Writing Partner: Working on a Character

After a couple of weeks off, I’m back to work. This time, on a pair of outlines. I have one for the book I want to write for NaNoWriMo and another for the one I’m working on in the meantime. Beyond basic plotting I also have to wrap my mind around a bunch of new characters. For a job like this, I’ll need the help of someone who is a real character themselves. And with that in mind… look at this abomination! 

Banderhobb miniature unpainted

I mean, why did I even buy this? In D&D it’s called a banderhobb, but I think of him as the gross little frogman I bought on a whim for 5 bucks. There had to be a reason. I think it’s that face: dumb, greasy, and bulbous. If I didn’t inexplicably love him, I’d hate him.

But somewhere in those wideset eyes is meaning. Why is he like this?  What niche does he fill in his environment? I know he’s a swamp predator, but why? What force of nature, or act of fate, molded him?

Similarly, I know the purpose I need my characters to fill in my narrative. But what got them there? What made them the people they are now and, more importantly, faced with what I’m about to put them through, what will they do next?

Stay tune. With the help of this grotesque frogman, I’m going to figure it out.

Writing Partner: Letting Go

I’m going to try and make this update as brief as possible. To linger would be sending a mixed message. I’m nearly done with my book. Still working on the title, but I digress. If I focus and keep at it, I will be sending it out to my first round of beta readers this weekend. This means, with any luck, I’ll be working on something new next week.

None of that is news, I said as much in my last update, but I found myself doing something strange this week. I picked up a different writing partner for the final leg of work.

AGE OF SIGMAR Cygor

He’s not great, as you can see. It’s a cygor from the Warhammer Age of Sigmar line and was meant to lead a small group of Tzeentch worshiping beastmen. The minotaur turned out well, but I’ve never been happy with the cygor.

Because of his size, he has lived prominently on a shelf in my office. His one eye staring me down. Judging me. And there he sat, staring a hole into me for over two years, until this week.

This week, in the final stretch, he caught my eye. My thought was I would fix him while I finished this book. Both have sat unfinished for years. Both could be projects worth refining. But, looking at the cygor I suddenly wondered if I could really finish my book this week. Then a thought crossed my mind, maybe my book could use one more edit too? Was I rushing this?

I started by giving it a brown wash to darken the skin tone and make it more natural. Then I sent a picture of it to a friend of mine to see what he thought should be the next step. He told me that he’s doesn’t usually pick old projects back up again. Instead, his suggestion was to paint something new.

Looking back, I think this has been a problem for me. I have, at multiple times, sunk years into projects I should have just let go of. Do I have a hard time letting projects go? Even with this book, have I held on to it for too long?

So I put the cygor in a drawer and closed it. Likewise, I need to finish this book and move on. No more rewrites, no more fiddling. It’s going to beta readers this weekend. Is that technical done, no, but it’s the first step to genuinely letting it go. I’m not going to grow unless I write new content, so it’s time to start.

Writing Partner: A Milestone

                It’s going to be a short blog today. I’ve just spent the last nine hours writing, so I’d like to look away from a screen soon. However, I’m thrilled with my progress and wanted to share.

                I just finished (hopefully) the last bit of net new content for my novel. So now all I have left is another line edit, and it’s ready for beta-readers!

                I know it’s been a long time coming, but it still feels good. If I keep to this pace, I might even finish this month! That would give me three months before NaNoWriMo. That might even be enough to finish up some of my other backburner work.

                The army cheering me on is progressing as well. Here is a sneak peek at where I am with the base colors.

Deer Miniature, Cherry Blossom Theme

                Is it pretty, eh? I need to finish this stage for the rest of them now before I start applying washes. Let’s hope it doesn’t dull that pretty pink.

                Stay tuned!

Writing Through a Heatwave

I’m not sure how many of you are in my general geographical area, but I’m currently toughing through a bit of a heatwave. I’m not very good at dealing with the heat. I prefer to live at about 18 degrees Celsius, when things approach 40 I’m having a very bad time. It has been challenging to focus, and my writing progress has slowed down considerably. Even still, progress is being made.

I’ve almost finished the last of my net-new content, which will leave my book finished… in a manner. We all know nothing is very truly finished, and I’m still not ready to call this thing done. I want to give it one more full read-through. My focus for this edit will be buffing descriptions and removing filler words. The length is now perfectly respectable, so I won’t be adding anything that doesn’t in some way enhance the scene or reveal something about the characters.

