Monday, January 16, 2017

Behind the Words // Thomas Barczak

This week at the Reaches, I have the distinct honour of sharing the stage with friend and fellow author, Tom Barczak. His new heroic fantasy drops in early February and he's here to talk about it and more. Over to you, Tom!

- j. //





My name is Thomas Barczak. I am an artist, architect, and a writer finally telling those stories I’ve always dreamed about.
My new novel, Mouth of the Dragon, Prophecy of the Evarun, published by Perseid Press, is scheduled for release in Trade Paperback and Kindle on February 10th, 2017. Kindle Pre-Order is now available.
My work also includes the illustrated epic fantasy novel, Veil of the Dragon, and the Kindle serial, Awakening Evarun (Parts I-VI), both set in the Evarun universe. I’ve also written a bit of a campy serial for Kindle called Wolfbane (Parts 1-2 of 3). My short fiction includes contributions to Heroika 1 - Dragon Eaters, Nine Heroes, Terror by Gaslight, and What Scares the Boogeyman, as well as stories for two volumes Janet Morris’ award winning Heroes in Hell series, Dreamers in Hell, and Poets in Hell.
I write because I must. I write because I need to tell others the stories I’ve held so long inside myself, stories that inspire my paintings and my poetry — stories that have always been with me, ever since I was sitting at a table with friends, slaying dragons.
My new novel, Mouth of the Dragon, is dark, epic, and redemptive fantasy challenging everything a hero’s journey can be.



Chaelus, once Roan lord of the House of Malius, now vessel of the Giver reborn, has defeated the Dragon of legend. Now he must rescue his brother and his kingdom, both beyond the Dragon’s Veil. 
When the legendary dragon resurges among drums of war, it threatens Chaelus, the human vessel of prophecy who once defeated it, and those loyalists the man holds dear.Now Chaelus must confront the Dragon a second time, as prophecy has foretold. 
With his remaining followers he pursues the Dragon. When he finds it, he finds that the blood of his past has returned to reclaim him. 
And even with the power of prophecy at his summons he cannot defend against it. 
Tempted to save all he’s lost, abandoned by the prophecy he’s vowed to serve, he falls under the spell of the Dragon, and learns that the dragon you hunt is the dragon within you. 
Chaelus must defeat the dragon for all time, but finds he cannot, until he first surrenders himself.


As for me, and how do I write?
The biggest excuse I hear from other writers, and have often made myself, is “How do I find time to write?”
It’s really simple. You eliminate the reasons not to. For myself, raising my sons, growing in a career as an architect, along with a multitude of other commitments, both personal and spiritual, there isn’t a lot of extra time. It is rare and far between that I will ever have even a few hours just sitting around, waiting to be earmarked for writing. Some people do. I do not.
So that was the first excuse I had to get rid of. That oft touted idea that If I’m serious about being a writer, I have to have to sit at a certain space, at a certain time, several hours, every day, in order to be successful. Ain’t. Going. To. Happen. So what did I do? I learned to write 15 minutes at a time. I learned it was ok to bounce around within my storyline. I learned it was ok to drop what I was doing and write any time my Muse came to me. In fact, I depend on that. You do have to be consistent though, and the end result does have to make sense. But how I get there, I learned that’s up to me. I learned I didn’t have to write so linearly. I learned I could be consistent without being so rigid. I learned I could write and be successful in a way that worked for me.

Tom's work space. 

What I found as well, once I got rid of that excuse, was that it helped me to get rid of another. Writer’s Block. When you’re writing multiple story lines at once, it becomes fairly simple to bounce around. When you get stuck on one storyline, you just bounce to another. That freed me up both creatively and productively. 
There’s another one, and for me, one of the hardest. I think that most writers suffer from it. Some just learn to manage it better than others. That I’m not a good writer. The great truth in dispelling that one is that it’s completely irrelevant. Writers write. Period. One of the first things I tell people who want to write is that you have to be willing to write bad. When you’re ok with that, everything else is downhill, because, you know what? You get better with every word. That’s how we learn, by making mistakes, by listening to and accepting criticism. Writing is no different and I really don’t know why we think it should be.
Oh yeah, it’s because were impatient, at least in part, at least I know I am.
And that’s one of the last ones, the one that makes us quit when it starts getting hard. So here’s a little trick I learned early on:
There’s a story about a group of people who went on an expedition in the woods. Only one came out alive. That person told a horrible story about how a bear had attacked their camp and killed everybody but him. People asked him how he ran away from the bear and nobody else could. The man replied, “I didn’t run faster than the bear. I just ran faster than the guy behind me.”
So really, It’s just a numbers game. The only person that can take you out of it is you. If you work hard, and you don’t quit, you will succeed. You can’t not. You have no excuse.

