Ups, Downs, and Roller Coasting Around

This very late post was relegated to being on a my first available free day because there have been so many ups and downs lately, as there usually is at this time of the year, that I haven’t had time to sit down and write, let alone play games or do any of my normal activities.

Why?

Well there is exciting news.

The Last Prophecy was released on Halloween and has done tremendously well! I have been so happy to get this book out, as the story needed so much work, mostly because it is completely integral to the series going on, and as such had to be perfect, but also because it brought a whole lot of challenges and learning experiences I can only thank my editor for. His tireless work is how I got this book out and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for his immense help.

Its also been encouraging because of some of my feedback. I have to share the first words I got back from a friend/fan, I am now calling a frand. (Why not?);

“I hate you.”

Sounds awful doesn’t it? I couldn’t have been more pleased. It was a text sent at midnight during the week for someone who works hard and gets up early. So what had it meant? He stayed up reading it until it was done, got to the end and…wanted more.

Wanting more is the biggest compliment I think an author can get, and I am very flattered by that, regardless of the words used to convey it.

I can also finally show you the first piece of commissioned work for the promo video coming out next year. That is if you aren’t following me on FB where it’s been adored!

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Done by the artist Nushie, ( http://nushie.com/), we are collaborating to make a few of these, but I’m going to be cruel and only show you this one until the video comes out.

Hey, if Mr. Martin can torture his fans why can’t I?

Ok, so I’ll probably fold and show you the next one in my excitement but at least let’s pretend I can hold out.

Then there are downs.

When someone you love is terminally ill it’s infuriating that life doesn’t, can’t and won’t stop. The helplessness, frustration and inevitability of it has left me breathless, so full of emotion I didn’t know how to express; there simply hasn’t been enough tears I can cry.

But you get up and carry on, even if a part of you won’t let go and is never the same.

If only it were as easy as those words.

I am simply grateful for the loved ones around me who support me through both; the good and the very bad. In both instances they have made the moments that more memorable, knowing I have such family and friends coming together during such a chaotic and emotional time.

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Conforming to Genre

I hated this part of being an author, I really did.

“What genre is your book?”

“It’s a steam flavoured fantasy with a suspense/horror twist.”

It was written all over their face. “What?”

I had a great idea for a story, and it turned into a great idea for a series but there were problems. When I brought up my book to publish it had to be listed into a specific genre. There wasn’t a choice it had to be somewhere with books of similar nature. This makes sense, I don’t want to find a biography in the fantasy section, but it still irked me because my book wasn’t just one genre.

It had elements of steam level technology, a genre I love but is often overwhelming with its political based plots or dozens of fantastic gadgets. Each in their own way cool, but not what I was doing specifically. My books have elements of those things; I have airships, corsets, intrigue and bizarre contraptions, but they are not the only part of my books.

I have based it in a completely made up fantastical world of my own design with my own quirks, charms and unknown depths. It features things that can’t be explained by science in their world or ours, and are not entirely magical in the sense of traditional stereotypical magic. There was to be no wands, or mythical forces with limitless unfathomable power. Yet there would be things that defied the law of nature, physics and life as we know it.

This was adventure, that would lead its heroes and heroines into great peril, with untold value at the end, but at great risk. There were darker things that wait for them, enemies who have their own goals, and creatures lost in time. There will be something that moves in the shadows. After all, it’s not thrilling without a bit of danger!

There would be in some cases love, and comradeship, but this isn’t a romance series or a book about friends. I have touched on real word issues that are important to me but have tried not to swamp the reader with my ideologies.

Most of all I had a story in my head that had all these things; a great adventure that stretched from the finding of ancient artefacts to this world’s version of modern science and contraptions that would change the world. It would test and try its characters with what is to come, and be a great story I enjoy telling.

I have to list my books in a genre, but where its specified on the genre list isn’t all it is; it’s my story. I define it.

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Stopping to Smell the Orchids

I know. Orchids don’t have a scent. But it was fun for a moment to imagine that if they did, what would they smell like; would they be softly fragrant? Delicate and prone to wafting too quickly away? Or,  like the flower itself, bold and beautiful and different for every type?

