Carl’s Author Blog

The Six Most Interesting Questions about Djinn Tamer Bronze League, Derek Alan Siddoway, A.J. Cerna, and the Djinncyclopedia

Ultimately, I’d say, this would be a great book for those who get psyched when they think about reading a book about Pokemon.

Welcome! This post is part of my Most Interesting Questions series, which means I’ll be answering the most interesting questions I can find or think of on the Djinn Tamer series.

The Djinn Tamer series is an indie gem, written by Derek Alan Siddoway and A.J. Cerna. Djinn Tamer is exciting, action-packed, and it’s an indie fantasy and litrpg book series on Amazon. As the description on Amazon goes, it’s great for fans of Pokemon, Digimon, and Monster Rancher. It’s written by Derek Alan Siddoway and A.J. Cerna, Derek is the author behind the Teutevar Saga and the Gryphon Riders Trilogy which includes Windsworn, Windswept, and Windbreak. Both Derek and A.J. also recently released a new book called God Mode. It’s also a litrpg book. As for Djinn Tamer, the series includes three books called Djinn Tamer Starter, Djinn Tamer Rivals, and Djinn Tamer Evolution. All books are in the Djinn Tamer Bronze League trilogy, and coming up next is apparently going to be the Djinn Tamer Silver League.

By the way, if you’re wondering about who I am, I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction. Feel free to check out my books using the menu bar above!

Q #1) What is a Djinn Tamer? What is this book about?

A: A Djinn Tamer is basically a Pokemon trainer. Likewise, a Djinn is basically a Pokemon. In these books, Derek and A.J. have used their amazing imagination to craft a whole new set of Pokemon. The Djinn are really unique, really cool, and easy to love. The main character’s Djinn is basically like a dog or wolf that’s fiery red. Others are like jaguars or bird-like. Unlike in the video games and the cartoon, though, things are simplified a bit. There are only five types: Water, Fire, Wind, Earth, and Plain. Djinn also have stats similar to Pokemon…they don’t play a very big role in the narrative though. Since this is a litrpg book, the authors do list the stats out from time to time, so readers can track this.

Q #2) What is a djinncyclopedia, djinn encyclopedia, or djinn tamer encyclopedia?

A: The Djinncyclopedia is basically the equivalent of a Pokedex. In this series, the main character, Jackson Hunt, gets one straight away (or maybe he has one to start things off, I can’t quite remember). The Djinncyclopedia shows Djinn Tamers information about wild Djinn, their own Djinn, and other tamers’ Djinn. It lets them see stuff like their stats, a description, and the names of the various Djinn they encounter. When it comes to other tamers, though, the encyclopedia does hide some information about their Djinn, so that in the middle of a fight it can’t be used to give one tamer an edge over the other. By the way, Derek and A.J. have an online Djinncyclopedia that can be viewed by anyone who signs up for their mailing list. Here is the link: http://djinntamer.com/newsletter/

Q # 3) When is the Djinn Tamer book 4 release date?

A: As far as I know, there’s no news right now on a Djinn Tamer book 4 release date. One might assume that news of it will be emailed to those signed up for their mailing list. Of course, book 4 will be part of the Djinn Tamer Silver League, given that Bronze League is finished. In the meantime, interested readers will have to check out other books while they wait for Djinn Tamer book 4’s release date. I am an author myself who writes in the same genre and who writes books that are similar in feel to Djinn Tamer. I’d like to shamelessly plug my book Sand and Smoke and my upcoming series Dragons of Marak to anyone who’s looking for a new, exciting read! They aren’t litrpg but they are fantasy with action scenes. Check out Sand and Smoke here: https://rebrand.ly/sandandsmoke.

Q #4) Is there a Djinn Tamer wiki out there?

A: I really think there should be a Djinn Tamer wiki. It’s definitely a series that deserves it. It would be great to have a place to look up information quickly about the different Djinns, and see what they look like. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a wiki page online for it. Perhaps one will appear in the future. In the meantime, the Djinncyclopedia is probably the closest thing to it, that’s my guess.

Q #5) Is Djinn Tamer a ripoff of Pokemon?

A: This question actually comes from the Amazon reviews. There’s a lot of reviews on Amazon that state this series is a rip-off of Pokemon. It’s easy to see why, after having read the books. The story is super similar, down to a main character who mirrors Ash Ketchum in many ways and a world that resembles Pokemon in almost all aspects; there’s just different names for things. This, I believe, is mostly by design from the authors. It’s definitely not a book for anyone who wants to read something unique, that hasn’t been thought of before! There are books out there like that, books that take something familiar, and put a new spin on it. I usually try to do that with my books. Djinn Tamer instead is for anyone who loves Pokemon and wants to read Pokemon. It excels in bringing that old-timey Pokemon (weird that I’m calling Pokemon old-timey) feel to literature. It doesn’t necessarily bring something new to the table, rather, it delivers something that many people around the world remember fondly to them in a new format, as a book.

Q #6): Who is the main character?

A: Jackson Hunt is the main character. He’s a Djinn Tamer from a small town, just like Ash Ketchum! In fact, Jackson Hunt is a spitting image of Ash Ketchum in many ways. He’s definitely not for everyone. He’s got a lot of teen angst, but on the other hand he does seem to have a good heart. He wants, more than anything, to be a Djinn Tamer in the pro leagues. Ultimately, I’d say, this would be a great book for those who get psyched when they think about reading a book about Pokemon, but for others there are probably better options out there. Overall, it does serve a niche, quite nicely I think, because there aren’t many books out there that evoke that old-timey Pokemon feel like Djinn Tamer does.

Thanks for reading! Now I invite you to check out more MIQ posts below, or my book Sand and Smoke, which is also fantasy, with lots of action and lovable characters. It has dragons, a ragtag criminal crew, and a devastating weapon that must be stopped.

My Writing Process + Sand and Smoke Sequel is Drafted!

Welcome! This is an update on my author blog. If you find yourself here, unsure who I am, let me introduce myself. My name is Carl and I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction.

