A question that comes up a lot. I thought I'd answer it.
Starting off the week with True Colors doing well, got two more 5-star reviews and woke up this morning to better sales trends. So, this week is getting off to a good start.
All of that just builds on the latest work Roanen and I did over the weekend on our collaboration. It’s been a while since I worked with anyone else, and I have to say I had forgotten how working with a good collaboration partner can help a writer take their work to the next level. You have this instant feedback and expanded perspective, and when you work with someone you’ve known for so long and who you work so well with like this, the experience and the boost are that much better.
Roanen and I have known each other since college, back on the early 90’s, when we first took an American History class together. Since then we’ve gamed together, written together (New Essex is the setting it is because of our early work on it when we worked together at the same company) and been best friends. Life took us in different directions, but we’ve always shared that hope that one day, we could bring our original setting to life for readers in one way or another. And now that we’re working together on this, I can honestly say that I feel like I am the guy in his mid-twenties again, with the same bright-eyed passion that I once thought only youth could grant. Taking these scenes, building from each other and taking this to the page is not just liberating, it’s fun.
Creatively, I’ve been running into some of my pet peeves this last week, and for aspiring writers out there, I wanted to offer some perspectives from someone who has been in the creative trenches for a little while and managed to make it work.
First off, remember that absolutes aren’t.
Let that sink in for a second. Anyone who says you MUST do things in a certain way is full of it, in my opinion. For every creative “truth” out there, you can find someone who flouts that “rule” handily AND successfully. Usually someone who is actually successfully published and fairly well known. And this applies to me as well. I approach writing as a skill, I encourage writers to own their creativity, and I abhor “conventional wisdom” about most aspects of writing. Inspiration? The Muse? Excuses not to write, as far as I’m concerned. Sharing your work before it’s finished? Yeah, do it. Hold yourself accountable to finish the job. Writers block? Write anyway. You’ll surprise yourself with what you accomplish, says I. Afraid someone is going to steal your work? Pfft. Plagiarism usually happens with things that are already successful in some way, not with some work no one has ever heard of and isn’t either making money or otherwise earning praise.
That being said, I also know that works for ME, mostly because I also commit another writing sin, according to some purists. I write to get paid. I write fully intending to publish and hoping to make money off of it. (I know. <gasp> You don’t write purely for the love of the sacred art? <faints>) Now, I don’t write to get rich though that would be nice. I write with the hope of making a living. Doing what I love. I value my work.
That’s just me. I wrote for different reasons than you might. For some of us, writing is purely recreation. Or maybe it’s an escape. Perhaps an emotional outlet, a form of therapy, or how you quiet your mind. And I would say that if that is the case, if the actual process of writing is the most important thing, then do it your way and fuck any advice I might give to the contrary. Your goals are different, and for you, the act of writing might be a form of self-care. Thus, combating writers block is also part of your self-care. So, if that is you, then yeah, just one fan, one life changed, that’s great, go do that. Because in the end, I think that the life changed the most and for the better…is yours.
At the end of the day, if I want to get one point across, it’s that I think you should know WHY you’re writing and understand that your goals shape your methods. That in the end, how you write isn’t so important as the fact that you do it, and that you are better off for it. I will never tell anyone NOT to write, or to quit writing. If following conventional wisdom isn’t working for you? There’s a reason for that.
So, what is Ben doing this week? Let’s look at his searches, both on YouTube and Google. Aside from music to listen to while I’m writing, I’ve been watching videos on primitive crafts from the Townsends channel, watching chess tutorials, and watching some other historical documentary type videos on medieval food prep, medieval armor and swords, etc. Most of this is for actual writing stuff, too. Right now I’m working on a portal fantasy that I’m going to submit to my agent alongside a post-apocalyptic fantasy set in the modern world which is more of a rewrite than a first draft. Those are secondary projects, because my two main projects are Checkmate, the superhero story I mentioned last week, and of course, my primary project, the seventh Demon’s Apprentice book.
Meanwhile, True Colors is killing the rankings over on Amazon, already in no less than FIVE top 100 lists (New Releases for two Coming of Age categories and a paranormal & urban fantasy list, and in the top 100 overall for the same two Coming of Age categories.) It shouldn’t be long until it hits the top 100 overall in the paranormal & urban fantasy category. All of which is preparatory to saying thank you to my tribe of readers and True Believers. You are the best!
So, this week is going to be about getting words on the page for Check Mate and getting the outline down for Book 7 of Demon’s Apprentice. And about acquiring some primitive skills just because I like learning new things and to add some depth to my portal fantasy, specifically, fire-making without matches. It’s going to be an exciting week.
Well, another year done, and another year started. 2018 wasn’t my best year ever, but it was still a GOOD year. Spent most of the year working on books 5 and 6 of The Demon’s Apprentice series, which was good, but I’ve done more, faster. I also spent the year getting used to having a day job again, which was a bit of an adjustment.
On the plus side, I moved into a nice little place out in the country and got a new van. Definite pluses there. All in all, nothing to complain about, but as always, I’m still wanting to do more. So, on New Year’s Day, I was reminded of a lyric from Toto’s song “Africa,” /Gonna take some time to do the things we never had/ as I tried to decide what I wanted to do with the year ahead. Because there are so many things that I need to do, so many stories I want to write.
But there is always that one that you never let go of.
Not to worry, there will be another Demon’s Apprentice book out this year, tentatively titled “Reign of Angels.” I’m also looking at a spinoff series featuring Lucas, which I’ve been dropping tidbits about in the past couple of entries in the series. Meanwhile, I have a manuscript being submitted to my agent that I’m hoping to hear some good news about at some point. I’m still working on a portal fantasy and someday, Damenjaeger will be ready for public consumption.
But always...the New Essex Knights have always been there. So, on New Year’s Day, I went to my best friend’s house, the guy who was there with me back in the day when I first started chasing contrails in 1991. I’ve mentioned Roanen before, and he’s been with me on this journey every step of the way. We’ve gamed together, told stories as GM and player on both sides of the table, and together, we’ve taken a fictional city and watched it evolve from a setting to a character unto itself.
New Essex was originally a setting for a comic book we wanted to do back in 1991. Back when we were just getting started, back before I had ever finished a single book. Over the years, we’ve told stories through games set in New Essex, but we were never able to get things to come together for a graphic novel or even a webcomic.
Then, we started running another game in New Essex, after a long hiatus. And we remembered how much we loved her. We remembered how alive the city felt to us, how we could see it in our heads, and how we felt like we were actually there. How dark and beautiful she is.
How demanding she is.
I approached Roanen with the idea. Let’s write the story of the New Essex Knights. Let’s get the Check Mate arc down. I wish I could say “just like that…” but I can’t. This isn’t going to be easy. And it won’t be fast. I may be talking about putting this to bed next January. But we are determined to get it done.
This is a labor of love for us, and the culmination of a lifelong dream to see this particular work in print. Plus...we’re not sure we want to see what will happen if we let New Essex down. She’s a tough town.
So, this is our public commitment to the New Essex Knights story. You’ll be hearing more about this as we get it into a more solid form, as we outline it, start writing it and start getting the foundations done, all the way to the point where we get her in print. This is where we hold ourselves accountable, and make our promise to you. We mean to see this story told, and told well.
So, Happy New Year! And in the immortal words of the late, Great Stan Lee… Excelsior!