Adding Extra Features to Novels


I’m old enough to remember, as an adult, the shift from movies on VHF to movies on DVD. (In fact, I’m old enough to remember the world before VHS, but that’s beside the point.) DVDs were really for movie lovers, because not only did you have the movie itself, often in more than one language and with your choice of subtitles, you got to enjoy special features.

These days, when most of us have migrated from DVDs and Blue ray disks to digital downloads, those hard media are still popular with some. I assume it’s those who really enjoy watching the director’s cuts, commentaries, and deleted scenes.



I’m currently writing the second novel in my series, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed. The first book is Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, and it’s available on Amazon and Audible. The one I’m currently writing is Bodacious Creed and The Jade Lake.

One difference between the books is this. The first one shifts between different viewpoint characters to give readers a more complete view of everything that’s happening. For “Jade Lake,” I decided to stay in the head of James “Bodacious” Creed. Readers will know only what he knows.

However, there have been a few times that I thought it would be fun to show what’s happening behind the scenes, to other important characters. I decided I could write short stories about those incidents, but that I wouldn’t want people who hadn’t read the book reading them. By necessity, they’d be filled with spoilers. Yet the would give readers an expanded view of the novel. What could I do with this idea?

Then, it came to me. I could write a few such stories and add them to the end of the book. Once a reader has finished the tale, if they want to dig a little deeper, get to know some of the characters a little better, they could read these stories. They’re the equivalent of deleted or post-credit scenes.

I’m not sure how well this will work for a novel, and I’m not certain I’m going to do this. I do like the idea, if for no other reason than that it would give me an excuse to write these stories and share them in an appropriate, spoiler-free place.

What do you think? As a reader, is this something you’d like to see? As a writer, is this something you might like to try? Feel free to comment below. If you’d like to get notified when I share something new in this blog, subscribe to my newsletter below that.

“I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.” ~ Toni Morrison

The Year of Getting THings Together

I mentioned a few weeks ago how my friend and fellow author Michelle Lowe calls this The Year of the Suck. COVID-19. Civil unrest. Murder hornets. Economic depression.

I mean, she’s right. There’s a lot of crap to contend with. This year sucks!

However, it also might be a good time for you to follow a dream and take up a quest. Maybe for you that’s creating a series of paintings. It could be changing how your home is organized.

For me, it’s what I was going to be doing on my own anyway, but the changes in how I’ve had to live due to shelter-in-place and having to stay home most of the time have accelerated that. Yeah, for me, it’s writing a novel.

Currently, I’m getting quickly through Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, the sequel to my well-received novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western. And this year, I’ve found yet another helpful tool.

It’s called The Hero’s Journal.



How to Use the Hero’s Journal When Writing a Novel


This isn’t the sort of journal where you write whatever’s on your mind every day. No, it’s more of a planner that turns a major goal into a quest.

I’m using mine to write Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake. I actually have three of them right now, and I’m going to use the next two for, yep, my next two books.

The website for The Hero’s Journal already does an excellent job of explaining how to use it, so I’ll just give you all a taste here.

Let’s start with the fact that the book is filled with cartoon fantasy art that you can color. In between writing scenes of my book, I’ve started coloring pages, which I find meditative. Here’s how I colored the inside flap.



An early page explains the purpose of the journal.



Once you’ve articulated what your quest is (the project you want to undertake) and you’ve accepted it, every day (or nearly) you write down what you plan to accomplish toward your goal. The journal is broken up into three acts with two pages of reflection in the middle of each.

That’s all great, but you want to know how to use The Hero’s Journal when writing a novel. How does that work?

In a word, perfectly. Here’s how I’m doing it.


Act 1: First draft.

Act 2. Story revisions, alpha readers, and first wave of prose revisions.

Act 3: More revisions, beta readers, off to editor, get cover art, final revisions, and publication.


So you can get an idea of what each day looks like, here’s the page I created yesterday, covering the work I got done.



Since it was a Sunday and I didn’t have other work to do, I even had time to color the page.


Perfect for Me, and Maybe for You


There are all sorts of great planners out there, but for my money, this one’s the best for any creative goal.

The Hero’s Journal is available in print on the company website for $40, and in digital format for $25. You can print the digital pages for daily use as well.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it.” — Malcolm X


What Is a Series Bible?


For years, writers and agents pitching television shows have had to share a book filled with information about their prospective show. These have included the premise, the characters, the setting, and proposed story arcs, all to convince networks to give their show a chance.

While a series bible may include a story synopsis and perhaps even a script, it’s so much more. It’s a sourcebook for everything in that program.

