I live, I die, I live again.

I live, I die, I live again.

i_live_i_die_i_live_again___mad_max_fury_road_by_cyanidemachine-d8wf7ltI watched that movie again last night with my dudes. Gets better every time. Tom Hardy is just so awesome in that role.

In keeping with the theme… I’ve started to work on BOOK 2 of the American Rebirth Series. I live again.

It’s going to be another long road, I know. (It feels like trekking up a mountain on rollerskates sometimes) But my hope is to finish this book much quicker than HOOD, I’m looking to finish it within a year!

I also want to take a sec to continue being extremely excessively excited about how well HOOD is doing. I’ve been within the top 50 books in the Bestseller lists of Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian for awhile now, and I sold 58 books in the past 3 days, as well as had 19,372 pages read on Kindle Unlimited. Adjusted for KENP my book is 421 pages, so theoretically my book was read cover-to-cover 46 times in the past 3 days (reality is probably a bunch more people read small sections of it)

Regardless, the feeling is hard to describe. Getting reviews from people who loved the book and having people reach out to me on social media is just so gratifying knowing how much love and time I put into this book. Really, it’s better than the sales and the reads and everything else.

I realize it can become annoying talking about yourself as a Indie Author in excess, but I just want to share this with everyone who’s been a part of making this book real. I hope someone I love will tap me on the shoulder and tell me “you’re talking too much” if I get out of hand.

But hey, fuck it. I’m enjoying myself. And I want you all to enjoy yourselves too– readers, friends, family, strangers. Ya gotta enjoy the highs, because you’re going to feel the lows.

I live, I die, I live again. What a lovely day!

-Evan

 

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My One and Only Review: The Last Of Us

My One and Only Review: The Last Of Us

I’ve been trying to pinpoint what it is about The Last of Us that makes it groundbreaking work of gaming and storytelling both.

To answer it, I have to ask a question:

Why do we all need stories and storytelling? It’s nearly as fundamental a human need as eating and sleeping and love. Remove all stories from your life (be it a loved one telling you about their day or a great epic of history) and the silence that follows it will be deafening. Maddening. Unbearable.

Because without stories we are alone. Without them we live one solitary life, confined to our own heads.

Perhaps this seems like a long and unnecessary aside for a video game review. It’s not.

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The reason why The Last of Us shakes the earth underneath your feet after you’ve played it, is for the same reason all great stories change us. Through it, we live out another life. A breathing, pulsing life.

The life of The Last of Us is real. It occupies time and space. If not in your reality than in your mind and in your heart. It carries with it a great weight of the everyday life of a select few people in the shattered remnants of the world, of bad jokes and angry fights and heartfelt bonds and awkward silences.

It is not overt; it does not scream in the face of the player/viewer and dazzle with shock and flash. The great beauty of this game is that you walk with Joel and Ellie and everyone else who passes through their life, in spectacular yet tragic landscapes, in peaceful normalcy and under great duress. It might be a walk through beautiful woods and other times it is a bleak, wet subway tunnel infested with ‘zombies’ crawling in the dark. Gun in hand, you tread softly ahead with four bullets and a brick, a fatherly off-hand protectively extended to Ellie. All you think as a player is “How am I going to make it through this?”

You want to survive because you cannot bear watching these characters you love come to harm, and you desperately want to claw your way out the other side into daylight to see them reach their destiny, whatever it may be.

the-last-of-us-ambush

You see yourself in everyone. There are no heroes and villains. There are only people, and they are flawed and real and keenly relatable. Every single one of them.

On top of it all, the gameplay has been perfected to align perfectly with the mood, the feel of the game. It’s survivalist, it’s desperate and raw and very, very real. You can’t superman through the fights, running around taking bullets and gunning people down 1v20. You have to survive. You have to be tactical, quiet, deliberate, patient. Or you die. Sometimes all you can do is run.

The gameplay is the story. The story is the gameplay. Not many video games can achieve that. The only thing I could say is that the story is so incredibly good, you might find yourself longing to complete the gameplay just to find out what happens. MIGHT. But honestly, you LOVE the fact that you have to fight your way through their journey. The satisfaction of surviving in this game is very, very real. (I recommend any gamer worth their salt playing the game on Hard or Survivor for the first playthrough. You just have to. Trust me. The gameplay is too forgiving and takes away from the fictive dream a bit if you play normal or easy.)

