It’s All About The Journey, Part IV

As a freshman in High School, I can’t deny the influence that japanimation had on me at such a youthful age. I fell in love with their movies (as opposed to their animated TV shows), which really introduced me to what “EPIC” is all about. Their Epic action sequences, their Epic-sized monsters, their Epic story lines – all opened my imagination toward thinking BIGGER. I’ll list my favorites here: Akira, Ninja Scroll, Princess Mononoke, Gundam Wing,  Vampire Hunter D, and Ghost in a Shell.

However, most of my time spent in High School was spent playing Warhammer. Now as a sophomore, my obsession with Warhammer (and my Dwarven army) led me to meeting a freshman named Skyler. After a few of our Warhammer battles, he introduced me (and our entire Warhammer crew) to Dungeons & Dragons (3rd edition). Skyler was the Dungeon Master (DM) and ran a campaign in the Greyhawk world. The imagination and unlimited possibilities that were involved made this game the best RPG game ever made. No video game will ever be able to reproduce the experiences that occur within Dungeons & Dragons. For all of those reasons, D&D immediately became our new favorite past time. We played every possible weekend that we could all meet. Almost as an extension from my Dwarven Warhammer army, I chose my character to be a Dwarf Cleric. We played for a long while, my dwarf was level 12 (out of 20), and we were stoked with the story line and the development of our characters until disaster struck. Skyler could no longer join us in our D&D sessions.

What did we do? Our D&D crew nominated me to be the next DM. We started over. They all made new characters while I began crafting a story line for them to play through set in the world of Forgotten Realms. This marks the beginning of my experiences as a fantasy story writer. However cheesy or unprofessional you may think this experience is in relation to fiction writing, I will argue against you until the end of time. There is no better medium to try implementing a story line and have real characters with individual personalities and motivations play through it and reveal to you your weaknesses in your plot line. Characters uncover “holes” in the story all the time; in fact, this occurs so often that the DM’s desired outcome will probably not occur because the characters find other creative solutions to complete the mission that the DM did not think of. As a DM, being able to tighten your story and create “hooks” to make the characters interested/motivated to go on a quest is a vital skill to have as a fiction writer. It directly correlates to the skill of capturing the reader’s interest and developing the opening for your novel. In addition, it helped craft my world building skills as well. My world of Thornwall that I crafted for my series of books uses nothing from the fantasy elements of D&D. It is all 100% of original design, though D&D helped me understand what is needed to make a world believable.

I did not know at the time that being a Dungeon Master for D&D would prepare me and my imagination for writing a novel, but when I had first decided to write a novel (which I will tell that story soon enough), I had initially wanted to write a fantasy story set in one of the D&D worlds. I immediately realized that there would be licensing/copyright issues and I had decided against it. I knew I had to write something of my own design, of my own conjuration, from the depths of my imagination in order to pursue a new fresh fantasy novel.

But before I launch my journey into writing a novel, I went to college. College is the place where my reading plummeted, but I kept my imagination engaged through RPG video games. I spent a lot of time playing Guild Wars, Suikoden 3 & 4, and numerous other games. It was only after graduating college with an undergrad degree, becoming a working professional, trying to launch numerous side businesses, and having my first child that I realized I want to write a fantasy novel. . .

(Stay tuned as I describe my writing journey, my agent querying, my online marketing experiences and so forth….)


It’s All About The Journey, Part II

Growing up, being creative was a big part of my childhood. I remember having drawing contests with my father to see who could draw the better monster. They were always monsters. We used multiple colored pencils for our artwork and in one of my dad’s drawings, I think he made it a point to try to use every single one. I must say though, he is a pretty solid artist.

In addition, my parents often arranged for a babysitter, Christina, to watch me in their absence. She was the older sister of my best friend, Donnie Karns. She was, and still is, a phenomenal artist. Creativity was flowing through her veins and she fostered that in me at an early age. Every time she came over, we invented a new board game. Each one different from the last. They all had a theme to them with a clear definable goal that must be accomplished. We would tape multiple pieces of paper together to form the board and then we would draw out the course; after coloring it in, then we’d play the game until one of us won. That usually marked the end of the night, but I owe her a great deal for forcing me to be creative and original with every game we made.

Fast forward to when I was in the 6th grade, my imagination was growing. I watched the cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe and I remember thinking that the monsters that he had to fight were by far the coolest enemies ever conceived. They were original and they blew my mind every episode. Though, now after googling for pictures of the monsters, they all seemed to have spikes over their nipples. Peculiar. Anyways, this may mark the start of the Sci-Fi phase of my childhood. Watching 5 robotic cats connect together to form Voltron and then summon forth the great sword to slay the monster was definitely my idea of a good time. In fact, this cartoon, my babysitter, and my artist-contests with my father made such an impact upon my imagination that I can say with a certainty that they are responsible for the unique creatures that permeate throughout my fantasy novel today.

Despite my 4th grade teacher acting like a literary agent handing me a form rejection letter, and despite my principal banning the only books I ever read in my free time, I didn’t give up. I turned my passion for comic books into my first attempt at publishing an original work. ROM was my favorite comic book hero of all time. He was a mix of Robocop and Ghostbusters. He was a robot with a ray-gun that, when it hit his enemies, it sent them to an alternate dimension; so you can imagine how awesome it was when he got shot with his own ray-gun! I admittedly used the cover-art of comic #17 so that you might be impressed by his short-lived popularity. The X-Men made cameo appearances in only two issues (17 & 18). I own almost the entire collection of ROM comics, from #1 – 75 (the last issue)… and is probably the most complete collection on the planet. I’ve never met a fellow nerd that can even say he has ever heard of ROM before.

