WIP Update #2

Inner monologue: La dee dah. I should really write another update for where I am on my work in progress. I said I’d give updates with some level of frequency. There were even people in the comments who wanted them. It has to have been three months or so since I did an update, right?

*Checks blog post dates*. February 12th.

Inner monologue: Well fuck.

So uh…time kind of got away from me over the last few months. Combine the fact that I’ve had a ton going on (I started a new job, I launched a Patreon, I started a podcast, plus other things I haven’t talked about on this blog yet) with the fact that I didn’t realize I had written that post so early in the year, and that’s how I go six months between giving updates on the new book I’m working on. Weird how that works.

At the time of the first update being published, I had just cracked the 24,000 word mark, having written around eight chapters of the book1I think I was midway through the eighth chapter, though it’s been long enough that I don’t remember exactly where I was at that point in time.. That accounted for somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of the chapters I had planned out in the story, though only about one-fifth to one-quarter of the word count2I’m thinking the story will be around 90,000 words when I’m done, pre-edits..

I gave what I had done at that point to my very thorough, very patient alpha reader. And she tore the first three chapters apart. Which is awesome. There’s a reason I trust her to be the first person to read my story. That said, I also realize it was a bit of a mistake to send the file over when I hadn’t even finished the book yet. All of the comments, recommendations, and tweaks she suggested were wonderful advice, but they also (unintentionally) sapped my motivation to write on in the story at that time. That’s 100% my own fault for not taking into account how I have to structure my writing and editing process in order to be as productive as possible. That said, it also meant that I didn’t write anything new in the book from early March through mid-May.

Between mid-May and mid-July, I think I wrote a total of 1,500 words across eight weeks. Considering how busy this time in my life was3As this time period includes everything I mentioned above except the new podcast launch., the fact that I even got this much done was impressive in its own right. Nevertheless, I was disappointed in my own productivity.

So why write about this now? If nothing else, this post can serve as a reminder to myself about the struggles I had over the past five to six months4I’m not sure when I’m going to post this. I’m leaning towards mid-August at the time of writing this post, but we’ll see if that’s what actually happens., as well as the fact that I still got a little bit done in the book during one of the busiest times I’ve ever experienced. There’s a positive side to this tale as well though.

As of writing this post, the work in progress is now up to around 35,500 words, with 12 of the 26 planned chapters completed5Along with one scene later in the book that accounts for nearly all of the 1,500 words that I wrote between mid-May and mid-July.. Although I’m not at the halfway point of the book in terms of word count or chapters that I’m estimating, I have finished what is essentially the story of the first half of the book. I’m relatively happy with the way the story is progressing and I really like the way some of the main characters are developing.

I’ve also realized that I want this to become a series, though I’m unsure at this point exactly how I want to go about that. There is character that won’t appear until at least the second book of this series that I have in very vivid detail in my mind. While this is great for the long-term prospects for a series, it’s frustrating as the new character doesn’t fit in this first book at all. In fact, she needs the events of the first book to transpire for her to even have a need to exist — but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself by saying that.

I do want to take a moment to thank a few people — in particular Laidig, Eve, Tabitha, Mike, Stephanie, Erin, Dem, and my wife6As well as others I’ve surely, though accidentally, forgotten. — for their support as I’ve worked on this. I know my Patreon has been a big thing over the last few months. I know that I’ve written more than my fair share of video game posts, garbage posts, and random short stories while not talking about this project at all. But this project is one I care a ton about, not to mention one I want to do really well. There’s a ton of work that’s going to need to go into this project. I’m both thinking and hoping that in the end, the story that’s told7Both this book by itself and whatever series comes out of it, if I go that route. will be worth it.

WIP Update #1

A couple of months ago, I mentioned in my charity drive wrap-up post that I wasn’t particularly sure where I wanted to go with my writing. At that time, I was pretty down on how things had gone with said charity drive. In a way, I took the results of that effort as an indictment on my creative writing. I clearly have never been the best at marketing my writing — and by extension my book — and despite the book’s good ratings on Goodreads and Amazon, I ended up in a bit of a rough place mentally with how I viewed my own writing.

At the same time, just as the charity drive was wrapping up, I finally finished an outline for a project that I’ve been wanting to work on for some time now. Last year, I wrote a prompt-based short story that ventured into the realm of artificial intelligence. More specifically, the short story focused on whether or not humans and artificial intelligence could love one another, as well as the societal implications of that thought process. I actually did three short stories of various lengths on the topic last year1I’ve taken all three down off this blog, as I may end up using them in the future as part of this project (or another)., however the first one from that series is what prompted the outline. Said outline was originally 42 pages in length when I finished it, though it’s since grown to nearly 50 pages as I’ve added additional notes to it for my own reference.

