Four Decades and Six Years Later

It was a warm day in Erie, PA on October 2, 1968.  The high was listed as 78.1°F  and a low of 64.9°F with the winds blowing at about 15.5 knots.  In St. Vincent’s Hospital, Daniel A. Roberts was born unto the Earth.

Four decades and six years later, I am a long, long ways from that day.  So much has changed.  So little remains.  I’m a writer.  I’ve gone through three major careers.  I’ve fought tooth and nail for the things I believe in.  I still do to this day.

Intelligence comes from the mind, wisdom comes from the heart.  Imagination is the glue that keeps our minds fresh, up to date and full of hopeful, if not grand, expectations.   This world we live in is not what you may think it is.  Our soul doesn’t just live within us, we live within a spiritual envelope, a seed one might say, building our qualities through the fire of our will, much as a blacksmith forges a sword.

That internal forge isn’t the same for everybody.  Some people forge their swords with the intent to do evil, and those with the intent to do good, to protect and serve, have to make sure our own swords are well crafted.  Then there are those who would forge their mental shield, or a full suit of armor, to withstand the attacks by those who don’t know better.  Or to stand in the way of wrong doers, with intent to prevent harm to themselves or others.

We are all given options in our lives, and we choose among them.  Some don’t believe in anything beyond their daily routines.  Some believe in a higher power with such fervor, they drive themselves towards violence.  Then, there are those, the majority of mankind, who pray to God for a better experience in this life, and that is merely that.

Most people see our lives as going from cradle to grave.  That is how we measure life.  From the moment we are born, to the moment we die, everything of concern to us happens in that time frame.  That is a human view.  Human eyes, and human understanding.  It’s normal, but then, I take great joy in not being normal in my own views.

I see my time here on Earth as a short visit, nothing more.  I was born, but life doesn’t stop in the grave.  As I said, we are seeds.  We germinate over the years.  How we live, how we love, how we grow up, it all forms that seed deep within us.  When our body grows frail, or is tragically killed, we are planted in the ground.  Just like a seed.  What our spirit grows into is something we won’t know until the time comes.  For those who fill their lives with hate and anger, they will learn very quickly that to be a weed in a spiritual world is to get pruned, while the rest of the flowers are well-tended.  Goodness, I love metaphors!

I am a Christian.  Non-Denomination.  Most of the time, especially for those who are angry at Christians, such a declaration can produce eye-rolling of epic proportions.  They have a prefabricated model of what they think a Christian is, based off of flawed humans who can’t help but act badly.  It’s okay, I forgive them.  It’s human to assume that everyone who says they are Christian is to be all lumped into one index card.

I refuse to let my belief and faith to shut my mind.  What we humans know about this world can fill a volume of encyclopedias.  What we don’t know can fill three planets worth of libraries and still need more space to hold thick volumes.

We all need to look at each other a little differently, but that is difficult, as human nature by default is a dark, powerful entity that is waiting to pounce.  Those of us who have large hearts, are filled with empathy, who wish no harm towards others… most of us don’t realize that we are still in the minority.  On a planet of more than seven billion humans, around sixty percent are still trying to kill each other on a daily basis.

Can you blame other world beings for not giving us a second glance on a fly by?  In fact, I’d be shocked to find out that the Earth isn’t in some form of strict quarantine, at least until we stop killing our own kind.

Those are my thoughts, on average.  The world is still a place to be worried about, but I have friends here too.

My friends.  Those are some unique people.  If you know me, and are my friend, know this now.  You’re loved on the same level as brothers and sisters.  This is not lip service.  This is not some type of patronage.  I love you all.  I’m as empathic as any human can be.  I feel your pain when you hurt, I feel your joy when you’re happy.  I bury it deep, close to the heart, where everything matters.  I may not always share this, or show it, but it is there.

