Star Wars: New Script, New Titles

For those following my Reboot the Prequels project, Episode II is available to read now!

Hit that hyperlink, go to the landing page, and check out Attack of the Empire.

Attack of the Empire

And if you’ve been following along, you might have noticed I changed the title of my Episode II. Originally, it was going to be called The Dark Lord of the Sith. I’ve also changed Episode III from Fall of the Jedi to Return of the Sith. Why?

The titles changed between drafts. As A New Menace was born of a portmanteau of The Phantom Menace and A New Hope, so too is Attack of the Empire a linguistic blend of
Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back (while Return of the Sith sits between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi).

I felt these new titles more clearly stated my goal: Return the Prequel Trilogy to the tone, feel, and world of the Original Trilogy.

Interested? Head over to my Reboot the Prequels page and check it out for yourself.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? 

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The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

This is a blog post that I originally wrote for the website Serious Reading as part of promoting PATHOGENS. Side note/plug: PATHOGENS just received a coveted 5/5 from Awesome Indies reviewers, so if you haven’t checked out my latest book, do that too.

Without further ado:

The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

“Know Thyself” was the command inscribed at Delphi by the ancient Greeks, who arguably invented the drama and the tragedy.

“Pigeonhole Thyself” is the advice given to today’s dramatic writers, words which some would argue are a tragedy.

The idea is to pick a genre, find a niche, and build yourself a lovely summer home there. But is this advice for good or for ill? Let’s flesh out the pros and cons and find out.

branchingout
“Branching Out” by ATWhim on Etsy.

PROS

Marketability. Far and away the biggest tally mark in the “pro” category, setting your writing within the confines of a single genre can help make lifelong fans. After all, readers who loved your heartwarming WWII love story might not enjoy your vampire detective novel. But if you’ve got a Civil War love story waiting in the wings? It’s that much easier for them to click the “buy” button on Amazon. It’s the same logic behind the advice, “write a series, not multiple stand-alone novels.” Brands sell. Agents think this way, publishers think this way, so why not writers? You’ll need to wear all three hats if you’re going to make it in the era of self-publishing.

Honing Your Craft. Writing and reading, that’s what will make you a better writer. Lather, rinse, repeat. And guess what? If you write, read, sleep, eat, and excrete RomComs, you’re going to get better and better at that genre.

Be memorable. Stephen King is a name that can give people goosebumps. Why? He’s a master of horror. That’s what he does, and he does it well and consistently. If you want to make a name for yourself, it might be worth doing the same.  

kyle_-_branching_out
“Branching Out” via Martian Chronicles blog.

CONS

Marketability. Yes, it can be marketable both to stick to one genre or to diversify your portfolio. The market is fickle like that. If you write only Sci-Fi novels, a thriller fan might never discover your books. But if you wow him/her with your murder mystery, they might fall in love with your writing style and seek out your other books, regardless of the genre. By casting a wider net, you open up new possibilities. You want readers to fall in love with your writing, not simply to take advantage of the love they already hold for the genre.

Passion. If you love reading children’s books, slasher fiction, and comedies, why can’t you write all three? Although, to avoid angry parents, you might want to do a nom de plume for one of the first two, lest the kiddos accidentally cross over. But the point is—writing should be fun! That’s why we all do it, or at least why we started. Write what you love and love what you write.

Conclusion

I’m bringing it back full circle here. The right answer? “Know Thyself.” Weigh the pros and cons, discover your own motivations, and pick what’s right for you. What motivates you to put butt to chair and fingers to keyboard? The prospect of sales? If so, you might want to take the hardline marketability approach. Or if you have a story that needs to emerge, but it’s not in your usual genre, write the damn thing. A book written with passion is so much more enjoyable to read than a book written out of duty. Your readers will notice the difference.

As for this author? I’ve tried to do a little of both. My Click Your Poison series hops from genre to genre, yet each book “feels” like it’s part of the same series. My goal is to have fans/readers pining to read what I want to write, not to be a writer who tries to write what I think readers might like. I love writing my books. That’s the first step in finding fans who love to read them.



Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? On the money of off-base?

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What I love (so far) About Living in the UK

I’ve been living in England for two months now and I’m in love. I wouldn’t want you thinking it’s been all sunshine and rainbows (though, I’ll let you know when I see either), so I already got my early complaints out of the way.

Now, onto some of the good. It’s deep into winter and the short, cold January days are in full effect. So, like Julie Andrews, these are just a few of my favorite things:

The green
Yeah, it rains. A lot. But guess what that means? Greenery! While I love the mild weather of California and the seasonal changes of Colorado, nothing is more droll and dreary in winter than a brown countryside. Just look at this photo taken in the dead of winter:

Pastoral in the extreme, if such a thing is possible.
Pastoral in the extreme, if such a thing is possible.

