December 2020: News and Personal Reflections

We live in tough times, between geopolitical events and the Coronavirus. It can be hard pushing through life. I’ve been there. The only things that pulled me from the brink of depression these past several months have been my creative world-building, meditation, and health-seeking journey.

We Were Designed to Progress.

Every human being has the potential to thrive and survive in this world. We fall to the depths of despair, so we can rise to heights of unconditional love. Remember what it is that brings you joy, to seek the lightless light of Truth.

For me, it was my fictional daughter, Pepper Slyhart. Pepper suffers through the Hero’s Journey, allowing her to rise above the vicissitudes of life. It is this adventure of the hero that is inside every one of us.

The Creative Journey

Creative writing is a ritual that many of us take for granted. We get stuck or we procrastinate. But there are methods to combat this mental block.

Writing is a journey of humanity itself. See this book review I did on David Hawkins book to see what I mean. Transcending the Levels of Consciousness certainly opened my eyes to the truth about reality. About life. Needless to say, it’s improved my writing ambition.

Languages and Music

Writing a high fantasy novel gets trickier when you delve into fantasy languages. Here’s a post on developing a fantasy language, with a portion on the one I invented: the Primeal.

That said, the creative process is daunting. Remaining in a relaxed state during our lives is essential to our well being. This is demonstrated in Blade of Dragons through a process called terraum. I’ve listened to Biotropic music lately to ease me into that meditative state. Give it a listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Books Read

I finished a handful of delightful books this past month. Of mention, one was an urban fantasy called The Wild Hunt by Ron Nieto. It’s a curious book about fay in modern society and the magical adventures of a young teen rescuing her grandmother. Another book was nonfiction on the practical uses of Real Alchemy by Robert Bartlett, which will likely receive a book review soon.

Final Notes

Life as an artist, spiritual seeker, and naturopath isn’t easy. It is with help from readers like you that make it possible. Thank you for your time and attention. I hope these stories inspire you to new heights, helping you to progress, to seek the Truth within us.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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The Blank Page and Writers’ Block

white book page on yellow surface

Hello, my readers. How are you doing during the lockdown? Okay, I hope?Today, I’ll discuss the dreaded Blank Page that haunts every writer at one point in his or her career. I’ll also mention the tricks and tips I’ve used in overcoming writer’s block.

A new story always begins with a blank page or screen. This is the beginning of the writing process and it can seem daunting to any writer. What do we do? What do we write? Failure to move forward is often called the Writers’ Block.

Writers’ Block: The Daunting Prospect of Beginning

“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” —Picasso

Just like with a blank canvas, a white page can be overwhelming. It’s a door into infinity, where God gives us the keys and allows us to create our own universe. Yet we hesitate out of doubt and uncertainty. Why is this?

The Social Facet of Writing

To quote another writer:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.” —Jennifer Egan

As humans, we are social creatures. Any creative works we share with our family and peers. We hope for the approval and validation of what we are, our talents, and our direction in life. Rejection is like a knife to the gut and we become a failure—or so our ego wants us to believe.

Questions and Self-reflection

Because of these social mechanisms that wire the brain, we may hesitate in front of a blank page. Emotions of confusion, wonderment, procrastination, or anxiety also arise.

  • What will I write? I can’t think of anything.
  • Will the final product be good enough?
  • Am I wasting my time doing this?
  • How do I start this blasted process?

These are some questions we, as writers and artists, may ask.  Five minutes pass, and then an hour. The page is still blank and the creative process is stuck at a deadlock.

aerial photo of vehicles in the city

Anyone can break through this block, and I’ll provide the tools to do it. When a writer enters a realm without blockage, the clouds clear and the creative subconscious regenerates.

Here are some techniques I use when dealing with writers’ block.

1. Time and Space

Establishing a quiet area where I won’t be disturbed for writing is crucial. I make sure it’s comfortable and quiet. I ask my living mates not to enter for a designated interval. This is my time to center—and I consider it a part of the writing routine.

2. Relax

Before I tackle a blank page, I learn to relax and let go. I fight against the urge to think about anything, even my story. It can be difficult sometimes, but regulating my breathing using a technique called pranayama certainly helps.

Dedicate a part of your day to meditate or even stretch your body, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Some people do better at night, other people in the morning. Meditating or stretching before you begin writing may be ideal. Find a time that works best for you.

