Delmar, And Where He Comes From

So I’ve been working on a really cool fantasy series, complete with languages and all, for most of my life. The main guy is Delmar, and the girl’s name is Ajalia. I couldn’t figure out for the longest time what she really was, or where she came from, but I knew they both ended up together as young adults, and there was always a shadowy third figure, another man whose name I could never pin down.

Ajalia the Slave, Delmar the Inheritor, and Halez the Lost Prince

The whole story has always been a nebulous something-or-other, like a complete world that has existed at the edge of my consciousness ever since I started to try to write.

Luckily for me, it turns out that my training in theatre and classical rhetorical structuring opened up my access to my subconscious, and the world is now writable. I mean, I have written it, the first part.

Because Halez Has More Adventures With Them, After This Series

I self-pubbed the first section of the series last year? The year before? But as I said earlier somewhere on my blog, my editor (love you, Mr. Editor!), who is a genius, got upset at some emotional hiccups in another manuscript, and we had some very productive discussions about my shitty way of letting down my female characters.

Turns Out, I Repress My Females Once In A While

Anyway, Ajalia had the same problems that were showing up in this other book, so I pulled the entire series and am working on fixing up things now.

It’s so super exciting, because the framework is all there, and all I have left now is visual cleanup and repairing the structural damage to her characterization.

Sigh, etc.

Anyway, I promised to talk about Delmar, and where he comes from. He’s always been the clearest character, in my mind. Ajalia has powerful magic, but Delmar is more of the straightforward, innocent dude who learns that he really needs to stand up for himself and take up the mantle of protecting his people.

Delmar is a prince, of a sort, but without a kingdom, really. He’s the eldest child of a match between the disinherited crown prince of Talbos and the only daughter of Tree, the ruling dude over Slavithe.

Tree Is Called the Thief Lord, Because the Founder of Slavithe Stole Thousands of Slaves, and Became Their Lord

Slavithe is the original city, founded by a mass migration of runaway slaves, and shortly after Slavithe was established, the political shit hit the fan, and a lot of the ruling elite among them moved over a chain of black mountains and established a second city, Talbos.

Talbos and Slavithe depend on each other, as they’re mostly isolated from the rest of the continent, but both cities pretend the other doesn’t exist. They’re like uncomfortable symbiotic parties who trash talk each other at every opportunity, and feel superior and shit.

Talbos Is Much More Civilized and Formal

Delmar should technically be in line to inherit the ruling position over Slavithe, but he’s been scorned and rejected by his father all his life, because Delmar is good-looking and clever and popular, and so his mom and dad, being jealous, slimy, and unpleasant people, have half-starved him, and neglected him, and made him into a family clown. Delmar’s dressed badly, when Ajalia meets him, and his hair looks awful, and he truly believes that he’s too stupid to inherit.

Delmar has two younger brothers, and the second oldest brother, Wall (yes, that’s his name), is slated to take over Slavithe someday. Delmar, in the beginning, having swallowed the Kool-aid, and being a genial sort of person, thinks this is a natural and lovely outgrowth of his own stupidity.

Ajalia Gives Delmar A Haircut, Of Course

Ajalia shows up in the city, finds out who Delmar is, and gets to work on him. Delmar’s father isn’t too happy about this, and his mother . . . well, Delmar’s mother turns out to be a very powerful, dangerous sort of person, and Ajalia has to match wits with her.

But we’re talking about Delmar today. So on the one hand, he’s the eldest son in line for Slavithe, and on the other, he’s the firstborn child of the former crown prince of Talbos, and grandson to the current king (who is a very interesting person).

That King’s Name Is Fernos

Delmar’s father, the former crown prince, really wasn’t supposed to be trouncing around in Slavithe and seducing Tree’s daughter, and this led to Delmar’s father being banished from Talbos, and disinherited.

Luckily for Delmar, and for Ajalia’s sneaky plans for political takeover in both cities, the next in line for the Talbosian throne is a washout, and the king of Talbos proves amenable to persuasion on the topic of reinstating Delmar’s genetic right to the throne.