So in the 6th grade, my first attempt at publishing was a comic book: Mr. Scientificist. The name originated from my friend, Justin Deslauriers, who in his youth mistakenly said “scientificist” instead of “scientist”. It was an instant inside joke amongst my friends, and thus we turned him into an action super hero. He was a scientist with a ray gun that followed a frog-man into the sewer and they battled it out. I think it got pretty violent, if I remember correctly. My friends that were better artists than me (Alex and Lorenzo) were the main contributers to the comic. I remember that word spread amongst the school and the comic was generating a lot of interest. I even got approval to sell it in the school store, but without a means to mass produce copies, it went nowhere. I started making issue #2, but that never got completed. My dreams of inventing the next greatest comic book hero were dashed. Many years later, I found Mr. Scientificist issue #1 and gave it to Justin for one of his birthdays. Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.

It’s All About The Journey, Part I

Hello friends. I want to dedicate this multi-part series of blogs to tell you about this roller coaster of a journey that I’m on as I try to get my book published. However, I was having trouble deciding where to start. Since I want to capture my influences and motivations for making the publishing choices and writing style that I have embraced, I thought it best that the beginning would be a good place to start… the very beginning. All the way down nostalgia lane, back at elementary school.

I went to San Antonio Elementary School in Ojai, CA (population 8,000). This school had the 2nd and 3rd grade class together in one classroom, both taught by one teacher simultaneously. The principal of the school was also the 6th grade teacher. At the age of 7, I owned an original Nintendo Entertainment System. Despite my vast assortment of games, it was Dragon Warrior that was my favorite. After all of these years, and all of the video games I have sold back to stores, I still own this game. It was a single player fantasy Role Playing Game (RPG) where you, a single fighter, had to increase your fighting ability until you were strong enough to obtain Erdrick’s Armor. Only with that armor could you save the entire kingdom of Alefgard by defeating the Dragonlord and rescuing the princess. Dragon Warrior was definitely a pioneer of RPGs and most certainly had a lasting influence on video game developers of that genre, as well as a huge influence on me. It was at this school that I had my first creative writing assignment in 4th grade.

I wrote a fantasy adventure about a hero that had to rescue the princess from a big bad monster, complete with artwork. Sound familiar? I was very proud of my completed work; I remember smiling boastfully at some of my descriptions (particularly how the princess left lipstick marks on her cup). Once the class had finished the assignment, our teacher announced which books were the best. I was eager to hear my name get called, but it never did. I was heartbroken and dumbfounded. I confronted my teacher and asked her why my book didn’t make the list. She didn’t have a real answer for me, but later when my friend Rhett Walker read his story aloud to class – I knew. “Hungry eyes watched as he walked through the forest.” How could I compete with that? I was discouraged at a very young age from writing, but that didn’t stop my reading.

I was in love with Goosebumps, horror stories targeted toward young kids, written by R. L. Stine. I collected them and read them all. And to this day, I am still convinced that I own some sort of rare printed version of #19 Deep Trouble; it had a different type of paper that was smooth that no other copy of that book had. In 5th grade, I won a reading competition at my school and I got to have lunch with the principal as a reward for reading more pages in a month than any other student during the competition. R. L. Stine’s novellas were riddled with fantastical elements, though the horror theme was present in all of them. These were my first and only introduction into the horror genre, and perhaps they would have eventually led me toward other greats like Stephen King or H. P. Lovecraft, but my love for these books was abruptly severed.

San Antonio Elementary School, in an effort to coax the students to broaden their reading horizons, banned Goosebumps. If we were given a reading assignment, and we chose to read Goosebumps, our book report would not be accepted. This tactic by the school backfired, of course. Instead of broadening our library, us kids stopped reading altogether. The very thing that got us excited about reading had been taken away.

But, as a class, we read The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Dragons, hobbits, orcs, eagles, and a magic ring that made him invisible was probably imagination overload for a sixth grader. This is probably the single event that geared my preference toward fantasy adventures, especially when we were rewarded with watching the cartoon movie in class after finishing the novel. I was wide-eyed with amazement as I watched three armies battle it out in a grand war at the end. That did it. I had fallen in love with the fantasy genre.

Please stay tuned as I continue my journey into my next attempt at publishing, plus my love of comic books and Voltron revealed.

Should I add an Epilogue?

Of the many articles I have read about querying an agent, many of them stress the fact that the novel you pitch should be able to stand on its own as a single novel. Reason being, is that your novel shouldn’t depend on any sequel for its strength. It should have an ending all its own, as opposed to an ending that feels more like a pause-point because the true ending is in the sequel. In fact, it is even recommended to mention in a query letter that “your novel can stand on its own, but you have outlines drafted for the sequels.” Additionally across my smorgasbord of blog-readings, I have found that while waiting to hear a response from a query, that is the best time to begin composing your next manuscript.

As I developed the story arc for my novel, it became apparent to me that the world and unique pantheon I had created supported a much larger over-arcing story line. As with almost any movie or book ending, I realized that the ending to THE SOUL SMITH should have some ambiguity to support future planned sequels. It’s just good business. GAME OF THRONES didn’t even attempt an ending, it was the true definition of a pause-point between novels.

So without ruining the ending of THE SOUL SMITH for anyone that plans on reading it, I left a few pearls that would make any reader beg for more. However, is that the level of closure a reader will want if I am never to write the sequel?

No. After finishing a self-contained novel, a reader will want a full, complete story that instills a sense of accomplishment, of closure, of fulfillment. All of which would be addressed in an Epilogue. So, should I add an Epilogue? Even though I keep it in my back pocket, my answer is no. I will do everything possible to ensure that my “Epilogue” will be the seven books I plan to write after THE SOUL SMITH to complete The Blacksmiths series.