Saturday, May 31, 2014

A wonderful idea and a few updates...

Okay, so I've definitely been quite busy lately, but I figured I might as well give you all a few updates on what's going on. Because I love you like that. :)

First of all, I came across this fantastic text-based role playing game called 100 days of Syria. The author designed it as a way to inform others about what's going on in the country. The game is interesting because it is historically accurate, educational, and entertaining all at the same time. Basically, my flavor of writing. But it definitely got me thinking...because I've always been a fan of video games (whether I have the time to play them anymore is another story altogether) and especially the role playing kind (RPG's). I don't have any skills whatsoever when it comes to writing code or graphic design, but I can write (keep telling yourself that, Julius). And so, I think that I'm finally ready to marry my love of games and writing together.

I want to create a text based role playing game of my own.

I haven't decided yet whether it's going to take place in one of my books (kind of like a supplement to a novel), or whether it will be its own thing (which I'm leaning toward). Either way, I would create a massive world in which it's kind of like a choose your own adventure, and I think that it would be really, really, cool. It's like being part of your favorite novel for years on end. Can you imagine? I would love to be part of a text based adventure game by the original author of one of my favorite novels. Now, this is a long way off because I'm not going to release this "game," until I have a premise and PLENTY of material already created, written, edited, etc. So it might be a while...

However, I am in the planning stage, so if you have any ideas or suggestions, feel free to leave it in the comments below. I'm open to all ideas because I have yet to make any kind of final decision.

In other news, Book #3 of the Angel Story Saga should be out at the beginning of July, and it's going to be a doozy. I've been waiting to write this one for over a year now so it's long overdue. If you don't know about this particular series, you can pick up the first installment for FREE, here:

Did I mention that it's free? 

I did? Okay, moving on...

I'm also in the process of ensuring that all of my titles have paperbacks (slacking, I know), and that I'm keeping a more organized focus on what novels need to be written and in what order. I'm thinking of adopting the sequel then an original work model then a sequel model. That way, I can continue to update my ongoing series and trilogies (Upgrade, I'm looking at you), without shunning anything that I've been dying to get out of my head. Well, that's it for now! I hope you're having an awesome weekend!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Unfinished Song (Book 1): Initiate by Tara Maya

Hi everyone! I'm pleased to have Tara Maya making a stop today on the blog! She's written a book that is both exciting and action packed! Oh, and it's also free on Amazon! I don't know if I mentioned that.

Anyways, here is some information on Tara's book!


Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her... assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

Blue-skinned rusalki grappled Dindi under the churning surface of the river. She could feel their claws dig into her arms. Their riverweed-like hair entangled her legs when she tried to kick back to the surface. She only managed to gulp a few breaths of air before they pulled her under again.

She hadn't appreciated how fast and deep the river was. On her second gasp for air, she saw that the current was already dragging her out of sight of the screaming girls on the bank. A whirlpool of froth and fae roiled between two large rocks in the middle of the river. The rusalka and her sisters tugged Dindi toward it. Other water fae joined the rusalki. Long snouted pookas, turtle-like kappas and hairy-armed gwyllions all swam around her, leading her to the whirlpool, where even more fae swirled in the whitewater.

"Join our circle, Dindi!" the fae voices gurgled under the water. "Dance with us forever!"

"No!" She kicked and swam and stole another gasp for air before they snagged her again. There were so many of them now, all pulling her down, all singing to the tune of the rushing river. She tried to shout, "Dispel!" but swallowed water instead. Her head hit a rock, disorienting her. She sank, this time sure she wouldn't be coming up again.

"Dispel!" It was a man's voice.

Strong arms encircled her and lifted her until her arms and head broke the surface. Her rescuer swam with her toward the shore. He overpowered the current, he shrugged aside the hands of the water faeries stroking his hair and arms. When he reached the shallows, he scooped Dindi into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to the grassy bank. He set her down gently.

She coughed out some water while he supported her back.

"Better?" he asked.

She nodded. He was young--only a few years older than she. The aura of confidence and competence he radiated made him seem older. Without knowing quite why, she was certain he was a Tavaedi.

"Good." He had a gorgeous smile. A wisp of his dark bangs dangled over one eye. He brushed his dripping hair back over his head.

Dindi's hand touched skin--he was not wearing any shirt. Both of them were sopping wet. On him, that meant trickles of water coursed over a bedrock of muscle. As for her, the thin white wrap clung transparently to her body like a wet leaf. She blushed.

"It might have been easier to swim if you had let go of that," he teased. He touched her hand, which was closed around something. "What were you holding onto so tightly that it mattered more than drowning?"

Tara’s blog
Tara’s Twitter
The Unfinished Song on Facebook
Barnes and Noble

Initiate is free everywhere except on Barnes and Noble (where it’s $0.99). You can download a free .epub version via Smashwords.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What the Amazing Spider-Man 2 teaches us about having multiple narratives

A problem that some writers struggle with is how to develop compelling multiple narratives within their story. This might not be as big of an issue for those delving into memoirs, and it may not apply a whole lot to other non-fictional pieces, but for most fictional authors, it is a very necessary and important skill.

The Amazing Spider-man 2 attempts to have multiple narratives, and while it doesn’t fail completely, the movie as a whole would have benefited more from a tighter direction, less subplots and a more focused, in-depth analysis of their characters. Without spoiling anything, and to give you an idea of what they attempted—the movie contains seven plots and subplots, and three villains, all while trying to shoehorn in big action set pieces (which is a requirement for any summer blockbuster). Although the movie is 2.5 hours long, it doesn’t reach its full potential, and this is a lesson we can learn for our own writing.

