Life Defined

Friday, July 27, 2012

Guest Post: Role-Playing Games and How They Benefit the Writer

Greetings, All!

I would like to introduce M. Cid D'Angelo to the blog today. He has been published in various literary journals, such as Aoife's Kiss, Lady Jane's Miscellany, and Midway Journal, and he is also the author of two novels: Dark Running and Darkness Becomes You (The Second Artemus Dark Novel), each of which are bent toward magic and the paranormal. But it is not demons or wizards Mr. D'Angelo is going to discuss today; instead, he has another treat in store for us: a topic on role-playing! So, without further ado, set aside those D20s and character sheets, and welcome our talented guest~

                                     Role-Playing Games and How They Benefit the Writer
By M. Cid D'Angelo

There came a great period of writing inactivity for me when I joined the US Navy in the spring of 1985. Basically, for 4 years, I was too distracted by my duties and the constant barrage of Navy life to devote myself to writing. That was not to say that I did not attempt to write, nor does it imply that I didn’t complete at least one short story – a horror piece inspired by Stephen King’s “Strawberry Spring” about a werewolf stalking college students.

Yet the world-builder, the writer, which I was, would not allow me to throw it all away for those meager years of servitude. Just before my entrance into the military, I had discovered the world of Dungeons and Dragons, and had garnered a large following of neighborhood teens. With my elves and orcs and trolls in tow, it wasn’t long before I’d introduced my complex gaming world to my shipmates, even finding time in Boot Camp (San Diego) to throw it around. Now you must understand that the USN frowns on dice being thrown in Boot Camp; so we had to use small square pieces of paper with numbers scribbled on them to game; that is because Dungeons and Dragons, as some of you know, as other games, needs the element of randomness to pull off certain events and actions. We got by.
The game world I built was not that unique, however, to many other fantasy worlds that authors had over the years created. Mine borrowed heavily from 3 main sources: The Land, from Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever; Brooks’ Shannara; and of course, Middle Earth from Tolkien. I believe that every “Dungeonmaster” can claim the same sources.

World-building is a powerful aspect to many authors. Even the Bronte sisters are known to have created a highly-detailed fantasy kingdom of their own, let alone JRR Tolkien who devoted most of his time into laying the details out of a realm that to this day has no peer when it comes to complexity. Tolkien was not an author, at least, not in the classic sense; he did write books, but these were the products of his scholarly love of the lays and ballads of the old world, that is, the Germanic and Nordic cultures of our own past. Tolkien could be called a linguist and a mythologist before an author.

What is important in role-playing games for the author? The sheer outlet for unbridled creativity, for one thing. When I committed to guiding my players through the towns, the fields, the caverns, the castles of my fantasy world, I had to not only dream up stories they would need to participate in, but also a multitude of characters to flesh out the day-to-day activities as well as the allies and villains these players had to face. The aspect of having ADULT players demanded ADULT scenarios and complexities that were often beyond scope of many fantasy author’s works, and most had to be delivered on-the-spot with some degree of profound impact and logic. In other words, a growing novel that changed and moved along with the players from moment-to-moment.

Enormous preparation was also needed; township populations, names, stores, governments, authority figures, etc. All I found intriguing and fun more than a chore, and such my players found delight in because for those scant hours they interfaced with the world, they actually were INSIDE the world. They could become their characters. With such detail came personalities (which is a great practice for the actor), and local and national histories. The more we played the greater the world became, and, in its way, just as real in the aspect of the alternative we dwelled.

When I left the Navy and embarked on a period of writing fantasy works, such as the lost Tales from the Marshlands (1989) and The Archmage of Osgerith (1991), the world was laid bare and easy to establish within my paragraphs. These were not short works, and the years of “living” inside the world gave these works a strong perspective – perhaps too strong – of one who knew every rock and pebble and tree there. The downside? I think you can guess it: too much description in the novel; too much leading about the reader without the reader understanding and discovering the world on his/her own.
Yet the boundless well of creativity was discovered and now, as this author gained experience, the idea of sitting down with any creative work, novel or short story, the characters and setting come quickly, and the voices and the views not so hard to conjure. Role-playing: a very prized and valuable source for any fiction writer.


