The Road

The RoadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. In a time of an apocalyptic scorched Earth, a father and his son must journey along “the road” as they make their way to the coast in the hope of finding something. What that something is they don’t know. But in a world stripped of humanity, food, and essentials, they must “carry the fire” and hope there is something better.

The story doesn’t just describe the stark environment of gray and ash, it lives it. Even the text of the book is devoid of the nonessentials. Quotes? Nope. Excessive dialogue tags? Nope. Main character names? Nope. The father and son have nothing – just the bare minimum to stay alive, and the author does a fantastic job of stripping the reader of the essentials we are used to when reading.

Every time I sat down to read this book I could feel the emptiness. I could feel the cold and hopelessness. But what was so amazing to me is how once the story stripped away the essentials and the environment and all the noise we have in our lives, there was just one thing left – the love and hope between a father and a son. The contrast was impressive. On one side the absolute worst in human nature and on the other side we have the absolute best.

Another aspect to The Road that I found interesting is the 2009 movie based on the book, also titled The Road. Before I read the book, I saw this movie about four times. I own it on Blu-Ray and loved the father-son story. I’m typically not a fan of reading books then seeing the movie or vice-versa. However, I took my chances.

Despite seeing the movie many times, the book easily held up on its own. I found myself thinking about which scenes in the movie are accurate to the book and where they veered from it. Surprisingly, it was one of the best adaptations of a book I’ve seen with very few artistic modifications.

Overall, a beautiful book with a powerful father-son message filled with hope and strong calling to carry the fire.

Highly recommend.


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Are you a Pantser or Plotter?

Prior to starting the Windhollows book series, I had never heard the term pantser or plotter. I kept hearing the terms in my travels and originally assumed the former was bad and the latter was good. This turned out not to be the case.

To start, a pantser is one who writes “by the seat of their pants.” They just start writing and see where the story and character development goes. A plotter is much more structured. They use outlines and typically figure out the beginning, middle, and end. And then you have people who are hybrids – those who use a mixture of both.

I started as a pantser because there was far more excitement to just go with the flow and see where my imagination took me. Outlines felt rigid and took the fun out of writing – at least for me. Although flying by the seat of my pants, I always had the main and secondary plot lines in my head. At the completion of book 3, Windhollow and the Axe Breaker, my thoughts on approach changed. You see, I have many plot lines that could be considered the main plots – those that are a big deal. I also have anywhere from twenty to forty smaller plot lines that are more character specific and less scale but nonetheless important. How was I going to ensure that I didn’t forgot to tie up loose ends and complete plot lines?

The answer was found in becoming a plotter.

Don’t worry fellow pantsers. I didn’t abandon the pantser ship. Now, instead of just writing, I work with an outline that covers the final three (or more) books in the series. I really don’t know how many more books it will take. It just depends on the pantser in me.

Here’s how my hybrid approach works.

With the upcoming book 4, Hammer’s Hollow, I have the first half of the book outlined. Just last night I finished chapter one and have started chapter two. As the mood strikes me, and as necessity dictates, I’ll expand on the outline as I write.

I find this serves two purposes. First, by going the pantser route I can keep my brain in writing mode. Consistent writing exercise is important to my budding writing endeavors. Second, by embracing the world of plotters, I can rest easier knowing there’s a plan. That plan might change daily or weekly, but it’s enough structure to keep things going.

Are you a pantser or a plotter? Maybe something in between?

Here’s a great link to learn more.

https://www.autocrit.com/editing/library/plotter-or-pantser-the-best-of-both-worlds/

Happy writing!

