Introducing Author P.D. Dennison

Dragon Soul Press proudly announces Author P.D. Dennison and his upcoming dark fantasy series, Legends from the Land of Shaarn.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell myself to be more diligent, to write more often and not to let outside interferences get in the way of my dream of getting published. I was always told I’d probably never get published and wouldn’t make any money as a writer so I kept it as a “once in a while,” hobby throughout my life instead of really focusing on it. My writing was only ever for my eyes. It wasn’t until I was forty-three that I learned this idea where you ask yourself what you would do without all the fears and anxiety standing in your way and the answer is of course that I would write stories until my fingers bled and become a published author, so I will tell myself to never give up!PD Dennison Facebook Profile

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Elric of Milnibone. This book was given to me by my much older brother back in the 80s. I absolutely loved it. I’d like to see Elric movies made. I think they’d blow people away.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I had a very detailed outline for a series of novels that I worked on for years but completely scrapped. Deleted all the files, threw out my notes. It was too close to the Prophesy movie series. I have a novella that I wrote in a weekend for a contest that never got judged because the hosting magazine went out of business. I’m very proud of it. It’s set in the future of my fantasy world the Land of Shaarn and is entitled Technomancer. (No it doesn’t have anything to do with the Technomancer novels.) I have a series of six short stories about a super hero I created called Skorpion X set in the 1980s that I’d love to develop into a TV series or a graphic novel some day. It crosses over with my fantasy world the Land of Shaarn as well in that the villain Graxxen makes an appearance. I have a ton of ideas for future novels in the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series after the first five books are written. I plan to take the history of the land through its “wild west,” days and then through industrialization, on into a modern era, an age of information and a future age. I’d really like to develop the history of the Land of Shaarn and I have a notebook full of ideas for it.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

I would definitely say I view writing as a spiritual practice. I’m revealing the most personal part of myself in my writing. I learn a lot about myself and my soul just as someone would during meditation. It’s a meditative practice for me and is very calming and relaxing. The rest of the world just fades into the background and it’s just me and the world I’m creating. My office which I call my den, is my temple and its filled with all sorts of geeky crap that I cherish. I have a collection of Batman stuff as I’m a huge Batman fan. I have a collection of Star Wars stuff, a small collection of Star Trek Stuff. Some LOTR collectables and best of all three book cases filled with all my favorite books board games and role playing games. So the place I write is even spiritual to me. It’s a very personal space filled with all sorts of things I’ve been interested in since I was a child and now I create things based off all those childhood interests that others will hopefully enjoy and cherish.

How many hours a day do you write?

It varies. I am off work at the moment for illness and have been trying to be at my desk by 7am. I write for 2 hours, take a break to give myself and the dogs some exercise, I write for 2 more hours, have lunch, write for 2 more hours and then I’m usually tapped out so about 6 hours. Some days more, some days less. I try to take off weekends to recharge my batteries. I’d like to get up to 8 hours per day and hope the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series gives me the financial freedom to make writing my full time job.

How do you select the names of your characters?

In different ways depending on what I’m writing.

For the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series, the mythology of Shaarn is closely based on Norse mythology with the names changed to protect the gods privacy of course. I’m one sixth Swedish so I try to pick Swedish names that would fit in with Norse mythology and then I might add a double consonant to give the name some Shaarnite flair.

For any modern short story fiction I’ve written I always try to choose names that would fit in with the region in which the story takes place.

In my Skorpion X series of short fiction I used the names of my close friends with fictional sir names and the characters are loosely based on us in our youth.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene I’ve had to write to date was when I killed my favorite character, a dwarf named Postgaar Fireaxe. I rewrote it so many times. I kept rewriting it with him being raised from the dead by magic and then I didn’t like how it turned out so I’d rewrite it again. Finally I decided that it made for a better read if one of the main characters got the axe after that battle. It was a major battle and it didn’t make sense for all of the heroes to come out alive so Postgaar got crushed by flying debris from an earth wave spell, poor little bugger.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

My soul I guess? LOL Jimmy Page is rumored to have made a deal with the devil for his gifted guitar playing and I’m not above that. I want to write, I want to live off the proceeds of my royalties. I’d love it if movies and graphic novels were made based on my books, I’d like to see Funko Pop dolls of my characters, maybe even produce a line of toys or collectables. With a dream that big you’ve got to be willing to trade your soul I think. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Probably the first half hour each day when I sit down to write. I type so slowly the ideas feel like they’re mired in the muck of my brains and I have to shovel them out. Once I’m roughly thirty minutes into the process the ideas start to flow more freely and I really get rolling.

