Archive for February, 2009

Surreal Moments: 1

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2009 by Jaym Gates

The crossroads of my little town is one of those picture-book perfect places. A couple of banks, and ice cream place with homemade icecream, the library, a diner and a couple of shops. Old-fashioned street-lights at one corner, with benches and landscaping. It’s quiet at night, and driving home at 1 or 2am can be pretty lonely.

One evening, coming home at aforementioned late hour, I was the only one on the road. It was spring, so my windows were down, and I was pretty relaxed. Stopping at the light, I happened to glance at the corner next to me, the one with the benches. There were flowers blooming in the planter around the light, trumpet vines and other such things.

And a girl, sitting on one of those benches, her bike propped up next to her. At 2am in the morning. She couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17, and there was a strange, not-quite-modern look to her, sitting there with the flowers and bike.

I didn’t stop, have never seen her again. Plenty of stories have sprung up around her, running away, meeting a boyfriend for a late night, waiting for a parent to pick her up.

I wish I’d stopped and asked if she needed anything.

Mmmm…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

40,000 words of angsty, dirty, strange goodness.

Yup kids, after a spree of about 2300 words today, I am now sitting on a little over 1/3 of a rough draft. Took me two months, and a lot of work, and it feels gooooood!

INHERENT Progress (ish)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Haven’t made it to 40,000 words yet for two reasons: rewrites and research.

Changing from inclusive third-person to exclusive first-person for Sveria’s story means I have to rewrite her section, which is currently the most expansive (of course!) to make sure it all stays linear and unconvoluted. I also have to work to cross-reference her experiences, words and thoughts with the other two viewpoints.

The research is the fun part of this. As I’ve mentioned, Kortango’s military and government are based on Alexander’s Greece as it might have been (except this time, it comes AFTER “Rome”), while Virgal-Goien is based more on Rome, with roads, sewers, etc. VG is a more structured, modern, militaristic society, while Kortango is a little more barbaric and loosely-knit. The eastern lands are a conglomeration of cultures, with Ilgaro being fairly German medievalism, Jastu being, well, Asran, and Gatika being pretty Egyptian/Arabic. Of course, these are all just inspirations and studies, not point-for-point copies.

With such detailed cultural studies and interconnecting histories, religions and societies, the geography itself must not be ignored, nor the technical details of day-to-day living.

So the research is everything from the details of Roman road construction, to the wind-patterns of the Namib desert. Slow, excruciating, and then I have to weave in elements of extinct creatures, fantastical elements, magic, myth, a “Lost God” culture, etc. The background is half of this story, and I have to be careful to not just write a history, fun as that would be.

But the care is paying off in backgrounds that can be visualized, cultures that have more than one facet, and a lot of new ideas.

I mean, there’s a beetle in the Namib desert that climbs to the top of a dune and tilts its body so that the dense coastal fog condenses on its shell and runs into its mouth. Try making a beast more unique than that out of your imagination!

(yes, I posted the same thing on the FW forum. Sue me. It’s a blog post)

From Beauty and the Beasts: Excerpt

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2009 by Jaym Gates

“What is your name lad?” the dark warrior questions. His hand is under her neck now, fingers ghosting callous-rough along silk-thin skin, and the young one feels sympathetic chills on his own skin. Touch more than touch, no contact needed as the scarred hand draws away and traces her body through the air.

“Stop that!”

“Your name boy.” Command.

“Demeo d’Angueira,” the boy replies, shamed for his weakness. He meant to hold out against this one until his opponent showed a weakness, made a mistake. It had worked in all the books he had read, all the lessons his father’s knights had given him. At least his name sounded noble and proud, full of the royal lineage he could so honestly claim. D’Angueira. A name of kings. Boldened by the sound of his name, the echoes of proud ancestors, his spine stiffens again—ashaming, it seems to wilt without permission with every word of the old one—and he tosses his head back. “And your own, peasant?” he demands.

The dark one smiled again, a far-off look in his eyes. “Nothing so noble-sounding and high-browed as yours m’boy,” he replies. “But it’s known a few places, earned a few scars and the right to wear it.” Inherent, unspoken in that statement, have you earned yours yet? Or is it just a title a boy takes for a foolish quest?

“But what is it?” Demeo persists.

“Santangelo,” replies the man, as though the name is not worth the saying, the breath.

Whoops…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Appears I didn’t post yesterday. My apologies.

