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Imposter Syndrome and the Drive to be Epic

The Taesian Chronicles, Paperback

I’m not sure if it’s a ‘thing’, along the lines of Imposter Syndrome and its ilk, but the drive to do something epic, and to be epic, can get in the way of doing anything at all.

They say the hardest part of a journey is taking the first step. For the most part I don’t have that problem; I can start a book easily enough. Where my challenge comes is when finalizing the plot.

I follow a methodical and phased approach to writing novels. I begin with brainstorming, typically with a pint of beer in my hand (“Beer for creativity, coffee for productivity”). I jot down notes in a composition book in a sort of controlled stream of consciousness. If an idea pops into my head, I write it down after a brief second of “Will this work?” review.

As these ideas flow, they start to form a theme or continuum. They also form into groups. I modify them slightly. I’ll write down an idea, then add, “What if the character did X instead of Y?” Yes, I’ll actually write down those kind of questions.

Like I said, it’s a controlled stream of consciousness.

The brainstorming part is easy, and one of the most enjoyable phases of my writing projects.

My challenge comes when I go back and review my brainstorming notes and start to refine that into a plot event list. This is when I start to second-guess myself and doubt creeps in.

Is it epic enough?

I want my stories to ‘wow’ my readers, not just give them a way to kill time. I also want to write stories that I would want to read. They all do that, I make sure of it. The problem I face is that once I’ve figured out the plot, I know how the story ends. It has lost its sense of surprise and wonder, and as soon as that happens, the story can lose its appeal.

At least to me, anyway.

A part of my emotional hardwiring is to never be satisfied with my creations. There is always room for improvement and refinement. This is something I’ve learned about myself as Director of Product Development at eRep.com, a provider of the Core Values Index psychometric assessment. My CVI profile is Innovator/Banker, and Innovators are notorious refiners. One of our biggest flaws is to keep working on something until it’s perfect, which it never is.

Good enough today is better than perfect tomorrow. And perfection is never achieved. There are people who aren’t impressed by J.R.R. Tolkien or Led Zeppelin or Steven Spielberg. And I’m none of those, but apparently I’d like to be based on what I’m describing here.

I am proud of the books I’ve written. Each is more solid and enjoyable than the last. Perhaps I should do my best and stop worrying about being epic. That is a subjective measure and is purely in the eye of the beholder (or eyes, if you’re a D&D fan).

Estate Planning as a Self-published Author

Last Will and Testament
Last Will and Testament

I updated my Will a while back and as I was deciding what to do with my assets, I realized that I had no idea how to handle the passing down of my growing library of novels.

This raised many questions. Who should get the rights to my written works? How do I transfer those rights? Can I separate them, or do my entire works have to go to one person?

Back when Peter Jackson released The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I recall reading articles about the hoops his production team went through to get permission and the blessing of J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate/family to turn the beloved fantasy novels into a major motion picture. At the time, I wondered how the rights to the novels got transferred to Tolkien’s family, and how it was split among them.

Now that I’m an author, I wonder the same thing about my own, much smaller and far more humble works.

There is the issue of who would own the copyright and how would it be transferred upon my death. There is also the issue of who gets the royalties, and can the royalties go to someone other than the new copyright holder?

With my limited experience in small business, I’m aware that one of the reasons people incorporate their companies is to make it easier to transfer ownership. Can books be treated the same way? Is it feasible or advisable for an author to create their own incorporated publishing company with themselves as the sole or majority shareholder, and transfer all the copyrights and royalties to that corporation?

Instead of the individual author owning the books, their corporation would own them and the author would own the corporation (own its shares). Then, the author would set up their Will in a way that transfers their shares to their heirs however they see fit. Transferring shares upon death is a common practice, so it’s a wheel that’s already been invented.

But setting up a corporation and all the hassle of getting it started and the regulatory requirements and tax implications seems like a lot of work and expense. Is there an easier way?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Can watching Game of Thrones influence your writing?

Game of Thrones

I’m a little late to the game, but I’m just about to finish watching season 8 of Game of Thrones. After I finished watching episode 4, I wondered if the consumption of a popular fantasy franchise like Game of Thrones would influence my own writing?

Soon I will begin the brainstorming phase of my fifth novel in my Taesian Chronicles series. I typically spend a month, maybe two, writing down creative ideas for plot and characters, then I spend another month refining that into a plot event list (outline). Primary composition usually starts about 4-5 months after the initial ideas start percolating in my brain.

Once I begin writing, I avoid watching TV shows or movies in the fantasy genre, and I read only non-fiction until the book is completed. This is to ensure my creativity is not tainted or unduly influenced by the creative work of others.

Imagine trying to think of one song while listening to another.

