The Blog Exotic.
Ideas and Things I Geek Out About.
It's 4:39 a.m. on book release day for "The Bastard Gods." I made a cup of coffee, turned on Spotify with Sammy Hagar's "Eagles Fly" blasting in my head phones and sat down to kick off the next chapter in a personal journey that started a decade ago. It's a great morning.
Almost seven years in the making, "The Bastard Gods" is finally on sale! I dedicated this one to the readers who stuck with me. I hope this latest chapter in The Chronicles of Fu Xi meets your expectations. I'd also like to thank my editor, Keri Karandrakis, as well as Michael G. Manning for recommending her to me.
Why did it take so long? This was the most difficult book I've ever written, and the easiest. Getting the massive plot turned in the direction I wanted was difficult. The characters, however, helped whenever they could by writing themselves. It's a long book, and a complicated plot, but that's not the only reason this took almost seven years. Writing two other books in the meantime, and producing an audiobook, didn't help. Along the way, I also got bit by the photography bug (Big Time). Photography distractions probably added about two years to the endeavor. Mostly, though, I got discouraged. (also Big Time.)
Getting discouraged is as common for indie writers, or maybe even all writers. There were a few times I almost quit and decided not to finish the series. It just wasn't one thing that dragged me back to finishing it, but several:
First, I wanted to be a positive example for my kids. I taught them to start what you finish, and do the best job you can. My oldest is entering a career in the creative arts, and I'm sure he is going to get discouraged from time to time, too. Ryan, I won't quit, so you don't either!
Next, sheer stubbornness. I pitched the series to a big-time editor in 2011. She shook her head and said, "Too ambitious for a new writer. You probably won't finish." Three down, one to go, lady. You were wrong.
Also, there is a wonderful reader who kept sending me really cool t-shirts. I didn't want to let her down, either. Thank you, Helen.I still have them all.
Finally, who am I kidding? I'm not a quitter. I was going to finish this book no matter what, just like I'm going to finish the next one.
What can I tell you about this novel? It's bigger and grander than the first two in the series. "The Bastard Gods" has more action than the previous books. It honors the world's great legends and myths, with just enough actual history thrown in to make it unique. And it is unique. You will find nothing like it on the book shelves. It is my sincerest hope you give it a try.
If you haven't experienced my epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Fu Xi, it's a great time to pick it up. This week I'm running a promotion where the first two novels are free on eBook. Just click on the hyperlinks and download them to your device.
Once again, thanks to all the readers who stuck it out during the long drought. This one is for you.
SEMIFINALIST, 2013 KINDLE BOOK REVIEWS SCI-FI/FANTASY BOOK OF THE YEAR!
The fish have disappeared from the sea. The animals have vanished from the land. All humanity, and even the gods, tremble under the specter of a pending cataclysm. The demigod, Fu Xi, races home from the edge of the world bringing news of a looming god war, but finds his land under attack by monsters he once called his children. He discovers a terrible curse has been cast, one intended to destroy the gods and all life. To his shock, Fu Xi learns that mankind's last hope rests solely on him, a simple fisherman, and a banished slave girl.Beset on all sides by ancient foes, both immortal and mundane, Fu Xi knows he must act quickly and races west to rescue the saviors. Unaware of the real doom that awaits, Aizarg the fisherman and his party begin a perilous journey across a dangerous steppe. They seek the last of the Narim, the legendary Black Sea Gods, who hold the key to their salvation. Leading them is the rescued slave girl Sarah, the only one among them who knows the path to the land of the god-men.Over seven days, the defining struggle of gods and humans begins under the onslaught of a powerful force whose true objective and origin remain a mystery. Fu Xi knows the secret to victory resides in the fisherman and the slave girl, whose lives he must protect, even if it means the rest of the world must perish!
THE LONG AWAITED SEQUEL TO BLACK SEA GODS!
