Friday, November 30, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018 In Review

Well it's over - that great month of insanity known as NaNoWriMo.

And if you recall from the previous post I had determined to write a complete first draft of two different novels in the same month.  So how did that work out?

Did I make it?
Did it just about kill me?
Do I kind of regret signing on for that much?

Yes, to all three.


But it's over now, so I thought I'd share with you guys a little postmortem of things and a few gravy quotes of what you can look forward to when the full books are finally released.

Interestingly, the two couldn't have been more opposite.

Elfworld:
  • Male Protagonist
  • Just a fun, wild, and light-hearted comedy.
  • Total "pantster". I had had absolutely no plan in mind going into it, just this basic idea of the world.
  • The characters are all relaxed, endearing, and in some ways nigh invincible.
  • Has a totally concrete "and they lived happily ever after" ending.  (Well, TWO of those, actually.  But you'd have to read it to get what I mean by that.)

Yet One Way Ticket:
  • Female Protagonist.
  • A deep, brooding dystopia where mortality confronts the characters at every turn.
  • Total "planster".  I had a number of ideas that I wanted to work in and spent the entire first day doing nothing but outlining.  (If you look at my word graph it's easy to see when I switched.  I did a whopping 18 words that day, vs the usual 3,000 or more!)
  • The characters are flawed, broken, plagued with self-doubt.  At one point you don't even know who to trust. 
  • Ends with a major twist, a huge new development in the world, and characters geared up and ready to go for a sequel (though I han'd been planning to make either a series.  I couln't leave their world the way it was and so it just played out that way.)
In other ways they turned out strikingly similar. 
  • Their main adversaries were high-level influencers in their world system. 
  • Both heroes are a part of a dedicated, hand-picked team which allegedly has a traitor in its midst.
  • The main plot consisted of a physical journey from here to there.
  • Protagonist is an everyday person who learns way too much about the way the world works, their place in it, and brings themself under fire due to their unique special abilities.

In fact, at one point in both stories, the leading female character gets a certain thing into her head and has to be bodily carried away from the situation like a sack of potatoes.  I don't know why I happened to use that exact same plot device twice in a row, but the situation seemed to call for it, so... whatever, I guess.

I've had to shelve stories in the past that simply didn't seem to work out right, but both of these seem like winners in their own way.  Since I literally only finished it moments ago, I have no feedback on One-Way Ticket yet, but concerning Elfworld, I've heard my pre-alpha readers physically laughing out loud, so that's a good compliment! :)

I think you'll probably see both in print someday.

Anyway, here are a couple of great excerpts from each that you can enjoy until then.
(You can totally see the huge difference between the two stories from the tone of the quotes below.)

One-Way Ticket:

Nature had done its job well, and the body had no remaining odor to it. All that remained behind were bones and a few stray hairs.

Stricken with a sudden morbid curiosity, she reached over plucked one up.

Drawing it out, she watched in mute fascination as it slid through her thumb and forefinger.

Who were you, once? she mentally asked the bones. You had pretty hair. she added, realizing that the color and length was not dissimilar to her own.

How does it come to this? You were just an average woman living in Utopia. she thought, not sure which one of them she was addressing. But The Collectives had their points to make, didn't they? And so, here you are.

Were you going to the fridge for a snack when it happened? she wondered. Were you making a meal for your family? Are they buried here too?

Or did your body simply fall here? Thrown out with the rest like any common piece of garbage?

The bones would not answer.

Elfworld:

His friends had long ago given up any idea of participating in the fighting and now merely stood aside and watched. Though he plowed through the soldiers as reckless as lemming on crack, and though he had too many holes in him to count, Benny's life bar hadn't budged a single tick.

If the previous battles were any indication, he should be feeling tremendous physical pain right now, but apparently the effects of Trina's last Courage +50 were eclipsing even that.

Kamauski cleared his throat. "Um, guys. You know we're probably the worst fantasy team of all time, right? I mean, the only reason we're even winning right now is because we slipped our own leader a power-up mickey so he'd do all the fighting for us..."

They nodded slowly.

"No, okay. As long as you're good with it."

One-Way Ticket:

From her present point of view the city seemed to be a rare oasis of life in this world of war and decay, but now Emily had seen the truth behind the illusion, however. It was no oasis at all, but a great and hungry leech, sucking away the life and all good things from the surrounding land. This even included its own underground, for not but a level or two below the surface, the destitute people of the Fells treadled the great millstone that made the whole engine turn. Utopia, built upon hollow stuffs, in more ways than one.

Elfworld:

On the TV screen, a drone shot panned across a roaring stadium of mixed-species fans of all walks of life.

