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The Most Human of Us All

September 10, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, The Craft  0 Comments

There my main character was, sobbing on the floor, having gone through hell tailored by a computer program, designed to make her confront the very thing she didn’t want to confront. She was done. She had nothing left to discover. She knew all that she needed to know about herself. Yet, why couldn’t she cope? Why did the tears still fall?

It was then I departed from the rails of my outlining process (which isn’t restrictive, but it is an outline) and had the character ask, plead even, with the program. Didn’t it feel anything for the pain she went through? Did it feel anything at all for her plight? Or did was it really an uncaring bit of cleverness, designed to be brutally efficient and cruelly honest at all costs?

At this point, I didn’t know what came next, but I was going somewhere. I typed answer after answer, scene after scene. None of it worked and was worthy of the question before us. One response was five pages of pure speculative goodness, an insight into future artificial intelligence programing born from an understanding of advanced heuristics and neural networks.

But it was missing something. I deleted that, too.

Finally, a week later, I sat down and reached for my poor main character. She deserved an answer.

“Lexus, there is no cure for the human condition,” the program told her.

That was not the answer she expected. She (and by extension, I) wondered if the program was still running. Still trying to make her see through the fog of humanity by stripping it away and replacing it with a program of its own.

Or, was it using logic to reach her, to tell her that bad things happen to good people, that in its own broken way, it did care. It cared a great deal. It cared more than it could say.

I don’t have the answer to that, just as Lexus doesn’t have the answer to being human.

Maybe someday we’ll both find out.

Blood Music

August 25, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, The Craft  0 Comments

When I want to pull out all the stops and write an action scene that is a cut above the other scenes in the novel, I listen to this.

The music gets in my head. It sits there, causing me to visualize what is going on. I don’t hear, in my mind, things explode. There is no bark of the rifle, no swish of the sword. It’s music and violent visual energy dancing about the page like fireflies on a hot summer evening. If I listen closely, I can see everything. The chords are blood and the lyrics are pure adrenaline wrapped around the terror of the battle scape.

Inadvertently, the scene ends with the Princess holding the dripping Sword of the Empress, standing in a sea of bodies laying about in a grotesque parody of driftwood blown to the shore during a storm. She looks about the carnage around her, wondering, wondering, how did it ever come to this? Was it worth it, Princess, she asks herself. Is all the blood really worth it?

She shakes her head. Her answer, as always, is no, and she weeps.

Who Are You People and What Do You Want?

August 16, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  0 Comments

Lately I’ve been so busy with writing projects, my blog posts are obtuse or, at least, without substance. A hello of sorts. “Greetings I am still alive, how are you?” Really lame stuff.

So what happens?

More people subscribe to my RSS feed.

Ha!

The interweb tubes.Love it.

ANYWAY, man, oh man am I working hard on writing projects. I have two books right now, one of which is in the final stages of editing, consuming my writing time to the exclusion of almost everything else except work and family.

So what I am editing, specifically?

STUFF.

Oh man, I kill myself.

ANYWAY, it’s really quite refreshing to get structural editorial feedback. I appreciate my editor mightily. She’s a bit of the awesome.

And tough! So tough the editorial letter stretched into the next book.

And now, I go play in traffic.

JOYS!

 

My Blog is Four Years Old!

July 21, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random  2 Comments

Wow!

I may not be the most prolific blogger, but slow and steady wins the race, eh?

I do miss the people who would comment on my blog on a regular basis though.

HI GUYS! HOW ARE YOU? I AM FINE.

Debugging the Editing Process

July 14, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, The Craft  0 Comments

I get out the knives and the manuscript is screaming.

“Was it something I said?” it asks.

“It’s not you,” I reply. “It’s me.”

SLICE.

The manuscript screams again.

Of in the distance, an editor laughs.

The cat licks her tail.

Fifthwind by Ken Kiser

July 06, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Awesomesauce, Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  1 Comment

There are many readers, myself included, whom are not enamored with recent trends in epic fantasy. The long, drawn out series where the editor seems to have taken a backseat to the writer’s ego seems to dominate the genre. Then when you come across creative bit of fantasy goodness, you realize you have, in your hands, message fiction. The author has a bone to pick, and you’re along for the ride.

Where, an epic fantasy reader, wonders, did sword and sorcery go?  For years and years it seemed R.A. Salvator was carrying the classic epic fantasy torch.

