author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Plot Turners

"Layer Cake"

As a fan of fiction, I applaud stories that reel me in with not only unexpected endings, but with characters that lay low making the biggest difference when the story is said and done. 

The recent example I’ve written about the most recently is the history based “The White Queen” with Richard of York beginning as the quiet youngest son of York in the background of his elder brother Edward, always loyal, always present.  By watching the first couple of episodes one would find it hard to believe this is the same Richard as the infamous Richard III well known in Shakespeare’s play and something about a couple of young Princes that entered the Tower of London and were never seen again.  Richard’s involvement in the fate of the Princes is debated today, but true or not, his legacy will wear it because he was King at the time.

Another favorite plot turner is the comedy “Snatch” where to me the most important character is the dog.  Movie fans, check it out if you haven’t seen it; Brad Pitt is never a bad thing on a film and I love dogs.

One of my favorites all time low-key plot turners were from the film “Layer Cake” starring Daniel Craig.  If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend it if you like gangster films with a large cast of interesting characters.  When one million ecstasy pills are stolen from a Serbian illegal drug manufacturer, who will decide the outcome?  The middleman drug dealer makes the connections played by Daniel Craig.  But from there, will it be the powerful businessman Mr. Temple, his rival Mr. Price, the Serbian hitman Dragan (an awesome character), the loud gangster winnable Duke, or a known drug dealer with no connections to the other characters?  I won’t spoil the story, but when I think of the way it ended, it really makes sense when all is said and done, and I applaud the writing in the plot turning ending.  (Who really will wind up with illegal drugs to sell?)

In moving to Dark Fantasy, the most famous plot turner to me is Gollum of “Lord of the Rings.”  Despite the “trickesy” Hobbits, Gollum was not stupid and knew what he wanted the whole time.  Because of the events at Mount Doom, Gollum is arguably the most important character in the story, as Sauron wouldn’t have been defeated without him.

Writers, as we create our stories, we keep in mind readers look for plot turners.  When placed in the most unusual places sometimes the least likely character can give the biggest “bang” which is part of what makes a story great.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

King Robert After the Games

King Robert Baratheon "Game of Thrones"

King Robert Baratheon stands before the lead Gastar characters Shevata and Zermon awaiting judgment for the afterlife.  Will Hell be his future?

“Zermon, I disagree with this.  King Robert Baratheon wasn’t perfect but he doesn’t belong down here in Hell, especially before you in final judgment.  Let me speak to him first.”
The large demon handed her a scroll.  “Normally I would agree.  But the Martell family insisted he be judged harshly for the deaths of Elia Martell and her children, the family of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen”
Shevata read the scroll and her face fell.  “Elia Martell and her young daughter were raped and murdered by Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch.  Her son, just a baby, was smashed in the head.  Their bodies were wrapped in Lannister cloaks and presented to King Robert before the Iron Throne in his victory.”

Zermon relaxed back on his obsidian throne.  “Pretty sick stuff, huh?  Shevata nodded.  He motioned with his hand to have Robert brought before them.  Shevata sat on Zermon’s right armrest of his throne. 
“King Robert, you appear to be here with some ill tidings.”  Shevata handed him the scroll.  He glanced at it then threw it down.  Still a large, strong man, his beard hid most of his face, and his obese belly stuck out like he was a woman close to giving birth.  In observation, Shevata had to admit to herself Joffrey seemed more like a King than his non-natural father.

“I don’t care WHAT you do with me, got it?”  Shouted Robert. 
Zermon smirked.  “Well King Pig Feisty, after King Mad Scab, King Crazy Kid, who else do we have from that barbaric world of bad Kings?”
“Call me what you want, damn ya!  I lost what I cared about years ago, so throw me in fire, cold, cut me, drown me, see if I give a shit!”  Robert shouted, and then turned at the short demons.  “What do you people drink around here?”
“This isn’t a party, King Robert.”  Shevata snapped at him with a whip, just missing him to get his attention.  “Did you or not give the order for the atrocities committed against the wife and children of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen?”

“Seven Hells, THAT’S what this is about?”  Robert became enraged, then calmed himself.  “I wanted Rhaegar dead more than anything and I’m in Hell because of it.  Fine.  When you lose something you love, I mean you really love with all you have; you’ll do the same.  If you’re capable of it.”  Robert’s glare gave Shevata a chill. 