Here’s the thing. Series bibles (or book bibles, if you’re not writing a series) are a fantastic resource for novelists, too. Imagine being able to look up critical information about a character or a place without having to flip back through your book, or a previous book, to find where you wrote down that one detail.

“What was the name of that priestess I introduced at the beginning of the book? Who lost that amulet again? Wait, where’s my map of that fort?” Keep up on your series bible and you go and you can look up information easily.


A Great Example


If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” like I am, you may have a copy of the Dark Tower Concordance, put together by author Robin Furth. This is a fun book to browse through. You can jump from one entry to another, reliving parts of the story and discovering just how rich the worlds of Stephen King are.

That’s my favorite example of what a series bible can be like. If you’re interested in checking out some TV series bibles, some are available on the Screencraft site.


Online Series Bibles


The thing is, these days it’s easy to create an online series bible. Think of it like a personal wiki where you can gather all the information about your book, series, or milieu in one place.

One way to do this is by literally finding a personal wiki site, signing up, and getting to work. However, if you’ve read very many of my blog posts or newsletters, you know that I like to share what I think is the best way to do something.

When I was writing Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, I started my series bible on one of those personal wiki sites, and it worked Okay. But I later learned about WorldAnvil. The owners, power-couple Dimitris R Havlidis and Janet Forbes, run this site designed specifically for worldbuilding. For writers and anyone running an RPG, this site is fantastic.

I moved my series bible there. I’m able to look up details about all my creations in the Creedverse, the world of Bodacious Creed, including characters, locations, technologies, history, maps, and more. Feel free to check out my series bible if you like. Only a limited amount of information is available to the public. Most of it is private, for my own reference. Then, you can browse around the WorldAnvil site and see what others have created.


Your Series Bible


To sum up, if you’re a novelist, graphic novelist, gamemaster, videographer, or otherwise need a way to keep track of your story information and you don’t have a book, film, or series bible, it’s time to create one. I recommend WorldAnvil, but a personal wiki also works, and you may have your own ideas.

If you’re a fan of books, games, or television, then you’ll likely have a lot of fun checking out what’s available in existing series bibles.

Now, back to writing my current novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake! Have fun with whatever project you’re working on.

“Nobody believes me when I say that my long book is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real. But it is true.” ― J. R. R. Tolkien



Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!


Now, on to the topic of this post.


A Simple Way to Create Character Portraits


I’ve been working hard on my latest novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, the sequel to my popular book, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western.

One thing I have fun with is generating random faces on the website This Person Does Not Exist, which uses an adversarial learning network to create photorealistic images of people who, you guessed it, do not exist.

I’ve written about this site before and how it helps me come up with portraits of my characters, which I then use on my series bible site. (Check it out if you’re curious! Only some of the information is available to the public, but it’s enough to learn a bit about my fictional world.)

The other day, I decided to use FaceApp on some of those fictional faces. This is a lot of fun. It’s especially entertaining to use the gender-swap feature. It gives me more faces to choose from when casting my characters.




Here are a few examples. On some of these, I also changed the background, and on one, I made the gender-swapped version younger. FaceApp has a ton of interesting options.


Writers can have fun visualizing characters with this, and artists can practice drawing or painting portraits of unique faces. Of course, you can also just spend a few hours having fun using these apps together.

I hope you enjoy this simple way to create character portraits that I devised. Have fun with it!

Now, back to writing my novel!

Oh yes! If you’d like to keep up with this blog, please subscribe to my newsletter. I send out approximately one email a week. The sign-up form is at the top of the right sidebar. You’ll also get a free steampunk western story and more!

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”— Peter Handke


My Writing Process Can Help You


I don’t intend for this title to seem egotistical, so let me clarify. I’ve been writing for a long time and I’ve learned a lot of helpful techniques that can help others. I also love learning how other writers work because someone else’s process can help me, too.

Every writer works differently. If you’ve been writing long, and studying your craft, you already know that, but I wanted to preface this post with that fact. The correct way to write is what works for you.

Over time, you’ll refine your methods. You’ll try different techniques, find new tools, and if you do it well, you’ll keep getting better.

It can help to know how other writers work. My own method has been evolving, and I figured I’d outline it here. If this helps you, great!


Idea and Research


It starts with an idea and a basic concept of how the story will go. I’m not going to go into coming up with ideas. That’s always been a mystery to me.

Then, I do a bunch of research. I may look up information online or purchase a book. For my latest novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, I read two books about early San Francisco: The Barbary Coast and Rogues of San Francisco. Both gave me excellent ideas, tons of information, and shaped the course of the novel.