—Trayner Bane

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The Soldiers' Story: Vietnam in Their Own Words

The Soldiers' StoryThe Soldiers' Story by Ron Steinman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the hardest Vietnam War book for me to complete, and I read a lot of Vietnam war history books. I started reading this book three times. On the third pass, I finally made it to the end. Why? Because once the Air War chapter starts, ending with the Fall of Saigon chapter, the repetitive stories become just that – way too repetitive. And I hate to say that because each individual story is a first-hand account and I mean no disrespect to those who were there. It’s how the stories were put together that’s the problem. I will say that this repetitive nature during the fall of Saigon really pushed home the finality of US involvement in Vietnam and how it was a personally shocking, but totally expected outcome in between 1973 and 1975. The book’s strength is that the personal stories start in the Ia Drang Valley where it all began with direct involvement, and the stories end with the biggest helicopter to naval evacuation of Americans, South Vietnamese, etc. in history, where it all ended. For me, after reading all the first-hand accounts throughout the war you could feel the sentiment that what started with the best intentions (freedom) turned out to be a disaster for everybody involved. Freedom isn’t easy, people must want it, and it’s always under attack. I give the book five stars through the beginning to the Secret War chapter, but only three stars for the last two chapters: The Air War and the Fall of Saigon. These last two are just too repetitive and became overly monotonous to read within the context of the entire book. Overall though, it’s still a great book to have in a Vietnam war history collection.



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Fortune Cookie Musical Inspiration

If you asked me what my next writing series would be, it’s highly unlikely I would have responded with an answer based on a fortune cookie. But lo and behold, upon finishing this tasty treat, I found this inside:

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There was no debating the legitimacy of a fortune cookie. This fortune cookie was able to pry itself into my heart and uncover my strong connection between music and writing. I grew a bit paranoid and wondered how the fortune cookie maker could possibly know of my writing ritual. I questioned if they knew that I pull out my iPad, put on my Bose QuietComfort headphones, then open iTunes to set the mood for my writing. If they could determine this, would they also know the artists that I go to for my emotional journey? I had to find out, so I opened a fresh gallon of milk and began eating the rest of the box. I had to be sure they didn’t know more.

Kidding aside, and some ten pounds later, I found much familiarity with this fortune. Music, without a doubt, plays a critical role in my creativity. Music sets the mood. Music evokes emotion. But more importantly, music is the plane, boat, train, horse, or whatever vehicle that takes me to the imaginary space as a write. It frames the mood and greases the machine of creativity.

Although my completion of the Windhollows series keeps me extremely busy outside of my work life and family, I thought it would be fun to share my musical inspirations with you. I’m thinking I’ll do a blog per artist and do my best to release one every few weeks. And I’ll also keep the focus on artists I listen to during my writing.

I’m looking forward to sharing and I hope you join me.

--Trayner Bane

Helmet for My Pillow

Helmet for My PillowHelmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many of my relatives fought in the Pacific theater of WWII, so every story I read provides me a different glimpse into what my forefathers went through. The story of Robert Leckie provided me a raw glimpse of what I’ll call the perfection within the imperfections of those who sacrificed. Stories about serving time in the brig, the theft of the essentials to survive or gain back a piece of their civility, absences without official leave, and the many other acts that took place in the lull of battle. All these imperfections were key ingredients to men who would serve, fight, and die for a cause that most of us today refuse to accept or understand. Helmet For My Pillow is an excellent portrait of small pieces of imperfections coming together to achieve something far greater than any single person can understand.

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With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and OkinawaWith the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With the Old Breed tells the story of Eugene Sledge’s experience in the Pacific theater and reads like a factual telling of military action, often times like a recollection mixed with an after action report. The details are amazingly well-described and could be used as a great study in military history specific to that theater. It’s also a great personal recollection with plenty of personal detail.

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The Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam War

The Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam WarThe Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam War by Frederick Downs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam War is easily one of the best Vietnam war books. Based on the true story of Frederick Downs’ deployment to Vietnam in 1967-1968, the book reads like a diary and articulates his experiences in detail. It provides amazing insight into what was going on in his mind (and around him) as he learns to adapt to the chaos of combat while keeping his men alive. Right from the book’s preface I was pulled in to the story when he described his post-deployment encounter with a man at the University of Denver in which the man sees his amputation above his left elbow and says, “Serves you right.” Wow. It’s easy to question another person’s morality when yours has never been truly tested.

