A Crisis of Doubt (Bonus Draft Excerpt!)

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I’ve been radio silent for a few weeks now because I’ve been struggling with some things in regards to “A Light Rises in a Dark World”.  I opened myself up to ask others what they thought of it in a professional forum to see what kind of surface reaction I was getting.  Everyone was great with what they told me and the criticisms all honest, having validity and expressed the opinions of those who cared to share.  I appreciate all of them, so don’t think I’m bashing them or unappreciative to what they did.

What this is about is an unintended consequence of doing such a thing that caused me to stumble in my productivity and confidence in my book.

I’ve had a set of good and bad reviews lately, and I had started to doubt my work.  Not the quality of it, but its public visage.  I started to question the cover, the title, the sales copy (oh yeah that’s puppy poo and needs to be reworked, for sure)… but the title?  The cover?  Like I said, a crisis of doubt.

But three other incidents have gotten around the corner.

My editor reminded me I get streaky like this where I’ll go ‘fallow’ (my word) for a few weeks, but bounce back with a lot of productivity.  I just need time to let the stew in my head simmer.  Let me tell you, it’s more complex and time consuming than black roux gumbo can be, and just as fraught with disaster.  So she’s the one that helped me realize I was lying on the floor covered in self doubt.

So while I was mulling about that, my writing buddy and friend, Dave, came along and reminded me that I was looking for reason to doubt myself.  Reasons to tear down everything and dispair.  Something I am still wondering about.  So he helped pick me up and made sure I was standing again.

Then Torfinn, the man that makes the foreign words work right and provider of good suggestions came in, and made some simple apt points about what was said and showed me again the good things that were said to counterbalance out all the negative stuff I was feeling that really may not have been there in the first place, but only in my own doubt.  So in essence, he dusted me off, straightened my tie and got me thinking about what needs to be done next.

So to you three, thank you.

Upshot of all this has yeilded some interesting thoughts in my head.  I realize I’ve been struggling with the “What Next” question.  I know what I want to talk about, and I’m shaping out the characters, but I haven’t found the right way to fit them all together in Book 2.  Until I do, I can’t make myself move forward it seems, but I can cogitate a lot about it.

Which has lead for me to understand the themes for books 1-5 better.  Yes… you heard me right, I’m already thinking 3 books ahead.  Pretty easy when book 3 is half written already, but with what’s going on in book 2 that’s going to take some heavy modification which I’m really salivating about doing… but can’t till I get done with book 2 because I need to understand the world that is being built better.  Every book is worldbuilding in chronological order for me.

Why you may ask?  Because I leave myself open to happy accidents.  It’s how I got the whole third act of book 1.  (Or as it will soon be known as ‘Volume 3’)  I knew where I needed to be, then let the characters and world tell me what was happening.  Of course, I got that done in a much more compressed timeframe than this, but it was nowhere near as complex as what I’m doing now.  The interconnectivity… oh you’ve heard this all before.  I’ll bore you to tears with that some other time.  Anyway.  I’m at 36.5 chapters, I have a new visual image going in my head that helps me understand my map the people and how the story must progress.

It’s going to be fun.

Lastly, I will be releasing Book 1 Volume 1 of “A Light Rises in a Dark World” this month still.  Putting finishing touches on my new cover.  Keep an eye out, for it’s going to be “BAM!  Surprise launch!”

And as a thank you for your patience, here’s another first draft exerpt from Book 2 for you.  Remember… this is a FIRST draft excerpt because y’all are worth it.

Bon appetit!

The Jarl’s Hall was impressive to say the least, Brother Finn thought as he walked up to the large structure.  It was twice as large as the Stallare’s Hall in Athrvorthfestning, but comparable to others he had been to.  What made this one stand out all the more was the incredible decorations at the entrance.  Trophies of animals, and demonspawn stood there or were mounted on the walls.  Carvings of great hunts were etched around the massive pillars while ornate tapestries dripped down from the walls.  The long hearth in the middle was roaring as the clergy from all around the area filed in as a processional to the chanting of the choristers in their midst.  The song finished as the last of the clergy reached their seats.

Jarl Jakob Vilhoaettir sat in the high seat watching the procession filed in and took their seats at the table.  Bishop Aarlig Krakisson stood before the Jarl and the Domari stood before him as the Thing finished assembling.  After the Kyrjka was seated, the Huskarls allowed the Forsamling who wished to be witnesses to enter, sitting on the outer benches by the walls.  Silence was strictly enforced.  Those who dared talk could expect to be escorted to the dungeon without hesitation.