The footpaths & walking
As my friends and family can begrudgingly attest, I am a walker. My favorite form of transportation is my own two feet. In fact, one of the top considerations I look for when house-hunting is an area’s “walkability” score. I asked if there was a similar system here and I received some pretty confused looks. Why? Because just about every place you can live is walkable to something or other. In fact,  the farmer’s fields are criss-crossed with public access trails known as “public footpaths.” I’ve just purchased an ordinance survey map of my area so I can explore all the ones nearby!

A lovely hike with an even lovelier lady.

Dog lovers!
We’ve had to do a bit of travelling with pets in-tow, but what a great place to do it. Oh, you have a dog? Sure, she can stay in the room. Bring her in the pub for dinner! I was blown away when our doggie was invited into a historic cathedral hundreds of years old.

Don’t mind me, just taking the dog for a walk…

The history
There’s a story around every corner here. Whether it’s the neighborhood we’ve settled in, which claims to be the oldest parish in England, or the Roald Dahl museum down the road, there is so much to see and explore. I popped my head into a castle when we were visiting Lincolnshire and, oh what do we have here? Just one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta!

I could get used to this.

The localism
Sure, there are chains (yes, McDonald’s has a foothold here), but so much of everything is local. From the pubs, food and ale, to the shops and community events. You can really tell this country has village roots. Each town has a “High Street” where you’re sure to find shops and food of all sorts.

Sometimes you'll find a misplaced Victorian timetraveller.
Sometimes you’ll find a misplaced Victorian time traveler.

The literary connection
Sure, they invented the language, but there’s more to it than that. Being near the birthplace of the classical masters, where this is a High Profession, brings out the creative spirit. Check out my visit in Oxford:

The people

Perhaps it’s because I’m a charming American (and I am certainly one of those things), but I’ve found the people here to be friendly and open. Sure, I’m not living in downtown London, but it’s nice when your neighbors say hello and you can make new friends just by sitting in the pub. To you, new friends, thanks for making a foreigner feel welcomed!

That’s it for now. Guess I’d better head out and make some more favorites…


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Lessons: Empire Strikes Back

Continuing yesterday’s A New Hope post, I’m proceeding with my breakdown of Star Wars for the impending writing exercise where I Reboot the Prequels.

I have to say, after viewing Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, with a critical mindset…this might just be the best sequel ever made.

giphy1

Stream-of-consciousness notes follow:

-Fun worlds + using the local wildlife = magic
-Probe droids are efficient.
-Danger, always danger
-Chewie and R2 didn’t need subtitles, nor did they need to speak English. Keep that in mind.
-Significant events have transpired between movies. Characters and relationships have changed without us seeing it, but it works. This is how you achieve the gravity of growth.
-Conflict, conflict, conflict!
-Swears: hell, blast
-Seeing someone learn to use new force powers is exciting. Use this tool sparingly.
-Rebel personnel are everything, Empire personnel are expendable
-“Bounty hunter on ord mandell” and “ears off a gondark” –plenty is mentioned that we don’t see or even understand, yet it works
-Vader didn’t even need to be in the same room as the Admiral he force-choked! He did it during a teleconference! That’s huge!
-Vader is patient…except when it comes to incompetence
-Ion cannons can take out a Star Destroyer, but it doesn’t stop the invasion
-Things that are new to us are not new to the characters. Speeders, Walkers, etc
-TV screens for short range comm, hologram for longer
-Obi Wan had plans at the ready, Luke improvises. Use this characteristic for Anakin.
-Did the Special Edition really add a single AT-ST to the battle? Lame.
-Snowtrooper uniform is legit.
-Heroes barely win. Losses on both sides. Tense battles put our favorite people in jeopardy, not a lot of expendables
-Vader’s meditation pod is legitimately cool. But is it because he was “promoted” since the last movie? Perhaps he’s outside of the Imperial command structure. A Lord, not an officer. Was attached to the Death Star while on his own mission to recover the plans. Now he leads the mission to crush the rebellion/capture Luke.
-Yoda testing Luke while playing the fool is too cool. Don’t ruin this. There is a way to keep this surprise. Does Yoda need to be in the prequels? What if Obi Wan mentions his old master’s wisdom, but Anakin thinks Yoda is more of a teaching metaphor, and not someone who truly exists. We never see the green little dude. And certainly never see him fight with a lightsaber.
-“Who will Leia end up with?” is the original love triangle. Make your own romance as interesting.
-We don’t even see the Emperor until this movie, though he was mentioned. We don’t need to cram every character in every movie
-“Was I any different when you trained me?” This implies that young Obi Wan was temperamental
-“Adventure, etc. A Jedi craves not these things.”
-All hero dialogue is either an argument, humor, or both
-“Jedi use the force for knowledge and defense, never attack.”
-Why is there a domain of evil (cave) on Dagobah? Is that why Yoda is there? To balance out an evil place?
-Imperial officers don’t like bounty hunters, but Vader doesn’t care.
-“No disintegrations.” Have a scene with disintegrations!
-“No ship that small has a cloaking device!” So…big ships can cloak, eh? Interesting…
-The force will show visions of the past, the future, friends. Moments of strong connection.
-“No, there is another.” — Planting seeds of a reveal in the next movie, daaaaaaamn
-Seems like all the heroes in these movies start off hating each other.
-“I love you, I know” has to be the best line ever
-Vader wants order, that is his ultimate goal.
-Vader as Luke’s father is the best reveal of all time. Is there any way not to ruin that if someone sees the prequels first?
-Luke literally watches his lightsaber fall from the floating city…
-It’s a dark ending for the rebellion, but they state their plan for the future. There’s a way forward.

