Black Halo: the Witch and the Guardian PREVIEW Part 2

REVISED version of

Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian

is coming out on 12/9/2015!

Preview Event:

PART 1 (Prologue, Chapter 1)


Blurb:

With the Light, came Magic, and the Witch. As mysterious as she was fearsome, and as powerful as she was merciless, the Witch almost succeeded in ending the world until she was vanquished by a hero and his comrades.

This is the legend of the Witch and the Guardian.

Centuries after the nigh calamity, this legend is as much as almost anyone knows of what truly happened back then and as much of an explanation anyone has of what ended an era in human civilization.

Though the people may never learn the whole story, you as the reader will follow the days that led up to how a young girl named Lily became immortalized as the Witch though her name, dreams and life became forgotten.


INTERLUDE I
COMING OF AGE

“Mom?! Mom!” Kalin’s shouts were loud enough to echo.

From the loft, Kalin went down the stairs to his family’s florist shop. The various perfumes of the flowers and plants tickled his nose as they always did. He found his mother near the exit of the store tucked into a thick winter jacket and a wool beanie she had knitted. She had a small mail carrier bag strapped across her chest and was busy gathering the picket signs.

“You’re going out again? For those freaks?” Kalin grumpily asked.

He didn’t have a particular reason to dislike the “freaks” other than that he worried about his mother. Hostility from their community was growing each day ever since Kalin’s mother announced her support of those weirdos.

“First, the politically correct term we are apparently using is to refer to them as the ‘Gifted.’ If you’re up to feeling a bit silly, you may call them wizards. Second, though they may be wizards, the Gifted are still people, Kalin,” his mother spoke sternly but with tenderness. She knew it wasn’t an easy thing for her son to understand, and she understood that he was worried for her. “Maybe someday you’ll understand, hun. I imagine your father would be out there with me too if he was still around.” She finally managed to gather all the picket signs and carried them over her shoulder, holding them steady with one arm. With her free hand, the mother ruffled her son’s hair.

Kalin shooed his mother’s hand away. His father wasn’t a hero or led a particularly interesting life, but everyone who knew him told Kalin that his father was a good man. Illness took him away while Kalin was still a toddler. After he passed away, it was just Kalin and his mother and the flower shop. They were the only family each other had left.

Every time she mentioned his father, Kalin felt frustrated and guilty. Perhaps it was because he felt he couldn’t take some of the burden off of his mother or perhaps it was because it seemed like he was the burden itself. Each time she mentioned him, Kalin could still see the twinkle in her eyes of a woman who still hadn’t been able to let go of her long gone other half.

“The church people don’t seem to like it when you go, Mom. They looked pretty angry at us last time,” Kalin gave his final complaint to fight for his mother’s stay.

“Kalin, sometimes people let their fear and anger get the better of them.” She looked at her son who didn’t seem too happy with the answer. “It’s during these times that we have to remember”—Kalin’s mother poked at her son’s head—“we have this”—she poked at her son’s heart—“…and that!”

“No, mom! There are people out there hunting down other people who support those freaks! And, yeah, those Gifted murdered people. I don’t think it’s naive to overlook something like that! Are you saying that doctor deserved to be killed by that Witch? Don’t you remember all those stories on the news? All the people crying for the doctor?” Kalin retorted.

“We can’t judge an entire group of people on few bad eggs. I know you already know this, my stubborn, stubborn son.”

“But, mom!”

Kalin’s mom set aside the signs and embraced her son into her arms. The nervousness in the son’s heart lingered but his anger subsided in his mother’s hug.

“I know you’re worried, kiddo. Sometimes it’s difficult and dangerous to do the right thing. Sometimes the right thing may seem like the wrong thing to do—even more so as we get older. But if all the good people hid from doing what’s right, what kind world would we leave behind tomorrow?”

Kalin still didn’t look satisfied.

“I have to be both your mom and your dad. I want you to know that your parents were people that didn’t just talk about doing the right things, but actually did them. And I want you to think of me as a”—the mother paused for a moment and grinned—“badass.” She gave him a peck on the forehead. “And you’ll have to live with that.” She squeezed his cheek and gave him a smile.

“At least let me go with you,” Kalin grumbled.

“Nope. School night. Just tell your mum, that you love so much, that you love her and ask her to come home safe.” His mother stood and gathered up her signs again. Kalin wanted tell his mom that he did think of her as a ‘badass’. That he was proud of her. The words tickled at his throat but never made it out.

“If you say you’ll pick me up a burger on the way home.” Kalin crossed his arms.

“You should be sleeping by the time I get back, you pig.” His mother rummaged in her pockets for her keys.

“You have no power here when you’re not home.” Kalin smirked.

“Only if you give me a kiss.” His mother puckered her lips and closed her eyes.

Kalin reluctantly gave her a peck on the cheek, and it was enough for his mother to be satisfied with her small victory.

“I’ll lock up. But don’t forget to turn off the lights before you go to sleep, alright?” His mother asked with half of her already out the door.

“I won’t sleep ‘till I get my burger,” the son replied as he headed for the stairs.

“I really don’t know from which gene pool made you so stubborn.” She locked the door behind her and walked out into the dark empty street of a cold winter night. The street was lightly covered white with snow. The sedan left behind by her late husband was parked right in front of her shop. The warmth from the store made the sudden chill hard to bear. She hurriedly packed the picket signs and her bag into the back of her car. Her face was already numb from the cold wind.

As she closed the door of her car and headed towards the driver’s side, she saw a group of three men coming her way.

A different layer of chill than the cold of winter jolted down her spine.

Instinctive fear telling her to go.

Run.

She jumped into her car and attempted to start it. The engine didn’t turn over. The front window was iced. She couldn’t see them but she could hear their footsteps crunching into the snow as the crunches grew louder and louder. She turned on the headlights and fruitlessly tried to turn the engine again.

