Print [to] Screen

I love movies and TV. In fact, I watch far, far more than I read these days. My readers also know I like to paint pictures in my prose, and I’d love to see this passage framed in film:

Vic started climbing again, her knees scraping against the stone. The rock was cool, smooth, almost clammy, but the handholds offered a solid grip. The darkness of the cleft soothed her eyes, but she forgot the throb in her temples when her head emerged into the light.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Bethniel sat cross-legged beside the opening; the captains lounged beyond.

The sinking sun blazed over a cacophony of arches and pinnacles towering above flat-topped mesas, ragged fissures, fluted ridges. Blue and gold, orange, purple, red, even pale green striped and swirled in intricate patterns toward distant blue peaks capped with white.

I’d also love to see my beloved characters brought to life, and while I’m indulging in the book-to-film fantasy, I’ll give myself a say in who should play whom.

Victoria of Ourtown

Vic sliced open the soldier’s shirt, handing Silla a swath of fabric to force between his teeth. “I hope they find you in time,” she said as she cut. Shrieks muffled, the man jolted and bucked, but her comrades held him. “I almost wish I could be there when the Relmlord sees this. I hope you’re still alive, so he can tell you what your punishment would have been, had it been me you found. Knowing him, he probably won’t tell you—he’ll show you.”

“You’re the one they wanted?” Silla asked over the man’s gagged scream.

Vic pointed to the name carved into the man’s bloody chest. “That’s what he called me.”

“Kara. Like the wizard.”

Vic shrugged, then read aloud the message she’d cut into the man’s skin. “I raped a girl I thought was Kara.” Standing, she touched her tongue to the blade, relishing the iron. “I really hope you’re still alive when your comrades find you. If you are, when you see Lornk Korng, tell him Victoria of Ourtown will never be his.”

Vic is intellectually brilliant, hard as nails on the outside, and fragile as glass on the inside. Michelle Duckett, a London model and photographer, captured that mix of smart, tough vulnerability beautifully on the cover, but who could replicate that on film? Vic is also petite—her diminutive size in relation to her enemy, her lovers, and her extraordinary telekinetic power is a deliberate contrast. I’d love to have Kate Mara or Saoirse Ronan read for the role.

Lornk Korng, Lord of Relm

Lornk had just taken her father from her, as he took her clothes, her hair, her self. Her head shrank into her shoulders, while his eyes grew larger, bluer as he watched. “You want me to have nothing but you,” she said, her voice clearer than she would have thought.

He laughed softly, stretching his arms out, then twining his fingers behind his neck. “I told you once—I want you to crave me. Why do you think that is?”

“So I’ll obey you.”

“Oh, I’ve had your obedience for months. What I want now is your devotion. The day may come when you will have the world in your hands, and I want you to hand it to me, without reservation.”

Lornk is a charismatic sociopath, and he would make a delicious role for any actor to sink his teeth into. In days past, Jeremy Irons or Ralph Fiennes would have played him spectacularly. During the Schindler’s List and English Patient era, Fiennes even looked exactly how I imagine Lornk. Fiennes would still be great, though he has perhaps aged a bit past the role; Michael Fassbender would now top my list to play Vic’s nemesis, even though he’s a bit young for it.

Ashel, Prince of Latha

“We meet again, Highness,” Lornk Korng said. “I regret under less comfortable circumstances.”

Fearing the Relmlord would see the recognition in his eyes, Ashel ducked his head. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said.

“Oh, stop,” Lornk said irritably. “This ruse might have worked if we hadn’t met, but don’t insult me by pretending it to my face.”

“I’m not Prince Ashel—”

“Highness, it’s very simple. I have a document I want you to sign.” The guard held the paper so Ashel could read it.

I, Prince Ashel of Narath, wish for peace between the people of Relm and the people of Latha. I call upon my mother, Elekia of Reinoll Parish, elected Ruler of Latha, who came to her position through subterfuge and malicious intent, to end hostilities and withdraw all Lathan troops from Relman territory.

“You’re mad to think the prince would sign that,” Ashel said.

Committed to art over politics, Ashel loves music and revelry, but as the story unfolds, empathy and courage emerge as his defining characteristics. The actor who plays him must have the presence to stand as Lornk’s equal and opposite, as well as jaw-dropping good looks and a fantastic singing voice. I don’t know whether he can sing, but Ricky Whittle looks like Ashel, and would be phenomenal plumbing the depths of the character.

Los Angeles premiere of 'Pacific Rim'

Ricky Whittle

Geram of Alna

On the edge of the campsite, a Relman with arms thick as a ship’s mast dragged the prince into the trees. A wiry man and burly woman trotted alongside, eyes darting for pursuers. Whatever happens, don’t let him be captured. Idiot. Henrik let a green prince loose in Fembrosh with that stupid harp and tells me, don’t let him get captured. Geram followed them out of the copse and watched from behind a tree as they bound Ashel hand and foot in a dry creekbed. Listening, he picked out the voice of the Relman commander from their memories.

