Heathens

Apollo and Dion, a dysfunctional rag-tag pair of demon hunters have been sent to investigate the city of Havenbrook and its inhabitants.

The mission is simple: to find the cultists responsible for a recent string of murders and to bring them to justice. Even if it takes killing dozens of demons on the way there.

But things are never that simple when you deal with the dark arts. Cultists, demon pacts, sacrificial murders all stand in the demon hunters' way as they search for the truth. A truth that will force them to question their own identities, a truth about the absolute evil lurking beyond heaven and earth. The question is, if they find the truth, will they be strong enough to handle it?

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90. Off The Record: Blog Post #1

Well then! It looks like I finished the first arc. Now, what’s next? Let’s see…

 

TL;DR

 

I took a week off (if you didn’t notice) and I’ll be returning this week. The first thing on the menu are the interlude chapters to bridge Book 1 and Book 2. I’m thinking I’ll have 4 interlude chapters before we get to the next story arc (though there may be more or less depending on the plotting). These chapters, as well as all subsequent chapters, will be bigger and posted on Saturday’s. I haven’t decided on the exact hour though, probably late.

 

This will be the new format, at least, for the next book: big chapter releases on a single day.

 

Why interlude chapters? Why not get straight into the second arc? For chronological reasons and to buy me time to actually plot out the second story and to edit my older chapters.

 

That’s the quick summary, if you want to learn more about how I feel about Heathens (Book 1), you can read below.

 

Mirror mirror on the wall...

 

I have a love-hate relationship with the first Book (Heathens). And between the two, I’d say I lean more towards hating it. But before I criticise myself, let's get through some positive things.

 

At least I finished it. Which is a huge achievement honestly, considering my shitty work ethic. I don’t know how many times I’ve started novels in my life without actually finishing them. And now I’ve actually finished a story. Even if I’m not satisfied with it, I’m glad I finished it. There’s a small victory in that.

 

Another good thing, I know what the identity of my book is now. I needed to sacrifice the tone midway (notice how it went from mystery/suspense action horror to dramatic odyssey?), but at least I know what the genre of the franchise is. Gothic Epic.

 

Gothic, not goth. Epic, not like the meme epic4thewindude. End me, please.

 

Gothic Epic, tales about great people doing bad things all slathered with a thick coating of dread and horror. Picture the image, Homer and Lovecraft tucked under the black blanket of a cold night, fucking each other senselessly in the proper Greek way, oily and groan-y (good luck getting that image out of your head) and out, out! A scream. Silence. The candles flicker and die and from underneath the sheets comes the creature. A tentacled, cosmic horror wielding spear and shield. A mess of a thing.

 

That's like, basically the story. There’s a little Berserk in there too, some Ligotti and a lot of Faulkner and McCarthy (I hope). These influences give me some direction, though I may followed them too closely. But now, now I have an idea of what I want my books to be like, what I want for the lore to be like. And I hope the tone of future novels aren’t as inconsistent as the first book, Heathens.

 

Shit, now I’m talking about inconsistencies. It’s almost as if this was a poor transition into my critique list - Oh. Look at what I found.

 

Oooo, boy.

 

Where do I begin? The micro or the macro? The abstract or the fine technique? How often and how bad were my mistakes? Yikes.

 

This week has allowed me to reflect and reflect I have.

 

Let’s go through it.

 

Grammar and Syntax. I won’t say my grammar is necessarily god awful, but I tend to get the same annoying problems. Problems where words aren’t misspelled but rather misused, often because of errors in my own vocalization and my fingers not being able to keep up. I tend to get syntax errors more often than simple misspellings or miss-grammarings. That’s not even a word. See?

 

So I’ll write sentences that don’t have errors in the letters themselves but in the way they are shaped in a way that they get confusing to read and weird and start to look like messes and and

 

You get the point. I like long sentences. And some brief ones too. Which is a no-no in with modern audiences. I like the labyrinth that sentences can make. That’s why I like Faulkner and McCarthy and Joyce. But part of the fear of making a labyrinth is getting caught in it too. And I did, which is bad.

 

It goes to show that I'm not at the master level yet, not even close. This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to write long abstractions into the real, or stop creating mazes like an obsessed carpenter. I just need to get better. There’s no easy way. I just need to practice, hone my metaphors, be more precise, more rhythmic. I should probably take poetry up. I might, even, as a side hobby.

 

The Lore. There are things I wanted to keep secret that I didn’t. There are things that should have made sense, but that I didn’t explain. Namely, the cup. And the structure of Hell. And Vicar culture.

 

But this one's strange, because I still have an opportunity to expand on my lore. And I will. Expect ‘The Corrux’ out soon. That little book mentioned by Apollo.  

 

Tone. I foreshadowed this before. But I fucked up the tone. Or miss blended them, I suppose. And it shows, especially when I look at the ‘Pages Read’ stat. There’s a sharp decline when Apollo and Dion descend to purgatory. Why? Because the tone changes. From supernatural detective psychological thriller to action-adventure spiritual journey. I didn’t blend them well enough. I didn’t lighten the tone enough so that the transition would be harmonious. I didn’t foreshadow enough. I missed the cues and fucked it up.

 

This is not to say I won’t try again, but I need to make my transitions between tones better. Some useful tips for this, practical stuff, would be to bring up similar themes or phrases. To be more particular, maybe I should have alluded to the desert prior to the actual descent. Maybe I should have alluded to the Trojan tragedy before the descent. The Hyena could have been shown a bit earlier, maybe as a third observer (or even narrator if I was clever enough!). The word choice could have been more consistent, etc etc. These are all small and big things that annoy me now that I look back. Failed opportunities.


