Archive for June, 2009

Immortality

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 30, 2009 by Jaym Gates

They [the mortals] envy the apparent ease of the silent, powerful monoliths standing still against the currents of time, without understanding the tremendous pain of that stand, nor the hopelessness when one may not die, except by another’s hand.
And immortals are jealous of the dreams, the hope, the never-ending fire and angst and determination of the mortals; for what may an immortal dream of? They create the dreams of their younger siblings, walking through a world that holds no surprises for them.

Most often, stories are told of the viewpoint of mortals regarding immortals. But how often are the immortals shown as jealous of humans? A sense of that trickles through in LOTR, but it is thin.

Immortals are often the weak links in a story. Even those creatures with incredibly long life-spans end up shallow and irritating. The exceptions (off the top of my head), are Moorcock’s Elric and Resolute and his kin from Stackpole (Stackpole writes a mean immortal character. Really!).

But put yourself in your favorite immortal’s headspace for a moment. Now take your life and loop it. Over, and over again. Take your fifty, twenty, thirty years of life and loop them end-to-end until you reach 1000 years. Imagine the deaths, the losses, the depression, the griefs of your life multiplied. Add in the disorientation that an immortal would most likely feel as the world changes rapidly around them. It’s hard enough for our grandparents to understand women’s lib and the internet, what must an immortal feel about entire nations falling?

Is it possible for a mortal to successfully portray a sympathetic immortal? Who has done it well, who fails miserably?

What do YOU want?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2009 by Jaym Gates

What sort of thing does everyone want to see on the blog? I get more hits on the serious writing articles, so those will stay.

What else is fun? Links? Music/book suggestions? Talk about the magazine?

Let me know!

Freewrite/Character 6/30/09

Posted in Freewrite with tags , , on June 30, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Life moved around her with gentle indifference, butting against her shoulders and legs on occasion. It never disturbed her, she never disturbed it. Neither invisible nor visible, she was a polite little shadow that plenty of people liked and a few people knew.

Her husband loved her. Her children loved her. But they had their own lives and were the quickly running streams around her silent rock.

She was content this way, the shadow. Content until she became famous, and marked for death, and everything that she knew went on its head.

Music

Posted in Musings with tags , , , on June 29, 2009 by Jaym Gates

3-ish hours of sleep. A very long day coming up. I actually can’t summon enough focus to decide what to write. How special. (addendum: I can’t type either! Or spell.)

Anyways, music creates one of the most potent forms of communication available to a world. Whether that is our world or a fantasy world, music often bypasses cultural blocks such as language or tradition.

However, music is underused in my opinion. While there is usually music in some form in most fantasy worlds, there is a vast range of possibilities for cultural depth based on reactions and perceptions of music.

Music is only for the rich, and carefully guarded from the poor?
Music is so sacred that only priests may perform it?
Music is a way for revolutionaries to communicate?
Music is considered the ultimate art?

C’mon people, if I can come up with four examples when I can’t even figure out how to open a container of tea, I’m sure you all can do better.

What does music mean to you? How is it utilized in your writing?

Yes, I use herbs.

Posted in Personal Life with tags , , , , on June 28, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Years ago, back in the age when I still lived in Northern CA with too many horses and dogs and cats, I found out real fast that vet bills are the worst enemy. Training my own horses, keeping them on my own property, there were many vet bills.

Add in out-dated barbed wire (because no one in their right minds tries to use mesh wire on those hills. If someone is that stupid, the horses solve the fence and sleep on it and get tangled in it anyways. Vet bills for fence that was supposed to ‘cure’ vet bills), and you have more vet bills. We won’t even get started on the cougar attack. We never did find the poor predator’s corpse, but judging from the blood on the Standardbred’s hooves and the look in his eyes, there might not have been enough to find. Regardless, cougar=vet bills.

And half the time, what works in a nice cushy stable doesn’t work in CA hill mud. A determined horse can chew off any bandage in five seconds flat, if you can figure out how to jury-rig a bandage on a hock anyways. So, after a while, a person develops a certain jaded approach to veterinarians. ‘Oh hey, hi vet. Are you missing another finger? Huh, ok. Anyways, you can’t do anything here, but will you make us feel better and charge a few thousand dollars to shoot sugar-water into the trypanophobic horse while she’s orbiting the earth? Yeah? Cool. Here’s the check, and your ear.”

And then, after the vet leaves, the horse-owner goes and figures out how to patch the wide-eyed beast back together.

