Five Years Ago

My Facebook memories page reminded me that five years ago today, I published The Four-Year-Old Guardian. It, along with Ascension, marked my foray into the world of self-publishing. It was a huge step forward for me, what I felt was the next logical step after being in writing groups since high school and putting my works out there on sites such as Authonomy.

For those of you who follow this blog, it’s no secret I haven’t been quite as prolific of late. My last book, The Blood Contract, came out at the end of 2014. I wrote a little last year but it was nowhere near my usual output. This was due to a combination of personal issues, misguided attempts to medicate and a shift in my schedule. I spent last year losing myself as a writer and I’ve spent 2016 so far trying to rediscover myself.

I can’t say I’ve been resoundingly successful but I do feel like I’ve rekindled (no pun intended) the writer’s spark within me. Though I’m far from ready to release my next book, I have been making progress. By my estimates, I’m currently a third of the way through AfterLife, the fifth and final book in the Only Human on the Block series (though I should point out here it is also a gateway book to a connected trilogy. I mention it because when I brought that up to my mother the other day, she seemed surprised by that fact). I haven’t been writing as much as I had in the past, but when I do sit down and focus, I’m rather proud of what I’m producing.

On the other hand, I’m in limbo on The Shadow Without or World of Shadows or whatever I end up calling it. I’ve been a few chapters away from finishing the rough draft for… well, when I first wrote it, I was inspired by the Obama/Romney campaign. So closing on four years. Damn.

I must admit, it’s gone through a lot of tweaks in that time. I changed it from third-person originally to first (don’t ask what I was thinking initially). I also took what was going to be one big book and separated it into two smaller books. As a result, my original ending doesn’t quite work, fails to have the impact I want it to have. I’m not sure why I’ve been struggling so much to end that third book. I have a pretty firm idea of how I want it to end. I just… haven’t.

That’ll change this year though. I’m determined to release whatever this book will be called in 2016, and if not AfterLife, I’ll get a good chunk of it done for a 2017 release. I owe it to my fans and, frankly, to myself. Five years ago I took my first steps in this journey. I may have wandered off the path for awhile, but it’s time I get back to it.

Still, even despite my prolonged absence, I’ve managed in the space of five years to produce The Four-Year-Old Guardian, Bravaado/Dramatique, Together Alone, The Blood Contract, The Shadow Walker, The Shadow Within, and Ascension. Seven books I’m rather proud of, in addition to a smattering of other stories I’ve started. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can put out in the next five years.

As always, thanks for reading (and for the support),

S.L. Madden

PS. In celebration of this five-year landmark, I’ll have the ebook of The Four-Year-Old Guardian available through Amazon for free starting tomorrow, 7/30 through Monday, 8/1.






Epiphanies In B

I’ve often said it’s impossible for me to get bored. While the advent of the smart phone (and my subsequent loss when I don’t have mine) might disagree, I truly believe I could go for days, weeks, maybe even months with no other distractions other than the machinations of my brain.

The reason being it’s constantly working, devoting an impressive amount of my mental resources toward working on stories (or songs, when I’m in that particular mood). As a result, I sometimes find inspiration comes at the oddest of times. Sometimes it’s the drive from home when a certain song comes on that makes me recreate scene (or create them spontaneously) based upon the feelings it invokes. All too often back in the day, it happened during school, when I was supposed to paying attention. Many plot lines and song lyrics originated while my teachers desperately sought to fill my young head with knowledge.

A particular source of inspiration is the bathroom.

Perhaps it’s the fact I’m relegated to a simple sitting position, transforming my usually kinetic body into one of rest. Maybe it’s the drive to put my mind in another place while my body fulfills its biological destiny. Either way, I have had many breakthroughs while trapped atop that porcelain prison.

And so it was a few days ago when I nearly shot to my feet and cried out, “Eureka!” Fortunately, I relegated myself to a simple fist pump and a whispered, “Yes!” (I was in a public bathroom, after all).

I finished the rough draft of  The Shadow Without (I think that’s what I’m calling it this week) a few years back for NaNo and I’ve been trying to get back to it ever since. After completing The Shadow Within in 2013, I was determined the sequel would be out in short order. Here I am, 1.5 years later, and I’m still struggling to finish the final rough draft. I know what needs to happen, where it’s all headed, but I’ve found myself…blocked. Yes, I’ll use that word, even though I like to think myself immune from the dreaded writer’s block (or at the very least, I always have another project to work on if I find myself stuck).

