Category Archives: Blog entries

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.

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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.

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.

Basics of Writing: Character Building

Hey everyone,

Last week we started this series of the Basics of Writing with world building here is a link in case you missed it: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/07/09/basics-of-writing-world-building/

This week we are diving into some of the basics of Character building. I feel like this topic doesn’t need me to explain why it is important, I mean what kind of story is it if you have poorly built characters? That isn’t to say that books haven’t been written with bad characters, but such stories tend to be forgotten. After all, your characters are (typically) who tells your story to begin with.

So, how do we build a character anyway? Well, it helps if we start with an archetype. You have many to choose from, the “everyman” to “paragon” to “mary sue” just kidding don’t use that last one. Now, please understand me here, Do Not stick to an archetype solely, or force a character to only fit in one category. Sticking too strictly to an archetype tends to make your characters boring, and stagnant. You do need to utilize them however, because if you say have a character that switches what category they fall in rapidly without good reason you will only confuse your reader. I mean, we didn’t see Frodo (everyman) turn into Gandalf (paragon/sage) in the end of the Fellowship of the ring.

So lets build a character from scratch right now.

Ok, so we are going with “everyman” in this example. It is can be a common archetype for the main character of a book. They are easy for the reader to relate to, and tend to struggle with similar things that most people struggle with. They don’t normally possess any extra ordinary skills either.

What kind of physical traits should he/she have? Well, we should probably make sure they are close to “average” maybe a little taller/shorter, a little more/less strong than their peers, and have a certain yearning to become something more than what they are now.

So lets make this a female character, who is a little taller than average, and while lacking extra strength physically she knows how to use her height to win a fight if she needs to. She has brown hair that sits just above her shoulders in length, and has a natural wave to it. She has fierce green eyes, and a thin face with a few freckles on her cheeks.

There we go. We have the appearance of a character, but that is only the beginning. Now you need to have a couple story decisions before you can do much more. For instance, is this your main protagonist? Lets say she is, what kind of character traits should she have? Well kind and loyal are both normal protagonist traits, but we don’t want to fit the mold too closely so how about we go the route of loner and suspicious of others?

We have a couple of character traits now, that’s a good start. But it doesn’t mean much without context now does it? Which is what the first part character building truly is at its core: Giving the reader background information about characters in a story over the course of many chapters. You can start your first chapter and revel your character’s appearance, and even dominant traits within the first few pages. Explaining  as the story goes on what struggles they face going forward, and have already faced help the reader to understand what this character is all about.

So say about five chapters in you find out that due to the betrayal by a close family friend, she lost her younger brother to a group of bandits and doesn’t know if he is even alive. That would explain why she tends to be suspicious of others and why she tends to be a bit of a loner.

The next part of Character Building is growing your characters over the course of the story. Our green eyed protagonist is forced to work with another girl and that girl’s brother in order to proceed the plot. This makes the character uncomfortable, and forces them to adapt to new situations they have previously avoided. Being placed in uncontrollable circumstances is another trait of the “everyman” and one that is fairly universally kept.

Now you have a growing opportunity for the protagonist. They could work with others better as a result of this situation, voice their distrust which could lead to emotional growth, or even out right fail and see it as justification of their previous feelings causing them to grow more callous towards others. Growth is necessary regardless of what traits your character ends up growing into. It makes the reader gain more emotional connection to the characters, look at Harry Potter. He started something of an “everyman” and towards the end took on the mantle of “the hero”. That growth took place over several books, and countless situations. In the end he even changed archetypes (which is also okay, when there is enough supporting information for it).

You as a writer weave the story, and build the world, and the characters within it. By using effective world building, and character building you can write memorable stories for people to enjoy for generations. These are your two greatest tools as a writer. You must learn how to use them effectively if you wish to create great stories, and further yourself in the art. Of course you can also just use the information to make better creative narratives for a school assignment as well, so to each their own haha.

That is all for this week, I hope this explanation made sense to all of you.

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

Basics of writing: World Building

Hey everyone,

This week in the basics of writing, we will be covering World Building. Well, world building within fiction anyway.

So what is world building?

As the name implies world building is a building of the world in which your story takes place. Setting the stage for the reader. Forging a world to get lost into.

So it’s like, the supporting details about the places the story takes place in?

Yes, and no.

World Building is far more than just a couple of lines that set the atmosphere. It does much more than just describe the difference between scenes. The goal is to make this land of fantancy feel just as impactful as the world in which you read the book from.

Which gets us to why it’s important.

Character dialogue is great inside a story. Epic conflicts, growth (physical and emotional), and accomplishments are all awesome to read. None of these and more, have any lasting impact without effective world building.

If you don’t believe that the place exists, how are consequences meaningful? Can you achieve something in your mind only? No, not really. Yet stories can make you feel accomplished, despite not really existing outside your mind. This is due to effective world building.

So we have covered the what and the why of this subject. Now let’s dive into the how.

