Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mike Hamlett, artist for Task Force: Gaea

Mike Hamlett and I met online on a comic book artist website about ten years ago. I was searching for an artist who could render some inspirational pieces for me to help me, and I sent him some ideas in an email for Danelos, Aleta, Brandon, and Sarah. As if destined to be, our collaboration bore fruit with the sketches on the Characters page.

He had it dead on.

I knew from that moment that the fate of my novel was in Mike's capable hands. It was from those sketches that I drew more inspiration that I could possibly have had I been inspired by the Muses themselves. He also added another picture to the collection, a color picture, that provided me—for the first time—a clear picture of just who my four characters were, in the "flesh", so to speak. It was almost like bringing offspring into the world, and I, the proud papa.

Task Force: Gaea, circa 2002
Flashforward ten years: 2011. I looked up my old friend on deviantart.com, and I found that his art had changed, but I was still as enrapt as I had been a decade earlier on seeing the first pieces. After contacting Mike, he was quite willing to revisit my characters, so I sent him his original four sketches. He informed me that he had indeed changed his style of art. I received sketches of ideas for the cover that looked similar to his original work, and I felt reinvigorated. My artistic muse had indeed sparked my creativity once more.

When I decided to pursue the CreateSpace avenue for independent publishing, knowing I would have a paperback version of my novel, I felt exhilarated at the prospect of holding a tangible copy of Task Force: Gaea in my hand. As I created the cover for the book, I used the new image of the team, the one featured to the left, and my amazement over seeing such living characters made my heart skip a little. Some parents bring forth human children; my 27 year pregnancy was about to bear a different kind of offspring, but one I would be proud of nonetheless.

Sarah aka Aether and Danelos aka Aegis
Probably what impresses me the most about his work for my novel is the level of detail he brings to each character's design, whether its Sarah's silver zipper on her jumpsuit or the amulet that Brandon wears—each detail enhances the overall appearance and feel of the characters, giving them a pulse, so to speak.

I cannot thank Mike enough for the magical work he has done, and I plan on asking him to do the art for the sequels as well.

Please check out his deviantart site so you can see the awesome talent of this man who has been more a part of my work than he could know. This graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh has certainly earned the admiration of many, since just about everyone who sees the novel has to ask, "Who did the art? It's fantastic."

Aleta aka Aetos and Brandon aka Zodiak
Well, the answer is Mike Hamlett.

Email him: 



Interview by a Student

DJ, one of my students, interviewed me about the novel as well as writing in general. He did a great job, since he wrote the questions, interviewed me, and put the video together himself.
 
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A glimpse of what will come...

A swirling blackness, Nyx moves and shapes herself in ways that would stagger the mortal mind, collapsing into eddies of dark, black, living clouds, ready to bear her offspring, the child implanted in her, by Olympos’ adulterous king. With the catacombs of the dead for her nursery, Nyx wants to bring forth her daughter in the company of the agonized, pitiable souls of those who never made it beyond the gates of the underworld; they have much to offer her child. Suddenly, almost as if she had forgotten her role in the cosmos, her surging form shoots forth toward the exit of Tartaros, a cave entrance kissed by the air that mortals breathe. As she nears the opening, bright Hemera, the day itself, descends into the deepest Hadean depths, and both Protogenoi, the primordials, touch ever so briefly before Nyx bubbles forth into the air, becoming the blanket of obscurity over part of Gaea.

Night’s daughter will have to enter the world in a different way.

• • •

Screams of torment and railing pain cut at the air like talons, ripping apart the peace of the asylum’s hospital in the mortal world. A woman, crazed with murderous thoughts and torturous dreams, reclines in a birthing chair, her wrists and ankles bound with worn leather straps to prevent her from hurting herself--or others. Her eyes black as Erebos, the god of darkness, the woman, an inmate who had already lost her grasp on reality, becomes the ideal choice for this birth, a living host to Nyx.

Echoing cries and unintelligible mutterings escape her lips while the doctor, his white coat stained from years of inmates’ blood, stands ready to extract the newborn. Bleaching the coat would remove the memories, he thinks, of each forced organ donation or sutured wound, usually brought about by a rusted metal shard or a stolen fork during some ill-conceived riot. Night incarnate selected well, largely to reflect the chaos within, but also to see what it would feel like to push her progeny forth as a mortal would. That connection to humanity would prove so very useful.