Good news! Today I hit the end on the first draft of the sequel to Sand and Smoke! There are still a number of things to clean up and revise, but if all goes well, I’m really hoping to publish it sometime in August next year. I’ll probably begin accepting pre-orders and reveal the title sometime before the end of this year (2020) by the way.

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So I think there is a trend of writers, authors, traditionally published or indie or self-published, sharing their writing process with others? I thought I would hop on that trend! So here’s some info about how I write.

First thing, every project is different.

My writing project changes a lot. It might seem weird then that I am sharing my writing process. But even though how I write changes with every project, I do still have a process. I have a few steps I go through every time I write something new.

At the most fundamental level, my writing process can be broken up into three steps:

  1. Idea
  2. Write
  3. Revise

Let’s talk about step one. Technically, an idea is just the very, very starting point. It might not even resemble a story. An idea could be, for instance, a boy with a lightning bolt scar on his head. We recognize that as Harry Potter, but someone who knows nothing of Harry Potter would be able to imagine a million different books using that idea. The original idea for my book, Sand and Smoke, was a world with dragons and cowboys in it. Personally, I get my ideas at random times throughout the day. I usually don’t try to force this step. I keep a page of notes on my phone and write down an idea whenever it comes to me. That might be when I’m about to go to sleep, when I’m taking a shower, or even when I’m driving. If I come up with the idea when I’m driving, I usually either try to remember it for as soon as I come to a stop, or I pull over and jot it down. The vast majority of ideas I never actually use. Sometimes, I combine two ideas. I love doing that. If an idea is really good, it will end up sticking in my head, and then I will start to develop it and proceed to the next step. When I first started writing, these ideas were usually just things I thought sounded cool. Such as, in college, when I had an idea to write about a pigeon living in NYC. Lately, I’ve been working harder to differentiate these ideas that sound cool in my head from those that have more commercial appeal.

After the idea comes the concept. The difference between an idea and a concept is that a concept is more specific and actually lays out the bones of the story. For me, this usually involves a lot of character work. Who is the protagonist? What do they want? I try to envision what sort of books my book would go next to on the bookshelf.

In my opinion, it’s smart to give some time to concepting. I usually do it like I’m soaking a pot to wash later. In other words, I don’t just sit down and concept, it goes on in between other things during my day. My version of concepting is pretty much just daydreaming lol. There are exercises that you can do, however, such as loglines, premise lines, or things like that to help with concepting.

I usually do some work with character before I start writing. I’ve found that I’m naturally great at writing plot, but I have to really put in effort to get good characters. Each project, it’s a little different how I build my characters. For some books, I have created whole worksheets with things like hair color, eye color, backstory, love life, etc. Other books, I’ve written monologues in a character’s voice, describing their backstory and who they are. For one of my projects recently, I tried envisioning the characters as people I know, family or friends, and basing their decisions, the way they speak, and the clothes they wear, off of one person.

When I actually start writing a novel, short story, screenplay, or TV pilot, my writing process usually takes me from beginning to end rather quickly. I write consistently, and I don’t worry too much about making things perfect. I do sometimes go back and revise as I write. Lately I’ve been setting deadlines for myself and I’ve gotten good at finishing books by a deadline. Back in college, I remember that I would have deadlines set for me by my teachers, so I think I got accustomed to this. I’ve found that sometimes having a deadline can lead to subpar-quality, if the deadline is unrealistic. The important thing is to remain flexible, but consistent. I’m currently on a schedule writing five days a week, but in the past I’ve succeeded on schedules writing as little as two days a week. If something isn’t working, I’ll re-evaluate how I’m spending my writing time on those days, but I won’t just give myself those days off because for me, consistency is key.

I’ve found that the first draft is about getting the right beats of a story. So, while I might go back and revise, or even adjust my deadline, for something like a protagonist who gets dragged on a quest instead of having their own motivation and choosing the quest, I wouldn’t do the same if my protagonist just said something that was totally out of character. For me, the first draft is about hitting the right plot points in the right way.

In the last step of my writing process, revision, I try to fix any “continuity errors” first. That means anything like a character who exits a room, then speaks as if they’re still in the room, or a character whose name changes midway through the book, or anything like that. Sometimes, I’ll have other changes I imagined while writing but didn’t want to take the time to do yet. I’ll do these changes at the same time. Most of the time, after that, I send the piece to a friend or fellow writer who can provide some critique. After that, it changes a lot what I do from piece to piece.

In general, the time from idea to actually writing can vary greatly. I’ve had ideas before that I don’t work on for years. Sometimes, I’ll start concepting right away. Sometimes, I’ll concept for a really long time and not write the thing. Sometimes, I’ll start writing and decide the idea/concept isn’t worth finishing. Lately, once I’ve invested the time to start a piece, I’ve usually seen it through to the end.

So that’s my writing process! When I am writing, here are some resources that influence how I write:

Dan Harmon’s Story Circle, a great resource for structure. I have this memorized: https://channel101.fandom.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder, more structure, also breakdown of story tropes and types of stories, and the save the cat trick to make your protagonist more likeable: https://www.amazon.com/Save-Last-Book-Screenwriting-Youll/dp/1932907009

Aristotle’s Poetics, provides an excellent overview of the core components of a story, I think about these components religiously when revising, and frequently when writing.

https://tvtropes.org/ : A website that lists all the tropes in stories that have existed in many mediums (TV, literature, movies, videogames, comics, etc). I’ve used this when I’ve done outlines, but it also has value as just a place to explore every once in a while, to get more knowledge of tropes for when you are writing.

Dragons of Marak, Sand and Smoke’s Sequel, and Writing While Social Distancing

Welcome! This is an update on my author blog. If you find yourself here, unsure who I am, let me introduce myself. My name is Carl and I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction.

I’ve reached the doldrums of my writing year recently so things are pretty quiet. But I’ll update you with what I have been working on.

While the start of this year was jam-packed for me, I’ve recently been slowing down, as I take things a little more methodically from here on out.

