Time Heist and Parallel Get Reviewed!

I don’t like using the One Lazy Robot blog to tout my own books too much, but every now and then I get a review that makes me smile and I have the irresistible urge to share with ya’ll. This week I had two such reviews.

First came a review for Parallel from loyal reader, and author of the Agatha Christie’esque murder mystery, Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Noelle Granger. Noelle is one of my most favoritest (that’s totally a word) people to interact with on OneLazyRobot. Go check out her review and you’ll see why. (Hint: it’s because she’s awesome.)

Parallel - High Resolution

Click the Pic!

The other review came from Ted Cross, author of one of my favoritest (see, told you that’s a word. I wouldn’t use it twice if it wasn’t.) debut novels of 2014, The Immortality Game. Way back in December I did a review of TIG and Convergence from Michael Patrick Hicks. CLICK HERE to see why you should pick up these books. (Hint: it’s because they’re awesome).

Anyways, Ted reviewed Time Heist which is incredibly similar to his own book. If you like one, you’ll probably dig the other. Might as well do yourself a favor and pick both of them up. But don’t take my word for it, check out Ted’s review.

Time Heist

Psst.. also, did you know for a limited time only you can pick up your very own copy of Time Heist or Parallel for the low, low price of FREE? It’s truth. Pop on over to Barnes and Noble or Kobo and grab a copy.

Parallel Barnes and Noble Link!

Parallel Kobo Link!

Time Heist Kobo Link!

Time Heist is actually $.99 on Barnes and Noble ’cause they are slow to price match, but here’s that link anyways. LINK

Time For Another Free Book!

Howdy kiddos and grownos (<– I’m making that into a word, so deal with it) last week I was giving away free copies of Standing Kill Orderlies. If you missed the boat, no worries, I’m back again this week with another free offer. Click the pic to be magically transported to Amazon where you can get a copy of Parallel for FREE!!!!!!! WEEEEE!! EEEEH! AHHHH!!! (are we done? yeah, we’re done.)

If you’re feeling real outgoing, maybe think about leaving a review or a flaming pile of dog poo wrapped in a brown paper bag on my porch. Either way, I’ll be psyched! Yaay for free paper brown bags!

Parallel - High Resolution

Writing Workshop: Pacing Your Story!

A lot goes into writing a good story, unless somehow you’ve made BFF’s with a Muse. If that’s the case you don’t need me, and you should go frolicking through fields of daisies, jerk. For the rest of us, there are a lot of aspects of good storytelling that require conscious attention.

These range from having good mechanics (ie: knowing how to put together a sentence that sounds good, or atleast intelligible), to a strong plot (ie: interesting shit keeps happening!), to correct pacing (ie: your character doesn’t spend the first three quarters of the book splayed out on his back whilst sexy servants feed him grapes, and the last quarter of the book blowing up the moon.)

anchorman

Today, we’re gonna chat about pacing, because it’s one of those elements of storytelling that is a slippery bastard to nail down. As the writer, pacing can be one of the hardest things to keep track of. Which makes sense when you consider how much time you spend inside the story world. After awhile things inevitably resemble an unintelligible gaggle of words.

Are these moving too quickly? Are they moving too slowly? Is it moving at all?

Beta-readers are a great resource in this department. They come at the story with fresh eyes and can tell you when things are dragging and when they are moving too quickly. But maybe you don’t have a stable of virulent beta-readers on hand?

Well, bummer. You’re screwed. Sorry, Holmes.

No, I’m just kidding. There’s plenty you can do on your own. In particular I’m gonna share a little exercise I go through with my stories to make sure they are moving at a reasonable pace.

Here’s what you do:

First, get a piece of paper and write down every scene in chronological order. We aren’t talking about chapters, because oftentimes you’ll have multiple scenes in a single chapter. So go through and pinpoint all the different interactions your characters have whether they be big or small, climactic or anticlimactic.

In Time Heist I tended towards shorter chapters so while there are 39 chapters, there were only 45 different scenes. That’s a stylistic choice I made because shorter chapters, especially within the context of a thriller, make the book feel like it’s moving along at a quicker pace. By comparison, Mind Breach, the sequel to Time Heist (which has 4 point of view characters) has closer to 50 chapters and well over 100 different scenes. So your mileage is going to vary on this one.

Now, once you have your scene list, you’re gonna go through and assign an excitement rating somewhere between 1 and 10. 1 being very boring, as in your character is waking up from a nap. 10 being “holy balls my cat is on fire!” exciting.

batmanfunny

“I just woke up from a nap and my cat is on fire!”