The Curse of the Nameless God ravages the world, laying waste to man and beast. Desperate to flee the worsening cataclysm, Aizarg and his people escape to sea aboard a flotilla of rafts and fishing boats. Short on supplies and facing starvation, the Lo must not only survive epic storms and tsunamis, but ravenous demons lurking in the deep. Aizarg’s wife, Atamoda, knows that more than wind, waves and demons seek her people’s demise. A cancer festers aboard the flotilla, one Aizarg does not see. Under the cloak of darkness, whispers and conspiracies spread from raft to raft as hunger burns in their bellies. A treacherous plot poisons the hearts and minds of the gentle Lo. Atamoda and Aizarg struggle to keep their people together, even as an unseen enemy seeks to divide the Lo, and drive a wedge between Atamoda and her husband.Far to the east, the demigod Fu Xi races to reach the Roof of the World before the cataclysm claims him and his beloved horse, Heise. Along the way he discovers that a terrible power relentlessly stalks him - the dreaded god war has begun. Fu Xi’s immortality will be severely tested as he fights to not only to survive, but to fulfill his quest to find the mysterious white haired man and save his people. At the end of the world, demigod and mortal fight for survival, pawns to higher powers battling for world domination. In order to save all they love, they must find one another before it’s too late.
THE END OF THE WORLD IS OVER. THE BATTLE FOR A NEW AGE HAS BEGUN.
Two demigods roam a shattered world, one driven by conquest, the other on a mission of salvation. Caught in between are humanity’s last survivors. From the south marches Leviathan and his army of cannibal warriors. After surviving the Cataclysm and a voyage across the world, the son of Poseidon is bent on establishing a new “Empire of the Gods.” The slave Amiran is locked in a desperate battle of wits to stop Leviathan. He struggles not only to mask his conspiracies from the demigod, but to hide his feelings for the mysterious, and beautiful woman who recently washed ashore.
From the east rides Fu Xi, son of the Goddess Nuwa. He must find the Man with White Hair before Leviathan does. He also searches for the half-brother he has never known. Along the way Fu Xi unexpectedly finds a survivor, a beautiful woman that could lead him to everything he seeks…if he can keep her alive.
To the west Aizarg’s bedraggled people make landfall, but at a terrible cost. Now the Lo must make their way through perilous mountains, desperately trying to find a promised land. Aizarg must keep his people alive and united, as forces without and within seek their demise.
Demigods and mortals are on a collision course, but both are unaware of an ancient and dangerous force in their path, one that could change the fortunes of both men and gods.
A former Civil War soldier embarks on a quest on behalf of his former commander. He expects to find outlaws and gunslingers in the high deserts of New Mexico, but instead stumbles upon death incarnate in "The Cave."
The Cave is one of six short stories in my book "The Illusion Exotic." Here is a small sample, I hope you enjoy it.
“It’s there, in the cliff face on the east side of the river.” Townsend pointed down to a sharp bend in the river about half a mile north of their vantage point on the cliff.
Knight lowered his hat against the naked sun and followed Townsend’s finger to an overhang in the opposite cliff. There, the river had carved out a hollow in the soft yellow clay. In the stark midday shadows, he couldn’t be sure how far it penetrated the cliff. With monsoon season nearly over and the Brazos Mountains snow pack almost gone, the Chama shriveled to a trickle. The challenge would be finding a way down the cliff to the streambed.
“I see it. How do we get down there?”
“The cliff descends in another mile north.”
“Something is moving down there, just south of the cave,” Knight pointed to a dark speck trotting out from the cave’s shadow.
Townsend shielded his eyes from the sun and sat higher in the saddle, wiping sweat from his brow every few minutes.
“That there’s a cay-yote-aye, maybe a mangy wolf. Hard to tell from here, I didn’t see any sign of a...” Townsend jumped in his saddle as Knight’s Colt thundered inches from his ear.
“SON OF A BITCH! I’m gonna be deaf in that ear for a week, you...”
Ignoring Townsend, Knight calmly replaced the revolver in his holster, and rode through the blue smoke. Townsend rubbed his ringing ear and looked where Knight shot. Far below, the animal lay motionless on the riverbank.
