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Messages - The Gem Cutter

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This is interesting to me, as my thoughts on various works were always unilateral, and hearing some of the goings on behind the scenes is enlightening.

My criticisms with this particular novel aside, I have absolutely enjoyed Bakker's writing, and in particular his characterization of traditional stereotypes which were colorful and refreshing-to-the-point of Binaca-blast/York Peppermint Patty WHOOSH!

 I often find myself in such forums as a lonely voice for his style, but I suppose that makes sense.  I know men who have killed enemies with their bare hands - and Bakker gets it right - they way they act, the way they think, the way things are.  But if I hadn't had that savage background, how would I know? And how would I receive the naked and unpleasant truths of human nature and, gods protect us, from groups of humans?

For me, staring at the same old ideas of the Wizard, the Warrior, the Chick, the King, etc., his works opened my eyes to my own self-imposed limitations. I think he has tremendous strengths, and I look forward to seeing them develop over time. He's still quite young, and probably not near his zenith.

In a world where so many young and talented writers have neither the courage nor the talent to break new ground, writers like Bakker, even with his faults, are even more important. I'd prefer his glittering geometries to others' "fireball, level 4" any day, and all night.

- Gem Cutter

Introductions / Greetings
« on: August 03, 2016, 08:53:46 PM »
Greetings all, I missed this introduction section when I joined, so I thought I'd give some idea of myself.

I am nearing completion of my first draft of my fantasy novel. My handle comes from that work's intended title "The Gem Cutter's Son". I write in the First Person, and work through the Fourth Wall with great care.

My background is unconventional, including 23 years in the military in some relatively cool assignments ranging from special operations to organizations that Ender Wiggin would certainly recognize - children fighting a virtual war with distant enemies. I was a linguist (Russian and Arabic), a martial artist, and with my unconventional warfare background, I am informed on a wide variety of niche topics: survival, guns, clandestine operations, you name it. I mention all this because I am interested to help writers research for their work, and also because I hate to see writers "get it wrong," whether it's silly and technical or cultural and nuanced. If I can be of service, please let me know.

Introductions / Re: Hiya
« on: August 03, 2016, 08:23:11 PM »
Welcome and well met

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: August 03, 2016, 05:45:28 PM »
I appreciate your observations on the ninja thing - I had come to look at ninjas as the trope they have become in pop culture, but my study of them began in the 70s before their emergence in our pop culture.

So, I just broke my rule and took a 24 hour break from writing to read, and I chose the Great Ordeal. I have been an outspoken admirer of the PoN series, and to a lesser extent, the subsequent books.

I did not enjoy the Great Ordeal, and saw in it elements that not even I can defend. His style has always been a little high-handed in tone, and often distractingly dense. The Great Ordeal intensified these faults to an extent not even I could enjoy. I think he needs an editor to assist him in presenting his vision, as there were many laboriously obtuse sections that could easily have been honed to greater effect.

I have never taken issue with the misogyny that many others hate Bakker's work for, but in this case, I had to side with the crowd. I understand very well that he was presenting a misogynistic world, but prudence dictates that he carefully discriminate between the unsavory ideals of unsavory characters, and his own authorial asides, which I happen to often enjoy. The reference to women having smaller souls offended even me, and struck me as a poor decision for introducing little if any value, at a great cost among female readers. In this case, any backlash is not due to hypersensitive readers, imho.

Given the excitement I had for the work, I feel exceptionally disappointed. I will read the next book, as I won't write off an author for one bad apple, so to speak, but I hope he identifies his issues and corrects them. There were little/no issues with the ideas presented (outcomes and reveals, etc.), only in execution. Too many confusing moments. In too many places in the narrative he deliberately withholds whose perspective the narrative is following, making it neither enjoyable to read, nor clear what is being read. I don't expect authors to pre-chew my food, but I do expect the dish to be fully cooked.

Overall, I liked a lot of it, but I wonder what happened to the crispness and clarity of the first three novels, and question the thematic balance of his world, or rather, the lack of it.

The Darkling Daughter, by Gem Cutter

Category: Poem
Words: 495

Spoiler for Hiden:
A darkling daughter came one night and on the mantle did alight.
Before the gathered court she sprang. Ere drawn was sword she clearly sang,
Of silver webs that bound them all, both noble lord and lady tall,
Encircling mighty crown and land in falsely fragile mind and hand.

The king and queen their captain shame, send slinking from their court like knave,
For drawing weapon threatening, then happy eyes watch maiden sing.

“And would this court so fair and wise, not profit from the loss of guise,
obscuring greater deeds and dreams that otherwise beyond you seem?”
"What gifts have you to change this land?" asked silver bearded king his grand
and queenly wife upbraiding laughs, but darkling daughter shrugs "My draughts."

"Draughts?" queenly wizened matron frowns, and wrinkles smooths from well-worn gowns,
Once fair on shoulders smooth they hung. "Draughts - potions like I saw when young?"
"Nay fair haired queen thou never saw, such potions peerless with no flaw,
Imbued with powers deep and strong, to limber limb and make life long.”
"No powers these thy drinks command – my butcher's meats also make grand
The body's sinews, strength, and size, what other power in you lies?”
"Great powers vast I summon for the sweetly dripping dews I pour,
‘Neath moonlit skies with thunderous dread to fill the vials blue and red,
With starlight caught on skein of silk, I weave the pearly drops like milk,
In glen remote ‘Neath heaven’s stairs, where neither man nor maiden fares.”

