Mulling over Title/Cover Change…

Mulling over Title/Cover Change…

So I’m considering changing the title and cover for WHISKEY.

Truth be told, I like the cover and the title as it is… but I’m concerned it isn’t “connected” enough to HOOD so that the casual observer who sees it will recognize that it’s the sequel.

Maybe I’m overthinking things. But I’ve been toying around with covers to satisfy my meandering mind. Arguably, I’m not a digital design artist so my skills are pretty damn limited…

But I need some input from you, the reader/casual observer. Please let me know your thoughts on this matter…

Here’s the original cover:

whiskey-cover-final-42

And here’s the new one I’ve been playing with:

whiskey-cover-final-green

So, what do you think? Do you prefer the old one or the new one? Perhaps a mix of both? What do you think of the potential title change? Or the change of coloration to be more like HOOD?

Truth be told, things like title, cover art… these are just marketing tools. And I want BOOK 2 to feel as much like a spiritual successor to HOOD as possible.

 

Thanks peeps,

Evan Pickering

BOOK 2 is COMPLETE!

BOOK 2 is COMPLETE!

Well, you know. Complete in the sense that I have finished writing all the chapters. Now comes the editing process, and then formatting, and then BAM! Soon it shall be in the Amazon book forest and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of readers. GAH I WANT TO PUBLISH IT TODAY!

93cb69d561ac733c62c4773c04f33162

Behold, the might of Stormwind. I mean– the glorious green bars of Scrivener target goals.

It blows my mind that just three months ago or less I was staring at 5k or 10k words thinking “man, so much farther to go.”

But you just keep writing every day and that shit adds up.

Considering I didn’t really write at all in May–after I finished my semester I took the weeks thereafter to storyboard and outline–it only took me about 2.5 months to write the first draft.

75,000+ words in about 75 days. 1,000 words/day (no calc needed), that’s not too shabby if I do say so myself.

Hold tight, readers of HOOD. The second installment is just upon the horizon!

 

Hearts and huggles,

Evan P

Excerpt #4 HOOD American Rebirth Book 1

Excerpt #4 HOOD American Rebirth Book 1

Well, I’m almost home.

I don’t think I’ll have it published by the end of this month like I’d hoped. I’ll probably have edits done, but I’ll still need to do Kindle formatting along with everything else that goes into getting it as polished as I’d like. If it all goes well I should have it out by January.

I can live with that. I’m varying between anxious and excited about being on the home stretch. I don’t think it will feel real until I’m staring at it on Amazon.

It’s been joyous, exciting, painful, growth-inducing, and humbling writing and re-writing this book. I’m glad to say some early version readers have had some very positive things to say about it. Any writer will tell you, that means the world and beyond.

My goal has always been to make an entertaining, enjoyable, page turning story. I think I’ve come a long way to doing that. For all you reading this, I hope you give my story a shot when it’s done.

And with that, here’s the excerpt. Fittingly, I’m ending with the beginning–it’s the opening to the book. Enjoy!

Evan Pickering

HOOD COVER FINAL 1

The iron sights of Hood’s AK-47 lined up perfectly between each other, trained on the dark-haired man in the muted blue of predawn light. Hood’s heart picked up speed, his chest rising and falling with hasty breaths. The Kaiser knows we’re here. The purposefulness of the man’s search was proof enough. A lone wastelander would’ve kept his distance from their camp. How many more are coming? The image of a host of the Kaiser’s soldiers waiting in the dark mountain woods set his mind ablaze. Focus. The man hustled to the next tree and crouched down behind it, leaning over to peer around the mossy bark towards the campfire up the hill. No one else followed behind him. Maybe he’s just a scout.

The man’s chest rose and fell quickly as he closed his eyes, pistol in hand. He switched hands on his pistol as he wiped his palms on his pants. He doesn’t want this. He’s just like you. The thought surged into his mind unabated. Hood tried to cast it out, focusing on keeping his aim true. Just turn around and go back, Hood pleaded. He had a perfect shot from his flanking position up in the tree, but his finger stayed still on the trigger.

If you don’t shoot him, he will kill someone you love.

Hood chewed on the salty pull string of his well-worn hoodie, breathing in deeply and holding the air in his lungs as he squeezed the trigger on his rifle nearly to the firing point, keeping the sights steady.

It’s a Long, Long Road

It’s a Long, Long Road

Man, that kills me every time.

Writing, like in life, you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself–Not take everything so seriously. As writers, we usually take our writing pretty damn seriously. It means all that and a bag of chips and salsa to us.

But at the end of the day, we do it because we love it. Because it’s fun to create. Because we were the kids that loved to play pretend in the backyard. Because we love storytelling, we love stories, we love new worlds and experiences, and we want to share our own with the world.

Me, I know I’m obsessed with storytelling. Reading books, watching movies, playing video games, writing stories. Maybe too much so 🙂

It’s a long, long road. With writing and with life. You’ve got to be able to enjoy the process. If find myself recently  (both in writing and life)getting so caught up in the goal that I’m not enjoying the process.

HOOD COVER FINAL 1
New Cover!

