Monday, November 5, 2012

A Towers Free For All

My cyberpunk thriller and the first installment of the World Between series is now available on Kindle!  If you get a chance, it's free to download today only at Amazon.com.

The print edition is in the works and should (hopefully) be live either later this week or next at the latest.


Happy reading everybody!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Celldwelling and Charity

For those unfamiliar, Klayton from Celldweller is a profoundly talented musician and lyricist.  Celldweller's Soundtracks and beta sessions are my typical 'go to's for divine inspiration in writing.  While I will always love Luna Sequence and Blue Stahli, anybody would be hard-pressed to fill the wide lands of love I hold for Klayton's music, particularly his recent mash-up with 'Cry Little Sister' from the Lost Boys soundtrack.  (I still insist he does the same for Gary Numan's 'Dark'.

If you haven't had a chance to check it out before, now is the perfect opportunity to explore the music, or expand your library, all while saving money and supporting charity!  For more details, turn your attention to the video below.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Our Lady Peace and Nostalgia

No stranger to writer's block, I tend to deal with it when it comes along.  My favorite method is to dig through old CDs until something sparks my imagination and sends me sailing past the Chapter of Ultimate Evil (in today's case, Chapter 4) and back into the stream of writing.  After some unsuccessful tunes from Godsmack, Gary Numan and even ICP (Yes, I had a Juggalo phase back in the 90's) I came across an old album called Happiness is not a Fish that You Can Catch.  I knew it wouldn't be the answer to my problems, but I threw it in for nostalgia sake.

Maybe I should explain a bit about my guilty pleasure, Our Lady Peace.  Being a Canadian rock band, my southern ass didn't find out about them until one day when I heard their hit song, Superman's Dead, on 97.1 the Eagle.  That same day I bought the Clumsy album.

My first impression wasn't that great.  The music, vocal stylings and especially the lyrics came across as foreign and a bit bizarre, especially coming from a background of Metallica (pre-black album), Megadeth, and Pantera.  But something about it kept drawing me back.  Something in the words spoke to me in places I was afraid to look.  Even now, almost 15 years later I realize that the title track, Clumsy, practically screams my life problems - that is to say that I've all but alienated my dearest friends and have withdrawn deeply inside of myself, never wanting to burden anybody with my own problems. 

A few weeks later, I heard an interview with lead singer Raine Maida discussing the message behind Superman's dead, which ironically came out about the same time as Christopher Reeve's accident.  He described it in a way that I've grown to adore it, that it's difficult for the youth of today with the over-whelming feeling that just being yourself is a mistake and that there's nobody to look up to.  After watching the most recent presidential debates and trying my damnedest not to vomit every time I see a Romney/Ryan sign in a yard or plugged by a friend on Facebook, I must agree wholeheartedly.

When Happiness... came out, I was in the same boat as before.  The music spoke to me, but it did something I'd grown out of touch from - deeper thought with music.  Written entirely in metaphors and dodging cliches like an Olympic acrobat, I found myself in love with Thief, Stealing Babies (no, not literally) and Lying Awake.

When Gravity came out (I never even heard about Spiritual Machines until years later), I was turned off by the single, Somewhere Out There, that kept repeating on the radio.  Up until this point, I'd always felt that the magic of Our Lady Peace was some twisted verbage meant to tickle my ears and scrape the rust from my brain.  I think what really bothered me was that I'd yet to hear a love song from Our Lady Peace, at least not in this sense.  It took about a year before I came across the album and figured I owed the boys a chance.  Needless to say, it's a decision I've never regretted in the least. 

It was with the Gravity album that I finally realized why Our Lady Peace meant so much to me.  More specifically, it was with their song, Innocent.  What you need to know, if nothing else, is that behind Raina's vocal range, labyrinthine metaphors, and awkward chord progressions, Our Lady Peace sings of hope, love, understanding, and peace (who knew?!).  The very things that I've whispered to friends sobbing in hopelessness, lectured to my students, and even tried to convince myself of from time to time, are the pinnacles of each newly released album.

Our Lady Peace broke up soon after the release of Healthy in Paranoid Times, bringing about with it a single broken heart in my area - Never seemed to win any of my friends over to the group.  But I've held my favorites close to my heart, even picking up their 'best of' album, entitled "A Decade".  Even if it was the best of, I was really disappointed it didn't contain Made of Steel and Sorry, a couple of my favorites from the Gravity album.

And today... of all days... I decided to check up on Raine Maida's solo album.  What did I find?  They got back together three years ago!  Have I checked out "Burn Burn" or "Curve"?  No, sadly not.  But next paycheck and I'm all there, firmly believing that they haven't dulled their edges, but bring an ambrosia even sweeter.

So to Raine, Jeremy, Duncan, Steve, Mike, Chris, and Jim - Thank you for years of understanding and promoting.  I've spent half my life admiring your talents; here's to another fifteen years of loving everything you do.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Burning Down the House

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Yesterday morning around 9:15 I'm reading 'Goodnight Moon' to my youngest daughter for about the fifteenth time.  I glance up to see my other daughter, now almost three and diagnosed with moderate autism, working with her therapist.  She always brings a smile to my face, but the man walking in the backyard quickly changes that expression.

