OFFICIAL: HIS ONLY STAR RELAUNCH


CoverI’m excited to announce that my YA book, His Only Star, is being relaunched! The book has been combed through and given a stylish new cover to really highlight this tragic story.

His Only Star is one of my personal favorite books of mine because it really has the most of me in it. When this book was initially published, I recall saying how I’m convinced I was a different person when I wrote that. Something about this story really flowed and resonated with me, and, while I’ve loved everything I’ve written, I really have a certain appreciation for this book. Creating it was a unique experience unlike anything else I’ve written, and that’s why I’m so excited to share this new edition with you.

His Only Star isn’t your traditional boy-meets-girl story. You won’t find pages of swooning internalization and longing for love. What you will find is a dark edginess to a tragic love story. You’ll find a love of books, music, and a character’s loyalty to someone he loves, who he fears may never love him in return.

Praise for His Only Star

Release_0“The story was simple, engaging, exciting and tragically human. Definitely worth a read.”

– J.S. Collyer, Author of Zero

 “The story is poignant and emotional, and it’s one of those texts that stay with you long after you read it.”

– Karen Rought, blogger

 “The physical and emotional struggles encountered by the characters are tragic, yet real-life.”

– Fille Guillaume, blogger

“Well-written & great story-telling.”

– Deb E., author of Healer’s Touch

His Only Star is set to be re-released March 1, 2015. Don’t miss out on a great story, and be sure to add it on Goodreads!

Creating Characters: Defining Moments


This month’s Creating Characters is not only wildly off schedule (still getting used to parent time), but it’s also not necessarily just about creating a character. It’s about the defining moments that make a story what it is. The little details that suck you into the world and set the stage, the time period, the person.

For example, I was struck with inspiration (Thanks, in part, to Britt Skrabanek’s post “Thursday Night,” which you should absolutely check out) for the introduction to a short story. The only information I had were the details of the first sentence as it flew through my brain:

Toes curled over the edge of the cliff, little else matters.

This doesn’t tell us much, aside from it’s a person standing at the edge of the cliff who is struggling with something. I had no idea whether this character was male or female, or when this story was taking place. But the curiosity of the defining moment didn’t hit me until a few sentences later. At this point it was just me enjoying the flow of the words as I scribbled them on my legal pad. But as more of it emerged, the questions began to beg in my mind about who, what, and when.

Toes curled over the edge of the cliff, little else matters. The white-capped waves below crest to their peak before slamming into the jagged rocks. How very like life. I close my eyes as the wind whips across my face, my body, whipping my

Right there. The first defining moment. Whipping my what? Dress, perhaps, for a woman. Pants, maybe jeans? It could be trousers? The language, the right word needs to be used to fully define the time period here. The language defines the era, maybe even the precise year, but it’s necessary to suck the reader in.

I close my eyes as the wind whips across my face, my body, whipping my crimson dress about. Soft and smooth, it reminds me of the blood smearing between my toes, on the bottoms of my feet, and dripping from my fingertips.

More is defined here. The blood could define multiple things. It’s been established that this character is a woman, but the blood could be from many things. Maybe she’s wounded, or perhaps she partook in some kind of bloody tragedy. Maybe she’s a doctor or surgeon of some sort now standing at the cliff’s edge. It may not define the character or the location or the time period, but it creates that defining mystery that keeps the reader enticed.

…dripping from my fingertips. Between the blood up to my elbows and the cloth around my body I feel like I’ve turned inside out.

What does the act of the character feeling turned inside out define for you?

Winter and Writing


I have a pretty significant dislike for the cold. The bracing chill accompanied with freezing wind makes for a less-than-pleasant outdoor experience. Not to mention the time it takes to bundle up in scarves and hats and gloves and coats and whatever other layers are required to ensure I don’t lose a finger to frostbite (I know, I know, I live in New York, I should be used to it by now).

But, all complaining aside, I still have an appreciation for the aesthetics of  the cold season. I appreciate the blanket of snow shimmering in the sunlight. The dark trees beneath a cold, gray sky, once resembling life, then vibrant color, now are bare to show the final cycle of life. A dim farewell to the season. However, when the snow does eventually fall and cover those empty tree limbs, it almost disguises them with a sort of beauty that makes the idea of death–of and ending–okay. Like a thin, glinting veil over our eyes to ease the despair that may come with such finality. It creates the idea that an absolute, crushing end might be a little less final if we can see past the bare emptiness of it. A preservation of life that will eventually return if we can find something to help us hold on.

