It’s exciting to be where I can break down the Storyverse builder mechanics for teams, and individual creators. In the first attempts to work through the method with individuals, I could see their eyes glazing over—so it took some finagling to put it into a more digestible process.
Still, these courses are not beginner worldbuilding courses and workbooks. They require a basic understanding of narrative structure, and a fundamental awareness of standard worldbuilding practices. Essentially, these tools pick up where a lot of the other resources leave off—where the main-stream educational platforms and materials send writers off to do the thing.
But what if you’re a creator doing the thing, and realize there’s so much more that wasn’t covered and you’re fumbling around looking for the matrix key to unlock greater interdependencies to bring your work to broader scope, scale, and audiences?
Here’s an introduction video link to Mandalic Storyverse Construction. Workbooks and workshops for pre-order soon.
It was a rough day of issues related to country living; a water filtration malfunction in the most epic way, then spectacular rescue from my neighbors to help cap the water pipe and fix the generator, prep for the storm and cleanup the shattered tree limbs from the storm two days prior--I’m rethinking my winter plans.
The glass biolight sleeve had shattered inside the UV casing, shooting broken glass into the water system, and as I squatted in the shed, temperatures dropping outside, with my hands clamped over the pipe trying to keep the glass from entering the pipe system into the house—I realized many of the issues I’m cleaning up now could have been prevented with regular maintenance that I’d deprioritized during the push to get projects out and contractors settled.
In my panic in the moment, I forgot to reach for the shutoff valve for a whole thirty seconds.
My neighbors are amazing. Once I remembered the shutoff valve, then scrambled for a bucket to try to flush the system I’d managed to contain and capture the remaining glass—I ran to my neighbor to see if they had a 1” compression cap I could borrow to seal off the UV casing and bypass the biolight system until I can order a new glass sleeve. Both my neighbors rushed in ready to help stop the mess from getting worse. I wouldn’t have running water today without them. As it is, I’ll be drinking bottled water until after the hard freeze when I can flush the full system and do a hard reset on the filters and light just to make sure there’s no glass. (Also, bypassing the biolight means whatever comes out of the tap is basically straight river water from a very shallow aquifer—No drinky.)
The first storm that came through dropped a bunch of limbs from the 150-year-old Douglas fir, and shattered my favorite ceramic pots on the deck. Along with rattling the whole house and blowing my tarps all over the yard, the storm flooded the creek and pushed sizable debris around. It also dropped a tree in my neighbor’s yard.
Long story short, this is all just part of living so far off the beaten path. These are the daily issues. Much of which could have been prevented if I had been on my game, but I was not. That sleeve in the biolight system should have been pulled and washed when I shocked the well back in November, but I told myself it could wait a minute. So many other urgent things to tackle first. And now it’s a much bigger problem.
So new winter plans include re-setting the property so I can focus more freely. Yes, winter is my writing and building season—but if my cottage is falling down around my ears, I won’t be able to focus. The to-do list is significant. Basically, everything that wasn’t a top priority for the last 18 months needs to be prioritized over next six weeks. This will also free up some worry around the need to travel to LA and know the house is safe and well-tended while I’m gone. Also, I won’t ask the house-sitter to drink bottled water—the whole water system needs to be redone, flushed, and reset prior to having a sitter.
Plucking a sliver of glass from my hand today before sitting down to write was that moment of—I’m not sure this setup is working anymore. To be able to jump back and forth freely from the woods to the city, I’m going to need a more automated setup and system of upkeep. I don’t have one in place because I hadn’t seen that far ahead. So, now is the time.
This space needs to be a retreat, a safe place to return, write, produce and build (and recover) without interruptions between meetings and events in California. I’m sure everyone has a system to help maintain their sanity during those pushes. Thus, this space will need a reorg and a plan in place for it to run more efficiently and be that kind of safety net spot—at least for a while.
Meanwhile, the ice front is moving in. I’ve got the firewood prepped, the blankets piled up, and the laptop charged for writing. See you all on the other side.
The ice front moved in. Despite putting a heater on the water system, the pump still froze. So, it’s a good thing I had prepped with bottled water. Oye. Meanwhile two days of below freezing temps and I managed to get much of my re-write list knocked down and a bit of the studio organized. Huzzah!
Publishing is a storytelling medium I can happily swim in without feeling disoriented or overwhelmed. I have to remind myself it wasn’t always so. I have to remind myself that there was a time when I constantly needed bearing checks and a lighthouse to avoid the shoals.
The Hollywilds can feel like choppy waters, turbulent and chilly one moment, then warm and calm the next. The only orientation I have in learning not just a new medium of storytelling, but understanding an entertainment industry in the middle of its own structural upheaval and transformation is to look for the lighthouses.
Coming from publishing to screen is not a one-for-one match, of course. But it’s a lot closer than many other fields. Having a financial background and project management/business development backgrounds helps immensely. I’ll say boldly, that those backgrounds probably help more in the conversion to entertainment than any other creative experience I have. It also makes the case for diversifying skill-sets, and for having another form of employment or income that allows my creative side to breathe freely without being beholden to the whims or fickleness of others’ “creative” expectations—which are almost always financially incentivized… and not to my benefit.
When asked what I would do differently? I don’t know. I only know what’s working or not—and that will be different for everyone based on their skill-sets, desires, processes and willingness to grit (more on this in a minute). All I know for me is that the traditional pathways that I keep getting coached toward, by the most well-meaning and wonderful people, don’t actually work for me as an artist or an individual. “This is the way it’s always been done. These are the things you have to do.”