Zermon shook his head.  “King Robert, you are a fat fool idiot.  People love all the time and take chances.  But you don’t murder innocent women and children because you didn’t get the woman you wanted, and you don’t become King Pig and turn your realm into a vision of yourself!”  He turned to Shevata.  “I want him racked.”
Robert stood defiant. Shevata loaded a tiny crossbow with a black needle and fired.  Robert disappeared in a flash of light, his soul destroyed.
“You take away all the fun.”  Growled Zermon.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Gastar Pirates

Shevata, lead character of the Gastar Series

This except from the upcoming third Gastar novella features pirates!


The ship rocked slightly as the sailors pushed it quietly away from the docks with poles.  The rising tide would take them out further to sea at sunrise, within the hour.  Four men sat around the mast, looking down at a chest sitting in a cabin with the door open to them.  “See that?”  Said Tyrus.  “Half of that is mine.  The rest of you divide it up to the last man.  I don’t care if you have to throw each other overboard.”  A small torch made him look formidable with his long beard, wide hat, and wide sword at his belt.  “If any of you make a wrong move, I’ll show you your guts.”
The other three men, appearing younger without beards, mumbled amongst themselves and nodded.  “It will get us back home.  That’s all we ask.” Muttered one of them.  The old man smiled.
“Robbie, you’ll never get rich as a pirate always wanting to go home to his Mommy.  What will you do, send a letter telling the King of Gastar we withheld most of the fortune for traded goods?”
The young man turned pale.  “No.”
Tyrus sneered, “There’s a reason people call we pirates ‘scum.’  Do you know why?”  Robbie shook his head.  Tyrus laughed.  “Because we are. “  He motioned to the other two men.  “Out with him.”  The others grabbed Robin by each arm, dragged him across the deck, with him screaming with terror and silenced when thrown overboard.  “That wasn’t so hard was it?”  Tyrus said to the others.  “Now, let’s set sail and see how many more we need to lighten our load to add to our pockets.”  As he turned a dark shape appearing to be a man pushed him down on his back, rolled him over face down and put his knee into the small of this back, and jerked his head backwards.  Other shapes did the same with the rest of the crew.  As they held them, the ship became still and quiet.  A cold wind swept across the deck.  Silently, a tall shape walked toward them; the torchlight revealed the shape of a tall, statuesque woman, dressed in a black tunic, boots, and leggings, like a man.  Her raven-black hair tumbled down her back and her eyes sparkled like the stars in the sky.  The only color was her bright red lips, perfect in shape, glistening as if she weren’t real.  With one hand, she picked up the chest; inspecting its contents, then put it on the dock like it was an empty box.  She walked closer to Tyrus, kneeling with her face close to his. 
“’Pirate?’”  She said in a low rumbling voice.  “Thieves all look the same to me.”  She ran her fingertips down his neck, drawing amusement from his terror.  “Always so afraid, you ‘pirates’ when caught stealing, yet you think you’re clever.”  Her smile revealed perfect white teeth, glistening in the dim light with her other features, fine as a doll.  She stood up and looked at the dark shapes.  “Now.” She commanded.
Robbie swam in the cold water as fast as he could back to the docks.  At the point he was certain to drown, he felt someone grab him and drag him to the dock and he climbed upon it and caught his breath.  A cloak was thrown around him and he heard a young girl ask him if he was all right.  Though he shivered, he felt his strength returned to him.  He looked back toward the ship as the sun rose, and thought of Tyrus and his betrayal of him and how many other young sailors he would murder on his voyage.  As he watched the ship, he gasped in surprised.
The ship suddenly became ablaze in a huge ball of fire.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Gastar and Greyjoy

Theon Greyjoy & The Bastard of Bolton "Game Of Thrones"

The Bastard of Bolton has Theon Greyjoy in a bad way in "A Song of Ice and Fire" and "Game Of Thrones."  Let's see if the lead characters in the Gastar novellas can help Theon out a bit.

“Are you kidding me?”  Zermon lumbered behind Shevata as she turned the lock of the gate behind the castle.
“If I had more faith in the Greyjoys, I’d leave it be.  His sister is a good, well-meaning fighter.  But that’s not what her brother needs.”  She raised her brow to Zermon and he smirked. 
“Once we enter the room, I’ll secure it, you take the Bastard.”
“What do you want me to do with him?”
Shevata shook her head and shrugged.  “For once, Zermon, I couldn’t care less.  Use your limited imagination.”
“I’ll be following you, my sweet.  Have you the gate?”
Shevata scowled at him.  “Shhh!”

As the approached another door, she opened another lock and they entered a room dimly lit with a torch.   It’s center stood Theon trussed up to a rack, blood and sweat dripping from his body.  Shevata walked in.  She raised her hand and the doors slammed shut.   She walked up to Theon and began to cut his bonds.  “Asha?”  He muttered. 
“No.  Shh.”  She removed the rope from his legs, and began to cut the binding from his arms.  She felt a hand on her right shoulder.

