First of all—I want to thank Ellen Mandeville for inviting me to participate in this wonderful blog tour. Secondly, I’d like to apologize for my tardiness in posting. My life got a little wonky the last few weeks, and I found it difficult to coordinate things—
I know, I know. Poor excuse. But, it’s all I‘ve got. So, I’ m sorry Ellen for the delay.
What am I working on?
Hmm…what am I working on? Have you ever felt like you are working on everything at once and nothing in particular? I think that is what the last month or so has felt like for me. Seriously though, I am different points of process on several projects right now.
Right now, as of this very moment, I am dealing with a few tiny lingering changes on a final proof for Blue Eyes at Night, Book Two in my dark medieval fantasy series, The Crusader. I think—God willing—that I will be able to publish it in very short order (short seems to have a different definition for publishers and writers than the rest of the world).
But, what is really going on in my brain and taking all my time is two other projects:
- I am working through edits on my book, Schade of Night (Book One of the Schade Lee Series). It is a paranormal contemporary fantasy book that I am hopeful to publish soon (in relative terms). It is exciting for me because it is different from my typical writing, which is usually, medieval-type heroic fantasy, and the first time I have attempted a female lead. And let me tell you, I think Schade Rocks!
- I am also in process of working on writing Knight Rescue (Book Three in The Crusader series). This book is exciting because I am getting to know some of the supporting characters better as we continue with Aaron’s quest for redemption and vengeance, and continue to see him dealing with the emotional challenges that come with war. I love writing this little series. It is just fun and dark and Aaron is an interesting guy struggling with all kinds of things—but most of all his own perceptions of himself and what constitutes honor.
And finally, I am just working on expanding my writing network, improving my blog and my facebook presence and looking for new ways to get my social media presence out there—the never ending challenge of brand building.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hmmm…that is a big question—Really big. I think every author brings their own style to things. There has been a trend in all genres to move toward these “formulaic” novels. But, I think that, if we were all honest, we would recognize that certain formulas and structures have been around since the beginning of storytelling (which, if my sources are correct, was a long time ago). The reason is simple—character development, plot development and story lines mean something, and the resolution of those developmental factors must mean something to our readers. If we get to far off, we create a product that is unreadable. Subconsciously, we as authors, tend to follow the same developmental cycles. I am no different.
Where I try to be different, and I try to take a break from other writers in my genres is in the details, in the feelings and emotions evoked by my writing. I am a lover of two things when it comes to writing: 1) the Gothic, and 2) Heroic Fiction (Odyssey and Iliad and such wonderful writings to cite the most well-known—but there are plenty examples).
In my writing I try to combine elements of both of these. The over-riding goal is to create bigger than life heroes that fight the darkness both inside themselves and without. I like troubled people, but I am not ok with them giving into their darker sides, like so much of todays (film and television) fiction. Their goal is to be better people, and to achieve their heroic ideals. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they don’t. But the struggle is always heroic, and generally tinted with the dark, overbearing undertones and other story elements and themes that are embedded in gothic fiction.
Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do because I love to create. There is so little in the world that is new. So little in the world that surprises us. Sure, life is difficult and meeting the challenges of life can be filled with difficulty and conflict, but it is mundane and normal. Drama that we encounter every day.
In our everyday life, we see cheating spouses, murders, new children, happy birthdays, drunken parties—all filled with fun and excitement and drama, but all still normal, mundane. What if we could cast these things in a back drop of world-changing events, or in a world of kings and princes, of magic and dragons and dark creatures of the undead? Suddenly dramatic events note even fit for the evening news become all-consuming events where thousands of lives are at stake, and we can’t stop reading.
I love fiction because we can become more than we are. Or less. We can create heroes, define morality, give the reader iconic goals to which they may aspire, tell the reader it’s ok to be less than perfect, and you can achieve anything.
I just love to write. And I love to read. So I write a lot. And I read a lot.
How does my writing process work?
My writing process has evolved over the decades from one that was very haphazard to a pretty structured process. This statement may sound like it means that there is a little creativity involved, but nothing can be further from the truth. Like anything in life, unstructured and un-harnessed creativity results in a bunch of ideas that never end up in a finished product—in our case, a finished story or book or article or whatever.