Excitement in this context could mean a whole bunch of things. Your main character finding out his parents are getting a divorce will rate differently on the scale based on the kid. The kids growing up in an uber-religious household where he’s been raised to view divorce as a sin is going to react slightly differently from the hippy love child who’s parents only got married for the tax breaks.

It all depends. Conversely, not all physical peril is equal. Your average soccer-dad is going to respond to a bad automobile accident differently than your hardened black-ops assassin woman with a machine-gun leg.

badass woman

I literally can’t believe I found a woman with a machine gun leg. Go home internet, you’re drunk!

So go through your tale and figure out where each scene ranks. Once you have this all figured out, you’re gonna get a different sheet of paper and graph it out.

graph paper

Wait…. did he say, graph it out? That sounds an awful lot like math. I don’t like math. Can we make glittery unicorns instead?

Yes. Yes, we can. But later. For now, we’re graphing, baby!

On the left side of your paper create a vertical line and then break it up into 10 equally spaced lines. Then go through your scene list and plot those points out on the graph in chronological order. When you’re done, it should look something like this.

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If you did it right, you should see a series of peaks and valleys. If you’re story is one continuous line from left to right, then that means nothing is happening in your story. It’s flatlined. It’s dead. Sorry, bro. We did everything we could to resuscitate it, but some things you just have to let go.

But that’s not you. Your story goes places and therefore it bobs and weaves like a mongoose on Adderall.

Well, that’s not so much bobbing and weaving as it is just going in circles…which you don’t necessarily want your story to do….but…

*look a distraction!*

Back on topic. Boom. Okay, so up above I outlined three of my books in the Firstborn Saga: Time Heist, Infinity Lost, and Mind Breach. Each story is designed to do something different and so each graph is gonna look slightly differently, but what you should, ideally, see are consistent peaks following by consistent valleys. The peaks represent the climactic moments followed by a period of “calm” where less exciting things happen.

These undulations are important for a number of reasons. Think of it like a rollercoaster ride at Disney World.There is the slow build at the beginning which gives you plenty of time to contemplate how poor a decision you’ve made and how you’re likely to die clutching the hairy arm of the Armenian man wedged in beside you. Then there’s the exciting plunge, a few hair pin turns, a loopdeloop if you’re doing things correctly, and then there’s usually a boring section where you can gather your breath for one final push of embarrassing pre-teen screaming.

That’s what you want from your story. Now, it doesn’t always work like that. Let’s take a look at Time Heist which, right out of the gate, I’ll tell you packs an almost unhealthy amount of action between its pages.

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Now, one of the problems with the pacing of Time Heist is that it spends alot of time up there near 10 for climactic moments. Tom Mandel is constantly faced with near death experiences that frequently kill him. That’s the nature of the story I was trying to tell and the world I was building, so I rightly accept the critiques that suggest there is too much action. But that was unavoidable, and I knew it from the beginning. Time Heist is a story with a particular market that will love it, others will be put off by it. That’s okay, you can’t please everybody and it helps to know that at the onset of any artistic endeavor.

cant please

A couple things I would have done differently? I would have added a few scenes between the climactic moments. This would have stretched the story, giving the reader more breathing room between climactic happenings, and given them an opportunity to reflect on the impending doom.

Also, here’s an important take-away from the Time Heist graph: a scene that stays up at 10 for too long will become tiring, overwhelming, and the reader will eventually lose interest. You can only throw so much at your main character at once. Whoops. I broke that one in spades.

Let’s move on to the next story of the lot, Infinity Lost, which serves as a pseudo-prequel to Time Heist. It’s meant to be read after Time Heist, but it takes place hundreds of years before, so that’ll give you a bit of framework.

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Infinity Lost is a very different sort of story than Time Heist. There is very little action and the climactic moments don’t revolve so much around physical peril as they do emotional turmoil. In a lot of ways Infinity Lost is a character study.

Looking at these graphs is interesting because with a little practice you can see where your story needs a healthy dose of stimulants, or where you need to apply a judicious amount of horse tranquilizer. Time Heist could have used a little tranq’ing. Infinity Lost could use a little perking up, maybe a pot of coffee or something.

coffee

For instance, right at the beginning of the story there is a big spike (which delineates the stories inciting event, this is the moment that puts our main character into motion (since this is a novella, it comes really early on. We don’t have time for fooling around, ya know?)), but immediately following that spike there is a lull. That scene needs to be perked up a bit, the stakes need to be raised. Not a ton but a drop off that large is jarring.

