100 Days of Productivity Challenge: What I Learned

 

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The End of an Era

Warning: a lengthy post, gif usage, many sappy feelings lie ahead

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The Final Advent has at long last been published. The reality of that still hasn’t quite seeped in for me. Why, you ask?

Turn back the clock to 2005, eleven years ago. For me that meant fourth grade in Mr. Leeland Looper’s class, Girl Scouts, and a crazy amount of playing make-believe.

Mr. Looper always gave us at least thirty minutes each week so we could write whatever came to us. (He was big on childhood literacy. Woohoo!) In those thirty minutes, something came over me and I wrote an eleven page story, the basis of what would become No Angels today. My parents encouraged my writing, and so then I expanded it to thirty pages. Then I wrote a second one, clocking in at 50 pages. You get the idea.

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Actual photo of me after finishing a draft.

Over the course of the next few years, I dreamed up plot ideas and character concepts and so on to flesh out my writings, and in eight grade I completed what would become today’s No Angels. In my sophomore year of high school, I completed Collapsed Cathedrals, and in my freshman year at university, The Final Advent. While all of the aforementioned have undergone a massive amount of editing and reconstruction, still the effort stands and boils down to one truth: working on the No Angels trilogy had been a constant in my life for eleven years, by my side from childhood to adulthood.

Now the last book has been published. I will never again work on No Angels.

It’s immensely satisfying to have seen this project through to the end, yet it’s also bittersweet. Finally I can release this story and continue down my journey’s road, but I would be lying if I said I won’t miss it. These characters have become my friends over the years. My own life story has been threaded into the pages. And now it’s time to move on. The phrase “thanks for the memories” has never been more apparent to me than it is now.

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Yet more actual footage of me.

I want to thank everyone who’s helped me reach this point, who’s helped me achieve my still-startling reality of completing and publishing a complete trilogy by age 20. Never in my wildest dreams could I have done it without the following:

JD Hinze – My dad, the person who introduced me to storytelling and fantasy in the first place. He read over eight (horrific) versions of my first book, but with each of his edits I learned and my skills grew. Without his belief in me and his fostering my abilities and telling me to go and just do it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

John Nagle – I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Nagle about eight years ago, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. He was the first person to introduce me to the idea of independent publishing, and has offered his assistance and feedback in many of my efforts to this day. Without his suggestion and encouragement, never would I have taken the plunge into indie publishing.

Elizabeth Wheatley – Elisabeth Wheatley and I met at the Texas Book Festival a few years back, exchanged contact info, and have been writing buddies from then on out. We’ve beta-read one another’s novels, talked about story ideas, and supported one another since. She’s cheered me on and given me incredibly valuable insight for years, plus gave me the confidence and motivation to continue on my journey.

Intisar Khanani – Much like Elisabeth Wheatley, Intisar has beta-read stories of mine and given me great insights into the craft of writing. (Once she even mailed me a signed copy of her novel Sunbolt, which I LOVED.) Without these writing friends, it would have been near impossible to see this trilogy through to the end.

Matthew Bogard – I met Matthew nearly over a year and a half ago, and from day one I knew he was endowed with a sharp wit. I’ll admit to you (we’re close, right?) that we’ve also been dating for just as long. (Anecdote: I wiped the floor with him during a sparring match and he immediately asked me out to dinner.) One of my beta readers was too busy to go over The Final Advent, so Matthew volunteered in their stead. I was hesitant at first (it took him MONTHS to convince me to let him near it), but he ended up being fantastic.  Not only that, but he’s been an incredible source of support throughout my endeavors.

You – Yes, you, reading this right now, long-time reader or complete newbie who just stumbled across this post. Without the support of those in the background (especially my lovely commenters and like-rs!) I’d feel and be fruitless in my efforts, without support save those I’ve mentioned above. Knowing that my blog followers and readers are here makes everything worth it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

For me the publication of The Final Advent marks the end of an era. And so, here’s to the next one, where ever it may take us!

