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.
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)
One night, Gabriel Garrison was visited by a nameless messenger who bestowed upon him great power, a power intended for good. Once discovering what this power was and what it enabled him to do, Gabriel became Axiom-man, a symbol of hope in a city that had none.
One night, after a routine patrol, a mysterious black cloud appears over the city. Flying over to investigate it, Axiom-man is stopped short when the cloud’s presence shakes him to the core. An electrifying fear emanates from the cloud, and he can barely get near it. Quickly, the cloud takes flight and leads him on a wild goose chase throughout the city, only to flee from him in the end. Almost immediately after the cloud’s appearance, a new hero arises, Redsaw, clad in a black cape and cowl. The people, now enamored with this new super-powered marvel, seem to have forgotten about Axiom-man and all he’s done for them.
Except something’s wrong. That same fear that emanated from the cloud drips off Redsaw like a foul smell and Axiom-man can barely get close to him without feeling ill.
What is Redsaw’s agenda and who is he? And why is it every time Axiom-man gets close to him, it feels as if his powers are being sucked away?
As if that wasn’t enough, Gabriel’s day job hasn’t gotten any easier. His co-worker and the woman he adores, Valerie Vaughan, has little interest in him, and his boss has made it clear that one more day late to work will be the day he cleans out his desk. Then there’s the new trainee, Gene Nemek. What is his fascination with Redsaw, and why is he never around when Redsaw appears?
From flying over city streets and soaring at dizzying heights, to balancing a secret identity with destiny, Axiom-man must discover what Redsaw’s presence means and how it ties into the messenger’s life-altering visit before the city—and the world—are enamored with an evil that has haunted the cosmos since the dawn of time.
This newly-revised special edition includes an introduction by the author, a bonus short story that takes place right after the novel, and the essay, “The Axiom-man Origin and Why I Write Superhero Fiction.”
With so many writers these days focusing all their marketing efforts on-line, they’re putting themselves in a corner and limiting their exposure. Off-line sales are where the bread and butter is at if you play your cards right.
I’m talking conventions, which are basically glorified book signings.
Since 2007, I’ve been tabling at Central Canada Comic Con here in Winnipeg, a giant comic book convention. This show is also a big part of my paycheck, and my books fit right in because I write nerdy stuff like monster stories, superhero fiction and sci-fi.
A lot has been learned about having a successful show over the years. Here are some basics to get you started:
Have an eye-catching display. When competing against so many other booths and tables, you need to stand out. Bring a tablecloth because not all shows provide them. Use signage, big ones, like 11”x17” set up on stands so folks catch sight of your book’s cover or what the deal of the day is. Want to really stand out? Get a big banner printed up, one you can put behind you. This can display your name and what you do. It can feature your book covers, a web address. Lots of options.
By all means, lay your books flat if you want, but if you prop them up on book stands, all the better. It raises them above the table and draws the eye. Simple picture frame stands work fine. I use iPad ones because they compact better for transport.
Have a series? Lay them out in order of reading.
Write in multiple genres? Organize them as such on the table. Makes it easier to direct the customer to what’s what.
Big sales point. Offer convention-only pricing. I do ten dollars a novel, five bucks a novella. I make sure the customer knows the convention is the only place to get the deal. Get my stuff at a store or on-line and you’ll pay more. Everyone likes saving money.
You can also bundle your books. Have a series? Instead of three books at ten beans each, how about three for twenty-five? You can also do a buy-two-get-one-free thing. Whatever works for you provided you come out in the black all things considered.
3. Book Stock
Better to bring more books than necessary. Nothing worse than selling out and having someone want something. With time and experience, you’ll learn your top sellers and will stock up accordingly. For a first-time show, I recommend at least fifteen copies of each title. If you only have one book out, bring at least twenty.
4. Miscellaneous Items
Scatter bookmarks and business cards around your table. If someone doesn’t buy something, at least you can send them off with a card for a potential after sale.
Be courteous, be nice, give the customer the time of day. Don’t be a fake. Answer their questions honestly. Be active. Don’t squirrel yourself away behind your table. Say hi to people as they walk past. Smile. And, please, don’t do the lonely-author thing where you sit there staring at folks, the look in your eyes saying, “Please come talk to me.” Just be cool. Relax. With time and experience, you’ll find what works for you in your personable approach. Ultimately, be yourself. This isn’t a show.
