Time for some exciting news everyone! My #fantasy book, Tavern, has its official release date, March 26th! The official cover and map reveal to be some time this week!
Blog Post (12/20/2018)
Talent (Yeah, it exists, doesn’t mean that it’s required.)
There’s this misconception I’ve seen going on. A friend, my brother, and I got into a discussion about talent. They are in the mindset that if you aren’t talented at a thing, why bother even trying to attempt it? I got into one of my passion filled rants on the topic that I have no choice but to share with you guys now. Listen up people. Say it with me: natural talent is not the be all, end all.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t good at writing. Honestly, I was terrible (if you want proof, I can give you proof, just DM me). Throughout my entire high school life, I was surrounded by writers that were better than me. Same with artists. I kept telling myself why even bother to work on something when there are other people that are better. I soon realized that’s not the mindset anyone should be in. There are going to be people that are going to be better than you are. That’s just the reality of the situation. It doesn’t mean that your efforts should be trivialized or that you aren’t improving because you aren’t the level that you want to be.
The only person you need to be comparing yourself to is yourself. I will tell anyone, do what you want to do creatively every day. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be a huge project or even a lot of progress. Just do it every day. At the end of say eight weeks, look at the progress you made. Then keep doing that until you reach a year or two. You’re going to see improvement if you are legitimately working on your project or craft. I feel like so many people get caught up with comparing themselves to others that they don’t see what they can do with their talents.
My friend from earlier (and you know who I’m talking about if you’re reading this) said that they don’t have the skill to do what they wanted. It boiled my corn because I’ve been talking with them for years. I’ve seen their creativity and their ability to create. But this person is probably one of the most creative people I’ve seen. Their potential is out of this world. They consume so much creative media and can speak to you about what they liked or didn’t like in a piece (especially anime and manga). But he got it in his head that he’s not talented. It drives me up the wall. I know he could do something amazing but he got in his head that why bother?
Why NOT bother?
What do you have to lose? You have all your life to do something that you want to do. Why not take that gambit and keep improving? Yes. You might not be as skilled as you want to be at first. It’s going to take some time to get where you want to be. Even then, you might not be as skilled as the people that you admire. But you gotta think, there’s someone out there that’s going to see your work and think that you are their favorite author or artist. What do you have to lose? Just try it!
Rant over. But for real, guys, don’t get caught up on what you view as natural talent. Yes, there are people out there that’re going to be really good at what you want to be good at. That doesn’t mean that you can’t attempt to share your creativity with the world. It might surprise you. Your idols might just become your peers.
See ya next Thursday (hopefully if my publishing business is not all over the place),
Deston D.J. Munden
Progress Report: December 20th, 2018
I’ve decided to self-publish Tavern after much deliberation. The choice was always available and its something I have been considering for a while. I thought to at least give traditional publishing a try before jumping into it, however. Now that I have and learned a bunch about the process, I think it’s fair to say that I believe self-publishing—at this time—is the best option for me. There are a couple of reason that I want to get into, the main which is creative control.
After talking with a hybrid publisher (don’t do a hybrid publisher, it’s not a good idea), I’ve learned a lot thing about the process of self-publishing. One thing struck a chord with me. Creative control. With self-publishing and indie industry, I would have control over things like the editing, cover artist, and formatting. I could basically take the time to create my own brand and image in my book. That appealed strongly to me. One of my biggest things with traditional publishing at this time is that I wouldn’t have any control over these processes and I wanted to at least experience that before I go forward with in that route one day. This appeals strongly to my creative side and I’m looking forward to learning more and more about the process as I step forward.
The second reason is the experience. Self-publishing will give me experience. The main issues with most of the agents that I have encountered are that they aren’t confident in my experience. I’m a fantasy author, first and foremost. Fantasy takes some experience to get into and most people are grandfathered in. This will give me some experience and help me network better in the future. I need a piece to read and I need to get used to the editing process.
