I’ve Finished the Discovery Draft of a Project I Didn’t Know I was Writing until I Finished it: Anthology Announcement!

I’ve Finished the Discovery Draft of a Project I Didn’t Know I was Writing until I Finished it: Anthology Announcement!

Greetings all,

So I had this plan, where I was going to let Repressed sit and work on The Journals of Bob Drifter 2nd Edition. I was even going to start revising 1,200, mostly because it has just been sitting in my digital file cabinet for years.

light-bulb-1042480_960_720Then I had this idea. That idea was like a hungry 4-year-old. Write me. Write me. Write me now.

That idea hit me two weeks ago, and I typed the words “The End” earlier today.

The story is called “The Worth of Words.” Set in a future version of an alternate (Earth-style) planet. They’ve limited speech so strictly that anyone over the age of 7 must wear a collar similar to those that shock a dog when it barks. People have to pay for the right to speak at all. Excessive gestures and public displays are fined or even punished by death courtesy of the drones that fly around and monitor everything. The main character is a mother, and former monitor (police woman) who has assembled a team to take down the server that controls the entire system. It’s essentially a heist story.

If you were subscribed to my newsletter, you got a secret link to the first 2,000 words or so. (Basically the first chapter). I’d love to know what you thought if you read it.

The next problem that occurred to me was, “What do I do with it?”

Then I did what I always do (and that usually gets me in trouble). I had an idea.

I love anthologies. I’m excited about the Slush Brain anthology, but I want to try my hand at editing one of my own (because I clearly don’t know how to stop loading my metaphorical plate).

So I’m making this announcement:

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All images used in this blog were taken from Pixabay.

I’m publishing an anthology. The title: The Power of Words: Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories Inspired by the First Amendment.

 

Any and all interested authors may submit a short story (30,000 words or less. That 30,000 word limit is hard and fast). It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a NYT best seller or someone who’s never been published. If you’d like to contribute, send me your short story inspired by the First Amendment OR (for those less interested in politically charged themes) the title.

Terms:
I’ll read the entries and select the seven I like best. My intention (though I’m not 100% on how I’ll execute it) is to offer those seven 12% of the royalties for the digital and online sales as well as 100% of whatever they make selling physical editions. (Meaning if they order the book and sell it at a convention, they just keep what they make). Those who I don’t select can still do whatever they want with their work (I mean, it is there’s after all).

I’ll take care of the publishing, editing (PROOFREADING), and cover cost.  I’ll also do an edit personally. Like any edits, they’re recommendations. Each author will retain ultimate say over what they create. Marketing and promotion will be on all the authors (PLEASE don’t rely on me for that stuff…I’m NOT good at it.)

I think those are some pretty fair terms myself. So, if you’re interested, feel free to send me your submissions. I’ll start accepting said submissions Nov. 1, and submissions will close Nov. 30.  Please don’t send anything before or after those dates. I already have one book and two shorts to revise. Not to mention the rest of this trilogy I promised I’d have done by 2019.

I love anthologies. I love the First Amendment. I love writing prompts. So the combination of these things just seemed too right to do any other way. I’m honestly scared. I don’t know who will enter or how to pull this off. I’m a man of ambition and action though. I also tend to accomplish whatever I set my mind to. One must take chances. One must try. I hope to get several great stories. I hope to pull my hair out picking JUST seven more. Whatever happens, I already have one story I’m proud of. So, in a way, I’m playing with house money on that front. It’s possible this anthology might not happen. But it could also be great. I’ll keep you all updated though.

Anyone interested in this is still free to comment below, email me or contact me via social media. I’m excited by this project, and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Writing Update: The Discovery Draft of Repressed is Done!

Writing Update: The Discovery Draft of Repressed is Done!
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All images are the intellectual property of M.L.S. Weech. Any reuse or distribution without his consent is a violation of copyright law.

I bring tidings of joy to all fans of my work! The discovery draft of my next book is done. I’ve made a few Facebook posts about the project, but now that I have something written, I can talk about the project a little more.

Repressed is a novella featuring Kaitlyn from Caught. It takes place three years after the events in Oneiros Book One. Below isn’t exactly the book blurb, it’s just a quick summary for my wonderful blog followers:

My name is Kaitlyn, and I have superpowers. No really, I’m an empath. About three years ago, I met some people, and well all have powers now. The five of us who survived the day we met, not all of us made it, live together. The thing is, they think that because I’m a teenager, I’m not ready to help them save the world.