After I’m done with that final polish, I’ll be ready to send it to beta readers. Then once I have worked through their notes, I’ll need to have it professionally edited. While this all sounds like a lot of work, it’s light on me, and I’ll be free to start something new!

To celebrate this next stage and give me some support through the process, I’ve picked a truly impressive writing partner: an entire army.

Cherry Blossom army unpainted

I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but that’s a whole army of wood-elves and sylvaneth (tree spirits). That should be enough minis to get me through this final push. The army will follow the same color scheme as the last dragon I painted as if the whole group comes from a cherry blossom forest.

With all that laid out, all that is left is the work, so I better get to it. I’ll leave you today with my proof of concept mini. I hope you like it.

Warhammer Dryad, cherry blossom theme
Warhammer Dryad, cherry blossom theme

Stay tuned.

Writing Partner – Nearly There

Hello!

It’s been a while. This edit of act 2 took longer than I expected. In the end, my writing partners did too. In fact, they aren’t finished…

half finished warhammer ghosts and skeletons

See, they’re still a bit ugly. Not exactly ready for glamor shots.

However, as I was considering postponing this post again to finish them, I realized something. In their current state, these intrepid ghosts and skeletons are the best representation I have for where my book is at.

My book is complete, in so much as all of the content technically exists. Like these minis, it has been entirely constructed, all the primary colors are in place, hell, even some finishing work has been done. But they are still unpolished, like my book.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my book. I also know it’s 90% finished; I have way more work behind me now than ahead of me. But it’s at a stage where it just doesn’t show well, like these minis.

You see, there is this stage of any project where it looks its worst. It is a kind of uncanny valley for art, where it is so close to finished, yet still not, that it seems worse than it did when it was half-finished. At least, that’s how it always feels to me. The critical part of the work is pressing on and not getting discouraged by this phase.

I don’t usually post pictures of unfinished projects, but I think it will be helpful in this case. There is this illusion that great works come from the mind of a genius, that they flow effortlessly and are perfect when they are first born. That simply isn’t true. Now, I’m not saying I’ve ever written a great work, nor am I a genius, but I think that the myth of first draft success holds many people back.

 I fear most people never finish their projects because they perfect when they first create them. They think that if it isn’t perfect, they just aren’t cut out for their art. The truth is, I have now spent twice as long editing this book as it took me to write the first draft. From what I can tell, that is relatively normal.

I myself have gone through quite a shift in the last year. It turns out I had no idea how to edit. I thought a bit of a spellcheck and some punctuation correction was all I needed. I was dead wrong.

Why anyone ever published my work before 2020 is beyond me. It turns out, editing time, while far less exciting, makes my stories considerably better. Back when I wrote reviews and essays, my editors must have hated me!

I can also confirm that it gets easier. My editing has gotten better and, dare I say, faster over the last year. I’ve learned to accept criticism with more humility, and I’m better at focusing and working through difficult passages. The next book will be even easier. I genuinely believe this.

My point is, don’t be scared of the ugly stage of the project. The step between the skeleton and polished is not pretty (in this metaphor, I suppose it’s still missing skin…) but it means you’re close to done. Push through the doubt and complete your art!

Mazes: A Weekend Double-Feature

Hello all,

It’s been a while since my last post. January was another month where life got in the way of writing. I’m thankful I have stable employment, especially during such a trying time. Still, over the last month, it took a bit more out of me than usual. Truth be told, I haven’t had much time to write or edit in the last few weeks.

Excuses aside, I’d like to hit the ground running again, so I’m working on two new short stories this weekend. They are both intended for a contest on the theme of labyrinths, but they have very little in common beyond the inspiration for them.  I’ll have to check the fine print on multiple entries for this competition. Worst case scenario, I’ll just pick the one that turns out best.

I haven’t chosen a writing partner for this weekend because I’m still building the set intended for my next act’s worth of novel editing. But I should have that ready to show you soon, along with an update on my novel. Until then, if you’re itching to read some of my other content, please check out my works page. I’ve got a lot planned for 2021; that page should be much more interesting soon!

Writing Partner: Working With a Group, Part 2

Warhammer Underworld's Garrek's Reaver's Painted

Hello,

As I discussed in my last post, I took a break from my book to write a new short story. It was a weird one and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Well, I finished! It’s also turned out quite well. What’s more surprising is that this project’s writing partners turned out pretty nicely in their own right.

