Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Why I Write Fantasy and Soft Science Fiction


There is a good reason why I write soft science fiction. I wasn’t a science nerd at school. Physics was the first subject that threw me for a loop when I ran headlong into it. Up until that class, I’d always held it over my buddy Allen that I was better than him in school. Then physics grabbed me by the throat and threw me for a loss. Allen aced it.

So when I write a science fiction story, you know there are certain areas I’m going to have to fudge. I try to avoid technical explanations I might have to give, and there are potentially minefields full of them out there in the void. (Which is not really void?). I really admire writers who can get the details correct (as far as I’m concerned!) while not dragging down the story with heavy techno-babble.

I always toss out the old line that if I’m writing a story where someone is driving a car, I don’t have to explain the inner workings of a gasoline (or hybrid electric!) engine, so why do you want to know how I get my spaceship up to warp speed? But that’s not quite true, is it? I think you should try and make the story believable. Still, when you go to those big budget summer movies, it’s permissible to suspend belief and just let the adventure rip.

The reason these thoughts are rattling around inside my head is I’m working on the second volume in a projected trilogy where at least some of the story will fall into the Space Opera category. I’d like to get the little details sounding correct, even if I have to fudge the big picture. This is a bit of a struggle.

Fantasy is another matter. I’ve often told friends the reason I write fantasy is because I’m lazy and don’t have to do all the research to create historical novels. That is only partially true. I like to make up settings, build worlds, characters and plots, unrestricted by conventional countries and backgrounds. I’ve always been a fan of history, read a lot of it, but have little desire to be restricted by having to stay within the existing lines, so to speak.

I ran face-first into this with a recent trilogy. I decided to write a what-if alternate history. Great, now I can make up a lot of the details once my change in what happens in history takes place. However, I still have to stick to actual geography, and blend in what is going on in the rest of the real world. This means having to take the time to do some actual detail searching instead of plunging blindly ahead with my writing. Now I catch a glimpse of what the historical authors go through, and why, I really prefer to write fantasy. Besides, I really can get sidetracked mucking about where the research may lead me rather than sticking to the actual creating.

I’d rather let my wild imagination make things up instead of doing the research, with one caveat. You still have to write within the realms of possibility, in your imaginary world, or explain why not. Rules are made to be broken, but only knowingly.

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas

Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

An Author's Brain on Overload


I’ve heard several comments about some authors who sit staring blankly at the keyboard wondering what to do next. I don’t think that problem applies to me.

I’m currently waiting to hear from my publisher about two pieces they may pick up. If so, long stretches of editing awaits. Meanwhile, I’m waiting on another publisher to launch the third book in a trilogy that was supposed to come out in July 2017. I should be busy promoting it.

While all this is going on, I have been burning up the keyboard. I’ve started two new projects although I’m trying to finish one before I go back to the other, a sequel to a novel sitting in submissions. I’m whipping through the draft of a tenth novella in the Housetrap Chronicles fantasy detective series. You have to strike while the idea is hot. This one can’t miss, the author optimistically thinks.

But while all this is going on, I’m being flooded with new ideas. I’m scribbling down notes on a final to a trilogy where the first volume hasn’t even been officially accepted yet. Worse, I’m doing outlines of two more tales in the Housetrap Chronicles series. I think I’ve got projects lined up until at least 2019.

I guess this is what happens when you sell the sailboat and are informed about how much work there is to be done in the garden. Good thing the snow is already here. Now, if I could only get the cat to adjust to standard time. I really don’t need to get up that early to keep my writing on some kind of schedule.

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3

Monday, October 2, 2017

How Do You Choose a Book?


Much has been made about the importance of the very first sentence in a novel. Some experts grumble if you don’t have that gripping, magic first sentence, no one will want to bother reading your manuscript or book.

I don’t know if I have ever purchased a book, or chosen one at a library, based on the first sentence. An interesting review might catch my initial attention and send me on a search. The cover might lure me in but more often I pick up a book based on a favorite author, or a subject that interests me. Next, I look at the back cover to get an idea of the content. After that, maybe a peek at the inside flap of the front cover. That is about it for me.

I took a look at the first sentences I used is some of my published novels and novellas to see how they fared.

