Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Spotlight + Guest Post: Dwarves in Space by S.E. Zbasnik

Good morning, and happy Friday, my lovely bookworms!

What better way to celebrate this wonderful day of the week than another book spotlight? Oh, I promise this is a good one. As soon as I saw the synopsis, and the absolutely wonderful cover, to S.E. Zbasnik's Dwarves in Space I knew I'd be sharing it with all of you. Sci Fi, Fantasy, Satire, this book has it all.

Amazon | Goodreads
The Elation-Cru is not the flashiest ship, nor the newest, or even has all of its bolts attached; but she can fly. Well, sort of wade through space, and that’s when all the parts are working. She supports a sugar addicted dwarven pilot, an elven engineer, an orcish doctor, a silent djinn, and the lone human trying to hold the entire thing together with duct tape. Variel, the captain, has been hiding from a secret for the past five years and time’s finally run out.

When she goes against her common sense and fights to save her onboard assassin/renter from a job gone sour, she finds herself before an ex-colleague that knew her in her previous life as the Knight of the realm. The entire ship is sent on a mad dash across the universe — from a decaying space station, home to the wackiest species the galaxy has to offer, down to the Orc homeworld, which wouldn’t be so bad if Variel hadn’t spent most of her previous life fighting in the war against them. Chances of survival are nil and slipping fast.

The joy of writing is in creating that which has never been seen before; an alien world where the rocks are sentient, or a woman posing as a man to rob from the rich and keep some for herself. But sometimes, even when I can see the furrow of a character’s brow or the demoralizing sneer, I can’t see the whole face. 

That’s when I break out my character generators.

With a slide of a cursor here, a shift of the right stick there, I can try out various nose sizes, eye shapes, and lip pouts until I see my mind’s eye before me. My current favorite is the incomparable engine behind Dragon Age: Inquisition.

With it, I was able to create the captain of my current Dwarves in Space series:

DA:I gave me the opportunity to create nearly my entire crew so I could see them and cement their appearance. (It’s also a wonderful game I can about talk for hours if there are any other Bioware fans out there. Dual-wielder for life!) If you’re already a gamer, RPGs (role playing games) offer a useful tool for you to test and pinch to bring your character to life.

Another classic game you can use is Sims. Their character engines are nowhere near as sophisticated as DA:I, but -- thanks to the mods created by fans -- if you can dream it, it already exists. What makes Sims even more useful than a character generator is the ability to design layouts.

When I was writing Dwarves in Space, I often realized I had no idea what was down a corner, to the right of a door, or if there was even room for a pool table. I needed to sit down and sketch out the floor plan of my spaceship. 

The various mods I downloaded gave me the opportunity to not only drop in a more realistic kitchen table for my space rats, I explored beyond the setting. While poking around, I found this adorable lamp of a cow being abducted. I realized instantly that it was something my pilot character would ecstatically keep in his bedroom. 

Poking around in my setting, testing what would and wouldn’t work for a living space, allowed me to delve deeper into my characters. It helped me give them more dimensions.

To know someone’s living space is to know their brain. What kind of coffee mug would a mad scientist keep on her desk? How messy would a zombie paralegal keep his bathroom? Sims helps you explore these questions while building their house.

But, if you don’t own Dragon Age, or Sims, there is a way you can get cracking on visualizing your character for free right now. Paper dolls, once the purview of little girls with nimble scissor skills are a popular app on the internet.

One of my favorites is Azalea’s dolls.

Using the Tudor game I was able to create a couple characters from my manuscript in progress. (It’s the cross-dressing Robin Hood tale I mentioned earlier)

There are dozens of other games, from fairies and mermaids to animal creators. If your main character is a magical talking fish, you can make that with the paper dolls. 

Inhabiting the world inside your mind, making it physical (even if it’s just in pixel form) greatly helps to explore it and discover ideas you’d never have dreamed of. It’s also highly addictive, so be careful. There’s still writing to be done.

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