Monday, June 15, 2009

On Illustrating My Own Writing

This third part in the deconstructing Armageddon series, takes a topic discussed on a forum I belong to, The Fifthwind Here I've fleshed out some of the thoughts I had then.I think the difference in writing flow from straight forward writing to doing combined illustrations with writing is certainly up to the author, but I can definetely state my own preferences and experience. There were definitely times during writing that I decided to cut down on the amount of description going into characters because I knew that they'd be depicted in an illustration, or already had been. This wasn't a rule by any means, and because several of the illustrations get done after the writing is done, I don't always know that I'll have an illustration for that part of the book. When it comes to clean up and cutting though, I definitely can scrap descriptive passages a little harder than your typical non-illustrated novel. Its just one of the benefits of being an artist as well.

As for timing of when drawings are done, I work on illustrations before writing, during writing, and finish up the remaining ones after writing -- all for different purposes.The ones I do before the writing help with the visualization of characters and (sometimes) places. I do this mostly for my own benefit when I'm writing about any of said character's. I get a feel for who the character is when I'm drawing them, based on the design of their armor, clothing, hair, skin, and body type etc. Many of the drawings I begin with have been done in rough form, from anywhere between 20 and 5 years ago. I clean these up and color some of them, and ultimately put them in the book as well, but its for a visual aid to myself more than anything at this point (I also like to have teaser art to post on my Deviantart site ).

The illustrations done during the writing process, are done to keep me from getting burnt out, and done in more of a production mode to ensure I can get them all completed. There have been several times where some of these drawings depicted a particular scene and I modified the book to capture or align with the illustration. A lot of background/landscape type illustration gets done at this point as I decide there's a place that should really be visually depicted. I'll have a site written in the book that I can work from, or hand to another illustrator even (I don't do a lot of background stuff myself, as there's others who are WAY better), and then I can take the tiny details that show up in the illustration and go back to the passage where I described it and make it feel more real with those details.

And at last, I do illustrations after the ms is completed as well. Part of this is because there's just so many illustrations! The other part is because I now have secondary characters that need a visual depiction that I never had drawn before, or because there's specific scenes that I'd like shown. Its at this point that I have a solid idea of how many illustrations I'll need for the page count also.

In Armageddon - The Battle of Darkening Skies, there are over 130 illustrations in both greyscale and black and white lineart. If you weren't aware, I began work on the Armageddon Online Card Game (which is still in production) a short while before I began work on the novel. Because of that, I had closer to 350-400 illustrations that were created for the Armageddon OCCG, but a good number of those simply didn't fit in the story of the first book. I had intended to ask the publisher to help pay for some additional freelance work to help pay colorists so that the first book had more illustrations, but my publisher, Eloquent Books, isn't a publisher who has the resources to do that sort of thing, and so I settled on a lesser amount for this first book. Will I do more for the second book, The White Steel Peaks? I'd sure like to. I fully intend to, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Thank you all who give this blog an occassional read. I had my first comment post the other day and was glad for that! It means someone's reading at least, and that's all that matters. Have a great night everyone.

Terry Tibke

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On Magic and Miracles

This is the second article in the Deconstructing Armageddon series, and it's a very special topic we're discussing today. To many fantasy readers, the magic system is the foundation of what makes one's fantasy unique and their world special. I tend to disagree with this statement, and would be perfectly fine with a fantasy world that doesn't even utilize magic, as long as it kept it's foundations deep in the world of myth. Nevertheless, I did choose to use a magic system, but more importantly I choose to follow my own personal beliefs and use a "miracle system."

I was raised in a very religious family and though I think there was a lot of good in that, I also think some of it was a bit misguided. Still, being prevented from ever seeing anything to do with magic, or evil -- to watch He-Man, play Golvelius, D&D, or even watch Smurfs -- all steered me towards developing a monotheistic system of miracle bestowment. Was I simply calling magic another thing: miracles? Perhaps, but couldn't magic just be another name for miracles anyway? And when it comes down to it, I designed the miracle system for the Armageddon RPG I created back then, and with that being the case, isn't it just a bunch of numbers used to calculate damage, or healing, or some other sort of special event anyway? Of course. Yet again though, I've strayed, but isn't that what blogging is for?

