Better Late?

I’m appalled at my lapse here, folks, but I just realized I never properly shared the final installment on that cover art from Anna Dittmann Illustration for the Storyteller and the Silent God. I shared it on my Facebook page, but that’s not the same as sharing it here (WordPress and the blog community is my main squeeze, while social media in general is really more of a necessary evil).

But enough with that. FEAST YOUR EYES.

Nell Final

Lookin’ pretty elegant, no? Those colors, amirite?

People keep asking if I designed Nell’s image after myself. While I guess I could take their confusion as a compliment, the answer is a resounding “Nah, man. Nah.” (It’s the glasses. I wear glasses. But not Windsors. I’m not classy enough for Windsors).

Anyway, I super-love how she turned out, and I also super-loved working with Anna on the design and color scheme. Obviously she does beautiful work, but she was also very easy to work with, incredibly professional, and punctual to boot. If you’re looking for striking cover art, fellow writers, you can’t go wrong.

Speaking of punctuality, I’ve been dealing with some health bizz recently that has taken front seat, but I’m soon to be back on the social media warpath with writing updates and essays as I get back in gear for that Kickstarter. Soon!


Tho thoon.


Art Nouveau Character Portraits!

While I am focusing on producing The Storyteller and the Silent God, I’m also in the long process of gathering character and concept art for my in-progress trilogy and its prequel, The Worldscar. The character below is Hazel, the main character of the prequel.

Since the bulk of the story is set in Edwardian times, in the aftermath of the arts and crafts revival and the heyday Art Nouveau movement, I’ve commissioned some art reflecting that. And here is the latest installment!

Up next is the color stage, but I am already absolutely in love with the stylings by the artist Helen of Give Dreams Wings on DeviantArt. Check her out!

Work in Progress: ‘The Storyteller and the Silent God’

I’m excited to announce that a new work in progress is underway!

‘The Storyteller and the Silent God’ is a story I’ve been sitting on and incubating for about five years. It’s always been there, skulking around in the back of my mind and shaking its fist when I write anything else. And for its persistence and long-suffering, I’ve decided that it will be the first novel I self-publish.

A Kickstarter to fund editing and production costs will be launched in the next few weeks. Illustrator and graphic designer Anna Dittmann has been attached to supply the cover art, and Ingram Spark and Createspace will be used for distribution. I’m still researching freelance editors and firms, but will have that in line shortly as well. Even if pledging is not your bag, I can’t tell you what a help it would be if you reblogged, retweeted, shared, or otherwise helped me get the word out to anyone who might enjoy the project. Circulation is key and my arm is only so long.

The story is now fully plotted and well on its way to completion. It will be a one-shot/standalone novel, rather than a trilogy, and even as much my scumbag brain likes to succumb to scope creep, I’m happy to say that it’s staying that way!

Even from its inception, I have pictured this novel taking place between two locations: the East Texas piney woods–in an area like the one where I spent much of my childhood–and an empire based on ancient Mesoamerican myth and culture.

The story itself is meant to be a new angle on the classic Hero’s Cycle, and explores a largely untapped source of mystery and adventure beyond the familiar fantasy genre conventions. And since it focuses on subjects and locations close to my heart, I’ve never had more fun writing than I have over the course of this project. Can’t wait to share it. 🙂

An Essay: Location in Fantasy

I’ve been thinking a lot about locations in fantasy and how choosing or building a setting decides more than just where your characters wake to their powers, tame or slay their dragons, drink their ale, or learn swordplay.

The known default for fantasy has long been British Isles-esque worlds and settings, largely due to the personal backgrounds and professional influences of genre pioneers like George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, and so many others. This is in some ways a simple byproduct of the fact that when fantasy split from fairy tales and mythology to become its own entity as a means of entertainment, it did so–and in some ways has continued to do so–in and around the United Kingdom.

I’ll admit that in general I’ve always preferred British stylings for fantasy–the myths are familiar, the aesthetics are appealing without needing much exposition, the culture is at once both comforting and foreign for American and many otherwise non-Brit readers like myself, and the landscape itself is like magic with moss grown on it.

