An Interview With Jack Pellari, Member of G1 (Dept G)

This has to be regarded as the greatest privilege barring actually obtaining an interview with the Director of the Guardians himself.  Jack Pellari alone almost equals the phenomenal powers of that great man, but the likelihood of ever obtaining an interview with Siribahta Dhal equates with becoming genuinely immortal!

I tried to persuade Jack to meet me in the same hotel setting as when I interviewed Matt Carter but he refused, being acutely shy of public places.  Instead, by special permission, we’re in a small but comfortable sitting room of a cottage.  Due to the security methods employed, I have no idea where the cottage is located.  I’m not even sure of how long it took to arrive here!

Jack is nervous, wary.  I suspect that this will prove to be a difficult interview, despite all my special training…


*[EDITED FOR GENERAL DISSEMINATION – ALL CLASSIFIED MATERIAL REMOVED BY ORDER OF THE MINISTRY]*


Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Mr Pellari.

No thanks are needed.  I’m under orders.

I see.  I apologise if that makes you uncomfortable…  Can I begin by asking when and where you were born?

‘When’, I’ll keep to myself, but it was a long time ago.  ‘Where’?  In London, in a small cluster of homes surrounded by the expanding Docklands.  It was an ugly place to live, especially if you showed any hint of difference, or strangeness.  I only had to suffer it for two years, though, as we moved away as soon as my parents could manage it.

So your talents were revealed when you were very young?

Yes.  I’m what’s referred to as a ‘Brumby’, after the wild horses of Australia, meaning a wild talent.  Most Psychs learn to hide their powers but Brumbies can’t, with their powers best described as ‘volcanic’ – erupting unbidden and often at highly inappropriate times.  I have three brothers and two sisters who  are all Psychs, but I’m the only Brumby.  I ruined all their lives.

That’s a large family.  Where do you come in the order?

I was the youngest.  Things were really hard and my mother was badly malnourished while she was pregnant with me.  In fact, I spent two weeks being cared for by a nurse and my mother was in bedridden for nearly as long, after I was born.  They thought I was unlikely to survive.

If you were a ‘Brumby’, I suppose you had to move often?

Yes, almost every year.  The last time was to a house in the middle of nowhere, up in County Durham, Healdy House.  We had hopes of being able to finally settle down there.  My siblings would go to the local school but I was registered as being what’s called ‘special needs’ now, requiring home care and unable to learn.  I was about ten.  We were there for six years when there was another incident.  I’d wandered too close to the village, about seven miles from home.  A bunch of local youths knew me from rare glimpses.  They started throwing insults, and when they didn’t work, they got physical.  I left them rolling on the ground, blubbing and clutching their heads, and ran for home.

So another move was likely?

No.  My family decided to tough it out this time.  Four of my siblings had married and gotten homes of their own, and good jobs.  My father had been hurt in an accident and couldn’t get work, so finding the money for a move would be almost impossible.  The rest of us unmarried kids were supporting the family as best we could, and my mother had established a good seamstress business locally.  When this incident happened, though, there was real fear of what would happen, especially after the village policeman visited and warned of dark consequences – especially for me.

What happened?

Well, it seems that, even way back then, Siribahta had Psychs who were constantly scanning for psychic events.  They detected the spike when I lost control.  Two days later, Siribahta himself arrived at the house!  He offered to help.  He had an academy, far away in St Osyth, down in Essex.  He said that he could sort out things with the local policeman, mollify the families of the youths, and help me learn to control my powers.  Of course, it meant I’d have to go away with him and live in St Osyth Academy.  My parents, especially my mother, were arguing against it, my siblings were less defensive.  In the end, though,I begged to be allowed to go.  I couldn’t stand the harm I was causing them all!  After half a day of it, my parents finally gave in and consented.  Siribahta  went to the village and returned the next morning.  He’d sorted it all out, but we had to be away before noon.  It was a terrible wrench, and I saw my father cry for the first time in my life.  The excitement of the adventure, though, was growing inside me.  We left a few minutes before noon.

What was the Academy like?

St Osyth Priory It was a rambling old building, full of peculiar nooks and crannies.  If I’d been younger, I would have had a wonderful time exploring it!  It wasn’t far from the ancient Priory that St Osyth is apparently famous for.  And St Osyth is close to the coast, with the option of going to the seaside (at Seawick, Jaywick or Clacton-on-Sea) or to the broad reach of the River Colne, or even down to Flag Creek or Brightlingsea Creek.  There were regular unauthorised jaunts but I only went on supervised trips to populous places, fearing an incident.  St Osyth itself was a beautiful place back then, but I’ve heard that even there has suffered over the last sixty odd years, with blockhouses being built and even some of the historic buildings being bulldozed to make way for those vile places.  I understand that there’s a District Internment Facility at Jaywick, too.  And is it true that the pier at Clacton has collapsed into the sea?  [I nod and he looks very sad.]  I hate to think what has been done to St Osyth…

