Jonathan J Michael

Season of Suffering – Book Update

Writing part time and trying to balance a full time job, a family, personal health, etc. is nothing new to the creative world and I’m just one of many who do this. But even with all the challenges of time, I am making good progress on the second book in the Blood of Azure series.

With approximately 60,000 words typed, I am about 30% complete with the first draft. I hope to be in the final stages of editing by the end of 2020, but only time will tell. Both a benefit and an anchor is the lack of deadlines when self-publishing.

With three main characters to follow in this series, I am opening up the world of Azure to a deeper look at the magic systems (or Seasonal Sciences as the people of Azure call it), a larger view of the world they inhabit and I’m going to attempt battle scenes on a large scale. I also hope to draw out the importance of balance in life and the consequences if you push too far one way.

Here’s a sample from what I’ve accomplished thus far in Season of Suffering.


Jaymes

Thunderbugs dart in and out of the bushes.  The great oaks tower above creating cover from the serein tickling my face.  The sun sinks below the horizon.  The only difference from a season past, is that I can see the horizon and I need not fear the dark.  I can embrace it.

“Unbelievable!  I’m back at this tedious tigershit,” I mutter aloud.  Only the oaks are around to listen.  Maybe a few peeping critters.  I swing my handcrafted net toward the bushes and snag a few thunderbugs.  I pull a jar from my haversack and dump ‘em in.

“Should be enough.”  I hold the jar in front of my face and bolts of ionized plasma flow between the energized insects as they get in close proximity to one another.  Small claps sound off, but the jar mostly muffles them.

I toss the jar back into my haversack and traipse through the dark wood back to camp.  I prefer the dark these days.  A thunder lantern comes in handy from time to time, but I’d rather not prance about in the open woods with a bright beacon telling anyone and anything of my whereabouts.  That would be stupid.

A flock of quail stir from the brush, fluttering past me.  They land several paces away and scurry off with their tiny legs.  Cute.  And brilliantly fast for such little creatures.  Not faster than a missile, however.

I pull my fukiya from my belt and blow a dart in the direction of the flock.  Dinner.  If only Stone and Goose could see me now.  Assholes.  Never let me hunt a day in my life.  I wasn’t capable in their minds. I had to collect the thunderbugs and the fucking berries.  I miss ‘em.

I wonder if I’ll ever see them again.  I wonder if they’re alive.  There’s a good chance Harris finally executed them.

I push the thought of family to the wayside.  It’s not good for me to dwell on what I have no control over . They’re gone.  Whether they’re dead or not is irrelevant.

I continue back to my ruin of a camp.  The sun is gone.  Cerise’s red ambiance is hardly fulfilling the light that the sun stole away.  But I’m fond of the red ambience.  It’s more comforting than the bright light of the sun.

There is another rustle in the undergrowth.  I pull out my fukiya, ready to aim.  I rarely take more than needed, but prepping for the next meal is hardly taking more than necessary.

A low, meaty groan erupts.  The bushes shake violently, and a large brown bear emerges.  It’s lips curl, baring its teeth, and it unleashes another gritty groan.

I slide the fukiya back in my belt and withdraw my kukri blade.  It’s a bit small to overcome a bear.  Merely the length of my forearm.  It’ll just piss it off.  But I only need to get close to defend myself.

I back away, not taking my eyes off the beast.  I lift my feet high, taking caution not to stumble over any forest debris.  I refuse to be an imbecile.  That’s not what Ellia trained me to be.  I am a shadow.

The bear approaches.

Where are the cats?  They have watched over me since my revival and now that danger approaches their protection lacks.  I’m destined to live in solitude now that I’ve claimed the independence I sought after.

I don’t want to kill it.  But it thinks me a meal.  My petite frame is deceiving in the wood.  Prey in the eyes of the beasts.  But a shadow is never prey.  Nor is it a predator.  A shadow is a balance of nature.  If only there was a way to feign a mighty giant to ward it off.

It won’t back down.  I sheath my kukri and turn to run.

Light on my feet, I swiftly move through the dark, skimming past the giant oaks.  I don’t hear anything crashing behind me, but I continue to sprint until I make it to the ruins where I’ve setup camp.