3. Creative Tools

I’ve used things like music, essential oil fragrance, and colors to enhance my creative focus. Some authors produce amazing work listening to music—others with no sound at all. Everyone is different; experiment, and find what works for you. It certainly took me a while to develop my creative toolkit. Don’t rush it—remember to relax.

4. Have Fun—Stay Positive

Any sense of competition or raging ambition within my mind creates anxiety. There is an urge in my ego to write perfectly and I compare myself to professionals. Believe me, it can get discouraging.

When I look at writing from a positive perspective, things get easier. I now write because it’s fun and I want to share my stories, no matter how good or bad they are.

5. Creative Exercises

Sometimes I try a short exercise to get my creative juices flowing. A small poem or haiku, as I mentioned in my previous article, has worked wonders for me. Here are some additional ideas from Vicky Fraser.

6. Simplify

A messy workplace or disorganized writing portfolio is the worst. I keep all my writing projects organized in a portfolio for routine review. This shows me how far I’ve come and encourages me to keep writing.

Having an organized portfolio also gives ideas from previous projects to use in newer ones. Simon Lund mentions some similar methods Hemingway used for his writing projects.

7. Acceptance

Improvement comes naturally with time and I accept that I will never be the best or the worst. When I surrender to this idea, my creative juices run wild.

Acceptance and surrender don’t mean that I make myself a doormat for life, nor should I lack healthy ambition. I accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to create the things I can, and develop the wisdom to distinguish the two.

Once I realized this, I started happening to life, rather than life happening to me. I need to remind myself of it, of course. For more information on centering yourself, see my article on the Creative Intelligence inside all of us.

The solutions for writers’ block and the Blank Page are numerous, and I encourage you to seek out your own methods. I hope this article has given you some good ideas to start with. Thank you very much for reading and I’ll leave you with this quote:

“He doth entreat your grace, my noble lord,
To visit him to-morrow or next day:
He is within, with two right reverend fathers,
Divinely bent to
meditation,
And in no worldly suits would he be moved
To draw him from his holy exercise.”

William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

white and gray floral ceramic cup and saucer near black typewriter and book

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Writing a Good Query Letter

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Hello and greetings! With the month of November, us writers are quite busy with NaNo. In the meanwhile, I’d like to discuss the querying process for writers.

When it comes to querying, some writers dread the process. Unlike a manuscript, query letters are business. Similar to writing a cover letter for a job interview, this is your first impression to an agent or editor, so you need to make it count.

Contact Information

Include any contact information before your first paragraph near the top of the page, right justified. This helps the recipient contact you if they need further information. It also breaks the ice—so to speak—and shows that you offer a professional medium of trust.

Personal websites are a big plus; these give the recipient an idea of what you’re capable of. Below your personal info include the agent’s information, left justified.

Salutations

Give a proper business greeting to the recipient. Use his or her last name with the suffix Mr. or Ms. respectively.  If you don’t know the name, use sir or madam instead—not recommended as it creates a less formal feel.

First Paragraph

Your beginning, like any book, should catch the reader’s interest. Show the recipient why they should continue reading when they have a hundred others letters to peruse. Use a hook to grab their attention. Stand out from the crowd. Mention the recipient’s credentials, information posted on their websites, or anything that shows you’ve done your homework and are serious about working with them.

Use your first paragraph creatively. Begin with some background that connects yourself to the agent. Illustrate your talents, achievements, and ordeals. Even flaws or setbacks can be spun positively. Usually, the first paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the query letter. This can make or break your letter’s review.

If you don’t have a tangible connection to the recipient, skip into the action of your book.

Second Paragraph

Early on should be a brief summary of your book. Say a few things that help it stand out from ‘oh another fantasy fiction with swords, elves, and horses.’ Explain general plot ideas and the main characters, their conflicts, and so forth. Mention the premise, genre, audience, and word count.

“The main objective of a query is simple: Make the agent care enough about your protagonist and your plot that she wants to read more.” —source

Third Paragraph

Include any bio or additional credentials that help argue your cause. Keep it short and detailed.

Here’s an earlier article I wrote on novel length to help.

Final Paragraph

Conclude the letter by thanking the recipient for their time. Describe a few more positive features about your book to wrap up. Mention that you can send the first chapter if they’re interested. Sign off short and sweet.

