Lessons From Galaxyfest… — Derek Barton – 2017

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This weekend was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to meet several established writers and comic-con artists.

As always, I want to share with you the lessons I learned so that maybe if you are interested in becoming a self-published writer, you can benefit from my experiences.

While the con did not get the anticipated crowds all of us hoped for (approximately 3,000 versus the 10,000 people), there were a lot of exhibits and vendors that I could learn a lot from.

I had the immense honor to meet and speak to these writers:

From these guys I learned a lot of information about Audible, about booth displays, about other conventions/bookfestivals, about book covers and book interior layouts.  I got new ideas for marketing, book themes and even items to go with the books to draw people to the booth.

By the next convention I hope to have a new book banners, new materials like character bios and character magnets, a new variety of bookmarks based on the books and even (insert drumroll here…) a new book direction – I am going to develop a Steampunk Novel (or novella)!  I will still work on my Consequences Within Chaos novel sequel, however, I will be also donating time on a Steampunk storyline.  Like I did with In Four Days, be on the lookout for my story blogs!

Why Steampunk?  For one, I like the whole western/victorian theme which of course I will beef up with own horror style.  Second reason is that this will also give my fans another element or genre that they can delve into with me.  And lastly, it is obviously growing in demand and in popularity.  I am intrigued just where this could lead me.

Also I met up with a few voice-over actors that I may be able to help me launch an Audible version of Consequences Within Chaos.  Recently, I signed up with Audible and I really love the service.  I listen to books now as I do my 3-or-4-mile walk each night.  Peter Meredith explained the process to me and really enlightened me on how this could be a big benefit overall to me.  We just might see how right he is!

Another great benefit to comic-cons is the artist booths.  Not only are their works inspiring and thought-provoking, but they could be great resources in the future.  I already have a great artist, Dan Thomas of Dark Art Komics helping me out and showing me the ropes at these comic-cons, but I also met Jacob Spill (https://www.facebook.com/jspill) and several other artists that could help me with illustrations or covers in the future.

Financially I took a gamble, threw the dice and unfortunately hit a wall with Galaxyfest, but I did get a lot out of it in terms of marketing knowledge and trade information.  I will certainly do more conventions — JUST DO IT BETTER!

Here are a few more pictures of the fun characters and fans you do run into at these things!

Wishful Thinking… — Derek Barton – 2017

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Tonight I would like to just give you a brief glimpse into my mind and a snapshot image of some of the people from Consequences Within Chaos, my first novel.

As every writer and perhaps every reader will tell you, the characters and the places where they live can become so real, so tangible that when the book ends, you can actually feel a sense of loss.  A painful separation from heroes that you cheered for, walked right by their side when they fell or when they made a bad mistake.  When the book ends, you lose these new friends.  Trust me, the writer feels that same way as the readers.

Well, at least until the author brings them back to you in another story.  That is the whole fundamental reason for “sequels” — we miss these people and want to see them succeed at least one more time!

Anyway, I digress.

If I were to make a movie adaption today, who would I pick to play them?  Here are my choices for the main characters (heroes and villains) of Wyvernshield:


Prince Taihven Artadeus

Andrew Garfield

taihven-artadeus

Prince and Heir-Apparent to the Throne of Tayneva and the capital city of Wyvernshield. He has lived seventeen years in shame and an embarrassment to his royal family due to a hidden mental malady that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy for him.


Princess Letandra Artadeus

Georgie Henley

letandra-artadeus

She is older than her brother Taihven and has always been his protector and biggest defender.   Often Letandra finds herself in the middle of conflicts between Taihven and his Queen mother, Demetryce.


Queen Demetryce Artadeus

Helen Mirren

demetryce-artadeus

Queen and Court Justice for Wyvernshield.  Her cold demeanor and hard line stance on most subjects has not made her a popular person among the citizenry nor is she a well-respected diplomat like her husband.


King Haedrec Artadeus

J.K. Simmons

World premiere of 'Kung Fu Panda 3'

A legendary ruler and adventurer that resurrected the city of Wyvernshield from ancient ruins.  He has always prevailed for his people and his triumphs told often in song and story.  However, at the twilight of his life, he is succumbing to the Withering Disease when his city is bracing for a crushing siege by an army of beasts known as the Viestrahl.


