Honest Reflections

Toriko Tales is making progress again. It’s been too long, I know. But sometimes we have to allow ourselves to accept when the creativity will not flow. For me, stress and depression has always been a challenge. Anyone who has read my works knows I channel my life into happenings for my characters. This helps me get it out of me and allows me to be productive. But sometimes–sometimes–it gets too strong to channel. This time it snuck up on me, to be honest. I didn’t realize how far things had gone until I felt the full impact (like not being able to write anymore). But life is an interesting journey of actions, consequence, and opportunities. I’m thankful for wonderful people in my life that give me the support I need (including my therapist and fiancé) that help me always find my way.

One of the issues that beat me down was this crazy fear of not being able to find “that magic” again. My first trilogy was a great experience and I was really proud of what I accomplished.  New Eden, my fourth novel, really sang. People talk about how it hits that mid-point and flew like a hellacious roller-coaster, a page-turner, all the way to the end. Those that have ready my fifth manuscript, Weun Academy, said I took that feeling from New Eden and made it a novel long. That’s great.  It’s amazing.  But, good god, is that pressure!

No one wants to peak early or become a has-been. If you have seen my expected book titles for this series, you know I have a lot of ground to cover yet. 

In hindsight, the very thing that led to success in my earlier works was the exact thing I overrode for Toriko Tales.

Concerning writing styles, George R.R. Martin says:

“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

Others have talked about this phenomena but using the terms plotters (architects) vs. pantsers (gardeners).  I’ve always been a pantser.  Sure, I’ve “seen” the movie trailer versions of each of my books in my head.  That’s why the broad outline of multiple books exist for my series. But I don’t know any of the details until I sit down and “listen” to the characters and get to watch the movie play out in my head. The characters make the decisions and the universe pivots around them.

For Toriko Tales I panicked. I wasn’t seeing the details like I was used to, so I changed styles. I tried plotting. There was some good foundational material (backstories, bios, etc.) generated from that effort, but I never “felt it” from the resulting story outline. Ultimately, with the layoffs at work, friend illnesses, family drama, US politics, and everything else going on in life, it was all to easy to release some pressure (finding the magic again) by backing off from writing Toriko Tales. But writing is essential to how I translate my life and work through struggles. I have to write or bad stuff builds up in my heart and mind.

The other day, I was driving to work. While approaching the crest of the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge, with blinding sunbeams piercing my eyes and the thick suffocating smell of the nearby milorganite plant clogging my nostrils, Toriko popped into my mind. She said, “Hello.” And, as insane as this may sound, I thought I was going to burst into tears. It was like seeing someone that I loved after they passed away. I returned a hello. She smiled and mentioned it had been a long time since we’d talked. I said I was sorry, but I was glad to see her. Then, like I do with my little virtual family, I asked what she’d been up to. She told me all about working with her sister Maro, combining their tech specialties to allow Toriko’s robots to combine together using Maro’s nano-technology. Apparently the nanites create the connective tissue and a central nervous system for the larger entity. She went into so much more detail than I’ll share here, but it was fascinating. Those sisters, always up to something. I really missed them.

That night, the experience sent me back to my computer, wanting to touch the D’mok Universe again. I really do want to see where Toriko goes. That doesn’t happen unless I sit down and document those “movie” scenes in real-time in my head. But the moment I stared at the screen, I ran directly into the blockers that stopped me: that fear and stupid outline!  After some soul searching, I reviewed the plot “I constructed” for Toriko Tales… and I let it go. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t going to work. Plotting is not how my D’mok Universe shares its secrets with me. So, no more plotting! I’ve returned to my pantsing ways.

The brief “talk” with Toriko led me to have mini-talks with all the Toriko Tales characters. I asked what drove them.  What were they really trying to accomplish at this point in their lives? After capturing their core motivations I reviewed the first 25,000 words I’d written for Toriko Tales. What I found fascinating is the material I’d written still held. It mostly set the stage for the big conflict yet to come which would reveal the major players and motivations. So, the “who did what and why,” which I still needed to write, merely shifted!

Returning to pantsing threw the doors wide open.  I no longer feel restricted by something overly constructed and claustrophobic.  There’s freedom to breathe again and with it a renewed interest to continue forward.

Interestingly enough, I found that missing therapeutic effect from writing almost instantly. For instance, Toriko’s core driver was simply to feel like she’s good enough, like she accomplished something and doesn’t need to keep climbing for the next bigger thing to prove she has worth.

