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Category: Characters

Starting a new series when you don’t know the characters yet

Posted in Characters, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

medieval fair
I’m in the midst of the first book in my new series (The Affinities of Magic), and it’s a very different writing process from my previous book, which was the fourth in its series (The Hounds of Annwn).

I’ve gotten to know my primary characters in the older series pretty well. I know what they would and wouldn’t do, and a good bit of how they interact with each other. In other words, I'm comfortable with them.

In novels of adventure, the sort of thing I write, you need a good story, a sound plot, and it’s a good idea to have the basics of that in your head Wile E Coyote defies gravitybefore you begin writing. Perhaps the details are hazy — maybe you don’t know exactly how certain things are going to happen — but I find I need at least a sketchy outline of the key plot points before I can start. Some authors are comfortable just writing into the void, but I’m not one of them. (The lessons of Wile E Coyote are all too vivid.)

Plots in and of themselves don’t scare me. I used to be a serious software engineer, and what is that but the instantiation of a fully realized product where all consequences are knowable (at least, after debugging).

But story comes from characters, and that’s my current sticking point. Who are all these people?

Plans and news

Posted in Bound into the Blood, Goals, Heroes, King of the May, The Hounds of Annwn, The Ways of Winter, and To Carry the Horn

As some of you know, I moved from Virginia to Pennsylvania in May, just as I was finishing King of the May. We relocated to our vacation home in central Pennsylvania, an old log cabin (with improvements) nestled into a hollow of the Allegheny mountains.

No one had lived in the cabin for 10 years beyond a few relatives visiting during hunting season, so the place had to be emptied, cleaned, repaired, and painted. On the Virginia end, this included moving two different households to a single smaller location and a warehouse, so it was beyond complicated. I did my best to keep writing each day but the dust is still settling and will be for a while. (Half of my office is still in boxes.)

You may have noticed that King of the May is published by Perkunas Press, still in Hume, Virginia. It will take a little while for me to register the business in Pennsylvania, and after that new printings (and my bio) will show the update.

Southviewcabin1
Architectural detail of the main cabin (1820s) or thereabouts

 

Icicles-FARM-20130304-2654
Recent – porch roofs needed a bit of leakproofing.
shed
Nearby shed in happier times.
Dead shed now.

 

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Shed imploded after being whomped by a fallen willow.

Meanwhile, I've started on Bound into the Blood, book 4 of The Hounds of Annwn. Since I include the first chapter of the next book at the end of the current one, I had to write the first chapter before I could publish King of the May. So I have a pretty good idea how this one is going to roll out.

It will be a more intimate book than King of the May, as The Ways of Winter was more intimate than To Carry the Horn. George will look for answers about his father's family, and the search will take him to strange places with unusual companions (Seething Magma will be coming along).

These four books of The Hounds of Annwn will cover most of a year, from mid-October to end of summer. Interestingly, they are coinciding with the same seasons in real life as I write them — helps me stay in the mood.

I'll produce some more short stories in The Hounds of Annwn world, and collect them into an anthology (sign up for my newsletter to hear about each new one as it comes out and read it for free on my blog), but after Bound into the Blood (sometime this fall/winter), I intend to begin a new fantasy series, The Affinities of Magic.

Depending on the wishes of my readers, there may be more adventures in store for George Talbot Traherne. Please let me know — I'm listening.

Getting friendly with my characters

Posted in Characters

Some people think of a novel and a movie version as at least roughly equivalent, at least from the perspective of the story. Yes, a novel allows internal perceptions from the characters in a way difficult for a movie, and movies concentrate on visual tools more than language, but nonetheless, the stories and characters are at least recognizably related.

Others have a different view, one which I agree with. They maintain that the more appropriate match is to a season of a quality television show, in that newish long form that cable television has been cultivating for the last few years. In other words, a season of Game of Thrones is more similar to a book in that series than any movie could be.

I think this is true for several reasons. Most obviously, the time it takes to watch, say, 13 episodes is more closely equivalent to the time spent to read a long novel, and thus characters and plots can develop to a similar depth of complexity.

But there's another feature which isn't much discussed. For a reader, reading the novel and watching the entire season of a show in a marathon are a good match. For a writer, however, a better match to the novel is the full season viewed over time. The 3+ months of the episodes, one per week, is much closer to the time it takes to write the book. Here I am not speaking specifically of George R. R. Martin who is notoriously taking a very long time between his sequels, but of myself.

Finished – The Ways of Winter

Posted in Characters, The Hounds of Annwn, and The Ways of Winter

Hurray! It went like a bottle rocket, two months from start to finish. It's not that I wrote it any faster than To Carry the Horn, it's just that I poured more hours into it in a shorter period of time. Book 3 will take a good deal longer, I expect.

I still need to do a few rounds of polish and proofread, but The Ways of Winter will definitely be out in January. If you're subscribed to my newsletter, you'll be the first to know.

