Sundering the Gods

Come Heavens or come Hells,
upon the Eve of Snows,
war will rage.

Influences Part 3: At the Movies

Full disclosure: I studied screenwriting (UCLA) and therefore have watched a stupid number of movies while analyzing story structure and other details. This has probably made me a hard sell when it comes to movies later in life, heh heh. So before we even get to particular movies, one can say without question that screenwriting has influenced my writing. If you take a look at Eve of Snows, you will see very few instances of certain words, like “started” and “began”. Why? These two words are often used by a writer to describe an action, but what they instead do (in many cases) is create a freeze frame image instead of a motion picture. If I use these words outside of dialogue, they will in all likelihood be the start of an action interrupted by another action, which keeps the action flowing. In screenwriting, you don’t want to paint in static pictures, and I rather like that notion when translated to novels.

But anyhow, movies as influences. It might seem peculiar, but I can’t come up with an epic style “fantasy” movie which has influenced my writing. One could say HBO’s Game of Thrones, but! not really. Or maybe so, but in a way folks wouldn’t suspect. Eve of Snows gets a lot of Martin comparisons, but the story of Eve of Snows had zero influence directly from the Song of Ice and Fire series. If there is one thing that GoT on HBO does sort of influence… and it comes more from screenwriting experience than simply GoT… it is the focus on the big “set piece”. Those scenes that everyone is talking about the next day… Ned’s unfortunate end, the Red Wedding, Dragons igniting slavers… Yeah, those are the scenes writers and directors live for, and so I focus on creating big moments. This also happens to fit my writing methodology… but that’s a blog for another day.

One of my favorite movies of all time, and one which I have little doubt influenced the way I think of “story” is Miller’s Crossing. The twisting and conniving, the outstanding characters, the dialogue… it was a brilliant creation. There are several actors in that film that if I see them in anything else? It’s the character from Miller’s Crossing that I see.

The next you could call a “fantasy western”: High Plains Drifter. Clint Eastwood cowboy flicks are almost all good, but this one stands out as an influence because of its haunting elements… the avenging ghost, a universe much like our own, but with a tint of the surreal. I first watched this movie as a kid and it just stuck with me for the rest of my days.

Okay, I have to include Clint again, in what might be my all time favorite western: Unforgiven. Brilliant characters, English Bob! Damn, the whole cast was amazing. Its grit and realism, just a beautiful movie. If you pay attention, you will see a tint of the Old West in Eve of Snows, and more so in the upcoming Trail of Pyres.

Did I mention an avenging ghost? Ah, The Crow! This could be considered an Urban Fantasy, and it is still one of my favorite flicks. I won’t claim it was produced with the incredible art of oh… Citizen Kane (one of my all time favorites, a staggering achievement) but by the gods and hells! Does it entertain. It has a certain combination of Revenge! combined with heart wrenching sentiment that gets me every time. Liam Neeson’s Taken comes close in the revenge with heart movies, but The Crow has a mystic-spiritual element which sets it over the top for me.

Star Wars… back when people called it Star Wars and didn’t pay attention to the fact it was episode four! And Han Solo drew first! Damn straight. This is a sci-fantasy, in my opinion, and shock! has elements of Cowboy in it. (Did I mention I wrote a western screenplay? Even if I wasn’t happy with the ending… stupid ending, anyhow) In the end, I can blame Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) and Star Wars (Lucas) for much of the deformity of my brain which twisted me into a writer.

Okay, this list could go a while, so I am going to finish with… L.A. Confidential. Helluva movie and helluva script. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (two blokes with Aussie roots) lead a great cast, and it’s easily my favorite movie with Kim Bassinger in it. And James Cromwell, just love him. The grit and backstabbing, the classic twists and turns. Love it.

I think one could find influential elements from all of these movies in Eve of Snows.

Influences Part Two: The Classics

In the first post involving influences, I listed off several fantasy greats, but having been an English Lit major in a past life, I also encountered classics which to some degree or another influenced my tastes and style. Dostoyevski (primarily Crime and Punishment) immediately jumps to mind. A gent I think could write with anybody was Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim). I also really enjoyed Jane Austen, and perhaps without knowing it, her writing style has had a subtle influence on my writing… if my memory is correct, while I also give a nod to the Bronte sisters.

