Ashleigh D.J. Cutler's Blog

February 20, 2018

Looking to put together a new YouTube video and I'd like to take some questions about the #RiseoftheDragonfly series, which will be answered in a video on my channel. If you have any, please ask and I'll add yours to the list. Thank you.
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Published on February 20, 2018 13:13 • 38 views • Tags: q-a, rise-of-the-dragonfly

September 20, 2017

There’s a Point in every story where, as a reader, if it continues beyond said Point, you are just left bored. There’s nothing left to say, but the storyteller keeps talking. When you reach that Point as an author, that’s when you stop and leave any further exploration to the fanfiction authors.
— Ashleigh D.J. Cutler

So this month, I went to a local author event, and had the pleasure of meeting several Ohio authors. It was a very pleasant experience but also has given me the chance to see Rise of the Dragonfly in a physical store.

One day I want to go to an event. And I want to say the quote at the top of this post. I believe in that quote, I believe there's a time to move on and let your fans explore your world and the what ifs as an author.

My Patreon now offers access to the plots from my finished Rise books, as well as the unfinished/edited chapters to my recent project, Watching Shadows. With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I may be posting chapters again. Read along, and get the finished, edited ebook free.

That's all I have to say, really. Check ya all later. Thank you for following me, for reading, just... thank you.
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Published on September 20, 2017 13:41 • 71 views • Tags: indie-book-store, quotes, writing

March 22, 2017

Hello everyone!

So I'm still in the middle of my first few days of Patreon and getting ready for Camp NaNoWriMo. This led to be checking out my other accounts and places where readers can see my work. I've recently updated my FictionPress page, adding the preview chapters for “Path of the Dragon” as well as a sneak peek at “Watching Shadows”. I've also posted a vent fanfiction piece based on my struggles to make a likable character out of an egocentric jerk.

I am currently working on getting the rest of “Watching Shadows” ready for April just in case it turns out that's what I end up working on. I'd rather be working on “The Windwater Pack” but if I don't have the script by then I'll have “Watching Shadows” ready as a back-up.

As for “Rise of the Dragonfly”, I have the plot ready for the third book in the series. “Heir of the Dragon” takes place, again, two years after the events of its predecessor. Abby is finally going to college at Ohio Dominican, but finally living her dreams isn't all its cracked up to be. “Heir” will likely be the last “Rise” book, at least for a while. I refuse to let any of my series become dragged on for the sake of it. Fanfiction exists for a reason.

Speaking of, in case I have not already made my stance clear: I support fan works inspired by my own. I got my start telling stories mostly by doing crossovers in my head. Sometimes its helpful to start out with the hard work already done for you. Characters, settings, rules... all that's a real pain to create out of nothing. So more power to you. Unlike some authors, I do read fanfiction of my work. It's highly unlikely I'll ever use anything close to what my readers and fans come up with, so it doesn't bother me. I'd actually like to one day publish collections of fanworks and pay the authors, but that's a long way from now.

Thank you for reading. Check ya later.

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Published on March 22, 2017 11:13 • 68 views • Tags: nanowrimo, new-project

March 19, 2017

Hello everyone!

Sorry for being AWOL around here so much. I've been busy getting ready for Camp NaNoWriMo. Also waiting... and waiting... and waiting to get the sequel to Mask of the Dragon back from my second editor. Not only waiting for that, but for the script for The Windwater Pack so I can adapt it back into a novella.

I've set up a YouTube channel for Rainbow Wolf Productions, where everything the staff feels should be publicly shared will be uploaded. So far we have an intro video and a rough-to-sorta-clean animation clip.

When I first wrote Mask, I posted my rough chapters as I went for fans/readers to see on deviantART. I loved the feedback, but as a professional author I cannot do that anymore. Posting the rough chapters risks the reader deciding since they've already read it, there's no reason to buy it. Even though I made a point to give a Smashwords coupon to everyone who read Mask during November that year. So I started considering my options so I could still share the stories as I go without basically... to be blunt screwing myself over. I believe I found a solution.


