Dogs and cats! Living together! Mass hysteria!

Do you live in an alternate reality?

In a recent New York Times article radio astronomers reported they had seen the markers of the beginning of the Big Bang, The article reminded of one of physicist Dr. Guth’s other ideas: parallel universes.

Spock from the Mirror Universe

Spock from the Mirror Universe

I won’t go into the physics, which entails inflation theory. Needless to say, the implications are manifold.

From what I understand of the idea the physics must be consistent across the universes because the particles from which the universes began are all the same. Balls will not fall up and Hogwarts does not exist.

Or could it exist?

Hogwarts Castle--Under the Cover of the Universe?

Hogwarts Castle–Under the Cover of the Universe?

A different roll of the evolutionary dice and humans or human-like creatures could evolve to have the ability to manipulate matter, or maybe they develop cybernetic implant technology that gives them the ability to shape the world around them. No wands needed.

Maybe your mirror universe self has mastered the powers of creation?

Let’s say these alternate universes exist. Alan Guth was spot on about the cosmic background ripples after all. Let’s say the alternate realities are there under the blanket of the universe. How do we travel to these alternate realities?

Sliders

Sliders

Sliders delved into the idea of alternate earths (the first season was wicked awesome. After season two I couldn’t stand to watch it). They traveled to these alternate realities via a wormhole.

Maybe travel to an alternate reality or universe is possible through a simple change in your state of mind as was used by Christopher Reeve’s character to travel back in time in the movie, Somewhere in Time.

Somewhere in Time

Maybe Stephen Lawhead had the right idea? In The Song of Albion Trilogy Lewis Gillies, a student at Oxford, finds his way to the Celtic Otherworld of Albion. He travels there by circling a Celtic cairn at just the right time of day.

Maybe there is a village, like Wall in Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust, where on the other side lies the faerie realm?

Maybe my own Tir Alaind is real? Maybe Hogwarts is real? Maybe Patrick Rothfuss’s Four Corners of Civilization is real?

Maybe our minds aren’t imagining these alternate realities? Maybe our minds are simply peeking under the blanket of the universe and seeing what our eyes cannot see.

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Editing Post II: Villains

How is your day going? What have you been up to?

editing image

I’m coming to the end of the hiatus I took from my novel, The Tome of Worlds. I begin the editing process Sunday morning, 8/18.

In the interim I have written a short story on the death of Edgar Allan Poe called “Reynolds! Reynolds!”, a short story centered around a door to another time and place called “The Door Frame from Yesteryear”, and I have conceived of another story–short or novel I do not know yet–of the life a handicapped man as a freak in a 1930s Carnival.

The last story requires research because the extent of my knowledge of depression-era carnivals comes from the cancelled HBO television series Carnivale, so I will soon begin reading a novel called Nightmare Alley by William Gresham, the story of a man’s downward spiral to the level of a geek in a 1930s carnival, the lowest of the low in carnival life. Has anyone read Nightmare Alley?

nightmare alley

I don’t know where the story of the handicapped man will take me, but it’s a story I must tell.

But, on to editing. As with the last post, much of this advice comes from the editing novel The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass.

In my last post on editing I covered the following topics:

Summary for Editing Post I

  • Always, always, always write with passion.
  • Live through your characters. Feel what they feel. Use your own experiences to convey those emotions.
  • Show villainy, loathing, and greatness through impact on the world and characters

For this post I will talk about villains.

Villains

Who are the memorable villains?

  • For me Voldemort was not memorable as a villain. I sympathized with him, but he was not memorable in the same way as Harry, Ron and Hermione.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss has a villain, but the villain is not memorable; rather, the villain is fleeting and ambiguous. He lurks.
  • The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia? Still, no. She lures in and tricks Edward, is evil to children, but she is pure, black and white evil.
  • O’Brien from 1984. Now there was a villain. He lured in the protagonist and betrayed him. O’Brien’s memorable quote was  “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
  • Mustapha Mond from Brave New World. He wasn’t a villain, but he believed that they had to sacrifice certain freedoms for the good of society. His arguments were compelling.
  • Moby Dick? A symbol of obsession? Or just a whale?
  • Sauron was straight evil. He was a villain, yes, but he had no depth. Personally I found Saruman to be a greater evil because he was once good.

Depth. Great villains require depth. They cannot be a cardboard Mr. Evil. I must understand their motivation, which is why most of these villains fail for me.

Voldemort was evil, but why did he want to convert the world into a magical version of 1984? Just because he thought wizards were better than muggles? I saw a mix of Hitler and 1984 in Voldemort, but there was very little depth to Voldemort, little justification for why he became who he became.

Out of the villains I list, O’Brien is my favorite. He lures Winston Smith into a trap posing as a member of The Brotherhood, an ambiguous revolutionary group Winston seeks to join. O’Brien appears, at first, to be friendly and sympathetic to Winston’s dislike of the party. He becomes Winston’s friend. In the end it is O’Brien who turns on Winston, tortures him, re-trains him.

O’Brien is evil. He believes he is right. Like Mustapha Mond he makes compelling arguments. During O’Brien’s initial interactions with Winston, O’Brien comes across as human.

