Category: writing

No More Mr. Nice Troll

You guys want to see something awesome? Then check this out:

Roark von Graf—hedge mage and lesser noble of Traisbin—is one of only a handful of Freedom fighters left, and he knows the Resistance’s days are numbered. Unless they do something drastic … 

But when a daring plan to unseat the Tyrant King goes awry, Roark finds himself on the run through an interdimensional portal, which strands him in a very unexpected location: an ultra-immersive fantasy video game called Hearthworld. He can’t log out, his magic is on the fritz, and worst of all, he’s not even human. He’s a low-class, run-of-the-mill Dungeon monster. Some disgusting, blue-skinned creature called a Troll. At least there’s one small silver lining—Roark managed to grab a powerful magic artifact on his way through the portal, and with it he might just be able to save his world after all.

Unless, of course, the Tyrant King gets to him first …

Release Date: July 24th, 2018

Preorder available now on Amazon.

Pretty friggin’ epic, right? I wrote this nasty little baby with the outlaw king James Hunter, author of the Viridian Gate Online and Yancy Lazarus series, two of my favorite series in all of fictiondom. Rogue Dungeon is (obviously) a dungeon core litRPG about a dungeon that goes rogue. Heroes beware: No more Mr. Nice Troll here. It’s heavy on the darkness because dungeon, heavy on the trolls because I am one, and heavy on the 14th century Italian fencing vocab because everybody’s got to have a hobby. The only thing it’s light on is calories, at almost zero. I know that sounds too good to be true, but you can read this whole book without gaining a single ounce!

I’m crazy excited. Writing about Roark’s transition from waging war against a tyrant to facing off with MMORPG heroes was an insane amount of fun, and I can’t wait for you guys to sink your reading fangs into it. If you want to be the first to know when Rogue Dungeon hits a digital shelf near you, sign up here or preorder your copy here.

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The View from February 2016

Usually that’s what I title my New Year’s Resolution Update post. I look back on what I resolved to do–learn to skateboard, say “classy as balls” 100 times, publish a book–and then I measure how far I’ve come. But this year I didn’t make a resolution and there are even more important things for me to look back on. As an added bonus, this year I have visual aids to demonstrate my progress.

This is what my desk looks like right now:

The arrangement changes frequently because my desk is at the same table we use for meals, work, and homeschool. You can see one of our kittens lounging behind my computer on the geography materials. The Oreos are because today is the first day of my birthday. Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

This is what my desk looked like four years ago to the day:

Joshua brought that rose home for me because I’d just finished writing halo (which became Halo Bound, the first book in the Redneck Apocalypse series), and he was proud of me.

In twenty-eight days, I’m going to publish the fourth and final book in the Redneck Apocalypse series, God Killer. Some people will read it. Most won’t. Some people will love it, some will hate it, some will be totally indifferent.

But four years ago, only one person read every word I wrote. He was even proud of me for writing them. He still is today.

Many of the greats throughout history give off this illusion of having gotten where they are on their own. “Writing is a lonely business” and all that. Maybe they did, but I did not. There is one reason I’ve made it this far, one reason I can sit down at my computer and bleed into a word document, then stand back up and grin like a dog with brain damage. His name is Joshua and I love him.

How writing is like mountain climbing…

…but not the way you would think that it’s like mountain climbing.

The other day, I posted this on Twitter:

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Is that what happened? Yes. We did that. It was awesome.

Is that how it happened? Yes and no.

A few days before the mountain adventure, Josh and the boys and I were walking down by Medina Lake, throwing rocks and looking at the pretty water. Josh sees the mountain. Josh goes, “You see that mountain over there?” I go, “I can’t do this with you right now.” Undeterred Josh says, “One of these days, I’m gonna climb that mountainmountainountainountainountain…”

The next day, while it’s raining, we talk about how awesome it would be to kayak across the lake and climb the mountain. We could take a lunch! The boys would love it. Now if we just had some sunlight and less wind, that mountain would be ours. The forecast for Wednesday said it was going to be sunny and 75. We had our date with destiny.