SEXY FIREFIGHTER Pictures, Images and PhotosI waste no time dashing across the house and out the back door where I find no less than SEVEN men in uniform pacing my backyard.  No it's not a birthday prank of strippers, though that might've been less embarrassing.  Apparently the table in my backyard, now little more than puddles of shattered glass, had been on fire.  The terrifying thing was - aside from the sirens blaring down my street, I never heard a thing.

Apparently some embers from a poorly extinguished cigar had been caught by the wind, blown into some gardening stuff that had been sitting on the table, and ignited the bad boy.  All other objects on the table - extension cords, a pair of clippers, and a grocery list - were unscathed.  Stupid tempered glass.

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The amusing thing about the situation (I can laugh now that it's over and done with and none of my kids were hurt in the process) is that it took SIX fire fighters and the fire chief to extinguish the tiny fire on my table (called in by a neighbor)  Afterwords we sat around and discussed gardening techniques and my dog - a rat terrier - for the next ten minutes.  Oh the joys of suburban boredom. ;)

My second week of being a stay-at-home dad after being forced to resign defending gay marriage in a classroom and I'm realizing that this may be the most dangerous job in the world.

Ironically enough, working part-time in the evenings and NOT paying daycare has our family bringing in the same income.  Who knew!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hiatus

Back with a vengeance.  Expect more to come in the following days.  Right now I've got a sleeping baby on my shoulder and my one-handed typing skills are a wee bit rusty.

Friday, June 1, 2012

INTERVIEW: AMY JOY Talks About 'The Academie'


Special guest joining me today is Amy Joy, author of Dystopian Juvenile Fiction novel, The Academie.  In case you missed my review of it last week, here's the link!


Feel free to pop off some questions of your own if you've read The Academie or are interested in picking it up. 

Allie Thompson was a bit of a difficult person to archetype.  She seemed very shy and withdrawn, but very non-judgmental and friendly at the same time.  What kind of influences did you have for her?
Quite frankly, Allie is about 98% me at age 19. While still working on the first draft, I became addicted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Shortly afterward, Allie learned to fence (something I’d never before dreamed of doing)
Incidentally, Bryan’s mom, Anna, is basically me now, so in the book you have young Amy Joy/Allie, and older Amy Joy/Anna. Depending on how you look at it, it may seem a bit creepy, but it’s often true that girls fall in love with men like their father and boys fall in love with women like their mother, so the pairing made sense.

The romantic aspect of this book was very unique in the sense that it was very slow-paced and 'innocent' as I like to term it.  To the point that I really wouldn't call it a romantic YA so much as just a good story.  Is this a new trend in YA fiction you're looking to start?

I’m a really fussy reader— it’s difficult for me to find books that sustain my attention, so I write the kind of stories I like to read. To me, strong relationships and sweet moments are more important than intense love scenes. Intense romance can be exciting, but it’s also fleeting. When the feeling wears off—both in real life and in story, we are left wanting. But real relationships are multifaceted and so much more interesting, so I try to focus on those.

Also, stories inspire by helping us imagine possibilities we might not have otherwise. There are so many stories where couples get together only to fight, lie, or cheat. Read this enough, and you might start to believe that’s all relationships are and all they can be. Many people settle for that. I haven’t settled. I adore my husband. We truly are best friends. We listen to one another, play together, work together, dream together, are silly together, and watch meteor showers together. I hope to inspire others to find a relationship they are just as happy in and to settle for nothing less.

The characterization was great, but there was this HUGE gap in parental units.  Whereas Bryan's parents were very opinionated, yet understanding and wholesome, Allie's parents sometimes seemed more brainwashed than her brother.  Was there any particular statement you were trying to make with this?

There are two things I wanted to address by showing the vast differences in Allie and Bryan’s parents. First, I wanted to deal with the feeling of isolation that comes when you reach the point in maturity where your line of thinking begins to diverge from that of your parents. This happens differently for differently people. In Allie’s case, it was extreme. Second, I wanted to address the fact that too often people—including those we love—blindly follow policies, cultural norms, etc, without questioning them like they should. They buy into the rhetoric, internalize, and repeat it as though they were their own ideas. This is unfortunate. Allie’s parents only ever acted in what they believed was the best interest of their children. Two of the major themes of the book are the questions “What is truth?” and “Can you ever really define good and evil? Is anything ever all good or all bad?” The two sets of parents help play on these themes.

I don't want to give too much away to those potential readers, but how important was it to keep the Academie's 'big secret' as mysterious as possible until the end?  Was it intended so that readers would pick up on it before Allie herself put the pieces together?

I’m pretty good at guessing the end of stories, and I hate that. My favorite is when there’s a twist I just didn’t see coming—it sends chills up my arms and makes me giddy to the point I’ll be talking about it for days. It was only natural for me to try to create this experience for readers, and it makes me very happy every time someone tells me it happened for them.


A lot of writers will have an audience in mind while they write.  Was there a particular person you were writing this for? 

You know, I have been really surprised and delighted at the number of teenage boys and men who have read and enjoyed The Academie because I remember telling my husband repeatedly as I wrote the story that I was writing it for young women and really didn’t think it would appeal to men. Even when he read and enjoyed it and then my brother and brother-in-law did the same, I figured they only enjoyed it because it was the first book they read by someone they knew. It wasn’t until I started hearing rave reviews from men I didn’t know that I started to realize that I had done something I didn’t believe I was capable of: written a story that spoke to men—and more importantly (because it’s considered one of the hardest groups to write for) created a story enjoyed by teenage boys.


