Sunday, September 29, 2013

A is for Aleanaes

I've been toying with this idea for a while and I thought I may do it here. This is kind of like a Realmspace wiki or more accurately a dictionary. As I'm doing it in dictionary form, it begins with A, because I'm odd like that.

That's Panacea from the Asterix books, but I'm going to use her to give people an idea of what Aleanaes looks like. If you give her pointed ears then it is pretty much as I see her, the other thing is that I can barely draw a decent stick figure.

Interestingly enough Aleanaes was probably the first Realmspace character that I ever created. She was a goddess of love in that fantasy epic I wrote in my early teens, and once she made herself at home in my head she simply never went away.

Physically she's largely always been the same, although she has changed in personality and her function in my fictional universe.

She's an important character in Realmspace, although she's not what I'd call a major character. In film terms she'd be a supporting actress.

She's the Benefactress of Intellida. Most Realms have a Benefactor or a Benefactress. There are some that have gods or goddesses that fulfil a similar role, some have both. Earth is often looked down on and thought of as backward by those from other Realms, because not only does it not have a Benefactor, it isn't even aware of their existence.

Aleanaes lives in an incredible house on a different plane of existence, but she is a frequent visitor to her Realm and quite protective of it.

She has an interesting relationship with Dancer. She generally uses him as an agent, in fact her personal assistant views him that way, but she considers herself a friend and also has a rather big sister type dynamic with the young shifter.

Racially she's an elf, hence the pointed ears and the fact that she doesn't seem to age, although the agelessness could also be one of the benefits of being a Benefactress.

She keeps a household staff that is mostly animals she rescued from desperate situations on Earth and then anthropomorphised to suit her needs. Her butler is a lowland gorilla, her maid is a mouse and her driver is a runner lizard. She also has three bodyguards, who are a boxer dog, a rat and a giant panda. The only member of her staff that isn't anthropomorphised is her personal assistant; Natasha. Natasha is cat who hails from a Realm full of cats and even without the opposable thumbs does an incredibly efficient job for her mistress.

Her full name is Aleanaes Goldenhair and many add the honorific Mistress to it.

If you want a pronunciation guide, and I do realise her name is a bit of a mouthful, it's said like this: Al-ee-a-nay-es.

There we have it. A for Aleanaes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Where to now?

Okay, so you've had an idea. You've got characters, plots and a world. You've whipped them all into shape and somehow fitted them into a book.

You've finished writing it. You've revised it and polished it. You've had it read by others: family, friends and complete strangers. They've all given feedback and now it's finally finished.

What do you do with it?

First you have to answer a few questions. The first ones are: are you truly happy with it? Is it your best work? Would you be happy for anyone to see it and judge it? If you can answer yes to all those then you can ask another question.

Why did you write it? People write for all sorts of reasons. Some of them want to tell a story. Some of them have a message. Some just like doing it.

You may have written it because you like writing and you like sharing it with people close to you. It's a labour of love and a hobby.

If however you've written it because you want it out there in the marketplace because you want to be a published author and share your creation with the world then you have to look at trying to get it published.

There are a number of ways to get published now, but I'm really only going to explore one. Most people look at one of two options. One is to self publish. With the advent of ebooks and epublishing, self publishing is a far more viable and less expensive option than it ever was before. Since ereading really took off the amount of self published books has risen astronomically and there have been some remarkable success stories, although you have to bear in mind that they are the exceptions, not the rule.

The other is what is referred to as the 'traditional route' and that's to get an agent, sell the work to a publisher and let them deal with things like marketing, distribution, contracts, etc...

I said get an agent before mentioning a publisher, because in many cases publishers won't accept unsolicited work, some will occasionally open the doors to unagented submissions, but generally you can't get in the door unless you're represented.

With Realmspace after I answered the above questions I decided to try the traditional route. So I am currently in the process of querying agents. Of the ones I've contacted so far I've been rejected at the initial query stage. Admittedly each rejection has been a little more encouraging and that at least makes me think that even if I can't place this work with anyone (I do admit that it's fairly off the wall and will probably be a hard sell, if at all) that I'm sort of on the right track with the queries.

Looking at it now I'm beginning to think writing the book was the easy bit, actually trying to get someone who can do something about it to notice it and take a chance with it and me is the hard part.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coming together

When I think of Realmspace the above images (they're actually incredibly cool aquariums) or things like it kind of pop into my head.

