Tagged: book

Free Chapters

If you haven’t heard already, my book “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” will release Memorial Day Weekend on Amazon in paperback and for kindle.

That’s almost a week away!

As a bonus before then I’m posting two FREE chapters of the book, just to tease you a bit.

Enjoy! And look forward to the book next weekend!

* * * * *

 

Chapter 2

Batumi, Tetradze District, Olympus Mons Technocracy, Mars, 9 October 2304

 

An explosion tossed Petr sideways, the five-point crash harness preventing him from slamming into the cockpit wall. He struggled to keep his shuttle under control as he dove through the stratosphere of Mars.

“What the hell, Batumi Control?” Petr exclaimed. “What’s going on down there?”

“Just land, dammit!” came the exasperated voice of the air traffic controller. “Get down here, stupid barbarian!”

“I didn’t sign on to some combat mission,” Petr said with as much calm as he could muster. Petr continued toward Mars’ surface. This was supposed to be an easy job – in, out, get paid.

The sound of an explosion filled Petr’s headphones.

This paycheck wasn’t worth dying for. Others on Mars could offer Petr jobs. Petr could whip his battered Raptor back into orbit. This client would never hire him again, but this client could also cease to exist in the next hour. The flak erupting around Petr’s shuttle did not bode well.

Money was what kept Petr from turning back. It was money, above all else, that Petr needed if he was going to fulfill his goal of becoming the man he wanted to be and proving his worth to his family and tribe.

Petr touched the rosary hanging from the Raptor’s heads up display.

A light show greeted Petr as he cut through the dark gray thunderclouds and neared the Batumi Space Port. Ruby lasers pulsed across the slate gray tarmac. From high above it seemed like ants swarmed around the space port, as if their nest had been disturbed.

As Petr descended the “ants” became soldiers loping along clad in two-ton suits of power armor. The soldiers looked like the knights of ancient Terra, but the right arm of the suit terminated in the barrel of a powerful laser. Both sides of this battle were firing lasers, hundreds of glistening ruby crystals burned before erupting into powerful beams. Where the beams touched, death followed. The thick carapace of the power armor was no match for the onslaught of the lasers.

Both sides also appeared to be wearing the same armor with the same family crest, and Petr became confused. What was going on?

“Pad one!” the air traffic controller screamed. “You’re flying right over pad one!”

“Pad one is a war zone.”

“You want to get paid?”

Petr grimaced, shutting his mouth and maneuvering his shuttle down toward Pad One.

Combat aircraft roared overhead, some coming dangerously close to Petr, but thankfully none fired at him. Lasers and missiles streaked overhead as Petr set the Raptor shuttle down on the tarmac. One missile whistled so close past Petr’s cockpit that he saw the warhead in stunning detail. Adrenaline pumped through Petr’s body, heightening his senses to their fullest. Petr lowered the Raptor’s rear loading ramp, his mind thinking of only one thing: survival. And survival meant exiting the area as quickly as possible.

A red beam burned past Petr’s craft as he doffed his helmet and squeezed back into the cargo bay. Normally Raptors would have a large empty space for crates and equipment, but Petr’s ship was a second-hand military shuttle bought off a down and out mercenary outfit, and so ten harnesses for power-armored infantry lined the cargo section.

Petr expected space port personnel to greet him and load the cargo, but instead the tarmac lay empty. Petr shuffled to the end of the loading ramp as he looked for someone who knew what was going on. Thunder rumbled, promising rain.

“Hello?” Petr yelled over the din of battle.

Suddenly, a dark form eclipsed Petr.

“Move aside,” said a deep, metallic voice from a speaker.

Petr looked up into the glaring emerald eye of a suit of Renegade power armor. Only Star Folk mercenaries wore Renegade power armor. Petr’s mind tried to work through exactly what he was seeing and why. Why were Star Folk mercenaries here?

“Move aside now!”

Petr was pushed aside with the suit’s three-clawed, tubular arm. He watched in disbelief as two more troopers in Renegade power armor trudged out of the hangar next to the tarmac and stomped up the Raptor’s rear loading ramp, carrying two oblong, gray crates between them. All three suits were midnight black with Thor’s hammer pendantsfestooned on their rounded shoulder guards and the bulbous, hunchback-like power packs on their backs.

