I think the big question everyone has in mind for their favorite author is, “How did you ever get the idea for that story?”
I’m not saying I’m anyone’s favorite author. But I will tell you how I get my ideas for a story.
Usually the idea arises from a confluence of emotions and thoughts born out of context, memory, wishful thinking and a little imagination.
Imagine you’re driving to another state. Let’s pretend that you only have the radio to listen to (instead of your iPod, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes etc.) and when you cross the border your radio station of choice fizzles out. You tune the radio until you find something you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) but here’s the catch (there’s always a catch): it comes in short bursts of clarity followed by static and cross-interference from other station where you hear other voices too briefly and faintly to discern well.
That’s kind of how stories arise in my own mind. They come from witnessing my mind and the world around me. Both are broadcasting different things and sometimes they simply get jumbled up together. The fragments of static are usually the places I go looking most carefully.
This is pretty much how The Wizard & The Jewel came about. All I remember was reading the beginning of someone else’s book about a witch, a mystery cozy and it got me to thinking about Harry Potter and then I was thinking about Superman and next thing you know I was in a tizzy about our political system. Voila, the seeds for my next novel were planted.
Out of that jumbled mess is growing a fine tree of fantasy that I never in a million years would have guessed I would be writing. I can’t wait to share it with you all.
I’m willing to bet that other writers go through something like this in their own world when seeing the glimmer of their new novel in the rough so to speak.
One last thing. What I started out writing has changed a good bit from those initial pieces. But the core of them are still the foundational background.
Are you a writer? How do you get your ideas? Sound off in the comments below.
Once upon a time I held a larger audience spellbound with the kind of work I used to do. At that time I was big into auras and healing. I worked with that large audience mostly one on one. I cultivated a small following and got by on my entrepreneurial spirit and mystique.
Fast forward 10 years and things have changed. I’m not the same guy I used to be in that regard anymore. In fact, I’ve retired from that line of work altogether. I still sell the book, and sometimes I even pick it up and learn something about myself by reading it. But I’ve moved on. I’m interested in different stuff. I’m much more pulled to telling fictional stories.
That’s where I’m keeping my focus. I used to believe in fixating myself ‘as such and such’. It was an identity thing.
Many of us will go through identity crises in our lifetime if we’re lucky enough to. You might believe you’re this or that, but honestly in this world you’re really whoever you want to be. And with that sense of freedom comes a great responsibility and duty to find out what works for you for now, for a time. Maybe you’ll be doing the kind of work you’ve always dreamed of and it will be great until the day you die. But for many of you out there, it won’t work out like that. We’ll end up doing the stuff that has to get done whether we like it or not, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll pursue our dreams in our spare time. We’ll refer to our dreams as hobbies, craftsmanship, passion, or whatever else. That’s amazing.
The other day as I was barreling down the highway to meet with my sister it occurred to me that real artistic expression can take years. This led to another realization: art takes years in a society that values expediency and immediacy over quality much of the time. This isn’t to say that a quality product isn’t deeply appreciated by the masses, but it is to say we might not (collectively speaking) have the patience to wait on it. We’re on a never ending train of forward motion watching things pass by, getting fed up with the new thing and waiting for the new-new thing to come along instead.
Instead of speaking to the inner workings of this malcontent attitude of modernity I can instead say that old phrase in all earnestness: good things come to those who wait.
I’m still working on a couple of books. They’ve taken me a couple of years. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to rewrite from scratch the 3rd and final installment of the Owen Hunter Trilogy, even though I’ve written it twice already now.
The Wizard & The Jewel : The Chronicles of Ionor is currently in edit mode, and I may need to an a chapter and definitely get some kinks worked out before its released. It could be middle of next year before it makes an appearance in virtual bookstores.
For the first time in my life my audience has dwindled down to a bare nub. I’m fine with that. Hey, I’ll even encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. It’s over there on the sidebar near the top (a link to it is) and I’ll be so happy to know someone wants to read my works if you subscribe soon. I actually won’t send anything out until I have a new book release. So there’s that to comfort your inbox woes.
My life as a writer is ‘the fresh unknown’. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. And you don’t know much about me as a writer. Take a look here, here, and here for places where my books are sold. You might find something you’ll like to read.
Yesterday after work I took a nap. When I woke up and sat on the couch for a bit I surfed YouTube and found a brief Interview with Stephen King about short stories. I’ve written short stories before, I have a steadily building collection of them, in fact, but something the man said struck me.
