Vision of Escaflowne

It’s an older anime from 1996. A great story, awesome Mecha designs and killer music from Yoko Kanno (who also did stellar music for Macros Plus). The first soundtrack disc that was released was titled “Over the Sky” It’s been a huge help for me in writing my Nano project.

If you’re an anime fan & haven’t seen this series, do yourself a favour & check it out!

Escaflowne Opening

Nanowrimo Day11 Update

So it’s now day 11 or Nanowrimo.

When I first mentioned I was going to be joining the insanity, I had quite a few doubts about being able to accomplish it. In fact, if I’m totally honest, I figured I’d be washed out before today. But guess what, I’m on track!

Today’s goal was to be at 18,333 words. I’m at 18,524. I know, not way ahead, but still, ahead. I’ve sat my butt in the chair and wrote new words every single day. Something I have never done before. And every single time I sat down, I had something in mind to write, so I didn’t spend hours staring at a blank screen and give up.

In fact, I’ve written more words on this work than I accomplished in the first four months of The Veil.

So I’m on track and feeling good. This book is going to be longer than 50,000 words, but I’ll have at least that before the end of Nanowrimo, I’m sure of it.

So that’s my quick check-in. I’ll do some more as I go. Wish me luck!

And if you’re doing Nanowrimo too, good luck to you 🙂

Naming Characters

First off… Happy Halloween!

But that also means tomorrow is November 1st. Nanowrimo begins!

I’ve dubbed the month of October Nanoplamo – National Novel Planning Month. For the entire month I haven’t written any new words on a story, I have only laid out scenes and built character profiles. But I came across a large obstacle in my plans; Naming Characters.

This issue was odd to me. In the past, I’ve had a pretty easy time naming characters. Baby name sites are really handy in this regard. I typically search the site by name meaning and then choose the name that feels right.

I started my naming tasks the same way with this book. But no matter how many various sites I visited, I just couldn’t find anything that felt right. My story this time is a fantasy novel, and the names just felt too plain. Which, I suppose since they exist to name a kid in our modern world is kind of the point. But that left my usual source out, so I went searching for another way.

A Google search produced a list of random fantasy naming engines. Most are pretty simple, you just choose a sex for the character and let it rip. But I was never satisfied with the names. Most just felt like hollow names formed from a random arrangement of vowels and consonants (which I think is exactly how they work).

Not good enough. I like my names to have meaning.

So I started looking at names of different angels and deities. Meh, been there, done that. Nothing jumped out at me.

Then I seized upon a new idea. I Googled Online Translator. Naturally, Google presented its own version at http://translate.google.com/. But this worked surprisingly well.

I entered in English an attribute that I associated strongly with the character. Then I translated it into the 63 different languages available.

Here’s the cool thing. While the translator shows you the word written in that language’s native alphabet, you can click on a symbol at the bottom right that will show it spelled out phonetically in a Latin alphabet. A lot of the translations even offer a button that you can hear the word pronounced.

I’ve managed to name most of my characters this way. What I like is that it is still “fantasy” sounding, but it has meaning in our modern world. And that meaning is tied directly to the characters themselves.

If you’re stuck for a unique sounding name, I recommend giving it a try!

Letting Go of Reality…

While The Veil contains fantastical elements, it is set in our modern world. So I haven’t had to create physics or biology. I’ve had to keep a lot of the story rooted in reality so the reader can buy into it. But I realise this has created a problem.

My new work that I’m prepping for Nanowrimo is a fantasy set in another world. But I’m still thinking in terms of how machines work, how we fuel our vehicles, how our own history in Medieval society functioned. I realised last night that I’m severely limiting myself.

I don’t have a lot of experience in world-building. It’s also starting to dawn on me that I haven’t exercised my childhood imagination since, uh, childhood.

What a horrible thing we let go of. I watch my youngest son who is unhampered by my adult weight of bills, parenthood, social graces, etc. To him, no world is too far away, no imagining embarrassing or too outlandish. I really need to get back to that. I want this book to fill readers with a sense of wonder and joy. Actually, I think even more than that, I want it to make me feel that way.

I suspect that this is the only way to make this story work. And I am desperate to make it work. As much as The Veil felt like the right book to write, this one feels like the book I must write. But it’ll only happen if I let go.

News of My Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Wow, a month and a half since my last post. You’d think I’d forgotten this blog existed.

Truth be told, I just haven’t had much to share with the world. The Veil has stalled in edits. I mean, it’s getting there, just a lot slower than I had hoped. But with all things The Veil, I shouldn’t be surprised. That book has always taken longer than I hoped. And perhaps the reason is that I’m not ready for it.

