Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Web site announcement

My wife has put out the inital page of my website. It has the symbol of the Aarronic Advisors (very cool graphic), a message from me, plus a link to subscribe to news updates about the progress on the book. You can navigate to the site three different ways:


Lots of stuff will be placed on this site over the next few months:

History of Caern
The Gods
The Provinces

The plan is for this site to become the one stop resource for The Land of Caern. At first however the site will be geared to the first book, Murder at Avedon Hill.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Progress Continues

Over the weekend I finished chapter 26 and reworked some of the early chapters. I'm still planning on self-publishing but I'm going to go ahead and try for one of the big publishers. Since they only want three chapters and a synopsis in most cases, that is what I worked on.

My dear wife (the web site designer) began work on my author/book/fantasy setting website. It will be up in the next week or so. We created a symbol for the "Brotherhood of Aarron" (a non-religious sect that attempts to act as a checks and balances against the political and religous organizations in Caern) that is pretty cool.

My next steps are to create flags for the three "provinces", icons for the twelve gods, and continue work on the map.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Progress... and Method

My wife gave me several hours of writing time this morning. It is great to have someone that wants me to do this as much I do.

I finished chapter 25, and began fleshing out my outline of chapters 26-28.

I hear the question asked often: how do you write? Do you just sit and write or do you plan things out?

Unlike most other things in my life, I'm a planner when it comes to writing. And Murder at Avedon Hill began as a plan for a module for the game Neverwinter Nights. NWN allows creators to build stories into the game that other players can go through in a D&D setting.

Becuase I was creating this as a module, I planned out everything... the 40+ characters, each character's story, motivations, etc. Since this is a murder mystery, I built lists of evidence (and false evidence). I was using the chain of evidence idea in the game to allow players to learn things, open up conversation trees, etc., based on information they had acquired up to that point. I created new monsters that could be used in the game. I created pages of pages of conversations that the players of the game would see when interacting with the 40+ characters in the module.

The title of the module was going to be Murder at Avedon Manor. The plan for the module was to have three possible murderers. This way a player could actually play through the module multiple times and have different endings. This turned out to be a boon for writing it as a novel, as it is much easier to create a believeable false suspect when you already have a version in mind where that person did commit the murder.

The module never got created (I was relying on developers who were going to take my information and transform it into the game, and like so many other ideas, life got in the way). All of these things helped me prepare for the change in direction.

Before I started chapter 1 I had a 20 page outline detailing everything the entire story from beginning to end. I have characters that I can throw into a room and talk to and know exactly how they would act, what they would say, and how the characters that are talking to them would act and say as well. I know the town from end to end, because I had to create every building in preparation for the NWN module. I know every home, every business, every road, every secret passage of Avedon Hill. I know every family history.

I don't plan on this being the case for every book I write in the future. But it is nice when I sit down knowing everything I need to know about these characters and the plot... now I just have to finish the thing.

Monday, January 10, 2005

On Art in Fantasy Novels...

Today I'm taking some time to think about the art I'm doing for my novel (and overall series... it's never to early to think about the future).

Cover Art: I'm very lucky because my father is a wildlife artist with 30 years of professional experience.

Here's a link to his commercial website.

He will be doing my cover, which is very exciting for me. The details are still being worked out as to the content so I won't describe it here since it might change, other than it will have the two main characters involved in some important event in the novel... facing down enemies of a fantastic nature more than likely.

In addition I am working on other artistic elements that will be leveraged in the work. For example, one of the main themes of the series is the interaction between the gods and man. The gods can choose to be born into the world as mortals, but with no memories of who they are. As events unfold they may learn of their true nature, but even then they are mortal. It's sort of a checks and balances relationship set up by the creator god Az to protect the physical plane of existence against the powers of his "Children."

In any case, there are 12 gods that the people of the world worship. I'm creating symbols for each of the gods that will appear in the book at the beginning of chapters, that sort of thing.

Next comes the map of the world. Caern is the setting for the fantasy series, and I have a map for it that I created in a wargame mapping program. I plan on doing a hand-drawn version of this map to include in the book (what fantasy series doesn't have a great map of the world?!).

Lastly comes some small drawings that I want to place in the book. I'm not a professional artist but I think I can get away with doing these myself... just pencil drawings of weapons, monsters, people, etc. that are important to the story.

As I get closer I will probably post some of these items here for review. I look forward to feedback that will help me make this first novel a success.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

On Writing...

I'm still learning as I go.

