I’m Publishing a Book Soon(ish)

I’m Publishing a Book Soon(ish)

*insert incoherent crazy-person noises here that portray every emotion ever* All right, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

I will hopefully be publishing a book later this year. I have a front cover, a back-cover blurb, and I’m only $150 shy of being able to afford an editor. I still have to finish the draft I’m working on (#3), write an author bio, get a back cover, and then get my book to the editor, but I feel like I’m getting really, really close and there are so many emotions that come with that. This post will give you a glimpse of those emotions, a bunch of dates that are probably rather boring but I’ll appreciate having chronicled all in one place later on, and some information on House of Mages itself.

I started thinking up this story at 12:25 a.m. on May 10th, 2016, and it had a very different plot and plan from what it does now. So far it has been in the works for only a little over 15 months, which feels really weird for some reason. This is one of those things that feels simultaneously like it’s been so much shorter and so much longer a time than it actually has, and it’s really weird.

To begin with, the main character was an alchemy mage named Alark Meary and the basic synopsis was this: “Alark is a mage in a house of mages (a mage tower), and he starts to suspect the archmages of hiding something. Turns out they’re killing anyone who believes in Abba. Alark doesnt think this is right and sets about putting a stop to it, gathering other mages to his side. In the process he meets Abba.” (I wrote this on my tablet the night I came up with this idea, and I decided to leave in the grammatical error when I copied it, and I’ll probably do the same with the rest of these.) The plan was also for this to be a trilogy, and I had really cool titles for each one, and for the trilogy name: House of Mages, House of Thorns, and House of Elves, the books of the Mage of Thorns Trilogy. I’m disappointed I won’t have a chance to use those.

The other two summaries were, for House of Thorns: “Alark has uncovered a plot to kill all Abba’s followers, but now he finds that there is something much more sinister going on. The archmages are summoning demons to help them, and soon they’ll overrun Thesbia and from there all of Titania. Alark must rely on Abba and this will test his faith more than ever before.

And for House of Elves: “The demons have been sent back to the underworld, the Archmages have been punished for their crimes, and Thesbia is at peace thanks to the elves who recently reappeared. So why does it feel like something is dreadfully wrong? As Alark seeks to find out he realizes that the elves may have something planned other than nationwide peace. They seek to destroy humans, creatures they consider an “inferior race.” Yet some of them seem friendly enough. How can anyone tell which are evil and which are not? A close friend sells Alark out, and his faith in Abba is tested once again.” (Ooh, I think this summary was when one of my two favorite characters was invented.)

I started the first draft that very day, with this lovely beginning:

Alark opened his eyes and immediately closed them again against the bright morning sun.

“Get up, ssleepyhead. It’s almost seven thirty already!”

Alark glanced across the room at Fidgeon, his roommate, still squinting.

“Wake me up again at eight.” Alark grumbled, pulling his soft pillow over his face.

“No. It’s Friday, remember? And that means…” He stopped, allowing Alark to finish the sentence.

“Altar.” Alark said, his voice muffled through the pillow. He lowered the pillow and sat up slowly.

“Theeere we go. Now, if you don’t get changed in the next five minutes were going to be late, so hurry!”

Alark slid out from under the covers and pulled off his nightshirt, puling his purple tunic over his head to take its place. He threw on his purple robe after that, then pulled on his black leather boots and grabbed his alchemy bag on the way out the door. He strapped it around his waist as he and Fisgeon hurried dowmn the stone corridor to the steps that led down to the altar room, where the mages assembled every Friday morning and every holiday.

They ran down the steps and slowly opened the heavy door that led into the alter room, quietly slipping into a back pew. Archmage Pagod was already speaking, and Alark recognized the sacred prayer, always spoken in Old Elvish, though elves hadn’t been seen in years. He assumed that they had been important in mageic history.

************

Like with the original summary, I left in all the tablet-keyboard typos. (And “mageic”? Why would you use that as a word, younger self? Just use “in mage history.” Then it’s an actual word.)

Eventually I cut this, along with the entire first and second chapter and rewrote them, because a side character decided to hijack the plot and make it all about her, instead, so… yeah. And then the plot ended up changing, too, because all of the plots mentioned in the summaries above decided to merge into one, which kind of derailed the whole trilogy idea. (I didn’t plan out this story ahead of time, so it took on a mind entirely of its own.) Now, though, I don’t think I could imagine it any other way. I certainly couldn’t imagine Alark as the main character at this point.

I continued writing at least a little bit until July, and Camp NaNoWriMo that month. My aim was to write 50k on House of Mages and 1k on another story I decided to work on that month, and I didn’t get anywhere near that goal. I only wrote 3,647 words on the two of them combined that whole month. Then I worked on it some more up until November and classic NaNoWriMo when my goal was to finish the first draft, which I did on either the 3rd or the 4th. I’m thinking it was the 3rd since that was the day I reached 50k on it, and it only ended up being a little over 51k, which is why I laughed when I found my original notes and saw I’d anticipated it being 80k-90k. The 1st was a lot of fun because it was my best friend’s birthday, and she was reading along as I wrote the story, so I decided to give her five chapters for her birthday… All ending with cliffhangers. I had so much fun torturing her with the suspense.