Because Delmar, When Cleaned Up And Given Moral Lectures, Is Awesome

There’s a long heritage of magic in Slavithe, and in Talbos, for both cities were founded by people who practiced nature worship and shaped the stone and earth. The peoples in both cities have faded in their knowledge of such powers, and most of the Slavithe priests can’t do magic at all anymore. The Talbos priests hide out in the black mountains, and many of them have been captured by the king of Talbos, who is doing shifty things about using magic in secret.

That’s all a very long and interesting story, but the pertinent part, for talking about Delmar, is that he is a joining point between the ancestral magic of both Talbos and Slavithe, and has a generational claim to the power of the prophet who founded Slavithe and the great leader who built Talbos.

The Original Thief Lord, and the Falcon Who Begged Magic From the Sky Spirits

Ajalia doesn’t believe magic is real, when she meets Delmar, but he uses his basic, rudimentary powers to save her life, and she wakes up to the reality of magic pretty soon after that.

My fantasy world is so cool.

Anyway, I have to go back to work now, but that’s a little bit about Delmar, who is eventually (SPOILERS!) the Lord of Slavithe, the reigning king of Talbos, and the prophesied Dead Falcon who ascends into the sky kingdom and restores balance between the spirit people and the land below.

SIGH

He also falls in love with Ajalia along the way, but that was sort of inevitable from day one, as her eyes are so intense.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and the third character in their group of adventurers is Philas, whose true name is Halez, the lost prince of the neighboring kingdom of Saroyan, across the sea.

 

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Following The Heat At The Core Of Your Plot Is Like Hunting An Elusive Creature

When you’re writing, it is like following a large and rare creature through the woods. You have to pay attention, and you have to make sure you don’t get lost and/or die by starving or being eaten by violent creatures. It also helps if you have any idea what you’re looking for.

The single biggest problem, across every level of story telling, is subject material. The reader is like a guest paying you, the author, for a hunting experience. They want to be shown a good time and they want to feel smart and excited.

Subject Material

Angela is a brilliant geneticist who turns out to have some surprises going on in her life. And she, of course, always has shit to say, but none of it is very worth listening to. How to make the boring Angela interesting? By stripping her secrets, one by one, in view of the reader.

Examples

Absolute Shit:

Angela dressed slowly, getting ready for her new day at work. Her blouse was light blue, and her slacks were eminently professional, and she put her black-rimmed glasses on her face with a very soft sigh, because she had to work on more of the graft design this afternoon and she would rather be sipping tea. Her shoes were black.

Excellent Hunting:

Angela studied her figure in the mirror as she adjusted her soft blue blouse. Feminine, but not in any way reproachable. She chewed on her lower lip and wondered if her boss had started to wonder yet.

“Mm,” Angela said, and she examined her backside. She was wearing silk underwear beneath her slacks, both layers sturdy enough to hide the shocking texture beneath. She was immensely looking forward to the inevitable reveal, for she had hidden all her back and ass cheeks in the sex tapes, which she was sure had been seen by her very handsome boss.

“Mm,” Angela said again, her mouth curving with satisfaction. She gave her black-rimmed glasses a little nudge up her surprisingly expensive nose and sauntered out of her tiny room, her kitten heels making little tap-tap clicks against the industrial gray flooring.

In Summary

When you follow exciting creatures, of which your plot is one, track spoor. That means you have to be picking up bits and pieces of what is coming next and following a live, moving animal. Wandering aimlessly around woods is not hunting.

Following a cold trail or walking through a lot of bushes where animals don’t live will not making for excellent plotting. Fixing your mind on the elusive creature of an excellent plot and tracking said creature with attention and close, hunter-like detail, will lead to an exciting experience for the reader. Plus, it’s fun to write good material.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and it smells like Christmas in my house. The grey cat, Rose, has inherited a very large cardboard box, and is at peace with the universe.

There’s A Delay For My Next Book

So The Second Queen was supposed to come out last month, but my editor, bless his heart, had an epiphany, and metaphorically flung the book across the room, and now we’re into thematic rewrites.

