When Writing Inhibits Writing and Mysteries are Locked Away

For the last six months I have been writing every day. Sadly, the writing has not been of my choosing as much of my day job is writing and editing others writing. Subsequently my desire to continue my creative works has diminished. 

Too much of a good thing right? When all i do is write and edit during the day, the last thing I want to do is continue it at home. In spite of this, the story in my head hasn't stopped, but goes on and on begging me to bring it to life. I wish I could tell you of the detail that dances through my head like a traveling butterfly, making its one attempt to bring new life before it returns to the soil. 

I, even in the busiest times, wave my little butterfly net and jump and run after the flickering thoughts that threaten to vanish. If I could only captured them on paper I would be able to share them with you, that is my purpose. It is like trying to describe a roller coaster to a blind person, something I have tried to do, how to relate not only the sight and sounds but the intense, euphoric, and exhilarating panic that knifes through me when the rails disappear from sight and my stomach falls. 

I want you the reader to know the story that I do, I think you would get a kick out of it.

Review this!

I am afraid I may have hurtled myself headfirst into a 7-layer Pit of Despair. I just opened myself up to accept indie/self-published novels to read and review them. What was I thinking? I work twoish jobs, have three kids under five, and am writing my third fantasy novel. Oh and I try to blog once in a while. And I have three kids, including a baby…

Well, here is why I am doing it. In spite of the extra “work” and drain on time, I am forever indebted to those kind souls that have reviewed my own work and I want to give other striving authors the same small voice I have been given time and again. In our world of self-publishing, we authors know the painful truth. No matter how good your novel is, if no one knows it exists or if it is even worthy of reading the first pages, it will not succeed. Reviews are the gold bullion behind the cash that can and may one day begin to flow into the pockets of worthy writers.

To all you authors, please do yourself a favor and read other self-published work that fit the genres you have an interest in. Better yet, when and if you have the time, give feedback through a review. This not only expands your understanding of what is out there in your niche but it also sends a message that we are in this together as indie authors. Of course there will be times when you will not have many positive things to say about someone’s work. When this happens and you are determined to write a review, do the author of the book a favor. Send them the negative review before publicizing to the world and frame it with the positives. As a writer yourself, remember the blood, sweat and tears that poured from you over the years of struggle and give the other author some respect for actually completing their work. Do not take me wrong, I am not shy to describe the negatives when necessary, but I try to open my mind a bit and encourage those who may fit the target audience of the book more than me to try it out. I know I do not read much of the uber-successful genres like paranormal, etc, and just because the story or characters or writing style does not work with me, does not mean others would not like it. Bottom line, please to not write a review to tear down the author or their work, write the review to highlight the target audience and attempt to mix positive with the negative. Yes, we as authors are in competition for the attention, money, and adoration of the population, but we are also the largest group of like-minded and truly understanding folks, and the opportunity for support and encouragement is vast. 

To all those who read reviews and use them to know what novel to purchase or spend time reading, take all reviews with a grain of salt. Look for patterns. If a similar thing that piques your interest is stated again and again, there is probably more truth to it than if you only see the same tidbits in one or two. These patterns can be framed negatively or positively. Some people love to digest 800 page tomes that lay out every tiniest spec of information or detail of the world while others like more action filled or character oriented works at the cost of detail or page count.

My preferred method to choose whether or not to buy a book is to read the first few pages. Yes, I look at reviews, but I ultimately choose by sampling the product myself. Luckily these days many online sites give you the option to read the first pages or chapters of a given book. It’s free and only takes a few minutes of your time. You never know, you may read the two negative reviews of a book, disregard the free sample, and miss out on the next New York Times bestseller.

