Monday, March 2, 2015

Plots within plots: Subplotting

Ah, subplots, when you need to give your story a depth of character that it might not otherwise have. Granted, the way I look at them is probably cheating. I see character arcs and romance story threads as subplots, too. Then again, I can be a romantic sap at times. Personally, I've never had a subplot that has not impacted the main plot in some way.

If you've never read the Tom Clancy novel The Sum of all Fears, there is an entire story thread involving a sequoia being shipped from Japan to California for the construction of a Bhuddist temple. And this goes on for pages upon pages. All the while the reader is wondering “What does this tree have to do with a story about Islamic terrorists rebuilding a nuclear bomb to be used at the superbowl in order to spark World War III?”

Then the tree falls off the ship that's carrying it, and nearly hits a nuclear submarine. The sub thinks it's under attack and we're off to the races. Growing up, when multiple plot threads collided, my family called it “The tree hitting the sub.”

If you want a subplot that has little or nothing to do with the main one, I will point you to the David Weber novel Honor Among Enemies. The premise is simple: the heroine, Honor Harrington, is politically inconvenient, and she's packed off with several ships, mostly loaded with the scum of the fleet. One subplot involves how one of the honest, forthright crewman has to be trained to fight back against the dregs of the fleet. It's fun, satisfying, and while it doesn't really impact the main plot, it does show the reader the ramifications of the main plot on people other than our primary cast.

In my own work, I may be too single-minded to do anything but have subplots that tie into the main. For A Pius Man, I even had the love story feed into the main story. That one was so integral, if it had failed, so would the rest of the story. 

But, then again, if Terry Goodkind could have true love save the world in his book series, then why couldn't I?

Though, come to think of it, there is at least one book I've done that did not technically need a subplot. The book was A Pius LegacyIn it, the UN had declared the Pope a war criminal – very long story. The subplot revolved around a hapless writer and historian brought in in order to be counter-spin to the enemy. Then the enemy decides to shoot back with real bullets. Was it needed? Maybe not. It didn't add a whole heck of a lot to the plot, but it added a lot to the story.

After all, in a war of politics, it doesn't exactly help if one side isn't actively dueling with the enemy. As much as I like to joke that my Pius books consist of nonfiction slipped in between gun battles, it can't all be about shooting bad guys to pieces. Damnit.

Heck, by the end of the series, the amount of politics that crept into the war that develops needed a subplot all by itself. It had to be there in order to explain a war between the head of the CIA and President “Barry,” and why a lot of countries don't act the way sane people would expect them to. 

However, that subplot was more like a sneaky Clancy subplot, and at the end of the novel, the geopolitics involved wound up impacting the main plot like a truck t-boning a volvo.

In all of these case, these subplots were planned. They were reasoned out, outlined, thought through, and I knew exactly what I was doing...

Adjusted for value of "I know what I'm doing."

In Codename: Winterborn, my hero, Kevin Anderson, is being hunted by a guild of mercenaries – imagine an umbrella organization for private military contractors. Some of these mercenaries are good soldiers who want a paycheck. Some are patriots who want access to good technology, and can serve their country better in the private sector. And some are plain old sociopaths who want to be paid to indulge in their hobbies of mass slaughter. 

While Kevin goes through his own personal checklist of politicians who won't be missed, he gains the respect of some mercenaries, pitting some of his hunters against other members of the guild. The internal conflict of the Mercenaries' Guild gains Kevin some strange allies that keep him alive at some interesting moments. I hadn't planned it, I hadn't considered it, it just sort of happened.

Yes, sometimes a subplot is just what happens when your world decides that it has something to add to your novel.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sword Saturday, with @Katsuni and Lucy




This has got some great dancing.  Quite elegant. The guy is the stunt man/ coordinator on films like Lucy. The woman is Celine Tran, who is a French actress who specialized in adult content under the name Katsuni ...

Yes, a fancy way of saying she was in porn (retired). I gotta tell you, with swordplay like this, I really don't care. This is some nifty dancing.  Why do I bring it up?  Because if I don't, someone else will in the comments. I just got here first. Now, just watch the video, it's awesome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Declan Finn on Writing: the Blogs

Wow, it's been a long, long while since I've done this summary. Time to play catchup.

To start with, there was how the book came to be. Including the inspiration, the writing, how to sell a bloody book, as well as the fact that there's a love story in there.

There's another blog on the Mind of the Maker .... better known as "characters are a bastard to control."

There is also, the dreaded question: "Oh, where do you get your ideas from?" This is the answer.

And, I did a two part essay ... one on sex, the other on violence.

I also had one or two issues on other people's writing ... namely Marvel Comics, and their former Editor-in-Chief, Joe Quesada

And, I had one nice little discussion on blowing up public places. ... In novels, of course.

There's one on writing philosophy in a novel, and one on Conspiracy theories around Catholics.

Then I took a hammer on writing cliche's that just flat out annoy me.

And then there's how to be a cynical romantic.  Oh-ho-ho, have I gotten more so.  And Writing a love story.

Then there's Ten Rules I want Writers to follow. Seriously, are these really that hard?

FAQ: Where do you get your ideas? ... the official title, mentioned above.
Plot or Character? Chicken or Egg?  Self explanatory.

Listening to your characters: Dialogue
Plots within Plots: Subplotting 

A villain versus an antagonist  Yes, there is a difference. I wish people would consider it more.

Making a villain.  One I want more talk of.

Writer's Rules For Villains  Every cliche and making fun of it.

