Phill's Phollies

The various eclectic activities and interests of Phill Berrie.

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My Next Big Thing
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Chris Andrews, a mate of mine from the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, tagged me for the 'Next Big Thing'. If you haven't reached this post from his blog post about his next big thing then you can read it here.

What is 'The Next Big Thing'? It's like one of those old-fashioned chain letters or a better still a benign pyramid scheme where authors promote their own work and tag five of their colleagues to create a huge network of linked web pages about what everyone hopes will be 'The Next Big Thing'.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

I received my invite from Chris days after I'd self-published a book, so given this opportunity, that is what I will be concentrating on here as part of that book's promotion.

The name of the book is 'Transgressions'. It is book 1 of a planned trilogy called 'Engelian Adventures: Transformations'. The other two books in the trilogy are to be called 'Transitions' and 'Transcendance'. There are also two companion books planned. The first is called 'Melitta's Story' and the second 'Dorkin's Tale'. The two companion books cover stories that are intertwined with the events of the trilogy, but which involved different characters.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book's origin was a fantasy roleplaying campaign that I used to run back in the early 1980s (Hey, if Raymond E Feist can do it, why can't I?). I had a major, non-player character wizard whose relationship with the players was being a little abused so I had him disappear under mysterious circumstances. Later, I had the character reappear, but on a whim had them turn up in a female, half-elven body. However, the focus of the campaign had drifted away from that area of the world, and so I never really had the chance to explore this new situation until I decided it should be the basis for this book.

The idea for this book is also tied in with a much grander plan for the whole series. Once again it derives from the roleplaying campaign and explores the background behind a huge change in the campaign I made that all stemmed from a decision made by a player character. It's an exploration of the two questions: 'What if the player had made the other choice?' and 'What if the character was given the chance to go back and change his mind?'.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

This question neatly follows on from the previous. The wizard character had always been a little different because he had connections with worlds other than the fantasy campaign world. Without giving too much away, the main story arc of the trilogy involves these other worlds, some of which are not traditional fantasy worlds. Therefore I'd have to class the genre of the book as 'slipstream'. If you haven't heard of the term you can find out out about it here.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I'm never very good at this game, so bear with me as I try to cobble together the looks of the characters, as I imagine them, from a number of different actors. This is made more difficult by the fact the protagonist would need to be played by two different actors, one male and the other female.

Okay, the protagonist's male actor would need to be short but none of the short actors I know really fit the part. Imagine someone the height of Danny Devito made up to look like Ian McKellen's Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings. The person would also need to be able to do the change between amiable and regal that McKellen does so well. Unfortunately, at 180 cms (just shy of six foot for US readers) McKellen himself is way too tall. I'm open to suggestions for an actor to play this part.

The protagonist's female actor is somewhat easier. She needs to be fairly tall, look good as a blonde and also look as though she can take care of herself in a fight. I'm thinking Australian actress Peta Wilson (from the television series of 'La Femme Nikita') here, but made up as an half-elf.

The other main character is the protagonist's love interest. This character is a woman and would need to be played by an actress who looks sexy with close-cropped hair. She would also need to be able to look both vulnerable and majestic at times. Charlie Theron could look the part for the later, but I'm not sure about the former. I'm open to suggestions for this part as well.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An elderly wizard, whose body has been destroyed, possesses the soul-less body of a female half-elf to protect his home and a new forbidden love from the powerful beings who killed him.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

This is an eBook self-published through Amazon and Smashwords and its affiliates.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

From memory, the book took about a year to write the first draft. That was a long time ago though. It has seen much work since.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Another hard one. The book goes against many of the standard tropes used in the fantasy genre and, as for the slipstream aspect, this is mainly due to the main character changing worlds... Perhaps some of Zelazny's books: the Amber series, Jack of Shadows (see Wikipedia on this here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_of_Shadows).

