Fiction Verses Reality

As I was editing one of my future posts, which deals with part of a fictional story, I realized that for a story to work that it must mirror reality. And what I’m referring to here is what our experience tells us about how it all works – cause and effect, if – then, and the such. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Stranger than fiction”; meaning that something in real life was beyond the imagination of the many writers out there and whatever the incident one would never have expected it to happen in real life, in the real world.

As I thought about this I realized, (not that I haven’t talked about this before in past posts) that whatever the fictional world the writer creates, it is the actors or characters who must be consistent in what and who they are. The worlds may be of fantasy, of a future utopia, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, dystopian, or so many other fictional creations that don’t include the physical or real world as we know it. Again these worlds are simply the places in time and have a physical reality that the fictional people live out their fictional lives. And while it may be fantastical to us, for the ones living in these worlds it is the normal day-to-day stuff. And if we strip away the fancy dressing, the fictional worlds and societies, what do we find but ordinary people living their lives and trying to survive. Of course most of the boring stuff has been stripped away with only the situation that has been brought forth presenting us with the conflict that drives the story.

The people – especially the protagonists and antagonists must mirror reality. And here I mean they must mirror us, the ones who live in this physical realm. They must reflect, act, and react like living breathing human beings whether their form is like us or completely strange. I think one of the most difficult parts of being a writer of fiction is when one creates creatures that have never existed, be it in horror, science fiction, fantasy, or any of the many other genres where we have this freedom, is to make them appear real thinking beings, reacting as they should within the limits of their form. From our imaginations we must create a history, the conditions that drive these fictional cultures to become advanced enough to rise above the animals, build societies, and then act and interact with us, as readers, on a level where we can empathize with them and what we are reading. And all of it must be seamless and natural revealing this history and culture through the actions and reactions of these fictional creatures, worlds, and environments.

Yet, even here when this is done, deep down, and while the writer keeps it consistent within this world of aliens, we can still see us. All of us are prisoners of our culture. Unless you have spent time in another, then it is easy to overlook the fact that others, because of their culture, look at a situation or the world differently. In fact the language you speak has determined the way you even think. When one learns a foreign language it forces one to begin to think in that language. And I’ve been told that once you no longer have to translate that foreign language into your own, at that moment, you have made it your own. And it has been said the more languages you can speak the smarter you become. And it seems to be so. Still it could be because the ones who have done this have a higher intelligence and it becomes obvious when they speak, or maybe it really does. So by learning that language you really are expanding yourself beyond your culture, and the way you have always viewed the world.

So when these strange creatures are created, in a sense, it is like moving to a new country where one must learn to think, act, and interact like the locals. Still, and overall, while we are not logical creatures, since we deal with emotion, inexact thought, and biology, and because of this it is a wonder that we have any consistency at all. We all face fear, hate, jealousy, love, dislike, pain, heat and cold, and so many other things. All of this leads to a complicated creature. And if we really think about it we see much of the same reactions from our animals. So for us on this planet it appears to be something that is consistent among all of us.

When considering this, how, with so many complicated parts being involved, can we be consistent? It has been stated that it’s because of the combination of heredity and environment. Heredity determines the tendencies we are born with, and environment, or the way we are raised, will be the way we will act and react to those tendencies. With this understanding we now can begin to create our fictional characters, and why they, in the end, will be no more than mirror images or reflections of us.

In the beginning when a character is created, (at least in my case) much of what he or she is, is an unknown. For example in my novel, A Taste of History Past, book 3 in the Survival Series, I saw Kal standing in the afternoon in the middle of either fields or meadows trying to come to some decision about what was bothering him. Now if we think about it, this is consistent with any of us. Not necessarily the location, but going somewhere quiet and trying to solve some important issue that requires a quiet place so we can concentrate fully on the problem or issue. So this character shows a trait we are quite familiar with. Obviously, in this case since it is the 3rd book in the series the world he lives has existed and did not need to be created. Yet, this isn’t entirely true this time. Only the world is the same.

He exists a long time in the future from where book 2, Desperate to Survive ends. So in truth this required bringing the people of this world forward in time, including any advances, changes in culture, and their history through their myths and legends. Still when one looks at the story overall, and the players within this story, we can find parallels to our world, our time, and if we want to, look back to any time of our own world history. These fictional stories and the players within them are no different from any at any moment in time, in any culture that exists, have existed, or will exist on this world. No, the story or this novel I’ve used for an example, may not reflect any real event, but instead it reflects the tendencies that make us, us.

It is this consistency that draws us in, that allows us to anticipate what may be happening in the future of that fictional story, and to feel comfortable with the actors. We can see ourselves in them, and as a result feel empathy towards them. Making us want to cheer them on, to warn them when we, as the readers, can see things that are unknown to them. And maybe at times we can see some of our faults as we follow the antagonists, and hope that in the end they might be redeemed. Realizing that most of the time they don’t want to be redeemed and enjoy their power over others, (Does this sound familiar?) and their abilities to fool the regular folk. Psychopaths, and sociopaths immediately come to mind. For whatever the reason, their flaws are so severe that they enjoy being who they are, and what they can do against society and the individual.

And if one thing is consistent in any novel out there is this parallel world between reality and fiction. They go hand-in-hand to create these fictional worlds that we want to return to often. We want to see us in those stories. We want to watch the people in those stories grow, become more than they were at the beginning. We want to see them triumph in the end. And maybe this is the one true difference. In our own lives we have no guarantees that once our lives are over that we’ve accomplished our goals, or triumphed over our adversaries. Still in the end, and as it has been said too many times, it is the journey, what we learn and gain as time moves by us much too fast that will become our legacy. And it may be for some forgotten act that will mark who we were and how we will be remembered.

It is those failures that we learn from the most. But, a failure only remains a failure if we don’t continue to try. And every time we overcome those failures we gain. What we gain is up to us. And while those novels are static, meaning that every time you pick it up to read it again, the story remains the same with our hero or heroes winning in the end, our lives are not that way. So, in a sense, these protagonists can be someone we look up to. Someone who can give us the confidence that maybe in our own lives we can overcome those personal obstacles, learn from our mistakes, and reach our goals. Our lives only become static once we are no more. It is only then that there is no present, our past is written, and our futures are no more.

In conclusion, once again, as we read the words on the page, watching them disappear into the images within our minds, we can live, for a short time, the lives of these fictional people. People who only live within the pages of these novels. And have only become alive because of the imagination of a writer and you the reader. Yet, it is his or her observation of the real world that allows these fictional characters to live, and for us to love and hate them. And it is these fictional worlds where we see us thusly bridging the gap between the worlds of fiction and our world of reality. And many times when we have finished those novels we take a moment to reflect what was there, leaving us at times thinking about what was said, and other times leaving us with a sense of wonder. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

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Voice Acting – Bringing a Story Alive

As far as voice acting, I’m looking at this from a personal view, and delving into a little history and background as I progress from the time before voice acting existed in the gaming worlds (as long as we’ve had sound, voice acting has existed in TV, animated shorts and movies) to now where it is critical. (If one wants to be honest, even with the power of the modern computer RPGs still use dialogue trees that must be read. In a sense this is understandable considering the size of these worlds, the number of characters, the subplots, side quests, and random chaos that populates these worlds.) In fact one could purchase the “voice add-on” to those early games, something that would add a little more depth, but again even here it was short and sweet with no synchronization between words and mouth movements:

For any who follow this blog you are aware that I’m a gamer as well as a writer, obviously a blogger, and am retired. I’ve been dealing with computers since the early 90’s (and maybe even the late 80’s), from those good old days of DOS. It was here that I was sucked into the world of computer gaming (Anybody remember the Wing Commander series from Origin? If not this one then their big one which I never played, Ultima with “Lord British”.). Most games in those days simply had the script written as the systems were not powerful enough to drive all aspects of what we take for granted today. Probably it would surprise many that a large game “back in the day” could be counted in megabytes, not the gigabytes of the modern game worlds of today. In fact if you pushed over 25 megabytes you’d be using half your existing hard drive that came with the system at the time. With RAM existing at 2 to 4 megabytes, again instead of gigabytes, and the cost for those megabytes of RAM was exceedingly expensive, pushing the price of those early systems to over two grand. No soundcards, requiring any sounds to go through the single tinny speaker that was part of your system (all this you added later if you could afford it). And we cannot forget that there were no CD’s, DVD’s didn’t exist yet, so everything came on floppy disks either in the 1.2 megabyte, 5 1/4 inch or 1.44 megabyte 3 1/2 inch variety. Hard drives, yeah anything over 300 megs doubled in cost, and the average system came with less than 100, with the common size being around 40 megs, (And to be honest can any of us forget about the boot disks we created so we could take advantage of every megabyte of RAM). So in those early days because of the limitations voice acting wasn’t considered or thought as necessary.

