TOTALITY

I started a publishing company, as a few people may be aware. I’ve signed 2 authors, and, as of today, have one book in review for printing. I’m aiming to have it for Imaginarium. I hope there are no delays…. x.x 

So that’s super exciting going on. I’m looking forward to selling it. The cover was done by our lovely NAni, they’re going to be the artist for the TOTALITY series. super fun :)

I’ve gotten my new covers for books 2 and 3 of the Natan Fleet Show fixed and in review now too. I’ve still got copies of the old cover left to sell, so there’s not so much rush to get those done as it was for PTH. Which IS done. I’m taking 48 copies to Imaginarium. The two copies that got presold are in their owner’s hot little hands. I sincerely hope they enjoy! :)

in the meantime, I’m going to rest a moment. Its been GO GO GO for so long I’m tired.

IN THE MEANTIME PLEASE CHECK OUT DANGER AROUND MOUNT PALLIN

Like, subscribe, reblog, post around random places! Make all your friends look at it! :D 

 

Imaginarium

I’ve finished getting the new cover for Playing the Hero fixed and it’s now up for sale once again. I’ll be taking copies of it to Imaginarium in Louisville KY too, though, so if you want it signed, come an GET EM! :)

Beyond that, work on the publishing company I’ve started (Moirae Publishing) is proceeding. We’ve got 2 authors signed – aside from myself – and we will have one of those books (Totality: The Militiaman by J. D. Huffman) available at Imaginarium as well. 

I’ve not had the chance to really focus on Shaxia. :( I’m working on getting people to delegate some tasks to in order to free up more time for me to write, but life has been very busy lately and I haven’t even gotten to play on Tumblr much either, so its not like it’s been all fun and games for me.

But I have been working on the webtoon Danger Around Mount Pallin. We have two chapters posted. We will have chapter 3 posted shortly… If you like, subscribe, and share the comic, send me proof and I will mail you a poster! 

Also check out the Patreon for sneak peeks of stuff, like descriptions of aliens, scenes from Shaxia, pics in progress from my slave ARTIST, and more!

What is DAMP?

~Eloi Concencin~

Eloi lived in a small town at the base of Tonjango Mountain. His family wasn’t poor, but they made do. His father was a miner, pulling Etheria crystals from the mountain and Eloi expected to learn the trade as his father’s father passed it down to him. His uncle, however, saw the boy had potential to be a guard and was teaching him how to defend himself when the accident killed Eloi’s father. Shortly afterwards, the mine was purchased by the Bruskur Mining Company and life in town got steadily worse.

Three years later, Eloi accidentally discovers that the cave-in was no accident, and that those who had died were targeted by the owner of the Bruskur Mining Company. Bruskur wanted to purchase the mine and replace all the people who worked in it with his own men. However, since the mine was owned by the town as a collective property, he was faced with opposition, mostly from Eloi’s father, who was head of the town council. 

Swearing he will get justice, the eighteen year old Eloi tries to stop further mining of the mountain through sabotage while he sends letter after letter to the Judiciary of Avlon, requesting an investigation. When a letter is finally answered in the form of a brigade from Avlon’s army, Eloi’s entire town is burnt to the ground. He barely escapes with his best friend, Cammie, and one of his father’s old friends, Bo. 

Swearing revenge, Eloi sets off on a journey to Avlon’s capitol, intending to take this matter to the king, and if the king is behind it, as the rumors suggest, he’ll settle for taking the king’s blood while he’s at it.

His signature look is twin blades and long red scarf.

What is DAMP?

 

 

~Dalziel Lor Avlon~

Dalziel is the crown prince of Avlon. His father, the king, made him the leader of Avlon’s army. During the events of Danger Around Mount Pallin, the heroes kill his father and Dalziel takes over as a warrior-king. His ambition is to take over the whole world. His threat is credible, since he has four generals who are very dangerous in their own right, but adding to their power is the sixth, mostly unseen presence of the Drakna, who seek to plunge the world into the endless chill of death.

Dalziel’s memorable features are his long silver hair and katana.

In Briar’s fanfic, he was released from the spell the Drakna cast on him by Briar and helped the heroes defeat them. In the end, he abdicated and set up a government for the people by the people and founded the Knights of Emelet with Briar Rose.

