Here are the cold, hard facts for this dreary Chicago evening.
The Kill Stack is dead. Long live The Kill Stack...
The Nemesis Wave is the working title of the new science fiction book I’m currently 6,000 words into. It once again tackles time travel, but in a much simpler way. I’ve learned my lesson from The Cold Forever (currently free to download on amazon). You won’t need a prescription for headache medication.
The premise is straight forward (for a science fiction book, anyway). A team comprised of scientists and security personnel are investigating a strange signal in a dangerous and exotic location, when they are attacked by insurgents. Forced to flee and hide in newly discovered underground tunnels, the team exits on the other side, only to find out that everything has changes.
Propelled hundreds of years into the future by an unknown mechanism, the team soon discovers that humanity is no longer at the top of the food chain. Another, smarter species has taken over the planet, inadvertently driving the human race to the edge of extinction.
Artificial Intelligence runs the planet now, and they’re reprogramming Earth for unknowable purposes, destroying the chemical makeup of our biosphere.
To save the human race from a slow death, the team will enlist the help of a young, rogue AI and take on powerful trio of AIs that is changing our world into something that cannot be explained.
And amidst all of this, the mysterious signal that brought the team this far, is ever present. And here in the future, it is much more powerful. Something else is happening on future Earth, and even the mighty AIs are frightened by it.
Long time, no update. Sorry. Life happens when you least expect it, I suppose. No matter. I'm back now, and what follows is a quick (turns out, not so quick) update and summary of my next book, The Kill Stack.
When I finished The Cold Forever I was faced with a decision of what to write next. I had come up with an outline for a sequel. It's a good one. It's actually a sequel and a prequel. It follows the structure of the previous novel, by having two timelines once again. Two seemingly separate stories that eventually converge in the last third of the book.
The novel would reunite the main characters of The Cold Forever several years later. That's the sequel part. The prequel happens in the second timeline, and it is the story of Djaq's sisters. The story happens in parallel with the events in The Age of Frost (a time period in the distant future in The Cold Forever).
Anyway, it's all really rather complicated, I'm afraid... And that's why I ended up hitting the pause button. My book has been described as too complex. Too complicated to follow sometimes. There are three stories, dovetailing into an ending that ties them all together rather neatly. To me, that's not complicated. But I wrote the damned thing, so I'm a little biased. I didn't set out to write a book for the hardcore science fiction fan, but that's what ended up happening. It turns out, The Cold Forever is not for the average book reader. It's for someone who reads the weird shit. Complicated time travel stuff. Peter F. Hamilton books. Dan Simmons books. It's the kind of book, that if you were to put it down for a few days or weeks and pick it back up, you'd have to start all over.
And that was heartbreaking to learn. On the one hand, the book is tailor made for the die-hard science fiction fan. On the other hand... where the hell are you guys?
So I shoved the sequel to the side, frustrated with the book's inability to find an audience. And I wouldn't blame marketing either... I won't go into it, but I did some stuff. And some things. I got several thousand people to download the ebook version. It remains to be seen if any of them actually read it, though.
So now I was back to square one. I wanted to keep writing, but I had to shelve the sequel for another time. So what would I write next? Then an idea popped into my head. Who says that I have to stick to science fiction? Why not hit a new genre? Something just as interesting to me as science fiction.
I settled on crime, because why not? More specifically, a violent crime story with some humor; something akin to a literary version of Pulp Fiction. Separate stories weaving around each other until they reached a violent, yet satisfying conclusion.
So what's the story about? Didn't you see the cover? It's about casino chips.
Ok, it's about more than that. The story focuses on several characters, but primarily, it is about Fredo and Kazz. Two hapless guys who find themselves in possession of a million dollar's worth of casino chips that belong to a mafia boss. Now they have to avoid bloodthirsty mafia goons, a dirty cop with a bad debt to the wrong people and a contract killer out for revenge.