Writer's block  This is a weapon, right?

How to create a character the easy way  My Character generation chart.

Don't Panic: a writer's guide to disaster 

A Writing Rant: Cliches you may have never noticed.  Only three of them. There really should be more.

Building Character: Scott "Mossad" Murphy.

“So, you want to be a writer?” (Apologies to Dr. Who.)  No, it's not for the faint of heart.


An Hour with Jim Butcher -- At DragonCon
All Butcher, All Day, a DragonCon report.
Action / Adventure panel at CWCL  I went to a Catholic writer group.  This is what happened.
DragonCon Report #3: Fightin' and Writing with Ringo
Fightin' and Writin' panel @DragonCon 2014, with John Ringo and Mike ResnickCatholic writer's organization workshop in review: Fighting and Writing.
~Yes, there's a theme to this group.  Fighting and conventions.

And then, sex and politics. Sort of. 
Why are sexist books bestsellers?
SFWA? More like STFU -- women in books
Manly men with brains masculinity in writing.
SFCS -- Strong Female Character Syndrome -- and why it's a double-edged sword.
Shattering Dan Brown - I hate narratives. And here's why.

Why Die Hard is the most perfect movie ever: A Writing Blog
Die Hard is perfect, part 2  A two part writing analysis of the best Christmas movie ever.

Christian Lit and Writing.


THE BOOK.  Some thoughts I have here and there about the book series.
Pius Origins: A Pius Legacy.
Writing "A Pius Legacy"
Taking a stand, for the last time.


And then, some comics.
Disasters to Marvel At: A Comic Discussion.
Sex, DC Comics, and ... wtf?
Dear Forbes, you need some nerds.
The Winter Soldier Bigfoots Agents of SHIELD. It Gets Better.
Who the BLEEP is the Winter Soldier?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Listening to your characters: Dialogue

Dialogue is, honestly, one of the hardest parts of writing a novel. I don't mean remembering to label who is saying what (though would it kill some authors to put in dialogue ID tags every four lines?), I mean something far more difficult. You have to make certain that your characters all sound different and distinct from each other. This can be hard if you haven't got a good set of characters.

Like most authors, I hear voices in my head. Sometimes, if I focus, it's literal. I can hear their voices, their complaints, their accents, their emphasis on things. Sometimes I cheat and push through the dialogue, knowing what they're going to say, and how they'd phrase it, but sometimes I miss part of the music.

One of the most important parts of dialogue is making sure you get the music and the lyrics down. Sure, word choice in important, but is also has to match the cadence. This will go a long way to making sure that your Californian mercenary sounds different from your New York Catholic priest. I'm a New Yorker. Like with Henry Higgins, I can pin most people to within at least a general neighborhood, just by the way they speak. But, again, you do have to listen.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A note on the Oscars, and why we don't care

Has anyone seen the Oscar list and gone "Huh" "Who?" and "What?" lately, or is it just me?

The Imitation Game is the second highest box office holder of the current slate of nominees. It's about the World War II experience of Alan Turing ... and is currently ranked 44th out of last year's box office list. The Grand Budapest Hotel, a comedy of sorts, is 55th.

The number one box office holder among the candidates? American Sniper ... which is #3 of the top ten highest grossing movies last year.  And who honestly thinks it has a chance?

What would happen if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists nominated the six highest-grossing films of 2014 for Best Picture?  Seriously?  You know, instead of a dozen movies no one watched?  Yes, I know it's (probably) not a dozen, but it doesn't matter. The Oscar slate was opened up so it would be more inclusive.  Instead we get ... a lot more of the same.  A lot more.

But imagine if the Academy gave a crap about films that people HAVE SEEN?  The highest-grossing films list would make the field  consist of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part One; Guardians of the Galaxy; American Sniper; Captain America: The Winter Soldier; The LEGO Movie, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. I haven’t seen anything on that list but The Winter Soldier, but I think most would agree that this is a pretty good list, when you treat each as they were intended to be -- Guardians of the Galaxy (epic space fantasy) or The Lego Movie (funny, fast-paced kids movie with a lot of heart).

But hey, who are we kidding, now?  The Academy hasn't given me a roster I gave a damn about since Return of the King. If it makes money, that means it must be evil, right?  Sigh.

Of late, the Oscars hate space fantasies (Star Wars: A New Hope was nominated for best picture, did you know that?), kids movies, and superhero movies ... And no, Heath Ledger’s posthumous Oscar award for playing the Joker in The Dark Knight was more about Brokeback Mountain, an awards I'm certain they wanted to give him, but didn't want to be too overt about in rewarding for politics.

And let's say screw box office and the top six. Let's make it the top 20 ... but even that opens it up a bit. How about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar? Gone Girl? Sound familiar?

Create a Best Picture slate nominees that has Mockingjay, Guardians of the Galaxy, American Sniper, The Lego Movie, Interstellar, Gone Girl, and ... I dunno, pick number six. American Sniper? It's grossing out at around number 3 of last years's top twenty. Casual moviegoers would actually care, and viewership for the Oscars would be through the roof. 

But the Academy can’t nominate a bunch of little-seen, heavy art-house dramas and then wonder why nobody’s watching the Oscar ceremony. Birdman seems the most reasonable of the nominations, since it's basically Michael Keaton making fun of his time as Batman ... but did anyone see it?

Then there's The Grand Budapest Hotel ... which is probably nominated because (like every Grand Hotel film since the beginning) everyone is in the damn film.  But while it looks like a quirky little comedy ... did anyone see it?