There’s so much to expand on regarding the above, but space doesn’t allow it. Why not sound off in the comments below and exchange tips and tricks with your fellow authors? I’ll tune in when I can and do the same.
In light of yesterday’s release of Axiom-man Episode No. 3: Rumblings, below is the updated reading order for the saga. In short, it’s real easy: full-length book, episode, full-length book, episode, etc. While there are a few short stories that take place throughout, the main storyline follows the books.
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
Axiom-man has been captured and locked inside an enormous electric cage. Within? A small city and residential zone. Who made them or for what purpose, he doesn’t know. One thing is certain, however: he is trapped and at the mercy of those who took him captive.
The intentions are soon made clear with the appearance of two super-powered beings: the tank-like Battle Bruiser and the playful femme fatale Lady Fire. Soon the battle begins and Axiom-man is forced to survive against those with powers that rival his own. And it seems these two new metahumans are only the beginning. Something is brewing beneath the surface of reality, something sinister that will change the course of history and Axiom-man’s life forever.
Note: This post was originally published on Jeffrey Allen Davis’s blog
The Axiom-man Origin and Why I Write Superhero Fiction
The Axiom-man Saga is an old story. A couple decades, in fact, as it was around then that I started to daydream about a similar hero while walking my paper route each morning. I’d get so lost in this story about a hero caught in a cosmic war between Good and Evil that I’d be done my route before I knew it and would often run house-to-house to double check and make sure I delivered the paper to the right places.
In that fantasy, of course, I played the hero. As the story grew and I got older, I ended up transferring the honor of being that character to someone else, a fictitious someone else who would one day go by the name of Gabriel Garrison.
Axiom-man began to take shape in concept throughout all my years of delivering the paper—and went by a different name, which was featured in my novel, April, written as Peter Fox (for that secret name, you’ll just have to read the book to find out). In 1995, Axiom-man received his new costume, the one he wears today. At the time, Axiom-man—originally called Trinity—and this concept character of mine were two different people. Trinity was more of a supernatural hero ala Spawn and fought demons, whereas my other hero was more down-to-Earth in nature and had very Superman-like powers. Yes, I know: Superman isn’t very down-to-Earth, but he does deal with things on this plane of existence 9 times out of 10. Anyway, as time went on, Trinity became Axiom—who was yet another character at the time—and as even more time went on and after being inspired by the likes of Frank Dirscherl and his Wraith character—who back in 2005 had one novel, a comic and a movie in the works—I decided it was time to put my long-thought-about superhero to paper. I merged my paper route fantasy character with Axiom because I always had an affinity for him, and after doing a quick web search on the Axiom name and finding a company out there with the same name, I went and made it my own by adding “man” to the end of it, hyphenated, of course, because that’s who Axiom-man really is: a self-evident truth embodied in a single person, in his case the self-evident truth of being one to do good rather than evil. From there it was an issue of scaling his powers waaaay back and settling upon three of them: strength, flight and eye beams. And when I say I scaled his powers way back, I mean way, way back. When Axiom-man debuted, he could only lift around 1000 pounds, could fly at about 60 kilometers an hour, and his energy beams only carried so much force. I didn’t want to make him too powerful thus making him always the winner and, because of his great strength, have no choice but to always pit him against ultra powerful foes. My story was to take place in our world under the idea of, “If this happened in our reality tomorrow, how would it most likely play out?” Making him with that kind of power set helped keep him grounded in reality and gave me plenty of options for enemies he could fight to sometimes win and sometimes lose against.
His backstory and mythology were left unaltered and kept the same as the character I thought about growing up, still the product of a nameless messenger having visited him and granting him his abilities without explanation. As the story goes on, Axiom-man finds out why he received his powers and how he is caught in a cosmic war that has raged since time immemorial.
The reason Axiom-man made his debut in books rather than comics was because, at the time I brought him to market, I knew of superhero fiction but didn’t think to do it independently. Frank Dirscherl’s The Wraith and Knight Seeker by Eric Cooper showed me otherwise. Axiom-man was originally a comic book character and I even drew a 21- or 22-page comic with him when he was called Trinity back in high school. I still have it somewhere and might publish it one day as a kind of behind-the-scenes thing. Anyway . . .
