Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fighting a monster

I've been fighting a real monster for the last week. It started out as a shadowy figure obscured by darkness. Thinking it to be an Orc, or some other lesser creature, I engaged it immediately and confidently. But it quickly parried my quickest attacks, then my strongest, and then my craftiest. I realized, to my horror, that I was facing something much worse than a mere Orc. This was some sort of creature from the nether realms--a dark spirit--and I felt like it stood between me and any hope of a future.

I thought about enlisting others in my fight, but even the thought of that dishonored me. I continued to fight alone, realizing, with a sinking feeling, that this might be one of those rare fights that cannot be carried by anything other than raw determination. So I hacked at the creature over and over again, probing for any weakness. After many hours of struggling, I finally perceived an effective line of attack. I was victorious in the end, and I yelled the war-whoop of triumph.

The above is a mythical description of the past week of my life. It's been interesting, to say the least. I think that looking at your life as a journey steeped in myth can be an aid and can see you through tough situations. The only potential danger I see is creating mountains out of mole hills. I do sometimes envy people who seem to approach life and challenges with an almost clinical detachment. Sometimes that approach yields a clarity that the passion of a warrior can obscure. I know I'm not entirely comfortable with a clinical approach, though. For me, life is best viewed as an epic quest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Designing a "Trick"

I finally have the ideas for Chapter Two of Hemlock and the Dangerous Depths ready. I have written a portion of it, but it's not completed yet. The beginning of this novel is (necessarily) setting the stage for new adventures. Much like Hemlock, I am anxious to begin (writing) those adventures. But there are smaller excitements to be had before the major arc begins.

One of the new plot developments requires designing a "trick". A trick, in the context of a fun house, is something that the visitor experiences in a room that is amusing, frightening, etc. When I use the term "trick", I mean something mysterious in the story that requires a cognitive exercise (rather than a conversation or a fight) to figure out. Tricks are a fun part of any fantasy tale.

The problem with tricks is that they are hard to come up with. You rarely can just make up something off the cuff. Because it is a cognitive challenge, it has to be credible, fresh, and compatible with the setting of the story. It took me a while to come up with a new trick, but I finally did, and I'm happy with it. As is often the case, it was inspired by music.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hemlock and the Wizard Tower: 3rd Edition

A new edition (3rd) of Hemlock and the Wizard Tower is available. It is the result of months of learning about indie e-publishing and what goes into a successful e-book. It is also the result of a re-assessment of my own abilities as an editor.

I fell into the same trap that I think many first time authors do. I let the excitement of completing my first novel overshadow my concerns about editing and quality control. I did spend over a year (part time) editing and proofreading, but, upon reflection, it still wasn't enough. This 3rd edition is the version that I wish I had initially presented to the world. I humbly present it now in the hope that some readers will give it a chance.

Hemlock and the Wizard Tower
3rd Edition
* Professional Re-Edit
* New Regional Map
* New Glossary of People and Places
* New Table of Contents

As an act of contrition, I am offering the 3rd edition for free for one week. My hope is that anyone who purchased a prior edition will take advantage of this offer and upgrade. I also encourage anyone who has not purchased a prior edition to try this one. I only ask that you consider posting a review if you enjoy it.

As a tribute to the Indie Book Blog, I am hosting the Smashwords 100% off coupon there LINK . There are many great indie book reviewers out there but Scott at the Indie Book Blog has done the most to help me get exposure for Hemlock and the Wizard Tower. He has also been very supportive of a number of other lesser known indie fantasy authors, and directing some traffic his way is my small attempt at re-paying him.

Thanks for reading, and go grab a free copy of the novel!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Musings from the Drive Home

Here's an experimental post. I was listening to The Doors on the way home, and thinking about many concepts in a blissful state of mind. I wanted to write something about it, and this is what came out. It's playfully incoherent, and hopefully a bit poetic. It was fun to write, in any case.

The inversion of identity injection is self-rejection. We all have intrinsic qualities that asymptotically approach perfection. Streets wind lazily in an attempt to obfuscate the non-linear. We all stop-and-go, bouyed by whatever magic we find. In the forest of ideas the Satyr gestures provocatively. He's there in the shadows, and then gone. If I imagine purple, can I craft any words that can make a reader dream my dream? When should the writing be invisible? Visible? Can I write between the words?

