#12Months12Books – May

Wow. It’s May. And it’s almost mid-May. That’s really something. The year is not stopping, but thankfully, neither am I. As part of this #12Months12Books, I’m just about ready for May’s release. But, this month is going to be a little different. Here’s why:

I haven’t been broadcasting this enough, but I am actively seeking representation for what will be my first full-scale novel. The book is called The Road to Mars and is a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic story taking place sometime in the latter half of the 21st century. Here’s some backstory: Earth has colonized Mars via some highly advanced A.I., designed by entrepreneurial developer, Marion Perriello. His machines have prepared the planet over several years and after they finish their preparations, people begin their journey to the red planet. Over time, Mars advances rather quickly; discovering new sources of energy before finally declaring its sovereignty from Earth. The Earth doesn’t appreciate this move and prepares to go to war and win back its first interstellar colony. However, it soon becomes clear that Mars is far beyond the Earth, demonstrating its power during a UN conference with invisible ships and other high-tech gadgetry.

The Earth is fearful, but Mars decides to send a messenger, one bearing a gift out of good will and an act of peace. Problem is, the “gift” goes awry and sets off what my story will be calling “The Dark Bomb”: a wave of energy that subsequently takes all of Earth’s artificial light away, leaving the planet in darkness and naturally, utter chaos (as if we didn’t have enough of that all ready). Worse yet, the Dark Bomb seems to have set loose horrible creatures everywhere – monsters which seem to appear to those who have more fear than others. Some can see them, others cannot. And wherever there is fear, clouds of dark energy appear, signaling that fear (or death) is close by.

The novel itself will pick up 40 years after the Dark Bomb’s onset. As one might imagine, the Earth is still picking up the pieces and Mars has all but abandoned mother Earth in the process. However, Mars hasn’t completely left Earth to its own devices. Feeling responsible for what has happened, Mars elects to send its Shepherds to Earth, Mars-born, Mars-bred superhumans designed for rescuing people from Earth. And bringing them to Mars.

One of my main characters, Dr. Darion Wallace, is after a said Shepherd. His obsession is shortly-lived when he finally meets one, but he won’t be the only one who does. And that’s all I’m giving away on that.

So what about May? Well, that’s where the above backstory comes in. I’ll be releasing a short story (a little over 5,000 words) that tells the beginnings of Mars’ colonization. And it will be on Kindle as my May story. Yes, I know it’s much shorter than the others I’ve done, and it doesn’t really constitute as a “book”, but I think it’s well-served considering all the writing I’ve been doing. Plus, I hate when people tell things in reverse, aka releasing prequels after the main story has finished. So if anyone ever asks, I can always say that the prequel was out before the main canon. So there.

Thanks again to all who have read (and are currently reading) what I’ve done so far this year. You’re more than just dollar donors; you’re my inspiration to stay persistent and passionate about what I am doing. So thank you again.

#12Months12Books – April: “Spirit, Run”

This month has been rough. I’ll just throw it out there. I’m officially four months in and this #12Months12Books thing isn’t getting any easier. However, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to re-release this novella, Spirit, Run for the month of April. So here we go.

A little about Spirit, Run, I wrote this story about a year ago and shared the majority of it on my blog. I’d say this was one of my first attempts to do something that wasn’t a full-scale novel. The entire thing felt like a contained story, one that could be told in fewer words than a big, overarching tale. I liked the concept and away I went with it. Ironic considering how appropriate I feel the title has become for what I did with it: run. 

Originally, Spirit, Run was just Spirit Run (hopefully you caught the change there). There was no emphasis added; no comma. I know it may seem ridiculous, but that added punctuation made all the difference. It turned the title into a command. As if the spirit is being ordered to run. That’s what I liked about changing the title. Rather than sounding like a linear tale, one that followed a specific track, it was now left with a greater deal of freedom.

The main character, a spirit racing toward its human vessel, is commanded to run for its target. And it does so under the guidance of three angels; a trio of protectors battling on the soul’s behalf. However, they are unable to interact directly with the one whom they are defending. A real challenge considering the types of opponents they find themselves up against. As for what (or who) they end up fighting against, I’ll leave that up to the reader to find out.

