Tag Archives: fantasy

Stories Are Meant To Be Shared

Hi everyone!

Last night, my wife and I watched Ready Player One again, one of our favorite movies, and at the very end, there’s a line of dialogue that has always caught my attention:

“Goodbye, Parzival. Thanks. Thanks for playing my game.” -James Halliday.

Being a creator of, well, anything is special.  But why do we create?  Why do crafters make things, why do artists make art, why do writers write?  I’m sure most people have different answers to those questions, everyone comes to the table with different life experiences and expectations.

But for me, a big part of it is sharing the story.  While there might be exceptions, I’m willing to bet this is a common reason, or at least desire, for most people.  Jewelcrafters want people to wear their jewelry.  Artists want to show their art so others can see them and enjoy them.  Engineers want people to use their things.

And writers want people to read and enjoy their stories.  Or at least, I do.

If by some strange coincidence I was able to write full time for the rest of my life, but no one ever read my work, and no one ever talked about it or felt anything about it, I would never be happy.  It would never be enough.

I suspect James Halliday, and many other game designers in real life, have much the same thought.  Why make a video game if no one is going to play it?

Maybe I’m wrong, but the look on Halliday’s face when he delivered that final line instantly made me think that.  He had built the most elaborate game in the history of games, and Parzival played it passionately and vigorously.  It meant something to Parzival.  It meant everything to him.

And Halliday, whether he was an elaborate AI or some sort of mind-uploaded copy of the real Halliday, couldn’t have been happier about it.

That’s something I hope I have achieved, even if only for a few people – passion.  I hope there’s someone out there who has enjoyed my stories, and eagerly awaits my next one.  I hope that there are people out there talking about them with each other, discussing their views on the characters, their favorites and least favorites, and why.

I’ve been a little despondent about it lately – Over a year since I published the 2nd editions of books 1 and 2 and not a single review on Amazon.  Not even a negative one.  Is it because my stories are ‘meh’ and no one feels passionately enough about them to even click a star or 5?

It doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying, and it tells me I need to hone my craft and come up with truly engaging stories.  But it really does make it hard sometimes.

Which is why I say to all of you, if you have enjoyed an author’s work, or even hated it, please do them a favor and let them know.  We crave input from our readers, good and bad!  It lets us know that we’ve made an impact, even if a minimal one.  It also lets us know what we’ve done right, and what we’ve done wrong, so that ultimately, we can write better stories for you in the future :)

Stories are meant to be shared.  Especially your own.

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Looking Back to 2019, Hobbling Into 2020

Hi everyone!

In less than 10 hours, 2020 shall be upon us, and then all of the “2020 vision” jokes can stop!  Or, you know, continue undaunted ;)

As I always do, I’d like to take a moment to look back upon the past year, and see what’s over the horizon.  So come with me on a journey through time, from past, to present, and into the future!

2019 – Self-Publishing Success, NaNoWriMo, Home Purchase, Injury and Surgery

Photo by Beck Wasik

In November 2018, I took a gamble and published 2nd editions of my first two novels, along with an anthology of short stories.  It was a risky move – why would books that have already been out sell better as 2nd editions?  But the vastly-improved covers, the better edits, and the more aggressive marketing campaign paid off.

In 2019, I made more in sales and Kindle Unlimited reads in a single year than in all of the previous years combined!  If there is no other reason to, then that alone is reason enough to celebrate!

But there’s more – I started writing more regularly again, and with one last hurrah with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month,) I finished the first draft of book 3 of the Sword of Dragons saga!  By far, this was the most complicated story I have ever told, with countless moving parts and story threads, all converging in the final quarter of the novel.

I’m so excited!

Unlike 2018, however, in 2019 I barely traveled.  A couple of small road trips here and there, one of which was to see family, but otherwise our great focus was on finally getting out of apartments, and into a house of our own.  It was effort, time, and money well spent, and while our little corner of Earth may not be perfect, it’s ours :)

I wish I could say that all of 2019 was positive, but unfortunately, this was not so.  Towards the end of summer, as I walked through the kitchen, suddenly my right hip screamed in pain and I fell to the floor, unable to stand or walk.  While I slowly regained the ability to use my leg over the next couple of days, I knew something was terribly wrong.