Thank you, Mr. D'Angelo, for sharing with us today! It has been a great pleasure indeed. 

If you would like to learn more about Mr. D'Angelo and his work, feel free to check out each of his books: Dark Running and Darkness Becomes You - as well as a blog featuring Artemus Dark himself: Partying with the Dead: Living the Dark Life.

Who is Artemus Dark, you may ask? Well, here is a brief character profile, as described on his very blog:

Artemus Dark is a paranormal investigator (without a gun), thrown into cases involving sorcerers, witches and all matters paranormal. He is a ghost-hunter, the Assistant Dean of Applied Metaphysics at Duke University, with rock-star status. (Created by author M Cid D'Angelo, but don't tell him that).
                        Darkness Becomes You (The Second Artemus Dark Novel)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Author Interview: Tony Acree and 'The Hand of God'

Greetings, Friends!

Mother Nature has been toying us lately with scorching degrees, so I implore you all to find a seat beneath the shade or settle into your favorite chair indoors. From there, feel free to pour yourself a cup of tea or lemonade (or, in my case, hot cocoa), and kick back: relax a bit; take a deep breath - perhaps attempt a pose or two of yoga? But get comfortable, as I'm delighted to have up-and-coming author Tony Acree with me today to answer a few questions. His upcoming release, The Hand of God, is scheduled to come out Spring 2013 through Hydra Publications.

G'Morning, Tony! It's great to have you here. 

It is my understanding that your upcoming release, The Hand of God, is tentatively scheduled for publication through Hydra Publications for spring of 2013. Can you tell us a bit about your novel? What genre is it? 

The Hand of God can best be described as a supernatural thriller. The novel tells the story of Victor McCain, bounty hunter, who finds out his brother has sold his soul to the Devil. Vic is offered a chance to save his brother's soul by finding a missing woman who has stolen something Satan wants back. The novel is about choices and consequences. 

A supernatural thriller, eh? It sounds intriguing! 

Do you have any other published works? Tell us about them.
My short story, Leaves of Departure, appeared in Kentucky Monthly Magazine. The story is about a father and his estranged daughter dealing with a painful anniversary. You can read it for free on In the past, I have written news and information articles for The Cumberland, the Kentucky outlet for the Sierra Club. 

Cover for 'The Leaves of Departure'

I will certainly have to check out your short story! Thank you for letting us know about it~

What was the hardest part about writing The Hand of God? What was the easiest?

The hardest part of writing The Hand of God, by far, was finding the time to write. I committed myself to writing at least 500 words every day and there were days it was a struggle to do so. This is my first novel and like anything new in life, it took me time to learn the proper way to go about it. The easiest part is coming up with the story line. From the beginning, the story flowed effortlessly. 

Why must Time be ever-elusive? You'd think someone would have come up with a time-controlling device by now.

What is your writing schedule like? Are you more of a ‘morning’ writer or an ‘evening’ writer?

There is no doubt I'm an evening writer. I tried getting up with the rooster's crow and writing, but found it's not for me. I usually start writing around 6:30 p.m. and write until around midnight. 

It's good to know what writing schedule works best for you. I find that the early morning or late evening works for me. The middle of the day seems to lack in creative spirit. 

Can you tell us about your route to publication? 

I attended an event called Pitch the Publisher in La Grange, Kentucky. Each author submitted an opening chapter as well as a complete synopsis of their book, then got the chance to meet with three different publishers where you're given fifteen minutes to "pitch" your book, followed by fifteen minutes of feedback from the publishers. I was lucky enough to have all three publishers offer a contract on The Hand of God, as well as Jericho, a private detective novel set in Louisville, Kentucky. I chose to sign originally with Otherworld Publications, as they were located in my hometown. When they decided to close their doors, Hydra Publications agreed to take over publication of my book and I could not be more thrilled. 

And I am ecstatic that you are part of the Hydra Team! Congratulations~

Would you describe yourself as a plotter or a pantser?

