Weapon of Choice

In any action-oriented story, even Action Horror, the major characters’ weapons can and should be an important thematic element.  Shaun of the Dead’s cricket bat was both obviously improvised and iconically British.  Rick Grimes’s chrome Colt Python revolver sets him apart visually as both an old-school lawman and a traditional red-blooded American male.  Roland Deschain’s revolvers, their barrels forged from shards of Excalibur itself, identified him as not only an heir to Clint Eastwood’s man with no name, but to the knights of the round table itself (and, of course, Robert Browning’s knight, also named Roland, from his poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came), and through these knightly roots show the sacred quest he is undertaking (hopefully by now everyone knows that Roland Deschain is the gunslinger from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  If not, stop reading this, go read The Gunslinger, and come back).

I’ve tried to continue this trend in my Blood Oath novels.  Ramsey Duvall, a vampire who was once a Musketeer under King Louis XIV, carries a rapier-blade sword cane and a hidden dagger, allowing him to fight much as he did when he was mortal.  So does D’Anton, a French-revolution era duelist, as sharp and thin as his blade.  Greta, the Viking woman, and Harold, an ancient Saxon warrior, both wield axes, befitting their muscular, untamed demeanor.  Some vampires even use guns; a gunslinger from the old west still has her revolvers, but the bullets are silver-tipped, and even they aren’t that effective.  Christie, a big man, formerly of His Majesty’s Royal Navy, carries a Maxim machinegun at one point, a weapon designed to be mounted on a tripod and fired by a crew of mortals.

But these are all secondary characters.  Most of the weapon choices just reflect their personality, and almost serve as visual flair.  The real question is, what does Benedict carry, and what does it say about him?

When the novel starts, Benedict has only one of the three weapons that would become his signature.  His first weapon is a heavy machete, like the ones used to cut sugar cane or bamboo.  It’s short, so it’s easier to conceal than a sword, it’s heavy, so it has the force to sever a head, and, thematically, it’s ugly.  Machetes are about as unromantic as you get.  Swords romanticize violence, making it seem like something from an Errol Flynn movie.  Even in relatively gritty movies like Highlander, swordsmanship still paints the character in a romantic light.  Swords are elegant, often beautiful, and remind us of a romanticized time (we probably all know the quote from Star Wars).  To date, I have never heard anyone romanticize a machete.

Benedict also carries two double-barreled sawed-off shotguns, which, at close range, create a big enough path of destruction to kill most vampires with a direct head shot, and slow many vampires down with a more prosaic torso shot.  Lacking superhuman speed, strength, and other powers, Benedict needs every advantage he can get.  He even carries at Tommygun at one point, but the ammunition proves too weak to be really effective against vampires.  He eventually replaces the sawed-off shotguns with a pair of double-barreled .45-70 pistols, a round that killed many buffalo in the 19th century.  These guns are engraved with silver ravens, and called “Memory” and “Thought,” which has personal significance to Benedict.  Large gunshot wounds are similarly not romantic.

The choice of coarse, heavy weapons that carry no hint of romanticism was intentional.  Part of my goal with this ongoing story is to de-romanticize the violence.  Sometimes, the violence is necessary.  Not always.  Sometimes, violence protects the innocent and weak from predators and tyrants.  But it never does so cheaply, prettily, or innocently.  And that de-romanticization is why I can, in good faith, call my work Action Horror, instead of Action Adventure: violence is by its nature horrific, and I try to remain faithful to that truth as I write.

Blood for Blood is UP!

I am extremely excited right now.  Blood for Blood is now up on the Kindle Store!  (you can find it here).  I’m also working on getting it up on Smashwords and Pubit, and hope to have that done by the end of the week.

If you haven’t gone through the process, learning to format a document for Smashwords is a bit of a learning curve.  It’s not bad, per se, but there’s a lot to do, a lot to read, and, if you’ve been using Word or OpenOffice in the “default” way that so many people do (using “tabs” for paragraph indents, spacing with spaces, etc.), you’re going to have to go through and fix some things.  Fortunately, the Smashwords guidebook is very helpful, and is available for free here.

The good thing about formatting for Smashwords is that what you end up with will work for almost any e-publishing site, with very minor adjustments.  It’s been a blast, and I’ve been learning quite a lot about formatting, what works on e-readers and what doesn’t.

