Book Memes · Commentary · Writing Insight

Dealing with Writer’s Block

This week, let’s discuss the dreaded WB – writer’s block!

Most writers are often posed the question of what do they do to manage or defeat writer’s block. It’s a fair question because all writers, from professionally published to persons who pen works just for themselves, have faced writer’s block in some form or another and for various stretches of time. Some bouts of writer’s block are mercifully brief while others seem to persist for a while. To be fair, there is no one right method of overcoming writer’s block nor do I believe it’s entirely unavoidable. (Thus, if anyone ever tells me, “I never get writer’s block,” I tend to disbelieve them.)

For myself, here is what I do to help keep myself afloat when I feel my writing gears winding down.

Primarily, I try to have multiple projects going simultaneously, usually one editing project and one drafting project if possible. At other times, I may be revising a draft manuscript’s skeleton by crafting a new outline or character bios or backstories before diving back in and making edits to the story itself. And I might be doing this while writing new material or perusing an old draft and making revision comments/notes. Occasionally, I will switch and work on older things that I want to do something with while letting newer manuscripts sit a while to get my mind off of them. By changing what I work on, sometimes daily, it keeps me from getting too mentally drained. Granted, all writers have off days where it seems like nothing comes. But by having various projects to go between, I’ve found myself stuck in those creative dry spells for shorter periods of time.

To make a comparison, it’s a bit like working a crossword puzzle or a word find. Some clues come to you quickly while others stump you to no end. Some words you can locate in a matter of seconds while others remain seemingly hidden. However, many times if you sit the puzzle aside for a day and go back to it, those clues don’t stump you or you can find those previously elusive words. In either case, there’s something about sitting a project you’re working on aside for a spell and returning to it at a later time that seems to reboot your thought process. It’s as if you can view it again with fresh eyes.

The same holds true when writing. My typical process goes like this: I’ll get an idea; draft an outline, notes, character backgrounds, etc.; generate a rough draft; sit the draft aside for a little while; go back and read through and make comments on the rough draft; sit those comments and the draft aside for about a month; then go back and start making revisions or additions. Again, this is my process – it’s what works best for me and it’s what I’m comfortable with, so this isn’t meant to be a guide or standard to follow. For myself, it helps to sit a draft aside for a while (at least a month or so) before returning to it.

Doing so helps me spot troubles in the plot, continuity errors, sections that don’t belong or move the story along, weaknesses in character background that need fixing, and run-of-the-mill errors. Similarly, I feel like I can read a draft with fresh eyes, forgetting the details of the story after taking a short hiatus, and seeing what works and what doesn’t or what needs improvement and why. On the flip side, I believe if you constantly read and revise the same material over and over with no break from it, you start to belabor your own work and it can suffer from it. Your writing can benefit from stepping back and stepping away from it for a while, however long you need to take.

Again, this is my method, so while it works for me, it might not be a good fit for you. So this is one of many ways to help combat writer’s block, not only while writing but also while editing and revising. Remember, sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is to leave it alone, putting it on the proverbial shelf and returning to it at a later time. Doing so helps clean your mental slate until you feel ready to tackle the project with a renewed energy later on.

So that was today’s Tell Me Something Tuesday! Hopefully, you’ve found it helpful. Until next time, happy writing! 🙂

Books & Reading · Commentary · Writing Insight

2017 Year in Review Ramblings

Allow me to start off with some BIG NEWS!

This year, I finished The Guardian trilogy with publication of the third and final novel, The Guardian Wars! You can view more details on The Guardian trilogy by accessing the Books tab above or by clicking here.

I also had a chapter published in A Critical Companion to Tim Burton (edited by Adam Barkman and Antonio Sanna) entitled, “Mars Attacks! as Fractured Fairy Tale under Tolkien’s Principles of Recovery, Escape, and Consolation.” It was a fun piece to write and I’m glad to finally see it in print. You can view an excerpt of the book here.

In other news, I finished a full rough draft of Kingdom of Ravens, a (for now) standalone fantasy novel. In brief, the plot focuses on the relationship between a princess of a frozen kingdom and a low-level criminal underworld errand boy from a neighboring city (it’s set in modern times with some advanced technology). While I’m excited to have a completed draft, the story itself has taken a lot of detours, twists, and turns from the original outline, so I will eventually start piecing it all together again.

