Friday, October 21, 2016

Daughters of Death

The day has finally come!

Today I announce the release for DAUGHTERS OF DEATH on 11/14/16, available only on Amazon. This book has been a long time in the making, and it is with great pride that I make this announcement.

It hasn't been easy, though. I started writing this story in the summer of 2014, and through setbacks, creative dry spells, and the scheduling demands of being a working father of three, it has taken much longer than I anticipated. I finished the first draft back in March this year, and have spent the last seven months editing, formatting, and commissioning some stunning artwork. In fact, here it is!




But what, you ask, is Daughters of Death about? Below is the official blurb. But if you have not yet read Sons of Sludge, I suggest you avert your eyes, lest spoilers befall you:

"In Zaul’s mind, the game is over. After giving himself up to the APA, his true identity now lays bare before the walls of the nation’s largest Hybrid Reanimate facility, where he will rot for the rest of his undead days under the watch of cruel containment officers. No more disguises, no more deceptions, no more pretending to be human… And no future with the girl he loves.

But Genny cannot accept this new reality as easily. Compelled to repay his sacrifice, she searches for any way possible get Zaul out of the Facility, allying with both the living and the undead to make it happen. Zaul also forges unlikely friendships when he joins the Brains Club, a privileged group of higher-functioning containees who enjoy a better diet, recreational opportunities, contact with the opposite sex – and unsettling attention from the Assistant Director of the APA.

As Genny’s world unravels, Zaul’s becomes stranger. But only one constant is guaranteed: Caesar Ortega is hell-bent on destroying them both. When death and temptation are around every corner, can you keep who you were alive?"

This story picks up right where Sons of Sludge left off, so don't worry - your nagging questions from the last book will be answered. And then met with all new ones.

And if you can't wait for 11/14/16 to sink your teeth into some more Hybrid Reanimate mayhem, then I have something for you. By subscribing to my newsletter, you will get Zoo, a Sons of Sludge bonus short story, for the low price of free. Ever wonder who would win in a fight between a ferocious feline and members of the undead? Read Zoo to find out.

I still have a few things to get done before 11/14/16 (have I mentioned that date yet?), but the train will be arriving on schedule. Thank you to all who have waited for the continuation of this story. Your patience will be rewarded soon! 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Daughters of Decay Is Finished! (kinda)

124,612 words. 35 chapters. Over 18 months of production. A cast of THOUSANDS...

Ok, maybe not that last part. But the first draft for the Sons of Sludge sequel, DAUGHTERS OF DECAY, is finally complete!

Why did it take so damn long, though? Especially since the first draft for Sons of Sludge was done in about nine months, and edited in two? No, I did not take a year-long vacation in the Bahamas. I'm not even sure what there is to do in the Bahamas. I'd probably end up Netflixing in the hotel room. Here's a couple different reasons why progress has been so sluggish:

First, I've simply had less time. For S.O.S., I only had two children, but now I have three. I also had two days a week set aside for writing, where now I only have one. With two days in a row, you can kind of piggyback off the momentum of the previous day. But when a week goes by between sessions, the creativity train will have long been derailed. You have to start the process anew.

Secondly, I've just lost steam. Writing an entire novel of storyline and character development, living in that world for so long as you tweak them and pull them, mash them down like clay and reshape them until you have just what you want... And then going right into another novel with those same characters, continuing the same story. I love Zaul's narrative, but sometimes finding even more ways to illustrate his inner struggle with wanting to ravage woman and eat humans is tiresome.

Well, at least the hardest part is over. But if you think you'll be getting to read D.O.D. right away, you had best check yourself before you wreck yourself. Did you see that number at the top? 124,612. That's way too much. The last one was about 101,000 words. And I know sequels can be longer, and since I have no publisher I can do whatever the hell I want. But trust me, it needs to be pared down. I also have the annoying yet persistent notion that the ending is too convoluted, and thus needs to be rewritten. Ugh.

But enough complaining about doing what I love to do, which is create! Lemme tell you a little bit about this baby:

I wrote this in alternating narratives, both Zaul and Genny. It gave me a chance to stretch my gender point of view, and hopefully to positive effect. As the title might tell you, this story gives more of a glimpse into the female world of Hybrid Reanimates. I've also written a quasi-sex scene (PG-13 level) for the first time ever. That was, um, interesting...

And not to give any spoilers, but the body count is considerably higher in this one, nearly tripled from S.O.S. I figure when you have an entire building stuffed full of flesh-craving former humans, and armed officers that hate them are standing guard, casualties will be tallied. This is, after all, a "zombie" horror novel. Would you tune into Walking Dead if three episodes went by and not one face was chewed off? Didn't think so.

