Of Faith and Fiction

Hey everyone,

I wanted to get one more post in this month. So this is something of a more philosophical post than most of my posts. So fair warning, and disclosure out of the way lets get into this.

Faith and Fiction, one is a story you believe, the other is one you wish you could believe (well, most of the time haha). I’m not going to discuss the reasons or evidence for faith. Instead, I plan to cover the connections and the reason they are not the same, yet often intermingled.

When I was set up at my booth at Old Timer’s days this year someone who stopped to talk to me said something I couldn’t quite respond to. So if you weren’t aware, my books cover a bit of fictional magic. A bit haha, ok it is arguably a large plot point. What this person said was, because of their faith they felt it was a reason such a subject couldn’t be covered in the fiction they read.

Which I was so stricken by, I stumbled around the reasons that shouldn’t matter (especially in my story, but all stories really). I mean, I am a christian author after all, which is the faith the person felt conflicted with the very idea of magic.

The God of this world, is the God who gave us our creativity and inspired the very idea of magic. I mean the scriptures gave the foundations of what magic could be, and where it comes from.

Before anyone raises pitchforks and torches, let me explain. The magic in fiction is NOT the type of magic the bible rebukes. It is a made up world not our reality that fiction takes place in. On top of this, fiction is an escape from our reality and that should be enough to make the distinction.

That short rant out of the way, lets dive deeper.

I can point out so many parallels of how fiction repaints our world to teach and to entertain. So let’s do a little of that shall we?

In Doctor Who, the Doctor is the only one of his kind (in most of the episodes), can exist at any point in time, and has two hearts. I would argue that his character is an eccentric depiction of the God of our universe. The bible suggests that God exists outside of time, so he exists and is present throughout it. That He is the only true God and is alone in this distinction. Lastly, according to the bible, God created Adam in his image. When he made Eve, he took Adam’s side out and put it into Eve to give Eve life. Could that have been that Adam had a second Heart that was given to Eve? That is a romantic idea, but I don’t have more than the idea. You see some parallels though.

That is only one example. And yes, there are many ways that fiction separates from reality. From alien landscapes, to non existent creatures, to magical abilities. They all have some level of grounding in our world though, there are limits to what our minds can create.

There are fans who make religions out of works of fiction. This is a product of a deep desire to connect to something bigger than ourselves. That is commonly described as a God shaped hole, that a person longs to fill with something.

Well that’s all the time I have today. I hope to cover more writing related subjects very soon.

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

What to do about writers block

So here we are again. Back at the old writing of helpful insights…

So what do I write now? I had an idea eariler but it was for a different topic or story. Should I go develop that? I am getting no where here on this project…

Hey everyone,

If those starting sentences sounded familiar you might have some experience with “writer’s block”. That old foe that plagues even the most successful of authors. Can we slay him? Maybe not, but we can seal him away again.

So first things first, what is writers block?

Well as the name implies it is a mental block that seems to have wedged itself between your mind, creativity, and your physical action of writing. This subconscious mental state can be as frustrating as it is perverse. The mental block can even affect and effect other parts of your day to day life.

In short, you desire to push your creativity and capabilities in one direction, and you receive unexpected resistance.

So what do you do to get rid of it?

Thank you for asking!

Well to get rid of it, stop pushing against it…

Not super helpful huh?

Okay, let me help by explaining more.

Your mind, my mind, and The mind, all tend to wonder.

Your mind is drifting from thinking about your project, to the conversation earlier with that one person, to the sale at the store, to how you needed more sleep, the conversation you overheard, that person that annoys you, why is there so much of that color of paint these days, how you need more sleep, what your going to eat next meal…

You see my point? You can’t focus on all that at once, so the mind is fluid and drifts around.

Step one. Take a deep breath. Let’s begin.

So first try to identify why you can’t focus. This is almost always internal (no matter how much that person clicking the pen 10 feet from you grates on your nerves). What is worrying you? Little tasks that need done? Make a short plan to deal with it, and stick to that plan.

