Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Book 3: Progress Report - April 2020

I guess it's been about 10 months since my last post here. In it, I made note that in April of 2019 I wrote an astonishing 23,000 words in the third book of my Galahad's Doom trilogy of novels.  I said I would likely never break that record.

Well, I almost did.  In January of 2020, I wrote 22,000 words.  That's 45,000 in just two months.  The problem is, naturally, I wrote precisely 0 words in all the months in between. That's 8 months, May through December, of making no progress.

I do actually have a good excuse for that: I didn't have a computer.

I mean, yeah, I had our desktop unit at home, but I can't really write sitting at a desk. I have to get comfortable with a laptop.  And we had two of them. And we lost them both at the same time.

The little micro laptop I had bought years ago, choosing its compact size for long flights in coach, died. I wrote both "My Brother's Keeper" and "Marching As To War" on that computer.  I guess I rode it into the ground. After writing over 20,000 words in April, the power supply burnt up.  I mean it BURNT.  Literally, smoke was pouring out of the back of the computer.

I was fortunate to have not lost all my work at that point.  How I ended up saving it all is worthy of its own post. Maybe I'll write it up soon.

The other laptop, our main one for the household, was lost to an unfortunate accident involving cooking oil. I don't know the details. I just know if someone is listening to YouTube in the kitchen while cooking dinner, maybe it doesn't have to right next to them on the counter.  Maybe. Just an idea.

Turns out, cooking oil is not good for laptops.  We tried to keep using it, but more and more keys on the keyboard quit working. And after having it on your lap for a few minutes, your pants would be soaked in cooking oil.

So it had to go. Both of those laptop losses came at the very end of April. And it was not until the Christmas shopping season that we bought ourselves another one. So finally in December, I read back over what I had done and spent some time plotting and planning so that I'd be ready to write in January. That was my clear New Year's resolution: get back on the book and finish strong.

I was literally writing at the stroke of midnight on January 1.

I blew through nearly 40 scenes in January and completed the entire Second Act of the book. I got all the way to the threshold of the Third Act where I knew I needed to start bringing characters together and delivering payoffs to long threaded storylines.

I froze up after that.  I wasn't sure of the specific story beats. I needed to choreograph the action to maximize the scope and impact of the final Act of the entire trilogy. It was a little bit of stage fright, but it was also largely a logic problem of how to get from where I ended up at the end of the Act II to how to get to the specific ideas I had for the very end.

In the end, the characters saved me. I simply started asking them some questions. They each reminded me of their unique motivations and agendas. And the cool thing about knowing the goals and personalities of your characters is that once they start interacting, the scenes will write themselves. Just let 'em go and see where they take you.

So here I am in April of 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown and I have solved Act III. I've got all the beats mapped out and I have cool stuff for everyone to do and hopefully a couple of surprises along the way.  I am THIS CLOSE to finishing the Galahad's Doom trilogy.

And lemme tell ya, this third book flies by so fast. Just non-stop action. From the first page, it's a race to the conclusion. And I'm really happy in particular with Orion, Glamis and Darkswift. They have never been truer to the essence of their respective characters. Orion is a bard and gets to do VERY bard-y things. In fact, I'd say his whole story in this book is a proper bard's adventure in its own right. Glamis is a wizard and gets to do VERY wizard-y things. And while Darkswift is basically a ninja and was perhaps more ninja-y in the second novel, don't forget that he is the Slayer and has been training in that role the whole time. And in this third book, he very much gets to be the Slayer.

I can't wait for you to read it.

I have done some recent character drawings. I've got new art of Galen, Mary, Darkswift and Sir Elias.  I'll share those soon.  And I'll tell the story of how I almost lost the first 40,000 words of the book when my laptop basically caught on fire.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Book 3 Progress Report - May

April was a record month that I am likely to never break.
In my last post, I made the mistake of drafting it before the last day of the month. My actual total word count for April ended up at an astonishing 23,000 words.

I...did not match that in May. In May, I wrote exactly 0 words.

This was mostly on purpose. I made a deliberate choice to take some time off and not get caught up in trying to maintain the pace.

On two days (just two), I attempted to put together a scene and I discovered for the first time since probably February, I wasn't exactly sure how to present a certain scene. I want to get back to writing in June, but I've got some logic to figure out for the first couple of scenes. So I'll set a humble goal for myself of 3,000 words for the month and we'll see how I do.

