Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reading the First Chapter of Embassy

I'm trying something new out, and step one of that trying something new was to read the first chapter of Embassy for you all, for free, on YouTube! It starts exactly one minute in. You'll get to hear all of my pronunciations and what not.

So without further ado...enjoy!

As always, go ahead and purchase your own copy! Ebooks are $2.99 and paperbacks are $12.50-ish.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blast from the Past

I was rearranging my bookshelves today (cleaning them, more like, because they were a mess of all sorts of things) and I came across a huge reminder of my childhood: a magazine I picked up way back in 2001 at the old grocery store in my hometown. To put it in perspective, the original iPod came out AFTER this magazine.

Needless to say, the grocery store doesn't exist anymore.

Anyway, take a look at this magazine. I did every single activity in this thing, front to back. Took every quiz inside it, still have the posters that were in it. Everything. Gah. I love my childhood.

They were so young. We all were, for that matter (I was 8 at the time...almost 9. Now I'm 22. Wut.)

Does anybody have their own blast from the past moment? Share it in the comments!

Monday, December 22, 2014


Hey there! About an hour ago, I finished the first draft revisions of RESONANCE :D (I call them FDRs hehe). Let me tell you, Part 3 is gonna be quite the fixer-upper. It has almost all the stuff I want...but most of it's summarized of not expanded as much as I want it to be (I could definitely tell I was getting burned-out during the last chapter).

The climax, however, was fantastic. I know how I want to enhance it, too, so I'm looking forward to returning to those chapters.

Remember to grab you copy of Embassy if you haven't already done so. It's great for young adults, adults, and those awkward in-betweeners (the New Adult crowd).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Astronomy Image of the Day

Since I'm a science-fiction writer, I figured what better thing to do than start posting astronomy and space exploration pictures alongside my writing updates and tips?

So here's to inspiration.

This picture is of a rocket launching from Earth, as seen from Earth's orbit. Incredible, huh?

Keep posted! I have more news coming soon!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Part 2 First Draft Revisions in RESONANCE

Well, today I completed the first draft revisions for "Part 2: The Island World" in Resonance. Toiled over these bad boys for a solid week. I can say that I am extremely pleased with Part 2. It's so different from Part 1. The pacing levels out and the world-building just explodes into a whole new level.

So I'm 183 pages through Resonance revisions. Only 67 more to go! I expect to add lots of scenes to the end, though, because while I was writing, I kind of summarized the ending rather than writing it all out (similar to how I wrote the first draft of Embassy).

Part 2 of Resonance
That doesn't go without saying that there are definitely plenty of things I need to concentrate on when I get to typing these revisions and working on future revisions. So what do I need to work on when I get to that?

Here's a list:

  • Characterization -- I need to solidify the main group of characters. Arman, Glacia, Officer Remmit and some others are pretty good....but there are characters I definitely need to tighten up and at least give a little identifiable personalities to.
  • Additional Scenes -- going through this, I found many parts where I thought, "Hey, I could totally stretch this and make it work into characterizing somebody!" or "This would be cool. Let's do it." There are also some parts that I just need to put in to keep the consistency of the story smooth.
  • Physics/Astronomy Concepts -- I threw down my pen at one part. Literally threw it down. Why? Because I blew my mind with how focused some of the details were during some scenes with real-life physics. I need to tweak some things here and there, but for the most part, I amazed myself.
Those are the big things. A ton fewer things to focus on than in Part 1, right? Geez. *happy sigh* I should finish Part 3 by the end of the week.

Make sure you get your friends and family a copy of Embassy for Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014


This is a short science film that became an internet sensation about a week ago. I've watched at least a dozen times, because it's such an inspiring, visually awesome film about humanity's journey. It's such an inspiring vision of the future.

One of my goals in writing Embassy and Resonance and the rest of the Recovery Series is to inspire a love for space exploration, and this film truly captures the spirit of that endeavor.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Revisions for RESONANCE

This weekend I revised the entire PART ONE of Resonance, and today I reached Chapter 20, meaning I'm a little less than halfway through revisions! the course of about 5 days.


