Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sneak peek at book number 2

I might be jumping the gun a little here, but I thought it would be fun to share the cover for the next book in the FLEE series, appropriately entitled STAY. If you've already read the first book, the cover should immediately make sense.

I'm roughly at the halfway point in writing this book, so it'll be several months still before the book's release. If all goes well, it should be available mid-Spring, 2018.

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Keeping up with the times

When I first began work back in 2010 on what would eventually become my first novel All Things New, my goal was simple: to create a fictional piece of literature that could serve as an entertaining, thought-provoking glimpse into the New World. The response to that book, which was released in 2013, was beyond anything I’d imagined, which led to the release roughly a year later of The Unrighteous and then Critical Times back in 2016. I’ve always been careful to present these books as nothing more than fiction, but I’ve found over the years that this does not make them free from criticism or claims of inaccuracy.

Of course, none of us knows exactly how things will unfold during the Great Tribulation, at Armageddon, or just after that as we take out first steps into the New World. Some believe that we will more or less immediately transition into a paradise Earth, while others subscribe to a more lengthy process, perhaps spanning decades, as pictured in All Things New. Of course, it’s all guesswork at this point, and debating either side of the argument could become a distraction that I’ve done my best to avoid. (I wrote recently in a post that I’ve tried in recent books to focus more on the lessons learned from characters’ decisions and attitudes, rather than on specific events, and this is one of the reasons.)

That said, I will admit that at the time of writing All Things New, some ideas made it into the book more for the sake of dramatic storytelling than for plausibility. Although these portions likely made the work more memorable, in the years since the book’s release I’ve come to realize that they’ve also caused some consternation, something which I certainly never intended. Additionally, the last few years have seen further information released on the events leading up to and during Armageddon, an event which is featured extensively through the interviewees’ stories in my book.

In past years, my stance about my previous work was one adopted by most secular novelists: don’t look back, ignore the critics,  keep writing new stories. The problem, of course, is that these books aren’t purely secular. Although they are fictional works, they delve into spiritual topics that are close to my readers’ hearts–readers, I do well to keep in mind, who are also my brothers and sisters.

Thus, I’ve come to the decision to remove All Things New from my catalog of books as of January 2018. If all goes according to plan, this will be a temporary move until I can thoroughly revise the book and re-release it (possibly as a second edition, possibly under a new title). I understand that this may be difficult news for some readers, many of whom have written with positive feedback for that first book. However, the words of the Apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 8:13 really stand out to me:

“That is why if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat at all, so that I will not make my brother stumble.”

If Paul was willing to give up meat for the sake of his brothers, I can certainly refrain from promoting a fictional piece of literature. And besides, I’m sure with the writing experience I’ve gained in the last few years, "All Things New 2.0" will be a much better read than the first!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Research Needed

Hi all! In preparation for a future project (unrelated to my current FLEE series), I've begun doing some preliminary research. Unfortunately though, the information available in online sources only goes so far, so it looks like I'll need to talk to those with some actual experience in order to delve deeper into the subject matter I plan on exploring.

Without giving too much away, I'm looking to make contact with experienced publishers who've engaged in prison witnessing. I'm particularly hoping to talk with those who've studied with prison inmates.

If any of you readers out there fit the above criteria and would be willing to let me pick your brains, please email me via the "Contact" link on this page. (Please only contact me if you personally have had these experiences, as I wish to get firsthand information. If a brother or sister you know  has had such experience and would be willing to communicate with me, please encourage him or her to write me directly. All correspondence will be handled via email.)

Thank you in advance!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Writing a Novel - Outlining a Scene

I’ve said before that I don’t like to outline my books. I tried breaking this habit (just to try something new) in Critical Times, and the result was that after just a few scenes I’d strayed so far from the original outline that I almost never referred to the outline again. So yeah, that was a couple of wasted days. I guess, in the end, it's just not the way my brain works when I set my ideas to paper. Some writers like planning it all out, I don’t. No big deal.

However, one technique that I’ve started implementing with my last couple books is scene outlining. It’s pretty straightforward. The way it works is this: before I start narrating the scene or crafting the dialogue, I go through and create a kind of shorthand description of everything that happens. It’s the mental equivalent of fast-forwarding a movie/TV show (ah, the old days of VHS) and catching the gist without having time to notice details. Here’s an example of a scene outline for the first scene in FLEE:

Peter Burton’s living room. It’s late. Wife’s in bed (name?) Elders sit around table. Nervous faces, silence. Soft enough to hear a clock ticking? The conversation here is strained, cryptic. Letter from branch is discussed. Audience doesn’t know the contents. Tension builds. Nothing about evacuation mentioned. We need to see Peter here as being experienced elder but lacking confidence, deferring to others. (This gives him room to grow) (Needs mentor here, maybe older elder??) BOE is small (4? 5? Why so small? Where is this cong located?) Must be tense, but must also feel love of elders to flock. A look behind the scenes feel. Documentary-esque. Endear reader to these men.

