Monsters!

A creature advances towards his prey, his sharp, black claws dripping with poison. The man and woman stare up, wide-eyed, as it advances upon them, knowing there is no way out. Their fate is sealed.

Such a scene invokes the imagination, and the human imagination is where fantasy thrives. One of the greatest things about fantasy is that literally anything is possible within the established parameters of the world presented. Most often, fantasy has beings such as elves, dwarves, and dragons, and there can be a plethora of varieties within each race. Even with things that do exist, fantasy has a way of changing and stretching them to fit into any world. Sometimes, the wide variety of peoples, races, and creatures that can be explored is overwhelming. How does a writer incorporate something as common as werewolves, ghosts, or vampires in a unique way? Do they even need to be unique to be effective? Sometimes good, old-fashioned, classical creatures are what a story needs. In Goandria, I try to be as unique as possible, but at the same time I like familiarity.

For example, in the upcoming novel series, the main foot soldiers are a dirty and ugly people, but I have grown weary of orcs being the staple for servants of a dark lord. The soldiers I refer to from Goandria are called thworfs, and they were originally inspired by orcs and other similar creatures, but as time went by, I tried to make them their own race. Orcs in fantasy are typically featured as belligerent and ugly, only capable of getting along on the battlefield. The thworfs may be unattractive by human standards, but other than that, I tried to abandon other similarities. I wanted to explore a race that was coerced but that was also not entirely what they seem to be.

On the other hand, I choose not to tamper too much with dragons. Dragons are perhaps the staple of fantasy. Nearly every form of the genre has its own take on the famous lizard breed. Personally, I like the animalistic dragons that are all about power and terror. There are just some elements of fantasy that do not need a whole lot of tinkering to be effective. Ultimately, uniqueness is difficult to find, and I believe presenting creatures that are believable within the framework of the world is most important. There are occasions in which a typical werewolf is what a story needs. The challenge for the writer is to find what that need is. More often than not, uniqueness is good, and that is generally my goal with Goandria.

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The Strong Independent Woman in Fantasy

This a very hot topic! I have heard complaints from people I know, and I have read online comments that in fantasy women are over-sexualized and/or under portrayed.   It is true when one walks down the science fiction/fantasy aisle in Barnes and Noble that the covers often depict women as culturally ideal. When was the last time you saw a homely man or woman featured on a cover? I suppose someone could give an example since beauty has a subjective component to it, but most images show that are accepted as beautiful by the general culture. I have also seen more and more of a demand for “strong, independent female characters” in my favorite genre. I get that women make up half the population and portraying them in a crude or cookie-cutter fashion is disgusting. However, let me ask you this: what exactly is a strong and independent female character?

In Goandria: The Schism, my goal is to make Evera the light of the story. She has her flaws like anyone, but at her heart she is overflowing with love. However, Evera is dependent upon Lorkai for strength, and Lorkai depends on Evera in the same way. These two characters lean on one another in their fights, when facing the worlox or their own personal demons. Evera is also a very strong character. When challenges come her way, she faces insurmountable odds without backing down. Then, to reiterate my question. What is a strong and independent female character? I could see potential arguments on either side saying Evera is or is not strong and independent. I suppose like many other things in this world, one knows it if he/she sees it, but it is hard to put a definition around it. The thing is, no one is truly strong and independent. No one is an island. No one can function without help in some degree. I’m sure that is not what the term “strong and independent” means, but then again, what does it mean? Sure, as authors we could write characters that are islands and could kick butt by themselves, but how believable is that? Perhaps the term is in reference to female characters that do not need a husband or boyfriend to function. Hey, if that is the case than I am all for it. Marriage and relationships are not for everyone. A woman who chooses to stay home and care for the children is not any weaker than a woman who is career-focused in the midst of having a family.

This topic brings another question: should writers focus solely on the female characters and ensure they are strong to avoid clichés? I’m sure few would actually say that, but this is the impression that is often given. What I feel should matter most is depth of a character, not the gender of a character. Characters drive stories. An author can create a beautiful world, but if the characters are static, the plot will fail. So yes, we should have strong, independent characters, but the expectations need to be realistic.