The third reason is it’s something that I believe in. Tavern is my passion project, or at least the start of a larger world. For that reason, I want it out there. The rejections that I received for this project often told me that I had the skill but they weren’t confident in me as a marketable author or it wasn’t their style for their list. The latter I can understand. The former rubbed me the wrong way. I am a bit of an oddity in the industry and they aren’t confident that I will hit the audience that they think I want to hit. The thing is, I believe strongly in this project and in my ability as an author to survive in the genres that I write. I’m aiming to prove them wrong and perhaps one day catch the interest of an agent that will truly have my best interest in mind.
Lastly, you guys. I want to be able to provide a product for you guys to enjoy. Everyone has been incredibly supportive of me and my cause. I’m still hoping that one day I’ll be synonymous with some of my fantasy author heroes. For now, I’m going to have to work at it and build my way up. I did not choose this as a last resort. I chose this because I feel like this is the best for my career at this time. Wish me luck as I take the step forward.
See ya next Thursday,
Deston D.J. Munden
I will also like to thank everyone who already donated to my GoFundMe.
I will also like to thank Gareth L. Powell, Dyrk Ashton, A.Z Anthony, Garrett Robinson, Jonathan French, Sean Grisby and Jenna Moreci for all their guidance and advice. Also, everyone at the TL: DR Press, Reddit Writer, and amwriting community on twitter.
There’s something amiss going on. I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of people writing what they think will become popular or what will be sellable in the market. I’ve always found that odd. That was until I started querying and trying to sell my books to agents and publishers. There’s this natural draw to want to write what you think would be sellable or popular after being rejected for so long. But, I think it’s important to realize that you need to keep writing what you want to write and read. Most importantly, you need to learn how to find your own audience. I’m here to give you some tips on that.
First off, read in the genres that you want to write in. For example, I’m a fantasy guy. My style is like that of Scott Lynch, Nicholas Eames, R.A Salvatore, Brandon Sanderson, or Michael J. Sullivan. It’s important to know and read the people in the genre that you’re trying to get into. Read a bunch and learn how your story fits into the general landscape of the industry. This will help you find an audience. It will help you find people to talk to and perhaps gain interest in what you’re working on. This will help you talk to people while also help you learn your craft. (Don’t forget to also read outside your genre sometimes, it will help you get some fresh ideas.).
Secondly, write what you want. Do you like magic? Write about magic. If you like dragons, write about dragons. Don’t feel like you gotta write something because of who you are as a person. I get this quite a bit as a black guy, I’m often told that I need to write something that will connect with only black people. I’m often told that being a fantasy guy, it will only work if I’m in an African setting or exclusively write black characters. Quite honestly, it hurt my feelings. I wanted to write about a fantasy world like World of Warcraft or A Song of Ice and Fire. I shouldn’t have to feel because I was born a certain way that I must write a certain way. If anyone tells you because you’re LGBT, a certain race, or a certain sex that you can’t write a certain setting, genre or style, don’t listen. You can write whatever you want. Write what you want to write and get people interested. If you’re interesting enough and talk about it enough, you’ll get people interested naturally.
Thirdly, communicate. You need to learn how to talk to people. People think writing is a solitary job. In some ways it is. But once you start sharing about your work, it slowly becomes apparent that you’re not alone in this. As people get interested, you’re going to have to learn how to talk to people about not only your work but your process, your ideas, and your general mindset. Not only should you be able to talk about your book, you should be able to talk about their books. Networking’s important. As a person with social anxiety, this was a huge challenge to me. But, I’m starting to learn and it’s starting to pay off.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to reevaluate how you want to publish your book or idea. Sometimes, you’re going to have to change up how you want to go about it. Perhaps, you need to reevaluate the premise, the execution, or even potential publishing options. What’s important is though, don’t change your story to better fit what you think is going to work. If you want to change it because you feel like you need to, that’s entirely different. But don’t change to fit the trend. Trends change. People change. That’s why you need to learn what you like and what you want.
See ya next Thursday,
Deston “D.J” Munden
P.S I have some exciting news. Really exciting news. I can’t get into detail with it yet, but things might be on the upswing majorly involving my work. I don’t want to jinx it. More news on that shortly.
