Writing is Escapism

Hey everyone, Dani here again.

Escapism (noun) – the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation, activity, etc.

Most any hobby that we have as a society is a form of escapism, a way for us to forget whatever negativity is in our lives and to avoid the doldrums and responsibilities of our work/school/etc.

As a kid I was practically always reading. I went to Middle Earth. I traveled through the cupboard to Narnia. I hopped on the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4. The list could go on and on, but I hope you all get my point. I had a vivid imagination and it was easy to journey to these foreign lands and journey with the heroes on their epic quests. Even when I wasn’t reading, I was playing out these grand adventures with my friends on the playground.

Growing up, I stopped running around pretending to be some wizard or warrior (well, until recently, thanks to an obsession with D&D and LARPing), and instead started writing down stories about other people.

I call those in these stories characters because that is the easiest and most accepted term by the general populace, but they don’t feel like characters to me. They are my friends, my comrades, in short they are real people who just happen to exist in my mind. Thankfully most other writers I’ve met understand this because they are the same way. So many of my stories have begun thanks to someone just popping up in my mind one day and basically saying “Hi, my name is ____ and you need to tell my story.”

It’s a wonderful feeling, being given the opportunity to jump into a new world and have a new adventure. It reminds me of that simpler time, when I didn’t have to worry about the bills and responsibilities of adulthood. Even now, when I’m bored at work, I’ll find my mind drifting off to one of the lands I write about in my stories, and that conversation with the characters, the inhabitants, of the world, help me to pass the time, which honestly keeps me sane.

I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in 2010, and then graduated with a M.L.I.S. in 2011, but have been unable to land a job utilizing either degree. To pay the bills I have accepted a job working at an appliance factory, where I am on the assembly line building dryers. It is dull and repetitive, but it gives me plenty of time to daydream. After being at this job for three years, my muscle memory fully takes control and I don’t really have to focus my attention on plugging in wires or shooting screws.

So, as it has been most of my life, I escape my reality and journey to lands where things work out in the end. Sure, people may struggle, but the heroes find a way to overcome adversity and defeat the villains. There is adventure and romance and typically some form of magic.

Here’s a fun fact: I’ve even escaped from one writing project into another. Thanos, the main character in Project Death: Revelation, the second book in my Project Death series, has hidden his past from others for so long that he doesn’t want to talk about it now that he needs to. I pressured him for a while, but then I acquiesced and took a step back…which led to Lemley Thiel and Dax Ko’Vale approaching me about their story.

And what a story they have together. I’ve been putting together a binder full of details of their world: the map, the Courts and Guilds, the politics of all the nations, the magic, the technology, everything. It has developed from just a couple scribbles on paper to a fully fledged new world. I’ve only been told a couple chapters of their story so far but I am enjoying it so much that I’m afraid the escape of it all is going to keep me from the reality that Thanos’s story needs to be finished.

Escapism can be a wonderful thing, but I guess I can also see where it can be a huge pitfall for writers. I know there’s work I need to do, but I keep escaping into these side projects and also into reading books for pleasure. Right now, my project needs to be finding my way out of the worlds I disappear too so often and to pay attention to the world that needs my focus.

Has anyone else experienced this issue? What methods and techniques have you used to get yourself back on track? I’m willing to try just about anything right now. I can say that I’m tired of putting off finishing this book all I want, but words are not actions. I need that kick in the pants to jumpstart my Project Death writing again.

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An Honest Review

Hey everyone, Dani here.

All the time I get on Goodreads, and most of the time it is to look into a book that sounds interesting. I always scroll down to look at some of the reviews, just to see if it highlights reviews from my friends and such. So often I end up scrolling past a review from the author…which generally gives the book 5 stars, and talks about how he or she wrote the book and they love it, and think you’ll love it too.

Sometimes I read the book and find that they are right, and I do love the book, but the number of times I read the book and don’t love it…I wonder if the author is being honest with how great their book is.

I understand how much time and effort and work goes into writing and publishing a book, and that is even more true for self-published and indie authors since we don’t have the support of a publisher. But I also know how to view a book from the perspective of a reader, and that changes how I look at even my own books.

So, today, I thought it would be interesting if I reviewed my first book, Project Death: Resurrection, for all of you.

