Howling Wilderness Update

The speed of the writing comes in spurts, so I’m employing a lot of Clint Eastwood Ninja Turtle in this draft. If you’ve forgotten what that is, he’s just a mechanism I use when a scene isn’t working. A meme version of “fix it in post.”

I just write him into the story, and he escorts the characters to the next part.

Get it written, so you can get it fixed.

I crossed 26k words recently. That tells me that it’s overwritten. I wanted the whole thing to be 50k, and it’s looking more like 25k at this point. Sometimes this happens, especially when I’m too busy to write regularly.

This book won’t be out in 2022, but it will be out for 2023. Gonna get it done right. I did already get a publication out for this year (Sheriff Porter) so my streak remains alive. Next year if I have to write something short I have a project in mind. Onward and upward.

“Scrub the serial numbers.”

Have you ever read a book that was REALLY similar to another book, or seen a movie that was a flagrant re-skin of another movie, but was just different enough not to be suable?

There can be a lot of reasons for this (cash-grab, marketing piggyback, etc). Among my fellow creatives it’s frequently a matter of “I wrote a fanfic and it’s actually good but I don’t own the IP so I’ve got to switch some things around to sell the book.”

At this point you introduce a practice called “filing off the serial numbers,” i.e., removing the elements that are protected from someone else’s intellectual property, and doing enough to make it your own.

I can’t put an exact number on it, I’ve heard “twenty-five-percent-different” tossed around here and there, but basically if it’s similar to an existing thing, it has to be distinct enough so as to be clearly your own.

This isn’t the same as parody, which is protected under a different set of laws. Something like Amazon’s THE BOYS would work as a parody, since there are characters that clearly match up with Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Aquaman, Flash, and so forth.

I’m thinking more along the lines of Nick Cole and Jason Anspach’s GALAXY’S EDGE series, which they had in print before Disney branded their Star Wars park with the same name. Cole and Anspach specifically advertise their books as “Star Wars Not Star Wars.” The first book is told from a not-stormtrooper’s POV.

You get a setting that’s similar to the original, but different enough to not be a copy or a rebrand.

I’ve done my own version of this thing a few times, namely with GUILD and KILL THE BEAST. Lately I’ve been trying to analyze my works and make them more original than they’ve been in the past. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as “the guy who writes things that are tweaked versions of more popular things.”

Certainly there’s fun to be had in doing it. I just don’t want it to be my only thing, or even my main thing.

But right now I find myself boxed up with my character Graveheart, from HOWLING WILDERNESS. No spoilers, but he’s got magic, and he uses it in a way that is…very similar to a superhero that I like. I had a couple of different ideas for his origin in the Engines world that I came to organically, and when those ideas all came together, I started to draw him up…and then I realized what I was doing.

It was incredibly frustrating because he’s SUCH A COOL CHARACTER. And he has a huge role to play in the Engines timeline and the DreadVerse at large. I just need to write up a list of details and rules for him so that he’s not just a flagrant copy of two other characters that I really enjoy.

Once I get this book finished and I write up the Afterword, I think it will all make sense. I just have to be thorough in scrubbing off the serial numbers. It’s frustrating because again, his origin is very organic and true to the world of Engines, it just ended up making a roadmap that takes him right up alongside an existing character in someone else’s IP.

Shoot…two characters, now that I think of it.

You’ll see. Back to work.

THE HERO NEXT DOOR Update

Some of you bought print copies of HND from me recently, and I’m just getting them out in the mail this week. Thanks for your patience.

If you still want one, I have three copies left at $10. That’s cheaper than Amazon, and I’ll draw something in the front for you. Send me a message at dreadpennies [at] g mail dot com.

Man…I really wish I was a full-time writer. So many books I want to get to, including the eventual THE HERO UPSTAIRS.

Nick’s gonna have a pretty wild ride in college.

