Raiders of the Lost Arc

No, the title is not a typo. A solid set of character arcs is exactly what I seek on this journey. It may sound simple, but sometimes looking for a gold box filled with vengeful spirits who melt your face off does sound like an easier job.

Raiders-of-the-lost-ark-poster

When I was a child, Indiana Jones was my favorite thing in the world. The robust excitement of it all with its balletic violence and action packed whimsy was every young boy’s dream. I always wanted to do something that encompassed those same qualities, and would provide escapist entertainment wrapped around something with emotional depth to give people both much needed fun, and food for thought.

I’ve now been trying to make that dream come to life in the form of this book, the first in a series of four fantasy adventure stories about a reluctant dragon as he travels a mythical land seeking to destroy evil.

It never seemed real that most of writing was re-writing, but that’s exactly what it is. In an earlier article I compared writing to archeology. Your first draft is when you find your dig site, and that’s an important first step because you know the ground you stand on. But then comes the hardest part, the digging. Oh God, OH GOD, the digging.

You have to first unearth the building to see its outer shell, and then you have to go inside and slowly empty out all the sand, then you have to polish and restore it all so it may be studied, then you have to translate just what it is you found so you know exactly what it means, and after all that is done one of your hired hands stumbles on a loose brick revealing an entirely new set of chambers you need to clear out and the whole process starts all over again.

And you have to kill a bunch of Nazis while doing it.

It is fitting that Indiana Jones was the inspiration for this little series, because writing it is no longer an artistic pursuit. It has become a quest. A quest to break through my own shortcomings as a writer and artist to allow this story to be great in spite of everything I’ve unwittingly done to hinder it.

 

Never-Heroes-Zhyx-The-Dragon

This guy, I really do believe in him even when my own self confidence is in short supply. He and the others really have a story that’s worth it, something that has the potential to be so special and so endearing that it could mean to so many others what Indiana Jones meant to me.

Raiders-of-the-lost-ark-truck-chase

But every quest is exhausting, and my legs have just about given out. I’m not at the truck chase throwing Nazis under the wheel but later on, sailing a ship with a beaten and shot body with wounds needing to be dressed. I’m burnt out. The time has come for another rest, because killing Nazis and writing both can take a lot out of you, as enjoyable as both are.

Writing while burnt out is not a good idea. It becomes not an act of love for your story, but an exercise in torture and tedium that you just want to end. It is impossible to get quality work done while you’re burnt out. I’ve written and re-written this story to the point that merely thinking about another edit makes me physically exhausted.

And I’m not the only one. Everyone who helped out on this is exhausted from our Marcus Brody to our Short Round. Everyone needs the load taken off a bit for a time so that we’ll be back and ready to really deliver some good material that will further elevate this little piece of prose.

I’ll probably give myself a few weeks to recover, so I may fall in love with this pixilated menagerie of words all over again, to give it the attention and care it so richly deserves.

When that break ends though, there’s still a lot of digging to do.

A Hopefully Final Edit

My dream land of Haiden is a treacherous mistress indeed. With the fifth draft of my fantasy novel nearing completion, the road is paved for the sixth iteration to take wing. I sincerely wonder, and deeply pray, that this draft, draft six, will be the one that brings it to life.

The firstborn. It really is a tough one. One of the things I’ve learned about writing is it’s not all the freedom and beauty people talk about. Those are certainly very important parts of the artistic process, but there’s another side to writing. It is a side wrought with exhaustion, tedium and heartbreak.

It was high school when the idea first came. After way too many rounds of playing D&D at the homes of friends, that one nagging thought insisted on returning over and over and over again. There’s a really good story here and it needs to be told.

I, in what can only be described as a delusion of grandeur, wanted to make the ultimate fantasy, the sword and sorcery epic to end them all, and one that would re-define the conventions of the genre. I was 17 then, and at that age you think you’ll live forever. When you’re that young, it’s not a question if you’ll touch the sky, but how quickly you can get it done.

Outlining must have started when I was 18, though back then I knew little about three act structure, character development, or anything that makes a good piece of fiction worth the time of day for that matter. It was just set pieces of creative characters and situations that were of great personal fascination. Serious writing on it began some three years ago during my final few semesters of college.

