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The Fresh Unknown

Once upon a time I held a larger audience spellbound with the kind of work I used to do. At that time I was big into auras and healing. I worked with that large audience mostly one on one. I cultivated a small following and got by on my entrepreneurial spirit and mystique.

Fast forward 10 years and things have changed. I’m not the same guy I used to be in that regard anymore. In fact, I’ve retired from that line of work altogether. I still sell the book, and sometimes I even pick it up and learn something about myself by reading it. But I’ve moved on. I’m interested in different stuff. I’m much more pulled to telling fictional stories.

That’s where I’m keeping my focus. I used to believe in fixating myself ‘as such and such’. It was an identity thing.

Many of us will go through identity crises in our lifetime if we’re lucky enough to. You might believe you’re this or that, but honestly in this world you’re really whoever you want to be. And with that sense of freedom comes a great responsibility and duty to find out what works for you for now, for a time. Maybe you’ll be doing the kind of work you’ve always dreamed of and it will be great until the day you die. But for many of you out there, it won’t work out like that. We’ll end up doing the stuff that has to get done whether we like it or not, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll pursue our dreams in our spare time. We’ll refer to our dreams as hobbies, craftsmanship, passion, or whatever else. That’s amazing.

The other day as I was barreling down the highway to meet with my sister it occurred to me that real artistic expression can take years. This led to another realization: art takes years in a society that values expediency and immediacy over quality much of the time. This isn’t to say that a quality product isn’t deeply appreciated by the masses, but it is to say we might not (collectively speaking) have the patience to wait on it. We’re on a never ending train of forward motion watching things pass by, getting fed up with the new thing and waiting for the new-new thing to come along instead.

Instead of speaking to the inner workings of this malcontent attitude of modernity I can instead say that old phrase in all earnestness: good things come to those who wait.

I’m still working on a couple of books. They’ve taken me a couple of years. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to rewrite from scratch the 3rd and final installment of the Owen Hunter Trilogy, even though I’ve written it twice already now.

The Wizard & The Jewel : The Chronicles of Ionor is currently in edit mode, and I may need to an a chapter and definitely get some kinks worked out before its released. It could be middle of next year before it makes an appearance in virtual bookstores.

For the first time in my life my audience has dwindled down to a bare nub. I’m fine with that. Hey, I’ll even encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. It’s over there on the sidebar near the top (a link to it is) and I’ll be so happy to know someone wants to read my works if you subscribe soon. I actually won’t send anything out until I have a new book release. So there’s that to comfort your inbox woes.

My life as a writer is ‘the fresh unknown’. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. And you don’t know much about me as a writer. Take a look here, here, and here for places where my books are sold. You might find something you’ll like to read.

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About a short story I just wrote

Yesterday after work I took a nap. When I woke up and sat on the couch for a bit I surfed YouTube and found a brief Interview with Stephen King about short stories. I’ve written short stories before, I have a steadily building collection of them, in fact, but something the man said struck me.

“Writing short stories is how I started out. Sometimes I’d write what I thought would be a short story to discover it actually turned into a novel. Misery started out as a short story.”

He also went on to say that the ideal length of a short story was around two thousand words, or maybe just a tiny bit over. But any longer than that and it wasn’t a short story anymore and it wasn’t a novel. That is when you introduce the novella.

Well, for some reason I was inspired. I don’t, as a rule, take naps all that often. I have too much I want to do in life like many of us do that precludes napping.

I wrote a short story that just burst out of me. For now I’m calling it “The Bone Tired Hero” but I’m sure the title will change when I’m done editing it. When I’m done it will go into a collection of short stories and maybe, one day, it will get published somewhere. Or, I might–if prompted by you nice folks out there–publish it here for all to download for free as a PDF or something. It’s short, a touch over two thousand words.

It’s a suspenseful short story and it really grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. I like the twist near the end, in fact there are a couple of twists. It looks one way as you’re reading it, and then it’s revealed that something else is going on.

Also it speaks to our times in the #metoo movement (of which I support fully) and which is fresh in all our minds.

I can’t find the meme now, but I read something to the effect of: “Studies show that relationships last longer when the man isn’t a total douche-bag.”

I’m still laughing at that one.