But at what point have we gone back to the Anglophilic well too many times?

The major publishing houses as well as the online self-publishing markets are swimming in staged-in-Britain fantasy written by authors who know little to nothing of the culture, people, history, or even the subtle and not-so-subtle changes between American and British English. What really bothers me is that many of these authors are also uninterested in conducting the research necessary to avoid these pitfalls where possible.

While uninformed writing may be negligent and lazy, it’s not a crime. Ultimately a writer of any genre has the right to the final word on their own story’s setting, characters, themes, values, and language. I do consider it a shame, though, that the depths of so many stories are limited by the author’s habitual dependence on a particular location, style, or culture–especially one they may know little about or may lack the requisite cultural respect to honor its finer, more nebulous points. They rehash material and rely on trappings (top hats and tea) and cliches (“Oh, bother, wot, wot, old sport, old boy?”) instead of drawing on their personal history as a means of conveying true understanding of the culture their characters come from as well as a sense of where they’re going. Even for the most misfit character or the most baffling social pariah, this is something that matters when speaking to the quality of a story.

Now, I at least try to make a habit against being a gigantic hypocrite, so I’ll come out and say that I am one of those Americans staging a fantasy that takes place in Britain, though it shortly moves into other worlds of my own design, drawn from myths and legends originating around the globe.

I have a list of historical reasons as long as my arm for the choice, and I’ve spent months researching in the hopes of avoiding the more egregious faults (if anyone really wants a technical read-out, come at me bro), but despite all the work I’ve put into it, I know that my writing of the story will likely lack much of the cultural pull and authenticity that I want so desperately to pour into it. The reason?

I was raised in Texas and not England.

While I can see and appreciate the Brits’ quiet nationalism and love of hidden depths (just read Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, watch Sherlock or Dr. Who and you’ll see that a common river runs through it), which are in some ways very old-school Texan qualities, I will never know what it means to do anything other than look over the fence (or over the Pond, as it were) at their understanding of what those things mean at the most basic gut level. I may be able to analyze the nuances of their most beloved characters, but I will never be able to generate a character of true, staunch Shire/British depths like Bilbo Baggins or Molly Weasley. There will always be some Texan in whatever character I write, because there is more than a little of Texas in me.

Speaking as an American in general and a Texan in particular (since those things don’t always intersect), I think the larger group of Americans-writing-British-fantasy return to the well out of habit. Since British-style fantasy is the most prevalent, it seems on the surface to be the easiest to generate, but it often comes out feeble and lacking for more reasons than simple plot/aesthetic regurgitation, especially for readers who desire a dose of social realism with their fantasy. In this regard, I’ve come to respect the adage “write what you know” just a little more, whereas I once was content to take it at its most literal value and then throw it out the window to watch it burn up in the literary atmosphere. With fantasy it’s true that you get a little more leeway, but I think sometimes we brazenly take a mile where we would be better served to stick with a few borrowed inches.

NaNoWriMo Update

Confession time, y’all: I just started my NaNo-writing yesterday.

I can offer you any number of excuses as to why I’m getting started so late, but really it comes down to my reluctance to deliver a swift and much-needed headbutt to my story’s timeline of events. The good news is that I managed to start that process yesterday by finally outlining the prequel to my main story.

The full series follows two generations–the mother’s story takes place in the prequel, then her daughter’s story takes up the bulk of the series–making the need for continuity a priority. I’ve been sitting on a wide variety of options for the daughter’s portion for a while, but the story of how it all starts is pretty necessary to grasp the full scope of the series. I’ve also been putting off the mother’s side of events because it’s a much smaller piece of the puzzle and I didn’t want to succumb to scope creep, but I’m pleased to say I was able to outline the events as planned yesterday with minimal bloat.

Which of course means huzzahs are in order! And also an average of 4,000 words a day to reach 50k by the end of the month. >.>