After multiple visits to multiple doctors, x-rays, MRI’s, and CT scans, the doctors came to the conclusion that I had a hip impingement and torn labrum caused by a deformed femur joint.  Apparently I’ve had this all of my life, but over time it has been wearing on the labrum, until this year when it finally gave up and began to separate from the hip itself.

Which led to an arthroscopic surgery, my first major surgery ever.  In a way, it wasn’t too terribly invasive – two small cuts, one to stick a scope in, the other to stick instruments in to work on the hip.  But it required a lot of work on my hip, including ‘tacking’ the labrum up, reshaping the bone, and generally cleaning things up in the hip.  It essentially crippled me for several weeks, and a full recovery will take about six months.

It’s been a difficult time for me, someone who has always placed importance on my independence and ability to contribute around the house.  My wife has had to shoulder so much,  and I am so grateful for all that she has done.  She’s taken care of me, worked tirelessly to keep the house in order, and held me through the hardest nights.  My wonderful Starshine :)

2020 – Recovery, Publication, and Bringing Sentinels Back

What’s in store for 2020?  For starters, the long road to recovery shall continue.  As my hip and leg regains strength, it’s time to get fit again.  The injury was already starting to rear its ugly head in the 4 years prior to that terrible summer day, and I’ve exercised less and less as a result.

So 2020 will be a year that I focus on my physical health and wellness, getting back to the fitness level I once worked so long and hard to achieve.  Long hikes, climbing, that sort of thing, I miss doing all of it, and I’m looking forward to being back to my old self by summer!

Furthermore, unless I get horribly negative feedback from beta readers, 2020 will be the year that book 3 is published!  As before, it’ll be self-published, but the cover is already prototyped and ready for implementation, so it’s all a matter of editing and proofreading!

Images Source – http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com

As for the “Bringing Back the Sentinels” comment…I’ve had wonderful inspiration and ideas for revitalizing the Chronicles of the Sentinels modern fantasy book 1, Legacy!  I intend to write a more comprehensive blog on the changes coming, but I plan to fully re-write the first book to address the massive shortcomings of the original.  As an interested agent put it a few years ago, the premise was good, but the characters especially needed work.

There’s a lot of other great things ahead, including a trip for a Doctor Who convention, but that, my friends, is another story :)

Until then, Happy New Year to everyone!  May 2020 be the year of positive change for you :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

The Importance of Beta Readers – Book 3

Hey everyone!

NaNoWriMo 2019 was an absolute success, and with almost a week to spare, I finished the third novel of the Sword of Dragons series!

Finishing was a massive rush of satisfaction and relief – I’ve stalled on book 3 almost as much as I stalled on book 1 back in the day, mostly due to life events.  NaNoWriMo came at the perfect time, and I was able to buckle down and power through the second half of the novel.

Additionally, I’ve gone through an immediate first edit!  However, this served more than just a single read-through for prose or grammar or anything like that – I changed course in several ways on this book since I first started writing it, and that meant I had to go back and retroactively correct incontinuities in the first half.

This time, however, now that the second draft is complete, I’m doing something I’ve never done before – allowing beta readers to read it before the third draft.

Why Early Beta Readers are Important

To be honest, I should have allowed people to read books 1 and 2, and The Orc War Campaigns, long before I did.  Especially Burning Skies, however, because it was only after it was published that I received a valuable piece of feedback about the ending.

If you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to have read the 1st edition of Burning Skies (the old cover can be seen on the right,) you may remember the final battle against Nuuldan ending with Cardin basically watching someone else defeat the villain.  In many respects, it was a Deus Ex Machina conclusion.

So for the 2nd edition, I made Cardin more directly responsible for overcoming the villain, without sacrificing the inclusion of those who came to help him (I’m trying not to spoil the book too much, in case you came to my blog having never read my books :) )

If I had given this book over to beta readers earlier and asked for plot and character feedback, someone might have caught that plot point and the 1st edition might never have had that blemish.

