WWIV Book 1

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Bonus Post: Excerpt from WWIV - Kids at War (Book 2)

Today, I have a gift for my readers. An excerpt from Book Two of my WWIV series (Kids at War).

The other day, while thinking of this book, I realized that maybe some of you are on the fence about Book Two. Maybe it's because this book has a new setting, new characters, new time. Perhaps it's because my protagonist in Kids at War is a 27-year-old nun. But Sister Theresa is awesome I have to tell you. Small is size, but huge in heart.

Give this small excerpt from Chapters 7 and 8:

Excerpt from WWIV – Kids at War

The five teens, clutching five babies, stood nervously in the far end of the front bedroom. Theresa eyed them cautiously. “We need to keep the babies as quiet as possible for the next little bit,” she said. “Hopefully this danger will pass quickly and we can get on with our day.”

The girls snuck peeks at one another as Theresa went amongst them with words of encouragement. Reaching Sarah, Theresa whispered in her ear. “Is the back door still locked?”

Sarah’s eyes instantly filled with tears as she gave a small shake of her head. “I unlocked it to get some wood for the fire in the dining room. I’m so sorry, Sister.”

Theresa stroked her arm gently. “It’s okay Sara. All will be fine.”

Theresa listened carefully for what seemed to be an hour, but likely was only a minute or two. From the far lower end of the house they heard the back door creak loudly as it opened. Raising a single finger to her lips, she reminded the girls to keep quiet.

“Hello?” boomed a male voice from the first level. “We know you’re all here somewhere. We saw the lot of you yesterday.” Most of the teens’ eyes filled with tears hearing the baritone voice. Theresa remained strong and gave the group a reassuring nod.

“All we want is some food and company. Really,” the same voice sang out once more. Theresa listened carefully for any other conversation, hoping to stay a step ahead of the pair.

The group waited as they heard doors being opened, drawers pulled out, and loud plodding footsteps from the men below. For once, only by God’s grace in Theresa’s mind, all of the babies laid quietly next to their mothers. Theresa’s quaking right hand covered her mouth as she tried to steady her breathing. She prayed fervently the men would not come upstairs.

Only another slow moment passed before she heard the door of the stairway open. Turning to her group, she again pressed the same finger to her lips. Several heads nodded their agreement. Emily sat on one of the beds, face pointed down, clutching and rocking Cal. Theresa softly touched her shoulder hoping to calm the young girl.

“We know you’re up here somewhere. Pretty sure you didn’t all just disappear on us,” the same man called again with a noticeable laugh in his tone. “We just want some food, darlings.” The creaking of the old white painted stairs caused Theresa to flinch. She needed a plan, badly, but none came to mind as she scanned the room for a weapon.

The sound of Karen’s door being torn open caused Sheila, and then Sara, to scream. Theresa glanced back at the frightened pair, both in tears. Flashing a quick stern look, she turned as footsteps came closer. After a brief moment of silence, she drew a sharp breath as the door handle spun.

Throwing the door open, the first man stepped inside grinning. Tall and heavy, he eyed the group with great anticipation. Theresa was about to say something when the second man entered behind the first. This man was tall as well, but thinner than the first. Much thinner.

After mustering all the courage she could find, Theresa stepped forward to stop the men’s advance. The leader eyed her lewdly. Still in her nightshirt and sweat pants, Theresa crossed her arms to cover her chest. The man’s eye finally came back to hers.

“Well hello there, darling,” he said in an almost sweet tone. “Why’d you make it so hard for me and Johnny to find you all?”

Theresa stared down at the blade in his hand.

Noticing her eyes, he held the knife up for everyone’s inspection. “This is just to make sure no one does anything stupid. Right Johnny?” he said to his partner.

Johnny’s smirk made Theresa wince. His dry lips and dull gray teeth displayed his months and years of life on the road. “That’s right, Randy,” he replied, holding his larger knife up as well.

Theresa took another smaller step forward. “I’m going to have to ask you men to leave,” she said as forcefully as possible. “We have babies here that are being taken care of by my group. There’s no room or time for this. Please, be decent and just leave.”

The nasty pair smirked at her words.

“Really, I am Sister Theresa of the order of …”

The leader raised his hand, cutting off her words. “I don’t care who you are lady. What we want is food,” he demanded. Licking his chapped lips he gazed past Theresa at the younger girls. “And a couple of you to keep us company while we get that food. You…” He pointed at Theresa then at Karen. “…and you. Come downstairs and make us some breakfast. The rest of you stay up here. We have, ah…” He winked at his partner. “…adult things to discuss. It doesn’t pertain to a bunch of little girls. Just these two.” He waggled his knife between Theresa and Karen emphasizing his point.

Theresa slowly raised her folded hands toward the man. “I beg of you, please. This isn’t what you want. We can give you food and then you can be on your way. Please, don’t harm any of my girls.”

The leader leered deep into Theresa’s pleading eyes and drew a long deep breath. “Sister, it appears you need to understand the situation a little better. We want food and some adult entertainment. We have knives, you…well, you see what you’re up against. Don’t make us hurt one of those babies to convince you what you need to do otherwise.”

Tears filling her eyes, Theresa approached dangerously close to the man. “Please sir, please,” she begged. “Just take me then. Leave the others alone. I’ll give you food and whatever else you want. Just don’t harm any of the others.”

The man’s eyes steeled as his face drew tight. “Sister,” he began in a quiet ominous tone. “We make the rules. We have the knives.” The knife’s sharp edge drew near to her face. She tried to speak again but nothing came out. Trying to make a quick decision, her thoughts left her as another voice came from the hallway.

"And I’m the guy with the gun.” A lone man stepped forward with a barrel trained on the pair of road ruffians. “And I think she said she wanted you to leave.” The man’s dead eyes bore into the knife-wielding pair. No emotion crossed his face as he remained fixed on the two.

I hope you enjoyed this little preview. If you have any questions on this book, or any of my writing, please feel free to drop me a line at: ealake5@gmail.com.


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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Cheer For One and All

This week I'd like to recognize some of my new friends that I've made this year. All these people have been met in my new world of writing. And I'm pleased to call them my friends.

Rob Bignell

Rob is a fellow author from nearby Hudson, WI. Rob also serves as my main editor. His was the first outside opinion I received on my debut novel; and I still smile when I read the kind words he wrote to me.

As an editor, you can find Rob at: http://inventingreality.4t.com/selfpublishingservices.html

Rob also writes a series under Hikes with Tikes, as non-fiction group of books that has all sort of great ideas for hiking with kids.

Further, he writes a non-fiction series under the 7 Minutes... title. Here he explores self-publishing, promotion, writing your best seller, etc...

You can find all of Rob's information by clicking on this link.

Nina (NR) Champagne

Nina is a friend of mine from England. She's an ex-American, living abroad now (as they say). Nina and I have gotten to know each other, mostly through emails, and have become comfortable enough to bounce ideas off one another.

Nina has written two novels thus far, both are available on Amazon:

The Wood Maiden of Falashiel

Click on either title to discover more. Nina also does some editing and proofreading work from her home in England. Check her out here, at her website. 

Bella Harte

Bella is a blogger, author, and friend also from England. She was the first person to reach out and ask me if I'd like to do a guest post on her blog. As such, she'll always have a special spot in my writing heart.

Here's a link to Bella's blog: www.bellaharte.blogspot.co.uk

You can also check out Bella's two novels, available on Amazon, by clicking on either title below.

Other New Friends (and I'm running out of room)

I don't want to forget anyone special I've met on this new journey in 2014, but I'm sure I will. Here are several author independent/self-published authors who have taken the time to get to know me, and help out with kind words and encouragement:

Gemma Wilford; her novel (The Ruby of Egypt)
@Missuswolf (Twitter handle)

Dylan Newton; (Despite the Fangs)
Not on Twitter (come on Dylan). But she is on Google+
David Tindell; (Quest For Honor)

Maron Anrow; (Laika in Lison)

Fiona Quinn; (Chaos is Come Again)

Thank you one and all. If I missed you on this list, thank you as well. I haven't intentionally left anyone off, but room is limited (as always).

