What Not To Expect

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I have hit my third big landmark as an author: The first bad review.

It was 2 stars and it left me wondering why?  Sure this is only the third review I got from someone who knew nothing about me beforehand and had no bias one way or another. So I wanted to understand what the person meant and I analyzed it and talked about it with a close friend and I got a better understanding of what I’ve done as a writer.  It wasn’t a bad review, but it wasn’t a good review and from it, I learned something about my readers and possibly what to expect in the future from my work of art.

One.

The criticism that it was unnecessarily wordy and complicated.  Definitely a taste criticism, and valid.  Some people love the complexity.  I’ve had one beta reader who wanted it even more ‘crunchy’.  It definitely goes to show this is not a book for a person who does not like complexity and deal with a new lexicon.  Totally understand that.  I wondered too if I was going overboard at times, and worked to find a balance where the language and names struck a good balance.

In fact, the whole reason created the glossary and didn’t dumb down the names to English surrogates was to follow a style idea I first experienced with Richard Adams and his classic book “Watership Down”.  Now, I’m not sure how complex that story really is to some readers, but I definitely thought it.  I could have done a footnote method, but it never felt good for the whole flow of the story.  Also, I have had a reviewer state that they preferred the complexity and worldbuilding I put into the Glossary into the text itself despite it slowing the pace of the story.  Again, it was a compromise that has had some who love it and others not so much.

Two.

The book was not whimsical or magical like Narnia, Middle Earth or Hogwarts.

Completely fair on many fronts as we all compare works against the best.  This is also an accurate assessment.  I never intended it to be like any of those books.  Narnia is an allegory which they never really delve into the miraculous magical things that happen. It is just accepted that Santa Claus can show up and that the magical beings that exist are generally happy fairy tale style creatures for the most part.  Sure, you get much scarier things in Middle Earth, and its a grittier setting, but that is offset by the Hobbits and Shire.  There is a certain level of whimsy to it, and because of those two series, I suspect people who see “Christian Fantasy” expect more the high fantasy, light-hearted adventure or fairy tale inspired adventures.

In response to this, I’d have to say I never tried to show my book as one of those outside of it being an adventure epic.  In fact, I go so far as to portray this series as low fantasy where it is based more on real world spiritual warfare/exorcism, medieval church politics, and what it means to be caught in a world where devils and angels actually manifest and go to war around you.  It is not meant to be whimsical for it was never written for children.  It was written, believe it or not for nerds and fantasy geeks who liked grittier fantasy novels, the same way some people love cyberpunk, and hard science fiction.  Although children as young as 11 and adults who are into fine literature have read this book and loved it, they were not the target audience but aspects of it spoke to them.  So yes, It is not a whimsical book, though it will have whimsical moments.  This is more Jack London’s “Sea Wolf” than the Don Bluth Studio’s version of “Balto”.

Three

This is the criticism that I think was the most revelatory, and I thank the reviewer for giving me the opportunity to address it.  The statement is made that he is a Christian that believes in spiritual things.  Good…  Seriously.  I am as well and this is a basis for part of why I even tried to write fantasy like this in the first place.  It is further said that this comes too close to the line.  Now I’m not sure what line this is, but if it is the line between reality and make-believe, then this is right on the nose.  It is supposed to mirror the Christian spiritual paradigm.

The magic and miraculous in Akiniwazi is based on the teachings of deliverance ministries, exorcism, eye witness accounts and scripture as best as I could.  The only thing I tried to do was crank the special effects to 11 to enter into the realm of the fantastic.  That means those who can do the miraculous are in direct contact with divine beings, be they Angels and the Holy Spirit or demonic forces.  There is no ‘neutral’ form of magic in the book.  If a ‘spell’ is cast, there is an angel or demon behind it in some form or another. It isn’t the individual’s personal will or power or gift.  Just like Samson’s strength, it came from God.  Just like the prophetic slave girl Paul drove the demons out of, that power came from satan.  Magic is not something that is dug out of the ground like coal, or manufactured like a microchip and is spiritually neutral.  This is a staple trope of fantasy, but one I chose to throw out at high velocity.

