The Power of Names

Watch Dogs was flat for me. It was in Chicago, a city I enjoy visiting and I think is beautiful, but it felt flat. I couldn’t figure out why. Is it because I’ve been there? Is it because they have such small segments of the city, interspersed with different suburbs?

Then it dawned on me. Nothing had names. If you weren’t a plot important entity, you were generic. “Eat here,” and other signs that didn’t create brand, and therefore did not create a world.

GTAV is a master of this. They have a thousand brands, most of which you will never know. There are a half dozen different banks, and you interact with maybe two of them. They have postal services. You never deal with these. The strip clubs are numerous, there are news agencies, car companies, used car dealerships, and countless other brands. You only ever deal with a very small percentage in any way beyond seeing a building with a logo.

Watch Dogs didn’t do this. It made me hesitant to pick up Watch Dogs 2. I play sandbox games for that atmosphere. Usually the plots are weaker, but the world building is through the roof.

Watch Dogs 2 has captivated me. Even if I’m not a fan of the style of DedSec, I love the world. When I started playing the world felt more alive. At first I thought maybe it was because I never visited San Francisco. However, as I kept playing I realized every building had an existence. They all had brands. Lives were behind them, lives I would likely never know.

This creates life in the world.

My world has secret organizations. There are intricate governments filled with rulers and underlings. Everything is alive if the characters are going to touch it. They never see the full scope. However, these little touches, these names, attitudes, and “brands,” all affect the way the main story plays out. It affects the motives of the support characters. It affects how the antagonist can move against the protagonist.

Even though your reader doesn’t see all of it, or they can if they follow along with your blog, you have created solid motives. You will write the setting and characters more convincing for it. Trust me.

My suggestion on this, and insight to my own process, is brand everything. Give it names, motives, purpose over all. The reader may not see it all, and they may not pay attention to all the crumbs that are put in front of them, but they will feel the world is more real.

Bad Romance

This weekend has been a good one for my pursuit of all things literary. My edits for an anthology game back as enchanting and charming, witty and adorable. I was informed my editor at points forgot she was supposed to be editing because she was that pulled in. I had an old high school buddy finish reading my fantasy novel. I was terrified because he’s an avid reader and very particular. He thought it was good, entertaining, with a few fixes required. He said there were slow spots, it wasn’t perfect, but for my second novel, and first one to see the light of day? I will take a “it was mostly entertaining and well done.”

I also finished one map and started two others for the novels. They’re looking insane. I’m in love with how they’re turning out, and they expand upon the novels. For G’desh, the novel only covers about 10% of what is on the map, giving plenty of play space in the future for stories. So basically my stories have been on my mind all weekend, and waking up this morning, I thought, “Maybe I can take a day off and continue this writing kick.”

However, while in the shower Sunday, I was thinking heavily on my stories, primarily my romances. When little, friends and family always asked why there were romances in my prose. They said it’s not always required, especially the flowery, romantic gibberish I was writing. I was a hopeless romantic, love was such a beautiful thing, I was the Bohemian trying to find his soulmate.

But, just like Christian with Satine, I was disillusioned by love. Over, and over, and over again. My lover didn’t die a horrible death, work a brothel, and so on. They just kept ditching me. Apparently after a while, that works its way into a hopeless romantic’s heart, until all that’s left is hopeless.

I say this because as I was reflecting on the love stories in my series, the love stories in future books, I saw a handful of relationships which were broken and filled with vitriol. Cheating, lying, attempted murder, murder, passive-aggressive behavior. I think I have one happy ending, and it’s really a Pyrrhic victory.

The last real love story I wrote, that was romantic and beautiful, I have been flirting with the idea of rewriting it. That’s what got me to thinking. It was about a scribe and baker who run off due to political persecution. Two normal people in a fantasy world persevering through love. It was gag worthy romance.

When I reworked it, due to what it was based on, I thought of doing a more caustic story. Two lovers, making a vow to be together forever, accidentally step into a curse. Despite a rather nasty break up, they find they’re immortal and doomed to cross paths again and again throughout history, each meeting being equal parts solving a problem, and trying not to kill each other. It would more or less go from a Rome setting, all the way up to a sci fi setting, with megalopolises.

Our main character, the man, just wants to die. Not the point of suicide: he feels he has a purpose and has to fulfill it. Yet every day he just begs for an end. And after a century without seeing his lover, he wonders if she finally was given a way out. And as I conjured this little tale in the shower, I realized how horrifyingly depressing it was. How it was filled with hopelessness. And I pondered if all my love stories were filled with such melancholy. When I realized they were all crushing, it made me think maybe I need a new approach to love. Maybe I need to force a happy love story. Maybe next time.