The funny thing is, the epiphany that came to me was not for The Shadow Without, but rather, the final book in the series, Twin Shadows. Again, I know where that book is going, how it starts and, roughly, how it ends. But there were pieces of the puzzle missing, things I knew I’d need to figure out eventually.

And there, in that stall, I figured them out.

Well, some of them anyway.

Interestingly enough, I hadn’t been concerned about those pieces. My mental resources have been slaving away on AfterLife and, to a lesser extent, The Shadow Without.

Or so I thought.

Somehow, this piece of the puzzle made itself known, and suddenly, a lot of other pieces made sense. So much so, I had to wonder if I hadn’t thought of it before and forgotten, while subconsciously arranging the story to still accommodate it. And then, completely unexpected to me, pieces of The Shadow Without started falling into place, pieces I had no idea were missing. It seems my blockage stemmed from events so far in the future, I hadn’t given them much thought (although clearly my brain was).

Now that they’re cleared up, however, the ideas are flowing fast and furious.

I love writing.

As always, thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

PS. I sincerely apologize for writing a blog post about sitting on the toilet and using phrasing such as “blockage” and “flowing fast and furious”.

2015 – My Resolve for Resolution

Typically I don’t do the whole New Year’s Resolution thing. Instead of using a fairly arbitrary date as a springboard for change, I try to keep myself in a rather liquid state. If I notice I’m developing/resorting back to bad habits, I try to conquer them there and then. Life is too short, after all, to put off til next year that which I can change right now.

Only, I haven’t exactly been doing a bang-up job of changing. I haven’t even been adapting well to the changes going on around me. Perhaps I’m at an age where my stick is firmly rooted in the mud. Maybe I’ve settled into a sense of what is right and wrong, and can no longer see/think past my narrow viewpoint. Maybe those damn kids need to cut their hair and stay off my lawn!

I thought it would be good this year to use the New Year as an opportunity to realign my thinking and set myself back on my intended path.

Resolution #1: No Time Like The Present

Procrastination has long been a friend of mine. It was there for me during school for every pre-final cram session. It rears its head still every time my car is due for an oil change. And of course, it inspires me to write about my resolutions three days into the new year.

No more.

Yes, I have a chaotic (some might say artistic…my regards to those fine folks) mind, but technology is such we can temper those urgings. If I have to set a reminder on my phone for events throughout the entire year, so be it.

I just need to get around to setting them up.

Resolution #2: Be A Writer!

I started self-publishing in June of 2011. In the 3.5 years since then, I’ve put out seven books spanning two series and a stand-alone (at least until I get around to writing those sequels).

Not to shabby for a guy who works 40+ hours per week. But it could be so much more.

During this last NaNoWriMo, I wrote 25K words of my new novel, AfterLife. Well short of my 50K goal, but it was a tremendous start. And I truly only focused on it for a short period of time. Most of my writing energy went into publishing The Blood Contract.

I’m setting myself a goal of 5,000 words per week for this entire year. Again, it’s not nearly as lofty as NaNo calls for, but I believe it’s 100% doable (after all, the secret to successful goals is to make them realistic). This should allow me to produce a rough draft every six months or better. Then, while working on editing, I’ll continue with my 5,000 word goal on my next project.

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve but I have so many other stories waiting to be told. I’m at a point where if I retired from my day job to focus solely on writing, I wouldn’t be scrambling for a new story idea for years to come.

Resolution #3: Communication

Whether it’s updating all of you through this blog or finding the perfect words to articulate to my wife how I’m feeling, I’ve come to realize communication isn’t my strong point. It’s not that I don’t want it to be. I’m a strange mix of an introverted-extrovert, someone you could work with for years and barely get to know, yet when I open up, I do so fully. I tend to eschew societal lines in a willingness to talk about most anything and everything. Especially if I think it’s funny.

I find most everything funny.

I can’t promise to change the core of who I am and suddenly be everyone’s friend, but I’m resolving to open myself up to the world a bit. To not be so afraid to make a comment in mixed company or to joke when there’s more people in the room than is my official level of comfort (seems to be three at this point in my life).

I also resolve to write in this blog more often. Not every day, but no more lapses of a month or more. This thing is supposed to be my microphone, my way of broadcasting without the fear of my social anxiety robbing me of all coherent thought. It’s the written word–my comfort zone–and I need to embrace it more often.

