As a child, barely a teenager, back when I read my first fantasy novel, The Sword of Shannara, I saw (and still do) see expansive potential in the fantasy genre. I had a plethora of fantastic ideas floating around in my head, and here, in this wonderful book I was reading, I saw a way to get those ideas out. I loved to draw, but it wasn't something I was passionate about, and saying my ideas out loud oftentimes came out jumbled and directionless. But writing, finally, gave me a way to get my ideas and stories to coalesce into something tangible and fantastic.
I immediately began to write down my ideas, folding and organizing them into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. I planned out my book, then another and another. I researched what it would mean to be a writer, how to hone my craft and edit my work. I learned what it meant to be a plotter rather than a pantser. I looked hard at what it would mean to become an author and how to get signed with a publisher. I knew going in it wouldn't be easy, and that finding an agent or a publisher would be a long and difficult task. I was up for the challenge.
It took years and years of work to finally get my manuscript to a point where I was comfortable sending it out to publishers. So much time had passed in fact that the publishing industry was already beginning to evolve from what I'd learned growing up about what to expect. In the mid 2000's, slush piles weren't really a thing any more. Agents got your material to one of the Big 5 Publishers these days. I kept my head up and I followed the road I'd been following for years. If an agent is what it would take to get my book published, then that's where I'm going.
I submitted my book to countless agents over the course of two years. I didn't get a single nibble, and I saw plenty of rejection. The biggest criticism I found was that my novel, even as a fantasy novel, at a whopping 300,000 words, was too large for a new author. But how could that be, I wondered? All the great fantasy novels I read as a kid were 200K plus words! Despite my reservations, I decided to break my manuscript up into more manageable books. After all, the road kept going ahead, and I had to adapt to the conditions.
After a couple more years of editing and submitting to agents and publishers, I finally signed with Wild Child Publishing in January of 2011. I had a lot of reservations going in, mainly because Wild Child was an eBook publisher, not a traditional print publisher. Print was possible, but only if I sold a certain amount of books, and guess what, I would be a book seller. Marketing was required as a part of my contract. Wild Child helped some to sell my book, but a large amount of the marketing and selling was my responsibility. Again, this wasn't the road I was expecting, but it was the journey I signed up for and I wanted to see it through.
My experience with Wild Child wasn't terrible, but it wasn't what I'd always dreamed of. There were parts of this journey that really meant something to me though. The marketing aspect rekindled my love for graphic design, which I think really helped the process. I also met Shawn Howen, my editor, who helped make me into a better writer and shape my book into what it is today.
In December of 2013, my first book, Spirit Summoner, was released by Wild Child Publishing. By February 2014, enough eBook versions of my book had sold for my publisher to release it in print. I was ecstatic. Finally, my book was in paperback, and I got to hold it in my hands! Furthermore, my publisher was so happy with my performance, she agreed to release my next book in print and eBook at the same time.
The road wound on, but the life of bookseller, marketer, author, and writer began to wear on me. The change happened gradually. The marketing and blog posts got monotonous and much less exciting to create and keep up on. Besides, it took a lot of time to put together! Editing, a very important aspect to the author life, was wearing me down also. I missed the writing, the actual creation process, but I found it very difficult to make the time to do this between everything else I was working on.
.Shortly after my second book, Soul Seekers, was released in late 2015, I got an email from my publisher stating Wild Child Publisher was closing. I understood the decision, but I felt defeated, especially since I'd worked so hard and made so many compromises. Now I wouldn't get to publish the last book in my series. My editor, Shawn, had my back, and encouraged me not to give up. She even offered to edit the final book in my series, which we're currently working through.
I kept on the road I'd started all those years back, and I self-published Spirit Summoner and Soul Seekers through Amazon.com both in Kindle and paperback. I ran the same marketing game I ran with Wild Child, and that seemed to serve me well for a while. Eventually though, it sort of just fizzled out. I wasn't happy posting to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram several days a week. I wasn't happy making up content. I wanted to write, but I wanted to stay on the road, too, and I didn't have time to do both.
