Saturday, May 31, 2014

What is the History of your Society?

Every society has a past, and it dictates a lot of how we think of ourselves in the present.

For instance: The white man moved into the Americas, and after a few skirmishes and growing pains, we now all proudly call ourselves Americans, and give no thought to the original inhabitants of this country. Sometimes I wonder what this country would be like if we, the white man, had been repulsed. Assuming what we see out the window, the cities, the economy, and the communication system we have today, are the same, how would things be different? How would my stories be different if the original Americans were the dominate peoples of this country? How would this difference affect things around us?

The whole fun part about writing fiction is to play with ideas like this, but you have to remember your history, or create one. Past has an effect on present. Present just doesn't appear on your page by some miracle. Even if you absolutely never say a word about the history behind your story or your world, it should still be there; it should influence the decisions your characters make. For instance, Joe Blake, who lives on first street, in AnyCity USA just might act entirely different from John RedFeather who lived on that same street in that same city, simply because their entire history would be different.

In the same respect, your blue-skinned, vaguely humanoid character from Gidi Prime will also have some kind of a world history, or country history, or at the very least, history of society, and just like Joe Blake or John RedFeather, their decisions will be affected by it. Who knows, maybe their entire breed will have been dictated by the demands of their history.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stargate - What can your Character Know

I'm talking about the first one with James Spader and Kurt Russell. So what's my point here? The whole movie is wrapped around what Dr. Jackson knows.

As a professional in his field Dr. Jackson is recruited to decode the massive mechanism that had been unearthed at the Giza Plateau forty years earlier. In all that time (who knows when they actually started working on it), the scientists hadn't been able to get it to do more then whirr and vibrate impressively - surely it did more.

I would be curious to know how they arrived at the point of the beginning of the movie. How did they get the bright idea that the thing was a machine that needed power to operate? In the first movie, there was no dialing mechanism like the subsequent movies and shows had (you see they saw that little problem too). You have this machine that does something, but how do you tell it to do whatever it does? Also, or maybe firstly, how did they jump to the conclusion that it did anything at all. There is the outer ring, and the inner ring, and they move causing symbols to line up, but to what point? When did they discover the little arrow markers moved too? and how would they know that it did anything more? Yeah, that would be an interesting movie - or maybe a very boring one - who knows?

But I digress - I do that frequently.

Back to my point. Dr. Jackson had an apparently unique view on translating the hieroglyphics and symbols on the rings, which was of course the breaking point of the whole project. Because of that, he immediately stepped into the position of head translator of the entire project. Who knows what happened to the other guy; he just kinda went away.

So they draft a military team and blast off to the other side of the universe to see what they can find, all on the assumption that the good Dr. Jackson can get them all back simply by twiddling with the ring they saw at that end. But, it wouldn't be a movie if it was so easy, and boy are members of the team totally pissed off when they find out that he can't just spin those rings and get them back home.

As I understand coordinate points, which is from that same movie, by the way, is you have the destination point from which you can extrapolate X, Y, and Z axes and find your way there. Daniel needed to find the proper symbol for Earth to use as a destination point in order to find the way back. Trouble is, they had X, Y, and Z. That much should have given them the seventh point, whether they knew what it was called or not. But I wasn't the writer of that story and I don't know how such a thing would really work.

The whole point of this is, what can Daniel know, and what must he learn? He knows the written language, something that was forbidden the residents of this world centuries ago, but he has to learn how to speak it so he can talk with them. This apparently takes moments, but we're talking about a movie here so allowances have to be taken. Then again, maybe he can already speak modern Egyptian; it would certainly be logical considering his expertise, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Maybe I should see if I can find this book and see what it says there; things are always so different in books. I always did find it rather odd that someone went to all the trouble to cover the walls of that cave with their last history without including the symbol that represented their home planet. That had to be found in the doodlings of a child, regardless of the fact that he was the son of the headman, and possibly the best educated among them, considering they weren't allowed to make symbols of any kind anywhere.

So what can a character know? The boy probably wouldn't even think to sit down and start drawing in the sand. Daniel had no reason to suspect that the pyramid drawn by that boy was the representation of Earth. But it's a movie and it worked. At least those who weren't killed got to go home, those that wanted to.

