A Brief Holiday

Hi everyone,

Due to the busy schedule ahead of us and the upcoming U.S. holiday, I won’t be able to write a blog today, and I probably won’t be able to next weekend either :(  I’m really sorry!

However, I wanted to leave you all with some good news and with a question!

Rise of the Forgotten

First the good news: I’ve completed the final edits for Rise of the Forgotten!  I’m really excited about this, because there’s not much left for me to do before I can setup and order a proof copy!  I’ve already purchased the license for cover art for books 1 through 3 and the cover art for Orc War Campaigns, so all I have left to do is finalize the maps!

And one other thing to finish, a part I’m struggling with…the “About The Author” page.  I don’t like what I’ve written in the 1st editions of books 1 and 2, but I don’t know how to re-write it.  I’ve already had one friend give me really good suggestions on facebook, but, my question to you all:

What are some of your favorite “About The Author” pages that you’ve read before?  Or, if you’re a writer, what have you written for yours in the past?

Thanks for reading, and to those celebrating this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!

-Jon Wasik

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Do Constraints Mold The Best Art?

I read an article not long ago that made an interesting claim: placing constraints on an artist helps create the best art, while giving an artist total free reign, IE “the sky is the limit” often results in monstrosities.

Of course, I don’t have the article to re-read, and so I cannot remember the examples they gave.  But, the idea came back to me today and I realized that in some ways, there may be truth to it.

Let’s take the most basic (or perhaps extreme) example: spelling, grammar, punctuation.  If you tell a writer “no rules” you’re going to get something that’s difficult to read, if not impossible in some cases.

An example:

“OMG can u imagene readding a entire 300 pg b00k likE THis?”

…That was painful just to write!  Almost as painful as reading Washington Irving’s run-on sentences!

But what about less obvious examples?  As I’ve found out the hard way, there are rules about genre, and while it might not be too bad to bend those rules to make it interest, flat-out breaking them might work against the writer.

Image Source – https://cbsdenver.files.wordpress.com

The best example I can think of is a topic I’ve already talked about: novel cover art.  When I first started considering cover art for The Sword of Dragons, I remember looking at the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble and thinking, “All these covers look similar.  I know!  I’ll do something completely different, that’ll make my book stand out!”

Except…it didn’t.  Not in the way I wanted it to.  Yes, I made it look very different from regular fantasy novels.  And so anyone looking to read a fantasy novel didn’t even bother to pick it up, or more likely, didn’t bother to click on it on amazon.com to see what it was about.

But there’s more than just cover art to consider…

Tropes of Fantasy

I’m a fan of taking a typical fantasy trope and turning it into something just a little different.

Image Source – http://dartgarry.deviantart.com/

For instance, a typical trope about dragons is that they are fire-breathing creatures who live in caves guarding a hoard of treasure.  In the first Sword of Dragons novel, there is, in fact, a dragon living in a cave, and she is indeed guarding something of incredible value, but rather than an evil beast greedily guarding gold, she is protecting the most powerful weapon in the universe.

Is it possible to take this too far?  Initially I might say yes, but then I look at examples like Game of Thrones.  In most fantasy novels, the heroes live and achieve their goals, and the heroes are often very clearly defined from the villains.  Neither of these tropes are true in Game of Thrones.

But is that an exception?  What was it about GoT that made it so popular?  Honestly I don’t know, but it seems like this has created a sort of sub-genre of fantasy.  I’m curious to see how many more venture into this type of fantasy, successfully.

And in all honesty, I’m not sure what rules should or shouldn’t be followed, when it becomes okay to break rules or tropes.

For my own part, I do enjoy a lot of fantasy tropes, they are why I like the genre.  Dragons and magic in particular draw me in.  I intend to continue to toe the line, keeping some fantasy tropes intact, while turning others on their heads.

Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/smokelight/dwarf/

For instance, dwarves will start to play a bigger part in books 3 and 4, but they won’t be exactly what you’ve come to expect from dwarves.  You’ve already seen in book 2 that they once lived underground, as is typical for dwarves…but they definitely don’t anymore.

I also do not like the “Damsel in Distress” trope.  Even if there’s ever a female character in need of rescuing in my novels, it’s usually not done in the typical way (for instance, Elaria in the first Sword of Dragons novel.)  I’m all for ‘damsels in distress’ rescuing them selves, like Princess Leia did!

