The Treasonists March Onward

After a long and successful campaign through the battlefield that is first-year University, I have returned to the home-front that is Treasonsists.

Alright, enough war metaphors – that was in danger of becoming purple. Over the past couple of weeks I have made huge progress with Treasonists, Pulling it from an idyllic dream into what initial readers tell me is reminiscent of a professional book. As you can no doubt guess, I’m quite stoked to hear that, if a little disbelieving. However, it is hard to deny the difference in quality between now and the last round of drafting – A lot has been added to the plot, characters and world and, to me, it seems like things are coming together as they should instead of being segmented in their own scenes. When I first started, my goal was to have a product of at least 75,000 words – the current count is about 80,000, and with much to go I expect the end product to be at least 100,000 words strong, if not more.

In celebration of my progress, I thought I’d give you a short teaser from near the start of the book. This is fairly close to what I imagine the final product to be, but please do keep in mind it has a little to go yet.

 

Treasonists – excerpt 1

‘Father, war is not the answer. It is already difficult enough to defend the food storehouses and prevent the civilians from murdering each other. Even our own soldiers quarrel over bread. A foreign invasion will only cause further hardship for our people and needlessly add to already overflowing graves. There must be a better solution; we can appeal to the Astral Empire, offer trade with Erethol! Surely, if the royal coffers can support an invasion, we could equally support the rebuilding of infrastructure and agriculture. But to go to war would achieve nothing but needless destructi-‘

‘Nonsense!’ Silvara seethed. ‘You know nothing of the situation or politic! Run back to your toy soldiers and leave such worldly matters to others.’

‘The blood of the empire runs through my veins just as yours, and I receive the same reports.’  Sephiran retorted, holding his ground.  Silvara scowled and turned to the king.

‘We must unite the people to remove the threat of revolt, and seize crops and farmlands to quell starvation and discontent. My king, you must make a decision now; we don’t have time for diplomacy or games.’ The tired eyes of the king rested wearily on Silvara, and his lips parted to draw fresh air into his lungs.

‘We must,’ Came his croak, dry and crackling, ‘to war.’  He coughed painfully, dry air forced from his chest. ‘It is the only way.’

‘Do you see, Sephiran?’ Silvara turned to her brother. ‘War is the only path, even our father, the king and emperor of all Azimir, agrees. What place do you have to object?’ Sephiran’s mind whirled with objections; to start a war was pure folly. Neither the Astral Empire nor Kingdom of Erethol would look kindly upon such reckless expansion across the seas, and if Silvara meant to attack one of the greater powers – it was inconceivable. The Three Emperor’s Treaty was signed by the king of Azimir himself, and guaranteed an alliance between any two empires against the aggression of the third. Yet with all these objections burned into his mind, all the Prince could do was stammer in confusion.

‘Please, father, I beg you reconsider. We can gather support from the other empires and states, we have treaties and agreements!’

‘You would throw us at the mercy of other empires?’ Silvara snapped, ‘Have you no shame? No honor ’ She paused, catching breath, ‘War is the only way to ensure the people of Azimir don’t turn against each other, or our king! Are you a traitor? Do you not care for your country? Your people? Your father?’ Silvara spat at Seph’s feet in disgust, smirking as the boy stood paralyzed in shock, his mind struggling to make sense of Silvara’s attacks. The string of treacherous accusations had come from nowhere, and he was unready to counter them. Silvara grinned at his inaction, and her eyes flashed.

‘Nothing to say?’ she mocked, snatching advantage from his silence ‘After all, Sephiran, you cannot argue with the truth.’  Silvara approached the king, and leaned to whisper something in his ear. Slowly, the monarch’s eyes grew wide as his face twisted in anger.

‘Sephiran!’ He didn’t yell; he couldn’t yell, but the sentiment was clear in his tone.  ‘You are banished!’

‘Prince Sephiran,’ Silvara gleefully took over the monarch’s rites, hints of humor flaring through her voice. ‘Third in line for the Azimiran throne after Lord-Lieutenant Princess Silvara and Prince Admiral Garcia, I presently strip you of your royal title. You are banished from the Empire of Azimir for treason and crimes against the throne.’

