When Evil Isn’t a Thing in a Book

I love stories. I love that we create stories. I love that people inspire others by their stories. I love it when hard work, brilliance, and timing all come together to make something special. I spent the day watching the original Star Wars Trilogy and enjoying the heck out of it.

star wars

But later this day, people starting killing other people in France. I know killings and evil happen every day, but I’m generally disconnected from “The News.” I don’t like to ingest a lot of the negativity of the world. But sometimes the news is so bad, it bursts forth everywhere.

Evil is not a “thing in a book.” It’s a thing in our hearts.

And it’s polar opposite about what I love about humanity. We create. Our creations then inspire other people to create. And all that creative sharing leads to a better understanding and a true love.

God creates

Creating things is what God does.

We get to share in his own prerogative. We get to create our own fictional stories as well as our own personal story. I can think of no greater privilege than that.

When we destroy and kill, though, we undo the best of what it means to be human.

It makes me hate humanity. It makes me to sympathize with the Devil’s claim that humanity is not worth saving.

I love evil in a book. It’s known to be evil and is conquerable. When Evil is not a thing in a book, it’s scary, and cries out to God for a response. God, however, has made us the stewards of each other, which makes me realize how bad a job we’ve been doing.

A New Year, A New Project – Upheaval

Now that The Stitcher is finished and published, it’s time to get to work on the next book.

UPHEAVAL

What if there were a creature living in the earth? What if all life on earth was born from its dreaming, and all world-wide destructive events were triggered by its waking up?

Gage is a fourteen year-old “delver,” recruited by the government to unearth relics of a past age which enjoyed greater technological capabilities than his own. With the help of his friends he finds the secret behind the Upheavals the world is experiencing: The creature is waking up! And to make it worse, his own government is doing everything they can to stop Gage from saving the world.

This novel is designed as for middle-grade readers, and its size is estimated to be 35,000 – 45,000 words.

Current Progress: 8,000 words. Lots of work to do!

What do you think of the concept for the story?

Learn to Write by Watching YouTube – My Top 5 Virtual Writing Coaches

If there’s one thing the internet does right, it’s allow you to learn to do basically anything you want. “How To’s” are just as much a part of the internet as funny cat videos, and they’ll actually give you amazing value.

When I decided to complete my first novel, I wanted to get as much background as possible before making too many amateur mistakes.

Today I’m going to share what I consider the best of the best that youTube has to offer for amateur writers learning the craft.

1. Ellen Brock.

Her channel is infrequently updated, but the content she has posted is priceless. Her video on “filtering” saved my novel from one of the biggest issues that would divorce the reader from my character, and it was a problem I didn’t even know existed until I saw her video. She is clear, succinct and her blog fills in a lot of the gaps in her videos.

2. K.M. Weiland

There are two things I understand about K.M. Weiland and one thing I don’t. First, she presents a constant steam of excellent writing advice on youTube, Twitter, and her blog, and second does so with amazing professionalism. The thing I don’t understand is why her youTube channel seems so undiscovered. The view counts are way too low for the level of content she provides! Plus, how the heck does she do all those videos with no jump-cuts? Damn!

3. Joanna Penn (They’re all going to be women aren’t they?)

When it comes to interviews on any writing topic under the sun, Joanna Penn is the gold standard. What makes her videos different from Ellen and K.M. Weiland is that Joanna’s tend to be closer to an hour than 3-5 min. I find that it makes her videos particularly good to watch while getting some cardio in on the stationary bike. She provides a wealth of free information and truly walks the walk of being an indie-author and professional creative.

4. Katytastic

Kat O’Keefe is a “BookTuber” who is also an aspiring author. She’s written and queried many manuscripts, but remains, as far as I know, unpublished. Which saddens me just a little, because her enthusiasm for the craft of writing is so inspirational. Honestly, I’m not a BookTuber watcher, but her nanowrimo video vlogs always get me in the writing spirits. Often when I just don’t feel like writing, I fire up one of her nanowrimo vlogs and after 8 minutes, I know what I have to do: Sit down and “get those words.” So grab a cup of coffee, a prepare for a little fun-crazy-time with Kat.

5. Mandi Lynn

Mandi Lynn is another BookTuber and author. She has a unique story in that she wrote her first novel at a very young age (13 y/o) and over the course of high school, had it professionally edited, re-wrote it some huge number of times, queried it, and decided to self-publish and video document the whole journey. It makes for a hugely interesting series with some great advice and recommendations along the way.

