Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Twist & Shout

An homage is a delicate thing, it needs to be served correctly in order to be fully enjoyed.  A well prepared homage is like an inviting plate of appetizers moving through a crowded party waiting for someone to recognize and delight.  Not everyone will notice it and be familiar with the ingredients but, soon enough, a pair of excited eyes will find that plate and pop the tasty morsel into her mouth wondering how that cagey chef knew what her exact favorites were.

Most of my favorite shows tend to be liberal with homages, references and the shouting of outs.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer was great for that, even after all this time, when Tuesday night comes and there's no fresh eps of the Scoobies, I feel sad.  Joss Whedon's skill at creating clever dialogue liberally laced with pop culture references is a beautiful thing to me.  Lost also did it very well but in a much subtler fashion, it referenced literature like Incident at Owl Creek Bridge and Catch-22 in very quiet ways, weaving many disparate ideas into its own unique mythology.  Doctor Who does it over and over, from Agatha Christie to Harry Potter to Big Brother, the Doctor doesn't miss an opportunity to say a cheery hello to all the diversity out there.

As I stated in my first post, it was important to me that my story be filled with references because I wanted the chance to create some of those sly, pleased smiles among my readers.  The Last Prospector starts out with homages and will end on a whopper or five; it's crammed full of gems but many of them are very personal ones that the general public wouldn't recognize.  My friends, family and home town fill up the pages of the book because I actually love them MORE than my entertainments, believe it or not!

My late mother is the very first, she raised African violets somewhat obsessively and, while I hate those damned plants, Iolet came from her.  By book's end, all of my immediate family was entrenched in the fabric of Solstice - all of those who would appreciate such a thing that is.  Just about all of my relations that gave me that quietly deprecating eye roll when I spoke of my new writing venture did not find a home in my world.  Scoff elsewhere you sayers of nay, Solstice is for travellers in search of adventure.

There are an equal amount of well known homages in The Last Prospector too and Bruce Springsteen is the paterfamilias.  He's The Boss, you know winkety wink wink.  It's taken me four books to get every major member of the E Street Band, Danny Federici was an especial challenge, but Solstice is crammed with Bruce-ness.  Star Trek of course, since it was my first pop culture influence at the tender age of three, is not hard to find either.  Tibaryus is named for James Tiberius Kirk while Kanig and the Keptyn Pike are both slobbery kisses to the original series.

One thing I would like to make clear, not that it will matter to most people but I feel that it needs to be clarified.  The Tylers of western Jonquyllum were not a Doctor Who homage.  The Hunts from the east came first and were named for Gene Hunt of Life on Mars, so when I needed a family name for the other side of the lake, I went for symmetry with Sam Tyler.  The Tyler Rose came later and was an obvious choice when I needed a flower, it's just a coincidence of naming and perhaps Sam Tyler's name was itself a reference to the Doctor.  Wouldn't that be cool?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Words Are Important

Yes, it is a very self serving notion seeing as how I wrote a book chock full o' words, but it is still the truth.  Words are great fun because there are so many of them and, if you look hard enough, you can find exactly, precisely the word you mean.  Since I'm not big on ambiguities, I've always collected words, filing them away until some esoteric nugget surges forward to describe my immediate need.  There is rarely any hidden subtext in my spoken words, no cryptic meanings and only a pinch of pretentiousness.  If I want something thrown out a window, I will say to have it defenestrated, because that one word says exactly what I mean.

Another great thing about words is how fun many of them are to say, yes I know it's weird, but where is the harm?  Not just regular words either, people's names often grab my attention because I enjoy saying them; I'm not a football fan but I know who Drew Brees is and love to say his name.  Personality notwithstanding, Marquis De Sade is fun to say as well, and there is a long standing joke between my husband and I that our next dog will be named Fisher DeBerry, because I love saying Fisher DeBerry.

So, when I set out to write the books, I knew subconsciously that words are important but I did not know that it would be a recurring theme in the series.  Prospector alludes to that notion when he tells his story to the Hunts, but it's Awnyx's friend Snatch who says it first.  Snatch is by no means the last character to say that the words are important and it took me some time to grasp the reason, other than the obvious of course.  By the end of The Last Prospector I realized what that idea meant to Solstice and that realization was an almost blinding epiphany.

Words are as important to the fabric of Solstice as the light stealers and the power of words is almost a character in the story.  However that character has certain rigid demands, if the words are important, then the words that I choose to tell about the words are equally as important.  To make that somewhat less confusing, I have to select my words with more than the usual care because some of our words are not in the vocabulary of Solstice.  They do not have a sun or moon, there is no bible and no chocolate, and it is very hard to find good words for 'brown' that don't involve chocolate somehow.

Keeping away from such common words as angel, heaven, christen, baptize and hell is an ongoing challenge, however I did manage to find a small chocolate loophole in book three.  But those words have no historical context in Solstice so I can't justify using them there and sometimes have to become very creative.  Like most challenges though, there is much to be discovered because of the conflict, things that I wouldn't have even thought about had I not challenged myself at all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two Schools

I've always been one to notice the dualities of existence; for every thing there is an equal and opposite thing and it's those dualities that drive us forward.  The conflict is what defines everything, what builds societies also destroys them and the same is true of people.  It's the struggle of existence that every creature endures because if it was easy, then no one would ever grow beyond their self-imposed limitations.  Each person is a creation made of their own choices, but most people only give themselves a very small menu to choose from.

