This news about cave art in Bulu Sipong cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi adds significantly to the evidence of human creative expression in the distant past. Archeologists have dated the Sulawesi cave art at 43,900 years old. It could be far older, but the mineral analysis used to date the paintings can only establish a minimum age not a maximum age.
The images show therianthropes hunting pigs and a variety of buffalo indigenous to the island. Therianthropes are beings who possess human and animal characteristics. They are common in many cultural traditions, such as the dog-headed man-god Anubis in Egypt.
The art in Bulu Sipong cave distinguishes itself as the earliest known example of figurative art. The obvious stylistic choices of the prehistoric artists and the narrative quality of the art prove that creative minds intended their images to express ideas.
So Much Has Gone to Dust
Archeological finds like this one offer glimpses into the lost prehistory of our species. They always raise far more questions than they provide answers. So much of prehistoric human existence has been lost to time. Eventually, all our works go to dust.
The people who worked hard to document the cave art in Bulu Sipong know that its location is vulnerable to being destroyed by a mining operation. Think about how many records and relics of distant human lives have been buried by geologic forces or paved over by civilization.
With so much impossible to know, my imagination takes over and casts stories in far off alternative worlds where my creativity can pay homage to the true stories lost to the ages.
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The essential duty of a novelist is to determine how to reveal information in a way that develops characters and propels a narrative.
As the author of many epics, I’ve made countless decisions about how to put a story into words.
Today, I’m reflecting on the story within a story technique. The literary move is most accurately called a frame story.
Either term conveys that one part of the narrative will surround the inner narrative, which will be told by outer or framing character’s point of view.
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales present a very old example. The traveling pilgrims each function as narrators framing separate tales.
In the realm of cinema, The Princess Bride is a frame story because a grandfather reading the story to his sick grandson frames the narrative.
Although I haven’t constructed a complete novel based on a frame story (I should put that on my to-do list.), I have framed certain elements of narrative from time to time.
In the dark fantasy novel Rys Rising: Book I, I let the character of Urlen serve as the narrator of his own back story. I found this choice an efficient method for filling readers in quickly about Urlen’s turbulent and very relevant past without risking a boring information dump.
The following excerpt begins after Urlen has been saved from execution and his saviors want to know why he had been sentenced to death.
will not judge you,” Amar said sincerely.
looked doubtfully at his savior. He supposed that heinous crimes
would not shock this young but hardened outlaw, yet he feared that
his crime might not be excused.
with Onja’s magical eyes bearing down on him, Urlen knew that he
would speak only the truth. He coughed and then began his tale.
was respected and encouraged most of my life. As a boy I showed an
aptitude with letters and I never grew bored among the scrolls. I
would travel to every town and seek all the scholars and scribes so
that I could learn more of reading and writing.
much knowledge I found rolled up in fabric and skin, lovingly stowed
in wooden tubes. The wonder of it always made me want more. By my
thirteenth year, I was making my own living copying scrolls for the
aging word masters. My family was proud of me. I improved the home of
my aging parents. Even my older brothers, so much taller and stronger
than me, were proud of me.
studied hard and trained myself to letter with skill, art, and
clarity. To read my script was to be a pleasure, I thought, but I
also took seriously how important it was to preserve the knowledge.
It seemed like a magic to me.”
paused and glanced at Onja, expecting her to comment but she remained
tentative tone, Urlen said, “I read once that your kind is magic.”
you have read is correct,” Onja said. “Continue.”
wished he had skin and ink now so he could interview her and record
her responses. That would be a scroll of incredible value.
licked his cracked lips and Amar kindly fetched him the water skin.