Which somewhat leads into…

Resolution #4: I Won’t Be Afraid of Success

Seems a silly resolution, doesn’t it? What’s the point of doing something if you don’t want to succeed at it? Yet, I constantly find with writing, I’ve given myself a way out.

“All I ever wanted was to get my books out to people.”

That’s been my mantra the past few years, and while it’s true, it’s not enough. Early on when publishing, I kept up on current trends, applied strategies on how to be successful at this whole writing thing.

Then I stopped.

I don’t exactly recall when it happened, but I started focusing solely on putting the books out. No marketing strategy. No author interviews. No giveaways. I just blog about my progress every now and then, perhaps a tweet or two and, oh, did you happen to notice I out out a book last week? Well, I’m off to the next one.

It’s no wonder my first few books were the only ones to really receive any reviews.

Even recently, I was part of an amazing sale put together by a great writer. What did I do to promote it? A single blog post. That’s it. Not only did I fail myself, I failed the other writers who were participating.

No more.

I suppose this harkens back to Resolution #1 in a way, but it’s more than procrastination. I feel a tangible sense of dread whenever it comes to promoting myself, like there’s a part of me who just doesn’t think I deserve to be successful.

I’m ignoring that part of me from now on.

If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me. If not, well you’re not reading this but anyway but I’m sure you have it your best.

As a little post-Resolution list Resolution, I resolve to never wrote a post this long on my phone ever again, starting to get the crab hand.

Thanks for reading and have a great 2015!

S.L. Madden

Falling Behind

I figured I’d get my blog posting for the day done early, because I’m going on a little road trip later, and I know I’m likely to forget.

Here it is, day four, and I’ve been doing a horrible job keeping my pace.  At this point, I’ve written an average of 864 words per day, well short of the 1667 necessary to complete on time.  Of course, the month is still early, and I should have plenty of opportunities to catch up.  In fact, according the stat meter on, I need only write 1724 words per day to finish.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the days I have Natalie (every other weekend).  Or the fact I’m going to be gone for a few days in Portland (going to see Nine Inch Nails!).  Or the fact I buggered up my hip so bad at bowling last night, it hurts to sit.

But no, those are excuses, and I won’t let them waylay me.  I’m going to cross the finishing line again this year, and I’m going to uphold my commitment to posting once a day all month.  If I can’t dedicate this time to my craft, how can I expect others to commit to reading what I produce?

S.L. Madden


Now that NaNoWriMo is over (did I mention that as a winner, winner, I was the recipient of the coveted “chicken dinner” award?  Mmmm!), I’ve been decompressing a bit.  Taking it easy.  Okay, I haven’t been taking it that easy.  After all, I’m still juggling several books I’d like unleash upon the world in 2013.

So, what have I been up to, other than not updating my blog?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

Working on Together Alone

As of this writing, I am 57% done with the rough draft for Together Alone, the third book in the Only Human on the Block series.  I stopped work on it mid-October in preparation of NaNo, but I’m back into the swing of things.  Fortunately, the book was already finished four years ago (has it really been that long?), so hammering out the rough draft should go pretty quick.  I’m a little concerned/surprised because the 57% mark is roughly 54K words in, meaning this is going to be the biggest book in the series by far (if I remember correctly, The Four-Year-Old Guardian was approximately 63K words and Bravado/Dramatique was 80K+).  I suppose it stands to reason, as book four, The Blood Contract, was on track to surpass Together Alone when I stopped working on it a few years back.  My hope is to finish the rough draft of Together Alone by the end of December so I can refocus on finishing The Shadow Within shortly thereafter.

Playing The Game

I don’t think I’ve made it much of a secret I’m an avid game player (special shout-out to my PS3…love you!), but my hectic writing schedule has kept me from my beloved hobby for a time.  Well, no longer.  Instead of writing in the morning, I’ve been taking the opportunity to catch up on some games I’ve been meaning to get back to.  More specifically, I’ve been playing [PROTOTYPE].  I’ve had this game for quite some time, but it got put aside as I waded through my backlog.  I picked it up again because the feel of it reminded me a bit of where I’m headed in World of Shadows (or, perhaps, book four if I decide to split it into two books).  I often find myself gravitating toward a game that lets me play as a character similar to one in my books, as it scratches my two favorite itches: I get to play while thinking over where my stories are headed.  In some cases, it helps me develop my characters even more, as I filter what they would do through the situations the game presents.  While [PROTOTYPE] is hardly a spot-on template for where the series is headed (it’s a pretty extreme, disgusting game, TBH), there definitely elements of it that remind me of one my character’s story arcs.  And that’s about as much of a spoiler as I’ll give you for book three. 🙂