Part 1 of Resonance

Things I've noticed I need to adjust:

  • Chapters 1-6 and Chapters 16-18, I need to slow the pace down. Things fly by (or maybe I'm just reading really fast). No, I think the story is just hopping and skipping during these parts and not taking the time to develop. So I need to fix those up.
  • The Archives Program is a bit shaky in terms of what the new program ACTUALLY does. I toss in all this jargon, but I feel like there still isn't a clear sense of why they need to revamp the program.
  • Conferences and interviews for the archives program. Stuff happens -- important stuff -- but again, it flies by and isn't totally clear. I need to slow some of that down and let the program develop.
  • Characters. Some new characters are introduced!....but I think the pacing forces them to run across the stage and say goodbye in the blink of an eye, particularly in Chapter 3. I'll be working on that.
  • Personalities. Lon, Lon, Lon. He switched personalities halfway through the story, so I need to get him back on the original track. Gah. I hate when I mix characters' personalities up.

Those are the biggest things I've noticed revision-wise so far. I should knock out another few chapters tomorrow, hopefully hit the end of Part 2 before Friday. I'm loving it! But I also need to work on those few things....

Make sure you grab your copy of Embassy! Read, review, and share it with friends! Resonance will be available December 2015 or January 2016, so mark your calendars. You'll be able to pre-order during the summer.

Friday, November 21, 2014

First Draft of RESONANCE is Complete

August 26, 2014 -- November 20, 2014

86 days. 300+ hours

126,106 words

250 MS Word pages

RESONANCE is finished.

Now I know those numbers aren't impressive as my 10-day, 140-hour, 151k-word writing sprint back in January 2013 that produced the first draft of Embassy....

....but it's still pretty good.

Now I get to chill for a few weeks. Let my brain unwind. See this with fresh eyes sometime in mid-late December and tackle the beast top-to-bottom. I plan to use a different, more efficient editing method than I used to work on Embassy. Whereas I dug through Embassy front-to-back for multiple drafts, picking out every little thing every time, I'm gonna let some things slide and focus on content for the second and third drafts.

Reason being, I know of a few places where as changed my mind about things a chapter later, or I wasn't satisfied with a section, or I blatantly skimmed through a scene because I couldn't think how to develop it at the time.

But no worries! That's what revisions are for :D

I'm excited to put Resonance out in the world...sometime. I'm planning for an early 2016 release date, (holy cow it's already 2015???), so we'll see how that goes.

So while I'm working on Resonance, you should go ahead and purchase a copy of EMBASSY to prepare for the sequel!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The 90k Milestone in RESONANCE and other news

I hit 90k yesterday and it was okay so I had to say, "Hey, what a day to hit 90k. What a way to finish the day."

Well, can't say I didn't try to make a snazzy rhyme on a dime that time.

I'm past 90k now (almost to 93k, actually) and I'm closing in on the final pages of Resonance. My heart is starting to go knowing that I'll be finished in a matter of 2-3 weeks.

In other news, several book blogs are reviewing Embassy in the upcoming weeks! If you haven't already, grab your copy at Amazon, Smashwords, or the Book Depository! Links are in the sidebar to the right! Things are heating up!

Friday, October 24, 2014


Just a quick update about RESONANCE, the sequel to EMBASSY.

I reached 70,000 words yesterday! Woohoo! There's anywhere between 40-50,000 left, so it's flying by :D

Remember to purchase a copy of EMBASSY 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Signing at Delanie's Coffee

You could say my book signing this weekend was a success! Pre-orders not included, I sold 22 copies of Embassy across the two days...a total of about 8 hours. Not bad for a little coffee shop in the Pittsburgh Southside!

I still have a few copies left over if anybody would like one. Just shoot me a message and we can arrange to get it sent out.

Here are some pictures from the signing!

