Tag Archives: Unwilling Souls

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.

 

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.

 

Reality Checks Cut Both Ways

unwilling-souls-cover_promoPhilip K. Dick had a saying: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” 2016 has been, for me, the year of the reality check in many different ways. By way of my writing year in review, I’m going to go over four of those below.

I released my first book, Unwilling Souls, late in 2015. What followed was, to put it bluntly, a firm dose of reality. It didn’t do as well, sales-wise, as I would have liked, and it took me a while to come to grips with the disappointment of that. It’s not easy to put that in writing. But this is a writing blog, and I want other writers to see the full spectrum of the industry. I can name three friends off the top of my head who have self-published and found great success right off the bat. But the reality of indie publishing is that there is a lot of noise out there and it will probably take a lot of work and time and some luck for your particular signal to get through.

In the end, I put a lot of time, effort, and care into a story I loved. I released not only a great book but a professionally done one and I’m very proud of it. And if I can brag for a bit, the reviews the book has received so far bear out my belief in it. The high point has been the book’s entry in Mark Lawrence’s second Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. 300 self-published entries were split into “heats” of thirty and distributed to ten bloggers, each of whom read the entries and picked one to send forward to the final round. Amid some very stiff competition over at Lynn’s Book Blog, Unwilling Souls was runner-up in its heat, not quite making it to the finals but earning a very nice review and a consolation interview on Mark Lawrence’s blog. And as perfect counterpoint to the initial disappointment of slow sales, I thought to myself “I can do this. I’m not some sort of fraud.” It was a very different kind of reality check.

Kevin J. Anderson says the best advertisement for your previous book is your next book, and I’d hoped to release the sequel, Ungrateful God, less than a year after the first. I nearly drove myself insane from December ’15 through the end of March of this year working toward an editing deadline. But as working fast is not always working best, and because this book is longer and more complicated book than its older sibling, the edits I got back from Joshua Essoe were more extensive than I planned. When the beginning third of a book needs extensive reworking, that tends to cascade through the rest of the text, and so for anyone patiently waiting for the next installment, please be patient a bit longer. I promise you that the end result will be both much better than it was and a much better book than its predecessor as well. Reality check number three turned out to be that my day job and my sanity necessitate a bit less aggressive of a publishing schedule.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t churn out quality content quickly when I have to. In late March, immediately after turning my draft of Ungrateful God over to Joshua’s red pen, I had a choice to make. I could either forego submitting to the latest Superstars anthology Dragon Writers, or I could write and edit a short story worthy of publication in less than three days — something I’d never done before. Since I already had the Unwilling Souls universe on the brain and a dragon-themed story was both appropriate to that world and timely, I wrote a story set in the distant past of the world of my series about the team that killed the last of the great beasts after the Immurement War (which just happened to be a dragon of sorts). “Shattered Pieces Swept Away” was born. I was very pleased with the story, but didn’t even have time to get it beta-read before having to submit it, so I was not optimistic about its inclusion with so many other great entries. I was both surprised and humbled when it was accepted. It’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do even a year earlier. Call that reality check number four.

And of course, no recap of 2016 would be complete without reporting that for the first time since 2012, I managed to make it back to the Superstars Writing Seminar. Seeing all my old friends in person and making new ones will always be one of the highlights of any year I can manage it. It’s like catnip for writers, and I’m never so motivated to get out there and write as when I leave the seminar. While I won’t be able to go again this upcoming year, rest assured I’ll find my way back.

So 2016 was all about reminding me that a writer has to take the long view. This year has taught me that I can absorb disappointment and keep trucking forward, all the while building a readership little by little (pun intended). Not coincidentally, it’s also the year where I first started feeling like a “real” writer at the start of an exciting journey. Thanks for following my posts this year, Fictorians readers. I look forward to sharing the next year of this journey with you. I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday season, and I’ll see you in the new year!

 

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 (sometimes 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.

Meet the Fictorians: Gregory D. Little

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a cold winter’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Gregory D. Little

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Greg! How are you doing today, and what are you drinking?

Greg Little (GL): Hi Kristin! I’m doing well, though I’m a bit stressed in the way I always get with a looming deadline. At this precise moment I’m drinking an iced, black tea (a mix of iced tea blend and blackberry sage). Unsweet iced tea is my go-to drink, because I like a drink to taste like something and I can drink as much unsweet tea as I want, guilt-free. I also enjoy flavored fizzy water, wine, craft beer and a mixture of my own design I call Cokenade, which is Coke Zero and limeade. Wow. I just realized that I am SUPER pretentious with my beverage choices. Um, next question!

KL: No, not at all! That Cokenade sounds like it should have its own SyFy Channel movie, for real.

So another pressing question: dogs or cats? I have to know.

GL: We have a nine-year-old yellow Lab named Riley (I’ve actually done a Fictorians post about him because he likes to carry his poop bag for us on walks). Both my wife and I are allergic to cats, so that was never really an option, but Riley makes that doubly so. As a puppy he was genuinely curious about cats and wanted to play with them. Two face-clawings later, he shifted to more of a “cat genocide” stance. He’s never actually caught one, thankfully (cats seem to realize he means business and generally retreat), but he would love to. I try not to let this prejudice me toward cats, but there are only so many times you can have your arm nearly pulled out of your socket on a walk before you start to dread the sight of them.

