Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Miracles and Memorials

Boy have I been stressed the past couple weeks. I can't recall any one real big reason for my stress - just a lot of little things coming together at my doorstep, all with the intent on bringing me down. My wife took some time last night to sit and listen to my frustrations. It helped to get them out. Family, finances, overdue projects, car repairs, etc, etc, etc. Overall, I think I'm just at a place where I need to start letting go - let go of my worry, my fear, my depression, my wanting to control every circumstance around me. Anything that can slow me down, stop my progress, turn my mood for the worse - all of it needs to be kicked to the curb.

Tomorrow, the 30th, will be exactly 9 months since I was wrongfully fired from Pima Medical Institute. Exactly 9 months since my wife and I decided to trust that God knew what He was doing, and set out on this journey. We knew then it was time to go full tilt with my writing career. Since then, I have seen miracle after miracle of God's hand in our lives. My wife only works 27 hours a week as a nanny and brings in $10/hour.  We have roughly $1700 in bills each month. Do the math. For the past 9 months, we have never missed a bill. Not a single one. That includes groceries, gas, credit card minimums, rent, utilities, phone, etc. That also includes us tithing 10%. Yes, we still tithe, even though we technically have more expense than income.

If that in itself is not a miracle, I'm not sure what is. Each month I ponder where our rent is going to come from. I run my projects during the week, trying to get my novels off the ground, trying to make some sales. I feel God directing each move I make. One month, rent comes from a birthday gift of cash that was given to me three months early. Another month, money appears mysteriously in our account due to a bank error. Even after the bank is alerted of this, the money is left there for us to put toward bills. Another month we find cash on the ground. The church steps in to help as does a local charity. Friends and family pitch in, books are sold - I could go on and on, but I'll save the richness of the stories for my future children, to prove to them how faithful God is. Like when the Israelites were told to create memorials so their children would know what they went through, these events are landmarks in the life of my wife and I, signs and wonders I can point to, to show my children - and those around me - where God came into the picture time and time again to help me along, to bring me along the path that would eventually lead to the dreams He instilled inside of me.

Now we come to the end of another month and I realize I am past the point of needing to just trust God with my finances. There is a need to trust him with where this road is leading to. I know my faith is stronger than I sometimes think it is, I know my purpose is etched in stone by a God that has been watching over me since before I was born. Writing is in my blood, it is hardwired within me. I know it is my purpose, one of the many reasons I was created.

As my wife and I enter the 10th month of this journey, God continues to show me He can do the impossible. What is the impossible anyway, but the attitude that something can't be done because we do not want to put the faith into believing it can be done? The Red Sea was once parted. Each month $1080 is turned into $1700. Amazed is what I am. Hopeful is what I'll continue to be. Faithful, He is, as always.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Novel Price

In the next couple weeks, the price of my paperback sci fi/fantasy novel, Black Earth: End of the Innocence, is going to go up. I made this decision based on a couple of different facts, the first being that the company that I go through to have the book printed,, has a fairly new distribution option that I am eligible for, but the price of my book has to be set higher than it currently is in order to qualify.

That being said, the distribution package isn't the only reason the price of my book is going up. When I was designing the cover for End of the Innocence, I made sure to leave off the price in the hopes that after my book made some rounds, I would raise it to where I think it really should be. Now is that time. $9.95 was a great price to introduce people to the first novel in my series and get people to pick up the book at book signings and the such.

If any of you haven't already purchase End of the Innocence, I would suggest doing so in the next week to grab it at the $9.95 price. When the price goes up, it will more than likely be set at $13.95 or $14.95. A final decision on which one it will be raised to hasn't been decided yet. The novel is the first of many I am working on for the Black Earth series. The second one, The Broken Daisy, will be released this summer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Challenges Of Writing Apocalyptic Fiction

When I first started writing Black Earth: End of the Innocence, the first book in my Black Earth series, I was really only aiming to tell the back story leading up to my other series, Expired Reality. I simply wanted to tell the story of how the Earth broke apart because of evil and how society ended up on the planet of Anaisha, where Expired Reality takes place.

