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Fantasy Video Games: Distraction or Inspiration

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As a fantasy writer, I am naturally a fan of the genre in all its forms. Books, movies, video games–basically, if it’s fantasy, I’ll probably be a fan of it. But that raises an important question. As a fantasy writer, should you focus on books alone, or should you branch out into other areas for inspiration?

Personally, I think there’s a lot to be gained from fantasy video games. But I could be biased in that. Part of the reason I got into writing fantasy was from playing some of my favorite Square RPGs as a kid on the Super Nintendo. Those games helped me fall in love with the genre (and then I read Harry Potter, and I was doomed to be a fantasy fan and writer for the rest of my life).

One of the biggest places where video games help me is in crafting my settings. The best video games these days, in all their beautiful graphical glory, depict some absolutely stunning settings. I’m a pretty visual person, but I would have trouble coming up with some of these settings on my own. However, now that I’ve seen these beautiful images, I can use them as inspiration and make them into something that’s all my own.

Some of the best story-driven games also feature characters you fall in love with. The great thing about these games is that they are usually forced to show instead of tell. Generally, in a video game, you do not see a character’s internal thoughts. Everything must be conveyed through dialogue and visuals. And some games do this quite well. For example, I recently played the remastered version of Final Fantasy X. I felt such a strong connection to the characters in this one, and the story had me in tears a few times.

When it comes to stories, though, you have to be careful about how much inspiration you take from video games. In an RPG, you face a lot of minor battles, which are interesting in that format. In a novel, however, you cannot have your characters fighting Slimes every two pages. That’s going to get old very quickly. If you’re going to have battles, you have to be careful about which ones you show, or you’ll risk making your story repetitive.

Then we come to the all-important question. How much time should you spend playing fantasy video games? These games can use up a lot of your time, and if you’re not careful, you’ll spend your time playing games instead of writing.

As a writer, you should always focus on your writing. Whatever your writing goals are, it’s important that you hit them with consistency, and if playing video games is using up too much of your time, you’ll have to cut back.

Consistency is Key

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When it comes to writing, I’ve heard from many writers that the biggest thing you need for productivity and longevity as a writer is the ability to write consistently. You don’t write only when you’re inspired. Even when you don’t feel like it, you sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard (or typewriter or longhand, if you’re so inclined). It doesn’t matter how you get those words down. Just get them down.

I recently wrote about setting word count goals. I’m not sure I’ll make my 50,000 words a month goal, but that’s okay. I’m writing consistently and productively. I’ve hit at least 1,000 words 10 of the last 11 days. Over that time, I’ve written over 18,000 words. Per day, it doesn’t seem like a lot of words, but those words add up. At this write, I should manage three books in a year without too much of a problem. Of course, there’s also the revision process, which I need to get better about.

Word Count Goals

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For those of us who are writers, word count goals are a love them/hate them kind of thing. We love them when they remind us to keep our butts in the chair and our fingers on the keyboard. We hate them when we feel like we can’t ever reach them.

There are many benefits to word count goals. You see this from something like National Novel Writing Month (or as it’s more commonly known, NaNoWriMo). A lot of writers take advantage of this month to actually finish their stories.

However, it has its drawbacks. Some writers cannot write at the 1,667 words per day required to hit that goal and do so while writing something that isn’t complete crap.

Thankfully, I’ve never had that problem. I believe I’ve finished early every time I’ve ever done NaNoWriMo. But it is a problem for a lot of people, and what’s the point of writing a novel if it’s so bad you’re just going to scrap it? You have to find some middle ground.

And that means you have to set some kind of goal. It could be a daily word count goal or perhaps a monthly word count goal. That’s what I’m leaning toward at the moment. Due to an unpredictable work schedule and varying amounts of schoolwork, it is difficult for me to set aside the same amount of time every day for writing.

That means that there may be days where I write nothing or crank out just a few words to keep the creative juices flowing. On the other hand, there may be also days when I hit 5000 or more words. In fact, I wrote over 12,000 in one day when I was finishing up my World in Chains series.

The point I’m trying to make is this. Come up with a word count goal you can actually stick to. In some ways, it’s like dieting. Most diets don’t last because people take on more than they can handle. That’s not the way to do it with word counts either. You’re just going to end up resenting the time you spend writing, and if you aren’t enjoying yourself, what’s the point?

So that’s the key. Find out what word count goal you’re comfortable hitting (whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly). Then hold yourself accountable to that goal. It sounds simple stated like that, but it isn’t always easy to put into practice.

Let’s hope I can do so myself because I need to get better about writing consistently.

I’ve started working on Fireweaver again.

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Over the last three days, I’ve written about 7,500 words of Fireweaver, the second book in my Sunweaver series. It took me a while to get back in the swing of things, as it had been a long time since I’d written anything in this series. I got very focused on finishing World in Chains and put Sunweaver on the backburner.

I’m hoping I can manage to write at least 1,000 words every day. It’s difficult with school getting in the way, however.

I’m also toying with the idea of writing multiple books at once, but I’m not sure if I want to do that again. I did it once before. It increased my productivity, so it might be worth a try.

For more details on Sunweaver, you can take a look at the page. It’s under my Epic Fantasy Projects menu.