Anyway, the Academy had Psych ‘Coaches’, who trained us in handling our powers, from helping to bring out borderline latencies to teaching control to us Brumbies.  It was damned hard work, too!  I remember four of the students losing it and rebelling.  They caused total havoc and three of them ran off.  That is, two ran off and one just vanished- teleported away right in front of us!  The fourth was still hurling stuff with telekinesis and was about to do some serious damage to the Coach when Siribahta appeared, though none of us noticed his arrival until he was stood right in front of the kid.  In seconds, he’d calmed her down and she was sat sobbing on the floor, with Siribahta crouched beside her, soothing her gently.  She stayed to complete not only the General Course but  graduated with honours from the Advanced Course.  She was younger than me by at least two years, but she was well ahead of me in the Academy teachings.

What happened to the ones that ran away?

One just disappeared, never to be heard of again.  Another was shot down by police about twenty years later, when he was involved in a bank robbery.  The other one had to be dealt with by G5, some twelve years ago, when he *[TEXT REMOVED FOR SECURITY REASONS]*

How long were you at the Academy?

Oh, about nine years as a student, for both General and Advanced Courses.  I then remained there as an Assistant Coach, until I was appointed as one of Siribahta’s Aides.  With more contact with the Master, I learnt much, much more.  I had been fond of him, for his rescue of me and for his unshakeable gentility and calm.  Now, I came to think of him more as my grandfather.  I confessed as much to him and it’s become a kind of standing joke for me to call him ‘Grandfather’.

When did the Academy close?

Who says it has?  During the decades of internal strife in Britain, we had to go into hiding.  The old Academy was attacked and ransacked but we had already gone.  The Academy is still active today, but I’m not about to reveal where.  Just accept that we found a safe sanctuary.

So how did you come to be a member of the Guardians?  I would have thought that you would have made an excellent teacher.

I did, too. [A flash of deep grief crosses his visage.]  I was very close to accepting a position on the Academy faculty.  Word reached me that my eldest sister, Hannah, had been killed.  I assumed it was in a riot or something.  I was very wrong.  I had my bags packed and everything when I was summoned by Siribahta.  It was then that I discovered why he was in the habit of being absent for odd periods, without explanation.  By some fluke of circumstance, Hannah and her family had moved to a small hamlet in Scotland just as a local coven of Dark Witches raised an ancient entity.  The moment the thing appeared, it detected Hannah and commanded the coven to destroy her and her children!  Hannah fought, and even tried to call for help, but she had been isolated and she wasn’t strong enough alone.  Her husband, Douglas, also fought, with mundane weapons, and even killed three of the coven, but it wasn’t enough.  The police found what was left of the family in a burnt out ruin.  I lost it then.  I started hunting for any hint of evil.  Twice, I was nearly killed.  The fact that Siribahta and his people had reacted as quickly as possible to the rise of the thing that had ordered Hannah killed, and had sent it, and the dark coven, into oblivion meant nothing.  But the rage couldn’t last forever.  I suffered a complete breakdown.  Later, I heard that Siribahta and the finest Psych healers worked on me then, healing me of the grief, the rage, everything.

Well, anyway, when Siribahta was made Director of the Guardians, it was just natural that I go with him.  The madness was gone, but some debts can never be repaid.  Besides, I opted to be a soldier rather than a teacher.

Have you ever regretted that choice?

Regretted it?  Of course, but I wouldn’t change anything.

I understand that you underwent some very special training with an unusual teacher.  Can you tell us more?

 *[ALL DETAILS ON MISSIONS FOR OR OTHER ACTIVITIES WITHIN THE GUARDIANS ARE CLASSIFIED.  TEXT TERMINATED.]*

Background to “G1: The Guardians” #3

G1 The Guardians Reference GuideMutual Defence Pact of Oceania (MDPO)

Beginning as a political solution to increased South Seas piracy and American expansionism in the Pacific, the MDPO has since become a military organisation.  Originally led by Australia and New Zealand, the severing of political ties has led to

a broader spectrum of staff from across Oceania, including some island nations previously outside the protection of the MDPO.  Because the military structure is no longer subject to political interference,which was often damaging to operations, income is subject to a pro rata ‘tithe’ on member nations, plus the retention of any funds seized in operations.  Additionally, prosecutions and other lawsuits brought by the MDPO Attorney General’s Department (AGD) renders funds to the organisation by the seizure of assets belonging to those found guilty in court.  it has, therefore, become an economic power capable of wielding its military arm with great effect.

One of the most critical moments in the MDPO’s existence came soon after the severance of political ties.  Following the discovery of a large oil reserve  some three hundred miles from the eastern coast of New Zealand.  The United States of North America (USNA) attempted to seize the area, but as a group of three small islands of Oceania were situated on top of the area, the MDPO acted swiftly.