At the start of 2020, I published Middle School Robots. I sent out ARCs, ran a few promotions. I also wrote the first draft of the second book in my upcoming Dragon of Marak series. The series was also called Dragon Monsters Equip until recently, so if you’ve heard me say that in the past it’s the same thing.

I’m not gonna lie, the whole COVID thing kinda set me back. Mostly because it was so shocking. Even for an author like me it disrupted my writing flow. It didn’t inhibit my ability to write, obviously, but it was a struggle at first to keep up the motivation. And a major tool I used before COVID for getting writing done was going out to a coffee shop to do it. Now I can’t do that anymore so I have to find other ways to tune out the distractions at home.

Anyway, I think I’ve mostly figured it out by now. Since publishing Middle School Robots, I’ve shifted gears into a few TV projects, and I’ve also begun a thorough revising of Dragons of Marak book 1. It’s a really good book! Like REALLY good. I’m surprised how much I still love it as I go back and work on it. It’s soothing just to read through it and make some changes.

I recently sent an excerpt from the book to my mailing list. You can sign up for that list at this link: www.rebrand.ly/storiesbycarl. And you’ll receive offers of giveaways, free books, and maybe some more excerpts in the future.

Here’s a little teaser about Dragons of Marak:

Ana Perez comes from wealth and power. But her father, a business tycoon in the land of Marak, hates dragons. That makes things a little complicated when she runs into a water cobra dragon named Cee, and bonds with him. Still, she would not give him up for anything. Marak is a land where the dragons exist in all shapes and sizes. Cee is blue, snake-like, and wet. Others are stony, with turtle shells and dragonfly wings. A few have crimson scales, fur, and long limbs. Some are as large as a carriage, others twice that size, and others as small as a gartner snake. Cee is overconfident, dogged, and charismatic. Ana is smart, good-hearted, and stylish. They form an unbreakable bond. Partners for life. The dragons of Marak can equip to their partners as weapons, armor, or wings. But Cee is more than just an object to Ana. He’s a friend. As she spends time with him, she grows. But there are secrets in Marak. Not everyone sees dragons as friends. Ana’s naive. The wealth and power among her country’s industrialists is a front for small hearts and stubborn men. But Cee’s a rare kind of dragon. And Ana can’t stay blind forever.

So, that’s what I’m engrossed in at the moment.

Even though revisions are taking longer than I expected, I’m planning to start another book soon. I think I will be working on Sand and Smoke‘s sequel. To me, that makes the most sense. And I also have a short that I started work on. It’s a dystopian short, and it’ll definitely be available somewhere when I finish it. If you subscribe to my mailing list, I’ll keep you posted.

But anyway, regarding Sand and Smoke: I always intended for it to be the first book in a trilogy. So I’m thinking that I will make writing the sequel to Sand and Smoke my next big priority.

If you’re a fan of Sand and Smoke, then you might be wondering about how long it will take me to complete the sequel. Well, it’s too early to float any dates, but I will say that the first book took me one year to write, revise, and edit. I started writing it in October of 2018 and published on October 17, 2019. So…maybe the second book will follow a similar timeline? That’s my best guess at this moment in time. But whenever I finish the first draft, I’ll have a much better idea.

In the meantime, there is actually a free short story available, set in the same universe as Sand and Smoke. You can get it by subscribing to my mailing list: www.rebrand.ly/ingridrising. If you’re already subscribed to my list and you don’t have it, just reply to any of the emails I’ve sent you and I’ll send it over!

Another perk of being on my mailing list is that I’m currently planning another giveaway. It’s going to happen this summer sometime, and it’s going to be dragon-themed! I’m sifting through some ideas for amazing dragon books that I want to include. I’m thinking I will include around 3-4 books in the giveaway, and one person who enters will win them all. You’ll be able to enter even if you aren’t on my mailing list…but if you join my list, you’ll get an email as soon as the giveaway starts, and you can also share suggestions for books that you’d like to be included in the giveaway, just by responding to one of my emails.

In the past, I’ve run giveaways successfully for an Amazon gift card, Christopher Paolini’s The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, and a trio of books including The Secret Lake, a Magic Tree House book, and The Infinity Ring. Depending on some factors, this giveaway may be US-only, or I may be able to make it international and include some other countries. I’m hoping and crossing my fingers I will be able to make it international…but the only way I’ve found to do so thus far, without requesting personal information from the winner, is to give away an Amazon gift card instead of the books. So I’ll have to see. Anyway, it’s probably going to happen in June or July, just to let you know.

So yeah, I’ve mentioned my mailing list a lot in this post. But if you’re not sure about subscribing yet, it’s okay too. That’s pretty much it for now!

The Eight Most Interesting Questions about The Wings of War, Child of the Daystar, Bryce O’Connor, and Raz i’Syul Arro

Welcome! This post is part of my Most Interesting Questions series, which means I’ll be answering the most interesting questions I can find or think of on The Wings of War series by Bryce O’Connor. This is a series where I cover the most interesting questions I can find about various bestselling books, TV shows, or movies.

This post covers The Wings of War by Bryce O’Connor. It starts with Child of the Daystar, and it’s a bestselling Kindle Unlimited fantasy series for adults. In my opinion, it’s one of the best self-published fantasy series on Amazon. The characters are great. The main character is Raz i’Syul Arro, an atherian which basically means a lizard man. That’s right, this is a kindle unlimited book about a lizard man. And he has wings.

By the way, if you’re wondering about who I am, I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction. Check out my books here. Since I do mostly write for younger audiences, I should warn that this series has some pretty graphic scenes, so be warned. I’ve left details of those graphic scenes out of this blog post, but if you crack open the books you’ll certainly find them.

At the time of writing this, the series is being read voraciously. The first book alone has over 800 ratings on Amazon. But there still aren’t a lot of questions online about it, so I’m creating my own most interesting questions.

At present, I’ve only read the first 3 books: Child of the Daystar, The Warring Son, and Winter’s King, so before you read below be warned you may encounter spoilers from any of those books. Even though five books have been released in the Wings of War series at the time I’m writing this, As Iron Falls and Of Sand and Snow aren’t covered because I haven’t read them.

