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.

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.

Commercial Can Be Important

It is something that a lot of artists say, myself included. They don’t want to do shallow art just for the sake of selling it. There is no real interest in creating the next big franchise or money maker. That art is shallow. In fact, it may not even be art, and just a product people create to sell and line their pockets. There’s also a certain bitterness that more ‘important’ and ‘thoughtful’ fiction is not as widely seen as the latest big action film. People have a hard time quoting a French film about the Holocaust, but most people can drop lines from any Schwarzenegger action epic.

But commercial art can have messages that are important, and packaging it right can help that message reach more people.

Take for example the Disney film Zootopia. This recent smash has been making waves and gaining praise for much more than just its animation. While on it’s surface it looks like a mere cartoon about cute anthropomorphic animals, it discusses a much more important and relevant topic.

In Zootopia, the populace is divided into predators and prey, though the two no longer eat each other. A series of strange incidents start occurring where predators go insane and revert back to their predatory instincts. The two main characters are a cop bunny named Judy Hopps and a con artist fox named Nick Wilde, prey and predator respectively.

After uncovering that predators are reverting to their natural instincts seemingly without cause, Hopps holds a press conference, speculating that these attacks are due to natural instincts. The exchange between her and Nick after the conference sounds a lot like something out of a different kind of film.

Nick

Clearly there’s a biological component? That these predators may be reverting back to their primitive savage ways? Are you serious?

Judy

I just stated the facts of the case! I mean, its not like a bunny can go savage.

Nick

Right. But a fox could, huh?

Judy

Nick stop it! You’re not like them.

Nick

Oh, so there’s a them now?

Judy

You know what I mean! You’re not that kind of predator.

Nick

The kind that needs to be muzzled? The kind that makes you believe that you need to carry around fox repellent? Yeah the only thing I did notice that little thing on the first time we met. So l-let me ask you a question; Are you afraid of me? You think I might go nuts? That I’ll go savage? You think that I might try to eat you!?

Judy reaches for her fox spray. Nick’s face drops.

Nick

I knew it. Just when I thought someone actually believed in me.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what this movie is about. One reviewer said it best when they said  Zootopia was Disney’s answer to Crash.

Some will say it’s a cheap bait and switch, advertising something as a children’s film only for it to be a ‘message movie.’ Here’s the thing though. Shouldn’t that be what mainstream movies try to do?

You see this in a lot of different eras and a lot of different genres. The 1980s saw a slew of highly commercial and highly profitable movies dealing with the Cold War and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. One of the most famous of which, War Games, had a computer attempting to start World War III, unable to tell the difference between the projections in its program and the real people it was going to kill. When the young hero, played by Matthew Broderick, uses a game of tick tack toe to teach the computer that nuclear war is a no win scenario, the computer laments the following.

“Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

The preview audience cheered at the line.

Two of my favorite science fiction/horror films of all time, Alien and Aliens, feature strong anti-corporate messages. The best example is in Aliens where a corporate CEO, played by Paul Reiser, attempting to smuggle one of the deadly creatures back to Earth for use in their bioweapons division. When his plan is revealed, the heroic Ellen Ripley calls him to the carpet for his greed, saying he is lower than the monsters she and the marines are fighting.

“You know Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.”

While it’s sometimes popular to disregard commercial film and literature as being just that, the fact remains that this work is the most widely seen. Experimental art films are wonderful, visually stunning, and psychologically unsettling pieces, but they don’t appeal to the masses. A story about a young boy going to a school for wizards does. People may not be too interested in seeing another documentary warning about the dangers of climate change, but an adventure to preserve the beauty of the far away Pandora is something people will flock to. An anti-corporate message will bore most people, but throw in acid bleeding aliens and you will draw a crowd.

Important and relevant messages can reach a wide audience if they’re packaged right. This isn’t a cop out and it doesn’t diminish the purpose os your art. Doing this only increases its chances of reaching more people, ensuring your message is heard by a wider audience, and allows the to have fun while you’re discussing potentially hot button topics.

Balancing both commercial and topical art can be difficult, but if you go too far in either direction, you have failures. The Transformers movies may earn a lot of bank, but they’re pretty shallow and exploitive action films. A French art film about genocide may be well made and heartfelt, but people need to see it for the message to be heard. If you find the healthy middle ground, you can make something people love, something that lasts, and something that gives an audience food for thought.

Zootopia has a cast of cute animals, but it’s still about the problems our society continues to face with ethnic and racial groups continuing to mistrust and categorize each other. If that message is still there, who cares if it’s told with a fox and a bunny?

