A new milestone


Thank you for over 1,000 views! When I started this blog, I don’t think I expected to hit this many views in less than a year. Certainly not before I had a book out. So thank you for reading, whether you follow me here on WordPress or you follow my links from Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter. Please keep reading, I think the best is yet to come!

The professional author

I have been doing a lot of research into this business of getting my book out there. I have the online channels covered for ebook distribution, but another aspect is the physical book. Bookstores aren’t dead yet, and I think it’s short-sighted to write them off. I’ve looked up a few bookstores in Montréal and even contacted one for details on their consignment policy.

business card address labels

With this in mind, I ordered business cards so that when I leave my book for bookstores to consider, I have a professional way of letting them get in touch with me with their decision. Granted, the book is number one, and I will put my sweat and tears into it to make it the absolute best it can be. I also want to present myself as a pleasant professional who would be a pleasure to work with. The cover of my book isn’t the only thing being judged, and I don’t want to walk in looking disheveled and scatterbrained, making them wonder if I’ll be able to deliver orders on time or be unreliable in getting back to their messages or phone calls.

I’m selling myself as much as I’m selling my book, and first impressions are quite important.

The difference between talking and writing

Well, one’s talking, and one’s writing, right?

I feel like I have two internal voices: the one that gives words to my mouth, and the other that gives them to my pen (or keyboard). My speech voice has gotten all tangled up in recent years as I immerse myself more and more in the French language. Nowadays, I spend roughly 35 hours a week speaking almost exclusively French, and when I switch over to English I find remnants of that in my speech. The word “bien” is especially sticky, and it has no English equivalent in certain contexts. I also sometimes get mental blocks where I can’t think up the English word for something. “I’m going to have some toast with… wait… dammit… what’s the word for ‘confiture’?”

This used to upset me at first. I’ve been speaking English all my life, why should that get pushed out for French? I don’t actually think either of them has had to make room for the other, and I have enough bilingual people around me that if I automatically say something in French or English because it’s more efficient that way, they understand. Often it’s subject-related: I speak French at work, so if I talk about work it’s easier for me to do so in French. Sometimes it’s random, or not even proper French. The two languages have slightly different grammar structures, and I’ve been known to say something entirely in English, but using the French structure instead.

When I am writing, this is almost never an issue. The writing voice remains clear on what is English and rejects the rest. I never falter or spend time searching for an English word that I’ve temporarily forgotten because the French equivalent comes to mind. Perhaps it’s so easy to separate the languages because I don’t do any creative writing in French. I’ve done some for a university course, but they were very short pieces riddled with grammar issues. I simply haven’t done enough reading to have the vocabulary necessary to try any serious creative writing en français, never mind the fact that there are literary verb tenses I won’t touch. The ones I know already are complicated enough.

I will say this much for French, though: pronunciation is pretty standard, and that’s a blessing to anyone learning it as a second language. I have so much sympathy for anyone learning English as an adult and struggling with all its irregularities (see “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité).

Where ideas come from

Returning to work after some time off always sees a drop in my productivity on the writing front. The waking up early, the commute, the hours spent doing mundane tasks… all of these take away from time I could spend dreaming up new worlds.

Let’s be honest. I barely wrote during my time off. That changes now.

My reading has seriously slowed since I finished We Need to Talk About Kevin, though I did manage to finish the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events (more on that later). I watched the film with my husband, who said it seemed designed to be deliberately uncomfortable. I enjoyed his perspective on Eva Khatchadourian, he felt that the flashbacks interrupting her life gave good insight into the mind of a woman trying to move on after tragedy, yet constantly being held back by her own thoughts.

Instead of reading, I have been indulging my desire to watch old anime and play a new Square Enix game.

I have been watching Cardcaptor Sakura, then making animated GIFs from my favorite magical scenes. For those unfamiliar with the magical girl classic, it tells the story of young Kinomoto Sakura, who inadvertently scatters a set of magical cards when she opens a mysterious book in the basement of her house. She is tasked with recovering them and given a magical key that can unlock the power of the cards and seal them away to prevent the mischief they are so keen to cause in her town.