Don’t be stupid. She told herself. Calm down. You’re being paranoid. Following the guidance of her inner voice, she turned to her glove box for the ice scraper. When did the crunches stop?

 

Knock. Knock. Knock.

 

A dark metal object tapped on her window. The man pressed his forehead on the icy glass and the blurred image of a face hidden behind a black ski mask was all she could see.

“Hello,” the man called out to her almost playfully as Kalin’s mother immediately went to lock the doors. They made the distinctive click to let her know that they were already locked.

She could tell even with the iced up windows that the men had surrounded her car. She hoped at this point that they were only here for her.

 

Knock. KNOCK. KNOCK.

 

It was obvious at this point the object was a gun.

“What do you want?!” She shouted out the car as she hysterically searched her bag for her phone. The mother wondered whether to call the police first or her son.

“Open the door.”

She tried to start the car only to fail again as she dialed away on her phone.

“Open the door,” The man requested again as calmly as before.

“I’m calling the cops!” She threatened.

Kalin had just cracked open his textbook in his room when he heard the commotion outside. As he approached his bedroom window that overlooked the main road, a loud bang echoed through the neighborhood followed by the sound of car alarms from the street. Kalin rushed over to the window and looked outside. He saw a group of men surrounding his mother’s car and felt a chill wash over his body that made his stomach turn.

“That’s what all of you witch-lovers get.” It was followed by a similar bang as before, and his mother’s car brightly lit up for a short moment before descending back into darkness.

Kalin felt his innards twist and sink as he screamed for his mother. He stumbled down the stairs frantically and dashed out of the front door of his flower shop. One of the men threw a dirty glass bottle into the car that engulfed it in flames.

The three masked men stared at the terrified boy.

“Your mother got what she deserved, boy,” The one who threw the bottle said. “And you’re going to end up the same if you follow in her footsteps.”

After giving Kalin their warning, the three men fled. One of the men looked back to check the spectacle only to see instead what he thought had to have been his eyes playing tricks. The boy was in the air with bluish streams jetting from his body and coming at him with astonishing speed. Kalin landed on the man and they tumbled on the snowy street.

Kalin yelled and screamed nigh incomprehensible words as he beat on the man. Some blows felt about as strong as what a young teen could muster. Some blows, those that jetted similar streams from earlier, landed harder than anything the man had experienced in his life.

The man’s two accomplices saw their friend in trouble and ran back to help. They could hear the sirens rapidly approaching. Kalin didn’t notice the two men until they kicked him across the face and stomped him to the ground. They helped their friend up and began to flee again but stopped when they realized their friend wasn’t with them. The two looked behind to find their companion stomping the boy. Kicking to satisfy his anger.

“We got to go!” one of them yelled.

Just a little more, the man thought as his foot rose up into the air and landed hard again on Kalin.

The two partners in crime grabbed the man by his arms and dragged him away as he cursed at the boy. They had to drag him until the sirens grew loud enough with their lights beginning to turn the white snow red and blue brought him back to his sense enough to run on his own.

Some neighbors and bystanders slowly came out from their hiding and witnessed the burning vehicle and a boy beaten to a pulp laying in the streets. Kalin turned onto his back and drowned in the night sky. The taste of blood filled his mouth and his body hurt from all over. But the void he was feeling inside—a tear—was the only thing he could feel. In the sky, he could see the stars and the Light. Snow began to fall again as he coughed up blood.

Sirens and lights of red and blue quickly flooded the scene. The three men were eventually captured and were found to be part of their victim’s church. All three admitted to their actions and went on to testify that they were proud of what they had done. They claimed they were simply stopping a disease from spreading across the world.

The victim’s son disappeared a few months after the incident.

 

…There are no clear records of when and where the Witch and her follower met. There are no clear indicators of who he was, what he did, and what he was to her. The only thing clear seems to be that when the Witch first arrived, she was alone. But during some point she met a companion who’d follow her until the end of her life…


 


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7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing While Writing My First Novel

These are the 7 things I’ve learned about writing ever since I decided to pursue a writing career with my first novel!

Bet you already knew that because you read the title.


1. Less is Almost Always More

Be the guide to your audience’s imagination and not the commandant.

This is the shortest one of the list because I didn’t want to be too ironic.

2. the Audience Can’t Read Your Mind

As we write we can see our stories in our heads. The cities and its glimmering windows at night, the faces of our characters and all of their complexions, and even the crumpled up page of a gossip paper tumbling down the filthy street.

We can see it all to the most minute details. Even if there’s some sort of a fantastic action happening, our minds don’t fail to keep track of all the participants and whatever they may be doing.

But the audience can’t peer into our minds.

So what Aramiru? That’s why we write isn’t it? To put down our imagination on paper? And do you know how cheesy and tacky it is to ask yourself questions in third person?

Yes.

It’s easy to forget the difference between the perspectives of our audience reading our books versus the perspectives of us, writers, writing our own books.

Accounting for this could simply mean making certain that only the necessary details are present when describing a scene or simply realizing what the the necessary details are.

Making sure the action sequences flow in a way where it’s easy for the readers to follow.

And not to lose ourselves having too much fun writing that we forget those who are reading.

This becomes even more important with the logic and the plot of the book. We are gods to our own books and we know all that will happen. But are we writing in a way so that the audience can understand our intentions and our infinite wisdom?

By understanding how the audience is perceiving the story is how we can plan the twists, the developments and the future.

Plot holes are bound to happen. Sometimes accidentally and sometimes purposefully. There are even times when something might not even be a plot hole but be perceived as such. Having a grasp of our audience’s views of our story can prevent foreseeable plot holes, reduce the damage of planned plot holes, and hopefully never allow unforgivable plot holes to happen.