Production Schedule Update

The more books that I cover for www.UpstreamReviews.com, the more I realize I still need to have some skin in the eBook game. Despite that fact that I neither read nor enjoy eBooks.

Plenty of other people do, and I need to cater to them. I need their money. I need to make it my money, so that I don’t have to keep taking truck money.

So I’ve got to make some eBooks of the DreadPennies Adventure Hour titles.

In order to keep my sanity, I’ve got to track which projects I’m working on, and more importantly, which projects I’m delaying until the former category is done.

While I format some of the Adventure Hour stories for eBooks, I’ll draw things for each story and share them on Insta, just to boost the signal for them. But the books themselves won’t be illustrated, not at first.

CURRENT PROJECT: Howling Wilderness, a new tale in the Engines of Liberty universe.

PENDING PROJECTS: Once HW is finished, I will get eBook versions going on the following titles:

The Guild of Eldritch Adventurers. I’ll add some extra chapters to this one, mainly by breaking up the existing ones, since it’s 40k words but only six chapters. The flow is important. It will get a newer, better cover.

Fool’s Silver. The chapter flow on this one is fine, the cover art will get better too.

Sheriff Porter. Better cover art. I really want to illustrate this one, but I’ll save that for a crowdfunded limited edition or something.

Homeworld. Improved cover art here, but this one also kind of requires illustrations because it’s a “dossier” kind of story. There are visual aids that go with a lot of the stuff inside it. So it’ll be farther down the line.

Answerable Courage. (Currently unpublished from Adventure Hour.) I’ve really struggled with this story ever since I got deeper into the actual history of the Pilgrims. The truth is better than anything I could make up. That being the case, I’m going to lean hard into the changes I’ve made to the history, and just put in an afterword telling people to read that stuff.

Ridley Scott did it with Gladiator, Scott Westerfeld did it with his Leviathan trilogy, and they both made great stuff. I think the revamped version of this story will probably tie into the Engines universe somehow, because that’s how I roll.

More Howling Progress

I found myself with a rare pair of nights alone at home, since the wife is visiting her family for my SIL’s graduation. I’m using the time to get caught up on HOWLING WILDERNESS, which, like every damn thing I write, is resisting my efforts to make sense.

This last week has been quite productive though. In addition to reducing the length of the Appalachian Trail Classic, I’ve also figured out ways to make the main three characters bounce off of each other better.

One potential pitfall is that I have 26 racers in the Classic and I’m tempted to showcase them all equally. That’s not going to be possible, so some of them will just have to get a passing mention (although I’ll draw all of them at some point.) Tonight I outlined a scene with a character called “Ohio Pete” Hamden–he’s got an important role to play at the end, so it was necessary to set him up at the beginning, but really he’s a second- or third-tier character. So I’ve got to be careful.

As of this writing I’m still putting the final touches on the outline, but once I have those in place the drafting will be smoother than it’s been so far. I just keep hitting the wall every time I sit down to draft because I don’t have all the minutiae in order and that stuff matters in a book like this.

Okay, gotta go hit the sack now. Peace.

Howling Might-derness

Okay I figured out a lot of what was going wrong with HW.

Since it’s a race along the Appalachian Trail, I needed to double-check the course I had in mind. Looks like for a lot of it the racers won’t be on the current-day AT. It makes sense because they will be on machines and stuff, not on foot like the through-hikers do.

So the trail in the book will follow current-day roads and highways along rivers and such. That makes it about 700 miles shorter than in IRL. Trims about a week off of the original timeline.

That helps me to keep the pacing up. Trim the fat, as it were.

And my wife is out of town for the next two nights for a thing at my in-laws, so it looks like Graham is caffeinating and drafting like a mofo. Updates to come.

Hey Graham maybe you should blog more

Hey maybe you should shut up

“You need to have a following online if you want to sell books”

Yeah I agree, how much time do I spend building that following?

