Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Building A World: The Differences Between A “Real World” Setting And Creating Your Own.










I spent most of my years as a writer working in the real world. That is to say a world just like this one we all inhabit, give or take a few sideways trips into the Weird Zone. A ghost, a werewolf, strange things from beyond, the Fae making a trip into our realm. That sort of thing.
It can be a challenge, but it’s also a slightly easier route to take. How do I mean? Well, first, it can be a challenge because there’s research to do, isn’t there? Let’s say I want to set a story in London. I need to have a decent map or at least a few good reference guides. That’s a good starting point but it can’t actually give me the details of London that will cement the reality of that city in the minds of readers who have been to London. There are details that remain hidden away, like the scents that are common in certain areas, or the fashions that might be happening at a certain time. Say I want to set a book in the seventies. That’s going to be a very different section of London than it is today. More research.
Now if I want to take that same London and make it as real as possible, I need to talk to a few people who are either in London or visit frequently. I’ve been there exactly once, you see, and I loved it, but the entire trip is a blur of fond memories and could provide very little that stands out without some feedback from a few of my compatriots who know the city far better than I do.
What does it matter?
Someone, somewhere, reading my book has been to London. If I do my job the wrong way, if I get enough facts incorrectly assembled in my tale, they can no longer enjoy whatever story I am telling them. The suspension of disbelief has been broken and that sucks. I want to entertain ANYONE who reads my book. I know I will not always succeed, but I have to start by trying to get it right.
Another example for you: I know that the outbreak of Spanish Influenza was devastating. I can find statistics with ease, thanks to the Internet. What I can’t do is tell you what it was like. Not as big a problem as there aren’t that many people left who were alive when the outbreak happened, but I want to get a proper feel for the era, then I need to do my research and use my imagination in equal parts.
Now, let’s say I decide to do near future pace exploration. Time to pony up some serious research hours and figure out the details of space travel in the modern era. From here I can decide what leaps in technology have happened and I need to be able to make it all make sense to a complete layman because, frankly, no one wants to read a book for entertainment that requires a few doctorates in math, computer sciences, jet propulsion and astrophysics. And if they DO want to read that, I can pretty much guarantee they’ve come to the wrong place.
It’s a lot of work, especially if you want to get into more details about the world as it was or will be or the world away from your comfort zone. I cannot honestly describe the Vatican. I have never been there and I can guarantee that the culture is as alien to me as medieval China.
So, research, research, research.
I don’t need to do any of that for a fantasy world. The laws of physics are mine to shape. Do I want dragons in my world? Okay, sure, why not? How do they work? How big are they? Is the fire they breathe from the bowels of hell? Is it a naturally produced gas that they can only expel occasionally?  Is it a sorcerous fire that generates only as they need it? I may never state which version of a dragon’s breath is accurate, but I need to KNOW which one works in my world. I need to work out the details if I’m going to use it, because if I fail to at least have a notion about that fact, then I can confuse myself on the way it works and contradict myself later.
Let me give you an example: I’ll not mention the author or the book, but while reading a very hefty apocalyptic novel by a British writer I know, he took me clean out of the story on two separate occasions by changing the skin tone, hair color and eye color of one of the leading ladies. Not a major crime, but it was something neither the author nor the editor ever noticed. She was dark-haired, fair skinned and freckled with green eyes. That detail was given to the reader. Later she was blonde, blue eyed and deeply tanned. I could have accepted the tanning, because we’re dealing with an end of the world scenario here. But later still she went back to dark-haired, fair skinned and freckled with green eyes. Again, it’s a quibble, but it was enough to remove me from the story and make be go back and double check that it was the author making the changes and not me.
If I decide that a world like Fellein is set with certain technologies and flavors, it has to be consistently set that way unless the transformation is part of the plot.  Most of the soldiers in Fellein wield crossbows. Their enemies use bows of differing shapes and sizes because they make their own weapons as part of their culture. The soldiers from Fellein all use standardized shields and armor. Their enemies among the Sa’ba Taalor also make their own armor or sometimes wear none at all depending on their plans. The Fellein all go through the same training. The Sa’ba Taalor have a religion that stresses martial skills above all else.  Their differences are designed to show the ways in which they have been raised.
I made a new world and that means knowing the rules it works by just as surely as I know the rules of modern warfare if I’m writing about how the US Army fights against its current enemies.
The difference is that I have to make the rules as I go along and I have to remember them consistently. The Sa’ba Taalor have seven gods. I know their names and the philosophies that their followers employ. I know what each god demands and what each follower is expected to do. I HAVE to know that, regardless of whether or not it is stated in the actual manuscript, because, again, internal logics must apply or the story cannot hold without causing confusion. 
I can look at a map of the United States. I have to create a map for the continent of Fellein and the surrounding areas. (Said map has always been in my head, but as I write this an illustrator is currently creating a solid image the be shared soon.)
I need to know the socio-economic status of my characters. I need to know something about how sorcery works in the world I’ve created and just as importantly how it doesn’t work. I have to make the rules and then not break them.
For the life of me, I cannot tell you which is more difficult but I can tell you that I am loving the process of building a new world. Is it hard? Yes it is. Is it rewarding? Most decidedly so.