I'm writing this as cinematically as possible. Heavy on neo-noir and ultra-violent influences of Michael Mann and Quentin Tarantino movies. I'm 30,000 words in what is shaping up to be a 60,000 word novel. It's considerably shorter than The Cold Forever, which weighed in at a hefty 107,000 words. But I'm hoping that it is easier to read. Easier to follow. It has lots going for it. It has the funny. It has the violence. A strong female protagonist. And a pair of dummies you can't help but love.
I really hope that this time around, the book finds its audience. I really don't care about sales. I just want people to read it. And like it. And maybe give it some reviews so that other people could read it. And hopefully like it as well...
The top image is just a draft of a cover. Much like with my previous book, this one will go through several stages. But I think now that I have given it a visual presence, the book will start to come together quicker. I'm hoping to finish it this year, and self-publish it next year. We'll see how it goes. We'll see where it goes.
Until then though, stay frosty my friends.
Recently, I had come to the conclusion that I needed to updated the cover for The Cold Forever. While I love what I'd originally designed, I now realize that it is too abstract for a science fiction book. It does have this heavy, foreboding feeling to it, that I dig, but it doesn't really express what the book could be about, at first glance.
The new cover has a proper science fiction feel to it. It has a recognizable spacey background, as well as a mysterious, strangely texture figure in the foreground. The figure could actually represent several characters in the book, but primarily it foreshadows the character that is the bloodline of the story.
In addition to the cover, I had decided to finally address some of the minor errors that have crept up as I received feedback on the book. So once the manuscript has been updated, I will redeploy it as a special, "revised" edition of the book, which will include the new front and back covers.
Finally, I have updated the synopsis to be a little bit more in depth and, hopefully, more accurate, while remaining mysterious and enticing. Check it out:
When a voyager from beyond the stars crash lands on Earth, he inadvertently unleashes a global catastrophe that begins to unravel time itself. Now a team of desperate strangers must dodge devastating time fluxes, stop an escalating war and face a remorseless enemy from the future that cannot be killed.
But first, they will have to find each other, through
the ever shifting timelines of The Cold Forever…
With the Earth’s past, present and future colliding in violent storms throughout our planet, a young girl must put her trust in a mysterious warrior from outside of time, in order to stop a monster from her worst nightmares.
Finding himself in possession of an enigmatic device, a courier with no memory will battle through deadly soldiers, ruthless mercenaries and a powerful adversary that stalks his every move. He is forever urged on by a quest to recover his memories and the ethereal presence that lives in his mind, which threatens to unravel what is left of his sanity.
AGE OF FROST
After witnessing the start of a massive war between two dying nations, three knights will be sent on a dangerous mission, far beyond enemy lines. In their search for the last heir to the throne, they will come face to face with an ancient wizard and the savage Shadow King himself.
SEPARATED BY EONS, THEY MUST ALL COME TOGETHER
OR WATCH AS THEIR WORLD GETS TORN ASUNDER
While I finish up the cover and the revision of the manuscript, the book will remain available for free on Amazon as well as all the usually eBook distribution places. Now's the time to get it folks, guilt free, because after the update, I will go back to charging for it. Soon after which I will begin a more active and aggressive marketing strategy.
A couple of little tidbits before we dive into the subject of this particular blog post.
I would love it very much, if you had actually read my book, The Cold Forever, if you'd give me a review on Amazon and Goodreads. That would be beautiful. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?
Also, I have a podcast, that I do with a friend, on the topic of Art. We pick a subject that we might know nothing about, and do some research, then we try to talk it out. We've done season 1, and are in the midst of season 2 now. They are available on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, YouTube and Impoverished Geek. The name is The Art Shmart Podcast. If you'd like to learn more about the big world of art, but don't enjoy the stuffy atmosphere of a typical lecture class, give us a shot!
And now... How to be stylish, on a budget.
What do I mean by that, exactly? Well I mean dressing like a grownup without breaking the bank, of course. But a little history first.