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The Rise of the Iron Moon in Hindsight

Cover art Via Goodreads.com

I think The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt was intended to be a sci-fi pulp adventure novel, but for the first half of book I had no real idea what was going on and by the time it became clear it was nothing more than cliches, dues ex machina and technobabble.  I found myself wanting to finish it as fast as possible – not because I was enjoying it, but because I wanted to read something else.

According to the rear cover of the book, the story follows Purity Drake – last of her royal bloodline – who finds herself on the run after accidentally escaping a parliamentary prison.  She becomes embroiled in a war between the Kingdom of Jackals and the mysterious ‘Army of Shadows.’ By ‘embroiled’ I , of course, mean she becomes a side character with no meaningful dialogue or character development until half way through where she becomes a Dues ex machina dispenser with no meaningful dialogue or character development.

I must admit it started interestingly enough with Purity’s escape, but I couldn’t help but feel cheated when all the excitement and set up of the first chapter was quickly washed away and ignored.  You’d think a highly prized political prisoner killing a guard and escaping would have some kind of reaction from the powers that be, but apparently Purity changing her clothes was enough to throw her enemies off her scent so none of it ever needed be mentioned again.

After series choppy and dissatisfying character introductions that can only be described as a ‘Maelstrom’ , the story begins to settle and decides to follow Molly Templar, an author of ‘Celestial fiction’ and her friends Commodore Black and Coppertracks. (Coppertracks, a robot, is ironically the most developed and interesting character in the book.) We follow Molly as she attempts to stop the destruction of her world by sailing across the celestial voids to the Army of Shadows home world in  search for the ultimate weapon that will allow them to crawl from the war victorious.

Meanwhile, back on earth, Purity Drake discovers she has some dialogue and, also, has the power to ‘rewrite the equations of matter’ with her Dues ex machina sword the ‘maths-blade’ and a convoluted technobabble explanation about how everything is a ‘mathematical construct’ and that Purity can bend reality by ‘rewriting the equations that underlay the world’ as if they lived in the matrix.  With her new Dues ex machina, Purity decides to take the fight to the enemy.

So our heroines advance towards their respective goals and play out their individual plans, and finally come face –to-face with the main antagonists who claim to be the ‘ultimate form of human evolution.’ Then there is some exposition about Evolution that reads like it was written by the Creationist propaganda department, and some plot reveals about time travel that create far more paradoxes and questions than it answers.

The writing itself was more often confusing than not, and I remember having to re-read passages numerous times to understand what was going. I’m also sure I spotted dialogue that had the wrong names attached, but there is no real way to be sure. The book was filled with technobabble and psudoscience to the point where it was downright annoying – Don’t get me wrong, I never fault a book for failing to explain things scientifically. I read Fantasy, after all – but if scientific words and concepts are going to be used they should be employed properly.

Overall, The Rise of the Iron Moon is a mess of a book. The Plot is convoluted and confusing at worst, bland and clichéd at best. The writing is no better, filled with run-on sentences and confusing metaphors. Next time someone tells me Self-published books are all bad because there is no quality control, I’m going to have them read this.

Treasonists update

Today was, perhaps, the most productive writing day I have had this year (It sounds impressive when I say it like that, doesn’t it?)

I started the day by collecting all of my plotting notes for the new ending. You see, I aim to almost completely rewrite (Or at least drastically alter) the current ending because it is nowhere near as exciting and thematically powerful as I think it should be.  To guide me, I resolved to write a new plot outline for the ending.

This was more difficult than it sounds. Most of the last third of the book follows the POV of 3 different characters (and minor scenes in a 4th POV) who are all doing different things in different places, at roughly the same time. They all tie into each other in the Climax of the novel, and have massive effects on each other during the lead up to that point. I was very worried all that could get very confusing.

My first order of business was to write-up the separate plot outlines for each character – To note all of their scenes in chronological order as if I were just writing about them.  That was the easy part.

Next, I attempted to fit everything together in a single outline that detailed everything in the order it will appear in the final book. This was a huge puzzle to work out, and I admit it was a read headache at some parts. (Literally, I ended up taking some Panadol!)

First of all, I wanted to keep everything in roughly chronological order so the reader isn’t constantly going backwards and forwards in time, because that could get very confusing. On the other hand, swapping between characters every paragraph could also get very confusing. There is a balance to be struck somewhere between this two, and I have no idea if I’ve hit it. There is no real way to know, really, until it’s all written down and the beta readers look at me in confusion. But it works in theory, for now.

