Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Writing, Again: Part XIV - Long & Strong

... and down to get the friction on.

I've worried that perhaps Book Five turned out to be longer than I anticipated.  After all, my previous Tolstoyian work was Book Three, which maxed out at 123,000 words and 260 pages in Word.  Book Five is a relative Titan (ha) at 150,000 words and 300 pages.

I'm huge!

I was worried about scaring people off with its size, but then I realized that my work is something akin to a dog whistle at this point.  The people who hear it will come.  I'm playing to my audience and they like what I've done so far.  (I'm very appreciative if not somewhat bewildered by the enthusiasm.)

As I wrote, I trimmed.  There were whole chapters cast aside that dove deeper into Larsa's history, particularly the history of the Tiberian Empire and the history of the predominant monotheistic faith.  Some of that info found its way, in tidbit form, into other chapters.

I gave serious thought last week to completely restructuring the first half so we can get to the creation of the Titans that much more quickly.  I went through it all and highlighted what had to go and what had to stay.  I determined that I'd only be able to net about four fewer pages.  Those pages included a lot of good character work, particularly for the Caesar, and some good world-building scenery.  I decided four pages just wasn't worth it.

So, you'll be getting Book Five as I intended it.  It's large, but I think you can handle it.


Would you like to be one of the first people to read Book Five?

Be standing by Facebook at 12:00 PM ET on Friday.  Details will appear there.

Oh, if you're not already following me, do so here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Writing, Again: Part XIII - Myth and "-Machy"

When it comes to writing Lords of Kobol, some of my favorite stuff comes from mythology.  I'm talking about the Greek mythology; not the show's mythology.  I love reading up on these ancient tales and then trying to figure out a way for Cylons to enter the mix.

So it's fun.  It's a good storytelling exercise.  Like making Hades the lord of the underworld.  Or punishing Prometheus for revealing forbidden knowledge to mankind.  Sometimes I like to take the mythology and turn it completely around.  Honestly, the only example of that I can think of would be Hephaestus' loving marriage to Aphrodite.  (In mythology, their marriage was rather loveless and she slept with everyone but Heph.)

With Of Gods and Titans, there were many, many more myths to explore.  This gave me a skeleton of narrative ideas and also fertile ground for creative integration solutions.

Sorry.  I seemed to have gone corporate for a second there.

Basically, there are shloads of good myths about the gods and the Titans and that gave me shloads of opportunities to make cool stuff up.

For most people, they might not notice the connections to real myths.  If you're a Greek scholar or a fan of this stuff, you might even get more enjoyment from it all.  But for the masses, there's really only one Titan story we all remember:

Francisco de Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Son"

Admittedly, it's pretty damned hard to forget that Cronus (Saturn) ate his kids.  Maybe you forgot that Rhea (Cronus' wife) hid baby Zeus and tricked Cronus into eating a stone instead, which later caused him to puke up his other children.  Still, that's the part about the Titans everyone knows.

I won't spoil it, but I will say that I'm particularly proud of how I made this story fit into the Lords of Kobol universe.

But there's a lot more myths to be had.

The war between the Olympians and the Titans is called, in Greek, "Titanomachy."  "-machy" is a suffix meaning "war" or "conflict."  Again, I won't spoil anything, but there are other "machies" involving the Titans and the Olympians.  They are the "Gigantomachy" and the "Typhonomachy."  If you want, feel free to Google or Wiki those, but maybe you'd like it better if you studied up on that biz after you read Book Five.

Still, for my purposes, it's intriguing to think that most people only know the story of Cronus eating his children.  But how did Zeus overthrow the Titans?  It's in the book.

I know I said this is a post about myth, but I won't be getting into the mythology of BSG here, or the whole One True God and its Messengers thing.  I'll save that for a later post about the theology of Book Five.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Writing, Again: Part XII - Retcon Me

You've already read some parts of Book Five.  No, not from the chapters I've posted.  I'm talking about sections in the trilogy that you've already read.

You have already read them, right?

Did I just copy & paste those flashbacks into the new book?  Did I radically change things around?  Did I totally rewrite all of Zeus' back history, meaning I'll need to do another rewrite on the trilogy?

Minor spoilers and answers after the JUMP.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Writing, Again: Part XI - Finalized Maps

This will be a short one.  I thought you might like to see the final maps that appear in Book Five.

Click to embiggen

As I stated in an earlier post, since Larsa is very Tiberia-focused, the map moves them to the center.  Also, much of the world recognizes Tiberia's names for geographical points of interest (Isinnia, Eridia, Badaria, etc.) instead of the more ancient Attican names that Zeus, et al, employed in the trilogy (Galatia, Scythia, Illyria, etc.).