There are going to be many people, particularly Christians who will find this extremely uncomfortable because it will hit close to home.  The book will touch on how demons can infiltrate people’s minds, and the whole idea of legal spiritual rights.  It is intended to be conversation starters and fodder for people to question the spiritual war that I believe is going on around us right now.  Again, not something some Christians will agree with or enjoy but others will.

Anyway.  This is also not a book about having a strong or perfect faith.  In fact, most of the characters are strongly flawed failed people that do not have instagram perfect lives, and God still uses them.  It deals a lot with failing and picking yourself back up again.  How rejection by others does not equal rejection from God, and the difference between religion and faith is no respecter of person, privilege or group identification.  It’s you and God together in the end and how you walk with Him.

Now, hopefully I wrote the book well enough that if you’re not into that kind of stuff, you can just ignore all that as window dressing the same way people do with Narnia and it’s blatant Christian allegories, or say Umberto Eco’s “Name of the Rose” does not preach religion at his audience, but it is everywhere in the book.

As for the last point of being poorly executed… ::: shrug ::: not sure how to help there.  🙂 Matter of taste I guess and that’s fine.  I did the best I could, and learned a lot.  I still see stuff I wish I would have worded better, but it’s out there now because I’m not going to spend 4 years editing it.  I’d say give book 2 a try when it comes out.  I know, like most book series, only improve over time.

Thank you for reading the book and leaving a review.  It helped me consider my work better, and keep some thoughts in mind moving forward.

If anyone would like to discuss the book or anything about it, please, send me an email, or post a question/opinion here.  I’ll be glad to discuss my work, particularly if you are confused about anything.

 

Rolling Forward

Just a quick update on Book 2.  We’re still not entertaining titles yet, so Book 2 it is.

The process of writing the first draft is often filled with lots of fun revelations as well as wandering down blind paths.  I had been caught in one for a week or two now, but have worked it out, cut out a minor character, and things started moving again.  Two more chapters have been added to the Beginning Hook, and I am almost to the climax of the beginning hook.  I can’t wait!

See, although I have an idea of where I’m going, I never see it till I get there.  That’s what makes it both fun and frustrating.  Sometimes you think you’re going in one direction, but when you sit down to write it, the characters or circumstances tell a different story and you are stuck being along for the ride.  On a positive note, the villains are all shaping up nicely.  The secondary characters are well established as well as the main characters.  Such fun.

I’ve made one of my alpha readers very happy with one chapter so, I hope it translates well to the rest of you all when the book comes out.

That said, I figure 3 maybe 4 scenes left before I pull the trigger on the Beginning Hook’s climax which I know how it must end up, but I still can’t see clearly how it will come about.

Hopefully I will have this built strong enough that the roller-coaster effect will kick in once the few following scenes are complete and I start melding all the subplots together.

But that’s all for now.

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Book Two Has Begun! (and other news)

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The first 1200 words in the first draft from Book 2 of the Akiniwazi Saga have been put down.  How much of this will remain at the end?  I don’t know because frankly I’m trying to feel this out still.  I know where I have to get to and what I want to accomplish in this scene, but, it must be worked out.  Some significant changes have already happened in the last 36 hours on what I want to write and how certain characters are going to be, but, hey… we shall see how it will go.

I expect writing to go kind of slow for a while, but I have a personal goal in mind.  I do expect this book to be longer than book 1 and possibly book 3, and it may cause some fun rewrites in book 3 (which the first draft is already done).

In other stuff…

I’m toying with what movie to review with The Breakers #4.  I just watched Suicide Squad and am personally desiring to break down that film… but I feel like I am going to be unfair to it because it got poisoned in my mind before I watched it, and honestly, I can’t say that the bad rap it got was unfair in some ways, but very unfair in others.  I dunno.  What I will probably do is wait till I purchase it (yes I will still purchase a Blu Ray version if I can get it for somewhere around 5 bucks) before I review it.  Which means I will probably do my first choice, my second favorite film of all time:

“Emperor of the North Pole”

Now a little teaser trivia here.  It was retitled “Emperor of the North” much to my indignation because… in the words of Pete from “Oh Brother!”, “That don’t make no sense!”