This is one of few on the list that’s hey-I-already-know-this-this-is-basic-you-shamefully-basic-person material. Yes, this should be pretty commonsense. However, it is also one of those tidbits where your perspective and skills with it will grow exponentially as you keep writing and have an audience that you can interact with.

At least, I did. And this an article of the things that I’ve learned. Me. And as the great Michael Jackson once said, “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

3. a Lot of Writers Think They Suck

Yep. We’re an insecure bunch. I used to look in the mirror and think to myself, “you’re an ugly spawn-of-semen-and-egg but that’s fine because you can live with that.”

Now, I look in the mirror and think, “your writing makes puppies cry and children lose faith in humanity. Can you live with that?”

No. No, I can’t.

And as I draw a smile on my face with a crimson lipstick so that I can at least pretend I’m smiling, I realize quickly that it doesn’t matter–at least it shouldn’t matter enough to stop me.

Me sucking. Not my pretty, pretty smile.

Look, there are some phenomenal writers out there. Those who had the gift and put in the hard work to become legends of this craft. And as writers, we also have to compete against timeless masters of writing from even centuries ago.

But it doesn’t have to be about competing with their work and talents.

What’s my work? What’s my talent? Why should I worry so much about what they are without even fully realizing what I am. Did I push myself to the limit to know that I’m not at their level? Does that even matter?

As a writer who wants to tell stories and writing being simply his medium to do that, I realized I just have to write well enough so that I can deliver my stories to the best of my abilities that’s most faithful to my vision.

What else can I do? Just stop writing and never pursue anything with it?

It’s not about being the best there is but being the best at telling your own story.

That doesn’t mean I gave up on becoming a great writer of the legends or something like that. But I think instead of looking at our flaws and telling ourselves we suck, it’s better to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why do we suck? Where are we lacking? What can we work on?

You do you and be the best you that you can be, because you’re not them and you are you and you have your own talents that only you can do the things that you do. You are awesome. Oh, you. You.

And you still shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re one of those writers who are more focused about the craft than the storytelling.

Here’s an overused quote from high school girls around the world that’s all over their Myspace, Xanga, or whatever the blazes the kids are using these days. Imagine these words with glitters and with a night sky backdrop.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Just don’t forget to find your own voice somewhere along your journey. Be your own star.

A pretty, pretty star.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter if we suck, it only matters where we are going to go with our suckage.

4. But a Lot of Us Might Actually Suck

What? You think I’m just being quirky by making the entire list of back and forth paradoxical statements?

And I know what I said up there but the point I’m trying to make now is that we lack self-awareness in different ways. I think especially among us still becoming acquainted with our writing.

It’s really hard to measure where we stand with our writing unless we had the time to establish ourselves with a large group honest peers. For writers, this usually means reviewers and readers for the most part.

Look, within the creative community there’s this unwritten rule about not criticizing one another in public. In private? Shoot. Let the poops fly.

But don’t think of that as necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply manners. And it’s also a bit selfish for someone to expect a stranger or even a friend to give them a harsh reality check and say painfully honest things. It’s uncomfortable and hard for people to do that and in most cases we don’t have the right to force people to put themselves in a position to possibly open a can of worms/whupass.

That’s why I think you need to really appreciate someone who’s brave and honest enough to tell you that you suck and tells you why–always remember to thank those people.

(Obviously, there’s a difference between someone who’s a hater and he’s gonna hate, hate, hate and someone who’s calling you out on your flaws. )

At this stage of my writing ‘career’ (I put my big toe in the pool!) I want more people to tell me how I can improve rather than give me compliments and encouragements. Look, I’m no Dalai Lama. If someone criticizes me, depending on what it is, it’ll hurt. I may even question their criticisms little bit to see if they have merit or to understand it better.

But we have to know when we suck so that we can improve. Embrace and love the criticisms. If we can’t take criticisms, we can’t expect to get better.

It hurts but no pain, no gain. Find someone who will tell you that you’re bad and why you’re bad.

5. Editors Are Gods

A samurai once said, you must choose a worthy lord because you may slice your tummy for him someday.

I don’t know who said that.

I am not a samurai.

And I’m not really that well-versed in Japanese historical figures. I just wanted to add that so you can keep that in your mind as you read this section.

An editor will become your partner for your novel. You’re the mommy and the editor is the daddy. Yes, put your 60s gender stereotype hats on because otherwise that analogy doesn’t work.

Stephen King famously said “to write is human, to edit is divine.”

You should almost always listen to your editor because they are almost always right and they will always be the ones who’ll turn your manuscript into a novel. I knew an editor can make a difference but I just didn’t realize how much.

A good editor will help you-do-you, you-do-you better. You’re a piece ribeye and they’re the salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil straight from Italy. They’re the trained outside eye and mind that the clutters of a single mind writing a book needs to clean up.

I am so thankful for my editor because she had to work through my first pile of mess. My style of writing is that I have to just puke my thoughts onto the page and then sort through it later. Because of the process I went through with her, I am exponentially better than where I was before.

Get a good editor. A good editor cares, understands, but is fearless in calling you out.

6. It’s Our Story

There are a lot of questions on writing forums about, “are my chapters too long?”, “is a goody-goody character boring”, “should I not make my character all-powerful”, “is a half-dragon, a half-elf character weird?”

The answer to all those, by the way, is: It entirely depends on your own story. Even the half-dragon, half-elf character. 

But this point isn’t about that obvious answer. It’s about the next step, the level up, of that point.

I wondered for a while how I can write my story. What were the rules? What was the general mold for doing something that I wanted to do?

And I honestly couldn’t really find anything that satisfied me and I quickly asked myself what was I doing? What am I exactly looking for?

I had an opportunity–especially as an indie writer–to write my book in a way that should be perfect for the story I wanted to tell. Why follow the conventions and the rules of others simply because it worked for them? It worked for them because it was their rules and conventions for their own stories.

