Category Archives: Gregory D. Little

Gregory D. Little

As Much Weirdness as Will Hang Together

Me again! A bit earlier in the month, I spoke about one of my favorite authors, Daniel Abraham, and what I believe constitutes the “special sauce” that separates his writing from that of others.

Now, I’ll be subjecting you, dear readers, to my analysis of my own writing. It tends to grow from seeds. I say “seeds” in the plural rather than the singular because I rarely begin a story with a single idea. A single interesting idea is generally not enough (for me at least) to build a story upon. I’ll file the idea away (writing it down if I’m smart) and wait until another, totally different idea, strikes me. If I find that this second idea is challenging–but not impossible–to merge with the earlier notion, a strange kind of resonance begins and my inspiration module kicks into gear. One thing builds upon another builds upon another and on and on they snowball.

That’s how two disconnected ideas:

  1. A race of beings imprisoned in a miniature replica of an entire world
  2. Cities built into the bones of mountain-sized monsters

merged to create the world of Unwilling Souls. These two ideas had, initially, nothing to do with one another. They wouldn’t hang together as-is, so they required tweaking.

Who was this race of imprisoned beings, and why had they been locked away? I decided that these were the gods, locked away in a human-built prison after a failed attempt to exterminate humankind. And the prison itself, rather than simply being a replica of the outside world stored in some fantasy version of the Indiana Jones warehouse, was in fact carved into the very core of the outer world. Prisons require jailers, who require a place to live. The center of a planet is not terribly comfortable and is rather full, so I envisioned a hollowed-out space surrounding the prison-core itself, the magma of the mantle held in check by magic of immense power. In this hollow space, the jailers would live and work, protecting the surface world above from the gods that had sought to destroy them. These jailers would be blacksmiths of a sort, for since the core of an Earthlike planet is made of metal, metalworkers would be needed to maintain this prison of the gods.

So where do the giant beast-bones come in, and why do people live in them rather than building normal cities? Well there were normal cities, it turns out, before the gods began their war against humankind. But in the last gasps of that war, as they realized they were going to lose, the gods summoned up great beasts of truly mind-boggling size (for a real-world comparison, these would laugh at kaiju, chowing down easily on any iteration of Godzilla you can think of). These beasts went on to all remaining cities as well as most of the world before humankind rallied and killed them in turn. Then, having little else to base rebuilding their civilization, they turned to the bones of these beasts and used them as foundations for their new homes. Being magical in nature, the bodies lingered on well past when they otherwise would have. They also retained some other … interesting properties.

So there we have it. A setting chock-full of weirdness that nonetheless hangs together coherently. Or at least, my definition of coherently. What? And incidentally, I’ll be hosting the blog in July for an entire MONTH of good stuff about setting, so stay tuned!

But setting is only part of a story, and worldbuilding alone is not enough. It’s characters that drive a story, after all. And in a world this strange, I wanted characters who were grounded in believable (if larger-than-life) behaviors and personalities. The first story I conceived of for this world was a short story (serving as a prequel to the novels) based a little on one of the oldest there is: Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers. Larimaine and Cassia mine were called. Because Larimaine’s ancestors had opposed the gods in the war and Cassia’s had joined with them, their relationship struggled to bridge an almost endless societal divide. (Also, Larimaine wasn’t nearly good enough for Cassia). They don’t work out, of course, being star-crossed and therefore tragic (but not, like, DEAD tragic) by nature.

I write this way, with pieces finding odd connections to other pieces, because I find great joy in it. An individual idea will rarely spark my interest enough grow into something lager. But as multiple ideas start crashing around together, they bring out nuances in one another they could never have achieved alone. Finding these connections, finding ways to make them all fit together like puzzle pieces from different sets merging to form a picture both impossible and utterly believable is what keeps pulling me back to the keyboard. I’ve always been fascinated with how the world works, with how pieces of science and society and behavior fit together.

Writing fantasy is, at its core, simply a way of determining how a world works. It’s a secret sauce tasty to both myself and, so far at least, my readers!