We tell ourselves a lot of things during the day. We often push away feelings or emotions we consider invalid or just a part of ourselves. Some of us believe this suffering is a part of us, something so entwined within us that we can’t envision ourselves without it. Artists tend to believe that suffering is the catalyst for their art. That without a crippling depression or a hardship they can’t make good art. It’s not true. I’ve lived it. You don’t have to suffer to make good art nor do you have to tell yourself you’re okay when you’re not.
I’ve been living for anxiety for years. I thought it was normal. I told myself every day, everyone feels the way that I do. I told myself that I was okay even with a constant knot in my chest, my heart racing, my mind flashing images like a broken reel of a film strip. Every day, I pushed through the fog in my own head. Everyone had it, I told myself. Everyone felt like they couldn’t push through their thoughts and they couldn’t figure out what to say in their own head. Everyone’s mind was cluttered with past thoughts of horrible things that people said or did to them. Everyone suffered. Why should I complain about it? Why should I confront a normalcy within everyone’s day to day life? The thing was….it wasn’t everyone’s normal. It was my normal. My normal was terrible and I didn’t want to think that it wasn’t.
Last week, I got prescribed anxiety medicine. Ironically, it was for my heart. You see, my heart beats fast normally. I often was short of breath and couldn’t do anything for a long period of time. While at a checkup this past week, my doctor asked me…do you feel anxious all the time? And I was like….yes? He looked at me for a second and was like…. we’re gonna try something a bit different. I was already on beta blockers and they were helping. So, he prescribed me another medicine, my anxiety medicine (well technically I was allergic to the first one, but they gave me another one after that, but that’s another story). The day that I got my new medicine, I was nervous about it.
I’ve never taken anything like this before. I’ve done research about it of course and I have some close friends that take medicine for depression or anxiety…but did I need it? That was until I was on my first few days. I’ve started realizing that things I thought was normal weren’t normal. I felt my brain feel lighter, thoughts coming easier. Even writing this blog post, I realized that my ideas are coming out a lot sharper than usual. Social interactions are becoming far less scary. Failure and rejections are becoming thing must go through instead of the end of the world. I’ve started to love who I am. I started to become conscious in my own body, recognize how I’m feeling. All this time, I’ve felt like I’ve been asleep and only now, 27 years later, I’ve woken up from a long slumber.
I’m starting to enjoy things. I’m starting to love going out. I’m starting to feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and my writing. I’m starting to try new things. All without that knot in my chest. All without feeling nervous all the time. It’s been eye-opening. I thought I didn’t need this medicine. I thought I didn’t want to handle it. I was fooling myself; I was burying myself.
This is only the first week and I’ve already seen so much progress. This isn’t going to be the thing for everyone. But first, you’re going to have to confront yourself with a truth. If you think you have a mental illness, it’s not going to go away. Get help. Make it known. Confront it yourself. Tell your family. Tell your doctor. Don’t go it out alone. You’re not okay….but you can be.
See you next Thursday,
Deston “D.J.” Munden.
Sorry I missed last week! This and another thing that I’m gonna announce later tripped me up. Both good things. I’ll see if I can tell you guys more about the other thing when it comes up again. Thanks for checking this out.
If you haven’t checked out my newest chapter of Dusk Mountain Blues, you can find it here!
In the spirits of Halloween, I wanted to talk about something truly terrifying for authors. Feedback.
I know, I know. It’s a terrible thing. But it’s a necessary enemy you’re gonna face. You can only do so much on your own. That’s where you get the help from other people to look at your work. But, it’s a scary thing. You’re practically exposing your work to the world for the first time. It’s been in your head for so long and then when you finally got it down on paper, it was still yours. A brother once told me once you release your work in any degree, it’s no longer just yours anymore. It becomes part of the reader and they see it in a different light that you do. They may love it, they may hate it, they may be impartial to it. That’s the importance of feedback. You get to see your story from another point of view and it might not be the point of view that you particularly like.