With regard to the whole series, then I think you'd have to start looking at Gene Wolfe's 'Book of the New Sun', for reasons which will become apparent later in the series, but which already effects the storyline in this book in subtle ways.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As mentioned previously, the inspiration for this book came from a sudden whimsical decision made during a fantasy roleplaying game. So, in some ways, the inspiration came as a reaction to my players at the time. However, the full details and ramifications of this decision never made it into the game and so have found release here in this book.

With regard to the larger storyline, I think the inspiration for this is something all writers who are pantsers (make things up as they go along) will recognise. At some time you've got to justify how you got from point A to point B. I did a bit of pantsing when I was a roleplaying referee to make the game more interesting for the players. Now, with my writer's hat on, I'm filling in the dots.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

This book is a book for people tired of the same old fantasy tropes. I consider it definitely more 'sorcery and sword' than 'sword and sorcery'.

I should also point out that this is a book that deals with gender swapping and one of the themes is the development of the main character because of this change.

And lastly, although this is a fantasy story, I believe there's a lot here that will appeal to readers of science fiction.


Well that's my Next Big Thing, so who's next? Well, I think you're in for a real treat.

The following people are my tagees.

First up is, Sharyn Lilley, writer and publisher of the now sadly defunct Eneit Press. (I think it's fairly safe to say that I own copies of every book that this high-quality small press produced while it was operating.) I'm dying to find out what she is going to get up to next and look forward to reading about her Next Big Thing on her LiveJournal blog here.

Ged Maybury is an expatriate New Zealander (who I believe fled the rise of Sauron long before it became fashionable) that now lives in Brisbane. Ged is probably the best self promoter I know and looks exceedingly dashing in his pink steampunk outfit. (See here for the video clip of the song he wrote for his steampunk-influenced novel 'Across the Stonewind Sky'.) To find out what he's going to get up to next click on this link.

Craig Cormick is a versatile, award-winning Canberra author whose recent published titles range from a history of Douglas Mawson's involvement with Antarctica through to his recently released YA science fiction yarn 'Time Vandals'. Craig and I have shared a few science-related panels at Conflux (Canberra's very own speculative fiction writers convention) in the past and I will be fascinated to find out what he's working on now. Click here to find out.

The first of my overseas tagees is the American Sword and Soul author, Milton J Davis. Milton and I met on the 'A Boy Goes On A journey' (Yes, I knew the 'A Writer Goes on a Journey' website when it was a boy) website where I critiqued a number of his short stories. Milton is a pharmacist during the day, but at night he writes African-influenced dark fantasy like a boss and is heavily involved in promoting the development of African American genre writers. To find out Milton's next big thing click here.

My last tagee is New York Times best-selling author David Bischoff. Dave has written in excess of 80 books across a wide variety of genres under his own name and pseudonyms. He has recently started up the independent e-publisher Hotspur Publishing and is currently mentoring me through my next next big thing, a re-written edition of my previously self-published urban fantasy/noire detective novella 'The Changeling Detective' under the imprimatur of Hotspur. To find out more about Dave's next big thing click here.

My tagees 'Next Big Thing' posts should become accessible in about a week from now but, as it is Christmas, we might cut them a bit of slack and not expect them to post exactly on schedule. Still, I'm sure they will have some great stuff to tell us about.

Enjoy and I hope you all (have/have had) a great festive season and will have a happy and successful 2013.

Obligatory Editing Plug: If you want to find out about my professional editing click here.

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Wrestling Octopus - my Next Big Thing

User eneit referenced to your post from Wrestling Octopus - my Next Big Thing saying: [...] tagged me in his Next Big Thing [...]

Having read an earlier version of Transgressions, I love the idea of Danny Divito as the crotchety old wizard! I think he'd be perfect for the part. The guy from Lethal Weapon (comic relief in the later movies) might also do a decent job (sorry, can't think of his name).

Hi Chris,

I thought of both these guys and Bob Hoskins as well, but they didn't appeal because they are normally used for comic relief and Wamzut doesn't suit that role in the long term.

Now that I think longer about the question, there's a short actor on the made-for-television series 'Sanctuary' by the name of Ian Tracey who might be able to do the job. He plays the villain Adam Worth, if you've ever watched the program.

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