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Eston in 2020

Posted: April 12, 2021

The years come and then they go. Sometimes, we feel like they pass us by too fast, like when you look at your children growing up. At other times, a year stretches and stretches, and feels like a lifetime. I can imagine that for many, the later was the kind of year they experienced in 2020. With the arrival of the vaccine, I hope that things get better quickly.

For my part, 2020 was a bit chaotic, while being productive. As I've done for a few years now, I'd like to take a moment to look back, see what I was able to accomplish, and provide an update on some of the projects I'm working on. This will be a longer post, so feel free to jump to the sections that interest you:

Writing in 2020

Writing in our camper, on the beachFrom January to mid-April, I worked on a rewrite of "The Stranger of Ul Darak", which I had started during NaNoWriMo, in November 2019. To say that this story is giving me nightmares is an understatement. This was the 25th revision, and it was extremely challenging. This story is the toughest one I've had to write, by far. I think that one of the main challenges is that I'm a bit tired of Stranger. I've gone through it so many times, for so many years, that a part of me wants it done and over with. But it's not. The good news is that this time around, I completed the revision (which I had not been able to achieve with previous passes). I sent it to my alpha reader and the feedback was positive.

Then, I went through "Deficiency" and made a series of minor corrections based on the notes from my editor. I did so in a few intense days. Then, I sent it back for another round of editing.

From April to September, I started a new series, titled "The Baneseeker Chronicles". I wrote a lot of this story at the camper, which we set up on the beach (a beautiful, beautiful spot). For those of you who enjoyed "The Conclave", this series also takes place in the World of Arvelas, and you'll notice some connections between the two. I've gone through four passes of the first story and it's in good shape. I'm playing with the idea of letting readers participate in the direction the series will/could take. I'm still unsure what that will look like, but I'll keep you posted.

In October and November, I continued to work on Deficiency and getting it ready for publication (to be honest, I labored on Deficiency, one way or another, for most of the year). I received the first proof copy during this time, and was so excited... and I admit, quite proud. It looked great! Then, I read the whole thing, taking notes in the margins. I then went page by page and updated the original file, which I then use for the official publication.

Then, in November, I came back to Stranger. This is the first year that I didn't reach the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words. Still, by the end of December, I had gone over more than 60,000 words and I can positively and finally say that this should be the last in-depth revision of the story. Isn't that something!? I had to make some difficult choices in this latest revision, including adding brand new scenes (scenes I initially did not think I needed to write, or did not want to write). This is good progress, and yet, there is much more to do. I'm hoping to complete the revision some time in 2021.

Publications in 2020

DeficiencyAs most of you are probably aware, I only published one story in 2020, but it was a big one: "Deficiency", my first full-length novel. I've spent quite a bit of time on preparing the book for its release, including going over last-minute updates with my editor, finalizing the map and inside art, updating the cover for the print release, formatting each version (e-book and print), and creating all the required files for the publishers (in this instance, Amazon and Ingram Spark). It's the kind of exercise that no matter how much effort you put on organization, you never feel organized enough. Prior to the release, I sent out advanced review copies (ARCs), but not as many as I would have liked. The launch felt a bit rushed (doesn't it always feel that way?), but I decided to stay with the intended release date. There is a point where you must move on to the next project, because if you don't, you can always find something else to do. I felt it was time for me to send Deficiency out. Due to the pandemic, it was not possible to do an in-person book launch, which I missed greatly. The launch for Conclave remains one of my best experience as a writer.

Although the initial reception for Deficiency was extremely positive, I felt depressed in the week following the launch. For some reasons, I had expected something to happen on the day of the launch, or the day after, something substantive, something concrete, something I could see, or touch. Obviously, these were unrealistic expectations, but I think that it was the result of working on the book for such a long time. When it suddenly came to an end, I was left empty.

It took a few weeks for the realization that I had a third book published to sink in. Now, slowly, I'm starting to enjoy its success.

Events in 2020

As you can expect, the pandemic made in-person events challenging for 2020. So, no reading, no workshop, no meeting with other writers, and no launch. But at the beginning of the year, I hosted a series of discussions titled "The Writer's Toolkit" at the Fredericton Public Library. There were ten seats available, and to my relief, all were taken. Six meetings were scheduled, but we had to halt after the third due to the virus. These were so much fun for me (how often do you get to talk about writing with a group for a full hour?). The participants were engaged and brought many interesting questions. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. I'm thinking of re-instating the series later when time allows.

Updates on Projects

During my career in IT, I've always had the habit of taking on many projects at once, and oftentimes of creating my own projects on top of those already in development. I tend to do the same with writing. It's not a choice, not really. After all, ideas come when they come, and they certainly come faster than I can complete stories.

I don't think I've ever shared a complete list of all my writing projects before, and I'm not about to do so now, simply because some projects may never come to fruition. That said, here is a more comprehensive list of what I am currently and actively working on.

