Dusk Mountain Blues Release!

It’s finally here!! Dusk Mountain Blues has been released! As a treat, I’m releasing the first chapter here on the site! If you want to buy it, please click this link!

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Dusk Mountain Blues 

Chapter 1

Bluesky Swindling

Drifter

“In my dreams, the world is mine. Awake, only half of it is.” – Luke “Drifter” Caldwell

Luke Caldwell – Drifter by his folks – thought himself a smart man for one without much schooling. He had to be. Not many fellas made it here to his ripe old age of seventy-four outta being stupid. His brothers had doubted him in the past, but they should’ve known by now not to doubt what old Drifter could do. Their little sting operations here and there had made them quite the successful “entrepreneurs”.

Was it terribly legal? Nah, not in the slightest; but it got food on the table and, later, respect in their names. Who could ask for more?

Drifter always asked for more.

Drifter investigated the rearview mirror of his old, beat-up, white-and-blue truck, checking on the cargo of his recent pickup. Salvage for the most part for today; parts of old crashed ships, ancient technology from the Old Planets, and a few canisters of ship fuel that Drifter permanently borrowed from a few of those fancy Bluecoats – all stuff that was more Thunder’s or Doc’s type of thing. His brothers were good with their hands and head both – like the tech-savvy young’uns these days, always tinkering with one new thing or another. Drifter weren’t that type of fella. Give him a good old-fashioned gun and brew him a nice strong drink, and he was set. But, eh, everyone had their hobbies.

Drifter tugged his mesh red cap over his long white hair, checking the cargo and staring deeper into the smudged mirror. Blue and red lights swirled in the distance. He snorted and grabbed his flask from the cupholder, turning up his radio to better hear bluegrass over the rushing wind. He downed a long draught and pressed the pedal.

The Bluecoats knew better than to meet him on the road. Or on foot. Or anywhere, really. They might’ve assumed that he was Big Thunder this time around, not that that was any better – nobody touched his kin. There was something particularly silly about trying to catch him on these dirt roads cutting through his mountains. Drifter sped through the winding path, cutting through the trees, little truck sailing through the air. The sirens went on behind him, whistling against the howling wind. Drifter yanked the steering wheel and turned through a thick thatch of tall, black- barked trees and thick muddy soil. He grinned as he sped faster through the banks of the valley, the world becoming a green blur around him.

He howled and slapped his knee as the thrill of the chase coursed through him. They wouldn’t chase him over some ship fuel alone, would they? Drifter shrugged. It didn’t matter. Whatever he had; it was his now.

Shouldn’t leave yer stuff lying around, then. The young fancy coats couldn’t seem to grasp the idea: if you left it, Drifter and his boys were gonna take it. That was the law of the world. The Caldwells were the driving force on this planet, even if the Bluecoats thought otherwise.

Gonna have to teach these young ones some lessons. By the heavens, they were trying their hardest too. The very thought of it gave him a buzz better than the contents of his flask could.

They chased him through Rippling Creek down another dirt road, bumpier than the last. Tall trees surrounded them on all sides, reaching out with their dark green leaves into blue above, and patches of red grass with giant brown bulbs grew tall around them. A long freshwater creek snaked through the land, cutting through the field of red, brown, and green with clean rushing water. Rusted machines left over from the Old World – like Drifter’s truck was before he restored it – lay abandoned on the side of the road along with newer technological beasts from the Bluecoats, fresher than the abandoned hunks of metal, but all the more stripped to the bones.

Drifter looked out the window this time. Still following, are ya? Drifter put down his flask momentarily, rummaging through the glove compartment with his free hand. He found his pistol, a simple revolver. It was always loaded. Always.

Tossing his hat to the passenger’s seat to leave his white hair fluttering in the wind, Drifter leaned out of the window, one arm on the steering wheel, A good day. Smelled of fresh water, fragrant flora, and exhaust. He leveled his revolver, watching the small black and blue shuttle come down a hill.

He shot three shots.

The bullets shattered through the windshield, each shot landing precisely where he wanted. The little shuttle spun, the driver splashing into the creek. Whether the driver was dead or not, Drifter found that he didn’t care that much.

Another one came rolling around the corner; the first shuttle was never the only one when they tried to catch the Caldwells. They often brought out the big things for them – today was no different. The beast came out next, stomping over the horizon. The laughter in Drifter’s chest died. Had to bring out the 7-A’s.

He drove in silence, turning down the radio, a man’s voice lowering to a whisper against a faint banjo. The 7-A’s were standard-issue mechanical behemoths controlled by a single pilot. This one wasn’t the biggest he had seen. They came in different sizes – from full battle models equipped with missiles and lasers, to standard capture models meant for detainment of enemies of the Viscount Corporations. This one was equipped with two machine cannons and a large dreamwater tank strapped to its back for the eventual subduing of the prisoner.

