HOWL does not disappoint.

HOWL does not disappoint.

I wanted to take a minute to share my excitement over this Comic soon to be released for public: HOWL

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I’ve gotten to read the first issue already. It’s truly such a good story. So engaging, from page 1 you want to know more about the world, about the characters…

It’s just a brilliantly wrought story by Eastin and Ryan and Dan. I won’t drown you in hyperbole. It’s just worth reading. Soon they’ll get it out on Comixology, and people will get their paws on it. I already know how it’s gonna go.

Can’t wait to get my hands on my own advance copies.

DO WANT.

Also they made a pretty baller T-shirt. Becuase they make baller things. It is known.

-Evan Pickering

 

 

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

 

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

Starting Over. . . And I’m not Talking About Stories this Time

Starting Over. . . And I’m not Talking About Stories this Time

I’ve got to got to got to move on, where do you move if what you’re movin’ from is yourself?  -Modest Mouse

Alright. I’m taking a break from writing to air some personal thoughts. Enjoy my catharsis:


I would say that this time in my life is one of transition. But if I’m being honest, the past 5 or so years of my life have felt like a time of transition.

The good news, and the bad news, in some ways, is that I am pretty damn adept at putting myself into other scenarios and perspectives. I can see myself in a more settled position with a good job and a family, and know that that me would long for freedom, for personal time for my hobbies and pursuits. I can see the me that would leave my hometown, go travel again or move somewhere new. It would be invigorating, but I would miss my loved ones, and feel a sense of missing out on precious time pursuing my goals.

I’m 28 years old. Most everyone I love is married, has kids, or is in a serious relationship. Most of the people I know have moved away. If I’m being an honest, I’m a man-child in some ways. Perhaps that’s needless self-degradation–I’ve always been a kid at heart. I knew I would be that way as an adult even when I was very young. . .

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But I feel as though I’ve got so much more I want to do and figure out about myself. At 28 with this kind of mindset, you feel alone in a very real way.

Not alone in any sort of sad way, because I know I have so many people that love me, whom I love–people who would do anything for me. (and I, anything for them.)

I feel alone simply in that I am so starkly on my own in a place of change. No longer are the days where I get to hang out with my friends and family regularly, goofing around. I don’t even live near most of them anymore. The people I love are settling in to their families and their lives–a beautiful thing. But I can’t see clearly what I want for myself.

I see the glory of getting married and having kids. I visualize it all the time. But also, I love dearly my personal time, and the freedom of being on my own. I have more hobbies and pursuits than I have time to give to them–god, I feel like I want to learn everything, try everything, just do it all and enjoy the growth that comes with it. Part of me wants to spend my whole life selfishly pursuing every skill and hobby (writing being the chiefest.)

But the desire to get a home, settle in, raise a family is always there. I know in doing so many of my personal pursuits fall away–the sacrifice you make for raising kids (which seems to me to be by all accounts a life-changingly beautiful, incredible thing.)

Other People’s lives seem more interesting ’cause they ain’t mine. -Modest Mouse

I’m not so naive as to think I’m the only 28 year old to think this way. In fact, I’m sure this a very, very common occurrence.

But I feel so powerfully connected to my past, mostly because my past is unilaterally amazing– I’ve had an incredible life by all accounts. Lucky and blessed are not the right words. In poker, we call it a heater when everything is going right. For sure, many things have gone extremely wrong/sideways in my life. But on the whole, I’ve been on a heater for nearly 30 years.

But my enjoyment of the present feels as though it’s being soundly clocked regularly by a cartoonish mallet named “Former Clarity.” I feel old and alone, though I know I’m not. I feel young and goofy as hell at heart, though I know I’m matured and maturing.

I want to start over. Not back in time, but start over anew right now. Clear out the clutter and figure out which rhetoric that’s chiming away inside my brain is true and genuine thought and feeling, and what is fear and paranoia and unfocused memory babble.

