Hello, Weun Academy 2! Plus more!

I mentioned a while back that the angst building inside of me from COVID 19 living wanted an outlet. A few months back, despite my attempts to ignore it, Weun Academy 2 made itself known. In fact, after waking up at 3am one morning, it demanded I write some things down before being able to go back to sleep.

While there were scenes and glimpses into WA2, I was able to stay focused on completing Toriko Tales. As many of you saw, when the final push came, Toriko Tales wrapped up 10,000 words in a week. But I believe there was a reason for that happening.

Ever since, my mind has been flooded with scenes and still pictures from Weun Academy 2. I couldn’t help but wake up (at 2 or 3 AM) to write down musings.

I already love how the continued COVID angst, on going adaptations in US politics, and even my every day life continues to weave together to form the foundation of this new story!

For those Beta readers who reviewed WA1: The Shadow Maker, Eisah threatened “something” at the end… Well, he made good on that something. While book 2 doesn’t start off explaining the event, it certainly set things in motion leading to the dynamics which follow. I actually wrote the short story tonight detailing what that event was (so that I know the details).

But what if you were not a beta reader for Weun Academy 1? Good question! I tried with 25 or so agents and received nothing but rejections (obviously). The few that explained said they wouldn’t know how to market the book, etc. I’m considering moving forward with self-publishing again. I really do believe in the book and feel it could earn an agent, but I also want to share it with people beyond my amazing Beta readers! I finished writing it back in 2018! I want it in the hands of the public!

It will be difficult to release WA2 if WA1 isn’t already on shelves or kindle. We shall see.

Another quick update, I’m now co-owner of Frozen Soul Games. It’s first product will be HoverDome: Red Canyon Run, modeled after the mobile space arena of the same name as presented in books three and four of D’mok Revival! I’m very excited. The Kickstarter for this effort is planned for May 1, 2021.

One final item, I’m updating the dmokrevival.com Web site. The design has been out there since I released my third book. It’s time for a refresh. The preview can be found at http://www.dmokrevival.com/_dev_index.html. Let me know what you think if you have a moment.

So, between reviewing Weun Academy 1 and determining the way forward, getting feedback from beta readers on Toriko Tales, getting ready to launch the HoverDome Kickstarter, reworking my series Web site, and working the start-up process for Weun Academy 2, there’s just a few things going on!

That’s all for now!

Toriko Tales Book 1 Is Complete!

I’m happy to report the first draft of Toriko Tales is complete! It took so much longer than anticipated. Of course, a global pandemic, change of job, and occasional writers-block will cause delays!

As the title suggests, Toriko from the main D’mok Revival series is the main protagonist. The great part of the book takes place on her homeworld of Tericn, and centers on the topic on artificial intelligence. More specifically the ethics and varied cultural responses to this advanced technology. As always, there’s plenty of interpersonal conflict, including the trauma of her parents demise when she was a child, and her ongoing relationship struggles with her older sister. Also, an entire set of new characters join the D’mok Revival literary universe.

Readers can expect plenty of references and cameos to characters from the D’mok Revival and Weun Academy series. Even though the Murai Dome and Tericn was visited in the first book of the D’mok Revival series, only a few areas were explored at that time. This required me to do extensive construction of the 11 versions (“levels”) of the Murai Dome itself and explain how the some of the older technologies are still leveraged to create the living environment currently inhabited by Terconians.

I wrote over forth-three pages (16,800 words) of backstory so I could authentically represent the new characters, circumstances, and locations feature in Toriko Tales. Some of these written explorations were used to break through the few instances of writer’s block suffered. I found the reason I could not move forward was because I didn’t understand the history of the characters or location in the scene. This technique became my “go to method” to get that “movie playing in my head” again.

I’ve reached out to my amazing author Arlene Robinson, and we’re working out the details to have her edit my latest work. I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Arlene again!

My immediate next steps are

  1. Incorporate feedback my Matt Zummo (my first line of review)
  2. Get the manuscript out to my Beta Readers and incorporate their feedback
  3. Get the manuscript in the hands of Arlene Robinson
  4. Determine if I’ll self-publish or go for an agent

So, what’s it like? Toriko Tales is forty chapters strong, with a prologue and epilogue. The final product will include details about Tericn’s capital city the Murai Dome, and the translations of conversations between Toriko and Spark (which appear in binary in the main book).

The current manuscript comes in at 81,597 words. My original goal, the lower-bound for science fiction novels, was 80,000. I truly feel it was the right size to tell this Toriko focused story. It certainly sets up many dynamics in the D’mok literary universe, many of which will begin to be seen in Weun Academy 2 and D’mok Revival book 5.