More updates to come as they occur. My new projected date for release is this summer, a whole two years after Sons of Sludge (has it been that long already?). After editing and proofreading, I still have to format and get cover artwork done. I want it nice and pretty by the time it hits your hands and eyes. And if you're up for the challenge, I just might need some beta readers when the time comes. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blast Radius & The Imminent Completion Of Sons 2

Seasons Greetings!

I know, I know. It's been a while since my last post. But this shouldn't surprise you by now. I need inspiration. Only strike when the iron is hot... or in my case, when there aren't any good TV shows on at the moment. With a lull in my fall television schedule, I've peeled myself off the couch, and assembled this attempt at blogging just in time for the holidays.

And what has Josiah Claus been up to this Yuletide?

A brand new 16 & Strange short story!!! >>>>> (Click on this. DO IT.)

BLAST RADIUS is a little story about a former teen pothead named Iggy, forced to live with his strict grandmother after his parents find out about his partying ways. Just think The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, except with less jokes and B-ball, and more drugs. (Remember the episode where Carlton takes the pills out of Will's locker? Tears.)

Also, think more explosions.

As with each entry in the 16 & Strange series, it touches on an issue that many teens deal with. This time around it's drug/alcohol use.

Let me preface this right now: I never did drugs in high school. I didn't have my first drink until after graduation. I've only smoked weed on a handful of occasions, my first time at nineteen years old. I've never touched pills, crack, meth, heroin, cocaine, or any of that. So I didn't write this story from personal experience.

But look at me. Seriously. I'm a straight, white, Christian male with no disabilities or history of abuse, and my parents are still together. If I only wrote from personal experience, my material would be all sorts of BORING. Variety is the spice of life. I try my best to see through the eyes of others, and hope I don't come off as ignorant or naïve. I apologize in advance for any moments that seem inauthentic. But in the end, I think you'll enjoy it.

And what of Daughters of Decay, the sequel to Sons of Sludge?

It is not dead. I repeat, ZAUL AND GENNY ARE NOT DEAD. Seriously, the first draft is about 95% done. I took a little break to write this short story, but will be back on D.O.D. in full force once my kids' winter breaks are done. Pounding out the first draft is always the hardest, the most time consuming for me. But then, after multiple rounds of edits and peer revisions (by that, I mean family members will read it. Thanks guys!), formatting and cover design, I suspect it will be ready for launch this spring. And it'll be a good'un.

Until then, read something. Anything, from anyone. Don't be like me, and sit around, waiting for Gotham or The Walking Dead to come back on. Read something. And if it just so happens to be a certain short story from a certain you-know-who, then be a pal and tell a friend.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, July 31, 2015

What To Expect When Your Name Is Josiah

Josiah. That's my name... I'd say "don't wear it out!", but I doubt overuse has ever been a concern with the name Josiah. I've only met a handful of folks in my life who have shared it, and every time I do there's certain moment of mutual understanding passed between us. It's not a very common moniker.

But I like it. It sets me apart from the crowd, makes my miniscule existence in this colossal universe just a scosche more special. It's not without its difficulties, though. In fact, there's a list of common hurdles I've run into ever since I was born, and I've subconsciously compiled it over the years. Are they really just minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things? Yes. Should I have gotten over them a long time ago? Sure. But this is my blog, so shut up and read. What to expect when your name is Josiah:

1. You will be spelling your name out every time you give it. And you get used to it pretty early on. Confirming your identity to a call center or tech support? J-O-S-I-A-H. Requesting a table at a restaurant? J-O-S-I-A-H. Sometimes it's best just to push someone else in your party - one with a more common name - up to the hostess stand.

Unless they are somehow familiar with it already, expecting a stranger to construct it on their own is asking for disaster. And even spelling it for them doesn't guarantee accuracy. I once put in an order at Wingstop, spelled it out as usual, and when I picked it up it had "JOESADA" written in sharpie on the bag. Think about what must have been going through their mind to have written Joesada. Unless they were just trolling, that's a special kind of special to come up with that.

And if they can't spell it right when they hear it, they definitely won't say it right when they see it. So...

2. Prepare to be called Joshua. A lot. Like, EVERY TIME YOU MEET SOMEONE NEW. Sometimes, even after you've met them months (or even years) ago. Yes, seriously. And that substitute teacher taking roll? You'll know when to raise your hand.

I don't know how they get Joshua, when Josiah has no "u", and there's two damn letters separating "s" and "h". And their brain must be telling them the "i" is silent. I understand they may have never heard it before, but do people just blurt out whatever comes to mind when encountering an unfamiliar combination of letters? Can't they stop and get Hooked on Phonics for just a second? Some do at least attempt correct pronunciation, though. I often find when I'm on a call with a stranger, who sounds foreign to the U.S., they often pronounce it "Jah-SEE-uh". You get an A for effort.

