Saturday, 30 July 2011
At long last, the prequel to Maranatha is out there, in a special illustrated edition available only from Lulu.com.
While Maranatha was in many ways an occult thriller with some horror trappings, Venus has more of a horror mentality with much of the action (and weirdness) taking place in the mind of heroine Vanessa Descartes, and contains some of the most disturbing material Mr. Wood has ever written to date. (He concedes that if a writer can freak himself out while writing something, then it bodes well for readers who enjoy that kind of thing!) While avoiding gratuitousness, Venus is nonetheless a macabre exploration of the deepest reaches of the human psyche, and is recommended for readers who like their horror with a cold, cutting edge, and a forensic level of detail.
Still as complex and layered, however, Venus has been almost three years in production, and sets up the cosmic background for the third book in the Trinity Chronicles series, The Keys of Heaven.
Friday, 29 July 2011
'Have you ever read a story that pulled you in completely? It didn't matter what the story was about, you just felt like it was real. Then again other stories, tales with amazing plots and creative characters, just never seem to have what it takes to draw you in. What is it that some stories have that other don't?
While there may be many possible answers, I would like to pick out two to focus on. But first, a science lesson!
Why do people react to aggressive behavior just as strongly as aggressive statements? The answer is in our brains. Our subconscious mind processes visual data from people and analyzes it, coming to conclusions about their psychological state based on appearance.
Yet the brain goes even further. When we read descriptions of aggressive behavior, some parts of our subconscious respond as if there was a real person acting aggressively in front of us. Preposterous? Nope. The Id (one of the three parts of consciousness described by Freud) doesn't know the difference between imagination and real life.
This little quirk, which leaves us in cold sweats after nightmares, can be harnessed to sharpen works of fiction. Not surprisingly, books that explain the science of body language and mannerisms may give new depth to old characters. Insights into the minds and emotions of a not-so-talkative person in a story are now simple. By combining simple facial expressions with body positions, new facets of your characters can be expressed. For example saying 'he looked enraged' doesn't quite have the same feel as 'his eyes widened under his furrowed brow as his nostrils flared over his grinding jaw.' The second line uses an Id response to make you feel the situation in a way that the first can't.
A great new way to write up people in your works of fiction, no doubt. But you can go further with the other point I'd like to discuss. That other point is in the environment. Symbolism, like body language, creates a sense of reality, though for the setting rather than the players in the tale. The Id processes symbols just like it processes body language. We have certain emotional responses to particular objects and images. Most of us will feel a tingle up the spine when looking at a spider or a snake. Though some people will feel different. Each culture has set values or views for some symbols. A snake may be evil to one group and holy to another. Knowing what each symbol means in each culture helps to create a truly realistic setting, which draws your reader in further.
Just like body language, books of symbols and their meanings can be found at the local library or online.
This simple bit of science can have a great impact on your writing.'
Thanks for the very interesting contribution, Joe - and one which Chaz especially appreciated, being a keen exponent of this type of psychological characterization himself.
Be sure to visit Joe's author site here.
Saturday, 23 July 2011
An author guest post, by David Mark Brown
Like all of us, I have made infamous decisions in my life which have long outlived their immediate effects. For instance, dropping off the football team to try out for cheerleader -- in a small Texas town. (You know, the land of Friday Night Lights and King of the Hill. I made alternate by the way, but was offered the job of mascot to save the town from scandal. And no, I've never fully recovered from the psychological effects of being a pubescent, wedgie-shield.)
One such decision I have made more recently has been to deep six my long held dreams of being a New York Times best selling author in exchange for pursuing a more attainable, double-digit salary as a professional niche-genre writer. When I say, "niche-genre" I don't mean science fiction or romance. I don't even mean paranormal urban fantasy or steampunk, the shooting stars of sub-genre genre fiction. Nope. In my case I'm referring to dieselpunk weird western alternate history pulp, with a twist of granola. (And yes, you saw the word western in the mix, otherwise known as the kiss of death).
I call it Reeferpunk, and it was what leapt from the fire once I finally developed the cojones to ask myself the million dollar question -- "What were you born to write?" Screw market forces. Forget the critics, the agents, the gatekeepers, Oprah. Throw away all the lectures given by snooty professors on how the short story is the only true form of American literature. Lose the personal desire to impress and mold society. Push Henry Thoreau off the docks at Walden Pond. And finally fly the double bird in the face of reason.
What can I write that no one else can? It's a matter of calling. I don't suspect that I've perfected the answer yet, but I'm closer than I've ever been. And it feels good.
A series of preliminary questions rattled around my brain before I could answer the big one. First was the simple question, "What do you enjoy reading?" When I first asked myself this simple question I was in the midst of my fifth rewrite on a novel that I would've never picked off the shelf (unless my reading club had dictated it).
