An Update – Where is the Sequel?

Hello everyone. I’m sorry for being away so long. Truth is, I’ve just been pouring every bit of creative writing energy I have into writing Harbinger’s sequel, Suture. However, I visited my Amazon page tonight, and saw that someone had asked about an update regarding Suture. Funny enough, Amazon won’t let me post directly to that thread because I haven’t purchased the book, so I thought I’d answer here and hopefully it will be found by the person wondering.

Back in January, I mentioned I was about a third of the way through Suture. By March, I’d completed half the book. Then, about mid-March, I threw it all out.

It’s a daunting task to look at 35,000 words and decide that only a tenth might survive. But after reading some of the comments left on Harbinger, and weighing my own feelings, I decided it was the right thing to do. So I started over.

Currently, I’m working on the last two chapters. I’m very pleased by how this new draft has worked out. My hope is to have a completed first draft by the end of the week. Then edits, then release.

The good news is I’m a much faster editor than I am when writing the first draft. Giving ideas shape is so much harder than making the shapes slightly prettier.

So my goal is to have Suture released by July.

I know, I had originally said Spring. At that time, I didn’t know I’d be starting over so late in the season.

It thrills me that people are still picking up Harbinger, and based on comments and ratings, a number of you are enjoying it. Right now, I feel confident that if you enjoyed Harbinger, you’ll find more to love in Suture.

Thank you so much for hanging in there. In the next week I will have more news, including the cover reveal.

All the best, and talk to you soon (I promise).

JR

Proof – A Short Story

There once was a man who loved a woman more than he was able to express. He needed her in a way that went beyond reason. So one day, he said to her, “My dearest, I love you more than words can say, how may I prove my love to you?”

The woman, caught in her own delusions of grandeur, thought little of the man, and believed herself above him. She was beautiful, desired by all. So she decided to have fun with the man’s affections. “If you wish to prove your love to me,” she said to him one sunny day, “climb the highest peak at the fringes of our valley, and jump off the edge. If your love for me is as great as you say, it will bring you back to me unscathed.”

“My dearest, I will return to you soon,” he said, and with that he was off.
The trip to, and up, the mountain was arduous. But he never lost a step, never thought of giving up. He had faith in his love, and he knew it would deliver him. When he reached the top, he looked out over the valley, to the distant west where his village and beloved lay.

He hesitated only long enough to draw one last breath, then he stepped over the edge. For a moment, suspended in air, an angel soaring above the world, he felt free and alive. But all too soon, the air slammed into him as he plummeted towards the ground. But all the while, his faith in his love was unshakable. “If I die, my love was not worthy,” he thought, “But if I live, my love will have stood the greatest test.”

As the bottom neared, he felt the wind gather beneath him, lifting him gently, so that when at last his feet touched the ground, they stepped lightly, and he stood unscathed. Faith had been his wings, love had been the wind he soared on.

He returned to his love.

“My beloved, I have climbed to the highest peak, stepped off to prove my love for you, and I stand here unscathed. My love is strong enough to deliver me back to you.”

She eyed him skeptically. “Do you have any proof that you have done this?” She asked slyly.

“Only my word.”

“Well, as much as I wish to believe you, words are easy to say. Go to the ocean and bring me a beautiful pearl. When I see such beauty that you have found with your own two hands, then I will know you love me.”

“My beloved,” he said without hesitation, “I will bring you a beautiful pearl.”

And with that, he left for the seashore.

For thirty days he toiled in the waters, searching for a pearl. But he knew his love was strong enough. He knew that his faith in his love would deliver the pearl. For thirty days he worked, and for thirty days, his stomach was never empty, and the heavens gave him comforting weather. On the thirtieth day, he pulled a most beautiful pearl from an oyster and set off to return home.

“My beloved,” he said, “I have returned with the most beautiful pearl the ocean’s contain. Do you believe in my love for you now?”

