The Next Big Thing

I received an invitation from Alec McQuay to answer a selection of questions about my current writing workload. Behold the horror…

What is your working title of your book?
There’s actually a couple of projects I’m working on. I’m just sticking to short stories because it’s easier to finish up. I may start my first novel next year.

But for the time being, I’m working on a short story for Narrativium’s Marching Time anthology, simply titled Ragnarok for now. I am also pitching two new stories to Cruentus Libri Press. I can’t tell you about the new one I’m hacking away at, but the latest submission is a horror piece set in World War I, between the French and Germans.

Where did the idea come from for these stories?
For the Marching Time piece, I really can’t remember. No one had called out vikings, so I decided to do that. But then somewhere, I got this idea about how to make it a hero epic piece. For some reason, I really relished the chance to do the olde tyme thick epic, so I got started.

As for the WWI piece, that took considerable evolution. It originally began as an alternate history horror piece set in WWII. America was invaded by a hodge podge army of zombies. I can’t tell you more, but there was more depth to the tale than endless and pointless fighting. This WWII was started for a different publisher, but I changed my mind towards the end and wrote a mad scientist piece set during the storms of Dustbowl. It was a slow, building story that wasn’t particularly pulpy.

After the mad scientist piece was rejected, I returned to the original idea. During this time, I was getting ready for a trip to England, and was brushing up on my French and German with a girl who knew both. Somehow, this inspired me to try a WWI story, with several twists on the original tale. The zombies were removed, but I added a different foe. It’s called On Ne Passé Pas! but that title is subject to change.

What genre does your book fall under?
For the Marching Time piece, there are elements of sci fi and medieval style war in it. I tie large, important themes of Norse mythology into it, but I must remind the reader that during the Viking age, this was a religion and a few concepts of faith. All of this is very central to the story.

My other stories are primarily horror. Horror has been a great starting niche because it generally gives a lot of freedom, and horror literature lovers by no means expect feel good endings. But horror by itself isn’t a great genre. The best horror tends to blend itself with another genre. Horror fantasy (Berserk), horror crime, so on. A really important thing to remember when writing horror is that the horror elements should be hinted at or introduced early. Readers do not like last minute genre-bending, like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. They hate it, and I’m no fan myself.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve given no thought whatsoever to who I’d want to play my character for the Marching Time story. I would be open to no name actors, particularly from Swedish cinema. A few Swedish movies and shows have started making their way to the states, either original or remade. And they’re pretty good!

As for the WWI piece, this is going to blow your mind. I’d be open to having Sacha Baron Cohen for the lead role. I know, I know. You probably know him for his low brow comedies, like Borat, The Dictator and Brüno. But he’s also done somewhat more serious roles, like Hugo. And he has a part in the upcoming Les Misérables that I’m looking forward too. Sometimes, certain comedians are actually outstanding actors underneath the comedy mask, like John Leguizamo.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ragnarok: When the gods march to their doom, for whom will you fight?
On Ne Passé Pas!: They have surrendered in droves to escape their own country…

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Ragnarok: To be honest, neither really describes it. It is technically self-published, but it was a large, group effort by just under a dozen talented individuals. It’s our first effort together and I really hope we can do it again soon. Just like The Black Wind’s Whispers.

On Ne Passé Pas!: If Cruentus Libri Press accepts it, they will. If not, I may put it on the back burner and figure out what to do with it later.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
For the MT anth, it’s still being worked on. The writing is thick and requires considerable care. For the other story, that is debatable. Its first real draft took only a week, but the idea evolved over several previous iterations over the course of six months. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Beowulf comes to mind for Ragnarok. The plot, I’m trying to think if and where it has been borrowed before. Probably from elements of historical acts involving religion.

For On Ne Passé Pas!, I really wanted to draw inspiration from the movie All Quiet on the Western Front. But there was a lack of trench warfare to it. I’d say more came from The Dirty Dozen.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
For Ragnarok, it might have been Dan Abnett with the 40k book, Prospero Burns. The Space Wolves, a group in the 40k universe, have been stereotyped as barbarians, but there’s more to them than that. Real life vikings, on whom the Space Wolves are based upon, have many similar misconceptions and falsehoods about them. I don’t know how much of an eye opener Ragnarok is going to be, but if I can set the records straight on a few historic facts, I will.

On Ne Passé Pas! was inspired by a woman who has helped me with my French and German, and a dash from my high school history teacher. Who, according to other students, was certifiable.  

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Because I’m not in charge of these books overall, I’m really not sure yet. I’m helping as an editor for Marching Time, so when first drafts start pouring in, I’ll have a better answer.

Here are a few other author’s (and links to their blogs) you should watch carefully.

Alec McQuay

Sarah Cawkwell

James Swallow

Kim Krodel

Prospero Burns

I'm not certain it was cold on Prospero when they destroyed it..

I'm not certain it was cold on Prospero when they destroyed it... just sayin'.