I’m also really excited because of the other works I have that are almost ready.  I have pretty much finished up the second book in the Blood Oath trilogy, Blood Guilt.  I’m also working on a “supplemental story” that takes place during the “gaps” in the trilogy.  It doesn’t really relate that closely to the larger conflict, and is hardly necessary to understand the others, but it’s fun.  It’s got a good story, and I’m able to do a lot of worldbuilding that I haven’t otherwise done because of the intense pace of the trilogy.

I have a novella that’s almost ready to publish, called Toward Darkness.  It’s the first in a new series, The Red Lands (which does not involve vampires or the Blood Oath setting.  Instead, it’s worlds-crossing action-horror with post-apocalyptic and Arthurian elements).  The second novella in that series is probably less than 20 hours away from being ready to release.  I’m not sure what to call it, though.

I was busy during the Blood for Blood hiatus, which you can read about here and here, if you haven’t already.

I plan on finishing up the supplemental story I’m working on (right now it’s called Blood Guilt: Knights and Shadows, to let everyone know where it falls in relation to the trilogy), and I plan to finish the trilogy, writing the last Blood Oath book (which I might call Blood Oath, sort to round out the trilogy.  I’m not sure about the title, and I’ve only written a tiny bit of the book.  I’m a little nervous about it, but I think it will turn out well).  I also plan on getting the novellas ready and releasing them.

My plan is to release no fewer than six novel or novel-length works this year: Blood for Blood, Toward Darkness, Blood Guilt, Blood Guilt: Knights and Shadows, the second novella, whose name is still undetermined, and finally Blood Oath, the final book in Benedict’s Blood Oath trilogy.

What can I say, it’s time to let the birdies out of the nest…

Tempest in a Teacup

So, some people may ask why I’m so intent on going “indie” instead of sending out my novel for one of the big dogs in New York to publish.  It’s a good question.

Part of it is my own personality.  I’m not lazy, but I have very little patience for sitting on my hands waiting for someone else’s approval.  I’d rather be able to launch it when I want to, with whatever cover I put together or hire out, which a “cover blurb” I write.  When I eventually do Print on Demand, I’ll design those, too.

Part of it is that I just don’t need the advance.  I’ve got a good day job, one I’m not really interested in dropping anytime soon.  I’m financially stable.  I’ll be glad for the money I make, and I intend to continue to write and blog and build what Dean Wesley Smith calls “The Magic Bakery.”

The thing is, I’ve been writing pretty seriously since I was in tenth grade, and I feel like I’ve gotten good enough that someone other than my friends will want to read it.  It’s time to publish.  Not to start the multi-year waiting game of sending things off.  Not risk getting stuck in a tar-pit contract that binds me to an agent, or worse, includes a “non-competition” clause that prevents me from going to another publisher with my next books.

I mean, seriously, with agents taking this attitude, there’s no way in hell I’m going to step into that.  J.A. Konrath said it best here: the big six aren’t the only game in town.  As Zoe Winters wrote, unless you have massive success already (like, for example, Amanda Hocking), you’re not likely to see a favorable contract as a first-time writer, and by the time you have that pull, you don’t really need New York.  Sorry.  I don’t need the advance money and I really don’t need the danger.

I’d rather have my freedom than their money.

Actually, I’d rather have my freedom and my money.  Wish me luck.

Contents Under Pressure

Lately, life has been taking a lot more time out of me, and I’ve found myself having to cram my writing into small spaces between responsibilities.  I was worried about what this would do to my productivity, and my ability to think and write and create.

I really shouldn’t have been.

I wrote 430 words in 12 minutes today,  Four hundred thirty words in twelve minutes.  Why’d I stop there?  Because I only HAD 12 minutes before my next appointment.

And that’s not an aberration.  In fact, it’s starting to look like a pattern.

It’s amazing.  The time pressure of having to stop writing just jump-started me, and I blurred through those words in no time flat.

So, if you’re having trouble motivating yourself to write, you might try writing sometime when you only have limited time.  If you have to leave for a night class at 5:30, start writing at 4:30, or even 5:00 (but be ready to walk out the door before you start, so you won’t be late to class).  Be firm, and stop when you need to stop.  Then, do the same again the next time you’ve got a hard limit coming up.

You might find the limitation liberating.