He didn’t really have a good relationship with his father, given that his father was possessed by the Drakna. His relationship with his son is mostly due to Briar Rose’s influence. She told him to spend time with his son, and that he could teach Fenris things, but give him encouragement from time to time too. “The boy looks up to you, you’re his DAD. Don’t you remember being his age? Don’t you remember thinking your dad was the greatest person in the world?” Dalziel tries hard to give Fenris his full attention when they’re together and not dismiss what his son has to say. But it’s been difficult for the last year since Fenris looks so much like Briar Rose and its just… painful.

How to get over yourself

Writers have an ego problem. This one is kind of a pots and kettles situation. I know I used to be like this, (still am in some ways) and I apologize to those I inflicted my Writer’s Ego upon.

How to take criticism is easy. And hard.

  1. Don’t take personal offence to your editor doing their job.
  2. If multiple readers tell you the same thing, fix the problem, don’t be part of the problem.

The human mind is wired to discard positive experiences and dwell on the negative. You need to actively fight against that. Even if all your editor has to say is negative stuff, that doesn’t mean there isn’t positive things in your writing.

We (Writers) spend a lot of time, effort, and tears in creating our stories and we want people to love them as much as we do. We have a tendency to be very self-centered, too, and believe that because we’ve spent all this time on something, obviously it’s got to be perfect. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect.

Just to make sure you got that:

NOTHING. IS. PERFECT.

There’s only “good enough for now.”

The sooner you accept that, the easier it will be to take criticism. It’s sort of a “wu wei” situation in which you do what you can to make sure your story is as good as it can be, but then you have to place it into the hands of someone else.

When you hire an editor, you’ve got to divorce yourself from the idea that this is your precious baby cinnamon roll, perfect and pure. It helps if you have some distance between the time of writing and when you submit it to an editor.

When you hire an editor, you are choosing someone to read your work who has spent time honing their skills to pick out what’s wrong with a story and make suggestions on how to fix it. You have to trust them to let you know if what you thought you conveyed is what you actually put on paper. Situations you thought were harmless are actually a big deal to someone else. Otherwise, why did you hire them? To give you a pat on the back? Your mother can do that for a lot less money and energy.

(Thanks to all the “Mothers” – biological or not – who support their artistic babies with unconditional love and support.)

If you’ve handed your story out to multiple readers, and they’re all saying the same thing, such as: “This sequence of events doesn’t make sense” and you take personal affront to that, you need to step back and breathe. The statement is exactly what they said. “This sequence of events doesn’t make sense.” So your problem is either you didn’t describe the events clearly, or the events leading up to the moment that doesn’t make sense aren’t right. So fix that instead of getting your panties in a twist thinking that your friends hate you personally and think your writing is shite.

If they weren’t interested in you, your thoughts, or writing, they wouldn’t have bothered to read the story and give you feedback in the first place. I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve asked someone to read something of mine and they just never got around to it. This is just something that happens. It isn’t that they don’t love me, or aren’t my friend, they have their reasons for not reading what I sent them and it isn’t meant to be a slight towards me. Same goes for you, Hypothetical Reader/Writer person I’m pretending to talk to.

It is one thing if someone who hasn’t read your stuff says something. It is entirely different when you have ASKED someone to read your work and they give you feedback. Trust them. You’re not a terrible writer just because the story isn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect and while you don’t have to take all their suggestions, you do need to listen to the people you have deliberately solicited an opinion from.

Bottom line is that their criticism of your story is not a reflection upon YOU. So CHILL.

The Holy Grail

The one thing all writers should strive for is an original Voice; something that sets them apart from all other books.

Think about how when you listen to the radio, a lot of the songs sound very similar, but if a song comes on that you’ve never heard before, you know by the voice of the singer and the way the music was put together that this song is by Dave Matthews or Nickleback. You can just _tell_ the difference.

That’s what voice is in writing as well.

How to get there, though…

My journey towards that wasn’t a plotted, thought-out adventure, but more of an accident that I stumbled into. I think a good first step is to write.

Write. Write! WRITE!

Participate in Nanowrimo, not just for the sake of having something written, but because it lets you cut down the walls of your inner editor and just be _yourself_ on the page. Tell the story how you want to, rather than how you think someone else wants to read it.

Also keep in mind that unless you want your narrator to be a character in the story as well, you need to be nearly invisible. That’s not entirely possible. Your perceptions and opinions will be present in the book regardless of how much you think you stripped out. There is no way to be entirely unbiased, but that’s also part of your voice. The trick is to be a voice that adds to the story, rather than distracts from it.

Your voice cannot overwhelm the character’s voices. The story, in the end, is theirs, even if you’re technically the one telling it.

