What I Thought: GREATNESS IS UPON YOU by Eric Thomas

Alright. This one is special. Today I’m sharing my thoughts not on a novel, but a different kind of book.

Today I’m introducing you to a mentor of mine and his name is Eric Thomas.

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on a book called GREATNESS IS UPON YOU.

Eric Thomas is a motivational speaker, minister and entrepreneur who literally went from rags to mostly riches. I found out about Eric Thomas while wondering the vast and endless avenues of YouTube. Eric Thomas, before ever becoming an author, was much more than that and something that I think is owed some foretelling before I jump into the actual book.

The motivational speaker I know as Eric Thomas grew up homeless after running away from home. Homeless. He slept in abandoned buildings. He ate out of trash cans. Homeless. Eric Thomas eventually found a home, the love of a good woman and acquired his GED several years after dropping out of high school. He started a program to help students better their chance of going to college in a pseudo tutoring program and this was where Eric Thomas learned about his passion to help and inspire others.

Eric was given a fellowship at Michigan State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree, all the while building up his own motivational empire. As of now, Eric Thomas has finished his dissertation for a PhD and is currently writing his third book. GREATNESS IS UPON YOU is his second book, and a much stronger one than his first book—SECRET TO SUCCESS.

Now, to the book!

GREATNESS IS UPON YOU is a book of self realization. The book is loaded with ideas both common sense and of individually unique origin from Eric Thomas. The book is over twenty chapters long and many chapters often break down ideas that build upon each other as you move through the book. He identifies ideas such as “Victor vs Victim” and “Lion (the go-getter) vs the Crocodile (passive).” These ideas are extrapolated on with stories from Eric Thomas’ own life, or the life of others around him, proving that his knowledge can easily be made practical.

The book cover and the art that outlines the end of every chapter is absolutely exquisite and I applaud whatever team put the book together. The criticism I’ll offer here is that through the book, we’ll say—once a chapter—there exists a single grammatical error that takes you right out of the book. Frugal as he is, I imagine that Eric Thomas either edited the book himself, or he paid for sub par editing and got exactly what he paid for. That being said, as someone who read his previous book, SECRET TO SUCCESS, I’ll note that the editing has taken a very legitimate step up. This book is a much more professional rendition of what I know Eric Thomas to be capable of.

Words and grammar aside, the ideas that leak from the very seams of this book are worth looking at. The book has jump started my 2015 and I put the book down only because other obligations forced my hand. I’m glad I finally finished the book because the final chapters bring everything around to the forefront. The stories that Eric Thomas tells, the motivations that he conveys are all so electric that once you put the book down (maybe to go to sleep), you find yourself amped up and ready to get something done.

Do yourself a favor.

Read this book.

Bonne journée, mes amis.

A Few People Worth Mentioning

Twitter is a bizarre, awesome and sometimes dreadful place.

There was a time before I took my writing seriously that Twitter was a place to browse for amusing vines, funny tweets and chatting it up with people I couldn’t regularly see. It’s a pseudo internet barbershop. The day I decided to take my writing more seriously, I rearranged my twittersphere to more align with people and users that might better help me down my path of becoming a published—successful even—author.

There have a been a slew of entertaining, successful, popular—even unpopular—people I’ve followed in the last six months that have genuinely changed my perspective on the written word, and even the world itself. This post is dedicated to championing a few of those people. There are, at minimum, a dozen or so people I’d love to shout out and congratulate for merely “doing what they do,” but for this post I’ll be narrowing my efforts to a triumvirate of truly unique individuals.

All three of these individuals share a few traits that I’ll lump here, so as not to risk sounding redundant. They’re all writers of some kind, though they don’t not spam the avenue of my timeline about it. They’re all capable of being both congratulatory and critical of themselves and their peers. And finally, they all have something to say. What I mean by something is that they have their own ideas, their own opinions, their own voice. As a still undergraduate college student, approximately thirty percent of my timeline are people merely mimicking the opinions of the people around them.