That doesn’t seem to roll in my favor, and from the looks of it—not much in anyone else’s favor either most of the time.
I’m not special. I have no delusions of being important. But I will say, The Pillars of Dawn is not a common size or proportion to what usually fits in those “always how it’s done” models. It’s a full storyverse. A galaxy of interconnected stories.
I can’t even tell you how many “what the fuck is this?” statements I’ve heard from middle-men. Or how many times I’ve been coached to make it smaller, easier, “dumb it down or the executives will be confused and pass.”
Yet, the first two studios we tried both seemed to spot it right away and are kindly reviewing it as a full scale Storyverse. I was asked to put the slides back in the deck that explained the original intent of the scale, and resubmit for review. My heart might just explode with happiness. All I wanted was for it to be considered in its fullness. It can be chopped up and meat-balled after that, because I understand full well that the production restrictions of film are real and resources are finite.
In publishing, I have carte blanche with budget. I can imagine or build or synthesize anything with raw, uncontained language. Words don’t have limits. The mind lives eternally in its capacity to dream ever-bigger.
Hollywild budgets have limits. Thus, while I adore that the scope is under consideration—I’m realistic enough to understand the probabilities. Don’t mind me while I soak it in for a minute, though.
There are tried-and-true paths for other creators. Somehow, my feet never found those. Maybe I pushed too hard to keep my independence. When my author friends were signing agents fifteen years ago, and landing publishing deals with the big houses—I refused to make the core changes that were required to move to an agency. (Take a male pen name, or a gender-neutral name or write other people’s projects, re-write Murder of Crows from Liam’s male point of view, etc.)
I declined two large publishing contracts because I refused to change the Avians to vampires, turn the Muses into men, or “add a magical school” to the core storyline. (If you read Sinnet of Dragons, you’ll know what I did there in a bit of a frustrated “kiss my ass”.)
While my friends were selling thousands of books and gathering thousands of reviews and quitting their day jobs—I was doubling down on a Kickstarter to self-publish and launch a publishing label, while working a corporate gig.
Don’t get me wrong. I tried to give up so many times. SO MANY TIMES. I might still give up. We’ll see. If there’s a coffee shortage, like, ever—I will just fucking quit at everything.
In the meantime, coffee and keep trying. Keep pushing. Keep annoying people by showing up. Keep irritating the way it’s always been done. Keep pulling on the loose strings. Keep whittling the knot in the wood.
Look for the lighthouses, avoid the shoals.
Here’s where the willingness to grit part comes in. Part A is knowing what kind of artist you are, or want to be. What do you need to feel fulfilled? There’s no right or wrong answer to this. IT’s YOUR WORK. YOUR LIFE. Do what fits you.
If you’re the artist who wants to meet a metric, make a paycheck, handoff to let others run the ball while you release creative strings and control. I recommend finding someone, a team even, who will set you up for the life of “handoff + paycheck”. Cool beans! Do that. Find your peeps. I’m learning the middle-men in the Hollywild love those types of writers and even expect it. If being fulfilled means hands OFF. Then you’ve got it made!
If you’re the “other kind”, well, then. You might be in for some grit work. Don’t panic. It’s going to be okay.
Look for the lighthouses, avoid the shoals.
Novelists are frowned upon by many (not all) of the middle-folk of this industry. The teacher in my showrunner course didn’t know I was a novelist and spent half an hour ranting about how novelists “think they’re writers but they aren’t. They don’t even know storytelling, and if you get stuck with a novelist for an adaptation, be prepared to have to handhold and placate in order to take their work and make it better.” Then he lamented no one wants to do adaptations because the writer’s original vision is so lame, and “his author” had only sold 40 million copies so wasn’t even one of those writers you should have to care about their opinions—not like George R. R. Martin or anyone valuable.
No need to take my word for what he said in his rant. You can purchase the class and download it for yourself—IT WAS FUCKING RECORDED and resold as a class.
Avoid the shoals.
If it had been a one-off, that would have been it, but over the last two years there have been multiple instances where similar statements have been made. Ladies, I hate to say this in writing—but every single similar statement that was uttered was made by a dude. Every. Single. One. Still, there are many wonderful male allies in the field. Don’t lose faith. They are here and ready to collaborate.
So, the data is out on whether it’s a dismissal of novelists in general—OR a male dismissal of female voices. Will get back to you on that one.
The point is that when you come in as a novelist there will be bias, and not in your favor when it comes to middle-folk, gatekeepers, and often the producers. And there will be yet more bias if you’re a female novelist.
Look for the lighthouses.
HOWEVER, not all hope is lost. One hundred percent of the time, my involvement with adaptation and my grasp on the source material has been a boost to the performer's interest and engagement. All interactions in person and via email thus far with performers have netted a surprising response, “If you’re going to be involved or be a producer and stay close to what you’ve written in the books—I’m in.” I did not see that coming. What a lovely surprise, especially after smashing my face against the other wall so often that my nose gets bloody whenever I even think of having to email a gatekeeper.
Male, female, non-binary performers have unanimously been encouraging, helpful, and interested in me remaining involved. This is both flattering and worrisome. Because I don’t know how much I’ll be allowed to be involved once I part with the options. So, my concern is that a few will drop out if I stop participating—and I really like them as people and as performers. The Pillars of Dawn won’t be the same without them.