Continue reading

Pie’s Views on Freedom: A Guest Post

Pie 4th of july As the Fourth of July approaches and you here all the falderal about the land of the free and the home of the brave, it makes me ponder how this affects the horse population in general. I am a 38 year old ranch horse and I have seen many instances of confinement and freedom. For some reason, there are people out there that think horses are only happy if they are wild and roaming free on the prairies. That really sounds good in books and movies, but looking at it realistically, it is not such a great deal.

Horses started out in ancient history as a food source for cavemen. Looking at that, we have come up in priority quite a bit. That is a good thing, but just because were no longer a food source for man, doesn’t mean that we were taken off the menu for other predators. The weakest of the herds that were sick or injured were eaten. That is the way of the world. Looking at that, I would have been someone’s lunch a long time ago because I have lost sight in one eye and can’t see things approaching from that side. I seriously doubt that a predator would announce its presence and make it a fair fight. I also don’t move quite as fast as I used to when running.

Running wild, does sound like fun when you are just thinking in your head, but there is never a guarantee of food. Just because a pasture is green, does not mean there is enough protein there to sustain a full grown horse or a herd of horses. Since horse are herd animals, it would take a constant supply of green protein rich grass to sustain a herd. There are plenty of horses even at this time that are in pastures all around that are close to starving because even though there are green plants in the field, there is not enough protein to sustain them. It is really sad, because many of these owners think they are doing something wonderful for their horses, by letting them live in a close to free environment.

On the flip side, there are horses living out there with no freedom at all. They are trapped in stalls all day long without ever being let out. These poor horses are suffering from a complete lack of freedom. It is really sad, because that is not the way horses are geared to live. Shutting them up in a stall away from their herd mates can eventually drive a horse insane or stall crazy. I understand that these owners think they are protecting these horses, but they are also affecting their mental health. Then there are the owners that keep them locked up because they don’t want them to get dirty.

Times have changed and the planet is really much more populated now. There is not a whole lot of room left for running free. Even as we speak, there are factions out there that are trying to take the land from the wild mustangs. Even humans have restricted freedoms, so I guess I can’t complain. During the daylight hours when it is hot I get to hang out in a large paddock with a shade tree. It also has a run-in shed that sports a fan that runs 24/7. My buddy horses are nice in close in their own paddocks where I can see them. In the evening, I get to go out and roam in a nice fenced pasture with all of my herd mates. None of us have to worry about lack of food or predators.

Even though horses started out as wild animals we have been domesticated for millions of years. Admittedly, some of us have it better than others, but we are all domesticated. Life as we know it has evolved the same as humans. I heard a song playing in the barn one day that said, “Freedom is just another name for nothing left to lose.” If that is the case, then I don’t think it is all that great. I like my structured and protected freedom. I rather like the fact that I have shelter and food without having to scrounge for it. In my thirty eight years I have run into some hard times, had I been living in the wild, I would not be here today to write this post. I also like the fact that we are protected from predators and illness.

The way I see it, I have plenty of freedom with my paddock and the pasture. I really like the fact that I can roam and not worry about being eaten or attacked by rivals or predators. It is also nice to have food and protection from illnesses. Those that think horses are better off running wild and free, need to re-evaluate the problems that go with that particular lifestyle. Along with humans, our lifestyles have improved for the better. That is what I will be celebrating this Fourth of July. Happy Trails

~ Pie, as recorded by Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo

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Character Profiling and Portraits

NoseyReader Don’t Rush the Friendship

So here’s a question: Do you ‘profile’ your characters?  And it’s a question that can be asked of both authors and readers.  I’ve done a couple of ‘character interviews’ recently and I’ve also encountered those who struggle with creating characters,  Personally, I don’t have a problem with things like names and general characteristics, but getting deeper into characters is another matter.  Apart from anything else, most of my characters are new to me.  It’s like when you meet anybody for the first time.  You can’t know much about them.  As time goes on, however, you learn and some of the blanks are filled in – though not all.

The Past Is Important

Recently, I’ve begun writing something of the life histories of some of the characters featured in the G1: The Guardians series.  This has been necessitated by the complexity many of them feature.  Extreme longevity may sound wonderful, but it creates some major headaches for the author!  Having even a rough idea of significant dates in the lives of major characters is essential, to avoid inconsistencies.  I also have to have some idea of the events they’ve lived through.  If a character’s personality is largely the result of their experiences, then it would be rather foolish not to know the most important ones.  Then, too, snippets of the histories can be fed into stories over time.  These things help a character to grow.  Equally, some traits remain unknown, until circumstances bring them to light, when new experiences trigger them.  I firmly believe it’s better like that, rather than being like some Athena – springing full grown from the head of Zeus!  I’m not a fan of Harry Potter but I’m fairly sure that part of the attraction of the books, and how they were carefully timed and released, was so that readers could witness, and share in, the growth of the three primary characters.  It was the same, to some extent, with The Chronicles of Narnia.  Similarly, you discover facets of character unsuspected in the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings, as the story unfolds and they discover the hidden traits in themselves.  It would have been far less satisfactory to know everything about them before they even set foot on their epic journeys!

