Soon…

Grimluk 2 is coming along. I finally finished the chapter 2 rewrite and started chapter 3. I had to do chapter 2 completely fresh, with only a few bits and pieces good for recycling into the second draft and it took me a bit longer to get it nailed down. Chapter 3 and onward will go much smoother once I get the beginning redone so it fits with chapter 2. I’m sure there’s stuff later on that I’ll have to scrap or rework but I doubt I’ll have to completely rewrite a chapter. I was pretty happy with the majority of what was in the first draft. We’ll see what happens as I get through it though.

Which brings me to the real news. I’ll be launching the Kickstarter campaign for Grimluk 2 on the 31st, which also includes revealing the title. This go round, I don’t have a cover yet, but I’ve tried to build a much more visually appealing campaign page and I feel pretty good about the reward tiers. I even made themes for them. So keep watch and stay sharp.

2015 – A Review

Given how much has happened in my life this year, I figured a retrospective was in order. The year ends tonight and next year is already shaping up to be eventful in some usual and some new ways.

My year started off rocky. After getting moved, January was almost entirely me fighting off depression and feeling like a giant fraud of a writer. I was pushing on A Demon in the Desert as much as I could. February was rough too but had more progress. Stan Nichols liked my facebook page too. That was surreal. Sometimes I still think about asking if he’ll read it and offer some public thoughts.

March saw my work increase a lot and I tried off some promotion, posting snippets each week for kickstarter backers and others alike. I’d also attempted to start a Patreon (that ultimately I shut down as I wasn’t comfortable continuing it and by then, I’d managed to get one person interested). It helped me keep my writing schedule consistent but that’s about it. I’ve also apparently been working on map stuff for almost a year, off and on. I started the original map while I was running the kickstarter last year, I think and ended up scrapping it and starting over this summer. March also saw me get diagnosed with diabetes.

That diagnosis took a lot of focus and after experimenting with medication and stabbing myself several times a week, I shunned the meds in favor of overhauling my eating habits. I’m still having issues with that in some ways but I managed to go from an A1C of 13 down to 7.4 just from reducing or eliminating a lot of shit from my diet. Namely not sucking down regular sodas all day.

I used the Camp Nano from April to help get work done on A Demon in the Desert and had some folks read through sections and give me notes. By the time the end of May rolled around, I had declared myself DONE and then learned that releasing a book can be a pretty quick process. I meant to release the paperback on June 1st but instead, released it on May 28th. Either way, I got everything set up, ordered a box, sent everyone their digital copies, signed everything, boxed it up, and got it all shipped out. Then I started selling.

My first month has been my best month, followed by October. June saw me sell 18 copies total, I think. October was 14 or 15. July taught me an important lesson: never have 99c sales when you only have one book. Not a smart business decision. I spent most of the summer and part of the fall learning about making business decisions. And I’ve had some helpful tips from other writers. In particular, Krista D. Ball has been a huge help and became a fast new friend. In May, I’d also finally made use of the guest post Ed Erdelac offered me over on his blog and in July, I was r/Fantasy’s Writer of the Day. Both turned out pretty good.

Then I turned 30 this year. The first half of the year was filled with adjusting to a new location, family stuff, health stuff, finishing and then releasing a book, and hitting the big Three Oh. Not bad.

After finishing the book, I took a little break and then banged out “From Tusk Til Dawn.” Submitted it to a couple of magazines but got rejections on it and decided to toss it up on Patreon. Still pretty happy about that story. That was all in July and after that, towards the end of the month, I started Grimluk 2.

Between July 23rd and October 23rd, I wrote 30,000 words. Which was a big goddamn deal. It took me about a year to get to 40,000 on the first book. Amazingly, November saw me prove that I really can do this seriously as I used Nanowrimo to keep writing and wrote nearly 37,000 words, finishing the first draft on the 26th with a little over 67,000 words. I’ve gotten a little work done on the second draft now and I can say with 100% confidence that book 2 is gonna knock people’s socks off. It’s bigger and better. Hell, I even took something a reviewer said about the plot of the first one and made it a point in the second one.

Now here I am, December 31st, reflecting on everything. December’s been difficult. Yes, I’ve had a year of very hard work and I’m proud of that but I’ve spent a year pretty isolated too. Nici and I don’t really do a whole lot and Auburn’s a college town so making friends has been, well, not really possible. The holidays are hard too, for both of us.

I really want to hope that 2016 will be a lot better in those regards. I hope that the kickstarter for Grimluk 2 will succeed. I hope it does at least as well as the first one. I hope that maybe I can attend a convention. I hope that I can finish Grimluk 2 and then bang out the first draft for the third book.

