Expanding on Weun Academy’s first book!

Progress continues on my latest novel, Weun Academy! As I’ve mentioned before, the new manuscript sits around the 160 page mark, which I predict is about one-third of the completed book. It’s been at that number of a while now. Around the 2016 winter holidays that started to worry me. I kept wondering why I couldn’t progress on the main story. After all, it’s not like I don’t know what the story is about. But the inspiration and drive to sit and write just wasn’t there.

I’m wondered, like I’m sure many other writers do at some point, if I had hit “that wall,” the one you’ll never get past. But here’s the thing, I honestly love looking into what’s happening in the D’mok Universe. When I sit to write, I get a streaming view directly into my mind about what’s going on there. I truly enjoy it, and wanted to experience that again.

Inspiration is a funny thing, it ebbs and flows as it wants to. I know I’m making it sound like it’s alive, as if it has a will of its own. But you know what? Sometimes it feels exactly like that. It tells me what it wants, when it wants, with however much detail, and for however long as it wants to. It also tells me when it’s not ready to show me something. I just “had that feeling” that it wasn’t time to write more.

So, I do what I always do when this happens, I sat back and enjoyed life. Creativity, for me, comes from living life. My friends, my triumphs, my failures, my fears, all somehow feed the well from which the D’mok Revival universe springs. A wonderful wedding happened, the election happened, the aftermath of the election happened, Thanksgiving, Christmas and a magical new year happened, and low-and-behold, so did inspiration!

Between the New Year and Donald Trumps innuguration I wrote 14 short segments about various aspects of Weun Academy. This is very similar to what happened when I began writing D’mok Revival so many years ago. I’d get snippets of information, background stories, glimpses into the lives of specific characters in situations that have nothing to do with the main story but help me understand who they are.

As a result the Weun Academy campus has transformed, new characters have emerged, I understand the meaning and relevance Weun Academy’s prologue and its implications (which impact D’mok Revival’s main story and Wayfinder’s, the second spin-off series)…

And NOW–now it’s time to integrate this into the existing manuscript. “It” tells me once that’s done I’ll get the next part of the story. So be it.

I’ve worked on integration all day. One of the things that jumped out was the need to more clearly describe the uniforms used at the academy. I took the time to sketch out designs and scour the internet for things that matched. I’m happy to report, I’ve pulled together exactly what I had in my head!

I found components of these drawings on the internet, created additional assets, then pulled them together to create what you’re seeing. Final versions will be developed. I’ve attached the images below.

The first is the ability category (“Discipline”) pin for “The World,” represented by a mountain.

the world emblem

The second is the student jumper.

lyons_emprada_uniform_1_by_kenu v6-postable

This is worn while on campus grounds and during all training sessions. The specialized shirt is really the most customized part of the outfit sporting black outer edges on the arms and shoulders, purple main section and lighter purple stripes, and raised collar. On the collar shows the ability category (“Discipline”) pin, and on the chest, Weun Academy’s emblem.

 

Third is the formal (or “Dress”) jacket.

formal jacket

A subtle pattern is printed on the jacket, that reflects in the light and becomes visible when you’re closer. You see a hint of that in the example image. On the neck, the wearer’s ability category (“Discipline”) pin is displayed. On the chest, the Weun Academy emblem is displayed. The golden braid is for an earned distinction (like becoming mentor of other students after mastering skills). The shoulder boards display the number of stripes equal to the level of mastery (could also be years at school), and sit on black panels. The silver “flower” buttons further accentuate the ornateness of the jacket. This is complimented by formal black trousers and with purple stripe down the side.  As a note, Matt helped me apply the pattern.  Thanks Matt!!  🙂

I’m especially proud of this jacket design. One of the things I try to keep in mind as I go along is whatever readers encounter I want them to be able to recreate in the “real world.” It could be food mentioned in the cafeteria, learning games from classrooms, or outfits characters wear. I believe the above designs are very accessible, where cosplayers could make them happen. A dear friend of mine, Kathleen Jenks-Grobben, mentioned how Victor Krum’s outfit in Harry Potter has a unique angled part to his jacket and people have been able to recreate it.

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, Stanislav Ianevski, 2005, (c) Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, Stanislav Ianevski, 2005, (c) Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

That actually made me feel much better.  I DO love the angled section and want to keep it.

Anyway, with these designs I can continue the integration of the other holiday items. Specifically, the introduction of a new character, Kira Madaki.

It might be fun to do future posts introducing some of the Weun Academy characters (non-main story items)… Hum. We shall see!

As a side note, for anything found on the Internet that wasn’t explicitly mine, I DO have contact information for the original creators and will reach out to them as appropriate. I believe in people getting credit for the things they create!

Successful Launch of D’mok Revival: New Eden

The launch party for D’mok Revival: New Eden was held at Bayview Library in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Saturday, December 3rd, 2016 at 3pm.

Here’s a link to the event video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7DjsRhfeUM

I wanted to thank all the incredible family, friends, and fans that came to the event! It means the world to me to have such amazing support.  It felt great to talk about the series, and unveil my latest novel. I even got to tease a little about Weun Academy and the HoverDome board game.

But the best part for me was the Q&A segment at the end came. There were so many great questions! You really made me dig deep to answer them.

Here’s the door prizes:

neweden-giveaways2 newdengiveaways1

As always, my son, Derek, helped pick the winning tickets. Congratulations to the winners of the door prizes!  I hope you all enjoy them.

mikeandderek

I also wanted to thank the following friends and family for helping to set up, run, and take down the event: Derek Zummo, Sam Zummo, Elizabeth Zummo, Kristin Zummo, Anthony Zummo, Matt Ferrara, Kathy Ferrara, Lauren and Jake Eveland, Bob Solem, It takes a village sometimes, and I’m thankful for mine.

