Book Announcement: The Ones Who Follow the Water

I figure it’s about time I share the main project I’ve been up to as of late, considering how overdue this is in the first place.

I’m just about finished with The Ones Who Follow the Water, a new adult fantasy novel.

The Ones Who Follow the Water front cover

This is a story that will always be dear to me. When I was in high school I wrote short stories, mostly for fun, and I didn’t have many ideas I could see taking up a full novel. That changed during a camping trip with my best friends, when I had a dream that inspired one.

I tried to write it as soon as I got home. Something like 300 words in, I realized I wasn’t ready to write it. I had about a page and a half, and it read like a summary of the dream I had, not actual storytelling. So I shelved it for years.

I wrote the first draft much later, during NaNoWriMo 2010. I could go on about the process behind the book, but to make a long story short, I edited the life right out of it. The final result was boring, stagnant, almost like that two-page summary I had written years before. I had told the story I wanted to tell, but that was all it was—a sterile recount of a story I could see so well in my head, but failed to get down on paper.

This year I decided to go back over it and breathe some actual life into the story. I re-wrote most of the novel with a better understanding of how to write, how to edit, what audience I was going for, and how to translate the story I saw in my head.

But enough about me. Here’s the synopsis for The Ones Who Follow the Water.

The town of Welby is surrounded by a high wall, erected in long-forgotten days when people remembered their magic and Immortals walked the earth.
Oren and Carah grew up together in Welby, but when Oren makes a mistake that could get Carah exiled, he has no choice but to climb over the wall and enter the unknown world beyond, following a river and looking for a necklace.
The world is full of creatures and people Oren never dreamed of, but friend and foe alike offer him the same advice: Don’t follow the water.
Oren’s journey leads him to an impossible castle, and inside, Oren finds the necklace, and a reason to never go back home.

The Ones Who Follow the Water will be available November 25th, 2014 in e-book, hardcover, and paperback editions. I’ll post store links (including pre-orders) on the book’s main page soon. The Smashwords page is already available, with others coming soon. In the meantime, here’s a trailer for the book:

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Authorgraphs

I have a major announcement coming very soon (most likely tomorrow) but before that, I wanted to drop a quick message about Authorgraphs.

I’ve signed up with Authorgraph, so now you can request signatures for your ebooks! Don’t be afraid to send me a request and add my atrocious handwriting to your collection!

The link is here: http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/crackedthesky

It’s also on the sidebar of my blog. There’s supposed to be a widget, but it doesn’t seem to work at the moment, so for now the link will have to do.

Thanks for everything, and stay tuned for a post on something I’ve been teasing for a while now.

WIBUT 9/7/2014

I have another nowPlaying post in the works, but I thought I’d break those up with an update on what else I’ve been up to as of late. Before I get to that, I should say the nowPlaying posts will probably be rare from now on. I’m excited to announce I’ve been taken on as a writer over at Cubed3, where I’ll occasionally post news and reviews relating to video games.

nowReading

I’m about halfway through Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. I’m enjoying it; its style reminds me a lot of Wes Anderson’s movies, as well as Arrested Development. Lots of humor, lots of irony.

I’m also reading Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I found it annoying at first (for reasons I’ll detail when I write a full review), but it’s quickly growing on me.

nowWatching

The Leftovers on HBO. I love Damon Lindelof, I loved Lost, but I have to admit that the show lost focus at some point and never quite got it back. I fell in love with the trailer for The Leftovers and knew I’d give it a chance, but it looked like the kind of show that could go anywhere.

There’s a lot of mystery, but it’s a lot more self-contained than Lost was. Unlike the magical island, there are limits to what can and can’t happen, but that doesn’t stop the show from constantly pushing those limits a little further each episode. It’s riveting, it has an attention to detail comparable to that of Breaking Bad (but not quite the character development, not yet anyway). It’s one of few shows that keeps me on the edge of my seat, constantly wanting to know what comes next.

What I’m Working On

Things have been exciting for me on the writing front. I’m maybe 85% finished with a project I’ve been working on for a long time now. It’s a horror novel, and I can’t say much else about it, other than that I will most likely self-publish it sometime next year.

I’m also still working to get things published traditionally. There are certain projects that are better suited for self-publishing, and certain projects I’d rather do the traditional way.

I have a few other things lined up, one of which I’ll talk more about pretty soon here.

This all leads me to a major project I’ve been working on. I was hesitant to get this one out in the open because I’ve never done something like this, so keep in mind there’s a slight chance the following might never come to fruition. I’d like to introduce my project, tentatively titled Let the Moonlight Give You Wings.

That’s quite a mouthful! So what exactly is it?

