Ages of Aenya Launch Day!

It’s Ages of Aenya launch day everybody! Today, after ten years in the making, my book officially goes on sale on my new author site, nickalimonos.com! It’s available on Amazon, but you can get it directly from me at a discounted price, with free full color maps of Aenya. You can also find exclusive Aenya-related artwork, by Zhengyi Yu, Alexey Lipatov and Frans Mensink, at my store.

If you have been following this blog, have any interest in Aenya or in my naturist heroes, or if you simply love fantasy adventure, you can’t miss picking this up!

Welcome to the world of Aenya!

AoACover

GET IT NOW!

Aenya Newsletter 10/25/2017

Exciting news, everyone! My book came in the mail today! There’s just something magical, transformative even, when you get to hold your story in your hands for the first time. You know this is it, after more than a decade of writing and rewriting, the novel in its final form. Ages of Aenya is here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So where and when can you get it? Well, you can order it from Amazon.com, or next month from my new author site. I recommend cutting out the middle man and getting it directly from www.nickalimonos.com, as I can offer it at a discounted price, along with some Aenya inspired artwork! For all you e-readers out there, a Kindle version is in the works, and will be available next year.

Watch my YouTube video to learn more, or read the transcript below.

 

“Hi everyone! I’m very excited to show you what came in the mail the other day. It’s my book … Ages of Aenya!

I am really happy with the way this turned out. As you can see, it’s a hefty book. You can really do a lot of damage with this if you wanted. There’s Thelana on the cover, overlooking the city of Hedonia, with the pyramid of Sargonus in the background.

For years, people have been asking me ‘when is your book coming out?’ Well, now it’s here!

So, I really cannot wait to get this into your hands! It has everything lovers of fantasy adventure could ask for: fighting, monsters, exotic locations, romance, naked heroes, not-so-naked heroes; it’s been inspired by heroes like Conan and He-Man, and by writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, HP Lovecraft, and Homer (if you love Greek mythology).

It should be available to order mid-November, or even sooner from Amazon.com. But I recommend you wait and get it from me at my new author site, nickalimonos.com, where I will be offering it at a discounted price, and where I’ll be selling some Aenya inspired artwork. I will be providing links to buy it from my other social media platforms as well, from aenya.net and my blog, writersdisease.net.

Some people have asked me about a Kindle version. The Kindle version will be available early next year, but I wanted to get the physical copy into people’s hands first. There’s just something magical about a physical book. It has weight. It has substance. You can display it on your shelf. Too much stuff these days is digital, on a screen, so I think it’s nice to have something you can touch and feel. And besides, that’s actually a theme of the story!

Lastly, I’d like to thank my beta readers, who’ve supported me all these years. They include David Pasco, Heather Zanitsch, Tobias Tholken, and my brilliant editor, Ava Coibion, whose insights helped make the book even better. And of course my wife, Hynda, who has always been there for me!

So again, I am really excited to get this book into your hands. It’s been my passion for over a decade and now it’s here. Finally. Thanks for watching.”

Aenya Newsletter 9/01/2017

Greetings, fans!

The question I am most asked about Aenya is the most obvious one: when the heck is the book coming out? All I can say is, be patient. I admit to being a bit slow, but it’s only because I abhor the thought of releasing anything but the very best possible work. I’d also like to point out that, as a struggling writer, I, among others, are embarking upon a new age of independence. The big publishers are bleeding money, and as a result, have become increasingly mired by conformity. Vampires. Zombies. Apocalyptic teenage romances. Gritty Game of Thrones wannabes. And when something like 50 Shades of Grey makes a bajillion dollars, we get inundated with bondage porn, and an entire new section at Barnes & Nobles. Now, I don’t really blame the booksellers for this. They are simply doing what they need to survive. As I put it in my new bio:

Since starting out on this journey, nearly three decades ago, the literary landscape has changed. My dream of dropping a manilla envelope at the post office, to have a cigar-smoking editor in New York scream with delight at having found the next great author, is just that, a dream. We are living in a time when bookstores are shutting down and publishers are going broke. People have more addictive things to do these days, like staring at their phones and Netflix. We may be living in the last days of the written word, before the novel goes the way of the play, and I am well aware that the demands of the writer are greater than ever. On the other hand, the stigma associated with self-promotion is quickly fading. This is largely due to things like Kickstarter and YouTube. We are fast discovering that, not only can an independent entertain us, but that they can often be more humorous, and more sincere, than what’s on TV. In the literary world, the advent of e-books has become a double-edged sword, delivering a lot of pulp but also, some pretty great out-of-the-box writing we might never have otherwise seen.

In other words, independents have an even higher bar to jump than your average published writer. The Aenya series must not only be as good as your Tolkien, Martin, Rowling clones, but superior.

OK, getting off my soapbox now.

This summer, I took the family to London, because frankly, it is the world’s capital of great fiction. Being the literary geek that I am, I was only too thrilled to pick up C.S. Lewis, and the late great Terry Pratchett in the original Queen’s English. I was also frothing at the mouth touring Oxford University. But it was in the British museum where I rediscovered my inspiration for Aenya.

IMG_0793

Hero fighting a centaur

This is part of the “Elgin marbles,” named after Lord Elgin, whom my people blame for “stealing” from the sculptures of the Acropolis complex. Greek politics aside, this frieze, which originally adorned the pediment of the Parthenon, shows a Greek hero, possibly Heracles, fighting a centaur, possibly Nessus. For those of you in the know, I first featured Nessus in The Dark Age of Enya. He is responsible for giving Xandr his scar. Unfortunately, I had to cut the scene from Ages of Aenya, but that doesn’t mean I retconned the story. Nessus makes appearance in The Princess of Aenya and will probably crop up in future novels. Notice, also, how the hero fighting the centaur is entirely naked. This is a big part of my heritage. The Ancient Greeks envisioned their heroes sans clothing. It was, for them, an ideal, what has come to be called, the heroic nude. This is something I have long tried to revive in modern culture, through my heroes, Xandr and Thelana.

ThelanainNorthendell

Hero fighting a guard

To be fair, you won’t find any women, naked or otherwise, in combative positions on the Parthenon, or anywhere else. But this had less to do with modesty and more to do with sexism, in that the Greeks could not conceive of women as heroes.

The following day, in the Tower of London, I made another inspiring discovery. Will you just look at that sword:

IMG_0917
Holy crap! It’s like 7′ long!

 

OK, this might not have been a real weapon, used by a real person in battle. The Brits, just like the Greeks, loved their legends. Either way, it compares to Emmaxis, the sword hauled around by Xandr, which I have long considered too big to be practical. But just like the heroic nude, the protagonist’s weapon is an ideal, a storytelling tradition, and I do not pretend to be a historian.

xandr_2013_by_frans_mensink_by_ageofaenya-d630k89

OK, if this is just making you want the book more, I give you a sneak peak at nickalimonos.com, my upcoming author site. Once it goes live, you will be able to order the book directly from there, for yourself and your friends, and every person you’ve ever met, hopefully. Ages of Aenya will also be available on Amazon.com

site

Aenya News Update: 11/29/16

A few months ago, I put out a request for artists for the upcoming 2017 edition of Ages of Aenya. After a bit of vetting, by which we produced the Avian and Horde (below), I settled on the talented Zhengyi Yu.

I chose Zhengyi for his painterly style, which better suits a novel, I feel, than the more cartoony styles of my other, albeit equally talented artists. Mr. Yu also impressed me with his landscapes. When I see a book with some impossible, otherworldly terrain, it draws me in, igniting my imagination, and I hope to capture readers in the same way. More importantly, Zhengyi has been wonderful to work with, being attentive to my needs and more than willing to brainstorm and make changes. If you’re looking for a talented illustrator, look no further! Also, be sure to check out his awesome gallery at Zhengyi Yu

aoa2017cover

Thelana overlooking Hedonia

Here we find Thelana overlooking Hedonia. The massive pyramid temple of Sargonus eclipses the background. Depicting our heroine in her natural state, without triggering any censors, was a challenge. I wanted her in a normal looking pose, not too sexy or bashful, and without any comically placed leaves in the way. And she had to be dynamic, to show her power and fearlessness. She’s naked in a city of thousands and yet she does not feel vulnerable! That being said, Zhengyi and I are working on an alternate cover, with Thelana draped in her trademark jade cloak (hey, she gets cold sometimes). That way, you can read about the Ilmar on the subway without getting any weird looks!

OK, you may be thinking, all this is fine and good, but when can I read it? Glad you asked! As the old adage says, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and while I don’t believe this to be 100% true, story remains the most important thing, seconded only by the quality of the writing. Without those things in place, you can’t hope to sell a million copies, unless of course you’re writing bondage porn.

I’ve spent more than a decade building this world, its history and geography; fleshing out its races and its characters. Nine years alone I spent editing, as I ran a restaurant and helped my wife raise our two kids, but even the best of us need another set of eyes. If I could give myself amnesia, I could do it all myself. But it’s impossible to judge yourself objectively, to judge any story really in a non-biased way. Nobody can. But finding an editor you can trust isn’t easy. An author’s story is their baby. Giving it up, I am forced to wonder, will the editor tear it up for the sake of tearing it up? Will they maintain my voice? Avoid their own biases? This is a legitimate concern for me, as I’ve had professors try to “correct” my work in the most inane ways. One of my teachers actually suggested that the nun in my short story, Anna and the Devil, masturbate. After all, Satan can’t touch you so long as you abstain from carnal thoughts. His PHd, not surprisingly, was in religious studies.

Then I met Ava Coibion. Ava offered me a free sample edit, of my prologue, and we talked over the phone about our favorite writers, literary styles, and the best way to edit without encroaching on the author’s art. I found her to be intelligent and sensitive. And also, she had this to say,

 

Nick,

There are a thousand praises I could sing here, and with your permission, I’d love to at least give my friend Frank Beddor a sample of your novel to review, or perhaps put you in touch directly with him. But for now, here is the edit for Book One. I was determined to complete the work before Thanksgiving, in hope that you might have a little down time to review my suggested changes. In truth, I devoted this last week and a half solely to the completion of the edit, not because we are on a deadline, as I know you aren’t concerned with a timeline on this, but because I simply couldn’t stop! The prose is intelligent, poetic but often nicely spare/concise, and full of emotion. A true pleasure, and even if you don’t take me on for Books 2 and 3, I will read forward on my own because I simply must know what happens next . . .

Let me know what you think of my comments. I do think the final chapter could be split up into 2 or even 3 separate chapters.

All best,

Ava

 

I know I know, mere flattery. And I might be thinking the same thing, if it weren’t for the fact that, all of my beta readers have given me a similar response. Still, it’s great to get this from a professional, who no doubt has to trudge through literary swamps of poor storytelling.

So now, dear reader, you may be itching to get your hands on this bad boy. Well, the next step is working with Ava through the 170+k words, about 500 pages, until every “T” is crossed and “i” is dotted. Then I get to slap Zhengyi’s contribution over top of it, and last but not least, skedaddle on to the printers.

Ages of Aenya should be available sometime in 2017. In the meantime, my wife will be querying my latest effort, The Princess of Aenya, and I will be dutifully pursuing The Children of Aenya, the third book in the Aenya series, partly based on the Dungeons & Dragons campaign I have been playing with my friends and family these past two years. If you’d like to learn more about The Children of Aenya, and the game we are playing, feel free to join us on Facebook at The Hub of All Worlds.

 

 

 

Devil’s Advocate #4: You *Can* Judge a Book by its Cover

The old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is somewhat inaccurate, IMO. A better saying would be, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” Either way, people will judge things by appearances, at least at first. We do it all the time, though most people are ashamed to admit it, so as not to seem shallow. The guy covered in tattoos and piercings may turn out to be a caring father, while the clean cut choir boy often ends up a serial killer. You really can’t know the value of something until you spend some time with it. Unfortunately, time is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. If you’re in the business of entertainment, you are constantly battling for eyeballs. One problem in my life (albeit minor) is deciding what to do. What TV show should I watch? What game should I play? What book should I read? Between cable, Netflix, HBO NOW, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc., the choices might as well be infinite. And that’s just television. What about the web? Which of the million+ YouTube videos will be earning your attention tonight? For that matter, why are you even reading this post? Don’t you have better things to do? Walking into Barnes & Nobles is no better. There are literally over a million books in print. Sometimes, I just walk out of the store in a daze, having purchased nothing. On the other hand, if Ancient Athens had a B&N, you can be certain everyone who knew to read would have copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey, whether fans of fantasy or not.

This is why we end up judging books by their covers. What choice do we have? I could pick novels at random, or look at titles, the synopses on jackets or the praise from reviewers, but these are all still part of the cover, and are no more indicative of great storytelling than the picture. When I chose Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, because the title moved me, I was pleasantly surprised by the power of his story. With other books, like The Maze Runner and A Wrinkle in Time, I was not so fortunate. This is not to say that you might not have the opposite experience. My younger self would probably find Ishiguro a snooze-fest. Now, you might purchase an early edition of A Game of Thrones because you’ve seen the TV show and could care less about the clip art wolf on the front. This is where not judging a book by its cover makes sense. But for those of us without TV shows, struggling to make it in the literary world, we do not have such a luxury.

13496

Seriously, is this clip art?

 

This brings me to the e-book wasteland. Typically, I can immediately tell when a book is self-published, and admit it, you can too. If you’re a newbie writer, and your undiscovered masterpiece is lurking behind a Photoshopped image of your backyard, don’t expect me to be reading it. To the author whose name isn’t a marketing draw, the cover is everything. A good cover communicates many things about your work: a cartoon drawing is usually kids’ fare, a dragon indicates fantasy, a spaceship Sci-Fi, and a brooding, hooded rogue means big-name publishers have no imagination. But more than anything else, a good cover conveys professionalism. If you cannot be bothered to waste time or money on a cover, it’s doubtful you’ve spent enough time on the writing.

For the past three years, I have labored over The Princess of Aenya. The book represents hundreds of hours of writing, editing and rewriting, not to mention a lifetime of practice. For me, every character has to be engaging, every chapter intriguing, and every line has to sing. If the reader is not moved in some way by the last page, I know I’ve failed my job. Why should the face of the book, the very thing that might encourage someone to discover your story, be of any less concern?

The image below is a proof-of-concept. While some of the elements are copyrighted, I was lucky enough to attain the rights to this portrait, by Selene Regener, originally titled “Awakening.” Now this might make for a decent cover as is, but I will be using it primarily to give direction to my artists. If I am the one to do it, and not some big name publisher (who’ll likely put a hooded rogue on the front), I might come up with a better idea. Who knows? Either way, the art should reflect the writing, and vice versa, because, like it or not, everyone judges a book first by its cover, and second by its contents.

PoAcover

 

The Princess of Aenya Query Letter #1

radia_s_awakening_by_selene_regener_by_ageofaenya-d9d91bp

Dear Editor,

The Princess of Aenya is a fantasy adventure reminiscent of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn and Michael Ende’s The Never Ending Story, with a little bit of Song of Ice and Fire injected for good measure. It stands roughly at 125,000 words.

What’s the story? 

She is known for her arresting beauty and mismatched eyes. One is turquoise, like the greater moon, the other is violet, like the lesser. But at fifteen years, the heir of Tyrnael is innocent to life’s cruelties. After her father’s death, her quixotic outlook clashes with that of her step-brother, Zaibos, upon which he seizes the throne and she is forced to flee for her life. Her only protector is a stranger from a fallen empire, Demacharon, a soldier tormented by visions of the afterlife, by those he has lost and those he has wronged. And yet, unbeknownst even to herself, Radia carries an awesome secret. For she is far more than an innocent girl, and if she were to die, so too would the world itself. 

Why invest in me?

You will never meet anyone more passionate about storytelling, and I am prepared to do what is necessary to market and promote my work. This is an opportunity to invest not only in the Aenya series, but in a great writer as well.

My Life

At age six, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and that was to engage people with my fiction. By age nine, I had the temerity to solicit my superhero series to DC Comics Headquarters in New York City. At fourteen, I queried my first novel to publishers. I later attended the University of South Florida, where I earned my BA in English, tutored students, and worked as a freelance editor. I continue to write essays, reviews and short fiction at writersdisease.net.

My world . . .

For book excerpts, artwork, poetry and short fiction; or to learn about the characters, geography and history of Aenya, please be sure to visit Aenya.net!

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Nick Alimonos
alimonosbooks@gmail.com

 

Publish or Die Trying

Everything seems impossible until you do it.

 

When I was a kid, I often dreamed of going to the post office with a large stack of printed pages to drop in the mail, to await a response from a publisher. If rejected, I would do it again, and again, until someone out there finally recognized my genius. There’s something romantic about the whole process, occupying a physical space, with that treasure born from your imagination stuffed into a manila envelope. This was long before e-mail and blogging, when typing was still taught in schools, before everyone in the world started thinking they knew what it meant to tell a story. Nowadays, publishers are torn between whether to request solicitations by e-mail or traditional post. With e-mail, they can simply hit the ‘delete’ button to reject you, but electronic submissions are exponentially more numerous. Mailed submissions are fewer, but require more handling.

Of course, the world of publishing has changed in many more ways since I was a child. Not only do I have to compete with every Tom, Dick and Harry who thinks they can write a masterpiece with little to no-effort, but the market has been flooded by 1 cent unedited e-books, and worse, predatory soft-scam agents and POD publishers who prey on the desperate, who get your books online but never into the hands of readers. What is particularly depressing, for me at least, is seeing the number of books catering to would-be writers with titles like, “Five Steps to Getting Published,” when what most people should be asking, but rarely do, “How Do You Write a Good Story?” It’s frustrating, because true greatness can only come from a lifetime of work. I could never have written The Princess of Aenya without first writing Ages of Aenya, and I couldn’t have written that without The Dark Age of Enya, which could not have been made before The Nomad, which was dependent on The Metal God, which I learned to write only after The Dark Temple, and so on and so forth.

As if these hurdles aren’t discouraging enough, modern day writers must compete with new forms of entertainment, like YouTube and Playstation. I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is for me, hearing endless praise for the Game of Thrones TV show, but never for the books the show is based upon. And booksellers have taken note, taking far less chances with new authors, and turning a blind eye to anyone with artistic ambitions. Gone are the days when something like Watership Down, a 400 page epic regarding the life of rabbits, can make its way to print. Today, if it doesn’t involve teens or zombies or an apocalyptic scenario, your manuscript will get thrown into the “not trending” bin, no matter how masterfully written.

Another sad reality I’ve come to realize in my 41 years on this planet: LIFE IS NOT A MERITOCRACY. What does this mean, you ask? It means that the best people don’t always get the job. This is why we have so many idiots running for president. So much of success boils down to dumb luck. George Lucas just happened to be in film school at the right time and place, befriending the men who would become giants in the industry, like Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg. Originally, Lucas was only interested in film editing, but Coppola encouraged him to turn his short student film, THX-1130 4EB, into a feature length movie. It was considered a critical and commercial disaster, but the artsy sci-fi dystopia paved the way for Star Wars. Had Lucas been born far from Hollywood, say, in Florida, he might have ended up like me, an unknown, probably a car mechanic (I work in a restaurant, but he loved cars). Stan Lee is another great example. Having grown up in New York City, he was much more likely to land a job at Timely Comics as a mail clerk. Like Lucas, Lee never dreamed of becoming a storyteller, but when two of the head writers at Timely, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, were terminated, Stan was the only person left to fill the position. Spider-Man was born from a fortunate accident, but it wasn’t a radioactive spider.

gal-comics-amazing-fantasy-15-jpg

A literary accident

 

For someone like myself, reading about George and Stan can be terribly discouraging. I feel I was born into all the wrong circumstances. There are no publishers in Florida, my parents outright ignored my literary ambitions while constantly pushing me into the restaurant business, and nobody in my family reads (seriously, none of my siblings have read a single book outside of school). All this means I have to work harder to get noticed, and that my work has to be twice, maybe three times as good as those who have it easy. But there’s a plus side. If life is not a meritocracy, it means that I do not have to forever fret about being “good enough.” There are some truly abominable works of fiction out there (I could name names, but I won’t) that sell like hotcakes, so it doesn’t always take a literary genius, or a perfect story, to find success. Another encouraging fact to consider is that, despite the advent of the Internet and video games, books still sell like crazy. Just look at this chart:

medium_16_top-earning_authors_of_2015

These authors are far from scraping by. But my ambition is not to become a millionaire. I could honestly die happy if I were to earn, say, 50k a year via royalties. So what I need is a foolproof, five point strategy, and here’s mine:

 

  1. BELIEVE IN YOUR WORK: Yep, you’ve got to believe in your work like a suicide bomber believes he’s going to heaven (OK, bad analogy) but you get what I mean. So much of success boils down to hype and salesmanship. You have to regard your book like the precious gem it is, because if you doubt it, others will too. Now, this isn’t exactly something I’d recommend to new writers, simply because if you’re new to all this, your writing probably sucks. I know mine sure did. Even back in ’04, when I was sitting at my local B&N hawking copies of The Dark Age of Enya, I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t quite there. What I was offering was far from my best, or rather, the best.
  2. DON’T TAKE ‘NO’ FOR AN ANSWER: The advice I have seen, in most ‘how-to’ books, is to be as polite and reverent as possible (as though agents and publishers are gods or something), and then wait patiently for their approval. If rejected by everyone out there, throw your life’s work in the trash. Well, screw that. There are a number of problems with this method, aside from the obvious. First and foremost, big name fantasy publishers are rare. I can count them on one hand, actually. So, if I am rejected by 5 editors, is that it for me? Sure, I could go back to the drawing board and spend another 3 years on another masterpiece, but if you believe in step (1), that isn’t an option. So, unless all 5 editors genuinely read through my manuscript and conclude it’s crap (or simply not trending), I’ll be calling, resubmitting, and showing up at their offices until someone calls security.
  3. SELF-PUBLISH TO GET “REAL” PUBLISHED: Self-publishing only works if you want your friends and relatives to read you. It in no way makes for a career, and it isn’t what I have dedicated my life to do. But sometimes, the selfie route can be a backdoor to the big leagues. It worked for Christopher Paolini of Eragon fame, as well as for my friend, Michael Sullivan, author of Theft of Swords. So, if someone does end up calling security on me, I can go the selfie route, if only to prove that my story can sell. However, unlike these 1 cent e-books you see on Amazon, I am going to invest in a professional editor and in professional artwork.
  4. THE JOHN KENNEDY TOOLE APPROACH: No, I don’t plan on killing myself to get famous (I’d like to be around to see if it works), but I might consider doing what Toole’s mom did after his suicide, and send my book out to some famous writers. Hopefully, a Martin or a Rowling will peruse the damn thing and pass it on to his agent.
  5. IF ALL ELSE FAILS …: If none of these approaches work, there will be other books. The Children of Aenya comes next.

 

 

Aenya News Update 3/26/2016

radia_s_awakening_by_selene_regener_by_ageofaenya-d9d91bp

Radia by Selene Regener

It’s finally finished! After two and a half years of writing, I am proud to say I have a completed draft of the latest in the Aenya series, The Princess of Aenya. Call me melodramatic, but it’s nice knowing I have two “good” books under my belt, so if I die suddenly, I will have left something on this planet to be discovered. Pending a final edit, the word count stands at (c) 125,000 (roughly the length of Tolkien’s The Return of the King), which is quite a bit shorter than my previous book, Ages of Aenya, at around 170+k. Unlike AoA, Princess is a simpler story, but that’s not to say it’s inferior. I like to think of it like Peter S. Beagle’s, The Last Unicorn, from which I have drawn a great deal of inspiration. I wanted to write a fantasy novel that not only captivates the imagination, but has something meaningful to say about life. The very best fiction, IMO, does this. And I aspire to do the same.

Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the help and encouragement of my three beta readers, my wife, Hynde, my good friend, David Pasco, and, strangely enough, someone who contacted me out of the blue, Tobias Tholken, who lives in Germany. When I asked Tobias why he chose to take this journey with me, he said simply that he was a lover of good fantasy, not the cookie cutter, mass-produced kind littering so many bookshelves today. I was honored to know he regarded my work in the same vein as some of the German classics we both adore, like Michael Ende’s The Never Ending Story (another inspiration, incidentally). Truly, amid the glut of sprawling, sword and sorcery world-building epics, there must be a scarcity of meaningful fantasy for him to have reached out to me. At any rate, I cannot thank Hynde, David and Tobias enough. They have definitely earned their place on the book’s Acknowledgment Page!

Unicorn

Amalthea the unicorn, courtesy of my daughter

So what’s next? Well, naturally, I feel that a book like this deserves its spot in every bookstore in America, perhaps the world. The hard part is convincing an agent or an editor to read it. There is this misconception that there’s a guy someplace, reading every submission from cover to cover, tossing manuscripts into either the rejection pile or the approval pile. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. But even if I could get someone to read it, they might decide there aren’t enough vampires, zombies, or moody teenagers to warrant publication. Bookselling is all about making money, and the only formula publishers seem to understand is “if it worked before, it will work again.” Why do you suppose Superman is looking so much like Batman, after The Dark Knight became the third highest grossing film of all time? Such formulaic thinking is, sadly, anathema to art. If you’re writing bondage erotica for the express purpose of capitalizing on the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, sorry, you’re not an artist. This is not to say, however, that artistic endeavors cannot be lucrative. In fact, it is usually the most inspired books that become global sensations. Few thought Harry Potter, which was deemed too long for a kid’s book, would ever succeed. Now, because of Rowling, we have an entire ‘YNA’ section at Barnes & Nobles, right next to the ‘bondage’ category. The problem for publishers/producers is that they simply cannot predict what the next big new thing will be, precisely because it is *new*. As a lover and promoter of great fiction, however, I maintain the belief that a good story will find its way into the hands of readers. Gone are the days of Emily Dickinson and John Kennedy Toole, whose beautiful works were only discovered upon their deaths.

d6ff2-zaibos

Zaibos courtesy of David Pasco

As my dutiful wife goes about sending out queries (because I do not have the heart or the stomach for it) I will be turning my attention to new fiction. There are a number of short stories I have been meaning to write, for the heck of it mostly, though winning a contest would be nice. I also have a stack of books to read. Long ago, I was taught to be wary of reading fiction while writing it, because the style of the author tends to creep into your own. So for the past year, I’ve been devouring a lot of non-fiction, like Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, Islam and the Future of Tolerance, and Waking Up. I also read Bill Nye’s Unstoppable, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Heretic, Bob Ripley’s Life Beyond Belief, and I am finishing up (trying to understand, at any rate) Lawrence M. Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing. Sounds like heady stuff, but it’s actually easier, for me, than reading George R.R. Martin and having to wonder, “do I measure up?” Either way, good writers have to be voracious readers! Even non-fiction helps, for how can I write sufficiently about a subject I know nothing about, lest I limit myself to, God forbid—restaurant management?

Nessus2

Nessus courtesy of David Pasco

But what does the future hold for Aenya? Glad you asked! Eventually, I am going to start on The Children of Aenya (are you detecting a theme here?). Like PoA, it is going to be another spin-off, because, like Harry Potter and The Hobbit and Star Wars, which were each wrapped up neatly, I do not want to invest time on a sequel to a book nobody has read. I would also like to write a novel that my kids can enjoy, who are now 11 and 5. Don’t worry, it won’t be too kiddie, but more along the lines of the fourth Harry Potter and subsequent installments. I’ll simply be omitting the sex, nudity, torture, and the extreme violence (all the good stuff, basically). The main characters will be children, after all, with an older supporting cast. And it will play on multiple levels. In Princess of Aenya, I explored the dichotomies between good and evil, compassion and cruelty, and an idealistic worldview from a more cynical one. With Children of Aenya, I would like to explore the wonder of childhood, and how that wonder connects to the biggest questions we can ask about life and our place in the universe.

 

Battleground-Demacharon

Demacharon courtesy of David Pasco

To give you an idea, the main character, Lilliea, is a 12 year old ‘apprentice astronomer.’ I picture her stargazing on the roof of her house, with a picnic blanket, a plate of biscuits and a small telescope, and a mind full of questions. The best part is, I will be employing my actual 12 yo daughter, who will be contributing concept sketches soon to be seen here!

 

Aenya News Update 9/20/2015

Sometimes, there is so much going on in my head and in my life, I have to break it down in a news-style format. 


Niches are for Bitches

What is perhaps my most crushing news, my Ages of Aenya Kickstarter failed to raise the $10,000 needed for editing and marketing. Just the editing alone costs $7k. Thing is, I was new to Kickstarter. When I launched in July, it was on a whim. I never expected the emotional turmoil that would later follow. All in all, I received $1300 worth of pledges from 41 supporters. Not bad for an unknown author. And books don’t do nearly as well as video games or indie films, which have a stronger visual appeal. So why am I so bummed?

For the longest time, I was convinced I needed a niche. While Ages of Aenya is a great story, it’s hard to market to “everybody.” So, in 2004, I focused on fans of Masters of the Universe, for my first Aenya novel, The Dark Age of Enya. Why He-Man fans? Well, before writing Enya, I wrote fan-fiction. Sharp eyed readers will notice many subtle allusions to MOTU in the Aenya series, like the merquid and avian races, inspired by the characters of Stratos and Merman. Even the skull on Xandr’s sword is an homage to Castle Grayskull. But my attempt to cater to this niche failed miserably. The moderators hated me for using their site as a sales platform—I was banned from the site—and fans failed to see the connection between my book and their cherished childhood memories. Their indifference negatively affected my own nostalgic feelings for Masters of the Universe, something I have cherished all my life, a core part of who I am and the reason I write fantasy. To this day, I collect the figures, but whenever I look at them, I cannot shake the pain of my failure. 

After ’04, I gave up on He-Man fans to focus on nudists. Enya was featured in both N and H&E naturist magazines, and on a nudist review site called Yarns Without Threads. My most frequently read posts are, by far, naturist related. So catering to nudists seemed the way to go. And why not? Nudism and fantasy are a perfect fit, when you consider the Ancient Greek heroes, who went often nude. But sadly, most nudists didn’t see it my way. While I can only guess the reasons, I think it has a lot to do with numbers. Card-carrying nudists are a rare breed. Cross that with avid readers, and readers who enjoy fantasy, and you have a tiny minority indeed! I also felt that, a lot of nudists were suspicious of me. How well do Xandr and Thelana represent their beliefs? No way to tell without reading the book! And despite a pro-naturist message, how likely is it that a book, any book, can influence people to think differently about nudism? 

What’s more, a curious thing happened after my Kickstarter failed, that I never would have expected: I felt less inclined to hang out on nudist forums, and less inclined to be nude at home. Don’t get me wrong, I still love nudism, but like with Masters of the Universe, there is a little stain on it now, one that I feel will never go away.


A New Direction

With every failure, I try to learn something new. That way, I never truly fail. And what I have learned is this: while it is sometimes great to have a niche, it can sometimes be detrimental. Andy Weir used his love of hard science to write The Martian. If 300,000 people signed on to live and die on Mars, you can bet there are plenty of people willing to read about it. I doubt 300,000 people could be found to live in a nudist colony (yes, I said colony, in this instance it fits!). Although, as my friend David pointed out, if Mars is anything like what Edgar Rice Burroughs describes, they’d be doing both!

Without He-Man fans or nudists, I am left only with readers, scrutinizing lovers of great fiction, like myself. This may be a harder group to market to, given the sheer number of books out there, but I have faith in the power of my storytelling, because, in all honesty, great stories are hard to find.

What does this mean for my blog? 

  1. A smaller focus on nudism. 
  2. A greater focus on writing and book reviews, even if it means less traffic. Quite honestly, I’d rather have a small group of dedicated fans I am proud to associate with, than click-bait traffic by people looking to ogle naked women (and getting disappointed). 
  3. More short fiction. Fiction remains my #1 love.
  4. More art and illustrations for The Princess of Aenya.      



Exciting New Art Projects

The best way to fend off demons of doubt and despair, I find, is to keep busy. Since I was a child, writing and art have gone hand in hand. All of my early stories were accompanied by illustrations, and I didn’t quit drawing until high school, when I noticed my lack of talent. Still, I continue to seek art to help inspire me and my readers. Alexey Lipatov is finishing up on Xandr vs. The Snake Man. You can see his work in progress here,

Just a rough sketch. The final should be amazing, as always!

For The Princess of Aenya, I have reached out to Adam Paquette, whose illustrations can be seen on Magic: The Gathering playing cards. With his help, I hope to design an amazing cover.

This is Theros by Adam Paquette. Looks a lot like Hedonia to me!


Lastly, I am in negotiations with Selene Regener to use the image below for Radia. Selene managed to capture the spirit, beauty and power of the character, and I only hope she agrees to let me use it. If not, I will continue to look to this piece for inspiration, and maybe to inspire the artist who will eventually realize the character of Radia.

“Awakening” by Selene Regener

   

The Writer’s Disease: Parting Thoughts of 2013

I am sitting in my wife’s H3 in the parking lot of my kid’s dance studio. As my nine year old daughter practices tap, I suggest to my mother that I sell the restaurant. Her response is typical, the same it has been for the past twenty years,

“What are you going to do when you sell it? How are you going to pay your bills? You’ll starve.”

She knows I hate the restaurant business, hate it with every fiber of my being, and yeah, I know that’s a cliche but nothing is more apt for how I feel. “I’ll have a million dollars, Mom. The restaurant is worth that, at least.” I have no idea if this is true, but I say it anyway.

“You can’t live your whole life on a million dollars.”

“It’s more than most people make in a lifetime. It’s fifty-thousand dollars for twenty years.”

“So what are you going to do your whole life? Nothing?”

This is what infuriates me. She knows that from the time I was six years old, I have only wanted to do one thing. I am embarrassed to have to say it, but do so anyway. “Well, you know, I am going to write.”

“Nobody makes money writing,” she says, even though she has never researched the subject, nor does she know a thing about the publishing industry. I have to pull out my iPhone to show her the numbers.

EL James – $95m Random House; erotic romance
James Patterson – $91m Little, Brown & Co.; crime thrillers
Suzanne Collins – $55m Scholastic Press; YA fiction (sci-fi)
Bill O’Reilly – $28m various publishers; various genre
Danielle Steel – $26m Random House; romance
Jeff Kinney – $24m HarperCollins; children’s
Janet Evanovich – $24m St. Martin’s Press; romance, thriller
Nora Roberts – $23m Penguin Group; romance
Dan Brown – $22m Simon & Schuster; thriller, adventure, mystery, conspiracy
Stephen King – $20m Simon & Schuster; horror
Dean Koontz – $20m HarperCollins; sci-fi, but crossing genres
John Grisham – $18m Knopf Doubleday; legal thriller
David Baldacci – $15m Grand Central; thriller
Rick Riordan – $14 million Disney-Hyperion; fantasy, and detective/mystery
J.K. Rowling – $13 million Bloomsbury; fantasy
George R.R. Martin – $12 million Simon & Schuster; fantasy, horror, and sci-fi

These are the top earners for the year 2013. I give this data to my mother to make a point, but in truth, I could not care less about making it rich and never will. However, I need to make a living, otherwise, I’ll be stuck asking people what they want on their pizza till the day I die.