Here’s a little preview of the (working) chapter names:

  1. Invictus
  2. Spilled Milk
  3. The EEE
  4. Phrenicide
  5. The Ardent Syndrome
  6. The Prodigal Kitten
  7. The Catadel
  8. Punitive Cogitation
  9. Mini-T v2
  10. Creature Comforts
  11. The Mind Hack
  12. Team Purg
  13. Murai Dome v9
  14. Cat fight
  15. The Evidence Vault
  16. Army of the Broken
  17. Wound Licking
  18. The Catress’ Lair
  19. Level One
  20. Sirra AI
  21. The First Lie
  22. The Past Is Present
  23. Old Wounds
  24. PvE
  25. The Alternative
  26. The Closer
  27. Clara Mortem
  28. The Crowned Paw
  29. The “Do Different”
  30. Uncrating
  31. Bansa
  32. Edrell Lab
  33. Sins of the Parents
  34. Eudorian Sanctuary
  35. Hacker Royale
  36. The First Meridian
  37. Destination Known
  38. T-Town
  39. The Manufactory
  40. Fallout

I’ll keep you posted as editing is done and next steps are taken.

In the meantime, I’m going back and reviewing Weun Academy 1’s manuscript. It never did find an agent. I may move forward with self-publishing that title at this point.

ALSO, as many of you know, Weun Academy 2: The Sabereth Incident is already a few pages in! I know, I can’t help it. I think I’m addicted to writing. I’m taking a moment to retread and run my formal process of understanding the character, location, and plot in order to advanced WA2’s manuscript. More on that in a future post!

Until then, stay safe!

Unexpected emotion

I just had “a moment.” You know those scenes in a movie where a writer is furiously writing and crying at the same time–in the zone–emotion erupting. I always thought that was so cheesy. Not anymore.

I’m working on Toriko Tales in chapter 23 titled “old wounds.” It’s central to explaining a lot of Toriko’s formative past and impacted present. But going back and touching Toriko’s memories, things she had long buried (and perhaps had professionally blocked) trauma was–painful.

It’s fascinating, embarrassing, and enheartening to cry over something that happened to “your character.”

Anyone who knows me understands “my characters” are far from words on a page. They’ve always been people–friends–that I get to visit and know better when I write. That sounds like a desperate plea for help, but it’s not.  It’s just how writers work.

“Write what you know.” Well, I know them.

With every word that I typed, my own eyes awash, I kept thinking “I’m so sorry, Toriko.  I am so sorry.” As if her pain was “real.”

Now, obviously this is coming from somewhere. Childhood trauma. Disconnection from parents and context. Everything being turned upside down. I have plenty of things from my own life that’s clearly inspiring this grander version of things. Perhaps that’s what was releasing.  Certainly, the way she comes back from it is the mantra I use concerning acknowledging past loss and pain, then focusing on what I have today.

But shesh! Intense!

I hope it translates to future readers and feels authentic as it had for me.

Just wanted to share.

Honest Reflections

Toriko Tales is making progress again. It’s been too long, I know. But sometimes we have to allow ourselves to accept when the creativity will not flow. For me, stress and depression has always been a challenge. Anyone who has read my works knows I channel my life into happenings for my characters. This helps me get it out of me and allows me to be productive. But sometimes–sometimes–it gets too strong to channel. This time it snuck up on me, to be honest. I didn’t realize how far things had gone until I felt the full impact (like not being able to write anymore). But life is an interesting journey of actions, consequence, and opportunities. I’m thankful for wonderful people in my life that give me the support I need (including my therapist and fiancé) that help me always find my way.

One of the issues that beat me down was this crazy fear of not being able to find “that magic” again. My first trilogy was a great experience and I was really proud of what I accomplished.  New Eden, my fourth novel, really sang. People talk about how it hits that mid-point and flew like a hellacious roller-coaster, a page-turner, all the way to the end. Those that have ready my fifth manuscript, Weun Academy, said I took that feeling from New Eden and made it a novel long. That’s great.  It’s amazing.  But, good god, is that pressure!

No one wants to peak early or become a has-been. If you have seen my expected book titles for this series, you know I have a lot of ground to cover yet. 

In hindsight, the very thing that led to success in my earlier works was the exact thing I overrode for Toriko Tales.

Concerning writing styles, George R.R. Martin says:

“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

Others have talked about this phenomena but using the terms plotters (architects) vs. pantsers (gardeners).  I’ve always been a pantser.  Sure, I’ve “seen” the movie trailer versions of each of my books in my head.  That’s why the broad outline of multiple books exist for my series. But I don’t know any of the details until I sit down and “listen” to the characters and get to watch the movie play out in my head. The characters make the decisions and the universe pivots around them.