I'm more of a pantser, although I've known how my book starts and ends from day one. It's all the stuff in the middle I let go where it wanted to go. 

I understand you’ve incorporated religious sects and constructs in your novel. Can you tell us about the research involved or how you went about creating these distinctions?

I did a lot of research on the Devil, Satanists and the history of Devil worshipping. This includes reading every verse in the Bible where Satan is mentioned and particularly his fall from grace as the Angel of Light. I also did my best to make sure I did not use any names for organizations which actually existed. The first half dozen names I thought up for use in The Hand of God had already been used, either partially or in total. 

It sounds like you put a lot of work into the research aspects. I can't wait to delve into it once it's published.

What sort of moral code is featured in your novel? 

The main problem Victor struggles with is the issue of a moral code, or his lack of one. What will he be willing to do, what boundaries will he push, what lines will he cross to try and save his brother's soul. What would any of us do, given the choice he faces. Victor is, at heart, a good man, but who is forced to do some not so good things. He soon realizes he is putting his own soul at risk just to free his brother, and he really struggles with the choice. 

I think this is something we all can relate to in some manner: struggling to identify our moral code and ethics. Such a character as Victor could surely attract many readers for the purpose of 'relatability'. (I think I just coined a new term).

How do you portray Heaven and Hell in your work?

Hell is definitely a real place in my book. You meet the Devil in the first line of my novel and part of the story line is about the battle Satan is waging to claim his spot in Heaven. For years, I have carried on an internal debate on whether Heaven and Hell really exist and the book gives me a chance to argue both sides of the issue. Victor is a guy who never gave the question of whether there is a Heaven any thought. He really didn't care one way or the other. But now confronted with the knowledge Satan is REAL, it throws his view of God and Heaven into a blender, spinning around in his brain.  

I quite like the imagery on that one. ;)

What sort of symbolism do you employ in your writing? Do you tend to stick to a single motif – or do you just write whatever comes?
If this book has one defining motif, it would be about making choices. It makes no difference if you're an atheist or one who believe in God: every day we make choices, some big, some small, but they all add up through the course of our lives. This book is about the choices each character is forced to make and the consequences that result. I like taking people who are balanced on a knife's edge and then push them, to see which way they fall. 

How do you summon the Muse? What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read constantly. Books, websites, magazines, anything where the printed word can be found. I like to keep my mind engaged. And I use it for a tool when I need information on how to perform a task I know nothing about. With a few quick mouse clicks, you can begin to learn about any subject you wish. I also like to play Texas Holdem poker. I like the combination of math and the need to pay attention to details (such as your opponent's tells) the game requires.

I, too, peruse words whenever I can - and however I can: from reading, to gaming, to everything in-between. It keeps the gears turning, if you know what I mean.

Can you describe your writing style for us? What processes do you go through while writing? (i.e. outlines, character maps, index cards, etc…)

I don't use outlines. I've been able to keep the overall plot of my book floating around in my gray matter and generally have an idea of where I want to go, if not how I will get there. One thing I do use is a big white board, with each character's name written on it, so I can just glance up and recall who is who. I also use the character interview technique, to help keep the voice of the character consistent. 

A fellow pantser all the way~ Brilliant!

What is your writing environment like? Do you have any writing rituals? (such as a ‘must have’ food, drink, chair, etc…)

My favorite writing environment is the one thing which has really surprised me. I don't, as a general rule, like writing on laptops. I prefer my ergonomic keyboard and my large monitor on the desk in my office for most things I write, such as this interview. But I've found the best place for me to write my novel is with my laptop, sitting in my recliner with the footrest up, and the laptop on my lap. The smaller screen makes me focus in on what I want to write. The chair makes me feel comfortable. I have a single lamp on behind me offering just the right amount of light and from time to time, music or a baseball game on the TV with the volume turned down. So far, this works for me. 

It sounds like you've quite the comfortable writing arrangement. It always helps to have as little distractions as possible - and being comfortable is a way to eliminate possible annoyances.