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Find The Final Advent on Amazon.

TFA-Cover-Reveal Death overshadows everyone at some point, but for Liz Patrona that time comes far too soon. Word comes that Wily, her ruthless enemy, survived being thrown into the Black River and crossed into Geminus to usurp the kingdom’s throne. Now his sights rest firmly on her world. Knowing Liz is the only threat in his path, he curses her to die in one year’s time—unless she can kill him before the clock runs out. In the months she has left, she must travel into Geminus, forge precarious alliances with those who’ve survived Wily’s reign, and battle for her very survival. Yet what lies in Geminus may be more than she bargained for. In these foreign lands looms a sinister secret about her own past. Something that has been guiding her from her first breaths to her final steps.

In the long-awaited conclusion to the No Angels trilogy, Liz is pushed one last time to discover the bounds of how far she’s willing to go to protect those she loves—even if it means losing herself along the way.

Writing Update: January 2016

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At long last, The Final Advent has been published! This brings the No Angels trilogy to a close, which is a bittersweet moment for me. (There’ll be an entire blog post on this later.) This is a huge accomplishment for me, and is a promising way to start off the new year!

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I’ve finally started drafting The Immortal! I plan for the first draft to clock in around 70k, and have already knocked out 6k. To be honest, while first drafts famously suck, I am having a LOT of fun writing it! I hope you guys will like reading it just as much. ;)

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The Stolen Sun

Still subbing away on this one! It’s at Tor right now, a place that can take months to respond, but hey, we’ve all gotta play the game at one time or another, am I right?

Where Gold is Born

Yep, this piece has already been published. I know. But! Since the previous place didn’t have exclusive rights over it (the window for their rights have since expired), I’m trying to squeeze another credit out of this one by subbing it as a reprint.

Heartless (WIP title)

My current sci-fi/horror piece! To be honest, drafting this one is . . . laborious. I feel like the story is quite literally dying under my fingers with each sentence, but that’s also how I used to feel about TSS, and look where that is now! I’m holding out hope for this one. I’m aiming for 6k for the first draft, and am at about 2k as it stands.

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Stay tuned, everyone! What progress have you been making on your goals?

My Top 5 Motivators When Writing NO ANGELS

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Life is hard. Writing is harder. When working on multiple books whilst trying to juggle the daily minutiae, it can be hard to stay motivated. Here are the top 5 things I’ve used when writing NO ANGELS that kept me motivated enough to sit my butt in the chair and write.

1 – Watching Fantasy and/or Action Movies

Who hasn’t watched Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, or Harry Potter to get themselves amped up about writing? This is a pretty common trick, but for good reason. Not only does it show the fantastical in rich detail, but it also tickles the notion that your ideas can one day be on the big screen too.

2 – Thinking of my Readers

I love telling stories. If I had to choose between making a living off writing but never really satisfying my readers, or never making a dime but people LOVING my stories, I’d pick the latter every time. I want to deliver. I want to tell a story that enthralls, but to do that I have to actually write.

3 – Fighting/Sparring/Playing with a Variety of Dangerous Things

If you know me, you know that I have a solid history of martial arts training, am always armed in some fashion, and am a card carrying Texan (read: know how to shoot). I’ve cleaned up in many a tournament sparring division, have split a cement brick with a single punch, fired AK-47s (plus many more, obviously) and so on. You get the idea. And all of these activities light an absolute fire in me. Not only are they wildly fun, but I inevitably always start thinking of novel fight scenes while I’m doing drills, cleaning my equipment, etc. Plus, I like to think my experience adds to the energy of the written fight scenes themselves. ;) Try throwing a few punches one day and see how you feel about your next action scene!

4 – Reading Poetry

This one falls much into the same vein as #1; I could have put reading in general, but I feel that’s far too obvious. The personal charm of poetry for me lies in the beauty of each carefully selected word, the arrangement and variation of the lines, how lyrical the language is, and how such a strong image can be imparted with so few words. When in doubt, poetry prevails.