“Just who in the Seven Stinking Hells are you” Said the snarling voice.
Shevata stopped and stood still, keeping her back to him.  “Take you hand off me, you stinking Bastard.”
He spun her around and reared his hand back to deliver her a hard blow to the face.  As he did, Zermon grabbed his arm and yanked in backwards, breaking it at the shoulder, and the Bastard screamed in pain.  Three other men charged at the same time.  Shevata ducked their attacks to remove the hood from Theon’s head and cut him free.  Zermon broke the neck of one, kicked another so hard in the abdomen across the room, he fell dead against the wall, and put his fist through the remaining one. 

“Take the Bastard’s cloak and clothes.”  Shevata eased Theon from the rack and sat him on the floor.  She handed him water and he drank with haste.  She helped him get a shirt on and wrapped the cloak around him.

She turned and Zermon held the Bastard in the air with one hand.  Blood poured from his mouth.  “What did you do?”  Shevata nudged Theon away from the blood.  Zermon tossed the Bastard’s tongue on the floor.  “Hurry now.”  Zermon slammed Ramsay, gasping in pain to the rack and they tied him to it so tight it cut off blood flow to his limbs and they left his right arm backward as it was broken.  Shevata backed away looking at the floor and dropped an orange coin to the floor.  The fire pit to hell opened inside of the room.  The Bastard’s eyes widened with terror.  “Forget it Bastard, this is what you’ve sought since your birth, you vile excuse for humanity.”  Zermon lifted the rack and lowered it into the hell fire amongst the lower demons, securing it to burn, but not for him to reach bottom so he could climb out and exist in hell as a demon. 

When they finished, she picked up the coin and the floor returned to what it was.  They turned to Theon.  He said, “What…what will you do to me?”
Shevata knelt in front of him.  “After we kill every skin peeler in the Dreadfort, we’ll make sure you sister gets you back.  And if Daenerys Targaryen doesn’t burn the rest of your disgusting family, we will.”

Sunday, February 16, 2014

On Beating the Readers

"Jurassic Park"

When Indie writer John Locke published his “how to” book about selling books, I’ve noted before an important point he made:  You may not be a great writer, but you will need to be an entertaining writer. (Paraphrased).  Putting aside any controversy about Locke, he clearly writes entertaining novels that people like.  His point couldn’t be closer to the truth about novels. 

When I download a book to one of my e-readers, I hope and expect to be entertained, if it’s fiction or non-fiction.  Good writing isn’t only good grammar, punctuation, and format (an editor’s term…what does that mean….) it’s also about entertaining the reader.  For example, the hoopla and blasting of “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer:  Maybe she wasn’t Evelyn Waugh amongst writers, but people found her books entertaining (even if I didn’t), so good for her.   The main issue I had with the novel was that the writer wasn’t willing to push the danger hard enough to reel in the reader.  In other words, there was little doubt the teen lovers would be together and things would work out without a major challenge. (My focus is “Twilight” here.)

I like fiction to take me on a ride.  I dislike roller coasters, so books are a great substitute.  My favorite examples are books by ace author the late Michael Chrichton.  “Timeline” begins with a group of people travelling to medieval France by means of a device, but everything goes wrong in the first five minutes so they are left on their own in a violent world where history underestimates pretty much everything.  Almost every chapter ended with a character being slung to the ground with a sword over his/her head.  I had to power-read it to relieve myself of the agony of the story.  Today, it’s one of my favorites.

Chrichton really beat up the readers in the book “Jurassic Park.”  Because of the success of the film, when I talk about the book, many say “Oh, right.  I just saw the movie.”  Noooo.  The book for me was an exercise in displacement horror as the writer placed we poor readers on the menu of the dinosaurs, running like hell from the T-Rex with the kids for half of it, dodging the Pterodactyl, mercifully left out of the film and last but not least, we were inside with the scientists as several Velociraptors dropped through the ceiling munching out, not bothering to kill their prey first.  By the end of “Jurassic Park” I needed a drink, a vacation, and didn’t want to see a lizard on my deck for weeks.  However, the book is fantastic.  I will never read it again.

Lastly, I always mention “Revolutionary Road” because it’s a banner book for author brutality to readers.  We think we’re reading about 1950s “Blaming on the ‘Burbs” but I when I finished the book, (the film doesn’t carry the message as well) I needed to stop, look at my life in the suburbs, and realize April Wheeler was a lost soul. 

