I just barely missed January for the release date, but I can now say that Dwarves Vs. Mummies is available on Amazon. (eBook to come shortly.) The latest novel in the Horror Vs. Fantasy series, as NaNoWriMo projects go, this one was maybe the most challenging.
Clocking in at over 59,000 words by the time I finished, it’s certainly the longest novel in the series. I can probably blame that on the fact that, in terms of story arc, I was essentially trying to write a season of an anime in one month.
Going back a year or so, when I was deciding how to approach the story, I was struggling to know what kind of powers and personalities to attribute to the mummies to make them interesting. Inspiration didn’t really hit me until I had the thought of connecting each mummy’s powers to one of the Ten Plagues of Egypt, and writing them as if they were villains from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. That combination of details put my imagination to work immediately.
The dwarves, on the other hand, well I already had a pretty good idea of how I was going to approach them, covering the range of types I’ve encountered from traditional fantasy warriors to steampunk mechanics and wizardry too. In fact, I believe the very first concept I had was for a shorter dwarf in a mech suit – that became Dwilia.
The story ended up not only revolving around the conflicts between packs of dwarves and mummies, but involved the collection of magical items as well. New for me, and it put a different spin on the flow of the story. There were far more battles than usual, and I ended up dividing the novel into shorter chapters of 20 instead of the longer 10 chapters I use for most books in this series. It was a challenge to properly pace myself in order to not just reach the minimum 50,000 word count by the end of the month but actually have the story completed.
But there’s more news…
The release of this novel marks my 10th published solo-authored book! I am now a 10-time published author, which wasn’t a specific goal I had in mind when I first began this journey about 20 years ago now. I think at the time I planned to just publish a few mega-popular ones and become an instant millionaire. I’ve had to adjust my expectations a bit since then xD
I knew ahead of time what this book would mean, if I didn’t get another book published beforehand, and asked myself if I really wanted Dwarves Vs. Mummies to be my 10-book milestone. I was like, ‘Yeah, because Ten Plagues of Egypt. It fits!’ Hopefully my readers don’t compare my books to plagues, but I suppose that’s for the critics to decide.
The book can be purchased through Amazon if you’re interested.
Mine was down to the wire, making updates literally up to the last half hour before midnight. Despite intending to blog more about the experience while NaNo is still going on, I’ve been finding each year that I have less and less time to devote to blog posts. I may have to change my approach for the next year.
Why did I have so little time? A couple of reasons. Life in general is busier this year, but I also failed to realize ahead of time how much more work I was giving myself with the amount of content I wanted to put into the story.
The minimum requirement for NaNoWriMo, traditionally, is 50,000 words. I always go over as I come up with a bit more story to tell, but this year was a new record with over 58,000 words.
The culprit? – Fight scenes.
I had decided to take a specific approach to the narrative for this project, which ended up having a more anime feel in some areas. As a result, there were a lot more individual fights in this story rather than the large group battles that take up most of the action in other novels I’ve written.
The problem is, I can easily get caught up in fight choreography, and once I started certain fights I didn’t know when to stop for my own good. Hopefully people have as much fun reading it as I did writing it (but without the stress).
1. Year-long inspiration intake. Once again I ran out of time to complete all of the planned inspiration intake, so I think what I’m going to do this next year is actually do inspiration intake year-round (assuming I know what I’m going to write about, which I believe I do), and then just take special note of anything I feel would be worth a second look, or good for mood setting, closer to the actual time of the project.
2. Fewer fights. The importance of experimentation and learning from the experience has once again proven itself. I tried writing a more duel-heavy story and the results speak for themselves as far as the time crunch.
