A Deeper Look “Into the Void”

I usually post on Thursdays. But in honor of my newest book (Into the Void) being released on Friday, I thought I’d write this post today!

I am so excited for this book, you guys! I keep asking myself, “Is it wrong to love your own book this much?” And the answer is, “Who cares?” Because I do love my own book so much. And to tell you why, I’ll have to tell you a bit about why I wrote it. And to tell you why I wrote it, we might have to go look at the first book in the series, since this is a sequel. 😉

Why do I write?

I love stories. Ravi Zacharias once said that art is philosophy that enters the mind by the backdoor. And I couldn’t agree more. When you come straight at a person and make any sort of truth statement they will examine it as such and either accept or reject it. And most people already have their filters and biases in place to protect what they already believe. But when worldview and truth statements are incorporated into art, they impact peoples’ lives in a much different way. When the come in the form of a story, people are much more likely to listen even if they don’t agree.

Movies, books, and television are shaping our society much more than any of us think. “It’s just a movie.” But all movies have messages. And even if you recognize those messages (sadly many people don’t), and even if your recognize that you disagree with them, it is difficult to tell what seeds they are planting in your mind. I truly believe that these subtle messages in the stories we spend time with impact how we treat other people, how we deal with crisis situations, and how we handle our emotions.

I write because I have a huge imagination. I like to go on adventures and I like to take readers with me. But I also write because I have seen certain messages lacking in popular stories, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to write clean, exciting speculative fiction with inspiring characters, intricate plots, and worthwhile messages. 

Enter book 1: Out of Darkness –a futuristic, sci-fi thriller which is kind of a combination of The Bourne Identity, Ender’s Game, and Firefly. But it emphasizes hope, redemption, and friendship. And most importantly, it emphasizes that you are not a victim of your circumstances; no matter what has been done to you, you have the choice to rise above.

(Note: Because of the nature of the story there are some dark scenes in this book. They are not graphic. They exist to show the contrast between dark and light. Compared to most books/movies in this genre they on the mild side.)

 

And then I wrote the sequel (Coming March 24th!!)

Into the Void continues the story from the first book. Characters face new challenges. Some fail. Some find victory. For a long time I didn’t think there would be a sequel to Out of Darkness. In fact, it was originally just called The Creation of Jack. Because I thought that was the whole story. But after a little while I realized how unsatisfying it was to have the story end where it was.

Yes, after a lot of struggle and pain my character found victory. But my life went on and I had to face a whole new set of challenges. And I felt like the subtle message was: once you face your past the rest of your life is easy. But real life is not like that. Real life goes on. And after every great victory, there is always another battle on the horizon. And that’s okay. My main character found personal victory in book one. But now in book two she has to face all the challenges of becoming an adult, facing responsibility, and working with the whole spectrum of humanity: corrupt, naive, selfish, prejudiced, and annoying. And of course there is fun science and technology and adventures.

Which leads to news that you may or may not find exciting:

I intend to continue the series!

I have begun brainstorming for Book 3 and would love to write at least 4 or 5 books in this series although they may not all center on the same characters. Both of these books have an ensemble cast of character that are awesome! Realistically I could give each of the main cast their own book. So maybe there will be 12 books. 😉

So there’s a snapshot of my philosophy on writing, and what these books are about. Into the Void seriously impacted me as I wrote it, asking questions like: Are you always defined by things in your past? How do people respond when confronted with their deepest fears? What causes people to lose trust in those closest to them? How do you work through your emotions to make the right decision? How do you find courage when it feels like the universe is against you? And can your weaknesses actually make you strong?

So if any of that sounds at all intriguing, please go check out my books! They are both only $.99 right now but the price will probably go up next week. If that is not in your book budget (there are so many books to buy, I get it), then follow me or subscribe to my e-mail list and I’ll let you know when there are special giveaways and promotions.

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Thanks for checking in, guys. For all you writers, keep writing! Share your thoughts or questions below!!

Tips on Non-linear Narration

Don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction. Don’t use passive voice. Don’t address the reader directly. Don’t give your character a name your readers can’t pronounce. We’ve all heard the writing rules. But if you’re like me, you’ve watched your favorite authors break those rules with glee!

But rules are there for a reason. I am by no means encouraging rebellion for rebellion’s sake.

So how do you know when to break a rule? That my friend is a troubling philosophical question that the whole of humanity has been wrestling with from the beginning of time. I am not going to answer that question.