If you haven't gotten a copy of Embassy yet,
you can do so HERE.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Some Updates in My Life

I haven't posted in almost two weeks, so I wanted to give some updates going on in my life right now!

First and foremost...I have TWO book signings this weekend in Pittsburgh, right in my coffee shop where I've been hard at work blasting through the sequel to Embassy.

Speaking of the sequel, I hit 60,000 words in Resonance on Wednesday! That puts me well over the halfway mark, and I have about 50,000 words I'd still like to write. Oh, and Part 2 is the same length as Part 1....and I'm expecting at least another 25,000+ words in Part 2. So yeah, it's a loooooong section.

Last weekend, I got to see my puppydog for the first time in about two months. She was very excited, and I'm going to see her again next weekend.

Moving on....a few weeks ago, my roommates and I got two kittens, Onyx and Ollie. Onyx is a black cat, and more importantly, he's MY cat.

Taken at 1:30 a.m. on a Thursday because that's what cat people do

Last, but not least, the Baltimore Orioles are playing the Kansas City Royals today! I've been a die-hard Orioles fan since I was born, so you can imagine how exciting this is to see them sweep Detroit in the ALDS and move on to the ALCS. (Last time they were in the playoffs, the Yankees beat them 3-2 in the ALDS....and the Yankees Suck). So here's to a win against the Royals today!

If you haven't already seen, there's a giveaway going on right now on Goodreads. If you enter, you have a chance to win one of two signed copies of Embassy! (must live in the USA). That giveaway ends October 24. Details are at the top right of this page.

So yeah, that's what's been up with me lately. Life is good, I'm happy (and excited for the book signings tomorrow) and I've gotten some fan mail/sent out signed books to fans across the country! Texas, Michigan, and, believe it or not, Canada! Shout out to you!

If you haven't already, grab a copy of Embassy. It's YA/NA science-fiction. Think Star Trek mixed with John Green. Details can be found HERE.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Milestone in "Resonance"

Last night, while writing for the 100-for-100 challenge, I blew past 50,000 words in Resonance. Now I'm three pages into Chapter 20, and the story is still in full swing.

In Chapter 20 of Embassy, the story was nearing the climax (Chapter 23) and slid to the ending in Chapter 30. But in Resonance, there's no sign of slowing down.

Part 1 of Resonance is 33,000 words long.
Part 2 of Resonance is currently 17,000 words long, and they've only just landed on Daliona (it's still the first day). At this rate, I'm projecting another 35--40,000 words before Part 2 is finished.

And I still have to write Part 3. Fortunately, I have a "rough draft" written because I'm recycling the original deleted ending of Embassy for this book.

So that's my update! Thanks everybody, and keep posted for more!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

All Set for the EMBASSY Book Signing!

Yesterday, 41 copies of Embassy showed up on my doorstep. That's 50 pounds of book right there. They're for the book signing I have in October, right here in Pittsburgh!

Lots of them have already been claimed, so if you want a copy, act quickly. They are $10 a book, and if I have to ship it, I'll ask that you pay for shipping charges.

26 copies are still unclaimed. If you'd like a copy signed and shipped to you, email me at, and we will get something worked out.

I will be signing books in Pittsburgh on October 11th and 12th. Information about that event can be found HERE.

Monday, September 15, 2014

100-for-100 Challenge

Today marks the first day of the Go Teen Writers 100-for-100 Challenge! From September 15 to December 23, you have to write at least 100 words a day, every day for 100 days. It's a great way to knock out 10,000 words!

Of course, my normal routine is 1,000 words a day, so hopefully I'll finish the first draft of Resonance during these hundred days!

Starting word count: 39,535 words
Goal for Resonance: 110-120,000 words

This is doable!

If you're in Go Teen Writers, what is your goal for the 100 days? If you're not in GTW, contests like this are always good incentive to get writing. Challenge yourself, keep a routine, and watch the words stack up.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where I was on September 11

On September 11, 2001, I was in the fourth grade. My bus got to school on time, but when we walked inside, things were different. I remember people in the main office were on their phones, and instead of being sent to the cafeteria to wait for the first bell -- like usual -- we were sent straight to our homerooms.

