Bodacious Creed Minis

In a recent post, I shared the miniatures I created on Hero Forge. These are the four primary characters in my novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western. It was a lot of fun creating them. I wanted the actual figures to paint and display, so I ordered one of each.

They came today! I had to share these with you. They’re excellent quality and very detailed. From left to right, we have James “Bodacious” Creed, Anna Lynn Boyd, Rob Cantrell, and Jonathan Johns. Even the cat on the stand with Anna is a character in the novel.

I know that Creed and Cantrell look similar because they each have beards, but their faces actually are different. And after I’ve painted them, the differences will be even clearer. As a sort of zombie, Creed has very pale skin.

 

Handling Shelter in Place

How are you handling shelter in place? I hope the answer is, “By staying home as much as possible, going out for necessities only, and wearing a mask as well as maintaining social distance when I do.” That’s my story. I feel lucky that I have a brain that’s suited to this kind of life. I’ve been productive at my online day job, making great progress on my current novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, taking advanced writing and marking classes, making sure my son does his schoolwork every day, and more.

I still wish there were more hours in the day. There’s always so much to get done. But I’m working hard, and working smart. Those Pomodoros are really helping!

If you’re not already keeping a journal, now’s a good time to start. In the future, you may want to look back and remember how crazy life was during this time. We should never forget the lessons we’re learning during this pandemic. Saving lives is worth a little inconvenience. Healthcare for all matters because the health of one person affects many others. Wash your hands for a minimum of twenty seconds. Giving the Vulcan “live long and prosper” hand gesture is safer, and even more respectful, than shaking hands. Reading is a great way to pass the time.

What are you learning during this time? What lessons do you hope others get from the quarantine?

Until my next blog post, as they say in Mid-World, long days and pleasant nights.

“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live.” ― Stephen King, The Dark Tower

It has been quite a good week for me. It seems wrong to say that in a way, due to the crisis that the world is going through, but I think it’s about making the most of the situation. We’re stuck indoors, but there’s a lot you can get done while sheltering in place.

Hero Forge

 

How did this site exist for so long, and I didn’t find it? Last week I finally learned about Hero Forge, a site where you can create custom miniatures for tabletop gaming. Back in the 1990s, when miniatures were still mostly made of pewter, if you wanted one that closely matched a character you were playing in D&D or another game, you were out of luck. You could find a dwarf warrior, or a human wizard, or whatever else, but they’d never match closely enough.

Hero Forge gives you all sorts of choices, from faces to proportions to clothing. There are a bunch of races, including cat and bunny people, plus horns, tails, wings, tools, mounts, and so on. Most of the choices are in the fantasy genre, but there’s more, including science fiction and western options.

So, you can bet I created the two main characters and two main supporting characters from my novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western. The site allows you to take screenshots to share as well.

Here they are, James “Bodacious” Creed, Anna Lynn Boyd, Rob Cantrell, and Jonathan Johns, aka Jonny.

You can purchase a downloadable model for $7.99, or order the high-quality, 3D printed figures for $19.99 each. Oh yes, if you add a mount, like a donkey, horse, or motorcycle, that will cost more, but there are several options and they look really good. I was impressed with how clothing, hair, and the like shift as you add different options, such as a backpack.

If you can afford it during this crisis and you need a personalized figure for an RPG or just because, I highly recommend making and ordering a figure. Otherwise, just have fun with it. Head over, create a free account, and let your imagination run free.

 

The Power of Tomatoes

 

Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, and a Pomodoro technique is a powerful productivity method. I heard about this a few years ago but I finally decided to try it. You see, I recently took a novel-writing course created by Russell Nohelty titled Write a Great Novel. Yes, I’ve written novels before, but there’s always something new to learn, and I learned a lot from this course. It’s free, and I encourage novelists, new and experienced, to take this class, too. It took me about three days, so it’s not a ton of work, but you’ll learn a lot.

In the section titled Getting your mind right Russel talks about the Pomodoro technique, and that convinced me to finally give it a try. It works like this. You set a timer for twenty-five minutes. During that time, you do one thing intensely, such as write your story or book, write a blog post, study for a class, draw, or whatever it is that you want to do in a productive way. After the twenty-five-minute block is over, you stop and take a five-minute break. Then, you do it again. After three or four Pomodoros you can take a half-hour break before you do more.

Of course, maybe you only have time for two or three of these, and that’s okay, too. You’ll be stunned at how much you accomplish. When I tried this two days ago, in an hour and a half, I wrote two-thousand three-hundred words of Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake! I was busy with other things yesterday, but in one Pomodoro, I wrote a detailed outline of the next several chapters, which I plan to get to today.

This blog post? One Pomodoro. And I still have a minute left on it.

So, those are the most interesting things that I wanted to share from the past week! What are you working on? Feel free to leave a comment below! (I recently learned that I needed to open comments here, so you can now respond.)

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”
–Robert Louis Stevenson

 

In general, I like to have a single topic to write about in my blog posts, then maybe to share a couple of extra things at the bottom. This post is going to be a hodge-podge of stuff. Things are so different now during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I have various things I want to share. Maybe when I get these down for you, it will free my mind to come up with some bigger things to write about.

Feel free to skip any section that doesn’t interest you.

 

Life During the Pandemic

If you’re like me, you get scared every time you have to go out for an essential task, like getting groceries. I have a full-time writing job that I get to do from home, and have for the last five years, and I know I’m lucky. Before COVID-19 started spreading, I was also doing Uber Eats about two hours a day. Yes, I’ve stopped doing Uber. I did it for about a week into the pandemic, and then I just got too uncomfortable. Some people weren’t observing social distancing. I witnessed restaurants where people were crowded together as though they were all getting into an airplane. This means I’m making about $30 less a day, so I’m looking for small writing gigs to make up the difference.

Being an introvert, anyway, I’m Okay staying at home. When my son and I do have to go out, we have masks that my mom made and sent to us. I maintain at least 6 feet of distance from anyone I see, wear my mask, have my son wait in the car, use hand sanitizer when I get back in the car, and disinfect our groceries as soon as we get home. I hope all of you are doing the same.

