Monday, July 2, 2018

Do You Mind if I throw in Some Humor?


Do you mind if I throw in some humor into my stories now and then? Some days I just can’t help myself. I also think even the most serious of tales can use some levity once in a while. For one thing, a large percentage of the population can be amusing, at least some of the time, whether they intend to be or not. For another, there are times when a serious situation needs a break. I have also been guilty of starting a serious novel, and having it degenerate into a giggle or three.

Take my fantasy detective series, the Housetrap Chronicles. Just because I take a familiar title, muck it about and then use the result as my plot inspiration, doesn’t mean the tales were not intended to be serious. Of course, I couldn’t resist throwing in the occasional bad pun or ridiculous situation, or have the characters’ innermost thoughts conflict with their words. It gets pretty bad when the publisher complains, “It’s not funny enough.” And here I thought I was writing serious prose.

This never fails to happen to me. My second published novel, “The Queen’s Pawn,” started out as a straightforward fantasy thriller about a young man trapped in a burning city. Before long, nonsense started to creep in. By the time I’d finished what turned out to be the first book in a trilogy, I’d abused him mercilessly and stuffed him into all sorts of embarrassing situations. Of course, this meant I had to carry on in this manner for the next two books. What else do you do with a handsome hero who is clueless about the ladies who keep flinging themselves at him and who doesn’t recognize that when the princess is talking about her wedding plans, he is supposed to be the groom.

In general, even in a more serious tale, there has to be a wise-cracking character or two in my stories to lighten the load. Alex in Wanderland started out as a novel about a feuding married couple a long way out of their depth in an alternative Dark Age style world. They ended up on a quest with a group of characters out of B movies central casting, not to mention the local deity, the Goddess Gladys.

Besides bad puns, which are sometimes more difficult than writing straight dialogue, I enjoy doing what I think of as the parallel conversation. This is where using point-of-view comes in handy. You can have a character saying one thing in conversation, while mentally thinking or commenting something completely different internally. This lets the reader in on the joke.

Even in tales where I have managed to stay on track and stick with serious subjects, I find myself throwing in characters whose sole purpose is to say witty things and comment on the goings on. An example of this shows up in my Toltec series where a Mayan servant and a Saxon cook keep up a lighter dialogue and commentary about what is happening around them.

There is a place for everything, although sometimes everything gets out of place, at least inside my head, while I’m trying to write. But if you don’t giggle once in a while at your own cleverness, who will?

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 (Book 1, 2, of 3)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Struggling With A Space Opera - Part Two



Back at the start of last year I decided to try writing something new. I needed a change from dragons and damsels, or detectives facing vampires and wayward housewives. I decided it was time I ventured deep into outer space.
As usual I started with a scrap of a plot and plunged right on ahead. I knew what the opening chapter would look like, and the final dramatic scene. All I needed was the middle part of the beast. My Beta reader uncovered the usual number of faults but I pressed on. Unlike some authors and betas, we look at each other’s work as it goes along, a few chapters at a time. We don’t wait until the completion before we do the swapping of manuscripts and the serious critiquing. The advantage to me is I pick up on any problems early enough to incorporate the fixes as I create the next section and repair the last.
I usually write quickly. I’ll start each day by reading and editing what I wrote the day before, and then charge on ahead. I also go back, adding scenes, inserting comments, sprinkling in incidents as they pop up.
Decided on a working title: “Of Destiny’s Daughters.” So, what happened after I finished this epic? Sent it off to the publisher and settled down for the usual waiting period, chewing nails to the quick. Of course, the brain keeps active during this period and the ending had generated some ideas on what might happen next in the story.
Might as well keep on writing, eh?
My beta reader complained the start of volume number two was a bit slow. Okay, I add an opening scene with a flashback complete with explosions. Somewhere during this process I also imagined a third volume. Then of course I changed my mind and compressed the projected third volume into the end of book two, which had a working title of “Hammer Across the Stars.”
Might as well finish this off and send it to the publisher so she can get an idea of how the tale unfolds beyond the first book.
Of course, as I put volume number two to bed there is an itch in the back of my head. The revised ending has given me a brilliant (I may exaggerate here) idea for a third volume. No, I haven’t started on this one yet, but the ideas are percolating.
One reason I haven’t started anything on book three (working title unknown although “Expedition to Earth” has a nice ring to it) is that I’m now up to my eyeballs in edits on the first volume. The publisher has said “Yes!”
The moral here, persistence pays off. Now about that book three…