When everyone was seated and the only sounds were the crackling of the hearth and the rain hissing on the roof, the Domari turned to face his master.  His form swallowed up in the all black robes of his office with a golden staff in hand taller than a man by half again.  On its tip, was a figurine of balances resting on top of the seal of the Vilhoaettir.  

“Deres Naade, we are ready,” he said with funeral humor.

Jarl Vilhoaettir nodded, his face a serene mask.

With the bottom of his staff, he pounded the timber floor the traditional seven times.  The knocks brought even greater quiet to the hall.

“Damer and Herrar, we are assembled this day, April the eleventh, in anno Domini One Hundred and Ninety Two Ad Segregationem.  We call forth a special assembly of the Thing that justice may be done!”  The man’s powerful voice cracked off the wooden walls loud as any herald.  

“All come forth in fear and trembling in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and before the justice of Den Aerefulle Jakob Fritjovsson Vilhoaettir.  May all those who speak, do so in the Spirit of Truth, and no falsehood be found among the Thing.  Pay heed to this warning, for all may be judged for their actions and words.”

The Domari’s sparkling blue eyes swept over the hall, challenging anyone to disagree.  None did.

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Kjudoon’s Cartoons 5

“Hoard of Barbarian Terminators”

A little something different from World of Warships.  I used their own capture tool to reshoot the same match multiple times, focusing on different things as I did it.  Found the perfect music, and hence the name.

 

Kjudoon’s Cartoons 4

MWO Silliness “O is next to P”

A little explanation.  This is raw footage shot for my video “Cry Liberty”, a recruiting video for the Seraphim (www.seekhim.com).  The commentary was just a lot of fun, so I put this to some music and let it go.

 

Kjudoon’s Cartoons 3

Firewalk With Me

What I Learned About Storytelling from Running RPGs.

To this day, I remember the first time I rolled up a character for Dungeons and Dragons in 1980.  My friend and I sat on the back porch of my house in the shade on a warm summer day and rolled the strangest dice I had ever seen.

I was 9 years old.

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What began there was a love affair that became a wonderful creative marriage, then a bad romance which rebounded into an on again-off again fling filled with regret and finally a bitter, burned out divorce.  In my heart, I still love Role Playing Games, but I know what going back to running them, let alone playing them, will cost me creatively.

And that is where the damage was for me.  In my creative process.  Not to brag, but I was a good GM.  REAL good!  I had gamers who would petition to join my games over the years.  People who thought I should run games for GenCon and really get into the whole society of running games.  But I also learned my failings and that I could not keep up a pace that some of the people had because I did not see how I could make money doing it, and did not want to devote myself to what was necessary to take it to the next step and become that GM my gamers thought I could be.

For 30 years straight, I ran RPGs from Cyberpunk to Westerns, I ran them all it seemed.  Weekly turning out game and running long winded campaigns like a network television show.  In the end, I realized I was enabling participatory improvisational theater for amateurs and a small audience, and began to resent it.  I started trying to find new ways to love running games, but every year and every game system got harder and harder as I got more fed up with learning rules, doing the weekly prep-work and necessities for running good long term campaigns.

There were also spiritual reasons too.  Once I became Born Again, I could not play many of the character or games I used to love.  Gone were the games of magic and sorcery.  Gone were the complex characters I loved to play who were, for all intents and purposes, sociopaths, psychopaths and perverts.  I did, for a while find much fun in very moral characters trying to deal with very immoral choices, but even after a while I was burnt out.

All that experience though has been beneficial, for it has taught me a lot about storytelling.  This is what I learned from my players as well as their characters who were both participants and the audience of my creations.

Engage the Senses.

The reality is you and your buddies are sitting in somebody’s kitchen/basement/living room/dining room rolling dice among stacks of books.  You need to build mood.  That means lighting.  That means music and sound.  Smell, touch and taste not so much, but you can use good description to engage their imaginations.  The more you engage the senses, the better the immersion, and the the more likely you will have them sitting on the edge of their chairs, holding their breath as you roll your dice in secret, giving them a knowing grin worthy of Vincent Price.  Keep that in mind when setting the scene for you are all their senses and influence their intuition.

