Writer’s Toolbag: Preparation

It has been said that preparation is the key to success.  I’ve found that’s true for writing as well.  Preparation, of course, can mean many different things.   Some writers like to come up with extremely detailed outlines while others merely want to have some vague idea of the setting and go from there.

The most important part of preparation, then, comes back to what you need as an author.  Do you need a full, detailed outline of every event and character arc?  Do you just need some quiet time before you sit down to write?  Do you need snacks in your writing area so that you can focus on writing without interruption?  Do you need to make sure other stuff (chores, work, whatever) is done first, so you don’t have to take care of it later?  You have to have a good level of introspection, to know what you need to get to the task at hand.

Trust me, the simple things are the ones that can interrupt the flow of words.  Writing is a purely mental exercise and if you have distractions or concerns about outside events, they can make it difficult or even impossible to write.  The same goes for your writing itself.  If a scene or plot device isn’t working, it might become a source of irritation or distraction that can impact the rest of your writing.  Take care of the things you need to do before you start writing.

That said, procrastination is also a factor of preparation.  I’ve wasted entire weeks and months before “getting things ready” for writing.  That could be outlining, world-building, or figuring out the mechanics of what I’m working on.  I’ve also seen authors who set aside a day to write who then think of all the other things they “should” be doing and end up doing those things instead.  Not because they have to be done right then, but because they’re afraid to try and fail at writing.

Writing is hard.  Set yourself up for success.  I find the preparation I need to work on different projects changes from story to story.  Some stories practically write themselves, with little or no preparation.  Others require a great deal of time spent focusing, outlining, and getting myself into the mindset.  Get to know your writing style, what kind of preparation you need, and take care of it.  Lastly, don’t use preparation as an excuse to procrastinate.  Getting words on the page is the goal and even if they aren’t the perfect words, they’re another step along the road to success.

A Call to Art

I’m looking for an artist or artists who would like to do artwork that would appear here on my website and also on merchandise.  For those of you who have read the Shadow Space Chronicles or the Eoriel Saga, I’d like artwork done in both universes.  This would be paying work, so if you think you’re up for it, I’d like to see what you can do.

Shoot me a message via either FB or the contact section here on my blog.


Writing Tools: Philosophy

This will be a bit of an odd post.  I’m here to talk about how to use philosophy in your writing.  Now, I’m one of those odd types who values classical education (even if you had to do it yourself).  Knowledge of philosophy and humanity’s efforts to come to grips with fundamental problems is something I think everyone should spend some time considering.

Because at its root, most of our interpersonal and societal problems come down to differences in overall philosophies.  Understanding these, being able to work these differences into your writing can add depth that a reader may not overtly see, but they can feel in character motivations and in the cultures and societies you create.

At the lowest level, philosophy is about finding answers.  Whether it is Plato’s Values or Kant’s Moral Imperative, most philosophers try to find answers to not just the big questions, but to find answers about how people should live their lives.  They struggled to find what is “right” and some of them have left indelible marks upon our society centuries or even millennia later.

Now, this isn’t to say that you need to read and study philosophy to make use of it in your writing.  Most societies you design, however, will have struggled with the same truths and the same questions.  It is human nature to look for meaning, even where there is none.

Understanding the basic concepts, the ideas of individual versus community, of lesser and greater evils, and of fundamental truths, gives you some leverage to build a society that feels real.  Writing a society where firstborn boys are sacrificed to their dark goddess will strike many people as horrific.  Working into your writing that they do it to prevent the culmination of an ancient prophesy where a firstborn will bring about the end of the world establishes a conflict between the value of individual rights versus those of the general good (and also establishes why a firstborn who survives might well want to destroy that society).  Oh, hey, and throw in a pair of twins where the eldest is mistakenly allowed to live, but that the ghost of his brother haunts him.  There’s a great story hook for anyone who needs it.

In all, I very much recommend reading some of the classic philosophers as well as some of the more recent ones, particularly John Stuart Mill and John Locke.  Not only will that add some ability to develop morality into your worlds, but it provides you with a look at how we, as humans, reason.

Review – Renegades: Out of the Cold by Kal Spriggs

A review up for Renegades: Out of the Cold over at between the bookshelves.