I like science fiction. I like thrilling and speculative stories based on real human desires and characteristics put to the test in outlandish situations or alternate realities -- human stories in sensational environs. I like fast-moving yet brain-punishing fiction. I like Frank Herbert's Dune and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow.
Then came the question, "What do I know?" I'm no scientist. I'm a liberal arts slacker through and through. I'm no Isaac Asimov (I can grow some wicked sideburns, but that's where the comparison ends). History and political science, those are within my grasp.
Finally came the questions, "Who am I? And what has made me what I am?" Born and raised in rural Texas, I grew up working on a ranch. I attended university in the midst of the Rocky Mountains at the U of Montana (the Berkeley of the Rockies) where the police were on record saying about marijuana, "it's so common we hardly try to stop it anymore," and the school paper published editorials on how to weatherstrip your dorm room so your R.A. would never know. I'm the Redneck Granola.
What more did I need to know? All I needed were the яичка ("eggs" in Russian) to put the answers together and write the royally whacked-out speculative fiction I've been called to write -- invent the niche-genre that is David Mark Brown. Maybe later in my career I'll be talented enough to write what others want me too. But for now I'm writing refried alternate-history about what could have become of the southern half of North America if cheap oil never got cheap (due to the birth of the evil nation of Texicas), and instead brilliant minds devised an early cellulosic ethanol from the wondrous cannabis plant. Mein Hanf! (Spanish, Russian and German in the same post!)
As for reality? Well, thank God for ebooks, the digital wrecking ball of the publishing industry. Current conditions seem perfectly suited for the self-published, super-niche ebook. Forums, facebook groups and hashtags on twitter make it easier than ever before to participate in cultural and literary ghettos of our liking. To survive as a professional writer of super-niche genre fiction all I need are the enthusiastic downloads of 15,000 fans.
New York Times? Not a chance. But at 70% of $2.99 for two books a year I'd rather have my 15,000 fans for fiction I was born to write, than a pipe dream and a job at Home Depot.
Will it work? It'll probably take a miracle. You could always download the book (available for pre-order now!) and find out for yourself.
Thanks for the cool post, Mark. And a big nod to Erin Mehlos for the crazy and utterly brilliant cover artwork. Chaz is currently reading a complimentary copy of Fistful of Reefer and a review will be forthcoming on this very blog in the future...
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Taking a break from fantasy and dark thrillers for a time, Chaz has recently begun work on a new book for the Fenriswulf catalogue: an Alaskan wilderness adventure for younger readers, that currently goes by the working title of Prince of the Hunt. Looking for something simpler than multi-layered epics of cosmic complexity, this slightly whimsical tale is definitely a case of "something completely different".
Originally conceived some years ago as a movie script, the simplicity of publishing via the Amazon Kindle platform has resurrected this idea, and it is now well into production of the first draft. The stars of the story are wolves, and the tale is written with just a hint of Kipling (the Just-So stories have long been some of Chaz's favourite bedtime tales for...decades).
The illustration here depicts the main hero of the piece, an exile named Cikuq, who ventures out to found his own pack with two young orphans...and meets an unlikely ally on the way. A tale of courage, thrills, and deep friendship soon blossoms. Release date: likely late summer, or early autumn.
Monday, 4 July 2011
Chaz published the text-only Amazon Kindle version of Episode 3 over the weekend. Somehow we've also managed to bring the price down, too.
The fully-illustrated version will be available in due course via Lulu.com, once the interior artwork is completed - this will take a little while due to current client commitments.
Here's the blurb:
Back in the City of Old Mid, outlaws Jeth Sundancer, Renzo K. Castello and Claudia get their 'biggest ever bank job' off to a shaky start when a bank manager confuses a vault with cask-conditioned whisky. Once underway, however, unexpected spanners are thrown into the works and Claudia is once again reminded that being a natural redhead has lethal disadvantages.
Therein they encounter a Droxen lavatory repair man, who may secretly be the legendary saviour of the Grotmongers, a race of repulsive sewer-dwelling creatures who believe he will deliver them into a promised land of light and wonder (as foretold by the quatrains of Justin the Pustulant).
Desperation and misunderstandings combine to push Claudia and Jeth into an impromptu music-hall appearance in front of the Daemonlord Prince Marbas, and a highly excitable audience of Sli'ix aristocracy. But Marbas and his lords have eyes only for one beautiful performer – and it isn't Claudia.
However, events soon take a turn for the sinister as the forces of law muzzle the growing cries from the people of Old Mid for political representation and an end to tyranny at the hands of the Daemonlords. And as Duke Barbatos, Lord of Justice, begins to pursue his own agenda, a new and terrifying threat is unleashed from the secret cellars beneath the Headquarters of the Gang, the Duke's elite secret police...
(That is, in fact, Mr. S on the front cover...in one of the weirder scenes to grace this quirky series so far.)
Here's the link for UK readers.
Here's the link for US readers.
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