I remember walking in and seeing something on the TV. I didn't know what it was at first. The image was of WTC 1, smoke billowing from its sides. We stayed in homeroom for a while, but 20 minutes later, we were told something else had happened and we were being sent back home.

They didn't tell us then, but I later found out it was because WTC 2 had been attacked.

My dad works in Baltimore, so he was sent home early, too.

As a fourth grader, the reality doesn't really strike you when something like that happens. New York City is so far away, it didn't have the impact that living closer would have had.

I was 9 years old at the time. I'm 21 now, and through the years, the impact of 9/11 has grown with me. During high school, I started a tradition for myself: every year, I change my background photo to a picture of the Twin Towers, and every year, I watch this compilation of live news broadcasts.

That video hits home every time I watch it.

I think it's important that I keep up that tradition. It's become my way of showing respect, and remembering the lives we lost. 9/11 is a part of our national identity. All of us have a memory of that day. All of us remember where we were when we found out what happened. And every year, we should stop and recall those memories, watch those newscasts, say our prayers, show our respects.

On September 11, 2011, I watched the 10-year anniversary with the grand opening of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. I've been to NYC since, and I've visited the memorial. I've followed the rise of the Freedom Tower, one of the most beautiful towers in the world. America's newest way of saying, "We will never back down."

And I will Never Forget.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

To Inspire a Love for Space Exploration

Many people have asked me why I write science-fiction. It's a bit of a tricky question, because part of me doesn't actually think of myself as a science-fiction writer. Futuristic contemporary fiction might be a better way to describe Embassy, but even that is up for debate.

See, Embassy isn't filled with strange aliens, explosions, shoot-'em-up scenes, or weird jelly creatures that absorb your soul and take over your brain. When I began writing books at the age of 11, back in June 2004, I wrote a book called The Narlan Wars. That and its sequels were filled with aliens, explosions, battles, telekinesis, sci-fi guns, and a number of other factors that made that series truly science-fiction.

These awful books...gotta start somewhere, though.
Then, in January 2013, I wrote Embassy. Once I figured out what the story was about, I formed a greater understanding of what I want the series as a whole to achieve. Embassy is more of an introduction to a greater universe stored up in my head. I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly how the series will play out, and I'd definitely be lying if I said I knew the last chapter of Book 4. I have basic ideas, but I like to let the story write itself, just as Embassy wrote itself (95% of the 14th draft is different from the 1st draft, and the story is completely different).

The book in question.
Embassy is about the characters. I think that's what separates this story from the countless other YA sci-fi and NA (new adult) novels on the market. (And trust me when I say a vast majority of NA is straight up romance. Hardly any variety in that range of books...hence another reason I'm writing this series). I want readers to connect with the characters on emotional levels. Experience the world I've created. Come out of this book thinking, "Wow, I want to see this age of humanity."

Based on the reviews Embassy has already received, I'm achieving my goal.

Real reviews on Amazon
So let's get to the point: what is the #1 thing I hope Embassy and its sequels will achieve?

Inspire a love for space exploration.

When you read Embassy, I want you to be filled with awe. If you finish this book in the middle of the night, I want you to go outside and look up at the stars. Just like Glacia makes Arman do, I want you to stare at those dots in the sky and feel how small you are. Fill yourself with an appreciation for life, an appreciation for this world you are so lucky to live on, and imagine getting the chance to fly out there and explore worlds humankind has never set foot on.

We are a part of the universe, and, as a species, it is our responsibility to save ourselves. Some people will say humanity needs to die out because it's destroying Earth and other life forms. I disagree. We are the most intelligent life forms in existence, but many people don't appreciate that. Those are the people destroying the world. The people committing murder and genocide, the people who hate other people for their color or ethnicity. The people who dump trash in the oceans, who value money more than human life, who think we are invincible.