A Portrait of the Character…

One issue that is, in my mind at least, associated with a character’s profile is their physical description.  In my own tales, I tend not to be too specific about them – deliberately.  I prefer to allow the reader their right to imagine characters however they wish, within the broadest framework I feel I can get away with.  This is not laziness.  That leads me to something that I find surprising: the number of books (of all sorts) that are  portraying photographic or near-photographic images of the characters within!  This seems, to me, a rather problematic affair.  I know that many people enjoy thinking up ‘cast lists’ of actors to play the characters involved in favourite books.  Surely this is hampered by being so explicit on the cover, with a face that will become fixed in the mind of every reader?  I have no problem with hazy, shadowy images, which don’t really show anything recognisable, or back views.  I know that the use of clear photos or artwork is, in all likelihood, driven by the common cover changes of books that have been made into movies, where actual stills or clever ‘not quite exact’ portraits of the actors are used.  I’m not entirely happy when that’s done, either.  I understand that it’s a scheme to grab the attention of those who have seen the movie, to get them to buy the book, while making sure that they know what studio they owe for bringing the book to their notice (even if that’s not true!).  It will never happen, but if one of my books was picked up to become a movie, I suspect the deal would fall through very quickly!  My demands, as the author, would be far too great, and I certainly wouldn’t relinquish one single, tiny right!  Whatever the cause of the trend, I honestly think that authors using photos of real people or very clear artwork portraits should reconsider!

~ Steve

Pie on Peace – A Special Guest Post

Please welcome a very special guest: Pie.  Pie is an old brown horse who stars in a book by Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo.  Here, Pie takes a look at the subject of peace.  Surely, it must be refreshing to get a unique look into the mind of a horse, and how we humans are viewed by the charming Pie.  Enjoy…

=0=

images This whole subject of peace seems to weigh on the minds of humans more than it should. I really don’t understand what the big brew ha ha is about. Peace is a simple thing to achieve. We have it at our barn, but we have a rather strong herd leader. It used to be Dusty the big Morgan, then it was Ceasar, (yes, that is the way it is spelled), the even bigger Percheron gelding. They had two different leadership styles. Dusty ruled by terror and Ceasar by enforcement of rules broken. By all rights and privileges, the title should have come to me, and I guess you could say it did, but I am much too busy being a celebrity to even care about stuff such as that. So now the leadership role falls on the keeper.

She does a horse proud. In my 38 years on this earth, I have never seen one run a herd quite like she does. It shouldn’t, but it works. I share a pasture with a silly show bred paint gelding, by all rights we should not get along, but we do. I think it is because it is expected of us. It seems the higher the expectations, the harder we work to reach them. On the other side she has two geldings and two mares together. They should fight over the mares, but they don’t. Once again she has worked her magic on them, because she carefully introduced them and set them all up for success.

The most bizarre instance of peace between combatants in our barn is between the cat and the chicken. The little banty hen has been there for over nine years. All the other little chickens have been eaten by wildlife. She is the only one left. It seems that she has partnered up with a male barn cat the same color as herself. It is fascinating to watch the two. They are inseparable to the point of eating out of the same dish. This same cat also partners and plays with his brother and they have been inseparable since birth.

As I much carrots and watch all of this, I think the keeper works behind the scenes to make sure everyone gets along. There is not a creature at our barn that misses a meal, including the wild ones that pass through at night. Now someone told me that breaking bread with another person was biblical. I have no idea what that means, horses don’t do biblical, but it seems too important to the humans. Maybe if they followed their own advice and fed everyone and made sure they were comfortable, basically thought about someone other than themselves, and expected everyone to respect everyone else, maybe peace would ensue.

I don’t really see this happening. Humans seem to be too caught up in themselves. Maybe if they gave a little of themselves to others like the keeper does to us rather than trying to be better than everyone else they would have the peaceful tranquility of our barn. Or if you just want to keep it simple, feed everyone alfalfa hay mixed with cut up baby carrots. With a dish like that, no one has time to fight; they are too focused on the good things in life. I know when that is in front of me; I could care less what anyone else is doing.

Well, now that I have solved the world peace problem, I am going to mosey on over to my favorite shade tree and take a nap. This crisis aversion stuff is exhausting. I plan to dream about cute little mares and baby carrots. Look me up next time you need a problem solved, until then, Happy Trails To You!

Happy Trails back at you, Pie!