Feel better? No? Yeah me either, so lets continue.

Next if you’re fixated on another idea, write a quick overview of it. Maybe it really is your next great idea that will change your life… Probably not, but an overview should spark the idea back up if it really is a good idea to start with.

After that doesn’t work, change your environment. A short walk, and think about the things you see or encounter (not about the project, or deadline). 10 min later, go back to the project. But instead, reread some of it, or the reread the assignment, or both.

Next, remember that thing that inspired this story? Try to. Was it a conversation, situation, or something else? If the details are fuzzy, try and reexperince it (as best you can).

Now write something. Build something in the story. Set a scene, describe a landmark, or introduce a character. Like Chris, the unhelpful troll who doesn’t understand your problems. What’s he look like? What does he sound like?

HEY! What are you doing? Is that writing you’re doing? How’d that happen?

No more writers block if you follow steps like those. All of them, and don’t skip, it’s a process. It really does work, hasn’t failed me yet.

Was this helpful? Yes or No, and let me know if you have your own process down in the comments.

Until next time. May God bless you and keep you.

Bumper stickers are here

The Sage of Hytrae bumper stickers are in. I will be selling these at my booth for $1, or giving them away with book sales. Headed into town now to setup.

Day one is done

First day at OTD is over, and it was a hot one. I enjoyed talking to the several visitors I had today. Since it’s a school night I shut down a little early to get the kids home and in bed. Tomorrow I hope to be open from about noon and into some of the later hours.

Here’s a picture of the booth!

OTD starts tomorrow!

Hey everyone,

I will be setting up at Old Timers day festival in Peebles, Ohio tomorrow. The festival officially kicks off late afternoon the same day. Be sure to stop by if you are in the area!

Meant to get this posted Saturday when they came in, but the new bookmarks are here!

If you find me at any of the festivals (including OTD this year) I will have these on hand to pass out!

As you can see it has the trilogy artwork and book titles on the front. On the back is my picture (from the back of the books, I really should get an updated picture for the next book release), a brief bio, list of published books and my website at the bottom.

I should have some bumper stickers to bundle with book sales, or sold separately for $1. They are still in the mail, but should be delivered by tomorrow. I will upload pictures of those once they arrive as well.

I am excited to get to meet anyone and everyone at the festival 😁

Until then, May God bless you, and please don’t feed the Jacobs

Day jobs are the devil

Hey everyone,

I probably don’t have to tell you that day jobs are awful. Except for the lucky few who get to do what they love for the living, the rest of us suffer to make ends meet. Thankfully the internet has made it so the hobbies we enjoy can (lord willing) become our new income source.

It’s no secret that most of us don’t enjoy our jobs, or at least don’t enjoy them anymore. Whether its due to the repetitive nature of the job, a series of poor management decisions, poor managers, conflict with coworkers, poor working conditions, or any combination of those or more reasons. We only seem to stick around due to some level of insanity keeping us there (plus the fear of not having a paycheck next week).

I’m proposing that day jobs are not just bad, but literally tools of the Devil. (notice the capital there, yeah I mentioned that guy).

What do you enjoy? Is it working out? Coaching little league, writing, painting, sketching, flying, hunting, watching sports, playing sports, martial arts, etc. Odds are you don’t do any of those for a living, instead they are likely your hobbies. Why is that? Well at some point you probably decided you needed money, so you got a job. How is it that made these things you enjoy a hobby instead of your source of income?

Ease perhaps? Most things we enjoy are difficult to make a living off of. Don’t get me wrong some lucky people out there manage to do what they love, and I have nothing but respect for them… well that and perhaps a small dose of envy.

Your day job makes your hobby possible though right? Maybe yes, maybe no. Lets go to writing since this is an author blog of course.

My job makes it so I can self publish, grants me the ability to fund the process, and all that. But what is the cost?