Also this year I started work on another (for now) standalone novel called The Alien and the Fatherless. I actually came up with an outline for this more than a decade ago and composed a handwritten draft of the story from beginning to end. Initially, it was about a Human woman who has dreams where she hears an alien language and ends up learning it over time though she doesn’t know why. Later, she falls in with a group of aliens and, as it turns out, the language she has learned is their language. She accompanies them and eventually falls in love with their prince who is in disguise. That was the first concept and it’s been revised several times since then. This year, I scrapped this old outline and started anew. While the basic premise is the same, in this version the female lead is (for now) an interstellar racing champion and the male lead is an alien prince serving as an officer aboard a starship. I’m still fleshing it out and I like where it’s headed, but it’s definitely a work in progress.

As a closing note, while I intend to maintain this blog for as long as I can, I want to focus more on my various manuscripts and story ideas. So if time passes and it looks like I’ve gone AWOL, please know that I have not. I’ll always try to maintain this site in some fashion because I consider it my “official” author’s website.

cat writing books read
Many thanks, best wishes, and cheers to all of my followers, fans, and readers!

Books & Reading · Story & Characters · Writing Insight

The Complete “Guardian” Trilogy

About The Guardian Trilogy:
The Guardian Trilogy delves into the harrowing trials of Alexander Croft, a security guard and seemingly average 30-something-year-old man, whose life is forever changed in a violent instant. After being accused of a series of heinous crimes he didn’t commit, Alex is sentenced to life in a hellish prison.

Or so his fate seems.

Because unbeknownst to him, Alex is no ordinary man. He is a Voror, a magically-gifted being commissioned with the protection of the Realms – and nothing can keep him from his true destiny.

In The Guardian Trilogy, follow Alex’s life-changing and life-challenging journey, from his training at the Voror Council in the least-admired Task of all, to a chance at love and romance with a woman whose people have wronged him, to his encounters with an enemy who has stalked him since birth, to his personal mission to clear his family name and protect the Realms from encroaching darkness. As evil rises, Alex must stand to meet it or watch everyone he has grown to love be destroyed.

Books in The Guardian Trilogy:

Book One: The Guardian

Description: Ever since Alex Croft was little, robed beings have shadowed his every move. But after he is wrongfully incarcerated, the robed strangers have apparently abandoned him. Or so it seems. When Alex’s true identity is revealed, he enters a world he has always seen but never really known. A realm where he learns how to protect the innocent from an evil that desires to control everything in its path. Especially Alex. As he trains as an apprentice within the Voror Council, Alex uncovers a sinister secret seeking to destroy him. To save himself and others, he will have to endure the same darkness he sought to escape. In this first installment of The Guardian Trilogy, Alex Croft will not only learn magic-infused Words and make strange, new allies but also discover the truth about himself and his past. A truth that will become either his destiny or his downfall.

Direct Link (Paperback):
Direct Link (Kindle):

Book Two: The Guardian Prophecy

Description: Handler Apprentice Alex Croft is invited by Sunniva, the Council’s Head Healer, to accompany her on a journey across the Realms as she seeks out an exiled Voror. Along the way, Alex encounters old friends, new enemies, and discovers a growing attraction to the hauntingly beautiful Niobe of Ryncheon. Yet the threat of Belial of Rastaban’s forces shadows their every move as they race to uncover a truth that many have desired to conceal – a truth Rastaban has killed for in order to obtain. Past grievances come to seek vengeance as Rastaban’s rebels seek to set up their own regime. And the only way Alex can hope to stop them is to make the ultimate sacrifice. In this second installment of The Guardian Trilogy, Alex Croft learns what it means to fulfill his destiny as a Guardian, which may cost him everything.