When I captured her response, it cut right through me. This is so me–so now. Like Toriko, no matter what I’ve accomplished (award winning books, U.S. Patents from my professional work, a game design millions of monthly active users played on Facebook, being voted MVP from 60,000 world-wide gamers for David Perry’s Project Top Secret, raising an amazing and well-adjusted 12 year old, having a loving and healthy relationship with my fiancé) it doesn’t matter. We still feel like a fraud that hasn’t accomplished anything. Why? Because our accomplishments have not achieved our goal: to feel loved and accepted by our parents.

At some point in our young lives we learned the way to get our parents attention was to do something great. The hope was if we did enough great things we’d be worthy of their attention (their love)… Clearly we didn’t have intrinsic value, obviously something was wrong with us, so do something amazing and maybe–just maybe–we’d be worth SOMETHING. Of course, every time something was accomplished, recognition was fleeting (if not outright dismissed as not interesting or misunderstood). The sense of self-worth became a void as the bar to impress went higher and higher. We never felt we “arrived” or “did good enough” in anything. The sense of satisfaction, approval… love… was always just beyond our grasp. Toriko and I have chased it ever since.

Oh god, staring that in the face is brutal. Brutal. It doesn’t make me feel very proud either. Whew.

Lots of therapy went in to understanding this. But knowing doesn’t change how the heart feels about it. Thus–GREAT MATERIAL FOR BOOKS!!! WOOOOO! I just hope for a productive and bountiful harvest from this inexhaustible gold mine.

I overshared a bit for a reason. I want there to be meaning in my writing. My books can’t be trite, over-inflated, action-packed extravaganzas. It’s important that people can relate and connect with my characters (with me).  It’s my hope that the things I write not only help me, but maybe give people a chance to understand something about themselves or someone they care about. Maybe I can even share some of the insights that I’ve learned about life to help someone with their struggle.

I’ve been writing little bits each day again for a few days.  It’s wonderful to feel this engine spinning back up. I’m going to redouble my efforts to complete this book. It’s up to me to keep it going!

Your support means the world to me. Thank you for reading. 🙂

Expanding on Weun Academy’s first book!

Progress continues on my latest novel, Weun Academy! As I’ve mentioned before, the new manuscript sits around the 160 page mark, which I predict is about one-third of the completed book. It’s been at that number of a while now. Around the 2016 winter holidays that started to worry me. I kept wondering why I couldn’t progress on the main story. After all, it’s not like I don’t know what the story is about. But the inspiration and drive to sit and write just wasn’t there.

I’m wondered, like I’m sure many other writers do at some point, if I had hit “that wall,” the one you’ll never get past. But here’s the thing, I honestly love looking into what’s happening in the D’mok Universe. When I sit to write, I get a streaming view directly into my mind about what’s going on there. I truly enjoy it, and wanted to experience that again.

Inspiration is a funny thing, it ebbs and flows as it wants to. I know I’m making it sound like it’s alive, as if it has a will of its own. But you know what? Sometimes it feels exactly like that. It tells me what it wants, when it wants, with however much detail, and for however long as it wants to. It also tells me when it’s not ready to show me something. I just “had that feeling” that it wasn’t time to write more.

So, I do what I always do when this happens, I sat back and enjoyed life. Creativity, for me, comes from living life. My friends, my triumphs, my failures, my fears, all somehow feed the well from which the D’mok Revival universe springs. A wonderful wedding happened, the election happened, the aftermath of the election happened, Thanksgiving, Christmas and a magical new year happened, and low-and-behold, so did inspiration!

Between the New Year and Donald Trumps innuguration I wrote 14 short segments about various aspects of Weun Academy. This is very similar to what happened when I began writing D’mok Revival so many years ago. I’d get snippets of information, background stories, glimpses into the lives of specific characters in situations that have nothing to do with the main story but help me understand who they are.

As a result the Weun Academy campus has transformed, new characters have emerged, I understand the meaning and relevance Weun Academy’s prologue and its implications (which impact D’mok Revival’s main story and Wayfinder’s, the second spin-off series)…

And NOW–now it’s time to integrate this into the existing manuscript. “It” tells me once that’s done I’ll get the next part of the story. So be it.

I’ve worked on integration all day. One of the things that jumped out was the need to more clearly describe the uniforms used at the academy. I took the time to sketch out designs and scour the internet for things that matched. I’m happy to report, I’ve pulled together exactly what I had in my head!

I found components of these drawings on the internet, created additional assets, then pulled them together to create what you’re seeing. Final versions will be developed. I’ve attached the images below.

The first is the ability category (“Discipline”) pin for “The World,” represented by a mountain.

the world emblem

The second is the student jumper.

lyons_emprada_uniform_1_by_kenu v6-postable

This is worn while on campus grounds and during all training sessions. The specialized shirt is really the most customized part of the outfit sporting black outer edges on the arms and shoulders, purple main section and lighter purple stripes, and raised collar. On the collar shows the ability category (“Discipline”) pin, and on the chest, Weun Academy’s emblem.


