Pop Culture References

Call the practice what you will: a shout-out, an homage, or simply a reference. If you’re a fan of pop culture, movies, TV, books, or music, perhaps you’ve seen filmmakers, directors, and writers being cute with this ritual. Recently, my wife and I were watching an episode of “Heroes,” and were pleased at the appearance of George Takei (Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek). In this new series, he’s a wealthy Japanese business magnate, and the license plate on his limousine read “NCC-1701.” We had a good chuckle over noticing that little shout-out. In “Jersey Boys,” directed by Clint Eastwood, there’s a scene in a TV studio and a wall of monitors. The screens are playing many of the TV shows from that era, including a shot of Rowdy Yates from “Rawhide.”

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These allusions are everywhere if you take the time to notice them. But of course, one must be a veritable fountain of useless cultural knowledge (like me) to catch them. Even The Beatles dropped a shout-out to Bob Dylan in the song “Yer Blues” from The White Album.

With all this in mind, I couldn’t resist the temptation to do the same within my own pages. The original manuscript for Storm of Divine Light was replete with Easter Egg type shout-outs. But alas, my wife (The Queen) and some beta readers suggested their removal. They said that my references, although entertaining, were too overt and jolted them out of their reading immersion.

For some odd reason, I figured that including some shout-outs was the right thing to do as a way of adding humor to Storm of Divine Light. After all, I hadn’t played any word games with a reader since my first short story “A Purveyor of Odd Things” from the Ragged Souls collection. No pop culture references in that one, but an assault of palindromes, anagrams, and double-entendres.

I reluctantly agreed and removed most of them during the final edit. Most of them (heh heh heh). The remaining ones are quite veiled, and I doubt if anyone will identify all of them. I confess, one of them is somewhat blatant, but I figured that one would stay as a signal that there are more. Hopefully, you’ve paid strict attention to my favorite movie lists. Although I do have a nagging suspicion that my friend Lynne will catch most or all of them.

Do you know what NCC-1701 signifies? Or what Rowdy Yates has to do with “Jersey Boys”? Or the lyrics from The Beatles “Yer Blues”?

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Balancing Your Chapter Titles

Back in 2016, while still writing and editing my first fantasy novel, I wrote a post concerning the pros/cons and naming conventions of chapter titles. Since then, I’ve learned more about the ins and outs of creating them. First, a chapter title must be true. An author should never title a chapter something like “A Stampede of Pink Elephants” when there is no stampede or even a mention of a pink elephant, real or imagined, within the chapter. This notion of truthfulness brings us to the next problem, and the reason that creating chapter titles requires writing and editing skills, too.

We may label this second can of worms “honesty to a fault.” Imagine a sub-plot dedicated to the romance between the main character, Mary, and the detective, Richard. Naturally, the pages spent building up the romance teases the reader and forces possibilities and questions to grow in his or her mind. Will one die? Will they break up? Will they get married? Perhaps the end of chapter ten is a cliff-hanging hook. Will Richard save Mary in time? Too bad you titled chapter sixteen, “Mary and Richard’s Wild Wedding.” The author created an honest title, but his/her table of contents is nothing more than an extended spoiler list of the novel.

Here are the chapter titles for Storm of Divine Light:

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Chap.  1 The Signs & Portents of Mage-Sense

Chap.  2 The Confessions of Brother Maynard

Chap.  3 Religious Relics Are People Too

Chap.  4 How to Roast a Goblin

Chap.  5 Secret Steps

Chap.  6 The Metamorphosis of Liberon

Chap.  7 Under the Stolen Kiss

Chap.  8 In Hot Pursuit of a Mouse

Chap.  9 Affection’s Afflictions

Chap. 10 The Last Wagon

Chap. 11 The Incredible Gnomish Vision Tube

Chap. 12 A Bloody Fragrance

Chap. 13 Soft Footsteps in the Dark

Chap. 14 Forks in the Road

Chap. 15 Suns, Moons, & Stars

Chap. 16 May the Light Shine upon Thee

Chap. 17 Something Stirs in the Wood

Chap. 18 Across the Queen’s River

Chap. 19 Ancient Rites Fulfilled

Chap. 20 Red Desert Rezzin

Chap. 21 Palatial Brevity

Chap. 22 The Price of Blood

Chap. 23 Golgent on the Horizon

Chap. 24 Weapons of Light

Chap. 25 Bulls, Ballistae, & Bandoras

Chap. 26 Guilder’s Gambit

Chap. 27 Stronghold of Shadow

Chap. 28 Full Circle

Chap. 29 Vows

I hope these chapter titles create an air of mystery and will entice the reader rather than reveal the whole plot of Storm of Divine Light. Of course, they are all truthful descriptions as well.

Do you use chapter titles when you write or prefer them in the books you read? Which chapter title of Storm of Divine Light intrigues you the most?

