumstance, sometimes it’s a dynamic. Regardless of the catalyst, the chase has to be worth it. The process is what keeps me doing this, and its function as an outlet for my emotional/mental catharsis. If the seed isn’t robust enough to sustain that role, the idea doesn’t go anywhere.

Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap.

How does your writing process work?
I need clarity of thought and single-minded focus in my brain-space. Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Having a 6-month-old son has broken me of that habit, and I can shift in and out of the work-mode and the Stay-At-Home-Daddy mode as needed. What I can’t do is shift between genres or allow my brain to wander too far afield from the current work. I can only inhabit one fantastical matrix at a time, which means that it’s very hard to write more than one piece of work in a given period. Since having children, a lot of my process has changed, which has been itself a valuable learning experience because I now know that it CAN change, and that the urge to create is stronger than any inconvenience or reshuffling of priorities. These are the things that have stayed constant:

Sometimes writing feels like this.

Writing functions as the mental counterpart to intense exercise in my life (I am a fitness freak): It’s a violent, explosively cathartic, exhausting mental gymnasium where I work my brain and emotions until settled. I let myself slide into a mental state appropriate to the scene. Mood music can help, but it isn’t strictly necessary. On the bad days it’s like chipping away at a chunk of marble with a shovel. It will never be done. I will never find the beautiful face underneath. I chip away anyway. On the good days, it’s fever-pitch, dream-like. I plough through, feel every punch and find myself gritting my teeth with the protagonists, mouthing their lines, experiencing the rush of their story like a physical high. The technical detail of the process is actually hard for me to describe here, because the act of creating for me is less a set of technical specifications and plans and more a matter of balling up my emotional fists and screaming “FUCKING DO IT!” Before repeatedly loosing a savage hail of blows at a hapless page. The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed. It can be like winning a good fight: A blur of controlled, focused chaos that leaves you with bruises, but feeling like a God. It’s not always a healthy feeling. It is not hard to imagine someone developing a massive ego after doing this for a long time. Coming back down to earth is important.

 The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed.

I can’t write to please someone else. It has to be for me. I often read what people are talking about in terms of fictional themes, underlying messages, the importance of symbolism, and sometimes those discussions spark something that has me running off into the proverbial woods again, but it’s still fundamentally for me, a means to explore something that’s eating at the back of my mind, or indulging an obsession that won’t go away, or putting my personal demons on the page so I can pound them until I feel better. Life throws a lot of crap at us. Fiction is the white room where we can go and throw it all on the wall to look at and make sense of. It’s the dream-house where our angels and demons live.

At least, that’s what it is for me.

Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, son, and two cats. In his spare time, he trains in, and teaches, medieval martial arts to members of the armed forces. He has lived on both sides of the continental United States and has worked everywhere from a local newspaper to the frameshop of a crafts store to the smoke-belching interior of a house-siding factory with questionable safety policies. His newest novel is Katabasis. Have a look!

11/23/13
JeffWheeler

Guest Post: Bestselling Fantasy Author, Jeff Wheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome readers!
Today I have a wonderful treat for you. The awesome and virtuous Jeff Wheeler, father of the Muirwood epic fantasy series, has visited my blog. Jeff is a truly inspiring human, a champion of goodness, and a brilliant storyteller. And I’m honored to have him here. Please check out his blog to learn more about this hugely successful writer.

Writing is a Solitary Ritual
By Jeff Wheeler

My parents often repeated the proverb that “Insanity is hereditary – you get it from your kids.” I’m not sure if writing is a gene that is part of my DNA or a mental illness, but whatever the case may be, my teenage daughter has started down the journey of being a writer. Watching her crave feedback from friends and family members brings back a lot of memories.

What I don’t have the heart to tell her (for fear of snuffing out the spark) is that writing is very much a solitary ritual. I’ve spent many hours, sometimes driving in my car, sometimes staring out the window, living in the worlds inside my head. As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient. I’m still writing Book 3 of Mirrowen. You’ll get a turn someday. Maybe after the next Muirwood trilogy is finished.