Anyways, INHERENT is now at about 33,000 words. I’m so pleased, RED SUN took about a year to reach this point, and I still feel like I’ve been slacking.

So, here’s an excerpt!

“The desert lay undisturbed in the eerie morning light, moonlight still glinting off of the white sands, the river winding, hidden by tall swells of sand, towards the sea. To the south, the marauders trudged through the night, their boisterous talk and shouting nearly subdued by the cold and tiresome walking.
A flock of desert Burrowers took flight, chirping in terror as the ground shook and rolled underneath them. A black form broke the smooth face of the white dunes, silhouetted against the lavender dawn. Erotheri’s great horse blew a cloud of steam from his nostrils and shook his head, bridle-buckles tinkling. Behind him came the landerne and the infantry, in battle-form and full armor. Two white bulls pawed the earth behind them, held at the halter by priests.
From a little ways to the west rose another figure, crouching against the sand, gray-white clothing blending almost immediately into the pale horizon as the Jastue scouts waved the all clear. Amarog’s white stallion reared, thrashing at the stormy sky, a mythic figure with his storms piling about his shoulders and the finest of the northern warriors behind him. Lizaar trotted their mounts forward in a loose perimeter around the band, the Mezka surrounded the witches and the priestesses with their black panthers. “

Jewelry and Social Standing

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Jewelry is such an ubiquitous part of our lives that we seldom think of the history or significance of its use. Although it is much less important than it used to be, jewelry still often communicates events, social standing or wealth to the casual passerby, as well as the pieces with personal significance, and the overall effect jewelry has on the way personality is perceived.

Think of the “Diamond is Forever”, “Every Kiss Begins With Kay”, “He Went to Jared’s”, etc, the catchy slogans of the jewelry market. While diamonds are not particularly rare or precious, comparatively, they have taken a high status in the market because of the artificial significance placed on them. Huge advertising campaigns, store-chains, etc, are based on the diamond trade. We even have the term “blood diamonds”, cursed diamonds, and legendary diamonds.

Wedding rings and engagement rings are the most obvious modern use for jewelry as status and communication. Watches are a more subtle indicator of wealth and status.

An article on BNet points out the influence of jewelry on American society: “As in most cultures, in the United States the significance of jewelry made and owned here extends well beyond the domain of personal adornment to encompass social customs, trade patterns, and craft practices, as well as stylistic and technical developments. Like domestic silverwares, jewelry was simultaneously utilitarian and an indication of social standing.”~The Fales Collection of Jewelry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Throughout history, jewelry has been important to tribal leaders, shamans, priests, royalty and cultural heroes. Many pieces of jewelry (as well as cups, crowns, weapons and armor, which in a sense are jewelry also, being of precious work and great significance) were (are) believed to have magical powers, dark curses or perhaps histories worthy of entire books. Rings seem to be the most popular, perhaps because of their shape and the symbolism of being worn on the hand. Certain stones were believed to possess powers of healing, protection, love or happiness, and so were worked into settings to magnify their power. The “birthstone” fad is a new spin on an old tradition, in which each month has a stone sacred to it, or attached to a specific creature of the zodiac. Crystals are integral to New Age practices, but have a history going back thousands of years.

Native Americans had the “wampum”, elaborate belts, weavings or necklaces of beads and shells, communicating everything from love to war, while many African tribes had (have) similar methods of communication.

Besides all those cultural things, the mere material, size, color and workmanship of a piece of jewelry may communicate social status, wealth, achievement, career, history, marital status, and many other things.

Yet it is perhaps one of the least-utilized pieces of culture when it comes to writing. While many fantasies are based in western European-style settings, there is a wealth of culture and expression out there to draw from, much of it expressed in jewelry. A simple nose-ring could indicate a war-chief, or a married woman. The length of the earrings, the number and color of bead strings around the neck may indicate age or status.

Jewelry is a fading symbolism, a hidden gold-mine as it were, of significance and depth for the serious world-builder, whether writer, movie-director or role-player.

Do some research into the tribes and lesser-known regions of the world. You might find the next big story there.

Theatrical Tuesday: Octavia Butler

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Octavia Butler is one of the first sci-fi authors I read, one who left a profound mark on me with only one book, as well as being one of the pioneers of sci-fi. All this, and yet it’s bloody hard to find books by her in a used bookstore. Maybe because they are so good.

