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.

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.

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 Next Two Novels (?!)

Where to begin? I’ll start at the very beginning. I hear it’s a very good place to start.

My second novelette, D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy, is officially released!  Can you believe I had it mostly done back in January. However, my third novel and first novelette had released, and a lot was happening in my life. To be honest, I was a bit burned out. Three full novels of authoring, editing, marketing, promotions, etc. in about a year and half was a lot of work. I loved it, but it really taxed me.  Remember, this is my hobby. I have a fulltime job and son, and somewhat of a life too. Thank God for great friends and family that keep me mostly sane.

Honestly, I wanted to release the second novelette earlier than July! But a few things were happening.

  1. I started editing the fourth manuscript in the D’mok Revival series
  2. I started seeing all kinds of visions in the first spin-off series (that was already a documented part of my literary universe’s book plans), which led to starting to write the first volume in that series
  3. I wanted a life

Okay, and being honest:

4. I started taking some new medications for my arthritis which actually impacted my creative flow

Okay, okay…

5. The board game for D’mok Revival

I’m an over achiever, sorry.

The good news is now that the second novelette is out, I can really focus on the next big things. Sometimes you have to get rid of one of the balls being juggled in the air.

So, given I’m only one person, what’s the next main opportunities here? I have focused my work on one major effort, the next book in the D’mok Revival series (technically book 4, but it can also stand alone as the start of a new trilogy). It’s called D’mok Revival: New Eden (Note: the name changed from D’mok Revival: Reunification as noted in the Final Note section of book 3. It just didn’t feel right. New Eden sets the tone for things moving forward too.)

Back in 2010, at another major turning point in my life, I wrote a fourth book for the D’mok Revival Series. It picked up about a year after book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. There were many things unanswered coming out of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. This book not only answered them, but showed the impacts of a redistributed power base in the galaxy. The tone had been set for thing to come (namely the next two books in the D’mok Revival main series). Yes, this means there’s a new trilogy. ;p

The manuscript was around 80,000 words. After ripping out sections (The Aloan Conspiracy was actually the first few chapters of book 4), and making early revisions to the content, it’s already heading up towards 85,000 words. My guess is it will be as large as book 3 was in the end (around 94,000 words).

Remember the fourth manuscript was written before any of the editing changes happened in the first three books. My writing style has also evolved dramatically, so this rewriting process take time. The new medication I’m on for arthritis has also impacted my speed. I originally had two computers going in my brain full tilt with visions of scenes all the time. Now, I feel like an old Commodore 64 computer… lol.  Geek humor. I’m just not working with the same power and speed as before.  The good news is the content is better and more focused.

Then what is this about the “next two” novels?  Well, before I refined my focus, I started writing the first book in the first spin-off series called Weun Academy. Long story short, for those that have followed the main series, this new trilogy (yes trilogy) is named after Seigie Weun and follows the rise of prominence of “the boy with the green eyes.” I’ve mentioned a few more details in past blog posts, so I don’t want to be redundant with content. I have the outline for the entire trilogy, detailed notes for each chapter in this first book, and am about 60 written MS Word pages in. As soon as book 4 in the main series is done, I’ll move directly into this one and finish it.

It’s important to know that the prologues for both of these novels have been professionally edited by Arlene Robinson already. Why?  Good question!  I have include BOTH of them as sneak peaks at the end of the D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy novelette!  How cool is that?  You can get a look directly into the action of the next two FULL NOVELS right now!

I’m so excited to share these with you. Sometimes people don’t believe me when I talk about the full scope of the series. For the record, I’ve only told a few, because I don’t want people to think I’m just bluffing or puffing myself up. This story is very big. There’s so much to talk about. There’s also a reason I specifically said “the first spin-off…” But before I say more, I think I rather write the stories and then talk about it.

Keep sending me your feedback. What do you love?  What do you want to know more about? What things are slow, boring, not as interesting? Don’t worry, I don’t dramatically swing because of one person’s comments. I trend them and observe what the fans are saying overall. Regardless, your thoughts are precious to me, and they help me grow as an author and creator of this literary universe.

Thank you again for your ongoing support and thoughts!

D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy Novelette Cover Design

Readers always ask where the ideas come from for book covers. I’ve posted a number of times about the process I’ve used and the evolution of the various covers in the D’mok Revival series. I guess it’s important to keep that tradition alive.