I’ve learned that it’s best to get feedback from your friends and family first. Have people that you know and trust to look at your work. There are some people that jump right into strangers reading the manuscripts. I’m not that type of person. I need to get some people I know who will like the subject matter to look at the work and who I can physically talk to. Also, don’t get the mean people in your life to read your novel first. That’s a bad idea. Find someone that will give you constructive criticism and compliments. You don’t need to be torn down right out the gate. There’s gonna be plenty of people that are going to do that for you later down the road.
I learned that it’s best to get harsh criticism when you already have the story completed. I’ve seen it hundreds of times on reddit, tumblr and fanfiction.net: person writes the first chapter, person posts first chapter to get it torn apart, gets torn apart, never writes the rest of that book. Don’t do that. I’ve done this with several fan fictions. You want to finish the book first. Complete your first draft before getting any criticism on your style, pacing, plot, or characters. You don’t even know your potential of the story you’re trying to spin. It’s also a terrible motivator. How are you going to get something accomplished when you started off with negatives? Write the story. Get the feedback after you went back and edited it. Get yourself in the good zone before jumping your way into beatdown town.
Speaking of beatdown town, you’re gonna have to toughen those muscles up. You’re get hit. I’ve been hit several times. Some people aren’t gonna like, understand, or even care for your story. That’s just how it’s gonna be. That’s why it’s important not to find just any beta readers. You need to find ones that you can screen, you can understand, and who is willing to work with you. Even then, you’re gonna find some people that are going to say some mean things. You’re going to have to work through it. That’s why it’s important to have the story completed first. It makes it easier to go back and heal from those bruises you get from feedback.
You’re gonna find some people that are going to fall in love with your novel. Give yourself some credit. You finished or you’re writing a book. Not a lot of people can do that. Remember, I love you guys. You need all the support you’re going to get if you’re going to continue this dream.
See ya next Thursday,
Deston “D.J.” Munden
I didn’t expect to make a part two to my self-care series but there have been some cool results that I wanted to share. One day it just hit me while I was waking up, why not try meditating and exercising before work too? I already had my self-care routine, so why not add a half an hour of meditation and exercise when I wake up. I hadn’t expected it to make such a positive change in my life already.
Meditation is strangely enlightening—okay, not that strange because it’s been proven to help. I’ve learned a lot of things about myself in the fifteen minutes I take every day to reset my brain. It’s a powerful thing giving yourself time to think. Also, for me, it’s a great self esteem exercise. I don’t give myself enough credit for anything that I do. In meditation, I give myself compliments and positive affirmations. It’s not something I typically do in my day to day. With it, I noticed how hard I am on myself. This especially the case with little things about myself that I feel I’m not good at. Meditation has given me the tools to confront those feelings and talk about them to myself. In a way, it gave me the tools to let go of everything I naturally bottle up (which is a lot of things). This gave me the mindfulness that I needed to work on my creative endeavors more.
The exercise helps as well. It’s never anything big; 5×4 pushups, 5×4 squats, 5×5 bicep curls with 5-pound weights. This gets my now rested mind into action while also helping me feel better about myself. I’m slowly adding more and more sets to my exercises to get myself accustomed to the work. People already noticed the difference and it’s only been a month or so.
I feel like for me, I needed to get out of my own head for a while. It’s something my older brother has been saying for a while. I’ve started to use meditation and exercise to help me with that. I’m so used to pushing myself harder that I forgot that I am a person from time to time. As a result, this new regime that I created for myself has helped me get closer in touch with my creative self. Work is becoming easier and I can enjoy the times that I have when I’m not working.
So, if you’re pushing yourself too hard or you aren’t in the head space to work like you want, try this out. Meditate for a while. Exercise for a while. Take care of yourself for a while. Don’t let your creativity and your drive to succeed take over your life. You’ll be surprised on what will change if you do.
Also, be nice to yourself. There’re enough people that are going to tell you what you can and cannot do. Say nice things about yourself both aloud and in your head. When you read something you wrote, don’t just find what you think its wrong, give yourself a compliment. If you’re mean to yourself, people are going to notice. You’re going to notice (hint: you’re going to feel like crap.). Stop self-bullying. You’re great. I like you, you should like you. If you don’t like yourself, take steps in that direction.