I've read stories where the author posted them free to read... only to withhold the last few chapters and go "Buy the book to see how it ends!" I understand the logic of this, but its such a poor move to me that I could never do it. Patreon offers the perfect compromise. For a low month pledge, patrons get access to my stories as I write them, and any other stories posted that way previously. If they read all the way to the end, they can get a Smashwords coupon to get the ebook free.

With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up in April, I'll have a new story to share with my readers then. Might be TWP, if I get the script back in time. Whatever I work on this April will be my first Patreon-posted story. What that will be depends on what I have ready then.

Click here to check out my Patreon.

Check ya later!
~ Ash
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Published on March 19, 2017 12:38 • 16 views • Tags: mask-of-the-dragon, path-of-the-dragon, patreon, sneak-peeks

November 28, 2016

Let me start by saying I am a one of the most stubborn, hard-headed idiots I know. And I'm aware that I would be corrected on the idiot part by not only my editors, but my friends as well. Sorry everyone, the truth is I can be, but I appreciate the support anyway.

I have read several “how to write” books. If You Can Talk, You Can Write by Joel Saltzman, The Writer's Handbook that's published every year, etc. Most have stuck with me in one way or another, but Terry Brooks' Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life contains the one chapter that I credit with saving my fledgling writing career. In the chapter, “Tough Love”, he tells the story of his second book attempt, and just how he felt when his editor bluntly told him it was a mess. Mr. Books' stubborn opinion that the editor had to be wrong only for him to find Lester del Rey was exactly right stuck in my head. Which was a good thing, as I found myself right where Mr. Brooks had been in 2015.

The back story here is that in 2010, I wrote a story that eventually became titled The Windwater Pack on the WolfQuest forum. It did modestly well, readers enjoyed it. TWP was never meant to be more than a fun what-if story. I have... really I can't count how many stories and ideas I have in my head. TWP borrowed characters from one of them and played with a different set up. It was fun (if hard work sticking to the site's guidelines) and I wrote 40k words by the time I was done.

The only problem was I got attached to the new characters and some of the events. I wanted to keep them, even though TWP had 0 to do with what I called the “true” story. So I did my best to shoe-horn the two unrelated stories together, connecting them like a kid with two wooden crates, old boards, a can of nails and a hammer. The end result was just as unstable, but like the kid I saw a masterpiece. I had kept the scenes the readers loved (I thought) and built on what I had previously with the “true” story too. It was better that the original even!

About this point is where I got the super-bright idea to make an animated film out of it. With zero animation experience. How hard could it be? Lemme tell you, hard. I ended up looking for animators to help with the project, one of which who stuck with it from that point on. We were making progress, right? I even found a couple more people to help with things like backgrounds, etc.

It was the background artist that pointed out the character designs just... sorta lacked any life or way to really tell the characters apart. This was due to two things: I suck at character design, and 2. I was dead-set on keeping a realistic style. One of the animators at the time even agreed we needed to simplify etc at least a little. So the background artist did a mock-up sketch of two of the characters, the animator did a concept sheet and ref for another, and basically I was out-voted. I'm not stupid, I'm a team player. I get that you have to work with what people's skill levels are etc. (No offense to anyone) So I accepted that and we moved on.

I don't quite remember how the background artist (now one of the character designers) and I got into discussing TWP's story. However it happened, we did, and I showed it to her. And got a reality check I refused to cash for almost a month or more. I was legit a brick wall. No, this wasn't a problem, yes it all made sense if you took into consideration the rest of the series, etc etc. I just wouldn't budge. I wouldn't listen. I couldn't. I wouldn't.

It was at that point that I remembered the chapter I mentioned earlier. I remembered Mr. Brooks saying he'd have to read Mr. del Rey's comments if he had any hope of disputing them. I told myself, how can I argue if I don't let her finish? How could I decide I was right and she was wrong if I didn't even know what she thought? If I wouldn't listen to what she had to say?