But I am going to talk about the taboo of non-linear narration and why I broke it for my first book: Out of Darkness.

Let’s talk a bit about storytelling. Storytelling is a narrow slice of life. I remember working on my first real short story at age eleven. How do I get from one day to the next? What do I leave in, what do I take out? I realized quickly that discussing the minute details of my character’s life was boring. Storytelling is as much about what you leave out as what you put in.

Books are an even narrower slice. I love watching movies and it is fascinating to see how creative filmmakers can be with their storytelling all because they have the power of visuals. There are different tips and tricks for holding a reader’s attention than for holding an audience member’s attention. With books the reader has to do more work: picture the setting, imagine the characters, and keep track of important plot details all at once. Plus, because books are usually read in more than one sitting, when they pick that book up on day three they have to remember who, what, when, where, and why all over again or they’ll be lost, frustrated, and put down the book. So there are a lot of tried and true rules about how to write a book readers will engage with.

So why did I decided to walk the edge with my book? For starters, life is not nearly so neat and tidy as a novel. When you meet someone for the first time you form your first impressions. Then as you get to know them you modify those impressions and add some depth. But then usually there comes this time when you find out about their history, maybe little by little, and you begin to form a more accurate picture of who they are, what shaped them, and what motivates them. And that is why I wrote the book the way I did: it was the most true way to tell Logan Bailey’s story. Her life was ripped apart and she feels fractured inside. Deep inside she is one person, on the outside she has become something completely different, and neither of those people are the person she’s expected to be.

The great challenge is not to lose the reader along the way. They need to know where they are, what point this is in Logan’s story, and what’s going on. One of my biggest challenges was nailing down the scene order. Once I was rearranging scenes it felt like I had opened pandora’s box. The impact of a scene could change drastically depending on where I moved it in the story. At one point I had three different versions of the novel with three different chronologies and my mind started to melt!

But the end result was so completely gratifying! I still get emotional when I scan through it looking for quotes or reference points. I told the story the way I know it needed to be told. And so far my readers have not only “got it” but have resounded with the deep emotional themes.

If you are at all considering stepping outside the usual chronology for your story here are a few things to consider:

  1. What tone or pace do you want to set?
    • The disjointed feel matched the emotional/mental state of my main character and created mystery and suspense perfectly in line with my plot/climax.
    • Out of Darkness is a futuristic, action/adventure science fiction novel so the scene changes, flashbacks, and unusual style aren’t too unfamiliar for my target audience.
    • This would not fit for most genres, I am glad most books don’t do it, and honestly I may never do it again. I very much enjoy the long, patient journey that most books take me on.
  2. It takes a lot of work
    • This wasn’t a simple A-B-C-D plot. And honestly, I wrote and rewrote it, and let it sit and came back and edited and rewrote it.
    • It’s a complicated story and it took time, effort, and patience. If I’d been under a contract time limit or something, it would have turned out very poorly.
  3. Books aren’t supposed to be like movies.
    • I admit that I tend to write cinematically. And because of the way this story is told, it is easy to picture it as a film.
    • But books have a magic all their own. Why not take advantage of that and explore it to the full? For example, I love the film versions of the Lord of the Rings. But I love the books even more. And you know what? I love the differences between the two. I understand why Peter Jackson changed things and skipped things and streamlined things. He made three very compelling, heart moving movies. But Tolkien was in no rush when he wrote those books and there is a reason that so many people read them every single year.
  4. In general, don’t get boxed in by any set of storytelling rules. Learn to tell stories well, and then learn to tell them in the most powerful way that you can.

10 Things You May Not Know About Me

So I’ve been meeting a lot of new authors and writers online. And some of you may be thinking, “Who the heck is E.B. Dawson?” So here are some fun “writerly” facts about me:

1. I have moved 24 times in 27 years and have lived in 4 different countries.

2. I dream very vividly (sometimes lucidly). I had nightmares a lot when I was little and I learned to give them happy endings to help me go back to sleep. That is really where my storytelling began. Even now, a lot of my stories were either inspired by dreams, or have dream related content grafted in.

3. I adore airports. If it was feasible for me to go to an international terminal every time I wanted to write, I would. I don’t have a traditional hometown (see fact #1). Airports/airplanes are the closest thing to a hometown for me. There is a comfort and a familiarity there that I can’t find anywhere else.

4. I secretly (or not so secretly anymore) want to be MacGyver (not the new one, the old one). I already carry my pocket knife around pretty much everywhere. I just need to add string and duct-tape to the list. My dad’s a mechanic and he taught me to be a creative problem solver. Now I just need to study physics, chemistry, and engineering, multiply it by ten and approach every crisis situation with a relaxed, can-do attitude and I’m good to go! (Not to brag, but I already got that last part down).

5. Some of my favorite male actors of all time: Sam Elliott, Ed Harris, Danny Kaye, Harry Morgan, and Michael Caine.

6. I summited Mt. Whitney in 2013 and it was absolutely amazing. If you are physically capable and you have the opportunity, you need to hike a 14er sometime in your life. We camped at 12-something before peaking. At that point you can feel how high you are with every breath; the landscape is more barren; the stars are exquisite. It was early September, but I was so cold I hunkered down in my sleeping bag with my foot warmers and read G.K. Chesterton.

7. I believe very strongly that stories don’t have to be graphic and gritty to be good. Even dark stories with flawed characters and ugly situations can be told with taste and discretion.

8. If I were a combination of movie characters I would be a combination of:

Anne of Green Gables (imaginative and idealistic)

P.L. Travers from Saving Mr. Banks  (cynical old soul)

and Mia Wasikowska’s Alice (rational, problem solver).

9. I love dry humor, black humor, and satire.

10. If I could visit any era of American history it would be the 1890s or the 1940s.

Is Your Story Written Backwards or Forwards?

If you’ve researched writing at all, or read any of the many writing tutorial blogs out there, you’ve probably read that you have to write your novel backwards from the ending.

This isn’t a post to disagree or agree with that advice, but rather to explore it. Because this is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. And I think there is another question closely tied to it:

Is your story a vegetable plant in a garden or a meal at a restaurant?

(Yes, I’m hungry but there is also deep meaning in this metaphor so bear with me…)

Some books are like a good meal at a restaurant. You enjoy it while it lasts, but when it is over you move on. Other books are like vegetables in a garden–you go back to the same plant over and over and find new fruit on it.

Examples?

Virginia Woolf’s “The Years,” was a restaurant meal for me. I wanted to try something new and I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of her exquisite prose. But the characters were wanting in depth, there was no real plot, and I wasn’t sure I agreed with or fully understood her themes. If I read it again I have little expectation to get anything new out of it: just the same flavors.

Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game,” is a vegetable garden for me. The questions raised in that book are timeless, and every time I come back to it with more life experience on my belt I appreciate a different aspect of it.

Granted, people will have different tastes and opinions for which books are 1-time experiences and which books are good repeats. But I do think some books (and stories) have characteristics that make them more subject to fall into one category or the other.

For example: There is no denying that thrillers/mysteries/suspense novels give a far different experience the first time than the second. It is the whole idea of the “unknown” that keeps the audience addictively engaged. All stories play upon the audience’s curiosity to find out what happens next, but these genres depend upon it. I think some stories are specifically crafted for the first time viewer/reader and some are crafted for the repeat.

M. Night Shyamalan is a story teller who plays on the first-time viewer. I’ve only watched three of his movies, and I was kind of coerced into two of them because I really don’t like scary movies. But one thing I noticed is that the people around me would be absolutely terrified in the middle of the movie, but by the end they would be like: that was lame. And I don’t think I’ve heard any of my friends say, “Let’s watch that Shyamalan movie again.” Shyamalan is really quite brilliant at playing with uncertainty and the unknown. (From what I’ve seen) He focuses more on the fear itself than on “scary things.” But that means the second time around, all of the adrenaline is gone because you have all the answers.

But then we have “The Lord of the Rings.” I have friends who re-read the books and re-watch every year. Obviously they already know the ending. They know all the plot twists and can quote most of the lines. But they keep coming back to it. (I do too!) It’s because there is a meat and a substance there that never grows old.

Now, back to my original question. Is it important for the author to know the end of his/her book from the beginning? It’s usually helpful.

But here is the main issue I have: some authors are trading in substance for trickery.

They write a quick-read action and adventure story, but in order to make readers/viewers come back they embed the story with things that only make sense once you’ve reached the end. Have you read stories like that? Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is fun to reach the end and find out a surprising twist and think: this changes everything! But it has to be handled correctly. Because honestly other times I feel tricked. And then I get grumpy like Nacho…

If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ll know that what I call reader trust is very important to me. You want your reader to be emotionally invested, right? I think that’s what we all want as authors. Well, it seems pretty unfair to trick them or make them feel like idiots after they’ve invested in your story. I’m trying to think of a couple of examples.

Ocean’s 12 comes to mind. When Ocean’s gang makes a bet with “the Night Fox” about who can steal the Faberge Egg, I was rooting for Ocean and the gang. But I wanted to be in on it. But the movie is written so that the audience is duped right along with their enemies. Granted, the first movie delivered its climax similarly. But at least the audience saw the pieces of the puzzle along the way even if they didn’t understand them. In the sequel, the key piece of the puzzle isn’t even shown so there is no way for the audience to have an “aha!” moment at the end.

So here’s my two cents on the best way to pull off a game-changing reveal at the end:

  1. Plant hints along the way so the reader feels like you’ve led them there and they are not blindsided.
  2. It shouldn’t invalidate previous events, only illuminate them. In other words, all those scenes that you wrote knowing the reader didn’t have all the information need to have a substance of their own.

    Leave your reader exclaiming, “Wow, I had no idea!” or “That makes so much sense!” not “It was all a lie!”

 

And my final thoughts:

Even if you compose your story from end to beginning with all sorts of clever twists, you need to make sure that every part of the journey is worthwhile in itself.

The Bittersweet Pain of Mistakes and Failures

Why can’t we just learn from all the sweet, beautiful moments of life? Why can’t I write the perfect novel the first time? Why can’t I gain all the wisdom that I need from drinking coffee and staring out my french doors at the wet, wintry February world?

Clearly I’ve got a lot of questions about life. The truth is I crave the deep well of wisdom that comes from experience, but most of the time I’d prefer to skip the experience. After all, we always see the shiny final product and we very rarely see the blood, sweat, and tears that produced it. Every time we turn on the electricity we see the great success of Thomas Edison. And sure, we might know that he failed 1000 times first, but we don’t understand the full depth of that experience.

Which is why I’m trying to learn to embrace the failures–in all aspects of my life. But I am happy to say that one of the easiest areas to accept mistakes and failure is in writing. Don’t give me that look. Unless you are a high-market author with a reputation at stake (and I honestly have no idea what that may be like), you really don’t have that much to lose. Sure, it can be frustrating when the compelling story in your head comes out sounding like a bad translation of “When You Give a Moose a Muffin.” But the only thing stopping you from becoming a great author is you. You heard me right. Now I admit that some people take more naturally to story-structure, prose, and all the little intricacies of writing. But I firmly believe you can learn every facet of it. I read this book once about how what actually sets the masters apart from the amateurs has less to do with inborn talent and more to do with refusing to quit.

So wherever you are on the writing spectrum: whether you’ve written ten books and are afraid to branch out into a new genre, or you’re crying because your second short story is as bad as the first, here’s my challenge to you: keep writing. And more than that, keep living life with all of its ups and downs. People recognize authenticity in writing.

So my new challenge to myself is to embrace the ugly along with the beautiful. The truth is that beauty and success are flat without the added dimension and depth of struggle, failure, and disappointment. Take that for a pep talk.

2017: The Balancing Act

I have a confession to make: I am not thrilled with the direction the book publishing/marketing industry is heading. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to self-publish cheap and easy is pretty awesome. But the heavy expectations placed on authors to self-market their books, be present on all social media, and post constant content and updates is a little overwhelming.

I’m a big thinker, but not a big sharer. I do love writing, and sharing my knowledge and so I will go through seasons where I’m consistently updating my website and such. Conversely, I go through seasons where I need a “time-out.” I’ll sit down at my laptop, determined to do some sort of post, but get up restless and void of ideas. This closely mirrors my one-on-one communication style. I can be very friendly and engaging, and I like conversing on topics that interest me. But I always need my “recharge time” where I don’t talk to anyone…sometimes for hours, sometimes for days.

Now let’s add into all of that the fact that this is not my full-time job. I am not just working to get through college anymore. I want to cultivate my work skills. I want to cultivate my relationships with friends and family. I want to explore other hobbies and interests.

Although I feel this has been true in my life since 2014, I think this new year is truly going to be the year of “the balancing act.” Or at least, I am hoping it will be “the year of balance.”

Technically, I would prefer to have only one area of obligation and be able to focus on that with all of my being. I used to do that with school. Then there was that one time I did it with work. Sometimes I think I would like to do that with writing. I dream about getting paid to write full time. But I’m not sure I’d love it as much as I think. It might become a chore rather than a joy.

I complain about having to juggle multiple spheres of life. But in truth it keeps me growing as a person. Left to my own devices I would probably become an obsessive, reclusive hermit. Instead I find myself growing in areas I never thought I’d grow, meeting new people, and constantly learning. And all three of those are vital for growing as an author.

So I may not be able to compete with those writers who blog multiple times a week. But I truly think that I will make up for it in my novels. Because that is where I pour my heart, my soul, and everything I learn.

New Covers!

So you can tell I’ve got my life back together because I’m actually posting things on social media! It got pretty busy there and I had a lot of change going on in my life including graduating from college and moving to a new state.

But I’m back. And while I’m always re-evaluating my branding, my communication, and my social media presence (read: I may not post every day), I won’t be entirely off the grid anymore.

Anyway. On to the fun part! My books have all been moved to Amazon KDP and have received new cover treatment! Check them out:

Out of Darkness (The Creation of Jack Book 1)

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Void (The Creation of Jack Book 2)

 

 

 

 

 

The Traveler

 

A Review of Starship Troopers (the book)

A friend recommended this book years ago (8 or 9). But for some reason I never picked it up. He recommended it because I love “Ender’s Game.” But he also made some reserved comments about it that made me hesitate. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he clearly didn’t sell it very well.

This book is everything I love about science fiction. It is exciting, imaginative, fast-paced, and philosophical. It starts in the middle of the action and then goes backward. This works well because you have an idea of where the plot is going and a sense of anticipation.

Boot camp was interesting and I like how the perspective of the recruits was later contrasted when the main character overhears the officers talking. I liked the slower, philosophical portions as well.

I also loved that this book was absolutely clean (other than some implied violence). It doesn’t take itself too seriously, either, but just seriously enough. And I was pleasantly surprised by a certain plot twist at the very end that made me go back and re-read passages.

Overall, the book felt like “Band of Brothers” set in science fiction. So if that sounds appealing to you, go read it.

Breaking the Silence…

I have not posted in forever because life has been a little bit crazy. What with school, work, and plenty of family I have been taking a break from posting on here. I have been so mentally tired that in my free time all I want to do is consume (reading and watching) rather than create new content. But I think my shaky little boat has stabilized and stopped taking on water and I’m gonna get back into paddling 😉

So here are a few things to look forward to:

1. Movie Reviews: I watched the new Star Trek over the summer and very much enjoyed it. I also discovered “Edge of Tomorrow: Live, Die, Repeat” and loved it! And I more recently watched Terminator: Genisys and already have some thoughts of what went wrong and right.

2. I am in the infant stages of branding! My graphic designer (if she reads this she will laugh at me for making myself sound so important) has begun work for me. I can’t promise a timeline for new graphics/book covers, but we are one step closer!

3. I really do intend to write more short stories. After reading “Into the Void,” my friend kept bringing up fringe characters that she found fascinating and I kept texting back: “I know. They deserve more…” There is so much thought behind my characters (even the main ones) and I want to start fleshing it out in short stories. Beyond that, there are some unrelated concepts that I want to develop.

4. I ran into an old supervisor at a baby shower. She read an early manuscript of “The Traveler,” and has been harassing me every since to tell her what happens next. So I was excited to let her know that I am finally working on the sequel. Her enthusiasm was encouraging. I was making some progress up until the summer, but that project too has been on standstill. The characters and plot have been haunting me, though, and I’m gonna get back to it soon.

5. Book Reviews: I haven’t been reading too much science fiction lately, but I do still need to do a review for Starship Troopers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes stories worthwhile and which ones are worth telling. Hope your summer has been filled with ice tea and lemonade and that you are as excited for fall as I am!

Who Are You Writing For?

One of my best friends just finished “Into the Void.” She texted me saying, “Never stop writing, even if you are just writing for me.” She got it. That validated hundreds (maybe thousands?) of hours of work.

It’s a huge accomplishment just to finish a novel. It is. But the market can be deadly. For a time, I queried my first book over and over to agent after agent–all with the same response. That’s when you start to feel crazy. Maybe this book is worthless drivel and I am deceiving myself. But that’s the thing…I know that it is not! I have (sadly) read several books that are worthless drivel and yet somehow they got an agent and a publisher.

I have always known there was value to my stories. And to be honest, I did write them chiefly for myself. A lot of people advise that you don’t write to please the masses, but simply write for one person. Well, my one person understood it. 🙂 So I’m not crazy.