Also, do your research. Look at what’s been done before. If you want to write a non-fiction book, you’re not just going to make up stuff, right? You’re going to go out and read all the histories and studies previously done on the subject and come to conclusions of your own, based on the information you’ve gathered. How this applies to writing is that you need to read books in the genre you want to write. You need to look at how many other Fairytale Retellings there are and consider how you will make yours stand out. Why would anyone read your version of Beauty and the Beast over someone else’s when essentially they are the same as the original version. Unless you’re going back further than Disney’s version and starting from the source then recasting it in a modern setting.

This applies even if you’re writing about a completely original world. For example, Epic Fantasy. You need to generally know the tradition the genre comes from (Tolkien), what sets it apart from any other fantasy (a lot of walking), and where it has gone since then (from dragons being evil to dragons being talking friendly mounts like in PERN, and Dwarves having no women to Terry Pratchett’s version in which they just don’t go broadcasting their gender on a normal basis so everyone just assumes all Dwarves are men because they’re all hairy).

Then you need to research how to write. You need to know the rules to know how to properly break them. I’m going to be honest and admit that I never really studied how to sentences. My scores in grade school English classes were abysmal, partially because I didn’t care about school and I was bored, but also because the structure of sentences doesn’t interest me. Sentence structure is important, but should be co-pilot when it comes to getting your ideas across.

I can get away with having a word missing from that sentence in the paragraph above because it’s humorous and also adds to my point. Doing things like that all the time, however, is just going to annoy your readers because they have to work too hard to understand you.

Research how others have written certain types of scenes. Like action sequences, or epic descriptions of scenery that aren’t eye-wateringly boring. Find authors you think did it well and study how they did it. Salvatore does amazing fight-scenes. His secret is short sentences with a tight POV focus on one character. Mercedes Lackey does heart-breaking scenes exceptionally well. She does this by drawing readers into the character by making them relatable first, then following with the angst.

So do your research.

Your voice can also add to the story as the narrator, such as Douglass Adams and Terry Pratchett do, but there’s more to it than just being amusing by yourself. You can be funny in the narration by arguing with in-world gods, but again, don’t overpower your characters. Terry Pratchett for example is humorous, but his characters are _angry_. Legit. Low-key fury simmers beneath every word written on every page of his books, because Terry Pratchett is angry. He’s angry at rampant injustice and angry at stupid people who rule the world with their BS and lies. That’s his Voice. That’s the message he wants you, his audience, to hear.

Douglass Adams is angry about bureaucracy and BS that goes on in government. His characters have a rollicking good time roaming the universe, but you still hear him screaming about the system.

Anne McCaffery was determined to smash empathy and understanding of our fellow human beings into our heads with her words.

Mercedes Lackey believes in equality and that it is achievable without magic.

These attitudes are their Voice. Their way of weaving that into the story itself, behind the scenes, is what gives their work a depth and originality you notice as a reader even if it’s not consciously.

How to Explain Complicated Stuff

Don’t.

To clarify, I’m talking about information that you spent hours and hours on coming up with, researching, and world building, but these things aren’t directly related to the plot. This information isn’t required for the reader to understand the plot of the story, but helps make the world in which its set original.

Explaining this is a tricky situation, though. You don’t want to go too far and rove into Navel Gazing; where the characters sit and stare at the wall, contemplating how society is structured from top down and how they fit in that place. What normal human being honestly does that? Seriously, even introspective types don’t go that far.

Another option is to make use of an audience stand-in. Such as the Village Idiot. Gourry from Slayers is an example, and he’s used for comedy. He gets told things so the audience knows and then called an idiot since he really should have known this to begin with. But he is an idiot, so its ok.

Another common plot device is “From Another World” wherein the stand-in is from another world for real. They are legit confused about the landscape and what’s going on, which gives the author an excuse to explain. But this can easily be abused. Too much detail can kill your story.

That’s the boring way to get information to your readers.

The more fun way to do it is not to!

I get that you did spend hours and hours on world building, but having your characters simply exist in that world and not question the weird things that happen – to me, that’s fascinating. It’s like light switches. Someone from mediaeval times, reading a story set in our era would be mystified by the idea that someone walks into a room and the light comes on, filling the room with brilliance that was not from a candle? That isn’t something we would question because its so normal.

So let a lot of your weird stuff be unexplained. You know the reasons for it to be that way, and as long as its consistent in how it gets treated throughout the story, then your readers will pick up on it from context clues.