A fire ought to deter the beast.  I pull the thunderbugs from my haversack and place it on the ground.  I gather wood and pile it up, accompanied with mildly damp brush.

For sake of time, I grab the jar and throw it into the pile of wood.  A surge of light erupts as the glass shatters, followed by a small boom of thunder.  But the brush doesn’t light.  No fire, and now my thunder lantern is gone as well.  I crouch down to get my hands dirty with steel and flint.

I scrape my blade on a stone and generate plenty of sparks, but no flame.  I wish I could create fire with my Talent.  Instead, I get rot.  I continue hacking at the stone.

A loud roar bellows behind me.  I rise to my feet, slashing my blade in a whirl.  The bear is several paces away.  It stands upright, towering three times my height.

“Go!  Get out of here!  I don’t want to kill you!  Just go!”

The beast drops on all four and charges.

I do the same.  When I get close enough, I leap into the air.  The bear halts and lifts a paw to swipe at me.  It tears into my side, but I manage to accomplish what I intended.  I grab its scruff and whip myself around onto its back.  With my kukri, I stab it in the throat.  It’s not enough.  I remove the blade, tossing it aside, then I jab my fist into the open wound.  The bear is raging, heaving me up and down, but I hold on tight.  I feel around, softening its sinew until I find its spine.  I grab hold of it and focus.  Moments later, the bear collapses.

“You forced it.”  I lay my head down on the bear, the coarse fur rough on my cheek.  I close my eyes.

I open my eyes.  How much time has passed?  Cerise continues to shed light in the surrounding meadow, so I couldn’t have been out for too long.  The light drizzle has saturated my clothes, but it provides more benefit than misery for it has also knocked the smell down.  Thank Susy.  No scavengers have turned me into a meal.

I notice an unusual warmth casting away the damp chill.  A fire blazes before me.  I snap to my feet and reach for my blade.  It isn’t there.  The firelight is too bright.  I can’t see beyond it, but someone is here.

“Not quite up to the standards of the Shadow, I would say.”  A deep voice sounds from the darkness.  I can’t see him.

“I’m not the Shadow.”

“No, you aren’t.  But…”  He walks closer.  I can only see the white of his eyes until he gets close enough to the fire.  His presence would send bears running.  What a shame he didn’t come sooner.  But I’m not afraid.  “…you’re…alive.”

“And, unfortunately, so are you.”

The Oddballs of Fantasy

Jonathan J Michael here, hoping to enthrall the world with magical insights and wisdom. Don’t know where that load of nonsense just came from, but if this post inspires at least one individual to be creative, or simply brings back fond memories from some dated films, then it’s successful.

If you write, you might understand that the characters are far more important than the plot. If you don’t understand that, then now you know. They’re lovable, they’re despicable, they’re flawed. They connect to the reader more so than any plot point in the epic journey. And of these characters, most audiences likely gravitate toward the heroes or the villains. They are important, despite what I’m about to dive into.

Me, I’m not always drawn to the main character. Now, something you should know about me, I’m an oddball. So it makes sense, that the characters I find most appealing in the fictional realm are oddballs as well. Note, fictional is the key word there. In reality, I keep my distance, even if I am one.

Heroes are stale. (That is a bold statement to make. LOL. Not always, of course. But in comparison to what is to come, absolutely.) They have been plunged into the unknown via whatever inciting incident that caused them to flee their normal environment. They are serious, working toward a goal and rarely experiencing anything resembling a joyous occasion accept when they’ve overcome a pinch point in their battle against evil, and in the epilogue, after they’ve vanquished the evil tyrant. They are vital, as they’re typically the protagonist, and their stories inspire, but their personalities tend to be stale. It’s not their fault. They’re going through a traumatic event in their lives and they’re teaching us good values.

Then there are the villains. Villains tend to have more pizazz, with a mysterious motive for gaining power over everything and everyone. And they likely already have impossible achievements recorded in their books. They are bold, potentially dangerous and, often times, powerful. And they are the entire reason the heroic journey even takes place. Without the villain, their would be no tale to tell. But how could they possibly inspire when all their actions include victims. All great deeds are dwindled to malice when they involve victims.