“It had something in its mouth. I want to see it.”
“Jesus Christ,” he mumbled and spurred his horse after Knight.
As Townsend promised, the cliff soon descended to the sandy streambed. Knight stopped just short of the river and trotted back and forth, looking intently at the ground as Townsend caught up.
“Hell of a shot back there. Musta been three hundred yards. Never saw a revolver shot like...”
“What’s east of here?” Knight interrupted, pointing to a wisp of black smoke on the horizon.
“That’s Foreman McGhee’s railhead camp, maybe four miles. The line stays north of the river until it enters the mountains.” Townsend took off his hat and wiped his head with a rag. “Looks like ole’ McGhee’s making good progress all things considered.”
“Answer me this, and answer carefully.” Knight turned and directed his gaze squarely on Townsend. “Have you told anyone what Amado spoke of last night? Does anyone in town, other than you and Amado know of this place?”
Townsend shook his head. “Only the kid from the pueblo and Father Garza.”
“I ain’t worried about the boy. If what Amado told me is true, there isn’t a red skin alive who’ll come near this place.”
Knight galloped about fifty yards downstream and halted, studying the sandy bank. Warily, Townsend trailed a few yards behind. Knight suddenly wheeled about, pulled his gun and pointed it squarely at Townsend.
“The boy, did he accompany you and Amado back to the cave?”
Townsend slowly raised his hands. “Hey, I ain’t done nothing to you or any of those poor souls!”
Knight cocked the hammer. “Answer my question.”
“No, he was too afraid. Stayed upstream ‘til we came back fer him.”
“Father Garza...when did he leave you and Amado and head back to the Espanola?” Knight asked.
Townsend looked confused. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s important you answer my question, Mr. Townsend. Otherwise, it’s going to go bad for you.”
“Last night, neither of you told me what happened after you found the cave. Tell me what happened to Father Garza after you left the cave.”
Sweat poured down Townsend’s face. “He took the boy north, to the pueblo. Don’t rightly know what became of them since. I suspect Garza made his way back to San Marcos.”
“He went back with us, I know Amado told you as much.”
“We’ll see. Turn around and ride north ahead of me.”
“Are you gunna tell me what the hell’s going on? I ain’t done wrong by you or anyone.”
“Maybe,” Knight replied casually from behind. “There’s what you tell me and what the tracks tell me. I’ll find out soon enough who’s telling the truth.”
They rode several hundred yards north toward the distant railhead, until the terrain flattened and sand gave way to scrub and thistle. He commanded Townsend to stop, but stay on the horse. “Keep your hands were I can see them.”
Knight dismounted and walked through the scrub, once again studying the ground, Colt always pointed in Townsend’s general direction. He bent down and examined the dirt.
“Wellsby vanished, just like that?” Knight inquired.
“It ain’t no damn different than like we told you,” frustration rising in the sheriff’s tone. “We got back just before dark. Wellsby told us to keep quiet and he was gunna wire back to Colorado Springs what we found. He never met us the next morning, like he said he would. Ain’t seen him since. Amado said we should keep quiet until you showed up. That’s the truth, I swear. Hey, if we were lying, why would I bring you up here?”
Knight remounted his horse. “Because this would be a good place to dump the body of an agent of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Now, turn your horse around and ride back to the river.”
Townsend spit. “You planning on killing me?”
They returned to where the cliffs enclosed both sides of the river. The horses splashed up to their hooves in the muddy water as they rounded the bend and the cave came into view.
“Dismount,” Knight ordered.
The railroad agent dismounted and cut an “X” in the sand with his boot heel next to the stream.
“Stand here. Don’t move until I see if what you and Amado told me is true. Most of what you said lines up with the tracks going in and out of this canyon. If I see tracks newer than two weeks old coming from the south, I’ll know someone lied. And if I don’t find what you described in the cave, I’ll still know someone lied.”
“We weren’t lying, Knight.”