In any case, to answer the initial question of this blog, I think it helps to have constraints.  Movie productions have shown that an unlimited budget aren’t necessarily going to create a better product.  But sometimes, just sometimes, there are those that can break the typical rules and succeed.

It all depends on the circumstances, and perhaps even the luck of the draw.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

When Is It Too Late To Add Something New?

Hi everyone!

First I want to apologize for the lack of a blog post last week.  It was a busy weekend, plus my ADHD was extremely bad :(  I sat down to at least write a “Sorry no blog post this week” and just…nothing would come out, I couldn’t focus at all.

Adding New Genre Elements

Anywho, on to today’s blog topic!  When is it too late to add something new to a series?  A new element, a new story line…I guess that’s rather vague, so perhaps I’ll jump right into why I’m asking this question.

My previous blog entry talked about developing the story for book 4 of the Sword of Dragons series (which, by the way, is already shaping up to be more complex than book 3, story-wise!)  Part of the development has involved trying to give more time and attention to the supporting characters.

This led to an element I’ve known for years I wanted to introduce: airships, and an airship captain as a character.  But I didn’t know who to make that character, what that character would be like.  So I started thinking about that.

Image Source – http://wowwiki.wikia.com/wiki/Gnome

Initially I started going down the path of a gnome.  In some fantasy stories, especially Warcraft, that is typical: gnomes are steampunk engineers in the Warcraft universe.  I also wanted this new captain to flirt heavily with one of the female supporting characters already introduced (I’m intentionally not saying whom at this time, spoilers ;) )

But then I thought, no, because of Warcraft, gnome engineers and airship captains has kind of become a staple of fantasy, and I wanted to do something different.

I still don’t know exactly what species, but I’ve also tried to increasingly show women in strong positions, so I decided I’m going to make the airship captain a woman…but then, I still wanted to do the story line involving the flirtation with the supporting character I mentioned.

Image Source – http://legendofthecryptids.wikia.com/wiki/Airship_Captain_Sally

And that’s where I come to the meat of this post.  To avoid spoilers, I won’t say if a relationship ever sparks up between these two characters, but I have not yet explicitly shown or featured homosexuality in my series.

Why?  I could go into a detailed explanation, but it basically boils down to the fact that when I first started developing Sword of Dragons over 15 years ago, it was still a very taboo topic and I didn’t give it much thought.

First and foremost, I know that this would alienate some existing readers who are extremely anti-homosexual.  But it would also attract readers from the LGBTQ+ community.  I don’t want to get into the topic of “is it right or wrong” at this time, that is not the focus of this blog post.

But this does mean that I’ll be introducing a completely new element into the 4th novel of the series.  Actually, 2 elements, one that has been intended for some time, and one not.

This does not mean that the Sword of Dragons series will become a steampunk novel series or a homosexual erotica series.  It will remain, at its core, a fantasy adventure series.  But just like all fantasy adventure or sci-fi, it is a genre that can include elements of many other genres without it being out of place.

Image Source – https://digitalart.io/digital-art/fantasy-art-horror-warriors-wallpaper

Fantasy stories can also be romances (and often are.)  They can be horror.  They can even be buddy-cop type stories (that could be an interesting story to write someday!)  Or murder mysteries.  They can be about individuals or about entire worlds, they can cover small personal struggles, massive interplanetary wars, and everything in between.

If you’ll pardon the pun, that is the magic of fantasy.  It can be just about anything!  It can take the writer and the reader anywhere their imaginations can fathom.

The hard part is making something new and fresh while also keeping it consistent.  So what do you think, dear readers?  Is book 4 too late to introduce these new elements, whether planned or not?

In case you’re thinking back and wondering, both of these elements were previously hinted at in the series.  The steampunk is a combination of magic and technology, IE science and magic together.  That has been hinted at in that I’ve made the physics of the universe, outside of magic, work like reality.  Planets orbiting stars, etc.  And the LGBTQ+?  Well, I’m still wondering how many people have picked up on it, but let’s just say you might take a closer look at the final episodes of The Orc War Campaigns :)

Update on Rise of the Forgotten

I’m about halfway through chapter 27 on editing!  I’ve been focusing more on the edits than the map-making lately, mostly because that has aligned with my schedule and opportunity.  But since I’m almost finished with edits, that means it’ll soon be time to finish the map and get a proof copy of the novel ordered!  I’m hoping by December I’ll have the first proof copy in hand.

