Thursday, November 15, 2018

PHILCON Bound

Hey all!  I'm off to PhilCon this weekend, and if you're around, please come say hello.  Here's my full schedule.   And what's my Special Presentation?  It's a surprise!  (But it'll involve a selection of readings.  And almost no Rat Pack singing.) 

Fri 8:00 PM in Plaza III (Three)—Fantasy Without Fantasy? How much actual supernaturalism or other fantastic elements (dragons, magic, elves, etc.) does a fantasy story require? There are examples of books marketed as fantasy, set in imaginary places, that contain no fantastic elements- How do they function within the genre?
Jim Stratton (mod), Ken Altabef, Sally Wiener Grotta, Carl Paolino, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Anna Kashina

Sat 10:00 AM in Plaza IV (Four)—DCEU: A Light at the End of the Tunnel? We all know that Warner Brothers has had a bit of the problem with their DCEU movies. But the latest trailers for Aquaman & SHAZAM look like they’re finally turning the page to a Brand New Day...
Barna William Donovan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Andre Lieven, Orenthal Hawkins

Sat 12:00 PM in Executive Suite 623—Readings: Saturday Noon Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod), Sally Wiener Grotta

Sat 1:00 PM in Grand Ballroom A—Presentation by Special Guest Marshall Ryan Maresca Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod)

Sat 4:00 PM in Plaza II (Two)—The City As a theme and an image in science fiction. Think of Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, New York 2140, and Metropolis. How does the nature of a city inform the stories set within it?
Carl Paolino (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Tom Purdom, Kim Kindya, Eric Parmer, Ty Drago

Sat 5:00 PM in Autograph Table—Autographs: Saturday 5pm Marshall Ryan Maresca (mod), Chris Kreuter

Sat 10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two—Shows We’re (Still) Not Over The Endings Of Whether it was because of a surprise cancellation that left us with a massive cliffhanger, or the intentional plotting of a Machiavellian team of writers, some series ended in ways that- even years later- make us want to shriek. What finale left you agape?
Tony Finan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alyce Wilson, Hildy Silverman, Tee Morris

Sun 11:00 AM in Plaza V (Five)—Writing A Film-Friendly Novel What elements should you keep in mind while writing a novel if you're hoping to eventually see it onscreen?
Richard Stout (mod), Elizabeth Crowens, Barna William Donovan, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Carl Paolino, Michael D'Ambrosio

Sun 1:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three—When Less Is MoreWe've talked a lot over the years about how to avoid infodumping, or at least, giving your readers information in a way that is entertaining and easy to parse. But sometimes the question you ought to ask is not how to insert all the facts about the world you've built, but "is it necessary?"
Vikki Ciaffone (mod), Steven Brust, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Bernie Mojzes, Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Embracing the Hostile Read

There's an old saying, "No text can survive a hostile read." 

I also like this exchange from the West Wing, when Sam Seaborn is told that a passage from a speech given by the First Lady has angered an activist group.
SAM: I don't see it.
CJ: You have to want it to see it.

Here's the thing about writing anything: everyone is going to come at it with their own biases, their own take.  Once you send it out into the world, you have no way to control how people are going to take it.  And, more specifically, if people are going to want to misread your text, bring their hostile read to you, you really have to just take it.

I'm not saying this to address any specific or recent review-- in fact I've been quite pleased with the recent reviews for THE WAY OF THE SHIELD-- but more as a sort of zen reminder that people will find the things that they connect to, that they can interpret with their own biases, and even though it doesn't match my intentions... that doesn't matter.

I'm kind of arguing for "the death of the author", I know, but the point is, all I can do is put it on the page.  If the reader finds something there I didn't intend, that's how it is.  In fact, I think it's great to embrace that, and see what I can learn.  Isn't that what it's about, after all?  Constantly trying to learn, grow and improve?

That's my goal, at least.
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Hey, are you in the northeast?  What are you doing next weekend?  Me, I'm the Special Guest at PhilCon!  If you can, come on out, and come say hello!   

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Point of View and Trust

Point-of-View is one of those funny things writers get very worked up about.  And I’ve noticed, reading through some older books I have, making concrete POV choices is a relatively recent development.  I mean, yes, certainly, the distinction between first-person and third-person (and the rare second-person) was always clear.  But third-person was often more of a muddled third-person-omniscient instead of the discrete multi-person third-person-limited, where individual scenes have a clear POV character.  Even the idea of a “POV Violation” as a writing mistake seems to be a relatively new thing.

Because, let me tell you, a lot of classics are just loaded with POV Violations.