Drifter eyed the small reactors on the sides of the 7-A. Can’t shoot through that. Don’t want to blow ’em up. Not because he cared about the person inside, but his boy and his granddaughter fished in that creek sometimes. I don’t want their space crap in my water.

The biggest fear Drifter had when he saw the massive beast stomping through the red grass was for his truck, not his life. The Bluecoats had already ruined one truck he’d intended to give to one of his sons, daughter, or granddaughter. Drifter slipped back into the truck, placing the revolver beside him. Though he was having a good time, he wasn’t going to risk the idea of losing all his cargo for this nonsense. The smile fell off of his face as he pulled over to the side of the road near the shoulder of the creek’s bank, the smell of a freshly-pulled trigger and whiskey in the air. Going from small amusement to anger within a second, he yanked the keys from the ignition and tossed them into the passenger’s seat. Drifter stepped out of the car, boots crushing the dust and red grass underfoot.

Drifter rolled his shoulders and watched the 7-A with harsh grey-blue eyes. The beardless pilot looked in horror through the glass of the cockpit as he and his monster froze in place. Drifter licked his yellow teeth, a savage hunger rushing through him. They hadn’t expected it to be him, or they would’ve brought a bigger mech. He smiled as he kicked off his boots and took off his shirt. They were his nicer clothes; the wife wouldn’t like it much if he ruined them.

He roared. Pain and power ripped through him as his body bent and twisted. His muscles grew, a black chitin tearing through his pale skin. His sight, a little faded from age, became clear, clearer than even when he was young. He hunched over; the rain of bullets came a bit too late. They ricocheted off his skull, off his chest, off his legs and arms; all the while he grew to the size, dwarfing even the mechanical beast. Detainment model 7-A’s didn’t have a strong enough stopping power to breach his skeleton. The world trembled with every step beneath his feet, green liquid dripping from his massive maw. That taste was something he could never get used to; like warm drink mixed with battery acid. Four-legged, he approached the Bluecoat, long tongue dragging against the grass.

Drifter walked up, bullets still ricocheting from his insect-like armor. With a big meaty claw, Drifter tapped against the glass of the cockpit. The young man inside gulped and pulled a lever. The cockpit opened, slowly sliding back to reveal the stench of a man who’d just relieved himself on his own leg like a dog. Don’t mess up that fancy uniform on my account.

“’Noon, officer,” Drifter began, grinning with thousands of teeth, his voice deep and guttural. “Whachya pulled me over for?”

The Bluecoat gulped. He didn’t have a detainment field big enough for this, Drifter reckoned.

“C’mon, speak up, boy. Don’t have all day.”

“T-that…that’s not yours,” the beardless boy said weakly. He reminded Drifter of a few of his nephews, down to the trembling jowl and lost wide-eyed looks that only young men can pull off.

“Oh?” Drifter eyed the cargo safe at his truck. “That? Consider it tax.”

“Tax.”

“You’re on my land, buddy. Caldwell land.”

“You weren’t when you–”

Drifter blinked an eye the size of the boy’s entire body. “Don’t matter. It’s on it now.”

The Bluecoat shook in his plush leather seat, throat closing with every second. Drifter plucked the long grey seat belt with a claw, snapping it within a second. He picked the young boy up by his waist with his long tongue; it took some carefulness not to melt the boy into a puddle of meat or break his spine. He placed him on the ground.

“Come to think of it, this is mine too. Got something to say about that, little Blue? Speak up now, boy; or do I need to crunch some bones to make my point?”

The boy found his cowardice once again, judging by the smell.

“I’m gonna need you to leave your weapons, leave this here beauty, and drive off in your partner’s shuttle. I hope he ain’t dead. Gonna have a hard time explaining that to your people.

Drifter looked at the boy for a while, still thinking about biting him in half. Not tasty, though. He had tried it before when he was young man; he didn’t quite have the taste for it like his son did. He would if he had to, though. A man would do anything if he gotta.

Luckily, this time he didn’t. The little Bluecoat scrambled away, crawling on his hands and knees, trying to get away from the giant mutant. Never once did he look back.

Good man. Drifter laughed at the desperation, huffing and puffing with amusement. The Bluecoat got to the car, tore his partner from the driver seat, and drove off without a second thought.

Mutants frightened kids. There were a-plenty in the Dusk Orbits, both humans and animals, after years and years of evolution and genetic tinkering from people higher than them. They came in all shapes and sizes, as unassuming as a young woman on the streets, or a bearded old man in the the mountains. He hadn’t known the power he had for a very long time, the immense strength he possessed. It took time. He was a slow learner, but he learned.

The young were often short-sighted, and with age came ambition. His grandkids wouldn’t have to know hunger or pain or struggle. That was his dream here; a dream that he was gonna give to every member of his kin. This was his planet now. His and his’s. No one else’s.