A Good Fit

Before you query, make sure the recipient is appropriate for your querying needs. Explain why you are querying an agent, what makes you and the agent a good fit.

Readability

Use short sentences and paragraphs if able. This helps with readability, allowing the recipient a quick look at what you have to offer out of the hundreds of other query letters. Use simple vocabulary, don’t try to be impressive with complicated wording.

Submission Guidelines

Follow whatever requirements or recommendations the agent has on their webpage. Every agent prefers different criteria for submission.

Length

Some writers can fit everything in three paragraphs, but it’s not recommended to do it in less than three. The bulk of the letter should be about your story. Anything more than a page may be daunting to a recipient. Aim for three to five paragraphs.

Font

This is debatable. I use a standard 12 pt. New Roman. Some recipients may prefer New Courier or some other font. If you can’t find the recipient’s preference online, go with a font that is readable and distinct. Don’t use any color text. Keep it simple.

Grammar

This goes without saying if you’re a writer. However, I’ve seen many writers flub the rules when it comes to a query letter.

Look for mistakes like dangling participles or run on sentences. Even a small typo can turn an agent away. I use Word and Grammarly to double check my work. A proofreader wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Tone

A query letter is a business letter. Don’t get carried away with your personal background or your story’s description. Keep the formality. Avoid contractions for a more formal feel.

Credentials

Mention anything you have published, any degrees or significant achievements. Avoid details that fluff you up or make you seem unrealistic. Compare your story to another more notable example if it will help.

Writing a query letter can be daunting. While there is no set formula for a query letter, the guidelines above should aid in the process. Here’s a brief overview for those who want a synopsis.

Overview

  • Include contact information and the recipient’s info
  • Keep it formal with Mr. or Ms. and avoid contractions
  • Use a hook in the beginning
  • Describe why your story matters and offer to send in the first chapter
  • Keep the length to one page, 12 font is ideal
  • Check grammar and tone suited for business letters
  • Adhere to submission guidelines
  • Connect with the recipient

Perseverance

There’s a good chance the recipient will reject or even fail to reply to your submission. Don’t lose heart! Remember that tens of thousands of others are in the same situation.

Self-publishing

Even if you never query an agent or publisher, understanding the business process is helpful. You may be called to do a contract or business deal in the future as an epublisher. If you do, remember formality and clarity are king. Thanks for reading and stay safe!


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Making Fantasy Fiction Maps in GIMP: Tips and Tricks

Crafting a map for a fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, when done correctly, a map benefits both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

Setting Up

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP. Set your image borders appropriately, and use a DPI of 300×300, in case you ever print out the map. Search under advanced settings for this feature.

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this:

AtlasMapTutorial1

I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

AtlasMapTutorial2

You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth. Go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. Color coding. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

AtlasMapTutorial3

I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. Select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

AtlasMapTutorial4

Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

AtlasMapTutorial5

I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy. You can make one yourself, or download a free-stock photo.

AtlasMapTutorial6

Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also good.

AtlasMapTutorial7

In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Also consider using New Times Roman, or Courier. You want text that is easy to read, not necessarily fancy ones like I tried above.

Try adding in a background behind certain captions to improve readability. Don’t make it too sharp, just enough to accentuate the caption’s letters. Notice the difference below:

Layer 8: Border Details

Try adding in some special effects to your borders. This will help your map stand out! Maybe mist or fading out of the ocean. I went with scroll parchment.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Clouds with shadows are nice too. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just a few of them. Remember, there are thousands of ways to design a map, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Cheers. 🙂


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NaNoWriMo 2020: Tips and Preparation

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It’s that time again Today’s topic is—you guessed it—NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event celebrated by writers the world over since 1999.

From November 1st to the end of the month, each writer must produce a 50,000-word novella—first draft version of course. Nobody expects a masterpiece as this is more of a rush-rush creative exercise.

What writers decide to do with the novella after NaNoWriMo is up to them. I’ve heard of some amazing stories emerging from the ritual. I might attempt it myself this year, if time and energy allow. The seasons are a busy interval for most people, and scheduling NaNoWriMo time is crucial. I may just use it to polish up Blade of Dragons.