Naturally, when I was younger and first fell in love with the series, I wanted nothing more than to find and loose a deck of cards and then hunt them down, acquiring their powers as I captured them and made them my own. I enjoy her can-do attitude, the support of her friends and family, and her increasing self-assurance as she gathers together the 52 cards.

Then, the game. Bravely Default, which I have seen described as a mix of Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics, with a bit of Final Fantasy IX for good measure. The story is secondary and standard (final) fantasy fare: crystals go dark, a group of four must fight their way from one to the next to light them once more, etc. I haven’t gotten too far in the story yet, I’m having too much fun fighting long strings of battles to increase my characters’ proficiency at various jobs. Since it’s for the 3DS, I can play to my heart’s content on the commute to and from work; the time has never flown by so quickly.

What’s great about shows and games and films is that they are all fodder for the imagination. A line in one might inspire a subplot in something I write, or a system of government, or a tragic event. In Bravely Default, there is a clash between two ideologies: the Orthodoxy, which basically believes in worshiping the  Four Crystals; and the Anticrystalist movement which believes these old traditions are holding the world back from progress. There is something similar in Project: Destiny, though there isn’t much conflict between the guild of shadeweavers and the Church of the Sun.

While I’m here… I’ve given some thought to redesigning the headquarters of the Guild of Colors. My latest draft has the guild residing in the Prismatic Tower, but there are an awful lot of towers in fantasy stories. Old ideas are not always the best ones.

My goal is to get another chapter of Destiny drafted by the end of the weekend. I’ll have to see how to squeeze that in with my household project; we’re painting the bedroom.

Early mornings, thinking on Destiny

My experiment in waking up early terminated rather abruptly when the lack of sleep caught up with me by Wednesday evening. I left my alarm where it was, but on its first sounding I pushed it back to my usual time and happily slept another hour. Thursday evening, I didn’t even bother; I set the clock straightaway to the later time.

Three mornings out of five isn’t too bad, right? I’m left unsure of what I’ll do this coming week, though. It was nice, it felt good to have more time to wake up before stepping out into the cold. One morning had me sleeping in the métro, head bobbing as the tunnels curved left and right. This leaves me getting to work feeling groggy and unfocused, nullifying the peaceful hour I spent in front of my computer.

There is also the fact that I am not doing much writing these days making it more attractive to stay in bed for that extra hour. I have it set in my head that I must devote all of my attention to Yggdrasil before setting off on another project. Every now and then, though, I wonder: can’t I do both? It’s like when I hop back and forth between two books that I’m reading; as long as they aren’t too similar, I don’t run the risk of confusing characters and events.

I worry about one project sweeping me too far away from another, though. If some grand inspiration should strike, I would be foolish to ignore it by saying, “No, I have to work on the other project now to be fair.”

I keep forgetting that what I should do is try new things and change tactics if they don’t work. There is no manual for this, no way to find out what works for me without first attempting it. A story left behind does not curl up and die, either; worst case, the words will sit there patiently for my return, like the myriad ideas I’ve scribbled down and left to gather dust. Perhaps they even ripen in my absence, growing fuller and more interesting.

I think I’ll go play in Destiny a bit to see where my head’s at.

