Monthly Archives: November 2013

Fairy – or is it Faerie?

Regardless of how you wish to spell it, what this post isn’t about is Fairy Tales – the focus rather is on general faerie lore and a brief history. As with my previous article discussing elves, interpretations of faeries are considerably varied, even within the same culture. I’m not going to be able to discuss every aspects of faerieland – afterall, in many interpretations, elves are fae – the interpretation as to the physical characteristics includes numerous supernatural creatures – ranging from goblins (historically treated as bad trouble-makers) to gnomes (generally treated as good and helpful) to creatures that were devoid of humanoid shape (Will ‘o the Whisp). So for this article – and I generally imagine fae to be otherworldly, more sprite-like beings – we’ll include all potential denizens of fae land and head into specifics into subsequent articles. So whether you like them to be diminutive humanoids with wings or grotesque monsters who steal babies, I think there’s enough creatures for me to discuss in the weeks to come. There is tons of material that depicts the variety of magical creatures in different ways – so, as always, feel free to bring up some of your favorite interpretations.

Wikipedia states that faeries were likely derived of Celtic tradition of the Sidhe, the Scottish lore in particular dividing them into the Seelie and Unseelie courts, or Light and Dark courts respectively. As with elves, as the Christianized interpretations took over the old stories, the fae were thought to be neutral in the war in heaven – those who chose neither good or evil. The general concensus was that they were creatures of otherworldly origins – often times stealing humans, luring them to their world or making them dance until they died from exhaustion. While many interpretations of faery land suggest that their world was one of pleasure, folklore often suggests that humans were tricked into staying – much like how in Greek Mythology, Persephone was condemned to the Underworld for eating six pomegranate seeds, faerie food could kill or trap humans, depending on the story or ballad. There are numerous books that discuss the different types of faerie creatures. Brownies and gnomes that could generally be invoked to do good things (stories such as the Cobbler and the Elves) or were mischievous (The Puck) to downright troublesome (Rip Van Winkle). Some of the more benevolent creatures would worked on a farm, and while some would interpret gifts kindly, others would be offended by such gestures. In a much more sinister light, some traditions hold that the reason for the faeries kidnapping humans was for the tithe – that is, every 10 years, the fae would sacrifice a human soul to hell. Perhaps as we can see evidence in the later literature that faeries were considered more demonic than neutral in nature.

Generally speaking there are considerable similarities in regards to offending the fae as with the Norse tradition towards elves and dwarves. There were areas in Norway that were believed to be elf grounds – to this day, there are areas that the locals refuse to build houses or develop the land for fear of ‘offending the elves’  – to the best of my knowledge, this belief is still common in the country in England to this day.

Iron-Clad Weaknesses?

Within the Celtic interpretation, it was said that the ancient gods of Ireland, the Tuatha de Dannan, were driven into hiding, but they lived in burrows and beneath the earth. This gave rise to the belief of faerie weakness towards iron – that their conquerors came with it. Another legend has it that bells could be used to protect oneself against faeries – in addition to other folklore – four leaf-clovers, or bread. Offerings and superstition abounded to keep the creatures at bay.

So I suppose when it comes down to it, I’m left to wonder… how did we ever get such a cutesy image of faeries in the first place?

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Storybuilder Inc. — Step 11 (Part 2): Discovering Microstructure

In the last step, I talked about creating a post-draft outline. If your novel is 100,000 words, then you might have 50-100 sub-frames — and thus a big stack of paper! I only talked about what each sub-frame sheet should look like and the motivation for doing such a crazy thing. This week, I will talk about the process of filling this sheet in—the process of discovering microstructure.

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Like Clockwork

Don’t you love the intricate workings of a clock? Large gears turn to control the outward display, and as they rotate smaller gears move quicker, controlling them. Spools swivel in time to those smaller gears, and even smaller components turn, some slow, some fast, but all in perfect concert with the overall progression. It’s incredibly complex, and yet, at the same time, simple. It’s unified, with one purpose.

Just like a story.

If I lived two hundred years ago, no doubt I’d be a clock-maker (a day job while I secretly work away at my stories). Instead, I find teaching about and exploring the machinations of math and computer programming just as stimulating—a digital age equivalent of a clock-maker, I suppose. One thing is for certain: it’s taught me to think about stories structurally and abstractly, without getting twisted up by all those complicated gears.

Last week we explored how to divide your story up into small chunks—the only smaller division from here would be the sentences and passages that move each one. (If you are writing a series or a collection of related stories, you might want to consider bigger wheels and what sort of machine they turn in as well. I’ll write about that in the series of extra posts to follow this workshop.)