The first is Kameron Hurley. I’m disappointed to say that when I first followed her—knowing no better because she did not possess an avi of a human being—I assumed she was a man. For this, Kameron, I am truly sorry. Kameron Hurley, aside from being a phenomenal writer of fantasy (I promise I’ll finish THE MIRROR EMPIRE this year), she is a purveyor of all things wordy. She writes essays, short stories, shares good literary ideas, explains bad literary ideas and I still go back and read her articles about how much money she’s actually making writing novels from time to time. (One of them can be found here: By the Numbers: Earning Out the Advance on a First Novel)

If you’re not following Kameron, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.

The next fellow is Sunil Patel. Besides having once seen him appear on my timeline and hitting that dubious FOLLOW button, I don’t know much about him. He’s a writer and his timeline is laced with well put together (as far as 140 characters allow anyway) about literary works, television shows, et cetera. Sunil is a perfect example of a writer who writes but isn’t always telling you about his writing. I hear about him getting a short story published, or finishing a book, but every time I see him on my timeline he isn’t telling me about it—he’s just talking to other people like a normal human being who also happens to write.. You see? By virtue of Sunil being an intellectual, easy to talk to person I thus say to myself: “Well, I wonder what he’s writing about? Let me investigate,” as opposed to being forced to navigate the gauntlet of clicky links and advertising that would make me do the complete opposite. So yeah, when this guy publishes a book—I’m going to check it out. I might love it, might hate. Who knows?

The last person is Saladin Ahmed. To be honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about the creepy clown pictures this guy tweets at night. But Saladin has a voice that is reasonable, and although he might never read this—I can hope, can’t I?!—he’d probably be surprised at how many times he made me read a slew of his tweets that had me nodding my head like: “Man, that makes a lot of sense.” EXHIBIT A: I saw Mad Max: Fury Road, and I was driving home with the queen that is my girlfriend, trying to decipher some of the more prevalent themes in the movie. I couldn’t solve this tiny cinematic rubik’s cube in my head. Hours later I’m scrolling my timeline and Saladin is spelling it out right there. Favorites and retweets all around!

Apparently Saladin has only written a single novel, the THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON; but 52% of it’s reviews are 5 Stars which means it’s gotta hold the secrets to a longer lasting light bulb somewhere in the pages or something—or maybe it’s just a damn good book.

I read once that if you like a book, be it’s champion. I think the same can be said of people too.

Bonne journée, mes amis.

Another Novel, Let’s Do It!

Today is a special day. I mean super special.

May 19h will be the first day I intend to get my second novel, LAST SHOT, published.

For those of you unaware (most of you), my first novel ROGUE COSMOS drops July 1st! But this post isn’t about that! (There is post about that though!)

LAST SHOT is a standalone science fiction story about Casimir Morales, a criminal hunter that works for the criminal recollection agency called the Interplanetary Bounty Commission. Casimir is good at what he does. He’s damned good. He’s about to retire right after this last bounty. But when something goes terribly wrong, Casimir finds he’s lost everything. When he’s given another chance, a last chance, to go reclaim what he’s lost, he takes it.

There’s just one problem. His last chance to make things right, his last shot is to go after the most wanted man in the solar system—Gideon Masters. So nefarious and diabolical is he, every single hunter that’s tried his or her hand going after Masters has ended up face down in a ditch, or worse. With nothing to lose, Casimir dons his badge and slugthrower again for one final ride through the solar system.

The setting is science fiction, but the themes are very terrestrial and modern. If there’s one important theme I wanted to convey in this entire book, it’s this—reputation. I won’t go into the details, but throughout much of my life I’ve discovered many of my decisions were made based on how perceived reputations were.

This is a good person.

This is a bad person.

I often found out how people were perceived and who they truly were, were very much different things. This is a central tenet in LAST SHOT, and one that I hope seeps of the page. With editing mostly finished, I’ll be shopping LAST SHOT around to potential agents. I hope they’re ready.

If nothing else, I’ll be adding my journey to get LAST SHOT published as another type of blog post I’ll frequently publish as opposed to simply reviewing other books. I’ll comment on how my query letters go, what changes I make, if any, while attempting to give away as little as possible about the book as the agents that are inevitably going to reject me, or in the minimum request a more partial manuscript to read.