And occasionally, you'll get some more creative substitutes than Joshua. During a months-long teen mission trip to Greece, I had an elderly team leader that couldn't get my name right the whole summer. He called me Joshua, Isaiah, Joel, Ezekiel... and his number one offender, "Joaz". So much Joaz. I guess since it was a mission trip, he was going with the Biblical names. And speaking of which...

3. Thou shalt receive extra attention from Evangelicals. Introduce yourself to an elderly man with a suit and a southern drawl, or a church lady wearing her Sunday best, and the eyebrow-raising will ensue.

"Josiah, huh? That's a good name. Good Bible name..."

Look, I get it. I've grown up in church my whole life. I'm still there (literally) every Sunday, attending service and volunteering in the children's section. I am completely up to speed on the good Hebrew King Josiah. Sometimes, to nip the inevitable conversational direction in the bud, I'll throw down the facts (King of the southern kingdom of Judah at 8 years old, recovered the Book of the Law, stories found in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles) rapid fire, just to get it out of the way.

I appreciate your knowledge of and devotion for the scriptures, but someone called Josiah will almost certainly be aware of their name's origin. I don't need the Sunday School lesson all over again, thank you.

4. If another Josiah is in the vicinity, and their name is called, your head WILL turn. It will be unstoppable. There is nothing you can do. No matter how hard you try, even if you have etched in your brain that another rare Josiah is on the scene, all attempts their companions make to get their attention will get yours as well. Spend your entire life with a name almost no one else has, and any time someone says it, they must be referring to you, right? Even from across the room, your syllables whispered from one person to another are unmistakable. You have been conditioned to detect and respond to all utterances of the name.

It's usually out in public, when a parent has a child bearing your name, and keeps getting after them to behave. "Josiah, come here!" "Josiah, put that down!" "You're in trouble when we get home, Josiah!" And here I am, a grown-ass man, subconsciously taking in all this parental scolding, applying it to my inner child. Burying it in my psyche.

But I suppose that means more and more parents are naming their child Josiah, making it more common. Part of that gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Perhaps the recent popularity of the name will someday make this list obsolete for future Josiahs, and will fall among the ranks of the Bills, the Pauls, the Georges. They won't have to spell it out anymore, or endure another all-too-familiar Bible story.

But part of that makes me a little sad. I'll miss being a special snowflake, one of only a few. I started a new job a few months ago, and there was already a Josiah there. I was nothing new to them. No one even called me Joshua, not once. What the hell? I guess I'll just have to settle for the uniqueness of my last name, and the constant chuckling of dirty old men when they ask, "You related to Kate Upton? Can you introduce me?!?!"

Bonus: It only happened once, but I had someone who saw my name ask if I was Amish. In their defense, I kinda had a chinstrap beard thing going on back then. But I was also using a computer at the time, the epitome of the technology that Amish abstain from, so... yeah. That was fun.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

I Think I Hit Snooze Too Many Times

Captain's Blog

Stardate: ....... **NOTE: GOOGLE "CALCULATING STARDATE" BEFORE PUBLISHING POST**

Months Since Last Blog: >7

Excuses: Between 0 and 1


Greetings! If you've forgotten about little ol' Josiah Upton, you have every understandable reason to. Things have been pretty quiet on this end, but that doesn't mean I've been sitting on the couch the whole time. Occasionally I'll sit in front of my computer screen, too, and try to finish writing Daughters of Decay, the sequel to last summer's Sons of Sludge.

And speaking of S.O.S., this weekend marks the one year anniversary of its release! *modest, off-key fanfare* If you've put off reading this harrowing teen zombie novel, it's available in both digital and paperback on Amazon. And if you feel inclined to leave a quick review on Amazon, I won't stop you. Swimming in a sea of millions of other e-books, any support given is much appreciated.

Seriously, whenever I log in to my author account and see a new sale or review, I drop my bowl of Reese's Puffs on the keyboard.

Anyway, back to Daughters of Decay. The sequel I was hoping to release right about now, except I'm only a little over halfway done with the first draft. Now I'll be lucky if I put it out in time for my new goal, which is the end of the year. So what's happening that's making it take so long?

Life is what's happening. Nothing crazy - no deaths, no births, no major financial setbacks. Just everyday life. I still work a regular job, I still have three young and wild boys to raise, one of which just barely learning to walk. I live close to extended family, and I'm married to a wife that I actually enjoy spending time with.

By the end of the day, I don't have the time, creativity or energy to climb up the stairs to my "office", sit at the desk, and make up stories about other people's lives. A lot of times I just want to crash in front of the TV and watch other people's made up stories. To be honest, I'm fine with that. It's an exhausting period in life.

