Sunday, April 14, 2013

An Update - On Fame and Magic

First, I want to give a little update as to how the new book is coming along.  Sadly, I haven't been able to work as much on it over the past week as I'd have liked.  I made a little progress, but it's not nearly as much as planned.  Mostly, I blame a busy schedule, but admittedly, there was a fair amount of laziness rearing its ugly head.  I hope to break out of that funk over the next week or so, and really make good progress.  I know there are a quite a few people out there who are waiting for Volume Two. 

I'm not a terribly successful author.  I think, to date, the book has only been downloaded around two-three thousand times.  To some people, that might seem like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, it's really not.  I'm fine with that, though.  I'm not going to say that I haven't dreamed of "hitting it big," but it's not my primary motivator for writing.  No, I write because I enjoy the creative process (as arduous as it is, sometimes).  However, it is nice to hear from fans - which brings me to a fun little interaction I recently had with my niece.

She's only nine years old, so my stories are a little over her head.  She's aware that I had a book published, but beyond that, she doesn't know much about it.  The other day, she was looking over my shoulder while I was making notes, and asked some questions about my story.  So, I decided to show her a picture of my map, and explain the geography a little.  It wasn't anything detailed - just a brief overview like "the bad guy lives here," or "this is where the good guys are."  She got a kick out of it, and in the end, we came up with an idea for a tertiary character for the third book together.  I won't say what it is, but I can say that it involves a young queen named Melea and evil merpeople. 

While we were talking, though, she told me that one of her friends was terribly impressed that I was her uncle.  The friend's mother had read my book,and had described me as a "famous author."  Of course, it's not true, but it did make me feel all warm and fuzzy.   I just thought I'd share that fun little tidbit. 

So, I guess the next order of business is to start with the first in a series of descriptions of magic users in my world.  So here it goes...

I guess before we get into it, I should go into a little detail in regards to magic in general.  Basically, it all comes from the same place, and it's all the same thing.  I know that for each person, it manifests itself differently, but in theory, any magic user should be capable (with the proper training) of doing any sort of magic.  However, it doesn't happen (except for a handful of times) because mastering a single manifestation of magic is difficult, and takes a lifetime.  Mastering more than one requires an inhuman (or indwarven, inelven, etc.) focus, work ethic, and lifespan.  So, while it's possible, it's as close to impossible as one can get without plunging over the edge. 

The irony, of course, is that most magic users of a particular field (wizards, sorcerers, etc.) have a tendency to hold other magic users in contempt.  None are more guilty of this than wizards. 

The first thing you need to know about wizards is that there aren't many of them, and with the death of Grith, there is only one true master in the world.  The other wizards (of which, there are only a few) are far, far below that benchmark, and aren't nearly as powerful or knowledgeable.  The mechanics remain the same, however. 

Basically, wizards are telepaths.  They can project the power of their minds in such a way that they can read others' thoughts, and for the most powerful, control the weak willed.  A master wizard can control dozens of people at a time.  Some have even claimed that the truly proficient wizards can effectively stop time (by putting the surrounding people into a trance-like state). 

Wizards are a notoriously arrogant sort, and oftentimes, their grasp outgrows their considerable reach.   Because of this, they are often very competitive with one another, and only rarely congregate. 

It's rumored that, among the mysterious Wa Suy, there is a contingent of extraordinarily powerful wizards who once plunged the entire world into a state of calamitous war.  When they were at last defeated (by an alliance of necromancers), they sealed themselves into a tomb.  Through a series of complicated spells, they put themselves into a deep, magical stasis.  Among the Wa Suy, there is a prophecy that one day, the world will need these powerful (if mad) wizards. 

The rift between two powerful wizards (Grith and Vincent) is a centerpiece of Heartkeeper: Volume One.

I suppose that's it for today.  I hope that shed a little light into one type of magic user in my world. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

An Update on Volume Two - My Writing Process

I haven't updated in a little while because, quite frankly, I've been incredibly busy.  Between writing and working my day job, I really  haven't had a lot of time to post to this blog.  However, I have been working on Volume Two, and I think it's shaping up quite nicely.  Today, though, I wanted to talk a little about how I let a scene take root and grow.

I have a bit of an organic writing style.  That means that I let the overall story arc, the situation, and the characters dictate how each chapter develops.  There isn't a lot of rigidity or structure to how I write.  It's intended to flow, almost in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way.  It's not as meandering as that might imply, though.

