Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hedmund's Armor

I used to draw a fair amount, but I never got particularly good at drawing anything except melee weaponry. Every now and then I managed to sketch a pretty good dragon. It's frustrating to see images so clearly in my mind and somehow not be able to translate that into a good image.

Thus, when I do manage to sketch something in nearly the fashion it existed in my head, I get very excited. Sadly, I often manage the best drawings on the worst mediums - in the margins of text books or at the top of class notes, for instance. Never in the center of a nice clean white sheet of paper...

I've been doodling Hedmund's scale armor (from The Giant of the Tidesmouth) for ages now. Somehow, this one time I got it almost right. For any real artist it's mediocre - for me it's hall of fame. Thus, I share it with you all. Yes, it was drawn on a yellow legal pad - I tried to clean it up a bit in GIMP, but the end result looked worse than simply sharing the direct scan.

I present to you Hedmund's Armor:

Hold the laughter, please. I'm proud of it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Could Apple Beat Orange in a Fight?

I'm going to ram my head into the wall every time I see another "Gandalf vs. <Some other wizard/magic-user>" discussion. Seriously, I can't stand them. Generally for phenomena that exist purely for fun I can put aside the logical quibbles I have with them, but this one is just so.... so fundamental I can't help but be driven crazy by it.

To every fanboy out there: Unless you are arguing about characters within the same mythos (and preferably written by the same author - looking at you here, Star Wars fans) you have no basis for comparison. I can't tell you whether Gandalf would win in a fight against Voldemort, because the entire fundamental rules of their realities are different.

If I'm being glib I'll just pick the character I like better, but if someone were to - in all seriousness - ask me to decide the question, I'd demand a lot of money for all the time I'm going to need to spend constructing the logical/physical/magical framework that translates one world into another. Most of that would be pulled straight from down under, and thus the decision is still arbitrary.

Technically the same applies even to mundane warriors, though at least there you can kind of trust that they need to follow basic physics. However, given the prevalence for fiction authors (myself included) to have their characters do some pretty improbably stuff, they become just as impossible to compare.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Playing with the Price

I'm considering conducting another experiment with pricing. In the course of the last experiment I noted little to no difference in my sales. Of course, my sales are still slow enough that I have only a few data points to go on, and chances are price isn't really influencing them in the first place.

This time, however, I may accompany the pricing experiment with a few announcements on various boards and social networkings sites. It's been over six months since the book was released and I rarely mentioned it (save here on the blog) - I figure I've earned myself the right to do a little advertising.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Keep it Short

I've never been that great with short form fiction. Everything I write tends to grow longer and longer, and even my short stories tend to claw their way towards 10k words pretty easily. This happened just recently, and now that story is undergoing some dramatic restructuring in an attempt to bring the word count back under control.

My published (free) short Le Morte d'Arthur is one of the best I've written, largely because it stayed short. This is one of the few occasions where I didn't leave out many of the ideas I'd had for the story - it was always as succinct as it turned out. Not my usual MO. Generally there are a thousand little details I want to expand.

Ironically, a lot of the fans of that story have told me they'd like to see a longer piece featuring Morte. Hm.

Now, in the last week, I've jotted down two stories that managed to weigh in at under a thousand words and still work well. One I will be rewriting in a slightly less brief form, but I don't anticipate it will expand too greatly in word count. Might even stay under 1k, though the concept behind it could probably drive a novel. The other one probably only works as a short piece.

I haven't yet been able to pin down a set of traits for short stories that only truly work as shorts. It's a question I've been puzzling over for awhile now, and quite frankly I haven't made much headway. Anybody know of a good discussion of the topic?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Science Fictasy

As I make the transition between writing one of the Wandering Tale novellas and going back to work on Clanless, I've been thinking a lot about genre. 

A lot of people lump science fiction and fantasy together. I don't know the original reasons for that pairing. On its surface it seems like they should be very, very distinct. In practice, of course, most fiction billed as Sci Fi is actually just fantasy with a different feel. Space ships, laser guns, and aliens instead of castles, swords and monsters - but equally as realistic.

Science Fiction has always held a special place in my heart due to my more exacting expectations. I can make up a gun that shoots light. I can state what it's limitations are, its energy sources, how common or uncommon it is and why. I can tell you manufacturing principles, dangers of failing to maintain it. Effective countermeasures and protection. I could tell you all sorts of technical details - but that doesn't make it science fiction. If I'm pulling all of this straight out of thin air, that laser weapon is a product of fantasy.

My personal definition of "Science Fiction" has a greater burden of thought attached to it. It has to start with physics as we know it. Then it should predict, extrapolate, build on and develop a new world that logically follows from the old. To some people this may sound like I want all my science fiction to sound the same, which couldn't be further from the truth. After all, the author can still introduce many elements that exist only on the fringes of the physical world, or that lie in the thinnest slices of the bell curve. Improbability is not only forgivable, it is often one of the most interesting spaces to explore.

This makes true, hard science fiction (pure science fiction?) a rare creature indeed. Clanless will not be true science fiction. It will, like most popular science fiction, be a hybrid. Much of it will be rigorously thought out, but there will be fantastic elements that exist for the sake of the story or for the sake of making the universe more interesting. This is as it should be. In the age of quantum mechanics, I wonder how much of the science fiction writing crowd even has the brainpower to write pure science fiction. I know that every time I try to read a Wikipedia article on quantum physics, I go cross-eyed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Tale Wanders Farther

Well, the fourth novella of the Wandering Tale - tentatively titled The Crown Unconquered - has cleared draft status and has been sent out to the beta readers. As usual I will be trying not to read, edit, or even think about the story until I've heard back from some of them.

Sometime this year I will be gathering the first four novellas into the first Wandering Tale collection, as they all treat with a greater meta-story that was developing behind the plots of the four stories themselves. I anticipate starting a new meta-story with the fifth, and developing it for as long as it needs to be developed in order to be both coherent and entertaining.

I have not quite decided exactly what the fifth story will be about. I'm afraid I must admit to all three of my fans that it is not yet the continuation of the Three Fingers of Death cliffhanger. That will come along in either the sixth or the seventh entry. There are a couple people who may be angry at me over this, including - and I kid you not - my own mother, who was so eager to hear more about what happens with John the Smith and his magic swords that she choked me when I told her the fourth story doesn't deal with it. Yes, choked. But only a little.

Love you, mom!

That cliffhanger was almost a violation of the whole idea behind the Wandering Tale - to slowly explore a new fantasy realm in a casual way, creating a loosely-connected series as I went. However, I think most will agree that ending the story in any other way would have been a mistake.

Returning to the subject of The Crown Unconquered, this story brings a different sort of characters to the foreground - the nobility and rulers, who I've generally only dealt with tangentially. It deals with politics and intrigue, which made for a slightly more complicated plot and a longer novella (the draft weighs in a 28k words, about 10k longer than Swordsman of Carn Nebeth).

While I think the story works well, I think I will return to the lower ranks of society in the future of the Wandering Tale. Court politics and diplomacy is fun and all (yes, it is), but it necessitates a larger cast of characters as well as a more complicated story. Crown has turned out well, but I think the spirit of the Wandering Tale lies more truly with the more humble folk of this fantasy land.