The lighthouse here is that there is no apparent bias from performers regarding gender or storytelling format. HORRAY!
Willingness to grit is still sending those emails. It’s still bird-dogging the potentials. It’s still following up with the people who have already determined you to be low value, amateur, undeserving, or false. Worse, they have already decided you can’t script because you’re a novelist—or that the work you’ve submitted is too “something else that’s not quite right”.
Was the formatting wrong? “No, there were no errors. It’s perfectly clean.” (I had help!)
Was the method incorrect? “No, it’s exactly in line with method.”
What’s the problem? “Well, it’s not a shooting script, it’s a concept script. It’s just that it reads different from expected.”
Did I screw up the story? “No! The story is great. Concept good. Dialogue okay. I mean, the dialog could use some tweaking…”
Cool. I can do that. Is there something really wrong with it? “Well, it’s just going to be expensive. So expensive.”
So, it’s not the novelist thing—it’s the cost. “Exactly.”
Ah. More gritting, then.
Willingness to grit is annoying your agent when you know she’s busy. Willingness to grit is going back to those banks and making a case. Willingness to grit is taking out high interest credit to hire pros. Willingness to grit is clinging to your vision as long as you can. Willingness to grit is studying the aforementioned “ways it’s always been done” then finding enough of the similar ground you can live with that’s not a catastrophic compromise and blending it into the work so the “respect” has been paid, and the conversation can move on and the “stodgy old crabs” can feel like you at least earned the right to speak two sentences in their room. (Don’t worry, you can remove those pieces of the changes later, after their flinchy hackles have gone down. )
Willingness to grit is adding yourself back to the emails after a man has consistently removed you from the conversation. Willingness to grit is speaking up when the male producer in the room has asked you to be quiet so he can sell the concept, because “you don’t know how to sell yourself.” When really, he means, “I want to be lead and get the credit for X,Y, Z—before you open your mouth and contradict my plans for controlling your work.”
Willingness to grit is KNOWING that obstacles are present in many forms—and still finding a safe, comfortable, healthy way to navigate around, over, through, across, or under them to get to where you want to be.
Willingness to grit is also having a bingo-point in the back of your brain. That number or metric or moment at which you have already decided to pull the plug because the cost of being actively inhibited by a system or “collaborators” is financially, emotionally, or mentally detrimental or cost prohibitive.
Willingness to grit ends the moment I know without a doubt, there is no future for my work to be made to story-spec and with love in an industry that has no room or appreciation for the process or for me as an artist. That’s okay. I’ve got books to write.
Then bounce. Just peace out, knowing and believing no stone was unturned, no door left untried. Pack up and go live life—back in the woods, writing my novels, and discovering new creators to publish through the label.
Either way, life is good.
The most brilliant gift I can give myself as an artist is to work only with those people who can see me, the work, the vision. And if that’s not in Hollywood, that’s okay. It’s not going to stop me from creating, or writing, building a publish world or engaging with interested parties down the road.
The lighthouses are there to keep you from wrecking on the reef. Orient to the lighthouses until you’re safely in port—even if that port is back home where you started—no deal in hand.
Life is short. Go build something.
Best question ever from longtime friend and reader, Sharon. “If you had known the absolute mess you were getting yourself into at the beginning of this journey, would you have gone down this path?”
“Oh, good question! I don’t know. There are so many other rewarding aspects, I want to say yes.... but I would have prepared differently, and stocked up on more alcohol.”
The really funny part is that 2 years ago when I first decided to do this, Mark had asked me to write down my goals so he could help me stay on target. “Pick one that’s really out there, so you can surprise yourself or have something to reach for.”
It took two years, but we landed at that goal at the end of 2023. What happens next is anyone’s guess. I didn’t plan that far out.
I just wanted the full Storyverse for The Life Erotic, and The Pillars of Dawn to be considered for build out. The Life Erotic is smaller, more nimble and easier to move around, easier to place (I mean, aside from the sexy content issues.)
But POD… POD is a behemoth of a storyverse. It’s… massive, complex and cumbersome. It’s not a small world. Mark did his level best to help me trim it down, streamline it, make is smaller and more packageable. God bless him. More fruit baskets for Mark!
The truth is the POD storyverse was never made to be small or agile, nimble or easy to move. We always knew it would take a very specific kind of visionary studio and production team to see the POD Storyverse for what it is, and in a perfect world, they would want to play in it.
I get to play in it every day, so, I wasn’t worried about it. Not really. I mean. Okay. Maybe I was a little worried. One of my early conversations with him in the adaptation was, “I don’t know where to start—there’s so much story I can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s three worlds, ten primary characters, all their cohorts, 36 secondary characters and all the subplots, timelines, and like 172 ancillary characters, plus all the lore, histories, worldbuilding documents, pre-story prep and engines, woven throughout the Mandalic Story Structure. It’s a full Universe.”
He gave me some exercises to help me focus on which parts were the most important, and which parts to exclude because, “execs don’t care about that shit.”
Ah. Great way to start. No one cares about the 43 chapters of LORE?? Good to know.
It’s twenty years’ worth of build, some still in totes and stored on hard drives. My big stretch-goal, the pie in the sky wish, was to just have it considered as a whole universe at least once before allowing it to be chopped up and sold for parts.