A volcanic spray of blood and placenta erupts forth as the part human, part primordial being pushes her way into the world of Humankind without the benefit of the doctor’s aid. To look upon this child would cause the mind to convulse with madness, for no mortal could comprehend a primeval being who looked human, her jet black skin a void over which flashes of lighting striate. Wiping his glasses of the warm bodily fluids, the doctor catches a glimpse of this child, and he instantly gouges out his own eyes with his fingers, mumbling as his mind fragments and foaming at the mouth like a rabid beast. Soon, he lies still, and the newborn hovers over to the lifeless body, draining it of whatever force it still contains. Not even Hades would want what remains of the corpse, and no soul resides within this shell of skin and bone.

Nyx exits the woman’s spent body, a shell vacant of any life, and coalesces around her daughter, ready to take her back to Tartaros where she will grow up among the imprisoned Titans, buried beneath stone and Zeus’ curse, and there she will feed off arcane energy originating from Khaos, the mother of the cosmos herself. There, this child will find solace near yet another tomb, a place no mortal could ever see, and no god would ever go. She will grow accustomed to the dead chill of whose presence no one speaks, for fear of even mentioning the name of he who is buried there would rouse him—Kronos, the Titan king.

As the Moirae weave the fate of Humanity and the gods, so too do they forge the path of those who outrank them. Part of Fates’ tapestry will form a path for the daughter of Nyx, whom she calls Lismonia...

Bony fingers on the loom, bound by duty and a yearning, tremble with each pass, and the fabric it brings forth for Zeus' daughter bears the color of blood.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My First Interview...

...will be with Amy Manemann, author of Deadly Reunion, and blogger at http://www.amymanemann.webs.com/. We have already completed it, and she will post it on her blog in March.

When I have the live link, I will be sure to post it. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Nods to Wonder Woman in Task Force: Gaea

Around 10 years old, I became enamored of Greek mythologythe gods, monsters, heroes, and the epic scale of the storytelling. Something about the magic and grandeur of Olympus intrigued me. Later, I found myself interested in superheroes, the Justice League of America to be exact, and I fell in love with Superfriends, a Saturday morning cartoon. One episode involved Wonder Woman going to the planet Caltos, where the gods existed, and the Superfriends had to prove themselves to the gods.

Wait... Greek myths AND Wonder Woman"beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury."? I was hooked.

From that, I began and fostered a love of comic books, especially Wonder Woman. When I wrote Task Force: Gaea, I wanted to include some more subtle nods to the comic. Here they are:

TFG #1. Danelos Fairmont wears a manacle of Earthsteel, a metal that only Hephaestos, the blacksmith of the gods, can work in his forge. Etched with Olympian symbols, it marks his service to the gods.

Connection to Wonder Woman: During a battle scene, Dan throws up his wrist instinctively, and an invisible shield protects him from an attack. Sorry, no "bullets and bracelets" (something Wonder Woman does).

TFG #2. During another scene, Danelos retrieves a lasso from a sacred armory, a lasso made from a hair of Atlas, a Titan (who holds up the heavens).

Connection to Wonder Woman: Indestructible, as is Wonder Woman's golden lasso of truth, but it doesn't possess any other power.

TFG #3. During Apollo's journey, he encounters Amazons from Themyskira.

Connection to Wonder Woman: While Wonder Woman and her Amazons are from Themyscira (I used the "k" in my name), an island near the Bermuda Triangle, my Amazons live near the river Thermodon, where it is believed the original Amazons of ancient times lived.

Plus, there's the whole Olympian gods connection, but that's not strictly a Wonder Woman aspect.

That's it, folks. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kindle AND NOOK Versions Available!

You can go here to purchase a Kindle version of Task Force: Gaea -- Finding Balance.

You can go here to purchase a NOOK version of Task Force: Gaea -- Finding Balance.

You can go here to purchase an iBook/iPad version of Task Force: Gaea -- Finding Balance. You do need to sign up for Smashwords first, but it's a free membership.

And, please post a review on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com! Thank you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kindle and Nook Soon!

Kindle and Nook versions of Task Force: Gaea should be available within 24 hours. Other versions will be available as well... stay tuned!

Where you come in...

Okay. So, I'm going to ask a huge favor of people. Actually, it's not really such a huge favor, but I just want to convey how much I appreciate it in advance.

Tell people about Task Force: Gaea.

It's not simply because it took me 25 years of writing, editing, proofing, vacillating, hemming-n-hawing, and inspirational chats with myself at odd hours...

It's not simply because it was a labor of love and energy and ego...

It's simply because the book is about you... and me... and everyone around you. Let me tell you a little about why:

Apollothe god of light, reason, truth, and healinggoes on a spiritual and existential quest to see where he fits in inside this place we call a universe. His journey, and the choices he makes, ultimately affects not only the world of the gods, but also the world of Humankind. His choices matter: good, bad, or hideously ugly -- they matter. Task Force: Gaea, as much as it's a fantasy novel of gods, monsters, and magic, is also about following one's path, even when it might destroy you. Would you be willing to give up your life, everything you know to be true, for the greater good?