That’s it for now. Up next, Jedi!


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Is this really the best sequel of all-time?

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My B

I pay a professional editor and scour my manuscripts before publishing, and still I make mistakes. Who doesn’t? But that’s part of why I love writing — mistakes can always be edited — even in a book that’s been published for years.

A few months back I had a reader write in and tell me about a “turn to page xyz” paperback error, where Z was one number off.

How many people had seen that and ignored it? Letting me know means I can fix it. And for that, I’m always grateful.

Which leads to my most recent mistake.

I found out via a 1-star review of MURDERED. Read for yourself:

beww

No writer likes a bad review, but I’m glad I got this one. It gave me the chance to fix it. Yet, I still haven’t heard back from that reader, and so I still haven’t been able to fix things with that reader. (If you’re reading this, please contact me.)

And if YOU find a mistake in one of my books, please don’t ignore it. I want to know! I might even make it worth your while…

In fact, I certainly will. That’s “My B” — An open bounty on errors! Find a mistake, let me know, and you shall be rewarded.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? How do you react when you find an error in a book? Have you ever found an error in one of mine?

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Hazmat Team Inbound!

men-in-hazmat-suits_100435

Please excuse the mess! PATHOGENS will be published later this month, and in the meantime you’ll see me building the relevant pages on this website to coincide with launch.

Speaking of which, if you don’t want to miss out on the exact moment the book is available (along with some details on how to get the book for FREE), I highly recommend you sign up for my mailing list, which you may do here.

Other than that…move along. Nothing to see here, people. Just a routine posting. Nothing nefarious.


Thanks for reading! Now do us all a favor and scream with giddy excitement.

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PATHOGENS Cover Reveal

This is a post I’ve been sitting on for a while now. After all, there is no established, “right” time to reveal a cover for a new book and I’ve been struggling to find that perfect moment. My cover artist, Brian Silveira, has been dying in slow agony as I’ve waited to reveal his epic artwork. I wanted a moment with some gravity, and I suppose this is it.

I’ve gained feedback from multiple sources (some of you might be reading this now, I suspect), and used those notes to make the book a more compelling read. Thank you, Beta Readers, I am incredibly grateful for your time and diligence.

Now the rewrites are completed and the book is off to my professional editor. Once she’s done, it’ll go to formatting, the book will pop up as a pre-order (for about a week so I can finalize the product page) and then — BOOM — you’ll have PATHOGENS on your favorite reading device.

For now, let me knock your socks off as Brian did for me.

The final Final Final Pathogens 1
Click Me for Full Size.

Cool things you might notice:

  • This is by far my busiest book cover. Aside from the fact that Brian Silveira is a master of detail (plug: he has a graphic novel out now), this is also my busiest book. Six characters to play through, each with tiny details that relate not only to the other storylines, but also back to INFECTED and the larger Click Your Poison universe. I wanted the cover to say, “Get ready: Madness inside.”
  • The fact that the cover is actually a lab door. You see, “the company” was a major aspect to the first book, but now you’re getting a deeper look –and one that goes far beyond the lab itself.
  • The Gilgazyme inhaler on the floor, the mouse on the foreground and the mice eyes in the lab. It’s all already happened. I don’t think of this book as a sequel or prequel to INFECTED. More of a spin-off. A sister book, if you will. The events in PATHOGENS take place after INFECTED has already begun and end before that book concludes.
  • The rebar from the explosion looks a lot like clawed hands.  In my last interactive zombie tome, your primary enemy was the undead themselves. That’s still the case here, but you’ll also have to deal with a (perhaps) larger threat: the death of civilization and the evil in men.
  • The colors evoke a sunset. Yep, goodbye mankind. It’s up to you, Dear Reader, to help these characters survive another day.
  • The hospital symbol in the rear. A small detail, but many of the events circle around this location.
  • The melting clocks. The cover for INFECTED was a riff on Salvador Dali’s famous Voluptuous Death image, so I thought it only fitting to find inspiration in another Dali classic: The Persistence of Memory. Check out some comparisons:

Thanks for reading! What do you think of the cover?

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Last-chance: PATHOGENS sneak peek

Editing COMPLETE

Last month after I finished the first draft of PATHOGENS, I sent out a call for Beta Readers.

Well, my edits are complete and the book is ready for feedback! If you already volunteered, your character is waiting for you in your inbox.

Want to get in on the action? It’s not too late! Hit me up on my contact form. All you have to do is send me your top three preferences for which character you’d like to read. You’ll find a short description of each character in PATHOGENS below.

PS — If you’re not into feedback, here’s your update: PATHOGENS should be in your hands sometime in August or September!

Sims

Technical Sergeant Robert Sims, National Guardsman and electrician in the greatest Air Force in the goddamned world. Divorced, no kids, fourteen years of service given to your nation thus far. You’re a “Prepper” (a dedicated survivalist), and you’ve been looking forward to the zombie apocalypse for as long as you can remember. Your unit was mobilized and now you find yourself at the tip of the spear.  When it comes to idioms you’re not the smartest crayon in the box, but you’re an electrical genius.

Cooper

Kaeden Cooper, known as “Kay” to your friends. Daughter of a NASCAR driver who turned to the bottle and lost his shot at stardom. You’ve since done your fair share of racing on the motorbike circuit, but it’s still very much a man’s world, and no one wanted to give you sponsorship unless you posed by the bike in a bikini. Instead, you turn wrenches for a living, working for the weekend until you can ride again. Little do you know that this shift under the hood will be your last. Soon the world will learn it’s those who know how to change their own oil that will survive.

Tyberius

Work nights at the call center, days at the bank. Sleep? Yeah, right. It’s all you can do to provide for you and Mama, who lost her own job in the recession. She still hopes you’ll find a nice girl and settle down, but you’d settle for an apartment in the better part of town. So you use any spare moment; while eating, even while shitting, to take online courses on a smartphone, angling for a promotion at the bank. But all that effort is about to be in vain when the global economy tanks in 3, 2, 1…

Rosie

Smart, cute, spunky redhead. 17-year-old high school student. Your father is a combat-veteran Marine and you work weekends at the family-owned shooting range. Sarah is your real name and truth be told, you’re more interested in boys and music than you are bug-out-bags and MREs, but you play along for dad’s sake. Ever since mom died he’s had a hard time and he’s not the type to get a pedicure so for quality time you learn about pyrotechnics. Unfortunately, Sarah’s world is about to end and you’ll have to fully embrace his training to become the “Rosie the Riveter” of the apocalyptic wasteland.

Lucas

Lucas Tesshu, middle aged man who handles crisis with the same serenity a stone handles the river. As a child of Japanese immigrants, you’ve lived much of your life as an outsider, making solitude a revered mentor and friend. As a Kendo instructor and master of swordplay, you’re more than capable of defending yourself, but as a disciple of Bushido, you are committed to helping those in need. So the question becomes: Can a man unable to leave someone for dead still survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

Hefty

Poor as dirt, good ole southern boy. Thin as a rail, and yeah, the nickname is ironic. Known to the State as inmate #: 080620-06. They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but you can cook some up in your kitchen using a few household ingredients as fertilizer. Like literal fertilizer, for one. But you’re over that now, clean, back on the straight and narrow, and ready to be a productive member of society once you get released from the Big House. Which is about to come early, courtesy of the Apocalypse.


Thanks for reading! Excited? Ready to start reading?

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‘TESTIMONE’ hits Italy!

My second Click Your Poison novel, MURDERED, is now making a splash on the Italian shores as the translated edition, TESTIMONE.

Give Catnip Edizioni a like, check out the beautiful cover art, and if you know any Italian readers, send them this way:


Thanks for reading! Have you ever read a book that was translated from the author’s native language into your own?

