Book Published: Lost Dogs #1

Lost Dogs - Ebook cover - aligned - v2
“Werewolf wrestler gets told he has to lose the last fight of his career or he won’t get any retirement money. There are complications.”

Today is the day. The ebook version of Lost Dogs #1: Last Fight of the Old Hound, is now available for purchase, here.

It’s a big deal for me, and it’s been a long time coming, so I’m quite excited now it’s finally here. Excited, and a little bit nervous.

I feel good about the book when I read it, and I have read it quite a few times. I just hope it’s good enough people will want to read the next part too, and the part after that, and so on. There will be a lot of parts.

On that note, I’m off to work on Part 4…

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Book Published: Lost Dogs #1

Cover Reveal

Front Cover - OnlineTwo posts in a day?

Yes!

The paperback  version of Emma’s Story went live on Amazon (US, UK) just a few hours after the previous post. As promised, it’s time to share the cover image.

It’s painted by my friend Åsa, and she did an amazing job of it despite all of my contradictory suggestions and ideas.

In the end, this image fits two of the most important elements of the story: the bear looming ominously in the background, and Emma racing through the forest in her horse-drawn sled.

I’m trying to describe the feeling of looking at this image and I’m having a really hard time finding the words. It’s the cover image for my first book. I love it, but I’m also a little bit overwhelmed by the whole thing.

It’s finally happening. I published a book. It’s unreal.

I will probably have to sit down and have a proper think about it over the next few days and then write a better, more thought-out post about it later on.


Lastly I’d like to point out that the image in this post is the original one I uploaded for the print version. In the preview on the Amazon store page it looks a bit washed out, and it’s in lower resolution, but once it’s printed it should look more like this.

It’s so new I haven’t even received my proof copy yet.

Edit: I also added an entry for my book to goodreads.com, here.

 

Cover Reveal

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Worlds

Before I get on with this post, I’d like to recommend the following song to g with it:

Extraordinary Way, by Conjure One. It’s a love song, but it may not necessarily be about a person. It could be a place, or a land – or, well, a special person.

Anyway…

The other day I bumped into a discussion about what kind of perspectives people wanted to see more of in fantasy stories. One of the suggestions that came up, among a host of others, was the idea of writing a story from the perspective of someone completely ordinary and regular.

As you probably know, most characters that have a bit of a role to play in a fantasy story are at least a little bit out of the ordinary. They’re special in some way.

It may be they’re really good at fighting, or they have a talent for magic, or some other exceptional skill. It may also be that they’re destined for greatness in some way. Perhaps they’re mentioned in a prophecy, or they’re a prince of fame and fortune, or perhaps the last of their kind.

They’re special.

The idea I came across went against all that and suggested it’d be interesting to read a fantasy story about a completely regular person, as a bit of a break from all the big great epicness of all the other fantasy stories.

Seeing that suggested made me really happy.

My first novel, Enar’s Vacation, matches that idea almost exactly. It’s a story about a regular guy who goes on vacation. He sees some cool things, and there’s the odd bit of excitement, but overall, he’s just a regular guy on vacation.

He hangs out with the locals, eats good food, does a bit of sightseeing, and gets drunk. There’s also a woman that he falls for – of course.

There’s no fighting. There’s daring escape and no brave last stand.

There’s a little bit of magic, but no more than a regular inhabitant in the world will be familiar with anyway. There’s some strange creatures and weird people, but again: it’s nothing out of the ordinary for an inhabitant.

But, it’s still a fantasy story.

I’ve toyed with this concept for quite a while. My novella Emma’s Story, is based on a similar idea. It’s about a regular countryside girl in a small village in the hills. All she wants is to get married, settle down, and start a family. She’s nothing special.

However, through the course of the story she does experience things that are a bit out of the ordinary even for the people of the world. That’s not the focus of the story though (just the culmination).

So far, my first two longer stories have been about regular people. One of them does mundane and unremarkable things. The other one has a bit of and adventure, but she’s still overall a regular person. She just ends up in a crappy situation and has to do what it takes to deal with it.

How did it end up like this?

