• Tag Archives novels
  • The Redsaw Origin and How I Write Supervillains

    Redsaw
    Redsaw – More powerful than Axiom-man.
    Note: This post was originally published on Jeffrey Allen Davis’s blog

    The Redsaw Origin and How I Write Supervillains
    by
    A.P. Fuchs

    Disclaimer: The following article is meant for those who have read some or all of The Axiom-man Saga. If you have not read the series, please stop now and consider checking out the series first (http://bit.ly/1oy9MJU) as this article contains spoilers, namely Redsaw’s secret identity, which is part of the mystery of the first book.

    Like Axiom-man, Redsaw has something of a muddled past. I’m talking about his real life origin, not his story one. However, Redsaw didn’t really come together until writing Axiom-man. Until that point, he was more an idea that never materialized in the mental fantasy I had going which eventually birthed The Axiom-man Saga we know today. All I knew about my overall fantasy was there were two cosmic beings at war. One that represented Good (known as the messenger in the saga), and one that represented Evil (known as the master). How these cosmic beings work is they each have champions on multiple planets throughout the universe, one guy stepping forward for them and duking it out on these planets while these two cosmic beings fight it out elsewhere. Usually, the messenger only puts his man in place once the master strikes an unsuspecting world. On Earth, the messenger’s champion is Axiom-man so, you guessed it, the master’s main man is Redsaw. What’s interesting to note is Axiom-man was put in place shortly before Redsaw’s arrival, a pre-emptive move on the messenger’s part and for reasons revealed in the series.

    Redsaw is the main supervillain of The Axiom-man Saga.

    That should bring you enough up to speed on who’s who in my superhero universe.

    When it came to creating Redsaw, other than knowing he had to be the bad guy, he needed to be more than just the bad guy. The first thing I decided was it was imperative he was more powerful than Axiom-man, first and foremost in his superpowers—which are similar but stronger—and secondly as his human alter ego.

    In costume, Redsaw can fly twice as fast, is twice as strong, and the energy beams he shoots from his hands do twice the damage.

    Out of costume, Oscar Owen is rich, well-known, and utterly confident, whereas Gabriel Garrison (Axiom-man) struggles with money, is a nobody, and has self-esteem issues.

    But that’s just the superficial stuff.

    Even the name “Redsaw” is superficial in that I needed a cool name for a villain and “red” typically represents evil and “saw” was named after a sawblade, a dangerous weapon if used to kill somebody. The jagged lines on Redsaw’s red and black costume represent his own jaggedness and danger—again, the sawblade thing.

    Going deeper, however, I didn’t want a bad guy who was the bad guy simply because he was the bad guy. In other words, I didn’t want a bad guy being bad for bad’s sake. There needed to be a reason, and the best reason for any villain in literature or film is the one that says they’re the bad guy because they don’t have any other choice. They have a strong motive that turned them down a dark path. A classic example is Darth Vader. He joined the dark side to save Padme. The dark side consumed him and we all know the rest of the story.

    Oscar Owen was chosen by the master because Oscar drove himself hard to rise from poverty and become a somebody and tried to be a good guy with his powerful position. Once joined with the black cloud that gave him his superpowers, even then, he strove to be a hero like Axiom-man. He just didn’t know joining with the black cloud came at a cost and the black cloud transformed him into someone he wasn’t: the reluctant villain. The villain you and I can relate to. The one that, if you or I were put in their shoes, would do what they do no matter how dark or despicable because, from their point-of-view, they’re doing the right thing even if the cause is evil.

    That’s the kind of main villain I was after for Axiom-man: someone like him. Someone who strove to do what they perceived was the right thing. Unfortunately, for Redsaw, his “right thing” is the wrong thing, but thankfully we have Axiom-man there to stop him.

    Regarding other supervillains I’ve created—Char, Bleaken, Battle Bruiser, and Lady Fire—they all have something in common and it all goes back to what I did with Redsaw: they’re more powerful than the hero. It might be their powers, it might be their intellect, but either way, my villains always have a leg up on Axiom-man so they’re a challenge to fight. It’s the only way to create true conflict in the novels otherwise, if they were weaker, Axiom-man would stomp them into the ground every time and the story would be over in a few pages. Sure, it’s fun to have a few purely-human bad guys for Axiom-man to quickly dispose of, but when it comes to his superpowered rogues gallery, I needed my bad guys to be stronger than the hero and make him really dig deep whether physically or mentally to put the villains away for good. And even then . . . they might not always stay put, but for what I mean by that, you’ll have to check out the books and see for yourself.