Drifter let himself relax, his body returning to the thin, old man with much-too-long white hair. He grabbed his boots, shirt, and cap from the outside of the truck and entered the car in his birthday suit, reclining in his seat. After a moment of rest, Drifter leaned over the seat and found his spare pair of jeans and undergarments.

“Ruining my darn clothes. Bluecoats and their dang kids. Greener than a dang bell pepper.” He wanted to curse, but the wife had gotten on him for that; not a good example for the grandkids, so he had to curb the habit.

He couldn’t quite take himself seriously naked as a baby bird. He dressed and grabbed his keys and tossed them back into his pocket.

Exiting the truck again, he went to check the rest of his cargo. Everything was there. He frowned, turning towards the now-empty mech. My, she’s a beauty. Not a combat type, but the pieces…well, Doc was working on something nice for the kids. Nobody was gonna come this far into his lands to retrieve it. Drifter stuffed his hands into the pockets of his spare jeans, finding a small figurine once belonging to his granddaughter with a smile.

“Now, how am I gonna get you home, big boy?” Last time, he had torn the arms off, and Doc and the kids lost their dang minds. “Guess that’s gonna be his problem figuring out.”

He shrugged. The least he could do was to take some of the batteries with him. Drifter walked around the 7-A and found some small climbing studs on its back. Machines weren’t too difficult to figure out after a while; though not as technologically savvy as some of kin, he knew the workings well enough. With a heave, a turn, and hiss of steam, Drifter pulled out the small blue glowing battery on the back, shouldered it hot against his neck, and climbed back down. Once firmly on the ground, he grabbed the battery by the handle and walked to the bed of his truck, frowning. He didn’t have enough space for everything to fit and be safe too. Ain’t a young man anymore, can’t be doing like I used to. He shook off the thought.

“Guess you’re riding shotgun today.” He tapped the battery core for good measure, feeling the residual heat against his skin.

Drifter entered his truck again, put the battery in the passenger seat, and locked the battery and himself in with the seatbelts. It didn’t matter if you could become a fourteen-foot monster that could crunch a man’s bones and spew highly acidic liquid – a man gotta put his seatbelt on. He hadn’t before, forgotten in his brief span of youthful thrill. Drifter touched the figurine in his pocket once again, a silly little soldier in Old World camouflage they had found, cleaned, and repainted. Kindle was fond of it, gave it to him as a lucky charm when she realized she didn’t play with it anymore. A feeling of pride filled his chest. Excitement was well and good; he hungered for it from time to time. But there was nothing like home. Nothing. He started the car and went on his way, the familiar sounds of his favorite songs blaring through open windows.

Ø

Drifter returned to the Dusk Mountains with all his spoils intact—most of it, anyway. One piece of salvage, part of a wing, was determined to free itself from its bungie and sail back into the sky. Ain’t much Drifter could do about that. He considered it good sign more than anything. If part of a wing wanted to head to the sky once again, who was he stop it? So he drove on without it, up the winding stony roads of the snow-topped mountain ranges where the Caldwells settled.

At first it was just him, this mountain, and his brothers when they escaped the mines of another world. Now their kin reached from the mountains, to the valleys, to the creeks, to the grasslands, and the plains besides. They were a force of nature on the planet C’dar. The Bluecoats forgot that before they got here, the Caldwells thrived. Only a few others predated his kin on this planet and they had reached an agreement to leave each other’s lawns alone. No way no galaxy corporation was gonna step up to him, not after all the time it took for them to get away from those money men. Drifter lowered his shoulders, trying not to get tense thinking about it. They had picked a beautiful place to have their family. It wasn’t paradise all the time, but he supposed nowhere was – this was the closest that he was gonna get.

As he drove up and up, he began seeing more and more of their own influences on the land. He came upon Doc’s Scrapyard first. Mounds and mounds of metal from ships, cars, shuttles, and mechs lined the small cave. Donald “Doc” Caldwell was out in his yard, short, barrel-chested, with a strong, muscled gut. He pulled off his red goggles, revealing thin white lines on his dark skin where they once settled on his meaty face. He grinned like an absolute idiot when Drifter rolled up with a truck full of things for him.

Drifter cranked down the window. “‘Ey! Got some things for you!”

“Oh thank heaven,” he heard his shorter brother shout. “Thought you brought something for Pit, Thunder, or Moses. Like you’ve done for the last umpteenth times.”

“‘Thank’ya, Luke, for the ship fuel you found me. I appreciate you. You’re a good older brother,’” Drifter said, mocking his brother’s husky voice, sounding of smoke and metal.

“I don’t, though.” Doc grinned. “Pull around, can’t have you hitting my fence like that one time.”

“That was years ago.”

“It was my fence; I get to forget it on my time.”