If you’d like to learn more about Pie, and Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo of course, take a gentle trot over to any, or all, of the following online paddocks:

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WIPs, A Worry On Costs and News

Another Quick Note I

First, Shade of Evil is now listed on Sweetie Picks.  Second, following on from my chat with Matt Carter, you can learn more about Kate Wellesley, co-leader of G! with Matt, courtesy of Nancy Jardine, who also includes a quickie profile of yours truly.

A Question of Price

I receive numerous emails about the world of books and authors, plus seeing and reading many blogs from the same area.  I have noticed an increasing number of websites offering ebook services, such as formatting and publishing.  What I cannot understand is the spiralling cost of these services!  I have often mentioned that I use Jutoh, which is a commercial product.  The price is considerably lower than the cost per ebook quoted by service websites, and I know that Jutoh’s not the only option.  Couple this with services like Smashwords – which is free – and I really don’t understand how the service websites can possibly justify their charges!  More, I can only assume that such services are aimed at the most vulnerable of new authors looking to self-publish – those with no experience in the process.  I’m probably going to upset some people here, but surely there are enough potential costs without adding ‘formatting and publishing’?  Every author has to consider whether to employ an editor and cover designer, to name just two possible expenses.  I can’t help but think that the ever increasing level of profiteering and plain exploitation will drive many authors to either pursue the traditional publishing path or give up!  And who’s to say that we won’t lose a Tolkien, or King, or Steinbeck?  What a shame that would be.

Another Quick Note II

Yesterday, I posted a new poem.  It’s a slightly odd look at ebooks and whether they have a real future in a world where technology changes so rapidly.

WIPs and Futures

The two current WIPs.  The new Thief series short story is i abeyance – the story I stated just didn’t pan out, so I’ve got to think about what to try next.  The new G1: The Guardians series story, on the other hand, is not only progressing very well, it’s already past 30,000 words!  I’m not giving out even its working title, as that would be something of a giveaway.  I’m hoping that any fans of the series, and the characters, will find the story more satisfying, with more character-driven episodes.  I’m also hoping that it might attract lovers of thrillers and other ‘action’ stories, with far more action going on.  Hopefully, I’ll succeed in throwing in a good surprise or twist.

As to the future, I’ve been thinking hard about that.  I don’t plan, as such, but i do jot down any ideas that might come along.  So far, I have many potential storylines for future G1 books.  What will be needed is some thought as to how these various snippets might develop, and the order they may take, chronologically.  What has become clear is that the series is strong and exhibits many potentials.  It will, therefore, be around for a while, much to my surprise!  A more challenging matter is pursuing the Captain Henri Duschelle Stories series.  Probably because the G1 series is so strong, I’m finding it rather difficult to fix any ideas for the tales of the good captain.  They will, however, sail again, I’m sure.  I would quite like to write something that isn’t part of a series, but that obviously has to await an idea!  Another area I’d rather like to have  ago at is children’s stories.  That’s a major toughie, though.  They might be short, but that makes them all the harder to write, for me.  They demand something that kids will enjoy and want to hear or read more than once, demanding a good story in a (relatively) few words.  I have a concept, which I’ve mentioned before, but I haven’t tried again, so far.  The loss of several pages when my netbook’s battery died still hurts.

So the future looks pretty good, and potentially very productive.  I’ll just have to hope it all materialises!

~ Steve

I Would Never Have Believed It

Steve K SmyIf somebody had told me, just a few short months ago, that most of my writing efforts would be pointed anywhere near the horror genre, I would likely have dropped dead from a fatal episode of hysterical laughter!  Fair enough, as a kid, and even as a youth, I dabbled with reading the genre, but they were true horror classics.  Well, maybe not classics, except my one reading of Dracula, but classic in the sense of content.  There was lots of carefully constructed tension and very little, if any, actual gore.  They were, I suppose, what could be termed ‘psycho-emotional horror’, working on the shadowy corners and dark places of our primitive mind.  Those authors didn’t, then, feel the need to compete with the gory, in-your-face, leave-nothing-to-the-imagination bloodbaths churned out by Hollywood (and others).  Many were writing when there were still directors, producers and screenplay writers who saw the value in creeping you out – not trying to gross you out!  Subtle horror movies are now very rare, and the same is also true with books.

Don’t get me wrong!  Horror isn’t the only victim of ‘bloodbath fixation’.  Thrillers, crime stories, and other genres have suffered, too.  One thing I enjoyed about reading Chris Allen’s excellent novel Hunter was the fact that action sequences didn’t devolve into mass shootouts with bodies dropping every few microseconds and people being torn asunder, graphically, by a variety of explosive devices.  The action was real, sometimes brutal (violence can’t, after all, be anything else!), but never excessive and most certainly not the reason for the book!  The action was a fundamental necessity of an excellent story, but only because such violence is a natural part of the world portrayed.  The world wasn’t reinvented to allow violence to be the dominant characteristic.

