Personal

When's the next book coming out?

When it’s ready. I have decided to avoid public deadlines, because they cause me no end of stress and do not actually contribute to getting the book out sooner.

Why do you write?

People assume there is always some deep meaning behind this question, which is never asked of plumbers and bakers. There is a mystique to the artistic professions which is not found in sewage treatment plant managers or the meter reader. The artist, it is assumed, must have Values and Statements and Important Reasons to create, otherwise… what? His status as an artist is illegitimate? Or, heavens forbid, might be in it for the money?

But I have witnessed, on the opposite side, cries that money is the highest calling of an artist, that indeed any mission statement with a priority higher than GET PAID is flawed, and one should contort one’s writing and everything else to maximize sales.

I find both extremes silly. I write because I believe I can best serve the LORD God of Hosts this way. To be paid for this is not “necessary” in the sense that I take the disdainful substance called money only as I strictly speaking must have it. (No one implies bakers should do this.) No. It is necessary in order to be a professional that one’s artwork should be worth purchasing.

I am a professional.

When did you get started writing?

As the About page suggests, five. But I wrote on and off with gradual degrees of seriousness until around fifteen, when I seriously started my career. A few years later, at twenty-two, I filed my first papers to officially start a business and intentionally work towards publishing. I didn’t hit major success until I was twenty-five.

You might have heard the oft-disputed claim that it takes ten years and ten thousand hours to become an outlier. I don’t know if it’s true, but it did in fact take ten years of serious writing before I became an outlier.

Why do your books contain religious references, or even outright papistry?

I don’t see atheist writers justifying inserting atheism into their works. Why is it that the moment a Christian puts even a sliver of revealed religion into a book that it is exiled to the Christian fiction shelf?

But perhaps the question you want to ask is—

Will your books annoy me with your religion?

I don’t know. I am not, after all, you, and you are the one who is free to buy or discard books at your leisure.

However, what I find annoying about Christian fiction is when the author implicitly assumes that every one of their audience is a staunch member of his particular congregation and simultaneously proposes that the entire point of the the work in question is to covert the heathens in said audience. I dare say the latter proposition is simply to appease the literary scribes and Pharisees (see below); such proselytizing has never been effective.

And yet, seeing the beauty of revealed truth, I cannot help but let it influence my writing. Prince Anak the Immortal, my most religious book, is based on a sort of theological question I pondered. And doubtlessly more will come in the future, leading to new books that cannot help but be called religious.

Most of my books, however, only have religious characters, or background religion of some sort. If there actually was a magnificent and inexplicable Dungeon on Earth, giving out rewards and punishments like some kind of divine yet enigmatic titan, would not religions spring up to adore it? Indeed, for every fictional religion I would create, if I cannot imagine that I would be a member of said religion had things been different, I do not create it.

OK, but what if I'm religious myself?

Are you Catholic? If not, you will likely find something disagreeable in what I say. Or perhaps not. I know that I’ve enjoyed the works of some explicitly Protestant writers.

But there is an additional gap. Most of my stuff is generally lighthearted. But be warned: I am, as some have put it, a Winter Christian, both due to events in my life and my Bipolar II. Ecclesiastes and Job are two of my favorite books of the Bible. The Way of the Cross is my favorite mystery of the Rosary. I proclaim that the Resurrection is preceded by the Crucifixion, and that without blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

I also, as you have perhaps seen from this FAQ, have no filter when I write. I refuse to hide or explain away the true gory nature of life. You have been warned.

Are your books suitable for my children?

Prince Anak the Immortal and The City and the Dungeon were both written as YA novels, although most of my readers are older. Neither contains real swearing. Both deal with the occasional dark themes, though in age-appropriate ways.

My intent is to have all the books in a given universe be at approximately the same age level, so if you find C&D1 to be fine, future books should also be fine. But, that said, later books will also be darker, as that is the nature of a series.

My short stories are a mix. Assume they are oriented for older readers.