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Q #1) What do the other atherians think about Raz?

A: In the first book, O’Connor mentions that winged atherians are rare. Raz is a winged atherian. He also mentions that winged atherians tend to rule over other atherians, often have multiple mates, and are very territorial. I’d therefore assume that Raz could encounter a few different types of other atherians: female atherians, male atherians without wings, and male atherians with wings. Female atherians probably would view him as powerful, and they’d probably stay near him for his protection. Males without wings would probably steer clear of him, recognizing he’s much more powerful than them, or they might agree to serve him if they desired protection. Regardless, those without wings, both males and females, would likely steer clear of trouble with Raz. They’d probably view him as superior in strength, just because he has wings. Males with wings would likely challenge him if he got too close to their territory, otherwise, they would probably just view him as a neighbor and leave him alone. If they knew he consorted so much with humans, any atherian would probably be confused, since they generally live apart from humans. They might view him as weaker for that, but we don’t have too much information on how atherians view humans so maybe not.

Q #2) Could Quin Tern have possibly survived, since Raz didn’t kill him he just left him in the cold?

A: Yes. I think he could have. But did he? I doubt it. I do find it interesting how O’Connor chose to not show his death. It means Tern could always make a reappearance. But he would have to be really lucky to survive the cold without a coat, like Raz left him. If Quin Tern did survive, I think he’ll come back a new, much more dangerous man. He was pretty foolish with Raz in book 2. If he survives, he’ll become as changed as Raz became after his family was murdered by the slavers.

Q #3) How many atherians are there?

A: Good question! I think there are less atherians than humans. Given their biology, atherians wouldn’t want to live in the north. We know that they trade occasionally with the caravans in the Cienbal. But they don’t trade all that often, it seems, because most of the trade in the first book happens between different human caravans. Based on the map, it appears they would have to occupy a pretty small land area to stay clear of humans so often. But how densely packed is that area? It’s hard to say. Ultimately, I don’t think they’d number less than several hundred thousand. But they might number as many as a couple million.

Q #4) Who would win in a fight between Raz and Kaladin Stormblessed?

A: These two are some of my favorite characters so I had to wonder about this. If you’re not familiar with Kaladin, he’s a protagonist in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. Ultimately, his advantage in this battle would be his speed and lashing ability. With his lashing ability, he could maneuver around large swaths of land much faster than Raz. Raz, meanwhile, probably has a better reaction time, and he is definitely physically stronger. If they were forced to fight in close range combat, I think Raz could take Kaladin down. If they had a large battlefield, Kaladin would have an advantage. Regardless, it would be a hard fought battle. Both have incredible intelligence in the midst of battle. They’re super resourceful, and know how to win against the odds. So it’s hard to say who would win. Ultimately, Raz probably has a little more experience in one-on-one battles, and fighting alone. If Kaladin had the help of Bridge Four, he’d get a huge boost, whereas if Raz had any help, it’d probably make less of a difference cause he’s such a solo fighter.

Q #5) How do the Priests use magic? Is it something that Raz could ever learn? Or something that someone else in the world could learn and abuse?

A: I don’t think this is ever even hinted at. But it seems like the priests get their magic from Laor after they become a priest. The most plausible explanation to me seems to be some item that gives them the power, and if that’s true then new priests would be granted the item’s power when they are initiated. Given that nobody else in the world seems capable of magic, it doesn’t seem like something humans have the ability to learn, rather, it seems like something they must be gifted. Raz could maybe be gifted the power too, if his atherian blood doesn’t interfere with his ability to accept it, but I doubt the priests would ever give him that power willingly. Raz isn’t the type to take it for no reason either. Raz might take it if he had a strong reason.

Q #6) Will Raz ever master flight?

A: I think he has to. We saw him successfully fly at the end of Child of the Daystar. He didn’t actually fly in Winter’s King, but for a moment it seemed like he did. Ultimately, he’s gotta master it since he has wings, and we already saw him do it once so we know it’s possible.

Q #7): What lies north of Cyurgi’Di?

A: According to the map, just the tundra. A tundra is a vast, flat, treeless region where the subsoil is permanently frozen. There could be penguins or polar bears up in the tundra north of Cyurgi’Di. There could also be humans, like eskimos. Ultimately, it seems kind of like a Greenland situation to me. There’s probably not much north of Cyurgi’Di.

Q #8): What did all the bounty hunters who showed up in Azbar after Raz left do?

A: After Raz left, those bounty hunters likely left too. It’s unclear if they would know where Raz was going. Obviously, we know he went up to Ystred. But the bounty hunters wouldn’t have known that. I think they all probably did different things. Maybe a couple stayed in Azbar or went back home. Most were probably pretty set on the bounty from Raz, so they would have tried to follow him. They would probably figure that he wasn’t going south again, since there was so much money on his head. Most of the bounty hunters probably went up to Ystred, but arrived after Raz had already left the town with Talo and Carro. A few might have thought Raz was going to Drangstek, but it’s farther away from Azbar than Ystred is, so it would be a less likely next destination for him. Most probably went to Ystred, but arrived too late to catch Raz.

Thanks for reading! Now I invite you to check out more MIQ posts below, or my book Sand and Smoke, which also is fantasy, with lots of action and lovable characters. It doesn’t feature lizard people, but it does feature dragons. Big, flying dragons. Both the eastern and the western kind.

The Making of Middle School Robots

Welcome! This post is part of my The Making of… series. The Making of… is an in-depth look at each book I write. I’ll examine one book per blog post. I’ll examine characters, story, the concept, individual scenes, and maybe more all in an attempt to give more information than is available anywhere else on how that book came to be. This post will cover Middle School Robots.

By the way, my name is Carl and I’m the author of several books, both epic fantasy and children’s science fiction.

Last month I published my third novel…called Middle School Robots. It’s a book I’ve had in my head for almost 4 years now, and it started as a TV script.

For anyone who follows me on social media, you might have heard that story. But I also want to tell the story here on my blog.

And I’ll include a little more detail here.