* * *

When Kaitlyn decides to protect a new girl from bullies, she gets a taste for using her abilities and secret training like the heroes of the comics that she loves to read. But as she starts to do more, she learns her powers don’t work exactly the way she thought they did.  Things get even worse when she learns that hero work isn’t as easy as the comics make it seem. When hatred and ignorance come to a boil, Kaitlyn has to decide what it really means to be a hero, and her decision puts the lives of three other classmates at risk.

END SUMMARY

caught-front-coverThis isn’t the sequel to Caught.  If you need to position it in your mental timeline, consider it Oneiros 1.5. I wanted to do more (shorter, not short) fiction, and I also needed something to bridge the (even larger) gap between book one and book two in the actual trilogy. That, combined with my love for this character presented me with too many opportunities to pass up.

The biggest opportunity was for me to test myself, which I want to do with every project I take on. You’ve seen my reviews regarding YA novels (Here’s my last one in case you haven’t.) It’s not accurate to say I hate the genera, but I’m certainly not a big fan of some of the overused themes. A part of me felt that if I was going to stand here and talk about how much some of those themes bothered me, why not take a crack at the genre? It would force me to stretch, and resist some of what I think a lot of YA shortcuts. The main issue: the stupidity or ignorance of parents.

I see this too much in YA, and I didn’t want to fall victim to it, especially since four out of the five members of Oneiros are adults. So I took it upon myself to add that challenge to an already interesting plot. As if that weren’t enough, not only do I have to keep Sal and Kira working as loving, attentive parental figures (not to mention Dom, Brandon and Chris, who all have at least some brief appearances in this story), but they’re powerful psychics. That’s a challenge that I think I’ll have to do even more work on in subsequent drafts.

Why do this? Because one of the reasons I love writing is it’s always a challenge. I want this book to make me a better writer, and I want the next book to take me even further. Writing outside of my normal genre (if anyone accuses me of having one yet) does that for me. I don’t have any other plans to write YA in the future, but I still get to practice first person, and it opens the door for more in that world soon.

What does that mean for Oneiros? Well, I just don’t know when to stop. While there’re a few intense moments in Repressed (and even a few Caught easter eggs), this is a YA novel. In my opinion, if your main character is a 16-year-old girl, you’re writing a YA novel. Rather than fight it, I embraced it. My hope is the people who love Caught will appreciate seeing their favorite characters again as a way to tide them over until I finish books two and three. Also, this book sets the stage for one of the major points of conflict in book two. You see, Kira and Sal have very different ideas on how Kaitlyn should be raised. Those issues get touched on here, and they’re explored more in book two. We also get a sense for how truly powerful Kaitlyn is, and what that amount of power costs her.

SomethingAlwaysRemainsWhat’s next? Repressed is about 35,000 words at the moment. It’ll go in a digital drawer for at least two weeks. I like to step away from a project. It gives me time to separate my emotions from a project. I just finished it, and I feel like a genius. The reality is there are some things to work out and typical Matt issues to smooth away. I won’t be idle in that time. I’m hoping to have Sara’s edits on Bob Drifter back, and my main goal is to try and get the second edition out before I do another draft on Repressed. While I wait for that, I’m going to start looking at 1,200, a story about a homeless veteran who’s using his abilities to help other homeless vets keep their sanity, that is until a monster who feeds on magic shows up.  I still, ambitiously, would like to release Repressed, 1,200, Oneiros Book Two and Oneiros Book Three out in 2019. I’ll work on them with Oneiros being the top priority until they’re done. Having this draft done means I have at least one release already locked in for 2019, four to go. (Did I mention I also plan to release a few more novellas? Like I said, I don’t know when to stop.)

I hope my stories keep you all engaged the way my favorite authors keep me clamoring for more of their work. If that’s the case, I hope a post like this lets you know how committed I am to continue entertaining you.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

 

The Art of Writing vs The Business of Being an Author: A request for discussion.

The Art of Writing vs The Business of Being an Author: A request for discussion.

As I grow as a business man, I learn more about some of the decisions writers make, and I felt it was appropriate to discuss some of these issues in an open forum. I’m really just taking a few minutes to gain a sense as to what the rest of the community of authors out there thinks about a few things that have come up during conversations or conventions.