5 – When All Else Fails

Sometimes, nothing you do to motivate yourself will work. I get that. Motivation is rather unnecessary if you ask me, but it does make the job easier. But sometimes life simply isn’t easy. So, when all else fails, here is a fool-proof strategy for writing.

Step 1: Put your butt in the chair.

Step 2: Acquire a writing utensil and paper (NOT A COMPUTER– I see you, internet addicts.)

Step 3: Write. Force yourself to put words on the page. (They do not have to be good. They probably won’t be good.) Literally just put down words and then, look! You’re writing! You might be writing absolute trash, but that’s leaps and bounds ahead of not writing at all.

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What strategies do you use to motivate yourself towards a task, writing-related or otherwise? Comment below!

What’s Changed in NO ANGELS

As with all long projects, No Angels has had a multitude of alterations made to it. While the bare-bone structure has largely stayed the same, that’s about it. Below are just a few of the most memorable changes that’ve been made to the series over the years.

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Riven used to be little more than a comic relief character. His name was Bobby. (And no, I’m not kidding.)

For a time, Liz was actually supposed to end up with Mark. I’d liked the idea of the non-special, normal friend getting the girl, but as Riven’s character developed, Mark got cut out of the picture. Muggle.

There were originally four books. Count ’em. The extra (and initially second) book took place in the Australian outback because, as a kid, I was obsessed with the deadly variety of creatures the continent hosts. I deemed it extraneous pretty early on.

Originally Guards who’d been brought back to life existed only in animal form, but I’d found that didn’t work into the mechanics of the story as well.

Liz’s primary weapon used to be a flame-arrowed bow. She also used to have power over stone/earth, but I thought that was getting a bit too Avatar: The Last Airbender-y so I gave those powers to a different race, the Viri Lapideus.

Liz’s last name was originally Crenshath. She had about 10 last names before I finally just picked one.

Liz initially had another best friend in addition to Mark: Josie. In the end, she betrayed Liz by trading confidential information to Jakeus in exchange for him not attacking her when his plans came to fruition. She didn’t serve much of a purpose in the story overall, though, so out she went!

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Did any of these surprise you? Did you see some of them coming? Comment below!

 

Back and Better Than Ever: Key of Amatahns (#1)

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Do you like fantasy? Action? Adventure? (Of course you do!) In that case, Elisabeth Wheatley’s The Key of Amatahns is right up your alley, and I’ve got some good news for you. Not only does it have a gorgeous new cover, it’s also re-edited and more wondrous than ever.

“In a land where those with magic are esteemed and revered, Janir guards a secret that would send her to the headsman’s block at a word. As one of the reviled Argetallams, she has the power to destroy enchantments and steal others’ magic—an ability that has caused bloodshed for generations.

Raised as the illegitimate daughter of an influential lord, she was determined to turn her back on her heritage, but when her power manifests, leaving a nobleman dead, she has no choice but to flee her adoptive home. In exile with the help of a fearless young enchanter and an elf sworn to protect her, she finds herself entangled in a quest to hide an ancient artifact from the kingdom’s enemies.

But they are not the only ones after the relic and soon their paths cross with a rival from Janir’s distant childhood. With no hope of help or rescue, the fate of nations will depend on a fifteen year old girl and her mastery of powers she doesn’t understand.”Goodreads

I wanted to get in Wheatley’s head and pick her brain regarding her editing process. Every author has different goals and approaches, so read below to find out hers!