Thus far, I’ve queried five agents. Simultaneous submissions aren’t necessarily the best things to do—as dictated by the whims of most agents—but it’s definitely the most practical. As per usual, if an agent e-mails me back inquiring further about LAST SHOT, I may e-mail the other agents and inform them that another agent has picked up interest. This does two things: It shows, in an honest manner, that interest has been piqued about the manuscript, and it lets them know that other agents are indeed looking at it. This may mean they may dismiss the manuscript all at once, or chide them to hurry up and take a look at it that much quicker!

I keep a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on the agents I’ve queried, the agency they’re with, the date I queried them and the expected date to receive a reply or the implied “no answer” rejection (this part makes me sad!). I’ve limited my query amount to five. If an agent responds in the negative, I’ll mark them off the list and query another agent. This way, I’ll perpetually have my manuscript floating in the e-mail boxes of five different agents.

Chuck Sambuchino, in his GET A LITERARY AGENT comments that this is normal practice—to send your manuscript out to multiple agents at a time—and he actually recommends sending it out to ten agents. I’ve decided to do half that, in the circumstance any of them reject me, but offer insightful feedback in the interim!

Well, that’s all for now.

Bonne journée, mes amis.

What I Thought: TIDE OF SHADOWS by Aidan Moher

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Today I’m giving my thoughts on Aidan Moher’s TIDE OF SHADOWS AND OTHER STORIES. For those of you unaware, Aidan hosts an excellent blog called A Dribble of Ink that is all things new in the literary world—a sort of mini-IGN for words and authors and such. TIDE OF SHADOWS AND OTHER STORIES is a compilation of varied short stories in—gasp! —multiple genres!

That right there is the first salute I send Moher’s way. I wish we’d see more of this. Many times I read anthologies and collections of short stories I get so burned out on the genre I’m reading and put the book down to go and get a taste of something else. This book offers that taste with the very next story!

For the purposes of this review I’ll be individually offering my thoughts on the varied stories in chronological order, as opposed to a review of the entire book, which might come off as somewhat more difficult—or at least cumbersome—than individually unwrapping each story. Per usual, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, OH MAN!

Let’s go to it!

A NIGHT FOR SPIRITS AND SNOWFLAKES

The first tale in TIDE OF SHADOWS is A NIGHT FOR SPIRITS AND SNOWFLAKES. This is a (high?) fantasy tale set in the frigid north. The beginning of the tale grabs you, with a character burying some fallen comrades—not with a shovel, but his only his sword—in the aftermath of some terrible battle. This work employs some excellent worldbuilding, mentioning gods of the Northmen, a faraway and more civilized south, from where I assume several of the protagonists come from.

The story itself pieces together what happened before, during and after the battle through the eyes of the various characters. The timeline isn’t so simply chronological, and each character’s details are varied and different. My personal favorite character was the falsely brave sellsword Tahir, who meets a peculiar fate in his own arc. I’ll offer my first critique of Moher here, in that in his writing he uses rhetorical questioning very often. The characters think, plodding questions to themselves, but I felt Tahir would have come off a stronger character if Moher would’ve abolished this tact in Tahir’s arc. Not every character—Tahir in this instance—needed to question the decisions they were making.

Moher’s writing and ability to keep a very twisted series of events straight with nearly a half-dozen characters shines bright here. He left me wanting to know more about the Northmen and their land, as well as the company of sellswords that invaded. The story itself is fashioned on the events of a battle—called the Massacre—that we actually see very little of. I think this is something super stellar, as there’s still plenty of axe swinging and sword’s whooshing throughout the short story.

Very excellent introductory story from Moher.

THE GIRL WITH WINGS OF IRON AND DOWN

We turn now to a story of beleaguered science fiction. I’d like to comment here that at the end of every one of these stories, Moher offers some introspection into how—and sometimes why—he wrote the story that you just finished reading. This one is perfectly summed up in his story notes as a collaboration of two ideas—Astro Boy and the Truman Show. I didn’t realize it until AFTER the story how precise of a molding this story was.

