20 Myths About Dwarves

My writing often begins with a good Dwarf story. I've always liked the idea of these industrious, stout fellows toiling away in mines. From Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to the Dwarves of Tolkien to creating them in role-playing table-top or video games, I've always leaned toward the exploration of the Dwarven priestly character that maintains his faith and keeps strong even when made light of by his own teammates. Male or female, that didn't seem to matter, though when playing DND, making the character a female often flummoxed the other white, straight nerds that typically played with me. Not a curse on them, just that it was fun to challenge their expectations in that way. I was also the one to suggest that Elves, being so long-lived, more than likely, tried one of everything over the course of a couple of millennia of life. What are they going to do all day in the primeval forests worshiping their love and fertility deities anyway?

Dwarves for me were always about being that one goody two shoes that everyone poo poo'ed, but would always come back to when the crap was hitting the fan emotionally, physically or even literally. I sometimes would purposely make my cleric a warrior-priest that did have healing spells - one or two - just for him. Warriors take care of themselves after all. Relying on another to heal them just meant that they were crappy at what they do. As a game runner, it did give me sympathy for the one player that was excited to try the priest role as I knew they were often limited in muscle and in healing abilities to start. I came up with many variations on healing for them so they could do it from afar or have extra spell slots they wouldn't be "out of things to do" after shooting off the one or two spells they had in their repertoire. I also allowed them to have unusual ways of casting that might also expand, or at least, personalize their characters a bit more. After refining my systems to my own personal tastes, Dwarves could only be priests if they wanted magic. Otherwise, they had to have a djinn or some other fetcher to bring them spells and that often made for interesting gameplay. 

The fourth book of the Dance of All Beings Cycle, if everything works out, should feature a classic Dwarf character of mine that has been knocking around my story bits years. His name is Balo, and he is a priest of a holy order of knights that typically is only followed by Men. How this came to be and how he comes to be a part of the story that starts with Bully and David is an interesting journey that I hope I will be able to get out into other people's hands. I would call it a 'low fantasy' story that while it features all the usual suspects in such a fantasy novel, it definitely is a 'bottom-up' look at the world through Balo's eyes. Low fantasy I think, while obviously not the original voice in sci-fi/fantasy that it once was, works well for allowing a more realistic, character-driven style of writing instead of fixating on the tropes of place and magic systems. I may allow too much magic into the world to be officially 'low fantasy,' but for me, the style is more about the less than goodly character in the world in gritty detail.

Balo certainly continues in the tradition of my characters being less than likable. To me, their lovable and I wouldn't change them, but as readers have told me, Bully, David and certainly Balo aren't heroic characters that they identify with. Some even express how little they actually like the characters, wishing they would suddenly burst out of their cocoon and into their superhero costumes and dash off like Superman. I don't see them as that. Their 'less than' status is what makes them interesting to me, especially when 'chosen' for certain tasks over others that would be considered the Supermen of their world. I also don't want to spoil for future readers, and current readers, the reason why they go through the arc of growth they follow. Some build their own vision in their head and I don't want to overwrite that with what is 'correct.' Indeed, if a reader came up with a better idea than mine, I certainly won't tear it down with the more mundane reality of what I intended. Sometimes it's just the philosophy of a character, and sometimes it is actually the unseen parts of the story that are only hinted at in certain points of the narrative. Either way, if the reader finds a better path, I won't force them to stray from it.

Getting Back on the Air

I wasn't sure what was happening there for a little while, but Portal's assures me that we will see The Dance of All Beings Part 2: The White War Bear this year! So, yea! I will be diligently working on the text in preparation for the publication of the second part. It is ever changing and this extra time I've had to work on it has dramatically changed the text for the better. Parts of what I sent originally for the editors to go over may no longer be in the text itself, but that's ok. I think the text is improved and it has benefited from deciding where I really want the story to go.