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Why I am an Indie author

When one does an online search of “indie author” or “self-published author,” he or she will get a slew of opinions.  Some are favorable, and some are not as favorable.  It seems the most common unfavorable views come from authors who are already published through a traditional service.  I can understand from the perspective of an author surviving all the hoops that come with traditional publishing that some would see self-publishing as the easier route to take.  There are a plethora of articles out there that tell the stories of why authors, even successful ones with publishing contracts, decide to go independent, so it is not necessary for me to reiterate that being an independent author, singer, or video game developer is just as viable of an option. You can search for yourself and find plenty of compelling stories.

What I want to share is why I have chosen this route.  It is not because I fear rejection from publishers, and it is not due to laziness.  No, I understand that publishers try to make an educated decision on what might sell, and an author’s work just may not fit into that.  Sure, there are low-quality, self-published works out there.  At the same time, though, I have read several poorly-written books that were published traditionally.  I have asked myself several times how certain books made it past the editors.  I chose this route out of years of research into the pros and cons of each type of publishing.  I decided that I did not need to sell millions of copies to be happy, and that I did not want to sign over the rights to all my work to someone else.  I understood from the beginning that I would have to bear all the weight of marketing my book, and I have grown to understand that this is a very difficult route.  However, at the end of the day, no one is forced to buy any book, and no matter what means of publication an author takes, there is no guarantee the book will sell.

For me, the struggle is worth it.  I am learning as I go to find what works and what doesn’t work.  I have spent over half my life dreaming of the day my writings would be available for the world to read.  I feel like, at least right now, handing over the rights to someone else would be a betrayal of my work.  I do not aim to get rich, but instead I hope to bring into the world the type of fantasy that I would like to read.

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The Purpose of The Schism

As I have stated before in previous blog posts, Goandria: The Schism is my debut short story series.  Why did I start with a series of short stories instead of a full-length novel?  Why did I chose to release The Schism instead of my novel that has been sitting, waiting to get published?  I have addressed some of these questions in other areas of this blog, but what I want to do is explain the difficult decision I made in taking this route.

I made the difficult decision to start with a short story series for a couple of reasons.  First, I feel it is easier to introduce small digestible chunks as a new author than to ask people not only to give their money to someone they have never heard of, but also a good chunk of their time.  Let’s face it, reading takes time, and with full-time jobs, families, and other hobbies all desiring a chunk of that time, asking strangers to read large chunks of fiction when they have never heard of you is probably unrealistic.  Second, I am going to do everything I can to avoid prequel syndrome.  We can all think of a movie, novel, or TV series that peaks our interest and then offers a prequel which either adds virtually nothing important to the story or creates a plethora of continuity errors.

Goandria: The Schism takes place several generations before my upcoming novel series.  It tells of a much different world than the reader will see in the future.  What I want to do is lay the foundation of Goandria and more importantly give greater depth to a character present in the future.  The short story series is meant to hone on a couple people while a war rages on in the background, a war that has taken place over several generations.  The Schism is the story of those characters. It is intended to begin within a much larger story, to introduce and focus on characters that will bring change to Goandria. The Schism is the prequel to the Goandria series and offers a small glimpse into this world.

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Avoiding Clichés

Clichés in fantasy are many, and in previous blog posts, I have addressed a few that I try to avoid.  As an author it can be dangerous to make the claim that I am avoiding clichés when they can be hard to avoid.  I would imagine that many times when authors use clichés in their works it is unintentional, or perhaps I would just like to give my fellow writers the benefit of the doubt.  Especially if the writer has a traditional publishing contract, I would guess if the author included clichés it is intentional.  What cliché have I not addressed before that is replete in fantasy books, TV shows, and films?  The one magical weapon that can destroy the dark lord.

I have seen this cliché repeated in various fantasy stories.  There is the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, the Sword of Shannara in the Shannara series, and Harry Potter is the only one in the whole world who can defeat Voldemort.  In that sense, Harry Potter is the magical object that can destroy the villain.  It is a neat concept and is believable within the context of a nearly all-powerful villain.  If a writer sets up an immortal, super-powerful antagonist, it is very difficult to defeat him or her in a believable way.  However, does this have to be the case for so many villains in fantasy?  This cliché is also one of the many common complaints I have found with post-Tolkien fantasy.  What if fantasy started to regularly employ other means of defeating the main villain?  What if modern fantasy could rise above the common problems that make it look a lot like clones of the Middle-Earth Legendarium?  What if the antagonist destroyed himself?  What if the protagonist found an unconventional chink in the villain’s metaphorical armor?

What I want to see is new life breathed into the fantasy genre.

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