Saturday, August 30, 2014

New Spartanica Pinterest Page

Check out our new Spartanica Pinterest page. I spent quite a bit of time working with illustrators to create these. Hope you like them!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Petras - The City Built Into Rock

A big part of the fun in Spartanica is exploring all the terrific places on the planet of Sapertys. I mostly made them all up from scratch, but one place that I took from reality here on Earth is the city of Petras. Ty and Nekitys ended up there while searching for Professor Otherblood while the other survivors went off to the Desrata settlement to rescue Bellana. Ty described Petras as follows:

"The cliffs around us extended hundreds of feet into the sky, blocking out most sunlight so that we were walking in shadows. Every sound echoed in all directions. After a minute or so, our pathway opened to a big, clear circular space, also bordered all around by high cliff faces.
While the landscape alone was awe-inspiring, the buildings were unlike anything I’d ever seen. They looked like Greek and Roman architecture with oversized pillars and decorative elevations except, and this was a big except, they were carved right into the sheer stone cliffs at ground level. Imagine the White House or Capitol Building or even the Acropolis carved into the side of a mountain."

The abandoned city of Petras in Spartanica is based directly on the actual lost city of Petra in southern Jordan. I'd read about it years ago and was entranced by what its inhabitants had somehow done. Most of the city is literally cut into the rose colored stone (hence the nickname "Rose City").  

According to Wikipedia, "...writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans and the center of their caravan trade. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress, but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf."

While I generally prefer to create other worlds using my imagination, there is the occasional exception. Petra is a truly amazing, man-made wonder of this world that I couldn't easily have improved upon. The astonishment you hear in Ty's voice above as he describes is truly mine. I truly hope to visit there one day.


22 Lessons From Stephen King On How To Be A Great Writer

If you're an author or thinking about being an author, the article at this link is a must read! 

22 Lessons From Stephen King On How To Be A Great Writer


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Beta Readers Rock the House!

You might have noticed I thank the Spartanica beta readers by name in the front of the book. That's because they were an absolutely critical part of the authoring process.

What's a "beta reader"? These are a select group of adult and young adult volunteers that offer up their time to read and give feedback to the pre-published versions of a book. For Spartanica, I had eight beta readers, each of whom read the entire story twice... once after the initial writing, and once after I'd incorporated their comments after the first read.

Did much get changed along the way? Oh, yeah... lots! For instance, I could tell after the first reading that I hadn't done a good enough job of describing how the main characters looked, especially the scary ones. For instance, the final description of a Desrata is as follows:

"They growled and snarled dauntingly, baring their canine-like teeth as drool dangled and flapped all around from the corners of their mouths. They were easily twice my height with ominously oversized, hairy, human-shaped bodies. Instead of hands, they had paws, each with four thick, yet surprisingly nimble digits, all with long, razor-sharp nails jutting out like ready-made daggers. Their barrel-chested physiques with grotesquely broad shoulders and cannon-sized arms were bigger and more muscular than anything I’d ever seen. Their strong, foreboding faces, with flat mouths and pushed-in noses that sat higher than their pitch-black recessed eyes vaguely reminded me of a bulldog. Unlike a bulldog, their heads were hairless with taut, dark gray skin over chiseled muscle and bone. I couldn’t tell whether their dark-brown skin was shiny or if they were wet, or maybe sweating. While they looked like animals, each one wore a black, military-style uniform with the sleeves torn off, undersized pants with frayed bottoms that stopped mid-shin, and ratty black army-style boots. As barbaric as these things appeared at first glance, they were definitely more than just wild beasts."  

When I spoke to my beta readers after the first read, they all gave me a different description of the Desrata. I knew I had a problem, so I completely rewrote their description. The second time around, the feedback was much more consistent, AND the beta readers loved it!

The graphic descriptions of the characters in Spartanica turned out to be a real strength of the book. Kirkus Reviews even referred to the "fantastical creatures" within the story. That was a big deal coming from them.

I'm working on book two now. My son, daughter, and wife actually read two to three chapters at a time along the way to help out, but I look forward to getting that first copy to the beta team. Then I know we're getting close!

Your friend in most excellent sci-fi...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Congrats to the Spartanica Goodreads Giveaway Winners!

We held a Goodreads Giveaway promo recently and received over 1,400 entries, from which the following 10 winners were selected:

Rachel W, Indiana
Callie D, Wisconsin
Don F, Michigan
Karen T, Michigan
Joshua M,  Maine
Staci S, Michigan
Coriene S, Indiana
Susan R, Texas
Catherine W, Maine
Tricha L, Pennsylvania

Each lucky winner received a signed copy of Spartanica and a personal note of gratitude from me.

Thanks so much for being Spartanica fans. I'd love to get your feedback on the story!

Remember to signup for my newsletter and be automatically entered into the monthly drawing to win a Spartanica t-shirt or full size poster.


Blog Re-Launch - The Book Bridge - Helping Abused Kids

I write sci-fi stories for the middle and high school crowd because I want to see kids read more.  Strong reading skills are a key part of growing up with as many life options as possible.

One organization I work with locally that takes this thought process specifically to children in crisis situations is The Book BridgeThey serve youth 18 and younger who are in physical, economic, emotional, or mental health crisis situations. These kids mostly live in homeless shelters, safe houses, or residential treatment facilities, but have little or no access to books of their interest and reading abilities.

I've had the opportunity to donate time and copies of Spartanica to this group recently and just love what they do.  These kids undoubtedly need help, and The Book Bridge provides them the opportunity to grow their minds through literature.

Help a kid today. Donate to The Book Bridge.