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To kill a character

Or why it’s taken me 3.5 years to write the 3rd installment of this series.

Death in fiction is an end to a cycle. Sometimes it can serve a purpose beyond its face-value. The main villain finally dies. A hero is made because he or she dies in the service of making sure someone more important lives, that sort of thing. I’m working with an interesting concept in which someone must die in order to make a difference in something called The Astral Realm. I’ve italicized that because this is only a notion that works well with the book I’ve already written. The context has been set up well in advance. It’s also something readers may or may not see coming. I’m not going to give it details here because if there are other people who have read the Owen Hunter Series (the first two available books anyhow), I don’t want to provide a spoiler before the book is even out.

Even in my writing, I don’t take the death of characters as light subjects. If it can’t really further a purpose, move the storyline along well, or just seems gratuitous, I tend to skip it. Often times the characters in my books do get hurt quite badly but would make it out alive, if maimed for life in some cases. 

Here’s what I think. By and large, we are resilient creatures. Sure, we might be worried our loved ones could die of X while doing Y at any point. Everyone deals with life-and-death scenarios playing out in our heads (or is that just me?) every day. Sometimes it is truly justified–like if a loved one has type 1 diabetes for example or some other life-threatening disease that’s not curable–but most of the time our worries are just that. Most people can walk down steps on an icy winter day without incident. Oddly enough more people don’t get run over in parking lots, and very rarely do terrorists attempt to hijack the grocery store for money, fame, or some other reason we can’t know. 

Most of the time we make it home without crashing our car, falling off a bike to be crushed by an oncoming motorist, or poisoned by an ex-lover at a gala…you get my drift. 9 times out of 10 we’re alive and well despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against our very survival.

So when I do kill off a character in a book, or a series as the case may be, I want it to really count for something in the end. And this time I do have that justification. Here’s a hint: it’s someone crucial to the plot, someone, you won’t expect, and it may even be more people than you expected it to be. It all serves to save the world in which Owen Hunter and his friends live. 

I haven’t really been asked why its taken me so long to get this book out. The short answer: I must get this right. The slightly longer answer is this: I have to ensure that there’s coherence in this 3rd and final book in the series. The conclusion to this very long book has to not just make sense, but it has to evoke a feeling from me, its author. And as I approach writing scenes I don’t particularly want to write I know it’s because it is pinching a delicate nerve in my soul to do so. I’m going back to writing a scene right after this post, as a matter of fact, that I think will make me shed a tear or two. Who knows what you’ll feel when you read it?

I’m hoping that happens soon for you.


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A tumult of a constantly shifting lens.

If you look up the word ‘tumult’ in the dictionary it paints an image of an angry crowd of people all milling about close to each other. Perhaps the day is hot, and everyone’s talking over each other, shouting, disoriented and confused. That’s a tiny snapshot of the world at large. An increasing number of people now have access to computing platforms (phones, tablets, and actual computers) that give them the capacity and opportunity to share their views. Right and wrong are moral judgments based on subjectivity, the same as good and evil. The art of discernment is requisite in this unfolding era of ‘Babble’. I’m adding to the noise.

Who are we listening to and why? We all want and need the better deal, the most affordable price with the highest quality product. Our right-hand doesn’t recognize that we’re eating our left hand. In this self-cannibalization, we cry out in pain and confusion, not knowing why we do it really. Have you been told that you cry in your sleep, or awoken to find yourself this way? Maybe upon scant self-reflection, you chalk it up to your workplace or something you watched before bed that disturbed you a little. I bet you it’s deeper than that. 

Imagine a dense and dirty fog settling over the lands like a great shadow. The malaise can last you the rest of your life if you’re not careful–the shadow and the light dance side by side, but never leave each other. If you find that it’s much easier to look at the fog than at the light, you’re not alone. But recognize this: it’s a decision. And that decision isn’t necessarily your own to make.

All the items you prop yourself up with each day–your computer, your phone, your friends, your TV, your books, your media in all its forms, also prop up the people you surround yourself with. Whether that’s at work or at home. Many of us in the developed world are surrounded by influential voices. Popular TV shows, Facebook, Twitter, and even Youtube–these media conglomerates are informing you and everyone else you know. If you’re lucky, you are influencing these media in your own way, hopefully with an eye for a better change.