I hope you meet your own goals next year. I hope you succeed and grow. I hope you have a good 2016.

-Ashe

Beyond Nanowrimo

It is December 1st, which means Nanowrimo has come to an end. The goal was 50,000 words in a month. On that metric, I failed. I hit 37,000 words. I also started November with 30,000. So, while I failed at the 50K, I definitely succeeded elsewhere. I proved that I’m more than capable of working far harder than I had originally guessed. Going forward, I’ll be able to bust out a first draft within three months, hitting roughly 30,000 words each month. That feels awesome and will make this career that much more obtainable. The harder part will be doing a kickstarter for a new book once a year until I can pay for editing and art out of my own pocket. We’ll see how that goes.

Now, speaking of Kickstarter, I’ll be starting the campaign for Grimluk 2 in February. Before it goes live, I’ll reveal the name of the book, the (tentative) blurb, and anything else that comes up. Unlike the first book, I won’t have a cover to help sell this campaign with but I’ll have some other things. And also unlike the first book, I’m going in with a completed first draft. Grimluk 2 is already bigger and better than its predecessor and my efforts on Kickstarter will be as well.

For anyone else who’s completed Nano, keep going. Start your next draft or finish the first one and keep kicking ass.

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My final Nano count.

Nanowrimo Days 5-24

I won’t bother posting through the screencaps of my word counter (via Scrivener’s wonderful project targets feature) for every day since the last time I posted. I will say that I have been kicking ass this month. I’m not as far as I could have been but that was from a conscious decision on day 12 that I needed my goddamn weekend. I usually take Fridays and Saturdays off. Run errands, clean, veg out, generally just do some of the things I don’t do during my work days. It’s helped me continue on, and last week, I finally had my first day where I hit 2000 words. A milestone for me.

After last night, my Nanowrimo word count is 34,237 with my project total sitting at 64,000 and just a touch over that last 237. I’m also nearly done with the first draft. Which may seem weird since my goal for Nanowrimo was to write 50,000 words in hopes of hitting an 80,000 word first draft. That hasn’t happened but that’s okay. I’ll be finishing up the final chapter this week and then beginning the second with a rewrite of the first four-ish chapters. Definitely the first two and probably the third as well. All of which will probably be condensed to one chapter. As I wrote on, the chapters started leveling out between 3400-4500 words.

Given I’m nearing 70,000, I’m confident that I’ll hit my 80,000 word goal in the second draft. On top of rewrites, I have a lot of additions and expansions to make, and lots of areas that need filling out (not to mention finishing out a whole section of the final battle). I’m pretty damn proud of how hard I’ve worked these past four months and it’s paid off big time. My plans for a February kickstarter look solid too and I hope that one succeeds as well as the previous book.

Nanowrimo 2015, Days 1-4

After a nervous start on Sunday evening, I started day 1 of this year’s Nano with a bang, shooting a fair ways over the daily minimum. Day 2 was the same, with Day 3 being even better. Tonight, Day 4, I just barely went over the minimum but it was a deliberate choice because the next section is gonna be an emotional one. It feels pretty fuckin amazing too. The first three days saw me do a half month’s work as compared to the previous three months (10K a month for a 30K total). I feel extremely confident that I’ll get this first draft finished by the end of Nano and start whipping it into shape for a kickstarter campaign in February. You can see my daily word counts below. I’ve taken to using Scrivener, which has a handy project target tool that includes total and session counts. More updates to come.

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Day 1
nano-day2
Day 2
nano-day3
Day 3
nano-day4
Day 4

New Stories!

Bit of an update to go with these new stories as well. I’ve shut down my Patreon. After the security breech, and the fact that I’ve only had one patron, I figured I should just put it on the back burner for now. In the meantime, I’ll be uploading everything I posted there and then occasionally adding new pieces as well. The most important two, however, are the ones I’ll be linking below, as the first was going to be a part of this month’s postings, and was a request from said patron, and the second is the short story I had submitted for publication and was so excited for over the summer. Happy reading, y’all.

“Sadie’s Kitchen”

“From Tusk Til Dawn”

Patreon and an Update

While I haven’t gotten tons of writing done this week, I did get more plotting done for the second Grimluk book, which will help. The book’s coming along at near 15,000 words, almost a fifth of the 80K goal. And in only a month a half, that beats the hell out of my pace for the first book.