One of our mares was a beautiful Peruvian Paso/Quarter-horse cross. Beauty was pretty much her only strong point. One evening, a couple of months after she foaled, she unraveled the electric fence (which had been just fine the evening before…) and wrapped it around her foot. I went out in the morning to a sweating, quivering wreck tethered to the fence by one half-sawed off leg. We literally had to cut the wire out of her, a process that I recall taking almost an hour. By that point, she was thankfully in shock from the pain. After cleaning, the vet shook his head and basically said ‘good luck’. The cut was nearly to bone. Now, understand, electric wire is smooth. The amount of pressure to achieve this had torn the skin terribly.

Six weeks of carting her into town to the vet, paying out the wazzoo, creams and poultices and antibiotics and… And it was still a raw, festering mess. By this time, the vet was recommending putting her down. So she became my project, as my grandmother wouldn’t waste any more time on her.

My only medicine was a spray of rosemary, salt, pepper, sage and olive oil. It smelled like dinner. A day of applying that to her, and I had to leave her tied up so she wouldn’t hi-tail it out of Dodge the moment I showed up. I got kicked in the head for my pains, a concussion that had me seeing double for weeks.

Within two weeks, the wound was closing. So much scar-tissue had built up that she always walked a little stiffly, but the concoction reversed the purification and helped build healthy tissue. A month after I’d started using the stuff, she was back to her irascible self.

That spray was incredibly strong, but very basic. And it worked when the vet could only recommend amputation or euthanasia.

Recently, when my mother punctured her thumbnail, I stepped some of those same herbs in olive oil, and she went from a dying nail to a mildly scarred one. Yes, I use herbs.

I spent a good hour tonight putting together a poultice for a coworker’s eczema. I’ve never used this blend before, but I’ve had good results with skin conditions, so we’ll see how it goes.

Yes, I use herbs. And hey, it gives me background for my shamanistic healers!

Tattoos

Posted in Theories and Thoughts with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Tattoos in ‘modern’ culture have long been a sign of gang-related activity, criminals, or the underground sub-cultures in general. Although they are now mainstream, the type and placement of the tattoo still greatly affects its ‘acceptability’. Face, neck and hands are usually either hard-core enthusiasts, shock-value or gang. One or two tattoos might be acceptable where an entire body clothed with tattoos is not.

One of the tattoo types that is gaining in popularity is the horimono, the Japanese tattoos. Originally a cultural symbol, tattooing was outlawed in the late 1800s in an attempt to gain respect in Western eyes. At that time it became associated with outlaws and specifically the yakuza, Japan’s ‘mafia’.

In ancient cultures, tattoos told as many stories as the wise story-tellers. From marks of bravery and glory to marks meant to convey protection and luck, tattoos were rites of passage and telling symbols of a person’s status.

I’ve been fortunate to find a tattoo shop that still has a focus on individualistic art work and in making statement pieces. Ace Custom Tattoo has skilled artists, but it’s as much fun to listen to people talk, or to watch them interact with the artists. Simply lying under the needles is indeed an experience that changes a person. It’s permanent, more than anything else. Piercings will grow in. Children will leave the nest, marriages dissolve and plans change. A tattoo either has to be removed–a process that costs an incredible amount of pain and money–or covered up, or they last forever. It is truly a sort of passage, and I can only imagine how it would be with traditional methods!

In Inherent, tattooing is a sign of power. Personal, physical, spiritual, the more tattoos, the more power. Women, as the channels of power in the post-Marasran society, are the most heavily tattooed. Mothers have distinctive patterns, wives, healers all have their own patterns. Shamans and witches have patterns outlawed to the rest of the society.

Totem animals are proudly displayed, spirit guides are more often marked by a simple symbol in a discreet place. For characters such as Sviera, Txikia, Maurga and the other powerful priestesses and witches, tattoos are far more. Txikia, daughter of the Imordi, would have been tattooed young, receiving her first mark when her power began to manifest. From then on, the tattoos would grow and spread through the years (although due to her association with one of the Princes, her tattoos would have been covered and altered, thereby erasing much of her early history), until by the time of Inherent, she would be almost entirely covered.

Sviera, Queen of the Night and Lady of Chaos, would be the most elaborately tattooed of any of them, especially as her mate is Karamarog, an Imordi dragon. Her designs start at eyes and hands, swirling lines and pictures stretching the length of her body, telling the story of her power and achievements.