If you’re brave enough to undertake this challenge, then there’s some important steps you should take days before November arrives.

remington standard typewriter in greyscale photography

1. Determine Your Writing Medium

Do you plan to write on a desktop computer? What about a laptop? Maybe pencil, pen, or even a typewriter? Figure out your medium for creative writing beforehand so you can set up your workplace appropriately.

Stock up on fresh pencils, printing paper, coffee, food, or whatever you might need.

2. Plan and Outline Your Story

Days before, begin thinking about what genre you want to write. Will it be a romance novella or maybe fantasy-adventure? Consider the protagonist and antagonist—the actors that drive the story forward. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect for NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t even have to be good as a first draft, but it should be coherent and have potential.

3. Have a Plan

Create a diary or calendar, something that can set milestones, deadlines, and objectives. Remember, you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s around 1,700 words a day. Scheduling your progress will improve your organization and help you stay on track.

4. Write, Don’t Edit

For those seeking 1,500+ words a day, you won’t have time to edit or revise. Focus on the writing process only and don’t backtrack, otherwise you may ruin your momentum.

5. Get Excited and Motivated

Nothing kills a project faster than boredom. Be thrilled about your project, just like a sky diver about to plunge from a plane. Remind yourself the reason you’re writing. Is it to improve your writing ability? Maybe you’re finally finishing that forgotten story. Use that focus to propel your efforts and stay on top of your game.

6. NaNoWriMo Is What You Make of It

Ultimately, this event is determined by your goals and objectives. Some participates use it as a means to get motivated and don’t care about reaching 50,000 words. Others see it as a challenge that must be completed, up until the final letter.

Set goals within your means and remember to enjoy the process. If it becomes too hectic or stressful, that will hinder the creative process. Turn it down a notch, or meditate for a while.

NaNoWriMo is a time to get motivated and to explore one’s creative potential, in whatever way chosen. Some writers use it as an excuse to work on belated manuscripts, others on poetry. Then there are those who take the hardcore challenge of developing a whole novella in a month.

Think about what you, as a writer, want out of NaNoWriMo. That goal will be what shapes your experience and what you get out of it. Thanks for reading and good luck. 🙂


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Disease in Fiction

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Hello, my readers. Today let’s discuss something that’s been on all our minds recently. Yup, that’s right—diseases in fiction. Right now, the world is in flux over the Coronavirus. It has created a bizarre, paranormal society where we’re all confined to our homes, some of us without jobs. The Coronavirus is like this invisible antagonist, challenging all of us right now.

“Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people…” —Gabriel García Márquez

This makes one think: how would such events play into fictional stories? What examples do we see in published works for diseases in fiction?

Below is a list of diseases in fiction. These should give you ideas of how authors design them, both in fantasy and science fiction.

Jorah-Stormbrn

1. Greyscale

If you’ve read Game of Thrones, you’ve run into this ailment. It’s a horrible disease that cause a person’s flesh—and later internal organs—to harden and die. Necrotic flesh coats the victim’s body, offering the appearance of cracked stone.

2. White Blindness

In the book, Blindness, by Jose Saramago, the disease robs its victims of eyesight. The protagonist is a woman who is immune to the ailment. Able to witness the world around her, the heroine must guide her comrades to safety.

3. Inferno

Created by Dan Brown, the Inferno virus renders people infertile. Used by the antagonists as a waterborne agent—and later an airborne one—this disease serves as a potent vector for conflict.

4. Nanoprobe Virus

No so much a biological virus as a form of nanotechnology, the Nanoprobe Virus is used by the Borg in Star Trek to gradually assimilate organic life forms. Victims become drones for the Borg Collective as nanotechnology slowly takes over their bodies.

5. Tyrant Virus

Also known as the “t-virus”, this disease defines the Resident Evil series. Developed by the Umbrella Corporation, the virus was designed as a eugenics project to cull world population and build an army of bioweapons—namely zombies. Umbrella eventually designed variants of the t-virus that affect victims in different ways.

6. Flare Virus

Found in the Maze Runner movies, the Flare Virus eats away at a person’s brain until they become mindless zombies. Like the Tyrant Virus in Resident Evil, the Flare Virus was designed by scientists to reduce world population.

Diseases are—surprisingly—versatile and useful in fictional worlds. An author, if clever, can use this disease as a plot device to strengthen characters and move the story forward. Disease can also be used to create conflict and established a degree of worldbuilding.

