Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Monday, September 28, 2015

By the Book: Conan the Rogue

Welcome Back!



I’m a bit behind schedule this month when it came to my book review. The truth is I had this idea about doing a theme for the month of October, focused on Halloween and supernatural phenomenon in writing. The problem is, the idea came after finishing the supernatural mystery book that was originally intended to be reviewed this month! So I decided to push back the review for that book to October, and had to find a replacement book for September.


That is when I came across Conan The Rogue. I had originally read this book back in high school, but forgot most of what transpired in it. The book was no longer in my possession, as it was donated to the free library at my campsite. However, as luck would have it, the book was still there, so I had the opportunity to read through it once again.


For those of you unfamiliar with Conan, he is a fictional character who is set in a fantasy, “sword-and-sorcery” setting known as the Hyborian Age (a period in earth’s history between the fall of Atlantis and the rise of ancient civilizations). Conan is mainly referred to as a barbarian, but over the years he has also been known under many other names. At his core, Conan is a warrior who fights for his own egotistical goals (money and survival), but will assist others if it fits his needs. The character itself was originally created by writer Robert E. Howard in 1932, and has since appeared in everything from books, movies, television shows and video games.


Conan the Rogue is a fantasy novel written by John Maddox Roberts, and was originally published by Tor Books in November 1991. The story begins with Conan out of luck, having lost all of his belongings while gambling, except for his sword. His fortune soon changes, as the barbarian gets hired by a strange, flamboyant man to retrieve a mysterious artefact reputed to have vast magical power. The search takes Conan to Sicas, a once rich city thanks to its silver mines, now in the midst of a power struggle between numerous contenders, most notably the king's corrupt reeve, five different gangs and a religious cult. There are various intrigues and betrayals going on within Sicas, but with careful manipulation, Conan manages to raise the tension until tempers finally boil over, resulting in a city wide brawl. I will skip the details for those interested in reading the book.


Conan the Rogue



Back of the Book:
“Everyone in the corrupt city of Sicas wants the priceless treasure Conan of Cimmeria has come there to find. Beautiful women who offer smiles, kisses--and maybe a knife in the back. A priest who may be closer to his goddess than he thinks. Noble lords, and the bosses of criminal gangs, and a fop whose perfumed kerchief may hide poison. All are willing to kill for the artifact, but none realize the horror in can unleash, a hellish menace that only one man can face…”




What I learned:
  • Dastardly Deeds: The author truly succeeded in making Conan appear to be a cunning mastermind as well as an experienced warrior. Manipulating all of the city’s factions against each other needed careful planning.
  • Planning ahead: Noting what all gangs were doing at all times requires careful planning. In real life, people don’t just stand still and wait for you to be done with what you are doing before acting. While you are off to work, people do their own thing; sleep, chores, exercise or jobs. The clock doesn't stop for others because you don’t see them. The author puts an emphasis on this fact by having Conan constantly keep tabs on the many players taking part in this story. It helps explain who is where, doing what. Reading Conan the Rogue made me realise I needed to apply this to my own story by creating a checklist of who is where during what event. This helps answer questions that may hurt the overall consistency of the story.
  • Apples to Oranges: I was originally worried that reading a book about Conan so soon after reading Kaz the minotaur would give me a barbarian overdose! It turns out, the two are very different, despite being the same “archetype”. Kaz was more of your typical, muscle bound Barbarian, whereas Conan, though he had good intentions, was a double-crossing, manipulative scoundrel.
  • Info dump: Though the story takes place in the city of Sicas, there is a lot of history to predates the actual tale. This somewhat superfluous information appears in large chunks on some occasions, forcing the reader to catch up on the backstory in order to understand the current story. A good example of this is when Casperus takes 3 full pages to explain the origin of the scorpion idle. This has made me realise that I need to parcel my backstory in small manageable bites, and not take the reader out of the main story while doing so.