In other news though, it’s Friday and September so it’s time for a new story. “From Tusk Til Dawn” is now up on Patreon. Part of me kind of hates doing this because I really really want folks to read this story and realistically, putting it as backers only means few people will, buuuuut I’m also trying to be a professional here. So, for those who haven’t heard, this story is about a lady orc wanderer who ends up having a close encounter of the fanged kind.

https://www.patreon.com/ashearmstrong

Why Pro-Wrestling Made Me A Better Storyteller

A hush falls over the crowd in anticipation of what’s to come. The lights go out and a great gong rings out. Everyone in the building erupts as the organ hits and the funeral dirge begins. Blue light and artificial flashes of lightning fill the dark as a tall figure emerges, clothed in a long coat and a wide-brimmed hat. Smoke billows around his feet as he stares down the aisle at his opponent in the ring. He walks, slowly, deliberately, even somberly down to the ring, letting the tension build. As he ascends the steps to the ring, he stops at the top, pausing for a moment before slowly raising his arms, and with them, the lights of the arena. He steps into the ring and after another pause, he reaches up slowly and removes his hat, contorting his face into a grim and demonic visage of strength and intimidation. AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA! The Undertaker is ready to fight.

For those of you unfamiliar with that scene, you can check it out one of the more recent versions here, from Wrestlemania 27. The Undertaker is probably my favorite wrestler of all time and without a doubt, one of my favorite characters ever. Sure, little Ashe was a Hulkamaniac. Much in the same way that kids love John Cena, it was an inescapable part of being a kid who loved wrestling. But I also loved the Macho Man and Jake the Snake and The Undertaker (the former two I learned to appreciate even more as an adult, while Hogan…well, let’s just say Hulkamania finally died). And Undertaker, along with his early manager, the late, great, ever spooky, Paul Bearer (ooooooh, yes!), stayed with me the most.

Here was a man whose gimmick was that he was Dead. Supernatural. An otherworldly gravedigger who would hand-build you a coffin before putting you in it. Now, if you’re not a fan, you’re probably saying, “Ashe, wrestling isn’t real and it’s for children, grow up.” And to that I say…I don’t care. The character was amazing. He was spooky and powerful and stood out. Where most wrestlers had flashy outfits and yelled their promos, Undertaker rumbled gravely words of threat at you while Paul Bearer hyped him up. In the ring, he would surprise you by moving quick, striking fast and hard, and sitting up and staring his opponent down after they hit their finisher.

But that’s just one character. I spent years watching WWE. We all look fondly back at what is now called the Attitude Era. You may know this as the era that brought us Stone Cold Steve Austin and the most electrifying man in sports-entertainment today, The Rock. Not to mention the height of Mick Foley’s career, the creation of D-Generation X, and the now infamous Monday Night Wars with WCW. The mid-to-late 90s was a helluva time for a wrestling fan.

But characters…theatricality…stories…this is what I really want to talk about. You’ve seen the theatricality of the Undertaker. It goes beyond just entrances though. In ring, the performers tell stories with their bodies. There are tricks to the moves for safety, sure, and they plan the high spots out in advance but they can still get hurt and they do. But they tell their stories with brawling and technical moves and power moves and whirling, breath-taking moves. It’s theater, it’s ballet, it’s goddamn kung fu movies but live and with no wires! Watch enough and you develop a strong sense of flow with action. I credit wrestling with helping me write actions scenes that reviews have commented weren’t overdone or too long.

On top of all this, you take a teenage me, the internet, and online roleplaying and you get to e-wrestling. This most definitely helped me way early on at learning some things about writing and storytelling in a more general sense. When I started, I was garbage and I wanted my character to basically be Raven, except a powerhouse. Then he became Kevin Nash but less of a dick. THEN I reintroduced his cousin who was metalhead version of Raven with a side of Bill & Ted. Again, garbage all around but the latter bit actually saw me step my writing attempts way the hell up. And you worked with the other RPers. You could, conceivably, plan huge storylines with someone else (which I did twice and had plans to do so with another person before she disappeared and I got bored).

And these weren’t just promo pieces like you see on TV. These combined with episodic storytelling. We wrote mini-stories. We might write about house show matches (the shows that aren’t on TV or pay-per-view) and a promo, or do a whole thing that had nothing to do with your next match and was completely ridiculous and silly. You got to win matches by entertaining the moderators the most. It’s really hard to just do that with your basic promo when you are completely in charge of your own storylines. So you tried shit and like the real thing, sometimes you’d drop something cause it sucked or didn’t work right or you got sick or whatever. It was great practice and, again, like the real thing, when it was good, it was damn good.