I’ve played through the game around seven times. And I NEVER replay games that much. I just love the story, the world, the feel of the game so much I find myself drawn to it and thinking about it on an everyday basis.

I also won’t talk about a potential spoiler things that happen in the game, but suffice it to say through playing the game and living alongside the characters, It has permanently changed the way I look at my own life.

That’s the best thing I could say about any game, any movie, any book, any story. Period.

Do yourself a favor. Play TLOU. You’ll never regret it–that’s a promise.

-Evan

My novel, HOOD on Amazon Kindle

 

A Pure, Unexpected Joy.

A Pure, Unexpected Joy.

There are a hell of a lot of feelings out there.

Publishing a book has a way of eliciting many, many of those feelings. Excitement, anxiety, trepidation, hope, raw fear, doubt.

After the book is in a place where you finally say: “I think that’s it. I think it’s ready.”

Then comes the magic. You set it free to roam the scavenged wastes that is the world of E-publishing. Its rifle, your plot. Its ammo, your character depth. It’s food and water supply, your cover, blurb and marketing skills.

It must fight to try and become king of the wastelands.

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Credit: maciejkuciara

Or not. But y’know, it sounds cool to say.

I was so nervous when it was going live. I didn’t know how I would feel. But something happens to you, the author, when it is published. There is this joy. At least, there is for me. Getting to reach out to people, getting to connect with old acquaintances and close friends and family and strangers over this labor of love you’ve created, this creation that is born of your mind and gives wonder and excitement (hopefully) to those who read it. . . Well, it’s just an awesome feeling.

Every day, I wake up, and it feels like Christmas. I rush over to my computer, turn on the dashboard and see how the book is doing. How many KU pages have been read? How many books have been bought? A lot? A little? None at all?

I get excited not because I made two dollars when someone clicked a button to buy my story. I get excited because My baby is out there, and people are reading it. People I know, people I don’t know.

Some will hate it, some will love it, some will tear it apart, some will sing its praises, some won’t finish it, and some will simply say meh, s’aright.

And it’s all awesome. I love it all. It’s so much fun. I’ve worked so hard on this book for so long. I just want to see it all. I want to see the hate and the love and the indifference because it is all a part of the experience.

Now all I have to do is write the next book. Deep Breaths.

-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)

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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

Book Cover Art: Don’t Get Too Excited Now

Book Cover Art: Don’t Get Too Excited Now

While I’ve been waiting for my editor to get back with my latest draft, I’ve been slaying myself over cover art.

Trying (unsuccessfully) to get an illustrator, looking for digital professionals, digging around any and all online resources on the matter. . .

It was driving me god damned crazy.

Some artist charge insane amounts for cover illustration. Other cover art deals want to hook you on marketing deals with the cover art. And all the while you just hope you can get a cover that really feels like it speaks to your story.

Not easy to do. Of all the things I went though, of all the research I did, this was the best advice I found.

I had found some art online I thought was perfect. Specifically, this:

6578632965eec6a4cfb9cf0a80dfc40cArtwork: Darek Zabrocki

But I couldn’t get in contact with the artist, and assuredly even if I did the price of cover illustration would probably be steep.

I couldn’t get anything similar that encapsulated my story more. . . Rough survival in the wooded countryside of post-apocalyptic eastern seaboard, USA. Emblemized by a Hooded man, rifle in hands, waiting to fire.

Really, this image is perfect for my story. But alas, there was little I could do. Trying to replicate something similar was not working.

I wanted to puke trying to get this done. Finally, in my frustration I just decided to jump on some free online cover editing software, namely Canva. After a few hours of tinkering around with photos, I started to realize I could really create a cover I could be proud of for my book. All on my own. I won’t bore you with the grind of trying to key in on toning and positioning, font type and coloration. But this is what I came up with. And considering I’ve never done this before, I’m pretty happy with it:

Hood Cover 7Ta-daa.

All things considered, I think it looks pretty dang good. What say you, unwashed masses and followers alike?

Really, tell me what you think. I’d love to hear it. After all, as of now this is going to be the face of my book when I publish it in about a month (god willing)

-Evan Pickering