So What is Farshores, Anyway?

As I mentioned in my last post, the Farshores world encompasses much more than the just the events of a novel series. But let us focus on that for a moment first, and Shoreseeker in particular. Here is a description:

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Over six hundred years ago, a race of monsters called the sheggam swept across the world like a plague, killing everyone in their path. Mankind was driven to the brink of annihilation, and only found refuge behind a magical wall designed to repel the sheggam. Now, all that’s left of humanity is huddled behind Andrin’s Wall on a small peninsula called the Sutherlands.

Despite having faced extinction, humanity was able to rebuild. Grand cities were constructed, and the magical art of Patterning, nearly lost in the war with the sheggam, began to flourish again. The horrors of the sheggam scourge were far removed from the lives of ordinary citizens, and as the centuries passed, the dark memories of that time faded into myth.

At the time of the completion of Andrin’s Wall, a ripple in the world’s Pattern had caused a second barrier to be formed, called the Rift, which divided the Sutherlands in two: Naruvieth, a small city on the peninsula’s southern tip; and the many cities of the Accord in the north. All contact between the two lands had been severed almost from the beginning. Yet three years ago, a highway called the Runeway, created with magic once thought impossible, bridged the two lands, allowing contact between them for the first time in hundreds of years.

Not everyone is pleased with this, however. Tharadis, the Warden of Naruvieth, will do anything to stop the Runeway’s completion, even risk a war with all of the Accord. For, as humanity learned so long ago, there are worse things in the world than war. And all of them are poised on the other side of Andrin’s Wall.

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So, what do you think? I know that if I had read this on the back of a book cover or in its product description, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up. I think that is every writer’s goal, to create fiction that he or she would enjoy reading. Shoreseeker is exactly the kind of book I would like to see more of, so I’m doing what I can to rectify this lack.

It’s hard to talk about the series without giving away too much about Shoreseeker, but one can only be too careful. It is an epic fantasy series, so you probably already know that the Sutherlands are too small to contain it. And what fantasy author would waste a big, scary world devastated by monsters? I, for one, wouldn’t.

While Shoreseeker starts in a more-or-less familiar epic fantasy world, the kind you could expect in a Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind novel, it becomes horrific by the end. While fantasy has its dark worlds, such as anything that falls into the grimdark category, I haven’t come across any that are really that scary. One of my goals in this series is to create an epic fantasy that can give you nightmares.

But not because I think there is inherent value in giving people nightmares. I’d rather not have them myself. But one of the main reasons I’m writing this series is to give a home to the main character, Tharadis.

In a previous post, I mentioned that one of the reasons I write is to explore what makes us humans tick. A lot of dark fiction works do this, but they often examine how people break down in times of adversity. It’s fiction like this that gave rise to the idea of the anti-hero. This kind of fiction is almost always tragic, in the sense that even when the main characters get what they want, no one is really satisfied.

This kind of fiction is almost universally described as realistic, which is to say it accurately describes the human condition. “That’s the way the world works,” it implies. “Everything sucks, so you’d better get used to it.”

Perhaps it does end up that way for a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to.

Art can be powerful. It can be a light in the darkness. The world can be a cruel place; no one needs confirmation of that. But there is something that people often forget—goodness is real. And it can win. Sometimes we need art to remind of this. Personally, the books that I cherish the most are those that remind me of this simple yet profound truth.

So how does the world of Farshores, as relentlessly brutal as it often is, lead us to this idea?

Because some lights shine brightest in the darkest of nights.

To Farshores, and Beyond: Part I

I remember when I decided to be a writer. Not the exact day, but I remember the event that triggered it. I’m sure many writers remember a similar event in their lives: the first time they read the Lord of the Rings, the first time they watched Star Wars, or some other exposure to a work they wanted to emulate. That work likely got them thinking about how that story could continue. They felt as if they had begun a conversation, and now it was their turn to speak.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I had dabbled in fan fiction. BattleTech fan fiction, to be exact. I was a GM for the BattleTech RPG, called MechWarrior. I loved creating stories for the neighbor kids, who themselves loved participating in them. Years later, one of those same neighbors recalled fondly a particular adventure I had taken him on in our little mech-filled universe. That was a big moment for me. I also loved reading BattleTech novels—particularly the ones written by Michael Stackpole—and eventually thought I should try my hand at writing one.

I did. It wasn’t good, and I only wrote a few pages before I ran out of steam. I decided to go back to what I was good at, which was running our game.

This wasn’t the moment that triggered the “I am a writer” compulsion in me, not really. It was just a false start. The real moment wouldn’t come until years later, but it too was brought about not by a novel or a movie, but by another game.

The year was 1997. I was just about to turn 14 when that fateful moment occurred. When Final Fantasy VII was released.