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Storm of Divine Light: About the Cover and Book Design

Do you like the cover and interior book design for Storm of Divine Light? I have to give credit where the true credit is due, namely, Creative Publishing Book Design. Before my first contact with Creative Publishing Book Design, I have to admit to having reservations. Too often I’ve read warnings from others about the vultures out there looking to scam a quick buck from unsuspecting Indie Authors.

Stormcover7blogAfter my first phone call, I was very impressed. They were quick and patient with me, but they also worked with me. I cannot overstate the importance of working with me. Instead of making me choose from some prefabricated generic covers, they looked at my initial sketches and built everything from that starting point. They even requested three chapters to develop a design that reflected the mood of the book.

Communication is a key factor

There were many emails, phone calls, and text messages. I must say, their answers were quick and accurate as were their attention to details and small adjustments. For example, I did not like the eyes of the figure on the cover. I thought, because the MC is a rogue, there should be an air of mystery about him. Within hours, the team at Creative Publishing Book Design made the adjustment.

The Results Were Worth the Money

I have some print editions from Indie Authors, and unfortunately, some of those books look like they belong in the “minor leagues”. The cover combined with the stunning interior make Storm of Divine Light (use the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon) into a professional looking book, as if it was plucked from the shelf of a major book dealer.

I will contract them again for the next novel in my fantasy series, M & M: The Tales of Tyrennia: Book II. Why? Because I was treated like a valued client.

Have you ever contracted for covers and design? Got a horror story or an endorsement to share?

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New Epic Fantasy Novel: Storm of Divine Light

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The words “epic fantasy novel” do not paint an exact picture. With absolute justification and zero mental gymnastics, Storm of Divine Light is also a mystery, a romantic fantasy, an action adventure quest, and a battle laden with sword and sorcery, all written with a healthy dose of magic, religion, and humor.

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These sub-genres weave into the main story line and world-building. Most importantly, they are not simply tossed in from left field, or as some like to say, “parachuted” into the plot. Instead, they grow organically from the main plot line.


Epic Fantasy + sword and sorcery + mystery + romance + quest + action adventure + magic + humor = A most splendid entertaining experience.


stormpromoF3Imagine the epic fantasy plot line as a thick tree trunk with the sub-plots and genres as branches. Naturally, some branches are thick and closer to the base of the tree, while others are the twigs sprouting from other branches. Therefore, Storm of Divine Light has a winning formula.

Without naming the different descriptions (except quest), can you see the possibilities within the blurb?

A disturbance in the night and an unlikely stranger force the exiled master rogue Dagorat into a perilous quest. Along with his oldest friend Cyril the Wise, he sets off to retrieve a powerful weapon stolen by the dark mages of the Golgent.

Together, they brave the journey across a continent to Dagorat’s former home of Easterly, where discovery means certain execution. Along the way, he uncovers hard truths about his past, and finds new hopes for his future.

But the rising threat of war means those hopes tremble on a razor’s edge. Can he ever find his way out of the shadows and into the light?

Do you like to read multi-genre books? Does the blurb intrigue you?

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Storm of Divine Light: The Tales of Tyrennia: Book 1

Free with #KindleUnimited       eBook $3.99       Print $13.99

 

History in a Fantasy Novel

The history of your world should play a major role if you are writing a fantasy or even a Sci-Fi novel. Imagine how a reader will feel when they are dropped into a civilization or a post-apocalyptic setting without any knowledge. Surely this scenario can make anyone feel like a stranger in a strange land. History is an essential part of world-building.

Of course, one has to naturally avoid long-winded historical passages when world-building. After all, it’s a fantasy novel not a history textbook. Earlier, I discussed the use of Technology In Your Fantasy World. Dropping such hints tells us where a civilization or society currently stands, but it doesn’t speak about how they got there.

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Reflect for a moment upon Gandalf returning to Bag End to impart his knowledge about the Ring to Frodo. The scene plays out with a sense of urgency rather than seeming conveniently dropped into place as world-building filler material by Tolkien.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, Storm of Divine Light, I only delve into several great ancient battles and religious history. Both are incredibly linked to the main plot and the mystery at hand for the main character.

Another “history” would be backstory for characters. I used some of the same techniques and will discuss the in a future post.

I cringed at the thought of writing a chunk of history and sweated profusely when chapter 3 “Religious Relics Are People Too” was read at a critique. Oddly enough it passed with flying colors.

The trick was to “seed” the history in the previous chapter.

In chapter 2, there are sub-characters discussing and comparing historical notes. The main character listens and sometimes get frustrated by their knowledge. He wants to jump in and ask questions, but feels foolish. Later, he’ll accost one of them alone for the information he needs. His sense of “itching” for more information transfers to the reader. A sense of urgency made everything in chapter 3 flow without the aforementioned “contrived” element and seems perfectly plausible.

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History and backstory have to be present in order for a complete world-building experience in a fantasy novel, but many feel intimidated by it. How about you? How are you handling history or backstory in your novel?