James A. Moore.





FALLEN GODS

The gods are angry and only one man can fend off their apocalypse in the brutal sequel to The Last Sacrifice.

Brogan McTyre and his compatriots are wanted, dead or alive. Preferably alive, so they can be sacrificed to the raging gods. All they can do is hire more mercenaries and turn them into a fearsome army. But warriors aren't enough when the gods bring Armageddon to the world, unleashing storms and madness, and ceaseless attacks on Brogan's men by increasingly demonic foes.
 
Deep in the heart of the Broken Blades Mountains lies a sword containing the heart of a god slain in immortal combat, the one thing that might give Brogan an edge against the gods, but finding it isn't going to be easy...
 


Friday, September 15, 2017

Terror and the cowards behind it

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41278545

It’s an interesting world we live in, isn’t it?
One of the things I find most interesting (and frustrating.infuriating/depressing) is that some people rise up when things go badly and others seek the lowest common denominator.

What do I mean? Well, we just had two massive hurricanes hit the US shores and do heavy damage. Seriously heavy damage.  The kind that makes insurance companies, and government officials alike, weep into their coffee. We weren’t alone, by the way. The Bahamas got nailed to the wall, too. At least one island has been effectively scoured clean. It’s horrifying.

Believe it or not, this isn’t an article abut Climate Change Deniers. I can’t stop human ostriches from shoving their head in the sand after fifteen years of evidence. So there’s that.

No this is about the human condition. What we normally see in these circumstances is tragedy. The news media, in an effort to grab up ratings (because these days the news is all about ratings in the US (another topic near and dear to my heart). We’ll get a sound bite or two from big wig officials. Some of who even leave their golf games behind so they can be seen doing their jobs. I won’t name names. No reason to.

What we also see, less of unfortunately, is the smaller collection of genuine humanitarians who go out of their way to try to make it right. Mostly we can find these folks on the internet, where a few people have made posts (often condemning the media for not showing the story, but that’s nether here nor there) highlighting the restaurant that makes a thousand meals to give away to the people with nothing left, or the furniture stores that open up to allow in as many as can fit, once again, those who have lost everything, or the occasional mega-church that locked its doors rather than allow the disenfranchised a place to sleep. The politicians who had to decide where to put money they really didn’t want to spend on natural disaster relief. Yes, that too, made the news. Know what makes the cynical side of me happy? Sooner or later the little darlings always remember that reelection isn’t really all that far away, and they mostly do the right thing, even if it ill suits their desires.

They are human stories. Some of them are good some of them not so much. There is tragedy. There is triumph. There is pain. There is loss. There is survival. There is kindness. There are groups of pathetic losers who decide looting is the only way to go here. Not food. No. High end TVs and stereos. Because really, when the world is down and out it’s best to make the situation worse for some and better for you, right?

All of this in the microcosm of two drastic storms. Good and bad, naughty and nice, desperate and despots. It’s part of the way our world works and more the tragedy for a lot of it.

Then this morning I get up to the news of another terrorist attack.

Somewhere in London a vile, despicable coward decided to set off a bomb a train in the tube as it was pulling up to a station.