Ego Can Destroy Art

Artists who let their egos run rampant.

We have all heard the stories. They come time and time again of artists, often once talented and revered, spiraling into a pit of mediocrity, all while claiming they are misunderstood geniuses. There is a certain tragedy to this, seeing a great visionary fall into this trap of believing they are indestructible, or a newcomer unable to overcome the belief they have no more to learn. That feeling of indestructibility can destroy works of art that may have otherwise been great, and stop great careers before they even begin.

A big ego is a dangerous thing to have, particularly if you’re an artist. With it comes the assumption that everything you do is flawless. Surrounding themselves with ‘yes men’, no one ever questions what they do, and by the time the art is finished and available to the public, it’s too late for the criticism to make any difference. There are few examples as great as the saga of Michael Cimino and Heaven’s Gate.

The story of Heaven’s Gate is a tragic tale of an up and coming artist’s self destruction. Drunk off the success of The Deer Hunter, Cimino sought to make the great American Western. Given full creative control and a budget of twenty million, the film ran over time and over budget, Cimino frequently clashed with his producers at United Artists, and the incidents that happened on set caused ripples still being felt to this day.

The film was eventually completed on a budget of 50 million in 1980 dollars, only making 3 million at the box office. It flopped so hard that it closed United Artists, which had been the studio for creative freedom. The rampant mistreating of animals on set, ranging from live cockfights to a horse getting blown up with dynamite, resulted in new regulations against such cruelty. In the ensuing fallout, Cimino destroyed many careers, including his own.

This incident ended the era of creative freedom in Hollywood. Not enough people said ‘no’ to Cimino, and he refused to listen to those who did. There is a lot tragic about this story, from the destroyed careers, to the resulting restrictions on creativity, not to mention the the animals harmed on set. Another tragedy is this film was Cimino’s passion project, the film that meant more to him than anything in the world, and he bungled it. It is forever a part of film history not as a rousing success, but as a crushing failure.

If you see Heaven’s Gate, it’s a beautiful film to look at. Not a single frame in the movie doesn’t qualify as modern art. The acting is astonishing, the direction is top notch, the sets are breathtaking, even its plot deals with the Johnson County War, an important chapter in American History. All of it however, is wrapped around a script that is dull and uninteresting. Had Cimino listened to those around him, he may have been able to improve the script enough to make the film his masterpiece, paving the way for a great future in movies.

In the making of documentary, one of Cimino’s friends said it best. ‘No one wants to believe they have an ugly baby.’ That’s true, especially when that baby means as much to you as Heaven’s Gate did to Cimino. It becomes more damaging when you believe you’re a genius, because then a legitimate criticism can be written off without a second thought. Looking at the saga of his botched western, one can’t help but get the feeling that Cimino thought of it as his show, and not the show of the characters or story.

I personally believe that’s what every artist should remember. The show isn’t yours. The show belongs to the art. People didn’t go to see Raiders because of Spielberg. They went to see Indiana Jones. People didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird because of Harper Lee. They read it because of the Finch family.

You can point to celebrities and artists who are beloved and revered, but it doesn’t really have much to do with their personalities or private lives. People don’t chat with Spielberg about that time he and his mother snuck a few lobsters, or how Harper Lee took a spring walk with her father in the south. They talk about the art and how it moved them. 

There’s something oddly liberating about taking that stance. You don’t worry about what people think of you and don’t have a drive to prove yourself. You don’t have that thought nagging you all the time of ‘I’ll be famous.’ You just want to make the art the best it can be, and if it makes you famous, that’s nice too.

Artists always have a lot to prove, and the desire for recognition is one of the bigger drives in a creative mind. We all make art with the goals of making better lives for ourselves and building successful careers. Remember though, it’s not you who makes the art famous, but the art that makes you famous. A good work of art can elevate its creator to new heights, gaining you a place in history and making all your dreams come true.

This is not to say you shouldn’t be confident. Confidence is a great thing that lets an artist take that risk of putting their work into the public eye. Confidence can keep you from giving up, not stopping until you’re finished. Its also a great thing to make something you’re proud of. Validation at making something great is one of the best things a human being can feel, but there is such a thing as taking it too far.

There are also many artists who can be called vain, but they may have developed that vanity over years of success. Many artists boast of how they will one day be famous, and never get there because they don’t try to get better. They effectively put themselves in a trap, and refuse to leave to greener pastures.