A little more than a week after I wrote that charity drive post, something clicked. I wish I could tell you what it was, but I really don’t remember. I just wanted to try writing — to try working on this project that I had created a giant outline for. So I spent the better part of six hours between two plane rides working on the project, getting to almost 10,000 words in the process. I excitedly took a screenshot of Google Docs’ word count feature and posted it to my Twitter, getting better than I expected reception to the work I had done. No one had read the work in progress. Hell, only one person knew what said work in progress was related to at that point. The reaction still made me happy to see all the same.

We’re a little more than two months on now from the point at which I started working on this new project. Since starting, I’m at just over 24,000 words in the project. This accounts for about one-quarter of the chapters in the story’s outline. Even then, there’s really just been a lot of world building done at this point2There’s a surprisingly high amount of world building I’ve felt like I’ve needed to do with this story, even though the technologies within it aren’t that far-fetched from what exist today., as the main story itself has only just started to take shape in the last chapter or two. I’d ideally like to have the first draft of this book written by the end of spring, though we’ll see how much I can get done over the next couple of months.

I’m not necessarily writing this post for anyone. If you’re interested in the writing I’ve done and would like to stay up to date on the work in progress I have going on now, great. I’ll (hopefully) be posting additional updates about it as I continue working towards completing it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a handful of people approach me about wanting to be beta readers for the story once it has gone through an initial edit, which is something I didn’t have with my first book3I had beta readers, however I had to proactively seek them out. Seeing people actively want to be beta readers for me is a welcome surprise.. With this book likely being my first novel that I actually try to do something with4I’ve written a full novel for NaNoWriMo three times now (twice in the time limit, once with some extra time needed). That said, I don’t feel like continuing work on those for various reasons., there’s a long way to go. That said, I’ll try to keep doing these posts, not only for my own self-accountability, but also to let you all have some insight into my writing process, if you’re interested.

And hey — if you are interested in seeing more posts like this, let me know in the comments. I can’t really know that people want to see more about this project if no one says so.

Author Interview – E. V. Jacob

A few weeks ago, I wrote a review post for the new book The Shadows by E. V. Jacob. It’s a book that’s one of my favorite books that I’ve read in 2017, as well as one that I definitely think you should pick up. If you haven’t read the review, I would encourage you to do so.

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to chat with E. V. Jacob a bit about her new book, her experience as a new author, as well as about some other authors that she sees inspiration in. The transcript of our chat is below. Responses have been edited solely for the purposes of fixing typos. For ease of reading, my questions are in bold, with the responses unbolded below each question.


Tim (T): I’m going to start off with what might be the most obvious question — how does it feel to be a published author?

E. V. Jacob (E): It’s twofold: On the one hand, it feels like everything you want it to and more—I’m proud, excited, grateful, happy, and having a blast. But on the other hand…you’re still you at the end of the day, you know? Nothing about you, or who you are, has ultimately changed. Because the road to publishing, as any published author knows, is so long, that the changes happen over time. There’s no sudden shift; there’s long-term growth. And that’s honestly a great thing, it’s just not as immediate as I think most people would assume. At the same time, it still all feels like a whirlwind and I can’t believe that it’s already done. This simultaneously took forever and happened in the blink of an eye. It’s weird.

T: As a newly published author, what was the your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? What was the most intimidating part of the process?

E: I love it all. I do these wild plotting sessions with outlines and timelines and character profiles. I pin up notecards and scatter papers all over the floor, and do that murder wall thing you see in investigations. Then I hand-write the first draft. After it’s done (and boy is it a hot mess when it’s done), I type it up and get to editing. Each and every stage is incredibly fun but also incredibly daunting in its own way. I get stuck, I get frustrated, but the whole time you love what you’re doing, and that keeps me going. But really, I think the best part—and this could just be the novelty of it—was finally getting it out there into the world, and being able to say “I am 100% done writing that book. Time for something new”.

T: From the outside looking in, you seem to be a very motivated, very driven writer. What keeps you motivated during your creative slumps?

