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Category Archives: On Writing

Finish it already!

I started on this journey to be a full time author and I started writing… a lot. In March I wrote more than I have written in any other month outside of NaNoWriMo. It’s 3/4 of the way through April and I am on track to meeting the same kind of numbers… But I feel like I should be doing more.

This last week I’ve found myself stuttering again, trying so hard to finish this novel and getting stuck on the words time and time again. It’s at that point now where I just have to push through, find some words, any words, and put them down. It’s always the battle scenes.

Right now the two parts I have left are an arena battle in the middle, and the final battle at the end. Both battle scenes, both needing some choreography, and both tricky because they involve some mechanics from unusual creatures. Plus trying to make them read well at the same time.

I think it’s time to stop trying to make them read well. It never works with me and a battle scene. I just have to block it out, figure out the mechanics, and then rewrite it to make it readable. I wish I could do this every time without having to agonize over it, but I just want to write the darn book, not have to rewrite it over and over again.

To top it off I just wrote ANOTHER battle scene at the beginning of this month for Restart, a shared collaboration between my litRPG discord group. You can read it for FREE over here. I wrote chapter 7. We each write a chapter in order, and I got the battle scene. It, of course, took me longer to write then everyone else because I agonize over battle scenes so much, but it was definitely great practice, and I enjoyed it. I also got to switch things up a bit, and then the next guy in line NERFED the ability I created because it was too powerful…. I think that’s a win 😉

Anyway, back to writing.

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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in On Writing, Updates

 

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The Strong Female Character

I will admit I do love a good novel with a female lead that kicks some serious ass. I read the entire Hallow Series by Kim Harrison, Mercy Thomson series by Patricia Briggs, The Baine Chronicles by Jasmine Walt, The Little Flame by Melissa Lummis, and almost every single book by Anne McCaffery, who really preferred strong women as her leads. I even wrote my own series with strong female lead characters, Witch’s Trilogy because I love it so much.

The characters in all of these books have something in common. Things happen, sometimes horrible things, sometimes world destroying things, and sometimes more personal. The main characters don’t sit and wallow because they can’t do anything about it, they get up and they find a way to deal with it. But they have one other thing that is vital to their journey. They fail. They fail a lot. Then they get up and try again.

Failure is a big part of a good story. Within the hero’s journey it is actually a phase that english teachers teach you. Luke Skywalker looses all his friends. Frodo Baggins has to leave the Fellowship of the ring. Neo is ambushed in the matrix. They all fail, they have to get back on the horse and try again. This shows dedication, resolve, persistence…things every person could use. It also shows that even a hero, like a fire fighter, police officer, or teacher, can make a mistake sometimes. We can all fail, and we can all try and get back up and do it again.

In the Hallow Series the main character gets near death in many of her books. Mercy Thomson is kidnapped, abused, hurt, and lost. In the Baine Chronicles the main character is lost in time as well as space. Each of them have their own flaws to overcome. Each of them have weaknesses that can be exploited by others that they have to learn to overcome. And each of them aren’t afraid to ask for help from friends and loved ones.

This is just good storytelling. When you put a “strong female character” into a story that has no flaws, no weaknesses, no room to grow, then your story ends up feeling flat. The only time it does work is when there is no overall story, say like in John Wick where the whole point is mayhem, or Commando from early Schwarzenegger, or any other high action movie with little plot and all action. If you put a woman in the same sort of no plot high action movie I am sure people would enjoy that too. The trouble comes when you put a wooden character into a plot, give them nothing to add to the plot, and no personality to really endear you to them.

This wooden character with no flaws that always wins no matter what….It’s called the Mary Sue who masquerades as an infallible character. Highly prevalent in fan fiction, the Mary Sue has made it’s way to main stream writing, and even tv and movies. They are stoic, unchanging, they don’t need anyone, and they never really fail. Granted, some people really enjoy this type of strong female character since it keeps cropping up in main stream media. Many don’t. It’s all down to taste.

