March 30, 2012

d&d, renaissance faires, and book covers

Not going to talk about writing today. I figure you guys don’t want to hear about how unsatisfactory my writing progress of late. So in other news…

I’m working on a new D&D campaign, built from scratch. It’s been pretty challenging, much like writing a second-person present tense fantasy novel. Except, I have to guess what the players might do in certain situations, what they might ask, where they might want to go. I have to put so much more into creating the story that 90% of it won’t even make it into the gameplay. Sure, I’ll be able to recycle unused quests, NPCs, towns, etc. for later levels, but it’s a lot of work in the beginning. It gets easier, though. Once the groundwork has been laid, everything else sort of comes naturally. It’s a dynamic creative experience; that’s for sure. And I think it’s going to help me as a writer in the long run. Though, working on the campaign is definitely one of the things detracting from my focus on my book. However, it’s been so much fun to work on. I haven’t touched fantasy in a long time, and it’s refreshing.

March 28, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage ten

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage ten of the mythic structure: the Road Back. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

The hero has seized the sword, saved the princess, and defeated the evil warlord. He now faces a choice: to remain in the Special World, or begin the journey home to the Ordinary World.

The Special World has its charms, but few heroes choose to stay there. Should the hero choose to stay, the story ends in the previous stage, once the hero has claimed his reward. Most heroes take the Road Back and leave the world of adventure. This stage marks a time when heroes rededicate themselves to the adventure. It is another turning point in the story, where the goal of the adventure changes from seizing the sword to returning home safely. 

March 26, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage nine

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage nine of the mythic structure: the Reward. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

Now that the hero has defeated the villain (or somewhat), he must reap the Reward. This stage deals with the consequences of surviving death, which is a big event for the hero. Following the defeat (or somewhat) of the big baddie, there will be a period of time in which the hero is recognized or rewarded for having survived the Ordeal. It’s a time for celebration. They’ve killed the baddie, and now they can enjoy their fruits of victory. Strength is needed for the return journey, so the Reward may be a time for rest, recuperation, and refueling. The heroes may brag about what they’ve done, relieved that the worst is over. It’s also a time for reflection. Having crossed into that strange territory of death, the hero can never be the same. For the reader, these scenes allow a moment for them to catch their breath after the ordeal. It is also a good time to get to know the characters better, and understand them more emotionally.

March 23, 2012

the chroniker legacy, ABNA, and other things

So, a few things today. First, fun fact: yesterday was Petra’s 126th birthday. In fact, today is the one year anniversary of the day I decided to write a steampunk novel, thanks to the encouragement of my friend Darby. I had two sentences, and had decided to call it Chroniker City. The sentences will probably be familiar to you if you read the book. The very first words of the novel derived from this core idea: “A machine is more than its moving parts. The gars, pinions, and springs, they make the machine tick, but deeper than that, a machine is truth.” So, Happy Birthday to Petra, and to Chroniker City, essentially.

Progress is slow on The Chroniker Legacy. I’ve been putting along, up to 38,000 words now. I’ve only been averaging 1000 words a day for the past two weeks, and I’m not sure if it’s because something is wrong with what I have or what I’m about to write next or if I’m just having a slow few weeks. I was hoping that things would speed up now that I’m getting to the scenes that I’ve been dying to write since I plotted this book. I think this book is going to be shorter than the first, at least initially. I already have ideas for revisions—scenes to add, subplots to weave in, and additional description. Some scenes need to be lengthened, I know. But that’s the thing about first drafts. They’re works-in-progress, and they don’t have to be perfect right off the bat.

March 21, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage eight

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage eight of the mythic structure: the Ordeal. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

So here’s the biggie.

Everything in the story so far has led up to this point, the Ordeal. The hero stands in the deepest chamber of the Inmost Cave, facing the greatest challenge and the most fearsome opponent yet. He has prepared for this moment, and he is ready for the struggle he will surely face.

The Ordeal has a single, specific function: death and rebirth. Certainly you don’t want to kill off your main character. He’s made it this far, and we, the readers, have been rooting him on from the beginning. Unless you’re George R.R. Martin. Apparently he can get away with killing everyone and still sell books. This moment of death and rebirth is the dramatic moment audiences enjoy most. It’s when we see the main character at his darkest, and then we see him overcome that darkness.

March 19, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage seven

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage seven of the mythic structure: the Approach to the Inmost Cave. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

Now that the hero has made friends, ruffled a few feathers of the enemy, and has learned what exactly he needs to do, he has to go do it. Structurally, this stage comes directly after Tests, Allies, Enemies, but since the sixth stage can span several chapters or scenes, that does not mean that as soon as the hero passes through the inn, that he should dive straight into the heart of enemy territory. Oftentimes, the Approach and the previous stage mesh. The hero is on his way, and a lot can happen between here and there.

March 16, 2012

me, lately

Bit scatterbrained this morning (truthfully, I’m scatterbrained all hours of the day, so, nothing new). Nearly forgot to write this blog post. Oops.