Don't even get me started on Boyhood. Just don't.
Of the actual list, people I know tell me they like American Sniper. Good luck with that.

Maybe when Hollyweird is done breaking its arm to pat itself on the back, everyone else will care.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Reviews, awards, interviews, and other updates

So, first thing's first, I am apparently a right-wing extremist. Yay!

I'm up for an award from the CLFA.  What's the CLFA?


I'll give you three guesses.

Here's the funny part.

By now, everyone knows that A Pius Man is about defending the Catholic church.

A Pius Legacy is putting Christianity itself on trial. 

A Pius Stand takes the war on God wwwwaaaayyyy too literally.

You could see how these could be taken as conservative. And my message in the second two books are heavy on the "LEAVE ME AND MY CHURCH THE F$%K ALONE," so, maybe libertarian? Great, right? Easy, right? Shoe-in.

So, what gets nominated?

Codename: Winterborn.

I don't get it either.

Maybe killing politicians appeals to libertarians, and killing Frenchmen appeals to conservatives?  I dunno.

Anyway, no matter what, vote early, vote often.

Other people on the list include Jack July, Daniella Bova, Ann Margaret Lewis, and Larry Correia.

Yeah, Larry Correia.  I know, I'm screwed, but might as well give a good show.

Let's see, what else?

Oh yes, I got two -- count 'em, two -- of the most kickass reviews ever, from Glenda Bixler, of Book Reader's Heaven.  To start with, she reviewed A Pius Legacy (and, yes, has reviewed A Pius Man).

[Romantic] relationships in the novels are beautifully done, coming forth out of the closeness of those that participated in keeping the Pope and Vatican safe. 
Yes, I'm a romantic. Who knew?
Got to say that this Trilogy, with not only a historical bag of facts, merged with today's "possibilities" is just about the most imaginative thriller that I've read.
This superb second novel picks up from the first and then is concluded in A Pius Stand. This 3-b00k story is magnificent in scope and represents all that is wrong with this world when religion becomes the basis for man against man...
I recommend you plan reading them one right after the other for the full effect!
Obviously, she didn't think it sucked.

She also reviewed book three, A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller.
“A life-altering experience... Until I read Declan Finn's A Pius Stand... I would never have supported going to war...again...Now I would join the army...
….The majority of the final book has to be the single, best, holy war, that was ever fought!
….But most of all, the cast of characters will absolutely blow your mind!"
Yippie kay yay. I think she liked it.


CatholicFiction posted my response on their website.  With some language cleaned up.

I think I made my point.  Check out the Novel Ninja for the full picture.

Let's see... oh, and I did my impersonation of a right-wing psycho on a radio show the other day. Then again, the crankier I am, the more right-wing I tend to me.  Coincidence?  Maybe. Though I did manage to bring up some nice talking points that involved the Pius trilogy.  

When in doubt, ask for more ad space. :)


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

CatholicFiction(.net), and "Dereliction of Duty"

Sometimes, I love my fellow Catholics.

And sometimes, they are brain-dead stupid.

If you look at this article from CatholicFiction.net, you'll see this great example of brain death.
Science fiction has also been derelict in its duty. Who does science fiction serve? Sci-fi is a significant buttress propping up the established church of Scientism. Sci-fi flatters both rightist and leftist elites: square-jarred heroes battle alien savages along the outer space frontier while proclaiming anti-religious and anti-natalist platitudes. As an avid reader of the genre, I have come up with a list of the major shortcomings of the genre.
While I can think of some particular examples of what this nimrod (a creature from the black lagoon named Nito Gnoci), this is just ... "Avid reader?" Really?

Funny, as an avid reader myself, Nito, you're an idiot.

If you've followed the guest posts I've written for Right Fans, or read my reviews of Karina Fabian's work, you'll probably note that this very concept is already starting to get under my skin.  But, sure, there are problems within science fiction -- science fiction fans know that "sci-fi" started as a derogatory term -- so let's play this out some, shall we?

If you compare and contract the article excerpts here with the original article, you'll note that I've cleaned up the lousy formatting.

1) Aliens
Aliens: Sci-fi stories often involve contact with numerous alien civilizations.In 1950 Enrico Fermi, in conversation with his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, famously asked “Where is everybody?” (Meaning: If alien civilizations exist why haven’t we heard from them?) I don’t think the question has received a satisfactory answer. It is unlikely other technologically advanced civilizations exist within our galaxy. If they existed they would have already explored the galaxy, a process which takes only some hundreds of thousands of years, which is a mere moment in geologic time.
Ummm ... doesn't this presume that the aliens are more advanced that us?  This is a presumption that Rod Serling never made.  In fact, there are three distinct episodes that immediately come to mind (Third Planet from the Sun being one of them, I forget the titles of the other two).

Also, if there are other life forms out in this galaxy, doesn't that mean that they could be as advanced as we are, or maybe even less so?

This argument basically reads: If there are aliens, therefore they must be more advanced, therefore they don't exist because otherwise we would have heard of them by now?  What idiot thinks like that?

Not to mention that this presumes that any technological advancement is leaps and bounds ahead of us.  In fact, Nito assumes that aliens would advance at ONE EXACT RATE OF SPEED.  Yikes. Nito the nimrod presumes so, so much.

I'm not saying that there are aliens, but there's a lot of space out there. As Douglas Adams noted, space is big. Really big. The idea that we're the only ones in the galaxy is kinda presumptuous, don't you think? Also, the author limits himself to this Galaxy.  There are more galaxies than just ours out there.

