Friday, January 31, 2014

Taking Him Under My Wing

I've been a Sunday School Teacher and a Guitar instructor. Both professions I professed to be poor at. Little wonder that I would be apprehensive to becoming the English tutor for my friend's 8 year old son. I mean, one would imagine doing such a thing would be inconsequential. Two thirds of my posts are meant to be informative and wistful. I instruct for a hobby. To be paid for it seems logical.

I've been paid to accomplish a plethora of tasks. Thankfully, selling my body has never been among these things. (Though my day job has had me questioning this for some time.) Working for cash makes me nervous, because now my skills are being audited. My marketable rate is low, but could it be higher? Do I want it higher? Zounds!

The art of writing, then, has revealed its self to me, albeit ala self referential epiphanies. I've discovered that like any monkey we too can learn complex tasks through mere repetition. The lad doesn't even like to write, but already I have seen dynamic improvements.

O' wond'rous skill! Heavenly muses come fourth. Inspire thee with musings of simulated fantasy!Thrice Alpha, ne'er more, nor of lesser quality.Gird thee with touch-pad controllers henceforth!      

That was me, not him, in case you were wondering.

According to my Designer, now Marketer, my book will releases tentatively on April 1st of this year, several months ahead of schedule. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I consider it now a soft launch for October. At any rate, it only means you will see the cover art sooner! So there, have at it.

Not much has happened since. The Sequart book comes along slowly, but I am actually happy with this. I've been able to absorb more information that I would have, simply blazing through the text. Expository notes help tremendously. Right now I have entered the 8th canto of Purgatorio. Dante has a great mind for building universes. Being a Christian I can tell you with stalwart resolution that he's blowing smoke (a consequence of being a Medieval Catholic enthralled with Aristotelian precepts), but I suppose that Neil Gaiman followed suit in a similar way, crafting worlds that stressed cohesion at the expense of theological foundation. It's all quite fascinating. Getting to the actual writing, I look forward to now more than ever. As far as when that happens, I'll let you know. Until then.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 24

Laufey and his crew spent the night at the compound in silence, preparing themselves for the day ahead, for when they lefts the following morning a yearning dwelt over them to be finished with their journey. What was meant to be only a weekend excursion had turned into a nightmare, and with one day left, Laufey knew they only had one chance to get Amma back. The thought of asking his father for help was humiliating. More importantly, what would she think?

Back up the mountain they went, the whole lot of them, trudging up what seemed like an infinite slope of rocks and roots. What, on any normal day, would have seemed to him a casual hike in the forest became a daunting task. Anke walked without aid, but fell into Kaun and his brothers frequently. Ragna kept friendly conversation up between herself and Geira all the while. Laufey assumed it was to distract the poor girl, who until that moment, was worried sick about her sister.

By the end of the day they had returned to their fire. The flecks of carbon in the fire pit were flat and matted down by the passing showers. All around them an ethereal presence permeated the air. There were spots of new growth that Laufey had never seen before in his life: thick emerald patches, with large leafs and waxen exteriors. Ragna looked around at the tree line nervously, cycling on her construct weapon.

"He never told us where to wait," she said warily.

"He's been here," Geira said, her eyes slowly scanning the surrounding bush. "I think we are in the right place. Stay close."

Not wishing to lose another of their company, they huddled around on another, each with their eyes focused on the trees. Laufey felt his body pressing up against Geira's and felt her warmth. There they waited with Anke pressed in the middle for safety.

They waited for an hour.

When Laufey was ready to give up, feeling rather irritated with himself that he lacked the sense to at least coordinate with the beast, he saw a rustling in the trees. Fading from the dimly lit canopy of the pines into the waning daylight the creature emerged, no longer shrouded by smoke and darkness as he was before. The creature was hairy and bestial, with the face of a man but the body of an ogre. Aspects of his body shifted in the light as if greater powers manifested around him. It's eyes were green, dilated, and inflamed, embedded in a world weary sunken visage.

"Oh... Hello again. You have brought the prize," it said in a moderated, breathy voice. Geira was facing the creature as it approached, limping towards her mesmerized by the vials attached to her waist.

"Stay right there," Laufey growled. "Where is she? We had a deal."

The creature halted in its tracks, blinking in confusion. Looking around quizzically, the creature heaved a sigh and then squinted really hard at part of the tree line. When he did, a shimmering veil broke apart in convulsion and revealed Amma, sitting down on a stump, thin, hungry, but otherwise unscathed. She she looked up, her eyes widened and stood up running towards them. Geira, turned to her sister and embraced her in tears. Laufey watched all this transpire, but never took his eyes off the creature, who stood expectantly and unimposing.

