One of the main reasons people enjoy entertainment–whether that be books, comics, or movies–is because they say it provides them with an escape from everyday life. And let’s be honest: the world isn’t too pretty right now. In fact, if people needed an escape from reality, 2019 is a good year to hammer down on that.
It’s often claimed people don’t like to think when being entertained. They just want a break from life, be told a good story, and that is all.
Except . . . that doesn’t happen. Entertainment immerses you in life under the illusion of escape.
See, there is a reason that while we’re in the middle of being entertained we like what we’re watching/reading, why we have favorite books or movies. The reason is this: we can relate to the source of entertainment on some level, whether overtly or subtly. Whether a scene is plain-as-day relatable (someone at work getting a cup of coffee while talking to an intense co-worker) or something metaphorical even if just on a subconsciously-recognizable level (good guy fighting a bad guy, equating to us wrestling with our own issues), everything in a piece of entertainment is a reflection of real life, the very life we’re trying to escape from.
(Even something as whacky as watching a psychedelic cartoon is akin to us closing our eyes and watching the colors swirl by.)
You get my point.
There is no “escape” into entertainment. It might feel like it with your brain sending reward chemicals throughout your body and you’re muscles relaxing while you slouch in your recliner; you might even forget your problem(s) for a short time, but in actuality, you’ve simply just changed your perceived interaction with the world.
If anything, entertainment is an avenue that gives us the tools to deal with the world around us. How many times have you watched a movie or read a book and related to what’s going on, whether to a specific person or situation? How many times have you looked at how a character handled something and applied a similar or same idea or solution to your own life? How many times have you quoted memorable lines to yourself whether for encouragement, wisdom, or humor? How many times have characters reminded you of people you know thus creating a bridge between you and them, even bringing some understanding as to why your friend Joe does what he does? The combinations of these things are nearly endless.
Entertainment speaks to us on multiple levels and automatically puts us in a state of active or passive engagement. And it’s this engagement that immerses you in entertainment. Your brain is always working. It never shuts off. Even when you sleep, it’s working and showing you stuff and telling you stories.
As you’re being entertained, you’re processing what you’re reading or seeing and correlating it to what’s already in your head and the world around you to help you make sense of life. It’s impossible to escape into entertainment, that is, truly escape. Entertainment is simply another window through which to view the world. (Even fantastical worlds, which were created and written with some, even minute, connection to reality.)
All this isn’t meant to put a damper on entertainment value but rather add a new layer to it, a recognition of what’s really going on when we try to get away from planet Earth 2019.
One of the questions writers get asked is, which of their own books is there favorite? It’s a difficult question to answer because each book has its own charm and special qualities. However, if I were to be hard pressed and had to give an answer, I’d say it’s my first book, A Stranger Dead, simply because it was my first book and the one that kicked off this book-writing career of mine.
It’s the story that asks the question: If you found out who the Antichrist was before his season of power, would you kill him? It’s like asking the famous question if one would go back in time and kill Hitler.
The story is solid and one I’m proud of. Looking back, the writing needs work, which is why I plan on one day rereleasing the book. Perhaps on my twentieth anniversary of being a writer.
There’s something about that first book that was atmospheric, both in the story itself and in the air whenever—and wherever—I wrote it. It was my first special world, one I had complete control over. It was my first attempt at making a book.
The first book in my writer library.
Firsts, no matter what they are, good or bad, will always stand out as the benchmarks of our lives. A Stranger Dead was one of mine. What is one of yours?
Like all writers, I’ve read countless books over the years. Some were awesome, some so-so, and even the ones that weren’t that great I still appreciated for the story even if the writing needed some work. Out of all those books, some have impacted me in different ways both personally and professionally.
Here is a list of 5 books in no particular order that have influenced my writing. I’ve stuck to fiction for this list instead of any writing how-to book.
1. Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind – an ultra long read, but worth every page. The dude knows how to paint pictures in your head with his words and, aside from Stone of Tears being a killer story, it was this word-painting that stuck with me and set the bar for how I paint pictures for the reader in my own work. Not saying I’m anywhere near Terry Goodkind’s caliber, but his great description definitely stuck with me over the years.
2. Batman: Knightfall by Dennis O’Neil – The first superhero fiction book I ever read and my favorite book of all time. (Yeah, I have a soft spot for superheroes, as you well know.) This book got me in Batman’s head in a way the comics didn’t, and humanized him in a way I could relate to on different levels. It also showed me superheroes didn’t have to be confined to four-color comics or to movies. Clearly, this influenced me later on when it came time to write The Axiom-man Saga.
3. The Summer I Died by Ryan C. Thomas – Easily the most brutal book I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean brutal as in bad. Not only is it an intense story–people kidnapped by a madman–but the violence level in this thing is through the roof. I loved reading it, and I hated reading it. Ryan made you live each terrifying and painful moment his characters went through. Like live-live. Crazy. But it showed me how to get nasty with violence when needed and how to draw the reader in when it came to someone getting hurt, and it reemphasized for me the importance of ensuring the reader is indeed in your characters’ shoes and not outside of them no matter what is happening.
4. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – Such a bittersweet love story, and it was this book that demonstrated the difference between a romance book and a love story book. It was the love story between the characters that impacted me the most, not their romance, and nowadays when I write two characters in love, I play up the love story angle versus the romantic one. I did this in my book, April, written under the name Peter Fox. To me, love stories have so much more heart than romances.
5. Left Behind by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye – Aside from the entire series being an interesting story of the Earth’s last days before Christ’s return, the writing takeaway from this book–and the rest of the series–were the constant cliffhanger endings to each chapter. It was just non-stop, and since I’ve read them I’ve done my best to cliffhang each scene and each chapter in my own books. Even cliffhang the ending of book one of a series to get the reader pumped for book two. Cliffhangers keep those pages turning.
So there you have it. A quick list of 5 books that impacted me as a writer. There are more, but I’ll save those for another post.
What books have influenced you, whether personally or professionally? Sound off in the comments below.
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.
It is with great pleasure that A.P. Fuchs and Jeff Burton announce the upcoming Kickstarter campaign for the team-up novel, Axiom-man and Auroraman: Frozen Storm.
Not only will this Kickstarter fund the novel, but also fund Auroraman No. 1. Earlier in 2016, Jeff kickstarted Issue 0 to great success so we’re excited to work on this dual effort together and bring you a fantastic issue of Auroraman complete with a short comic at the end that leads into Frozen Storm.
Jeff and I have already discussed the general outline for the story and can’t wait to show you what’s in store as time gets closer to launching the Kickstarter into full gear.
I can, however, tell you one thing about Frozen Storm and it’s this: these icy villains put the abominable snowman to shame.
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)
This book is, quite simply, amazing. I’ve been a fan of John Porcellino’s work for several years and when this book arrived in the mail, I got to reading it as soon as I could. John’s honest portrayal of working through his illness and the aftermath that followed struck a chord with me on several levels. In fact, I just sent an email to John going into those things more in depth.
On the cartooning front, John is a masterful cartoonist and storyteller. This book kept me gripped from beginning to end and the art within complimented the story John was telling.
This book is highly recommended. Do yourself a favor: read it.