Nothing I write contains explicit sex, or anything else that is inappropriate for adult readers.

But perhaps the real question is—

Do your books contain anything that will offend me?

This is a complex yet important question!

I have no filter when I write, and only my unfiltered writing is good. Ergo, I don’t strain for concepts, or ideas, or words that might offend someone. I tried to do this in the past and utterly failed. You just can’t and still write a good book.

That said, one cannot dodge responsibility for one’s words by saying one had to write them. No, I mean every word that I say, and woe to me if they are cruel.

Thus my Offense Policy™: I try to respect all my readers, but I don’t placate mobs or cater to Pharisees.

I am an outraged member of a mob coming to burn your house and everything you love. How dare you say what you just said?

Let me ask you a question, Mr. Reader, yes, you, right there at the keyboard:

Why are you angry?

Or, more importantly:

Are you unhappy?

In fact, I’d wager that if you are angry at me, you are indeed unhappy. I have broken the tribal taboo, I have spoken the unspeakable word, I have transgressed and yet still show no remorse.

Yet, why should that make you unhappy?

Happiness is not to be found in meeting an endless list of conditions. Suppose it is indeed I, who have done the wrong thing, who has made you unhappy. Will you, supposing you flame me hard enough, find happiness afterwards? Or will this verbal crucifixion leave you no more full than before?

Indeed, suppose I do wilt under pressure and apologize. (Considering how this tactic has not worked for anyone else, I don’t see why it should work here.) Will I be the last person on the internet who says something you don’t like? Will destroying me clog the Series of Tubes from spewing another wrong thing? Or will victory, too, leave you empty?

It will. Truly, I tell you, as a former mob-member myself, that no amount of outrage, no amount of internet screaming, no amount of chasing down The Enemy will ever bring you peace or happiness. Not even if you win. Not even if you always win. It will never, never make you happy.

And tomorrow there will be a new outrage, waiting for you with the same lie: Be angry at this, and I will be happy.

What do you mean, "I don't cater to Pharisees"?

Mobs are the fun, outrage porn way to be upset about art. For the more snide and discerning critic, there is always Phariseeism.

What I mean by this is Checkbox Criticism. Everyone hates it, especially Checkbox Critics when it’s someone else’s checklist.

It goes like this: Art (by this silly definition) is good if it checks all the boxes. If it misses one, yea, even the slightest jot or tittle, it is Bad “Art” and must be destroyed.

Every group, from Traditional Catholicism to Liberal Catholicism to Evangelical Protestantism to Mormonism to Buddhism to Atheism to Libertarianism to The Moon Landings are Fake-ism–all of them have some rules that can be condensed into a series of Boxes to Check. Most people, throughout the world, do not so condense their tribal norms.

Some people do, and these people tend to be the most self-righteous busybodies in all mankind’s history. It is not enough to live. No. One must live according to The Rules, or else.

And so Art, too, must live or die based on these Checkboxes. Of course, it is immediately obvious that the amount of Art that Checks every Box is quite small. The Checkbox Critic must live a deprived life, subsiding only on the crap that gets through his own filters. But this does not stop him from standing atop the highest mountain and delivering his Checkbox-tablets to his waiting people below, a decree akin to the Divine.

It is also immediately obvious that it is impossible to appease more than one Checkbox Critic at a time, regardless of how noble or true his Checkboxes might allegedly be. In fact, any attempt at Checking every Box will lead to being unable to write a single word, not even “and” or “the.”

I don’t even bother. If you can only enjoy works that Check every Box, look elsewhere.

Hey! I'd like to see a picture of you.

I’m shy. I’m also smart enough to realize that if I keep saying things, eventually I will awaken the Tubes of Wrath. I consider this additional doxxing prevention.

Why do you use "he" instead of "they"?

I find the singular they an ugly and imprecise use of language. I refuse to use it.

Authors

Can you review/critique/blurb my book?

