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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

C. M. Rosens Being Shameless & Writing from Home

Fairy Tale

I've interrupted the lovely flow of the series to bring you a bit of news: I've started a new project called Fairy Tale, which is a children's fantasy story set in South Wales.

Fairy Tale 

It all starts the day nine year old Cerys sees her grandfather's ghost. She discovers that he left a book for her - all his research about local fairies - and a strange crystal necklace that seems to have a mind of its own. What Cerys doesn't realise is that the necklace is actually a very powerful key - and when she wears it on a family picnic up Twmbarlwm mountain, two years later, she accidentally opens a portal to another world... and causes her parents to disappear. With her little brother Tom and Merula, the talking magpie, Cerys sets off into Fairyland on a dangerous mission to rescue her parents and keep the Fairy King from getting his hands on her key.

I'm writing it because a young MC is a bit of a challenge, but I really enjoyed writing BOOK OF TIME because of Yury's chapters. It was a lot of fun to write about children for a change, and far from having to simplify things, it's actually pretty important to get it right. When you're writing about children, you're laying the foundation for the kind of adult you want them to become - so you're writing with one eye on a future that your reader will never actually see.

This was one of my favourite scenes to write in BOOK OF TIME - a group of abducted children in the Faerie Queen's treasure room, trying to escape her evil child-snatching clutches. Yury is a Necromancer who talks to ghosts a lot, Jaime is a dracomancer who misses his pet storm dragon, Emine is a princess, Persephone is a prudish but normal middle-class girl from a pseudo-Victorian steampunk future, Joaquin is a rebel caught up in a war in his home country, and Astrid is the daughter of a forest tribe's chieftain. I figured that all the faerie glamour in the air would have them all speaking Vaune, faerie language, so that the faeries could understand them. This has the happy side-effect that they can also understand each other, as they come from six different times and six different countries.

The Faustine Chronicles [II]: The Book of Time (unedited)

            They made their way around a pile of ornate chairs and footstools, all moulded together into one large higgledy-piggledy pile by the gold dripping from the ceiling, so that they rose in one solid misshapen lump from the floor like a stalagmite. Astrid began to wonder if this was a hoard at all, or simply a place where treasures grew like plants from seeds. There was a pile of goblets and candlesticks and other bric-a-brac off to her left, and she had to dodge a splashing puddle of molten metal because she was too busy staring at it and trying to work out which had come first, the treasure or the dripping gold which covered it. Was the gold like some kind of cocoon? Was it a treasure store or a treasure mine? Where these things all piled up like this by the Fae, or did they take on these forms all by themselves?

They stuck together, following Jaime, and all in a tight little bunch. Yury realised he was at the back, shoulder to shoulder with Persephone, while Joaquin was the other side of her and a little further forward. Astrid and Emine were in the centre, clinging to each other and to the back of Jaime's shirt. He threw his power out around them, trying so hard to concentrate on getting the light right that he wasn’t really paying attention to anything else.

“I’m sorry about just now,” Persephone mumbled to Yury, under her breath.

Yury grunted. “That’s alright.”

“It’s the shock, that’s all. I mean... you’re not...”


Blushing, the girl shrugged. “Well. You’re not.”

“Thanks.” Yury lifted an eyebrow, and the irony glittered for a moment in the midnight depths of his navy eyes. He could almost hear his mother whisper, so like his father. Suddenly, he missed his family fiercely. It welled up inside him all at once, and the need to do his father proud burned as he cast his mind to looking for the Iron Crown in the midst of all the golden piles.

“What are you thanking me for?” Persephone asked, confused.

Yury shook his head. “Sorry... Concentrating.”

Her mouth formed an ‘O’, and she fell silent.

“Look, rubies!” Emine said, pointing up at the very top of one of the piles, where red gems gleamed in the light.

“Look, a door!” Jaime exclaimed more pointedly, and he was right.

“Um. I don’t think those are rubies,” Joaquin said as he looked up, the others directing their attention to the door Jaime had spotted.

