Drawing On Your Own Experiences

When writing, drawing on your own experiences are important. I have been going through my rough draft of Above the Storm, organizing my notes and figuring out what the story needs when I start my rewrites, and I came across the scene where two friends fight and their friendship is ended, and I realized where this scene had come from.

When I was in the seventh grade, I wasn’t very popular. I read a lot and was picked on for being a nerd. Yes, I know, shocking. I had one friend at the time. We had met over the summer between elementary school and Junior High (my school district had K-6 elementary, 7-9 Junior High, and 10-12 High School). His younger brother and my younger brother where in cub scouts together and I was dragged to a meeting. He lived only ten blocks away and we became friends.

Up until the start of my ninth grade, I thought he was my best friend. We hung out must weekends, playing RPGs, D&D, Magic the Gathering, Warhammer. And while I had made other friends by the ninth grade, he was the one I was closest to. And then, out of the blue, he told me that he had never really liked me and he didn’t want to hang out with me anymore.

It was a bitter experience. Two years of friendship turned out to be a lie. After that, I didn’t really see him until my Senior year in High School where we shared a class and pretty much ignored each other. I never knew why he hung out with me so much.

I channeled this relationship into my novel without even realizing it. Writing is such an interesting exercises. You have to reach into your soul, pulling out the pain that’s been heaped on you and putting it down on paper, sharing it for the entire world to read. You dredge events you had hoped to forget, unbottling emotions long buried. I can still feel that hurt, bewildered day.

Experiences shapes you and you can draw on those experiences to shape your characters, to add conflict to their lives. Draw on your life for the colors you use to paint the canvas of your story. So don’t be afraid to dredge the good times and the bad from your life and used them to create something that moves your readers to joy, to sadness, to fear, to anger.

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Rough Draft Finished!

I finished the rough draft on my novel Above the Storm (Book One of The Storm Below) today. One step closer to being published!

photos-of-storms-13The skies above the Storm are a dangerous place. Agerzak pirates hunt for lone ships to plunder, the Empire of Vaarck is forever covetous of the rebellious skylands that have slipped out of its grasp, and the mysterious Stormriders summon massive Cyclones to rise out of the ever-churning Storm Below to attack the small, floating islands. For the Autonomy of Les-Vion, the Navy is their Stormwall, protecting its citizens from all threats above and below the Storm.

On the summer solstice, every citizen of the Autonomy that had turned seventeen are given the Blessing of Riasruo, the Goddess Above, and are entered into the yearly naval draft. All Ary wants is to marry his sweetheart Chaylene and start a life with her in their small, farming village. But life never goes the way anyone plans and the Autonomy needs fresh men and women to defend their skies.

Rushing into marriage to keep from being separated, Ary and Chaylene are taken from their homes to Camp Chubris where the Autonomy trains its new batch of Sailors, Marines, and Scouts. Dealing with the stress of training, their new marriage is strained by the guilt of Ary’s childhood and the temptations of their fellow recruits.

But Ary has a dangerous secret. As a boy, he had witnessed a Cyclone attack on his home skyland and was touched by the Dark Goddess Theisseg’s lightning. This taint poses a threat to the Church of Riasruo and their assassin plot his death for the greater good of the skies above the Storm!

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Seven Lovely Things

The very kind Paige Randall tagged me in the seven lovely things blog tour! Thanks! You can read her very interesting and entertaining post at her blog! I learned that Sciurophobia was a thing.

  1. When I was born, there was a tiny hole in my right ear. My mom was freaked out (so I’ve been told), but it’s apparently a defect from my dad’s side of the family. The hole has since grown to the outer edge of my ear, leaving only a notch on the rim.
  2. I am afraid to say that I have shoplifted twice in my life, both times as a teenager, and both times they were to steal books. Yep, out of all the things to shoplift I stole books. From the now long closed Waldenbooks I stole People of the Fire by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neil Gear. The other was Neandarthal and I can’t remember who wrote it or even what I did with the book (I feel like I traded it to a used bookstore). I stole that one from a 7-11 of all places.
  3. I didn’t go to my school’s prom. Instead, I went to a friends house and a bunch of us played Starcraft, Goldeneye, and Mario Kart 64 all night. I don’t regret this decision. I had a lot of fun with Ben, Dave, and Homechiken (or HC, don’t ask why we called him that) during high school.
  4. I have only ever loved one woman. It took me two days to work up the courage to tell her my feelings. Her answer: “That’s nice.” I didn’t make it out of the friend zone. The only picture I had of her (this was before cell phones with cameras, or even cell phones, were common) was lost in a move. I can still remember the blue of her eyes and her lovely smile.
  5. No one spells my last name right. It’s Reid, pronounced Read, and everyone assumes it’s spelled Reed. I don’t even have to think it any more. When someone asks for my last name I say, “Reid. Spelled R E I D.”
  6. I was born five minutes past midnight in Okinawa, Japan on April 30th. It was still April 29th in the States and my Grandmother still thinks my birthday is on April 29th. And then, four years later, my brother was born on May 2nd. Having to share a birthday party with your younger, bratty brother as a kid because our birthdays fell on the same weekend was annoying. I haven’t seen my brother in two years. I miss him. He’s a prosecutor out in Nebraska. The dolt married a Nebraskan girl at college and never came home.
  7. I have a weird dislike of having my picture taken. I always have hated it. You will only find one picture of me at my mom’s house and it’s from my brother’s wedding where I was in the wedding party and I set aside my dislike of having my picture taken. I’m really not sure why I hate having my picture taken, I just do. You may notice my twitter profile has my picture. I felt dirty taking it, but these are the sacrifices I make to promote my writing!

