Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hi, I'm David, and I'm a Geek!

When I was a kid in the 80s, comic books cost about 50 cents, and that was one of my first experiences being an all-out geek. I used to buy them off the spinner racks (since comic book shops as I know them now were hard to find back then) in stationery stores (remember those?) and ride my bike home with them tucked safely under my arm. Back then, only Marvel and DC were the heavy hitters in the comic book industry, and I don't remember there being a huge rivalry between being a Spider-man fan or a Superman fan. I blame that on the comic book movies. I even went to a "comic book convention" of a sort in NY back then, too, but this was pre-New York Comic Con. Not sure where it was, but it was tiiiiiiny compared to the NY Comic Cons I've been to in the last few years.

Also in the early 80s, my step-brother introduced me to this role playing game called Dungeons & Dragons, and he had these small paper booklets that housed all of this magical information about clerics, paladins, etc., and I became intrigued (to put it mildly). I fell in love with dragon dice and even bought these tiny metal figures that I painted. Talk about empowering!

My transformation into a Geek was complete. Well, for that time, anyway.

I've been interested in all things fringe and odd since then, and I fully embrace that. I still read comic books (when I'm not disenchanted with the direction that DC Comics is going), digging into my long boxes once in a while for a taste of the books I came to love as a child. I've been included in two separate issues of Wonder Woman (the first, thanks to artist Yanick Paquette, who drew my face as a framed portrait in a museum scene, and second, thanks to Gail Simone, who included an idea of mine in her last issue of the series). I could go on and on about my love of all things Amazonian, but suffice to say, I have a "Wonder Shrine" in my home office, and it continues to grow one piece at a time.

When I was younger, I used to hear people talk about my Geekish kin, mostly guys, who were said to live in their parents' basement, be completely enmeshed in all things odd and alienating, and even speak their own version of Geek-lish (the English we speak when we're around others of our kind). Unfortunately, these guys had the reputation of being unhygienic and less than proficient in interpersonal relations. I think that stereotype is far from accurate: I bathe regularly, know how to speak with non-Geeks with great skill, and I own my own home (in Florida, we don't have basements anyway). It's safe to say that that version of a Geek isn't the predominant one, at least in my experience.

Having published a few fantasy novels, I go to my share of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions all over the country to connect with my kindred spirits, selling and signing my books. I've had friends question me as to why I don't just find a traditional publisher (since I am an independent author who publishes through CreateSpace) and let them promote me so I don't have to go to the conventions. 

Here's the thing: I want to go.

I get a huge kick out of the Cosplayers who go, and I have tremendous respect for anyone who dresses up as a video game character or superhero or even the Starship Enterprise. These people aren't weird—they're heroes! They're brave souls who risk ridicule and shaming from others, but they don't care. They don their homemade costumes, many of which constructed to last for years, and parade through the aisles proudly. Not sure I could do that, but I give them kudos!

Then, there are the Vendors (basically those people who sell things I either can't afford or just don't have room in my house for), and I just become a 10 year old all over again (erasing 36 years ain't easy, trust me). Sometimes being a teacher has its advantages, especially when my income doesn't permit me to go home with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise. These people make me drool.

Having been to my fair share of Cons, I've also met some incredible People, some of whom I get to see each year I go. The networking that you can do with likeminded people is extraordinary—trust me. I trade books with fellow authors, or just get tips on merchandising my table. Regardless, it's worth the table fee just to see these people who are my family. And, through Facebook, I meet even more people who I will meet in person when I return to the conventions.

I get to break out all my comic book related T-shirts, wear my jeans and sneakers, and relax. Sitting at my table helps me come out of my shell. I'm actually quite a wallflower, believe it or not. In person, it takes a lot to get me to talk if I don't know you. When people come over to me, I do my best to engage them in a way that lets me get to know them, whether they buy a book from me or not. It's not always about the sale; it's about the connections.

Lastly, I get to bring stories back to my classroom (those I can repeat, anyway), and regale my students with the craziness of the convention. They're amused by my interest in Cthulhu and comic books. How many kids can say their AP English teacher has comic book posters on the wall (as well as posters of his own novel covers) and Con badges, too (one is signed by Stan Lee—thank you, Michael D'Alessio!).

I don't intend to rein in my Geek any time soon. So, if you want to chat comics, fantasy novels, or even just get to know me, stop on by when you see me at a Convention or find me on Facebook. I'm always looking to make new friends with whom I can speak Geeklish. :)

(By the way, I capitalized words to show how important I think they are.)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Task Force: Gaea Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Hey kids! For the next three weeks, you will find spotlights, guest posts, interviews, and reviews, all based on the Task Force: Gaea series and me. Giveaways will include gift cards and e-books! If you encounter a link that doesn't work, please email me.

Tour Schedule

Apr 1: Indie Hoopla Gala (Interview) 
Apr 2: Saintz Realm Spotlightz (Spotlight)
Apr 3: Siren Dreamscape (Guest Post) 
Apr 4: Mary's Cup of Tea (Review) / Njkinny's World of Books (Spotlight) 
Apr 7: My Fae-void Demon (Interview) 
Apr 8: My Inner Muse (Tens List) 
Apr 9: Nocturnal Predator Reviews (Spotlight) 
Apr 10: My Twisted & Kinky World (Interview) 
Apr 11: The Blood Flow (Spotlight) 
Apr 14: A Saintz Dream (Review) 
Apr 15: Carpe Diem (Spotlight) 
Apr 16: Laki Loves Indie (Spotlight) 
Apr 17: Fated Dimensions (Character Interview) 
Apr 21: Hell Fyre Risen (Tens List) 
Apr 22: Indie Author How-to (Guest Post)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guest Post: Nikolas Baron—Choosing Carefully: The Art of Diction

Mark Twain once wrote, in a letter to George Bainton, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Those words are as true today as when the father of American literature penned them in 1888. The use of each word, whether writing fiction or nonfiction, is a choice, which should be made with careful consideration. Each word chosen by the writer is like a block in a wall. If too many weak blocks are used, or if they don’t fit together in the right way to support the weight of the structure, the entire thing collapses. Studying and emulating great writers, while taking care to avoid plagiarism, is an excellent way to learn stronger diction technique. The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between writing which sounds dull and flat, and quotable writing that endures for decades.

While the importance of strong diction cannot be overemphasized, the burden of finding the right word can be a heavy one. How does the writer choose the right word? Which is stronger, “marvelous” or “excellent”? Should a child be referred to as a “ruffian” or a “tot”? In which case is it permissible to use slang, and when should a more formal tone be considered? All of these questions can be answered only when the writer knows the answer to further questions: Who is the audience? What is the context of the writing?, and what is the purpose of the material?

The first two things the writer must consider when sitting down to create are the message, or purpose of the writing, and the audience. Writing without a clear purpose in mind is like rambling along the countryside without a map; the journey may be pleasant but the traveler is unlikely to arrive at any particular destination. The message is what the writer is communicating and audience is the recipient. The two come together to create a map for the writer to follow. Diction is the vehicle in which the traveler journeys. Whether the occasion calls for a horse and buggy or finely tuned sports car is up to the writer to decide.

Word choice is what determines the way the message will be conveyed to the reader, whether it comes with a negative connotation, or a positive spin. When writing about children for a parenting magazine, for example, words for children with neutral or positive connotations are preferable: child, toddler, kid, baby, even little angel might be acceptable. Words with negative connotations: ankle biter, brat, or urchin, would be avoided. In speaking, our audible tone of voice gives words more meaning. In writing, words must be chosen carefully, because the reader does not have the cues of body language and tone of voice to give them full meaning. The words themselves must do the work of carrying the message to the reader.

The slant of the writing is also affected by word choice. Consider these two sentences:

  • The teenager ran down the sidewalk in the pouring rain, getting wet the entire way, and stopped when he reached his own gate.
  • The young gentleman hustled along the pathway, water dripping from his expensive styled hair, pausing only when he arrived at the entrance to his abode.

Each construction conveys the same information, but the word choice creates two different pictures in the reader’s mind. The first could be the beginning of the story of an average teenager, running for home, and the second, a sophisticated youngster of a higher social class, coming back to his rightful place. The cues created by the words “teenager” and “young gentleman” build two different pictures in the reader’s mind, and the differences in “ran” and “hustled”, while subtle, are clear: Running implies a less controlled, slightly less dignified motion than “hustling”.

Choosing the right word is often as much a matter of taste and style as correctness in writing. The right word in one context would ring hollow in another. Proper diction illuminates writing with the power of lightning. Writers should never settle for the lightening bug.

By Nikolas Baron

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book 3: The Liar's Prophecy

"Even death cannot protect you from your past."—the tagline of the third novel in the Task Force: Gaea series, The Liar's Prophecy. No spoilers to follow.

Mock up for the cover
The third installment of this series picks up not long after Memory's Curse ends, and the members of the United Nations Task Force: Gaea—Aegis, Talon, Aether, and Zodiak—will encounter something that has had millennia to fester with a deep-seated yearning for vengeance. While the gods possess the powers of the natural world, this entity's power comes from an altogether difference place, a place beyond the scope of most immortals—prophecy.

The enigmatic nature of prophecy keeps those unprepared to know away from powerful information, hence the use of prophets, sybils, or priests. Even Zeus himself cannot decipher certain cryptic auguries. Included in the immortals who can comprehend prophecy are Apollo, the Fates, and Ananke, the goddess of inevitability; these are not the only ones, however.

And, a prophetic voice that utters a false prophecy has immeasurable power since the recipient may not be able to tell truth from falsehood until it is too late. Fulfilling a false prophecy would bring irreparable damage.

Like Memory's Curse, this story will continue down a darker path, but books four and five will begin to emerge from the underworld, so to speak, so stay tuned for more information.

The Liar's Prophecy should be finished by fall 2014, so follow me on Twitter or Facebook for more regular updates.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I Write for Word Nerds

"Why don't you just use regular words? You know, like 'dumb down' the vocabulary a little?" I was asked recently. By regular, I assume that meant easier or more commonly used. So, what you're saying is that you want a novel spoon-fed to you with language you don't have think about. Dumb down? I won't disrespect my readers by assuming they can't understand what I've written. Where's the fun in that? I certainly understand the desire to write for an audience, but I like the idea of providing a little bit of a challenge. Reading should not only be an adventure story, but also a word journey. Sometimes a writer just has to choose the best word for the situation, and it might not be the more common one. As a teacher, I want to raise the bar, not lower it.

When I was writing Task Force: Gaea, I decided that I wanted to write for readers who were like me: those lovers of language who don't mind taking the moment to grab a dictionary or fire up Google—basically, logophiles or word nerds.

In my mind, I see my audience as around 17+ (although younger readers can certainly understand the novels), those who have a more developed vocabulary or a willingness to learn. Reading for pleasure shouldn't mean divorcing yourself from self-improvement through language. 

Does that mean I'll have fewer readers of my novels? Probably.

Having been a bibliophile all my life, I've read my share of novels from Hardy Boys' mysteries to Les Miserables, and when I read the latter, if I came across a word I just didn't know, I simply looked it up. It's comforting to know that authors choose words that force me to think a bit. I don't mind learning. I realize, though, that not all people enjoy having to go get a dictionary or fire up Google. If that's the case, then you probably won't enjoy my books. Over the years, I've developed what I consider to be a pretty good vocabulary, and I enjoy using it. 

I revel in the power of words.

I strive to write quality stories with intrigue, complexity, and story lines to keep my readers interested all the way through the novel, questioning as they go. I write books the way I want to read them, and I don't believe in writing to a market just to sell books.

The moment a writer assumes his or her audience cannot understand the complexity of language or story, the writer has lost so much more. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Pirate's Life for Me

What do you get when you combine a young man's angst-ridden childhood, secrets from the past, magic, a family of street thieves who have hearts of gold, and seafaring pirates? You get the makings of the world of Jim Morgan, and his world can be as tempestuous as the Seven Seas. In James Raney's series, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves and Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, you can't help but feel empathy for young Jim as he learns about who he is and what his life holds for him.

I don't want to give spoilers to these novels, but I will say that following the creative adventure of Jim makes me yearn for more adventure in my own life. He befriends a group of street thieves who become his family, and his connection to them makes the reader yearn to find those friends, those best friends, in his or her own life who will always be there, no matter what. There's something about watching this young man encounter the obstacles he must overcome as well as the people who comprise his inner circle that warm your heart when you see just how resilient Jim truly is. You can't help but feel the hope—hope that he will succeed in his quest(s), hope that he will find his family, and hope that he will be that hero that he needs to be, not just for him, but for those closest to him. He brings out the adventurer in all of us.

Being a pirate always seemed like being a part of a family or a fraternity, and this familial bond between members gets cemented through trust. Throughout these novels, Jim finds support through a variety of unique individuals, some of whom you would not expect. Young and old will enjoy the twists and turns both of these novels have to offer, and the magic within the pages not only enables the plot to move where it needs to, but also ensorcells the reader, like mythical Sirens can, luring each person into this tapestry of events. You can't help but feel like you're one of Jim's cohorts. "Dread Pirate" Raney (as I have come to call him) spins a true sailor's yarn—with the allure and intrigue of the sea. I'm along for the adventure, and you should come on board as well. You get all the benefits of being a pirate, and none of the sea sickness!

Available at Amazon, these novels should be a part of anyone's library. When you have a chance, check out and "like" James' Facebook page or follow him on Twitter or Goodreads for the latest news about upcoming signings and information about the next installment of Jim Morgan's adventure. 
James Matlack Raney

James Raney is a former high school teacher who has grown up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Now he calls southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own. Find out more about Jim Morgan's books at http://www.jimmorganbooks.com.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

So, what's happening, you ask? Well!

• I'm holding a Giveaway at Goodreads for ten copies of Memory's Curse. Enter now before you can't (last day is Dec. 15).

• The film treatment for Finding Balance is in the works, and I have a screenwriter looking it over for me as we speak. I want it the best it can be before giving it to 490 Entertainment.

• Book two of the Task Force: Gaea series, Memory's Curse, is now available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. This homage to Lovecraft incorporates Greek mythology with elements of horror.

• I'm working with Jezza Smiles on a project that involves illustrating a short story that highlights the romantic relationship between Dan Fairmont (Aegis) and his boyfriend, Ari, from Memory's Curse. The story will be a stand alone piece. More news on that as it becomes available!

• Mike Hamlett, the tremendously talented artist who did the covers for Finding Balance and Memory's Curse is working on some other artistic ideas for me. Revealed soon!

• I will be attending DitterCon, Alt*Con, MegaCon, and RainbowCon (in that order). More about each here.

• And, last, but certainly not least is a project I can't talk about yet, but I will as soon as I can. It's HUGE.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Patience is Bitter...

But, its fruit is sweet... at least according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

I can be creative. I can even be whimsical. I can be many things, but, right now, being patient isn't my strength. Waiting is not something I handle well, and it's no one's fault by my own. When I want something to happen, I realize there has to be a certain time frame when it will come to pass, but I tend to want things to happen sooner. Right now, I'm waiting to see:
  • A contract for a film treatment for Finding Balance.
  • A drawing for the cover of Memory's Curse.
  • Feedback from my beta readers on Memory's Curse.
I don't place any blame on the production company, the artist, or the readers—the blame is mine. I'm just not doing well with waiting. Too bad, right? Yes. I just need to tell myself that when things happen, they happen. Other people are in charge of these things, so I need to let go.

Ironically, as a teacher, I am incredibly patient. I work with teenagers every day whose perception of time doesn't always mesh with mine, so I can work with that, because I expect it and know these students. Interestingly enough, the worlds of both being a teacher and being an author don't usually overlap.

Well, once I get the signed contract, I will begin work on a film treatment (a 5 - 10 summary of the novel, sort of scene-by-scene). When the cover art is finished, I will be able to design the cover itself. Lastly, once I have feedback on the novel, I can tweak things so I can formalize the manuscript for publishing. These are all realistic, easily managed, tangible goals.

So, I sit on my hands and wait. Perhaps you can relate...

I'll just be waitin' on the sweet fruit here... whenever it shows up.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

New site, new focus!


Is this the end of taskforce-gaea.com? Hardly. But, the official name is now: Mythmaking—Task Force: Gaea and Beyond.

This is the beginning of rebranding what I do. I basically wear two hats—teacher and author. As far as my writing, this site will continue to provide insight into the process of being a writer and getting that work published. I'll want to share progress and obstacles in working on a novel series, hopefully making it easier for you to pursue your own writing goals. Maybe you can learn from me... we'll see. But, I also want to share ideas that relate to writing in general, as well as tools that will help other writers grow.

For the public persona, I now have http://www.davidbergerbooks.com. Here you will find more information about the books I write, specifically the Task Force: Gaea series as well as the other writing I do, with links to blog posts and other books of which I am a part. You can even purchase copies of the works through this new site.

I feel as if this site has become bogged down in too much "stuff," and I want to clear away the things that don't work for me anymore. Parts of this site may appear on davidbergerbooks.com, and parts may remain here. I want you to have access to the information you want.

As the new title says, I want this site to focus on the writing process—mine and yours—and hopefully give you insight into creating something on the page. Work with me.

I'd love feedback, too. If you like what you see here, please comment beneath the posts. If you want to ask me questions, email me here. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook!

Stay tuned. Much more will come!

- DB
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