I managed to finish the two stories I was working on in time to submit them to their competitions. It was down to the wire, and if I’m honest they could have used more time, but I’m happy I pressed myself and finished. Better yet, that strange story I was working on in Writing Partner: Working With a Group, Part 2 has now been submitted to a contest as well. So I’ve started the year off running. I managed to get 2 shorts published last year; I want to at least double that this year. I think this is a good start toward that goal.
Next on the agenda is finishing this edit of my book. I’m still putting together the writing partners for this work, they are really fiddly, but I can’t wait to show them off! After that, it might be time for a professional editor to take over. I was thinking of using one of the resources on Reedsy for that but if any of you have experience in this realm, leave me a comment. Any information will help.
For now, though, I’m going to spend the weekend on my podcast. He Plays She Plays has been on hiatus for too long. Like everything else, I’ll give you a full update when we finish what we’re working on.
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.
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.
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.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m roughly one-third finished the current draft of my novel. It’s going surprisingly well, and the people doing the beta read have been giving me some great feedback. Part of this process has been working with a writing circle on fine-tuning my prose.
I’m not sure if I’ve brought this up before, but I took a break from prose prior to last year and was instead writing screenplays. Because of this, I’m a bit rusty when it comes to writing narration. It’s the natural side effect of focusing on dialogue for roughly 5 years.
Overall I’d say it’s going well. Each progressive chapter has fewer and fewer notes. I’ve been applying the comments as I go so the first 10 chapters are looking pretty polished.
As a reward to myself, I decided to take a break this week and work on a new short story. As usual, it’s a weird one. A strange combination of the occult stuff I tend to write and click-baiting, meme inducing, article titles. Because I suddenly had a new story on my hands, I proceeded to the next step. You know what it is.
I had to pick a writing partner. In this case, I wanted to work with the theme of the week and my new story’s themes. Teamwork, and the summoning of dark gods…
Meet Garrek’s Reavers:
Garrek’s Reavers, are a Warband from Games Workshop’s Underworld’s line. As such, they are easy to construct, affordable, and very detailed. I like these warbands because they are varied but still have a theme to pull the set together. In the case of Garrek’s Reavers, they are a group of chaos marauders who worship the god of war Khorne. Not an exact match to my story, but the team angle is what hooked me this time.
I have already finished priming them and adding the first coat of all the main colors. I did this while I outlined my short story. My job today is to fill out all the detail in both my story and this Warband. If the story turns out well, I might enter into a contest. As for the minis, I’ll show you the results either way. I never claimed to be a professional painter!
I hope to have this done soon, so expect an update in the coming days!
I’ve finally finished editing the first act of my book. As expected, chapter 6 got the most work, but I honestly think this rough 100 pages is much better now. I’ll need to take a look at the second act and figure out where the problem chapters are so I can pick new writing partners.
Working with a variety of minis from different companies at the same time really made certain features stand out.
For example, while this mini is big, I had to create most of the depth myself. It has a ton of flat areas with little texture.
Meanwhile, shading and highlighting even a tiny games workshop mini was a breeze.
The dwarf turned out fine, and the less I can say about the halfling, the better. However, overall I’m happy with them. I got a chance to play around with contrast paints, and they were just right for keeping myself busy while I brainstormed.
For the next section, I’m not sure if I should do another set of minis or paint one large one. I enjoy variety, but focusing on one mini does significantly improve the final product. I’ll just have to start working on the next few chapters and see where my muse takes me!
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.
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.
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.
So I’ve finally finished redoing my previous chunk of editing and I’m ready to get back to fresh work. In the next tent-pole chapter, our protagonists will be at a location with all the principle murder suspects. In this edit/re-write, I’ll be focusing on emphasizing these suspects and strengthening red-herrings for the plot. Because of this, I have chosen to represent each character with a unique figure to paint. Introducing: the unusual suspects!
Look at this lovely police line up! This diverse group of individuals may not all look like my characters, but they do a good job embodying them.