Wednesday dawned even more beautiful than the weatherbots had claimed it would. We loaded up the boys and took the kayaks down to the water. Let me take a second here to explain something to you about kayaks: It’s nothing to get a kayak off a truck. You’re pumped. You’re ready to get in and paddle away. You just lift it down, throw your seat in, and pack it to the water with your kayak buddy, boom, done.

All life-vested and water-shoed up, we hopped in and paddled toward the face of that shining mount. Which at this point in the morning was in shadow, but you get the idea.

About fifteen minutes later, as often happens with distances over water, the adults in the expedition started to realize just how far away that shining mount was. Fifteen minutes paddling in low waves and we were still only about halfway there.

No problem! No problem! It’s always a little farther than it looks! We can do it and it’s totally going to be worth it. Just keep paddling! And so, to the sound of several more “You see that mountain over there?”s from Joshua and “Night Begins to Shine” singalongs with Bear, the intrepid family of gypsy pirates made their way across the last half of the lake. Whew! That was fun.

There were rocks and fallen trees washed up on the shore and all kinds of cool stuff to explore. We did that for a bit. Then it was time to start the climb to the top. Joshua grabbed the dry-bag full of lunch, Bear grabbed a spear he’d fashioned upon landing, Oak grabbed nothing, I grabbed the phone, and up we went.

Or up we started to go. From far away, the mountain looked like it had a pretty thick canopy of tree cover, but when you see it from a distance (and through the eyes of a Missourian or Arkansan), you think, “Trees? Hot dog! The more shade for the climb the merrier! It isn’t even a very big mountain!” But in Texas, trees on mountains are not trees like you and I think of trees. They are a nefarious mix of scrubby brush, brambles, squat little cedars, and fire ants. You don’t walk up the side of a mountain in Texas. You crawl up it.

To give you an idea what I’m talking about, a visual aid:

This was the biggest clearing all the way up the side of this mountain. I was almost able to stand up to take this picture.

We climbed and crawled and scratched and clawed our way through the underbrush (everyone in our luncheon party over three feet tall did, anyway). Thorns and cedar boughs snagged at our clothes and hair and skin. Ants attacked the boys. The warmth of the seventy-five degree day settled in. Josh picked a path through a cluster of trees and brambles I didn’t think I could squeeze through. I got hung up trying to get to the marginally-less-brushy other side. My clothes snagged. Thorns scratched me up. A bee roughly five times the size of a Missouri bee came at me, bro. I was being pushed and pulled and abraded and I did not like it.

I won’t lie to you, friend. I looked up the side of the mountain, completely unable to see the top or any other measure of progress and I considered telling Josh that we should either stop there and call it good enough or go back down and eat lunch on the shore. The shore was pretty nice. The brambles were not. The going got tough and the eden was like, “No way, dude. I quit.”

But then, as it often does when I’m caught in the middle of doing something I don’t care for, this other wheel started turning in my head. That wheel was thinking about stories and how they related to mountain climbing. Not from a reader’s perspective. Not your basic dramatic structure of rising action, climax, falling action. No, other-wheel was thinking about how much it sucked to be in the thick of it writing the rising action when you couldn’t even see the climax, let alone the resolution to the story you’re pouring your heart and soul into.

I feel like you’re going to think I’m making this up for the sake of a well-rounded blog post–Oh, adorable, a life lesson about never giving up that applies to writing, how quaint!–but I’m not. I wasn’t thinking about how you had to keep plugging away at the story so you could get to the climax where you would stand with your face in the sun, looking out over the gorgeous landscape of your creation, and for a second, just a moment in time, all that hardship would be worth it.