Plus, it turns out I forgot to write in some romance that should have been there the first time around.

Ah, experience, you great teacher, will you ever cease to pummel me between the eyes?

 

You’re reading Victor Poole. Philas wants everyone to know that he’s decided to be in love with Ajalia after all. Happy Wednesday, internet-kin.

Almost There

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“I have heard the most extraordinary thing,” the queen of Old Laffet said.

“You have heard that your husband proposed to marry me,” Claire supplied.

“Why, how did you ever guess?” Lysette asked, clapping her hands. Her mouth was smiling, but her eyes glittered. “I also heard that your response was not so decidedly negative as I would have liked.”

“It was in no way negative,” Claire said. “I accepted him.”

“And in this little agreement,” Lysette asked, “had you reached any conclusion as to what was to be done about me?”

“To me,” Claire said, “you do not really count.”

You’re reading a blog by Victor Poole. My new book is nearly finished. I’m getting the files ready for paperbacks of my previous series.

Want To Be A Successful Writer? Give Up Now

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A very strange thing happened to me when I started taking myself seriously as a writer: I couldn’t write anymore (this was many years ago). I felt so much pressure to write as well as I possibly could that I froze up and didn’t dare write anything that felt wrong. Because I had too little experience making stories, this meant that most everything unfamiliar felt strange and new, and therefore wrong.

So Much Pressure To Be Perfect Right From The Beginning

So I didn’t write much. I had some very lovely chapter beginnings, and one story that had an excellent collection of scenes almost completed, but I could not write an actual book. I would sit down regularly, as I supposed all earnest someday-authors must, and I would attempt to squeeze words out of myself.

Squeezing Words Out Doesn’t Work If All The Words Have To Be Perfect

It never worked. I was still convinced that I would, at some point, and by sheer force of will, become an author, but I could never break past the unendurable pressure to be really, perfectly good, right now, no matter what.

No Mistakes, Victor Poole!

I took up poetry, which I was good enough at to somewhat make up for my failings as a novelist. Eventually, and because I was an actor, I took up playwriting, which I turned out to be quite good at. The problems of conflict and continuity still plagued me, but I was good enough at dialogue to gloss over my inability to plot.

Failed Novelist, Average Poet And Playwright

Still, I planned on being a writer of books. I was dead-set on it. The years passed, and I never sat down and attempted to force myself to write books anymore. I was busy doing other things, and writing different kinds of projects. The idea of books nagged at me, though. I wanted more than anything else to write novels. They were, to me, the legitimate form of writerly creation.

Just ‘Cause I Like Books

Something really interesting happens when you give up on a long-held ambition. You relax, and many things that have been pushed under the surface by the pressure of expectation and fear begin to rise up, and become part of your awareness. I’ve seen this with actors; only when they become thoroughly discouraged, and say, “Well, I can’t do it. Nothing is working,” do they allow themselves to risk. Only when they embrace failure, and the humiliation of expected crash-and-burn work do they begin to be able to use their real selves in the act of creation.

And So, I Gave Up

I gave up on writing great novels. I stopped telling myself that I was going to be really good at books. I stopped believing that I had what it took to succeed. So much time had passed, and I had failed so unilaterally to write any kind of a book, that I started coming to terms with the fact that what I was doing was not working at all. I started telling myself that I was wrong, and that my future self would not spontaneously erupt into a competent novelist.

Goodbye, Unrealistic Expectations; Hello, Failure

At first, this made me very sad. I didn’t want to feel like a failure. I wanted to be good at things. I wanted to be proud of myself. Giving up on such a long-held ambition made me feel really stupid, and like I had failed an ultimate test of character by not finding some way to follow through on doing what I wanted.

Woe Is Me, Or Woe Was Me, At The Time

But, with reality staring me in the face, and cognizant of the fact that I had not even tried to write a single chapter of a novel for literally years, I gave up. After I felt all the accompanying emotions of miserable failure, I started to look about with some interest. I could not be a successful author, I thought, and there was no longer any pressure to write well. In this newfound freedom from expectation, I found that I kinda sorta wanted to sit down and write a book.