You had a LOT of really interesting hobbies - such as wholesome diets, meditation, etc.  These were also all very accurate (don't ask how I know that please) What was the motivation for research and adding these in?


I have this sick obsession with wanting to know about everything. Seriously. in my final month of high school, the choir I was in had a goodbye program where they showed embarrassing pictures of us and asked us what we were going to do next, and I told everyone that I planned to go to college and major in everything. Well, I’m not done yet, but with two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees, and list of list of hobbies too long to mention, I’m certainly working on it. In all honesty, I didn’t have to do that much research to write The Academie. They were already things I’d studied for fun.

The Academie was adopted as a really good idea in theory, but just didn't work due to an encroachment on free will.  What were your inspirations/motivations towards this type of environment?

I wanted to address the fact that our culture (and perhaps others as well, but I can only speak from my experience) seems to keep pushing off the age at which we accept people as full, responsible adults. When we are in high school, we are told that everything we do is super-serious now because we are practically adults and it all counts on our permanent record that shapes our future. Meanwhile, they treat us like children. When we turn eighteen and graduate, we are told that now we’re really adults. But what I think many of us find out quickly is that most people—parents, teachers, and even colleges—still pretty much think we are kids. Personally, I craved the responsibility that came with adulthood. I was ready to be on my own—sink or swim—to see how I’d do. I was ready to be handed challenges that I’d have to struggle through because others were counting on me, and I needed to prove to them and to myself that I could do it. But I had trouble finding these opportunities when I was young, and I imagine I wasn’t the only one. I suppose I struggled longer than some because I’m small (I can blend in well with a pack of six graders—in fact, in my twenties, when I chaperoned my youngest brother’s six grade campout, I was mistaken for a sixth grader) and for years I looked much younger than I am (at 37, I’m now getting carded when I buy cooking Sherry). But because I looked so young for so long, I remember very well how teenagers are treated—and mistreated—all too often.  Many people are wary of teens and young adults, most don’t seem to want to accept them as fully responsible, capable adults, and I learned from my experience as the good kid who never really considered doing wrong, that it doesn’t matter. For whatever reason, plenty of people will still think you are dangerous and unpredictable, and they feel the need to try to limit and control your actions as a result. That was the impetus for The Academie.

I loved how you left the book with many questions unanswered, but still comfortably wrapped up at the end.  Any chance you can divulge a bit of tidbits of what readers can look forward to in the next installment?

It’s difficult to say much without giving too much away, but I can say that you will hear more about Shara as well as General Schoolcraft and how The Academie came to be.


My next questions are more about you as a writer.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote my first poem for fun at age five, began my first chapter book in third grade, and I always planned to write books, both fiction and nonfiction. However, because I’m interested in so many things, I guess you can say that I became distracted for a while. It wasn’t until my husband began writing his first novel and he encouraged me to write my own that I became focused on fiction in adulthood. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the evening I first sat down to write fiction again, about three years ago now. My reaction was utter glee. I’ve since filled a file over an inch thick with ideas for future stories.


You're an indie writer.  What factors encouraged you to take this route of publishing?

By the time I finished writing The Academie, in the summer of 2011, I had just been through a very rough couple of years. I had been diagnosed the prior fall with Graves’ Disease (an autoimmune thyroid disorder), went through radiation and countless numbers of doctor visits, and mounted some pretty large medical bills. Even so, I finished The Academie—a feat I’m quite proud of given how sick I was—and fully intended to send it off to agents for traditional publishing. However, when I began researching the route to publication, I discovered that a new publishing paradigm had emerged. While with traditional publishing agents were taking on few clients, writers had to do their own advertising, publishing royalties were low, and titles that didn’t sell were pulled from the shelf shortly after publication,  self-publishing had found a new life in print-on-demand and digital publishing (something few traditional publishers had yet to get on board with, but I was eager to—I love digital toys), royalties were high—65-85%, and books could be listed in the big name bookstores of Amazon and Barnes and Noble for as long as you’d like them to stay there, so they had time to find and build an audience.  After the struggle I’d been through with my health, I wasn’t about to watch The Academie sit for years while I found an agent, they found a publisher, and then it was prepped for publication for months more, nor was I willing to give up creative control or take on tiny royalties when I’d poured everything I had at that point in time into that story and I needed the money to recover from the medical bills. I read of the struggles of self-publishing, but I knew I had the skills and the drive to do it and be successful. I’ve never regretted it.


In January of this year, you founded the Indie Writer's Network.  Would you care to divulge a bit more information about this venture?

I started the network about six months after I published The Academie. I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that there’s no reason we should all have to make the same mistakes. If someone (like me) has already learned the hard way, why should everyone else have to suffer through the same lesson? There’s a lot to learn about the craft of writing and publishing, and there are a whole lot of marketing skills you need to gain to become a successful author—indie or traditionally published.  While I found a lot of great writers to follow on Twitter who were writing fantastic articles about writing and publishing on their blogs, I craved a community where we could become friends and support one another on this journey. Hence the Indie Writer’s Network (IWN) was born. Now five months later, IWN is a fully functional social network hosting almost 200 members, free and open to all indie and aspiring writers, with plenty of opportunities to make friends, share the joys and struggles of writing and publishing, learn tips of the trade, and discover great new indie books. In addition, members can create a networked blog (or import an existing one) so members can easily find great articles and updates by their writer friends.