Having to break the book up to make it more immediate and more effective for the reader means having to figure out what to add in to make the necessary story points and what to take out that while a good read - at least to me - is not necessary for the story to move forward. It's heartbreaking in some cases to take the words out, but when you're no longer building that same story, you have to serve the story you are telling. It will also mean turning what was a side character into a hero character, and it will allow there to be any number of side stories to be built and many of them could be stand alone. That's not really a standard idea in big story arc series, but it does have an appeal to be able to explore that corner of the world if I wanted to and not have to connect it to something bigger. 

I've also had people question the male-centric cast. To me, this is the story that I wanted to write with no other inspiration other than that. There was no agenda politically or otherwise in the characters that came to mind and then to paper. The cast is also quite limited at least in the beginning. I think, for Bully's condition, with his families devoutness, the limited circle of people he interacts with is appropriate. It's about his insulated relationship with his family - particularly his father. That focus, at least initially, is very narrow.

 

As the story progresses, aside from his mother, there is a female doctor who is the lead on his case, and in the next book, he gains a female confidant that he does physical training with. He gains a new male friend that is bi-sexual but more so A-sexual if I had to quantify him, and I'm not sure that I had to, but once making it clearer how he and Bully bond together, it seemed to draw this side character out more strongly than just using him as a convenient prop. Bully will also gain companions that are of other human and non-human races, some of which don't have a label at all for sexuality aside from, 'yes please', with no real distinction in gender desire. So as I look at who interacts with Bully, to me, I see it as more logical progression for him as a character rather than a purposeful side-show of diversity. As I move forward in the series, I can certainly expand the palette of types that Bully interacts with. He is introverted, physically challenged, gay adolescent. He's not going out of his way to find party crowds to hang out with. Eventually, the party crowds will come to him.

Radio Interview with Artist First Radio

Just did a great interview with Tony Kay at Artist First Radio - it was about an hour and will be up in a day or two as an mp3 to listen to. It was a really nice time and Tony was quite able at making a lot of out the little bit that I had on offer. So many thanks to him.

The book can be bought at Amazon!

I do want to let people know I'm on Facebook with an author's page Eddie W. Presley.

I'm on twitter as well: @eddie_presley.

I also have pages on Google+ and on Goodreads. Google is just a place for me and a few geeky friends that are still on Google+ to chat, and my Goodreads pages will ramp up once the second book comes out.

For those coming from the radio interview - Bully the Bear is a coming of age story of a young man, William 'Bully' Exeter Jr. who finds himself dealing with an abusive father, a religious fanatic of a mother and a sudden onset of extreme gigantism, as well as having to deal with the fantasy realm he has fallen into and the Holy White Fire, the judgement of God being bestowed upon him.

It has its high fantasy elements, it has its dark horror elements, but it's about the characters and how they deal with the situations they are forced into. If I have to compare it to something, I will compare it to Stephen King's 'IT.' It's high fantasy, it's dark horror, but it's about the characters and the kids first and foremost in its 1000+ pages. The same here. Fantasy, horror, and character-driven coming of age. As a teen, it wouldn't bother me, but some adults have been "triggered" by some of it as it is quite dark in some spots - so parental guidance is suggested. I appreciate any and all feedback!

The link to check out the interview when it gets posted will be HERE.

Post Irma Book Signing Update!

Well, things went afoul with Irma. I had to evacuate twice. Not complaining. No indeed. There are others far worse off than I wound up being. It was at first going to be a hurricane over my house as a Cat 4. Then it slowly eased itself all the way over to the west coast where it would hit where I evacuated to as Cat 3. So I bugged out of there so I would not be stranded 2+ hours from home, and I watched it was over us as a Cat 1. It quickly departed, but it did bring some scary wind. It did not, however, bring the rain as I expected. Once the main feeder band lifted over us, literally, it was done with just the howling wind left. The power went out that night, but it came back on in about 24 hours. So yea us. However, we did have to reschedule the book signing. It is now OCT 14. Behold the new poster!