I hope you all find these random facts interesting.

Jane Bled: Jane is an author of disturbing, psychological horror and one of the nicest people you can know!

Tim Hemlin: Author of the Wastelanders and husband of the amazing Valerie!

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Self-Editing

Self-Editing

I find self-editing to be very difficult for a number of reasons and it’s taken me a while to develop the discipline to read through my work carefully. But no matter how hard I tried, mistakes kept slipping through, so I decided to do some research on the matter, trying to learn tricks to help me self-edit and produce more professional writing.

The main hurdle to self-editing is the psychological phenomena known as pareidolia. Even if you’ve never heard of pareidolia you are more than aware of it. Our brains are wired to recognize patterns and this causes us to see patterns in meaningless data from seeing shapes in the clouds to seeing the image of the Virgin Mary in a potato chip. Our brains are powerful processors capable of feats of pattern recognition that even the most powerful computers are not capable of, and we do with any effort. This comes with a downside, we see things that aren’t there.

So what does pareidolia have to do with self-editing and why is it the biggest obstacle? It’s simple, our brains are great at finding patterns and filling in the missing data to form the expected shape or most likely shape. Since your brain knows what you wrote and knows what you intended to say, your brain will often see what you think you wrote. This is why homophone mix-ups are hard to catch. You meant to write ‘there’ but instead you wrote ‘their’. Because your brain knows what you intended, you could read it a dozen times and fail to realize you used the wrong word because of pareidolia.

Now that you know about the issue, you’re probably wondering how to combat this phenomena. If you’re an indie author (like me), a student writing a paper, or a professional writing a report or presentation then you know the importance of self-editing and you don’t want to put out an unprofessional product. You need to divorce your words from your writing, putting barriers in place to keep you from seeing your work as a whole and seeing the trees that make up the forest. So here are a few tricks I use that I find are quite helpful:

      1. Word Search: Every word processor software has a find/replace function that you usually can find under the edit menu or using ctrl+f. I have a list of words that I know I mess up on, such as there/their/they’re, were/where/we’re, your/you’re, fill/feel, now/know, new/knew, form/from, who/how, etc. So I search the document and read every instance I wrote the word, making sure I’m using it correctly. This forces me to see what word I wrote in the context I wrote it and catch mistakes. Whenever I’m editing and I find I’ve made the same homophone mistake before, I add it to the list. I usually find one mistake per 1000 words with this method.
      2. Read Backwards: Another way to help combat pareidolia is to read your document backwards. You start at the end of the document and you read it paragraph by paragraph from the end to the beginning. This helps to divorce you from the story’s flow and concentrate on what you actually wrote instead of what your brain thinks you wrote.
      3. Text-to-voice Software: Hearing your work spoken aloud is helpful to spot missing words. Did you forget a the or an? Did you misspell a word that you don’t search for? Did you use the right verb tense? All of these mistakes become very apparent when you hear the text spoken. You can read it aloud, but I prefer to use a text-to-voice software. I use NaturalReader. You can purchase it, but you can also use it for free, though it pops up an annoying ad for the full version every 1500 words or so.

There is another technique that I’ve read but never tried. If you change the font of your text, it changes what your mind expects and helps to spot mistakes. If you wrote your document in Times New Romans, use Courier New on editing.

So I hope this helps with your writing because these techniques made a big difference with my own self-editing and while I still can’t achieve perfection, at least I have achieved professionalism.

Note: I edited this document using my techniques. Find/Replace method discovered an ‘are’ that should have been an ‘our’. Reading backwards found a few grammar errors. Text-to-voice discovered that I forgot to write ‘be’ in the very first sentence as well as five other mistakes (verb tense, wrong word, and missing word).