Direct Link (Paperback):
Direct Link (Kindle):

Book Three:
The Guardian Wars

Description: After miraculously surviving torture at Rastaban’s hands, Handler Alex of Croft knows the hour grows short as war among the Realms draws closer. Mustering his friends and unexpected allies, Alex assumes the role of the prophesied Halcyon and decides to cut off his enemy at the place where it all began, the infamous prison Erebus and home to the Gates of the Dead. The Guardian Wars concludes Alex of Croft’s  journey as a man of divided bloods.  But can he be a shining light in a dark place or will the darkness finally consume him?

Direct Link (Paperback):
Direct Link (Kindle):

Background on The Guardian Trilogy
The Guardian Trilogy is project over a decade in the making and started with a rather odd mash-up of ideas. As the author puts it, One summer, I was reading the “Harry Potter” novels and watching reruns of the Fox drama series “Prison Break.” The two stories merged in my mind as I thought, “What if Michael Scofield [chief protagonist on “Prison Break”] was a wizard?” That sparked a mental chain reaction and I had to write it out. Eventually, it evolved into The Guardian Trilogy.

Thus, The Guardian Trilogy is a fantasy series that hopes to pay respects to classic hero quest epics while remaining an entirely original piece, chiefly through the introduction of the Vorors, a magically-gifted race charged with protecting the Realms, and the Sangres, a vampiric people who are siblings to the Vorors. Both worlds collide with Alex Croft caught in the middle.

Books & Reading · Publications · Story & Characters · Writing Insight

Reflections on “The Guardian” Trilogy

You can access direct links to the books of The Guardian trilogy and more info here on
The Guardian trilogy’s official page.

This month marks the end of a (miniature) era as I publish the final novel in The Guardian trilogy. These books have been my first foray into penning full-length novels and it’s been a fun adventure!

The idea for The Guardian came to me during the summer of 2005 while I was reading the Harry Potter series and re-watching the first season of Prison Break on DVD. For some reason, the two stories collided in my head and I asked myself, What would happen if Michael Scofield [the show’s protagonist] was a wizard? How would he break out of prison and why? Naturally, that weird idea blossomed into The Guardian trilogy, and it’s been a writing venture 10+ years in the making.

My first draft of The Guardian was penned entirely by hand, which I later copied onto my computer. Finally, after countless revisions, The Guardian was published in 2013 and I immediately went to work on its sequel, The Guardian Prophecy. This second book came together much faster for me, mainly because in between writing The Guardian I was already honing the plot outlines for the other two books. While the setting for The Guardian is chiefly confined to the Voror Council, The Guardian Prophecy had Alex and other characters to go “on the road” as he joins Head Healer Sunniva on a journey to find an exiled prophet. The Guardian Prophecy was finally published in 2015.

That left one final novel to tackle, The Guardian Wars. Much like The Guardian Prophecy, The Guardian Wars was easier to write as I had even more time to hon in on the best way to wrap up Alex’s story as well as deliver satisfying endings for the rest of the characters. From the beginning, I had certain plot points and character endings in mind (and, no, I won’t share them as they count as spoilers!). To be honest, not much changed as far as where Alex’s arc was supposed to end up, though the journey to get there certainly went through countless rounds of revision. But, in the end, I was pleased with how it all turned out.

Writing a trilogy certainly taught me a few things and it was a fun challenge! So what were some of the take-away lessons I gleaned from this experience?

1. Take planning seriously (but not too seriously).
I can see why, when asked about advice for writers, J.K. Rowling said she made a plan, ensuring she had a clear map of where she was going when it came to characters and plotting. And she’s right. One of the most important tasks a writer can do is  generate a good, solid outline for the story’s plot as well as a finalized character list. Doing so means you don’t have to get stuck making up details on the fly or forgetting where you’re going with your story. Planning is true for any mode of writing, especially for projects such as a trilogy as it’s not just one book that has a beginning-middle-end structure but a series that has to have beginning, middle, and end points – and you have to keep everything straight in each book and between books. Thus, seeing where you want to go is critical so you get to where you ultimately want to be.