1. An Invisible Antagonist

Heroes can defeat a villain they can see and touch—but what about an antagonist that is invisible? Nothing evokes fear in a character like impotence. Finding a cure, or elixir, may be the only hope in defeating this intangible opponent.

2. Atypical Conflict

Diseases in fiction offer an unusual form of conflict—even better if the disease afflicts characters that the hero cares about. Mental illnesses can add further depth to the conflict, as the victim may experience situations that alter memory or cognition—even turning them into an aggressive mutant or monster. Now the hero may have to fight a loved one, offering moral conflict in the protagonist’s conscious.

3. Worldbuilding

A pandemic forces a society to explore its resources, introducing the reader to what’s in the fictional world. An economic slowdown—like we see in the real world—causes shortages of goods and services, forces people into a different state of mind, and encourages innovation in characters.

In short, a virus exposes the innards of a fictional world and allows a reader to become intimate with it.

Diseases in fiction—whether biological, artificial, or magical—drives plot and character progression in a fictional world. It creates atypical conflict that exposes the underbelly of a society—not just in the protagonist—and allows the reader to dissect the morals, financial resources, and technology of an afflicted civilization.


Thank you reading, as always! During these troubling times, perhaps we can derive some meaning from the Coronavirus and how it is exposing our society. Like the heroes of old, we too can defeat this invisible foe and establish a stronger, more orderly world if by learning from our own mistakes and what habits we have buried throughout the years. That said, maybe this virus can be seen as a good thing—a source of inspiration and growth for the human spirit.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And remember, we’re all in this together. 🙂

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What is Joy? How do you Describe it in Fiction?

The other day we covered the emotion of fear in fiction, and how useful it can be in creating tension within a character. Today, we travel to the opposite side of the spectrum: joy.

Joy is a state of happiness or delight, often seen with positive emotional changes. We all have experienced joy at one point in our lives. This happiness can be a powerful tool in fiction as it heightens characters’ expressions, shows them at their best.

While it can be fun to break a character down into the depths of fear and despair, joy is refreshing and relaxing for the reader. There are characters with up-beat personalities, often used for comic relief or for balancing out the fear and gloom in a story.

How Do We Define Joy?

Quoting from Dictionary.com, joy is:

1. The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation: She felt the joy of seeing her son’s success.

2. A source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated:Her prose style is a pure joy.

Describing Joy in Fiction

Joy is harder to flesh out than fear in storytelling. Joy requires a deeper level of authenticity that connects to the reader. Writers should be wary of cliches or other mundane terms that weaken the expressions of joy.

Some Character Expressions of Joy

  • smiling, singing, or dancing
  • heart leaping
  • laughing, joking, or teasing,
  • vigorous, excited energy
  • high sociability
  • hugging, kissing
  • confidence, willingness, optimistism
  • restraining from certain quirks
  • daydreaming
  • giving or sharing
  • a clear, strong voice
  • a straight, but relax posture
  • higher than usual strength or endurance

The Dance of Joy and Fear

Remember, joy can’t create tension like fear can. Joy’s purpose is to command relief to the reader. Too much joy all the time, and the story feels dull. Too much fear, and the reader can quickly get exhausted. Instead, a balance of the two is ideal.

Going Deeper

We should ask ourselves how our characters feel when they are happy. What are their dreams? What are their fears that counterbalance that joy? We can put ourselves in the characters’ shoes and savor every ounce of emotion that compromises that joy.

It’s important to show and not tell the emotions, as showing draws the reader deeper into the character. There are exceptions when telling is preferred.

Joy, as wonderful as it sounds, is another device used in the cog of storytelling. It has specific purposes associated with it. Some of these are to:

  • Contrast with dark or hellish themes
  • Motivate a depressed character towards a goal
  • Worldbuild, based on a culture’s perspective of joy
  • Briefly break tension to give the reader a reprieve

Example 1: Lord of the Rings

Let’s examine the Shire: a merry place full of feasting, greenery, and food! It’s kin to a paradise and has—ahem—all the comforts of home. Now contrast that with the dark, hellish realm of Mordor. With Sauron’s evil encroaching upon Middle Earth, the Shire makes his realm look that much darker.

Example 2: Theft of Swords

Royce Melborn is a dark character, often depressed and aloof. His comrade, Hadrian Blackwater, is more optimistic and idealistic. This contrast is excellent and helps drive their character arcs forward. It also creates an entertaining exchange between the two.