Warhammer Underworld's Garrek's Reaver's Painted

This crew of rowdy wildmen were good company while constructing my story. The Underworld’s line is always a joy to paint. Even this group, which is just a bunch of marauders, is surprisingly detailed.

Painted Warhammer Marauder
Painted Warhammer marauder

All the little scars and details really bring out the character in these minis. It’s like the small connective tissues of a story. A reference here, a flourish there. Scars showing old, aching wounds.

I’ve already found a contest to enter my new story in. It needs a bit more polish and I’d like to get a few more opinions on it before I can call it truly finished. But, it does mean I’ll be getting back to my book this weekend. That means picking a new writing partner. Act two of my book begins with a rather grisly revelation, I will need to consider that when making my decision.

Xander of the Broken Antler

Hello All,

                I recently took part in a Christmas themed one-off D&D session. We did it over Zoom, but it was still great to roll some dice again. I didn’t use my normal random number character building methods for this character, but I still think it’s pretty neat.

This is the backstory for Xander of the Broken Antler.

*****

                It began like any other holiday season. Xander was home tending the hearth, waiting for his parents to return home from their shopping excursion to town. Xander was patient for a ten-year-old and was not concerned that they were running late. He busied himself with preparing dinner and writing his letter to Santa by firelight. It was a short list: a wooden ship, a new hat, sweets and something nice for his parents. The simple list of a kind child. He would soon deliver it by tossing the letter into the lit hearth of the fireplace, as was the tradition in his village, but he would wait for his parents to do that. As the night grew long, Xander could wait no longer and fell asleep on the rug in front of the fire.

                His parents never returned.

                Xander woke in the morning to a knock on the front door of the cabin. He opened it to find his neighbors there; sadness spread across their faces. They could hardly speak, but through sobs and choked voices, he understood what had happened. His parents were beaten, robbed, and left to die in the snow.

                The neighbors offered Xander their home. They said he could stay as long as he wanted. He thanked them and said he would come, but he wanted to say goodbye to his home. When they agreed to leave him there, Xander closed the door and went to his room. He sat on his bed and cried quietly for hours. He has heard of similar crimes committed across the countryside and knew the perpetrators rarely paid for their crimes. That thought crystallized in his mind. They would never pay for this.

                Night was beginning to fall. Xander knew that he would need to leave soon if he was to make his way to his Neighbors’ cabin. That thought floated back into his head, first like drifting snow, then like a frigid blizzard.

                They will never pay for this.

                His parents loved him and raised him to be kind. They would want to be remembered, but also for him to be safe. He knew he should have gone to his neighbors. They had always been good to him. They would treat him like family. Like family.

                Like family.

                He knew he should be charitable. They died due to the cold. The thieves may not have meant to.

                May not have meant to.

                Leave them to die slowly in the cold.

                Xander was unsure if the voice growing stronger inside him was his own, but he was sure of its intent. Guided by confidence uncommon for one so young, he moved to the hearth. For the first time in his life, he knew this letter would be read.

                Xander tore up his previous letter and gathered up a new piece of thick parchment. Rushing to begin his task, Xander cut his thumb along the side of the paper. A deep, stinging wound, but he hardly noticed it. He wrote a new letter to Santa Clause.

                Dear Santa,

                I have been good this year. I have been good all my life, as have my parents. But instead of gifts, they received death, and I misery.

                Know that I have only one request. If you grant this request, I shall never want for anything else.  One single gift for which I am willing to devote my life in exchange.

                I want revenge.

                With that final sentence, Xander felt a weight lift from his heart. For the first time in his short life, he was feeling hate. Admitting that was not only a relief, it felt good.

                Xander began to toss the paper into the fire when he realized he had not signed it. He scrawled his full, god-given name across the bottom of the page. Then, Xander felt a sting in his thumb. Guided again by assurance not his own, he pressed his thumb beside the signature, leaving behind a small bloody print.

                He folded the paper and threw it into the fire.

                Hours passed as Xander watched the fire. He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for, just that he had to wait. As the fire grew dim, the weather outside shifted. The light snowfall of the afternoon turned to a fierce blizzard. The chill wind howled and battered the cabin until suddenly, every candle in the house blew out as if the wind itself were let inside.

                “Do you hate them so?”

                Xander didn’t turn to face the voice behind him. He continued to stare into the dwindling flame. “Yes.” He whispered. “More than anything.”

                “And you would give your life to have theirs?”

                Xander considered this. He watched the flames and wondered if he could walk away. Could these flames be reignited, or would they succumb to this cold wind?