For Toriko Tales I panicked. I wasn’t seeing the details like I was used to, so I changed styles. I tried plotting. There was some good foundational material (backstories, bios, etc.) generated from that effort, but I never “felt it” from the resulting story outline. Ultimately, with the layoffs at work, friend illnesses, family drama, US politics, and everything else going on in life, it was all to easy to release some pressure (finding the magic again) by backing off from writing Toriko Tales. But writing is essential to how I translate my life and work through struggles. I have to write or bad stuff builds up in my heart and mind.

The other day, I was driving to work. While approaching the crest of the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge, with blinding sunbeams piercing my eyes and the thick suffocating smell of the nearby milorganite plant clogging my nostrils, Toriko popped into my mind. She said, “Hello.” And, as insane as this may sound, I thought I was going to burst into tears. It was like seeing someone that I loved after they passed away. I returned a hello. She smiled and mentioned it had been a long time since we’d talked. I said I was sorry, but I was glad to see her. Then, like I do with my little virtual family, I asked what she’d been up to. She told me all about working with her sister Maro, combining their tech specialties to allow Toriko’s robots to combine together using Maro’s nano-technology. Apparently the nanites create the connective tissue and a central nervous system for the larger entity. She went into so much more detail than I’ll share here, but it was fascinating. Those sisters, always up to something. I really missed them.

That night, the experience sent me back to my computer, wanting to touch the D’mok Universe again. I really do want to see where Toriko goes. That doesn’t happen unless I sit down and document those “movie” scenes in real-time in my head. But the moment I stared at the screen, I ran directly into the blockers that stopped me: that fear and stupid outline!  After some soul searching, I reviewed the plot “I constructed” for Toriko Tales… and I let it go. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t going to work. Plotting is not how my D’mok Universe shares its secrets with me. So, no more plotting! I’ve returned to my pantsing ways.

The brief “talk” with Toriko led me to have mini-talks with all the Toriko Tales characters. I asked what drove them.  What were they really trying to accomplish at this point in their lives? After capturing their core motivations I reviewed the first 25,000 words I’d written for Toriko Tales. What I found fascinating is the material I’d written still held. It mostly set the stage for the big conflict yet to come which would reveal the major players and motivations. So, the “who did what and why,” which I still needed to write, merely shifted!

Returning to pantsing threw the doors wide open.  I no longer feel restricted by something overly constructed and claustrophobic.  There’s freedom to breathe again and with it a renewed interest to continue forward.

Interestingly enough, I found that missing therapeutic effect from writing almost instantly. For instance, Toriko’s core driver was simply to feel like she’s good enough, like she accomplished something and doesn’t need to keep climbing for the next bigger thing to prove she has worth.

When I captured her response, it cut right through me. This is so me–so now. Like Toriko, no matter what I’ve accomplished (award winning books, U.S. Patents from my professional work, a game design millions of monthly active users played on Facebook, being voted MVP from 60,000 world-wide gamers for David Perry’s Project Top Secret, raising an amazing and well-adjusted 12 year old, having a loving and healthy relationship with my fiancé) it doesn’t matter. We still feel like a fraud that hasn’t accomplished anything. Why? Because our accomplishments have not achieved our goal: to feel loved and accepted by our parents.

At some point in our young lives we learned the way to get our parents attention was to do something great. The hope was if we did enough great things we’d be worthy of their attention (their love)… Clearly we didn’t have intrinsic value, obviously something was wrong with us, so do something amazing and maybe–just maybe–we’d be worth SOMETHING. Of course, every time something was accomplished, recognition was fleeting (if not outright dismissed as not interesting or misunderstood). The sense of self-worth became a void as the bar to impress went higher and higher. We never felt we “arrived” or “did good enough” in anything. The sense of satisfaction, approval… love… was always just beyond our grasp. Toriko and I have chased it ever since.

Oh god, staring that in the face is brutal. Brutal. It doesn’t make me feel very proud either. Whew.

Lots of therapy went in to understanding this. But knowing doesn’t change how the heart feels about it. Thus–GREAT MATERIAL FOR BOOKS!!! WOOOOO! I just hope for a productive and bountiful harvest from this inexhaustible gold mine.

I overshared a bit for a reason. I want there to be meaning in my writing. My books can’t be trite, over-inflated, action-packed extravaganzas. It’s important that people can relate and connect with my characters (with me).  It’s my hope that the things I write not only help me, but maybe give people a chance to understand something about themselves or someone they care about. Maybe I can even share some of the insights that I’ve learned about life to help someone with their struggle.