Three years of writing. Jesus. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my firstborn. Think about all the emotions I wish for it to summon in those that read it, the same way the sagas of Indiana Jones, Ellen Ripley, and others had whisked me away to far away places of dreams and nightmares both. Now the dreams and nightmares were mine to share.

By the third draft I was certain it was done. By the 4th I was more certain still. Then the fifth draft came, and with each stroke of the keyboard that certainty slowly ebbed away. My editor, bless her for her amazing work, pointed out all the flaws, flaws which I’d sworn with the utmost certainty I wouldn’t commit. And they were everywhere, tumors polluting the skin of my beloved child whom so many friends had invested so many hours in just on the off chance it might be successful.

Looking at the manuscript pound in pixels and light was once exactly what it was supposed to be, a lively experience of adventure and excitement. Now the excitement gives way to confusion. It’s like watching a caged animal begging for freedom, and neither where the cage is or the keys to unlock it.

Editing is humbling and painful. There are the times when an idea will come that outshines an old one, and those moments are plentiful in quantity and enjoyability. But it doesn’t spare you the tedium. You look over the same words, day after day, knowing that the words are cold and dead and trying to type a little life into them. When that doesn’t work you just stare, hoping somehow that will make the letters do their dance.

It’s an exercise that is depressing and exhilarating both. The frequency with which both rear their ugly heads makes it hard to tell if you’ve had a good day or a bad one.

I’ve gone on that trip through this book some four times since the completion of the original draft. It hasn’t been without its fruits. The story is now well structured, with all the peaks and valleys chiseled in, but it’s still rough, and still needs a polish to work it up to a fine mirror shine.

But damn it all if I don’t know just what kind of wax to use.

Dreaming up stories and characters really is one of the few practical skills I possess, but the dreaming business is a difficult one to get to get your foot in the door. I’ve learned these past few years that it takes more than dreams to survive in this world.

Another round of beating this manuscript for another few months, hoping it will come to life is not high on my list of favorite activities, even though this manuscript, for all the ills it has wrought, is one of my favorite things.

Mullet Elf is Completed

Big news from the magical chaotic land of Haiden.

Well, after much work, another character for the cover of the first book in the Never Heroes series is finally completed. Elven wizard, Hunter Nightshadow, with his magic staff/pruned tree branch and glorious elf mullet is here in both color and Mullet-O-Vision.

As with all the characters and elements, some details will be further added once the composition for the cover has been figured out, because every mullet can never get enough love, especially an elven mullet. For now though, Hunter, like his cohorts, is looking as sharp as ever.

Hunter_01

With Hunter in the till, this marks three of our five main characters that have been completed. Now we just have Major Celice and our leading ma/fire breathing lizard, an extra run through the background, and we can finally start putting this cover together. We may not be able to master the Struzan style, but we’re going aim as high as we can. This cover promises to be even more epic now that it includes a much needed elf mullet.

All is not quiet on the editing front as well, as our editor has turned in those final five chapters. For the moment I’m taking a breather from Never Heroes writing to hammer out another draft of a horror script. I aim to put the lid on that today. Next week however I plan to power through those editing suggestions and figure out which ones I’ll keep and which ones I’ll discard. We aim to have this book all ready to go by Christmas, and then comes the search for an agent.

As the search for an agent gets underway, I plan to make good use of the time and get back to writing book two in the series. With the promise of more elven mullets, it should be a blast to return to Haiden.

Hope you all enjoy Hunter Nightshadow, and I’ll be checking back soon.

What Would You Say to an Elf with a Mullet?

Let me start this by saying I’ve nothing against how elves have been portrayed in fantasy fiction up to this point. The general appearance of elves with slicked back hair and fair features has been a staple of fantasy for some time, and remains a a tried and true topping on this sweet genre.

But I didn’t want to write every other fantasy story. I wanted to write something that was truly mine. Something that had a special personal flavor that set it apart from the rest, so when someone read it, they’d say “Oh yeah. That’s one of his.” If the fantasy genre was ice cream and the tried and true methods of the past were sprinkles, I was going to use Gummy Bears.