The Liebster Awards

Alexandra Needham has nominated me for a Liebster Award. I do appreciate the intent, but the chain-letter style of it makes me reminisce about why I left Facebook. However, I enjoy reading Alexandra’s blog and I liked the questions she posed as part of the nomination process, so here are my answers:

  1. What was your first pet? A black cat that I named, interestingly enough, Blacky. When he got run over, a few weeks later a dog of similar coloring, down to a white spot on one paw, showed up on our front step. We named him Blacky too.
  2. What is your ideal job? Writing, at home and in my pajamas, getting up at whatever hour (before noon) I please.
  3. Are there enough hours in the day? Absolutely not. If I could forego sleeping to make use of those nighttime hours, I would.
  4. What is the most obscure book you own? Why do you have it? I don’t know that I have any obscure books. My absolute favorite book, however, is Sabriel by Garth Nix. Come to think of it, I have a copy in French too. Does that count as obscure?
  5. What would you like to be able to see from your window? A nice garden, perhaps with a tree. Ideally, with a pond.
  6. Where was your best holiday or day out? It was a couple of days, actually. On my first visit to Québec, my husband took me on the train to Montréal, where I walked around in wonder at the shiny buildings and all of the strangeness of the city. We spent the night in a hotel, we shopped in underground malls, it was all so new and sparkly. I know the city a bit better now, but I still catch glimpses of how it looked that first time.
  7. Toilet paper, over or under? Under. It seems neater somehow. And perhaps it’s more difficult for the cats to unroll.
  8. What is the one thing you can’t get through the day without? My iPod. I must have music for the commute, or for walking, or whenever I am alone. I would be uncomfortable if I couldn’t read, or call or text people, but my iPod is my one must-have item.
  9. Describe your mug/teacup. I have many, but the one I currently use at work bears a pixelated heart that turns red when hot and fades to black as I empty it.
  10. What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? I could Google this to figure out what the end of the joke was, but I’d rather just admit that I’ve forgotten. Though I did watch the Holy Grail incessantly when I was younger.

Polishing the edges

I am constantly on the lookout for ways to make this blog better. Easier to read, more accessible, interesting, pretty, etc. So naturally, when I was poking about and found the Zero to Hero challenge, I thought, “That’s for me.” So far, I’ve re-introduced myself and added a little widget to the sidebar to give visitors a little more information without obliging them to click on my About Me page. I really appreciated the widget challenge, I don’t think I would have thought of that myself.

My goal is to fill this blog with interesting and good writing, and encircle that with an informative design that doesn’t seem too cluttered or too sparse. Despite being a denizen of the internet for most of my life, I don’t have much experience in the area of web design. Also, I have a rather unfortunately biased view of my blog.

I am hoping the coming challenges from Zero to Hero help me to improve this place. I’m also open to suggestions from readers; you guys have a different view of this place and perhaps better ideas of things you’d like to see, better ways to place the information I have in the sidebar, etc. Feel free to comment on this post, or visit the Contact Me page to let me know what you think.

Who am I and why am I here?

No, I don’t mean this philosophically; despite having a post titled “Introductions” and an About Me page, I remain something of a stranger here. Let’s have a real introduction, shall we?

My name is Lukas Rowland and I am a writer. I have been making up stories for as long as I can remember. I have scribbled them out on paper, I have typed them up on my mother’s typewriter; we even had a word processor before we had a proper computer. I have always read voraciously as well, especially fantasy, and I began inventing longer stories where heroes saved the world from terrible villains.

In my high school days, I would often come home from school and run upstairs to write for long stretches at a time. I didn’t believe in planning then, I thought that stories had to grow and be discovered as I went along. This approach invariably led to me smacking into walls several chapters into a project. It didn’t help any that I was growing and learning new ways to write, something which frequently caused me to look back on my work with disgust before scrapping everything to start fresh.

It wasn’t until a year or two ago that, fed up with never finishing a story I’ve been writing for nearly fourteen years, I first plotted every chapter from start to finish of a fantasy story. I wrote up a short synopsis on index cards, and proudly wrote the date at the top when I finished the rough draft of the chapter. I was moving forward at a steady pace until I finally ran into an excuse to stop writing. Probably something ridiculous like, “I don’t have the time.”

In October, I was venting frustrations to my husband about my writing when he suggested I participate in National Novel Writing Month. I had heard of NaNoWriMo, it was always lurking there when November approached, and I always found excuses not to participate. “I have to work on my main project, I can’t bring that to NaNo. It’s not serious enough for me. I don’t have the time.” Fine excuses, right?

