Language (it’s a Virus from Outer Space, but that’s not really relevant to this post)

Image“I once helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse.”
I understand the hostility towards “grammar nazis”. Anyone who puts that much energy towards criticizing other people deserves a little of that vaccine. After all, folks who type while multitasking, reply to comments from a tiny phone using only their thumbs while walking down busy city streets or even just type quickly but in an unconventional manner (ahem) are bound to occasionally make mistakes. For those of us who perpetually display an inability to spell or use punctuation correctly, please remember that doing so is still a key part of knowing and using the English language (“literate” as opposed to “illiterate”). Still, no worries. It doesn’t make you less intelligent or a bad person. Many of the most brilliant people I know could still be considered illiterate (having slept through all but a horrifying final sixty seconds of the Test of Standard Written English portion of the SAT, the State of NC still classifies me as “functionally illiterate”).
But, please, let’s be a bit more sympathetic to those using English as a Second Language. Whether coming from a base language of Spanish, Portuguese, one of China’s languages, Hindi, Thai, French, etc., they deserve at least as much respect as the native English users, with only the one set of linguistic rules to deal with, who still can’t differentiate between “there, their and they’re”.
To quote a wise man, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” 

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To Boldly Go

In the year since “Brothers In Darkness” was released, a lot in my life has changed. It’s been interesting, with more than its share of highs and lows. In the long run, it will be remembered as one of the best years of my life.

I’ve completed the first two drafts of the second novel, and made progress on a related novella. For everyone that’s been waiting patiently, thank you. Your support and encouragement has meant a lot. It’s meant everything.

In hopes of expressing that appreciation, I’m posting a new Lucas Chrichton short story (with, y’know, all rights reserved and copyright Dalton Chad Everett and all that). It’s a fun, goofy adventure that pays tribute to some of the geeky goodness that inspired me to start writing again in early 2011. It’s titled, “To Boldly Go”, and I hope you all enjoy.

To Boldly Go

  Chapter 1

Everything about Tony’s body language shouted fear; tension and suspense etched into his expression. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open, waiting.

And waiting.

His boss, Lucas Crichton, had touched the heavy object, grabbing hold of one of the seven rungs attached to its curving exterior. It appeared to be nothing more than a huge iron ball, a couple of feet in diameter, distinguished only by the inexplicable addition of metal handles.

Lucas remained motionless, seemingly frozen in place.

“What happened?” asked Ginny. “He touched it, and just… went still?”

They both gathered closer, staring into Crichton’s face. Tony spoke first, “He’s still breathing.”

Ginny grimly replied, “If he stops breathing run like hell, OK?”

Tony shot a worried glance at her, followed by a quick nod. He’d seen Crichton’s Ring in action, and had no desire to experience its effects first hand. He backed up several steps, asking “What should we do?”

Ginny stared at the heavy iron ball. “We have to separate him from it. Then we can worry about moving the Orb.”

“How are we going to do that?”

“I don’t know.”
(Copyright 2012 Dalton Chad Everett. All rights reserved.)

<Edit: As Christmas is passed, I’ve taken down the rest of this silly, fluffy story. It wasn’t exactly indicative of what the books bring to the table, and this was not what I want as a public teaser. For those that had a chance to check it out, thanks for the kind words and gentle pleas to get out Book 2 sooner rather than later! >

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Whacking away, with cake

I’ve been whacking away at the crazy amount of spam robo-replies that managed to make it past the filters. They’ve been showing a lot of improvement in topic relevant subject material, even though the outdated details included in the verbiage usually gives them away. Anything mentioning the Trailblazers or MMA seems to be a preferred target.

