Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Honor of Halloween

I heard the scream again and this time I was sure it wasn't a dream. I looked over to my wife whose black silhouette lay motionless and undisturbed. Confused, I thought about the scream and wondered if maybe it wasn't real. Maybe I was stuck in some quasi dream state where the images and noises were a mix match of reality and fiction from an exhausted mind on a desperate search for sleep. I blinked my eyes several times trying to bring clarity to my vision and head.

I heard a noise again. Not a scream this time but a low, painful groan. The sound was muffled and distorted, as if its source didn't want the sound to escape. But it did, I heard it and instantly wished I hadn't. Someone, or something, had entered my home.

The soft sounds of footsteps falling against the carpet broke into the silence and grabbed sharply at my attention. The air grew thick and heavy as the feeling like I was being watched crept silently into the room. I could sense a pair of eyes staring at me through the blackness as I searched in vain into void. The shadows seemed to enjoy my discomfort and confusion as they toyed with my mind hiding the evil that was before me.

Without warning a voice scraped forth from the darkness and called to me. The voice pierced my soul with an icy finger sending a wave of chills up my spine. My blood pounded as my heart raced at an unnatural pace. Again the voice called through the icy darkness beckoning me. How does it know me? I thought. What is this evil that befalls me? I pulled the comforter up to my eyes, not daring to look away. Then, through the darkness a shadow moved. At first it seemed to shift slightly from right to left. I soon realized it was not shifting at all but instead moving right toward me. I could hear the footsteps growing closer. The shadow grew in the blackness and my heart pounded through my flesh. And as I stood on the doorstep of a terrifying and violent death, the voice called to me again. But this time its clarity rose above the pounding in my ears. This time I clearly understood. And this time I knew it was no dream. "Dad, I'm thirsty!"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cover Design

Lately I have had several inquiries concerning the design of the cover of Seventh Earth. So, to answer the questions the following is the story behind the cover.

After writing the book I wanted to make sure that I had a cover that would not only provide a touch of insight into the book, but give it enough intrigue to capture the eyes of readers wandering through the book stores. If you haven't noticed, there is fierce competition out there in the young adult genre and I didn't want my book to be the one on the shelf collecting dust.

While working on the book my mother had informed me that my niece, Madeline, was becoming quite an artist and suggested that I might use her to do the artwork for the cover. Each time my mother made this suggestion I would thank her politely for the idea but decline. I wanted my book to have a professional polished look and I was not convinced that my fifteen-year-old niece would be able to deliver. However, my mother was quite persistent and insisted that I at least let my niece draw something I could look at.

In the book I use the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco as a setting for one of my scenes. I love this building with its intricate architecture set among a beautifully crafted landscape. I decided to have my niece take a crack at sketching this building as something I might want to incorporate in the cover. The result was a beautiful charcoal rendition of the Palace. I knew I had found my artist. The only problem was that I wasn't convinced that the Palace, although stunning, would be enough to capture attention. My wife came up with the idea of having my niece recreate a portion of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam. But instead of using the hand of God reaching out to touch Adam we used the hand of a Reficul--an alien being in the book.

With these two drawings in hand I incorporated the skills of a wonderfully gifted graphics design artist, Melissa Lewis, who just happened to be a good friend. She was able to take the sketches, along with a few ideas jumping out of my head and create what I see as a masterpiece.

Only time will tell if the cover holds enough mystique to grasp attention, but at least for now I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Story

One thing I tried to do in writing Seventh Earth was infuse a sense of symbolism throughout the story. I wanted the book to be a fun read, but I also wanted it to be understood on multiple levels. I imagine it to be something that one could read multiple times and get an entirely new appreciation and understanding of it and its message each time.

Adding to the sense of depth is the fact that writing Seventh Earth was almost a religious experience for me, as at times the story seemed to write itself as if I was only there as a medium, a tool to transcribe the words onto the pages. I remember one day sitting down in the Texas A&M library and typing vigorously away as the story flowed smoothly onto the screen seeming to come from somewhere else. I remember reading the words I had just typed not knowing what was coming next as if I was the reader and not the writer.

So as you read Seventh Earth understand that there is a depth within the pages waiting to be discovered. Understand that the story goes far beyond the words on the pages, far beyond good versus evil, and far beyond boy meets girl.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Road

On Saturday I sent my book to the printer. I rushed into the UPS store a few minutes before closing, taped up a box with a hard and soft copy of the book, and sent it packing.

I'm surprised at the amount of effort it has taken to get this far. I can see why some give up. As a first time writer I naively thought that writing and publishing a book was little more than typing on the computer for a few months and then sending the manuscript to a publisher who then sends you a big fat check. Not so my friends, not so--at least for those of us not named Stephenie Meyer or Scott Westerfield. No, for us unknowns the road to first time publication is quite often a dusty road filled with countless pot holes, blind corners and gigantic speed bumps. Its a long, lonely road that at its climax may never seem to end. However, for those who push on through the speed bumps and survive the potholes, the reward can be magnificent--so I hear.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Time Is Drawing Near

This week my book is finally heading off to the printer. I should be overly excited that it will finally be in print. I have dreamt about this for years just waiting for the day that I might walk into a book store and see my book on a shelf.

I have worked on Seventh Earth for more than two years. I have poured countless hours into writing, rewriting and then writing again. I have spent sleepless nights developing characters, devising plots and filling in holes. I have written in bookstores, empty offices, libraries, parked cars, moving cars, locked bedrooms, hotel rooms, parks, and restaurants. I have pounded my fists in frustration and cheered with joy. I have been through three career changes, seen the birth of my fourth child, purchased two dogs, three cars and experienced one recession all while writing. Yes, I should be overly excited. But at least for now, excitement is not what I am feeling.

As I'm sure like any other author, writing a book is more than laying out a plot, developing interesting characters and figuring out a creative way to get from "Once upon a time" to "And they lived happily ever after." Rather, writing a book is more akin to delicately extracting one's very soul and descriptively laying it all out for everyone to see on several hundred 8X5, off-white, recycled pages. So at least for now its not excitement that I feel but rather a feeling comparable, I imagine, to trying out for American Idol on national TV. I just hope however, that I'm the one the producers have chosen to perform in front of the judges not because I am completely void of talent but rather completely engulfed in it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And So Here We Are

The darkness of the night crawls over me swallowing the last speck of light and hope. I can feel its coarseness scraping across my skin like a heavy wool blanket on a cold winters night. My mind follows the luring sound of silence into the eerie blackness, into the void. I fear nothing and yet I fear everything. Death has looked me in the eye and I did not blink. I welcome the fate that awaits me.