For a Few Credits More: Released

510QAdWwRNL._SY346_It’s been a great week in my camp; my wife finished a prolonged underway on her ship (sort of), and my first published book is out! Well, to be fair, it’s not just my book. It’s an anthology with a number of best selling science fiction authors featured. I’d talked about this book, For a Few Credits More, a while back. If you missed that post, you can read about it right here.

The book is based in the best-selling Four Horsemen Universe (4HU). What’s great about the anthology (outside of being able to write in it), is that it gives new readers a chance to test the waters. There’s a bunch of books published in the series, which I highly recommend. I have a feeling after you give the anthology a read, you’ll be building a mech-suit in your garage and taking it to some dastardly aliens.

My story, which I co-authored with J.R. Handley, is titled Luck of the Draw. The story follows a man who is trying his best to disappear, but just can’t shake his bad habits. This leads to him being forced into a high-level contract, dealing with his ghosts, and doing his best to stay alive.

The anthology is already getting some great reviews, and I was tickled to see one of the reviewers mentioned Luck of the Draw specifically. So thrilled was I, that I took a screenshot and placed it below.

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Thanks, Ken (if you’re reading this, then shoot me an email, so I can thank you via the interwebs). Please, give the book a read and leave an honest review. You can snag it by clicking/touching this link, or clicking/touching the image of the book at the top. Now, I have some other books that need to be written; no rest for the wicked. Thanks for reading!


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Setting: Anchoring the Reader

Sleeping_Beauty_by_Harbour.jpgWe all like to think whoever picks up our book isn’t going to put it down. Our hope is they sit there in a vegetative state absorbing the words, until like a kiss from a prince/princess, the words, The End, release them from the spell.

Unfortunately, readers need food, water, bathroom breaks, and sleep. Sleep is the tricky one. If they grab a snack, take a tinkle, or get some water, then they come right back to the book. But sleep, well, sleep ruins everything.

I know if I’m reading before bed, I try my best to make it to the end of the chapter. Even if it’s not bedtime, I try to make it to the end of the chapter before I put the book down. The reason is somewhat obvious; I don’t want to start reading in the middle of scene. If that happens, then we may have to slip back a page or two to catch myself back up.

This is an important concept to grasp when you are writing your book.

anchorUsing setting cues at the beginning of a chapter quickly reorients the wayward reader who has ventured back into your world. It doesn’t take paragraphs to accomplish, but some brief setting details (time of day, location, characters present, visceral elements) will cement the reader back into the story.

Anchoring your reader will also increase the pacing of your book.

When I am writing my first draft, I tend to pace quickly.  When I can, I end the chapter with action and start the next one continuing it. One mistake I’ve made is not orienting the reader when I dive into the next chapter. Ending with action is fine. Starting with action is also fine. But if you don’t clue the sleepy-eyed reader into what the action was at the beginning of the chapter, suddenly it’s very confusing.

The Lost Woman.jpgI liken this issue to the writing process. As writers, we have to get our bearings when we sit back down to conjure up our stories. You open up your manuscript, and heck, you may have left off in the middle of a piece of dialogue. So you do what we all do, you scroll up a bit and read to get back into the scene.

Our reader shouldn’t have to do that. If your reader has to flip back a page every time they reopen the book, this is going to be a problem for them (assuming they are stopping at chapter markers or at the conclusion of scenes). Some readers may not realize exactly what the problem is, but in reviews you will see words like pacing, flow, and disorienting.

There are some tools out there you can use to keep your readers engaged. I wrote a post a while back about stitching transitions into setting here. That post focused more on showing passages of time and changing locations within chapters. Some of those concepts spill over.

writers guide to active setting.jpgHowever, in regards to adding setting information into chapter openings, I have found a decent resource. Mary Buckham’s book, A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting, is one of the best books I have found talking about setting. An entire chapter is dedicated to anchoring the reader in scenes and chapters.

Buckham reinforces the idea I am talking about by saying a, “…common mistake is forgetting that the reader may have set the book down at the end of the last chapter, or scene, or you have ended a scene in one location and opened the next chapter, or scene, in a new location” (p. 151).