"The girl... please. For my rest... I have fulfilled my end."  it said, slowly, patiently.

Amma stood back, burrowing herself in the center of them all next to Laufey and Anke.

"Just give him what he needs," she said in a still voice. "Please."

"Geira," Laufey said, "you heard her. Pass him the vial so we can leave."

Geira, without hesitation, unstrapped her vials and tossed the holster across the clearing to the beast. With it's large, clumsy hands, it took the vials and drank them hastily with satisfaction. A glassy haze formed in its eyes as they rolled back into its head. With a smile of peaceful relief, the creature fell forward to the ground dead.

"It wanted it this way," Amma said in a sad voice. "If only you knew..."

Horrified, Laufey shook his head in frustration and turned back to the fire pit, kicking it angrily.

They went home shortly after, and all was mostly well.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Philosophy of Writing: Violence and the Grotesque

Last week was a very sexy conversation. I made 4 cents off of it from ad revenue, which makes me a whore, I think. Anyways, I promised that this week we could discuss the use of violence in literature. Far be it from me to deny you!

There, I think, are two types of violence that may be employed in narrative. The first is traumatic violence, which is informed by survivor narratives such as holocaust literature and trauma literature. The emphasis on this sort of graphic violence is meant to viscerally enforce the the psychological and emotional trauma that underlies the experiences. All of us have seen Schindler's List.(If you haven't, you ought to.) My impression from the film gives me reason to believe that the directorial process on the part of Steven Spielgberg was very literary, in that he used particular imagery to enhance the travesties of the Holocaust. In writing, we use tropes and themes to bring attention to particular moments of the story, specifically the ones we desire to be remembered. So it's not surprising that the girl in the red dress featured in the film, first alive, then as a corpse being carried out to be burned in a funeral pyre, is a particularly visceral and explicitly violent image. As a spotlight it is vile, yet tasteful and informative.

There are many other examples of trauma violence in literature, perhaps too many to document. My familiarity of trauma narratives as being explicitly violent is limited to my experiences with genocide memoir, specifically the Holocaust, Rwanda, and futuristic allegorical descriptions of South African apartheid (I'm referring to Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians). Therefore I will leave you with that to think on.

The second category, perhaps the type of violence the general readership is more aware of, is what I would designate as grotesque violence. From Voltaire's Candide to Johnathan Swift's A Modest Proposal to Matt Stone and Trey Parker's television program South Park, grotesque violence is employed usually to enhance absurdity, to mock the precedent of society. In Voltaire's work, the horrible acts of violence perpetrated against CunĂ©gonde are passed off satirically to lampoon certain errant theological presuppositions of the the age, namely righteous suffering. South Park errs on crass, but a few moments in the show's history stands out as satire par excellence. The first one that comes to mind is from Whale Whores,an episode which brings to light the barbaric and largely criticized whaling industry still ongoing in Japan. It features the wholesale slaughter of dozens of dolphins on screen, rendered viscerally to mimic the actual images of dolphin slaughter that occurs habitually every year. (Much of this imagery was pulled from the documentary film The Cove.) What is "funny" about this is how the violence is employed to show the absurdity of the violence being perpetrated. The height of the humor isn't fully realized until the conclusion of the episode, when the Japanese storm a farm in the Midwest and kill dozens of chickens and cows. As the violence reaches it's crescendo, Randy, Stan's father, turns to his son and remarks that now the Japanese are "normal, like us."  

Each of these branches of violence, as always, are to be used tactfully. How one transgresses these types of depictions varies. Clearly, because of the objectives for this style of narrative, these tropes  are featured only in a few genres.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Progressing through Dante's Divine Comedy

It's funny that my life is becoming more analogous to the passage through Hell that Dante endures. This I'm finding out as I read and annotate his Inferno, which I'm scheduled to complete by the end of this week. Then again I have been wrong before. I was raised Catholic, now Protestant, despise Purgatory, but find myself entwined with similar experiences that would lead me to believe that life's journey is just Purgatory in general. If that sounds familiar, it's because I stole that from N.T. Wright.

Given Shia's predicament I thought I should come clean with that. Knock on Wood.

Writing a Non-fiction book is really like writing a gigantic essay. There is so much to cover that it becomes a headache to structure and organize one's thoughts. Thankfully, that is my only marketable skill, so I have thus progressed with some alacrity so far. My segment on Christianity in the Sequart book will be the easiest to write as far as content goes. I have all of that covered. The tact will be another thing. Religion incurs baggage. Sometimes the weight of it is too burdensome.