    A supervillain—breaking down the word—sure, the “villain” part is easy. It’s the “super” part that’s hard because that goes beyond their powers. They need to be above average in who they are as a person. They need to be motivated by something beyond what gets us normal people through our day. They need to be motivated by something “super.” It could be a tragedy, a misguidance, even a dark heart birthed out of something beyond their control in years past. There’s no such thing as a person who’s born bad. We all make choices. Some yield Good. Others yield Evil. Others take us down roads filled with both. Throw superpowers into the mix and you have the potential to create a superpowered problem that only a superhero can fight.

    As for Redsaw, well, like Axiom-man, he’s on a journey, too. One that can only lead to one place. As for where or what that is, you’ll just have to read and find out.


  • My Writing Process – Don’t Really Have One

    APF Desk 010417

    For some reason I’ve recently been giving a lot of thought to my writing process and I came to the conclusion I don’t really have one. At least, not in the conventional sense when someone thinks about how an author writes a book. Usually it involves notions of slaving away over the words, crafting each sentence to perfection, doing rewrite after rewrite, line editing, copy editing, proofing and so forth.

    None of that applies to me. Not in that sort of depth, anyway.

    My first book, A Stranger Dead, and from what I recall, involved a lot of that: slaving away over each word. Being a first book and first effort, that’s how I thought book writing was done. And, hey, if that’s how you write your books, by all means, whatever works, right?

    But for me, I’ve been following the same writing process for at least a decade. It’s bare-bones simple, and doesn’t require a lot of brain power other than the first draft, and even then, I’m not exhausting my mental energy to the point of being brain dead after a writing session.

    Though there are exceptions, this is typically how I write a book:

    – A title or basic premise comes to me

    – I let it stew in the back of my head so my subconscious can work things out without me consciously thinking about them

    – The first line of the story comes to mind

    – I get to work on the first draft

    On the first draft:

    I’ve only outlined a book once, and that book is still in process as of this writing. I will also be outlining another book to finish it off because it involves time travel and I got myself into a possible paradoxical mess with the thing so I need to iron out the details so it’s paradox-free (something that’s very important when writing time travel stories). Other than that, I simply write a book as it comes to me, scene by scene, sentence by sentence, word by word. I don’t think about what I’m writing. I just write it as I see it in my head and that’s it. I’ve written enough books over the years to know the golden rule that every word needs to serve the story, so I don’t have to worry about scenes being cut later because they’re just fluff.

    And that’s it. I write the story start to finish and do not edit as I go along.

    Sometimes I know how it’s going to end, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes when I do know how it’s going to end—and since I let the story tell itself—that ending either doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen how I originally envisioned it. But whatever. I let the story do the talking, not me.

    After the first draft is done, I run a spellcheck and print it out.

    I leave the book alone for a while, sometimes a week, sometimes a month, then get to work on the second draft.

    On the second draft:

    By leaving the book alone, I had a chance to mentally distance myself from it before going at it with fresh eyes.

    You see, you write and read at different speeds, so while taking my pen to my first draft, I read it at a reader’s rate and am able to smooth out choppy sentences or catch words I repeat—every writer has a go-to word or phrase in their first draft—and make sure story continuity lines up. It’s this latter point that always astonishes me: the way your subconscious keeps track of everything between writing sessions and keeps the story in order. I might add a sentence or two or delete a couple redundancies. Nothing fancy.

    I then type up my second draft edits and print the book out again for draft three.

    On the third draft:

    This is the polish draft, and after having done a solid clean-up on it in draft two, this draft is a way to catch anything I missed the first time and do a spit shine on it. Seldom are any substantial changes made. Again, it’s done at reader’s rate so I just read along and tweak things here and there.

    These changes are typed up and the book goes off to my editor.

    I wait for the editor to do what I pay him for then get the book back from him.

    On the editor’s draft:

    At this point I’m already getting sick of my own story after having been through it three times, so all I do during this phase is go through my editor’s edits and only his edits. I agree with 95% of them; the remaining 5% are usually matters of taste and preference and not actual errors.

    My editor’s work is now complete. He gets paid, and all he has to do is await his editor’s copy in the mail when it’s ready.

    I take the editor’s draft and do a three-quarter format on the book.

    On the partially-formatted book:

    The book is now resembling what the reader will eventually see in terms of layout and trim size. Chapter headings are decorated and basic front and back matter are put in place. The only thing that’s really missing are the headers and footers.

    I print it out.

    Since I consider my editor’s draft draft number four, this partially-formatted book is my fifth and final draft in which I go through it and catch anything my editor or I might’ve missed. What’s helpful about this stage is the new layout of the book. There are less words per line at a 6 x 9” trim size than your standard 8.5 x 11” piece of paper. Things read differently and any error seems to jump out all the clearer.