Once I Didn’t Have To, I Kinda Sorta Wanted To

You know, just for fun. Just for me. Because I didn’t have to write a good book, or a non-embarrassing book, or a coherent book any longer.

I Could Write Garbage! It Was Freeing!

So I wrote a book. I enjoyed myself so much that I started studying plot, and scene-building strategies. I spent several frantic months imitating great storytellers, as an exercise in storytelling.

I Wrote Many Novellas At This Point

A new ambition began to burn in me. I would no longer become a successful author; now, I wanted to be a person who actually finished projects. That, I thought, was a pretty achievable dream. After all, I had proven to myself that I could actually, in real life, write a whole book.

So I Finished Projects; I’m Nearly Caught Up Now

I spent more years writing books. Now I have come up against another expectation: I want to finish a great many books in an integrated world. As I approach this emotion, I am already beginning to give up. I’ve learned that giving up, and embracing utter, miserable failure is the quickest route to getting exactly what I want.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books, which I never thought I would write, are here. I’m working on a companion series about Philas right now.

I Got A Five-Star Review On My Book! Whee!

I am ever so pleased. Harder Than Rocks is a wonderful book in a super-slow genre. I haven’t sold any copies of this book, but I did a free promotion a while ago, just to get it out there, and look! Someone read it and really liked it! Hooray!

Here is my shiny new five-star review:

I love classic Russian literature, especially the books where you think the author’s just being silly and then BAM he hits you with some profoundness that leaves you thinking about the book for weeks.

This book is one of those books.

It follows this kid Samuel, whose life kinda sucks. He decides hey, screw it, and runs away from his crummy job, crummy motel room, and crummy life. He’s hungry, of course, so when he gets invited to a party by two random guys he of course eats all the food he’s offered – and falls in love with the hostess, of course. But she turns out to be kinda crazy, so he skips out on her. And then she turns out to be really crazy and sends a hitman after him, who ends up dying in a bathroom. The sheer absurdity of the story up until this point is very Gogolesque.

But then life comes back to Samuel, and stuff gets real when you find out exactly what he’s trying to run from. And this is where the real genius of the writing comes in, because Poole presents a situation so tragic yet mundane that you can’t help but think that things won’t get better for Samuel, but you’re rooting for him just the same.

No spoilers here – just a recommendation to read one of the best books I’ve read in awhile.

I feel so clever and cultured now. Yay for readers!

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. My coming-of-age novel is genius.

How To Find Out If Your Protagonist Is A Welcoming Host

Does your leading character lend inclusive energy to your writing? I am not at all saying that your protagonist needs to be likable, or even kind, but does their energy invite observation?

Just as you welcome valued guests into your living space, and seek to make them as comfortable as possible, so your protagonist, if your fiction is really good, must welcome and invite the reader into the world of your novel.

Common Mistakes, And How To Avoid Them

Something we often do as authors who are writing genre fiction is fall into the trap of the non-hosting, aloof, cool character. Now, don’t get me wrong, aloof characters are the bomb in genre fiction; nothing like a really competent adventurer or fighter quite hums along in science fiction or fantasy. The calm, clear-headed individual who keeps their secrets close to the vest is compelling, interesting, and just plain cool. This brings us to our first common error.

Mistake #1: Outside The House

The first mistake is to keep the reader outside the world of the novel. Authors do this when they are nervous about being taken seriously, or sometimes when they are intimidated by their own material.

Bad Writing (Reader on the outside):

Silas turned to the left, and then the to right. His hand hovered over the night-stick he carried, and then he shook his head and moved back into the shadows. After some time, he found a great hiding spot, and he waited. The sounds of the things he hunted passed silently away, and Silas stood, cautious, like a spider in the corner of a well-swept room. Anytime now, he thought. They’ll make a mistake soon. He returned home, and went to bed.