When I was younger, I had a clarity on such things. As I get older, everything seems to get more ambiguous. Maybe that’s just what comes from years of learning.

I know that starting over’s not what life’s about, but my thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth. -Modest Mouse

Maybe starting over is all wrong. Maybe there is no such thing as starting over. I think that’s more the truth. But I know assuredly, something is changing for me. I can almost feel it. I just don’t know what the change is yet. It’s like a fragrant aroma that you recognize, but can’t remember the memory connected to the smell, despite how impossibly familiar it is.

In the meantime, I’ll take a deep breath, stop worrying, and let go. I’m old enough now to know sooner or later I will figure it out. That’s how it’s worked in the past. The harder you cling to something, the more you force it out of your fingers. So let go.

-Evan Pickering

REBLOG, Brilliant Article: You Are Enough

Absolutely Brilliant article. I couldn’t Agree More:

What if the next time we sat down to write, we didn’t worry about being interesting, we didn’t worry about being liked, and we didn’t worry about being reblogged?

“Anything that gets your blood pumping is probably worth doing.”
Hunter S. Thompson

The most frequent question I field from bloggers is, “How do I get more people to read my blog?” I suspect they want the answer to be something SEO-related, and I hate to disappoint, but my answer is almost always, “Pick a topic you want to talk about. Choose subjects that you can’t wait to write about, whether a million people will read your blog, or just your best friend.”

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
Albert Schweitzer

What if there were no pressure to be interesting, or wild, or unique, or marketable? What if the main ingredient in the recipe for a great blog post is simply the exuberance to share yourself? I bet we could excite readers just as much by writing about finding a killer sale at Marshalls, as we could about winning the latest season of Project Runway.

There is such a divide between a story that needs to be told, and a story that reads as if it were written out of obligation. The writers that I admire the most are those who can write about any topic, and draw me in with their exuberance. A writer’s moxie makes any story magnetic.

Source: Click Here to Read the Full Article

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

I Know Why You Love Post-Apocalyptic Stories

I Know Why You Love Post-Apocalyptic Stories

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There’s a purer, better world out there buried among the mess of our civilization, Isn’t there?

At some level, unless you are extremely fatalist or pessimistic, we all believe that.

We all constantly are thinking about the future, whether it be our personal future, or for the world, whether it be ten minutes from now or ten years down the road. It is a part of instincts, it is part of being alive.

So why then, is Post-Apocalytpic fiction an unstoppable juggernaut of a genre that has shown no signs of slowing down?

Because on some primal level, it is a future many of us (stupidly) fantasize about. A future where all the troubles and complications of life have melted away. A future where the only things that matter is who do I love, how do I protect them, and how do I stay alive? We ignore the fact that it would be a terrible life, one where death and loss are everywhere. We romanticize it, the way we do with everything, really.

My generation, Millennials, probably have taken to this genre so hard because our lives have been bogged down with the image of a misery-sodden future. The Government’s ineptitude and blatant corruption infuriates us. The global economy has disintegrated around us as we came of age, and we are the ones whose future was placed on the altar in payment, all the while the generations before us (or at least the ones in media and power) berate us as entitled and self-absorbed.

There’s a reason why Obama was elected, and why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have received so much support (not to make this discussion political). It’s because most people want change. Sweeping, all-encompassing change. We don’t want to be the victims of our world.

That’s what post-apoc embodies. The world wants to make you the victim of its tragedy. In survival fiction, the heroes fight their hearts out to survive, to protect strangers and loved ones and anyone worth saving.

Post-Apocalyptic fiction is never about the end of the world. It’s about the beginning.

That’s what we love. We want a different world, a better world, a world deserving of the good people in it. And we love stories where people fight like hell with every breath they have to make it real. So for all you writers, readers, survivors of your own lives, keep fighting for the future.