Of course before any of this can take place there has to be a writer, or many writers. Without the writer there is no story, no characters, no direction, no world, nothing. Just a void where there is potential but unformed. Until that story is put to paper – whether that paper is electronic, using the modern word processor, an old typewriter, or pen to paper – nothing can go forward. Many times we find the stories that become our entertainment were originally novels. Other times the stories are specifically written for the media. If it is a book then others take over and write the script that allow the story to translate to the big screen, your TV, or into the game world. Until then it is only words on a page.

Words that as a reader we bring alive within our minds as we see the story unfolding in images within ourselves. And since this is the process it is probably why we are disappointed when one of our favorite stories becomes a movie, or a series, or something visual. In our mind’s eye the story will always be richer than someone else’s translation. And, to be honest, the creators must cut and change the story somewhat so that it will work within the media of their choice. My novels range in size from around two hundred pages to as high as five hundred. Even on the short end of this the story is too long for the big screen since each page equals approximately a minute of time. So even the shortest would be over three hours long.

Once all this work is accomplished the script is turned over to the ones who will bring it alive. If it will be using live actors then the director will be able to work with the real actors who then act out the scenes in the director’s vision of the story. Of course if we are talking animated shorts, or animated full length movies then things change. Of course this applies to the game worlds also. Here the difference lies in the volume of what must be translated into the game world. In other words the script for a game is much larger than an animated movie. Again, as in a story where the actors are there acting out the script with a director making sure it goes as planned, there is a director working with the voice actors.

Here it is up to the collaboration to make the script come alive. To make the ones who are using the product to be immersed in the world they are creating and not to do something that immediately destroys that immersion. Once that moment happens it is over. Bad voice acting will kill a good story or game world as quickly as poor writing, interface, or poor game design and world creation. Maybe because I’m older, or because I’m a writer I have a tendency to notice these things. And many times I do pause as I marvel at the success of a scene in front of me because of the way the voice actor brought what I’m witnessing alive.

One that comes immediately to mind is from an old game series, F.E.A.R.. For those unfamiliar with the game it is a standard FPS (First Person Shooter) wrapped up in horror, well done, and dark. The first two including expansions (as they were known then, we know them as DLC’s today) are great games, with superb voice acting. And to this day I have one of those lines from that game that remains with me. It’s not because the words are profound. No, it’s because the voice actor nailed it. Where the fictional character was, the situation she was in, and the realization that her chance of survival was minimal were all in those five words. And in print they will never have the same impact, the feeling of despair, of hopelessness that the actor portrayed in those five words. She simply said, “You’re not coming are you . . .”

Presently I’m playing Fallout 4, a gift from my sons for Christmas this year. Simply stated Fallout 4, and all the Fallout games are post apocalyptic worlds. I have to admit I enjoyed Fallout 3 and all the DLC’s that came with that game, ( I have to include the many mods I tried that helped to extend the life of the game). Yet this one (Fallout 4) is far deeper and, of course, with the passing time, the ability to present a fictional world has improved, meaning what is seen is closer to reality. (I marvel at the AI as I watch teams of antagonists work together in a firefight advancing and retreating, using available cover and shifting their location if their position is bad, all according to the battle they are in.) And the script overall had to be huge. What adds to this realism is the small vignettes within the game world. These short stories of tragedies from the past being transmitted over the emergency air waves asking, begging, or pleading for help. Making you as the main character want to track down these signals to see if you can help. Are they in the present, or has it happened a long time ago? Until you investigate you won’t know. If the voice acting hadn’t been spot on, if the voice actors had simply been reading the words the impact wouldn’t be there, and it would mean nothing, simply being a side note taking one away from immersion in the story, from this fictional world.

So in any of these fictional worlds where avatars are filling in for the real world and real actors it is that voice actor that brings these worlds and characters to life. If the actors hadn’t nailed Shrek, or Po, or any of the other avatars in those animated movies would they be as popular today, or would they be in some bargain bin collecting dust? And it is the same within the game worlds. Without those voice actors doing the great job of translating the written word much of what we enjoy wouldn’t exist. (On a side note we now have audio books that require a higher degree of voice acting to bring those books alive.) Of course what precedes this is that written word, still . . . In conclusion I must say, “Here’s to the voice actors and the worlds they bring alive. Without them we’d be living in a less imaginative and less colorful world.” God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

 

Writing Style

Writing style: Many times this is called the voice of the writer. It is the way he or she presents stories to the world. For most writers this voice is the result of their lives, the way they see the world, and their personal experiences that color those written pages. And as time goes on, and we continue to write, our personal styles become cleaner, and the descriptions, actions, and worlds become more real. Many times, as writers, when we look back at our early works, we can almost be embarrassed because we can see the errors, the poor writing, and the potential never used. And it means since most are already published we cannot go back and correct those blatant mistakes, the stilted dialogue, or weak character development.

In a sense I suspect this is true of any vocation. When we begin we do not have the knowledge, skill set, experience, or the abilities that we gain later in life. And things we couldn’t see in the beginning, things we should have anticipated, are things that become obvious once we’ve gained the experience and learned our craft. One of the problems with writing is, it is a craft that always changes, and like practicing medicine one continues to learn throughout one’s life, (One example of this is how something like the spelling of a word changes. When I type these two words in, with word processors they show as misspelled or autocorrect, but at one time they were correct. The two words are “alot” and “awhile“, with the second still being used but restricted when comparing the usage to the past. And there are other such examples. It is why what we speak is called a living language.). And yes, we may have some natural skills – God Given gifts – but unless we use them, train hard, and learn our lessons we never become the person we could be.

For example: I have two sons who have some wonderful gifts. And those gifts could be of great benefit to both of them. Yet, at this time in their lives, I don’t see either of them ever developing or using them. It means that in the end these special gifts will go unused and be lost. I decided, after retiring, to pursue one of my dreams which happens to be writing – it is something I’ve always had a desire to do. In this process I’ve written 8 books with number 9 finished as a first draft (yes 5 are unpublished at this time), numerous short stories, and have made well over 250 posts to this blog. And while I consider myself a good writer, one of my sons puts me to shame with his gift of writing. And what sucks, for me, for him it’s all effortless. My other son has the ability to imitate almost anyone he wants to, and this includes accents. He can also memorize almost any script instantly, and again, in his case it’s easy, effortless. We continue to tell him he should do “voice-overs”, but seems uninterested, or maybe it’s just a confidence thing, I don’t know.

And while I’ve been keeping things here in general terms – presenting an overview so to speak – what I want to talk about, as we work our way towards the end of this post, is my way of writing and how it changes according to the work – thusly my writing style. Sometimes it takes a while for me to recognize something I do unconsciously with my writing, and until I take the time to sit back and look, it is something I wouldn’t even notice. I find in my novels that I’m most comfortable with the third person perspective. I know at one time that this statement covered any writing style dealing from that perspective. Of course this has changed (The one constant in life is change?) and one can no longer state, “I write in the ‘third person’ point of view.” Because the questions that usually follow can be like this: “Do you mean Omni or personal, or a little of both?” Of course referring to the whole story world or up close and personal and not revealing all that is happening around the protagonist.

It was then I realized that when I switch to short stories that I generally write in “first person”. Again even here I have a tendency to reach beyond just the first person and allow the reader to see beyond the character. When I began to think about this I realized that in novels we are dealing with incidents and lives that cover the whole fictional world, and for me first person would be too restricting. In a sense my novels are in the style that I call, “meanwhile back at the ranch”. Meaning that I give the reader a chance to see what’s happening with all the characters in the story be they the protagonists or antagonists. I remember trying to write my first novel in first person and failing miserably. I had to go back and rewrite the first third of the book converting it to third person, which to be honest, was a bear. Just for the fun when I look at the perspectives of the stories such as first or third person I always wonder what happened to second person, is there one, and if so what would the writing style look like? Maybe, as a guess, it is another telling the story and we are seeing it unfold from their perspective.

I found that the short stories in comparison only covered an incident, a small slice in time. It is a place where the personal becomes, well, personal. And for me when I’m dealing with a small slice of time, and only one individual, (Not that one doesn’t in full length novels.), the world from their perspective becomes all. For me it is easier to stay in that first person style to allow the story to have the impact I desire. (If we want to be honest our personal worlds are all first person. We only know what we know from our personal interaction with the world.) And I guess one of the best examples of this is the 2014 Christmas story titled, And it Came to Pass. Through the eyes of the protagonist we can experience the world around him, his feelings, his regrets, and see his life through his eyes, bringing the world and story to life, making it feel real. And maybe such stories make us more aware of our surroundings. After all, isn’t part of a good story there to show us something, or maybe teach us? Story tellers have been with us as long as there has been language. And even though they were having fun with it, we saw story telling in the animated movie, “The Croods”. (Yes I love animated movies, the old cartoons, and such.)