So I shut up. I said “here, have at it, I'll wait until you're done.” And when she was, I was right where Mr. Brooks had been, facing the reality that I was wrong, and my “masterpiece” was a near-complete mess. It just as salvageable, as he later used concepts and characters, but I was too close to the material to do anything with it. I was stuck with my version of “canon” and couldn't fix it.

Enter same artist/writer, who took over as scriptwriter to save the sinking ship of a story. As of yet, I've only seen snippets and have only a vague idea of the direction the new story's going. Even so, I have seen she writes my characters better than I do myself. No matter what happens, I know the new version will be a 100 times better than either the original or my revamp.

In closing, I want to say thank you Mr. Brooks for sharing your story. Because without it I might still be impersonating a brick wall and we wouldn't be where we are today with production. Nor would the rest of my stories be improving, because most were just as tangled. And I want to thank my scriptwriter for her tough love.

Lesson learned: Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes, you're wrong.

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Published on November 28, 2016 15:16 • 61 views • Tags: lessons-learned, rewriting, terry-brooks

October 28, 2016

So NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, and with Path of the Dragon complete and in editing, I'm ready for a break from the "Rise" world. My next book will be about Mauja and Sigumba, a lioness and the cheetah she adopts.

Most stories with anthropomorphic animals tend to make them monogamous. But in real life, lions and cheetahs are not. When I write about animals, I try and reflect as much of their real behavior if I can. This has been true since the late 1990's, but became far more pronounced after writing the original version of The Windwater Pack. Think what you will of WolfQuest, the site will force you to not go far from real behavior. So, I'm thinking of addressing the reality in Watching Shadows. Here's a list of what I'm considering:

Lions are considered "odd" by other feline species. I assume if animals had human-level intellect like they do in Crystal Prism, then lions, as one of the few feline species to live in a group, would be looked upon in much the same way we as humans look upon cultures that are vastly different from our own. Thus, cheetahs like Kiwara would be at the very least confused by any other feline intentionally choosing to act like one.

Lions do not take matesThis is not to say that lions don't breed, just that they don't really form the same type of emotional attachment to their partners that we (usually) do. "Love is for mothers, sisters, and cubs until they are grown. Fathers, brothers... males come and go. We always remain." I also am not saying that there can't be affection and genuine concern between "mates", but there will always be that tiny voice saying that it cannot last forever. I have not yet fully considered the male view point here, as my main character is female and her background is what I need most.

Cheetahs, also would not take mates. There would likely be some folklore explanation for why brothers stay together and why sisters split up. Perhaps a story of sisters/mother and daughter who got "played" by the males.

The "tear" markings (both the cheetah ones, and the marking Mauja shares with her father) will have legends attached. For the cheetahs, I'm aware of a story about a mother cheetah who cried while she sought her killed cubs, and her next litter bore the markings. Mauja's would be that the mark means the bearer is "special" in some way, and that there's a place they belong if they just follow the directions. I need to work more on that.

So stay turned for updates on that. Thank you for reading!

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Published on October 28, 2016 18:11 • 11 views • Tags: nanowrimo, new-project

October 10, 2016

Who are your favorite authors?
C. S. Lewis - Narnia and "The Screwtape Letters" are a huge inspiration. J. R. R. Tolkien - "The Hobbit" remains one of my favorites. J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter changed how I looked at setting up a story. Terry Brooks - "The Word and the Void" is one series I want to finish one day. Rachel Roberts - "Avalon: Web of Magic" is for younger readers but I still love it. The list goes on.

What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are everything. I wouldn't be here without them, and I know it. If the day ever comes I forget that, someone better knock some sense into me. I know of a few who will.