Boy, was I naive. I've been working on the second book in my Black Earth series for months now and I've slowly realized that the scope of the story is bigger and more challenging than I ever could have predicted.

By the last page of End of the Innocence, I have the setting all laid out for a nation that is being ruled by a power hungry president and ravaged by 'stars' that have fallen from the sky. Only thing is, the stars aren't really stars, they are vessels that have unknown inhabitants and intentions. So when the second book opens up, I have a nation - world - that is destroyed for the most part aside from sanctuary zones that were set up by the President, areas that NASA stated would be safe from the falling 'stars'. I have one of my main characters, Daisy Pierce, about to be executed per laws the President put in place because of the falling stars. And so the chaos begins.

Trying to write about a nation that is falling apart, led by a megalomaniacal president, ravaged by a strange alien entity isn't even the most challenging part of all of this. Trying to dive into the other characters, the ones that are trying to find out where Daisy is being held and are striving to rescue her; the characters who are trying to take down the President and bring democracy back; the characters that are trying to populate Anaisha before Earth is destroyed; the character that is traveling through time to save the world - these are the challenging parts.

In a world that is crumbling at the feet of an evil it has never seen or experienced before, I find myself having to close my eyes and wonder how I would react if I saw demons running through abandoned schools or the military being disintegrated by uncanny villains. When looters and murderers are the very least of everyone's problems and the President is being led by a strange adviser that may or may not be from Earth, I have so many questions I have to answer and even more that I simply have to ask through the fictional muse. I love to leave questions in the mind of the reader, questions that one may or may not have the answer for. Why not leave some things to speculation? Isn't that the fun of fiction, especially sci fi/fantasy?

One question I find myself pulling out of my characters is this: If the superficial reasons we have for keeping our morals and ethics intact were suddenly stripped from us, would we still hold on to those morals and ethics? Some would...others wouldn't. That's the fun of writing apocalyptic fiction. When the world is crumbling, who are the heroes and who are the real villains? The answers sometimes surprise me.

One very good reference I am finding for how apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction is written is Stephen King's, The Stand, the novel I am currently reading. The scope and detail that King included in The Stand is one of profound depth and simplicity. He looks around and sees how the world would be if something devastating happened and simply details his encounter. Brilliant.

As I strive to finish this novel, I find my perception of my series as a whole has been changed drastically - in a good way. That's one reason why I decided to revise the books in my Expired Reality series when I am finished with this novel. Sort of like what King did with the Dark Tower series. I finally see the framework as it starts to come together as a whole for both of my series and realize where it is I really want to go.

Getting there is half the fun. The other half? Allowing my characters to boss me around along the way, allowing them to whisper dark nothings in my ear and point out the things that I fear, the things that I hope for. They are after all simply extensions of me, the author, and all I really am is an observer to the end of the world...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back In The Saddle

It's been a few weeks (probably more) since I've really done much of anything besides write. I was hoping to go kamikaze on my draft of Black Earth: The Broken Daisy in the hopes of getting it finished so I could hand it off to my editor, but alas, no dice. This novel seems to be a greater undertaking than I originally perceived it to be.

When I wrote Black Earth: End of the Innocence, the first novel in my Black Earth series, I set the stage for an apocalyptic, sci fi/fantasy epic. In doing so, I seem to have set the bar higher than intended for the second book in the series. Not to mention that this series actually takes place chronologically before my other series, Expired Reality, leaving me with so many dots to connect that this isn't just a simple story that needs to be written. It's the most challenging novel I have ever worked on and promises to be one of my best to date.

That being said, I realized about a week or two ago that I can't completely neglect my other projects for as long as it's actually going to take me to finish the novel. I'm still trying to convert Black Earth: End of the Innocence into an ebook which is more challenging than it sounds. I miss the days when most ebooks were in PDF format. Now there's the Nook, the Kindle and the cell phone apps. Taking me four weeks to try and convert it on my own just to Epub, I have decided to try my hand at publishing my ebook through Smashwords. With instructions provided by them, I simply format my Word document to their specs, upload the file and their technology will push the novel out into multiple formats for me. They simply take a small percentage of my sales, which is no skin off my back since there are no production costs associated with creating an ebook.