Shade of Evil

Anyway, back to the fact that I seem to have become hooked on what is, essentially, the horror genre.  The appearance of a character interview with one of the ‘stars’ of the books is evidence of that fact.  It actually started as an experiment, and one that I deliberately wanted to keep as far away from the flood of Vampire tales as possible.  That first tale, Shade of Evil, reached an unexpected conclusion and introduced a group I didn’t even know existed when I started!  In fact, after that first tale, I initially had no plans to pursue it.  Then a tiny idea popped into my head.  This time, though it still wasn’t to be immediately obvious, the mysterious group would be a key element, and one or two of the characters in their number started to take on real personalities.  I didn’t know their histories, but I knew more EvilUnderTheCircle.jpgabout them, as people.  So, Evil Under The Circle came trotting out into the light of day and the mystery group took on a real identity that had the power to survive, and to go on.  Even so, I was fairly ruthless towards them and made their loves hard and grim.  Grief, it was now clear, was to be a familiar part of their lives.  Grief and change.  But, that needed a balance.  Nobody would last long in that kind of existence!  It was necessary, as well as desirable, to bring in a new character.  One who would provide an anchor, a sort of paternal figure, only more.  Yet the second book wasn’t the right time or place for this new person to TheSigilofAhrimancoversmall_thumb.jpgappear.  It was only to be in the new book, The Sigil of Ahriman, that the gentle, kindly figure of the Director would make his entrance.  There are hints that he is able to be ruthless himself, of course.  An entirely benevolent leader couldn’t function in the world of the Guardians!  He had to have the strength to send teams out against Evil, even if everything indicated that they would fail, and perish in the failing.  Yet, he has a pacific nature, on the surface, that can stabilise even the most volatile of the people under his command.  He loves his people, as a parent loves their children, and he feels their grief with them, but he has a personal balance far beyond anything his people possess, or can understand.  And with the introduction of the Director, so the personalities of the others began to become more apparent.

Like most people, I’ve subjected myself, during a lengthy period of semi-vegetative existence, to the Soap Opera!  I can’t say, now, that it was entirely wasted time.  Like the vast majority of authors, I’m a people-watcher.  I never just see a person.  I analyse them, digging into their minds, their emotions.  In fact, ‘digging’ is a good word.  It’s like people are mines, containing precious elements,and the author is a miner, delving deep down to extract those treasures.  What’s that got to do with writing horror?  Well, in truth, it relates to all writing!  Yet I have never before used the treasures I mined quite as wholeheartedly as I am now.  Some genres of fiction let you get away with superficial characters, to some degree.  Placing them in situations which elicit strong emotional and psychological reactions, however, as in horror, you have to have stronger, more real characters, with the correct human responses.  And you can’t have everything pleasant outside of the danger periods.  You have to admit the friction always found between those who exist in a tight knit group.  In essence, a horror-based Soap Opera.

I know that I’ve gone on, rather, in this post, but I’m nearly done now.  I want to close this post out by saying that I would never have discovered the deeper characterisations and the often mixed and confusing interplay of characters if I had continued to plod along writing those things I was most comfortable with!  By risking the experiment, I have discovered something not only about characters, but about myself, and some of my deficiencies as a writer in those more comfortable genres.  That’s why I’m hooked on the G1: The Guardians series.  It’s a Soap Opera I control (sort of), but it’s also much more.  I owe G1 a great debt.  I only hope that I can repay it in the tales to come.

~ Steve

In Conversation With: Matt Carter [Character Interview]

G1 TagWe’re sat in a warm, comfortable room in a small hotel.  I’ve no idea whether we’re close to The Manse, the Headquarters of the Guardians, or not, and there’d be no point asking my reluctant guest.  And yes, he really is reluctant.  If the Director hadn’t ordered him to co-operate, he wouldn’t be here and none of the following would ever be known.  Fortunately, the Director recognises the value of creating a biographical record of his people, though none of the most sensitive information will be known for a very long time.

So, let me introduce you to Matt Carter, Co-leader of G1, the elite team of the Guardians.  He doesn’t strike you as a particularly imposing individual, and he has a way of sitting that shuts people out, but I have a job to do.  So I’ll ignore the scowls and growls and simply set down the conversation…

*[EDITED FOR GENERAL DISSEMINATION – ALL CLASSIFIED MATERIAL REMOVED BY ORDER OF THE MINISTRY]*

Thank you for meeting me here, Mr Carter.  Let’s begin with your earliest years, shall we?