I also stopped to smell the daffodils at the emergence of Spring, on this side of the globe, after the end of a long and tumultuous month involving moving house for family reasons in less than two weeks. The change is huge for us, right out into the country and I love it as I grew up miles from anything like a city, but it comes with its challenges.

Over one of which I have a confession to make. I didn’t write all month. I’m sorry.

There just wasn’t time, and I always promised I’d always make time but, circumstances being what they are, it didn’t happen. I feel so appallingly guilty for that, as though if you knew you’d be disappointed, and nobody could be more so than myself. The Well of Youth was supposed to be finished by the end of August and I’m so far out on my schedule since I had a plot change in late July involving thousands of words worth of rewrites and that’s not even the worst part.

The worst part is I didn’t even have time to think about the story.

I always think about the plot, it helps me go to sleep at night. No, really, it does.

But I went to bed most nights so exhausted all I could think about was which books I were going to make the cut or be put in storage. How were my two cats going to get along with the cat they were moving in with? (Pictures will show their precarious situation and how worried they are).

I didn’t even get a chance to look at the website until I realised August was over and I hadn’t done my monthly post. What can I tell you? Life got in the way. It does that sometimes.

I’m not going to carry this personal failure onwards, and even though time is scarce, I will just endevour to do better. And that’s a lesson in itself. I’m here and making time to do what I love. Sometimes life will get in the way of that. That doesn’t mean I will wallow in guilt and give up, rereading the story after all that time will be refreshing, and if I finish this book by a certain date in October then I’ll have earned the self indulgent day spa treatment I’ve already booked.

Goals can be rearranged, they have to adjust to life, because nothing you hold onto is completely within your control, and it is far better to work towards those goals than worry about what you haven’t done.
Stop and imagine the elusive scent of the orchids.20160904_174613 20160903_154714(1)

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Why Your Book Isn’t Selling

This is a fantastic read, doesn’t simper its words, but relays the core of problems with self publishing that I’ve either made, or seen others make. They are easy traps to fall into, but with a little forethought and planning they can be avoided.

The writer’s worst nightmare. You researched, you wrote, you finished, and then published your book. You wait for the sales and……….*crickets*. This is something that can happen to any kind of…

Source: Why Your Book Isn’t Selling

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Chasing imaginary things

I’ve posted on twitter that I’ve joined the throngs of Pokemon players. I know, I know, don’t curse me now, hear me out.

I knew the game designers from playing Ingress, and I’d played and watched all the Pokemon games and anime. I was looking forward to what it would entail. Except what I didn’t see was the amount of negativity towards it.

You’ve seen the articles. “Girl finds body while playing Pokemon Go.” “Man kills brother over Pokemon.” I hate to be the one to tell you but the articles, most of them, are fake. I don’t know why the media is perpetrating fake news stories to make the general populace hate the game; but they are.

I’m not interested in why.

I’m interested in the overwhelming happy feeling a family had that I got to be a part of, because of Pokemon Go.

So I was walking in the early evening on my Pokemon Go route. It’s about 5 kms (perfect for eggs) and helps me think as I walk past a gym, two pokestops and a lake (oh yes, I love the magikarp!). And I’ve been playing the game since it came out, so I know what I’m doing.

But a car had pulled up near my pokestops and a couple with an eight year old girl were holding a phone and walking around.

I’ve become familiar with this scene; eyes on the phone, checking locations, moving as a group together. Pokemon players are recognising each other, and it’s with joy.

“Hi! Are you looking for Pokemon stops?” I called.

“Yes, we’re new, our daughter just sighted up an hour ago.” Says her father.

“Oh really? Well the other stop you are looking for is half way along the bridge.”

“Thank you!” The mother and daughter run off and the father stops me.

“So you play this game?”

“Yes, I’ve been playing since it came out about five weeks ago or so, I guess.”

“So you know what you’re doing?”

“Yes, I know the company. I liked the other game they made, Ingress, and I’ve played old school Pokemon and watched the anime series.”

There were more questions, how I liked it, what it was about, how many kilometers I’d walked (nearly a 100, over 5 every day at least).

“You walk around?”

“You have to, it’s part of the game. I walk five k’s every day at least to hatch eggs.”