The single biggest reason day jobs are the devil is they suck out your “prime time” in exchange for money. You likely adjust your sleeping schedule, and probably many parts of your life around your work schedule. This makes it so you tend to be alert and at your highest cognitive capacity while on the job.  In the creative world its an expression that your job taking this time away from you can “suck out the soul” of your creativity.

On top of that, jobs take up time, emotional endurance, and energy. That is why most of us are quite busy if and when we are able to take a vacation. We are so used to using all our energy for work that when we have it available we can’t seem to actually relax anymore.

Work is a good thing. It gives you structure, a value to your efforts, and results in the long term. When you are only working at a “day job” you tend to be working a second job too (even if you don’t really get paid for that work).

So what is the point of this rant? Well, when your job gets you down, and you don’t feel like you have the time or energy to do the things you enjoy anymore; its time to look up. God created work, so work is good for you. The “day job” is a tool made by the Devil to drain you so you don’t feel like worshiping God anymore. A twisted version that makes us feel like work is a curse and not a blessing.

God knows you, like seriously knows you, your secrets, thoughts, emotions, the things you like and the things you hate. He also knows what will bring you joy, which is far deeper of an emotion than happiness. Joy doesn’t leave when things get hard, it has roots like a tree that run deep into your soul. Happiness is like the icing on the cake, it tastes sweet but can easily be scraped off. Often when we are miserable we don’t remember that God has our best interests in mind, after all he sees the end of the book before our lives are written.

I don’t normally do this on here, but this feels like the right time. You see, if you want joy you won’t find it in your hobbies, work, day job, family, friends, food, or whatever else you try to fill that void in your heart with. That hole is left by your dead spirit. When we were born, it was without the spirit we were meant to have. We have a body and a soul, but the spirit is where we were connected to God. Sin, which is just rebellion against God nothing more, tore out that spirit from us long before anyone could write.

That is why God sent his son Jesus. To teach us, to show us how to live, not for ourselves but for God first and others second. Then he did something that we could never do. He paid for our sins. The payment for sins is death, and so while he was without sin he died so that we might live sinless through him. This is a payment, on our behalf. Which is why you have to accept it, and choose to follow Jesus. When you accept him as your savior, and choose to serve him the Holy Spirit (aka the Holy Ghost) comes to dwell inside you. It fills that hole, and connects you back to God the way we were meant to be. So Joy is back in your life once you have done this, and it is awesome.

That is what salvation is. It isn’t a list of rules, in fact Jesus only gave us two “commandments”. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul. The second commandment was to treat others the way you want to be treated, well actually more like to love others like you wish to be loved. Those are the basis of all those old rules and laws in the beginning chapters of the bible. They are not meant to take good things away from you, but rather to remove unnecessary pain from your life. God doesn’t promise us an easy life, but rather a life filled with Joy and one where we will never be truly alone again.

Well that is all the ranting I can do today. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

Basics of writing: Putting it all together

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the final installment in my Basics of writing mini series. This will be the one that strings all the others together. In other words, how to string a series of ideas together to make a story.

So you have a good idea for a book. It will have action, romance, a thrilling conflict, interesting twists, and possibly the best single climax that a book has ever had. You sit down and you know the basics we’ve covered already, Character building, world building, setting and supporting details (if you missed any of those, they are here on the blog 🙂 ). But when you sit down to start that first chapter, you freeze. You have great ideas, but no idea how to get started.

First, take a deep breath. All writers and authors have been there, so No it’s not just you. Second, in a separate document, write down all your ideas for the story, as specific and as detailed as you wish. Third, well this is where the path widens up.