We have to understand our own stories; what they are and what they aren’t.

No one should be able to tell your story better than you can. So don’t follow any archetypes simply to follow an archetype. That archetype might not work for your story even if they seem to be in the genre, have similar characters, and present familiar themes and motifs.

Take advice from editors like they’re sprinkled with diamonds but take advice from writers with a grain of salt. Other than technical and perhaps even general content advice, other writers will see your story with their Ray-Bans.

Really chew on what I said up there before simply swallowing it in by the way. I’m not saying other writers can’t offer you knowledge and criticisms to write your own story better. But, I am saying, ultimately, you should know and own up to your own story.

With that said, we also have to be aware of there are certain general rules of writing that exists for a reason. These are the rules that’s been tested and proven through long history of writing and some that were born from the shifting metagames in the market.

For example, it’s been a while since slow paced books had any place in popular novels. People want fast paced stories that hooks them right away so that they could have the initial momentum to get through a 200-400 page novel.

There’s generally a lack of slow developing novels that gently brews and ages its plot and character to develop some sort of a liquor-reference-bourbon-reference-oaky-soaky-flavored plot.

I wonder if Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities was released in today’s world if it’d be popular at all.

And there’s another key there. Do you want to be popular or do you want to be critically acclaimed or both?

Do you want to make money and write vampire x gargoyles erotica? Or do you want to gamble your life by throwing your novel into the skyscraper of the fantasy genre?

In the end, it’s YOUR story. You do you and do what you want to do because I like the way you move. Just know that reality is always around the corner.

How many “you” do I have in this?

7. An Audience is Earned

Everything written should deserve some sort of an audience. A good audience will provide judgment to the writings and nurture them to grow or have them be killed and brutally murdered if necessary.

At this point, you can probably sense how important I think an audience is to a writer. That’s probably the secret #8th thing I’ve learned.

To a writer, there’s nothing more important than readers to help them understand themselves as a writer.

The greatest learning experience and growth I had with my writing so far has been through the beta-reading and editing. It does wonders for you and for your novel.

However, not everyone and everything earns an audience. You have to work for it.

Working doesn’t mean just write something but it means becoming worthy of someone’s time and effort. Because it takes both of those things things to read a book. Especially compared to what’s out there today to enjoy as entertainment like YouTube, Reddit, video games, and Vine (with that you’re literally competing against a 6 second entertainment where a person simply has to click to enjoy).

Even to the most avid readers this is true (even more so in a sense) because you’re asking them to devote to your book the time and effort they could have spent on other books they wanted to read.

So how do we earn an audience? During the writing process this means taking your own time and effort to gain beta readers and reviewers. Be cordial, accommodating, don’t grovel but still know that they’re doing you a favor at the end of the day unless you’re some sort of writing superstar.

But if you’re a writing superstar I wonder why you’re reading this entry up to this point.

Do you like me? Like what I wrote?

PM me 😉. Ooo la la.

When you’re done writing, whether you’re traditional or indie, you still have to do what you need to do to reach out to your readers.

That could mean book signings, public readings, promotional giveaways, making sure getting the reviews for your novel, and etc.

For indie writers this can be an extremely difficult process. An extremely difficult process. AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT PROCESS.

For traditionally published writers I understand it’s more-or-less already been setup for y’all.

It can be something simple as blogging. It’s fun, helpful, and I got to save my money on therapy bills.

I’m earning my readers through my blog by sharing my experiences and little things I learned here and there in hopes of helping, entertaining, and perhaps even proving that I am a writer worthy of their time. It’s also serving as an odd journal for this writing journey which is also nice.

Nothing in life is free. Even if someone deserves something doesn’t mean they don’t have to earn it–especially something as valuable as someone’s time.

BONUS: It’s Not Supposed to be Lucrative

Don’t write for money and fame. If you want that you’ll have much easier time with YouTube, acting, music, Twitch, and etc.

I’m not saying getting success in those avenues are easy. Far from it. It’s extremely hard. But at least they’re in the spotlight of the mainstream.

Writing really isn’t to an extent. It’s a dinosaur of an entertainment that’ll always have its place only because of its history, easy entry, and because of how quintessential it is to our civilization.

Write because you have to.

Write because if you don’t you feel like something is wrong with your life.

Write because every time you see someone else’s work you feel like you need to be in the arena competing as well.

Write because you love it.

The money will come or it may never come. Only difference is if that matters to you or not at the end of the day when you’re left just with your stack of papers.

And for the love of all that’s holy and Poseidon, don’t quit your day job or school to write.

It’s not fun to write hungry and it’s not fun to write worrying-about-lights-going-off-and-oh-my-god-is-that-tow-truck-here-for-my-car-no-its-not-thank-goodness-but-I-think-my-garbage-man-didn’t-take-my-garbage-today. There’s absolutely no romance in it. Especially, if you have loved ones who cares about you or if you have loved ones you have to take care of.

Life’s a game of chance. Bet smart. Don’t  bet on the 1% by throwing away on the 99.

Are you the next J. K. Rowling? Maybe Stephanie Meyers? Maybe Stephen King?

Who knows?

But none of them quit their day job to write and neither should you.

I’ll share someday why I want to warn so critically against people who’re thinking about quitting jobs and schools for a dream of making it big with writing. But that’s it for this entry.


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My novel is currently available on Amazon.com! Check it out [HERE]

Inside Story: I almost played Frisbee with my laptop writing this entry.  I thought the new Wordpress editor auto-saved now (which would be fantastic) after having drafts get loaded up again after I left the page before. Nope it does not. Hit that save button.

Holding My Book in My Hands // Thank You Readers.

It was honestly a bit bittersweet.