Aside from that, the toughest part of writing a novel for me is outlining it and sticking to the outline. I have so many ideas that when I start writing they just spill out onto the page and I often stray from my outline and have to make major changes to the story that I hadn’t intended. It’s usually better writing than what I’d outlined so I don’t mind making changes. But the other day I killed my favorite dragon in the Land of Shaarn, Arken and I’m a little pissed at myself for that. But I had no choice it was either kill Arken or kill the main villain in the novel in chapter four. It would have made for a very short book!

Where can readers learn more about you?

Readers can find me on my website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at Dragon Soul Press.

 

Interview with Author Stephen Herczeg

Dragon Soul Press sat down with one of the eighteen Sea of Secrets authors. Known for his horror story, Angels of the Deep, we were intrigued to know where his inspiration stemmed.


If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?

Those that know me know my love for Stephen King, I have a collection of over thirty-five hard cover first editions in pride of place on my bookshelves.

But, my all time favourite author is James Herbert, and my favourite of his books is “The Fog.”

I think it’s the book that inspired me to take writing seriously. It’s a fun ride through a nightmarish hellscape and back, but what I loved about it and what I would love to emulate, if the right idea arrives, is the fact that the first quarter of the book is more or less a short story collection. Herbert devotes each tiny section in the first few chapters to one character whose entire journey is played out before your eyes. Few get out in one piece, and on the first reading you can’t even figure out who the protagonist is until you’re well into the book.

The other aspect is the level of unbridled freedom in the book. This was written in 1975 well before splatter-punk was a thing, but it’s just so intense and graphic. I read it when I was a teenager and it was like reading a Playboy, it felt like I was doing something rebellious.

I try to keep that style of writing myself. I don’t want to be held down by what is considered “correct” for the day. Writing should be a pleasure and not constrained by the tenants any other person’s subjective opinion.

What genre do you consider your stories? Have you considered writing in another genre?

I mostly write in the horror genre. It’s what I’ve always enjoyed reading and especially writing. I mostly blame my grandmother for introducing me to the horror genre. I lived with her from a young age, and on Friday nights when my mother was out, we’d sit down and watch the Friday night horror movie of the week. Between the ensuing nightmares about werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster, I developed a taste for it.

I also let the story decide where in the horror genre it lives. Some tales lend themselves to abject depictions of gore, while others move themselves into the more gothic and atmospheric side of the genre.

I have dabbled in some dark Sci-Fi and even a little bit of fantasy.

Lately, I have found that I’m a dab hand at writing Sherlock Holmes style pastiches. I was lucky enough to be involved in a Sherlock Holmes / H.G. Wells crossover anthology and that has opened a new world of crime fiction where dwells an insatiable lust for new Sherlock Holmes (or similar) stories. I’ve so far managed to have around eight stories accepted, both within the Holmes canon as it’s called and as part of various cross-over anthologies. My latest work-in-progress, in fact, is a Sherlock Holmes / Edgar Allan Poe cross-over involving one of Poe’s earliest stories.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

This may seem crazy, but it’s not a book but a series of comics. I love Batman. I grew up reading comics, mostly DC (Batman, Superman) and 2000AD (Judge Dredd, etc).

As I grew into adulthood, those things that I loved most about Batman, (i.e. he’s human, he’s trained himself to be the best, he never kills, he’s the world’s greatest detective, etc), are probably what influenced me the most.

I’m an unashamed IT geek, not nerd – let’s be clear on that and I’ll explain in a minute.

I work in a world where detective skills are paramount to being on top of your game. I started out as a programmer, investigating bugs in programs and using detection to get to the bottom of problems. As I’ve journeyed through my career that set of detective skills has stayed with me.