I decided to do it this year. I poked around in the forums, read something about Scrivener and how it had a free trial, learned a bit about it and started outlining the project that would become Climbing Yggdrasil. I got off to a great start, nearly hitting 10,000 words by the end of the first weekend. I devoured every pep talk as it came in, at long last coming to the conclusion that the only thing that kept me from feeling like a proper writer was the fact that I wasn’t making time in my life to write. The more I feel like a writer, the more confidence I have in myself.

I hit the goal on the last day; there were nine days in which I had not written a single word. I worked hard to maintain a steady lead so that if something came up and I couldn’t write, I could take a day off without falling behind. I watched the congratulatory video on the winners’ page and had tears in my eyes. I never thought I couldn’t do it, except those years I didn’t try. But it was so moving to have reached a serious writing goal.

Last month was all about bringing those 50,000 words to a proper ending. This month is about resisting the temptation to start editing. I want to keep going with this momentum I have, but I also want to divorce myself from what I’ve written.

So there you have it, my journey as a writer which has led me to come here and document my adventures. This blog exists primarily as a means to inspire myself to work harder and press on. Its secondary function is to connect me with other people interested in reading and writing, people with whom I can share experiences and words of encouragement. While I view the act of writing itself as a solitary activity, it is very nice to have validation from others going through the same process. A third purpose which I have been afraid to state up until now is to find writers to share work with and receive constructive comments, though I’m a bit far from that at the moment. One day. Soon.

Presents and memories

For the past few years, my husband’s family has held a Secret Santa in addition to most everyone getting everyone else gifts anyway. The site we use asks each person to put up suggestions for the gifter; I had written a nice journal, a gift card to Indigo/Chapters, and a glass paperweight (you know, the kind with the colored bubbles inside). My gifter cheated and got me two of the three; he was supposed to stay under $20, but Christmas is the time to give too much if you can, right?

2013-12-26 10.52.15

The journal is very nice indeed, bound in leather with an elastic band and ribbon bookmark. I used the gift card to cover part of an order for the next two volumes of the Sandman, which I eagerly await.

It must be said that I also received lovely gifts having nothing to do with books or writing. From my sister-in-law, I got a cutting board and tools for cheese, complete with a ceramic dish for crackers or fruits and individual little forks for guests. She also gave us a cute ornament and gift bag that our adorable two-year-old nephew put together. From my mother-in-law I received an electric mixer, something that I feel I’m missing in my house when I am forced to spend too much time whipping or whisking by hand whatever latest dessert I’m making. From my father-in-law, my husband together received lovely commemorative coins from the Royal Canadian Mint. I’m not sure which of my parents-in-law got me the chocolate orange, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas without one.

Of course, it is not the quality nor the quantity of the gifts that makes Christmas so special. One of the best parts was a picture slideshow showing old family photos. It’s always amusing and nice to see the people you know as they were when they were younger, especially with 20-year-old pictures showing old fashions in clothing and hair. It always makes me wonder if in twenty years I’ll look back on my fashion choices today and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Merry Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. I don’t identify with any religion, but it’s a perfect opportunity to get together with friends and family, to share love and presents and food. My husband and I go to his folks’ place every Christmas Eve for turkey dinner, and often return the next day for leftovers.

I believe that “family” means the people that you choose to keep close to you and share the deepest parts of yourself with. These can be blood relations, old friends, or new friends. I spend Christmas with people I did not know six or seven years ago, and I love it. Of course, I would also like to spend more time with my family in Louisiana, but my financial situation doesn’t currently allow for that.

I don’t think that anyone should spend Christmas alone, unless they are genuinely happier removed from the company of others. For everyone else, I hope you find time to share something with someone close to you; a drink, a meal, a kind word, fuzzy feelings, etc. Hopefully you have the opportunity to escape the routine, leave all the stress behind for a time, and relish the peace and harmony of the holiday season.