Even a few words had already dried Urlen’s mouth.
a drink, Urlen said, “In time, my talent earned me a place in the
court of the Nurati King. In my twenty-fifth year, I became chief
scribe to my King. Such an honor for such a young man. Life at court
was grand, and I was often allowed to travel to other domains in
pursuit of my scholarship. In time my fame grew, and scholars came to
visit me and view the library of which I was the master. Many candles
burned low through many nights discussing history, nature, law,
sighed, remembering his heyday. Such prestige would never be his
again. But to cheat Preem his due was also a great achievement. Urlen
would be glad to write down that event.
had everything,” Urlen said. “But alas, no matter how I
stimulated my mind, I remained a man of flesh. I came to know one of
the daughters of my King. Isamahlia was her name and she was both
fair and smart. But her intellect was a wicked joke of the Gods,
trapped as she was in her woman’s body, banned from any
scholarship. Yet, her woman’s body became my master.”
by his story, Onja sat down and reclined onto an elbow. Urlen shifted
off his knees and got more comfortable too. Since it seemed that it
was going to be a longer story, Amar sat down as well. He could well
imagine at this point what at least one of Urlen’s crimes had been.
the nearby brush a crow squawked. Urlen flinched. Onja waved to the
bird swaying on a flimsy perch. She told Urlen not to worry. He
relaxed slightly, telling himself that he was free of the chains and
the crows could bedevil him no more. With the crow now quietly among
his listeners, he continued.
was an accident that I met Isamahlia. I suppose it is always an
accident that starts such love stories. I was to be weeks away in the
Domain of the Temulanka. I had been invited to lecture at a summer
gathering of scholars, but my wagon broke down not long after my
departure, and I came back to Telop, the Nurati capital, with my
servants. My trip would be delayed only a day while I obtained
now the other men had settled into an attentive circle around Urlen
and Onja. A tranquil dusk descended upon the land. The sunlight
softened toward the horizon and cool shadows spread beneath the
trees. Several small flocks of birds, which earlier in the day had
been so menacing to Urlen, crossed the turquoise sky seeking their
roosts. Now the birds were beautiful and serene; their flight seeming
to say that all was right in the world, at least at this moment.
wonder of surviving the ghastly torture of the sky temple briefly
overwhelmed Urlen. To have lived to see the gentle loveliness of even
one more sunset was the most blessed mercy he could have imagined.
on,” Onja prompted, impatient with his silence.
gathered his memories and said, “My breakdown was actually
fortuitous for I had forgotten a scroll by Binn Bon on architecture.
I wanted to take it to the gathering in order to argue that he had
actually designed the amphitheater at Hespon and not Zebroh, who
normally is credited as its designer. There has been some rather
heated debate on this subject….” Urlen trailed off when he noted
that the men looked annoyed with his tangent that was surely
meaningless to them.
I returned unexpected to my library and found her there. Only one
window was unshuttered and sunlight steamed through it. She sat in
the light on the mosaic floor and held a scroll into the sunshine so
that she could see it in the gloomy library that I had carefully
buttoned up before leaving.
tepa lay on the floor and her head was uncovered. Her black hair
flowed around her shoulders with an amethyst twinkle in the golden
light. I startled her and she looked up at me with guilty eyes.
her mad moment of being caught, she snapped the scroll behind her
back, but knowing that her action was ridiculous, she brought it
forth again and carefully rolled it up. Moving onto her knees, she
held up the scroll to me and begged for my mercy. She pleaded for
forgiveness and said that she had meant no harm. She begged me not to
tell anyone, and then she could not hide her anguish, when she
desperately promised me that she would not come back.
I was not angry. No, I kneeled before her as she begged. I took her
hands along with the scroll and asked her what she was doing.
she saw that I was not angry, indeed that I seemed only curious, she
smiled and her trap closed around me. Isamahlia told me that she only
wanted to look at the scrolls. They were so beautiful and she
admitted that she had been trying to figure out the symbols. It broke
my heart that she could not read them. Of course a woman would have
never been taught letters, but still to see someone who wanted to
read, and was unable to, it hurt me in a fierce way.
led Isamahlia into a private room of the library where we could talk
and not be noticed. I discovered that she had been sneaking into my
library for over a year. Suddenly any misplaced scroll that I had
puzzled over came to mind and then made sense. Enchanted by this fair
daughter of my King, whose face I was never meant to see, I told her
right then that she could come to the library whenever she was able
and then I told her that I would teach her how to read.
was more than grateful. She told me that I was the kindest best man
in all of Gyhwen and that she would love no other. She kissed me.
