Sunday, June 24, 2012

Letter to a Friend About My Fantasy Novel

A friend who has read the written portion of my sci-fi thriller novel has recently started reading my fantasy novel The Shard. He knew from previous correspondence that there was a connection between the two stories, and that some characters, such as the scientist Tyoma from The Immortality Game, are shared between the books. Given how vastly different the stories are, he wrote to me and asked for an explanation as to how any of this is possible. I thought the explanation I wrote was interesting as a summary even for me, so I decided to post it here, for the record as it were. Those who have read my previous postings about these things might find this summary helps to explain some things in more detail.

Letter to my friend:

Ah, that gets complicated. In The Immortality Game you see Tyoma use the name Xax (which is short for Xaxanakis--pronounced Zax AN a kiss) for his wizard character in his fantasy game. When the scientists' clones first arrive on the new world, they don't at first know that there are any significant differences in the way their bodies react to the new world, but over time they learn that there are differences. The red moon is the cause, though the scientists don't know this. The red moon is made of a substance unknown on Earth, and this substance is the cause of what comes to be called 'magic' on the world of The Shard. The scientists don't really consider it to be magic, but they use the word due to their love of the fantasy game, along with the fact that it does seem very much like magic. One of the scientists at some point discovers that if he looks a certain way at anything, he can see some sort of energy moving through it. As he practices, he learns that he can see this energy moving through everything, even the air, with greater or lesser strength. He also learns that the other scientists can be taught to see the same thing. As hard as they try, they cannot get any native of the planet to see it, so only the arrivals from Earth have this 'power'.

They eventually learn that many things they took for granted on Earth do not work the way they expect. They don't appear to be aging at all (though after thousands of years they realize that they are aging, but very slowly, i.e. after 6000 years Tyoma appears to have aged about 25 years). If they try to create electricity, it only offers a weak current. If they mix gunpowder, it only fizzles. Somehow the energy from the moon, causes many things taken for granted on Earth to work only very weakly, and this explains why so many modern technologies cannot be recreated on this world. Lastly, the scientists learn after much time that if they concentrate, they can actually manipulate the energy in certain ways. It takes them ages to keep learning new ways of manipulating the energy, but they come to realize that their group has become in a manner of speaking ‘wizards’. While some of the group retain their original names, others like Tyoma decide that they prefer to have a proper wizard name, and of course Tyoma already knows his--the one he had in the game back home, Xax.

There is more to it. The energy connects every atom in the universe, though it is stronger when near moons such as the one near this planet, and weaker around planets like Earth where this substance doesn't exist. Since the energy flows through every atom, it 'connects' everything and serves as a form of template. In other words, the evolution of life on a planet such as Earth is partly independent (such as we always believe it to be) but also influenced by the connective energy. In other words, when one planet capable of supporting life does develop life, the life on this planet influences the development of life on other nearby habitable planets. So if one planet develops a pine tree, it becomes very likely (though not certain) that other nearby habitable planets will evolve the same or very similar type of tree. This means that life on each of these worlds comes to closely resemble each other, only differing through subtle variations (dragons versus dinosaurs) or by cataclysmic sudden changes, such as the asteroid impacting Earth and killing off many large species.

A further effect of the energy takes place within the minds of creatures of higher intelligence. You see the effect on the scientists when they are surrounded by very strong amounts of the energy. Well on Earth, the energy is far weaker. Most humans have very little connection to the energy, but some minds have a stronger empathy with it. This is the root cause for many of our legends and myths. Some people 'see' or 'dream' of things that become stories, and they believe that they invented them all by themselves, never knowing that the energy caused them to 'see' things on nearby worlds. So some of these humans 'saw' things such as dragons or trolls or elves and such, and these become legends on Earth, while they were actually real things on other planets. There are planets with similar types of life as appear in legends of other races here on Earth, such as the Japanese or any other race. Differences in legends can be explained by both actual differences in creatures or plants on other habitable planets but also by simply cultural interpretations of such life.

Tolkien was probably the human with the greatest mental connection to the energy--he dreamed vividly of life on the world the scientists found, seeing elves and dragons and such, and writing elaborately about them. Note that there are no hobbits on this world, because The Hobbit wasn't initially written to be a part of Tolkien's elf history; he only melded them together later when he found it convenient to do so. So, while Tolkien thought he was having dreams influenced by our Earthly legends, he was in fact seeing life as it existed on this other planet, and he wrote fairly accurately about that life.

When the scientists first arrive on the world, elves have been there for many tens of thousands of years. They are slightly different than Tolkien writes about them; for instance, they don't have pointed ears, and they don't marry. The humanic creatures that the scientists encounter are primitive, much as our caveman ancestors were. The first such 'men' they encounter are terrified and react with violence, but they eventually find a peaceable tribe and begin to help them--to learn English, to become more civilized than other tribes, and to evolve much more quickly due to the scientists' influence. This is what leads to the development of the Greatlander people. They build a great city, but eventually they are cast out by a gathering of other tribes, who fear them, and they are brought to their current place, called The Known Lands, by their first king. Note that the Greatlanders develop a cultural personality of strong pragmatism but not so strong creativity. This is caused by not having to invent many things on their own, because the scientists slowly introduce things such as the wheel or book or stirrup to them without them having to discover these things on their own.