After I finished the first draft I set it aside until about December or January, and fairly quickly went through and used Microsoft Word to leave comments on spots that needed to be improved. I started the true second draft on March 11th, 2017, and that took until May 9th to finish. (It took me less than a month to finish my second draft?!?!?!) I waited until June 6th to start on the third draft, which is actually something of a rewrite. I read a blog post… which I now can’t find… that talked about how rewriting is a better option than revising. Not a huge rewrite, but literally writing it again from the original because then you can adjust the flow as needed and stuff like that, and I decided to try this method. A big reason I chose to use this method as opposed to classic editing (which I really have no experience in and therefore wouldn’t be doing “correctly” anyway) was that I don’t do well writing description into the story in the first draft (which is something I’m working on), so I felt like it would be easier to organically insert more description if I was writing it over again. It has helped a bit, but not as well as I had hoped, so that’s something I know I still need to work on in this story.

I’ve been working on this third draft since June 6th, so over two months, and I’ve only finished eleven chapters out of twenty-five. Obviously this is going a lot slower than the second draft (I should use that as motivation. “I finished the second draft in a month! I can totally handle this!”), but I’m getting through it… very slowly.

With this draft I’ve had a lot of issues with not liking the story. I think I worked on it a little too much all in one big chunk and got tired of it. I actually posted on Facebook on June 26th that said, “I want to watch my story go through a shredder right now… It’s not really that bad, but I’m tired of dealing with it. That’s terrible, I know, but I just want to be done with it for a while. I’ll probably set it aside for the next month and hopefully by the end of that I won’t be as annoyed with it anymore.”

Since the next month/last month was Camp NaNoWriMo again and I was planning on working on another project anyway, it was pretty easy to set it aside for a while, but when I came back to it after making my Camp goal, I was still annoyed with it. There was one section and the character within that section that I just was really not liking and I didn’t want to work on, but I finally got through that on about the 24th of July and got through two chapters that day and mostly pushed through that block.

Throughout this process, though, there have been instances in which I have wondered if I should really be trying to publish this book or if I should start with one that’s better even as a first draft, there have been instances when I’ve wondered if I’m ready to publish or should just give up and wait for a while. I’ve beaten all of these occasions, but there’s still that nagging feeling that another story would be easier or I shouldn’t be attempting this yet, and I know that they’re wrong, but they’re also persistent. (In case anyone was worried, I am indeed publishing this book in the near future.) I tend to beat those thoughts with the reminder that if I give into that I know it’ll just be a vicious cycle. There will always be a project that’s better-written than the one I’m working on, I’ll always wonder if I’m ready, and if I don’t do this then I don’t think I ever will, so I just need to push through it, and that’s what I have done, as best I can.

On March 21st (I was a ways through my second draft at that point) I got a book cover, which I was super excited about. It made the fact that I’m working toward publishing seem real for a while, and I was doing so much premature celebrating. It was awesome. I still really like the cover, but I’ve had it for long enough that the novelty of it (pun intended) has mostly worn off. That was also the day I finally settled on a pen name – R. M. Archer – since I kind of needed to know what name to put on the cover. That’s just a little important, you know?

I finally finalized my synopsis on April 19th, which I was happy about because I really don’t do well with synopsis writing, and I was happy to have one that worked.

So now I’m getting closer and closer to accomplishing the goal I’ve had since I was about twelve of having a book published, and it’s extremely exciting and it’s been quite an adventure. I’ve learned a lot about my writing and I’ve gotten so much encouragement from family and friends and it’s just been super cool. I’m really anxious to see this project completed and be able to hold my book in my hands with a gleaming cover and… it’s just going to be awesome when it’s completed and all of the hard work that’s gone into it has paid off.

The Dust Thief – Short Story Sunday

The Dust Thief – Short Story Sunday

This is a short story I wrote a while ago as a backstory for one of my characters. It has a sad ending, fair warning.

 

Chapter 1

He stepped into the bustling tavern, looking around at everyone and looking for one man in particular. After a moment he saw him, sitting alone in the corner, his hood pulled low over his face. Leo walked over to him and took a seat across from him at the table.

“I have the dust,” he told the go-between, pulling a vial from his cloak and handing it to the man.

The man took it and looked it over.

“This is not what the master requested.”

“What do you mean? It’s the Glowmine Dust. I got it for him just as he requested.”

“No. He asked for the barrel, not the vial.”

“I’m sorry. I must have misheard.”

“There is no mishearing when it comes to the master, understand? If you mess up, he is not forgiving.”

“I will make it right.”

“You’d better. You have half an hour to retrieve the barrel of Glowmine Dust. That is all. After that I must return to the master. I will either have what he wants or I will not. You better hope that I do.”

“Half an hour?! That’s impossible! It cannot be done!”

“And yet it must. If I were you I would leave now so that you have the most time possible. Go.”

Leo nodded and rushed out of the tavern toward the Glowmine where he’d gotten the vial. He’d have to steal a barrel, and he’d have to be quick about it. But it was mining hours, and the miners would be everywhere. He’d just have to hope that they weren’t alert. They were usually absorbed in their work, so it shouldn’t be a problem, but Leo still worried.

He entered the mine and crept along the wall toward the Dust chamber. He reached the chamber without running into any Miners, which seemed odd. There should have been someone on that route, yet there wasn’t. He reached the Dust chamber door and peered in through the keyhole. That was why he hadn’t run into anyone. All of the mine council members were assembled in the Dust chamber. When there was a council meeting, all the miners were sent to the Delta section.

“…Gone.”

“Why’d they take a mere vial of Dust? Why not more?”

“The stuff is potent. They wouldn’t need much. Probably they didn’t want to go to the trouble of getting a larger container.”

Leo sucked in a breath. They’d found the vial missing. But why? It was a mere vial.

“Potent stuff” the one council member had said. But it just glowed. Right? Maybe not…

Leo jumped as the council members began heading for the door and ran off down the corridor, exiting the mine and running all the way back to the tavern to talk to the go-between.

“Did you get it?” he asked.