In a way, this project will make certain that I confront the traditions of the world from an objective standpoint. I am well aware of the polemics that disdain the heathens, but people do what they do regardless. Finding out how I express my faith needs to get outside of needless categorization. This project will coerce me to accomplish this, hopefully.

I've begun a new series on Sequart Organization, set to debut... eventually. My presence as of late has waned, but I hope to experience resurgence soon. Fingers crossed!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 23

"Do you guard these cases?" Laufey asked, looking over the android suspiciously.

Slowly the android shook his head dispassionately.

"No. I am all that remains of my former masters."

Stepping closer, Laufey narrowed his gaze on the android.

"How old... are you?"

At this the android smiled, it's joints crusty and creaking.

"That is a worthy question. You are unworthy to receive an answer."

Lashing forward in anger, Geira suddenly tore through Laufey and drew a construct blade to the android's chest.

"Tell us now, or I'll carve out your synthetic heart!" she shouted. The way her arm bent, the way her posture drooped, Laufey could sense her strength and determination waning. Among them, he gathered, she was the only one with the courage to show that she had had enough.

Glancing down at the knife and back up at Geira, the android frowned.

"Then I suppose you are worthy..." he grumbled in a mater-of-fact tone.

"Some freak from the hill sent us down here to find something for him. He said it was here, in this compound. What was made here? What could he want?" Laufey interjected.

The android's eyes widened in surprise at the mention of the creature. Seeing this Laufey drew closer.

"So you do know?" Laufey said.

"Was he a science experiment?" Anke asked peeking his head out from behind Laufey.

"I thought he was a daemon," Kaun mumbled behind him.

"The creature," began the android, ignoring the two boys, "skulked around here for a while, then left. My database, scorched and debilitated by the storm, no longer has record of any of the wings of this installation. Whatever happened here, I am as witless as you are."

"Great..." Laufey muttered, turning from the android. He saw the vials in Geira's hands and snatched one of them out of her hands. Turning back to the android he held the vial to the android's face.

"What is this," he asked, "Could this be what the creature wants?"

The android tilted its head to the side, with uncertainty. A thin ray of crimson projected from its eyes, scanning the object back and fourth, then disappeared. It then lowered its head in thought a moment. In the stillness of the room, Laufey could hear a fan kick on inside the android's head.

"That is a vial of potent chemicals which enhance the power of the body. I suppose they are anti-bodies. Your creature is rather sick then."

"A life for a life,"  Ragna murmured.

"Thank you for your help, android," Laufey said with confidence.

"There is not much else I am programmed to do but that," the android replied, lowering it's head in sadness.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Philosophy of Writing: Explicit Content

I've read my fair share of books that have explicit content interspersed throughout the pages. I have yet to read a book in which I was appalled by what I've read, though I suspect the reason why this is the case lies in the quality of literature that I have grappled with to date. Explicit material is hard to swing. It's already offensive, but that's the point. So, in my experience, time and delivery play a role in offering explicit content. Imagine that you are a stand-up comedian when writing. There is always a flow to consider.

I think one of the prime examples of explicit content that people don't know how to handle is the sex scene. (I've probably discussed this before, but I feel now I have some more to offer after finally completing my book.)

I think sex scenes, in general, are crass, but they need to be in there. Real people have sex. It's something that people do. If we want our characters to become believable and real, they need to have sex, or at least have an awareness of the desire to have sex. How people execute this varies from book to book. I know that William Gibson's Neuromancer has a few sex scenes in it, but the content infuses with the overall themes and tone of the work. The sex is therapeutic and works well in the plot, with Henry Case's rehabilitation being a predominant theme of the work. Another less appealing, though just as necessary scene is the gay sex scene in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I didn't enjoy reading a gay sex scene. Frankly, it disgusted me. It's not that I have anything against gay people, at least personally. (I don't agree that their lifestyle is okay, but they are still human beings worthy of respect and courtesy.) Did I need to know what what happened between the arab man and the jinn? Not really. But do those things happen in real life? Yes. The fine delivery of either moments allow them to work. They weren't crass, despite being incredibly explicit accounts.

Language follows a similar logic, though here I would argue that the difference between a good writer and a bad one circles around what kind of language is employed. "Edgy" language, foul language that is only there for flair and the "wow-factor" is the worst kind of language. Not everyone swears. I have a few surly co-workers that swear constantly, but that's because their language reflects who they are. If you have a character that is crass, then they must be crass. If a character has a foul mouth, but is an office worker, they need to have a reason to be foul mouthed.

Violence could merit an entire conversation altogether, so i'm going to save that for next week. In the meantime, pick up a book that you are familiar with that features a sex scene. Side-by-side find a trashy romance novel and compare how each scene is approached, why the characters are having sex, and see if there are any consequences that come from the scene. Let me know, as always how it goes. I'll see you all next week for our discussion on violence.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Writing a Book in Nine Months...