Because we are by nature adaptable creatures, and because we have so much surrounding us on all sides, we are adapting to the influences of everyone else’s thoughts. If left alone for a while you might notice that your thoughts run in new cycles every three months or so. As new information becomes available, that information gets processed over and over again on cycle in your mind. 

You’re also influencing yourself by what you seek out. If you’re looking for specific information, you can find it. And it is changing who you are when you do discover it. Doctors inform other doctors, as well as patients via the web–same with health coaches, scientific studies, and all the rest. All of this leads to a necessary fragmentation of mental resources and personal identity issues. The breaking down and building up of character is a lifelong process involving you and the millions of people you are now connected to.

I submit then, that when we say we want to ‘find ourselves’ we might cast a loving glance backward to a different time. A time when people didn’t have access to the same level of information or groups of people’s influences. A time when people had only their families and their towns or small groups of people to be influenced by. Simpler times, maybe, but mankind has never really been all that simple. Because of adaptability, we’ve been evolving to this very point. We’re seeing the world through a constantly shifting lens. 

There are so many questions this raises, of course. Write down all your questions and submit them to yourself for deep examination and self-reflection. See if you can answer just one or two of the questions that arise. It’s an exercise in personality and character to do so. 

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Taking Shape

Have you ever written an essay for high school, or worked hard to finish a paper for college? I bet you’ve done one or both and received feedback that you didn’t like. That negative feedback often (not always) pushes us to learn from our mistakes and create something better next time. You might blame your teacher for how you’re feeling (crummy, let’s bury our head in a pint of ice cream), but your teacher is just relaying the facts. Putting words together is a skill. This kind of skill isn’t meant to be easy. I posit that if writing were easy, its value would be significantly decreased. As it is, reading is starting to seem like a disappearing act. I’m grateful for everyone who still picks up a device, looks at a screen, or blows the dust off a book and scans their eyes over words!

My own books and stories have gone through a similar arc over the years. I’ve gotten feedback from my editor when my writing is particularly shitty. There’s a vehemence about how bad it is. Luckily this occurs because my editor believes in my writing prowess and knows when I’m phoning it in. My fingers practically fly over the keyboard and when I’m just downloading the raw bits and pieces of a scene or a whole chapter, I (being the human that I am) leave significant parts out. I change the way a character would do, say, or react in a situation that’s not to be believed. I don’t do this consciously. This simple faux pas comes down to my not being truly present with the material. I’m so intrigued by the scene, or I’m so rushed by my ‘need to get the word-count’, I lose sight of the real picture. In other words, I don’t take my time. When that happens, the words lose their meaning and the whole train comes to a crawling, lumbering slow-down.

With the 3rd book in the Owen Hunter Series, that has happened over the last two years. I’m doing everything in my power to go back over the manuscript I originally thought was brilliant, leading to a perfect conclusion, and am having to see how I botched it. In my need to rush through, I made things much worse. The new manuscript is taking shape. 

In the years since I launched into my writing career, being green, not knowing how this whole thing worked, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to be patient with feedback and take it to heart. There’s no easy way to admit when you’re wrong, just dead wrong. I’ve had to do that and go back to the drawing (writing) board often. It’s a character building experience. The more you write, the better you get (in theory), and the more you stay focused on the structure, the easier it is to not make so many mistakes in the first place. 

Speaking of taking shape, I’ve also learned an enormous amount about making my own book covers. I’ve designed and redesigned them over the years and there’s been an evolution. At first, I relied on the talents of people I paid. Recently I hit a new level of understanding in design (thanks to the help of people over at kboards, with keen eyes, and generous feedback) and have taken that to new levels. I’m going to work hard to continue taking artwork (in written and visual form) to new levels. 

I’ll keep you up to date as I get nearer to pushing the publish buttons on the 3rd and final installment of the Owen Hunter Series PREVAIL. And keep a lookout for my new book The Wizard & The Jewel due to be out late summer or mid-Autumn.