Generally, I start with a phrase or sentence which describes the scene's main purpose.  Typically, it's something like, "Flikk imprisoned/character development."  That leaves quite a bit of leeway as to where that chapter can go.  That's how my first outline looks; it's just a series of one sentence/phrase descriptions. 

Once I've mapped out the whole story like that, I go back into it, and do a detail of each chapter.  It usually looks something like this:

I.  Flikk Imprisoned/Character Development
         A. Introduction
                    1. Setting - Void Prison
                              i. Physical Description of the cell (size,shape, materials, etc.)
                              ii. Tone 
                    2. Time Frame - A few days after capture
         B. The Point
                    1. History
                               i. Intro to the character
                    2. Finding the Gap in the wall/Making Contact with Aime
         C. Conclusion
                    1. Hope vs. Despair

This sort of outline gives me a good idea where I want the story to go, but it doesn't really restrict my writing.  If I want to go off onto a tangent, there's room for it.  However, it makes sure that I set the scene properly, I remember what the point of the scene is, and I conclude the scene in a way that sets up the conflict within the next chapter (dealing with that character).

Now, this is a really short scene, so it's a very simplistic outline.  With a longer scene, though, it can get quite a bit more complicated.  However, I use the same general form.  Here's a sample of a long chapter from Volume Two (I don't really reveal that much, but if you want to avoid spoilers, quit reading):


I.                    Flikk/Drea reach their destination/find out about Orryn
a.       Introduction
                                                               i.      Castle in disrepair
1.       Feeling of Decay
                                                             ii.      Time Frame
1.       A few Days After the event
b.      The Point
                                                               i.      Greeted by a trio of elderly guards
1.       Want no trouble
                                                             ii.      The reason for the visit – need to see Orryn
1.       Not going to get much
                                                            iii.      Greeted by Orryn’s Wife
1.       Takes them to see Orryn of Aston Peak
a.       Blithering idiot.  Spouts nonsense.
                                                           iv.      The Explanation               
1.       Introduction
a.       The Setting
                                                                                                                                       i.      Land at war
b.      The time frame.
                                                                                                                                       i.      Three Generations past.
2.       Reason
a.       Elna the Cruel laying waste (winning)
                                                                                                                                       i.      Explain the Witch
1.       Dread Powers (curses, blood magic, demons)
2.       Motivations (power)
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Explain why she would cast the curse.
1.       The Resistance (Mace of Aston Peak)
3.       The Curse
a.       How it works (thirty-third birthday for every male heir)
                                                                                                                                       i.      Fading intelligence
b.      The Implications
c.       Conclusion
                                                               i.      The Witch Lives
1.       Imprisoned
a.       Wandering Mountain
                                                             ii.      The Quest
1.       Take Care.  Evil Witch.

This isn't the longest chapter, but it kind of shows how quickly the scene can grow.  I haven't written this chapter yet (it's about halfway into the book), but I estimate that it will be anywhere from 15-20 pages long (typed - in book form, probably 30-35).  The first scene was about two - three pages (it's from Volume One).  I don't think I'm surprising anyone by saying that Volume Two will be quite a bit bigger (in both the length and scope of the story).  

In the next update, I plan to start recapping the different types of magic users in my world.  I hope it's informative and adds to your excitement for Volume Two.

As an aside, I've made Volume One as a free e-book through SMASHWORDS in anticipation of the release of Volume Two.  I'm not sure how long I'll continue to offer it as a free e-book, so download it now if you're interested.  You may find it HERE .  I only ask that if you do download and read it, please rate or review it.  There have been a couple of thousand of them sold/downloaded since Volume One's release, but I've only seen a dozen or so reviews.  I write these things mostly for myself, but it really is exciting to see how someone reacts to my work.  That feeling keeps me excited about writing, so hopefully, the reviews will continue to come in.

Thanks, and I hope you all enjoy my work!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I've been writing quite a lot lately (trying to maintain a chapter-a-day pace for the next few days), and I'm really, really excited about how Heartkeeper: Volume Two is coming together.  I'm up to about fifty typed pages (which is about a quarter of the length of Volume One), but it looks like this one is probably going to be about 40% longer than the first.  I didn't set out to write a longer novel, but it's a much bigger story.  So I guess it's inevitable. 

I did want to talk a little about the differences between the two books, though.  So if you haven't read Volume One, you may want to avoid the next few paragraphs.  Slight spoilers ahead.