But if there is a writer I consider on top of the classic heap, it’s Charles Dickens. Dude could write. And when it comes to opening lines in a novel, he was the master. Oh sure, most people have heard at least a couple of them, but here is one of my absolute favorites, maybe not the greatest, but it hits the sense of how I visualize the world:

“Dombey sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead, carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and close to it, as if his constitution were analogous to that of a muffin, and it was essential to toast him brown while he was very new.” (Dombey and Son, 1848)

I can’t help but chuckle every time I read that. Now, on a little side note, what do I think is the greatest work of fiction in history? Now, I’m not basing this on one simple piece of criteria, such as “I loved it!” but on the fact that I love this story even when it’s told a hundred different ways. A writer must have hit on something astounding when they write a story with such lingering influence. In Epic Fantasy, you kind of have Tolkien, he essentially created a genre, but to have a story told and retold for over 175 years is remarkable. Of course, to do this requires a media other than novels: the movie. It isn’t even necessarily Dickens’ greatest work, and yet it is the most endearing, possessing qualities both timeless and essentially human, while also hitting perfect structure combined with Dickens’ uncanny ability to write and tell a story:

A Christmas Carol.

Which also has one of the greatest opening lines in the history of literature: “Marley was dead: to begin with.” Did this have an influence on my writing? Well, here’s the opening line to Eve of Snows, A Forgotten Voice:

“It will ease your worries to know you aren’t dead, but it shouldn’t.”

The basic power of the Marley opening is it gives you what is an ending: Marley is dead, and informs the reader right after that this is only the beginning. It’s a juxtaposition that hooks the mind. So, thinking on this one night, and while I had a line I liked to open Eve, I did something similar. The reader learns that they (or the character the voice is speaking to) is not dead… whew! Good news there! But, they learn they shouldn’t feel good about it, which (I hope) raises questions to hook the reader’s attention.

To borrow from mister Solo: “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.” Just because you’re alive doesn’t mean you aren’t better off having more in common with Marley: being dead as a doornail.

Influences: Part One

There seems to be an obligatory question when it comes to writers: who were your literary influences? So, I’ve given this some thought and figured out it wasn’t so simple as I might’ve thought. First, there are the influences of youth, which in this case lands squarely in the realm of the two big F’s: Family and Fantasy. My dad and uncle were story-tellers, but not writers. The morning ride to school, road-trips, bed-time, they didn’t read books to me, they made it up on the fly. So first and foremost, they are to blame. Mom was more the editor.

Which then brings me to Fantasy: Tolkien, Lewis, Donaldson, Eddings, McCaffery, Brooks, Jordan, Wurts, Friedman, Anthony, Williams (my apologies to Tad, his first book Tailchaser’s Song is still what I think of first when I hear his name), and others I’ll be embarrassed I forgot. But no matter how you slice the pie, Tolkien is the Guiding Star in the sky. His works were the first Epic Fantasies I ever read, and the finest. Nothing can touch them.

My favorite Tolkien story (going to date myself, here) goes back to the release of The Lord of the Rings movie… No! Not Peter Jackson, Ralph Bakshi. I feel old just typing that. A good friend and I were reading The Fellowship of the Ring at the time the movie came out, and conned my parents into dropping us off at the local theater. As fate would have it, there were two fantasy flicks showing that day: Wizards, along with LoTR. So, we watched those two classic animated films back to back.

That, my friends, is a glorious day.

The Fire in the Eye

In a recent ad going around on Facebook, there is an image of a woman's eye with a ball of fire and dragon's swirling around it. (SEE the Image below) A couple of people have emailed me asking if that's just a cool image, or if it had something to do with Eliles and her magic.

Yes, it is a cool image, and yes, it can be interpreted to have a little something to do with Eliles. But, the fantasy-reality here is that the image plays into the creation myth of the Sister Continents.