Here’s some more photos from the event:

ryanandsusie mikeandmatt mike-and-susie mikeandneweden mikeandtrilogy

 

An explosion of activity

September and October has been crazy with activity! Here’s what’s happened:

  • Released my first “omnibus” which contained the first three novels, two novelettes, and two prologues from the next two novels
  • Won one a Readers’ Favorite award in the youth: science fiction category for D’mok Revival: New Eden
  • Incorporated the award emblems into the D’mok Revival: New Eden cover
  • Released the ebook edition of D’mok Revival: New Eden on Amazon
  • Finalized printing details of D’mok Revival: New Eden with lightningpress.com
  • Planning out the D’mok Revival: New Eden launch party details (tentative: Nov 2016)

But as they say, “That’s not all!

An oldie but goodie has come back on the radar. My board game concept, HoverDome, which simulated the hover bike racing action mentioned in D’mok Revival: Descension, and experienced by readers in D’mok Revival: New Eden, is back on the table (literally).

This weekend I’m attending a board game designer’s workshop at Game Universe, a local game store. I’m going to present the concept, do some playtesting, and hopefully evolve a few elements.

THEN, in two weeks, I’m attending a three day board game designer workshop in Madison. I’ll get to review it with fellow designers, playtest with folks off the street, and present it to board game publishers!

I’m so excited! In fact, since D’mok Revival: New Eden is out there, I can reference it directly as a cross-promotional opportunity, and provide more context about how this game came about.

So, tonight I’m going to do some quick enhancements to the paper prototype. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.

But wait!

Progress on Weun Academy is still moving forward. The slow progress is due to focusing a lot of time on the omnibus, and New Eden… But I’m always looking into the WA universe and seeing what’s going on. This continues to build pieces for me to stitch together and understand, in preparation for my next “sit down” writing session.  It seems like every few hours I’m experiencing things that make me think, “That should really make it in WA.”  Actually, there’s been plenty of things that have made me think, “This would be great for WA2!”

Right now, the plan is to target next summer to release Weun Academy. That’s actually a lot closer than you may think.

That’s all for now!

Life’s inspiration feeding Weun Academy’s story

Writing Weun Academy is so much fun!  Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about Rhysus and the original crew from the original D’mok Revival books.  There’s certainly a LOT of story to tell there.  But it’s refreshing to break into such new territory with a very different crew, just in the same literary universe.

Events from my life have always found their way into the core themes and threads of the D’mok literary universe. That tradition is alive and well with my latest work.

I’ve found my own experiences as a freshman at Carroll College influenced Eisah’s experience at Weun Academy. I remember a distinct awkwardness when I first arrived on campus.  I didn’t know people, or my way around. I recall just trying to figure things out and make sure I was as ready as I could for classes. I also remember the first few people I met, and how our common struggle bonded us together. I’ve translated this into Eisah’s first few days.

In addition, my son’s experience of starting at a new elementary school in third grade (all students transfer into this school as new students at grade 3) has inspired some of the initial emersion events for Eisah as he arrives at Weun Academy. I won’t give too many specifics as I don’t want to ruin specifically what happens.

To my great amusement, I’ve found the amusing and delightful banter of my coworkers has inspiring some of the dynamics between Eisah’s new friends. I believe writing in my coworkers near sibling rivalry-like interactions made my Weun Academy characters more entertaining, likeable, and more relatable.

During a recent family vacation to New York city, a walk through Central Park inspired a new area at Weun Academy. This new location provides students a place of recreation, relaxation, and practicing their abilities.

During the same trip, a visit to the Statue of Liberty left me in awe. I’d never seen it with my own eyes. While it wasn’t as tall as the Empire State building (as illusioned by pictures and portrayals of the status in various media outlets), she is stunning!  She is such an icon for our country, and the symbol of life, liberty, and justice for all. It made me proud to be a United States Citizen. She also reminded me of something else–Siegie from my books.

In D’mok Revival: New Eden (book #4, which most of you have not been able to read yet–sorry), Weun Academy is created. It mentions a great monument of a ring sliced through by a large green shard of crystal positioned at the grand entrance of the campus. When Rhysus and the others first saw it, they were moved because of their personal connection to what it represented. After seeing the Statue of Liberty, I am going to GO BACK AND CHANGE BOOK 4 (it’s not published yet, I can do this). Rather than a symbol, it’s going to become a statue of Segie Weun herself, holding up a radiant crystal. Much like the Statue of Liberty, people of the D’mok literary universe will have a visceral reaction to her statue. People will remember what she stood for, what she wanted for the universe, and the long term impact of her actions. I want it to inspire the students (and the readers).