My local writing group is now online, which is great! We had a three-hour Skype meeting the other day. There are so many good writers in that group. I enjoyed hearing chapters from everyone else’s books, and I read the second scene from Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, my current novel and sequel to Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western.

How are you handling social distancing and sheltering in place? How do you think this will change culture and society? Please feel free to share below.

 

Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake

 

Yes, I’m working on this novel! I used to write books by knowing the characters and setting very well, then figuring out the story as I went along. Yes, I was a pantser. Now, I’ve learned to outline, and while I still have to figure things out as I go, I have a structure to fit it all into.

I recently outlined the major beats in this novel and am busy writing it. I have a lot of other writing to do for work, so sometimes I don’t get done as much as I’d like, but it is coming along. I’m on Chapter 2 now, moving toward the “inciting incident,” where the status quo changes and Creed’s real adventure for the story starts.

For those of you who are writers and artists, what are you working on? Are you using this period to get to some of your personal projects? Hey, if not, that’s all right! We’re all dealing with the pandemic in our own way.

 

When Will Disneyland Open?

 

For that matter, when will the world open? But this is my question because I live a mile away from Disneyland. We don’t live in the most upscale place in the world, but we do live in a nice apartment in a middle-class, gated community. We have a pool here that I assume will be safe to swim in at some point.

For the last few years, I’ve considered having Disneyland annual passports a cost of living here in Anaheim. If you lived here, you might, too. My son and I had been going often, sometimes just for a few hours after he gets out of school. On our passports, parking was covered, so often I’d only pay about $6.00 to get Clark an ice cream, and we’d go on several rides, enjoy the atmosphere, then go home.

It just feels so weird knowing that Disneyland is closed. More than anything, that’s making this very real for me. I mean, our passports expired just before shelter in place started, but it doesn’t even make sense for me to renew them until this blows over. I know, I’m lucky at the moment that this is the thing that makes it seem the most real. None of my friends have gotten sick. I hope it stays that way for a long time.

Let’s face it, this period is pretty surreal. What makes it seem real for you?

 

Writers: Read This Book

 

Back in January, I got to go to Pasadena Comic-Con, and I’m so glad I did. I met author Russell Nohelty and purchased two of his books, including How to Become a Successful Author. I’m just 40% into it, but wow is it packed with helpful information! Russell lays out so much about how to churn out good books, how to build your audience, why you want to write several interlinked book series, and much more. If you’re a writer and struggling to build your career, read this book. It will help you from making tons of mistakes, as I have. I wish this had existed (and that I had found it) twenty years ago.

That all for now! Again, I’d love to hear from any of you in the comments.

Disclaimer: The book links herein use my Amazon Associates account, so I get a tiny bit of any purchase made using them. I don’t think that’s a big deal, but Amazon wants associates to share that information.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” –Stephen King

A New Beginning

A quick confession: I have not done the best job at branding my blog. I admit it.

This was formerly The Wild Steampunk Blog. While for the foreseeable future I plan to write steampunk westerns in my unique setting,the Creedverse, I think it was a mistake to make my blog almost solely about steampunk. Yes, I’m an aficionado of the genre, but I am a geek first. As such, I’m into all sorts of speculative fiction. My blog should reflect that.

So, this is simply Jonathan Fesmire’s Blog. Not as catchy as the last name, I know, but it gets right to the point.

I recently moved my site from Wix to Dreamhost. Wix was getting too expensive, and I thought it a good idea to finally move to WordPress. I did attempt to move the former blog here, but, well, Wix doesn’t make that easy or even possible, as far as I could tell, so we’re starting afresh.

However, there are still many interesting posts in that blog, and I encourage you to check it out! I’ll keep The Wild Steampunk Blog online as long as possible. You’ll find cosplay pattern reviews, Bodacious Creed news, interviews, and a lot more.

I feel like I should give everyone a brief update about what’s been happening since my last blog post. So, here goes.

I created a WorldAnvil site for the Creedverse. Some information is available to the public and more is available to anyone who supports me on Patreon. If you’re a patron and have read Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, even more information gets unlocked for you.

I’ve been learning much more about the self-publishing business and decided to turn what was going to be the sequel to Bodacious Creed into two books. So, I’m currently outlining Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake and Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate. I also have ideas for other series related to The Adventures of Bodacious Creed that I think fans will love.

I’ve done a lot of research, I’ve set up my series bible, and I have plans for the next couple of books. I foresee things picking up now and moving quickly. 

That’s it for now! I have a lot to get done today, including more outlining. Stay busy, everyone.

“Either write someting worth reading or do something worth writing.” –Benjamin Franklin.

 

 

Background

I love cards, from playing cards, to Tarot cards, to collectible card game cards. Back in 2007, I was working on a Tarot deck and wanted to sell copies. Back then, while print on demand was available for books, it wasn’t for cards, so I would have had to order box loads and try to sell them.

Printing has caught up though, and print on demand decks are a thing!

I’m currently running an Indiegogo campaign for my next novel, Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate, to help pay for the editing and cover art, those expenses that we indie authors pay out of pocket to ensure our books are the highest quality. One of the rewards is a deck of custom cards for the novel, and I’ll sign the package for each reward deck.

(Update for July 8, 2020: The sequel is now titled Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, and the third book will be Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate.)

Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western – Poker & Faro Deck

I also decided to create a deck for the first book in the series, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, and had fun doing it. I designed each card from scratch, using images of the major characters that I created for the crowdfunding campaign.

These are now available in my shop at MAKEPLAYINGCARDS.COM (MPC). If you’re a fan of the novel and want some swag, or you love collecting playing cards like I do, you can now purchase a deck or two! You can also order them if you’re a retailer and want to sell them, since the more you buy, the less you pay.

Of course, if you like designing cards, too, I recommend using this site. I’ve ordered cards from them before and am really happy with their quality and reasonable prices.

Here’s a preview of every card in the deck:

That’s it for today. I’ll have more fun posts coming soon. If you’d like to know when I post new and helpful articles, subscribe below.

“In the long run there’s no luck in poker, but the short run is longer than most people know.” ~ Rick Bennet

 

 

This post is part report on my recent novel release party for my book Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, and part how-to so that other writers can replicate or even exceed my success. I’ll explain what I did and how the party went. Simply do the same for your next novel.