The first novel is a character-driven introduction to the world.  It was always going to be a relatively small story in that I only wanted to go from point A to point B.  That's part of the reason it's set in a vaguely familiar (and stereotypical) fantasy world.  I didn't want to go into too much detail about races and such.  Rather, I wanted to be able to focus on the different magic systems, the characters, and (later on) politics. 

In those ways, I was successful.  Looking back, I wish I would have spent a little more time with the gnomes.  Developing backstories and cultures is so much fun for me, and the gnomes have a very unique history.  That said, I'm probably more critical of my own work than anyone else could ever be, and judging by the readers' responses I've seen, most people were happy with it. 

However, with Volume Two, I'm really opening up this world.  It's not a small story anymore, and I can't write it like it is.  Sure, I still want to focus on the characters (I've always felt like writing introspective characters was a strength of mine), but I also want this world to feel "lived-in."  It's a lot more work because I've had to develop each culture's history (to the tune of 200+ pages of notes), but I think the extra effort is starting to show.

Writing a bigger story can be a trap, though.  It would be very easy to get bogged down in the details, and lose sight of the main storyline.  It's a fine line to walk, providing enough detail that the reader feels like each culture and character is three-dimensional while, at the same time, not going overboard, and flooding their attention with superfluous, minute details that don't really matter.  So far, I think I'm walking that line pretty well, but it's a constant struggle to keep it at the forefront of my mind.  It can be so easy to get caught up in a scene and overwrite it.  Still, I think awareness of that danger is key to not falling prey to it.

Anyway, I hope this creative streak continues. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Writing Up a Storm

I've covered a lot of ground today, and I wrote about six pages.  I'm sure that I'll edit it down a little, but to put that in perspective, the manuscript for Heartkeeper: Volume One was only about 200 pages long (with graphics).  So that's quite a bit of progress for one day, and I plan to get a couple more pages hammered out before the day is finished. 

Since I started posting again, I've received a few emails from fans, wishing me well and praying for me.  I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the thoughts and prayers.  They definitely help. 

If you've bought or downloaded Heartkeeper: Volume One, please take the time to at least rate it wherever you bought it.  I'd love to see more reviews, but I know most people don't want to take that sort of time.  However, a simple rating (one or two clicks) really helps let potential readers know that the book is worth their time.   I don't think that's asking too much.

That's it for now.  Hope you all are well, and I'm really excited about where this story is going. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Update on Second "Heartkeeper"

I've talked a little about why Heartkeeper: Volume Two is still in development (as opposed to being finished), but I wanted to add a few things to that explanation.  Almost immediately after I finished Heartkeeper: Volume One, I started writing the second in the series.  However, when I was diagnosed with leukemia, I sort of veered away from writing.  Simply put, it was difficult to concentrate on writing when a) I felt horrible and b) I was legitimately scared of what my future held. 

It's easy to put on a brave face, and act like nothing is wrong.  It really is.  "I'm doing okay," I'd say.  "I'm fine," or "I'm lucky it's treatable."  I can't count how many times I said, "I'm lucky because if you're going to get cancer, this is the type of cancer you want to get because it's so treatable."  The fact of the matter is that I never really felt lucky.  In fact, I'm a little ashamed to say that I wallowed in self-pity.  Why me?  I don't drink.  I don't do drugs.  I try to live a relatively healthy lifestyle.  But I'm the one who gets cancer at 30 years old.  I think that mindset was harder to get over than the disease itself. 

Anyway, that sort of attitude is not conducive to writing.  Sure, I wrote in my journal about what I was (and in some ways, still am) dealing with.  But as far as concentrating on writing a narrative?  It just wasn't going to happen. 

Cut to a few months later, when I was on the cusp of the remission declaration (which is defined as being cancer-free for six months), and I sort of turned a mental corner.  It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself, and start to actively try to achieve my goals. 

There was one problem, though - I just wasn't happy with what I'd already written.  There were elements I liked, certainly, and there were specific scenes which were very good, but as a whole, I just didn't care for where the story was going.  So I scrapped it, and started over.

When I sat down to rewrite it, though, I had a bit of an epiphany.  I needed more organization if the novel was going to be successful (artistically).  It's a big story with a lot of details interwoven into the narrative.  Volume one was always going to be a small, character-driven story, and so, didn't require a lot of planning.  I think I only did a very basic outline, a small, regional map, and a short character list.  All-in-all, I only had a dozen or so pages of notes.  Everything else was just in my head.

