10 Years in Print: A Retrospective

As I write this post, I’m asking myself if it’s really been ten years. But as I read my piece of published fiction in Words Work Wonders 2008, I don’t think it’s something I would publish now. No matter, that’s what convinced me I could write and be published. And there’s no better place to start than being published in anthologies put out by The Cabin Idaho.

I have these three books on my shelf next to my computer. Reminds me of how far I’ve come, and that there’s shelf space still left.

Both Words Work Wonders 2008 and Words Work Wonders 2011 feature pieces written by participants from the yearly Summer Writing Camps at The Cabin literary center. The short stories and poems are compiled in an anthology in a limited print run. (The poem “Coils” in the 2011 anthology is quite dear to me. I had a bad case of sepsis in the middle of that fateful week at the writing camp. I slew it, and got out with a tracheotomy. Editing that story helped keep my mind off of the chaos in the hospital. That and doing an outline for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2011, called at the time “The Shadow King’s Gambit”. (Really glad that title didn’t stick. ) So if you have one keep it…you have a rare Jake Scholl item.

I learned quite a bit about the craft of telling stories and writing poetry from both teachers. I forget the names of the people who taught the classes, but I’ll never forget what I was taught about editing, formatting stories for submitting to publishers, how to handle constructive criticism and the craft of writing itself. I will always appreciate those lessons. Who knows if I’d even be writing still if I hadn’t taken the classes? (I have fond memories of typing in the attic, and writing in my journal outside by the Greenbelt. And a few of those pieces would end up as scenes in my novel Blade of the Broken.)

Though it wasn’t only the teachers at The Cabin that taught me about writing. Between 2008 and 2011, I was a member of my high school’s online newspaper. I was quite busy with that, writing stories and becoming the editor for a few years. Only a few things I wrote are still on the website, and my teacher, Chris Wood has moved on to another school. Thanks Chris for everything you taught me!

The “Demon Stone” was my first publication that wasn’t self-published.

Next stop in the publishing journey was Fantasy Short Stories Issue 1. The magazine never saw print, but it’s on Kindle, and it has a sword and sorcery tale called “Demon Stone”. Never thought it would be published, since it got multiple rejections previously.  (I re-wrote and published an expanded version in 2013 when the rights reverted back to me. While “Demon Stone” in the magazine is different than Demon Stone: A Dagr Brightsword Tale (Which isn’t up at the moment.), I’m still proud of the original. Especially since it was my first piece I got paid for writing, though my favorite story in that particular mag was “The Empty Dark” by the talented C.L Holland. I owe a debt to Mark Lord for taking a chance on me. You can find out more about the magazine he’s published and books he’s written here: https://marklord.info/)

My word count for the first draft of “Blade of the Broken” or at the time “Shadow King’s Gambit”.

Then one month after the battle with sepsis, in November of 2011, I started writing the first draft of “The Shadow King’s Gambit”. (Don’t ask. I have no idea why I picked that name.) It’s was quite a magical time. The words just flowed at a furious pace. To this day, I’ve never written as fast as I did all those years ago. I’d been thinking about the plot all the time in the hospital, trying to keep from going insane from watching nothing but the Travel and Food channels.

Cover art by Rene Folsom.

In the proceeding months and years, I was busy rewriting and adding stuff. I got critiques for family and friends I trusted would tell me the unvarnished truth about my writing, at least to the best of their ability: after all who wants to tell a friend or family member that their book is trash? So I decided to drop the early drafts on unsuspecting strangers well read in the Fantasy genre.

I joined a critique website called Critters, and I posted the book chapter by chapter in the Fantasy Faction Forums. Feedback at times was quite brutal, but all of it was what I needed to hear, and in the next three years I rewrote “Gambit” at least 8 times, and renamed it “Blade of the Broken”. (The story is about a sword, plus the main characters are broken, so it worked.)

Then I hired an editor (Lyn Worthen at Camden Park Editing.) to find errors and plot holes and I wrote a few more drafts. Later I hired a cover artist (Rene Folsom at Phycel Design.) and by November 13th, 2014 I published Blade of the Broken: Book I of the Runeblade Trilogy. All in all, it took three years to get from first draft to publication. Sure, I don’t have an agent. Or publisher. Or make a ridiculous amount of money. But it’s quite nice to have control over my creation. Though I have to say it’s a lot of work to publish books on your own. Either way you decide to publish, just remember there are no silver bullets. (Same with writing.)