29764009Genres: science fiction
Series: Renegades #2
Synopsis for Out of the Cold: The Renegades are coming out of the cold. 
They have escaped from an alien prison, stolen a ship, survived pirate attacks, and now they are finally returning to civilization. 
Yet civilization brings all new threats. Old enemies await and new enemies abound. They’ll have to work together to survive, even as their own pasts and fortunes seek to tear them apart. Along the way, they’ll face an infamous assassin, slavers, bounty hunters, and get caught up in the biggest war that humanity has ever seen.
Because the Chxor are coming and if the Renegades won’t help stop them, who will?
Rating: Farm-Fresh_starFarm-Fresh_starFarm-Fresh_star
The author was kind enough to give me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This does not in any way affect my review of this series.
I enjoyed this installment just as…

View original post 248 more words

Sense of Wonder

13062223_673625313510_708827011624143409_n“Stop and smell the roses.”  It’s cliche for a reason.  Human nature being what it is, we adapt to things, we take things for granted.  What seemed wonderful and amazing only yesterday quickly becomes mundane and common.  The fantastic gets ground down in the daily grind, as we focus on doing the things we need to do to survive.

Along the way, I think we lose a vital part of ourselves.  We live in an age of wonders.  Running water, central heating, clothing, food, these are all things that we take for granted every day.  Internet, entertainment, and all the rest, these are elevated into the realms of magic and myth compared to the lives of people even a hundred years ago.

Having endured some hardship, I’d like to say that I have the ability to value these things more.  The truth, though, is that you have to take the time every day to remind yourself of the importance and value of the little things.

Take the time today.  Tell the people you care about how much they mean to you.  Take the time to appreciate the sunset or the snow on the mountains.  Feed your sense of wonder and fight some of the cynicism.  Stop and smell the roses

Forums, Store, and Audio Snippets

Good morning everyone!   Just a heads up on some of the things I’m working on.  I’m looking into an online forum, setting up a web store where you can buy T-shirts and other stuff, and doing some other updates to my website.

Right now I’ve got a few ideas of what to put in said web store, but I’d love some feedback.  What kinds of things would you like to see? Signed books?   T-shirts?  Coffee/Tea mugs?  Anubus plush dolls?  Let me know what you’d like to see and I’ll put it up.  I hope to have it set up sometime in the next couple weeks, but I’ll be able to add and remove products depending mostly on interest.

The forum is also a work in progress, though it may take me another month or so to get started on it.  A big part of forums is participation, so I’ll be checking it regularly and hopefully those of you into such things can have some fun discussions there.

Lastly, I’m working with a very talented young woman to start doing some promotional audio snippets for my Renegades series.  Depending on interest, I may do those for some of my other books.  I’ll post links when I get the chance, but again, I’ll want some feedback from people.

Lastly, Renegades: Out of the Cold has been out for almost two weeks.  If you read and enjoyed it (or even if you didn’t like it), please post a review!  Reviews are how Amazon recommends books to readers.  I currently have zero reviews for just over a hundred sales.  Reviews help new readers to find me, so if you get the chance, please post a review!

The Dragon Awards

At this point, many of you have no doubt heard about the recently-announced Dragon Awards.  These awards will be hosted by Dragon Con, of Atlanta, GA.

Why is this such a big thing?  Well, if you’ve been paying attention to the Hugos, the fix is in.   Last year’s Hugo “no award” votes were a slap in the face to readers everywhere, when a voting bloc decided that they would rather no one receive an award than allow people they didn’t like to get it.

Why this matters is that the Hugos became an award that was given by “the right people” to those they thought deserved it.  Most of the literature picked over the past few decades is stuff that very few people read for enjoyment.

The Dragon Awards, on the other hand, is an award for readers and fans.  More than that, unlike the Hugos, it has a variety of categories that fits the actual fan demographics, with categories for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Military Science Fiction/Fantasy, Computer Gaming, Board Gaming, etc.  All you need to vote and nominate is an email address.  Unlike the Hugos, there’s no application/membership fee.  The award is open to all fans… and in the rules it says the trophy has no monetary value.

I like it.  I like Dragon Con too, so I’ll be nominating and voting authors that I like and enjoy.  For that matter, if anyone wants to nominate me, I have four books that would qualify: Wrath of the Usurper, The Prodigal Emperor, Renegades: Out of the Cold, and Odin’s Eye.  (Please note, I encourage you to vote for who you genuinely think should win, I’m not asking you to vote for me).