“We’ll see. If you move off that ‘X’ I’ll kill you before you mount your horse, understand? Even if my back is turned, I’ll still hear you. And if I can’t hear you, I’ll smell you. If I find what I should in there, then me and you, we’re okay.”
Townsend remained silent as he tied his horse to a piece of scrub and stood on the X.
“Ain’t you gunna take my gun?”
“If I thought you knew how to use it, I would.”
Townsend’s cheeks turned red. He jerked his hat low and crossed his arms with a huff.
Knight tied off his horse and crossed the sluggish current, barely getting his boots wet in the process. As he walked down the canyon the cliffs rose higher and the breeze abandoned him to the New Mexico sun.
Overhead, buzzards dragged their shadows over the creature lying next to the stream bed. It turned out to be a mangy coyote with a mottled coat and sore-covered skin. Jutting ribs and bulging eyes spoke of a creature already dying of hunger. A human femur, partially covered with dried flesh, lay beside its head. He nudged it with his boot, revealing blood-soaked sand under its chest.
Knight stepped over the coyote, not bothering to look back at Townsend, knowing he hadn’t moved.
The cave waited.
If you enjoyed that sample, you can read the rest of The Cave and other short stories in The Illusion Exotic.
Brian L. Braden presents six tales of souls turning life’s corners. From the Old West, to the edge of space, six people must learn to abandon the illusions that feed their fears, and trust in love, friendship, and their own courage.
The end of the world is bad enough, but its worse when you’re a kid. For little Anant, hope comes in the most unlikely of forms, the voice of Captain James T. Kirk. However, in "Spaceship Name", hope does not come without a price.
In "Green", a young pilot’s courage and fledgling skills are tested to the limit in the pitch black skies above a treacherous battlefield. In one terrifying moment, she will either lead her crew to triumph, or perish.
A former Civil War soldier embarks on a quest on behalf of his former commander. He expects to find outlaws and gunslingers in the high deserts of New Mexico, but instead stumbles upon death incarnate in "The Cave."
After a long day, second grade teacher Margaret Nichols only wants to go home, run a warm bath, and open her wrists. Fate has other plans, however, in the form of a bloodstained Bible and "The Boy in the Hole."
On a Saturday night, high school nerd Mike faces a tough choice: pursue a chance for romance with a popular cheerleader, or hang with Todd, his best friend and notorious loser. What he doesn’t know is his decision will mean life and death, and forever go down in history as the "Incident at the West Flatte Dairy Queen."
"Carson’s Love" takes the reader into the lives of the Campbells, a family falling apart. Megan and Rob have become so lost in their own lives, they’re about to lose each other. Then, while giving their baby a bath, Rob Campbell makes a startling discovery, and their world suddenly turns upside down.
It’s been a few weeks since my publishing group DeadPixel Publications collapsed. It was really a writers’ “collective,” for lack of a better word. It started as a group of talented authors banding together to help create and market their work. My time there was a completely positive experience. I learned a great deal, made a few friends, and found a few readers.
Looking back, I should have seen the end coming. Why did it die? A few of my fellow DPP’ers have written excellent blogs about what went wrong, so I’m not going to cover that ground again. I’ll just summarize by saying we didn’t really have a plan. Lots of talent and good intentions, but no real plan. With the clarity of hindsight, I tried to capture some generic lessons I learned, and come up with what I would do if I had to generate a publishing collective from scratch.
I came up with these Seven Basic Steps to creating a writers’ publishing group. Of course, these are very basic and definitely not applicable to all groups, as goals vary widely. Maybe they are too elaborate, maybe I overthought this, but if you’re going to do something, go big.
So let's go big.
1. Like any organization, someone has to be in charge. This is the guy or gal with the vision, the man with the plan, the cat herder, the carrot and the whip. This is what the group’s leader has to do as a minimum:
a. Create the brand.
b. Focus the group to support that brand.
c. Sets the rules
d. Let’s people in & kicks them out.
e. Have a plan.
