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.
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
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!
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 :)
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.
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!
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!
Have you ever had a story in your head that demanded to be told? Not later, not eventually, but right now?
I’ve had some interesting experiences with characters making demands (such as Kailar in book 3 telling me “This isn’t me, I would never stand for being so passive”), but this is the first time I can recall when I’ve had a story come to mind and demand that its time is now.
Nine chapters into The Sword of Dragons book 3, and all of a sudden, another unrelated story won’t stop coming to the forefront of my imagination.
It was a story I actually first had an idea for back in 2015, and I’ve been slowly jotting down plot and character ideas ever since, knowing that it would be one I’d get to eventually.
Looks like eventually is now, whether I like it or not. Every spare moment I have with my mind, I think of this story! I’ve developed a large portion of the plot, and have begun to give characters names.
And these developments are happening fast, super fast! Granted with buying a house and thus moving in the next few weeks, I won’t be able to develop and write this story nearly as quickly as I did the first draft of Chronicles of the Sentinels, but this could be something I finish quickly and can then go back to work on the Sword of Dragons books.
What would I do then? Self publishing a book takes considerable time and effort for me, would I go that route? To be honest, probably not at first. I think this is one I might have a good chance at picking up an agent with. It’s something special, or so my friends whom I’ve shared it with insist, and I feel as though it is too.
What is it, you ask? That’s the kicker…I don’t know how much about this story I should share. I’m even hesitant to share the genre, but I don’t think I could get away with sharing nothing with you all, lol. It’s a book that, in the beginning, you might think is fantasy. But early on, you realize that it isn’t. It’s sci-fi.
And I’ve debated about that revelation for awhile. Should I brand the story as sci-fi from the get go, or should I allow readers to be surprised? Of course, the fear there is that if I brand it as fantasy, fantasy readers might pick it up, and then get mad when they realize it isn’t fantasy…and good luck getting sci-fi readers to pick it up if they think it is fantasy.
All of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years of self-publishing tell me I should market it to a target audience, and I’m uncertain how big of a readership out there is a fan of reading both genres. Am I one of the few?
I guess if I manage to land an agent and eventually a publisher, they could help me with this decision, or possibly make it for me. But then…that’s the other question. What kind of agent do I look for? An agent who represents mostly sci-fi, or fantasy?
In the long run, this would be the first book of a larger series, and the larger series would most definitely fall under the sci-fi category. So perhaps that answers my question for me: this is a sci-fi story.
I’m also wondering what existing fans of my work think of me going off to write a sci-fi. The Sword of Dragons are most definitely fantasy. But I love both genres, and believe it or not, I started in sci-fi. The Sword of Dragons books were my first pure fantasy stories. So in a way, I’m more in my element with this.
For those who are curious, I don’t think I could ever consider myself a ‘hard sci-fi’ writer. I love tech, I love learning how it works in the fictional universe. I could even tell you how most of the technology in Star Trek works. But when it comes down to it, story is more important to me. Story and characters will always be my focus.
It’s what makes a story worth telling, in my opinion.
I usually finish up the year with a ‘looking back, looking forward’ post, and this, the last Sunday of the year, is no different…except this time, it is.
Nothing has been the same this year, and it’s been one of the best, and one of the hardest. I think I said something similar at the end of last year…little did I know how aptly that would describe 2018.
It began with loss.
In the beginning of 2018, my mother passed away. We knew it was coming, we had known for a long time, but nothing could have prepared me for how it would hit me, or how it has stayed with me throughout the year.
Even now, with Christmas, my birthday, and New Years, even when I’m not thinking specifically about her, I feel this immense, pervasive emptiness.
And perhaps the most frustrating part about it is that this should be one of the happiest years of my life. This was the year I got married to my Starshine!!
The saying often goes, your wedding is one of the happiest days of your life, and for me, it truly was :) I don’t think I ever actually relayed the full story of our geeky, fun-filled, beautiful wedding. The weather was perfect, the venue was fantastic, our hotel was great, and it was a perfect turnout, a small wedding like we’d hoped.
Then came the honeymoon, which was a mixture of good and bad. We’ve already decided we need a do-over! But despite the bad that happened, I hold a lot of fond memories from that week and a half, and for some reason today especially, I’ve been thinking a lot about our adventures in Orlando :)
By far, Disney World was the best!! It was my first-ever Disney experience, and despite how bad the weather was most of the time we were there, it was a blast! And exhausting, but in a good way :)
This was one of many trips I took in 2018, beginning with the trip to NM for my mother’s funeral, then Orlando for our Honeymoon. Next came a trip to Los Angeles for my best friend’s birthday, and also my second ever Disney experience since we went to Nick’s favorite place, Disneyland!
While I definitely prefer Disney World due to its size and scope, our adventure at Disneyland was just about perfect! The weather was great, there were surprisingly few people despite it being a Friday before a holiday weekend, and we barely waited 15 minutes in any line! Topped by an amazing dinner in a restaurant overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the food was fantastic and the company even more so :)
And then not long after came my fourth trip, a work-related trip that took me to Huntsville, Alabama. Little did I know how much NASA stuff was out there, and being able to stand beneath a fully-erect Apollo rocket was an awe-inspiring moment!! I only wish my wife could have been there with me for that experience.