No. I have limited time, and I already do some of this for friends.

What sort of writing advice would you give to an aspiring author?

You will no doubt find an endless supply of advice on the Series of Tubes. Some of it is far better than mine. Some of it, I dare say, is far worse. But rather than worry about craft, let me tell you what I most wanted to know, and what I most needed to know.

What did you most want to know?

The question that is foremost in your mind is, perhaps: Will I make it? For a few of you, it is When will I make it? Or maybe it is somewhere in between. In any case, if you are asking this question you likely have the wrong mental image with which to begin this whole process.

Do you imagine a lottery ticket or a slot machine? Perhaps a golden ticket, found after opening endless bars of chocolate, like in the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? That is, that is it is chance and repeated attempts that bring you victory?

Or perhaps you imagine a series of races or tournaments, with the victory going to the swiftest and strongest? Perhaps even a tournament system, where the victors at lower levels qualify for greater competitions for greater glory? That is, it is simply practice and skill?

Both of these general ideas are totally wrong. And I will tell you this again, because I would not have believed myself a few years ago: these mental images are WRONG!

What the road to success looks like for each writer is different. After all, we all want different things. But imagine, rather than a lottery or a race, a march through the desert.

You will, very likely, not “win” the first time you try your hand at writing. A rejection letter is the gentler form; self-publishing a novel that sells no more than four copies shatters far more illusions. Or, perhaps you won’t even have that. Perhaps your beta reader will tell you it’s bad. Or perhaps you yourself will look at it and be unable to publish it.

And then perhaps you try again.

And, very likely, fail again.

But you must trek onward through the desert! Many, many authors start this journey with water bottles filled with hopes and backpacks full of dreams and craft books. Almost all of them will be weeded out by the harsh reality of writing: it is hard.

When will you succeed? I don’t know. But I will tell you that the number one way to fail is giving up. I’ve seen far too many new readers give up the Ghost of the English Language after one failure, or another, or seven, or an endless succession of failures. I myself considered giving up on multiple occasions, usually after a large failure.

Furthermore, you are not invincible. Shepherd your time and money wisely, for you may never reach the oasis of success. Not because you are unlucky, but simply because you cannot afford to keep trying forever, and too much resources spent poorly lead to a final failure.

Do not worry about such nonsense as whether this person followed this rule to success and another broke it and failed, or whether that person having that advantage succeeded and another without it failed. We authors love to tell ourselves stories about success, as if we were the final arbiters of who succeeds and who does not. But in truth, I have seen only one rule, and that is successful authors fought their way to their goal, while the rest gave up when an obstacle or outright failure or disaster struck them down.

It is not one kind of obstacle, mind you. I have seen many, many reasons for quitting the marathon. Some are wise, some are dumb. But whatever it is, whatever reason it is you stop, is just as fatal as any other.

Do not be disturbed by the graves along the road. Keep a steady pace, and prepare yourselves for many failures and obstacles. I don’t know when or if you’ll reach that oasis. But you’ll never reach it if you give up or die of dehydration first.

What did you most need to know?

Success—the big, sexy kind—is the #1 killer of artistic careers. The oasis is perhaps more dangerous than the desert. Because, chances are, what you thought you wanted and what you actually worked to get are not the same thing.

But there is a greater peril than that. Success—the big, sexy kind—is amazing at first. You will be ecstatic. Yet here’s the thing. You might be lauded and praised and money will be seemingly raining from the heavens. But you are still YOU!

Everything you are is magnified. Your insecurities have more to be insecure about. Your pride has more fuel for the ego. Your rants have an audience. Your idle words are on microphone. Your spending habits are fueled. Your cravings will skyrocket from the stress. And all of this will happen at once and there will be little you can do about it.

All of you new authors have a tremendous advantage in that you can clean house prior to the disco rave that crashes it. You can work on your mental health, structure your business correctly, prepare in case the disco rave does arrive early. Get everything in place before you succeed. Because once it rains in the desert, it floods.