The truth is, we are but a small fraction of an already small fraction, that is nothing more than a fraction. The universe does not care about us. The universe will do whatever it takes to destroy us. But even though the universe is a deadly, unforgiving force, it lacks the one trait that makes us, us: INTELLIGENCE. Therefore, we have the power to overcome the universe.

This is a real picture of Saturn. The dot is Earth from almost 1 billion miles away.
We are small. Very, very small.
To do that, however, we need to appreciate how small we are. If life on Earth ended tomorrow, nothing would change. This little ball of liquid and rock would still fling itself around the sun, the waves would still crash to the shores, the wind would still blow.

So why should we live on? Because we deserve it -- some of us, at least. We deserve to colonize Mars. We deserve to explore Europa. We deserve to walk on Pluto. We deserve to break free of the solar system, shoot ourselves into the interstellar void, and feel the warmth of another sun.

Being an atheist, I often say life has no inherent purpose, that by a string of statistically random events, we are here simply just because. What I do believe is that it's our responsibility to MAKE a purpose, to SHOW the strength of humanity, to make a stand against the improbability of our long-term survival.

Embassy shows that. The future I've created shows how humanity has matured. In Embassy, we've settled a dozen or so planets in a tiny bubble of the Milky Way, and every planet relies on the others to survive. If one planet collapses, the others can save it, or at least harbor the people who lived there.

Every society seen in Embassy is unique. Undil has the youngest settlements. It's technology isn't up-to-par with many other planets'. Undil is still growing, and is largely a society driven by the success of its trade and politics.

My vision of Undil (in the central eastern hemisphere)
Belvun is the most similar to Earth. The people who live there, despite the looming collapse of the planet's ecosystems, enjoy a life of leisure.

My vision of Belvun.
Narviid is a very rugged, technology-oriented society that is mostly involved in the goings-on of other planets. They aid Belvun, hold Undil's hand, and are one of the most confident societies in the series. They have things figured out.

My vision of Narviid
Daliona is one of the most technologically-developed planets. They've surpassed a life of leisure, to a life of "What if?" Daliona researches, creates, and achieves, and is by far the most livable planet in the Embassy Program.

My vision of Daliona
Societies vary from planet to planet, but as I mentioned above, this is all background information because the main focus of the story is on the characters and how they live in this future. They have normal problems, normal jobs, and normal interests. They have futuristic sports. And one thing they all agree on is that humanity needs to keep exploring, needs to keep seeking out and settling new planets, and they know if they fail, there are consequences.

That's what I want you, the reader, to discover. I want you to love astronomy and the thrill of exploration. I want you to be excited when humans land on Mars. I want you to visit space one day and know, deep down, that humanity deserves to leave this planet and walk on other worlds.

A Falcon 9 launch from SpaceX
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Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Signing at Delanie's Coffee in Pittsburgh

On the weekend of October 11-12, I will be selling and signing copies of my New Adult science-fiction novel, EMBASSY, as part of the grand print release event. If you're in Pittsburgh, it's only a five-minute drive from downtown, on the corner of 18th and Carson Streets in the Southside.

Live near Pittsburgh? Join the Facebook event page!
Click this: EMBASSY Book Signing

Come on out, and spread the word!

To learn more about Embassy, Click Here.

To read the latest book review about Embassy, Click Here.
To view the Kindle version of Embassy, Click Here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Simple Introduction to Plot Structure

It's Monday, so, as promised, I'll try to get my posts back on schedule. I've been busy moving back permanently to Pittsburgh, so that's why I took a short break from writing advice posts (these take a long time to put together, as many of you probably know).

Let's get to it, shall we?

You are walking down the street when all of a sudden BAM!! It hits you: Inspiration. You rush home, keeping the idea fresh in your head, throw open the door, grab the nearest piece of paper and a pen, and jot down your great idea. Breathing a sigh of relief you sit back and look at your genius. There's your character, the setting, and.....what? You reread the page. What's going on? It was so good, but now you realize nothing has happened at all. Something is missing.

One word: plot.