The woman was caught off guard, but her greed and hunger for material possession knew little bounds. “This is indeed a great token of affection. But truly, if you love me, you will provide a place for me to live with you. But if you are honest in your feelings, you will know that no small house will do. Our home must be as grand as your love for me.”

And so, the man left his village once more. For two years he toiled, working on the house that would befit his love. For two years, the land provided him food, shelter, and supplies. He never doubted his love, and he never lost faith in the future he foresaw.

When the house was completed, he returned home.

He did not know, but in his absence, a great fire had consumed his beloved’s house. She had been left scarred and broken. Those who had looked
upon her beauty with desire now looked at her with disgust.

The man entered the room, and without a hint of hesitation, he took her damaged hand, and looking her deep in the eyes said, “My beloved, I have built a grand home for you. Do you believe in my love now?”

She felt such pain. “I am ugly now. In appearance, and I can now tell, I was in side as well. I have mistreated you and used your love for my own gain. You don’t need to pity me. Please, I know you wish to leave, and I bear you no ill
will.”

The man smiled at her lovingly. “Lady, please believe me, I only see beauty with my eyes, and feel your inner beauty with my heart. I love you more than words can say. How may I prove my love to you?”

But with forgiveness and dedication, he had proved what no mountain, pearl, or house could ever prove. And in their grand house there was only trust, happiness, and a grand faith in each other’s love.

Progress on Harbinger’s Sequel, Suture

Since Harbinger released, I’ve been pouring my writing energy into its sequel, Suture.

While I don’t know that I’m the one who should be giving writing advice, I figured someone might find an interest in my current writing process.

Yes, I say current because I believe that as I continue to grow as a writer, my process will evolve. At least, that’s my hope, because my current process is tedious at best.

Right now I’m 23,000+ words into Suture. I’ve accomplished this through some forethought, much humming and hawing, and just forcing myself to spew words. Thankfully, this haphazard approach has yielded something that is starting to look like a decent first act. This is a pretty critical time in my process and it’s when I bring in the big guns. My wife.

See, my wife is a voracious reader who devours everything from Nietzsche to Twilight. She’s a massive Star Wars nerd who can recite the original trilogy from memory and who can have an intelligent conversation about why the fourth Indiana Jones movie never should’ve happened. In short, she’s perfectly suited to tell me if I’m on track or missing my mark.

Because of the loose way I plot on the go, I need this feedback at the approximate third way mark. At this point, I’ve written enough that I have a clearer path for the rest of the novel. On the other hand, I haven’t written so much that I can’t handle axing a few thousand words to change a direction or two. This feedback helps give me direction. But more than that, it helps to give me some confidence.

Writing is a wonderful and horrifying hobby. Creating worlds and characters feels magical, but words on a page feel like an invite for self criticism and, at times, loathing. For every sentence I love, there are dozens that make me shudder. It’s why some authors take forever to release a novel. Having someone tell me I’m on the right track helps bolster my confidence and allows me to carry on to the end.

So Suture is getting the third-way-there preview. I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple days.