I now sport a Batman tie clip and cufflinks, drive a black car (it’s a Ford Focus ST, not quite the Batmobile but it goes fast), and I’m a Third-Degree black belt in Taekwondo (hence why I’m a geek, because nerds don’t have black-belts in martial arts).

So apart from the extreme wealth, I’m almost there.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?

Possibly, the most amusing and most amazing thing (apart from being married and having kids, that is) that has ever happened to me was “I won a car.”

Not just any car, an $80,000AUD Mitsubishi Evolution VII.

And not just in a raffle either.

Back in 2002, I was living in England and watching a rally on the TV. An advert popped up for a competition. I logged onto the super-fast internet of the day, watched a video of a car driving a rally course, chose the track map that I thought it was following and thought nothing more about it.

Two weeks later I received a big silver envelope inviting me to Cardiff to vie for the chance to win a car.

24,000 entered, 24 were chosen.

We spent a day at the Rally of Great Britain, meeting the Mitsubishi team, dining out at a nice restaurant, and generally having a good time.

The next day, complete with hangovers, we fronted up at the permanent track in Cardiff. There, all 24 of us were given a “how to drive” lecture and undertook four events:

  • Simulate changing a wheel during a stage of a rally;
  • Co-drive for a proper rally driver around the Cardiff track;
  • Do some actual driving in a modified rally car; and
  • Drive the Cardiff track on the simulator.

Each event was given points depending on how well you did.

At the end, my name was announced.

I won the car, I was on the Telly and I appeared in Rally XS magazine.

I drove the car around Europe, visiting sixteen countries and heaps of racing circuits. I brought it back to Australia with me and kept it for fourteen years.

I’ve dined out on that story for seventeen years and never get tired telling it.

Sadly, I sold the car three years ago. It was getting old, much like its owner.

What gives you inspiration for your stories?

To be honest, anything.

I try to look at the world with one question in mind “What If?”

My very first published short story “Death Spores” was based on the opening scene of my screenplay of the same name, and had its origins in me walking around at lunch time and asking myself “What would happen if someone was walking along and their head exploded?”

From that simple question came a rollicking tale of a galactic fungus that crashes to Earth and turns all and sundry into flesh eating zombies.

The screenplay came top ten in the 2012 Horror Screenplay competition, and the short story was published in “Sproutlings: A compendium of little fictions.”

The way I approach it now is to map out the closing dates for submissions to anthologies that I’m interested in and use the themes to inspire my mind.

“Angels of the Deep” was no different. The “Sea of Secrets” anthology had hints of the sea, creatures from the depths and fantasy about it.

I wanted to stay away from the standard creatures, i.e. Sirens, Mermaids, Kraken, etc, and researched strange and unusual myths associated with water. From that I discovered the Rusalka from Russia.

They were said to be the spirits of drowned women who were scorned by lovers and had turned malevolent towards humans. I already had my “mermen” creatures from another story and came up with the concept of a group of men in the worst possible situation (stranded at the bottom of the sea) being attacked by beings that resembled their loved ones. It is virtually a Greek tragedy played out during World War II at the bottom of the ocean.

What tactics do you have when writing?

I’m a planner. In fact, I’m an over-planner.

I start any new story with the germ of an idea, then I create a mind-map in a software tool, to which I keep adding more and more ideas. Fleshing out characters, their arcs, their interrelationships with other parts of the story.

When I’m planning a story, the mindmap is generally open on my computer desktop (at work), and any flash of inspiration goes into the map.

I also have a small database, that I wrote, which keeps a log of the characters and their place in the story. It can map the overarching character arc of the protagonist. It has a name generator, which can then link characters to the story.

I spent several years writing feature length screenplays, and through that I came across the Syd Field method for screenplay writing. A lot of the same concepts can be applied to prose, and I have used them from time to time.

The main thing I always keep in mind, is using the concept of “Setup” and “Payoff”, especially in Holmes story. Any little nugget of information that is needed at the end of the story must be planted somewhere along the journey.

Though I must admit that the level of planning is dependent on the length of the story. I do hate it when I start to plot out the bones of a story and end up having more words in the crib notes and internal dialogue than ends up in the finished story.

Have you written any other stories that are not published?

Tons.