While we read and write beautiful books, or novels that take us to interesting places, some writers will press the gas pedal and drive the reader into a wall.  I say, bring it writers.  I like a good ride and can handle a reader beating…once in a while.

On the Lives of Characters

Captain Vane "Black Sails"

Many say well-written fiction arises from non-fiction, especially well-researched historical topics.  Though I write Dark Fantasy, I agree a little research goes a long way in the definition of weapons, clothing, dialect, and architectural design at the time, just to name a few descriptive points.

The first, brief example I’ll use is the non-fiction book of the Countess of Carnarvon, the Lady Almina who is Cora in “Downton Abbey.”  The real life character, an heir to a Rothschild fortune, lived a truly outstanding life of luxury and travel, with tragedy of the loss of her husband after the opening of the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

The main example for this article is the lives of pirates.  When I started watching the Starz series “Black Sails” in a tweet I wondered when Captain Vane would take a shower.  (Yes, actor Zach McGowan clearly works out).  As I thought past my snarky tweet, well, they do look pretty rough and it’s not like that had ceramic tile bathrooms back then.  Pirates spent a lot of time aboard ships, so hygiene wasn’t so easy to come by.  

As I continue to explore the world of pirates, from series to books to classics, a topic mostly unknown to me, I picked up the book “Pirates of Savannah” by Tarrin P.  Lupo.  He opens the story with life in 1700s London; a miserable debtor’s prison, then life aboard a pirate ship sparing no details of the goings-on beneath the deck or the punishments on deck. The freedom on the seas was a hard life of filth, starvation, disease, while the challenge of being Captain was questioned every moment, so the role required great physical and psychological strength, regardless of the surroundings. 

As he takes the reader ashore, life gets only a little easier. The southeast coastal region of the frontier North America was still wild with dangers from insect carrying disease, more starvation, and competition with land dwellers for life in a dangerous world where truly only the strong survive and the very few prosper. Lupo spares little details about people going years without a bath, and even more rare to have a warm bath with soap.  Food was never plentiful and every friendship had a degree of condition in such a limited world where every man and woman made decisions every day to try to live another day.

As I finish “Pirates of Savannah” the book continues to take aboard more adventures, which I’m looking forward to.  Writers teach we readers and the lives of the characters remain with us with every great story.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The KIngslayer’s Application

Jaime Lannister "Game of Thrones"

The infamous “Kingslayer” Jaime Lannister continues to deal with his reputation with the lead character in the Gastar novellas:

“Get these out of here.”  Shevata handed a tall, slender wingless demon a heavy ledger dripping blood.  “No more contracts!  You idiots actually write them in blood, which is impractical for ink, it smears, drips, and Zermon never accepts anything in writing!”  She leaned back as she removed her bloody gloves and wiped off her desk in the tidy, luxurious hideout in Hell Zermon’s brother showed her when he rescued her from the fire pit.  “Go, now, please.” 
The demon held the heavy book between his fingers watching it drip. “Someone’s here to see you.”
“Is it dripping blood?”
“He says he’s the ‘Kingslayer.’”
Shevata rolled her eyes.  “Another special application.” 
“Shall I send him to Zermon?”
“No, he won’t see him.”  She gestured to have Jaime Lannister brought in.  The handsome blonde man entered the room like he did everywhere, as if it were some sad place he was too high born to enter. 

Shevata nodded to the demon to leave.  “How many times must I tell you, Jaime?  Zermon turned you down.”
“I’m protesting my application.”
“There’s no protest.  This is Hell.  You can’t get in unless Zermon accepts you.  Sorry, but your soul will not burn here.”
Jaime looked at her with his usual pretense to be interested in her.  “You’re a strange little creature.  How do you get into Hell while human, and me get left out?   I suspect we have something in common.”
Shevata felt uncomfortable, realizing how dangerous this one-handed man was.  Could he actually be intelligent?  “I killed the wrong priest.  You killed the right King.”
Jaime smirked with satisfaction.  “Then it’s settled.  I’ll serve here. I suspect these little mindless creatures aren’t so bad to maneuver around, and we’ll stay out of each other’s way.”

