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.

Luck of the Draw Review.jpg

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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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.

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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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Wasteland Wednesday #7

*Language and Content Warning*

skull and crossbones.jpgskull and crossbonesUnlike QE’s normal informational blog, Wasteland Wednesday is potentially full of foul language and post-apocalyptic nonsense.

Wasteland Wednesday

 

It’s time for another edition of Wasteland Wednesday. Come and cuddle up next to the bonfire. Ah, don’t mind those inbreeder heads. I collected those to pay off some heavy writing debts I owe to the muse.

Anyways, I wanted to talk a little about the novella, The Wastelander Survival Guide, today. A very rough discovery draft has been hacked away and while I am working on the rewrites for the main book, the novella will marinate.

army combat manual.jpg

The novella features images similar to what a U.S. Army combat manual would have inside. It is also formatted much the same way. 

The concept for the novella stems from the world I have created. In the main book, Drake carries around a journal (you can see it in his back pocket in the final cover art for the book) and writes tips to survive the wasteland. This, he compiled at the behest of Lex. While he’ll never admit it, he enjoys keeping this journal and it has allowed him to elaborate on his wasteland “virtues.” To Drake, these virtues are what he believes will keep a person alive (it’s worked for him).

Each chapter of the main book is opened with a tiny excerpt from Drake’s journal highlighting a virtue. The book is written in a way that these “Drakisms” help drive the story. One of Lex’s secret hopes, is that there is life outside of Middle America. In her eyes, a book of how to survive the wasteland would be essential to anyone who delves into unsettled areas.

While she wouldn’t say this to Drake, her plan it to eventually inherit the book and find a way to reproduce it. Drake’s name has become legend in Middle America and she sees the potential to monetize/trade it in some shape or form. She also believes there is life outside of the wasteland. If this is true, such a guide would be valuable to an outsider.

She also wants Drake to compile this journal because she notices a drastic down-tic in his reckless tendencies when he takes time to organize and expel his thoughts. Lex knows that there is merit in Drake’s rantings. Despite the vulgarity and rough exterior, not many people make it to old age in the wasteland; Drake has almost made it to his sixties.

hourglass[Break in Timeline] 

Eventually, Drake’s journal does end up in the hands of someone in a “civilized” part of the world. They rewrite his journal and cast Drake as a romanticized folk hero. The rewritten version of the journal is reproduced as a survival guide for the expansionist movement into the isolated areas of the post-fall United States.

His “Drakisms” are recast as real-world virtues a potential settler should embody to combat the unknown dangers awaiting them. The chapters are very short, illustrated, and offer a very romantic look at how to survive the wasteland. Some portions are rewritten completely and deviate from Drake’s original writings.

I guess plagiarism and intellectual property rights aren’t a big thing in the post-fall United States…

The first book, Legacy of Drake, hints about aircraft flying overhead and unknown technologies making it over The Red (the area of seemingly impassable radiation) into Middle America. Perhaps there are other isolated pockets of people and inbreeders struggling out there? The wasteland might just be a bigger place than we realize, or it might be much smaller.

question-markThat’s it for today’s wasteland news!  I hope you all enjoyed this sneak-peak into Wastelander: The Drake Legacy and the Wastelander Survival Guide.  I’d love to know what you think and answer your questions (as long as the answer won’t be a spoiler-sandwich). Until we cross quills again, keep hiding, keep hoarding, and as always—stay alive.

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Non-Fiction Writing Books: Suggestions?

libraryMonday is the day I usually share a book about writing with all of you. You can find examples of this in my reads category.  While I still have plenty of books to talk about on the page, I recently finished reading the last one I have in my possession. Instead of trusting Amazon or Goodreads, I thought I would take a day to see if any of you would be kind enough to offer me some suggestions.

To avoid replication, a while back I posted the last twenty books I had read that examined some aspect of writing. Since then, I’ve added a few to the list:

Editors on Editing, by Gerald C. Gross
Cryptozoology A to Z, by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark
Developmental Editing, by Scott Norton
Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
The Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker
Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales, by Marie-Louise von Franz

question-markSeeing all of this, what am I missing out on? I’d love to snag some more great books. If I’m not doing self-study in my limited downtime, I’m usually doing something less than productive. Help ol’ QE out! [Note: If you’ve suggested a book in a comment to me, I’ve likely ordered it already and am waiting for it arrive.] Until our quills clash again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Feature Friday #6 (Bloggers & Books)

feature-friday

Where the heck did the week go?  I feel like I was writing a Feature Friday post yesterday.  Regardless, it’s always a good day when I’m writing about other bloggers and writers. For all of you NaNoWriMo heroes and heroines—I hope you are beating your keyboards into submission.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, this is quickly shaping up into my favorite month to read blog posts.  There is a tantalizing mix of hope, despair, fear, and excitement bouncing about the blogosphere. As I treat this website as a time capsule of sorts, let’s snag some of my favorite posts from the day and wish these writers well on their journey.

spotlight-facing-rightThe first blogger and blog post I wanted to talk about encapsulates the many emotions these intrepid writers experience.  Linda Smith wrote the post, The Month of Living Dangerously.  It’s an honest look at the topsy-turvy world many of these writers are living in right now.

Linda does a few things that really caught my eye in this post.  She writes honestly, talks about setting realistic goals, and is including her family in the process. The last part of the post where she talks about her granddaughter being hit by a lightning bolt of inspiration still has me smiling.  Great stuff!

spotlight-facing-rightThe next blogger I wanted to spotlight is Patricia M. Robertson.  Patricia’s post, Ready, Set, Stop! NaNoWriMo is What You Make It, is a great breakdown of what the month is all about.  It’s about more than just pushing out words, it’s about growing as a writer.  For those of you who are unsure about all this NaNoWriMo hullabaloo, give her post a read.

What I really enjoy about Patricia’s post is her ability to address the “big picture” in her writing career.  Much like her, I enjoy the excitement radiating off of other writers.  It’s a contagious thing.  Though she may not be able to partake in the insanity of NaNoWriMo, she is still using it to charge her writing.  In my opinion, that’s a win!

spotlight-facing-rightThe last spotlight is for Austin Ezell.  If you needed a no-nonsense description of the what NaNoWriMo is about, he’s got you covered with his aptly titled post, National Novel Writing Month.  There are a couple reasons I linked Austin’s page.  First, I wanted a solid post detailing what the month is about.  Secondly, checking out his “About” page I realized we are conjoined spirit writing animals.

If his schedule is any indication of what we can come to expect from his blog page, we are in for series of fun posts.  Fatherhood, check.  Dungeons and Dragons, check.  Gaming, check.  Sharing tips from his own experience as a writer, check.  Sneak peaks into his future books, check.  It’s many of the elements I look for when I search out a blogger.  If you’re a regular reader here at QE (thanks), I imagine you are going to want to follow Austin as well.

thanksI wanted to take a moment to thank all three of these folks for (1) being a source of inspiration, (2) taking life by the horns, and (3) making me smile.  It’s people like you who make me happy to spend a chunk of my time here in the blogoverse.  Best of luck to you all!

hourglassThat’s it for today!  I’ll be happy if I never type “NaNoWriMo” again (all that shift+letter nonsense is making crazy!). If you would like to be featured next Friday, contact me.  It always helps if you let me know what specific post you would like to be featured.  My goal with Feature Friday is to connect like-minded individuals with one another.  The blogoverse is a giant place, and it’s nice to be able to provide some navigation. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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