And by the way, the TV pilot was first called Ordinary Robots, so I might refer to it as that, or Office Robots, which I called it at some point after Ordinary Robots but before Middle School Robots.

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I wrote it in 2016.

From 2015-2016 I lived in Los Angeles for 10 months. Middle School Robots was written towards the tail end of that, in June.

The sequence of events that led to writing it, however, started in May of 2016, when I got really sick.

I don’t know exactly what I had, but it seemed like the flu. My body hurt all over and I had a 103-degree fever. I got better after about a week of rest, though immediately after the flu I got a UTI.

And as soon as I got over the UTI, I got another issue. The worst back pain of my life.

At the time, I had been driving Uber and working as a freelance Production Assistant on film sets to make money. After the back pain came, I couldn’t do either of those things. I went to urgent care three or four times, and they couldn’t get rid of the pain for me.

It lasted like two months.

And in those two months, I couldn’t drive Uber anymore. I tried once, and after two hours the pain was so bad I had to stop. I also didn’t trust myself to take a PA (Production Assistant) job. I was scared that if I did, I’d have to leave in the middle of it, or I’d hurt myself worse. A lot of the PA’s duties involve manual labor.

And so the only real work I could do was write.

I was working on another project the day I wrote Ordinary Robots, but having trouble finding inspiration.

And I didn’t want to spend time writing anything that didn’t inspire me. Not when my back hurt like it did.

So I wrote something else.

I wrote Middle School Robots.

And I think, looking back on it, I just wanted to create a world I could escape into. I wanted to get away from the pain I had.

I wrote the TV pilot in just one day. I didn’t do any outlining or any character work before writing it. I just wrote it using what I knew about how to craft good stories and my own imagination.

Later I submitted it to some contests. It scored quarter-finalist honors in two contests – Scriptapalooza and Fresh Voices in 2017. It was also nominated for the Courage & Fortitude Award for Fresh Voices.

And then in 2019, I started adapting it into a children’s novel.

But once again, I didn’t go into adapting it with the intention to.

Actually, I was trying to write another book. It was a young adult sci-fi novel, about superheroes. It was based around a Jean Gray type superhero who could control the molecular bonds between elements, thereby creating and destroying anything at will.

I still like the idea of that character. But honestly, she needed more to her character than that power.

And I realized, a couple chapters into writing it, that I didn’t understand who she was beyond a superhero with that really cool power.

And that left me feeling frantic.

Because I couldn’t write the story until I knew.

This was June of 2019.

I wanted to write something, to get another book in line to be published, but suddenly I knew that the book I had planned to write wasn’t something I could write.

And so this caused me to search around for other ideas.

And I had a couple, but the ones I did have were not ready to be written yet.

They were still ideas, and still needed more work. They needed to sit with me longer before they’d feel formed enough to start on.

And then, I realized that what I needed was a story that I had already written in the past.

I had written a few TV pilots. But the one that came to mind immediately was Ordinary Robots, since renamed Office Robots.

In just a few days, I realized that the script was perfect because it was like The Time Twins. It was the same genre, sure the TV pilot wasn’t kid-friendly, but the book could be.

Now here’s the part where I admit to you a dirty little secret. So if you’re a parent reading this to your kids you might want to skip this part.

But Colossal Time, the crazy smartwatch robot in the book, was originally an alcoholic.

It was a TV pilot meant for Adult Swim!

But I changed it so that he was a sugar addict instead for the book.

Ok, kids can start reading again here.

I also changed a few other things. In the TV pilot, there was no mouse. The robots snuck out the front door.

Also in the TV pilot Joe never got separated from Thomas and Alexa. Instead, all three of them encountered the school teachers, who were office workers instead, and then all three of them just went back to the office.

I made Joe get separated to add more danger, excitement, and another layer of stuff to think about to the book. And out of it came some good stuff, I think. The idea of swarms of kids holding smartphones, the tidbit about Alzheimer’s disease.

The other major change I mad was the ending. Originally, Alexa tore up the constitution. But when writing the book I realized that couldn’t be the ending.

When I was writing the TV pilot, I just thought it was funny. But actually, the ending needs to be serious. Because the matter of the robots overcoming oppression is serious, even if there’s a lot of humor at other points in the book.

Overall, I wrote the book over the course of a month, in June alone, using the TV pilot as a template and stealing almost every line from it, then adding a few new ones.

Then, I didn’t touch the book again until late October, when I read it over and made some structural changes I thought needed to be done.

In November again I took a break for another book I was writing, and in December I made the last changes to the book, over the course of three weeks.

I thought I was done with it after that but I did end up making a few slight edits in January before publishing in February.

And, that’s it! After that I published it and now it’s done.

If you read and enjoyed Middle School RobotsI invite you to check out The Time Twins next. It was my first book, and you’ll probably like it too! It has a robot and a smartphone with a time travel app.

The Making of Sand and Smoke

It came about, quite simply, when I asked myself the question: what would a book look like that had both dragons and cowboys?

Welcome and good news everyone!

This is the first post in an exciting new series for my blog!

The Making of… is an in-depth look at each book I write. I’ll examine one book per blog post. I’ll examine characters, story, the concept, individual scenes, and maybe more all in an attempt to give more information than is available anywhere else on how that book came to be.

First up, I’m starting with Sand and Smoke. It’s a dragon-rider western, and it came about, quite simply, when I asked myself the question: what would a book look like that had both dragons and cowboys?

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After that idea came to me, I began to brainstorm. Among my favorite fantasy authors currently is Brandon Sanderson, and I was inspired a lot by his Mistborn series when first starting this book. You should check it out!

In particular, I loved the idea of a crew of criminals working together against impossible odds. So out of that was born the idea for my crew in the western side of my story to take on this terrifying weapon.

At the same time, however, I wanted to make my story very unique and based on things in real history and the world at large. For Sand and Smoke, I did a lot of research and a lot of plotting and outlining. More than I probably have done for any other project. I visited Powell’s in Portland, visited two different libraries, and read through a number of different books about things like the various mythologies surrounding dragons, what life was like in the old west, and world religions.