Another Year Ends

December 26, 2012. The day after Christmas.
According to a variety of people who’ve dedicated books and movies to the subject, I shouldn’t be here. None of us should be. Despite them, the sun came up, and, for better or worse, the human race began another day.
Truth be told, taking emergency calls at my day job, listening to the misery visited upon people by stupidity, poor judgement, or acts of the universe beyond their control, it’s easy to be cynical and think it wouldn’t be so bad for the world to continue without us. But then, I’m also a father, and I’m glad the world is still here so my sons can grow and discover.
Apocalypse avoided (though I subscribe to the belief that there never was one, that the Mayans meant something entirely different). Perhaps it’s more important than ever to draw a slow breath and reflect on our year.
I could get political. I could talk about gun control, economic restraint, and putting aside petty rivalries so nations don’t come undone. I could mourn and cheer, cry and laugh, and no amount of any would be enough to sum up 2012. It’s the last time my generation will see the year, month, and day be the same number, and it’s the last scheduled apocalypse people have been fearing.
It’s the first year I made a resolution and put forth the effort to see it done. It’s the first year I looked in a mirror and thought that perhaps, after years of doubt and desire, I was a writer.
Writing isn’t just a hobby any longer, it’s also a responsibility. When I released my book, and people purchased it, I realized I’d made an unspoken pact with those wonderful people. I promised that I would continue to write and finish the story I asked them to become invested in. It gives writing added pressure, but also greater reward. My words aren’t just mine anymore, they belong to others, and that feels both wonderful and frightening.
I have similar feelings about this passing year. It was filled with fear, anger, and uncertainty. The year felt heavy and overburdened. Maybe it was the messages of doom or because the nations of the world were embroiled in changes of government and economies. I’m not sure. But the world didn’t end. Perhaps the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, made an unspoken pact with us. No sudden apocalypse, so we better do the best we can. We have time, we should stop wasting it. Our lives are each great stories, we should work hard to make them meaningful to satisfy our readers.
I hope 2013 is a turning point. I hope that if the Mayans had some sort of precognition, it was that they foresaw a shift in attitudes and a renewal of our world.
Dare to dream this year, and dare to chase those dreams. Let your words, thoughts, and deeds, belong to others.
On a separate, yet related, note, I want to say a heartfelt Thank You. It took almost three years to write, edit, and publish, Harbinger. In the past two months, almost a thousand people have picked up the book. Those who have taken the time to leave feedback have had many kind words to say. As 2012 draws to a close, one of my dreams is coming true. And it’s because of you wonderful people.
Thank you. I wish you peace, love, success, and dreams, for 2013.

Some Reflection a Month After Release

As we sit upon the precipice between November and December, it seems like a good time to take a look back at the past month and what it has meant for my little novel, Harbinger.

I released the book on October 30th (though that date varied by vendor depending on how fast their systems processed the files). I did this with modest fanfare. I announced it across my social networks, posted the news here on my website, and then proceeded to post samples of the book on the various sites that allow you to do such things (Scribd, Wattpad & Figment to be precise). I approached one person to see if she would do a review, but that’s yet to happen. After the first few days, I stayed quiet about the book. I didn’t continue to flood my Twitter feeds, nor did I post on Facebook every day that people should read my book and PLEASE give me a nice review on Amazon. I’m not great at that sort of thing. If anything, I would’ve just come off sounding whiny. So I continued to look at other places where I could post some news, samples, etc.

So how has the book done? Well, I’d like to think it’s exceeded my expectations for its first month of life.

  • In week one, I sold 12 copies through Amazon.
  • In week two, I sold 4 copies through Amazon and 1 copy through Kobo.
  • In week three, I sold 18 copies through Amazon and 1 copy through Smashwords.
  • In week four, I sold 116 copies through Amazon, 1 copy through Kobo, and 1 copy through Apple.
  • This week could see my sales top 140+ on Amazon.

So within five weeks of release, Harbinger will have sold about 300 copies.

I have no idea how this compares to the experience of other Indie Authors. I have no idea what magic I cast in week four that sent sales into the triple digits. I suspect it’s because I made enough sales in weeks 1-3 that the book started showing on Amazon’s Customers who purchased this also purchased…. type lists. On Amazon, more sales=more exposure=more sales. Also, it was about week three that I posted the first four chapters on Scribd. Over 100 people read those chapters, and I have to wonder if some of them then went and bought the book. In short, this is all dumb luck, and I’m at a loss to provide hard evidence of what happened.

It could be just the time of year as well.

So now I enter into the next phase of trying to generate some interest in the book. Print copies have finally arrived in my hands and I’ve set up a book giveaway on Goodreads (check out the contest here).

I hope that this will create some more interest in the book and keep the forward momentum going.