One of the most powerful passages for me was also the following: “Man’s beginning and man’s end would always be attended by only a few. Those that bore him at birth and those that bore him at death. The only important thing was what he did in between.”

I read the updated reprint of the book and found the Afterword provided an insightful look into the after effects of his deployment, from his career with the VA to his closure revisiting Vietnam 20 years later. He also provided pieces of after action reports that described the fate of his fellow soldiers after his war-ending encounter with a “Bouncing Betty”. I highly recommend this book for a true glimpse into the soldier’s perspective of the Vietnam war.


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Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual

Discipline Equals Freedom: Field ManualDiscipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willink
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I used to be disciplined. Really disciplined. Every day I was on a mission and nothing got in the way of my objectives – whether short or long term. Then fatherhood started. And as the family started growing the discipline started to fade. It wasn’t immediate, but it was there. Slowly, over a decade passed, and then I started noticing that something was missing. Something was gone. Discipline had left me. My passion to get things done still existed. And thrived. But the glue that ensured my passion’s objectives were met was no longer there. Daily objectives turned into monthly objectives. Yearly objectives were out of reach. The task lists only grew. As a man once forged into discipline I was now heading off course. Until one day, I came across Jocko Willink’s book, Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual. The title sounded like just what I needed for I was trapped inside a viscous cycle of not getting things done like I once did. I ordered the hardback book and wasn’t let down. At close to 200 pages with large font, it’s a short read. Field manuals weren’t meant to drag out the details, so this was expected. The book is solid, well-designed, and with a good content flow. Jocko’s writing style is concise and to the point, which blends nicely to the two distinct sections of the book: thoughts and actions. Thoughts focuses on the mental side of discipline. Actions focuses on the “doing.” Stop talking about things and “do.” Stop thinking about everything endlessly and just “do.” His words rang so true to me. I enjoyed the thoughts section of the book the most and found that the most helpful. The actions section of the book was put together well, but it can only gloss over many of the topics on avoidance, self-defense, diet, working out, etc. It’s a positive gloss over and he gets his point across well. Just don’t expect to find what amounts to many books and hundreds of practice hours in this field manual. That’s a next step course of action. The point is to adjust your thought process to “doing” and Jocko does a great job of that. Note that Jocko includes some great workout plans at the end of the book for beginners, intermediate, and advanced. He brings the pain (in a good way). Overall, this book is rock solid, and it gave me the mental kick I needed to get my discipline back. I’ll be keeping it on the quick access bookshelf when I need a course correction.


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The High King by Lloyd Alexander

The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain #5)The High King by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although Taran Wanderer is still my favorite, the High King was a wonderful wrap-up of the entire series. If I were a harsher critic I’d give it four stars, but I like to get past the nitpicky “should haves” and “would haves” and judge the book for what it’s worth as a whole. I think there’s some legitimate argument that the ending was anti-climactic, but perhaps from the author’s experience or WWII past, he understood that life doesn’t always have a Hollywood ending and that a simple event can radically change one’s life or history within the time it takes to read a single page or a paragraph. When I read this series as a child I read every word and lived the experience. As an adult, I found it slow at times and in some cases repetitive and boring. But that’s not the way it was the first two times I read the series in my younger years and I hardly think it would be any different if I read the Lord of the Rings again. It’s a great book series for kids. I will pass along to mine, and will definitely always recommend to others.
Trayner Bane

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Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain #4)Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily the best of the first four books in this five-book series. Over the course of the first three books, Taran, the main character, struggles to find his place in the lands of Prydain. In book four, he finally goes on an adventure to discover who he is. Having grown up without parents, he longs to know and understand who they are, so he can better understand himself. Was he born of noble blood? Or peasantry? In Taran Wanderer, we don’t get any closer to finding out, but we do learn a lot more about Taran as he searches for himself. It’s a great story with plenty of mystery, adventure, and character development. It definitely makes me look forward to book five, The High King.
Trayner Bane

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The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander

The Castle of Llyr (The Chronicles of Prydain #3)The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Almost as good as the Black Cauldron, which had a slightly better story line that kept me more engaged. My only criticism would be that I didn’t find myself having as much interest in the new characters and I felt somewhat disconnected from the main characters. The writing is great and overall the story came together well. Will continue to book four.
Trayner Bane

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Darkness Falls Update Release

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The Darkness Falls update is now available on Kindle and print. Lots of great improvements!