Now, let’s explore why it’s important to explore micostrcuture.

Pearls before swine

Exploring microstructure means going over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, pulling out and organizing details, and discovering the emotions and plots that lie in the background to the story. It allows you to discover what is really happening so you can make intelligent structural changes that reflect the overall story. It will take hours—count on 100 hours for 100,000 words of story.

So, is it worth it?

I love the comic “Pearls before swine,” particularly for its title. It resonates on many levels for me, especially with regard to completing a story: if you don’t put your pearls first, you’re going to turn your precious gems into pig food. Ugh!

Many writers turn in work too soon (myself included, which is why those works now rest peacefully in a box). Sometimes the reason is pressure of publishers who offer lucrative contracts if a novel gets handed in by a certain date, though for the most part it’s psychological — you’re tired, and you want to finish and move on. You settle for “good enough” instead of “done”.

This is a mistake. (In my opinion—but this whole series is about what works for me, so I think I’m entitled to that here. ) There’s plenty to be learned by probing your story’s full depth, and its worthwhile to discover how to do this effectively. Discovering microstrucutre will allow you to get the bird-eye view, both from the treetop and from the far-up clouds.

This might seem like building a nuclear bomb for an ant hill, but publishers aren’t looking for tin-can explosives. They’re looking for stories that will explode across reader networks, rise in a mushroom cloud of reviewer buzz, and hover over the market like nuclear winter. And you are going to create it—if you hold onto your pearls until they’re ready.

Go back in time

The goal of this process is for you to go back in time and actually place yourself right in your story, live-time, the same way you were when you wrote it. Using your sub-frame notes allows you a different medium to engage with your story so you aren’t merely looking for sentences to change. Filling in how a sub-frame contributes to the development of the frame it is part of, writing out emotional contrasts, inner and outer turning points, emotions, senses, background story—and so on—allows you to lay out the minutest building blocks of your story. Most importantly, while you go through, sub-frame by sub-frame, you have the opportunity to make changes as your notes call for it.

As an example from my own work, the opening for frame 11 of my WIP niggled me—but when I got to filling in the sub-frame for the opening, I realized I did not give Jak enough emotional presence because I spent some time on background information while establishing the scene in medias res. Fleshing out the components for the sub-frame allowed me to make changes with a proper reference and, after about twenty minutes of playing type-delete-type-delete-type-delete, I sat back and “felt” the scene work (good enough at least for this step in the story-building process).

Using this as your guide, you might decide you need to add a sub-frame or remove one—even add or delete a whole frame!—you might decide to change characters, names of places, or how various plots execute. Discovering microstructure is a great way to see where all the components of a larger plot arc occur so you make adjustments where you need to.

Go through with your own manuscripts and relive each sub-frame. Make sure you also redo your 9-part outline, 3-part outline, and premise, and place these as dividers at the beginning of the frames where they occur. Think about clock-wheels and how each smaller part is part of the whole. Use some alpha or beta reader notes, and your cold-read revision notes (but don’t get too concerned about implementing everything from your checklist—that comes in step 12).

Be creative and introspective. Most importantly, take your time and enjoy the experience of reliving the story your drafting process left behind.

Almost done!

After you have done this, you’re going to feel like you’re close to being done, but there are three final steps. Your manuscript might read as very good, but our goal is to make it more than excellent—so good that there is no word to describe it. (I say goal because, in actuality, it will always be possible to make it better; but you might want to have this in the back of your mind.)

Next week we begin with the first of three steps in the revision stage, using our completed post-draft outline, and I will discuss the final steps to help you discover that quality to your manuscript that is more than excellent—the quality that says “done”.

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Graeme Brown has been writing epic fantasy since he was a child and continues to develop his stories every day. Find out more about Graeme and his writing by visiting his website, HERE.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog:

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The real science behind time travel for Science Fiction writers

A new door has opened on my writing journey with time travel being the glorious package revealed. It’s been like Christmas for a month around our house as I have spent every waking moment (and many sleeping judging by my dreams) unraveling this package layer-by-layer. I have had the luxury of contemplating such amazing ideas as the following plausible choices (just a few of them listed here) for building a “Time Machine”, according to some noted physicists and engineers that have spent time pursuing the possibilities:

(1) The most popular choice tends to be traversable wormhole like the one featured in the novel Contact by Carl Sagan. The hardest part—getting your hands on one! It would take a very advanced civilization to pull off the feat of selecting a wormhole out of the quantum foam and enlarging it to classical size. Then, it has to be stabilized with exotic (negative) energy against collapse by “threading” it with the equivalent of converting a planet the size of Jupiter into pure energy! (E=mcˆ2 to be specific.) Then, this is the most important part, if an advanced civilization had created it that civilization would have had to live before the time it was discovered to use in my story to allow backward (to the past) time travel.