The transition between Act 1 and Act 2 is a bit peculiar because the climactic moment at the end of Act 1 is less climactic than the moment at the beginning of Act 2. This might need some adjusting, or it might be alright. Won’t know til I get back in there and do some rooting around, but it’s something to be mindful of.

What definitely needs some overhauling is that fat, sagging gut in the middle of Act 2. The second Act is a notorious slaggard. It’s the longest of all the Acts and by extension tends to get a bit sluggish. From the looks of it, this is precisely what happens in Infinity Lost. So, easiest fix is to go find those scenes right in the middle of Act 2 and spruce them up.

Raise the stakes, so to speak. This will keep the reader engaged through the long, boring, death valley drive that is the second Act of most stories.

bored cat

A quick comment on that big dip you see in Act 3. That’s what’s called the denouement. It’s the break that comes after the climax, the moment where everything returns to normal, and we conclude on a happy note. I don’t end on a happy note, because this is part of a series, so at the end it starts building again to urge the reader forward into the next book, Mind Breach.

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As Infinity Lost is different from Time Heist, Mind Breach is different from the previous two. It follows from the POV of 4 characters, whereas Time Heist has 1, and Infinity Lost as 2. Mind Breach, in terms of action, is closer related to Time Heist, but it’s not the non-stop thrill ride that is Time Heist. That’s because the middle book in a series sort of fills the role of a second Act. This is where a lot of the world building takes place, and the finagling of characters and scenes to get everybody poised and ready for a climactic finish in the finale.

Mind Breach, of the three stories, is probably the best paced so far. It needs only a little bit of work at the end of Act 2 to give a more climactic thrust into the conclusion of the tale. But for the most part there is a good build in Act 1, continuous engagement through Act 2, and a nice thick climax in Act 3.

The reason Mind Breach appears to have better pacing is on account of the multiple POV’s. I’m able to break up climactic scenes for one character by hopping to a different character in the next chapter. Flip flopping like this is nice because it gives the reader a nice little mental break and it lets me, as the author, do some interesting things from a storytelling mechanics point of view. This wasn’t possible in Time Heist where there was only a single first person POV. Did the story suffer on account of that? Meh, perhaps. But what can ya do?

Alright, so your homework is to plot out your work in progress and put it down in the comments section so that we can all see it and brainstorm it together.

This was a lot of words. If you made it this far, you deserve a treat, so here’s a picture of Gilgamesh, the cat who thought he could fly, but couldn’t.

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Don’t worry, he’s not dead…just lazy.

Nightly Services

I took a short morning break from working on Mind Breach to churn out a little vignette for you guys. It’s short, and rough (no proofreading or spell-check for this guy!), but I thought I’d share it to give an inside look into my first-draft process.

First drafts aren’t always coherent, and rarely any good, but that’s okay. They’re the base, the mold you’ll be working from. Whittling away at the fat and clunky passages until you have something glittering and shiny worth looking at.

This passage was born out of an interesting play on words I thought up the other day. Can’t share that play here without giving away the story, but it’s an interesting exercise to take a simple sentence and construct a story around it. I challenge you to try it and share the results in the comments section.

Nightly Services

Joe ain’t a saint, but he’s a good man. He takes my confession and offers penance. It’s the same as every other night, stretching as far back as I can remember anymore. My sins are simple, but persistent. I get to him with hands already shaking. White knuckles closed tight, half moon circles gouged into my palms. Oily beads of sweat wreaking of despair trace highways through the dirt caked to my cheeks.

Joe stares down at me with stone hard eyes, his pupils like filthy black ingots that’ve been dragged through as many gutters as mine. There’s no judgment in those eyes.

The world judders as my own pupils track on the larger man towering over me. His face sags, sallow cheeks refuse to hang tight to the weary bones beneath as though his body bears the weight of countless confessions from men too weak to carry their own sins.

Joe ain’t a saint, but he’s a good man. He can’t absolve my sins, but that’s not why I come. He can help me forget.

For a man like me, forgetting is the best you can ask for.

In a darkened corner of this neon cathedral, men like me sit at red vinyl pews cracked with age and use, saying prayer to the blood of our lord. Their prayers go unanswered; God stopped coming here along time ago.

So we go to Joe. Our priest upon who’s shoulders we can escape this purgatory, if only until the sun rises.