This is breaking the whole “Entries are about the stuff that happened while writing the book,” but I thought it was significant enough for the blog and myself to discuss this now.

My ebook was released on the November 21st. I actually received the proof copy of the novel on the release day due to some shipping delays.  I didn’t worry too much about it since I already saw the physical copies for the KickStarter backers in the previous week and the two editions essentially shared the same cover design with only slight changes for the spine and the back.

The back was fine.

The spine looked great.

But the front cover that used to the same file for the KickStarter copies were some how dun’ goofed.

In a sense, it was fitting considering how the whole journey had been. It was also somewhat metaphorical of the things I could have done better.

I remembered back to just a week before when I was cutting the tapes on the package for the KickStarter copies. Was I excited? Not really. I was only filled with dread for the release day just a week ahead and yet somewhat looking forward to being able to put this chapter of my life to an end.

Glistening covers of the novels peeked through the crunched up brown packaging papers. My mind emptied out all the thoughts floating around. I gingerly removed one of the books in the tightly packed box.

When I held that book in my hand and I could actually smell that paper… all the thoughts of the days ahead were just… gone. Instead I was absorbed into the memories of all the days before that led up to that exact moment. In my hands was the result of what I started on the hard, dirty floor of a motel room 3 years ago. Even just a few months back, I was wondering if I would be able to see the damn thing.

I flipped through it as every chapter and page turned into a scrap book of memories. Instead of the letters and words, I saw the moments and events that made everything on these pages possible. Each chapter, sometimes even just a single page, told a tale of their own to me.

Late evenings and sacrificed weekends.

Triumphs and failures.

My friends and family.

A life-changing adventure that will meet its humble, if not insignificant, ending in just a week.

1114141357
The KickStarter Edition
1114141358
Creme colored pages because it’s easier on the eyes.

 

1114141357a
the back of the KickStarter Edition. Color scheme and the blurb is different than the copies for sale.

There were things I’ve gained that I never would have gained and there were also things I’ve lost that I would have never lost if I didn’t decide to write 3 years ago.

Was I happy with the dividends?

It was a journey that was perhaps more exciting and dramatic than I could have ever planned for or imagined (and boy was it longer than I ever anticipated). And a  journey that perhaps didn’t have the proper ending that it deserved waiting for it at the end. (Or perhaps it was the most fitting)

I showed my mother the KickStarter copy. She smiled and clapped in joy. I was told I did a good job and she took photos to share it with her friends. I was more-or-less stunned by her reaction. I didn’t expect it. I’m wondering now how my face looked to her but seeing her smile over my book is a good memory to have.

I gave a copy to my editor who also seemed much happier than I was.

My friends who’ve supported me also extended their congratulations.

One KickStarter backer that I delivered the novel in person to greeted me with a smile and excitement. We chatted for a while of what could be my future ahead and we ended the conversation with him letting me know that he was excited to read it.

If anything, I wish there was a better ending–even if it isn’t the most fitting one– for them.

Don’t get me wrong. There was a small part of me that was definitely a bit bittersweet because I thought I deserved more (like a child) for all I’ve put into this project.

But as I set the book back down, I realized I was mostly bittersweet not because of the ending itself but because of the fact that the journey was ending. There were many things that could have went better and many things I could have done better–maybe I wasn’t satisfied with it ending just yet.

Maybe,  I just really enjoyed the ride. I enjoyed working on this dream and believing (sometimes even pretending) that it was possible. That I was tearing away the fantasy from the dream until it turned into reality. During this ride my life went to places that I never thought it could go. Some great, some terrible but all of it were fruitful experiences.

I was bittersweet because even though I wasn’t satisfied yet, I knew given my circumstances I’d have put my pursuit on hold. I want to write more. I still have stories to tell.

But knowing that now for a certain even after all this was, in and of itself, another gift from this journey. It was a grand adventure and I think whatever happens from this point on nothing will change that. I’m glad I decided to write. I’m happy I was able to finish. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.

…although technically I guess the journey isn’t over yet. Maybe this entry was just more of me venting and I may have had no idea yet what I was talking about… Alrighty then.


 

Oh, and hey readers. Yes, you there with a disappointed look on your face!

I started this blog to share my experiences. Part of it was because I really wanted to have a record this experience, part of it was because I thought it’d help me understand this experience, and part of it was because this was something that I was told I should do during this experience.

The point I’m trying to get at is that I’m not going to deny that I started this blog mostly for myself. Even as much as I hope this blog is at the very least entertaining and maybe at its rare moments informative–if not helpful–I started this for me.

But… that sort of changed very quickly once I got started.

I always took this blog very seriously and truly appreciated all the readers who read any of my entries. Knowing that some of you decided to give me part of your time to read what I’ve wrote is a surreal feeling.

Seeing any views and likes on my blog have been super encouraging and delightful. Some of the repeat readers like Damyanti (http://en.gravatar.com/damyantig. Check out her sites if you’re interested in writing! She has some cool stuff) really pushed me to worker harder and harder on this blog.

So although I may have started this blog mostly for myself… I feel I’d be being dishonest to say it’s only about myself now.

I’m not very good at this social media stuff (my Twitter account is a testament to that) and I’m not even sure how to really show my appreciation other than saying,

Thank you.  

I mean that.

Sincerely,
 A. S. Aramiru

P. S. Here’s the new cover design I made that I was talking about earlier. I think I’m getting better at this and interior formatting than writing. The sample has also been [updated] and it looks very pretty:

#6x9 cover BLACK HALO png

 

Here’s the previous cover design for comparison:

15610910_cover

 

P. S. 2 During this weekend I’ll post another Interlude with more character bios! See y’all then

Finding Motivations from Nothing

Alright, this post is going to be unedited so it’ll be rough and ugly.

 

“Finding Motivations from Nothing.”

Phew, it took a long time for me to actually publish this blog entry. Too long.