(2) An intriguing choice I am also pursuing is Cosmic Strings. Discovered in 1991 by Gott, cosmic strings are thought to have been around since the Big Bang. They stretch the length of our universe and have a diameter millions of times smaller than that of the smallest atom. They too can warp space-time to the extent that closed timelike curves can be created. Perhaps a character can be accidently swept away by a cosmic string like an avalanche sweeps away a mountain climber? But not controllable enough for my story where I need my character to travel back to an exact place and time, a world-line to be specific.

(3) Rotating Cylinders (thanks to Frank Tippler) can create a time machine if we can construct a sufficiently large one that appears infinite at the center. (piece of cake, right!) However, keep in mind that you cannot travel further back than the creation date of the cylinder and it’s travel to the past I’m most interested in. (I want to have one of my characters “fix” their past. Sounds easy, right! Well, it’s not going to be easy to pull that out of my hat.)

(4) Rotating Black Holes or Kerr Holes has a ring singularity through it which a time traveler can theoretically pass to enter other universes and/or to time travel in ours. Means there are past or future versions of our universe. Now, those portals are the doors into time machines! Okay, there are lots of objections to this idea that a writer has to speak to in their work to show they understand the implications, but then, that is true of any time machine conjecture, this essential need for technical verisimilitude.

And, if that’s not enough, here are other issues one needs to delve into and confront in writing a novel that hopefully will stand up to the scrutiny of most intellectuals: paradoxes, world-time lines, slip-time, causality, Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity as well as his Special Theory, split universes, time tracks, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Mechanics and the unknown granddaddy of them all, The Theory of Everything!

This has been but a tiny snapshot of the wonders of pursing the concept of time travel.
Thanks for travelling a small part of the way with me.

Have a great day and I hope to hear from you!

Best,
January Bain
Storyteller
Forever Series
Champagne Books

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Writing Historical Fantasy – And How to be A Good Athenian Host with Karen Dudley

Joining us this week is Aurora-nominated author Karen Dudley, whose book Food for the Gods, is a greek mythological tale of love, murder, and interesting-shaped pastry. You can learn more about Karen and her publisher by going to Turnstone Books, and learning all about its imprint, Ravenstone.  Kraken Bake, the sequel, is set for a 2014 release. 

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As a writer, one of the biggest challenges to writing historical fiction is how to get certain information across without slowing down your narrative with the dreaded info dump. I’m talking about social conventions, cultural practices, rules of etiquette; the kinds of things that are going to seem quite foreign to contemporary readers. When I sat down to write Food for the Gods  (which takes place around 420 BC), I knew I was going to have to figure out a way to do this—preferably a way that reflected the tone and style I wanted for the rest of the book. Fortunately, I remembered a wonderful kids’ book which I’d read years before. The Greek Gazette was published by Usborne and basically it was Greek history written as a tabloid. It was hilarious! And it was perfect. “Eureka!” I thought to myself.

And so, Food for the Gods—and its sequel, Kraken Bake—have all these great interstitial chapters with stuff like advertisements, recipes, and excerpts from self-help scrolls. I had a blast writing them, and they really do impart some important—and fascinating—information about the society of the time. If you’re having a hard time imagining what such a thing might look like, here’s a wee taste. And yes, number five really was a thing back then…

Excerpt from the self-help scroll Eukrates’s Guide to Wining and Dining in Athens.

Ensure your dinner party is a success by following these Five Quick Tips for Hosts:

1. Hire the best foreign chef you can afford for your symposion. In some circles it has become common practice to demand that a cook and his slaves eat before they arrive so you do not have to bear the expense of feeding them. Although some find this behaviour acceptable, it is, in fact, niggardly and vulgar. By offering to feed the cook and his retinue, you will, in addition to appearing magnanimous, secure his gratitude and through this obtain a vastly superior meal for your special dinner party.

2. Consider carefully any decision to invite Socrates to your symposion. Although he possesses a marked talent for sophistry and will impress your guests with his philosophizing, the man will show up looking like an unmade sleeping couch. In addition, it is said he consumes only barley rolls and water—the better to trough his way through supper when he’s out at parties. Apart from obvious aesthetic considerations, such behaviour will result in far fewer leftovers for the host.