Heroes: Published in October

Heroes

Weird. I thought this was further off. I was so focused on my novel that I forgot I will be published in October. I thought there would be no more publications this year, that my run for 2015 was finished. It was good. I was published once, which in math is a mathematically significantly multiplier, since zero times anything is still zero. It is an impossible number. Good game.

The first publication, Den of Thieves, was based on India mythology and put through the Den of Quills writing group. The second, Heroes, will be based on an awkward kid in elementary school trying to stick up for what is right and is going through the Phoenix Quill writing group. It’s currently with the editor. I suppose that’s a sign that it was happening soon.

I should get edits back by the end of this week, and I will clean it up this weekend. Meanwhile, my second novel has stalled, I’m waiting anxiously for the feedback on the first one (there is a massive part of me that just wants to fire it off to the editor and say, “DONE!” because then it would be out by November or December), and tomorrow I’m buying a huge piece of paper to make a map so I can get a cool map in my book. Continuity issues blow.

October is going to be exhausting with this publication, men’s retreat in San Antonio, leading a Guatemala trip, and possibly moving. Stressful. But at least I’ll have a second publication under my belt.

Romance of Three Kingdoms

So I’m reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms in honor of jumping back into Dynasty Warriors. For those of you unaware, they both take place in the late 100s through early to mid 200s during a tumultuous time in China where the Han Dynasty fell after hundreds of years. It’s filled with intrigue, back stabbing, bromance, oaths, and numerous other amazing moments. China would not see a time of peace for generations, most dynasties rarely making it a generation.

I never realized why Cao Cao was portrayed as such an evil ruler until I read this book. Before he even took seat on a throne, when he was still a little puke, he murdered his uncle out of paranoia. To cover it up, he killed more people, until he was finally like, well, I have an army and who is going to mess with me now?

They also have bromance that would make people blush. The Oath of the Peach Tree is an awesome moment, where Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei all swore to die on the same day of the same month of the same year. It’s honestly one of my favorite scenes in the entire thing and it apparently happens before the Yellow Turban Rebellion.

The Yellow Turban Rebellion? It was a Taoist preacher going out there saying the Divine Mandate no longer hung with the Han because of overwhelming famine throughout China (which basically everyone was claiming with different words). How were they taken out? Plague. A few were killed, but overwhelmingly plague killed off the higher ups. Think of it. It’s believed Divine Mandate leaves you when natural disasters take you out. Suck on some irony, Zhang Jue.

In the end you’re left with an evil overlord, an idealist who was the only one with a seemingly legitimate claim that he was related to the Han, and an idealist who found a ring in a well so he could make really a really weak claim. And none of them won. Who won? Do some research. It is possibly the most unfilling ending EVER. Serious, if GRRM is taking any pages from that story, you might as well chuck the books and forget about it. It’s a crazy freaking trip and some of my favorite characters in history and literature were found through the Three Kingdoms.

My next novel and gearing up for NaNo

Editing was going well until I was introduced to Diablo III. The game where you can die and still laugh about it. Even on hardcore mode. Died three times last night. Game is a lot of fun, and I’ve gotten a few ideas off it.

But NaNoWriMo is a little over two months away. I’m a planner, so guess what that means? It’s time to get to work.

My struggle is there are too many stories, and I want to pick one I can finish. Here are the options.

1) The Tragedy of Kelst of Kelistus, the Love-Struck Heretic

This would be based off the story The Devotion of Kelst and Ayne, a love story. While Kelst pens that novel, it never reaches publication. In truth, nothing amazing happens, Ayne leaves him for someone else, and he’s stuck holding his heart while also running from the papacy for heresy. He meets a group of bandits, and together they seek to right the wrongs of society. Until the dead rise up to eat them. Emotionally, Kelst uses these distractions to keep his mind off Ayne, though eventually it boils up and he must face it.

2) Plagues Descends Upon Brass-Plated Ylinski (Title definitely pending on this one)

A young scientist finds three epidemics seem to be tied together, but her professors and mentors refuse to see the connections. The governments try to hush any talk that plague demons have engineered the crisis and treat each as an independent threat. Meanwhile, an inventor takes over his father’s workshop after an unfortunate accident. When the proper scientist and the foolhardy inventor meet with the law on their heels, will they be able to discover the truth behind the plague and save the country?

3) How the Mountain Hurskfjell Crumbled

A continuation on the Sands of G’desh, Hurskfjell is a northern mountainous region with a long history of brutality. Winters are nearly constant in the high altitudes, but humanity persists. At the foot of the mountain, two kingdoms fight for the fields, and then ignite an ancient war with an elder race hidden deep in the mountains. Meanwhile, an empire bent on conquering all they see marches on Hurskfjell. They are drawn by ancient and lost runes of life and death which would make their conquest almost a certainty.

