Summer Break: Refilling the Muse

For various reasons, I don’t spend much time writing during the summer. To be more accurate, I don’t spend any time writing during the summer. That doesn’t mean I’m not being creative or productive, though.

I am refilling my muse.

To me, writing is an indoor sport, something to be done when it’s cold and dark and rainy outside. A winter sport. During the summer, I spend time outdoors, often traveling by motorcycle or sleeping in a tent next to a stream. Scenery is my muse. Visiting small towns and meeting new people is my muse. Zooming along a narrow winding road as it follows the curving contours of a mountain river is my muse.

This summer in particular, I have added Dungeons & Dragons to my creative fuel tank. I have been the Dungeon Master for a group of eight players that meet once a week to seek adventure. I have designed a campaign that will last several months and is intended to play-test a plot idea for my next book. I am allowing the dynamics of an active D&D adventure to provide inspiration. So far it has been productive. I am learning what aspects of my plot will work well in a book, and what parts of the game must remain part of the RPG itself.

Every author has their own voice.

The Taesian Chronicles has been available for several months now and I continue to get feedback from readers. Although all of it has been very positive and encouraging, I have learned there is a reason why there are 31 flavors at the ice cream shop. My take-away from this experience is that my original intention of writing a book I would want to read is the best approach as an author. Every author has their own voice. If I write to please my audience, I will be traveling away from my genuine self and the story will suffer for it.

Subjective reader perspectives

As an author, I serve two masters: myself, and my readers. I want to write a story I would want to read, but I also want to write a story my readers would want to read. Within my group of readers, there’s no way to count the variations of subjective tastes and preferences.

After publishing The Taesian Chronicles, and getting feedback from various readers, I’m struck by the difference in tastes from one reader to the next. One reader will comment about my pace and level of detail during combat scenes, feeling it goes into Matrix mode where there’s actually too much detail. Another reader will commend me for my level of detail, often saying, “I can envision everything perfectly in my head.”

Although I’d love to please 100% of my readers, with 100% of my writing, I know this is not possible. When a plurality of my readers give me feedback that something needs to be improved, I listen and take steps to correct it in future works. When equal parts express joy and displeasure about something that is obviously a matter of subjective opinion and preference, I listen and see if there are any lessons to be learned, but I don’t stress about it too much. You can’t please everyone.

I could make the best chocolate ice cream in the world, but the vanilla lovers will still have a problem with it.

And that’s okay.

Writing and Playing Dungeons & Dragons

As those who have read my books may know from my author profile, I was exposed to the fantasy genre back in 1980 when I played my first game of Dungeons & Dragons. Not to date myself too much, but I was still in grade school. The game was a big part of my life until I was 25 or so, and for various reasons I won’t mention, I gave it up. The next time I played D&D was Christmas of 2013, when I ran a short one-off game for my family as a group activity.

Dungeons & DragonsThat game had a big impact on me. Although I hadn’t intended for it to be so, it inspired me to write my third novel, and even provided some plot events that made it into the book. I didn’t play again until just a few months ago, when I picked up the 5th edition Starter Set and the three core rule books (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual for those unfamiliar with D&D).

I walked into Goin’ Gaming, a game and comic store in Troutdale, Oregon, bought some miniatures and got to know the owners, Alan and Becky Schmid. (See other posts about the store and the owners and how that factored into my writing career.) They host D&D games every Thursday evening, and the group needed more players. I showed up at the next game session and was warmly welcomed.

Other walk-ins saw our enthusiasm and the group has grown to seven players, all of whom I now consider to be my friends. We play at least once a week. After our current campaign wraps up at the end of June, I’ll take over as Dungeon Master, and that gets me to the point of this post.

Once I read through the 5th edition rule books, I began to get ideas for the plot of my fourth novel. My vision is to write three trilogies in the Taesia world, of which The Taesian Chronicles is the first trilogy. The fourth novel will be book one of the second trilogy. (Forgive the seemingly strange logic for the way I’m structuring the series; there’s a method to my madness.) I brainstormed the plot and am very happy with it. But, that plot would also make an outstanding D&D campaign.

With the group’s permission, I will switch from being a player to being the DM. Our current DM, Joseph, will become a player, and the group will run through my new campaign. In a sense, we will be play-testing my plot idea. I don’t anticipate the game campaign directly translating into a novel. That was done with Against the Giants, and what was one of the best modules ever written failed horribly as a novel. However, as what happened with my one-off adventure played by my family over a Christmas holiday, I think there is some wonderful inspiration to be generated by the game that can feed into the novel.

It is my intention to run the D&D campaign first, at least for several weeks, before I begin work on my fourth book. The creative energy required to write a campaign and the amount of time it takes to flesh it out severely limits my available bandwidth for novel-writing. I can do one or the other, but not both. I don’t usually write much during the summer months anyway, so work on the book probably won’t begin until autumn. At that point I will have a pretty good idea if my plot idea holds water, and I will hopefully also have some great source material from the game itself. Players often come up with dialog or creative solutions to challenging problems that make excellent material for books.

We’ll see how this goes. Stay tuned.

Sales of Kindle vs. paperback

My first book, Ohlen’s Arrow, was released in 2013. I chose to sell it as an ebook only. Initially, it was available for Kindle via Amazon, Nook via Barnes & Noble, and iBooks via Apple’s iTunes bookstore. In 2014, I released the sequel, Ohlen’s Bane. Again, it was sold as an ebook only, via the same three channels.

In 2015, I released the third book, Paragon’s Call, with what became the trilogy The Taesian Chronicles. Sometime during the process of writing Paragon’s Call, I made the decision to sell the three individual books as Kindle ebooks exclusively, removing the Nook and iBooks versions, and then selling The Taesian Chronicles as a paperback as well as a Kindle ebook.

I have noticed something interesting about this sales strategy. Several readers have purchased The Taesian Chronicles in paperback, and told me they have held off buying my books until they were released in paper form. One reader told me she had been waiting since 2013! To some people, if it’s not a dead-tree edition, it’s not a book.

In fact, I’ve noticed more enthusiastic and voluminous interest in my writing efforts now that I’ve released something in paperback than I ever have when my works were available as ebooks only. People seem far more impressed by the heft and size of The Taesian Chronicles than they were when I told them I’d written three novels [as ebooks only]. Perhaps ebooks just don’t seem tangible and real to people.

I’m toying with the idea of releasing special paperback editions of the individual books that make up the trilogy. What do you think?

My first book signing event was a big success

Book Signing, May 14, 2016Saturday, I participated in my first author’s book signing event. It was held at Goin’ Gaming in Troutdale, Oregon (www.goinggaming.com) and was organized by owners Becky and Alan Schmid. Three other authors participated.

I was able to meet some old friends I hadn’t seen in several years who made special trips to attend, and I made some new friends, too. One of the things I liked about the event was the chance to meet other authors and hear about their creative and writing processes. We also bounced around some creative ideas for new stories.

Again, I would like to thank owners Becky and Alan Schmid for arranging this event, and for being supportive of my new book.