I’ve been fixated on finally publishing my novel. I keep saying “after this edit, it will be done!” But I’m still learning, I’m still improving. I know the work I’m doing in the editing process is making it a more complete, better story. I have to honor that. I told myself I’d have this thing published by the end of the year.

It was my new years resolution, if I remember correctly.

I hope to be able to do that. But if I can’t, to hell with the resolution. I’d rather tell my story right then hit an arbitrary deadline. After all, I’m working for myself.

It’s fun in a sick way, working on editing a book. There will be a day when I look back on this experience with this book fondly.

So take a deep breath, wherever you are in your life or in your writing, accept there’s a long road to be traveled yet. Enjoy it.

-Evan Pickering

 

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Sooner or later (and probably repeatedly) we all manage to tie our own proverbial shoelaces together before we sprint after something.

Most of the time, we don’t do it on purpose. We usually think we’re doing the right thing or making the best choice.

That is especially true in writing.

Writing a novel can be such a huge undertaking. You’re building your whole world and portraying a select few journeys through that world, all while trying to grab your reader’s attention without being garish.

I know that I struggle with too much subtlety. Or at least, what I see in my mind as subtlety. It’s probably more accurate to call it a failure to inform your reader (lol).


So here’s my lesson for today: Yes, you want your book to have subtlety, but there are important things you have to find a way to convey to your reader. You can’t raise the stakes with scene (action) and sequel (down time) if your reader doesn’t know exactly what the stakes are.


If you fail to properly build the intensity of the focal points of your story, you’ll end up with one of two things happening:

1.) Conflict and climax that the reader isn’t fully invested in the outcome of.

or

2.) Conflict and climax that the reader doesn’t fully understand.

Both will completely pull the teeth out of your story. The best and most gripping stories are ones we care about the characters and the outcome, and ones where we understand the dynamics and forces at work (at least, the important ones. In mysteries this is not the case, but your reader is expecting not to understand, and to eventually discover)

Book Cover 11

I am now undertaking what I hope to be the final round of editing for my novel, Hood, Book One of the American Rebirth Series. (Though I feel like I’ve said this before.) I find that as much as I try to make concepts clear, I’m still working on smoothly informing the reader of important aspects of the story. I know that I tend to be overly subtle, hoping the reader will read between the lines. My lesson to myself is relax, the reader will do that on his own. You don’t have to make his or her job harder by not telling them what they need to know.

Hopefully, I’ll have the book out next month. But I’m endeavoring to not rush the process. I’d rather it come out in its best possible form than just push it out because… well, I can’t wait to get it out there 😀

-Evan Pickering

6 Things About Writing Dialogue You Need To Know

6 Things About Writing Dialogue You Need To Know

There is nothing, NOTHING more story-killing than bad dialogue.

Nothing.

It can be a book, a movie, a show, anything. Specifically here we’re talking about books or short stories. But the second someone says something completely contrived or unrealistic or just wildly out of character. . . you hear that sound? That’s the sound of the fictive dream being shattered.

Dialogue is so very important. It is a exceedingly tough line to walk to have your characters feel genuine, engaging, and true to themselves all while keeping the rhythm of the story. It only takes a little incongruency to make your readers go “Huh?”

Your characters have voices. They speak to each other, to the reader, to you. They hide things, they lie, they mask emotions, they show emotions, they speak their minds, they put themselves on the line. And ultimately, the dialogue is what makes your readers love your story. After all, it’s how your beloved characters interact and show themselves in the world you’ve created.

Every writer has a different relationship with dialogue. Some tend to love it, some tend to hate it. Sooner or later we all feel both ways. I tend to love it, but I also tend to rewrite the living hell out of it. Dialogue I thought was awesome one week I think needs serious change a week later.

So here are my tips on dialogue:

1. Focus on character realism without getting too hung up on it.

It is of critical importance that your characters stay true to themselves when they speak. But that doesn’t mean they always have to have the same opinion, feelings or actions. After all, people change their minds all the time. If your story is doing its job, your characters should be changing a lot through the conflict, so it’s natural that what they say will change. But make sure whatever is happening, whatever your characters are saying, that it’s true to their personality, that it makes sense to their internal beliefs.

2. Don’t get cute.

You know what I mean. Good dialogue should feel real. In real conversations, people change the subject, misunderstand each other, don’t respond, answer simply or talk nervously. Don’t write some binary rolling complex thought train all the time. Yes, dialogue should be action-reaction… but keep in mind that characters have motives, people want to steer conversations certain ways for different reasons. The trick is, simultaneously you have to keep the dialogue in a pace and form that drives the story. Don’t let your characters take over the narrative drive all the time.

3. Keep it simple. Shorter is often more powerful.

“I can’t have you second guessin’ yourself,” Bill said.
Owen worked his jaw, staring out the window as the rain collected and fell in wild paths down the glass.
“There’s no room for it. We won’t survive.”
“I heard you.” Owen turned, moving away from the conversation.

Okay, that’s just a random sample I made up. But you get the point. People often speak very simply, and from a writing/reading perspective, the more short and punchy something is, the harder it hits the reader. Granted, you want to vary sentence length and conversation based on the mood of the scene and of the characters. But the more you can trim the better. Just think of Pulp Fiction. One of the best and most memorable lines in that movie, a movie featuring plenty of outstanding dialogue is: “Zed’s dead baby.”