 

Creation

First, on my Facebook author page, I created an event. (If you don’t have a Facebook author page, create one.) To create your event, go to your author page, click the “Events” link on the left, and click “Create Event.”

Schedule the event to coincide with the release of your book. I set up the party two weeks early, to take place the day after the general release of Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, then shared it with as many of my friends as I could. I also shared it with relevant Facebook groups over the next two weeks, posting every few days. For me, that was steampunk, sci-fi, and western themed groups. Don’t overdo it when posting to Facebook groups. If you post to too many too quickly, Facebook will restrict your posting privileges.

Why did I schedule mine for a day after release? Well, Bodacious Creedcame out on a Friday, and I thought Saturday would be better for an all-day party.

The invitation looked like this.

 

 

You’ll notice for the location, I wrote, “Here! Click the ‘Discssion’ Tab!” That makes it really easy for people to find the party when the arrive. You will then post everything for the party in that Discussion section on the day.

 

Preparation

As you can see, my party lasted ten hours. You want to keep your guests engaged. I did this by varying the types of posts.

Bodacious Creed is, as the title says, a steampunk zombie western, so that meant sticking thematically to those genres, sharing information about the book, and some other things. Here are the basic categories I used.

 

  1. Western & Steampunk Comic Strips

    1. I found some funny ones on Google Images.

    2. I also had a couple of zombie-related comics, including one I created.

  2. Bodacious Creed Concept Art

    1. Most novelists won’t have concept art. That’s all right.

    2. Substitute interesting character facts or your own sketches.

    3. Maps work for this, too. I shared the map that appears in Bodacious Creed.

  3. Contests

    1. I ran two, and these might give you some ideas.

      1. Create a character concept appropriate for a steampunk western setting. The winner’s idea will appear in the Bodacious Creedsequel and the winner will get the latest Kindle editions of my first two fantasy novels.

      2. Come up with a character name appropriate for a steampunk western setting. The winning name will be the name of the winning character from the first contest, and the winner will get the latest Kindle editions of my first two fantasy novels.

      3. This was the character created from my contest, and I look forward to incorporating her into the next book: Combining the winning name from the second contest, and the character idea I think would work best in the next Bodacious Creed book, we have Elanora Augustus, a ten-year-old orphan and part of the criminal underground.

  4. Interesting Facts & Questions

    1. These can be facts about your setting, be it completely created from scratch or based on a historical setting.

    2. Questions for participants. I revealed that my favorite historical Wild West figure is Wild Bill Hickok, and asked others whom they liked best.

Book Price

I recommend that, when you first release your book, the Kindle edition should have a solid sale price. Many novels of about 80,000 words go on sale for 99¢. Bodacious Creed is 120,000 words, so a fairly long novel. Since it’s 50% longer than your average novel, I put it on sale for $1.49. This encourages more people to buy it, which is helpful for two reasons. First, some of them will post reviews. Second, it increases your sales rank. Yesterday, mine got to #3 in its specific category, and there are more sci-fi westerns on Kindle than you may think!

It’s listed at #4 here. It went up to #3 later, but at that time, I was in bed and didn’t feel like getting up to take a screenshot.

 

 

Holding the Party

Start your party right, with a pinned post on the event’s Discussion page, directing people where to buy the book. Since I have an art degree, I had no trouble creating a good sales image I’ve been using on Facebook and Twitter. (Incidentally, if you’d like me to create one of these for you, hit me up and we’ll work out a low price.)

To pin your post, simply click the downward arrow at the upper left corner of the post and select “Pin Post.” That way, when people come to the party, this will be the first post they see.

 

 

Monitor the posts. Some people will arrive on the page and rather than responding to a post, they will create on their own. If you get spam or other junk you don’t want, you can delete it. For positive posts, accept them and respond to them. They’ll appear on the page, showing that people are arriving!

 

 

Every ten to fifteen minutes, post something new. Again, you want to keep people engaged. It is a party! You don’t want to overwhelm people, though.

This is where all the ideas and images you gathered during the preparation phase come in. If you did your job right, you may find that you have more images than you need. Something to use with the next book party! I don’t think I used even half, but I used the ones that felt right.

As you can see from my book rankings above, I got some good sales during the party. Everyone seemed to have a great time. I know I did.

 

A Brief Aside

If you don’t own a copy of Bodacious Creed yet, I hope you’ll purchase it! The regular price will be $3.99 starting August 21, 2017, less than the price of a latte, and I think well worth it.

 

Party Posts

Finally, I put together this image from screenshots to give you an idea of what the party looked like. Facebook collapses the comments, but on your party page you can click a section on each post to read them and to respond.

Feel free to click the image below to visit my book party release page and to get some ideas from it.

 

 

If you plan to do a Facebook release party for your next book, I hope this helps! I found it well worth the time and effort, and a lot of fun. I’ll definitely do another when the time comes to release the sequel to Bodacious Creed.

“Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” — Joanne Harris

 

Introducing Ave Rose

I began watching Steampunk’d on GSN TV the day the first episode aired and I’ve been enjoying it tremendously. It was what I hoped it would be: a contest style reality show with excellent steampunk makers as contestants and judges. Some of us in the community were worried they wouldn’t get that quite right, but it’s spot on.

There have been some criticisms, of course, such as the show’s focus on the drama, and some questions of whether the elimination format is the most appropriate for this type of contest, but you can’t deny the way that keeps us viewers hooked.

Last Wednesday night, it was great to see that the multi-talented Ave Rose made it to the final four. Ave is a writer, costume designer, singer, and maker par excellence, and she took time out of her busy schedule to share some of her life with us.

The Interview

Jonathan Fesmire: Hello Ave! First, could you share a bit about yourself for our readers?

 

Ave Rose: I’m a Filipino American artist based in Los Angeles. In 2003 I received my B.A. in English Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. In 2005 I started my own publishing company called Ink Pen Mutations Press, focusing specifically on illustrated short stories. I currently have 14 books out with 3 written by me. In 2010 I began making art as a form of meditation to help me deal with a personal hardship. I started with miniature robots I made from watch parts. I call these robots Watchbots. As I got deep into the Watchbot world I started making things move and light up turning their environments into interactive moving sculptures. From there I started creating larger scale automata by pairing taxidermy ephemera and clockwork with motion mechanics. People started noticing my art and next thing I knew I was showing in the top galleries in Santa Monica, Hollywood, Seattle, & Tokyo.