I would say it’s not conducive to good story telling. There isn’t a lot of difference between John Wick and Alice from Resident Evil. Both movies were well received, both movies centered on the main character fighting their way through a bunch of bodies. Not a lot of plot, mostly action. That’s all the needed.

But when it is bad for the story is where there is clearly a plot and the plot suffers because the main character does not change, has no flaw, and never fails. In fact John and Alice both have a moment where they fail. They loose their weapons, seem outnumbered, and have to fight back. They just don’t have an emotional story line to go with it for the most part, which is fine, it isn’t that kind of movie. On the other hand…. and here is where I don’t want to say the name because I don’t want people to get pissed at me, but I need an example….Rey, from Star Wars, is inside a rich universe, with lots of emotional things going on around her, but she remains very much the same from start to finish. She’s good at everything, she never really fails, and she has no flaws.

The difference between Resident Evil and Star Wars is everything going on outside the action. Resident Evil is mostly action from start to finish. Star Wars has political posturing, heart felt moments, love stories, and a whole lot of history behind it. Resident Evil has zombies.

Because Rey is set against this backdrop of a rich world with all this characterization, successes and failures, she ends up coming off as more wooden. She doesn’t really need anyone, not even Luke in the long run. In the original series Luke was a bad ass, but he needed his friends, and was stronger for them. Rey ditches everyone, goes and does her own thing, and is fine. When Luke went off on his own he regretted it and realized he needed his friends.

This Mary Sue story telling, especially in a world that already has a huge fan base, leads to a divide in the fan base. Some like it, some don’t, and the fans decide….I’m going to go watch something else.

For a better story telling experience add a flaw. Add a moment when the character looses everything, and has to fight their way back up from the brink of destruction. Have them evolve and change over time. Have them overcome an inner conflict of some kind. Give me, the reader, something to root for them about. I want to love your character! I want to go along with them on this journey, and care about them. I want to laugh at funny things they do, or cry when they are hurt, or cheer when they finally overcome their trouble. I want to FEEL. Do that and I’ll keep coming back for more.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2019 in On Writing

 

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To Cliffhanger or Not to Cliffhanger

A few weeks I finished another story in a series that I have been reading for the last year. It had it’s moments, and some flaws, and things I didn’t like, but overall it was a fair book. Then the end happened and a GREAT BIG HUGE CLIFFHANGER fell into my lap and I was tempted to throw my kindle. The next book isn’t out, won’t be out for another year, and….it was annoying.

Granted, that emotional response I had was probably exactly what the author was going for. He wanted the reader to hang onto the words, and at the very end he wanted to make the reader come back for more. It’s slightly underhanded, but works really well if the story is good. Game of Thrones (TV series) has that going on. Lots of TV dramas live off cliffhangers. You have to come back the next day to keep watching or you’ll never know who Jared found with his wife.

Small cliffhangers are almost expected in any series. In each book you have the main focus of that specific series, and a lot of resolution to everything going on, but the overall story, the one keeping all the books together as a whole, isn’t done yet. I did this with my Witch’s Trilogy. Each book is a distinct book and you can probably read any one of them and be fine without reading the other two, but there is a thread that connects them all, and it’s a fuller and richer experience as a whole. And at the end of each book there is just a short scene that connects it to the next book. A small cliffhanger, but one that hopefully gets you curious.

There are a few stories that act as episodic structures, like the original Hulk show, Jack Reacher, or 007. The story ends and the main character goes off into the sunset, and you don’t know if you’ll see them again. No cliffhangers. No real cliffhangers at the end of the episodes. Just a story. Almost all of Star Trek was done that way. A few of the series had running plots that ran through the series, but most episodes still had the story of the week aspect.

So should there be cliffhangers? Of course there will be, and in the right area they are good to have.

It really depends on what you’re going for. It’s appropriate for some stories to have an end to each episode because the characters aren’t going to be interacting with those specific people ever again. In the case of Jack Reacher, he won’t go back to that town again. A cliffhanger wouldn’t make sense because if you started a new book with him finishing up the arc from the previous show, then going to the next town with new people and starting a brand new arc, that would be weird.