What were your favorite books to read as a child? As a teen? How about now?
When I was a kid it was Agatha Christie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alexandre Dumas and Arthur Conan Doyle. In my teens, I was big into fantasy. I read everything by Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks, and David Eddings. Now I like to read thrillers, by authors such as Lee Child, Michael Connolly and John Sanford. I do also like the occasional fantasy novel by Jim Butcher (love me some Dresden) and R.R. Martin. For the record, I was reading Game of Thrones long before HBO showed up on the scene. 

Hmm. I'm curious: Have you always known you would be a writer? What inspired you to begin your first novel? 

I have known I would be a writer since 6th grade, after reading a poem by Robert Frost and thinking, "I can do this." Throughout school, I wrote poems for friends and family. My poems appeared in local and school papers, as well as our senior yearbook. I then moved on to short stories and finally, a novel. The inspiration for the first novel I started, Jericho, was a comment made by my brother, an electrician, about something he found while working at a large mansion. From there, the brain took over and took off. 

Ah - a fellow poet! Are not the words of poetry beautiful? Divine, almost~

Lyrics are a form of poetry. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?

I do occasionally and in most cases, jazz. I will also listen to southern rock when writing  action scenes. Nothing like Flirting with Disaster when your character is, well, flirting with disaster. 

I'm quite intrigued: What sort of creatures do you include in The Hand of God?

There can be no doubt Satan is a creature. Once one of the brightest stars in Heaven, now the ruler in Hell, he fits the description. Several supernatural creatures make an appearance, but the novel is really about people and the choices they make. 

Can you describe how your experiences in life influenced your novel?

I grew up as both a man of science and of God. I attended church regularly, but also planned on majoring in physics and computers in college. Reconciling these two halves is a fight I continue with today. Both Creationists and Evolutionists have the same problem: Creationists cannot tell you where God came from and Evolutionists cannot tell you what came before the Big Bang. Many of the arguments made by characters in my novel, on both sides of "Does God exist" debate, are ones I've made myself. I'm still not sure of the ultimate answer, but The Hand of God allows me to explore the issue in more depth. 

Are you reflected in any of your characters? How about friends and/or family members? *cruel chuckle*

Big time, yes on both accounts. As I mentioned above, the question of "Is there a God" is one I've spent a lot of time thinking about.  I find many of Victor's views on the world coming from my past experiences. Other characters in the book have their basis in people I've known over the years. One does not have to work hard to create interesting characters, one just has to spend time sitting at a White Castle Hamburger joint at 2 o'clock in the morning, or a Starbucks on a business day afternoon, and keep your eyes and ears open. 

The psychology of people-watching. You'd be surprised at how entertaining it truly is. And you can learn a lot from it as well.

Is there any sense of the fantastical in your work?

There is, as Victor must confront Satan, vampires, hellhounds, and other things through the course of the book one would consider fantastical. I remember listening to The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels and wondering what would I do if I were in Johnny's place. You don't get more fantastical than a fiddle contest with the Devil. In my book, I get to let Vic answer the question of what he would do when offered a challenge by Satan. 

Okay - now for some random questions:

If you had the ability to travel through time, would you choose to go back or move forward? Why?

I would move forward. As a history buff, I've learned the future always brings things the current age would consider magical. Can you imagine what someone from the Middle Ages would think about things we take for granted every day? I would like to find out what will amaze me in the future. 

Very true! I'm still waiting for that time-controlling device~

If you could have a discussion with any author (living or deceased), who would you choose and why?

Great question and if forced to pick just one, it would be Edgar Allan Poe. The author of the first detective novel, a writer of poetry and horror stories, all in one, plus one who died under such mysterious circumstances, I would like to learn what made him tick. A close second would be Mark Twain, just for the banter back and forth. 

And a witty banter I imagine that would be!

How many states have you visited? Have you ever traveled overseas?

I've visited twenty-eight states, as well as Australia. I've also been to Canada, but as they are not overseas, so they don't count.

I once lived in Minnesota, but I never once made it up to Canada. *sigh* I've yet to leave the country.

Know what? Dreams fascinate me. Are you ever inspired by your dreams?

