Three Things Writing Taught Me About Life

Writing isn’t a form of escapism. It isn’t a luxurious way to spend time. One doesn’t make thousands of dollars and live a dream life. Writing is hard. Writing is painful. And writing builds character.

While there are many things I’ve learned while writing, I’m only going to list three today. Because three is the magic number. Besides, it sounds cool. Three Things Writing yeah. We’ll settle with three.

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Christian Convictions: Writing on Sundays

I don’t write on Sundays. I’m not saying no one should write on Sundays, but for me – I can’t do it. Well, I could very easily, and that is why I don’t. I get so obsessed with getting this done and getting that done. I mean, seriously, a dozen novels in my mind… where is one to get the time?

And that’s the thing. For me, writing will take up any time I allow it. It is my job. And Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (and yes, I realize the Sabbath and Sunday aren’t the same. The point is, we take one day a week from our normal schedule and business of work to rest, renew our minds, and worship God.)

I, early on in my writing, and with my dad’s leading, made up my mind that I’d not write on Sundays. I’d rest. I’d relax. And I’d pick up my work the next day.

We need to have time to rest. To recuperate. We can’t be working nonstop all the time or we wear ourselves out. God doesn’t do things for no reason, and resting one day in every seven is no exception.

Though I do ‘lose’ a day of writing each week, I have found resting on Sunday has benefited me and my life.

For starters, I have a solid cutoff. I aim to get everything for the week done by Saturday night because I won’t be working the next day.

Monday is a new week, which I enter fresh from a day of being able to ignore my plot holes or staring blankly at the screen. The day of clearing my mind lets me start the week with fresh energy, not to mention I get some extra sleep and file away more reading than normal.

Now, I’m not perfect. There has been a day or two I finished a scene really quick. Or a piece sprang into my head that I needed to write down. If I am stuck on a plot hole, the story runs through my head as I try to find some solution before I have to sit back down and write again the next day. But, as a general rule, I lay my writing to the side one day a week.

Choosing not to write on Sundays is a personal conviction for me. I don’t think it is a sin to write on Sunday, and I think there are those who can handle it without letting writing take over their life. But, as for me, I believe it is a Biblically promoted idea to rest one day a week. Not only does it open up time for us to worship God and reflect on matters we ignore in the hurry of life, but it gives us new strength and refreshes our mind to plunge back into the work of our story the next day.

New Fantasy Times: Independent Sidekicks

For this study, Kirin discovered that at least one character didn’t take kindly to being called a side-kick. Following which, said character wrote the following letter. Ladies and gentlefolk, meet Jagger, one of Ethaniel’s friends in Fidelyon.

Firstly, it’s companion, not sidekick. I mean, honestly. It’s not as if the ‘hero’ is any more important than we are, even if he does happen to be king, or chosen one, or something of that sort. Admit it, all of you. That term ‘hero’ is used for the person the story is focused on. The rest of us somehow are viewed as… less.

Surprise! We’re warriors and heroic in our own right too. Well, sometimes. I’m not saying every person in every story is heroic. But if the story were about one of us instead, you’d see what I mean. The only difference is that, instead of trying to run a failing kingdom and face down deadly enemies, we are standing guard, protecting our king from assassins… and still facing down deadly enemies. Though I’m sure if you were interested, you could find all sorts of fascinating things about us, even if our actions don’t change the fate of the age.

What do we do, then? I just answered that, didn’t I? We are… well, we are people. Just normal people placed in very not normal circumstances. (Just like the hero, I might add.) Though even that depends on the situation. Sometimes we might have prepared our lives to fight and defend others.

Because that is a great part of our duty. There are secondary characters, but the ones called sidekicks (shattered spears, who thought that term up? Did they have something against us to give us such a derogatory term?) Anyway, as I was saying, we companions are close to the hero, and so close to all the danger he naturally attracts (because what is a hero without an assassin before breakfast?). Hence we normally have our work cut out for us. Not that the hero is a poor fighter himself, but the enemy sends people against him without taking us into consideration. Which is both enraging and yet slightly convenient.

Still, like I said, we are just people, even if we are awesome people. There’s no one ‘type’. Some of us are funny, some serious. Some young, some old. We are generally loyal to our friends. All of them. We live, we die…

But such is life. In the end, we are no worse than the hero. Generally, we’re even better in one area or another. (Juggling and wielding twin blades would be my forte.) And I just have one note for all of you who still aren’t getting it.

