First Anniversary Episode, Part II (Guest Hosts: J. Daniel Sawyer and John Mierau)

The Roundtable Podcast, First Anniversary Episode pt II, with J. Daniel Sawyer, John Mierau, and Dave RobisonWe conclude our anniversary celebration with a remarkable workshop worthy of the first year of our quest for Literary Gold.

We have our returning Guest Host, J. Daniel Sawyer – author of sweeping sci-fi thrillers, rich and complex mysteries, comprehensive guides and resources for writers, and so many more artistic and literary explorations – lending his substantial vision and experience to the workshop. Add to that the articulate and insightful John Mierau, another veteran Guest Host of the Roundtable and crafter of exquisite tales with casts of nuanced and complex characters. With these two creative trailblazers as our guides we launch into a workshop… of my story!

John Mierau
John Mierau

My tale of a young woman’s shame in denying her child an honorable death in a culture that reveres their sacrificed innocents spawns a remarkable discussion, affirming once again our decision to bring seasoned and experienced authors to the table. Dan, John, and Brion all helped reveal layers of both the story AND my approach to it that gave a new appreciation of my own process and the depth of the story I had undertaken. In short, it was a smorgasbord of Literary Gold. (and you can load your plate with more fabulous insights at Dan’s Showcase Episode AND you can check out John’s Past Showcase and Workshop Episodes as well)

PROMO: Geek and Sundry’sThe Storyboard with Patrick Rothfuss

Anniversary Episode, pt II (Guest Hosts: J. Daniel Sawyer and John Mierau)

[caution: mature language and themes – listener discretion is advised]

Check out this and all our episodes on iTunes and on Stitcher Radio!

And from Masters Sawayer and Mierau…

Dan Sawyer:

  • 7 new paperbacks!
    • Ideas, Inc.“, “Making Tracks“, and “Frockcoat Dreams” (expanded from the e-book edition with new essays and poems) are all available as paperbacks!
    • Lantham Novels #2 (“Ghostly Christmas Present”), #3 (“Smoke Rings”), and #4 (“Silent Victor”)
    • “Throwing Lead” and “Suave Rob’s Double X Daring Do” will be arriving in paper form as well
  • Many of the audio books scheduled for last year will be hitting the podosphere very soon
  • Lantham #5 (“He Ain’t Heavy”) to be released in May 2013
  • Antithesis #3 is in the works
  • Half done on a YA Adventure “The Summer Town” and a YA Fantasy “The Auto Motive”
  • Upcoming Kickstarter campaign for the full-cast audio production (with original music from Danny Schade) of an unpublished Gail Carriger Sci-Fi tale titled “Crudrat”.


  • MAYBE Balticon (Baltimore, MD May 24-27)!

John Mierau

  • Savor the wonder of the “Walk the Fire” anthology (available in ebook or audio)
  • Get swept up in the intensity of alien conspiracies in the Enemy Lines Series: “Subversion” and “Infiltration
  • And definitely check out John’s Website for a wealth of audio fiction, interviews, and more!

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Comments (16)

“I’m going to have to listen to this again.”

LOL, no kidding. 🙂 Welcome to this side of the table.

Trying to fit massive world-building into an 8 minute pitch that’s also supposed to include some plot is tough, isn’t it? This sounds like an awesome world with loads of possibilites. So exciting!

Keep an eye out for side characters you can spin out into other shards for continuity. Black- and/or gray-market merchants, escapees from Lysera, ghostly warriors that got sucked into the mists. That way when you are done with Anna’s stories you have entry points into other stories that your readers will want to follow.

It’s good to have Lysera getting bigger as a draw to invasion. Make sure the reader understands why that is so important. What is the situation like in other shards, that expansion is important enough to kill/die for? Do the other shards ever conquer each other? Read or re-read The Prince on conquering and holding other lands for ideas.

I don’t have a lot else. Go write it. I want to know what happens with Anna’s son. (Although I will note that there was very little mention of Anna’s daughter, so right now she’s not very interesting. She might be a good character to spin off to later, depending on what you have planned for her.)

Too right! You know, I really wanted my story pitch to be something to point to and say, “That’s how you do it.” It ended up being a real eye-opener for me and an example of what NOT to do. And (as I said) a huge boost in my respect for you and the other Guest Writers who have pulled it off so brilliantly. We won’t be changing the format, though… it’s a superb exercise in clarity and brevity (something I REALLY need to work on).

You know, it’s interesting. After we wrapped up, Brion and I were talking and he was a little bummed about the story. He and I have been talking about the Shattered Worlds for years now (as Dan and John surmised) and Brion REALLY liked Lycera as “The Evil Place” and the boogieman bad guys (like Firefly’s Reavers) and this story really humanizes that and even asks the reader to sympathize with them. I agreed with him, but YOUR comments Mercy have got me looking at the story differently. I had wanted to reveal this universe in a way that would foster a broader view of things, a wide scope view that would then narrow down into a specific story. But your comments reminded me that we hook readers with characters and conflict and emotional stakes. Your suggestion of using side characters as an opportunity to lead into other Shards is a wonderfully organic way to foster that.

Anna’s son is slated for truly dark things (on a much larger scale), but thank you for referencing Anna’s daughter. She’s been on my mind, too…. wondering if she hates her mother for abandoning her in a wide world of sin (if she’s faithful), or committed to rescuing her mother (maybe she’s working with Raffe)? Or maybe she cut those strings completely and set herself adrift, allowing fate or the gods to set her feet on a useful path.