There’s a fine line between feeling proud of your accomplishments and declaring yourself a perfect genius. If you keep yourself from crossing that line, you’ll find things are much easier. There’s always more to learn, and always time to stop and take a look around before making a mistake. If you put your own feelings aside and give the art the care it deserves, it will be good to you.

Re-Reading Your Work

My first book has been in my heart for the last eight years. Now the first book in this planned series is nearing its final stages. It is an exciting time to know that the project, at least in the way of writing, is almost completely finished. We have an editor, and around this time next month, the search for an agent will continue, and then comes the publisher, and hopefully a career.

My editor has been very good. I just received the note ridden document on the first chapter, and am absolutely thrilled with it. What I like about this editor is she really wants to help improve your story. You hand her silver, and she tells you how to make it gold. Poor analogy if you prefer silver to gold, but you get the point.

Sometimes getting editing tips can sting a bit, but you need to remember that an editor is coming at the story from an objective point of view, the same way your readers will. If something confuses them, it will likely confuse other readers as well. An editor’s tips can be most helpful to increase a manuscript’s readability and put your own worries to rest.

Though I trust her completely, there are a few things I myself still wish to correct before she gets to work, so I have been re-reading my manuscript and tweaking it in parts. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. Re-discovering your work after a break from it can be a real eye opener, allowing you to see the things that don’t quite work, and also see where the story got something right.

The edits were superficial for the most part, removing a few lines of dialogue and description here and there, changing things around, and giving her more to work with when she gets the chapters. Last night I blew through chapters 7 and 8, editing them as I went before they get their final evaluation. It had been many months since I read them, so I had actually forgotten a few of the things that happened in my own book.

This is one very important reason to re-read your work, but only after a break. If you go back over it moments after wrapping it up, your mind is still racing from what you just finished. Not a good state to look things over in. If you give yourself a break and then go through it, it helps you look at it with at least a little less bias. When you’re calmer, you can just relax and look through your work with much greater care. You may even get caught up in your own story.

Every once in a while, there would be something that made me cringe, wordy inner monologue, a strange exchange between two characters or any number of other small errors in a narrative. These things were not indestructible, and were vanquished after my fingers did a little waltz on the keyboard. It felt like cleaning a room or polishing a car. There was a nice sense of accomplishment knowing that the story became just a little bit better.

Occasionally, a few of my fears were calmed. My main character is a dragon, and one of my other characters had a bad experience with dragons in the past. We all know that archetype, from the angry police chief in every Dirty Harry film, to Val Kilmer in Top Gun. They’re that character that doesn’t trust the hero, calls them dangerous, reckless, and eventually they either come around, or get their teeth knocked in.

I like the angry police chief as much as the next guy, but if that’s all a character offers, you can’t help but roll your eyes. Fortunately, reading through the manuscript again has calmed my nerves. This character, named Blondie, is more than just paranoia. She cares about her companions, is passionate about her work in history and archeology, and her suspicions are purely based on worry for those closest to her. Her reasons are well founded, and you can actually understand and empathize with why she is not entirely trusting of the hero. I can’t begin to tell you the relief that brings when you fear something won’t work, only to discover it does.

In an earlier post, I compared reaching the ending to a book to climbing a mountain. You know where you’re headed, but the real question is getting there. Going back over a manuscript after a period of rest is similar. You know where to go, and how to get there. The only difference is you can avoid the rocks you tripped over last time.

We Have An Editor!

Though my personal break from writing has begun, my projects continue to move along. The fantasy/adventure novel Never Heroes has been going through a final polish before the query process continues. I was doing this editing myself, but always felt a small tinge of worry. It was after all my book, and was thus hard to view objectively.

Yesterday, those worries were put to rest. Through a writer’s group I attend, I met an editor. She agreed to do the book for a price that is very affordable, especially when you consider the cost of most editors is usually around 2 or 4 k. She agreed to do it for less than 1 k.

Editing a manuscript is an important, often overlooked part of the writing process. It’s like editing a movie in many ways. You still need to trim, fix a line of dialogue here and there, and alter any number of words or phrases in your prose in order to maximize the emotional punch of the work. It’s all about understanding the ideas you’re trying to communicate, and communicating them more clearly.

As such, it probably isn’t the best idea to self edit, or even have a close friend do it. You could miss any number of small errors in the writing, and in many cases, a friend of course will tell you how awesome it is and not much else. Editors work best when they are objective, coming onto the scene with fresh eyes and fresher ideas.