Tally them up…Yup, all of them are women. Does that say something about me, the internet, or writers? I don’t know, but surely I left someone off the list. Who am I missing? What great youTubers are there consistently churning out great writing advice/motivation?

Evil Spy School – Book Review 4/5 stars

Evil Spy SchoolEvil Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will always buy the next installment of this series, and this is an excellent example of the reason why.

The reason? These books are just so much fun!

I mean who wouldn’t want to be a spy at the age of 14? Then to go undercover and work for the bad guys? Beat up bullies at middle school with martial arts training? So much wish-fulfilment, you can’t not have fun with it.

And that’s where this book does right where the last book misfired a little for me. This book is all about Ben Ripley. He’s the main character from start to finish, and he’s awesome. Spy Camp, in my opinion, placed him strangely as the first-person narrator of another person’s story (Erica Hale).

But this one is near perfect.

With a new location at “Evil Spy School” we get to meet some new characters. Ashley and Nefarious were great additions and I loved them both. They had good backstories, although one of them felt a little flat.

The book had great suspense, which was easy given that most of it is a giant undercover plot with the fear of always getting caught.

And that’s actually where things went a little south for me. This is the reason for 4 instead of 5 starts…

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

The part where Ben gets uncovered as a double-agent doesn’t feel right. There is no way he should have been able to escape that situation. If the bad guys rigged the elaborate trap just for him, you’d have expected they would’ve also rigged a more idiot-proof way of catching him. It took me out of the story a bit.

That nit-pic aside, I loved all the extras added to the end. It was a great way to round out the book.

I’m already eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

View all my reviews

Chapter 1 of – THE STITCHER – Preview

Cover for Chapter 1

Erik admired the way his little brother could smile through his bloodied face.

Ozzie received a beating with all the regularity of a clock striking twelve, but this time it actually came at midnight. Ozzie crushed stalks of wheat as he fell, but he jumped up and struck back. He was no match for Jonas though. Ozzie was only eleven; Jonas was fifteen. And with four more years of hard farming labor, Jonas’s arms were twice his size and impacted his body like an axe to a tree. Jonas’ fist drove into Ozzie’s gut and he dropped to the ground again.

The skin on Erik’s face burned. His stomach clamped every time his brother got beat, mainly because it was his fault. If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t be there. He dug his hand in his pocket, found his rock and squeezed. There was no chance Erik could best Jonas, but Ozzie was all he had left. He released the stone and lunged at Jonas. He beat his fat stomach, but it was like hitting a gorilla. Jonas grabbed Erik’s arm and twisted. Erik shouted and dropped to his knees. Jonas kicked his stomach. The air shot out of him. He rolled into a ball on the ground and choked for air.

Continue reading

Write a Novel in a Year

New-Year_Resolutions_list

I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’d started and stalled many times. Everybody has excuses. Most people claim they don’t have the time. I was one of those people, too.

But last year I did it, and this year I want to do it again.

Here’s the plan I followed to write the book.

1. Plot out the four major sections of the book. I used the book, Story Engineering as my story structure guide.

2. Make a New Year’s Resolution to write the book and write 20 minutes a day every day.

3. No..really, get off Facebook and YouTube and write!

4. After a while, email the WIP (work in progress) to yourself, read it, and fix some plot inconsistencies (edit)

5. Patiently persevere until it’s done!

That’s it. It’s not complicated. But it is a lot of hard work. At times you’ll hate what you wrote and want to quit. KEEP GOING! At times you’ll have an idea for an even cooler story. This happens especially when you’re getting bored/tired with your current story: IGNORE THAT AND KEEP GOING! Sometimes you’ll let weeks and even a month go by without writing. RESIST the URGE to QUIT and KEEP GOING!

motivation

What prevents your from writing (or accomplishing anything you want to achieve)?

The Paradox of Leisure – or – Why I Do More with Less Time

Shocking news: When you have a baby, your life changes big-time. Baby_Roger Okay, not so shocking, but as a new parent, I didn’t know what to expect. And really once the baby came, it was a fairly straightforward roller-coaster. Feed baby, change baby, try to sleep, try to eat, and put that on a loop.

With all of this going on, I didn’t want to lose my identity. Sometimes I felt like a human-machine, whose sole purpose was to nurture this new baby. I didn’t like that feeling. I want(ed) my life to have merit in its own right.

