Monthly Archives: July 2016

Character Design, Part 3: Character Voice

hulk thinkThe other day my friend Mick swung by the site and asked if I had any advice about character design. Specifically, he was curious about how I: “find a character’s voice to begin with? Just feel it out? Or focused, prescribed exercises?”

I’ve offered advice about character creation before (here, where I discuss character design, here, where I added an addendum, and here, where I talk about loving your character.) But looking over all of that I see that I’ve never really discussed how I find a character voice. Everything I’ve written about is advice to use AFTER that point.

So I gave the matter some thought. I’m not sure how other writers do it, or what works for them, but I can tell you what works for me.

B-17 Leader

b17From time to time I talk about solitaire gaming here on the blog, as any frequent visitors know, and recently I mentioned I’ve been testing a game.

Yesterday evening that game went live on Kickstarter, and I sat down with both that game’s designer and the company’s owner, the award winning game designer Dan Verssen, to chat about both B-17 Leader and gaming in general. You can find my interview with Dean Brown over at Black Gate, and you can find the newly launched B-17 Kickstarter here.

Gray Maiden

graymaidenI had a longer post in mind, but I need to get to some yard work before it heats back up today. So here’s a great old short story series that any heroic fiction appreciator ought to snag.

I remember when it was only possible to get some of the Gray Maiden stories. Now you can snag them all in a single book.

Gray Maiden is a series of short stories originally published in that great old pulp, Adventure, about a sword that’s handed down through the ages. There are minor notes of the supernatural in most of the stories (very minor, but still notable given Adventure being reality based) but what’s most appealing is just the slam bang action of the tales.

I’ve written about Gray Maiden before (and Black Gate‘s Matthew David Surridge has written about one earlier collection here). Some of the stories are pulpy, some are dry, but at least half are top notch action pieces. The one set in Viking times, for instance, is one of the best Viking stories I’ve ever read, and then there’s the one about the Carthaginians trapped behind in Italy after Hannibal evacuates, and their desperate effort to escape…

Point of View Arcs

HJ Sagan TreeAfter my first three published novels I’ve begun to play more and more with multiple point of view. I still miss writing from the restricted first person narrative of the Dabir and Asim novels (and I still hope to write some more of those) but I’m getting more and more used to writing with multiple third person point of view.

I played a little with it in my first Pathfinder novel, then experimented even further with the second, switching point of view every chapter, being careful to give each character something interesting to do as the camera changed to their perception at the same time the plot advanced. Because the characters were all together rather than split off on separate quests, it was necessary to write the events chronologically.


Howard ZebrasOwning to his presence at an out-of-town summer camp the last few years during the week of my birthday, my son hasn’t been around to celebrate with me on that one day for a long while. He was here this time, though, and, marred only by the absence of my daughter at a summer camp of her own, this 48th birthday has been my favorite in recent memory.

heroes normandyI woke up after having dreamed I was a Beatle hanging out with Paul and John and some other Beatle named Phil at some time in ’65, judging by our hair, answering press questions and being fab together. That was pretty gear.

I wrote until about noon, then did some calisthenics with the first born, had lunch with him, then played a couple of war board games of Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy. Following on that, we traded off playing piano and guitar and hashed out a couple of songs together.

By then it was supper time, so we drove downtown and met my wife for a swank dinner (I had duck!). Upon our return home the first born dialed up a college friend via Skype then ran a science role-playing game for her, my wife, and me.

A grand time was had by all. I got to write, game, eat great food, play music, and hang out with (most) of my immediate family. It doesn’t get much better.

Elkins Again or At Last

hulk computerAs I was logging on to the interwebs this morning I received four notifications of new posts on the ‘ol web site. Traffic here hasn’t been as heavy lately — probably because I haven’t been on the site as often — so I was pleased. Except that all the posts were from trendily mis-spelled names, replies to old posts, and each was a single line of word salad encouragement rife with typos.

In short, it was spam, all from an IP in St. Petersburg. I still am awaiting some kind of explanation about how that nonsense helps anyone. Do these people get PAID to create spam? They must. And what does anyone get out of it? The mind boggles.

Right. So here’s what I MEANT to say today. Two interesting things are happening that have nothing to do with any of the problems and dilemmas we’re currently riding out in our republic.

Still Missing

51620-GriefThe wife has been complaining for a while now that I NEVER clear out my phone mails. She, being organized, comments upon it every time she has to borrow my phone.

I figured she was probably right, because there were a lot of messages by this point, so I sat down for about 45 minutes yesterday and slowly got rid of everything. And a funny thing happened. As I worked my way back in time I started realizing that there could be a message from my friend Kris there. It probably wouldn’t be anything more than “hey, sorry I missed you, call me.” But at least I’d hear his voice, something that can’t ever happen again. I don’t think I have any videos of us together.

But there was nothing. A whole lot of messages and appointments I’d long since listened to or attended, but nothing from Kris. He’s been gone for about a year now, and I suppose I should be used to the fact. But not yet. Maybe never.

Book News

gate in the seaWith the first novel of my new series now in my editor’s hands, I started to work revising my rough draft of book 2 — only to get a brainstorm last week about how to address some lingering concerns I had.

I figured out how to fix up the smallest point of view arc, consisting of three chapters, to make them far more compelling, and then made the adjustments to the next to last chapter necessitated by changes to those three. And now I’m feeling more confident about the work in progress than I have in any book since The Bones of the Old Ones.

Dreams of Sword-and-Sorcery

dreamer's talesWith my insomnia fading I’m having dreams again, and I experienced a really enjoyable one just this last night. I fell in with a group of people making a low-budget sword-and-sorcery movie and got to write the script for the thing. It was all just a lark, done in spare time rather than through a movie studio, but done with professionalism as well. I suppose it was inspired in part by the loving attention and can-do attitude with which the Star Trek Continues people craft their episodes, because me and the dream people were even talking about STC while I dreamt.

Of course, once I woke up, I realized the things in the dream were impossible to do on a small budget in spare time — the sets for the long ship alone, not to mention the filming up of it, would have been astronomical. But man, was it fun coming up with a slightly cheesy but really fun script. In the light of day I don’t even remember what the details were. Probably it didn’t make that much sense.

It was a good time, though, and it was interesting to dream about creating something. Decades ago I had a recurring dream that I’d written a science fiction series. I can still remember what some of the covers looked like…