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Do you ever want to destroy the world? June 17, 2014

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I love superhero movies. I love the excitement, the escapism, the larger-than-life-ness, the sheer drama of them. And I really love superhero movies in which rather than trying to bring a fictional world to life, they make it seem like it really happens in our world. To an extent, of course; I wouldn’t be a fan of superhero stories if I couldn’t suspend a little disbelief.

Another thing I like about superhero movies is that the stakes are always very high. Of course; that’s what makes it a superhero story. In a story like that, one can cause incalculable, irreparable, and frankly pretty improbable damage to civilization or the world itself. That’s what makes it so dramatic, especially if it happens in the very world we live in.

The stakes are always high in fiction. The conflict might not be – will the boy get the girl? – but the risk defines the story – she’s all he ever wanted throughout his high school years, even when she went out with that bullying jock. It’s not dramatic unless it has a big impact. But the scale of that impact varies enormously. Millions of lives could rest on the actions of the protagonists, or just the main character’s feelings.

I’ve never been very comfortable working on a grand scale. I suppose writing fantasy is a bit of a cop-out that way, since I am only affecting imaginary worlds. But even inside my own worlds, I generally prefer to avoid working with those in the most power – kings, lords, etc. The stakes are still high, often world-changing, but the characters who directly resolve the main conflict are generally people who have little or no other influence over the world.

I’m equally (or perhaps doubly) uncomfortable with impacting the real world. That’s why my novel Halcyon, which takes place on Earth, still occurs in an invented city. I don’t feel like I know enough about real places to set stories there, not even places I’ve lived for years. Perhaps if I was writing some kind of novelization of my own life, I might be able to, but the characters in my stories don’t live my life and therefore don’t necessarily or usually live or go to the same places.

This is the part where research should come in, but the fact is no amount of research will make me feel comfortable with writing things that happen on Earth. And trying to write stories that take place on Earth and involve people of power? Hold the phone.

But I read books that take place on Earth and I love how real they feel. They can change so much about the world, even change the course of history, but because it’s the place where we live it feels more believable. I’d like to try it sometime, but it’s going to take some working up to it.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with my magic and dragons and just watch superhero movies.

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Enduring Chaos: Trailer June 9, 2014

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The much anticipated trailer for my latest novel, Enduring Chaos, is live:

If you like it, please favourite, share, subscribe to the channel, and please spread the word! Huge thanks to the amazing cast of people who helped make this film a reality.

Character genesis: Domino April 17, 2014

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Where does a character come from?

For me, often the main character determines the story, and so comes before anything else. Beyond that, a character usually arises out of the role I need them to play in a story. I can’t find a place for them otherwise, and alas, that means that I’ve generally been unable to recycle characters from other story attempts. From there, I develop the character’s backstory, personality, and goals, and everything after that point is determined by the character as they come to life.

But that isn’t always the case.

There is an archetype of character – specifically, of protagonist – in genre fiction that I have seen done many times: the Mistake. This character is a repentant sinner; they did something in their past that they sorely regret, often killing or hurting someone close to them, and the main point of their character arc is to come to terms with the crime they committed. Up until the character does come to terms with it, they have various methods of coping with the shame they feel from that action, whether it’s drinking themselves to sleep every night, constantly punishing themselves symbolically, or general angstiness (or sometimes/often all three).

The one thing these characters all have in common is the Mistake: they are always somehow tricked or coerced into doing the shameful action.

Of course, it’s easy to build a character that way, or to want to build a character that way. People don’t want to believe a good guy is capable of intentionally doing something evil, and it’s awfully hard to sympathize with one who did. Whereas if the character had to do the evil deed to protect something/someone(s) else or believed they were doing the right thing, it becomes easier for a reader to understand their plight and want them to move on.

But it’s been done. A lot. I think there were four or five examples of this in a single video game I played.

So it got me thinking, what if the repentant sinner actually did something downright vile?

This was the thought process behind Domino, a character in Enduring Chaos.

Now, I am not saying he just went out and attacked innocent people unprovoked – he had his own, albeit twisted, reasons for what he did, and the people involved were certainly not saints. But Domino has blood on his hands. A lot of blood. And it is all on him. No one tried to force or trick him into doing it; the idea and the blame are entirely his. What he did was inexcusable, and no amount of good he could ever do will make up for that black stain on his soul and reputation.