3. When holding a symposion during the month of Pyanepsion, one must ensure that at least one bean dish appears on the menu, as this month is named after the boiled beans which the legendary Theseus offered the god Apollo after slaying the dread Bull of Minos. Do not, however, invite Pythagoras to your Pyanepsion party as he possesses some rather strange beliefs—namely that we live and die over and over again, coming back each time as another living thing. According to this mathematical ‘genius’, we begin this spiritual journey as beans (yes, that’s right, beans). Pythagoras therefore frowns on the consumption of anything that might be considered a (distant) relative. Needless to say, such beliefs are not conducive to a particularly relaxed or festive Pyanepsion evening.

4. Choose a symposiarch to direct the entertainment for the evening and keep the conversation clipping along. But exercise caution in your choice! Do not forget it is also the symposiarch’s job to water down the wine so the partygoers don’t get dung-faced, annoy the neighbors, and generally find themselves unable to converse in a coherent, philosophic manner. Many a dinner party has been cast into ruin by the appointment of an inexperienced or (worse!) reckless symposiarch. Remember, only Persians and other barbarians consume unwatered wine. Your typical Athenian, however, understands that drink enhances desire at the cost of performance.

5. Provide the highest quality comestibles and other party supplies for your soirée. Do not omit the bread dildos! In addition to providing pleasure for the flute girls and hetaeras at the party, your wife will appreciate the special treat as she spends her evening in the women’s quarters listening to the sound of your merrymaking. A few bread dildos should help alleviate any boredom she may feel and will therefore help promote marital accord.

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Elves Behaving Badly

I haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World yet – I’m sure I will in the next couple of weeks. I’m never the first person in line to see superhero movies, but my friends and family generally are, and I usually tag along. I jokingly called last year the Year of the Archery at the movies – between Merida, Katniss, Hawkeye, and probably someone else I’m forgetting, but I didn’t mind. I did see the trailer for Thor – that, and the new Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug trailer when I saw Gravity last week. I’ve peaked into Chadwick Ginther’s newest book Tombstone Blues and I’ve noticed a bit of a trend.

This year, elves seem to be downright mean. Even if one can argue that the Bilbo and the dwarves going to bother a dragon isn’t causing anyone any good in middle earth, you can’t help but not like the elves for hindering their quest. I find I’m in that same category. My beautiful immortals are beyond behaving badly – they’re the whole reason for the grand arc and they’ve dragged humanity into it. And even though I never really explain to the audience about my antagonists (Spoiler: They’re supposed to be Tuatha de Dannan, which aren’t elves per say, but lore suggests that there is some similarity) I can’t help but wonder how, given I wrote the book three years ago, I’m in the trend of elves behaving badly.

Growing up with the Disney Princess tradition (it wasn’t a marketing ploy yet, but the mechanism was in place), I liked everything about elves – they were the perfected version of humanity that didn’t grow old and die, were better than us, and for the most part, better looking. Darned if I didn’t want to be an immortal, bow-slinging beauty in some sort of ridiculous dress.  

But I grew up – I mostly realized that dwarves were more down to earth and were probably more fun at parties. And while that Tolkien-dichotomy doesn’t exist in every resulting fantasy work, we see reinterpretations of elves throughout the speculative fiction realm – from the evil drow of R.A. Salvatore and their space counterparts as Vulcans in the Star Trek series, I think we can look at their history and maybe see how we’ve gotten here.

Elves before Tolkien generally speaking were synonymous with fairies. I’ll go into faeries a little more in next week’s post. The earliest recorded evidence of elves in story exists in Norse Mythology, often similar with the dwarves in terms of their handiwork and dealing with the gods and humans – elves could either aid or hinder heroes and other people who crossed their path. Out of the Christian tradition, faeries were thought to be neutral parties – siding neither with God nor with the fallen angels in the war in heaven, hence a moral ambiguity that generally lead to a more sinister interpretation.

Elves behaving badly beyond a certain religious connotation is nothing new though – Terry Pratchett almost exclusively has all denizens of Fairy Land behaving amorally all the time (the possible exception is the Nac Mac Feegle – but I’d argue that while they’re not evil, we can’t say they’ll win any awards for good behavior) and although I’ve yet to read a single book, Drizz’t Do’urden of R.A. Salvatore is essentially the story of a dark elf rejecting his ‘evil’ routes and charting his own path.  Despite all of this, the cheerful interpretation of elves hasn’t gone away either – perhaps it’s aggressive Christmas marketing or the lumping them together with other creatures out of folklore, such as brownie and gnomes which have historically, been friendly and usually kind towards humans.  

