On Writing: Worldbuilding

Hello, everyone! These past couple of weeks have been wild with things going on, with the publication of the final volume 7 and my brother’s wedding ─ which was gorgeous, by the way. Here, I will show you a picture of them:

Aren’t they the best?

Anywho, things are finally beginning to settle down around here, going through the last stages of activity before regular routines are picked back up (for some, anyway) My brother (the married one above) goes back to Japan on Sunday, which is a super bummer, but that’s how it is in the service and we’re looking forward to his next visit. Our new couple are coming over tonight for dinner, so in between preparing for that I want to share with you a little bit about a subject in writing, fiction in particular: worldbuilding.

The concept of worldbuilding is exactly as the word describes: building a world, a template, an environment in which your story takes place, things like history, geography, mythos (legends and superstitions and whatnot), culture, wildlife (if your story involves fantastical creatures), and so on. The more in-depth you go the more realistic a place becomes, and sometimes (most the time) it’s the little details that make the biggest impact.

When I set out on this TJT project, I did not begin with worldbuilding before I started writing. There were a lot of things I did poorly and backwards when I began this project, actually, learning as I went, and I think now that doing even rudimentary worldbuilding beforehand is important. It helps dimensionalize the setting, and even influences aspects of the characters ─ this is the world they live in, after all. How is their home town/city structured? What sort of culture were they raised in? What history did they learn in school or were a part of? What is the land like around them? Arable? Arid? Prairie? Mountainous? The geography also influences the climate and weather patterns (which I’ve personally put into the category of serious worldbuilding, but it is a detail to keep in mind).

There is a lot of freedom in worldbuilding, giving your creativity ample room to stretch its muscles and make perfectly sensible just about whatever you want. For example: The people of Dalyss celebrate annually the Duck Festival, wherein they eat lots of duck-shaped food, dress up like ducks, and enter into the Duck River Run, where participants race their homemade ducks down the river’s current to a finish line some half mile downstream. The Festival was first instated thirty years ago by Baron Hans, whose life was saved during the Tinker’s Rebellion by a flock of ducks that caused a raucous when the rebels tried to pursue his flight, distracting them and allowing him to escape. The event was commemorated and made a local holiday.

Who knew ducks could be so influential? The above mentions 1) a cultural event, 2) an history of how it came to be so, and 3) an allusion to another event that took place in the town of Dalyss’s past. It also hints at how the townsfolk felt about their Baron, that they’d make such an holiday. These things give a place (and a person) depth and dimension.

I, personally, really enjoy the worldbuilding aspect of writing, more and more so as I’ve explored Sekon’dome and other places of Jasinda and all the possibilities available there, as well as thinking ahead to other stories I hope to write in the future. Regardless of on what scale your story’s world is built, from scratch or a preexisting environment (such as modern day or historical NYC or London) it will stand all the stronger for the extra thought and effort. You, and your readers, will fall into your world that much more thoroughly ─ and who doesn’t want that?


Don’t forget! The giveaway for An Odyssey’s End is well underway, so if you haven’t entered yet, now’s the time!

On Writing: Timelines

When I began my writing venture, I never really studied on how to go about it, taking with me only my fervor for the story and a basic understanding of creative writing from a middle school course. I never dreamed about taking into account the technicalities of the art, at the time it hardly even crossed my mind. I started out with a basic plot of events I wanted to take place and then delved right in. For me, everything kind of just came together as I went, and that first draft proved a massive learning experience on so many fronts. So, so many. With so many things going on, I developed a deep and lasting appreciation for timelines.

Timelines are vital, whether your story spans a few hours or a few centuries. Listing everything that happens in chronological order is monumentally helpful in keeping track of the goings on; it keeps you from getting bamboozled and making mistakes that will cause the very bloody murder of your story. For lack of it, my own would have perished in a most piteous mess of inconsistency.