Don’t underestimate us. Your regret at ignoring us will be the last thing you think.

Humbly,

Jagger

New Fantasy Times: Mentors for Hire

Mentors for Hire

Mentorship used to be relegated to those who had nowhere else to go. The former experts who outlived their glory. Older men, frequenting alehouses to pick fights or brooding in the dark corners of their bare cottages until some stripling, in desperate need of training, brightened their life and pulled them out of apathy. Perhaps the reason most retiring soldiers avoided mentorship was the high mortality rate once the apprentice learned almost everything they needed to know. But for you experts out there in need of a job, I have good news. Mentorship is now becoming respectable again. Its ranks have opened for many kinds of trainers and you are more likely to survive nowadays than you ever would have in the past.

There is really only one requirement for mentorship…a thorough knowledge of the topic to be studied. I’ve seen younger men teaching professional soldiers how to shoot bows. I’ve seen girls train retired rangers in the art of writing. I’ve seen old women teaching boys camouflage, stealth, and mending, while mere children give pointers on tracking, weather, or living on the street. Princes teach peasants and farmer’s wives train kings.

Of course, those who are older do tend to know topics better, but this isn’t always the case. A twenty-year-old who’s been practicing survival to keep alive for half his life will have more expertise than a ranger who knows the facts but has only been on the field for a few years. And really, a thorough knowledge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. No one knows everything, and as long as a mentor can admit that, learning from his apprentice even as he teaches him all he knows, things will be fine. Probably. Frankly, some of the most flourishing mentorships I’ve known is when both parties play the part of both mentor and apprentice in different topics.

Another point of note is that an apprentice can have more than one mentor, while a mentor might have several apprentices. This doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but such interweaving does tend to make the best use of resources.

As for the mentors themselves, rest assured you won’t turn gloomy and grim if you take the job. That’s not to say some frustration and pain won’t be involved. Unless you have an ideal apprentice, it won’t be easy…but there’s nothing to say you can’t face it with your own spirit and character. Jokes, pranks, teasing, reading while your apprentice practices their postures, surprises, dryness…each mentor has their own way of teaching and their own way of keeping up spirits, which is a vital task no matter your temperament.

Of course, while your apprentice will likely pick up on some of your quirks, they will be much quicker on picking up on your flaws. A sharp tongue. Brooding silence. A perchance for too much food or comfort… they will see it all. And they will use it as an excuse for their own behavior. So beware. If you think you’re not flaws, then take an apprentice and you’ll recognize your mistake very quickly.

And I think…oh yes, there is that final important matter of terminating the mentorship without dying. It’s quite easy, really. Leave before your apprentice faces whatever challenge he’s been trying to overcome. Let him fight his own battles and don’t throw yourself in front of a spear or sword or arrow, no matter how emotionally attached you’ve become during mentorship.

What? You don’t like the idea of abandonment or ditching self-sacrifice? I should have known better…though I might point out that some mentors teach solely for money and have no problems leaving him be. Moving on, there are alternatives to death and dishonor.

For one, you (probably) have a life too. Send your apprentice off to finish a task on his or her own while you turn to more personal matters. Sometimes life gives you a way out by throwing circumstances at you which force your apprentice to operate alone. Maybe you are wounded, are captured, are out spying, or are dealing with some other life and death matter of your own. Maybe you have another apprentice you are teaching, or a mentor of your own to save. Or maybe you just happen to be relaxing in some secluded valley during a peaceful lull, and can’t be reached in time for the main fight.

Perhaps you even stand by your apprentice’s side during the whole fight but be warned, there will come a time that he will need to rise up on his own. You may be there to see him do it, or you may have to leave if he is too dependent on you. But, mentally, each apprentice will need to come into his own and claim the prize you’ve been teaching him to acquire.

And really, besides the late nights, hard work, meager payment (like glory…which one can’t eat), emotional trauma, danger, and some likelihood of death (I said death was lessening, not that it was gone), there is no duty so rewarding as a mentorship. Assuming your apprentice doesn’t turn against you in the end, but that is a topic for another day. For now, if you have knowledge and love to teach, then at least consider the mentorship path. You won’t regret it.