However, the standard today, when writing third-person multiple-POV is for clear, discrete definition of whose head your in for any given scene or chapter. George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice books do this explicitly, telling you who the POV character is instead of a chapter title.  I hear a lot of “rules” of how to do a POV character, who can be one in your book and when you can let them be one.  I’m of the opinion that who can be one and when is whoever you need it to be for the scene, whenever you need that scene to be.   Frankly, one of my favorite bits in The Holver Alley Crew is when Mila steals the dress from the rich woman, because it's from the woman's POV.  She's just a one-off character, that scene alone, and some people will tell you it's against the "rules", but I say BAH.

My big thing with POV is trust.  Unless the Unreliable Narrator is a technique you’re utilizing, then you have to present your POV character in an honest way.  You have to have trust in that character and their engagement in the plot.

Now, that doesn’t mean the POV is limited to the “good guys”.  I love my antagonist POVs, as long as they are antagonists that I can trust are being honest with how they engage in the plot.  If I have a character who is against the hero privately, but acts as his friend, and I don’t want the reader to know that… then that character can’t be a POV character.  But if I want that betrayal clear, then that’s exactly who I want as POV.

This was especially hard for me in A Murder of Mages, which is probably my most constrained work, POV-wise, in that I only have Satrine and Minox as POV characters.   This is because, at its core, it’s a murder mystery, and if you go into the head of murderer, then the mystery is given up.  By limiting the POV to my two Inspectors, then the reader has the same set of data that they do.
In The Way of the Shield, it’s more complicated than that, but similar rules of not using a character for POV apply.  There are people whose motivation and trustworthiness I want the reader to keep in question, even in a subconscious way.  Ideally, when their truths come to light, it will hit the reader like a hammer, because they might not have even suspected it.  That's where a lot of the fun is.

Right now, I'm working on The Fenmere Joband I've imposed one rule regarding POV on myself for it, because I think it's the best choice for the story.  But I might decide over the course of things to break that.  If that's what's best.   We'll see. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Portrait of the Writer as an Odd Kid

So, let's talk a bit about Marshall Was A Weird Kid. 

(I know, you're probably shocked.)

Now, despite the fact that I spent a good chunk of time watching and rewatching a bunch of bad movies, I did, in fact, have other activities, including going to summer camps.  One of the day camps I went to regularly was structured thusly: it had two-week sessions, in which you would register for a single course, be it theatre or computers or filmmaking or auto mechanics or what have you.  Whatever you signed up for? That was your morning for the two weeks.  The afternoon, though, was a little more loosely structured, in that there were a handful of varied activities, and you chose, daily, which ones you were signing up for.  One of the most popular afternoon ones was the limited-capacity trip to the local state park for swimming, which my sister made a point of signing up for Every. Single. Day.

That?  Was not me.

In fact, my first year there, I was seven, which was itself a bit odd because the camp was for 8-14 year-olds, and I think my mother got an exception made for me because my sister was there as well.  So there I was, the only seven-year-old among older kids, looking at choices for afternoon activities, most of which were outdoorsy and/or athletic, to which I was nope.  But then one caught my eye.

Typing.

Seven-year-old me signed up for a goddamn typing class that was mostly populated by teenagers who were there for summer school (the camp was held on the campus of a private school), and I'm pretty sure I was the only one from the camp who signed up for it.  But I signed up for it EVERY SINGLE DAY of my first session there.

Every day. Typing. At the age of seven.  And this was 1980, so it was on a typewriter.  That's how and when I learned, and obviously it was a valuable skill that stuck with me.

BUT, since that's how and when I learned, you're just going to have to accept that a double-space after a period is simply embedded in my muscle memory.  It's there, and there's no dislodging it.  So there we are.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

You Can Write The Book

So, here's the question put forth this week:  What do you want to tell someone who says 'I always wanted to write a book'?

My answer is always, YES DO IT.  DOOOOOOO ITTTTT.

DO IT.

Yeah, I'm not subtle about it.

And this is because I'm well aware that the world at large, not to mention those ugly voices that whisper in the night, is constantly sending a message that it can't be done.  That YOU cannot do it.  DON'T EVEN TRY.

I'm not about that.  I want you to do it.  I want you to try.  I want you to point to the damn bleachers and then swing as hard as you can so you'll crack that baby out of the park.

I've got an old friend from High School who recently got back in touch, and that's largely because he saw that I have a whole mess of books out there and he was all, "Well, damn, Marshall actually did it.  I always wanted to do it."  AND NOW HE IS.  He's pretty much got a completed draft and he's doing the research in the business end and asking the right questions and I COULD NOT BE PROUDER.

That's a big reason why I've made a point of working things like the ArmadilloCon Writers Workshop and the Writers League of Texas Conference.  Because I know that this "writing a book" thing is a brutal goddamn marathon and the least I can do is be there with water every few miles.