The mini-version we built was still immensely satisfying and checked all the boxes for me to feel artistically contented. If we sell that smaller, compact version—I will still be greatly relieved and deeply humbled to be able to send POD out to a larger audience. However, there’s still that knowledge in the back of my mind that POD was designed to be so much more. It was made to be expansive enough to live within for a decade or more of mined material, and all the scoped transmedia materials to match. It was made to compete as an entertainment universe.
Again, not worried. Well… maybe a little.
Between the last two years of learning ropes and picking up the processes, I’ve pushed myself to learn how THEY do it. What is their process? What is their model? Which PMP steps are they most reliant on? And so forth. Workshops, classes, paid coaching, tutorials, private consults, books, pitch practices and more so I could at least sort of understand what was being talked about in the meetings I’m sitting in regarding my material.
Cross-train as much as possible, always. I will always advocate for this. If you’re a creative—learn other creative methods and mediums, so when you can see a gap or an opening, you can hold up the beam and buy some time for a bridge to be built. Also, in this case, I took a showrunning course so I would know how to be a better partner, supporter, and collaborator with the showrunners. That’s just courtesy. It’s on my end to make that stretch, not theirs. (Emmy winner, Gregori Martin, is the showrunner for TLE, and he's marvelous! We don't have a showrunner yet for POD, but I have high hopes!)
They will have their hands full learning a new universe and managing teams. It’s not their job to come to me. It’s my job to go to them, and to help hold up the tent while they take in the volume of the build and get oriented. (I built it, so I already know where everything is, and where all the bodies are buried.)
I’m excited to know what happens next! Curiosity is mixed with glowing humility and a warm tingling bubble of creativity I’m trying desperately to keep in check. It’s like the volcanic center that keeps my creative pilot light on just KNOWS bigger, more expansive space is about to open up for the next layer of creation and my engine is SO READY TO BUILD BIGGER! It takes effort to keep the build contained for the moment.
It’s work every day to find things for my brain to focus on so I don’t run ahead and keep ripping the trail. Wait. Wait for the cue to cut more trail, Athena. Wait for the next okay to build out, up, and across the chasm. It’s coming.
I have to remind myself I will get to build more—but for now, there’s some waiting that needs to happen. In the meantime, I can get back to my books and clear out some of those totes.
Do I hope to bring all that world and story to new audiences? Totally.
Do I hope they’ll have as much fun with it as I do? Absolutely.
Would I have planned better if I’d known what I was walking into two years ago? Yep. I would have gotten a wine delivery membership, and added chocolate to my Amazon pantry subscription. But, you live, you learn.
Then again, I supposed it’s never too late for wine or chocolate--- who knows what the next two years will look like….
Winter solstice blessings brought a bounty of beautiful beginnings on the development front. It looks as though 2024 might be like gunning for a merge window onto a crowded, speeding freeway. I’m down for it! Okeydokey.
Settle coffee mug in the holster.
Tighten seat belt.
Check blind spot.
Mash the gas.
The last week of December has been a mad dash of pushing out emails and swiping everything off my desk to reset the flow for upcoming volume. Yes, I had hoped to have a nice quiet winter of reboot and novel writing, but timing being what it is, Tangle of Mermaids might have to take the back burner for a minute or two. That’s the speed up or slow down process of merging.
Thankfully, the last few months of 2023 have been relatively tame so I’ve been able to get real sleep, and reorient to priorities.
You heard it here first… I am coming out of the woods. It’s a long story. It’s all good. Good reasons. Happy reasons. Healthy reasons. It’s time. More details on all that to come. Don’t worry—I’m quite happy to start making steps back out into the real world, towing a wagon full of work created over the seven years I’ve been sitting out here in the wilderness.
Seven years of building and stashing writing, ideas, concepts and planning models. Now it’s time to put it in the chute.
I’m always charmed by folks who are curious about my last seven years alone in the wild. When I say, “I needed to be alone to able to hear myself think, so I could get work done uninterrupted.” Most creatives immediately understand. Then there are those extroverts in the room who visibly shudder.
It’s equally amusing when I explain my corporate background, or work history which runs parallel to my writing life. Are you a business developer? Or a creative?
Who says they aren’t the same thing?
Molecular genetics. Regulatory and Compliance. Director of Finance. R&D. Project Management. Commercial loan auditor. Document Control and Database Management. And finally, owner and operator of a small business development firm, and a publishing label. (and waiting tables in between as needed)
All of my former corporate jobs have run on the same creative matrices as my writing and art—yes, even the jobs in finance and molecular genetics. Which means, thankfully, I happen to be one of those lucky artists who can build a budget, read a balance sheet, manage a team, run my own PMP, and build a contract from scratch.
Do I enjoy it? Actually, yes. I adore performing those functions. I still think pivot tables are the playthings of Satan, but I handle them just fine. Business development and Storyverse Construction are actually VERY similar. They run on a hierarchy of constructs, with gears and levers. Business functions such as auditing commercial loan files for internal cohesion and consistency for clients gives my left brain something to chew on while my right brain takes a break from writing and story craft. When people ask me how I relax in the evening, I honestly tell them, “I perform internal reviews on multi-million-dollar conglomerate loan packages and file indexing reports while listening to my favorite popcorn astrology podcasts… What do you do to relax in the evening?”
Everyone needs a hobby… preferably one that pays well, and only requires a few hours at a time.
Then I save my artistic mind, the build energy for story craft and world building—and because there is no pressure to make my art pay me what I want to be comfortable, I’m able to make creative decisions that are uncompromising, riskier, and which produce higher yield--at least for me--in the emotional fulfillment department.