I have done some of my best writing following a dream. I often go to sleep wondering what a character will do next and the next evening, recalling the dream, hit a good bit of writing based on what I can remember of the dream. 

What is the strangest dream you can recall?

I remember a dream where Elvis and I were traveling around Europe in an old Mustang Convertible, and we ended up stopping an IRA plot to blow up Prince Charles. You know what I mean? I think you do, thank you very much. 

I love it! Isn't the Muse fantastic? The mind is certainly an interesting force.

Mountain or canyon?

Mountain. Keep on climbing up. 

I agree! 

Hot or cold?

I'm always hot. Given the chance, I would keep it fifty-five degrees year round. 

I'm always cold. Eighty or ninety degrees is perfect for me! Here's a little-known tidbit: I use a space heater in my room year-round - even during the summer.

Novels or short stories?

I like to write short stories, but novels are growing on me. When it comes to reading, novels. 

Checkered, polka-dotted, or striped?

Stripes all the way. I see polka-dots and I think clown, checks and I think why?

Sunrise or sunset?

To me sunsets are more beautiful and they leave you wondering what the morning will bring. 

Hardback or paperback?

I prefer hardbacks. I like my novels big and the spines wide. 

The longer, the better.

Favorite word?

Dude. Say it loud and you can get someone's attention. Say it with a laugh and you can make fun of a friend. Say it with a head shake and let someone know you don't approve. Or you can use it as a casual greeting. Know what I mean Dude?

That's quite the 'busy' word. It has so many uses depending on the context~

Favorite number?

The number 8.

Favorite board game?

Trivial Pursuit. I'll take anyone on and spot you two pies. 

You're on!

Favorite quote?

"Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more." - Mark Twain

Favorite villain?

Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes' nemesis has been brought to life in many different versions and I've loved them all. 

Thank you for joining me today, Mr. Acree! It's been a pleasure hosting you on my blog and learning more about you and your work. I'm thrilled you are a part the Hydra Clan, and I'm looking forward to The Hand of God.

Tony Acree was born in La Grange, Kentucky in January 1963. His short story fiction has appeared in Kentucky Monthly Magazine. He has written articles about his time as a stay at home dad for a women's magazine as well as sports and information articles. His work has also appeared in The Cumberland, the Kentucky state wide newspaper outlet of the Sierra Club. He is a member of the Green River Writers as well as  The Bluegrass Writers Edge, a creative writers group in Goshen, Kentucky, where he lives with his wife and twin daughters. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Post: Bryan Thomas Schmidt - Author

Greetings on this lovely morn:

I am honored to introduce speculative fiction and nonfiction author Bryan Thomas Schmidt to everyone today. Mr. Schmidt has recently released his second novel in The Saga of Davi Rhii, titled, The Returning, and I am pleased to be participating in his Blog Tour for the very novel. Take a peek at the schedule for his Blog Tour here, and be sure to tune in as he shares different aspects of his work, his experiences, and his imagination.

On The Careful Use Of Ordinary Moments To Build Character In Science Fiction
Bryan Thomas Schmidt

When you write far future space opera, as I have with my Saga Of Davi Rhii, you look for ways to create bridges between contemporary readers and your characters. One way to do this is to pick ordinary moments which  might not be so foreign to contemporary life and show your characters living them. It reminds readers that even though they live on different planets in a different time, these characters and the readers still have a lot in common. But the use of ordinary moments requires care for several reasons.

For one, mundane moments make for mundane fiction. Readers can only take so much of your characters going about ordinary lives. People read stories for conflict, drama and compelling tales, none of which tend to be found in a retelling of dishwashing, laundry folding, etc.  So like any exposition or descriptive detail, one must choose carefully and specifically and use the elements well to set the scene, reveal character etc. Here’s an example from my latest novel, The Returning, book 2 in my Saga. This is from Chapter 1 and is the first time we revisit Tela, Miri, Lura and Sol, who are Davi Rhii’s family and whom we came to know in The Worker Prince, book 1.