Third is the formal (or “Dress”) jacket.

formal jacket

A subtle pattern is printed on the jacket, that reflects in the light and becomes visible when you’re closer. You see a hint of that in the example image. On the neck, the wearer’s ability category (“Discipline”) pin is displayed. On the chest, the Weun Academy emblem is displayed. The golden braid is for an earned distinction (like becoming mentor of other students after mastering skills). The shoulder boards display the number of stripes equal to the level of mastery (could also be years at school), and sit on black panels. The silver “flower” buttons further accentuate the ornateness of the jacket. This is complimented by formal black trousers and with purple stripe down the side.  As a note, Matt helped me apply the pattern.  Thanks Matt!!  🙂

I’m especially proud of this jacket design. One of the things I try to keep in mind as I go along is whatever readers encounter I want them to be able to recreate in the “real world.” It could be food mentioned in the cafeteria, learning games from classrooms, or outfits characters wear. I believe the above designs are very accessible, where cosplayers could make them happen. A dear friend of mine, Kathleen Jenks-Grobben, mentioned how Victor Krum’s outfit in Harry Potter has a unique angled part to his jacket and people have been able to recreate it.

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, Stanislav Ianevski, 2005, (c) Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, Stanislav Ianevski, 2005, (c) Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

That actually made me feel much better.  I DO love the angled section and want to keep it.

Anyway, with these designs I can continue the integration of the other holiday items. Specifically, the introduction of a new character, Kira Madaki.

It might be fun to do future posts introducing some of the Weun Academy characters (non-main story items)… Hum. We shall see!

As a side note, for anything found on the Internet that wasn’t explicitly mine, I DO have contact information for the original creators and will reach out to them as appropriate. I believe in people getting credit for the things they create!

Life’s inspiration feeding Weun Academy’s story

Writing Weun Academy is so much fun!  Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about Rhysus and the original crew from the original D’mok Revival books.  There’s certainly a LOT of story to tell there.  But it’s refreshing to break into such new territory with a very different crew, just in the same literary universe.

Events from my life have always found their way into the core themes and threads of the D’mok literary universe. That tradition is alive and well with my latest work.

I’ve found my own experiences as a freshman at Carroll College influenced Eisah’s experience at Weun Academy. I remember a distinct awkwardness when I first arrived on campus.  I didn’t know people, or my way around. I recall just trying to figure things out and make sure I was as ready as I could for classes. I also remember the first few people I met, and how our common struggle bonded us together. I’ve translated this into Eisah’s first few days.

In addition, my son’s experience of starting at a new elementary school in third grade (all students transfer into this school as new students at grade 3) has inspired some of the initial emersion events for Eisah as he arrives at Weun Academy. I won’t give too many specifics as I don’t want to ruin specifically what happens.

To my great amusement, I’ve found the amusing and delightful banter of my coworkers has inspiring some of the dynamics between Eisah’s new friends. I believe writing in my coworkers near sibling rivalry-like interactions made my Weun Academy characters more entertaining, likeable, and more relatable.

During a recent family vacation to New York city, a walk through Central Park inspired a new area at Weun Academy. This new location provides students a place of recreation, relaxation, and practicing their abilities.

During the same trip, a visit to the Statue of Liberty left me in awe. I’d never seen it with my own eyes. While it wasn’t as tall as the Empire State building (as illusioned by pictures and portrayals of the status in various media outlets), she is stunning!  She is such an icon for our country, and the symbol of life, liberty, and justice for all. It made me proud to be a United States Citizen. She also reminded me of something else–Siegie from my books.

In D’mok Revival: New Eden (book #4, which most of you have not been able to read yet–sorry), Weun Academy is created. It mentions a great monument of a ring sliced through by a large green shard of crystal positioned at the grand entrance of the campus. When Rhysus and the others first saw it, they were moved because of their personal connection to what it represented. After seeing the Statue of Liberty, I am going to GO BACK AND CHANGE BOOK 4 (it’s not published yet, I can do this). Rather than a symbol, it’s going to become a statue of Segie Weun herself, holding up a radiant crystal. Much like the Statue of Liberty, people of the D’mok literary universe will have a visceral reaction to her statue. People will remember what she stood for, what she wanted for the universe, and the long term impact of her actions. I want it to inspire the students (and the readers).