Doc shuffled outta the way, waddling to the side. Drifter turned the truck around and backed in (perfectly, might he add) through the cave’s entrance. That was when Doc saw it – the glowing battery sitting in front seat, all strapped in and safe – and almost tripped over the laces of his black combat boots, mouth salivating with the very thought of having a battery for his new project. “How’d you get that? It’s barely used! They didn’t have that lying around, did they?”

“Am I the good brother now?”

“Urgh.” Doc all but tore off the passenger’s side door. His fiery red eyes, the color of his forges, sparkled with delight. He picked up the battery with care remarkably close to when he held his children as newborns. “I guess I can forgive you for the fence.”

Drifter rolled his eyes.

“Vermin!! Get this stuff outcha Uncle’s truck before I snatch a knot in you.”

 Beau “Vermin” Caldwell, Doc’s son, shuffled from the junkyard. Young, oil-covered, and blonde, thin as a whip and as small as his father, he wandered over with a piece of straw in yellow rotten teeth. He wiped a black rag over his brow and then against his loose-fitting blue coveralls. He boasted a beard longer than even his uncle’s, with wisp of brownish-black hair on the top his head. Drifter wished he would’ve cut the top off already; the boy had been balding since he was fourteen. Vermin gave an ugly grin at the spoils too, very much his father’s son. Not an appealing fella, but very few Caldwells could boast on their looks alone.

“’Ey, Uncle Luke,” he said, his voice small but deep. “How’s it going?”

“Seen my boy and girl?”

“Appetite and Kindle just got back from fishing. Brought back enough for everybody.”

“Good, they’re home now?”

“Yup.”

“Boy, if you don’t get to work,” Doc shouted from the cave, “I’m gonna come over there and stick my boot up your–”

“Language, pa!” Vermin shouted back. “I gotcha Uncle Luke, let me unpack you.”

Vermin got his family nickname (a family tradition of sorts) from his mutation, which gave him four arms and an adhesive goop that leaked from his palms. Came as quite the surprise for Doc and his wife. Drifter barely even noticed; it was a part of who he was. Each arm was functional, though the lower set was a bit less muscular than the upper one.

Drifter watched Vermin from the back as he took bit by bit from the truck bed with a strength impressive for a man so slender. He finished unloading the truck within fifteen minutes. The stickiness of his sweat made lifting jobs easy, allowing him to pluck heavy objects and kept them in his grasp with little to no resistance. After the young fella was done, he closed the bed of the truck, walked around to Drifter’s side and slapped the side of his truck, earning Drifter a thick green slime handprint on his door.

“You rotten–” It was gonna take forever to get that off.

The young man cackled. “Thanks for the stuff, Unc. Don’t be shy now! Drifter’s leaving, pa! Say something!”

“Don’t get killed by nothing!”

Vermin sighed. “We’re trying to work on his manners.”

“’ight, I’m gone. If I can’t get this gunk off, I’m coming right back, so get the hose ready.”

Drifter started his truck, turning the truck around (again, perfectly, might he add), and continued his way. He blared his horn at the scrap yard, feeling the lightness of an unloaded truck. Vermin waved for the sake of his now distracted father, the sparks of whatever he was working on lighting up the entrance of his cave.

Drifter couldn’t fight off a grin. Doc was a tough nut to crack. He didn’t like many people outside of his kin; it took a special something to get a smile out of the cranky old geezer. Old geezer. I guess we all are now. Drifter shook his head as he drove back up the mountain.

Doc was the only brother sharing his mountain. Moses, Pit, and Big Thunder each had a bigger family with enough children and grandchildren to fill an ark. Though the head of the Caldwells, Drifter’s was smaller, with two sons, a daughter, and a grandchild.

He came upon the land of his middle son first, Evan “Loner” Caldwell. He had a small shack on a cliff carved out from rusted out old models they had salvaged. Loner was a quiet man, with great ideas like his uncle Doc, the foresight of his mother, and a temperament Drifter liked to think that he got from him. Passing by and honking his horn earned him a wave from his pepper-haired son leaning over the edge of his “porch” made of rusted metal. Loner sipped his rum over the edge, the ominous red glass of a dead machine’s eye glowing behind him from the shadow of his home.

Driving a little further, he came upon his daughter’s land. She was tucked into a sloped part of the mountain in a small wooden cabin, overlooking a plain of yellow flowers and a small ranch. Jo was a willowy woman with none of her father’s features aside from those harsh green eyes. Her hair wasn’t the clay red-brown of Drifter’s youth, but gold like her mother’s, in a sharp ponytail high on the back of her head. She waved at him as she glided through the field, looking every part lady and every part survivor. Drifter couldn’t help but notice the sawed-off shotgun dangling from her leather holster. That’s my girl, Drifter thought, giving a small salute with two fingers. To think that he worried about her for so long. She was her papa’s daughter through and through. Bluecoats, raiders, animals, mutants – they all knew better than to mess with her.