Auste Cros’seau

Rutger Hauer

auste-crosseau

Son to an exiled noble that once tried to usurp the Artadeus Throne.  The dangerous spellcaster vows to restore all that was taken from his family and expects royal blood to be spilt in the streets of Wyvernshield.


Sergeant Renald Devin

Anthony Anderson

renald-devin

A charming warrior and leader among the Wyvernguard.  He wants to be instrumental in stopping the Viestrahl once and for all.


Sergeant Deliah Blackstaff

Emily Black

deliah-blackstaff

Another strong leader within the ranks of the Wyvernguard.  Her growing reputation and fighting prowess has paved the way for other females to shine in a male dominant military.  She even inspires Princess Letandra to take on more of an active role and face challenges head-on.


Captain Bardun Ruessard

Terrance Stamp

Wanted

Battle-harden veteran responsible  for finding answers that will protect the lands of Tayneva while defending against internal citizen unrest and political strife centered around  the Artadeus Throne.


Taliah

Isla Fisher

taliah

A young castle maid forced into a dangerous position that will cost her life, freedom or the country she loves.


LLasher

Nestor Carbonell

llasher

Contracted for a dark deed, this Camiyaan slaver discovers more than he could have ever bargained for and becomes entwined in the volatile, bloody history that has risen to haunt the Artadeus Throne.


This was an entertaining exercise and a silly fantasy that I thought would be fun to share with you.   You may of course have different depictions of these people in your head as you read and that is fine — in fact I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback and/or opinions of who you would like to see as these characters.  Let me know!!

The Art of the Juggle… — Derek Barton

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“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”
—George Singleton

 

“A writer writes.” 

Okay… This adage is a very old and a very easy piece of advice to spout, but how does this really guide us?  I suppose the practical message means that in some form or some way, you need to get writing done as much as possible.  Stop letting the poor excuses or the multiple obstacles get in the way.  Like any other craft, as you practice or perform, you will hone your skills and find it gets easier and better.

But, we only have 24 hours each day to get the millions of distractions to ignore, objections to overcome, questions to surpass, phone calls to return, emails to reply, careers to succeed in, family to care for and finally extract a small window of time out of the day for a writer to write (MAYBE) before we collapse into bed.

I have here a few techniques which I have garnered through experience and research and used to find that elusive window of opportunity.

First, take an inventory of your life – a snapshot of your day and then your week.  By understanding just what you want to accomplish, what has to be done each day, what is a common issue, then you will be able to spot trends or patterns that you can take advantage of.

Using me for example:   I work the late shift as a sales supervisor (the day job) Sunday through Thursday 11:30 to 8 pm (the “has to be done” part).  I know myself – I am not a morning person; more of a night owl.  I have a large family and a list of household chores like everyone else.  I like to write when it’s quiet and I can focus (my “common issue” part).

My routine is thus:  During the week — Wake an hour before work, get ready and then rush off (after fitting in a couple chores, Ha!).  Then after work, come home, eat dinner, watch maybe an hour of television with the family, then go walk (the “what you want to accomplish” part — I am putting in a nightly effort at walking to reduce my weight).  When I get back, the household has settled down and the family has gone to bed.

Now is MY TIME…

Much like my routine for the week, during the weekend my routine is to spend quality time with my loved ones, get the rest of the chores completed, walk after dinner and then write in the evening.  That is really all it takes.  Track down what you are doing consistently during the week with work and outside of work.  Know when you are the most creative/focused and then make that YOUR TIME.

Second, make this a habit and a part of who you are.  Invest in yourself, commit to your career and take to heart the idea that you are a writer.

It has become second-nature to me.  Not only are you being more productive, the established time let’s everyone know that this is when you are writing.  It’s your signal that you are working.  Now, if I haven’t actually written that day, I find myself getting restless and I toss-and-turn in bed.

Third, take advantage of even the little windows of time.  Some writers have found success by slipping in writing on lunch breaks at work, writing while waiting for the kids coming out of school, writing after dinner before putting the kids to bed.  Even two or three fifteen minute blocks combined in a day can really add up.  If you don’t need a long period to accomplish a bit of writing or if you don’t need a startup period to get your creative juices flowing, then this might be the best option for you.

Fourth, remove all internet and phone distractions when you write.  It’s super easy to “just check on that post” on Facebook or maybe see what Trump said this time on CNN.com.  Also if you leave your email up, you will get notifications that will detour you or pull you right out of your writing mode.