With Volume Two, however, I wanted to have a plan.  I wanted to refer to people and places that would appear in subsequent books, and I wanted, above all, consistency.  That meant that I had to get down to it, and actually plan. 

I started with the outline.  Originally, I only intended to give a short five-six word summary of the chapters, but it quickly became a map for the entire book.  I included back stories, secondary and tertiary characters, lines of dialogue...everything.  By the time I was finished, I'd ended up with 50-60 pages worth of outline.  That said, the entire novel was completely planned.  All I had to do was write it.

The only problem was that I had created so many new characters (most aren't really that important to the story, and aren't in the story much) that I started to get them confused.  So, I decided to build a detailed character list.   That ended up being about fifteen pages long.

Finally, I needed to flesh out my map.  As with everything else, it sort of grew into what it became.  Originally, I was only going to make a basic world map with city, landmark, and terrain names.  When I started working on it, however, I decided that I'd use it as a bit of promotional material.  Make a pretty map, and generate interest in the book.  So, I spent a few days building what I think is a very nice map. 

And now, I'm in the midst of writing the first draft.  It's really coming along nicely, and I've got that feeling of excitement I tend to get when a story starts to come together.  At last count, I was about fifteen percent into it, and the prep work is really paying off.  I can only hope that it continues to go so smoothly. 

As to plans for the future of this little blog, in addition to giving you guys updates on the progress of the novel, I'm considering doing a series of short stories (published weekly) as a way of fleshing out my world for you all.

That's it for now.  Thanks for reading, and I hope that the second novel lives up to your expectations.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Second Heartkeeper Prep - The Map

Cartography is not easy; I can say that with absolute conviction.  Every part of it - from conception to execution - is tedious and time-consuming.  That said, it is an invaluable process in that it forces me to think about my characters' journeys, and it cements the world in reality.

With the first book, I worked off of a very rough regional map.  It was always a small story with only a few real locations, so that was all I needed.  But this story is so much bigger, and it's intended to open up the world.  The map had to reflect that.

So, this is my first real fantasy map:

This is the map after a texture pass and the addition of the compass rose:

Part of me wanted to go with a traditional fantasy map with icons, names for everything, and borders, but with a full-world map like this, that's not really an option.  So I chose to make it a little more realistic - kind of like a satellite view of the world, with only the cities named.

I started with a sketch (basically just the continents and major landmarks) on nine 14x17 pages (creating a 3x3, 9 tile grid).  Then, I took pictures (the pages were too big to scan), and loaded those pictures into Photoshop CS5.  From there, I refined the shapes of the continents, did the coloring, applied the textures, and then, finally, labeled it.  All in all, it took about 12-15 hours of work, but I think it was well worth it.  The result is a useful bit of art that I can use as a reference and promotional material.  That, and I think it's just pretty cool.  Hopefully you all do too.

In the next update, I'll probably have another couple of maps ready.  I still need to do a political map, and I'll probably use a variation of this one to establish the names of natural formations (mountains, rivers, oceans), scale, and major landmarks.  I also have plans to create maps of Nou Tyran, Byn Takar, and Linston sometime in the near future. 

So keep checking back, and I'll keep posting. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Update

I'm a fairly private person, and in general, I don't really like to talk about myself.  Instead, I like to let my work speak for me.  However, I feel like I have an obligation to let everyone know why there haven't been any updates on the second volume of the Heartkeeper series.   I can only say that I apologize for it taking this long.

The fact of the matter is that my mind has been occupied by a bout with leukemia.  I don't want to go into too much depth as to my disease, but I will say that as of a few weeks ago, I'm officially in remission.  And with that, my mind was freed to focus on writing.   So that's what I'm doing.  I won't say anything else about that, because I want to focus on what the lay in the future. 

The second book is really coming along nicely.  I finished the outline a couple of weeks ago, which is a lot more work than you might think.  It's the backbone of the story, the map I'm going to follow for each individual scene (I think it ended up being about forty or so pages).  Over the next week or so, I'm going to be fleshing out the world and tertiary characters' back stories. 

I think that, in a week or two, I'm going to be posting a map of the world.  Originally, I intended it to appear in the book, but as it was an e-book, there were formatting problems.  Whatever the case, I'll have it up here soon.

In any case, the point of this post is to let you all know that I'm actively working on the next volume.  I can say that the next volume will be quite a bit larger in scope than the first, and the third volume will be even bigger.  So hopefully you all will remain fans, and buy the next one when it comes out.

I'll be a little more diligent with this blog in the future.