I’ve learned the Five Fight system of storytelling actually helps me to stay on track with knowing how much of the story there still is to go – The Introductory Fight (to let the audience see what kind of action normally happens in this world), The **** Hits the Fan Fight (where the first thing goes horribly wrong and sets up the events for the rest of the story), The Bulk Fight (representing the kind of action you want the audience to think of when they think of the majority of the story; this is also usually where the protagonist has their first real battle with whatever new circumstances are in their life, whatever group they’ve just teamed up with, or whatever new ability they’ve gained), The Prelude (where normally some sort of **** hits the fan again, setting up the scenario for the final battle), and at last The Final Battle (often consisting of one large scale conflict between two massive groups, with other individual battles happening within it – this is also where any personal conflicts generally get resolved before closing the story).
Yeah, I completely threw that formula out the window for this year’s project, and the struggle to know my place in the story was real as a result of that.
3. The importance of stepping away from the project to give it some stress-free thought. It sounds contradictory, since I felt so busy and so short on time, but most of my best ideas for this project came to me either long before November, or during breaks where I was able to step away from the computer for a bit, get my fingers out of reach of the keyboard and go for a walk.
I ended up being sick for the first three weeks, and even in my down time I didn’t feel like going for walks as often as I normally would. On rare occasions I couldn’t walk at all without discomfort, and ended up practically glued to the computer. It’s one thing to be focused on just getting the writing done, but without allowing my brain to change tracks now and then my creative side couldn’t get the exercise it sorely needed.
4. Staying ahead of quota relieves pressure. I think I already knew this, and tried to implement it as often as I could, but with starting the month sick it wasn’t always easy. But once I could make a day’s quota, I did find that the rest of my writing for the day was freer and therefore more open to my brain’s creative input.
5. Pacing by Chapters instead of Word Count when the story gets away from me. Sometimes during NaNo I find that I’m on track with my word count but behind with how much story I have left to tell. Dividing the story into chapters, knowing what story beats I want to hit in each chapter, helped me get a sense of how much more work I needed to do each day to catch up. (This only matters if you have a deadline to finish the project, like I do, but it’s not part of the standard NaNoWriMo experience.)
How was your experience this year? Did you learn any good lessons for future projects? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
At least that’s how I felt on Day 1, when I began this year’s NaNoWriMo with a cold so bad it was hard to think. Even getting a head start by working after midnight didn’t help me stay ahead of the work load.
Fortunately, I seem to be on the mend now, albeit slowly. Thinking capacity is back to normal levels (for me, anyway) and I’ve finally managed to get my daily word count on track 😀
And since this project is now officially underway, that means I’m ready for the big reveal.
This year’s Horror Vs. Fantasy project is (drum roll) …
Dwarves Vs. Mummies
One of the odder pairings, if I’m honest. The two groups have little to do with each other, apart both being underground and tending to have treasure nearby (oh, maybe more in common than I thought).
Neither group had been much on my radar until I decided I wanted to do this project, and even after that it took some time to get the creative ball rolling with knowing how to approach these characters as far as their personalities are concerned (not a lot of mummies with personalities in pop culture, ya know?)
It wasn’t until I got invested in a particular anime and its style of writing characters with bizarre abilities that I finally got an idea of how to approach them as characters.
Now that that hurdle is out of the way, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with these two groups.
I’ve got the Pinterest Board up and running now to help me out with some inspirational imagery.
As far as music, the best moodsetting for dwarves has basically been playing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Immigrant Song’ on repeat (with one track from One Punch Man for some reason I can’t explain even to myself).
In much the same way as I had assigned AC/DC as the ‘official’ band of the goblins, I’ve come to associate Led Zeppelin with the dwarves. My larger playlist started off as just all Led Zeppelin tracks while I decided what else to add. It made for a good starting point.
How is your NaNo project coming along? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
NaNoWriMo has a different feel for me this year. I think because the lifting of Covid restrictions meant so many things opening back up and trying to get life in general back on track, I’m feeling the time crunch of everyday life more than I used to. So despite not as much inspirational intake to do this year, I’m still way behind on my list, and behind on several prep factors as well that I was supposed to have locked-down by this time.
As many of you already know, my theme for these NaNo projects is Horror Vs. Fantasy. The Horror group for this year’s project is Mummies, of which there wasn’t a ton of material to find. My primary source of cultural inspiration was Brendan Fraser’s ‘The Mummy’, and a few obscure selections for tonal inspiration.