This is why I encourage any and all writers to allow at least one person to beta read very early.  Either after a first or second draft.  In that case, I would recommend asking them not to focus as much on grammar and sentence structure (you can fix that in your next draft and ask an editor to focus on that, or at least subsequent beta readers, if you’re like me and can’t afford to hire an editor.)

Which brings me to another point…

Writers and Egos

One thing I had to learn very early on as a writer, and sometimes is a lesson I have to be re-taught – if you have an ego about your writing, it’s going to get bruised or even shattered at some point.  This could be in a writer’s critique group, or it could be reviews of your published works.

But in my opinion, it is vital to drop any ego when it comes to beta reading and early feedback.  You may think you’ve come up with the absolute best story, or the greatest characters, or the most engaging plot, but it is entirely possible that a beta reader will come back and say, “Um, this didn’t work.  I think you need to find a way to fix the plot.”  Or “This character is exceedingly boring.”

In fact, I received that last bit of feedback from an agent for another book series I’ve been working on in the background, and while at first I felt a little ego bruising, I realized she was right.  I’ve started working on fixing that while I let Sword of Dragons book 3 simmer for a while and wait for beta reader feedback :)

If, after setting aside your ego, you feel like the beta reader may still be incorrect, get a second and third opinion.  If everyone you let beta read agrees that something doesn’t work, do your best to fix it.  Ask them why they think something doesn’t work, and if you’re stuck on how to make it better, ask them their opinions.

Ultimately, however, this is your story to tell.  The final decision will always be yours, and the advice I’m giving today is with the assumption that your goal is to write something that a lot of people will want to read.  If your goal is instead to just write your story your way and you’re not as concerned about how well your book sells, that is perfectly legitimate.

If there is one universal advice about writing, it’s that we should all do it for the reasons we want to, not for the reasons others tell us we should be doing it.

Thanks for reading, everyone!  Happy holidays!

-Jon Wasik

NaNoWriMo 2019 and Book 3!

GLaDOS is still alive, too! Image source: syfy.com

Hey everyone, I’m still alive!  And I have great news!

“Book 3 of the Sword of Dragons is done?”

What?  No, that’s just crazy talk!  …but the first draft will be done soon!  :)  That’s what I wanted to write about today.

In my last post, I talked about needing a break from blogging so that I could focus more on writing and other creative endeavors.  I have not been idle!  I mean, it started with good intentions, and I managed to keep to a schedule for writing for quite some time!  But then, as does happen frequently, life decided to rear its head at me, and writing tapered.

However, I am more than halfway through book 3, and better still, my wife and I are going to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo 2019!

What is NaNoWriMo, you may ask?  In the lovely month of November (read ‘lovely’ with sarcasm…I already miss summer,) writers across the globe will spend at least a little bit of time every single day of the month writing!  The goal?  For most, the standard NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in November, which translates to about 1,667 words per day.

For some, 1,667 words is a difficult goal to achieve in a day, for any number of reasons.  Some folks just don’t write quickly, which is okay and if anyone ever tells you otherwise, feel free to insult them or ignore them.  For others, life can be so crazy busy that getting even a half hour in every day is a challenge at best.

Image Source – https://www.pulseprotects.com

Thankfully for me, I have a supportive wife, who happens to be a writer and wants to participate in this event as much as I do, AND I am a quick writer.  On my best days, I can get 2,000 words done per hour!

So what is my goal for NaNoWriMo?  Primarily, to finish book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series.  How hard will that be?  To put it in perspective, at halfway finished, book 3 is currently 89,000 words long.  Which means I probably have about 80,000 more to write to finish book 3.

Photo taken by Laura Earley

Can I do that in one month?  That’s an average of 2,667 words per day, and yes, I’m pretty sure I can do that :)  It took me about a month to write the first draft of Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, and that was about 70,000 words.

Having said that, it will mean a high level of dedication, and a very patient wife.