Same goes with having your cell phone next to you.  It takes only one notification bleep to derail you.  Best way to make good use of the little window you may have is to remove all these possible distractions.  I only keep one site open that plays classical music in the background – the music helps me focus.

These four steps have really assisted me in understanding what I needed to do and how to find a time to write, market and/or research each and every night.

Hope this helps you!  NOW go write, writer!

Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
—Henry David Thoreau

 

Diving into the Oceans of Your Characters… — Derek Barton

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I would like to expand a bit on my blog, Finding the Character Within….  Here I want to show you some of the ways I work up my character backgrounds and elaborate on the questions I ask myself.

I will show you my notes that I made for Queen Demetryce Artadeus from Consequences Within Chaos.  She is the main character’s mother who has a deep-seated contempt and malice towards him.

A lot of what I wrote for this character did not even get into the book.  Yet having it in my mind helped me direct her actions, guide her dialog and even her interactions with other characters, both noble and even criminal characters.

Queen Demetryce Artadeus

How old?   67 years old

What does your character look like?  Long, grey-blond hair, 5’ 9” and 121 lbs.  Average looks, but her constant frown makes her seem uglier than she really is.  I picture Dame Judy Dench or Dame Helen Mirren in my mind.

Where does she live?  As Queen of Tayneva, she shares the Castle Adventdawn, of course with her family, but she also has ties to her own family in a smaller kingdom, Yata-Malai.  She makes semi-annual trips to visit her sisters and her surviving aunt.

Where is the character from?  From the small, island state of Yata-Malai.  Malais are very orthodox and pious.  Often accused of being religious zealots and have very rigid moral codes.  Murder, adultery, rape and other such immoral evils are persecuted strictly.  In the cases of adultery and even rape (in some cases) the victim may be blamed as well and suffer similar shame.  Think Quakers as far as their religious purity and strict doctrines.

What kind of childhood?  She went through a rigorous childhood as a student of the temple and was on the track to becoming a priestess.  In a chance to boost their position in world powers though, her father sent her to wed a young duke, Haedrec Artadeus.  Although this ended her promising path as a priestess, she found she was taken with Duke Artadeus and they married shortly afterwards.

What does the character do for a living?  Not only the functioning Queen of Tayneva, but she leads the court affairs and acts as court justice administrator.  Her iron fist philosophies and her decisions have made her many enemies and many “bought for” allies.  Not an evil woman, but has fallen into corruption by the power of her position and her means are always justified in her mind.  She also maintains her magical Mending Skills and religious practices.

How does your character deal with conflict?  Mostly with an icy demeanor when she doesn’t get her way, but as of late she has become very short fused.  Especially when it concerns her son, Taihven.  He is a constant reminder of her secret shame of rape and the worst event that happened to her in her life.  She cannot let go of her anger and has grown to hate him due to his embarrassing episodes of mental instability.  In some respects, she feels her daughter, Princess Letandra has become quite a strong leader and she even feels slightly threatened by her growing leadership skills and popularity among the citizens in Wyvernshield.

Who else is in their life? Her family is the center of her world, but that world in her eyes is a constant source of drama and aggravation.  Her only happy relationship is with her husband who is sadly dying a slow, debilitating death.  The court affairs are the only outside distraction and depending on her mood, she takes out her days on the poor saps brought in front  of her judging bench.

What is your character’s goal or motivation?  In spite of the threat in power and popularity that Princess Letandra has, Demetryce is pushing to have her become Lady Magistrate.  This would supersede Taihven, the Heir-Apparent.  She would rather have Letandra to deal with and perhaps have sway over instead of her son who has his father’s stubbornness and of course the mental malady.  She is extremely frightened of facing alone this on-coming war with the creatures known as the Viestrahl.  Her goal is to obtain the Throne for Letandra before King Haedrec dies.  Demetryce has decided that if necessary she will imprison, hide or as a last resort, have her own son kidnapped and sold into slavery.

As you can see, this character depiction is in-depth and thought through.  I had a strong sense of who she was and how she would react to coming events in my story long before I even started writing the book!

With questions like this, exercises to explore their background, you find and develop layers to who they are.  These are real people to both you and the reader.  Characters should have some conflicting emotions and some quirks to their nature.  We all do.  Why wouldn’t the people in your story?

Did you find this helpful or do you think you can use some of these questions for your own characters?