2) Bad predictions
Sci-fi often features time travel or routine intergalactic travel. Instead of dubious scenarios that involve debating with Socrates or zooming to the Andromeda Galaxy for the weekend, sci-fi should focus on less speculative but still astonishing advances in medical, communication, and computer technology. Sci-fi readies us for a future that will never come, and too often assumes the future will mirror the past, an assumption both unrealistic and unimaginative. After all, what is the starship Enterprise but a British or American colonial gunboat?
Um, excuse me.  When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was written, it was science fiction, and now we have nuclear submarines. Is that not predictive enough?

But Robert Heinlein created mechanical suits of armor for soldiers to fight in, and our modern military is designing it.  Captain Kirk had the first flip phone. Doctor Crusher had the first tablet, and Captain Picard read off the first e-reader. J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5 developed a star fighter called Starfuries -- which NASA wants to use a model to design space construction craft. The science fiction show had the most functional design.

Oh, wait, medical technology? You mean the people who've been designing a medical tri-corder from Star Trek and the people who've made an actual Doctor Who sonic screwdriver aren't enough for these people? Are we kidding?

Oh, and these things will never come? Maybe not in our lifetime, some of them, but we've already got scientists who are coming up with variations on warp drive.  Presuming that Einsteinian physics will always be physics is like saying that Newtonian physics is the end all and be all of physics. Hint: it's not.  Considering what quantum physics might end up giving us, we might end up with better technology than warp drive.

Hell, we've already got the early stages of a transporter, dang it. Meaning that Nito the Nimrod not only doesn't know science fiction, HE DOESN'T KNOW SCIENCE!!!!

Right now, Agatha Heterodyne knows science better! And she's a steam punk web comic character!

3) Threatening life as we know it.
What is it with science fiction and fantasies of mass extermination?  It’s troubling how often sci-fi Superior Beings engage in mass murder. Super geniuses, often with great intentions and well thought out justifications, find it necessary to commit genocide – eliminate all those inferior superstitious childlike barbarians.   Influential authors like Olaf Stapledon (see Last and First Men) and Arthur C. Clarke (see Childhood’s End) seem sympathetic to this kind of mass extermination.
And your point, Nito the Numbskull? Excuse me, but how many of these were written during the Cold War, when the eradication of human kind seemed like a real possibility?  As Matt Bowman, Novel Ninja (who, today, has his own article on the subject), pointed out to me while we were at DragonCon together, Star Trek was the first science fiction in a long, long time that had a happy ending after World War III.  Science fiction has advanced a long freaking way since Clarke.  And again, see: Babylon 5. Or Baen. Or read a book or something.

4) Technology run rampant hasn't been explored enough.
Inadequate examination of the threat posed by technocracy: Does advanced technology concentrate power in technocratic elites? What will happen to the masses as robotic technology progresses and they are no longer needed to man the factories and fight the wars of the plutocrats? Does scientism/materialism lead to dehumanization and despair? If man is just a sack of chemicals, the random product of an indifferent universe, why should he possess dignity or rights? Will a hedonistic society of abundance destroy itself? What further drama will accompany the rise of Faustian man?
Are you kidding me? No, seriously, are you kidding me?  First, you bitch and whine about how science fiction destroys the human race, and then you complain that you're wondering about the dangers of technology?  Were you not paying attention to The Matrix?  Were you asleep during the four -- soon to be five -- Terminator films?  I'm sick to death of the machines coming to kill us. It's a tired and tiresome cliche. The Comic strip Ctrl+Alt+Del ended it's primary storyline with "My living Xbox has taken over the world and enslaved humans."

"Will a hedonistic society of abundance destroy itself?"  Also see: The Time Machine, by HG Wells. You know, one of those time travel stories you just sneered at, you stupid fool.  It's one of the storylines in the bedrock of science fiction, and you never heard of it? How ignorant are you that anyone allowed you near the website letting you write this article?

5) Women
Has sci-fi really thought about the status of women in a technologically advanced civilization? In the future will wombs be needed to procreate and will mammary glands be needed to nurture? If wombs and mammary glands are unnecessary isn’t the male body more functional? Will a technologically advanced society eliminate the female sex?
WHAT ROCK HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING UNDER, YOU ... Gah.

One, you do realize that we have the ability to incubate kids outside the womb?  You realize that, don't you? That's not science fiction anymore. That's today.  And people don't do that now because, um, ew. Squicky as sin.

For the record, David Weber addressed this one a bit. So did Farscape, and I didn't even watch that show.

For the record, no, we're not getting rid of women. You wanna know why?  Men won't get right of women because men like having sex with women.  Women won't get rid of women because women seem to like existing. So who's getting rid of them? The aliens you said don't exist?  We've also got the inverse of that problem in several sci-fi media, in case your brain couldn't think of that problem, Nito the nit.

Any other stupid questions?

6) Virtual reality 
Sci-Fi’s materialists/atheists are more easily lost in the hyperreal house of mirrors known as modern skepticism. Materialists lack access to or even awareness of a being who knows the absolute Truth. If our universe is considered accidental and deficient man will be more inclined to find refuge in a virtual universe of his own making. If man considers himself less than the Imago Dei he may feel incompetent to discern what’s lacking in a virtual world.
Karina Fabian wrote this short story already in Infinite Space, Infinite God II, with a Virtual reality missionary. Thank you. Good night. [Mic drop]

You know what happens in virtual worlds in science fiction?  Very. Bad. Things. In the real world, Star Trek's holodeck would be banned because it is so dangerous and nearly kills people half the time. Look up The Next Generation  and Moriarty in search terms if you don't believe me, Nito the inept.