“Who are you?” Petr asked. “What the hell are you doing in my shuttle?”

“Security for the cargo you were hired to transport,” the first trooper said. “We need to go.”

The explosion of a building several hundred meters away set Petr into motion and he darted back up into the Raptor. As Petr went he caught a quick glimpse of the cargo he was to carry. It didn’t look like much. Though the crates seemed innocuous, something nagged at the back of Petr’s mind, telling him these very boxes were the cause of all the wonton destruction outside.

Petr refocused on the payout. This wasn’t his war. He just had to complete this job and collect the money he needed.

“Batumi, this is Petr Drexel,” Petr said as he donned his helmet and snapped himself into the pilot seat’s five-point harness. “I have the cargo and I am preparing for take-off.”

“About time,” the air traffic controller replied, sounding both relieved and exasperated. “Coordinates have been sent to your shuttle. Remember-“

The feed suddenly cut out. The traffic control tower erupted in a ball of flame.

Petr switched from radio communications to shuttle internal communications. “You all better be strapped in back there. This ride could be a little bumpy.”

Petr heard a litany of complaints and curses from his passengers as he shut the shuttle’s rear loading ramp.

Soon the battle was below them, and Petr guided the Raptor away from the space port. Large, fat drops of rain smacked against the shuttle’s cockpit. Petr breathed a sigh of relief. With this job finished, he’d be one more step toward his goal.

An alarm on the shuttle’s heads up display made Petr jump. Missile lock.

“Damn!” Petr exclaimed as he yanked hard on the control stick. The Raptor dove hard right and down.

The missile still followed.

At the last moment Petr smacked the button to the costly countermeasures. There was a series of loud pops as the Raptor fired flares out its sides and back.

“What’s going on up there?” one of the power-armored men asked.

“Shaking missiles.” Petr’s tone was clipped.

The man let out a stream of colorful curses.

Half a second later Petr’s seat surged into his back as an explosion rocked the rear of the shuttle. The missile had cut through Petr’s countermeasures and found its mark.

Petr felt his stomach float up into his ribcage and throat. He saw the rosary hover in the air.

Please God, no, ran through Petr’s mind.

Then Petr was falling. The nose of the Raptor dipped down hard. Petr yanked back on the control stick, praying that some mechanical system in the shuttle still worked.

The shuttle lifted a little. Maybe the landing wouldn’t be so bad and he and his passengers would live to see another day. There simply wasn’t enough time or space to pull the shuttle out of its dive. Petr announced over the intercom “Brace for impact” as he simultaneously did himself, pushing his back into the pilot’s seat as hard as he could.

The Raptor slammed into the ground and Petr pitched forward, his helmet ramming into the shuttle’s heads up display. The harness holding Petr in the pilot’s seat knocked the wind out of him.

The Raptor’s momentum drove the craft forward several meters through the soft dirt blanketing the planet. Until finally, with a shudder, the shuttle came to a halt.

 

Chapter 3

Batumi, Tetradze District, Olympus Mons Technocracy, Mars, 9 October 2304

 

Everything was eerily quiet. Petr sat, head hanging forward. Something in the back of his mind told Petr he needed to get up and move. The pain wracking his body overwhelmed a lifetime of training in the Star Folk Community Fleet. It hurt simply to exist.

With a grunt of effort and immense pain, Petr slapped the harness release and flopped down onto the shuttle’s console. Limbs aching from the crash, Petr pried the bulky helmet from his head, a movement that seemed to take all of his strength and concentration, before dropping it into the pilot’s seat. With great effort Petr crawled back over the empty communications seat and into the rear of the Raptor.

There was a gaping hole full of ripped cables and twisted metal where once the aft starboard side of the Raptor existed. The Raptor’s starboard airlock hung twisted and limp where it was still connected to the shuttle.

Two of the men in Renegade power armor were free of the troop harnesses. Both labored to free their comrade who seemed stuck.

“Hold on, Eyolf,” said the largest one through the Renegade armor’s external speaker. “We’ll get you out of there.”

“What a way to die,” said the man still stuck in the harness.

“You’re not going to die here,” said the other trooper in Renegade armor fighting to free his comrade.

The men bent and twisted the harness. After several attempts the harness was manipulated just enough that the third Renegade armored man could force himself out.