Cut to a balding announcer in a crooked tie. "We're back! Bottom of the sixth, Cubs are still up by two. It's been an exciting game sportsfans."

Same announcer, in voice-over as they cut to the diamond. "But they may be in trouble, folks, coach has sent in Kellan Frostbeard."

A white-bearded dwarf spit (not to be racist, but dwarves tended to like that part of the sport), tapped the dirt off his cleats, and settled into his stance.

"Now, Frostbeard led the league in RBI's last season, despite having a fairly low number of hits."

Another voice, "Right you are, Chuck, but I'd like to remind you that when looking at the stats of your halfling batters it all comes down to a question of whether the pitcher can put it across the strike zone or not. And with the bases loaded like they are, it looks like the Cubbies could be in for --"

Untold thousands of fans around the nation groaned in unison as the picture cut out in favor of the station logo.


Well, that's it for now.  I guess I have to come out of hibernation now and see what real life has to offer. ;)


Live YOUR Adventure,
-E.L. Fletcher

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

NaNoWriMo Double-Down!

So you guys asked for Elfworld, and you know what?  You got Elfworld!  (Or a first draft, at least.)

Submitted for your approval, a photographic re-enactment of me crushing it:




But here's the real question.  Today is Nov 14 - only halfway through NaNoWriMo - but I've already got the 50,000 words in.

Therefore, since I wrote the one you wanted for the first of the month, I'm going to write the one I want for the second half.  Sound fair?

That makes this post my second NaNo announcment.  This time the book is:



One Way Ticket
(Working title only.  Still thinking up a cool name.)

 In a dystopian future, the continent has been reduced to a number of warring city-states. Each, in a desperate scramble for survival has devolved to the level of bloodthirsty efficiency. Needless to say that when Emily Conrad is diagnosed with a terminal illness, she suddenly finds herself running out of options.

Only one alternative remains: To join the army's death squad division and at least go out with a bang!

Sound exciting? 
I hope so.
For updates, follow me on social media (links on the right) and my NaNoWriMo profile.




Till then, Live Your Adventure!
-E.L.Fletcher

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nanowrimo 2018 announcement!

Yes folks, it's that time of year again.  Time to binge write like a person half my age and end up getting wheeled off to the looney bin.  Fun times!

This year I narrowed it down to three ideas and let you, my loyal fans, decide on social media.

Well, the votes are in and the winner is...


Okay, first off I had way too much fun doctoring that image. :)

And secondly, the elf dude actually does resemble one of the characters shaking out of the story.  His name is Hadley Morrel, a power-executive who seeks to leverage the q.e. for his own financial gain.

Oh, but what is the q.e.?  You may ask.

The q.e. is the Quantum Eclipse. 

You see, it turns out that "parallel dimensions" are anything but parallel. Rather, they are constantly adrift, coming in and out of phase with one another. 

The reason why our culture has been so influenced by the the fantasy genre is because that particular dimension is nearing our own. 

Of course, Benny doesn't realize any of this until he arrives at the office one morning and holds the door for an elf with a briefcase. The fantasy world is suddenly mashed up with our own, and he grows increasingly frustrated that only he seems to know the difference between the two!

Now he has to walk that fine line between fantasy and reality, and hopefully save both from tyranny and destruction!

There are some great surprises along the way, including some guest appearances by certain persons you may know.  I'm not going to say any more than that.  You'll have to read the book.  :)-

Anyway, the first day of binge-writing went rather well, propelling me to a respectable start of 6,590 words.  NaNo says if I can keep that up I'll be done in a week.  I make no promises in that regard though. Lol!

Finally, if you are a fellow NaNoWriMo participant, you can find me / buddy me / verbally abuse me via:
https://nanowrimo.org/participants/edmund-lloyd-fletcher

Friday, October 19, 2018

Be Safe Out There.

The artist space I'm a member of is doing a big push to get everybody to keep MSDS safety sheets on file for all of the supplies they use.

Being an author, I'm feeling a little left out of the "fun", so I made this.

Be safe out there, folks! ;)
Here's a close-up of the hazard icons:


(I love the word "foodstuffs", by the way.)
And if you want the whole thing, you can download as an OpenOffice drawing or a PDF file.


Well, keep smiling and Live Your Adventure,
-E.L. Fletcher


Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: The Ishbane Conspiracy





The Ishbane Conspiracy
By Angela, Karina, and Randy Alcorn
ISBN: 9781576738177

Cover description:

Sneak a peek over the enemy's shoulder as Lord Foulgrin describes his plan to capture the souls of four young friends. Picture-perfect Jillian is terrified of getting hurt. Tough-talking Brittany trusts nobody. Successful athlete Ian dabbles in the occult. And former gang member Rob struggles with old guilt and new faith. Will they resist temptation?

