10 September 2018

Lauren Alder Visits Talking about "The Codex of Desire"!

Hello Lauren!  Thank you so much for visiting Written Butterfly with me today!  It’s such a pleasure to chat with you.  So tell me…

Q) How did you dream up the dynamics of your characters?

The original premise for “The Codex of Desire” was inspired by a non-fiction book: “Ninja: 1000 Years of the Shadow Warrior” by John Man. In that premise, a warrior from the Samurai culture was captured by the Ninja culture and fell in love with a Ninja singer -- and all the characters were intelligent talking feathered dinosaurs.

Alas, the main dynamic that was there at the beginning (a “tale of star-cross’d lovers”, each from the opposite side of a centuries-long conflict) didn’t survive contact with the actual process of writing the book. It sometimes happens that way, and in writing “Codex” I saw:

-- the brave captive warrior Hero become the Damsel in Distress;

-- the ruler of the “Ninjas” become a ruthless female Chieftess whose primary goal was to coerce the warrior into her harem so that his fresh new seed could stimulate her flagging fertility;

-- the female Singer become a virtual mute with no agency of her own; and

-- the female slave, who had originally warranted a single line in the project outline, become the real Hero of the story.

Nobody could have been more surprised than me to realize, after finishing the first draft, that my character dynamics had shifted so dramatically. But I put a lot of trust in the subconscious Writing Machine ™ inside my head, and in this case the Writing Machine was fully in charge.

Q) Is this book part of a series?  If so, can you tell us about it?

This book MAY be part of a series, if I can get “Codex” itself off the ground. In the next novel, Raoul Deguchi (the human paleontologist who helplessly witnessed the tragic intersection of five dinosaur lives 67 million years in the past), is alive and active in the year 2030, and on a quest to find the alien tech Source-Forge which was central to the Culture of the Word. He is also Patient Zero for the spread of the Codex, an alien virus which retro-engineers its victims for superior intelligence as well as other unusual abilities, and there is a massive world-wide debate in progress about whether the Codex should be stopped -- or if it even CAN be stopped.

Q) Can you give a fun or interesting fact about your book?

The whole novel is a secret tribute to British author Richard Adams, whose classic animal fantasy novel “Watership Down” has been a major inspiration to me during my entire writing life. I re-read it at least once a year and if Mr. Adams was still alive, I like to think that he would have approved of “Codex”.

Q) What do you think is your strongest asset as a writer? …what is your weakest factor as a writer?

Strongest asset? According to my readers, that’s my ability to drum up drama and grab them by the heart. One of my beta readers recently pulled me aside at a convention and sat me down for fifteen minutes to tell me, with great feeling, how she had to keep putting “Codex” down because the emotional impact was just too intense… but then she had to go back and pick it up again, because she simply HAD to know what happened hext!

Weakest factor? I think that’s difficult for any writer to spot, but in my case it’s a tendency to be too wordy. A lot of that gets cut or tightened in the editing phase, but I know it’s there and I try to keep it under control..

Q) Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

To be original, definitely. If my book is well-written and interesting, it will find its audience -- and there are already plenty of writers out there who are “writing to the market”. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that (the romance novel industry runs on the “writing to the market” principle and there are fine books in that genre), but it’s just not something I’ve ever been interested in. I trust the Writing Machine ™ to take me where my story needs to go.

Of course, the big disadvantage of being original is that original often equals high-concept, and high-concept is notoriously hard to sell. But I’d rather be true to my own creative vision and have only a few dedicated readers, than write to a formula and get higher sales numbers.

Q) Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?

I sketch out their rough roles in the plot outline, but I’m definitely a gardener rather than an architect when it comes to characters: there’s a seed, but what comes out of that seed or which way the vines grow often comes as a surprise to me. (Remember the female slave who became the hero?)

Q) Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

At the moment I’m writing stand-along books exclusively (although as noted above, “Codex” does have the potential for a sequel). But no, I’m not looking to build a universe where all my books tie together at the substratum layer.

Q) What are your upcoming projects?

For National Novel Writing Month 2018 (if any readers don’t know what that is, I strongly advise them to look it up), I’ll be taking my third kick at the can with a novel called “Where Darkness Falls”.

“WDF” is set in Chicago in the year 2038, so there are definitely sci-fi elements, but the plot focuses on two secret US government agents who are tasked with solving the mystery of a series of gory ritual murders. The agents of this particular agency are Manifesters, humans who possess supernatural abilities based on their particular religious/spiritual beliefs, and who as a hidden subculture go all the way back to the time of Hammurabi. The two MCs of “WDF” loathe each other on sight -- one is a Southern Baptist, the other is a Wiccan, and they’re both extremely bigoted against each other’s religious path -- but somehow they must overcome their mutual antipathy in order to avert Armageddon.

About the Book….

Lauren Alder wrote "The Codex of Desire" because a science fiction time-travel novel about intelligent feathered dinosaurs in tragic love triangles had never been written before — and she knew that she was just the one to accomplish it. 

"I set out to tell stories that provide readers with plenty to think about after the last page has been turned," Lauren says, "and I enjoy creating narratives that challenge my audience to look at reality in new and deeply engaging ways."

"The Codex of Desire" is the tale of a human paleontologist who touches an alien-forged metal band wrapped around the forearm of a small theropod dinosaur fossil, and is mentally transported back in time to experience the tragic intersection of five dinosaur lives.

"If you want an adult story brimming with love and violence, war and lust, secrets and betrayal — and featuring talking dinosaurs in the starring roles — then this is the novel for you," Lauren concludes.