I once read a blog post somewhere listing a few different ways in which to timeline, and there really are an infinite (okay, maybe not infinite, but there are a lot) of ways you can do this. One is to simply list the events with bullets or numbers, and another is to set up a timeline on the computer. What I have done is something perhaps a little more eccentric. My bedroom has ample ceiling space, so I took a spool of twine (it was on hand) and strung it up there from one end to the other and then clothespinned note cards with dates and what happened in that year. It spanned well over a hundred years and recorded the big points of my characters’ lives (color coded, even) leading up to the actual story itself. (I only took it down so my awesome new windows could be put in).

And that’s just the one timeline I made. The other, which records the events of the story itself, is laid out in an old calendar from ’09 that I never used and had on hand. It’s great because it has the day-by-day layout that I needed to keep track of, along with the seasons. It also helped me see better the events of the sub-plots so I could rearrange everything so it all flowed smoothly.

So, setting your world in order is a golden nugget of the profound wisdom of the word sages from past ages. And in addition to all its usefulness, timelines are also a great way to see your progression, and that is a huge boost in confidence and morale. Sometimes writing is a rough road of rocks and sinkholes, so it’s always good to have something to show you where you’ve been and all there is to look forward to.

On Role Models: A Skim off the List of Favorite Authors

Hello! How is everyone’s May coming so far? A little cooler than we were hoping for, no? The 85 days are coming. Until then, enjoy the sunshine when it’s here and not roasting you to a crispy potato chip ─ those days are saved exclusively for haying, it feels like!

Later this month I’ll be divulging some long anticipated information on volume 7 (so exciting!) but today I wanted to share with you a (very brief) list of some of my favorite authors:

Andrew PetersonAndrew Peterson ─ Author of the Wingfeather Saga, a tale that transcends age genres. Mr. Peterson, based in Nashville, is a storyteller through and through, sharing his gift through many different mediums. Not only has he written a fantastic series of four books, but he is also a singer/songwriter who travels the country and (sometimes) the globe spreading his love for stories and Jesus through music, creating albums like The Burning Edge of Dawn  and Light for the Lost Boy. He is currently in the process of turning the Wingfeather Saga into an animated short, and I cannot coherently relate how thrilled I am at this prospect. What I admire most about Mr. Peterson’s writing is his whimsy. It may sound silly (and in many ways, that’s the very definition), but his turn of phrase and usage of words is so creative that it gives the feeling of a finger painting ─ but a finger painting that’s as captivating as anything Michelangelo or Monet ever put to canvas. His ability to communicate deep subjects in a format any and everyone can understand without being heavy, crafting a tale with power and scope that inspires the imagination in both children and adults, is a truly beautiful experience.

Visit his Goodreads Page and website to learn more (and sample his music!) And don’t forget to watch this trailer of the animated short and check over at the Wingfeather page for news, art, and conversation – all about the saga!


Megan Whalen TurnerMegan Whalen Turner ─ Mastermind behind the Queen’s Thief series, the fifth volume of which is coming out next week (ah!) The day I discovered her was a fateful day, indeed. I heard someone say of her writing in the Queen’s Thief series that ‘it reads like a political historical fiction’, and I could not agree more. Each book is so chocked full that I can read them time and time again and never get tired, because how she crafts the story is so multi-faceted that no information is given too early. Just because you’re reading from someone’s POV doesn’t mean you’re privy to every thought and reasoning that would spoil the suspense and surprise. That’s what hooked me on both her story and her writing when I first read The Thief. How she developed her characters, and the personality of each, sent me head over heels as both a reader and a writer, because even though we experienced the story as Gen, we didn’t learn that he was actually Eugenides, Thief of Eddis, until the Magus and Sophos did, and how everything unfolded and came together to reveal a plot that was bigger than you thought just wowed me. I’d never read anything like it before, and I have to admire Turner’s ability to take that puzzle, scatter it, and put it back together so randomly that you never get an idea of the full picture until it’s staring you in the face, sitting back and marveling. I love her puzzle box writing, and you’ll be gathered to the fold as well, from page one.

Visit her website and Goodreads page to learn more, and check out these book trailers for The Thief!