The down side, however, is that I had originally planned to be further along in book 3 than I am now, and I’ve been preparing myself to start writing another novel immediately after I finish book 3, unrelated to the Sword of Dragons series.  However, realizing today that I still have 80,000 words to go, I don’t think I’ll be able to do that.

What Comes After?

You may be asking, “Okay, if you finish book 3 by the end of November, when will it be released?”  I’ve found that the best thing I can do for a book after I finish the first draft is to put it down and walk away from it for at least a couple of months.

Artwork by Vuk Kostic

Why?  Put simply, I’m too close to it otherwise.  My head automatically fills in gaps when I come across them in my editing, and so I miss things.  This became exceedingly apparent to me when editing Burning Skies for the 2nd edition, I had missed a lot because I didn’t let it sit long enough, including some glaring plot holes.  As such, I probably won’t pick book 3 up for the first round of editing until February.  (If you want to read more details about my writing and editing process, click here for part 1 and here for part 2!)

After that, it needs to go to beta readers, and possibly a 3rd party editor if I can spring the cash for it.  Then another round of edits after I get feedback.

When all of that is done, things will happen pretty quickly.  I already have a cover design set, it’ll just need to be configured for the book’s final dimensions once it’s ready.  So I’m somewhat confident that a mid to late summer release is doable in 2020.  In fact, I’d really love it to happen in July, like books 1 and 2!

So the next question I’m sure some of you will be asking, “What will you be doing between the end of November and February?”

That’s easy.  First and foremost, I’ll be continuing to develop the plot for book 4 (which has been in development since 2015!) and finalize the plan for it.  I’ll talk more about that later, but it’s changed a lot since I first started jotting down ideas!

Second, I’d like to start writing the other story I mentioned above, but it’s one that I’m keeping a tight lid on publicly.  It’s a unique story, and I’m very excited about it!

Screenshot from The Sword of Dragoncraft. The western gates into Archanon!

Finally, there’s the Sword of Dragoncraft….wait, what’s that?!

Without going into too much detail now, the world of The Sword of Dragons is being built in Minecraft!  For more details, head on over to my facebook page, I’ve posted loads of screenshots of the work in progress!

That’s all for today!  I wish I could say that I’m back to blogging regularly, but honestly, November is going to be a busy, busy month.  But after NaNoWriMo, I’d definitely like to get back to regular blogging again :)

Thanks for reading!  Have a great day, everyone, and for those caught in the snow storm like I am, be safe!

-Jon Wasik

Going Back to the Basics

Hi everyone!

It’s been too long since my last post.  But that’s the thing about blogging lately, I feel like I’ve lost sight of some of my original goals with this blog, while greatly achieving others.

The trials and triumphs of writing, searching for an agent, and getting published.  That was what this blog was originally supposed to be about, all the way back in 2014.  I was certainly a different person then, and my life was very different.

I never found an agent, though I came close a couple of times.  I have, however, been published.  I think my decision to become self published was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  It’s given me incredible insights into this industry, made me realize that there’s just so much more to writing than I ever realized.

Having said all of that, there’s one part of my blog’s stated goals that I’ve greatly neglected in recent months.  Writing.

Granted, we bought a house recently, and as anyone who’s been through that knows, there’s a lot involved in that (including fixing up everything that was wrong with said-house in the first days after taking ownership.)

And we’re still not fully settled in.

But that’s meant I haven’t written anything in months.  At least since early February, if not longer.

Furthermore, sometimes I feel like I’ve spent too much time and effort trying to advertise my published books on this blog, when that wasn’t one of the original goals.  Sure, sharing my celebrations and events involved in marketing is part of it, but…well, all in all…I think it’s time I took a break from blogging.  Again.

I first started considering this after I read a blog post by Rachelle Gardner.  Her words resonated with me, and I realized that I felt like blog writing, right now anyway, felt too much like a chore.  The joy I used to feel in blogging was gone.

Thinking even more on it, I realize that is because every time that I’ve spent time writing a blog, I felt like I could have used those precious minutes to write stories.  And over the past 2 or 3 years, writing time has been scarce.