As a writer, it’s my responsibility to not only tell a good story, but to show one was well. Example: the idea of winter symbolizing death, but showing that we are capable of moving on from it and finding ways to cope with it (Hopefully I did that well). It’s my job to try to make you see something in a way you hadn’t before, or to feel a certain way about a point of view, an experience, a lifestyle that maybe you hadn’t considered. It’s my job to evoke emotions and feelings about fictional characters and trick you into thinking these are real people with real problems who, if they don’t deal with them, will suffer from catastrophic repercussions.

A key aspect of accomplishing my job successfully is descriptive writing. Unfortunately, it’s also something I’ve been a bit lacking in. Not that I struggle to get my point across, but I’ve never been one to go into the deep, minute details of each scene, every minuscule point of a character’s face, or every minutia of a person’s feelings. I’ve been told my writing somewhat resembles Hemingway. To the point. No messing around. Nothing unneeded. It’s just the story and the reader. No fluff. And while that’s well and good, and, well, a bit of an honor, really, it’s not entirely what I want my writing to be. Certainly we don’t have much control over our voice. It develops into what it is, and I don’t think there’s too much we can do to change it. However, I think we’re capable of altering it to some degree.

Our voice is kind of like the roots of our writing. We see what other writers do, how they describe something, tell a story, and why it’s working, and then we try to blend it with our own. Like little word thieves, if you will. Of course you could argue that those influences are the roots of our voice, and with practice our voice then becomes fully grown. But, stick with me here. If our voice is indeed the root of our writing, then those influences, paired with the grueling practice of writing, can then develop our voice into something great.

But once we find our voice (again, a counterargument could be that we never actually find our voice, but instead we just hone it to the best polished product it can become), are we able to change it? I think so. I think we can never lose that essence–the roots–of our voice, but it’s certainly able to be altered. We’re always getting better at writing, no? Every time I look back at an old piece of work I can’t help but cringe a bit because I see all the ways I could’ve written that scene better or told that person’s story in a more dynamic way. In order to do that, in some cases, I need to write more descriptively, which is something I have been working on.

My next work, Wasteland Gods, is currently in the beta reading stage. It also took me close to nine months to write. Taking that long to write something, to me, is both good and bad. It’s good because, well, that was nine months of me gradually becoming a better writer, meaning I can put out a better finished product. It’s bad because taking nine months to write a book means the beginning is almost inevitably far worse than the end, strictly from a technical standpoint. Eventually, however, when I did finally reach the end I was able to go back and read through the draft, adding in all sort of cool details and writing tricks that I had developed over those months, making the work stronger. Of  course it involved some chapter rewriting and extensive edits–all part of the revision process, of course–but in the end I was quite pleased with how it all turned out.

All of this is to say that our voice is important to constantly develop as writers, and this happens without us knowing. But if we actively work to get better, noticing our actions and how our writing develops, then we are absolutely on the right path to really doing something immense and meaningful with our writing.

If you’re still here, you’re a trooper. And thank you for reading.

Classics Kick


Since my declaration of decreased social media, I’ve decided that I need to read some more classics. The only real exposure I’ve had to them is what we were required to read in high school, and most of the time I didn’t do the required reading. I think there comes a certain level of reading maturity that we have to hit before we can appreciate certain books, and I just hadn’t hit it then. But now I’m more eager than ever to read them.

I have mixed feelings about the classics from a writing standpoint, one of which being that in order for us to keep up as much as possible with current writing trends, reading something as old as the classics won’t really keep our writing current. However, there is so much to be learned from reading the classics.

Classics teach us the tricks of the trade. They show us such exemplary fundamentals of writing, themes, and characters, and they often touch on such important topics that I think are often overlooked in today’s fiction of vampire romances. (On a side note, it’s interesting that, for me at least, comparing something to vampire romance books seems to be becoming a cliche.)

So, to start off my classics kick, I read Of Mice and Men, which was one of the books I think I read most of in high school, in its entirety Monday. One of the things I especially enjoy about classic books is that many of them have interesting introductions by professors and people of literature who briefly analyze and provide some insights into the book, which are fun to look for while reading.

Along the Erie Canal.