Leo shook his head, out of breath.

“They found the vial missing. They’re going to come after me. I couldn’t get the barrel.”

“The master will be very disappointed in you. I’ll just have to tell him you were sloppy. I wouldn’t want to be you when he finds out.”

The go-between stood up and prepared to leave.

“Wait! Please! If the miners find me they’ll kill me! You can’t just leave me!”

“I can, and I am. The miners are your problem. You were sloppy, now you’re paying for it. Now if you’ll excuse me I must inform the master of your failure.”

Leo watched as the go-between left the tavern, leaving him alone to sort out his problems.

 

Leo headed home, stepping in the door to see his little brother Axel running up to hug him. He smiled as the little boy wrapped his arms around Leo’s legs.

“Hey there, buddy.”

“Hewwo, Weo. I wuv you.”

“I love you too, buddy.” Leo patted Axel’s head.

“How was work?” Leo’s mother asked, walking in, wiping her hands on a dish towel.

“It didn’t go so well. I think I got fired.”

“You think?”

“It’s a long story.”

His mother nodded and placed a now-dry hand on his shoulder.

“It’ll be all right.”

Leo nodded, not so sure.

“Thanks, mom.”

She gave him a reassuring smile and picked up Axel, carrying him with her into the kitchen.

“You want to help me fix dinner?” Leo heard her ask Axel.

“Yeah! Cooking!”

Leo smiled and headed to his room, taking a seat on his bed and picking up a notebook and opening it. His schoolwork for the day was written in black ink and he sighed. The work never ended.

“Leo, would you like to help with dinner, too?” his mother called.

“Will it get me out of schoolwork?”

His mother laughed.

“Just for tonight, since you had a rough day. But this is a one-time deal.”

“Thanks, mom.”

Leo closed the notebook and set it aside, heading into the kitchen. Axel was standing on a stool mixing up a salad, half of which was ending up on the floor, and his mother was kneading bread dough, flour dusting her apron, face, and hair.

“What do you need me to do?”

“You can put the cake in the oven.”

“Cake? What’s the occasion?”

His mother laughed.

“It’s your father’s birthday, silly.”

“Oh, it’s his birthday already? I didn’t realize.”

“Obviously.”

He smiled and picked up the cake pan, sliding it into the oven.

“When is dad getting home, anyway? He’s late.”

“I asked his boss to assign him some extra work and keep him busy until supper’s ready. I didn’t want him to see the cake too soon.”

Leo nodded and walked over to Axel, tickling him.

Axel laughed and almost knocked the salad bowl off the counter.

“Oops,” Leo said, laughing and picking up the toddler, swinging him over his shoulder, and tickling him some more.

“Don’t forget to let him breath in between,” his mom said with a smile, grabbing the rolling pin and starting to roll out the dough.

“I won’t.”

He let up on the tickling for a moment and then started at it again, loving the sound of his brother’s laughter.

“Stop it!” Axel said through his laughter, “Please!”

Leo stopped and set Axel on the ground.

“I wuv your tickles, Weo.”

Leo smiled.

“And I love tickling you.”

Axel smiled, lighting up his whole face.

“I wuv you.”

“I love you too, buddy.”

Leo kissed Axel on the top of his head and turned to his mother.

“Anything else?”

“Can you grab the tomato sauce?”

“Are you fixing pizza?”

She smiled.

“Your father’s favorite.”

Leo kissed his mom on the flour-covered cheek and walked over to grab the tomato sauce from the cupboard, glancing out the window as he did so. He started. There were half a dozen black-clad men looking in.

“Mom, are we expecting company?”

“No, why?”

“No reason.”

He handed her the tomato sauce, forcing a smile, and headed for the back door, stepping into the yard and walking over to the men.

“Who are you?”

“We work for the master.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Waiting.”

“For what?”

“You’ll see. Go back inside before we’re forced to hurt you.”

“Not until you tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that. Go inside.”

“No!”

Leo heard the back door open and fear gripped his chest. They couldn’t come outside. It wasn’t safe.

He ran back to the door and almost collided with his mother. She put a hand to her chest.

“Goodness! What’s the matter?”

“You can’t come out here.”

“Why not?”

“You just… You just can’t.”

“But I need to pick my oregano for the pizza!”

“I’ll do it. You go back inside.”

She looked at him, befuddled.

“All right…”

She turned to head inside, glancing back at him in confusion before entering. He let out a sigh of relief.

He walked over to the oregano bush, trying to keep an eye on the men at the same time, and picked some of the herb, heading back inside with one last look over his shoulder. As he stepped inside, one of them smiled. It was a smile that chilled him to the core, and as the door swung shut he shivered.

 

Chapter 2

“Here’s the oregano,” he said, handing it to his mother.

“Thank you,” she replied with a concerned smile. “Why did you want me inside so bad?”

“No reason. I just didn’t want you out in the cold.”

“Leo, it’s March. It’s not particularly cold.”

“Still, it’s chilly, and I know how easily you catch cold.”

She pursed her lips.

“I do not, and you know it. I very rarely catch a cold, or any sickness for that matter. What’s going on, Leo?”

“I’ll explain it all later. Let’s just enjoy the evening, shall we? There’s no reason to worry dad. Or for you to worry, for that matter. It’s nothing. Let’s just forget the whole thing.”

She looked at him suspiciously for a moment more and went back to the pizza.

“Who are the men outside?” Axel asked.

Oh no. He saw them.

“What men, honey?” their mom asked.

“The men in black that are standing in the yard.”

She looked out the window.

“Oh dear. I’m not sure.” She turned to Leo. “That’s why you didn’t want me to go outside, isn’t it? Who are they?”