Do not hold your hearts with a heavy hand, deep regretful thoughts or fearful aspirations.  Enjoy your life!  Wake up every morning, smile at the sunlight, breath in deep, enjoy the scent of the air itself.  You’re alive, and no matter how much pain you are in, no matter how physically in shape you are or aren’t, know one valuable thing.  Your life matters.  Not just to you.  To everyone.  Everything you do, from the moment you are born, causes ripples through everyone’s life.  Even to the people you never meet.

Consider this… your coffee pot breaks down one morning.  You end up leaving late as you must have that cup of coffee, rushing to get to work, or to whatever destination in mind.  Halfway there, you spill the remainder of your coffee, causing yourself further delay.  You arrive two minutes late.  Every path you crossed happened two minutes later than normal.  People who were delayed when they would have not been, has their path altered forever.  Those two minutes you altered, could have saved a life.  By preventing that accident from happening, that college student goes on to cure cancer.

It’s possible.  We’ll never truly know how much that has happened, at least in this lifetime, but I believe this world is filled with things like this.  Our world is in constant flux, and every little thing you do, or don’t do, can mean the difference between life and death for the rest of humanity.  Something tells me that if we knew what those odds and actual numbers are, we would be shocked silly as to how often it occurs!

So please, don’t review your own lives as less than adequate.  You are one of the most valuable souls in this world.  All of you.  For who you started life as, for who you have become, to whom you are destined to be, and every second is precious.  So live your lives like it matters.  Because it does.

That is my birthday message to the world.

^_^

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Screenplay Review: Buggins’ Turn – 5 out of 5 Stars

buggins coverBuggins. The name alone is as quirky, humorous and downright terrifying-to-the-funny-bone as this well-written screenplay easily suggests. The opening scenes not only gave me a solid glimpse into the ramshackle life of the main character, but also got me laughing, quite literally, way out loud.

The leading woman in Buggins’ life is also as provocative in her own charming, electric way. Celia is a formidable force who is the glue that keeps Buggins together through both crisis and victory. Every character has their own place, their own quirks, their own agenda, and it’s a form of chaos that lends credibility to the order of things that happen to Buggins from the very moment he encounters each person, friend or foe.

I can’t stress it enough; this is a read you won’t want to pass up on. Everything that hides in the shadows of our own daily lives gets pounded with the humor bat, and not lightly.

If I was a billionaire with the influence to get the ball rolling in Hollywood, I would produce this for the big screen and rake in the results. So I have to be content with one of the biggest smiles on my face at the end of this story, because it ends as it should. I’m not telling you details about that for a reason. Read it for yourself, but be warned, make sure you’re not in a situation where you wake up your household from noisy fits of laughing.

Well done, Mr. Jute. Coming from an old Thespian who has done his own fair share of comedy on the stage in days long gone, that means something. If you write another screenplay, I’ll be one of the first to pick it up.

 

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Mercury One Charity Drive – Major Announcement – Major Pledge

As you all know, I write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Action and some comedy are also a part of that formula.  Recently, I’ve been looking into Glenn Beck’s charity organization, Mercury One.  When Oklahoma got ravaged by those high powered tornadoes, Mercury One was there, helping with disaster relief.  As a man with severe physical limitations myself, I mourned the fact that I couldn’t go out and help clear debris.

I can stop mourning.  Why?  I decided to give a percentage of my royalty sales to Mercury One.  How much?  That’s coming.  But first, I want to share what I found out about that charity.

Click Here to visit Mercury One’s website.  Look them over.  There is a button/link about Amazon Smile on the page.  It’s a portal, that if you buy from Amazon through that portal, 0.5% will go towards the charity.  That is zero point five percent.  That’s only half of one percent.  (1%)  While it’s cool that Amazon provides a way for people to support their charity, come on, just 1%?  Amazon earns millions and millions a month… they just want to share 1%, and that’s only if’ you use their shopping portal?

