Friday, December 9, 2016

Do I Plot? Do I Pants? Here's What I Do

A follower on Tumblr asked: "How do you plan your novels? Do you outline the entire thing or do you just write with the basic plot in mind? Or do that half outline thing where you outline a bit then write it then outline the next bit and so on?"

Here's my answer.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Inverted Pyramid of Revising a Book

When it comes to editing a book, it's easy to be overwhelmed by what steps to take to ensure the most thorough revisions possible. In this video, I illustrate my personal editing process and let you tweak it as needed!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Annoying (and even Outright Insulting) Things People Say to Writers

As writers, we all get the sarcastic, "Oh you're a writer? So you do nothing all day?" Deep down, (and sometimes not so deep down) it irritates us to no end. Here are some of the worst-of-the-worst things people can say to writers.

Monday, November 7, 2016

How to Find (and Use!) Inspiration to Write

In this video, I explain the ways that I generate inspiration -- that is to say, where I draw from to come up with ideas for my books that keep me, the author, engaged and interested in writing the story.

What are some ways that YOU generate inspiration to write your books?

Friday, November 4, 2016

How to Find the Time, Motivation, and Discipline to Write

Writing is the easy part. Find the time to write is what's tricky! In this video, I discuss how I make time to write when I'm in "Novel Writing Mode," and the rewards and difficulties thereof.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Special Q&A!!

Happy Halloween!

In this wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey episode, I return from a French party, answer questions about books and writing, and discover strange markings all over my face and arms D:

Friday, October 28, 2016

How I found some of my favorite books!

Here's my second video (with a surprise at the beginning)! How did  YOU find some of the books you're reading?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My First Actual Video As An Author!!!

This is my introduction video to kinda show who I am and whatnot! Feel free to leave comments and questions that I can answer in later videos! I want to make writing/editing videos, videos about books I'm reading, and kind of introduce you guys to my life as an author.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Big Announcement! Author Panel at Barnes & Noble!

Check it out!

I'm officially listed on a real Barnes & Noble event poster! (right-hand column, second down) So excited for this! If you live near Pittsburgh, come out to the Homestead Waterfront B&N for the author panel I'm a part of on Saturday, October 8th, at 11 am!

We'll discuss our books, the writing process, and take questions from the audience! And, of course, you'll be able to purchase signed copies of my futuristic sci-fi books, Embassy and Resonance!

See you out there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book 3 Writing Update!

I'm well underway writing Book 3 of the Recovery Series! Hit 30,000 words a couple days ago, so it's about 2/5 completed, with a projected final word count of 80-90,000 words.

I'm planning for there to be 7 books in the main series, or 8, if you include the prequel, We Cannot Be Content, which is essentially the story of how and why humans left Earth for good.

If you're wondering, yes, I do have a title and cover for Book 3.
Keep posted! I expect to release Book 3 in Fall 2017!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Writing Schedule through 2020

As I near the end of my college career (hopefully....come on, French, don't fail me now), I'm looking ahead to my plans for the next several years, outside of getting a job in science writing for the general public, and my super secret plans regarding a water harvesting machine that I concocted and purchased all the materials for....aaaaaand then never built.

That's a project for post-graduation, too.

I have a lot of books in the works, all associated with my current series, Recovery, of which Embassy and Resonance (seen on the right sidebar of this page) are the first two books. You have a lot to look forward to, because I've got three books directly related to the series planned, and one travel guide in the vein of my other website, Experience Daliona (which you can find at the top of this page).

So here's what the calendar looks like!

2016: the Daliona Travel Guide should be released Summer 2016. It will be a heavily-expanded-upon version of the website.

2017: Book 3 of the Recovery Series, continuing from Resonance. Aiming for late-Spring, but will likely need to hold off to the Fall.

2018: The Fires of the Spring will be a novella. Aiming for Spring 2018.

2019-2020: We Cannot Be Content will be a lengthy "origin story" of the Embassy Universe. It opens on October 24, 2312, and its themes will reflect the current atmosphere/debates of space exploration in the political, general public, and scientific spheres. This is the story of Benedict Drake (mentioned in Resonance) and why/how some part of humanity left Earth for good.


It's going to be a busy four years! There's a lot to look forward to, and we should all be excited to see where real-life space exploration goes in the next decade!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Signing in Pittsburgh THIS WEEKEND

Details of my book signing this weekend!

