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A Storm of Brains and Books

I realized I hadn’t updated this blog in a while. The image above is one of the reasons.

Brainstorming! I’ve had two big sessions lately with two other people – one a writer like myself and one who can’t string a good text message together… but is a genius at finding holes in magic systems, economics, and so on. That’s in addition to all of the brainstorming and research I’ve been doing myself for almost a year now.

This is obviously not the Dragontek Lore series. That’s still coming along. Book four, Onyx, will show up late next month (exact date coming soon). Book five is moving into the revision phase, and I’m only a few pages away from finishing the first draft of book six.

But at the same time, I’m preparing to start a new epic fantasy. The scale is personal and huge at the same time, full of battles, magic, gladiators, unrequited love, a Chosen One who isn’t, and also blood. Lots of blood.

Curious? Stay tuned. Better yet, join the newsletter. They get updates much more often and quicker than this blog.


Cool deal

That’s right! The first two books of the epic Heart of Fire series are absolutely FREE this week. Don’t wait! Go snag Until All Curses Are Lifted and Until All Bonds Are Broken, and find out what all the fuss is about!

Auric is now available!

Auric, book 3 of the Dragontek Lore series, is now available!

As Beryl rushes to save an entire city from destruction by the dragons, someone else is using him to complete the final phases of a centuries-long plan.

Currently available as: ebook. Paperback. Hardback.

I need a Hero

Recently, some friends recommended I watch the animated series on Netflix called Arcane. Based on the video game League of Legends, it features a wondrous world of both steampunk science and magic. The animation is incredible. The characters are fascinating and well-developed, even the minor ones. The world is a fascinating place with interesting sociological issues and struggles.

But it didn’t work for me at all. I finished the first season with a deep sense of disappointment.

Here’s my problem with it: there are no heroes. Every character who has high moral ideals ends up corrupted or dead or both. No one wins. 

Am I reading it wrong? No, I don’t think I am. In an interview about the show, one of the creators said flat out: “Obviously, the story between Piltover and Zaun, it’s also super interesting, right? Because there is no right or wrong.” He went on to explain how each side in the conflict is right in their own eyes, and that’s what made it so interesting. He also talked about a certain character being “very disturbed” but there is a “motive” for the character being that way.

Most villains in good stories think they’re right. That’s part of what makes them interesting, sure. (Although stories can still be interesting with flat-out forces of evil. See: Sauron. Or even the Joker.) But my heart needs something more than misguided (and disturbed) people fighting it out.

It’s one of the same problems I have with the Game of Thrones series (among others). Every character who had high moral ideals ended up corrupted, dead, or both. “Oh, but it’s so deep and realistic!” people argue. I don’t care. My heart needs… resonance.

Last week, David Farland, a writer I considered a great teacher and somewhat of a mentor, passed away. One of the greatest things I learned from him over the past two years was the concept of resonance in writing. In fact, he wrote a whole book about it: Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing.

In some ways, I already “knew” this concept, but I wouldn’t have been able to explain them. Dave put it in terms anyone can understand. In short, resonance is a way of drawing power by repeating something that has gone before. In terms of stories, that means a good story will remind people of other good stories they know, OR it reminds people of their own experiences, their own powerful emotions. In the best cases, the story connects with the reader, provoking a strong reaction, because of that resonance.

One of the primary ways this happens for most people is through a hero. Not through someone who starts out super-powerful and walks into something they easily overcome. But through someone who struggles, who rises above their circumstances, not succumbs to them. In such cases, not only do our hearts resonate with the struggles, we are also inspired to be like the heroes, to rise above. We’re encouraged to be better.

Going back to the interview about Arcane, the “disturbed” character has a “motive” for being that way. Yes, because the character succumbed to circumstances, rather than rising above them. That’s how a villain is born.

I need a hero.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:  “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

Stories that are solely about villains (or morally questionable people) do not inspire us. We may feel a touch of resonance for their struggles, but the feelings left behind are nothing more than “Yes, I understand how that could happen,” rather than “Wow, that was fantastic,” or “I want to be like that.” In the worst cases, those stories can drag us down, depress us.

Some people label stories with real heroes as “noblebright,” a reaction against the currently widespread “grimdark” genre. Critics of the style argue that it’s not realistic, or paints too positive of a picture. And sure, that can happen.

That doesn’t mean our stories should ignore the dark side of life. Yes, bad things happen, and they should happen in stories. Truly horrible things, even.

But if our stories only tell of people who fall prey to their circumstances, who give in to how the world treats them, what does that say about us? That we can never be greater than our circumstances? That we should just accept the labels that are thrown at us? What kind of miserable people will we be if we do that?

No. Give me stories of people who reject that belief. Give me tales of those who struggle through a weakness to become strong. Give me absolute legends who rise above their circumstances to fight for those they love and for the way the world should be.

Give me heroes.

“Boys Don’t Read”

Teenage boys most of all.

Or at least, that’s what our American culture has been saying for a while now. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more true. One question then arises: are boys not reading because they don’t like it, or because all the books are written for girls?

Consider the major young adult novel success stories of the past two decades. Aside from the outlier of Harry Potter, virtually every one of them feature a female protagonist (and are mostly written by female authors). Think about The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and so on.