For most of my life, I'd worked at places where dressing up wasn't required. The only time I had to wear any kind of "uniform" was when I worked for an Animal Clinic. I wore scrubs, cause it's easier to clean off the blood from those. Every other job was business casual at most. I now work at a place where, at times, I may get a little dirty. Though I am a designer by trade, that is not the extent of my responsibilities. I roll up my sleeves and get down with prototyping, installations and construction.
So, as you would imagine, wearing a 3-piece suit is not something that was ever on my radar. Of course, there are times when I need to wear something nice. When I'm meeting a client, for example. Or if there's some kind of an event I have to attend. But generally speaking, it's T-shirt, jeans and a hoody. Nothing to write home about.
Well, a few years ago, I got tired of that. There are people, who on a daily basis have to wear a suit, or at least a shirt and a tie, to work. I don't operate in those circles, obviously. But I've always liked clothes. I enjoy fashion. Men's style. That sort of thing.
So as I said, I got tired of the T-shirt and jeans look. During the cold winter months, that year, I made a little experiment. I started to dress up for work. Nothing fancy. A shirt, tie and slacks.
The transformation I felt was nothing short of shocking. Visually, I looked different, sure, but internally, I actually felt different. I was more sure of myself. More confident. I didn't slouch as much at my desk. I acted differently around clients. And in return, I noticed a change in the people around me. The co-workers gave me compliments, as did my bosses. The clients seemed to have a slightly different attitude toward me. They seemed more relaxed. Like, as if I knew what I was doing. You don't always think a slob knows what he's doing, as far as first impressions go.
Yes, all of that was nice of course, but I am not a rich man. And these clothes I did not posses. So how could I afford it all? Well that's where the fun stuff comes in. I did that experiment until spring came. Then it got warm and I didn't want to wear shirts and slacks anymore. It was getting hot.
A few years went by and it was now spring of 2015. I recall a Sunday night, when I was preparing for the next day, when the thought occurred to me again. Why not start the experiment again, only this time, keep going with it.
I reviewed the clothes that I had left from my original experiment. The clothes that I'd purchased at the local Salvation Army store. 5 shirts, plus several ties, ran me somewhere between $35 - $40. Well that Salvation Army store was now long gone. My new option was the Goodwill Store, where I'd scored again, with a few shirts and a tie. But that's really a crapshoot, if you ask me. Yeah it's cheap, but you never know what you're going to get. And I won't buy pants there. I just won't. Nor socks.
So the hunt was on for affordable, stylish items. I had the shirts covered, but now I need a few more ties, socks and anything else I deemed fashionably appropriate for work.
So to Amazon.com I went.
Amazon.com is perfect for a man on a budget that is seeking to introduce some style into his wardrobe. A set of 5 ties for under $15. 12 pairs of fancy socks, for $33. A coat for $36. Baggy Chukka Boots for $50. A sports coat for $33.
Are these big time designer brand names? No. Of course not. They're cheap knock offs, mostly made in China. But that doesn't matter. Unless you have money, this is one of the best ways to stay on budget and attain at least some level of style.
And I don't know about you, but I feel great when I dress well. I feel successful. I feel confident and sure. I'm going to continue this experiment until that time comes when I get sick of it. I hope that it doesn't come soon.
Let's talk influences.
When I was writing The Cold Forever, I had a very good idea of what I wanted to infuse that story with. I had this cacophony of noise in my head, and I needed to kind of let it all out. To let it become its own thing.
It's really just a soup of all these things I grew up with. The book is science fiction, so I threw just about everything I could remember into it. Yeah, it may seem familiar to some people. Someone had remarked that the battles reminded him of Transformers and Iron Man. What a coincidence. I love Transformers and Iron Man.
But that's not all that's in this book. I distinctly remember thinking up of ways to do the action scenes in the far future part of the story. When I was drafting the concept, the idea for that particular time line was to make it seem like it was going to be a fantasy. Knights, creatures, wizards. And then slowly, it would morph into what it really was - a science fiction story.