The 90s tv show VR-5? Very Bad Things Happen.  How about the 90s kid show VR-Troopers, in which virtual reality contained all of the bad guys trying to kill us?

There's stupid, there's ignorant, and then there's NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
So how about science fiction that prefers challenging our elites to groveling before them? Science fiction that doesn’t defer to the conventional unconventionalities of postmodernist philosopher Jean Baudrillard or cosmologist Carl Sagan? Science fiction that isn’t misinformed by simple-minded positivism? Science fiction that is more comprehensive when identifying the dangers we’ll face in the future? Science fiction that is less “masculinist” (if I may coin a phrase)? Science fiction that prepares us for a future that will actually come to pass? - See more at:
Really?

We call him John Ringo. 




You know what, go read a book published by Baen, will you?  In fact, go read Kia Heavey. And Karina Fabian. And Cedar Sanderson. And Daniella Bova. And have I made my point yet?

CatholicFiction.net, you have failed this genre. And if this is your idea of editing, and storytelling, and articles, I'm not sure why anyone would want to have anything to do with you.

Oh, wait, an editor for Chesterton Press had already broke off with you because of this article. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let It Go: Original, Nostalgia Critic, and Dante's Cut, a music blog

I will be on this show in at 1 PM, EST, as part of a panel: Writestream: Shatter the Narrative

But now, music....


The first time you hear "Let it Go" it sounds like this....




After the first MILLION times you hear it on a freaking LOOP, it sounds more like this.

WARNING. SWEARING. ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE SWEARING






If, at some point, you've decided that listening to anything by Frozen is like going through Dante's Inferno, there's a song for that too.

WARNING: Probably requires that you've READ Dante's Inferno






Monday, February 9, 2015

THIS! IS! 500!!!!! Thanks, and the top ten list

Cedar
This is the 500th post for this blog.

We've done a LOT since last time.

The Pius Trilogy has finally come to an end.  Each of the books, A Pius ManA Pius Legacy, and A Pius Stand have all had great reviews, with only one prick who decided that I had kicked his puppy or something. Though if he really wants Sad Puppies, go here.  Cedar, Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt can really make puppies cry. MUAHAHAHAHAHA

Margot
I'm sorry, where was I?  I was distracted by crying puppies.

Oh, yes, 500 posts.

I've been trying to sell these books since 2007, and I've been running this blog -- or vice versa -- since 2010.

Because of it, I've made some great friends, like Sarah Hoyt,  Ann Margaret Lewis, Karina Fabian, Daniella Bova, Daria Anne DiGiovanni, Margot St. Aubin, and Matt Bowman, the Novel Ninja.

I've read some awesome books, like Amy Lynn, Ordinance 93, The Watson Chronicles, the Book of Helen, Stealing Jenny, and a whole slough of others. Slew? Slough? Oh, you get the idea.

Kia
And these people.  Wow.

Heck, due to Kia Heavey, I have a new model for Manana Shushurin, now that the previous model is far, far too respectable to be associated with the likes of me.  She was before, but I guess she finally figured that out. :)  Kia is an author, and I recommend her books. Heck, I have.

Ann and Karina have been responsible for dragging me into the Catholic Writer's Guild. And if they weren't (it's been so long, they may not have), they're a large chunk of the reason I stay.

There's the CLFA, and that's also a long story.

Margot was largely responsible for the gun shop visit of 2014, and accompanied me to the Catholic Writers Guild conference that I was a guest at.

I've lost some good friends.  One of my first beta readers for A Pius Man died before it was published. The first artist for the site, with whom I was acquaintances since college, and I drifted apart.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pacing, thrillers, and setting things on fire

[If you've seen this before, well, don't be surprised. I have jury duty today, so my time's a little backed up. Sorry for the rerun, folks.]

The Mad Genius Club is going to force me to actually work. I don't mean they're holding a gun to my head, but they are making me up my game with their most recent posting of their year's topics.

If they're going to up their game, let's see who can out-blog who. Ha!

… Which, sadly, makes me think “Who ha's? Didn't Sarah Hoyt talk about this once?”

If you'd been to Cedar's blog last week, you've already read this one. If you haven't ... why haven't you?

Anyway...

If you're interested in pacing an entire series, you could do much worse than look at the fantasy novels of Terry Goodkind. In his case, the solution to one, world-ending doom leads to the next world ending doom. I did that in one series, the Pius trilogy, where book one ends nice and happy and yay the bad guys are gone … then that lead into book two, where the bad guys had a backup plan, which led into causing problems in what would be book three.

But for pacing an individual novel, the short version is, I like putting pressure on my characters. I have to, otherwise I don't get the best out of them. After all, these are thrillers. Even when I'm going through character moments, the moments have to keep the tension on – on the protagonist or on the reader. It is perfectly and completely fair to have a long conversation about love and emotions, and politics and economics. It can go on for as long as you like … though the reader might find it more interesting if there's a bomb in the room. (For those of you who don't know who I mean, watch the Tommy Lee Jones film Blown Away, and pay particular attention to the kitchen scene. What scene is that? You'll know it when you see it.)