“I’m not entirely sure, but I have a bad feeling about them and I didn’t want you to be put in danger.” It was almost the truth.

“Thank you for trying to protect me, sweetheart.”

She smiled over at him, a tight smile that told him she was still worried.

“Of course.”

“Can you get Axel cleaned up and take him over to see your father? Maybe you three can go to the market and keep your father busy.”

Leo hesitated.

“But what if the men decide to attack you? I can’t leave you alone.”

“I can take care of myself. Run along. You don’t want your father coming home early.”

“I’d rather he come home early than you be hurt.”

She sighed, opening the oven and sliding the pizza onto the rack.

“All right. But can you please get Axel cleaned up anyway? Maybe the two of you can play a game while I finish supper.”

“A game! Can we pway Hunters and Knights? Can we?”

Leo smiled down at Axel, who was jumping up and down next to his legs.

“All right. Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Axel beamed and skipped off down the hallway to the bathroom. Leo glanced back to his mother, who gave him a reassuring smile, before dutifully following.

 

Leo finished washing Axel’s hands and face just as the front door opened.

“Daddy!” Axel yelled, running out of the bathroom and back toward the kitchen. Leo followed, though at a significantly slower pace, and saw his father entering the kitchen with a smile and picking up Axel, while his mother gave him a disapproving look.

“You’re not supposed to be home yet,” she said.

“Sorry.” He sniffed the air. “Is that pizza I smell?”

“Pizza and chocolate cake.”

“Thank you, Mia.”

She nodded.

“It’s the least I can do for a man who’s put up with me for fifteen years.” She smiled.

He set Axel down and walked over to her, kissing her forehead.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Leo looked down at Axel.

“I’m not sure this will ever not be awkward.”

Axel looked up at him and nodded.

“Yeah.”

Leo chuckled.

“Do you even know what that means?”

Axel shook his head.

“Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes. Why don’t we do presents while we wait?” Mia suggested.

“That’s a good idea,” Leo agreed, picking Axel up and carrying him into the living room.

Mia and Xavier followed, taking a seat on the couch next to their sons. Mia reached over the arm of the couch and picked up three packages, handing them to Xavier.

“Here you go. Axel got excited and wanted to give you two presents. Leo forgot it was your birthday.”

Xavier gasped, feigning shock.

“How could you forget?!”

Leo laughed.

“Sorry, dad. I knew it was coming up, but I didn’t realize it was so soon.”

Xavier reached over and ruffled Leo’s hair with a smile.

“It’s all right, son.”

He looked down at the packages.

“Which one should I open first?”

“Save mine for last,” Mia requested.

“The wittle one! The wittle one!” Axel said, bouncing up and down.

Xavier opened it with a smile to see a rolled up piece of paper. He unrolled it and started to read the scrawled print.

“No, daddy! I sing it!” Axel took the piece of paper and began to sing the song he’d written.

“Daddy, I wuv you. I wuv you a wot. I’m so happy it’s your birfday, and I wanted to sing you dis song. I wuv you, Daddy. I’m glad you’re my daddy. I hope you’re wif me fowever. I wuv you.”

Xavier smiled over at Axel as the song finished.

“That’s very sweet. I love you too.”

He reached over and hugged the little boy, who was beaming.

As he began to tear open the second gift, the back door slammed and several sets of footsteps sounded in the kitchen, coming toward the living room.

“What on earth?” Xavier said, setting the packages aside and standing up, facing the kitchen as the men from the back yard stormed in, each with a dagger in his hand.

“Do not mess with The Master!” the lead one declared, walking over to Xavier and attempting to slit his throat. Xavier caught his hands just in time and held them back.

“Protect your mother and brother!” he yelled to Leo, who was already standing beside his mother, clutching Axel close.

“Resistance is futile!” one of the men said, walking around to Mia and cutting her throat.

Leo stared at the blood in shock and clutched Axel tighter.

Xavier’s arms began to give.

“Protect him! Protect Axel!”

Then his arms gave way and his throat was cut.

Leo stared at his parents’ still forms and then looked at the men, who were closing in.

“No. This can’t be happening.”

The men stepped forward and tried to wrench Axel from his grasp.

“No! Weo! Don’t let them take me! Weo! Hewp! Pwease!”

Leo had tears running down his face as he tried to keep a grasp on his brother. But he wasn’t strong enough. The men took Axel and cut his throat, discarding him on the couch and sneering at Leo before leaving.

Leo screamed and fell to his knees next to his brother, sobbing.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t save him. I let him down. I let them all down. I wasn’t strong enough. It’s my fault…

He sat there crying until he couldn’t take it anymore and then ran out of the house and didn’t stop running until his legs gave out a couple of miles outside the city.

I have to get away. I have to leave.

He sat there only as long as he had to and then started running again, never looking back.

Character Development

Character Development

Character development is something that I really enjoy in writing. I enjoy getting to know the characters, being surprised by them, falling in love with them or being repulsed by them, some of my characters even scare me. Characters are the first thing I notice in a story, because they’re the main part of the story, possibly even more than the plot itself. They’re who the story centers around and you have to be able to at least tolerate them for the entirety of the book. Unfortunately, I’ve read some books that I could only go so far as to tolerate the characters of, or whose characters downright annoyed me. So how do we get to know our characters inside out so that we can make readers love our characters? (Make is a bit harsher a word than I want, but I’m not thinking of one that fits at the moment.)

In this post I’ll cover some exercises that can help us really get to know our characters.