I can’t wait to be able to release it for you all to read!  :D

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

When Inspiration Strikes – Developing The Next Novel

Hi everyone!

Whenever I start actually writing the manuscript to a new novel, by that point it has been at least a year or two in the making (the one exception so far being the Chronicles of the Sentinels.)  I first come up with the general idea, either for the story or for a character, and start to unravel the entire story surrounding that idea, as well as back story to go along with it.

So it shouldn’t surprise me, and yet it still does: I’m smack in the middle of 2nd edition edits, still need to finish writing the first draft of book 3 of The Sword of Dragons…and suddenly inspiration strikes, and I start unraveling the entire story for book 4 in my head!

Not to say I don’t already have a general idea of all six books anyway, but I mean actual full story details.  And the best part is that I started coming up with the details when I started thinking to myself, “how can I start to give the supporting characters more attention?”

And it just started unraveling in my head like the story was already there in my mind, I just hadn’t brought it forward to my conscious thoughts yet.

What’s really exciting is that, just like  with my 7-year run on my fan fiction, things that I wrote in the earlier books are coming together to create the new stories.  Things that happened in the first 3 books as well as The Orc War Campaigns will become important in book 4…some things I didn’t even mean to make important later on!

I get so excited when this happens!  I love that, somewhere in the back of my mind, everything is connecting together from the beginning and building on the foundational story.

The Importance of Supporting Characters

Image Source – http://sunniersartofwar.com

More and more, I’m learning just how important supporting characters are.  Often times supporting characters become fan favorites in stories.  Samwise Gamgee, for instance, or Ron Weasley.

In the past, this was something I struggled with.  In my fan fiction, I focused a lot on the two main characters, the Captain and his first officer.  To the suffering of all other supporting characters.  I started to rectify this in the last two seasons, but I realized this was something I should have done from the get go.

For The Sword of Dragons, I tried to ensure I at least had good back stories setup for Reis, Sira, and Dalin.  Yet I feel like I still haven’t given them the time and attention they deserve.  That’s definitely changing starting in book 3, and most definitely now in book 4.

But, I have a question for everyone: are you usually willing to read a longer novel due to more time and attention being given to supporting characters?  For instance, book 3 of the Sword of Dragons will have about 1/4 of the chapters devoted to Reis going on his own adventure without Cardin or Sira.  Plus several other chapters branch off for other supporting characters.

All of these instances are integral to moving the main story line forward, and I think that’s probably the key: any time a novel goes to a perspective of another character, it must be with a legitimate purpose, and not ‘just because.’  What do you think?

Status of 2nd Edition Edits

I have less than 100 pages of edits left for Rise of the Forgotten, which means I’m more than 2/3rds through it!! :D  I’m excited, I really like how the changes are affecting the flow, I think it’s making for a much more enjoyable story.  Of course, that’s my own opinion, I just hope everyone who reads it will agree :)

Much to my surprise, so far I’ve reduced the word count of book 1 by 1400 words!  I’m kind of glad to see this overall trend, though, mostly because I’m trying to get rid of redundant phrasing and make each paragraph have more impact.

I haven’t had time to work on maps.  I also just realized that the artist doing my character sketches, Centalynn Artworks, should be back in country now, so I need to go back to review her latest iterations and make choices to send to her.  I don’t currently plan to include any character sketches in the novels, but I’d love to have them on the website as soon as they are finished :)

That’s all for today, thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Are Writers Too Close To Their Stories?

Hi everyone!

Back in March, I wrote an article about software that analyzes a passage and tells you whose writing style it is similar to.  One of the things I was surprised to learn was that my writing style has changed over time.  More than that, I’ve even come to realize that my writing style changes depending on what I am writing.

I’m not just talking about the difference between fantasy and sci fi, but within a single novel.  The first Sword of Dragons novel (Rise of the Forgotten), I initially got Arthur Conan Doyle, and later on, JK Rowling.  I’ve put in a few other passages from Rise of the Forgotten (all edited versions) and got Dan Brown for an action sequence, and then JK Rowling for another random section.