Shevata leaned back on her chair and glared into his green eyes.  “Jaime, Hell isn’t a game.  I know you wear “Kingslayer” on your sleeve like you wear your taboo relationship with your evil sister.  You behave like a bully, but you’re not one.  Your father is a bully.  You, Ser, are a victim of being a noble your whole life, since King Aerys took you for his Kingsguard before you could pursue an adult life.  Tyrion is joked about, but you are the joke.  Hell isn't the way out."
Jaime, now enraged, reached across the table seizing Shevata by the neck. “I can kill you with my left hand.” 
Shevata watched his expression as she pushed her dagger into his groin with her foot.  He released her. 
“If I were a petty, foolish person, I’d have Zermon tear you apart now.  But I’ll punish you instead.  Godspeed, Ser Jaime.  Enjoy King’s Landing.”

Guest Post: The King and his Horse by Andrea McMillin

I want to thank Andy again for offering me an article again; as well I'm honored to share my blog space for another of her outstanding historic medieval essays.  Check out her blog with some great visual:


Richard, Duke of Gloucester, "The White Queen"

One of the most important aspects of chivalry is the knight and his horse.  Without these two, chivalry or even the knight of the Middle Ages, would be somewhat very less interesting. For it was the loyalty, honor, and bravery of the knight and his trusted steed, that became legend and the subject of many stories and fables.  This image is what inspired Chaucer’s “A Knight’s Tale” and many other medieval writer’s inspirations.  It was also what became the main symbolic aspect of the medieval tournament. 

 The standard tournament or model for such event, arose from Roman times as depicted through early works of art, but was further developed and branded during the 1160’s and 1170’s and through such works as The Life of William Marshal and many of the works of romances by Chretien de Troyes, who was renowned for his works of chivalry and courtly love romances.

 Throughout the Middle Ages, chivalry and the knight was an important symbol to secular society.  Tournaments were knights would showcase their skills, were a height of popularity in Tudor times, as well during the time of Edward IV and Richard III. References are slim but they did hold these events.  It is entirely possible that Richard himself was trained to participate as well. But we do not know, nor have the evidence at hand to know if this really happened or not, least I have not come across it of late.  (Richard competing in a tournament, would be like jackpot in my book!) We know from historical record that Edward paid for Richard to be tutored in the ways of knighthood up at Middleham Castle, while he was staying with Richard Neville, the “King Maker.” 

There are records that in 1465, when Richard would have been 14 years of age, he began his study of arms under Warwick. His age corresponds to the average age of when most youth of noble linage would enter the tutelage of one who would prepare them for the ways of taking up arms whether it be for warfare or for sport. It is noted, Edward IV paid “for costs and expenses incurred by him on behalf of the Duke of Gloucester,” while Richard was at Middleham. It is presumed that Edward IV was thinking of the future of his throne when he made this move.  He knew Warwick’s reputation, as it was beyond excellent, and he needed as many allies as possible on his side to maintain the throne and keep the peace in the land. Henry VI was still alive, dethroned, but alive. That alone was enough of a threat.  He needed allies, and ones of blood were the best kind. So by training Richard in the finest art of warfare to the highest degree and preparing him for the most honorable position of knighthood, later becoming a knight of the Order of the Garter, was a perfectly planned move.  The skills and expertise later won Richard his renowned reputation on the battlefield as well as being an excellent equestrian. 

 Perhaps one of the most important aspects of tournaments and the “big picture” is the contribution that Richard started while he was king; he started the College of Arms. The College of Arms still exists today and housed the heralds and their work.  The heralds kept track of the genealogy aspect of the noble families that bore their crests, as well as the use of arms in battle and on the jousting or tournament field. The heralds have been known to be of use since the twelfth century. In 1484, the heralds were granted a charter to have their services housed in London, by Richard III.  When Henry Tudor came to power, he dismantled the heralds giving their authority of their order to his mother, Margaret Beaufort. It wasn’t until 1555, that it was reestablished. The heralds whether they are in funeral processions, or other stately events also were present at tournaments. There they confirmed and recording participation in events and proved proof of genealogy of the competitors during these events. They were also quite noticeable because their tabards were of the royal coat of arms, which distinguished them from other members of court and signified their importance.

So why where tournaments important? Besides working on skill and equestrian expertise; knights alike could tone their skills so when it was time for battle, they knew what they were up against.  It was also a place to display and build a reputation for their houses, as well as training.  It is uncertain that Richard III actually competed in any of these events, but it is known that Edward IV held them, and Henry VIII did participate, hence his famous jousting accident that caused him pain in later years of his life.