So I'm just saying, be careful with what your characters can know, and what they can find out. Even the top hacker on the planet can only learn so much about one person. Without some kind of a face-to-face interaction, that person can still be unpredictable; there still might be something, accidentally or intentionally, kept personal and secret.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Dreams That Lead Me

Sometimes I have these really vivid dreams, and sometimes they occur in the same world. Most times they come with an understanding of background details. To date these dreams have never been clear duplicates. I don't pretend to be a dream annalist, but I've heard it said that dreams are a reflection on our life in some way. Our subconscious trying to hash through some problem. All I can say is my problem must be coming up with the next book. These two dreams, occurring nearly a month apart, had nothing to do with anything in my life - not a movie I'd watched - not a book I'd read - nothing I can think of, though I will admit that I would read or watch such a book or movie.

These are my two dreams. I wrote them as exactly as I could.


The market was nothing more than a junkyard managed by a hog of a man who was just as dirty as the things he horded. But junkyards like this generally held some kind of treasure so I always checked them out if I had the time.

As I was digging through things rain had covered with mud, a boy appeared standing over me up on the bank. “What you doing here? We don’t like strangers here.”

No one liked strangers these days. I’d heard it all before, and I agreed. This boy had a mother. I could tell because she made some effort to keep him clean, not easy to do in a world without running water.

I climbed up out of the trench. “You really think you’re big enough to challenge strangers?” Then I spotted a girl darting by being chased by another. “Those your sisters? You protecting your sisters?”

“You stay away from my sisters,” said the boy. He was being admirably tough and very foolish. He was just a kid.

I grabbed him, spun him around, and covered his eyes. “What are you going to do now? You can’t see them. How are you going to protect them if you can’t see them?” And then a real threat came roaring into the yard. I pushed the boy away from me. “Go. Get your sisters inside and hide.” I wasn’t in time though, neither of us were.

The men, there were four of them, snagged the girls like they were rag dolls hanging out on a clothesline. They screamed and struggled, but they were just little things. The boy valiantly threw himself to their defense, but he too was just another rag doll.

The screams tore through me. I knew it well – personally. Where their mom and dad were, I had no idea. Probably out in their fields. You didn’t eat if you didn’t have fields. Even if they were close enough to hear the screams, they were too far away to stop this.

I hefted my club as the memories tore me apart. It was a heavy branch of oak with the perfect fork on the end. Tied in that fork was a rock about the size of my head coincidentally shaped something like a tooth maybe from some dinosaur. It was satisfyingly heavy.

I strode into the house. The boy was sitting up on the counter to my left, pinned there by one of the thugs; tears were streaming down his face. Another was rummaging through the cupboards and shelves to see what he could find. The girls’ screams could be heard from the back of the little house, behind the crude chimney. Good thing it was summer, the fire was cold. The look on the boy’s face was the same look I’d seen in my father’s face when this had happened to me. I wouldn’t let it happen again.

I left the house with my club bloody. The kids were still crying. The men had been quick, but at least the girls knew that their violation had been avenged. My father hadn’t been so lucky. I never knew what information those men had wanted from my father. My violation was his torture. Whatever it was, he sang like a songbird, but it bought neither my reprieve nor his life.

I learned early on that the enemy wasn’t always from the other side. I remember back then. We had all been so arrogant and innocent. While the administration had been sucking the money from the public and locking up our guns for public safety, they had also been bringing the enemy in. It was a subtle and patient project.

Eventually someone, likely one of us, threw the first stone. It really was a stone thrown through a window of the White House. Then the war started. It might have been too soon though, and even though the administration kept throwing money at the issue, it didn’t buy them any favors; they were the first to fall as the White House was ransacked and burned to the ground within the first week. We won that war, but it cost us all of our innocence and a good deal of our honor. Now that the economy had crumbled around our ears, we preyed upon each other.

The first prey was the Muslims, no matter if they were innocent women or children. Next were the Mexicans, even if they’d been Americans for generations. There were others after that, and then the excuses began to grow thin. Now, there were more men like those behind me staining the dirt floor with their blood, just predators who didn’t care who they preyed upon.


