“Master” and Social Media – 9/6

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Waddup, waddup.

I’ve been busy the last few days setting up a twitter and goodreads account. Well, not really. Setting up the accounts were easy – it’s figuring out what I’m supposed to do with them that has been giving me trouble.

My introduction to social media was myspace, but that was all about adding friends. I don’t even have a personal facebook account, and until two weeks ago ‘flippy’ was the only phone I felt comfortable using.

flip phone

  • That’s flippy.

Anyway, I’m in the midst of a social media push, tweeting like a madman about meaningful things… When you use a hashtag, are you supposed to press the pound sign (#), or is there a special hashtag button I’m unaware of?

Goodreads is another story. It looks like I can host a blog there, similar to wordpress. I tried taking one of their quizzes, thinking it would help me find friends or gain followers. Three hours into it, I noticed the quiz was titled “Never Ending Quiz.” I stopped taking it right then and there. I didn’t even get a good enough score for book worms to let me into their prestigious reading clubs.

I’ve got five beta readers working on ‘Master’ right now, and they’ve been overwhelmingly positive and excited about the material in their responses. That’s huge for me, because for the first time in my life I can honestly say I have a product that’s entertaining, thought-provoking, and ‘hard to put down’. It may not sound like much, but until you’ve put your own work under the spotlight, you have no idea how difficult writing entertaining fiction can be. #wordpressed

  • Thomas M. Watt

Master Update – 9/2

master 1

Book reviews, blog tours, and purchasing a top-quality book cover top my list of priorities for the upcoming release of “Master,” my short psychological thriller.

The rant that I posted about being an INTP earlier this week had everything to do with these current obligations. In my opinion, there are two ways to generate a high volume of sales in the writing industry – 1. Be a well-known, prolific author. 2. Be exceptionally good at marketing.

Missing from that list is the unknown writer who grinds away at the keyboard, overflowing with creative ideas and obsessed with the pursuit of producing exemplary stories. An idealist would argue that this person deserves to have their work read more than the two other types listed. A realist would then point out that the idealist’s opinion doesn’t matter too much, because in a free market consumers are free to do whatever they’d like with their money.

I’m an idealist at heart, but a realist in pursuit of my dreams. Despite my inclination toward introversion and general distaste for promoting my work to others through the world wide web, I realize I’m going to have to if I truly want to succeed at this thing. That will be my focus this week.

Posted below are two websites that have helped tremendously by pointing me in the right direction. Feel free to check them out below if you’re traveling along the same path.

  1. Lindsay Buroker
  2. 7 strategies and 110 tools to help Indie authors
  • Thomas M. Watt

The Ball that Disappeared – Part 3 – Story Finale

sandlot

If you missed Part 1, click here

If you missed Part 2, click here

Hugo remained where he landed – on top of the screen he broke down after diving into Old Man Semos’ living room. The harsh landing knocked the baseball out of his hand, and Old Man Semos had picked it up.

Hugo pushed himself up to his feet. The giant hound continued to bark ferociously as Hugo wondered what would happen next.

Old Man Semos wore a a big straw hat, and he chewed on a long piece of grass. A rifle lay in his lap, and Hugo had no doubt he’d used it before.

“What you doing over here, son? Some people get killed for trespassing.”

Hugo gulped. “I’m not afraid of you.”

Old Man Semos turned the rifle barrel and aimed it at Hugo. He squinted one eye, and locked in on his target.

“Pow!” He said.

Hugo flinched and took a quick step back. Old Man Semos laughed outrageously, then set the rifle aside. “Sure look scared,” he said.

“Give me my ball, sir.”

“What do I get?”

Hugo cautiously approached Old Man Semos. “Nothing.”

“Then I can’t give it to you!” shouted Semos. He grabbed the rifle and aimed it at Hugo again.

“Please sir, that baseball is the last thing my dad left me!”

“Your dad?” Semos lowered the gun, and arched an eyebrow as he stared at the ceiling. “Your name wouldn’t happen to be Hugo, now would it?”