So I gave our elf a mullet.

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Took my illustrator a bit to fix up our elf’s hair from the old slicked back look it had in previous illustrations, but looking at Mel Gibson’s heavenly 80s hair was a revelation to me. Those long, manly curls dig into my skull and formed over and over again two words which would repeat continuously for days.

“Why not?”

The only way to satisfy the mullet beast was to grant its desire. So now our elf has a mullet, and we can tack that up to another Gummy Bear on the scoop.

Hope you all enjoy this preview and you can expect to see our mullet-ified elf completed either this Monday or next.

Chapter 2 and This Week’s Other Fruits

Writing the second book in my fantasy series is starting to pick up. Over the last few days, I’ve noticed my writing output is getting much higher, and I’ve already started getting ideas on how to improve my second draft.

Earlier this week I had a large haul of fourteen pages and almost five thousand words. Last night I topped three thousand and brought in nine pages. Even on bad days, I’ve been finishing four to five pages. This progress is making me very happy, and the characters are at last starting to come back to me.

I’ve also been experimenting with just what works for the context of this series, namely character actions and their consequences. In my opening prologue, one of my characters draws first blood when she kills a knight in order to protect a friend the knight is plotting on killing. This is attempted without any diplomacy. As interesting as the scene is and how it kicks off the action climax of the opening, the implications of her act were pretty severe. Those she works with wouldn’t look too kindly on her drawing first blood, so there would inevitably be a disciplinary hearing of some sort. Some would say just not to write the scene, but not doing so would be a cheat.

As fun as it is to expand on the culture and customs of these characters, I don’t really want the story to lose its focus too much. Plus her way of dealing with the problem was slightly out of character. It was an interesting lesson how small details in writing can have a ripple effect, and is one of the first things I’ll be altering upon re-writes.

It is pretty tempting to stop right now and do the re-writes right here and now, but I’m going to resist that temptation and just plow onwards, finishing this draft first. That way once I start, the ideas will be overflowing as they should be when one is writing.

Pictured above is the latest progress on our cover background for the book. It is looking much more lively and lifelike as of late. This image will be covered up by many of our lead characters once the collage is added to it, so the detail isn’t going to be quite as high. There will be some atmosphere added to the sky in order to make the five moons look more realistic, and there is yet more work to be done. Still, it’s getting there, and it will be a shame to cover it up once it’s done.

I’m moving on to chapter three today and hope to finish a fair amount this morning because I won’t be able to knock a lot out tomorrow due to my schedule, but should manage at least three pages. I’ll keep everyone posted on the progress of this one. So far, we are at 64 pages.

Thanks for reading.

Never Heroes 2 Writing Samples

Zhyx-Teeth

Well, yesterday I was able to re-write the prologue of the second book in my Never Heroes fantasy adventure series in the first person. It defiantly flows much better and helps the personality of the lead character come through, something that was sorely missing from the third person narration. It also lengthened the chapter a decent amount, by about 1500 words.

I’m going to do some more writing today, and will have some new digital weapon renders up tomorrow for one of the world building articles, so I thought it would be fun to show off some writing samples. So far we have about 42 pages.

Here are a few segments from the prologue. It’s inspired by the opening of Temple of Doom, taking place in an extravagant night club. It’s told from the point of view of Celice Arietta, a lifelong hardened warrior going undercover as a nightclub dancer to get information out of a shady politician.

Never-Heroes-Major-Celice-Arietta-Illustration

Completed illustration of the character Major Celice for the cover of the upcoming novel, Never Heroes.

          Let me start this damn thing by saying there are few things I hate more than dresses. Even before I joined the Paladin’s Guard and finally got in a good proper suit of armor, I hated dresses. Thank the gods I worked in a butcher shop and never had to wear the stupid things. Those things are as tight as a noose around the neck.

I shouldn’t say that though. At least a noose is comfortable before the drop to the end of the rope.

         The curtains went up and it was time for me to go. I went out onto the stage into the massive circle ball room of the capital building. This festival was always held when all five of the moons were full, so the dress sparkled with the red of the torch fire and the blue of the night sky coming in from the massive glass ceiling. The flashy nature of the rag thankfully made it harder for the people to tell I was about to go into a dry heave. By the gods, this made me sick.