Along the Erie Canal.

That leaves me with yesterday’s read. It was unusually warm, and the wind had been especially strong, but I couldn’t just sit in my apartment. Across the street, over a narrow trail line by two rows of trees, is the Erie Canal. Since my wife and I moved here in February, I’ve taken many walks alongside the Canal, weather permitting. There are paths on either side of it with benches and picnic tables and grills, so it’s really a nice spot that doesn’t get a ridiculous amount of traffic. I enjoy sitting and watching the boats, and oftentimes there are ducks passing by, so it’s really a peaceful spot to sit and, most recently, read.

So, yesterday, I went out and began my next classic read, The Scarlet Letter, which I’m enjoying. I’m told, mostly from the back cover, that it reveals a lot about the influence of New England’s past on American attitudes, which is something I recently got into. It’s interesting to see how the past influences the present, and can sometimes show the origins of present behaviors. Also, from what I read in the preface, this book was fueled by the death of Hawthorne’s mother, which apparently gave him a new sort of look at writing, and it launched him into an inspirational sprint unlike any he’d had before, since he’d somewhat unsuccessfully relied on writing short fiction.

Now comes the part where you can help! I’ve got my stack of classics, and I’d like for you guys to either recommend which book I read next and/or tell me which ones I need to get–as I know I’m really lacking good, classic books.

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The book on the very bottom is a biography of Emma Goldman that I had to read for an old college history class but would like to re-read. I just happened to grab it with the rest of the classics collection.

The list includes:

  • Of Mice and Men
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Wuthering Heights
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Which classics are your favorite? Do you think classic books are still relevant in today’s constantly changing book marketplace?

All it Takes is the Right Story (Oh, and a Ton of Hard Work)


I’ve been told on several occasions that all it takes to “hit it big” is to tell the right story.

“All you need is the right story and you’ll be famous,” they tell me.

“All you need is the right story and they’ll make it into a movie,” they said. “Then you’ll be rich and famous.”

As if it’s just that easy. Bang out the “right” story and you’re golden. No, literally. You could have a gold statue of yourself made because you’re rolling in book and movie money.

That has me wondering: what is the “right” story? I mean, I’ve published several novels and no one has offered me butt loads of money or a movie deal, so does that mean I’m writing the wrong stories? Does that mean my stories aren’t good? My characters are weak? My themes are rotten?

You know what? It’s beginning to sound like this writing thing has a bit more to it than just telling the “right” story. It sounds a bit like it takes time and effort to carefully craft brilliant characters, a perfect story line, suspense, action, adventure, romance, danger. And, in the end, you may only end up selling ten copies. It’s perfectly plausible that you may write the “right” story and still end up on your ass with no money.

In fact, sometimes–and I really do mean sometimes–it seems like you will inevitably end up on your ass with no money, no matter how hard you worked on that book.

Before I became a writer, I would read a book and have no idea how much work went into it. How many months–sometimes years–went into the writing, editing, revision, publishing, and marketing process. I just read the words, enjoyed the book, or not, and went on my way. Granted, I’d done my fair share of writing. But I’d never completed a book, nor had I looked into what sort of process it took to create a finished product and distribute it to the masses. As far as I knew, the author just hammered it out, gave it a once over, and off it went to the world.

I was one of those people who believed you just wrote it, and if it was good you were set for life. I understand where people are coming from when they think all it takes is the “right” story to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. And yet that still doesn’t make it any easier when people say it to me now. Maybe it’s just the human condition to get aggravated when someone makes light of the writing process–of my dream career–or maybe it makes perfect sense. Whatever the reason, I understand that it takes really getting into the craft of something to fully understand how it works, and the complexity of every part of it.

People are so quick to generalize something or write it off because people are successful at it. As if it’s the easiest thing in the world. When in reality it takes much more hard work than people think, and even after all that hard work it seems as if luck plays the biggest role out of all of it. Sometimes it takes the right person seeing it, the right cover, or the right description. But I believe that “right” stories are written all the time. Just as “right” covers, descriptions, and people play roles in the book process and even then sometimes nothing, or very little, may come of it. But it’s become clear over the years that writers don’t write for the fame or the money, they write because they have to. Because they don’t want to stop, no matter how many terrible reviews they get or how famous it makes them. Writing is fun. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It makes me want to scream. But I love looking at my bookshelf and seeing my name in print next to so many others, and it just further reminds me why I keep at it.