When creating Caball, the planet in the Armageddon fantasy world, I wanted to do something that a lot of fantasy doesn't do (I know, with me and all my love for classic fantasy, I did have to change something). I wanted to build the world with a single god, even called The God. There's so much polytheistim in fantasy that I wanted to do something else, something more western based than eastern (in this case). I also asked myself a question: What if everyone was born, knowing they were created by The God, as it were? Its an interesting question, and one that will begin to be explored more as the books go on.

The miracles granted by The God in Armageddon, are all filtered through the Seraphim. If you're familiar with the word, the Seraphim are the highest order of angel, and in the Armageddon world, all of the elements used throughout the universe are filtered from The God, through these Protectors of the elements, or Seraph's. Everyone on Caball knows that the clerics and priests are the most capable of amazing doings, while those who practice magic are frowned upon by The God. Nevertheless, magic too, exists.

The magic is more of a mystery in its origins. There are words spoken to cast spells, but none of the magic users are sure where those words come from, nor do all magi speak the same magical language -- they are varied and diverse. The Gewurmarchs, the evil sorcerors who lead the Dragon Army in the Armageddon series, are masterful magic users. I don't want to give too much away of the ongoing plotlines beyond the first book, but the Gewurmarchs use a special kind of magic more mysterious than all the others. We'll begin to discover what this is starting in book 2 and continuing on throughout the series.

I also mentioned that all folk know that they were created by The God. With that knowledge, all war based on religion is thrown out the window as long as we continue to agree on the statements passed from The God through his angels to the ancient folk of Caball. From that point, anything can happen to the writings that were meant to be written, but primarily, the teachings remain in tact for most people. So war now only hinges on other differences of opinion. Or, war can be started when those who know The God created them, choose to do something other than what's generally believed to be good. Or war can begin at the hands of those evil creatures and monsters that were NOT created by The God (I know I said all folk, but I mean all humanoid folk and animals, and not the evil monsters and goblins and orcs and imps and gnolls that walk the world). You see, quite an interesting question to think about, right?

Hopefully I've given you a bit more insight into what feuled my writing for the Armageddon series, and hopefully you'll one day be interested in reading it, or any other fantasy novel, if you never have.

Terry Tibke

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On Eastern Influence in Armageddon

This is the first article in a series that will focus on some of the concepts, influences, and philosophies that lie behind the fairly straightforward storyline in the first Armageddon novel, Armageddon - The Battle of Darkening Skies.

While I have a few of them, my one liner for when people ask me the question, "What the book about?" is: "Its like Lord of the Rings meets Kung Fu, with a LOT of dragons thrown in." There are several meanings even behind this simple statement, and I want to talk a little bit about them tonight.

In putting together the story, I wanted something that was as close as I could get to classic fantasy and its themes, while still instilling flavor that was varied and diverse. I personally don't believe in just "making up" the entire racial cast in a fantasy story; I don't think it was ever meant to be that way. Myth from the past should influence fantasy and be a clear definer of what fantasy is. This is the reason I cling to racial types like elves, dwarves, men, halfings, gnomes, fairies etc. They all existed in one form or another in mythology, and have all be well defined in the genre.

One of the things I did do though, was to bring in the influence of the east. In the series, we have The Knights of the Hawk, living in the prarie covered lands of Genova. The main character, Turim Gliderlance, the half-elf is a Knight of the Hawk himself, but we also have Meineken Shadowstar, a character Turim meets early on in the book.Meineken is a ninja Master of the Black Talon Ninja clan, and one of four such Masters who run the clan. We discover that the Black Talon Clan lives in one of the cities in the southern part of Genova -- right upon the southern shore in fact -- a city called Tusokan.