I came to a decision after lots of deliberation. Once I published Devoid, the final book in my series, the road I'd started as a child was going to come to an end. It wasn't an easy decision. It actually sort of shattered my world for a while. But as I looked back at the journey I'd been on, it just wasn't the journey I'd always dreamed of. It was filled with all sorts of road blocks and detours and hazards that just weren't a part of what I'd dreamed. I'm glad I went on the journey, and I'm proud of the work I've accomplished. Regardless, the road called "Being a Published Author" is coming to an end.
But even though I might be hitting the end of this road, the journey will continue. There are other roads to travel, roads more to my liking, and hopefully, roads filled with excitement, beauty, and challenges all their own. I doubt this will be the end of the Chosen of the Light either, but these stories might just be stories and nothing more. No publishing contracts or marketing schedules or Hollywood blockbuster movie deals. But I'm okay with that.
There are many different kinds of writers in the world. Some of us are plotters, others fly by the seat of their pants. Some write on a rigid schedule, others are more flexible. Some write relentlessly, some write when the inspiration hits them. In fact, so diverse are writers and writing habits, the only thing I know for certain about them is that no one can really define them.
For the most part, I've lived my life as a fairly regimented writer. I have a schedule, and I keep to it... most of the time. I've always had a hard time staying focus. My passions tend to change within months, and depending on how hard I'm working on that passion, other might take a back seat. Unfortunately, writing has definitely taken a back seat lately, and I'd like to write about my reasons why.
One of my biggest distractions in the last year has been exercise. I didn't get enough of it, and I felt it everyday. I felt it physically, and I felt it emotionally. I wanted to change, and so I made a strong effort to workout four times and week. I also upped the amount of physical activity I got on a daily basis. I go for bike rides, walks, and hikes as often as I can. Finding time for all this activity interrupted my regular schedule quite a bit, and my writing and marketing plans suffered.
Then in June of this year, I started a new job. After spending 12 years at my last job as a salesman, I took a new job working as a warehouse supervisor. The change was profound. My attitude and outlook on life have and are changing. My new job is filled with new excitement and challenges, and the entire experience, while good, has soaked up nearly all of my time and energy. Of course, that is exactly what I wanted and needed, a redirect in my life.
Now, after four months into my new position, the waves on the lake of my life are beginning to smooth out into ripples, and I'm adapting to the new changes. As such, the horse named "Being an Author" is standing outside my door, waiting for me to climb back on. I've made a schedule to finish the edits on my third and final book. I've contacted my editor. I've created a new marketing plan, and I've primed the pump for a sale beginning the Week of October 1. I'm feeling very optimistic about the coming months, and I want to say to everyone who has been patiently awaiting Book Three, "Thank you, and it'll be coming very soon!"
Depression and anxiety can be a powerful combination. Anxiety cripples you, forcing doubt and despair into your thinking. Depression holds you down. Tackling your everyday life can feel like an uphill battle. If writing is part of your everyday life, putting words down on paper can feel very much the same. You stack letters into words, push the words up into sentences, then into paragraphs, all while doubt sits on your back, threatening to topple all you’ve created. It’s not a great feeling, but don’t give up! At the top of the hill, there’s steady ground and hopefully, a stable and slow descent beyond to pick up some speed.
ROUTINES & GOALS
When depression hits you, focus on what you want to do, then set a routine to match your goals. Because depression tends to suck away your drive, figuring out a goal to strive for will help bring things into focus. What do you want to do today? Do you want to write a blog post? Do you want to finish a chapter?
Once you figure out your goal, set an achievable routine. Challenge yourself, but don’t set the bar so high the tips of your fingers don’t even touch it. Put your schedule down on paper as a reminder, and stick to it as best you can. Don’t forget to take breaks, and do not feel bad if you slip. Depression has a way of dragging you down hard when you don’t meet your own expectations. Forgive yourself.
GO FOR A WALK
Exercise is one of the most powerful tools in fighting depression. Not only does exercise increase the endorphins in your body, but it helps to clear your mind, allowing you to focus. Going for a 20-minute walk is enough to get your body in production mode. Take that energy and use it to put your vision down on paper.