On the writing front, I jumped back on the productive train last Wednesday and have since written a net of 8700 words. I say net because yesterday I had to delete a chapter, losing 3200 words. I’m glad I did though. I’ve been having second thoughts about that chapter since I finished it, and I feel much better now that it’s gone. What pertinent information and conflict it had, I moved to an earlier chapter, so there’s that. I did manage to write 2000 new words after that deletion, so yesterday wasn’t a total loss. I’m finding that writing is coming a bit easier now, as it usually does when I near the halfway point in my planned word count (I’m up to 32,500 words, out of a planned 80,000). The same thing happened with The Clockwork Giant. First half of the book took me a while to write, and then the second half flew by in a frenzy of awesome typing productivity. Same happened with that one book I abandoned too. I guess that’s just how I write. Today, Pub(lishing) Crawl did their first Question of the Month, asking their contributors what their favorite scenes to write were. That got me thinking. My favorite scenes to write are the slower ones, the moments where the main characters discover things about themselves or each other, when nothing much is going on, and I like writing dialogue. I do enjoy writing action scenes too, but they’re really difficult for me. Not sure why, but I have the hardest time with them, especially fight scenes. I also have a hard time writing romantic scenes, probably because I’m a cheesy romantic and it’s difficult for me to keep the cheese out of romance. Ask my husband.

March 14, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage six

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage six of the mythic structure: Tests, Allies, Enemies. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

The hero has crossed the first threshold and is finally in the mysterious and exciting Special World. He has committed to adventure. He has (most of) the necessary tools and knowledge to survive. He is ready to face the unknown.

If you remember the first stage of the Hero’s Journey (the Ordinary World), you’ll remember that I explained that there needs to be a high contrast between the Ordinary and Special Worlds. The reader, who has seen the Ordinary World in all its un-glory, now experiences the Special World. Their impression of this new place should differ greatly from the Ordinary World. Where the Ordinary was mundane, everyday, and quite boring, the Special must be exhilarating, exciting, and unusual. Even if the hero remains in the same locale, there should be some sort of movement, a change in tension and energy. Usually a new emotional or psychological world is unveiled. The Special World has a different feel to it.

March 12, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage five

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage five of the mythic structure, the Crossing of the First Threshold. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

Traditionally, up to this point, the hero has avoided entering the Special World; these first few stages have all taken place in the Ordinary World. But, as I’ve said before, the Hero’s Journey is not a rigid structure. You will find several stories that follow the Hero’s Journey pattern that do stick to the traditional layout, not approaching the First Threshold until after the first four stages have played out. You will also find lots of stories that Cross the First Threshold earlier, and there will be even more stories where the hero crosses several thresholds in quick succession. The actual Crossing itself can merely signify that the hero has reached the border of the two worlds. This boundary can be illustrated as an actual physical barrier… a wall, gate, door, bridge, desert, river, cliff, etc. Once the hero takes this final step into the unknown, the adventure really begins.

March 9, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage four

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage four of the mythic structure, the Meeting with the Mentor. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

Stage four of the Hero’s Journey sort of meshes with stages three and five. Sometimes the structure of a story, even if it follows the Hero’s Journey model, doesn’t have distinct stages. They flow (which they should!), and feed off one another. The Refusal of the Call weaves in with Meeting with the Mentor, which weaves into Crossing the First Threshold. But for sake of explaining each stage, they have to be categorized and separated.

March 7, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, stage three

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, today we’re going to talk about stage three of the mythic structure, Refusal of the Call. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

Once the Call of Adventure has sounded, the problem of the hero becomes how to respond to it. It’s a difficult passage. The hero is being asked to journey into the unknown, into an adventure that will be both exciting and dangerous. As the hero is prepares to undertake a great adventure, the Ordinary World knows somehow and clings to the hero. The hero’s home holds him in the safety of its ordinariness. Countless distractions tempt the hero away from the threshold of the journey. The hero may be afraid, or hesitate before the threshold, which is only natural.

This halt is known as the Refusal of the Call, stage three of the Hero’s Journey. The hero may hesitate for only seconds, or he may try to reject the call altogether. The purpose of the Refusal is to signal to the reader that the adventure is risky, that it’s not going to be easy for the hero. By crossing that threshold, the hero enters shark-infested waters, and those sharks have lasers on their heads.  The hero might lose companions, treasure, or his own life. The pause makes the commitment to the adventure a choice, even if it doesn’t really seem like a choice.

March 5, 2012

in memory of my grandfather, Calvin Monroe Hobby

I know I’m a bit late posting today, but for what I want to say, it’s going to take some time to write. The post might not be long, but it’s not easy for me to be vocal about this sort of thing. I get sort of choked up. If this were handwritten, I’m sure you’d see splotches at the bottom of the paper.