I started writing in earnest back in the early 1990’s (yes, I’m that old). I still have some of those early stories, and the two shortish length novels that I hammered out as well. I cringe when I read them now.

I figured my problem was I couldn’t get the stories down quick enough by writing prose, so I then spent the next twenty years writing feature length (and a few shorter) screenplays. I’ve finished sixteen in total (with a couple unfinished). Four of them have won awards in various International Screenplay writing competitions. I managed to win the 2017 International Horror Hotel competition in the Sci-Fi category with “Titan” and came second in the horror category that same year with “Dark are the Woods”.

I also spent about seven years and several thousand dollars trying to get my ghost-serial killer film “Control” made, but at the end have nothing to really show for it other than a lot more experience. That whole raising money to make a movie thing is a lot harder than you think.

In terms of my recent prose writing, yeah, still have heaps of stories that haven’t found a home. Some I revisit when I see a submission opportunity that might suit, some I rework into shorter or longer versions, some I just forget about.

I think I’m up to about eighteen rejections for this year with various stories, so there are a heap in my “bottom” drawer, so to speak.

In fact, “Angels of the Deep” grew out of a different story that I wrote that never found a home, where the creatures are awoken from their icy slumber by a meteor strike. I’m seriously considering turning that one into a full-length novel.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Just the getting down and doing it.

I don’t mind the planning, I don’t mind the research, but I just love getting lost in the creative process when the juices are running hot. I’ve had days where I’ll sit down, with the intention of writing for half an hour or so, and by the time I reach a natural lull in the process I find that two hours have flown past and I’ve put several thousand words down on the screen before me.

It’s like a drug when that happens. It’s similar to the narcotic effect that long-distance runners feel.

Even at that stage, when you know you should be getting on with the dull day to day activities that make up life, all you can think about is going back to the computer and pushing ahead with the story.

I find that with some of the Holmes stories, I’ve done so much research and planning that the story just screams out of my brain, through my fingers and up onto the screen.

In fact, I find that when I type “The End” it’s almost like coming off a drugged out high. There’s a moment of denial, a feeling of being let down, and you almost have to drag yourself away in case you go back into the work and try to add something just to regain that feeling. Those moments are when you need to let the work sit in its first draft state until you’ve regained enough composure to revisit it with a clear mind.

What do your friends and family think of your writing?

My wife and kids are a little non-plussed. They see the anthologies arrive in their cardboard boxes. They help me take a photo with them, but they’ve never read anything I’ve written.

I’m hoping that Stephen King had the same problem when his kids were younger, not so much now I assume. To be honest, I wouldn’t let my kids read half the stuff I’ve written anyway.

I did manage to convince my daughter to participate in a Sherlock Holmes for younger readers anthology. I helped her come up with the idea and plot it out, but she did most of the writing. It gets published later in the year, though I think I’m more excited than she is.

My Mum loves my writing. She waits on each Facebook post and shares them with her friends. She’s also bought a few of the magazines and anthologies herself. She recently visited for a week and spent most of the time going through my vanity shelf and reading my stories.

Friends and work mates are simply amazed when I tell them I’m a published author.

It’s sort of the same reaction you get when you tell them you’re in a band (which I’ve done) or you’re a Black-belt in a Martial Art. To the average person those things are pipe dreams and supposedly unachievable, so it’s always nice to prove to them it can be done. I’ve been lined up to present a talk on story telling in the workplace later in the year. Have no idea what to talk about, but it’s an opportunity to promote my writing to my colleagues.

Where can we find you online? 

I must admit I’ve been really slack in setting up a Facebook page or a website to promote my writing.

It’s on my list of things to do but is stuck behind the ever-increasing list of submission opportunities that keep presenting themselves.

I have set up an Amazon author’s page and a Goodreads Author’s page.

Creating Worlds of Wonder (3 of 3)

In the previous two posts (One and Two) regarding world-building, we discussed the rules on maintaining consistency and the tools you’ll use to craft your world in order to keep it all straight. But what if you’re in the middle of your series, and then suddenly you’re hit with an awesome inspiration, but it requires a fundamental change?

Here, we discuss what to do when you need to make a change that essentially violates the rule of consistency in your world-building.