For folks still patiently awaiting more of the adventures of Lucas Crichton, I’ll soon be posting a short Christmas story to help scratch that itch. Much of book two is going to be very dark. The upcoming short story is not. Its a brief, goofball adventure that hopefully prompts a laugh or two. As soon as it’s up, I’ll put the word out on Twitter and announce it on the Facebook  page. Hopefully it brings a bit of fun to the often stressful holiday season :-)
To wrap up this mini-post, here’s a two month old photo of me holding a birthday cake:

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A Birthday, A Movie, Forest J Ackerman and something yummy called a Double Mexicana

Last night we had a great time celebrating Ron Braithwaite’s birthday! Dawni and I joined the family for a movie at Cinetopia, then enjoyed yumminess and fun scenery at the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House.
(Below, from left to right, me, Dawni, Ron, Elizabeth and David…the photo is actually from a visit to the heights of the Portland City Grill a month earlier, but it may help you to visualize the scene)

David’s birthday at the Portland City Grill

Ron chose a film I wasn’t very familiar with, “Premium Rush”. Earlier in the day, I’d initially confused it with the recent release “Hit and Run”. Having seen a trailer for it (below), I’d been concerned, thinking Ron was going to really, really hate the movie. I’m glad to see Veronica Mars is having a nice career (I still think a “ten-years later” FBI centric series could work).

When I discovered it was actually about a mid twenties law school standout turned bike messenger, I began thinking it would be me that hated the movie. My wariness led me to slam down a pint of Black Butte Porter at the Vinetopia wine bar. It really hit the spot and left me more than prepared for a potentially painful cinematic experience.

Once the trailers started, a sense of impending doom settled over me. First there was “Dredd 3D”, a remake (?) of the really bad Sylvester Stallone movie (itself an adaptation of the very, very long running strip featured in UK comic anthology 2000AD).

Then there was a trailer for the Chris Hemsworth remake of the 80′s Patrick Swayze movie “Red Dawn” (now the US unexpectedly gets invaded by North Korea? Really?).

Finally there was a movie (as it turns out, it’s an adaptation of a French graphic novel “Du Plomb Dans La Tetestarring” — one that that I have never, in my geeky comic book saturated life, heard of prior to that day) starring the original Judge Dredd Sylvester Stallone himself, now a muscular bad ass 66-year-old shooting and beating up a lot of people in “Bullet to the Head”.

It’s unlikely I will ever see any of the three movies being advertised. A lot of Hollywood bigwigs put great stock in matching the trailers to the audience, so I was surprised to find I’d ended up in the Sylvester Stallone segment of the movie going population. It made me think back to my days at Yahoo! Occasionally I’d get signed up to attend special presentations from “our collaborating verticals”. On such occasions, I’d get to enjoy  half-day sessions of Powerpoint slides providing in-depth detail on topics like “future sales strategies meant to drive increased click-through rates”. As the feature presentation began, I mentally prepared myself for a few hundred Powerpoint slides.

Instead, I found myself enjoying a tremendously fun, summer action romp. Extremely fast paced and packed with breathtaking bike stunts and near non-stop chase scenes throughout the traffic packed streets of New York City, it made me think of “Run Lola Run” jacked up on meth. It maintained a sense of humor and a frenetic pace, and kept the silly sub-plots to a minimum. It inspires no deep thought and very little drama, instead staying true to its core. A fun, high action thriller perfectly suited for summer movie going!

The movie’s villain initially operates under the pseudonym “Forrest J Ackerman”. The name is repeated in several scenes, and it brought a smile to my face each time I heard it. Ackerman was a real person; he’s best known as the editor and main writer of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” (1958–1983). It was a monthly magazine that was a big part of my childhood, and I absorbed every page voraciously. It contained a wealth of information and feature stories, exploring B movies and genre work (Sci-Fi and Horror). I learned a lot about icons Ray Harryhausen, William Castle and Richard Mattheson, among many others.

He apparently also had fifty or so science-fiction short stories published during his lifetime. Here’s a bit of back-story on Ackerman, linked back to the original wikipedia article with even more up to date info:
He knew most of the writers of science fiction in the first half of the twentieth-century. As a literary agent, he represented some 200 writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted in anthologies. He was Ed Wood’s “illiterary” agent. Ackerman was credited with nurturing and even inspiring the careers of several early contemporaries like Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Charles Beaumont, Marion Zimmer Bradley and L. Ron Hubbard. He kept all of the stories submitted to his magazine, even the ones he rejected; Stephen King has stated that Ackerman showed up to a King book signing with a copy of a story King had submitted for publication when he was 11.