BobsGreatestMistakeThe Amazon formula: At Awesomecon, I spoke with a few authors about a practice that I find a bit underhanded. It’s one thing for an author to release segments of a book. One wise piece of advice I’ve heard about long-form authors is to release segments, and then release an omnibus book when everything is done. However, the more sly tool I’m opening for discussion is the habit some authors have of publishing a book. Amazon tracks “Hot New Releases” for 90 days. What some due (and it works for them, so how mad should I be), is then slap a new cover on the book and re-release it. Thus restarting that 90-day tracker and keeping the book appearing on the relevant pages. As I look at covers every day, I see this on occasion, and I hear about it more (admittedly more than I actually see it). The first topic of discussion is: Is this practice bad form or what it takes to get out there? What do you authors think about the practice as a whole an any who do it? What information do you have on the subject? (I have word of mouth and a few discussions here or there.)

Writing the story that’s in your head or the story that might earn you more: Having done more research now than I have, I understand just how small the Fantasy/Science Fiction audience really is. (Horror is that much smaller.) I have a few friends who jump at opportunity. I’ll be honest here. I don’t have any issues with writers sitting down and producing quality work for any reason. Getting other products out and bylines completed is a great strategy. I’ve had people loop me in on anthologies. I’ve only volunteered for one, and that was because I had the idea kicking around my head already. I can’t seem to write anything but the story playing out in my head. This is why Bob came out when it did, and was then followed by the much darker Caught. To be honest, it’s hard to keep my mind on Oneiros because Perception of War is playing like an X-D theater in my mind. Writing Kaitlyn’s short story has done a good job to help get the Oneiros juices flowing, which is one of the two major reasons I decided to make that my main project. I’m also aware that some genres simply sell better. I have friends that insist I’d be a best seller by now if I wrote romance. I’m not actually against any writer producing any quality work. I just don’t have a lot of “romance-specific” stories running around my head. Also, those novels are much tighter, fast-paced stories. I have to force my self to keep the word count down. How many of you struggle to write in a metaphorical box? This may mean you’re writing to try to satisfy an audience or produce a story for something for the sake of a byline. Again, I can’t stress enough how OK I am with it, I simply don’t have that ability. I have to write what’s in my mind and in my heart.

ElelefinalGetting Product Out in a Timely Manner: This leads me to the third topic (and I think I’ll stop here even though I could go on much more).  I love epic fantasy. Most of my projects are large. But it takes time to write 400,000 words (or even 100,000).  So when an idea for a shorter format story came to mind, I went at it. What this will do is something I feel is a financially beneficial decision to keep me in the lighter shades of red while I produce the deeper, wider-scoped stories I love most. I would’t be able to do this on the spot. Even Sojourn was a tangental project that was made harder for me because my mind wanted to focus on Images of Truth. The main reason I was able to work on it as quickly as I did was Elele is in both books.  This other world captured my fancy. The theory is I can do one “large” project a year (like Caught or 1,200), and one or two smaller projects. I’m holding off on releasing until I build a buffer of sorts that allows me to release product more frequently, but that’s the ideal pace for me. I still admit I don’t prefer this method at the moment. I like to work on a thing until it’s done (or the draft is done) and then step away to something else. Based on where I am with Oneiros and 1,200, my newer short-fiction saga (called Mercer in case you’re wondering) is what will be my “step away” project while I’m in between drafts of the Oneiros log (not to mention trying to get 1,200 out there).  The question here is, what is your ideal pace, and what do you all think is a solid “release” year?

I’d ask any author to comment below. If you could, please state what you have out and some record of where you are in terms of being a business author.  What are your thoughts on these topics? What works for you?

I thought this was a good chance just to open the doors to the community and get a dialogue  going on these subjects. If this goes well, I’ll make it an occasional post.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Another Draft Done: A Sojourn in Captivity Update

Another Draft Done: A Sojourn in Captivity Update

Greetings all!

early-seferamI’m home on vacation, which for me means I get to spend way more time on writing.  I was making good progress on Sojourn in Captivity already, and now I’m happy to report the fourth (of five) draft is done! I want to take another moment to thank my beta readers. Your feedback helped make this a much stronger story, and I was pleased with it before I sent it out.  Now it’s back to the editor for the copy-editing pass. The story is what it is, now we’re making sure the writing is as strong as it can be. That’ll be the last draft before I add a bit of information (a forward) to it and send it off to the Slush Brain’s honorable captain.

This also gives me a chance to put out a few other updates.

First, I’m happy to announce I did manage to get another event lined up. I went to Shore Leave a few years back, and I confirmed a few months ago that I’m heading that way again.

Speaking of conventions, at last year’s AwesomeCon, I had the chance to talk about the pitfalls of self publishing. I’ll be doing that panel again. This one is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday, June 16. It was a fun panel to do last year, and I have more information this year.