To begin I’m going to say that I agree with Shaelin from ShaelinWrites on YouTube in that I think you get to know your characters best by writing them. I suggest watching her video on exercises to develop characters, because it’s really good. I really like her whole channel, actually, though there are rare occasions on which when uses the S-word, which I would warn you of before you start watching them. Further warning, I can’t in good conscience recommend the videos that include her brother because he cusses more, and in one (Writing High Fantasy) he drops an F-bomb, which is really a shame because otherwise it’s a really great video, but overall her channel is cleaner than some other writing channels I’ve seen. Anyway, that turned into an unexpectedly long bunny trail. *cough* Let’s get back on track, shall we?

I think you get to know characters best by writing them, and so most of the tips and tricks in here will probably have to do with writing your characters in one way or another.

Since I linked to Shaelin’s video I’ll just give short explanations of the methods laid out in said video, in case you’re not going to watch it, and if you’d like them expanded on you can watch the video.

The first method she suggests is basically word association. You make a list of things that remind you of your character. The second method is to grab a list of adages (curiosity killed the cat, the early bird gets the worm, a watched pot never boils, etc.) and write how your character would feel about these adages. Would they agree or disagree with them? Method number three is to write scenes about your character. They can be scenes from the book, or just random situations that you throw your character into and see how they react to. The last method she suggests is to make a pyramid of motivations, which I can’t really explain and you’ll have to watch the video to get explained.

And now we get into my suggestions. One of the things I do the most to flesh out a character is to role play (RP) with them. I tend to RP with my best friend since she’s also a writer and I don’t really have many other people to RP with, and we just toss our characters together and see what happens in certain situations. We have soooo many RPs going at once it’s not even funny. A lot of them end up neglected, and the majority of them focus on the same core group of characters that we call “The Squad,” but that’s not something I suggest, lol. It’s better to play around with different characters, see how they react to different people, different situations, etc. Some will get along really well and some just… won’t, just like in real life, and it’s really interesting to see those relationships unfold. A couple of my characters and hers have actually gotten married to each other in alternate timelines, so… yeah. AUs (Alternate Universes) for the win!

You can also use character profiles. These can be more or less helpful depending on what questions are on it. I’ve actually learned a lot about characters from templates that have deeper questions, while more shallow ones are just a “laundry list of facts,” as Shaelin calls them. They’re not really helpful. So if you can find a really extensive, deep character profile, I suggest filling it out and seeing what you learn about your character. The only downside to these long ones is the fact that they can be really tedious to fill out. I have one that works well for me that a friend of mine gave me and I altered slightly, and while it’s really, really helpful, I also occasionally have to take breaks when filling it out because it’s so extensive. And there are some that are a happy medium, and those are pretty good, too. Again, it depends on what questions are asked.

These are the best ways I’ve found to develop characters, and hopefully they’re helpful for you as well. :)

Farewell to July

Farewell to July

Hey guess what! This makes three monthly wrap-up posts in a row! Hooray!

July’s Writing

July was Camp NaNoWriMo, as most if not all of you know, and my project was to finish The Heart of the Baenor. I did not accomplish that goal, unfortunately, but I still made my 20k goal and even upped it to 40k and won that. I started the Dark War Trilogy, against my better judgement, and I’m really loving it so far. I adore the characters, as with many of my stories.

In addition, I started a dystopian story that I’m keeping on a back burner as something to work on when I’m really stuck with something else, and I began a collaboration story with my best friend set in Wonderland, which we’re both really excited about. The basic premise is that key Wonderland characters are dying, and the eight MCs have to take their places, which begins with a quest for relics for each of them. It’s really fun.

July’s Reading

I’ve read a lot this month. I finally managed to get to my library, which resulted in a stack of books to read, and I’ve finished all but one of those.

The first thing I finished was High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks, which is the first in his latest trilogy, I believe. He may have started another one since. It was really good, and I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

After that was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which was excellent. Five stars for that one.

Next was Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Ann without an E! D:), which got three stars. It seemed a bit too much like Maze Runner for my taste and finished on a sufficiently tied-up ending, so I don’t plan on reading the next one.

I also read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, which was pretty good. Four stars.

Before Red Queen, actually, was The Giver by Lois Lowry. I absolutely fell in love with that one. It’s one of few books that made me feel. I nearly cried near the end, and that’s something that happens even less than feeling in general at books.

I also read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, which I technically finished in August, but most of it was read in July, so I’m listing it here anyway. I’ve been trying to get a hold of this one for a long time so I could read it, and I was finally able to get it from my library. It’s usually checked out the times I go to the library. :P I really liked this one, too, and gave it five stars. There were a few things I could have done without – sporadic language, some suggestive dialogue, gore that went a bit farther in-depth than it needed to – but overall it was really good. There was a love triangle, but it was well-handled and I could tolerate it, even though the MC gravitates toward the wrong one, in my opinion.

If you’d like to see reviews of any of these books, let me know and I’d be happy to write them. :)

The Ways My Writing Has Grown

Today I came across an essay I wrote earlier this school year about my writing journey. At this point it’s slightly outdated, but only slightly, and it’s a good summary of my writing and how it has grown and all that good stuff. I think it’s a pretty good essay, and fairly enjoyable as essays go, so I decided I’d share it with you guys. It’s from last November.

My Writing Life Essay

My want to write began with reading. I have always been an avid reader, and my reading has heavily influenced my writing, as well as the other way around. At this point I have divided my writing into different eras. The “totally crashed and burned era,” the “this could use a lot of work era,” the “this has a lot of potential but needs to be improved era,” and the current era which is “this is probably better than it seems like to me.” So this essay will be divided into those categories.

The basic focus of this essay is to show how my writing has progressed over the years. I didn’t become a good writer overnight. For “show, don’t tell” purposes, I’ll also have an excerpt or two at the end of each category.