Stories that end in cliffhangers usually bring the character back to the same area, and interact with the same people. TV drama is a great example. They are all in the same little town, same sets, same other actors, so cliffhangers can work because you can resolve that thread next episode and then move on.

There is one last way to use cliffhangers though, and I think it’s the most common. That is to have a single thread that winds through the story line, the theme of the series, and have that be the cliffhanger each episode. Supernatural is a perfect example. That show has been going on forever. Each episode has it’s own story that is completed in the 45 min episode, and also adds to the over all story that is effecting that season. They get a little closer to that seasons villain with almost every episode. The thing bringing people back to watch it is partly the overall story, but mostly it’s just that they love those characters, and they love the monster of the week format. The overall story is just icing on the cake.

However you do cliffhangers just remember that you need SOME closure at the end of the story. If nothing is finished, and you just drop the book for a cliffhanger and say “go read the next book” I’m not going to do it. I want some closure, and if you give me NO closure then I’m not invested in your story enough to keep going.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2019 in On Writing

 

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Hello Texas!

It is March first, and we have started our new life here in Texas.

It took five days to drive from Seattle to Houston. We would drive six to ten hours a day, stopping along the road to visit with friends, have lunch, and get out and stretch. When the sun went down we found a place to stay, and get up bright and early the next morning to push on.

It rained from Seattle to northern CA. We were so happy to get out of the rain. Still, it was cold until we got to southern CA.

The land was beautiful, from the mountains in the north west still covered in snow, to the warm deserts in Arizona and western Texas. The place we are staying in The Woodlands has….well…woods. I was so happy to see trees again! So much of AZ to TX is bereft of trees, and I really missed them.

During the week traveling I managed to write quite a bit and flesh out book 3, Steel Line, as well. Because I was only writing on my tablet and phone I had files saved on each of them that were not connected to my actual scrivener. Yesterday I compiled everything together and rewrote a bit. I’m really happy with how it’s turning out.

Steel Line is going to be a lot longer than the first two books, and have a nice dungeon crawl. It’s been fun to write it, especially because I have been digging into the world building a lot more. Can’t wait to get it done and out to everyone. I’m hoping by next month. Even while moving, transferring things from our home to the trash, and thrift stores, and trying to see as many people as possible, I still managed to write about half my normal monthly total. Now that I’m writing full time I’m aiming for a lot more, though.

For THIS weekend you can get book 1, Steel Soul, for free. Click right here! Book two is also available on KU as well.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in On Writing

 

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Life is strange

It is Tuesday, day four of our captivity. Please send help!

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic there. We have been snowed in, and we do not dare take our car out in the snow because we won’t be getting it back in the drive way, so we are effectively stuck. But we have TV, electricity, food, and each other. Life isn’t too bad.

It is weird, however. Because today is Tuesday I should be at work, but I’m not. That’s because I don’t have a day job anymore. (Not that the snow would let me get to it anyway.)

Now my job is to write. Create. Publish. And do it all again.

Right now we are still spending a lot of time sorting stuff, packing, and getting down to essentials, so I haven’t been writing a lot, but I am writing.

I can already see the temptation to sit around watching youtube videos, or playing a game. But that won’t get me where I want to be. Instead I am focusing on seeking out inspiration, and help. Marketing ideas, how to advertise, and different ways to get my name out there. All of that. Hopefully that will put me back on track because I want this to work more than anything.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2019 in On Writing

 

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There are great dangers in the forest…

Jupiter and Cas are out adventuring again, this time in the pass going toward Uldwin, a bustling coastal city. But a trip through a mountain pass is never easy in an RPG. Steel Heart is out today!

If you would prefer to read in KU both Steel Soul and Steel Heart will be available in KU within a couple of days.

You can also get Costume Shop for free today. Costume Shop was the story I released for Halloween, and it has a very R.L. Stein feel to it.

I am already hard at work on book three of my litRPG series, because gaming never ends.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in On Writing

 

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Starter Library

Want some free books?

Click here and find out more.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2019 in On Writing