Hopefully, if I’ve done my job right, my upcoming book Hood, Book 1 of the American Rebirth Series will be a worthy addition to the Pantheon of great Post-Apoc fiction. Rest assured, I’ll let you know when it comes out. xD

Evan Pickering

Excerpt #3: Hood, Book 1 of the American Rebirth Series

Excerpt #3: Hood, Book 1 of the American Rebirth Series

While I’m undergoing yet another round of professional editing (sweet, delicious feedback) I figure let’s keep this thing going with another excerpt!

While I am antsy to get this thing published and out there, I’m trying to remind myself to be patient. . . after all, It’s better to take longer but come up with a better product than just hurry the damn thing out there. So, deep breaths, writers, neither you or I can rush the growth process.

-Evan

Hood, Book One of the American Rebirth Series

Excerpt #3


Kerry stared out the windshield of the truck at the broken bridge ahead of her. The sun was high in the sky and the wind rushed through the river valley. The empty road and tall grassy clearing past the bridge might as well have been miles away. The tall grass swept and swirled about in a graceful dance with the wind, and she wanted nothing more than to just be there on the solid earth with the overgrowth. Her hands clutched the wheel tight. Her mouth was dry and her eyes felt bleary from lack of sleep.
“Pull the truck in close,” Hood said from behind the guardrail atop the wall. Behind him was a straight drop to the riverbed, but he looked as though he didn’t notice or wasn’t worried. “Closer. Pull her all the way against the wall. We ain’t worried about the paint job.”
Kerry turned the wheel and then counter turned to slide the truck closer. The front left panel of the car scratched and squealed as the stone bridge dug into its side.
“That’s it, nice and tight.” Hood said. “We want to get as much leverage on this baby as we can.” He slapped the hood of the car with a metallic thud. To Kerry, the wall was one more thing trapping her inside the truck. She closed her eyes and exhaled. Sweat beaded on her forehead and made the steering wheel slick under her hands. This wasn’t what she had hoped for.

She kept seeing the image from her childhood play over and over in her head. Sitting in the back seat, her parents in the front seats. They crept through the intersection, and out the driver’s side window came the front grill of a truck. Glass exploded as the car flipped over and over, she slammed her eyes shut feeling herself spin in the air, slung out of her seatbelt, hitting the ceiling. She opened her eyes, numbly looking at her own shattered hand covered in blood as she lay on the ceiling of the up-side down car. Her heart started to race just conjuring the memory.
Between Whiskey trying to kill her and having no choice but to play chicken with her worst nightmare, maybe she should have just kept hiding in the darkness that night she saw them.

The Single Most Important Thing For Publishing Your Own Book

The Single Most Important Thing For Publishing Your Own Book

We all know that a lot goes into writing your own book. For those who want and choose to do such a thing, it feels about as strenuous and painstaking as childbirth (oh god please don’t hit me ladies).

I say to anyone who I talk to about this, write a book you’ll love, and write it so you’ll love it even if no one else ever reads it. At the end of the day, that’s what will give you satisfaction. But reality is, we want people to read it. We don’t live in the world alone, and we want to share our creation with others.

So then, we want to undergo the journey of [self] publishing.

For any new author (and lets face it, even an established author) who wants to publish and have success doing it, you need one thing:

A GOOD PROFESSIONAL EDITOR.

There you have it, folks. Believe me, you have no idea what you’re doing wrong until you have someone help you. We all think we’re better writers than we actually are. We think (at first) people will love our stories as much as we do. Reality is, you have accept and learn from every single mistake and hiccup you make to become a better writer, and you have to hook, lure, entrap every reader with your words, your story, your characters (for fiction writers, anyway).

It is really, really, really hard to do all that on your own. If you can’t afford a professional editor, then at the very least, find a trusted person to honestly read and review your book to you who won’t pull any punches. But fair warning, they can never help you learn like a good professional editor can.

Trick is, finding a great professional editor. I was lucky enough to get one through my mother, who is a published author.

Thank god for her.

That is all,

Evan Pickering