Spirit, Run will be available on Kindle Friday, April 24.

Hope you enjoy.

 

#12Months12Books: March – “Report 439B”

March will be the debut of my fourth book, Report 439B, in this ongoing #12Months12Books challenge (if I’m counting December’s The Scientist’s Dilemma and yes, I intend to). The title itself should be at least semi-intriguing to some, if not alluring. I’m excited about this one and granted, I’m excited about any story I have forthcoming, but this one is really a break from the norm. Whereas my last three titles have been fiction/fantasy with a definitive story arc, this one doesn’t necessarily follow the same set of rules. Here’s why:

Report 439B is a collection of journal entries, presented to the reader as an alien visitor’s assessment of Earth. It’s the beginning, middle, and end of a six-month excursion. One culminating with the traveler’s final report on the planet’s inhabitants: should we (them) engage? Should we leave them (us) alone? And what are their (our) long-term effects on the rest of the universe? These are some of the questions the “alien” will be asking and trying to answer. It’s a break from the standard fiction for me, but I fell in love with the concept and away I went.

As a disclaimer, I put the word alien in quotations for a reason. ‘Alien’ is a term used for more than just cosmic travelers. It’s also used to describe a non-citizen. I know some readers will imagine a tiny being with black eyes and a huge, bald head at the first mention of ‘alien’. And hey, that’s fine. But, I want to encourage those same folks to read this story with a different perspective. What else do we view as otherworldly? Or perhaps as supernatural?

My story’s journeyman clearly comes from a place that’s like Earth, but is also not like Earth. He draws up several comparisons throughout, trying to portray the differences as much as the similarities. Even his interactions among the “Children” are hopefully some strong indicators of what’s at work in this story. I imagine those who read Report 439B will have their own interpretations, but I trust you enjoy taking the journey together.

It’s been fun writing it, if not grueling at times, but certainly worth the struggle. With every new story, I learn plenty about myself. But, more importantly, I learn what other people might be searching for too. Sometimes it’s just a new adventure; a primary goal of any story worth telling.

 

Post-Showcase, More Thoughts

In my last post, I opened up about some things I learned from the author showcase. The environment, the presentation, the reception – all of the good and the bad of what made the experience memorable. And what I need to do to improve for next time.

But, now that I’ve properly digested everything, I want to get down to business. I’ve been self-publishing my work for a couple years and Amazon is my current distributor. Overall, I’m happy to be working with them. The platform is solid and remarkably user-friendly. Those are the pluses. And though I have no aspirations to find an agent at the moment, I’m always open to the possibility of having one.

All that being said, here’s my debacle: talking with others about self-publishing. To any aspiring writer, self-publishing has been sold as “the way to go.” You can “make it big overnight” and do so without the hassle of paying an agent or big publisher. And as I spoke with other authors last Saturday, the consensus was this: “give self-publishing a shot – it’s easy, it’s cheap, and it lets you reach a wide audience, faster.”

I want to address each of these statements separately. And hopefully do so without sounding like a curmudgeon. Here goes:

1) It’s easy. Yes and no. First of all, self-publishing has changed the landscape of the reader’s experience. Aspiring authors can go directly to a mass distributor – like Amazon – and publish a story within hours. This puts their work among thousands of others like it, leaving readers just a search away from finding the writer’s work. That’s the easy part. And it’s the most attractive one to an ambitious writer.

Now, here’s the dose of reality: writing a book is hard. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Most people will tell you, “I have an idea for a story. I’d like to write a book someday.” But, how many people actually go through with that idea? Not many. Why? Because it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to bring an idea to completion. If you want to do it right, you can’t rush your work. Again, this is not easy. I spoke with an individual at the showcase who told me she’d had an idea for a book for the past decade. Yes, a whole decade! Can you imagine beginning a business that takes 10 years to kick start? That’d be asinine. And you’d quickly have to consider other options for your career.