Oy!! SO MANY STORIES! SO MUCH TO SHARE! Must… write… faster… 😉 (Thanks, Mercy)

You’re welcome 🙂 And I wasn’t suggesting a change of format at all–it really is an eye-opening experience. After listening to mine, I remember thinking, “Abbie was right, I forgot to talk about who the characters are, not just what they do.” Or something like that, anyway.

And nothing says Lycera can’t still be the “Evil Place.” How awesome will it be to be reading stories set in other shards and running into bits of other culture’s lore on Lycera? I love it when books make me go, “Aw, no, guys. Don’t do that. It’s not like that at all…” and you can do that for BOTH sides. /evilgrin

Oh you ARE evil. I like it… and that actually reinforces the whole “it’s a matter of perspective” vibe that drew me to the idea in the first place. Fabulous. :: fist bump ::

Oh, yeah, and I want to second the wiki comment. I need to start doing that myself, because I’m a dozen published stories into Aether Vitalis and I have actually had several panicky moments of knowing I wrote that down somewhere and not being able to figure out which of the thirty plus random files it’s in… You don’t realize how many files you have until you start looking through all the character sketches and the research notes and the abortive outlines and whatnot. Much less keeping track of what’s canon and what isn’t yet…

That was epic, but then I expected no less of you Dave.

As I said in Veronica Giguere’s pitch if you are going to have a protagonist go through a crisis of faith then there has to be something that the religion does right. As corrupt as the lottery system is that chooses the sacrifices, the sacrifices do serve a purpose.

It is like sacrificing maidens to a dragon. It is crewel, the “lottery” is often rigged, but it does actually keep the dragon from attacking. In this case the “dragon” is the mist/void.

For an example of a “religion” which is corrupt while still serving a “higher purpose” I suggest reading Sheri S. Tepper’s The Awakeners: Northshore & Southshore

Thanks, Peter! And yes, I completely agree with you… I love it when a system or faith is presented as utterly corrupt and secular, only to discover that some aspect of it is transcendent and powerful.

There’s a redemptive quality to those story lines that really appeals to me… a kind of hope that, no matter how much we may screw something up, there’s something underneath that will retain the best hopes we had for it. But then, I’ve always been something of an optimist… 😉

While I don’t do this for every episode, since you are one of the creators I am going to let you know how I would “Classify” this story.

I will note that I am judging it based on the pitch at the start of the episode. So changes you decided to make based on the feedback you received could change things.

Genre: Fantasy
(I realize that you may have some “scientific underpinnings” in mind for how the Shards work, however in the context of this story pitch, it is a Fantasy)
Setting: Other Universe (Secondary World Fantasy)
Sub-Genre: Epic
Themes: Conspiracy, Religion, Sacrifice
Tone: Distopia

This was AWESOME! Thanks for going and sitting in a different chair on the other side of The Roundtable Dave! And thanks to Dan, John, and Brion – you all were amazing as well! A golden episode indeed.

Thanks, Dan. It was a little scary but incredibly empowering to have experienced authors discuss my idea. Now I have a MUCH better idea of how you and all the Guest Writers have felt. 🙂

Congratulations on a year of literary awesomeness. I am looking forward to another year so keep up the great work Guys.

Brion, Great job with the Dave intro. It was interesting to see Dave on the receiving end of one.

Dave, Can’t wait to read it man. It is going to be a wonderful story. So hurry up and write it already.

Thank you, Linton… this workshop (and the comments that have followed it) have given me a lot of food for thought. My initial vision was, perhaps, a bit grand in scope (what a shock, huh?), and the feedback I’ve gotten has helped me cut loose from some of the thought-ruts I had worked myself into and looking at the canvas from several different perspectives (it has done NOTHING for my penchant for mixing metaphors, however). 😉

I’ll definitely keep you in the loop, my friend, and let you know when there’s something more than ideas to read.

You know what I really enjoyed listening to Dave talk about this story idea and yeah it was way fascinating to see what that guy actually has in his head – I knew it would be something damn weird and DAMN wonderful and I was not disappointed.

But you know what? This idea and world is almost too big. Have you ever considered doing a sort of Wildcards thing (ala George RR) you know your create the world and some main background politics etc then invite a bunch of authors in to write stories within the world – It would make for one hell of an anthology. OR Dave could write this as a bunch of shorts from different angles in the story with the central line being Anna and the effects of her actions…

*hands up in surrender* Just a thought – But I would totally read that.

YES! That… exactly ::gesticulates and points at Sandy’s idea::

That’s exactly what I ultimately hope to do, Sandy. I think that’s why I came in saying the story was only a novella… because that’s how I intend to approach most this world, at least initially. But as you and the gentlemen of the workshop pointed out, it WAS too big a story.

As I sit down to write this particular tale, I’m re-evaluating the beginning and ending of the story so I CAN fit it into a context that makes sense. Thank you, Sandy… I think you “get” what this story world means to me. 😉

Well I want to read it so get your butt in that seat and start writing. 😀

As had been mentioned in the podcast, you have your work cut out for you to make the reader sympathetic to a protagonist who carries out human sacrifice.

My suspension of disbelief fell apart over the magic system. There is magic to travel to other shards. There is magic to bind souls into an undead army(supposedly), but there is no magic that can tell what baby was sired by which father.

Just spit-balling here; you might consider Anna’s crime was having a romantic sexual relationship. Perhaps the Legatines must sacrifice emotional adult relationships as a requirement of their office, the flip side of a Catholic priest who can have emotional attachments but no sex.

I’m looking forward to you intitiation as a Knight of the Roundtable Podcast.

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