I’m drawn to the oddballs because they give a story life; depth; humor; quirkiness; and often motivation. In the end, they supplement a story in a way that makes an impact. And they are fun to write because their story, their actions, their dialogue, can be so off the wall and it doesn’t matter because they don’t require a character arc of their own.

There are far too many to give credit to, but here are a few examples…

Aughra – Dark Crystal: Fresh on the mind from the recent Netflix release, she’s the protector of Thra and the crystal. Her role offers guidance that helps Rian conquer the Skeksis. And her appeal is in her hideous nature. She could be the offspring of a wookie, Skeletor and a bighorn sheep. It’s audacious. And to have a matching personality along side it makes her a memorable character and gives depth to the story in a way that lets the audience know she’s been around a long time and has experienced more than the rest of us.

Sir Didymus – Labyrinth: Sir Didymus is a tiny pup with tiny pup syndrome. Most characters in this cult classic are oddballs, but the main reason Sir Didymus stands out is because he’s a terrier that utilizes a sheep dog as his destrier to go into battle. Who in their right mind would create a dog riding a dog. A creative genius. With astounding courage he offers the story humor and a challenge for the main character, Sarah, before becoming her ally. He inspires the small to step up and make a big impact. A big personality in a little pup.

Monkeybird – Mirrormask: Sorry, sticking to a Jim Henson theme here, but they create stellar oddballs. This character is just as it’s named. An ape-looking creature with incredible high bar skills and wings. And a detachable beak. Odd. A quiet character, but a character nonetheless. There are multiple of these creatures, but one in particular risks his life (I’m assuming male based on the masculine physique) to save Helena (the MC) from the shadows. Even with his quiet nature, you gain an understanding of his virtue based on his actions. He offers the story intrigue and hope.

Yoda – Star Wars: Not much needs to be said about this vital character in the Star Wars ennealogy (had to look that one up). He is the perfect combination of wisdom, virtue and quack. This character trope would typically be played by a tall, old man with a long beard. But this one could fit right in on another Jim Henson stage. A character that can fall into many categories, and oddball is one of them.

Teek – Battle for Endor: He’s a mischievous thief that could compete with Flash in a race, if the DC universe followed the laws of physics. (Tachyons aren’t real. Photons are the universal speed limit.) Teek is a hero in his own right, but not the main character. His unnatural speed proves valuable with a great impact on the outcome. Do an image search and you’ll understand that a picture is worth only one word. Oddball.

Radagast the Brown – The Hobbit: Seemingly a quack. But this one has a hidden wisdom that only reveals itself when he so desires. He rides a sled pulled by rabbits and is concerned not with the one ring that rules them all, but with the flora and fauna of Middle Earth. The wise kook is one that I find extremely intriguing with his careless nature and heroic actions.

Screwball – Legend: Hard to say this character is the most memorable in this film. Darkness, played by Tim Curry, was phenomenal. Every Halloween I wish I could trick-or-treat in that costume. (I said I was an oddball.) But this isn’t about Darkness. Screwball is one of the only comedic reliefs in this dark fantasy about good vs. evil. He’s a dwarf who resentfully falls into a hero’s journey as one of Jack’s companions. His cowardice is a humorous bright light in a dark winter.

I enjoy thinking back on these characters, as they inspire the creativity that can be had. One character from my own tale that fits this oddball description is Chief Graytu. He’s a rhyming, old kook that allows falderal to escape his tongue regularly, constantly making riddles out of what could be a simple conversation. He was my favorite character to write, simply because of his personality. I aspire to be him when I’m over a century old.

And if you haven’t seen these movies. Find them. And see them.


The Challenges of Writing For the Noob

Who Dis?

I’m a noob. New at writing. I take that back. I’m new at writing publicly. My name is Jonathan J Michael. And this is my first blog ever. So, by the famous words of that little Italian plumber I grew up controlling on the screen, “Here we go!”

I have been writing for about 7 years now. Most of that time was spent learning how to write. If only you could see the chicken-scratch I put on the page (with an actual pencil, not a keyboard) when I first decided I was going to be an author. I have no formal education in the literary realm, so it has been uphill the entire way, and continues to be uphill. But I enjoy doing it. And now I can say I’m a self-published author.