2) It’s cheap. That depends on where you go and who you shop with. Self-publishing was initially touted as the “new wave” for publishing material. A writer with some change in his pocket could search for and pay a publisher to distribute his work. Yes, pay the publisher to mass produce what he’d written. In the old days, agents would seek out hopeful writers. Now, it’s the other way around. And because of that, many publishing companies have become less concerned with the quality of their authors – only the volume. Possessing a large library of clients is far more attractive than one that’s without. Why advertise when you have hordes of people coming to you?

This is a conundrum. And it applies to more than just new and upcoming scribes. Established writers, those born out of the initial social media explosion, may encourage newbies to share work for free. Advising to do so because their success – the writers – was often found through sharing work on a blog or social media site. This helped them gain a following, but it also made them accessible to agents and publishers. As I talked with other authors at the showcase, most people seemed excited to share their work freely while others were holding their cards close to the vest.

As for me, I’m more inclined to believe in the latter. This blog, for instance, is a free service to any who want to read it. And that’s where I want to draw the line. I can share work all day long, but where is my investment meeting my reward? At what point do I break even and stop giving it away for free? Obviously, it’s when you have a few things going for you: the first being a readership, a definitive following that looks forward to every new piece you shell out.

Financially-speaking, it’s cheap to start up a blog or begin a new website. But, what about the time it takes to write one? There’s the daily, weekly, even yearly grind of posting material that may or may not catch the eyes of readers. This can be draining. And unless you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll find yourself at odds with what you’d been originally sold on: write a blog and the readers will come. Not exactly. Self-publishing is not the “Field of Dreams” on the Internet. A writer must be willing to invest deeply in what he’s begun. Success stories crop up after long hours – even years – of trudging through mud to come out looking clean.

3) It lets you reach a wide audience, fast. Am I going to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to this one too? Yes. And here’s an example why: let’s say you’re sitting on a bench, somewhere at a busy intersection, reading your newly hatched story as people pass you by. You’re talking loudly, loud enough for people to hear you, but no one is stopping to ask what you’re saying. So you talk louder. You repeat favorite phrases or lines from your manuscript, looking for a reaction. And let’s say you start to receive some. If the listeners like you, you encourage them to tell others – share what they’ve heard – and trust that when they walk away, they do just that. And feeling encouraged by this, you keep at it. Maybe you set up shop at another park bench and start reciting your lines again – the ones that worked – and stay at it.

This process, if repeated, may warrant some eventual success. You’ll establish a small following of individuals who don’t mind stopping amidst their busy schedule and hearing you for a few minutes. That’s the good news. And marks the end of this metaphor for social media spamming.

Now, here’s the difficult news: doing it all on your own is an arduous, grinding, and oftentimes, tedious task. Marketing a book requires HUGE amounts of attention and time on the part of the author. That’s why I shake my head when I talk with other writers who say, “Once I get a blog going, I’ll be doing it right.” No, actually you won’t. Where is your reading base? Do you have people all ready interested in your work? Have you created a strategy for reaching multiple channels without extending yourself beyond your means? These are business questions a writer has to be asking of himself, and if he isn’t, then he might want to consider another hobby or vocation. Readers just don’t appear over night.

Agents and publishing companies specialize in doing this kind of leg work. Their success, and their paycheck, depends upon how well they reach more than the passerby. That’s a team effort, not just the efforts of one.

Closing Thoughts: This is the longest post I’ve done in a while, but I hope you’ve stuck around till the end. Truly, the self-publishing “explosion” is something that shouldn’t be overstated or understated. Just keep this in mind: the quick route to something worth having isn’t quick, at all. It’s more than that. It’s full of persistence, diligence, and hard work. Self-publishing is merely another tool available for hopeful writers. It could be the future of writing, but it’s certainly not the easiest one.

Bring Your Kindle or Kindle App!

This Saturday, March 7 from 2-4 pm, I’ll be showcasing my latest ebooks at the Cuyahoga County Library in Parma, OH. I’ll be one of 44 other local Cleveland Indie authors getting to showcase work to an open audience. That’s a cool thing.

And hey, it’s a free event.