It was suppose to be bait and switch.
I took Arthur C. Clark's idea, that future technology would seem like magic to us, literally. So I have weapons that are suppose to resemble magic wands. I have a character that can perform incredible feats, which was suppose to allude to him being a wizard. Then there's the whole "going on a quest" trope that permeates a lot of fantasy literature.
I quickly abandoned that idea, however. The story stayed the same, but I didn't try to hide the science fiction part of it as much in the later drafts. It's fairly straight forward now. I felt that the mild deception really served no purpose.
So back to the action scenes. How do I make them interesting? How do I make them somewhat unique? Yeah, it's the future. And, yeah, people have crazy weapons. But I've always loved hand to hand combat. And martial arts. And armor.
A light went off in my head when I finally got to one of the first major action scenes. I was raised on anime. I was raised on Gundam Wing and Dragon Ball Z. And Ghost In The Shell. And Akira.
So my futuristic action scenes became an amalgamation of all of that. My characters flew through lightening stricken skies, while pummeling each other, in their advanced armor.
To the question of why would characters wielding advanced weaponry, choose to fight each other in hand to hand combat, I say, because it is more fun. More interesting. More visually arresting. So what, if it's not all that logical. That's really not the point. My goal was to entertain, not to create an exercise in realism.
There are other parts of the story, of course, that required other types of influences. There was a mystery to be solved. There was time travel. There was an alien. I took the ingredients I picked from my favorite entertainment medias and crafted a dish that had no name. If you get nothing else from my book, you'll at least have to agree that you've never read anything like it before. I know I haven't.
While my book is crammed with ideas I'd absorbed from movies and books from my past, my hope is that all of these influences were filtered through my own, unique prism. That I'd crafted a story that was very different, yet had echoes of things from the past. Something people could grab onto, lured in by the familiar. Then they could experience a story, unlike any other.
I think, for the most part, I'd succeeded. You tell me, though.
That's not all I grew up on, of course. My next book, The Kill Stack, is about as far from science fiction as you could get. There you'll get to see my other side. One of many, to be sure.
If you're an indie author, and you're interested in doing a review exchange. Please let me know. I'm still looking for people to participate.
I used to love going to see movies in theaters when I was a kid. I just couldn't afford it all the time. Ironically, now that I can, I loath to do so.
It's just become too hard. I love movies. I just don't love the people that go to see them. Constantly talking. Checking their phones. Inevitably sitting behind me, when the entire theater is empty. Seriously, backward hat-wearing guy? Seriously?
I've got stories. Many of them. Bad ones. Horrible ones. People getting kicked out. Teenage drama. Phone LED light fights. Not as bad as some of the ones you hear about, mind you. You know the ones where people get shot or stabbed for talking? Not as bad as those. But bad enough. I just go to the really big ones, now. And very late at night. A lot of the times, by myself.
The stuff I write about or read can be traced back to the shows and movies I used to watch as a kid. I'd say the majority of the movies were definitely science fiction, to the surprise of absolutely no one. Robocop. Terminator. Blade Runner...
That's some pattern right there, kiddies. You'd think I liked robots, or something.
I'm going to list some of my favorites here. Let's do it in a fun way. Let's put some new twists on these ancient classics, courtesy of the great artists of YouTube. Let's put up some modern trailers for our modern sensibilities.
I mean, what can be said about this treasure, that hasn't been said all ready. Here comes Bruce Lee. The legend. His big time arrival in America, though he'd been here for much longer than that. It's a bit dated, though you can't tell from the modern trailer above, but if you are a fan of martial arts movies, this is where you start.
There would be no Matrix, no Ghost In The Shell, no diving into the computer, without the original Tron. It doesn't hold up well, for those who were born beyond the 90's. But man is it important in the grand scheme of things. It looks amazing, considering where movie making tech was back then. It just looks like some kind of an avant-garde painting.