Hopefully.

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

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Social Media: What Does an Author Really Need?

There are so many social media sites, but does an author really need to be on all of them? Is one or more of them indispensable to the serious author or do they just clutter and waste time? And the answer is… *draws deep breath* everyone has different views. What a surprise.

From what I’ve seen, focused work on most platforms can bring in revenue if you know what you’re doing. At least there are courses on how to grow and make money on Twitter, or using Pinterest, or with Facebook ads, from people who have used these sites themselves. That being said, an author only has so much time, so you want to spend it on what works and not just throw out information and hope it draws some people in. This involves trial and error (or buying a course), analytics, figuring out where your target audience congregates…and is beyond the scope of this article today.

However, over time, I have developed opinions on what platforms an author should have and their uses. Everyone has their own favorite sites and keep in mind that some of this is personal opinion, but hopefully it will give you some place to start if you are trying to figure out where you should devote your online time.

Website or Blog

These two terms are often used interchangeably, and they might be mingled together in reality as well, but there is a subtle difference. A website has information about you, pages leading to your books, contact information, etc. A blog is where you can post articles, pictures, stories, and updates on your life.

Every author ought to have a website of some kind. This is your central hub, the place you can send everyone to find out more about you and your work. This is where people can sign up to your newsletter and follow your life. A blog of some kind, either linked or as part of the site, is also handy. You don’t have to post every week or even regularly, just so long as you have a place your fans can find out the latest information about you and your work.

There are many free sites for both websites and blogs. I’ve tried Weebly, Blogger, and WordPress. WordPress is by far my favorite site for blogging, while I use Weebly for my main website (though some authors, including me, use two different places and domain names for their website and blog, it’s quite easy to just have your blog be part of your website under one domain name.)

Facebook

Facebook is a great place to connect with other people. You can create an author page for people to follow you, and this is useful for small updates on your life and work, but the main use I’ve found using Facebook is the ability to connect with other writers and readers. There are writing groups. There are promotional events and Facebook parties. You can message other authors and follow them easier. Though not necessary, I do think Facebook is a useful tool for authors to have.

Instagram

Instagram is a social media site where one posts pictures. If you like taking pictures of your life, then it can be quite fun. You can connect with fans to some degree as well, though not as much as if you were on a site like Facebook. Depending on what type of blog you have, you can also link your Instagram account to the sidebar of your blog so the changing pictures will keep fresh information on your web page even when you are too busy to post to your blog yourself.

Twitter

Some people love Twitter. Some are hardly on there. I’m one of the latter because I simply don’t have the time it would take to keep up with a Twitter account, but if you have the time to check it often, it can be a good place to connect with readers. If you just want to post several times a day, you can use an app called Hootsuite. You can schedule posts to a number of social media sites with Hootsuite, including Twitter, allowing one to sit down for an hour and schedule daily tweets for a whole month. Then you can forget about it (and yet still have some semblance of a presence there), only checking it once or twice a day.

Pinterest

I do make Pinterest friendly pins of my blog posts and post them to drive traffic to my blog. But, besides that, the main reason I use Pinterest is to find pictures of my characters and create storyboards. Pinterest is a very cool tool for any author to use. You’re not going to connect directly to fans through there, but marketing is a possibility if you have learned how to use it (I haven’t though I’ve seen courses on using Pinterest to sell your product) and you should be able to drive traffic to your blog or newsletter as well.

Email List

This isn’t really a site, but it is the most important marketing platform. And this isn’t my opinion…this is what every expert I listen to says. If you want to be able to sell well, build an email list. I’ll probably have an article about how to create an email list and what one can use it for next month, but there are places like Mail Chimp that let you create quite a sizable list before you have to start paying for the service.

In the end, having a website or blog is essential to providing a foundation for yourself and your work. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are most useful when it comes to one on one contacting of fans and other writers. Most authors tend to pick and spend most of their social media times one one of these sites. An email list is your largest marketing weapon, so spend the time needed to build it up. Pinterest is fun as well as useful, especially for those who write fiction.

What social media sites do you enjoy? Do you have any tips about marketing or connecting with readers on various sites? Is there a social media site which you love that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Fidelyon: ‘E’ with Ethaniel

Ethaniel, the main character in my novel, Fidelyon, has taken it upon himself to introduce you to his world by going through an alphabet of terms and names.

