Category Archives: Orc War Campaigns

The Return of Stargate and the Prequel Trend

Hi everyone!

If you haven’t heard yet, Stargate is finally making a comeback!  And I’m not talking about a reboot of the movie franchise, which has either been fully cancelled or at least postponed.  Rather, this is the next ‘chapter’ in the SG-1 Universe.

…Except, it isn’t.  Announced only a few days ago, it’s called Stargate Origins (click here to check the announcement on Gateworld.net.)  It takes place…sometime before SG-1, though we don’t know when yet.  And reportedly follows an adventure of young Catherine Langford as she defends Earth against an unimaginable darkness…  More on why this is a problem for me further down.

Sci-Fi and the Prequel Trend

Image Source – http://www.techtimes.com

Back in 1999, George Lucas released the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace.  At the time, I was extraordinarily excited about it, I’d always wanted to see those first three episodes, to see the origin story of Darth Vader, and, well, I was excited to see more Star Wars on screen.

What I didn’t know was the trend that it would begin…and that is a trend in Sci Fi that has endured for nearly 20 years.

Prequels.  Though I don’t believe Phantom Menace was the first ever prequel, it was the biggest hit I’m aware of.  Since then, here’s what we’ve seen…

  • Star Trek Enterprise (followed by the 2009 Star Trek reboot, and now Star Trek Discovery.
  • X-Men Origins and X-Men First Class
  • Prometheus (prequel to Alien)
  • The Thing
  • Caprica
  • Oz The Great and Powerful

And that’s just a small list of well-knowns.  Now with Stargate Origins coming out, I find myself crying out “NOOOOO!”  I for one have grown tired of prequels.  Especially in Sci-Fi universes that are supposed to be about exploration and moving forward (Star Trek and Stargate both being examples.)

But why?  Why is this continuing?  Especially…well, do an experiment with me.  Go to google.com and type in the search parameter “Why are prequels so popular?”  I know that Google can tailor search results based on past browsing habits, but for me, the first 10 results talk about why the Star Wars prequels are so hated.

So if the first major prequel of a franchise was so horrible, once again, I have to ask…why is this trend continuing??

Theories of the Trend

One of the most common opinions I get when I ask people this question is “Hollywood can’t come up with anymore original ideas.”  An interesting theory, but I wonder how true it actually is.

Image Source – http://www.irishnews.com

In fact, until recently, I didn’t really have a response except “maybe that’s true.”  Until…Bright.  The name of an upcoming, Netflix-produced movie, Bright is about modern-day Earth, with elves and orcs and faeries living side by side with us.  Will Smith’s character is a police officer partnered with what appears to be a young orc.  This is radically different from any major sci-fi/fantasy movie I’ve seen in recent years.

But it’s Netflix.  It’s not a major motion picture studio, it’s a relatively brand new production studio.  And I think this is a key point.  Netflix broke the mold with movie rentals, and now is breaking the mold by producing it’s own TV shows and, now, movies.  Like Amazon, Netflix seems to be all about trying new things, innovating, and moving its company in an unexpected direction.  And it’s succeeding at it.

Major motion picture studios, however…it’s like an unknown author sending a manuscript to an agent or publisher.  You’re a big, big risk.  They are highly reticent to invest time and money into you, no matter how good your product is.  So more likely than not, you’ll be rejected.

I think the same can be said about major motion picture studios and TV production studios.  They want to invest money into something that has a proven history of making money.  And even as reviled as the Star Wars prequels are, they made a ton of money.  So prequels make money.

This, I think, is why we keep getting prequels and, for that matter, sequels, rather than truly original content.

This is also why I am becoming a big proponent of Netflix, and of self-publishing.  It allows those with innovative or new ideas to get their ideas out there.  They may not always succeed, but at least they can try.

Parting Thoughts on Stargate Origins

Image Source – http://stargate.wikia.com

I’m really really sad about the direction they are taking to try to revive Stargate.  I really want more Stargate, but a prequel?  A prequel that, at least at first glance, blatantly ignores established timeline?  For those who aren’t as familiar with it, before the Stargate was opened by Daniel Jackson in the motion picture, the Stargate was only opened one other time after it was unburied in Giza, with disastrous results.  It was subsequently shut down for decades.

Yet this premise seems to indicate that Catherine travels through the Stargate, either before or after Ernest is stranded off-world, to confront some darkness that, apparently, SG-1 and the SGC are never made aware of.