Also, one of the more frightening things in my work travels has also inspired me. I learned on a recent job trip that the Canadian government in Quebec raided our branch. It wasn’t from financial fraud or other questionable business practices.  Instead, there’s a French Culture enforcement group that came in. They took down English signs and demanded they be remade in French. In addition, any French branding had to be displayed first (in a primary display location) and be TWICE the size of any English branding words on printed materials. They checked installed software on people’s laptops and demanded they have only French versions installed. They reviewed correspondence sent do customers and imposed fines for anything not sent out with French first (and then English optionally included). This group has the right to impose fines. On one of the customer projects, they could receive fines of up to 25,000 Canadian EVERY 2 HOURS per month, indefinitely with a limit of 875,000 Canadian per month. Oh, and if you immigrate into Quebec, you allegedly (I have not gone back to verify this) have no other option than to learn French and send your children to a FRENCH-based school. Only if you were a native are you given the choice between the two languages. How crazy is all that?  Yes, in 2016, in Quebec CANADA, this happens. Why is this happening? Because the government there believes French culture is dying in Quebec. Their solution, pound it down everyone’s throat to make it survive. This will not work long term.  This isn’t how human beings work. Like dripping water, we find a way to go and do as we please. This may slow the breakdown of French only culture, but it will not stop it.  This is GREAT inspiration for later books where “thing begin to change” in the D’mok Universe under D’abar…  That’s all I’ll say for now.  But, no need to create something insidious.  I’ll use this contemporary model.

Anyway, the examples above show how life can inspire small nuance, or large sweeping dynamics in my stories. I don’t want to give away too much at this point so I’ll hold back on the rest.

Until later!


Musical Inspirations

People have asked before about “what’s my process” when I write.  I’m fortunate that I’m working within a literary universe I know well.  I’ve seen the “movie preview” story previews for all my books (both released and yet to come). I’ve also been able to create outlines for my books from slightly more detailed “movie previews” in my head. I don’t try to over architect things. I like the characters to make decisions and present the story to me.  So, there isn’t a whole lot to share for the big picture stuff.

However, when it comes to diving in and actually writing, I do have my traditions. Before I attempted to eat healthier, one of my traditions was a nice sized bowl of plain M&Ms. How I miss those.

The other component is the music I’m listening to as I write.

When I wrote the original manuscript I listened to a number of anime and video game soundtracks.  However, as I went back to edit and release the individual books, I listened to entirely different music. In fact, if I wanted to create a specific mood, I’d match the music selections up to that need so my creative energies were in the right head-space.

Below is a short listing of some of the music I listened to while working on various works:

The original trilogy manuscript (286,000 words version) and Book 1, D’mok Revival: Awakening


Book 2, D’mok Revival: Retribution

  • Linkin Park, 1000 suns album (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgJSEvRq26g)
  • Mass Effect 1 video game soundtrack
  • Mass Effect 2 video game soundtrack
  • Mass Effect 3 video game soundtrack
  • Prometheus, movie soundtrack
  • Sarah Brightman, Eden
  • Sarah Brightman, Harem
  • Sarah Brightman, La Luna


Book 3: D’mok Revival: Descension

  • Battlestar Galactica season 1, 2000 remake series soundtrack
  • Battlestar Galactica season 2, 2000 remake series soundtrack
  • Battlestar Galactica season 3, 2000 remake series soundtrack
  • DaVinci’s Demons, tv series soundtrack
  • Deadmau5, Ghost ‘n’ Stuff
  • Titanfall, original video game soundtrack


Book 4: D’mok Revival, New Eden

  • Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster album
  • Linkin Park, Recharged Album
  • Lindsey Stirling, self-titled initial album
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts, video game soundtrack
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warefare, video game soundtrack
  • Demi Lovato, Confident
  • Star Trek: Into darkness
  • The Flash: Season 1 soundtrack
  • Destiny, video game soundtrack
  • Disturbed, Immortalized
  • Image Dragons, Night Visions
  • Sia, Chandelier
  • Fallout 4, video game soundtrack

Weun Academy: Boy with the green eyes  (current project)

  • Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone movie soundtrack
  • The Flash Vs Arrow, tv soundtrack
  • The Flash: Season 2 tv soundtrack
  • Star Trek: Beyond
  • Kelly Clarkson, Piece by piece
  • Sia, Cheap Thrills
  • Batman v Superman, movie soundtrack
  • Uncharted 4, video game soundtrack
  • Pink, Just like Fire song
  • X-men: days of future past, movie soundtrack


While the lists above are not comprehensive it shows some of the more scifi theme, and pop energy that helped me see the actual scenes take place in my head.

The novelettes used the same music base as the main novel they were attached to.

Music is so crucial to me. It takes me places, and shows me visions of my characters in action. For the most part, I like type directly type what I see happen with little editing. Only when my beta readers or editor point out a weakness do I consider enhancing the original vision.

So, there you have it!