 

Presley Author Poster Oct 14.jpg

Reader's Reactions

I must say that I have been surprised at receiving feedback for my first writing effort. I didn't get a lot of feedback as I tried to roll Bully up onto his feet, and my first tastes of people's impressions of Bully are unexpected. There are still the non-committal reviews where it really wasn't their cup of tea, but they are trying to be nice, but then comes the "I couldn't get past this part because it was really kind of dark." Of course, I ask them to try again as that one part is just a small part, but I am, in a way, excited that it elicited such a response. I have to say, I would be kind of disappointed if everyone was non-committal in their reviews. My one hope was to be able to say that Bully made someone one cry at one point or made the laugh out loud at one point. That would be a solid win. It is dark enough in some places to trigger a tear, and there is enough growing up nostalgia and angst to elicit a laugh in some places at Bully bumbling through. To hear someone say it was so dark at this point I couldn't continue, is in the same ballpark - kind of a win. I want them to go on; I want to be able to explain to them the context behind it, but still, it's kind of a win. To me it is very dark in many places, some would say it was a bit of my own 'shadow work' coming out in word form - a therapeutic workout if you will, and I would have to agree. There is one part just reading it back that makes me cry every time. I have wondered if family members would read it and think, 'so that's what that was all about.' Though, I don't think there is anything in Bully that is quite that literal a translation as if it were an autobiography.

Other reactions have been very positive. I put it up for an auction at an arts and crafts fund drive for their festival and it sold. I'm not sure for how much, but apparently it "did very well." So there ya go. I hope to return to that festival in October and have both Bully Part One and Part Two to sell as that is a complete story - the whole original story. It was cut in two to meet the requirements of the publisher and I don't blame any press for not wanting to take on nearly 800 pages of Bully in one fell swoop as a first book. It also allowed me to fix a lot of troubling things with the text and create a whole new 'middle' for it, so it actually was a good thing to do it this way.

I do want to get part 2 out by this summer as I want to be able to hand to people a complete story and firm platform on which the other stories will be built. 

Writing Tips? Tricks? Maybe, but Certainly Not in any Order, Part One

There are not a lot of tricks to writing, and many of the tips are routinely disproved whenever a new Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer book is published.

Still, if I had to give tips to a new writer, who wanted to write fiction novels professionally, I would say, until you're being paid enough as a writer to make a living, work a job that is flexible with hours and plan to work at least 40 hours a week between your wage paying job and your writing job. I would also say to try to leave 2 days a week free from either job to get real life done. When you're at your writing job, consider it a professional job - get showered, get dressed and work a minimum of two hours before a 15-minute break, and use the internet only for research and aiding your writing task. It's harder to do than you think. Your first instinct is that you can saunter over to your computer, wearing nothing but some undies hanging from your hips, and you can work with a twitter feed open... and a facebook page open... and your blog open... and then it's 3 hours later and you're still scanning facebook for that one meme... Be professional - take care of your business postings and e-mails right off the bat and then settle in to work by the clock.

If you're a new writer, you need to work with the style guide by your side and keep referring to it. If the little squiggles keep appearing on something and you don't understand what Word is trying to say, look it up and learn the rule of thumb. You can't successfully break the rules if you don't know the rules. Learn all that you can about grammar and use more than one word processor with a grammar function to comb through it. Use a word processor that will read it aloud to you - you will catch many things that you didn't know were mistakes until you hear them out loud in jarring fashion. You can't break up text like e.e. cummings until you understand why and how words work together and have rules for their placement. Otherwise, it looks like you're trying to be the new Stephen King and failing miserably.

While there are no "wrong" words, there are exercises for new writers to do that make their writing immediately stronger.

1. Start all your sentences with the noun/verb: Pat said, The dog barked, The fire raced, the taco backfired... you may not wind up writing a whole novel like this, but it will immediately show you how punchy your writing can be like this, and it can help you lose most if not all of the passive voice that may have been plaguing it.

2. Remove all adverbs... and not just because Stephen King said to. If you do this as an exercise, you will find your sentences probably need no edits and are stronger and more direct. Those that do will require you to make your sentences stronger instead of describing the action post the verb in the sentence. You will force yourself to be stronger at how you structure your sentences and present the information within. If you have to say Joe moved quickly away from the fire... then you haven't done your job describing the fire adequately. 

3. Make an exercise of not using exclamation points unless absolutely necessary. When you do use one it will have more impact.