In essence, it’s making the same mistake Star Trek and Star Wars made in their prequels: ignoring continuity.

Worse still, the series is being released as 10 episodes…each episode 10 minutes long.  I can’t imagine why anyone thought this was a good idea…but then again…I’m kind of eating my own words now.  I released 10 short stories which will later be compiled into an anthology (The Orc War Campaigns.)  So…maybe this is a result of the trend of online and subscription based TV shows?

Anyway, I hope I’m wrong about Origins, but I really think this effort is going to fall flat on its face, and Stargate will once again be thrown into proverbial mothballs.  :(

What are your thoughts about all of this?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

An Unfortunate Delay – Regrouping

vegasHi everyone!

I’m back from Las Vegas!  Yes, that’s where I went for my short vacation :)  I’m not exactly a Vegas kind of person, but it was neat to see the strip and Lake Las Vegas.  My Fiancee and I shared a Yard Long while we were on the strip, that was definitely fun :D

But now, on to the title for today’s blog…

Delaying Book 3

This is perhaps the hardest announcement I’ve had to make: there is just no way I can get book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series out by May.  In fact…I really have no way of predicting when I will be able to get it out.

Image source - google.com
Image source – google.com

I’ve known about this for a little while now, but have been trying to figure out how to tell you all.  I am really saddened by this announcement, and I cannot begin to convey how sorry I am.

The reason for the delay?  I am only 4 chapters into writing the first draft, and have not been able to make any progress since the end of December.  Things have been really busy, and I am due for a certification at work that I need to focus on or risk losing my job.  Simultaneously, I have been looking for a new job, due to the insane, non-stop stress of my current job (and that really is an understatement…)

This is where I really wish I could just write full-time.  I have so many ideas, and just no time at all to work on any of them right now.  The Sword of Dragons, Chronicles of the Sentinels, and the slew of other series ideas I have.  I am so incredibly sad that I cannot work on writing more right now :(

An Idea for the Future of Sword of Dragons

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

As I posted in a previous post, I’ve been considering creating new covers and rebranding the Sword of Dragons, including giving a more unique title to the first book.

One of my friends commented on my facebook that this might not be necessary, and that I should instead focus on advertising book 1.  To that end, I’m going to begin promoting it once again and promoting Burning Skies a bit less.

However, I do think that I can present a stronger product with some additional work.

Image Source - http://geistig.deviantart.com/
Image Source – http://geistig.deviantart.com/

So my first plan?  Try creating a cover that is a similar style to what I would do with books 1 and 2 for the print run of The Orc War Campaigns.  I know that this is a bit of a risk, because it will mean spending money on buying the rights for an image for the cover.  But it will help me determine if I can do the kind of presentation that I want, both for the cover, and inside.

If things go well with the Orc War Campaigns, and it gets a good reception, I’ll rebrand the first two books, and publish their 2nd editions a month apart as a run-up to the release of book 3.

When will all of this happen?  …I don’t know yet.  And I know, it’s not good marketing to state that publicly.  But at least for the next few months, I won’t be able to direct much time and attention to my own novels.

I hope you all understand.  This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my writing career, but it is necessary.  I really am so sorry for the delay, but I hope you all feel it will be worth it.

Thank you for reading :)
-Jon Wasik

The Trials Continue – 2016’s Highs and Lows

Hey everyone, welcome to the last blog of the year!

And what a year it has been…with some of my greatest highs and some of my lowest lows.  I wish I could say this roller coaster was for me only, but based on the memes I keep seeing on Facebook, 2016 has been one of the most difficult years for many people, and not just because of celebrity deaths.

Originally Posted by Cinnabon.
Originally Posted by Cinnabon.

Though I do wish to pay tribute to some of my favorites who passed this year, those who have inspired and left behind a legacy no one will soon forget: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, Ron Glass, John Glenn, and Carrie Fisher.  Not to belittle all those who passed in 2016, but these five were the ones that hit me the hardest.