But there’s is a flip side in that it’s possible to over-plan or, at the very least, stay rigidly close to an initial outline. While penning The Guardian, I had an outline I referred to while working on my handwritten draft and I followed it fairly closely. However, upon transferring the draft to the computer, I discovered that the draft was far too long and there were segments, sometimes entire chapters, that needed to be omitted indefinitely or even moved into another book. Even though I’m an organization stickler, it was fun to let the story have free reign at times. I still knew where I ultimately wanted Alex’s journey to go, so it was okay if the final product deviated from the original outline. So while I do take my story planning phase seriously, I don’t take it so seriously that I don’t allow the story to evolve beyond where I initially thought I might want it to go.

2. Writing is Re-Writing.
The rumors are true! Writers actually spend little time (relatively speaking) penning new, original content and spend more time reworking said original content, which includes revising, reorganizing, editing, and even omitting material. My own writing process goes a little something like this: outline/plan, compose a rough draft, read through the rough draft, make massive changes to the draft (rewriting or omitting portions as needed), then reading and revising, reading and revising until I’m happy with the final product. While writing an initial draft, I never make changes in terms of plot or story. I just follow my outline and allow the story to take a natural direction, even if that’s off the outline’s path.

Then, once I have a complete draft – one that goes from the first chapter to the last – I read through and make notes, chapter by chapter. These notes include questions to myself, continuity errors to check into and correct, sections that need clarification or clean up, and what seems to be working or not working and how to fix it. I repeat this process at least three times while also giving myself time to step away from the project so I’m not constantly reading the same material over and over. It’s like working a tricky crossword puzzle: sometimes you have to sit it aside for a while and pick it up later. Many times, the things that had been stumping you before come into clearer focus now.

3. Know How to Juggle.
Lastly, writing a trilogy has made me better appreciate the process of juggling multiple story threads and characters. It is a tricky feat with plenty of room for error if you’re not careful. Unlike writing a standalone novel where you have to make sure to keep track of your plot, pacing, characters, story world elements, and continuity for just one book, a trilogy requires you to do that for all three books individually as well as the trilogy as a whole.

For instance, when writing each book in The Guardian trilogy, I not only had to keep track of what was going on in terms of one book but also how it fit in with the other books. This included keeping characters’ biographical info straight from book to book, remembering spellings for terms or persons, and consistent world-building information. For example, I remember while initially writing The Guardian Prophecy, the Council’s Head Healer, Sunniva, says she’s going on a journey to visit an exiled prophet. At first, I wanted to make it sound like she had visited him once before, yet as the story went on, I wrote it as if she hadn’t seen him since he left the Council. I caught the continuity error and knew I had to decide on only one approach, which meant rewriting sections or scenes depending on the choice I made. In the end, I made a decision that wasn’t what my initial outline had spelled out but it made better sense in the context of the story. So, bottom line – would I attempt a trilogy again? Maybe, but I’d love to see what I can come up with for a standalone story!

I suppose a fair question now would be – what’s next? Currently, I’m working on a first draft of a fantasy novel entitled Kingdom of Ravens that is about a princess of a wintry kingdom who meets, befriends, and falls in love with a low-level thug and crime boss’ nephew of a neighboring city. I’m into the third and final part of the manuscript and it’s already taken a lot of side roads from my initial outline. But I love the characters, especially my leads, and the settings are fun to dive into. On top of this, I have numerous rough outlines I like to hone. But no matter what, I always make sure I have some sort of writing project in the works, one I’m physically writing and drafting and one I’m outlining.

Once again, I’m so happy to share my novels with my fellow readers, and I hope you have as much fun traveling with Alex Croft on his journey as I did writing it. While I am sad to close out this trilogy, which has been a staple of my daily writing workload for over a decade, I’m overjoyed to see it finally come to fruition and share it with fantasy lovers around the world!

You can access direct links to the books of The Guardian trilogy and more info here on The Guardian trilogy’s official page.

Story & Characters · Writing Insight

We Need to Look at the…Darkness…!

The New Authors Fellowship

Guest Blogger: HG Ferguson

“Wᴇ Nᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ Lᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ Lɪɢʜᴛ” has become sort of a rallying cry in some circles of those who write Christian speculative fiction (hereafter called spec fic). It has generated the obligatory “buzz” in the blogs and on its face, appears quite admirable. Its proponents maintain that since we are called to be children of Light, God’s Light, we should therefore shy away from any iteration of “darkness” in literature, in films, and even in our own writing.