That Spell You Weave… — Derek Barton

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This week I have been focusing on research for the upcoming sequel.  I want to expand upon the basics of magic and spellcasting from my first book, Consequences Within Chaos.  Again even though it may not always be a huge part of your characters’ lives, it comes into play and it’s an important detail to work out.  Knowing what is available or what can be utilized by any character can help direct your plot as well as add depth to the world surrounding them.

In the first book, my main character Taihven uses “Sigil Magic” which means that before he casts a spell, he inscribes a fiery pattern in the air specific to the spell he wants to use.  It is the spell’s “focus” or what draws out unique powers in unique ways.  His specialty is the Evoker Class: spells based in natural elements (fire, earth, air, water) and for destructive or offensive uses.

His sister, Letandra, utilizes Mending Magic (Healing).  This type of magic is more energy or soul-powered magic and the power funneled through the hands.  This type of magic also gives you an insight to the type of person she is:  a guardian or protector at heart.

The villain or my antagonist has unusual abilities and spells that require a vocal element.  Definitive words are the focus for his spells which are of a chaotic nature and also used destructively.  It added more to my novel’s final climatic battle — two opposing types of magic versus both using the same type of spells against each other.

One other type of magic I hinted at is used by a secretive cult called the Beleardea.  They are “facilitators” or middlemen that specialize in obtaining cursed items or finding cursed items to be bought by the highest bidders.   They are not actively evil, but their amoral actions define their motives.  The magic that they utilize is Eldritch Magic.  This is archaic magic that one can derive from an ancient deity or entity after it grants you favor when you  act on its behalf.  The Beleardea serve an ancient evil and thus gain incredible power from it.

When you google “types of magic” you will absolutely be amazed at just how many types there can be.  Not just the old wand or from a staff type of magic used in the Harry Potter stories, but magic centered on energy, planar, divination, elemental magic, soul (“ki”) magic, blood ritual, transformation, necromancy or even witchcraft.  There are over a hundred different versions of magic types.  So when you decide that you are going to have a fantasy world be sure to give this aspect a lot of thought.  It will define your world, your characters and the lands that these powers can come from.

What other types of magic appeal to you as a reader?  What would you like to see in a movie?  Couldn’t it be argued that the Force is just another version of magic?

Where Your Path May Lead… — Derek Barton

Blog pic 6I am in the midst of “creative juicing” — my mind is racing with ideas and running over story elements for the world I am building for my new book.  My father likes to call them creative writing phases, but to me it is more than just a happenstance.  I have to work hard at finding inspiration; keeping my brain sharp on the lookout for ideas or pieces that will fit nicely into my stories.  Until something seems to “click”, I keep running everything out in my head looking for a new factor to add, change or flesh out.  Evolving the story before I even touch the keyboard!

A great blog to check out is www.aliventures.com — I have subscribed to Ali Luke’s newsletter recently and one bonus to doing that is that I was able to get her free e-book, The Two-Year Novel.  In it she details how if you carefully plot it out, you can have a rough draft written, edited, proofread, beta read and then published within a two-year period!  Inside that she also has many other beneficial resources and blog posts to help.  Highly recommend it! 

So, the reason I am bringing this up is that I am starting her timeline project at the same time that I am working diligently on getting my first novel out this September.  I am currently in the world building and research stages upon her timeline.

This go-around I want my novel writing to be a lot better structured.  Not only with faster and better quality of writing, but I want to have more of an idea of the world my characters are roaming around in and the lands that surround them.  With the more you know of their world the more authentic your story will come across and keep the reader immersed in it.

After I wrote my first draft of Consequences Within Chaos, I realized that I left a lot of normal world elements out:  like calendar dates, holidays, and time measurements (also I didn’t want to use normal modern terms a.k.a inches, miles, etc).   Before I started my first real edit, I researched to find out what ways people might tell time in pre-modern times.  What sources of “clocks” were there besides sun dials.  What were the terms they used  to measure.

These are just a few minute details I find you need to really help the reader feel the world you are constructing is full and rich.  Especially in fantasy stories you are going to have to think and ask yourself, “What do they call the night or morning?  Would they have a different term for midnight?  Would they use the word ‘breakfast’?”  And what if you are working on a world that isn’t even human?