I’m not saying that I should have felt that way or that it was a reasonable way to feel (after all, the kid will grow up and become less dependent on me), but at the time I wanted to have something that was just about me. And wow did that sound egotistical!

That’s where writing came in. It’s an absolutely personal endeavor (at first). And now we get to the point.

I became more productive under time stress because the time stress was so absolute it made me want to grab in desperation at whatever I had left!

When I was a bachelor I had so much time. And because of all that time, I was more of a consumer than a creator.

But now that I have a wife, child (and another one on the way), a full-time job, and schooling of my own, I cherish the time I get to work on “my own things” more than ever, and because of that, I wrote my first book, and am knee-deep in my next one. Case in point, I’m writing this while my throw-up-sick-kid is taking a nap.

What about you? Ever feel the same way as I did, or am I just a ego-centric weirdo?

Bad Stories #1 – TMNT 2014

Anyone growing up in the 80’s and 90’s remembers watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon shows and movie-adaptations.

Megan-Fox-and-the-Ninja-Turtles-in-TMNT-2014

I recently watched the Michael Bay reboot of TMNT, and as a storyteller I was assaulted by problems that made me cringe.

But first a disclaimer. I know TMNT is not Citizen Kane. I know it’s cinematic cotton candy. I’m aware that compared to the original series, it is equally silly.

My problem is in use of LAZY plot conveniences.

Alright, let’s get down to it. Shredder comes to the Turtles’ lair and captures 3 of the 4 in the best fight-scene the movie has to offer (which, sidenote, it doesn’t feature enough of). April stabs Shredder in the back and “hides.” Shredder tells his cohorts to destroy the place and leaves with the 3 Turtles. They blow the place up.

All of this is fine. But then next scene April is free. Okay, maybe I missed something, but why didn’t she get captured by the Foot Clan or hurt in the explosions? She stabbed Shredder in the back, you’d think he’d want to get her too. Whatever, fine, that’s the least of my worries here, because how does Raphael find the others?

BY USING A FUNCTIONING COMPUTER SYSTEM IN THE VERY PLACE THAT WAS BLOWN TO HELL.

Donatello feels the same as me!

Really? C’mon.

Cut to our bad guy explaining to the other three Turtles exactly what his plan is, when it’s going into effect, and where (and even killing one of their own men to explain his evil plan to us *I mean the Turtles* – because that’s who he’s explaining it to, right…the Turtles?)

Of course they get rescued (which is fine) and know exactly where/when/how to stop the bad guy (not fine). I know it’s a cliché to explain the evil plan to the going-to-be-elaborately-killed-hero(es), but it’s a cliché that has no place in this movie.

I’m honored to give Michael Bay’s TMNT the first ever EXAMPLE-OF-BAD-STORY-TELLING award.

Which book/movie do you think I should award next?

How to Market a Book – Book Review

How To Market A BookHow To Market A Book by J.F. Penn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joanna Penn’s book on book marketing is full of helpful information. She doesn’t promise quick fixes and miracle marketing tactics that will help you “sell 100,000 books in a month.” She’s not interested in lying to you, which is what I appreciate about her.

That said, she does give advice for multiple avenues of book marketing, depending mainly on what kind of marketing styles you would be comfortable with. This will be a great reference book for me when I finally finish/edit/edit/and-edit my first novel. I’ll come back to it again and again when I wash/rinse/repeat for my second, third, and fourth.

No writer writes so that no one will read their work. I highly recommend Joanna’s book, website, and youTube channel if your interested in publishing, self-publishing, and generally getting your work out there and read by actual people! Wouldn’t that be great?

View all my reviews

Book Trailers – WHY?

35mm_movie_negative

YouTube “Book Trailers” and you will find something startling. Movie-like quality trailers for books! What? You don’t find that strange?

Well, I do. I didn’t even know such things existed until I started reading about marketing my novel.

And that made me think. If I didn’t know they existed, how useful could they really be in helping to market a book? Especially unknown peasants like me who can’t pay actors or have super-snazzy editing.

The answer is, I don’t know how useful they are, or what people on no budget should do.

But what I do know is this: Making a book trailer is fun and let’s you do something that you can spread out on social media that isn’t an annoying spam message whacking people over the head to “BUY MY BOOK!”

So that’s what I did. I couldn’t afford Morgan Freeman to voice over the video, so I decided text would suffice (you can pretend Morgan Freeman is saying it if you want)!

Without further ado, go get yourself some popcorn and enjoy the show (all 52 seconds of it!)