Two of the best solutions I have seen are the macro (far away) and micro (up close) approach. There are a bunch of fancy ways of saying this, but breaking it down into mirco and macro seems to be the easiest way to condense the concepts.

fantasy landscape (macro).jpgThe macro approach is to pull back and anchor the reader with a couple pieces of description. Using an omniscient point of view, you approach the beginning of the chapter like a panorama.  n as little as a sentence or two, you can quickly use this method to orient the reader as to who is present, what is around them, what they are doing, and what the time of day is.

fantasy landscape (micro).jpgThe micro approach pulls the reader in closer and offers the above perspective from the POV of the character(s) present in the chapter. For you folks who are writing in 1st person, this is pretty much your only solution. If you have a host of characters you are juggling, it is essential to orient the reader as to who is present; the micro approach solves this problem as well.

It should be noted that it’s not a set-in-stone rule that you should anchor the reader at the beginning of each and every chapter. Some writing styles and genres need to keep the reader guessing and on their toes. However, this decision to not anchor is typically a conscious decision by the writer, not just happenstance.

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The Hero’s Journey: For Writing & Life

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You are probably on a journey; I know I am. For me, it’s a writer’s journey, but it’s a hero’s journey, too. Writers have our own battles, allies, and enemies to navigate. Whether we realize it or not, the characters we write about, and ourselves, have embarked upon The Hero’s Journey. Cinch down your cloak, replenish the ink in your sharpest quill, and let’s talk about it.

hero with a thousand faces 1.jpgThe Hero’s Journey is a concept I first read about in Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Campbell explains that there are reoccurring themes that run through almost all stories, myths, and even religious texts. The theme is The Hero’s Journey. Once it’s broken down into pieces, you can’t help but noticing it in most of the books, movies, and mediums you see everyday. Even aspects of our own lives conform to the structure.

While Campbell introduced the idea of The Hero’s Journey, Christopher Vogler does an amazing job of breaking it down into component pieces in his book, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters. Campbell basically said, “There be dragons ahead,” and Vogler took that statement and wrote a book on how to slay those winged beasts.

Vogler’s step-by-step model of writing stories has been adopted by many writers working in different mediums. You’ll have a hard time finding a Pixar or Disney movie that doesn’t adopt this structure outright. The reason? Well, for one, it works. Two, this plotting method is relatable to most people, because our life experience seems to tie into the myth of the story.

Vogler explains, “The Hero’s Journey, I discovered, is more than just a description of the hidden patterns of mythology. It is a useful guide to life, especially the writer’s life. In the perilous adventure of my own writing, I found the stages of the Hero’s Journey showing up just as reliably and usefully as they did in books, myths, and movies” (p. 5).

With Vogler and Campbell’s twin stars on the horizon as our guide, lets learn about the journey. Also, let’s uncover how it applies to our writing and our lives.

hobbit holeThe Ordinary World. This is where the writer introduces the hero/heroine in their normal environment. Of course, they aren’t a hero yet. They are a street rat (Aladdin), hairy-footed Hobbit in a hole (LOTR), or girl living in the coal district (Hunger Games).

For the writer, this may be the time before you started writing. Maybe you thought about writing. There was a nagging feeling, but you ignored it. You stayed in the comfort of your Ordinary World.

The Call to Adventure.  This is when an external influence causes the hero/heroine to consider abandoning the Ordinary World.  This call to action is often times them learning of a threat to the safety of their Ordinary World.

For writers, this is the moment of inspiration.  Maybe a book, friend, teacher, movie, flash of clarity, or all of these combined, turns the nagging feeling into something more.  The words are calling to you.

refusing the call.jpgRefusal of the Call. This is the moment of doubt. The budding hero doesn’t want to leave the comfort of the Ordinary World. Family, doubt in ability, lack of incentive, and fear are often played upon refusals.

These are those first doubts you feel as a writer. “I can’t do this.  I don’t have a story to tell. I don’t even know how to write well.  Is writing worth it?”

Mentor Pops Up. Aladdin had a genie, the hobbits had Gandalf, and Katniss had Haymitch. These are their guides to push them along.  Some act as a moral compass, some simply push the hero, and some are there to meddle.

