Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sky: the Flight Above, Book II of the Dragonlord Trilogy - preview chapter

Please enjoy this excerpt from the sequel to Sea: the Cold Below.

It's time to meet the Dragonlords.

excerpt from SKY: THE FLIGHT ABOVE, BOOK II of the DRAGONLORD TRILOGY


PRELUDE


Fire burned in me. It was the fire of anguish, and yearning, and revenge.
It was the ashes of a dream lost to the wind.
In the first years following her death, I spent myself endlessly battling the enchantment that kept the Ubicanan locked in the mountains near the human settlements. But the working that kept them in also kept me out, and out of exhaustion, I finally admitted defeat. I knew he was there, somewhere. My lost son. Buried in one of those villages and holdings where the humans lived. I just had to reach him.
But when I determined I physically could not get closer, I started taking humans. Some I killed painfully, burning limbs off one at a time. Some I forced to go searching for me, holding a family as ransom. Not that it mattered. I killed them all in the end.
All except the females.
Those I took to the mountain.
His mountain, once. My brother’s. Now mine. A mountain that, under my rule, screamed once more. Except this time, the screams spoke only one language: human.
It was fitting.
All humans deserved to suffer and die. They were weak, short-lived, powerless. A stain upon the land that worked against the natural laws of the elements. Every death was one less blot that darkened my world.
None of it brought her back.
Yet I didn’t care. She was gone, and it became too late to save my son. The time of his change came and passed.
All I had left was my pain.
And if I was going to suffer, so would all of them.
We would all burn together.






PROLOGUE


In a distant chamber nearly open to the sky, a dragon hunched on the sand. It groaned and whimpered, staring into the puddles that had formed from a recent rainfall.
Words whispered from between torn lips, senseless babble that worked to keep his sanity at bay.
“It burns… it burns you see… my skin unwhole… ripped apart… must dive deep… where are you, snow? Oh my child… dear child… flames bursting from my mouth… blood frothing, boiling, tearing the world apart… blood… always blood… cursed blood… darkness comes!” the dragon suddenly screamed. “I can’t see… no light… we’re nothing… nothing…”
His voice fell again, turning into empty whispers that scraped against the sand and died. He whimpered and moaned and lashed his tail feebly against his bonds.
Measured footsteps interrupted the steady cycle of cries and moans. Slowly, a figure came into view. It was immense, three times the size of the dragon huddled into the sand. Its wings pressed close as it came to a standstill, amethyst eyes observing the forlorn figure staring into the water.
“I know what it is you see.”
Ice-colored eyes looked up unerringly and found the other’s gaze. “Do you, Aldornaevar? Then why aren’t you weeping?”
Aldornaevar shook his long neck. “I must work to preserve what I can.”
“That is the path you took, then.”
Aldornaevar answered slowly, mournfully, a mixture of fear and awe in his voice. “I could not have chosen as you did. The sacrifice was too great.”
“And yet if I hadn’t, there would be no warning. And no chance at all.”
“But… your own brother. The way you… do you not understand what you’ve turned him into?”
“A pariah, like myself.”
“And eater of human flesh! He is lost in his revenge.”
“It was the only way to make him strong enough.”
“For what?”
“For the war to come.”
“He was already strong.”
“Not to do what needs to be done.”
“And what is that?”
There was no answer.
“Wrethrian, what was it?”
In response, Wrethrian pointed to the pool in front of him. “His son. He is the key.”
“The missing one? He’s dead by now.”
“Is he?”
“No one knows, but he can’t have survived this long.”
Wrethrian smiled eerily. “Can’t he?”
Aldornaevar took a deep breath and changed tactics. “You had no right to make any choices for Rothsarien.”
Wrethrian reared up suddenly. “I had every right!” he snarled. “If I hadn’t taken action, my dear little brother would never have become what he needed to. And his son would have never learned to endure the pain of existence.”
Aldornaevar remained still, unmoved by the display.
“And what will that achieve?”
“It’s the only way for him to master fire.”
“His son is dead. He was never changed. His frail human flesh would never have survived all these years.”
Wrethrian hissed with sly humor. “Oh, wouldn’t it?”
“I still don’t understand-”
“You have looked into the future and seen only the fire, Aldornaevar. Only the endless fire, destroying our world. We cannot fight fire with fire. And air would only fan the flames. We need a master of water. A dragon with equal power over fire and water. It is the only way.”
“But he is not a dragon, nor will he likely ever have the chance to become one.”
Wrethrian sank down, exhausted by the constant barrage of visions he fought to retain the shreds of his mind.
“Ah, elder, I tried. I tried to do my part. If I could’ve mated with the sythren instead, we would have a dragon that was master of all elements.”
“This boy will not master stone, then?” Aldornaevar asked.
“There is already a master of stone, yes?” Wrethrian smiled. “When the time comes, I will do my part.”
“I’m afraid you’ll never leave here again,” the old dragon responded quietly. “Your time draws short.”
Wrethrian hissed again with mad humor. “You see only what you want.”
“Then what should I see?”
“War.”
“I do see it.”
“Then why haven’t you started preparing?”
“Preparing how?”
“Tell them! Fire is coming. It will turn us all to ash if we cannot stop them.”
“Them?”
But Wrethrian shrank in on himself again, seemingly lost once again to the images beckoning from the water.”
“Wrethrian? Tell me. Who are they?”
But Wrethrian only began humming to himself.
Exasperated, Aldornaevar straightened and stared at the smaller dragon for a few moments. Pity crossed his face, followed by fear. He had lived a long time. He knew Wrethrian saw war, knew he spoke truth. The problem was it was a truth filtered through the eyes of a dragon driven insane by an element he hadn’t truly mastered.
The bigger question, though, was how much more did Wrethrian see than him? And how much of it was real?
Troubled, Aldornaevar turned away. A whisper caught his attention just before he strode off.
“Fire… in the blood… fire in the eyes… fire in the words…”
Aldornaevar froze.
Fire in the blood…
Suddenly, he knew.
And he feared the time to prepare had already passed.