However, back in March, I was surprised when passages from Burning Skies and the unfinished book 3 came out as Ursula K. Le Guin, the writer of the Earthsea series.  I’d never read any of her work, so wasn’t sure what to make of it.  So I went out and bought the first Earthsea novel, The Wizard of Earthsea.  About a week ago, I finally started reading it.

…and I don’t see it.  I don’t see any similarity to her writing style.  I was shocked by that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t like her writing style, I actually rather enjoy it and I’m getting through the first book very quickly.  In fact someone said she’s a master of character development, so the comparison is flattering.  But I don’t see the similarity to my style.

Or at least, I didn’t think so at first…

Am I Just Too Close To My Own Writing To See It?

I mentioned this to my friend Liza the other day over IM.  She kinda paused for a bit, and then replied that she actually could see the similarity, and started going into details about how.  One of the thing she said is that we both write very matter-of-fact in many instances.

I see that in Earthsea, but I wasn’t seeing that in my own writing.  And I started wondering…is that just because I’m too close to my own writing?  I know that’s why they say a writer should always get an outside editor (hard to do when you can’t afford one…)

It’s neither a good thing or a bad thing, though, it’s just my style.  Some people will like it, some won’t.  I started wondering if I should find a way to adjust my writing and make it less ‘matter-of-fact’ but then I realized that it works for me.  Not to say my writing style is perfect – I will never stop trying to make myself better.

But that’s an important thing to remember.  Find your voice.  It may be like someone else’s, but that’s okay as long as it is your voice and it isn’t a struggle to write in that style.

So Do Outside Opinions Matter Or Not?

This becomes a rather difficult question to answer.  Not everyone likes my writing style.  And I truly do think that I’ll always have room for improvement.  But who would be the best judge of my style and what direction I should go to improve it?

Honestly that’s something I struggled with in the writer’s critique groups.  There were writers from all genres there, and some of the other writers there were criticizing aspects that were staples to fantasy.  As much as I like to turn some tropes on their heads, if you do that too much, you can actually drive readers of your genre away.  Finding that balance is difficult.

I find that writers often try to impose the rules of their genre onto others when they get into a critique group.  Just ask any die-hard literary fiction writers.  (And now I’m having flashbacks to my college days…)

So does that mean that only writers from your story’s genre can be good judges?  Actually…not necessarily.  Because even within a genre, writers have their own styles, and readers can have preferences to styles.

So the question is…who is the authority?  Is there an authority?  I honestly don’t know.  Even within a single genre, ‘famous’ writers can have extremely different styles, and some of those famous writers break every rule that’s out there.

I don’t have an answer to that question.  At all.

So my only advice: go with your gut.  Trust the opinions of your target audience and don’t stop trying to improve your writing.  In fact, pay close attention to what your target audience says.  That may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

When Is It Too Soon?

Hi everyone,

I apologize that today’s blog post is such a short one, we’ve had a family emergency and my mind is just…not in the right place for writing a blog.  However, I didn’t want to leave you all with nothing this week, so I thought I’d answer a question I’ve been asked by a couple of people recently.

Cover by Christian Michael

“Why did you announce the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons so early?  If people know that there’s going to be a 2nd edition sometime soon, doesn’t that mean few people will want to buy the current editions?  You won’t get many sales between now and then.”

That’s true, and is one of the things I considered when deciding when to reveal those plans.  However, for the same reason that I made the announcement so early, I’ve not been buying any more advertisements for the books.

I would feel guilty, trying to get people to buy my books when there’s a newer, better version on the horizon.  I already feel bad since I know there will be some people who already have the 1st editions that will want to buy the 2nd, and that in turn has fueled my desire to make the 2nd edition as good as possible, to make it worthwhile.

When I said that, someone replied, “Who cares if they have to buy two versions?  You want to make a living off of writing, right?  Then you should try making money anywhere you can.”

Is that the right way to make more money?  Possibly.  But is it the right thing to do?

It’s no secret, I want to be able to make enough sales to one day live off of writing.  But I don’t want to make my entire focus be on money, because I’m afraid if I do that, I’ll lose my real focus –  Telling stories the best way that I can.