There is, by far, more than one way to write a story. So lets go over a few popular ones:

Some start by making (what I call) story pages. These explain locations, characters, and conflicts that will or could take place inside your book. Once you have all these places, people, and things figured out then; you figure out where you want to start and end the story. And finally of course start typing, or writing on paper if you prefer. You can have their journey completely mapped out, add details of each location as they arrive. Your character’s struggles that will shape their growth are predetermined mostly by your plan. And you finish the way, place, and time you planed in the beginning (or a revised way, if you find things flowed a bit different when you got to actually writing the story).

Another way is to simply jump in. Build the world as you go, and develop your characters accordingly. This style typically starts at the beginning, and might only have a vague idea of where they are going; if any at all. You start Chapter 1, introduce your world or a main character, then start minor conflict; just to show where your character is right now in terms of characteristics. Send them on some type of journey in the next several chapters (doesn’t really matter what kind, emotional, physical, philosophical, a mix of them, they are all taking the character somewhere). Give them another test, to show their growth, possibility introduce the villain (if you haven’t already). Set another journey with a “battle” in the last two chapters.

Yet another way, write the final chapter first. Then go back and start at the beginning. The last chapter could have references to events that take place elsewhere in the story; be sure to pin these somewhere to remember so your flow works. You have a definite idea of where you are going, and a vague idea of how you get there. Determine how far back you wish to go, then start there and lead your character to the ending you already wrote. The growth is shown by how different you made the character in the beginning from the one at the end. The world, can be developed over time, but be sure the final setting makes sense in it.

As you can see there are many ways to write a story. These are just three common ones off the top of my head. You can of course implement any mixture of these, and completely different methods as well (I don’t know them all of course haha).

So what do I do, to write a story?

Well, my first novel that I ever completed I used my third example. Almost exclusively actually, the only additional element I eventually employed (after having 4 or so chapters written) was I wrote short paragraphs of what should/could take place in each chapter leading to my pre-written end (in order to make sure I remembered everything). The next two books in the trilogy were “started” after I had written about three fourths of the first novel. They were more “story paged” in that I wrote an overview of each book that hit all the highlights, broke out the chapters with a paragraph each, and knew what characters were being introduced and when.

By the time I started writing my second book, details had changed in what I presumed the first one would have contained (details can change in the moment). So much of my original overview wasn’t completely accurate. That was fine, I just gleaned what I could from it and wrote a new chapter breakout and started writing from there. The same happened for the third book as well. Was my extra effort to plan much of the story wasted? Absolutely not! This back and fourth created an internal feedback loop, which is something that collaboration with another author could also gain you. I was basically re-evaluating work my previous self had written with “new eyes”.

This kind of feedback is useful and many people will advise you (no matter your writing style) to find a mentor to help you develop your stories. While I do have great non-author support and feedback (my wife and my mom), the feedback I get from revisiting things I wrote a year or two a go is also valuable. Just recently I was doing this very thing with the book I have been writing, and I realized my tone and flow were all a mess. Which last week I announced was being delayed due to that. The story will still happen, but now I need to rewrite it and that is never fun. Even though that kind of exercise isn’t fun, it is helpful because your finished works will be all the better for it.

So in closing, adopt a method of writing (or combination, doesn’t have to be one I listed), seek feedback (either from people you know will give you honest feedback, or another author), and don’t be afraid to rewrite parts that don’t fit or flow right (your story deserves the best flow you can achieve. Just don’t get carried away rewriting the first chapter a dozen times without continuing the rest of the story).

That’s it for this series, I hope you all find it helpful in some way. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

August Update and Announcements!

Hey everyone!

So good news, I will be setting up a booth at the local street fair in Peebles Ohio once again! The festival is called Old timers days, and takes place Sept. 12th through the 15th this year. This is only the second time for me to setup a booth at OTD and I will be available to both sign physical books, and will have a supply of paperbacks you can buy there as well.

I am hoping to have some related merchandise of some kind to sell/give out at the festival as well. More details on those once I have them more solidified. At the very least I will have a new set of bookmarks to give out to anyone who wants them (maybe this time without the typos the first set I gave out had haha).