This usually takes the form of a polemic against any and all iterations of horror, which is still an unacceptable genre in the minds of the majority of Christians, but it also morphs into other expressions. Recently a blog on Speculative Faith warned us of the danger of Darkness in Disney where poor Quasimodo was again brought to the wheel and whipped, metaphorically speaking. Much time was…

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Books & Reading · Story & Characters · Writing Insight

Safe or Interesting?

The New Authors Fellowship

boring bookI recently read a story by a well-known author who is highly acclaimed in the Christian market. And, unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. The writing was clean, some (not all) of the characters were well-rounded and interesting, and there were some moments of good tension, but I felt like it had a lot of unmet potential. Some of the characters could’ve used a much deeper arc, and there was a lot of setup that didn’t really go anywhere.

The plot was decent, but it felt more like the characters traipsing from here to there and having obstacles fizzle out before they really got going, rather than a struggle to complete the objective.

In thinking about it and discussing it, I came to the conclusion that the reason this author is (and other authors are) acclaimed in the CBA is because they’re safe. On my personal blog a couple weeks ago, I…

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Books & Reading · Writing Insight

Why Do People Hate to Read?

I don’t know about you, but four words that always strike a note of sadness in me are, “I hate to read.” For myself, I just can’t grasp it. Granted, everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

But to actually “hate” reading?

Hate + reading = Does Not Compute!! 😀

Okay, maybe I do “get” some reasons folks give, which is what I’m going to explore in this post. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it doesn’t cover every possible line of reasoning, but I’ll do my best to explore why some people hate to read:

They haven’t found the “right” book yet
I’ve heard it said that the reason some folks hate to read is that they just haven’t found a book they’ve enjoyed or really connected with. Granted, it may take a long time to find a book to really get into, but I believe there is something out there for everyone. What appeals to one person may not always appeal to someone else, so it’s prudent to keep searching.

They have misconceptions about reading
Some people think reading is for nerds, geeks, or whatever term you care to use. Only boring people read, so if I read, people will think I’m boring – at least that’s how this philosophy goes. Yet quite the opposite is true – reading opens your mind and enables you to learn (yes, even through fiction). In fact, people who read are generally more interesting and easier to talk to than folks who don’t.

They had a bad experience while learning to read
Maybe they were forced to read out loud as a kid or perhaps a teacher or someone else called attention to their flaws whenever they did read, especially for school. Whatever the reason, some people hate reading because they have negative associations attached to it or bad memories. That’s a shame and sometimes teachers mean well but can forget how much of an influence they have. But just because you had to read out loud or read something you loathed in school shouldn’t scare you out of trying to enjoy reading now.

They have unaddressed literacy issues
Some people, especially adults, have legitimate literacy issues where they actually cannot read or they struggle with reading more than other people. So it stands to reason that if you can’t understand or engage what you’re reading, you won’t enjoy it. If this is the case, try to find an adult literacy program in your community. No one will think you’re dumb for trying to help yourself.

They were never shown the value of reading
People who grew up in a home that placed an emphasis on reading or where parents or siblings read openly are likely to value reading. But if someone grew up in a home where reading was stereotyped as nerdy or boring, or no one read, they will be more likely to dismiss reading as a worthwhile activity. In this case, now is a good time to start a new habit – and reading is a great habit to get caught doing!

They see reading as “homework” or a chore, not something fun
This goes back to how someone might have been taught to read in school as well as in the home. If reading was viewed as something you did only because you had to, then some people might keep that mindset when they grow up to view all reading as an unpleasant activity, not something to be done for entertainment.

They have a narrow view of life
Lastly, some people hate to read because they enjoy staying in a nice, quiet, little box and don’t want to challenge their minds. Granted, I think very few people belong in this camp but I’ve seen it myself. They don’t want to use their imagination or learn anything new, even if it’s just for personal gain or amusement. It’s okay to learn something just for fun, but some people don’t like stretching their brains, which is a sad trait to have.

So there you have it – those are some of the reasons some folks might cite for hating to read. Can you think of others? If so, share them in the comments! 🙂