So, I didn’t want to do this…there are plenty of things in this world which begin with ‘E’, like my home country of Elentisa, divided as it is into twelve provinces, or Erathrane Forest, with its dark legends of an Archeress who guards its depth’s with a silver bow, but no… *sighs* Hope says I should talk about myself, Ethaniel.

So here I am. *bows*

How they get these…photos, they call them, I’m not sure. But I guess it’s a good enough likeness if my friends are to be believed.

Don’t ask about the clothes in these pictures. They are…I’ve never seen them before.

And that…that is a picture that is not only colored but it moving. Hope says you like that sort of thing.

What, pictures aren’t enough? I’m supposed to talk about myself?

If you insist.

My home is Outpost 7, where Ard is Captain. Seeing as he’s the one who rescued me when I was only three from a Volandum raid, and raised me when no one knew who my family was, it was only natural that I should become a messenger. But I enjoy the work, for the most part. Three leagues in two hours; life could be worse. And with no family, this occupation is a good one. Still, I’m 19 now and may one day join a border outpost or even become a ranger. I’ve not spoken to it with Ard yet, but I think he suspects. I suppose we shall see.

And no, Hope, I’m not telling them about the dreams and nightmares; why would they care about that?

Anyway, I guess…Oh yes, there’s this personality typing thing that Hope likes. I don’t understand it, but these pictures she’s found do describe me, so enjoy them, if they interest you at all for some reason.

And…that’s it. I’m done. If you really want to know about me more for some reason, you can read Fidelyon whenever Hope gets that account done.

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New Fantasy Times: Villainous Complaints

Villainous Complaints

Elena recently discovered fragments of a handbook compiled by a villain (who will go unnamed) who also deemed himself a writer. After one defeat, he spent the better part of the night ranting to himself about the perceptions of villains by the common public.

There’s too many people claiming the title of villain now days. One has only to kidnap a princess or destroy a town and their names are suddenly spoken in hushed whispers. Ridiculous. There are some of us who actually had to WORK for our titles.

And the public perception of villains…I mean, I remember when the no one would dare speak the name of one who held their life in their hands. Now people laugh behind our backs and underestimate us in the most astounding ways. Do they honestly thing we got our positions with careless henchmen or soldiers who couldn’t shoot straight? HONESTLY, PEOPLE! Let’s think about this a moment here!

And besides that, why must our name be blackened and twisted into some cruel merciless form? What do they think a villain is? Someone who slaughters for fun?

Actually, that’s a good question…who a villain is, not the slaughtering for fun part. Slaughtering, by the way, is not to be recommended unless in the most dire cases. Nine times out of ten it only succeeds in raising up a rebellion among people who would have been grudgingly content to live under higher taxes and stricter laws as long as they themselves were left in peace. Plus, it gives us a bad name; as if we don’t have enough of that going around as it is. But I digress

A villain can be one of two things. The common definition nowadays is that he is a ‘cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime’. Basically, he’s a scoundrel or, as we call them, lower-class villains. But sometimes they are just the major evil agency opposing the hero, some character or another everyone always seems to like. Don’t ask me why. These ‘heroes’ tend to be beaten, captured, and have everything they love torn from them and still everyone wishes they were them.

But back to the ‘evil agency’ or, as I like to call it, the higher class of the villain guild. I’m not exactly opposed to the definition, but can we please bend that term ‘evil’ slightly to mean something more than gloomy towers, black clothes (where has the fashion sense gone now days?), and a love of death, gold, and pain?

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up…the main points anyhow.

For starters, we villains can be in almost any position. Of course, we normally prefer a powerful place in society…say a king or a general. But sometimes we’re spies. Or tavern keepers. Or teachers. Or housemaids.

For one just starting a career, a lesser position might be a good place to start since you’ll be under less scrutiny. Of course, even as something like a blacksmith or actor, it’s taken for granted you’ve a powerful following of people who you can raise up at a moment’s notice to accomplish whatever schemes you intend to…well, accomplish. Otherwise, don’t you dare take the title of villain because the guild is growing aggravated at incompetents claiming to be villains. We in the process of hiring assassins to deal with the matter.