4. Make an exercise of removing all dialog tags. Like with adverbs, if you have to describe how something was being said after the fact, then you should rewrite it so it is understood how it is spoken and leave off the tag. A whole lot of "said's..." may seem boring, but better a line of said's then dumping in a thesaurus worth of variations. Over use of tags makes your writing seem amateurish - especially when heard out loud - and anything you can do to streamline and tighten up only makes the work better.

5. There are many lists of "those words" - the words that get repeated often. Do a google search for authors who talk about their personal pet peeve repetitive words like then, than, just, actually, etc. and do a word search on your document for those words and eliminate them outright. Re-read the work and do whatever edits you have to - chances are you'll do very few - to clean up the text.

Prologues

Well, we can be honest here - there are a few camps out there of what to do when faced with a prologue. There are the diehard skippers who never look back. There are the ones that always read them, and then there are those who will go back and read it later if the text is intriguing enough to warrant it. I'm definitely in the skip it and go back later camp, but it also depends on the length of the prologue and what it seems I'm going to have to sit through.

If it's really long and it's something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and is foreshadowing of foreshadowing, then that's a problem. If I had to caution a new writer on their prologue, I would say, try your story without it and just jump right in. However, as a writer who wants to play with all the toys myself, I would caution a fellow writer to consider the structure of the tale they want to tell, i.e. is the prologue a twenty-page info dump? Is it written in another style? Is it involving a host of people that haven't anything to do with the current cast of characters? Well, that could be a problem. I don't blame a new writer for wanting to flex all their muscles, but if you want that prologue to be read by most, then keep it short, keep it punchy and make sure that it's memorable enough that when something does loop back to it, the reader goes, AHA! and not, What the heck was that about?

In the original draft, my prologue started with, My name is Albert and I was nine-years-old when I died... and that's a pretty solid opening line. The biggest issue the 1st readers had reading that version was that Albert was set up here and then never referred to again. Of course, as a writer, I'm going, 'but it's all part of the big picture that you'll see over time! No, really!' And lot of other blah blah blah. It was all the same things that make me say, SKIP! when faced with such a prologue as a reader: lengthy, with characters that are not in the rest of the book, (or at least on the book jacket). The length of that first draft was too long for the publisher to commit to, and that forced me to restructure the book into 2 parts. I had to take a hard look at how the beginning bridged to the middle and then bridged to an all-new ending point.

I took a passage from the new Bully Part 2 and placed it at the front of Part 1 as a prologue. Son, I'm gonna hit you... is also a great opening line. It is a clear foreshadowing of actions involving the main character and the darkness he faces - both of which are clearly on the book jacket itself. It's short. It's punchy, (literally). Albert moves to the first chapter, and, having the option now to restructure the work, I took images and ideas from Albert's chapter and repeated them throughout so that even if Albert himself doesn't reappear, you can feel his ghost throughout. To reinforce Albert, he appears in a short and punchy prologue to Part 2, and following that, another appearance in Part 3, and by Part 4 he takes the stage as a major character.

I'm still not sure the Albert chapter fully works, but once the entire series is read, it all makes sense - blah blah blah. It's been a long time getting to this point, and having the book actually see print, so I'm going to flex my creative muscles and write prologues and vaguely dramatic foreshadowing - though there is one thing I won't do - an epilogue - that's surely the mark of an amateur! HA!

Being Sure Characters Do What They Would Really Do

Here's an article on stories with multiple personality disorder.

That's not entirely what this is about. Watching several of the new genre made-for-tv series on Netflix and Hulu, I frequently stumble across something I've had to work on in my own writing: Would this character really do this?

The most recent example on tv was from Agents of Shield where the character of Quake goes into a battle with the Big Bad of the current story arc and doesn't smoosh him into the wall, nor once the Big Bad is down, does she take him with her to be put into one of the quarantine cubes at Shield. Quake was trained to fight specifically by Mae, the badass warrior woman who takes no prisoners. She was also trained as an Inhuman to work with her ability. She has also been trained in "what you do with a Big Bad" by Shield itself. In this fight, she tosses him back from her and then goes in to fight hand to hand. Mae would have never trained her to do this. She eventually beats him back and leaves him (so the writer's can have him improved like the bionic man and return to haunt them). Shield would have never trained her to do that. She would have crushed him full stop as her first move and then she would have taken him back to the jet. The writer let go of the "rules" of that show's universe to allow the trope of the Big Bad escaping to plague them once again to occur.