Thanks for reading and feel free to support the Dragon Awards!

Writer’s Toolbag: Opportunity Cost

75468d8a02375f27e89c5bf824422f4eToday I’m writing about the most difficult decision you’ll ever make as a writer.  No.  Not that decision, the other one.  No, the other one.

Okay, really, I’m writing about the tough decisions and how to make those.  These decisions are out there constantly for us as authors, but I’m talking about the big ones when it comes to writing your book.  When you have this great idea that you really love… but you realize it might not work.  Or when you’re halfway through writing a scene for a character and you realize that maybe it will work better if they don’t survive.

Recently for me, writing in my Renegades series, I ran into a tough call as far as the plot and story.  On the one hand, I wanted to set up a situation where a main character ended up in a dangerous situation.  I wanted to increase tension… and I wanted the reader to feel uncertainty about what would happen.

On the other hand, I worried that writing the scene the way that I had would confuse the reader.  It became a decision of what worked better for the story between tension and readability.  I chose to go with the more interesting route and we’ll see how that plays out (squints at the Amazon webpage… still no reviews posted).

So how do you make those decisions?  You weigh the pros and the cons… and then you make the decision and move on.  In economics it is called the opportunity cost.  Whichever way you chose, you give up following the other route.  As writers, we have a bit of flexibility intrinsic to the craft.  We can rewrite, edit, and tweak things.  In the end, though, once you hit publish, the decision has been made and there’s no going back.

To me, making these kinds of decisions (and recognizing when one has come up) is something that grows easier as I write more.  Deciding whether to kill a beloved (or hated) character is, well, not taken lightly, but it becomes a simpler decision to make.  Often times this can be something as simple as which perspective to use when you write a scene or just when to cut that scene.  It might be that you have a line that you love… but it just doesn’t fit the flow of your story.

At its most basic level, the question you should ask yourself is: will this make the story better?  If the answer is yes, then you know what you have to do.  Sometimes it means you can give a character a happy ending.  Sometimes it means you have a character who ends up dying alone.  All of it, all that weight is on your shoulders as a writer.

Books don’t get director’s editions with deleted scenes and outtakes.  No one will ever see that bit that you cut and few people will understand the hours that you spend thinking about it.  Then again, that’s where the skill in writing comes from, knowing how to craft your story better and making those hard decisions.  If writing were easy, everyone would do it, right?

Moving On…

For those of you who have been reading my stuff from the beginning, you’ll know that I got started in self-publishing with my Renegades novellas.  It all started with Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption.

From there I published The Gentle One, Declaration, and Ghost Story.   Feedback was pretty good, so I took the step and published my first novel, The Fallen Race.

I’ve recently come back to the Renegades Series, which I hope to write more regularly (I’ve got book three planned and I’ll start outlining in July).  What I’ve learned from the series is that having lots of separate small stories doesn’t draw the attention of readers as much as larger stories.  Also, it doesn’t sell as well.  I make more money off of one sale of the Renegades: Origins omnibus (even priced lower) than I do off of a reader buying all five of the novellas.

More than that, I’ve learned that readers can be confused when they see so many titles.  Daunting, I think, is the term.  I’ve been told by several people that they don’t know where to start.  I’ve also received negative reviews from people who started the novellas in the middle of the series.

Going forward, I’ll be publishing the Renegades stories as more traditional novels.  That means an end to the novella and short story format.  It also means I’ll be pulling the plug on the Renegades Novellas.  If you want to get a copy, I’d advise you to buy one soon, otherwise, you’ll “have” to buy the Omnibus (which has way more content for less overall price, I’m terrible, I know).

I’m also pulling the Renegades ebooks off of Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers (other than Amazon).  That will allow me to go Amazon exclusive.  Since that opens far more marketing opportunities for me (and chances to discount books for my readers), it’s the way to go for now.

For now, The Fallen Race ebooks will remain on these other retailers, but I may pull it in the near future as well.   The reasoning is simple, I sell far more through Amazon than I do through all the other retailers combined.  In fact, it isn’t worth the time for me to go through the painful process to upload a book with Smashwords to gain access to these other retailers.

Make no mistake, this is actually a step forward.  You may see fewer titles under my name, but that’s to help new readers find me more easily.

That’s all for now.   Thanks for reading.