CHAPTER ONE: FEVER IN THE BLOOD

ALARI


I am dying.
I have known this my whole life. She who once called herself my mother will not admit it, and my father only looks away when I try to speak of it, drunk on his fears of the past.
They know.
But what, exactly, is it they know?
I just passed my twentieth year. It amazed me that I yet lived. Each day the fever worsened, but somehow I fought it off and continued to breathe.
It was always so.
As a babe, my mother said I was prone to fits. I would scream at the strangest noises or sensations, and it took me a long time to learn how to talk. She said when I was but weeks old, she feared I wouldn’t survive, for I labored to breathe. My body flushed hot that at times she almost felt uncomfortable holding me.
But hold me she did, until the fever abated and my fear calmed. Then I would act like any other babe in our holding. Only a little thinner, a little warmer. But still, a child.
I was late to learn to walk. Nearly two. My legs were weak and thin, and I preferred to pull myself forward on my arms. My parents spent hours working with me, pulling me up, moving my legs, forcing me to use them. I screamed in protest, afraid. But my father was relentless. One day I would be a man, but I must begin by mastering walking.
When I finally did take my first tottering steps, my mother sent a prayer of thankfulness to the gods. Bad enough I was so thin, or always fighting fevers. But if I was going to be my father’s heir, I at least needed to be able to walk.
Running quickly followed, and before long, I was just as adept at playing and climbing as all the other kids. And just like all of them, I wanted to be a warrior.
There was only one other problem: my speech.
When I was little, they put down my awkward pronunciation to my age. But by five, I was still speaking in the thick accent of a baby. I understood everyone around me, but my tongue fought against me. Language, like walking, became a huge struggle. This time, it was my mother who spent hours teaching me. She was patient, but also wary. She often watched me with wide eyes. She didn’t understand me, couldn’t understand why I was so different.
Slowly, month after month, my speech improved. By the time I was eight, there was little difference in how I spoke – a hesitation here, a dip there, a stumble once in a while. But even those eventually smoothed out. I was, at long last, nearly normal. Sure, I was thin, but I’d managed to finally fit in. I was just another boy training to fight.
Except I really wasn’t.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 in Review

Hello all!

I'm back for my yearly review and plan for 2016! Here we go...

I published a comic and 5 books, plus re-released 4 other books (3 of which I received rights back from my former publisher). I also wrote 3 short play scripts, 1 full-length play, and a film script. And I got to finally jump back into theatre and perform in a musical.

Not to mention all the teaching...

Whew! It's so short when I write it like that, but let me say there were many moments of self-doubt, depression, and mental exhaustion. In addition, the same refrain kept popping up every few months - should I continue being a writer? The market is extremely saturated with many authors right now - good and bad - and oftentimes I feel lost in the ocean - just a tiny plankton trying to grow. 

But at my darkest moments, I'd get a review or an email or a message about my work, whether someone really liked my book(s) or was just inspired by my writing. Either way, it kept me plodding away and I'm still here...

So here's the plan for 2016:

a. finish the Dragonlord Trilogy (2 books) and the Dragonlady Trilogy (1).
b. publish two more comics.
c. revise and send out my full-length play.
d. enter script competitions.
e. avoid mental exhaustion!!!