“Hey honey!” He says to his returning wife and daughter. “This girl plays every day, and walks five kilometers, every day!”

“That’s so good! I need to do that.”

“It gets me away from the computer, I’m an avid gamer.” I explain.

“That’s so good, getting you out and about.”

It is.

That’s what’s good, but the people I’ve met and the stories I could tell you show you that the articles in the news about the game and being negative don’t tell you the other part of the story. The time a group of kids in my village green offered hot chocolate to pokemon trainers, and young kids and older players with their grandkids got hot chocolate and shared moments. About how a young woman was anxious about a pokemon and when I pointed her in the right direction she ran up and screamed I was her new best friend and I didn’t know how happy I’d made her by helping. I spend ten minutes explaining to an eight year old girl who was level one how it all worked.

The girl listened to my comments, wow’d at the pokemon I’d collected, and was delightful to talk to. And her parents stood behind her and asked questions too, engaged with me and the game that had gotten them all hooked. And so it was I said that if they are just starting out they needed to try the village green, as long as her parents were OK with it, but they were just smiling at me, happy for their daughter.

“Well that’s where we will go next!” The dad declared, and they thanked me and ran back to their car, taking off for the village green.

And afterwards, walking home, I was hopeful.

You see, I had received a fair amount of flack from colleagues and friends for my addiction, even my husband and he plays himself. Why was that?

My husband thought I was cute, but most others thought me crazy chasing imaginary things.

And it made me angry. Very angry.

I chase imaginary things every day. I get lost in them and then I write about them, but that wasn’t what had upset me. Being told what you want isn’t normal kills dreams.

People like this kill dreams every day; I can’t see what you see, and I don’t understand it, and therefore you shouldn’t have it.

And the part that hurts the most isn’t about a game that augments reality. People tell you you can’t really be an artist, a writer, a musician. They kill your dreams every day because they want you to be productive to society and fit in.

I’ve never sworn on my blog and I’m going to start now. Fuck fitting in. Fuck someone else’s version of normality and what they expect of me.

I want more parents like the one that little girl has, who followed her around and encouraged her in something that’s been sensationalised, they ignored the hype part and enjoyed being outside chasing their imagination. I’m for the ones chasing their imagination. I’m for the dreamers.

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5 Tips for Writer’s Block on your Project

I decided that it’s been a while since I posted anything since there is all this background work happening at the moment and it’s taking up so much of my time! But it’s all very critical and exciting and can’t be revealed just yet.

I’ve recently received a lot of admiration from fellow writers for my ability to keep tackling my project even through writer’s block. It is difficult to sit and write things when you know what’s going to happen, and when the outcome is predictable because you’ve been mulling and thinking over it, it can be less fun to write.

One of the problems is that when you hit writer’s block a lot of the inspirational advice you can find in articles and online directs you down to starting something new.

This isn’t helpful when you need to work on the project you are currently on, and if you are anything like me, you hate skipping ahead to write the next scene, or even further down the story track to the more climactic moments. Sometimes by the time I get there the story has adjusted so much that most of the content isn’t as usable as when I was originally writing it.

So when writer’s block strikes there is a couple of things that I do as an author to change things up (forgive me but a couple of these are geared towards rpg/tabletop gaming, because I love it);

 

  1.     Roll your character decision!

Bear with me on this one. If you’ve ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons chances are you know what roleplaying is, and is commonly referred to as role playing games (RPG). There are a host of other systems out there, I notably play Cthulhu, based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, Edge of the Empire, a Star Wars themed RPG, and I’m dipping my toe into Vampire the Masquerade. There are a heap of other systems based in different worlds with different themes, anything for a table top gamer to fancy.

Everyone (usually four to six people) sit around a table with a blank character sheet, and a collection of multifaceted dice, and a Dungeon Master (DM), or Game Master (GM), helps them create a character, and verbally walks them through a story or plot based in one of the above settings. Some of these are filled with fighting dragons and searching through dungeons, others are investigating paranormal occurrences in the 1920s, exploring the edge of the Star Wars universe, or even playing a newly turned vampire experiencing the Masquerade.

You tend to play for a few hours, and then have a break for a week before resuming again. I like to call these sessions, but have been referred to as chapters or episodes as well.