“Writing short stories is how I started out. Sometimes I’d write what I thought would be a short story to discover it actually turned into a novel. Misery started out as a short story.”
He also went on to say that the ideal length of a short story was around two thousand words, or maybe just a tiny bit over. But any longer than that and it wasn’t a short story anymore and it wasn’t a novel. That is when you introduce the novella.
Well, for some reason I was inspired. I don’t, as a rule, take naps all that often. I have too much I want to do in life like many of us do that precludes napping.
I wrote a short story that just burst out of me. For now I’m calling it “The Bone Tired Hero” but I’m sure the title will change when I’m done editing it. When I’m done it will go into a collection of short stories and maybe, one day, it will get published somewhere. Or, I might–if prompted by you nice folks out there–publish it here for all to download for free as a PDF or something. It’s short, a touch over two thousand words.
It’s a suspenseful short story and it really grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. I like the twist near the end, in fact there are a couple of twists. It looks one way as you’re reading it, and then it’s revealed that something else is going on.
Also it speaks to our times in the #metoo movement (of which I support fully) and which is fresh in all our minds.
I can’t find the meme now, but I read something to the effect of: “Studies show that relationships last longer when the man isn’t a total douche-bag.”
I’m still laughing at that one.
Death in fiction is an end to a cycle. Sometimes it can serve a purpose beyond its face-value. The main villain finally dies. A hero is made because he or she dies in the service of making sure someone more important lives, that sort of thing. I’m working with an interesting concept in which someone must die in order to make a difference in something called The Astral Realm. I’ve italicized that because this is only a notion that works well with the book I’ve already written. The context has been set up well in advance. It’s also something readers may or may not see coming. I’m not going to give it details here because if there are other people who have read the Owen Hunter Series (the first two available books anyhow), I don’t want to provide a spoiler before the book is even out.
Even in my writing, I don’t take the death of characters as light subjects. If it can’t really further a purpose, move the storyline along well, or just seems gratuitous, I tend to skip it. Often times the characters in my books do get hurt quite badly but would make it out alive, if maimed for life in some cases.
Here’s what I think. By and large, we are resilient creatures. Sure, we might be worried our loved ones could die of X while doing Y at any point. Everyone deals with life-and-death scenarios playing out in our heads (or is that just me?) every day. Sometimes it is truly justified–like if a loved one has type 1 diabetes for example or some other life-threatening disease that’s not curable–but most of the time our worries are just that. Most people can walk down steps on an icy winter day without incident. Oddly enough more people don’t get run over in parking lots, and very rarely do terrorists attempt to hijack the grocery store for money, fame, or some other reason we can’t know.
Most of the time we make it home without crashing our car, falling off a bike to be crushed by an oncoming motorist, or poisoned by an ex-lover at a gala…you get my drift. 9 times out of 10 we’re alive and well despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against our very survival.
So when I do kill off a character in a book, or a series as the case may be, I want it to really count for something in the end. And this time I do have that justification. Here’s a hint: it’s someone crucial to the plot, someone, you won’t expect, and it may even be more people than you expected it to be. It all serves to save the world in which Owen Hunter and his friends live.
I haven’t really been asked why its taken me so long to get this book out. The short answer: I must get this right. The slightly longer answer is this: I have to ensure that there’s coherence in this 3rd and final book in the series. The conclusion to this very long book has to not just make sense, but it has to evoke a feeling from me, its author. And as I approach writing scenes I don’t particularly want to write I know it’s because it is pinching a delicate nerve in my soul to do so. I’m going back to writing a scene right after this post, as a matter of fact, that I think will make me shed a tear or two. Who knows what you’ll feel when you read it?
I’m hoping that happens soon for you.
If you look up the word ‘tumult’ in the dictionary it paints an image of an angry crowd of people all milling about close to each other. Perhaps the day is hot, and everyone’s talking over each other, shouting, disoriented and confused. That’s a tiny snapshot of the world at large. An increasing number of people now have access to computing platforms (phones, tablets, and actual computers) that give them the capacity and opportunity to share their views. Right and wrong are moral judgments based on subjectivity, the same as good and evil. The art of discernment is requisite in this unfolding era of ‘Babble’. I’m adding to the noise.