Isamahlia knew no shame or fear. She cared nothing for her
maidenhead, so strictly protected for years. We loved each other
among the scrolls and I learned of things that can never quite be
written down correctly. At that time, I thought that our inevitable
doom would be worth our joy. Today you saw how mistaken I was.”
asked, “How long did your affair go on?”
years and three months,” Urlen replied heavily. “We were so
careful at first. Our fear of being caught was fresh, but as our bond
grew and Isamahlia learned to read, we spent longer and longer
together. Now, it was not a strange thing for me to be shut away in
my library. I was not missed, but Isamahlia was. It was difficult for
her to hide her absences from the women’s palace. Of course, she
had servants lying for her, and even some of her sisters. All making
excuses and stories to explain where Isamahlia had been. I never
figured out who betrayed us initially, but they all testified against
her at the trial. Curse them. I don’t know if it was jealousy for
her happiness and intelligence that motivated them or just fear.
were caught together in my library that had blossomed with joy and
learning. In her body I found great satisfaction for that part of me
that is flesh, but there is also tremendous satisfaction in teaching
an able student and to see her grateful, truly grateful, for the
knowledge that I could share. And her perspective on so many things
was so fresh to me. Her mind had not been infested with the crushing
dogma of men that narrows so much interpretation.”
asked Urlen if he had been caught in the act of loving the King’s
shook his head. “No. We were reading, which was perhaps worse. If I
had been caught in her naked embrace, my punishment and death would
have been quicker. You see, I was given over to the torture of Preem
for teaching Isamahlia the letters of men, which is forbidden to
women,” he said.
other men murmured in agreement, but Onja was confused. “Why is
this forbidden?” she asked.
knew the official reasons well enough. They had very recently been
pounded anew into his head, but he only replied miserably, “I don’t
know, fair and gentle rys maid.”
offered an explanation. “Women are the keepers of love and family.
They are for children. The teachings of men are beyond them,” he
this what you think of me?” Onja demanded indignantly.
are not a woman,” Amar answered.
indeed, Onja thought. “Urlen,” she said. “What was done to
Isamahlia? Was she put in another sky temple to die?”
stifled a sob. He wished he could answer yes and then they could go
save her. “She was publicly drowned for her crime,” Urlen said.
His face then collapsed in his hands. They had made him watch her
die. Many in the ignorant crowd had cheered. Her parents had seemed
pleased that she had met a just end.
would rest,” Urlen murmured.
story was interesting. Go to your rest,” Onja said. She got up and
returned to her perch on the boulder and resumed her meditation.
Lessons Learned will soon be available as an audiobook. This is a short prequel story for my epic fantasy series The Rys Chronicles. I am the narrator of the audiobook, and it represents my first foray into narrating audio fiction. I’ve been developing my voice over skills for the past year or so, and have successfully recorded and published one of my nonfiction books Get Dicey: Play Craps and Have Fun.
Because Lessons Learned is a short story of just over 9,000 words, I decided that it would be a good place to start. Narrating an entire book is actually quite intimidating. I hired narrators to record my full-length novels Union of Renegades and The Goddess Queen partly because the thought of reading a big fat book aloud daunted me. When I outsourced the voice over for those novels, I did not feel like I could tackle the task myself. I did wish that I could do it though, and that desire gradually overcame my reluctance until I starting learning how to do voice over.
From my experience of narrating short books, I’ve gained some confidence. I speak the words and minute by minute I work my way through the pages.
I’ve completed the recording of the audiobook and am currently editing the audio. Occasionally, I need to go back and re-record parts, mostly dialogue, that I decided to be inadequate while editing. I then splice the fixes into the raw audio until I’m satisfied with a track.