Thank you so much for your time.  I know that myself and your other readers are excited to see what you come out with next.  Any closing words you'd like to share with readers current and potential before we close?
Thanks so much for taking the time to hear my story, and thank you to Matthew for this opportunity and for asking some great questions, which made this a lot of fun for me. For those who’d like to learn more or keep updated on the series, you can visit the series website: http://theacademieseries.com or my author website: http://amysjoy.com. Also, I hope anyone interested in writing and publishing will join us on the Indie Writer’s Network: http://indiewritenet.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DFWCON 2012: Thrillers Part 2

If you missed the first part of my notes from James Rollins' lecture on "Putting the Thrill in Your Thriller", fear not, just click here.

SURPRISE VS SUSPENSE

Surprise and suspense are the key components to a thriller.  While these elements are interchangeable, they are practically opposites.

The explosion from a car bomb, that ghastly figure that walks in front of the camera, or an ear-splitting shriek that tears the tender fabrics of previous silence.  Each of these, properly timed, have the innate ability to leave the audience leaping out of their skin.

Outside of television and radio, these must be handled more delicately and, in some cases, more sparingly.  Moments of surprise are those clever 'WTF' moments that leave you blinking, then rushing back to the previous line and scanning it back and forth because you're certain you read it wrong.

While surprise comes out of nowhere, suspense if a dragging sensation that, much like an avalanche, increases over time.  When you know the bomb is nearby and ticking, the kids are in the dark woods with no awareness of the killer, or somebody's watching feet pace back and forth in front of their hiding spot while attempting to control their breathing, this is when suspense is running the show.

As James pointed out, both of them are necessary in a thriller.  People need the jump.  People need the nail-biting.  People need the thrill that follows.  The important thing to keep in mind is when and where to use which one.  Tongue twisted?  Good.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

There's a reason why roller coasters always move so slowly to the top of the hill.  Sure there's safety precautions in there somewhere, but mostly it's all about the build-up.  Once that top has been crested and the people in front are staring down some ridiculous drop, the cars come to an almost stop, suspending the spectators from the inevitable plummet that awaits them.  This can't go on forever, naturally, and they're soon rewarded with the expectations their adrenaline has been building to.

Establishing suspense and dragging it out for too long is asking for a bored audience.  A fish will only chase a worm for so long, and that literary adrenaline will only flow for so many pages before the reader finds the perfect cozy spot for a bookmark.

This isn't to say that it's all Wam-Bam-ThankYouMrRollins.  A few shock-spots here and there will work wonders, but remember that the audience needs a break.  As James put, having an intense, 20 page boat chase can be pretty thrilling.  By about thirty pages, the reader is bored.  By page 50, they're really hoping somebody will die soon, and they're not choosing sides anymore.  Be sure to establish the breaks and vary the thrill-styles.

LESS IS MORE

Closing up this session from the lecture is James' words on word count.  Aside from the ideas that readers don't like to wait, therefore it's cruel to leave all 'thrills' out for the first 100 pages or so, word choices play a big hand in scene impact.

In these moments, over-explaining a moment will break-up the fast-flow and kill it.  It's like taking the time to explain a joke.  If nobody laughed the first time around, it wasn't funny to begin with.  The best way to make a scene memorable is to use only a few high-impact words to get the point across.

That's it for this week guys.  Apparently I had more notes than I thought.  Stay tuned for the third and final segment of James Rollins' "How to Put Thrill in Your Thriller" next Tuesday night!

Also, the clock's ticking and there's only a little bit more time to snag tickets for DFWCON 2013 at a bargain discount rate!  Go here for details.


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Academie: Book Review


Typically, unless offered, I don’t run out and pick up YA books for enjoyment.  I especially don’t pick up anything labeled ‘YA Romance’.  But when I read over the description of Amy Joy’s book, “The Academie”, I couldn’t help myself.  

THE SYNOPSIS:   
Allie Thompson is a 19 year old college graduate.  However, due to increased levels of violence tearing through the public school system, the government decides to institute The Academie, a mandatory militaristic facility for all citizens between the ages of 14 and 22.  Taken from her friends, freedom, and newfound love, Allie is placed in a remodeled high school along with all other intakes and forced to submit to the program.  

But the Academie has a much darker secret in store.  The apparent brainwashing of her 16 year old brother and the sudden and mysterious disappearance surrounding a new friend lead Allie to believe that there’s more to the establishment than mortar, stone, and crappy cafeteria food.

THE PROTAGONIST:
Allie Thompson is the quiet girl in class.  I want to say the underdog, but she’s actually quite friendly.  She’s definitely an easy character to like and even to relate to in many ways.  She deals with the heartbreak of being yanked from the university and thrown into a dystopian society as one would expect most teenagers – kicking and screaming.  Once the inevitable sinks in, however, she makes the most of her time outside of the place.

THE CONFLICT:
Amy Joy does an excellent job of creating a building as the antagonist.  While certainly intimidating, it holds well to an air of mystery and, as we learn just a short ways into the book, not without a few design flaws.  