Of course, there’s a flip side to that…what do they say about writing?  That to be a good writer, you need to write from experience, and that means going out there and experiencing life.  And I certainly have done that in the past 3 years!  I’ve had more adventures, experienced love like never before, seen and done things I’ve only dreamt of before!

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions

It’s made me a better writer.  And now, more than ever, I feel like the time is right to take advantage of that.  Now is the time to write stories again.

That’s who I am at heart, a writer.  So I need to go back to my roots, and focus on that.  Rediscover that part of me.

Does this mean I’m shutting this blog down?  Nope.  It just means I’m taking an extended break for now.

But I’ll be back.  That much I can promise you.  My journey is still just starting, and I still want to share it with you all :)

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for being awesome!  See you next time!

-Jon Wasik

Conflict in Fiction – The Lesser Wars

Hi everyone!

Before I started writing what would become the final rendition of book 1 of the Sword of Dragons, the story began with a map.  At first all I did was draw in the lines for the continents, and then I started picking where cities and land features would be…and as I marked down the cities, I began to formulate the countries, and their back stories.

And thus, conflict was born.  Four kingdoms, two at each other’s throats, with the other two supporting one or the other.  Every couple of generations, a new war would start.

When the kingdoms briefly united against the common foe, Klaralin, many wondered if peace would finally reign upon his defeat.  But it was less than a century before Tal and Falind were at each other’s throats again, with Erien and Saran supporting each respectively.  These recurring conflicts, in comparison to the war against Klaralin, became known as the Lesser Wars.

But…why has conflict always broken out between Tal and Falind?  Why are these two countries destined to squabble century after century?  And will the peace that has come between them after book 1 last?

Remembering and Forgetting

By the time book 1 takes place, Tal and Falind have had periodic wars for over five thousand years.  No one remembers the reason behind the first conflict.  Somewhere in one of the sanctuaries of the Order of the Ages, there is a history book that tells of the first war, but even the greatest scholars have not seen nor read this book in millennia.

What often sparks the Lesser Wars now are land disputes.  Every time a new mine or other resource is discovered somewhere along the border, or every time a Warrior patrol from one kingdom strays into the other, it becomes the impetus for a new war.

One thing is for certain, the Warriors’ Guild has been at the head of almost every conflict (almost.)  When Cardin Kataar learns of this, it is one of the many reasons he begins to have second thoughts about joining the Warriors.

Is he right?  Are the Warriors the reason for the continual cycle of the Lesser Wars?  Can the cycle be broken?

As Professor River Song would say, Spoilers ;)

But this begs the question…at this point, does the original reason even matter?  If someone were to find this book and discover the original reason, could they point to this and say “See?  This reason is no longer valid.  Why are we still fighting?”  Or would the book give them more reason to fight?

Or, going back to the original question…would it even matter?

As we’ve seen in the real world, “yesterday’s enemies can be today’s allies; today’s allies can be tomorrow’s enemies.”  Today the United States and Britain are close allies.  250 years ago, we were enemies.  No one cares about those old grievances so much anymore.

So in all reality, no, a grievance five thousand years ago really has no play on the current conflicts.  At worst, if someone from the time of the current book series were to learn of the original reason, they might use it as an excuse to continue war.

Currently I have no plans of ever revealing in the book series why the original conflict began.  But the original reason is a matter of sovereignty, stretching back to the era of Archos and Talus themselves.  As the first kingdom, Tal, grew larger, it became more and more difficult to maintain the breadth of the Kingdom.  Saran and Falind were both formed around the same time as one another, named after their first sovereigns.

The leader of Tal at the time did not care for this outright revolt.  These lands were under his rule.  So he declared war.

And Tal lost that first war, and was forced to concede Saran and Falind’s independence.  But Tal didn’t forget, and never forgave.

Fortunate for Saran, their capitol was formed at the end of a labyrinth of valleys in a vast land of mesas, and was nestled against the sea, and so was easily protected.  Tal, realizing that they could never hope to take Sharenth, let them be, and when they had built up enough strength, marched upon only Falind.  Saran, unwilling to let Tal have their way with an independent nation, attacked Tal’s forces.