I have, however, done some more character art. I will get these scanned in and post them here.

And, lastly, in other news:
Galahad's Doom Book II: Marching As to War has finally received its first review. Please check it out.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book 3 Progress Report - April

Folks, April was by far the most productive month of writing I've ever had. I can't believe what I accomplished this month. I set a personal record that is likely never to be beaten. Whereas in March, I was excited to report I had written 8,000 words, in April I almost tripled that.

My word total for April is an astounding 21,800 words.

My mind boggles at that number. This puts the entire manuscript around 47,000 and I'm quickly rushing towards the climax of the second act.  I was at 17k at the end of February, 25k at the end of March, and now I've suddenly jumped up to 46,800.

The entire story has just unlocked for me. I can see the whole thing so clearly that I'm actually writing the book in sequence.  I usually write out multiple scenes of a given storyline at once and then work on sequencing all of it later. But in this case, I already know how it "cuts together". And for the whole month, I just couldn't stop. I've never experienced anything like it.

At this rate, I could have the draft done by the end of June. I don't expect that to happen, mind you. This pace is certainly not sustainable. But, man, it feels good.

I've also drawn quite a few character sketches recently. I'll try to share those soon in an upcoming post.

If you haven't checked out my Galahad's Doom series, give it a shot!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Great Book 3 Progress in March

I've had another extremely productive month working on the final book in my trilogy.

As I stated in my previous post, I hope to provide monthly updates here.

I'm excited to report that the manuscript currently sits at 25,000 words. Up from 17K at the end of February, that works out to a solid 2,000 words per week.

Right now, the ideas are just flowing. The book has totally come together in my mind. All the details just totally unlocked for me. I have written the first eight chapters and I have every scene mapped and sequenced through Chapter 20.  That will get me all the way up to the final climatic scene.

If I can maintain this pace, I should have the first draft done this year. Considering the last book just came out six months ago, this is an absolutely blistering rate for me and easily my most productive stretch in my 12 years of writing.  There was a four year wait between My Brother's Keeper and Marching As to War. I am committed to making sure that doesn't happen again. Right now, it's looking like it will be less than two years. Maybe less than a year and a half.

And if you've enjoyed my first two books, you are going to love this one. Everything is coming together so beautifully, it's going to look like I knew what I was doing the whole time.

Galen Griffon will return in
Galahad's Doom Book III: The Armor of God

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Book 3 Progress Report

I hope everyone is enjoying my second book in the Galahad's Doom series, Marching As To War. I have been pleased with the number of books that have sold, but there has yet to be a review left on Amazon. I ask of you two things if you have read it: reach out to me and let's talk about it. I love that direct feedback and enjoy talking story details and characters with my readers.  The second thing is: please leave a review!  They help tremendously with raising the profile of the book on Amazon.

For those of you who have indeed read the first two books, I have what I hope you'll agree is some exciting news.

I have made enormous progress on the third and final book of the trilogy. I am thrilled to say that as of today, the last day of February 2019, I have already passed 17,000 words on it. This represents the entire first act of the novel. At this rate, the book could be ready next year. There was a four year gap between the first two books and I'm focused on making sure the wait isn't nearly that long this time.

I'm also extremely pleased with how good those 17,000 words are. With so many things in motion at the end of the second book, it was easy to really hit the ground running. I know these characters so well now, everything is just flowing. This is going to be one action-packed book. So much stuff happening at once.

Tell ya what, I'm so pleased with the opening act of Book 3, I'll make this deal with you. If you reach out to me and provide me with enough specific feedback that I know you've read Marching As To War  AND you leave an Amazon review, I will privately send you the first three chapters of the next book for free as an extremely advanced sneak preview. My gmail address is galengriffon _at_ gmail dot com.

That's all for now. I intend to check in at the end of each month this year with an update on my word count, as a way to keep me accountable. If I can keep this pace, the first draft could be done by the summer.

Galen Griffon will return in
Galahad's Doom Part III: The Armor of God.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Galahad's Doom featured in local newspaper

The local weekly newspaper in Phenix City, Alabama has a feature on me in this week's edition.
If you aren't able to pick up an actual newspaper (suitable for framing), you can still read the article online. 

Many thanks to Toni Stauffer and everyone at The Citizen of East Alabama for taking an interest in one of your local writers.