I’ve been writing little bits each day again for a few days.  It’s wonderful to feel this engine spinning back up. I’m going to redouble my efforts to complete this book. It’s up to me to keep it going!

Your support means the world to me. Thank you for reading. 🙂

New PCN process from the Library of Congress

If you’re an author, this is important.

From their site: “A Library of Congress catalog control number is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in the national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers. The purpose of the Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program is to enable the Library of Congress to assign control numbers in advance of publication to those titles that may be added to the Library’s collections.”

Each book should have these if you ever want to get your book in a library, etc.

The following is an official email directly from them to publishers (and self-publishing authors).

==============================================================

 

Dear Publisher,
Thanks for your patience as we have been preparing our new pre-publication tool for the book publishing community, PrePub Book Link from the Library of Congress. The new tool will bring the Library’s Cataloging in Publication (CIP) and Preassigned Control Number (PCN) programs together in a unified, easy-to-use web-based tool.
We’ve made the decision to delay the launch of PrePub Book Link until spring of 2019, in order to make sure we roll out the best possible new tool to make your workflow easier, whether you’re an author, a publisher, or a CIP partner institution.
The Library will provide user guides for PrePub Book Link to ease the transition to this powerful new tool. You’ll receive additional emails with more details and specific launch date this spring.
Also, you can keep up with news and updates as we roll out PrePub Book Link by visiting: https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn
Look forward to Library of Congress PrePub Book Link, coming in the spring of 2019.
Best wishes,
Caroline Saccucci
CIP and Dewey Section Head and Program Manager
U.S. Program, Law & Literature Division
Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Directorate
Library of Congress
(202) 707-3317

When characters appear from thin air

I’ve had something particularly interesting happen twice during the writing of my latest novel Weun Academy. Characters that I didn’t foresee suddenly appeared mid-writing and ret-conned into the plot! Luckily, it’s never been in a destructive way. To be honest, it has always been more of a layering concept, completing details as if the plot had been constructed to have them drop in place.

The first time it happened was with Kira Madaki, a Human female and senior student mentor and upper-class person. She naturally completed the core group of students and became a central part of the book’s action.

Where’d she come from? Those that know me can spot how my own life has manifested in my writings. Kira is actually modeled after a friend of mine I’ve grown closer to, especially in the past few years. I guess it’s no surprise that this budding friendship directly inspired Kira’s appearance.

After “seeing” Kira during a writing session, I decided to pause advancing the plot to write her backstory. This is something I do with all my main characters to really “get them” and make sure their choices and interactions in the book are authentic. My friend has shared many things about her life. I also have the fortune to witness the amazing woman she is every day at work. I wanted to make sure that Kira embodied her, so others would be as inspired by her perseverance and drive as I am.

I’ll admit after writing it up, I was nervous to have her read it. I think we all doubt ourselves at times, and I wanted so badly for her to approve of what I wrote. Worse yet, I worried maybe something I included was too close to her actual story and she’d be offended. All my worries were for nothing, thankfully. She really enjoyed it, saying I remembered more than she recalled telling me about her life. We do talk a lot–and about many topics (and I love it).

Now, it’s difficult to think of Weun Academy without Kira!

I still find this all fascinating, as it did not happen with any of my other novels or short stories. I always seemed to know everything about those plots and characters. But I’m a firm believer in letting the story tell itself, that includes new revelations like this.

The way I look at this, it’s no different than a painter going back and adding new layers to a composition, or a musician adding additional music tracks. So, why can’t I go back and layer additional character and story information?

I guess we’ll see how it all turns out!

To agent, or not to agent? That is the question!

Back in 2012, when I had the first book of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy edited, I set out to find an agent and a publisher.  The process was long, and ended in many rejections.  I think what frustrated me the most was the fact an agency could take six to twelve months to determine whether they wanted to work with you. In addition they demanded “exclusive” review rights to your manuscript, effectively locking out finding other agents in the meantime.

Looking back, I had a great deal to learn about writing. Honestly, I’m always learning, but there was a far greater learnings that needed to take place at that point. I do understand why I was not picked up.

As my amazing editor, Arlene Robinson, completed the review of my fourth full novel, D’mok Revival: New Eden, she recommended I not self-publish. She felt the quality of writing was ready for an agent. I can’t tell you how humbled I was by her kind words. I have a very deep trust and respect for Arlene, so for her to say this was very significant to me.