“Who cares what they are?” Astrid scoffed, not looking. “Let’s get out of here!”

“No, seriously, they’re not rubies,” Joaquin said, pushing his way between the girls so that they were behind him, and staring up at the top of the pile. “Did you see that?”

“What?” Emine asked, her tone betraying a wary dread.

“I think they moved.”

Jaime thought he saw another flash of red and directed his light at the pile the other side. The beam raked up the towering sides, and he saw the red glint about two thirds of the way up. He swallowed hard. “They’re eyes, aren’t they?”

Yury was getting sick of this place. “Yep.”

Jaime sighed. “We’re all going to die, aren’t we?”

Yury thought twice about saying ‘Definitely’, but it was a fact nonetheless. “Probably,” he said, with a little more tact.

There was a clinking and a rustling from behind them, and they all spun around.

“Yury...” Astrid shrank back against him, and for a moment, Yury forgot that he missed his parents and his home, or that they were about to be eaten by something rather nasty. He wasn’t sure why – she was only a girl.

“What do we think they are?” Jaime wanted to know.

“No idea,” Yury said shortly. “Anyone?”

“Ah...” Persephone wracked her brain. “Ah-h... we’re underground... there’s treasure... um... dragons?”

“Not a chance,” Jaime scoffed. “I’d know.”

“Alright! Well... there’s... um... I don’t know! Gryphons?”

“Too small,” Joaquin muttered.

There was another ominous clink, and as they whirled to see where it had come from, six other rubies glinted out from between the piles behind them. That meant three other pairs of red, faceted eyes.

Yury swallowed hard. “Let’s just... back away...”

Jaime cast his light on the path before them. It was still clear. His heart was pounding. “Run!” He yelled, as his nerve broke. It was either sprint for the door, or wet himself. As they all took off as one, bunched up in their tight group and racing for the exit, they heard the slither of falling gold behind them and the whisper of moving air. Whatever they were, they were after them, and they were gaining.

I really enjoyed this because this was the first time all the children had been together, interacting as a group. I also like putting characters in peril to see what they'll do... and children are often more resourceful than adults!

FAIRY TALE is, I suppose, the Welsh version of Spirited Away...

I'm very excited about it, because I know the locations so well, and I've always wondered how to inject some magic and glamour into surroundings that I think of as familiar.

The challenge is in making the characters familiar, without falling flat and being mundane.

I think it needs quite a bit of work, so I would value as much feedback as humanly possible, pretty please!! All the locations are real, but I don't want to bog the story down by getting over-zealous with the descriptions. I also need to do some real work on Cerys's character, so any pointers you'd like to give me there would be very welcome! :)


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Zero to Hero - Who Are You? [Part IV]

Special Guest

This week we have another special guest: Tim McFarlane, author of The Tower of the Watchful Eye, available to buy from Amazon now. No, seriously - right now. And there's only 17 left in stock on, and only ONE left on, so don't mess around. There's also a Kindle edition!

McFarlane's book has received 4-5 star reviews on both Amazon's US and UK sites, and earned him a loyal fanbase on free book site

The Tower of the Watchful Eye is the headquarters for the Order of Magic, a secret group of Mages that controls every aspect in the provinces of Kalenden. Young children that show magical abilities are whisked away from their families to be trained as an Apprentice. This is how Andrew ‘Andy’ Holcombe first arrived at the Tower and after a childhood of study it is time for him to choose his destiny.

The Order’s influence runs deep in a world of turmoil and the citizens are ready for change. It will be up to Andy to decide what type of world is the right one. But first he is going to have to overcome his inner Demons, with a little help from one.

Zero to Hero - Character Development by Tim McFarlane

Image of Tim McFarlane 
For me, the characters of a story are the most important part. From the main character down to the guy that shows up once, if they aren’t engaging, relatable or just plain entertaining, it will take away from the story. Your characters are the bridge that allows the reader to cross over from the real world into the story world. This is where learning character growth and development plays an important role in writing.