And there is one other aspect to my voice, to my story telling. And I suspect it is the way the story is told that determines this. When I first begin a novel I really can’t tell you if it will be a timeline novel, an episodic story like the one I recently presented in this blog, or whether in the end it will be a standard chapter book. The story as it unfolds sort of dictates how it will be. While the majority of my novels are chapter books, of the nine I’ve written, one is timeline and one is episodic, eight are science fiction, and one is contemporary Christian fiction. In fact when I began writing my first novel I had to go back later and figure out chapter breaks, while now I can sense where the change is and thusly the beginning of a new chapter, which generally run around twenty pages long – give or take a few.

In fiction writing the stories we present reflect real life. And because it is fiction it gives you the reader, (And, of course, we as writers.), the ability to soar where the real world cannot take you. And we, the writers, try to present these stories in such a way that as a reader you want to visit these fictional worlds, the fictional people who populate them, and like a voyeur, without feelings of guilt, watch their lives unfold. It is said that novels are about life with the boring parts left out. Because of this, we, as readers, cheer from the sideline as our heroes in the story discover something that helps them. And on the opposite side we try to reach out to them when we see something about to happen for which they are completely unaware. It is this fictional life journey of ups, downs, failures, and growth that bring us into these worlds. And if the author, with his or her voice or writing style, has done his or her job and it is something that appeals to you, then I suspect you will return looking for other such works by this particular author, never considering any of what is stated here. For you it is just a good or great story. And probably this is the way it should be. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

A Review

So are we reviewing something as a critic would, or is it something entirely different? I guess I can understand the question since the title of this post is truly generic and could reflect any number of thoughts, ideas or directions. I realized as we approach the last two episodes in the book, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown, that a review (or synopsis) of the different episodes would bring all of us up to date. Many of you readers out there have come into the series of short stories in the middle not knowing or realizing they are related or part of a book, since they began and ended with what seemed to be closure. I’m sure, at times, the endings probably left one questioning what was truly happening since it wrapped up the short story but didn’t necessarily give full closure. And that’s simply because these endings, while complete, were to lead one on to the next episode.

If, first off, we were to look at the world of Jay, Elsa, and Ed we can determine that it is post-apocalyptic. For the sister and brother it is a world of villages, towns, and trading centers. A world primitive in comparison to where we are presently. A place where people live behind walls for protection. The village that Jay and Elsa are part of lies close to a great desert in the foothills along one of the major trade routes that run north to south. Their village’s main product is semi-precious stones they mine. Still by their isolation theirs is not a rich village or town. For all who live here it is a hard existence, yet overall a happy one. In the wild places exist clans of raiders which prey upon these villages taking anything they desire by force. They are the reason for the walls.

While Ed lives in a huge underground structure that is in the great desert. A facility meant to save mankind, but in the end failed (as far as he personally knows). His world is a world of technology and controlled environments. He has at his disposal all the comforts of home. His is a world we would recognize in an instant. Yet, with all of this for his use he is alone with no prospects of ever finding any others (This conclusion based on their history.).

The story begins as we follow Jay and the view is of his world, obviously, as he sees it. He is from a loving large family, and is responsible. Still time is short as he reaches for one of his life goals. And thusly the first episode begins:

And the Sun Will Rise: In this first episode we follow Jay as a teenager just about to enter adulthood. At the time of official entry into this next phase of his life he will be required to leave childhood, and such nonsense behind. He’s finding the normal changes to be challenging. Suddenly the opposite sex has a strong draw and he finds his body reacting to such thoughts about girls and is embarrassed by those reactions. Still, since he was a child, he found the peaks behind their village to be of personal interest. And he has had the desire to conquer them. And just before making the transition to being an adult he gets time off to do just that.

During his two-day trek, climbing the mountains, he awakens after a really bad night, after that first day of climbing, to the smell of smoke. It is the gray of dawn and nothing is really visible. At first he thinks it’s simply the smoke from his own campfire, but realizes that it doesn’t smell like that. He then realizes that something has to be burning in the village and is at loss as to what he should do. He is too far away to be of immediate help. So should he continue on to his goal or should he turn around and head back? He knows this will be his only chance in his life to reach his goal.

His mind is made up for him as the amount of smoke rolling in on him is too great to be a single building. It has taken a full day to reach his camp and knows it will be same to return. After returning he finds the village destroyed, and everyone he has ever known to be either dead or missing. After a brief search through the burning ruins he escapes into the desert where close to death finds a cave which has a natural water tank. After recovering he decides to explore further and finds a worked tunnel leading deeper and to his surprise finds a building. It is while here he sees Elsa, his sister, stumbling through the desert sands naked, injured, and close to death. He rescues her, nurses her back to health and the two decide to remain in this strange world he has discovered.

The Deeps: Ed is the last human on the face of the earth. At least that is how it appears to him and the ones before him. At the time that we meet Ed he is no longer young and has just cremated his father’s remains. The Deeps, is the common name of an underground world known as Helms Deep, named after a valley from the trilogy Lord of the Rings. It is a place where mankind was to survive and return to the surface once the earth had healed.

It is here we learn of this place, what it was meant for, and how time ran out before its purpose could be fulfilled. In the past there had been an incident somewhere deep in space that sent a destructive shotgun blast of asteroids inward towards the sun. And from all that could be understood earth was in the way. The question was would the earth survive, or would the world become a barren rock? Even with the supercomputers there were no definitive answers.

So with this desperate situation mankind built an underground facility meant to hold thousands, to give man a chance for survival. Unfortunately it was too little, too late and the only ones who were able to enter the facility were the workers on site at the time of impacts. From what could be witnessed, through electronic means, there was very little chance of survival for any who were on the surface. So with too small of a gene pool they attempted to give their species a chance by spreading the genes that were available as widely as possible. Ed was proof they failed.

Through his elderly years he continues to maintain “The Deeps”, and feels the walls closing in on him. At one point he goes insane, and later after recovering has to repair all the damage he had done during the time he was out of his mind. Still loneliness is his constant companion, and finally an alarm forces him to go out into the natural air to fix a major problem. Exhausted he returns only to fall immediately into bed and sleep it out. He, once awake, decides to get some food and on the way to one of the many kitchens sees a flashing red light in one of the security offices. He investigates and suddenly discovers two young people living in the Welcome and Processing center. Shocked, he sits there and stares.

The Past in the Present Seeing the Future: Ed is at a loss. Are the images he’s witnessing in the present, or are they some past recording? He doesn’t know.  So he does the only thing he knows – he researches the vast database and libraries. And as he continues to monitor the young male and female he begins to make conclusions on too little information. Still at this point he hasn’t been able to determine when those images originally were recorded.

As he continues to view the scene he realizes the sound is off and has to find where to turn it on. He figures if he can listen to the two he can understand more of what is happening and their relationship. Once he does he finds he cannot understand a word they are saying. He wonders if they are speaking a foreign language but learns, as time goes on, that all three of them speak the same language and it is only time that has changed the words and the way they are spoken.

Meanwhile Jay is beginning to worry. Yes he’s been able to help Elsa and her recovery, but when he had left the village for that final time, taking the emergency packs of food he had, it was with himself in mind. There had been no time or plans to bring enough food items, sleep sacks, or clothing for more than one. As a result their food supplies are dwindling too fast in his mind. While water is no issue, food and clothing are. So he approaches Elsa knowing her fragile condition.

Elsa lets Jay know in no uncertain terms where she is in her recovery, and that she doesn’t believe that she can continue here alone without him. Right now he is her crutch. The physical and mental abuse she’d taken at the hands of the raiders, plus what she personally witnessed has left her unsure on all of her mental and physical levels. And as he truly learns what happened, not that he was unaware, still because of her present valid fears, and what could happen if he leaves, he puts his plans on hold. Yet this issue will not go away.

Ed, having to rely on voice tone and body language can’t decide what truly is happening. There appears to be frustration, anger, fear, and any and all the emotions in-between. He fears that the female may be a captive of the male, but if this is true Ed doesn’t know how to respond or what he as an old man can do. Still he could be misinterpreting the whole thing – that language barrier thing once again. Still this could be a past event and mean nothing.

Eventually through personal research Ed discovers what he is witnessing is the present – now what? He decides to run archived footage from The Welcome and Processing center to discover when they entered the facility. It is through the archives where he learns the condition of both. Again he is struck by the care the male gives the female when she is unaware, and unconscious.

Jay finally convinces Elsa he has no choice and leaves to find more food. It weighs heavily upon him knowing her condition, but there’s no choice. And while Jay is away time weighs heavily on Elsa. She honestly doesn’t know if she can keep it together or not. And if not she knows she will probably go into the desert screaming, out of her mind, trying to escape the demons within herself,  leading to her death.

Ed witnesses all of this and sees the stress, the fear, and the worry and decides to help, if possible. Elsa awakens to darkness – something neither she or Jay had experienced here inside of the underground building. Quietly she gets out of the sleep sack and finds an opening that was never there before. Curious, she heads through this new opening to see where it might lead only to have it close behind her trapping her on the other side away from where she has been staying.