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Wisdom in Abundance – The Characters of Daniel Abraham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve touted Daniel Abraham’s work on this blog before. It’s no secret I admire his writing as much as any other author working today. Recently, a friend asked me why. There’s plenty of reasons that come easy to hand: prose that is neither too flowery nor too spare, his ability to balance plot, pacing, character, and depth of worldbuilding into a melange that doesn’t rely too heavy on any one ingredient. But of course, there are plenty of other authors that can claim similar skills, and after my friend asked, I realized I’d never really figured out that extra something Abraham brings to his work that keeps me coming back.

The Special Sauce, if you will.

I turned my gaze inward and pondered this for awhile, and hit upon the answer in the most meta way possible. Because that very act was my answer.

Whether he’s writing epic fantasy that spans the lives of a small handful of characters, co-writing a science fiction series (with co-author Ty Franck) that somehow manages to be space opera, hard(ish) sci-fi, and character-centric all at once, or writing a different epic fantasy that does so much awesome stuff I can’t even describe it without making this sentence absurdly long (I tried), Abraham’s books have one constant: characters who think about their actions, both before and after, in the larger context against which they are set. He brings a literary quality to his characters, not enough to bog down plot or pacing, just enough to make them real. Let me try and explain with a few character sketches:

A widow who mourns her husband while acknowledging that he died fighting for the wrong cause. She contemplates the pointlessness and waste–and inevitability–of war even as she sets out to steer her war toward the least bad conclusion.

A detective who believes that saving one missing person from becoming just another statistic in a hardscrabble universe can redeem him from a lifetime of bad decisions he made almost unconsciously. And all the while, he drives a wedge between the human connections that could actually save him, and does so entirely knowingly.

A former priest of a dangerous and destructive cult who recognizes what he once represented as both evil and false and walks away from it, only to find himself drawn back into the fight to stop its spread years later.

A mage who destroys the world through his desire to protect those he loves and their way of life, and in his guilt and desperation to repair the damage, risks destroying even what little remains.

A gentle boy long tormented by his peers until he grows into a man capable of immense cruelty while a portion of him still remains kind and gentle. He is (entirely believably) both monstrous and good at the same time.

These characters act in altruistic manners, or they self-deceive for self-interest, or they desperately try to right wrongs they believe themselves guilty of, falsely or not. Yet in Abraham’s expert hands, all of them have something in common, a hard-won, often tragic wisdom that comes from self-examination (sometimes too late) and a desire to do what is right even if they can’t see what that is.

I know many readers aren’t fans of so-called “navel-gazing” (a term I hate) as a trait in characters. But trust me when I say that Abraham handles this with the same aplomb and balance as he handles his books’ other elements. I’m not certain self-examination of the depth Abraham explores occurs with the same frequency in real-life people, but to the author’s credit, it never bogs down his stories, instead strengthening his recurring themes of growth coming at a cost.

Regardless of what genre he hops into (he’s also got a paranormal romance series, and I can’t wait to see what characters his promised cosmic horror novel novel introduces) Abraham brings us the same quality and depth of characters. It’s this knack that keeps me coming back over and over to his writing.

 

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

It All Started with a Typo

Anyone who spends enough time talking to me about books knows that the books that really blow me away are those that show me something I’ve never seen before. They tend to be a little (or a lot) weird and while they often enjoy a cult following, their oddness keeps them away from mainstream success.

I can’t remember what convinced me to pick up The Grin of Dark, by Ramsey Campbell, but it quickly wormed its way into my consciousness. The book centers on Simon, a disgraced film critic determined to win back his pride–and, he hopes, the approval of his girlfriend’s parents–by writing a critically successful biography of Tubby Thackeray, the world’s greatest comedian during the silent film era, now relegated to barely a footnote.