Who are we listening to and why? We all want and need the better deal, the most affordable price with the highest quality product. Our right-hand doesn’t recognize that we’re eating our left hand. In this self-cannibalization, we cry out in pain and confusion, not knowing why we do it really. Have you been told that you cry in your sleep, or awoken to find yourself this way? Maybe upon scant self-reflection, you chalk it up to your workplace or something you watched before bed that disturbed you a little. I bet you it’s deeper than that.
Imagine a dense and dirty fog settling over the lands like a great shadow. The malaise can last you the rest of your life if you’re not careful–the shadow and the light dance side by side, but never leave each other. If you find that it’s much easier to look at the fog than at the light, you’re not alone. But recognize this: it’s a decision. And that decision isn’t necessarily your own to make.
All the items you prop yourself up with each day–your computer, your phone, your friends, your TV, your books, your media in all its forms, also prop up the people you surround yourself with. Whether that’s at work or at home. Many of us in the developed world are surrounded by influential voices. Popular TV shows, Facebook, Twitter, and even Youtube–these media conglomerates are informing you and everyone else you know. If you’re lucky, you are influencing these media in your own way, hopefully with an eye for a better change.
Because we are by nature adaptable creatures, and because we have so much surrounding us on all sides, we are adapting to the influences of everyone else’s thoughts. If left alone for a while you might notice that your thoughts run in new cycles every three months or so. As new information becomes available, that information gets processed over and over again on cycle in your mind.
You’re also influencing yourself by what you seek out. If you’re looking for specific information, you can find it. And it is changing who you are when you do discover it. Doctors inform other doctors, as well as patients via the web–same with health coaches, scientific studies, and all the rest. All of this leads to a necessary fragmentation of mental resources and personal identity issues. The breaking down and building up of character is a lifelong process involving you and the millions of people you are now connected to.
I submit then, that when we say we want to ‘find ourselves’ we might cast a loving glance backward to a different time. A time when people didn’t have access to the same level of information or groups of people’s influences. A time when people had only their families and their towns or small groups of people to be influenced by. Simpler times, maybe, but mankind has never really been all that simple. Because of adaptability, we’ve been evolving to this very point. We’re seeing the world through a constantly shifting lens.
There are so many questions this raises, of course. Write down all your questions and submit them to yourself for deep examination and self-reflection. See if you can answer just one or two of the questions that arise. It’s an exercise in personality and character to do so.
Have you ever written an essay for high school, or worked hard to finish a paper for college? I bet you’ve done one or both and received feedback that you didn’t like. That negative feedback often (not always) pushes us to learn from our mistakes and create something better next time. You might blame your teacher for how you’re feeling (crummy, let’s bury our head in a pint of ice cream), but your teacher is just relaying the facts. Putting words together is a skill. This kind of skill isn’t meant to be easy. I posit that if writing were easy, its value would be significantly decreased. As it is, reading is starting to seem like a disappearing act. I’m grateful for everyone who still picks up a device, looks at a screen, or blows the dust off a book and scans their eyes over words!
My own books and stories have gone through a similar arc over the years. I’ve gotten feedback from my editor when my writing is particularly shitty. There’s a vehemence about how bad it is. Luckily this occurs because my editor believes in my writing prowess and knows when I’m phoning it in. My fingers practically fly over the keyboard and when I’m just downloading the raw bits and pieces of a scene or a whole chapter, I (being the human that I am) leave significant parts out. I change the way a character would do, say, or react in a situation that’s not to be believed. I don’t do this consciously. This simple faux pas comes down to my not being truly present with the material. I’m so intrigued by the scene, or I’m so rushed by my ‘need to get the word-count’, I lose sight of the real picture. In other words, I don’t take my time. When that happens, the words lose their meaning and the whole train comes to a crawling, lumbering slow-down.
With the 3rd book in the Owen Hunter Series, that has happened over the last two years. I’m doing everything in my power to go back over the manuscript I originally thought was brilliant, leading to a perfect conclusion, and am having to see how I botched it. In my need to rush through, I made things much worse. The new manuscript is taking shape.
In the years since I launched into my writing career, being green, not knowing how this whole thing worked, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to be patient with feedback and take it to heart. There’s no easy way to admit when you’re wrong, just dead wrong. I’ve had to do that and go back to the drawing (writing) board often. It’s a character building experience. The more you write, the better you get (in theory), and the more you stay focused on the structure, the easier it is to not make so many mistakes in the first place.