Does this mean boys will never read a story about a girl? No, of course not. BUT… they are much less likely to do so. This has been clearly established in numerous polls. Girls are much more willing to read a story with a boy as the main character than boys are willing to read a story with a girl as the main character. These are just facts, whether good or bad.

There are plenty of older books written for boys, but they don’t see those unless their parents seek them out, for the most part.

We can’t fully blame publishers for this phenomenon. After all, they’re trying to make money, and right now, the money is in female readers.

By doing so, they create a vicious circle: boys don’t read, so we won’t publish books for boys, but then boys can’t find books they like, so they don’t read.

But there’s another reason. A big one.

I’ve worked with teenage boys for over twenty years now. Every year, I ask new ones about whether they like to read. Most say no. And when I probe a little further, one big reason pops up.

School. “I hate reading, because school makes me read stupid stuff.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of that statement.

Again, we can’t fully blame schools. If boys are taught to read things they like before the schools step in, maybe the problem wouldn’t be so bad. But they’re not.

What can be done? As far as I can tell, it’s going to have to start with parents, and it needs to start when they’re young. Get them exciting books. Books with action and adventure. Books that take them into new worlds and new places.

For those who haven’t been taught, it’s also not too late. It’s almost never too late to awaken a love of reading. I’ve heard stories of boys who hated reading until a teacher or someone handed them a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, or something like that. The right books can still work wonders.

This is why I’m writing the Dragontek Lore series. It’s aimed straight at young teenage boys. It’s fast-paced, full of crazy action and adventure (and dragons). Will this help some guys start to read? I can only hope.

Looking back at 2021… and forward to 2022

For 2021, I placed one huge writing goal on myself: 500,000 words. For a regular year, that would average 1370 words per day. Except I didn’t make the goal until I was a couple of days into the year, and January turned out to have a lot of difficulties for some reason I’ve long-since forgotten. So by the end of the first month, I was only at an average of 980 words per day. It took until mid-October before I was able to pull that daily average up to where it needed to be. August-November were the best months, in which I was extremely consistent and usually well above what I needed. This let me taper off during December and relax a little. Also, partway into the last month, I discovered an error in my spreadsheet and found out I was much further along than I’d thought all year!

The end result is that I crossed the 500,000 word mark on December 29th. The goal was reached. I wrote half a million words in one year.

Here’s a summary, as best as I can remember it:

During January and the first part of February, I finished up Until All The Gods Return, the third book in the Heart of Fire series. This one was published in May.

February-March, I wrote Incarnadine, the second book of the Dragontek Lore series. I also wrote a short story in that world, for the newsletter subscribers. This was published in July.

April-July, I wrote Until All The Stars Fall, the fourth and final book of the Heart of Fire series. In case you missed it, this one came out this month!

July-August, I wrote Auric, the third book in the Dragontek Lore series. I’m planning on releasing it in February.

September-October, I wrote the fourth book in the Dragontek Lore series.

October-December, I wrote the fifth book in the Dragontek Lore series, and then started on the sixth.

For 2022, I’m planning a smaller writing goal – probably 350,000 words. Why? Because as you can see from the list above, I’m way behind in revising and editing! I have three books written that aren’t ready for publication yet. 

I also need more time to plan ahead for the next big epic fantasy. I’ve written a few scenes, and just gotten started on the world building. I need to do a lot more preparation on this one before I can really dive into it.

So where does 350,000 words get me? Well, first of all, I have about 60K words left to write in Dragontek Lore book six. I should go ahead and write book seven (the last one) as well, so that’s another 75-80K (all numbers are wild estimates). 

By then, I should be able to start the next big fantasy, and assuming it’s around 120,000 words, that leaves… another 90,000 words toward the end of the year. What will I write then? If things go well, I may launch into the second book of the epic fantasy. But that may take more work. I might have to write something different for a while. It’s not clear yet.

I am extremely happy to have finished the Heart of Fire series. It was a huge project, but it all came together in the end, and so far, readers seem to be happy with the finale.

It’s very hard to say goodbye to Marshal, Seri, and their friends. And maybe we’ll see them again. One possible later project is a return to the world of Antises. There is plenty of room for more stories set in that environment, and with some of those characters. At the same time, I’m reluctant to rush back into it just yet. I need time to ponder it. If I do write more, it has to be for a good reason, a good story. Maybe it’s waiting to pop out sometime soon. We’ll see.

In the meantime, thank you so much for reading my stories. None of this happens without you. If the books don’t sell, I don’t have money to make more. So tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Post a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or B&N, or a blog post. Spread the word.

Let’s explore more amazing worlds and characters… and dive deeper into life!

The Series is Complete!

Until All The Stars Fall, the fourth and final book of the Heart of Fire series, is now available! Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever you love to purchase books!

Sometime soon, I’ll write a longer post about what this all means to me personally, but for now: read the books! Enjoy! Celebrate!

Five Days until Launch! Read Chapter Three now!

In only five days, Until All The Stars Fall will be available, bringing to a close the Heart of Fire series.

While you’re waiting, you can read chapter three right now.

Chapter Two of Until All The Stars Fall – Now Available

Chapter Two is now posted here for your preview! What is Marshal planning? And what does he have in mind for Talinir?

Read and find out! And remember: release date December 13!

Read Chapter One of Until All The Stars Fall

The beginning of the end! The first chapter of Until All The Stars Fall is now available for your reading pleasure. Check it out now!

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