Another consideration is the excitement and ‘plot’ of each chapter. I’m sure everyone reading this can conjure the graph of how a book’s plot is meant to look when excitement is quantified and graphed; An Ascending line with plateaus and finally a climax followed by a Denouement. It is my opinion each chapter should be set out somewhat similar, with its own goals, climax and denouement (or a set up for the next chapter) and I have stuck to this throughout most of the book. I think it works really well, so I would hate to break it to jump around to another character and ‘start something new,’ instantly destroying the tension and excitement built up over previous scenes.

Lastly, I had cause and effect to consider. As I noted somewhere above, what characters do in their plots have significant impacts on other characters. I had to make sure this all made sense, and that I never accidentally showed the effect of an action before showing the cause. This was just a case of Watching  where I was positioning things, and luckily for me most of the ‘causes’ were naturally at the end of something, allowing me to slip over to the next character to see the effects.

After a few hours of working all this through, I was staring at a shiny new plot outline of the shiny new ending. It is much better than the old ending and, if you don’t mind my saying, pretty epic. I think it provides a much more climactic end both for the main plot and the character arcs that eventually cumulate in the final battle.

But that’s not all I did today (I told you it was productive!) – I also got some work on the actual editing or, rather, writing. I’m at a point where I am adding a completely new chapter, so I’ve had to swap from an editing mindset to a writing one. Thankfully, I’m able to do that without much pain.

This chapter is really shaping up to be an interesting one to write, and I can only hope it’s as interesting to read. The chapter follows a major battle, the Seige of Luftenport, Between Vanessa of the Valkyries and Admiral Garcia of the Azimirian/Silvarian navy. What makes the battle so interesting is the fact those are both POV characters. In essence, what I have in this chapter is a miniature version of the above.

So the chapter follows the POV of both side’s commanders. Think of it was watching a game of chess (or, more aptly, an RTS) where you can see the plans and strategies of both sides as they attempt to implement them, and make the other fall into their traps. We get to see the commanders formulate their plans, we get to see the plans implemented, and we get to see the opposing side make their counter-plans and react. It’s a very interesting dynamic to write because both characters are Strategists, leading to a battle of wits with the lives of a few hundred soldiers at stake.

Not only that, But the battle has the same features of all my battle scenes – I like to show how things play out from the POV of commanders directing the battle (Moving regiments, implementing strategies) and also the POV of the actual soldiers fighting the battle directly.  Again, it’s an interesting method of doing things and I like to think it pull it off well, but there is no real way to know until I have my beta readers look at it.  At some point in the future, I’ll write a post entirely about how I write battle scenes.

To get all this working together, I’ve had to make heavy use of ‘***’ on an In-chapter level, to indicate a change of character. On a larger, inter-chapter level I’ve come up with the idea of calling Chapters by the same number with a different letter to indicate Concurrent timelines. For example, Chapter 6A and Chapter 6B happen at the same time, but follow different characters.

What do you think? How do you deal with different POV characters affecting each other’s stories? How do you show a battle from both perspectives? How do you indicate to a reader that two scenes are happening at the same time, in different places?

The Baron’s Daughter

And here it is!

This is ‘The Baron’s Daughter’ A short story I did for LegendFire’s annual ‘Legends contest.’ In all honesty, it was a bit of a rush job (especially the ending) and I got it in just in time.  That said, I’m rather proud of what I was able to achieve working with the restraints I was working with – time, word limits and from a prompt. I have a fear of mandatory prompts, a symptom of English at high school I’m afraid.  I may spend some more time on this, fixing her up. I still have the deleted scenes and know I need to work on character and most of the style. If nothing more, to keep it consistent. But then, that takes time from my already overwhelming projects. Tomorrow (or sometime within the next few days) I will post a more in-depth analysis to explain what I was trying to do, and why I did what I did. Watch out for that if you want a window into the way a (read: this) writer does things.

Please remember this is not me at my best. So, here we go – The Baron’s Daughter, Third place winner of LegendFire’ 2011 ‘Legends contest’ for fiction.

Yes, My LegendFire pseudonym is PenPen. Does anyone know what it’s from?

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