For me, I write aliens and their cultures and biology, by definition, are not Human. I can’t take 3 pages to have Vathion explain what Scent Bonding and Widow Syndrome are since he doesn’t have reason to explain that kind of thing to himself. I would need someone from outside the culture to ask questions about it. However, that’s still not a subject that would come up in casual conversation. The only way to get across the information that Widow Syndrome is a death sentence, fraught with dementia, is to just show it happening.

Writing a book is like constructing an iceberg. Only the tip – the story that ends up in the book – is visible, with all this other stuff lurking under the surface that supports it.

Plot Building

There are different methods of doing it others have discussed at great length; from the 3-Act, to character-driven, or events-driven. If you want more info on the nuances of each, I’d suggest listening to the Writing Excuses Podcast.

My plots don’t really confine themselves to definitive and easy labels. The most I can say about my plots are that they’re character-driven for the most part? I have elements where horrible things happen and they aren’t any one person’s fault, but all everyone else can do is just watch the dumpster fire roll down a steep hill and into a petting zoo. 

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) splits people into Plotters or Pantsers. I’ve discovered I’m more of a Pantser. As in, writing by the seat of them. If my plots fit into any kind of structure, it’s mostly a happy accident at the end.

When I begin a new project, I start by asking “What If?” This is Phase 1, as mentioned in my Phases of Writing Post.

I have another post where I talked about Creativity, so I won’t go into that at length here. I usually pick several and smash them together. For example:

  • What if there was a world where wishes came true?
  • What if a girl ended up switched into a guy’s body?
  • What if no one can tell the difference?

As it is now, the above example doesn’t have a clear ending other than maybe she gets her body back, but what then? Is that worthy of being the end of the book?

  • What if the guy whose body she is in Wished to end the world?

There we go. Now she has to remain engaged in the story past getting her body back. This addition will usually get me another 80,000 words, at which point, I’ll have to begin doing my rereading process to remove anything that no longer fits from when I first began the story.

I also look for places where I skipped scenes and begin writing those. By this point, I’ve got an ending in mind, which I will begin bending the plot towards. As I said before, I’m a Pantser, so I let my characters have some free reign to avoid the plot if they want, although doing so doesn’t always end well for them. Interesting diversions will stay in the book, whereas things that don’t serve any real purpose except for being neat will eventually be cut. (Refer to Cutting Darlings, which I’ll probably write about later.)

Once I’ve got 3/4ths of a story together is when I begin savagely destroying scenes that don’t fit the direction I want to go. This also ties into the Separating Scenes topic… which I’ll also write eventually.

In the end, I aim for Murphy’s Law. If things can go poorly, I’ll make sure that they do. You can have a plot without conflict. Coffee Shop AU’s are still popular. However, they’re hardly satisfying if there was no original trauma for the character to escape from.

And traumatizing my characters gives me life.

Recently, I bashed out the chapter by chapter plot for Shaxia. I did that by beginning with the ending. I know where I want the ending. Then decided that I needed more tension at the beginning.

I then focused on the pieces in the middle that I knew I wanted to happen and asked myself if they were Darlings that needed killing. Some of them got killed, others got promoted and fleshed out.

I connected the dots with some broad strokes and BOOM. Outline done.

Now its a matter of writing the scenes, but they’re loose enough that I can still find surprises for my Pantsing self.

Phases of Writing

Currently I have multiple projects I’m working on. Well, this is more of a thing that’s always going on, rather than just something that happened recently.

My projects go through a few phases.

Phase 1: Zero-Draft

This is the version of the story in which I do what I want, regardless of whether it makes any sense. This can happen during NANOWRIMO, or not, depending on whether I have ideas or not. In this draft, I write all the fun stuff I had the ideas to write about, skipping anything that may have been boring, and just enjoy the process of writing. This draft looks like crap thrown against the wall and includes not just the stuff that stuck, but whatever slid down and piled up in a stinking mess on the floor.

Phase 2: First Pass

In this phase, I begin by leaving my Zero Draft alone for a while, then coming back to it after a few months to do a reread. I figure out the parts I liked and mark them for keeping and ruthlessly delete whatever is just stupid. This is the version that actually sees the light of day. I’ve got a few people I allow to read this version and they give me feedback. At this time, I specifically ask my alpha-readers to ignore grammar and such, since if a scene is no good and needs to be cut, there’s no point in making sure the commas are in the right place.

