Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Signing at Delanie's Coffee in Pittsburgh

On the weekend of October 11-12, I will be selling and signing copies of my New Adult science-fiction novel, EMBASSY, as part of the grand print release event. If you're in Pittsburgh, it's only a five-minute drive from downtown, on the corner of 18th Street in the Southside.

Come on out, and spread the word!

To learn more about Embassy, Click Here.

To read the latest book review about Embassy, Click Here.
To view the Kindle version of Embassy, Click Here.



Monday, August 18, 2014

A Simple Introduction to Plot Structure

It's Monday, so, as promised, I'll try to get my posts back on schedule. I've been busy moving back permanently to Pittsburgh, so that's why I took a short break from writing advice posts (these take a long time to put together, as many of you probably know).

Let's get to it, shall we?

You are walking down the street when all of a sudden BAM!! It hits you: Inspiration. You rush home, keeping the idea fresh in your head, throw open the door, grab the nearest piece of paper and a pen, and jot down your great idea. Breathing a sigh of relief you sit back and look at your genius. There's your character, the setting, and.....what? You reread the page. What's going on? It was so good, but now you realize nothing has happened at all. Something is missing.

One word: plot.

Your characters don't have anything to keep them occupied. They are standing there looking at each other saying: "Okay....what's the point?"

How do you form a plot? What are the necessary elements? Why don't people want to read about the life of your characters, and be done with it?

There's no true point to the story. Readers don't want to watch your character live and die, unless that character is an awesome action hero who spends his days cleaning up the world of evil and fighting awesome battles. Even then, that might become dull.

There has to be a point to the story, and people want to know what that is as soon as possible. The opening paragraphs (which I'll talk about in a later post) need to hook your reader and tell them why they are reading the book. Why should they care about your character's story? Why should they take interest in your novel?

A true plot is essential. The first few scenes should establish the main goal of your hero. Follow these six basic points:

  • What does he want?
  • Why does he want it?
  • Who or what stands in his way?
  • How will he reach his goal?
  • What will happen if he reaches his goal?
  • What will happen if he doesn't?

If you keep saying that word
It stops sounding like a real word.
In the opening scenes, try to at least explain points #1 and #2. Maybe you can fit some of the other points in there, but the first two are crucial. They tell us which direction the story will go in.

The reader wants to know the destination. Once they know What and Why, they have a reason to continue the story, just like your main character will have a reason to move toward the goal. They have something to root for. They can take a journey with the character and experience the same pitfalls and high moments the character has. Show readers "Point B," and the satisfaction of the journey will come with the rest of the novel. Once you tell the reader where they're going, they'll follow all the instructions -- the subplots, romance, and journeys -- without hesitation. When they reach the goal, they'll decide if it was worth working for.



It's okay if you get a few pages written before you make up your mind as to what the main characters want. But make sure you do it fast, or your readers will keep asking: "What is the point of this?" and you'll lose them before the meat of the story starts. Make sure the goal is something interesting. It doesn't have to be obtainable, it doesn't even have to be real, per se. Maybe the hero seeks a rumored magical sword that can save the kingdom, but, as he finds out, it isn't real at all.

Then what's the point of the journey? The journey should change the character. The hero seeking the sword should discover the strength and courage inside him that will allow him to defeat the enemy threatening the kingdom.

Throw in a villain. Make him hurt the hero. Make him force the hero to make a choice he doesn't want to. Bend the boundaries. Snap his values. Cause pain. Make readers feel it in their hearts.



That's the true meaning of plot. Put your characters through heaven and hell. Have their worst nightmares claw at them and their brightest fantasies elate their spirits. Do it for the sake of change. Keep that change realistic. A man doesn't simply become a knight because he finds a magic sword. He learns a new set of strengths and values and morals, grows more intelligent, and devises a plan that will lead him to victory. Things happen to him that change his perspective in life. That is the point of plot. Don't leave your character the same as he started.

Make the reader care that the character changed. Do we feel sympathy? Is he stronger or weaker? Has he lost friends and loved ones? What did the journey do mentally or emotionally to the character? What was the price he paid to obtain his goal - or not?