Here’s a list of everything new in version 2.5 of the second book in the Windhollows series.

  • New Map of Windhollows

  • Copy edit process improvements

  • Changed some creature names

  • Tweaked some wording to accommodate the evolved direction of the story

  • Improved some flow

  • Cleaned up the Dictionary to the Lands

  • Worked with Amazon to send out update to all customers who purchased the Kindle book

  • Added the Edge of Darkness poem to the dedication

I hope you enjoy the fresh updates.

For those who purchased Darkness Falls on Kindle – please update through Kindle (“Manage Your Content and Devices”). You should find Version 2.5 in the front matter copyright page.

For those who purchased Darkness Falls in print format – send me an email with a proof of purchase for the print and I’ll send you an updated, signed copy.

Thanks to all the readers out there who have provided me feedback and reviews!

Kindle:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075HZV9GQ

Print:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973288257

--Trayner Bane

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain #2)The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I often find that the second book in a series determines the direction of the remainder of the series, and the Black Cauldron was no exception. Whereas I found The Book of Three to be good (four stars), I was left wanting more – some mystery perhaps, or those unanswered questions that pique my interest. The Black Cauldron provided me with everything I was looking for and solidified what I remembered as a child reading the series. It set the stage (and tempo) for the rest of this great series.
Trayner Bane

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The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain #1)The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like many others, I gave in to nostalgia and decided to read Lloyd Alexander’s five-book series all over again. As a child I loved escaping to Prydain, so concerns grew that my thirty years of adulthood would corrupt my fond memories if I should dare to read them again. With the Lord of the Rings and other great book series turned into mega-million-dollar profit machines, would my mind be tainted? Letting go of my concerns, I bought the series and gambled my memories away – and won big. I just completed the Book of Three and thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing felt rougher and the moments a bit choppier, but the story and world were still just as inviting. Having read the other five I can see that this isn’t the best in the five-book series, but being an author myself I can understand that it takes some warming up to get a series going. Should I ding for that? Nope. Sometimes I feel you should get past a little roughness and enjoy the story as a whole. I’m going with a four-star rating since it’s a great book, but not the best in the series.
Trayner Bane

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Adventures in Writing - Glyphs

Putting together a fantasy/adventure book series as an indie author is no small feat. Aside from the time-consuming aspects of character development and storyline, an indie author is also tasked with the process of turning their literary work into the physical art form of a book. This latter half of book creation is when an indie author shifts from writer to creative director to ensure the vision of their literary work comes to life.

This week I've been working on glyphs for book three, Windhollow and the Axe Breaker. Glyphs are the icons that often go along with chapter title and provide the reader a glimpse of what is to come. To many, glyphs might not seem like a big deal, but to the creative director they are an important aspect to the overall design.

I chose the use of glyphs because I feel they provide artistic expression that links our mind’s imaginative world to our visual eye. But I also chose to use them since, when I was a young reader, I thought they were cool.

The process of making glyphs has been straightforward, especially since I worked directly with Scott Soeder, a wonderful professional artist I’ve been using for key artwork. He read through each book and looked for a key element in each chapter that stood out. I did the same. For example, in Air of Vengeance we found the DARC, a canister from the DARC, silhouettes of main characters and creatures, and over a dozen special items and places. Each one provides a special meaning to each chapter.  

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Since the creative process can be fluid, you may find yourself changing your mind on a few like I did. After a round of modifications on a handful of glyphs, each chapter was paired with an associated glyph. The overall time invested was relatively low.