Leprechauns, I will note, seem to remain very faithful to their original mythology and I can’t find many interpretations of them. I suppose it’s the continued reverence for St. Patrick’s day, and all the green beer one can quaff.

But let us assume for a moment that we take a classic, traditional high-fantasy elf. Most of us are probably assuming something rather Tolkien. Perhaps they’re immortal, perhaps they’re tied to the earth, or magical in nature. So the next question is, why would we see them as formidable opponents? They’re not monsters in the physical sense. I suppose one needs only look so far as Greek Mythology as to see reason for the gods to squabble. But elves are historically different then most other species – they’re generally not the savage centaurs or the perverse satyrs, and they’re also not the monsters that vampires and giants tend to be. They’re much like us in shape and form – although, perhaps idealized in many ways, they run into the same basic failings as human beings – greed, suffering from pride, and a general disdain of those they consider lesser. It’s easy to demonize the grotesque and thing that’s different from us, it’s quite different to fight something sophisticated and perhaps something we would want to be.

Elves remain part of both historical mythology and our ongoing cultural depictions. What are some of your favorite interpretations of elves?

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Storybuilder Inc. — Step 11 (Part 1): A Revision Outline

In the last step we returned to outlining to kick off the post-draft phase of storybuilding. Our goal: effective, time-efficient revision that doesn’t come with a regular dose of migraines and head-prints on your desk. This week we will talk about how this “magic” outline is going to look.

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Slow plotting pays off

It seems the villains who get the upper hand in novels full of intrigues are the ones who have been plotting a long time, considering every possibility without making the slightest move until the time is right. So it goes with the plotting writer. You learn to restrain your urge to just write, write, write, and instead spend lots of time thinking, developing your outlines, profiles, maps–what have you. If you’ve been following along so far, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing with the Storybuilder Inc. model, and now it’s time to take those plots and schemes to a whole other level.

After all, we have a novel to turn in, and there might be a hefty advance awaiting our patient conspiring.

Plot before, plot after

We waited a while to get here. We plotted first, through various carefully measured stages, then we wrote our draft–all the while keeping our plans in front of us, and being sure to organize new character, setting, or world-building details as they crept into the manuscript. Our pile grew, and our story took on a life of its own.

And that’s the rub. Whether you are a plotter or a seat-of-your-pants writer, the story decides what it’s going to be. Now, you can be that plotting noble who follows any whim and ends up on a hangman’s noose, or you can be careful and crafty and avoid those dark rooms and daggers (aka dead end stories) by sticking to your outline as you write.

You’re still going to be in a bit of trouble by the end, though, and that’s why we don’t just plot before–we plot after as well. There’s nothing like losing miserably at a game of chess, especially when you had the upper hand on your opponent for half the game. But, not all is lost–plots can be revamped at any stage in the game. And so it goes with stories.

But I hate English essays

I think the only thing from English class I liked was the scene in King Lear when the Earl of Gloucester gets his eyes gauged out, because it made me think of how I felt every time I had to write an essay. Fortunately, I learned something valuable from this process which made those many painful experiences worthwhile.

When you pick a book apart to analyze it, you must think about theme, structure, character development, parallel plots, contrasts, how plot complements theme….the list goes on. When you break apart a story to analyze it, you’re describing its guts. In essence, you’re describing the post-draft outline.

Except you didn’t have the opportunity to rewrite those stories. No. They’ve been published, and therefore they’re untouchable because you’re not the author. Your goal, in those English classes, is to understand what the writer is saying, and how the writer chose to say it well.

That’s not the case now. You are the author of this story, and now that you have it broken down into its sub-frames, you have a chance to use those English class skills and appreciate your story’s structure.

The goal: to show you where the text matches the story, and this will be the key to masterful revision.

