Today we welcome DM Stoddard on the blog. I’m very excited to share this author with all of you. DM is the author of a high fantasy series entitled Kingdom of Torrence! DM shares with us his writing, why he enjoys writing in high fantasy, and has some great tips for aspiring authors. I love DM’s five tips for aspiring authors. He has some great advice! Definitely be sure to check him out!
Tell me a little about yourself:
I am happily married and the father of three who are growing into fine adults. Our youngest is a senior in high school. Our middle child is about to graduate from college and our eldest is studying on-line while raising our grandson.
I studied creative writing and mythology during my undergraduate years and have years of experience playing and leading Dungeons & Dragons. Becoming an author was a natural progression.
I am currently involved in archery, back packing, and camping. I study martial arts and dabble with art and music. In 2004 I finished my Masters of Business Administration and retired from the navy. I am currently working for the state, which pays the bills, but I hope to retire and start writing more by January 2019.
Why do you most enjoy writing high fantasy?
I got hooked on fantasy after reading the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I loved the books, but I always wanted a wider point of view – what was going on in other characters minds and elsewhere in Middle Earth?
I write fantasy to share storylines that I hope my readers will enjoy. I strive to create characters readers may love or hate, and build worlds that they can see. I pull from my life experiences to enrich my scenes. And, I try to create a little mystery that leaves the reader wanting more.
What is your writing process like?
Authors are typically stereo typed as either “pantsers”, who write by the seat of their pants without an outline, or “plotters”, who are outline fanatics. I do a mixture of both. I like to know where the milestones, what the characters must go through to reach the end, but I let the characters lead the storyline.
I start by creating a character and then decide what I want to put the poor devil through. I conceptualize an ending and the things he and/or she must go through to get there, but sometimes the characters surprise me and end up doing something I haven’t foreseen. Simultaneously, I create a map of the area they will travel which grows into a map of the country if not their world. From there I write freely from point-to-point without a plan or outline.
What was the first or most memorable advice you’ve ever had with writing and what did you do with that advice?
There were two equally important instances. Starting in high school my teachers were really tough on me about my English and particularly my grammar. I was really down on myself about it.
The first instance was a Truckee Meadows Community College where the instructor told me he wished he had more time with me because he saw potential in me. Wow! I had a whole new interest in writing.
The second was my creative writing professor at the University of Maryland. He would say, “Just write”.
How many hours a day do you write?
Not enough. During my first two books I wrote about sixteen hours a week, mostly weekend mornings. My doctor recently told me to lose weight and get healthy. Now I’m trying to squeeze in as much time as I can. Unfortunately, that’s about five or six hours in a good week, not including social media and my web pages. That should go back up when I retire.
How long does it take to write a high fantasy novel?
My first two books averaged about a year of drafting and redrafting the manuscript; eight months of working with editors; and three months of formatting for print – about two years total.
My debut novel, The Legend of Jerrod, is a 309 page paperback that was a 2014 Next Generation Book Awards finalist in the First Novel Over 80,000 Words category. Amanda’s Quest is a 465 page paperback that was a 2016 NGBA fantasy finalist. In 2016 the cover, which I illustrated and Streetlight Graphics formatted, was a First Place Finalist in the Most Amazing Book Cover contest during Reno Art Town.
What kind of research is involved in creating your worlds when you write high fantasy?
The fun about fantasy writing is that you get to make everything up. As you create the world you have images of what things should be, such as mountain ranges. So that I could better understand the mountains Jerrod and his friends were traversing, I researched what the highest mountains on earth were. I also had to decide whether the laws of physics for breathing above 10,000 feet (as on Earth) would apply on their world, Dendür. Turns out Dwarves do rather well above 10,000 feet while humans have labored breathing – who knew?
I like to use the correct terms for parts of saddles, swords, armor, castles, etc., which requires a little research as well. Even when you are creating something, like new magic, you may get interested in names of elements (such as plants or dragon parts).
What other genre would you ever consider writing in? What are you currently working on now?
I currently have concept notes on an Arthurian/black knight fantasy and a portal fantasy which involves murder/mystery and Japanese historical culture. I also have a SCI FI scheme that I am toying with.
I am working on a non-fiction religious philosophy and I am considering writing a non-fiction management/leadership book. I also have the idea for a martial arts film stowed away for “someday” when I have the time.
I am currently on my third rewrite of The Light of Ak’ron, book three in the Kingdom of Torrence series. I am also working on an atlas or encyclopedia for the continent of Ak’ron and/or the world of Dendür.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
I listen to music less than I listen to movies in the background. Basically, I find fantasy movies to be more in the “mood” than music. When I listen to music it is jazz, classical, Japanese instrumental, meditation sounds, or maybe soft rock. Generally, I find rock and country too distracting. More often I find silence is soothing and allows me to create.