Looking Back on 2016

2016 started on a heart-breaking note for me, as my relationship at the time was already coming apart.  I’d spent the holidays alone, and it was one of the loneliest times of my life…  On top of that, I had failed to get Burning Skies out in November as I had originally planned, 6 months after book 1’s release.

digital-cover-1While production of The Orc War Campaigns was in full swing, I wasn’t sure it was going to do well.  I was scared that fans wouldn’t accept that as a substitute for the delayed release of Burning Skies.  I wasn’t sure the story would do well.  But I was looking forward to exploring my own wounds in the story…

In fact, as a reader recently pointed out to me, I have infused my past relationship failures into my writing a lot lately.  At the beginning of 2016, I was full of cynicism and anger, I’d given up on relationships.  I couldn’t bear another heartbreak…

Never-the-less, I trudged forward.  I said “Hell with it” and focused all of my efforts on writing and getting my name out there.  This year I had my first table at a convention, that of Starfest 2016, and sold several novels there!  It was an exciting beginning, and sales for book 1 were relatively steady in general at this point.

Character design and model: Beck Stewart. Photo by WeNeals Photography.
Character design and model: Beck Stewart. Photo by WeNeals Photography.

Then I attended Anomaly Con, a steampunk convention in the Denver area, and met some amazing authors!  In fact, of all of the conventions I’ve attended, I think Anomaly Con had the best organization for Author’s Row.

Better still, one of the most important introductions of my life was made that weekend: I met fellow author Beck Stewart.  And while I didn’t know it at the time, that brief introduction late Saturday night would become the love of my life…  :)

Burning Skies Release

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalWhile the Orc War Campaigns had to go on a mid-season hiatus, this led to the successful release of the 2nd novel of the Sword of Dragons series, Burning Skies, and what a release it was!  I had an amazing release party with family and friends, and in the first couple months of release, I sold dozens of copies!

I was on a high – everything was starting to go right.  A couple months after the release, Beck and I started dating, and interest in my novels was on the rise.  Though terrified at one point that I was going to lose my mother, she pulled through, and the middle of 2016 was one of the best times of my life :D

But alas, not all would continue to go so well.  Sales for both book 1 and book 2 suddenly just…stopped.  No gradual draw-down, no indication it would happen, just all of a sudden…

Image source - google.com
Image source – google.com

And as 2016 comes to an end, sales continue to be almost non-existent.  Honestly I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong…  Advertising campaigns on Amazon are no longer drawing interest, and all attempts to get others to buy my novels have failed.  And while The Orc War Campaigns has completed successfully…I’ve received no feedback.  I don’t even know if anyone has read it.

As a writer, right now, I feel like a complete failure.  Months of negligible sales, including at a convention this fall, no more fan mail, it’s like everyone just…forgot about the Sword of Dragons.

I’m not sure where to go from here.  I’m trudging along on book 3, though running into a bit of writer’s block (3 days to write 1 chapter?  That’s bad…) And I don’t know what else I could do to boost sales.

Ending 2016 On A High Note

Image Source - stylecaster.com
Image Source – stylecaster.com

But for all of the despair I feel about writing, I can’t end this article on a low note.  Because for all of that, there are also some amazing things going on in my life!  My relationship continues to grow, and I got to spend a usually depressing time of the year with my girlfriend and our families!

In fact, writing aside, this turned out to be one of the best years of my life!  :D  And while I really hope I can turn my writing career around in 2017, I am so glad to no longer have to face it all alone.  I am so glad to have a companion in life, a writing partner, a cosplay partner, and my best friend :)

For all of the darkness in 2016, my Starshine has lit up my life in a way no one else could ever do.

Plans for 2017

For 2017, I want to try to get The Orc War Campaigns into print this year.  But more important is my desire to release book 3 of the Sword of Dragons by the end of May…and I honestly don’t know if I can.

The Orc War Campaigns took up more of my time than I expected, and I fell waaaay behind.  Between that and my bout of writer’s block…I’m really afraid I won’t make it in time.  Maybe a novel every year is an unrealistic expectation for myself.  I’m really not sure.  I also don’t want to rush out a mediocre product.  I want book 3 to be at least as good as books 1 and 2.

So that’s a decision I’ll have to make in the next few months – try to keep to the schedule, or delay book 3’s release….  Which would you prefer, my dear readers?  Try to get it out on time, or take my time on it and shoot for a winter release?

On that note, I wish you all a fantastic New Years tonight!  Be safe, have fun, and I’ll see you in 2017!

Thanks for reading :)
-Jon Wasik

The Orc War Campaigns Series Finale Now Available!

Hi everyone!

digital-cover-1As the title says, the final episode of the Orc War Campaigns is online!  If you haven’t already, head on over to theswordofdragons.com and check it out!  :D  This is an exciting episode full of action and some intense character moments!