Check it out! Season of Sacrifice, an epic fantasy without dragons and magic, but instead, giant beasts and seasonal sciences. Written in first person with several different protagonists and antagonists, it offers heroism, bravery, assassinations, growth, murder, lust and a battle between fact and faith, all set in a world known as Azure. Available now on Amazon.com in both ebook and paperback formats.


Intent of the Blog

Okay, enough of the plugs. And enough about who I am. You can find more about me right here if you’re interested. Let’s get into the intent of this blog.

  • Draw attention to my true passion, my writing.
  • Help a few (or maybe more than a few) writers grow along side me
  • Promote and deliver updates about my books
  • Communicate inspirations behind my stories
  • Grow my fan base (Currently one, my brother. Thanks Bro!)

Challenges of Writing for the Noob

If you’re like me, you have a 9 to 5 and writing is a mere hobby. A hobby that doesn’t put the food on the table for the wife and twins. Writing is seen as free time not spent doing the dishes, cooking dinner, mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, and the list goes on. And that is exactly what it is. Don’t try to argue otherwise to your spouse, partner or whoever you owe dedicated time to. Writing is free time spent doing what you enjoy doing until it provides something in return that not only you can enjoy. So make your writing public. (I say that like an experienced vet. Like I know exactly what I’m doing. I don’t. I’m a noob too, as I’ve already mentioned.)

Now that we’ve defined what writing is for the noob, what are the challenges we face to do what we enjoy, and to grow, and hopefully one day make it a career? I obviously can’t speak for everyone. My own experiences are all I know. But here is what I have experienced.

Sacrifice: A lot of sacrifice is required. Sleep for one. I’m writing this at 2 a.m. because, one, I woke up after already being asleep for hours with the inspiration to do so (honestly, it may have been the heartburn that woke me up), and two because it is time I have for myself that nobody else can take away from me. What I sacrifice in return is sleep. This isn’t regular for me, but often, either a late night or an early morning are the only time I have where I don’t have obligations to be doing something else. So a bit of sleep can go to the way side to evolve your “free time” into a career.

What I wouldn’t recommend doing is sacrificing too much of your children’s time, too much of your spouse’s time and definitely do not sacrifice your current employer’s time. If I had to choose between the three, I’d choose four. Sleep.

The downside, depending how well you do with little sleep, this can still impact the other three. So be cautious. Try to find the balance and plead for dedicated time to write if you are passionate about it.

Confidence: How do you know if what you write is received as intended? How do you know if you’re writing something that people want to read? You don’t. Not until you start writing and you start sharing it.

I am no expert, and don’t claim to know anything. I’m a noob for goodness sake. (Damn. There it is again. Mentioning my lack of experience in the public realm of writing.) And I have struggled with confidence for the past seven years. I started by offering the first page of my book. Probably prematurely, as it was still in a rough state, but it helped me grow. Then I offered up the first ten to twenty chapters (still prematurely) and it helped me grow. I was lucky because I had someone to help motivate me (no constructive criticism, just pure motivation that I needed to keep going) and it helped me gain the confidence I needed to just put it out there. The point is, you won’t know if it’s something that people want to read until you put it out there and share it. And even if its something people don’t want to read (like this blog for instance), then they’ll move on with their day and forget about it. No harm done. Then you write the next one. You can find this feedback anywhere on the internet, so enough said.

Lack of Audience: If you’re not using a pen name, you have family and friends to at least get you started. But even that isn’t highly recommended (or so I’ve read). You need to get your name out there to the world. To people who don’t know you. If you are using a pen name, then it can be even more difficult because you can’t utilize social media, because if you create an account under your pen name, you start out without any friends. Unless you invite your mother to be your friend. Sad. But maybe necessary to get the train moving.

Being the noob I am (ugh… there it is again, but we all have to start somewhere) I don’t have any advice in this realm and am curious what advice others have? How do you build an audience as a self-published author? Do you make cold calls and go door-to-door to sell your book? Or do you simply start a blog and start telling your story?

One site I have found helpful is kindlepreneur.com. But I am still on the path to figuring this out and haven’t utilized all the tools on this website. Still dealing with that sacrifice part of the equation and time is limited.

Jonathan J Michael