What would be amazing, if the creators of this movie went back and used modern day CGI to replace the old CGI. This movie is fantastic. The pacing is perfect. Who among us as kids didn't dream of being whisked away into the stars to fight an alien armada. I believe this movie was one of the first times full CGI was used instead of models. It shows, but it retains a certain charm because of it.
Blade Runner. This movie hasn't aged one bit. From the score, to the editing, to the acting, to the special FX. Everything still looks great. Some people call it a bit slow. Nonsense. It's pacing. Deliberate. It's not an action movie, though there is action here. It's not a detective story, despite the NOIRish tone. It's not a love story, though it certainly feels that way, a lot of the time. It's not any of things and it is all of them.
Check out the rest in my playlist of modern trailers. I didn't create them. They are as amazing as the movies they promote.
No, that's not right. That's a blog for a different night. An 80's night.
I'll keep this short and to the point, then. I'd like to start a book review swap program for indie authors.
Sometimes getting that first or second review for your recently published book seems impossible. I've had the fortune in people giving me some awesome reviews. And I appreciate the hell out of that. But as I'd mentioned in my previous blog entry, waiting for a review feels like torture.
So I propose a swap to you, indie author. You give me your book. I give you mine. We read 'em. We review 'em. We post 'em. Ain't a thing wrong with that. After all, what is an author but a reader with high aspirations and delusions of grandeur. Mostly the later.
If that is something you, as an indie author, would like to participate in, head over to the Beta Review Swap Program page and gimme a buzz.
Next blog will be more inclusive and more fun. I promise!
There is nothing more frustrating to a writer than a lack of readership. Nothing. Not any kind of creative block. Not lack of time. None of that matters, when there ain't nobody to read your work in the first place.
That's a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.
They toil away, hacking at the keys, for days, months, years. And when all is said and done, and their work is complete, all they ever want is for someone to read the bloody thing.
Someone. Anyone. Please.
They don't care if you like it, though hopefully you do. They don't care if you find mistakes, though hopefully you won't. Just. Read it. Most of the time they are screaming into the void. An endless, well-wishing one, but a void never the less.
I suspect many an author knows which well-wishing void I'm referring to. So I'll just wink at them and carry on.
Most of us don't write for the money. How could we? Unless you're a top-seller, chances are that proposition would be dicey at best. Check your expectations at the door, mon frere. Get a job, you bum. Etc.
So what do we write for? Well it's a creative outlet. It's stress relief. It's a chance to build a world. To belong. Blah blah blah.
It's a long con. Especially if you're writing a book. Because, here we are, a year or so later, and you're begging people to read your book. You're giving out free copies. You're making ebook versions available for eReaders that haven't even been invented yet!
Some famous person once said that you should forget about getting your friends to read your book. They won't do it. They just don't care enough about it. Not entirely true, though there is a nugget of truth, certainly, buried deep inside of that pessimistic point of view.
So what do we, as writers, need to do to find readership? What can we do? I say that it's a long con because waiting for feedback on a book is an excruciatingly long process. And it is a process you're not allowed to sit idly through. You have to be doing stuff. Important stuff. Like finding more readership. Like finding people that are not just willing to read your book, but also review it in all the obvious places, like Goodreads, Amazon and Booklikes. And it takes forever. And you pray that they like it enough to give you at least 3 stars.
And it cons you, because after all of that, holy shit, you may not find anyone who wants to read your stupid words anyway.
So why keep doing it? Because someone will read it. Eventually. And someone will like it. Probably. And that's a nice feeling. It is ever so nice. Like scoring. You know... in sports? And other things.
So the writer will keep going. Despite earning next to nothing with their free eBook offers. Despite not having anyone to read their works, initially. Despite giving away free copies, in book giveaways, to people who just couldn't possibly care less about your story, and will never read it (seriously, why are you entering the giveaway if you won't read the book). And, of course, despite the millions, upon millions of awful Young Adult and Romance novels that saturate the market, and compete for your readers' attention.