Here's the deal:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnFX20phQ3j/Any instagrammies (insta... grannies?  What??) reading this will recall I recently made out like a bandit at a library book sale.

Well, one of the things I came away with was The Ishbane Comspiracy by Randy Alcorn.  (Third book down in the far left stack.) When it happened, I was a little short of time, so I saw "Randy Alcorn", grabbed it, and kept right on swimming through the book table like Scrooge MacDuck.

It, in fact, is not only written by Randy Alcorn, but also his two daughters Angela and Karina.  Truth be told, it was probably written entirely by them, only leveraging their father's name to get ahead...  which I don't begrudge them.  It's is nice work if you can get it, right? ;)

Anyway, I didn't realize until I finished it, that this is technically a sequel to another book called Lord Foulgrin's Letters.  You can very well read Ishbane all on its own as I did (it stands alone fairly well), but I believe reading the other first would give some helpful backstory on the Foulgrin vs. Ishbane conflict as well as what happened with Mr Jordan Fletcher, the father.

Yep, the family's name is Fletcher.  Good name. :)

On to the review:


I honestly didn't know what to expect going into this.  It seemed more like a This Present Darkness straight-up spiritual warfare story, but turned out to be more like The Screwtape Letters.

[Aside:  For those who don't know C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters is about a demon writing to his nephew/apprentice about the best ways to beat you up and kill you.]

The first book even brands itself as "a screwtape letters for our day", which, yes and no.  I have to say that a lot of the "our day" stuff was a little dated, even for the 2001 printing date.  But hey, if you write it off as the world the book is set in, you can move right along, no problem.

As to the screwtape letters angle, I liked that they intermingled a narrative story with the letters between the two demons.  Unfortunately, they chose to always include one letter per chapter.  The chapters themselves were short and sweet (if you've read my stuff, you know I like that model).  But mix the two things together, however, and you have a lot of demon banter that is simply there for filler.  As the book progresses you come to dread getting to the end of the action because you know that you'll have to wade through two pages of Hell's politics before getting on with the story!

And to make matters worse, demons, as it turns out, always seem to speak in mixed-metaphors.  Why?  Well that brings me to...

The biggest problem, however, can be seen before you even get to chapter 1.  Just take a look at the acknowledgments page.  Usually, it's a one liner, like, "I want to thank God and Uncle Jessie for always standing by me." ;)  This book lists over a full page of people who all threw in their ten cents!

So what does that mean in a practical sense?  It means that they tried to cram in every possible thought about Christianity as it relates to the modern world.  I mean, to their credit, they get it all right.  Flat out nailing that many culture/worldview issues is no small fete!  But the thing is, doing it all in one book... that's a bit much.

No.  Strike that.  A Kendrick Brothers film covers a bit much.  This is like four Kendrick films smooshed together.

For instance, this book tackles: underage drinking, drinking and driving, drug abuse, new age, tarot, oiji boards (giving us a full chronological history), transcendental meditation, crystals, homosexuality, abortion, wicca, teen sex, school shootings, relativism, metaphysics, suicide, pop music, irreducible complexity, heaven, bullying, harry potter, peer pressure, media bias, college anti-christian prejudice, down syndrome babies, out-of-body experiences, liberal parenting, familiar spirits, and, of course, the meaning of salvation.

And this is just a sampling off the top of my head!

All those things are great topics that need to be discussed.  But pick ONE!  (Maybe two or three at most.)

Of course, this is the reason behind all of the mixed-metaphors that I was complaining about earlier.  It's this continual shifting from one great analogy to another without a clutch that's really grinding my gears. (Now how's that for a metaphor!  No?  Okay, moving on...)

Finally by the time we reach the major climax of the book (I won't spoil it) we have one -- count 'em, ONE -- chapter for the characters to come to grips with what happened.  You know how in my review of Haunted House Flipper I applauded the author for having such a clean, tight ending.  Well, that's doubly to his credit if even the Alcorns have a hard time getting it together.

At this point I want to pause my ranting and call a time-out.   In these reviews I'm always worried that people will read all of my negative comments and go, "Wow, thanks, I sure don't want to read that one, then!"

I mean, some of them are that way, but if that's the take-home, I'll definitely say so.

This book... erm...
Well, read the summary and find out.