Also, one of the more frightening things in my work travels has also inspired me. I learned on a recent job trip that the Canadian government in Quebec raided our branch. It wasn’t from financial fraud or other questionable business practices.  Instead, there’s a French Culture enforcement group that came in. They took down English signs and demanded they be remade in French. In addition, any French branding had to be displayed first (in a primary display location) and be TWICE the size of any English branding words on printed materials. They checked installed software on people’s laptops and demanded they have only French versions installed. They reviewed correspondence sent do customers and imposed fines for anything not sent out with French first (and then English optionally included). This group has the right to impose fines. On one of the customer projects, they could receive fines of up to 25,000 Canadian EVERY 2 HOURS per month, indefinitely with a limit of 875,000 Canadian per month. Oh, and if you immigrate into Quebec, you allegedly (I have not gone back to verify this) have no other option than to learn French and send your children to a FRENCH-based school. Only if you were a native are you given the choice between the two languages. How crazy is all that?  Yes, in 2016, in Quebec CANADA, this happens. Why is this happening? Because the government there believes French culture is dying in Quebec. Their solution, pound it down everyone’s throat to make it survive. This will not work long term.  This isn’t how human beings work. Like dripping water, we find a way to go and do as we please. This may slow the breakdown of French only culture, but it will not stop it.  This is GREAT inspiration for later books where “thing begin to change” in the D’mok Universe under D’abar…  That’s all I’ll say for now.  But, no need to create something insidious.  I’ll use this contemporary model.

Anyway, the examples above show how life can inspire small nuance, or large sweeping dynamics in my stories. I don’t want to give away too much at this point so I’ll hold back on the rest.

Until later!

 

Living in Weun Academy

While waiting for more responses from agents concerning book 4, I continue my work on my latest project. Weun Academy: The Boy with the Green Eyes, is the first spin-off from the main D’mok Revival universe. From a timeline perspective, this story takes place just after book 4 (D’mok Revival: New Eden) ends.

Anyone that has read the series knows about the infamous “boy with the green eyes” from Rhysus Mencari’s dreams (and thoughts). This side series follows this boy’s story.

I like to describe the overall concept as: Harry Potter meets Starship Troopers, meets X-men. It takes the best of the Young Adult (YA) space and combines it with the hero focus and space opera themes that are a part of nearly all contemporary entertainment these days (Avengers, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, etc.).

I’m making sure I write a little each day. Not only does it keep things moving, I love doing it. It’s been amazing “watching” (because again, I just “watch the movie in my head and type what I see”) this story develop before my eyes. It’s so incredibly rich.

People do NOT have to read any of the original D’mok Revival series (of which there are now 6 works: 4 novels, 2 novelettes) to understand things. It’s completely self-contained and gets people up to speed as they need to know and understand specific concepts and backgrounds.

Among my own points of interest is how what happens in Weun Academy directly impacts D’abar’s leadership and ability to lead D’mok Warriors.  Weun Academy events will have a profound impact on the next D’mok Revival book. It will also have a major impact on the second spin off Wayfinder (working title), that focuses on Rhysus Mencari specifically.

I really love every minute I get to spend there.  I find the place fascinating, in addition to the characters and deep action happening there.

All-in-all, I have a great feeling about this title. I’ve already had Kathleen and Susie read through the first 110 pages, along with some additional beta readers. I’m going to be incorporating their feedback to make the title stronger.  I’ll keep you posted as to progress, and even post out (eventually) a small excerpt for you to review and provide more direct comments.

In the meantime, I’m going to head back to writing…  Going to back to living in Weun Academy!

 

Musical Inspirations

People have asked before about “what’s my process” when I write.  I’m fortunate that I’m working within a literary universe I know well.  I’ve seen the “movie preview” story previews for all my books (both released and yet to come). I’ve also been able to create outlines for my books from slightly more detailed “movie previews” in my head. I don’t try to over architect things. I like the characters to make decisions and present the story to me.  So, there isn’t a whole lot to share for the big picture stuff.

However, when it comes to diving in and actually writing, I do have my traditions. Before I attempted to eat healthier, one of my traditions was a nice sized bowl of plain M&Ms. How I miss those.

The other component is the music I’m listening to as I write.

When I wrote the original manuscript I listened to a number of anime and video game soundtracks.  However, as I went back to edit and release the individual books, I listened to entirely different music. In fact, if I wanted to create a specific mood, I’d match the music selections up to that need so my creative energies were in the right head-space.

Below is a short listing of some of the music I listened to while working on various works:

The original trilogy manuscript (286,000 words version) and Book 1, D’mok Revival: Awakening

 

Book 2, D’mok Revival: Retribution

  • Linkin Park, 1000 suns album (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgJSEvRq26g)
  • Mass Effect 1 video game soundtrack
  • Mass Effect 2 video game soundtrack
  • Mass Effect 3 video game soundtrack
  • Prometheus, movie soundtrack
  • Sarah Brightman, Eden
  • Sarah Brightman, Harem
  • Sarah Brightman, La Luna

 

Book 3: D’mok Revival: Descension

  • Battlestar Galactica season 1, 2000 remake series soundtrack
  • Battlestar Galactica season 2, 2000 remake series soundtrack
  • Battlestar Galactica season 3, 2000 remake series soundtrack
  • DaVinci’s Demons, tv series soundtrack
  • Deadmau5, Ghost ‘n’ Stuff
  • Titanfall, original video game soundtrack

 

Book 4: D’mok Revival, New Eden

  • Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster album
  • Linkin Park, Recharged Album
  • Lindsey Stirling, self-titled initial album
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts, video game soundtrack
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warefare, video game soundtrack
  • Demi Lovato, Confident
  • Star Trek: Into darkness
  • The Flash: Season 1 soundtrack
  • Destiny, video game soundtrack
  • Disturbed, Immortalized
  • Image Dragons, Night Visions
  • Sia, Chandelier
  • Fallout 4, video game soundtrack

Weun Academy: Boy with the green eyes  (current project)

  • Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone movie soundtrack
  • The Flash Vs Arrow, tv soundtrack
  • The Flash: Season 2 tv soundtrack
  • Star Trek: Beyond
  • Kelly Clarkson, Piece by piece
  • Sia, Cheap Thrills
  • Batman v Superman, movie soundtrack
  • Uncharted 4, video game soundtrack
  • Pink, Just like Fire song
  • X-men: days of future past, movie soundtrack

 

While the lists above are not comprehensive it shows some of the more scifi theme, and pop energy that helped me see the actual scenes take place in my head.