Although I prefer to be painfully secretive about things until they are ready for public release, I’m sharing a wee snippet of audio from the upcoming audiobook.
Once the audiobook is complete, I will distribute it to retail and library audiobook channels through Findaway Voices. I’ve been pleased with this audiobook publishing platform.
Lessons Learned reveals a crucial episode from the back story for Shan and Onja, two of the main characters in Union of Renegades and The Goddess Queen. I categorize Lessons Learned as a dark fantasy because it does not have a happy ending. If you know what happens in Union of Renegades, however, the short prequel story has extra meaning.
I love running sales at Smashwords. The special deals feature at the store allows me to gain some visibility within the retail ecosystem. With a few clicks, I can easily activate coupons for any of my novels. Even though it generates a coupon code, you conveniently just need to click “buy with coupon” instead of actually entering the coupon code.
On Sale January 2020
I completed the Werewolves in the Renaissance trilogy late last year, and both Book 2 and Book 3 are 40% off at Smashwords through January 31. The first book, Werelord Thal, is always a free ebook.
Journey of the Hunted: Werewolves in the Renaissance Book 2
It’s my first fantasy series that I began publishing in 2006, and The Rys Chronicles remains my best-selling series to this day. I wrote the first chapters of Union of Renegades all the way back in 1997 by hand no less. In 1998, I purchased my first computer over the phone from Gateway. I lied about my income to get financing, but you could say anything reasonable to get consumer credit before the 2008 financial collapse, and getting a computer called for some wobbling of ethical standards. I then typed the handwritten manuscript for the first 20 chapters into a word processor. Going forward, I made the adjustment to composing novels while typing instead of writing by hand as I had always done it as a young adult.
This box set contains 4 full-length novels: Union of Renegades, The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power.
The publication of Werewolf Castle in October 2019 after a painful five-year gap in productivity heralded my return to fiction writing after a prolonged illness and a great deal of life getting in the way of writing. I’m thrilled that the first reviews that have come in for Werewolf Castle in the Amazon Kindle store have been positive.
Normally, people who read my series are pleased with the subsequent novels. The free availability of the first books in my series weeds out readers who do not enjoy my stories. Even so, as a series writer, I put much effort into making each book in a series a good read that builds to a satisfying conclusion.
I’ve learned to take screenshots of reviews posted on Amazon because I’ve had them disappear in the past. The loss of glowing 5-star Kindle review from a verified buyer of Journey of the Hunted was particularly stinging. The review stated that I was the equal of several popular authors, like Orson Scott Card. Perhaps Amazon flagged that totally legitimate review as too good to be true, which is quite galling. I do not pay for fake reviews. In fact, I simply let them trickle in organically.
As a writer, I feel very gratified that my characters reach readers in a visceral way. I truly spend a great deal of time agonizing over whether the prose imparts the inner lives of the characters in a meaningful way that connects with readers. Aside from writing a story that flows and makes a reasonable amount of sense, character development represents the magic that brings novels alive. A reader has to care in some way about what is happening to the people in the story.
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About Werewolf Castle
Thal has found refuge from werewolf hunters and assassins at the castle
of his father, Sarputeen. Although the mountain fortress on the eastern
fringe of the Holy Roman Empire shields him for the moment, he knows the
peace can’t last.
His father counsels war against his old rival
who sent servants to murder Thal. But first, Thal must increase his
power and that means making a pack. To obtain men to make werewolves,
Sarputeen calls in an old debt from the local duke.
The thought of giving others the werewolf magic troubles Thal. He knows that they will be forever bound to him as obedient killers. They will never have normal lives again. Despite his qualms, he is troubled most by the supernatural fext who can heal from all wounds. This foul assassin serves the sorcerer Tekax, and Thal cannot dare to battle them without more werewolves at his side.