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FB Posts

With each post, we’ve been trying to see how we can spark a conversation. And not just how, but what type of conversation. It’s been an experiment, this virtual world. An experiment of riches and of failures. We’ve agreed and quarreled. We’ve touched on issues and shied away from them. Each day more and more people share their point of view, their perspective, their ideas. Everyone says what is correct from their perspective, from their angle of view, and it isn’t always right. 

We have shared pictures of our lives, snapshots out of context, painting moments as if it told of the sweeping monotony and minutiae of our daily existence. Then we started sharing videos, saying more while saying nothing at all. Next came memes, a trite bite with a crunchy kernel of truth that wears down the enamel of our toothy minds. At every turn, there has been a try to share something meaningful, something life-changing, something game-changing, and something worthwhile knowing about, reading, understanding, believable, honest, authentic, and (like this) pedantic. 

It’s been an interesting ride on the virtual wave of ‘socializing’. “Here, wear this blindfold. You can’t see or hear the people, other than an image of their face, and their words. You’ll have no idea how serious or how funny they are trying to be. Try it, you’ll like it. In time, you won’t even remember they were flesh and blood, people who made noises with their mouths, people who spoke volumes with just their eyes. Men and women whose beating hearts are precious jewels hidden away behind brave chests. It’s okay, all that stuff was superfluous anyhow…just try it, you don’t need to _see_ these people to appreciate them. And, what’s more, you can know all of them or so many more than you would comfortably fit into one place. Oh, and you _need_ to know them all! As many as you can! Let them be your friends! It’s the wave of the future.”

And somehow that feeling of being alone, of being lonely, persists in spite of these promises. Thank goodness we still talk to and meet with flesh and blood people, the ones we share close proximity oxygen with. 

You’ve been promised the universe and given a screen.

Each night I die.
Each morning I am born.
Every day I’m a wanderer
in an all new house.
Every night I experience a new bed.
My mind holds one of my
hands gently
While pinching the skin of my beliefs
with the other hand.
My heart beats a spurious song
to a rhythm unheard.
My heart beats relentlessly behind a fragile cage,
Making each new birth
Making each nightly death

— Scott Msrmorstein
Posted in Author's Notes

The Social (Media) Experiment

There are repercussions, consequences, and outcomes of using our speech that can be far less than favorable to our agendas and desires. What we say these days can be instantly spread to larger and larger circles of people with perfect fidelity. On the internet, there is no ‘whisper down the lane’. What you say is captured forever, potentially misconstrued out of context, and bashed back over your head like a heavy club, or at times like a sharp ax. But all too often, your words will simply fade back into a sea of words. Voices that cannot be heard with the human ear. Voices that can provide little in the way of substance. Voices which are self-directed and self-interested. 

Those who choose their words, their timing and the conversation to enter into poorly, know this simple truth well. The internet isn’t a court of law, but you are being judged by what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. 

Social media, Facebook, in particular, has become (for me at least) a den of unhappy echoes. Voices that crowd in with opinions that are less than ‘fully baked’. If we are to use critical thinking or even just common sense, the words people put in tweets, in random posts, and in comments within posts, paint an ugly or stupid picture, and so end up characterizing and perhaps, in a sense, ‘typecasting’ a person’s image. How you are perceived online is how you bleed through into everyday life. 

We don’t get our words right when we speak out loud among people either, but usually, we can catch on to what we’re saying and correct ourselves. When you are more familiar with people, friends or even coworkers, for example,  they hear a great deal more than just your words. Facial expression, body posture, and movements all add that missing depth to what it is you’re attempting to communicate.

Have you noticed, for example, that everyone is usually just trying to make everyone else laugh? We are using our humor as a species to deflect and ease the inordinate pressures of a modern world we can barely keep up with and weren’t designed by nature to endure on a permanent basis. Yet, we have created this new world and we are constantly striving to adjust to its rapid shifts and changes.  

Now, to be perfectly clear, I’m not here to make any of this sound like its a bad thing. People are social creatures. We are all familiar with the argument that much is lost in translation through the written word alone when it comes to socializing ‘virtually’. And yet, virtual is all we have. If you don’t believe me, look up the word virtual in full, and you’ll see I’m technically correct.