Like real people, each character is different. They’ve grown up and faced different circumstances throughout their lives that have caused them to become who they are. Before putting a single letter on a page of your story, you should first construct the whole life of your main characters up to the point of your story. Get into the character’s shoes and think like they do, ask yourself how you would deal with situations. If your character has suffered the lost of his wife and kids due to apocalyptic circumstances, how would they act? How would you act? The more you break the character down, the more real they will become. The realer they are to the writer, the realer they will be to the reader.

Growing your characters through a story can be the tricky part. Changing traits of a character requires a subtle touch. Too often you will see a reluctant main character suddenly become accepting because they feel guilty for not helping in the first place or a secondary character will suddenly betray the group while hasting explaining why afterwards. It’s one thing to throw in a twist. It’s another thing to have stuff come out of nowhere. This is why subtly plays an important part.

The best way to achieve this is to think back five years and remember who you were in comparison to who you are now. Maybe find an old diary or look through old messages of facebook. The changes between then and now seem drastic because you’ve never realised that you’ve grown and changed slowly over the years. The same could be said about your characters in the shorter time frame of your story.

Take, for example, the classic story of the loser/loner kid being catapulted from the real world to a fantasy world. Being a “loser”, you can expect the character to have low self esteem, weak physical strength and possibly an apathetic view on people. (People never treated the character well, why should he/she care?)

Turning this character into a hero requires him/her to overcome each previous “weakness” on their quest. The apathy can be overcome by the simple acceptance of the character into the world. Feeling like the character belongs and, maybe, is important in the world are strong first steps. But apathy won’t be completely removed until the character is made to care about the people like they are family. There is no greater destroyer of apathy than a personal connection, after all.

Your main character is going to make friends with the people around them, either by choice or circumstances. The growing bond between your characters will not only help your MC come out of their shell and gain self esteem but when it comes time to start the turmoil and the secondary characters are threatened, the MC will have a justified response to fighting back. Their war is now his/her war.

To further help with the character’s self esteem, your MC should overcome task and minor plot points during the course of your story. The sense of accomplishment will help your character grow and give them the confidence to tackle bigger and bigger task. Tie this in with your character building their physical strength through training and adventuring and it is no wonder they are taking down dragons or toppling empires.

As important as the main character is, they are nothing with a good supporting cast. It’s easy to put together a group of people that each has their own “type” and have them follow your hero around everywhere but it won’t give the reader the full experience. Secondary characters need a back story too.

With each character you need to ask “Why”. Why is your tough guy/girl tough? Do they do it to hide their cowardice or is it just they way they had to be to survive their childhood? Why is the funny guy/girl funny? Are they hiding their pain behind their humour or are they just simple a good natured person who understands the importance of humour during stressful times?

These characters, though secondary in your MC’s life, are main characters in their own life. They are assisting the MC in his/her quest but have their own lives and problems they are dealing with. The MC can help them with their problems or the character could keep them hidden away until it comes back to bite them on the backside.

But what about the background characters that maybe have one or two lines in the book? It would be hard to justify coming up for an entire history for a clerk at a market but they can’t all be cardboard cut outs without any personality.

The best way to create these characters is to just take random people you’ve encountered in your life and plug them in. Instead of a generic clerk, you have a clerk with long painted nails, hoop earrings and way too happy to serve you. Watch out for her long nails though otherwise you will be scratched when she returns your change. It’s not very important information to the story but it populates your world with relatable characters and gives a sense of realism.

In the end, that is what all of your character’s jobs are. They are the bridge between our world and theirs. Through growth of your main and secondary characters and the proper development of all your characters, your story will take twist and turns you never planned as each character begins to take on a life of their own.

If you like the sound of Tim's process and his thoughts on character building, then try his book! You can also check him out on wattpad , his blog,  and on twitter @SmoothMoveKairu

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Who Are You? [Part III] - Lost In Time And Space

Know Your Limits...

