One week away!

I hope all of my readers had a very wonderful holiday!

As the New Year approaches, so does the debut of EXISTENCE: HEART OF THE SAND. I am very, very excited to share the culmination of months and months of hard work and dedication. It isn’t just the work that goes into a single narrative, but the story lines that have been continuing for two books now.

The curtain will be pulled back in a way I have never done before. I am absolutely committed to having zero plot holes in the finished copies of the work. We will be exploring the mythology and history of the Mazain Empire, the true nature of the Animus stones, Amos’ intentions and the foils that plague him, the dark god Sariel, the revelations of the Dalian Faith, the secrets of Trecht’s royal family, and of course the end of the Durand family’s trials and tribulations.

I will also have several new characters that are interwoven into the main and sub-plots that I have wanted to include for a long time.

In terms of narrative structure, there are so many more clumps of chapters that are sequential, major events are tied very close together, and when the dominoes start to fall, it is a roller coaster of twists and turns. If you have been with me since day one, I think you will see all of these improvements and feel rewarded for your patience.

Also, I will be providing a summary of major events that will be included in the prologue. If you are reading this, and want to just jump into Heart of the Sand, that is there for you.

Once again, I want to thank everyone for their love, support, and dedication. I will see you all in the Dalian Northlands, the cities of Trank and Edren, and where the conflict was sown so many words ago!

 

Weekly HotS update

Happy Friday everyone!

I am pleased to update that the first seven chapters are now complete for Heart of the Sand. In the interests of not spoiling, I will not provide chapter names or perspectives. I have, however, gone through the perspectives of all the central characters at least once, and I feel really good about those characters, their progressions, and ultimately, where they will go. In particular, I thought I would have some trouble transitioning Aerona from a woman torn apart by grief, back to the strong heroine that we all know she is. Thankfully, the transition has been very smooth and I think everyone will be very pleased with how it has been handled.

I also wanted to comment on my new-found grounded approach to story-telling. That transition has been relatively painless, and the way I am exploring the stones and their power seems to translate very well. I am really looking forward to seeing what readers think of a more grounded, but still having a low-level mysticism of the narrative.

The last thing I wanted to talk about is an experiment in pacing that I am trying in this book. Typically in character-perspective narratives you do not get a “real time” narrative. What I mean by that is, in one-perspective narratives the events between chapters can occur with minimal passage of time. This is something in novels that I really enjoy. It keeps things fast and exciting if you do it right.

So why not try it but with character-perspective narratives?

In Heart of the Sand I have several groupings of chapters that either overlap (in terms of the passage of time) or occur right after each other. It really feels like you’re watching a film. The perspective changes, but it feels like things are happening in a close-knit chronology. There are exceptions, of course; time jumps will occur, but they are kept to a minimum.

Ultimately, I think this keeps the story moving forward, maintains suspense, and keeps characters more interesting. To contrast, in my previous works it felt like there were four or five separate narratives running in parallel that, while they eventually met up, feels somewhat disjointed. By keeping events so close together, I think it comes across as much more integrated.

I hope to get in another update before Christmas, but if not, Happy Holidays everyone!

In 3 weeks: Heart of the Sand!

In three weeks the final chapter in the Vessels of Power trilogy begins. The Eastern Lands have been rent and torn asunder by servants of Darkness. Thousands lay dead in the streets. Ash and char are all that remains of once proud civilizations. Two powers remain, both set on not trusting the other. A single spark could set them on a path of mutual destruction. All the while, the dark god, Sariel, comes closer to his destined Ascendance.

Not all hope has faded. Men and women have seen the Darkness, and refuse to sit by meekly as all they know and love is torn apart.

One woman in particular stands on the edge of a knife, on the precipice of destiny.

Harpies may fall, but they never lose their wings.

EXISTENCE: HEART OF THE SAND

Available January 5, 2016

Read digitally on Wattpad.com, Scriggler.com, and Existence Fiction.

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Just my little hype piece. Getting excited to share all of my hard work.

 

Weekly HotS update + strong female characters

Happy Friday everyone!

I wanted to swing by to provide the weekly Heart of the Sand update and make some general comments about strong female characters in western story-telling.

