So here we are, 2018 is at our doorsteps (past for some) and it’s time to reflect. What have we all done in this past year? Where are we in our goals?
I’m inching ever closer to sending my manuscript to an agent, so I’d like to think I’ve done relatively well. I have some new betas that are working out well and I’ve got my plans tentatively set for 2018. Finish this edit, query agents, and start working on the sequel to The Paladin.
What about other plans? Well, I’m considering some side stories and a even a podcast. But perhaps I should focus on one project at a time. I have so many interests that I can tackle once editing time is freed up that I can focus on.
I know this isn’t a particularly long post, but it’s New Years and we should all be with loved ones. I hope your Eve is safe and the New Year is a prosperous one. Now go celebrate! You survived 2017.
Dftba in 2018!
Do you remember when I gushed about Firefly? It's a great series that I wasn't exposed to until just recently and I've been bingeing the crap out of it. Well, another series grabbed my attention that, strangely, I enjoy for similar reasons even though the two shows are nothing alike. I'm talking, of course, about the new, modern classic, Ash vs Evil Dead.
Now, if you're a fan of the movies (Evil Dead 1 & 2 plus Army of Darkness) you'll know the basics of what we're looking at. Necronomicon ex Mortis. Deadites. Boomstick. It's all there. But it's been thirty years since the events of the last movie. Ash is old. Oh... um... Spoiler warning.
Still with me? Good. So, here's why I love it. Realism. Now, when I'm writing The Paladin, I try to think of how real people would react to the situations my characters are in. I try to make things pragmatical... practical. I was drawn to Firefly (SPOILERS AGAIN!) because of scenes like Malcolm kicking a stubborn foe into his engine because he swore he'd track Mal down. I love Ash vs Evil Dead because the first thing our hero does when he realizes the forces of Hell have risen once more is... get the hell out of dodge! He tries to grab his check early from his workplace, load up his trailer, and put the pedal to the metal in that old Delta. Fast forward to the end of season one and the villain offers him a choice. Continue to fight her or leave her be, give her the Necronomicon, and she'll send him to Jacksonville where he can get drunk and have sex with coeds for the rest of his days. He totally takes the deal!
Now, I'm not imagining that my characters, like say, Reagan, would flip off the world and take the deal, but they'd be practical about it. If faced with a situation where a room full of vampires is waiting to kill them, Reagan might choose to walk away and cut his loses. If faced with the opportunity to research his next case and get an advantage on any would-be foes or sit and drink hard liquor with a beautiful woman, he'll probably take the latter. That's just life.
Sure. There are people like Superman out there. There are certainly boyscouts out there who will be a beacon to the world and display true heroism in the face of adversity. But those people are few and far between in the real world. In my world, The Paladin, hunting monsters isn't a noble pursuit for only the bravest souls, it's a 9-5. Er... 9-9? Like... it's 24/7 and all... Okay, I think this metaphor is getting away from me. Point is, real people rarely act like movie heroes. They do what they have to to survive and that's what hooks me in a good story.
Be Excellent to Each Other!
One of my favorite things in the history of ever is crossovers. I love seeing worlds mix and characters meet. Often times they're non-cannon, because of course, but sometimes you get wonderful things like (and don't you judge me!) the Marvel Cinematic Universe or... the DC one... I guess? I mean... yeah.
Anyway, point is, I just took a look around at all the things I'm engaging with lately and this theme of the multiverse, of crossovers, it's everywhere. I don't know if this speaks to the prevalence of the trope in pop culture or just my own interests. Still, I can't get enough of it.
I think it's the expanding of worlds. It's the meshing of completely foreign characters. It can be done well, let a shared universe thing, or poorly, like... well... old fan fiction I used to write. (Heyo!) Still, I'm not completely certain what it is.