The novelettes used the same music base as the main novel they were attached to.

Music is so crucial to me. It takes me places, and shows me visions of my characters in action. For the most part, I like type directly type what I see happen with little editing. Only when my beta readers or editor point out a weakness do I consider enhancing the original vision.

So, there you have it!

Fail Fast, Fail Often—Evolve

 

I followed through with what I said I would do. Starting a few weeks ago, I hopped on querytracker.net and began submitting to agents. And yes, the headline means the rejection notices have started coming in.

For starters, it sounds a lot easier than it is.  There’s a number of things you need to do before submitting to agents:

  • Write a compelling query letter
  • Write your synopsis (3-4 pages tops)
  • Clip the first five pages of your book
  • Investigate agents on querytracker.net and see may be the best fit

Anxious to get this process moving, I did my vetting and sent out three initial queries with limited customizations for each agent.

Within 24 hours I had my first email form letter rejection. The next one came a few days later.  They are not fun to get. But, given that many places don’t even respond now (and can take up to 6-8 weeks to do a form letter rejection), I appreciated the quick responses. It really forced me to scrutinize my work, and admit the problems.

I have to be honest, when I sent out the submissions my query letter had a drab conviction statement (why this book, why me writing it) and I wasn’t happy with the first five pages of chapter one. Right? I know. The first pages are the most important. The rest of the book is solid—honest!  BUT, what was I thinking?

“Always put your best foot forward.” I had to remind myself that agents are already flooded with a million other submissions from people just like me. They’ll give me two seconds to catch their attention. If I don’t (and readers at book stores and on Amazon do this too), game over. No second chances, no second glances. That book is stuck on the black list of do not respond to…

So, okay. I literally rewrote Chapter 1 (which is really just 5 pages anyway). I tightened it up, reduced out information the reader really didn’t need to know (even if I as the author wanted to tell them “all this cool stuff that came from the original trilogy”). It’s MUCH more focused and compelling! Hey, better late than never I guess.  See, I’m learning all the time yet!

I also thought a lot about “Why this book now?” In the first version I talked about how I channeled my own live experiences into the characters, which made them more accessible and relate-able. Well, isn’t that wonderful. What author can’t say that?! Well, we all should be able to say that…  I needed something that spoke to the uniqueness of the approach.

When I think about the book, beyond the traditional epic invasion with big bad guys, and the superhuman abilities, the heart of my story is a very intimate one. Rhysus Mencari would do anything to find and free his family. Anything. The kicker is what Mencari finds done to his family by his enemy. It’s far worse than death. After all that Mencari’s been through, including the self-hating for failing to protect them to begin with, what has been done pushes him over the edge.  That’s what the story is about.

So, I rewrote the conviction section to talk about that very dynamic. I also went back and pumped up my synopsis to include more of the dramatic and plot twisting moments that I left out “due to saving space.” Don’t use space for things that aren’t key to the interesting parts of your book, or readers of your synopsis will think your story is boring. “NEXT!”

I’m still learning every day. I just sent out two more queries today. We’ll see what happens to them.

Out of the interest in sharing (and potentially getting feedback—email me if you have any), here’s my complete submission: query letter, first five pages, and synopsis.  Even if this isn’t the final version that captures the interest of an agent, I believe in my series.  I’ll keep you posted on progress.

 

 

Dear x y,

<Insert something here about why you sent to them.> I am seeking representation for my adult science fiction novel, D’mok Revival: New Eden, complete at 111,000 words. The alien invasion is over. Rhysus Mencari and his D’mok Warriors have emerged victorious. But the scars of war run deep, and his duty is far from over. Enemy remnants cling to conquered worlds, their allies lurk in the dark, and the infamous Kajlit’ga and her superhuman beast warriors remain at large.

With the New Eden station finally operational, Rhysus Mencari and his allies gain a new platform from which to create an enduring freedom and lasting peace. But a discovery leads to a far more burdensome trial. The family he thought murdered are, in fact, prisoners of war. An obsession to free them taints his every move, and threatens to tear apart everything he created.

Rhysus Mencari, the warrior who lost his family, struggles to become the husband and father he was meant to be. The decisions and sacrifices he makes along the way breaches the trust of those he leads. Will the team he created remain loyal knowing his judgement is compromised, or take matters into their own hands? Despite all he’d seen during war, is he prepared for what has become of his family?

Why is this book important now? In a time when heroes like The Avengers and Captain Kirk battle epic enemies, my work layers on a far more intimate struggle. While already warring with his inadequacy to protect those he loves, Rhysus discovers his greatest enemy is the very family he longs to rescue.

New Eden is my sixth work in the D’mok Revival universe. An earlier trilogy and two novelettes were self-published. The first edition was launched at Chicago Comic Con 2013, promoted in SciFi magazine, and presented at events held by the Stan Lee Foundation. Over 3500 units were sold across eBook, audio format, and printed edition sales. It also won honorable mention in the science fiction category for the 2013 Reader Views Readers Choice Awards. New Eden serves as the entry point to attract a new audience while feeding the existing base.

I hope I’ve captured your interest. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Zummo

http://www.dmokrevival.com

 

 

CHAPTER 1: The Dark Heart (the first 5 pages)

Rhysus, they’re alive.