So far, I've looked at characters who are being developed from nothing, but even they have to be shaped by the environmental factors of their world to some extent. More on world-building later... much later! But what about writing for characters that stick with you after the book has finished, or after the TV show has ended? Most TV shows have been based on books - so the entire script, including all the new storylines, is a form of fan fiction, particularly if the writers are fans of the original novel or concept. Other franchises include spin-off novels, with 'companion' books being commissioned with new stories not seen on TV.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a case in point; as is Dr Who, Torchwood, and, most obviously, Sherlock Holmes, who has new incarnations on the small and big screen and maintains its popularity despite the differences between the interpretations of Conan Doyle's celebrated sociopathic (discuss) detective.

You can now even buy the Nicky Heat novels, which are bestselling crime novels written by the *fictional* crime-writer/crime-fighter, Richard Castle in the TV show, um, well, Castle. The novels even have Richard Castle's name on them and his photo on the back of the cover (or rather, actor Nathan Fillion in character as Castle) and we may never learn the true identity of the ghost writer.

Not quite the same but similar are the Bones books/TV series by Kathy Reichs, whose protagonist Temperance "Bones" Brennan writes bestselling novels about a pahologist called... Kathy Reichs. Trippy.

The problem with being a writer who deals with this kind of quality derivation, whether in a screenplay or in novel form, is that there are limits within which you must work, and develop the character. Why? Because the audience/readership already know the character inside out and backwards. And if you change anything about their psychology (see my previous post) they will know. And they will not be pleased.

You also have the challenge of creating new characters from scratch with whom the characters will interact. Changing the characters and developing them more deeply, or exposing different sides to them, depends on the circumstances they are placed under and the kinds of people they meet. So the difficulties of writing for this market are twofold. You have to make their responses completely believable, while not permitting the established character to overwhelm the story and draw focus from the new characters, who also need to be three-dimensional and just as well developed as the MCs themselves.

This is why writing good quality derivative or 'fan' fiction is difficult, and a skill that takes practice, fine tuning, and lots of quality research.

In the same way that Historical Fiction writers have to immerse themselves in their chosen period in order to get a feel for the zeitgeist of the era, so a writer with this task to accomplish must immerse themselves in a world not of their making, in order to see where the limits are, and what they can expand upon. There is nearly always also space for something new, and one such writer, Cheryl Rosecrans, elaborated on this for me.

I was asked by Melissa how I developed the MC for Born of Fire and Ice: Daniel's Story. In a way its sort of easy since I write FF and the main characters have to fall within certain parameters. Daniel's character is a bit different. He is a copy of the Doctor created from an accident in space. He carries all the memories of his progenitors but from the moment he steps out of the ship he becomes a unique individual as do all children. Well, except that he is a fully grown man from his inception. Daniel has grown from the insecure, damaged individual unsure of his surroundings, mistrustful of the people around him and determined not to be like his progenitor. That is difficult since he physically looks the same. Daniel struggles to be a separate individual with his own goals. He is unsure at first about the most mundane things of life. He is a gentle person with a fierce, almost pathological need to be independent. He is as brilliant as his progenitor but would rather take pictures and teach special-ed children than run around the universe.
 Born of Fire and Ice: Daniel's Story
I came up with my view of the Doctor's alternate because to me the original version made no sense. An individual would not take kindly to being dumped in the arms of another man's lover even when he shared that man's emotional attachment. He would want to be seen as an individual not a copy. That's Daniel's journey, becoming an individual whilst being drawn back into a life that he's expected to want. Daniel's inner strength shines despite health issues, and the expectation of others. He gives up one love finds another, builds a life only to be confronted with tragedy and finally acceptance of his life with his first love.

In the TV series, we never find out what happened to the alternate Doctor after the replication. He is handed over to Rose, who has been in love with the Doctor since the first Christopher Eccleston series of the show (the Doctor keeps regenerating and comes back as different men played by different actors - see here if you're unfamiliar with it!)