I shit you not, I am going for the gold baby.

Actually, in all seriousness, I am beginning to doubt my abilities as an author, as far as executing this deadline is concerned. It's not that I can't write a book in nine months, or that I am unwilling to,  I just don't think that I would be able to write a good one in nine months.

The book, just in case you were wondering, is about religion, religion pertaining to Neil Gaiman's seminal work, The Sandman, a comic that ran from the late eighties to mid nineties. What strikes me about his work is that it is filled with religious tropes and imagery that largely falls upon those spiritually blinded. I'm not assuming that people are beyond capable in understanding the Divine in this current era, hardly. The nineties was a particular time marked with accelerated secularization of society. I'm not referring to the boom of Atheism typical of the late seventies and early eighties, but a desaturation of awareness to religious-y things. Gaiman, who is well read, if not a self-schooled savant in European and World Literature traditions, was aware of Dante Alighieri's work when he penned A Hope In Hell. He was entirely cognizant of William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, when formulating the spiritual Hell of Sandman #25 experienced by Charles Rowland. Understanding the foundation texts upon which The Sandman is built is essential, and my mission, which I have generously accepted, is to restore the disconnect that exists today between literature and religion (at least in the case of Sandman). Frankly, we are idiots when it comes to religion.

Expect good things to come. The "Friday Post" will soon become the grounds upon which I litter my findings. Be forewarned.

In other news, my amazing artist Phil Kiner has released to me his preliminary sketches of my upcoming book set to go on Amazon Kindle this October. Finished covers exist, but I want to get his approval before displaying them to you for all to see. In the mean time below is a lesson and example of what is done in the publishing world.

Generally, when proposing a cover, a variety of options need to be presented before going fourth.We decided to go with the bottom center roughs because they were the most iconic. The final cover features a custom rune stone, designed after authentic runes of the Viking Age, with iconic imagery from the plot of the book. I am very happy with how it turned out. I'm sure you all will be too. 

Until next week! See you soon.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 22

The hall was lit, the prize in sight, but Laufey had not the courage to enter. His hands were clammy and sweaty, nervous and on edge. Geira kneeled down in front of him, and turned her head back to look up at him.

"It's lit," she said in a matter of fact voice. "They know we are here."

"If there is something there," clarified Anke, "I'm not going in..."

Laufey lowered his head and tried to think. Leaning over Geira, Laufey peeked his head around the corner and saw nothing but an empty bay. He heaved a sigh of relief and scooted past her, around the corner, and into a very empty chamber. Each of them followed him likewise.

The room could have been a manufacturing hall or a hangar. Laufey could not tell the difference either way. There was no dust or soot anywhere. The room was empty, save for a pile of large metallic containers piled in the center of the room, where a human-like figure stood in stasis. Laufey was educated on robots, and other artificial creatures, having remembered that they were prominent in the Old Age. The one before him looked deactivated, otherwise immobile, with two large bracers around the robot's feet.

"Is that what we want, what's inside those containers?" Geira asked.

Laufey wasn't sure, were he honest himself. He watched the Triplets approach the stack of cases, and saw them begin to taken them apart. Kaun pulled off the topmost case with the help of Keli and Kaupi and set it down gently onto the metal floor.

"I'm helping myself," he said wearing a wily grin. "You all can stand there if you like."

"I'm going to fly," Keli said agreeably, looking at Kaupi from across the case.

"Not before I do," Kaupi said defiantly.

"None of you are going to do anything," Ragna interjected harshly. "Don't be foolish."

The triplets froze, looking up at Ragna's scolding gaze and shrunk away as Geira stepped between them, waving a construct window over the case. She frowned and opened the case, finding it nearly empty. Only three vials were left.

"I don't even know what these are," Geira said frowning. "How do we know which one the abomination needed?"

Laufey shook his head. He didn't know, not in the slightest. Before he could say another word, he watched Anke open up a second case from the pile. Inside it was gold, a good amount he gathered. Each of them looked on the pile with wide eyes. All of them smiled, except Anke, who scratched his head with confusion.

"Does it seem strange to you," he said, glancing back at them, "that there's a pile of gold and the exact item we need, right here in this very room completely unguarded?"

"Who leaves a room completely empty with only a pile of cases?" Geira added, speaking to herself.

Laufey scanned the room slowly. Something was amiss. What, exactly, he couldn't determine. Snapping his fingers, he generated a small construct panel and moved it over his eyes and looked out into the room. He toggled the virtual switches through each viewing mode: infrared, xray, heat vision, electromagnetic. They all yielded nothing. Then beside him, through the corner of his eye, he saw the robot twitch.