Summary:

I would recommend reading the first book if you can.  If not, don't sweat it too much.  Go ahead and grab this one anyway.  It stands well enough on its own.

As far as the book itself:  It's good, but it does cover a lot of ground.  I think if you know that going into it, and you're ready and willing to take that journey, no problem. 

If, on the other hand, you're not feeling up for that and want something with a clear, straightforward theme...  Well, I wouldn't say don't read it.  I'd rather say, keep it on your shelf until the day you are in the mood to chew through it.


Live YOUR adventure!
  -E.L. Fletcher


P.S.

Interestingly, one of the metaphors in chapter 3:
"No I mean it.  I'm not in control.  Neither are you.  We can do what we can do, but let's face it, we don't pull the strings of the universe.  It's like we're on a big ship crossing the ocean and we can do certain things on board, like eat lunch or play shuffleboard or take a nap or read a book.  But we can't make the ship go wherever we want."
I noticed must have come directly from the A.W. Tozer book I recently reviewed! Concerning the sovreignty of God, Tozer says:
On board the [ocean] liner are several scores of passengers.  These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree.  They are completely free to move about as they will.  They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward to a predetermined port.
How's that for good timing?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Review: Haunted House Flipper

ISBN: 978-1983682025

Cover Description:


Ray is a friendless realtor who stumbles on supernatural tools that get rid of demons. He decides to flip haunted mansions by ridding them of demons, renovating them, then selling them for a hefty profit. Discover a new world within our own as Ray learns how to use his supernatural tools, fights demons, makes new friends, & outsmarts new enemies.

Background:

So here's how it happened.  I was just hanging out on the socials, trying to keep up with all that rigamaroll, when a guy on Instagram starts talking about this strange new book he's reading about a "haunted house flipper".  (Much the same as the description above.)  I was intrigued by the concept and started asking more about it.

Turns out the author himself was lurking on the conversation since his name was @ tagged.  He was like "here, lemme send you a copy".  And I'm all like, "Kay."  -- Though the conversation may have been less teenager-y than that, that was the jest of it.

He sent me the ebook, not asking for a review or anything, just, "here you go".

But I liked the story and thought I'd write a review anyway, so here goes...

Review:

First the cons:

As far as the technical craftsmanship, a couple of things fell a little short. 

First off, the cover.  I mean, it works, and it isn't MS Paint by any means, but it does seem a little lacking when compared to many so-called "professional" designs.  Maybe a B- project in Photoshop class.  Especially surprising since the author is not a bad artist, so I assume part of this could be a "personal taste" factor at play here.  Anyway, I had the ebook, so it really wasn't front-and-center to bother me regardless.


The other thing that seemed to fall a little short was in the writing.  Though in many ways very well done, the author's tendency to re-use the same word over and over got a little monotonous.  Again, a passing grade by all means, and like the cover design, your average reader not being so obsessed with the minute details of the craft probably wouldn't notice.

This problem was further compounded by the choice to write in the first person.  Not an easy undertaking, but in doing so, every sentence tends to go I... I... I...  And with the two together we arrive at:  I needed to ride the bus so I went to the bus stop and I waited for the bus.  When the bus came I got on the bus... I, bus, I, bus, I, bus... Sheesh!

All that nitpickery aside, none of this amounts to much of a handicap.  The critical part of any novel is always the story, and this one turned out to be engrossing enough that after a couple of chapters the writing style became irrelevant.  And that's really where it counts, #amiright?

The story, though everything the description promises, wound up having several eyebrow-raising twists and facets to it, which were delightfully clever and unexpected.

For instance, when I heard about the concept of casting out demons and turning a profit from it, I wondered, "Interesting idea, but would that really be ethical?"  The author has a creative, and again, unexpected, way of addressing that.

Not to spoil it, but as a teaser (and probably the defining quote of the book IMO), at one point Ray says:
"I only knew how to serve myself so that's what guided my decision.  I would get rid of that demon all right, but I would do it so I could flip that mansion and make a huge profit from it."
In fact, whenever the plot ran into any questionable situation, the author did a great job of putting it right in terms of a proper Christian worldview -- yet at the same time not painting a false picture of the world as being all saccharine and Kumbaya.  The story doesn't spare the blood and grit of real life, which I truly appreciate.

The characters also really grow on you, and the excitement and peril keep you sucked in and always wanting to know what happens next.

Side note: I don't how to work this into the course of the review.  In fact, I don't even know if this was cleverly intentional, or just a mere coincidence, but I noticed that the first demon battle occurred in chapter 13!  How apropos!

