Friday, December 30, 2022

much ado about nothing?

It might surprise some how difficult writing can be, although I think I've talked about this before. I've been having trouble with some of the books in this series.

In this latest case, Book 16 of Forgotten Worlds, it's partly due to what seems to be a sensitivity to synthetic vitamin D that isn't pleasant, no matter the form or source of it. I've never done well with synthetic D, but things get worse over time in my reaction to it. Not taking it leaves me feeling so much better and more focused. I was taking it for a while because of winter being here and my levels tested "low", but trying to improve that was hindering my ability to focus. Adding magnesium as some health practitioners suggest didn't help. Not everyone tolerates D supplements. Lucky me for being one of them. 😕  Not.

I've stopped taking it and am avoiding anything fortified, and the creativity is returning where I was struggling to write. This is my life--hypersensitivity to everything.

That hypersensitivity helps in some ways, especially in understanding body language and the nuances of communication, not just with people but also with animals. I had to learn to understand different species' "languages", but once you know the basics, the subtleties mean much more and communicating is to outsiders "whispering". And with people, you would be surprised by what we convey without realizing. Animals are especially fine-tuned to our body language and vocal cues, prey creatures like horses being particularly sensitive. Learning to communicate with animals in body language has made me more sensitive about the nuances of human body language also, and that helps in communication skills that carry into writing.

Writing is an art of communication with many levels. While most people think about worldbuilding, character-building, or description--the bigger aspects--at the most basic level, it call comes down to communication. One could use the analogy of a computer program; at the basics, it's all 1's and 0's (on and off power) that are arranged in specific orders to form symbols, which combine to form words, which form expressions, etc. There's an element to computer programming that's very technical, as their is with writing, but there is more to communicating than technical details. We're not computers. 

Communication is colored by nuances that most people don't think about, the little things that contribute to those larger aspects mentioned above. Our word choices reflect our level of education, our mood, our confidence in a subject, and so much more. Our voice inflection says a lot about our mood and intent. Accents can give clues about where we're from or perhaps have spent a lot of our lives. We also use body language and gesticulations, which has had whole books written on it (look up kinesiology).  Watch people having conversations and in different situations and how emotions influence their body language. The subtleties of communication are something we are socialized to recognize, but most people don't think about it; they just understand from experience and exposure.

In any communication exchange, there are several levels that alter the meaning. Remember that while you think you know what you're saying, someone else may be interpreting something much different. A good example is the old telephone game--one person whispers to another, who whispers to another... on down the line, until the last person says what they think the message is. It's rarely the same.

This is why no one person reads the same story, despite the exact same words in the exact same order. Part of communication is from the reader's (receiver's) perspective, which can change things. You think you're saying one thing, but what comes out may not quite be what you think, much less how someone else interprets it. The receiver of that communication may interpet it differently through the lens of their own life and experiences. Communication has five layers: the sender's idea -> the sender's expression of that idea -> the actual communication -> what the receiver understands -> the receiver's interpretation. This is simplifying it, but it was a valuable lesson from one of my college courses that has stuck with me as a writer. This is why every detail in communicating is so important, and how we can provide nuance to characters.

This gets used in good writing, and there are whole courses on how best to do so, but I won't get into that here. Expressions and nuances of body language speak volumes about the nature of a character and their intents. Some characters will be more aware than others, like any range of real people. Anyone can learn to pick up on the more subtle cues than normal, but one must be observant and learn to understand what those subtle layers of communication mean in a broad cultural sense and coming from specific individuals within a culture. Even the inflection of one's voice and choice of words are clues that only a careful observer might pick up.

And the writer's voice is also unique in these aspects.

I used to sit and watch people at the mall and study them. It was fun when I and another friend who also writes both sat at the college dining hall and talked about people we saw. We'd even go through personal ads and use the clues to expound on what kind of people they were, just based on language and how they described themselves. It was great character practice that I didn't come to appreciate until much later.

That ability to pick up on the smallest of cues is something we all have, some more than others. Writers, in particular tend to be sensitive individuals to be able to convey these successfully for readers. The art is getting the writer's vision of the story to match the reader's interpretation. It will never be 100%, but that's what makes writing and reading so much fun--it's unique to each individual.

All this came out as I was just trying to say that I'm rewriting the setting on Forgotten Worlds book 16, and it's far more interesting. Unfortunately, rewriting takes time. I was halfway done but struggling because I couldn't focus clearly. Now, after dropping the Vitamin D and changing the setting of the story, it's picking up pace again. Lesson learned.

(You can pick up Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds books 1-13 in ebook format from a number of retailers. Links for the series are listed for each book on my website Forgotten Worlds page. Print editions of individual books are being made available.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Forgotten Worlds - filling in holes

I just had a HUGE answer of the Forgotten Worlds series explode into creation. I've been stumped about something about the series for a while to reconcile it with certain aspects of Christian faith. I was on the treadmill (walking) and the spark of inspiration created a whole explanation to completely solve the issue. (Walking, showering, driving--those three activities always produce the biggest creative explosions.) I eliminated a confounding issue that could have meant extraordinary mental gymnastics to explain a gaping plot hole.

And it is absolutely fitting for this series. It couldn't have been more perfect!

This is the part of writing that I love. Those pieces of a puzzle that one has to piece together for the bigger picture to make sense. It happens many times throughout the course of a book and a series, especially one like Forgotten Worlds.

It happened back around books 4-5, and now this piece will reconcile something big and fits perfectly in the context of the series and previous parts of the Starfire Angels series. It's really coming together so neat and tidy. I'm giddy with excitement over this.

It only took how long for the idea to spark? Everything in the right time. The best part is that it's perfectly logical in this story and lets me do what I've always wanted Starfire Angels to do as a Christian science fiction series.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Progress on Book 16... and other publishing updates

Book 16:

I have been working on Book 16, although not making the progress I would like.