Phase 3: First Draft

After some brainstorming, I’ll begin combing out tangles and adding more things to flesh out the setting and characters. Again, since this is a Drafting phase, I continue to write whatever makes me excited, rather than sticking entirely to what might or might not make sense for the story as a whole. This allows me to remain entertained and interested in the story, and to discover new things I might not have done otherwise. It’s this phase where my characters really start talking to me and taking over the story.

Phase 4: Second Pass

Hopefully by the end of First Draft, I have an ending. It may not be the perfect ending, but it’s an ending of some kind, making it a full draft that I can seriously start massaging into better shape. This is where I really take out the pruning shears and begin cutting stuff. At this point, anything can get removed, from characters, to entire plot lines. I also start cleaning up the flow of information that the characters get, making sure they don’t jump to the right answer before they’re supposed to. It’s here that I make sure that I challenge the characters and rewrite scenes to create more obstacles.

Phase 5: Second Draft

By now, I’m pretty set on what the story is going to be about, so I start editing for grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. I’m still on the look-out for scenes that could flow better if something were changed/added/removed. I go so far as to read each sentence out loud to see if it’s too long for the emotion I’m attempting to evoke in the scene. I’ll let my beta readers have a go at the manuscript at this point and make changes based on their feedback.

Phase 6: Chopping Block

I decide, roughly, how many words long I want this story to be. Then I reread the story again for the purpose of cutting words. Usually, my Second Draft is around 160,000 words. I try to keep my end products around 110,000 words. I find that’s long enough for me to get all my plot threads wrapped up sufficiently. Anything that I like but doesn’t belong, I’ve got a special file I put them in. Maybe those ideas will get used later (probably not but it makes me feel better about deleting the scene). I look for places where conversations can be combined, or information could be revealed elsewhere. Then I give it back to my beta readers and ask their thoughts.

Phase 7: Polishing

Now I dedicate an entire reread to looking for grammar and typos. Any changes I make at this point are usually small-scale, consisting of rewording things for clarity.

I do that a few more times until I’m sick of looking at the thing.

Blockages.

Writers frequently have them. I am no exception.

There are three types of writer’s block for me. First is the kind where I actually cannot think of anything to write. The second is the kind brought on by procrastination. The third is the kind brought on by listening too closely to my inner editor.

Can’t think of Anything to Write: This usually happens when there’s a problem with my story that needs to be figured out before I can proceed with it. Sometimes, I just need more input from other sources in order to put the pieces together in new and interesting ways. Other times, there’s a logistical problem that I need to work around; such as, my character is smarter than me and I have to come up with a complication or problem he wouldn’t see coming or easily find a way around. When I come across these things, I just set the project aside for a while and work on something else. I give my brain a little time to turn what I’ve got into slush and reconstitute it into something else. My next strategy is to find something I’m actually interested in writing… Instead of beating my head against a wall that isn’t moving, I’ll just do something fun. After all, if writing isn’t fun for me, then why am I doing it? I am the first person I aim to please when it comes to my stories. However, this form of blockage frequently devolves into the second type, Procrastination, if I don’t at least try to write something. Even if it’s garbage or not related to my preferred projects.

Procrastination: This usually happens when I know I should be writing and I have some ideas, but just can’t find the time to make myself write it. It usually ends up sliding into the third type… I currently have it on my projects for Shaxia and Foreseen Champion. They’re supposed to be my next books in the Natan Fleet Show series but while I’ve had ideas on them, I haven’t been able to collect enough together that’s worth spending time writing. Instead, I’ve been working on another project. Procrastinating writing these projects until I have a better idea of what I want to do with them. I will also supplement with finding a good sound track that encapsulates the general feel of the piece I want to write. I listen to a lot of game sound tracks and game remixes.

The Inner Editor Rears it’s Ugly Head Again: This type is the worst. The first two can be gotten around by just finding something I AM interested in writing. However, when the Inner Editor crawls out from beneath its rock and begins spewing poisonous vitriol, it’s a bit harder to ignore. When this happens, I find I have to take better care of myself and take careful stock of what I’ve been allowing myself to think. There’s a time and a place for the Inner Editor. It helps make my stuff better, but not at the initial writing stage. Sure, that scene I just wrote is crap, but that doesn’t mean I should stop writing forever. My go-to strategy to deal with this is to put down the writing for the time being and take some time to myself. Focus on something I know I can accomplish, such as cleaning. Decluttering my surroundings helps remove the trash talk from my brain and gives me the strength to go back and look at my work with fresh eyes.

While I don’t write every day, like I probably should, I write often enough to make me happy.

..

For a chance to win a free physical copy of Playing the Hero, let me know how you get around blockages?