Evaluate the damage if you just make a change and not expect the reader to notice. For example, if you have some far-off country named Ko-Astera, you’ve never used it in your series other than make a couple of references to it, will your readers notice if you introduce a character who is from Astera, not Ko-Astera? It depends, if you’ve been providing the reader a glossary and it specifically names the nation and inhabitants as Ko-Astera, you’ll need to come up with a justification. You can write the minor change as part of a dialogue:

“Hey, I thought you were called Ko-Asterans?”

“You thought wrong, fool. We changed and dropped the name of Ko the Usurper back to its proper name. We are Asterans. Get it right before I take my blade and butcher you like I’ve done my cows at home.”

“Excuse me, wolf-biter. It was just a dancing question. No need to get bloody Six Flames bent over it.”

Then, in this book, you’ll have a revision and a note about Ko-Astera now changed to Astera.

You’re literally changing the look/feel of a particular species. This one is a bit harder to do. Say for example you have a race of demon-touched humans who you never really took the time to describe other than they are humans with demonic tendencies, but you saw a super-awesome picture of a succubus with demon horns, furry goat legs, the whole nine yards. You want your demon-touched people to have this look and feel. Congratulations, make it part of the plot. Bad Stuff is happening and guess what—it’s changing the demon-touched more like into actual demons. When the book is concluded, the process is not reversible.

You need to add a new magical ability/spell/power. Just add it, and make it seem like it was part of the plot/story arc all along.

You need to “break” a rule in your world because you realize it will be totally awesome. You’ll need to work this into your story as part of the dialogue or an event. For example, you have a water mage and you want them to cast fire spells. You need to work out a method or something in the plot so it makes sense you have broken this rule. In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, it was long established men could not channel (use magic) without going insane, so the theme of one of the books was to overcome just this problem.

In conclusion, when you discover you can writing something really cool and awesome, but it will violate the rules regarding consistency, a bit of creativity and stepping back to alter the direction of the story can be yours.

Happy writing!

Introducing Author Lydia Anne Stevens

Dragon Soul Press proudly announces Author Lydia Anne Stevens and her Hell Fire Series featuring six books! The first, Highway to Hell, releases August 19th! Enjoy our interview with this author below.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

There has always been a part of me that has known I want to be a writer. Ever since I was a little girl, being drawn into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Series, I envisioned myself being Laura herself, living a life and becoming so immersed in the story that it had to be written and shared. The passion continued for story telling with the American Girl stories. Perhaps it was the quintessential idea of being an American and chasing a dream but it drove me to enter and win contests such as the Daughters of the American Revolution Essay and I used classics such as, Nathanial Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, Paulo Coelho’s, The Alchemist, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to pen essays and papers which have since been used by professors as exemplars for outstanding academia.

As far as creative writing, I have always developed stories. I even have a note that I wrote to my parents telling them I was running away when I was ten. I wrote them the whole story of where I was going, what I was taking, and what I was going to do when I got there. To this day it still makes me chuckle. I even told them I was going to take the dog with me and how I planned on feeding him. I have boxes of papers and notebooks with stories I wrote which may never see the light of day again, but I’ve always been a writer from the time I could pick up a pen.

The passion for novels and writing has continued into adulthood through reading more classics like, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Dracula by Bram Stoker. It morphed into a love of “forbidden” romances when I was a teenager and then I discovered J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Ever since I fell into the fantasy genre I can’t get enough of reading and writing it. My favorites are now urban fantasy with or without subgenres such as, Karen Marie Moning, Kevin Hearne, Darynda Jones, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, Rick Riordan, J. R. Ward and of course, J. K. Rowling. I will write almost any genre in my freelance writing including horror, romance, commercial fiction, erotica, mystery, science fiction and suspense.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It takes me about three months to write a book. I do have to say that writing is what I do all day every day. I have a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and am pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing so I feel that to be clear, everyone has a different writing speed. For a client I can do a full-length novel in two weeks and average between 10,000 to 15,000 words per day; therefore, I can have a 75,000 word novel done in that time. However, there are different factors to this. Sometimes I am presented a plot by a client and sometimes I have to come up with my own based on a theme or genre for them so in some ways, the brainstorming has already been done.