Changing my original outline for the book kind of threw some kinks in my creative process. I had an outline for an idea but decided that I needed to fill in some gaps of the story and went a different route to attaining a similar outcome.

Book 16 is about Seska's past, but I didn't want to reveal it in a similar manner that I did for L'Ni in Book 13. Rather, I thought that was too lazy since I had done that walk through a whole background already, and I like these stories to each stand out. So, I developed a different idea for revealing more about her. Writing ebbed and flowed as the ideas came. Then I took some time to evaluate it.

Unfortunately, I don't do well with writing when I feel like I have to attain a goal instead of writing a story. And that happens as a series grows. Complexities arise because the reader is now (as am I) familiar with characters and some of their experiences, so staying true to that gets more complicated. I can't just make up stuff but have to keep in mind what has been revealed; and I worry about what I don't remember, because there's so much to remember at this point and not every little detail is in my series wiki document.

I had to answer some questions to figure this out, such as what the purpose of the story in the series was--every book has to be leading to something important in the series--and also what is the climax of this story and the important characters. What do I want to reveal with this? These required some thinking time and led to other questions, most importantly of which is how to increase the tension, but I resolved enough to continue writing.

I also had to be able to inject some action into the story and reveal something about the changing relationships among the characters.

And that was another question--is it time for a new character or for something to happen to one of the existing characters?

These are just a few of the thoughts that go through my mind in continuing this series. Growth and change are always important or the story and/or series becomes stagnant. I love my characters, but they can't always get out of a situation without scars and sometimes they can't always get out of a situation alive.

Right now, I'm about 1/3 to my target finishing length with this one, and the pieces are coming together. The politics of this universe are about to get more complicated in the war against the Issan. Will the good guys have sufficient support to take out all the Issan installations in time?

In the meantime, Books 1-13 are available digitally from major retailers. I'm working on getting them out in paperback. Individual hardcovers would be too expensive, but I will have more hardcover omnibus editions, although those will be from Barnes and Noble.

Omnibus collections:

I have been fighting with printer services to create hardcover omnibus editions (Forgotten Worlds Collection 1 (Book 1-5) & Collection 2 (Books 6-10)). There are some issues with them that I seem to have found at every turn of creating the print books. However, in the process, I've also learned. The hardcovers are only available from barnesandnoble.com. Collection 1 is available now. Collection 2 is coming and should have been ready a few months ago, but BN Press's service has been a bit of a nightmare. Nevertheless, it's the best option I have for hardcovers of these doorstopper sizes. I'm glad the books are shorter length individually, but I probably should have planned for 4-book collections instead of 5-book collections. 

CLICK IMAGE TO PURCHASE

FORTHCOMING IN PRINT

And as you might have seen in a previous post, these are both on sale as paperbacks from Amazon. (see also the promo below)

Individual paperback books:

I am working on these. The first two Forgotten Worlds books are now available as paperbacks and I've submitted the files for VotC. I'll work on a book 4 -- IN DARKNESS, LIGHT -- paperback soon. I am pacing these because of the time and cost of setting them up. I looked into hardcovers, but the price of hardcovers for readers is not worthwhile. For the price of two individual hardcovers you could buy a 5-book omnibus. The hardcover omnibus is also cheaper than the individual paperbacks, but not by much.

Paperback prices:

A NEW BEGINNING... $8.99

THE RULE OF YONDER... $9.99

VAULT OF THE CELESTIALS... $9.99 (coming soon) 

When I get these caught up, I'll start on the Dark Angel Chronicles books.

That's all for now.

Have a good weekend!

Click image to purchase Collection 1 on Amazon


Sunday, December 4, 2022

Advent miracle

(I am writing, I promise, but I want to share something else, a message of faith and inspiration.)

I have a short Christian story to tell. 

I have posted lectures from Fr. Chad Ripperger, PhD, and can't thank him enough for all he has shared on Youtube and in his Deliverance Prayers for the Laity book. One thing he says is that if we want to know what the root of an issue in our spiritual lives is, ask the Most Sorrowful Mother/Our Lady of Sorrows, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to reveal it.

It works!

The day after I asked in prayer for her to reveal the problem with my oldest child, I was looking for something to watch to close out the night before bed and came across Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4172482/) on Freevee. I had never encountered the story before. This was new to me and completely captivated me.

Two days later (yesterday), I attended a women's mini-retreat at our church, which I had been anticipating all week. After mass, we gathered for breakfast and a presentation with a local writer of religious books. She spoke about St. Monica, who prayed for 17 years for her son to return to the faith. He did, and he is now known as St. Augustine. (I bought her book, by the way. You can find it on Amazon: What Would Monica Do?) I was fighting back tears because of the timing of this, and the description hadn't been specific about St. Monica's life, so I had no idea about that beforehand.

I've been down because I also have a child who I've been trying to bring back to her faith and doesn't want to be bothered with it.

But here's the bigger connection of how I know this was the answer to that prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows--the husband of the speaker had a cap on with the image from Juan Diego's tilma, the image that is so famous for its miraculous existence. The author and her husband donated the replica (blessed by Pope St. John Paul II) that hangs in our church.

Message received loud and clear, Blessed Mother. I understand what I need to do. Thank you.

It's not the end result I desire, but it is helpful and consoling guidance. And Our Lady of Guadalupe has a special meaning for me now.

ps--The Blessed Mother also helped me when that same child was a new baby and we had trouble breastfeeding, going on a month of difficulty. While my baby slept, I cried and prayed for Mary's intercession as one mother to another. When my baby woke up and nursed, we had no more problems. My baby latched on easily from that point forward.