WATCH WHAT YOU EAT
Depression and anxiety can certainly affect the way you eat. Sometimes, you can only find solace in a bag of potato chips. Other times, you might find yourself going for long stretches of time without eating anything. You need fuel for energy, and you need energy to write, so be mindful of the fuel you’re putting into your body. Challenge yourself by limiting crutches like caffeine and sugar. Try something new and start the day with a different breakfast. Whatever you do or don’t put into your body will have an affect on your body and ultimately what you write.
Meditation can mean different things to different people. Some people meditate in a quiet space without any intrusions; others require music or some kind of background noise. Some people rely on breathing techniques. Whatever your process, what matters in meditation is the ability to quiet your mind. Let those cluttered and anxious thoughts melt away so you can focus on your words.
LIMIT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA INTAKE
Social media can have an over all negative impact on your mental health, and if you’re here, you likely came by way of social media. The internet is filled with information, and social media takes that information and spins it into varying degrees of insanity. While social media can be a useful tool for writers, it can bombard you with unnecessary information. So again, focus on your goals, and limit yourself when going on social media. Post what you need to, find what you need to, and return to your work. Scrolling through status updates will not cure your depression.
In the end, only you can figure out what truly works in your cure for depression. Trying new things and staying flexible are probably the two most important lessons. If you make your routine too rigid, whatever you decide to make it, you’re destined to fail. Clear your mind and get your words out there. It isn’t easy to shake off depression and anxiety, but revel in your small victories!
The Chosen of the Light have returned! The new year brought the closure of WIld Child Publishing, but Spirit Summoner and Soul Seekers will live on through Jon Carlin Shea. As of today, Kindle and Paperback editions of both books are available on Amazon.com along with some new features and pricing.
The new editions have new cover images, minor corrections to the novel's text, as well as the inclusion of map artwork showcasing the world of Ictar. The new Kindle price will be a lower $2.99, however during the month of January for 2017, I'm lowering the price of both Kindle versions to $1.00. While I cannot lower the price of the paperbacks, I have included a free digital download with purchase of the print edition.
Thank you everyone for all your patience during this time of transition. More vendors will follow soon, including support on the Jon Carlin Shea website. With Book Three coming soon, I hope these changes will breathe new life into this epic fantasy series!
"We live in uncertain times."
I keep hearing this in social media, out in public, even in my own head. But I wonder why now is different than any other day. Every morning that we wake, we face the unknown. Every breath leads to an uncertain moment. As human beings, we strive to know so much, to control so much, but life is uncertainty. We will never be able to control it, no matter how much money we acquire or earn, no matter what things we get, no matter how high a wall we build around ourselves.
Take a breath. Acknowledge we face uncertainty every day. Face your problems as they come. Ignore the wild conjecture. Keep your head lifted high and aware, but don't dwell on the past, and don't let your imagination run wild with what's on the other side of the horizon, even if the path has become treacherous.
Our lives are full of moments. These moments can be huge or they can be insignificant. Sometimes these moments feel like an eternity, while other times they fizzle away into almost nothing, leaving barely a shadow. Whether the moment comes to us expected or unexpected, they still shape us into the people we are today. No matter how big or small they are, moments can lift us up to the top of the world, or they can tear us down and unmake us.
In my life, one of my biggest moments as a writer was that first email from Marci at Wild Child Publishing extending an offer to publish my book, Spirit Summoner. The offer came a couple months before the birth of my son. I still remember how surreal the feeling was entering into two new worlds, the world of a published author and the world of fatherhood. More than anything, the moment attached itself to me, and promised the fulfillment on a life-long dream. The process of editing revealed a whole new series of moments, big and small, that shaped me as an author.
Which brings me to this past weekend when I received an email from Marci informing me Wild Child Publishing will be closing at the end of the year. The moment was a big one.
Where do I go from here? What about the final book in my series? What about the books I’ve already published? What about my fellow Wild Child authors? The questions flooded my head, breaking my spirit down. New doubts and new fears split me in half. By the morning, I was a shell of myself, numb to the feeling of defeat the moment had brought me.