See you folks later,
Deston “D.J.” Munden
I think everyone’s heard it once and a while. Practice makes perfect. One thing that people forget to tell you when they throw that in your face is that practice….it isn’t easy! Okay, the act of practicing is easy. You get started and try the thing. Yes. That’s a very simple thing to do. What people fail to tell you is how uncomfortable it’s going be in the first few times.
I have a perfect example of this.
I started playing Rainbow Six: Siege (if you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably seen at least one tweet of me talking about it). For people who don’t know what that video game is, it’s basically a five versus five elimination first-person tactical shooter where one team is attacking, and the other team is defending an objective and you switch every round. The kicker in this game is that if you’re down, you’re out for the round. With your character taking the very maximum of 3 shots, you gotta be careful with every move. So, I started playing this game with my brother. He’s really good at it. I’m 150 hours in and I’m terrible. He kept telling me, just practice on your own this little mini-game that they have. The thing is, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to because what was the point? I was bad at the game anyway, so why try? I was so used to playing games that I was already good that I spoiled myself from learning something that I wasn’t. That was until I took his advice and started practicing. I’m not saying that I’m better overnight, but I can already feel myself becoming more comfortable with the game.
The act of practicing is scary. We are conditioned to believe if we don’t have a talent for it, we don’t need to work at it. The act of having talent is beaten into us from youth. You can’t help but compare yourself to other people that you are around. My brother has been playing tactical shooters since he was kid online. I only bought a PC powerful enough to play games like this a few years ago. Yet, I compared myself to him and his skills. That’s not fair to me. I gave myself time to learn and practice.
I think this is the case with writers. We get so caught up in wanting to be good, but we don’t take the necessary steps to make it happen. I’m on my sixth manuscript. My first three were terrible (readable and some people liked it, but they were terrible). They totaled to about a quarter of million words. They weren’t wasted. I learned my weaknesses and my strengths while doing it. Most importantly, I learned how to write every day and found my style. The truth of it all is that you aren’t going to be good at anything right off the bat. Even the people with talent in your specialty keeps at it.
So, whether you are a writer or a gamer, remember this: “Practice makes perfect but also practice ain’t fun. It’s scary at first.” It’s okay if you’re afraid to do it. It’s okay to struggle with the feelings of hopelessness as you start. You might get your butt beat. You might get annoyed at yourself. Take your time. Not everyone’s gonna be good in their first 150 hours of a game. Not everyone’s gonna be a novelist on their first manuscript (or 3…or 4…). You can do it.
Thanks for all the concerns last week about the hurricane. You guys are the best.
See you authors and operators next Thursday,
Deston “D.J.” Munden.
Started Duke’s Brand and Finished Chapter 1 (9/19/2018)
I’ve heard some terrible things about fanfiction writers in the writer/author communities and I wanted to say my piece. Repeat after me: fanfiction writers aren’t bad. I feel like with the somewhat recent success of fanfiction authors becoming authors, there’s become this stigma of fanfiction writers not being good at what they do. It just isn’t true. Of course, there’s quite a few that I particularly don’t enjoy or couldn’t get into but perhaps it isn’t the writer being a “fanfiction” writer and more of the style of which the story itself is written.
Plenty of my closest friends have written or are writing fanfictions. Most of them do it for enjoyment with no aspirations to become an author. They enjoy the fandom that they are writing in and are writing for fun. Some of these fanfictions are better than some published works that I’ve read. There are others that do want to write a traditionally published book but uses fanfictions to build an audience, get to know people better, or even practice their writing. I honed a lot of my skills writing fanfictions for Bioware’s Mass Effect. That was the first time I’ve ever gotten people to read my works. They taught me how to accept criticism and get better. Whether it’s for hobby or practice for becoming an author one day, it’s both acceptable.