Cheryl has also filled in the gaps in another Dr Who novel, inspired to write it because of her experience with someone who has PTSD. She felt that the Doctor and the world that she loved was the perfect platform to write what she felt needed to be written.

That novel is Broken: The Story of a Time Lord. Even if you're not a fan and only have the most basic knowledge of Dr Who, Cheryl's work is accesible and a good read.

Broken:  The Story of A Time Lord

For Broken, Cheryl created new characters and planets, developed new cultures, and took a trip into the broken psyche of a PTSD sufferer.

One of the new characters she created was K'Nar, and she told me a little bit about developing a new character to fit into a pre-existing world.

Since I write Doctor Who, the basic character of the Doctor and most BBC companions are set, although I like to take them out and play with them.  The fun comes in developing original characters that come out feeling real; a person that you might meet next door or at the corner market.  The hardest character for me was a little girl named K'Nar in Broken: The Story of a Time Lord. 

K'Nar came from a highly structured world where rules of conduct are lived by without question.  The planet is home to a race of shapeshifting telepaths capable of changing another being's very brain.  Out of fear of abuse the laws are a religion.  This is the world K'Nar is born into and kidnapped from. She is sold into slavery and forced to shape shift into horrible creatures which in turn forces her to break those laws.  She suffers it all, convincing her captors that she is blindly obedient. 

I based K'Nar on Muslim teen girls who suffer degradation in their countries for the crime of being intelligent young women.  She grew out of the stories told about the horrors those young women suffer.  When they break the laws of their countries, it is to achieve something for the greater good.  For K'Nar the greater good was saving a kind and gentle man being tortured to force him to give up something that could destroy the universe.

The bravery of K'Nar makes her my favourite character thus far.  The story however contained several examples of women all struggling to overcome an obstacle to help a stranger.

The challenge in writing fan fiction is to make it mean something, not just copy the adventures on the screen.  I hope I've done that.

She has also tackled the difficult issues such as slavery in her Historical/FF novel, The Pilot and his Lady, set in the Deep South in 1858.

The Pilot and his Lady 

 Check out Cheryl's work for free on wattpad, and leave her a comment!

Stay tuned for more character bios from the Faustine Chronicles, Writing a Romantic Hero by JC McDowell, and something from author Tim McFarlane, whose book, The Tower of the Watchful Eye, is available on Amazon now!

See you next week!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Faustine Chronicles: Who Are You? [Part II]

Who the **** is Alice? - What Smokie Taught Me

When I was in Primary School, dancing about the yard in my little blue and white checked cotton dress that was part of our summer uniform, everyone started singing a certain song at the top of their voices, because one line of it was rude. It was, of course, Who The **** Is Alice? by Smokie. And, of course, THAT was the only line that got bellowed across the playground at the top of our ten-year-old lungs, because that was the one with a four-letter word in it.

Later, when I was fourteen, I found a copy of Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris in the school library. I took it out and had to buy the sequel myself. Hannibal, above all other books, introduced me to characters so vividly realised that it made me appreicate the importance of psychology.

Perhaps that one question resonating through the Smokie song [never adequately answered in the lyrics] stayed with me. I've always been the overly analytical type. Who the **** is Alice? Who is the central character of the song? Who is the central character in my story?

... of course, Alice is not the protagonist of the song. That would be the singer, who is just saying what he and Alice did (live next door) without describing her or telling his increasingly infuriated friends who the **** she was. So in a way, that song was always telling you about the singer, and not the elusive Alice. Which is rather the point.

While Smokie subconsciously taught me about vicarious perspectives and how peripheral characters can tell an audience or a reader about someone entirely different, Harris taught me a lot about the direct approach in Hannibal. I was suddenly fascinated by psychology, and in particular, the construction and gradual evolution of a character. There is a reason why Hannibal Lecter is Hannibal Lecter, and in that name, so evocative even to those who have never seen the film or read the book, there is a beautifully coherent jigsaw of pieces that the reader is able to identify and assemble as the trilogy unfolds.