Tusokan has an interesting history itself, and that's brought out in the book as well, but essentially its people came from the "western" islands (which are actually more reflective of eastern asian islands) long ago. Everything about Tusokan reflects their culture -- a culture that's remained alive over the last several hundred years of them being there, and a culture that's even pushed its influence into the rest of Genova. Some of the Genovan's clothing styles are a bit influenced by the people of Tusokan including wide headware that's used while on the farms. Its even mentioned that several of the Knights of the Hawk use katana, traditionally a japanese sword, rather than a euro-style broadsword typically expected of knights.I wanted this to be present in the book in various aspects, because when it came time for THE battle (the one I'm sure you already know the name of) to take place, and the various other confrontations throughout the book to happen, there would already be something that made visualize the scenes playing out more like a king fu movie.

I've told myself on several occassions that if ever I was able to adapt this for the big screen (a dream I'm sure plenty of authors have), that I would have knights in armor performing martial arts moves, as well as the ninja. I've always loved the fast paced combat of Hong Kong Cinema and I really wanted to reflect that as best I could.I hope this has been an interesting insight into my influences for Armageddon - The Battle of Darkening Skies, and I hope you'll be interested in taking a look at a few pages at least on LOOK INSIDE! at

Terry Tibke

Sunday, June 7, 2009

On the Simplification of the English Language

Over time, as proved by the existence of the fixed and written word, we have watched the English language change. It has merged, it has shifted, it has shortened itself, and it has achieved a more systematic method than ever before as knowledge becomes more and more achievable through sources like the Internet.

Take a look back at books that are widely known: Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice, and of course, my personal favorite, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Examine the writing and you will see vocabulary of an exemplary nature, punctuation usage that is far ranging, and quite simply put: shows us what has changed in our language over the century.

One of the primary drivers of this change is the breakdown of genre, and targeting audiences for reading level. In the early part of the century this could never have been achieved, and thus to read a book required the reader to advance themselves to the level necessary for reading the desired piece of writing.

I'll make no solid statement as to whether this fundamental change has been a good or bad thing -- targeting a reading level is certainly beneficial on a number of fronts. Schools have an easier time assigning reading to specific age groups, publishers have an easier time marketing to a specific population, and writers can write in a range of styles and complexities and still sell the simpler works. Heck, those younger reading level books sell like hotcakes.

But what if we're doing a disservice by breaking down the writing to simpler form? Is it preventing younger readers from pushing themselves hard enough to read more complex writing? Are our children even capable of doing so in this day and age? We see each year, changes in the younger generations' ability to speak with expanded vocabulary, and with an increase in text messaging and shortened "acronymical" words like g2g, lol, ttyl, bff; it's very feasible that the English language will only continue to be simplified and mutilated in a widespread way.

I'd love to hear thoughts. As you might have guessed by questions posed in this and former blogs: I prefer interactive discussion, so comment away. Good night.

Terry Tibke

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On The Use of the Outline in Writing

After experiencing a significant chunk of days with writers block, it got me thinking about something I initially said to my publisher during some of our first correspondences: they asked if I ever got writers block. At that point, I truly hadn't.

Because I had no idea what I was doing when I first sat down to write Armageddon - TBODS, I was completely free in the way I did it. Good or bad, I'd throw whatever thought came to me down on the page, ignoring all thought and "rule." The book was written all the way through from beginning to end, without a significant deal of backtracking until I was following up with latter drafts (of which I had somewhere between fifty and one hundred on the first book). I went on to add to my answer to the publisher, stating that the outline is what kept me on track, and I realized that I needed to follow that advice again.