Stephen R. Lawhead ─ Architect of such tales as the King Raven trilogy, Song of Albion trilogy, and the Pendragon Cycle, just to name a few, Lawhead easily fits in with the greats like C.S. Lewis and Tolkein for the depth and richness of his stories. As a scholar and award-winning wordsmith, spanning several genres, much of his work (including and especially the three series mentioned above) is based on and influenced by Celtic history and legend, bringing to vibrant life such renowned characters as King Arthur and Robin Hood in a new and realistic light. Even his original characters become so authentic, with their struggling, failing, and prevailing, that I felt more in tune with them, like they were real people and not just the glorified pawns some heroes and villains become in roles they play. The symbolism he puts into his stories and the artful way he speaks on the page has made him a staple on my bookshelf and an author I repeatedly return to for a gripping, well rounded, and inspiring story.

For more information and a complete list of his bibliography, visit his website, and check out this trailer for The Skin Map, the first book in his Bright Empires series!


Image result for wayne thomas batsonWayne Thomas Batson ─ Author of the Door Within trilogy, the Dark Sea Annals duet, and the Dreamtreaders trilogy, plus several other works, Batson is actually the first author I claimed as a ‘favorite’, and because of that he holds a special place in my heart. I was first introduced to his work years ago through the Door Within trilogy, which I happened to find while browsing the shelves at my childhood library. I read the first book, The Door Within, in one sitting, staying up past two in the morning because it engulfed me so completely. I wasn’t writing much back then, but his craft certainly helped me along toward where I am now. Not only did he make a story, characters, and plot that carried me away to a wonderful place, but I deeply admired the biblical truth and analogy with which he wrote, synonymous to both Stephen R. Lawhead and Andrew Peterson. Similar also with Megan Whalen Turner, it was an experience I had never had before, and I remember still now how it impacted me, how it made me want to be able to write like that, a good story ─ in all its layers. Someday I would like to meet this man and thank him for following his dream, which has in turn helped me follow mine.

Visit Batson’s Goodreads page or weblog for more information about his books and what he’s up to!


My own work hasn’t yet reached the level of excellence these masters have attained, but I always say that nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and I’m hoping that every drop of blood, sweat, and tears I put into forging my own style, every word I punch out on this worn keyboard, will bring me one step closer to what and where I want my writing to be.

Hello, My Name Is _

Greetings, and happy mid-April! Now that spring has officially sprung, the work around here is beginning to burgeon as rapidly as the daffodils! Clean-up and preparations for planting are in the works and quickly approaching, and in the midst of all this we’re helping to plan a wedding ─ all on top of working on two books at the same time.

Lost your breath yet? Some days! It’s all coming along swimmingly, though. Volume 7, the FINAL volume in this saga, is making progress. I’ve finished the drafts and pre-printing edits and am ready to print out the manuscript. With only a little over two months left, I’m praying we can get everything sorted out in time (!). I will have more information, such as the cover and synopsis and all that exciting stuff, for you soon, so be looking forward to that ─ I certainly am. I’m really happy about the cover and can’t wait to show you . . .

Anywho, today I’m going to talk about characters once more (because they are such an intrinsic part of any story, they warrant a lot of care and consideration. Parents brag about their children, authors yammer about their characters). The topic/ tip I have for this post is: when developing characters, work with them. Familiarize yourself with them. This is something I’ve learned over the past (what, is it five years already? Wow), and while it may be common knowledge in the writing community, I’ve discovered that I learn quite a few things the Hard Way.

I think the way you’re supposed to go about writing a story is to scheme your plot and develop your characters before you really get into the nitty-gritty of punching words onto the page. Did I? Pft! No. When I began this project o, so many years ago I did very little in the way of character development and just skipped ahead. I didn’t do character profiles, getting any sort of idea who these people were, and I didn’t know much about them.