 

Dropped or ignored or under-developed plot devices. This is the one that triggers all the OCD fans. Moments in the story where something is mentioned or done and never bothered with again. What of Dion’s lover? What about the drug kingpin missing his testicles? What of the other cultists? Of Sophie’s mother? I think I got too scared and hasty, there were a lot of what if’s I wanted to mention but I didn’t out of a fear of boring you guys, the audience. I think for the future, I’d like a more disciplined story. If I’m going to bring a character out, I might as well go all the way.

 

I mean, just take for example Dion’s anger. It’s brought up as a plot point, he’s the ‘hypocrite’. Acts good, but deep down inside is a bit of a bloodthirster. This is kind of brought up later, especially before he fights Astyanax but in a strange way. Does he accept himself? Does he try to be better? Does he put his faith in God?  To be fair, this still CAN be developed later. But I probably should have gone all the way. I should have had proper transitional scenes, I should have rounded off Dion’s ‘argument for being a psycho killer’.

 

Apollo also has something like this but in the opposite direction. He goes from a hardball to a bit of a coward. Though his metamorphosis and growth is probably explained better, I’d argue. And the only reason it is explained better is because I gave him more screen time. Lesson learned. Give them more screen time. Which is a good segway!

 

Scenes and Screen time. It sounds romantic to just write endlessly over minute details like a true man of letters. But the fact is, that bores people. Bores them to shit, really. I’m a firm believer that a metaphor, a moment of abstract beauty, ought to be earned. And it’s earned by grabbing the reader’s attention.

 

And how do you get the reader’s attention? Conflict. Conflict in scenes, conflict in sentences. Conflict everywhere. And it needs to be effective conflict too. I think, personally, I had some good idea for scenes. But I didn’t make total use of them. There was a lot of missed opportunity for character growth. Just re-reading my word, I can tell how many times I re-used phrases. (his face tightened, his head hung low, his limbs felt limp). Yikes. I need to make my characters more expressive and distinctive. Plain and simple, they should feel unique. Their voices should read unique.

 

The Voice. This one's simple. My POV needs to be tighter. There are a lot of moments where I confuse third person limited with third-person omniscient which makes it seem like characters know more than they should. Just straight up, I need to commit to one or the other or to a proper artistic blend of the two.

 

Prose. It’s a hard thing admitting your prose is terrible. But there’s hope in that. For someone who understands his prose is terrible is someone with good taste. I trust my taste, not my writing. This one might be the hardest thing to master since it’s the thing that requires the most amount of time sunk into it. I'm talking years. Years to master language. Years to master long sentences, better metaphors, clever language. This all requires years or at least it will if I don't practice. And read. I definitely need to read more.

 

I need to read a lot, lot more.

 

The Plot and the Theme, what it’s all about. Finally, at the end of my critiques and at the biggest offender. I miss-used and missed opportunities of the genre tropes and genre deconstructions. There were better ways to show the villain, better ways to set up the suspense. Better ways to make a more compelling spiritual journey. I missed foreshadowing, I missed long, thoughtful soliloquies characters could have made. I condensed characters into plot devices (Sophie and Bartholomew).

 

The whole story was at both, contrived, and chaotic. And it shows. I ended up writing two different stories with two different narratives because of it.

 

So what’s the point of it all? I mean, shit. I guess as Astyanax would say, no point, really. But to me, admitting my mistakes will hopefully help me avoid them in the future.

 

It helped me think of some solutions and changes in planning, too. Things like:

 

No more pantsing. I’m plotting my next story, I want to see what it’ll look like with some proper structure, even if it kills the thrill of discovery that writing without a plan gives you. Might also make writing quicker to boot.

 

Character profiles. I wrote characters who I only knew a half about. I need to know everything. Every little detail. I’m writing character profiles to go along with my plotting.

 

Theme consistency. After my first rough draft of the plot, I’ll make a better effort to capture the theme or touchstone of the story. It’s important, now, for me to ask the question: What does this story mean to me?

 

Proper episode structure. My vision for the next novel, coming out next month or so, is something I figured after watching television for so long. I want to release proper episodes, that is, giant chunks of writing that come around 12-15k words long. This isn’t to say that the single chapters themselves will be that long (I still want to write in multiple POV’s). But I think, that if I plan my next novel with proper episodes, with the same sized episodes, weekly, that I’ll be able to structure scenes and therefore genres more successfully. This means writing more, but at least from now on when I do release my ‘episodes’, they’ll look like proper long-form serial fiction. Big, juicy chunks of writing that have satisfying structures.


 

That’s it. With that, I’ll end on an uplifting note. Thank you, the fans, for sticking through and for those of you who will continue to stick through. I’ve got 40 follows, which is amazing. I’ve got over 20k views, which is amazing. And I’ve got 11 reviews (with most of them being positive!) which is amazing.

 

Thank you, to all the readers. Even if you don’t follow or favorite or review, even if you’re just stealthily reading in the background, with my single tab amongst your other fifty filthy tabs full of hardcore doorknob porn.  

 

I still appreciate you reading my work. After all, what's art if no one pays attention to it? Masturbation, that’s what.

 

Alright. I’m done criticising myself. I need to start writing again.




 

What did you think of Heathens? What did you like or hate? What do you want more of? What are you curious about? If you’re too afraid to comment, you can hit me up on my email: mdhector41@gmail.com

 

Or follow my twitter: @mdhector41.

 

Tell me what you think.

 
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