But this perceived success has given me reason for pause. I had planned to plow ahead and work on a separate novel, Gloom, and then work on the sequel to Harbinger, Suture. But I feel an obligation to these wonderful people who’ve given my book a chance. I’ve decided to focus my energies on completing Suture and temporarily shelving my other projects. It hurts a bit, seeing as how Gloom is over 50,000 words, but I know if I keep dividing my energies, I’ll fall behind on Suture-or deliver a book that pales in comparison to the first. A step backward would mean the end of my writing momentum. So, since no one was really all that eager for Gloom and Seeds, I’m putting them on the back burner until Suture has been finished and is seeing the light at the end of the edit tunnel. I’ve also decided to not even try to write anything new that could be a series. One series at a time. Any other books will have to be content with being oneoffs.

So there it is. My progress and my reflections. I know, maybe a little dull, but I felt like all this had to be said… if only for myself 😉

Thank you for all your support and time. If you’ve read Harbinger, send me an email and let me know what you thought.

All the best,

JR

My Interview for the Writer’s Knowledge Base Newsletter

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had an opportunity to do an interview with Elizabeth Craig for the Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter. The issue came out last week, so I thought I’d post the interview here for all you non-suscribers.

If you are an aspiring author, I highly recommend you check out the Writer’s Knowledge Base for a ton of great information to help you achieve your goals. While you’re there, you can also sign up for their newsletter.

 

You had an October 30th release for your first book, “Harbinger–the Bleeding Worlds.” You’ve got its sequel planned for release this spring, and two other books in the pipeline. How do you balance your time between your day job, family to two boys, and writing? Do you keep the same schedule each day, or is your schedule flexible?

My work schedule consists of two 12hr day shifts, then two 12hr nights and then 4 days off. It makes a consistent writing schedule almost impossible. Most of my writing happens in the late night hours after my family has gone to bed. During my night shifts at work I take time between calls to jot down ideas, plot points, etc. and then do some writing on my breaks. In general I try to squeeze 1-2 hours of actual writing into each day.

Any tips for worldbuilding?

After you have some basic concept of plot, ask, “What kind of world would this happen in?” With the Bleeding Worlds, I started with this vision of a boy plunging his arm into the ether and summoning forth power. So I wondered, is this a fantasy world? Is he a magician? I realised very quickly that this was our world in the modern day. Next, I asked, “Is he the first?” No, that didn’t work with my other ideas. So I asked, “If this had been happening for a long time, how would people with these powers be treated?” This led to the idea that the gods of myth were just super-powered humans. I kept on like this, asking more questions. Every answer expanded the world and its possibilities. Then, I dialed it way back, told a story with a small group of characters, and kept the bigger world stuff for future books. In my experience as a writer and a reader, I think it’s best when worlds are hinted at as opposed to blatantly laid out in every detail. It leaves some of the magic up to the reader. It also means less rules you might one day have to break as the writer 😉

What’s your approach to plotting? How did you work out story arc for the first two books of the Bleeding Worlds series?

I always start with an idea or an image. Harbinger was an image of a boy with energy swirling around his arm. Another series I’m working on, Hidden Empires, started with the idea of a princess trying to bring sunshine back to her kingdom. I take these ideas or images and just ask a lot of questions. Why does the boy have this power? Why can’t the kingdom see the sun anymore? Each answer gets written down. As the number of answers grow, I start to see threads that connect them, or a logical sequence that needs to occur.

From there, I use the writing program Scrivener to lay out a few chapters. Each chapter gets a part of the sequence. Then I start writing. I find as the initial chapters develop, they inform the following chapters. It’s a mix of plotting ahead and flying by the seat of your pants. I try to keep a vague endpoint in my mind, but I let the story tell me how I’m getting there.

In terms of plotting a series, it wasn’t until halfway through Harbinger that the larger story took shape in my mind. It happened in response to a simple question I had about one of the characters. That question was, “Why did he leave home?” The answer led to me using the Norse legend of Ragnorok to help structure the series (for spoilers sake, I won’t tell you how the question led to that).

I also find a lot of series related plotting happens in edits. When Harbinger went through edits, I knew a lot more about book two and the series in general, so I left myself room to grow. I also made sure I hadn’t painted myself into any problematic corners.