Getting Epic

I’m a huge fan of music (I know my Music That Inspires Me is pretty anemic right now, but that’s only because it takes me a while to provide reviews) and often use it to paint the landscapes in my mind for where my books take place.  The right song can instantly get my creative juices flowing, helping me to live and breathe a moment before I get the opportunity to put it into words.  While I love a diverse variety of genres, I’ve recently discovered one that suits me perfectly: trailer music.

No, no, not that kind of trailer.  Trailer, as in the advertisement for a movie.  If you ever close your eyes and focus on that epic score in the background, that’s the music I’m talking about.  There are a good variety of artists who have recently made their music public, but one of the premier groups is Two Steps From Hell.  I had the opportunity to download one of their albums (which also came with the arduous task of picking only one to start off with) and I chose Archangel.  I couldn’t be happier with the selection.  Each song instantly brings me to a different place in my books, making me mentally write even when I’m not in a position to do so.  Lately, I’ve used the music to start putting some polish on Afterlife (title tentative), the fifth and final book in the Only Human on the Block series.  There are some big moments in that book, as one would expect in a series finisher, and this album encapsulates the emotions I feel toward those scenes perfectly.  Having felt through the book in this way will make it go all the quicker when it comes time to finally write it (next year, I hope).

Playing The Game II

Okay, so this one I haven’t been doing yet, but I plan to.  I recently picked up Rocksmith for my PS3 and I intend to spend some of my free time on it.  It’s similar in design to other guitar games, except this one actually lets you use a real guitar.  What a concept, I know.  It comes with a special cable to plug your guitar into your console and it’s supposed to be a good learning tool.  Little known fact: I played in a band in my college days.  It was something we did for fun, with no intention of trying to make it big (at least, that’s how I felt.  I suppose I shouldn’t speak for the other members).  I generally played the drums, but if we were playing one of my songs, I played the guitar.  So while it’s no like I’ve never picked the instrument up and strummed a few chords, I’ve also never received any kind of training.  It’s been years since I played, and I thought this would be a good way to get back into it.  What does this have to do with writing?  Um…maybe if I get good enough, I can compose my own music for my book trailers?  Okay, maybe nothing, but if it helps me vent some steam and readjust my mind to get back to the words in my head, I’m all for it.

So, that’s a small sample of what I’ve been up to the last eight days in lieu of throwing myself at NaNo.  Since I started mid-October with The Shadow Within and segued directly into World of Shadows, it seems like it was an exceptionally long NaNo season for me.  Still, I think I’m on the right path, balancing my work with my play time.  And most importantly, I’m excited about what I’m working on.  I really do think I can finish the rough draft of Together Alone by the end of the year, which leaves the first quarter of 2013 to work on rewrites and edits.  2012 wasn’t a high production year for me, with only Bravado/Dramatique being published, but it was a learning year for me.  I got all four of my books in print and streamlined the process a bit for myself.  I also met some amazing people and put a lot of effort into improving this blog.

If all goes well, 2013 will be a banner year, with at least three books being published (four if I can whip out The Blood Contract…I’d better start looking for the notebook I wrote it in).  And hopefully, after I get the Unseen Things series (see, I didn’t call it a trilogy) out of the way, I can start working on an all-new series, because there are several characters who have been waiting to meet you for a very long time.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

Watch This Space

I know this blog has been a barren wasteland of late.  I pushed myself hard to get The Shadow Walker out by Halloween, forgoing blogging and even marketing in order to meet the self-imposed deadline.  Well, I made it, but I sort of forgot how to get back into the groove.

I instantly launched myself into working on Bravado/Dramatique, the sequel to The Four-Year-Old Guardian.  At the same time, I ordered a print copy of Ascension and started doing a heavy edit, making sure it was the best possible version it could be.  I’m getting close to finishing that, and once I do, I’ll make an announcement stating it’s available through CreateSpace.  I’ll also update my e-versions.