What was your hardest scene to write?
When I don’t like what is developing in the storyline it becomes tedious to write and often leads to rewriting the page or the chapter. Second to that, if my anticipate direction conflicts with a character’s personality I have to work through that quandary and develop a new course – just part of the writing by the seat of your pants (and staying true to your characters).
Tell us more about Amanda’s Quest:
Amanda’s Quest can be read without reading the first book. That said, in The Legend of Jerrod Amanda drags Jerrod off to help a wizard find a lost treasure, but on the steps of the Lost Kingdom she literally jumps ship to let everyone elso go on alone. She must fulfill her blood debt to “recover” the Horn of Valhalla from the northern Kingdom of Haithenbeurn. Failure to return the horn to Torrence within a year will mean death for all her friends.
In Amanda’s Quest, Amanda, who travels as a female warrior dressed in black leather, is the greatest thief in Torrence. Between her thieving abilities and her seductive looks, she can get almost anything she wants, except maybe Jerrod’s love. At the moment it seems she may succeed, Amanda is chased down …. oops, that’s a spoiler. As it turns out her real “quest” is more personal than stealing the horn.
Meanwhile, Jerrod and the others struggle with their own challenges, but in the end most of the group is reunited on the battlefield to face an evil army of Fendür, Dark Elves, and rogue wizards who are marching on Torrence. A battle map from the Histories and Arms section in the back of Amanda’s Quest is below:
The following is only available on the inside flaps of the dust cover (hard copy only):
On the created world of Dendür, the reader will travel across the continent of Ak’ron through lands where Zeus and Odin are followed and a new religion, the Order of One, confronts the old ways. In the troubled kingdoms of men and Elves, magic is limited out of fear and dragons are thought to be a thing of the past. Events are unfolding that will bring change to the kingdoms of Ak’ron. The prophecy foresees the coming of a second hero. It is a time of heroes and great deeds.
The reader will meet a legendary bard who spins a magical tale of Amanda’s struggles into his song. He sings of individual battles and armies’ wars, filled with the cold of steel and the power of magic. Wizards cast spells and druids draw power from nature as warriors wield heavy blades, but nothing is as it seems. The ballad recounts deadly conflicts between men, Elves, and dragons. It is a song of love and desire, survival and betrayal, heroism and enlightenment.
What are your future plans for the next 5 years?
In the next year I will be changing my mundane job, probably retiring. I will still need to work part-time, but I hope to devote up to four hours a day on my writing. I haven’t decided whether there will be another book in the Kingdom of Torrence series or move on to other, shorter works.
I would like to engage some reading groups to get closer to my readers and to share some background of the characters. I would also like to attend more book events and start speaking more. I would like to travel as an author for a while.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
If you love to write, if you can’t live without it, you’re already a “writer”. There are a lot of things you can do as a writer – it’s not just about being an author. Being an “author” is more than just producing a book manuscript. There is a business and social media side which can take more time and money than writing the manuscript.
If you chose to become an author make sure you know why you are writing – money, fame, or pleasure, and stay true to your goal. All of these can be very elusive and you have to grow a thick skin.
As a new author, before you get too far into your manuscript, you should:
- Get to know other authors in your genre – join a writers group and attend conferences,
- Start small – no more than 60,000 to 80,000 words and no series,
- Find the best editor you can afford – stretch your budget to maximize this essential service, and
- Be open to change – you have to let go of your writing and be willing to change.
And before you go, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
If you like a book you have read, please write a review on Amazon. The review doesn’t have to be much. Who is your favorite character and why? Anything you particularly liked about the story?
Also, I think most authors, particularly the ones that are just starting out, like hearing from the readers. Send them a note or thank you.
DM Stoddard, author, artist, composer
Can you share an excerpt with us?
I am providing chapter one of Amanda’s Quest. It does not include the preface, which is a continuing short story found in the preface and epilogue of the books.
To view Amanda’s Question Chapter 1 click here.
Leaving her friends behind to ascend Mount Thoradan, Amanda journeys alone towards the northern realm to “recover” the legendary Horn of Valhalla and bring it to the Guild of the Crimson Pommel. With less than a year remaining she races through the barbaric lands of the followers of Odin to complete her blood-debt, promised as payment for healing the half-Elven druid princess. Only the completion of her debt will save her and her friends, but Amanda’s quest holds challenges beyond her comprehension. As events escalate, wizards, druids, knights, and warriors become entangled in deadly conflicts and two dragons become bitter enemies.
I can’t wait to see what else D.M. Stoddard brings to the literary world! Thank you for stopping by!