Hugo kept his eyes locked on that baseball. Semos was holding it in his hand still, which was at his hip and level with Hugo’s eyes. One quick snatch and he could have it.

“No,” said Hugo.

“What is it?”

“Pudgy.”

“Pudgy?” Semos said, staring curiously back at the boy. “You sure? Can’t imagine any real folks would be dumb enough to name their kid that.”

Hugo’s eyes went wide. “I swear it’s my name.”

“Well, that’s too bad then,” said Semos, before sitting down and tossing the ball up and down in the air. Hugo watched it rise and fall. Semos continued.

“Cause if you were a little boy named Hugo, I might just be able to tell exactly what happened to your dad.”

Hugo stopped tracking the baseball, and looked back at Semos. “What happened to Hugo’s dad?”

Old Man Semos grinned. “He left town altogether. His boy will never see him again, not for the rest of his life.”

Hugo’s heart sank. He knew his dad had left, but hearing he was gone for good made nothing easier. He turned around, then started walking away with his head down. “You can keep the baseball,” he said on his way out.

“Funny thing about that boy Hugo, though,” said Old Man Semos.

Hugo stopped at the doorway, and turned around. Semos tossed him the baseball and he caught it.

“I heard his pops telling people, right before he left, about that boy. Said he’s got an arm like you wouldn’t believe, and so much potential he has no doubt that his kid’s going to be someone special someday.”

“So why did he leave then?”

Semos grinned. “Well, Hugo’s father felt it wouldn’t be fair to the other boys if he stuck around to raise him. Said the only way he could possibly imagine his kid not succeeding, is if all the odds are stacked against him. Says no boy is tough enough to make himself into a man.”

“He said that?”

Semos nodded.

Hugo tossed the ball up, then caught it. “Huh.” He started toward the backyard again.

“Oh, and Hugo?” said Old Man Semos.

“Yeah?”

“As long as you don’t run, my dog isn’t going to chase you.”

Hugo nodded, then walked back through the yard. He squeezed through the fence, ball in hand, and found all the other kids waiting for him on the other side.

“Woah, he did it!” said Pudgy. “We thought you were dog food.”

“Way to go, Hugo,” said Measles, before tossing a friendly punch at Hugo’s shoulder. His reach wasn’t long enough so his elbow straightened and jammed instead. “Ow.”

Hugo smiled as he walked, tossing the ball in his hand as he did. The rest of the kids followed after him.

“What are we gonna do now?” said Measles.

Hugo looked around. He spotted an old, abandoned house way out in the distance. “Betcha I can hit that house.”

“From here?” said Pudgy, before laughing hysterically. “I’d like to see you try, straw man! Ten bucks says you can’t even throw it halfway.”

“I thought your mom gave you that money because you said you needed a better plunger?” said Measles.

“Shut-up Measles,” said Pudgy.

Hugo smirked, then whirled his arm around and let the ball fly.

THE END

  • Thomas M. Watt

The Ball that Disappeared

sandlot

“You can’t throw it over that fence. No one can,” said Pudgy.

The rest of the children egged Hugo on. Hugo tossed the dirty baseball in his hand, sweating his next move.

It wasn’t that he didn’t think he could do it – he knew he could. But if Hugo lost that baseball, he would have nothing left to remember him by.

“Just give me another ball,” said Hugo. “I don’t want to throw this one.”

“No!” said Pudgy. “It’s the only one we got.”

“But it’s my ball!” said Hugo.

“What’s the matter, too chicken?”

Hugo shook his head, then spit on the ground. He rubbed the spit in with his foot to buy himself some time.

The baseball had been a birthday present from his father. Hugo never forgot what his dad said to him that day:

“I know, I know. It might seem like a crappy gift, giving you a worn-out baseball and all, but I’m doing this on purpose. Hear me out, now – This baseball’s dirty, beat-up, and worthless. But none a that matters, because… Hugo, are you listening? It’s important to me that you hear this.”

Hugo rolled his eyes. “Yeah, dad.”