Love and violence, war and lust, lies and betrayal — even intelligent feathered dinosaurs fell prey to such savage impulses, more than 67 million years ago.

When Raoul Deguchi, a human paleontologist, touches the alien-forged metal band wrapped around the forearm of a small theropod dinosaur fossil, he is mentally transported back in time to experience the tragic intersection of five dinosaur lives.

Girn'ash, a shrewd and secretive female slave, falls in love with Tir'at~Esk, a dashing military prisoner — and will do anything in her meagre power to win his freedom. But Girn'ash's queen is determined to coerce the handsome warrior into her harem, and when so many ferocious desires collide it might doom an entire civilization to nuclear extinction.

About the Author….

Lauren Alder was born and raised in Winnipeg, where she currently lives with her husband. She is a freelance commercial artist, a past Eisner Award nominee, and a lifelong science nerd with an enduring interest in dinosaurs, history, and the sociology of food. "Codex" is her first novel, but will certainly not be her last.

Where to buy….

Chapter 4: Tir'at

The shrill cry in the Inflection Low pierced Tir'at's cloak of warm slumber, stabbing him to the heart with a scythe-claw of ice-hot adrenaline.
"Awake!" The voice of a male Greatest — not the Captain — shrieked again in the darkness, only to be cut short in a wordless scream. "The Tribes! The Tri — AAAAAAAAAIEK!"
Tir'at's eyes shot open, wide amber in the gloom under the fallen tree's roots. His view was upside down — his muzzle was still half-tucked under his wing — but he could see movement in the moonlit clearing beyond their refuge: many bodies, all Greatest, all big — and all leaping towards him —
— no, not towards him: towards the main body of the Captain's unit, bunched together closer to the centre of the fallen tree's root-arch. Tir'at lay off to one side, separated from them by a full three body-lengths, and consequently he didn't appear to be a target — yet.
He whipped his head up to take in the scene at a glance — a scene of violence and horror. A horde of Greatest females, more than two-fours, distinguishable from males by their larger size and more prominent red-tinged chest-ruffs, charged out of the forest and pounced upon the Culture's Warriors, their wings flaring savagely and their scythe-claws flashing forward to gouge into vulnerable flesh. The Warriors screamed and thrashed, trying to mount a defence, but there were so many Fighters of the Tribes swarming over them, clawing and biting with flashing teeth already black with blood in the moonlight —
Sprays of red blood, so black in the moonlight, pattering to ground soaked from the earlier rain and rapidly trampled under gouging clawed feet.
The moon waxed toward half-full, and was lowering into the west: it was close to midnight, although Tir'at realized with cold clarity that he would probably not live to see the dawn. Could he flee through these woods, in the dark, without knowing the way and without breaking his bones in a tumble down an unexpected ravine? More importantly, could he escape the rapacious female Tribal Fighters, who doubtless knew this terrain so well?
It was his duty. He had to get word of this massacre back to the Culture's Settlement — and he had to be stealthy.
Moving slowly, as if he were a leaf idly drifting in the wind (what a strange image, how unconscionably Primitive!), he levered himself to his feet and started edging past the curve of the tree-root, keeping his silhouette as small as possible and his body as low to the ground as he could, crest flattened and wings tucked in tight. The female Fighters were engrossed in killing their screaming prey — if he retreated skilfully, perhaps they would not notice him until he was slipping into the shelter of the forest —
One of the Fighters, raising her long-muzzled head with a gobbet of still-living flesh clenched in her jaws, jerked her neck erect and looked directly into Tir'at's eyes.
Before she could cry the alarm, he leaped fully to his feet and plunged away into the forest, into the shadows so deep that he might as well have been stricken blind.
He ran as he had never run before — he, who was the swiftest runner any of his teachers had every seen. Everybody said so, and now he could only pray —
— no, males of the Culture did not pray, females of the Tribes prayed — the Culture knew that scientific rationality was the only path to tread!
Well, then — he trusted that his teachers had been correct, and that he would prove faster than any of his enemies. He ran, trusting instinct to guide his racing feet, to evade with an animal's sure senses any obstacle in his path —
His instincts were not enough. Had the Codex not taught that animals, and those who behaved as animals, were doomed to certain failure?
He never knew afterwards what he hit — a branch across the path, most likely, at exactly the right level to intersect his forehead as he bolted full-out, his spine as level as a spear in flight. The shock of impact exploded behind his eyes in a burst of blinding radiance, an all-consuming flare of pain — and then —
— then he was on the ground, in the blackness, his wings an undignified sprawl in the mud around him, his hind legs already scrabbling for purchase, to push himself back onto his feet. He had barely managed to raise his head, feeling the hot trickle of blood running over his left temple and into the short feathers of his cheek, before a clawed foot descended on his neck behind his jaw and slammed him back to the earth, setting off another sickening wave of pain in his skull.
"What have we here?" a female voice sang above him in a hideously melodic Inflection Low
[[[chirps, squeals, liquid burblings, trills, clacks of jaw, clicking of tongue... shamelessly musical... luxuriously richer in texture than the bare-bones spoken language of the Culture of the Word...]]]
each deep-pitched word seeking its next song: "A flyer, a seeker, a curse of white sky-stone? A sweet little male, bereft and alone! He wears the Word on his arm, in his flight — but shall he find only death this night?"
Tir'at tried to open his mouth, to say Kill me if you like, I will tell you nothing! But the female's foot crushed his throat, her scythe-claw pricking a fresh wound into his neck close to his spine, and no words would come. His last awareness was of many more heavy footfalls drawing swiftly nearer, and thought-consuming blackness even deeper than the night rushing in like a storm...

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