Emperor of the North Pole was an expression among hobos in the 1930’s to say someone was powerless, or ruled nothing.  It’s really a stunning “lost” movie most people never knew and…. well I talked myself into it.  Be watching for it soon.  Till then…

Review Copies are Out!

If you did not get your review copy tonight and you had wanted one, I apologize.  I either lost track of your email in the shuffle, or I claim Gremlins.

So, contact me through the website if you have any problems with the file OR if you did not get yours and still wish to participate in the review.  I see a few people who have been checking out these posts, and had not received an email from so I can include them.

Come on… you know you want to. 😉

 

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Buster sez ‘Wai u no want?”

Book Blurb

Here is a first blurb for “A Light Rises in a Dark World” Book One of the Akiniwazi Saga.

To save his family from starvation, Reimar, with six more children are sold to the Holy Kyrkja (Heer-hee-ah) so that all might have a chance to survive the deadly winter. They are handed over to a disgraced monk, Brother Finn, and his dog, Bergamot, who are pressed into service once more before being in exiled to the outer wilds of the land. They must travel through the fearsome pinery and on deadly waters where nature itself tries to destroy the children while Brother Finn’s enemies plot to assassinate their only protector. Will they be able to run the gauntlet of storms, demons and hidden murderous plots and reach safety again?

Akiniwazi, is the untamed Land of the Seven Freshwater Seas, where steamships ply the lakes, and the bodies of the dead do not rest.  Akiniwazi, the battlefield for Heaven and Hell,  in a war where the prize is the soul of every man.

Expect more coming on my 99designs logo competition soon.

Standing on the Edge, Amazed at the View

Nine months ago I started this journey to publish my first novel.  Looking back at all the things that I had gone through to get here, I am frankly amazed, but still so frustrated because I wished I was already putting the book out already.  But everything in God’s timing I guess.

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As you may or may not have noticed I removed some of the content from my pages that was previously free.  It will be coming back, but not in a manner you all remember.  Instead, it is going to be refined, and done up as a free offering to those who sign up for my blog, and by extension, mailing list.  If you are already following this blog, don’t worry, you will be getting copies of that as a thank you.

In the next week or so, I will be utilizing my list, particularly from my beta readers for opinions on re-titling, cover image ideas and see what you guys think of the new book cover blurbs.  So expect some interesting stuff that you can participate with.  Now’s the time to sign up if you haven’t already.

 

Some Changes Be A-comin’ & Other News

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I must remind myself, yet again, that the deadlines I give myself must be multiplied by a factor of 3 in regards to time. 😦  I also must remember that I am not in a race to publish, and that I need to stop it with those deadlines.  I am just so frustrated that I seem always too far away from where I want to be.  Editing seems to have me in a Norman Juster-esque geographical oddity.

In preparation for the upcoming release of my book, I need to reorganize some things on my site and do other things.

First, I have noticed almost zero traffic to my Library and Studio pages, so I guess it’s time to pull them down.  That doesn’t mean that the content is going to go away completely.  Instead, I am going to spend some time, once I can take my focus off the editing grind, and work on finishing the timeline and atlas of Akiniwazi for future giveaways.  So if you liked it in the future, but have not signed up or jumped on the mailing list, it will become available again for those who desire it again.

Second, I have been plotting book 2 in the background (Book 3 is ostensibly written, but had to be pushed back one novel because I had points and characters from the first book that originally got nothing in what had previously been written.) and have come to a major hook to string all these neat scenes in my head together.  It is under the working title, for my own sanity, of “Finnsoga”, since the 3rd book is technically Reimarsoga: book 2.

Third, I will be re-titling the whole shebang once I get closer to publication and will be putting up a poll for people to vote on titles, preferably before I go to the artist for a cover, so expect that soon.

On a positive note, even if things go completely cattywampus and I can’t get book one out as soon as I hoped, there is still the chance of 2-3 books coming out in 2017.  I am going to be refining my editing process as mentioned in the past, and well, live and learn I guess.  I know I can get the drafts out there, but my issue has been getting edits done quickly.  My hope is that what I am about to set up for book 2 could shave 2-3 months off of how long it’s taking.  (remember, the original manuscript for book 1 was finished in May, but the major structural rewrite wasn’t done till Sept.  Something I’ll never have to do again I hope.)