I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it :)

I started the series over a year ago with the intent of making it a quick interlude between books 1 and 2 of The Sword of Dragons, but it quickly became a much larger project than I anticipated!  The characters took on a life of their own, and while I originally wanted each episode to be no more than 35 pages…yeah, it went waaaay beyond that!

And I couldn’t be happier, honestly.  As long as it took me to finish, it was completely worth it.

Moving On – The Sword of Dragons continues!

As much fun as this project was, it took away my time with the main series of the novels, and I’m really glad to be back to working on the next novel full time :)  I was starting to get serious anxiety with how long I left book 3 on the back burner.

This of course isn’t the last you’ll hear of the Orc War Campaigns.  Down the road, I want to release it as a print novel, but I don’t want it to be just the episodes you can download for free, I want to make it worth picking up the print.  So you can expect that release to include some extra special goodies :)

Image Source - https://www.pinterest.com/pin/200128777168277635/
Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/200128777168277635/

Will Amaya, Zerek, or Arkad ever return in the novels?  For two of them, most definitely yes: Amaya and Arkad.  In fact, we’ll run into Amaya a little bit in book 3 :D  But I’m still not sure about Zerek.  I liked his character, but for the moment, I don’t know where I could fit him into the story and have it make sense.  I don’t want to just arbitrarily throw him in.  So we shall see :)

Did you have a favorite character from The Orc War Campaigns?  Would you like to see more of them in the novels?  What are your thoughts on the series?

There’s only one more Saturday in the year, so one more blog post to come!  For those who celebrate, have a merry Christmas!  See you in a week :)

Image Source - https://forums.spacebattles.com
Image Source – https://forums.spacebattles.com

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

The Sword of Dragons – Writing A Prologue

Hi everyone!

Image Source - http://geistig.deviantart.com/
Image Source – http://geistig.deviantart.com/

I have a lot of exciting news to start this post off with!!  :D  Firstly, part 1 of the series finale for The Orc War Campaigns has been posted, and as always, is completely free to read!  So click here to head on over to theswordofdragons.com and check it out!

Just as exciting, earlier this week, I began writing the manuscript for book 3 of the Sword of Dragons saga!  *bounces up and down in excitement*

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but my girlfriend and I always spend Wednesdays together working on our projects (usually she’s working on something cosplay-related while I work on book-related things.)  With the Orc War Campaigns all but finished, there was only one thing left to do :)

But…as is often the case, starting a manuscript is difficult at best.

Prologues – A Good Idea In Theory…

The difficulty I’m running into?  The prologue.

Somewhere back in time, over a decade ago, I thought, “I want to start my fantasy novel with a prologue!”  Fast forward several years to when I started writing book 2, and I thought, “I’ll write a prologue for all of the books!”

…and I decided that even though prologues are so difficult for me to write.  I rewrote book 1’s at least a dozen times, and about half that for Burning Skies.

So when I sat down to write book 3’s prologue…my mind drew a blank.  Maybe it’s my ADHD, which has been worse than usual lately, or maybe it’s just because prologues are difficult.  It took me over an hour to write one page (well, it ran a little bit more than one page), and in the end, I was completely dissatisfied with it.

The Purpose of a Prologue

Prologues tell a story that frame the novel.  What is this novel going to be about?  What might one or more of its themes be?  Or perhaps its primary purpose is to give the reader a little bit of history that isn’t covered in the novel itself, but is important to understand the story.

Image Source - www.ravensnpennies.com
Image Source – http://www.ravensnpennies.com

For The Sword of Dragons (book 1), the prologue told the story of the forging of the Sword and the end of the dragons’ civil war.  For Burning Skies, it framed the origin story of the Necromancers of Vestuul.

Book 3 of the Sword of Dragons will easily be one of the most complex stories I’ve ever told, with multiple threads converging in the final 1/3rd of the novel.  But the biggest event centers around the Order of the Ages, which is the central religion of Halarite, and the gods that the religion believes in.

That is the story the prologue will frame, the origin of the sixth and final god of the Order’s pantheon, named Zairel.  Why?  Well…that, my friends, is a story for another time ;)

In any case, this is the story I’m having trouble framing…not because I don’t know the story, but because a prologue should grab a reader’s attention and make them want to know “What’s going to happen in this novel?”  When Zairel’s story ends 10,000 before the novel starts, it seems (key word) like that’s all there is to tell about his story.