2. Creating a brand starts with genre. The smaller the group, the more focused the genre must be. This is the very reason really big publishing houses have imprints. Genre is a basic component of brand identity. It’s what draws in the loyal followers. You can’t be all over the place, or you won’t attract new readers or readers from other authors.
3. Set rules and enforce standards. Yes, writing is a creative endeavor. However, when writers start hitching their wagons to each other’s novels a set of expectations is naturally established. It could be anything from “I share your post, you share mine” to “you beta-read for me, I beta-read for you.” Instead of guessing, and randomly asking or receiving requests for help, a better idea might be to formalize the process. You know, a a handbook, or something like it. This also relates to publishing standards for editing, cover design and anything else that goes into a book. If you enter a writer’s collective, you live by the rules. Otherwise, thanks and there is the door. If a group is going to set rules and enforce them, they would naturally start sharing skills, talents and workload.
4. Division of labor. Authors often get overwhelmed by everything involved with publishing a book. That’s why they often join author groups. When an author joins, its best if they know where they fit and what’s expected of them. Writers are a strange lot. The only thing common among us is the urge to write. However, this also means we have diverse talents, too. Some writers are good at editing, others at cover creation, etc. When a writer petitions to join the collective, their talents need to be identified immediately. Once that is done, they are assigned to a sub-committee. These sub-groups could include, but are not limited to:
a. Manuscript management
b. Concept development
c. Editing and style guide
d. Beta-reading & Workshop
f. Marketing, Blogging, Social Media, and Website
g. Cover design and art
Since the writers group is genre-focused, everyone comes with credible, applicable skills that lend to the whole. Of course, workload should be managed fairly, and might even include an agreed compensation scale. Hey, anything is possible depending what the group wants to do. Whatever you do, you need a formal process.
One important note here about money. If money for services gets bandied about within the group, arrangements should be formalized and approved by the group ahead of time. Make no assumptions.
5. Establish a Process: Your group has a leader, a solid brand, and suitable tasks for everyone. When a writer joins your group, they know they have a host of other writers to help them every step of the way, and they know exactly where they fit in the plan. Now you’ve got to create processes that takes care of your writers’ manuscripts from induction to post-publication. Whatever the process, the leader acts as a project manager of sorts, keeping the machine running, with concepts going in one end, and finished novels coming out the other. The degree to which an author hands over production of his or her manuscript to the group, is set by the rules, with no doubts of expectations.
6. Communicate! None of this works without communication. There are two forms of communication writers are good at – creative collaboration and bullshitting on Facebook. No, I’m talking about formal, disciplined communication regarding the status of writing projects as they wind their way through the pipeline toward publication. Groups and sub-committees need to meet on reoccurring basis, to get and give updates on status of projects.
7. Track results. This goes along with formal communication. It means setting metrics and tracking them. “How was that last debut?” “How are our reviews?” “How are sales on our books after one year?” Authors often suffer alone and in silence, unable to determine if what they are doing is any good. The group needs metrics to measure if what they are doing is even working. You can’t capture lessons learned and improve without metrics and communicating those to the group.
There you are, seven steps for creating an effective author writing group. If it sounds very “businessy,” it’s because it is. Authors spend enormous amounts of time writing a book, but usually screw something up during the publication process. Writing groups, if run properly, help us avoid the big mistakes, improve our craft and, maybe along the way, make some money. If you’re going to form or join a writing group, remember the purpose is to help you write better, edit better, better covers, better sales, better everything. That just doesn’t magically happen, it takes a plan.
In my latest Underground Book Reviews column, I talk about using UBR's unique features to network with other indie authors and expand your reader base. Here's an excerpt:
“Three is a magic number. Yes it is, its a magic number. Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity, you get three as a magic number…”
If you’re old enough, you might remember an old Saturday morning cartoon called School House Rock. In the 1970s it educated young minds full of mush in between doses of Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo. One particular episode taught kids how to divide and multiply by threes. I like the number three, because for indie authors it really is a magical number. By exploring the unique opportunities Underground Book Reviews gives authors, you can take three marketing platforms and three readers and turn then into potential seed corn for a much wider audience.