Your characters don't have anything to keep them occupied. They are standing there looking at each other saying: "Okay....what's the point?"

How do you form a plot? What are the necessary elements? Why don't people want to read about the life of your characters, and be done with it?

There's no true point to the story. Readers don't want to watch your character live and die, unless that character is an awesome action hero who spends his days cleaning up the world of evil and fighting awesome battles. Even then, that might become dull.

There has to be a point to the story, and people want to know what that is as soon as possible. The opening paragraphs (which I'll talk about in a later post) need to hook your reader and tell them why they are reading the book. Why should they care about your character's story? Why should they take interest in your novel?

A true plot is essential. The first few scenes should establish the main goal of your hero. Follow these six basic points:

  • What does he want?
  • Why does he want it?
  • Who or what stands in his way?
  • How will he reach his goal?
  • What will happen if he reaches his goal?
  • What will happen if he doesn't?

If you keep saying that word
It stops sounding like a real word.
In the opening scenes, try to at least explain points #1 and #2. Maybe you can fit some of the other points in there, but the first two are crucial. They tell us which direction the story will go in.

The reader wants to know the destination. Once they know What and Why, they have a reason to continue the story, just like your main character will have a reason to move toward the goal. They have something to root for. They can take a journey with the character and experience the same pitfalls and high moments the character has. Show readers "Point B," and the satisfaction of the journey will come with the rest of the novel. Once you tell the reader where they're going, they'll follow all the instructions -- the subplots, romance, and journeys -- without hesitation. When they reach the goal, they'll decide if it was worth working for.

It's okay if you get a few pages written before you make up your mind as to what the main characters want. But make sure you do it fast, or your readers will keep asking: "What is the point of this?" and you'll lose them before the meat of the story starts. Make sure the goal is something interesting. It doesn't have to be obtainable, it doesn't even have to be real, per se. Maybe the hero seeks a rumored magical sword that can save the kingdom, but, as he finds out, it isn't real at all.

Then what's the point of the journey? The journey should change the character. The hero seeking the sword should discover the strength and courage inside him that will allow him to defeat the enemy threatening the kingdom.

Throw in a villain. Make him hurt the hero. Make him force the hero to make a choice he doesn't want to. Bend the boundaries. Snap his values. Cause pain. Make readers feel it in their hearts.

That's the true meaning of plot. Put your characters through heaven and hell. Have their worst nightmares claw at them and their brightest fantasies elate their spirits. Do it for the sake of change. Keep that change realistic. A man doesn't simply become a knight because he finds a magic sword. He learns a new set of strengths and values and morals, grows more intelligent, and devises a plan that will lead him to victory. Things happen to him that change his perspective in life. That is the point of plot. Don't leave your character the same as he started.

Make the reader care that the character changed. Do we feel sympathy? Is he stronger or weaker? Has he lost friends and loved ones? What did the journey do mentally or emotionally to the character? What was the price he paid to obtain his goal - or not?

That's what plot is all about -- a series of events, leading toward the established goal, that create a complex character built up from his/her experiences on the way to that goal. Whether s/he reaches that goal, or not, is completely up to the writer.

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While you're at it, check out my New Adult Science-fiction novel, Embassy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

So as you've all probably heard, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been going around. Well, as it should inevitably happen, the challenge came to me. So here's my video!

Also, for every view this video gets on this blog over the next week, ending August 24, 2014 at 11:59 EST, I will donate $0.10 to the ALS Fund. So share this video. The more views, the more money I donate! So go on and hit SHARE! Or post a link to Facebook or wherever else you can think of.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Regular Posts to Resume Monday

Sorry I've been gone for the past week, everybody. I've been busy moving into my new apartment and moving my sister into college (funny enough, she ended up going to school right down the street from me in Pittsburgh!)

I'll get back to my usual scheduled posts at the beginning of next week, and I'll keep them going as long as I can before school gets in the way. Then I'll drop to 2-3 posts a week.

Thank you for your patience. I've received a lot of emails and comments thanking me for the posts and blog, so I hope to keep this up as long as I can.

In the meantime, Embassy's grand print release will be October 10, 2014! Excited for that, and getting all the arrangements made for the release party. If you're in Pittsburgh then, you should come! Details coming in the next few weeks.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

EMBASSY: A Refreshing Journey

This is a new ARC review Embassy received on Amazon yesterday. It's really in-depth, so I got permission to post it here.

Embassy will be available in print on October 10, 2014.

Review by Melissa J. Troutman
Author of Trust and Deception.


Embassy is not a science fiction adventure novel. Rather, it is a science fiction journey novel, perhaps the first of its kind I have ever read. I started it expecting aliens, laser gunfights, and spaceship battles. You know, like Stars Wars, or the new Star Trek, or the rest of science fiction that’s out there.

It took me until 80% through the book to realize there would be no aliens, no gunfights, no battles. Instead, Embassy follows the quieter, internal journey of a young man named Arman Lance and his dreams of finding the only person who will make him happy after his father’s death.

I enjoyed Embassy. I was hooked from the beginning, wanting to see if Arman would make it into Undil’s Embassy Program. Subsequent intrigue kept me in the story, such as whether he would find Ladia, what would happen to Belvun and its spreading desert, and if Arman would be happy again.

These hooks were well placed, because Arman as a character didn’t grab me. He starts the book quiet, antisocial, and too focused on his one goal of finding Ladia. Not much to like. Yet he was real: coping with the unexpected loss of his father, burdened to provide for his mother and sisters, driven to find the girl he loved, and anxious to get away from home. A typical young man. I haven’t read many books told from the male perspective, but I thought Arman’s character and voice were accurate to real life. Points for that.

The universe was also accurate. My thanks to the author for portraying the zero gravity between planet and spaceship, for mentioning the gravity simulators on the ship, and for having his characters throw up after their first space journeys. (Gross, I know, but realistic.) Points for that.

Even the science fiction part of the universe was realistic. I’m leery of reading sci-fi and fantasy because I tend to get lost in other people’s imaginations. S. Alex Martin, however, did an excellent job building his world. Though I didn’t fully grasp everything the first read through—I never do—I was struck by how neat his planets, politics, and technology were. He obviously thought through his world-building, and it shows. Points for that.

I didn’t find the writing itself to be anything stellar. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. When a book is written in first person, the narrative is the voice of the main character. If Arman were a writer, I would expect flowery prose and stunning descriptions and breathtaking turns of phrase. Maybe. :) Since he is not a writer, however, the simpler writing style is fine. It suits his character. (Note: I thought the present tense to be handled well. I don’t usually like reading present tense, but Embassy’s style read comfortably.)

Final notes: the turn of events both surprised and pleased me. As a reader, I enjoy surprises. Points for the satisfying ending and the unexpected way there. Also, I found Embassy’s storyline refreshingly unique: the main character doesn’t have to save the world, nor does his athletic female friend have to call upon her skills to “kick butt.” Embassy was like a breath of fresh air in that respect. I give points for that too. And it was a clean read. I think there was only one d-word in the whole book.

One part at the end did disappoint me, though. Arman sleeps with his girlfriend, and that bothered me. I had hoped for a book without that kind of thing. But in this regard, Embassy is just like the rest of the YA fiction out there. Points removed for that.

Overall, Embassy is the unique journey of a young man who is teachable and respectful, who comes to admire his old coworker and appreciate his young friend, who starts quiet and unhappy but ends quiet and appreciative. This book shows great character transformation. It also reminds readers that seclusion damages rather than helps, and that there is healing in reaching out and opening up.

Yes, I enjoyed reading Embassy. Yes, I would recommend it to the right friends. And yes, I would read S. Alex Martin’s next book.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Part No One Knows

I wrote this story back in June but only shared it with a couple people. However, in light of Robin Williams' death, I thought it would be something good to share with everyone just to pass on a positive, hopeful message for anyone dealing with depression or bipolar disorders. While this isn't a true story, it's based on my own battle with depression, which is approaching two years. Please pass this message on, and if you know anyone struggling with depression, please, please let them know you're there for them.