I was walking down the road. I was carrying a baby girl on my back. Suddenly a gravitational EMP went off somewhere behind me. Those things have a range of about five miles, and judging by the way I was picked up and hurdled along the road, it was no more than four miles away. Gravitational EMPs are nasty; they pick up anything within their range that’s not nailed down, anything at all, it doesn’t matter the size, and hurdles it by the shortest, straightest, line away. In my case, that meant straight down this road at about six feet off the ground.

I could be carried on this wave rather like a surfer for as long as I stayed on the front or until it ran out of energy. One way or another, I would land sooner or later, and now that I could see a wall up ahead, I hoped it would be sooner.

The stone wall was more a roadblock than an actual wall; it blocked the road with massive sliding doors, but didn’t extend on up out of the arroyo. If I didn’t land soon, I’d be smashed up against that wall.

Land I did, and thankfully it was in the ditch. Both of us lived our impromptu, wingless flight, but not unscathed.

Just as I was climbing to my feet, I spotted a group of people approaching the gate from the far side. Two women and three men came to close the gate.

Still stunned from my recent ordeal, I was speechless. One of the women came up to me and then looked at the baby on my back. “It’s alive, but you might as well kill it. A cut like that, it’ll die of infection soon anyway, and if not the scar will be horrible.”

“You can’t just let her die. She’s just a baby. She’s just a little girl.”

The woman looked at me. All compassion had long since left her eyes. “Why? She’s got no future. None of us do.”

“Because…” And then it occurred to me. I wanted her. I needed her. She was important to me, deep inside. Always, until this moment, she had been something of a burden, an inconvenience, a bit of life to grow up in a dead world. “Because I want her.” Until that moment, I believed I didn’t want her, that I had never wanted her, but now that someone had suggested just tossing her aside like so much unfortunate trash, I knew. She was vital to my own life. And it was a bigger picture too. There was no reason to continue living, to continue fighting, if there was no next generation, no future.


So what do you think? Do I have another book in my future?  What would you fill the rest of the details with? What title would you pick?


Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Blurbs that Be

 Are you ready for book three? Mage King will be out soon. Check out the others so you'll be ready; you won't regret it.

What would happen to you if you lost your parents at 17?

And then... what if they weren't your parents at all?

When Sean loses his parents within a year of each other he can't see past the tragedy... until he finds out his father isn't really his father... and Sean isn't who he thinks he is. Follow Sean through his journey to a magical world where he is royalty and his powers are only beginning to bloom... and family is a relative concept - evil uncles and all.

Prince in Hiding by Anna Walls is the first in the Making of a Mage King series that follows young Sean from boy to Mage King!


When the long dead kings gave Sean their approval for to wear the crown, they also gave him a mission.

…the thing is, they didn’t tell him what it was.

Feeling like a giant hand was pushing him between his shoulder blades and pulling all his nerves and muscles into a hard fist in the process, Sean was driven.

Accomplish what?

All he knew was that he had his dear uncle’s mess to clean up, and he only had until the snow flew to accomplish it all.

The sequel to the best selling Prince in Hiding!


As if the secret mission driving him to touch every section of the country wasn't enough, now he had another problem - a big one - and there was no let-up on the original mission.

Under his dear uncle's reign, things had started to deteriorate. Now Sean was left with no choice. With a heavy hand, he slapped back at the invaders, and then he had to rush on.

No more being Mr. Nice Guy. But such heavy-handedness has its own risks, especially when the mission comes to a head and all his questions are answered - as if the answers would do him any good.

Will he survive? Can he survive? Will he be what he was made to be if he does, or will he be a mere husk of himself? First he'll have to wake up.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Describing Self

Describing self in first person can be kind of tricky. Third person isn't so bad, you can always switch places and admire the other character for a moment; there's more to it than that but you get the point.

How do you tell someone what you look like in first person though? Or in third person close? Looking in a mirror is one way, but be careful with this. Consider what your character would actually do while looking in the mirror. He or she might examine their teeth to make sure no food is caught or there are no lipstick marks, but it is highly unlikely they will admire how straight their teeth are unless they just invested a bucket-load of money into that effort. Same with hair. A woman may go to great lengths to make sure her hair is just so, maybe examining closely to make sure dark roots are not showing. Guys might not be so intent on the mirror at all unless they are shaving, of course young people might be looking for pimples. All of these are clues into what your character looks like. Just remember, no one ever looks in the mirror and says, "My long silky black hair is so sexy."