4) The Tale of the Forgotten Tower

Sabrina and Mister Wellingsworth are detective in Mercer, looking for any job which will make a few bucks. Sabrina is a mechanical and magical master, calling on arts long forgotten in the industrial era sweeping the nation and the world. With Mister Wellingsworth to assist her, she uses her intuition, knack for getting in trouble, and skill of getting out of it, to solve great crimes which would otherwise go unsolved. But now a sinister organization is growing and attempting to access a power source long ago buried, and best left buried. Will she stop them before they can harness a power to create a vast and tyrannical empire? Read on to find out! (Or not, since this doesn’t exist yet)

That’s it. There are the four. Three would be a continuation of what’s about to release, but I’m feeling the least drawn to it. Two or four I feel the most drawn to. I feel drawn to one, but I’m afraid it still might not be time to write about that. Any input? What would you want to read?

Also, I’m now on the praise team at my church! Excited and terrified. It’s been a long time since I’ve sung in public, but we don’t get anywhere sitting in the back.

Gelding is Not Humane

I was doing research for Kelst and Ayne on horses the other night. I needed to learn about what someone would call them, what breaking was exactly (since Red Dead can only teach so much), along with other real basic information about ranches and such. So I researched and I looked up breaking a horse and someone said it was inhumane.

Breaking is to make a horse docile, to break its spirit. I can see why this is inhumane. Ultimately it’s animal slavery. However, from what I can tell there are plenty of people who become very close to their “broken” horse.

The man who said you shouldn’t break a horse said gelding is what people do now and it’s far more humane. Well what is this gelding and would a society in the middle ages perhaps have access? I was excited to do some research!

Gelding is castration. Google was even kind enough to show a handful of photos of this act at the top of the search, wondering if I wanted to check out more images. No, Google, I must politely decline.

Know what I came away with from my research? I came away with gelding is NOT humane. It is very inhumane. I get that breaking can very realistically be seen as inhumane, but I’m going to say the removal of testicles does NOT win the humane award. Especially after those photos. Nope. Inhumane. You lose, dude. If you want to continue to make a case for this being humane treatment, he needs to be castrated first. Not just snipped. Fully castrated.

However, this did lead to some interesting concepts. One friend suggested this is how testicle toss (ladder golf) came about. I believed her, since she does have a masters and is currently in a doctorate program, and is therefore fare superior in intellect. After some more research, this was not true. She was wrong, and I felt betrayed. But I’m a writer of fantasy and I lie all the time. Whether gelding is inhumane or not, it’s going to lead to an amazing game in my book!

Edit: I discovered testicles are not actually connected. My sister-in-law, who helped me with this discovery said, “You know you have them too, right? You’ve never been curious?” I replied, obviously, “No. I’ve never wanted to write about them, so I didn’t need to know.”

This is a tragedy. This is why I hate science. Let magic reign! I’m still trying to figure out how to tie in horse castration beyond the simple act of castration. Maybe Ayne will make a meal of them or something. If the real Ayne and I were still talking, I wonder what she’d make with them. Or what jokes she’d make about it. More than likely? She’d go, “No. That’s disgusting.” And make a few jokes.

This is Literature?! And don’t scientists have something better to do!?

This is a two for one! I couldn’t believe this.

The other day, Joel approached me and asked if I had heard of dinosaur erotica. I laughed, but he said he was serious. Then I looked at him funny. He told me some of the stories, Taken by the T-RexMounted by the Gryphon, and numerous more. I shrugged it off. But then there was a Q&A with the authors. They’re making more money than an engineer at Boeing. Within a month of writing monster erotica, the money was more substantial than their jobs. They write about prehistoric creatures, squids, shape shifters, and other weird things having sex with women, and people are buying it in troves. What!? There is a part of me thinking of all that money and quitting my day job, but then there’s that other part, the part that has dignity and pride, saying this isn’t the right way to do it. Chances are my writing will never free me of a second job. I might be able to go part time, but I will always need a second source of income or a sugar mamma. But if I start writing about women taking it from a pterodactyl, well I’m in business. I could retire by the time I’m 40 from the sound of it. Write real stories from that time on. But I’ll resist. I swore I’d try to not even get published by a publisher that puts out erotica. Which is increasingly difficult in our culture.

Anyway, my friend who posted this also gained another article under this Q&A. A post that once more blew my mind. Scientists have not only created theories on how dinosaurs had sex and the length of a T-Rex, but they’ve created illustrations! (It’s not graphic, but it is really bizarre) What?! People are getting paid to figure out the T-Rex would be 12 feet long? Others got paid to show how they went at it? More were paid to figure it out? These creatures are dead. Unless Dr. Hammond shows up, I don’t think this is going to be an issue.

What are some of the weirdest things you’ve seen? This can be books, things people have researched, what your neighbor did to their poor dog (I hate those sweaters). Link us, but try to avoid the graphic stuff.