Sojourn isn’t the only project I’ve sent to my editor. I’ve re-designed The Journals of Bob Drifter, and I sent that PDF her way for a quick proofread before I re-release that. I would have loved for that book to be re-released before AwesomeCon, but it’s not not logistically possible.  Still, it will be re-released this year, and doing so will allow me a lot more freedom with that title (not to mention a lower (I’m not sure how much) cover price).

shipfighterNow that I’m not bring so much mental energy on Sojourn, I can turn my attention back to Images of Truth the actual first complete novel in the Perception of War saga. (Sojourn is simply a prequel novella.)

I want to finish Images of Truth (I was halfway done when I switched gears for Sojourn) before I put my full attention on the Oneiros log. I’ve started (and even nearly finished) an outline for a novella featuring Kaitlyn. Then it’s full steam ahead on the rest of the trilogy.

I’m a guy who needs something to look at when his eyes start to cross, so I’ll be working on a draft of 1,200 (another project that should be coming your way in the not too distant future). It’s still my ambitious hope to dedicate the rest of 2017 and all of 2018 to writing and conventions and then release a minimum of six projects in 2019. That would be three Oneiros books, 1,200, and a few from a new series I plan to start. I have a bunch of other drafts too, but those projects are much larger. My hope is this new series will keep good product from a common universe coming, which will then give me more time to finish those larger products (New Utopia and Perception of War) the way they’re meant to be finished.

I want to thank all of you who read my blog (and of course my books)! Your support really means the world to me. I’m putting a lot into 2019, hoping that will be “my year” more or less. Your support always makes it easier to sit down with the lap top.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Ripping off the Best to be the Best

Ripping off the Best to be the Best

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On occasion, I’ll stand in front of my students and discuss the problems I’ve faced in writing or in the Navy.  I’ll tell them about challenges with how I approach a story or how I deal with something when I struggle.

I look at these young men and women, hold my head up high, and say, “I cheat.”

If one looks around enough, they tend to see the same things happen over and again.  I don’t get as angry when people say, “there are no original stories,” anymore.  Oh, those who say that have poor english skills, but that’s because that’s not what they necessarily mean.  Usually, they’re talking about plots.  The originality should be the voice and vision of the author.

When I tell my students that I cheat, I wasn’t talking about violating the UCMJ or even academic standards.  I was simply expressing that I make every effort to learn from others so I don’t make the same mistakes.  That’s one of the reasons so many of my blogs focus on my mistakes.  There are a lot of people trying to make their mark in the world, and I don’t want them falling for the same tricks I’ve fallen for.  I don’t want them making the same mistakes I make.

hobo-826057_960_720I also like to take inspiration.  One of my favorite things is to put stories in an imaginary blender and see what original concepts come out.  I’m currently doing a read-through of an upcoming book, 1,200.  The glimmer moment (idea) came from a story I was covering for the Navy.  You see, there were (at that time) 1,200 homeless veterans in the city of San Diego.  So I took that actual issue and ran with it.  Remember that blender I told you about?  One thing that always seems too convenient to me (though I do it, too) is the arrival of the Mentor or Impact Character.  (Sometimes one man fills the same role.)

A little boy makes some glass disappear, and here comes a giant to explain the boy’s a wizard.

A farm boy buys some droids, and they just happen to belong to the man who can teach him about the Force.

There’s a million of them.

For the most part in my life, I’ve been blessed.  I’ve had some amazing mentors in my life, but I’ve also had to figure a few things out on my own.  So when I was brainstorming for 1,200, thinking about how to make this more interesting, I took away the mentor.  What an original idea!

blender-297110_960_720No it isn’t.  I TOTALLY stole that from The Great American Hero.  It’s about a guy who finds a super suit, but it doesn’t have any instructions.  I’m not even going to lie.  I applied an interesting concept in a different way.  So when my main character (whose name is probably going to change) discovered his powers, he was on his own.  This book is less dark than Caught, but still much darker than Journals.  So I took a concept, and made it my own.  I do it all the time.  And even if the plot police shine a light in my face, I’ll tell them, “Yeah, I did it! And I’d do it again!”