It doesn’t sound like much, right? But though it may not sound like it from the description above, this book is a deeply unsettling work of horror. In his quest to uncover Tubby Thackeray’s history (did I mention Tubby was a clown?), he discovers fragmented accounts of people literally laughing themselves to death at his live performances. Bits of film Simon watches leave him deeply disturbed. It becomes apparent to the reader, if not to Simon, that Tubby’s history has been erased for a reason.

In his research online, Simon runs afoul of a troll whose typo-ridden posts challenge every point he tries to make (about ten years old now, the book’s use of the internet is dated in some ways but still perfectly relevant in others). As he pours himself deeper into his research, Simon begins experiencing strange sounds and sensations. He begins misspeaking words, sometimes the same words that his troll-nemesis does in his antagonistic posts online. He garbles sentences in ways that will maximally offend those he is speaking to, even his closest loved ones. It’s as if some force or entity is gaslighting him, scrambling his perceptions while convincing him that things he was previously sure of never happened. It’s all deeply creepy, and that’s before the typos begin appearing in the narration of the book themselves.

It happens slowly at first, so slowly that I assumed the first few were honest mistakes that slipped through editing. Regrettable, but it happens. Yet as Simon’s paranoia mounts and his behavior grows more erratic, mistakes trickle into the narration with greater frequency. Every face Simon glimpses in the street is suddenly hostile, every comment pregnant with hidden animosity. He is persecuted from every side, the whole world out to get him. Simon is being driven insane by a darkly comedic force of great malice–or maybe by his own crippling sense of inadequacy–and the book makes the reader feel that shattering of reality with disquieting power.

As Simon’s life unravels around him, the world makes less and less sense. He can’t believe anything he sees or hears. This is a book that will stick with you long after you read it. And now I’ll recount a little anecdote to you. I pulled the book down off my shelf to reference in writing this post. I went to look up some of the typos I wrote about above, hoping to quote a few to show you what I meant.

I couldn’t find any for the longest time. Despite having read the book twice, I was genuinely starting to wonder if I’d imagined them, so much so that it was a huge relief when I finally did find one. I’m… going to put the book back on the shelf now.

About the Author: Gregory D. LittleheadshotRocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Ungrateful God – Launch Day!

I’m really excited to share my latest book, Ungrateful God, with our Fictorians readers! AND I lucked out. March’s Fictorians theme is friendships in fiction, and the timing couldn’t have been better. When I set out to write a sequel to Unwilling Souls, one of my specific goals for the book was to have Ses Lucani, fresh from both stinging betrayal and soaring triumph at the end of the first book, assemble a ragtag band to help her stand against the entrenched cults of the imprisoned gods and their continued attempts to free their masters.

I felt this was an important step for Ses. Seemingly abandoned by her parents as an infant and mostly ignored by her guardian, she’s spent most of her youth a loner, never able to get close to others lest they discover either the truth about her parentage or the deformity of her mismatched eyes. Forced to flee her home and then to accept help wherever she can find it, she finds herself beginning to trust only to be utterly betrayed. As such, the start of Ungrateful God finds her understandably wary about ever trusting too much again.

After Ses finds herself alone in a city built into the husk of an immense crab where no one can remember what happens at night, she’ll discover that when the stakes are high enough, you can’t choose your friends any more than you can your family. Whether they be the secretive offspring of hellship pilots, a proven liar, or an actual demon-servant of one of the gods, fate (or me, rather) could not have handed her a group more perfectly attuned to her well-earned paranoia.

Fictional friendships that begin in conflict are often the most entertaining to read. I’ve only scratched the surface of this group’s potential. And much to Ses’s dismay, I will make no promises for their trustworthiness…

You can find Ungrateful God at the links below beginning TODAY, Friday the 24th of March.

ALSO, in celebration of the new book, Unwilling Souls will be on sale for just $0.99. How long will the sale last? Through launch day, certainly. After that, who knows? So don’t delay on the chance to get two great books for less than $6.00!

Amazon (Kindle) or Amazon (Paperback) separate links until Amazon links them up

Kobo

iBooks

Nook

About the Author: Gregory D. LittleheadshotRocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.