If a story has multiple main characters, then each of those main characters has to grow in some way. This takes time. There are plenty of fictional books on the market with a single main character, and the books can range anywhere from 200 to 350 pages plus. If another main character is involved, and especially if they haven’t already been established in a prior volume, they have to be given ample time to grow into whatever external and internal conflict the author has placed upon them. As the author, one can remove this “growth factor,” but it is almost universally required by authors, readers and critics that a story must have it.

If there are any villains in the novel, they must also be given enough time to develop as well, although this time can certainly be less if any of the following apply: the story is a mystery, the villain will be “revealed (not developed)” over multiple installments in a series, or there’s some kind of twist, like the hero ends up being the bad guy. Other than these instances, the villain must be developed to contrast the hero, so that the reader or viewer knows just how high the stakes are and how much the hero will grow from a victory. The three villains in the Amazing Spider-man 2 are all introduced pre-transformation, “birthed” as a villain, and given time to fight Spider-man, all in the same movie. During this runtime, there’s also romance, internal conflict, a couple mysteries, other action scenes, etc. It’s the equivalent of putting too many ingredients into the mixing bowl.

So how does one combat this problem? How do we as authors write multiple narratives and still maintain the integrity of the work?

The first answer is length. You cannot set a limit on how long a book must be if there are multiple narratives. Not at first. Editing comes later, but even then, you must be careful not to shortchange any main character’s growth. The Amazing Spider-man 2 was 2.5 hours long, but to accomplish what it set out to do, it more than likely needed another hour. Look at multiple threads done right. George R.R Martin has roughly ten characters in Game of Thrones, each giving their point of view, but the book is also more than 800 pages long. Ample time is given for the proper character development. Each character was approached as if they had their own separate book/story, and therefore it works. Keep in mind that these books were also edited. That means that the 800 page plus monstrosity could have easily been 1000 pages or more pre-edit. However, in order to maintain the development of each character, the final product was still long.

The second answer in handling multiple narratives is cuts. Simple is not always a bad thing. Every author should examine their characters for how they add to the story, regardless of how much their creator loves them. Would the novel benefit with their deletion? Should they be saved for another time? These kind of questions can also be applied to memoirs and autobiographies as well. Focus on the most powerful characters and experiences. That will be far more impactful than adding in every little detail. A good thing to always remember is that if a character or plot point is not adding to the story, it’s taking away from it.

In the end, it is up to the author what is included and what is not, but once it is out in the public, there is no turning back. There is a phrase that goes, “kill your darlings.” It means that no matter how much you love something in your story, you have to give it an objective glance before publication. More times than not, you’ll find out that the quip, joke, character, or monologue you loved so much, was exactly what was hurting your narrative the most.

So kill your some of what you love most.

Before critics kill your reputation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The hard road to self-publishing: Is it for you?

There is a well-known Greek aphorism that goes a little something like this: “Know Thyself.” And if there is anything that an aspiring self-publishing author should know, it is exactly that. At a first glance, self-publishing appears simple. One could easily take a few pages from a Microsoft Word document and throw it up on Amazon within 48 hours. But this doesn’t mean sales will follow.

All best-selling books have a bit of luck attached to their origin story (unless, of course, you already have an 
established fan base such as James Patterson), but the rest of one’s success relies solely on the information an author’s provides to the reading public. This requires a massive amount of time, energy, and expertise that often takes the author away from his or her writing. Expertise that many publishing companies have already figured out.

For example, knowing the search engine optimization words (or SEO) for a book could be the difference between being seen by hundreds or thousands. Selecting a category for your book might seem simple at first, but how many self-publishing authors know about the little details of that particular category? Is it a niche category that brings few readers? Is the category so popular that your book will be lost in the white noise? Is your book truly a self-help or could it be more akin to an inspirational? Do you know your readers’ mindset? Are they the type of readers that focus on the quality of your advice (the content), or the fact that you missed a comma in the fifth sentence of your prologue? These are just a few matters that have to be taken very seriously.

Self-publishing also requires a critical and excruciating look at your own work, forcing the author to be as objective as possible in order to stand out from the crowd. This is a very dangerous situation as authors usually only get one chance to make a great first impression to the public. Family and friends are encouraging, but no true success comes without the support of strangers. And in order to impress strangers, the work has to be more than just a great piece that you poured your heart and soul into. It has to be immaculately edited, given a fantastic book cover, a tantalizing synopsis, the proper categories, great SEO, it has to be priced correctly, promoted well and most of all, given your undivided attention.
This requires hard decisions to be made, including being able to scrap a project completely if need be, no matter how precious and dear it is to you, and especially if your goal is to garner as many readers as possible.

You must know yourself. You must be honest, and ask yourself if you have the time, discipline and determination to accomplish your goal, even if it requires decades to achieve. Establishing your platform as a self-published author is the equivalent of raising a child. It’s that extensive.

Though publishing houses take a royalty and may charge for their services, the fact of the matter is that they have already done the research and legwork required to give a work of literature the best chance it can receive in an already convoluted market. From a first glance, they can take a look at your work and immediately give an assessment of its potential and marketability.

In order for a self-published author to achieve the same level of expertise, they will have to put in research hours equivalent to that of a full-time job. Considering that most authors cannot afford to write full-time, the best option for many is to reach out to a publishing house or agent for help—to both make their book a success, and to relieve the burden of the business. This is not to say that an author cannot make it in self-publishing. They certainly can. They just have to grasp the magnitude of such a decision and understand their limitations.

As more and more authors self-publish, it is getting harder to make a name for yourself in an already saturated market. In order to rise above the tide, there has to be something that gives authors an edge. And so far, the only available paths to success are these: an unwavering dedication to all aspects of the business (not just writing), or finding a publishing house that can meet all of your needs.

Know Thyself, and Choose Wisely.