E: I appreciate that, because I don’t usually feel like a motivated or driven writer. But what keeps me going is just how badly I want to tell these stories. I have over 70 books planned, and that can sometimes seem like an impossible task, so I am just trying to tell as many of these stories as I can in the time I have. Writing is also a great refuge, and cathartic, so often it’s as therapeutic as it is productive (and other times it’s a damn chore, but I get my friends to yell at me and demand the next chapters, and that helps me churn out words on the bad days).

T: Who are some of the author — or even some of the works — that inspired you? Do you think any of those inspirations show through in The Shadows?

E: My first love, at the ripe old age of six, was the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. I still have every single book and read them from time to time. They definitely influenced me. As I grew older, I read anything I could get my hands on, so figuring out exactly has been the biggest influence can be tricky. I’d be lying if I left off obvious contenders, like J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Rick Riordan, but I think every single book I’ve ever read has motivated me to write and tell my own stories. Even books I didn’t like, because I’d think, “If this can get published and have fans then my book should definitely be out there.” One I always think of is Douglas Adams—he’s so funny and absurd and I so admire the odd, casual manner in which he is completely ridiculous.

T: Let’s take some time to talk about your book now. If someone walked up to you on the street and asked you about your book, how would you explain The Shadows to them?

E: I’ve just been describing it as a young adult paranormal sci-fi as of late, but if someone wanted a more in-depth description, I’d tell them it’s about tragedy, and loss. It’s about mental health struggles, and figuring out who you are, apart from what you’ve been raised to be. It’s also about ghosts and some other entities that I don’t want to spoil, but…yeah, things get weird. That’s a phrase I use a lot when describing it, too: “Things get weird.” Which is hilarious to me, since this is arguably the tamest of all my books.

T: The Shadows is your debut piece, however it’s evident that it’s intended to be part of a longer series. Has this always been a series in your mind or did it start out as a book and become something more?

E: This is kind of tricky. See, years and years ago, there was a stand-alone novel that I discussed with my mother about a teen girl named Roz, her eccentric artist neighbor, and some dark secrets. I fiddled with this a bit, but it never fully evolved into anything. And there was another stand-along novel about Derek and Emily—two characters in this book—that was mostly an exploration of Derek’s personal struggles.

Fast-forward to about five years ago, and I’m again kicking things around with my mother, and a new idea blossoms: A series, with a more supernatural feel, taking Roz from her book, and Derek and Emily from their book, adding some other characters, throwing in some mysteries and mystical entities, and creating a series that could unfold over several books. So it almost started as two separate stand-alone books that have been combined into one longer series.

Fun fact: Both Roz and Derek’s original stories will be told over the course of this series, so very little was lost; just assimilated and reworked. I’m excited to still get to share those concepts in this bigger framework, because I loved them both, but they needed the rest of the story to shine.

T: Are there any characters in The Shadows that you like or feel more attached to than others? Any reason why?

E: I mentioned Derek having come from a previous story, and he is actually the character I’ve had the longest out of all others in this series, so he’s rather dear to me. His role in book one is smaller, but that’s mostly due to his reserved nature. He’ll feature more in coming books, and I hope others will come to care about him like I do. Ford is also special, mostly because he’s so easy to write it’s almost like he’s writing himself. I never have to sit there and think about what he’s going to say or do, he just does it. It’s great fun, and he brings out sides of the other characters I like. Roz, I relate to in more ways than I realized I would, and in fact I didn’t see it until the book was almost published.

T: Going into the book as a reader, I knew there was going to be a good bit of paranormal and supernatural content in the book. That said, the detail you went into with the ghost hunting and the paranormal shows was more than I expected. Was there a lot of research that you put into this book — be it in the paranormal realm or otherwise? If so, what was the strangest thing you found yourself researching as you were writing this book?

E: So much research. I mentioned my mother helping out before, and I should say: She loves to research, so I’d recruit her help and she’d find some amazing stuff. Also, I have an affinity for physics and scientific study, so I always liked the idea of explaining the paranormal in logical terms. A lot of research went into “ghosts from a scientific standpoint” (which I’m sure isn’t surprising to anyone who’s read the book), and I built from there. I need to know how things work in order to write them, even if it never makes it into the book, so when I wrote my first ever ghost story—a short story requested by a friend back in 2012—I found myself puzzling over the physics of ghosts. I spent way too much time thinking about how it all worked. So it’s been building for quite some time now, and I’m likely going to continue adding to my eclectic knowledge.

T: Being from Southern Nevada, how much research did you have to do into the setting for the story and how much came from memory?