I hadn’t expected to have trouble keeping up with things this November, but there is another big change this year compared to previous years, and that change is that my YouTube channel has gone from being a side thing to being my primary work. It’s become the platform on which I have the largest following, and maintaining a relatively steady stream of new material keeps me busy week to week. As a result, writing has gone from being my main focus to something I only do periodically. NaNoWriMo is a way of keeping those creative writing skills sharp by giving them a major exercise at least once a year.
Having come to Mummies, and having done Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies in previous years, there was concern that I was reaching the end of the Horror barrel (or at least the OG classical monsters), but when I looked at the Horror genre as a whole and saw how many more categories of creatures and characters have come to be in more modern stories, I realized there’s a lot more to this landscape. Rather than getting short on ideas, I’m now debating whether or not I want to start making these projects a bi-annual thing in order to be able to fit all of these ideas into the foreseeable future.
I have some time before I decide on that, because next year’s project is already planned out and I don’t think I want to do another NaNo before then. It’s a decision that would be based on several factors including life circumstances and promptings for non-NaNo projects mid-year.
As for this year’s project, the character list has been done for a while, though I still have to finalize some minor details – oh, and also names XD. It’s surprisingly hard to come up with Egyptian names.
This week’s objective is to put together a skeleton plot with basic details for each scene – at least so that I have a rough idea of where I’m going with each new scene and have less blank screen syndrome.
For the final week in October I need a more detailed description of the opening scene (or whichever scene I plan to write first) so that I can hit the ground running on November 1st. And also try to remember to wait at least an hour after midnight before I actually start so that the daylight savings shift that occurs in November doesn’t mess up my count like it did the first year – though that’s a technicality. (Also, why is Daylight Savings still a thing, really?)
How is your NaNo prep coming along? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
A collection of custom characters I designed using the Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. As a fiction writer the Soulcalibur franchise has proven to be a useful tool for visualizing my characters and seeing what looks good and what doesn’t. All of these pictures however are just interpretations of others’ characters. Enjoy!
When selecting a movie title (or premise for that matter) it’s important to catch people’s eye with how epic the title sounds. The right name can convey either a level of excitement that immediately hooks the audience, or sounds just kind of bland and boring. With that in mind, here’s a list of movie titles that are a little toned-down, less epic, or just less interesting than the original titles.
Hello everyone! As it says in the title, I’ve got a couple things to do with this blog post. First is to let you all know that the eBook version of Elves Vs. Zombies is up and running, and available on the Amazon Marketplace! Second is to share the playlist that I put together for this project. Thank you all again for going along with me on this writing journey!
The following is a list of songs and tunes I listened to for inspiration while writing Elves Vs. Zombies. Unlike my previous 2 novels in the Horror Vs. Fantasy series, I didn’t have the elves listening to or referencing much human music, so no songs are directly mentioned in this novel. This list is purely for mood-setting (and a few toward the end for story relevance).
Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
(Many of these first tunes are selected for their ability to capture the mood and tone of specific locales. This tune best captured the feel of the Underwild, which opens Chapter 1.)
Glow of the Moon by Derek Fiechter
(I searched for a tune that blended the human cultural inspiration of New Asia with the Dawn Elves that inhabit that sector.)
Lothlorien from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
(This one I chose for the High Elf Holds.)
Your Star by Evanescence
Kingsfoil from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
(The Gateway has a more somber tone to it than any other sector, though still dignified by its High Elf roots.)
Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift
(For the character of Elaura, I needed something that embodied ‘Snooty-Pop-High-Elf,’ which Taylor Swift does well in most of her music, but her vocals in this song in particular showed off a beauty and elegance beside the pomp.)
Dust and Shadows by Adrian Von Ziegler
(When I try thinking of Drow-style music, what comes to mind is something not unlike Arabian music. Adrian Von Ziegler has quite a few tracks like this with a fantasy vibe to them on his YouTube channel. I was most drawn to this style.)