Well, would you?

That's why you should tell people about  this book. It'll start existential conversations. Good ones.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Holy hand grenades...

Today was a first. I was asked to sign three copies of my book for students, one being a former student whose sister is in my AP class. What an unnerving feeling, having to come up with something pithy to say and then sign my name.

I have to say, I could feel myself getting anxious. Then, on top of that, watching students read my book during our "Read-A-Latte" today... watching their expressions. [deep breath]

Five students (those who read today) told me they really liked it; one said she needed a dictionary to read some of it. I'm okay with that, though.

If you like it, post a review at Amazon. That would be wonderful (and thanks in advance).

And my mother's reading it, too... that'll be an interesting conversation when she's done :)


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Doing the unthinkable... getting started.

So, yeah... you want to write a novel or a story or a poem or a play, but you're not sure exactly how to start.

First, you probably should ask yourself, "Why do I want to write something?" If the answer is:
  • "Because I want to make money..."
  • "Because I want to impress people..."
  • "Because I'm bored..."
Well, that's not the best motivation. You have to write for one reason and one reason only:

You have a story to tell.


You should have this yearning to be a storyteller, whether it's sci-fi, fantasy, romance, drama, nonfiction...

There should be this SPARK of an idea that you fan and feed until it becomes a growing fire, one that slowly fuels your inspiration and urges you forward.

Some days the spark sputters and spits, verging on going out, while other days it becomes an all-consuming conflagration that reaches into your soul. It's a process. You can't control exactly how a fire burns, and you can't control everything about a story.

It should be organic, moving, growing, and allowed to move at its own pace. If you force it, you'll stifle that creative energy, but you should push yourself to write. An object in motion stays in motion, said Newton. But, an object at rest doesn't freakin' move at all.

Find your spark, and breathe life into it.
Write.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't tell me, show me...

Characters, like wild animals, need to be observed in their natural habitat: their story.

When writing a character, a writer should create a situation where the reader can SEE what's happening and decide for himself or herself what is happening.

Show, don't tell -- the mantra most writing teachers tell their students. Here's an example, albeit a simple one:

Saying "John was angry when he read the letter from his wife that ended their marriage." doesn't leave anything to the imagination of the reader, who might see any number of situations defining what "angry" is. Describe behavior instead:

"John fumbled with his key in the deadbolt, pushing the door open with one hand. Tossing his keys on the hall table, not really caring where they fell, he succumbed to an impulse and crumpled the paper he had been reading, propelling the "Dear John" letter down the hall. In the living room, he walked to the fireplace, took down the framed picture of him with his wife, lingering for a moment on her smile, and smashed the teak frame on the marble mantle."

Mind you, it's not Shakespeare, but I think we can all agree that John is definitely angry. We can picture him, holding the letter in one hand as he fumbles with his keys in the other. We can even see his eyes well up a bit as he looks at his wife's image before destroying the frame. It's visual.

Before you write a scene, close your eyes and picture how it looks in your mind. Ask yourself, "How would someone act feeling [insert emotion here]?"

Try it. You'll like it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing... a novel?

A few people, namely students, have asked me: "How do you write a novel?" Well, it's not easy. First, you need to WANT to write a novel. This is the kind of story that has scope and far-reaching distance; if you want to tell a story, you should, especially if it's about something you love. My novel started as a short story in high school and evolved over time, but if I had started writing it at my age now, it would certainly have been a "novel in the works" rather than a short story. You also need to have a general outline of what you want the book to show: a character's journey, the story of a place, the emotions of someone whose insights need to be heard, etc. Have an idea. It'll grow over time, too. Nurture it. Feed it. Play with it. You may hate the first dozen things you write, but you're just clearing away the dead wood, so to speak. After a short time, what you start bringing forth has true meaning to you and, one hopes, to others. My advice? Write about what you love. What makes you smile, laugh, cry, or moves you in ways nothing else would. Just push the words out... the ideas will coalesce, the meaning will rise to the surface. Just allow yourself the luxury of writing something really crappy until the good stuff comes forth. :)

Marketing myself... who knew?

So, those who know me know that I'm a pretty reticent person (until they get to know me), so for me to have to promote myself and my book -- well, that takes much effort. But, it's necessary. I'm already done the following:

I'm not done yet :)

If you like my book, tell others, please! If you don't, tell me.
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