The Dark Lady: “They say she is the Devil’s spawn, born in a cloud of brimstone and sulphur on a night when the peaks echoed with thunder and the castle walls trembled.”
The Queen’s Pawn: “They are through the city gates!”
The Queen’s Game: “How can I ever trust you again?”
Knight’s Bridge: “I stare out through a crimson haze.”
Housetrap: “I don’t like Elves, never have.”
Dial M for Mudder: “I don’t like the dark October rains, never have, not since my Cousin Edward threw me in the mill pond out back of our old shed.”
House on Hollow Hill: “Bertha Wildwater has been frequently known to say, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, ask,’ and she often uses her authority to advise me where to go, asked for or not.”
Alex in Wanderland: “Alexis came through the door like an unguided missile at the end of its orbit.”
We're Not in Kansas: "Macy rose to her feet, leaned over, and poured the entire ruby contents of her wine glass neatly over the crotch of his light gray slacks."
Toltec Dawn: My liege, these sources are not guaranteed, but are drawn from the best information available at this time, including fleeing refugees and captured prisoners." 

Okay, so I admit that I sometimes like to throw a bit of drama into the opening. I’m just not certain it’s the only critical key to landing a purchase.

The other no-no some experts have been known to throw out is, “Never open with the weather!” Why not, if it is relevant? I probably would if I thought it was suitable, or just to be difficult. I notice that I did at least once above.

While I tend to think the world does not always turn on the opening sentence, the sooner you introduce the main characters, and the plot, the better. When I used to run the judging in an annual literary contest where they often had to read and rank around forty books in a very few months, I instructed them they only had to read the first three chapters. That was enough to indicate whether or not it was a possible winner. My personal opinion is that the reader should be grabbed and well on their way after the first chapter.


How do you choose a book? Where do you look to see if it is worth picking up?

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Give Your Characters Room to Grow


Give your characters room to grow and you will bring them to life; don’t, and they might as well be made out of cardboard.

As a pantser, I don’t do a lot of in-depth outlining of my characters before I start. I prefer to discover what they are like as I write. I let them reveal themselves to me, although I frequently have to pause and discover the backstory that has caused them to behave or react the way that they do.

The story “The Queen’s Pawn” is a good example of this. When we first meet the queen, she comes across as a bit simple-minded. As the tale progresses, we find out who is really in charge. Her daughter is a loud-mouthed shrew. I had to discover why before I could finish the story. They both show sides not obvious when we first meet them. The harried hero of the tale, the young man, also undergoes personal changes over the course of the three volumes. (Admittedly, seemingly slowly at times.).

Even the villains have to have a reason for why they act the way they do. A good villain should believe that he or she is in the right. Very few memorable villains think they are simply evil. They may be seeking justice for a real or imaginary wrong. Remember, the ordinary folks outnumber the psychopaths. (I hope).

I often let the character’s motives become obvious slowly rather than dump them all on the reader in the first chapter. People can also change. Motives may not be obvious. That is part of the fun of writing. I want to get to know the characters better. They can even change the direction of a story once you get to know them better.

In working on a recent manuscript I had reason to pause and consider that some of my characters were too similar. Without using their names you couldn’t tell them apart. That gave me a reason to dig deeper and discover what those differences were. In the process, I learned more about them, and what made them tick.

Take a look at your characters. Are they well-rounded or flat? The best written have emotions the readers should be able to relate to. Do they have good reasons for what they do? You at least should know those motives even if you only hint at them in your novel. Give them room to breathe and they will come to life. That alone will make for a much better story.

R.J.Hore
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas

Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Point of View and Painted Corners


Back in 2012 I wrote an essay on POV. I thought I’d revisit the topic and see if my thoughts on the topic have changed.

When sitting down to write your brilliant novel or novella, give some serious consideration to the point of view (POV) you are going to use. As writers we are familiar with the options such as the first person, where one character narrates the action, or the third person, where the author sits back and tells all from an omnipotent point of view. There are also more unusual styles such as in the form of letters, journals, or a diary. Each method has its pluses and minuses, especially as to how deep you wish to get inside the heads of your characters, or how wide-ranging you want to describe an event in the story, especially one where your protagonist may not always be in attendance.

You also want to remember that old chestnut, show, don’t tell. Does the format you’ve chosen best lend itself to that for your particular story?

Many books on writing will tell you to limit the number of character=s heads you get inside of to tell your story. More than one or two and you risk confusing both the reader and the writer. In one of my very earliest efforts I think got into the head of at least a dozen characters. I was told in no uncertain terms by my editor to cut that out and not to do it again.

The advantage the personal POV is being able to both look at what the characters say, and what they are thinking at the same time, and gives the author the ability to have some fun and create often unreliable characters, while warning the reader of that fact.