A mentor doesn’t have to be a person when it comes to writers. It can be, sure, but it can also be a book/idea/dream that inspires you. Something to guide you along your path and help you step outside of your comfort zone.

door to a new world.jpgCrossing the First Threshold. This is when the story starts getting interesting. The hero puts his/her head down and embarks on the quest.  They accept the adventure, leaving the Ordinary World and entering a special one.

For you wordsmiths, this is when you say, “Screw it – lets do this thing.” You sit down and begin the process. You exit the real world and enter the creative whirlpool. I see many authors quitting their jobs and taking up writing full-time. No doubt, they are crossing toward the First Threshold.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies.  Here we start getting elements sprinkled in. The hero/heroine meets friends, learn of and encounter enemies, and begin facing minor trials. They battle threshold guardians and sometimes, almost always, they come up short. The hero/heroine haven’t yet honed their skills. Or perhaps they haven’t built a strong enough connection with their allies to be effective.

hercules.jpgFor us scribblers, this is the beginning of the process. We seek out others like us. We deal with writers block and creativity issues. We learn that the initial fire, that spark, won’t sustain us. We need something more: dedication and habit. We often fail, but in the process, we begin to get better at the craft.

Approach to the Inmost  Cave. At this point, the hero/heroine (and allies if applicable) have honed their skills, and are preparing to face the enemy.  They stand at the gates, swords/wands/pens in hand with a determined look on their faces. Their scars, whether metaphorical or very real, are a testament to the journey they have taken to this point.

For writers, this when you start getting deeper into the work. You’ve knocked out a couple hundred pages, maybe told a few people what you are up to, and now the pressure is mounting. The end is in very near, but you still have work to do. You hope your resolve and skill will carry you to the end.

The Supreme Ordeal. This is the, “oh crap,” moment when the hero stares death in the face. For the reader/audience, you wonder if they will survive. The hero/heroine does survive the conflict, often barely, and realize they are more powerful/resourceful than they thought.

For the writer, this is the moment when you almost lose the writing battle. You step away for a few days, weeks, or months — sometimes longer.  You reappraise what you are doing. If you are the writing hero I know you are, you’ll return to the desk and finish.

flying carpet.jpgReward. For the hero, they seize the reward after beating the boss; the battle is won. Many times, they gain a boon, trophy, or magic item. The reward may simply be the realization of power they didn’t know existed within themselves.

My friend M.L.S. Weech always says, the more times you type, “The End,” the more confident you will be in your skill. He also says the more of them you type, the easier and quicker the next one is to get to.  This is sentiment I’ve heard echoed by many of the writers I work with, or consider to be mentors in my own journey. Needles to say, for a writer, typing The End is a major reward.  It is also the realization of hidden potential.

The Road Back. The hero begins the return journey back to the Ordinary World with the reward in hand, or inside them.

For the writer, I equate this to the real world versus fantasy world we live in while we write. You improved your skills while you wrote, you finished the work, now you must come back to the Ordinary World and edit/promote/sell it.

TheKnightAtTheCrossroads.jpgResurrection. The hero may have slain the dragon and seized the magic sword that heals the land, but now the dragon’s mother is in pursuit. Often times, the hero must deal with the consequences of their Supreme Ordeal. When power is found, unlocked, or a magic item is gained, there is often the issue of wielding this power responsibly. Sometimes, those around you become wary of what you have become, or what you are capable of.

For the writer, this is the realization that writing The End is just another beginning. There are edits, rewrites, book covers, email lists, agents, publishers, and critics to contend with now.  More ordeals spring up like weeds.

potion.jpgReturn with the Elixir. It’s all meaningless for the hero if they don’t return to the Ordinary World clutching their spoils. These spoils can by physical: an item to cleanse the blighted land, or powerful weapon to protect it. The spoils can be mental: they now have a story to share, become a mentor themselves, or offer insights to protect and enhance their Ordinary World.

For us writers, these are the moments of impact after the book, or work, is out there. The email from an appreciative reader, the five star review, the kind words from friends and family. Maybe your elixir is to compile a book to illuminate the way, much like Campbell and Vogler did for me.