Heck, I think about what I can steal all the time.  I even steal from my day job.  We teach our Sailors about host nation sensitivities and cultural concerns.  The Navy takes great care to make sure its Sailors understand we’re representatives of our country and how to be good guests in all of the countries we visit.  This is true even in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations we’ve operated in.  The Navy knows it’s Sailors must be better people than those we’re there to protect others from.  That means we have to train our Sailors in what to think about.  I was about half-way through preparing that lesson plan a few years back when I realized it’s no different than what an author has to think about when worldbuilding.  Academic concerns lead me to hold back the majority of the list, but a few include cultural values and religion.  I’ve even mentored a few Sailors who want to be authors on this concept.

I steal from other authors.  I do not plagiarize.  If a magic system does something interesting, I file it away in my mental file cabinet.   The concept to New Utopia was heavily inspired by Valley of the Wind.  The trick is more about how you apply it.

QUICK SHOT 2011
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew Leistikow, assigned to Fleet Combat Camera Group Pacific, leads Sailors in a wedge patrol formation during patrol familiarization as part of the Fleet Combat Camera Group Pacific Summer Quick Shot 2011. Quick Shot is a semi-annual field training exercise intended to train combat camera personnel to operate in a combat environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David A. Brandenburg/Released)

As I sit and look at 1,200, there’s a LOT of work I have to do.  I’m glad the Brown Pipers are enjoying it, but I still think there are some genuine issues to work out.  (If you remember my blog on discover writing, 1,200 is one of the last two books I wrote by discovery writing. Sure, I had some idea where I was going, but I didn’t outline at all.)   But the concept is working pretty well.

There are video blogs out there who explain a lot of your all-time favorite movies and songs are, in fact, not the original tales you thought they were.

What do I steal?

Parts of a concept:  I may not take the entire premise, but I do look for an element that fascinates me.

Fantasy elements:  I was going to say I steal magic systems, and I steal those, but then I realized I steal pretty much any ONE aspect of fantasy element if the mood suits me.

Elements of characters:  I wrote about this in my blog about character development.

What don’t I steal?

Entire plot lines:  Valley of the Wind inspired New Utopia, but New Utopia is built around a few separate issues.    Though others do this (and it’s not illegal or unethical), I don’t.  I don’t because I’d be too tempted to draw more and more from the source of said inspiration.  For instance, I borrowed the concept of the magic system in New Utopia from Mistborn.  It’s different enough, but I keep a very stern hold of myself.  I only take small parts.

lego-516559_960_720Let’s talk about blending again.  I mentioned it above, and this is something I do in pretty much every stage of life and writing.  I steal all of these great things, and then I take them all apart and put them back together like a Lego hodgepodge creation of my very own.  I don’t actually know where I got the technique from, but I haven’t seen anyone who approaches it quite that way.  So maybe that’s the one original thing I bring.  I’m not saying I’m the only one who steals, I’m just saying that’s my particular twist on burglary.  If you do it the same way, let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

State of the Weech: What’s This Guy Up To?

State of the Weech: What’s This Guy Up To?

I’d mentioned earlier this week that I had intended to do a post going over my schemes for the next little while.  I wanted to do that today because there’s a lot happening.

First, I’m happy to announce the discovery draft of my short(ish) story, Sojourn In Despair, is finished! I wrapped that up Dec. 22. So I’ll wait about a week before I try to revise that into a first draft that Alphas wouldn’t want to throw out of a window.

caught-cover-finalI’ve learned a lot this past year. I wanted Caught out in March of 2016, and I couldn’t make it happen until 2017. This is because it’s not about releasing a book for me, it’s about releasing a GOOD book readers will enjoy.

Revising always takes me an extremely long time, and I wasn’t anticipating a fifth and sixth draft. I want to say this because writers are in love with their work, and they’re either in too much of a hurry to get it out (normally me) or too afraid to put it out there. There’s a balance to this I hope everyone finds. You have to be willing to stand behind it.

When I sent Caught to Marco for an edit, he gave me a lot of information that I think made this book that much better. But it meant taking time to apply that feedback. This is part of the art. This process also taught me a lot about how to look at work. I’ll be using this process again in the future.

I want to help other authors avoid mistakes I make. I want each project I release to be more successful than the last. So I hope this information helps those who are afraid to show their work to many people. Get lots of feedback. Hire. Professional. Editors.

I feel far more confident about Caught than I did about Bob. I also feel more realistically optimistic (not an oxymoron I promise).  But, now that Caught is scheduled to hit the digital bookshelves, I have time to do more stuff.  So here’s a list of my projects in order of priority:

Sojourn in Despair: Elele’s story is drafted, and now I have to do the work that takes a solid early-seferamidea into a well-told story. I’ll take a week off (maybe accidentally write a short story and submit it, Hi J.R.).  But once that week is over, I’ll do another draft of Sojourn. This one will still go by quickly, but each draft will take exponentially longer than the last.