If you’ve ever studied theater or film making, you’ll probably notice that the above outline looks a lot like a screenplay (with the exception of dialogue, which is absent in my description). It’s like a 2D sketch on the surface of a rough slab of marble. The idea is there, and that's a large portion of the cerebral work, but now it’s a matter of chipping and chiseling away everything that isn’t the scene until the result is something that resembles art. (If you want to read the final version of the scene, click here. You can decide for yourself how successful I was!)

I like writing these scene outlines before I jump into writing, because it gives me the general atmosphere and the goal of the scene, and I’ve found that this is often half of the battle. The other great thing about this for me is that if I have to stop writing in the middle of a scene (which happens nearly every time I sit down to write), I can come back to it later and not spend fifteen minutes twiddling my thumbs or wasting time on YouTube videos trying to figure out where my head was when I left my desk. Also, as you can see from the above example, this quick brainstorm helps to reveal gaps in the story (in this instance, Who are the other elders? Why is their congregation so small? Who is Peter’s wife?). I can then either address the issues immediately or set them aside to discuss later (for this reason, I also keep an “unanswered questions” document on hand and refer to it constantly as I move through the story).

Of course, just like the story outlines that I can never seem to stick to, I often change a bunch of things as I go from scene outline to first draft. Still, it’s a great launching pad, and it’s become one of my go-to writing tools, so I thought I’d share.

In other news, Book 2 of the FLEE series (working title: STAY) is coming along surprisingly well! I’m nearly a third through the first draft, and it’s only been a month since I started. Of course, this could mean that I’m due for a three-month-long writer’s block, but I’m trying to keep my hopes up, my head down, and my fingers to the keyboard. We’ll see.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A place to discuss "FLEE" [Spoiler Alert!]

Hi all. So I've gotten quite a few messages from readers asking if there's a place to discuss the latest book. I know that many of you have already finished it and have questions, or things you'd like to discuss with other readers.

So, feel free to leave comments on this post regarding the latest book. We're entering spoiler territory here, so if you haven't yet finished the book, I'd recommend holding off until you're done. If you have finished and would like to talk about it, add a comment to this post.

I'm always open to feedback, and constructive criticisms help me grow as an author. So if you've spotted any errors in the book, or found things you don't like, you're welcome to comment on these as well. If I have an explanation, I'll provide it as a reply. Thanks!

Monday, September 11, 2017

FLEE paperback now on Amazon
Good news! The paperback version of FLEE is finally available for purchase directly in the Amazon store! You can grab a copy here, or by clicking the image to the left.

After reading the book, consider leaving the book a review if at all possible. It doesn't have to be lengthy (a sentence or two is fine), but reviews are important because they help potential readers determine whether or not a certain book is something they'd be interested in. With theocratic fiction, a lot of first-time readers spend a good bit of time on the fence, but seeing positive reviews from other Witnesses can help them come to a decision.

For those who've already written reviews, thanks so much, and I hope you enjoy FLEE!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Onward to Book 2

Well, the latest book has been out for only a few days now, but judging from emails and comments here and on the FLEE blog, it seems that more than a few of you have already finished it! (I’m not sure whether to be flattered or pressured by the fact that so many months of work went into something that only took a few hours to read, but so it goes with creative projects!)

For those of you already chomping at the bit for the second book in the series, sorry, but you’ll need to wait. While the second installment is well under way (I started it on the same day I finished the final draft of Book 1), it’ll be months yet before I’ll be able to announce a release date. However, I’m going to do my best to shoot for Spring of 2018. That gives me a good 6-8 months to write and edit it together, which feels doable at this point.

The nice thing about writing a book series like this is that I’m working with a good deal of momentum on my side. I know the characters and their individual plights, and I know generally where I want them all to end up, so it’s now just a matter of putting to paper their experiences along the way. In this aspect, Book 2 in the series has been smoother sailing than other projects. There’s no need to think up a new premise, characters, etc.

On the other hand, the second book in this series carries the weight of readers’ expectations, which is an intimidating thing. Still, I got into this project knowing roughly the pressures I’d face writing a trilogy, and I firmly believe in constantly challenging myself, regardless of the nature of the endeavor.

Before I go, I’d like to take a moment here to thank my incredible team of editors, without whom FLEE in its current form would not exist. They offered hundreds of wonderful suggestions and tidbits that I would’ve never thought of myself, and I’m greatly indebted to them for it! Thank you, Jordan, Jodie, and Veronica. You guys are amazing!