Allie Thompson isn’t abused in the Academie.  She comes under no threat of danger outside of her heartache over missing Bryan, the internet boyfriend of her dreams.  That is, until she starts poking around.  The Academie is presented like most forms of government – a good idea in theory, but rarely in practice.  Once flaws become more apparent and things start to fall apart, the tension builds at an exponential rate, leading to a rather late night of uncontrollable page-turning on my part.
-Worth it-

THE ROMANCE:
I don’t write romance for one key reason – I think it’s dumb.  That being said, I was very surprised by the breath of fresh air that came from The Acadamie.  Bryan, the internet hacker long-distance relationship/obsession, isn’t some strong-jawed playboy with bad boy appeal and a dark secret.  In all honesty, he’s a computer geek with health-nut parents.  

The interaction between the two is told in flashbacks, as they are separated into different academies.  The break of pacing is well done, allowing the plot to advance between timed instances of memories.
The love affair itself is in no way hot or steamy.  No sex, gratuitous “I’ll show you mine” scenes, just the innocent exhilaration of discovery on an emotional level.

I honestly couldn’t find a better way to describe the romance than ‘wholesome’. (Much like Bryan’s diet)

WHAT I LIKE:
The secondary characters are interesting.  A LOT of thought went into certain character quirks.  Some of them come into play in the plot later on, others are just interesting, adding another dimension of personality to the people and giving them a greater depth of realism.
The story flows.  Save for one instance where I felt the flashback went on for a couple chapters too long, there’s a definite transition as we watch a whole girl get broken down and slowly piece herself back together.  

The story ends.  There’s no wretched cliff-hanger… no organ grinder slamming out a ‘dun dun DUUUUNNN’ on the final page.  While this may seem like a lousy way to end the first of a series, I’m honestly MORE intrigued for the second because of it.  While some things still linger in the background, you feel fulfilled by the end of the book.  The fact that there’s another coming out only serves to beg the question, “Where is she going to take this?”

WHY I RECOMMEND IT:
This is not the greatest book I’ve ever read.  Probably not even the best I’ve read all year.  But this is an honestly good book that I would feel comfortable recommending to any young audience.  It surpasses a lot of the shallowness with YA female fiction and holds together with a strong plot, strong characters, and deep feeling of satisfaction throughout it.

Still on the fence?  Here’s your opportunity to chime in!  Ms. Joy will be answering interview questions next Friday.  If you have anything you’d like to ask about her work, please chime in with a comment or drop me a line at MattBryantDFW [at] gmail.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DFWCON 2012: Thrillers Part 1

I recently learned that one of the hardest things to deal with while attending a writer's conference is not, in fact, pitch sessions or networking... but rather deciding which classes to attend.  With over fifty classes spread out across ten time slots, narrowing it down to best maximize your time is a daunting task.  Or at least it was for me.

For this reason, I would like to share some of my DFW Writing Conference class experiences with my fellow writers, especially those who had to miss out on the classes at the convention for one reason or another.

First on the list was a class taught by New York Times Bestselling Author James Rollins, 'Putting the Thrill in Thriller'.  I'll be honest, by the end of this one class, I felt like I got my money's worth for the whole shabang.

James Rollins, best known for his Sygma Force series as well as his young adult Jake Ransom novels, is not only a talented writer of thrillers, but also a genuinely down to earth guy and amazing speaker.  Before I get too deep into thumbing through my notes, let me go ahead and say that if you ever have an opportunity to take a class or weekly seminar with James Rollins, DO IT!  Thank me later.

ON WITH THE SHOW:

EXCITING MAIN CHARACTER -

Seriously it seems like this goes without saying.  Indiana Jones wouldn't have been half as exciting if it starred Ernest.  Not saying Jim Varney wouldn't have made an epic movie... cuz he would've, but for all different reasons.

I've never heard anybody describe what makes an over-the-top character better than James Rollins did: "What makes a person bigger than life is an ordinary man who does or says something that you wouldn't say or do."

The guy who stops when he finds a homeless guy collapsed on the side of the road, or runs up the stairs when he should be running out the back door (It's not just a great way to get killed in a cliche horror movie!)  They're the ones we cheer when they win and suffer with as they experience tragedy.

And why do we sympathize with them?  Because they possess at least one of 7 vital components:

SYMPATHETIC QUALITIES
  1. They demonstrate that they're very good at what they do (example: Dr. Gregory House)
  2. They're funny or humorous - which elicits a hormonal response 
  3. They show kindness - Selfless acts of kindness are 'magical' in this day and age
  4. Extension of #3 - they show kindness to kids, elderly or animals
  5. Undeserved misfortune - Stream of bad luck or a Cinderella complex
  6. Have other characters express affection (everybody likes somebody liked)
  7. Under dog... honestly, who DOESN'T love under dogs?  Besides bullies and villains...
While you probably shouldn't use ALL of these... character should be believable after all, at least one of these should be demonstrated within the first five pages of your book. If your audience doesn't find some attachment to your character, they have no reason to tag along on the adventures.

SETTING -  EXOTIC LOCATION - 

 While sure this actually includes 'exotic locations', what James Rollins was referring to also included beyond the "Employees Only" sign, the roof access of a building or that place where old buses go to die.  You don't have to show them the Sahara Desert or take them to Atlantis or a space station to give them something new, just the thrill of stepping beyond the red tape is enough.

Make it real, take them there.

