Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Building a team

This one is going to be tough for a lot of you aspiring to be writers out there. Many of us writer types are introverted and private by nature. I think that comes with the territory. Still, from my experience so far, this has made a huge difference for me. Maybe I'm lucky, but maybe not too. Maybe this just has to do with having the right attitude.

After I finished writing the book, came the question, "what next?" Well, first of all I knew I needed to edit the book, but even more importantly, I needed opinions. Was it any good? I thought so, but since I wrote it, I'm biased. I needed some slightly more unbiased opinions. Naturally I reached out to friends and family, but obviously there will still be some bias there, because they want to be supportive. So I took a chance offering it out to some gaming friends on facebook. These were people I didn't know at all. I also made it available to some people who were in the same yahoo group as me. I've had mixed results with that experiment but let me offer this advice. Don't send anyone the PDF to anyone unless they have an e-reader like a Kindle or Nook. It became obvious to me that well-meaning people who thought they would sit down in front of their laptop and read it, really couldn't find the time.

My best friend and web designer, Mark Buckley, offered to help me with the book as sort of a side project. His wife Janet graciously agreed to do the editing. Reviews came back and, while there have been some minor criticisms, the response has been positive and encouraging. The side project has evolved into a team since we started working on it. This team consists of me and my wife, my brother Denny and his wife, Berny, and the aforementioned Mark and Janet. We all have very different personalities and I think that has been crucial to the dynamic of the team. We put together a business plan and started working towards weekly or bi-weekly goals. Everybody gets homework to take home.

Now, it helps to have a detail-oriented, spreadsheet-loving business manager like my friend Mark. Seriously though, if he could bottle up what he has and sell it to other aspiring authors, I would recommend it highly. You have to work on all those little goals, though. Being able to check off all the small accomplishments helps you get closer and closer to your ultimate goal, which is getting published. If I had tried to do this all myself, well, let's just say it would have been messy. If at all possible, build that team of people who believe in you and your book. I don't recommend trying to go it alone, and you know that is what most of you are doing. Good luck.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing a book

So Dave, "How did you manage to write a book?" you might ask. Well let me tell you, it's really hard! And I mean that sincerely. Not that I wouldn't do it again, because I definitely would. In fact, I plan to do it at least six more times for this series, and a bunch more after that as well. I've wanted to be a professional writer for twenty-five years. But if you want to write a book, make sure you aren't biting off more than you can chew. Think it's hard to find the time to write? It is. Imagine that you'll have writer's block? You will. If you find you can stick with it though, you may just be able to unleash your proudest creation on the world.

Finding the time to write. For me, this was probably the most difficult thing to do. I have a full-time job and so does my wife, Pauline. We have two kids and have to split household duties. To top it all off, Pauline, usually works nights so feeding the kids and helping with homework falls to me. It was hard finding time to write. And even if some free time dropped in my lap, it's not always easy to just start typing away. How "On Demand" is your creative flow? If you have all the free time you need, more power to you. If that's the case and you want to write a book, my guess is you will succeed. But we're all busy, right? We all have these hectic, non-stop lives that keep getting in the way of our dreams. So to pull this off, to write your very first book, writing needs to become very, very important to you. "Oh, but I just like to unwind with a couple facebook games after a busy day." Or maybe it's "I can't miss my shows. Jersey Shore is the best!" Whatever it is, I've been there, believe me. Well, except for Jersey Shore, I don't watch that one, but you know what I mean.

If you want to write a book, short story, play or whatever, you have to find the time to do it. You need to think about it, plan for it and take advantage when free time comes your way. When I started writing the book, I put in a lot of late nights, after the family had gone to bed. I'd say more than half, maybe two thirds or so of the book was written that way. Some people wake up really early to write, but I've never been a morning person, I'm more of a night owl. Every summer I get a week at my mother's cottage in New Hampshire, and I usually got some writing done there also. Last winter, when I was really focused on finishing the book, I just kind of told my family they had to give me a day on the weekend to write. I let them choose which one, but I needed a day to myself. Once you get on a roll, you'll give up your facebook games or whatever it is you do to distract yourself and put more into the book. You'll want to, because you can see how it is developing. This book is yours, you created it. Art is probably the closest a man can get to understanding what giving birth is like. Now, I'm not saying it's the same ladies, so don't take it the wrong way. But do you know what I mean? When you finish a piece of art, whether it's a book, a painting, a song or whatever, well, that came from you. Building's cool too, like construction, but it's not the same and I know, because I've done both.