Pain suddenly blossomed inside Petr’s chest, and he stumbled with a sharp cry. The men turned to face Petr, three bug-eyed, round helmets staring at him. Petr swallowed hard as realization flooded his mind: they were going to kill him.

A long, pregnant pause filled the Raptor’s cargo bay as Petr faced the three armored Star Folk men before him. All three black, insect-like helmets glared at Petr from the far side of the cargo bay. Petr waited for one of them to raise the barrel of their heavy machine gun and paint the inside of the shuttle with Petr’s blood.

Petr’s knees gave out, and he sunk to the deck of the Raptor. The crash had done a lot more damage to Petr’s body than he’d thought. The world around him was shaky as he attempted to balance himself.

“We’re leaving him,” said the largest man.

“Sorry champ,” said the one with the wild red strokes on his helmet. “Better luck next time.”

“W-w-wait,” Petr said, his words slurred.

The two smaller armored men took one crate each in the three-clawed hands of their suits, then hopped out of the hole in the ship.

Petr reached out and grabbed the guardrails that led up into the cockpit.  His arms held for a brief moment, then let go. Petr’s world spun as he crashed to the floor, his cheek coming to rest on the cool metal deck of the Raptor’s shuttle bay.

Then Petr’s world turned black.

EBook Cover Poll

It’s poll time folks!

I posted a poll on Twitter for which cover I should go with for the eBook of my book “PETR – A STAR FOLK SAGA”. Head over and vote!

 

Self-Publishing

I have decided to self-publish my book “PETR: A STAR FOLK SAGA” through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service.

My book didn’t find traction with agents or publishers after four months of querying. Dozens of rejection emails later I decided the traditional publishing route wasn’t fot me. I have nothing against the traditional publishing route – it’s clearly worked for many people, and it may work for me in the future with another title.

So I’ve dived in working on perfecting the ms for kindle publishing. It’s been frustrating at times. I think I’m done and after another review I find a host of tiny mistakes and I have to go back and correct them before I upload the ms to KDP again.

I’ve seen this screen about a dozen times now…
Draft cover for the paperback. The paperback book will be 5” x 8” and will go for $8.99

I don’t have a release date yet, but I’ll be posting regular updates and freebies throughout the next month, and a release date will follow soon.

I am a Glow Worm

It’s been over a month since I had my last call-in with my editor. Since then I’ve queryed over forty agents – and the querying continues.

Of those forty, five have provided a negative response.

According to all the blogs and articles by those in the industry, including agents themselves, it’s an average of 6-8 weeks until they respond, IF they respond.

Each agent receives hundreds, if not thousands, of queries each day.

So mine is one in a roiling sea of manuscripts.

But, to quote Winston Churchill, “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”

And so I will query on, and I shall never surrender.

Dinner Steak

Dinner steak – the third most important steak of the day.

Back when Team Fortress 2 came out, Valve made comics to go with them, and the hero was a mountain of a man Australian who crashes through the glass ceiling of his own home and is served breakfast steak – THE MOST IMPORTANT STEAK OF THE DAY! – by his butler.

Ever since I have quipped the importance of breakfast, lunch, and dinner steaks, in that order.

And so tonight is dinner steak. USDA Prime ribeye. Yes it’s cooked to perfection. Yes, I use Redmond Real Salt. And yes, I cover it in Kerrygold butter.

Why?

First, because I follow a strict nose-to-tail Carnivore Diet 95% of the time.

Second, to get those creative writing juices flowing!

Onward!

When Ideas Strike

Today, Saturday, I had to work my full-time job. Such is the nature of the beast.

And while I was working, ideas for the latest book began to flow. Scenes, dialogue, effects of those scenes and dialogue.

As I worked I thought, “I’ll remember that.”

Morgan Freeman narrating my life: “He did not remember that.”

That’s over exaggerating. I remember some of the thoughts I had as I toiled away today. But not all of it. The vague memories of the ideas I had pale in comparison to when they leapt into my head. They were mighty bucks that strode into the clearing of my mind, only to be scared by the hunter who coveted them, and they dashed away.

So now I have a process to capture these ideas. A little notebook where I’ll jot scenes, feelings, colors, smells, dialogue, and background once the idea strikes. These great, fleeting stags, difficult to catch, will be mine for the taking.