Speaking of taking shape, I’ve also learned an enormous amount about making my own book covers. I’ve designed and redesigned them over the years and there’s been an evolution. At first, I relied on the talents of people I paid. Recently I hit a new level of understanding in design (thanks to the help of people over at kboards, with keen eyes, and generous feedback) and have taken that to new levels. I’m going to work hard to continue taking artwork (in written and visual form) to new levels.
I’ll keep you up to date as I get nearer to pushing the publish buttons on the 3rd and final installment of the Owen Hunter Series PREVAIL. And keep a lookout for my new book The Wizard & The Jewel due to be out late summer or mid-Autumn.
With each post, we’ve been trying to see how we can spark a conversation. And not just how, but what type of conversation. It’s been an experiment, this virtual world. An experiment of riches and of failures. We’ve agreed and quarreled. We’ve touched on issues and shied away from them. Each day more and more people share their point of view, their perspective, their ideas. Everyone says what is correct from their perspective, from their angle of view, and it isn’t always right.
We have shared pictures of our lives, snapshots out of context, painting moments as if it told of the sweeping monotony and minutiae of our daily existence. Then we started sharing videos, saying more while saying nothing at all. Next came memes, a trite bite with a crunchy kernel of truth that wears down the enamel of our toothy minds. At every turn, there has been a try to share something meaningful, something life-changing, something game-changing, and something worthwhile knowing about, reading, understanding, believable, honest, authentic, and (like this) pedantic.
It’s been an interesting ride on the virtual wave of ‘socializing’. “Here, wear this blindfold. You can’t see or hear the people, other than an image of their face, and their words. You’ll have no idea how serious or how funny they are trying to be. Try it, you’ll like it. In time, you won’t even remember they were flesh and blood, people who made noises with their mouths, people who spoke volumes with just their eyes. Men and women whose beating hearts are precious jewels hidden away behind brave chests. It’s okay, all that stuff was superfluous anyhow…just try it, you don’t need to _see_ these people to appreciate them. And, what’s more, you can know all of them or so many more than you would comfortably fit into one place. Oh, and you _need_ to know them all! As many as you can! Let them be your friends! It’s the wave of the future.”
And somehow that feeling of being alone, of being lonely, persists in spite of these promises. Thank goodness we still talk to and meet with flesh and blood people, the ones we share close proximity oxygen with.
You’ve been promised the universe and given a screen.
So far I have published two major pieces in my canonical fictional works (to date). The first in the series is called Pursuit, and the second in the series is called Plight. In the past I have made my own covers for these books because I didn’t have the financial means to get other artists to create the vision I had in mind for each book.
Recently I’ve discovered the power of a particular Mac program called Affinity Photo and have begun to learn extensively how to use it. In the process, I realized I am quite good at taking images, manipulating them to my purposes beyond their original intent, and making them into something entirely my own. I created, as a result, all new covers for my first two books in the series, and plan to make an even better cover for the third than the one I’ve paid for (I like it, but it doesn’t match the series.) These images are purchased and licensed, and I’ve completely manipulated them from their original look to fit the look I was going for in the first place.
As a result, I think they look so much better, and they match. They actually look as though they are part of a series, rather than disconnected books. I have been making my own book covers for years, but they haven’t been the greatest. Merely serviceable. These are marked improvements, and now that I’m confident in my skills for creating better book covers, I intend to continue doing so for all my future publications.
In case you didn’t know it, I had also bought some powerful (Mac only, sorry) software for interior deign of the printed version of my novels as well as much cleaner and more fancy ebook versions.
All of my books have been converted using this newest software. Additionally, I’ve made my fictional works available in multiple ebook formats, you’ll see a button called ‘Other E-stributors’ and that will open a new tab or browser page with all the vendors where you can purchase in those formats. iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Playster, Kobo and more are all there, and they all look good on those devices.
I keep the price of my books reasonable and fair. Happy reading!
I’m in the throngs of writing an epic modern day fairy tale about a wizard. I don’t like to do things in any sort of ‘traditional’ way, so this particular yarn is going to reflect that fact. The Wizard in question is Ionor. The story is told from his perspective (first person perspective.) It’s a challenge to write about magic in the modern world. But an even greater challenge is to thrust the main character into his original world which he had never experienced before. The rules there are different. The wizards there are also different. He’s used to living among us regular humans. He’s used to a lot of things because he has lived among us for nearly 300 years.
