Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Significant World Events for August 5th

1100 – Henry I is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

1957 – American Bandstand debuts on the ABC television network.

2013 - Ramblin' Prose Publishing ends its introductory prices for eBooks.

If you have not had the chance to explore the Steampunk OZ series, or the first book in my Peacekeepers X-Alpha series, you might want to do so before the publisher raises the list prices of my eBooks back to $7.99 USD.


Please share this news with anyone who wants to take advantage of the lower eBook prices before they are gone forever. 

Where to find my eBooks at their lower introductory price until August 5th, 2013:
(UPDATE: It has taken a while for my books to be updated, so the lower price is good until Monday September 9th)

Amazon -

Barnes & Noble -

iTunes -

Kobo -

Smashwords -

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Siri's First Novel

Siri, Apple's voice recognition service, has received negative comments and reviews ever since she first arrived with the iPhone 4S. However, there is more to Siri than finding the nearest restaurant or the cheapest tickets to a concert.

No matter what critics say about Siri as a personal assistant service, Siri Dictation is another matter.

I have no complaints with Siri Dictation. In fact, I wrote this blog post with Siri along with my full-length science-fiction novel, The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure.

I did not use Siri because I had to.

I can type 60 words-per-minute error-free (I must admit, Siri is much faster and rarely gets my words "wrong"). I do not suffer from repetitive stress syndrome and I enjoy working with a keyboard and mouse. In fact, I wrote my previous novel the old-fashioned way, using a keyboard with Microsoft Word (sorry, I am not that old).

I wrote my novel with Siri because I wanted to.

Thanks to Siri, as a writer, I join the ranks of prestigious authors who dictated their novels rather than write or type them out by hand. Authors like Earl Stanley Gardner, who wrote the Perry Mason series of books, or Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, considered one of the greatest literary works in the English language.

Will I ever go back to writing novels by hand? It is very unlikely, Siri has me hooked.

Dictating an entire novel is a first for me. The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure is also a first for Siri. It is her first full-length fiction novel.

No one can take that away from us.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Targeted Reading for Writers

Conventional wisdom tells us "to become a better writer you must read." Good advice, but meaningless all by itself. How do you know if you are learning anything instead of wasting your time reading when you should be writing? Perhaps the most important question is, why are you reading?

Let's answer the why question first, since this is the most important.

Question: Why?

Answer: You are reading to improve your craft.

The craft of writing is "how well you write." Your writing must convey meaning to the reader. Preferably your meaning. Fortunately for us, the craft of writing can be taught. Something we can learn by reading.

Let's move on to what.

Question: What should you read to improve your craft?

Answer: Books which teach the craft of writing.

Let's modify the conventional wisdom saying into "learn to write better by learning to read better." How do I learn to read better, you ask? To help you with this answer, I have created my own list of Targeted Reading for Writers below.

If you only have time to read one book to improve your writing, then that book is:

-- The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White

Shame on you! If you only have time to read one book to improve your writing, you are in the wrong profession. Hence, these next three books should be added to the first book. These four books should be every writer's essential core reading requirements to learn the craft of writing:

-- Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

-- The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

-- Writing the Breakout Novel and Companion Workbook by Donald Maass

The following eight books expand your knowledge, but mostly reinforce what you learn in the four core books:

-- The Art of Dramatic Writing by Egri Lajos

-- The Secrets Of Action Screenwriting by William C. Martell

-- Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

-- Myth and the Movies: Discovering the Myth Structure of 50 Unforgettable Films by Stuart Voytilla

-- The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

-- Manga Madness by David Okum (pay close attention to the character archetypes section)

-- The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass

-- Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read by Michael Hauge

One more book should be mentioned here. And it is:

-- Your favorite fiction book in the genre you want to write.

After you have learned the craft of writing, you are prepared to read better to improve your own writing. How do you read better? With a highlighter and pencil in hand. What are you highlighting and annotating? You are deconstructing your favorite book to see how the concepts from the other writing books on this list were implemented in a published book.

Read a book not for the content of the story but for the craft of the writing to create the feedback loop essential to the learning process. Without the feedback loop, you are reading to read and will not gain further insight into why the words on the page are so effective at conveying their meaning to the reader.

The often dispensed advice, "If you want to be a good writer, read a lot" is commonplace but not extremely helpful if that is all you are told. First you must know the why and the what before you can incorporate the ever important feedback loop which helps you learn from your reading.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Press Release: Book Auction a Novel Way to Raise Funds for Education


Book Auction a Novel Way to Raise Funds for Education

Silicon Valley, California - December 10, 2011 - To raise money for his local school, bestselling author Steve DeWinter auctioned off the naming rights for the title character in his upcoming science fiction re-imagining of The Wizard of OZ.

