What Ifs, Overcoming, and Writing

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Writers deal with what ifs. The source of the inspiration to write a certain thing may come from memories or observation, but generally something grounded in real life affects us differently than it might someone who is not inclined to write. Maybe the same is true of all artists, drawing inspiration from those things in life that others overlook or pass by, but in the peculiar case of someone who will write, there is desire or even desperate need to explore possibilities. What if I hadn’t been so uncoordinated when it came to playing sports? What if I had the nerve to ask the prettiest girl in high school for a date? What if I’d been born in a different time? What if I really was an alien infant left on my parent’s doorstep?

Anything’s possible – especially for a fantasy writer.

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

I’m no different in finding inspiration in strange places. A lot of the things I have written borrow moments from direct experiences. In many ways Brent Woods, the main character in Fried Windows and several of my other books, is an alter ego. He is braver, more outspoken and a good bit more athletic and coordinated than I ever was but he and I think alike. You see, its safer as a writer to stick close to things you know. And who do you know better than yourself and your family. So I contrived a family for Brent that is somewhat like my own, and had him grow up in my hometown. Of course we share a several interests such as music and favorite books. We are intentionally similar, after all. And, Brent eventually becomes a writer. I mean – what else could he do?

Where Brent and I differ is that he is by far more of a doer than an observer. Some writers are like that. Many are not. However, when you read about his past and especially his first person accounts of certain things, as a reader you aren’t all that certain that Brent really ever did any of the things he writes about. After all, he enters fantasy worlds pretty much at will. But then, don’t all writers have that ability?

Brother Baris Circa 1940

Early on in life I was sheltered. My mother wanted to protect me from everything dangerous in the world. It was perhaps natural since she had lost her first son. I was the replacement more so than my two older sisters. I had to carry on the family name. My father wanted me to follow in his footsteps, taking over the farm he bought when I was eight years old. Mom would barely consent to allowing me to participate in any sports at school because of the risk of injury. However on the farm I was into a lot of things that were at least as dangerous.

In school overcame the label slow reader. My dyslexia made learning to read a challenge and, as it went undiagnosed, I was passed along in school because I made good grades in every other subject. You see, I remember almost everything I hear. So if a teacher told me what was in a book I didn’t have to read it to know the material for a test. Eventually, on my own and through determination, I devised a way of learning how to read. By the fourth or fifth grade I had pretty-much caught up with everyone else. Still, I was branded a slow reader, because I struggled to read aloud in class even though I could read several hundred words per minute silently.

Me in early 1980's before job interview

After I learned to read I developed a voracious appetite for books. In college I averaged more than a book a day. I don’t have the time to do that anymore – not with working a job, writing, editing and revising. However, I still read a lot and for most of the novels I read I write reviews and post them either in a blog or as comments on a site like Goodreads or on the author’s Amazon link.

My dad always told me to never quit and always believe that I could be anything I really wanted to be. The key word in that advice is “really”. As opposed to wishing for something to happen, imagining a what if into being, being determined to do everything necessary to achieve a goal is what’s required to succeed – even overcoming disabilities and the setbacks that others will label as failures along the way.

#writing #FriedWindows #BrentWoods #AlterEgo #overcoming




Update on The Wolfcat Chronicles


The revisions on Book Five are complete. I submitted the manuscript yesterday. I’m already into book Six. I finished adjusting the chapter sequence for story flow yesterday and made it into chapter three last night.

For the most part what I have been doing throughout the revision for the entire series is looking for redundancies and removing them. I have needed to amply some descriptions and made other minor changes to be consistent throughout the series. One can only do this while working on all the books. You see – when you write a series it is easy to forget some little details. That is why programs like Scrivener are probably an asset for writing longer works of fiction. But I composed this entire series using MS Word. Over the years I have edited it and revised it several times using either MS Word or Open Office. I could import it into Scrivener and sort of reverse engineer the story, adding in index cards for each chapter to help keep thing straight, but at this point that would take more time than necessary.