Book Review: The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker.

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I can’t believe I hadn’t reviewed this one here. So here goes…

Here’s my Goodreads review from back in July

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I’m not just referring to self-published books. I’m referring to all books. This one opened up with a great action scene. Then it proceeded to make me care deeply about the characters. There was only one POV that I didn’t connect with completely, and that was Tharok, who is separate from the rest of the characters.

I loved reading in Audsley’s POV. It’s so much fun to see the scholar type of character getting involved in things so far outside his comfort zone. Tiron was also a great character. His internal conflict was depicted brilliantly.

Early on, it took me a bit to adjust to the author’s writing style. He is fond of longer sentences than you see in most fantasy these days. But once I adjusted to it, it didn’t bother me at all. Books like this show that you can find brilliant books that have been self-published.

Rating: 9.5/10

I will add to this review that Tucker really has a way of writing action scenes that make you feel like you’re there with the character. I was frantically flipping virtual pages. It gave me the same kind of feeling I get toward the end of a Sanderson, Weeks, or Butcher novel, where all the various threads come together into an explosive action scene.

I will also add that I thought the second book was even better. Tucker’s roots in horror really show in that one. There were a lot of scenes that I read with great anxiety in that one. But that’s a review for another time.

This is the kind of story that I think has the potential to be commercial fantasy with a capital C. It’s not great literature, though it is written well. First and foremost, it is a fun story, and it only gets better.

This reminds me…I need to read the third book. I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to run out of material to read.

Not that that’s a big problem, though. Tucker is a prolific writer. Somehow, he manages to write books quickly without sacrificing quality. I wish I could find a bit of that talent myself.

Finding the Write Balance (that is not a typo).

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I’m planning on releasing my first book this summer. That’s a big milestone I’ve been building up to for a long time. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve written and discarded on the way to this, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve changed my mind about going through with self-publishing.

But now I am going through with it, and I want to achieve at least a moderate level of success. That means making back the money I’ve put in at first and then earning more farther down the road, once I have more books out.

That brings me to my greatest dilemma. I have a lot going on in my life. I’m going to engineering school, I’m working, I’m trying to get things ready to move, and I’m trying to launch my writing career. On top of all that, I suffer from bipolar disorder and anxiety. There’s only so much stress I can put on myself before it becomes potentially dangerous.

When I look at a lot of self-published authors, I see that they’re putting out three or four books a year (sometimes even more). I’d love to be able to write on that kind of schedule. I’m a very productive writer when I’m actually writing, but I am not able to write every day due to my many other commitments. As such, I think I can put out one book a year, maybe two (but I’m not going to hold myself to that).

I’m trying to keep any kind of time pressure of myself. It will only push me beyond safe levels of stress and likely result in an inferior novel. So I’m going to set my goal at getting one book out a year. Since I have already written the first drafts of all the books in World of Chains, I anticipate the schedule being a bit quicker at first.

It may work out well enough that I can spend more time writing once school is over. I still have 2.5 years to go (including this semester). Of course, that’s assuming I don’t decide to continue my studies in graduate school.

I will try my best to get new material out there quickly because I know I like that kind of productivity as a reader, but I’m not going to promise any set number of books per year apart from the one I think I can do without putting too much pressure on myself. Beyond that, it will depend on how much time I find to write between my other commitments.

That being said, I still anticipate a summer release for Empire of Chains. If all goes well with editing, I hope to have the second book in the series, The Shadowed Land, out sometime around Christmas, but we’ll see how things shape up.

I do want to keep everyone updated on what’s going on with my writing. One of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, is great about doing that, and I find his way of approaching his writing career is inspiring to me. Obviously, I’m going a different route with self-publishing, but I still think I can approach my career in roughly the same way.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to get more details soon on the release for Empire of Chains. I won’t really know until I have the cover art finalized, which won’t happen until June at the earliest.

Indie Book Review: The Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker

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There’s only one word I can think of to describe this book: fun.

This is a different kind of story from Phil Tucker, who has written the excellent Chronicles of the Black Gate series (three books out, with two more to go, I believe). That series is epic fantasy with a capital E. This one is less epic, more tightly focused. It’s basically a heist story, though the object being stolen is a person rather than some treasure. But it also becomes much more than that.

It’s a story of a world where most of the gods have died and only the goddess of death remains. As such, necromancy is all over the place. That might seem like a tired trope of fantasy, but I think Tucker did it very well, putting some new twists on old ideas.

The biggest positive out of this book was the action. I already knew that Tucker could write great action scenes, and he delivered again in this one. I found myself frantically flipping virtual pages for much of the book. The beginning was a bit slow, and it took me a while to warm to the characters, but once I did, I was along for the ride. And it was a great one.

The only real issue I noticed with this one were a few more typos and editing issues than I’ve come to expect from Tucker. They weren’t egregious by any means, and I don’t think they should detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the book. I do think it could have used one more proofreading pass, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t like it quite as much as The Path of Flames, but that’s a high standard to live up to.

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking to give some self-published authors a chance, I highly recommend Tucker. My enjoyment of his stories is right up there with some of my favorite trade-published authors. Tucker knows how to tell a great story.