I had a lengthy discussion via email with a fellow writer named Regan Leigh. We were comparing notes on the YA series we had in progress. As I outlined the scope of The Veil, I realised that this thing is big. Maybe too big. With every edit and passing day, I seem to throw more into it. At present, I have 1 book written, another book started & plotted, and two more books with very rough outlines. And that doesn’t even end the blasted thing!

It dawned on me that if I self-published The Veil Book One, I’d be making a deal with my readers that the series would be completed and done so in a timely fashion. Am I ready to dedicate myself to seven years or more on one series? If I’m honest, I’m not. Regan gave me some sage advice; Set aside The Veil until I learn to manage my writing time more efficiently. Stick to more standalone stories until I’m more proficient at organising my thoughts and then I’ll be able to write the Veil series.

It made sense, but was scary at the same time. Because writing a book, it’s like nurturing a child. And when you’ve finally got it to a point where it can walk, stand and think on its own, it’s hard to let go. But I know I need to do that. I’m just not ready to tell that story yet.

Which is not to say writing it was a waste of time. I’ve learned a great deal from it. I’ve also gained the confidence that comes from knowing that I have finished a novel.

In a convenient twist, an idea for a book struck me the other day and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s a fantasy. I’ll be doing some world building and telling a single story in the one book.

And to push myself to the limit, I’ve signed up for Nanowrimo.

If you’re not familiar with it, that’s National Novel Writing Month, which is in November. The idea is to write a first draft of a novel equaling at least 50,000 words within the month’s time. That works out to approx. 1,667 words a day. Which is a lot more than I’m used to.

To get ready, I’m planning ahead. That’s right, the pantser/write-like-it’s-chess boy is planning ahead! Because that’s one of the lessons I’ve learned from The Veil. The better I had planned a chapter, the faster it was to write. I did have days where I hammered out 2,000 words in a single session. If I plan a whole novel, I’m hoping I can do the same.

During Nanowrimo I’ll be doing more frequent updates here on the blog. Yes, I do intend to breathe some new life into this poor, neglected corner of the web.

I feel great about this new book. It feels like a winner. Hopefully I still feel that way by the end of November.

A Video Game Should Be FUN

Last night, I finished a major rewrite of the most problematic chapter in The Veil. I decided to unwind by playing some Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Number 1. I just picked it up for a bargain).

I’m a child of the 70’s. Star Wars was the first film I recall seeing in a theatre. The toys were the only thing every kid in our neighborhood could agree to playing with. There’s a very special memory of my mom tied to the Star Wars series. When I say Star Wars is important to me, I’m making an understatement.

So it’s natural that a game that supposedly ties into the Star Wars story should intrigue me, yes? And since I can now play it with the glorious graphic capabilities of the PS3, it’s even better.

So I sit down and start to play. I confess, it kept me up until 3:45am. But here’s the thing, I didn’t have fun. Yes, the story was engaging. In particular a certain plot twist early on that changes your perception of the whole original trilogy was pretty sweet. But the story was the ONLY reason I kept going (that and I’m cheap & don’t want to waste $20).

The most annoying aspect is that you can fall anywhere. I mean, if you’re standing next to a river and 20 enemies attack you, they can push you to your death into the water. WHAT? Since when did an action RPG do such a thing? I played the far superior Castlevania Lords of Shadow and it never allowed for you to die so easily. It understood that when you involve combos, jumping and enemies that can push you back, it’s pretty unfair for you to die just cause of a ledge. Especially maddening in Force Unleashed because you have to start a hella long way back. It gets frustrating that you can complete all these tasks, battle hordes of enemies and then you get hit with a laser blast and since you were too close to the ledge, kiss your ass goodbye. The frustration level elevates more when you consider that if you do get hit, your character is useless and takes some time before he’s responsive to the controls.

I only stopped because it was the fourth time I had been pushed into water and died and I was about to do harm to my PS3.

As I stomped up to bed (OK, not stomp exactly, didn’t want to wake the kids) I thought this was a good lesson about writing. Story is important. Hell, it’s why we write, but what if it isn’t fun for the reader? Yes, I know, we don’t always want the reader to have fun, but the reader should be having an emotional experience that is complementary to the story. They shouldn’t be frustrated with odd language usage or poor formatting, or for us indies, poor editing. Playing that game last night reinforced in my mind what I said yesterday about needing patience. I have to make it right. I have to ensure my audience feels what they should be feeling. I don’t want them throwing the book because it’s needlessly frustrating to get through and they got pushed in the water again.