For all you readers: (Reviews = Increase in Sales, decent potential for success. No Reviews = Little to no Sales, barely existent potential for success). If you truly enjoy a novel, get some pleasure from it, please do the author the greatest favor you ever could, write a review, tell a friend. Do not for a second think that the author only needs the $0.99 you shelled out to get the book. If you give an author a dollar and do not publicly broadcast that you did so willingly, happily, and maybe would do so again, it does little more than give the author a jolt of encouragement that quickly turns to despair when that dollar remains single. A review does not have to be a couple paragraphs or a rundown of what the book was about. A single sentence and a star rating can be as powerful since many people and databases only look at the # of reviews, positive vs negative, to guide their buying habits. It takes an average reader a couple weeks to get through a book. Another five minutes is not asking for much.

Which is why I as an author myself am beginning this crazy endeavor to review other indie authors. I know the work that goes into these receptacles of passion.

My kids and their ideas

We have begun a new tradition in our house. At the dinner table during the meal me and my wife will sometimes take turns telling prince and princess stories after our 4 and 2 year old beg long enough. The best part is when they take over the storytelling. Fascinating tales of young boys and girls going on adventures and meeting all sort of crazy colored creatures. I need to write some of the stories they tell down. 

I love the mind of children...it is not much different than mine.

For Fantasy sake!

What are the clearly defined and strict sub-genres of Fantasy? Sorry, there are none. Yes, there may be an amorphous framework to work within, but Fantasy is an open world of possibilities and that is what draws me as a writer and a reader. I want to be surprised, shaken, and dismayed. Equal (or not) parts, realism, the fantastical, and other worldly. As long as the storyline and writing is good and the protagonist is solid and relatable I welcome all the craziness Fantasy has to offer.

Undead warriors that breathe fire? Ok. Dragons that can’t fly, talk with British accents, and drink bourbon? Sure. Rocks that can’t gather moss to save their lives, have dreams of ruling the world, and come in all colors? Why not. If these things are encapsulated inside a rich and vivid setting that pulls me in and allows me to imagine experiencing the story from the characters view, bring it on.

That is one of the joys of writing Fantasy. I never get bored and the world that I have created can always expand and change in countless ways as long as, as a whole, it all feels believable on the most basic of levels. My novels have it all, humans, goblins, evil and mysterious creatures, tribal people groups, scientists, miners, feline folk, steamships, gadgets, dark apothecary, knights, medieval setting, reanimation, political machinations, inter-family conflicts, pain, grief, friendship….the list goes on and on.

I enjoy reading both Fantasy and Sci-Fi and I had fun melding some of each genre together. Where Fantasy generally uses magic or a mysterious force I used natural science to fill that gap and offer some of the same possibilities based on a more “realistic” foundation. I can argue that my “magic” is based in a kind of physics system, though I would not want to attempt it with any knowledgeable professional. I fused technologies to include solar fueled gadgets, steampunk-like machines and basic horse drawn wagons in a way that fits believably into the set time and place.

Fantasy allows the writer to build possibilities and wonders and if successful, puts it together in such a way as to elevate the reader out of the here and now into the created reality.

Of course, Fantasy as a genre is like saying I am a human. There are so many differing sub-genres that take the Fantasy title and expand or restrict to certain paths and places. For instance there is Paranormal Fantasy that generally takes the world as we know it and throws a wrench into the works, like, oh and by the way there are these folks, that you know, like to bite you in the neck, and you know, suck your blood…in modern day Lithuania.

I grew up reading mostly Epic Fantasy and tend to write in that framework. This sub-genre connects with the romantic in me as it generally has a protagonist that is thrown into a heroic fight to save their way of life and or the world as they know it. There is clear darkness and growing light.

Please let me know your favorite Fantasy sub-genre and why in the comments! 

Let your experience color your writing

  When I began to wrestle with the concept of my first The Seeker’s Burden novel, An Emerging Threat, I was in the middle of a thirteen month vacation in Eastern Baghdad. And when I say vacation, I of course mean a mind numbing and life changing military deployment. I fought against the sameness of working 10 hours a day 7 days a week month after month by diving into another world of my own making. It was an escape from the chaos I had little ability to effect. I journeyed to the Tri-Islands and went on adventures with the characters I began to bring to life. Like the world I was physically stuck in, the world of The Seeker’s Burden was coming apart at the seams.

Eastern Baghdad from above

Eastern Baghdad from above