The last one is particularly important, and that's why I'm limiting myself to only 3 books, the outlines of which are complete. Despite the amount of work I did last year, most of it was finished by mid-November, so I've been trying to recharge my batteries. But it's a new year and I'm ready to get back into it. Look for the first book to come out in March/April, the second in July, and the last in November. The comics are up in the air due to a failed crowdfunding attempt, but the year is just beginning, so hopefully those will happen at some point, too. As for the script competitions, wish me luck.

And to those of you who, all unknowingly, sent messages and emails and notes and reviews that lifted me out of my writer's despair - thank you. You're the reason I'm still here.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Some Little Plays

In the course of my life as a writer, I regularly submit work to different outlets, be it publishers, short stories contests, webzines, and yes, even theatre houses. As expected, I get my fair share of acceptance and rejection letters.

A while back, I received a rejection letter from a theater company for a set of three short plays I wrote. While that somewhat saddened me, I also know it's part and parcel of being a writer.

However, because the plays focus on so narrow a topic, I wasn't quite sure what to do with them - until I realized anyone who reads my blog might find value in the characters or set-up of a short play. Therefore, I'm posting the plays below for anyone who wants to read them, hopefully laugh, and perhaps get inspired. If such is the case, then I will consider my time writing them well-spent. (As these are second drafts, please disregard crazy typo errors.)

Please enjoy:

NOBLE CALLING


TO CONQUER


THE BEST-WORST CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR EVER TODAY.




Thursday, September 10, 2015

World Building AFTER the First Draft

So. I just finished another book. It takes place on a fantasy world, and, like any good writer, I had to create a set of rules and history in which to base my story. In addition to creating races of sentient beings, I had to create rules for magic and laws to govern it, and these regulations had to be consistent and carry their own logic.

But... I didn't.

Sure, sure, that's crazy.  I realize that most fantasy writers would be horrified by the thought of going blindly into a new world. BUT I didn't feel blind. I felt determined. I had a destination in mind. I knew the story, and even if the main characters were not human in any way, I still knew which direction their story was heading. In essence, I worked on my plot first, weaving the characters together. When I was finished with my first draft, I had much better idea on how the laws of my new world worked. In fact, I felt better prepared for tidying up the loose corners of the histories and consistencies within the story arc than I did beforehand, because I knew exactly what was going during the story. I also had a lot of fun creating certain names of my characters and locations. In fact, world building at the end of the story-writing process actually worked better for me than doing it beforehand. Not only did I not get so caught up in the details of my world that I did not finish my story, I also felt more in control of what I was creating. 

So many times, I meet or talk to aspiring writers who say they've been working on their world for years and are thinking about starting their story. No! No no no. Write the first draft. Write the first draft!!!! Get it on the page. Get something on the page. It can be terrible - it's okay, it's a first draft. No one but you ever needs to see it. But to get better at your story, you need to write your story out. You're flexing a muscle. You can't build it unless you use it. World building is fun and wonderful and I enjoy it - I'm a fantasy writer, of course I do. BUT if never got around to actually building my plots, I'd have no book. 

I was once in a writing group that was reviewing a book a few chapters at a time. One of the complaints I most remember was for my repeated typos. I kept telling them, I'm not worried about that right now. First I have to see if this story is working. Why spend time editing if I'm going to erase the whole page at a later date? In addition, I'd already written the first three chapters several times and had yet to go any further. The time was right at that moment. I wasn't going to stop anymore to world build. I was going to finish my story. The rest of it - names, maps, magic - that would come. Some while I was writing, some later on during a research phase. But right then, I wanted the plot done. And it worked. I got through the story and was able to figure out my world and where I was going with my characters much more easily.

So my thought to anyone reading this is, if you are stuck, try letting the world building go for a while and focus on the story. See what happens. It might be a little scary, but... it might also be a little fun.

P.S. I also write super technical science fiction, and in those cases, I absolutely research before, during, and after, as that helps me understand my story better since it's generally based on our current level of technology. But more on that another time...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Getting Back into the Groove

I recently had some friends ask me about how I sustain my creative output. They are interested in getting back into writing, but find they easily get distracted or don't know exactly what to write, they just know they want to do it.

First let me start by saying I don't recommend binge-writing over a long period of time. For me, that leads to burnout, and I can barely look at a keyboard or pen for weeks. Fortunately, I only did that once and though I'm quite happy with the book that came from it, it also took me a little over a month to recover.