Again: Vile. Despicable. Coward. You are not making a point here. You are not showing everyone how powerful you are. You are maiming innocents. I suppose the good news is that you didn’t actually get the body count you wanted. That has to count for something.

I have never understood terrorism. It’s war method that serves no real purpose in my eyes. Rather than taking on military targets or government targets it seems the idea is to spread terror by killing people who are not even a little bit involved in whatever idealism is having a hissy fit this week.

What Terrorism seems best at, so far, is giving a dozen different groups a chance to claim credit for monstrous acts. They come out like cockroaches as soon as it’s time to bask in the light of being the most despicable sort of cowards.

The news article I saw showed a man who’d had over half the hair on his head burned away. He pointed out that there were a lot of people much worse off. A woman talked about being nearly trampled while people tried for the doors, and about the fact that a pregnant woman was pinned under her. A small boy was severely injured and bleeding.

I am not terrified by acts of terrorism. I am infuriated.

If you have a problem with someone, or an organization, perhaps you could direct your anger there?

If you are living in the UK and can’t stand the UK, might I suggest going elsewhere? The same for the US, by the way. Neither country is perfect. Neither is a complete evil empire. Most of the people living in countries where terrorism takes place are just trying to get through the day. I know the same is true in most countries where wars are fought and where, sadly, both the US and the UK seem obligated to step in from time to time. (Seriously, don’t get me started. I’m not an isolationist, but this sort of stuff could make me one easily.)

I’m going back to that old saying my dear old mother use to cast my way: Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right. Whoever has done whatever to you, find the responsible party and have a discussion. Take them to court. Write mean letters to the press and spam them on the internet. Go to war if you must, but do it the right way. Planting bombs and blowing the hell out of innocent people is not an act of bravery and frankly, if your god thinks that’s the way it should be done, you should seriously consider a new god. One that isn’t cowardly and capable of great evil. I’m looking at the American Terrorists, too. What’s that? Women can have abortions here? Let’s blow it up and kill a few innocent people to show how precious every life is? Yeah. That makes sense.

Back to the other side of the coin. The only news we’ll likely see is the suffering and the hunt for a cowardly bomber. I hope they catch said bomber and bury them under a nice prison. I don’t mean kill ‘em. I mean lock their nasty, cowardly little butts away for all time. For every story of terror, there are likely at least an equal number of small acts of bravery. Someone coming to the aid of a stranger, or hundreds donating blood to help with the situation. There are endless lists.

How to fight terrorism: 1) Let the specialists do their jobs, and as much as it makes some people cringe, if you see something, report it. In the worst case scenario there might be egg on the face. In the best, someone is captured. 2) Be kind. 3) Be brave. What do I mean? Be brave. Be yourself and don’t give into the fear that terrorists want to generate. Don’t let them win with their cowardly agendas.


That’s just me.

WICKED HAUNTED

So, yes, I have a story in this anthology.

If you'd like to order it in advance, you can do that right HERE.

What's that? The cover? Well, that you can see right here.



And of course, here's that table of contents!


here's the table of contents:


Bracken MacLeod Lost Boy
Remy Flagg Murmur
Doungjai Gam We're all Haunted Here
Emma Gibbon Ghost Maker
Kenneth Vaughan And They Too Want to be Remembered
Peter Dudar The Thing With No Face
GD Dearborn Triumph of the Spirit
Nick Manzolillo My Work is Not yet Completed
Paul McNamee East Boston Relief Station
Trisha Wooldridge Ghosts in their eyes
Curtis M. Lawson Everything Smells like Smoke Again
Renee Mulhare Stranding Off Schroodic Point
Tom Deady Turn Up the Old Victrola (a.k.a The Road Part Deux)
Dan Szczesny Boy on the Red Tricycle
Dan Foley They Come With the Storm
Barry Lee Dejasu Tripping the Ghost
Rob Smales Road to Gallway
Paul McMahon The Pick Apart
Morgan Sylvia The Thin Place
Matt Bechtel Walking Man
Larissa Glasser The Mouse
Patricia Gomes Scrying Through Torn Screens

Monday, September 11, 2017

Fighting in Fiction

Once upon a time I was reading a manuscript for a fellow writer who will remain unnamed. I was having a fine time, until I got to the first combat scene. During the middle of a knock down, drag out magical battle where flesh is burning and brick walls are being turned into so much stone powder, the main antagonist of the scene stops what he’s doing and says “Ah, trying to use the (insert lame spell name here) on me, I see.”