What do you use to capture the ideas that flit through you mind?

The Hero’s Journey

We’ve all heard about the archetypal hero’s journey and the steps involved:

  • Ordinary world
  • Call to adventure
  • Refusal of the call
  • Meeting with the mentor
  • Crossing the first threshold
  • Tests, allies, and enemies
  • Approach the inmost cave
  • The ordeal
  • Reward
  • The road back
  • The resurrection
  • Return with the elixir

There are many iterations of this, but this is the one I’m most familiar with.

In August of this year (2019) I attended Paleo f(x), and had to opportunity to hear Aubrey Marcus, CEO of Onnit, talk about the hero’s journey as it applies to us and the mind.

And my mind was opened.

I don’t know why, but the hero’s journey had always been a physical thing to me. Luke Skywalker leaving Tattoine to fight the Empire. Beowulf fighting Grendal.

But Aubrey talked about the hero’s journey as it applies to the mind and personal self-improvement.

The ideas for stories blossomed in my head.

Of course, when given the chance to shake hands with Aubrey I blubbered like and idiot. “I like your gym and your supplements. . .”

IDIOT!

But the seed of an idea Aubrey offered is still planted in my mind, and it’s being applied to the two books I’m working on now. The second book I’m writing takes the largest influence from the Hero’s Journey for mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the characters. While the physical realm is important in stories, the mental or spiritual journeys have added a whole new dimension to my works.

How have you encountered the hero’s journey mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally in your life?

The Challenges of Writing

I am 16,500 words into my second novel. The next 60,000 words should be easier.

SHOULD be. . .

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to write with work and family?

I go to work for eight hours a day and my mental capacity is utilized for the job. I meet with people, work through problems, and coordinate activities. After eight hours of that in some sequence or another I’m mentally spent!

Then I commute home and pick up my children. They are the joy of my life, and like all children take their toll on mental capacity, too. They’ve had problems at school with friends and teachers and they are seeking guidance. Then they fight with their sibling, and I have to step in and provide correction and more guidance.

I wouldn’t give up my children for the world. I’d like to keep my current job, too.

But then I go to write – what has been my passion and joy for years – and the words refuse to flow. I stalk from my front room to my dining room, and up the stairs to my study, trying to work out scenes, conflict, reactions, and feelings in each chapter. Yet the words themselves resist my call to come forth.

Some authors talk about writing preparation, or warm-ups they do where they write about something other than their book. But when you’re a single father with a full time job and two high energy kiddos, sitting down at 8:30PM/9PM at night leaves little time to “warm-up” before bed and 5-7 hours later I’m up again getting ready for work before I have to wake up my kids.

But we strive on, right? For our passion? For our hope that we can provide our children a better future while doing something we absolutely love? To be published and, hopefully, have someone read our book and have it positively change their life in some way?

So, once more, into the breach!

A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2

In my last post on editors, I talked about the last editor I worked with, and my experience with her. There was a lot of criticism – some warranted, some crushing, and some that left me with more questions than answers received.

Now I’d like to discuss the latest editor I worked with, and the night-and-day different experience I had with her.

Networking Works

I met my most recent editor through a friend. My friend, we’ll call him MV, is part of a Catholic Young Professionals group in Omaha. There he met a woman who had self-published two books. Through their conversation MV learned that this woman had her sister edit her books, and through several emails they put the two of us in contact.

I was skeptical at first, but sister of this editor has done exceptionally well for herself and her books are still selling. It helped that her price was a fraction of what most editors charge as she was just getting her editing services off the ground. Jackpot!

The Process

Over a four week period my editor and I worked through my manuscript, first two copy-edits, and the finally an in-depth content edit looking at story structure, flow, identifying plot holes, and strengthening certain points such as one main character’s growth from meek to strong and the culture of the fictional people I am writing about.

My most recent editor was very thorough with grammar and punctuation. She was able to catch quite a bit of what the previous editor and I had missed. My editor was also able to go through and help make sentences and even paragraphs more clear and concise to better get the story across to my reader.

Through the in-depth content edit, my editor identified areas of confusion which need clarification, and areas where the story was weak and need additional dialogue and/or description.