So what is his coping mechanism with the sins of his past? I wanted to avoid angst for several reasons: it’s been overdone, it either ignites annoyance on the part of the reader or sympathy – which demeans the heinousness of his crimes – and more importantly in this particular case, with his set of semi-normal morals it would be impossible for him to live with that level of guilt.

Instead, I took a different route – detachment. He feels nothing, never shows emotion, and rarely speaks or even comes in contact with other people. He exists rather than lives, wandering through the wilds and hunting and gathering his own food, trading pelts or found food and materials for any supplies he needs, completely apart from other people and even his own past and self.

Does he regret what he did? Of course he does. As I said, he still holds a semi-normal set of morals. But with his view on the world, it has no impact on him, neither the regret nor the morals themselves. They are part of a canvas he sees from the outside.

Does that mean he hasn’t faced the shame he holds, somewhere in the part of his mind he has closed off? Yes, it does. But it doesn’t matter to him.

Will he eventually move beyond that detachment? … Well, you’ll have to read Enduring Chaos to find out.

But that was the genesis of Domino.

New art – Damian/Frozen March 21, 2014

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damian-frozen

Joke picture. This is Damian, star of my latest novel Enduring Chaos, which was released last fall. She is a young woman with a strange and unique power which she cannot control, exacerbated when she is upset, and for which she is shunned by others. Hence, a little wardrobe change for kicks. Costume design courtesy Disney.

New art! March 10, 2014

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Well, hi there! Long time no write. (Of course, if you’ve been a viewer of this blog for very long, this should come as little surprise.) There is plenty that I should write about – like the fact that I never mentioned that Enduring Chaos is now on sale – but for now, I’m going to deflect attention by showing off some new art.

The latest, completed yesterday:

trapped

This one’s been a while coming, as I originally sketched it in 2010 or 2011, then updated the sketch, inked, and started colouring it last summer before finishing it over the past few days.

ffvi-quilt-square

Terra and Sabin from the video game Final Fantasy VI. For my friend’s wedding, her mother put out squares of cloth on a table at the reception with fabric markers for guests to write messages to the newlyweds, which she then planned to sew together into a quilt. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my plans to attend the wedding last minute, but the mother of the bride shipped me a square so I could contribute to the quilt.

2013-pumpkins

The Avengers, my jack-o’-lanterns for last Halloween. Original art not by me, I only converted the images to pumpkin format and carved them.

And some progress images from the cover art for Enduring Chaos:

enduring-chaos-back enduring-chaos-characters enduring-chaos

The complete background of the cover art, painted from a photo I took a few years ago; the characters, before effects and some fine tuning done after combining the two; and the completed front cover sans text.

SFContario and Enduring Chaos launch events November 23, 2013

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We are now officially less than a week away from the launch of Enduring Chaos! Plans are coming together for multiple launch events celebrating the release of this long-awaited book.

I will be at SFContario at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at 300 Jarvis St. in Toronto next weekend, November 29-December 1, where the official launch party for Enduring Chaos is taking place. Enduring Chaos will be available at the table for Brain Lag in the dealers room all weekend. I will also be sitting on two panels during the convention: Horror, Scifi and Fantasy in the Gardenview room Saturday at 1:00 and Strength of Characters in the Solarium room Sunday at 11:00.

The launch party for Enduring Chaos is taking place in the Courtyard room of the hotel Saturday, November 30 at 6:00 p.m. This event is open to the public so please come out and help me celebrate the release of the first book in the Sisters of Chaos trilogy with games, prizes, and more fun. RSVP not required, but if you do so by comment here or on the Facebook event page, you can have your very own custom-made SFContario badge for the party!

For those in the Milton, Ontario area, there will be another launch event happening at Recycled Reading at 171 Main St. on Friday, December 6 at 3:00 p.m. Come out to meet the author, get a signed copy, learn more about the book, and enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages! For more information, feel free to visit the Facebook event page.

Enduring Chaos cover reveal and giveaway! October 11, 2013

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Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present the cover art for my next book, Enduring Chaos!

enduring chaos front cover

Cursed with fearsome eyes and a dangerous gift, any chance of Damian Sires having an ordinary life was dashed the moment she was born. All her life, she has hidden her abnormalities and fought for acceptance behind the shadow of a veil and her respected merchant father.