That's what plot is all about -- a series of events, leading toward the established goal, that create a complex character built up from his/her experiences on the way to that goal. Whether s/he reaches that goal, or not, is completely up to the writer.

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While you're at it, check out my New Adult Science-fiction novel, Embassy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

So as you've all probably heard, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been going around. Well, as it should inevitably happen, the challenge came to me. So here's my video!

Also, for every view this video gets on this blog over the next week, ending August 24, 2014 at 11:59 EST, I will donate $0.10 to the ALS Fund. So share this video. The more views, the more money I donate! So go on and hit SHARE! Or post a link to Facebook or wherever else you can think of.


video

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Regular Posts to Resume Monday

Sorry I've been gone for the past week, everybody. I've been busy moving into my new apartment and moving my sister into college (funny enough, she ended up going to school right down the street from me in Pittsburgh!)

I'll get back to my usual scheduled posts at the beginning of next week, and I'll keep them going as long as I can before school gets in the way. Then I'll drop to 2-3 posts a week.

Thank you for your patience. I've received a lot of emails and comments thanking me for the posts and blog, so I hope to keep this up as long as I can.

In the meantime, Embassy's grand print release will be October 10, 2014! Excited for that, and getting all the arrangements made for the release party. If you're in Pittsburgh then, you should come! Details coming in the next few weeks.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

EMBASSY: A Refreshing Journey

This is a new ARC review Embassy received on Amazon yesterday. It's really in-depth, so I got permission to post it here.

Embassy will be available in print on October 10, 2014.

Review by Melissa J. Troutman
Author of Trust and Deception.

 


Embassy is not a science fiction adventure novel. Rather, it is a science fiction journey novel, perhaps the first of its kind I have ever read. I started it expecting aliens, laser gunfights, and spaceship battles. You know, like Stars Wars, or the new Star Trek, or the rest of science fiction that’s out there.

It took me until 80% through the book to realize there would be no aliens, no gunfights, no battles. Instead, Embassy follows the quieter, internal journey of a young man named Arman Lance and his dreams of finding the only person who will make him happy after his father’s death.

I enjoyed Embassy. I was hooked from the beginning, wanting to see if Arman would make it into Undil’s Embassy Program. Subsequent intrigue kept me in the story, such as whether he would find Ladia, what would happen to Belvun and its spreading desert, and if Arman would be happy again.

These hooks were well placed, because Arman as a character didn’t grab me. He starts the book quiet, antisocial, and too focused on his one goal of finding Ladia. Not much to like. Yet he was real: coping with the unexpected loss of his father, burdened to provide for his mother and sisters, driven to find the girl he loved, and anxious to get away from home. A typical young man. I haven’t read many books told from the male perspective, but I thought Arman’s character and voice were accurate to real life. Points for that.

The universe was also accurate. My thanks to the author for portraying the zero gravity between planet and spaceship, for mentioning the gravity simulators on the ship, and for having his characters throw up after their first space journeys. (Gross, I know, but realistic.) Points for that.

Even the science fiction part of the universe was realistic. I’m leery of reading sci-fi and fantasy because I tend to get lost in other people’s imaginations. S. Alex Martin, however, did an excellent job building his world. Though I didn’t fully grasp everything the first read through—I never do—I was struck by how neat his planets, politics, and technology were. He obviously thought through his world-building, and it shows. Points for that.

I didn’t find the writing itself to be anything stellar. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. When a book is written in first person, the narrative is the voice of the main character. If Arman were a writer, I would expect flowery prose and stunning descriptions and breathtaking turns of phrase. Maybe. :) Since he is not a writer, however, the simpler writing style is fine. It suits his character. (Note: I thought the present tense to be handled well. I don’t usually like reading present tense, but Embassy’s style read comfortably.)

Final notes: the turn of events both surprised and pleased me. As a reader, I enjoy surprises. Points for the satisfying ending and the unexpected way there. Also, I found Embassy’s storyline refreshingly unique: the main character doesn’t have to save the world, nor does his athletic female friend have to call upon her skills to “kick butt.” Embassy was like a breath of fresh air in that respect. I give points for that too. And it was a clean read. I think there was only one d-word in the whole book.