                “Yes, I will give my life,” Xander said.

                The response he received was a loud crack like a bone snapping behind him. At the same time, the fire went out, leaving only dying embers.

                “Take this and exact your task. Only with that can our pact be forged. Only then will I visit you again.”

                Xander turned to find he was alone in the room. Though it was dark, he could see no one, and nothing changed in the room, save for a curious item left on the floor. A bone, no, an antler.

                He picked it up. It was a single sharp tine from what must have been a monstrous antler. As he turned it over in his hand, it changed from bone to blade. The pale dagger glimmered in the dark and tingled in his grasp. He knew right away that it gave him power, but more importantly, it gave him direction.

                Xander disappeared from his town without a trace. He left behind the murderers, stabbed to death and shoved up the chimney of his parents’ now abandoned cabin.

*****

                Woof! I know, pretty dark for a Christmas character. I started with the concept of a warlock who has a pact with Krampus, and it just expanded from there.

                I built the character to be a stealthy magic-user. I picked spells to help him stay hidden and then gain combat advantage. If he had more levels, I would have to figure out how to give him the Sneak Attack ability to use these spells and the theme better. Think Nightcrawler from the second X-Men film, but Christmas themed.

                For the pact, I imagine Xander is compelled to give to the good and needy, but he is then obligated to punish the wicked to balance the scales every time he does. Basically, it’s a naughty or nice based pact. The dagger is the focal point of this pact, and it allows him to sense who is naughty and who is nice.

                I really like this character, and while I doubt I’ll ever play him again, I have a feeling I’ll be writing more about him in the new year. In the meantime, I’m well on my way to finishing my edit of the first ten chapters of my book, and likewise, I’m almost done with the accompanying writing partners. You can find a sample from the group below. Stay tuned for an update in the coming days.

Death May Die wizard miniature

Happy Holidays!

Some Assembly Required

The crib was one of those kit builds. Just twelve pieces total and all the hardware was included. Even so, John struggled with it. He was not terribly handy, at least not in the traditional sense. As he worked, sweat ran down his body, stinging the cuts and scrapes on his arms. Fatherhood was trying but rewarding. His son was his whole world now and it was all worth it.

When strangers met his boy, they always said he looked like his father. They even suggested he took after his personality, his mannerisms. John wanted it to be true, but he knew it wasn’t. The truth was the boy took after his mother. John winced as he nailed in a support. His side still hurt, but it was crucial that the crib was strong. Even with his lack of craftsmanship, he knew it needed to be made stronger.

John was not accustomed to caring for an infant, and he had never expected to do it alone. Still, he was proud of his work. He was proud of his boy. John completed the final modifications to the crib. He hoped the metal mesh would hold. It was supposed to be for chickens, but it was stronger than it looked. The full moon was coming, and he didn’t want to resort to barbed wire again.

Writing Partner: Working on the Hook

Zarbag

I’m finally digging back into my book! I really need a title… But that isn’t what I’m working on this week. This week, I’m working on the hook.

What is “the hook”, you might ask. It is the piece of the story, ideally as close to the beginning as possible, that is meant to pull (hook) in the reader. Think about how I used a nice picture to pull you into what is ostensibly a diary entry.

Speaking of nice pictures, I need to pick a writing partner. I will be painting the Zarbag from the Zarbag’s Gits Warhammer Underworlds warband. If this part of my editing takes longer than expected, I will expand to the rest of Zarbag’s warband.

Zarbag's Gits

The unruly mob of gobos shown above is lead by the eponymous Zarbag. He is a lovely lil’ wizard and I think you would agree he would make an excellent little friend.

Zarbag
He also has a literal hook on his staff… so there is also that.

The first chapter of my book deals with a goblin who becomes an important character in the plot of my book. He may even be the most important character, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

The character I will be basing this off is an old goblin. With this in mind, I plan on using a lot of yellow to highlight his green skin. For the cloak, I plan on using a dark, almost black purple. This play with the yellows and purples will be subtle but should draw the eye to his face.

The other gobos will follow the same basic color scheme. As for the squigs (those mean dog-things), I’ll be paining them with blues and pinks. I want the whole warband to pop in an almost unnatural way.

Both Zarbag and the hook should be a small project. Bite sized as it were. The first chapter of my book has received more attention than any other and Zarbag is, well, small. Even if I include batch painting his warband this is probably doable in a single day of work.

Tune in next time when we will talk about the process of sharpening hooks and painting little friends!