Another project that I just recently finished was a revamp of my website, I realized that I needed a website that reflects my genre and my style of writing, so to go with the sci fi/ fantasy theme, I chose a nice starry backdrop, along with which I added cleaner navigation and a more streamlined web experience.

Once Black Earth: The Broken Daisy is finished and handed off to my editor, I am going to start on the revised editions of the Expired Reality: Endangered Memories and Expired Reality: Lost Birth. Not really rewrites, but I want to add some more scenes and get a more thorough edit on them and rerelease them with the brand new third book in the series, Expired Reality: Crystal City. Should take me a few months to get those done, allowing me to release them in the winter of this year.

As far as Black Earth: The Broken Daisy is concerned, I am aiming for late July for a release date. I've created a 'Current Projects' page on my website where everyone can go to see what I'm currently up to, with info on each project and target release dates.

Anyway, back to work. I have lots to do and it seems never enough time to do it. Glad to be back in the saddle though. Yeeha!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

24 Still Alive And Ticking

In its 8th - and final - season, 24 never ceases to amaze me. I've been a huge fan of the show since it's first 'real-time' episode back in 2001 and I think Jack Bauer has become one of the most iconic figures of television during the show's run. The show has successfully kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what's going to happen next, what ingenious twist the writers are going to come up with for the next episode.

Last night was no different. As of today, there are only 7 episodes left in the season and the series as a whole and rumors of a 24 movie that's set to come out after the end of the season. As far as this season goes, it has quickly become one of my favorite, aside from season 5 which I think may have been the best of all of them.

All of that being said, I've had my gripes and complaints about the direction the writers have taken in certain seasons. The cougar in season 2? Vampire Jack in season 6? Some crazy stuff has come down the wire, but overall I have always enjoyed the series and continue to enjoy the series, especially after last night's turn of events.

Any fan of 24 will tell you that Jack never really gets the woman. He's a hero, but one whose life is full of sacrifice and misery. Those two things never really stop Jack from doing what he does best, but they add a flavor to the show that you don't find very often nowadays. In 24 there are really no definitive happy endings. This season had Renee Walker, a former FBI agent who showed up in season 7, tagging along with Jack. She was essentially a female Jack Bauer and the perfect counterpart to his isolated existence. And just when mostly everyone watching the show thought the writer's would give Jack a happy ending in Renee Walker, they go off and kill her on last night's episode.

I won't be the first to say this didn't shock me. Last week's episode had President Hassan dying at the hands of Samir, despite Jack's determination to save him. Hassan does receive the legendary silent clock at the end of the episode that the show's producers give to main characters that pass. Jack failed - or thought he failed - the President. With that heavy heartiness, he entered last night's episode with the grim realization that he had nowhere to really go after those events except for his place with Renee. There, in his apartment, she is shot by a sniper that recognized her at the scene of President Hassan's death. Jack races her to the hospital but she dies, receiving the second silent clock in two consecutive episodes, making this one of the more tragic episodes, up there with the death of President Palmer, Michelle Almeida, and Teri Bauer.

I see people all over the internet today complaining about how stupid the writers are to write Renee off like that. But if everyone stops to look at the big picture, they'll realize - hopefully - that it was really the only way to get the show moving in the direction the writers want to go for the last 7 episodes of the season. See, Jack had no reason to go back to CTU. He had no idea there were still bad guys roaming around. Renee dying put Jack back into his 'nothing to lose' mode that he is so famous for. Now he knows there are others involved with the terrorist activities of the day and he will find them and hunt them down and hopefully kill them. His character has always been dark, misunderstood, but always conquering when it comes to doing what needs to be done. I feel Renee's death only put things into a straight perspective for him, brought him back to his real purpose which is to save the day. He learned in season 1 that he can't do what he does and have a family at the same time.

Now, whether he dies at the end of the season or not is to be seen, but even if he did, it would be a hero's death - hopefully. I think the writers have something great set up, it's all hinging on the execution now.