The choir leans against a wall coated like a jigsaw puzzle in strips of yellow wallpaper. It belts a tune through tired speakers, an unintelligible moaning that fits the general mood of this place. Indecipherable words mingle with a discordant melody, saturating the air and pushing away the silence.

That’s good.

Red lights flicker behind the choir’s fogged glass. Worn buttons on the front give the illusion of choice, but nobody here has a choice. We’re here ’cause we have to be. Compelled by a demon deep within, forcing us back here night after night. Driving our irredeemable souls ever onward to a place God don’t even look anymore.

A broomstick of a woman sits in a broken wooden throne, leaning her head against the choir. Her eyes twitch beneath closed eyelids; drool trails from her mouth before pooling in her lap. If anybody notices, nobody cares. Shoulder length hair dyed red like the fires of hell is plastered to one side of her face. A hook nose bent twenty degrees in the wrong direction might have been beautiful once.

She’s the closest thing to an angel we got around here. If given the chance she’ll pickpocket your heart. But if you’re hanging around here, there’s probably not much in there to steal anyhow.

Joe places a fogged glass full of clear liquid on the altar before me. The world narrows, drawing tight in around the corners. My heart drags itself along to a ragged cadence.

The sour odor of sweat dripping off my temple reaches my nose. It mingles with the room’s heat, pressing down on me with an almost too real weight.

I pry my fingers open and take the glass between two shaking hands. Cupping the chalice of my lord, I stare down into a fluid that has the power to exchange fear for courage.

A band-aid for my soul.

I’ll have to rip it off in the morning, but dawn is a long ways away. Right now, bathed in the fluorescent glow of worn neon lights flickering their gaudy beacon of hope, I can’t be bothered to care about morning.

For now, I have sins to drown.

“Lord have mercy,” I whisper into the rim of my glass. He won’t, but it don’t hurt to ask.

I drain it in a single swallow. It burns on the way down, a purifying fire of absolution. This is my penance.

There’s another prayer on the altar waiting for my lips before the first is even in my belly.

Joe ain’t a saint, but he’s a good man.

Pump The Brakes, Free Stories Ahead!

You like free stories, right? Sure you do. The person who hates free stories is pretty much the same kind of person who hates puppies. You don’t hate puppies, do you?

Of course you don’t. So listen closely, I’m gonna let you in on a little known secret: by signing up for the One Lazy Robot Newsletter you get a free novelette.

No, you aren’t having a seizure. Yes, you read that correctly. A free story and all you have to do is click HERE and enter your email address. That’s it, that’s all. In exchange for your time and effort you’ll get your choice of one of the two stories listed below.

Correction Parallel - High Resolution

No sweat, right? Well, uh…  if you are sweating, then I’m gonna assume it’s for entirely unrelated reasons to this. Seriously, this should not be sweat inducing.

Now, besides getting a free story, by signing up for the Newsletter you’ll be the first to hear about upcoming new releases, giveaways for more free stuff, and never before seen, exclusive content (ie: cat videos with unimaginable levels of d’aww…)

So what are you waiting for? Click HERE, sign up, and get a free story. Couldn’t be any easier. Well, actually it could, but I’m not a wizard, I only play one on tv, so I can’t just magically make the stories appear in your brainpan. For now you’ll just have to meet me half-way.

Anthony

Parallel for FREE on Amazon!

I know you’ve been waiting for it…

Wait. Really? You weren’t? Poop.

Anyways, regardless of whether or not you were waiting for it, it’s here. Parallel’s Free on Amazon for the next couple days.

Now, e-books, especially this one, are great because they can be used to fend off the digital zombie invasion, can be used as a digital door stop, and can digitally enhance your appeal to the opposite sex.

You’re really only hurting yourself by passing on this deal. CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE COPY!

Parallel

Every Choice Is A New World

Hari and Gerald tore a hole in space and time. It’s a small hole, but it’s a big problem. A pinprick to a new Dimension. Too small for either Hari or Gerald to fit through, but it looks pretty. They’re about to learn that pretty things can be very dangerous.

Ryol, Ambassador to the Lenoreans, must investigate the Rift on behalf of the Alliance. What she finds there could usher in the destruction of every world she’s ever known.
Time is running out for the Lenoreans to discover more of the precious energy source that powers their world. Perched upon the brink of calamity their fate is inextricably tied with Earth’s. Now, with the fate of both worlds in her hands, Falia must decide which planet to save.

Anthony