I Won’t Back Down cover by Johnny Cash
(The mantra of the Black Drow is as follows – “Release the gates of doom. We are ready.” This is of course known as a Tom Petty song, but Johnny Cash’s grittiness added the right feel of being old soldiers.)
(From here, the remaining songs are chosen mostly for relevance to particular plot points – primarily action. So to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into further detail on those here. But I’ll close off by saying thanks for reading!)
Drug Lab from The Raid: Redemption
Blood Bag from Mad Max: Fury Road
Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious from Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith
Spikey Cars from Mad Max: Fury Road
Fallout by Linkin Park
Gollum’s Song from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Dark Energy from One Punch Man
Ash and Smoke from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
For 200 years after the fall of man, the elves taking residence in our world have laid deep under former Beijing, in the care and dominion of the Drow Empire. For all this time the exits to the surface have been blocked by an unfathomable sea of the undead knocking on their door. Some elves view the zombies as their ultimate doom, some view them as their salvation in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, but most are content to simply live underground indefinitely – that is until an outbreak occurs within their own borders.
When the elves come across an unmapped section of the underground facility, questions are raised not only about the nature of the zombie virus, but what role the elves have been playing in securing their own futures without others knowing. Tili, a Wood Elf of the Underwild, joins the party looking to find answers to these mysteries and more.
A note: As a zombie apocalypse story, this novel contains a lot more disturbing gory violence than my novels typically do. (I’d been watching a lot of zombie apocalypse stories for mood-setting.) I just don’t want that to catch any of my regular readers too off-guard.
Thank you to everyone who followed along on this journey as I went through my NaNoWriMo process to bring this novel to fruition! It’s been great to have your support. I’ve enjoyed doing this Horror Vs. Fantasy series, and I’m already looking forward to next November’s project!
For now, I’ve got a long list of marketing strategies to employ. The Pinterest Board for Elves Vs. Zombies has already been updated to include sections for specific characters by name. I’ve got designs to do and fights to record on Soulcalibur VI for my YouTube channel, and I’ve got a music Playlist to finalize.
I still have the eBook to prepare, which usually doesn’t take long. I’ll do a follow-up post once that’s live, so stay tuned if you’re looking for eBooks only – I will keep you informed!
Thank you again for your encouragement, and if you have an interest in any of my other books (including more in the Horror Vs. Fantasy series), you can check out my Books By Benjamin T Collier page on this website.
Well, I would say I made it by the skin of my teeth, but I feel like I lost some skin too! I did manage to reach the 50,000 word count, with a few thousand extra, but this year was the most rushed I’d ever felt doing NaNoWriMo.
It’s going to be interesting to analyze the finished product. I feel like the scenes alternate between having way more detail than necessary just so that I could make the daily quota, and having less detail so that I could move the story along. I was at one point worried that I wouldn’t have the space within the 50,000 words to get through the main story. Looking back on the experience now, I’m not sure how warranted that was, because it’s hard to tell how much of the detail I added was excessive. I tend to use extra detail in my default writing style, so if anything I most likely had to rein that in to get the story done in the one month.
Some things I learned this time around…
1. Not all movie weapons are real. Okay, I kind of new this already, but some of these were actually a surprise to me. It turns out those daggers from Chronicles of Riddick don’t have a real-life name because they were actually invented for the films and are not based on real weapons. I had long assumed they were a Chinese weapon design, and various Chinese weapons were on my radar for this story, but if I wanted knives with those specific designs then I had to make some modifications and rename them.
2. Night Owls do better to divide their days. At least this is what I found as a night owl. It was tricky waking up late and then trying to do my full daily quota before midnight. I found it easier to do a thousand words pre-midnight, and then another thousand after midnight (always waking up each day at least a thousand words ahead). This approach significantly reduced stress and made it easier to take breaks when needed.