Lets start with this great wizard from the Cthulhu: Death May Die board game:
This wizard will represent a colleague of the victim and will provide unique insight into his profession work in alchemy. He will also allow me to talk about the amoral nature of science and discovery through the lens of magic. The figure itself is a great fit for my book, as it’s a fantasy book in an early modern setting. Death May Die has a 1920’s aesthetic which makes it a perfect fit for this kind of project. Not to mention the monsters in it are gorgeous; I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from this set in the future.
Next up is a fellow Goblin:
This is one of the ornamental Goblins from Feast of Bones Warhammer set we covered a while ago. Because it looked plain by itself, I added one of the Ogre daggers to its back as if it was a Goblin sized broadsword. I think it looks pretty cool like that. In the book, this character is an ex-lover of the victim and will give me a natural way to talk about Goblin culture without it seeming like exposition (though it is). I picked this mini specifically because of that accusatory finger point!
The Third suspect is an Elf. My Elves are not Tolkienesque and are instead diminutive fae-folk so I chose a halfling from the Wizkids D&D line:
I find that the Wizkids minis are extremely good for their price, especially the large ones. The smaller minis are sometimes a tad half-baked. This little guy, representing the prime suspect, needs some serious work. I have mold lines and extra resin to trim and it’s lacking detail in a lot of places. What I do like about him, is that dagger and posture. Much like the character I’m writing, he is much more dangerous than he appears.
Our fourth suspect is a Dwarf crime boss:
This miniature is also from the Wizkids line and has some of the same issues ad the Elf. It is probably the least fitting mini of this group but I’m trying to avoid kitbashing it for the sake of time, so I’ll try not to let it bother me. The character it represents is one of the main crime lords in the city and has many reasons to hate the deceased. But did they do it?
I saved the best for last. The final suspect is a Demon:
This Wizkids demon doesn’t look much like the demon in my story, but I think it is a great visual representation of its inner evil. I love the detail of this mini. In D&D, this is called a Nalfeshnee, which is a mid-tier demon. I like its pig face and tiny wings. It is almost a parody of grotesque excess, which is perfect for my character. I’ll need to close up some gaps in the model but otherwise this should be really fun to work on.
There you have it! A new group a minis for a new chunk of my book. Like last time, painting these will likely last longer than the work on this chapter. I’ll probably keep working on this for the next five or so chapters or until I hit another notable section of the book.
Work is starting to get back to normal so I’m hoping I can start posting more regularly again. I don’t like posting once a week as it really only leaves room for updates. Hopefully, some time soon I can post another Upping Your Game article. I have a good one in mind. We’ll just have to see how the rest of the month goes!
It’s been a couple weeks since we have discussed my writing progress. The truth is, that’s because there hasn’t been much. Two weeks ago as I was finishing my first big chunk of editing in the third draft of my novel the worst case scenario happened: my computer crashed while saving and the file corrupted.
All is not lost, with my wife’s help and a few hours of work we managed to recover most of it by reverting to a previous version of the file. Over all it was a huge relief, but I still lost 2 days worth of editing. The weekend after was Halloween and the day I was going to sit edit that weekend I found out The boneless had been published (check out the blog post here). After such good news I felt like I had done enough for my career that weekend and I have been making similar excuses ever since.
The truth is, I hate redoing work and the idea of spending hours editing the same chapters just isn’t motivating. I’ve also finished my writing partners for this piece and, up until the crash, I felt like this step was complete.
So now I’m sitting here again today trying to motivate myself to get back to the grind stone. Luckily I found a hack for this. I’ve made a commitment to it.
I’ve joined a local writing critique circle that specializes in novels. Pretty soon I’ll be forced to keep up with my editing for else I’ll have nothing to show them! I work well with structure and I’m hoping this will give me the push I need to buckle back down. In a sense I’m trying to social engineer myself, which is the kind of crazy I do apparently.
On another note, you might be able to tell from the photo today that I have upped my game. My wife got me a lightbox and that pushed me to pull out my DSLR camera and take some proper pictures. The results varied but I think there is already a slight improvement. The lightbox has different lighting levels and I’m rusty with my camera so I have a lot to fine tune.
I have a bunch of time off coming up this week so I should have more to talk about soon. I already have a new writing partner picked out for the next section of the book so stay tuned!