One of the most famous events of these tournaments, was jousting.  Which involved two-armored knight on horseback.  While on horse back, the knights charged each other very fast, using lances and the goal was to either break the opponent’s lance or unhorse him.  Jousting was very popular in England and Germany through out the Middle Ages.  It was highly popular in France until 1559, when King Henry II was killed in a jousting tournament. It was discontinued in France as a sport as a result. Horses used in these events were not light breeds such as Arabians, or Thoroughbreds of today, but heavier breeds similar to warm-bloods chargers and “Destriers.” Chargers were bred for aglity and stamina and the destriers were similar but larger to Andalusians, but not as big as today’s draft horses.  Kind of in the middle.

n the tournaments and also on the battlefield the horses wore it’s riders herald or coat of arms on his blanket or “caparison”, had armour on his head called “chanfron.” The rider almost all the time had spurs to help drive the horse forward, as well as saddle and bridle.  The different colors and the overall display was one that was very appealing to many, espeically the sepectators of the sport aiding in its popularity. Later in the 15-16th century armor even had branched off to specific uses, even one for tournaments. Modifications were made to the suits to help with lance blows and helms were fashioned for more movement and better overal fit.  Tournaments were mostly held on Mondays, Tuesdays and other days of the week with the exception of Fridays and Sundays. As well as put on during the year, except during the 40 days during Lent.  Announcment of such events were made about a fortnight before, or two weeks.  At the end of the day, the patron or whom ever put on the event celebrated the days festivities with food, banquet, prizes and various forms of entertainment. It was an event that many would not want to miss. Because of the festivities surounding such events, it is prehaps why its allure and importance still remains today and is an important symbol of midieval life and culture.  Adding to its perservation, the contrubitions made by King Richard III, with the housing of the Heralds aided directly its preservation for years to come and is probably why we know of it today.

1. Original from the Rous Roll, by John Rous, 15th century. Image is printed in: Jesse, John Heneage (1862) Memoirs of King Richard the Third and Some of His Contemporaries: With an Historical Drama on the Battle of Bosworth (PDF), London: Richard Bentley, pp. p. X Retrieved on 10 April 2009. (Accessed: 2/6/2014)
2. Halsted, Caroline A. Richard III: As Duke of Gloucester and King of England. Vol. 1 Longman. London, England. c. 1844. Pp. 109- 116

The Imp Meets the Collector

Tyrion Lannister "Game of Thrones"

Tyrion “The Imp” Lannister, like anyone from his House, pays his debts, meets the lead characters from the Gastar novellas, one that excels in collecting debts. 

“Shae?  Where are you?”  The short man whispered, when he didn’t see her immediately in the bedroom he’d arranged to meet her.  The wine sat untouched with a pair of glasses on a table with a side dish of berries and cheese.  The room smelled of perfume, the way he liked it, to block out the odor of the city.  He moved toward the bed and pulled away the curtain surrounding the bed, expecting to see his lover-prostitute naked, waiting for him. 

A teenage girl, appearing to be about sixteen, with plain long brown hair, dressed in all black as a boy in a tunic, boots and leggings.  A long jeweled dagger was strapped to her right thigh.  The man grew angry.  “What have you done with Shae?” 

Shevata pushed the curtain open with her right foot and stood up.  Shae sat on the other side of the bed.  He ran to her.  “Are you hurt, my darling?”  She shook her head, but looked away, very afraid.  He turned back to the girl.  “What do you want?  If it’s money, I’ll pay you to get out of here.”

Shevata giggled and nodded to her right. “Hey Zermon, he really is an Imp.  He’s trying to bribe us already, and we’ve been in this room five minutes!”  She leaned back in laughter.  Zermon stepped forward out of the corner, examining the short man. 
“He doesn’t look like an Imp to me.”  He growled. 
“And you might you be?”  The man walked over to the wine to pour a glass.  Before he lifted the pitcher, Shevata put her hand over the glasses. 
“You drink too much and your sister wants you dead.  Take some advice from a stranger, isn’t that part of your religion here?  Drink less.” 
The man held up his hands and backed away. 
“All right.  You’ve managed to enter the room of Tyrion Lannister, so how much gold do you want to keep yours and this” he nodded to Zermon, “monster’s silence?”
Zermon scowled.  “Do I look like I need gold, short man?”
Shevata gestured for Zermon to be quiet.  “No, we came to warn you about your sister.”
Tyrion frowned a moment.  “OK.  Thanks.  I appreciate it.  Are you sure you don’t want anything?”
Shevata walked over to Shae and lifted her chin, with Zermon behind her.  “We’ve spent some time in King’s Landing.  If you betray Tyrion, I’ll watch your soul burn in hell’s fires.”  They left. 
“What in Seven Hells was that?”  Tyrion sighed.  Shae rolled over onto her side in silence. 