While one of my trusty beta readers finishes his reading assignment (“How many inches of snow?” “Give them something stronger than tea to drink, for god's sake” “Not more Welsh names with double L's”), I thought I might spend a few minutes talking about the new work.

Ah, the wonders of fiction

Posted in Characters, Heroes, The Hounds of Annwn, The Ways of Winter, and Works

This morning I got up at 6:15 to do my daily writing. I reflected, as I sat down at my keyboard, on what a wonderful thing fiction was, that I had gotten up early out of a warm bed (and ultimately missed foxhunting later that morning) to write a scene from the point of view of a fifty thousand year old rock elemental, because she had opinions worth hearing about regarding the plot twists of the current book.

Anywhere else, they'd lock you up for that.

Character names & the joys of Welsh

Posted in Characters

I'm slogging through the character names index and a Welsh pronunciation guide (very necessary — sorry to do it to you folks. One of my beta readers is complaining bitterly. I say, could be worse – could be a Russian novel.) This requires me to look up every name and make sure I provide some clue about how to say it. Welsh looks much harder than it is because of unusual spelling conventions. “Gruffydd” is Griffith, “Rhys” is Reece, “Vachan” became Vaughan, and so forth, but there are some genuine problems, too.

To begin with, the name of one of my main characters turns out to be the wrong gender. (No, I'm not telling you which one.) That's fixed now (that is, I fixed the name, not him.) Too bad, I liked that name.

Secondly, you can't just look up Welsh words in a dictionary. Perhaps you didn't know this… Celtic languages share a phenomenon known as “mutation” and are annoying enough to change the spelling accordingly. This means, when you pronounce a word differently because of the influence of its surrounding words or grammatical syntax, you spell it that way.

We're used to this in English for vowels in some of our older words, such as our class of strong verbs. We share with other Germanic languages couplets like “run/ran”, “fall/fell”, “know/knew”. Initial letters, on the other hand, rarely do this in English, so it doesn't seem so bad because we only have a few of them, and the initial letter isn't involved. It's different in Welsh.

The older woman

Posted in Characters, Romance, The Hounds of Annwn, To Carry the Horn, and Works

I'm at about the mid-way point of my current work in progress, and it's time for some romance.  This first book in the series only covers about two weeks, very busy ones, so the most I want to do is have the characters meet each other and begin to form an attachment.

There's just one problem — she's an older woman.  As in, he's 33 and she's somewhere upward of 1500 or so.  Now, the issue isn't her looks.  She's a timeless fae and seems to be about his age.  It's not that our hero isn't attracted to her.

The problem is that he's rather intimidated.  To begin with, she's a serious artist, one who has had centuries to work on her craft.  He understands her work well enough to admire it.  But what can she see in him?  He's a smart well-educated guy, but she's a serious intellectual.  Wouldn't she look at him as a child?  Wouldn't all those years of experience make him transparent to her, the way we can look right through a 5-year old?

And yet…  He's brave, stubborn, and kind.  And he wants her.  These are all qualities she admires, and she lets him know.  All he can do is stiffen his spine and assume a confidence and equality in the relationship that he doesn't yet fully feel, hoping not to become Nick Bottom to her Titania.

What helps is his realization that this must happen all the time with the fae.  With such long lives, they must frequently intermix much older and much younger in couples, and it doesn't mean to them what it means to mortal men

The journey of the adult hero

Posted in Characters, Heroes, Plot, The Hounds of Annwn, To Carry the Horn, and Works

To kick off this new blog, I've decided to share a few thoughts about heroic plots involving non-juvenile heroes.

The typical journey of the hero involves a young man who follows a call and leaves his childhood behind him, maturing through action and conflict into a suitable, perhaps even great, adult. The plot is typically done with him once his path to maturity is complete. It's a young man's tale.

In To Carry the Horn, my current work in progress, the basic plot concerns George Talbot Traherne who is drawn from his Virginia countryside life to an otherworld populated by characters from Welsh mythology. George is 33 years old when the action starts. He is already mature, comfortable with responsibility, his character formed. How then can he become a hero, in the traditional sense of the plot?

The answer is in the deficiencies of the modern adult world versus the idealized world of heroic tales. For a youth in a traditional story, part of the challenge of becoming a hero is finding something worth doing, recognizing and growing into his proper place in the world. George, however, lives in a world all too real and mundane, where many of the basic adult responsibilities of manhood are watered down or absent. He has grown into a proper place in that world, but that world is not serious enough to satisfy him. It's too similar to the protected life of childhood that the youth in a traditional tale seeks to escape.

Perhaps if he lived a life of direct action (military, police, etc.) he might feel differently, but he is just an ordinary, good, competent man feeling constrained by the exigencies of modern life.

The otherworld provides him with scope for action, to explode out of his stunted growth into true maturity. He finds something worth the doing and eagerly seizes the opportunity. He can now build a foundation for a life worth living.