For various reasons I was a very shy, introverted teenager. My grandparents thought that going to a local performing arts Saturday school - Stagecoach Theatre Arts - would be good for me, and they were right. I did Drama at A-Level too, and while I learned plenty of transferable skills like public speaking, confidence (and how to convincingly fake it), presentation and so on, I also got to find out what it was like to embody another person. Actually having to become a character written out by someone else forces you to think in so many different ways.

This brings us (finally!) on to one of my own characters, and how they were constructed into the form they have today.

I'll be discussing two characters from The Book of Fate - click the cover to read a full-length draft of the novel for free on!

The Blood-Brothers

I asked for votes on which character to talk about here, and votes for Fénryr and Kristof tied. I think that's quite apt, because they are blood-brothers, and therefore supposed to share everything... Of course, in practice, that's not quite how it is. [I will warn you now that there are spoilers ahead, but I will keep them to an absolute minimum and NOT give the plot away too much.]

Fénryr 'The Deathless' Némainsson and Kristof Isrod von Hisse are complete opposites.

Fénryr is a stoic, self-disciplined and deeply spiritual warrior who never really saw the glory in fighting. Far from wanting the honour and glory of a true warrior's death, Fenryr would be happy retiring to some hermitage somewhere or becoming a farmer.

Kristof is a passionate, unbalanced, self-destructive debauchée, who tends to lose complete control of his lusts and his temper and never wanted to live forever. The fact that he is immortal is very unfortunate. For everyone.

Kristof the Impaler

Kristof was conceived first. He's a kind of successful Sheriff of Nottingham (as played by Alan Rickman in Prince of Thieves, for preference), and actually looks almost exactly like him, even down to the boots. What a coincidence...

Kristof was based on Vlad the Impaler, and I have read Dracula (another favourite of my fourteen-year-old self) and watched so many incarnations of and documentaries regarding the (in)famous Wallachian [NOT Transylvanian!!!] prince that I really couldn't imagine Kristof being based on anyone else. 
Vlad III and his brother Radu were hostages of the Ottoman sultan as guarantees of their father's good behaviour. Tragically, both boys were sexually abused by their captors, which was not an unusual practice at the time. Radu "the handsome" became the Sultan's favourite, while Vlad began to impale rodents on sticks, and maintained an unhealthy fascination with that particular method of execution as an adult. 
I really didn't want to tackle that part of the back story, but the fact is, Kristof has the same sadistic need to impale people, and therefore that stems from a similar childhood trauma. Unlike Vlad, Kristof actually did impale his abuser - so the sadistic pleasure he gets from executions and the odd cold-blooded murder he later justifies in law as an execution is more for its own sake rather than the need to punish a surrogate for his ordeal.

Add to this his inability to win his father's respect or affection leading to some serious unresolved daddy-issues, his naturally passionate nature and his violent temper, and you have a recipe for an incredibly volatile villain.

... Or do you? 

Enter the Deathless, stage left. 


Fénryr "The Deathless" Némainsson

Of the three main players in Kristof's life before Elsa arrives, Fénryr is the first on the scene. Fénryr spent the first twelve years of his life in a cloistered community, learning about life and death. His father Némain sold him into the service of Yury von Hisse to be a Champion-in-training, one of Yury's personal guards and the elite among the household warriors. Fénryr disliked fighting, but unfortunately excelled at it because he possessed natural talent and the ability to swing a battleaxe.

Fénryr also had a hereditary skin disease which began to manifest itself in adolescence, resulting in his face being slowly eaten away. Eventually, after herbal preparations kept it at bay for several years, he resorted to wearing a full face mask of beaten steel in public.