I compiled a whole document, actually, detailing what things were like in the world I had created, including the food people ate, the religions they practiced, what the educational systems were like, and more.

In the early drafts, the nations of Eltolix and Arus were quite a bit culturally different. Eltolix takes a lot of inspiration from Asian culture and mythology. The Sun dragons are serpentine like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dragons, and they have magical abilities. Also, the Old Religion of Eltolix shares similarities with Hinduism. Arus, or at least southern Arus, is largely based off the old west with saloons, gunfights, and a kind of lawless feel. And their religion is largely based off of Christianity.

With subsequent drafts, I molded these two cultures together by attempting to add more cultural elements that both countries share. Things like both calling their parents by the terms mama and papa, both referring to their religious centers as temples. In large part, I mixed in elements I could find of Aztec and Mexican culture into both countries. Since they were separated by a civil war 200 years ago, I wanted them to feel like countries that could have once been one and the same, and I have some Mexican ancestry which inspired me.

After molding the world, I created the characters. I did a lot of research on tvtropes.com to come up with some character archetypes that I thought would work well together and weren’t too often used. I rounded out those character archetypes with their own backgrounds and skills.

Then I plotted out the novel, trying to give all of my characters at least one arc, and my major two, Maya and Al, more than one.

When writing the chapters, I tried to advance at least two plot points per chapter. But even with all the plotting I did, there was a lot I realized wasn’t working in the revisions.

Al’s chapters probably went through the most extensive revisions. In the early drafts, I had his power being the ability to dodge bullets. I realized after draft one that that power didn’t work for the purposes of my novel, because of the big reveal about him at the end. So I changed it to him being able to control the wind.

Another major change I made to Al’s chapters was having him meet Li a lot sooner. Originally, he met her about halfway through the book, but I brought that scene up to roughly the quarter-way through mark and I fleshed out her character and background a lot more.

I also fleshed out a lot of Al’s backstory. In the first draft, he only touched briefly upon his mother’s death. But in subsequent drafts, I added a lot of flashbacks to that point in his life. Though I don’t usually like flashbacks, I thought they were important for him in this book. Because they made him much more relatable. Rather than just being a lone boy who’s riding through the desert engaging in battles with gunslingers, suddenly those flashbacks help us to see where he’s come from, and help us relate to him and see the pain he’s gone through.

The idea for the Wesech dragon plot was, like the criminal crew plot, born out of my love for Sanderson. In particular, I was inspired by his intermissions in The Stormlight Archive novels. In addition, based on my world-building I thought it’d be cool to have both western and eastern dragons, so since Maya was already going to be a dragon-rider on an eastern-type dragon, I figured the Wesech’s world would be a good one to explore during the intermissions.

Other novels I read while writing that inspired features of Sand and Smoke included Six of Crows, Child of the Daystar, Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, and Sanderson’s Wax&Wayne trilogy.

One thing I struggled with was how to weave the dragon plot into the main thread, and I did a lot of work in rewrites to make it smoother. Originally there was very little in Al’s chapters about Wesechs in Arus, but I worked to increase their presence in subsequent drafts.

I started writing Sand and Smoke in October of 2018, and I wrote it in spurts until I finished the first draft in April of 2019. I wrote mostly all of Al’s chapters together, and then all of Maya’s chapters switching only sporadically until I got to part 4.

I think the exact sequence I wrote in was all of Al’s part 1 chapters, all of Maya’s part 1 chapters, one Wesech chapter, then all of Al’s part 2 and 3 chapters, all of Maya’s part 2 and 3 chapters, another two Wesech chapters, and then part 4.

In regards to Maya’s chapters, the most substantial change I made while revising was at the end of part 3. Originally, she left the school fairly peacefully, but after notes from some members of my writing group, I realized Vidal would not let her do that. In subsequent drafts, I made her departure much more rocky, and I also made her deal much more with the consequences of her choice regarding Manzin.

While writing the first draft, I was in a writing group here in Portland, OR and shared pages with them, gathering feedback and improving it to some extent as those pages went.

But after finishing the draft and making those changes, I sent it off to my close friend Alex for him to beta-read it, and then made a lot of comprehensive revisions over 3 months: July, August, and September, both working on things that my writing group had suggested which I hadn’t managed to find a way to do before sending it to Alex, and working on things Alex suggested after reading it.

At that point the book became what you can read now. Fully formed and fleshed out with Al having the power to manipulate the wind, the Wesechs plotting something with Arus, and Maya’s single-mindedness driving her to make the choices she does.

If you have already read Sand and Smoke and enjoyed it, I invite you to subscribe to my mailing list for a free short story. It’s about Ingrid, the Wesech on the dragon tribunal, and covers how she gained a seat on the tribunal.

Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers?

Like dinosaurs, maybe dragons are imagined sans feathers, but if they actually existed, they would have strategically placed feathers.

Welcome! This is a post on my author blog. If you find yourself here, unsure who I am, let me introduce myself. My name is Carl and I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction.

FeatherTRex

I recently came across a question from one of my friends on Facebook that asked if dinosaurs really had scaly skin or if that was just how we imagined them.

I found the question particularly intriguing, and the answers in some of the comments engaged me too. One commenter speculated that dinosaurs might have had feathers, I think another mentioned Godzilla.

But a google search turned up some more meaningful answers. One of the newest pieces of information among the results was that scientists have uncovered amazingly well preserved skin traces in Korea that reveal exactly how dinosaur skin looked. (Src: https://www.newsweek.com/preserved-dinosaur-skin-100-million-years-korea-1393230).

Though from the reading the article, it seems some traces may have been discovered in the past, but the traces in Korea seem to reveal more than anything found before.

We do know, of course, that dinosaurs did not completely die out millions of years ago. While many did, the smallest of the dinosaurs adapted and evolved, becoming modern birds today. In undergoing that shift, at some point, the dinosaurs had to grow feathers.

But when?