Happiness, like fear, can be a potent tool in fiction. When used right. A careful balance of joy and tension creates an enjoyable play of emotions that will delight readers.

What are your thoughts on joy? How would you have it portrayed in stories? Are there any favorite books that illustrate this? We’d love to hear in the comments below. Thanks for reading!


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Writing and Creating Through the Inner Intelligence

This week let’s discuss our Inner Intelligence. What is this mysterious force within us, you might ask? How can we access or come to understand it? More importantly, there are ways to channel this power into creative outlets, like writing or artwork.

It’s the spark that invigorates us and drives us forward to complete the impossible. It’s the force that keeps our spirits high, even when we get discouraged.

Even when everyone else cuts us down.

Call it God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Nature, the human brain, or whatever you will. It is that intelligent spark that gives rise to ideas.

To innovation.

When we surrender to it completely, there’s no telling where it might lead.

Looking Inward

How do we know for sure that this Intelligence exists? We feel it whenever we are out in nature. When we enjoy our favorite pastime, engrossing ourselves in the joy of the moment. It drives us forward, gives us a reason to live, to aspire to new heights.

It makes us human.

As Writer’s Perspective

As writers, builders of worlds, we’ve certainly faltered in our quest. There have been episodes of fear, self-doubt, and sloth. It’s not easy creating a manuscript, but looking at it after years of work, it becomes something magnificent.

We can attribute this success to the divine Intelligence within us. Sometimes, this Intelligence is a playful muse, other times it is a taskmaster. Still, it leads to one goal.

Creation.

When we funnel this infinite Intelligence through our bodies, there’s no limit, no mountain that is too difficult to surmount. Our creative juices run wild, forming vivid worlds and paintings. For others, it fuels our energy throughout the day helping us to do menial tasks at work.

When we ground ourselves in stillness, we draw inward and banish the noise of the outer world. In this fashion, we move to our inner universe.

Studies Done on Meditation

American scientists held a study that examined what’s coined the Meditation Effect. Similar to going on a relaxing vacation, the research showed changed gene expression in those who participated. Long-term effects suggested a reduction in stress or age-related genes.

Another study by Harvard held an eight-week practice of mindfulness meditation. Participants showed an increased tendency towards memory, empathy, and patience. Scans showed the ritual changed the gray matter in the brain.

A second study at Harvard suggested meditation could improve ailments, particularly digestive disorders. This practice slows breathing, thereby regulating oxygen intake, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Methods of Funneling the Inner Intelligence into Writing

There are many ways we can awaken this divine Intelligence. Some of the best ways are:

  1. Relax – Let go of your ego’s blathering. Drink deep the chalice of stillness and mindfulness. Fight against the urge to think about anything, even your story. Regulate your breathing or chant mantras to redirect your concentration. There are dozens of ways to implement meditation.
  2. Time – Between writing, reading, family obligations, and a day job, it’s especially challenging to find the time to meditate. Our busy society discourages this–yet, without time to rejuvenate the subconscious, burnout is inevitable. Block out part of your day dedicated to meditating, even if it’s only 5 minutes a day. Your subliminal brain will thank you. Some people meditate better at night when the rest of the world sleeps, others in the morning. Find an ideal time that works for you.
  3. Space – Establish a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed. Be sure it’s comfortable and dark. If you need to, ask your living mates to not enter for a designated interval. Defend this personal space from any miscellaneous disruptions, if possible.
  4. Dedication – Meditation, like writing, doesn’t come quickly. With your routine established, stick to it. Some days may feel unproductive, while others will. Work your way up to 20 or even 60 minutes a day if possible.
  5. Tools – Implements like music, essential oil fragrance, or colors can enhance meditation. Everyone is different; experiment, and find what works best.
  6. Write After Meditation – The brain enters a different state after prolonged relaxation. During this period, creativity and productivity may be at its highest. Take advantage of this episode to work on your piece or jot down notes. Many legendary writers such as Shakespeare utilized this to produce their masterpieces.

The Ethereal Sealsi series makes heavy use of meditation with its magic system, called Shifting. Meditation helps characters channel the ether through their spines. Each Shifter can only draw so much ether into their bodies before it burns out the spine.