Friday, my paternal grandfather passed away. He was eighty-six years old and had been on dialysis for the past two years. He wasn’t in the best health, having to go back and forth to the hospital every other day, but I’m grateful that I did get to see him only a few weeks ago, when he was in better spirits than usual. We ate breakfast together and talked about a few things. He was hard of hearing, so most of the talking was me repeating myself, but his mind was healthy, and he kept up with the conversation, which is something in itself. The last thing I said to him—after hugging him goodbye—was “Enjoy your eggs.” I doubt I’ll ever forget that. He ate four scrambled eggs every morning. Sometimes toast. It’s a good last memory of him.

My grandfather—Papaw, we called him—was an industrious man. When he was in good health, he was always outside doing something—gardening, mowing, cleaning out his little brown building, and whatever other project he could find to occupy his time. His standard dress was a pair of dark blue overalls, a button up shirt, and a hat, and he always carried around one of those flat pencils for marking wood and a measuring stick that folded in on itself. When he wasn’t in his overalls, he had on slacks and a button up shirt, with a pocket watch on him. He checked the thing so often, he always knew what time it was, and for the longest time, I thought he was something magical—when I’d ask what time it was, he’d put his fingers up to the sun and estimate the time. Since he checked his watch every minute or so, he was always right. He drove an old Chevy truck he called “Old Blue,” and I remember riding downtown with him, hardly tall enough to see over the dash. When me and my sister and my cousins were small, we’d get a dollar every time we hugged him, and he’d say “Papaw loves his grandchildren.” He always smelled like old wood, grease, and hot grass.

There’s something to be said about the way he died. It was an ordinary day, up until his last moments. I’m grateful that he died the way he did, with my dad and Nanna with him. He died at home, in his wife’s arms, with her telling him how much she loved him and that he should hold on a bit longer. He didn’t die in a hospital, alone, stuck with needles and tubes, and hooked up to monitors. He died in his own house with people he loved. I can only hope I’m so lucky when I go.

Now that Papaw’s gone, I’m remembering things I had forgotten, memories of things he said or did when I was young. Most of those memories are of just hanging out with him—riding the lawnmower or the tractor or Old Blue, sitting at the lake house, riding in the party barge, and just sitting around at the house. I’ve come to terms with his death, but I can only imagine how hard it is for my dad and Nanna. We had the family visitation Saturday night, and seeing him lying there was sad, but it was also a relief in a way. Although he wanted to live and was willing to go through whatever was necessary to stay alive, he was suffering. And it’s a comfort to know that he’s at peace now. I think the hardest part about seeing him lying in the coffin was the way everyone else reacted to it. Nanna fussed about his hair and talked about how handsome a man he was, even in death. She told him she wouldn’t kiss him because he was cold, and the last time she kissed him, he was still warm. My dad was in a fit of sobs, which is hard enough in itself, considering I’m a sympathetic crier. But he was fussing over the arrangement of the things in the coffin, of Papaw’s clothes and mementos. From my perspective, he could have been sleeping—if people slept in suits and didn’t breathe. I didn’t go up to the coffin and look at him closely. I don’t want to remember him that way. I want to remember him as the strong grandpa who took me on lawnmower rides and gave me a dollar when I hugged him.

Death is a strange thing. It makes you think about life and what’s important to you, maybe a little bit too late in some cases. Papaw was the first of my grandparents to go, and though we weren’t necessarily close, I’ll miss him. When I was a kid, I thought old people lasted forever. Eighty-six years was a long time. Now, it doesn’t seem like long enough. But I suppose that makes life what it is. It’s only worth something because someday it’ll be gone.

This is my own little eulogy to Papaw, in memory of him and everything he was in life. As my Nanna keeps saying: he’s alive so long as he’s in our hearts. Her words couldn’t be more true.

in loving memory
Calvin Monroe Hobby
May 22, 1925 - March 2, 2012

March 2, 2012

february sales

Now that it's March, you get to see my total sales for the month of February. I did a bit better than January, so that's a good sign, but I don't expect to see an exponential rise or anything. If I did, well, that would just be awesome.

February Sales for The Clockwork Giant

Price: ebook $4.99, paperback $10.79

Kindle: 9 copies; $30.96 in royalties
Kindle International: 0
Nook: 2 copies; $6.48 in royalties
Smashwords: 1 copy, $4.06 in royalties
Third-party through Smashwords: 0
Createspace: 7 copies (five of which purchased by my grandmother); $24.22 in royalties

So, nineteen total sold, making $65.72 in royalties for the month of February. Reviews are still coming in nicely, still with a four-star average. Amazon is still my biggest vendor (surprise, surprise). All in all, I'm pleased with how my book is doing, especially considering I'm doing little to no marketing. And honestly, I don't plan on doing any more marketing than I am: 1) I don't want to spam my social media feeds, and 2) I'm really really lazy.

Maybe my sales will continue to go up. Maybe they won't. I'm happy as long as I'm selling a handful each month. Multiple handfuls are better, though.