Imagine taking Superman and having him only know cursory bits and pieces about his home world of Krypton. Then one day he gets pushed there before it’s destroyed. He knows only how to behave like a regular person, while his strengths are immense and his talents are impressive on earth, they are erased from his time on Krypton. He doesn’t really speak the language, he doesn’t know about custom or decorum, and that is just some of what’s going on in the story I’m writing about.
Aren’t wizards overdone? Haven’t we heard enough from these beings? Aren’t there about a bajillion books covering the trials, travails, and adventures of all manner of wizards? Of course not! We can never get enough wizards! Ionor is incredibly powerful right off the bat, brilliant and capable too. But when he’s brought to his homeworld, he has to dig deeper and learn even more about himself than he’s ever had to before. What’s so fun about this is that it gives a whole new meaning (in my mind) to character arch. The story is mostly straightforward with a few twists and turns. In a world of over-stimulating news and information overload, I like to dabble in the magic. Magic is also something specifically addressed in this newest piece I’m writing.
Who couldn’t use more magic in their lives?
I’ve hit a slow down with the editing process. It’s all my own fault. It has to be right and what I’ve written and rewritten just…has not been on the mark. I’m not willing to put something sub-par out there for people to read just for a quick money-grab. This is my first serial novel and my first work of fiction. I don’t have any intention of sacrificing the artistry for the story or vice-versa. Sometimes a rough draft is written too hastily, and you lose sight of what the story is all about. I did that. So I’m undoing that by making sure every part of the story is consistent and flowing forward in a way that is surprising (in a good way) and entertaining, as well as (possibly) thought-provoking.
I’m a big fan of a well done illusion. The magician takes out a deck of cards, shuffles it, and does something that totally stuns everyone watching. It’s unexpected. It’s a fantastic illusion. It looks like magic. It’s just well placed science and art, we know this intellectually, but our eyes deceive our brains. Sometimes an illusion is so craftily put together, so outrageous in composition, that we simply are not capable of figuring out how it was done. It defies all our attempts to explain it.
It’s still an illusion and not magic.
We fall into a similar hypnotic trance if we read a particularly engaging novel. We’re transported from wherever we actually are into a fictitious world that feels almost as real as the one we normally occupy. And it’s no different when we watch a good TV program or movie.
It’s still just an illusion.
When we create scenarios in our minds about upcoming events based on trajectories we’re keen on, we can become embroiled in fights long before they would even occur. We are often adept at creating the very inner-illusion of our problem externally when we meet with the circumstances we foresaw. In fact we do this kind of thing habitually and repeatedly to the point we don’t even notice that we make many of our illusions into an unnecessary and painful reality.
Being mindful means shedding light on this strange illusion-making habit we have. Maybe we can stop it, and maybe we can’t. Maybe we can change it.
It’s a matter of great curiosity why we continually perform these self-sabotaging ‘magic tricks’ on ourselves. I don’t have any answers or pointers about this. I just find it curious.
I too create these illusions, but then I put them into novel format (whenever I can). I purposefully create the illusion on the page. This achieves a couple of things. One, it often (definitely not always) puts a stop to the outer discord I would otherwise sow. It also helps me release any unrecognized emotions floating around under the surface. Or at least see that they’re there. Sometimes those emotions are too strong and they trip me up as predictably as you’d imagine.
The idea of using the creative power of inner illusion and putting it on the page is it traps some of the energetic investment there. It doesn’t escape as easily from your projection to the page and out to the people around you because as you review it, you can begin to see the absurdity of it.
Illusions are powerful. We need to be conscious of them because they really can negatively impact our daily lives. Our phones and computers can be a major contributing factor to this–especially social media.
Think about this just a moment: you are reading words on a screen right now. And you’re reading words on a screen when you look at your social media feed. The difference is in what those words evoke or provoke in you as you read them. Now, they could just be words on a screen if you wanted to be all Spock about it. That might even be preferable. But words illicit and influence what we think, how we think about something, and our actions or reactions.
If you really think about it, our words are programming ourselves and others in a way that has never before in history been possible. Our words are programming a very large audience all at once. Whether that’s through social media, or blogs, or tweets–our words can create powerful and even dangerous illusions that can actually harm others. Or help them. Or really powerfully and radically help and change someone’s life. It’s up to us.
The amazing thing is that it’s up to us how we want to program and condition ourselves to change our words, create better illusions, and make better realities and conditions as a result. It’s up to us.
With these same hands we can create tools of construction or destruction. That’s on us. It’s up to us. It’s not a ‘one person job’. It’s a collective humanitarian effort.