Twisting his body around, he pulled them behind him, and narrowed his eyes. In his hands Construct weapons were generated, and Laufey bore down on the machine that slowly began to tremble and stir. Bearing his teeth, Laufey raised the construct sword in his hand to the neck of the robot, which curiously looked back at him. Anke shivered behind him in fear tugging on his shirt. Laufey was responsible for them. He could feel it.

"What do you want," Laufey demanded.

The robot twisted it's neck nearly a hundred and eighty degrees, then twisted back around to the front. Creases around it's mouth curled jauntily into a crude grin. Raising it's hand forward it projected the image of a dove in it's hand as an offering of peace.

"Nothing," it said in a gritty, rotary voice. "But I should ask you the same."

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Philosophy of Writing: Motivation In Action

So last week we introduced the dichotomous relationship between motivation and plot, how the two work together interdependently to facilitate character growth in a story. How each aspect of storytelling influences the mood and flow of a story varies. Motivation and plot aren't two avenues of approach that exist on a spectrum. Not at all. I think we need to look at them as two sides of the same coin, with degrees of integration at any moment. This week I'm going to show you how a narrative can be plot heavy or motivation heavy. The idea here is that I am going to describe an action for a character and then craft a narrative around the action. Remember, the bottom line here, our goal, is to get a character to do something. How we get him/her to do it depends on if the plot leads them there, or if the character is supplied the motivation to do what they must do.

Today's action will revolve around "saving a cat from a tree."

Are you ready?

"When Carey lost his job, he had heard a bird singing. It was a pleasant tune enough, chirping away in the temperate climes of springtime, nestled away in the protection of blossoming apple trees. The 35th Avenue Methodist congregation that Sunday morning featured a sermon on God's care of his creatures. Matthew Chapter 10, verses 29-31, that was the one about sparrows. He didn't know if he believed the words of the parson, or his weighty enthusiasm, but in the wake of his unemployment he felt at the mercy of the bird. "Not a sparrow falls without God knowing," he remembered the parson say. "You are worth more than sparrows," was the end of the quotation. As his head craned farther up into the tree. He saw above the bird a large grey cat, and moments later it was over. The singing stopped forever. Carey chuckled to himself. How typical, he thought, likening the feline predator to his own boss. As he observed the animal, he saw the grey cat lose it's footing along a branch and come tumbling down. Without thinking he opened his hands and caught the creature, cradling it into his arms. The cat was looked up into his eyes from his arms, begrudgingly thankful. I guess God knows about cats falling too, Carey thought. Behind him he heard a cry of joy, so he turned around to see what was the matter. Standing there was his boss's wife, in tears, thanking him profusely, and his boss, who looked altogether in a new predicament. 

Carey was beside himself, feeling optimistic. The day was young, young enough for him to still taste the morning in his mouth. Triumphantly, he had taken a chance. He wanted to ask Mary out to dinner from the office that day, and with resolve he readied himself for the big moment. Going outside to get the paper from his driveway he looked around, hoping he would see a neighbor, a friendly face to share the good news. Yet, to his dismay all he saw was Mrs. Weatworth's fat, grey tabby standing in the road of the neighborhood. The cat, unimpressed by his fortune blinked and walked towards him. Veering off to the left the Tabby scaled a tree, his tree, a willow that was planted in his front yard. "You don't believe me, huh?" Carey said to the cat. "Mary is going to go on a date with me, you'll see." The cat looked down on him and curled up in a ball, resting on a branch a few feet above him. As soon as the cat had done this, Mrs. Weatworth emerged from her porch with a concerned look about her. Carey, kindly waved her over to him and pointed up in the tree, explaining that he had an unexpected visitor over. Mrs. Weatworth wasn't very thrilled however. The tabby had been sick of late, so she worried about how physical it could get. Feeling extra charitable, Carey told her not to worry and climbed into the tree and pried the tabby away from it's rest, much to the animal's disappointment. 

So the difference between both of these narratives I hope will give clarity to what I mean. In the first narrative we have Carey saving the cat from a tree as a natural out working of the plot. How Carey reacted was dictated by the plot and his outside surroundings. I was able to move him through the plot to do something for me. The second example we see Carey motivated and acting rather autonomously, despite the surrounding plot. We get an idea that Carey wants to do something unorthodox because of his luck. So Carey's subsequent actions give the illusion that what Carey does, he does for himself, and not because he is lead to do something. Really take this into consideration and read into each scenario. You can see it in how they carry themselves. The difference is remarkable!