Actually, it seems that scientific evidence has revealed that feathers evolved in dinosaurs long before they were changing into birds (source: https://www.britannica.com/story/did-dinosaurs-really-have-feathers). And in fact, the growth of feathers was not a quick change. It wasn’t like flipping a switch. It was instead more like moving a slider.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, dinosaurs evolved a type of feather first that had a hair-like appearance. The plumage was made mostly from keratin, but each “feather” was only a single stalk without any of the softer branches on the side that form the wider, feather shape we are familiar with today. Over time, and perhaps in some dinosaurs themselves, the feathers evolved to resemble those of modern birds today. Other dinosaurs had only the earlier forms of feathers, the stalks, and some may have had no feathers at all. And like mammals, how widespread the feathers were on a dinosaur’s body is thought to have varied. Birds of course have feathers everywhere but on their feet and beak. One could speculate that dinosaurs might have had them only on their heads, like us humans with hair, or in other places only.

I find this all fascinating because dinosaurs in modern media are so predominantly portrayed sans feathers. They are instead given scaly skin, and a reptile-like appearance. In fact, if a five year old looked at a dinosaur, as portrayed in a movie like Jurassic park, and tried to guess whether it is more reptile or more bird, with no knowledge of the truth, I think it safe to assume that five year old would say reptile.

Which in fact makes me think about dragons.

Since I have taken such an interest in writing about dragons in my novels, I do think about them quite often. My debut novel, Sand and Smoke, actually featured both eastern and western dragons. Dragons are traditionally portrayed as reptiles, either as western dragons with huge bat-like wings, scales (like dinosaurs!), and four feet. Or eastern dragons with a more snake-like appearance. Either way, they might easily be categorized as reptiles if they existed.

But like dinosaurs, that might easily be wrong. Like dinosaurs, maybe dragons are imagined sans feathers, but if they actually existed, they would have strategically placed feathers. Another avian beast that could be mistaken for a reptile.

Just my crazy thoughts as an author. I like to think about the real and use it to inform the imaginary. Dragons, however, are mythical beasts so unlike with dinosaurs there will never be one factual image of what they look like. But the portrait of them with feathers does, I think, at least inspire creativity. And that creativity has led to me imagining new looks for dragons in lots of my novels, like my upcoming Dragons of Marak series and even Sand and Smoke, a series where I crafted two of my own breeds of dragons, the Sun dragons and the Wesech dragons.

December, Technology, and Books

Do you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Welcome! This is an update on my author blog. If you find yourself here, unsure who I am, let me introduce myself. My name is Carl and I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction.

I’m never really sure which to say around this time of year. Usually I go with Happy Holidays. But of course Christmas has become as much a secular holiday as a Christian one, so I suppose saying Merry Christmas is fine too. I think the main point is that you wish people well, as with all things in life I suppose.

This month I’ve been going some through some technological mishaps which is kind of an interesting coincidence because the book I’ve been working on, School Robots, makes use of heavy amounts of technology.

In total my car door got dented when someone hit me in a parking lot, my phone shut off in the middle of the day and decided it was never going to turn back on, and then I had a near scare when my check engine light went on in my car (and then the next morning it mysteriously went off). Hopefully it stays off.

On the plus side, I got a Google Pixel 3a. It’s been a pretty good phone so far, and I’m getting an Otterbox Defender case for it in the mail soon (the best type of case, imho).

I’ve also somehow managed to find vestiges of time to work on Middle School Robots, and I’m still roughly on track to wrap up editing on it by January (those on my list will get a free ARC!). I’m getting to the phase of editing now where I focus on all the specific minute details to the robots, and since they are essentially smartphones, computers, printers, and other real world devices, kids are going to be able to learn a lot by reading the book!

In addition, I’ve been thinking about dragons, and soaking in Avatar: The Last Airbender stuff. I know those are two very different things, but my mind feeds off different things and looks for unique ways to combine them. That’s kind of what I did with Sand and Smoke–I combined westerns and dragon-rider fantasy.

In a little over a week I’ll be heading to Chicago to spend Christmas and the holidays. Currently my aunt, uncle, grandmother, and cousins live there, and my dad and sisters will also be flying in. My family is spread out all over America, so it’s the normal for us to fly pretty regularly.

So far as I know, we have planned for the trip a gift exchange and a movie-going adventure to see Star Wars Episode IX. So I’m definitely looking forward to the latter half of December. Though what I like most as always is just seeing family and friends and spending more time with them.

Thanks for reading! And if you like receiving updates from me, please don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list. You’ll also get cool perks like notifications when I host a giveaway or notifications when I discount one of my books.

Book Updates for a Sandy November

Welcome! This post is part of my author blog. If by chance you find yourself here, wondering who I am, I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction. Feel free to check out my books using the menu bar above!

This month I am participating in Nanowrimo! Even though I am a chronic write-aholic, I thought I would give it a go just to be involved a bit more in the writing community, rather than being very hobbit-like about my writing. Which I usually am. But though I’ve got 49,200 words already written for the month (don’t judge me, I write like a cat sheds) I really don’t think I’ve spoken with anyone else who’s doing Nanowrimo all month. Or if I have, I haven’t spoken to them about Nanowrimo. Anyway, I’d done Nanowrimo twice in the past, once I failed and once I succeeded, so despite my bragging about being a write-aholic I can occasionally fail to get the words out too. The point I’m trying to get across is that I would love to speak with others who are doing Nanowrimo just because connections and community.

But beyond Nanowrimo this month, I’m going to be trying a whole bunch of new things in my writing plans regarding my books and I’ve been gearing up for them! The first of those was that I purchased a brand new epic cover for my fantasy novel titled Sand and Smoke. My last cover was self-designed, and so I think this one looks a whole lot more professional! And it’s on display below using a 3d mockup.

Also I wrote a short story to accompany the novel. If you want to read the short story and find out everything there is to know about this awesome dragon-infested world I’ve created, all you need to do is subscribe to my mailing list, and I’ll send it to you for free: https://www.rebrand.ly/ingridrising.

What else?