Sure, I guess that’s obvious.  I was born Matthew Thomas Carter, back in 1930.  That meant growing up during the Second World War.  My family lived in Aldershot, my father being a career soldier.  He was an NCO, training officers.  Well, he was until he was killed in an accident.  I’ll admit that I was a bruiser at school – no, not a bully!  I just didn’t let other kids walk over me.  I was good at sports, the more physical the better.  I wasn’t so hot on the academic stuff.  Truth be told, my mother and an uncle taught me so much, the school was behind me on that score.  And I’m not bragging or claiming to be some intellectual giant.  I just took to teaching outside school better than the rigid stuff in school.  When I left school, I caught a peek at my leaving report.  It said I ‘owned a wasted intelligence’.  That shows how useless they were.

What did you do when you left school, then?

There was only one thing I wanted to do.  You could, back then, too.  No nonsense about having paper qualifications.  I enlisted in the Army.  I loved it!  Ended up serving the maximum, like my father had planned on doing.  I made Sergeant, but got stuck there.  A couple of brief periods as CSM, but I didn’t always do well with the officers.

You’re known to enjoy significant longevity.  How did that impact on you at that time?

Well, there are ways to disappear from the System.  Always have been.  I was retired out but changed my name, moved to another part of the country, and enlisted again.  Things were a bit slack then.  That’s how I ended up getting married.  Then a dirty little war kicked off, I was posted, and off I went.  When I got back, my wife had run off with some salesman.  Good riddance.  We didn’t have any kids or it might have been different.  There were a few more of the brushfire wars.  Barely deserved the name ‘wars’, really.  Good times, though, with some damn good men.  Lost a few.  Eventually, of course, I got to too many years and had to retire again.

Can you give us a ‘potted’ view of the years that followed?

I guess so.  I moved on and ended up joining the Royal Marines.  I married again, then the Falklands War erupted. (His eyes cloud over and he says nothing for a long time.)  When that was over, so was my second marriage.  My fault this time.  I didn’t take Civvy  Street so well.  Still no kids, and that was an issue for her, too.  I pressured my way into the Royal Marine Commandos.  I was running a bit of a death wish, really.  That was until I met Ellen.  God, she was something!  Ellen Margaret MacDonald.  Well, we married and it really clicked this time.  We ended up with five kids – three boys and a couple of girls.  Lucky little blighters, all took after their mother.  As the years ticked over, I found ways of looking as if I was getting older, just like Ellen was.  When she died, it almost broke me.  But that was just before the Second Korean War.  That was a filthy war, and too many died in it, mostly from dirty bombs and such.  I hated that one, but it kept losing Ellen out of my head.  I lost myself for a long time, and lost the kids in the process.  I never saw them again.

You mentioned, when you joined the Guardians, that the European Experiment was involved.  How so?

Well, you’re too young to know, of course.  After KW2, the USA got heavy, worrying about their security.  They basically took everything in and around the Pacific.  The Act of Union between the US and Canada came at about the same time, and then Central America was absorbed, and the Caribbean islands.  One almighty empire.  Europe got scared.  With all that weight, the Americans could rule the whole world.  So they decided to try and copy the idea.  Idiots!  Western Europe was just creeping out of a bad run, economically.  Now they added all the Eastern states, including Russia and half of the old Soviet Union.  They even snapped up states bordering Turkey, and some along the North African coast.  They consolidated all the armed forces and then tore them apart by dumping thousands – mostly those with high salaries, of course.  We were just kicked out.  Of course, the whole thing fell apart, because there wasn’t enough money or resources.  A few conflicts in the Middle East, when Europe tried to grab the oil fields, saw the European forces soundly beaten.  The whole thing just collapsed, leaving nothing but a mess.  I, and most people like me, was as bitter as you could get.  It was about then that I was contacted on the quiet about the Guardians.

*[ALL DETAILS ON MISSIONS FOR OR OTHER ACTIVITIES WITHIN THE GUARDIANS ARE CLASSIFIED.  TEXT TERMINATED.]*


The books: Shade of Evil, Evil Under The Circle and The Sigil of Ahriman.

A Beastly Business

Introducing animals into stories creates some interesting problems, especially fantastical or mythical creatures.  In fact, we have three possible classes: the mundane (animals we know well), the fantastic, and the highly intelligent.  We can complicate matters, of course, by introducing a new factor – creatures that are artificially enhanced by genetic manipulation.  Also, theoretically, we can introduce animals that have become extinct at some point in Earth’s long history, such as the ever popular dinosaurs.  The truly important decision we must make is just how our creature population will interact with, or impact on, our characters.  Of course we can bring animals in as we go, just as we would new characters, but that really doesn’t apply so well with all mundane animals.  Mundane animals of the domesticated variety are ever present and should be integrated into the story as early as possible.

Non-domesticated mundane animals fall into two groups: the common (think rabbits and birds) and the uncommon (think foxes and tigers).  A chance sighting of, or confrontation with, an uncommon animal can form a mini-feature, providing a small hook into the ‘real’ world.  Common mundane wild animals are something that can be mentioned in passing; they’re usually part of the scenery, in effect, much like many domesticated animals.  It is possible to incorporate what would normally be one of these creatures in a different way – as a ‘pet’.  This would most often be birds, like hawks or parrots, but could be other animals, such as wolves.  And don’t forget that some animals are to be found both as domesticated and wild, such as elephants.