However, as is per usual, the more time you spend with a person, the more you’ll get to know them. They open up to you and you notice things about them as they interact with their environment, the people around them, and their circumstances. This is how I learned who my characters were, and only after a couple of years did I get into the whole ‘character profile’ thing. I’d never looked into character outlines until a couple years ago, and there are as many different formats as there are people who use them, ranging from basic information (name, gender, eye color, hair color, etc.) to far more in depth details (phobias, neurosis, favorite book/song, and the like). The outline is basically just a list of questions to answer about your character to help flesh them out.

The chart that I currently use is pretty extensive, ranging from physical appearance, mentality, education, relationships, thought processes, habits, quirks ─ all sorts of things ─ and in truth I don’t always go into those details (right or left brained? Beats the bananas out of me), but I did like a few of the more thought-provoking questions that have pushed me to really consider certain aspects of these people that I never thought about before. They also give me an opportunity to answer the ‘why’ questions that are hidden underneath, and that wee three letter word is the meat and bone of everything. Yes, they may wear that, like this, hate that, but those are surface details. It’s they why they wear that, like this, hate that, no matter how trivial it may seem, that turns a caricature into a person.

But you won’t find much of any of this out until you work with them. That, at least, is how it worked for me. I learned about them as they traveled and fought and survived, as they thought at night when they couldn’t sleep, or were forced to make snappish decisions, or how they occupied themselves when they were bored. Pushed into corners, stranded all by themselves, crowded by other people or burdened by their expectations ─ each and every experience brings out the truth of a person, things that can’t come honestly while just trying to answer a question.

And here’s another thing (and it’s kind of a confession, too, I suppose). When I first began, I had characters that were simply there for a headcount (horrible, right?). They were kind of like NPCs (non-playable characters, in video game lingo), just there for the sake of it, but as we went on this journey they up and decided to prove to me that they were real people, too, with histories, hopes, fears, and purpose that helped drive the story. (Thock, Fwip, Bill, and Kai’Tor were all originally 2-dimentional characters at the start, can you see how they didn’t like that? Yeah. Bill and Kai’Tor were supposed to be dropped off at Udalak and never heard from again, and we all know how that worked out!)

So, through all this garble, I suppose what I’m trying to say is this: developing your characters beforehand may be a good starting point, but to learn who they really are and how they tick, you’ve got to work with them. Little by little they’ll turn into real people and not just ‘the hero’, the ‘sidekick’, the ‘villain’, and the ‘fillers’. They’ll become real to you, and therefore they’ll become real for your readers. So don’t be afraid to start writing even if you don’t know your cast all that well, you’ll get better acquainted as you go, and by the end they’ll seem like old friends.


Don’t forget, there’a giveaway running on Goodreads for the 4th volume in TJT, The Memory Quest – the volume where the truth about the king and current events is revealed, to much horror and dismay. All villains begin somewhere, and sometimes they weren’t always villainous . . .

The Pen, Archenemy of Forgetfulness

Hello, and happy Saturday! There’s been a lot happening this past week, so here’s just my two cents on a subject that hits pretty close to home with myself as a writer.

I once read a quote somewhere that said ‘The greatest lie people tell themselves is that they don’t need to write it down because they’ll remember it.’ I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up with an idea for a story or a quote that (I thought) was awesome or a name I really liked and might use for a character and proceeded to not write it down right then because I thought I could remember it until later. WRONG. So, so very wrong, because then I (without fail, usually) end up getting distracted and forgetting it. It’s not until later that I remember I had an idea, and by then I can never remember what that idea was, and then I hate myself.

As writers it’s very important to write things down (kind of in the job description, actually) because inspiration has a tendency to strike and random and our next greatest story might come (and usually does) while we’re in the middle of scrubbing the bathroom floor. Or some other activity. It’s a good habit to jot those things down while you have them, instead of trying to remember it until later. Your memory will betray you and hide it away or toss it out the window. This is very important, so much so that I now have a notepad with ‘write it or lose it’ printed on every sheet, which I then tack to my doorframe (for lack of a better place, but at this point I might have to branch out because I have so many).