Changes: And if you have been with us through this short story or episode, it concluded last week. And now the game begins as a lot begins to happen. Jay is making his trek back to their destroyed village in hopes of finding additional food and supplies placed inside hidden caches. At the same time he really doesn’t know where he is in relation to their destroyed home. Plus he has no idea about the raiders who destroyed their town and if they are still there plundering the ruins.

Elsa is trapped, and all that trauma, all the fear, all the hurt comes back to her. She is in a new and strange world with the resulting fear, panic and overwhelming nervousness taking complete control. After a period of time, with nothing bad happening, she decides she can only go forward and down, since this is a tunnel, and find what is here. She discovers a similar arrangement, to the room where she and Jay had been staying, at the point where the tunnel ends.

Ed is hoping that soon she will enter the park just beyond the tunnel where the two of them will finally meet. He doesn’t know why the young male left, but he presently is finally getting a handle on the differences in speech. Still frustration is riding high as the girl seems to have no desire to go any further than the desks and counter.

Jay, after a successful search of the village, returns loaded down with the needed supplies only to find Elsa is nowhere around. He immediately blames himself thinking she had broken down and ran away into the desert. Unknown to him Elsa has heard his return, runs back up the tunnel only to find the wall still a wall. Here she breaks down once more and cries herself to sleep.

Ed, forgetting about the connection between the two areas, hadn’t considered an open mic. He worries that all he has tried to accomplish has failed and is at a loss as to what to do. Eventually he comes up with an idea, and with the girl, who he now knows as Elsa, still at the wall between the Welcome and Processing center and the lower tunnel entrance, he puts it into action. Jay immediately begins his search for his lost sister, only to fail, bringing on the feeling of defeat and depression.

Elsa with nature pushing her eventually enters the park, finds the privy and once finished heads back into the tunnel where Ed makes verbal contact with her. Where eventually through negotiation she enters the park and in the end meets Ed for the first time. Here he makes an offer she least expected.

* * *

And with that we close out Changes, and the episodic story up to this moment. From here we head into the last two episodes. And when you look over what has transpired, and where we are presently, it becomes obvious there is still much that has to happen. So on Saturday we begin, “A Time of Learning, Death, and Revenge”, as the story continues to its conclusion. Have a great week and I hope to see you here for the beginning of the next episode or short story. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on August 22, 2015 at 7:02 am  Comments (7)  
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A Taste of History Past – Final Excerpt

With the editing complete, and the manuscript reformated into the necessary format to submit the story for conversion, there still are many small pieces that must be accomplished. Gone are the days of writing, editing, submitting it to a publisher who would turn it over to their editors, and with assistance from the writer make the final revisions. From there the story would be turned over to the art department, and advertising department, and once a strategy is conceived the book would be published and presented to the world. Now all of this falls on the author. And on that subject, I learned that one of the links on my webpage was broken. I’ve repaired it and now it works. Yes, I built and maintain the site on my own.

Much of what traditional publishing once did, no longer happens even if one is fortunate enough to work with a main stream publisher. Instead most of the work now falls to the author of the work. We, as writers, must maintain a public presence, have a webpage, be involved with social media, and actually do most of the legwork for promotion. And with the vast amounts of newly published material out there it is difficult to rise above, and be discovered. So each try their own way and hope what they are doing works. This is a difficult field to earn a living, and so far I would be more than a starving artist. It has cost me more financially than what has been earned. Yet, such is the life of an indie author. Still one has hopes that there are readers out there looking for such stories and haven’t found mine yet. The tenative release date for this work as an E-book is November 30, 2014.

The excerpt that I’m presenting comes from about 2/3rd of the way through the story. Much has transpired up to this point and Kal with his mate Jura are returning home, although the weather sucks. Cold, wet and miserable they have set up camp away from the main trail or road through the remote area, and were waiting out a cold, wet evening, and here they get a surprise visit from a stranger (In an earlier post I listed some of my favorite characters, and this stranger is one of them.). With this brief introduction here is the final excerpt for the book, A Taste of History Past, or That’s Another Fine Myth You’ve Gotten Me Into.

It was almost full dark and they huddled close to their fire trying to keep warm in the heavy mist. The heat at least kept them semi dry, but if the storm decided to change its mind and go to full rain then cold or not they would have to retreat inside of their portable shelter. As they stared into the fire, which for any who lived in the wilds knew was wrong, since it destroyed your night vision, they were half asleep. But, at this point, both were weary from the cold nights on the site and the time on the road. Unfortunately they were still quite a few days away home. It was then when both jumped when someone out in the darkness hailed them, “Yo’ fire!” They looked at each other and then out in the darkness and Jura moved to the portable shelter and both withdrew their long knives not knowing who could be out there. Then in the ways of their time Kal answered, “Come and set”, then he added, “But come friendly.”

This brought a chuckle from the unknown individual who within a few moments approached their fire, and to their surprise was riding a pack beast. Once in the light of the fire he climbed down. Again he chuckled when he saw their disbelief. “Get that a lot when others see me do this. I’m really surprised that others hadn’t thought about it. After all we’ve trained our pack beasts to carry our supplies, why not us also? Anyway, you’ll not have to worry about any others I always travel alone.” He looked at their camp with a practiced eye and smiled. “Well set up, defendable, and not visible from the trail – good, good.”

“If what you just said is true, how’d you find our camp?” Kal asked.

“Oh, I’ve spent a night or two here, and because of a delay I got here later than planned, and was actually surprised to find this place being used. Not many are around here this time of the seasons – too miserable.” He squatted down put his hands to the fire and smiled once again. “I really wasn’t looking forward to getting my camp set up in the dark and with it as wet as it is to get a fire going. But imagine my surprise when I found one already burning – can make one right curious.” He leaned back and sat cross-legged and continued. “Yeah, yeah, I know it goes both ways.”

They looked at him and guessed that he had to be twice their age, and was dressed in rough handmade clothing. He looked as if he belonged to the hills and grasslands, as if he was as much a part of them as they were of he. “Ah, I thought the two of you looked familiar.”

“Familiar, have you seen us before?” Jura asked from just inside of the portable shelter. “I know that we’ve never seen you.”

He then laughed a full deep laugh and said, “I’m never seen unless I want to be.” He then leaned forward before continuing. “You’re the two that has been traipsing out here in the wild lands, the outback. Lookin’ for something say I, and unknown to you others who were watching what you were doing and where you were goin’, with not a hint that you had that they were there. Well, I said to myself, this place is gettin’ crowded so maybe it’s time to head somewhere else. But I was curious. After all there hadn’t been anybody in those foothills that I could remember, other than a traveler now and then. And you were lookin’ for something – it was obvious. So I decided that since there wasn’t much happening anyway I’d stay and watch, and see what this was all about. Had to admit with everybody that seemed to be there it was almost too much for me. You see I’m a loner and prefer it that way. Don’t like people. Oh I can take them now and then, but eventually I have to get back and away, live off the land, and enjoy the solitude. Villages and such are just too noisy for me. So I’m happy with just my beast and this world around us here.” At this point he took a deep breath and shut up.

Jura and Kal looked once again at each other and then at this stranger, with Kal stating. “You say you were watching us, and those others, and nobody saw you at all – that’s hard to believe.”

Again he laughed. “Did ya’ see the ones who were following you all the time you were searching? And to think that not only were they watching you but another group were watching both you and this other. All I could do was shake my head, and you were none the wiser about any of this. And both of those groups were clumsy, thinking that they were good at what they were doing. By the gods I could have come into both of their camps and stole them blind and they’d been none the wiser. Thought about going in and shifting things around a bit, just to mess with their minds, but it was more fun to watch all of you stumble about thinking that you were alone and were good at living out here.” He again leaned forward and said, “Look, I don’t know about you, but my stomach thinks my throat has been cut and I have a few items I can add to the meal so let’s continue our conversation after we eat something. Besides I need to take care of her, my beast. Mind of I stake her over by yours. That way they’ll have a little companionship. After all they originally were from those wild herd beasts and are used to company, other than you and me.”

Silent for a moment after this one relayed to them what they had been doing for the last cycle of the seasons, Kal had to admit that they had thought the two of them were alone, but it had proven otherwise, and here was someone who thought it was a joke watching all three groups move through the wilderness. “Sure,” Kal said, “It’s okay, and what you just said is true. I know our beasts originally were of the wild herds, but that was a very long time ago. And . . . yes I guess you can join us, since you’ve almost invited yourself anyway. Besides it is a very miserable night and some additional company can’t hurt.”

Again this stranger laughed, “Okay then, it’s settled. I’ll go take care of the ol’ female and be back before you can get the pot on the coals.” At this point he jumped up and was out of sight into the darkness almost instantly.