Up and up he went until he reached the top. Up here was the Homestead, once the land for the Caldwell seniors. Fond memories of decades ago passed through this land, and through the ol’ mind.

Long ago, when they were young men chasing dreams and women, the land was good; it was surprising at the time, before the atmosphere stabilized and became livable for anyone other than mutants. He remembered stepping out of that mangled mess of a ship they stole, bleeding and smiling all the same. The ship remained on their stake of the land of Dusk Mountain. Around the small ship (stripped of everything important) were two sizable houses made of wood and metal, a fenced-off area where the animals stayed, and a barn.

The last of his sons, the oldest, Woodrow Caldwell–or Appetite, as everyone called him – lived on the Homestead itself with his ma and pa and his daughter, Kindle. Drifter saw them pull up to the cabin, each shouldering racks and racks of fish. Appetite lived up to his name. He was much bigger than a normal man, made of pounds and pounds of pure hairy weight, and towered over almost everyone he came across.

Always has been big, Drifter remembered. Appetite’s birth almost made his wife swear off pregnancy forever. He lumbered from place to place with a slow, deliberate movement, big arms placing things down with an obscene amount of care. Flecks of fish scales and blood (Drifter assumed it was only fish blood) stained his white tank top and Old World green-and-brown camo pants. At his side was his daughter, Kindle, with warm dark skin, kinky black hair, her father’s and grandfather’s eyes – and her pa’s fashion sense.

Kindle hardly waited for the truck to stop to come running. “Grandpa!”

Drifter stepped out of the truck and into the arms of the teenage girl. She’s fifteen now, not a child no more. Still, he picked her up all the same and swung her around like she was five. But she wasn’t anymore. She wasn’t the young girl who begged him to take her fishing and hunting any chance they got. She was a young woman as stubborn as her grandmother, as quick tempered as her grandfather, and as a sly as her father. Have mercy on our souls.

“Where have you been?” she asked once her feet were on the ground.

“Yeah, where’ve ya been, Pa?” Appetite grinned. He knew exactly where his pa had been.

“Out and about,” Drifter said, shrugging.

“You went to steal some stuff, didn’t ya? You can just say that, y’know. I ain’t a little girl. I know what we do.”

Drifter gave an honest and awkward laugh. “Yeah, I know you know by now. Ain’t much a secret ’round these parts.”

“That’s what the Bluecoats said too.”

Appetite frowned. “They’ve been gettin’ kinda close, Pa. Bold even. They shoulda known better by now.”

“Bill and Jose says that they got a new commander on planet.” Kindle’s eyes brightened with the reckless excitement for trouble found in all Caldwells. “Gettin’ kind of handsy with other planets. Ours is next, they said.”

Drifter sighed. Another one. “No need to worry ‘bout that, Kindle.” Not right now. “Get those fish inside before they jump back into the river you found ’em in.”

Kindle nodded and took the fish racks from her pa. Appetite smiled as he watched his daughter run into their cabin.

“She’s right, you know,” the big man said after a while. His speech was slow; he planned his words like he planned his meals. His chunky build and sluggish speech made him an underestimated member of the family, but he was strong. Drifter had seen his son crunch a man in half. Crunched into the fellow soon after. His strength was matched only by his smarts. He knew his stuff. Not technical things like his uncles or trigger skills like himself; Appetite was more of a planner, a strategist. “They’re gettin’ mighty close, Pa. Ain’t long before they cross our borders.”

“We don’t got no borders. This is our planet.”

“Okay, Pa, I get that, but they aren’t aware. New guy on the scene. Captain Xan. S’posed to come down to finally clean up the mess that is us.”

“Captain Xan.” The name sounded familiar. Drifter assumed it was the fella’s last name, but he couldn’t be sure; Bluecoats didn’t work with no sense after all. The name tugged at an old thread in his head but he couldn’t quite remember where. “Ain’t the first to come here and expected the land to be theirs, son.”

“Didn’t say it was, Pa. But you were the one that told me, don’t underestimate no one. Don’t care if it’s a fish, a dog, a raider, a man or a woman, family or Bluecoat. You gotta be careful, always.”

He’s right, Drifter thought. I taught ’im that.

Dusk Mountain Blues Release Date

Dusk Mountain Blues

March 24th, 2020 on Amazon

The Caldwells have one goal in life: to be left alone. They’ve been living on the backwater planet of C’dar for years, smuggling and scavenging their way to a comfortable life on their Homestead. But you know the saying about all good things – they come to an end. The Civilization wasn’t content with falling apart the first time and has finally caught wind of the ol’ boys and girls on their little rock in the middle of nowhere. Ain’t nothing much they can do about that, though…except fight ’em.

It all comes down to three generations of Caldwells— Luke “Drifter” Caldwell, Woodrow “Appetite” Caldwell, and Cassie “Kindle” Caldwell—as they fend for everything they call home. What is isolation worth?