You’ve got an interesting and fast-paced job as an emergency dispatcher–how does that inform your fiction…or does it?

Every day my job gives me a “I should put that in a book” moment, but I’ve yet to find stories where they fit. Let’s just say that truth can truly be stranger than fiction.

Where it did help in getting Harbinger written was that it taught me you can’t wait to pursue your dreams. Life is fragile and you never know when it will end. I learned to stop talking about writing, and actually get to it. Because tomorrow, I might not get that chance.

Tips for new writers for finishing a book and staying motivated through the process?

First off, find a community. As an indie author, you are constantly bombarded with the message of being on social media for exposure. But the main reason to use it is to meet outstanding people who help and motivate you. Twitter was a major factor in my finishing this book. On nights where I didn’t feel like writing, there were people who cheered me on, or who were just so inspiring that I had to keep writing to chase after them.

Also, accept that the process is long. While my newer books are taking shape much faster, it’s taken me two-and-a-half years to get Harbinger to the point of publication. The first one can be hard-it’s filled with doubt and fear. But don’t stop. The best writing advice I’ve heard, outside of Stephen King’s “Read a lot,” is from Neil Gaiman. His simple answer on how to write was “finish what you start.” This really resonated with me when I finished Harbinger. When I was writing it, I would be filled with doubt. Could I really write a book? Was I even capable of building a plot intricate enough for that? Now, I don’t have those doubts anymore, because the answer is “Yes, I can.” It’s made my writing since far more enjoyable. So stick with it.

Where can we find you online?

I’m a bit of a social media butterfly, but Twitter is always the place I come back to and where I post most regularly.
https://twitter.com/JustusRStone

Naturally my website is always a good place to go, http://justusrstone.com. It also has links to all my social media accounts.

Where can we find out more about your new book?

You can find out about Harbinger, and all other future Bleeding Worlds releases at the official website http://thebleedingworlds.com/

Another place to check out is the Goodreads page for Harbinger http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15745096-harbinger. You can see what other readers think, and add it to your lists!

Thanks so much to Elizabeth for asking me to participate. I hope to converse with all of you online and I hope you’ll give Harbinger a read.

 

Rewrite of Varney the Vampire

Back at the beginning of the month, I wrote about a contest Galleycat was doing about rewriting a page from a Victorian vampire novel. I received my page a while ago, but with the release of Harbinger looming, I left it to the last moment. But it is done on time. So I thought I’d share the result with you.

Below, you’ll find the original text as it exists in the book Varney the Vampire.

*******

“Go on, go on.”

“I will, and with such brief conclusions as I may. Having once attacked any human being, we feel a strange, but terribly impulsive desire again to seek that person for more blood. But I love you, Flora; the small amount of sensibility that still lingers about my preternatural existence, acknowledges in you a pure and better spirit. I would fain save you.”

“Oh! tell me how I may escape the terrible infliction.”

“That can only be done by flight. Leave this place, I implore you! leave it as quickly as the movement may be
made. Linger not — cast not one regretful look behind you on your ancient home. I shall remain in this locality for years. Let me lose sight of you, I will not pursue you; but, by force of circumstances, I am myself compelled to linger here. Flight is the only means by which you may avoid a doom as terrific as that which I endure.”

“But tell me,” said Flora, after a moment’s pause, during which she appeared to be endeavouring to gather courage to ask some fearful question; “tell me if it be true that those who have once endured the terrific attack of a vampyre, become themselves, after death, one of that dread race?”

“It is by such means,” said Varney, “that the frightful brood increases; but, time and circumstances must aid the development of the new and horrible existence. You, however, are safe.”

“Safe! Oh! say that word again.”

“Yes, safe; not once or twice will the vampyre’s attack have sufficient influence on your mortal frame, as to induce a susceptibility on your part to become coexistent with such as he. The attack must be often repeated, and the termination of mortal existence must be a consequence essential, and direct from those attacks, before such a result may be anticipated.”

“Yes, yes; I understand.”