JF: On Steampunk’d the teams had to design full rooms in just three days each. How did you find that pace? Are you at all used to that kind of creative pressure?

AR: I had no problem at all with the pace of the show. I’m use to insane deadlines and when I’m in super focus mode my body eats, sleeps, drinks, very little which also means I rarely went to the restroom while the clock was ticking. I’m one of the fastest workers I know because I obsessively create and will not stop until something is done. If it seemed like I struggled with time on a project during the show it’s only because of whatever drama or politics happened to be constantly interrupting me. I hate interruptions unless it’s someone who needs my help with something. I don’t have a problem taking a quick break to help someone out.

JF: What do you like most about being a Steampunk maker?

AR: I love the inclusiveness of the steampunk genre. The fact that no one is left out and anything can happen because it’s fantasy but fantasy with a focus on mechanical wonders. It fits me perfectly and allows my imagination to run wild.

JF: What do you like the least about it?

AR: Well I never set out to be a steampunk maker. I just make art that happens to fall into that category. And I have fun vending at steampunk conventions. But when people begin to put restrictions on the steampunk genre saying it has to fit a particular set of rules it’s like putting boundaries on not only my art but my fashion.

JF: There are a lot of amazing people in the steampunk movement. Who are some of your heroes or influences?

AR: Well the inspiration for the esthetics of my art come from the fantastical stop motion animations of Jan Švankmajer, Bolex Brothers, Quay Brothers, Jiří Trnka, Mike Jittlov, Ray Harryhausen, and Tim Burton. I’ve always been fascinated with 17th century automata which I’m constantly reading books and watching documentaries about. And I’m also greatly inspired by Los Angeles automata makers Brian Poor and Thomas Kuntz . I’m honored to have shown art in galleries with both artists. What a dream come true!

JF: I need to look up some of those people! I’m familiar with Ray Harryhausen and Tim Burton, of course. How long does it usually take you to create a new piece, like a your Watchbot Vivarium?

AR: I feel that something like this would take other artists months. Because people tend to take breaks while working, or work on several pieces at once. I’m too crazy for that. I have a hyper focus concentration. So it took me 3 weeks. Keep in mind that’s three weeks of working solid. Yes, that means I even slept next to my sculpture and had my food delivered.

 

JF: That is hyper focused, but it looks like it’s paying off in how prolific you are. As all artists know, at some point, you have to stop tinkering with your work and let it be what it is. At what point are you satisfied with any given piece?

AR: That’s an easy one. I work on art the same way I write a story. I don’t start until I know exactly what the finished piece looks like in my head. At UCLA I would have these writer meetings with a bunch of friends and was shocked to find that so many writers start a story and have no idea what’s going to happen as they write it. Then they struggle with the plot and often get stuck. I don’t work that way. I usually start a story in my head from the end. In my head I figure out who the characters are, why they are important, and how it all unfolds in relation to the end. Then I sit down and begin to write it all down. I’ve never had writer’s block. And that’s how I am with my art. I already know what it’s going to do and look like. I know when to stop when what I’m seeing matches the vision I set up in my head. I don’t like figuring things out as I’m working on it. It has to be figured out as much as possible before I start.

JF: When you’re not creating, what do you do to relax?

AR: When I’m not creating? Lol. Sleeping, eating. Playing with my two dogs. Being a mom. Even though my daughter’s already old. She’s nineteen. I also love to sing and dance. I got out when I can to get dressed up and go dancing. Sometimes goth clubs sometimes Burning Man warehouse dance parties. I also love going to electronics swap meets and oddities shops & antique stores.

JF: Is there a particular piece you’re most proud of? If so, which, and where can we see it?

 

AR: Well I’m really proud of the one you mentioned earlier. Watchbot Vivarium is a place where Watchbots observe exotic creatures and plants. It consists of a giant glass sphere on an antique brass base that holds the mechanics. Within the sphere are twenty-five Watchbots with eyes of rubies, sapphires, garnets, amethyst, and peridot. Featuring an Atlas Moth from Malaysia, a Gladiator Butterfly from Madagascar, a Peanut Lantern Fly from Central America, a Red Green Lantern Fly from Thailand, a Froghopper Fly from Canada, a Metallic Wood Borer Beetle from North America, a Rosy Maple Moth from North America, and a Mini Scarab from Hungary. When you use the hand crank the Atlas Moth, Gladiator Butterfly, & Peanut Lantern actually fly with watchbots riding on them. This automaton was created for the Copro Gallery’s famous Conjoined Group Show January 2015 and sold. But you can check still see a quick video of it in action here on YouTube.

I also did a stop motion time lapse that shows this sculpture coming together piece by piece to one of my pop-arias.

JF: Are you often compared to other makers? Is this flattering or annoying?

 

AR: My Watchbot work is often compared or mistaken with the miniature work of Susan Beatrice. And my taxidermy automata are often compared to Jessica Jocelyn. It’s always an honor to be compared to such brilliant work. As long as people can tell that as artists our work carries our own signature style then I’ll always take the comparison to great artists as a compliment. It’s only annoying if we are accused of copying one another.

JF: What are your favorite materials to work with? What would you suggest newbie makers use?

 

AR: I love integrating the natural with the mechanical. When it comes to natural parts the more exotic the better such as meteorites or animal bones. When it comes to hardware I love using things that have high craftsmanship or a story such as antiques. Anything I use that was once living I obtain ethically. For instance all my seahorse pieces come with a scroll that is a guarantee that the Seahorses were never captured and died naturally. The only thing I can suggest to makers is that if you want to make a living off of your art it won’t be easy if you use parts and techniques that anyone can obtain. That’s why I’m always investing not only the time but also every cent I make back into my art so that all my materials are of the highest quality and not something anyone can just find at the local crafts store. And none of my stuff can be easily replicated. When I do shows other vendors seem paranoid when people take photos of their art. I love when people take photos and share my art. If someone can figure out how you made something by looking at it and replicate it then… I know some people have tried to replicate. Either they get frustrated and give up before producing something or whatever they make is super sloppy. It took me years to fine-tune my techniques.