 

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Blog Post (12/4/2019) Write what you want in your world (an author of color problem)

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about hard lately. I feel like there’s often a stigma where authors of color are pigeon-held into just writing about main characters of their own skin tone. It’s something that has bothered me for quite some time while being in different circles within the writing community. I’ve been often teased and scoffed at because the main character of my books isn’t my skin tone—or they are entirely made up like a fantasy race. I believe that’s not quite a fair thing to say or assume about my book or me as a person. So, I wanted to talk about it.

I’ve said the before: authors can write about any protagonist they want to write about. I’m a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, and Elder Scrolls. That has in turn instilled a lot of world-building involving fantasy races. I tend to use those as a coding of some sort to talk about topics that are close to me. Also, I just like writing about orcs, elves, dwarves, giants, firbolgs, etc. I don’t feel like there are enough people of color writing about those things in their fantasy worlds, so I wanted to write about it myself. That doesn’t mean that I’m ashamed of my race or that somehow, I’m not representing myself accurately.

There’s plenty of people of color that are represented in my world.  One of the main things I wanted to have is people of color in major authority positions. For example, the main royal family of the Empire is dark-skinned and most if not all the Dukes you see within the story are people of color (aside from the Great Northern Families which are based on Norse and Celtic). I feel like that’s a good way to show representation outside of having a black main character within an afro-centric world.

Let me clarify though. I enjoy these stories. Black Panther, Rage of Winter and Children of Blood and Bone are some of my favorite stories to ever grace pages. But it bothers me the people expect me to write something similar because I’m black (this especially the case with fellow people of color). There are plenty of ways to represent your race within your story but also the fact that you’re writing a novel anyway is representation enough. You can write whatever you want if it’s tasteful and respectful to people.

So, I’m challenging more people of color to write outside of what they think they can do or more importantly should do. If you want to write about an African princess with magical powers, go for it. We need more powerful black characters in the world. But also, if you want to write about Vikings or dragon people that live in trees, go for it. Don’t feel like you must be forced to write these things because of the color of your skin. I’ve seen amazing Asian or African inspired books written by white men or white women. You’re allowed to step outside of your comfort zone and write what you want to write (given that you have research or in the case of fantasy, appropriate world-building). You, as an author, are representation enough.

Blog Post (8/29/2019) Main Characters (And how they aren’t the only characters in your story)

There’s a thing I’ve noticed with newer or inexperienced writers. They tend to not to have secondary or even minor characters at all. I didn’t realize how much of an issue this is until I realized in a few fan fictions and novels that I’ve been reading that something was missing. Secondary and minor characters are important to the world itself. They fill the world up with people that the main character will interact with, even if they only appear for a scene or two. It gives the world some meat to the potatoes that is the setting.  Without it, the main characters feel like they are the only people in the world and the world completely revolves around them. No one wants to feel like the only thing that the author wants to show off is the main characters.

So, what exactly is a secondary character or a minor character?

A secondary character isn’t quite the main characters, but they have importance within the story itself.  Often, they would appear more than once or have some significance to the plot. A good example of a secondary character is often the mentor character that disappears (or dies or something) midway through the plot. They are an important secondary character. They drive the plot forward without being the main characters that you’re always around. They are often reoccurring and sometimes can be upgraded to main characters easily given enough scenes.

A minor character is a character that holds very little significance at all and just shows up as a character for the sake of the scene. These are tricky and very often come up on the fly. Sometimes, they don’t even need to have names. They do, however, need to portray what you want them to in that specific scene without looking wooden or a cutout. You can have fun with these. Some of my favorite minor characters have been eccentric or awesome for a single scene, only to never be seen from again. Some never even get a line of dialogue (like the guards of a Queen or a bartender of a tavern).  They are there to give some depth to the scene and remind the readers, hey, this a world with thousands upon thousands of people that you aren’t going to be able to meet.

Then why are they important? Like I said before, secondary and minor characters bring depth to the stories. Main characters have their own drives and ambitions and the center of the plot. The setting gives them somewhere to stay, walk around in, converse around, and do battle in. However, none of that matters if there’s not more than the main characters they can talk to sometimes. Sometimes, you need to have nameless characters for your main characters to fight. You need to have them go somewhere and gather information. Secondary and minor characters can give you that without compromising what you want the main characters to experience. Also, they are easy to make for the most part.

Secondary characters usually have more depth. They take time to mature (however less than the major characters) and they often have names and personalities in every scene they come across. Take your time with these. For minor characters, you can very often just think of a name or personality on the fly that fits your world. Give them a job or a purpose for their minor role within the scene and keep moving. You’ll be amazed by just how much add a few soldiers, a few patrons, or a few random city folks within a scene can change how your readers will see the scene in their heads.

I hope that this helps. Keep making characters and write those stories.