Make each part serve its whole

In each sub-frame, you will need:

-a brief header to describe this sub-frame

-a column where you can list the five senses, and emotions felt / conveyed by your character

-a brief summary about how your sub-frame develops the frame it is part of (review what frames are HERE)

-a space for you to list out any research you need to do

-a space for background information pertinent to this scene (this is handy for info-dump removal)

-(optional) places to show inner / outer turning points (where a character’s inner bearing changes vs. where the outer circumstances change)

-(optional) place to list characters and setting information

-(optional) place to show emotional contrast, since this is a key ingredient to creating engaging fiction

-(optional) opening and closing hooks for the sub-frame, since these inflections sharpen your reader’s interest in your story, like a breath of air after an underwater dive–the more, the better

***

You will also create a new page for each frame and put this at the beginning of each respective sub-frame section. You will want to include:

-a brief name for the frame based on what it does

-a brief description of how it develops the section of your 9-part outline it is part of (to refresh your memory what those 9 parts are, read about them HERE)

-inner and outer turning points (these are not optional here, because you want to make sure at the very least you have some changes that twist and turn your story in each frame

-a brief summary of each sub-frame so you can appreciate at a glance how your overall frame looks

You might want to use your old frame from your pre-draft outline to compare the two for revision ideas

***

You can do this with each part of your 9-part outline as well, and the 3-part, and, finally, the premise. After all, you want to rewrite all of these things to see how they match your story, and to see how your story might need some changing to get back on track.

Your goal in doing this is to create a detailed structural map of your story to prepare you for when revision begins

It’s worth it

This is going to use a lot of paper (I would recommend printing out a template on 6″x4″ sheets from UPS or Staples), and take a lot of time. However, think of how much time it takes to go over fifteen drafts, only to still feel like you are making circular changes. I’ve been there, and I hate it.

Being a writer, especially when you enter the world of contracts and reader expectations, means you need to turn out quality books, and this, in turn, means you must have a way to reassure yourself that your process is going to work. The Storybuilder model is made just for this, and I hope it helps.

Next week, we will talk about effective ways to fill in these sub-frames to assist with revision.

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Graeme Brown has been writing epic fantasy since he was a child and continues to develop his stories every day. Find out more about Graeme and his writing by visiting his website, HERE.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog:

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Go Go Nano!

I’ve been a terrible WOTI member lately. I blame the fact I have a multiple personality disorder writing-wise. (Don’t we all, I hear you say.)

In this case I’m talking about what I choose to write. Back before I  published, out of a certain frustration with the industry, I began writing whatever I darned well pleased. One of those manuscripts was The Healer, which has landed me here, with this wonderful group.

Most of my other work is contemporary romance for Harlequin which has kept me crazy busy lately and thus unable to pursue the fantasy writing I also love.

I would be thrilled if I could say, “But that’s okay, I’m writing one for Nano.” For those of you who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month, where writers accept the challenge (for bragging rights and the satisfaction of a completed manuscript) to complete a fifty-thousand word novel in the month of November.

I think you can also do one in April. You know what? You can do one whenever you want. The word Nano is a commonly accepted, writing-related noun these days. Eg. “I’m doing a mini Nano until I finish this book.”

Sadly, I’m not doing any kind of Nano at this time, but I did want to cheer on those who are and point to the upper left of this post as a brass ring  NaNoWriMongers can reach for.

The Healer is a lot longer than fifty thousand words. (Um, 120 plus, I think. Yeah, you get your money’s worth on that one.) But it sat on my hard drive in bits and pieces for a long time until I gritted my teeth and finished it one snowbound November about six years ago.

Today it is a 2014 Epic eBook Awards Finalist and–even though I can’t take any credit–happens to also be a Finalist in their Ariana cover contest as well. The genius cover artist, Petra Kay, would probably have other awards without my taking up the Nano challenge, but she wouldn’t have this particular one, so maybe I can take a little credit.

What I’m really saying is, if you happen to be one of those keeners who took up the challenge this year and are now a week in and your courage is flagging… Hydrate, eat something healthy, do some jumping jacks in the cool, fresh air, then get thee back to thy writing desk.

Great things can happen, I promise you. At the very least, you will have finished a book and let me tell you, that in itself is enormously satisfying.

Go Go Nano!

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Guest Author: Hannah Lokos

“Before the fifth century B.C., before Socrates breathed or Aristotle stopped to think, the newly unified city-state of Athens was struggling to survive.  The Parthenon had yet to be built; the Acropolis was nonexistent.  Neither Greek comedy nor Greek tragedy had ever been performed. A long, bloody war with Crete had left Athens crushed and demoralized.  And as its people attempted to piece together their tattered lives, much was uncertain.  Could Athens afford to pay the required tribute?  Even then, would Crete honor the treaty?” Excerpt taken from the preface of Labyrinth of Lies.