One of the neighbor kids (different from the BattleTech neighbor kids) brought over a copy of the game to play on my sister’s PlayStation. It was all this kid would talk about, and he begged me to borrow it so he could talk about it with someone who understood it. I did borrow it, somewhat skeptical (I was a dyed-in-the-wool sci-fi guy, and wasn’t interested in fairy tales and fantasies), and gave the disc a spin later that evening.

I went to bed, red-eyed and bleary, at around 7 AM the next day. And at that moment I severely resented my body and its stupid need for sleep. As soon as my eyes were open—perhaps after about 4 or 5 hours of sleep—I was back in Midgar with my spiky yellow hair and enormous Buster Sword.

ff7_us

When I finally finished the game, I sat back and realized something.

I could do this. I could write a video game script. Perhaps one even worthy of Final Fantasy.

That was the moment.

From that moment on, I was consumed with the idea of creating my own RPG, from developing the world and characters, to writing every line of dialogue. For that game, which I had titled Paradigm (for some reason), I had come up with some unique twists on the typical JRPG formula that the world wouldn’t see until years later, with the release of Final Fantasy XII (I honestly think someone in Japan read the script from Paradigm before creating that game. It had way too much in common with the one I was making).

I became an avid JRPG fan and played everything I could get my hands on. Another pivotal moment was, of course, the next iteration of Final Fantasy. This game, with its more realistic characters and (slightly) more realistic setting was more in line with what I wanted to create, me being the sci-fi guy. It was then that I decided on my hero, who incidentally had an awful lot in common with FF8’s hero, Squall.

I worked on this game for years before I finally was able to type the words “The End.” In that time, I had researched what it took to be a writer in the video game industry. It turns out to be a lot harder than I had naively thought as a 14-year-old kid. A lot of writers started out in testing, then worked their way up through design and finally into writing. Others already had writing credits to their name, having written stories and novels or worked in some other media before finally writing for video games. One does not simply declare oneself a video game writer, I learned to my dismay.

It was a sobering lesson. That was where I wanted to go. Into writing video games. I seriously considered going in through the testing route, and even tried my hand at it for a brief time, before I learned that was not where my skills lay, and I would have to work harder than everyone else just to get to the point where I could write games.

Then I turned to the other common route: writing in other media. The obvious media was novels. I had read a lot growing up, and when I started seriously considered writing novels, I had recently discovered a genre I had previously scorned: fantasy.

You see, I had never actually read a fantasy novel until I was 23. If there weren’t any spaceships or robots, I wasn’t interested. But once I finally caved into pressure and picked up my first fantasy novel, a little book called Wizard’s First Rule, I became utterly and totally obsessed. This was the second time in my life that I was convinced I would be a writer. This time, a writer of novels.

It wasn’t long before I decided that writing for video games would be just another dream job that I grew out of, like being an astronaut, a mad scientist, or a ninja. Writing novels would scratch the same itch as writing video games, and didn’t need to be a mere means to an end. It could be an end in itself.

I proceeded with this line of thinking for years, and much to my benefit. Here I am, on the eve of completing my first novel, and I am satisfied.

Mostly.

To Indie or Not to Indie

As I mentioned in a previous post, a story I had written, called Scrapyard Paradise, had been accepted in an anthology called A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, published by WordFire Press (you can buy it here and elsewhere). Getting that acceptance email was easily one of the highlights of my burgeoning career as a writer. Another was getting this:

A Game of Horns

One in the hand is worth two in the ereader.

Now, I’m a big fan of ebooks. I’ve got a Kindle and a Kindle Fire, and I often read books on my phone. And having moved around the world, I had to part ways with my large collection of paper books. I think electronic books are the future of reading, and paper books will eventually go the way of the candle. Good for decorating your house, but not as useful as its more technologically-advanced counterpart.

But damn, does it feel good to hold my book in my hands.

I’ve published my own ebooks before, and every time I did, I felt satisfied and proud of the hard work I had done. But none of that came even close to getting this professionally-produced and published book in the mail, seeing its gorgeous cover, feeling the heft of it in my hands. I could never make anything as wonderful as this.

The moment I realized that, I knew what I would do with the Farshores Saga, something I hadn’t yet attempted (with the exception of Scrapyard Paradise): I would seek out a traditional publisher.

Although I’m not entirely satisfied with the Fourth World series (what kind of author would I be if I were satisfied with something I had written?), much of the feedback I received about it was positive. I thought the stories were pretty decent, if a bit unconventional and overly ambitious. Even so, they never really generated buzz or took off by any stretch of the imagination. Part of the reason could be that I never spent the money to give them the professional treatment they needed. I tried too hard to do everything myself instead outsourcing to people who knew how best to publish a book. Another part, and perhaps the more significant part, is that if I didn’t go out there and generate buzz about the books myself, no one would. And I didn’t.