Here are some links to my work:

Monday, December 12, 2016

DEATHBED // The Latest Dovetail Cove Title

The latest Dovetail Cove title will be available on December 15! And this one is the chronological start for all you readers who like to start things at the beginning and read them in the order they take place.

Now, remember, if I haven't mentioned it enough...EVERY SINGLE DOVETAIL COVE BOOK is a standalone. That means, each one can be read independently. They each have their own characters. They relate to a bigger story but they DON'T NEED TO BE READY IN ORDER.

That said, if you still WANT TO read them in order, THIS would be the one you start reading first.
I will soon be posting a couple of timelines  here at this website. One will highlight the chronological order to read these books. The other, for the die-hard sticklers, will peg the order in which the books should be read if you want to maximize the impact of the story and keep each reveal intact for yourself.

But, check them out. I don't blow smoke about my work. I'm really proud of these books. They are all different, and yet tie together. Each unique story fits like a specific puzzle piece. And I think readers are really going to love how they tie into one another and, ultimately, pay off in the end.

And now, on to DEATHBED...




DEATHBED
by Jason McIntyre

Available December 15, 2016

The Dovetail Cove saga begins here. Farrah’s on summer break and she’s sure to tell you she’s NOT twelve, she’s TWELVE-AND-A-HALF, thank you very much. The tiny island-town of Dovetail Cove is the only home she’s known. Events reach back to 1956 and a shadowy ‘incident’ that started the darkness on the island, but Farrah will catch a glimpse of it tonight. At her Gran's Deathbed.


Buy it at any online retailer!



Apple iBooks: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/deathbed/id1185265456




Friday, April 15, 2016

Podcast About the Night



This week, I'm chatting about The Night Walk Men on the Mysterious Goings On podcast. There's also a reading from the first chapter of the novella.

If you want to know more about The Night Walk Men and get the free novella or free audiobook, visit the dedicated NWM world.

To hear the podcast, go to Mysterious Goings On on iTunes or Stitcher.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Writing Tip Talk



Recently, I posted a few #WritingTips on social media, places like Facebook and Twitter. I didn't (and never do) intend to be a writing guru who espouses the right and the wrong ways to produce creative work, not like some messiah on a mountaintop. A, I don't proclaim to be the best writer on earth, merely a competent one who enjoys it immensely. B, there are more than enough qualified teachers of creative writing, the fictive form, and the like. And C, I don't believe there is a right or wrong way to do anything of a creative slant. To each their own. Lots of rules, guidelines, best intentions, well, they're simply made to be broken--and done remarkably well by talented geniuses.

However, I do follow some basic tenets for my own writing. And, as I write more and spend more time inside my own head trying to coax the tales from the clutches of my sometimes evil muse, I'm coming to understand that these tenets have been guiding my prose and my process. They've been built into me from reading, watching, taking part. They are a part of me as a writer.

But. They're not to be taken as rules. Hell, I probably break them on occasion. Or, at least, bend them. But I thought it would be useful (at least, for me!) to start transcribing them as they pop up in a more tangible form.

I've often said that writing, for me, is just me banging around in a dark room and looking for the light switch. These tenets are a bit like that too. Until now, I've never compiled them in a list or, really, even thought too deeply about them. But I believe in them. I think they do make for better writing, better stories. And, isn't that what a writer should strive for.


#‎WritingTip‬ 
You can't lie to your audience. 
If you show a character (i.e., have them in the story), the audience will create a mental picture of that character. You can't have that same character crop up later and pretend it's a different person, then magically REVEAL that it was the same character. That's manufacturing suspense. That's cheating.



1. The first sentence seems straightforward: Don't lie.

This precludes a scenario with an unreliable narrator. Thing is, you've got to be upfront about that situation. Or, at least, fairly upfront. As the storyteller, you are handing your words, by proxy, over to someone else, someone you made up, to do the dirty work. Fairly early on, you need to be upfront with details that can make it at least somewhat obvious that this creature yakking on your behalf maaaaay be peppering the tale with something shy of honesty.