What do you read for pleasure?
Fantasy mostly. Fanfiction, my friend's writing - some of them leave me feeling like a hack. I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast type stories, for the gentle giant. I read books about wolves simply because I'm the wolf freak. Fiction is my sanctuary.

When did you first start writing?
As soon as I could hold a pencil. I was "telling stories" as soon as I could talk. Most of those early ideas have survived and evolved into the projects I'm working on today.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Honestly, no. I remember lots of books I read around age three and so on, but the biggest impact any book had was just that you could hold a whole world in your hands between the pages. I wanted that power, to take people to the places and meet the people that existed on in my mind. I still fall short but I try.

What can you tell us about your most recent release?
"Mask of the Dragon" has been both therapy and a learning curve. It's a spiritual coming of age, good vs. evil, you hope the heroine can make it through story. Some of the characters made me want to scream as I wrote their parts, they are just that annoying. I'm really pleased with it though.

Can you tell us about your current projects?
Of course. Right now, I'm working on the second book of the "Rise of the Dragonfly" series. "Path of the Dragon" picks up two years after "Mask". Abby's got new problems, one of which is just dealing with the reality of Dominic. After "Path" is complete, I'm considering taking a break from the series and doing one of the stand-alones on my huge list of planned books. I'll see when I get there.

What is your writing process?
Complicated. I start with an idea, then I plan out the story in my head as best I can. Originally I did bullet point lists of scenes. Thanks to a fellow writer I now start with the Freytag Method, then use the Hero's Journey. I'm prone to overthinking every problem and detail sometimes. And I need music. Without a "soundtrack" I usually have issues and the story doesn't turn out as well.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I like to take people and introduce them to people and places I've seen - though they're only in my head. Writing and reading is magic and no one can convince me otherwise.
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Published on October 10, 2016 10:38 • 141 views • Tags: interview, q-a, writing-process

October 8, 2016

I was supposed to be here in July. Oh well. I'm happy to report that Path of the Dragon is nearing complete first draft status. I'm quite happy with it thus far, and hope fans of "Mask" will be too.

NaNoWriMo is coming as well, and as I should be done with "Path", I plan to start a stand-alone then. I'm really going to need a break for the "Rise of the Dragonfly" world when this is over. Have no fear, once the NaNoWriMo project is completed, I'll get to work on the 3rd book.

My November project, at this time, is "Watching Shadows". It's the story of a young lioness who adopts a cheetah cub, and discovers that though she may love him as her own, she cannot prepare him for life without her. Or I might do "Baba and Wana" a tale of wild canines lost in Miami. We'll see then.

That's all for now!
~ Ash
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Published on October 08, 2016 01:30 • 56 views • Tags: path-of-the-dragon, upcoming-release

August 29, 2016

Getting reviews is one of the most rewarding parts of being an author. Good or bad they help you improve. I just wanted to share this review of "Mask of the Dragon" with you all.
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Published on August 29, 2016 09:28 • 13 views • Tags: mask-of-the-dragon, review

June 17, 2016

"This world is beautiful...

Two more years. Just two more years. That's what Abby had kept telling herself and now those two years have come and gone. At age 18, she can finally have a say in her own life. She thought she was prepared for the backlash. She was wrong. But she isn't alone. She still has Dominic at her side, his true nature a comfort and a curse. Her new situation still puts strain on her relationships with the people closest to her. Over and over she asks herself if the freedom is worth the pain.

... this world is dangerous.

It all comes to a head when something she was sure she'd settled rises out of the ashes. Abby comes to realize she's leaned on others' strength for too long. She will have to test her wings if she ever hopes to fly - and learn to bend before she breaks."

In July I will tackle the second book of "Rise of the Dragonfly". Some new characters will be joining the cast, with some old friends too. I hope it will be as enjoyable a ride as the first. I'm still doing some planning via the cast etc but otherwise I think we're set.
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Published on June 17, 2016 11:52 • 23 views • Tags: path-of-the-dragon