So you think you wanna do it?

DO IT.

Monday, October 1, 2018

THE WAY OF THE SHIELD releases TOMORROW

Happy October!  I'm happy to announce that THE WAY OF THE SHIELD is here!  I'm very excited, and I hope you are as well.  And if you haven't pre-ordered it yet, here's your last chance.  With the launch of this book and this series, we're starting the fourth (and final?) facet of the Maradaine sequence.   I'm hoping you'll love Dayne, Jerinne and the rest of the Maradaine Elite cast as much as you do Veranix, Kaiana, Satrine, Minox, Asti & Verci and Mila and the rest of the characters that populate Maradaine.

And if you are in the Austin area, I will be at the Barnes & Noble in Sunset Valley (5601 Brodie Ln #300, Austin, TX 78745) tomorrow, October 2nd at 7pm.  Come out, I've love to see all of you.
If you still need convincing, there's an excerpt below, and links to buy The Way of Shield at all your favorite online vendors.

READ AN EXCERPT
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Dayne Heldrin always dreamed of being a member of the Tarian Order. In centuries past, the Elite Orders of Druthal were warriors that stood for order, justice, and the common people. But now, with constables, King's Marshals, and a standing army, there is little need for such organizations, and the Tarian Order is one of the last remnants of this ancient legacy. Nevertheless, Dayne trained his body and mind, learned the arts of defense and fighting, to become a candidate for the Tarian Order.

When a failed rescue puts Dayne at fault for injuring the child of a powerful family, his future with the Tarians is in jeopardy. The Parliament controls the purse strings for the Order, and Dayne has angered the wrong members of Parliament. He returns to the capital city of Maradaine in shame, ready to be cast out of the Order when the period of his candidacy ends.

Dayne finds Maradaine in turmoil, as revolutions and dark conspiracies brew around him, threatening members of Parliament and common people alike. Dayne is drawn into the uproar, desperate not to have one more death or injury on his conscience, but the Order wants him to stay out of the situation. The city threatens to tear itself apart, and Dayne must decide between his own future and his vow to always stand between the helpless and harm.
Goodreads Page for THE WAY OF THE SHIELDAvailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and more!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

THE WAY OF THE SHIELD Is Coming

We're now less than two weeks away from the release of THE WAY OF THE SHIELD, the first book of The Maradaine Elite.  I'm excited to be introducing these characters and this new facet of the Maradaine saga to readers.
Dayne Heldrin always dreamed of being a member of the Tarian Order. In centuries past, the Elite Orders of Druthal were warriors that stood for order, justice, and the common people. But now, with constables, King's Marshals, and a standing army, there is little need for such organizations, and the Tarian Order is one of the last remnants of this ancient legacy. Nevertheless, Dayne trained his body and mind, learned the arts of defense and fighting, to become a candidate for the Tarian Order.
When a failed rescue puts Dayne at fault for injuring the child of a powerful family, his future with the Tarians is in jeopardy. The Parliament controls the purse strings for the Order, and Dayne has angered the wrong members of Parliament. He returns to the capital city of Maradaine in shame, ready to be cast out of the Order when the period of his candidacy ends.
Dayne finds Maradaine in turmoil, as revolutions and dark conspiracies brew around him, threatening members of Parliament and common people alike. Dayne is drawn into the uproar, desperate not to have one more death or injury on his conscience, but the Order wants him to stay out of the situation. The city threatens to tear itself apart, and Dayne must decide between his own future and his vow to always stand between the helpless and harm.
Of course, launching a new series means there will be more books, and as this book is coming out, I'm finalizing the draft of the next one, THE SHIELD OF THE PEOPLE.  What's that going to be about?  Here's my first pass at a blurb, though it will probably need some refinement:
It’s a grand holiday week in the city of Maradaine, celebrating over two centuries of freedom and the foundation of the reunified modern nation, and with that comes parades, revelry… and protests and demonstrations. As Druthal is electing their new Parliament, a dissident group called The Open Hand seeks to disrupt elections and spread their message of dissolving Druthal into independent kingdoms. Leading the Open Hand is a mysterious and charismatic man, Bishop Ret Issendel.
Dayne Heldrin and Jerinne Fendall find themselves on the margins of the Tarian Order, lauded as heroes in public but scorned and ignored in private, and their future in the Order is hazy. Drawn into the intrigue of the Open Hand and kept apart by dark powerful conspiracies that brew around them, Dayne and Jerinne must both fight for their own principles, and protect the will of the people as the election is thrown into chaos.
I've really been loving playing with these characters in this series. Less than two weeks, so pre-order THE WAY OF THE SHIELD now!
Goodreads Page for THE WAY OF THE SHIELDAvailable at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound and more!