The rest of the ballroom didn’t look much better. It was on a white marble floor with polished redwood tables, with white stone pillars lining the walls that lead up to the stage. The stage was made out of polished black smokey quartz that acted like a giant mirror for anyone dancing on it. Servants walked around serving drinks to all the wealthy lords and fat jackasses who never knew an honest days work in their life. I had a few servant jobs here as a kid, and they always cared more about the suit than you. 

These next bits are from chapter 1, told from the point of view of Zhyx, or ‘Red’ to his companions. In this chapter, he’s alone and bored out of his mind in his lair when Celice and the elven wizard Sparks come to warn him.

Never-Heroes-Zhyx-The-Dragon

Detailed illustration of Zhyx the red dragon’s face in profile for the novel Never Heroes.

         I was about to take myself up on that offer when I heard a noise emanating from the tunnel that lead into my hoard chamber. A pair of footsteps that were all too familiar.

One was lightweight, maybe one hundred and fifty pounds, going from side to sole rather than toe heel to toe. The other was a softly padded step from an elf, and the feet seemed to drag out of protest of going any further. Though the steps were slightly different from when I first heard them, slightly more pronounced and a pinch clumsier, they were still unmistakable.

“Eeee!” An almost effeminate male shriek came from the tunnel. “He still hasn’t cleaned up those bodies?”

“You’ve seen plenty of dead guys.” A gruff female voice answered.

It was Major Celice and Sparks the elven wizard.

I groaned out loud. “This is just what I needed.” Though I was bored out of my skull, that didn’t mean I was eager to have any uninvited guests.

With each footstep sounding like a clap of thunder, I stomped over to the entrance to the tunnel.

“Oh look. He knows we’re here.” Sparks said.

Ahead, the tunnel curved into a corner which they hadn’t crossed just yet. Though they didn’t have to round the corner in order to see the glow. I opened my mouth and exposed my gaping maw. The glow of the fire inside illuminated entire wall of the tunnel.

“Oh shit.” Celice said.

I unleashed the flames into the corner, where they crashed into the wall and raced down the tunnel, straight at my visitors. I heard Sparks scurry for his stick of a staff before the flames hit. 

“Marumous!”he shouted, the incantation for the barrier spell. A protective barrier formed around him and the soldier as my fire washed around them, leaving them unharmed.

I breathed in, igniting my furnace once more.

“Red, wait!” the Major cried out. “It’s us!”

“I know!” I roared, sending out another cascade of flame as Sparks surrounded himself and the verodu major in another protective shield.

That’s a little bit of what we have. Bear in mind this is a rough draft and there is a lot of room for improvement once this draft is finished. Regardless, I hope you all like this first sample of our in progress sequel and feel free to offer any thoughts you may have. Thanks for reading.

News and a Decision with Book Two

Well, I have reached 26 pages on the first draft of the second book in my series. I seem to write much better in the mornings whereas I have a more editing mindset in the evenings, so that’s how I’ll be spreading myself out for now.

The ideas are coming in, the dialogue is right, and the characters I love are back to speaking. It honestly feels pretty great and I’m a bit sad I haven’t been able to devote more time to them since my weekday work shifts start pretty early at 8 am, but I arrive at the office at 6: 40 so that gives me an hour and twenty minutes, usually enough time to crank out a thousand or so words.

A few days ago I mentioned my issues with prose in the second book. Though the first book is told in first person from the point of view of one character, the later books require the narrative to shift to different perspectives. I had tried writing these sequences in a third person narration in order to make my leading character, a dragon, speak in a more unique voice.

Something just didn’t feel right though. I had thought the story wasn’t resonating with me yet, but that’s not the case. What made the first book so much fun to write was the lead character’s voice, a very snide, proper and condescending tone that threw the occasional jab at the reader and regularly berated and insulted all those around him, but his actions proved he was hiding a side of himself that was legitimately compassionate and caring.

I struggled finding my footing with the first book, but once I started writing in that voice, the story came out.