To each and every reader of my blog this year - a HUGE holiday THANKS! Many more people read this spot each week than I am deserved of. 

Next week I will wrap up the year and tell the tale of how I did as an author in 2014. I won't hold anything back. So if you are looking for honest numbers and info from a debut novelist, it will all be there.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, or Blessed Holidays to each and every one of you!

e a lake

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Five Mistakes budding authors make

Now that I've been a writer for almost two years, I'm starting to get the hang of things. Anyone more than a couple years in knows what I mean. At first, everything is terrible...and you have no idea why. But after almost 750,000 words put down on page, some of this begins to make sense.

After going back and reading some of my early creations, I began to notice the constant mistakes I made. Two years later, I've beta read a lot (and I mean a lot) of new authors work. Guess what? Many of them made the same mistakes as I. Let's investigate some.

1. We use too many adverbs

Actually, we new writers seem to be in love with adverbs. Quickly, rapidly, gruffly, shyly. And most of the time, they made sense...at the time. Consider this:

"I just don't know anymore," Charlotte added shyly.

Okay, that makes my stomach turn when I look at it now. Before, it was beautiful prose; a penned masterpiece worthy of high praise and laurels.

Charlotte peeked at me, her brown eyes barely visible through her long lashes. "I just don't know anymore," she added, letting her eyes return to her quivering hands.

Aside from removing the adverb, the sentence has also become much more active. Here we let her actions tell us of her shyness, her uneasiness with the subject. Before, well it was just blah.

Steven King says kill all adverbs; I tend to agree. If you search your manuscript for every one of these buggers and strike them away, you'll still have plenty left that you've missed. Adverbs, it seems, are perceived to be lazy writing. And I really can't argue with that statement.

2. We tell instead of show

I have a confession for you; at first, I had no idea what this phrase meant. If I wrote, Jim was mad, I believed that conveyed everything the reader needed to know. And to be honest, if you don't have a problem hanging with the B and C level writers, it's fine. But we're missing something if we accept the prior sentence as prose.

The young writer often misses the opportunity to use any of the five senses most, if not all, human beings possess. Let's revisit - Jim was mad.

Sight - I bet his face reddened, or his lips tightened, or his fists clenched by his side.

Sound - Maybe he snorted, perhaps his breathing became labored - audibly.

Smell - We can use this to contrast Jim's foul mood. The scent of lily's dissipated as Jim's anger rose.

Touch - I reach for Jim's arm and feel it tense. Or perhaps he jerks away.

Taste - I'd really have to reach to use this sense in describing Jim's mood. And chances are I would blow it, badly.

Not every situation can be told via all five senses, but the crafty writer includes them here and there to draw their readers into his or her story. When done well, the reader becomes part of the tale; as if they are standing amidst the characters, involved in their interaction.

3. The NSV Issue

Let me ask the world a question: Who told you to write all of your sentences in the same order and all the time?

Dick ran fast. Jane ran faster. Spot crapped on the carpet.

Noun, subject, verb... BORING!

Mix things up; don't copy, paste repeat. And while we're at it, please vary the length of sentences and paragraphs. If everything looks and sounds the same  line after line, page after page - we loose our readers shortly after mid-first chapter.

4. Dialog Tags

We put them in the wrong places, we misuse words we believe are tags, and we love to help them with an adverb (see mistake #1 again).

I read a manuscript last year where all of the dialog tags preceded the dialog.

Joanie said, "We don't have much time, Robert."

I had never seen this before. Wait, check that; I've seen this before, but rarely. I'd never read an entire book, novel, or manuscript when the tags came before the dialog. I still don't think it's correct, but I believe that's just a style issue for me; not a hard and fast rule.

"Better hurry up, we don't want to be late," Betty sang.

Yeah, about that. Unless Betty put the words to a melody, I don't believe "sang" should be used as a dialog tag.

"I just don't know any more," Charlotte added shyly.

Again, this is from mistake #1. Don't do it, please!

Some will tell you the only two dialog tags to ever be used are "said" and "asked". After all, most people don't even read the tags. So what's the point in singing or chuckling or spitting words at one another.

5. We forget the plot of our own creation

I'm guilty of this myself. Sometimes I get all caught up in action and dialog and forget to advance the plot. After writing a sentence (okay, perhaps a paragraph) ask yourself this:

How do the preceding words move the plot forward?

At times, my best stuff gets chopped because it doesn't meet the plot test. Great dialog and interaction - gone because all I'd created was fluff. If you take it out (sentence, paragraph, even a whole chapter) and it doesn't change the story and won't be missed, you've created mere fluff. Just something nice, in your mind, that shows this or that about a character or setting.

Steven King says, "A proper second draft, is the first draft minus 10 percent."

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The first draft of anything is shit."

So there, even the masters realize that not everything one pens will make the final cut. Look for your plot holes. Be stringent in recognizing writing the adds little to the story. The story, after all, is everything. The fluff we tend to create - sometimes just to add to the word count - needs to go.

There you have it; my top five mistakes from the first two years of writing. Remember, I'm guilty of all above. If you're honest with yourself, and please be, you'll agree with most.

Until next time, enjoy the holiday season. Even if it's not your holiday. Take time during the soon arriving longest night of the year to start reading the classic tale you've always wanted to.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Advice for Newbie Authors

1. Take Your Time

I know, you've got the next Great American Classic ready to roll. All you need to do is put down about 200,000 words and hit the publish button. Within a month, okay - maybe six weeks, you'll be lauded as the next Hemingway.

Here's my advice - slow down buster!

Many will tell you the same tale; it takes a year from start to finish - first words down to publication. And that's if you're lucky. For my smaller novels (60K to 75K words), it's been an average of nine months each. I have two larger works in rewrites (both more than 120K words), and they were started more than 18 months ago. This task takes time...if you want to do it right.

That worst part is when you are all done: betas say yes, you've fixed those pesky rewrites your editor insisted upon, and you've read your darling one last time, cover to cover, to be sure that everything is perfect. And now you're ready to hit the publish button.

Ah, the publish button, yes. However, before striking that key, you need to be sure your manuscript is properly formatted and will come out the other end looking like a novel - not something you produced in third grade. Formatting will take time, more time than you plan. Because even when properly formatted, sometimes your output looks - well, trashy.

I've had chapter titles slide down the page with each successive chapter. I've had pages that went beyond the printable area. I had three pages of back matter magically condense into one and in tiny little font.

There's going to be issues in every step of this process. So relax, enjoy it, and do your best. That novel you are starting tomorrow will not be ready for Christmas. And that's okay.

2. Read, A LOT!

Read every day if you can. And read outside your genre of choice. If you do this, something amazing could happen. You may become a better writer.

On average, I read a book a week. Now some of these are mere novellas, short works of fiction. But others are actual large epic classics. The point is this, I read a lot. Probably two hours per day is my average. And you should too.

I know, I know - you have a busy life. Maybe you have kids at home; I'm an empty nester. Perhaps you are going to school; not me. Maybe you work two jobs; don't we all? Whatever your excuse, is just that - an excuse. I too work a full-time job. I too spend two hours plus a day work on my books. I too have family and the commitments a family brings. But I still make time to read.

When I read the first Jack Reacher novel, I was in the midst of creating my first manuscript (Golden 5 - not yet released). I found something unique about Lee Child's first novel; it had a lot of short sentences. Three, four, and five-word sentences covered the pages. At first I didn't get it, I found the writing simple, too simple perhaps. But the further I read, the more I discovered that it matched his character perfectly.

Ever read The Great Gatsby? No? You should. It is a literary masterpiece in my mind. The flow sweeps the reader into the 1920s and the lives of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald's use of language, and all its elements, amazes me to this day. Give it a read, or a reread. You will learn what the masters have, and how they use it.

3. Don't Take Yourself, or your writing, Too Seriously

This is an important bit of advice. Because creating a manuscript, having it beta read, muscling through rewrites, having it edited, and fussing over the last few fixes has a tendency to create a monster. And that monster is your baby - your novel.

By this time everyone you know will have told you how great it is that you wrote a book; whether they read the beast or not. "I could never do that," is a common phrase you will hear. You mother will tell all she meets what a wonderful writer her baby has become. The praise will be never-ending, head swelling, and lethal.

Lethal? you ask. Yes, LETHAL!

Here comes your first review; they loved your book. Okay, they liked your book. To the reviewer it's obvious this is your first novel, and they give reasons. Your blood pressure rises. Then they mention the book could use a good edit; your fists clench. What the devil do they think my relatives were doing? you ask yourself. It shows promise, but the author shouldn't quit his/her day job...just yet at least. Here it comes; are you ready?

They give it two stars. Not a literary masterpiece, but worth reading...perhaps.

Let me bring you in on a little secret. You see a lot of books on Amazon, a whole bunch. And you can find many books languishing mid-range (say 1.5 to 1.8 million on the Amazon scale). And a lot of these books have a dozen or more five-star ratings. Perhaps your work will as well. That's what friends and family can do for you. They give you a nice boost, but it never actually helps sales.

At the end of the day, most authors will be lucky to sell 500 copies of any book - in their lifetime.

This is a tough business, people. It helps to have a good sense of worth, and tough thick skin. And a decent sense of humor doesn't hurt either.

Two weeks to Christmas; enjoy the holiday season, however you celebrate. And consider buying a small child their first book.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Change: The Only Constant

Change is the only constant in our life.

Most folks attribute the above quote to Benjamin Franklin; incorrectly I might add. The real quote comes to us from the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus - and it actually goes something like this:

Everything changes and nothing stands still.

Old Farts in Large Cars

The thought of change came to me the other day when I witnessed something I'd like to have changed. Driving to work - yes, sadly I have a real job besides writing - I saw several teeny tiny cars cruise by driven by younger people. In the back of each of these cars, I noticed cars seats - infant carriers.

I then noticed an old fart, perhaps 80 or more (note - many think of me as an old fart; I perceive them older than I), drive past in a luxury vehicle the size of a small battleship. And he was alone in said vehicle.

That's  something that doesn't quite make sense to me, something that needs changing. Young people with screaming kids need room. Yet they cart their precious beasts around in cars the size of a small office desk. Meanwhile, old people (like myself) drive around in luxury - and quiet - trying to ignore the plight of younger people. And it never seems to change (until the advent of the mini-van, I suppose).

Be Aware Of Change

It reminds me in many ways of when I write. In dystopian and post-apocalyptic settings, you need to be aware of what has changed in your surroundings. You can't have a nuclear war, and then have people running around using credit cards. It doesn't make sense. Another example: In my WWIV series I've killed all power, most running vehicles, source of convenience - no computers at all.

Now if I write about people researching something, say how to dry meats in the open air, I need to be cognizant of the fact that their research will be limited. Perhaps they'll find something in an old hunting magazine; maybe they found a source in an old encyclopedia (anyone under 30 just asked - what's that?). Whatever their source, they didn't look it up on the internet. Because the internet is gone. All the computers that used to connect to the internet are useless hunks of metal and circuit boards.

Water & Food

Without the delivery of fresh food, someone is going to have to kill it or grow it to eat. Fresh water will be a unique issue for most people. And I need to be aware of this when writing in my current genre. There may be days where my protagonist searches for food or water. Heck, wars will be fought over the stuff.

Noun, Subject, Verb

Dick ran fast. Jill trotted slower. Spot slept lazily. BORING!

Writers in every genre need to be aware of change as well. I see too many young writers construct the bulk of their narration in the NSV form. At first it's tedious for the reader. Then, they become agitated. When they throw the book out the window, all hope of being read - ever again - is lost.

Mix things up: Short sentences followed by longer, perhaps even complex, sentences. Don't use the same word over and over again in a paragraph. Find new, powerful verbs. Run, sprint, race, scurry, hasten all say the same basic action, but some of them say it with much more vigor.

Challenge Yourself To Change

Create better sentences. Use more powerful language. Never use the word very. Discover a new word and give it a new meaning. Lend your poor young-adult children your massive car every once in a while.

Until next week, adopt a new mantra: Break the mold, Change!


Click on either book below to purchase