“Good. This baseball rolls along just like any other ball, and regardless of how hard it gets hit, it’ll always, and I mean always, find its way back home.”

He didn’t know it at the time, but those words proved to be the last he’d ever heard from his father.

“Just throw it already!” yelled Pudgy. The other kids continued to laugh.

Hugo narrowed his eyes, like something on the fence had caught his attention.

“What?” said Pudgy.

“How about I throw it at the fence? If I hit it on a line, will that shut you up?”

“Hit the fence on a line?” Pudgy turned to the other kids. “The wind has a better chance of throwing Hugo then that happening!”

Now the kids were cracking up hysterically, one of the boys laughed so hard he dropped to the ground and clutched his stomach.

Hugo snarled, then whirled the ball back and threw it with all his might.

The other kids watched with amazement, in disbelief at how fast the baseball flew.

“Woah,” said Pudgy.

The ball zipped through the air, remaining on a line as tight as a wire. It smacked the fence in no time.

“Holy crap, Hugo!” Shouted Pudgy. “You got a rocket launcher for an arm?”

The kids slapped Hugo in the back, shocked at how hard the skinny kid could really throw. The only one who wasn’t celebrating, however, was Hugo.

Measles noticed it too. “Guys,” he said, “Look!”

Measles pointed at the fence, right where the baseball had collided. Rather than the mark Hugo had hoped to leave behind, there was a hole.

“That’s Old Man Semos’ yard!” said Measles. “You’re not actually thinking of going over there?”

“Why not?” said Hugo.

“Because Old Man Semos got a guard dog as big as a horse!” said Pudgy.

Hugo gulped.

“And if that doesn’t kill you, Semos will,” said Measles.

To be continued…

  • Thomas M. Watt

‘Master’ Progress

writer

I’ve just passed the midway point in Master (10000 words), and I’m very happy with how it is turning out. Spent yesterday evening figuring out a fulfilling way to end it, and though it is going to be complicated, i think it will have the emotional impact I’m looking for; the kind that makes for a climactic finish.

I’ve also gone to two writing groups in the past week. Though I’ve always had an aversion toward these groups, I’m pleased to say that I’ve met a couple of people who are serious about their pursuit of becoming published authors. Unfortunately, a large portion of these groups enjoy the creative freedom of writing too much to submit their work for criticism and analysis, and that is the kind of group I’m truly looking for.

If anybody out there is looking for feedback on their current work in progress, drop me a line in the comment section. My current work is going to be 20,000 words (100 pages), but I’d be happy to swap small sections at a time.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Kiki the Cat

kiki

The only thing the burglar loved more than money was murder. The feeling left him with a certain euphoria he’d never managed to replicate through any other means, and since he’d finished his prison sentence he’d been yearning to take another shot at it.

He looked at the picture frame, and it left little doubt as to whom the apartment belonged to – a short girl with brown hair and freckles. An easy kill, if he had to do it. He put the picture frame back down, and continued to look for more jewelry, pulling out one drawer after another. To his surprise, the door knob began to turn. The burglar picked up his handgun and rushed to find a hiding spot.

* * *

Sylvia finished turning the handle and entered her apartment. “Kiki, I’m home!”

Kiki was the name of her cat. It was the coolest of kitties, never one to startle in the face of stranger danger. It’s primary interest was to sleep, so Sylvia did not find it the least bit surprising when her cat didn’t run up to her right away.

What did catch her off guard, however, was that much of her furniture had been displaced. It appeared as though her apartment had been ransacked. After some more inspection, Sylvia found her favorite articles of jewelry were missing, including one special necklace given to her by her grandmother.

Sylvia slipped her phone from her pocket and began to dial 911. Before pressing send, however, a burdening thought got the better of her. Sylvia dialed her grandmother instead.

“Grandma?”
“Yes dear, what is it?”

There was a noise, someone or something in the room had moved. Sylvia thought she heard it coming from her windowsill, behind the curtains. She slowly and cautiously began creeping towards it.