There will be a few other self-published writers speaking, but hey, you should totally come and check out my booth regardless. Just sayin’.

And oh, did I mention it’s free?

Here’s a link to register for the event itself if you like. Otherwise, hope to see you at my booth. With a mobile scanner ready.

 

“A Dinner with Titans” – The Heart of the Matter

In my last post, I talked about my February title, A Dinner with Titans. It’s all a part of the #12Months12Books challenge I’m undertaking. I feel one part inspired, one part insane. And I’m doing my best to stay on the inspired side of things rather than drifting into the insane section of “unachievable goals.”

But, here’s the deal: I’m excited. A Dinner with Titans is a story I’ve been working on for a little over a year, rotating through several drafts, and finally arriving at the one I’m about to let loose. As I’ve stated before, it’s a story about the hearts of people and honestly, I can’t think of a better analogy for the heart than a castle. You’ve got your defenses; you’ve got your high towers of solitude; you’ve got your isolation – the works. But, you’ve also got your beauty, your strength, and your safe haven. All the things that sum up the human experience from a heart perspective.

I’ve tried my best to do the analogy justice. It was no easy task and I’m sure when I read it later, I’ll be wanting to add more. There’s just so much ground to cover and within the context of a single fiction, it’s hard to tackle it all. My main character, “Caretaker,” has to do just that.

However, the big question I’m after is this: what is it about our hearts that make us want to protect and give them away so willingly? That’s where I’m going with this story.

Why and how do make these decisions. Why do we let some people in, but shun others? And how do we deal with the pain when it comes our way. My Caretaker has to make these choices throughout and I’m hoping the reader can relate to each of these in his own way.

 

 

#12Months12Books – February: “A Dinner with Titans”

A Dinner with TitansFirst off, much thanks to Diane Zizka – the one responsible for this cover piece. Thank you for your talents and hard work! It was much appreciated. I can’t do anything with watercolors. You’re a pro.

Now, onto the book itself, A Dinner with Titans.  Here’s a quick synopsis:

My February story follows a young man, Caretaker, who owns a castle in the wilderness. Everything’s fine except for one thing: he is surrounded by Titans, huge beings that destroy castles (like the Caretaker’s) and rule the land outside his walls. Over the years, the Caretaker has watched others fall and crumble, leaving him lonely and cut off from the world. But, the Caretaker makes a bold move and lifts his doors for one night – to host a dinner. For the Titans. His goal is to somehow make peace with those who might threaten his castle. But, when he opens his doors, he encounters something terrible. Not just the Titans themselves, but something sinister that has been eating away at his castle for years.

Okay – as you can guess, this story is a fantasy. But, I’ve written it as an analogy for the human heart. The Caretaker lives alone, behind his walls – guarded and afraid; fearful of being overtaken by the ‘Titans’ – the people we idolize or aspire to be like. His past experience tells him to keep his distance – to stay safe inside his castle – but his real enemy is not what’s outside his walls, but what’s inside.

When I was high school, I was asked to bring in an object representing love. I brought in a tiny paperweight. One that was shaped like a castle (terrible, right?) and honestly, I had no good explanation for it. But then I had to tell the class my reasoning, and I remember that presentation ending quite well; lack of preparedness and all. The ‘home is where the heart is’, but in my story, it’s a castle.

Looking back, I never dreamed I’d actually write a story about that concept, but hey, I’m a believer now.

I’ll have some more stuff to chew on with the next post. Till then.

#12Months12Books

I’ve started a personal campaign to write and publish 12 books in 12 months this year. Yikes, right? I would invite anyone else to join me, if they wish. Or take it as a challenge too. Much of this decision had to do with a desire to share my work more. And do so on a consistent basis. The rest came during some reflections over the past year.

In 2014, I did a lot of writing behind closed doors. Rather, I did a lot of experimenting. I started about 20 short stories, finished nearly half of them, and by year’s end, I published one of those of short stories. By the numbers, that’s not incredibly bad. But, if I were to continue this way – following through once every 20 times I began – it wouldn’t bode well for me in the long run. I’ve recognized I need greater discipline, specifically in bringing things to completion. This challenge will help me become better in that arena, I feel.