Jura turned to Kal and whispered, “He really moves fast and is very quiet. I’ve the feeling that if he had wanted to do us harm that it would have been very easy, and we’d be none the wiser.”

What could he say, she stated it so well. “Yeah, but maybe this is a good thing. At least with another in camp it would be less likely that we’d be attacked by bandits or such.”

With a large smile on his face the stranger reentered their camp saying, “Ah talking about me are we. Not that I can blame you. But you have nothing to worry about me. In fact before you move out in the morning I’ll be gone and you’ll wonder if I was ever here. Mark my words, I rarely reveal myself to anyone, but I have to admit you’ve left me curious, and I felt that this was a good chance to maybe get that curiosity answered.”

“Why would you be curious? We were just out and about searching for some ancient site, that’s all, and we aren’t the only ones to have done that.” Kal paused, looked over at Jura and then back at the stranger, “Nothing unusual about that.”

“True, true, and if it had continued to be just the two of you I probably would have watched a while, and got bored and then moved on. But when these others were out there too and everybody following everybody it becomes more of a puzzle. Now I like puzzles and solving them. This wild world is full of them and they change all the time keeping me on my toes. Make a mistake out here and you’re dead, just that simple.”

“That’s probably true. And I guarantee that we were quite unaware of the others until we saw them following us when we were higher than they were and we caught them in the open.” Here he paused again wondering if he should say more, and decided while he was beginning to like this stranger he really didn’t know anything about him and it was still important to keep it quiet. Even though there was a possibility that Sabohl was dead, knowing him, there was just as much of a chance that he was still alive and biding his time. And, who knew, this stranger could easily be an agent of Sabohl’s who used different tactics to get information. “I really don’t know why. I just know that after we discovered them that they became more of a problem, and then that other one showed up and offered to help, and that’s really it.”

Waving an index finger at them the stranger again smiled and said, “Say what you want, but just from what I observed I know better. But stick to your story if you want. Besides what was so important about that place anyway? I’ve been there a few times – found some old pottery and places where fires had been built. Felt that this had been a place where some of our oldsters had lived temporarily. Nothing important though. Found other places with much the same stuff. Although, different stuff in the desolation. Tough dangerous area – no water, no game, no nothing but heat, dust and a land that looks the same no matter which way you enter; easy to get lost, easy to die, and none the wiser.”

Suddenly interested both Kal and Jura leaned forward with Kal asking, “You’ve been to the desolation? It’s a place that is shunned even today.”

“Yeah, it’s one of those puzzles. Yah see I haven’t always been the wonderer that I’ve become. I went to the learning centers; I know our history, and the myths surrounding the desolation. And it was a puzzle . . .”

“And you like puzzles!” Jura blurted out.

Laughing and slapping his leg with his hand the stranger said, “Yup, you’re learning, you’re learning. So I’ve been working the edges, been deep into the Sacred Mountains too – mighty strange stuff up there, mighty strange. Did you know that there are caves everywhere, and that there are a few where no beasts will enter? Not only that but they seem to have their own heat, and once you’re inside they seem both to glow with a soft light, and remain warm. Strange. Now I would have considered it something that didn’t need second thoughts if there had been only one of them. If we want to be honest we have no idea what this place can create and it could just have been a freak, some peculiar combination that created it, but I found many of them. Still there was nothing, no other sign, so maybe they are from some of our ancient ancestors.” He shrugged, “Who knows, not me. After all it’s another . . .”

Again Jura interrupted saying, “Yes we know, it’s another puzzle and you like puzzles.”

* * *

Next week I continue the short story, And the Sun Will Rise, part 4. It is Thanksgiving week, a time of family, a time of rembrances, a time of giving thanks for what has transpired in our lives in the past year. It also is 3 days from the end of November, leading into the last month of the year. Have a great week, a great gathering, and I hope so see you here on Saturday. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

 

 

 

How do I Know My Characters?

And this question is referring to when I start a new story, be it a short story, one that deals with a specific subject – say a holiday, or a full length novel. The simple answer is: I don’t. And what I mean by this is that at the beginning, like a new-born baby, I really know next to nothing about them, or whether I will have a number of protagonists or just one. Or that the antagonists within the story will be an individual, a group, or it might be environment or the actual quest that is the story. So I guess that a second question immediately comes to mind after – How do I know my Characters, and that would be when.

Before I get into how this comes about, it is important to understand how I write. And here every writer has their own method. Some must outline heavily, and when they get to writing their story will never deviate from that outline. While others use that particular outline as a general guideline to keep them on track but allowing changes to take place within both the outline and story as unanticipated situations or events develop within their story. And then you have writers like me who never outline, who write the story from the framework that  is in their mind. Here I see images that I translate into words on the page, each day holding its own images. It’s just like when one gets up in the morning to face a new day, with some anticipation of what will happen, but in reality doesn’t know what the future of that day really holds for them. And so it goes with my story, and with my characters. When I complete a day of writing, the next 24 hours the story begins to advance itself within my mind, with this continuing each day until the story is complete.

Many times a story will sit cooking, so to speak, in my mind for a while before I begin to write it. I’ve been working on a couple of short stories that will eventually be presented here that demonstrates that very fact. One is post-apocalyptic, and the other modern. Yet before I began to write either of them I thought about them for a few weeks letting my imagination and mind consider where these stories would begin and where they would end. Many times I’ll even come up with a title before the story is well-developed or is no more than a very out of focus image. It seems that once I have a good title locked down that the story naturally follows. And yes, I do write a few notes before I begin, and I have a tablet where I write the names of the characters as they are added, including relationships. As far as the unwritten stories go, before any notes and such, while I’m attempting to develop a story, I have to admit that I have forgotten a few, and have been mad at myself for not putting down some notes. I’ve learned that once they are gone, they are gone, and I’ve never recovered any of those lost stories that I know of.

It is at this point (once the title is locked in) the story begins to come into sharp focus and I can see the beginning and where it might or should end. Much of the middle is there also but is malleable, and does change when the ideas or direction originally conceived will not work. At this point, even if this was to be a major incident in the story, it must die a natural death. Maybe some time in the future the scene could be used in a different story, but usually not – so all that inspiration,  all that work to create that scene becomes no more than practice, which in the end is probably a good thing. To get better at anything requires just that – practice. Now on to my characters and how they become who they are.

In the book, A Taste of History Past (to be released in the near future – possibly next month), as I began to write it, the opening scene presented itself vividly to me. An open plain with the grasses curing under a warm sun or in this case suns since this is taking place in a binary star system, with an individual standing out in that plain feeling the heat in the winds, watching the grasses move with that wind, listening to the sounds of the rising and falling wind, thinking about what was facing him or her, thusly setting up the beginning of the story. At this point the protagonist was unknown other than what has been stated. And once the writing began, slowly as those first few words were put down, an image of who this individual was came into sharp focus. In fact those first few words only identify the protagonist as either a he or she, and their name is added later.

What was happening and would happen to the character was the result of that opening scene as the questions started to come forth. Who is this individual, and why is he here? Was this something that they did all the time, or were they uncomfortable being exposed and out in the open spaces like this? And then came the additional questions – what was this individual’s gender, age, and were they single, or did they have a mate? And if they had a mate what was their relationship like? Followed by, was this mate still in the picture or had something happened to make it so they were no longer here? (These questions are of a subconscious nature as I really don’t ask them, but more observe them as that character becomes alive.)

It is at this point that suddenly before me sits that main character and I can see him or her plainly. Yet, they are still an unknown since I still don’t know their history, their personality, their occupation, their relationships or how they are viewed by others. In a sense the very beginning of the development of the character is like reading a bio of someone who you’ve never met before meeting them. It gives you general ideas of who they are, but until you actually meet them and interact with them you really don’t know them at all.

As the fictional world builds around them and they begin to act and interact with that world they start to become fleshed out, to have a personality, to become a real individual who is living their life within that world, as you and I live our lives in this world. In a sense it’s like having a secret window that I can look through to watch them, to learn about them, to understand them. In a way, they become friends, ones I want to go back and visit, spend time with, to catch up on old times. But, of course, this is impossible since they are not real.

But this is important to know; if the characters aren’t real to you as a writer, then you can guarantee that they will not be real to the reader. Ask any author and they probably would tell you that it wouldn’t surprise them if they went down some unknown street, somewhere in time, and actually ran into their characters. They truly become that real. We care for them, and yes we put many of them through hell, and actually kill a few off in support of the story, in support of that fictional world. And when you think about it, this is no different than real life. We have close friends die, relatives pass away, all of them leaving their influences on our lives. So can it be any different for those fictional characters or those fictional worlds? Because when you think about it, stories are a reflection of the real world, leaving out the boring day-to-day stuff, and getting us as readers to the meat of the subject.