At this point I know the story very well. Since I wrote the first part of it almost thirteen and a half years ago I have read and reread it dozens of times. But what happens with revisions is that a part will be eliminated that impacts other parts of the story. One change begets a domino effect for every part that follows. Fortunately I’m not making major changes anymore. But still, I am finding small details that related to things that have been removed in prior revisions. This is a very good reason to revise and edit books while sober and undistracted. Lately I have been doing my revisions without listening to music or only playing music that I have listened to often enough hat it no longer distracts my attention – which means I’m listening to a lot of older stuff like 70’s music.

There may be a few things that will be tweaked as the books progress through substantive editing and content editing, but I’m pleased with he story flow and the story arc, the latter is difficult to do with a story that spans several books. There is a master plot for the series, of course. But I found it essential for the telling to maintain he integrity of the three main sections as originally composed. So, while there are pieces of story that help build toward the conclusion of the series, the immediate focus in to conclude the interim crises and conflicts.

The first second of the story I wrote was the middle part that now spans five books. As the entire series will be produced the lengths of the books and even the number of books may change. And so this 3500 page, ten book series may be presented as seven or eight longer books. Those are decisions that will be made in the course of substantive edits. But as the series has been adjusted and paced the first section comprises five books. Each book has an overall theme directed to the part of the story – in this case the One Pack section – as well as and individual book theme. The conflicts, climaxes and resolutions work the same way. There are major ones that span five books and also one that spans the entire series, but then there are conflicts that are resolved in a shorter span. I’m not sure this level of complexity to the plot could have been achieved had the series been composed in a more traditional way, one book at a time.

Some writers use outlines and have a great deal of structure from the initial planning of the story. Although I have composed books in that manner it is not the way I created The Wolfcat Chronicles. I developed the characters first, worked on some dialogue and then followed the characters around in their interactions. The first 413 page draft of One Pack lacked a good deal of detail and had gaping holes in the plot, however, the basic story idea was there. In revisions more things were explored, more conflicts presented and, as the story grew the complexity of the plot increased. Also the characters became more realistic with internal conflicts compelling their actions. Other, secondary characters were added in and eventually the story expanded to over 1200 pages.


In the course of writing The Last Wolfcat, which was envisioned as a three book series from the outside, the story was composed as the main characters were followed. At some point midway through composing the second book of that section, I was involved in editing a children’s book. My publisher at the time suggested I write a children’s book based on the wolfcats. His thinking was that it might be a quick way to get a book out with the basic character ideas. He was concerned that I was engaged in a never-ending writing project – and to some extent so was I.

I writing the ‘kids story’ I decided to do a prequel to One Pack beginning with when the two wolfcats, Ela’na and Rotor, were young. Although the story quickly evolved to be anything but a children’s book, I learned things about the characters that needed to be feathered in and corrected throughout the entire series that followed. And so, midway through the second book of the Last Wolfcat, I performed a massive revision to One Pack and completed Spectre of Dammerwald (the two book prequel) before continuing to tell the concluding part of the story.

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

Although I completed the tenth book I was never totally satisfied with how the book ended. I have since figured out why I had issues with it. The concluding part will be rewritten with this current revision and will tie into Fried Windows, a yet to be published book called The Power of X and an as yet untitled book that is the sequel to The Power of X. These books follow the Brent Woods character who appears in The Last Wolfcat and also give insight into Ela’na’s adventures on Earth and much more detail about th offspring of Rotor and Ela’na.

#TheWolfcatChronicles #FriedWindows #BrentWoods #Revising #Writing #Publishing


The Wolfcat Chronicles Book 4 Revision Completed


Earlier this morning I completed the revision to Book Four of The Wolfcat Chronicles. Titled A Necessary Evil it continues the One Pack storyline begun in Book Three Shattered Truce. As part of the One Pack project I began with the original draft written between May and July in 2000, the story follows the wolfcats Ela’na and Rotor while introducing a number of new characters and updating the lives of other supporting characters from the first two books of the series The Spectre’s Warning and A Warrior’s Heart. I submitted the manuscript to my publisher this morning. There are now four wolfcat books in consideration and I continue with revisions on the remaining six books of the series.