I waited far too long to read this. As much as I love the stories of the Horus Heresy, I need time to relax my mind, write my own stuff and read other, often classical or historical, literature. Maybe I’m not a good fan for that reason. Or maybe in doing so, I get a perspective or a view that is somewhat different than most.

Prospero Burns was the counter story to A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill. Such two authored tales run the risk of creating contradicting stories, and I admit a growing desire to re-read A Thousand Sons to ensure that my recollection of it was accurate.

Still, I’m not writing to talk about McNeill’s piece, but Abnett’s. The story is great. On so many levels, it’s entirely different than the tone set by the rest of the Horus Heresy series.

The story revolves around Kasper Hawser, a gentleman who volunteers to record the stories and events of the Space Wolves. The sons of Russ, of course, do not play by the same rules of the rest of the legions. Never have, never will.

And as you might imagine, this gives rise to all kinds of new terms and phrases that go into what I personally refer to as the Abnettionary.

The most important of these phrases, to this book anyway, is skjald (which I believe is pronounced like sk-yahld). You see, the Space Wolves do not seem to have bothered with Remembrancers like the rest of the legions. But they do have a role for story tellers. They desire individuals who are willing to memorize and tell their tales. They refuse to have them recorded in writing or cameras.

And that is the role for Kasper Hawser, aka Ahmad Ibn Rustah. Hmm, if that name sounds a touch familiar, it might have been inspired by the actual Persian explorer. I also wonder if the story draws some from Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, or the better known movie The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas.

Other ideas to be borrowed may be in the form of Ursula L. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, in that names give power over individuals and things. But such an idea was long in the Daemonhunter’s codex, mentioned in a wargear item called the ‘Grimoire of True Names.’

Finally, there are the anthropological questions about the marks of aversion. This one stumps me. My knowledge of ancient and primitive cultures is limited. While I’m reasonably confident that this idea may have come from another, more historic source, I can’t guess what. Well, as they say in the book, ‘I recognize my failing and will be sure to correct it.’

So as you see here, an awful lot of study and brain work seemed to have gone into creating this book. And it shows. But as much as I’d like to mention the plot and story details, I cannot do so without risking giving away some serious twists and turns. Kasper Hawser is something of an unreliable narrator.

But Prospero Burns is a proud piece, one that satisfies yet leaves us hungry. It is both intelligent and detail oriented, and yet full of action and intrigue. I started the book with an unimpressed vision of what the Space Wolves were like, and finished it with my opinion changed. The ending is a mixture of curiosity and wonder, and while one can never call a Warhammer story a truly ‘happy ending’, there is an uplifting aspect that will make Prospero Burns stay with you.

P.S. My buddy, Rob P, mentioned something called the ‘Eye of Horus’ or ‘Wedjat.’ You can check out its Wikipedia article, but basically it’s one strong example of those marks of aversion. It’s meaning very firmly connects the fictional source to the historical one.

One Resolution to Rule Them All

I really hope that's a finger...

I really hope that's a finger...

So I slapped together a new resolution I call the ‘Goodbye 20s.’ I think the joy of the 30s is that they’re great earning years while I still have my general youth.

So I slapped together a short list that will grow throughout the next month. I like a balance of things. Some physical, body building stuff. Better finances. A few writing successes. A few social ones as well.

But I have a hard time coming up with things that are really “living it up.” Career successes and financial achievements are nifty. But saying, I don’t know, ‘I went on a sabbatical’ or the like is more ideal.

But it’s enough to get started. Not everything can be done. I’m unlikely to make enough money for the 20 to 30% down payment on a house I want to do (the more I pay now, the less I pay with interest later). But I can diet, work out, write and work to advance my career. Save money for that trip to Las Vegas.

Getting a body like one of these guys would be awesome. But I doubt I could gain that much muscle mass in a year. Before you ask how Chris Hemsworth overtook Ryan Gosling, a shirtless man who commands the respect of other men will always beat a lady killer, regardless of how much he works out.

Anyway, my writing slowed down again because of the release of my works’ production software. This came without warning to my team and I was suddenly up to my neck in work to do. It’s about done and goes live at noon today. I’m really, really looking forward to next week though. I can’t wait for things to go back to normal both at work and with the holidays. People and family demand a lot of time. And I hope to have some to myself to focus on working out, reading and writing.

Expect a review of Prospero Burns next week as well as The Scarlet Letter. Happy New Years!

Yawn

Zzzzzz...

This puppy is a prince of evil! Of... (yaaaaaaaaaawn) .... ugh, evil... zzzz.

It’s been a chill day, working on some of my technical skills. I’m over half done with James Swallow’s Nemesis. The writing structure is similar to the back-and-forthery of Simon Spurrier’s Lord of the Night, but switching after a few paragraphs and not by chapters. The book was growing a bit boring around the 175 pages mark, but a little after page 200, redeemed itself. I’ll write a full review after I finish. My fictional reading list after includes Prospero Burns, Atlas Infernal and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I don’t want my list of books to grow too long. Reviews shall follow.

I should probably get started working on my pitches for the September submission window. ……soooooooooo lazy.