In a way, Fénryr is characterised almost entirely by his mask. He plays many parts, and is a man of several public faces, none of them a real reflection of who he is. Even when he isn't wearing it, it creeps into the descriptions as if it is a second face or an entity of its own. This is quite a contrast with Kristof's sensual and expressive features, which aren't as good at hiding what he's thinking or how he feels. The counterpoint for Fénryr's mask is probably Kristof's marble bust, which captured in stone one soft and sincere expression that is very rarely present on Kristof's face. [The idea for the marble bust actually came from looking at the bust of Rhoemetacles or Sauromates II in the Acropolis Museum, Athens, from which city most of the descriptions of Brising are drawn. The comparison was made subconsciously, and I realised it was the perfect counter-point. Lesson here: never underestimate your subconcsious when doing redrafts and edits. It knows what it's doing.]

Fénryr is Kristof's foil - and the first person to teach the young Impaler about loyalty. Kristof was inspired to kill his abuser with Fénryr's support, and to save his new friend from the same fate. Fénryr for his part sympathised with Kristof, and spent most of his time in the various battles they fought together trying to keep his self-destructive, berserking comrade alive.

When Kristof succeeded to his father's lands and became immortal (a Mággraiv), Fénryr should have received great rewards as Kristof's blood-brother and closest friend. This never happened. Fénryr became Kristof's Champion, and very few outside the household were aware that the Mággraiv of Friggin had a blood-brother of lower social status than he was.

Striking a Balance

Since most of the book is about the extremes a person can go to out of revenge, love and fear, I thought it would be a bit much for Fénryr to also be a vengeful, double-crossing character. Because of his back story, however, and the fact that he has been so badly treated and let down, not to mention the personal struggles he faces with his disfigurement and desire to leave the warrior's life, Fénryr teeters on the edge of being a constructive and a destructive force. He is a much better fighter than Kristof, and has never lost a to-the-death Tournament despite now being in his forties - that presents quite a bit of temptation, especially when Kristof goes too far.

Fénryr is, therefore, hopelessly in love with Kristof's little sister Vassilissa, an unmarried and jealously guarded virgin half his age, who is herself torn between wanting to live her own life outside of her brother's shadow and her loyalty and love for him. It is his love for Vassilissa that ensures Fénryr's continued loyalty to Kristof, as well as his own sense of duty and honour.

If it wasn't for Fénryr, Kristof may not have done such a good job of raising Vassilissa after the death of their parents; if it wasn't for Fénryr, Kristof would not have been as capable of loyalty himself, nor would he be so well-instructed on spiritual matters. He is immoral rather than amoral, and frequently acknowledges the fact that he is "not a good man". If it weren't for Fénryr's friendship, King Hardrada's concern and role as paternal substitute, and Vassilissa's unconditional affection, Kristof would be much, much worse.

Inspiration for what Kristof calls "the best chip of my marble soul" - Portrait of Rhoemetalces or Sauromates II, kings of the Bosporus Kingdom. 150-125 BC

I'll discuss Vassilissa and Elsa next time, perhaps, if people would like me to - leave a comment if so!

If there's anything you'd like to know about Kristof and/or Fénryr (there's a lot I've left out on each!) then ask! 

Next time, I am spotlighting Cheryl Rosecrans's work and discussing the difficulties of constructing FF (Fan Fiction) and the wonders of Sci Fi.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Who Are You? [Part I]

Who Are You?



When you've got a new story to write, it's not just about the what, it's always about the 'who'. Stories don't just happen - they happen to someone.

Who are the characters, and why should the reader care?

What is so special about them that anyone would want to read about their adventures?

Who are they, what is their journey like, and who do they become?

These are the questions that dog an author when constructing their story. Even with something like CSI and its many spin-offs, it's not about the forensic procedures. If it was, you'd be watching a documentary with a lot of science. That's not what CSI is really about. CSI is popular and has spawned so many regional derivatives because of the characters. Characters are the plot. Without them, there would be no story to construct. Their world shapes them, and they leave their mark upon their world - or, they are consumed by it, or subsumed by it, or defeated by it, or triumphant over it. They are overcomers, they are failures, they are masters, servants, slaves, conquerors, conquered, lovers, abusers and abused. They are the ones we love, the ones we hate, the ones we love to hate, the ones we hate to love, the ones we lose sleep over, and the ones we just can't figure out. 