                His mentor’s words echoed like demonic whispers in his mind. The longer he dwelled on it, the more exhausted he felt. Desperate for distraction, weary eyes scanned across the dark, makeshift quarters. The space felt sparse but functional, like his life.

Bursts of light pulled his attention to schematics and battle plans projected before him. Updates from his commanders streamed in, along with quivering panels which demanded his response. But the phrase wouldn’t let go.

They’re alive…

Helpless to resist, he found his gaze drawn to a small holographic image, floating just out of reach. There, a copper-skinned beauty draped with long black hair stood among a ragged crowd. A youth clung to her side, chocolate eyes peering out, beaded in terror.

Anaka. Rhyiel.

                His heart swelled with a confused mixture of love, loss, and shame.

The image was taken directly from the stolen Nukari archives, along with information that placed it posthumous for his family. It shouldn’t be possible, yet everything about it appeared legitimate.

               Alive…

His mind still rejected the notion. How many years had he suffered the same nightmare? He didn’t even have to be dreaming to relive it. Nukari fighters opened fire on the escape pod carrying his family. He heard his son’s cry, his wife’s shriek, felt the shockwave of the explosion. Each accursed time he awoke to the sound of his screams echoing off the walls. It was a cruel torment.

And yet, as his mind separated fact from fiction, reality from nightmare, one truth emerged. He never saw their escape pod explode. His superhuman abilities emerged in a blinding light before the Nukari even fired. Instead, he fell unconscious, waking weeks later in a top-secret Coalition hospital. There he learned of the complete annihilation of the Coalition’s space station, everyone aboard, including his family. The Nukari left no survivors—except him.

What he relived each night was not truth, but rather a fabrication of his own mind, served up in the most horrific way possible. Until seeing the recovered picture, he never considered another fate for his wife and son.

He fidgeted with the wedding ring he’d once taken off, having accepted their passing. Their survival should have made him feel better. It didn’t. His head shook in disgust. It shouldn’t be easier to believe they were dead. A part of him wished it true. Before, Anaka and Rhyiel met a quick fate. But now they were prisoners of a cruel and ruthless enemy.

Are they suffering?

He winced. His heart ached at the thought. There was no greater pain or shame than failing to protect his family. His stomach knotted. A bitter taste rose in his throat.

Will it be today?

                The phrase danced in his mind like steak dangled before a starving pit bull. The thought greeted him every morning. For a while it represented hope that a new discovery would lead to his family. But now? Now, it was a torturous mantra that mocked him. Desperate, it teased him before every attack, plagued him after each victory. The answer was always the same: no. All he wanted was one data point, one tiny clue to show him the way. Or, a sign their suffering had ended.

Rhysus, they’re alive.

He’d give anything—do anything—to free them. Despite it all, nothing he did got him any closer to it. He felt his heart pound, and his face prune with anger. Nothing would stop him, he’d keep hunting, until he had answers.

With a swipe in the air, the updates before him transformed into a holographic timeline dotted with events and glowing panels of information.

Nine months.

It felt longer. Kiyanna Kyoda had done well. The former military scout and hoverbike enthusiast had proved herself a skilled military strategist and D’mok Warrior. Her siege against the Nukari began with the destruction of their command hub.

                It was a calculated but desperate play. Her plan gave them the only chance to strike their elusive enemy, and strike hard. Though their victory came with great sacrifice. One undisputed hero emerged—a martyr.

Seigie

The memory still shook him.

Defeat seemed imminent. Nukari reinforcements poured through an intergalactic gateway connecting to their home space. A massive ship, the Leviathan, was only halfway through when its cannons began shredding the allied fleet. Despite combining abilities, his D’mok Warriors couldn’t damage the gateway or the massive ship.

He should have known Seigie wouldn’t honor an order to retreat. She charged her own crystal body and became a living bomb. He realized her plan too late and turned only in time to see her detonation. A blast of multicolored light blinded him. Then, the entire gateway twisted, the connection across space imploded. The Leviathan cleaved in half. Lights aboard it flickered moments before explosive decompression spewed equipment and people into space and a hellish glow engulfed the ship.

Seigie saved them.

                But I couldn’t save her.

Seigie’s sacrifice made Kiyanna’s plan succeeded. From that point forward Kiyanna led the strategic planning of their offenses. Her strategies struck hard and continued to deliver results.

The same stolen data that revealed his family lived also enabled his team to hunt down Nukari facilities, stalk their allies, and take their resources. He smiled. They bestowed the same mercy the Nukari gave to the Be’Inaxi, his fellow Humans, the Nomads, and countless other races: none. The Nukari deserved nothing more.

He looked across the timeline. Each dot called to mind the many critical junctures: the allied fleet returned to full strength, the liberation of Tericn, the capture of Nukari resource posts, and the freeing of indentured worlds. At the end of the timeline sat a large glowing sphere decorated with five crossed swords.

He grabbed into the air. Attack plans along with the latest field reports extruded from the swords emblem. A satisfied grunt escaped him. With the field commanders in place, the final push on Abunai could begin. Another of his D’mok Warriors would reclaim their home today. But what was the bigger surprise: Naijen waiting patiently and following directions to retake his world, or the fact it took two days for Kiyanna’s strategy to unite the indigenous clans and knock the Nukari back to their final stronghold? Both left him in awe. Both led to this moment. A roguish grin stretch across his face.

“Nowhere left to run.”

His words rang with a sadistic pleasure. Once they captured the Nukari leadership, he’d allow Naijen to work something useful out of them. One of them had to know something that could help him find his family.