First and foremost, it’s a game I’m making in RPG Maker VX Ace. I love games, and I’ve always had ideas for my own, but nothing ever really took off. I’ve worked with engines like Unreal Development Kit and Unity, but I’m not good at making models or scripting, so I always reached the limit of what I could do pretty quickly.

RPG Maker, however, is a little more suited to people like me who are more reliant on GUIs, and it’s also easier to make a game without a team of people working on it. RPG Maker also has an amazing community of people behind it for those moments when a single person runs into some trouble during development.

My sister bought me a copy of RPG Maker VX Ace during Steam’s summer sale. I started playing around with it, and eventually a story began to develop. It’s very loosely based on a fantasy novel I’ve had on the backburner for a while, but it’s different enough that I’m willing to consider it its own story.

Because of this, I’m planning on writing a novel based on the game. The current plan is to release the game for free or under a pay-what-you-want model (with a portion of each donation being forwarded to a few people whose scripts my game wouldn’t work without), and completing the game will give you a coupon to get the book at a discount.

Keep in mind, everything from here out is subject to change.

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings is the story of Emery, the oldest child at an orphanage. It’s a hard life for Emery, as she helps take care of the other kids between chores and school. Emery often daydreams about a fantasy world full of magic and mythical beings, and one night, Emery goes to sleep only to wake up in a world not unlike that of her dreams.

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings
As currently planned, the game will transition between day and night, and character armor will change depending on what’s equipped.

All dreams must end, and when morning comes, Emery finds herself awake in her old life. Much to her surprise, however, when she goes to sleep that night, her dream picks up right where it left off.

Emery is caught between a world that desperately needs her and one that seems as though it doesn’t want her, and embarks on a journey to save them both from disaster.

The game itself will have a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek tone, for the most part. I want to pay homage to all the games I grew up with, but bring something new to the table as well. There’ll be quests, side quests, puzzles, and a lot of backstory told only to those players who seek it out. I like being rewarded for exploration, and my game should reflect that.

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings
Four members of the party explore a cave.

A large emphasis will be put on the game’s characters. I currently have a system in place that randomizes most of the game’s conversations. Put simply, pressing the action button on certain objects, characters, signposts, etc. brings up dialogue and comments from the game’s characters, but it’s randomized. You might get a different conversation every time you play it. Having certain characters in the party will make different dungeons and puzzles easier or elicit different responses from NPCs.

There’s also an affinity system in place. Leveling up certain characters will unlock special conversations with them, and eventually allow them to tap into their full potential.

This is a lot of work. Writing out a single event can take all night, but so far, it’s been worth it. My main priority with this game is to tell a story that can only be fully realized in video game form, though I’m still going to try my hardest with the novelization as well.

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings
An in-battle screenshot.

I wish I could give a timeframe for release, but it’s way too early to tell. Certain things I think will take a while to finish end up taking a few hours, other things I think will take a few minutes end up taking days. There are a lot of variables involved (pun intended) and there’s just no way to say when this’ll be finished, and even then, I have to have people playtest it, look for bugs, etc. I do, however, think it’ll be a few months at the most (knock on wood!) before the bulk of the game is finished.

I’ll hopefully talk more about the game as it progresses. Certain things aren’t set in stone yet, but for the most part, the core of the game is. I’m hoping to eventually devote full posts to some of the game’s cooler features.

And that rounds out some of what I’ve been up to lately. It might not seem like it, but this is mostly backburner stuff. My current major project is coming along nicely, but I’m saving it for its own post, coming up pretty soon.

Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages Release

Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages is now available at most online book retailers.

Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages

Each of the 16 poems in Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages stands alone, but also serves as a piece of a larger narrative. From the death of poetry itself in “At Rest in the Sea” to the lifetime-spanning “The Back of the Room”, the stream-of-consciousness piece “Alone” to the song-turned-poem “Sunday Calls for Cloudy Skies”, and the thematically-related interludes “Letters”, “Pages”, and “Poetries”, Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages tells the story of a narrator struggling to find his place in the world, drifting between tangential universes, and replacing the people around him with fictional characters, all the while writing letters he doesn’t send, poetry scattered to the wind, and pages full of everything he can’t bear the thought of losing.

You can find the e-book through these links:

Amazon • Smashwords • Apple iBooks • Barnes & Noble • Kobo • Google Play

The paperback should be up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon, and is available through the CreateSpace store now.

Samples of the book can be found at all of its storefronts, but you can also read several poems under the Scenes section of my blog, under “Samples” in the menu bar.

Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages Announcement

My poetry collection, Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages, will be released next month in ebook and paperback formats.

Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages

Each of the 16 poems in Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages stands alone, but also serves as a piece of a larger narrative. From the death of poetry itself in “At Rest in the Sea” to the lifetime-spanning “The Back of the Room”, the stream-of-consciousness piece “Alone” to the song-turned-poem “Sunday Calls for Cloudy Skies”, and the thematically-related interludes “Letters”, “Pages”, and “Poetries”, Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages tells the story of a narrator struggling to find his place in the world, drifting between tangential universes, and replacing the people around him with fictional characters, all the while writing letters he doesn’t send, poetry scattered to the wind, and pages full of everything he can’t bear the thought of losing.

My plan is to release all formats of the book on June 24th, 2014.

The ebook will be up for pre-order on most major retailers soon. In the meantime, here is the table of contents. A few of the poems available for reading now, which you’ll find through their links:

At Rest in the Sea
Letters
Faded.
Sunday Calls for Cloudy Skies
Alone
Shadows and Fingerprints
The Back of the Room
Yearbook
Pages
Be There
In the House Across the Street
On the Mend
I Could Have Shined
Love on a Page
Contronym
Poetries

On the Mend

I’ve been going over my poetry collection, and on the whole I’m happy with it. It’s looking very unlikely that I’ll scrap it at this point, so I’m probably going to share a few more poems in the coming weeks. I still want to give it another round of editing, then there’s assembling it for publishing, finding a cover, hopefully getting some external feedback, etc. Hopefully I’ll have more concrete information about it next time I mention it on here.

In the meantime, this poem is called “On the Mend” and it almost didn’t make the cut. It’s one of the shortest poems in the collection, but it fits the theme well, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

On the Mend

I’ve been throwing bricks
From atop this house of sticks
And I’ve been casting stones
Across a lake as dry as bones

I hope you never know
How much time I’ve spent planning for bridges
I never come to, much less have to cross

And I’ve been planting seeds
In a yard not fit for weeds
I’ve been writing words
That leave the page like little birds

I was pretty sure
I’ve spent most of my life burning bridges
I couldn’t sleep beneath, much less try to cross

I wrote you down so you would always stay
But a heart like yours won’t be contained
So I put quotation marks around your name, like wings
So you could fly away from me

I hope you never see
I’ve spent every hour since then building a bridge
And I can barely walk, much less bear a cross

Tonight I’ll try to sleep
Beside the secrets I don’t want to keep
Tomorrow I’ll start throwing bricks
At your makeshift crucifix

And hope you do believe
You won’t find any answers jumping off of bridges
Come down from there. You’ve suffered enough.

Shadows and Fingerprints

I’ve already posted this on my facebook page, but I’ve cleaned it up since then, and I’m really hoping to get some input from blog followers as well as strangers.

I’m just about finished with the first draft of my poetry book, which I’m calling Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages. The whole thing has been a new experience for me, one I’ll detail in a later post, but for now I can summarize: I’m somewhat new to the world of poetry. Not writing it, but sharing it.

Over the course of a few weeks, I had a burst in creativity, during which I wrote a few poems. I noticed recurring themes throughout them, so I decided to keep them together. With a sort of narrative in mind, I wrote a few more, and even dusted off some old ones that fit the theme, which has led me to a collection of roughly 16 poems. At first that strikes me as too few, but then again, most of them are longer than the poems I’m used to reading.

I’m going to let the collection sit for a while before I come back to it and edit it, but I want to get outside input on some of it as well, especially if this is going to be an actual book I put together and decide to sell. (Not sure if I can justify the cost of a physical edition of this one, so I might go ebook-only, but again, that’s all for down the road.)

So here’s one of my poems. It’s called “Shadows and Fingerprints”. I’d be very grateful to hear any thoughts on it, good or bad.

Shadows and Fingerprints

There are fingerprints in the dust on the underside of the cabinet
And fingerprints in the thoughts on the underside of my mind
There are shadows on the ceiling
Out in the hallway where I sat on the stairs
And shadows in my memories
Cast by someone who isn’t there

I’ve never been as awake as I am right now
I want someone to talk to, but everyone’s asleep
And that’s okay.
I shouldn’t want to trouble them anyway
I never come as clean as I’d like to, in any case

I’m going to lie down on the floor
And close my eyes until I don’t exist anymore.
It all keeps going back to someone I don’t even know
Or the fact that I don’t know them because I was too afraid to live

So I walk through this city
Trying to find myself out there
Find only passing headlights
And landmarks of my youth,
Like where we’d sit where the sidewalk ends
Walk up the hill and around the bend
Cut through the woods to the circle of stones where we’d sit
Contemplating the world around us and our places in it
It’s not quite the same as it used to be.
Without Ian, it feels a little bit empty.