E: I was born and raised in Las Vegas, so almost all of it was from memory, though I did use the book as an excuse to “research” locations a few times. I’ve been going to Red Rock Canyon all my life, and I actually lived up on Mount Charleston (just outside of Echo, the area mentioned in the book) when I was a teenager. Most of the restaurants and other locations I mentioned are real, or are based on real spots around town that I like to visit. I actually went up to the mountains and hiked around, deciding exactly where I wanted the final scenes of the book to take place. It was a lot of fun, getting to use my hometown as a backdrop to a story, especially when so many of my other projects take place in different countries, time periods, or even on different planets.

T: You’re working on the second book in the Dark Sentinels series now. There’s a nice, albeit short, excerpt that appears at the end of The Shadows as to what’s going to happen in the second book. Anything else you can share about the next book in the series?

E: Some questions will be answered, more questions will be posed, and Rosalind (and her friends!) are going to find themselves dragged even deeper into this mess. Relationships will be strained, and Roz will have to work very hard to keep up with her new abilities. I’m trying not to give anything major away, but things get a lot more intense as the series progresses, and it happens pretty rapidly. Book one, as you know, was a lot of set-up; books two and beyond won’t be slowed down by setting the stage—full speed ahead into the weird.

T: What new, upcoming, or little-known authors would you recommend to others to read?

E: One person who’s writing I love and was fortunate enough to get to read before it was published is Ryan Dalton. He’s the author of the Time Shift Trilogy, which anyone who loves sci-fi and time travel should absolutely check out. Another, with a completely different style, is Abigail Johnson. She writes these complex, deep real-world stories about people taking the raw hand they were dealt and turning that into something magnificent. And she, as a person, is hugely inspiring. I also know that there’s a book coming out Fall 2018 by Candice Montgomery, Home & Away, which I think a lot of people are going to love. And me, of course. I have a lot of projects in the works—some solo, some collaborative, all awesome.


If you haven’t already, go pick up The Shadows by clicking on any of the links below. Additionally, you can learn more about E. V. Jacob by going to her website or by following her on Twitter.

Amazon – Hardcover | Kindle | Paperback
Draft2Digital
Kobo
Smashwords

Book Review – The Shadows (Dark Sentinels, Book One)

You know what I haven’t done in a while? A book review.

Tim, you did one in April.

Huh. So I did. Well I haven’t done many of them.

This will be your sixth.

Uh…well it’s not like I’ve done any other revi…

What about this one?

Goddammit. Am I becoming a reviewer?

Not yet, but you’re on your way.

 

…also, if you’re looking for an update on the book charity drive, that’ll come later this week or early next week. Anyway, on with the review.


Full disclosure on this review — I received an advanced reader copy of The Shadows. While I’m not receiving any sort of compensation for writing this review, I am quite shamelessly helping the author promote this book as I can on Twitter. This is partly because she’s been a writer/creator I’ve held a lot of respect for for quite some time now1Yes, I know there’s a double for there. It’s also grammatically correct.. It’s also partly because The Shadows is a damn good book.

Oh…uh…review spoilers in that previous paragraph2Since people get all bent out of shape for spoilers. Which…stop that..

As a reader, I have a decently wide range of books I like to read. With that said, one of the original book genres that I really got into when I started caring about reading was the Young Adult genre. In particular, I tended to prefer Young Adult dystopian novels3Think “Feed” by M.T. Anderson., however I wasn’t opposed to reading pretty much anything in the genre, aside from heavy romance4Still can’t stand heavy romance novels now, regardless of if they’re young adult books or not. For whatever reason, many romance writers struggle to write good plot..

That said, it’s been quite some time since I’ve really sat down and read a YA novel. The only one I’ve read in the past three years was Mila 2.0 which, while a good book, wasn’t one that I actively went out of my way to recommend to others to read. On top of that, when the book’s concept was original ran by me, it was stated to be a young adult paranormal sci-fi book. The closest I’ve come to caring about paranormal things is my love for Chandelure and Froslass in the Pokemon games. Needless to say the book had a chance of being outside of my wheelhouse.

Here’s the thing though…I loved the book.

The main character of this book, Roz, is a very relatable character in my mind. Anyone who has gone through the challenges of living as a child in a single parent household will have some level of empathy for Roz’s situation, particularly the frustrations of her mother not being around. The other major characters of the story also seem to jump off of the page — in particular Derek, who is more of a secondary character in the book, but has a very distinct way of speaking, to the point where I feel like I know exactly what his voice sounds like in my head.