Good Writing (Reader on the inside):

Silas glanced left and right before darting across the dimly-lit highway. His purple night-stick, with which he had felled many overgrown carnivorous rabbits, bounced noiselessly against his side. He ducked into a shadow that lay behind a broken truck, and waited.

In a moment, the thumping of enormous bodies echoed down the interstate. Silas waited until the massive shadow of two great ears extended beyond the truck, and then he threw himself at the monstrous bunny, his purple night-stick in his fist.

When you are writing your science fiction or fantasy world, go back through the passages and check; does your protagonist invite the reader in, or keep them out? And think: What reader in their right mind would pay to stand outside an interesting fantasy world? Answer: Probably not any readers will pay for this privilege.

Mistake #2: Oversharing, Or Making The Reader Do The Dishes

The second common mistake in this vein is made when a writer shoves the menial work, the basic upkeep of the storytelling, onto the visiting reader. If you invited your most valuable guests into your home, like your boss, or your favorite celebrity, or that really cool kid who might turn out to be your new friend (you hope), would you feed them dinner and then shove a sponge into their laps, and tell them they’re washing up?

No, you would not do this! Why? Because it is completely counter-intuitive, and degrades the guest from a person of honor to an unpaid serf.

Tell me, how many readers do you think will pay for the privilege to co-write the book with you? Because that is essentially what you are doing when you expect your readers to clean up the details of your work.

Bad Writing (Reader does the dishes):

Silas smashed his stick over the skull of the bunny. He hoped he had exerted sufficient force to break through the bone, because he had found in the past that there were weak places in the bunny heads, and if he hit one exactly right, it would fall down, and he could slice it open with his knife. He really thought that if he could get enough rabbit blood on him, and spill it over the ground, the other bunnies would maybe get distracted, and he would be able to kill more now, instead of later.

Good Writing (You keep the dishes in the sink for later):

Silas brought his stick down in the head of the bunny, which shook him violently off. Silas flew through the air, and collided with another giant rabbit. This one was black and white, and had the most evil-looking red eyes he had ever seen.

Silas caught hold of the silky fur of the beast, and flipped himself onto its back. The black and white rabbit screamed an unearthly scream, and Silas smashed his purple stick down in exactly the right place in the back of the rabbit’s head. A crunching sound rewarded his efforts, and the bunny collapsed in a furry heap.

Mistake #3: Enmeshment, Or The Dreaded Absorption Into The Borg

The last mistake we will talk over today occurs when you fail to use normal boundaries. For the sake of brevity, I will show you what I mean, rather than elucidating at length.

Bad Writing (Enmeshment with the reader):

Silas felt at peace with the world as he skinned the enormous rabbit. He wouldn’t have to eat his stores of canned peas any longer. He hated peas, because they did horrible things to his digestion, and he had found a bargain of a stew cookbook in a trash bin yesterday. It smelled kind of like pee, and he suspected the rabbits had been using the dumpster as a waste area, but the last time he had tried to make rabbit stew it came out lumpy, and he had been pulling sinew out of his teeth for days.

Good Writing (Healthy boundaries):

Silas gloried in the silence that reigned in the dawn as he cut the enormous pelt from the dead rabbit. He had been meaning to replace his rabbit-skin boots for some time now, and the variated fur on this beast would make a striking pair.

Silas whistled through his teeth as he laid the skin aside, and began to carve choice cuts of meat from the body of the dead bunny. I’ll make that delicious stew, he thought, as he piled the bloody provisions in the lined bag he had brought for that purpose. And, he told himself, as he hefted the bloody pelt, and slung the meat over his shoulder, I won’t have to eat any more of those blasted canned peas.

And Also

As an extra treat, here is a picture of my cat, Rose, who has spent the last five minutes cautiously hunting a wasp that got into the house. She is a little younger than two years old, and believes she is a wild huntress of the night. I like her very much.

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You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books, which are hosted by Caleb, Samuel, and Ajalia, are here. It has been statistically proven that Friday is the best day of all to start reading The Slave from the East.