On the Not-So-Good Guys

"Black Sails"

As we fiction fans experience stories through the years, I think of the “good guys” as a time of youth and innocence, “the anti-hero” as an audience-specific protagonist (Thomas Covenant fans, are you still out there?), which leaves a very often used and popular protagonist:  The not-so-good guys. 

My favorite example is from the book and film “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy.  The story is about the good guy, the Sheriff, the bad guy, Anton, Chigurh, and the “in-between” guy, Llewellyn Moss.  Question:  What makes Moss an “in-between” or “not-so-good” guy?  Answer:  Moss wouldn’t go out of his way to harm anyone.  But he saw money, took it, and didn’t have a problem taking the fight to life or death level even when it endangered his wife.   A good guy prototype would have gone to the cops the first thing.  A bad guy would have killed the remaining living man, never returned to the scene, and taken with wife with the money and skipped town, making it more difficult for Chigurh and the Mexicans to track him.  (But that dang transmitter, even in 1980, doh!). 

Another example of “not-so-good guys?  Answer:  The pirate culture; one of romance, good-looking guys, badass fighters on the open seas.  The men stand tall and handsome, sabre at their side; wind blowing threw their unkempt hair, wow, what a heartbreaker.  The other side of these men:  Pirates in present and past are criminals; they attack ships, kill passengers, steal cargo, in the past, moved slaves, stole young men and made slave sailors of them, and I won’t go into their reported treatment of women.  Sometimes I ask myself why pirates are considered so romantic, but think that the life of crime restricted to a ship, well, yes, give pirates their due.  It takes nerve to do that for a lifestyle.

Almost any character can be changed with clever writing into a protagonist.  Anyone that’s read the non-fiction “Wiseguy” and have seen “Goodfellas” see the subtle spin on the story that puts gangster Henry Hill in a more positive light though he was no less of a thug than the guys he kept company with.  I use a dark heroine in my stories, who uses unsavory means to achieve the ends of her enemies.  I think people like to see “no-so-good” guys to show us that some with a hard life make good things happen, as the real world is not a simple place where good and evil is easily defined.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Joffrey in the Underworld

King Joffrey "Game of Thrones"

The love-to-hate little evil King Joffrey of “A Song of Ice and Fire” books and “Game of Thrones” series meets the Gastar series lead character in the afterlife.  Let’s have some fun with His Grace:

Shevata sat in Zermon’s huge chair before the huge fire pit surrounded by a smooth black terrace.  Though she found Hell to be an irksome place, Zermon kept a clean and beautiful throne room even if it was in the name of all that was evil; carved tiles of obsidian made the floors, the huge throne made of obsidian also, smooth and shining.  The cries from the pit from the doomed souls with the mindless small demons scampering about gave her a constant reminder that she was not home.

A small winged demon dragged a handsome blonde teenage boy, of slight build for his age.  His blue eyes twinkled of innocence in the shadow of the fire.  The demon slapped him to the floor.  “Zermon sent you a present.” 
Shevata raised an eyebrow.  “Leave us.”  The demon walked away, taking his place behind the throne.  She looked at a book she was reading with disgust called “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  She tossed it to the demon behind her.  “Take this to Zermon.”  He left with the book, opening it with curiosity.

“So, the little King finally visits us.”  Shevata smiled.  “Get up.”
Joffrey stood, shaking with fear, but obviously tried to hide it.  “I am King, peasant!  You will bring me back my armor and return me to King’s Landing!”
Shevata broke out in laughter.  “You think it’s funny, huh?  I’ll have your throat opened, and we’ll watch you laugh then, bitch!”
Shevata calmed herself.  “Believe me, Your Former Grace, if you can take this throne,” she pointed to her chair, “I will be most grateful.”
Joffrey gained his composure as he turned a moment and looked down into the fire pit.  “Fear of having your soul burned is normal.”  Shevata leaned her head around to see his face.
“Why am I here?”  Joffrey mumbled.
“For your most infamous deed.  Zermon only accepted one charge; tough he could’ve taken many.  The death of Ned Stark is why you’re in Hell.”
“He committed treason!”
“What army did he raise, what method did he use to threaten you or your mother and natural father who is your uncle Jaime?  You had a noble, decent man murdered which escalated the War of Five Kings, killing thousands.”  Shevata glared at the beautiful boy.
“My grandfather started the war over my monster uncle Tyrion!”
“And Tywin wishes for your fate at this time.  He is with Zermon.  You are with me.”
“So, peasant devil woman, what do you plan to do with me?”  Tears began to show in his eyes.
“Nothing.  You’re not special, not more evil than most I see here, and you were never a real King.”  Shevata motioned with her hand and a pair of small demons grabbed him.  She nodded, and they threw him into the fire as his screams echoed through the room.   She made a grim face. “I don't know what could have saved him.”