So the question is….how do I make the prologue seem like there’s more to his story, and that the next chapter in his story will be exciting and worth reading?

Moving On

In any case, the prologue is written…for now.  I have no doubt I’ll go back and reread it completely.  But I can’t let this difficulty hold up the rest of the novel.  So yesterday, I started writing chapter 1, and I intend to move forward with the rest of the manuscript.

So, intrepid readers, what do you think about prologues?  Do you like them?  Hate them?  If you’re a writer, do you like to write them?  Do you have any advice for all of the other writers out there about how to write them?

Please feel free to leave comments below, I love hearing from all of you!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Writing What We Know – From The Heart

Hi everyone!

Thank you so much to everyone who has viewed and supported my first foray into vlogs earlier this week!  It was simultaneously a terrifying and fantastic experience, and based on what I’ve read and been told in person, I think I’ll do more in the near future :)  (If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to check it out!)

In that first vlog, I admitted to something that made me blush on-screen: much of what the characters feel and experience on an interpersonal level came from my own personal experiences…more so than any other story I have ever written.

Doctor Who?
Doctor Who?

Last night, when I was at a friend’s Halloween party, I was talking with some of my friends there and telling them about this, and some of the comments they made started to make me think further about this…

This emotional connection is what draws people in to many stories.  I read an article not long ago about this very thing, too, and I believe I recall the word used was pathos: when you frame anything into a narrative where the people and their experiences are the focus, it causes a reader or viewer to feel empathy for the characters, and feel more drawn to them and their story.

How important is this, you say?  Here’s an example of a story without that element:

A great evil’s power resides within a ring, which is taken cross-country to a volcano where it is cast into the fires and destroyed.

lotr-mordorSound familiar?  It should…I’m pretty sure anyone reading this is likely to know the story of The Lord of the Rings.  Except…if the way I told it just now was all that the story consisted of, it’d be kind of boring.  Tolkein’s writing style aside, that would not have been a memorable story.

frodo-and-sam-mount-doomBut when your story includes a single Hobbit who thinks he can’t make a difference, but still rises up to save the entire world, through pain and hardship and loss, overcoming the most difficult obstacles ever, along with a fiercely loyal friend who never gives up on him…that is a story that connects to the readers.  Not to mention all of the other characters’ stories: Aragorn’s struggle to rebuild the great kingdom, Legolas and Gimli’s friendship, Merry and Pip’s adventures and friendship, and Gandalf’s rise to become the White Wizard.

Image Source – http://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/06/28/new-writing-from-j-k-rowling-about-the-north-american-school-of-magic/

I’m getting a bit off topic here…but then I wonder, how much of the emotions evoked in Lord of the Rings came from Tolkein’s own experiences in life?  We know from her interviews that JK Rowling’s own life experiences and emotions were poured into the Harry Potter novels, and they are one of the most wildly popular books out there, for both children and adults!

So I wonder…is this the secret to writing stories that people will love and connect with?  Stories that they will obsess over and write fan fiction about and make fan art for?

Image Source - https://www.pinterest.com/pin/200128777168277635/
Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/200128777168277635/

It looks like I’m going to find out in the coming years…because as hard as it was to write some of the scenes in The Orc War Campaigns, especially the final episode…I want to keep doing this.  I want to infuse my life, my experiences and emotions, into the stories.  It helped me connect with my characters better, and it is my hope that it will help you, my dear readers, connect with them as well…

Thank you for reading, and for all of your support over the past few years!  <3!

-Jon Wasik

My First Vlog – The Orc War Campaigns Returns!

Hey everyone!

I’m so excited (and scared!!) to post my first-ever vlog for A Writer At Heart!  I know I’ve talked about doing this for a while, but here it is!

With this new vlog comes the announcement that The Orc War Campaigns is returning from its long mid-season hiatus, and much sooner than you might expect!

So without further ado, here’s the video.  I hope you enjoy!  (Click the image or the link below it to go to the YouTube video)

https://youtu.be/p1v_GJjLvtE
https://youtu.be/p1v_GJjLvtE

I apologize for the low-quality video.  If enough people say they enjoy this vlog and want more, I will happily invest in a better camera :)

Please leave comments to let me know if you like this and want more!!!

-Jon Wasik