JF: You’re not only a maker, you’re also a writer, singer, and a dancer! I discovered Starting Over on YouTube and enjoyed it. How did that come about? Did you design any of the set?

 

AR: As a trained opera singer I’m always doing the operatic background vocals to metal bands. One band I worked with suggested that I apply to a dark music female record company. Rx Records ended up writing and producing the song starting over. I wrote the music video concept, created the sets, and wardrobe. I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. You can watch that video as well as my other music videos in this YouTube playlist.

JF: Did you take dance classes as a kid, or did you learn from watching others and just dancing?

AR: I took ballet, jazz, and tap as a kid. I lived to dance. But when I was 11 years old my parents could no longer afford the lessons. As a teenager I took up breakdancing and joined a Filipino breakdance crew called Halo Halo Tribe. With breakdancing I learned just by watching. I did end up having a kid at an early age so I had to give up dancing in order to focus on school, working, and being a mom.

JF: Briefly (as I know from your Steampunk’d interview that making is your thing now rather than writing), what can you tell us about your writing and books?

AR: Though I’m a true lover of fantasy and sci-fi my writing is in the genre of horror. It’s a very different side of me. I think that’s why I had to move on to my visual art as my written work was too intense for me. It’s the product of someone who mostly exists within their own head. Always reminiscing about the past or contemplating the future. Whereas my art is so technical that when I’m working on it, the process allows me to live in the now. The exact moment at hand. I have one last book I’ve written that is yet to be released because the illustrator is a master painter and I’ve given him as much time as he needs to work on the story. I’m curious as to when the book will finally be published considering that I wrote the story 5 years ago. But it’s my last book so I want it done right. If you join my email list at AveRoseArt.com you’ll always be updated on anything I do, including updates on my last book.

JF: Thanks again, Ave!

Ave Rose Online

In addition to Ave’s website, AveRoseArt.com, visit and like her Facebook fan page and her publishing site, Ink Pen Mutations Press.

“I don’t care that they stole my idea …  I care that they don’t have any of their own.” — Nikola Tesla

 

Introducing James Neathery

As I’m sure everyone can imagine, I’m excited to share my interview with steampunk maker James Neathery. I will admit, I’m little bit star struck with this new round of interviews as I learned about James, and some others I will be interviewing soon, from the GSN TV show Steampunk’d. If you haven’t watched it, please do. All the makers competing on the show are talented and inspiring.

James and I talked about his life, his crafting, how he got into steampunk, and what it was like to be on Steampunk’d.

The Interview

Jonathan Fesmire: Hopefully everyone has seen you on Steampunk’d by now. For those who haven’t, and those who have but are curious about your background, please introduce yourself.

James Neathery: Well, I’m 32 years old, married with 2 kids. During the day, I am a mobile radiographer. I drive around with a collapsible x-ray machine in a van, doing x-rays at nursing homes and prisons. It’s not a bad gig–the pay is decent, and I get to listen to all kinds of audiobooks and talk to my wife all day because I’m driving 85% of the time. I have been doing leatherwork for about 4.5 years. My wife is actually the one who got me into it. She bought me a cool leather steampunk style watch for my birthday, which I promptly began to modify until, uh, it had to be “retired.” Doing that got me interested in making my own watch, and making one led to making more, which led to making bigger things and different things until I got to where I am.

 

JF: Were you always into speculative fiction? When did you begin to focus on steampunk?

 

JN: I have always been a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and anime. I used to read the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books (at night by flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep), so I really enjoyed the John Carter movie, even though most people hated it. Also really enjoyed Saturday Anime on the SciFi channel waaaay back in the day. Akira, Iria, Green Legend Ran, and Venus Wars being my favorites that I can remember. When the Terminator movies came out, it really got me interested in the fusion of man and machine and cybernetic prosthetics. Then the movie Steamboy came out and I absolutely adored the style, complexity, and whimsicality of steampunk, and I really started researching it.

JF: Did you want to know how things worked when you were a kid? Basically, is there anything in your childhood that might have given a clue that you would end up making fantastic things as an adult?

JN: Oh yes, I sure did want to know how everything worked. From the time I learned to use a screwdriver, anything electronic or motorized was coming apart. I was constantly in trouble. Then I discovered Lego Technic sets, and I would spend hours and hours building the models in the instructions or making my own contraptions. I still play with them to this day! My wife, knowing my love of Lego, has bought me several really expensive sets since we’ve been together.

 

JF: How did you get your place on Steampunk’d? What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be a contestant?

JN: I applied when I saw the post in Steampunk Revolution asking for applicants. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, but I never really expected it to go anywhere. I mean, I had been trying to get noticed by the steampunk community for almost 4 years at that point with little success. I never thought anyone would think my stuff was good enough, much less a TV production company. But I kept making the cut somehow, and suddenly I was going to be on TV. It was surreal, I was shocked I made it, but also supremely happy and thankful. I couldn’t have gone if it weren’t for Sara (my wife). She has been my biggest supporter from the beginning and has made sure I have been able to pursue every opportunity I am presented with.

 

JF: You were given only three days to make a room! How did he find the first challenge? That’s a ton to accomplish.

JN: Three days is actually a bit of an exaggeration. We spent 3 days filming for each challenge, but we probably got a total of 20-22 hours to actually work due to having to stop periodically for interviews and talking with the judges.

JF: What did you think when you saw the workroom and the steampunk yard?

JN: I may have squee’d my pants a bit. At home, my workspace is basically a 10×10′ space with all my tools and supplies. I have to limit the amount of junk I can keep and am limited by budget when it comes to big tools. But here I am in this big workshop with all these tools that I can’t wait to try out, all this junk that is easily worth tens of thousands of dollars, and a workspace that I can make an utter mess of and not have to worry about cleaning up.

JF: How did you feel about Eddy’s approach on the first task? At first, he seemed to want to just build and see what came out (though he did get very focused after a talk with the team the next day).