I have completed readable, first draft copies for the first four chapters of Heart of the Sand (The Cleaver Prince, The Last Retreat, At the Mercy of Mother God, and Royal Demands). I will continue to work through the weekend and next week. If all goes well, another four chapters will be completed by the week of Christmas. January 5th, 2016 is a little ways away, but not that far! If work continues to proceed as planned, I should have half of the book done when I start publishing, with the narrative completed sometime in February. I very much look forward to all the feedback when we reach January.

In more general, narrative terms I wanted to touch on the topic of strong female characters. As most of you know, I do not write any weak characters, regardless of gender (strong or weak is relative in my works). I often wonder why authors, filmmakers, and story tellers are so dismissive of those kinds of characters. As a consumer — not a necessarily as a writer — I am unequivocally bored when a female character surfaces who is summed up in any of the following ways: trophy, eye candy, inconsequential, push-over, or damsel in distress. I’m sure you can come up with a lot of other descriptors. To me those characters are lifeless, without depth, and to put it more bluntly, insulting to consumer intelligence.

So why not go with strong female characters?

At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I adore all three of my primary female characters. Aerona, Ashleigh, and Lutessa have strength of will, fortitude, courage, bravery, and unrelenting determination in one form or another. They all have pain that they deal with in different ways, chauvinistic males who try to keep them down (to which they fight back and overcome), and incredible physical and emotional obstacles that when they conquer it, they grow and evolve — just like their male counterparts.

Would I trade them for lifeless, damsels in distress? Puppets that male characters pull the strings of? Faceless entities that do lip service to feminists? No, I would not. Ever.

Let’s not be afraid of strong female characters. Embrace them. Stories are much better off with them, than without.

 

Smaller cast of characters

Hi everyone!

Today I wanted to talk about something that is half fiction musing and story updates. What I’m talking about is a cast of characters.

I will not name other works of fiction — I think you can identify them pretty easily from the description — but one source of frustration I have is when I read a book and it has a ton of characters. Now, it is not because I feel the characters are under-developed or they are just there for plot advancement. No, most of the time they are very well developed and engaging. It’s just that sometimes there’s simply too many of them. You attach yourself to characters A, B, C, and D, but you have to wade through characters E,F,G,H to get to them. I do not want to imply the latter are bad or boring characters, but you run into the problem of: well I prefer these, not those, and oh God, look at what I have to do to get to what I like.

This is why I have always favoured a smaller cast. In Heart of the Sand I have 10 different character perspectives. Four of those perspectives have only one chapter each, and another three have two chapters each. I think, this allows for the audience to grow more attached to a smaller set of characters, and they will see them on a much more regular basis. Again, to use my work as an example, this means that three characters (Aerona, Daniel, and Lutessa) account for 14 out of 24 chapters. Oh, and if Sea of Storms did not make it obvious, those are my “main” characters going forward, without question.

I had recently just finished a young adult dystopian series (yes, I still like young adult fiction). It did a lot of things really well, but what I think stood out for me, is that it felt like I really knew the small group of characters. Somehow, I felt more attached, more compelled to their trials and tribulations, their hardships and their struggles. If the cast was increased significantly, I don’t know if I’d feel the same.

Well, I hope more works follow these lines. I love my small casts, after all.

Retcon advisement (Darkness Rising & Sea of Storms)

Good afternoon everyone!

If there is a word that no one likes to hear when it comes to published work it is retcon. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it means to alter an already published work. This is not something that I will ever do after I retail publish a work. When readers pay out of their pocket for a novel, I do not want to change something after-the-fact, leaving you with an out of date, and canonically useless tome. I am only doing this because my works are not yet final.

So here is the spoiler warning. I am about to discuss the ending to both Darkness Rising and Sea of Storms.

OK. First, I am going to discuss  what is currently in place, and after that I will delve into what is being changed and why.

At the end of Darkness Rising, Rafael Azail sacrifices himself to shut the way to the Nether, and, in his mind, slay Aleksander, foiling Mordred’s plans. In the epilogue, the Deathsworn come and take away three individuals in litters: Eldred, Aleksander, and Rafael.