The “Totally Crashed and Burned” Era

My first reading phase was mystery, so that’s what I started writing. I think I was about six when I wrote my first mystery. It was a disaster. It so totally crashed and burned that I later threw it away, and now I wish I had not. I had no concept of originality back then. I did not create new characters, I did not create new settings, nothing. It was all “borrowed.” Maybe it is good that I got rid of it, after all.

Later on I wrote a play, which I performed in my church talent show. This was also a disaster, though not quite as horrible as my mystery story. I was about eight at the time, I think.

I did create new characters for that one. Ruby, Rose, Lily, and Lilac, I think were the main character’s names. Lily and Lilac were sisters, as were Ruby and Rose. But the villains were Baron Raymondo, “borrowed” from Sid Meier’s Pirates, and Captain Hook, obviously “borrowed” from Neverland. Except that I made them brothers. I really liked the idea of siblings in that play.

The play was interesting to put on. I got several girls from the church to be in it, as well as Sophia and Dad, and at one point we forgot our lines. The crowd laughed, I think. If I remember correctly, we did eventually remember what we were supposed to say.

It was a lot of fun, even if the story was not that great.

Next came the notebooks, and the terrible, awful, no good, horrifyingly bad, laughable short stories.

My first notebook, I believe, was blue with colorful flowers on it, and it is chock full of terrible. The Snow-Globe Boy is the first entry in there, and the title is only a taste of the laughable horror within. I think I was about seven when I wrote this. It’s about a boy who gets stuck in a snow globe by his evil stepmother. Hmm. That doesn’t sound cliché at all!

And on top of that, I “borrowed” characters again. I was apparently still in love with the Boxcar Children.

After that we have the Taravina Trilogy: The Quest for Taravina, A Princess for Taravina, and A New King for Taravina.

Yep. They are just as cheesy as you would imagine. Apparently I had entered my fantasy reading phase. Two things show this. Number one: It’s a fantasy genre story. Number two: It was heavily inspired by the Kingdom of Landover series by Terry Brooks.

At this point I am considering rewriting them, or at least the first one, and seeing how they are improved or changed or whatever. Being the write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer that I am, there is no telling how different it will be when it is finished.

There are a couple of other stories in there, but I will not bore you by telling you every single story I have written. I will just pull out the highlights.

The next notebook, I believe, is the black composition book. This one came into being after my aunt published her book Prompts and I started working through it. This, on retrospect, is a rather peculiar way to use the book.

Probably the cheesiest piece in this book is The Quest for Topazia. Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. It follows a brother and sister as they find two aunts they never knew existed and go on a journey to save said aunts’ homeland. I told you it was stupidly cheesy.

One that’s not quite so terrible, mostly boring, and takes up probably the largest chunk of the notebook, is The Duke’s Daughters. I still had a peculiar fascination with associating names with colors. The main character has eight sisters: Violet, Grace, Lila, Abigail, Emma, Iris, Bella, and Daisy; and her name is Willow. The first three like purple, the next two like brown, the two after them like pink, Daisy likes yellow, and Willow likes green. All based on their names.

The story focuses on Willow finding her great-great-great-great-grandmother’s old ballet shoes and starting ballet lessons. Now, writing something like that would bore me to tears.

And in this notebook, you can watch my handwriting improve over two pages. On one, my handwriting is huge and my descenders do not descend. On the next, it is much smaller and my descenders are written as they are meant to be. It is wild to see. And then on the next page, it has grown larger again. Excitement, perhaps?

Ah, the Zarwald. It is perhaps one of the most prominent of my stories in my mind. The whole thing began with one starting paragraph.

“Out of the shadows came two glowing red eyes. I could feel the evilness of the air, hear the venom dripping from the creature’s fangs onto the cold stone floor. I could smell the slimy foulness of its skin.”

It is still possibly one of my most descriptive paragraphs. I wrote it when I was about eight, I believe, and I cannot remember where the inspiration came from. I wish I could.

Part of that story was heavily influenced by the transporter books of Myst. Video games have actually been a rather large part of my inspiration for my books, Myst and Legend of Zelda being chief of those.

As evidence of my terrible writing skills back then, here is an excerpt of dialogue from The Snow-Globe Boy.

“Hi Henry,” she said, “You have grown a lot!”

“Thank you. Could you please set me free?”

And just a line of narration.

 Suddenly, the inhabitants were all set free and enlarged again.

I mean, it was really crappy writing.

The Half-Elves

Talk of video game inspiration brings us to our next notebook, the white doodly one. This notebook is in my top five favorites. Why? Because this is where The Half-Elves began. Do you remember how I said that the Zarwald was possibly one of the most prominent of my stories? Well The Half-Elves takes the title of absolute most prominent. In my mind, there is sort of a hierarchy of distinction that my stories are placed upon, and The Half-Elves is on the top of that hierarchy.

The Half-Elves was begun perhaps seven years ago. I finished the first draft three years ago. This story has been five years in the making, and never once have I gone back and started the whole thing over. At least not for more than a few pages. If I were to rewrite The Half-Elves completely, it would no longer be The Half-Elves.

This story was inspired by the Legend of Zelda games. In fact, it was originally a fan fiction starring Link and Zelda’s children. However, I have since removed it from any association with that and it is now in its own world of The Hylands.

The Hylands have become perhaps like a second home to me. The characters are like family. The series has one second draft – my only second draft – as well as three first drafts and plans for eight more. It is so hard for me to let the series go, because it is so a part of me at this point. I would feel like I was abandoning the characters if I let it go. Perhaps that is odd.