That’s The Hero’s Journey.  This was a longer post, if you made it this far you’ve completed a reader’s journey.  In the future, I want to elaborate on each step, but we needed a point to jump off from – hence the length.

I hope you found this helpful. Do aspects of your life (writing life/life in general) fit The Hero’s Journey? Do you feel like steps are missing or are incorrect? I’d love to talk about it.


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NASA Reveals Space Weapon, then Undetected Asteroid Nearly Hits Earth

asteroid.jpgYou’d think with all the satellites and space-viewing devices that exists in this modern age that you wouldn’t hear about “undetected asteroids” popping up. That’s exactly what happened a couple weeks ago (July 20, 2017). The beaut, roughly the size of the Statue of Liberty, passed between us and our moon.

Deemed Asteroid 2017 001, it was detected on July 23, 2017 by the ATLAS-MLO telescope at Mauna Loa, Hawaii and was nearest to Earth on July 20th (Source: Eddie Irizarry/EarthSky).

predator.jpgSo, what the heck astronomers? How’d this sneaky bastard get by all of you? You all didn’t even notice it until three days after it had passed closest to us? Short answer: it’s not their fault.

Apparently, Asteroid 2017 001 has a non-reflective surface, which allowed it whiz between Earth and our moon at a brisk 23,179 miles per hour (37,303 km/h). It’s like the Predator of asteroids (or so I like think). Holy camouflaged Near Earth Objects (NEOs) Batman!

Our visitor was somewhere between 82 feet and 256 feet in length. No clue what the means? Let’s offer some scale.

The Chelyabinsk asteroid (the one that exploded over Russia in 2013) injured approximately 1,500 people and caused millions of dollars worth of property damage. It was between 55 and 65 feet long, and when it exploded in the atmosphere 12 miles above Earth, some experts have calculated it released 500 kilotons of energy (Source: Deborah Byrd/EarthSky). That’s 30 times the yield of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Remember, our recent visitor was between 82-256 feet. Yikes!

That’s pretty scary, right? It’s especially useful information for me because I am writing about post-apocalyptic worlds. Sometimes the real world makes for the best fiction. Speaking of this, plot twist time!

At the start of this month (July) there was a rash of stories about NASA getting the green-light to develop an asteroid destroying/diverting weapon. Basically, they’d hit the incoming NEO with a fridge-sized spaceship traveling nine times the speed of a bullet. I’m imagining some sort of cannon that shoots ice-boxes. Here’s what it really looks like (Image Source: NASA/Planetary Defense page).

DART Spacecraft.png

A quick stop over at the NASA website, and boom, I’m introduced to the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission. Badass acronym, NASA. To be fair, this isn’t the first mention of this program. Nope. But it is a bit tasty that they would update the info for the DART Mission on July 18th.

Now, let me be the first to say that I’m not a conspiracy theory person; it’s not my thing. But man, what a bunch of coincidences. There’s a stream of news articles regarding DART at the start of the month. Then, the NASA Planetary Defense page updates the DART mission page two days prior to an “undetected asteroid” just missing the Earth…

Like I said earlier, the real world makes for the best fiction. That’s it from me; I’ve got writing to tackle. I like to use the blog page as an idea journal, and this idea was worth recording and sharing. Keep your eyes to the sky and your refrigerator cannons loaded.

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Announcement: The Odera Chronicles

co-authorship.jpgMy friend and sometimes co-author J.R. Handley recently wrote this post about an upcoming book series we are working on together. It’s called The Odera Chronicles, and it’s a science fiction book about one woman looking for redemption and glory. Buy the ticket, take the ride (i.e. give the post JR wrote a read).

If you don’t feel like taking the exodus over to JR’s page, here’s the short version:

Alexis Monroe proves her prowess by being one of the first women through an elite infantry school. Instead of going to combat, she is blacklisted to guard a warehouse in the middle of the desert. Alexis sinks into depression, gets drunk on duty, makes a bad decision, and unleashes a series of consequences involving spaceships, urinating robots, synthetic alcohol, kitten calendars, and cozy recliners.