A few days ago she sent me a sample page showing how her editing style worked, I liked it, we met on Skype yesterday, drew up a contract, and got to work. She estimates being done with her edit sometime in March, so not too far off.

Better yet, she is also a graphic designer. This means for a little extra, we can work together and create that ever elusive title font for out front cover.

I cannot begin to tell you all the relief this brings. Not only does it mean the search for an agent will continue much sooner than expected, but it also means I’ll be able to take that period of rest after-all, ensuring that in April when work finally begins on book two of the series, I won’t be burnt out.

This year did get off to a rough start with the sad end to my trip to Ohio, and the unexpected change in management at my apartment. As of late though, things are going pretty good with a new job, three new writing projects finished, and now my pride and joy finally getting its fine mirror shine before I attempt again to send it out into the world.

The Sequel Jitters: Writing the Second Book In a Series

My break from writing begins today, apart from the edits of my first manuscript that will continue. What? You don’t think I could ever completely give up writing for a full month, do you? While I certainly am looking forward to this period of rest, an obstacle awaits that fills me both with eagerness and dread. At the end of this vacation, I’ll write the second book in my four part Never Heroes fantasy/adventure series.

To write the first book was a massive effort. I finished the first draft of it just under a year ago. Over 130,000 words and one draft later, the first book in the series still remains my most cherished work, but it is only the first part of a saga that has yet to be finished. I can’t help but be a little nervous about measuring up. The story of Zhyx the dragon and his companions going on their adventures in the mythical country of Haiden has become more than a hobby, a passion or even a career prospect. It has become a part of my immortal soul.

There certainly is no shortage of ideas. The earliest draft of the book was so full of information, characters and set pieces, I made the decision to divide the story up into a series rather than try to cram it all into one giant volume. Those characters and set pieces still wait patiently to be reborn by a keyboard’s strokes.

Much will happen, and these future books will expand on and elaborate these characters and their universe, delving deeper into their relationships and their abilities as they continue their adventure. The later books will take place over a much longer period of time. Whereas the first book takes place inside of a week, the final book will span twenty years of their tribulations and triumphs alike. There will be joy and sadness, old characters will be lost for new characters to take their place, relationships will crumble while others flourish, all as these characters continue on an adventure filled with hope and fear.

I certainly won’t be going in completely blind. A decent roadmap has already been prepared. Even while writing my setups, the payoffs were already neatly catalogued in my many pages of notes and ideas. I know how each of the next three books begins, and how each of the next three books ends. Shortage of ideas is not the problem. The problem is organizing it all into a coherent story.

With so much for me to juggle around, I’m not going to fool myself into thinking there isn’t a lot that could go wrong. There’s also the worry that my pre-mapped story may not be the best idea. If I’m dead set on a path, a potentially great alternative may pass me by.

Yes, writing a story is always difficult. To craft a sturdy cohesive narrative can often seem like building a tower of cards. If one little piece of character development doesn’t work, or if one piece of world building is inconsistent with the rest of the story, it could all come tumbling down in a sad heap.

Writing the first book was an exhausting effort. All the days of going to the store hours early just to have the privacy to work, all the times going over the manuscript and correcting each mistake, all the nights staring open eyed at the ceiling trying to figure out how to get my characters out of a bind without copping out. By the time that first manuscript was done, I was about ready to keel over. Now I have no choice but to do it again, three more times.

Three more times, each time being much longer and elaborate than the last.

As the journey for my characters will be far longer and far tougher, I expect it to be the same for me. Yes, Never Heroes is certainly going to be a tough nut to crack.

Still, these characters and their world are closest to my heart out of anything I have ever done. To go on another adventure with them will be a treat. Ultimately, they will not rest until their story is done. Neither will I.

There is the comfort of knowing I’ll be in good company.

This Year In Writing

It has been just under a year since I finished my first draft of my first novel, the fantasy/adventure novel Never Heroes. Looking back, it is hard to believe just how productive these last twelve months have been.

In that time, I completed a second draft of Never Heroes and edited it, finished the short scripts for The Dragon In the Warehouse, Forgotten Apocalypse, and The Ice Cream Man, the last of which was made into a short film directed by yours truly, wrote three feature scripts for City of Wolves, Distant Horizon, and Abyssus, and completed two short stories, The Phantom in the Pit and Mare. A full length novel, two short stories, three feature scripts, three short scripts and a short film. It’s the kind of body of work most don’t complete in a lifetime.

With such a massive body of work done, it seems an opportune moment to take a vacation.