Women, in the world of Inherent, are considered nearly a different species from the men. In that age, the goddesses were still supreme, and their consorts were the heroes. Men achieved maturity, married and had children, and might achieve great deeds, but their inner journeys–the ones recorded through tattoos–were seldom as memorable. Women were respected and held in high honor. A heavily-tattooed woman could walk into any eastern city at that time and be welcomed and honored as a mouthpiece of the goddesses. However, western cultures in Kortango and the metropolises of Virgal-Goien were beginning to shift to a patriarchal religion, and the first witch-burnings were seen around the time of Sviera’s power.

Names have power. Tattoos were often names in physical form, and can tell a powerful story without a single word spoken.

What position in your fictional society do tattoos hold? Power, disgrace, honor? How are they done, and what are the traditional designs? I’d love to hear!

Reflections

Posted in Stories-Thunder Songs with tags on June 26, 2009 by Jaym Gates

We have a routine here on Fridays. Work till five pm, then hit PJ’s Bar and grill for a few beers and some manno a manno time. Ogle the bar girls, maybe grope a few asses and make some jokes about titties and the alley behind the bar, but hell, you never act on that. Community is too small, and most of our wives know how to use that shotgun in the closet.
Get a nice buzz, let loose some of the frustration of the day, and head home. The rest of the evening is spent having dinner with the wife and kids. That ain’t peaceful, the wife screaming at the kids, the kids screaming at each other, everyone screaming at me. Usually I’ll just crash in front of the TV and have some more beers. It’s a boring life, and I often wonder what it would be like to be rich, but after a while, you sort of stop caring.

Tonight is different though. The wife wanted to take the kids to see her parents in Baltimore, so I’m alone for the week. The weather is miserable though, hot and sticky like, well, I won’t tell you that. Wouldn’t be family friendly. Damn political correctness and censoring.

The regular crowd has gone home, I should too, but the house was too empty last night. I didn’t notice it until I turned off the TV and went to bed, but the house makes a hell of a lot of noise. And it was too empty. Felt like a bunch of ghosts in there, way too spooky.

Big Dan slid me another Bud. The beer was good and cold, wetting my hands as I picked it up. It was late, only a few old boozers hanging around. I cursed and took a swig of beer, lighting another smoke from my old one. Grinding the old one out in the tray, I thought about leaving the city, going west and trying to find some work out in California. Construction and trucking are good out there, but the prices for stuff is bad, so I guess that’s not such a good idea. Oh well, fuckin immigrants taking all the jobs there anyways. Papers are full of nothing but stories about the problems out there. Of course, we have plenty of problems over jobs here too. Lucky to have mine I guess.

Another swig of beer, it’s getting warm now. Damn, don’t want to go home. It’s too cold there. What’s gonna happen when the kids leave? Me and the wife knocking about in the old house, just working till we can’t work anymore. Then what, sit on the porch and wait to die? Shit, gotta be something other than that.

Last swallow of beer, and Dan shakes his head. I bargain with him, my voice slurring a little, telling him my family is out of town and I only have tonight to have fun. He gives me another one, but tells me the bar is closing.

Clutching the bottle, I stagger out into the night. Never really gets dark here, city lights an’ all. Damn junk, tripping me up. Must be time to go home.

I wonder if there’s anything to drink there. I need something harder if I’m gonna sleep tonight.

A Character: Inherent

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Another teaser from Inherent.

Kar Veylin: His last name is a derivative of an old English name meaning “son of the wolf”, he is one of Amarog’s closest companions. Forced by Amarog to endure a vision of how his actions, words and thoughts affected the world, he thereafter refrained from stating opinions or taking action unless there was no other choice. He keeps his council to himself unless it is asked for, because he can see the possibilities of past, present and future. He is one of the few who understands the ability to change the past and present through indirect effecting of the shadow worlds, although he doesn’t accurately see his own influence or ability.

He is a ragas, a Ring-Ward of the north, one of the oldest and wisest. No wife, lover or children, and a loner, his only friends are the members of Amarog’s family.

He will travel with Amarog to search for Sviera, therefore facing his own worst fears.

On Character

Posted in Theories and Thoughts with tags , , , , on June 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I’m sure every reader is used to this scenario. Pick up a book off a book-store shelf. The blurb is great. The cover art is wonderful. The first chapter reads like a publisher’s wet dream. So, reader buys book. Book goes home, reader starts to get to know book.

Reader, at chapter five, detests character. Reader takes book back.

Plot, style, all of these things are certainly necessary. But I have put so many books back, and sold so many more to used bookstores, just because the characters flat-out sucked. Books by very popular authors in fact, have been returned.