Book Four had some minor revisions challenges with the flow of the story. Several of the chapters were longer than what I now consider normal (2000 to 2500 words). Where possible I wanted to speed up the story. I also moved some chapters before or after other chapters to aid in the fluidity of the presentation, advancing different storylines.

Early on in Book Three a human character named Tomas is introduced. Although he is not a major character int he action of that book he is a catalyst for the triggering event that drags the wolfcats into conflict. Tomas becomes important later on in the series. A portion Book Four that is about Tomas was previously relocated into Book Three as part of the revision process for that book. In adjusting the flow for Book Four a couple of chapters that were previously in Book Five were moved into Book Four toward the end. Also, several of the chapters were split into two sections and presented in a more logical event sequence which should enhance the reading experience.

I have already begun working on Book Five. Last night I rearranged some of the chapters early on in the book to better align with the structure of Book Four. The remainder of the book is already organized in a similar way. So I do not foresee much further rearranging. However, I am concerned with the length of some of the chapters in Book Five and may have to adjust the story accordingly, adding some to later of earlier chapters. My intention is not to change the overall story so much as to fix the sequencing of events so that the story is logical for the reader.

Also in Book Five there is the first major departure of Ela’na from Anter’x with her visit to a futuristic Ea where she continues to learn about humans and the impact of wolfcats on their history. These elements are key in bridging The Wolfcat Chronicles into the larger One Over X storyline as well as making the proper connections into Fried Windows and other stories about Brent Woods, most of which take place after the events in The Wolfcat Chronicles.

The ten books of The Wolfcat Chronicles comprise about one third of the entire interconnected storyline that follows the lives of minor characters from one series as main characters in other. I feel this has helped lend a level of realism to the characters and their background as well as proving greater depth to the overall creation process.

Writing all the storylines and having them connect properly has taken the bulk of the past ten years. I was writing part time while working as a retail manager. That is not something I recommend as I was also a father of three and a husband. Often some things suffered as other things took on greater importance. Spending 70 hours a week at work left scarce time for me. And so I tended to write after I got home from work, carrying on into he wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I took a combat nap before returning to work. Other times I took a shower, dressed and went to work without having slept. I always knew that at some point I would need to quit working as a manager in order to finish what had become my true life’s work, creating an alternate universe and populating it with my characters.

Only in the past nearly three years, since I left management, have I devoted the majority of my attentions of properly organizing the stories, one of the later projects was Fried Windows, the first novel I composed entirely after leaving retail management. Also I have written several other side projects over the years that are in Elgon Universe though not directly connected to the major series. One of those stories is Becoming Thuperman, which will be a multiple volume tale once completed – at least two but perhaps three or more books.

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#ElgonUniverse #TheWolfcatChronicles #FriedWindows #BrentWoods #Writing #Publishing #Revising


Driving in Reverse


Who would’ve guessed it, the source of wisdom is not always where one expects to find it. There was a lesson to be learned in the courtesy mobility cart at work. You know the ones. They help shoppers with disabilities navigate the floors and aisles of a large store. Well, the one in my store goes faster in reverse than it does going forward. And always before that seemed odd to me. You’d think threes far more danger of running into someone going backwards. But who am I to question the design, right?

Then this morning I read a tweet from someone who expressed a piece of the truth. It said that sometimes you have to go backwards so you can get ahead. I made the connection. Perhaps it’s because I had just awakened from the sort of dream state that engenders self-enlightenment. I don’t know. But I have always believed that dreams send me messages. Whether I want to pay attention or not, listen or ignore, is left to me.

There’s a recurring character in my books. You read a lot about him because he’s my alter ego. He’s that guy I have, at times, always wished I could have been and yet, at other times I’ve been glad I didn’t turn out like him. Writers have characters like that. They allow us to explore possibilities on our journey to expose the truths within us. Well, mine is named Brent.

His last name is Woods, a name chosen for good reason. I was writing about a forest in a fantasy tale that was  tentatively called Dammerwald at that time. It eventually became The Wolfcat Chronicles. Since I was looking for an alter ego kind of name it seemed appropriate because a woods when I was growing up was the wooded area behind my house and I experienced a lot of fantastic adventures there from which some of my writing draws.