Nope, I was thinking about how I’ve spent almost four years writing about the people of Halo, and to be quite honest, I’m tired of it. Oh, I still love them. I still love their hometown. I always will. But some days I think, “I swear, Tough, if you screw one more thing up, I’m going to wring your scrawny neck!” I’m in the middle of the third book and some days–okay, a lot of the days–it’s a chore just to think about working on it. I’m tired of it. I want to work on something else, play something new, phone this one in and call that good enough. Where I’m at right now in Godkiller, I can’t see a climax or any sort of resolution. I can’t see any progress at all. The brush is too thick, I’m all tangled up, and something creepy-crawly is biting my leg.

If you’re a writer, or if you know any writers, you’ve probably heard that November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The object of this game is to write 50,000 words in one month (the equivalent of a short novel). I’ve been really intent on keeping up with NaNo this year for a lot of reasons. One is now that we’re living on the road, I want to make sure I keep writing every day. Always be hustling, do work, etc, etc. Another is that I really want to have Godkiller out by the end of this year (a goal that’s looking admittedly ridiculous at the moment), and 50k more words sure wouldn’t hurt.

But one benefit of NaNoWriMo that I didn’t see coming was this: It’s fun. I’ve made the target word count exactly 1 time out of the last 20, but every single day I put my butt in a seat and I write. I write in laundromats, passenger seats of trucks, on couches, in booths, on beds, on floors, on porches, inside, outside, with kittens sleeping on my tummy, with little and big boys playing Super Smash Bros next to me, while I’m making supper or waiting for my turn to teach home school. I pour words out without worrying what the next scene is going to be or where the story is going or how they’re going to survive this. I stretch out descriptions and conversations and sentences until it feels like I’m padding a college English essay and then I laugh because I remember that terrible essay I turned in once about Enkidu and Gilgamesh and this is that kind of fun. I know it’s not good, but it’s not about being good. It’s a race. It’s a video game. It’s make-believe. It’s FUN.

I’d forgotten that writing was just plain fun.

Sometimes I get so bogged down in worrying about what will come next and how the story will end and whether it’s even worth telling that I forget how great it is to just sit down and play make-believe for a while. I wrap myself in the brambles of trying to Write Good and Satisfy Readers and Stay True to My Characters until I forget that this is just a first draft. First drafts are for the writer. We can play to our heart’s content, entertain ourselves, and laugh like nutcases at stuff no one’s even going to see. Second and subsequent drafts are for worrying about the audience and Good Writing and such. Later will come the editing. Later will come fixing. Later will come agonizing over every sentence until I can recite whole scenes back to you verbatim. Oh, and I will do that. I’ll do it for about a month before I publish and about a month afterward, while I’m lying in bed and supposed to be asleep, to make sure I’m paranoid enough about every potential typo or misplaced comma.

Right now, though, I’m just having fun, playing make-believe, and finding out what my characters are going to do next.

This is the stuff I was thinking about while clawing my way up that mountainside after Joshua and our sons–occasionally interrupted by violent thoughts about short people whenever someone yelled back down, “Why’s it taking you so long, Mama? Just go faster!”

Then, suddenly, we were standing on a rocky outcropping looking out over the tops of scrubby trees and cacti at a brilliant blue sky above and a shining lake below.

“I think this is the only clearing up here,” Josh said.
“Yeah, looks like it,” I puffed.
“Let’s eat.”
So we did. We we sat on rocks and we took off our sweaty shoes and we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gulped down lukewarm water.

We still had the trek down. We still had the much-longer-than-expected kayak ride back to the campsite. We still had to drain the kayaks and put them up on the truck’s racks–and let me take a minute to tell you about putting kayaks back. It’s no easy feat. You’re tired. You’re sunburned. Your arms feel like jelly. You’re ready to go back to the camper and lay on the couch without moving while your kids watch a cartoon until you convince your spouse that you should get Mexican for supper rather than cook.

We still had all that ahead of us. But right then we were just sitting on a mountain eating sandwiches. They were delicious.