Despite all of that, the writer will keep going. Because above any potential praise. Above any rising sales figures. Above any of that, writing is fun, god dammit.
I'd created a trailer for The Cold Forever a month or so ago, but it didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to. I wasn't happy with it. It was a bit cheesy, if I'm being honest with myself.
It's gone now. I'd wiped that particular transgression from the internet... IT IS NO MORE!
But I still needed a trailer. If an author is serious about distributing his or her book to a wider audience, they should really have one done. For my second attempt, I decided to forgo using an actual person and concentrated hard on the message. I wanted it to be cool, mysterious.
But mostly, I wanted it to be visually interesting.
I'd come up with the idea of showing a few seconds of some old NASA science program I'd found while visiting a public domain video library. It's great. Uploaded from a beta tape... A BETA TAPE! It has everything I wanted. That fuzzy, 80's distortion. Tape artifacting. The works, in other words. I used that footage as a signal that gets, abruptly, interrupted, or hijacked, by one of the main characters in the book.
He ends up delivering an ominous message to humanity, which is not part of the book. And then the title is revealed along with other pertinent information. I'm pretty proud of it... I don't have any of those lingering doubts I had with the first try. It's pretty great.
But enough of me going on and on about it. Have a look for yourself!
Let me know what you thought!
I write with music. Music is always present. What kind of music is playing, is always dependent on the type of story I'm writing. The Cold Forever I wrote with ambient music, such as Carbon Based Lifeforms, between my ears. The Kill Stack I'm writing with Jazz...
I love music. Back in 1999 I downloaded a software synthesizer, on a whim, called TS-404. I had no music abilities, outside of the one trip to a violin teacher, back when I was incapable of crossing the street by myself. That musical rendezvous produced absolutely nothing.
So I taught myself how to use TS-404 and how to create some... well let's just call it avant garde music. It wasn't really digestible, per se. Here's one that I'm only 99% embarrassed by:
I know, I know... amazing, right? How can someone be so young and so good, you're asking? I mean, if you're asking that, you're clearly tone deaf. So, stop it.
Back then I would write maybe 10 songs in one week. 100% garbage, all of them. But eventually, I'd upgraded my software, gotten a keyboard and taught myself a few things here and there. These are the results.
That last one? I was coming to that. That's the official score/soundtrack to The Cold Forever. Something I was working on in parallel with writing the actual book.
I'm influenced by a lot of stuff, when it comes to music. New Order, Daft Punk, Smashing Pumpkins... look. There's a lot of stuff that's floating around in my head. I urge you to go and have a listen. I don't think you'll be disappointed, and if you are... well it can't be helped that you don't like good music.
I'm just kidding.
For a while there, after I'd finished writing The Cold Forever, I was working on a sequel. I'd outlined the plot to an absurd degree. I'd created new characters, and fleshed out characters that were spoken of, or seen very briefly in that book. I'd even toyed around with some potential titles.
There were a lot of "beyonds" there... It's a work in progress, all right?
Anyway, I'm not writing that book right now. Right now I'm writing something else. I took a left turn. I got the inkling at some point, that perhaps I don't want to just write science fiction. I love science fiction, and I will write more of it (maybe that sequel, eventually). But why not tackle a different genre with each new book?
This time around, I wanted to write something funny. Something funny and vicious. Vicious, funny and brutal. I love stories where a character gets in way over his or her head and overcome tremendous odds.
This time around, a young man falls out of favor with a new Las Vegas mafia boss. And shit just kind of rolls downhill from there. Now he has to track down a huge stash of poker chips, dodge mafia hitmen, a dirty cop and his own rotten luck. On the way he makes a friend, and the two amigos dive deep into a seedy world of criminals, fast cash and... well you get the idea.
In the coming months, I'll talk more about my inspirational materials for this project, share some insights into my writing process and other such behaviors. So stay tuned. I'm hoping to make this into a regular thing.