“Daniy,” Geram cried into their minds, “come here!”

The big one jumped and dashed off. Slipping from behind the tree, Geram put an arrow in the woman’s eye and another in the man’s chest. A slice across the throat finished him.

“It’s me.” He knelt and cut Ashel free. “Are you hurt?”

Muffling his thoughts, the prince sat up, rubbing his wrists. Blood seeped from a cut on his back, but he took a stoneknife off a Relman and headed back into the copse.

“No.” Geram held him back. “It’s all over now. We have to run for it.”

Selfless, stalwart, and supremely skilled, Geram is the one you want beside you in a battle or when your worst nightmare unfolds. One of Latha’s strongest Listeners—people with profound telepathic abilities—he’s a consummate warrior, and you can count on him to do his job, regardless of the cost to himself. I’d like to have Nick Cannon or Michael B. Jordan come in and read for Latha’s most loyal soldier and friend.

Earnk Korng

Pallid and sweating, his father raised himself onto an elbow and sipped water laced with harlolinde. In the frigid air of the cabin, he wore only a nightshirt, damp and soiled with seepage from his wound. “You know who did this to me?”

Earnk gazed out the window. “Yes.”

“Do you still think you love her?”

Earnk’s head swiveled to face his father. Lornk was grinning, his teeth and eyes cloudy, his face now shining with fever. Clenching his fists behind his back, Earnk shook his head. “Of course not. I’ve—that was an infatuation.” He cleared his throat. “I know my duty—to Relm as much as you. Count on it.”

“I’d like to.” Father’s smile relaxed, followed by Earnk’s shoulders. “But can I? You’re your mother’s son more than mine.”

Earnk is trapped between his fear of Lornk and his ambition to succeed him as Relmlord, but his unrequited love for Vic gives him the strength to defy his father. The actor who takes this role should excel at befuddled angst. Ryan Gosling or Max Thieriot both have a wounded, dreamy quality that would make them great fits for the role.

Bethniel, Princess and Heir of Latha

“The Senate took my birthright and handed it to my mother. They’re not going to take it away from her, and she’s not going to give it up until she’s dead. It’s what she’s wanted her whole life.”

Vic crossed her arms, a beat of sympathy in her throat. “This could be a suicide mission, and being captured is worse than being killed, when it comes to Lornk Korng.”

“But the title Heir only means something if the Senate agrees to the inheritance. They didn’t elect me Ruler because they believed I couldn’t handle it. I need to prove I can, or when the time comes, the Senate will pass me over again, and the throne could pass out of my family altogether.”

“Lornk broke me into pieces, Beth, and if I hadn’t escaped, he would have put me back together the wrong way round. I’m terrified what he’ll do to Ashel. I do not want him doing anything to you.”

“There’s no reward without risk, not for me anyway.”

Ashel’s sister Bethniel loves fashion and parties, but she hides a will of steel beneath her frivolous mask. Heir to Latha’s throne, she already has a ruler’s willingness to do the unthinkable, if the outcome will be in the national interest. Zoe Saldana looks exactly how I imagine Bethniel, although she is nearly twenty years older than the character (not that you could tell). I’d also like to see Zendaya or Jessica Lucas read for this part.

Elekia, Queen of Latha

“I’ve done nothing but test you since the day you arrived. But you passed, Vic. This is your prize.”

Trembling, Vic retrieved the dagger. Its blade was finer than any crystal; it balanced marvelously in her palm, but the sight of it sent hysteria beating up her throat. “It’s filthy. I can’t.” She sank onto the queen’s bed, itching with the memory of Lornk’s fingers.

“Don’t look at it.” Elekia pressed the velvet into Vic’s hands. “Don’t touch the metal. But when you get to Lordhome, cleanse it with his blood.” The queen pulled Vic’s chin up. Her fingers warm, they soothed the hysteria creeping across Vic’s skin and up her throat. “You are my youngest child, who came to me almost grown. I didn’t bear you, didn’t rear you, but you’re no less mine than the ones I nursed from my breast. I know you have the strength to do what you must, because you have my strength. Show it to Lornk. Then bring my son and daughter safely home.”

Elekia hides her passions and worries behind an impassive hauteur. She’s played a lifelong chess match against Lornk, and will use every tool and stratagem, including her loved ones, to thwart him. Thandie Newton, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Gina Torres all have the presence to portray this ice queen; Torres has the height too.

Wineyll of Narath

“How old are you? Fourteen?” The girl was only a hair taller than Vic, with eyes as wide as a harrier’s.

“I’m sixteen and I’ve been to Fembrosh. Like you, I went early, Marshall.”

“I doubt you went early for the same reason I did,” Vic retorted.

“Show her,” Beth interrupted.

Wineyll nodded curtly, and Ashel appeared in the room. Vic yelped and hopped backward, her stomach lurching. He wore his Guild robes and beamed at her, his eyes fixed on hers. Pulse throbbing, she tore her gaze off the image. “Is that wizardry?”