Do you need glyphs in your middle grade book series? Of course not. But it’s a question you should ask yourself as the creative director and author of your literary work. If you can’t afford illustrators to create illustrations for each chapter, I would suggest going with lower-cost glyphs. They’re a less expensive art asset and provide some visual interest to your work. You can even get creative and utilize them elsewhere.

--Trayner Bane

Windhollows is available on Amazon print or Kindle.

Air of Vengeance (Windhollows, Book 1) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973288265

Darkness Falls (Windhollows, Book 2) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973288257

Learn more about Scott here.

The Artist Behind the Art

When the Windhollows adventure began almost three years ago, I was very fortunate to meet Scott Soeder, the talented artist behind the Windhollows characters and book cover art. Prior to our first meeting, I had visions inside my head as to what every character looked like. In no way could I have imagined an artist could extract them from my imagination, but Scott did just that.

We met for hours and discussed their size, shape, movement, emotions, hairstyles, and more. A few weeks later, I was presented with some rough sketches and concepts. We made a few more tweaks and within a short time we had the primary characters figured out.

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Even though I’m writing a book series, the artistic process is very important to me for two primary reasons, each of which were also my primary goals.

First, the artwork should draw the right audience into your story while properly portraying the content of your story and characters.

Second, the Windhollows story was originally created to be a video game – a 2D side-scroller*. Artistic elements had to be created that could evolve into quality two and three dimensional models.

Scott successfully achieved both goals by vividly and accurately portraying the characters in the story and by creating character model sheets that would work well in video game media and the book series art.

Since our first meeting, I have focused solely on writing and completing the book series, but the passion for great art continues through book cover art, future character designs, and marketing material.

Thanks for all the work over the years, Scott!

--Trayner Bane

Windhollows is available on Amazon print or Kindle.

Air of Vengeance (Windhollows, Book 1) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973288265

Darkness Falls (Windhollows, Book 2) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973288257

Learn more about Scott here.

*For those of you who have read the books you’ll find all the Easter Eggs scattered throughout: areas, bosses, main quest, side quests, and more.

Updated Version to Air of Vengeance Now Available

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My book writing journey hasn’t been without its hurdles. In the beginning, even though the words poured freely onto paper, I was more concerned I would hit a roadblock or plot dilemma that would send me into the rails. To my surprise, it turned out to be book publishing.

To make a long story short, a problem in the revision process resulted in an old unedited version to Air of Vengeance being released on Kindle and print. What started as a small revision to fix a few errors ended with an old draft with hundreds of errors being published. This wasn’t the highlight of my book writing journey. I take pride in my work and I always strive to improve as an indie author.

So, when readers started letting me know there were some serious copy edit problems with the book, I worked immediately to resolve them. In the process, I also went ahead and applied some new updates.

Here’s a list of everything new in what I’m calling “Version 2.5” of the first book in the Windhollows series.

  • New Map of Windhollows
  • Copy edit process improvements
  • Changed some creature names
  • Tweaked some wording to accommodate the evolved direction of the story
  • Improved some flow
  • Cleaned up the Dictionary to the Lands
  • Worked with Amazon to send out update to all customers who purchased the Kindle book
  • Added the Edge of Darkness poem to the dedication

I hope you enjoy the fresh updates.

For those who purchased Air of Vengeance on Kindle – please update through Kindle (“Manage Your Content and Devices”).

For those who purchased Air of Vengeance in print format – send me an email with a proof of purchase for the print and I’ll send you an updated, signed copy.

Thanks to all the readers out there who have provided me feedback and reviews!

Kindle:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07528JDWD

Print:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973288265

--Trayner Bane

4th Grade Presentation at Holy Trinity

I had a great time presenting to all 4th grade students at Holy Trinity. Thanks Mrs. Thompson! We discussed the Windhollows series for a little while, then spent most of the time learning how the imagination and creative thinking work not only inside the writing process, but also outside it in various careers, such as engineering, architecture, business, and more. We wrapped it all up with some fun creative activities with lots of volunteers.

Very smart group of 4th graders! Keep it up Holy Trinity!

--Trayner

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