One part at the end did disappoint me, though. Arman sleeps with his girlfriend, and that bothered me. I had hoped for a book without that kind of thing. But in this regard, Embassy is just like the rest of the YA fiction out there. Points removed for that.

Overall, Embassy is the unique journey of a young man who is teachable and respectful, who comes to admire his old coworker and appreciate his young friend, who starts quiet and unhappy but ends quiet and appreciative. This book shows great character transformation. It also reminds readers that seclusion damages rather than helps, and that there is healing in reaching out and opening up.

Yes, I enjoyed reading Embassy. Yes, I would recommend it to the right friends. And yes, I would read S. Alex Martin’s next book.


FIND EMBASSY ON AMAZON ($2.99) AND GOODREADS.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Part No One Knows

I wrote this story back in June but only shared it with a couple people. However, in light of Robin Williams' death, I thought it would be something good to share with everyone just to pass on a positive, hopeful message for anyone dealing with depression or bipolar disorders. While this isn't a true story, it's based on my own battle with depression, which is approaching two years. Please pass this message on, and if you know anyone struggling with depression, please, please let them know you're there for them.

Let’s start near the end, when the knife was pressed against your arm. Not many people know about this part. It’s that moment of hesitation when a wave of second thoughts floods your head, and you think, if only for a second, that you might not do it. “I have to,” you’ll tell yourself, the first tears forming. And just when you think you’re about to do it, you don’t. Then you feel angry, and blame yourself for taking so long. “Just do it!” you’ll scream through your teeth. But nobody will hear you, because the words never actually leave your mouth. The door is closed, but you’re afraid someone will hear and check on you. If your sister found you with that knife pressed against the tender side of your arm, drawing a rift in your skin, she would never look at you the same way. She’d scream, and the whole house would hear. And then what would you do? You can’t do it in front of her.
You can’t.
In the morning, your mother will come upstairs to say goodbye before she leaves for work. She’ll be expecting the same groggy “mmph” because you’re barely half-awake, like you do every morning. But when she finds you tomorrow, you’ll be laying on the stained carpet. She’ll scream, but you won’t hear. She’ll drop to her knees and grab your body and shout, but you’ll only hang limp. Your sister will run into the room, scared, and then she’ll see your pale, bloodless face. Maybe your eyes will be open. That will make it worse.
You squeeze your eyes shut and press the blade harder against your arm. The serrated edge pricks your skin. If you don’t do this, there will be a red line traced across your arm for at least a few days. Someone is bound to see it. When they do, their eyes will flick up at yours, but only for a moment. They’ll look away again. You’ll pull your arms to your chest, but the damage has been done. They won’t tell anyone though. Your secret is safe.
“But what’s the point?!” Even the words in your head seem to shake with anger. The world is dark. Your eyelids twitch and a sliver of light shines through. Then you squeeze it shut again. Darkness is your friend. It’s only a matter of time before darkness is all you’ll see, so you might as well get used to it now.
You curl your fingers harder around the handle. In your darkness, you begin to feel the blade. People always said metal feels cool against the skin, but it’s not. It’s warm. You peek out one eye. There’s no blood. The warmth is an illusion. Your mind is tricking you into thinking you’ve done it, but you haven’t. You relax your grip, relieve some of the pressure. The warmth goes away. The knife feels cold. Its edge doesn’t tug your skin, but it feels sharper than before.
Fear overtakes you. You open both eyes, and tears drip down your nose. Your stomach twists. You let go, hear the soft thud on your carpet, and back away. You hit the wall on the other side of your bedroom and slide down it until you’re sitting with your knees pulled to your chest. The knife is pointed away from you. The line on your arm flushes red. You sit there and you cry.
In the morning, your mother comes upstairs to say goodbye before she leaves for work. She’s expecting the same groggy “mmph” like you do every morning. She tells you to have a good day, and she loves you. She pauses when you don’t say anything. Maybe you’re asleep. So she walks closer and rubs your hair and kisses your forehead.
You open your eyes. Hers are right there. “I love you,” you say. She smiles and tells you to have a good day again, and to make sure you get your sister to school on time. When you hear the front door shut, you get up and take the knife out of your drawer. You go downstairs, walk onto your back porch, and drop the knife in the trash can. Later, your mother will notice she’s missing a knife. She’ll wonder about it for a few minutes, then again tomorrow. But she’ll forget it by the end of the week, around the same time the red line on your arm fades.