Who's side are they on, really? 

What is it makes them tick? 

... I'm going to be giving you guys some bios of my own characters in the future posts, so please comment on which ones you'd like to hear more about! I'm also interviewing other writers and getting them to give their insights, showcase their process and intriduce their favourite 'children'. First up is John Murray MacKay, who volunteered to be interviewed about his main character Samantha ahead of his publication date this coming December [2013].

J. M. McKay's N Chronicles

Hitting e-stores in December is John Murray McKay's debut novel, the first book of the N Chronicles.

The protagonist, Sam, is an English farm girl with a wild-child past. Breaking free of her family responsibilities in college but finding the party scene overwhelming, Sam overcame the demons of alcoholism to get her life back on track. Abandoned by her college friends, Sam's life was uneventful, stable, but lonely... until that fateful day. 

N Day. 

Without giving away too much of the plot, the premise of the N Chronicles is based on the question, what would happen if the Hadron Collider experiment went wrong? Mixing folklore and demonology with parallel dimensions, MacKay created the world Sam inhabits, a world torn apart by science and destroyed by what was once thought to be fictional. 

The N chronicles (Season 1) (Finished)
In a world gone terribly wrong, where the monsters of our deepest nightmares have come alive, one girl is on a journey to find Sanctuary in America. These are the N chronicles. Welcome to the story of Samantha Worthington Day. On the run from a demon horde that tore through the dreamscape and destroyed everything she ever loved, she is looking for Sanctuary in America, a place of safety and hope where humanity can start rebuilding their shattered world. 

Follow her journey across the United states with real life GPS coordinates and experience true life locations with her. She has a long way to go and her amazing destiny is yet to be revealed. Called of Lightning, Called of Darkness, Called of Light.

[Clicking the cover image will take you to a free draft a taster/preview of the soon-to-be-published novel.]

Who is Sam?

I asked McKay about Sam, and how she developed. It turns out we share the same taste in film directors and inspirations - I too am a Tarantino fan, for much the same reasons McKay is. But I digress.

J. M. McKay on Samantha:

Where did I get the idea for Samantha? I was always a great admirer of strong females throughout history like Joan of Arc or Boudicca. But I wanted to create a character with depth and emotion; somebody who kept her shield up against the world, who held her pain inside, but also one who would eventually learn to trust and depend on others. The human dynamics of Samantha are always evolving as she grows as a human being. Her interactions always fascinated me - with friend and foe alike.

The idea of a lone woman fighting for what she believed in always appealed to me (with Tarantino being a great influence on my work). In Book 2 of the N Chronicles we meet Samantha's complete opposite, but I can't give away too much about that character yet...! I can say that she sees the world and deals with adversity in a different way to Sam, and this contrast will hopefully provide the reader with great entertainment along the way.

There should never be one thing that drives a character to become the way they are - there is usually one major event or catalyst, but the character must draw on aspects of their personality that are already there, and must be shaped from this pre-existing foundation. That's why a well-developed backstory is so important. 

Sam had to be strong after her father was called up for military duty but never returned. She had to take care of her baby sister Christina and deal with the mysterious death of her other sibling, Diana. Her own private demons from her party-girl past also provide her with a foundation of strength, while her sense of abandonment - from her college friends as well as her absent father - mean that she is edging into the "tough loner" type. However, throughout her journey in the novels (both physically and emotionally) Sam does not drift into a stereotype.

She learns to trust people again, and is capable of mercy - but being forced to fight for survival also backs her into tight corners. Sam is forced to make some tough decisions, and when she makes a terrible mistake, her world comes crashing down.

... If you would like to read more about Sam's journey of self-discovery, survival and redemption, then follow McKay on facebooktwitter, google+, and wattpad for publishing news and updates.