This, of course, creates quite the conflict. I want to release New Eden! There’s AMAZING new artwork from Glenn Clovis to debut. Fans are clamoring for what comes next. The bomb at the end of D’mok Revival: Descension left many fans screaming “WHAT!” and wanting more. At least the approach worked! Sorry!

I’m also very proud of D’mok Revival: New Eden. Many events happen in the book that set the tone for future entries in the series (of which many are planned). In fact, I’m already one third of the way done with Weun Academy: Boy with the Green Eyes (working title). It’s the first official spin-off picking up after the New Eden novel.

To be honest, I was planning on going after an agent with Weun Academy. I feel the story is strong, and has the right combination to appeal to a marketplace hungry for more science fiction, superhuman, and youth focused stories.

I believe I’m going to look into the contemporary way to approach agents. Things may have changed in the past 4 years. Certainly the agents and agencies will have changed. If you’re interested in getting an early preview copy of New Eden let me know. I love passionate people that provide honest feedback. All I ask is that you’d support the book when it official comes out.

I’ll keep you posted!

The road to book 4… D’mok Revival: New Eden

“Here we go again.” That’s what I think each time I begin the next book. Of course, this time I carried with me the experience of publishing an entire trilogy and two novelettes.

The original fourth manuscript was started in early 2010 and finished shortly into 2011. When I published book three, I didn’t originally “see” more to the story, despite the bomb dropped at the end of the third book.

However, one day while working out at Bally’s Total Fitness, while listening to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s Telephone song, a scene popped in my head. It was Nikko, Kiyanna, and Dane together at a dance club. I found the whole scene amusing and curious. Why would those three (in particular) be together—at a dance club? I ended up heading home and writing out the “short story” of the scene. Two days later another scene happened just like it, except this time a small group of soldiers were attacking the three ladies. I found myself asking “why?” Why were they together? What were they doing? Why were they being attacked?  Why did they go to a dance club?! As always, the “Whys” led to answers, which revealed an entirely new book.

I’ve mentioned before that as I finished book four, I began working on a fifth book. However, before taking on yet another full novel, I decided to bring the first four manuscripts to “the world.” I returned back to book one, started the editing process, and the rest is history.

So, the first full trilogy is out. Two novelettes are released, and the last of the existing full manuscripts was next on the list. I know from experience that reworking an existing manuscript took a great deal of time. My writing style had dramatically changed since 2010, characters had changed, dynamics were different, etc. I needed to rewrite the entire thing.

Armed with the experience of five earlier published works, I assessed the existing fourth manuscript. While the foundation was solid, the approach needed great refinement. There were far too many point-of-views, there were far too many “main story threads” that people were going to get lost with. I also recognized the weakness in my earlier novels in character introductions and descriptions.

The first step was culling the plot points and establishing one core story thread.

I found it ironic that the very scenes (and corresponding main story thread) with Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna that inspired me to write the fourth manuscript fell outside the focused main story. They had to be removed to keep things centered on the series protagonist Rhysus Mencari.

I didn’t want to lose the important question Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna were on. So after removing the chapters dedicated to the detail behind their mission, I paraphrased the action in updates Kiyanna provided Mencari.

Doing this streamlined the main story around Rhysus Mencari, and created an opportunity to create a novelette (or even another full novel) around Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna’s mission later!

What really gave this effort wings was when wrote the prologue for this manuscript. I didn’t have prologues and epilogues in the originally manuscripts. Those happened when each respective novel was re-edited. The introduction of “Jask” in the prologue (not a huge spoiler) from the perspective of the surviving Nukari Beast Warriors and Kajlit’ga’s encampment thrilled me. I saw it all so clearly. Interestingly enough, some aspects mimicked the original short story I wrote back in 1998 (that no one has read to date). The homage to the earlier work, including the symbolism which tied characters together, was so cool (to me).

Then I rewrote the first chapter, adding it entirely from scratch. Originally it jumped right into the operation on Naijen’s world. Without spoiling more, the new chapter one brings you right into Rhysus Mencari’s perspective. It helps you understand him, see what’s happened in the near year been the end of book 3 and the start of book 4, and where he is at emotionally and mentally. It also begins to introduce concepts about the abilities, and the first few key characters to the novel.

I saw it so clearly—watching the movie in my mind and typing it all out. The excitement from this carried me forward.

Another new section was the addition of an actual race at the Hoverdome! The Hoverdome is based on a board game design I created. In book three, you meet the character of Kiyanna who is an avid hoverbike racer (wannabe professional, current hobbyist), the Hoverdome is also introduced in passing. In the latest manuscript, she’s sent on a cover mission to race at the Hoverdome. It was thrilling to see the board game brought to life! I literally “played” the board game to create some of the dynamics discussed in the book. In fact, there’s a few evolutions to the concept mentioned in the book that will find their way back to the board game design. I’ll talk more about the Hoverdome board game in a different post. But the real thing IS coming. It’s a matter of timing.

