Writing Process Blog Tour

Yesterday, author Robert Mullin kindly tagged me in a blog tour going by the name of The Writing Process. I got to know him over Facebook, and he has become a close friend of mine. A writer and adventurer, he is the author of Bid the Gods Arise, an excellent novel that deftly blends science fiction and fantasy. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m very enthusiastic to read more of his work.

So, here are the tour’s questions:

What am I working on?

My writing projects are currently twofold.

One, of course, is The Wolfglen Legacy, the epic fantasy series I’ve been working on for the better part of a decade. I’ve pitched it, edited it, had friends read parts of it…but then I realized it hadn’t matured quite enough. I need to finally write books 2, 3, and 4 (pieces of each do exist already), so I’ll see if I can finish the first book by summer this year.

My second project is the serialized science fiction thriller Arrivers. The first three installments are on Amazon Kindle for a buck each, and a fourth entry is underway. I’d love to see where this story goes and get a chance to spend more time with Sergeant Tobias, Reverend Rousseau, and the strange woman who calls herself Jezebel.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Apart from games like World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons, I don’t know of any epic fantasy that includes dinosaurs. Or elves who wield flintlock pistols, and treat them with the same deep honor and reverence as Samurai treat the katana. Or a villain who appoints himself as rescuer of mankind, who feels going to war is a necessary step to rescuing us from our own flaws and mistakes.

More than that, however, many new fantasy novels wade in moral ambiguity, Game of Thrones style. It makes for frustrating tales that don’t really celebrate or condemn anything. I want to tell stories that have moral complexity. There’s still a difference between right and wrong, even if they can tie knots around each other.

When it came to the Arrivers stories, I grew weary from seeing one science fiction story after another that was overtly materialistic. You know, the stories told by the likes of Ben Bova and Isaac Asimov, that go out of their way to say religious people are morons, science eradicates miracles, and God no longer has a place in the cosmos. So I wanted to write a science fiction story that wasn’t “religious,” but still admitted there’s more to the universe than particles and natural laws.

Why do I write what I do?

If someone tells me I take my writing too seriously, I’ll take it as a complement. 🙂 My goal is to make someone feel like they are peeking through an interdimensional portal, witnessing events in a universe just as real as ours. Neither characters, nor story, nor world will be ready until it seems they’re entirely real. It’s not quite enough for me to try telling “a good story.” That’s the house’s foundation, so to speak.

How does my writing process work?

A few things help the writing process. Coffee with hazelnut creamer, concept art from movies, reading other novels, peace and quiet, and successfully resisting the siren call of Facebook. Still working on that last one….

I’ll often start with an idea and a paragraph or two, and build it up from there. Normally half of my edits happen as I’m writing the “first draft”. Supposedly this is a big no-no for writers, but it’s ended up helping me more and more with my own work.

Tagging Other Authors

For passing along this blog tour, I’d like to tag “Zombie Rob” Killam, another close friend of mine with an incredible talent for humor and witty dialogue. His upcoming zombie novel is called Apocalypse Springs.

The second writer I wanted to tag is my friend Joe Dorris, starring on the show Prospectors on the Weather Channel and fellow novelist who just released Salmon River Kid. He even paints his own cover art! How cool is that?

And here’s a third: mother, duchess and epic sci-fi author Ashley Hodges Bazer. I’m grinning at the prospect of reading her tales that encompass many worlds and have the kind of big-scale stories that deserve a movie or TV series. Here’s to much success, Ashley!

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The Joy of Writing: Robbed and Regained

Like many fantasy writers, I get a ton of inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien. The more I read his work, the more quotable he becomes. He has left quite an impression on my work and imagination, even in the reasons I write stories.

This will just be a brief instance of that procrastination known as “writing about writing,” before I finally return to the long-neglected bliss of rewriting that fantasy novel and bringing out what I pray will be the story it was meant to tell.

When people began trying to equate his stories of Middle Earth with contemporary events or themes or hot button topics, Tolkien bristled at the notion that he was writing commentary. He was fine with applicability, but current events were not the point. Tolkien had what he described as a cordial dislike for allegory. “I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.”