With my own work, there is a lot of research that goes into the themes, mythology, religion, cultural facets etc. I am a panster with my own work so when I sit down to write, I have the story premise and then I just write, looking up the information I need about the aforementioned techniques and machinations of the process as I go. I am the writer who has notebooks, pens, sticky notes, napkins and receipts for whenever inspiration hits with my own work because I never know when the characters will start talking. So, for my own work I say three months to incorporate all of the things that have been conceptualized, brainstormed, inspired etc. and that is about one month of all of that, one month of sitting down and just writing and pulling in all of those bits and pieces and then another month for revising, editing, and re-writing to a draft that I feel is appropriate to hand off to an editor or beta reader. There is an additional editing process of course, which could take several more months depending on the editor or publisher, but for my own self disciplines I say three months.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have compartments in my brain for my story ideas. They are in neat boxes all lined up almost like a factory, and I can see it in my head. Depending on what work I want to focus on, I take the lid of that particular “Pandora’s Box” and let the inspiration and ideas fly. When I need to focus on a client’s work I put the lid on the box and ignore the rattling for an hour or two before I can open another box. I am very visual so being able to see where the twenty-six current story ideas are being stored is useful to me. Occasionally I have a character who rattles the chains on the box and breaks out, going through a stroll in my subconscious until my conscious self acknowledges him or her and then that is why whatever being resides in the seat of power gifted us puny humans with coffee. Those sessions with characters are often interesting depending on what they have to tell me and at what God-awful hour of the night they might decide to tell it. Those are also my favorite characters who refuse to follow my carefully crafted rules which are put in place to protect my sanity. But then again, any writer who claims to be sane is either in denial and needs more of the blessed caffeinated stuff, or they are lying. I also have two hats I wear when I write. One is a black top hat from England which belongs to my brother. The other is a straw hat I recently won which is embroidered with the phrase, “do not disturb.” My close friends who know my writing quirks remind me it’s too late for that, but the hats help contain the chaos within, so it flows through my fingers and onto the page. One hat is just for more formal writing than the other.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Life is my inspiration. I know this is the party line but it’s true. The people I meet, connect with, and interact with are inspiration. But it is more than that. I can look at a back lawn, sunflower littered with grass that most people would complain is too long and needs to be cut and yet I see the tiny village of fairy people whose homes are being threatened by the humans. The story starts to roll in my head and all of a sudden, I have Pixie, the fairy, who rides a bumble bee and they endeavor to save their home and the bees who have become endangered.

The point of that is, I see life as still being full of magic where others might see it as a lawn that needs to be mowed. Magic may not be classically defined anymore such as with Tolkien’s ideals of magic with wizards, orcs and flaming eyeballs, but fantasy isn’t just a genre to escape reality. It takes the harshness of reality and provides a place for a reader to cope with their own circumstances and realities. The magic is in the effect that humans have left on society either from the past or present and the essence of what humanity is. I see the magic in the places they have been and the things that they do and influence. In a world where technology allows us to see all of the bad things that happen, I chose to focus on the wonder of how humans en mass, are still beautiful and magical either together or as individuals. This inspires me and is where my ideas come from. Magic for me is still very real but more importantly, it is something worth writing about.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is something that can make a reader take a part of it into their life and either learn something from it, or use it to cope with their own life and any difficulties they may face or help them recognize the importance of the blessings they may have. How a writer tells a story doesn’t necessarily make it good or bad, that is just technique and technique is something any writer should constantly be working to improve. A good story is the idea that it is going to reach a reader, even if it is just one reader, and be profound enough to impact them in a positive manner. These are the kinds of stories that make a reader hurt, love, cry, laugh, rejoice, anger, and celebrate with the characters. They are the stories that even if it forces a reader to take a good hard look at their life and count the blessings of what they have or make them uncomfortable in the fact that they inspire that reader to change-they still make the reader think or say, “well, damn.” This is either good or bad, but the effect is the same. It brought the reader to a place that makes them actively engage with the story and apply themselves to the circumstances of the characters or the circumstances of the story to the reality of their own life.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Sound and attitudes are my Kryptonite. I can write with sound but prefer complete silence. It is difficult with an eight-year-old, but I write better at two in the morning when the only sound is the characters in my head. The worst, however, is people’s attitudes. Writers are underappreciated. It isn’t a “real” vocation because people tend to appreciate the humanities when it is someone famous or historical, but most writers and artists aren’t appreciated because family, friends, and fans, might not understand the process. They want to appreciate the completed work, but don’t understand that it takes hours of hard work which isn’t just sitting at a desk and suddenly words appear on the screen.