A gentle tone accompanied a holographic video which projected beside him. He glanced over. Rigid stance, blond crewcut—Kiyanna.

Early as always.

                With a swiping gesture toward the video, it flashed green then disappeared. Behind him the door to the corridor opened. A gentle gust of cool air wafted in, along with the clopping of heavy leather boots.

“Sir.”

“Commander.”

She came to his side and snapped to attention with a quick salute.

He grinned. “At ease. You don’t really need to do that.”

“Habit, sir. I’d rather keep the formality.”

“As you wish. How goes preparations?”

“Ground teams are in position.…”

Before she could continue, a tone rang out again, with another video projection. An alien with a bony, light-blue exoskeleton, both aspects more prominent on his face, and pupil-less, jelly-like patches of red for eyes, waited impatiently.

“Ghn’en?” Mencari said, thinking aloud.

With a swipe, the door behind him opened. Mencari stood, concerned, and waited for the admiral of the Be’Inaxi fleet. The deep blues and purples of the Be’Inaxi uniform took on a grittier look in the dim light of the room. Ghn’en was an impressive specimen of his kind. In addition to his muscular, imposing size, he had two powerful arms, and two, more diminutive ones, directly underneath.

“Is there a problem?” Mencari said as the bulky alien marched in.

“Things been too quiet.” In place of a mouth, two vertical slits ran along an elongated nasal cavity, which moved as he talked in two tones at the same time, lending a singing quality to his speech. “Some strange reports with phantom readings that can never be verified. I don’t have good feeling about it. I think we should move up plans.”

“The ground teams can engage on a moment’s notice, sir,” Kiyanna added.

“Let’s check with the Nomads before making the final call.” The others nodded as Mencari spoke into the air. “Minea, please connect me to Varen.”

He didn’t need to see Minea to know she was there. The artificially intelligent creation of Toriko Purg, once known as Mini-T, seemed to have no bounds since the change.

A flurry of holographic cherry blossoms swirled above them. From it, a radiant light poured into a female form. The detail of Minea’s remarkably Human face and long sandy-blond hair appeared. Tall fox ears poked through the top, and a long bushy tail waved happily behind her. Long gone was the bright pink, high-tech suit with white neon stripes. Instead she wore a sleeveless royal purple tunic decorated with white flowers, and a black sash. White cloth wrapped her arms. A hip-length silver fauld with white trim made her look ready for battle. Despite the changes, she still held on to her dramatic flair.

She playfully wagged her fluffy tail. “Connect you to Varen? Since you asked so nicely!” With a wink, a portal of light appeared. It spun briefly before tipping over. As it fell, a humanoid with dark coral skin and short locks of turquoise appeared.

“Varen here.” His face was placid with an unnatural calm.

Ghn’en’s red-jelly eyes glowed. “How is far space faring?”

“Secured, and under continuous observation. We have seen an increase in phantom readings however.”

Ghn’en grunted. “See, we shouldn’t wait.”

“I would agree with the admiral,” Varen said.

“Then we mobilize our forces now. Remember the goal: take their leadership alive.”

“Yes, sir,” Kiyanna said with another salute.

“Minea, please prepare the shuttle,” Mencari said. “Kiyanna and I are heading down to Abunai.”

“You got it!”

Soon he’d have a lead on his family. He could feel it.

(BLOG NOTE: WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD!!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D’mok Revival: New Eden Synopsis

RHYSUS MENCARI’s family died when aliens called the Nukari invaded. He spent years understanding the superhuman abilities which saved him, and assembling the D’mok Warriors, a band of aliens with abilities like his. When his forces defeated the Nukari, data taken from their archives revealed his family was not dead, but rather Nukari prisoners. From that moment on, gone was Rhysus Mencari, D’mok Warrior, savior of millions. In his place stood Rhysus Mencari, husband and father, desperate to rescue his family.

Now, he reflects on his predicament on the eve of an attack to reclaim his ally’s world from remnant Nukari forces. His true motivation: to find information about his family.  When the bloody attack is over, what’s left of Nukari leadership fails to produce new leads.

On the way back to their space station, New Eden, an anomaly redirects them to a rift in space. There they discover D’ABAR, an ancient mentor to one of Mencari’s D’mok Warriors. Visibly tortured, and near death, they bring him back to the station. There they discover D’abar was punished for giving aid to Mencari when he visited their world.

While D’abar is treated, the leader of New Eden reveals a lead on an abandoned Nukari space platform. To their surprise they find new aliens, the Nasidrac, have laid claim to the station. Wanting to investigate the former Nukari facility, Mencari takes his forces to negotiate. After a tense stand-off, the Nasidrac present the gutted technologies from the platform. Using powerful artificial lifeforms from New Eden, they assemble and reactivate the equipment to discover the location of another Nukari platform.

Probes to the new location reveal a platform still in use. However, it appears in the process of being evacuated. By the time the D’mok Warriors arrive, most of the platform appears abandoned. However, a small bundle of life signs draws them inside. Mencari senses the presence of his son. Deep inside the platform they find a host of prisoners left behind, guarded by a few Nukari soldiers. After dispensing with the soldiers, Mencari frantically searches for his family among the captives. Failing to find them, he begins to free prisoners, only to spring a Nukari trap. A torrent of beasts rushes at them. Only able to protect a few freed, Mencari dooms those still bound to a grisly death, while leading a retreat. While fending off the beast hoard, three super-human Nukari beast warriors attack. Among them is a powerful youth named JASK. As the D’mok Warriors and beasts battle, they discover Jask’s attacks cannot hurt Mencari. After a fierce fight, Jask collects his wounded allies and flees.