Fantastic or fantastical animals are inventions.  They exist only in the world you create, and they may or may not fit into the mundane rôles.  They will need descriptions!  I suggest that, at the moment of inception, you make a sketch of each one.  Don’t panic!  Your sketch can be in words if you prefer.  The important thing is to know what hey look like, what their rôle is and what their nature is like.  Adding wings later will just cause confusion and upset your readers.  When inventing animals, try to be consistent.  If you have hexapods (six legged) animals, then they can’t be in isolation.  There must be many such creatures.  It’s an evolutionary requirement.  And remember that a four legged animal with true wings is still a hexapod.  ‘Legs’ is loosely used, in this context, for ’limbs’, and wings are definitely limbs.  Also, be reasonably scientific.  A gigantic creature of great strength will be slow, ponderous even, unless you can come up with a very good reason why that isn’t so.

Mythical creatures.  I use the word ‘mythical’ to represent those creatures which populate mythology and of which there is, to date, no firm evidence of existence.  This covers unicorns, dragons, satyrs, centaurs, flying horses (‘Pegasus’ was the name of a specific flying horse!), griffins, gargoyles, and so on.  If you are going to use more than one of these, make up your mind early on as to whether or not you are going to adhere to a myth tradition (for example, Greek) or mix traditions.  You can get away with mixing them, if you assume that all such creatures were, at one time, to be found mentioned by all human tribes, in a distant past, before traditions changed by separation.  For instance, dragons are known all over the world.  You may include some degree of description, for the uninitiated or to provide some personal touches or refinements of the classic beasts.

As for intelligent animals, these have always tended to be popular.  The anthropomorphism of animals is part of the desire to find equals to share our world with.  Incidentally, this rôle has been taken over by aliens, to some degree.  But here we’re talking about animals whose intellect is at least equal to our own.  You need to be clear, from the outset, as to the level of intellect.  You will also need to know how your characters interact with them.  You can opt for normal speech, telepathy, or non-verbal (using sign or gesture, perhaps).  Again, you can add your own refinements, to put your own stamp on them.

Whatever class of animal you include, the two big keys are: the nature of their interaction, if any, with the peoples of your world, and the need to be logical and consistent.

Have fun!  And if you have any favourite creatures, why not tell us?  Even better, show us, if you have created your own.  (Note: please don’t post any images that you don’t own the rights to!)

~ Steve

Larger Than Life?

We all know about the wonderful worlds of DC™ and Marvel™ comics, with their plethora of superheroes.  I certainly used to love getting the comics when I was a kid, especially the genuine US-printed ones, with all that colour!  I had my favourites, and there were some I didn’t like.  I was a total fan of the X-men (Wolverine Rules!) but The Amazing Spider-Man bored me silly with all his teen angst.  If I’d ever demonstrated an ability to draw people, I would certainly have had a go at creating my own comic.  The superhero was just so coolBut, did the superhero originate in the comics?  The simple answer is a categorical No.

Whenever an author has created characters of anything like heroic proportions, they have been something more than real heroes.  They have been faster to heal, quicker in mind and/or body, just plain superiorSherlock Holmes has a superior intellect.  Jason (of Argonauts fame) was favoured by both a goddess and a witch, letting him achieve fantastic feats.  Sinbad was larger than life, with luck that defies explanation.  Tarzan was honed to superhuman perfection of body and senses.  Literature down through the ages is littered with superheroes.  And we’re still doing it!

The current trend for vampire stories is evidence of our need for something superior in a character.  The original, Count Dracula, wasn’t good, and it was quite clear that he, and those that followed, were undeniably evil.  And then Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the TV series of which, the idea of a vampire with a soul was born, in the form of Angel.  A new kind of hero was created.  That which had been evil suddenly underwent a transformation.  And an eager audience (not all of them teenagers) were desperate for more.  Soon, ‘good’ vampires were popping up all over, particularly in “YA Paranormal” fiction, but also bleeding over into the world of movies and television.  A dark, brooding superhero type was let loose.

Older types of superhero still appear, of course.  The extra-intelligent individuals.  Those with psychic powers, natural or engendered.  Action heroes who can defeat small armies.  And the comic books are still there, in greater numbers than ever.  Naturally, the superheroes are balanced by supervillains, but we all know who will win the day.  Even when the supervillain is the ‘star’, there’s no certainty that they will actually do evil, or that they don’t have a ‘good’ nemesis.  Basically, the formula remains.

I wonder if this will ever change?  Somehow, I doubt it.  Personally, I’m glad about that.

~ Steve