This time next year, she’ll have a new knife. Ten years from now, she’ll dance with you at your wedding. Then she’ll have grandkids to spoil. You’ll pretend to not notice her sneaking them extra dessert, and you’ll pretend to wonder why they’re so tired the morning after she babysits for you. Her grandkids will giggle, and you will smile with a quick wink. And every night, you’ll tuck them into bed, kiss their foreheads, and whisper a bedtime story. You’ll go back downstairs and sit on the couch and hold the person who is allowed to love you forever, because you chose to love yourself.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Date a Guy Who Writes

This post was inspired by the post on Tumblr: Date a Girl Who Writes.
Somebody asked me to write a guy's version, so I gave it a shot.



by S. Alex Martin

Date a guy who writes. A guy who writes is a guy who is trying to create a life. And in trying to create that life, he is trying to understand the lives of other people.

You will see him sitting in a crowded place. Leaning against a wall. Walking with his eyes pointed at the sky. A guy who writes is trying to feel the world around him, and he will do whatever it takes to put himself into that world.

If he sees you walking toward the same coffee shop as him, he’ll quicken his pace just enough to beat you to the door. He will hold it open with a quiet smile, and his eyes will linger on yours. This is his way of connecting. He doesn’t know many ways to say “hello,” and he believes the best ways are small actions.

When he sits at his table, he’ll fold his hands under his chin. His eyes will move as people pass him. He listens to every conversation, memorizes what everyone is wearing. This is what he does every day. He’s a master of observation, and if he observes you, he’ll never forget you.


A guy who writes will take you on a date in a park. He loves to be outside, and he loves being outside with someone he hopes will matter to him one day. As you walk, he’ll listen to every word you say. He’ll laugh nervously. Inside, he’s hoping he doesn’t screw anything up. And when you finally sit down, neither of you will talk for a minute. Then he’ll tell you a story. It could be anything, but it’s a story worth listening to. He has lots of stories to tell, but never has anyone to tell them to.

A guy who writes will watch you as you talk. He’ll watch what you do with your legs. He’ll notice how you shift your arms. He pays special attention to your face, watching how the words you say affect you. He’ll also listen to your voice as it mixes with other sounds. If you’re in a park, he’ll notice how your words blur into the wind. If you’re in a coffee shop, he’ll learn to distinguish your voice from a dozen others.

Every time he sees you, he will smile. Even if he’s had a bad day, he’ll smile.


Watch the sunset with him. Notice how his eyes gaze at the sky, absorbing all those colors. He’ll look at you. He won’t say this, but he’s watching how the light dances in your eyes, warms your face, and gleams in your hair. He’ll tell you he watches every sunset like it’s the first sunset he’s ever seen. He loves how the whole world stops to watch it, if even for just a second.

He has a favorite book, and he’ll share it with you. He’ll tell you the book that made him start reading, and the book that inspired him to start writing. Chances are, he’s been reading since he was a little kid, and writing since he was a teenager. But because of that, he doesn’t have many friends. If he calls you a friend, it means he will always be there when you need him, and expects the same of you.

A guy who writes will write from his heart. He’ll surprise you with poems. He’ll describe the way your hair flutters in the wind. He’ll describe what you were wearing when he first met you. He’ll write a story about an adventure he had with you. He wants to show you how unforgettable you are. He wants to show you how you changed his life.

After you read his poem, he’ll take your hand in his and hold it for a while. You’ll smile at him, and you won’t have any words to say. But he’s okay with that. He loves your smile. He loves seeing how he affects you.


Sometimes he’ll seem distant. He’ll sit and stare at nothing for a while before saying anything to you. Let him. He needs time to organize his thoughts. He doesn’t want you to think he’s angry. He’s not. It’s just that sometimes, no matter how much he smiles, he doesn’t feel as happy as he should. When he’s like this, touch his arm. Let him know you’re there. He won’t flinch. A chill will run up his spine. Then he’ll take your hand in his, and you’ll sit there together, listening, watching, and living.



When a guy who writes falls in love with you, it’s because he wants to understand why you’re falling in love with him.