Re-release of The Journals of Bob Drifter: I’ve been quiet about this, but it’s time I start talking about it. I feel this was a great story, but I made a lot of mistakes in how I published it. There are also some glaring typos I want to fix. The story will not change. The main priority of this effort is to bring the cover price down and gain more control over pricing. I want Bob to be more affordable to my readers. I’ll chip away on this in between drafts of Sojourn.

Images of Truth: This book is going to be wonderful. I was about halfway done when Caught revisions became my soul purpose in life.  Elele (from Sojourn) is in this book. She’s one of four primary characters, but this book focuses on Jammin, a young aspiring photojournalist who finds himself a stowaway on a special forces spacecraft in the middle of a secret war effort.  Sojourn is the story of how Elele came to be where we find her in Images. I want to finish this discovery draft quickly. The release of this book is a long way off. But I like having a draft done.

Revisions of 1,200:  1,200 is the story of a homeless veteran who is secretly using his recently-discovered magic to help the rest of his fellow homeless veterans. I want to revise this sooner rather than later, but if Caught does well, this will be the project that falls father in the back burner.

kaitlynThe sequels to Caught: I have a confession to make: I accidentally outlined a short story about Kaityln.  Not outlined exactly, but she’s such a wonderful character. She whispered in my ear (I’m not crazy; I promise) the whole flight to Arizona, and I got off the plane with a great little story just for her. This isn’t part of the trilogy, but her short story will be released in 2018. When in 2018 is something else entirely, but it’ll be out. Books Two and Three of the Oneiros Log will be revised and drafted accordingly. It may be ambitious, but I want all three projects AND Images drafted by the end of 2017.  I don’t know when I’ll publish them. So much depends on releasing a book, and I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. Once Images is drafted, these will be the books I outline and draft. What I will promise is that as soon as these books are ready, I’ll get them to you.

150912-n-tk177-008The plan is to rotate edits between Sojourn, Kaitlyn’s story, Oneiros 2 and 3 until all of them are ready. 1,200 isn’t the biggest priority right now, but it’s a great project to step away to when I’m feeling bogged down. I may also decide other characters from Caught need their own stories. This depends on how loud they get in my imagination and how successful Caught and Kaitlyn’s story are. I do intend to release short fiction (novellas 40K or less) more regularly. This is so you all have stuff from me to read while I work on the larger books. For other young authors out there, this also helps me keep product hitting the shelves and earning income which will fund edits, covers and revisions for the larger products. I feel this was a solid idea on my part, and it keeps me writing.

I’ve been writing since I was 7 or 8. It’s been my dream to be an author since I was 17. Even now, what I’m doing is a dream come true. However, I’m never one to settle. I don’t just want to be a published author. I want to be successful. I want one day for this to be my primary source of income. That said, in a way, you all are so amazingly important to me. You’re here now, in the beginning, when it’s hard. You’re here for me when I’m up at midnight writing a blog or drafting a story. I can’t tell you what you mean to me. I can’t tell you how amazed I am that you’ve shown an interest in my dream. I hope you’re as excited about these projects as I am about getting to work on them.

So, I’ve been particularly blessed this Christmas, because every single time one of you shows interest in my work, that’s a gift you give me. Aside from the love of my friends and family, that’s truly the greatest gift I could ask for. I hope you all have the happiest of holidays and New Years. Thank you!

For today, and the days that follow, thank you for reading,

Matt

The Influence of Life on Art

The Influence of Life on Art

One of the more common questions I get is “Which of your characters is most like you?”  I’ve heard other authors talk about this with varying degrees of frustration.  I’m not exactly sure, exactly, what the consensus feeling is, but some authors don’t like the idea that the characters they create are based on someone (or at least just one person).  I’ve discussed how I develop characters, and it’s absolutely true that they all have some pieces of lots of people I know, but no one character is simply a representation of any one person.  I’m frankly too afraid of appropriation lawsuits.

A lot of my friends mention that reading my book was odd because they saw so much of me in my books.  I don’t mind that so much, but that’s because I always give my characters some part of myself.