Next, and this is new for me, I use a beat sheet to plan the most important events in a book. A beat sheet allows me to plan the most significant events in a book, the turning points.

When coming up with a story, there are always a few scenes that enter my mind. These are major events in a story, big emotional moments that I know will be amazing to write and read. These are some of your beats.




When writing, I then plan how to get from one beat scene to the next. Let’s use Star Wars as an example. A couple of the beats would be Luke discovering Leia’s message to him deciding to go with Obi-Wan to Aleraan. George Lucas’s job was to figure out what happens between those events. This method blends outlining—planning out the story ahead of time—with pantsing—figuring the story out as you go. I can write a book quickly this way and I rarely get stuck.


Moments of Research


Sometimes, I have to do some extra research and planning. For example, I’ll get to the end of an important section of the book, and my main character is about to go on a new leg of his or her adventure.  No problem! I note what I plan to have happen next. I create the characters and settings for that part of the journey and perhaps read an article or two for research, and I get to writing again.

Where do I keep all this information? I have a series bible at World Anvil. I’ve made some of it public, so if you’d like to learn a bit about the Creedverse, you can see that here.

This is great because I can easily look up characters, places, events, technology, and more about my world and keep everything straight within a series.


Beyond the First Draft


That’s how it goes, then, until I finish the first draft! I’ve actually taken to calling mine a “garbage draft,” a term I learned from Russell Nohelty, and that gives me permission to write badly. That initial draft is supposed to be rough.

Then, I give myself time to cool off, as it were, to get some distance from the story. During this period, I create the beat sheet for the sequel.

When I come back to the garbage draft, I can read it and take tons of notes. The next step is to get the story right. Here’s where I fix plot holes and inconsistencies, where I make my characters’ motivations clearer, and so on. This will involve rewriting entire scenes, but at this point, that’s not difficult, since I know the story well.

After a draft or two of fixing those things, I polish the prose a bit. Then, I get a few friends to be alpha readers. Do they see any plot holes? Does everything make sense to them? Do they see scenes that aren’t clear enough, or that don’t belong?

I take their comments, decide if I agree, and make changes accordingly.


Finishing Up


Here’s where I really polish up the prose, which will take a draft or two. I want the writing to sizzle. I want people to feel like the events are real. I want them to empathize with my characters and to keep turning the pages, and I do all I can to make that likely.

Then, it’s off to my copy editor! Yes, I pay for professional editing. I also pay for a professional cover.


Book Launch


I could say a lot about this, but I want to refer you to two books, Your First 1,000 Copies by Tim Grahl, and How to Become a Successful Writer by Russell Nohelty. They cover this topic well.

Basically, I start by getting it to reviewers who will be able to post their reviews the moment the book goes live. I get the word out about the book and that it’s coming out soon. I put the digital version on sale for a week or so. I share it on social media and with my mailing list.

On launch day, I hold a launch party on Facebook. This is a lot of fun. I’ve written about this in the blog previously and encourage you to check it out. I’ll give out certain prizes, including the opportunity to work with me on a character for the next book.

Then, I start working on the sequel!




There are a couple of resources I didn’t include above that I encourage writers to check out. Both are on Russell Nohelty’s site, The Complete Creative. Russell is a guy who did what I had been trying to do for years: figure out the business of writing in the modern age. I’m grateful that I got to meet him at Pasadena Comic-Con this past year. What I’ve learned from him has already transformed the way I work.

Here are two courses on his site. I’ve taken both and recommend them highly.

The first is free. It’s called Write a Great Novel. You’ll recognize some of my current novel-writing methods in there because I adopted them after taking the course. If it takes you a long time to write a novel, or you just don’t know where to start, this class is a must.

The second costs a chunk but is worth it. Build a Rabid Fanbase teaches you how to find new fans and to scale your fan base from brand new to huge. I loved this course. It’s packed with information and techniques and has already helped me grow my mailing list and make more sales.

And hey, if you want to chat about writing or other creative work, drop a message below!

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” –Annie Proulx

The Year of the Suck


Here we are almost in the middle of 2020. My friend Michelle Lowe (brilliant author, by the way) calls this The Year of the Suck. We have a deadly and highly contagious virus spreading throughout our communities, misguided people protesting to reopen everything (and spreading the virus while doing so), and then three police offers were caught on multiple videos murdering a black man in public. That, then, leads to the current unrest with people protesting (and some opportunists looting) in major cities across the country.

Yep, 2020 sucks.

Maybe you’ve seen some of this unrest reflected in your life. I know I have, and though I don’t think it’s connected to what’s happening in the world, I can’t say for sure.

It’s important for all of us to be conscious of our own mental health, and one way to do that is to keep a journal.