In the epilogue to Sea of Storms, we learn that Jophiel had somehow ensnared Rafael’s conciousness and locked him inside the Unseen World — for all purposes dead, until the Heart of the Sand gives him new life. Which occurs in the closing moments of that book.

What is being retconned is Rafael’s fate. I do not want to go full spoiler here (as after the retail publish, some new readers may find this blog). Although what I feel is really important to current readers is that Rafael does not receive the Heart of the Sand in the end events of Sea of Storms — in fact Rafael will not appear at all.

This is a brief synopsis for what will be eventually written into Sea of Storms’ epilogue. When Jophiel and Hamad delve deeper into the Unseen World, they do not venture into the Prison of Souls, but instead to another unnamed area (I would like readers to guess where it is from vague descriptions). They will meet with another First Born and give him the Heart of the Sand — the selfsame who warned Amos in the prologue that the Emperor will hear of this during Aerona’s hallucination / nightmare. This individual is named Reuven. This is a perspective character in Heart of the Sand. The epilogue will then bridge the two works by introducing a new, important character, and give readers a better perspective on where this character stands.

So why am I doing this?

To put it in a philosophical, structurally context, Rafael Azail is not working with the larger narrative of Heart of the Sand. I think it is in the best interest of the work to write him out of the story and focus on a smaller cast of characters, as well as give a more logical progression for Jophiel’s character. In my original plans for Heart of the Sand, Rafael and Jophiel were very much entwined, and largely segregated from the other characters. Thus I can remove Rafael’s arc, make some minor changes to Jophiel’s arc, and the story will more or less read as the same. The more important, plot progressing elements of Rafael’s character are being merged to other characters. I think the results are much better.

One of the other reasons I’m doing this is because I am writing Heart of the Sand (and later revising Darkness Rising and Sea of Storms) to be more grounded than they were. Rafael’s arc involved a lot of supernatural and high mystical elements that I felt were very out of touch with the rest of the narrative. In an effort to give the work a more consistent tone, those elements needed to be removed. I will instead focus on what you could call low-level mysticism. I want the conflicts and events to be about a very raw, insightful human experience — where even the immortals are very much human — and add the mysticism as a means of changing things up, and presenting new challenges.

A very positive consequence of this change is that it brings down the word count substantially. Instead of being a work that was roughly 20% larger than the preceding two books, all three stories should clock in at the same length. My aim has always been to write these stories between 90,000 and 100,000 words. As I sit here today, they should fall between 96,000 and 98,000 words. It seems to be a sweet spot.

If you are going to be reading Heart of the Sand in 4 weeks (hard to believe it will be this soon) I do hope you read this blog post. I will make another post closer to January 5th that reinforces the change that I made.

Happy reading!

HotS & prose evolution

Every time that I write a new story, there are subtle and pronounced improvements to my prose. I think everyone goes through this, whether they are a writer or a student tackling essay’s for the first time. I always get very excited when I see my prose improve from work to work, but I believe I have made a significant jump in quality; so much so that I would like to share a small sample now, instead of waiting for January 5th.

Here is a non-spoiler short excerpt from the first chapter in Heart of the Sand: The Last Retreat:

“Those Trechtians do not know the sea as well as they think,” Jeremy put in. A diminutive commoner who rose to great heights under Daniel’s command. He rowed from the stern. Jeremy risked much when Davat became Commander in Daniel’s place. It was a wonder he remained alive. “A little trust for the Commander, if you will.”

Not a Commander not anymore. Just a sellsword, like you and I. No different.

“Trust?” Ashleigh bristled. “We were supposed to return to Dale – now we are further away than ever.”

“We would have been dead if we heeded that prophet.” Daniel spat the word out as if he chewed it and disliked the taste. “Alive we can do much, but not even our proud Isilian knight can do naught while dead.”

“You saw him, what he did to you, to me, to Aerona. No one could have stopped what unfolded. I would have taken my chances against the Dalians, the Trechtians be damned.”

“Your chance will come soon enough. ‘Til then, be grateful that you are still alive.”

If you have been reading my work from the beginning, you will likely spot the improvements right away. I think the dialogue is tighter and I have fully fleshed out description and actions between quotes and speakers. It’s something that seems so obvious, but it’s harder to master than you might think.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the snippet. Back to work!