But that doesn't mean I've stopped completely. Zaul and Genny still live on in my mind, and their story isn't finished yet. This is what's coming in Daughters of Decay:

Having sacrificed his freedom for Genny's future, Zaul Jarreux faces the dismal remainder of his existence locked up in a federal Hybrid Reanimate Containment Facility. But Genny won't accept this as the final fate of the undead boy she loves. While Zaul interacts with other higher-functioning Hybrids in an exclusive collective known as the Brains Club, Genny looks for a way to get him out of the facility, finding help from an unlikely ally. The clock is ticking, though. Cogs move within the APA machine that will affect the Hybrid population on a national level, and the virus in Genny inches her closer to becoming one of them herself.

Supporting characters Gordon, Gibbs and Dalton return, as well as the psychotic Caesar, who is looking to make Zaul's life in containment more of a hell than it already is. I decided to do something a little different and write it in a dual narrative, alternating between Zaul and Genny's perspectives. I've had to channel my inner angst-filled teen girl for that. I've seen the multiple narrative approach work in other books, so I hope this will go off without a hitch. Release date? A Halloween launch would be awesome, but closer to Christmas is more realistic. Santa Claus better deliver on that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off on a vacation to see Awolnation in San Antonio. This is the part where I usually promise to make more frequent posts in the future, but I just couldn't live with myself if I hurt you again. *puts finger on lips* Shhh, Shhh.... Don't speak. It's better this way.

(This post brought to you by Reese's Puffs)


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sequelus Maximus

Ever heard the phrase, "You can't have just one"?

It implies that the first "one" was so good that another is desired, if not at least warranted.

However, in regards to our entertainment world and the sheer volume of sequels that abound within, that isn't always the case. Often the deciding factor of whether a second (or third, or fourth, or ninth...) installment will go into production relies entirely upon the success of the previous. It doesn't matter how crappy it was, or if no one with any discerning tastes liked it. The question is usually: Did it bring in the big bucks?

This is never more true than in the world of film. I can't tell you how many times I groaned and rolled my eyes when I heard that yet another Transformers: Age of the Moon Revenge was greenlit. It doesn't matter that the critical reception of the franchise has consistently dropped since its inception. People are willing to pay, and Michael Bay and the studio are willing to oblige.

It's not exactly the case when it comes to novels, though. I myself have no publishing deal, and by no means am I an expert on the field, so take what I say with a skeptical grain of "Well-what-do-you-know?" salt. But from what I've read, book sequels are often outlined at the beginning. The publishing company has a certain amount of faith in an author's ability to deliver on a series, a contract is drawn out, and the subsequent books come out on schedule, regardless of the first one's critical or commercial success. However, if your first one was a disappointment, a certain amount of marketing power may be withheld from the sequels (like, all of it).

So, why am I talking about this? What does this have to do with Josiah Upton's diminutive catalogue of literary endeavors? In case you're wondering, I am not producing a Hollywood blockbuster, nor am in contract with a publisher.

It's because I'm writing the second installment in my Sons of Sludge series, tentatively titled DAUGHTERS OF DECAY.

And in regards to a sequel, the above rules don't apply to me. I am just another one of thousands of independent authors - some successful, many more who aren't - that get to make up my own rules. My decision to write a sequel isn't based off what my contract requires (I don't have one), or whether my first one was successful (it really hasn't been). I do it because I want to. I do it because I feel I need to.

I can't have just one.

A few years ago, I was all but certain I would write a sequel to Float. I had preliminary plot points set up, I had an overall direction I wanted the series to go. But then the book went nowhere on Amazon, and I abandoned that idea to take another stab at getting an agent, using a different manuscript, Sons of Sludge. That didn't work either.

Around this time I realized that Float was a starter novel, a valiant effort with good intentions, fueled by a passion for telling (what I still believe to be) a unique story. Any thoughts of writing a sequel for it were scrapped, and the overall concept was to be reborn into a new young adult fantasy manuscript, The Singing Stones.

Yet another attempt at snagging that elusive agent and publishing contract, I went to work crafting my own fantasy world. I filled it with all sorts of characters, both brave and despicable. I drew up a basic outline for the whole series. I wrote about 20,000 words of a first draft.

And then I watched Lord of the Rings again.

By far my favorite work of fantasy, I found too many parallels between that epic story and mine, too many common themes and elements. I almost felt like I was ripping off the master, J.R.R. Tolkien. I had to stop. It wasn't going to work.

All the while, my thoughts and heart kept going back to Zaul. His story felt full and real and solid. It was molded over two years of writes, re-writes, rejection and doubt. And while no book is without flaw - and obviously I'm biased to my own work - it seemed like my best story, the one most worthy to be read. That story isn't finished.

There is no guarantee that completing the series will pay off on Amazon, and it almost certainly won't get me an agent or publishing contract. But there was never a guarantee in the first place. There never will be. And if I must write, I'd rather do it with a story and characters I believe in. Something I believe others can believe in.

And I can't have just one.