As I said yesterday it didn't just happen and make me write it. It developed over a number of years. The characters and races and ideas have come from all over and over a number of years. In fact one of the peripheral, but still very important characters came from that awful epic I wrote in my early teens. She's a lot different now, but her name and appearance have basically remained what they were back then.

The Realms or worlds of Realmspace are only loosely connected, they exist in bubbles that comprise their atmosphere and they're largely self contained. Although we don't realise it our own world is a Realm. It's not well regarded, partly because we don't understand that we're part of Realmspace and partly because we don't have a Benefactor or Benefactress and so to many ways of thinking are totally lawless.

There are all sorts of Realms, not all of them places you'd want to visit. My central character Dancer has found himself at various times on a Realm he refers to as Raptorworld due to it being full of ravenous velociraptors, a Realm that he doesn't even have name for, but seems to be a giant pinball machine, Brobdingnag (yes either Lemuel Gulliver or his chronicler Jonathan Swift was apparently a shifter).

The Realms are infinite really. Erin is the home to all sorts of characters and races from Irish mythology. Ickepunk is a Realm of ice and snow inhabited by two races that are devoted to the total annihilation of the other. Library is as the name suggests a vast world sized library.

Most of the action takes place on a Realm called Intellida. That's where Dancer, and a good many shifters base themselves. It is a comfortable Realm that is overseen by Dancer's friend and occasional boss the elven Benefactress Aleanaes Goldenhair. Intellida has technology powered by magic. Dancer lives in a section of the Realm called Shiftertown and he keeps a stylish townhouse called Purple Dove House (I told you the blog's title was important and relevant) and he has 3 staff; a flightless gargoyle butler by the name of Frank, an Erinish brownie maid called Molly and his rogueish driver the redcap Jock, who chaffeur's his employer about the place in his pride and joy a 1961 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.

That's a brief taste.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Are we there yet?

I've kind of given the impression that the idea for Realmspace hit me like a bolt out of the blue and I immediately started writing feverishly and came out with the finished product a few months later. That's not really what happened, though.

As a writer I'm what is referred to as a 'pantser', that means I write by the seat of my pants. George RR Martin is a 'pantser' although he refers to himself as a gardener. He explained his process at Worldcon 2010 as kind of being like driving from Melbourne to Perth without a map, but having a basic idea of how to get to where you want to be. Along the way you're going to encounter the occasional obstacle. At the time A Dance with Dragons was one of the obstacles. Stephen King is a 'pantser', he eschews outlining.

Now that's one of the other writer type: outliners. This is someone who actually knows where they're going before they even start, they use a map. How detailed a map can vary from person to person.

To be honest I probably fall somewhere between the two. I know where I want to go and where I want to end at, I will get there even if I do make a few detours along the way. I find writing that way gives me the freedom to change things if I really want to. Being held down to an outline (I do realise that they can change if the writer wants them to as well) would restrict me a little.

When I first started writing Realmspace it had an odd beginning, because while I knew the ending things were subject to change. After it was written I was able to polish the opening up considerably and make it fit better with the rest of the book which just started to come together as I wrote.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Who am I?

I've told you my writing history and how I came about to write my most recent concept, but you don't know a lot about me besides that.

I'll start with a picture, because honestly anyone reading this doesn't even know what I look like.

This particular picture tells you a bit about me from that. For one I'm short sighted, hence the glasses. I'm not the most photogenic of people, although to be fair that picture is a 'selfie' and I really haven't been able to get the hang of those yet. The concerned look on my face is because I'm not even sure if I actually have myself in shot. I also can't smile on cue.

You can't tell it from the picture, because my head fills most of the shot, but that was actually taken on a bridge in Turin. It had been a really nice sunny day up to that point, then the clouds started to roll in not long before I reached the bridge.

Why was I in Turin? It's not really a tourist mecca like other cities in Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice, etc...) Every four years they hold this thing called The World Masters Games, it's the largest sporting participation event in the world. This is largely because it's open to anyone as long as they can satisfy the age requirement for whatever sport it is they want to participate in.

My wife has been playing softball since she was knee high to a grasshopper and this was her second World Masters Games. They held them in Turin this year, so we combined that with a European holiday, and we spent what free time we had looking at Turin itself. It's not like Rome or Florence in that it has a major draw card (there is the Shroud, but that doesn't really seem to drag the tourists in), so it has to work a little harder, but if you also want to look you can find things to see and do, and on the plus side it doesn't get the enormous crowds you have to contend with at the better known places.

