Obligatory Gift Idea Reminder Post

One week to Christmas. Remember the ease of giving readable gifts this season! (See visual below for two good examples)
They are great books, but don’t take my word for it. You can read 4 & 5-star verified-purchase reviews on Amazon: http://ift.tt/2nAqbm9 and on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36425571.
Ebooks. Paperbacks. Audios. Pick your format, there’s something for everyone. No, really.
(Sorry, no sweeping political intrigue sagas, no grimdark grit, no bloody horror. Just good, solid characters, thrills, and surprises.)

(Editing to add the review below because wow. As a lifelong X-Men fan, I’m torn. I feel I should somehow defend their iconic goodness but am too busy melting from the power of the complimentary comparison.)

 

Londinium Cover Reveal!

I’m really excited today because I get to help Debbie spread the word about  the brand-new awesome cover for the next book in her P.A.W.S. Saga, LONDINIUM. The cover was created by the hugely talented Rachel Bostwick who also made the cover for the new box set of books 1 to 3 that are now available on Amazon.

So here goes – drum roll please – LONDINIUM (The P.A.W.S. Saga 4), on presale now.

londinium

“The pea soup has spoken,” said Caradog. “You are destined for Londinium.”
“Londinium?” asked Miri.
“It was the ancient city from which London sprang. The P.A.W.S. Institute of Londinium is the oldest in the world. It started before the city of today existed and straddles the old and the new. Unfortunately, today it is run by a fool.”

Join Miri as she continues her journey through Umbrae and Londinium with the help of werecats, wild warlocks, an old dog, a duck, and a whole lot of pea soup.

The P.A.W.S. Saga continues with Londinium.

Need to catch up?

You can do that all in one place with a brand new box set of books 1 to 3. Now available on Amazon.

DON’T MISS OUT! Get yours today.

box set

The devil is in the details

storysculpting header 2 brushes and paints

I love world-building. I hate being bogged down in lengthy explanations. Those two ideas seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. Constructing a whole reality idea by idea doesn’t have to mean burying the reader in excess information. It’s successful if it’s real. It works if it works.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how that gets done lately, and here’s the stream-of-consciousness result.

I like a sausage-making metaphor: massive quantities of information has to be smooshed into a compact, spicy form that looks, feels, and tastes nothing like the disparate ugly ingredients of its origin. I also like a phrase stolen from role-playing. “When in doubt, roll and shout.”

Research is critically important, but it isn’t narrative-friendly.  If I haven’t considered all the implications of every idea that I dream up, then I will write something idiotic or miss obvious contradictions. But if I don’t provide all that background I made up when I write about things that don’t exist, then the reader will drown in unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts.

It’s a tricky balance. Part of the problem is the difference between real life and narrative life.

None of us notice everything about everything in our daily lives. We take reality for granted. Most of us don’t ponder the intricacies of electrical power generation and distribution when we turn on a lamp. We don’t discuss historical origins and socio-political underpinnings of every news event. In conversation we don’t provide definitions to each other for nouns we use every day.

But stories are condensed life. Dialogue is more than conversation. Writers can make every interaction and description a springboard for adding information to the mix. But does can mean should? (NO)  How much of the sausage-making needs to be shown?

When I come up with some clever new idea, the first thing I must decide is, does it work? Do all the imaginary events, objects, people, histories, actions, and places I want to include in my world make sense together?  Then I have to decide does that idea need to be in this story? The last tricky hurdle: when I describe these ideas, do my descriptions feel plausible?  That isn’t the same as the descriptions being precise.  Far from it. 

There’s an art to achieving realism.  What’s the right amount of information to make a world feel real without boring the reader to tears?  Alas, the answer is it depends. There’s a spectrum of tolerance for raw information. Pleasing every reader is impossible. I wish there was a formula or even a rule of thumb, or an easy middle road, but there isn’t.

There are tricks & tropes to ease data delivery into a story: the newbie; the research montage; the fish out of water, the amazing discovery–there’s a whole kit of craft tools. (A new one I’ve learned: slotting critical facts around cliffhanger action.) But those still only cover the how, not the which or the  how much.

Texts thick with numbers, vocabulary, and dates leave me cold, so they aren’t what I write. I use the technique I like best as a reader: immersion. I describe my worlds the way someone living in them would experience them. Then I add the minimal explanatory material to that framework.

Enough and only enough: that’s my descriptive mantra.  Brevity entices the reader’s imagination and sets it roaming free.  If I’ve done the does it work part of my world-build properly I don’t need to show much at all. My readers don’t nee a treatise on economics with every passing place name reference.  I can even leave details vague in my own mind until I need to write about that place.

A last phrase I keep in mind when dealing with world backgrounds is one attributed to several classic showmen, “Always leave them wanting more.”  If I build my world in broad strokes and use sharp wordcraft on the little I let into my story, readers will know there is more and come back for seconds.

If the devil is in the details, then get thee behind me, details.