“Illusion. It’s entirely in your mind. I can trick your brain into seeing what’s not there.” Ashel vanished, and so did the princess. “Or make you think you don’t see something that is.” Bethniel reappeared.

“Wineyll is the most powerful Listener in Latha.” The princess grinned.

A young musician with spectacular telepathic powers, Wineyll is the ringer in Vic’s plan to rescue Ashel and wreak her revenge on Lornk, but this talented teen has a tragic past that may set the stage for Vic’s undoing. The reigning queen of troubled—and troublesome—teenagers is Maisie Williams, and I’d love to see what she’d do with the role.

MaiseWilliams

Maisie Williams

Did any of my choices surprise you? Who would you suggest play your favorite character(s) in A Wizard’s Forge?

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Authors: Don’t Rush; Revise

These days, every “how to succeed in as an author” blog you read advises you to release as many books as you can as quickly you can. All successful indie authors (that I know) have multiple books–or series–on the market, and several have parlayed their methodology into side businesses focused on telling other indie authors how to write, publish, and sell indie books–advice that boils down to, “write a lot of books and bring them to market fast.”

This strategy isn’t unique to indie authors. Many traditionally published authors, both famous and obscure, push work out quickly too, especially if they’re writing series. Being prolific works if you want to sell books, and if you can produce a page-turner in six months or less, you’re awesome.

But…

An awful lot of authors can’t really produce a gripping story as a first draft, or a second. When they try, the work ends up being substandard, or not as good as it could have been if the author had taken the time to look critically at the work and address the narrative shortcomings. You especially see this a lot with series, where the first book might be mind-blowingly good, and then the quality drops off.

Exhibit A: the Hunger Games Series

51zkheo7x8LSo, Suzanne Collins wrote this dystopian page-turner called The Hunger Games. It was action-packed, suspenseful, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking–pretty close to a perfect book, in my view. Catching Fire, the sequel published by Scholastic a year later, suffered a bit as a segue story with a cliffhanger ending, but was nearly as suspenseful and action-packed as its predecessor. The following year, Scholastic released Mockingjay. Alas, Mockingjay was loaded with characters talking instead of doing. In the first two books, Katniss, the protagonist, lives at the center of the action, but in the third book, Katniss only hears about many important events during the planning or aftermath stages. Frankly, this read as lazy writing. Collins could have (and should have) rejiggered her plot to keep Katniss in the center of the action; instead Katniss spends many chapters sitting around waiting for news of other characters’ doings. As a result, the third Hunger Games book was the opposite of the first–instead of devouring page-turning suspense, I slogged through a bunch of dull conversations leading to a series of irritating anticlimaxes. Now, I don’t know whether the published Mockingjay text was the first draft or the twentieth (and it still sold a bajillion copies), but I suspect it was an early draft and that deadline pressure from Scholastic, or perhaps just Collins’s own desire to release the book quickly, led to a substandard novel.

Authors: Please Put Narrow Escapes and Important Discoveries in the Book

How many times have you read a story where the protagonist slips into a safe space, breathes a sigh of relief, then discusses that close call with a companion–and the close call itself isn’t in the book! I have seen this reliance on dialogue to convey action a lot, especially in books by fellow indie authors which I know to be produced quickly. All too often, the author releases what is essentially his or her first draft, with only minimal revisions. It pisses me off when I see good writers do this, because I know they can do better, if they’d only invest the time in revisions.

Monkeyyawn

See, I often describe an event through dialogue in my first draft of a scene, and then I have to check myself: “God, that’s boring! Don’t have them talk about that fight–back up and write the fight!” Backstory action can be described through dialogue, but if the event is important and occurs within the timeframe of the story, the author should take the time to craft the scene and weave it into the book. Sometimes this means rewriting the lead-up scenes, so that the main characters remain in the center of the action. Sometimes it means simply taking the time to backfill an action sequence instead of just plowing forward with the plot and getting the book done. Sure, an indie author’s success depends on having multiple books on the market. But if your first book (or your third) is just a bunch of dull conversations leading to a series of irritating anticlimaxes, your readers won’t be likely to pick up your next book, and that defeats the purpose of having all those books out there.

Speculative Fiction Cantina Podcast

Do you like speculative fiction? Strong female protagonists? Work by A.M. Justice or C.C. Aune? Then tune into the Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast at 6 pm Eastern tonight. My good friend and fellow author C.C. Aune (who wrote my favorite book of 2016) and I will be reading excerpts from our work and talking about fantasy and writing with the podcast’s host, S. Evan Townsend.
As readers of this blog know, A Wizard’s Forge is about a young woman, descended from marooned space travelers, who slowly uncovers a magical destiny while she seeks revenge against the man who abused her.
C.C.’s novel, The Ill-Kept Oath (which I reviewed here) is a Regency era historical fantasy featuring an underground group of mages plotting against the crown. Two young women with blossoming magical abilities–without anyone to explain their powers or how to use them–seem to be the only ones who can stop the plot.