Again, not a rule. But if we're being honest, the reader may feel cheated if she gets to the end of a three-hundred page tome and finds out the narrator made up the whole hinge on which the story turns.


2. It's fiction, stupid.

I know, I know. It's fiction. Everything is made up. But INSIDE the story, everything is real. And it needs to come alive that way. You can't set something up as true and obvious, then say, "Oh, yeah, that was not true."A narrator can do this, but you, the writer, cannot. Remember the famous twist at the end of The Usual Suspects? That wasn't the director and screenwriter lying to you. It was Verbal Kint, a character inside the world. And it was perfectly legit.

(By the way, I often use movie references instead of lit references because, hey, it's 2016. Most people have the shared experiences of a common blockbuster flick, rather than a book. Sad, but true. If and when I come up with a great example from the Harry Potter books, I'll use it. Lots of people have read those.)

3. You're just not holding it right.

Now, I read a book last year that used lies badly, in my opinion. It's one that I alluded to in the #Tip.

Here's the basic setup. Two main characters, both men. One chapter follows one man in the present day as he goes about his life preparing for the end of the world. The next chapter is about another man who has woken up from a cryogenic sleep to the aftermath of the end of the world. The book alternates chapters between these two main characters until its end. As a reader, my first question is, well, are these the same characters? It would be neat if they were. Kind of a, before-and-after situation where we see his mental state on both sides of a catastrophic world event.

The writer, who shall remain nameless, anticipates that question by the reader and deliberately douses it. Both men are different ages and have different physical appearances. Different hair colour, different eye colour. They are different heights. Hell, they have different jobs, different status levels in their respective societies, different names.

As a writer, you build a character by what they do. You can offer physical descriptions (many writers do) but the bottom line is that, if you tell a reader that this is Bob, he's blonde, and this is Dave, he is a brunette, then the reader begins to form a mental image of Bob and of Dave. Sure, they don't appear on-screen together. But they appear on-screen. And that screen is inside the reader's head. They are now following the rules you have written.

Ok. Check. Got it. These are two different main characters. Well, hmmm. Maybe they're related somehow. The book isn't too interesting but maybe I'll find out the connection between the two men. There should be one, somewhere, if they each get top billing and I'm following their stories in equal parts, one chap for him, one chap for the other. Also, the question of how society ended and how it was resurrected, that's a compelling query. Maybe I'll get an answer to that. There's nothing on TV and my Internet's down, I'll keep reading.

4. Let's go to the videotape.

Long story, boiled down. I didn't get an answer about the end of the world in that book, didn't get one about its resurrection either. But, bam!, the big reveal is that both men are actually the same guy. And it all sat on a sandy perch consisting of cockamamy nonsense about how he was given a new name after the cryo-sleep. Huh?

There was no address of his completely different physical appearance and, if I recall, we got some bit about memory loss from the cryo-sleep. Uh-huh. We haven't had that trope in a fiction tale before. Another perspective on that one in a future #WritingTip. 

But, but, but, you say! It's a reveal, you say! What about suspense, you say! It doesn't need to be shown before the writer is ready. It was a really great basis for the story. If you look at it, the same world, observed before the collapse and after, from the same character who, miraculously, survives in a hyperbaric sleep chamber. That, right there, is goddamned interesting. Tell us that. 

Who was the much more famous-than-me writer who said, Don't manufacture suspense? Your reader will suss it out and sit waiting for you to confirm it. Damn, who was that?

Oh, right. Kurt Vonnegut.


Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.


5. Bottom lines are crooked.

If the writer is doing his magic, there will be suspense that grows organically out of the situation. Yeah, we know that the male character from BEFORE the cataclysm can't die if we understand that he appears in those alternate chapters as "Future Man". (Not sticking by that is a rule break of another sort) but there is still the worry that he MAY die in the future timeline. Instead, the writer lied up front. What's more, he/she went out of his/her way to slam the idea that the two characters were the same person when we, the reader, had that idea straightaway. And the author only did it this way to manufacture this magical reveal at the end.

I felt burned here. If it's a genuine surprise and makes the reader say, "Ohhhhh, I get it, cool!" or "Actually, I saw some clues!" then you're a-okay. But if you whack your reader in the head for being so dumb to think it's actually the same character, then conjure another three hundred pages and a faulty "explanation" about how it's actually true, then no, you don't get a pass.

Again, just my opinion. Can you think of examples when the storyteller outright lied to his or her audience?


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