Like previous maps I've made, the place names come from actual geographic features I found on an ancient Latin map of the Roman Empire as well as variations of ancient cities and lands from all around the world.  In the trilogy, I stuck to ancient Greece since Zeus, etc., named everything after Attican sites.  This time around, without a unifying influence, it seemed logical to name things based on all kinds of differing backgrounds and histories.

Click to embiggen

Since much of the action takes place in Isinnia, I knew I'd need a more detailed version so I could squeeze in more names and labels.

That's all for now.  More reading and editing to do.  More blog posts coming soon, too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Writing, Again: Part X - Prequel Problems

I've typed on this subject before, but as I'm nearer the book's release, it seemed fitting to tackle it again.

There's an inherent problem with prequels.  If characters carry over from the original to the prequel, then we already know how they turn out.  So we have to make things interesting.  We have to do stuff with them that defies (some measure of) expectations.

Trust me, I didn't go so far as this.

Zeus and crew feature prominently in Book Five, of course.  But the Zeus we see is not the same Zeus we find in the trilogy.  There is a learning curve for him.  We get hints of the god who will rule Kobol, but he doesn't fully come into his own within these pages.

The same can be said for other characters that appear in the trilogy, but I won't go into further detail for fear of ruining any potential surprises.

Another problem?  Characters you don't know about and aren't familiar with at all.  Sometimes this isn't a problem and sometimes it is.

Like this guy.  Who cared about him in the Matrix sequels?  No one.  That's who.

Typically, that's a result of poor writing.  If A) the new character isn't intriguing and B) the older, beloved characters appear to be shunted aside in favor of the new characters, then you get audience displeasure.

By necessity, there are new characters in Book Five.  The subtitle alone tells you that the Titans are involved.  Also, as depicted in a Book Three flashback, we know that there's a Caesar, too.  I found Caesar to be a compelling character and I didn't mind dedicating plenty of space to him.  I don't believe the readers will mind, either.

Despite my own enjoyment of Caesar Maxentius IX, I know people are reading this for more Zeus, et al, and Cylons.  I felt duty-bound to get to them as soon as possible, so the creation of the Titans comes fairly early on.  (And the birth of the Olympians shortly after that.)  The bulk of the book is Titans vs. Olympians.  That's the whole point, right?

I was about a month into it when I realized I was falling into the prequel trap.  I was spending too much time with new characters and, as a consequence, the characters people wanted to spend time with were being shunted further and further back.  So I began to trim.  I had to be careful, though, as I needed to build the world.

Book One spends a good bit of time building the world of Kobol in the golden age of the Lords' reign.  When I first published the book, I probably had too many chapters doing that.  In subsequent edits, I removed a few.  It's a tighter book and the world doesn't seem to have suffered.

Book Five is much the same.  The world is very different, though.  It's not a world unified and buoyed by the gods.  I spent too long building corners of the world that could have been taken care of more organically as the story progressed.  All's well now and the book is shorter for it.  (Not much shorter, though.  Frak.  I'll discuss that at a later time.)

But there's a tiger in our faces.  I need to mention it.

I liked it.  A lot.

Caprica had very large shoes to fill, coming after BSG.  Unfortunately, the show seemed to spin its wheels for the first third or so of the season.  They got lost in world building and in character building, too.  They had a hard time getting the characters to a place where the audience truly wanted to spend time with them.  It's a shame, because they began to find purchase and gain ground in the latter part of the series, which, of course, was too late.

How did Caprica fare against the prequel problem?  Well, they avoided having any characters from BSG in it (though they did have the family members of some).  The entire show was made up of new characters, some of whom clicked better than others.  They jumped into it, whole hog.  Props for the attempt.  If the early going hadn't seemed so slow and had "SyFy" treated it better, I'm sure we'd have a few seasons of a good-to-great prequel to reflect upon.

More posts coming soon ... including maps, mythology, and the problem with Galactica.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Writing, Again: Part IX - World Building with Language

In my post-writing phase, I intend to put up entries on all manner of topics related to (and maybe not) BSG, Lords of Kobol, etc.  Here's the first.

Language.  When you're writing a book, language is pretty damned important.  It's casts a tone over everything.  Word choice, dialogue choice, dialogue styles, ... it makes the world you're creating feel familiar or alien.  Whichever one you need.