So as you can see, things are moving forward.  Just not at the pace I want.

Then again, has it ever?

Excerpt: Good Reason Does Not Always Comfort

Another excerpt from my novel as I plow through my 4th draft.  You know they say that you are starting to get to the point where your manuscript is polished enough when you are sick of going over it.  Well, I’m almost there.  I want to publish, but it’s not quite there.  Some minor structural fixes, a buffet of grammatical errors and word choices to go, then yep… I can send it to a professional editor for the final line editor.

I can tell you this much, the NEXT book is going to be a much more streamlined process.

Everyone was startled awake by a sharp series of whistle blasts. Many of the adults sprung to action. Even Bergamot scrambled to the ready with a wheezy groan.

“Greithr, children. We can step down at the station as the train takes on more water and peat. I will go get us some food for the second half of the trip. You may get off the train, but do not get off the station platform. There is no stockade here, and there might be things hiding in the dark,” warned Brother Finn.

Ahead, they could see the warm light of many torches and a large water tower. Most of them were in a desperate need to climb down and see what was happening if nothing more than to move their legs or use the outhouse.

“If you hear the steamwhistle again, get on top at whatever carriage is nearest. Do not wait. The train will leave without you and then you are on your own. I will not be coming back for you, and no one will take you home.” The seriousness of his words cut into their minds and put a cold needle of fear there. None of them had ever considered being abandoned before. The realized possibility showed with frightened glances. A few jerks and bounces distracted them as the brakemen set the brakes, running and jumping between car tops and spinning the cranks as they went.

As they glided to a squealing stop next to the station platform, the squat stone building blazed with life. Large pitchpots smoked around the building, filling the air with acrid smoke and sparks lighting the area with greasy yellow light. The Huskarls took position at their large springbows at the front and back of the train. Two more of them walked the platform with axes at the ready. Their colors were unfamiliar to Reimar. He reasoned that they belonged to another Aettir in the area. The carriage rocked as people surged off to find food. Only three children got down off the top and stood on the stone platform. Brother Finn rushed quickly into the station with the rest of the passengers to get food and drink. Reimar and Mats slowly walked on the platform, legs shaky from the rocking of the trip. Liesl made a bee line for the outhouse. Hand whistles blew and men shouted. They could hear the groans of llamas and a pair of oxen being taken off a car at their stop then being replaced with a different farmer’s cattle. Occasionally a foul word would color the air as a loader would throw a heavy package on the train.

Off in the dark, just beyond the pitch pots Reimar had the feeling that someone watching. He could not see anything beyond fireflies bobbing up and down among the grasses and weeds. It was beautiful and mesmerizing as he looked into the deep heart of the pinery. He walked away from the snorting engine trying to hear what could be out in the dark and maybe see something as well.

His family was so far away, and in that moment his frailty became known to him. He was just a young boy with only a strange man and his dog keeping evil at bay. Reimar continued to stare away from the noise and the chatter. He did not know what he expected to see out there, but looked anyway.

Then the apparition appeared. Was it a trick of the shadows dancing, or was it something in the trees faintly glowing? Pinpricks of yellow and green flashed like eyes and then vanished like the fireflies. The gurgling and gushing of the water tower filling the tender overwhelmed all other sounds nearby. The shadow returned. It was human in shape, resting a hand on a tree trunk. Reimar’s focus was intense and wanted to see more, but could not move.

The steam whistle blew. The shock of which jolted the boy around and he looked frantically at what was happening. His eyes fixed on Brother Finn, who had just come out with a large parcel of food wrapped in thick paper nodded to the carriages. His expression frightened Reimar with its severity of purpose. As Reimar started to move toward him and the train, he looked back over his shoulder one final time. The apparition was gone.

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Excerpt: The Long Ride Through the Night

You will be getting occasional excerpts from the book till I finish editing, just to wet your whistle.  Enjoy!