If you've read the Tomes of the Touched (the quotes at the beginning of chapters) you've received glimpses into the world's future, present, and past. My hope is that people read and reread these chapter intros over time as the books move along, there's more to many of them than meets the fire in the eye. So flip to Chapter Four:

Upon the creation of the world, the First Dragons cast their seed, in the light of a Sun and a Thousand Suns, Beneath the Moon and a Thousand Moons, On a world and a Thousand Worlds.

Now you might have an idea of what the image of dragons represents! It would be going into world building spoilers to explain this entire quote, so I will keep it simple. The central pupil of fire represents the Sister Continents, and those are an artistic representation of the First Dragons.

In fantasy-reality, there were more than two dragons, and there is also a debate over whether some had wings. But, this goes deeper into the mythology surrounding dragons on the Sister Continents, and so will be left for a later time.


Combined Fire Eye.jpg

#1 Best Seller in the UK!

Sometimes things happen way faster than imagined, and this is one of them. With a £0.99 countdown deal going in the UK Eve of Snows topped the charts in Fantasy: Celtic, English & Welsh Mythology. At the same time, it hit #18 in Epic Fantasy in the Kindle Store and 1313 Overall at one point. Gotta love that number!

Just a short post today to pat Eve of Snows on its back cover.

Book 1.5: Meliu

A book teaser!

Folks who've read Sundering the Gods Book One: Eve of Snows, will hopefully recognize the name Meliu. She is a priestess in her early twenties, and a rising star amongst scholars dedicated to the study of the Pantheon of Sol. We first met her right up front in Chapter One, and she reappears later, with her major role being to return a book to the library before her fines get too crazy... Okay! Not the real motivation, but I liked the sound of it.

Anyhow, Meliu disappears in Eve of Snows, but that doesn't mean she wasn't busy. In fact, she was so busy (staying alive) that she will become a major Point of View character in Book Two: Trail of Pyres. While writing early parts of Pyres it dawned on me that it would be pretty cool to see all the backstory events this gal has been put through, and how she got where she's at.

This leads to the creation of book 1.5, a novella, which will serve as a bridge for Meliu into book 2's starring role. This book will be free to newsletter subscribers, and $0.99 on Amazon, with a tentative release in early December for the Christmas season.

Meliu 1.5.jpg

The Sister Continents

The Story of Eve of Snows takes place on the island of Kaludor, above the Northern Vandunez continent, but the world itself is known as the Sister Continents. There is a reason for this name, but this would be a spoiler which would lead into further spoilers in order to explain, so I won't go there.

During the Age of God Wars the world was dominated by a single super continent and sixteen major pantheons of gods. Initially there was (relative) peace in the world, but over the centuries the gods learned how to access the world personally for short periods, and something changed: War flared, and it didn't stop until the First Forgetting. The gods were banished from the world, and nobody remembers why. And perhaps even stranger, the world has been broken into seven continents.

But this is not the end.

The world and its magic became unstable, creating what is known as the Age of Warlords. During this period memories could disappear in a flash, islands could appear or disappear, entire civilizations disappeared. Still, the world is populated by wildly diverse and intelligent peoples, and these peoples seek solace and survival through their tenuous connections to their gods and the magic all around them. Some five hundred years after the First Forgetting comes the event known as the Great Forgetting (for most mortal peoples, this is the only forgetting they know about). Memories are wiped, pieces of land disappear (most prominent, a land bridge between Anduras and Southern Vandunez) but the world and its magic stabilizes. 

The story starts in the Sundering the Gods trilogy, but will travel around the world (perhaps even through time... a visit to the God Wars, maybe?) and span thousands of years. Until the world comes to an end... with neither a bang nor a whimper.

The First Rule of Blog Club is:

I'm not a blogger.

The second rule of blog club is "there is no hitting the author" no matter how much you might feel like destroying something beautiful. Which nature already took care of anyhow.

The third rule of blog club is "Sister Continents politics only." The real world is inundated with 24x7 insanity, and it will not cross the barrier into my fantasy musings... at least not in this blog.

So, what will you find on this blog? Borderline gibberish with an occasional bit of profundity (which you should ignore, because it will not be on purpose) followed by more deviations into the absurd. Most everything will involve writing in some manner or another.

So, with those rules in place... Welcome to the "Tomes of the Touched."

Background Art by Jon Gibbons

© 2018 L. James Rice