When I started out writing I imagined myself writing a grand epic story about magnificent heroes traveling the world, fighting evil, and finding treasure. Technically, I’d still like to do something like that, but it no longer has the same appeal.

Why write about regular people?

I think that one of the things that fascinates me about writing about regular people in a fantasy setting is how it can enhance the sense of wonder in the reader. It allows for more escapism.

When showing the world through the eyes of a regular person you can highlight the differences between the real world and your fantasy world in a whole different way. When the protagonist is a regular person, doing mundane things, the extraordinary aspects of the world stand out much more clearly.

Let’s take the sootkin and use them as an example.

They don’t really play an important role in any of my stories, but they’re mentioned in a few places. Basically, they’re little air spirits that live in underground tunnels. They’re normally quite docile, as there isn’t much wind in underground tunnels, but they get excited when there’s a draft or a wind.

They absolutely love subway trains.

The sootkin play in the air around the trains like dolphins around the prow of a ship. Wherever there’s a subway system, there are little black spirits that race the trains through the tunnels.

If you’re anything like me – which you may or may not be – something like this gets your imagination going. You may wonder what else there may be of a similar kind? Or you may wonder what it’d be like to standing waiting for a train and whenever it shows up it’s always accompanied by a bunch of spirits playing in the air stream.

It’s nothing special for city folk. They’re used to it and they have other things to worry about. You however, you’ve never seen a spirit race a train through a tunnel (okay, maybe in a movie).

So what does this have to do with everyday people? Perhaps not so much, but it’s still a good example. Riding a subway train is a mundane and commonplace thing. A lot of people will have at least an idea of what it’s like to stand on the platform and wait for the train to come in.

I take this idea that “everyone” is familiar with, and then I add something out of the ordinary to it. It gets the mind churning.

Let’s say that instead of trains the tunnels under the city are trafficked by giant slugs. People can catch a ride with the slugs in order to get to wherever they’re going. In practice, the slugs fill the same function as the subway trains.

The difference is that adding sootkin to the slugs doesn’t really do anything. The slugs are weird enough as it is and the sootkin would be just another weird detail. Keeping the trains as trains, which readers are familiar with, means that adding the sootkin has a much bigger impact on the reader’s imagination.

The same thing will go for everyday people doing regular things. Add something that will seem extraordinary to the reader, but portray it as something mundane in the world, and you’ll set your reader’s mind racing.

…at least that’s the theory.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Worlds

World Building Progress

I don’t do much world building these days. Most of what I need is already done, and I feel I have a good grasp of how my setting works. Lately, there’s really only been one thing bothering me: cars.

On the surface, my setting is your regular, bog standard fantasy world. It’s got elves and magic and dragons and all that. What sets it apart is that it’s not stuck in the middle ages, but has continued to develop until it’s at roughly the same stage as the real world of today.

There are cellphones, TV, internet, and all that regular stuff that you and I come across in our everyday lives.

What’s been bothering me for a long time is that I’ve had this idea that I don’t want people to have cars. You shouldn’t just be able to jump into your car and drive somewhere. If you want to travel you’d have to take the train, or something.

I don’t have a perfectly good explanation for why I want this. I just do. It feels good.

The issue has been that I haven’t had a good explanation for why there aren’t any cars. I’ve come up with several half-decent ideas, but they’ve all had their shortcomings.

I could have made fuel rare and expensive, but eventually someone would have come up with another option to power cars (batteries, for example).

I had a great idea that I called Critical Instability, which explained why regular internal combustion engines wouldn’t work. It’s an interesting option, but wouldn’t work for jet stream engines. Already today there are cars that use jet engines, so it’s not too far fetched to assume the technology would have developed in my setting too.

I tried to think of some kind of political reasoning for why cars wouldn’t be allowed, but that just got a bit too absurd.

Eventually, and thanks to a good friend, the idea of Soul Friction came up. In short, Soul Friction is an effect that limits the speed at which a person can travel before their soul starts taking damage.

I’ll explain in more detail, but first I’ll need to explain a little bit about more about how the world I’ve created works.