“O! Maiden fair we plainly see, great craft you wield and mightily,
Now plainly boons and gains do tell, so we might craven council quell.”
"More deep the power I implore, than any else hast held before,
To quicken mind and senses hone, to give youth’s strength to anchor throne."

"Your price young maiden quickly say, what wicked thing desired to pay?"

“My single fee: to welcome me, as daughter of thy family,
When time has sped and from you fled, your crown shall rest upon my head.
The sole exception that be said, thy choice in husband I shall wed.
So fully joined our powers would, the land and kingdom do great good.”

Thus spoke the king in mighty voice, uplifting court his cry: “Rejoice!
Her price is but a second boon, to powers offered and right soon,
No heirs have come to ancient line, this maiden comes with offer fine,
No children ever here have roamed, small price is this: to grow our home!”

The darkling daughter potions brings, the red to queen, the blue to king,
Corks then to courtly floor they cast, a joyful look they share – one last.
And drinking down the bitter draught, says maiden to the court “At last!
My bargain is complete you see, from poison strong they cannot flee,      
For never should a land be ruled, by those so swiftly, surely fooled.
Bring Captain wise to me for groom, our wedding feast will now this room.”

-The Gem Cutter

Note: edited by me (ScarletBea) to put the story into spoiler tags.
Gem, you might also want to give it a title and state how many words there are (check previous months' entries)

Writers' Corner / Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« on: August 01, 2016, 05:38:58 AM »
 Figures don't lie, they say, but liars can figure  8)
I don't accuse anyone of misleading anyone, but it's economics, and so very, very overdetermined. Unlike some fields that are impacted by social media and technology indirectly (like accounting, for example), our industry is impacted directly along multiple fronts, and it's volatile with change. And the rate of that change is accelerating, and the rate of that acceleration is itself accelerating.

This is disconcerting but there's the solace of knowing that even painstaking analysis is ... very limited in value. Next year, when the X-Phone-Tablet Mark V comes out, the whole world's going to do things differently, and you can use that 24lb analytical report as a splendid paperweight ;)

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: August 01, 2016, 05:30:19 AM »
It occurs to me that the question "Is it good/permissible/advisable/possible to use elves and dwarves?" is tolerable only because we're familiar with the question.

Would people be on board with a work featuring Wookies or Vulcans or whatever the hell Yoda is?
Would we be comfortable writing stories with the Force, pulling characters toward noble and selfish acts?
How about an English investigator with a pipe, a drug habit, and an amazing eye for detail?
How about an island with a ginormous gorilla?

Focusing solely on whether it would be worthwhile to read (let alone write) works like these, the half-answer that comes to my mind is "Yes - when it's fan fiction, otherwise, no." Like diet drinks, they seem OK if properly labeled "LOTR, but with less sugar!"

Why am I so against this? Because it's been done over and over and over and over and over, and then there's the copies of the copies, and their copies, and theirs. Spinoffs and, dare I say, ripoffs are neither new nor going anywhere. But no one remembers the people who wrote Kull the Conqueror or the Beastmaster (Conan ripoffs).

True, some few stepped into Tolkien's void in the first decades after his death, but that space is now occupied and, those works are fading. And though 'successful', they never rose above the image of "thin, weak copies." Those author's non-Tolkienesque works - how successful were they? Meh. And why would they be, when their writers never developed the creative skill (and confidence) to envision new and compelling peoples and lands?

Fantasy is hard to do well, for reasons few genres share. Mystery and romance are just as hard, but for them, it's about adhering to a much tighter constellation of conventions. Our readers are among the most difficult to please that exist anywhere, or at any time in the past. But we have something other genres do not - hungry readers craving new everything. My unsolicited advice - give it to them.

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: August 01, 2016, 03:01:30 AM »
Venandier, for me, as a reader, yes, renaming helps me not hold the work to a Tolkien standard. That is a shallow but useful technique imho.

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: July 31, 2016, 06:40:53 PM »
First, if the story and characters are compelling, all other rules can be overlooked. If you can invoke the genre's tropes successfully, and prevent them from being clichés, your story will prosper. Of course, that's for the reader to judge, and therein lies your peril.

My unsolicited advice - instead of elves and dwarves, invent your own races. There's no sense of discovery for readers to see these people, and imho fantasy is all about discovery (see Tolkein's essay On Fairy Stories). This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with readers limitations, many of which are self-imposed.

As a reader of Tolkein since I was 5 or 6, I will confide that I do not read fantasy that has elves for many reasons. I am bored with attempts to recreate Tolkein's elves, and no other elves come close - because I won't let them. I am bored with people trying to re-invent elves and dwarves because, using the same terms, because for me, it's not re-invention, it's either perversion (unwelcome change) or repetition. Author R. Scott Bakker wrote an essay explaining this better than I can (or will).