I’ve heard more than once that my job is sitting at a desk and that there is no manual labor, therefore it can’t possibly be real work. I disagree. Mental work is in some ways more grueling than manual labor, but without getting into all that is PC and right with the world, the fact remains that ignorance is often the culprit of malcontent. If one doesn’t understand what writers do, it is difficult to appreciate the contributions it makes to society and culture, and therefore breeds poor attitudes in general. People want the instant gratification. To be able to click a link and read some text is all they care about. Think about how much people read on a day to day basis for even menial tasks like traffic signs, work emails, social media posts, articles etc. Then think about creative writing and how much effort that takes. People want the words and they are integral to everyday life, even creative works which may be an escape from life, but they don’t care how they get there.

I find myself very depressed when I am told my writing isn’t real work or how this is a dream and not worthy of a real vocation. I remind them it isn’t a dream anymore since it is what I do on a day to day basis, but there is the misconception that real means lucrative success such as a New York Times Bestseller. Even then the moment might be fleeting, and I never became a writer for the money. However, people’s attitudes effect my writing if it is persistent or really negative. I have to carefully assess whether that person is beneficial to my life and what I want from my writing career, and then move on. As a human, I still feel the emotional highs and lows, so when someone attacks my high points in life, it can be my Kryptonite and I might not write for a few days. The beauty of superheroes, however, even writer superheroes is that we always get back up, dust the pen and cape off, and carry on with our badass selves.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Hahaha! Actually, don’t quit. Don’t you ever quit. You will want to. You will think about it, but don’t ever give it up. Everyone on this planet has a gift to give, whether the gift is good or bad and has a positive or negative impact on the fellow man, but writing is your gift and you gave up for a short spell and it was the worst time of your life. You forgot yourself and your gift, but don’t you dare ever give up again. You will be told you can’t do it. You will be told to get a real job like everyone else and it will hurt like Hell. But it is going to hurt a lot worse if you quit. There is a dark place in your soul where the creature who doesn’t write and appreciate your gift lives. Don’t ever let that creature take over again. Everyone has their demons they have to live with. You have two choices, learn to live with the demon or tell it to get stepping because you have things to accomplish in this life and with this gift. Besides, if you think about it, it isn’t your demon anyway. It is the preconceived judgements of others that moved in, took over for a spell, and then festered. Don’t you ever give up on yourself and your gift again. Ever.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I do read a lot of bestsellers so this one is a bit hard. I love Frewin Jones’ The Faerie Path Series. I typically read adult with a few YA ventures but there is something youthful and hopeful about this series that touches me. I think writers always retain a sense of youthful vitality. To be a writer one has to have a vivacious outlook on life, but this series really embodies the idea of fantasy representing the idea of hope within youth. Frewin Jones, a pen name for Allen Frewin Jones is a British writer who is 65 and has over 90 children’s, YA and fantasy novels. However, because he is a foreign writer, I’m not sure how well he is appreciated in America? If I were to choose an American writer, I would go with Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing. Being a native Mainer, it is nice to see the success one man from a small town can achieve. I think because he is the Horror King, his memoir is underappreciated, but I recommend it to any writer, aspiring or established because of how earthy and genuine his novel about his writing career has been.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Commas! I’m getting a little better, but generally the words come so hard and fast that I just don’t consider punctuation until it is time to revise. Then I am so focused on the characters, setting, plot etc. that I just don’t see them. Revising aside because I think every writer has something they can improve on; I find the most difficult part of my artistic process to be prioritizing the writing. Sometimes I desperately want to write on one of my novels, but I know I have the piece due for a client or an essay for school etc. I am finding more time for my own work now that my Masters Degree is completed. The PhD will be focused solely on a creative piece I want to work on, but my focus is now evenly split between clients and my own work, without the academic essays to include in that as well. The only other detriment is when I have a list of priorities which seem to all be at the top and then nothing gets done because I’m so frazzled, I forget to have coffee. Then I have a day assessing my life choices. The day one forgets coffee is the day they take off from work, writing, peopling and all other sorts of activities.