So, do I have favorites in the seven books that I’ve written? Of course, it just works out that way. In the Discovery Series, which is unreleased at this time and consists of three books, a sister Lauma immediately comes to mind, and in the Survival series, the brother and sister team of Saige and Shellian  And in the book I mentioned above it would probably be the two main characters Kal and Jura, with a third who is a minor character and has no name.

The bottom line to all of this lies in the fact that like in real life I don’t know my characters in the beginning any more than I do about someone I have just met. As time passes and we spend more time together – both those fictional characters, and the real developing friendship with that real person, I learn and understand more about them. What it is they want in life, what they are trying to accomplish, and do they have the fortitude to push through the adversity and see it to the end, no matter the quest. At the beginning none of this is known, and until I see them on that page they remain an unknown, a blank bio, that doesn’t reveal anything until they begin their lives on those blank unwritten pages. Eventually revealing to me who they are, just like those people in real life who, at the beginning are unknown, only to become life long friends.

I have to admit that there is one final thing I’d like to say: At times my fictional characters can be so demanding – telling me that I haven’t given them enough time on those pages. That they deserve to be more than just a minor character, to have more influence over the world that they live in. And, at times, to appease them, I do give in and change their roles, where in the end, they get what they want. Oh what characters you ask? Well, that’s between me and them, and I leave it to you to figure that out.

* * *

It’s October and another year is in its last quarter. Where did the rest of it go? Soon it will be the beginning of a new year leaving us to look back. We will be facing another work week and all that it brings, again bringing us closer to the end of the year. May it be a good week for all out there and I hope to see you here next Saturday where a new post will be waiting for you. Again, God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

A Personal History – Looking In

Have you ever walked into a home of a relative or friend who has recently passed away? As you work you way through their personal home you see it as it was the very last moment that they were still among the living. With it giving the appearance that the one who is no longer with us has stepped out for a moment and will be returning to continue on with his or her life. A moment frozen in time as the owner, going about their life, had expected it to continue. Only it will not be happening. And if we want to be honest, this is probably the way it will be for any and all of us.

What you see before you, in those humble surroundings, is that person’s personal history for all to see. Everything that was important to them; the “to do” list, the unfinished projects waiting patiently for the hand to come and complete them, their favorite chair still remaining vacant, and maybe their favorite window that they loved to stare out, is all there, all before you. It’s like those museum scenes where a room is set up to look like something from a past decade, to give one a feel for how it was. Fictional, overall, but still allowing one to see how it might have been. Yet here, the story is not fiction, because of what has transpired, what is seen here is all from the past – the recent past for sure, but it’s still the past – someone’s past. And because they will never return, it becomes static as that room in that museum.

If you were one who had visited often, carried on the many conversations, loved the individual who occupied these spaces, it can leave you with expectations of seeing them again. Heart says so, but the mind knows better. As you wander the rooms, different rooms within your own mind open and reveal things to you that happened here, leaving feelings that can warm your soul waxing of nostalgia. Yet, they do not return, cannot return, so what is observed is frozen in time, and soon all that this one held dear will disappear among the family members and friends, much heading to the thrift stores, and many small treasures from that person’s life heading for the dump. Because these treasures were only precious to them, and hold no value for any others. Yet, in your mind the stories of shared times exist with this one who is no longer here.

And as the house is disassembled, one room at a time, what made it special slowly disappears. And as all personal items are handled, searched through, and given to the ones that these items should go to, the home changes. And as this happens the space within that home becomes less personal, less important. Until at the end, after all has been removed the home simply becomes a house. One of the many that are empty, with no special personality, and for now with no loving care. Waiting, until someone new moves in and begins their own personal history, personal memories and stories, and personal touch. Changing forever what was.

In a sense, all of us are like those homes, those houses, with our personal history written within our minds, with the many hallways, many doors, and many rooms where we store our memories. Some not so nice, with others filling us with joy and happiness. They all lie there waiting to come to light when the moment is right, when something similar reminds us of those past events. Other than heredity it is what makes us, well us. It is those scars, experiences, hopes, failures, and yes successes that form us. And for many those years are written on their faces, as well as their bodies.

One of the things we do not consider, in our youth, is the abuse we put our bodies through. But when one reaches those senior years, if one is so lucky, then these abuses come back to haunt one with pain and stiffness that makes what once was simple and easy, very difficult indeed. In many cases we see the elderly confined to wheel chairs, giving up the mobility and freedom that walking gave them. And probably this is one of the sad facts of aging, or any point in your life really. In a sense it means that mentally that you’ve given up, allowed another frailty to win out taking us further from our true potential. Yet, we can only fight the good fight so long before one gives in.

In the game Bioshock Infinite, one of the protagonists  states that what she faced wasn’t the cause of giving up, or the loss of her freedom, or confidence that she would be rescued, or the pain she was facing – it was time. It wore her down until there was nothing left, nothing to fight with, nothing to look forward to. And while this is a fictional story what is stated here is quite true. In the end it is what our past, our history says about us that will determine when we finally give in, finally give up, allowing whatever it is to win.

In many of the fictional stories that we read (and I write) we are always pulling for the heroes in the stories, even though many times they are battered and beaten. And unless the story is a tragedy we like to see our protagonists win. Because in some ways we hope to take some of the positives, the lessons presented, away with us to apply in our own lives. After all, even though these stories are there to entertain, like the storytellers of old, there a lessons in life within those stories. Sometimes we apply them, and sometimes not. Still all of this becomes our personal history, our personal past. Another layer where those milestones pass unnoticed until we look back in surprise and realize all that we’ve given up.

Many times we would love to be able to go back and make changes, but we will never have that chance. We only get one go around, one chance to make our decisions and move on with our lives. In many ways it is unfair, and as it has been stated oh so many times, “Life is unfair”. Still as experience builds, and our personal history grows, our thoughts and views change – sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. Yet no matter how it goes, it, in the end, is our choice or choices that have put us where we are. Yes there are always outside influences that play on those decisions, but if we want to be honest it is still ours. So if we want to be true with ourselves then we must own each and every one of those decisions.

And when it is your time, the time when you don’t return, what will your home say about you? Will it reflect a loving person, or a hateful one? Will family and friends come willingly,  or will what you’ve left behind be ravaged by others who could care less? It all comes down to your personal history, and your personal legacy. And those decisions both in the past and in the present that are always being made by you. And no matter the unintended consequences, in the end, it is your choice that put you there. None of us are allowed to see beyond that time, but with the personal experience of loss, it is easy to see how it can be, when they gather to remember us.

* * *

August, the time where the traditional times of summer vacation ends, and many are preparing to return to school, to face a new set of instructors, to look for old school friends, to reflect on that nervousness that all face in that first week as we work to get back into the routine. And for the rest of us who are well beyond that time we can see it through the eyes of our children, and remember ourselves back in that time. And, of course, think about those summers off. Can’t leave out that hectic time of school shopping and expenses that are too high but necessary. With these thoughts have a great week, if that is possible, and see you all here next Saturday.

Looking Back

Is this something that is important for us to do – looking back? Whether it is or not, it is something that all of us do. It can lead down that nostalgic path, as I posted in an earlier post, show us the error of our ways, as in our workplace, when a boss points out our failings, or it could easily be a way to see how far we’ve come and if those changes have been good. However you look at it, because we do have a memory that is longer than just one day we do have a tendency to continually look back.

In this post I’m looking towards this more as a writer, and what a writer has released in the past. If you have been around a published writer – writers in fiction who have written a number of novels – you can hear, in their conversations, their views of their early (as in their first) work. And I have to admit that I’m no different. So I guess the question becomes – is it important for a writer to look back on these beginnings, or should he or she let it lie? And I guess, again like so many things in life, each writer, each individual will give a different answer. Yet, personally I feel that it is very important to look back, to read one’s earlier works, and to see where one is presently.

In anything that we do, be it work, a hobby, or life, we should be improving. Since experience gained should allow us to perform better, understand what we are seeing, and applying those learned lessons to what we need to do. By not looking back one cannot have a beginning point to measure their personal growth, and as a result what is being seen in the present has no basis in fact, and the improvements or experience gained could and can be imagined. It is only by seeing your beginnings can you truly see your personal growth. When you do look back, how do you see yourself in your mind’s eye? What is the image of yourself that is there? Interestingly for me, when I’m looking back, in general, I see a picture of me at about 5 years old. This represents, in my mind, the innocence and inexperience that became a starting point of who I became.

Usually the first books published by authors are generally not the first books written. In fact, many times it’s at least 3 or more novels out that becomes their first published work. So one would think, incorrectly, by that time they would have their craft down and the stories would be perfect. Ah, if only that was true. If it was, then all of we writers would have many successful stories and books, and be living the imagined luxury that ones who do not write think that we have. In truth, if an hourly wage was attached to what we earn, it wouldn’t generally be enough to make minimum wage. If fact it could easily fall to a few cents or less per hour. (The term – Starving Artist – does come to mind.)