So if you’ve followed me this far, keep going because this is where it helps my writing.

When I run these games for my players I have a host of non-player characters, (NPCs), people I pretend to be as characters in the game I am running. And I like to keep the decisions they make as chaotic and arbitrary as possible, so they aren’t predictable. Quite often, when an NPC is faced with a decision, I will get out a random dice (ranging from a six sided die (D6) to two ten sided die (to make a D100), and roll them. Before I roll I’ll ask myself the necessary parameters of the situation and this is where I have a good example from my Star Wars game.

An NPC was going to give away the location of my players for a very large bounty. But the players had recently found an underground bunker that the NPC very badly wanted. So which was more important? The bounty or the bunker? I rolled a twelve sided dice (D12), because it wasn’t a large range of choices, merely a matter of how greedy the NPC was. If I rolled high he wanted the bounty, and he rolled low he wanted the bunker. It turned out he was more interested in the bunker than handing over the players. This then lead to an ongoing relationship and several favours the players now owe the NPC for later in the game, creating new content and a debt that will hang over the players heads.

Other times the decision can be more complex, this one is again from my Star Wars group.

I have an NPC who has been travelling with the group for some time (the players have Rebel sympathies) but the NPC is warring between the Dark and Light forces within herself, and losing to the Dark side. I rolled a D100 to work out how far she was descending to the Dark side after a bad altercation from the previous session, under 50 being Dark, over 50 being Light. I rolled a 15, meaning she was very dark indeed on the scale of things. This actually doesn’t work with the sympathetic Rebel players, and I warred with just making her Light to suit the players, but it does make things interesting because now she’s keeping a secret about how Dark she is from them. This creates a level of distrust and intrigue among the players as they decide whether they like her as a person regardless of her alignment.

If a decision doesn’t feel right there are plenty of random choices, so work out what your character choices actually are, find the parameters of their decision and roll to see what the outcome might be. Sometimes a random decision takes things on a new tangent you didn’t see coming and really invigorates the character development and plot!

 

  1.     Protagonist Birthday

This one is completely off topic, but imagine if right at his moment, your main character remembers it’s their birthday. Do they celebrate? Mourn? Try to make the most of it or cover it up and have the other characters remember for them? Is it someone else’s birthday?

Birthdays tend to be very universal, and often change the perspective of the day in most eyes; you automatically wish someone the best on their birthday.

But they can be traumatic times too; when you realise it would have been the birthday of protagonist’s partner, but they are no longer there. Or that everyone forgets their birthday completely. Or even better yet, bring the antagonist’s birthday into play, does it change the way the protagonist treats them?

Sometimes it only takes a page, but it spins a new light on the current circumstances and makes you rethink what they are experiencing from another perspective.

 

  1.     POV change up

This is difficult because I normally write from one point of view in my current project, and I don’t deviate at all. However I recently wanted to better understand the antagonist’s reasoning for a book I am writing in the future but needed to flesh out for the series. I wrote down what he was going through and how it was changing the way he thought about the world.

This POV change doesn’t have to be set where your writers block is, but it can help give you a better understanding and grasp of the motivations of your characters, particularly when your protagonists thinks what the antagonist is doing is wrong, but your antagonist thinks it’s right. Why do they think it’s right? What has brought them to that reasoning? What experiences have they had to make them who they are now?

It didn’t take me long, it was simply two pages worth of writing, but it gave me a much better understanding of the character, and what had happened to him the past that made him the way he was. So when it became time to write the protagonist’s view of the antagonist’s actions, there was a difference in conviction. He had become not just the bad guy, but one motivated by reasons that made sense, making him a much more believable character than one motivated solely by greed.

 

4.    Change the setting – COMPLETELY!

So for me this is easy because I spend a fair chunk of my spare time roleplaying, and it is a big suggestion to writers, especially of science fiction and fantasy, that if you haven’t ever roleplayed try to find a local group and give it a go, because for character development its fascinating.

In my games I have repeatedly put characters from my novels into my role playing games as NPCs in order to see how my players would treat them. This is an excellent trial by fire for a lot of characters; if you’re players aren’t going to believe or engage them, why should your readers?