      Tela flushed with warmth as she watched Davi's mothers, Miri and Lura, straightening furniture and artwork, discussing lighting and linens. She hadn't seen Miri so happy in months. The apartment was one formerly restricted for rental by government dignitaries, but Davi had been able to arrange with the government to open it for Miri. Sizable with a great view, it sat a block from the government center on Legon, the capital city of Legallis, not far from the Palace which had been Miri's life-long home. Across the street, amidst the high-rises, a preschool play-ground caught Tela's eye whenever she looked out the window. 

      The light blue-gray walls and lush navy carpet reflected light from the reflector pads overhead, lending a homey glow to the middle of each room. The central gathering, entertainment area sat like a hub amidst the spokes of the corridors leading to the kitchen, bedrooms, and sanitary facilities. The apartment also included an office which Miri used for a library. Altogether, the space wasn't really much smaller than Miri's suite at the Palace, even if it was less glamorous. Davi had often confided in Tela his worries about Miri's adjustment to civilian life, but from the vibe at her place, Tela thought Miri was doing fine.

      She heard women's chattering coming from the kitchen as Davi's birth father, Sol, sat on a sofa, reading the news on a datapad. A hard worker who'd spent twenty years imprisoned away from his wife and son, Sol's skin was dark tan and his hands worn from years of manual labor. Still, he knew how to relax when he wasn't at the plant, and Tela found herself relieved that Sol and Tela's father, Telanus, had been given lighter duties these days.

      “Tela, dear, come here, we'd like your opinion on this,” Miri called in her singsong alto.

      “Don't let them drag you into this, Tela,” Sol teased, “Run for your life.” 

      Tela chuckled and patted him on the shoulder as she moved past and climbed the stairs toward the kitchen. Lura and Miri stood huddled together beside the balcony, watching the twin suns paint the sky with their setting. Shades of orange and blue mixed with pinks, yellows and reds in a stunning display. It took Tela's breath away.

What can we take from the details? First, Tela is part of the family just by the way Davi’s parents all treat her. Second, they are settled into an ordinary, urban civilian apartment which is not unfamiliar. It even has a preschool playground across the street. Most of us know places like that, so it’s familiar, despite “reflector pads” which are lighting and have that future feel. Also, the mothers are going  about ordinary tasks while the father reads the news (not a paper, but a datapad, another scifi reference), an ordinary contemporary-type scene. And then the mothers want to involve the other woman.

All of this is a scene we’ve seen before in some way except the setting, names, locations, etc. are a bit abnormal and tell us it’s going on in an “other” outside our own typical place. And as the scene progresses, we get more  bits outside our ordinary, which, elevates this from a clichĂ©, normal scene to something with a new twist and angle that  hints at something we haven’t seen.

Additionally, since what these characters went through in most of The Worker Prince was hardly routine or ordinary, seeing them relaxed and enjoying a peaceful life again sets the stage for contrast with what has gone before and what comes after in a way that increases the emotional impact of the story's events.

     Lura and Miri stood huddled together beside the balcony, watching the twin suns paint the sky with their setting. Shades of orange and blue mixed with pinks, yellows and reds in a stunning display. It took Tela's breath away.

      The women themselves were a contrast. Davi's birth mother, Lura, was shorter with tanned skin and long, brown hair the color of her son's, whereas Miri, his adoptive mother, stood taller, her light skin accented her light-blue eyes and short-cut brown hair. Both women's hair had streaks of gray, though it was clear Miri made more effort to cover it up. She stood with the regalness one might expect from a former Royal, while Lura's demeanor remained humble, a legacy of so many years spent in slavery. Lura wore a round and silver-colored necklace with a blue-green crest at its center. The four sections of the crest bore distinct images:  laborers, soldiers, farmers and priests. Tela had seen the family crest many times now. Davi and Nila each wore identical necklaces. She’d never seen any of the three without them. Despite their differences, Davi's birth and adoptive mothers had made a concerted effort toward befriending each other. It showed in the way they smiled at each other and Tela.

      “You wanted my opinion on a sunset?”