Delanie's Coffee
1737 Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA  15203

Located near the corner of 18th Street and Carson Street

Saturday, February 13th
11am - 4 pm

Embassy: $10
Resonance: $15

I have 14 copies of both books available for sale,
and will take orders for more if stock runs out.
Shipping (if needed) will be an extra $5.00, which covers both books.

Look for this poster!


Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Preface that will be in future editions of Embassy and Resonance

Preface: On the Intentions of My Work

Over the course of my nearly 12 years as a science-fiction author, I’ve settled into a rather unconventional style of storytelling. To some readers, the style and development of the story is so different from so many other genre fiction stories that they see this as a lack of a “predetermined storyline,” and, therefore, as a setback to the story.

Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that this essay is meant to show readers the type of story they’re getting into when they pick up my books, and why I chose to write in this way. At the end of the day, these are still just books like any other, subject to the same praise and criticisms that any other book would receive.

I think William Wordsworth put it best in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads when he said, “The principal object…was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them in a selection of language really used by men, and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination…” By this, he calls attention to the fact that he intentionally used common language and phrases to make his work sound more natural and relatable to the common reader. He stayed away from the deep, philosophical approach that many other poets followed: a structured, standardized approach that was widely regarded to be the only way to write good poetry. He goes on to point out that critics would take his work and “exult over the Poet as over a man ignorant of his own profession,” to such an extent that many readers ignored Wordsworth’s work simply because some critics claimed he was writing poetry all wrong.

I have no argument with my own critics. I love seeing how one person’s taste differs from another. Having 11 different beta readers between my latest two novels, I’ve learned to value criticism, not despise it—so long as that criticism isn’t an outright attack meant to insult me (which, I admit, happened in 2014. But such is life).

To explain my approach to storytelling, I want to give a bit of background on Embassy, the first book in my current science-fiction series. I wrote it in early January 2013, following the first of two points in my life that I would consider to be rock bottom (the second would come in mid-2014, and influenced certain scenes in Resonance, the second book in the Recovery series).

My initial approach to writing Embassy was what anyone would consider conventional. Even now, after more than a dozen rewrites (and 50+ rewrites for certain chapters), you can still see the basic framework I was trying to fit. The main character’s father was famous (the Shadow), he hates his current life (the Known World), joins a renowned program he’s only ever heard stories about (the Unknown World), and goes on an adventure that will change him forever (the Journey). It’s a structure that almost all successful books follow, and it’s become a staple of modern storytelling. You’ll the same tropes that many other YA sci-fi books have: the Embassy (the New World) has different branches the characters will fit into according to their life goals and personalities, where they will fulfill certain roles in the Embassy Program (the Selections). Along the journey, the main character would have a range of experiences that change him forever and determine his new place in life. This is EXACTLY how I structured Embassy in the first draft.

Instant best seller material, obviously!

Over the course of the next 22 months, I myself had a range of experiences while revising Embassy that came to shape the final draft of the book. In my own life, I began to realize what I wanted to stand for and get out of life. I began to understand, though not yet fully, who I wanted to become and what I wanted to teach other people. As a result, my approach to storytelling changed. In fact, one of the big themes of Embassy was to emphasize—in a relatable way—that we all follow different paths to happiness. But at one point or another, we realize who we want to become, and we must take the necessary steps to make changes in our lives.

Such is the case for Arman Lance, the main character of Embassy and Resonance. He’s depressed. He wants to take the easy way out and leave his past behind. He resists opportunities to change, and misses out on experiences he might have otherwise enjoyed, because he doesn’t want to leave his comfort zone and is deeply afraid of his plans falling apart.

Being a character-driven story, not plot-driven, Embassy (and, arguably, Resonance, too) puts Arman into situations we all face in our daily lives. He’s not the chosen one, destined to save the galaxy. He doesn’t have superpowers. He’s just a guy who thinks his life sucks and follows his obsessions because he thinks that’s the only way he’ll ever be happy again.

William Wordsworth would agree that Arman’s journey in Embassy is a basic, very human journey. I intentionally ended up shaping the story to be just that: an emotional, sympathetic journey. Admittedly, it’s much quieter than the action-packed, gun-slinging, alien-invasion YA sci-fi books lining the shelves, but I’ve decided that I don’t want my books to be like that. As you’ll see, I put the theme of “what makes us human?” front-and-center. I want readers to question their place in the universe, question their values, even question what they can do to make the world a better place.