Anyway, that’s where Brent’s connection to The Wolfcat Chronicles lies and that’s how everything else began.

In one of the books I’ve written about Brent he says something that startled me. That happens for a writer pretty much anytime a kernel of the truth, seemingly by accident, emerges of it own volition. It’s like you type by sense of smell, instinct or whatever. And what you get is an unintended revelation. Brent said to me, and the other character to whom he happened to be conversing, “If you want to know the truth; here it is. Life is not about me, it’s about you. If you want to be successful, that’s all you need to know.”

When a character in a story tells you, as a writer or a reader, something like that, if you are paying attention you experience a wow moment. That’s when the tickles happen internally and those trigger the hackles, which on people are the tiny hairs on the backs of our necks. Those hairs raise in autonomic response to experiencing a piece of the truth. That’s how you know something is good.

Brent goes on at some length to explain to the other character, Lana, what he means. After making a statement like that usually a character has to explain it just in case the reader glossed over the remark and didn’t fully experience or benefit from the wow effect. But in this case, the wow happened to fit exactly into 140 characters. So it has been Twitter-approved as well. So, it must be the truth, right?

What Brent explained to Lana is the difference between true success and false success. True success is measured in terms well-beyond wealth or power. It comes from appraising the benefit others derive from knowing you and the influence you have upon them. A person who is truly successful can’t exactly measure his or her success because, by it nature, it is something others have to determine.

False success is the anthesis, of course. It is all about me and not about you. It is selfish and self-destructive. For a brief period everything seems to work well. Fame, wealth, power come because of self-focused determination that leads to apparent success. But the acquisition of the trappings of success corrupts the individual who does not possess the correct mental state for handling the benefits. And so, the trappings become a trap, a snare from which the pseudo-successful cannot escape, tethered to the corruption of the world around him or her and which he or she cannot be extricated. The trap destroys the the falsely successful.

That is why people who do not understand the truth crash and burn, their success flames out and proves fleeting. Unless the formerly false successful arrive at the enlightened moment, understanding that what made him or her successful previously were the people around him or her, failure continues.

You see, in the book about Brent and Lana, Brent is a writer. I know it’s a stretch of the imagination for a writer, me, to have an alter ego who is a writer. But it happens Brent and I are and have always been pretty close. So, whatever. Anyway, Lana is hired to edit one of Brent’s books about wolfcats and in the course of reading the story and living in his house, which is haunted mansion, she learns that Brent, who is – as a writer – at least partially nuts by anyone else’s standards, knows a lot of secrets about how the world works. She presses him. She believes in him and his art and wants to make him successful. But Brent explains to her that the real story he has to tell others is about her and not him.

Lana happens to be the alter ego of a character in Brent’s story. She’s his muse, if you will. She is the real world incarnation of a wolfcat. His story, then, was only ever for her benefit. Finding meaning from the strange life she has endured he helps her pull all the pieces together and learn about her destiny.

It all goes back to the truth, or at least the part of it, that seems antithetical at first. Going forward sometimes requires going backwards – or having that sort of outlook on life. One may find the truth from exposing the lies. That’s one of the examples Brent gives in the course telling the story. He shows Lana a path to the truth but allows that discovery to become a personal event, because that is the only way it will last. He cannot tell anyone the truth because each person needs to discover is or her relationship with the world. How it happens comes in many ways but most often it is through the expression of art in its many and various forms.

Brent, as an artistic sort, gravitates toward other artists. From my experience that is how it happens in life. Artists feed one another’s creative souls. Why wouldn’t we enjoy one another’s company? Artists tend to know other artists and understand the art if not the person. We naturally feel comfortable connecting with the creative aspect of the nature surrounding us. When Brent tells Lana the truth about success he hopes to explain why he is not concerned with becoming famous as a by product of producing his art. He says that success is not a goal or a destination but instead a process that is measured in another’s terms.

#success #failure #TheWolfcatChronicles #BrentWoods #truth #enlightenment #dreams #messages