Happy New Year! In 2019, I got my feet underneath me as an author after a long period of personal challenges. I published the long-awaited third part of the Werewolves in the Renaissance series, Werewolf Castle.
I’m feeling confident about creating more stories in 2020 and am publicly setting the goal of finishing a new novel in 2020. I’m happy to say that I’m already 12,000 words into my newest project. It’s truly too early for me to reveal any details about the upcoming novel, except to say that it is a sci fi adventure. The genre that I’m aiming for is something akin to space opera or space fantasy.
I’ve always planned on writing a sci fi series. Sci fi is the cohabitating partner of fantasy for a reason. A sci fi narrative relies on advanced technology in a similar way that a fantasy story requires magic. Writing sci fi demands that I structure more metaphors and imagery around technological and scientific concepts whereas with fantasy I find that my inspirations are deeply based in the natural world. I like to think of fantasy as the organic foods section of literature and science fiction as RadioShack.
Both sci fi and fantasy provide ample opportunity to explore metaphysical subjects as well. Whether it’s a magic being singing to trees or the vast galactic unknown, both scenarios connect characters to the great questions of life and the universe.
May you make progress toward your goals this New Year as I pursue mine. Join my Readers’ List newsletter and follow the development of my first sci fi novel.
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The SendOwl checkout system at Brave Luck Books makes it easy for you to buy ebooks and give them as gifts this holiday season. At checkout, select the option that identifies the order as a gift and then enter the recipient’s email address.
A fantasy reader on your list will enjoy a complete fantasy series to read. I have three complete series to choose from right now. The bundle deals below provide digital access to all of the ebooks in the series Rys Rising, The Rys Chronicles, and Werewolves in the Renaissance. Each bundle includes multiple ebook files. You or a gift recipient can download all of the files or just save the format that is desired. Payment unlocks access to every available ebook format for my fantasy novels.
Bundle Pricing saves you money when you buy a complete series at once.
Werewolves in the Renaissance Trilogy
(Includes Werelord Thal, Journey of the Hunted, and Werewolf Castle)
All 3 Ebooks $4.99 (Worldwide Delivery)
Rys Rising Complete Series
(Includes Rys Rising, Savage Storm, New Religion, and Love Lost)
All 4 Ebooks $9.99 (Worldwide Delivery)
The Rys Chronicles Complete Series
(Includes Union of Renegades, The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power)
A 4 Ebooks $8.99 (Worldwide Delivery)
Ebooks are affordable digital gifts that can be sent to any email address in the world for download. If someone is far away or you need a last minute gift, then ebooks are the click-and-send solution that you’re looking for.
These bundles of my fantasy series are a good choice for young adult and adult readers who love fantasy literature.
If you want paperbacks, I have a great deal on The Rys Chronicles. All four paperback books come signed by me, the author. Shipping in United States only.
Many fantasy readers still prefer an actual paper book. Relaxing into an epic novel offers a great way to unplug from the hectic pace of digital life. Many years ago when I first formed Falbe Publishing, I printed all four novels of The Rys Chronicles in paperback. I sold them at comic and gaming conventions for a few years, which was fun, but I have not had the motivation to work as a vendor at a convention for a while. Which means that I still have some paperbacks around.
Therefore, I can offer a clearance deal on The Rys Chronicles by selling it as a four-book set for an embarrassingly low price.
The set contains the novels: Union of Renegades, The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power.
Set ships only in the United States. The cost to ship four books out of this country is absurdly expensive.
If you’re looking for a constant supply of free ebooks, then visit Prolific Works any day of the week. It’s an ebook giveaway platform where authors, including many indie authors like me, connect with new readers by providing free samples.
Right now, I’m running an ebook giveaway at Prolific Works that includes 44 free ebooks in the sci fi and fantasy genres. Readers have until December 18th, to access the giveaway page.
To discover a new indie author, visit the Flagship Fantasy and Sci Fi Giveaway. Visitors will find a couple of my free titles, because I’m the giveaway organizer, along with a diverse selection of exciting novels and previews by dozens of genre writers.