As one reviewer of Embassy points out, “The story is meant to be about US. Me. You. The human race.” This is exactly what I intended for readers to realize. Embassy and Resonance aren’t meant to be stories that take you into another world, one which we know will never be. They’re meant to show what could be in humanity’s future. They’re meant to celebrate human endeavor, to show readers that we all have problems, that we’re all human in our own unique ways. That even though we don’t have superpowers, we are all capable of creating our own happiness, and realizing our own potential, if we only open up to experiences we might otherwise resist. That in order to care for others, we must learn to care for ourselves. That we can overcome our self-hatred and see the world in a whole new light.

Embassy became a test that allowed me to see what direction I wanted to take the series, and so the overall plot has changed dramatically from where I anticipated the story would go from Day 1. To be quite honest, I originally intended for Embassy to be a shoot-em-up story with aliens and gun fights. But this is where writing for yourself versus and writing for an audience comes in. Choosing to write a quieter story about humanity and the emotional state of Arman Lance felt much more fulfilling to me—as the author—than had I stuck to the original plan. My first three books, written while I was in middle school and high school, are what I like to call my “video game books.” They would make for a good Star Wars-esque RPG, ripe with an assortment of aliens, planets, and explosions on every page.
Quite literally every page, now that I think about it.

Now, six years after abandoning those books, I’ve moved on to realizing my voice in the world. The story I want to tell. And through that story, I’m creating what I envision as humanity’s future in space. Not only our future as a species, but our future as a society. In doing so, I raise several questions: How would we interact as a multi-planetary species? Over the course of thousands of years, would humans living on different planets evolve independently of each other? How would their technology differ? Would some planets progress faster than others? How would economies and governments function? What issues will humans of the future have to face, and on a similar note, what issues will we have solved? And what issues do we create through solving others? How would people living on one planet see life differently from people living on another planet? In times of crisis, how would various planets handle disaster relief efforts, or conflicts with other planets? Can there be interplanetary conflict when humanity is spread so widely? How does traveling between planets affect people mentally, physically, and emotionally? Can people make life-long friends and acquaintances across the galaxy? How do we treat the environment(s)? And, ultimately, which is more important: human life, or nature?

These questions and more are explored in Embassy and Resonance from the vantage point of Arman Lance, who I believe is the perfect character to carry the reader through this story because of how he learns to overcome his own internal struggles and self-imposed mental isolation.

Another quiet approach I took to telling this story, predominantly in Resonance, was the placement of conceptual world elements and plot points. Embassy and Resonance are both attached to a plot that surrounds the fate of Belvun, a planet suffering from extreme natural disasters after decades of poor environmental maintenance. Though this plot largely stays in the background of the first two books, its repercussions will resonate throughout the series as a whole so as to address even more themes relevant to the issues we face in today’s world.

My largest goal of these books, and the goal I have with the rest of the series, is to have readers come out of these books thinking that this could very well be a realistic depiction of humanity’s future. I’m a fan of Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX; Stephen Hawking, who revolutionized theoretical physics; and of course, Bill Nye the Science Guy. They don’t know it, but they’ve all influenced how I’ve chosen to depict the worlds and societies you’ll find within my books. All three of these men will find a place in history books of the future, and I know that when humans living a thousand years from now look back through the history of space exploration, Elon Musk will be the name they remember above all others. I have created a character representative of Mr. Musk as a historical figure within the series itself, named Benedict Drake. I’m writing a prequel entitled We Cannot Be Content to show the events that led to humanity leaving Earth for good, which will revolve around Drake’s life.

It is my intention to convince readers that this future is a realistic option for humanity. Embassy, Resonance, future installments of the Recovery Series, and any additional installments taking place within the same universe all share a common element: they are all meant to inspire a sense of wonder of the universe, and of humanity, within the reader.

None of this is meant to trivialize other works of science-fiction, as I’m well aware that there are books which tell the story of humanity’s future vastly different from how I envision it! To each its own merit. Reading these types of stories is important. To appreciate the endeavors of humanity, we must also connect with its flaws. Achieving this greater appreciation is the key to moving toward a brighter, more fulfilling future, and so I’ve attempted to capture the essence of humanity in my writing, weaving experiences that everyday people can relate to into a story that shows us as we all are at once. The story I’ve created is my vision, and no matter how close it comes to the truth, or how far it deviates, my intent is to at least inspire readers to have a greater love for humanity, and a greater love for themselves.

To All Our Endeavors,

S. Alex Martin