So the cycle began.  The seeds of hatred between Tal and Falind were formed, and the customary alliance between Falind and Saran was born.

Tal never conquered Falind, though they came close many times.  As the original reasons were forgotten, there even came a point when Falind had designs on conquering Tal, putting to rest the Lesser Wars once and for all.

I hope you all enjoyed this glimpse into the history of Halarite and the four kingdoms!  If you enjoyed this, let me know and I’ll delve even deeper into Halarite’s history as time goes on!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Born From Emotion – The Best Stories

Hi everyone,

I wanted to offer a real quick apology for not writing a blog last week.  House hunting has been extremely time-consuming and stressful and before I knew what was happening, last Sunday was over O_o

Onto the blog we go – are the best stories and characters born from emotion?

Artwork by Vuk Kostic.

The thought occurred to me late last year when I was proofreading all of my books just prior to release.  As I read through them successively and rapidly, I discovered that the most recent story, The Orc War Campaigns, felt better written and more engaging as a story.  And I wondered why.

There’s probably many reasons, not the least of which is, it’s my latest, so all of the lessons I’d learned up to that point were ingrained into telling the story.

But also…I wrote the characters out of real emotion.

Especially Amaya.

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

I know I’ve talked about it before, so I don’t intend to get into details, but as I wrote Amaya’s story and her struggle to move on from an emotionally abusive relationship, I used it as a way to explore my own attempt to do the same.

And in using my own emotions and fusing them into the story, I was able to better connect with her character, as well as Zerek’s and Arkad’s.

What resulted was a writing style that felt more relaxed, more intuitive.  The writing flowed, and despite being 3rd person, it felt like the story was more from their perspective rather than an objective 3rd person describing the events.

I’m also happy to have learned that others feel the same about The Orc War Campaigns.  In fact, despite being the longest book I’ve written so far, folks have read through the entire book in one sitting!  That tells me I definitely did something right.

Applying These Lessons to Future Stories

So now the question is, can I take this idea and write the next book in the series the same way?  Can I connect more with Cardin and Kailar and write in a way that makes it easier for the reader to connect with them?

The answer, of course, is yes.  But it also meant I had to go back through the chapters I wrote last year and the year before and changing them…or in the case of Kailar, rewriting them from scratch.

Actually, I’m glad to have had this revelation.  I came to realize that my original plans for Kailar were far too passive in book 3, and that I needed to drastically change things.

Originally she was going to be very passive, following Letan’s orders and only occasionally letting her temper take hold and spur her to more direct action.

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

That’s not Kailar.  It never was.  Part of what makes her such an engaging character is that she is an antihero.  She wants to do what’s right, but isn’t held back by the same moral constraints as Cardin is.  She is much more aggressive.  And now, after the events of Burning Skies, she has the power to back her aggressive and straightforward nature with direct action.

And I have to say, I enjoy writing her a lot more this way!  She felt two-dimensional before, this feels more natural for her.

Another bonus to having taken a break from book 3 was that I came up with new ideas for book 3 as well as later books that I could foreshadow in book 3, especially for Cardin.  His journey in book 3 starts out feeling like it’s the same as book 1 and 2, something comes up, an adventure, and he just goes along with it.

Until something tragic happens.

The tragedies of book 3 were always planned, but they’ve become even more vital after a discussion I had with our friend (and wedding photographer) Danielle, about how she felt like Cardin was never really in any danger.  His powers protected him, and always evolved to save him in a life-threatening situation.

And it’s true, the Sword of Dragons makes Cardin very difficult to hurt.

Everyone else, however…not so much.  Worse still for him, being the Keeper of the Sword means that his actions never affect just him, or even just his friends.  He also must contend with the new paradigm of Dark Magic, and what it means for him and his future.

Book 3 will be a very personal journey for these two characters, as well as for Reis.  More so than in Rise of the Forgotten or Burning Skies.  All with the backdrop of an epic story unfolding!