"At a time when educational funding is being drastically cut," says Steve, "I wanted to do something to help raise much needed funds for my community’s school."

Parents fought a small but fierce bidding war at the Kathryn Hughes Elementary Winter Festival on December 9, 2011 to immortalize their child’s name as the one true name of The Wizard of OZ.

"I enjoyed meeting the parents of the winning bid. They seemed more excited than I was that they could bid on the name for The Wizard in my upcoming book. It felt good to use my personal set of skills to raise money for education."

Steve DeWinter is an American born bestselling adventure/thriller author whose evil twin writes science fiction under the pseudonym S. D. Stuart. Despite having an opinion on just about everything, he runs screaming from any Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. The Wizard of OZ, scheduled for release in 2012, will be available in trade paperback and major e-book formats.

Steve DeWinter

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Villainous Hordes and Free Giveaway

We have another guest with us today on The Villain's Worst Nightmare. I met Joe on the Kindle Boards and he offered to provide a guest post showcasing the inspiration for his own Villainous Hordes from his exciting new epic space opera series.

Without a doubt, the most badass warriors in all of history were the Mongols. Not only did they build an empire stretching across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, but in 1258 when they conquered Baghdad--then the center of the civilized world--they completely annihilated the city, leveling every building and massacring almost a million people!

When I learned about this in college, I immediately knew that I would have to write a story about it. Instead of setting it in the Medieval Near East, however, I decided to set it in space. I'd already come up with a far-future universe where Earth was a forgotten holy legend, and the idea of a barbarian horde in space fascinated me.

One of my favorite Heinlein novels is Citizen of the Galaxy, which features a society of interstellar traders who spend their entire lives on their starships. Heinlein is a master of the genre, and the way he built the society from the ground up completely entranced me, so that by the end of the book I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life on a starship.

I decided to take the same world building approach when I wrote my spacefaring barbarian horde. First, I tried to imagine what their universe would look like. Terraforming takes a long time, so the fringes of colonized space would feature several uninhabitable or barely habitable planets, with scattered small settlements and outposts. Without the major capital to build large ships from raw material, the only way for a spacefaring society to expand would be to conquer living space from their neighbors. Therefore, barring any central authority to keep the piece, society would soon fragment into a collection of warring tribes, each with their own battle fleets.

War would be a way of life among these people, because they would live and die on their own battleships. As with Heinlein's traders, their society would be extremely hierarchical, since failure to obey orders could threaten the survival of everyone on the ship. Captains would hold nearly God-like status, while slaves and prisoners would be treated like cattle, tossed out the airlock if there weren't enough resources to justify keeping them.

All of this was good and well, but to make them truly terrible, I needed to give them a secret weapon--something that made them almost invincible. The Mongols had horse archers, a type of unit that the Arabs and the Europeans had no idea how to face. For my space barbarians, I decided to make their leaders telepathically linked, so that they could instantaneously communicate by thought.

Battlefields in space aren't like battlefields on Earth; distances can span hundreds of thousands of kilometers (or more), and orbital dynamics and delta-V govern where your battleships can go and how fast they can get there. Throw in jump drives and hyperspace, and you get a situation where the enemy can knock out your entire fleet the instant your defenses get knocked out--if they can coordinate an attack.

Since I decided not to incorporate ansible technology in this universe, most battle fleets would only be able to communicate at the speed of light--a difficult task when your forces are scattered across half a star system. But these starfaring barbarians don't have that problem, and so they can bring their forces to bear almost the instant an opening presents itself.

Once I had all this figured out, I knew I had the makings of something awesome. I named my starfaring barbarians the Hameji, after the Arabic word for "barbarian," and the story practically wrote itself.

Now if this were an epic fantasy, it would probably be about the little boy from Samarkand who forms an unlikely bond with some misfit friends and somehow manages to kill Genghis Khan just as his forces lay siege to Baghdad. Yeah, this isn't that story. My little boy from Samarkand doesn't know it, but his sister has become a concubine to the Hameji overlord, and his brother has been brainwashed and turned into an elite soldier in the Hameji army. With his homeworld slagged in the second chapter, he'll be lucky just to survive.

The book is Bringing Stella Home, and it's the first in an epic space opera series where I hope to bring back the Hameji many more times in the future.


For followers of The Villain's Worst Nightmare, I'm doing a week-long giveaway for the companion novella, Sholpan, which follows the events of the first half of the novel from the viewpoint of Stella, the girl who becomes a Hameji concubine. To download a free copy, select your preferred format on the book's Smashwords page and use the coupon code WN98M (not caps sensitive).

You can also find me online at my blog, One Thousand and One Parsecs.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Interview with Vincent Zandri and Moonlight Rises Giveaway

Today I have the distinct pleasure of having Vincent Zandri, author of the recently released novel Moonlight Rises, swing by my blog on his Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour. I met Vincent this pasty summer at ThrillerFest and am glad to be able to count him among my friends. He has been wildly successful (he is nearing 200,000 copies of his novels sold worldwide in 2011 alone) because he is an amazing writer.

I mean really, how many authors do you know who can kill off their main character in the first sentence and still craft an exciting story?

I know of at least one.

You have a chance to get an eCopy of Moonlight Rises for your very own. Leave a comment for this posting to be in the running for your fee eCopy and return to this blog on Tuesday November 1st to find out if you won.

And now, without further ado, I give you Vincent Zandri:

Q: Thank you for this interview, Vin. Can you tell us what your latest book, Moonlight Rises, is all about?

A: Moonlight is chased down by a bunch of black clad men wearing President Obama masks. They beat him and insist they he reveal the location of a "zippy box." But he has no idea what they are talking about. They beat him so badly he actually dies. When he's dead he has an out of body experience and sees his girlfriend Lola with another man, and realizes she's been cheating on him. The two plots eventually come together to give Moonlight a nightmare of a case, that is when he eventually floats back into his body and becomes a alive again. Moonlight Rises!

Q: This is the first book I have read, or even know about, where the main character dies on page one and the story is not a flashback, reflection of past events or some alternate dimension. What could have possibly possessed you to even consider taking such a drastic (and unique) measure with your main character for this story?

A: I never considered starting it any other way.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: I know the basic premise and it all works itself out along the way.

Q: Your book is set entirely in Albany, New York yet you made your story very international. Can you tell us why you chose that location in particular?

A: Albany is my home base. Around here I'm consider a "local author." And the locals who read me get a kick out of seeing not only their hometown in my books, but occasionally one of them will show up somewhere in the pages.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Absolutely...In the follow up to Moonlight Rises, Blue Moonlight, the story is continued to Florence, Italy, my second home...Now how can I have Moonlight in Florence and not write an action seen on top of the Duomo?

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Oh brother...I don't have the book on me since I'm writing this in a bar...But I'm sure it's something cool and disastrous.

Q: Give me your favorite excerpt from Moonlight Rises?

A: I'll have to do this from memory, but I believe its:

     Life sucks. Then you die.

     Or, in my case, you die and then you live. That sucks too.

Thank you so much for this interview, Vincent. I wish you much success and can't wait for more Dick Moonlight novels.

Purchase Links:
Amazon | BarnesAndNoble

Book Details:
Genre: Adult Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: StoneGate Ink
Publication Date: August 13,2011

“Life sucks. Then you die. Or, if you’re Dick Moonlight, first you die and then you live.”

Dick Moonlight is dead.

Really dead this time, now that three President Obama-masked thugs dressed all in black and communicating only with hand-held voice synthesizers pressed up against their voice boxes have beat the life right out of him inside a dark, downtown Albany alley. What are the thugs after? A box. Size, weight, description unknown. They also want him to stay away from his newest and only client: a handicapped nuclear engineer of dubious Russian heritage by the same of Peter Czech.

But then, now that they’ve killed him, Moonlight’s problems seem to be over. In fact, as he undergoes an out of body experience, his soul floating above his train-wreck of a corpse inside the Albany Medical Center I.C.U., he feels pretty damned good. Great in fact. To make death all the more sweeter, his one true love, Lola, is standing by his bedside. With her long dark hair draping her chiseled face and big round Jackie O sunglasses hiding tear-filled eyes, she appears every bit the grieving sig other. Nothing could make the dead-and-gone Moonlight prouder.

But then something happens. Something bad. A man enters into the I.C.U. Some young guy. He takes hold of Lola’s hand, and pulls her into him. Together, the two share a loving embrace over Moonlight’s dead body. Now, what seemed like a peaceful death is anything but. Moonlight wants back inside his body so he can face-off Some Young Guy and find out if his true love has in fact been cheating on him. At the same time, he wants to find out the true identity of those thugs who killed him so he can exact his revenge. No doubt about it, Moonlight needs to live if he’s going to uncover some pretty painful answers and take care of business.

Like a little kid dropping down a playground slide, Moonlight slides right back inside his bruised and broken body. Opening his eyes the white light blinds him. He feels the pain of his wounds and the pain of his breaking heart.

Life sucks, then you die.

But Moonlight rises.

Author Bio:
Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling Amazon Kindle author of THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT FALLS, CONCRETE PEARL and the forthcoming MOONLIGHT RISES. He is also the author of the bestselling digital shorts, PATHOLOGICAL and MOONLIGHT MAFIA. Harlan Coben has described his novels as "...gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting," while the New York Post called THE INNOCENT, "Sensational...Masterful...Brilliant!" In March, April and May of 2011, he sold more than 100,000 Kindle E-Books editions of his novels, and is rapidly closing in on the 200K mark all totaled. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri's work is translated into many languages including the Dutch, Russian and Japanese. An adventurer, foreign correspondent, and freelance photo-journalist for RT, Globalspec, IBTimes and more, he divides his time between New York and Florence, Italy.

Connect With Vincent:

The Next Stop for Vincent on his whirlwind tour:
October 9th-Review@For The Love Of Reading

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Three Dimensional Story (and Characters)

All too often we have felt "that character was so one-dimensional" without being able to go into detail as to why.

We just knew.

Well, here's why:

We all carry within us a strong desire to become involved in another person's life, whether it be a real person or a fictional character. When we relate to those around us, we connect at different levels. The same is true when we read a book or watch a movie. We try to make a connection with the characters on the page or on the screen. So it is important as writers to create someone that the audience can connect with.

Dimension One: Physical 

When I order my weekly burger at the local fast food establishment, I relate only physically with the person taking my order. I make no further connection with them and to me they are a one-dimensional character, the fast food employee. We still see a lot of these characters in movies, TV and books. They are the "stereotypes" that writing teachers tell us to avoid. Despite the constant warnings, they are easily identifiable by the audience so the writer too often succumbs to using "characters" in their stories instead of "people".

Dimension Two: Emotional

I relate with my co-workers at a deeper level. Not only do I interact with them physically but I also expand that interaction into the emotional realm. I like them. They go beyond just being my co-workers; they have names and personalities. But when they leave for another job we no longer interact and they are often replaced with new co-workers. The relationship with the co-worker was clearly not one-dimensional, but it still lacked that something extra that made it easy to move on when they left.

Dimension Three: Spiritual

I am not talking religion here. Not only do I relate with my spouse on a physical and emotional level, there is also that "she is my soul mate" thing that pushes our relationship into the spiritual realm. It is here that the deepest connections between people are made. It is at this level that your story needs to operate.
When your "characters" come in contact with one another (Physical), begin to recognize their individuality and like or hate each other (Emotional) and realize they are destined to be connected (Spiritual) they become "people" in the minds of the audience. And the audience can identify and connect with people.
Writing in all three dimensions does not "show" your audience who the characters are, it let's them "know" who the characters are.

And when the audience identifies with your characters, they can easily boo the villain and cheer the hero, because the audience now has a vested interest in the outcome of the situation (the plot).

Here is a quick example:

One dimensional:

A man strides into the fast food joint and points his gun at the employee at the register, "Give me all the money."

Let me ask you the following questions:
  • Are you upset that he pulled a gun on the employee?  Why?
  • Do you hope he gets the money?  Why?
  • Do you care about the outcome?
Three dimensional:

Robert glanced at the tattered picture in his hand. It showed a happier time before the accident that took the life of his mother. Now, four months later, his sister would join her unless she received an experimental surgery that the insurance company was unwilling to pay for. The nickel-plated revolver felt overly heavy in his pocket as he tugged on the door handle to the isolated Burger Hut on the lonely stretch of highway. A quick glance revealed the only customers were a man and his little boy laughing as they shared a basket of curly fries. They would pose no threat. Robert had no idea, as he clicked back the cocking lever with his thumb and pointed his deadly revolver at the woman behind the counter, he was threatening the wife and mother of the only other people in the restaurant. He fixed his stare on the woman's eyes while she fixed her stare on the revolver. "Give me all the money."

Let me ask you the same questions again:
  • Are you upset that he pulled a gun on the employee?  Why?
  • Do you hope he gets the money?  Why?
  • Do you care about the outcome?
I would wager that you had a stronger reaction to the second telling of the story. There were living breathing people behind the cardboard characters of "armed robber" and "cashier". You might also have observed that I incorporated the Character Trinity model I talked about in a previous post. The Hero, Villain and Companion are all connected, even in this tiny snippet of a story.