Pace is Critical

Gamers I learned have a very low boredom threshold.  If you don’t have combat every week, some players won’t show up.  Others, when the action is not on them, and you don’t have them interested enough to listen to what’s going on, they will engage in derailing side chatter which bogs the game down.  Same can happen to a story, just not as obvious.  The reader who is bored (and I speak as a reader myself) starts thinking about other things and finally finds a reason to put the book down and go back to facebook or youtube, ending your time together, maybe for good. That means if a section leaves a faint hint of Doritos and Mountain Dew in the air of boredom eating, what is a better, more interesting way to tell the tale.

If things slow down, attack them.  If they’re wasting time on minutia, remove the distraction.  If they feel secure, betray them.  All these things will help jump start a flagging pace, and snap the reader’s attention back to you.

Satisfy the Needs Including Your Own

Every player who plays an RPG is doing so to have their needs met, but so does every GM.  If players bore the GM by not wishing to play interesting storylines, don’t bother looking for clues, ignoring the flavor text you so carefully crafted to give them clues and rush on to the next dice rolling pewpewpew fest… It can leave the GM, or author dry.  The good news is that being an author, you can write in a way that satisfies your needs.

Want more character driven plots?  Have at thee!  You like a good whodunit?  What are you waiting for!  Write that story.  The downside is that in writing, if you write something only you want to read, you will not sell.  That means finding the tropes people want to read, and write to them in a way only you can.  Then you will see both your needs as a writer, and the reader’s needs get fulfilled.

Realize what you control and what you don’t.

Sure, you come up with the basic storyline idea and handle the activities of every Non-Player Character, the weather, and so on… but you’re not really in charge.  You’re just herding cats towards the completion of your story.  Players can take your story in crazy directions, often introducing ideas that you never thought of, leaving you scrambling to keep up with them.  Hugh Wilson, head writer and show runner for “WKRP in Cincinnatti” put it very well, when considering characters (and I paraphrase)  Writers start out with the idea of who a character is.  It becomes apparent quickly that they are in a collaboration with the actor, and then spend the rest of the show chasing the actor.

This is true of the characters you are writing as well.  You must be willing to listen to your own creation and follow where they take you to complete your story, or fix the incidents your character’s wouldn’t participate in.  Remember, the characters are the cameras in how the readers will experience the world.

Nobody cares about your character particularly if they are derivative.

Hands up; any gamer here who has gotten caught in a game where some noob comes up to you and starts prattling about his AWESOMEZ CHARACTARRRR named Steel McKillalot?  Or some exotic whackadoodle that is a Count Dracula knockoff with an unpronouncable name?  Yep.  Been there and have the tee shirt.  The same eyeroll can be found in readers if you spoonfeed ‘tell don’t show’ backstory in your book anywhere.  The instant you do, the wide eyed cosplaying fanboy has just clomped up to you while you’re busy and started gushing.

This is a problem even for authors.  Backstory can be introduced only after the character has been made interesting to the reader in the context of the story.  So why is this Count Dracula ripoff so cool I want to hear why he is the way he is?  Is Steel McKillalot something better than a two dimensional cutout with a stupid name?  Oh wow!  That is cool how he got that backstory because I liked what he did in the book you just wrote.  Epic characters have to audition, before you can give them their one man show… unless their one man show is the story, then… carry on.

Be open to happy accidents.

No plotline survives contact with the writing.  Just like in gameplay, you will be thrown a curveball.  That image of a scene will not be met and no matter what you try, that becomes a platonic symbol of what you wanted, but just lack the skill or tools to achieve.  When those times come, be open to the accidental discovery.  Perhaps it will be the character whispering something about them you didn’t know that sends you gallivanting after their take on what you had planned.  It may be the map you drew out in your mind is showing you an easier route or a flaw in your plan that must be addressed.

Case in point.  Early on in Book 2, I discovered an escape route would be an impossible run through a gauntlet for the heroes.  But as I looked at the map, I realized I had forgotten a whole new section of the land and said:

“Self, nobody would be guarding that way… it’s too crazy, and besides, they have to do this other thing or all is lost.  So they would go that way!”

That one realization completely rewrote my middle build.  Instead of being all sorts of cloak and dagger hiding over territory I’d already been and struggled to think of a new way to make it interesting… well… it went back to a classic adventure/exploration in the land of “Here There Be Monsters”!

