Saturday, May 25, 2013

Concept Art: Salvador Santiago

One of the hooded thugs weakly gripped his gun, and trembling, pointed it at Salvador, but the maugal backhanded the battered assailant into a nearby parcel truck hard enough to dent its side. “I can handle these two pieces of worthless bludder drek without your help!”

“And you have,” said Salvador, his tone almost soothing. “Now what happens?”

“I kill you!” He shook his head. “We’ve established that. Now what?” “I… kill. I…”

“Right, we’re dead. What a mess!” Salvador held his opponent’s stone gaze. He leaned in and asked, “Now what?”


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Concept Art: Taryn Sikes

Zerki fumed, her face red. “Explain yourself, Sikes!”
Cajun raised his hand. “I can't concentrate with you yelling, Captain.”
Zerki shot him a withering glare.
“Right, earphones,” he answered. “Good idea.”
Taryn squared her jaw and crossed her arms. “Hey, back off! I saved his life.” She drew a deep breath and recounted the events that had unfolded aboard the ellogon cruiser. She spared no details.
When Taryn had finished the telling, Zerki sagged against the wall. “You killed him?”
Taryn nodded, unashamed. “He was going to kill D’Arro. I had no choice. Check the helmet cams, if you don't believe me.”
The captain rubbed her eyes and puffed out her cheeks. “Ospyreans,” she muttered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Zerki smiled wanly and chewed on her upper lip for a moment before answering. “It means… at times, I envy how fiercely loyal you are to each other, but other times… Times like this…” She trailed off. “We’ve brought the Union to the brink of another galactic war.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Remembrance of the Acquainted


In Path of the Time Walker, I delve a little deeper into ellogon culture, traditions and the beliefs they uphold.  At one point in Chapter 12, after the loss of three allies, an ellogon crewman named Elsummu feels moved to recite the sacred Remembrance of the Acquainted.  Here's the passage:

Drawing a deep breath, Elsummu raised one arm high, cocking the other back to form something of a crescent with his shoulders.
He spoke loudly in his native tongue.

He appeared to me with seven faces,
He approached with seven sounds
Footsteps shared.

Who would travel my road matching paces,
Who did seek once sacred grounds
Lessons we bared.

Seven Suns before forgotten gods rose,
Seven fates they had composed
On fiery sands.

Our paths to cross as the Wanting Sun shows,
Our true faces ever closed
By the Woeful Sun’s hands.

To you who were taken before friendship brightly burned,
You are remembered here before the Seven Suns!

Seven faces and seven sounds,
You are remembered now before the Seven Suns!

Elsummu bowed deeply, his arms forming an arch upon the ground.  He held the pose for some time before beginning the second verse.

Thanks for reading!  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Concept Art: Valerie Sawyer

“I'm not your friend?” Tucking her hair behind her ear, she cast him a playful wink. Before he could stammer out a response, she said, “It's OK, you can stare. If I didn't want anyone to see, I'd have had the work done somewhere else on my body.” She soaped up her hands, scrubbed them as she hummed “Happy Birthday” to herself, and her hair fell back into place.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

History into Fantasy


Ah, Ren Faire…  Or, more properly, The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  It is a place of visual wonder and an almost palpable sense of enchantment.  For anyone who follows my Facebook page, it's clear I love the place, judging by the 30 Ren Faire pictures I've posted thus far.  I go at least once a year.  

It takes place annually at the Santa Fe Dam Rec Center in Irwindale, CA, and runs from the first weekend in April to the third weekend in May.  There are stage shows, jousting, trained falcons, a food court (I desperately want that to be a pun, somehow) and craft booths everywhere you turn.  And there's something so magical about being immersed in the Elizabethan era, surrounded by people dressed in both period-correct and fantastic costumes: fairies, assassins, pirates, nobles, commoners and steampunk.  Needless to say, it's inspiring!

This year, I spent a little extra time in the back of the Faire, at the St. Michael's military camps, at first enthralled by a blonde fellow attired in plate-and-mail armor.  He tended a storehouse of knowledge regarding weapons and fighting styles of the times, of military groups and tactics, and I found myself following his lead as he guided a group of us along the path through the camp.  We listened to a host of knowledgeable Elizabethan-era military historians.

Some highlights:
• The axe was so common, because it was a tool every plowman or farmer could also use as a weapon.
• Austrian mercenaries wore brightly colored uniforms to strike fear into the hearts of their untrained foes.
• The Zweihänder (two-handed) sword was used defensively, as well as offensively, and had seven killing points along its length.  It was used to parry and bludgeon, much more so than the foolhardy downward chop we currently see presented in so many fighting games (I'm looking at you, Nightmare from the Soul Calibur series).
• The prow-style helmet, while extensively associated with the Spanish conquistadors, was actually of English design.
• There was a breed of pony that could travel without being guided through the swamps of England,  They were so troublesome as used by Scottish mercenaries, that the Queen of England ordered them hunted to extinction.
• It cost a typical shopkeeper a year's wages to buy a sword; 12 years' wages to buy a greatsword.
• It was far more profitable to ransom a knight back to his family than it was to kill him.
• Pikemen got promoted by surviving battles.  The more you survived, the further back in the ranks you got to go, hence increasing your chances of survival.