Then there is the act of writing itself. Sometimes I’m in a hotel room on a business trip. Sometimes it’s on a plane. Most of the time, it’s in my den at home, door closed, white-noise machine hushing in the background to drown out the ambient sounds that invariably distract my concentration. When I’m in the “flow” of the moment, it’s like I’m breathing words onto the page as if an unseen muse sat behind my chair whispering the next line and then the next. Though I’m totally alone yet I feel that I’m inside the world I’m creating.

As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient.

Then, of course, there is the lonely editing process. Paragraph by paragraph, page by page, I pore over the manuscript, using my instincts to snip a word here or substitute one there. I do very little re-writing afterwards. Even when the comments from my editors arrive, it’s a lonely path, sifting through the proper use of English grammar that still, to this day, baffles me. I’m forever grateful for the English majors whose job it is to know the difference between who’s, whose, and whom.

Then there is the patient (or not so patient) waiting of months from the time the book is finished, edited, arranged, narrated, before my readers even get to see the first words. By then, I’m knee-deep in my next creation, teasing out the conclusion of a trilogy or crafting the plot of a new one.

This sense of aloneness was put into a new light for me. I was recently at a week-long management workshop in Portland, Oregon. Some of the guest speakers included a senior manager at my company who climbed to the top of Mt Everest. He described reaching the summit and seeing a black sky, because he was up beyond the atmosphere. It was like touching a void. Another tale came from a a woman who talked about running the switchbacks of the Grand Canyon. While these feats are done in teams and often with fellow-travelers, the journey is inherently a lonely one. These are experiences that happen not just to the body, but also inside the mind. It reminded me of my experience as a writer and how much of it is mentally pushing myself forward.

There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book.

The other day, I swapped e-mails with another writer—a peer who jousts with me on the Amazon rankings. He had just finished the final book of his series. There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book. It was a poignant moment, a shared sense of the solitary rituals we writers experience.