Ackerman had 50 stories published, including collaborations with A. E. van Vogt, Francis Flagg, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Donald Wollheim and Catherine Moore and the world’s shortest – one letter of the alphabet. His stories have been translated into six languages. Ackerman named the sexy comic-book character Vampirella and wrote the origin story for the comic.” Below you can find two images of Vampirella. The first is the cover of Vampirella #1. The second is a six foot tall poster of Vampirella. For the first time in years they are now available for purchase. Apparently they were once “every schoolboy’s dream”. Also, I have a birthday coming up soon. Just sayin’.

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Changes

The wild ride that was the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards finally came to an end. I made it to the final 250 out of 5,000 entries, but was eliminated as part of the semifinal cuts (moving from 250 down to only 50 selections). I’m proud of how it turned out, and hope this will help get a few doors nudged open as I move forward.

In other news, I’ve finished the first draft of my second book. It needs some work, but that’s going to have to wait a week or two.  I need to give it a little time in hopes of looking at it from a fresh perspective. Currently it’s just a smidgen longer than “Brothers In Darkness”, but it will likely expand a bit during edits. There’s a lot of fun stuff in it, huge action and a fair share of survival horror. Here’s hoping it’s as well received as my first novel :-)

 

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Amazon Breakthough Novel Awards Quarterfinals – Brothers In Darkness Free Excerpt

As part of the 2012 ABNA process, Amazon is providing a product page for each contestant advancing to the Quarterfinals! It can be found here:

Amazon Breakthough Novel Awards Quarterfinals – Free Excerpt

The page allows anyone with an Amazon account to download the first 5,000 words (or so) of “Brothers In Darkness” for FREE!!! If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries! This Amazon link takes you to a variety of free Kindle Apps allowing you to download and read it on multiple platforms (PC, Mac, etc). For those having previously read the book, the excerpt ends at a great spot: just as Lucas takes the Ring!

To any and all who participate in this free process, your help is greatly appreciated!! The “likes”, the downloads and the positive ratings and reviews are all very kind. The positive reception and feedback I’ve been getting has been amazing, and has meant a lot.

After trying out the sample, I hope readers are interested in checking out the whole book! It’s currently available via Amazon here: Brothers In Darkness.

In a few weeks I’ll get a review from Publisher’s Weekly!! If “Brothers In Darkness” is chosen for the Semi-Finals, it will be read and considered by editors at Penguin books. Actually getting my manuscript into the hands of a Penguin editor is easier said than done, and having an opportunity for high level industry feedback and exposure could be huge!!!

Thank you all for your support and help in making this happen!!!!!!

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Amazon Breakthrough Update: And the Round Two Winners Are….

This morning Amazon, in conjunction with Penguin Books and Publishers Weekly, announced the winners of the second round. From an initial 10,000 submissions (see the previous post for details on that), it has now been narrowed down to 250 selections in each of the categories (General Fiction and Young Adult).

Brothers In Darkness” made it!

Some readers may be asking, “Beyond making your day, what does qualifying for round three mean?”
The answer: I’ll be getting a full book review from “Publisher’s Weekly“!
“Publishers Weekly will then read the Quarter-Finalists’ full Manuscripts to rate and review them based on five Judging Criteria: originality of idea, plot, prose/writing style, character development, and overall strength of submission.”

I’ve also been fortunate enough to get two early round reviews from Amazon. These are based only on the first 5,000 words of the book (about twenty pages).  For those who’ve already read the book, the final bit of the initial excerpt is:

“‘Choose one of these three rings, Mr. Crichton. Tell me which Ring has power.’
He motioned to my desk, and I realized three rings sat there. Three identical rings, each an exact match for the one in the photo, sitting less than a foot from my hands. Looking at them, they were the same. I picked them up, one at a time. And I knew. I could feel it. One ring, it was dead. I felt nothing. One was weak, but there was something there. And the third, the third Ring had power. It was… it wanted me. It wanted to be worn. I needed to put on that Ring. And I did.