Travelling is another passion. I've been to the States and New Zealand a couple of times. I've done a safari in Africa and trekked in South America. This was my second European trip and we're planning a trip to England next year. My wife has travelled extensively throughout Australia and I'm trying to catch her up on that front. Tasmania is a favourite destination of ours.

Sport is something else that is high on my list. I've played a few: squash, indoor volleyball, table tennis. I was in the 2009 World Masters Games in softball and I've been told that I have no choice in the matter in 2017 in Auckland, I'm playing for the men's team. I also held a red belt in tae kwon do.

Outside of participating, which I really don't do much these days, except for a bit of softball, I follow it keenly. We like to get to one day of the Australian Tennis Open, cricket is pretty much a constant during summer and I'm a very passionate follower of Australian Rules Football (which for anyone outside of the country is NOT rugby) specifically the Richmond Football Team. I am a Tiger born and bred and bleed yellow and black. You may get the occasional hysterical rant here if we do something good.

That's the old logo. Still the best for mine. Eat em alive!

I read a lot. I'm rather excited at the moment because the third of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series is due out in early October. I think I've had it on pre order since Scott posted the news about it's release at Fantasy Faction early this year. I'm also a moderator at the site, where I'm known as Elfy and use the below avatar.

Because of the imminent release of The Republic of Thieves.

Isn't that just gorgeous?

I reread The Lies of Locke Lamora for about the thirteenth time.

Most people don't like that cover, but it's the one on my version and I seem to prefer it. I clearly have no taste when it comes to covers.

And followed it up with a reread of Red Seas Under Red Skies for about the eleventh time.

Obsessed? Me? Never!

So, come early October expect an absence whilst I first devour, then savour The Republic of Thieves. I may even do a review when I return from Scott's wondrous world of thieves, mages and elderglass.

That's pretty much me. Normal transmission will resume next time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

BR (Before Realmspace)

Now before I start this post I would like to clarify something. I don't use a quill to write! I've never used a fountain pen and my biro writing is barely legible. I use a word processor like most people, although I do have a friend that writes everything out in longhand before transcribing into a word processing program.

I titled this Before Realmspace, because I was once asked when I posted about completing Realmspace if it was my first novel and I have a friend in a writing group who is very happy (as he should be) about completing his first full novel.

I've been writing for almost as long as I can remember. I was reading at about four years of age and the writing soon followed. Initially it was things for school. I think we called them compositions back then. Then when I was seven I decided to write a book.

My inspiration was a concept called Digit Dick. Dick was a Tom Thumb like character who used to travel around Australia, interact with the local fauna due to his size and the fact that he could somehow understand them and have adventures in keeping with wherever in Australia he used to be.

One of the covers of Digit Dick and the Lost Opals. This was his Northern Territory adventure.

I was quite taken with the idea of Digit Dick, tiny characters like that seem to resonate with me for some reason and I decided to write my own version. I don't think I got past a couple of hand written chapters in a en exercise book, but the bug had bitten.

It took me a few years, but I embarked on a big fantasy epic. This was also handwritten. I couldn't tell you how many pages or words it was, but it took a few years and it was a fair mass of paper when I was done with it. It was really it was, but in my defence I wrote it between the ages of twelve and fifteen, and I was no child prodigy.

With that experience behind me I filled exercise books with short stories. Pretty much anything that took my fancy, some were good, some were bad, some were so so. What they did was teach me how to write, as did what I read. I don't write much short work now, the ideas don't seem to come the way they once did.

That and what I was reading as well as my age at the time led me to write something with the rather unwieldy title of The Coolest Guy I Know. This would be marketed as YA these days, it was basically a novel length character study and not publishable.

I took the ideas from that, fashioned them into a proper story and wrote The Misfits. It was a very standard coming of age YA novel. That one did get sent to a publisher and they even sent it out to readers after having a positive reaction to it. The final verdict was that there was not quite enough there, but it was encouraging.

I followed it up with another YA coming of age piece called Take It To The Limit. That one I didn't even try and get published. It wasn't good enough and I knew it.

I read a lot of fantasy, but apart from the first epic I had never really tried a full length novel in the genre. Tom Deitz is a guy whose work you don't hear about much these days (he passed away in 2009), but in the 80's he wrote what would in the here and now find themselves in the YA fantasy section of the bookshop (they didn't have such a thing back then) about a Georgia teenager; David Sullivan and his friends.