This is the world of my story. It is set in Ancient Greece, during a very critical period in Greek history, a time when war has just barely ended in a tremulous peace treaty and the threat of further bloodshed still lingers overhead.  Many of the classic characters from Greek mythology make appearances, but this time, they show up as real people.  And in real life, they are slightly different from their immortal, mythological versions. Yet, although they have been robbed of their supernatural abilities, they are just as devious as they are in mythology.  Each and every one of them has their own set of motives that all contribute to a gigantic tangle of secrets.

I chose to write a story in this particular setting due to an Art History project I was assigned in high school.  I had always enjoyed Greek mythology, and I had thought I thoroughly understood the topic.  Yet, as it turned out, I was wrong. When I was researching the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, I learned something.  Theseus was a real person.  There is historical evidence pointing to the fact that Theseus actually lived.  The Aegean Sea in Greece was named after his father, King Aegeus, who appears to have been real also.  King Minos, the cruel and harsh ruler of Crete, built a palace at Knossos.  You can still tour the ruins of his throne room today. Among the ruins was a structure that even resembled the fabled labyrinth.

This, naturally, got me thinking.  I began to wonder that, if all of these people actually lived, and there was possibly even a real labyrinth, then what could possibly have been going on?  We know today that Minotaurs do not exist.  There cannot possibly be a half-man and half-bull creature that survives by gorging itself on fourteen youths only once a year.  So, if there was no Minotaur, then why build the labyrinth?  What secret could be so horrific that it would necessitate the annual shedding of fourteen innocent lives?

This is essentially what my story is about.  It suddenly struck me that maybe there was more to this old, tired myth than I had originally thought, and thus, my story was born. It is essentially the back story to a Greek myth, and is situated at that unique junction where historical fiction meets adventure meets romance meets conspiracy theory.

~*~

About Labyrinth of Lies:

Something foul is afoot in Ancient Greece. Athens is bruised from a previous war with Crete. Worse still, King Minos annually demands fourteen Athenian youths to be fed to the Cretan Minotaur, which is locked inside a maze. Theseus has grown up amidst this tangle of pain. When his own beloved, Zosemine, is taken to be fed to the Minotaur, Theseus finds himself at the heart of a web of conflicting motives, with the sense that even those closest to him cannot be trusted. Questions abound. Why is his father so ashamed? What is King Minos hiding? Is the Minotaur even real? And if not, what truly lies at the heart of the labyrinth? Little does Theseus know that all the various plots and motives all weave around one terrible secret. Theseus must navigate the labyrinth and see past the masks, to slay the Minotaur.

An excerpt:

Pallas raised his eyebrows and spoke. “You are brave, indeed, if you seek to kill the Minotaur. I dearly hope you succeed, for blessed is the one who will rid us of that beast. But the world is a fearsome place, Theseus. It is filled with twisted hearts and hopes and dreams. You think to enter the Minotaur’s maze once you arrive in Crete, but here you are wrong, Theseus. You have already entered the labyrinth—you were born into it, and in it, you can trust no one.”

~*~

goodHannah Lokos is a sleep-deprived college student (biology major) who writes novels on the side, usually between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m.  Her first novel to be published, Labyrinth of Lies, is scheduled for release this December 2, 2013.   Fun facts about Hannah? She has climbed Mt. Whitney, been stung by a jellyfish, and yes, unfortunately, she’s even eaten a cricket. (It was dead, so no worries!) She likes Mozart and heavy metal, knitting and paintballing, and she absolutely loves cats.

~*~

How to get Hannah’s New Release:

Labyrinth of Lies is currently scheduled for release for December 2, 2013.  Even though you can’t buy it yet, links will be available on Champagne’s website: www.champagnebookgroup.com and her own website www.hannahlokos.com.

The ISBN number is: ISBN 978-1-77155-037-6

~*~

Connect with Hannah:

My website: www.hannahlokos.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hannah-Lokos/358739397569904

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahlokos

Tumblr: http://hannah-lokos.tumblr.com/

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Storybuilder Inc. — Step 10: The Key to Mastering Structural Revision

In the last step, we switched gears from drafting to revision with the cold read. Once you have done this, to prepare for revision, it’s time to get back into outlining, with a bit of a twist. Just as you did your pre-draft outline to prepare you for drafting, the post-draft outline will prepare you for effective revision.

If you’re still writing, that’s fine, you can save this for later. Likewise, many writers may be reading these posts at different stages of developing their own stories, so I’ll keep going ahead because my aim is to provide something that is complete and available as a reference.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Linear revision kills

We started this journey with a carefully-written premise, and I compared it to having a healthy spine. Let’s call on this analogy again. How is your spine, anyway? It’s been a long trip! Despite all the preparation, no doubt it’s worn you down, so this is the point at which to get back into traction and get yourself aligned for what comes next.