I have always amused myself by categorizing people by dualities; there are cookers and eaters, those who are ready to go and those who must get ready to go and dog people versus cat people.  For the last few years I've been pondering the two schools of thought that I call initiative and default.  There is one group of people who don't ever stop trying, who relentlessly scheme, dream and tilt at windmills because it is the trying that fulfills them.  Many of them find success and just as many fall flat on their faces, but those people will not stop taking the initiative because there is no point in being alive for them without the trying.

The default group is about three quarters of the humans on this planet, they move and bustle on a pre-ordained track, doing what is expected and too afraid to look stupid to try anything bold.  Most of their choices are default choices like going to college, marrying the right person and throwing the best damned Superbowl party on the block.  The default people tend to look at the initiative people with pity or scorn without ever realizing that those looks only work on their own kind, the initiative people are used to those looks and are largely immune.

Sometimes I wonder if it's genetic, default people marry default people and produce default offspring.  I think this purely based on my own siblings because all four of us are initiative people, we each express that initiative in unique and different ways, but it is the defining trait that binds Los Hermanos Rodrigues.  That and really great hair.

So now it is time to answer that question in the eyes of all the default people in my orbit:  Where do I get off writing a book and trying to sell it?  Because I CAN, that's why.  Oh and, by the way, yes it is terrifying, and yes I am afraid that people will hate it and YES it could be a gigantic humiliation.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My New Best Friends

I used to wonder a lot how writers managed to create such diverse characters. It always seemed to me that they are like children and, as such all the characters you create must be like you in some way.  I don't wonder about that anymore, with three books written and a substantial cast, it is now clear to me that the characters make themselves.

Sure, I contribute by writing it all down, but those people already existed and were just waiting for a chance to speak.  There are elements of me in all of them, but they surprise me at every turn which makes writing this story an enormously good time.  Not every voice is easy for me to hear and satisfying them all can be very frustrating at times, but we all get it together in the end.  Here's a quick rundown of the major players from the first novel The Last Prospector, let's start with him.

  • Prospector, what an endearing man.  I'm not one much for believing in heroes, but Prospector is mine.  He is the kind of person I wish I could be and is one of the two most consistently surprising characters.  I so did not know going in to this that Prospector really loved cats or that he had eight siblings.
  • Tonyo Ylnaranj, so hard to write for because he is so subdued.  He was originally just a one time character named after a friend of mine, but I soon realized that he was meant for more.  I couldn't live with Gomil in the long term, sorry Gordon, so I rechristened him after my grandfather.
  • Holema Gialle, she's another hard case but I respect her.  The Doyenne is a perfectionist and demands the same of me, she's a sly one though so watch out for her.
  • Awnyx Tiell, I love this guy, love, love, love.  He sits right next to me with a cold beer and a bottle of quavit, telling me stories and making me laugh.  The Captain is full of surprises, bursting with them, and I would travel any road with that man.
  • Tibaryus Ceruleya, Prospector's brother is my first real Star Trek shout out and a clever guy.  Bary also gets the honor of homaging Dr Who, so he is truly a sci-fi hybrid.

It's my hope that everyone visits Solstice and befriends the Prospector, maybe this brief introduction will entice you to want more.  The next installment, Travellers & Tramps, opens up a broader world and introduces other great characters to the story.  I can promise you laughter, tears and a great deal of surprises if you travel along with me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Welcome To Solstice

The idea that I should write my own book series came at a time in my life that found me searching for a new direction, a new place to focus my occasionally ferocious energies.  I had just finished reading the fifth installment of a wildly popular fantasy series and was very unhappy for the money wasted.  I have spent my life digesting other peoples stories in all mediums and have become a very discerning consumer.  I'm not a snob by any means and will take my entertainments where I can find them, but I have a very low tolerance for cheap tricks in place of well thought out writing.

I remember thinking as I put down that disappointing book that I might never find a story that completely satisfies me again, one that made me fall in love and then went on to give me more than I asked for.  Being a do-it-yourself type of girl, I gave myself permission to make up a big story and the floodgates opened.  First I established strict guidelines for my story, I'm an exacting person about some things and this story had to be everything that I wanted.

  • Strong, believable characters.  My favorite part of any story is the people I meet, if I'm not invested in them then the story lacks value to me.
  • The story must have a known ending and must at all times be working towards that ending.  There will be no X Filing here, no making shit up and hoping for the best at the end.  How a story ends is more important than how it begins because it is the ending that truly decides the worth of all the time invested in the story.
  • It had to be fun.  A good story is a good time, why take a trip if you can't enjoy all parts of the journey?
  • Neat stuff.  Making up beings and objects to populate a world of your own creation is one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done.  I really do wish that I lived in Solstice with hyacinth shaped light stealers in my yard and a stand of taffy maples in the back forty.
  • Easter eggs.  I love 'em, shout outs, homages, references; you name it, I got it.  It's time to give back to the cultures from which I've mined and everything from Springsteen to Bold and the Beautiful can be found in the story.
  • Creation story.  How and why Solstice came to be had to be known by me before I could start and everything flowed from that genesis.

From those guidelines sprung the tiers of Solstice a vibrant world born from my unique perspective.  The Last Prospector is the first book in the Song of Solstice series and tells the story of the man who knows that destiny is waiting for him.  Taking this journey with Prospector has pushed me to emotional highs and lows that I never anticipated, but only I can walk this path and I'm very glad I did.