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Sleep Paralysis

I am one of the thousands of people afflicted with sleep paralysis. Most nights my sleep is undisturbed. I lay down, dream, and wake up. Night after night. But sometimes when I wake up I can’t move. I dread those times.

It always happens the same way. My bedroom door opens in my dreams and a dark figure watches me from the doorway. The fear is so intense, and I can’t move. My limbs feel like they’re made of lead. I struggle, I fight, I try to cry out for help. My heart beats, rushing through me as I struggle to move. And that figure keeps staring at me, hating me.

imagesAnd then, like I had broken the cobwebs that bound me, I could move and spring up. My bedroom door will be closed, the dark figure will be gone, and the fear will bleed off me. But I can always feel it lurking. I can’t go right back to sleep or I’ll slip back into the paralysis.

I can never predict when it will strike, but I can often recognize the signs in my dreams when an attack, for lack of the proper word, comes upon me. My bedroom door opening. If that happens in my dreams, I wake up before my body paralyzes.

So if you’ve never heard of sleep paralysis, it is a little understood condition. While either falling or sleep or waking up, a person can get locked into complete muscle atonia and often have terrifying nightmares of intruders in their rooms accompanying their complete helplessness. Some attribute this to demonic activity, and after experiencing it, I can understand why. When I’m in the grip of the paralysis, and the dark figure is watching me, nothing has ever frightened me more.

The ‘intruder’ as the figure is called in medical literature, is thought to be caused by a hyper-vigilant reaction in the brain caused by finding yourself unable to move while you’re still not fully awake and causing your dreams to react accordingly. It is thought that sleep paralysis is responsible for tales of succubus, incubus, demons, UFO abduction, out-of-body experiences, and host of other, similar tales.

Science still doesn’t fully understand the causes of sleep paralysis and there are numerous theories explaining it. Luckily, it doesn’t threaten your physical health, just your sanity. Something I try and focus on when I’m in the grips of it as I lie they’re helpless. But it’s hard to remember that the figure isn’t really there.

Last year, after a particularly bad incident, I wrote a poem about it. All day the figure had haunted me and writing down my fears went a long way in shaking off the experience.

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Sleep Paralysis Poem

Sleep Paralysis

by J.M.D. Reid

 

The Door opens, darkness enters
Paralyzed, I lie pinned before terrifying gaze.
A bug, an insect.
Why can’t I move?
Fear bubbling, clawing against leaden limbs.
Why does it watch?
Fear boiling, shouts caught in throat.
Leave me be!
No cry escapes my lips.
Desperate will, fueled by terror
Overcomes immobility.
Covers thrown, body moving.
Shout dies in throat.
Darkness is gone, the door is closed.
Why did it watch?
Why did it watch?

04-07-13

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Lesson From Writers – Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

51d5p9sav7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_No one who has read my blog should be surprised that I was big into D&D. So I read a lot of the D&D novels and none were better than the writing duo of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance universe. They were a league above the rest of the writing in the D&D universe with rich characters, great villains, and the willingness to take risks. I ate them up in my teenage years.

And soon I moved onto their non-D&D books. I loved them from the Darksword Trilogy (later Tetralogy) to the Rose and the Prophet series. But their writing that really blew me away was the Death Gate Cycle. It was fantasy like I had never read before. Everything else I was reading was quasi-medieval Europe with magic, but Weis and Hickman showed me that fantasy could be so much more. At first blush, the Darksword Trilogy is just another in a long-line of Europe with magic, set in a small world surrounded by a magical 29118barrier. And then you find out what’s beyond the barrier—our future. Humans have colonized the stars and driven everyone with magic to this one, remote planet where they buried their heads in the sand and forgotten all about the evils of Technology. Their Rose and the Prophet series was set in an Arabic setting which was lots of fun, but neither series compared to the Death Gate Cycle.

In our future, a war happened between two sects of spellcasters known as the Sartans and the Patryns. The Sartans, losing the war, did the most horrendous thing possible—they destroyed it. Then they rebuilt it as four separate worlds based around the four elements. Weis and Hickman lead you on an exploration of these four separate worlds. The world of Air, composed of islands floating in the sky and Elvish flying ships battle humans riding dragons. The 260230world of fire, is a Dyson sphere with its suns at the center and a jungle growing around the inside of the planet. A world of perpetual daylight where entire civilizations live on the treetops never seeing the ground. The World of Earth is a labyrinth of caves worming through a planet’s crust, where seas of magma provide islands of life for the inhabitants. And the World of Water where the seas can be breathed and the races live on small, living planets that float through the water.