At the end of October, I got a new job (same company, new position), and that’s eaten up a lot of my time.  I spent my lunches working on Bravado/Dramatique (and a new book for NaNoWriMo) and when I finished with the first edit, I started in on Ascension.  Now that it’s almost done, I’m going to spend my mornings working on Bravado/Dramatique and I’ll alternate my lunches between writing blogs (I’d like to do at least one a week) and working on my next book, which will be…

I’m not sure yet.  My plan was to launch straight into The Shadow Within, the sequel to The Shadow Walker.  But sales have been lackluster on this title and, having just worked on Bravado/Dramatique, I’m inclined to start in on the third book, Together Alone (new title, by the way).  I guess I’ll see how I feel when the time comes.  Or, if I get enough encouragement one way or the other, I might be able to be swayed (hint, hint).

On top of all this, we’re in the process of buying a house.  If all goes well, in a few weeks, we’ll be moved in.  I think I’m in a sort of holding pattern for now, having tossed the pieces of my life in the air and just waiting to see where they all land. 

For those of you who have been looking forward to more books, thank you for your support, and I assure you they’re on the way.  Oh, and as a side note, I am not longer a part of the Kindle Select program (for now), so my books should be reappearing in Smashwords and any day now.

-S.L. Madden

Back to the Story

Some time back in October, I posted a blog about my upcoming foray into NaNoWriMo and wrote about my push to get The Shadow Walker published before Halloween.

Then I vanished.

Okay, I put up another blog about the Kindle Fire we bought for our daughter, but I’ve been pretty tight-lipped about what’s going on in the world of my writing.  And so, for those of you (yes, you, singular; you know who you are) who have been wondering, “Hey, what’s up with that Steve guy?”, I’ve decided it’s time for a new blog post.

First off, my NaNo book came along rather nicely…at first.  I got about 8,000 words in and I started getting cold feet.  I was happy about the way it was coming along, especially considering I was winging it, big time.  At 8,000 words, I had gotten a taste of the world, some motivations for the characters and glimpses of where the story was heading.  I also developed a nagging feeling I was neglecting my other stories.

Every week, I attend a critique group and currently I’m working on Bravado/Dramatique, the sequel to The Four-Year-Old Guardian.  As nice as it was to spend some time in a new world with new characters, I was starting to hit my stride with Bravado/Dramatique.  I wrote the book four years ago and I missed working on it.  That, in conjunction with the fact I had initially thought I’d be done with the book by the end of the year (but I’m still only half-way through the rough draft), and I decided I was better off focusing on books I actually planned to put out.

So, after proudly boasting about taking part in NaNo this year, I opted out early.  Do I regret my decision to stop?  Not at all.  Will I take part in it again next year?  Absolutely.

With my NaNo book out of the way and me refocused on Bravado/Dramatique, I decided it was time to expand my title availability.  Fortunately, at that time, Createspace made uploading your books even easier.  After spending some time formatting Ascension, I submitted it and now wait for my proof copy in the mail.  If all goes well, Ascension will be available for print early next year and my other two books will be short behind.

The marketing side of things took a nosedive during this time.  In fact, The Shadow Walker debuted with…let’s say less than stellar sales.  In fact, I could barely give them away.  Things turned around recently when I signed up for Kindle Select.  It gave me the option of making my books free for five days.  The response was more than I could have expected.  I also put Ascension and The Four-Year-Old Guardian for sale last weekend and the number of downloads exceeded my wildest hopes.  Further, I’ve been able to make some sales even after the free giveaway ended, which is tremendous seeing as how my sales had grown stagnant over the past few months.

Moving into the end of the year and into the new year, I’m not quite in the position I hoped to be.  I wanted to have Bravado/Dramatique ready to go and even dared to dream The Shadow Within (Unseen Things 2) might be ready.  But considering I’ve only been at this for six months, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  After twenty some-odd years of writing for fun (and free), I have three books out I’m proud of and I’m in the process of producing them in paperback.  At the same time, I have two books in the works I hope to have ready come Spring 2012.

Thanks to everyone who has given my books a chance and for reading this rambling group of words I call a blog.

NaNoWriMo Fo Sho

Just a quick note saying I won’t be blogging much this month because I’m participating in NaNoWriMo.  What’s that, you ask?  Well, it stands for National Novel Writing Month ( and it’s a contest of sorts to see if you’re capable of writing a 50,000 word rough draft of a previously unworked on book.  I’ve tried the past two years (and failed spectacularly, I might add).  There’s no real consequence for losing, just as there’s no true reward for winning, aside from the knowledge you just drove yourself mad for the past 30 days.  My first attempt, I got a good start on a book that, unfortunately, didn’t head in a direction I was all that pleased with.  Last year’s book, The Shadow Walker, wasn’t finished in a month, but I got a good start at it.  Co-incidentally (or not), the book was finished and up for sale at the end of last month (here: and here: ).