I don’t earn anywhere near that, but I’m going to do better.  Much better.  Between now, as in today and December 31st, 2015 (Yeah, that’s a year and three months!) everything I make in royalties is going to be split in half.  I’m donating 50% of everything I earn from my book sales, be they paperback or ebooks, to Mercury One.  Not 0.5%.  50%.  All I did was just bump the zero over to the right, where it belongs.

Why so much, besides taking joy in the fact I can beat the awful example from Amazon?  (Come on ‘Zon! Would 5% kill you?)  Because Mercury One is a little different when it comes to charity than others.  Most other charities take a percentage of the money donated for operating costs.  Salaries.  If you saw the salaries of the people working for those other charities, you might pass out.  Some only pass along 20 cents for every dollar donated to helping their campaigns, the rest is going to overhead costs and salaries.  Not Mercury One.  If you donate say, $100 to Mercury One, then all $100 goes towards helping people in need.

As for me, it doesn’t matter where you buy my fiction.  No portal is necessary.  My fiction isn’t politically motivated, or anything like that.  They’re just fun reads for those who love Science Fiction and Fantasy, and that is that.  Be it from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Amazon or Smashwords, or anywhere my fiction is sold, when I get the royalty check, it gets split in half, which will go straight to Mercury One.  From today until the last day of 2015!  Now that is a pledge I can make, and I just about double dare, triple dare Amazon to match it!

Every quarter when I get my royalty checks, I’ll share the amount here on my blog, and how much of it is going to Mercury One.  That way, you all will know how much you helped.

Stay safe out there.  It’s still a mostly wicked world, but with the right people and the right donations, we can take a little of the sting out.

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Vacation Will Be Cut Short

I planned on 60 days.  Two months.  On October 1st, one day before I turn 46, I was going to make the announcement that my vacation is done.  That has been changed.

As of tomorrow, I start writing Darya: Queen of the Galaxy, in full time mode once again.  I will use a few days in between chapters to keep working on The Muliebral Order.  I intend to have both novels completed and offered during the 2015 writing season.

Why did I cut it short?  Honesty moment; It felt too dang weird not to write full time.  Too much going on in my head that is being delayed, it’s like have traffic backed up for several miles.  I have to get the lanes moving again.  I think I’ll be much happier for it.

^_^

Sometime in November, I’ll be making the Beta Reading announcement.

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Why We Need A Self-Imposed Book Ratings System

Before my author friends and writer enemies alike join forces to storm my blog with pitchforks and torches in an effort to burn this idea down, I politely ask that they all read this monster-sized blog post from start to finish before building my gallows. I will be going into detail about the why. After that, if you feel I’m wrong and need to have this digital castle burned down, then so be it.

It all begins with a common-knowledge misnomer, and expected age range for a certain genre that some popular authors write for. I’ll begin this possibly stormy ride with the Young Adult crowd.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen. That’s the so-called official range. Some readers and writers alike aim for the teen ages, and may want to define their own version of YA as thirteen to nineteen. I’ve actually encountered a few readers, face to face, who insists that YA is a range designed for thirteen to seventeen, and anybody eighteen and older should be considered an adult.

As you can see, there is a hodgepodge of beliefs over this system, yet there is nothing concrete. There is no official system that nails it all down, delivering a rating system that is designed to be identified so a book can be marketed to its proper audience.

So why would we need such a thing? Movies have it. Video games even have it. Those who classify themselves in Children Books do a rather good job at defining their age boundaries. However, books for everyone else who isn’t a thumb-sucking human, the written word that is designed to teach, entertain and expand grown minds, doesn’t.

So Daniel A. Roberts, what is your convoluted take on all of this, and why are you trying to mess it up for everyone else?

It all starts with something called discovery. That is a term used for when an author writes a book, and it gets discovered by a certain audience of readers. It can be a niche genre, like Paranormal Thrillers. It can be a major genre, like Romance. That audience discovers a novel, that author reaps the benefits in royalties and recognition. In turn, that inspires the authors to continue writing for that audience. Such inspiration can be huge to that author, an important element that can generate an entire series.

What has all of this to do with a rating system? Today, most publishing companies and online distributors require publishers and authors alike to choose their genre. However, there is another small selection to make in a different spot. It usually says in some form or another: In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know whether this book contains language, situations or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age.

This is the unintended catch-22 for most writers and publishers. Most publishers won’t select this for their novels aimed at the YA market. Even though there is sex, or massive killing sprees, or somebody yelling “Son of a bitch!” or anything else you can find in most PG-13 movies that are made from these novels, if they become popular enough.

Let me use one of those popular examples. The Twilight series. Each and every movie, with the killing and the eventual sex scene where Edward breaks the bed, and nearly breaks Bella with it, along with a huge battle over the half-vampire daughter where heads are ripped off left and right, when did any of that become appropriate for your thirteen year old? Fifteen year old? Each and every movie is PG-13, so according to the ‘official’ moral voices, your 13 year old should be able to watch undead sex and massive killing scenes.  That is a moral argument for another time and another place.  I’m here to discuss the issues I’m aiming at, but the example was required for the rest of my discussion.

What would have happened if the publisher of Twilight decided to follow that broader based description for 18+ and checked that box that said: In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know whether this book contains language, situations or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age.

I know exactly what would have happened. Twilight would have been hidden along with the entire Erotica line, even though Twilight is not erotica fiction, and might have never been discovered in the first place. It might not have gotten popular, because if the teenagers searched for the title, it would have been blocked from their viewing. Parents might have gotten more upset if their teens started buying Twilight books from the same digital front-end that displays a title called Getting Laid By My Ex-Nanny. (If any such title exists, my apologies. I made that up to make my point.)

This is where a writer like me gets punished for having a moral compass. Take for instance, one of my novels that is a combination of Science Fiction, Comedy, Fantasy Magic and Action. It is not Erotica of any sort. Defenders of Valinthia. Most people who see the cover thinks it’s light fiction for a young reader, when it’s not. Most people who download it, enjoy it on an entirely different scale. This is a seriously loaded novel, where a war gets fought between Science and Magic. People do die. Body parts get blasted all over a field of battle. Gnomercy (Cool Gnome Warrior) cuts off the head of an enemy space marine. An entire squadron of starfighters gets smashed by magic wielding dragons, and so much more, and yes, it’s also a Comedy.  How can something that violent be a comedy?  You would have to read it to believe it, and some have gone down that road.  What they got was fictional entertainment.  If they would have selected to filter out Erotica, because that subject is 18+, they would have never found Defenders of Valinthia.  

What is the most important part, Defenders of Valinthia is aimed at the 18+ crowd. This isn’t something I want your fourteen year old to read. I will admit this now, if I read it when I was fourteen, I would have loved the novel something fierce. I was fourteen when I read The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. There was a ton of killing, adventure, wars and magic in that novel too. When I pulled it off the sales shelf at the real world book store, it was in the Fantasy section. It wasn’t with the Erotica novels. Those were in the back, in a room that was blocked off with a black curtain, and if an under 18 kid tried to go inside, the sales clerk would holler and chase them out.

For Defenders of Valinthia, because I checked the box that said; In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know whether this book contains language, situations or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age. That means it gets hidden with all of the Erotica titles. If you go to the retailer’s online preferences and check the box that says you don’t want to see adult materials like Erotica, so all of that sex-erotica stuff doesn’t litter your search results, you will never, ever find Defenders of Valinthia, because it’s just as blocked off.

I could advocate for a measure to get Erotica placed onto a digital shelf all of its own, like that back room that was sectioned off with a black curtain where only adults who seek Erotica titles would go. I made mention of that a few times, some years ago, to get swamped by people saying I was off my rocker.

It’s easy to point out a problem. Today, I’m going to step it up by suggesting a solution that would ensure this never happens again. Let us develop a rating system where novels can be explored online, where 18+ (Adult) doesn’t mean splashing Erotica all over your web browser if you choose to see 18+ titles.