When Mencari’s team returns to New Eden they learn preparations to retake COGENI’s world, Argosy, are complete. Mencari hopes to capture the Nukari Commander on Argosy, and use him to get information about his family. Upon arrival they meet up with old allies who now also lead the resistance movement against the Nukari. They reveal the Nukari killed Cogeni’s mother, the matriarch and spiritual leader of Argosy, in order to take power of Argosy. Mencari must now help take back a world, and restore Cogeni as patriarch and ruler. Using New Eden technology, they disable Nukari defenses and trap their enemy. When a battle ensues, the Nukari Commander jumps to his death rather than be captured. Cogeni remains on Argosy, while Mencari returns agitated, again without new leads.

Upon returning to New Eden, Mencari and a team of D’mok Warriors go under cover as guards at a prison planet to rescue one of their own. When their escape attempt fails, and the team faces capture or death, the mounting pressures lead Mencari to a mental break. Unbounded, his abilities take on a mind of their own, sucking the power from his teammates and creating a way out. Despite their survival, Mencari falls unconscious. The event leaves his teammates wary of his degrading mental state and new power-draining ability.

Weary of Mencari’s unchecked power, D’abar questions whether Mencari is fit to lead.

While Mencari recovers, the D’mok Warriors, led by the telepath KATEN, respond to a distress call by the allied Human Coalition vessel. There they find Nukari beast warriors led by Jask and three silver-skinned youths attacking. Katen uses his abilities to mindwalk his enemies. His discovers the youths are actually from D’abar’s world and that Jask is really Mencari’s son, hidden in a beast-shaped encounter suit. Before the youths can be recovered, the Nukari flee.

Mencari awakens to news about the Coalition vessel, in addition to word they’ve found and freed his wife, ANAKA, from the Nukari. He travels with the damaged ship and a few D’mok Warriors into Coalition space to return their property and meet his wife. His self-loathing magnifies as he dwells on his inability to find and save her himself. His mental state worsens when he finds her medically sedated, her body ravaged from torture.

Before he can depart, the Coalition military threatens to harm Anaka if he doesn’t surrender to them. After he complies, he’s paraded before Nukari commanders that have taken over the Coalition. Nukari taunting combines with Mencari’s degrading mental state, leading to another unhinging. This time, his abilities create protective barriers around his allies, while incinerating his enemies in a fearsome blast of energy. He departs for the D’mok Warrior’s asteroid base along with his team and wife, leaving the Coalition in the hands of fellow Humans.

The D’mok Warriors, prodded by D’abar, discuss Mencari’s growing instability. D’abar creates doubt of Mencari’s leadership in the minds of the team. The team discusses their next mission, and directly exclude Mencari.

While in the asteroid base’s infirmary with his wife, a group of D’mok Warriors bring in a wounded Jask along with three youths from D’abar’s world. Mencari is exasperated to find out his team attempted such a mission without him. This is compounded by their revelation Jask is his son. His disbelief blends with the second instance of his inability to save his own family.

When a garbled transmission comes in from a still-captured allied world, Mencari leaves his unconscious family in the infirmary to make use of himself. He leads a small team, D’mok abilities blazing, to planet Aeun. There he is met by furious allies that don’t understand why he’s attacking. Its revealed the forces holding Aeun patriated after the main Nukari armada fell. The transmission was simply an update on their world’s status, not a distress call. Mencari is told he will be held accountable for the damage, and told to leave Aeun.

Upon return to the asteroid base, he finds it in ruin. While stabilizing the base and helping the wounded, he discovers his son caused the calamity. It’s revealed his wife had been conditioned while held prisoner to help Jask. Mencari is left wondering if Kajlit’ga architected the recovery of his wife and son for this outcome from the start. His wife helped free Jask, resulting in Katen’s obliteration. Once freed, it’s clear Jask attempted to destroy the base and kill everyone inside. Overwhelmed with grief, Mencari’s mind completely unhinges. He draws the conclusion his son is dead and only a monster lives on.

He chases his son across space to a world housing the remaining Nukari stronghold. His fellow D’mok Warriors and allies from New Eden follow to finally eliminate the Nukari. Jask reminds Mencari he’s powerless to hurt him. Using his new ability, an enraged Mencari draws the power from friend and foe alike for one devastating strike against Jask. The attack fails to hit Jask, smashing into the world below. Jask flees to the surface to save his Nukari friends.

When Mencari follows, a telepathic beast warrior enters his mind. Scanning his mind to learn what she can before killing him, sees the truth about Jask’s origins, and Mencari’s intentions. She realizes the deception Kajlit’ga used to control Jask and the beast warriors. Instead of killing Mencari, she heals his rage, and informs him she’s removed the mental conditioning from Jask’s mind. The monster is gone, and his son RHYIEL lives again. Furious at losing her pawn, Kalit’ga kills the telepath. When Kajlit’ga then uses her beasts as living shields to protect herself, the enslaved creatures turn on Kajlit’ga and kill her. The combined D’mok and allied forces destroy the remaining hostile Nukari.

Despite the victory, the trust between Mencari, his team, and allies are broken. He sets off to a location only known to his closest friends to help his family heal. D’abar steps into Mencari’s position as leader of the D’mok Warriors.

From the heart… Revising the 4th manuscript.

I’m currently in the revising phase of the fourth manuscript in the D’mok Revival series.  This involves thinking about the first three books with the changes to characters, places, abilities, etc. and allowing myself to “rewatch” the scenes in this latest manuscript. I then update the manuscript with those new visions.