WASTELAND GODS: COVER REVEAL


It’s interesting how much things can change when writing. For those of us who don’t plot out our novels–and I’m sure that even for some who do–things can change in a flash as the story unfolds. Character motivations can change. Characters themselves can change. Plot, personalities, history, everything can change so quickly, and sometimes that requires us to change things around.

This realization that something needed to change has been growing for a few days now. I was telling my wife about the recent happenings in my current work in progress, DEADGOD. I told her about some characters’ plans and their roles in the novel, along with what they’re going to eventually come to realize. How they’ll change, or arc, if you will, and what they’ll learn. She then said to me, “I don’t think that title fits anymore.” And me, still enjoying the name DEADGOD, tried to find a way that the title still fit the book. Mostly because I’m so horrible at coming up with names that I didn’t want to go through the pain of trying to think up a new one. However, as I was thinking about my characters and their current situations yesterday, I eventually came to realize that, once again, my wife was right. While DEADGOD fit one of the characters, it didn’t fit the overall theme of the book, nor did it fit the other two main characters’ personalities.

That’s when the struggle began. My characters had morphed into something I didn’t think they would. As their roles in the novel became more apparent, their actions and beliefs changed, and somehow I had to think of a title that encompassed all of it, along with a brand new cover to go with it. I tossed around this name and that name, writing it down on the old cover to see how it looked, trying out various fonts and colors in the editor to see how it blended together. And, finally, with the help of my friend, Karen, I settled on a name that I really enjoy, and I hope you will, too.

So, at long last, feast your eyes on the brand new cover and title of: Wasteland Gods

Cover_C

Click to view larger

There is no hope in the unforgiving wasteland. Only the starved, withering Insurgents. The insane, cannibalistic Roamers. Slavers, Raiders, and death await in the sweltering heat.

The Koval Republic, a utopia filled with clean water and food, shelter, and protection. A land saved by politicians, greed, and ignorance. A republic that looks down upon the Insurgents, offering no help or remorse. Instead, they lay siege to the Insurgent’s meager settlements, hoping to wipe the mongrels from what remains of the planet.

Anton, a religion-hating Insurgent in a world void of faith who only hopes for salvation from the wasteland seeks freedom and fairness.

Claire, a soldier of the Republic, banished to the wastes, struggling to survive. Begging to return to her old life.

Roland, a soldier like Claire, taken in by bloodthirsty slavers who aim to bring democracy and the people’s voice back to the world.

Who will live long enough to see if redemption can be brought to the wasteland, and who will buckle beneath the crushing force of the Koval Republic, and the crippling dangers of the wasteland?

Coming 2015!

 

DEADGOD: Understanding the Theme


Progress on my current WIP, DEADGOD, has been pretty slow as of late. I’ve really only been working on it about once or twice a week, maybe contributing 300 – 1,000 words on any of those days. I used to attribute it to my large course load during my final semester of college, which had me writing a lot of pretty big papers and reading a lot of texts. But now I don’t have any of that. I have my degree, but I’m still working on getting a full-time job. I have an abundance of free time, which also means I’m not making much money (Although, if you’re inclined to help me out then click on one of the book covers to your left and pick up a copy of one of my books!)

However, I’ve had what appears to be some sort of revelation the past few days. When I started DEADGOD I wanted to write some kind of book about cultural, religious, and social tolerance. I wanted to make a social commentary on American culture, seeing as how that’s the one I’m most familiar with, and show how intolerance can shape the world into an awful place. In order to do that, I created a religiously intolerant character in a world with one remaining religious man. I had a concept, and I knew how I wanted this religiously intolerant character to arc and learn from his behavior, but there was just something missing on my part. Something wasn’t driving me to tell this story. Part of it was because I really wasn’t pushing myself to sit down and write, which I can only blame on myself. But I think I’ve realized that I had a basic idea of the theme I wanted to convey in this novel, but I hadn’t really figured out how I was going to show it.

Now, as some of you may know, I write a column entitled Maglomediac in which I study and analyze various media. I think this has really helped me to understand the themes I want to tell in this novel and nail them down. When people think of the word media, most often they think of the news, meaning that I’ve been taking a look at it more on a cultural level–why it’s happening, to whom it’s happening, is it a result of some kind of social stigma? pseudo-environment? and things of that nature–which has allowed me to see it on a deeper level and apply it to my writing.