While publishing a novel had always a goal of mine, another one was to write comic books. Around 2006 I realized I couldn’t draw. Sure I tried until my fingers gave out, but it wasn’t good enough for me. But then I realized that on splash pages there were writers. Though in 2006 there weren’t as many online resources about writing comics, so I gave up learning about it…One day in 2008, I had the urge to find books about comics writing and drawing, learning how artists worked, and how to put a script together. (I highly recommend Denny O’Neil’s The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics and Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art.)

Though I was only doing scripts for fun. Why? Well, the comics business is harder for writers to break into than it is for artists who also write. Sure, some publishers have submission guidelines but they get swamped by submissions, and it might just literally take the publisher years just to get to your submission, if they get to it at all. Most big publishers like Marvel and DC will only contact writers if they want you to write books for them. And many large independent publishers like Image want writers to already have an artist working with them… All I could was hope that eventually a comic’s publisher—any publisher big or small – would see my novels and short stories.

Me signing copies of “Blade of the Broken” and Tarzan & the Comics of Idaho #2 at Boise Library Con 2015.

Well, that happened in early 2015. I’d met the guy that runs a local publisher called Idaho Comics Group, Al Asker, back at Tree City Comic Con in 2014. He had a book called Tarzan & the Comics of Idaho, and being a fellow fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, we immediately hit it off. Was surprised when he asked me a few months later if I wanted to write a three page story for issue #2! When given a chance to break into comics, you take it. (If you’re an artist or writer, don’t be afraid to talk with people at conventions. You never what gigs may come up.)

For the story, I decided to write one set in the world of Kronea I created for The Runeblade Trilogy, and used it to introduce two characters that will appear in the second novel. (Plus Fantasy tales involving swords and monsters fit quite well in magazines with Tarzan stories.) I decided to call it “The Cave”. Was quite exciting to then work with Steve Wilhite (You can find some of his work in FUBAR from Alterna Comics.) and discussing and dissecting the script, and seeing things from an artist’s perspective. (Comics is like a marriage. You both have to work together or nothing works. And sometimes you may have to change things in your script.) The hardest thing was making the story fit in three pages, but with some modifications it’s definitely possible.

I took a break from writing comics for about a year, and just focused on working on the second book. (Still writing on that to this day. It’s around 66,000 words so far, and it’s only the first draft.) But like with most long projects I got bored, and needed to try something different… Back to comics!

I’d been following a local comic’s anthology series for a few years called 6×6 (Published by Mystery House Comics.) The goal of the anthology is to publish six stories from six different writers and illustrated by six different artists only from Idaho. Though unlike Tarzan & the Comics of Idaho, 6×6 has a different theme every year and each story submitted has to be centered on that theme. The theme for 2017 was Fortune.

6×6 Fortune cover by Steve Wilhite.

When I thought about the word fortune, I thought immediately of bounty hunters. (I blame the westerns I used to watch with my Grandpa.) And I’d always wanted to write a cyberpunk story, so I combined the two. I wrote like a madman, racing to finish before the submission deadline. (And tried not thinking about whether or not it would be approved.)

…And it was accepted. That story would become known as “Bl00d 4ortun3”. (Thankfully had five pages to work with instead of three!) Got to work with another local artist named Arik Grant. (He has a webcomic called Bohica Blues. It’s a fun read.) He’s been making comics on his own since the 80s-90s, and it was fun hearing stories of how he used to work pre-Internet boom. And like with Steve, it was nice to collaborate with someone who’s been telling stories since before I was born. (Another nice thing about 6×6 was meeting everyone as a group every few weeks, and getting critiques and suggestions from everybody. It got me excited at the possibilities of what I could do in the future.)

I rewrote “Bl00d 4ortun3” quite a few times, and yeah both Arik and I had to make compromises, and no we didn’t always agree on everything, but we kept working together to make something that spoke to both of us… If you’re think making comics work is easy thing to do, you need to rethink that.

To conclude, these last ten years of telling tales has been a good one. Some days, it’s tough to write a single word, heck a single letter. And at times, I’ve given up. Times I’ve questioned my abilities. But I always come back. You should too.

I look forward to the next ten years. Whether I right another seven tales, twenty, or less I will consider that another successful and worthwhile decade of work.

And thank you for your support over this past decade! Without readers like you, this life would be quite lonely. Thanks for accompanying me on this epic quest, and reading my rants…Looks like it’s time to write. Until next time!

 

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One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Goblins, Swords, Elves, Oh My! and commented:

    Thought I’d share this post from my author blog. Wanted to say thanks for reading “Goblins, Swords, Elves, Oh My!” for all these years. Life would be boring without you. (Also you’ll find details on the 4 year Anniversary sale for Blade of the Broken. Ends December 15th.)

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