That’s largely my perspective as well. He weaved together this world of Elves and Hobbits and noble Men, and made his stories about the characters and their situations. Not about “the dangers of power” or “relationships” or “self-sacrifice” or the other themes some writers will obsess over. Fiction loses something important when it angsts more about theme/meaning than what its particular characters go through. You can’t quite escape from this world when that happens. Fiction loses its intended illusion of reality.

Perhaps I’m too sensitive, but the fact is my jaw sets, and my enthusiasm and imagination begin to shrivel, when fellow readers and writers spend more time discussing the “themes” or “meaning” of a story than they do discussing the tale itself. I had far too much of that in college, where nearly every professor read ideologies into the text, coldly dissecting it and scrutinizing it like a crowd of microbes in a petri dish.

And then I fell into the creative deathtrap again with too much time on my hands after graduation, taking to the blogosphere and reading deconstructions of movies that only served to rob my enjoyment of the movies themselves. I got fixated on the themes and elements and meanings and cinematography techniques when I wanted to focus on the story. Maybe it’s a side effect of ADD. I don’t know.

Thank God this doesn’t happen to everyone, however! One of my friends told me about how this same practice of dissection and examination can enrich his enjoyment of a story. And more power to him for that!

Being a writer, I still have the responsibility to study the craft of storytelling, and knowing how to tell good tales in satisfying ways. For some reason I enjoy that part of the process.

When I’m learning how to improve my own stories, and when my reading of fiction is done not to scrutinize but to enjoy, I get inspired rather than frustrated. That diminished capacity for joy begins to regain its life and color, and its roots plunge deeper. That frame of mind reminds me how much I love creating new worlds and characters.

Don’t ignore the components of a great story, though. If you are a writer, don’t skimp on technique or think that inspiration is all you need. That’s not what I mean to convey. I only mean to say this: Don’t forget the joy of escaping into another world and making new friends through the pages of a book.

New Paintings, and I Got Interviewed!

"Budding for Spring." 4 x 6 inches.

“Budding for Spring.” 4 x 6 inches. Done as a birthday present for my wonderful mom.

Good morning everyone! I have a couple of new acrylic paintings to share. Sorry I haven’t gotten much writing done, but that’s changing this afternoon, God willing. There’s stories to be finished in them there hills.

In other news, I got interviewed about my artwork by the New Falcon Herald, a local newspaper. The article should appear in their April edition. It was a very welcome surprise, and will hopefully lead to more commissions. Might even be able to support myself with the artwork, sooner or later!

"Sentry." 4 x 6 inches

“Sentry.” 4 x 6 inches. Donated to Crosses for Losses.

I am also working on a fourth science fiction story for Amazon Kindle. It’ll be the fourth episode of the Arrivers series, which is made up of the three stories on my Author’s Page now.

Happy Friday everyone!

Paintings: Dinosaur Sunsets

There’s a series of paintings I’ve started to create, and would like to make more of. “Dinosaur Sunsets” has four works done so far, and there seems to be a lot of excitement about them. So as long as I can find dinosaurs with nice silhouettes, I’ll keep making them and hopefully selling them to anyone who’d like to have one on their wall.

All of these are done with acrylics on tiny square canvases, 2.75 inches to a side.

Here's "Primal Colorado" again. The very first one.

Here’s “Primal Colorado” again. The very first one. It’s a Stegosaurus, of course — the Colorado State Fossil.

"Hungry."

“Hungry.” Brachiosaurus.

"Disagreement." Tyrannosaurs.

“Disagreement.” Tyrannosaurs.

"Mother." Triceratops.

“Mother.” Triceratops.

Thank you again for looking. Have a blessed day!

If Bob Ross Visited Jurassic Park…

The result might look something like this. “Evening Drink,” acrylic on black mat board, 8 x 10 inches.

The dinosaur is a Parasaurolophus, a duckbill or "Hadrosaur" from North America.

The dinosaur is a Parasaurolophus, a duckbill or “Hadrosaur” from North America.