Even if you’re not a writer, it’s not a bad idea to write things down when you think of them, then even if (and when) you forget that phone message you were supposed to pass on three days after you took it, you have it on paper to help you remember and not make a total shmuck of yourself. It’s why God gave us pens and paper, I’m pretty sure.


Don’t forget to enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Northward Expedition, volume 2 of The Journey Taken! Each copy comes signed and includes a series bookmark (how fun is that?)!

A Piece of the Process

Hello! I’m back in, and boy has it been quite a week. I have for you today another topic of interest to expound upon: the writing process.

To be blatant, there are as many processes for writing as there are people who write. Every individual is different (hence ‘individual’) and the method one goes about something is unique to them. It’s also a learning process, at least it was for me. When I began writing I had no real education on ‘how’ to write a story, I just began writing what I wanted to say, having gained some capacity for prose from reading. See, reading stokes the fires of imagination and creativity, and if you read a LOT, like I did (and so so many others) you pick up on things. Albeit, some people are born with the ‘writer affinity’, a talent for stories they were simply made to have, but you don’t become awesome at it without work. Taking something you enjoy doing and developing that to an even greater level of skill is a joy not only for you, but those around you. I began as a total and complete amateur. I loved stories and I loved the idea of sharing the stories I have, so I wrote without having any real plan or ‘process’ in mind. Only after I’d been doing it for a while, peeking into the world of other writers and the vast amount of information they shared about their own experiences and whatnot, did I begin to realize the truth: apparently writing wasn’t so simple as I thought it was. There’s actually a lot of forethought and planning that goes into a really good story, but then, if you think about it, every great piece of art has a bucketload of blood, sweat, and tears behind it.

My own writing process is, I think, still under development. I haven’t hashed out a system of operation down to the wee details yet. TJT has truly spurred my growth, though, from where I began so very long ago. Some people ask if you write more by logic or intuition/ purpose or instinct, or some combination of the two, and I’d have to say that, for me, it would have to be the lattermost. It’s the intuition that directs where and how I use my logic ─it’s the idea of “I want to do this” or “I want this to happen” and then figuring out how to make that a reality in a convincing way. I like planning things out, too, and with whatever project you’re working on, plotting is essential (otherwise you make stupid/silly mistakes that bite you in the butt later). I do like to develop a plotline, as it helps give me a direction for the story and keeps me on track, because digression is a disease. A malady. An icky germ. That’s one thing I appreciate about the editing part of the writing process, you can go back and see the yucky parts, the unnecessary parts ─ the dross ─ and expunge. Sometimes it’s painful, yes, but sometimes good things aren’t painless (think about getting a tooth pulled, or surgery, or budgeting ─ not really painless, but ultimately beneficial).

So, to summarize the above blather, my writing process is, so far, thus: I get an idea for a story, take that raw material, and heat it in the fires, plotting, developing (the analogies that can be used for this are numerous, quite, quite numerous). What helps me in the actual writing of the story is to picture it as a movie playing. That was a tip I came across ages ago, and it’s really helped me visualize what’s going on and to describe what I see. I’ve found myself narrating in my dreams, sometimes. I’ve found  myself watching movies and thinking about how I would put it into words (I’m bad at watching movies). I plot and I visualize and I write everything down, because if you don’t write it down you’ll forget and hate yourself. At the same time, writing the story and being immersed by it also helps me further develop my plot, so the two actually go hand-in-hand. My plots are very flexible and basically cover key points or events that I want to include, kind of like the dots on one of those connect-the-dots games. When all those smaller pieces are connected in the narrative, I love being able to stand back and see this bigger picture. It’s very rewarding.


Don’t forget! There’s a giveaway running for A Journey Begins, enter to win one of seven copies + a super awesome series bookmark.


Also, coming up next week, there’ll be running a promotion on Amazon for a Kindle version! Available copies are unlimited, but it’ll only last the week, so no procrastinating. If you’ve been waffling, take the opportunity to snag the first bite of this sweetness while you can! It begins on the 23rd, so mark thou calendars, fine folk, and await the day with the appropriate anticipation.