As in all fields of endeavor only a very few at the top make those kind of figures that all of us strive to reach. Most, even with the ability to self-publish, never reach the point where anything that they write reach the public, and if it does, with what is available out there for the reader, they never break even financially. So for most it becomes more of a hobby, and like most hobbies, it can be quite expensive. Still if one considers it a hobby it is still important to gain the experience, to see improvements, to overcome those obstacles that are in the way, to find ways of doing something better, to learn from others, and to be proud of the experience gained. And most importantly to be proud that you’ve completed that novel. Many try their hand at writing but very few, and the percentages are in the single digit, ever finish.

Yet, in every case, to see that experience gained we must see our beginnings, otherwise it is dust in the wind – imagined, with nothing to show for the effort. And this is especially true in writing. For me this has become painfully clear as I edit, and revise those first two books that I wrote. Again, because I consider it a good story (both are part of a series), and the characters within that story are strong, I want to see the series out there where readers can enjoy their fictitious lives. In the near past, with a posted excerpt of the 6th book that I’ve written, I talked about the joy of editing that story, and also earlier, had talked about the pain of working those first 2 manuscripts. I had reached a point in them (the first 2) that I was heading for my final edit, but discovered that more – much more – work had to be done before I could enter this final edit. So once again they have been pushed back so that I can make these corrections.

And for me, my first released book was The Woman in the Snow. And this is my 3rd book written. It took a minimum of 8 edits and revisions, with my wife doing the 9th to get it in print (metaphorically, since it’s an E-book). Yet, when I’m looking back and reading the story now, and after writing a full 7 novels, I’m almost embarrassed by what I see. Love the story, again love the actors within the story. What happens and how it happens work fine, the descriptions and scenes are good, but if wrote it now it would be a better story. No it isn’t horrible. In fact I’ve received 5 stars on it from a reader. Yet when I compare it to the way I write now, the difference is night and day. And another sign is comparing the edits, which has steadily reduced as each new novel is written. Presently I find that I need only half the edits of book 3, and probably could even cut one of those if I desired.

The important thing that these 3 early works show me is my personal growth in my writing. And for me, as I look back to my earlier works, I can plainly see the improvement in all aspects of my writing when I compare my present writing to those beginnings. While my characters and their actions in those first books were as they should, they were 3 dimensional, and seemed real – someone you might like to meet, yet in the present time all of who they are (all my fictional characters across the 7 novels, especially the last 4) are so much stronger in those later works. They have become more real, as has their adventures. To me the progression from those early works to now is easy to see.

And because the improvement is there, and is obvious not only to me, but my wife, then it means, even if nothing ever comes of what I send out into the world, it was a good direction for me. If those later works were no better than the early works, then I would only be fooling myself, trying to convince myself that writing is a good direction. And if any of us really think about it, if we are not improving in whatever endeavor we have decided to tackle, then it probably wasn’t a smart move on our part. And if we are smart enough and not allow our ego to get in the way, we will move on to something that we are really good at doing. Putting this particular failure behind us, and marking it up as experience. Adding a new thread to that personal tapestry that is you.

I guess, in a way, that I can apply this to the posts that I’ve been making. Over time and as I approach my 200th post I can see improvements in these short presentations. From the eclectic subjects, to the short stories, and of course the excerpts of my books, and even the length of the posts, have grown more consistent and stronger over that time. Back when I began in 2011 never having anything to do with blogs, and having no idea where this would lead, or even what I would be talking about, the future was a clear as mud. As an author it was pointed out that blogs were important, critical really, so that you the reading audience would know who I am. So with some trepidation I began, and to my surprise over 3 years later am still here, and still writing. Again, like last week next week’s post is open. As most writers will tell you the well of creativity sometime dries up and leaves one scrambling for a subject. While not quite that bad I can say that it is close. I’m presently working on a short story which will be posted in the near future, but it isn’t ready for prime time or completely written, so it is for the future. And I have a few other posts sitting in the wings, but they are not complete as of yet, so it will be a surprise, not only for you, but I guess I can say for me also. Let’s remember that we are approaching the 4th of July, and if you haven’t studied that time in our history, it leaves one to not appreciate what transpired. Remember those sacrifices, and celebrate the freedoms we have. Have a great week and see you here next Saturday.

A Taste of History Past – An Excerpt

I felt that the next book that I would be releasing is the first in the Discovery series, “The Ones Before”. But alas, as I printed it out to work the final edit I found some glaring errors that will need to be corrected before its release in the near future. So I turned my attention to the 6th book that I wrote, and the 3rd in the Survival series, “A Taste of History Past”. It turned out to be well written, a pleasure to edit, and I flowed through the first edit in just over a week. I thought, “Wow, that’s easy.”

This one had been on the shelf for a while. Time for me to be away from the story so it was like picking up a favorite novel that I hadn’t read in a very long time. I feel that it is a great story. (No surprise there, after all I wrote it and I better feel that way or toss it.) So I know that the reality of it is that this will be the next book released. While there has been great progress made in the first two of the Discovery series, it has become obvious that there is still major work ahead of me. I still have hopes of releasing them this year along with the 7th book that I’ve written, which is the 3rd book in this unreleased series. If that seventh book goes as well as book 6, then with the successful release of the first two, the 3rd titled, An Ancient Fire, should follow in a short time. Now to the setup for this excerpt, and again remember there is still at least 2 complete edits ahead of me, so what is written here can change.

This excerpt takes place early in the book where Kal, the protagonist of this story, and his mate Jura are outside where she is teaching him the use of the staff. With what they have planned for the future it is a skill set that he needs, and she is more than willing to teach him.  In the ancient past their society was male and warrior dominated (revealed in the first 2 books of this series), and with the passing of time the society has changed to where the sexes are both respected for who they are and what they can do.

Now with this brief introduction here is the excerpt from the book: A Taste of History Past.

Kal was black and blue from the beating he was taking from Jura as she taught him the use of the staff. And what hurt more was the fact that she seemed to be enjoying it. He had to admit that she was very good with it, and that there was much more to its use as both a defensive weapon, and one that could be used to attack. Every  time that he figured that he had it down and was about to best her, she came up with some other subtle move and he found himself on the ground and many times in an embarrassing pose as she would place the point of the staff on his chest, showing once again that he had been bested. Shaking his head he said, “I never realized that there was so much to this thing. I thought that this was only going to be an after-midday practice and I’d have it down. You know it looked so easy when you started making those moves, and showing me. But you warned me that it was going to take a lot of time to master, and I have to admit that I thought you were very wrong about that, but it’s very obvious that I’m a long way from your skill.” Again shaking his head before continuing, “And you say that your brother and sister are better than you? That’s really hard to believe. So I guess the question is this, how long, oh mighty learned one, will it be that I’m at least capable of using this simple tool?” He, although carefully, bowed towards her, which brought laughter to her lips.

Returning his bow with one of her own, she said, “Oh you’re progressing. I’d place you in the advanced beginners. As I’ve told you, I’ve been doing this most of my life. And once my parents finished their training with us, we, my brothers and sisters and myself, would play games where we would form teams, and as you would expect most of the time these teams were females against males, although there would be a game of chase that we played where all of the rest would chase one of us, and we had to use the staff against the rest. I must admit that those were very intense games, but it forced us, even though we weren’t realizing it, to become much better. Especially when one of us would come up with something new to try, sometimes this something new would work, and sometimes it would fail miserably. And even though we didn’t know it at the time our mother would monitor our progress, and if we really felt like we were good and as she called it, too big for our breeches, she’d come out with that smile of hers and have all of us come at her, and she’d promptly beat all of us. It wasn’t until later that we learned that she had been the champion of her area, and that’s how she and my father met. Both had been the best at this in their respective townships, and he, my father, couldn’t believe that a female could beat him, when there hadn’t been a male that could challenge him that lived anywhere close.

Sighing and with a distant smile she continued, “I’d really would’ve liked to have been there to see that match. Both of them talk about it now and then, and there are smiles on both of their faces as they’d recall it. We’d sit and listen as they would recount the encounter from their side. I’m sure like most stories that it has grown over time, but it still was quite a tale. They were very good at describing their battle, and we all could see it in our minds, and since we’d been using the staffs ourselves we could see the moves and counter-moves that both had made. And after a long time and many matches that ended in draws, she beat him with a move he had never seen before. And even to this day when they talk about it you can see that smile of triumph on her face as she had beaten a male in a battle. Something that our distant ancestors would have thought was quite impossible. But she did it, and after that they developed a strong friendship and now they have been mates for what seems like a life time.” Again she paused, and then laughed, “You know what, it has been a lifetime, and they’re just as much in love with each other now as they were before any of we children were around. My dad really adores her and says that if she hadn’t defeated him in that contest that they may have never become what they are today. So I guess even though this was a long statement to get to this point, don’t feel too bad by being defeated by me, I grew up using this thing, and have had champions training me, besides the competition that one’s siblings add to the mix.”