I think I might be losing my focus a little so let me wrap this up. If you want to write a book, make sure you understand the commitment that will be required of you. Dedicate yourself and you won't be sorry. Stop making excuses, or excuses will be all that you have. I could come up with dozens of excuses why I didn't have the time to write. It wasn't until I made up excuses so that I could write, that I finished the book. Writing has to be more important to you than unwinding after a busy day, watching tv, relaxing, etc... THAT is the time you have to write, you just don't see it. Work hard, throw yourself into it, and I bet you will love what results you achieve.

So why are you still reading this blog? Go write your book already.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Apep, the Tricksters, and the Great Old Ones

Apep is the big villain in my story. He is based on the Egyptian god of the same name, and is also known as Apophis by the Greeks. Apep's claim to fame was that he was always trying to kill Ra, the Egyptian god that represents the sun. In Lightbringer, Apep is a very old Watcher, which is a race of god-like alien beings. Let me explain how old. The Watchers were present at the time the dinosaurs went extinct. My explanation of the extinction event is a little different than the commonly accepted asteroid hitting the earth story. This is where I pull the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft into my world.

The dinosaurs were wiped out by the Great Old Ones, a horrifyingly destructive extraterrestrial race, led by their Great Priest, Cthulhu. At the time, the Divine Council, the governing body of the Watchers, are monitoring the earth, as well as many other living planets. For those of you out there who are Lovecraft-inclined, the Watchers would be the Elder gods. Unfortunately for the dinosaurs, the Watchers had a strict policy of non-interference. At a meeting of the Divine Council, Apep, then young and idealistic, spoke out against this policy as the Great Old Ones decimated life on planet earth. Apep wanted the Divine Council to stop the Great Old Ones and save the dinosaurs. In a heated meeting of the Divine Council, with many dissenting opinions, the non-interference policy is enforced.

Many of the Watchers look on in horror as the vicious race of Great Old Ones perform planetary extermination. A group of Watchers, calling themselves the Tricksters and led by Apep, decide to act against the will of the Divine Council. The Tricksters build an enormous and terrible city in the middle of the ocean. This is a city of terror and insanity, the perfect tribute to the Great Old Ones. This is the city of R'lyeh. Cthulhu, the mightiest of the Great Old Ones, discovers what the Tricksters have created and assumes it was built to honor him. At the center of this city is a labyrinth of madness. Cthulhu believes a great treasure must lie at the heart of the labyrinth, for the Watchers to have gone to such great length to hide it.

The Tricksters have indeed hidden a great treasure at the heart of the labyrinth. They have taken a massive crystal of tremendous power from the Orion Nebula and placed it at center of the maze. Cthulhu solves the maze and finds the crystal. When he touches the crystal, it releases a burst of energy strong enough to kill the leader of the Great Old Ones. The Tricksters understand that death is not permanent for the Great Old Ones and that they must act quickly. The tricksters spring into action and "Quickly they set to binding the nasty old beast to the Nebula Crystal with chains of cosmic ether." That's how I put it in the book anyway. Then they sink the city down to the bottom of the ocean, trapping Cthulhu forever, or at least until "the stars are right" for him to awaken again.

With Cthulhu out of the way, the Tricksters hunt down the rest of the Great Old Ones, trapping and killing them. Remember of course, that death is not permanent for the race of the Great Old Ones. Apep assumes a reptilian appearance in honor of the fallen dinosaurs.

Those were the good old days.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Wife Made Me Do It

So my best friend, webmaster, and all around business manager, Mark Buckley, thinks I've harped too much on my wife Pauline's influence in regards to writing the book. I should present myself as more self-motivated, he says. I guess I should clarify a bit.

I've wanted to be a writer since freshman year in college when my composition teacher convinced me to become an English major. I wrote a handful of horror short stories in the 90s, sent them out to a few magazines and got back all rejections. A lot of things happened then. We bought a house, had our first child and the construction boom happened. As a hardwood floor installer and sander, I could work as much as I pleased. We could work every day of the week, nights, weekends, whatever. So I did. What guy with a new fixer-upper home and new baby doesn't need more money, right?