I think, perhaps, my favorite example of this was the video game Kingdom Hearts. When it first came out, there was nothing like it. You traveled between Disney universes while meeting with Final Fantasy characters. Seriously. Someone was on drugs. I can't imagine the initial pitch. But I can recall the feeling I got when I first saw the commercial. Ursula. Captain Hook. Alice. Belle. Maleficent. And that tag line... "You never know who you'll meet next." I was hooked instantly.
I think what was great about that game was that, despite the character being either all Disney or all Final Fantasy, none of the characters shared a universe. Ariel never certainly never met Snow White. The Beast certainly never met Hercules. But when you acted as that link between worlds, it was magic. And... let's be honest, if you played it, you remember what it was like when Sephiroth appeared and One Winged Angel began to play. You knew it was about to get real.
I guess I'd like to do something like that. I'm writing The Paladin, but I'm also exploring other people within that world, people with completely different experiences and who see the world so very differently. We get exposed to so much fiction about world hopping that we forget just how huge our own world is, how many different points of view there are to have on just this one big, blue ball. So within just my own universe, I'm sure I can create so many different worlds. Within the US alone, I know that Paladins in my universe will look and act differently from one coast to the other. I know that Canadian Paladins have a completely different experience to Americans. It's a huge world, because, well, it's our world. Just with monsters.
Also, if you love crossover stuff, make sure you check out my friends at Smash Fiction. They are some of the most entertaining nerds I know. Check 'em out at smashfictionpodcast.com and on twitter @SmashFicPodcast.
Those who know me won't be surprised to hear that above all things, I fear mundanity. I fear irrelevance. I believe that people have one life and that they should squeeze everything they can from that life. This is largely what led me to do crazy things in my life, like becoming a pro wrestler, living in the Netherlands for half a year, and, now, focusing my entire being on getting a novel published.
Both my parents, before they passed, were extremely supportive of my work. My mother much more so, as she actually devoured any piece of writing I put in front of her, but my father had his moments, too. He didn't necessarily understand my writing, but, upon learning that I was utilizing a lot of Catholic dogma in my story, he actually gave me his Communion book. It was very touching.
Back on the subject of mundanity, I have to talk about what happened to my parents in their last days. I love them. Please understand that. Both had dreams and motivations, but circumstances forced them into positions that robbed them of the means to pursue those dreams. My mother was a wanderer. Before having a family, she drifted all around the country. After, she was shackled to one place... or, well, a few places. She moved whenever possible, but it was nothing like what she wanted. She spent her last days as an office manager, locked in a tiny town she hated, dreaming of being free. I had dreams of getting a job good enough to support her, to buy her an RV and let her go wherever. That never happened.
With my father, it was photography. In his day, he was booked for weddings and events all over the place. Then he had to sell his cameras. While I was doing well financially in Vegas, I started putting things together to get him a photo set. I had a DSLR, a photoprinter, free editing software... He actually started to perk up and seem hopeful. Then he passed on.
Yeah, this isn't the most upbeat blog post, but I hope this helps you understand that I don't want to be caught. I don't want to be inches away from my dream and be forced to turn away. This novel is my dream and I'm betting everything on it, because if I fail, at least I went for it. I couldn't live with myself if I gave up without a fight.
Don't Forget to be Awesome
Thirteen weeks and counting! Woot!
Anyway, today I'm looking at a song that floored me the first time I heard it. Now, I'm probably going to catch some flak for not loving the original more than I do, but this version is absolutely entrancing. Amy Lee's cover of Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing.
I do have a particular character in mind when I listen to this song and her name is Angelina Arriette. When I first heard this song I had to stop what I was doing. I think I was getting ready to do some filming at the Las Vegas convention center and this came over YouTube. I had to stop and favorite the song, and, frankly, I played it to death.
I'm a big Amy Lee fan, but I hadn't heard anything she'd done since the older Evanescence stuff. When I heard her doing this cover, it just immediately put an image into my mind. I had previously listened to the original Chris Isaak version, and that's a great song, don't get me wrong. It didn't inspire anything though. Just a simple change, though, giving a the lyrics over to a woman with a voice like Amy Lee, and now I'm seeing the song from the point of view of the woman.