Luckily though, I’ve faced defeat before. I’ve faced years of rejection from other publishing houses and agents, and undoubtedly, I’ll face some more. But I won’t give up. I’ll figure out a way to get my third book published, and when that’s done, I’ll keep on writing. Shawn Howen, my editor with Wild Child and a huge credit to making the first two books what they are, has agreed to continue to help edit the last book. This alone has fueled the fires of perseverance in me. I couldn’t imagine wrapping up my final book with Shawn’s help.
As for The Chosen of the Light series, I might have to self-publish in order to keep them out in the world, which is a compromise I’m prepared to make. I’m not sure how I feel about self-publishing yet, but I’ll learn more about it in the coming weeks.
I want to assure my readers that I’m fully committed to finishing the series and to continue to write. When all is said and done, this is just another moment, a big one yes, but a moment that will be followed by another and another. I have many more yet to come.
Years ago, I started writing a book. When I say years, I really mean decades. This book, a fantasy novel, told the story of Darr Reintol and his many, many friends as they sought out the Chosen of the Light. Like many of the books I’d been reading at the time, this was to be an epic fantasy. In true epic fashion, my story spanned thousands of years in a world rich with a culture and history of its own, with many different characters, each with their own individual stories. At the time, I believed I’d written a truly engaging book, something that any reader of epic fantasy would love.
The world of publishing did not agree. Rejection after rejection made me try another angle by seeking an agent, and again, I could find no purchase. I divided up my novel, creating three books, and after another year of submission, I finally landed a publisher and an editor. It was only then that I found what may have been the fatal flaw in my writing.
Story is the truth behind all that my writing does, for it is the storytelling that so fascinates me. Since before I could write, I loved telling stories, creating new worlds and things and people with my imagination. But story is what lacked in my novel as well, for in trying to pack in everything epic, I lost my narrative.
When my editor, Shawn Howen, first told me how much I needed to cut from my first book, I was distraught. I insisted I needed every bit of information, every bit of history, and every odd perspective in order to make the story work. Shawn disagreed. Fortunately, she saw the story laying beneath the scattered histories and perspectives. She knew I was writing about Darr, which is very true, but I was also writing about the world of Ictar, too.
What does the history of the Ancients have anything to do with how Darr feels and what actions he takes? When I tell the story from the point of view of some distant character not even connected to Darr, am I furthering Darr’s story or my own? If I view my story with Darr as linear, any time I drop into a rambling about my world’s history or another point-of-view, I’m creating a stress point in my line. With too many stress points, my line, and my story, crumbles.
I suffered, but I recovered. Like the true storyteller I aspire to be, I refocused my thoughts and edited my book accordingly. I told my story about Darr.
In the end, I’ve become a much better writer and storyteller, but all of these memories of revising is coming back to me because it’s happening again. Currently, I’m working on the third and final book in my series, but the story I always believed was there just isn’t there. It has become the story that never was, because I have changed as a writer, leaving me with parts that no longer fit. The solution is figuring out where the real story is, and for me, that will be a point of some frustration, but also fun. I haven’t had the chance to create new material in this book for a long time. In find the story that never was, I’m tasked with finding the story that will be.
I've written a lot of fantasy. I mean, duhhh, it's kind of what I do. I don't only write fantasy, but fantasy has always appealed to me. Fantasy gives me the latitude to stretch my imagination to someplace not only fictional, but unbelievable. It's a world where one can immerse themselves and breath in the wonder of a world so different from our own.
The fantasy books I'm currently working on, The Chosen of the Light, is set within a somewhat typical epic fantasy world. Horses and castles, magic, long walks, dark creatures. I'm not saying that to belittle what it is I write, only to illuminate the concept. The world of The Chosen of the Light shares similarities with other epic fantasies... until Reller comes along.