To top off this eventful year, I ended things by publishing three novels at once! What started as an attempt to refresh my work turned into a much longer, multi-year effort to rebrand the Sword of Dragons, and while I still am far from my goal of making a living off of writing, I’m happy to say that this venture has brought me a lot closer than I was before!
Now we come to it, the end of a truly roller coaster year (with lots of actual roller coasters!) I look back, and realize why I feel so exhausted, and why my emotions are so crazy right now. So much good, so much hardship. Even my holiday from work for the Christmas and New Years holiday has been tumultuous.
What do I want for 2019? Relaxation. Am I likely to get it? Well…
Looking Ahead to 2019
2019 may very well be another year without me publishing a new novel. I’ve been working on book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series, and as of writing this, I’m 7 chapters in. But Kailar’s story has been fighting me and I’ve basically scrapped my original plan for her in book 3. Which means I’m kind of making it up as I go for her chapters.
I also don’t want to rush it. I have a title and even a cover set to go for it, but I want to write the best story that I can, and I want to make sure it is as polished as possible.
What I AM happy to report is that I’m headed back to the convention scene, at least for one time. My wife and I have officially been accepted as vendors in the 2019 Whimsy Con in Denver! Our favorite Steampunk convention, and a worthy successor to the former Anomaly Con where Beck and I met, this will be our first table together, with me selling my books, and Beck selling her jewelry and her first book.
Yes, you read that right, Beck’s first novel will be available by Whimsy Con! :D Click here to head on over to her blog to find out about her latest adventures with her book, and her planned release no later than March 1st!
Shortly after that, comes perhaps our biggest move yet since we met each other – we’re planning on buying a house! Mostly because we’re tired of dealing with sub-standard apartments in the Denver area. Truly, there are inadequate protections for renters in Denver and property owners get away with a lot of inky moves. We even ended up getting the FCC involved in our dispute regarding exclusivity enforcement by CenturyLink in our current apartment complex, only to discover that our apartment complex had been lying to us about it.
So we’re done with apartments in Denver.
Beyond that? I’m not entirely sure where 2019 will take me. It probably greatly depends on where we land with a house. I don’t anticipate any big trips this year, since we need to conserve money, so probably just hunker down and focus on writing and voice acting.
Did I mention that yet, voice acting? I’ve decided to move forward with recording audio books, and depending on how that goes, I may try my hand at other related ventures. I’m also slated to be the MC for the Whimsy Con costume contest this year :)
So, now it’s just time to take in a deep breath, and plunge into 2019. Here’s hoping for a great year!
Thanks for reading, thanks for staying with me, and thanks for your encouraging words through the hard times. I really appreciate all of you!! (PS: I just noticed, 205 followers!! We passed 200!!!! :D )
I apologize for skipping a couple of weeks in blogs, life has a way of getting away with our time.
Last weekend, I had a book release/book signing party, and for the first time at such a party, I read a passage aloud from my newest book to an audience!
Truth be told, I thought I’d done horribly. I was so nervous that I forgot to read it in my ‘voice actor’ voice,. I just read it in my normal speaking voice, felt like I rushed some areas…
And then I received overwhelmingly positive feedback! Some that day, and then more and more in the days that followed. If you’re curious to see video of it, click here!
Furthermore, I have been repeatedly asked if there will be an audio book released. Many folks have told me over the years that, as busy people, they don’t have time to read, but they can listen to audio books when they, for instance, are commuting to and from work.
So I’ve made a decision: while I’m still going to spend several hours a day during my holiday writing book 3, I’m going to also spend time working on getting the released books into audio! I probably won’t release them all at once like I did in November, but rather one at a time…you know, to save my sanity ;)
Relearning the Voice
Not having funds for a professional studio, I took the same approach from my last false-start: I setup recording in a closet. As I started and re-started recordings on Rise of the Forgotten’s prologue, I realized that I had to re-teach myself how to read for audience.
It’s easy and it’s hard all at the same time. As I learned years ago when my friend Wayne voice-coached me, what I feel is over-the-top comes out as really good, and anything less is bland. So I have to remember every time, don’t hold back.
I might feel silly, and given the ultra-thin barrier between the apartments above and below us, I’m sure our neighbors are wondering what the heck’s going on, but I think the results will be worth it.
The even stranger sensation is that I feel embarrassed as I read aloud over-the-top, even though there’s no one around. Do you ever feel second-hand embarrassment when you see someone say or do something very awkward on TV? It’s kinda like that, except that I’m embarrassed by how my own voice sounds as I’m recording.
And then I hear it play back and it’s good. Based on those results and the encouragement I’ve received from dozens of people, I’m looking forward to releasing my books in audio format!
Thanks for reading! Until next week, dear readers, and the annual “Looking back, looking forward” end of the year blog :)
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.