BUILD IN THE THRILL

All thrills start with a need or a want.  Every protagonist needs some goal, something to reach towards, otherwise they're just stumbling blindly and, frankly, come off as powerless characters (major turn-off, dude)

Antagonists are born, not created.  Also, they're not really a challenge unless they're smarter, more resourceful, and have a wider influence than the protagonist.  Winning should seem impossible save for that one EUREKA moment that pulls some hero ass from the fire just as the seat of his pants begin to smolder and ash.  As for the personality of the antagonist: they're real people (or creatures) with real emotions, real goals, and rationalization.  Nobody's evil for the sake of being evil - they need intention... motive... skewed or otherwise...  The best writers in the world will have the reader almost as attached to the antagonist as the protagonist.  To quote James Rollins - "If during the antagonists death scene you make your reader cry, you've written a great book."

So what keeps readers from rooting for the bad guys?  ANTI-SYMPATHETIC QUALITIES.  

Honestly, I'd list them out, but they're the same as I listed before, just backwards.


And this is where I'm going to end part 1.  Mostly because this is getting too long.  Tune in NEXT TUESDAY at 9pm Central for the next part.

And just so you know, tickets for the NEXT DFW Writer's Conference are on sale at the bargain price of $225 a ticket up through May 31st!  Get yours now!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mommy, I Wanna be a Starfighter Pilot

Just about every child of the 80s at one point in time dreamed of being an astronaut.  But every child of the 80s who saw Star Wars or The Last Starfighter dreamed of flying through space and blasting enemy craft to tiny astral bits.

I got a bit closer as great games like Tie-Fighter vs X-Wing and Wing Commander came out.  Not to mention the coffee house just off campus in good ol' Denton, TX (Karma Cafe for you locals) had an old-school Star Wars video game.  The one where you blow up the death star in 3D line goodness!

But the highlight of my visions of star-fighter goodness were realized when I picked up a copy of Freelancer out of the bargain bin of a local electronics store.  Suddenly I was emersed in an abundance of excellence never before witnessed in a space-fighter game: in-depth story, different factions, mining and trading.  From jumpgates to various planet ports and space stations, this game has held the pinnacle of ideal gaming for over a decade.  Even with worn graphics, I still have a copy installed on my latest PC (which I've had for about 4 months now)

But now comes the next move in intergalactic space-fighting goodness!  Thanks to Garry Gaber, formerly of LucasArts, and my unstoppable obsession with Kickstarter, Starlight Inception may be coming to a PC near you!  Well.. depending on your vicinity to me... cuz it'll be on mine (Suckas!)

With just over 24 hours to go, they still need a good push to get funded, but what a bargain!  For just $15, about what I spent on Freelancer 12 years ago, you can ensure that this game gets funded, and get a copy for yourself!

So what do you have to look forward to with Starlight Inception?  Let's have a look -

-  Dramatic and realistic storyline: Players will experience an enveloping space saga with a deep and involving story that spans the solar system.
-  Richly detailed: Rich detail will show from the capital ships, environments, space fighters, transports to explosions.
-  Space action: Action in space and over the surface of planets and moons. Fly over a planet’s atmosphere then swoop down over surface vehicles and troops for a visceral experience both at high and low altitudes.
-  Camera perspective: Switchable 1st and 3rd person cameras let the player tailor the game experience to their own liking.
-  Lots of stuff to do: Blow up stuff with the most advanced fighters known to man, salvage destroyed vessels for cool stuff, defend your ship against incoming marauders, locate and destroy ground targets, blow up more stuff...

And some of the best I've saved for last... On-Demand Management of Energy Resources - Stellar (pun very intended) Soundtrack by David Arkenstone - Triple Grammy Nominated composer

For those of you wondering, no I haven't given up on the wonderful world of literature in favor of marketing kickstarter projects, but I always root for the underdogs with vision.  And between you and me, Space Fighters will never go out of style. 

But the clock is ticking!  Spread the word that Starlight Inception and Republique (read my blogs on Republique here and here) both need YOU and everybody you ever know, have met, or accidentally spilled coffee on while walking down the street to a matinee that you're already late to and are counting on 15 minutes of trailers that weren't worth viewing.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Republique - A New Hope

Call me a sentimental fanboy, but Camouflaj's upcoming project has stuck with me and I wish to see it through to the end.  If you're scratching your head, check out my initial preview of Republique here!




Camouflaj has now announced that they will be making a SPECIAL EDITION of Republique, designed especially for play via the PC and Mac.  As Ryan Payton has stated, this will be much more than a simple copy and paste from the iOS version.  This is a good thing, because while the game is looking incredible so far, it's more of the experience that it offers, leaving players panicked about what may happen if their battery runs out with Hope trapped in an elevator.

I'm pretty curious as to what all the PC and Mac version will offer, although I will admit I'm a bit disappointed by the outcome.  Like I said, it's the experience that really drew me into the game, something completely different and, while I have faith that Camouflaj will come up with something amazing, putting it on a computer seems too much like an adventure game.

Really it's just the idea that the hard-working developers had to roll over a bit and sell-out some of their newly won freedom just for the opportunity to make the game.