This is something that is easy to mess up when starting to write. Books especially require well thought out world building to keep a reader hooked. This can be solved by trying to find natural ways for your story to answer some questions about itself.

Those questions could be like:

  • How do people earn money in this area?
  • What are common modes of transportation?
  • What does the political scene look like?
  • What do people eat?
  • What are the species of this world?

And the list can go on forever. The point is, don’t be afraid to draw paralels and contrasts to our world. Don’t force it though, that can break emersion. For instance:

Say people can’t ride horses in this country. A poor way to explain that could be.

“It is illegal to ride a horse in this region. We’ll have to walk.”

That sentence doesn’t help develop more out of the world, rather it just places the obstacle and tells you people ride horses. A better way to do this would be:

“Riding horses in this region became illegal some time ago. It is due to the king becoming gravely injured while riding a horse as a child. It would be best if we simply walked instead”

You see the second does a few extra things (besides just increase the word count). It establishes a monarchy in the region. A passage time is implied, which builds a local history. It can be assumed that the ruler of this region is cautious, and wishes to keep his subjects safe (albeit in an overprotective way).

World Building answers questions the reader might not have known to ask. It keeps you thinking about the settings and characters within the story. These are key to keeping interest of your audience, and crafting an emersive world.

Well that’s all I have about the basics of writing when it comes to world building. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

Why do I write?

Hey everyone,

A question that I have found hard to answer is: What do I want out of [insert situation/job position here]. A paycheck is the obvious answer of course in a lot of cases. It’s an answer a lot of us have to the question but rarely do we give that answer. We come up with some throw away line like “to build up my experience” “expand my understanding” or “move into the next step of my career”. But to give an honest answer? It’s likely to get a few extra numbers thrown into the bank account at the end of the day.

Now to be clear, I have never really wanted to be wealthy. I would be quite happy living in an RV, or a shack (preferably near an ocean). To live comfortably was always my desire out of my income.

So why bring all this up in an article about why I write? I’m glad you asked.

There are two distinctions I need to make, and the first is teased out above. Why do I publish my books? Is to make money. My dream is to quit my day job, bridges burning and just write for a living. In order to do that, I need to make something off the finished stories to pay the bills and such. You will find that is why pretty much every author publishes their works (getting it out to the public only counts as a reason if you always give it away for free 😉).

So that is why I publish, but why do I write?

I write for three main reasons. First, as a release/destraction from everyday life. Writing helps me process my emotions. In that way it’s a release, allowing me to express a large range of feelings.

Second reason is to finish the stories in my head. I have several stories running through my head constantly. Writing them down allows me to develop them in such a way that I can get them out of my head 😂. They do fade on their own eventually, but I have had the same story playing through my head for over a year before.

The third reason is… well, because I can. It kinda sounds funny to put it that way but hear me out. I am quite poor at drawing things out from my head. I cannot sculpt, or make pottery. I have the ability to string out my thoughts on paper in a creative way. It plays into the other two reasons, but it really is it’s own reason. For instance: I would love to make video games. My talents don’t lend themselves to game creation, writing books however is a perfect fit.

So that is why I write, well that and I enjoy it haha. Now let me ask all of you. What is your creative outlet if you have one?

This is the last blog of the month, and this subject ties into my plans for next month very well. In July I will be writing a series about the basics of writing. This is part of encouraging summer reading, I will have something fun to announce for July here soon as well.

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

Expectations are dangerous

Hey everyone,

Here we go again. I think this one might be easy to agree with. Expectations and their more dangerous nature is a well covered topic. It is easy to find any number of publications covering the subject. However, why are expectations so dangerous?

Most will argue that high expectations set you up for disappointment. So many people find the fear of disappointment so suffocating that they set the bar very low to avoid it. In truth the danger is setting your expectations too low not too high.

Disappointment is a good thing, which I covered in a blog a couple of weeks ago so if you missed that you can checkout the link here: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/06/06/disappointment-is-always-a-good-thing/

When your expectations are low, they are easily met, and on top of that you build the wrong mindset. I had this issue not long ago when I launched my third book. Due to a number of perceived problems with my previous advertising, the delays the book received, and difficulty in getting noticed in the crowded market I set my expectations rock bottom. This hurt my book’s launch since I put less effort since my expectations were low. Low expectations hurt my audience since word didn’t reach them as quickly that the book was launched. Finally it hurt myself, putting my self esteem low (which most people convince themselves is why to set the expectations low in the first place).

Had I kept shooting as high as I could imagine perhaps growth would occur when I kept leaping for it. You see, if the bar is low you won’t get far. If the goal is set high, you will probably not get there, but you’re likely to get farther than where you get when the goal is easy to achieve. If you set the expectations low, you don’t grow.

Growing is painful. It’s a fact of life. Do you remember growing pains when you were young? My oldest son complains about them nearly every day. When you face disappointment it hurts, but you learn from failure, and learning is how you grow to improve it for next time.

So set your sights high, and you might be surprised by where you land.

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