The Stranger of Ul DarakThe Lost Tyronian Archives

This is a HUGE project, of which Stranger is the first instalment. It is set in the Realm of Tyronia and as of right now, I'm planning to write anywhere between 6 and 10 stories in the series. "The Burden of the Protector" is a prequel to the series. I wish I had been able to start with Stranger, and publish Burden later, but that is not how things turned out, and that's all right.

The fact that this is such an ambitious endeavour is probably at the core of some of my difficulties with Stranger. Because of the knowledge that this will be such a long series, I find myself revisiting elements in Stranger to make sure they don't put me in an impossible place later in the series. And since I don't know everything there is to know about the series, and won't until I write those subsequent stories, I find myself in a hard place. On the other hand, this unknown and the discovery of where it will lead are at the core of what I enjoyed the most while writing.

The plan is to complete Stranger in 2021 and publish it later in 2022. I've already completed an initial draft of the 2nd story during NaNoWriMo 2018 but will most likely discard most of it and start from scratch. A lot has changed in Stranger between the time of that first draft. I would like to see the second story published at the latest in 2024. But who can say what will happen between now and then?

The Baneseeker Chronicles

This is a new dark fantasy series of novellas, following Lyna di'Stavan as she hunts down cursed items known as bane cores. The first story is directly connected to Conclave, but it is not required to have read Conclave to enjoy it. With this series, I'm exploring a few new things. First, I'm trying my hand at dark fantasy, giving it my own flavor. Based on the first story, it seems this will be a lot of fun. Second, this series will allow me to travel all over Arvelas, learning what I need for another project listed below (Arvelas EPIC). Finally, I'm thinking of finding ways to let readers participate more actively in the direction this series will take. I just have to figure out how that will take place. More on this soon.

As soon as I'm done with Stranger, I'm planning on coming back to Baneseeker, hopefully in the fall of 2021.

Arvelas EPIC

ZanathuNow, this project is just as ambitious as The Lost Tyronian Archives, but different in that the goal is to write a single thousand+ page long book. The path there, though, is where it gets complicated. As some of you may know, the World of Arvelas is based on a role-playing world that I created over twenty years ago. The details of the world and the campaigns we play can be found on Arvelas.ca. Sadly, over the years, I lost track of some of the information, and I now need to go back, and start rebuilding. To do so, I need to revisit old campaigns, and update the information so it can be used in stories. My plan is to do this via a series of shorter stories, which include Conclave (published in 2018), the Baneseeker Chronicles, and another series concentrating on the magic users of Arvelas. So far, I've worked on several stories, which are at different stages of completion, including "Zanathu", "Zebu", "Saralda" and "Kasaril". Of these, only Zanathu has been published so far.

Although I'm motivated to complete all the projects listed here, Arvelas EPIC holds a special place, because I've spent so much time in Arvelas. But as you can see, the path to the final book is nothing but straightforward. So, we'll have to wait and see how it goes.

The System of Garadia

Although this is not officially a project, since the launch of Deficiency, I've been asked on several occasions if there would be a follow up. The answer to that question is that no, there will not be an official sequel to Deficiency. That said, there is so much more to learn about Garadia that there will be more stories to come, some of which already in development. For example, I'm currently working on a short story to appear in an upcoming anthology. The story takes place in Prominence City, prior to the events in Deficiency. I also have another short story, already completed, that should come out later this year, or in early 2022. And... I admit that I have started putting down notes for a second novel (and have already written part of it). But it is too early to say where this will go and I don't expect it to be done for many years.

Goals for 2021

I've come to realize that given enough time, most goals will eventually change. Still, without goals, there is no direction and nowhere to go, so it's worth having goals, and adjusting them along the way. For 2021, I'm planning on completing the final draft of Stranger and sending it to beta readers. I'm also planning on finalizing the first instalment of Baneseeker and tackle the follow up to Stranger at NaNoWriMo in November. As mentioned previously, plans have already changed, because I was asked to submit a story for an upcoming anthology. This story needs to be done by June, and the anthology should come out in September.

Other than these writing goals, I'm aiming at posting more regularly on my social media platform, including on this blog. I would also like to distribute print copies of Conclave and Burden via IngramSpark and make some of my books available in local bookstores.

And, obviously, I have a bunch of other ideas of things to do, but let's leave it at this list for now.

Final Word

Now, this is a much longer post than I had initially intended. For this, you have Brandon Sanderson to blame. After all, I stole the idea for these posts from his blog (see State of the Sanderson 2020).

Over the past few years, writing has become more challenging. As I juggle work and family and hobbies, I'll admit that my commitment to writing wavers from time to time. On the other hand, my love and appreciation for the craft and for telling stories has equally grown (as have the scope of my projects!). I can now say with complete confidence that I will always write. For me, this is a great feeling to have, one that I have not always felt. I have a lot of stories to tell, and it will take years, but I hope you'll be patient with me, because it'll be a great adventure.


Keywords:  Life , Writing

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