Go Beyond the Retailer Marketing Algorithm
Browsing multi-author giveaways is a great way to find new authors. It differs from searching for a new title at an ebook retailer. Marketing algorithms at ebook retailers will focus on the best-selling titles by organizing books into top 10 or top 100 lists. This system only partially succeeds in exposing readers to the best talents because the popularity contest marketing system builds barriers that keep other authors from gaining notice. If a title does not get enough sales, it will never break into a list and gain exposure to customers. In this way, the retail ecosystem perpetuates sales for the same titles and limits churn on the charts. I can understand the motivation for doing this because the system markets proven sellers, but it buries other titles regardless of their merit because they never get a day in the sun. Most visitors to the retailer will only look at what the system merchandises and never see any of the thousands of other titles available.
Hitting giveaway sites like Prolific Works gives people a chance to see titles merchandised from a different perspective. Authors willing to make the effort to market their creations and offer a free sample gain a chance to be seen. Readers get free reads and sometimes discover hidden gems.
If you encounter this post after the giveaway closes on Dec. 18th, all hope is not lost. You can always get a free read right here at Brave Luck Books on the free ebooks page.
As the author of three different series, I group series writing into two camps. One requires the author to know, at least in broad terms, the overarching story being told by the individual parts. The second approach relies on a formula for creating individual installments or episodes. The formula enables an open-ended path to creating an ongoing series that does not necessarily have an end in sight.
Writing a Story as Series
When the author knows the story from the beginning, each story within the series contributes to the master story arc guiding the narrative toward a conclusion. Each installment will contain its own smaller story arc, but the results of the arc move the overall story forward toward a conclusion. This is the method that came naturally to me as a fiction writer.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy provides a well-known example. Tolkien wrote the books knowing that the issue introduced in the first book (the Ring must be destroyed) would be resolved in some way in the final book.
This differs from an author who writes a successful novel that goes on to spawn sequels due to its success. The best-seller Dune by Frank Herbert serves as an example of a successful novel that inspired many more sequels. The universe envisioned by Herbert certainly provided fertile territory for ongoing stories, but the original Dune has the form of a standalone novel. It tells the story of the rivalry between the Harkonnens and Atreides coming to a head and Paul’s rise as a super being who took over the imperial throne. If the novel had been a flop, then sequels would not have resulted, but their absence would not have left the original Dune as an inconclusive orphan. Imagine if The Fellowship of the Ring had no sequels? Although entertaining, it did not resolve the issue presented in the beginning. Fellowship is a novel that was planned from the beginning to serve as a part of a larger whole.
Writing an Episodic Series
This story system introduces a setting and characters and places them in various conflicts within each story. Individual installments resolve their issues within each story.
The Star Trek universe illustrates the episodic approach to building a series. The Original Series in particular presented a single story in each episode that was not generally related to the preceding episodes or succeeding episodes. The formula called for the crew to go to a new place, encounter a threatening unknown, and figure out how to deal with it. The series formed a collection of individual stories instead of a collection of stories that built an overarching story.
Sometimes the episodic formula can develop into an overarching story. The X-Files was primarily an episodic adventure dependent on Mulder and Scully dealing with something strange each episode and then moving on to some new wonder in the next story. As the series went on, however, overarching story elements emerged around secretive groups. These narratives would rise as the episodes dealt with the larger story and then gradually yield to episodic adventures again.
My writing has fallen into the camp of story as series. Even if it takes me three or four novels to tell a complete story, I know where I’m going when I write the first story. In a new project that I’ve started, I’m going to try a partially episodic approach. I know I won’t be able to completely resist the urge to develop an overarching story, but I’m interested in exploring the demands of episodic writing.
As someone who has been writing fiction since 1997 when I penned (literally penned) the first chapters of Union of Renegades, I feel it’s important that I keep trying new ideas.
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