Reimar wondered how much of this trip he would remember in the following years. Two carts were readied to go to the Chuffing Pony. They would spend the night on the train while their fathers would stay at the inn, returning in the morning rather than risk being caught out at night. Reimar’s father could not take the journey for their cart had been damaged and there was work to be done. The waste of a single day could be dangerous even with aid on the way.

The ride was enjoyable as the weather had turned into a pleasant early fall day. Brightly dappled sun cut through the trees’ shadows, which were so tall, their branches played with the clouds, or so it seemed to young eyes. Llamas bleated and groaned in their usual cranky way. Sun warmed wood and dry leaves scented the air. It felt like it should be a play day for the children Brother Finn observed, but their hearts were so heavy from leaving, the good nature of the ride had become a cruel taunt.

Two bright, shining ribbons of iron straps on wood beams appeared and the road turned sharply to it towards the station. You could hear and smell it quite a distance away. The smell of oils mixed with burning peat and wood. Many of the trees here had started losing their leaves in the deepening Autumn. A copse of nearby Tamarack Spruce sighed with the breeze, needles turning orange with the season. Before them, the stone and log walls of the Chuffing Pony waited. Two large gates were closed to the ribbons, with men at the ready to open them once a train was seen. They capped the ends of the long stockade around the siding, warehouse, water-tower and the inn. Huskarls walked across catwalks with either a bardiche or slung battle axe and bow in hand. They were Herse Olin Halgarsson’s huskarls or so their crests proclaimed. The scarlet and yellow tabards were signs of their allegiance to the Asbjornaettir who ruled Neezhodayland.

Hissing steam was punctuated with the clinking and popping of valves as the carts of goggle-eyed children entered the station’s stockade gates. Once through, the front of a great iron beast greeted them. It squatted low on eight wheels, looking all at once like a lion, cricket and dragon. Its body made up of a huge cylindrical boiler and tall funnel which spewed smoke and sparks up into the sky. An angled grate at the front looked like long thin teeth, while its angled pistons were its legs set rampant to claw at anything that dared come in front of it. A tail of ten short carriages trailed behind. They were twenty foot long, double decked carriages. Their top deck was covered by a tarpaulin roof and had sets of forward and back facing bench seats for people to sit. The interiors were more plush, but had less room, with button-down flaps for when it rained or snowed while those who rode up top had to contend with much of the elements. The carriages themselves could hold maybe a dozen or more people comfortably on their pair of four wheeled trucks.

Next to the tender, a flat car loaded with squat boxes separated the carriages followed by a pair of cargo wagons, providing distance and protection from the noisy, dirty engine. The engineer was wandering around the wheels and valves dripping oil on them. The two firemen threw another slab of peat through a large open maw into the rear of the beast. The conductor helped the ladies up into the carriages while the train guards stood post on the top with large springbows at the ready. Their holstered axes gleaming on their back, emblazoned with the crest of the ribbonroad company.

“Wait on the platform for me. I will settle our passage,” Brother Finn ordered the men. With a dancer’s grace, he hopped off the cart and Bergamot followed a short way with a sloppy jump.

Once the carts were empty, everyone stood on the platform keeping close by. The station was busier than expected, as the train was delayed, waiting for the eastbound schedule to come by. The children who’s fathers were not there stayed close to Bergamot, following her like ducklings with their mother. For now, she seemed content to sit lopsided on the platform, panting in the warm day with a bored look on her face. Occasionally, she looked expectantly to the door where Brother Finn had gone, and licking her chops, sloppily at peace but alert. Her shifting ears and droopy eyes the only tell of where her interests lay.

Many people had come from other small farmholds and nearby Thiggardborg which was on the river and had a real sawmill. Some talked about a spur being driven towards Thiggardborg in the coming year to help pull out fresh lumber and shingles. Women in beautiful tapestry-like dresses complained about the ash and smoke from the engine’s crown like stack as it burned small holes in their parasols, and the mud caked their slippers.

“Third Nonae! Damer and herrar, please board the train! Third Nonae! The eastbound is due in a few minutes! Finish your arrangements now!” a station agent called out the time loudly and rang a bell. A man climbed up on top of the front of the lion like face of the engine, changing the banners from green to red and lighting a bright trio of lanterns on the front end.

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More to come!