“Grandma, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“What is it dear?”

“Your necklace. The one you wore on your wedding day, the one that you gave me for my birthday?”

“Yes, I remember. What of it?”

Sylvia began to cry. As she continued forward, she could swear the curtains were more bloated than usual. Tears filled her eyes. “Grandma, somebody stole it! I kept it hidden in my top drawer, and hardly ever wore it except on special-“

“Oh, don’t think twice about it,” said her grandmother, followed by a weary chuckle. “Let it be not the least of your concern… Tell me you contacted the authorities already though, right dear?”

Sylvia held the curtain with one hand, then stopped short of flapping it open. “No. I feel really guilty… I thought I should call you first.”

“Dear!” shouted her grandmother. “Are you crazy? If somebody broke into your apartment, for the love of God, call the police!”

“I was going to next!”

Something moved behind the curtain. Sylvia was sure of it.

“What if the burglar is still in there, darling? Call the authorities!”

“Ok,” Sylvia said, meekly. She pressed the red ‘end’ button on her smart phone. Rather than dial 911, she was too taken in by whatever waited for her on the other side of that curtain.

Sylvia slowly set the phone down on the nearby table, then held her breath as she prepared to uncover whatever waited behind that curtain. She knew deep down that grabbing a weapon or even a blunt instrument would be the smartest thing to do, but she was too impulsive a person to take precautions, even in the most dire of situations.

Sylvia gulped, then pulled away the curtain.

“Ahh!” She screamed, then fell back.

Her cat, Kiki, had just pounced out at her. She smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God… It’s just you, Kiki.”

“Die bitch!”

Sylvia turned, but it was already too late. The burglar fired the bullet, and the last image Sylvia saw before she passed was his handgun pointed down at her.

 The End!

  • Thomas M. Watt

Bizarre Setting for “Way of the World”

The entire Way of the World series takes place in two distinct settings – The Island of Paradise and a town called Gnashing.

The Island of Paradise is a metaphor for the garden of Eden, and in later books becomes the kingdom of heaven.

Gnashing is a metaphor for the world – and in the town of Gnashing there is a wilderness that features rattlesnakes, wolves, and bears. There are green ferns from the east coast, and giant redwood trees from the west coast. To one side of the wilderness is a beach, to the other a desert. The extravagant homes in Gnashing are based on early 20th century Edwardian models. Here is a sketch of the Dunlap’s residence:

Dunlap's estate front view

Across from the luxurious houses are farms, where the lowly class of Loyalists work (they were slaves not long ago).

The setting of Gnashing is meant to be timeless and multicultural. The “Way of the World” series has a Spiritual message at its heart, a theme which each and every generation of man has questioned since the beginning of his existence.

What do you think of this setting? Is it too ridiculous and unbelievable to have a rich wilderness within close proximity of a desert? Should the bizarre setting of Gnashing and non-existent time period be established within the first few pages through direct narration, or should that be left up to the readers to figure out as they go along?

Looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Thomas M. Watt

Author of “A New Kingdom”

Way of the World – Michael’s Story

Kingsley's island on fire

Spent all morning stacking the chapters up so I could make a single file out of them. It amazes me how much time I spend on the easiest of tasks.

Going to promote Way of the World on a daily basis from here on out, sorry ’bout it. I’ll give you updates, information, and every reason to resent me as a blogger and a human being.

Oh well.

Anyway, Way of the World is a book series that I spent a year and a half of my life working on. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I got ridiculously obsessed with the concept – it’s a loose allegory of the bible, from Old Testament to New, and features biblical protagonists that would make Marvel comics jealous.

The first book is split into two stories – one is told from the Archangel Michael’s perspective, the other is told from Adam’s, who of course stands for the Adam who is responsible for the fall of man.

I’m not marketing this as a Christian book mainly because I don’t feel it is one. It’s a ‘Christians meet the real world’ book. I believe people who know nothing about the bible and have no belief in God whatsoever will still enjoy this story.