My writing process begins with capturing ideas. Ideas form and come to me all throughout my daily life, as watch TV or movies, spend time with my kids, go to work, read the paper, read books, see things, talk to people, listen to the radio–whatever. I capture all those ideas in my journal, which I take with me religiously.
First of all I development my primary characters — protagonist and antagonists, primarily. These are the most important attributes of my stories. If they suck, the story will suck, regardless of how well it is written and how well all the rest of the elements come together. (I generally don’t put as much emphasis on the secondary characters. They often times build from the primary characters and the story arch. But, sometimes, the just take over as I write.)
For each story, I create what I call my Story Problem. This has been called many things by many people, but I call it my Story Problem. It is a definition of intent—what the story is supposed to be about, in a nutshell. Jim Butcher calls this his Story Question—and I basically and unabashedly swiped it (Thanks goes to Jim, one of my favorite authors). It goes something like this:
When something happens, Your protagonist, Pursues a goal. But will he succeed when the antagonist provides opposition?
So, a basic one for my novella, The Crusader, might be:
When Aaron and the Dark Men’s mission to save the Holy City is betrayed, Aaron must pursue and stop the betrayer in order to save the Crusader army. But, will he succeed when a dangerous assassin and his own mentor try to murder him?
After I have developed my story problem, I develop my end state. Without an endstate, I find that I cannot remain focused on executing on the developmental aspects of the story. Writing becomes an unstructured exercise in writing pointless scenes that are not targeted to an ending. and so, it goes on forever with no end in sight. Ever.
This Story Problem and end state drive the entire novel. My very basic outline will be designed after, and the related character and story arch are highly influenced by the Story Problem. I think about it like this: My characters develop because they must deal with this problem. Their development occurs because of the crucible that the problem puts them through. The basic outline supports this.
And then I work diligently. I write every day. And I track my writing. Eventually. I finish. Then the real work begins. Often times, I stray from the outline and go off on tangents. I evaluate if I need or want those tangents and adjust my story accordingly.
For me, structure and goals are important. If I don’t have them, my story will die, lost in the woods with the goblins and the trolls.
I can’t emphasize enough that the hardest work for me is after I finish. The editing and re-write process is a BEAR. Reading your own work dozens of times, looking for errors is an exercise in love and patience that is unimaginably difficult, and critically important. I always recommend that authors use an independent editor before they ever submit anything. At least for me, it is clearly a necessary step if I don’t want my work to look like Shite!
The following Wonderful Authors are the next contributors on the Blog Tour (Thank you all for taking the time to share with us). These guys should be giving some more insight and ideas on their systems for writing and what helps them get past the dreaded 20,000 word block.
David has been writing as long as he can remember, winning a number of secretive awards too prestigious for you to have heard of. He currently lives in Utah with his wife and three children. Among his other published works are Heroes of the Fallen, Bless the Child, Whispers of the Goddess, Weird Tales of Horror, and the sci-fi horror collections of Space Eldritch 1 & 2 You can visit him online at:
Travis Ludvigson is the creator of The Nephilim Chronicles, a fantasy / supernatural fiction series surrounding the eternal struggle between the forces of light and darkness. In addition to writing, Travis has served in U.S. Air Force Intelligence, tested his fighting prowess in a Muay Thai bout in Asia and satisfied his need for adrenaline by leaping from airplanes and diving with sharks. you can find him at:
Alex James is a science-fiction and fantasy author who has Asperger Syndrome, and whose writing focuses on the themes of alienation and empowerment, which give unique qualities to many of his characters. He writes about these themes because they are familiar to him. For his first novel The Antpod Faction, he was inspired by Asperger Syndrome, which is a lifelong condition that can affect the way a person communicates and perceives the world. The Roc Isle series was inspired by author R Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy because of the war, military, and dark fantasy elements that were worth exploring.
you can find him on line here. http://alexjamesnovels.com/index.html
Until next time, I’ll keep the lantern lit.