On the other end of the scale are the dark lords. SOOOO annoying. They might not do much, but their presentation is enough to make the bravest cower. Of course, presentation is half of what being a villain is about, but still they needn’t flaunt themselves over the rest of us.

Oh, and family relations have nothing to do with a person’s success, though it may place some people in a better position to exercise authority than others. But a nephew is about as likely to try to kill and take the throne from an uncle, as an uncle is from a nephew. Flaming terrors, but what is it with the poor uncles now days? Almost everyone becomes an uncle eventually, provided he has siblings. And what about the Aunts? They can be just as deadly, sometimes even more so.

Back to our grievances.

Like people thinking we’re some sort of monsters. All right, I admit, there are some who do enjoy causing pain or death. But most of us just have something we want. There may be a particular small group we hate and will inflict pain on if we can, but for the most parts life is just life. We may even show a touch of mercy here or there to keep the subjects in line. Ruling by fear is all very well, and we rarely rule by love. Too much work, the love part. But we can be nice if we wish. And besides, when those who fear us are also treated decently well, then tend to let us do as we please.

And honestly, there are far more entertaining things than stuck away inside some dank torture chamber.

Dancing, for instance. Music. Feasts. Hunting. Counting over treasure (for those with dragon blood in their veins, as well as a few mathematically minded souls. Most of us just like to spend it.) Hunting. Swimming. Climbing. Hiking. Racing. Chess. Writing. Reading. The list could go on and on. Basically, we can be very sophisticated if we please. And there are many of us who do please.

And on the subject of likes, can I just touch on clothes? Put quite simply, we’re as varied as any other guild. Some like black. Some like scarlet. Some stay in fashion. Some start fashions at the point of a sword. And some of us don’t care how we look as long as we’ve several weapons nearby. But everyone looks good in black; hero, villain, or idiot. It doesn’t have the same flair it used to. And we don’t all use such dark colors.

And…oh yes. Minions. If anyone knows where to get simple, mindless, happy minions, please tell me. Because I’ve yet to find them. One either has slaves, or they pay others for labor.

Also, just because we tend to control many people by fear of one kind or another, doesn’t mean we don’t have friends who help us simply because they like us. We, or at least I, can be very charming if I please. We don’t give power to anyone unless there’s a reason. And that reason is normally because we like the person. A friend. A brother. A son. Of course, if they betray us they’ll die. But isn’t that how life goes with heroes too, and no one complains about them.

We true villains didn’t get where we are by making mistakes, and we are careful our subordinates are smart as well. They support us, we reward them. Everyone is happy. Also, they know their success is bound up in ours. And we rarely kill someone for failing. That’s a disastrous waste of talent and those who do kill subordinates who fail tend to be villains of the lower quality.

Oh, and the skills. We’re the same as any other person. What did you expect? Of course, many of us can fight well or are at least skilled at tactics, but that’s to be expected. But we have interests and skills like any other; reading, music, debate, riding, sports. Even cooking and gardening.

Our security, on the other hand, tends to be top of the scale. Your hero can’t run across twenty paces of open garden while being shot at. Either he sneaks in, or he’ll die, because we only hire the best. Actually, cut out the sneaking in too. Even that would be very difficult. And when we capture the hero *insert mocking tone* we DO NOT tell him all our plans, or stand around taunting him and giving him time to escape. The villains who do this are, in reality, double agents or are so insecure they need to see the hero’s fear to ensure they have succeeded. A ridiculous mindset when they already have prove their power by capturing him or her in the first place.

But really, in many of our tastes, we’re like any other person. We’re not monsters, at least not normally. As for our choice of career, there’s many reasons. Sometimes it’s revenge. Other times its love of family or nation. Sometimes we want power or riches. Sometimes a villain really is a bit insane mentally (they also tend to be great masterminds. Why do the ones who don’t enjoy what they get always succeed?) But in the end, it’s because we want something, either physical or ideological, and so we set our mind to get it. And we do get it, no matter the price.

Also…presentation. Anyone can kill or lie to take what they please. The real villains do it with such class that their foes feel honored to be defeated by them. (Yes, I know they’d deny it, but they do).

Disclaimer: The views held in this report is in no way supported by either myself or by Kirin or Elena. It is the copy of a diary rant only, to give you a quick glimpse into the mind of a villain. Please do not put this advice to play in your own life.

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