There’s a common phrase in the world of writing:  Write what you know.  Now, in Fantasy, this seems much more difficult when you consider ancient worlds and other races. Still, the simple fact is the life you live has an impact on the worlds you create.  While I normally like to do case studies, I just don’t have enough knowledge on other authors to speak.  At best, I have a few vague recollections.  I believe this to be true about most authors, and to show it, I’ll talk about how my life has effected my art.

coverrevealIn The Journals of Bob Drifter, the most direct things I pulled from my life are locations and occupations.  Patience is a photographer because I’m a photographer.  I understood the field, and it worked for the story.  Bob is a substitute teacher.  The trick he used when he first met David is the same trick I used to gain my classes’ attention as a substitute. The fact that Bob looks a lot like me is coincidental.  I had a buzz-cut hairstyle pretty much the last 15 years of my life.  I grew it out recently.  I was at an event when someone showed me the cover and said, “Is that you?”  No.  While Bob has my background in education, the similarities in hair are about all we have in common.  I have family near Surprise, Arizona.  I was stationed in San Diego and Syracuse while I served in the Navy.  I took these locations because they were familiar.  It made it easier for me to write since I could actually remember some of these locations.

I want to be clear about my role in the Navy.  I served as a combat photographer.  While some of my friends saw combat, and even earned recognition for their actions in combat, I didn’t see any.  However, I certainly trained a lot.  That training was put to use in Caught while writing the scenes involving Oneiros.  None of this is stuff you couldn’t learn by watching Act of Valor, but it helped me have something to draw from.

While stationed in San Diego, I did a lot of volunteer work.  I did some work with the homeless, and was shocked to hear that, as of 2010, there were 1,200 homeless veterans in the city of San Diego alone.  This became the inspiration for another book.

Now for the other side of the coin.

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I took this image while serving in Afghanistan. It was shot as part of my official duties and, as such, is public domain.

I expect most authors pull from what they know.  It adds realism and makes world-building easier, but there is a line.  It’s poorly defined and depends more on the author than any actual rules.  I’ve been to Afghanistan.  I know what the weather is like.  I know the road conditions.  But I didn’t take actual locations.  First off, my memory (while, in my opinion is pretty darn good, isn’t good enough to remember any one of the dozens of locations I visited in the six months I was there.

I mentioned Kirkuk Iraq in another book, but only as a location.  Appropriation is a real privacy rights violation and something I take seriously.  Locations are one thing, people are far more important.  Yes, I usually take a TRAIT or two from people I know, but I have not (well..not since I was 13 and clueless) nor will not ever simply take someone I know and make them into a character.  The closest I came was an old chief of mine.  I spoke to him about it.  While they look nothing alike and their situations in life are not even remotely similar, the trait I gave this character is what most would know my old chief for.    The point is, I felt so strongly that I approached him and discussed the matter with him.

The balance between writing what you know and creating what you can create is an art in and of itself.  Let me end with a few dos and don’ts.

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I captured this image while serving in Kirkuk, Iraq. This image is also public domain.

Do:  Use what you know to draw from.  Your careers, hobbies, and interests can make for wonderful world building tools.  Don’t be afraid to put them to use.

Do:  Use locations and cultures with which you are familiar.  It’s important to build a life-like world or use real-world locations in ways that help the reader gain a more visceral experience.

Don’t: Use real people without their expressed written permission.  If that sounds like the end of a football game, it should.  Now, some people enter contests specifically to be put in books.  The very act of entering said contest waves a persons right to having their likeness used fictitiously.

Don’t: Use real scenes.  This is debatable.  The point is it’s close to the line, and I tend to avoid things like that.  If I write about a restaurant in San Diego, I make sure I’m using that fictitiously, and it’s not fictionalized in an unflattering way.  (At least I make every effort to do that).  If I can make up a place, I do.  There may indeed be a restaurant in San Diego at the location I offer, but if there is, I didn’t know it was there.    So long as the location is simply used as a setting, I’m not OVERLY worried, but if I have any other way to do it, I will, especially if I’m looking for a “seedy” location or something of the sort.  If I write information that’s accurately portraying the location, I’m safe, but accuracy becomes my friend.  At the end of the day, if you’re worried about it, if you feel a little weird about it, don’t do it.

If you’re an author, and you want to provide your thoughts, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Deus Ex Machina: When Magic Solving Problems Causes Problems

Deus Ex Machina: When Magic Solving Problems Causes Problems

Possibly the biggest opponent to fantasy and science fiction is the concept of Deus Ex Machina.  literarydevices.net gave a description of the term, but I’d like to add to that.  When something arises that the reader isn’t prepared for to resolve the conflict, the reader will be unsatisfied with the ending.  Let’s be honest, as readers, we WANT to believe the ending is plausible.  We’ll take some pretty hanky explanations as background or foreshadowing.