Book Three, Devoid, isn't out yet, so I have to tread carefully, but at a point during my main character's journey, he comes across a man named Reller (I've changed names slightly). Reller isn't your typical epic fantasy character. He's a man who deals in something like blackmarket trading (without explicitly saying it), and though he has a calm demeanor, he manipulates and teases. It's brutally apparent to my main character he shouldn't get involved with Reller, but he ends up doing so out of necessity.
The thing about Reller is that writing him is very different from the epic fantasy world I tend to create within. He's a real world villain, in fact, Reller is a man who is easily relatable to our own real world. He's manipulative. He tells lies with a smile on his face. He's ruthless when he doesn't get what he wants, and all he does is want.
But when I write about Reller, something happens in my writing, a feeling I haven't had in years. Reller gets me excited about the story I'm telling. I've been working on The Chosen of the Light for over 20 years now, and it's difficult to have that same feeling of excitement after so many years. Reller is a new addition to my book after multiple rewrites, but he's still 5 years old or more. What makes him such a great character is his draw to the real world, the world I tend not to work in, and how fun it is to mesh the two worlds together.
As a writer, perhaps branching out into other genres is important to our craft. Perhaps sticking to one genre is fine, however figuring out how other genres might play into is important in learning how to write and how to develop a story. Either way, Reller is staying in my story, and maybe, just maybe, I'll keep him around for another.
The antagonists of my latest fantasy novel, Soul Seekers, are none other than the Soul Seekers themselves. On the surface of things, Soul Seekers appear as just another fantasy trope, another type of Nazgûl or Skull Bearer, faithful servants to the really big bad guy. Like the aforementioned, the Soul Seekers are dressed all in black with formless faces, wielding deadly claws that can tear their victims apart, but are they really just another cliché laying waste to a fantasy world? Is there more to the Soul Seekers that that?
A Mysterious Origin
As some of you already know, the Soul Seekers first appear in the fantasy world of Ictar in small groups. Brutal and ruthless, the Seekers attack travelers and small communities in remote areas, leaving only the dead in their wake and taking nothing from them. Many believe the Soul Seekers to be mortal men who, for whatever reasons, delight in the killing of innocents. The various governments of Ictar search in different ways for the Soul Seekers, but no trace of their movements can be found. Could it be that the force of magic, long believed under the control of the Divine, has somehow fallen into the hands of men once more?
Magic, and the “Rules” of the Divine
In the world of Ictar, four Sephirs control the forces of nature. The Sephirs are crystalline relics from another age, and they each contain vast amounts of energy that control one of the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, or Water. When a Sephir is seated on its altar, it is connected to the spirit world, thereby allowing a free flow of its energy into the land. When it is removed, the Sephir begins to lose its energy, thus reducing the balance between the Four Elements and nature itself.
For this reason, the governments of Ictar gave control of the Sephirs over to the Divine, a religious sect, who guard and care for them. More importantly, the Divine have vowed to keep anyone from drawing on the energy, or magic, within the Sephirs. Anyone shown to use magic is believed to be harvesting energy from the Sephirs, and they will be subjected to the laws of the Divine. The Soul Seekers, believed to be users of magic, draw the attention of the Divine and, by extension, the leaders of Ictar.
A Different Kind of Magic
What the people of Ictar would soon discover is the Soul Seekers are not users of magic. In fact, the Soul Seekers are creations of magic, and they are in no way associated with the magical energies within the Sephirs. The aforementioned spirit world, through which the energy of the Sephirs interacts with the natural world, shares a close connection with all living creatures. An energy called the Light, the basis for all life in the natural world, runs throughout the spirit world. When a creation dies in the natural world, the Light flows back to the spirit realm.
The Soul Seekers are born from the Light itself. Created with the sole purpose of stealing more of the Light for their master, operate like a force of nature. They seek out the Light of the living and destroy the flesh binding it to the natural world. No other motive drives them. They do not use reason. They do not get afraid or angry. Unlike other fantasy “dark forces” the Soul Seekers simply exist, going wherever their master sends them. If an obstacle sits in their path, they run around it or over it, much like a flooding river.
To learn more about the Soul Seekers, please check out The Chosen of the Light series by Jon Carlin Shea.