Writers need to stand back and look at the motivations of their characters and ask themselves:

Why? Why are they doing this - Why is this stay at home mom... why is this super villain... why is this charming man about town... putting up with... setting up... ignoring... this Rube Goldburgian machination to make this other thing happen? Is there is no clear motivation for action other than there wouldn't be a story without it? Then you have a serious plot hole that needs to be filled in. Also, characters change as a writer writes, and it just may be that the character you wind up with may not have ever been motivated to commit those earlier actions.

If this goal is really what the character wants - is that really how they would really go about accomplishing it? Does she really set up a convoluted scheme with a local butcher to get an usual cut of meat to her local favorite restaurant and ask them to prepare it in the unique way, using these rare far eastern ingredients she had to special order in to impress her teacher that she was more worldly than she seemed ... or ... does she weigh the pros and cons of just talking to her teacher and fessing up?

What are the other characters doing? Are they just getting out of the main characters way as they do things, or do they have something to say? The main character is an FBI agent on a tough case, but he's acting like a lone wolf and is for some unknown motivation not using the FBI resources. Does no one stop him and remind him of protocol? Does no one say, "Um... you have actual assigned cases that we work on as a group. Your job's in jeopardy by working on this side case instead of doing your assigned cases..." or "Um... you're part of a huge unit of investigators and we work together... and we have all these computers that we use to figure out the stuff you're trying to poorly discover on your own..." Sometimes figuring out motivation can undo an entire story idea. Sometimes it just means from a certain plot point forward - it's not the book you were planning to write, but a new story that has yet to be written. 

As a writer you have to be able to step back from a work, even let that work sit in a drawer for a period time, until you can come back to it with fresh eyes and ask yourself, is this really what would happen. Is it too clever or too cliche for its own good? Did you like writing that twist ending so much that you are overlooking the fact that it makes no sense to the story? I've been very sad to let pages upon pages of plot drift away, going up in smoke because the actions of the characters made no sense. It allowed the neat little bow to go right on top of the finished product, and it was sure fun to write, but once pulled apart and reworked, the story only became stronger because the characters acted honestly and the plot will go into new directions that are better than what was there before. Sometimes you're not so lucky and the whole story goes away, but better to let it go than to add another cliche filled book to the heap of genre cliches already out there.

DragonWorld by Bryon Preiss and Michael Reaves, Illustrated by Joseph Zucker

This was one of those early books of fantasy that I have hung onto ever since I first got it. The story is pretty straight up, typical, fantasy of the time, but the interior illustration by Zucker is really what sold it. I poured over them for hours, copying them and trying to emulate them in my own daffy little pictures I drew.

You can still get it if you look hard enough. I think Amazon only has them as second hand now. It's worth a look if you like dragons and fantasy mixed with some really cool pencil illustrations.

Books of the Year

3. Annie Proulx - Barkskins

'...From Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently, dramatic novel about the taking down of the world's forests...' She could stop after this one, but you can always hope for one more.

2. Ethan Canin - The Doubter's Almanac

'...In this mesmerizing novel, Ethan Canin, the author of "America America" and "The Palace Thief," explores the nature of genius, rivalry, ambition, and love among multiple generations of a gifted family...' This book is also a joy to read from a writing standpoint as much as it is from a plot standpoint.

1. Michael Chabon - Moonglow

I'm going to drop this one in at the top because it's Michael Chabon and that means it's probably better than anything else out this year, and that can be said because David Mitchell didn't release a book this year. It's part novel, part autobiography, part memoir, part biography, and it's all good. It's to savor from the characters and story to the literary work on display.

  Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/JjlRhv

Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/JjlRhv

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Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/46dPYM

 Amazon.com:  https://goo.gl/09mKvC

Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/09mKvC