For Lords of Kobol, I've tried to walk the line between familiar and alien.  Since the stories take place thousands of years before BSG, I have a wide degree of latitude when it comes to the world I've made and how the characters speak.  It needs to be familiar enough so that the reader is comfortable with it, but I want to inject things that make it feel foreign.

For example, in all of the books, I've managed to avoid having any character say, "OK."  That's actually harder than you might think.  If I had to guess, I'd say that some of the characters on the show said "OK" on occasion, but not in my books.  "OK" dates to the early 1800s when there was an "abbreviation fad" (holy crap, life must've been boring then).  There also appeared to be a "misspelling fad," because "OK" came to mean "oll korrect."  Apparently, "okeh" is a Choctaw word meaning "it is" and that came to be known at about the same time, so perhaps the two origins are intertwined.  Regardless ... I felt "OK" was too colloquial and decided not to use it.

Another one?  The word "luck" doesn't appear in the books.  Characters might say "good fortune," but they'll never say "good luck."  Why?  I don't know.  It's just another way for it to feel alien.

One of the biggest traps for writers, particularly those who dabble in scifi or ancient times, is the use of idioms.  You know what an idiom is, right?  It's a phrase that doesn't mean anything logically on its face, but we understand what's being said.  For example, "fine kettle of fish."

Because this is set on another planet thousands of years ago, in Book Five, I use a variety of idiomatic substitutions.  Here are a few:
  • "elephant in the room" = "tiger in our face"
  • "carrot and stick" = "hook and worm"
  • "icing on the cake" = "sauce on the steak"
  • "heart of the matter" = "middle of the 'choke" (short for "artichoke")
  • "in the lion's den" = "in the bear's cave"
See?  Even if I didn't warn you about the new idioms, you probably would have figured them out easily enough.

Another means: tone of dialogue.  Think about historical films.  Let's choose a Roman epic, since that fits with Book Five.  Everyone has a British accent because, apparently, everyone spoke with British accents back in the day.  The rich patricians and the emperor will speak with a highly educated accent.  They'll enunciate all of their words.  They won't say certain things.  This conveys high class.  The plebians, the soldiers and other rabble will speak with a Cockney accent.  Something to convey low class.  That's the way these things work.

In Book Five, I do much the same thing.  The Caesar and his associates often speak in bigger words with a slightly more archaic tone.  The plebians in the story do not and they often employ contractions.  Zeus and his people speak like "we" do (modern Americans), with lots of contractions and an easy familiarity.  That's because this is the way they spoke in the previous books and also because we're supposed to be paying attention to them more intently anyway.  Lastly, the Messengers (BSG's angels) speak in a more "ethereal" manner.  Their word choices and tones are nearly biblical or Tolkienesque (just like all of Book Four).  This puts them at a distance from us; it makes them feel ancient, alien and out of reach.  (The narrative around the "tenders" also tends toward the Tolkieneque to aid with this feeling.)

That's all I've got for now.  Back to the reading and editing.  More posts to come in the near future.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing, Again: Part VIII - Setting the Scene

As I settle down for the reading/editing process, I thought maybe one or two of you might be intrigued to see where the "magic" happens (click to enlarge):

  1. Map of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol.  A portent of things to come.
  2. Snacks.  Dark chocolate M&Ms (brain food!) and water with a squirt of lemon juice.
  3. Reference books.  Classical Myth and Wheelock's Latin.
  4. Nook.  Loaded with the previous four Lords of Kobol books for quick reference.
  5. Notepad.  Loaded with ideas more than a couple of years old.
  6. Map in progress.  Basically a blank map of Larsa; I scribble in city and country names as I write.
  7. Post-Its.  The ones on the left are ideas that occur to me throughout the day and I slap them there so I can remember to incorporate them later.  The four or five on the right are lists of names, mostly.  All of the Olympians, Titans, in what order did Cronus eat Zeus' siblings ...
  8. I don't know what to call these.  They're things I mess with as I type or think.  There's a pasteboard cylinder with a lid that opens and closes.  The air resistance is nice.  A pair of Lego plates that I connect and disconnect in one hand.  One of them developed a crack a few weeks ago.  On the day I finished Book Five, it finally broke.  I don't know what that means.  I used to have an old glowstick that I gnawed on like a cigar but my wife took it away from me.
  9. Universal remote.  I use it to control my Blu-ray player which is always playing Bear McCreary's thirteen hours of Galactica-related music.
  10. More notes.  That drawer is filled with notepads and scraps of paper on which I jotted ideas.

Enough stalling.  Back to work for me.