As I watch my daughter intently scribbling more words in her composition book, I have to smile. She’s just starting her journey and living inside her head.

 ~~~

Jeff Wheeler is a writer from 7-10PM on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, he works for Intel Corporation, is a husband and the father of five kids, and a leader in his local church. He lives in Rocklin, California. When he isn’t listening to books during his commute, he is dreaming up new stories to write. His books can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Wheeler/e/B004SBCEK6

More information about how he became a writer is found on his website:
http://www.jeff-wheeler.com/

11/20/13
muse

My Writing Process–Blog Tour

So i’m taking part in a round-robin blog tour in which writers talk about how they write what they write. It’s a lot of fun, and I want to thank fellow historical writer Adam Haviaras for inviting me. Adam has guest posted here before. He is a ridiculously well-schooled historian and archaeologist and his wonderful writing reflects this. Check out his blog and his books if you love historical fantasy.

Now, about my writing process . . .

 

What am I working on?
At the moment, I am writing the third and final book in The Scourge trilogy. I’m having a great time with this book and I think it might be the best of the three.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
 I have a hard time speaking in broad terms about the genre of my work. I have two series, one that is epic fantasy and another that is historical fantasy. Both series are gritty and as realistic as I could make them. There are no unicorns in either book. Um. Okay, there’s a unicorn in the Scourge, but not a real one. There are no mages hurling fireballs and no elves. Definitely no elves. My work tends to be grounded in history, with bits of the paranormal here and there. The protagonists are usually disillusioned and dispirited, but with a fierce, burning passion that drives them ever onward. There is usually a bit of romance, and many times a bit of violence, and always a healthy dose of black humor.

Why do I write what I do?
I love history, particularly medieval history. I think contemporary people are boring. We dress in dull clothes. We talk about boring things. We have no strong convictions or traditions. Even our wars are boring. People in the Middle Ages didn’t have Wal-Mart or Movember, or even National Secretaries Day. They had craftsmen selling their wares. Their mustaches and beards were a lifelong thing. And a secretary was someone you entrusted with a deep, dark and powerful secret. Medieval soldiers wore armor and stared into the eyes of their enemies as they killed them. Women wore the most beautiful clothing in history and plotted with the best of conspirators. Politicians argued over which of them would lead the first rank of men into the enemy lines. Men fought for honor. Hell, men *had* honor (some men anyway). And horses. They all rode horses, for God’s sake. How can you not write about that sort of time period?

My muse cries when I don’t listen.

How does your writing process work?
I have to have inspiration to write. Something has to kindle the firewood in my brain. A good opening line. An interesting character. An image. The best of my works write themselves. The idea sustains itself. The firewood comes from thin air and the story burns like a furnace. The worst require work. Lots and lots of work.

I start most stories in the same way these days. I get an idea and think about it for a time. The protagonist is important. I need to know what type of person he or she is, and what he or she is trying to accomplish. Then, I throw everything I can at them, to keep them from accomplishing their goal. I come up with a general outline and maybe a scene outline, and then start writing. Sometimes half the scenes I planned actually make it into the book. Other times, only one or two make it.

If the story is sound, the motivation strong and the conflicts believable, then the story will tell itself. You have to listen while you write. Sometimes you step off the path, and the story will tell you to come back. If you don’t listen, you will get lost. If you do listen, you will find your story. Yeah, that’s really a vague and cheesy answer, isn’t it? But there’s truth in it. If you think about the story, really think, the answers will present themselves. The more you listen, the more ideas will come to you. Think about your story in your car. At the grocery store. In the shower. Odd things will pop into your head and you will kick at them to see if they are solid. And all those little, random ideas will come together in your novel in a way that you could never have thought of just sitting at your computer. I could talk about this for days, but I won’t. Just listen. That’s the most important part of writing. Listen. Yoda voice: Listen, you must.

Next week, my friends and fellow 47North writers, Richard Ellis Preston, Mark T. Barnes and Joseph Brassey will continue this blog tour. (I will host Joseph’s post here). Here’s all you need to know about them:

Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. is a science fiction writer who loves the zeitgeist of steampunk. Although he grew up in both the United States and Canada he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology. He has lived on Prince Edward Island, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. Richard currently resides in California.

Mark Barnes was born in Sydney, Australia, in September of 1966. A strong athlete, he was also drawn to the arts at a young age, penning his first short story as a seven-year-old. He worked in finance and advertising before establishing himself in IT services management. Currently he owns and operates a freelance organizational change consultancy. In 2005, when Mark was selected to attend the Clarion South residential short story workshop, he began to write with the intention of making it more than a hobby. Since that time, Mark has published a number of short stories, worked as a freelance script editor, and has driven creative consultancy for a television series.

Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, son, and two cats. In his spare time, he trains in, and teaches, medieval martial arts to members of the armed forces. He has lived on both sides of the continental United States and has worked everywhere from a local newspaper to the frameshop of a crafts store to the smoke-belching interior of a house-siding factory with questionable safety policies.

11/5/13
BoMM_Book2_Cover_LB

Beast of Maug Maurai Character List

So, I wrote this book a while ago called the Beast of Maug Maurai, and it had a few characters in it. Okay, it had a *lot* of characters in it. I’ve worked so hard on each and every one of these characters that I feel like I’ve grown up with them. Toilet-papered people’s houses with them. Been kicked out of New York City bars because of them. Destroyed people’s mailboxes with them. Gone on wildly illegal scavenger hunts that led to arrests with them. I’d make some more completely, absolutely fictitious metaphors that have nothing whatsoever to do with my actual youth but I’m not sure about the statute of limitations on vehicular assault and property damage caused by driving without being able to see. So I will simply say that I know these characters very well, but you, gentle readers, meet them with no real introductions. So, without further probing of my criminal past, here is a crib sheet of the characters in Grae Barragns’s squad:

Grae Barragns’s Standards:

Grae Barragns
Age:
31
Home: Maentrass Barony
Background: Grae is a brig in the Laraytian Standards, which is the professional army of the Kingdom of Laraytia. The Standards answer only to the king (currently Tharandyr Darmurian) and the marquesses (there are two in each of the six duchies). A brig is an officer rank, roughly between a captain and major in the U.S. or British armies of today. Grae’s father died as a hammer (sergeant) in the Standards, and Grae himself started as a trudge (private). Grae’s tactical skills, intelligence, and bravery on the battlefield have vaulted him into the officer ranks, a feat almost unheard of among commoners. The highborn officers of the Standards, however, are not keen on a commoner in their ranks. The political wrangling of these highborn officers has banished Grae to the fringes of the Standards. He becomes “The Headsman,” an officer sent out to carry out the orders that no one else wants. He leads his men on dozens of massacres, killing innocents so that enemies will fear the the Laraytian Standards. And with each massacre he leads, his soul blackens a shade.

Mullin “Hammer” Haerth
Age:
38
Home: Duryth
Background: Mullin is a hammer in the Laraytian Standards (roughly equivalent to a sergeant). He has been a hammer for so long that few people use his first name anymore. He is simply Hammer, and Grae believes him to be the finest hammer in the Standards. He and Grae are best of friends, despite being apart for the last five years.

Mollingsley “Sage” Tharke
Age
: 27
Home: Hrux Barony
Background: Sage is a stout with honors in the Laraytian Standards (roughly equivalent to a corporal). He is also a specialist — a scout. The Standards have trained him to track enemies through a variety of terrains. He can also track animals, hunt, and survive in the wilderness. He is one of the most intelligent men Grae knows, although a bit unfocused. Perhaps worse than his lack of focus is his drinking, which has gotten worse in the years since Grae last saw the scout. Sage’s father is a successful merchant, importing sundry goods to Laraytia from the far kingdoms. Joining the standards was an act of rebellion for Sage, who has not spoken with his father for five years.

Meedryk Bodlyn
Age: 23
Home: Thraen
Background: Meedryk is a specialist in the Laraytian Standards. His rank is mantic, which is the third and final phase of a magician-in-training. His father is a scribe and historian, who pens books about the history of Nuldryn in his spare time. Mages sometimes pay Meedryk’s father to copy books on the craft of magic and Meedryk has spent his childhood “borrowing” these volumes secretly (and illegally) and reading them at night by candlelight. Although he is close to becoming a guilded magician, he is not happy. He spent his childhood listening to stories about the master mages of Old Nuldryn, dreaming of one day learning their secrets. But the secrets he has learned so far have disappointed him. They are nothing more than tricks with chemics (alchemy). He wants to know the true arts — that which the master mages call “transcendence” — but is afraid that such things might not exist.

Beldrun Shanks
Age:
29
Home: Hrux Barony
Background: Shanks is a trudge in the Laraytian Standards (similar to a private in the U.S. Military). He is also a criminal. Grae finds him in the dungeon of Gaer Froen, where Shanks was sent to live out his days. The big infantryman has murdered, raped and robbed. He is a tall and strong and greatly skilled with an axe, but has a cruel streak in him and is quick to anger. His lack of discipline and respect makes him a hard man to lead. He and Sage grew up together in Hrux Barony.


 Jjarnee Kruu
Age: 26
Home: Kingdom of Hrethri
Background: Jjarnee is a stout in the Standards (roughly equivalent to a private first class in the United States military) and a crossbowman. He comes from the kingdom of Hrethri (see map). Foreigners are allowed to enter the Standards if they choose, although they must speak and understand the Galadane language fluently. Jjarnee isn’t particularly fluent, but he is excellent with a crossbow. He is also good-humored, loves tasting new ales and ciders, and plays pranks on his squadmates.

Drissdie Hannish