Angelina, my character, evolved quite a bit from the moment I heard this song. She's sensual, but very in control of it. She's the leader of her own parish and she commands the respect of her crew. She acts as something of a foil to the character of Samantha who is introduced earlier. Samantha is a physically strong, large woman. An amazon, practically. She is threatening to her foes in a very apparent way, but Angelina, she's more subtle.
Angelina is able to be just as strong, just as deadly as Samantha, but she embraces her femininity and expresses it even in her combat. Where Samantha will break your arm and put a gun to your head, Angelina will confidently stroll past you and bring a knife to your throat. She is nowhere near Samantha's level, physically, but there is no question that she deserves the command post she has.
This is a great song for a powerful woman. I know I've talked a bit about making sure you convey characters opposite your own gender in a way that addresses stereotypes rather than just ignoring them, and I think this song helps bring that along. You can't listen to Amy Lee sing this song and not think bold, powerful, but very much feminine.
Enjoy Amy Lee's cover of the Chris Isaak song, Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing.
The end of the year is always a time of reflecting, to look back upon one's accomplishments and make plans for the next year. I think this could be a good time for me to take stock of my life thus far, to see where I've come with The Paladin and where I need to go.
For one, The Paladin is something of an experiment for me right now. I was a videographer in Las Vegas prior to this and I wrote my novel in my off time. I actually saved up a good deal of money and right now, I'm using that to give myself time. When I was behind the lens, I had no free time. Chapters went unwritten, shows went unwatched, games went unplayed. I shot, I edited, I took reporters live, I went home, I passed out.
Now that I've worked my butt off, I've given myself a year. It's somewhat arbitrary, but I figure I have more than enough money to live off of with the situation I'm in. I have one year to do everything in my power to find representation and get published. If that doesn't work, I'm moving on to self-publishing. Either way, at the end of the year, I'm going to look over everything and see where I am. Will I return to the news industry? Will I succeed and push forward with my literary career? I have no idea, but let's see where I am. You guys can help keep me accountable.
I've been working on the edit since September. I lost, more or less, all of my beta readers for one reason or another, so I've spent a lot of that time doing just basic edits. I'm on the fourth draft of The Paladin right now, so a lot of my edits are grammar and spelling, but I'm also looking at what I can cut.
As I've stated before, I need to get my word count down to somewhere around 110k words and I'm still hovering around 140k. Why? More words equals more pages, and more pages equals more cost to the publisher. Without a proven record, I'm not getting anyone to publish 140k manuscript. Look at Harry Potter. Check out the thickness of Sorcerer's Stone / Philosopher's Stone compared to one like Half-Blood Prince or Order of the Phoenix. Once she was proven, her publishers were glad to let her write more.
I am fortunate that I've managed to get four good betas to finally finish up. Ideally I'd have around... thirty? At least twenty... Still, with their feedback, I can finally make some real progress in editing the narrative. So far, fortunately, it seems to just be a matter of pacing in the middle. No one seems to hate the plot or the characters, it just gets a little slow around act 2.
So, that's what I've been doing, so what's next? Well, I was hoping to have my edit completed for the new year, but that's looking like a stretch. I'll try to have it completed by the end of January, after which I will focus on querying. I have a list of potential agents, I've followed a bunch on social media (and some have followed me!) so now I just need to get this in front of them and see what they think. Fingers crossed, guys!
But... querying is a long process. I won't be editing. I won't be writing The Paladin. So what do I do in the mean time? Well... I guess it's time to move onto the next project. I've got several to choose from. Within The Paladin's universe, I have a prequel story focusing on Reagan's time in the Academy and leading all the way to the start of The Paladin, I have a Simon Trevor spin-off for those who actually love that crazy hunter, and I the actual sequel following Jonathan's exploits after the events of The Paladin, and I have a side-story that follows the events of a group of new, fresh paladins as they adapt to life in their first parish.