Rest assured, the vacation won’t be for very long. Honestly, I wonder if I will even last the month and a half I have planned. Writing isn’t just a passion of mine. It became a way of life. This art form was my chosen method of survival and maintaining my sanity while working a job in retail. When working at a job like that, you watch the days of your life slowly drip away, and your passions and dreams seem ever the more further out of reach. Even if it is just a part time position, it takes a toll on you.

Things were different when I was writing. On my lunch hours and during my breaks I would pound away at the keyboard. I would deliberately come into work early, sometimes as much as six hours, putting myself in a position without internet for the sole purpose of working without any distractions. All the while, there was a feeling that I was working towards something, something that seemed more within my grasp with each stroke of my Mac’s letter keys. Writing fulfilled a deep desire not just to pass the time or seek a new profession. It was my way of maintaining hope.

Hope is something in short supply at times.

Much has changed since this time last year. I now have my first film industry job and am earning more money than ever before. I have reconnected with many old friends with similar aspirations of working in the arts. Overall am in a much better place than before. Still, there is that desire. I almost can’t contain that drive to just keep going.

There certainly are several other projects to consider, from comedies, to horror films, and of course the next three books in the Never Heroes saga. Even now, by the day, the ideas won’t stop. None of them will rest until they’re finished.

Even though not a lot of writing will be done in this time, things will continue to take shape on other fronts. The elements of the cover for Never Heroes continue to have life breathed into them. As seen here, Major Celice Arietta and Professor Graga “Blondie’ Kelpla are looking in rare form. Even now they are very presentable, but they will look even better by the time this cover is finished. Perhaps I can use this time to finally brush up on that drawing tablet and help out with some of these illustrations myself.

Celice and Blondie Cover

I really wonder if I will last that month and a half. In this time, writing has just come to feel so correct for me. The idea of it becoming a profession has me feeling more than a little gleeful, and each project has only served to increase my confidence.

Friends and relatives have asked me how I write so much. It may be because of the confidence it offers. I write because it is the only time I see in me what everyone else seems to.

I may really have to force myself to finish this month and a half.

Why I Didn’t Read Fantasy While Preparing to Write Fantasy

Never-Heroes-Fantasy-Cover

Watching the cover for my first book slowly take shape has been very exciting. The three characters shown here, (left to right, River the Flatlander, Major Celice and Professor Blondie) appear more lifelike as the days go by. Once they and their fourth companion are finished, it is on to putting in the leading character, creating the background, and add ing whatever other elements are needed. After organizing them into an appropriate collage, that will capture the essence of Never Heroes.

I find it quite interesting that this most precious work of mine is a fantasy story, as fantasy was not a genre that interested me initially. Even when the Lord of the Rings movies first hit theaters, my reaction was one of general boredom. Fantasy never held that great an influence over me prior to high school, where a friend introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons and the rest is history.

I suppose that is one of the more interesting things about this particular pipe dream. Never Heroes was influenced by just about everything but fantasy. As you can read in the Inspirations and Influences article, this series was inspired by everything from the Indiana Jones movies, to Godzilla, to the Cthulhu Mythos, to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Of classic fantasy literature however, with the works of Tolkien, Rowling and Martin, their influence over the adventures in Haiden is relatively small.

This is partially to blame on the media I consumed as a kid. The genres that had the biggest influence on me as an adolescent boy were action movies, science fiction movies, and horror stories. You take all of those in, you start getting certain ideas about how stories work and what they should be. But I could have done research into the genre once I took this project seriously. That was a conscious decision on my part.

I attended a Q & A one of my old professors was in whilst in college. When asked about the originality of stories, said that “The audience expects not only convention, but innovation. You follow certain genre conventions, but also try and do something fresh with it to make your story stand on its own. Everything has been done, but not in every way.”

Convention and innovation. I had once thought the two were mutually exclusive. The idea of using them both in unison was a new and challenging idea, one I decided to test when writing Never Heroes.

I haven’t read all of the Harry Potter books, only read a few lines of the Middle Earth Saga, and have never laid a finger upon the covers of A Song of Ice and Fire or Dragonlance. It is tragic loss that will be corrected in due time, but only after I am sure this story has found a voice of its own.

While it is fun to be compared to artists you admire, art really is about self expression. I didn’t want to write something that seemed like it was trying to be Tolkien or Rowling. I wanted the world of Tygan to be a world all its own, that took inspiration from just about the last places anyone would expect for a fantasy story. It is a move that will hopefully set it apart from the rest of the genre, and create something that is unmistakably me.

Isn’t that what every story is meant to be?