The cover of Windmaster's Bane, the first of Tom Deitz's David Sullivan books.

The David Sullivan books were essentially YA novels with magic added. David and his friends regularly had dealings with the Seelie and Unseelie courts of the fae. I thought if Deitz could do that, why couldn't I?

My first effort along that like was called There's a Bunyip in the Lake. I set it in Australia (fantasy is rarely ever set in my home country) and used some local myths and legends to give it the magic component. It was a lot of fun, but it did have problems. I had an idea for a sequel, but never got around to writing it. It was another one I never attempted to get published.

From that I moved onto something I called Darklight. More than anything else I've ever written Realmspace owes it's life to Darklight. Darklight contained a number of ideas and concepts as well as a few characters that made it into Realmspace many years after they were originally conceived. Even if you don't finish something or never finish it, keep the ideas, you never know when they may come in handy. Oh look at that the unpublished writer handing out advice!

After Darklight, I started a sequel to that, I think I got lost.

I tried and tried and tried to write an epic fantasy. I took the bones of the awful thing I wrote as a teenager and tried to build something on them. No matter how much I tried to make this thing work, it didn't. It took me literally years to work this out. I wasted a lot of time trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. After a loss of work I gave up and tried to tweak it. Remember the alcoholic self loathing warrior mage? He was the central character of that work. I got 10 chapters into it before realising that epic fantasy of this sort simply isn't my go.

It took many years and and six complete novels before finally finding my place as far as writing goes.

That's when Realmspace hit.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The idea

Everything starts with an idea. How does someone like me, who was a fan of epic fantasy, but liked the occasional urban fantasy, wind up writing a light and funny YA fantasy adventure?

That probably started with me joining a writing group on a forum I frequent. Like many online writing groups it started with excitement and a flurry of activity, and I fear like many online writing groups as that initial burst of enthusiasm faded and life outside of writing intruded on the participants time, posts dried up and the group unfortunately died.

At present in the fantasy genre the king of the subgenres is epic fantasy. This isn't anything new, it's always been the king as long as I can remember. Epic or high fantasy refers to things like Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire. Big fat books that can do duty as a door stop if needed.

Of late there's been a shift to writing low magic, gritty epics that feature fairly graphic descriptions of violence and lashings of profanity that take place in what TV Tropes refers to as 'sad crapsack' worlds, and they must feature at least one or more morally ambiguous anti hero. If said hero is a thief or an assassin, well so much the better.

When I looked around the group I was a member of it seemed that many of the offerings were of this type. The current term that many use is 'grimdark'. That's all well and good and it makes sense, there's a lot of that on the market and it's obviously quite popular, I read a lot of it myself and at this time my work in progress was along those lines (in fact one of my three main characters was an ageing, alcoholic, warrior mage full of self loathing. The other two were a thief with a smart mouth and a hidden talent and a member of an elite warrior race). The problem with this is that if you're going to enter a crowded market then what you write has to be superlative. I didn't get that from my own work. It had it's moments, but I just wasn't feeling comfortable with it and at times it was a struggle to write.

As I said the group died and later on another one formed. This was smaller and less formal. Again a lot of what the participants were working on was in the 'grimdark' format. I'd kept plugging away at my thing, but I didn't want to necessarily trot that out again. What to do?

I'd had a number of thoughts floating about in my head for some time about a group of loosely connected worlds or Realms. I called the concept Realmspace, and at about this time the ideas seemed to come together and coalesce into something coherent, so that was what I wrote.

The group again seemed to die, but this time I kept working on Realmspace. I feel it more than anything else I've ever written, and while I've not been published, I have written a number of complete novels (I'll talk about that tomorrow). It seems to come alive for me as I write and it never runs short on ideas.

One idea that works, is all it takes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


To open this up I'm going to quote the main character from Realmspace:

'I’m not really sure how to start this.  Stick with me, it will all get explained…I promise. At least I hope it will.'

This blog is about a few things, one is Realmspace, the title of a YA fantasy adventure novel that I have written and am trying to get published, well at present I'm trying to get an agent, but it's all part of the same process.

To a certain extent it will be about me.

It will have posts about the publishing process as I see, and as I feel my way through it.

Quite often it will just have things that pertain to Realmspace. The title of the blog is one of those. Purple Dove House is the name of Dancer's house on his homebase: the magical Realm of Intellida.

The look of this may also change as I get more used to it and muck around with things. So if you come back and things look different you know what happened.

So hopefully everyone will enjoy the ride.