For those interested in learning more about the author, John Maddox Roberts, please check out the following websites here:


For those interested in learning more about the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard, please check out the following websites here:


The front cover art for Conan the Rogue was done by artist, Ken Kelly. Follow the link to view their wiki page.


In closing, I would like to thank my wife Linda and our family for the tremendous amount of encouragement in this endeavor.


Until next time!


Cheers,


Patrick Osborne

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Interview - Andy Peloquin


Greetings!



Welcome to my blog’s second writer interview. Today, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, Andy Peloquin.


I met Mr. Peloquin via a Facebook page called The Better Writer’s Group, as he was kind enough to respond to my search for writers to interview. He claims being new to the business and is still learning and growing as he goes, but is more than willing to share his knowledge in the following interview.



Short Bio: Andy Peloquin--a third culture kid to the core--has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.


When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn't looked back since.


Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.


Published Works: The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer


 
Current Projects: The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen  




When did you begin writing?

I "officially" kicked off my writing career at the age of 25, but I have been writing since the age of 8 or 9. It started with the basics (short stories, poetry), and I attempted my first novel at 16. Of course, I promptly deleted it after Chapter 10, and didn't finish anything until the age of 25.


Did you receive any special training or attend a school?

No special training, no education beyond high school. Just a lot of hard work, a bit of natural talent, and a willingness to learn and grow with every sentence I write!


Where do you get your inspiration from?

Where DON'T I get it from? I've gotten ideas from funny pictures, video games, movies, books, comic books, billboards, and milk cartons! You never know when inspiration will strike--you just have to be ready to flow with it!


Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)

Between Microsoft Word and Google Chrome, I have everything I need to write! I keep it simple, organize all my notes in Word, and do any necessary research on the internet.


What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?

Characters are SO much more important than plot. A good story can be lame without a great character, but a great character can turn even the most mundane situation into something that will grip you right up until "The End".


What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?

One of the hardest things for me is to find the "right" character flaw for my characters. Use the wrong one, and it can alienate your readers right off the bat. But finding the right flaw will endear the readers to your characters, even when he/she does horrible things!


Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)

I didn't use an agent for this first book in the series, because I wanted to get it out there. I didn't rush through the editing process, but I didn't want to wait around for years to get the book published. That being said, now that I have this book published, I am shopping around for an agent that can help me get it and future works into the right hands.


Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?

I ABSOLUTELY used an editor! As good as we think we are at spotting mistakes, a fresh pair of eyes (or three) is always a must.


How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).

It was published by a small indie press, J. Ellington Ashton Press. They are a horror-focused publisher, so the dark fantasy novel was a great fit!


Do you handle your own marketing?
I do handle my own marketing, something I and most writers have a hard time with. It's tough to set aside precious writing time to find and interact with new readers, but it's vital for the success of any writer!


What is your best marketing tip?

Be friendly and get to know people before you try to market/sell your writing to them. People are much more inclined to buy from a new author if they like him/her or what they have to say. Don't smack people over the head with your marketing or promotions, but get to know people and make friends first!


Do you have any advice for other writers?

Prepare for a long, long road ahead! A VERY small percentage of writers "succeed" in the highly competitive world, and it takes a lot of luck, hard work, and time to find your success. Settle in for the long haul, and you have a better chance of surviving your career as a writer!


I hope everyone found this interview as helpful and informative as I did. I would also like to thank Andy Peloquin for taking the time out of his busy schedule to take this interview, it is very much appreciated.


Until Next time,

Patrick Osborne

Friday, September 18, 2015

BOOTCAMP LESSON 6: Perspective



Welcome back!
In this latest edition of BOOTCAMP, we will explore the concept of Perspective. Hopefully this exercise will be able to demonstrate how it affects storytelling and how it can be applied to your work.

Always depends on how you look at it!

Lesson 6: Perspective

As I mentioned in my post about Perspectives, its purpose in storytelling is to be the point of view from which the story is being told. By changing the angle or the voice from which the narrator presents the story to the readers, they can change the influence on the reader’s perception of the story.  A good real life example of this would be witness reports. I learned this while working as a security guard; if five different witnesses saw the same crime, they will give five different stories. Granted those stories may be similar, but they will differ in some aspect. Why? because each witness had their own perspective.