Also quick update on the newest novel. As the book has begun to really take shape I’ve been wondering if I am ready to really move it forward much more. I probably shared information on the book too soon, luckily I was also somewhat vague. I have been running into major issues with flow, and structure for the novel and have realized that to tell this story well I’ll have to rewrite everything I have written so far… This is frustrating, and I do apologize sincerely about not getting this story out there this summer.

This delay will probably push that book out a ways too, because I have been making plans for next year’s 5 year anniversary of The Sage of Hytrae Book 1 (The Crystal Seal) being released. More news on that as well at a later date, but you can expect some new writing in that world as a mininum from me. What form the new stories will take is still being worked on, I wouldn’t expect a new Novel, nothing quite that extensive to announce haha.

I feel the weekly blog posts have been going well, so those aren’t going anywhere so no worries there, the next one should be wrapping up the basics of writing series sometime next week.

I would also like to thank everyone again who snagged my trilogy for free back during the first week in July this year. Please if you have had a chance to read them by now drop a review on amazon, it really helps (that goes double if you enjoyed the books haha).

I think that’s all I have to share today. I’ll keep everyone posted if I am able to cook up some extra Sage of Hytrae goodies, or really anything of the sort. With only a month left to really get things ordered I have to be moving quick, so stay tuned.

Until next time, and don’t feed the Jacobs!

 

Basics of Writing: Setting, and supporting details

Hey everyone,

We have covered Character building, and world building so far this month. This is the third installment in the series. If you are interested in or perhaps missed the first two you can find them here:

World Building: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/07/09/basics-of-writing-world-building/

Character Building: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/07/18/basics-of-writing-character-building/

So lets first explain what I mean when I say setting and supporting details. They do sound a lot like world building after all.

So world building is the details within the world you built. For instance, a town inside a country, inside the world you created. Setting is more of the scene in which your characters currently reside. It helps to show things like time of day, time of year, temperature around the characters, etc. These things don’t do much to the world building, they don’t tell much about the world, but do make the time spent reading more immersive and relateable.

So that is what I mean when I say setting, are supportive details any different? Kinda. Supporting details, are things like expressions, clothing, and things within the setting. So in that way yes they are basically the same. But supporting details can also include moods, mentioning of past events in case a reader didn’t read the book before, and references to events that took place off “screen”.

Ok, you explained what your talking about, but why should I care about these? They don’t sound important to the story or the plot.

Glad you brought that up.  I mentioned before that it helps make your story more relatable and immersive, but that is not all. What dose it mean when you say a story is immersive anyway? Well a simple expression for it is “you get lost in the story”, or in other words you loose track of the real world around you and your mind puts you completely in the world of the book/story.

Relatable on the other hand, helps a story be immersive. You bring up things the reader has likely experienced. Simple things like being cold, anxiety, being unsure, clothes not matching or making sense on another person, etc.

If your story is immersive it will flow much better and you will have tapped into what I refer to as “the magic of a good story”. This magic is what captures the imagination of the reader, makes them loose themselves in your story. When you have tapped into this magic that is exclusive to story telling people are far quicker to praise your writing. They will tell your friends about the story, those friends might check it out, and suddenly you could have a best seller, or even just sales in the first place haha.

That magic is hard to cast, and takes a lot of practice. Not everyone can use it to its full effectiveness either, but everyone from a small fish like myself to JK Rolling herself could use with continued practice in tapping into this magic. I call it magic because while we do know what it is, and have a good idea how it works, no one really understands it yet. Stories have always had this quality, even if we go back to the verbal story telling around a campfire on the edge of a cave.

Bards, musicians, authors, public speakers, and  teachers all try to use this elusive magical quality to be able to get the message into the minds of their audience.  It’s importance cannot be understated, and effective use of both setting and supporting details will help you tap into this mysterious and amazing ability.

That’s all I’ve got for you all this week. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.