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A Call for Beta-testers/Readers

PATHOGENS is currently in editing and once I’m done I’ll need your help.

This is by far my most ambitious book, featuring six playable characters each with their own point of view and unique storyline. Which is why, for the first time ever, I’m opening a work-in-progress for early reads and feedback.

I’ve hinted at “something big” in my monthly newsletters for a while now, and this is it. The official request will come in a newsletter later this week, so if you haven’t signed up for the mailer yet, make sure you do.

nurse_icd-10
Tell me, how did being devoured by the ravenous undead make you feel?

Interested? Sign up for that mailing list! Not the feedback type but still want to follow along? Sign-the-eff-up already!

No, I’m not going to give you the whole book. Frankly, that would leave me constantly sending “Are you done yet? Did you hate it? Is that why it’s taking so long?” follow-up emails and nobody wants that.

Instead, I’m going to ask for your top-three characters, so that way I can spread the feedback love around. Here’s a sneak-peek of the book’s first choice. Who would you choose?

PATHOGENS

Unlike other Click Your Poison™ books, this is the first one where you don’t “play” as yourself. Instead, you can choose a character and see how that person survived the initial outbreak from their own perspective. Think of this page as your “character-select screen” in this gamebook.

Each of these characters first appeared in INFECTED, but you don’t need to have that book memorized (or even have read it, truth be told), to enjoy PATHOGENS. Instead, pick a persona and learn their story as only one who experienced it truly can.

But beware—since these characters appear in another book, if you take the wrong path and end up bitten, mangled, or dead, you’ll rip the very fabric of the space/time continuum and your adventure will be over. Good luck!

Sims

Technical Sergeant Robert Sims, National Guardsman and electrician in the greatest Air Force in the goddamned world. Divorced, no kids, fourteen years of service given to your nation thus far. You’re a “Prepper” (a dedicated survivalist), and you’ve been looking forward to the zombie apocalypse for as long as you can remember. Your unit was mobilized and now you find yourself at the tip of the spear.  When it comes to idioms you’re not the smartest crayon in the box, but you’re an electrical genius.
Select Sims

Cooper

Kaeden Cooper, known as “Kay” to your friends. Daughter of a NASCAR driver who turned to the bottle and lost his shot at stardom. You’ve since done your fair share of racing on the motorbike circuit, but it’s still very much a man’s world, and no one wanted to give you sponsorship unless you posed by the bike in a bikini. Instead, you turn wrenches for a living, working for the weekend until you can ride again. Little do you know that this shift under the hood will be your last. Soon the world will learn it’s those who know how to change their own oil that will survive.
Select Cooper

Tyberius

Work nights at the call center, work days at the bank. Sleep? Seems like a distant memory. All this in an effort to provide for you and Mama, who lost her own job in the recession. She still hopes you’ll find a nice girl and settle down, but you’d settle for an apartment in the better part of town. So you use any spare moment; while eating, even while shitting, to take online courses on a smartphone, angling for a promotion at the bank. But the worst part? All that effort is about to be in vain because the global economy is about to tank in 3, 2, 1…
Select Tyberius

Rosie

Smart, cute, spunky redhead. 17-year-old high school student. Your father is a combat-veteran Marine and you work weekends at the family-owned shooting range. Sarah is your real name and truth be told, you’re more interested in boys and music than you are bug-out-bags and MREs, but you play along for dad’s sake. Ever since mom died he’s had a hard time and he’s not the type to get a pedicure so for quality time you learn about pyrotechnics. Unfortunately, Sarah’s world is about to end and you’ll have to fully embrace his training to become the “Rosie the Riveter” of the apocalyptic wasteland.
Select Rosie

Lucas

Lucas Tesshu, middle aged man known for being as serene as a stone in the stream. As a child of Japanese immigrants, you’ve lived much of your life as an outsider, making solitude a revered mentor and friend. As a Kendo instructor and master of swordplay, you’re more than capable of defending yourself, but as a disciple of Bushido, you are committed to helping those in need. So the question becomes: Can a man unable to leave someone for dead still survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
Select Lucas

Hefty

Poor as dirt, good ole southern boy. Thin as a rail, and yeah, the nickname is ironic. Known to the State as inmate #: 080620-06. They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but you can cook some up in your kitchen using a few household ingredients as fertilizer. Like literal fertilizer, for one. But you’re over that now, clean, back on the straight and narrow, and ready to be a productive member of society once you get released from the Big House. Which is about to come early, courtesy of the Apocalypse.
Select Hefty


Thanks for reading! Excited? Apathetic? Fun summer plans?

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