If you can, I would like you all to take the time aside and try to write two narratives with the same protagonist in this style. Experiment with what you can do with each style and then apply it to your stories. It will help you inject some added flexibility into your narrative.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Opportunities at Great Costs, My Dilemma

I write this with a heavy heart, for I have been given a slim chance at pursuing my dreams and I am already finding how untenable they are.

My love for comics, for literature and writing has been a recent development. Only in the last few years have I joined the rank and file of other aspiring writers, adding yet another notch to my heavy leathered belt of unmarketable talents. Am I meant to be a writer? Is that a real question? How many tens of thousands ask the same and are hopelessly crushed by the cruel hand of reality in the entertainment industry. Walk the gilded avenues of Sunset Boulevard and you will see the tired shades toiling in their Stygian sorrows, once hopeful people now reduced to bussers and hookers. Joining their ranks would be madness for a single man, but with a family to consider? What is this author to do?

To give context to my woes, I've applied to an internship (Archaia's part-time unpaid internship), which I believe I have a chance at receiving entrance to. In order to actually enter the internship, I must quit my current job for about three months to do it. This is not a surprise. I've known about this. Quitting my job was a possibility, but I also have to enroll in a class now just to be considered; another 150-200 dollars comes out of my pockets. That might not seem like a lot to you but after severing your source of income it's very problematic. My current job has me making roughly $13 per hour, soon to be in the range of $14-16. It's the first time in two years since leaving Apple, where I have finally made it back to a place of stable living and savings. Is it worth leaving for a shot at what you dream of doing? Is that worth the risk?

I am fasting (yes, fasting) currently, asking God to reveal to me what I must do. If you go in for that kind of thing, the Boss can give great advice, but generally it's not what you want to hear. At least in my experience, God will tell you that what you want to do is crazy and reckless. Here I feel that God is saying, "Well, here's your chance. Shit or get off the pot," which is fundamentally terrifying. There's always a chance at being hired back at my current place of employ. They are pretty friendly to that. But I would be downgraded to my original station upon my return.

Bottom line: I don't know what to do. Never before in my life have I felt so inefficacious.

I need help figuring this out.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 21

He had lied.

There was gold in the compound. He had known all along. There was a large cache of it deep inside the compound. According to the records of the map, it was used to synthesize wire filaments for better conductivity. Rather than order it en mass, whoever ran the facility so long ago kept large quantities in reserve for fabrication. What the creature wanted, what he assumed to be the bargaining chip, was far easier to find. According to his map, it was down the hall, to the left. Simple. 

The others waited for his answer, a chance to clarify. Their expectant gazes locked on him.

"And what does he want," Geira began, looking between Anke and Ragna nervously. 

Laufey wiped away the lingering blood on his face and tapped the construct map, expanding the development hall. In the corner of the grid he tapped an object that expanded further. He couldn't make out what it was, the image stretched and distorted. Laufey was certain that was it. 

"I think this creature is after a tonic synthesizer."

Ragna shook her head confused, leaning forward to tap the screen.

"Tonic synthesizer? For gene therapy? Why would a daemon need a machine like that?"

"If, it's a daemon..." Laufey said. "I think we've been tricked by an abomination."

"Abominations?" Anke said incredulously. "Old world science experiments? That's a lame excuse..."

"The creature from Lus..." Laufey said quietly, eyeing his sister cautiously. "That thing dad told us about, that is a daemon. This thing pulled the wool over our eyes. 

Kaun cracked his knuckles expectantly. 

"So then let's go in and grab it," he said. 

Laufey heaved a weary sigh and picked himself up. He raised his finger, pointing down the dark, sterile hall, and looked down at the construct once more. 

"200 meters that way," he said mechanically. "Take a left. It should be in that room."

So they each collected their things. Ragna reached down to pick up Laufey, wrapping her arms around him apologetically. Laufey saw Geira watching him from the corner of his eye, as Anke and the triplets passed between them. He tried to think of Amma, about how it was all his fault. Her father would kill him if he found out what had happened. Tapping his wrist construct, he released two small orbs of light into the air to light their pathway. Likewise, the triplets lit up their clothing, bouncing along harmlessly down the metal corridor.

"What is a tonic synthesizer?" Kaupi asked aloud. It was to no one in particular.

"Maybe it synthesizes tonics," Keli volunteered facetiously. 

"It's for making gene boosters," Laufey replied unamused, in an even monotone voice. "What else for?"

"I thought maybe we could make a tonic for ourselves." Keli said wistfully.  "I've always wanted a tail."

"I would want wings," Kaupi added.

"Oh! Good one!"

Kaun turned to his brothers and struck them upside the head.