Keeping a Journal in the Age of COVID-19


I’m a professional writer, so for me, keeping a journal is a no-brainer. That’s especially true when life gets crazy.

So, I’m going to give you all a few suggestions for starting your own journal if you haven’t, plus a great resource to check out whether you have or not.

First, decide how you’re going to record your journal based on what works for you. If you prefer writing longhand, get a decent journal book. Moleskine notebooks are excellent, though expensive. I recommend them if you know you’ll keep writing every day, or nearly every day. You can always get a simple notebook from your local drug store. I recommend college ruled. You’ll feel more grown-up writing in one of those.

You may prefer to type your journal. I keep mine on a site called 750 Words. The idea behind this site is to get you to write something every day. You can use it to get down your creative ideas, to deal with whatever stressors are affecting you, to collect your thoughts in the morning, or whatever works for you. It’s $5 per month and keeps a permanent record of whatever you write. If you write daily, you’ll soon find yourself collecting progress badges. If you don’t, it’s still a convenient place to keep your personal journal.


Journalistic Inspiration


We’re living at a crazy time in history. Right now, all of us have a chance to record our experiences during this pandemic and period of social unrest.

There’s one site in particular created to help us do that. Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Journals website provides new prompts every day to help people write about their experiences during the quarantine. The creator calls it “a daily creativity project to help make sense of challenging times.” It strikes me this is exactly what many of us need.

If you need additional inspiration, there are many websites full of more generic prompts. These include “Journal Prompts: You, Your Live, Your Dreams” on the Creative Writing Now website, “119 Journal Prompts for Your Journal Jar” on Daring to Live Fully, and “180 Journal Writing Prompts” on Daily Teaching Tools. That last one is geared toward kids, but adults may also find some good ideas there.

I sincerely hope this helps you to better handle the crazy environment we find ourselves in.

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



Photographs of People Who Don’t Exist


There’s this fun site I’ve been playing with for the last year that I want to share with you. It should be of interest to writers, artists, and anyone interested in how quickly technology is advancing. I’ve been using it for approximately the last year to come up with inspiration for new characters for my primary storytelling setting, the western-steampunk Creedverse, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

The site is called “This Person Does Not Exist.” Yes, it literally generates photorealistic images of people who don’t exist.

I mean, that’s perfect for fiction, right?

The site does one thing, and it does it well. It generates realistic images of people using thousands or maybe millions of photographs. Most of the images look real, though you will find digital artifacts and strange backgrounds in some pictures. Every time you reload the page, you’ll get a different face, and you can right-click on any image to save it. (Remember to add “.jpg” to the end as well.)

Occasionally, I’ll even see a face that reminds me of one of my characters. I’ll save it, run it through an art program to make it look like a painting, and add it to my series bible. To see what I’m talking about, check out these pages for Amber Dove Hattie Keane and outlaw Corwin Blake.


Images I Generated Today




Whether you want to come up with unique characters of all races for stories or art, or if you just want to check out this crazy software for fun, I hope you enjoy it. Technology can be a wonderful tool to exercise your creativity. With this site, you’ll feel like you’re taking a peek into another universe.

What would you use this site for? Feel free to share in the comments.

“Creativity is just connecting things.” ~Steve Jobs

P.S. Remember, you can get my novel, Bodacious Creed, right here!

Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western

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The Mandalorian: A New Giveaway


Do you love Disney’s The Mandalorian?

I sure do, and it bears some big similarities to what I write. Both The Mandalorian and Bodacious Creed are essentially science fiction westerns.

Russell Nohelty and a bunch of authors and creatives, myself included, have co-sponsored a giveaway of Mandalorian swag. And guess what? It’s running right now, during Star Wars Week, 2020! Tomorrow is Star Wars day, May 4, and the next is May 5, or Revenge of the Fifth.

You can enter the giveaway here:


By entering, you’ll have a chance to win a bundle of Mandalorian toys, books, and more. Even if you don’t win the big haul, you’ll get various digital freebies from the contributors later, when the contest is over.

Happy Star Wars Week!


August 21, 2020 Update


While this viral giveaway is over, I’m considering running some in the future. Sign up for my newsletter in the right sidebar to stay informed.

“I’m A Mandalorian. Weapons are a part of my religion.” — Dyn Jarren, the Mandalorian


Bodacious Creed Character 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.

I had a lot of fun creating these Bodacious Creed character mins on the Hero Forge site. If you write science fiction or fantasy, you may want to do the same with your main characters!


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


Hero Forge and Productivity


Today’s post is a twofer, a double topic post that can help your creativity and productivity! 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