So, I guess my ultimate point here is that this is why wrestling is still important to me. I’m much, MUCH more critical of the WWE these days and primarily only keep up with the NXT roster (which is well worth the 10 bucks a month for a WWE Network subscription), but it still hits me and I’m still impressed with great matches and great spots and it still helps me. If you’ve read A Demon in the Desert, I actually had Grimluk clothesline someone and powerbomb someone else. I also outright wrote in the Wyatt Family because Bray Wyatt single-handedly got me to come back to watching wrestling last summer.

If you want the tl;dr version of all this, then basically, watch the following video. And also remember that Max Landis is a giant toolbag but he nailed wrestling in his video.

A Demon in the Desert Reviews – Some Favorite Snippets

I figured that with a combined total of 8 reviews between Amazon and Goodreads that I’d share some of my favorite pieces of each. All but two at the moment are from kickstarter backers, but I’m still excited that anyone has taken the time to review at all. I’m giving a name, whether they were a backer, and where the review came from.

Steph Lehenbauer was nice enough to do a review for her column over at Rock and Hill Studio (and posted a short version on goodreads and Amazon). My favorite bit from her review says, “Grimluk, the main character, is an intriguing guy. He’s an orc, but a nice one. A friendly giant. I always love these sorts of characters. (Hagrid springs to mind.) He’s also plenty bad-ass. Early in the book is a scene in which he pistol whips some zombies, always good fun. He has a very honorable sort of character that I enjoyed; he’s kind of the anti anti-hero. He’s Captain America in the Hulk’s body, which was a fun combo.

“The supporting characters are a fun bunch, and you get a good feel for their different personalities and a bit of their backgrounds. I really enjoyed reading it, and the final battle had me with goosebumps and giggles (as an avid D&D player, I was picturing my group and I in the same situation and it was magnificent).” – Samantha, kickstarter backer via Amazon

“I have to say I found this a fun, action-oriented, pulpy read that’s great brain candy. It features a diverse cast of interesting weirdos, and the underexplored weird west genre is celebrated fully within it’s pages. I’m excited for the further adventures of Grimluk!” – Pope, kickstarter back via Amazon. This was also his entire review haha.

“This is Ashe’s first novel, and it’s a very promising first effort. I love the Grimluk character, and I love the setting. It’s a post apocalyptic wasteland loaded with monsters and demons. This fits into the ‘Weird Western’ genre, as it’s basically a western storyline. However, it’s also loaded with elves, orcs, and magic, so there are fantasy elements too. There’s also horror, so we get a blending of several genres.” – Quentin, backer via goodreads.

I can’t remember reading any Westerns before, but I’m glad that my first one was a Weird Western. The concept of this book grabbed me the moment I heard about it, so much so that it became the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter. Nice deconstruction of fantasy tropes. There’s orcs, humans, dwarves, and elves, and yet each of the characters felt like they had personalities of their own, independent of common fantasy race characteristics.” – Ariel, backer via goodreads.

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was its general tone and subtle/dry sense of humor. No, it’s not a “comedy,” but there were some spots that garnered chuckles from me. I think my favorite line is still (the understated),”I hate ghouls. They’re so…tedious.” And I have to say that I can see that as being the truth, and I’ll probably consider that every time I see a ghoul in a story from here on out.” C, backer via goodreads (and better known as wilburwhateley for tumblr folks).

I really enjoyed the fight at the end. I was hoping there was something big to happen to warrant the amount of time spent on investigation. Ashe certainly delivered on that. I also really liked how everything was connected in the end and even though the ‘battle’ was won in the end, there was so much tragedy that it didn’t really feel like they had. I really like when books do that, because the ‘everything worked out and everyone is happy’ type of ending get a little boring sometimes.” – Heather, backer via goodreads.

The protagonist was likeable and interesting, being a Hellboyish “big scary guy with enormous gun that is actually very nice once you know him”. All the action scenes were cool and the little horror stories through the book were deliciously creepy.” – Felipe, via goodreads.

Most of the reviews have been 3-star, and I’m pretty pleased with that (couple of 3.5s, a 4, and a 5 as well). The full reviews were very constructive and I appreciated it a lot. I actually ended up talking with Heather more in-depth after she volunteered on facebook to read the short story I was working on for submission to a magazine and some of the perceived harshness of her full review was altered. The biggest thing I’m happy about is how well received the characters were and that, despite what could be counted as a rough start, everyone seems to be fully on board for seeing more of Grimluk.

And boy oh boy, you’re gonna see a lot more of him in the next one.