This same argument about words not communicating the full import can be turned to media like books. If an author/writer isn’t entirely sure of herself, what she wants to say, how she intends to create a sense of context, how to describe body language that goes with dialogue, then so much really is lost in translation. Those books often end up with poor reviews.  We’re not all writers. Especially on social media. The war is of words, and if you’re not especially skilled in using them, you will waste your voice to a cacophonous sea which makes no audible noise.

While you may now be thinking to yourself how pointless this all is, just realize that life could also be seen that way. We’re here one day and gone the next. All our carefully laid plans to acquire materials and goods become forfeit when its over. Similarly, when our words meet blindered eyes and stuffed ears, we are a garbled distraction for a few moments at best.

If you’re a writer, someone who is doing their best to communicate, then really go all out. Use social media, your blog/website, as a way to really take your time and articulate your perspective, your vision, you understanding. Make it clear that when someone reads your words, they are reading your mind, your heart, your sense of being. It will at least give you more connection to others. 

I wrote the following in my journal today…

I think we take for granted the ‘relationships’ we have online nowadays. These are mostly false relationships because the words on a screen can only describe as many dimensions as we can (or are willing to) absorb.

Video games provide a similar allure to online social media sites like twitter and Facebook. It’s glamour wares off when people stop listening to us. We are indeed social creatures, but that doesn’t mean are socializing can happen only in the virtual realm. There is something powerful about seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and generally being around another human being. Smell, or the olfactory sense, is often subtle, but what most people forget is the pheromones we give off. These don’t have to have a sexual affect on our being, but they are psychosomatic. We get a pleasant feeling around some people because of this subtle sense.

In the same way, the way a person looks, and the way they speak, what we hear when they talk, make a funny voice, make a silly face—these are all part of the social aspect that is completely missing from the virtual atmosphere. No amount of emojis can truly suffice or supplant the range of body language that we get to imbibe from our real life friends through the written word alone.

Especially because these written words are often inarticulate, ill timed (often) and constant. One thing I didn’t mention is that we can also appreciate the silence or the gaps between what we say out loud and how we spend time with someone in person. There’s an intimacy and an immediacy absolutely missing from the virtual environment that no amount of rationalizing can replace or explain away. 

Video games are false and provide a false sense of accomplishment. This was one reason of many I quit playing them ages ago. It seems like you have completed your objective until you realize that nothing in your life has made any change. To seek that sense of change you return to a video game (herein lies the addictive factor) until/unless your pre-frontal cortex kicks in and reminds you that there are actual accomplishments to be made in the world around you with real results: cleaning your room, going to work and earning your money, saving up for travel experiences, creating artwork in some form or other—these become items that can be seen and shared by others. If you’ve gone to another country, your own inner psyche gets broadened by the experience and you take on new character traits and can share that with…your friends.

Looking at a picture someone took is great, but it almost always leaves you feeling like you wish you had been there to see it for yourself. And that’s the great thing about a picture, it can evoke a feeling, inspire an action, or repel you in some fundamental way. Often the pictures we see of smiling happy people on facebook or memes are fun, but short lived ‘thrills’. All of these things serve to drive us away from the moment. A comedian famously said that the present moment sucks, and that’s why you want to get away from it with your phone, a movie, a video game—anything to not actually ‘be here’. So we have to look at ‘why here’ sucks so much. What is it about life that we can’t stand?

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now myself. I’m not sure. I don’t know what it is about life that is so incredibly boring and bothersome. I think there’s an acute awareness that inactivity is a total submission to the straightforward movement unto one’s personal physical and eventual absence from this planet. In the end, it reduces down to a fear of death. A fear of ‘not living’. And so we have to cram absolutely every possible thing into our daily life in order to be or feel ‘ok’.

However, back to social media, cramming in time for this platform leaves us feeling a mixture of emotions. Because it’s life condensed onto a screen, you’re seeing everything at once, and not most of what you want to see. Instead you end up seeing what the company has decided was a good filter for you. And this helps nothing at all. Think about it for a moment: you visit facebook, you see a few posts you agree with, a few you could have thought of yourself, a few that ask for people’s opinions (which you may or may not have been in the mood to participate in), and one or two old memes along with a smattering of ads you couldn’t care less about.