I enjoy this story because it begins—and ends—at precisely the best points. The story begins at a time when we don’t really know about the character before the events that are happening to her and also ends at a junction where we’re not entirely certain of her fate. The story is a strange form of science fiction however. Everything appears sleek and futuristic at first glance—but then there’s a key (an old kinda skeleton key, y’anno?) and her wings aren’t powered by repulsorlift or anti-gravity, they seem more combustion engine almost atompunk (I freakin’ love atompunk, man).

We don’t know why they’re doing this to her, though it’s alluded she might have been the scientist’s daughter. We don’t know what this “space station” is that she’s stuck in, yet we get a sense of this false world within the real world that I think Moher paints very beautifully. This story was ultimately my favorite in TIDE OF SHADOWS.

OF PARNASSUS AND PRINCES, DAMSELS AND DRAGONS

Moher takes on traditional high fantasy tropes in this tale and flips them over and over again. At first, he embraces these tropes and you’re not certain which direction the story goes. The story is exposition heavy in its introduction, but in a way that rightfully sets the story up. The world is comedic in its execution, written intentionally so.

The second act seems these tropes thrown to the wind when the traditional damsel in distress turns into a real bitch. Why don’t these things happen more often? The dragon that abduct her and the prince that comes to rescue her both find themselves equally distraught by her rather snobbish nature. I easily envisioned the Dragon killing the Prince and setting fire to the world but they actually befriend each other.. and become lovers? This is an even more interesting take on the traditionally heterosexual heavy tropes of European-esque fantasy worlds.

The ending theme is ubiquitous, if not easily discerned. Love finds a way.

THE COLOUR OF THE SKY THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED

This is a dreadfully short story. The premise is exciting, but so little is revealed—thus leaving you wanting more. To be honest, there’s not much to say here. The story depicts a seemingly post-apocalyptic world, though one where people have apparently survived.

It’s flash fiction though and just as you start figuring things out. It ends! I wish Moher would’ve added a little bit more here—given us a little bit extra to run with.

TIDE OF SHADOWS

I loved it. I’m partial to military science fiction. I’m super partial to historical fiction and felt I could readily relate to this.

The main character—Sligh—is the orphan of an unnamed war between humanity (or at least his own little sect of it) and some monstrous, shadowborne assembly of creatures who emerged in what is referred to as the Tide of Shadows. Sligh and a pseudo-lover/friend of his named Rummage share their thoughts on the impending battle, marked by timestamps throughout the story.

There were a few things I’ll be critical of Moher on here, but only because I’m such a fan of military sci-fi. The setting is spectacular, and even in this last story Moher shows he’s capable of building unique universes. I wish there would have been more of a military feel, a distinctly military commander—a sergeant, a colonel, someone to make it feel more like a military operation. Could have been a speech before they dropped. I kept waiting for Sligh to load his rifle or go over his combat gear just once to really give it that military sci-fi feel. I won’t complain too much however, because Moher explains in the Story Notes that military sci-fi isn’t necessary his forte. Understandable, sir!

Overall, this is a strong debut piece for Aidan Moher. My principal complaint is that his flash fiction would have been minutely longer. Paired with his exceptional blogging capabilities, I fully expect to see Aidan’s name appear even more often in the literary world! That’s all for now.

Bonne journée, mes amis.

Aidan Moher: Big ideas; Itty, Bitty Living Space: On Tide of Shadows and Other Stories, Writing Lessons, and Short Fiction

Aidan Moher isn’t actually someone I know very well, to be honest. However, he once posted an article on his ultimate decision and reasons why he was going ahead with his publication of TIDE OF SHADOWS and I’ve been hooked ever since. That article was the penultimate reason I decided to begin the process of self-publishing my own collection of short stories, ROGUE COSMOS. That aside, in the short time I’ve known Aidan he has provided nothing but insight into the world of writing with his blog, A Dribble of Ink alongside a kind and professional attitude. Aidan discusses here some of the facets of writing short fiction and I’m honored to give him the floor.

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Since announcing my first book, Tide of Shadows and Other Stories, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Why a short fiction collection and not a novel?” To find the answer to that, we’ll need to go back a few years to the period in my life right after I’d completed the first draft of my first novel.