With my Pius trilogyI take the “machinegun through the door” a little too literal at times. The first chapter opens with a gunman picking up tech expert at Rome's airport, and leads into a body being blown out of a window and landing on their car. Then I reveal that it's the head of Papal Security picking up a Secret Service agent. When I'm not dropping bodies out of windows, everyone has just barely enough time to analyze what's going on before they're attacked again. Or they have a nice quiet conversation about their past, their feelings, their character exposition … did I write that out loud? Oh well … and then somebody is mugging them, or shooting at them, or performing strange gymnastic attacks with a halberd. 

 Yes, that last part is a long story. Read A Pius Man for that one.

With my other project, Codename: Winterborn (yes, after the Cruxshadows song), my protagonist, Lt. Kevin R. Anderson has more internal pressures driving him. At the opening of Codename: Winterborn, send Kevin and his team of spies into the Islamic Republic of France (the IRF … or the Irritating, Revolting Frogs).

Then I kill off almost everyone Kevin likes, because some politicians thought that blowing the cover on his SpecOps team would be just a great idea for political points, and their bank accounts.

Except, before he was a spy, Kevin was a Navy SEAL.

So, I get to send Kevin on a fun-filled ride of assassinating fourteen politicians. Yay!

Is that enough for even internal pressure on your protagonist? No. Sorry. If he takes his time, Kevin could spent the next year killing all of them. Revenge-fueled rage only carries someone for so long before he stops, slows down, thinks, and takes his time. Hmm...

Oh, wait. Duh! The IRF mission was to take out a nuclear arsenal. With one team gone, another will have to be sent. So, Kevin has to kill all of these little bastards (the politicians) before even more Americans are murdered. That'll throw him into a pressure cooker. Muahahahaha.

Hmm. Yes, that's nice and all, but after a while, someone's going to catch on and try shooting back at Kevin. In my world of 2093, it's three years after a small nuclear war (only 2.2 billion dead). There aren't quite as many senators as their used to be, mostly because there are a few states that are radioactive wasteland. When wiping out 20% of the senate, SOMEBODY'S bound to notice.

 Thankfully, there's a whole Guild of Mercenaries ready to step up – imagine an umbrella organization for every Private Military Contractor out there. Some are good folks just earning a paycheck, some are folks thrown out of other countries because they were too freaking scary to live there.

Enter Mandy.

I love Mandy. She's based very slightly off of the Mandy of 24 Seasons 1, 2, and 4 … though mine has a personality. She also has a price on Kevin's head … and there's an internal power struggle going on within the mercenaries, so other mercs have a good reason to have her head at the same time as she's hunting Kevin.

Oh yes. This is gonna be goooodddd.

Now, we've got Kevin Anderson racing the clock, outrunning Mandy, needing to outwit and outfight truck loads of private contractors standing between Kevin and his target. And did I mention that he's going through full-on PTSD?

Like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, I have no problem beating up on my protagonist. Because I've found that Kevin Anderson doesn't burn out as much as he sets more things on fire.**  But it keeps the pressure on, and keeps the story moving. His internal pressures serve the character and the story, and his external pressures …

Okay, they just serve to show that I grew up watching too many action films. At one point, two of Kevin's allies sit down for a conversation about how to best pull his backside out of the fire … but they're complete strangers, so the scene could break out into a shooting match at any given moment. At another point, I go into a deep, intimate scene going through Kevin's psyche through his dreams … but back in the real world, a gunman is pointing a gun at the back of his head.

At one point, I go into a deep, intimate scene going through Kevin's psyche through his dreams … but back in the real world, a gunman is pointing a gun at the back of his head.

You know, stuff like that.

The short version is that the tension needs to stay on for a thriller. The world doesn't need to be in danger all the time. You could make it something as simple as the protagonist's sanity.

Then again, with my characters, sanity is optional to start with.

**[The "setting more things on fire" line stolen from Linkara.]

Monday, January 26, 2015

Guest blog: Cedar Sanderson's "I Got Politics in my Fiction"

What's this, Declan? Exploiting the image of a hot redhead to garner hits? Not today.

This blog post is brought to you by the awesome Cedar Sanderson, author of nineteen novels in science fiction / fantasy.

Yes. I feel I now need to step up my game. The best I can do is a guest blog over on her site.

Like me, Cedar is also not someone who likes .... gah ...politics. But, again, like I did, she tried to get away, but they reel her back in. Even when she's designing kittens with butterfly wings from scratch. 

No, I'm not kidding.  Though I may be getting ahead of myself. She's obviously a metric ton smarter than I am, as she is currently going after a dual degree in forensic science and microbiology.

I better let her explain.


I Got Politics in my Fiction

I didn't mean to. I’d happily spend the rest of my life ignoring the stinky mess in the corner we call politics. I’m much happier contemplating the consequences of science extrapolated into the future, and not the very far future, either. Did you know that an organism can already be built from codons up? That’s like making an apple pie from scratch, only you wind up with a yeast baking your Mycoplasma genitalium. How much longer until you can get a build-you-own Kiddie Kitten Kit: with bonus butterfly wings? Unfortunately, the life in a lab is a lot smaller and duller than most fiction readers are willing to put up with for very long.

That, and I have this tendency (again, I never meant to do this!) to write fantasy, which involves creating whole new worlds. In order to explain how they work, and the civilization hangs together, I must dabble in politics. It drives me crazy, and every time I have to get into it, I wind up blocked and behind schedule.