You all sent in some great comments when I discussed my dilemma a few days ago, and they gave me a lot to think about apart from that the sequence didn’t seem to quite work in spite of the characters and the actions being correct. The voice was wrong.

Upon finishing chapter 1, I will be re-writing my prologue in the character’s voice, and will be doing the same henceforth. That should make this manuscript a much more enjoyable write as well as read.

In other news, I’ve been picked up by a website called PolyMedium. This is a fine platform for talent, dealing with original fiction, as well as editorials on popular culture such as film, video games and books. Be sure to check out the other work by these fine people should you have the time.

PolyMedium

Thanks for reading, and happy writing.

 

Back to Writing and Concerns

Well, yesterday it happened. I got zapped with that writing lightning bolt, and actually was able to turn out some good starting material for book two of my fantasy adventure series. It felt pretty good to jump back into the voice of my giant red protagonist. It was like running into an old friend and catching up on old times.

I wrote a solid one thousand two hundred words in the space of twenty minutes. Yeah, I was going a little nuts. I will likely get much more written this morning.

Yesterday though there were a few concerns I had about this new book. Not that it wasn’t taking shape at last but rather if I was tackling it correctly.

One, the first book in the series is still undergoing final edits. I wonder if I’m doing the right thing jumping back and forth between the two books or if that is wearing me too thin. It does seem kind of silly working on a sequel before the original book is truly bound and ready for publication. Jumping back and forth between the manuscripts can help me re-settle in the writing style of the original since it was written in a very unique voice, but I have my concerns.

Two, the second book, and all subsequent books in the series, will be written in a new format. The original book was written in a first person perspective from the protagonist’s point of view. He was able to deliver all the necessary information and plot points to the reader. In the sequels however, certain scenes will take place which he’s not present for. The entire first act of the final book for example takes place in his absence.

I’m wondering just how to take care of this issue. I have two choices. One, I could write these sequences in third person narration, or two, I could write them in first person as with the hero, just from the point of view of these other characters.

They both have their advantages and drawbacks. For one, writing the sequences in third person would help the audience connect with the hero and his distinct voice much better. On the other hand, jumping back and forth between third person and first person could be jarring, even off putting for a reader.

The simple fact remains that the story has to switch perspectives from the hero at several key points in order for the readers to get all the necessary plot and character details. It’s just the matter of which style would be most appropriate.

A lot to consider, and thankfully I don’t have a time limit to worry about. Well, not yet at least.

Anyone reading, feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear what you think. Take care.

My Old Nemesis Returns

Well, I was able to get finished with the  first draft of the prologue of my book, a fourteen page sequence inspired by the opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where a few of my supporting characters get into a bit of a skirmish at a ball. The opening of my second book in this fantasy adventure saga is taking shape, but there are some setbacks.

After getting through to my first real chapter, I hit a roadblock. Much of this book is told from a first person perspective from my main character. Writing the first book was one of my greatest joys, because his snide, condescending tone and unique way of seeing the world made it such a joy to write this story. It was like meeting a new friend and being taken on an adventure. It was the best, and there are few experiences I’ve had that have compared to it.

That was my problem. Today while I was trying to write it, I somehow couldn’t get his voice back.

I did a few things to try and get those creative juices going. For one I had Raiders of the Lost Ark playing in the background to set an appropriate mood. It didn’t do much good. In fact, it may have distracted me. Even after I turned it off, something about it just didn’t click.

When I write, there’s always that moment. That moment when working and a line of dialogue or description appears that breaks the floodgates and makes me go nuts with creativity. I haven’t really had that moment yet.

It hurts a lot because I really want to write this book. The feeling of finishing the first novel was one of the most rewarding and life affirming experiences of my life, and this story is only about a quarter of the way done, if that. The idea of going on another journey with these characters, watching them grow and learn about the world, I couldn’t have been more excited. And I already know so much of the story, right down to key moments and lines of dialogue. I basically have the first and third acts completely mapped out. It’s just a matter of stranding them together and making a story out of that gap in the middle.

With so much of it ready to go, why I wonder is it so hard to get that energy back? Especially after I already took a month and a half off from writing?