Where indeed. If ever there was a disconnect between what’s on the traditional bookshelf and what people want to read, epic fantasy was it. I don’t want a twelve book serial where book seven makes no sense. Epic fantasy should rise above pulp but also fulfill the basic yearning of what comes with the fantasy genre. I’ve found a few authors (some in my recommended list) scratching that fantasy itch. Now I’ve found another. If you like epic fantasy and was thinking about or actually writing it, then check out Kin Kiser’s Fifthwind.

Fifthwind, my friends, is classic epic fantasy at its best.

It’s totally obvious, when reading Fifthwind, that Ken Kiser is a classic epic fantasy fan. Take everything you like about epic fantasy: the world-building, the rich characters, the high-stakes plot, an honest protagonist, the epic feel of the setting–these are all present.

Yet, Fifthwind turns out to be original and fresh while at the same time dishing up what makes classic epic fantasy so great. We depart recent fantasy troupe trends with the main character, Ben. Ben is a bad-ass. He starts the book as a bad-ass and simply dials his bad-ass-ery up notches as the novel progresses.

Yes, let’s talk about Ben.

Ben is bad-ass with a slice of awesome toast served with magic butter and jelly made from the tears of lessor fantasy main characters. Normally, I find characters like this annoying, but not Ben. No, Ben is too busy trying to save everyone else and his own ass to grow his ego and arrogance. In the brief moment where there is a pause in the action and Ben becomes reflective, Ben has doubts, but they are proper doubts. Ben doesn’t doubt who he is for a minute, but he doubts his actions because he doesn’t have all the information. And when he gets information that throws him for a loop, his character changes in subtle ways. Ben eventually learns what he doesn’t know can kill him, and instead of focusing on the obvious, he focuses on information gathering. And every piece of information Ben gathers that helps him figure out what is going on, it makes him a right-royal holy terror on the battlefield.

It’s a great piece of careful plotting in which the story moves forward and so does the main character.

Yeah, this is how one should write fantasy characters. It’s familiar: we have the trusted friend, the mentor, the love interest. Kiser doesn’t spend a single moment in the book turning these people into something they are not in the guise of being “original” or “fresh.” Fifthwind is so refreshingly honest, as a fantasy book, it leaves a reader wondering why other novels of its kind are so hard to find.

The plot, as I allude to, has a large mystery and Ben chews away at it and, often, simply refuses to give up because he simply must know. When he becomes a student of a secret society, it’s almost as if his mentor is simply on a crash course to connect the dots for Ben and not preach to the choir. And the scene where Ben learns that his simple view of the world is dead is quite telling. Ben sees that he must harden up. People are going to die, and soon.

And die they do. Fifthwind has the impressive body count, which dives into the highlight of this novel: the action scenes are many and detailed. They make logical sense and they have a certain urgency yet graceful flow about them, which is totally fitting for the martial whirlwind of death that is Ben. This is fantasy action at it’s very best and I am not exaggerating. It’s R.A. Salvatore good. That, dear writers, is so very worth the careful read.

Fithwind is also bittersweet. The story did not end the way I thought it would and I loved every page of the last two chapters, so if you like your epic fantasy served with grim and dark, you’ve come to the right book. You’ve also come to the right book if message fiction and cheap and pretensions thematics causes you to toss a book aside. Fifthwind doesn’t truck in recent trends of literary preaching. It’s an epic story of good vs. evil–monsters and bad guys that simply need killing. Violently.

Highly recommended for both a novelist in the fantasy genre and the reader. I give Fifthwind the coveted five bacon strips out of five.

The Fiction Writing Process Explained

June 23, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random, The Craft  0 Comments

Tam, the Princess of Snark and High Velocity Projectiles, talks about a subject near and dear to my heart.

Yes, I know, I said that writing about writing is counter-productive but every now and then something speaks to you.

The foundation of the Fiction Writing Process is honesty. Did I not write my minimum five hundred words today because… of what, actually? Five hundred words. Five. Hundred. Skipping five hundred words is the heart of a broken process.

But, actually, once you got that five hundred words down (ZOMG I WROTE A BOOK!) the hard part, the true trip to Writer Purgatory, is elimination of the Talent Suck Cycle.

That’s where one day you hand a writer you wish you could be when you grow up some of your material and she breathlessly tells you over Skype “Anthony, this is brilliant!” which sends feelings through you as if the nubile barista whose ass you’ve been admiring from afar lifts up her skirt and begs you to take her virtue.

Then the very next day you produce the literary breakfast of gravel grits served over turd biscuits.

Missing Graphics

June 17, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random  2 Comments

The WordPress upgrade ate half my photos and graphics. Where did they go? I don’t know.

Please excuse the missing media content. I’ll bulk upload the wayward images sometime this week and fix the posts.

I’ve never had this problem happen before. Odd.