Drawbacks

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. While my story is now stronger, there were times I wasn’t sure about my most recent editor. In all edits, and especially the last, she gave me a lot of pumping up and “your story is great, you’re a great writer” type of compliments. While this is a stark contrast from my previous editor, I don’t think it’s what I need to hear. I needed a hard, critical perspective and many times it seemed I was being provided too much positive reinforcement in a place where it wasn’t warranted.

Sometimes too many compliments and the like can be debilitating to identifying problems and fixing them, in this case in my manuscript. It can lead us into believing we have a great story when, in fact, we don’t.

With my current editor I had to be even more critical of my work, and bring things up to her and try to have her look at them in different ways. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she replied with, “I actually feel that’s really good and I don’t feel it needs to be changed.”

Regardless of whether it is actually good or not, she said things like that so often that my blood pressure spiked a little and, after our meetings, I would go back and comb through my manuscript more.

So maybe it was a good thing?

Conclusion

Most recently (within the last two years) I have had two very different editors. One was overwhelmingly critical and, after paying a hefty sum for a single edit, cut off her availability. The other was much cheaper, but the constant positive reinforcement on things I thought were wrong made me concerned about the quality of her edits. The result: I believe I have a completed, ready to publish manuscript. Unfortunately, these, and one other editor many many years ago, are the only benchmarks I have for what editors should be like.

After reading both posts, what are your thoughts on these two editors? What have been your experiences with editors? I’d also like to hear the thoughts of editors/agents in the business.

Until next time!. . .

Communication During the Editing Process

Update: the book is coming along swimmingly.

Part of the reason the recent editing of the book is going so well is the clear lines of communication between my editor and myself. Like any endeavor – writing, military operations, power plant maintenance, family – communication is key. I find over-communication tends to be better (though perhaps a little annoying) than under-communication.

Now I’m not going to write a whole lot on this. I am going to put a lot more into “A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2”. But it has been such a good experience that I wanted to cover it.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Throughout the whole editing process this last month, my editor and I have been in regular communication through phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings.

Some people may think that this could become cumbersome, even annoying. At times my first reaction is just that.

But the high level of communication has allowed us to deconflict issues we’ve had, reschedule meetings without issue, and to verify next steps and expectations.

Talking through things has allowed my editor to have a much deeper grasp of where I want to go with my story, and the background to it. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable talking about all the nerdy stuff in my book. But the more I explain, the more my editor has been able to guide me in a better direction, and my book is really shaping up because of it.

Now Communicate Some More

I’m going to go back to the possibility of annoyance for a second.

I am very straight forward, concise, to-the-point kind of guy. I want the facts, and then to tackle the solution. I don’t need fluff or prolonged discussion.

Usually.

I quickly found that this would not work in this case.

First and foremost, while my editor and I have gotten to know one another better, we still really don’t know each other well. We have both had to learn to understand how the other operates, reads, and understands things.

While I am a straight to the point kind of person, my editor needs more discussion. That, and I found that greater discussion in greater detail was required so that my editor could really grasp what I am trying to do with my book. It was a bit of a mental stretch for me, but once I got past my mental block, my editor has come to understand my book better and, as I said before, has helped me change it for the better.

For example, I wanted to ensure that the culture of the Star Folk, the main peoples described in my book, had a lot of examples without just info dumping. Info dumps make the writing boring and interrupt the flow. At first I tried to describe this and my editor had a difficult time helping me. But once I described the culture more, where and how I wanted to describe it, and examples of info dumps, my editor was able to give me suggestions and help me brainstorm.

Softy

The issue with this kind of communication is it’s a soft skill. It’s more difficult to make it into a procedure, or to document a process.

I have to understand myself and how I communicate, and learn how the other person receives information, processes it, and communicates back. And I have to do this each time with different people, whether writing, at work, or with family and friends.

As many may know, it takes time, practice, and many iterations of trial and error.

Conclusion

Communication through the editing process has been key to helping my book become better. Sometimes the over-communication has at first seemed unnecessary, but I’ve learned it’s required if I want my editor to really be able to help me. Perhaps if I had done this more in the past, my book would be further along that it is.

The book is, in fact, coming along really well! I wouldn’t normally say that – I would say good, or decent, or it doesn’t quite suck. But I can honestly say the book is making some real leaps to something much more organized, professional, and almost ready for publishing. I will have more updates in the weeks to come.

Until next time. . .