My first novel was enthusiastic—it had some good ideas and a big heart, but…it wasn’t very good. Even at the time I could recognized this, but I was so exhausted by the idea of going back and rewriting 70% of it that I decided to take my writing in a different direction: short fiction. It was meant to be a short detour, a palate cleanser, before jumping back into novel-length work. The idea was that I could use short fiction as an agile medium to help me better understand the deficiencies in my writing and storytelling that I’d recognized while writing my novel.

One of the issues in the novel was pacing—everything moved forward with this sense of inevitable momentum that was exhausting. I needed to learn how to create a more natural rhythm in my storytelling. Another issue was in character motivation—sure, cool stuff happened, but the reasons explaining why the characters were behaving in a way that led to those scenarios was thin. I needed to learn how to create cause/effect based on the desires of my characters, rather than plot happening randomly around them. So, I began writing short fiction, keeping these issues in mind, and each story I wrote helped me to address one or more of them. I couldn’t solve every problem in the first go around, but—and this is important—there’s a sense of immediate gratification in writing short fiction that you just can’t get from writing novels. I felt like each story was a success and encouraged me to move onto the next one, to make each story better than the last.

So, even after the next course was served, I was still busy on the aperitif. I kept writing short fiction. Eventually, I decided that it made sense to set some of the short stories in the same world as the new novel I was outlining/developing—some featuring the same protagonist, some not—and that helped me not only keep momentum on the novel-writing front, but also helped me to explore and better understand the world I was creating for my novel. Every time I sat down to write, the stories in my head that spoke loudest were the short stories. So, I listened.

One of short fiction’s most appealing aspects—perhaps its most appealing aspect—is that it encourages flexibility and creativity at every turn. Where writing a novel comes with enormous opportunity costs, particularly time, short stories are small and agile, and taking risks while writing short fiction is easier, less scary. There’s a commercial aspect that novel writing that has an enormous impact on whether a book will sell or not—this isn’t really the case with short fiction. You write, you take chances, and, if it doesn’t work out, you learn lessons that will make the next project smaller, all at the expense of several hours worth of writing, rather than several months or even years. I love this. I love being able to experiment, to set challenges that foster creativity and outside of the box thinking. The lessons I’ve learned writing short fiction will make me more comfortable taking calculated risks when writing novels.

By the time I sold my first story—”A Night for Spirits and Snowflakes” to the Sword & Laser Anthology, edited by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt—I had a decent collection of short stories: most of them bad, and some that just wouldn’t shut up, no matter how deep I stuffed them in my Trunk of Forgotten Tales. At this point, I’d also collected enough rejections from pro-paying short fiction markets that I could wallpaper a small condominium building. I think it’s important for aspiring writers to take rejection letters as a rite of passage, a way to build writer’s calluses and learn how to be persistent in your belief of your work.

But, underneath all of that confidence and perseverance, I also began to recognize that I was hanging onto my existing stories, putting more energy into trying to find a home for them than in working on new stories. Five in particular. I wanted to be excited about these stories, to get them into the hands of readers. Even years after writing them, and varying levels of success with pro-paying short fiction markets, these stories were still talking to me, asking when they’d have a chance to fly the coop. So, after a lot of thought, I decided that I’d take on the challenge myself, to assemble a collection of my favourite short stories: Tide of Shadows and Other Stories.

The decision to self-publish is another article in itself, but ultimately it came down to a realization that I have a wonderful group of readers already (through my blog, A Dribble of Ink) and I was ready for a new challenge. I’d spent a lot of time on one side of the publishing industry as a reader and critic, and I was ready to dip my toes into the other end of the pool as publisher and author. Assembling Tide of Shadows and Other Stories was a tremendous learning experience, and I hope it opens the doors for some more projects I have planned.

Lessons were abundant through the entire creation process for the book, and they continue now that the book is out in the wild. I’ve enjoyed letting go of these stories, and I’m hard at work on several new short stories that, with any luck, readers will be able to get their hands on over the next several months. I can’t wait to see how these stories change and evolve in the hands of readers. Before the collection was published, there was only a single version of the stories—now that it’s in the hands of readers, there are a thousand variations, one for each reader, and I’m beyond ecstatic to see how it evolves, how people form relationships with the characters I’ve discovered and the worlds I’ve crafted. Their voices are no longer in my head, replaced, instead, by the screaming, slavering horde of new stories I’m working on, so, now, my attention turns to those, and, one day, letting them free, too.

