Finding Certainty in Uncertain Times

Well, the world sure feels surreal right now. Almost every nation is enacting some level of lockdown, social isolation and distancing is now a way of life and Canada’s closed its borders for non-essential travel for the first time in my memory.

It’s scary, and a lot of the implications of what can happen are scarier.

But, I want to talk about something important. The world is surreal and things can be scary, but this situation has helped me clarify what’s important to me. Family, friends, health. I’ve been on this path for a while, chasing the idea of living rather than just surviving.

Life can be hard, it can be short… but it’s also what we make it.

I’m choosing to step back from online serialization sites for a while. I had some great experiences and met some wonderful people, but since November it’s been one crisis after another. I stood up and tried to work within (and without) of the company process, but when a company chose to side with harassers over protecting users, I was torn. Do I leave and sacrifice a network and community that still held value to me? Did I stay and know that the harassment would continue?

And then COVID reached Canada. Then the safety measures were put into place and I sat down with my Mom and had a talk about what would happen if she got sick, if my Dad got sick. If I got sick. This isn’t our first health rodeo, so it was a pretty calm discussion. But.

I realised that my time spent dealing with petty and ineffectual people over stupid issues on the internet was taking up too much of my time. It feels big in the moment, until something actually big shows up.

I’m still writing, I’ll always write. My goals have just shifted back to aiming for Trad or Indie pub.

The internet drama will continue on its own, I’m sure. But I don’t have to engage with it. Instead, I’m choosing to spend time in contact with loved ones and on improving my health in any way I can.

Life is too short, but I needed the reminder.

Call your loved ones, hug your pet. Make art and rest and recover.

What about Patreon?

I’ll be reinstating the hiatus for the moment, so that folks can conserve their finances in case money gets tight.

March 2020 – Onward, Upward!

Housekeeping Stuff

Patreon!

I’ve dusted off the old Patreon which has lain dormant for… a while. If you’re interested in reading chapter updates early, and a tier for exclusive content like… Stormy Skies. [See below]

Tutorials and How To’s!

What would you like to see in upcoming tutorials and how-to’s? Let me know in the comments!

  • Editing process
  • Designing a cover for serial sites
  • developing a character from flat to flat-out-awesome
  • Other?

Stories & Where to Find Them

Taking Names

New Adult/Adult Paranormal Thriller

When Sif’s mother is killed, she’s hellbent on revenge. Things get complicated when Sif meets the extended family that her mother never told her about. A very large, very rich, very powerful family that could help her find out who put out the hit on her mother.

Hell hath no fury like a woman wronged, and Hell’s never seen a woman like Sif before.


Among the Trees

New Adult Fantasy Romance

Karley is a grad student in robotics software at MIT who desperately needs a week away from all things technical. When she takes a vacation to go hiking, the last thing she expects is to meet Hunter, a fellow wanderer with a voice of gold and a sad smile. As they spend time together on the trilocular realizes not everything can be explained. Hunter’s wild freedom is something that’s been missing from her life.

The forest sings when Hunter’s around, leaves grow greener, and everything feels… better. It’d be easier to explain that it was all in her head, but Karley knows what she’s seeing is real.


Stormy Skies – Patreon Exclusive

Adult Fantasy Adventure – Sequel to the Watty-winning Hungry Skies. Cowboy elves, Santeria orcs, and a lot of good dogs.

Millie Berry survived the battle of Scorched Bluffs, but she’s not sure she’ll survive her return to civilization and society. A society that hasn’t forgotten she used to go by the name ‘Butcher’ during the war. Not everyone believes she’s changed, and old enemies are emerging from the shadows with time-honed grudges. Can she atone for her past sins, or will Millie lose the family she’s protected so fiercely?


That’s all for today, I hope you folks enjoy my stories and writing-cat sends her regards.

oxo, Cal & Cat

2020 Foresight

It’s the last day of the year, and thank god what better time to look forward?

2019 was difficult in many ways, but by Fall, the hard work I’d been putting in started to pay off in my personal life, in my health, and in my writing. I started working on a ‘silly western and fantasy’ story at the beginning of 2019, though I only really got around to sharing it on Wattpad in March or so. I found a community there was supportive at moments I felt bogged down by what was quickly becoming a full-length fantasy novel.

Then, in October, it won one of Wattpad’s Watty Awards for Fantasy. (That means, of the 170k stories submitted, mine won one of 60 awards.)