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Chain of Inspiration

It's funny how I've become a sponge that soaks up any noteworthy concept that I encounter, and considers its fitness for inclusion in my forthcoming book. My parents returned from a vacation this week, and they described a colorful locale that they visited that had a very interesting and creative feature. As soon as they described it, a game show style imaginary bell rang in my head, and I knew that I had to work it into my story somehow.

Although I'm a peddler of fantasy, I try to never overlook the wonder of real life, and the network of artists that keep us all collectively inspired. I wonder how many people have been inspired by this particular locale. Maybe I'll include it in my book and a musician will read my book and think of a song, which will be heard, in turn, by a construction worker who maybe will have his spirits raised by the song, and will do something funny that will inspire another book, etc., etc. Rinse and repeat in the karmic spin cycle that is life...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Migraine and the Power of the Quest Mentality

Let's see... what to report this week. I've been struggling to complete a project related to Hemlock and the Wizard Tower. It is close to being ready, and will be announced very soon.

I haven't been thinking about the Hemlock sequel lately. Usually when I go into these dormant spells, there is creative energy building up in my subconscious. I guess I should just sit back and relax, and let things percolate a bit.

I had a migraine this week. I am prone to them, but I've gotten pretty good at managing my diet and exercise to keep their incidence to a minimum. Circumstances got the better of me this week, however (too much caffeine I think). My experience of migraines (I believe I get them on the mild end of the spectrum) is a debilitating headache, nausea, and lack of appetite. I basically lay around all day, and am unable to take pleasure in anything.

What happens to my mind and body is notable. Some people urge me to take pills, but my sensation is that my body is trying to purge impurities, and further medication seems like it would just be another impurity. My mental experience is similar. I get very negative while I lay there, and everything seems dark and hopeless. It's almost like all of the negative emotions that I am able to control during my normal experience has been stored somewhere in my psyche, and is also being purged.

The upside of this experience is that when I get through the sickness, I feel a renewed sense of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual awareness. Or perhaps it's the sixteen hours of sleep, and the fact that I can eat like a horse that feels so rewarding...

Maybe this outlook is part of the "quest mentality" that I think readers of fantasy share. In a fantasy tale, challenges and suffering are usually rewarded somehow. After all, if they weren't, it would be a tragedy and not a typical heroic fantasy. The most effective tool that I've found to ward off negative feelings in my life is to imagine a heroic context for my existence. I think this is healthy, and I think it enriches my life. It's a big part of why I'm drawn to fantasy stories of all kinds.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More fun exploring

I was merrily spelunking through my imagination last night. It was a good trip because I came away with a lot of good ideas and plans for the next novel. If you've tried the game called Minecraft--my next comparison is inspired by this iconic game (if not, Minecraft is a computer game where you mine in search of rare minerals).
Thinking about the story and the world it is set in is like mining. Sometimes you just find ore, but sometimes you strike gold (or even obsidian). I never know what a "mining expedition" is going to produce. I rarely come away without some new idea or insight, but sometimes I hit a vein and am awash in precious ideas. This is where the mine cart comes in: I have to write these ideas down as quickly as possible, because my memory isn't always the greatest.
It's such a pleasure to explore a story and an imaginary world like this. I picture myself moving through these imaginary locales like a director on a movie set. I watch the scenes play out in my mind. At their best, the stories that result are like field journals. I hope that the joy that I feel when I create these adventures shows through in the final product.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some Stimulating Simulating

I've been busy "simulating" for the past several days (pardon the computer term). I've blogged several times in the past months about the evolution of my writing process from a pure write from the hip style to a style that uses outlining to some degree. Well, one thing that I've returned to, as I work on the sequel to Hemlock and the Wizard Tower, is trying to "simulate" character arcs. This consists of imagining that I am one of the characters, and then, given a certain plot point and the information known by the character at that point, I try to imagine what that character would be thinking and how they would react to their circumstances.

I'm finding that, at times, these reactions are not what I had planned for in my outline. In other words, the course of action that I had planned for the character just isn't working when viewed from that character's perspective. Discovering issues like this is why I like to take my time when I write. I'd much rather figure out this type of problem in the development stage than after the manuscript is written. That's why re-writes happen, I think, and I don't want any parts of re-writes, if I can avoid them! I've always hated re-doing things...