I planned to finish writing Unseen Things 2 by Oct 31st and start the third book for NaNo, but I failed.  I was still determined to work on the third book, but at the last minute, I decided to work on a completely different story.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything mapped out and didn’t even know the names of the characters.  Still, I started writing, making it up as I went along, and as of this moment (11/3/11 1414:04), I’m roughly 3,000 words in.  I’m falling well short of where I should be at this point, but it’s a good start.  And just the act of writing it has gotten my creative juices flowing and the ideas are coming fast and furious now.

I love starting a new book.

Unfortunately, it means I’m putting everything else aside for the month.  My next book due out, Bravado/Dramatique (the sequel to The Four-Year-Old Guardian), has been pushed out most likely to the end of the year (look for it before Christmas, time willing).  I probably won’t be finished writing Unseen Things 2 until the end of the year and I know that book will have extensive rewrites needed before it’s ready for release.  Hopefully, I’ll have the entire trilogy out by Halloween next year.

But if all goes well with NaNo, I might also have an unexpected book ready to go sometime in 2012.  Or it could come out as complete rubbish and a waste of time.  That’s the beauty of NaNo.  It’s a spontaneous burst of words and thoughts that transcends a writer’s habit to over think or over plan.  It’s rough and raw and I highly recommend it to anybody looking to get a story out of their head.  It may not come out ready to go, but you could end up with an excellent rough draft.

And now I’ve spent 473 words explaining it when I could have been working on the story. 🙂



The Shadow Walker – Soon To Be Seen

Although time is conspiring against me, I am still on-track to release The Shadow Walker by the end of the month.  I’m currently deep in the editing process and still trying to decide on the right cover, but I have faith I’ll pull it off.  In the meantime, I thought I’d put out some information about the book and why I’m so excited for its release.

The Shadow Walker is the story of Thomas Hurd, an eighteen-year-old who doesn’t fit in anywhere.  He’s uncomfortable around his family, his schoolmates and has only one real friend.  The only way he can relate to people is from a distance, which leads him to watching them without their knowledge.  He knows it’s abnormal and dangerous, but can’t help himself.  One night while doing his usual rounds, he sees something he shouldn’t, a creature which usually goes unseen.  Thomas’ obsession with discovering what it is unleashes a horror upon the world only he’s aware of.

I first started The Shadow Walker (then, called by the trilogy name, Unseen Things) last year for NaNoWriMo.  Like the year before, I went into the month of November, fully prepared to churn out a 50K+ novel by month’s end and finished spectacularly short of my goal.  I did, however, get a great start on it and by March, I had finished it and moved onto book two, The Shadow Within.

The Shadow Walker embodies a few firsts for me as a writer.  For one, I’ve never written anything with such a fast turn-around before.  I wrote The Four-Year-Old Guardian in less than three months, but it was stuck in rewrite status for a few years afterward, as I added scenes I’d overlooked and smoothed out the edges.  In comparison, The Shadow Walker took me four months, but it was a pretty smooth rough draft and turned out very close to what I wanted.

Before this, I’d never written in first person before.  To be honest, I always find it a little off-putting when I pick up a book at the store and it’s written in that perspective.  Or, at least I did.  I rewrote the beginning of The Shadow Walker several times, switching between first and third person, before I finally settled on first.  I’m glad I did.  The story is very much shaped by who Thomas is and how he responds to those around him, so it was natural to have it filtered through his perspective.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve written a book where the character is so integral to the plot-line.  If Thomas wasn’t who he is, the events wouldn’t unfold as they do.  Now, as I’m working on editing the second Only Human on the Block, I find myself accidentally switching to first person at times.

Another first for me is writing a trilogy.  My mind tends toward series as a general rule, but I’ve never really conceptualized a trilogy before (note: Ascension may yet become a trilogy, but I didn’t write the first book with that in mind).  The difference is in the pacing.  With Unseen Things, I’m following the classic trilogy archetype of the first book being fairly self-contained, heroes winning, etc. (think Star Wars).  The second book is a little darker and doesn’t wrap things up in a nice neat little bow by the end, leading directly into the third book, World of Shadows (think of how Empire ended, needing Return to tie it all up…and no, I’m in no way comparing the quality of my books to Star Wars).