The Half-Elves is the only story in which I ever worried for a character, and that was when Crimson Arun nearly died. Never have I felt so attached to characters or to a series as I have with The Half-Elves, except perhaps with the characters of the Shades and the Elect.

In fact, at this very moment, as well as for the past couple of days, I have had this odd urge to write the third draft of The Half-Elves. I hate editing, yet I really want to edit this story, because I want it to be polished. I want it to be ready to be shared with others, because I want them to love it as much as I do. For now I’ll just settle for giving you a little taste of it with an excerpt.

A clever display, wasn’t it?” He asked, though it was more of a brag than a question.

“A bit showy for my taste.” Elk responded, not moving.

“Please, have a seat, make yourself comfortable. We want you healthy so that you can go save them.”

“You want me healthy? Why not just kill me?”

“Oh, what’s the fun of that?”

“I don’t know. You could throw me in an arena with lions first and watch the fight.”

“That’s actually a good idea, I might do that.” Homare hesitated, “No, King Julius wants you in perfect condition when you see him in the Temple of Time tomorrow.”

I love it when my characters banter. Especially protagonists and antagonists.

I feel like this whole section has perhaps come across a little odd, but I’ve always been a little odd, so that’s no surprise. But in case you’re tired of my weirdness, let’s move on.

The “This Could Use a Lot of Work” Era

We’re still in the white doodly notebook, but past the sixteen pages of Half-Elves. We’ve now reached The Adventures of Ferara Willoughby.

This one stemmed from a dream, I remember, and it was a rather intriguing dream regarding a Christmas tree and a few staffs. Translated into a story, it became three college students and three staffs, each one with a different power, and all three together resulting in a portal to another world.

It could use some work, particularly in deciding on a good other world to use as a destination. The original idea was Camelot, but I know so little about Camelot that it would be a terrible choice. I have plenty of my own worlds to choose from, but that is kind of the problem.

If I were to finally decide on a destination, it could definitely be interesting.

In the yellow wire-bound notebook – which was originally begun thanks to a history project of writing historical fiction set in the Civil War – we have very little that is worthwhile. But we do have one story, and that is The Storm Slayer.

Another one that could be really interesting with some work, this one focuses on a woman who can protect people from storms and kills the storm hounds that accompany each storm. It is a rather interesting system, but I have no idea where to take the story yet.

 

Excerpt:

Dark clouds rolled across the sky, obscuring any trace of light.

“I think it’s going to storm.” Jilliana warned.

“There’s only a fifty percent chance of rain.” Her friend, Sabrina, objected. A chilling wind swept across the forest, scaring Sabrina.

“We’d better find shelter.” Jilliana struggled to be heard over a roll of thunder.

A bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree accompanied by a thunderclap that could be heard for miles. In the flash of light, Jilliana spotted a cave with an opening big enough for a person to fit through.

“There.” She pointed.

They rushed into the cave just as a torrent of rain started pouring down.

The “This Has a Lot of Potential but Needs to be Improved” Era

Most of the stories of this era are on my computer, and many have been moved to my “Archives” folder. This means I’ve shelved them for the time being and thus may never look at them again.

Most of the stories from this era are set in Concordia, probably my second favorite country, which really just means I was too lazy at the time I wrote them to actually come up with a setting to put them in or to pull out a map of an existing country of mine and follow it.

We have, for instance, The Uprisers. This one focuses on a group of kids who were chosen to join a school for those who protect Concordia using tech. This one is on the border between “this has a lot of potential” and “this needs a lot of work” eras, but I’m going to put it here.

A better story for this category would be Dragon of Chaos. It focuses on dragon riders who are plagued by a Chaos that throws the entire dragon rider community into disorder. I won’t give away the whole plot, obviously. It began as The Dragon Riders – how creative – and then I decided to rewrite it and came up with the new title, which I was super excited about because titles never come to me. There have been only four titles that have merely come to me that I liked, and three belong to a trilogy, which we’ll talk about later.

The characters in The Dragon Riders were cardboard, but when I started writing Dragon of Chaos, they came to life better. The chatterbox, for instance, was actually a chatterbox instead of someone who is just kind of there in the background and does nothing. But my action writing just flew out the window on that one, which isn’t good when you’re dealing with dragons and riders struck by chaos.

The same could be said of Outlaws of Thesbia. It really focuses more on the politicians of a particular province than on the outlaws, because the politicians are more interesting than the outlaws. This both annoys me and kind of scares me. It annoys me because the outlaws are supposed to be the focus, and it scares me because I don’t want to write a book about politics. I want to write a book about an adventure. So the whole thing is just a mess. However, the book does have a lot of potential if I can just get past those roadblocks.

Excerpt:

    It was a rainy day when Licilla and her father went to Teardale. He was a merchant from Cythera, and after years of her asking, he finally let her come along on one of his trips. When the merchants lowered the gangplank and stepped down onto the cracked boards of the dock, Licilla went with them. The boards felt slimy beneath the thin leather soles of her boots.

As soon as she saw the people of the city, her heart broke. The first woman she saw looked uneasily at the merchants and grabbed her son, hurrying along.

The woman’s eyes were sad, and her brown curls were muddy and tousled. Her threadbare tunic was too big and pulled at her slumped shoulders. Her leather pants were torn at the knees and stopped far above the bare feet, their edges jagged.

Her son was no better off. His sandy hair was as muddy and scraggly as his mother’s, his tunic no less threadbare. His pants, however, were too big, and held up by a rope tied about his waist.