Where can readers learn more about you?

I’m everywhere! A good place to start is Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Tumblr, and LinkedIn.

 

Creating Worlds of Wonder (2 of 3)

In the last post of this series, I discussed the rules of about world-building. In this post, I will discuss how those rules are applied into actual tools and what said tools consist of.

First, why have these tools to begin with? For one thing, it will help you maintain a level of consistently. Not every author can keep track of every alien/foreign element in their world. The stranger you have something referred to using oddly spelled-out words, the harder it gets to keep all of it straight. For example, in my portal fiction, Fallen From the Stars, the elves referred to marriage as the “reading of their oaths.” They don’t have the words “married” or “marriage” (though the humans from the valley do). I have to have this written down somewhere because I have other cultural references, greetings, salutations, etc I need to keep track of. So there are two tools that you’ll commonly come across to help you keep all of this in good working order—the story bible and the glossary.

  1. Overview of the world
  2. Primary Religions / Gods
  3. Special Geographic Locations (floating islands, etc)
  4. General System of Magic
  5. The Races and Cultures (orcs, gnolls, humans, elves, etc.)
  6. Individual Nations
    1. Nation One
      1. Culture
      2. Politics / Government
      3. Special Laws / Taboos / Customs
      4. Special Notes
    2. Nation Two, etc…
  7. Special Terms / Terminology
  8. Technological Levels
    1. Medicine
    2. Warfare
    3. Transportation
    4. Communication
  9. Special Artifacts (magic swords, rings, crowns, etc.)
  10. Historical Timeline (go as far back as need to)

The story bible is more than just an outline (though it can contain it). It is the author’s comprehensive system of how their entire world works. It’s a behind-the-scenes toolkit that details the magic system, the religions, cultural nuances, nations, geography, races, all the way down to curse words to the name of the world/universe itself. It is as detailed as you need it to be (key word: need). When crafting your fantasy world or world that uses some form of mystical elements, take the time to put some effort in it. Start with a big overview, then work your way down like this:

As you can see, we can get quite detailed on just the list alone. An article I read some years ago (don’t quote me though) about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is that his story bible was as thick as one of his books. If you’re not familiar with his work, his series was fourteen big books weighing close to an average 1,000 pages.

Now the important caveat is you should only create what you need to completely tell your story in its entirety. If you wrote out your outline for all six of your books and you never have your characters go to the nation of Ko-Astera, never interact with the djinn-like humans who live there, never use a Fire Summoner in your stories, don’t spend a lot of time detailing that nation and everything within it. The same with Conjuration magic. If you don’t have anyone who is a Pact-Binder with a demon from the Eternal Abyss, you don’t need to detail this system of magic.

Will you be laying this out to your reader in your books? I hope not unless it’s critical to your story. But if your characters are following the rules you outline in your story bible, your reader will note the consistency and detailed world-building. They will appreciate that—greatly (assuming your readers like world-building).

There are many articles on world-building and building your story bible. I (personally) hate most of them, because they are very generic. If you want an actual live example, there are books that give just that to you. They are called campaign guides or campaign settings. If you ever played Dungeons and Dragons or similar table-top rpgs, you’ll be familiar with what a campaign setting is. Video game guides to popular fantasy worlds are also great resources and examples. Essentially, they are the “story bible” for the game master to run such games that keep everything in a logical manner. Some of them are quite detailed and beautifully written. Here is one of my favorites, though it’s nowhere close to comprehensive:

Pathfinder Campaign Setting

The second type of resource is a glossary. This is for your reader. It goes at the beginning or at the end of each book of your series and pretty much is what you’ll use as your own story-bible. Whatever is in the glossary is all you’re using to tell your story. It’s a “story bible lite” per se. This is great if you don’t have a lot of different detail in your world, such as an urban fantasy set in modern day Seattle, but you just need to advise the reader of the different names of werewolf clans, their powers, their blood magic, and their weaknesses.

In my next post, I’ll discuss what do when you run into problems. Until then, happy writing!