See ya next Thursday,

Deston J. Munden

Blog Post (8/22/2019) Post First Draft Syndrome ™ (I’m both excited and tired)

So, if you’re following me on any social media, you’re probably aware that I’m now finished with yet another first draft in Duke’s Brand. It has been quite the wild ride, filled with a lot of hard work and late nights but I did it again. I wanted to talk a little bit about my first drafting experience since quite a few people have asked me about it. For me, it has felt like I took forever on this draft. For everyone else, it looks like I blitz through it at the speed of light. Either way, I’m suffering what I have officially coined as Post First Draft Syndrome ™.

What is Post First Draft Syndrome ™? It’s both excitement and sadness after finishing a first draft. It starts as complete excitement. You did it! You finished your first draft! Hurrah! Then, it slowly goes into mild paranoia. You start backing up the first draft everywhere in existence, realizing the editing work that’s going to have to go into it, start collecting beta readers for the next draft, worrying about every flaw in the first draft ever that you can think of off the top of your head!! etc. By the end of the first few hours, your exciting experience of finishing a first draft is now a conflicting war of emotions where you as the author feel like you’re being torn asunder. So, now I’m here, blogging (sorry for the lateness because I’ve been working obviously) talking about it.

So, how do I deal with it? As you know, I’m…. a bit of a workaholic. When I’m not doing anything productive, I get kinda angsty thus the beginning of my Post First Draft Syndrome ™ to settle in at full power. If I have anyone else like me, I have a few tips to help you get through it. The first being relax! You just finished a first draft, dude, celebrate. Kick back, enjoy yourself, give yourself a vacation (even if it’s a week or so). Don’t jump into editing or writing another draft. Just relax. Give yourself some time to recharge. The work is going to be there when you get back. You have a lot to do already. It’s better to just chill and enjoy your accomplishment.

After that, if you’re anything like me, work on something other than writing on or after your vacation. Work on your social media platforms, read your TBR, catch up on some other media such as video games or anime, just try to recharge yourself. Your mind is still going to be in work mode. Already today, I opened the file and remembered I’m not working on it anymore. I gotta force myself to sit down and enjoy the time I have off.  Yes, this is my job, but I gotta keep myself at top shape going forward. It’s time for me to enjoy other things for a while before jumping into the next project. So, right now, I’m focusing also on working on my health and getting my mind back centered.  It’s the best I can manage to do right now.

Thanks for all the support I’ve gotten for Duke’s Brand and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I love writing it when it’s finally released.  I’m going to go watch some anime now. I hope you guys have a good day and I see you guys next Thursday.

Have a wonderful week,

Deston J. Munden

 

Book Progress

Blog Post (6/24/19) Reviews and Contests (Scary Things, I know)

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So, if you’ve been following me on social media, you know that I’ve joined two contest this year: the Epic Fantasy Fanatic awards (the EFFys) and the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO 5).

It got me thinking about a lot of things (among those being how nervous I am just thinking about it). But it also got me thinking about publicity in general and how it’s a risk just to try some of these things out.

It took a lot of convincing for me to even try either of these things. It was a terrifying experience for me considering that I’ve never tried anything like this before. I thought, even now, why should I even try where there’s plenty of books out there that will probably be a thousand times better. It wasn’t a mindset that I wanted or needed to be in. You see, everyone has those reservations. To you, your book isn’t worthy of being placed in contests or being up for review by a blogger. You’ve already so acquainted with your story that you see its flaws and only see the best in the people you’re competing against.

I took the entire day when I joined the SPFBO looking at all the fellow contestants, especially the 30 within my chosen blog. There are quite a few big names in my chosen blog, so I convinced myself that I didn’t have a chance. It ruined my day. It took some friends convincing me that that act that I’m even trying is enough. And the more I think about it, it’s true. I wouldn’t have even tried this before. I would’ve convinced myself well before the contest even started that my book wasn’t even worthy to at least try either of these. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there and take these risks. You’re going to be criticized and honestly, some people aren’t even going to like your book. That’s fine.  But you need to try. You don’t know what you can do or who you might meet along the way.

Reviewers and contests are as much of a networking tool as self-promotion and marketing. In a way, they are bound tightly together. Reviews and contests give you an audience that may have never found your book otherwise. That alone is a reason to try.  Your book needs to find eyes to read it. Like I’ve said before, you can’t expect people to find your book on their own. You must be willing to put your book in awkward situations. Find people that will want to read your book, who offer legitimate promotion services or publicly display your books to an audience. Remember that you’re not alone in this.

On the topic of fellow contestants in a contest, reach out to them. They are not your enemy. Yes, you’re competing against them (FOR WAR AND GLORY). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends with them or get to know them too. You’re in a contest with sometimes upward of hundred, two-hundred, or three-hundred other people. Don’t be afraid to meet them. Read their works and learn from them.  Also, don’t be jealous (as best as you can) while reading their works. Again, the grass is greener on the other side. Reading your fellow contestants works is not only supporting them but also showing good sportsmanship. It’s all a learning experience.