As authors, we have all occasionally been struck with writer’s block. Coming up with ways to write a scene is not always easy, but sometimes playing with perspective can help rectify this situation. Using a different perspective means information will be given to the reader in a different fashion, in turn affecting other story elements such as style and tone. Trying to change how the story is told may also help breath new life in a scene, just remember it is important to be consistent, or else risk confusing the reader.

But enough babbling, now for the exercise!

Rules:
  1. Below you will find a generic scene to work with.
  2. Within that scene, you will see four characters.
  3. Rewrite the scene using the following perspectives:
    1. Told in a first person perspective from the point of view of the victim.
    2. Told in a third person perspective from the point of view of the vendor.
    3. Told in an omniscient perspective from the point of view of the police officer.
    4. Told in a limited omniscient perspective from the point of view of the villain.
       
Generic Scene:
    It is nighttime in a small town. The victim is running down the street at a frantic pace, desperately trying to stay ahead of their pursuer. In their haste, the victim runs past a street vendor, who is talking to a police officer while putting away his merchandise. The officer and vendor look at the running person, then at each other questioningly. A few seconds later, a brute runs by, knocking down the vendor's merchandise without even slowing, too intent on catching up to the victim.”

Hope you have fun giving this exercise a try. For those who aren’t afraid to share their entries, feel free to submit your stories as a reply to this post. Remember, this is a game, so no posting bad comments about other people's entries.

Until next time!

Cheers,

Patrick Osborne

Friday, September 11, 2015

Foreshadowing



Welcome back!


    In one of my earlier posts, I discussed several different plot devices and their purpose within a storyline. Their role is to help move the story forward by revealing information to the reader in a specific fashion. This can be achieved in various ways, such as creating sense of urgency, supplying needed resources or removing an obstacle from the protagonists path. Today I will see a new plot device; foreshadowing.


The literary device known as foreshadowing can be compared to a hint, whose goal is to allude to potential events later within the storyline. Usually found at the beginning of a book or before a climactic scene, foreshadowing allows the writer to build anticipation and awareness, grabbing the reader's interest and giving them some idea of where the writer is taking them. In a sense, it allows the audience to be prepared for the events further into the storyline.
 

As I mentioned in my previous articles, a writer must learn to control the flow of information they give to their audience. Foreshadowing is a tool which helps in this, by giving the reader select information about the direction of the story. By giving this small “peek” into the future, a writer helps the reader develop expectations, without giving away the story or spoiling the suspense.

By creating these expectations, the writer can use foreshadowing to create different effects.
 
An example would be by creating an antecedent, or more plainly, a situation where we know the end result. This creates tension, causing the reader to anxiously await events to repeat themselves. This is not to be confused with prolepsis (or “flash forwarding”). The main difference between the two is that were flash forwarding offers the reader a vision of the future, foreshadowing can only offer an assumption of the future.

The author may also choose to use foreshadowing to offer unreliable information to the audience. By creating assumptions in this fashion, the writer can mislead the readers towards a dead end or false clues. This technique is often used in tandem with the “red herring” plot device in mystery stories.

Foreshadowing may also help the audience better grasp bizarre or unusual elements within the story. By presenting strange phenomenon early, the reader will have a chance to learn more about it, as it is slowly explained throughout the story. This way, when this event happens again, the reader is better informed, and thus will be more inclined to believe the storyline.

           There are various ways foreshadowing can be created. It can be hinted through something as simple as a conversation between characters, as straightforward as a conflict between elements in the setting, as subtle as a chapter title or as dramatic as giving away the ending at the beginning of the story. These clues about forthcoming events in the story can take many forms, but often come in one of two types: Direct or Indirect

Direct Foreshadowing

           As its name implies, Direct Foreshadowing is when the author simply tells the audience what is coming. It is a straightforward telling of future events, with no hiding or room for misinterpretation.