In light of all this, I feel a completely new fantasy epic coming on!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Story Putty II

Below, I have listed my top ten most inspirational books (and series) and why.  Next, I'll post TV series! 

10. Sphere, by Michael Crichton - I picked it up around 10 AM one summer morning and set it down at 5 AM, 19 hours later, having finished reading it completely.  It was the first time I had ever read a scifi thriller, and it showed me how well fantastic elements paired with interesting characters to create a gripping page turner.  Not that Shadow Galactic could ever be called a thriller, but there's a lot more of that in the upcoming sequel, and a lot of my slow-reveal pacing was influenced by this novel.

9. Xanth (series), by Piers Anthony - From A Spell for Chameleon to The Color of her Panties, I followed this charming series.  Anthony's characters continually had to think their way through challenges, as opposed to shooting their way out of them, and it wasn't until I started writing scifi that I realized just how much that influenced me.  Plus, the puns.  Oh, the puns…

8. Forgotten Realms: The Moonshae Trilogy (series), by Douglas Niles - A Darkwalker on Moonshae was the first fantasy book I read by choice (as opposed to required reading for school).  At the time, I had been playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with a small group of friends, and a book set in that world interested me.  I don't know what I expected, but it definitely WASN'T a clearly high-level captain getting his head smashed in with a single hit by a rampaging firbolg!  What about his Hit Points?  What??  Regardless, Douglas Niles wrote a host of complex, believable characters within the parameters of an established world setting, and he taught me the value of extensive, persistent world-building.

7. The Riftwar Saga (series), by Raymond E. Feist - Pug is the epitome of unlocked potential, and Midkemia is such a magical, dangerous place.  It's epic, fantastic and brutal, filled with generous doses of humanity's best and worst, pitted against truly dark forces.  I learned a lot about consistency of character voice and how to bring disparate groups of people together in a believable fashion.

6. The Magic Kingdom of Landover (series), by Terry Brooks - This is my favorite fish-out-of-water fantasy series.  While Loud Foul's Bane was my first encounter with a real world person shunted into a fantasy realm, Thomas Covenant had issues, and he was a lot harder to relate to than Ben Holiday.  ;)  His love for Willow opened my mind to interspecies romance, and I will always count Questor Thews as one of the greatest wizards of all time.  The humor and sweetness of this series still echoes in my own writing. 

5. Glory Lane, by Alan Dean Foster - It may sound stupid, or even dumb (possibly even dimwitted) to claim that a book was the 5th most influential thing on my writing when I don't recall many of the details.  I suppose it's the details I *do* recall that give this assertion some legs.  This is another fish-out-of-water story, but this time humorous scifi.  I remember Izmir (the missing 12% of the matter of the universe, who could take any shape he wanted, including a bowling ball that did as the female protagonist wanted), and I remember Seeth and a valley girl, and a lot of escapes…  Also, some sort of epic interstellar conflict…  Squirrel!!

4. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (series) - Look, it's a whole school of fish-out-of-water!  This hilarious scifi farce has probably influenced, to some extent, every writer that's ever read it.  It's smart, absurd, and filled with a wealth of memorable characters.  So many of my favorite fictional people came from the mind of this brilliant man - the Vogons (who bear a striking similarity to the ellogons), Agrajag, Zarniwoop, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Slartibartfast, Marvin the Paranoid Android, Trillian and Deep Thought.  If you've read any of these books, I would bet cash money you just now smiled at the memories, at least once. ;)

3. The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan - I read this when AD&D 2nd Edition came out, when everyone else was reading (or re-reading) Lord of the Rings.  From the opening devastation to Rand's touching the One Power, it was all the drama and beauty I could have hoped for from any fantasy epic.  It jumped off the pages for me, and I think I had a crush on Moiraine. ;)  His description and courageous characters left an indelible mark on my fantasy voice, and eventually my writing voice as a whole. 

2. Foundation, by Isaac Azimov - Future history at its finest.  The scope of his vision was sweeping, telling the tale of a noble society dedicated to preserving knowledge in the face of an impending new Dark Age.  It was the first time I had ever experienced civilization as a character, and it unlocked my deep love for history.

1. Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), by Philip K. Dick - The single greatest influence on my writing style, this novel combined sympathetic villains, a desolate and believable near future with amazing technology and a vast moral gray zone.  It went toe-to-toe with the darker aspects of the human condition while at the same time filling my mind with wonder.  Dick is a master of taking the normal and making it fantastic: electric animals, the mood organ, and that poor (probably real?) cat…  Filled with action, intrigue and adventure, it is all I aspire to be as a writer.  Plus, it's one of the best movies.  Like, ever.

Thanks for reading!