Divine Inspiration

India makes heavy use of meditation in their culture. The Kundalini energy in Hinduism is a serpent-like force that climbs up the spine as a practitioner advances. Kundalini adepts often report painful heat in the spine, among other things.

In Blade of Dragons, this is similar with how Pepper Slyhart inherits the Dragonsoul from her mother. The Dragonsoul is both a curse and a boon for the hero, and it forms a big part of her arc.

Before starting the series, the Intelligence within spelled out what the objectives of the stories would be. They were to:

  • Create an immersive, fantasy world to fascinate readers
  • Encourage interest in practices like meditation
  • Introduce concepts that might encourage this Intelligence in others

This two-fold approach was risky. Looking over the manuscript now, it reads more organic and complete than initially thought.

Concluding Thoughts

As the story nears its date of publication, whether in a few months or a year from now, it will carry an important message for all of us:

That divine Intelligence within is waiting.

All we must do is observe it and listen to its words. It is a voice that will never steer us wrong, as long as the ego is quiet, and peace is within us.


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Blade of Dragons Update: Blurbs, Taglines, Longlines, and more!

Hello, my readers, I’m back with another update on my manuscript, Blade of Dragons! It’s been a stressful month (for all of us I would imagine), but my manuscript is approaching the end of the beta stage—at least I hope.

Anyway, I have some items to share that involve general manuscript preparation. Most any author follows this formula.

There are several tools an author uses to promote or describe a book. These include: blurbs, taglines, loglines, cover descriptions, and synopses.

Blurb

A blurb is a brief statement designed to promote the book. The blurb may be by the author, a reviewer, an editor, a publishing company, or anyone else. A blurb is designed to perk interest and add a silver-lining to the book’s appearance. A blurb may appear on the front or back cover.

Logline

A logline is a book compressed into a brief paragraph. It should be concise while packing a punch. The main character, antagonist, conflict, and any other relevant detail is included, giving the reader an idea of what the story is about.

Tagline

Short and witty, a tagline is a statement that doesn’t tell anything about the book. It’s more of a catchphrase or trademark to the author’s story.

Description

Book descriptions are like an expanded logline, often around 150 to 200 words. Besides the tagline and blurb, a description is meant to lure the reader into opening the book. First sentences are crucial in descriptions, as this will convince the reader to read the story.

Synopsis

Designed more for the eyes of an agent, a synopsis is a larger description, varying anywhere from 500 to 2000 words. Short and long synopses are both viable, but modern agents err more on the shorter side. A synopsis should mention the protagonist’s arc, showing the agent that you’ve built a complete, alluring story.

I’ll give examples of the manuscript tools I mentioned above using ones from my book. Mind, these aren’t official, nor are they polished. Still, they should give you an idea of each category.

Blurb

Exciting, hard-hitting, and exotic. Blade of Dragons is an action-packed story filled with vivid storytelling and likable characters that will hold you spellbound from start to finish.


This blurb reads promotional, coming from a reader who enjoys the story.

Logline

Pepper, a cursed farmer’s daughter, inherits her father’s sword, ancient technology that can save her planet from a dark goddess. But her draconic blood seeks to undo all she holds dear.


I kept the logline short. In a more compressed form, it almost gives a stronger punch, I noticed.

Tagline

The legend of a farmer’s daughter, cursed with the blood of dragons.


Perhaps not the shortest or wittiest tagline. Still, this one stuck with me, and it’s consistent with the other items mentioned above. It also invokes a good degree of intrigue.

Description

Whimsical Magic. Arcane Technology. Romance.

Can Pepper Slyhart use her father’s sword, a weapon with unfathomable power, to save her planet? With her childhood friend, Tarie, Pepper embarks on a dire quest. She enters a war against a dark goddess that has scoured grasslands, scorched forests, and devoured great cities.

Pepper unravels the terrible price of her sentient blade, a connection to the Ethereal Seals Gate, which powers technology and sustains her planet. 

But her half-dragon heritage seeks to betray Pepper, and Tarie may be the only one who can save her.

Are they able to fight a war on both fronts, or will the Shadow claim their souls?


Notice that I include certain keywords in the blurb. The reader will know that there are: swords, a dire quest, a dark goddess, a heroine, technology, and a dragon-like race. This suggests a science fantasy genre, the type of message I hope to convey. The beginning ‘trio-word’ technique I used is a popular strategy to create rhythm and intrigue.