Obviously, my creative ideas are influenced in a general sense by the TV, books, and movies I’ve consumed in my life. This is unavoidable. Sometimes I add elements to my stories that are deliberate homages to beloved books or characters from my past. Other times, I knowingly take inspiration from other author’s or filmmaker’s works. My first book, Ohlen’s Arrow, has a particular pace that I felt inspired to honor from Gayle Rivers’ The Five Fingers.

If you are a writer, have you found yourself being influenced by popular media like Game of Thrones? What do you do to fight off unwanted influence by the creativity of others? Or do you knowingly embrace — and perhaps extend — it?

New book: A Riddle of Scars

Book 4: A Riddle of Scars
Book 4: A Riddle of Scars

I am very happy to announce the availability of my fourth novel, A Riddle of Scars. It is sold exclusively through Amazon in paperback, and coming soon, Kindle format. This is book one of a new trilogy, The Pillars of Taesia. I hope to write books two and three in the next two years, respectively.

Work began on this story almost three years ago, but I didn’t actually start writing it until January of this year (2019). Prior to composition, I came up with the story idea over a period of about a month, jotting notes into my paper notebook as I went. After another few months went by, I play-tested several key elements of the plot with my D&D group.

This is the first book I’ve written where I tested out the plot through role-playing. Some things worked better for the RPG format, while others work better in prose form. I synthesized that experience and adjusted the book’s plot accordingly.

It took me about a month to generate my plot event list. This is my version of outlining my plot. I write a single sentence or two to describe each scene and then arrange them in the order they will appear in the book. This gives me a chance to eliminate plot holes and make sure foreshadowing occurs where needed. I also spend some time profiling my characters. I make detailed notes about their physical and emotional characteristics as well as their emotional development, trials, and troubles that will occur throughout the book.

For this project I worked with my editor, Alison, and cover designer Steven Novak. These two brilliant folks have been with me since Ohlen’s Bane, my second novel. Novak actually helped me revamp the cover to my first book, Ohlen’s Arrow, so technically speaking he’s been with me almost since the beginning of my writing career.

Alison played a key role on this project, not only by providing proofreading and editing services par excellence, but also by helping me flesh out the characters and giving them even more life than I had hoped. When I was close to beginning work on the project, I decided that if she wasn’t on board, I wouldn’t write the book at all.

A Riddle of Scars is available here.

Coming soon: A Riddle of Scars

As mentioned previously, I’ve been working on my fourth novel, A Riddle of Scars, since the first of the year. I’m nearing the end of primary composition and hope to have it completed within the next 10 days or so.

My goal is to have the book published and ready for sale by the middle of June, 2019, and so far that goal is very realistic.

In other news, I’m participating in a book signing at Goin’ Gaming in Troutdale. The owners and my friends, Becky and Allen, are hosting the event. It is Saturday May 4th, 2019, beginning at 1 PM. I hope to see you there!

A Riddle of Scars

And so it begins … again.

I have begun the process of writing another book. This will be my fourth novel, continuing the Taesia series. My vision is to write a trilogy of trilogies. Three series of three books each. The first trilogy is The Taesian Chronicles, with book one: Ohlen’s Arrow, book two: Ohlen’s Bane, and book three: Paragon’s Call.

A Riddle of Scars will be the first book of the second trilogy, or book four in the overall series. The second trilogy is tentatively called The Pillars of Taesia.

Currently I’m in the planning phase of the project. I’m finalizing the plot design and character names. Next steps include character development, where I create write-ups about each main character. These describe their appearance, background, motivations, fears, and other key elements. I refer to these notes when writing scenes and dialog to make sure I am staying consistent with their personalities and actions.

After that, I’ll be writing up my Plot Event List. Some would call this an outline, but I don’t because it’s just a list, not something in outline format. My Plot Event List is a series of single sentence descriptions of every scene in the book, arranged in the order they will appear. I use this as a roadmap when primary writing begins.

Although I don’t have an ETA on when the book will be finished, I do hope to have the primary composition completed by mid to late spring 2019.

Stay tuned!

If you want to teach, here’s a great example

I recently decided to take up guitar again. I used to play back in the 90’s and gave it up when I traded my guitar rig (Epiphone Les Paul and Line 6 POD) for a laptop around 2003 or 2004. I messed around with bass guitar for about a year and had some fun with that, but I wasn’t playing it often enough to continue so I sold my bass.

Recently I bought another Les Paul and a Digitech multi-effects pedal and decided to try my hand at electric guitar once again. I was never very good at it, but I always enjoyed it.

Training videos didn’t exist the last time I had an electric guitar. My, how times have changed! With the advent of YouTube, you can practically watch videos explaining how to perform brain surgery in the comfort of your own home (where is Gary Larson when you need him?)

The first thing I searched for were charts of scales and chords. Those are easy enough to find and print out. The next thing I searched for were YouTube videos produced by guitar teachers. I found the best there is:

JustinGuitar.com

Justin has been teaching guitar for most of his career and is a natural. There are those who are great at something but can’t teach it effectively. There are those who are great teachers but not that great at the skill itself. Justin is both. After watching some of his videos and reviewing his web site (I’m now a member), it’s obvious he’s both a very hard worker and a genuinely nice chap.