It’s taken me a while to figure out what it is that gets me, and why I wind up unable to write politics. I am, on a personal level, determinedly apolitical. I vote, and I won’t vote unless I have some idea who I’m voting for/against (and I won’t get into the voting for lesser weevils most Presidential elections leave me doing). But I’m not at all interested in it other than that. This is why I have trouble with writing it. Politics makes me feel like B’rer Rabbit fighting the Tar Baby. No matter how much you struggle, you just get stucker.

Which leaves me feeling all sticky when I write about politics. In the current series, I’m writing a fantasy world which touches on ours, and which is run by a non-heritable monarchy backed by an aristocratic council. In some ways – they have a Charter – it’s a bit like the American system. I didn't write it intending to be that, I was spinning off threads in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the king and queen of Faerie. It’s a very old, stagnant society, but it works, and as one character points out, why mess with that?


The only book I have out where I did touch on sort-of-current politics I have been blasted for in reviews as having written it as a commentary on our current leadership. Which makes me chuckle, because I wrote that novel – it is my first – long before this guy was even a blip on the national radar screen. That book has other faults (it is my first, after all) but the depiction of a President happily inviting aliens into the White House is not based on any one person, simply my perception of politics being the art of deception and power.

I think that is the core of it. I see politicking as lying, and I can’t abide deceit and manipulation. Any political-types in my books are likely to be portrayed as shady at best. The Queen of High Court in the current book was given an offer she couldn’t refuse – not and keep her life and freedom. I think I’m looking forward to the next book, set in our mundane world, with a little plot and… darnit. Small town politics.

‘Scuse me. I have a muse to go hunt down and have a conversation with.


Cedar Sanderson was born an Air Force brat in Nebraska and spent her childhood en route to new duty stations. Her formative years after her father left the Air Force were spent being home-schooled on the Alaskan frontier. She removed to the "more urban" climes of New Hampshire at the beginning of high school. She has had the usual eclectic range of jobs for Fantasy/ SF authors, ranging from Comedy Magician to Apprentice Shepherdess. She counts the latter as more useful in controlling her four children and First Reader. Her fascination with science dates to her early childhood spent with her grandmother on the Oregon coast studying the flora and fauna and learning to prepare a meal from what she could glean from a tidal pool. This lead to a lifelong interest in science, cooking, and herbalism.

At present she is attending college in Ohio pursuing a dual STEM major in forensic science and microbiology this. Her first two times in college were for theology and liberal arts. She is maintaining an average of nearly 20 credit hours while running a household, an entertainment business, and writing multiple novels on the side. This has the result of leaving those watching her indefatigable efforts panting in exhaustion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Midseason review, 2015

This has been one hell of a season thus far, and it's barely begun. There's been a lot of great TV, and some disappointing WTF moments.

WARNING: SPOILERS: Walk with me through my television viewing.
Arrow:

At least they all LOOK different! Every time I think I can sum up the awesomeness of this show, it keeps getting better.  The writing is still great on the character level, the episode level, the season level and the series level (we're in season 3, and every time they have a new season, you can see the seeds laid down in the previous season.).  The superhero show based around a comic book character who was the uber-Leftist Batman who was bitten by a radioactive Robin Hood, and has turned into a collection of awesome geek love.

Brandon Roush has been a fantastic addition as Ray Palmer, the Atom, and it makes me wonder why he wasn't allowed do to this good a job as Superman.   They continue to give supporting characters and guest star some great character moments all over the damn place. They even gave Captain Boomerang character, and interesting motivation.  Captain Boomerang.  How do you make a villain with a name like that cool?

Then there was that moment where they shanked Oliver Queen with a sword and tossed him off of a cliff, leaving him to die.

Oh, yeah, and did I mention that we're not even up to episode 10 yet?

Did I mention I HATE cliffhangers?

And then there's....

Agents of SHIELD:
Can I at least have a diverse WARDROBE?

It has finally STOPPED being Agents of Boredom. In fact, if you've read my gripes about this show, most of them no longer apply.  They've figured out that, if you're using a Marvel comic book universe as a base,  USE THE DAMN UNIVERSE. Also, if there's a spy show .... DO SPY STUFF, DAMN YOU.  If only took an entire season for it to get anywhere, but then, there's no Marvel film that was going to big foot them into next Tuesday.

Though my biggest problem is that they're still trying to make the character of Skye interesting, which will never happen.

Anyway, they have at least remembered that they're a comic book spy show ... by bringing in comics and spies. Shocking.


Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK Day: Music Blog



Youtube showed me Within Temptation because I looked at Nightwish.

Pay close attention.  The opening visual may turn you off, but there's a punchline. Honest.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Recommended Reading; Larry Correia

Up until I embraced my inner politicians (which I gotta tell, you, is draining as all heck), I had never heard of Larry Correia.  He's published through Baen books, and I read their top authors already -- David Weber, John Ringo and Timothy Zahn -- and yet I had only been vaguely aware of him from my visits to Barnes and Noble.

After hearing his name bandied about on a political fiction group on Facebook, I shrugged and said "Oh, what the hell? Why not?"

And, being a bit of a cheap bugger, I figured "Screw it, I'll get the 3-in-1 of his biggest series, Monster Hunter International."

My reaction?





Yes, I have, at long last, resorted to gifs.

I promptly went out and bought ... well ... everything else Correia has written, including the rest of MHI, his three Grimnoir and his Dead Six novels.

Seriously, these books are kinda awesome.  I finished all of them in a matter of days.