Resurrection4

Tamesis always thought that she knew her destiny and she was determined to be the absolute best Resurrector there was.

But, Fate had different plans. On her first heal, Tamesis runs into two mysterious men, and one of them changes everything for her.

Tamesis cannot stop thinking about him and dreaming about him. Then, when the work of the Resurrectors is threatened, the man returns and Tamesis is put on a path that opposes everything she was raised to believe.

Something has twisted the beliefs of the Resurrectors, causing them to stray from their path and become extremists. They were supposed to save those who still had noble work to do, but instead insist that everyone deserves to live until old age.

Now she needs to accept the role she was destined to have, that of the Angel of Death, healing those she can and reaping the souls of those who must die. The war between Resurrectors and those who protect the Balance is heating up.

The overall rating I give my book, looking at it honestly, is 3.5 stars. I absolutely love my book and I’m so proud to have it finished and published. I think it is a rather decent start to a series, and introduces this interesting world, where angelic beings known as Resurrectors fight a war against Death and his Angel of Death. It is a cool story, and I enjoy seeing how everything changes when a Resurrector is tasked with becoming the next Angel of Death, but I’ll explain why I don’t give myself 5 stars.

There needs to be more character depth in the story. Sure, Tamesis and Thanos are handled pretty well, but they are the main two in the book. A lot of the side characters need more depth and development so they don’t feel like cardboard cutouts randomly inserted into the story. I can honestly blame my fault here to still being a new writer and not knowing exactly how to handle the minor support characters. But I have learned a lot more since then, and some of those side characters are showing up again in books 2, 3, and 4. Some are also showing up in the stories and novellas I am working on to go along with the overall story.

I could have used more description of locations and such in this story. Then again, Tamesis didn’t care much for where she was in the world so long as she was doing her job effectively. Still, I think I could have done a better job describing the Resurrector facilities.

Also, more could have been described about the actual operation of the Resurrectors. But because I hadn’t figured out their hierarchy completely and figured out how the organization operates, Tam couldn’t reveal those details either. I feel I am correcting some of those issues with book 2, and also with a couple prequel stories. Again, I have learned a lot about writing since working on and publishing this book.

Still, I know that the book did have and still has potential. I love Tamesis and Thanos, and even when I re-read through the book, I pick up scenes or sentences that really make me say ‘Wow.’ I love that I can be moved by things that I wrote, and forgot about because of looking forward at the rest of the series.

I still look at this book with pride. It was my first published book, but it won’t be my last, and I know I am getting better at writing. When I finally feel that I can give my book a 5 star rating, it will be awesome. And I know that day is coming. I will keep working towards making my books and myself better. There is always room for improvement, but it’s also good to recognize what you do well and highlight that.

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Oh, I should probably also point out that the e-book format of Project Death: Resurrection is currently free from Smashwords. You can find all e-versions there: NOOK, Kindle, iBooks, Sony Reader, PDF, etc. there.

Working Through Blocks

Hey all, Dani here.

My first published book was Project Death: Resurrection and it came out in July 2013. My plan at the time was to have the sequel out in 2014. Several speed bumps came my way, including having our next door neighbor (who was like family to us) pass away. When you’re writing about death, events like that really do have an impact on the writing process. Needless to say I couldn’t finish my book by that deadline.

So I told myself I would definitely finish the second book, Project Death: Revelation, in 2015. I did make some progress on the book, and I really thought that I would be able to finish it in time. But my grandma’s health started to decline and that had an impact on the process, but I also had to deal with the fact that I have a very uncooperative narrator. Once again I didn’t make my deadline.

My grandma passed away on January 5th at 89 years and 11 months old. Because of her nice long life I thought I would be able to handle her death, but it hit me pretty hard. Though I couldn’t write, I suddenly felt a deep connection with the main character for my second book, the man known as Death by many. The emotional state I was in would have been perfect for a scene within the book, but I had already written that scene and what I felt already matched what was on the page.

I thought after a couple weeks I would be able to get the words flowing again. I worked on some world-building for a different writing project, just so I could feel like I was making creative progress with something.

Still…the words for my second book wouldn’t come.