    These mistakes are fixed and are typed into the computer.

    I then go on to finish the book with its final bells and whistles.

    On the bells and whistles:

    These include adding the headers and footers, the title cards and any ad matter in the back.

    At this stage, it’s just an issue of making sure all the formatting is in place, and the book itself is done.

    Paperback formatting is always done first, then the various eBook formatting required for the different platforms comes after.

    On the off-chance I catch a mistake while formatting, I then have to sort through the different files and make the change in each. It’s annoying and a pain but has to be done.

    Then that’s it. It’s off to press.

    Of course, during the preliminary format I get my page count thus can create my cover, but that’s not the topic of this post.

    But that’s my process. Five total drafts, four of which are mine.

    A long time ago a writer friend gave me the greatest bit of publishing advice I’ve ever received. I’ve repeated it a bunch of times to writers in all sorts of forums and venues over the years, and it’s this: it’s only a book. And that’s how I treat my novels: they’re only books. That’s all they are. They’re stories. They’re fantasies. They’re entertainment. Like I always say, kingdoms won’t rise and fall based on something I’ve written so I’m long past the stage of obsessing over my stories.

    I just write the damn thing, clean it up, then share it with you.

    That’s the process, if you want to call it that.

    That’s it. Thank you. Good night.


  • Axiom-man Flash Fiction Notice – Get Yours Here

    Axiom-man 10yr Crop

    Did you know now and then Axiom-man makes an appearance in my newsletter? In fact, he was just in there last week for the second time. You see, every week in Year Three of The Canister X Transmission is a piece of flash fiction–various genres–and Axiom-man likes to pop up from time to time.

    These stories are canon and are part of the overall saga.

    (For those not aware, The Axiom-man Saga in its entirety is made up of novels, novellas, short stories, flash fiction, and comics.)

    To ensure you get the whole story, get a copy of The Canister X Transmission in your email every week.

    Also note other superhero fiction shows up there as well.

    You can subscribe to the newsletter using the subscription box on this site or go here.

    Here is an updated listing of The Axiom-man Saga in reading order:

    Axiom-man
    Char (short story in the tenth anniversary edition of Axiom-man)
    Episode No. 0: First Night Out
    Doorway of Darkness
    Black Water (short story)
    Episode No. 1: The Dead Land
    There’s Something Rotten Up North (short story in the anthology, Metahumans vs the Undead)
    City of Ruin
    Rite of the Wolf (short story in the anthology, Metahumans vs Werewolves)
    Episode No. 2: Underground Crusade
    Outlaw
    Episode No. 3: Rumblings
    The Split (flash fiction)
    Mercy (flash fiction)

    More superhero flash fiction to come.

    Join me.


  • Why I Quit the Publishing Industry and Opted to Just Make Books Instead

    bookshelfmar162016Well, we’ve really done it, haven’t we?

    And we’re all to blame, every one of us.

    Writers, editors, publishers, marketing departments.

    Indie or traditional, we’re all guilty.

    Some call this the Golden Age of Publishing and the best time to be a writer.

    Still trying to figure out why. That is, why in the truest sense. Sure, the arguments are it’s easy to get your work out there and some of have made a goldmine. That’s not reason enough to give this era of publishing the labels we have.

    For those who don’t know, I started writing my first book in 2000. I published it via a vanity press in 2003. Starting in 2004, I began self-publishing all my novels through my own company, my traditional “outbound” sales being short stories. Being independent back then was considered taboo and the kiss of death. If you publicly declared you published your own work, at least in writing and publishing circles, you weren’t a real writer and eBooks weren’t real books. You weren’t even a real publisher.

    It bothered me for a few years, but then I didn’t care and proudly flaunted what I did. If you didn’t like it, too bad.

    I made a name for myself in small press circles and became a minor local celebrity. Back in the beginning, back when I was writing that first book, there were a couple of months where I dreamed of fame and fortune. Not anymore. Don’t want it. But that’s another blog entry.

    As my career progressed, I’ve seen writers come and go, publishers rise and fall, and the industry drastically change. I’ve made amazing friendships and networked with so many people, some of whom are very well known. I’ve stuck to the small press by choice and have dealt with the major league publishers while my publishing company was in full swing and I worked with other authors.

    These days, I’m alone again. By choice. My meltdown in 2014 led to that and, in some ways, I’m still recovering.

    That’s a quick history of where I’m coming from.

    Back to why I decided to quit the publishing business: to be honest, I won’t no part of it. Not in the way it is right now. Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to a several writers about how things are going. I’m paraphrasing, but they all said the same thing: not very good. Can’t get readers.