Suddenly I had a finished draft of a novel, that people liked, that won an award, and that hadn’t been a goal I set out for myself this year. Best of all, I had done it without burning out despite the day job being more demanding than it has been in a while.

I did it. I finished drafting a novel, start to finish.

And in 2020, I’m going to do it again.

2020 Goals

  • Get outside at least twice a week for a walk. Yes, winter too.
  • Strengthen and rebuild muscles to feel stronger.
  • Continue to work toward a balance of work and life.
  • Continue to look up, to notice the world around me. Screens aren’t everything.
  • Finish the next book. Then the one after that.

2019 Surprises

  • Finished Novel Draft
  • Won award for Novel
  • Learned how to better cope with stress and anxiety
  • Found a supportive group of writers that uplift and encourage me while also challenging me to do better
  • Was able to shift my focus from fighting for/against things to a more positive approach of growth and healing.

Novel Idea Plan

It’s time for another behind the scenes post! Today I’ll be sharing an annotated version of the Novel Plan I’ve used for pretty much each long-form Story since I started Entropic Horizons.

It’s cribbed together from advice from different authors (Mostly Chuck Wendig who has written extensively on writing at TerribleMinds.com). [This is also why this post is free, because I won’t take credit for other people’s work.]

I’ll attach a template of a blank plan for your use in the future, but in the meantime, I’ll walk you through a [redacted] version of my current Novel Plan for Taking Names.

Before we start…

A few points before we dig into things!

  1. Everyone works differently. If something doesn’t work for you, jettison it.
  2. This is the order of the document template I use, but not the order I fill it up in. I hop around adding notes as I come up with them.
  3. This is a living document, that means it changes when it needs to.
    1. A character not working out? Deleted!
    2. Timeline or motivations have changed in the process of writing? Cool, update them.
  4. This is mostly a way for me to solidify ideas and keep track of things I might forget like a character’s secondary motivation that then comes back to kick them in the teeth in Act two.

TL;DR – Too Long; Didn’t Read

For non Internet-natives, TL;DR means “Too long; didn’t read” and is basically a short summary of a very long post in a few lines.

tldr_1

In my case, I use the TL;DR as a way to boil down the idea I’m working on into a snappy pitch. I write down the genre and the working title. I like titles, but if it changes later on, that’s cool. This is just to make sure I don’t have NI_Untitled_01.doc through 100 in my writing folder.

Let’s get Critical

This is mostly just throwing ideas down into words. It started out as just “A coming of age story that’s like John Wick but with ladies.”

Using Wendig’s ‘Cardinal Questions’, I tried to think about if other people will want to read this. Then I thought about who might not and if I would care.

 

Critical Questions

For me, the questions “What is this about” and “Who are these people” Are the most important. “Why will anyone care” is not as much a big deal since I’m not novelpublished and I need to focus on the story instead of marketing right now. (Which is tricky, I’m used to doing all at once with my other endeavours).

Characters!

Above, in the Critical Questions, I list the Characters. It’s just a list of their names and a two-to-three word description of their role in life/the story.

After, I have more in-depth profiles for the main group of characters. Sif, my main character, is full of spoilers, so I replaced it with ‘stuff’  for now. Sorry!

Char_mini

Wendig has a lot more questions about characterization, but I picked a few that I plan to focus on. In my writing I really like focusing on how Wants and Needs are different, and sometimes at odds. It’s more interesting if they’re at odds. Which will win out? WHO KNOWS? (I do, but the story’s not done yet.)

The Three beat Arc is probably my favourite of Wendig’s Questions though. I don’t like static characters, and want to avoid writing them. Planning out the roles/approach and how those change over time helps me sort out their general path.

Pitch and Summary

A sort of distillation and expansion of the TL;DR AT THE SAME TIME. Only like, separate.

I haven’t bothered with the longer pitch, that can wait until I’m done writing draft one, and have a better idea of where and how things explode. I mean happen. Where things happen.

logline

I had a realization that Keanu Reeves is having far too much influence in this story already, and now need to find some way to insert an easter egg reference. Also the name “John.”

World Building

Ah yes. The Fantasy novelist’s favourite thing. Well, some of them. I’ve talked to some writers who happily tell me their world building bible is like 300 pages. But. I’m not one of those people? I have limited time and energy so bullet points and rules it is!