Some of you will be more lucky in that you will have a gradual growth to success, perhaps like climbing a mountain or following a river. Still, do not fool yourself in thinking that you will have the luxury of dealing with it “later.” Things might change in an instant, and there will be no later.

And, I will also be honest, your preparations will invariably be incomplete. You cannot truly know the allure of wine of fame until it has been slipped into your drink. You can only strengthen yourself in the hope you will not to be drunk on it afterwards.

Is this why C&D2 was so delayed?

To be perfectly honest, yes.

C&D

If delvers can change classes, why can't they change to a new class and have less crystal consumption?

All classes are “active”, although only one is primary (i.e. it’s the one you have to obey Class Restrictions and get Class Features on.)

So let’s say you are a 30th Nomad, and you switch to Warrior. You’re both a 1st Warrior and a 30th Nomad, but the Warrior’s (generally more powerful) Features and restrictions apply, unless you change back. If you learned Spellflare as a Nomad you can still use it. However, as you gain levels as a Warrior, your Health will increase once you would have more Health as a Warrior than as a Nomad.

Basically, you get the best benefits from each class you possess, and the Class Features and Restrictions of your current Primary Class.

However, your crystal consumption is based on your total Experience across every class. So you only gain crystal consumption as you level, never lose it.

Are there formulas for the numbers?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think this was even a thing that authors did until I heard about it from other authors. There are formulas in the world, I just decided it wouldn’t be worth trying to coordinate them. This is also why C&D is not crunchy as LitRPGs go.

What's with the x/y/z numbers on item statblocks?

Attack/Protection/Power. Which do what they suggest they do.

Refugeverse

Hey! What happened to Prince Anak the Immortal?

Here’s the long and hopefully not so sordid story.

A long time ago, at the very beginning of my writer’s career, I had an extraordinarily vivid dream that formed the basis of the Refugeverse. So armed, I went and wrote my first finished book, The Hand of Lauriel.

It was terrible.

The second draft, The Shackle of Lauriel, was somewhat better, but not by much. It had many flaws, including some structural flaws which required rewriting the book entirely, to the point of revising the entire universe.

Sometime in the midst of the seventh or eighth incomplete draft of the book now titled The Shackled Servant of Lauriel, I had inspiration to write a novella in the Refugeverse, which you all know as Prince Anak the Immortal.

And I think it was pretty dang good.

However, in the process of all the revisions atop revisions, I lost sight of what made the Refugeverse unique. And although I attempted the original novel a time or two more, structural flaws in the whole universe had made it impossible for me to write another book in it with my present level of skill. I would be chafing at decisions my past self had carelessly made the whole time.

In addition, while I don’t want to in any way insult my own work–I hate it when authors do this—PAtI itself has some problems that no amount of new editions could fix. And they shouldn’t be fixed, either. PAtI was the product of a particular time in my life, when I was fresh to professional writing, believed everything would work out as long as I was enthusiastic, “knew” that a hard SF YA Catholic novella would sell like hotcakes, and was deeply in the throes of my honeymoon as a Catholic. That mix will never reoccur—I can never write another PAtI, and I don’t want to even try.

But here is the rub. Because I can’t write more books in the Refugeverse-according-to-Anak and I refuse to write another Prince Anak the Immortal that “fixes” all the things my more advanced skills wince at, I am left with a quandary. What exactly do I write, if I write more in this universe?

The answer, I’ve decided, is to simply make Prince Anak the Immortal an alternate universe. God willing, I will eventually get to the “main” Refugeverse series, set in a rebooted universe, but in either case Prince Anak the Immortal will remain as it is, unchanged. I will not produce a Prince Anak the Immortal in the new Refugeverse timeline—the story of Anak Og Eloi XIa11 will be solely found in the book bearing his name.

I owe my fans at least the knowledge that what they love in a past work will not be changed or retconned, no matter the artistic “justification”.