"Keep it down!" he scolded them. "We don't know if there is anything skulking around in there."

"He's right," Ragna said, glancing around the walkway. "We don't want to lose another person."

Out in front Geira and Anke walked close together, Anke mostly behind Geira. Up ahead they stopped and perched themselves behind a large door, peeking their heads inside. Looking back, Geira waved the rest of them to hurry over. Laufey arrived first, making certain to keep the two in front out of sight. 

"Any luck getting the lights to turn on in here?" Laufey asked. Geira shook her head.

"Nope," she answered looking at her own construct panel. "There's no signal or anything."

Laufey cringed. Holding in his hand he carried two more orbs. He had tried not to resort to this, but he had no choice.

"Looks like I will have to light up the corridor," he said begrudgingly.

"Won't that give away our position?" Ragna said concerned. 

"Get ready," he said, ignoring the question. "It's time to go in there and see what all the fuss is about." 

All of them, hesitant to argue, pulled out their weapons and meekly held them to their chests. Laufey held the lumination orbs pensively, regretfully. Taking a deep breath he made certain in his mind that what we has about to do was the right thing. When he did, he took the balls and tossed them in, and closed his eyes. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Philosophy of Writing: Finding the Right Motivation

Why do characters do things?

That's a simple question, right? Exactly, what makes a character tick, function, willfully interact in the world? I have so much trouble in this, and writing my first book has taught me a lot about how characters make decisions. If we assume that characters are living creatures, that they have organic desires and needs, what motivates them should integrate with these needs. Obviously, Willy Loman, from Death of a Salesman wanted recognition, to be a somebody, so all his actions in the play reflect these desires. Loman's life precipitates his actions, and his actions are a window into his desires.

So then, if you were working on a book, where do you start? Do we begin with the motivation, then cultivate the circumstances to build that motivation? Or, rather, do we allow the character more freedom of agency? Does the character obey the plot, and allow his motivations to grow out of the way the story progresses? The truth is that it can go either way.

Book rarely end in the way we originally planned. I can say this from experience. However I can also say that I still felt like I had control of where the story was going. For example, my book has a general plot involving the character leaving his home after a particular event drives him out. That is a plot point that is set in stone, and it will happen. So here the character is at the mercy of the plot. His moods and attitudes are now subject his experiences. The protagonist's motivations, what he wanted grew out of the plot.

So now, here is where it gets tricky. What if you need the character to do something? That's a problem right? This is imposing our will onto another character. Such an action will break a story, or make an entire books worth of character development a complete waste of time. That being said, doing it right, making a character do something isn't impossible, you just need to create the right motivation.

When I put a character in a room, and I tell the character to walk two steps forward, the character will do that. Also, if I tell the character to eat something, the character will also obey. Both of these actions are simple commands that do not threaten the character's autonomy. What if I told the character to cry, however? That's a lot more difficult. The character needs a reason to cry. Forming a general plot around the character may instigate an episode of crying, but this is no guarantee. At a specific moment, if the character must cry, there must be motivation. They key to getting it (the motivation) is planting narrative seeds that will sprout into moments of proper motivation. In my book for instance, my protagonist is illiterate up to a certain point. He's gone his whole life not being able to read, and isn't particularly bothered by it. If I let the story continue, he wouldn't have needed a reason still. But I need him to "want" to read, so at particular points I introduce the prospects of reading to him, and how that might be advantageous. Slowly over time, I am building the motivation in my character to want this. How successful I am is what determines my skill level as a writer.

Try it out! Next week, I want to give you textual examples of this in action. Stay tuned...


Friday, January 3, 2014

Genuine Comic Book Addiction

I find it funny that, in my quest to acquire more comics, I've reached this threshold that bars me from consuming further. In fact, there are a few comics that I bought nearly a year ago that I still haven't finished yet. Imagine that. I've finally become what I hate most.

A comic book collector!

My house steadily fills up with more and more books every day. The Sandman book is partially responsible. There's just so much for us to learn out there, so many books to read! I remember the show The Journey of Allen Strange, where the alien could read books by placing his hand on them. God! what a power. I wish I could do that.

Despite my recent addictions, I did have an epiphany of sorts last night. It happened during a date I had with my wife. We were talking about writing and the struggles of producing material when I subconsciously unearthed a gem of wisdom that was rather uncanny. It was prompted by this author Christie Hsiao who "wrote" a book. Much of it was ghost written by my friend, hence my emphasis. Her attempts of putting out a book have struck me as nothing short of fascinating. I've heard of promoting a book before, but the extent to which she has gone to cultivate what she must imagine to be the next Harry Potter franchise is incredible. I thought people wrote books because they liked to write books? Thank the lord I'm not a trust fund baby.