Many writers jump into revision like a swimmer into shark waters. They wade through their draft again and again, focusing on different elements, and slowly they drift out deeper and deeper, moving in circles, making deeper changes without a proper reference. Then the sharks show up and guess who’s on the menu?

Whether those sharks are the editors or agents who send out polite rejection letters, or the Gollum in your head that tells you the task is hopeless, linear revision is bound to kill you sooner or later.

It’s madness, but there’s method in it

Not all is lost!

How is your spine, anyway? Time to stand up straight and learn how to master revision. The first stop is the posture clinic, aka the post-draft outline.

Now, this is going to sound crazy. In fact, you’re going to think you’re crazy as your doing it, but when you get to revision and see how much power you have to master your manuscript at all levels, you will be grateful for this step.

Making subframes

We talked in Step 7 about creating a frame-by-frame outline before drafting. From this, your 9-part outline breaks into a sequence of distinct events that give you some focus when you are writing the actual story. But the story takes on a life of its own, and now it’s time to put everything together.

In order to do this, we’re going to basically make our frames over again, except this time we’re looking backward at what we’ve done, with a mind to how the story knits together as a whole. Because these frames are smaller, we will call them sub-frames.

As you go through, try to identify distinct chunks of your story. These are not necessarily scenes or chapters. They are segments, anywhere from 200 to 2000 words or so, where your story takes on a unique cadence and shape. For example, if your scene is a dialogue between conspirators overheard by your POV character, followed by your POV character’s introspection while she rushes down a dark alley to warn her father about the plan to kill him, these events would stand alone as the sub-frames. Maybe in your original story you just saw the meeting of conspirators and that was your frame, but in the act of writing, the alley scene was new, so now it’s time to put it in.

Don’t get lost

There are more steps after this one, so make it your task, during this step, to just identify the sub-frames. Go through from beginning to end and mark them in your document. If one of the sub-frames is particularly long, don’t worry, but do see if there is an inflection that breaks it up. For example, if you have a long conversation in one passage, have a look. If it starts out with an exchange on the history of the world, then someone interrupts with a recent event that changes the topic, then this inflection divides the action and could be seen as a sub-frame.

Going over your whole story and dividing it up will also serve as a speed-read of your manuscript, which is a good thing to follow the cold read (review what the cold read is HERE if you need to). You might appreciate some higher-level things that niggled while you read and made notes, and might get some ideas for how to resolve problems the cold read brought to your attention. Next week, we will talk about how to detail each of these subframes, which will help you spread out roots from these higher-level ideas. Most importantly, it will help you appreciate what your story is off track.

It’s good to plant more anchors (remember, these are the alinear revision techniques I mentioned earlier. Read about them HERE). It’s also fine to revise as you go—iron out a typo, tweak a passage, catch a fresh idea while it strikes you, and any other such thing—but do try to keep your focus on the task at hand. In other words, don’t let this step degenerate into a linear edit, or else those sharks are going to poke their little fins up at you…

It gets crazier

Identifying sub-frames is the start. The next step will be your iron suit for revision, and there are so many important components to it we will devote next week to discussing how to make a sub-frame sheet that will be an effective tool to help you bang every revision nail in place.

out_of_the_darkness_300sigRita

Graeme Brown has been writing epic fantasy since he was a child and continues to develop his stories every day. Find out more about Graeme and his writing by visiting his website, HERE.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog:

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A Foundation Myth: Romulus & Remus

Romulus_u_RemusBack to Mythology and Foundation Myths. While the Trojan hero Aeneas was considered an ancestor of the Romans. Rome’s foundation myth was centered on the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus – his descendants.  They were the children of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silva by the god Mars (some say the Hercules). Abandoned to die in the river Tiber by their evil uncle (Amulius), they were rescued and fed by a she-wolf, then raised to adulthood as shepherds. When they discovered their identity, they killed Amulius and restored their family to the throne of Alba Longa.

Story goes that the brothers decided to found their own city but could not agree on a location. The result was a fight which ended in the death of Remus. The city was built on the Palatine Hill and took the name of Romulus. Sister Marian Alberta taught us that Rome was founded on April 21st, 753 BC, so we’ll go with that date ‘cause Sr. MA wouldn’t lie. The image, called the Capitoline Wolf which is in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, represents the wolf nursing the twins Romulus and Remus.

Next week, How Romulus Grew the City.

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