It's hard, but you can only become a better writer by actually writing... and rewriting. And then writing some more.

And then rewriting some more.

And then starting over.

Okay, maybe it's not that bad. But here's an example.

When I started writing Murder at Avedon Hill, I had no plans on organizing this as a book. The idea was to make it a serial, releasing chapters every week that would allow readers that were fans of a computer game (Neverwinter Nights) to try and guess what might happen in the next chapter.

I was using it as an exercise to flesh out my fantasy setting The Land of Caern. It was an opportunity to think through some elements that make fantasy worlds come alive:

the magic system -- who has magic powers? how does it work? how does religious based power differ from secular (wizardly) power (or does it?) Is magic part of someone or can it be imbued on items such as potions, or weapons?

the religous system -- who or what are the gods and how do they interact with the people of the world? how do the religious organizations work and interact with the secular governments of the world?

the government -- How many nations/powers are there? How does this translate to the people that live in each area? What are the relationships between the "powers that be"?

Anyways, a lot of the information in the work so far is more expository than you would normally see in a novel. But in the context of the "serial", it worked well. I could talk about the immortals that choose to enter the world of the living (as mortals) to help (or hurt) the world... and then two months later when they read a later chapter they have a good reference as to what is going on when they meet one of these immortals in person.

The other problem with the chapters I originally did for the Vault is that some were artificially geared to end with a sort of cliffhanger, since the "game" was based on "what will happen next?"

So, the problem now is that I am not writing any more chapters as a serial... I'm writing it as a novel for publication later this year. So I have to finish the story (I'm on chapter 25 out of a probable 40) and then rewrite the first 20 chapters so it has less exposition, flows better, etc.

If anyone has any thoughts about writing, feel free to comment here. I'm always looking for new people to converse with on the subject.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Just Thinking about the Process

My name is Patrick Holyfield and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina with my wife Liza and our beautiful two year-old daughter Apple (no, that's Gwyneth's daughter... my daughter's name is Samantha).

I have been writing for years (mostly technical writing), but have not made the time to write for myself and my first love, fantasy. The last three years however I have had short stories/articles posted on several computer game-related websites, most notably on Neverwinter Vault.

After some kicks in the ass from readers (figuratively) and from my wife (literally), I have decided to take the plunge and finish my first novel and publish it myself (or at least through an independent publisher such as Lulu). I have looked at going through more traditional channels, but I don't really like rejection.

I am diligently working on the second half of my first novel. It is a mystery set in a fantasy world; the working title of the novel is Murder at Avedon Hill. It has most of the things you would expect in fantasy fare (magic, monsters, etc.) but it is more of a straight-forward murder mystery than you would normally see in a fantasy work.

You can see a preview of some early chapters here. Actually, it is more than a few chapters (23, representing around the first half of the novel), but I'm in the process of completely revamping them so I'm not worried that they are out there right now. In fact, that website will be one of the marketing tools I will be using once the novel is published (along with the many other fantasy related websites on which I am "known").

Here is an intro to the mystery:

Avedon Hill is a quiet town. Nothing much ever happens there. The same families have lived there for generations. The Avedons have watched over Avedon Hill since its founding over 400 years before. But even in a quiet place like Avedon Hill horrible things can occur... things like murder. Arames Kragen, retired Advisor to the royal family of Yew, arrives at Avedon Hill desiring access to the mountain pass controlled by Lord Avedon. But Lord Avedon has closed both the pass and the town. Gretta Platt, Housemistress of Avedon Manor, has been killed. Only a handful of people live in Avedon Hill, and all are suspects. Arames Kragen is no stranger to murder and intrigue, but even he is unprepared for the mystery surrounding the death of Gretta Platt.

This is the story of Arames Kragen and his attempt not only to discover who killed Gretta Platt, but also to discover the truth about a town that has apparently has more secrets than inhabitants..."

The story began as an interactive game on the Neverwinter Vault website. Readers could "bet" on answers to questions I would ask at the end of each chapter (what would happen in the next chapter, that sort of thing). It was a good way to keep me on something of a schedule. I was using the story as an exercise to flesh out my fantasy setting (The Land of Caern) ... the politics, the religion, the conceit of the gods living as mortals by choice in order to affect the world, the magic system, etc. But the response I got from it has led me to the point I am at right now (publishing it myself).

I plan on posting blogs on my progress, but also on anything else that strikes my fancy (like the Alias season premiere tonight... ahhhhh). Have a good one!