The characters themselves form a diverse, multicultural cast, which is always a pleasure to see in a book. It’s something I know from personal experience can be a struggle for writers, so seeing someone handle it successfully is always a positive. The paranormal entities in the book also stick around in your mind for a while, particularly Diego and the book’s main antagonist5It’s hard to explain exactly what this specter is without spoiling, so that’s all you’re getting..

The Shadows is definitely a setup book. You can tell the book is doing its best to introduce you to the main characters of the story, the intricacies of the world around them, the gravity of the challenges they’re facing, and the relationships between the characters themselves. You can also tell that there’s going to be more books in this series coming down the line. And yet, even though you can, as a reader, surmise that as the book is winding down, the only feeling you’re left with is sadness that the book is ending and you don’t get to know what happens next. Having a preview of the second book at the end was particular cruel — not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I wanted to know more.

I was able to get through The Shadows in a single evening, though I was a bit distracted, so quick readers might be able to finish it in just a few hours. It’s not that The Shadows is a particularly short read — the ebook version I had was around 290 pages — it’s that it’s a captivating read that you won’t want to put down. I cannot recommend The Shadows highly enough. Not only would I encourage those of you reading this interview to buy the book, I would also say that many of you, like me, will find it to be one of your favorite books you’ll read this year.

When You Give Up What’s Yours

A couple of months back, I made a plea on Twitter asking for post ideas. I took one of those ideas — a short story prompt challenge — and have run with it. That said, I wanted to start getting to a few of the others. One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, Eve, suggested I talk a bit more about self-publishing. I have a couple of different posts in mind where I want to do that. One of those posts, which will come at a later date, will go into deeper detail on my experience as a self-published author1Which, to be fair, is more of what Eve was looking for, I think., expanding on this post I wrote last year.

As for this post though, I want to go down a different, more philosophical path. In a recent Vlogbrothers video, John Green talked about how he felt knowing that his newest book, Turtles All the Way Down, was going to the printer for final printing, meaning he wouldn’t be editing it again from that point forward2Apologies in advance to my wife, who generally reads my blog posts, but will be caught by surprise by watching a video that features the sound of John Green’s voice — which she strongly dislikes..

Around the 48 second mark of the video above, John talks about how Turtles All the Way Down was his book and his alone for the better part of six years. But, from the point at which it got to the printer forward, the book was no longer his. It belongs then (or now?) to the reader.

I hate that feeling — the feeling that your work, your creativity, and your art no longer belongs to you. I know part of why I dislike it. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good of a writer you are, and no matter how well you vet your work for any problem that might arise, someone is going to hate your work. It happened to me and it took me the better part of a year to get to the point where I could talk about it without sounding like a total asshat.

I know that I have plenty of room to grow as an author. I know that my writing will continue to improve as I put more work, more time, and more effort into it. I know that most people don’t write a book that’s considered to be a classic as their first work3Unless you’re Harper Lee, apparently.. I also know that reception of my book has been generally positive, at least if Amazon and Goodreads are to be believed. But still…there are critiques that have been made that I can improve upon. And I hate that I can’t do that.

There’s plenty I can do better going forward. I can flesh the short stories I write out better — be that as a novel or just as longer short stories. I need to do a better job of writing more diversely. Even from a non-writing standpoint, I need to learn how to market myself as an author and writer better. I absolutely can work on those things going forward. Even if the effort that it will take to complete those actions is significant, I believe I have the capability to do those things.

But the work I’ve already done…that eats at me just a little.

As John Green says in the video a bit earlier in the post (and I’m paraphrasing here for brevity): I just really want people to like my work, but if they don’t there’s nothing I can do. And I agree with that sentiment, mostly. I do really want people to like my work. I’d love for them to love my work, to tell all of their friends about it, then those friends tell their friends, and eventually I get picked up by an actual publisher4Again.. That’s the dream. The sales over the last six months tell me that said dream is not realistic — not with this book, at least.

To say there’s nothing I can do is a complex thought. On one hand, there really isn’t anything I can do about the book that’s already out. Unlike John Green, I’ve re-read my own book a few times since it published. Doing so has allowed me to see how my tastes for my own writing have changed, not to mention to take ideas from previous works and build ideas upon those thoughts for future works. On the other hand, there’s plenty of things I can do to work to improve myself constantly as a writer, as a person, and as a citizen of modern society. After all, in order to be a successful writer, its critical to understand that those three roles do have overlap. I’m still learning what that overlap is.