There is another way, and I think it's about the best way I've come across so far.


Is that other person taller? Shorter? Fatter? Skinnier? Most of the time such comparisons are accompanied by an opinion based on our self-image, don't be afraid to make use of that, but don't overdo it either.

This comparison can be used for many things. In a fight, scoffing at how slow your adversary is, also tells your reader that you think you are faster. Maybe it'll pan out, and maybe it won't, but it's still a glimpse into self-image.

Okay now, lets make it interesting. All of the above is based on the average human description we are all familiar with, even such characters like werwolves and vampires are a familiar image and therefore we only need a few clues to hair color and general body build. Mostly, a few clues is enough; don't be afraid to let your reader build their own image of what your character looks like.

BUT, lets say you are not human. I am of the opinion that two arms, two legs, opposable thumbs, etc is the most efficient physical form; allowances made for our local lycanthrope members, since the two arms and two legs still apply, though they would be handicapped by not having opposable thumbs.

So keeping this basic form, lets say you are the perfect engine of war, and that you are constructed, not from blood, muscle and bone, but from energy made solid. Now the question is, how do you convey this information without blatantly telling your reader? I mean, you wouldn't walk up to someone on the street and say, "Hello, I am a human with awesome fighting ability. How are you?"

Being an engine of war, being a being of energy, it would be logical to put him in combat. You also need to consider the mind-set of such a being. This is not going to be a person who would admire himself, and if he were to look at someone who might qualify as a mate, she would have to be worthy, not pretty. An eye appeal would be secondary at best.

This person is not going to admire his killing hands for their deadliness, nor look in any kind of mirror to make sure his teeth are sharp. What he will do though, is ensure his weapons are the best they can be.

Now we need something to compare, something to concentrate on, something to fight. Being a creature of energy, age and/or power might result in increased size, since the limitations of bone growth would not be a factor. Also being a creature of energy, bone-breaking damage would only be an annoyance and a drain on energy, seen as blood, but not debilitating. Debilitation would come from the successful removal of a limb or armor. Both being part of the body energy, both could be replaced, but the body energy is finite unless replenished.

Now such mundane things as energy replenishment needs to be considered, and battle strategy might need to lead toward such a source if one is in the area, but battle strategy might also need to consider, "If I go to a point to shore up my energy, my enemy would have the same opportunity, and there is that chance that he might be able to keep me from it while taking advantage himself." Battles need to be carefully plotted. An engine of war, would leave very little to chance, unless he had no choice, and even the best can sometimes find themselves royally screwed.

But I digress - back to self-description. You have a character who is not likely to look down at himself and say, "Yep, I'm so deadly. My claws are sharp, and my armor is strong." This will be a silent assessment as he flips his claws together, absently worrying a flaw. He needs to keep an eye out for the enemy.

Okay, now lets make another assumption. All the people on this planet are of the same race. Under that assumption, they will have a lot of similarities. Take a look at your neighbor. He may have a different skin color or a different build, but he is still human, even some man on the other side of the world would still be classified as human, and human has a very basic definition.

Here comes the opponent. Herein plays the comparison. Is he bigger? Slower? Smarter? More arrogant? Is his armor harder? Are there weaknesses? Are his claws sharper, or have they been neglected? Are his back spines standing at alert or relaxed in arrogance? Are the sensory hairs on his head and down his back too thick to be very sensitive? Is there a weakness there? Is there a weakness anywhere, even on the bottom of his feet? Cut the tendons across the bottom of his feet and his speed is halved at least for a little while.

Can you see what I've done? By assessing the opponent, coupled with known weaknesses within self, I have told you a lot about how the main character looks. Add in action like running where toe-claws are vital for traction, or falls where some armor spikes might break, or the battle up front where damage is done and energy (blood) is shed, and your reader has a very clear view of what is going on, and no mirror in sight.

How do you describe self in your books? Any helpful hints out there?