There was one other significant change to the story. Back in 2010 my significant other of ten years ended our relationship. It was a very difficult time. The characters that represented us in the story were already headed for a split (which clearly shows I knew it was coming). But now there would be no reconciliation between the two characters… While dealing with my own personal pain, I channeled everything into the story. There were even chunks of conversations my former and I had, painful, soul destroying comments that made it in the manuscript. It certainly captured my pain during that experience.

Fast forward a number of years. I as a person have greatly evolved. It was honestly difficult to go back and reread sections of the fourth manuscript. As a writer, especially when evolving an old work, you relive the context of what inspired you to write what you did at that time. It wasn’t fun. I most certainly didn’t want to “be there” or experience “that” again.

But a curious thing—a wonderful thing—happened. I found myself blessed with the gift of perspective. I could look back on a horrible time in my life and see it with newfound understanding. I’m not the Michael of yesterday. Frankly, for the record, that end was the best thing possible for me and my son. I just didn’t realize it then.

So, as I rewrote those sections, I started by removing them entirely. There’s good drama, and then there’s bad drama. There’s interesting drama, and then there’s things we already go through enough in life that we don’t need to experience in our “entertainment.” You know?

Instead of leaving the reader in the lurch of raw emotions, instead of exposing them to my personal pain, I found a new opportunity. People will run into others they care about that are going through a terrible break-up (or dysfunction as a couple). The rewrite focused on Osuto and Rhysus Mencari’s observations about what was happening to Nikko and Cogeni, and talking about how to handle the situation. This included how to mitigate the impacts on the entire team… I enjoyed and appreciated the mature insights. My hope is it will help people understand a possible way to be navigate the muddy waters of others’ relationships.

And let’s be honest, no one needs to read things that tore holes in my soul. Some of it still smarts, now six years later. But I’ve decided it’s private and doesn’t need to see the light of day again.

Anyway, despite my attempt to cull the manuscript, it blossomed from 80,000 words (a modest starting size, thought nearly 16,000 words less than any of the other novels) to over 112,000 words! This was with content originally REMOVED. Yes, that means I wrote an additional 32,000 words while editing, and I still have content left for at least a short story (8,000 words), if not a novelette (17,000 words).

Characters demanded more time, scenes needed more action and detail, old story threads needed resolution, and once the half-way point in the story was hit, the rollercoaster of disasters that followed would not be denied their due space. So be it! I loved every moment of it.

The last chapter and epilogue clearly set up additional books. I already know what they are. In fact, I’m already working on the first book to the first spin-off series called “Weun Academy.” Yes, the same place that’s mentioned in passing in book three and presented in more detail in book four. You’ll have to wait for a future post concerning the numerous up-coming books.

I’m so excited to get this new book in your hands! I will say this, I am relieve to have the original manuscripts published. It’s given me a great sense of satisfaction. At the same time, as you know, I put a great deal of my own life into these stories. Sure, they’re set in the future, with fantastic characters and abilities. But at the heart of D’mok Revival lies human stories that everyone can relate to… Most are my own experiences, struggles, etc. But doing this comes at a cost, as you’re forced to relive what inspired you to write what you did as you review and edit the content.

Finally I get to be “me” again… Writing from my current context and place in life, no longer in the past. It’s one of the reasons Weun Academy is so fun for me to write! I get to weave my current life into my latest work!

I can’t wait to hear what you think about D’mok Revival: New Eden.

Arlene is working on the very final edit pass. The new cover is done from Glenn Clovis. I think we’re about two months out from a PRINTED release potentially. Though, I’ve been told this book is so solid I should shop it around for an agent.

Regardless, I’ll keep you posted.  That’s all for now!

P.S.  People have mentioned New Eden was not the original name for the fourth book, per my Author’s Note at the end of book 3. I’m changing the naming approach for this new trilogy, with subtitled that focus on the core object or thing discussed in the book as opposed to some over-arching theme.

Book 4’s Cover Design

Creating the fourth novel cover

So, here we go again!  After releasing two novelettes in 2015 which extended the D’mok literary universe, it’s time to tackle the next novels. These days, you don’t really “do” one book anymore. The expectations is TRILOGIES. Yes, this means there will be two more in the D’mok Revival series coming. 😉

I promise to write about the process of taking my fourth manuscript and evolving it into its final form in a future blog. This post is specifically about the new cover.