Thus, my HOBBY life as consultant PAYS FOR MY REAL JOB as a creator. All if which I do from the middle of nowhere in the backwater woods of Oregon.
I hope that makes sense. It seems to be confusing at meetings. People seem to be flummoxed by my background on the regular.
A young exec in a meeting said, “The target margin for a cost-plus model is on the budget sheet. You just stick to the writing. Artists can’t really handle the numbers anyway.…”
My old financial aid boss would be laughing her ass off at this right now.
I was legitimately taken aback. My brain was processing quickly trying to decide if he’d intended to be so careless, or if he was young and possibly embarrassed to not know the answer to the question, or if he was trying to obfuscate and hide figures because he wanted to end the meeting early.”
“I dunno… I guess you could just try me on the budget sheet. I might surprise you.”
“Budget sheets take years to understand.” He said curtly.
Oh, pookey. It’s about to get really uncomfortable for you.
“Maybe not years, but with a little focus, they make sense. I’ve seen a show budget and schedule before. Every industry has different terms, but money is ALWAYS money—every industry still answers to the SUM. Whether you’re in banking, or entertainment—everything runs on the bottom line. Is your budget exportable? I have Excel or I can do a Google doc, whichever you prefer. Or do you just want to share your screen?”
I could tell he felt like I had somehow betrayed him. I wasn’t just a novelist from under a bridge somewhere in the hinterlands—it showed on his face that I’d been the asshole tricking HIM this whole time. How dare I?
“I thought you were an artist.”
“Worse. I’m an artist who understands the business side of making a creative living. There’s no shame in ethical profit—so I make money. Then when I want my art to make money, I ask for it to do that, too.”
Anywhoo, it is what it is. When you look like a dumpy gnome that just crawled out of a hole, all mossy-haired and yellow toothed, and step into a room to sell a script--assumptions will be made. It’s the nature of humans to quantify or judge quickly in order to navigate social expectations.
So, I guess some smile brightener, hair dye and a freshen up on the wardrobe will help a little in this regard. I mean, it’s been a minute since I’ve had to be presentable. Like, seven years kinda minute.
Long story short, too late, this is to say that coming out of the woods and back to society means bringing ALL previous experiences to the high-speed merge. I mean, lesson learned, I’ll clean up a bit first to assist with the being presentable and believable. I also provided my new agent with my corporate resume to help alleviate any confusion about my work experience running alongside my creative world building and writing experience when she’s making introductions or connections. Hopefully that will help some.
There’s not a lot that can be done about taking meetings in an industry where folks seem to be eager to be seen, but not to see. Eager to be heard, but not to listen. Desperate to reach, but not to be touched.
Hopefully, this next part of housing the IPs will be quick and easy and we’ll be on to assembling the teams in no time at all. Because I WOULD LOVE to see people, talent, builders and creators in their most authentic and creative selves. I would dearly love to hear them, learn them, discover who they are and how they work—then invite them to come play in these amazing sandboxes being built for The Pillars of Dawn and The Life Erotic. I can’t think of anything right now that would bring me more joy than to be able to see, hear, learn and reach for those creative geniuses who want to build.
So, I can’t even be mad at the kid about the budget. He knows what he knows. He’d been conditioned how he’s been conditioned. Though my crinkly Grinch heart felt for him. Being disabused of one’s illusions can be a rough kind of day.
It just makes me more determined, I guess, to find those unicorns in the Hollywild that want to see, hear, and be welcomed. But first things first.
Settle coffee mug in the holster.
Tighten seat belt.
Check blind spot.
May your 2024 be filled with all the joy and magic of your wildest dreams. See you on the other side.
Holy moly, I had no idea I was going to have such a great time explaining Storyverse construction! I could do this all day long and still never run out of breath. World builders unite! Yes, please sign me up for more workshops!
The joy of working in storyverse modeling is the ability to blow out huge section of lore, lay timelines, and stack constructs to up to the eyeballs—then watch a well-developed character ping around the universe like a pinball activating more stories and off-shoots as they go.
The key is in the stackable constructs. Layering hierarchy is a laborious process in the beginning, because a fictional hierarchy of constructs is not always the same as our human/real world hierarchy.
However, sometimes the most common constructs of our current world are pulled laterally into the storyverse build… we can’t help it. I do it all the time. Good examples of this are all the isms. If it’s an ism in this world, think twice, maybe even three times, before it becomes a copy & paste construct into your storyverse.
For sure, some is good. It helps keep things relatable and “recognizable” to a majority audience, but too many duplicate or pull-through constructs and you’re not in genre fiction anymore.
In the end, as I’m explaining, diagraming, and building out POD for others to follow along— we get to drift through layers of constructs, activate gears and levels, toggle timelines and kick the tires. It’s been a blast!
Ideally, a well-built storyverse is a playground, a park full of instruments, tools, toys, and playground equipment that has a solid fence (guardrail) and a chaperone. Then, when that area is mapped, and all the exploratory creative equipment has been laid out, it’s a handoff to the next teams who will be developing scripts (streaming and film), graphic novels, games and more. The trans-media side of the development plans cannot happen if we’re not all working with the same core engines, storyverse laws, and guardrails. But once they get all that, and can speak the language comfortably—I get to pop off and have a margarita and let the kids play. Okay, two margaritas.
Anywhoo, testing out the workbook pages, and the diagrams on people has been a wonderful experience. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am to be able to build out these worlds for others to play in.