  1. What made you decide to re-edit The Key of Amatahns?
When I started wanting to shield the book’s very existence from the world, I realized I had to do something. There’s always things I want to change post publication (in every single thing I’ve published ever), but not as badly as this. And because I’m self-published now, I could do so something about it. Ha!
  1. What sort of changes did you make this time around?
There were lots of changes. LOTS. The basic storyline is still the same, but a few characters were cut and other characters who were originally killed off were spared long enough to fulfill their parts (and then I killed them all over again). There were some forms of address that were changed, plenty of scenes that were completely rewritten, and details of the world that were overhauled.
One thing that was very important to me in the rewriting process was to show a more balanced distribution of bad and good between the Brevian/Stlavish “sides.” I aimed for that before, but I tried even harder this time around.
  1. I’ve noticed TKoA has a gorgeous new cover! What led you to seek that out and will any of your other books be getting new covers?
TKoA was given a facelift for the same reason I carved out a new book—I wanted to be proud of it. The old one just sort of felt blah and I wanted something ooh. And yes! I have actually picked out the model and images for the rest of the series and we should be getting matching new faces for them, too, as well as the future installments!
  1. What process did you use to edit TKoA this time, and (considering it was released once before) was it any different from how you’ve edited books in the past?
Actually, it wasn’t that different from how I usually edit a first draft. I opened it up and read through, fighting back the urge to vomit as I went and making up a laundry list of things that would be mercilessly altered. I had plenty of moments where I wanted to shoot my computer, my manuscript, or perhaps myself, but we got through (computer, manuscript, and all) and I think it was definitely worth it.
  1. What was it like re-editing TKoA? Nostalgic? Frustrating beyond belief? Something else?
Most of re-editing involved me sitting before my computer and screeching to the heavens in a mournful wail. “What was I thinking?” echoed frequently from my room during this process. In some ways, it was nostalgic as I recalled what had been going on in my life as I had originally written this or that, but the warm fuzzy feelings were usually short lived. For the most part, I was trying to figure out how 15-year-old me could have thought that thing was ready to meet planet Earth.
  1. As someone who is also re-editing an already released novel, I’ve had to come to the realization that a book will never really be “done,” but that we as authors will have to concede at some point and say we’re finished with it. On this project, how and when did you decide on that point for yourself and how do you feel?
The “give it up” point for me was hard to reach. I gave myself a deadline of January, but didn’t let go of the story and hit publish until halfway through March. I wrestled with this and tussled with that, but in the end, I had no choice but to let it go after the third overhaul. I was going to go crazy if I didn’t and my family had been through enough tribulation and wailing as it was.
I’d like to thank Ms. Wheatley for her time, (and for her highly enjoyable series). Go check out Key of Amatahns now!
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To find Elisabeth Wheatley at her respective sites, follow the links below!

In Times of Trouble

As one can likely guess, writing is a huge part of my life. Not only that, but it’s one of the most valuable assets I have, and have used it throughout my life accordingly.

For instance, when writing exam papers I’ve never gotten anything lower than an A, (even when I have zero idea what I’m talking about because I know how to sufficiently BS something; thanks, standardized testing system). I’m able to deal with those weird questions on job applications because, somehow, I’m able to write my way around them. (You know exactly what questions I’m talking about. Those ones that ask “what ambiguous life experiences gave you sufficient experience to deal with x scenario that’s never happened to anyone ever?”)

Also, no writer’s cramp. Those muscles are strong, baby.

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However, there are also much more meaningful ways in which I can use my skills, and that is exactly what was called upon this past month.

My little brother unexpectedly passed away on May 1st. The amount of shock, of that out-of-body feeling is unlike anything I can convey at the present moment. But still, I had a familiar habit and comfort to fall back on, and it was something I needed to utilize. Writing.

I wrote my brother’s eulogy and delivered it in front of over 500 people. I wrote the poem that was in the distributed literature. I worked on the obituary.

Most obviously, my writing has zero weight on the tragedy of what happened. It’s a side-note, at most.

But. Writing helped (and is still helping) me through it. It allows me to put my grief and myriad other feelings down so that I can see the words staring back at me. It’s a release, if only small and temporary, from everything else around me. Writing has always offered me escapism, but primarily in the vein of storytelling. Now it’s much more than that.

So enjoy your days while you have them, and write while you have the chance. That’s certainly what I’ll be doing.