For some quick background, I am very proud of the five covers done to date. I’ve had the distinct honor of privilege of working with Glenn Clovis, an amazing 3D artist. He’s brilliant, incredibly talented, and PATIENT!  This is important, as working with “a client with a vision” (like myself) is NEVER EASY. Not to say I’m a high maintenance person per se, but I’m trying to create a specific look and with that comes some creative direction.

Here’s the first three novels:

book 1 coverbook 2 coverbook 3 cover

 

Here’s the first two novelettes:

mindwalk coveraloan conspiracy

 

I deeply respect and appreciate Glenn’s creative genius. I believe we iterate and evolve designs very well together. Sometimes it’s a suggestion on lighting, or transformation of a small part of something he’s already created. However, having “creative vision” is NOTHING without a creative master to make it manifest.

I’ve mentioned before the pressure that builds to have an impressive and more memorable cover book-over-book. I always want to push it and create something more amazing in the next round.

And so, here we are, “the next round.”  D’mok Revival: New Eden!

Novel number four represents a pivot in the D’mok literary universe. Many important things have changed since original trilogy, with ripple effects of how the Nukari Invasion came to an end.

So what should be on the cover?

I set forth a goal, what I wanted the cover to communicate:

  • It had to be familiar
  • It needed to focus on what New Eden looks like as it’s important the plot (starting in book 4 and moving forward)
  • I wanted to show the influence and adaptions being made based on exposure to Nukari technology
  • I wanted to represent the changing of the guard (leadership), in a way
  • I wanted the station to look capable, like someone wouldn’t mess with it, and would be able to destroy it if they tried

 

There’s a few things I knew already that would influence the visuals:

  • New Eden is not where Eden was, so the red nebula is out. A new location visual would be required
  • New Eden is the same “class” space station as Eden, just much larger, and enhanced
  • Examples of the Nukari technology are clearly illustrated on the third cover (the overlapping armor scales, and creature-esk look)
  • Books one and two featured a ship used by Mencari, so showing it again would create great consistency

 

The most important thing to “get right” was the station. There were many comments from the first book’s cover that I recalled.  For instance: “I’m not sure what I’m looking at? Is that a satellite or a weapon?” “It looks evil.” I didn’t want history to repeat. This time, I want to make sure people know what it is.

We looked at the source material.  First, the original space station:

original-stationoriginal-reference-for-email

Second, the Nukari ship (The Leviathan):

Dmok-CapitalShip

Third, the Nukari space gateway:

ring

 

So, here was the an early approach to the design of the New Eden station:

first station version

You have to start somewhere!  I loved the dome. The arms had segments, but they were very understated. The body looked still under construction to me, and I was looking for something more finished.

 

second version

That’s a leap! Loved the direction it was headed. The upper struts that connected the arms didn’t feel organic enough (something my test group also mentioned). I liked the reshaped arms, but wanted them even bigger!

 

third version

Another leap. I also loved the flairs put on the ends of the arms.  Those will come in handy later…  Though, my test group still didn’t get the direct connection to the Nukari technology with the overlapping tiles and such. There was a suggestion to change the light from blue to red like the Nukari, saying that would help create a stronger connection.

Interesting!  I LOVE feedback. Now, a quick aside, RED is usually used to represent bad things. This seems to be common across cultures in the world too. Even our own beloved scifi tend to follow this.  For instance, red blaster fire or Light Saber colors are used in Star Wars to represent the Empire or Dark Side. Hell is typically pictured as fire and red. Red auras are seen as people that have a “devil-may-care” attitude, are willing to try anything, and quick to anger. People with blue auras are seen as rare, bold, and charismatic, peacemakers with the ability to smooth out angry situations.

Based on this, I provided the feedback to Glenn, and this was the result.

 

fourth version

Amazing!

I reviewed this with my review team. They felt it was a HUGE leap in connections to the first and third books.

I placed it into my cover blocking and played with how to display the station with respect to position and size.  Placement actually was pretty easy.  I needed to follow the “Z” eye scanning pattern people unconsciously use to read in the Western culture.

perhaps-something-like-this

I also considered putting the original ship in the lower left, following the first book. I then added a small stream of ships headed to dock into the left-arm, and one slightly larger ship coming toward the viewer’s perspective.

However, when shown to my review group they felt it was a bit TOO similar to the first book.  Then I had an idea.  Going back to my “changing of the guard” display goal, what if a slightly larger ship heading at the viewer’s perspective was the original ship from books one and two? What if I had a new ship in the lower left heading toward the station?  I’d create the Z pattern, trigger the concept of being familiar, and present the changing of the guard all at one time.  It would be EPIC!