As 2023 wraps and 2024 looms, I’m just sitting in my feels that others are able to get in and play in the universes for POD and TLE and that these imaginary realms will not be alone with me any longer.
Finally… they are going home to audiences where they belong.
Winter is my usual writing season. The last few years of adaptation work to move my books into a streaming formats for shopping have happened mostly over the winter months, which means I didn’t have my usual snuggle-into-novel-writing-time. Crossing my fingers I get some good novel writing time in this winter. I’m hungry for it. Aching, actually. Anyone in my company too long can probably pick up on the twitchy desire to get back to my desk.
Don’t get me wrong, the adaptation stuff is fun. A blast, actually, but it’s a different set of building tools and an alternate set of muscles. A collaboration stretch is needed to bridge the gap between my brainpan and the team—and because most of the worlds for The Pillars of Dawn and The Life Erotic are still lodged in my noggin, it can feel like people (even people I like) crawling around in my mental space, dusting things up, and refiling my system that I had just the way I liked it so it will all still fit in my gray matter. It can be intrusive and exhausting some days. It’s unavoidable. The people in my skull pulling out the materials for world build are all very polite, courteous, and patient with me—but it feels like the kindest strangers re-organizing my mental underwear drawer and very kindly not looking at my ratty period panties.
It’s a very intimate process. More so as I’ve been solo and isolated for so many years. It can sometimes feel abrasive, vulnerable and itchy.
I need a lot of naps or quiet time to refresh from having other people in thoughts.
If I could give any piece of advice to my younger self, or to any other world builders out there—don’t keep the bulk of your world-building data in your brainpan. A head cold, or a round of sneezes sets off all kinds of re-org issues. Plus, when it comes time to collaborate, then you’re pulling brain data and importing it into computer systems for others to understand, and they don’t have your mental shorthand notes for reference.
Use an exterior, or alternate backup space for your build. There are a dozen great programs to help sort and store your world builds.
The wiki builds for The Pillars of Dawn and The Life Erotic are both designed in Mandalic Storyverse Structure.
What does that mean?
Let’s be honest, I just made it up. It’s not a real thing—UNLESS you believe, like I do, that story as medium, as a wave of creation energy never actually ends. It is limitless potential until given a new shape. Story is energy that persists, regenerates.
We’re taught that story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Tada! Complete. Now you may go about your day and live your best life.
But really, if you go about your day, and live your best life, you are in fact—continuing the story. A well-told story now lives in you as a reader, or viewer or participant. You cannot be what you were before.
This is why fearful people ban books.
Mandalic Storyverse is the creation of story universes, interlocking, supportive, interdependent filaments of ideas that inform patterns and build ever-expanding spaces in which to house star clusters and galaxies of stories all of which are expressed through a library of mediums. Stories within stories within stories—forever.
We’re conditioned to this with the MCU or DCU and other franchises that have “Universe” in the description.
The difference being that their CORE structure never solidified and their builds are so flexible and changeable that they slide all over the place. Audience timeline sickness, and story waffling makes for loss of trust and eventual sameness in the build. As audience, we are watching as those universes fold back in on themselves and go through re-boot after re-boot, despite the reality that audiences are already bored of it, and have lost faith in the core.
The CORE in a Mandalic Storyverse is the hard construct (the heart, bones, brain), the pieces that cannot and should not be broken. Often this is considered to be the timeline, but I disagree. The core is always the frame/soul of your build—the mandala forms around that core and the storyverse populates and shoots out from those primary points of soul matter. Without it, the storyverse will eventually hit a tipping point under its own weight and fold inward. A Mandalic Storyverse built around a heart will die when that core truth is compromised.
Mandalic Storyverse structure allows for perpetual expansion and growth with the framework established. GENERATIONAL STORYTELLING and BUILDING. Thus as the audience grows and evolves socially, spiritually, and the collective pool of knowledge, education, and global ideas SHIFT, the storyverse can shift and grow WITH the audience without needing to constantly be rebooted to catch up to new audience trends, needs, desires or pace of understanding— because it is built in advance to be able to grow and stretch to those needs without compromising the core.
A Mandalic Storyverse BREATHES. It learns. It imagines. It anticipates. It is a narrative form of intelligence that creates active bridges to new forms of creativity, energy, and the human adventure through our shared experience and evolving consciousness. It is not AI, because it has a soul, and it is fostered, nurtured and protected by human creatives for other human creatives. (We can argue about AI souls and singularity on another thread with some bourbon, yeah?)
And when a branch, or a galaxy of stories within the Mandalic Storyverse has bloomed, shone, and it is time for it to spread its seeds and winter—those seeds germinate new galaxies with the core heart, and carry the new tales forward. Just as in real life, right?
Mandalic Storyverse is the most closely related structure I know to life and how we live. In terms of a gendering, I often refer to this structure as “feminine” because of its natural mothering and birthing capacity to expand. It is the story that keeps generating, keeps nurturing, keeps sheltering, keeps homing and so on.
Whereas the standard three-act structure we’re most familiar with in the Western world is typically a one and done. A rinse repeat. It can begin to feel formulaic and linear, a driving force that loses its momentum at the infamous “dark night of the soul” mid-second act, only to rally and finish. (then light a cigarette, or take a nap)
We could go down a rabbit hole here of Joseph Campbell’s work and the hero’s journey, but that would be forty pages of rant. Love him. Love the work, but it’s missing 50% of the story.