When I started this blog I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t really out to teach anyone.  I wanted to simply relay my experiences and if that happened to help anyone out there—fantastic. I’m pretty sure this blog is a desperate attempt for me to find some value in the mistakes I’ve made and the experiences that I had. Yes, I should admit this blog is, in a sense, my self-therapy.

I mean, did you know that it’s cheaper to buy alcohol and drugs than to get actual therapy? I do neither of those things but I’m just saying… I mean… doesn’t that say something about our society? I suppose Dr. Whoever deserves to be paid more than Billy-down-the-block-from-Wal-Mart but… wait….where was I? What was I talking about?

Yes. Motivation. Writing. Family friendly blog!

Eh-hem!

I’m certain—at some point—that many writers who’ve attempted to make a living with their work faced this problem. Deciding to dedicate/risk a significant portion of your life to writing changes the craft from being just about the craft. The perspective and the mindset transforms—it has to when your livelihood depends on it. I’m sure it’ll become about the craft again as time passes and we find our own happy places in our careers, but in the beginning it’s about the shift from a hobbyist to a professional.

That’s much more work and commitment than it sounds.

But for this transformation to actually happen and for the writer to have actually considered taking on the transformation in the first place, there are few key motivations that they would have had to have.

1) The dream. For some that may be seeing your book at a store. For some it may be simply having completed writing a novel. And for some it’s swimming in that sweet, sweet writing money. The pool of George Washingtons sprinkled with Lincolns. How soft or how hard that pool may be entirely depends on how big you can dream.

2) The joy. It’s immensely fun to create and lose yourself in your fantasy—to build and grow your characters and your world. It’s like that scene from the Matrix where they just stare at bunch of green numbers and letters flowing down the computer screen but in their eyes they see a woman in a red dress. We writers end up falling in love chasing after that woman in the red dress.

3) The drive. It’s the self-discipline to finish what you started. The desire to accomplish something with the short amount of time we have in this world. An ambition without drive won’t go anywhere.

If you lack “1,” you probably don’t want this enough.

If you lack “2,” this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

If you lack “3,” it’s likely that you have a bigger problem on your hands than making writing your career.

But how far can these three motivations take you?

It sort of depends on how potent your “3” is, how long it takes you to finish your work, and the immediacy and the amount of reward you’ll receive for the work.

Let’s ignore the first factor I mentioned (the “3”) because that’s sort of the “x” factor. It can be used to basically overcome any trouble I’ve mentioned and didn’t mention as long as it’s strong enough.

So let’s dig into the second and the third factor.

If you’re a fortunate enough writer who finished their work within a few months (or whatever length of time that was short enough that you didn’t deplete your motivation powers and burn out) and who was accepted by a big publisher…. Or if you’re a self-publisher who already had the funds and the connections to have reviewers and advertisers promote your book (or simply not care much about your sales because you won’t be hungry at the end of the day if the book doesn’t sell well)… then you were probably lucky enough to not hit your breaking point during the writing process.

For you, maybe, lacking motivation only mattered to the extent of meeting deadlines.

But what if you’re a broke nobody whose work is taking longer than you ever anticipated for whatever reason?  What if you are someone whose work just wasn’t flashy or (cold hard truth) good enough to catch the eyes of agents and publishers?

You write day after day as the visions of your dreams and the sense of joy in your work become muddled. Maybe you start feeling like you really should be spending your time doing better things with your life than wasting it on a childish dream. Because for the lot of us it’s “time” that’s really the most precious and the most lacking thing in our lives.

If you’re lucky it’s because you’re busy piling up successes in other areas of your life.

If you’re unlucky it’s because you’re busy mending holes and finding shelters from the hailstorms in your life.

The dream can only push you so far until it feels too much like just a dream. The joy can only entrance you for so long until the joy feels empty and unearned.

Why write when I can do something that’ll actually pay the bills?

Why write when I can catch up on some sleep?

Why write when I spend a little more time with my loved ones? Make the next page of my life with them instead of another page of me sitting in front of a computer all night.

Time passing by feels as if you are watching your life drive away and leaving you stranded at a rest stop somewhere.

Right around this time, reality sinks in.

Chance of succeeding as a writer? Slim-to-none.

As a self-published writer? Hope you know how to do things other than just writing.

Your work? It’s an untested product in an overly saturated market.

The field of your work? A senile beast that’s still desperately trying to hold onto its golden years while the whole world has already moved on.

Your competition?  Ironically, too many.

Family and friends are split between those who know and those who don’t know. Split between those who give your their support and those who give you their concerns.

Your mind starts to play tricks.

The work you were satisfied with yesterday feels like they all need to be scrapped.

Other people’s works are unenjoyable because you end up analyzing it and breaking it down to science and wondering about your own work and how you’re doing.

At your most petty and ugly moments, you wonder how certain works could be so successful when they’re so trite, mundane, and cowardly. You know it’s wrong to think this way. You know it’s detrimental to yourself to think this way. But you can’t help it.

Because at the end of the day, you’re just tired and bored of writing for nothing. The motivations you had at the start are depleted. Maybe you’re even a little scared that you’re at the end already and things won’t change.

It gets harder to keep going even with your mind dangling a carrot in front of you because you realize maybe you’ll never get that carrot. Or because you realize there’s a reason why the carrot is dangling out of reach in the first place.

What do you mean the horse is already long dead? *wipes horse blood off*

What do you mean the point was already made like a page ago and I’m just writing to read my own voice? All I’m trying to say is it can get really tough to keep going and not being able to keep going can have much more dreadful implications to some than others.

Oops. *wipes horse blood off again*

The treatment I gave myself (other than binge eating Wendy’s to the point of the manager and I getting to know each other, pumping irons as if the weights owed me money, and taking vacations in fantasy lands of movies and videogames) was making my own motivations.