For those that are current in the D’mok Revival series, you’ll remember Speru Chew’s world of Alo. It’s the first major adventure in book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. Without spoilers, politics abound on that world. One of the pinnacle moments there involved the moon set ablaze with energy, and the resulting power burst that streaked away from it.  It’s certainly one of the moments that comes to mind when I think about Rhysus Mencari’s experience there. It seemed fitting to evoke the memory of that event, and provide a picture of what Mencari saw there.

This is a space opera series, so I went to the traditional presentations from books and television. Picturesque images are common place. So I created an initial sketch.

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

The blazing moon was peaking over the horizon of Alo. I sent it, along with some example photos (thank you Google Images) to my amazing illustrator Glenn Clovis. As a sidebar, I could never say enough about Glenn. He’s amazingly talented, a dream to work with, and makes manifest your dreams!

He sent back this amazing image.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It felt very Star Trek the Next Generation or Star Trek Voyager (which is great). Though, it felt very still. That wasn’t Glenn’s fault, it’s exactly what I asked for from him. It needed some type of action, something that would pull people in. Good covers make people go “oooh,” and also makes them ask questions—makes them want to be there.

Then I remembered “the streak” from the end of the chapter. I created a quick sketch and shot it over to Glen. The following is my original with Glenn’s response.

cover-thoughts untitled

You’ll notice the dramatic shift in design. How incredible. It really punched things up.  As always, I took it to my Facebook page to get feedback from my incredible fans and followers. It was received very well, though some people mentioned it looked like a highway of light more so than a streak. Fair enough!

I put another tweaked version out there, that was better received.

My "comet effect" version

My “comet effect” version

Glenn made a few adjustments, and BAM!  The final cover was ready.

Glenn's final version with the series branding applied.

Glenn’s final version with the series branding applied.

So there you have it!  D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy will be available on Amazon within a day!  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Don’t forget to post your review on Amazon.com as well.  🙂

The growing lore of D’mok Revival

Book number 4, along with the first book in the Weun Academy spin-off series are both moving forward. The second novelette, Aloan Conspiracy, is going through final editing and visual design. I’m hoping to get the board game design moving again too.  It’s very exciting!

What’s so amazing is now that I’m out of the first trilogy, book number four can do “new” things. At the same time, I’m building on the existing lore of the D’mok literary universe. This means I have to catch people that may not have read the first trilogy up. I need to provide some context for what’s happened since. There’s set up baggage that needs to be addressed. I’ve also found, on occasion, that I’ve had holes in my own information.  Sometimes it may have been from edits done that didn’t make it back to my catalog of characters, places, and things. Other times I’ve found I never gave a character a last name. Whoops. The good news is I’ve caught a number of things and have cleaned them up.

It’s been a lot of fun looking at how existing characters have evolved since the end of book 3.  For instance (no real spoiler here), what role is Eyani playing now? Has her title changed? How about Rhysus Mencari?

I also find it interesting working on both Weun Academy’s first book AND book 4 at the same time.  “Technically,” Weun Academy happens after book 4. Now, remember that I have an original manuscript for book 4 that I wrote back in 2010. I’m reworking it with updates based on edits done to the first three books, in addition to updating it with my current writing style.  What I’ve found is Weun Academy relies HEAVILY on what’s happening in book 4.  I’ve been literally writing them at the same time, striping back and forth with chapters and events. They both currently sit at 40 pages each. Something that happens in book 4 impacts Weun Academy, and visions of things that happen in Weun Academy feed back into set ups that are woven back into book 4. It’s all very fascinating (and convenient).

I’m having a great time with it. There’s new characters, new races, new places. The lore of the D’mok literary universe continues to grow! I’m glad to keep updated notes about the characters, races, worlds, etc. I need them!

When they’re released, I think you’ll be very pleased with the action focus and core drama presented.

As a side note, people have also been asking for an omnibus version of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. I really need to get that out there. Perhaps by late summer I’ll have the time (with everything else I’m doing for the D’mok universe) to get it out.  I don’t want to simply slap together the original files and re-release it.  I’d like to add more insights, commentary, notes, etc. into it so it’s more of value (to both new readers and current fans).