After a day of writing, I have edited and, in some ways, reworked the first two chapters of my book. I wasn’t expecting this, but it ended up being a really rewarding process. Not only did it result in 2 more pages to my total length (I’m nearly at the average mystery novel length), I also had a lot of fun! Maybe I’ve turned a corner and editing will be fun now? Doubtful, but one can always hope.
As I promised, I worked on the goblin warband “Zarbag’s Gitz” as a partner project. He isn’t finished yet, but this is where I’m at now.
I usually put a mini down when I move on to a new project but I’m going to keep working on this one and the rest of his warband. Why, you might ask? It is because I have a few more chapters to work on before the next big tentpole chapter. When I get to that chapter I’ll put these guys down and grab a new writing partner.
Before I pick a new partner, I’ll post a group shot of all the gobbos together. The other warband members are missing some details and the metal work but they aren’t far behind where Zarbag is.
As I mentioned, I had a surprisingly good time editing today. Maybe this whole writing partner thing is work? We’ll have to wait and see. If this pace keeps up, I might even achieve my goal of finishing this draft before the new year!
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.
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.
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!
Before I start discussing my plans for the rest of 2020 I want to close two remaining loops.
What happened to that other story and writing partner?
A few posts ago I mentioned writing two short stories and finishing two painting projects by the end of September. That didn’t happen sadly. Work is still extremely busy and I only managed to complete one short story. The other got an outline and its writing partner is still as sad as he began. I think part of the problem, at least on the painting side, is that I have already completed a better version of it. I was trying to fix a brass dragon with red accents but I have already completed a red dragon with gold accents.
Here is my sad brass dragon:
And here is the Red Dragon I completed months ago:
So, suffice it to say that even if I did fix the brass dragon it could only pale in comparison to the red dragon I already have. Have you ever had projects that just haven’t come together? Ones that you know you probably could fix but even if you did they will never be great? That’s my brass dragon.
Back in the drawer with it!
He Plays She Plays
I wanted to post something about the podcast because a couple listeners have asked me about its status. Even though we are a couple weeks late for our next episode my wife and I are hard at work on the series. Most of the credit goes to my wife as she does the audio editing, but we have made some major ground in refining the podcast.
We are a bit late because we have had some technical difficulties after upgrading our equipment. Basically, we’re experiencing our first growing pains. We should be back on schedule soon, just bear with us a bit longer. We’re working on a website for the podcast so in the near future we’ll be able to post status up dates there to make sure our listeners know what’s going on.
Plans for the rest of 2020
When I started this blog I mentioned I was here to do the ground work I had been neglecting as an author. I hadn’t really built up a base of publications and I hadn’t attempted to build any kind of online presence. While I’m still working on the publications (it has been a slow year for responses) I have built up a fair back catalogue of short stories and poems this year. In a lot of ways I think it has brought back my voice in a way I haven’t know for years. Now it’s time to bring that voice back to my main project, my novel.
I have mentioned my novel a few times since my blog was established. My novel is a murder mystery set in a fantasy world. It would be classified as urban fantasy but I’d like to think it’s a fairly unique addition to the subgenre. It has been my main creative outlet for a few years now. However, I put it down a while ago so it could cool. Now that I’m focused again I want to return to it and finish my third draft.
I expect there will be five drafts before it is truly finished but this one will focus on the punch up of the key tentpole chapters. I want to strengthen the dialogue as well as the central mystery but my focus is on making sure each chapter pops on its own.
For the next few months my blog posts will focus on this work. I plan to post about my goals and challenges regularly while continuing to pick writing partners to add a visual component to these updates. I would hate to neglect anyone following me for my rather pedestrian painting skills, haha. It also, honestly, helps me focus and I’m going to keep trying to pair new minis with the chapters I’m working on. Much like the short story pairings, this will also help me discuss the plot of my story without giving away any details.
Well, that’s my plan. If you have ever worked on a long piece of writing before please share your experiences in the comments. This is only my second book so I’m still learning how to focus and stay committed to such a long process. If you have any strategies, no matter how novel (loves me some puns), I would very much appreciate the advice.