JN: I’m not a big fan of winging it. I will say, I like an organic approach to a build. Make a general idea, a template to follow, but let the build tell you what it’s going to be as it progresses, while maintaining attention to detail. Sometimes you come out with something even better than you imagined. After we all came to a consensus, a template to follow, our room came together very quickly.

JF: I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when Tobias had to go home after the first episode, as I really wanted to see what he could do. How did you feel about it?

JN: I hated to see him go. I very much didn’t like having one person eliminated every episode. I felt like Tobias never got a chance to show the world what he can do.

JF: Without giving anything about the show away, how did it feel to see one person after the other going home each week?

JN: Again, just not a big fan of that format.

 

JF: I saw a post on Facebook suggesting a point system with no one going home, and the winner being the person with the most points at the end of the game, which would allow each participant time to shine even after a bad week. Do you think the show would be as appealing to viewers that way?

JN: I love that idea. That would give a chance to run each contestant through various types of challenges to see who can really excel in which areas and who can adapt. You’ll notice during the show I never really did any leather work, even though that is my specialty. I wish I had gotten a chance to. If I had been there longer, mayhap I would have.

JF: I understand that the steampunk community is generally very understanding and works well together. Did the pressure of the show change that, taking something that is fun for so many people and adding high stakes?

 

JN: I expected there to be a lot of clashing, honestly. I was happy that it seemed like once a consensus was reached on each challenge, that the work went along reasonably well and everyone seemed to get along. All of us makers are very used to doing things start to finish on our own. Some of us love collaboration, some of us just want to do the thing without having to consult with someone else. I don’t think the prize money was something that most of us were thinking about. Mostly, we were just having fun getting to build things and not having to concentrate on everyday life.

JF: Put that way, it sounds like a bit of a vacation! Stress aside, it must have been great making new friends.

JN: I love these humans! I talk to Karianne, Tayliss, Niki (Lady Hawk), Ave, Charles and Tobias almost daily, looking at each other’s current projects and relaying news. Josh (JW) and Eddie I talk to as well, though less frequently. I feel like I will love these people for the rest of my life. We all went through something together that was a grueling, emotionally and physically exhausting ordeal, but it was great to discover how much we all had in common.

JF: You create some great costume pieces, and I really love the masks. Where do you draw inspiration?

 

JN: I draw inspiration from other designs for sure. I see something and I think, “I love that, but what if I took something like that and added this? Or gave it more functionality?” Or more often, “Has anyone made this thing yet? Nope. Looks like it’s up to me.” I never thought I’d be making masks, but I find I love them! My bomber mask is a completely original and unique piece, having the turbine in the front and the bomber teeth tooled into the leather really sets it apart. It’s probably my favorite, even though it’s technically dieselpunk.

JF: It’s like the axiom, “There are no new ideas.” But you can always do something different with an idea to make it original.

 

JN: Whoever said that hasn’t seen my bomber mask or widowmaker watch! Lol. But yes, that is technically correct. The best kind of correct.

JF: What do you like most about being a maker?

JN: For me, making original art and sending it out into the wider world is the best part. I often wonder where my stuff will end up, if any of it will still exist after I’m dead. Making something you love, you put yourself into it, you put that love into it. It’s you.

JF: No profession, even one you love, is perfect. What do you like least or find the most frustrating about being a maker?

JN: Cutting the f#cking straps. Ask any leatherworker, lol. After that, hand stitching, deadlines, and not having enough time to make things you want to make because you are running out of time to finish commissions or having to do life things.

JF: What does it take for you to be completely satisfied with a finished product?

JN: It has to be durable, functional, reflect my style, and be pleasing to the eye. I once made a custom hand tooled leather watch band for a client. He liked it, I didn’t. I started over and made another one. I loved it. He was crazy about it. That is what it’s about. It’s the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal one who will come back for more work and promote the hell out of you to everyone else.

 

JF: That’s an awesome attitude! Sounds like it really pays off. Do you have many repeat customers?

JN: Oh my, yes. My friend, Terry, is my most loyal customer! I swear he is starting his own gallery of my work. I pretty much know at this point to make 2 of each item: 1 for him, and an additional one so someone else has a chance at it, lol.

JF: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! It’s been great getting to know you. Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?

JN: I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to read my interview. I’d like to give a shout out to RJ foster (the true Captain Nemo) for taking me under his wing before all this started and giving me the confidence and inspiration to take my work to the next level. If anyone reading this is interested in starting their steampunk outfit, or just has questions about making steampunk art, feel free to hit me up any time. I don’t know everything, but I have learned a lot along the way. Finally, I’d like to thank my beloved Sara for being my entire reason for being where I am. Love you baby!

Thanks for the interview, Jonathan!

James Neathery Online

You can find James online, and buy many of his leather creations, from his website, and online business, Starboard Sky Leatherworks, where you’ll find options for watches, armor, customized items, and much more. I also urge you to like and follow the Starboard Sky Leatherworks Facebook Page, where James shares his projects as they become available, pictures from conventions, information about Steampunk’d, and a lot more.

Coming Soon

Two other makers so far, from Steampunk’d, have agreed to interviews! I’ve been asking them one at a time, mostly so that I don’t get overwhelmed preparing for many interviews all at the same time. In any case, I’m really excited to be interviewing them both.

If you’ve subscribed to my, you already know who one of the two are, and I will reveal the other to my subscribers shortly. If you’d like to know ahead of time, join the mailing list below. I always include something extra in the list that is not in the blog! Also, mailing list members get to read Creedverse short stories and more as soon as I’ve finished writing them. Now’s a great time to sign up!

While you’re here, feel free to comment on this interview or ask questions!

FYI: I write a new blog post nearly every week and send out a helpful newsletter every week, usually on Monday or Tuesday. I cover all sorts of topics, though they mostly pertain to writing, science fiction, novels, and art. Feel free to subscribe below. If you like steampunk and/or westerns, you’ll probably like my books as well.

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” –Isaac Asimov

 

Learning from Fan Theories

As writers, I think we often have a clear idea of how our own novels are going to end. If we’ve done our job right, we’ve worked in some twists that most readers won’t catch until the story has reached its climax. If we write anything like George R.R. Martin writing Game of Thrones, the ending may seem totally unexpected until we look back over clues that he planted in the series from the beginning.