I don’t know what that would mean for others but for me it was making the decision that I may pay a great price for in the future. At the same time, that very decision was also the best thing I’ve done for my first project.

Beta-Reading.

Even though I knew that this was the path I had to take to complete my project, but it took me a little while to have the muster up the courage to just do it.

I’m not really a shy person or someone who’s afraid embarrassing himself (I mean, of course, I’d rather not).  But using English was, and to an extent it still is, a bit terrifying to me and it’s something that I never really managed to have a thick skin for. To be honest, I should really make some time to improve my English especially since I want to keep writing. Even though I became better about exposing my English abilities through Beta-Reading, I’m still to this day a bit insecure about it.  I think it might be the only thing that I’m really insecure about these days other than my suspicions that I might be balding.

And I really don’t like being insecure about anything… I think it’s a weakness in character and something that I should really address anytime I feel that way. Especially since I think, to an extent (though apparently science says otherwise), English is something I can improve on. If I’m balding, I’m screwed. That may push me over the edge to try to crowdfund hair implants for myself.

My uncles on my mom’s side aren’t bald though. No one’s bald in either of the gene pools. I’d be the first and my descendants would curse me for it.

But anyways, normally beta-readings are done when the novel is polished to the point that it wouldn’t be too embarrassing to show anyone. The beta-readers would read what would be close to the finished product.

I wasn’t even done writing mine let alone had it gone through an editor or even proof-read. All there was were a few drafts of earlier chapters, notes, and general plans for the rest of the novel in my head.

But I always thought it’d be interesting to do a beta-reading in a serialized format. I’d send a batch of chapters out every week and have discussions with my beta-readers every other week. Since this was my first project and the project itself was fairly complex for someone who’s never written anything longer than a thesis paper, I thought this process would give me the compass that I needed. The feedback I’d receive would allow me see if the plot points, tools, and what not, were delivered to the readers the way I intended.

The only thing that held me back was the fear of being naked by revealing my kryptonite to the beta-readers while at the same time telling these people, “yeah, so I’m trying to make this into a thing in my life. Like, hopefully live off of it.”

No one knew I was interested in writing or that I was capable of writing anything substantial.

Technically, I didn’t even know myself if I could write since this was my first venture into serious writing. I could very well be a terrible writer or even just a meh writer. If I could, I’d rather build a machine that’d hook up to my brain and simply create a movie or a book directly with what’s in my mind.

… I mean I suppose it’s possible that my imagination could also be crap and in that case the machine would be useless….

…But I wanted to keep writing. I wanted to be able to measure myself and see if I can improve—to find out where my limits are with this craft. For me this meant finding an audience and finding critics. That was my motivation. I’d accept that I am a crap writer as long as I knew for certain that I was crap.

I handpicked about eight people to be my beta-readers. Each of them selected for various reasons based on what I knew of them: their beliefs, insights, biases, tastes, and etc. The number I actually had in my mind was four, but I decided to double that amount because I wasn’t entirely sure how reliable beta-readers would be.

Ironically, out of the eight, only four read the whole novel and took the time to do the meet ups with me.

So, each week (or sometimes every couple of weeks with few hiatuses in between) I’d let my fingers puke out whatever was on my mind into the computer and once I had enough of piles of puke to form few chapters, I’d send them out to the beta-readers in a batch. I puked because it was a way to keep me writing instead of second-guessing and fixing every darn sentence and never making progress.

There were total of 22 batches and the beta-reading, including the meetings, took about a year to finish.

Most of these batches were only cleaned up and molded into what would closely resemble the final product after they were sent out. My beta-readers were troopers.

Eventually, after the beta-reading ended, the batches went through an editing process by me and then by my editor. Then we edited it again together over and over until we were at least happy enough to have it pried out of our hands. I was told that the first one will never feel complete and never feel good enough to publish… and that was true.

But I remember feeling an incredible contentment during one of the editing sessions knowing that I at least had some sort of a completed form of my novel.

I did it.

The days when I couldn’t even see the peak of this mountain flashed through my mind—when I was beaten, defeated, and at times even hopeless. But I was there now—at the peak—only a few steps away from planting the flag.

For me doing the beta-reading gave me the motivation I needed to keep writing. Not to mention the beta-reading meetings were some of the most fun and educational experiences I had with this project. They are also the fondest memories I have with my novel so far.

So how to find motivations from nothing? You can’t. But you can give yourself some new motivations.

Refuel that spark by giving meaning to your work again. I recommend finding something that’ll help you with your work in the long run—something that’ll be at least beneficial if not memorable.

I don’t think any of us should feel ashamed to feel overwhelmed and to find our selves lacking motivation to keep going. It’s like running a marathon—sometimes you hit your limit and you have to walk. You only lose if you quit. All the work you put into leaving all that road behind you would have been for naught only if you quit. But if you keep giving yourself a reason to walk forward you’re still in the race and every step you take is a step towards the finish line…. so on and so forth, yada, yada, maybe you’ll even find your second wind, yada, yada and when you finally get to cross the finish line whether your last place or not it won’t matter blah, blah, blah. Cliche, cliche, Powerade commercial, American-cheddar-cheese-cheesy, y’all get it.

The struggle is real for every single one of us but it’s also up to us to do whatever it takes to get something out of the struggle.

Hasslehoff smile.

80s Electro-outro-music.

Roll credits.

 

Keep Up With the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru
Shameless Plug: My book, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian (Young Adult Urban Fantasy), is out on November 21st 2014!

Check it out! HERE!
SAMPLE: HERE!

P.S. So… this should have been released earlier this week but I had trouble being comfortable enough with this entry to release it until now (holy cow it’s 5 am and I need get up in 2 hours). I’m going to keep that outdated(?) date on the “Shameless Plug” on there as a badge of shame. Good night everybody.