I’ll try and keep busy. Will continue working on the outline tomorrow, and hopefully hammer out the middle. Then it’s just a matter of waiting. Waiting for that moment to come that when it does, it feels like flying.

Starting the Second Book

Last night another long journey began. There’s no telling just how long it will last, or how successful it will be, but the journey has started nonetheless.

2,142 words and six pages, I began writing the second book in the Never Heroes fantasy/adventure saga. It tells of the continuing adventures of a massive red dragon named Zhyx, nicknamed Red by his companions, as he tries to prevent an ancient evil entity from bringing his world to apocalyptic ruin. Largely inspired by the Indiana Jones series, the rough and tumble adventure remains my pride and joy, and I have great difficulty seeing just how it will be surpassed in my own body of work at any time in the future.

I have three more books to finish in this series before I can call it completed. Funny I should start writing the second book now before the first one has even been published or even fully edited, but though writing is a difficult task, it has proven a very enjoyable experience for me. I can never stay away from it for too long.

Getting back into it, I was surprised at just how easy it was to dive right back into the Tygan universe. This is my first time writing a sequel. I had heard the stories of people jumping right back into the swing of old roles and projects after a long hiatus. Granted, my hiatus has not been nearly as long, but I have been working on much different projects in the meantime. Since completing the first full draft of Never Heroes, I have been focusing mainly on horror and thriller projects such as City of Wolves and Abyssus. Working on such tonally different stories, it did worry me that I wouldn’t get back into the swashbuckling fun of the original book. Reading through the material I completed last night, those fears were put to rest.

There were a few problems I was worried about with this sequel. One was how to get critical information and sequences to the audience due to the format of the first book. The entire first book is narrated from a first person perspective from our dragon’s protagonist without any breaks. It was this style that made the story so fun for me to write, as writing something in any character’s voice does add a lot of spice to it. The later books in the series have much more complicated narratives where crucial parts of the story occur in Zhyx’s absence.

I thought I would have certain passages of the book told from a third person perspective, though these segments wouldn’t constitute full chapters, at least not in this book. Rather, they would be short segments that could fulfill any number of purposes, from act breaks to breathing periods for the reader to get critical exposition and character development that the leads would otherwise be unable to observe. One such scene is the opening of Never Heroes 2, which I started writing last night. This scene is told from the point of view of Celice Arietta, one of the supporting players of the first novel.

Major-Celice-Arietta

The final concept art for Major Celice Arietta, one of the supporting characters in Never Heroes.

Being inspired by Indiana Jones, one of my favorite sequences is the opening dance number at the night club in Temple of Doom. It took the character of Indiana Jones and put him in a tux and bowtie, exploring the character’s origins as a James Bond inspired hero. Watching the movie change from the high class champagne and wine bottle musical and back to the nitty gritty style of the first film was great fun, and it was all done in the space of a few seconds when Harrison Ford impales one of his enemies on a flaming shish kabab. That was how I wanted the second book to open. It starts off looking polished and clean, but quickly peels away to reveal itself to be more rough around the edges.

Temple-of-Doom-Night-Club

Never Heroes is an action based fantasy adventure, something not typically given a lot of focus on the genre. While there certainly are epic battles and duels of swords and magic, they rarely contain the kind of kinetic energy that I personally find appealing in adventure stories. That being said, it is still a love letter to more traditionally told fantasy stories. I thought it would be fun to begin the second book that way and then change it to what the reader was more familiar with in the space of a few paragraphs. It also gave some fun opportunities to show some interesting elements of this world, its people and their culture. It then devolves (or evolves, whichever way you look at it) into an exciting action sequence, and this is all before the main character even reenters the story.

Six pages in and the action hasn’t kicked off yet, but it will shortly. I can safely say this start did feel appropriate, and it is in line with where I’m hoping the series will go. It is an emotional journey for the lead and does contain some downright apocalyptic elements, but above all else I want this series to be a good time. If last night’s work is any indication, things appear to be on the right track.

I aim to get more of this sequence done today and complete my edit on chapter 7 of book 1 as well. Busy day ahead, but I’m excited. Thanks for reading everyone and I’ll keep you posted.