It hasn't hit goal yet, but has sky-rocketed since the introduction of the PC version.  So I ask you kindly, help keep this momentum going by spreading the word!  Pitch it to Hunger Game fanatics, Angry Bird enthusiasts and George Orwell junkies!  Just pass on this link - http://kck.st/HEZHSo

Less than two weeks to go and a lot of ground to make up.  Help Camouflaj bring gaming and iPhone usage to all-new heights by encouraging and supporting!  Every dollar counts!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Exerpt from The Forever Girl

Slight change of plan due to a miscommunication with blog scheduling and all that jazz.  Instead, you can find an excerpt of Rebecca Hamilton's debut novel RIGHT HERE!  That's right, look no further for the jingle-jangle of an oncoming sweet-vender packed full of treats for your eyes and minds than this very blog.


Without further adieu... or any other funny words with an over-abundance of vowels...

He rested his forearms on the table and leaned forward. “Was that a yes or a no to dancing?”
I shook my head, but my smile said ‘yes’. Not to mention Marcus was still staring—and in the least intriguing way. He gave me the creeps. If I was dancing with someone else, that might get the weirdo’s attention off me. I spotted Ivory dancing with another girl, perhaps a friend she’d met here before, and figured one dance without her wouldn’t hurt.The man across from me stood and offered his hand. My palm warmed as I accepted, and, as I rose to join him, my balance shifted. I wobbled, nearly falling right back into my seat.
He hooked his arm around my waist, supporting me against his body, his breath soft on my ear. “Careful there.”
At his sudden embrace, a small shock flashed through my body. After a moment, my vision steadied. With his biceps behind my back and his forearm against my side, I felt somehow smaller and safer at the same time. I tilted my face up, catching his gaze. The candlelight from the table danced inside his irises and illuminated flecks of amber in his eyes. He cocked one eyebrow slightly, his amused expression also somehow gentle. Perhaps I’d misjudged him.
The moment rapidly becoming too intimate, I tensed. I needed to put some distance between us, to ignore the unwanted fluttering in my stomach. I stepped back. The air in the room lacked the warmth and comfort of his body.
“I’m okay,” I said, which was true depending on what one’s definition of ‘okay’ was.We wedged into a small opening in the crowd near the speakers. The burning scent of hot electrical wires replaced the fruity aroma of liquored drinks. He tilted his head down toward me as he stepped tentatively closer, then he rested his firm but gentle hands on my hips, his arms bent at the elbow, relaxed.
I was decidedly not so relaxed.I peered up at him, unsure what he expected. I’d never danced with a guy, not unless relatives at weddings counted.Awkwardly, I placed my hands on the front of his shoulders, steadying myself as I swayed with him. A shiver flashed down my spine at the firmness of his body. How could he be so solid and still so graceful? His hands easily covered my hipbones, his fingertips pressing just behind my sides, into the muscles of my back. In that moment, I felt another kind of vulnerability.
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to my ear. “You okay?”
I nodded, stepping closer and sliding my hands around to the back of his shoulders. I buried my face against his chest, safe from his imploring gaze. He smelled like vanilla and musk and sandalwood, and I tried to commit the intoxicating scent to memory.
What the hell was I doing? I hesitated backward, away from him, but he easily guided me right back, and I had to bite my lip not to gasp as an unexpected shudder ran through my body. The heat radiating from his flesh burned through my dress, the warmth igniting in my stomach and snaking outward in an involuntary arousal. An arousal I needed to dismiss, even if only out of the irrational fear I’d become the kind of woman Mother would damn to Hell. Of course, Mother already thought that’s where I was going.

----

At least one lucky commenter will win a FREE COPY of The Forever Girl in E-book format of their choice!  So be sure to stop by and say howdy!

For everybody else, you can find distributors for the format (electronic or paperback) of your choice here - at Immortal Ink Publishing

Thanks for reading!





Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Forever Girl Review


The problem with new authors is that, since the recent trend of self-published e-books, there are so many of them! Having been a wanderer of many a bookstore and library in my youth, the days of casually browsing through shelves of familiar names are all-but over and a beloved past-time has been desaturated with tired angles and rehashed stories.

Breaking the mold is one Rebecca Hamilton, a rare gem picked up by Immortal Ink Publishing for her first book, The Forever Girl.

I'll be honest, I happened across an interview with her on a blog that was offering a free copy of the book, so I thought I'd give it a shot. With a complete stroke of luck, I ended up winning the copy and did a ridiculous happy dance that lasted all of 3.2 seconds before I realized nobody was there to witness my gloating. (Self-gratification is for suckers)

So on to the book itself -

The Forever Girl follows the life of twenty-two year old Sophia Parsons, a practicing Wiccan in a small, religious town. Not her religion. Already being set apart as an outsider, things complicate when she can't seem to escape a constant buzzing in her head.

From there, Sophia's attempts at deeper understanding lead into a well-crafted world of supernatural beings. Not your typical vampire/werewolf nonsense that has taken paranormal romance by storm and run rampant and streaking through the quad with all the appeal of a sun-burned manatee...

Ahem...

Instead, Rebecca has woven together an amazing mythology that holds through out the story. Her ability to write tension is some of the best I've ever seen, painting panic with words to accompany the rich, vibrant hues of the world she's crafted.

My advice? Pick up this book and call in sick, because it's damned near impossible to find a stopping point.

Aside from being a fresh talent with a unique perspective on writing, Rebecca's a pretty cool person, having agreed to do an interview for the writing group this week. Read it at the KFWWriters blog, then check back on Friday for an excerpt and book give-away (so you can see what I'm talking about)

Or pick up a copy for yourself! And thank me later.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Camouflaj Revolutionizing Interactive Entertainment


So it's a relaxed Saturday night in. You're chilling on your couch, flipping through 1527 channels of the same old garbage, letting the monotony and bullshit of your corporate persona slowly run off of you like so much molasses.