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Image from The Two Towers used for educational use and review under Fair Use Doctrine. 

In The Two Towers, Gandalf basically said, Just hold off for three days and I’ll come kill whatever bad guys are left.  They fought for three days. Gandalf saved the day. No one batted an eyelash.

I’ve been speaking with Quintessential Editor about his book, editing mine, and outlining Sojourn in Despair.  That means I’ve been talking about magic systems like crazy.  Corey and I were talking about it, and I’d mentioned Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. I’m telling you, if you haven’t read these, and you write fantasy, stop writing and read this. It’s a solid group of guidelines.   Sanderson’s First Law is, “An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.”

I love fantasy. I love Sanderson’s work in particular.  The reason I love it though is because it has a sense of wonder. Bad fantasy destroys that sense of wonder with a sense of impossibility.    So when I read that law, I translate that to mean, “The better the reader understands the magic of the world, the more likely he’s going to accept that magic solved the problem.”

coverrevealIn The Journals of Bob Drifter, I took great care easing the reader into the magic system.  Some say I took too much care. But I take a great amount of satisfaction from the fact that no one has (as of yet) complained that the ending was too easy.  I spent some 110,000 words building up a villain that seemed unstoppable.  But as Grimm was doing dastardly things, I was explaining through a few characters how his power worked while also explaining how Bob’s power worked.  I feel if I hadn’t have done both, people would have called me out.  Actually, I was more concerned the reader would discover the trick too soon.  If that’s happened, no one said so yet. If you’ve read the book feel free to comment below regarding your thoughts.

I’m wracking my brain trying to determine a book that really failed at this. I’m sure it’s out there, and I’m sure I’ve read it, but I can’t honestly recall. But how do you prevent it?  Should you?

Should you?  Well, not necessarily.  (OK, you should TOTALLY prevent Deus Ex Machina, but you don’t always need a magic system which requires a degree in physics to understand).  Refer to the rule.  “An author’s ability to SOLVE conflict….”

What if you wanted to CAUSE it? Children’s, and young reader fantasy stories do this a lot.  No one sweeps in and saves the day with magic, but quite often magic is the cause of the problem.  I’d argue this is the case with Lord of the Rings.  Magic is far more responsible problems than it is solutions (Gandalf’s rescue included).  So…if you’re working on a story where magic is getting thrown around like crazy and all it does is make life miserable for the characters, GO FOR IT!  I don’t care how the magic system works.  It’s magic!

But what if the man is going to rely on magic?  Well then, the degree with which that magic is going to be relied upon must be that understood by the reader.  Here are a few things I try to do to avoid the problem.

One:  If Three is Good Enough for Tolkien, it’s good enough for me:  I consider this the LEAST an author can do.  I use this with foreshadowing and magic plot devices.  I make sure to mention the “trick” at least three times.  (Free autographed copy of my book if you can name the three instances I did this in The Journals of Bob Drifter.)

armageddon-1530229_960_720Two: The Mentor Magic Learning Montage:  I’m less and less a fan of this every time I see it and use it.  In 1,200, I took the mentor away JUST to avoid this.  Inevitably in most fantasy sagas, there’s the “mentor” who appears JUST as the guy develops his power.  How handy he shows up just in time to teach the guy how to become the hero.  It’s a common thing and not really a “sin” in writing. I’ve just personally grown tired of it.  (Though I did use a mentor archetype in New Utopia.  Even then, I added a twist just to be different.)  What this mentor can do is teach the user, and through him the reader, how the magic system works.  In these types of stories, there’s usually a “hint” (see above) at how something thought impossible could happen.  Or at least they do this next trick.

angel-1129922_960_720Three: Hang a Lantern:  When the character does something impossible, and another character goes, “How could that be!” The reader gets a clue that this is an intentional thing.  Then calmly waits for the explanation on how that should happen.  If you use this, you NEED to explain that later in the story.

Four:  Internal Dialogue:  This is the last one I use.  I used it most in 1,200, but I like it because it’s different.   The author can use conflict and internal dialogue to express learned experiences and ideas.  You can use the point of view of another character as well.  In New Utopia, one of my upcoming books, the hero, Wilum, does something impressive.  His mentor character (mentioned above) notices, then considers how it was done.  You actually see this quite a lot in Anime.

How do you avoid Deus Ex Machina?  Do you have a trick I don’t know about?  Please share it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt