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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Characters

Without conflict there is no story (or plot, I will use these two words interchangeably), only a sequence of events that may or may not be related to one another.

Thus, one of the requirements for a well-told story is conflict. This requirement creates the need to have exactly three distinct story elements.
Two (2) characters fighting over one (1) thing. (2+1=3)

But as my friend Chris White mentions in a post on his blog, for him plot = character. In other words, it is the interaction of characters that define the story.

Two characters fighting over one thing, while potentially riveting in a short story, is quite a challenge to sustain over an entire full-length novel. The story is greatly improved when others get involved in the battle for the unique object that is the ultimate story goal.

As a writer, you must be cautious not to overcrowd the story with too many characters.

How many is too many? That is a hard question to answer. Instead, let me give you the minimum number of characters you need for a fully developed story.

The Hero (Protagonist) – The central character of the story. This is who the story is about.

The Sidekick (Protagonist Supporter) – Brings attributes to the Hero’s side of the story (i.e. comic relief) without altering the Hero’s personality.

The Villain (Antagonist) – Competitor for the object. This is why the story is taking place in the first place. The stronger and more capable the Villain, the better the story.

The Henchman (Antagonist Supporter) – Villain’s version of the Sidekick.

The Companion (Love Interest involved with Protagonist / Antagonist / Both) – Has a connection to both the Hero and the Villain and does not need to be sexual in nature.

The Object – Single (often one-of-a-kind) object that only one person can possess at a time and has the following attributes:

- It will give the Villain the power to get what he/she wants
- It will give the Hero the power to stop the Villain

And there you have it. These six elements give you all you need to create a fully developed story. Use them wisely.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fanning The Spark

You have an idea for a story, but you don't know what to do with it. Me, I place all my ideas into a Story Nursery and take care of them. Once an idea has fully matured, I pluck it and that is my next book.

How do you nurture that spark of an idea? You need to think about it. Here is the "food" I give to all my ideas in my Story Nursery. If I am unable to make any of the sections in Part One or Part Two makes sense, the idea is still too young to harvest and I wait.

Part One: Determine who the main characters are. These are the people who make the story interesting. Answer the questions to learn about each character as you will use this information for Part Two.

The Hero: Who is the story about? What does the Hero want that s/he does not have or loses early on in the story?

The Villain: While the story is about the Hero stopping the Villain. It is the Villain's actions that cause the story to happen in the first place. So, with that said, who doesn’t want the Hero to get what s/he wants?

The Companion: Who helps the Hero get what s/he wants? What does the Companion do to show the Hero that s/he can get what s/he wants despite the actions of the Villain?

Part Two: Determine the main points of the story. Write the answer to each of the questions below and then put them together into a cohesive telling of the story. Be sure to follow the order below when creating your version of the story. This is your elevator pitch.

1. Who is the Hero and what is s/he doing at the beginning of the story?
2. Who is the Villain and what does s/he do to ruin the Hero’s perfect world?
3. What does the Hero want and what does s/he do to get it?
4. What does the Villain do to make it harder on the Hero to get what s/he wants?
5. Who is the Companion and what does s/he do to show the Hero s/he’s been going after the wrong thing?
6. What does the Hero do differently to finally get what s/he wants?
7. How is the Hero better off than s/he was before?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Setups and Payoffs

I hate it when I am watching a TV show and the main character walks in on someone just as they deliver the punch line to a joke and everyone around them roars with laughter, but neither the main character (nor I) got to hear the setup so “we” have no idea why that punch line is so funny. If you are like me, you spend the rest of the show focusing on what was so funny about that line rather than paying attention to the rest of the show.
I know the writer was using that scene to reveal how accepted that other character is by the group and how disconnected the main character is from the group, but this also illustrates another point.
Clearly the joke is hilarious, as evidenced by the roaring laughter. But without the setup, it doesn't seem that funny.
Without the setup, the payoff is missing something.
Actually, it's missing everything.
The 6th Sense, starring Bruce Willis, had the biggest setup (the entire movie) which resulted in one of the largest payoffs in cinematic history. Upon subsequent viewings of the movie, we realize that M. Night Shamalan gave us hints along the way. But he presented them in a way that kept us distracted from the truth until the big reveal at the end. If the subconscious hadn't been fed all the little clues throughout the story, the reveal at the end would still have surprised the audience, but not in a good way. And it would have lacked the "knock your breath out" impact that it had.
The same is true for your story. For every amazing reveal or twist that you create, return to earlier points in your story to create the setup that will give that reveal or twist a solid one-two punch. The reader subconsciously picks up on these hints and gains greater satisfaction when you hit them with the payoff.
Without the setup, your payoff is just another coincidence or event in the story that the reader glazes right over never realizing how awesome it really is.