      Lura and Miri laughed. “No dear. Lura was just commenting how nice it would be if this balcony were bigger. It would be a beautiful location for a joining, don't you think?” Many adoptive mothers would have been devastated to have their son's birth parents come back into his life, especially mothers as close to their sons as Miri was to Davi. But Miri had remained supportive and dignified despite any inner turmoil she must have felt. Miri's strength was an inspiration, except for those times when it made her pushy, like now.

      Tela smiled at their eager grins. They'd been hinting at the idea for months, hoping Davi and Tela would set a date. “We haven't really discussed it. We're enjoying just being together right now. Working out the rough edges, I guess.”

      “Working out a man's rough edges is a lifetime's endeavor, dear,” Miri counseled. “He'll be much easier to mold once he's officially yours, as they say.”

      Lura grasped Tela's upper arm gently. “We're not trying to pressure you. You're just so good together and it makes us happy to see you both so in love.”

      Tela nodded, locking the smile onto her face. “We are in love. But love's never perfect. I'm waiting for Davi to get over some of his archaic ideas before I even think about taking that step.”

      “Archaic ideas?”

      Tela continued before Miri could start lecturing on women's place in society. “It's a different age, Miri. Women may have once enjoyed sitting at home waiting for their man. That's just not who I am. I fell in love with your son as we fought together for freedom, side by side with the WFR. He showed me respect and appreciation. But I still think he'd prefer me safe at home in the kitchen.”

      Miri looked as if she couldn't understand the objection. Lura smiled. “Davi's not like that. You mean the world to him. It's just that he worries about you. Can you blame him? You worry too.”

      “I worry sometimes, but we both love what we do, and I support him. I deserve the same consideration.”

      “Of course you do.”

      “I thought you were still flying patrol rotations?” Miri seemed confused.

      “I am. But not as often as Davi is.” That had been a decision by command, she realized, but Davi hadn't exactly jumped in to advocate on her behalf.

      “Well, he's a Squadron commander. Their rotations are more frequent, naturally.” Miri turned back to the sunset. “I worry about you both.”

      “Not much to worry about, Miri. We're at peace. The workers have their full citizenship. Patrols are pretty routine.” So why did she miss them so much?

      “Mothers can't breathe without worrying,” Sol said as he came up behind them.

      Tela and Lura chuckled as he wrapped his arms around Lura. “It gives us a purpose,” Lura said as she caressed his arm.

      “I'd be happy if you focused some of that attention on me.” Sol leaned in and kissed her neck.

      Lura blushed and pushed him away. “You're hardly neglected.” Tela wondered if she and Davi would still be so affectionate if they made it twenty years together.

      “You'd think after twenty years in prison, a man could get expect a warmer homecoming.” Sol frowned, but the ends of his mouth jiggled, giving him away. When the women laughed, he gave up and joined them heartily.

      “See what you have to look forward to in forty years, dear?” Lura said as she turned and kissed Sol's waiting lips.

Here, with the descriptions of the women’s dress, the societal structure, and the twin suns, we get more hints of a world beyond our own, every day one. And yet, the conflict and issues being discussed—dynamics between men and women, etc. are very familiar.  

Taken out of context, it might seem this scene is too ordinary. But in the larger context of the novel where moments like  this are not that common, it adds a touch of familiar that bridges readers into the story and relates them to the characters quickly, making  them care about the characters as people like them, while at the same time, setting up dynamics and themes which will be sources of conflict over the course of the novel. Davi and  Tela’s relationship and Tela’s frustrations with her lack of opportunity will play out in a through line through the rest of this book and into the sequel. The family relationships and dynamics of pressure to marry will continue to be an issue, even as family relationships shift and change under the weight of some tragic events.

Using ordinary moments is a great way to bring familiarity to speculative settings and characters, but, again, too much can become too boring and familiar in the same way that too little can prevent readers from connecting with the characters and being drawn into the story. What are some ways you use familiar moments to draw in readers to your fantastical settings and stories? Or to help them relate to characters? We’d love to discuss this further in comments.


In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. 

Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancĂ©e, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake. Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

                                          Thank you for stopping by for Mr. Schmidt's Tour.

                                              And thank you, Bryan, for sharing with us~
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