My book Middle School Robots is gonna be exclusively available for my mailing list subscribers in January, and then later on I’ll be publishing it, I’m not sure exactly when yet.

Oh, and I am going to be doubling down on my efforts at writing and publishing YA fantasy books, probably ones with lots of dragons in them. Honestly I am feeling pretty good about what I’ve accomplished so far in writing and publishing TWO full books, completing a first draft for a third book (School Robots), and completing over three-quarters of the first draft for a fourth book this month for Nanowrimo, since roughly April of 2018 when I started all of this bonanza.

But despite the fact that I’ve written pretty much what I’ve aimed to, I know that I need to write faster and write more, especially in completing some of the series I started. With that in mind I have a kind of bold goal for myself in 2020, and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to meet it, but I’m going to try hella hard. My bold goal is to write a book a month, or depending on how I feel midway through I might adjust that goal to be 10 books in 10 months with 2 rest months worked in there somewhere.

It’s gonna be hard, but I think I can do it. Nanowrimo this month is already going fantastic for me. It’s kinda ending up being the warm-up exercise. Now that I’ve hit a stride with understanding how to churn material out, how to structure my writing, what genre I want to target and knowing a few subjects of things in that genre that seem to grip my readers, I think I am ready to tackle the one-book-a-month challenge for a year.

I even have some ideas for those months. The book I’m writing right now for Nanowrimo, I want to make it into a trilogy. I want to write books 2 and 3 in the Sand and Smoke trilogy. I want to revive an old book I wrote as a kid, improving upon the execution with a complete rewrite and a more distinct and engrossing world. I want to make that book into a series, five books I think. And I’m not wholly sure about the other three months, maybe I can find other writers who are just as hungry as me to team up with, or maybe I’ll think up new ideas in the interim. All in all, next year’s goal is going to be producing a lot of first drafts, which will probably mean not a lot of new publications, other than School Robots. But writing the first draft is the most enjoyable part for me at least…so it should be fun! And if I’m successful, there should be a bonanza of new publications coming in 2021. I might see if I can revise one well enough to publish next fall in 2020 also…we’ll see.

One Last MIQ: The six most interesting questions I missed (Part 2)

I’ve decided to retire the MIQ blog…and to convert it.

Welcome! This post is part of my Most Interesting Questions series, which means I’ll be answering the most interesting questions I can find or think of. This post will focus on a variety of different novels and franchises.

By the way, if you’re wondering about who I am, I’m an author from Portland, OR. I write epic fantasy and children’s science fiction.

Being that it’s early in my author career, things are very fluid. Therefore, my blog is going to be changing a little after this post.

Instead of exclusively answering the most interesting questions about various bestsellers, I’m going to focus this blog on my day to day author activities too. And possibly I’ll highlight other things in my life. Mostly, I’ll keep the blog writing related.

One part of that conversion will be accepting review requests. Over the last year, I’ve read a few indie published novels, and reviewed them on Amazon. However, in attempting to gather reviews for my own books, I’ve come to appreciate just how hard it can be, especially when starting out, to get those reviews.

So if you are an author, feel free to request a review of your novel. One thing I won’t be doing is creating a book blog. I leave that to those more skilled than I. But I like reading and would not mind helping some indie authors out with getting reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes&Noble, Bookbub, etc. If you’re not an author, just ignore that little plug. Instead, you could check out my books.

Now, I’ll get to my last MIQ blog post. This post covers Percy Jackson, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of KorraMistborn, and Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, among other works.

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Q#1: If you could add anything to Camp Half-Blood, anything, rules, places, items, etc., what would you add?

A: Honestly, probably more interaction with the gods. I know it’s not in greek mythology for them to interact with their kids more, but I feel like they should do it, so many of the kids just get abandoned and not claimed. Or at least maybe there should be a movement from some of the campers or counselors to try and convince the gods to do that.

Q#2: Who would win in a fight, Katara or Amon?

A: Probably Amon. But it depends. As we know Katara can bloodbend on the full moon. Amon can blood bend any time he wants. So if it’s not the full moon, then Amon wins. But if it is, then they are both blood benders. Would one be stronger than the other? And though Amon has bloodbent more than Katara, Katara probably has just as much fighting experience as him, and there would be more to their fight than just bloodbending if their bloodbending cancelled each other out. So if it was a full moon, I could see Katara winning the fight.

Q #3: Which kind of Twinborn would you most prefer to be (Mistborn)?

A: Honestly I think it would be awesome to be able to fly, so I would like to be a Coinshot for one of my abilities. Then for the other one I would probably take the steel feruchemical ability, and be a Steelrunner too. That would strengthen my abilities too because they both use the same metal.

Q #4: Do I have to read the Mistborn trilogy to get Wax&Wayne?

A: I would say no. Brandon Sanderson repeats a lot of how the magic system and the world works in the beginning of his books. So if you hadn’t read Mistborn, you would still understand Wax&Wayne. However, that said, I believe you will appreciate Wax&Wayne a lot more if you read Mistborn first. Because there are a lot of things that carry over. It is kind of like cookies and milk. You can drink milk without cookies, and you can eat cookies without milk, but they taste better together.

Q #5: Which one is your favorite character in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy?

A: In Book 1, I loved reading Grigori’s chapters, and I also loved reading about Ethel. In book 2, my favorites were probably Daisy and Lloyd. In book 3, I actually really came to appreciate Dimka and I would say Walli, but just at the beginning of the book. It’s hard to narrow it down even that far. But if I had to choose a favorite character overall, it would probably be Daisy. Just because her character changes so much, and in such a great way, and I really think she is probably the most well-written character in the entire series.

Q #6: Who is your favorite fictional dragon from books?

A: I love Sapphira from Eragon. Maybe I am biased because she is one of the first dragons I read about in a book, back in 6th grade. But she is really human at heart, she’s not just some wild creature or an all-knowing godlike creature, she interacts and converses in meaningful ways with the world, and has a magnetic personality. Aside from Sapphira, I also love Cuicao from my own books. She’s the dragon partner in Sand and SmokeI guess it’s cheating to choose my own character, though.