Huzzah!

That is a happy accident.  Something I’d not be able to explore if I did not just chuck the solution out and stick with the original plan.  (It’s also why I’m a plantser.  I know where I have to get to, just how it happens is open for innovation.

In the end, these are lessons I learned over decades of running RPGs.  Maybe I’ll have to be content on producing gaming materials, but not run the games because I get too bogged down in the process, and I need time to write.  But who knows?  Maybe 10 years down the pike when my first movie comes out, I’ll produce the game and modules and get the invite to sit down and guest GM at GenCon.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

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Kjudoon’s Cartoons 2

Next in the Mechwarrior Online series.
“Trickle In Stomponomics”

Brain Sprain!

So I have been stuck on something for moving Book 2 forward, so instead I focused on getting the “easy” cover done for the Ebook Volumes.

Yeah… well I don’t do those things half way.  It’s my graphic designer past I guess.  I recognize I have some talent, but not enough speed.  But this is something I wanted to do.  Unfortunately, I could not just throw crap on the screen and call it good.

But they’re coming and possibly far better than I thought.  I guess it’s good to be satisfied with happy accidents than anything else.

 

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Radio Check

I’ve noticed my traffic dying off big time, so I’d like to make a test.  Please give me a hand.

If you are reading this only in the email, please click the “Like” button, to let me know how much of this is being read through email, rather than coming to the page.  I’d like to think I’ve not faded totally into obscurity.  To those who visit my page, thanks for dropping by!

Thanks for helping out!

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Where did that last sock go?

News from the Home Front – Aug ed.

When I first thought about self publishing, I considered several models on how to put out my work.  It has become time for me to go forward with one of those ideas.

File under “C” for Cheezburger.

Starting this September, I am going to serialize “A Light Rises in a Dark World” into three volumes.  The first volume will be free, while the second two will be $0.99.  They will have a new, simpler cover, and no maps, but the glossary will still be there for all the novellas.  I will continue to keep the E-book full version out there for the time being at the same price.  If people want the full story in one shot with the artwork and maps it will be there fore now.  Need to give you some value for buying the full book over the volumes, right?

The current plan is to release them from over three months, and then hopefully, we will have book 2 done by the end of the year and those volumes and final books will be available at that time.  Again, these volumes will only be in E-book format.  The hardcover and print will still be full novel length only.

The exact date on when the first free volume will be released is uncertain but my hopes is it will be ready by the second week of September at the latest.

Now… I shall summon the power of my fanbase…  I need reviews.  Moar reviews!  So if you have read the book, and enjoyed it, heck even if you haven’t enjoyed it.  I need your reviews on amazon, or even, email me through the contact page and tell me what you thought so you can tell the world about it.  I’ve gotten some very humbling reviews lately and thank you from the bottom of my heart.  But let people know what you think of the work.

I also have had a few people wanting me to make an audio version of the ALRDW.  I’d love to do that… but unless there is someone out there who has some talent to do it, I don’t see it coming up.  I am not good enough nor equipped well enough to do a professional grade recording, or afford a voice actor and studio time.  So, if this is something you have talent in, perhaps drop me a note and we can talk about it.

So that’s the news on the home front.  Book 2 still moves forward.  We’re solidly into the middle build and it’s getting fun.  Right now I’m reformulating how to explain what happens.  Thinking about what scenes must be in the following chapters as well as consider the repercussions of what I’ve just written.  I can’t wait to share it all with you.

 

 

A Huge Weekend Writing

I’m tired!  Whoooeee!

Four new chapters, 7,700 words in two days

And the craziest part, I now reached the point where I expected to start it in the first place!  I mean Jeez La Rue!  I cranked out so much of what I originally thought was only backstory and it’s a cracking good read.  And this is the beginning of the middle build!  So lots more to go.  I’m enjoying doing shorter chapters (most times).  Really keeps me focused better.  But now I have a firm deadline I want to keep, so push push push.

Latest chapters finished? (Working titles subject to change)

#27 “Conditions, Restrictions & Honor”

#28 “Out From The Depths”

#29 “Three Become Six

#30 “The Magnitude of Betrayal is Revealed”

Now, comes some crazy stuff.  I hope that I can get my mind bent around this in time for my next writing session starting Tuesday night… or at least Wednesday.

If not… I’ll work on my project that will be announced soon.  😉

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An image on things to come.