Like most Game of Thrones fans, I have my ideas on how the series will end. I’m probably wrong, because my ideas are pretty simple, and Martin isn’t the type of writer to go with the obvious. Having read the books just once, I know I’ve missed many of the subtle clues. Time permitting, I’d like to go back and read them again.

As writers, we may not see all the possible ways our stories could go. I can illustrate that by sharing two Game of Thrones fan theory videos. Each is well-thought-out and contains good arguments for why the YouTuber thinks that the series will end a certain way. Also, each theory is completely different from the other.

 

Enchamtment of Eternity’s Theory

I’ll start with Predictions: How Game of Thrones Will End by Enchantment of Eternity. I realize these videos are long. I am including them if you would like to watch, but will sum up the content of each for your convenience.

If you haven’t watched the series through season 4, then spoiler alert. If you have, then you can read ahead. When you watch the videos, pay attention to the spoiler alerts contained therein.  

The gist of Enchantment of Eternity’s theory goes like this. The three heads of the dragon are Daenerys, Jon Snow, and Tyrion, and all three of them are Targaryens. All three will die fighting the white walkers on the dragons. Stannis will defeat the Boltons, find Rickon Stark, and make the boy the Warden of the North, though Stannis will later die. Sansa become queen of Westeros and sit on the Iron Throne. EoE also predicts that the dragons will die, and that all magic will leave the world.

The video goes into much more detail, but those are the basics: Sansa on the throne, and magic leaving the world. EoE gives makes a good argument for each point and backs a lot these ideas up with hints from the books and TV series.

 

 

Red Team Review’s Theory

This video, by Red Team Review, also predicts how GoT will end. However, the theory is very different from EoE’s, and lacks some of the bigger world changes.

RTR does go into detail on some other characters, but here are the highlights. Stannis will turn against and possibly kill Melisandre, dying in the process. Aria will become a Faceless Man, but will leave the Faceless Men and go rogue, retaining her own identity and assassinating whomever she wants. Tyrion will become Lord of Casterly Rock. Daenerys will return to Old Valeria and find a collection of petrified dragon eggs.

This theory doesn’t go into big details, like the EoE theory. Who will sit on the Iron Throne? What will become of Westeros? Well, he does hint at one big possibility: that Daenerys will wake many more dragons, flooding the world with magic. That, essentially, is the opposite of how EoE predicts the series ending.

Check out Red Team Review’s video for his arguments and details.

 

 

What do I think of these theories? The idea of Sansa becoming Queen of Westeros seems quite far-fetched, even the way that EoE predicts it could happen, and I don’t think such and ending would feel satisfying. RTR’s prediction that Daenerys will find more dragon eggs seems too fanciful, for two reasons. First, it’s predicated on the idea that Daenerys turns down the Iron Throne. Second, George R.R. Martin has said that her wakening her three dragons was a one-off, a unique magical event. I also find it unlikely that magic will completely leave the world, though EoE’s reasoning is good on this point. That idea has been played out in other series, including Lord of the Rings, so I think that Martin will do something different.

 

A Writing Exercise

Take a story you’ve written or one you’re working on. If you’re not working on a story right now, think of one you already write. This can be anything from a short story to a novel. You may already know how you plan for it to end. You may have planned for the ending already, meticulously inserting clues into the story.

Now, get a note pad and a pen or pencil. I don’t recommend doing this sort of brainstorming on a screen; this is far too free-flowing to work very well on digital media.

You’re going to come up with alternate ways your story might end. This exercise is not necessarily meant to change your plan, though it could! It’s meant to help you think in different directions and to see new possibilities.

Here are some ways to approach this exercise. You can try as few as one, or as many as all of them.

 

  • Write the name of a major character on the top of the paper. Underneath, write ideas for what might happen to that character, or what sort of trouble he might get into.

  • Write a title for a major event in the story, and underneath, what the fallout of that event could be. For example, “Bill ransacks Jim’s apartment” or “The gum factory burns down.” What are the possible consequences?

  • Think of an upcoming decision a character or organization has to make. Write down the possible choices, and then write notes on how each choice would likely turn out.

  • Jot down some of the major clues you’ve planted in the book. How might readers interpret them incorrectly? How might the story turn out if their incorrect interpretations were actually correct?

 

I think that has probably given you enough to think about and enough to do for now! When it comes to writing, there are learning opportunities everywhere.

 

Note

If you haven’t read A Song of Ice and Fire, I highly recommend it! You can get the boxed set here, or browse Amazon to get each book separately.

“Either write someting worth reading or do something worth writing.” –Benjamin Franklin.

 

Schools of Thought

I’ve noticed two major schools of thought in novel writing. The first is having a basic plan for a story and plowing ahead from beginning to end. The second is planning meticulously ahead. Of course, these are two ends of a spectrum. In this post I discuss them both, and explain what I think works best. This is a bit of a long post, so if you’re short for time, look down to the bulleted list that outlines how I recommend writing a novel.

Plowing Through

I’ve seen this method advanced by creator of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Chris Baty. As I understood it, his book No Plot? No Problem! holds that you can create a few characters and a rough idea of the story you want to tell, then just write it by sheer force of will. This book suggests that all humans are born storytellers, and that if you just keep writing, everything will work out. He even suggests that this method is “low stress.” Once you get that first draft done quickly, you’ll have a novel to revise and perfect.

 

 

Let me fill you all in a bit more on NaNoWriMo. It is a worldwide competition of sorts held every year in November. Those who enter the competition write a novel over the course of one month. The usual word count goal is 50,000. If you reach that goal and haven’t finished your first draft, you still won.

Baty himself did this with little writing experience and wrote a novel in a month. And honestly, I don’t mean to disparage him at all. He started NaNoWriMo, which has been helpful for many authors. I have a lot of friends who have participated, and I participated one year myself. (2020 Update: I’ve participated twice.)

Writer’s Block

The problem with this approach is that it’s a recipe for writer’s block. The biggest cause of this affliction is not knowing what you’re going to write about ahead of time.

Think about when you were a kid and had to write a paper for a class. You sit down to start it, and have no idea of what to say. You think that the problem is that you need to write a good first sentence, but it won’t come to you! A lot of teachers and parents seem under this delusion as well, and try to help students by taking a “one sentence at a time” approach. This was agonizing for me, and I imagine it was for just about everyone else.