So, I’ll suggest anyone to at least give a contest a try. You might win. You might lose. But in the end, you might be surprised by the results either way.

Have a good day,

Deston J. Munden


Book Progress

If you want to nominate me for the EFFys to make it to the next round, there’s a link below!

https://epicfantasyfanatics.com/tavern-deston-j-munden/

Blog Post (6/13/19): Traditional vs Self-Publishing (what I’ve learned so far)

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My buddies at the Indie Street Marketing had a meeting not too long ago about indie vs traditional publishing and the difficulties that involve when you don’t have a traditional book. I wanted to throw my two cents into the mix since I couldn’t make it to the meeting that day so allow me to ramble for an unallotted amount of time until my heart is content. Ready? If you’re not I’m starting anyway, GOOOOO!!!!!!

I’m going to start off by being completely real, self-publishing is amazingly difficult, especially when it comes into the marketing department. While it has its upside such as creative freedom and control over what goes in and out of your book, it has one major downside. You’ll see it once you have your book published. You must get the books into readers hands. You gonna have to start marketing. What that means is that you’re going to have to learn to take (reasonable) risks and a lot of time and error getting your book up the charts in Amazon, generate buzz through social media, and learn things like Amazon or Facebook ads.

In traditional publishing, you have a juggernaut to help you with these parts. Self-publishing, this is all on you. You’re going to have to spend some of the money you earn (even very small amounts) on learning what works and doesn’t in your marketing scheme. But, there’s also plenty of other ways to make marketing easier for yourself without spending money. Develop a marketing plan. There are plenty of things that you can do to get yourself out there other than ads. You will have to learn how to network with other writers and readers. That means having a blog, having a website, frequent use of Instagram and Twitter, developing videos on writing and drafting, etc.  And you’re going to have to do some of these things every day. If that means making a tweet or Instagram post or even working on a video, you’re going be marketing at least one thing every day (it’s not even trying to sell your book most of the time). That brings me to my biggest point: your book isn’t always going to be the thing that sells your book, often than not it’s the author. You are what makes you marketable.

People are going to have to see you as an author. That means developing a brand for yourself. You’re going to meet people along the way. You’re going to talk to them, learn more of the craft, get yourself into the thick of it. I get it, we aren’t the most sociable bunch us writers. But as a self-published author, you don’t have the luxury of sitting back and having people stumble over figuring out who you are. There are sometimes you are going to get lucky and find a bunch of potential readers. There are going to be times where you’re going to have a dry spell.  But the main thing is that you’re going to connect with other people. Find people that you enjoy talking to whether those are reviewers, fellow authors, readers, and fans.  Have a good time doing this, make friends within your industry and genre. Remember, you were a fan of these genres before you were an author (well at least I hope). Talk about works you read, works your jealous of (I’m looking at you Jonathan French and Nicholas Eames), fine-tune your writing craft, and get to know people.

Traditional publishing puts you into this mindset automatically. Often than not, they share editors, cover artists, agents, etc. They swap ARCs back and forth; they get buzz around their books by meeting with their fellow authors. Indie authors are going to have to learn to be sociable to succeed. You’re going to have to meet with your fellow authors, give out blurbs, leave reviews for your author friends, have writing days with them. Over this week alone, I’ve seen several traditional published writers meet each other and just talk and chill with their fellow writers. Indie authors should do the same. After you spoke with them for a time (to make sure they aren’t axe murderers), ask them for a writing date or just chat. Learn more about people.

Back to the marketing itself, a good suggestion that I have learned with the ads is to start off small and learn keywords that will draw in your readers. Find authors that are like you or are within the same genre as you. As a fantasy author, that was easier said than done. I had to take the broad fantasy genre and chip it down until I found the exact genre that my book. Learn keywords that you would search on Amazon or look at targeted fantasy book ads that you get on facebook. Learn bits and pieces of what works and what does with a small amount of budget, then work your way up. If you’re serious about this process and already spent money on editors, cover artist and formatting, you’re also going to have to spend money on your marketing to keep up with the traditional publishing. Don’t put yourself into debt. Remember there are other ways to market your book first.

All in all, the marketing (and the self-cost of everything) is the biggest difference in traditional versus indie publishing. A lot of work falls on the author themselves when you’re self-published. You’re going to have to develop a street team for yourself, get friends and family involved, and learn more and more about how the genre works.

If you want to learn more, please join the Indie Street Marketing discord (https://discord.gg/mtfM2qP) and talk with me there. I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and brainstorm with my fellow indie authors about getting more eyes on our book. I’ll be happy to hear from you. I would like to thank @bettsican @ginnyzero @jaimistoryteller @sixstepsaway on tumblr for bringing this topic to my attention.

See you guys on the next blog post,

Deston J. Munden

 

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