“Make a video”

So you don’t have an answer then

“Why aren’t you spending more time on Instagram”

Because I’m writing the books that 12 people are reading, you ignorant skank

“Why are you arguing with yourself”

Where am I supposed to get decent arguments? Twitter? Bruh

“How much have you even written today”

(looks at the above) No way I’m counting this, bye

State of the Dread: May 2022

For the final week of April I was on vacation. It was nice to stay up late and sleep in and do more of what I want to. Considering retirement now.

Writing

I wrote 16,000 words in HOWLING WILDERNESS. It’s coming together. It’s a predictable hot mess, but yeah, it’s coming together. Not going to put a deadline on this one. I’m tired of deadlines. I’m tired of not controlling enough in my own life and my own schedule so I’m just going to do as much of it as I can, as quickly as I can, and go from there.

Maybe if I actually sold books once in a while I wouldn’t have to make all my money off of trucking 50+ hours a week. Whatever.

Reading

4 books total, 2 print, 2 audio. I didn’t read as much in April. Spent a lot of time listening to podcasts. I also tried a manga that I’ve heard of and the very first page was the protagonist male plowing some chick who turned out to be a huge demon monster, so yeah, I bailed on that. I’m back into some good stuff this month, including more Tolkien. Why is there so much bad writing out there?

Art

I finished this really cool drawing of me with my Durango as an Autobot. My next project is for a YouTube video.

Audio

Radcracker Podcast posts every week, except for this last week. Didn’t record while I was on vacation. EofL audio podcasts are coming eventually. Don’t know when, don’t care.

Video

Latest video is here, I talk about some Sanderson books. Managed to add 10 more subscribers this month. Thanks you guys.

Fitness

Didn’t exercise and I ate like garbage. I’m going full Nazi on it this month and I’ll report back on Memorial Day. I don’t care, I DO NOT CARE.

Other

GET BACK TO WORK

Howling Wilderness aesthetics

I’ve had an idea for the Radcracker Podcast that I want to discuss, I just haven’t sat down to organize my thoughts on it. Short version is that part of the worldbuilding/prewriting for a story involves an aesthetics check.

What does the world of the story look like? What do people wear? In a visual medium, what would the color pallet be? In an audio medium, what kind of music would fit the scenery? Things like that.

Anyway, as I’ve been working on the visuals for the characters, here’s some cool stuff I’ve developed for the two main characters.

ANDREW HARTFORD REEVES, JUNIOR–aka GRAVEHEART

Graveheart’s jacket will be a little rougher than this, and in cooler colors, but it’s got the general vibe.
He rides a manticore mimic. I’m working on how to make it mechanical.
The mimic isn’t a hoverbike, but this particular design conveys the bulk of his machine. The general larger front half, the sleeker back half–this artist got it right.
And he carries revolvers. A couple of them. The hammers are shaved so they can’t actually hit the back of the bullet in the chamber. Curious…very curious…
While he isn’t bandaged like Joshua Graham, he does cover his entire body at all times, and he is devoutly religious. I had once thought of designing him this way but I didn’t want to draw bandages every time I did a picture of him. This led to the eventual rendering of a man in a mask, coat, and gloves regardless of the time of year.

The other focal character is MARY KATHERINE LITTLETON–aka STORMCUTTER. But I haven’t found all of the pics I want to use for her just yet. I’ll save her for next week.

Writing Update: Howling Won’t-derness

Have I griped lately about how I hate drafting?

There are three phases when I write a book, loosely-speaking. Once I wrap the research and worldbuilding, the writing itself comes down to outlining, drafting, and editing.

Outlining is easy and editing, while time-consuming, is where the tightening of the screws happens.

But drafting? Boy that sucks and I hate it, especially the first act, the first chapter. That’s where I’m at on Howling Wilderness, and the only way out is to grind until I get to Act 2.

Back at it.

In the meantime, check out the original trilogy here, or subscribe to the DreadPennies Adventure Hour podcast, where I’ll narrate the first three books before launching this one.