Obviously I don’t mean I can paint half as good as Ross. That would take several lifetimes and a lot more patience. It’s just the kind of style he often did in his paintings, with a diluted light source, trees, and a waterfall. Ross would probably hide behind the happy little trees when the happy little Velociraptors broke loose.

Forgive me for disappearing for such a long while and not having much to contribute. I have managed to get some more paintings finished and shared with other people. This is the painting I am most satisfied with, so I wanted to share it with you (and I’ve spammed Facebook with it enough).

Anyway, I will be returning to this blog when possible. Instead of ruffling more feathers than I already have, I’m going back to basics: share my writing and paintings, and talk with all of you. It’s been a roller coaster year for me, but let’s see if we can get this blog back on track. Thank you all for your patience, and may God bless your new year with incomparable riches.

“Hobbit” review and my new artwork

Greetings, everyone! The last couple of months have been more hectic than an ant colony that just found a spilled can of Mountain Dew, but things are going pretty well. I got to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last week, and all I can say is…wow.

Okay, I can say a little more. It’s brilliant. The first film’s weaknesses (which were mostly negligible) are pretty much gone this time around. The story moves at a faster pace, even to the point of feeling too short. The characters have many chances to shine (and in the “barrels on the river” scene, Bombur has a moment of glorious hilarity). Tauriel and Legolas may not have been in the book, but who cares when their perspectives add so much to the tale?

And of course, there’s the dragon. Smaug is very much the star of this movie. He’s so cool-looking, and makes an incredible villain — simply put, he’s a work of terrifying art. Not only is he the best dragon ever put on film, but this is the greatest dragon movie ever made. Move over, Draco and Vermithrax.

Seriously, go see it if you haven’t already.

———————

Oh, and there’s also some new artwork I have been doing. Mini canvases and acrylic paints are godsends, because they give an aspiring artist the chance to try out many techniques and have a finished work sooner. They’re a good way to build up one’s portfolio. I’ve even got clients.

If you asked me six months ago if I’d have clients paying for artwork ($10 for the mini paintings, for the moment), I would have laughed you off. Life holds many good surprises; I’m just trying to process this one.

Ceratosaurus.

Pikes Peak. When you think about it, this is Colorado’s “Lonely Mountain.”

The mini paintings also make neat Christmas ornaments!

The mini paintings also make neat Christmas ornaments!

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"Desert Hog," done as a Christmas present for a friend who kindly gave me some new art supplies.

“Desert Hog,” done as a Christmas present for a friend who kindly gave me some new art supplies.

Of course, it's me, so I've got some dinosaurs done, too. From left to right: "Primal Colorado" and "Tyrant."

Of course it’s me, so I got some dinosaurs done, too. Left to right: “Primal Colorado” and “Tyrant.”

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

“Salt Flats” is Out! (Plus In-Progress Painting)

Hey, everyone! Sorry I have been gone for a while. But I have good news. The third story in my serialized science fiction tales, “Salt Flats,” is now on Kindle! Today through Wednesday, the first two installments, “Escaping” and “Refugee,” are free, and the new one is just $0.99. It took a while to write this one (it’s slightly longer than the first two combined), but I did love writing it, and mean to keep the series going.

The synopsis:

The battlecraft Aphrodite has crash-landed six miles from the city of Elm’s Corner, the one refuge its survivors can take from an Arriver attack. Isolated from the crew, Sergeant Tobias Carter is left with a choice: run or fight. He and Reverend Rousseau have never met an enemy so fierce. And something about the Aphrodite has attracted the attention of more than just the Arrivers….

If this sounds like your cup of sci-fi tea, three stories for the total price of a buck is a good deal. And whatever you think — good, bad, whatever — feel free to write a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews, of course, really help.

On another note, I have gotten more painting done, including my first foray onto a large canvas. It’s just beginning, but here’s what I have so far:

Snow goes on next, then I'm putting a city in the valley.

Snow goes on next, then I’m putting a city in the valley.

I hope you all have an awesome Thanksgiving, and get plenty of time with your loved ones. Catch you all later, and thanks for dropping by!