Now, I have not read 1984 in twenty years, but I still remember O’Brien. When I set out to write this post I was not thinking about 1984, but when I had to think about villains, O’Brien came to mind instantly.

So what makes a great villain in your mind?

Donald Maass says that there is no villain as scary as one who is right. I believe that’s why I found O’Brien to be such a deep villain. I didn’t agree with O’Brien’s philosophy, but in the end Winston did.  If you, as a reader, believe in the protagonist, as I believed in Winston, as I came to be committed to Winston, then when the protagonist is swayed by the villain you are moved, too.

There are three villains in The Tome of Worlds:

  • Naestrum, the master of a realm called The Deadlands, a place people go when they become lost
  • The Seers, a group of creatures from another land who are believed to be all-knowing, all-seeing
  • Tartarus, the embodiment of Hell from Greek Mythology

When I re-visit my novel I intend to put more into these villains. Donald Maass suggests you do the following, and I agree:

  • Justify your villain’s actions
  • Make them right
  • Write a villain who could sway you
  • Reject the idea of evil. Make the villain good (from their point of view)
  • Don’t let the villain lurk, put them in your protagonist’s face

Once again I notice a theme in this advice. If you want the reader to believe in your villain, make your protagonist believe in him.

Editing Post III

For the next installment I will hit upon secondary characters and sidekicks, though the advice is similar to what I just presented for villains. The bulk of the post will focus on scene revision.

As always, if you have any editing advice please don’t hesitate to add your opinion. Thank you.

A Review of The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

From the book description courtesy of Goodreads:

The False Prince

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontented kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

As with all of my reviews, no spoilers.

The False Prince is a fun book with a twisty ending that might cause sleep deprivation if reading before bed is your habit. I have a set time I go to bed because I wake up early to write. Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince foiled me three times last week, keeping me up way past my bedtime.

What kept me reading were the mysteries that were added with each chapter. Question upon question. Not only was there the overarching question of who would become the next prince, but you come to wonder what happened to the previous prince? The royal family? Then there are other questions. Who are these boys Conner has chosen? What’s Conner’s motivation? All of these questions are layered on chapter by chapter.

Still, the mark of a good story is how you come to feel about the characters. In The False Prince you come to care for Sage and the other boys who are recruited to play the role of prince. Their lives do not improve after leaving the orphanage, because while they have better food and clothing, the possibility of death hangs over them all. The supporting cast charms you as well, propelling interest towards the next book, The Runaway King.

The real find, in my opinion, is the protagonist, Sage,  a witty, funny boy, with a depth that unfolds over the course of the story, and though you might think you know how the story will end, you will be surprised. At least I was.

For me, characters make the story. I don’t think we’d care much about Hogwarts or Diagon Alley if Harry, Ron and Hermione had been written as flat and uninteresting. Jennifer Nielsen has created characters you will come to enjoy (or loathe).

In fact, Jennifer Nielsen’s writing reminds me of JK Rowland’s in that the only details given are those needed to advance the story. Her characters shine through. That’s the strength of her writing, in my opinion.

The False Prince is a fun book for all ages. I say if you like Harry Potter, give The False Prince a try. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Why only 4 stars? I was left wanting to know more about the world Jennifer Nielsen has created. She gives just enough to get us through the story, but I wanted to know more. I come from reading novels by Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Goodkind, and Raymond Feist, where maybe too much meat is given. It’s a hard balance to strike, and I think Jennifer almost got there. I imagine more holes will be filled in with The Runaway King.

Great start to a trilogy.

Would you go to another dimension, another reality, to help if asked?

The Worlds Within started with a simple musing on my part, probably influenced by Harry Potter and Neverwhere. What if someone from another dimension, a parallel universe, came to me and needed help? What if I could never return? Would I go? Would you go?

English: Map of Narnian world as described in ...

English: Map of Narnian world as described in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For me it would depend on my situation. When I first conceived of The Nyre Lands my personal situation was far different, but now if Janus Riberin appeared in my room asking for aid I would politely turn him down, because I have a family. I am happy here in this reality. As you read The Worlds Within, I hope you come to understand and feel what Aedinn Finn goes through as he comes to realize, as his memory returns, the consequences of the choice he made.

You will notice in Harry Potter and Neverwhere that the protagonists are in similarly poor personal situations. Harry’s family is horrible to him. His cousin bullies him. Consequently, Harry has a low opinion of himself. Richard Mayhew in Neverwhere has a bossy girlfriend, whom he seems destined to marry, a miserable job and low self esteem–just like Harry. Would they have willingly gone to the other realities had their situations been different? In Harry’s case, yes, of course, but in Richard Mayhew’s case I daresay he might never have seen Door lying there on the sidewalk. His own personal unhappiness is what opened his eyes to Door while other people stepped past her.

Aedinn Finn might never have seen Janus Riberin sitting in that chair, or perhaps Janus Riberin would never have come to Aedinn had Aedinn’s situation been better, because Finn would not have been open to coming with Janus to The Nyre Lands.

Which brings me to my final point. The Worlds Within would not have entered the mind of the person I am today, because my subconscious would have politely turned down the offer. No thank you, I am happy.