Then, at some point, if you had a good writing teacher, you learned about brainstorming. You wrote the topic of your essay on a piece of paper and wrote down any related ideas that came to you. If you were supposed to write about Gandalf from The Hobbit (I envy anyone who actually got an assignment like this), you wrote “Gandalf” on the paper. You might have jotted down words like, “grey wizard,” “big hat,” “helpful,” and “wanders around.” The more words you wrote, the more ideas you had. Next, you organized those ideas and came up with what you wanted to say in your essay, and in what order.

At that point, your writer’s block was gone. You wrote your essay. Of course, you then had a lot of revising to do, but you had all your thoughts on paper (or on your computer) and could get it done in time.

On the off chance that you never learned this method, now you know it! Use it from now on.

Plan Ahead

This brings us to our second school of thought, which is to plan everything in advance. With this, you create your characters, create a detailed world, and meticulously plot your entire book, chapter by chapter. Note that “create a detailed world” can mean a completely new setting, like a fantasy world or a science fiction future, or it can mean creating the major settings where your book will take place in the real world.

I’m sure you can see the problem with this already. It’s too much planning! Fiction has a certain spontaneity to it. Characters often don’t want to go in the direction we planned for them. When this happens, it’s your subconscious saying to you, “I understand this character, and he wouldn’t do what you’re trying to make him do. Think about this a bit.” That grinds writing to a halt, and forces the writer to go back to find out where the story took a wrong turn.

Plan Ahead Wisely

Now, planning ahead is great. Knowing your characters, your world, and what kind of trouble they’re about to get into can keep you writing briskly every day. You need to plan ahead wisely, which means not plotting out all the details in one go.

Here’s the methodology I suggest based on my reading and experience.

 

  • Come up with a great idea, which can start with a setting, a character, or an event.

  • Create your cast of characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist.

  • Write out a basic plot outline about a page long. If you need to, do some brainstorming first for ideas. Based on the characters, what likely conflicts are likely to emerge?

  • Expand that to several more pages, if you like.

  • Take the first bit of your plot outline and expand it. Try to plan out the first three or four chapters.

  • Now, before you write your first scene or chapter, expand that. This type of writing may look something like this. “Meg enters her new office to find Bill sitting at her desk. She’s puzzled and annoyed, so she asks him to leave. Bill says he will after in just a minute; he’s putting the finishing touches on his presentation. Bill is at the same level as her but has been there longer, and she sees this as his way of intimidating her.  She reminds Bill that he has his own office, but he says IT is working on his computer.”

  • Write the scene or chapter.

  • Once you have done this with the first few chapters, go back to step 5, but for the next few chapters.

 

Much of this I worked out for myself years ago. When I wrote Children of Rhatlan in 1998, I sketched a detailed outline of each chapter before writing the actual chapter. This allowed me to be in touch with my characters’ motives and to work out all conflicts ahead of time. That done, typing up the chapter came quickly, because I wasn’t sitting there squeezing every word out of my brain, figuring out character motivations and actions as I went.

 

 

More recently I read a terrific book by Rachel Aaron called 2,000 to 10,000. This gem costs just $0.99 for Amazon Kindle and is terrific. It reiterated all this to me and reminded me just how important it is to novel writing. Using this technique, Aaron went from writing, yes, 2,000 to 10,000 words per day. I can’t recommend her book highly enough.

So, that is essentially how I recommend going about novel writing. This technique works great for NaNoWriMo, too, because by giving yourself time to pre-write every chapter, you make it possible to write the actual chapter very quickly. It also keeps the outline loose enough for approaching chapters that you can modify or completely change it as you go.

There’s one more piece of the puzzle, one I myself am still working on, and that is to keep moving forward.

Don’t Look Back

This has been the toughest thing for me to learn, and is likely why my own novel writing tends to slow down around the middle. Oh, I eventually get the book done, but I need to work on getting my stories done faster.

In fact, I had a dream the other night that I had written a few books from beginning to end, using the “Plowing Through” method, and published them. I remember that they were crazy stories, but wanted to go back and revise and re-publish them. Then, I woke up and remembered that I hadn’t written them at all. I felt a loss.

 

 

Then, I saw this picture posted on Facebook, with a quote by Joshua Wolf Shenk. It’s what prompted me to write this post.

On the chance you can’t read the graphic, it says, “Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.”

I fell into this same trap after writing the first third of Bodacious Creed. Now, fortunately, I didn’t do a ton of rewriting on that first third. I made a few changes since, by writing it, I understood the world and the characters better. Still, it held me back from continuing on to the next third.

I still haven’t finished the novel! I’d estimate that I’m about halfway done now, with really exciting stuff coming up that I want to write about, but just haven’t gotten to. It’s because I still have the notion sitting there in the back of my mind that it needs to be good the first time around. Shenk is right. To paraphrase, have the courage to write a crappy first draft.

What I should have done is taken notes on the changes I wanted to make, and gone on with the story as if I had made the changes already. That’s what I recommend. It’s what I will do from now on. It would make reading the first draft very confusing to anyone else, but so what? I’m not handing it out yet.

Keep using the methodology I laid out in “Plan Ahead Wisely” until the first draft is done. Write notes about what you would like to change later along the way. The first big accomplishment in writing a book is having a first draft.

Once that’s done, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make story changes to bring everything together. As Shenk said, you’ll know the shape of the thing.

Your Grain of Salt

I hope you will take this to heart, especially if you’re fairly new to writing, or generally struggle with your novels. However, while I believe the techniques I’ve outlined will work for most writers, some authors work very differently. I believe that the end of a story should arise organically from everything that came before. Some writers start with the end and write backward, and somehow make the end work perfectly. For me, plowing ahead without any foresight, or sticking too rigidly to an outline that doesn’t work for the characters, will cause writer’s block. Some writers can both plow ahead and force their characters to stay in line. They can always change the characters in the next draft.

The more you write, the more you’ll learn what works for you. So, take this all with a proverbial grain of salt. I might also save you months or years.

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” — Terry Pretchett