I’m not the world’s hardest sell. I liked ‘Hancock’ tremendously, and endured sarcasm for weeks over that. But ‘Hancock’ was a good character! The characters of Hayden’s ‘Rhapsody’ books are good characters. The quirky, weird people of Jonathan Carroll’s book are amazing characters. These are some of my favorite books, simply because of the characters. I love the world, I love the writing, but I would have put ‘Rhapsody’ down if Ashe hadn’t grabbed me by the throat.

I received a comment on Abadinur from one of my test readers, calling Amarog ‘a great literary character’. It surprised me really. I thought Amarog was good, but not spectacular. My spectacular characters were supposed to be the witches. Instead, here’s big, super-power Amarog who doesn’t have much of a journey in the book, and he’s the literary character? Oh. Obviously I need to ponder this a little.

One of the cardinal rules of writing is to observe the people around you. People-watch, people-listen, people-write. I sit at coffee shops, I eavesdrop at restaurants. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there aren’t that many characters left in the world. There are a lot of people, but not many characters.

Our society has stopped admiring individuality. We give it a lot of lip-service, and maybe there’s no more conformism than there ever was. Maybe it’s just that I work in Soccer-mom/upper-middle-class heaven that I’ve gotten jaded. But I look at my past and there are so many interesting people there! Where have they gone? These are the people I based my characters on.

My crazy uncle, who was a sniper in Vietnam and now believes that contrails are going to end the world. The incredibly devoted Czech preacher and his wife, who corresponded for years before they married, and who remained together until his death of Parkinson’s. The people who randomly started telling me about their lives in the grocery store, or at the gas station while I was locked out of my car. These are just a few of the people I look at.

When I wrote Amarog, and to some extent Aleshan from Shadow and Soul, I looked close to home. My grandfather’s unflagging sense of right and wrong, and his father’s temper and pride. Two friends that I love more than I should, both army vets with scars that don’t show through to the outside, but who’s worst scars aren’t from war, but love. A man who buried both his daughter and his murdered wife, who was barely saved from an act of vengeance, and who took a job working with terminally ill children to learn how to heal and love. 20 year old men who might have been partying and getting laid, but who were instead changing teenager’s diapers and leading them in sing-alongs and learning more about compassion and personal strength than most people learn over a lifetime. Men who are a dying breed. Those are the literary characters, and I just watch them and learn. Those are the men I base my ‘heroes’ on.

People aren’t ‘good’ and they aren’t ‘bad’. A character that is ‘good’ is indeed a character, and while he may live in imagination, he’ll never make it off the page. Same with a villain who is pure evil. There is no such thing in humanity, in my belief.

One of the most stunning villains I’ve read was in Anne Bishop’s Belladonna. The Eater of the World. Pure, total, malevolent evil. It wasn’t a person, it was a force. You despised it. *SPOILER! And then it meets something more evil, more cruel, and it becomes understandable and relatable. I hated that book for making me feel pity for something that was beyond evil. Brooks’ demon from ‘Running With the Demon’ was similarly understandable. With both of them, once I got started, I couldn’t stop.

One of the most heart-wrenching heroes I’ve read was Charles de Lint’s* ‘Jack’. Shiftless, restless, temperamental. He left his daughter, his wife went crazy. His daughter was maybe a little bit crazy too. He was relatable. For me, he was a character I could very much relate to, for my own reasons. But beyond that, he was flawed, maybe a little broken, but he got over that, got his power back and saved the day.

(*For the record, de Lint is one of those authors I would recommend hands-down to anyone. I’ve studied him since I first came in contact with his stories. His female characters are brilliant, he understands the archetypes of Trickster and other folk-tale creatures and uses them to brilliant advantage.)
There are some people who really are good, and bad. Not all good or bad, but mostly. I knew one of the good girls as a child. As sweet and amazing as anyone could be. I’ve been fortunate not to know anyone really ‘bad’, at least close and personally. Weak and contemptible, yes. But unless something changes them inside, those aren’t the characters a reader is going to remember.

A lot of things go into making a ‘real’ character. But a character is one place where I believe reality should triumph over fiction, where the motivation should be drawn from the solid world. Fantastic elements can certainly play a part, and should in fantasy, but the motivations should be simple and relatable.

Real people should inhabit the pages of a story. Not Disney princesses and cartoon villains.

Shiney Things

Posted in Personal Life with tags on June 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

One of my hobbies is cooking. The other is making jewelry. I started making jewelry for myself and my mother, and people started buying. So now I occasionally sell the stuff. After a few requests for pictures, here you go!

PC090255

P3030903

Blue ‘Rosary’ P3030926

Men like this one for some reason. P3080991

All natural stone and shell. It weighs half a ton! P4111137

MINE. PC100275

And because I love masks… PC090253