3. The chaotic nature of zombie stories makes it difficult to write ahead. One of my strategies for meeting daily quota during NaNo has been to jump to scenes that I already had thoroughly thought out in my head and write those early on. I couldn’t do that as much with this story since in many cases I wasn’t necessarily sure which characters would still be alive or what sort of injuries they might have sustained by the time the story actually reached a particular scene. Fortunately, such details didn’t impact the flashback sequences, many of which were thoroughly thought out before NaNo, so that balanced out a bit.
4.Inter-chapter flashbacks are tricky to position. It was an idea that I had shortly before NaNo started, and I felt I could come up with a game plan, pairing 10 flashbacks with the standard 10 chapters that my NaNo books tend to have. But since the primary purpose of a flashback is to reveal information of interest, one has to think carefully about when certain information should be revealed, and pairing each flashback idea that I had with a specific chapter, keeping in mind information already revealed by the end of each chapter, proved tricky, especially since when I want the reader to sit with certain feelings towards certain characters before revealing information that could change that. I ran into this, to a lesser degree, with the pre-chapter quotes in The Final Power: Chronomancer, and most of those were just bits of world-extending trivia, but when deciding which quotes went where, it was very important to keep the tone of each chapter in mind.
5.Mid-month (or mid-project) is definitely the time to start editing. Until then, so much conceptual material was still in a revisable state and I needed to reach a certain point in the story to have a firm decision about certain things – things that would be best changed during editing instead of sooner. Due to circumstances, I ended up not starting editing until a week later, which only gave me half the time, which was stressfully tight.
6.How many different ways I can misspell the word ‘maneuver.’ – That number is 4.
7. Too many main-ish characters can stifle character growth. This doesn’t always have to be the case, when given enough time, but under a time restraint it can certainly be difficult to give each character the level of detail and history that one might like. But even in a larger story, having spotlight on too many characters can cause confusion in the reader over which characters are more important to the plot. Of course a part of how I approached this zombie-apocalypse-type story was to have a higher than normal volume of spotlighted characters so that, hopefully, each death seems surprising, and so that I don’t run out of characters too fast – a staple approach to zombie stories in which death is frequent.
8. Editing and revision are where ‘coincidences’ become more natural. You might know what I’m talking about – those moments in stories where things come together just a little too neatly, when it seems like the unlikely thing to happen. Coincidences, the writer arranging things a certain way in order to achieve the desired story and results, happen all the time in rough drafts. But during the editing and revision process is where the writer has the opportunity to alter certain details in order to make it look like those outcomes were more likely to happen. With less time spent on revision and editing, a lot more coincidences happened in my story than I would have liked. Normally I would call it lazy writing. Considering the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t call it lazy in this case, but certainly rushed. And now I have a slightly different attitude toward those plot issues when I see them in other works. What I might previously have labeled as simply ‘lazy’ writing, may in fact have been the result of a tight deadline, which, I’ve heard, is a common occurrence for writers.
And that’s what I’ve learned so far from this experience. There is going to be more, I’m sure, some of which won’t become clear until I have a broader hindsight view. If my guess is correct, I may be able to have this novel out before the end of the year. I’ll be posting updates on this blog as soon as it happens, whether it’s this December or in the new year.
Until then, thank you for sharing this NaNoWriMo journey with me. I hope you’ve had a great experience and learned a lot, as I have. Talk to you guys again soon!
My first video discussing autism is now up on YouTube! A bunch of people sent in questions for me to answer Q&A style, and despite delays from some tech hiccups (and starting a little thing called NaNoWriMo) I finally got the video uploaded!
(I do have more to discuss on my experience in this year’s NaNoWriMo in an upcoming blog, but I just couldn’t wait to talk about this video any longer!)
People sent in some great discussion topics like the emotional impact of my diagnosis, communication challenges, social needs, preferred entertainment, and personal accomplishments. I also got on a tangent describing my formative years and gradually learning what it meant to be an individual in a world that included other minds besides my own.
You can check out the video at this link. And if you have any questions you’d like me to answer in a future video, you can leave a comment under this blog post below, or leave a comment under the video itself on YouTube, or you can even email me directly at email@example.com