Finally, I was able to talk to Meg, a good friend of mine, who is also a big reader and a fellow writer. Meg has a copy of my first book and we have discussed my second book. She is quite eager to read it and regularly asks for status updates. I told her that I was still blocked and I couldn’t get Thanos aka Death to finish telling his story.

For the next two hours she and I proceeded to text back and forth, and she questioned why he wouldn’t talk and gave ideas for how to get him to open up again. Some of them I had tried before, but some actually helped, and I think there’s a good chance that Thanos will start talking again quite soon.

The characters in my stories are far more than just characters to me; they are real and sometimes they have secrets or they simply don’t want to talk. Trying to push them actually hinders the writing process and ends up yielding hundreds or thousands of really horrible words, so I have found it is best to just pause a beat and wait for them to be ready again.

But I’m tired of needing to postpone this book’s release again and again. It isn’t fair to my readers, and whether I mean it to or not, it does harm my credibility as an author because I can’t keep my deadline promises. I don’t like feeling that way, and yes, I do realize that deaths of loved ones and such are seen as a completely valid excuses. I just want to get my book out there. I want to be writing again. I also want to release the best book I can. Unfortunately that sometimes takes time.

So I’m working on it. And I think Thanos is finally ready to tell me more about his dark moments, the ones he has been avoiding for at least the past year. I can see the finish line for this book. I just need to sit down and get the words on the page (or screen).

Beginning of the story…

Hey all, it’s Dani again.

Most people have a story about how they came to follow the career path they’re on, a moment when everything seemed to click into place. Though I can’t remember the exact moment I started creating fantastical tales, I know that my imagination has usually been fairly overactive.

One of my first creative writing endeavors (that I can remember anyway), had to do with my fascination with a certain middle grade book series from my youth. It’s funny that I have such difficulty writing fanfiction now, though I enjoy reading it, because I started out with writing little adventures with the gang from Animorphs. 

I totally added myself into the story as if I had been with them the whole time, as if hanging out with Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, Marco, and eventually Ax was just a part of my normal life, as if I could turn into any animal I touched and could help to fight off the invading alien race of Yeerks.

These little stories have been lost, most likely destroyed during one of my rare cleaning periods, but I still remember that I at least enjoyed them. Of course, knowing how much my writing ability has grown, I also know that these stories were also probably terrible. Still…about a year after I finished with that period, I started writing down my original ideas. Granted, I still went through some fanfic-esque moments. I know I at least had a period of imitating Power Rangers, LOTR, X-Men, etc.

Overall I can say that being raised as a geek and loving these fandoms has only increased my desire to create new worlds and to follow my many characters through their adventures, their loves, their losses, everything.

So, where am I going with all of this?

Well, I spent a number of years around high school/early college looking down on the idea of writing fanfiction. I stupidly forgot about how that all shaped the writer I had become, and believed that inserting an original character into an already existing universe, was for those who couldn’t come up with a complete world.

Like I said…stupid. I’ve read blog posts and newsletters and essays from famous published authors who indulge in writing fanfiction and it made me take a new look at the idea. It takes a great deal of love for the topic, as well as skill, to write fanfiction. You have to know the source material, whether you are just inputting a group of original characters into the world, or if you plan to take already existing characters on an original adventure. There is a lot of time devoted to studying the mannerisms of characters, the terminology used to describe creatures, magic, etc. Basically fanfiction takes a lot of work.

Nowadays, I use fanfiction as a way to jump start my original writing. I write with a friend of mine and we each have an original character and a canon character for whatever universe we are writing in (for example: Supernatural and Chuck). We then take turns writing, adding a couple thousand words to the story before sending it to the other person. We do quite a bit of talking and planning where we think our story will go, because we try to abide by most of what has aired on television, and only alter things a bit so we can fit our OCs into the story.

It has really helped to improve how I look at character interactions especially, because sometimes my partner will throw me a curveball, and I’ll have to figure out how to keep going with the story.

So if you love a particular show or movie or book series and want to try your hand at fanfiction, go for it. And hey, there are even some authors out there who have sections on their web sites where they link to the cool fanfic they find. So, who knows, maybe your fanfic could show up there someday too.

I would be interested to see what stories fans would come up with in my Project Death universe. It could be pretty cool.