Any thoughts? Have a favorite idea? I have three other stories completely separate from The Paladin I can focus on, too, so I'd love to hear from you guys.
Until tomorrow, Don't Forget to be Awesome!
First, of course, I want to wish a sincere and heartfelt Merry Christmas to everyone that has taken time out of their day to stop by my blog and pay attention to my rantings. It's been great. I've been working on this blog since September and, somehow, I've managed to post every single day. That's an amazing accomplishment for me, and I wrote a 140k word novel.
Seriously though, I have issues maintaining good habits, so I've very stoked to have been going this long and I'm thrilled that people are actually stopping by to check out the blog. On that note though, I want to reflect a little bit on Christmas.
This is now the second Christmas I've had without a home to go back to. My mother died back in 2011 and my father just a couple years ago. While I was living in Vegas, I saved up a lot of money and am going full time at this writer thing, so when we couldn't find an apartment, a wonderful woman took us in to her home. I have no complaints, but waking up Christmas morning in someone else's house, knowing I'll never have the Christmases I had as a child is... sobering.
So... I wonder, what is Christmas like for the Paladins of my novel? Now, I made a conscious effort to avoid holidays in the novel, but I may have to address them in the future. I wonder... do the parishes have a little Christmas tree? The Order is supposed to be a Catholic organization, but members aren't all necessarily from the faithful. How many varied takes on Christmas will a group of demon fighters and monster hunters have? Do they have strange traditions because they're Paladins / exposed to the monster world?
I myself have a jack-o-lantern with a Christmas tree carved in it sitting just outside my door. It's strange, I grant. I gotta wonder if a Paladin might do something a little off to the common man as well. What about hunters like Simon? He's loaded, so it's not unthinkable that his parlor has a giant tree in it, but what kind of gifts do you get the hunter who has everything? A dagger made from the melted down silver cross of church in Europe, blessed by the Pope?
Do Paladins get time off to see their family? What about Paladins who's family isn't "in the know?" Let's say Jonathan, my protagonist, had a family to visit during the holidays and was given time off. What does he tell them?
I have to admit, at the moment, I don't have an answer, but perhaps I will address that in a new story. Maybe I can put out a nice little short story centered around the holidays? I wonder if Christmas / December has any monsters associated with it? Ooo... time for research!
Merry Christmas! Be Excellent to Each Other!
Twas the night before Christmas
And on my own blog
No words would appear
As I fought through my slog
Of editing and blogging
About writing and tips
On characters, plots,
Mary Sues and ships
When out in the living room
Arose such a clatter
I sprang from keyboard
To see what was the matter
Friends and well wishers
With dogs and with gifts
Appeared to eat food
In waves and in shifts
We chatted and laughed
About Christmases past
We ate and we played
As time went by fast
Then I looked at the clock
As I turned from the fun
My blog was unfinished!
I must get it done!
I nodded and smiled
And hugged them goodbye
I petted their dogs
As Christmas drew nigh
I slid into my seat
And let me be frank
I stared at my screen
And just drew a blank.
So now I sit here
Consumed by my fright
Merry Christmas to all
I'll be better tomorrow night.
Hope you have a wonderful night and a great Christmas. Tomorrow. Unless you're in the Netherlands. Have a good one now, then.
Now more than ever, Be Excellent to Each Other.
Yesterday I talked briefly about making sure that your character doesn't go too far to either end of the stereotype spectrum. It's a great method to help make your characters feel more authentic, but there's more than that. Something simple, but easily forgotten, is to make sure that the reader has enough information.
So many times as readers we make the mistake of put our character out there and then being puzzled when our reader doesn't think of them they way we do. That isn't inherently bad, but it can lead to issues when the way the reader imagines them doesn't work with the actions you're having them do.