They taught me that fantasy can be anything you can imagine. You don’t need to be limited by any of the constraints of our physics, or logic, or universe. As long as your rules are internally consistent, you can have a world of floating islands hanging above an eternal Storm. elven-starFantasy doesn’t have to be Medieval Europe or any other representative of Earth. You are the only person that can limit your universe.

This is why I write fantasy. To create places and universes and sights that are not possible to experience. To transport my readers to new worlds and unfurl them across the pages I write. To let my imagination free to create what it wants. That’s what I learned from reading Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

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Pain

Pain

driving my bus
head full of darkness
i cannot escape the Plague
of words Afflicting my mind
all I can do is drive
while my soul is Needled
by acrimonious doubt
and crushed
by bitter self-recrimination
would the world even miss me
if i was gone
or would it turn on
uncaring, unremembering
unfeeling

I wrote this poem on May 24th, 2014.  I had a bad day between work and getting rejection letters. I was tired and stressed and my nine hour shift just became an eleven hours. I was tired of driving my shuttle and I just pulled over and wrote this poem on the side of the road in a few minutes, pouring all my negative emotions out and when I was done, I felt so much better.

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What Should You Write?

If you’re one of us, a writer, someone that has that itch to put pencil to paper, ink to parchment, text to screens, you probably wondering what you should write. You see what’s sitting on the bestseller list and go, “Hey, I should write ______. It seems really popular.”

Not so fast!

You can fill in the blank, whether its zombies, vampire romances, YA female protagonist in some dystopian future, or avenging serial killers; right now your local bookstore shelves are full of the same type of books based on whatever was hot the last few years.

Do not write a vampire romance or a zombie story because it’s popular and will sell. Look to your bookshelf. See what you love to read. That’s where you should start. Tell the stories that you care about, and it will show in your writing. Take what you love to read and put your mark on it. Take, absorb it, and write your take on it, put your voice to it. So if your shelf is full of vampire romances or an avenging serial killer thrillers, than go ahead and write about it, because that’s what you are passionate about.

Writing, like all the arts, is grueling. You are in the for the long slog to become even modestly successful, so you might as well enjoy what your writing, because that passion will not only show through the words you write on paper or type on screen, but will also keep you going through the difficult times as you read your newest rejection letter or, for those indie authors, stare at your Amazon sales graph hoping that this time when you hit refresh there will be a magical sale.

That’s why I’m writing an Fantasy novel. I want to tell stories in an exciting world that can only be visited through the power of the human imagination. Maybe it will sell and join the plethora of Fantasy books at the bookstore, and maybe I’ll be carving out my territory in the indie world. Either way, I’ll be selling a product that I care deeply about and I hope it will show.

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The Five Sacred Beasts of Riasruo

The Five Sacred Beasts of Riasruo

Click here for the previous entry.

Riasruo, wanting to help the Mortal Races, created five Sacred Beasts to teach and guide them. Wherever they went, they spread light, life, warmth, fertility, and hope. The Mortal Races loved her beasts, giving them gifts of food and offerings of love. And Theisseg, the Dark Sister, Goddess of Storms, had yet another reason to hate her sister and resent the Mortals that spurned the life-giving water her storms always brought them.

The Vermilion Roc Coajyii: A bird of magnificent glory, burning red as it flew across the summer skies. Coajyii was closest to the Luastria, the race of bird-like mortals, and taught them how to ride the wings and soar through the skies like the other birds.

The Golden Hawk Lsaapsu: This hawk’s feathers flashed through the azure sky, and his keen eyes saw all. Lsaapsu taught the mortal races the art of hunting.

The Alabaster Ostrich Hruvv: Hruvv raced across the entire world, visiting all the Mortal Races and teaching them the art of ranching and domesticating livestock.

The Azure Songbird Shian: The beautiful bird flew the world, filling the sky with his song. He taught the Mortal Races how to sing, giving art to the world.

The Rainbow Peacock Xiadwul: A majestic creature. Xiadwul was closeted to the Humans, teaching the Vionese maid, Isame, the art of agriculture and the humans transformed the plains into the breadbasket of the world.

Theisseg’s resentment festered and grew inside her, birthing four dark children children. Unlike Riasruo’s gentle Beasts, Theisseg’s spawn were as twisted and hideous as the bile that created them, and were feared and shunned by the Mortal Races. In a spate of jealousy and spite, Theisseg unleashed her children upon the world, commanding them to hunt down the Sacred Beasts of Riasruo. When the Vermilion Roc’s blood was shed by Wuasril, the Sister Wars began, plunging the world into Mist and chaos.

Click here to return to the World of the Storm Below

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