By doing superheroes in prose, I was able to work alone, could tell the story exactly how I wanted it, and because I was already self-publishing other fiction at the time, had the system in place to get Axiom-man out there.
You know, even though Axiom-man was my first official superhero release, I look over my fiction and every book I’ve written is a superhero novel in some way. Take A Red Dark Night, for example. It’s about a summer camp under siege by blood creatures. One of the protagonists, Tarek, is superheroic in nature, wears an otherworldly outfit complete with a cape, and shoots blue fire from a gauntlet on his forearm.
My epic fantasy book, some quarter million words long, called The Way of the Fog, is about a group of people who get superpowers in a medieval/fantasy-style setting.
My zombie trilogy, Undead World, deals with the supernatural, time travel, and each character is superheroic in how they act, even archetypical in some cases, with comic book-like good vs evil action.
Zombie Fight Night—aside from an aged Axiom-man making an appearance in there, is full of comic book characters monster-wise, everything from werewolves to vampires; to robots to pirates; to ninjas to samurai; and beyond, all battling the undead.
The Metahumans vs anthology series is, obviously, about Metahumans aka superheroes fighting a themed foe throughout each book.
As mentioned, my love story, April, is about a comic book writer who’s fallen in love, and what does he write? Superhero comics.
I think it’s only fitting that superhero fiction in its truest form—an actual superhero storyline—became a part of my repertoire. It seemed inevitable considering my love for the genre. Ever since I knew what a superhero was—at three years old, I think—I’ve been hooked, and not a day in my life has gone by where I haven’t thought about them, theorized about them, fantasized about them, pretended to be them and more. I even wear Superman and Batman onesies to bed for crying out loud!
Calling me a geek is an understatement, but I don’t care. Geeks make the world go round and fanboys are the ones providing people with entertainment. Superhero fiction just happens to be my main venue for doing so.
And where is Axiom-man going from here? Well, thus far, 7 prose books have been released along with a few comics and short stories. The whole saga is planned to be 50 books long, so I’m coming up on being 20 percent finished. The good part is the story is pretty much all mentally written. I had 9 years or so of delivering papers to get the story right, after all.
What I’m enjoying about the superhero fiction format is I’m able to do things with my characters that comic books don’t allow, at least, current superhero comics don’t allow. I’ve long advocated—and still do—that the comic book is the greatest storytelling medium to ever come down the pike, with books being a close second. Why? Because it’s the one-two punch of pictures combined with narration, whereas prose is a text-only medium. I still believe that, but being that at this stage in my career I’m primarily a writer versus a writer/artist, I’m sticking to books and the book medium is capable of telling superhero stories in a way comics haven’t as yet, namely getting inside a character’s head. Very few comic writers have succeeded in that in the past. Superhero comics are far too picture-heavy these days, with flashy computer coloring jobs, flimsy stories and scant dialogue. I miss the old days where there were almost equal amounts of text and pictures. At least with The Axiom-man Saga as it stands now, I can bring the reader dense characters where every thought and feeling is brought to the fore and, hopefully, pull the reader into the characters’ shoes in a way that superhero comics don’t. That’s my main goal with this: bring the reader in so that they feel they are experiencing my fiction versus just reading it. I’ve yet to read a superhero comic where this has happened. I have, however, read superhero books where this has occurred, Batman: Knightfall by Dennis O’Neil being a major favorite of mine and my first foray into the superhero fiction world.
What also sets The Axiom-man Saga apart from any of the current superhero offerings is that it’s a cross-medium superhero story that encompasses books, comics and short stories, all part of the same continuity. This has never been done before, and putting new spins on old things is one of the things I’ve always striven for in my fiction, especially in this industry where things are pretty copycat and cookie-cutter (we all know of certain authors that seem to turn out the same book over and over again just under a different title, right?).
Whether Axiom-man becomes this wild success or remains under the radar, for me it’s about writing the superhero story I always wanted to read, the one I’ve always thought about, and the one that, when my time on Earth is done, is the one I’ll be remembered by. It’s meant to be a career piece, a giant story with a beginning, middle and end, the story of a superhero, his life, and what that means to the world around us.