Using him as an example, he created a race that is immortal and "high", but now fallen. They embody madness and greatness and perversion and memory so deep that they literally have become mad, their perversion driven by their attempt to remember and keep themselves whole in the face of all the centuries. He is a controversial writer, and I do not point to him as a model of any kind for the purposes of this discussion beyond his success as deploying standard genre tropes (conan-like warrior, sorcerors, immortals, etc.) in a new and interesting way.

There is a maxim in Michal Greene's 48 Laws of Power that states "Never follow a great man", meaning, never step into a role that was previously held by an amazing person - no matter how well you do, even if you're better, you will be seen as different, and in the shadow of the excellent, "different" always means worse.

I feel your pain and longing for a return to Middle Earth. I advise you to take the notions that make that experience and goal worthwhile, and create a new world, with new people, and new problems, and take us there.

My two cents, offered with encouragement and humility - Gem Cutter

Writers' Corner / Re: How much did you write today?
« on: July 28, 2016, 06:59:58 AM »
I imported my 78K word mess into Scrivener (which I just bought, and love, and hope to marry one day) and managed to get 4K further down the road.

Fantasy Resources / Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« on: July 25, 2016, 05:51:59 PM »
My comment about wet cloth armor was a bit ambiguous. I did not mean that it would fall apart, but that the way the weight lays on the body would be very different than 1) the way it was when dry and 2) the way the weight of metal or stiff leather armor would lay.

This is important because it impacts balance. Metal armors spread the weight between the shoulders and the waist, with some residual weight conveyed to the torso. Cloth armor relies much more on the shoulders. When wet, the additional weight (and it can be a lot - cloth armor can probably absorb 1 to 2 gallons of water, at 8 pounds each - most of that 8 to 16 pounds would be on the shoulders, and make one extra-top heavy. Combined with the shift in center of balance, that makes for difficulties in fighting, especially on broken terrain.

So it's not only that there's added weight (problem 1), it's also that you've changed the amount and center of gravity (problem 2), and moved it higher, leading to instability (problem 3). Problem 4 is less obvious - because the armor isn't always heavy, you never grow stronger and more able to carry that weight while doing all the things soldiers do, of which fighting is only 2% or far less.

I am not judging one form of armor over another, I am simply describing useful details for writers.

For example, If you want your lance-bearing hero to pitch off his horse so he must fight the baddy (who has neither horse nor lance) sword-to-sword, you have a problem: no one in their right mind gives up that kind of advantage. But putting him in cloth armor and making him soaking wet and top heavy makes it possible for him to fall, despite his excellent horsemanship.

Fantasy Resources / Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« on: July 25, 2016, 01:39:52 AM »
Interesting. As a soldier with some experience in difficult environs, I can see this being a go-to option, in its day.

One observation: heavy clothing + rain/water = a ton of weight, and unlike other, heavier armors, there is no support structure to manage it. So, if your opponent wears cloth armor, seek water, and keep it between you. And storming a castle with a moat, well, you might do well to drop it.

Writers' Corner / Re: How Quickly/Slowly Do You Write?
« on: July 21, 2016, 09:03:06 PM »
I can produce 5K words of decent draft prose / day, but cannot sustain it without health issues or quality suffering. I prefer half that. It's a great question, but I think straight numbers of words per hour/day, etc., are incomplete.

I use what I call a layered approach, and depending on the layer, there's a different unit of measure. I find I work faster if I only do one thing at a time. Here's what I do and approx. how fast I do it:

Scene Prep: 1/2 day / scene: establish setting(s), # & type of characters required, scene-level plot, exposition, and dialogue tasks, plot tasks and constraints (what must and must not happen).

Character synthesis (walk-ons, extras with basic actions, basic dialogue): .5 - 1 hour/extra, 2 hours for initial draft of a character profile

Initial Draft (creation of plot, events, character motives & major reactions, basic dialogue,  scenes) : 3-5K /day

Initial PLOT review (consistency, plausibility, linkage to other scenes, event sequencing): 10K / day

Characterization insertion: motives, reactions, noticed details, interior monologue: 3K / day

Dialogue review (grammar[mine], references [theirs], char. style/voice adaptation: 1 scene / day

Description: (additional details to stimulate senses, provide stage direction to the action and reader's eye): 1.5K / day

I won't go into editing, but I imagine I provide more detail here than most.

His quote was: “No one can be as intellectually slothful as a really smart person; give smart people half a chance and they will ship their oars and drift…dozing to Byzantium, you might say.”

I used it to allude to the common negative reactions that I have seen of Bakker's work (not on this forum but in person), many of which indicate closed minds and slothful thinking. People seem to want enjoy a violent world where people fight with swords and fire, but not rape! That's too far!

Discussions with this forum's members that I have seen of such things as depictions of rape indicate a culture incompatible with Bakker's use of them. I am not saying they are wrong for their opinions (more power to them!), but to me, having experienced real brutality, violence, and death, I find his depictions spot-on, and find his accuracy and consistency refreshing.

Some people want their versions of the human condition filtered like a PG or R movie - I liked Bakker's made-for-grownups world where sex, violence, and depravity existed alongside their nobler cousins.

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