I now have some of the tools to be able to show the ideas and themes I want to portray in this book. By showing religious intolerance, political and religious zeal, and some of the concepts and ideas that are common today, which one could argue are contributing to a sort of devolution and backwards thinking in society, I can show why we need to correct these behaviors. Or, at least, I can show why I think we need to correct these behaviors.

After finally unearthing the deeper ideas about what exactly I want to show with this novel, not only have I been motivated to create the characters and world needed to show the themes I want to convey, but it has definitely made the writing stronger, too. It has given me a further look into the characters motivations and beliefs, and I can see much more clearly now why these character think, act, and speak the ways in which they do, and I think it’s making my novel really strong, and when it’s finished it will certainly

Snapshot Fiction


There’s something really exceptional about flash fiction, specifically those pieces ranging from 100 to 500 words. To be able to setup characters, plot, setting, and make a reader care about what happens is a remarkable talent that I envy. I’ve never dabbled much in flash fiction as I usually end up coming up with an idea that spans much more than a few hundred words. More often than not the idea turns into something novella or novel length.

Many of these ideas also end up coming to mind when I’m in the middle of a longer project. I believe they call those plot bunnies; those shiny ideas that beg you to step away from your current project and take off on a new adventure with exciting new characters and places and conflicts. However, if we succumbed to those plot bunnies all the time we’d never get any work done. So, something I find that helps me out when the plot bunnies come call is to write down what I call snapshot fiction, or a snapshot in time taking place in this new idea. Sometimes it’s a bit of dialogue and sometimes it’s an ending. But this sort of helps to get the idea out of my system so I can focus on my current project.

And now, (hopefully) for your entertainment, I’d like to share a few of my snapshot fiction pieces with you.

The stone tower looked fondly over its handiwork as the bodies of those brave men, void of souls or what once rest within them, lay scattered on the ground. Corruption had been a mere toy with which the tower played, and the sweet taste of blood sustained it until more arrived.


He looked at me with hopeful eyes and a faint smile, weary with fatigue after so many years of adventure and strangeness. A man, once a merchant barely scraping by, had become a man of fortune. A man accustomed to a certain way of life gained only by spilling blood and taking whatever he pleased.

“I’ll always cherish what you did for me,” he said. “Above all else. Gold, alcohol, leisure. The courage and drive you’ve inspired in me these past months are something I’ll treasure. Thank you.”

I dared not share in his smile, though his words reached a deeper part of me that had not been unleashed in some time.

I nodded to him with a grim expression and grasped the wooden handle beside me. The man before me, my friend, swallowed hard, and I pulled the lever, dropping the floor beneath him. He fell hard, reaching a jerking stop as the rope around his neck snapped the bones with a sharp crack. And my friend was dead.


I hope you enjoyed these brief snapshots in time. I plan to post some more of these as they come to me, and perhaps they’ll help you to come up with a story of your own.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments!

DEADGOD and Writing on the Topic of Religion


Religion is a heated topic that is discussed and killed over every day. It’s something that seems to be gaining media attention every day, at least here in the states, what with discussion about religion in schools and places of business, and debates about whether separation of church and state is actually being followed.

That being said, my current WIP, DEADGOD, has a fairly heavy religious theme in that there is only one remaining man left on the planet who still believes in God, and he is not well liked. He is looked down upon in what remains of society in this post-apocalyptic world, and, even though he is not the main character of the novel, he does play a pretty large role.

This troubles me to a certain degree mainly because a lot of my personal feelings about religion and society are coming out in this novel, but they are also, in most cases, substantially exaggerated. I also know a lot of people who are religious, and some of the resulting artwork from this book is coming out in a way that may seem troubling to them or other religious individuals. Part of my reason for writing this is to encourage people to remember that while I put a certain amount of myself in everything I write, that this is a work of fiction. I am an extremely tolerant individual, and the last thing I want is to offend anyone. The point of this novel isn’t about bashing those who are or aren’t religious. This novel is about acceptance and finding ways to cope with disaster. It’s about coming together, and it may take a truly serious, humanity-crippling event for people to realize that. That is the point of DEADGOD, and I really hope that when it’s finished, you pick up a copy and give it a chance, because I believe it will really be something worth reading.