Other races have evolved from the various types of mannish tribes that originally came out of the south to pester the elves. There was much fighting between the differing types of man tribes, so some were wiped out. Others became humans, while still others evolved into dwarves, trolls, orcs, goblins, and so forth. The scientists had great trouble believing how closely all of this resembled their old stories and games from Earth. At first they could only imagine that God must be real (a hard thing to do considering they were all atheists), as they could not imagine any other way that life could have evolved in such a manner on another world. Later, once they became more familiar with the energy, they began to grasp the concepts of how the energy must manipulate things between the various habitable worlds.

One last note--I've had many readers tell me the characters speak in too modern a fashion. I understand that they are used to seeing medieval-type settings use archaic English, but this world developed from modern scientists speaking modern English, so it would actually be odd if the speech were too archaic.

Okay, I'll stop there for now!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Before Budapest became Budapest, it was an important strategic city/fort for the Roman Empire. It's name was Aquincum, and it was the capital of the border province of Pannonia Inferior, protecting Rome from the barbarian tribes across the Danube. Empreror Marcus Auralius may have written some of his famous Meditations here. By the end of the 2nd century AD the town had between thirty to forty thousand residents.
aerial view of part of the civil city of Aquincum
When the Roman Empire collapsed, the old Roman city was eventually buried and only discovered again in the 18th century. There is a large military fort a few miles away from the town, and near the town is also an amphitheater larger in land size than the coliseum in Rome (though in FAR worse condition).
My family spent an enjoyable afternoon walking around the ruins of the civil town. In the photo above you can see the hot water plumbing under the floor of one of the buildings. There were baths all over the place, both public and private ones, showing just how much bathing meant to the Romans.
And here is a shot of me taken by my eldest son Anton. Rome is my favorite period from history, though I tend to prefer the Republic to the Empire. I hope my sons will come to love this history as much as I do. My younger son tried to read the brilliant Rome series by Colleen McCullough, but he was just too young for it for now. If you haven't read these books, I can't recommend them enough to anyone who loves history or historical fiction.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Unable to Predict Coming Trends?

Agents and publishers like to say that no one can predict coming trends. I've always thought that wasn't quite true. I knew with no shred of doubt several years ago that epic fantasy would start to become popular again right about now. I said as much in the query letters I sent out to agents at that time, and of course they ignored me.

I told them that the Game of Thrones HBO series and the Hobbit movies would produce a new wave of interest in epic fantasy, and since most of these people would have already purchased Tolkien's books after the LOTR movies came out, they would be looking for something new. I even posted about this at Absolute Write, and several people commented there that there was no way to know whether what I said was going to be true. Hogwash! I knew it absolutely. I knew Peter Jackson wouldn't suddenly lose his deft touch at producing Tolkien properly. I knew that George R.R. Martin loved his story too much to allow it to go forward in a shoddy manner.

So it is very frustrating to see posts by respected agents now, acting surprised that this trend has suddenly arrived. Why does no one ever listen to me!

/end rant

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sketcher Girl Studios

For whatever readers I have who don't already know Vic Caswell, I'm happy to help promote her grand opening today. Vic has been one of the most encouraging bloggers for me these past couple of years. She's one of the few who has helped me to keep going when I sometimes feel like it's not worth it anymore. She's not just a writer but a talented artist, and she just might be the perfect person to do your cover art!

Today is the day that Sketcher Girl Studios, LLC officially opens for business!

In celebration of this momentous event, Vic Caswell (owner/operator) is hosting a give-a-way.
Using the "Contact Us" form on the site, send her the secret word from the end of this post and you'll be entered to win.

Sketcher Girl Studios is a freelance illustration company with a focus on book cover design.  Vic Caswell has produced the covers of Emily White's debut novel ELEMENTAL, as well as it's sequel FAE (release date not announced yet), and Kimberly Ann Miller's debut novel TRIANGLES (releasing June 2013).

SGStudios is passionate about books and getting them out there and into the hands of the readers who will love them.  Vic will read your book.  She will work with you to ensure that the design you end up with is something you love.  She doesn't use stock photography, so you are guaranteed an image that is original and she offers full legal usage of her cover images.  So, if you want to print it on swag, and sell that, the money goes straight to you.

Her prices are competitive- affordable for small press publishers as well as self-publishers.

She also provides other services- such as: tattoo design, logo design, header design, artistic prints, children's book illustration, and pretty much anything illustration that you can think up.

Stop by and drop the secret word: Mischief, for your chance to win one of these nifty prizes...

such as:   postcard sized prints of  her work titled PERCHED CREATURE, one of two copies of ELEMENTAL by Emily White, a ten dollar Amazon gift card, an original painting, and  free labor on a book cover (costs may be incurred for props/ models/ wardrobe) and more!

Sketcher Girl Studios
SGS on Facebook

Vic Caswell is brilliant! Not only is she super easy to work with, but the things she comes up with are so amazing. She was able to take the half-coherent ideas I was kind of able to articulate and come up with exactly what I was thinking of. I loved working with her on both my books' covers and I can't wait to work with her again!- Emily White (author of ELEMENTAL from Spencer Hill Press)

"I'm loving my new logo!!! Victoria Caswell did a MARVELOUS job and was such a joy to work with. She made the process effortless and I swear she could read my mind. So, if you need some work done, please send it her way! You won't be sorry!" Nancy  Fennell (owner of Scents of Adventure)