Age: 19
Home: Blythfarn Barony
Background: Drissdie is a trudge in the Standards.He did not enter the world with great intelligence and became even less intelligent when a war hammer’s spike pierced his skull. He still bears the scars from the wound that almost killed him, and not all of those scars are physical. He is terrified of Maug Maurai and the dark tales that were born there. A priest once told him that “A smile is the armor of the meek.” So he smiles often.

Dathnien “Daft” Faldrey
Age: 25
Home: Harrynsale
Background: Dathnien is a trudge in the Standards. He fought in the Battle of Haux, against the Durrenian hoards, and witnessed atrocities there. The most devout of Durrenians are known to occasionally eat the bodies of their enemies. Dathnien witnessed this, and many other horrors. He lost his mind in the battle and was sent to a purificery — a place were the insane are treated (in barbaric ways). Dathnien was released back into service after a year in the purificery, although Grae is not sure that he should have been. Dathnien is quiet, unbalanced, and has strange theories about the purpose of life.

Rundle Graen
Age: 28
Home: Thraen
Background: Rundle Graen is a trudge in the Standards. He is a Lojanite disciple, which means he tries to live his life by the scriptures of the god Lojanwyne. Those scriptures, The Arms and The Endeavours, teach that men must be strong, savage in battle, and unflinching when avenging injustice. Rundle is gruff, quiet, and prone to violence. He has been disciplined twice for brawling with his company mates.

Mercenaries and Other Guests:

Aramaesia Charrei
Age: 20
Home: Gri’Marche, in Kingdom of Gracidmar (see map)
Background: Aramaesia is the daughter of a Gracidmarian cavalry scout and a Sylanthian archer (Sylanthia is a region in Gracidmar known for producing the best archers in Celucia). Her mother, the archer, died when Aramaesia was five. But Aramaesia took after her and is a masterful archer. She is able to make shots that seem to defy explanation. Her father, Vreitagne, left the Gracidmarian military two years after his wife died, when he he had a vision from the goddess Ja’Drei. He became a priest of Ja’Drei and rose quickly in the church hierarchy, becoming a torchbearer (like a cardinal in the Catholic Church). Aramaesia grew up a devout disciple of Ja’Drei, and had her own visions, including one in which Ja’Drei’s prophet, Raeyn, pointed westward, over the Green Mountains that led to Laraytia. Within a month, her father put together an expedition to Laryatia for her and he traveled with her to Arryn Duchy. There, in Maug Tenrae, they established a camp to feed the poor and heal the sick.

Lokk Lurius
Age: Unknown
Home: Kingdom of Eridia
Background: Lurius is from the Kingdom of Eridia (see map). He is not a soldier in the Standards, but a freeblade mercenary. Freeblades are known to be among the most skilled of mercenaries. He is one of the best warriors Grae has ever seen and makes a welcome addition to the squad. But he is also a mystery. Lord Aeren has deduced a few facts about him, but most of the man’s past is unknown. Grae suspects there is a great depth to Lokk Lurius, and a history that he’s not sure he wants to know. Lurius doesn’t speak often — about his past or any other subject — but bristles easily. And when he starts killing, it is difficult to make him stop.

Sir Jastyn Whitewind
Age: 22
Home: Tyftin
Background: Jastyn was born the third son of a third son of a Duke. He has no hopes of ruling, or inheriting any sizable lands. He is a virtual unknown in the community, although he has started making a name for himself at tournaments, placing high in three of the last four. His brother is Knight-Protector of Tyftin. His uncle Waeryn Whitewind is the Earl of Tyftinshire.  Another of his uncles, Kethren Whitewind, is the Count of Tyftin. Sir Jastyn trains rigorously for tournaments and hopes to one day become a Laraytian Lancer (the kingdom’s feared, elite cavalry). He fell in love with his songmaiden, Maribrae Endilweir, and made her his bloodwife in a moon ceremony — a secret, symbolic ritual that has no official weight. He has been promised to Lady Trissis Wyldfourge, whom he is to marry in two months.

Maribrae Endilweir
Age: 17
Home: Taur
Background: Maribrae is a songmaiden — a woman who attaches herself to a noble (often a knight) and records his or her accomplishments in stories and songs. Her mother, who was also a songmaiden, died at the Faur Folly Battle when Maribrae was thirteen. Maribrae attached herself to Sir Jastyn Whitewind, and fell in love with him instantly. Sir Jastyn made her his bloodwife and the two are inseparable. But Jastyn’s upcoming marriage to Lady Trissis Wyldfourge (a real marriage) makes her heartsick.

Lord Aeren Threncaneon
Age: 19
Home: Invaurnoth
Background: Aeren is he nephew of the Count of Invaurnoth, Jervik Threncaneon. He serves as an assistant to the Erudite Lady Wyael — a sage of great renowned in the Galdane empire. Lady Wyael is the Old Kingdoms’s foremost authority on beasts and animals. She sent him to accompany Grae Barragns and his squad into the forest so that Aeren could gather information about the Beast of Maug Maurai. Lord Aeren is handsome and stylish. He is becoming an accomplished scholar, but his womanizing ways keep him from fulfilling his potential.

I hope this has been of some use to you. When creating each of these characters, I thought of actors that would best play them in a movie and pasted photos of those actors on their bio sheets. I didn’t put them here because reading is, itself, an act of creation. I don’t want to pollute your creation with my thoughts. On my own book. As odd as that sounds. But if you are interested in seeing the actors I chose for each of these, let me know. I might post them.

Have you read the Maug Maurai books? Let me know who you picture playing the roles. Would love to hear your ideas!