Anyways, it seems to me that when we write the objective is to impart a narrative to an audience... somewhere... out there... My "gem" however added with that conclusion the desire on the author's part to give up some of his/her's personality as well. That's what makes us read books. When I pick up a Grant Morrison work, I think to myself, "Gads! What a book! This Grant fellow knows how to spin a yarn!" I don't think that my reactions are quite that extreme, but you understand what I mean. Great books have great characters that reflect their authors. That's why we have favorite authors. It is also the source of my addiction.

My same friend has been in the business for quite some time and is hopefully able to get an agent to represent me. Sounds cool, huh? Let us pause and hope for the best.

That's all for today. See you next week!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 20

Laufey's father had taught him many things in the art of war. Between Ragna and himself were hundreds of hours of combat training and stratagems finely ordered and cataloged in their brain. The battle bot did not worry him, neither did its old world plasma exchangers. He summed up the machine. Bi-pedal, top heavy, reduced maneuverability on turns, all of these aspects plainly clear. It was what was inside that worried him. He knew what he did from the old world archives in the cognitive transfer, hidden away in the mountains by the village elders. Despite this, he knew of the hidden things he would find inside. Darker, secret things.

Raising his construct sword he peeked his head over the dune, motioning for the triplets to remain calm and quiet.

"Stay put," he whispered harshly, making clear eye contact with them all. Ragna said nothing, though nodded in agreement.

"The illusion won't recycle itself," Geira said, looking up from her console. "I can't interface with the machine remotely however while I have the jamming fields operating."

"So then a training exercise," Laufey said.

"Drop the legs," Ragna said bolting out from the dune and charging the machine.

"Way ahead of you," Laufey replied, following her from behind.

The point of the maneuver was simple: aim high and low. It was a tactic used to disable an enemy soldier in tandem with another; very common. Laufey always took the lead, leaping high into the air, aided by jump boots, while Ragna turned on her defense barrier. Laufey released the sword, casting it down on the machine, which sparked in the air. The smell of ozone tainted the mists.

Ragna unleashed a blow against the machine which lurched backwards. Laufey's blade struct it in the front paneling. A cascade of sparks and smoke exploded from the hull of the machine, but not before two bolts of plasma exploded from it's cannons. One of them harmlessly missed Laufey, arcing into the distance. The other, however, pierced Ragna's shield, much to her surprise. Fortunately the blast grazed her, bending out of the way.

When the machined collapsed, falling back against the compound door, Ragna stepped back in shock, holding her side closely. There was no blood, but the shot had successfully vaporized the whole side of her baggy shirt. Laufey landed on the ground right beside her and gazed at the scarring, his mouth agape.

"Jesus christ! Are... are you okay?" he stammered.

Ragna punched him in the face. As the searing pain filled his face, Laufey stumbled backward into the dirt.

"Why do I humor you?" she shouted. "Do you have any idea how selfish you are?"

Turning back to the door, Ragna cried out in anger and ripped open the blast door with her construct gauntlets. Holding his nose, Laufey watched her, impressed, despite the pain he felt.

"Mygn ngose," Laufey grunted. "gnesus... I thign you broke gnit."

"Good," Ragna said flatly, "At least the journey has finally cost you something." Turning to the others she beckoned them to follow her. "Anke, Geira, get the boys and let's get inside before something else happens. Peeking their heads over the ridge Kaun nodded, motioning his brothers to follow. Geira picked up Anke from the ground where he cowered, and followed quickly behind them.

When they were inside, Laufey laid himself up against the wall of the compound. It was cold, completely unexposed to the sun. Lazily, he beckoned Geira to give him the construct map. Catching it with one hand, he set it on his lap and cycled it on.

A large screen expanded up and out of the cylinder, showing the layout of the compound. With his hand he enhanced the image and blew up the northwest corner of the map and tapped it with conviction.

"There," he said, as he leaned his head back. "Right there, in the research and development area is where we can loot."

"Is there gold there?" said Anke in an indignant voice.

Laufey dismissively shook his head. "Knowledge, my friend. Knowledge is there. It is much finer than gold."

Geira stepped forwards, her hands on her hips, and leaned over Laufey where he sat against the wall, wearing a perturbed expression.

"So you aren't after gold?"

Laufey shook his head.

"Then what the hell are we here for?" she barked angrily.

"Your sister," he said flatly.

Geira paused a moment, at a loss for words. Ragna, looked across from him to the wounded girl and shook her head lamentably. The boys stayed silent, the wind taken from their sails.

"Now listen up," he said in a serious voice, "I think I know what the creature wants."