What are your thoughts? Does this concept appeal to you? Are there any aspects of Way of the World that you don’t like, or find offensive?

Let me know.

Thomas M. Watt

Tension: James meets Penny Part 2

tension

In my last post, we discussed how to raise stakes for specific situations. By constantly reminding the reader of the importance of your protagonist’s current quest, whether through direct writing or subtext, you will build toward a rewarding climax. Even though this is only one chapter out of the book, it is important to constantly fill your stories with build-ups and pay-offs. If you missed my last post, I suggest you take the time to read it in order to understand the importance of it. Reach it by clicking here.

In the following scene, I’ve created a rise in tension by making the situation more and more uncomfortable for James. Remember from the last scene, his initial meeting with Penny is going to have an enormous effect on his psychological state, one way or the other. Here’s the excerpt from “A New Kingdom.”

* * *

       “That’s it kid, I can’t watch you embarrass yourself any longer.” Roy tossed his cards, stood up, and walked toward the group. James looked away nervously, hoping to God that Roy wouldn’t do what James was certain he was about to do.

“Excuse me, miss – it’s Penny, correct?”

James could hear Penny and the rest of her group slowly come to a stop.

“Yes, that’s me.”

James watched Roy cup his hands together and speak more elegantly than he ever had before.

“Well Penny, my name is Roy, and that there’s my friend James.” He pointed right at him with two fingers glued together.

James looked away. Every part of him wanted to smash his own face into the wall. The other part of him wanted to tackle Roy.

“Give us a wave, James,” said Roy.

James gulped, then looked back and waved hesitantly with a terribly corny smile.

“You see Penny, James here is the greatest guy I’ve ever known. And he’s done so many great things for me, I wanted to help him out a bit.”

“Oh, O.K,” said Penny.

Roy continued. “And this great guy, who I like to call James the great, he really digs ya, Penny. He says you’re the most beautiful gal he has ever set eyes on. Every time you walk by, make your bed, or read a book, James is watching you.”

Penny took a step back and looked horrified.

“Don’t worry, Penn. James is no stalker. As a matter of fact, he told me yesterday he wants to start a stalker awareness club. You know what’s not a joke? How lovely James thinks you are. I think you ought a give him a chance. After all, you two are the same age, stuck underground in a base, it seems like it’s meant to be, don’t ya think?”

James looked up at the ceiling. He wanted God to hear his prayer. He prayed that the brick ceiling above would collapse and kill him. And if it wasn’t too much trouble, to please let it kill Roy as well.

“Fine,” said Penny with a shrug, “I’ll meet him.”

“Best decision you ever made.”

As Roy walked Penny over, James wiped instant oatmeal crumbs from his jeans and held his hand out for a handshake.

“You can call me James.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather ‘James the Great’?”

James laughed loudly and for a bit longer than the joke deserved. He made a face at Roy like an awkward cry for help. Roy countered with a wink and a smile, then left him to fend for himself. James felt his heart in his throat. He stood up.

“James is fine. Uh, you like to read, huh?”

“I guess so… I never read much before, but down here I don’t have much of a choice, not in this hellhole.”

Afraid his nervousness might become visible, James put on the best front that he could. He leaned smoothly up-against the wall beside him, and casually slid his hand into his pocket.

“Yea, life is pretty plain down here. Me and crazy Roy pretty much just play cards all day. Life would be a ton better if it wasn’t for that stupid council, all those idiots do is make schedules and stupid restrictions. Without them, life down here would be great.”

Penny looked down at her feet, “Yeah, ha, right… Ummm, tell me about your friend Roy. How do you know him?”

“Met him the night of the invasion. Crazy Roy keeps it real, and he’s a former pro poker player! Plus he can play some tunes on the guitar, and I think he said he used to be a pilot or something.”

“That’s kinda cool.”

“Yeah, and he has all this chewing tobacco stuff, and he lets me take as much as I want.”

“Ew… Does he have any alcohol?”

“Oh ya, he does.”

Penny moved in and put her hands on James’ wrist. Her bracelets jingled, “James, me, you, and Roy. We’re drinking tonight!!”