A lot of traditionally published authors say they work just as hard to promote their books as any indie-published author. And that may be true, especially for the more successful ones. But it’s undeniable that simply having a publisher in your corner, someone who was willing to take a chance on you, is itself a promotion of your work. Some of my friends who had never read my Fourth World stories picked up a copy of the anthology simply because they knew it was traditionally published. I think there’s a lesson in there, and it’s that traditional publishing is the way to go for me.

Of course, one does not simply will a publishing contract into existence. You need to have a product that the publisher wants, and you have to show them why it’s in their interest to publish it. My writing group is a phenomenal group of people who, when they combine their powers, are like the Voltron of polishing a manuscript. With their excellent feedback, I’ve been able to take my novel to a much higher level. I’m confident that when it’s finished, it will be ready for the big leagues.

Plus, with Scrapyard Paradise, I’ve shown that going this route is not as far-fetched as I once thought. I know it’s achievable because, in the case of my short story, I’ve already achieved it. Now it’s just a matter of doing the best work I can to make it happen with my novel too. And honestly, while I liked Scrapyard Paradise as a story, Shoreseeker is at least fifty bajillion times better.

But the question of going indie or not is actually a false dilemma. An idea that I had toyed with when I was just starting out with the Fourth World was a hybrid approach to publishing: traditionally publishing some things, independently publishing others. A lot of authors have tried this approach with success, and I think especially given my own inclinations as a writer, this is the best way for me. So I will traditionally publish my novels.

As for independently published stuff? Well, that’s where Super Secret Project B comes in.

Resolutions

Happy New Years, everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted any updates, and I’ve got a few that I’d like to share, so here goes.

First, and most important: my novel. I’ve been working on this beast for a while now, but life keeps getting in the way. It’s taken me a lot longer than I would have liked to get as far as I have, but the great news is I’m really far. Around 80%. So it’s no longer pie-in-the-sky. It’s pie-in-the-oven, and it’s starting to smell really good (from where I’m sitting in the kitchen. Okay, enough of the metaphor abuse). I intend, nay, resolve to finish this novel this year, including revision and editing.

Also, I’ve decided to change the title of the novel to Shoreseeker (let me know what you think in the comments). Previously, it was Fall of the Moon, but after heavily revising the worldbuilding and plot, that title no longer made a shred of sense, so I had to ditch it. Shoreseeker actually figures into the plot, the characters, the setting, and the theme. It doesn’t get any more perfect than that. The only concern I had about it was whether or not it would fit better on a book later in the series. In the end, I decided that it would be the title of book one.

Regarding the whole novel series, I have news on that as well. It will be called the Farshores Saga, and I plan it to be five books long (more on that in a later post). One of the main problems I had with the Fourth World series was I knew where I wanted to start, but I wasn’t all that sure where I wanted to end up. That was one of the reasons I abandoned that series (sorry to those who were hoping for more of the Fourth World – I don’t see that happening any time in the near future). I don’t have that problem at all with the Farshores Saga – quite the opposite. I’ve already had to shelve some really rad ideas because I don’t want the series to bloat up. Which is to say, I know where I’m going, from beginning to end. I’ve completely mapped out the main character’s arc for the whole series. I’ve already written some of the prologues and epilogues to later volumes (which helped me develop the overall direction of the series). I know how the final confrontation is going to play out, and I’ve even foreshadowed it a little in Shoreseeker.

I’ve learned my lesson from the Fourth World, so I guarantee I won’t run into the same kind of problems that I had with that series.

But with the Farshores Saga, I’m doing so much more than avoiding the things that plagued my last series. I’m creating something that I am truly passionate about, something that I truly believe in. The Fourth World, as the title implies, was an exploration of a particular kind of world, one with metaphysics that differed greatly from our own world: it was a universe where no one truly died, but merely went back and forth between different worlds. All of the stories in that series came from that one idea. As such, it wasn’t really about any particular characters and didn’t really capture any particular themes, other than that purely fantastical one.

That’s all well and good, but that’s not the kind of writer I am. While I certainly write in the fantasy genre, the things I want to see on the page after my fingers have hit the keys are themes about what it means to be human, to be alive. I am as passionate about these kinds of themes as I am about fantasy, and to see them melded together is what I hope to do.

Farshores is the manifestation of this dream.

As proud as I am of what I did with the Fourth World, I feel like that was just a stepping stone, something to get me ready for creating a story I can really pour myself into. I’m really excited to be able to share this with everyone, and I’m even more excited that it’s getting so close to completion.

In a later post, I’ll talk more about how I plan this series to be published, as well as Super Secret Project B, so stay tuned!