To everyone visiting this blog after reading the article, I invite you to click through the history of previous posts here and feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments. I'm excited by the story I'm telling and I hope you'll check out the books and then let me know what you thought of them.

Acts 17: 20 “You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.”

Monday, August 20, 2018

Book 2's Cover Design

Marching As To War, the second book in the Galahad's Doom series, is now available. Check my earlier entry for more information.

But today, I wanted to provide a glimpse of the design process behind the cover.

At first, I thought about only showcasing two characters on the cover in order to provide symmetry with the first book. But then I decided that I'm only ever going to have so many book covers and I didn't want to pass on a chance to show depictions of more characters.

I always knew this second chapter would be the darkest book in the cycle. The Second Act is always where the bad guys win and all seems lost for our hero. So with that in mind, I knew I wanted to show off the bad guys.

So I sketched out very roughly my composition idea. Nothing groundbreaking about it. It's very common in fantasy to basically have two or three characters pose for portraits. But with this sketch, I made the decision that we would see Queen Azzrea and Maphael on either side (both characters familiar to readers of the first book), with the new villain featured in the middle. He's new to this book but Dark Lord Iscariot's name is given away in the promotional blurb. But you'll have to read the book to know more about him.

The general idea is there from this first sketch, particularly the serrated sword prominent in the foreground. But what should also be noted is that I had precious few ideas for costume details. All I knew is Maphael needed to be in quasi-military noble's garb, but I made him look like a member of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

So I decided to take it a step further and do a mock up with pre-existing art stolen without remorse from random Google searches. I looked primarily for character archetypes that fit what I had in mind, and ended up settling for a photograph to stand in for Azzrea.  The primary purpose of this over my sketch was to play with color palette and tone.

At this point, it was time to get my artist involved. I reached out to artist Mark Aaron Williams and told him what I was looking for. Then I gave him the news that I hope he'd take as a creative challenge. I told him I didn't really know what these characters looked like. Let me rephrase: I didn't know what their costume details were. I totally handed over to Mark the freedom to interpret and invent their looks based on my written descriptions of their characters and their roles in the story.

But I did give him celebrities to use, not as likenesses, but as inspiration.

First for Azzrea, I suggested Morena Baccarin and provided these pictures:

For Maphael, I had in mind a pale, sunken-eyed version of Luke Evans.

For Iscariot, I could think of no one better than musician Henry Rollins to convey that no-nonsense intensity that demands to be the center of gravity in any scene.

Then Mark went to work, taking my sketches and these celebrity inspirations and adding his own flare. I cannot tell you how much of a thrill it was for me to get the artwork back and see how someone else imagined my characters. Mark absolutely nailed everyone of these. All the detail work in the costumes is 100% Mark's imagination. But there were a couple of changes I requested from his first drafts. First,Iscariot with the long hair of a rock star (probably taking a cue from my mockup above). I loved the look, but the story I wrote required a soldier's crew cut some scars:

It's worth noting that Mark rendered all of this in 3D digital art. This means he could create 3D models of the characters and then move the virtual camera around them for the exact angle he wanted. After choosing that, he composited the models together.

NOTE: You can click on any of these images for a bigger, closer look.

You see there the earliest stage character model for who would become Azzrea. After finalizing the look, camera angle and lighting on Iscariot, Mark went about designing Azzrea's look:

Azzrea is an evil queen, but I wanted to avoid the clich├ęd look of, say, a Morticia Addams. And she didn't necessarily need to have a dress at all, but I needed a look that was powerful and feminine. This first draft above gave me that tough look, and I liked the flared jacket that recalled a skirt without being one. But she looked too much like a scraper and not enough like a queen. So Mark came back with this:

This draft was much better and I started really getting excited about what Mark was doing. The costume details really screamed character.  But it was too much skin. I knew this was a villain, but it was still a little too risque for the tone I wanted. As a compromise, Mark covered her up with mesh and criss-crossed with solid straps of material.  He then added the crown and jewelry to bring home that queen-like quality.  Beautiful work. And 100% to Mark's credit. I had no specific ideas for Azzrea and he really brought her to life:

Maphael came together a lot more quickly. Mark pretty much nailed him from the get-go:

The only change I asked for him was to reposition his hands. The final version has him clutching a lock of hair to his chest.  Then Mark put it all together with the background image he painted and gave us the final image we all love today:

And there's a peek at the creative process behind the cover to Galahad's Doom II: Marching As To War.  

I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you'll check out my series.