J.R. Handley Blog

JR Handley Blog HeaderHey Space Cadets, how is everyone on this fine day?  I’m doing well, and wanted to bring you my news!  My former editor, Corey D Truax, and I have signed our next series with a small publishing house, Theogony Publishing.  This umbrella publishing house is a part of the larger and more dynamic Chris Kennedy Publishing.  Corey and I scoped him out together, in a totally non-stalker kind of way, and liked how he operated. He’s professional, and another veteran of America’s Armed Forces. I think Corey liked that he was a sailor too, but I forgive them both for their imperfections

So, what to say about The Odera Chronicles without giving too much away?  This story tells the tale of Alexis Monroe, one of the first female infantrymen in the US Army. Alexis was an only child, her dad was a Seabee and veteran of the wars…

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For a Few Credits More: 4HU Anthology

For-a-Few-Credits-MoreMy good friend J.R. Handley and I strong-armed our way into writing for an anthology. We stole some pets, torched a lawn, pooped in some mailboxes — but hey — that’s all part of the author hustle. Some people write query letters; some people resort to criminal mischief.

Moving along! I’m pleased to say our first jointly-written story is coming in September, and it takes place in the Four Horsemen universe (4HU). The anthology our offering will be showcased in is titled For a Few Credits More.

For the uninitiated: the 4HU is a bodacious military science fiction series that was spawned into existence by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy. Instead of trying to write a hack description of the 4HU, I’m stealing the the publisher’s blurb (Seventh Seal Press). We can add this theft to our list of offenses.

It’s the Twenty-Second Century. The galaxy has opened up to humanity as a hyperactive beehive of stargates and new technologies, and we suddenly find ourselves in a vast playground of different races, environments, and cultures. There’s just one catch: we are pretty much at the bottom of the food chain.

Enter the Four Horsemen universe, where only a willingness to fight and die for money separates Humans from the majority of the other races. Enter a galaxy not only of mercenaries, but also of Peacemakers, bounty hunters, and even a strung-out junkie in the way of a hired assassin.

four horseman banner

I’m very excited to be contributing to such a kick-ass series. Here’s the 4HU books so far, and a couple that are projected to release later this year.


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Let Sleeping Babes Lie

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My six-month old puts his head down for a nap; it’s one of the two he takes during the day. When his eyes close, I jump all over the house trying to get things done.

A part of me wonders if I will ever be a productive member of society again. Once a master of organization, now I try to content myself with getting all the bottles washed before he wakes back up. In those odd moments when I have time, I spend most of it trying to decide what to do with it.  Watch television? Read? Edit? Work on my novel? Take a nap myself? Eat every unhealthy thing in the house? Tackle one of the countless chores needing to be done?

Or perhaps I could make a blog post.

I never really understood the value of time until I didn’t have any.  If fatherhood is teaching me anything (outside of patience, diaper skills, and baby fingernail trimming), it is to focus on doing one or two things well, because there isn’t enough time for the renaissance man jack-of-all-trades nonsense anymore.


Roughly a year later…

One of the main reasons I started this blog was so it could serve as a time capsule for me. A lot has changed in the year or so since this post was initially generated. For one, Thor is running all over the place and causing mayhem. Indeed, Past Corey had no concept of how little time he would have.

The irony of the original post doesn’t elude me. Past Corey believed he was taxed for time. With Thor napping only once during the day now, and my amazing wife consistently being away on a warship, time truly has become a precious quantity. Here’s my takeaways:

  1. Be willing to tell people “no.” When time becomes a premium, then you have to learn to say no more often, even if it’s a project/job/task you think is awesome.
  2. Don’t stress about the small stuff. And man, it took my a while to figure out what the small stuff was. Figure out what you can control and focus on that. You must tend to your garden of f***s and not give them too freely.
  3. When it’s time to work, play, or chill, don’t get sidetracked. In a world where multitasking is listed on resumes, I strive to do the opposite. Multitasking usually means I’m half-assing something. As Ron Swanson would say, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

These lessons are about as deep as a puddle in the desert, but heck, I never claimed to be a philosophizer. I’m just a dad trying to sort through the madness one day at a time. That’s it for my blog time; I’ll update this post in another year.

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