KL: Nothing like a good cat-clawing to the face to learn a lesson. That’s how my cat keeps me in line, anyway.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

GL: I graduated from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) with a bachelors in Aerospace Engineering. If you’ve read my author bio, I call myself a rocket scientist. That’s because when you tell people you are an aerospace engineer, you get one of two reactions: an impressed look or a look that mingles pity and horror. For whatever reason, changing that to “rocket scientist” gets you the impressed reaction a lot more often, so that’s what I go with.

KL: Wow, that’s awesome! So how does your education figure into your writing?

GL: Since science is all about how the physical world works, I like to understand that for the stories I write. For fantasy, I want some sort of logical underpinnings to my magic systems and worldbuilding. That doesn’t mean that every magic system has to have a clearly explained, Brandon Sanderson-esque set of rules, only that I as the author like to have an idea how it works even if I don’t make that clear to the reader. When I tackle science fiction, I feel an obligation to get the science right as much as possible. I try to make any deviations from science deliberate choices to suit the story rather than accidents.

KL: You have one book out right now called Unwilling Souls. What’s it about and what was your inspiration for writing it?

GL: A few years back I wrote a story, “Godbane,” set in a world where the gods were imprisoned inside the hollowed out center of the planet, and a group of blacksmiths had to keep them that way using tools forged of a special metal and empowered by the souls of the dead. The story was about teenage, star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a social chasm left over after the war that imprisoned the gods.

After finishing the story, I thought it would be interesting if those characters had a daughter together, and then a falling out, after which each became powerful leaders and bitter enemies across that same social divide that had doomed their relationship. Unwilling Souls is the story of their daughter, Selestia (Ses for short). Abandoned by her mother, now a business magnate, and her father, now a terrorist, Ses is training as an apprentice smith at the prison where the gods are kept as the story begins, . An attack on the prison occurs on her sixteenth birthday, an apparent attempt to free the gods. As Ses’s father is the prime suspect, she’s forced to go on the run when the authorities lump her into their suspect list.

This interview is perfectly timed, too. Starting tomorrow, April 1st, it will be featured in a Kobo Next for Less promotional deal, where readers can pick up a Kobo e-copy for 50% off it’s normal price. That deal will last until the 15th of April

KL: Great story! Do you have any other books coming out that we can look forward to?

GL: I do! Unwilling Souls is the first of its series, and the sequel, Ungrateful God, should be out sometime this summer. In fact, the deadline I mentioned before is to deliver the manuscript to my editor, Fictorian Emeritus Joshua Essoe. Work on the cover is nearing completion as well, so things are on track! While Unwilling Souls is a chase story, Ungrateful God is more of a mystery with an explosive final third. I’m quite pleased with how it’s turning out.

KL: As Frank and Evan have mentioned in their interviews, writing a series isn’t easy. Do you have any advice you can share that you discovered while writing a series?

GL: Lots! One in particular applies if you write like I do. I’m mostly a discovery writer. While I have end goals and major waypoints in mind when I set out to write a story, a lot of the stuff between those points is discovered as I go. Sometimes the points themselves shift as things change! If you write in a similar fashion, the fear of hemming yourself in later in a series can be very stressful. While you should definitely plan out enough to avoid major disasters of a painted-into-a-corner variety, don’t sweat the small stuff too much. Little roadblocks of that sort will force you to get creative, resulting in better ideas than the lazy ones that are usually the first to occur to you.

KL: Let’s get more general: when it comes to writing advice, what’s the best you’ve heard?

GL: People will tell you that you have to write every day, or x many words or pages per day, or that you should write in the morning vs. the evening vs. the dead of night. When you get right down to it, most people are advising you to write in exactly the way that works best for them. But people are different. Write in the way that works for you. If writing every day causes you to burn out after a few months, then don’t write every day. If writing once a week causes you to get distracted away by other things, then write more often than that. Whatever keeps you writing regularly and enjoying it, do that thing.

KL: Excellent. So let’s touch on how you came to be a Fictorian. When did you join the Fictorians and why?

GL: I met Evan at World Fantasy Convention 2012 in Toronto and we got along well while hanging out with the other Superstars alums. A few months later he contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in doing a guest post. I did and had a great time. He then followed up with similar requests for two or three more months in a row, and after that I was inducted officially. I joined because it’s just a great group of people and coming up with content on a regular basis forces you to think about the details of writing in ways you might just gloss over otherwise.

KL: And finally, what is your favorite Fictorians post that you’ve written so far?

GL: I hate to say I peaked early, but The Inevitability of Myth, one of my guest-posts, was a lot of fun to write, because it combined my love of storytelling with my fascination over modern neuroscience’s giant leaps into understanding of how the human brain works.

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If you have any questions for Greg, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!