Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

The Holidays are almost over with only New Year’s Day to come, and boy has this year sped past. It seems like just yesterday I was typing the first words of what would become The Messengers Book One, and now the book is “technically” complete at 87K words. (Beta’s are currently reading, so some things may still change). This year, my second movie Baby’s Mama Club (Originally Coming Correct) was sold to Lionsgate / Grindstone Entertainment. Also, we shot and (mostly) edited The Messengers: Journey of 403 which is a ten-minute short film in the Messengers Universe.  I also met a lot of cool people in two different writing groups here in Atlanta, several new filmmakers, graphic artists, and of course all of the great people at DragonCon. Two-thousand and thirteen has been without a doubt an awesome year.

Hopefully, everyone has used this year to follow their dreams. Because I truly believe there is nothing more important than doing the task that God put inside of you. That task burns bright when you are working and loving every minute of it. For me, it’s writing, directing, meeting people, and just being creative.  I beta read for three people this year, while another thirteen beta read for me. :-) I also learned more about publication and worked through seven drafts of The Messengers Book One. I helped a friend out on a feature film, worked on two short projects, and started work on The Messengers Book 1.5 and Book Two. I read and/or listen to twenty books from various Middle Grade / Young Adult authors, followed blogs of authors going from draft to being published. I discovered lots of wonderful websites about publishing and even made a few Goodreads.com friends. Next year I can only hope to get The Messengers out there for more people to enjoy and see what happens.

I hope 2014 brings everyone success and happiness.  So I’ll send with this quote:
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”- unknown

Also here are a few stills from The Messengers: Journey of 403 Short Film to be released in 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Finding Your Audience as a Writer

Just like everyone has a different fingerprint, we all have various opinions and most are not even close to the same. Many arguments are actually over opinion; i.e. the sky is sky blue or deep blue or dark blue. I’m learning as a writer, that readers are the same way. Some may love an idea, while others detest it. Some may enjoy long descriptions while others despise it. One person may enjoy challenging characters while others prefer simple.

Recently, as I generally do from time to time, I went out to read reviews on goodreads.com. And readers opinions on books vary as the colors in a rainbow. In fact, what I started noticing was not so much about the rating of the first book from a series, but rather instead what is the rating after that book.

Writers and Readers are like single people going out on dates. Once someone finds a match they stick with them. I've noticed generally after that first book the rating escalates, because those who enjoyed the first book and the style of the author are back to enjoy the next one. While the others go off to find “other dates.”

As a reader, I've already found several books that I detest, loathe, hate with all my being. Oddly enough (in my mind) others find these to be great, wonderful, creative, and uplifting. I have those books that literally make me want to run to the library and read through the stacks; while other readers would love nothing more than to take the same book and rip it in half and burn the pieces over an open flame. I think this is encouragement to any writer to know that everyone will not enjoy your book. But, instead of worrying about the people who don’t enjoy it, focus on those that do. Find your audience and write for them and yourself.

Something uplifting for the Holidays. Have a good one.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Call for Betas

I've been through a good amount of Beta Readers thus far and honestly have been pretty blessed to get a lot of people to check out the book. But this will be my last set until the sequel. :-) Anyone who wants to read, and has an account via goodreads or absolutewrite is welcome to take a look. I'll have this open for a week or so while I gather soem new troops ready to do battle "Messenger's Style". The information is below:

I need Beta Readers who will provide feedback for a Sci-fi Fantasy Middle Grade Novel. Think The Hunger Games meets Percy Jackson. (86.6K Words / 294 pages / PG-10: Action, Violence, Light Romance, Implied Language)

Summary: In the future the world is divided. All communications have been severed: no telephones, Internet, or anything to send information. Now with the world in the midst of their fourth war in eighty years, the warring powers decide to send children on the dangerous mission to take messages back and forth to the battlefield. Adrian Zeno is such a child, brought in from the Outlands and placed on the front lines of a war that will be won or lost based on the information he carries.

A detailed critique is not necessary, but I really need honest feedback on the story and the characters. I do have a small questionnaire, for those who don’t want to worry with a write up. But I’m open even to “hey I liked it” “hey I didn’t”. Although the more information I have the better. :-) I can even send you the first four chapters to see if you’re interested.


Here's the link for the first 19 pages. Let me know if you can't get to them.

Link Closed - 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Indie Movie Making – Chapter 1 - The Importance of Great Audio

Today, I plan on getting back to my filmmaking roots. After talking with a few people on a message board, I promised I'd put some advice out there for those interested in making their movie a reality, but don't have the money or knowledge to do so.

Chapter 1 - The Importance of Great Audio

So, you want to make a movie? (Or a book for that matter) The rules between the two are similar, although the implementation is different. These posts are for low-budget sub $20K indies. If you have a good budget and can afford help, please ignore the advice given here.

Let’s start at the beginning, ideas. Ok, you have a great idea. So, how do you get that great idea and turn it into something that you can sell. Well, the first thing is creating a screenplay. You have a screenplay? Cool, because I don’t plan on going into that subject. If you need screenplay help I’ll refer you to The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Troitter. These posts are about turning that screenplay into a visual reality.

Let’s first talk about the three major components of filmmaking: Audio, Lighting, and Camera; note, the order. Burn it into your brain. It’s easy to find a camera person, sometimes easy to find lighting; but it’s usually very difficult to find audio. If you fail at this one component, no one will watch your movie. So, let’s talk audio first.

Audio of a movie is simply what you hear. But it’s deeper than that. It’s also what you don’t hear as well. The first level of getting good sound is obtaining a great microphone. There are several good ones these days for $200 and up, but the closer you get to $1000 the better the quality and yes, you will notice the difference. Do your research to find the one that works best for you. On all my projects I’ve used the Sennheiser 416. But I’m sure there are much better ones on the market now.

It is important as an indie producer that you secure areas that are extremely quiet or at least whatever noise is present stays constant throughout the shoot. For instance, shooting at a house can be great as long as the neighbors don’t decide to cut their lawns. And being in your local downtown may be awesome as long as the traffic is steady and low. As the audio is cut together, if the background changes quickly from one sound to another (or the volume of noise), the audience will be taken out of the movie. And just like a typo or weird structured sentence can ruin a book, so can odd audio.

If you are lucky enough to have meters on your recording device, make sure your voices are high above the low end noises.

EXAMPLE:  Your recording device has 12 little dots to represent sound. You’re voices are averaging 10 dots, and your noise is about 2 dots. That is okay. But if your noise is 7 dots and your voices are 10 dots, that’s not okay. Most of that audio will be unusable.

If you are confused about a location, take your audio devices there and do some recording: Before You Shoot, to ensure great sound.

Okay, that’s all for today. I’ll discuss Lighting and Camera next time. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Descriptive Tips for Writing Fiction

Yesterday, I spent some time looking around the web, and found M. M. Vaughan’s website. She wrote the book The Ability which I’m currently reading. I took a moment to look through her blog and came across an interesting article. “WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle” By ELMORE LEONARD (Published: July 16, 2001, NY Times)

I found the points that he made about writing fascinating. But the last three rules I seriously took to heart and plan on working hard to use in my own writing.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Personally, I don’t like heavy descriptions of characters. Growing up, the one thing I didn’t like about “reading comprehension” was the removal of my personal influence over reading a story. Believe it or not, this was one of the reasons I didn’t like to read when I was in school. I found myself constantly changing out the characters in the book for my friends which made the book more relatable to me.

I doubt, I’ll remove all descriptions; but I’m starting to believe that it’s better to only say what the story needs, i.e. less is more.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

The Messengers is a sci-fantasy concept which takes a good amount of description to grasp. But one of my beta readers showed me that I don’t have to re-explain the obvious.  Readers assume the average. We don’t have to explain a “breathing man” because we know unless a person is dead, they are breathing. But, we have to explain a “blind man” since the average person can see.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The final tip, is the hardest part for me. I’ve learned that an author can never satisfy 100% of the readers. One person will enjoy long descriptive paragraphs while another will hate it. One person will claim the world isn’t detailed enough and another person will fill in the gaps with their imagination. So, what do readers skip? Honestly, right now I don’t know the answer to this. I don’t even have a true answer for any of these, but putting this information into my mind allows me to consider it every time I add words to a page.

Lucky for me, I come from the movie world where it’s all about “get in and get out.” You learn quickly that a viewer who thought your ninety movie was awesome, can hate it when it reaches 105 minutes.  Independent films proved to me that while the average viewer will watch Tom Cruise for two hours wondering what he is doing; they will not view an actor they’re unfamiliar with in the same situation. Part of storytelling is familiarity with characters, setting, and trusting those in charge. Trust comes from a relationship that has to be built. After Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling built up a relationship with her readers, and they trusted her as the books got longer. I doubt she would have had the same success if the first book was 700 pages.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Updating the 4th Draft

After my last group of Beta Readers, I’ve been scrambling trying to fix issues in the book, while at the same time reducing word count and cleaning up some of the grammar. I’ve decided to get the new version done ASAP, because I have another set of Beta Readers waiting. (Goodreads.com is awesome for that.)

The main changes, in the upgrade, are in the middle of the book. I wanted to lean it out a bit while at the same time, try to find ways to make it more exciting. While not giving away too many details, I’ve been working to solidify the main character’s drive through that part of the novel. I also have changed a bit of the lead up to the climax because a few readers stated one part of it slightly confused them and got them out of the story for a moment. So I wanted to make sure that issue was resolved.

I did some research recently on word count and found that most Middle Grade books are about 60K words. Jeez, how in the world are people writing like that? LOL But then I found a few threads on MBs that stated that generally 20-25% extra is given to those who write fantasy or sci-fi for world building. (So more like 80 to 90K) I was glad to hear that, I just don’t see a way to take out 20K words from The Messengers. The story is a sci-fi/fantasy mix. I personally think it falls more under the dystopian sci-fi banner, but some of my beta readers have seen it as fantasy. So it is upper middle grade, dystopian post-apocalyptic sci-fi with fantasy elements. LOL

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beta Readers part 1

Every writer, who wants to be a great writer, should have a few beta readers overlook their text. And when you receive feedback, read it, but don’t comment on it for at least 24 hours. Allow your brain to let go of all that you think is “right” about your story. And open your mind to something “new.” This doesn’t mean you’ll change everything to match the beta reader’s comments, but it does mean that you’re open to ideas to make the project better.

On Tuesday, I received 4 beta reader reviews of The Messengers/Message Runners. I asked everyone to rate the book from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest) and so far my score is right at an 8. Not bad I’d think especially for a first novel. But I’d prefer a rating of 9+. (LOL)  It was fun, understanding which readers connected with what characters or situations. It was great getting feedback from them on style, language, characterizations, etc.

After a day to contemplate that my masterpiece (actually I knew it needed a bit more work) wasn’t perfect and shifting through all the ideas and points that the readers made. It came down to two main areas that needed to be addressed. (I won’t point out which ones here.) I already plan to rewrite most of those areas. I’ve contemplated simply removing chunks and reworking sections; but I’ve learned that most of the time it’s better to simply start over, if you have a large section that needs to be fixed. I struggle, as I’m sure others do, with what part of a scene to keep and which part to toss, but having the knowledge of the scene, and rewriting the scene allows me to focus only on the main parts it. So next week I’ll sit down to restructure/write. (Waiting gives my brain more time to digest the new scenes.)
Note on Personality:

For my beta readers I used all women. I’m always concerned about the female characters, since I’m a guy. Also knowing that women are more likely to pick up books for children, I thought it best to get more womanly advice. LOL

My beta readers consisted of one middle school teacher in the higher 45 and up age range, an avid reader/editor in the 35 to 45 age range, a fantasy editor in the 35 to 45 age range, and a reader closer to college aged. I liked the dynamic to understand how people may view the book. Luckily everyone loved my lead. YAY! But they varied greatly on the side characters, who/what they thought was important, who/what should be cut, etc.  In fact, I was left myself with more questions than answers. So I focused in on the two major areas that all of them made comments about and those are the places I plan to spend the next few weeks fixing, before I find a new set of beta readers. It’s important to me that the book is fresh in a reader’s mind, so they can’t “fill in the holes” with information they already know.

The experience for me has been great. I like to learn and I know this process will make the work better.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dragoncon 2013

I love going to Dragoncon each year. So many wonderful people. So many ideas. So much creativity. And the Fans! The fans are so awesome. I love seeing them enjoying their favorite ideas, wearing T-shirts or dressing up or just attending panels. (One day I hope to see fans dressed like Messengers)

This year was my first year really talking with people and finding out more about creating and selling a novel. I spent most of the time back and forth learning the "secrets" to publishing. As I walk this path, I'll be sure to let everyone know about what worked for me and what didn't. But the biggest piece of advice that most people I ran into stated was simply "Be true to yourself."

And it's importaint to know what you like and stick with it, because if you like it maybe someone else will as well. I hope everyone likes "The Messengers" which reminds me I've been sending out versions of the novel for Beta Reads. I'm now moving into Beta Readers (That are not my friends or family:-)) I plan on letting about 8 to 12 people beta read then do another draft before obtaining a line edit.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures below from Dragoncon 2013!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A little about Me

I've been writing since I was 6 years old. My first book was a fictional story based on my best friend's crush. Since then I've been hooked on telling stories (any kind of story). By the time I was in Middle School, I had over 5 different concepts that I was actively writing short stories for. My generation was way before Riordan and Rowling, so many of my friends were reluctant readers. By the time I left High School I knew I wanted to write, direct, and produce movies as well. After college I went on to direct an Indie Film and won my first Film Festival. Recently after distributing my second feature Baby's Mama Club, I decided to go back to my roots and start writing "written fiction" again. THE MESSAGE RUNNERS is the first novel that I've written for kids (teens and adults). So as you can see - I just love to write!
I loved writing this book because it was everything that I liked reading/learning about when I was in Middle School. There is lots of action, suspense, and drama, with a pinch of romance thrown in. I hope that fans of HARRY POTTER, PERCY JACKSON, THE HUNGER GAMES, and H.I.V.E. will enjoy this series too.
Because of the filmmaker in me, I am creating a short film to go along with the novel. It is great working on the short and watching the written word come alive through the cast and crew. And actually it helped in closing up a few holes in the book! :-)
I'll keep you'll posted on the events of the novel and the short in the coming months! Thanks for reading. :-)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Very First Blog Post! - Welcome to my Blog.

Hello and welcome. If you come by often you can expect to read about my Creative Ramblings. I'll do my best to have lots of fun stuff about writing (books and movies). And if I have time about directing and producing as well. Right now I'm finishing up my first Middle Grade Novel - THE MESSAGE RUNNERS. I'll let everyone know as much as I can about the publication process.

Anyhoo, thanks for stopping by and hopefully you'll come back soon.