I can agree, there are some horrible people in the community. Alas, that can be said for anything really. In any creative work, you’re going to find a group of people shaming you. I’m not talking about criticism. I’m talking about straight up toxicity. That’s not exclusive to fanfiction. You’re gonna find people that don’t like your genre, you as a person, or you as a writer. If anything, fanfiction writers tend to have to deal with this more and on a frequent level due to the passion of the readers they are trying to captivate. Don’t assume that all fanfiction writers can’t handle or never had any criticism because I can say that there’s plenty that has gone through worse. I’ll take a rejection letter from an agent over an angry fanfiction reviewer any day. Even the best fanfiction writer gotta deal with that almost daily. That’s saying something.
On another note, I’ve heard from various authors that fanfictions don’t cultivate talent. That, again, is obviously not true. It’s like saying that fan artists (the ones that you treasure and put on your website) aren’t actually artist because they don’t do their own original characters. There are plenty of fanfiction writers that has created complex storylines, characters, and even worlds within your world that are exceedingly talented. Of course, you’re gonna get some people that copy the work or use other people’s worlds or words to get what they want. Again, that’s not all fanfiction writers. You see that all the time in published works. Talent comes from practice and more than likely, the fanfiction writer is writing consistently and learning (or at least attempting to). Don’t rag on them.
At the end of the day, whether its fanfiction or original works, you’re gonna get people who aren’t working hard for what they get. Just because they didn’t create their own world doesn’t mean that fanfiction writers are lazy. Some do it for a hobby, some just like the world the author or artist made, and some are just trying to get better for their own world one day. Let them have that. If they aren’t selling your work as their own, leave ‘em alone. For fanfiction writers, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t a writer. You are, and I really like you guys.
See ya next Thursday,
Deston “D.J.” Munden
Progress Report! September 6th, 2018.
This may sound weird, but hygiene is important when writing (or anything really). I am, undoubtedly, a workaholic. Anything that I do, I tend to push myself over the natural limits that my body is capable of. I work and work without much care for myself or my health. It took friends and family reeling me into making a schedule for I won’t work until 12 at night. We will talk about that later. For now, we’re talking about a self-care routine which comes into two parts: cleanliness of yourself and your workspace and meditation/relaxations.
Every day before I write, I take a long shower and clean myself as best as I possibly can. I slowly cumulated cheap hygiene products and began incorporating them into a long routine in the morning. During this, it gives me time to think in the morning and unwind. By the end of it, I have showered myself, cleaned up my hair and beard, brushed my teeth, and moisturized my skin. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel going into your work when you’re feeling good about yourself. Even as I’m writing this blog post after just doing this, I feel like I could climb a mountain. Self-confidence in yourself is going to produce better writing and better results for yourself. Try to experiment, get a few things for yourself whether it’s a razor, a new hair product, face scrubs, etc. Also, get dressed. You don’t have to get ready like you’re about to leave the house but get dressed from time to time (some days are a PJs day for writing though and recognize that). You’ll see a difference in how your writing and how much you write. Remember to change it up too.
Also, keep your workspace cleaned. It doesn’t have to be spotless but clean it up from time to time. Take time to organize your notes and dust off your desk. I learned a clean space helps a good mindset.
On the flip side of that, learn how to take a break for yourself. I mentioned earlier that I can and have worked from the early morning to late at night. That’s not okay. Take some time every day to read a book, watch a show, listen to music, cook yourself a meal, meditate, take a walk, do some pushup and situps. Try to do a little bit of all this every day. Get yourself out of the chair. Do something other than writing. If you’re a procrastinator, you need to put some time in for writing and block that into your schedule (still do the things I mentioned earlier, just know that you gotta work to get that first draft—and subsequent drafts—done). Learn how to take care of yourself and find your workflow. It’s not going to find itself. If you’re working too hard, learn how to relax. If you aren’t working hard enough, put some time aside for it. At the end of the day, you aren’t going to get to your goal by not working and you’re not gonna get to your goal if you work yourself to death.
That’s all I have for you today. Like my mom told me, you aren’t gonna see your book on the shelf if you’re in the hospital. Take care of yourself writers.
Deston “D.J.” Munden