One thing at a time, though

The really, really, really short version about Larry Correia is that he is an unstoppable writing machine who pumps out books the size of Tom Clancy doorstoppers at least once a year, in addition to maintaining an almost daily blog, is almost omnipresent online, and has a BS tolerance threshold lower than mine.  Which tells you something, if you've been here a while.

Correia is, personally ... Libertarian? I think? His politics show up very little in his books.  Any anti-government feeling here could be summed up by the same feeling in 24, or Harry Potter (see: the Cassandra Effect. Honest). He prefers his heroes to be smaller, private groups, rather than sprawling government bureaucracies, though even the bureaucracies get a fair shake in his books (one of them at the very least).  He also owns a gun range, so he likes his weaponry. Big deal.

I'd say he has an ongoing grudge match against John Scalzi and the SFWA, especially over the Hugo awards, but it seems more like Scalzi and SFWA has an ongoing war against everybody I find remotely interesting. There's a lot of ranting against Correia because he's "a straight white man," even though his background is Portuguese -- don't even ask me how that works.

If you care about personal politics and online grudges, I'm sure you can find a few links.  From what I read on his blog, a lot of Correia is just plain common sense. But me and common sense have very little to do with each other.

But, on to the important part: BOOKS.  And I highlight books because I haven't gotten to any of his short stories. If I've missed a few, don't shoot. I've had a lot of books to dig through lately, but I'll add them as I find them.

Monday, January 12, 2015

NEW Age of Ultron Trailer



There’s a new trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

“Everyone creates the thing they dread,” says robotic villian Ultron in one of the opening shots of the trailer.

“I’m going to tear you apart…from the inside,” he growls amid scenes of destruction and havoc as the heroes of the Avengers turn against each other.

Creepiest rendition of "I have no strings" ever.

I have a few thoughts on the future of the Marvel series, and an analysis of what we've seen already.

But crap that's creepy.

Plot or Character? Chicken or Egg?

So, here's a question I came across in one of my writing groups: Where do you start? With a plot or with a character?

Chicken or egg?

Heh.  The answer to this depends on if I already have a series. But that's cheating for the purposes of this particular question.

However, if you have a brand spanking new idea?

Step 1: "What's my story?"  EG I have a functional dystopia where people inconvenient people are dumped from the real world into this makeshift hell on Earth.

Step 2: "What do I need?" EG: I need a cross between MacGyver and Chuck Norris.

Step 3: Make character. EG: Kevin Anderson.

For me, story has always come first, especially if you're making a new story.

Heck, for The Pius Trilogy, Sean AP Ryan intruded. Literally. The little bugger wasn't even supposed to be in THAT novel, and decided to just show up.

Step 1: "What's my story?"  EG I'm doing an anti-Da Vinci Code in Rome.

Step 2: "What do I need?" EG: I need the head of Vatican security involved

Step 3: Make character. EG: Giovanni Figlia.

And then Sean steps in out of It was Only On Stun! and takes over.

For me, story has always come first, especially if you're making a new story.

For my short Fear No Evil, I wanted someone who could handle herself. She developed as we went along.

Sometimes, I just take the voices in my head and run with them.

Sometimes, they run with me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

NEW REVIEW, Guest Posts, and PR for A Pius Stand

I have a new review on Codename Winterborn from the guy who wrote Amy Lynn, Jack July.  He liked it.

Yes!

While I'm at it, I have posted about "Strong Female Characters" over at the Mad Genius Club ... it was posted last year. Apparently, I'm slow. Yes, it does look like another post I've made about it here.

While I'm at it, I should mention that I'm posting over at Right-Fans, mostly talking about how I got into writing, and how B5 has warped me as a writer.

Also, I started on a press release for A Pius Stand. What think ye?


 DATE: 14 December 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Konecsni. #***-***-****

A Pius Stand: A Global ThrillerTaking a Final Stand.

A Pius Legacy asked the question: What happens when someone kidnaps the Pope? When you're Sean A.P. Ryan, security consultant, the answer is easy: get him back. And that rescue pissed off…everyone…and the entire United Nations declared war on the hundred-acre Vatican City. When the Pope is threatened by the international community, with no help in sight, what's a Pontiff to do? Run and hide? With offers coming from all over the world, it seems like the best course of action. With fifteen-thousand men from armies all over the world coming to end the Catholic Church, it's a threat not even the Pope's bodyguards could handle. But it's not just about Vatican City. With the Church all over the world in peril, things are not as clear cut for Pope Pius XIII as one might think. With the forces of darkness closing in, Pius, Sean, and the people they love must make a decision that will affect the lives of billions, and threaten all they hold dear. Do they leave the Vatican to their enemies, or stay, and face certain death? Once more, this epic conclusion to The Pius Trilogy continues to mix real history with wholehearted adventure. With everything on the line, and no good outcome, the Pope and his champions must decide to either cut and run, or to make a final stand.


A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller is the final chapter of The Pius Trilogy. What had started as Declan Finn's attempt to counter the lies about the Catholic Church in popular media has culminated in a final battle of Tom Clancy-like proportions.


Unlike the previous books, A Pius Stand is more sprawling and global in character. Finn goes out of his way to show the full ramifications of the book's events, and how they effect everyone in every part of the world. Finn also goes out of his way to show how the world affects the plot. But like the previous novels in the trilogy, Finn uses modern footnotes to show just how possible the events of the book actually are.

A Pius Stand is the last novel in a trilogy that has taken ten years to write, and the final battle will leave readers speechless.


ISBN 1500487376


For review copies, appearances or interviews with the author, contact #***-***-**** or DeclanFinnInc@aol.com.