Souls

All living things, and some things that aren’t, have a soul. Your soul is a part of you. Exactly what it is and how it works is still uncertain, but there’s no doubt that souls exist and that they’re vital to life.

Your soul may be attached to another, new-born, body when you die, allowing for reincarnation. It could be the soul gets merged with your god when you die, or it may go on living its own life in the aether once your body dies.

Exactly what happens with your soul when you die is unclear, but most likely it goes on in some way – without your physical self. If your soul is damaged that may not happen, and if the soul is destroyed, well, then it can’t happen (also, you die).

Damaging your soul is bad.

The soul is also used for channeling the aether, which is a requirement for being able to wield magic. In fact, it is only through the soul that living beings are able to interact with the aether in a controlled fashion.

The Aether

The aether is the fuel that powers magic. It exists everywhere on the planet in one way or another.

The properties of the aether depends on your geographical location as well as on your altitude. At the poles, the aether is almost completely stable, making it very hard to channel and manipulate. The closer you get to the equator the less stable it gets.

At the equator itself the aether is so unstable and chaotic that mere thoughts (including dreams) of untrained magic users can set off magical effects. This is why travel between the northern and southern hemisphere is risky enough as to be practically impossible.

The aether is also affected by altitude. At sea level, the aether is dense and thick. There’s plenty of it to go around. At higher altitudes the aether gets thinner.

Soul Friction

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s only through the soul that living beings are able to interact with the aether. It stands to reason there’s some kind of connection between the soul and the aether.

When a living being passes through the world, its soul passes through the aether. Unfortunately, the soul can’t pass through the aether unhindered. There is some friction. If the soul travels too fast through the aether the friction becomes too much and starts to erode the soul.

A little bit of damage can be recovered, and the soul can heal, but if the soul travels too fast, too far, or too often, the damage becomes irreparable and the soul becomes permanently damaged. If this continues, the soul can, and will, be destroyed completely (and that’s bad).

The amount of soul friction varies between different living beings, but is generally assumed to be a function of the speed the being can achieve on its own without outside help.

For example, a falcon diving towards a mouse can reach significantly higher speeds than a turtle, and the falcon’s soul is a lot more tolerant to soul friction.

Cars

It’s when you start to move at speeds which are not natural to you that you begin to endanger your soul, like for example if you were driving a car.

Cars are technically possible, but driving one for any considerable distance, speed, or regularity, means you’ll end up damaging your soul, possibly beyond repair. This isn’t a risk many people are willing to take, and because of this, cars have never really taken off as a mode of transportation in the world.

Trains

Now, why would trains be okay, but not cars? Trains can travel both far and fast, and the people staffing the trains are onboard all the time. Would they not burn out their souls pretty fast?

The trick with trains is that they’re “grounded” through the rails they run on.

Exactly how this grounding works I haven’t fully worked out yet, but I feel like that’s a relatively minor detail. It’s something that can be worked on.

It may be that the vibrations in the rails caused by the oncoming train destabilises the aether around the track, making it easier for souls to pass through. I’m not entirely pleased with that being the only explanation, but it could be a factor at least.

Another factor could be that train will gather a larger number of passengers (souls) and that souls have an easier time passing through the aether as a group. Perhaps they gather some of the surrounding aether to themselves and use that as an insulating layer to protect themselves against soul friction?

Yes, there are questions left to answer, but at least I feel like I’m on the right track here (yes, pun intended).

Airships

Another mode of transportation is by airship: zeppelins, blimps, dirigibles – that kind of thing. These travel at speeds higher than what any human can achieve on their own, but still slower than a train.

The reason they’re able to travel that fast without being grounded is because of the altitude. The higher up they are, the thinner the aether, and the less of an issue soul friction becomes.

Summary

Like I mentioned above, there are still questions to be answered about the details of Soul Friction, but I feel they’re relatively minor compared to what I had before.

Before, I had no good reason for why there weren’t cars, and now I do. The issue I have now is that I don’t have a fully satisfying reason for why trains are still practical and viable as a mode of transportation.

That’s something I’ll figure out along the way at some other point.

World Building Progress