           A good example would be when the author uses a time lapse in there story. This could be either a flash forward or a technique called In Media Res (starting a story from the middle). Unless the story is about time travel, the future is considered to be written in stone. By giving the audience a glimpse of upcoming events, they not only know where the story is going, but that these events are inevitable.

           The subject of time takes us to another form of Direct Foreshadowing; retelling of historical events. By writing a tale based off of real world history, the author can plainly state the outcome of the story at any given time, since it is already a known fact.

           Probably the most common type of Foreshadowing in fiction would be types of predictions. This is when upcoming events are explained to the audience, such as when they are made privy to the characters plans or when they face prophecies. The reason this approach is so popular is because even though the audience knows the characters intended actions, things do not always go according to plan. This allows the writer to create expectations in the audience, while still holding the element of surprise.

Indirect Foreshadowing

           A more subtle way of telling the story’s future is Indirect Foreshadowing. The author uses this technique to hint at impending outcomes with signs that can be left to interpretation. These clues come if different variations, such as:

  • Character Reactions: How characters interact with objects in their environment could be interpreted as a hint to their role in the story.
  • Environmental elements: Sudden changes in the weather or terrain can affect the mood of the narrative, effectively drawing the reader’s attention to a potential clue of things to come.
  • Potential Conflict: If two or more characters have a clear dislike for each other in the beginning of the storyline, it could be a sign of a fight later on.
  • Antecedents: Repetition can be a good indicator of what will happen next. If one character steps in a trap, odds are if a second character does the same he will suffer similar results. A popular example of this are the “red shirts” from Star Trek, where one person would die, giving the audience an idea of what the consequences were.
  • Looming presence: Sometimes only having a presence is enough to announce upcoming actions. The “oncoming storm”, the “trap” or the “tall dark stranger” are all examples of story altering presences we have heard of in the past.

       I am glad to have explored this plot device further, as I had run into some situations which required making the audience aware of certain information before another element was introduced. I will be using foreshadowing in my own story, as it has proven to be a very useful tool for this type of situation.

That is all for now, so until next time!

Cheers

Patrick Osborne.

 
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Friday, September 4, 2015

Inspiration Part 5 - Landmarks


Welcome Back!


This months Inspiration post comes straight from Chicago! During my stay in the windy city, I took well over five hundred pictures; everything from museums, buildings, landmarks, trains and so on. Now don’t worry, I won’t post all of them at once, I will be separating over several future posts.


Today’s posts will be different from what I have been doing previously, since this will focus on public areas such as landmarks, fountains and statues. The following pictures were taken in Millennium park and it’s surrounding areas. Of course, one cannot visit Millennium park in Chicago without seeing Cloud Gate, also known as “the big bean”.




    While walking from my hotel to the Art Institute Museum, a came across a few beautiful water fountains. Most notable was the Buckingham fountain, which was so big, it could be seen from several blocks away. Some were somewhat victorian style, making them contrast from the more modern fountain that was closest to the Cloud Gate. The modern one was made of glass bricks, and allowed overheated sightseers to get a nice cooling spray.




    The parks also had a large variety of statues. They ranged from historical figures, to decorative ornaments, to artistic expressions, with styles varying from victorian to modern.




 


 
 


    I loved every minute of exploring downtown Chicago, as I got to experience so many landmarks. Familiarizing oneself with public areas such as these is important for writing stories, as it can help you learn important historical backgrounds of the area, or help in gathering details for describing story settings.


In a situation like this, it is important to remember to not just look at your surroundings, but to experience them. Smells, sounds, tastes and sensations are also important information to remember, as they will come in handy when trying to describe the surroundings in your story. I personally will be using Chicago in a story, so when exploring, I tried noting everything I came across.


That is all for this months Inspiration post. I hope you enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to sharing more pictures from my trip!


Until next time,

Patrick Osborne