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Excerpt Review #1:

ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The voice of the author, the writing style is very strong, original, crisp, current day patois. The introduction of the protagonist is extremely clever, lively and seductive. It drew me in. The emergence of all facts in the case is carefully planned to not be flat footed. The woman’s face being considerably older than her husband’s picture is fascinating. The electric shock when Crichten puts the key in the lock is totally unexpected and shocking for the reader as well. The revelation that The Brothers aren’t actually speaking, but are inside his head is good.

What aspect needs the most work?

The path into the creature’s mouth is a little too long. The fight with the monster becomes dull and ponderous and overdone with synonyms for bad and scary. Here, I think the author pulled out a thesaurus and gutted it. Plus, the transition into the monster segment is too abrupt. I didn’t get it for a few sentences.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

It’s very original , not only in the overall concept but in individual ideas throughout and writing style. It’s exciting. It’s terrific. I enjoyed reading it and want to read the rest of it. I want to meet this guy, the author and the protagonist. As a Portlandian I appreciate references to my fine and famous city.

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Excerpt Review #2:

ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The excerpt does a fine job of setting up the plot and tone of the novel to follow. The first scene, with Mrs. McMillan, has a gritty detective story feel with only hints of the supernatural, while what follows at the house introduces a seemingly inexplicable horror, and the rest of the excerpt brings dark fantasy into the equation and makes clear the dual conflict that will presumably drive the plot of this novel and possible sequels: Crichton’s effort to recover the ring (and other such objects) on the one hand, and his uncertainty and frustration about working with the Brothers on the other. The players and the stakes of the story are just beginning to become clear, which makes readers eager to learn more, to find out what happens next.

What aspect needs the most work?

What the excerpt needs now is a greater emphasis on the character of Lucas, whose personality and habits are too much a mystery. Obviously that’s the intention, for his secrets to be revealed over time, but the reader needs a little more to hold on to at the beginning if Lucas is going to be at all sympathetic or interesting. Hints of his past, the reason he’s living under an assumed name, what he’s given up in living like that, could be seeded throughout this excerpt to increase the sense of mystery and make the reader intensely curious about Lucas’ past as well as his future.

In addition to more about his past, the excerpt could also benefit from additional detail about Lucas’ present. How does he live? Does he have hobbies, something to fill up his time, or is his life simply a matter of day-to-day survival? What effect have his decisions had on his personality? Is he always as grim as he seems in the excerpt, or are there times when the clouds lift? Does he have quirks that would go against reader expectations? In the present excerpt, Lucas feels a bit too much like a generic gritty-detective type, and readers will relate to him better if his richness as a character is more immediately obvious.

A final way to improve the character would be to inject more humor into his voice. The pitch mentions elements of humor and witty dialogue, but the excerpt doesn’t seem to show much of that (although the Elmer Fudd reference is nice). Giving Lucas one-liners and other comedy that fits his personality would be an easy way to get the reader on his side early on.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This is a solid excerpt by a writer with an excellent sense of pace and some skill at balancing different modes (horror, fantasy, mystery) in the service of a cross-genre story. Although the elements of mystery and fantasy involved are traditional, the interplay among them and the touches of horror give the excerpt a chance of “hooking” the reader. That sense of the traditional, however, coupled with the somewhat broad characterization of Lucas, means that the excerpt doesn’t set itself apart from the similar fare with which it’s competing as much as it might. Since it would be difficult to rearrange the plot at this stage, the best way to combat that familiar atmosphere would be to reveal, or at least hint at, the things that make Lucas a unique hero. Emphasizing his past, personality, and/or voice could give the excerpt the advantage it needs to stand out from the crowd.

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I can’t wait for the Publisher’s Weekly review!  Having the chance to get a real critique from a respected industry magazine is a rare and valuable opportunity that I’m very grateful for. Wish me luck!
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