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Dragon and the Demon

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

The Gastar lead characters meet the dwarves at the Lonely Mountain:

The group of dwarves looked over the odd pair with suspicion.  “Exactly who are you?”  Asked one of them, with a long white beard.
The tall, horned demon opened his mouth to speak, but the teenage girl with him, gestured him to be quiet.  “I am Shevata, and this is Zermon.  We’re here to rid this mountain of the dragon menace.”
The dwarves broke out in laughter.   The demon inspected the mountainside.  “We can use this area.” 
Shevata moved forward to inspect.  A voice behind them said, “I don’t care who you are.  Get out of here.  This is our fight, not yours.  Our city was taken and we’ll not share the treasure with a devil and a strange girl.”
The twosome turned to face the dwarf.  Shevata grinned.  “And you are?”
“Thorin, the King of the dwarves.”
Shevata nudged the demon.  “Hey Zermon, who’d thought?  A comely dwarf?”  They both chuckled.
He waved.  “Be off, short men.”  As Thorin drew his axe and approached them, Shevata tossed a shiny orange disc onto the ground between them.  He looked down at it. 
“Is this some magic trick?”  Thorin looked at the disc and up at Shevata.
“Step past and it you will be in Hell.”
Thorin scowled at them.  “We’ll never open the door for you.”
Shevata picked up the disc and carved a large square into the rock with her golden dagger, standing on Zermon’s shoulders and his horned head for height.  When finished, she motioned to the demon.  “Do you mind?”
Zermon gave the square a push and the rock moved to create a perfect open door. Thorin grabbed her arm “You will wake the dragon for sure!”
Shevata leaned toward the dwarf.  “Who ever told you dragons sleep is a liar.”  She looked at Thorin’s grip with a warning and he released her.  “Don’t follow us.”
“What about Bilbo?” Whispered the gray-haired dwarf to Thorin. 

Inside, Zermon climbed into the upper part of the mines.   Shevata walked over the immense treasure-covered floor, toward the obvious booming voice of a dragon speaking with a terrified voice of another, someone she didn’t know. 
“HaHaHaHaHa!”  Zermon’s massive voice roared in laughter from the upper chamber, filling the mines with his voice.  "There’s nothing in here but a cave lizard; slimy, funny and stupid.  HaHaHaHa!”
The dragon’s head snapped around to Zermon’s voice.  “Who is this that dares enter the domain of Smaug?”
“HaHaHa!  The lizard has a name!  What a stupid name!  Isn’t that the name of a rat? HaHaHaHa!”  Roared Zermon.
As Smaug moved away Bilbo found himself wrapped in rope and jerked across the floor.  A girl pulled him closer to her and removed the lasso. “What are you doing in here?” She whispered.”
Bilbo shaken, gathered his courage.  “I’m to get the Arkenstone for the dwarves.”
Shevata’s eyes widened.  “They sent you in here? “ She looked around.  “Have you seen the it?”  Bilbo pointed.  She motioned and it landed in her hand.  She grasped Bilbo’s hand.  “We must lure him out.” 
“You’re boring me Smaug!” Laughed Zermon as the great dragon chased him through the mines.  It reared back and hurled a massive column of fire at the demon as he stood laughing.  “Only the dumbest lizard would breathe fire at a demon while a little girl takes the Arkenstone! HaHaHa!”  Shevata tossed the stone through the door to the outside as Smaug lunged for it.  As he reached the door, she threw the orange coin to the ground in front of the opening.  As the dragon passed through the door, it became a great flame then it disappeared. 

Shevata walked with Bilbo behind her and picked up the coin.  Zermon caught up and joined them.  Thorin waited, holding the Arkenstone.  She faced the Dwarf King.  “You knew the little one was inside?”
“We needed him to get the Arkenstone.”
She and Zermon looked at each other.  Shevata eyes narrowed at Thorin.  “No noble King would do that.  Perhaps you’ll redeem yourself and die in battle.”
Thorin looked down, ashamed.  “What of the dragon?  It is dead?”
Zermon smiled.  “His soul will burn forever in Hell.”
Bilbo frowned.  “But..do dragons have souls?”
All of them became silent.  Zermon shrugged.  “Well, if it didn’t work, he’ll be flying around that human village.  I think they can kill him.  What do you think, Shevata, maybe that human that threw you off the ballista tower?”

The Dwarves watched as the two walked back down the mountain, arguing if a dragon had a soul or not.