There’s a lot more to say here, but there are other projects that need my attention and time. What do you think? Even if Facebook and Twitter have connected you to friends and family from afar, how often can you keep up with them? If you’re young and have a busy career life, how do you manage personal projects, immediate family time, and time with your friends you can spend time in the same room with, sans computer? If you’re retired maybe the social media experiment is a boon for you. Everyone’s different. These are just my musings.

If you have a different idea I’d love to hear it in the comments section below.

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Fresh Paint & Matching

So far I have published two major pieces in my canonical fictional works (to date).  The first in the series is called Pursuit, and the second in the series is called Plight. In the past I have made my own covers for these books because I didn’t have the financial means to get other artists to create the vision I had in mind for each book.

Recently I’ve discovered the power of a particular Mac program called Affinity Photo and have begun to learn extensively how to use it. In the process, I realized I am quite good at taking images, manipulating them to my purposes beyond their original intent, and making them into something entirely my own. I created, as a result, all new covers for my first two books in the series, and plan to make an even better cover for the third than the one I’ve paid for (I like it, but it doesn’t match the series.)  These images are purchased and licensed, and I’ve completely manipulated them from their original look to fit the look I was going for in the first place.

As a result, I think they look so much better, and they match. They actually look as though they are part of a series, rather than disconnected books. I have been making my own book covers for years, but they haven’t been the greatest. Merely serviceable. These are marked improvements, and now that I’m confident in my skills for creating better book covers, I intend to continue doing so for all my future publications.

In case you didn’t know it, I had also bought some powerful (Mac only, sorry) software for interior deign of the printed version of my novels as well as much cleaner and more fancy ebook versions.

All of my books have been converted using this newest software. Additionally, I’ve made my fictional works available in multiple ebook formats, you’ll see a button called ‘Other E-stributors’ and that will open a new tab or browser page with all the vendors where you can purchase in those formats. iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Playster, Kobo and more are all there, and they all look good on those devices.

I keep the price of my books reasonable and fair. Happy reading!

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Wizards & Magic Publishing & Prevailing

I’m in the throngs of writing an epic modern day fairy tale about a wizard. I don’t like to do things in any sort of ‘traditional’ way, so this particular yarn is going to reflect that fact. The Wizard in question is Ionor. The story is told from his perspective (first person perspective.) It’s a challenge to write about magic in the modern world. But an even greater challenge is to thrust the main character into his original world which he had never experienced before. The rules there are different. The wizards there are also different. He’s used to living among us regular humans. He’s used to a lot of things because he has lived among us for nearly 300 years. 

Imagine taking Superman and having him only know cursory bits and pieces about his home world of Krypton. Then one day he gets pushed there before it’s destroyed. He knows only how to behave like a regular person, while his strengths are immense and his talents are impressive on earth, they are erased from his time on Krypton. He doesn’t really speak the language, he doesn’t know about custom or decorum, and that is just some of what’s going on in the story I’m writing about.

Why Write About A Wizard?

Aren’t wizards overdone? Haven’t we heard enough from these beings? Aren’t there about a bajillion books covering the trials, travails, and adventures of all manner of wizards? Of course not! We can never get enough wizards! Ionor is incredibly powerful right off the bat, brilliant and capable too. But when he’s brought to his homeworld, he has to dig deeper and learn even more about himself than he’s ever had to before. What’s so fun about this is that it gives a whole new meaning (in my mind) to character arch. The story is mostly straightforward with a few twists and turns. In a world of over-stimulating news and information overload, I like to dabble in the magic. Magic is also something specifically addressed in this newest piece I’m writing. 

Who couldn’t use more magic in their lives?

What about PREVAIL and OHS Book 3?

I’ve hit a slow down with the editing process. It’s all my own fault. It has to be right and what I’ve written and rewritten just…has not been on the mark. I’m not willing to put something sub-par out there for people to read just for a quick money-grab. This is my first serial novel and my first work of fiction. I don’t have any intention of sacrificing the artistry for the story or vice-versa. Sometimes a rough draft is written too hastily, and you lose sight of what the story is all about. I did that. So I’m undoing that by making sure every part of the story is consistent and flowing forward in a way that is surprising (in a good way) and entertaining, as well as (possibly) thought-provoking.