“Well… yeah, okay.”

“Don’t tell me you’re scared?”

James laughed awkwardly, “I’m not scared, I’m down. I’ll ask Roy.”

“Good.” Said Penny. With a wide, seductive smile, she left to go to breakfast. At first James walked away with calm strides, but as soon as he was in the clear he practically sprinted over to Roy.

* * *

Thomas M. Watt

Author of “A New Kingdom”

Storytelling Essentials: Suspense

zombie-t-shirts

Suspense.

We’ve all heard the term, but an alarming number of people, writers even, don’t have the slightest idea of what suspense actually means. Hearing the term alone may enough to bring to mind images of zombies, dolls that talk, or maybe even a person rocking back and forth, biting their nails, and darting their eyes every which way.

In reality, none of those things have anything to do with suspense.

Suspense – information delayed.

In other words, the last example about the “nervous rocker” in the bit above is exactly what you want your reader to be doing when attempt to incorporate this element in your future stories. And in terms of importance to stories, suspense is not too far below conflict, which is really saying something.

The television show “Lost” thrived on suspense. Take that back – lived on it. And that’s also why the ending came as such a disappointment – though the writers were masters at keeping you glued to your screen from questions, they weren’t so good at delivering meaningful answers.

The key to good suspense is to get your readers to want to know what happens next. Zombies running out to tear you apart isn’t suspense, it’s violent and horrific. Approaching a door that may or may not be an entryway to a room-full of bloodthirsty zombies, however, is suspense. In fact, once you get your readers to care about the lives of your characters, you will have them hooked from the moment your characters approach that door until the moment they open it.

That’s why great suspense writers keep always keep us reading on the edge of our seats – for every answer they give us, another question is instantly raised, and another three probably already exist.

If I can get you to take anything away from me it’s this – your ability to raise questions in the minds of your readers will always be more important than your ability to deliver an incredible answer, though the ability to do both successfully will make you a master. But if the meat of your story is boring, than nobody is ever going to make it to that epic ending you put all that time and thought into.

The following is an excerpt from “A New Kingdom.” I’ve highlighted every line that is meant to make you ask a question and keep you desiring an answer.

* *

There was a loud pounding at the front door. James shared a look with his dad, until Mr. O’keefe finally got up and hobbled over. He opened the door to find Greg, dressed in combat boots and army attire.

“This is beyond urgent.”

“Why hello there Gregg, my wallet’s on the counter over there, judging by your entrance that’s what you’ve come for, isn’t it?”

“Where’s James?”

“He’s here… Why?”

Greg barged in, rushed over to James, then grabbed him by the back of his shirt and began shoving him towards the door.

“What tha hell are you doing? What’s going on here, Gregg?!” said Mr. O’keefe.

The military officer kept his firm hold on James and didn’t break stride. He tossed James down the steps of the stoop, turned around and headed back in.

CHAPTER 3

Whatever Gregg had to say was important, and James knew it. He crawled under a cluster of trees limbs and made his way over to the kitchen window. He couldn’t hear anything, but Greg’s frantic pacing and sporadic arm-waving told him all he needed to know – James and his dad were in danger.

James watched as Gregg finally stopped, tossed his arms in the air, then raced through the contents of his backpack. He hurriedly put together the pieces of a telescope, then set it up by the backyard window. After some frantic jolts of aim, he found whatever he was looking for. Gregg waved Mr. O’Keefe over to take a look. Mr. O’Keefe looked amused before he did. Afterward, the expression on his face dropped to a blank, lifeless stare.

Mr. O’Keefe walked over to the counter and swiped his bottle of whiskey into his chest. He took it with him to the kitchen table, sat down, then reached to unscrew it. He stopped short, then placed his hand around its body instead. He leaned back, ran his hands through his hair, then squeezed his eyelids shut. His lips moved so slow even James could read them:

  “Everyone is going to die.”

 * * *

Hope this helps!

Thomas M. Watt

A New Kingdom