Progress on the 2nd Editions

I’m more than halfway through Rise of the Forgotten’s edits, and I’m finding that all of the chapters I wrote just before, during, and just after my writers block all those years ago need way more work than any previous ones so far.  And that makes sense to me, since I had a really hard time getting the story out back then.

As for the maps, the map of Edilas (the continent where the 4 kingdoms are) is complete except for a couple of details.  Test prints came out wonderful!  I need to get the world map cleaned up and a couple of final details on it, and then I need to get Devor ready for book 2.

Projected completion of 2nd editions is still in the air, but I’ll definitely let you all know as soon as I know :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Writers Can Shape The Future

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Words most often attributed to Spider-Man, these words have come to mind many times when I see certain movies or read certain novels.

You see, a storyteller does more than just entertain, even if that is their ultimate goal and nothing more.  More-so if you are a story teller writing for a high-visibility medium such as major motion pictures.  We inspire, we spark imagination, and we have the potential to shape the course of the future.

Image Source – https://chalcids.deviantart.com/

In fact, this is what makes science fiction such a popular genre.  It’s a perfect platform in which to explore current-day social and political themes in a malleable future, and the very best ones do so without being obvious about it.  Even Fantasy has this ability, as demonstrated by the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit novels, or more recently, The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, which a recent article claims explored World War 2 and The Cold War respectively.

Most writers don’t even consider the potential impact they might have on a single reader, or many readers, or entire generations of readers.  Through popular media, we can shape our very future, if ever so subtly.

Which is why I’ve been concerned about an upcoming major motion picture, Geostorm.  However, in thinking further about it today, I’ve considered the possibility that my initial skeptical attitude towards the message itmight send may have been unwarranted…

Geostorm – Creating Fear of Technology

The Terminator

It’s nothing new – sci-fi has often portrayed how technology could potentially cause our society greater harm.  Terminator is always the first example I think of, where an AI of our own creation overthrows humanity (a theme later revitalized by The Matrix, but there have been many more examples throughout the decades.)

Is AI something to be feared?

Is weather control technology something to be feared and avoided?

Geostorm

In Geostorm, the story revolves around global weather control technology that appears to go haywire and starts creating devastating storms all over the world.  As the story progresses, they discover that a single person has actually intentionally programmed this malfunction, for some political or even perhaps personal gain.

As I watched the very first preview, my initial thought was “great, something that could actually be beneficial to humanity and the world, and now people will be afraid of it, and the invention and deployment of such technology will probably be delayed as a result over the course of the next century.”

Popular media is good at that – using worst-case scenarios and playing on the fears of people to draw them into the movies.

However, there’s another aspect to this kind of movie that I’ve suddenly become aware of…

Setting Expectations of Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility.  And lets face it, the ability to control the weather on a global scale would be an immense power.  It potentially could give a single entity the ability to affect global policy at their whim.

“I want you to follow my political agenda,” this person might say.

“We don’t want to, it opposes our fundamental beliefs,” a world leader might reply.

“Very well.  You’ll not see a single drop of rain until you accede to my demands.  Or maybe even constant floods.”

It’s frightening to think about.  But then, that’s why it’s important to have a system in place that does not permit a single entity to control such power.

And while some might see Geostorm as a story of why we should never ever invent weather control technology, others could see it as a cautionary story, one which suggests safety protocols must be made inherent to it.

Image Source – memory-alpha.wikia.com

The same can be said about Artificial Intelligence and any story that shows such an AI ruling or destroying humanity.  If you give something the ability to destroy you, and give it reason to, then it most likely will.  On the other hand, as Star Trek has explored many times, if you give something, such as an artificial life form, sentience…then how you treat it is as important as how you treat any others.

“What If…”

One of my favorite movies is the 2002 version of The Time Machine, and there is a line in the movie that I always strongly related to: “You’re a man haunted by those two most terrible words: What if?”

We as writers get to explore “What If” with every tale we tell.  What if weather control technology became a reality?  What if that technology was abused?

This is where our greatest power comes from.  Because when we explore “what if,” so do our readers.  And while we can write cautionary tales like The Terminator, we also have the power to write the opposite, like Star Trek.  We can show people the consequences of “What if it goes wrong” but we can also show people the amazing future in store for us if it goes right, if we make it right.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

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