Writing took a back seat. Life happens, you know? It was always in the back of my mind, but I didn't have the time or energy. Floor sanding is back-breaking work and I was always exhausted and sore when I got home. We had our second child in 2000. I went five or six years without writing a thing. So I can't say exactly what got me thinking about writing again. I'd guess I was a little older, work had slowed down some and I was retired from sports. I finally had more free time. I met a customer once who was a writer. I showed him my short stories and he said he loved them and would show them to his agent. The feedback I got from the agency was, the stories were good, but they don't deal with short stories, so get back to them when I have a novel. If I was going to try writing again, it had to be a novel this time.

Stephen King has always been my favorite writer, so I was naturally going to write a horror novel. This is where Pauline came in. Maybe it was the lack of success at getting the short stories published or whatever. I don't know exactly why, but she steered me in the direction of writing a fantasy book. She thought I could use D & D as an inspiration and write some sword and sorcery type of tales. I know she never expected me to go in the direction I went with this, which involved creating a mythic world full strange and unusual denizens. I even sort of came up with my own mythology. It's a mythology that connects all mythologies. Read the book if you want to understand that.

So, that's the impact Pauline had on my first novel. She is the reason I wrote Lightbringer instead of Vampire Cop or something like that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lightbringer - the World

Okay, so you might want to know where I got the idea for Lightbringer and the series of books to follow. You might not want to know either, since no one is reading this blog, but someday, someone is going to read this blog, and they might want to know. So bear with me, all right?

Blame my wife, Pauline, she was always nagging me, "David, why don't you write a fantasy book already, ya lazy bum!" You should use Alice Kramden's nag voice (from The Honeymooners) when you try to imagine that. That's the truth, really. Well, okay, except maybe for the nagging part. She probably said it much nicer than that. "Dave, I really think you should write a fantasy novel. It would be brilliant," said in the voice of Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch. Yeah, that's a little closer to the truth. I wanted this to be different from the other types of fantasy books out there, since many of them had a similar feel to me. I grew up loving Greek, Norse, Celtic, and many other world mythologies and imagining myself in those stories. Yes, I wanted to create a myth. So I did what George Lucas is reported to have done; I read Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces," and I got to work.

It was around 2003 that I started hashing out this whole idea. The biggest problem I had to address, was the world. The fantasy world is crucial to every fantasy writer's story. I played Dungeons & Dragons growing up and that was the initial inspiration for wanting to write a book of this type. Problem there, is that they have all this trademarked, copyrighted D & D world stuff and they already have their own authors writing books based in that world. I didn't want to go there and I didn't really know how. Frankly, creating a brand new world from my imagination terrified me. I thought of all my favorite fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Lieber, and Piers Anthony, and the worlds they had created. I did not think my imagination was up to the task.

So I decided to set it on earth, sometime in a distant, post-cataclysmic future, where technology has ceased to exist. This allowed me to change the landscape a little, when I felt the need. That was the answer then; earth, long after the Apocalypse. Who doesn't love some good, post-apocalyptic, references? I know I do. I figured I'd even throw in the occasional Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand. Irradiated mutants, walking corpses, and talking apes seemed cliche', so I needed to come up with some other kinds of monsters to populate my world. This is where mythology came back into the picture. I was creating my own myth, so I would use the creatures of myth, legend, and folklore. Now, it's not that this sort of thing hasn't been done in other stories, like the Percy Jackson series, for instance. The trick to was to dig deeper and and use the less familiar creatures of folklore. So while you might find ghosts and witches in my story, you will also find exotic creatures you probably have not heard of, like the Scottish Nuckelavee and the Icelandic troll, Gryla. I decided to have my hero go on an epic journey around this not-what-you'd-expect type of futuristic world so that he could encounter some of the strange beings in it. At the beginning of Family Guy's Star Wars parody "Blue Harvest," they say "a long time ago, but somehow in the future..." If you just flip that around, you get what I did to create my world "sometime in the distant future, even though it feels like ancient history..."