Of course, this meant I needed a new ship. It would need to be New Eden tech, with a similar Nukari influence.  We’d never designed New Eden tech before. Oh, the design challenges are endless (and awesome)!  So I mocked up a very crude concept for Glenn.

I’ll hold off on this ship for the reason that after coming up with an awesome design, the final cover composition worked best WITHOUT IT!  I know!  We spent so much time coming up with something so awesome. I’ll use it, just not for this cover. It’s the “Lexor Class” ship that gets mentioned starting in book 4, so there should be lots of opportunity to use it.

On to working on the final book 4 cover.  Together we mocked up a few different ideas (locations, angles, position of elements).

I wanted to go with a green and blue nebula. This would be distinct from the other major novel covers, and contrast with the orange-red glow from the station.

early rough

But one design really popped past the others. I loved (and so did my review team) loved the station on an angle, in a more ominous presentation.

Of course, this was just the beginning of the refinement.  Here’s a list of things we tweaked through numerous designs:

  • Presentation of the city under the dome (Rinow city)
  • Window placement on the station
  • Red glowing light from other places than the arm

Here’s the final version of the cover:

final cover

There’s so many fine details about this station and the surrounding area of space. For instance, the gleam off the dome, the trail of ships going into the arms, the windows on the station… I think it’s amazing and beautiful.

In the end, I believe I accomplished all my main goals for this with exception to a changing of the guard. However, one could argue that so much obvious Nukari technology shows something is up at New Eden…  Exactly what I want people (that are familiar with the series) to wonder about.

So, that’s the story about book 4’s cover development!

Inspiration from life

It’s hard to believe it’s the beginning of October already. I thought I’d post a quick update about progress on book 4, D’mok Revival: New Eden.  I’m just past the half-way point in the editing of the manuscript. My original goal was to be done editing before this point, but creativity ebbs and flows, and I’m a firm believer in not forcing my work if it’s not flowing on its own.

When an ebb happens, it’s a signal to me that life wants me to replenish a bit. For me, new inspiration comes from living life, having new experiences, meeting interesting people, soaking in the world around you.

I’ve spent a great deal of time with the Milwaukee Castaways Motorcycle Club. In fact, I’m currently a pledge, and will hopefully become a full member at the end of this month (October 2015). It’s an amazing group of guys who love being not just a social organization, but an entity that believes in community building, and raising money for philanthropies such as Camp Heartland (A place dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and families facing significant health challenges or social isolation) and other well deserving local organizations.  It makes me feel proud to be a part of such a group. The experiences I’ve had getting to know the guys, going on “runs,” and the pledging process to become one of them, has been amazing and inspiring.

My son has also started third grade at a new school. It’s interesting to watch him step into a completely new environment. The initial social awkwardness, understanding the social positioning, getting locations and timeframes down, and integrating into the new environment has been equally insightful and fascinating.

At work I’ve also been moved from a centralized user-experience team into a decentralized model where I’m the lead UX person for all software “tools” (utility programs) for Johnson Controls B.E. division. Here too, there’s the awkwardness of getting to know an entirely new group, understanding how they work, not wanting to be too aggressive or suggestive in “how to do things better” until I understand how the team works today, and how things get done.

So how does all this help my writing? The heart of D’mok Revival is about the interpersonal dynamics of the D’mok Warriors, led by Rhysus and Osuto. There’s new members joining all the time, there’s new places and situations, in short, everything I’m going through in life can inspire what happens in the book based on an authentic real-world model.

While I’m focused on the fourth book, but I also am taking notes and writing short segments for the first book in Weun Academy series (that features Eisah, “the boy with the green eyes” starting at the academy). Here too, all of the things I mentioned about the Milwaukee Castaways M.C., my son starting at school, and the shift to a new team at work directly create a platform for me to authentically develop Eisah’s experience starting at Weun Academy.

As a result of “living life,” I’m finding a refreshed stream of inspiration flowing. I’m very happy with the continued evolution of the fourth manuscript.  My revised goal is to have it ready to edit by the end of the year. I’m also already working with Glenn Clovis on the new cover design.

No one likes delays, me included. But the resulting quality will be worth the wait.  I guarantee it.

As a final side note, it’s becoming clear to me that there needs to be another novelette to present the side mission Nikko, Dane, and Kiyanna went on to track down Tal. So, it appears that may be another project added into my queue. Perhaps I’ll wait to hear from fans about whether they are interested in experiencing that through a novelette.

Thank you again for your amazing love and support.  I greatly appreciate it.