Normally these NPCs are smaller than the main characters, just roles within a story, but if you take the general shape of them and their motivations, and give it to your players to see what they make of it, it enables you to better see how your characters will react to the player’s machinations. They aren’t aware that this character is any different from any of your regular NPC characters, and so will just treat it as another NPC.

I understand that not all of you are probably GM’s (though I recommend it highly for your story telling abilities), then the other way this is helpful is if you have a main character in a story you can role play them in a game someone else is running. If the environment suits your character (you should keep categories consistent, for example put a fantasy character in a Dungeons & Dragons world), they should come across unforeseen circumstances that are completely different from what you envisioned for them in your story. What makes this particularly interesting is when they fail or succeed at certain situations you, as an author, have no control over the outcome, because the game is in the GM’s hands.

It enables you to have a better sense of conviction for your characters, an aspect of their personality you weren’t aware they had; a good humorous side, or a bad temper that isn’t to be trifled with.  

You don’t have to play the specifically as to how they’d act in your story, but it certainly gives you a broader appreciation for them as a person.

 

  1.     Write

You’ll hate me for this one but its true. Sometimes I’ll just sit down and write through the scene to get it over with, and I got caught out doing this by my editor a couple of months ago. I just didn’t know what to do with the particular aspect of the story and I ended up committing the cardinal sin of *telling* and not showing.

This was actually a positive experience for two reasons.

The first was that I actually wrote through those scenes when they were stuck with me so I could move on to the more exciting ones, and therefore just got them over and done with.

The second was that when it was pointed out to me what I had done, I had to go through a massive rewrite of that particular part, and it ended up adding so much more character depth and reader engagement, and I am very pleased with how those scenes have now panned out.

So the rule here is get through the scene, and then maybe use your writing group, friends or family to review it and get feedback on what they think. For the scenes I was working on I had to change key plot points but when I had a beta reader go through the revised version there was a much better response.

Sometimes we just need to fill in the blanks and come back to the work, and with first drafts that happens over and over again and you should in no way feel bad for that.

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Be kind…

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there was stuff happening and in the last couple of weeks it’s all started to come together, the most current of which is the book cover for the Last Prophecy!

cover (5)

I am pretty excited about this but as I’ve mentioned, this book needed serious rewrites and edits as the Well of Youth is being worked on, and key plot points had to change, which means my May release vague plan isn’t going to happen, I’m very sorry. I am hopeful to have it to you guys in the next month or so.

There was also the sourcing of artists for something special I’m going to start leaving you tidbits about over the next couple of months as we gear up for the release of the Well of Youth, which is tentatively set for the end of the year. And not just artwork, a wonderful composer has also done something special for me, and I cannot wait to show you the results of their creativity.

As much as starting all of this was fun it was also a lot of work, a lot of hard work, and even when it’s something you love it makes it no less tiring, if anything its more so because you are very emotionally invested.

And that’s when I sit back and realise that with all the work being done on the next book I haven’t spent as much time and energy being able to promote the Hidden Monastery. Between that and rewrites for the Last Prophecy and all the work that needs to go into the Well I have become my own worst critic over the last few weeks.

It’s very easy to lose sight of the big picture when all you can do is nit-pick at the little things and how much still needs to be done. There has been a very few harsh reminders over this period that I need to be kinder to myself and all of this is a work in progress.

But it’s not just me.

It’s the people I love and work with, or who are offering their work to me. It’s all so easy to judge yourself harshly, but when you think about applying the comments you have for your own work to someone else’s, if you’re anything like me you’d be horrified and never say that.

If you’d never say that comment to someone else, never be so objective about another person’s work, or would even be kinder in your critic of them so as not to hurt their feelings and creativity, then why can’t you do the same to yourself? Be kinder and less judgemental, as though it is not your own work, but someone else who is need of your support. There is a really easy answer this and you know what it is.

You can.

Sure it’s a work in progress, and sometimes you don’t even realise you are doing it, but you need to let go of it so you can work. I knew I was doing it, and gave myself the kindness and time to work past it, and you can too.

Be kind, to yourself and others, there really isn’t enough of it in this world, especially the one inside our own minds.

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