Then something breaks the routine, something unexpected. Your phone rings – an unknown number. Instincts tell you better, but your curiosity gets the best of you. Let's be honest here, it's not like it'll make your evening any more dull.

The terrified face of a girl flashes in your screen – young – late teens or early twenties. She says her name is Hope and she's trapped inside a city you've never heard of.

Congratulations, your Saturday night just got more interesting. Heart pounding, you soon realize that you are this girl's confidant and savior. Somehow, your phone becomes a second set of eyes and ears for this girl as you attempt to lead her through the Metropolis, taking control of security cameras, hacking computers, and setting up distractions to mislead guards who want to keep her locked up.

Now let's step away from this nice bit of fiction. Or better yet, what if I told you this was real? No, I haven't been peeking in on your miserable Saturday nights, but this is an experience that you can have – a reality that you can participate in.

Last fall, Ryan Payton was struck with a fury of inspiration. It was one of those lightning spark moments that drives people into madness. Dropping everything including leaving his job with Microsoft and liquidating his assets, he pulled together a handful of trusted individuals, called on Alexei Tylevich, founder of world-renowned production company, Logan, and set to work.

Under the name of Camouflaj, Payton's new independent company set out to change the way gamers view their phones. With the casual game market the dominant leader, Payton's vision was to create an entirely fresh experience, pushing the visual boundaries and interactive capabilities to the limits.

The game, Republique, is his brain-child. Inspired by literary masterpieces such as George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the game is set in a fictional dystopian society, one that's part of our world, but locked away.

The girl, Hope, was designed not to be some bad-ass chick or sex-bunny flaunting her digital curves and canyons. Instead, the character herself is meant to bring about a feeling of sympathy with the player – with you. Instead of setting it around grinding up points, money, gear, or kill cards, Payton's desire is that the player will build a bond with Hope, making each decision that you make in the game more stressful as you want nothing bad to happen to her in her attempts to escape.


When I first heard about this game, I got the chills. The concept of attempting to lead through surveillance has been attempted in games before, but never with this level of technology and never implemented into your own hands. Honestly, I don't even own an iPad or iPhone – I've got an Android. But there was no way that was going to stop me from picking up a new personal goal – seeing this project through to fruition.

As more companies are moving to Kickstarter to seek funding for original ideas instead of major production houses, Payton saw this as an opportunity to move away from the strict guidelines and see his dream become a reality.





Being a bit of a penny-pincher myself, I would never dream of asking anybody to run over to the site and pledge money for something. What I will ask is that you check it out if any of this grabbed your attention or pass the information along. 


Some people get giddy over apps that let you buy coffee from your phone. I get excited about the prospect of the next step in interactive entertainment. If funded in time, expect to see the finished product hit iOS stores in Summer 2013.



Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Set Up (Me and the Dragon)


At the prompting of my wife I now have a supersecret super awesome project. While it may do terrible things to my grammar and spelling, it opens up a whole new world of writing potential. What is my grandiose scheme you might ask? Simple. Using the power of technology, I will dictate a series of stories.

The above text was all written by speaking into a headset plugged into my netbook.  Pretty damned schnazzy, eh?  Honestly, I would’ve done more, but my wife’s trying to get the baby to sleep and I was told to ‘shhh.’  You can’t shoosh brilliance, sweetheart! 

Although, as I said, it was her idea.  I for one didn’t think it would work.  So far, I have been pretty excited with the abilities.  But come Monday, I’m taking this bad boy out for a field test.

The purpose of this particular project was to try and maximize my time so I’m not always feeling so pressed come 10pm to motivate myself to work and crunch out anything worthwhile.  But at the same time, I have at least an hour and a half commute every day.  This time is spent doing car karaoke and cursing the gods of traffic (You bastards!  You know who you are!)

This seems like a perfect win, right?   Well unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks.

First of all – who actually writes by dictating it?  Sure I can READ a story out loud like it’s nobody’s business, but thinking it up and speaking it out without a visual reference to reread lines that I just wrote is going to be… an adjustment.

Next order of business… anybody wearing a headset while driving down the road looks like a total douche.  I don’t care HOW attractive you are – if you look like you’re telecommuting to your call-center job from the car, it screams nerd.

…and now I understand why my wife thought this was a good idea…

But I digress.  In a week’s time, I’ll post up the results including accuracy and daily word-count for any of those interested.

On the plus side, it’s a relatively cheap investment.  I picked up the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 package from Amazon.com for $50.  It came with a headset, but I purchased a KOSS headset best known due to good reviews.  These were marked down to $17 when I purchased them.  Next-I already had an Acer Aspire One D255E with 1.66Ghz atom processor, 1 gig of ram and a 3 cell battery.  (but it was $220 when I got it), but it doesn’t have an external DVD rom.  I grabbed one for $22 (not shown.  Any external DVD rom drive will do)  and finally, I grabbed a car charger – opting for that instead of a bigger battery.  I’d prefer not to go into sleep mode while driving.  The netbook too…

Keep your fingers crossed I can boost productivity here and I’ll let you know how it turns out!