Yeah. I circled the paragraph and when I saw my fellow writer a few days later, I asked him if he’d ever in his life been in any sort of serious fight. He responded, as I suspected he would, with a negative on that particular aspect of his life. Excellent as far as I’m concerned. He’s a nice guy and I personally believe that violence belongs in movies and books and not in our personal lives, excluding only certain types of sports.  But it also explained something. As I have been in a few fights in my time, including multiple sparring sessions, I can pretty much state as a fact that neither I nor any of the folks I was sparring with or having a serious fight with, ever stopped to comment on what an opponent was trying to use as a combat maneuver. The closest I’ve ever come was “good one” mumbled by one of my opponents past his mouth guard after I finally managed to get one decent jab past his defenses. The first of the fight as I recall.

Hand to hand combat requires a great deal of energy and concentration. So does armed combat for that matter. Normally you’re going to be far too busy avoiding getting parts of  your anatomy turned into hamburger to even consider carefully phrasing a compliment, especially if the fight you’re engaged in is life or death.  It might work occasionally for Hollywood, but the odds are good that, as with my friend above, the comment will show an appalling lack of experience.

Fiction writers work in the realm of the fantastic, even if they are writing a romantic comedy. We are in the business of selling lies. Those lies might be close to reality or they might be radically removed from anything close to what the author has ever experienced, but either way they are lies. That means we are liars. And that means if we want to sell our lies, we have to learn to lie convincingly.

That means we have to know when to engage the realism.  I tend to write a lot of violent sequences in my works. It’s part of what I enjoy writing and part of how I move my stories forward. I don’t care how excessive the combat is, and it is often far larger than would ever be possible in reality, I want to make the trappings of the scene at least a little believable.

I can only go from my own experiences, but as a rule, going back to the first comments made in the article, I’m pretty darned sure I’ve never commented on what someone was trying to do to me in combat while they were trying to do it. I saved it for later, after it was done and I’d had time to consider the situation.

Most of the fights and sparring sessions I’ve had were over too fast for me to have time to chat up my opponent, or I was far too busy concentrating on not getting my face knocked off my skull. Also, frankly, it takes a lot of energy and fighting requires that you breathe a great deal as the oxygen burns out of your system faster.

On DEEPER, my publisher complimented me for understanding that firing a handgun takes effort. He was especially pleased with the fact that I understood how firing several hundred rounds from multiple weapons would be like absolute torture to the person doing it. Not only are handguns and automatic assault rifles deceptively heavy, they also have recoil. In order to keep the barrel aimed in the right direction, you have to constantly aim and adjust for that recoil. Get into a situation where you are firing at a small army of monsters, and by the time it’s done your arms are going to feel like you’ve been working out extra hard on the weights to impress that cute girl (Or guy) over in the corner who’s been flirting with you for the last half hour.

Even in light contact sparring sessions, you’re likely to get a few bruises before the fighting is done, because from time to time you’re going to block or be blocked by a part of the body that isn’t covered by pads and doesn’t have much meat to protect the bones. Let me tell you, your shin crashing into somebody else’s shin might stop you from getting kicked in the stomach, but it’s not going to make your leg feel any better about what you just put it through. Or, as one person in the know put it to me: The boxing gloves are designed to protect your hands more than they are designed to protect your opponent’s face. Getting hit by those pads hurts like a mother.

Fighting of any kind is a matter of survival, and if you want your readers to believe that someone is in a fight for their lives, the characters should act in believable ways. It’s likely going to be easier for someone who’s been in several fights to swallow a bad guy who can throw cars than a bad guy who makes casual conversation with the hero who’s trying to separate his head from his shoulders.

I mean, really, there’s insane and then there’s just plain crazy.


James A. Moore

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

FALLEN GODS cover reveal and contest

The cover for FALLEN GODS has been revealed. There's a contest to win copies of THE LAST SACRIFICE thrown in for good measure. GO HERE to see and to possibly win. :)