On a more practical note, writing consistently, like everything else, is a habit I had to learn and train myself into. In the beginning, I just wrote, blindly, hopping from idea to idea without a clear path. Over time, my process became more structured, and that is what I want to share.

1. Daily word count goals. These can be as little as 500 words and as big as 3500. For a writer just getting back into the groove, I recommend 1000 words a day, especially if you have another job, family, or go to school. The only time I consistently wrote 3500 a day, I'd pushed myself into burnout, so I'd only recommend that if you have a deadline and know you can take a break after. 
2. Stick to your daily word counts. Much like any other practical endeavor, the more you write, the better you get at it. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. For example, setting out to run 5 miles isn't just a state of mind. You have to work at it, build up to it, train your muscles to work that consistently. Likewise, if you want to write a book, you have to train yourself to remain consistent about writing.
3. Don't get distracted. It's very easy to run off into Internetland and never return. Sometimes, that's justified if you are doing research. But you have to discipline yourself with the thought of results. Sometimes, having someone(s) waiting to read what you've written that day is a great way to get you to finish. Other times, you have people in your house wanting to talk to you. Just because you're sitting at a computer doesn't equate to working in their minds. They have to be trained, too. In the beginning, I used to tell people that though they could see and talk to me, they still had to pretend I was at work and ignore me. It was tough, but over time they started to see the glazed look in my eye whenever they asked me a question and left me alone. If you need to, make a three-fold sign to put around your computer (or journal or notebook, etc.) that tells people you are working.
4. Have a plan. This has by far when one of my most effective tools for remaining consistent. Though I don't often write elaborate outlines for my books (if any), I will spend a lot of time create a plan to finish my book. I create deadlines I hold myself strictly accountable to - usually an event or the like - and tell myself the book must be in my hands by that point. I automatically subtract 10 days for shipping, then two days for submitting and waiting for the book to get approved (this process can be longer depending on your publisher). Prior to that, I give at least 3-4 weeks for editing and copy editing. Then I look at the date I'm in. After subtracting all those day, I count how many days I have left. Let's say there are 60 days. I divide that by my word count goal for the book. If that's 60,000, then that's 1000 words a day to finish the first draft. But if I want to take days off or I have a some days I know I'm too booked to write, I'll readjust. So say I end up with 50 days I can actually write, that turns in to only 1200 words a day. Then I write out a calendar (usually in a table) with every day on there counting up to my word count goal. Every time I write, I update my calendar. It's open with all my documents. Some days, only my desire to reach whatever number is on my calendar is all that gets me through my writing for the day.
5. Take days off. As I just stated above, I always make room for days off. Some days I'm at other events. Some days I've worked so much I just don't have the energy to write. Some days I'm sick, or taking care of someone. Some days I just want to rest and be lazy. Whatever the reason, taking days off from writing is healthy for your mind and back!

Now, let's you think, fine, that's all well and good, but what exactly do I write? Personally, I used a journal if I need a kick in the butt. It can be as simple as saying, Today is Tuesday and this is my first attempt to write something. I don't know what to say I don't know what to say I don't know what to say I really hate repeating myself yet many people think repetition is important. Why is that? You see, sometimes the process of writing words down gets your brain moving. Just start writing mundane observations, then write down interesting or not interesting aspects of your day - something that made you laugh or frown or think. Over time, a story will develop. Or at least, an idea for one. Also, writing in a journal after a physical activity helps. I teach a workshop called Bootcamp for Writing where we literally run/jog around before writing. It's a great way increase bloodflow to the brain, which increases oxygen levels, which increases the ability to think. Ta-da! Here come the words.

Another method is world building. It can be quite fun, though I don't tend to use this method (at least in this order), many other writers do. Start by creating names and places and definitions for the story you want to write. When I used to teach high school theatre, we wrote a play together every year. The way it went was that we'd spend a whole class (45 min) just creating characters, but in the process of doing that, we learned a lot about our story. Example: Juan is 12 and likes to skateboard. Great. I know a whole lot more about my story - it's either for younger audiences or a prologue to a more adult story, Juan is either from immigrant parents, an immigrant, or someone whose family has been in the US a while and his culture is mixed. He's 12, so in 6th or 7th grade, and hormones are starting, so he's got good and bad days. He likes skateboarding, so if he's any good, he's likely very wiry in build and is good with pain, as he's prob'ly had several injuries already (every skateboarder I know hurts themselves). You see how this story starts to build itself? Even a simple description helps us understand our stories better when we take a moment to analyze.


So there you go. Some tips for getting back into the groove. Now get your plan together and get writing! There are stories waiting to be told.