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 (Book 1, 2, of 3)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sometimes I really Wonder


Sometimes I really wonder why I do the things I do. I just spent the last few long months wrestling with the second volume of my space opera epic. Made several changes, additions, and went through the beast until I was cross-eyed and finally sent it off. Before that I was putting the income tax nonsense into some kind of order. Now, with that finished and the manuscript off my plate, I could get caught up on all those other things I’ve been letting slide.

Like my office. The children have warned my wife not to enter it on her own without tying a rope around her waist so she can find her way back out. Even I have to admit it’s been getting a bit unruly in there.

But then ideas keep bubbling. You know the feeling. It’s an itch that requires scratching. What to do? Two new plots were struggling for attention. Now what?

I chose the path of least resistance and decided to start on both of them and see where that led me.

The first option is one in the series of Housetrap Chronicles novellas. I always find these relaxing as I can have a lot of fun throwing in everything (including a kitchen sink) into my fantasy detective series and work out any frustrations. Slight problem, this plot requires more planning than I’m used to with these. Normally I come up with a mash-up of a mystery title and then write a story to fit the title.

The second option is a more-or-less straight fantasy tale that bit me when I wasn’t looking. This thing has decided it wants to be full novel length but is unsure whether to be teen, young adult, or adult. Only the bedroom scenes may eventually decide that rating.

After writing the opening chapters of each of these ideas, I decided I really had to get a serious grip on these creatures; and work on only one writing project at a time. So I did.

Glancing around my office, it is still sinking under the weight of the paper piled on my floor. But that is not surprising, my desk and shelves are full.

Carry on writing, especially if you enjoy it. I often write so I can find out how the story ends.

Why do you write?

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, April 2, 2018

How do You Create Your Masterpiece?


Working at a book table during a recent Con set me thinking. You get to meet and talk with a lot of new or developing writers at these busy events. Some come looking for hints, or just want to talk about the writing world in general.

One young gentleman’s comment that he only writes in longhand in a notebook got me thinking. When I mentioned using computers he was dead set against them. Pen to paper was the only way for him. He intended to work that way until he had his final draft of his manuscript completed.

I too started out writing in a notebook. I still have them buried in my office somewhere. Then I graduated to a manual typewriter. (I’m a two-fingered typist and I like it that way.) The typewriter certainly made for easier-to-read work. I also went through large reams of paper and whiteout by the jar or strip.

Then I graduated to a Commodore 64 computer and 5 inch floppy discs. I was in my glory. Unfortunately, I still have two novels that never escaped from the floppy discs. Fortunately, I do have hard copies buried around the office somewhere, if I ever get the ambition to transcribe them on to my latest computer while editing out all those beginner errors at the same time.

Now I have three laptops, numerous thumb drives, and an external hard drive. Which brings me to the moral of this lengthy tale and why I’m quite happy I kept moving on up through the equipment in search of something better.

I was wrestling with my latest epic recently. My Beta reader was working me over. I decided she was correct, again. I needed to make some important changes. First, was completely re-writing the opening. Then, I needed to make several changes through the manuscript. Next I had to add some new scenes to make sense out of the revised opening. I shudder to think of doing this amount of revision work on a typewriter or even the trusty Commodore. Never mind scratching around in a notebook!

I can give another better example. A couple of years ago I turned in a manuscript that came to somewhere north of 100,000 words. That particular publisher decided it was a bit long for them when they brought out the print editions. Their request, cut the manuscript into two, flesh those two out to a decent length of somewhere over 80,000 words each, and then write a third novel to turn the whole project into a trilogy.