All of the people were the same, tired, worried, and poor. Their skin was tight against their bones, and they were obviously underfed. The men often went shirtless, giving their tunics to their wives to protect their modesty. None of the clothing fit its wearer, whether it was too small or too large, and everything was torn. No one wore shoes, and the children ran through the mud in their bare feet to get to a grove of leafless trees.

The “This Is Probably Better than I Think It Is” Era

Ah, the current writing era. How exciting. Not really. I have so many roadblocks lately!

The first of my current stories is House of Mages. Remember that trilogy of titles I told you about? Yeah, this is the trilogy. The Mage of Thorns Trilogy: House of Mages, House of Thorns, and House of Elves.

Or at least, that was the idea. Now it is just House of Mages. The plots of all three books snuck their way into the first one and now there’s nothing else to write. That is it.

First all three plots snuck into one, and then a secondary character hijacked the plot and completely took over the role of main character. On top of all that, my climax didn’t climax properly and I can’t figure out how to end it.

On the bright side, I like the characters and the basic plot.

My second current project is Aftershocks and Anarchy. This one is a post-apocalyptic America and the birth of Concordia. This one stemmed from a theory I had that perhaps Concordia was not its own country at all, but a post-apocalyptic America. Plus I had a post-apocalyptic story that I had already started and that was not going well, so I just took the characters from there and plopped them down into Aftershocks and Anarchy. Voila, instant origin story.

Supposedly. Honestly, I have no idea what my characters should do. How do you go about rebuilding America after Yellowstone Caldera erupts?

Excerpt:

Dillon Thompson walked around the ruins of the Library of Congress. Books lay scattered every which way, and some were torn apart or charred. A thin layer of dust and ash coated everything, and the whole place looked like it had been abandoned for years, not days.

He brushed a hand through his red curls and heaved a sigh. It would take a while to clean up this mess.

He started from where he was and picked up the books, dusting them off lovingly and setting them back on the shelves.

Heels clicked on the marble floor near the door and Dillon looked over to see a woman walking in.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“No, not really. I was just looking for someplace to stay while the ash settles. I was just visiting when the earthquakes hit. I came to see the Library actually.” She chuckled. “I guess there’s not much to see, now. Need any help with the books?”

Dillon glanced around at the scattered books.

“Yeah. I could use some help. Thanks.”

Watching My Writing Growth

On a brighter, more interesting, less story-based note, let us talk about my writing growth, which is really what I wanted this paper to show.

My writing began with a terrible mystery story and a play, and now I am standing here telling you about dozens of other stories I have written over the years. With so many years of doing this, there is no possible way that there has not been growth. And I can see that there has been. You have to start somewhere. You have to start with that crappy, so-bad-you-threw-it-in-the-garbage draft. You can’t just put pen to paper and magically be an amazing writer.

I have been writing for eight years at least and I am still not an amazing writer! I’m far from it! But if you allow yourself to start badly and to grow from it, you will eventually be a good writer. You will run into roadblocks all the time, I can tell you that. You will want to cry, laugh, gag, or some combination of the above at your old writing, but you will also watch it grow.

In my first stories, I had no original characters. In my later stories, I had names that were far too similar and confuse me, not even to mention other people. Now I have original characters with backgrounds and cool names and feelings. I have characters that I can get overly attached to, despite the fact that they’re fictional.

My writing itself was terrible most of the time. Just look at my excerpt from The Snow-Globe Boy!

Now I can write a snippet of back story like this:

It’s fifteen years ago. He and his parents have just returned from the hospital with his baby sister. His dead baby sister.

His mother is sobbing in the kitchen, and his father is trying to console her. Alick has no intention of doing anything but going up to his room and going to bed. Maybe it’s all been a nightmare. A terrible, hellish nightmare.

But when he wakes in the morning, nothing has changed. His mother no longer has a baby bump, and her eyes are red and swollen from staying up all night crying. His father doesn’t look much better as he nearly misses his mug with the coffee pot. His hair is a rumpled mess, and his eyes are bleary.

Alick bursts into tears. He can’t help it. His baby sister is gone forever.

His mother starts crying immediately after and he feels guilty for making her cry.

“Is she really gone? Marie is gone?”

His mother sobs harder, and his father nods.

“Yes, son. She’s gone.”

Mark walks over to his wife and rubs her shoulders, trying to calm her.

“It’s okay, Sharol. Everything is going to be okay.”

“No! It’s not okay! My baby is… My baby’s dead.”

“When are the services?” Alick asks, not wanting to upset his mother further, but wanting to know when this nightmare will be over. But he knows it will never truly end.

“This evening,” his father replies.

“I have to go clean up,” his mother says, wiping her eyes and heading up the stairs.

“I’m sorry, Dad.”

“For what?”

“I upset Mom. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I thought maybe it was a nightmare, but it’s all real. How can this be real?”

He teared up again and his dad walked over to hug him.

“Oh, son. It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault. And I don’t know how this is real. I don’t know why God did this to us. But all His plans will be revealed in the end.”

It is just fascinating to me to watch how my writing has grown and changed over the years.

Conclusion

So basically, don’t give up. Whatever you do, whether it’s writing or otherwise, don’t give up. Even if you’re bad at it now, you won’t get better by never doing it. You learn by doing. So get out there and grow!

 

Afterword

In addition to the eras mentioned above, there is also now another era that currently has no name, which I entered into in about March, and all of my current writing fits into that era. My deep worldbuilding project and my aim with The Heart of the Baenor to include more description and internal dialogue into my writing did spectacular things for my writing, and looking back on my earliest writings and then back to my current projects is just incredible. I’ve grown so much since then and it’s amazing to me.

Anyway, I hope this blog post was enjoyable and not too terribly long (3,985 words. :O), and I hope to see you back here soon. :)