Let’s start near the end, when the knife was pressed against your arm. Not many people know about this part. It’s that moment of hesitation when a wave of second thoughts floods your head, and you think, if only for a second, that you might not do it. “I have to,” you’ll tell yourself, the first tears forming. And just when you think you’re about to do it, you don’t. Then you feel angry, and blame yourself for taking so long. “Just do it!” you’ll scream through your teeth. But nobody will hear you, because the words never actually leave your mouth. The door is closed, but you’re afraid someone will hear and check on you. If your sister found you with that knife pressed against the tender side of your arm, drawing a rift in your skin, she would never look at you the same way. She’d scream, and the whole house would hear. And then what would you do? You can’t do it in front of her.
You can’t.
In the morning, your mother will come upstairs to say goodbye before she leaves for work. She’ll be expecting the same groggy “mmph” because you’re barely half-awake, like you do every morning. But when she finds you tomorrow, you’ll be laying on the stained carpet. She’ll scream, but you won’t hear. She’ll drop to her knees and grab your body and shout, but you’ll only hang limp. Your sister will run into the room, scared, and then she’ll see your pale, bloodless face. Maybe your eyes will be open. That will make it worse.
You squeeze your eyes shut and press the blade harder against your arm. The serrated edge pricks your skin. If you don’t do this, there will be a red line traced across your arm for at least a few days. Someone is bound to see it. When they do, their eyes will flick up at yours, but only for a moment. They’ll look away again. You’ll pull your arms to your chest, but the damage has been done. They won’t tell anyone though. Your secret is safe.
“But what’s the point?!” Even the words in your head seem to shake with anger. The world is dark. Your eyelids twitch and a sliver of light shines through. Then you squeeze it shut again. Darkness is your friend. It’s only a matter of time before darkness is all you’ll see, so you might as well get used to it now.
You curl your fingers harder around the handle. In your darkness, you begin to feel the blade. People always said metal feels cool against the skin, but it’s not. It’s warm. You peek out one eye. There’s no blood. The warmth is an illusion. Your mind is tricking you into thinking you’ve done it, but you haven’t. You relax your grip, relieve some of the pressure. The warmth goes away. The knife feels cold. Its edge doesn’t tug your skin, but it feels sharper than before.
Fear overtakes you. You open both eyes, and tears drip down your nose. Your stomach twists. You let go, hear the soft thud on your carpet, and back away. You hit the wall on the other side of your bedroom and slide down it until you’re sitting with your knees pulled to your chest. The knife is pointed away from you. The line on your arm flushes red. You sit there and you cry.
In the morning, your mother comes upstairs to say goodbye before she leaves for work. She’s expecting the same groggy “mmph” like you do every morning. She tells you to have a good day, and she loves you. She pauses when you don’t say anything. Maybe you’re asleep. So she walks closer and rubs your hair and kisses your forehead.
You open your eyes. Hers are right there. “I love you,” you say. She smiles and tells you to have a good day again, and to make sure you get your sister to school on time. When you hear the front door shut, you get up and take the knife out of your drawer. You go downstairs, walk onto your back porch, and drop the knife in the trash can. Later, your mother will notice she’s missing a knife. She’ll wonder about it for a few minutes, then again tomorrow. But she’ll forget it by the end of the week, around the same time the red line on your arm fades.

This time next year, she’ll have a new knife. Ten years from now, she’ll dance with you at your wedding. Then she’ll have grandkids to spoil. You’ll pretend to not notice her sneaking them extra dessert, and you’ll pretend to wonder why they’re so tired the morning after she babysits for you. Her grandkids will giggle, and you will smile with a quick wink. And every night, you’ll tuck them into bed, kiss their foreheads, and whisper a bedtime story. You’ll go back downstairs and sit on the couch and hold the person who is allowed to love you forever, because you chose to love yourself.