“Well, I admit that makes me feel a little better, but only a little. I’d seen others work the staff and it looked so easy, so I never considered it something I’d be interested in, but you’ve shown me that it’s far from easy, and that I’ve only begun to understand the very basics, including the choosing of a good staff.”  He smiled inwardly, only because it probably would have hurt to smile outwardly. Still as he looked at his mate he, at times, found it hard to believe that she would have accepted him when he asked if she would become his mate and he hers. After all she was lithe and had a hunter’s flow to her movements, smooth and graceful, and in his eyes a beauty that rivaled any that he had ever seen. And he just a lowly village bound baker who had done nothing spectacular. Not the type that would attract someone like Jura who had lived in the outback, and never really comfortable within the confines of the villages and townships. Someone who could probably have had any single male as a mate, and to his surprise she had chosen him. And with their time together he was learning so much more that this beautiful, complicated, and intelligent female had to offer. And of course, being a male her physical side, and her naked beauty drove him crazy.

As time had passed, and both their love and strength in the relationship grew, he couldn’t see any time in his life where he would not want her around. They just worked well together, and even though he had heard about couples who had been mates for many turns completing each other’s sentences or thinking in the very same way, coming up with the same conclusions at the same time, he had just shoved this off as myth within those special relationships that some have. Yet, he could see that it was beginning to happen inside theirs, and so with personal experience he now believed. Again, as far as he was concerned, it was another one of those signs that said that they were just right for each other. Yet, at times like these where her experience far exceeded his own he could feel his wounded male ego trying to get in the way. After all he was supposed to be better at such things. “Okay, I can accept that, but are you sure that you aren’t just humoring me by saying that I’m probably an advanced beginner? Watching you work that staff makes me feel clumsy, awkward, and completely uncoordinated. Absolutely anything I tried you countered it and countered it in such a way that you made it appear to be of no consequence or no effort at all, almost like you were bored.”

She laughed, and then teased him a little, “Ah has my little male had his ego hurt because his mate, a female no less, can easily beat him?” This got him going for a moment and she laughed again. “See, I know what buttons to push to get your pride showing. Now why not just go run a bath, both of us did a lot of sweating and kicked up a lot of dust while you practiced out here, and then I’ll join you in the tub and really show you how much I care.”

If you had caught last week’s post (Time Travel – Really?) you would have known that my wife and I attended a funeral for one of her cousins who had passed away. As always happens with me, I find myself looking over such an event from a deeper perspective and so next week’s post “Touching Me – Touching You”, will reflect upon my thoughts and feelings that I came away with. We both know that sometime in the near future that we will be facing another one of these events as another relative (who is a walking miracle) is a 4 year survivor of the most aggressive brain cancer (GBM) that there is. Most live only a few months after it is discovered. In rare cases people have survived up to 12 years, but eventually all succumb to the tumor.

Discovery – An Excerpt

This is an excerpt from book 2 of the Discovery Series and actually is the second book that I have written. To give a little background, since picking up a story at this point, could leave one wanting and asking,  what is going on? In book 1, The Ones Before, Fauul (one of the six protagonists in this series) meets the brother (Laaut) and sister (Lauma), and in book 2, eventually comes down to live with them. In book 1 this chance meeting is full of tension and suspicion, but is eventually resolved. In book 2, and where we are picking up this excerpt, at this point in the story, Fauul is out and working with the brother repairing waterholes for their livestock. As is usually the case, conversations start and take on a life of their own.

Again, as stated earlier, I’m in the middle of edits on 4 manuscripts, and since this is a continuing story, I worked through the edit on book 1 and continued into book 2. The months have been flying by, and with this work that has been completed so far, there is still far to go before either of these are ready for prime time, let alone the other 2, which have remained untouched since initially written. Still I’m hopeful to release all 4 this year. And because I’m presently doing these edits, what is presented here can change before the book’s or books’ release. In a sense this gives you, as the reader, an inside track in the process of editing and revision, especially if there are changes made. It allows you to see how it is written now (actually have worked through this portion with additional work still ahead), verses the final outcome. So for your pleasure here is the excerpt from Discovery:

They were silent for a while as both Fauul and Laaut thought about what they had been discussing. They continued to work the small water holes to make sure they were clean and safe for the beasts. This gave both of them time to think about what was happening and how it would affect each one. Fauul said, after some time had passed, “I do agree at times that interest in someone can be misplaced. I guess it can be both ways.”

“What? I’m not following here Fauul.”

“Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about what you last said, and then realized that it can be both ways. I know personally that I have been attracted to some female, and probably bothered her too much. Since, if I wanted to be honest, I could see that she was attempting to run away. Still when those romantic feelings arise, it’s sometimes difficult to separate reality from the imagination. So if it is that way with me, I am sure it is that way for the females also.”

“Oh, you are referring to my comment about having someone interested in you as a possible mate, and you are trying to get as far away from them as possible, right?”

“Exactly. I have found life to be, if nothing else, interesting. We seem to live in the moment – day by day, and then cycles, which becomes turns. While in the immediate moment it’s like we don’t really notice the time going by until one day we look and see and are shocked at how much time has actually passed. We then begin to wonder how it is we are here and what happened to that time, and where did it go? Did we actually live it or was it some dream? Yet, in this moment here we stand looking back.” Shaking his head he continued, “It’s such a mystery to me, how you live minute by minute and then suddenly a turn is gone.”

“So how does that relate to what we were just talking about anyway?”

“Really it kind of just all ties together. I mean take your sister for example, or even yourself. A turn ago all is as you probably remember it. I wasn’t in the picture, and in truth as far as I was concerned my path was different. I would have been thinking probably of some of those members of the opposite sex that I wanted to avoid, and going about my live ignorant of what my future held. Yet, now I am here next to you talking about a totally different future and it involving your sister as my mate. Yet, now what we see is the present, and that meeting between all of us is now history, in the past. How quickly it became that, I don’t know quite how to say it but now looking back it’s like this has always been this way, but I know it is not. So how did it go from being a future event to being a past event allowing us to talk about it now, in the present?

Silent for a moment before answering Lauut said, “That’s a lot to take in, I’ll have to think about that before I answer.”

“True, it is much to think about. But, let’s confuse the issue even more. You are what your history says you are. For Lauma and myself, our histories started long before we met, and these will have influences on our relationship. Then we will create our own with our relationship. From there we will either look back nostalgically or maybe with no good feelings, all with what is happening at the time. Even with those ‘then made’ common feelings and events, we will still see them differently. Partly because of our sex, but mostly because of our life histories – this is a part of us individually before we met.”

“Okay, I think I am following, so please continue.”

“We forget, when we observe the world, that everything that happens, even though it’s something outside of ourselves is being interpreted by ourselves. What I mean is this; say we look at this mud hole we are cleaning here, and this is a poor example for sure, the way you view it and the way I view the same mud hole is different. Not only because you are there, and I am over here, but because I was raised a township whelp, and you here in the outback. For me this is all new and for you not so new. So the way we see and understand what we do is an inner experience colored by all the past experiences in our lives, so no two individuals will see the same thing in any event. So when I say, for example, that this flower over here is the color yellow, why is it considered so? Because somewhere in our youth it was explained that this was what that color was. Now, there is no way to know if the yellow I see and the yellow you see are the same. It has just been explained somewhere in our past that this is what the color is. Now to my eyes it might actually be blue, but since it was identified as yellow I would always say it was yellow, and then you would figure that it would be that color over there. Since we are not capable of seeing through each other’s eyes we cannot say for sure what another is really thinking or seeing.

“Again since everything really is an inner experience even our language has many problems. Again, for example, let’s take this conversation, I feel I know what I am trying to convey to you, and I figure I am doing a pretty good job, but because language is so inexact, and the previous experiences of your life color how you will view what I am saying, the meaning could be completely different to you than to me. Then when we agree, both thinking we have it right, in truth we see two completely different views and conclusions.  Yet, because we agree we really have no way to confirm that indeed the conclusions were different.”

“Wow that is really deep. I really have never thought about such things. I mean you basically, out here, act and react according to what is being thrown at you at the moment. It keeps one sharp that’s for sure, but I really never realized that everything that happens really is an inner experience. Yet, after you just explained it, I can really see it’s true. It almost makes one not want to talk at all, or to come up with better ways to explain things.”

“Yeah, sometimes you need to be able to explain things in many different ways so that someone else can at least possibly see, again from their perspective, what you are trying to explain to them. Still by not seeing into their mind’s eye you really will never know if they have it right.”

“You know you’re giving me a headache here. You’ve given me enough to think about for next couple of turns. Look I think we have finished this water hole. From my point of view it is safe and clean for the beasts, and besides it’s time to head back anyway. We will need to assist Lauma on the finishing of the work back at the main shelter.”

Published in: on March 15, 2014 at 7:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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