Membership to JustinGuitar.com is free, although donations are happily accepted. His videos are freely available on YouTube, although I strongly suggest those that are interested in learning guitar sign up for a free membership and make a donation. Its cheaper than in-person lessons and you can watch them in any order you wish, as often as you wish, or watch the same ones multiple times.

One of the biggest advantages of setting up an account at JustinGuitar.com is the lesson plans. Justin maps out lesson courses based on your skill level and goals. Following the lesson plans are easy and you can check each lesson off as you complete them.

Justin’s teaching style is very approachable and he has an affable personality that makes the beginner feel very comfortable and at ease.

One of the things I’m impressed about the most, though, is Justin’s approach to teaching in general. It is thorough yet approachable, it is complete yet easy to follow, and it is encouraging throughout the entire experience. Justin not only has a knack for teaching, but he has an organized approach and method that I think would be a valuable lesson to anyone seeking to teach others.

Justin, good on ya!

Writing at my day job

I’m not just an author, I’m also a project manager and senior web developer. That’s actually how I pay the rent, so to speak, but fortunately for me I get to spend a fair bit of time writing at the office. In addition to being the senior project manager, I’m also the writer and editor of the corporate blog.

eRep, Inc.
Learn about the CVI at www.erep.com

The company I work for is eRep, Inc. When people ask me where I work and what we do there, I say, “We sell happiness.” This always generates a fair bit of intrigue and interest because it’s a vague answer that begs for further explanation.

Erep is entirely focused on the Core Values Index assessment. It is a psychometric assessment that measures and defines a person’s innate unchanging nature. It is your personality’s DNA, as I like to describe it.

The CVI is your personality’s DNA.

The CVI assessment starts with an online test that usually takes 7-10 minutes to complete. When done, you are given a score that represents how much of four separate personalty types you possess. It sounds simplistic when I describe it that way, but the number of combinations of those four types is in the trillions.

Personality Types

The Core Values Index assessment is made up of four core values, based on power, love, wisdom and knowledge. These go by the names of Builder, Merchant, Innovator, and Banker, respectively. When you take the CVI, you are given a score between 0 and 36 in each of these four energies or core values, with a total combined score that always sums to 72.

It is your particular combination of these four values that represent your CVI score. Your core values represent where you are the happiest, whether it be solving problems, building relationships, acquiring knowledge, or taking charge and leading others.

The best way I can explain this is to describe my own CVI score. I am a 27 points Innovator and 17 points Banker. My Builder score is 15 points and my Merchant score is 13 points. In the parlance of the CVI, I am an Innovator/Banker.

This means that I value solving problems more than anything, and value knowledge—both its acquisition and dispensation—secondarily. Innovators are all about being the wisdom in the room. Solving problems is their passion, and they don’t believe there’s a problem they can’t solve with enough time. Bankers value knowledge. This combination of core values lends itself to me being naturally and innately drawn to project management and product development.

Merchants find their happiness in the relationships they form with other people. They like to motivate others with their emotional energy and enthusiasm, and they excel at forming consensus among groups. They tend toward being team leaders or team motivators.

Builders are the power in the room. They take charge and get things done. If Innovators can be described as “get it right” kind of people, Builders are “get it done” kind of folks. They love checking things off of lists and earning that strong sense of accomplishment. They are all about action, sometimes to the point of saying, “Get out of the way, let me do it.”

As you can imagine, Builder/Merchants or Merchant/Builders tend to find themselves in positions of power and influence.

These are highlight explanations and don’t do the core values justice. The best way to learn more about the CVI is to read the blog at eRep.

Or better yet, take the free CVI and get your own score. I highly recommend paying for an upgraded CVI. For $49.95 you get a full 17-page report describing your individual CVI profile in full detail. I’ve yet to meet someone who took the CVI and got their upgraded report and regretted it. In fact, they invariably become strong advocates of the assessment, motivating their friends, coworkers, and family to take the CVI.

A writer as well as a rider

Did you know I am a published author?

I have written three novels — a trilogy! — available at Amazon.com individually and as a single volume. All are available as eBooks, and most are available in paperback; I’m currently working on releasing the third book in paperback form.

The trilogy is called The Taesian Chronicles.

Book one is Ohlen’s Arrow. “Vengeance drives him. Can honor save him?”

Book two is Ohlen’s Bane. “There is no honor among brothers.”

Book three is Paragon’s Call. “The sunset of an old hero. The dawn of a new foe.”

I am currently in the process of writing the fourth book, which will be the first of three books in a second trilogy. Stay tuned.

If you want to learn more about my writing career and discover more about the books I write, be sure to visit my author’s blog at www.ruckerworks.com.