We’ll get away for a while
Let’s go to Michael’s house, visit Loren in Ohio
Sip vodka and turn off the tv screen
Talk about life and death and philosophy
Get everyone together and go down to the lake
The sun goes down, the stars come out, but we’re wide awake

Let’s sit around a campfire,
Bring a bag of things to burn
Like journal entries
Written by someone who isn’t me
(not anymore)
Old letters
Torn photographs
Clothes that don’t fit,
And some that never really did
That cherub figurine
Unfinished poetry
And all my thoughts of her and me,
So maybe I could get some sleep

Get in the water
Float on your back
Let the wind in the waves wash away your every heart attack
Pitch up the tent
Get into bed
Stay up talking ‘til the morning brings the sun up again

Then go back home
Get on with our lives
Maybe never see each other again,
But that’s all right.

I’ll walk these city streets,
Try to find someone out there who feels like me
We’ll lie on the floor until our problems don’t exist anymore
We’ll listen to music, read poetry
Watch television or just sit quietly

No passing headlights
No landmarks of a youth I wasted being alone
No shadows, no fingerprints
No hallways, no dust, no cabinets
Just you and me and our thoughts.
Just you and me,
Or me and my thoughts.
It’s always me and my thoughts.

When we die, do we turn into stardust?
Can it wait until I’ve made something beautiful first?
Because so far I’ve made nothing but shadows.
So far I’ve left nothing but fingerprints.

Scenes

I’ve mentioned my little project I’m calling “Scenes” before. The basic idea is I take pictures (some new, most of them old ones lying around my hard drive) and put somewhat-related excerpts of my writing over them. It’s mostly for fun: Picking a photo, picking an excerpt, choosing a font, arranging it, applying effects to it, etc.

I mostly post these on the facebook page for In the Lone and Level Sands, since so far all of the scenes I’ve made are from that book. I do plan on making some for my other writing, but the zombie apocalypse epic was the most inspiring, so that’s where I started.

I’ve also been posting the project on my tumblr page, and today I finally got it up and running on this site as well. It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, since WordPress has a built in “gallery” feature, and it even adds some nice effects (like randomly arranging the photos in a grid, which I like). You can find it under “Samples” in the navigation bar, or through this URL: https://davidjlovato.wordpress.com/samples/scenes-from-in-the-lone-and-level-sands/

The idea is to have a separate page for scenes from each of my books, when I finally get around to doing some from the others. I might do a few of my poems, as well.

Speaking of which, I’m almost finished with my poetry book. A few poems need cleaning up, even fewer need finishing, and then it’s mostly a matter of waiting a while before going back and editing the whole thing. I’m kicking a few titles around; I have yet to find one I’m in love with.

WIBUT April 2014

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t want my blog to focus mainly on reviews, yet I have one ready to post at any time, and another one in progress. As it turns out, I greatly enjoy talking about the things I enjoy.

Before I get around to posting those, I thought I’d give an update on the other things this site was intended to focus on.

Writing

My main focus right now is on a coming-of-age / magic realism novella. I’m a little over 15,000 words in. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it once I finish it (and in this case, “finish” means finish writing, shelve it for a few months, then edit it and decide if it’s worth existing anywhere but my own hard drive). For now, I’m going to focus on writing it. Its tentative (and likely final) title is “The Afterglow”.

I have a few other projects on the backburner, one of which I’d like to talk a lot more about, but probably shouldn’t, since it won’t be finished anytime soon, let alone releasable. The reason I mention it is that I’m pretty sure I’ll break that silence in the coming weeks, depending on how well it comes along.

Publishing

Search around the internet, and you’ll find a very unfortunate battle raging over traditional- vs. self-publishing. I think (and hope) the squabble is coming to an end, with both methods coming out of it as valid routes to the same goal, and both methods existing as alternatives balancing each other out. With that said, I don’t prefer or dislike either method. I’m still eager to have certain works traditionally published, but I have turned to self-publishing before. One reason for it is that I enjoy doing it. My first love will always be writing, but putting the finished product together as one package is a lot of fun. It’s hard work, sometimes it’s frustrating (no one can ever know how long I’ve languished over where to place the title on the cover, what size to print a book in, what font to use, etc.), but in the end I enjoy doing it.

It’s always exciting to see new options pop up on the publishing side of things. In my case, these options aren’t necessarily new, but old ones I’ve seen in a new light.

There isn’t a lot to say about either route, at the moment. On the traditional side, I’m submitting short stories and novelettes to publishers for their consideration. There’s a lot of waiting involved, which I understand and don’t mind, but it doesn’t make for an exciting blog post.