Or cause me to have a nervous breakdown by August.

No matter – I’ve started off 2015 on the right track. As I’m typing this, my January story is done and released –  The Color of Soul – and February’s title, A Dinner with Titans, is on its way to a final edit. Here’s my hope and prayer to stay the course as I head into March, April, and beyond.

Good to luck to those who are facing their own challenges this year. #12Months12Books, here we go.

Brotherhood – “The Color of Soul”

My latest ebook, The Color of Soul, is a story about two brothers. Sometimes, I feel like that’s all I need to say about it. When you’re talking brotherhood, you’re talking a unique arrangement. It’s a predetermined connection; started at birth and continued for life. And it doesn’t matter if you like the arrangement or not. You’re “stuck”, but you’re also incredibly blessed at the same time (and for the record, the same can be applied to those with sisters too).

In my life, the term ‘brotherhood’ has real resonance. For starters, I have five brothers of my own. All ranging from mid-forties to early twenties; me somewhere in the middle. With so many faces, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. But, the company around you is eerily similar. It’s like looking in a mirror and seeing some of you, but not all of you. You see much of your own self in them, and conversely, they get to see so much of themselves in you. My brothers and I share plenty of familiar interests. We share certain viewpoints, beliefs – even mannerisms. And that’s not including how much we look like alike! But, at the end of the day, we’re different men. Each with his own life; his own trials; his own challenges to face.

Which brings me to this story. You see, I have brothers ahead of me, but I also have brothers behind me. I’ve been the “big brother” a long time, but I’ve been the “little brother” much longer. I know what it’s like to look up and see the next in line. I saw my older brothers with a golden lens and I wanted to be like them, if I could.

When I got two younger brothers, things changed a little. I found myself wanting to return the favor. I wanted to share interests, share insights, and ultimately, share life. Just as I had with my elder brothers. I didn’t know it then, but I’d come under a strange burden: being a big brother.

As an older sibling, you tend to feel a sense of guardianship. It’s not as demanding as being a parent – that’s a truth, but it’s a place where you can learn what it’s like to look after someone. And it’s completely voluntary, too. You can make the investment in your younger siblings, or you can choose not to. It’s really that simple.

My characters, Curtis and Fin, share a mutual investment with one another. They are brothers, yes, but their journeys are vastly different. And each brings that journey to the table; literally and figuratively in this story.

So here’s hoping you enjoy. The Color of Soul is now available on Kindle.

The Color of Soul – January 24, 2015

The Color of Soul

In keeping with my book-a-month challenge, I’ll be releasing another ebook this weekend, The Color of Soul, on Kindle. And yes, the black and white cover was intentional.

This one is shorter than last month’s, The Scientist’s Dilemma, and follows two brothers who have sat down to craft a story together; two creatives bouncing ideas off one another, making something original, and using plenty of color to do so. Told through the voice of the elder brother, Curt, this was a story I literally wrote in about two weeks. I’m not short-changing the effort, I just wanted to tell a story between brothers. I have five of them myself. It’s an interesting dynamic and I’ve enjoyed it greatly. It felt good to touch on that in this short story.

What’s more, I wanted to produce something simple. Something that was original and something that was unique. I feel this story does some justice in that arena so I’m pleased with that.

I’ve always been intrigued with how color affects mood. Each has a specific feeling attached to it. The brothers point that out rather poignantly throughout. Right down to the core.

Since it’s a shorter story, it moves along rather quickly and my hope is that people can read it in an hour or two. But, if it takes you longer, then that’s just as well.

Moving forward, my other hope is to have The Color of Soul in audio format. So as I prep for February’s next release, I’ll be working towards my first audiobook. Much thanks to my friend, Kris, who has been schooling me in audio training. It’s clearly been needed and I’m grateful.

More to come on that later, but for now, The Color of Soul is slated to be available on Saturday, January 24. And for those who read The Scientist’s Dilemma, there are a few “easter eggs” in The Color of Soul for you. Enjoy.