I can imagine doing the above using a handwritten notebook. One final thought on the subject. I keep a separate file on the computer of notes for each project that I can call upon and bring up as I am working. Useful stuff such as, “How did I spell that character’s name?” or “What did I say was the color of her eyes?”

Experience is a good teacher. Bottom line, writing is a very personal exercise. Write in the way that suits you best, and take all the advice from us old timers with a grain of sea-salt.

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)
5

Friday, March 2, 2018

Things a Pantser Will Do


I’m a pantser and proud of it. Here is one reason why.

I was working on a lengthy manuscript the other day. The scene had the heroine trying to escape a boring party and being harassed by a dull male until she eventually shooed him away. At that point he was just inserted as part of the scenery. I began to wonder if he had an ulterior motive. What was his real purpose? Maybe he was up to no good.

If I was a serious plotter I would already know the answers, having decided he was simply a walk-on, throw-away character passing her by in the night. But being a pantser, I wondered if I should find something useful for him to do and employ him a while longer.

The heroine was going on a trip. Would anyone be curious about this? I have it! My throw-away character is a bumbling spy who must continue to pursue her. Gives me someone to keep her busy while she is in transit. I can use the action around this hapless male to explain the how and why of a few other things going on rather than use a boring info dump. So I did.

Might never have come up with this angle if I was a meticulous plotter. While not a character who will become a main player, he did get to play an expanded part.

I often create characters I know little about at the time, only to learn more about them as I create. Sometimes they become major players. In this case a simple walk-on player earned at least two more scenes and probably made enough extra to cover his groceries and beer for the next week.

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)

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Matter of Length


I’m currently struggling with a sequel to a novel that hasn’t been published (or accepted?) yet. This project was originally going to be the second and third in a trilogy. Being a confirmed pantser, I had the ideas but no detailed outline of these next two books.  About a hundred pages in I started to wonder if I had enough plot to warrant two volumes. Maybe a single volume, divided into parts one and two would be better? Which leads me to a discussion on length.

When I started writing I’d knock off a novel, send it out, and while waiting the two years for a rejection letter, fire off several short stories to anthologies. I had one editor tell me twice, in her polite rejections, that my short stories sounded more like novels. I eventually had a short story win first in a writing contest, and another published in an anthology, but the novel seed had been germinated.

I really do prefer the novel length where I can get to know the characters well while spinning out the tale. Then I discovered the novella. (In my fevered brain, about 30,000 words)

I wanted to write a fantasy detective tale for some time. I had the ideas and format and dashed off “Housetrap.” Then I discovered the novella is not an easy sale. There are a limited number of markets. I had an editor tell me he liked the story but it was too long for his magazine. Not to be discouraged, I whipped up two more tales, packaged the three together as book-length, and fired them off to publishers. It worked. Two publishers asked to see the manuscript. Of course, two years later they were still saying they were interested. In the meantime I found someone else (Champagne) and we were away. The Housetrap Chronicles are up to number eight now, with the first six packaged in volumes 1 & 2 and all available as ebooks.

But I still normally prefer the novel length with my usual target to come in at around 100,000 words.

One of my last forays back into the realm of the short story was a tale told by disheartened knight who rescues a lady seeking refuge. I finished the project but wasn’t entirely satisfied. What happens next? I ended up writing in effect three more short stories, each told by a different individual, and linking them together as “Knights’ Bridge,” in a novella format and much more satisfying, to me anyway, than the original short story.

Of course, length is also subject to the publisher’s needs and wishes. I wrote a tale, that came in somewhere over the 100,000 word mark and sent it away. The publisher loved it but had a request. She asked that I split it into two full-length novels, which meant adding more meat to the story, and then write a third as she felt there were too many loose ends still dangling. That was an interesting exercise, and fortunately the format of the plot made it an easy chore. There was even a brief discussion about turning it into a series.

Pick a length that suits the tale, and write it, but in the back of your mind, think about publishers and the markets where hopefully it will ultimately end 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)

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)