The entire manuscript is around 270 unformatted (not typeset for publishing) page in Microsoft Word. The current word count is around 92,000, which is on-par with the other three books. In the end, it will easily be 400+ typeset pages when published.

I’m very happy with the recent progress, and the direction of the manuscript. I originally wrote it back in 2010. I was in a very different place in my life then, and clearly the story was heavily influenced by my own personal struggles at the time. Five years down the road, I’m such a different person, and have a dramatically different perspective on things. Not to mention my writing style has evolved. This has led to a great deal of refactoring large chunks of the story.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. I’d received feedback starting with the release of the first book stating I needed to keep a strong focus of the story action on Rhysus Mencari, the main character.

I think it’s fine to present sections from the perspective of other characters as it allows the reader to become deeply connected with the inner workings of the other characters. But the main story is about Rhysus Mencari. Keeping this in mind, I’m rewriting entire segments to be from Rhysus Mencari’s perspective.

What’s interesting is rather than inflicting the reader with my raw emotion through characters in the original version, readers are now treated to a more mature view from Rhysus Mencari’s perspective. In essence, I’ve traded off the pain of the experience, for the wisdom of a path already traveled.

To be honest, some of the dynamics written about back in 2010 were incredibly raw and real. They contained direct conversations I had with someone formerly close to me—things which hurt me deeply—and I immortalized it in the dialogue between characters going through the same ordeal in my story.

I thought, at the time, it was a very good idea.  After all, one of the strengths of the D’mok Revival series was the ability to present very real and relatable characters and situations. Reviewing the manuscript now, I certainly captured the exactness of what happened back in 2010. However, it now feels better left private. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly cathartic to write it out at the time. It’s still somewhat like looking at a scar revisiting those lines and phrases. But the original emotional need I had to expunge the experience and externalize it on paper has served its purpose.

The Michael Zummo of 2015 would rather provide my series fans with what I learned from the experience, rather than tiresome drama. The rewritten segments are still real, while returning it to a realm I feel more appropriate (and mature).

Anyway, I’m very excited in the transformation happening in the fourth manuscript. My goal is to still have the book ready by the holiday season.  It is August, and I know many editors (including my wonderful editor Arlene Robinson) are getting slayed right now. So, we’ll see when the final release date is.  I also need to start working with Glenn Clovis on the cover too (oooh, yeah, I really need to get moving on that too).

The best laid plans of mice and men…

There’s so many things going on right now.  It’s an exciting time!  The official D’mok Revival board game is moving forward.  The second novelette is being edited by Arlene and Glenn Clovis is working on yet another amazing cover.

I’ve been making slow progress on restructuring the fourth manuscript. It’s always an interesting challenge to update an existing work based on all the edits and changes that happened to the manuscripts before it.

I wasn’t going to announce this just yet, but I alluded to how the series is going to continue to go strong well after the first trilogy.

The fact is, while trying (note: TRYING) to stay focused on book #4 in D’mok Revival’s main lineage, the first book in the first spin-off has been talking to me.  By talking to me I mean daily, thoughts, little movie sequences playing in my head.  It’s great stuff, and very existing.  I continue to write notes and file it away for later.  Yet something keeps drawing me back that book instead of #4…

I’m a firm believer in listening to your creativity. It ebbs and flows as it wants to–never as you want or when you want.  So if it’s doing its thing–LET IT–GO WITH IT!

So, I sat down and wrote 14 pages this morning… the entire first chapter.  This builds on the prolog I wrote earlier in the week.

The series is called Weun Academy. The working subtitle, for the moment is: Boy with the green eyes.  For those that have followed the series, you know exactly who this is…  😉

If there’s a clear high-concept model I’d say it’s a hybrid of Starship Troopers, X-Men, and Harry Potter.  Clearly there’s still Japanese Anime inspirations, and it’s within the D’mok Revival literary universe.

This side trilogy isn’t just a “nice to know” aspect, it actually reveals a very important dimension about how the abilities are impacting the alien community…  And sets the stage for D’abar…

Okay, that’s all I’m saying for now…  Teaser?  Yes.  It’s fun to share.  I get excited about these things…  And inspired!!!

Taxes Fun

There’s a benefit to running your own publishing company (mine is Zummo Books, LLC).  I’m able to identify the production costs and things along with the income from sales on Amazon, ACX, iTunes, etc.

If you have your own company, you may need to file 1099 MISC forms for each contractor you paid over $600.  There can also be penalties for not filing (YIKE).  It was the case for me here in Wisconsin anyway.

My awesome accountant pointed me to some great online resources that might be useful for you:

  • http://www.komisarbrady.com/resources/self-serve-1099s-and-w-2s.html
  • http://www.komisarbrady.com/resources/filing-1099s.html

Personally, I went with http://www.filetaxes.com.

Before you can put one together you’re going to have to have:

Your Company information (including EIN or tax reporting SSN number, address, phone, etc.)

Your Contractor information (individual name, company name if available, EIN or SSN for them, address, phone number, email).

You want your total amount paid for the year to them.

What I found great about filetaxes.com is it also told me of additional information or requirements needed for the 1099 MISC based on the state of the contractor.  Sometimes you have to fill out additional fields on the 1099 form.  They helped me through all that.

I followed their directions, paid my $4.99 per form (very affordable), then received my email notification the form had been sent to my contractors and filed with the IRS. So simple and worry free!  🙂

Anyway, as I continue work on my books and board game, thought I’d share this little insight with you!