“If you were to continue my victim from year to year, the energies of life would slowly waste away, and, till like some faint taper’s gleam, consuming more sustenance than it received, the veriest accident would extinguish your existence, and then, Flora Bannerworth, you might become a vampyre.”

“Oh! horrible! most horrible!”

“If by chance, or by design, the least glimpse of the cold moonbeams rested on your apparently lifeless remains, you would rise again and be one of us — a terror to yourself and a desolation to all around.”

“Oh! I will fly from here,” said Flora. “The hope of escape from so terrific and dreadful a doom shall urge me onward; if flight can save me — flight from Bannerworth Hall, I will pause not until continents and oceans divide us.”

“It is well. I’m able now thus calmly to reason with you. A few short months more and I shall feel the languor of death creeping over me, and then will come that mad excitement of the brain, which, were you hidden behind triple doors of steel, would tempt me again to seek your chamber — again to seize you in my full embrace — again to draw from your veins the means of prolonged life — again to convulse your very soul with terror.”

“I need no incentives,” said Flora, with a shudder, “in the shape of descriptions of the past, to urge me on.”

“You will fly from Bannerworth Hall?”

“Yes, yes!” said Flora, “it shall be so; its very chambers now are hideous with the recollection of scenes enacted in them. I will urge my brothers, my mother, all to leave. And in some distant clime we will find security and shelter. There even we will learn to think of you with more of sorrow than of anger — more pity than reproach — more curiosity than loathing.”

*******

The contest said we could be as experimental as we wished. We could write it as a poem, as a series of tweets, etc. I confess, I took the road of treating it like another page in a book. What I did do was to try and inject some more emotion on Varney’s part. I wanted to know what he was thinking, so I wrote it in first person. These are my results

*******

“Go on, go on.”

She looks at me with such desperation. In this moment, I understand just how horrible my existence is. “Once we’ve drank from someone, we feel drawn back to them again and again.” Her eyes hold such terror. I must make her understand. “There’s still humanity left within me. And that humanity loves you Flora. I will save you.”

“Then tell me. Please…” Her voice wavers on hysteria. “How can I escape.”

“Leave this place. Do it as quickly as you can and never look back. Circumstances trap me here, I won’t be able to come after you. Leave me behind. It’s the only way to escape sharing my curse.” My heart trembles with the words. Is it because of love I want her to stay, or to sate the hunger?

“But I need to know…” She won’t hold my gaze. Her hands fidget and tremble. What more could she ask that would have her so frightened? “Is it true that after being bitten, a person is doomed to become a vampire after death?”

“That is the usual method.” I race to say the next words. “But I assure you, you are safe.”

“Safe?” Her eyes fill with doubt. “Say the word again. But only if it’s true.”

“Safe.” I whisper it like a prayer. Maybe it is. Does God hear the prayers of monsters like myself? “You’re safe. A victim must be attacked numerous times, and eventually die from an attack, before they will change.” My gut twists with guilt. “I haven’t… been with you enough for that to happen.”

There’s relief in her eyes, and anger. I want to reach out to her, stroke my fingers through the softness of her hair. But I know she would recoil. And that’s a rejection I just can’t face.

“I understand. Then I have no choice but to leave. But can even the distance of continents and oceans save me?”

“It’s fine.” No, it’s not. I don’t want to lose her. “For now, my thirst is satisfied. I’m calm, I can see clearly. But if you wait too long and stay too close… In just a few months I’ll hunger. If you remain, no bars or doors of steel could keep me from taking you.”

“You don’t need to say anything more.” Flora shudders, “I have all the incentive I need.”

“You will leave Bannerworth Hall?”

“Yes.” She looks about the room with a growing look of disdain “There’s no reason to stay. Nothing left here but rooms with painful memories. I will urge my mother and my brothers, all to leave. We’ll find a distant place to start again. There even we will learn to think of you with more of sorrow than of anger — more pity than reproach — more curiosity than loathing.

*******

And that’s it. I’ll let you all know when the contest results are posted and how you can pick up a copy of the remixed Varney.