P.S. 2 (Oh, right. How could I pay the price for the beta-reading in the future? The abomination that is Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian ALPHA version that the beta-readers had to read is floating around somewhere on the internet. My editor and I actually discussed perhaps releasing samples of this version one day to discuss the power of editing and the changes I’ve/We’ve made)

 

Update: I Promise I’m Alive!

The blog at least deserves some sort of an explanation of what I’ve been up to so here it is:

 

~LIFE AFTER A SUCCESSFUL KICKSTARTER~

 

Much like everything else with this project, the events after the KickStarter were anything but smooth.

Aside from life complicating, there were some problems receiving funds from a couple of the backers which caused a few delays.  Getting the backer rewards, which was planned beforehand and should have been the simplest part of all this, turned out to be an adventure of its own as well. Some of the highlights of it were: braving through a dark forest on a stormy night, endless drives on the freeway, a broken car,  and punching a baby kidnapper. Only one of those things are untrue.

Other than that, most of my writing time was taken up working on the 6×9 format (which was one part that I actually didn’t expect to be so time consuming but ended up taking up a ridiculous amount of time) for the print copy of the novel for the KickStarter backers, working on the full book cover for the said print copy of the novel, another—final—editing run through of the novel, becoming paranoid and second guessing every aspect of the novel,  how many more times can I say of the novel when I’m writing about… oh yes… I also made another attempt at making a better EPUB format of the novel.

It was a splendid way of making me feel really disappointed and defeated over a weekend.

Obviously, EPUB is very important as the plan is to self-publish but at the same time it made me hate myself, Kindle, EPUB, and all of you freedom loving readers out there who wants to change the fonts to whatever you want with the book you’re reading.

Let me tell you about EPUB formatting.  EPUB formatting is like the construction noise on a Sunday should-have-been-tranquil-morning,  it’s that dude who asks you for something not when you were leaving but when you came back to the table to sit down, IT’S that nasty cop who breaks the speed limit, cuts you off, gives you the finger, put his gun out the window, shoots in the air while screaming “WHAT YOU GONNA DO?! I’M THE POPO!”

EPUB is the Cecilia Gimenez to InDesign.  Apparently only way (someone can correct me if they know better) to make EPUB format at least half as presentable as InDesign is to be well versed in CSS, go through licensing issues, and even then it’ll only work with supporting devices.  The format was never designed to be pretty – I get that but I feel like it’s robbing the novel’s presentation and part of its intended experience. It might be far from being extraordinary, but I’ve spent lot of time and energy into the formatting and it’s just a very incomplete feeling to put this out as my product and cheat whatever reader it may find from the full experience I planned and wanted to give them.

Anyways, my advice? Use Scrivener to write your initial work as it is one of the best tools out there for writers.  Then use InDesign to create that book of your dreams (unless you’re hiring out but part of the fun of self-publishing is that you can do everything). Be enamored by your creation and  then find a hard, clean surface to bash your head in as it becomes neutered through the process of converting it to EPUB (Calibre is a nice free program that’ll at least hold your hand through the pain. I recommend going through Calibre before turning your file over to Amazon for their converter).

If someone wants to enlighten me and let me know I’m wrong about everything that’s EPUB (or about life) I’m more than willing to listen.

So that’s it! This was quickie. You’ll be able to tell the quickies when they lack even the most basic editing.

The next two actual entries that are being worked on are:


How to Find Motivations From Nothing” – as I mentioned before.

&

“a Date with My Characters” – My editor for the novel thought this would be a good one because she thought it was an unique process.

&

People Come & Go” –  The personal entry I had in mind has been scrapped and currently I’m set on doing this topic I alluded to in my previous entries.


All of these will either have to be scheduled with one of my editors or I may just post them raw if I feel it’ll take too long to have them edited.

Before I finish this entry, I’d like to take a moment to give a sincere apology about my lack of better updates and not being able to keep up with the schedule that I said I’d follow. Though I’m usually timely with most aspects of my life, I found that I still struggle being able to properly estimate my schedule and timings with anything regarding writing.

I’m sorry.

P. S. A couple of people told me it’d be a good idea to write about my experiences with KickStarter. I started a draft or two but I became a bit uncertain regarding  if I was telling anyone, anything substantial.  If you thought – KickStarter is mostly for tech and people already with a following – you’d be correct. Even though I found my small success, I wouldn’t recommend it for people who are not an established figure as a reliable mean of getting funding for their project. However, if you’re taking it as something “not much to lose but a lot to gain” sort of deal – go for it. But there are definitely a proper way of doing things for this mindset as well. You have to approach it and think about it differently.

There were also some unexpected developments through KickStarter that I’m not sure if significant but I guess might be interesting to share… though nothing ever came of it…

…screw it.  Let’s put  a quickie regarding KickStarter on queue as well.

 

The novel, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian,  is currently scheduled to be released on 11/11/2014!
Keep Up With the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru

Another Update! Have a Sample of My Upcoming Novel!

Hello Everyone!

Time is just flying by as my editor and I are doing a last read through of my novel, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian to prepare for its release.

I thought it might be good idea to start a KickStarter to generate a little more funding for marketing to better ensure the project’s success.

As part of my KickStarter, I created a sample of the novel to giveaway and I thought to share it with you all as well!

Click [HERE] for the sample! It’s in PDF format so I hope it’ll be accessible to anyone who wants to read it. Hope you all enjoy it and please feel free to share any comments, complaints, and questions you may have!

My KickStarter should start next week and I’m crossing fingers that it’ll be a success though I am fully prepared that it could be a failure as well.

But it’d be nice if it’s a success though right?

Yeah. That’d be nice.

See y’all soon with the next entry: “How to Find Motivations From Nothing

Keep Up With the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru