Sunday, May 6, 2018

Keeping on the watch

More than a few readers have wondered if I'll be able to finish the FLEE series before the end (or at least, before the outbreak of the great tribulation). Although some of these comments may be made in jest, it's certainly a valid question considering all that's going on in the news.

Watching the developing situation between North and South Korea has been especially interesting. Sudden cries of peace and cooperation between two nations technically at war for over six decades is certainly something worth keeping an eye on, but even if this whole thing blows over and the situation reverts to what it was just a couple of months ago, we know we're close. Very close.

But as I've said before, nothing would make me happier than being unable to finish this series due to the actual fulfillment of Bible prophecy. I mean, with the real thing unfolding before our eyes, what would be the point of fiction? It would be like collecting materials for a log cabin when a mansion is already under construction in your front yard.

The other point that's been so clearly driven home in my mind from watching the latest news is how unpredictable things truly are and how impossible it is to know what the next day holds. We absolutely have no idea exactly how things will unfold, though I imagine that the other side of this system, when we look back, we'll probably see just how inevitable and obvious it was all along.

Just like the ending of a good story!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

And now for something completely different...

Writing about the great tribulation and the last days–while undeniably exciting–can be a pretty exhausting task, especially when it's practically all the writing you've done in the last couple of years. I realized this over a year ago, shortly after starting the first book in the FLEE series. I knew that I needed a break. So, for a change of pace, I began a side writing project around that same time. It was something more for myself than any kind of reading audience, but it wasn't long before I found myself falling in love with the story and characters.

You see, the goal of this project was simple–tell an honest story about life from the perspective of your average, adolescent Witness boy. It wasn't set during Armageddon or the great tribulation or paradise, but in our modern day. Instead of some epic, cinematic struggle, the main character would just be a normal kid trying to survive his teenage years: navigating the horrors of high school, attempting to not stand out too much, struggling to not be awkward around girls in the hall, and trying to figure out who he was and what he wanted to do. If Critical Times was a Summer blockbuster and the FLEE books were a thriller miniseries, this book was one of those quirky indie flicks.

Since this novel is so different (and quite strange, frankly), there is of course some risk releasing it within the EK Jonathan family (in fact, I did consider releasing it under a different pen name, but after weighing all the pros and cons I decided against it). In any case, it's almost done, and should be ready for a wide release this summer, and who knows, you might just enjoy it!

Here's a sneak peek at the cover:

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2018

It's live!

Get it here (or click the image below)!
(Unfortunately the paperback and Kindle versions are not linked within a single product description; I'm working with Amazon on getting this issue and a few others ironed out. In any event, both versions are currently available!)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Paperback version of STAY releasing early

Just a slight modification to the last post I made regarding the release of STAY. I've decided to release the paperback version of the book a day earlier (Monday, April 23rd). This will allow time for shipping, so that those who choose to go the paperback route can [hopefully] start reading around the same time as those who get the Kindle version. The Kindle version will still go live on Tuesday, April 24th.

To keep track of the release times, I've set up a couple of countdown displays. Not long to wait!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Release Date for STAY

Well, I've hit the final stretch in the editing process for STAY, meaning that I can confidently announce a release date! It's been a long process (though slightly smoother and quicker than my previous novels), and it feels wonderful to know that it's nearly done and ready to share.

Here's the full cover:

In case you can't make out the description from the back cover, here's the plain text version:
Peter and Rachel Burton make it safely aboard their rig in New Orleans, but their journey is far from over. With Thiago close on their heels and a tropical storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, more trials await. Farther north, Joyce Tucker leaves her camp in Vancouver to deal with a medical emergency. But nothing will compare with what awaits her on the other side of the border...
 So, when exactly can you expect STAY? Soon... It'll land on Amazon on April 24th, just two weeks from today!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Home Stretch

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Just thought I'd post a picture from the progress chart for STAY, the sequel to FLEE. As you can see, I've almost hit the word count I was aiming for (80k), and I'm writing the final part of the book right now. (It might seem a bit strange to go into a book knowing how many words it'll end up being, but typically that's how I've always approached my novels. Maybe I'll write about this some other time.)

Of course, once this is done I'll still need to fine tune a bunch of things, proofread it, and then send it through the editing process, but it looks like a release by the end of April is still very feasible. So stay tuned! (Now excuse me while I order a bottle of champagne... 😉 )

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What Writers Can Learn from Acting

Of all the modern conveniences that technology has afforded us, I’d say it’s our access to information that is the most valuable. Colleges and universities are no longer the only places to get an education; much of this knowledge is now available at our fingertips via the internet. This is especially true since the emergence of websites like Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, and Masterclass. These websites offer paid classes in the form of high-quality video downloads, workbooks, and assignments. Of course, there are also free alternatives (though usually of lesser quality) that can be found of popular video sharing websites like YouTube.

If you’re an aspiring writer (or even a seasoned one), these videos and classes are worth your time. What’s become apparent to me, after subscribing to several courses in different subjects (Due to time constraints I skip around a lot and rarely complete an entire course, but I've dabbled in screenplay writing, stage play writing, directing, acting, and music production), is how closely linked these arts really are.

So today, I want to take a little time here to make a case for how acting relates to writing, and why writers should be interested in the art of acting.

Here’s the bottom line: actors and writers are trying to achieve the same goal–accurate, believable character portrayal. A talented actor makes us forget all about acting; we believe he is the character. Similarly, a talented writer should make us forget we are reading words on a page.

For a moment, let’s imagine a scene in a stage play. The scene unfolds in the bedroom of a teenage boy named Jack. In the scene, Jack’s mother enters his bedroom and confronts him about returning late the night before and not answering his cellphone while at a friend’s house.

Can you picture the scene in your head? Good. Don’t worry about the dialogue–that’s not important here. What’s important in this exercise is what you see the actors doing, not what they are saying. In fact, if the actors and the director are good enough, they could be having a conversation about the weather and we’d still be able to get what’s going on in the character’s heads.

But how? How would the actors really convey this? First off, they’d need to thoroughly understand the characters. And not just the characters' overall personality traits, but the characters in this moment. Remember, people are dynamic. We change from moment to moment and are constantly being molded by our surroundings. Characters in books and on the stage should be the same.

For example, the actors might ask these questions: What’s motivating the mother in this scene? What does she want? Is she simply frustrated with her son because she feels she’s being shut out of his life, or is she actually worried for his safety (or spirituality)? What about Jack? Is Jack a good kid, or is he troubled? How is his relationship with his mother? Is he trying to rebel, or was he merely being careless the night before?

For the sake of this experiment, let’s imagine the following scenario: Jack and his mom have a good relationship. He’s a diligent student and a responsible adolescent. He cares about his mom, but lately he’s been feeling too restricted, which he feels is unjustified given his good track record. Jack’s mother knows he’s trying hard, but doesn’t want him becoming independent too soon. Deep down, she doesn’t want to lose him, and dreads the day when he finally becomes his own man.

Now, given this understanding of their motivations and the dynamics of their relationship, how might the actors and director go about bringing the scene to life?  First off, Jack and his mother probably won’t be having this conversation sitting or standing in a room facing one another. They need to be moving around, doing something. But what?

Remember, we’ve already determined a few things about Jack. He’s a good kid, a responsible student, and he loves his mom. Since this scene happens in the morning, perhaps Jack is preparing to leave for school. He’s gathering his textbooks and binders and packing his bag when his mom comes in and wants to talk. Giving him this action in the scene is great–the repetition of packing his bag will allow us to see how the attitude behind his movements changes over time. (Perhaps in the beginning of the scene he's packing things neatly and carefully, but by the end he’s so frustrated that he’s just stuffing the remainder of the papers into the pockets of his backpack.)

And what about the mom? Remember, essentially Jack’s mother has a fear of him growing up. She wants to hold on to the version of her little Jack as a child. She can’t handle the idea of him growing up so quickly and becoming an adult. At the same time, she knows he’s a good kid and doesn’t want to smother him. These are two very conflicting sets of emotions, and frankly would be a challenge for any actress to clearly convey.

Perhaps the mother enters quietly, trying to be respectful in her son’s space. Maybe she’s just prepared breakfast, so she’s got an apron on, and is wiping her hands on it when she enters. Perhaps the wiping goes on a little too long, giving the audience a clue about her anxiety. Maybe, as they talk, she notices a stuffed animal on Jack’s shelf, something that he’s clearly had since he was a little boy. She goes over to it and touches it fondly or picks it up, telling us how she feels about Jack’s younger years.

Can you imagine the scene a bit better now? Did it come to life a bit more? It should have. Because we went from what could have simply been a conversation between a nagging mom and her unresponsive teenage son to a multi-layered interaction between two complex characters. The final result would be something much more interesting to watch performed on stage.

The same is true for writing a novel. Novice writers tend to tell us how characters feel by A) Having  them vocalize their emotions (“I’m so frustrated with you!” “I can’t stand this restaurant!” “I’m so excited about our trip to the Bahamas!”) or B) Peppering their writing with adverbs (“I’m leaving,” he said angrily.) Seasoned writers, on the other hand, show us how the characters feel by what they do, how they move, and how they talk.

In summary, good writing and good acting are tied by a common thread of understanding people–the way they think, they way they behave, and the way they interact. Both writing and acting require being able to step into a character’s shoes and accurately convey the complexity of their thoughts, desires, fears, and emotions.

If you’re an aspiring writer, here’s an assignment for you: take the above scenario (the one with Jack and his mom) and try to expand it into a full-fledged scene. There’s no length requirement, but make it long enough to convey the characters' emotional states.