On the self-publishing side, I’m putting together hardcover editions of After the Bite and In the Lone and Level Sands. My co-author Seth and I have had a few people ask us about hardcovers, and it’s always a bummer to have to tell them it’s not in the cards. However, I’ve found a happy enough medium to work with. If I get these finished and approve of the quality, hardcovers will be available through Lulu’s store only. (I can’t bring myself to use their expanded distribution options; I would have to charge in the realm of $40-$60 for the books, and part of my self-publishing philosophy is that my books need to be affordable. I paid $40 for the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series, I can’t see myself charging the same for one short story collection by some random not-George R. R. Martin.)

Finally, and this one falls somewhere between “writing” and “publishing,” I’m considering a book of poetry. I had a random burst of creativity a few weeks ago, and the result was over a dozen strongly related poems. I’ve considered submitting them for publishing elsewhere, but these follow a theme and almost form a story, and I think they belong together. I could submit the entire book for publishing, but I’m not sure anyone would want to represent or publish a poetry book by someone who hasn’t published poetry before, so for now I’m leaning toward self-publishing it.

Reading

I’ve finally made decent progress with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I started reading it a long time ago, but I found the beginning to be slow, even boring. It’s finally picking up, and it was worth getting through; I’m enjoying the story.

I also recently began The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. The writing is delightful; I find myself smiling almost nonstop through it. The story is magical, although the parallels to previous works like Alice in Wonderland and other writers like Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula K. Le Guin are very strong, and I’m not sure the book will end up accomplishing anything those others haven’t already. But I’m not very far in yet, and anyway, a book doesn’t have to change the world or even change literature to be great. In any case, I’m surprised Studio Ghibli hasn’t made a film out of this one. It would fit right in.

Blog Upkeep

I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff around here. For example, the “Published Works” link at the top is now a drop-down menu that contains a page for every work listed in there (which it should have from the start, but I hadn’t thought to do it yet). Clicking “published works” will still go to the old page, where everything is on one page.

I’ve also been using the tumblr version of my blog a lot more than I thought I would. It’s great for posting pictures, and I’ve recently begun a project I’m calling “Scenes”, where I put excerpts of my writing over pictures I’ve taken over the years. I do plan to get that project going on here as well, but it’s a little more involved on WordPress, and I’m not sure yet how I want the page to appear. In the meantime, you’ll find the pictures on my facebook, the page for my zombie series, and my tumblr.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, more or less. Now I’ll get back to finishing those review posts, and hopefully, by the time those are up, I’ll have something a little more substantial to share on the writing side of this blog.

Thank You!

Writing a book can be frightening. There are times I wonder if I’m capable of doing the story justice; there are places and characters and plots in my head, but what if I can’t translate those onto the page? What if I end up sharing a bastardized version of them with the world?

Then there’s the fear of losing someone. I think a lot of people who read can relate; even though a story or character is fictional, you’re devoting part of your life to spend time with them, and sometimes losing them hurts. I think it’s just as hard on the writer, especially if we didn’t see it coming, but we have to do what’s right for the story.

For me, possibly the most frightening part is releasing the book into the world, and not knowing how people will react. It’s like I’ve raised a bird since it was an egg, and now it’s time to set it free to fly, and I really hope someone doesn’t shoot it out of the sky as soon as it leaves my hands.

Obviously, not everyone is going to like my writing, and every writer gets negative reviews. That’s part of the process. People have different tastes, and you can’t expect a book to sit well with everyone. There’s so much I love about writing, I’d keep doing it if nobody liked my work. Still, that anxiety that accompanies releasing a book exists. I’m pretty sure by now it’s inescapable. I could release 99 books that each get a hundred five-star reviews, and I’ll still feel it just before I release book 100.

I’m not trying to complain. That anxiety is also accompanied by a sense of excitement, especially if I’m proud of the book I’ve written. It’s a double-sided coin, and I think if I wasn’t anxious, I might not be excited, either.

So far my books are being well-received. I’m thrilled to see the reviews come in, most of them very positive, and I can’t thank you enough. I have a few one- and two-star ratings, and I can’t complain. Theoretically, every rating is followed by a reading. Someone took time out of their life to read something I wrote. That is its own reward; someone twice my age, someone half my age, someone sitting in a country I’ll probably never see with my own eyes has read something I’ve created.

If you’re that someone, thank you. There are millions of books out there, billions of characters you could’ve spent your time with, and you chose mine. That’s an incredible honor. We’re on this earth for a limited time, and to have anyone spend theirs on me is a humbling experience.

I hope you enjoyed it. I’m sorry if you didn’t. Either way, I’m thankful you gave it a chance.