When Damian’s power spirals out of control and casts her out alone into the world, she finds herself caught up in plots as old as the gods themselves. Bitter exiles, deposed nobility, clandestine knights, and a divine being with an ancient grudge all close in on the unstable power radiating from Damian.

Desperate to keep that power contained, she sets out with mysterious allies in an attempt to find someone who can help her in a world that fears magic. Yet the source of Damian’s ability is far more deadly than she imagined.

View Enduring Chaos on Goodreads.

In addition to the cover reveal, I am offering a giveaway to win a free e-copy of Ruins of Change by J. R. Dwornik, the first book in the world of Elderra! Simply comment on this post by October 25th and you will automatically be entered into the giveaway.

You have your entire life to write your first book, and six months to write your second September 2, 2013

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Someone told me that quote once. I don’t remember to whom it is attributed.  It is undoubtedly a comment on output, as one will quickly lose readers, as well as publishing contracts, if one does not continually produce more books.

To me, however, it is a matter of completion. When you are an unpublished author, you can spend forever editing and tweaking your manuscript. Once you have submitted it and it hits the presses, however, it is final. It cannot be altered any longer.

Any good writer will constantly improve. As a result, likely many look back at their earlier works and see things they would have done differently. That is, if they don’t revisit older work with revulsion.

I recently reread Halcyon, possibly for the first time since publication. While I still enjoy the story and even felt better about my writing after revisiting it, I now see some things that I would change if I had the opportunity. It is inevitable and I am discovering more and more that distance is the key to seeing a work with some measure of objectivity.

Enduring Chaos is very much distant from its origins. It has been fourteen years since I began writing the first draft of this story. Aside from the core concept of the story and some of the main characters – in name and appearance, anyway, and even those have changed somewhat – nothing is the same from that original draft. The current revision is not even very close to the original third draft, which is how I have, increasingly inaccurately, been referring to this revision.

The ultimate result of so much time passed and so many changes to the story is that I am more comfortable with altering this story, even parts of it I like. I might also be maturing as a writer, but I am not crediting myself that much yet.

What I find interesting is that as I start on my final edits to the story, I find myself more willing to accept corrections and make changes after only a couple months of letting it sit while I waited for feedback from beta readers.

It is the distance. Distance is important. Do not be in a hurry to get your fresh new novel out into the world. Take a step back, let it sit for at least a few months, perhaps even a year or more, and it will be easier to look upon the manuscript more like a potential investment than as one’s baby. And you want to be able to do that, because of course, every writer wants to put out the best novel one can create.

Because once a novel goes out into the world, it is complete, and anything you might notice later is impossible to change.

Indiegogo campaign a success! July 30, 2013

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Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the fundraising campaign to create a live action trailer for Enduring Chaos. Thanks to your generous contributions, we surpassed our fundraising goal! I’m really looking forward to creating the trailer for my next book and seeing how it all comes out. I’ll be sharing progress updates here as it commences.

Also, one final reminder that I will be at the Pirate Festival in Milton, Ontario this weekend, Saturday through Monday. Look for Brain Lag in the Local Authors booth, or come out for a reading on the stage from 2:30-3:00 p.m. each day of the festival. I will be reading from Aurius on Saturday, Halcyon on Sunday, and I’ll be giving a new advance reading from Enduring Chaos on Monday. In addition, I’m very excited to say that I’ll have a sneak peek of the cover art for Enduring Chaos to share during the reading. So come out and have a look. Hope to see you there!

Final countdown July 26, 2013

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Huge thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Indiegogo campaign to create a live action trailer for my next book Enduring Chaos. We’re in the home stretch now – just two days left to fund the project. Please visit the campaign page today and help me make this dream a reality!

We’re also one week away from the Pirate Festival, where I will have a booth with other local authors. I will also be giving readings on the stage from 2:30-3:00 every day of the festival, including an advance reading from Enduring Chaos.

Other development with Enduring Chaos has forestalled updates here, and I regret to say it may be that way as we get into the final crunch time before its late November release. I will, however, be updating the Sisters of Chaos website regularly up until the release of the first book, so be sure to follow that for new material.

Also, I am pleased to report that I have made progress on the cover art for Enduring Chaos. Stay tuned! I hope to be able to reveal it soon.

Thanks for watching. This is an exciting time for me and I hope you’re as interested in the progress of Enduring Chaos as I am.