Finally, although the ending in many indie books tends to be either either rushed or left unresolved, this one is orchestrated perfectly.  The plot is all tied up with a neat little bow, yet with just the few unexplored dimensions to make you wonder, "Gee, I wonder what happens next?"

In Summary:

Even though I spilt a little of the proverbial red ink at the beginning of this review, in the end I can honestly say that this is a delightful story which I'd recommend for anyone to read.

That is doubly so if you have friends who are realtors or even full-blown house-flippers.  In which case, you absolutely MUST get them a copy of this book!  They'll love it!

Más Awesomesauce:

(Yeah, I've been hitting the Duolingo Español a little heavy lately.  Cut me some slack.)

I don't usually give props to the author's website itsself, but this one is worth looking at.  It is rich with other audiobooks and short stories, many of them FREE for the downloading.  Check it out:
www.DanDanTheArtMan.com

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Writer's Power-Tip: How to get away with anything you want!


Okay, so I thought I'd check in here and give my fellow writers one of the most valuable and revolutionary discoveries I've found while learning the craft of fiction writing.

Suppose, say, you are fact-checking your novel and realize, "wait a minute, that can't happen because    X   !"  Whatever X is.

Now, if X happens to be a continuity problem within the story itself, then the real and preferred solution is to go back and rewrite such that everything fits together nicely.  (There is another option which I'll get to later.)

But what if X has to do with a physical real-world fact which you have no control over?  Then what do you do?  Again, you could go back and change the story to fit, and in many cases, should.  But another, and far more interesting option I've found is to instead incorporate the dilemma itself into your story world.

For example, in the book I'm working on, my MacGuffin contains a specific type of gemstone.  (Hence the article image above.)  The only problem is: this mineral is not found in the region that the item is supposed to originate from!  Oops!

Well, I could have done the obvious thing at this point and gone back and changed the type of gemstone (to something nowhere near as cool)  or even changed the setting to somewhere the gem is found.  What I did instead is, as aforementioned, incorporate that "mistake" into my worldbuilding.

There could be a lot of different ways to do that.  One way I could have used is to make the item's real origin (the place where the mineral is found) into a mystery that the characters must uncover along the way.

What I chose in this instance was to make a secret deposit of the valuable mineral in the area.  Not only did this explain away the issue, but it also added an entirely new dimension to the plot, in effect, upping the ante!  Now, not only would victory mean the characters' survival (always an option I hope to pursue in my personal life as well) but also, the reward of untold riches!

"Oh, come on," you protest,  "an amazing undiscovered mineral suddenly popping up in the middle of noplace.  Are people really going to buy that tall tale?"

I suspect so, considering the $202 million bucks that Black Panther brought in on opening weekend.  (You know, that one story about an undiscovered mineral, vibranium, suddenly popping up in the middle of noplace...)

The thing is, writing is not a linear deal.  You can go back any time and re-craft your world in any way that you need to such that the story works out the way you want it.

Finally, before I go, I promised to give another option besides revising to plug continuity problems in a story.

In another example, in the Queen of Atlantis, I wrote myself into a pickle where the team is assembling the gear for their adventure and Michael takes away Jane's camera demanding that it be left behind.  The idea seemed straightforward, but upon writing it down... here he's ready to hop in the van and leave... but now he's got this thing in his hands.  Awkward!

"So, hold on everybody.  Stand there and chew some bubblegum, talk amongst yourselves, while I run this inside."  -- Well that sure doesn't work, does it?

Ah, I have it.  He turns around and hands it to his butler to take care of.  Problem: solved!  ... or is it?  But who is this guy?  Where did he come from?  Now I need to introduce him somewhere else in the story (which is already lagging) and then make sure he's there that morning... give him something to do... ugh!  And all that for very, very little payoff just to have an "extra" standing there at the right moment.

So how did I solve it?  I completely wrote it off!
She reluctantly unslung the padded camera bag and handed it over to him.

Michael, in turn, handed it to a servant who Jane hadn't noticed a moment earlier.  "I'll hang onto it for you.  You can come back here and get it when you return."
In two sentences an unnamed servant materializes out of thin air, performs his one reason for existing, and is gone.  Yup.  A total cheat.  But it works and (unless you read this beforehand) you'd probably never even notice the phantom butler.

I think the lesson I'm learning through all of this is that, so long as you explain it to the reader, whether it's a full-blown plot device as in the first example, or even the almost scandalous, "oh, I never noticed that guy standing there" from the second,  you can basically get away with anything you want!

This is very good news for us authors, and, I hope, another valuable tool that you can keep in your bag of tricks.


Keep writing and,
Live Your Adventure!
    - E.L. Fletcher