That other 50% is found in a mandalic pattern, a generational build—not just generational “telling” but the build itself. I would argue even that those “hearts” of three act structures, of those single shot stories are seeds from a larger Mandalic Storyverse, and we have been taught only to see, hear, and believe in one seed at a time. *I’ll spare the longer version of this*
Anywhoo, that’s a very long way of saying, one of the greatest challenges of building in a Mandalic Storyverse Structure and then trying to adapt for television is converting that SCOPE, SCALE, CAPACITY, and POTENTIAL down into a single shot story so others can grasp it and convert it into usable material for an audience that’s conditioned to three-act, and is expecting a three-act. (Though I would argue, the streaming capacity to develop and house larger Storyverses and world-builds is feeding an audience with a new hunger for those bigger builds—people/ audiences want to live in these Storyverses and it’s showing in the data.)
My storyverse has been living and developing alone in my brain space for over twenty-years. Moving it to a more digestible format for audiences has been tricky. Mark Heidelberger has been a gift from the heavens for helping me focus on one point at a time rather than trying to download all my mental files at once. Dude has the freakin’ patience of a saint.
Note to self: Send Mark a fruit basket.
There’s really no wrong way to do a world build. Each one is specific to the work, to the idea or the story that will be housed or carried by the build. I like to think that the more diverse our world-building methods as artists, the more eclectic and magnificently grand our human experience will be.
So as I tuck in for some winter writing and world-building with mulled wine by the fire. I wish you all a happy holiday season, and all the adventures of your most courageous world-building plans.
A break from regularly scheduled programming….
I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback or reader mail I’d get from the relaunch of The Life Erotic Discovery Journals. As I’ve been down for the count recovering from surgery, I’ve been blessed to sit in bed reading the loveliest notes from those who picked up the booklets for the first time, along with happy reminiscing from those who read them before and are now excited to see the world unfolding into a streaming adaptation.
I should say that Amazon has been blocking the reviews for TLE. Yes, I’ve been made aware. We’re working on it. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience! Hopefully, it’s fixed soon. I’ve been assured that when it’s fixed, all the reviews will show up—probably all at once. So, please keep leaving those reviews! They will pop as soon as the snag is corrected. (Also, I am deeply grateful for all the emails letting me know!)
My favorite responses are from people letting me know TLE has opened their minds to the deeper levels of intimacy that can occur in trust-based relationships. Those raw and vulnerable moments when we are just humans—exposed—splitting open to tenderness that makes connection with a lover such a spiritual and powerful sexual experience. There’s so much validation in knowing we are not alone in the longing for these experiences, nor alone in the celebration of them when we’re able to make those moments come to life with our lovers.
The notes from readers include very personal stories of their sexual healing journeys; many of those running in tandem with spirituality and a near-cosmic understanding of self—which only serves to elevate experiences with their partners.
I am so honored to know these stories from you all. So grateful to know that “soul-gasms” are happening when The Life Erotic explores these vignettes of partnership through a reader experience. (I hope you don’t mind me co-opting “soul-gasm”, Esial2323… it’s just so perfectly suited! Thank you!)
In honor of the raw vulnerability from readers, I’ll try to answer questions with the same fearlessness.
Jannabella- Why do you write erotica? Are you ever ashamed?
It took a while for me to write erotica specifically. I mostly targeted relationship dynamics in my fantasy fiction. In the world-building matrix where I create Storyverse, all interconnected levers are relationship interdependencies. So, I began there. But as those stories and characters became more real, reflecting a lot of my own personal desires and needs I had to get honest with myself as a creative—and as a woman—and ask what was missing in my life that was also missing from my character relationship arcs and story mediums.
Radical vulnerability and the ability to deeply connect on a sexual/spiritual level.
World builders and creatives with rich imaginations are pretty good at pretending. We can be the original fakers, right? We are easily romanticized, easily led by the longing or promise of something magical, beautiful, and wondrously mysterious. It’s natural for creators to be regularly disappointed, let down, embittered. Unfortunately, this creates a calcification which permeates both life AND the fictional realms and Storyverses we populate. It’s like a virus that jumps from us into our fictional worlds.
I don’t know about you, but I read to escape. I read to fall in love, see new worlds, live other lives. I don’t read to soak up someone else’s wounds, shames, prejudices or hit creator blockages because they’ve leaked into the story, even accidentally.
To be the best storyteller I believed I could be for my characters, Storyverse, and audience—I had to dig out all the injuries, purge all the aches, and drop any baggage that would prevent me from being able to honestly and authentically speak for the moments in each scene. My knowledge is limited. I don’t know all the things. But I can at the very least FEEL everything, and report that to the reader by placing those words on a character’s tongue, or leave that feeling glittering on the page for someone else to find.
Radical vulnerability led to the need to heal myself of shame and fear, specifically around the subject matter. “Heal thyself” became a mantra set to the understanding that I could then heal my characters—and hopefully, someone out there might also benefit from that process as well.
Erotica as a genre was the next logical choice. Aside from memoir, there is no other genre which requires self-honesty, vulnerability, imagination, and empathy the way erotica does. You cannot write sexually engaging prose if you are bound by shame. You cannot write emotionally connective characters if you cannot be emotionally bonded to another.