Author Bio

Aidan

Aidan Moher is the Hugo Award-winning editor of A Dribble of Ink, and author of Tide of Shadows and Other Stories, a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories. He lives on an island in British Columbia with his wife and daughter.

About the Book

Tides of

From Aidan Moher—Hugo Award-winning editor of A Dribble of Ink—comes Tide of Shadows and Other Stories, a collection of five science fiction and fantasy stories spanning adventure, comic whimsy, and powerful drama—from a star-faring military science fiction tale of love and sacrifice, to a romp through the dragon-infested Kingdom of Copperkettle Vale.

“A Night for Spirits and Snowflakes” is the story of a young man reliving the last moments of his fellow soldiers’ lives; “The Girl with Wings of Iron and Down” tells the tale of a broken family and a girl with mechanical wings; “Of Parnassus and Princes, Damsels and Dragons” introduces a typical prince, princess, and dragon—and a not-so-typical love triangle; “The Colour of the Sky on the Day the World Ended” follows a girl and her ghost dog as they search for a bright light in the darkness; and “Tide of Shadows” is about a soldier and his lover, a mother, and planetwide genocide.

Links

ToSaOS on Amazon

Excerpt from ToSaOS

What I Thought: GET A LITERARY AGENT by Chuck Sambuchino

I’m not even going to keep recording the week any longer. I’m so far behind. BUT THIS IS WEEK 8 IN CASE YOU WANT TO KNOW (Which would put me at the end of February. Ugh).

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Not everything I read will be fiction by new authors, though I certainly enjoy promoting that type of work. This work comes from a man well known over at Writer’s Digest, a humor writer and a guy who just overall knows about the written word. Chuck Sambuchino pops up on my Twitter timeline quite often over at Writer’s Digest and is the sole reason I ever sought to even investigate any of his writing at all.

This book is a strict, how to guide on navigating the labyrinth that is acquiring an agent, utilizing that agent in a meaningful way, developing the relationship and ensuring that both parties benefit from the fullest. The work also explores query letters, query e-mails, communicating with agents, how best to find them and even explicit agent feedback that Chuck has presumably collected himself.

Having not yet braved the waters of querying agents (well.. there was this one time, but I won’t get into that!), this book to me is “Preparing for Querying 101: How to Survive Your First Rejections,” because Chuck (and the quoted agents in the pages of this book) assure the reader over and over that rejections will come, and they’re just part of the game. Have no fear Chuck, I have steeled myself for the inevitable rejections to come.

Chuck writes concisely, and every word is intentional and informative. The first third of the book actually seems like a bonus because it’s a how to guide on creating a manuscript worth reading, as opposed to assuming you had a worthy manuscript the second you flipped open the book and were well on your way to acquiring a literary agent! Much of the information Chuck pens here is elsewhere on the internet, like any book, I suppose; but Chuck categorizes it appropriately and interestingly witty.

Though my manuscript for my science fiction novel LAST SHOT is still a ways out from being complete, I feel that when the time comes, I’ll be that much more prepared when to find the right literary agent to represent my work and I.

That’s all for now. Next week I’ll be finishing a book by a personal favorite of mine, the public speaker Eric Thomas.

Bonne journée, mes amis.

Cover Reveal: ROGUE COSMOS

Hey! I wrote a book. And if you’re not interested, I’m going to show you the cover and change your mind.

Maybe.

Probably not.

Here it is!

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I’d like to give a huge shout out to Matt Davis at Rock and Hill Studio for the phenomenal cover art. I’m excited to be have him working on the project with me and he got everything I envisioned for this work right on the head! ROGUE COSMOS will release July 1st, 2015!

P.S. Go follow Matt Davis on Twitter. @GreyDevil13! Thanks, you’re awesome.

Bonne journée, mes amis.