I think the first book I read was out of the “Lilith’s Brood” series, a chilling and somehow frightening story that was written with great talent and realism. Now I’m reading “Parable of the Sower”, in which Butler lays out the tenants of her fictional religion “Earthseed”.

I highly recommend Butler. Besides her skill with words, she writes allegories and social commentary unusually well, proposing and presenting powerful themes without making them obnoxious and apparent.

Random Things

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2009 by Jaym Gates

My computer is slowly giving out I think. Random pixels are dying, and it occasionally has problems with running and stopping. Hopefully I can get a new one this month! This one has loved me for about 3 years, but it is hardly the pinnacle of performance.

Allergy season is booting up, leaving me under the weather. Honey, lemon, barley and sage tea is keeping the most painful of the symptoms at bay.

Mom has “commissioned” about 6 pieces of art, for the kitchen and her room. That should keep me busy.

INHERENT is still fun, still moving ahead slowly. There’s a lot of work to be done.

And, that’s it for now. I’ll have more interesting things the rest of the week.

INHERENT Profile: Kortango

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Kortango is one of the earliest INHERENT constructions.

Western super-power, expanding rapidly as Virgal-Goien begins to weaken, Kortango is a mish-mash of cultures, territories, cities and societies. While inertia is on its side at the moment, it is unstable at the core. Already a large western province, Sorhul, is threatening insurrection, and rebel activity has increased violently in the smaller province beside Sorhul. Kortango is not actively threatening Samis yet, only the northern province where the death-lords were driven into exile is raiding into Jastu and Teberga, although the leaders in Zandueto are watching with interest to see if there is an opening. The primary conquest is focused southwards, into the richer and more promising lands of Virgal-Goien, which is also the ancestral enemy of the monarchy of Kortango.

The Importance of:

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2009 by Jaym Gates

A story-encyclopedia.

How much do I value a single document filled with pertinent facts? Immensely. What is in there? Names, titles, phrases, places, ranks, etc, things that actually show up in the story proper. If I name a cat, it will go into the encyclopedia. If my military commander issues an order to move, the word itself will go in the encyclopedia.

Why am I so adamant about this? I spent five years working on a project as big as LOTR, building the world from the ground up. By the time I put it aside, I had almost 100,000 words of writing, and hundreds of documents pertaining to the world itself. Probably a hundred characters, ranging from the main characters to ancestors, and a detailed bio on each of them. I put it aside because it was so hopelessly tangled that it was more frustrating to write than it was enjoyable. It was too big. I honestly need a desktop just for Shadow and Soul so that I can keep it all straight. I haven’t trashed the project, I’m building a little in it all the time.

But when I started INHERENT, I was drawing heavily on the world I’d created for other characters. The Asran had been in Cume, where INHERENT takes place, and left indelible marks on it through their wars and power. Sviera is descended from the Asran, while the Dragons are remnants, gate-keepers. And Alakon is an Asran prince. Having finally constructed a workable shell for Shadow and Soul, I needed to start comparing the worlds and finding the similarities and differences.

Basically, imagine the continent of Cume as Europe. Except the Church, the nobility and the soldiers up and left for America instead of the outcasts. En masse. The only things left are peasants, a lot of history, and barely anyone to remember that history. Except the villains. Some of the villains are still there too. So the peasants make their own new culture, overlying the old one. That’s the relation between the Asran and the newcomers, and between the two continents. (Yes, I am drawing heavily on the relations between America and Europe here, as well as America herself, for this. Later, I hope to do something Asian. That would be even more fun!)

The problem comes that culture has a habit of shifting over time in the mortal races. The Asran are basically immortal, and so they are caught in a time-bubble. Alakon is in for some shocks when he gets back to Cume. And with the cross-referencing between INHERENT and future SHADOW and SOUL stories… It could get confusing fast.

That’s where that little encyclopedia comes in so handy, as I can just move it to reference in later stories.

Shendashtin is a corruption of Shen Tashtin (Shen-fortress), and is built on the ruins of an Asran citadel of that name. Amarog is a shortening of his proper name, Karamarog, a name familiar to the Asran, while Erotheri-Erotherimas. All things I will need to know later. Eventually, I should have some sort of wiki set up for all this crap.

Until then, I have one quasi-organized document I can check in to see if I gave Kar a surname, or if Morg Kallis is Heaven or Earth. This saves a lot of confusion, back-reading, and editing.

The importance of a story-encyclopedia=priceless!