    Over the months and recent years leading up to this past little while, I’ve heard the same thing. It’s getting progressively harder and harder to reach people and books can no longer–for most–be one’s sole source of income. And I’m not even talking massive money, to be clear. For many, making a thousand bucks off one’s books in a year is doing well. But to make a livable wage of, say, twenty or thirty thousand? Forget it.

    Sure, there are genre exceptions. Erotica’s a big one. I know a guy who’s main love is horror, but that doesn’t pay the bills, so he writes pornographic books to make up the difference. Certain romance genres are also big. But other genre fiction from average Writer Joe? Forget it.

    The market is flooded. Everyone is publishing a book these days, quality be damned. And those who do put in the time and effort and monetary investment for quality are just nameless voices on the wind. Some said the cream would rise to the top. I have yet to see it, and that statement was made years ago.

    Heck, some readers are stopping reading independent titles altogether because they’ve been let down too many times. You don’t have a name that’s recognizable and one that can be counted on to deliver the goods? Back of the line, please.

    That opening line to this entry? It’s true. Here’s what happened:

    A certain on-line juggernaut was a good place to get books. There were many others, but this big on-line place was a favorite. They offered a few breaks, saved you some shipping, discounted things by a couple of bucks. It became a common place to refer people to. We all sent them there. Over and over again. The company grew–exploded–and came out with their own publishing platform. That caught like wildfire and stories of near-instant millionaires tickled the ears of writers everywhere. A little more time passed and everybody was publishing and everybody was referring people to this one place. Meanwhile, over the years on the side, other companies couldn’t compete and started shutting down. (Ever wonder why you go into a bookstore and a good chunk of it is dedicated to things other than books? There you go. Or what of the smaller publishing houses whose main bread and butter is government grants and not book sales?) Options became limited. And us writers kept pushing one platform, one retailer. Throw a flooded market on top of that and now things are falling apart.

    (And you know it’s bad when you have big shot agents in NY telling you to self-publish instead.)

    Writers don’t know what to do and fail to realize they’ve ruined their own careers by betting the majority of their chips on one avenue. Mankind’s shortsightedness, right? Look at other writer blogs that talk about writing and publishing. What are most of the articles about? How to sell books, score big at a certain on-line place, manipulate charts and cheat your way to the top all in the name of the almighty dollar.

    Greed.

    Pride.

    Foolishness.

    Oh sure, even if you’ve scored massive right now–who cares? You’re screwing Future You. If you’re really in this business for the right reasons–that is, you’re an artist and need an outlet and want to share it with people while supporting yourself at the same time–you should know by now this is a marathon not a sprint. Yet writers are sprinting and scrambling and are getting frustrated all the while not paying attention to how their actions today will affect themselves tomorrow.

    Samhain Publishing is the recent high profile case of a publisher closing its doors. The reason? Like all businesses that have to say goodbye, they couldn’t fund the operation anymore. If you read their letter, which is on-line, the bulk of their sales came from one place and, when that market became tough, the money was no longer there to keep going.

    Side note: Even those who are making a killing at this–it’s not a killing at all because they have one main outlet, even one main format. Take that away and what’s left? Not much else. That’s not success, in my opinion. Yours might be different. Success in publishing comes from doing well in the majority of the markets, not just one. Anyway . . .

    Speaking generally, the mad dash for the dollar is the main culprit. Greed is the fall of mankind.

    I was at a bookstore recently and I was disgusted by what I saw. Nearly every book on the shelf looked just like the one next to it. Not a single one caught my eye. Sure, some had neat-sounding titles, but strictly the covers? It’s like walking into Moore’s to buy a suit. They’re pretty much all the same save for a few differences in how the lapels are cut. But that’s marketing. That’s the big machine brainwashing people into telling them what they want. Romance covers look like this, thriller covers look like that.

    Of course I realize I could very well be alone in this. My tastes are more into the unusual and books with covers that show genuine creativity and break boundaries are what get my attention. This goes for my comic book tastes, too.

    So again, the machine, the big ocean of publishing. I’m just one measly fish in all this but everyone else wants to cater to the masses. They forget that we programmed the masses to accept things a certain way by doing things a certain way over and over.

    Even books. We have genres. When a book’s genre is a snap to define, it’s marketable. Ask any writer who’s queried an agent or publisher. Have a different style of book where genres–even mediums–merge and it’s much, much harder. Seems we forgot people simply like stories and have instead forced those stories into little boxes. Romance here, thrillers there. This puts writers in boxes, too. Write a book that’s gonna sell. Another common mantra. So you write to genre, even to formula. That’s what readers expect, after all. Don’t shake things up. Don’t create anymore. Just follow the recipe and hopefully your cupcakes will turn out well.