This will also mark the first time my wife has completely read through one of my books.  She started reading The Four-Year-Old Guardian a few years back, but according to her, I became very defensive about her critique.  I didn’t think I was, (although I admit she’d know better than I would) but the result was her keeping her distance from reading my work.  She decided to give it a try for this book and I’m so glad she did.  Not only did she give me some extremely helpful feedback, she brainstormed with me on how to improve the ending, bringing it even closer to my original vision.

Lastly, I’m excited because of the cover.  Even though it’s still being worked on, this is the first time we’re making it completely in-house.  Previous covers were royalty-free artwork we adapted for our own needs, but this one is the result of a painting my daughter (age 5) did on the wall.  It looked vaguely human and, with a few tweaks, my wife made it the creepy image it is today.  You can see a rough draft image of it under My Books.

As I work on editing The Shadow Walker, I’m just finishing up writing the sequel, The Shadow Within.  I plan to have the first for sale by month’s end, the second ready for editing at the same time, so I can move onto book three, World of Shadows for my entry into NaNoWriMo.  Even if I miss the mark (who am I kidding…I just bought Dark Souls!), by this time next year, I should have all three books available.  Not too bad considering I have two full-time jobs (Driving/Dispatching and being a daddy).  Then it’s onto the next series!

Prologue or Antilogue?

In my oh-so-brief quest to secure an agent, a few things really stood out:  1) they all want to know how you’re going to promote your own book (which made me wonder if I wasn’t better off promoting myself in the first place) and 2) many of them dislike prologues.  No, perhaps dislike isn’t quite the right word…detest, loathe, abhor, those all may be closer to the truth.  In fact, most of them hate prologues so much, they pretend they don’t even exist.

More than one said if your book starts with a prologue, they’d refuse to read it, so submit starting at Chapter 1.  What is it about prologues that makes them so unappealing?  Granted, they often serve as a flashback of sorts, a snapshot of events leading up to the main conflict.  Usually, they focus on ancillary characters and not the main group the readers will be following throughout the story.  And sometimes, especially in genres such as Fantasy, they can be a bit of an infodump, a way to get 1,000 plus years of history across without trying to find a way to interject it into your perfectly arranged narrative.

I fully admit prologues can be a bit of a drag.  Especially in the form of the infodump (world building is great, but who really wants to read a history text based on *fake* history?).  But if a prologue is poorly conceived or badly written, isn’t it just that?  Why can’t bad writing be bad writing?  Why do they single out the prologue as unnecessary when, in the hands of a skilled author, it can be a very useful tool to introduce events/characters/the tone of the writing to the readers?  I don’t care if it’s called the prologue or Chapter 5 or hell, even a rambling blog post, the name doesn’t dictate whether it’s worth reading or not.  The writing does.

To relate this thread to my own writing, of the three books I’m currently offering (well, one is soon to come), only The Four-Year-Old Guardian has a prologue.  Originally, it didn’t have one, but I found people were confused about the overall tone of the book.  They thought it was supposed to be a murder mystery, which wasn’t how I envisioned the story at all (though their confusion was easy to understand).  So I wrote up a prologue that blatantly revealed the murder (which, by the way, is another thing agents say they hate; no deaths in the prologue!  You know, the prologue they refuse to read, anyway) and definitely set the tone for the rest of the series.  Lo and behold, I received numerous praises for the prologue.  Readers told me it drew them right into the action and made them want to read more (no, I didn’t pay money for those responses).  Too bad the agents I submitted FYOG to would have skipped right over it.

I also wrote a prologue for Ascension, but ultimately cut it because *I* didn’t feel it fit.  This is part of the empowerment of self-publishing.  I’m not writing to suit one individual’s tastes (read: the agent).  I’m writing for myself.  I will frame my books and pace my stories the way I deem best.  I will succeed or fail based on my own decisions, not those of someone who’s looking for “the next big thing”, so long as it fits their particular mold.

The number of agents who refuse to read prologues is so prevalent, it makes me curious if this is merely a *professional* opinion, or if casual readers share the same outlook.  So, I ask you, my loyal reader(s?), what are your thoughts?  Do you groan when you seen a prologue, skip it,  or plunge in, trusting the writer knows what they’re doing? (and yes, this question is in part, a cheap ploy to get *someone* to comment here). 🙂