4. Get Some Distance.

Any writer worth his salt is going to spend a heck of a lot of time editing. As I’ve said in previous posts, editing is really the true bread and butter of writing. But when it comes to dialogue (and your story,) you’ll get so close to the words that you can become numb to them.

It’ll feel hard to tell whether you’re actually making positive revisions or just changes for the sake of changing. For that reason, It’s very very valuable to set your manuscript aside for awhile. Weeks, months, whatever it takes. Don’t look at it. Don’t even open it up. Read some other books you love, read some editing and writing nonfiction if you want. Come back to it once some distance has grown so you can be more objective and look at it with an honest lens. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

5. Use your voice.

When you re-read it, read the dialogue aloud to yourself. In character. It might feel weird, but do it. Try to act out each character as you speak their words. Hearing it all out loud does wonders for figuring out what makes sense and what doesn’t, what has normal speaking rhythm and what doesn’t. You want your words to read smoothly like spoken word.

6. Ultimately, put yourself / your stamp on your dialogue.

There’s all kinds of rules and guidelines out there for writing. Much like the ones I’ve put up above. But the bottom line is that millions and millions of stories have been written and told over and over. So at the end of the day, only one thing will seperate your story from anyone elses. Your voice. You as the writer, your feelings, your experiences, your own flavor to your dialogue. At the end of the day you’ll live or die by the unique elements of you as a writer that you bring to your story. So don’t steamroll what makes you you as a writer. Let it fly (within the context of your characters, ofc.)

Book Cover 11Here’s some shameless plugging for my novel above, hopefully it will be done by sometime next month! I promise I’ll let you all know when it goes live. Enjoy your writing and keep it rollin’, peeps.

-Evan Pickering

The Single Greatest Strength Of Any Writer

The Single Greatest Strength Of Any Writer

There are so, so many different faculties that are necessary for writing.

Creativity and world building, being an observer of the world around you, having patience, free expression without self-doubt. . . Then there’s the more pragmatic side, writing good sentences, building scene and sequel, character development, plot arc, creating dialogue, balancing the rhythm of your work. I could go on.

All of these things are crazily important. Every writer is different, in that some of these skills come easier or more naturally, and others take time to develop. Sometimes we must adjust our very perspective to be better writers.

But one faculty rules them all, like Sauron and the one ring.

A willingness to be wrong. And with that, the thirst for growth.


There is nothing more definitive on whether a writer will be successful than this. If you write a story, are so confident in it, flat out refusing to believe it could need moderate to serious rewriting, you just have no hope. None. Even great authors have to hack apart their work, get their hands bloody.

All the cliches about first drafts being shit aren’t just lip service. You need to write. And rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. And edit. And edit. And edit.

If you can’t enjoy that, if you can’t get excited about that process of improving your writing and your writing skills, than the process of creating a good to great story is going to be exhausting, emotionally paralyzing.

I’d like to think I’m a decent writer naturally. What I know I am exceptional at, is learning. I get so excited I can barely contain myself when my editor comes back at me with my work with a boatload of changes, with new ideas and ways to adapt the work. When I originally wrote HOOD, Book One of the American Rebirth Series, I sent it to my wonderful, brilliant editor, who very nicely helped me realize there were a some strengths to the book, but huge, huge weaknesses. Ones that would take massive rewriting. With a deft touch, she helped me realize the book simply wasn’t good enough as is.

Hood Cover 7

My book was 280ish pages to start. I cut 180 after I took a day of self-loathing to truly digest what my editor told me, and rewrote the story. It finished with around 240.

Once that I realized I’d taken two years to write a book and needed to butcher block 2/3s of it, I wanted to die. But once I realized the potential of my story, how much better it could be, I couldn’t contain myself. It only took me around 2-3 months to rewrite the whole thing, after it had taken me 2 years to write it in the first place. And I could see how much better it was.

Now, I’m waiting on my editor’s feedback for a final round of editing. I’m so excited to see what she has to say I am literally counting the days. And I’m so, so glad I feel that way. Because it would suck if I hated this process, knowing how important it is.

The beauty of it is, the next book I write, it will be easier and require less re-work because I’ve learned what not to do, I’ve learned what my weaknesses are when I write, and now I understand what it takes to overcome them.

If you talk to any established author, they’ll tell you this: a microscopic few writers just write brilliantly, naturally.

The vast majority of great authors started off writing sucky, flawed writing, but loved doing it. And they learned (even if they didn’t love it) how to improve their writing, put their ego aside and really soak in what they could learn from editors and other writers. That’s how most of them become great. Experience and willingness to be wrong, and learn.


I’m so, so SO glad that willingness to be wrong and learn from it came easy to me. That it was something I liked. Because it is everything in the world of writing. I won’t sit here and claim my story is great. That is for the readers to decide. I’m just glad that if it doesn’t live up to what I think it could be, I have the right approach. Break it down. Learn from it. Come back stronger the next time.

-Evan Pickering