For example, perhaps we think our 9-5 coffee shop barista is actually a really tough person who knows five different martial arts. Now, there's no reason a barista can't be a kung-fu master in theory, but if we don't specify that, then have them destroy a would-be mugger without breaking a sweat, we might have some issues.
Now, in your mind, of course Bill the Barista can take out five thugs with guns. Maybe you have a great reveal later where a side character finds out he was secretly in a special ops group and thinks of them differently, but until we see that scene, we only have a few things to go on. We know he's a barista. He's not shown doing anything particularly physically demanding or dangerous. Our natural inclination as a reader is to picture an average barista. Without specific details from you, the author, we have to guess. So, what, early to mid twenties? Thinner built? Maybe even a college student? You can't blame your reader if that's the impression they get when you haven't given them more.
The problem comes that you're too close to the character. Too close to the plot. You know everything's that's going to happen and, in the grand scheme, it all works. But down in the trenches, at the level of minutia, there are inconsistencies. You forgot to let us know that he's actually 6'3. That he has broad shoulders that stick out from his barista apron and thick forearms. That's all a given in your head, but it's easy to forget to let the reader in on these things.
So what do you do? Identify these places and work to build out more details of the character without having someone flatly say "Oh yeah, Bill kills three dudes in the war!" Maybe the espresso machine gets jammed and someone can't unstick it. Bill comes over and pops it into place with a quick jerk. Maybe when he's adding cream to someone's latte we get a peek at a Marine tattoo under his sleeve. Perhaps someone orders so much stuff that they need assistance carrying it out, so Bill comes to rescue. They drop a tray of coffees and BOOM! Bill shoots out a hand and catches it all before disaster strikes. Now we have something to work with.
This doesn't mean we aren't surprised when Bill takes down three muggers later. It's still an amazing task, but now we have a frame of reference. What we know about Bill means that this, however fantastic it may be, is not so far fetched as to break our immersion.
I hope that helps somebody out there. If it does, feel free to comment and maybe leave some thoughts on other writing difficulties.
Don't forget to be awesome!
I'm going to talk about something a bit controversial for non-writers. I was helping a friend of mine deconstruct their story today and breaking down how they could improve their character and I had to preface a lot of what I was saying with disclaimers. It occurred to me, this might be a good topic to discuss in a more open setting, so I invite anyone with an opinion on the matter to please comment.
Something you have to deal with in fiction is that, despite the way we think the world should work, despite our personal beliefs, despite our dearly held desires to the contrary, some thing just work certain ways. For this, I'm referencing... (pause for both dramatic effect and to delay the inevitable hatred that will be spit forth at me) ... writing character traits that are based on gender.
So there are stereotypes. We know stereotypes are bad, but there's a reason they exist. They act as a shorthand for our brains. They aren't inherently bad, it's how we acknowledge and utilize them that is good or bad. So, when creating a new character, especially one that isn't the gender you identify as, it's important to build them with certain traits in mind.
There's a common trap that's happened a lot lately where people try to write strong female characters and, to that end, decide to look at the list of typically feminine traits and simply have their character reject all of them. If your strong, female lead has absolutely no feminine traits, why did you make them female? You've essentially just made the "Real Women Don't Wear Dresses" character as defined by TVTropes. In a nutshell, if you have a woman in a dress standing next to a woman with short hair and pants, the latter will be badass and action oriented and the former will need saving.
The important thing to remember when making a character writing according to their gender, is that, despite our wishes or desires, men and women are different. This doesn't mean inequal or incapable, just different. It's important to understand these differences and address them rather than just rejecting ever one of them. A strong woman is strong in different ways than a strong man. A compassionate man is compassionate in different ways than a compassionate woman. Don't ignore these "traditional" traits and tropes, recognize them and figure out how they will affect your character. They don't have to embrace them all, they don't have to conform to every stereotype, but they can't pretend like they don't affect them.
What are your thoughts? Let me know what you think about writing men or women and how you can make them feel true.
Be Excellent to Each Other
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.