Synopsis

Uhh, no, I won’t post that here—it’s way too long. Regardless, I do have a short (two page) and long (seven page) synopsis written if I need it. My synopses break down the story piecemeal, proving I have a solid and complete book. Any agent or publisher who reads it would get a good idea of what the story is about: the characters, conflict, the driving force of the story, and so forth.

Additional Items to Consider

My cover art (my own work) you can view at the top of the page. It’s still unofficial, and I may reach out to a professional to spruce it up. I included a map and glossary with my manuscript to provide additional reference material for readers.

When you design your own world, including a glossary or world map can help add depth to the story. I highly recommend it, especially for epic fantasy worlds.

Publication

I am unsure if I will go traditional or epub, but I am leaning more towards the latter. I may still find an agent to help me represent my book, as I am underread when it comes to marketing.

With that said, I hope you found this post to be informative and enjoyable. Good luck with whatever creative projects you might be working on.

Thank you for reading and stay safe out there.


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Book Length, Word Count, Readability, and Free Goodies!

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Hello, my readers! Today I’m revisiting book lengths for authors. The length of a book can be a vital factor in its success. Depending on the target audience, genre, readability, and book type, the word count in a book can vary.

That said, there are always outliers—books that have done well outside of word count brackets. If you’re a writer with questions about how long your writing should be, this article is for you.

Although there is no fixed word count, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on genre and audience.

Audience

Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced book lengths. Adults are more tolerable with longer manuscripts. Here’s a rundown of the age brackets:

  • Poetry: 5 to 3,000 words
  • Picture Book: 400 to 800 words
  • Play: 1,000 to 32,000 words
  • Middle Grade: 25,000 to 40,000 words
  • Young Adult: 50,000 to 100,000 words
  • Adult: 100,000 to 130,000 words

Genre

Book genres, of course, play another role in the word count.  Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world from the ground up. This takes time to describe all the new rules and phenomena associated with such a fictional universe.

Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries prefer a lower word count—of course, there are always exceptions.

  • Romance & Erotica: 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000 words
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000 words
  • Historical: 90,000 to 100,000 words
  • Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 140,000 words

General Book Types

Depending on the type of book you intend to write, word count plays another significant factor. Flash fiction and short stories are, of course, brief, but powerful. Novelettes are even larger than short stories. A novella is a story with a fleshed out story and characters, whereas novels are the largest.

Book type examples:

  • Flash Fiction: 100 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 to 7,500 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 20,000 words
  • Novella: 30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 to 100,000 words
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Quantity Versus Quality

Quantity alone does not a good book make.  You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it probably won’t read well.

Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.

Reading Level

The average reading level for America is around the 8th-grade mark. If the author wants a book to read smoothly among a wider audience, then a book should read around this level. By using simpler and shorter phrases, the readability of the prose goes up.

Word Impact

Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:

  • Character progression
  • Plot development
  • Environmental immersion
  • Reader enjoyment

There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either as that slogs the pacing and reduces readability.

I recommend Brandon Sanderson’s lectures from 2020 for prose concision and worldbuilding.

Chapter Impact

Chapter length can also have an impact on readability and word count. Short chapters organize a book better, improve readability, and leave readers with a sense of satisfaction. Shorter chapters also make for good stopping points when a reader needs to put the novel down.

Longer chapters are tedious, but sometimes necessary when a section of a book demands enough information or plot progression. In this case, scene breaks are good for breaking down long chapters.

Personally, I love frequent scene breaks and short chapters, as it provides convenient spots for me to park my bookmark. 😛

Reader & Writer Relationship

Half of telling a story comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment.

A book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader. If you can provide that opportunity—for a reader to have fun and explore—they will flip pages nonstop and won’t care about book length. This is especially true with worldbuilding using the iceberg theory.

The length of a book is up to the writer, depending on audience, genre, book type, readability, and the author’s long-term goals. Authors who have built up an impressive resume of stories can skirt the rules.

Free Goodies

Here’s a free online program called WordCounter that checks the word count, reading level, speaking time, and word frequency. Just paste your work into the program, and it will analyze everything for you automatically. I also use Hemingway to check sentence length and readability. Grammarly is another great tool you can install into your browser. It actually works with Hemingway in your browser.

Thank you for reading and good luck in your writing endeavors. Stay safe out there! 🙂


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