Writing about shame in erotica, for me is now only writing about the memory of it—not the lived experience of shame. It’s been healed, released. Writing about heartbreak, longing and ache in erotica is now about writing the memory of it. As a creator, I don’t have to avoid these things because I’m no longer beholden to them as a human putting pen to paper. Freeing myself, freed up the characters, and freed up the story—which allows readers to have a more unbidden experience. It also allows me to write the erotic content freely, expressively—and with ALL THE STEAMY BOILERS ON FULL THROTTLE. And isn’t that the fun part?
I hope that makes sense! (As an aside, yes, I am sometimes freshly ashamed of something I do or say, in which case, I learn from it–heal it. Then I try to do better next time. There’s no need to carry it into the story as anything but the memory of the memory of shame.)
Kristystail1966—Do you write erotica while listening to a playlist? Can you post the list for the read along and… bedroom?
Oh, dang! Alas, erotica is not something I can write to music. All other genres I can have music, or specific playlists. Unfortunately, because music is SO GOOD at setting the mood, I end up getting swayed by the tunes and the chapter shifts where I often don’t want it to go. So—in this example. I don’t have a playlist to share.
THAT SAID—I’ll look at putting a thematic playlist together that would fit the journals and compliment them as in after the fact! I’ll get on that and get back to you. Brilliant suggestion!
Zettabird—You make it sound easy to be open with a partner in the bedroom. How long did it take to become that comfortable?
Tough question. There’s no one answer for this as it depends on the emotional intelligence and generosity and understanding of lovers to meet one another in the most tender and fragile needs first—then get to the other stuff. Anyone can be rough, or ragged, or hungry in the bedroom—not everyone can hear/see/know their lover in those moments. Presence creates that trust. Awareness and the willingness to hold back one’s own personal needs or urges, ensuring their partner is moving at the same level of security and fulfillment, require a willingness to pay attention.
So answering your question—the answer will be different for everyone.
Siatoa755angel—when will the next Life Erotic journal be out?
Good question! And thank you 😊 As there are show spoilers in the next journal, I’m sitting on it for a little bit. Not a long time, maybe next spring. The hope is that the show adaptation will have enough steam that the readers will only be slightly ahead of the spoiler information—readers do it best anyway, right? We should get the early bird treats! Thank you for your patience!
Thank you for all the questions and notes. Truly, the emails have been such a boost. It’s so fun knowing where the books have landed and where they have traveled.
Please stay tuned on the adaptation information and book release news by signing up for the newsletter at Elder Glade Publishing.
In the meantime, please continue to ask questions via the contact portal here.
Warning: The Life Erotic Discovery Journals by B. Unbidden have been known to cause erotic longings, twin flame yearnings, delightfully curious explorative human behaviors, and climactic sexual events. Whether you’re a runner or chaser, or in a happy healthy union—these stories will stir hungers.
Currently in adaptation for streaming television!
Spring and autumn are my two favorite seasons for planning land upgrades and work around the property. The weather this year threw off the blooming season, so the garden is thoroughly confused. That may be a lucky break for me, since I was buried with work and didn’t have a chance to get my seeds started. Maybe this is the year I actually line up with the garden timing-wise! The thimbleberries are just now blooming, two months behind schedule. I’ll be able to direct sow several seed varieties now that the weather is stabilizing.
The WGA strike has brought all the action for my adaptations and entertainment plans to a halt. I’m not a member, but all the talks we’ve been having were with signatories or members, so we are stalled for now. That said, my publishing gears are still in full motion.
The cover art for Tangle of Mermaids has been ordered, along with several art panels from Amanda Sartor. YAY!!
Books are already in the pipeline for relaunch—so I’ll be writing and editing from the office on the deck overlooking the creek and trees. This means I need to get it cleaned and set up, prepped and ready for a summer of heavy productivity.
My plans for trips to LA are on hold BUT that means I get to double down on my garden since I’ll be home to tend the plants. (So excited because the towering lilies I planted last autumn are coming up!! I was so worried I’d miss them while in LA.) I’ve enrolled in continued education as well since all other avenues are shut down. The showrunners program will help me write more targeted scripts, if nothing else. All information is good information. The showrunner study so far has been incredible in helping me understand how to target story planning to budgets—which, as a long form author, I’ve never had to consider.
The irony is that all those years in financial planning and project management in the corporate world are applied to the story world in showrunning—never thought those two worlds would meet beyond running a publishing label. Universe, you’re so funny.
In the end, it should still be a very busy summer, just less travel than previously expected.
To combat the crushing disappointment of being derailed at the last minute after so much hard work, I have decided to do some fun cheer-up things. I finally ordered the zipline kit! I have no idea how to install it, but that is on the list. A slide through the trees across the river will cheer me up immensely. I also plan to put in a camping area and table on the west end of the property for visitors who come up for creativity workshop on the island later this summer.
The creativity workshop is still in question as it will depend on the schedule. The island was hit by hard storms this year, but the bridge despite all odds, is still standing. Getting out to the island to clean up the debris and restore the classroom area should be easy. It’s just a matter of setting aside the time.
Long story short, I’ll be enjoying this summer of creating in my safe space, and building new plans for books and releases. If I’m quiet—it’s not a bad thing, it means I’m building, taking space for peace and rejuvenation, and getting my ducks in a row in case of sudden movement in other sectors.
When the garden begins blooming, you’ll want to shut off your notifications because I’ll be over-posting all the flowers. ALL THE FLOWERS!
Stay creative, my friends.
Athena lives and writes in the Siuslaw Forest, Oregon.