I have written a series of fantasy novellas, the Housetrap Chronicles. They are all narrated through the eyes and POV of the main protagonist, a private detective. For this type of tale, where the action swirls around the hero, we want the reader to come across the discoveries at the same time as he does. The format works well in this case.

When I found myself working on my first trilogy, the sequel(s) for The Dark Lady, my first published novel, I discovered the problem often found in using a single POV. The original book was written from the POV of the protagonist. I found ways to keep her the center of the action in the original novel. As I got further into turning out the sequels, I found I had distant events I wanted to drag the reader into, but couldn’t, because that would break the format I followed to that point. Certainly, there were ways around the dilemma, such as having written reports to read, or characters who come dashing in and spin the heroine a tale. But when using those writer=s tricks you must beware of the deadly information dump that can overwhelm the reader. I prefer to trickle out the information gradually over time, rather than flood the reader all at once.

In a trilogy, about the North Americans discovering Europe first, I decided I would tell this complicated tale through the eyes of three different characters. That way I could legitimately have three different points of view. To keep POVs simple for the reader, I decided to alternate the viewpoints in turn, dividing each chapter into three storylines. One benefit is that I could look at the same event through different eyes if two or more of my narrators were present. It also allowed me to expand the scope of what the characters could bring as personal experiences. You could use the same format and grant each of your characters a separate chapter.

Don=t paint yourself into a corner when you are laying down the outline of your next great novel. Give some thought as to what format would be best to tell this story, and if you are diving into POVs, decide who is the best character to tell it. I personally like digging around inside the heads of some of my characters. Too much excavating however, can delay getting on with the action, but then, so can too many mixed-up metaphors.

R.J.Hore
www.ronaldhore.com
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn Trilogy (Volume 1, 2, 3)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Struggling With a Space Opera


I recently decided to try writing something new. I needed a change from dragons and distressed damsels, or sarcastic detectives facing thirsty vampires and wayward housewives. I’d written one near-future thriller and tossed off a What-If spec fiction; it was time to venture deep into outer space. Or maybe not.

As usual I started with a scrap of a plot and plunged right on ahead. In this case I knew what the opening chapter would look like, and the final dramatic scene. All I needed was the tender middle. I also knew there would be a brother and a sister in main roles. I assumed the lead player would be the brother; boy was I wrong!

His sister took over, and along with her three rowdy girlfriends, ran rampant through the plot.

Then my Beta reader charged in with her usual glee and scribbled comments all over the early pages. One remark that stood out was the fact that the four women were all alike. She couldn’t tell them apart.

Okay, so back to the beginning, how do you differentiate a gang of four? I tried differing fashion sense, favorite sayings or curses, hairstyles, even skin colors. I even gave them different tattoos, although these are not always noticeable.

The list of reader complaints was long; too long to mention here. Needless to say that although I have finished spinning the basic tale, I am now reworking the story to polish the obvious problems.

I usually write quickly. I’ll start the day by reading and editing what I wrote the day before, and then charge ahead full speed. In this argumentative manuscript, I keep going back, adding scenes, inserting comments, sprinkling in incidents. It doesn’t help that I’m developing a large argumentative cast with speaking parts.

And don’t get me started in the aliens! They have refused to co-operate and are acting very…alien.

This may take more time than I planned for me to sort out.

I’m beginning to suspect that I will be happy to feel a dragon’s breath on the back of my neck once more. And anyway, those damsels are usually more distressing than distressed.

R.J.Hore
www.ronaldhore.com
www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore

The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn (Book 1, 2, of 3)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review for Roy Huff



Book Review for: Think Smart Not Hard: 52 Key Principles to Success and Happiness by Roy Huff


Everyone should go out and buy this book. Right now. No procrastinating. No kidding. Here’s why. It will speak to you. Yes, you. It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are. You will absolutely be able to relate to it, and use its advice. If not, you’re not living on planet Earth. I am 52 years old, and I have experienced many of the ups in this book, as well as the downs, and yet, I learned new things just by thinking more deeply about the principles found in these pages. I have learned from my mistakes, just like the author, Roy Huff, has learned from his. You can, too. If you’re young, take this advice, and plow forward, and don’t fall prey to those who would steal your happiness in some way throughout your life. If you are older, take the advice, and run with it, and don’t look back. Either way, read the book, and be happy and successful. You deserve it."


rebeccadraco.com