    I got into this business all those years ago to tell stories. Being green and naive at the time, I knew about genre but didn’t know about genre. And, yeah, I’ve partly catered to it as time has gone on. Even played the money game and published what was popular. It was all unfulfilling. The extra bucks in my pocket didn’t fill that gap in my heart, the one that needed to express itself through simply telling a story.

    Over the years, I’ve tried to do new things in my fiction. Even my zombie stuff has gotten blasted because of some of the non-formulaic stuff I threw in there. Wanna give me a one-star review for that? Put me down. Or the first Axiom-man book. It’s a slow burn because I based it on real life and played it out as if the storyline happened in our world. No fast-paced Hollywood hero stuff.

    There were even times over the years where I was obsessed with landing a mass market deal so I could “make it.” There were other times where all the joy and fun of creating was gone and my books became a product and I was a factory. And, man, when a book loses its heart–it’s not a book anymore. Just words on a bunch of pages. That’s empty. That defeats point of even creating to begin with.

    These days, all I’m seeing is the majority of those in the business thinking nothing of the craft itself and instead thinking of the endgame, the product, the dollar. Search writers’ groups or your Twitter feed. Article after article on “formulas for success,” or “how to write a book that sells.”

    The immediate cash grab.

    (These formulas are all BS, by the way. There is no one right way because if there was, the secret would’ve gotten out by now and we’d all be doing it.)

    Authors are panicking because most rely on on-line sales and, well, there’s really only one place for those now, isn’t there? You remember whose fault it is.

    Just living in the now. Screw the Future You and, for quite a lot of you, you are that Future You right now and you’re taking it hard up you-know-where.

    As said, we’re all guilty.

    —–

    To wrap up, I just don’t want to be part of this business as it is. I don’t want my own creativity to be limited by outlet or genre. I don’t want to be an author brand or that writer who only does one thing. The point of art is to create without limits. Pick your medium. This is where you say, “Well, that might be, A.P., but if you want to survive in this business you have to play by the business’s rules.” And you’re right . . . but you also forget it’s actually us writers who make the rules.

    Except no one is going about trying to change them. A publisher is useless without you, remember?

    Imagine if we all started doing our own thing. Imagine if we didn’t play to genre or one platform or manipulate systems and writers everywhere flooded publishing offices with manuscripts that were excellent heart-filled stories that didn’t fall into a definable category. Chaos at first. A whole slew of rejections. But if it kept happening? The powers that be would have no choice but to take a second look and revise how they do business.

    Or . . .

    Imagine if every writer marketing their work got their heads around the truth that fostering box stores–on-line and off- –is a bad idea, and instead of handing their literary destiny over to a single entity, they diversified. Hmm . . . what if they led by example? What if their own purchases for anything in their lives were made outside the giants? What if they steered their readers toward direct sales or other outlets that don’t get as much attention? Small businesses would thrive again. Perhaps, even, people in general wouldn’t be corporate cogs and we’d all have fulfilling lives in terms of how we spent eight hours a day and the rewards we reaped from it beyond just the dollar sign.

    For years I said if the publishing industry continued down the path it was on, it would start to break. Now it’s happening. I know many writers who used to support themselves on their writing having to go and work outside the home again. I know of many small presses closing up shop because they can’t sustain themselves off of books.

    It seems creators in any medium don’t understand they hold all the cards. We can change this. We’ll need to take hits along the way and some will be financial. You’ll have to part with your precious cash. But in the long term? That Future You? They’ll thank you.

    As for me, I’m out. Gonna march completely to my own drummer now. Do things my way. Tell the stories I want to tell genre be damned. Break some rules. Put out books with covers that are simply cool instead of falling into marketing cliches. Even mix mediums and put out illustrated novel/graphic novel hybrids. These days I don’t rely on that on-line empire for my sales. Off-line and direct work very well for me. And this is good. If all my cards were in one deck and that deck goes away–and yeah, it could happen, guys, unless you know the future and aren’t telling me something–I’d have nothing.

    Anyway, you might call this career suicide.

    I call it career resurrection.

    I’m in this to be honest with my work, to be honest with who I am as a person, to be straight up with you and to be the real deal. Might also being the only guy doing it, too, which is fine.

    But, man, what a payoff.

    I’m not publishing books anymore. I’m making them. To publish them connects me to a business that’s dying. To simply make them and make art connects me to something that’s alive.

    And that’s so much better.