Dialogue and careful use of terminology is important too.  I find myself sometimes really getting annoyed and jarred out of the story being told in a movie when someone uses a present day slang term or idiom.  This seems pretty common in futuristic films.  Wouldn’t you role your eyes if Han Solo said “Whatevs!” to Luke Skywalker?  In other words, would they really still use “All the bases are loaded” in a time period two thousand years from now?  Or “like ridin’ a horse” when they are climbing into a spaceship!

I get why they do this: they need the audience to relate to the hero or get his joke.  Is this just poor or lazy writing or is there no way around that particular writing trap?  I am not absolutely sure.  Yet, I am positive if you include a phrase like “an idea formed in his head like turning on a light bulb” in a fantasy novel, you would never hear the end of it!

By doing the world building first and comprehensively developing it, I can then incorporate those aspects and details naturally rather than going back and plugging them in.

A lot of professional writers also spend huge amounts of time writing about their main characters and every little historical fact or story they can think of.  Some will even have fake dialogs between characters to learn more of each personality.  Or they delve into all the background elements they can think of so that they truly know the character before they write the story of that person.  Much of this will never see publication or be brought into the story for the readers.  Yet all of this is to bring essential immersion into that world.

I personally love working up backgrounds for characters or thinking of unique world elements, but not every writer does.  My advice though is to really make time for this.  To me the GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) Rule applies here.  The more work you invest and the more you really know your world and its heroes, the more your reader will love and cherish your stories.  You just cannot skimp on or cut corners when it comes to world building!

How do you develop your worlds?   What do you do to bring your heroes to life?  Please leave a comment if you have suggestions on what is important to your world building.

When the Well Runs Dry… — Derek Barton

Music

One of the most common things people ask a writer is where do you get your ideas?  How did you think of this… or what happened to you to make you come up with this…?  Can you imagine the wild speculations or claims that people must ask Stephen King about?

For me, it has always been an easy answer:  I am just wired to ask “What If” and “Why” especially when I listen to music. My head fills with images and instantly creates a background story.  Some writers are inspired by people they meet or places they have been to, I am inspired by what I hear in songs.

As an example, an essential part of my exercise routine is to slip on my wireless headphones and start my laps (walking around a local park’s pond at night).  I do this for several reasons.

One, I always get energy and drive from my music — not just because I listen to heavy metal, dubstep and techno either.  I let the beat and pace of the song guide my output.  I will walk faster, run harder or do that elusive “one more rep” with the weights (when at the gym).  It’s my “invisible personal trainer” you might say.

Two, the music helps distract me from the monotony of working out which I think is the normal reason most people wear headphones.

But the third reason I have to have music is that when I am into a song my mind naturally delves into a story.  What is the inspiration for this song, my brain wonders.  Was the singer wronged by someone and thus this song?   What would make someone feel this way?

Then if I am working on a particular story or maybe looking for a new one, I try to find some inspiration behind the lyrics.  What would my story hero do if this happened to him?  It helps me explore different paths that I hadn’t thought to go down and helps me think of new angles for the characters in my stories.

A long time ago I read that Quentin Tarantino had a massive vinyl record collection and that when he works on his stories, he plays his albums looking for inspiration. Recently in an article:

There’s nothing immediately iconic about either the songs or the images they respectively soundtrack, but, in Tarantino’s own words, picking the right song for the right scene…

“is about as cinematic a thing as you can do. It works in this visceral, emotional, cinematic way that’s special. And when you do it right and you hit it right, then you can never really hear that song again without thinking about that image from the movie…”

Here is the whole article:  Quentin Tarantino and the Art of the Badass Soundtrack

Music by its very nature is interpretive and thus a treasure trove of ideas.  I have actually created characters from songs too.  For instance, the band called Stone Sour has a song I love called Made of Scars.  It fit perfectly with an upcoming story character I have who is an ostracized warrior and deemed “unnecessary”.  His society has thrown him to the side during a time of peace.  He’s covered in battle scars and he can proudly relay the story behind each of them.  They are not shameful, they are his badges of honor.  While this isn’t the only part to this character, it does add depth to him and gives you some inclination to his reactions and behaviors.

Now not every part of a story will be relatable to a song or a lyric of course, but when you are struggling and looking for some inspiration, try putting on some music, relax and then just open up to the words.  When your well runs dry, ask the “What If”s and the “Why”s and you will find your story behind the images that come to your mind.

Leave me a comment if you have ever found inspiration in a song?  Or tell me what you do for inspiration or to bust through a period of writer’s block?