Now I know what you're thinking; not every writer uses an outline, right? That's very true, but I can tell you that a good deal of them could benefit from doing so, and that not all genre's have the same pitfalls and hangups. I write fantasy literature. I've always loved it, and while I might one day stray a bit, I've got nice series here I'd like to finish up before considering that. Fantasy fiction is a lot about world-building, timelines, events, locales, and then the more standard, interesting plot threads and characters. With all these former items, there's a LOT to keep track of, and I think that's one of the primary reasons I always recommend using both a timeline and an outline.

Never overlook the ability you have with an outline, to jump forward or backward to a new spot in order to keep the flow of writing going, primarily on your first draft. By your second draft, you should have the overall structure mostly worked out, so it becomes less likely you'll be relying much on your outline and timeline, rather than what you've already put down. I realized that I wasn't fully following my own advice when I was getting stuck, and I realized just exactly what halted people up. I never really understood what professional writers got "blocked" on until I tried to apply some of the rules of pacing and making sure each word counted, right from my first draft. I'll be glad to listen to someone tell me I shouldn't worry about that. Maybe I shouldn't right away, but that's not really my point. My point is, that I should've not let days go by where I didn't write. I should've jumped ahead in the story and took it up from there. In the first draft, who cares if it doesn't quite mesh up with the other writing I'd already done by the time the two seams of writing come together. That's what multiple drafts are for: spit n' polish.

Now that I'm starting to get the hang of this blogging thing, I'm kind of enjoying myself. I hope you are too... or will, once I've attracted any sort of readership, but for now, this is for me.

Terry Tibke

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On Literature & Modern Writing Perfections

Long before I first sat down to write Armageddon, I had come to the conclusion that, while there was a great deal of fantasy out in the world, I had come across very little fantasy literature that had been written in the past several decades. Now when I classify something as literary, I tend to exemplify it with the use of simile, metaphor, and a greater use of narrative that falls outside of the characters' own limited perspective. Is that a correct classification? Who can say. I've seen a few places discuss the topic of "literary" writing vs. simple "prose", but it all seems a bit vague to me. I would love to hear those more educated on the topic make any comment upon the subject.

After making this determination about fantasy however, I decided that I wanted to read books that were no longer being written regularly and moreover, no longer being published. The writing itself surely exists out there, but I believe that with the "advances" in writing methods, and the changes in the english language that have happened over the centuries, the publishing and writing business as a whole seem to have bought into these new writing perfections.

The perfections themselves make perfect sense to me, of course, but they somehow loose that flavor that exists in the writings of old by putting them into play. Some of these perfections include the concept of "show don't tell" and "keep perspective limited to a single individual" and "a comma can work just as well as a semicolon." You, I'm sure, can name many more concepts learned by modern writers when they are told what kinds of books sell.

No, what I wanted for my own writing was a feeling that someone was telling me a fairy tale; a feeling that someone ancient and learned was speaking to the children around the fire in his wisened and mesmerizing voice. And though I didn't wholly want the story to be "told" in this fashion (I understand the concept of show don't tell, I did say they make perfect sense, didn't I?) I did want that feeling that I believe should accompany all true fantasy writing. I am a strong believer that science fiction and fantasy should never be written with the same style.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy many of today's fantasy novels to a certain degree. I appreciate new classifications like "Urban Fantasy," which help me to determine what to expect very quickly, and make me feel better about counting it as fantasy. I simply wish that there were more books out there that were written without being afraid of the semicolon, and without the need to stick me inside someone's head and let me listen to them babble their thoughts back and fourth with themselves the whole book, and without brilliant narrative that's filled with poetic language that makes one's heart say "Yes! Now that is an epic!"

Terry Tibke

First Blog

My Blog is up and functional, which is a good start to something previously un-started. Though it's tempting for me to ramble on about my new book (an urge I'm sure many of you first time author's feel) it IS late, and I WILL be heading to bed momentarily.

Tomorrow I'll begin something more substantial than this, but for the time being I'll leave you with a simple statement to ponder, something I consider my own personal quote:

The art of art, is perception of life. - Terry Tibke