The problem with my job isn’t how bad it is, even though I half-jokingly posted, Why My Job is the Worst in the World, the reality is that I am a fish out of water, am suffocating. I was meant for other things. Yet here I am, approaching my 40th year, my life’s final chapters. If I cannot make something happen soon, there will be a nihilistic ending to my story; I’ll be an old man bereft of dreams and purpose, forced into an unbearable existence that never suited me. Whatever the agents and publishers may think of me or my queries, I know one thing with certainty, I was meant to write, goddamnit. People not meant to write do not wake up looking for their smart phones to keep sentences from becoming fleeting memories. People not meant to write do not become physically ill (I am not kidding) due to lack of writing. Stories collect in my brain like tumors that I can only expunge via word processor.

I am like Frodo Baggins at the foot of Mount Doom, except that this mountain is called Apathy. Mount Apathy is full of naysayers and disbelievers, like my parents, and people who say things like, “Well, you have to get lucky to succeed in that,” or “You have to know the right people.” Like the orcs and goblins of Middle Earth, there are caverns of those who simply do not care to even acknowledge me. My best friends never bring it up, nor does anyone in my family. Nobody believes that greatness can come from someone they know. The Tolkiens and Rowlings of the world live far away, in distant lands—they cannot be born in the same neighborhood you grew up in. My fifteen year old nephew, excited by the Desolation of Smaug, told me this Christmas, “Isn’t it amazing how one guy came up with all that?” to which I had to reply, “What the fuck do you think I do?” When people grow up to realize that they are not special, even though they were taught by their parents and teachers that they were and could become anything they wanted (the Disney motto: Dreams Come True!), when people give up dreaming for more “realistic” ambitions, they secretly detest those who persevere, who keep climbing despite life’s many many many disappointments. Like the corrupted elves, they become dark opposites of the things they once held dear.

Last week I was inspired by The Silmarillion, not by the story itself, which is a great pseudo-mythology on par with any real world mythology, but by the fact that Tolkien worked on it until his death at age 81. That’s what I hope to be doing in the year 2056, sitting at my laptop or virtual reality dictating computer, working on Aenya. The best part is, Tolkien never lived to see The Silmarillion in print, and yet he believed enough to dedicate his life to it.

This sets me apart, I think, because I do not wish to become the next pulp novelist, a Stephen King or Danielle Steele. I have heard of people who do not even write books, only query letters. Once an agent takes an interest in an idea, they spend the next few months shelling out a book to match it. Other people watch the publishing market like literary stock brokers for what’s trending. If vampire romance is all the rage, they’ll be churning out vampire romances; being a novelist simply becomes a matter of supply meeting demand. While that would make my job infinitely less laborious, it has nothing to do with why I want/need to write.

Looking at my bookshelf, I see The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Dune and The Golden Compass, to name a few. What do these have in common? Nothing. As much as agents want to reduce my art to a set of guidelines, the true greats of literature, the outliers, defy convention. I will go so far as to argue that guidelines create inferior fiction specifically because, by taking the roots of the word “guide” and “line”, it narrows what a writer can do and what a story can be. This is why so many modern books look and feel the same, because they are all born of the same mold. No agent in his right mind would have ever approved of The Silmarillion had it not been written by Tolkien, which is why it’s a masterpiece and a joy, a thing to inspire, just as the even less conventional H.P. Lovecraft continues to inflame the imagination of writer-hopefuls decades after his death. I have little interest in entertainment for the sake of entertaining, in distracting people from their everyday lives. Rather, I want what all great art does and all great artists do. I want to change people.

Look at any blog and you will almost universally find the same trend: a slow decline in the number of posts written. More often than not, the blogger starts off strong, with fifty to a hundred posts their first year, and it might go up the second, but by the third year reality sets in. Nobody cares! Nobody is reading this! The comments section is empty! Sadly, blogs don’t last beyond four to five years. They fizzle; they fade; you may see one post from 2010 and nothing after. The blogs that continue strong into their 5th years and beyond are those of successful people: authors with book deals, working agents, etc. When I consider the faith with which successful people pursue their dreams, I am inspired, and realize that if Dostoyevsky or Herman Melville (two authors who no doubt suffered from the writer’s disease) were living in this day and age, their blogs would not fade out like so many others do.

To overcome Mount Apathy, you must have faith. This is where the atheists have it wrong, because sometimes, to achieve something remarkable, you need to believe in your own vision when no one else does, to believe what no one else can see or hear. Currently, I am working on, what I feel to be, my most important work, The Princess of Aenya, an adventure story with action, drama, a princess, a unicorn, and many crazy imaginative things and places; but beyond that, I explore themes of moral ambiguity, redemption, spirituality and religion, and the conflict between a cynical outlook on life and a more idealistic one. I am excited by the results and am already planning new artwork. On top of that, I have started to collaborate with lyrical poets from deviantArt in an attempt to capture an old world tone. If you would like to participate in this project, you can sign up to become a Beta Reader.

Unless I die prematurely, or Google discontinues Blogger, The Writer’s Disease is here to stay, up until 2056, when, as Tolkien with The Silmarillion, I’ll be hard at work, perhaps, on some obscure Aenya reference book. If my blog has a theme, it must be this: There are no paths to greatness, no set formula, no guidelines, there is only the indomitable spirit of writers cursed with the need to write.