WorldBuild

There’s a few main topics that I need to solidify in my plan before I start contradicting myself all over the place. I’ve put them down here:

  • The Taggarts, a family that features prominently in the story, will have a list of family members and a family tree to avoid accidentally making an aunt also a cousin.
    • I’ll also include a basic history that is important to the story. All families have history and it helps make interactions between family members feel more real.
  • Magic! Magic needs rules to follow if it’s to feel ‘real’ in a story. This is where I’ll put down the general idea behind magic in this world and what rules it has to follow. Again, I try to keep the rules short and blunt.
    • Consequences of magic
    • who has access to it
    • how it’s perceived, etc.

Out of Line

Okay. This is the part that I have the most trouble with. What happens WHEN?

Again, Wendig comes to the rescue with the idea of “Alpha/Omega” of a story. What’s the Start and end? I added a middle/turning point for myself, but that happened after I had worked on the events for a while.

alphaomega

Smooth Sailing is boring sailing

The shortest path from A to B is only optimal in math and physics. Life is made interesting by the obstacles in our way, and how we overcome them. Same with characters, so here we go. What obstacles face down your character? Unless you’re writing sword and sorcery, chances are there’s going to be a lot of non-physical obstacles. Again, the suggestions come from Wendig’s blog.

obstacles

Sorry for all the spoilers. Sif faces Intellectual, Social and Moral obstacles before she even bumps up against the big bad. I kept it vague, rather than specify exact situations. The specifics will come later. (Like, right now actually)

Time isn’t Made Out of Lines

Outdated Red vs Blue quotes aside, Time doesn’t always happen in a line. If you have time travel, maybe have a few ‘timelines’. One of how the characters experience events, one of how the chronological events occur.

There’s lots of ways to produce a timeline but I like the ‘beat sheet’ method. I… like bullet points. Simple. Room for growth, and for fiddly, wiggly, messy things that people do in response to events.

timeline

After my basic timeline, I created a table to keep track of who’s doing what. The main four characters, Main events and by Chapter.

charxchap

This was inspired by that semi-famous image of J.K. Rowling’s hand written graph for Order of the Phoenix.

The Hero’s Journey*

* HIGHLY OPTIONAL

It’s just a simplified version of my main timeline, mapping events to the stages of a hero’s journey. It’s not necessarily in order, and the Hero’s Journey doesn’t apply to a lot of my stories, but it does to this one.

Hero's journey

Stakes: Not just for Sparkle Vampires

Decisions should matter. Choices should matter. This is something that games like the Witcher 3 have hammered into me. If you’re not familiar with the Quest about the demon-tree, go read about it. Talk about choices having consequences.

So, something has to ride on those decisions, and those are the stakes. What’s at st- yeah. That.

stakes

But, as the character changes (See 3 Beat Arc), the stakes should change too. Preferably escalate, but jumping sideways is good too.

Three C’s

I swear I thought I got this from Wendig but I can’t find the exact post.  ANYWAYS.

Conflicts.
Complications.
Consequences.

3cs

Conflicts – Similar to obstacles, but characters can have internal conflicts, which can be harder to over come than physical ones.

Complications – Life, art, and cooking should all be messy. Stories too

Consequences – Like we talked about for the Stakes, decisions and actions should have consequences. If your character punches Random Extra #3, then do they get arrested for Assault? Does Random Extra #3 pull a Goku and level up to come beat up the character in Act 3?

Editing and Stuff

This is basically just a way to keep track of where I’m at when I have to go through Draft 1 (or 5) and what I’m focusing on. Otherwise I’ll forever tweak dialogue and avoid grammar forever.

Editing

Appendices!

Again, these are highly optional. But I’ve found something super inspiring in the past then lost it and struggled to find that image again. So now I tend to log the really impressive stuff either on a private Tumblr, pinterest or in the document.

Inspo

If you aren’t familiar with Peter Mohrbacher and his Angelarium, please go drool over his weird, wonderful art.

general aesthetics

This is probably over-planning, but I leave a lot of the sections half empty or empty until I’m actively writing the story so I can refer back to my plan as I get deep into the story.

That’s it, if you have a different process, I’d like to hear about it!

References

Chuck Wendig

Inspiration:

  • Peter Mohrbacher
  • Tumblr posts that sadly don’t credit artists. I’m still looking for the original sources of the two photographs.