Before I go much further, it must be said that I’m not anti-Erotica, even though it’s not my cup of tea when it comes to reading. That market has a following all of its own. Authors who write Erotica are making big bucks. I don’t want to deny them their readership, it’s their money, and hey, they’re all adults.

Some online retailers refuse to carry Erotica titles, but they earn the disdain and ire from those who provide them a product to sell. The actual content of Erotica, like sex and violence as part of their formula, worries non-erotica writers something fierce. There is violence, swearing and sex in other books. Will they ban those next? They might, because that author also avoided the 18+ check box, because they didn’t want to be made invisible to most readers who don’t care for Erotica, but are aimed at adults who might want to read that cool Crime-Thriller they wrote. Which is the burning problem from square one. How can you write about crime and not have violent or suggestive themes?

Erotica is a niche readership. Even most adults don’t want to see the sleazy covers and taboo titles mixed in with their search results. It’s enough to hurt the discovery for the authors who use their own moral compass and do select the 18+ box, because they feel their novel isn’t right for that thirteen year old kid.  But then, there looms the ‘hide my book from all adults who doesn’t like Erotica’ effect.  (Yes, I started that last sentence with a conjunction on purpose.  I must be an evil maniac at heart, right?)  

So, what kind of self-imposed rating system should be used? Notice, I said self-imposed. We should, as a community of writers, develop our own system to let our readers know exactly what they are going to read. There are some books that categorize themselves. Children Books are a great example. They do a stellar job identifying the reading age, and nobody forces them to do so.  It’s for their customers to see and decide if that is what they want to buy. Again, we have the YA range of expectations. None of that should actually be eliminated, but expanded upon.

You heard me right. Lets expand the expectation and actually target our novels directly at the age ranges, and with what to expect in our literature, from cradle to grave.

I suggest a Front Matter (usually the first page after the title) listing that can be included right after any ISBN or Copyright claim. Here is an example.

18+ Audience | Violence | Mild Cussing | Sexually Suggestive Themes – No Actual Sex
13 to 19 Audience | Blood and Gore | Violence | Fright & Shock Scenes
18+ Audience | Blood and Gore | Rape | Murder | Genocide
9 to 12 Audience | Arguments | Parental Confrontation Issues | Social Behavior Problems
3 to 5 Audience | Safe for Everyone

That is what I’m talking about. Every Ebook retailer in existence lets their customers view a sample of the written product, including the Front Matter page. This way, the 18+ check box can be avoided, and those who browse the book before buying will know exactly what they are getting.

If anything, change that 18+ check box to say “Check if this is Erotica” and do give them their own digital realm so shoppers who like that stuff can browse it. Leave the rest of us alone to offer our unique worlds, with unique villains and awesome heroes to battle each other, to do what they do best, and not worry about being lumped in with Taboo Sex listings so those who are looking for that sort of thing doesn’t cross lanes by accident. Better yet, so that writers like me will know for a fact that my writing will appear in a search meant for an adult audience, but not meant to be blocked off from adults who don’t want to view Erotica titles.

Or am I really off my rocker for wanting such a thing? Discuss it with me in the comments below. Let me know how you feel about this subject.

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Cover Changes – Yes, I’m Still On Vacation!

While on Vacation, I decided some covers I made needs to leave the realm of CGI and into a much better developed realm of using real models and an ample application of Photoshop.

I upped my own Photoshop skills by watching around a dozen YouTube videos on various applications of layers, hair and eye color changing techniques and blending options, and with a little practice, I was able to do them myself.

You see, book covers sell the content, the content doesn’t sell the book covers.  Do you know that old phrase?  Don’t judge a book by its cover?  Well, it exists because that is exactly what people do when shopping for a novel.  The cover is a selling tool, making a promise to the potential reader.  Having a dynamic, stellar cover is one of the many catalysts for a novel to start selling in their genre.

My experiment since 2009 was to provide a scene from the novel onto the cover.  Well, it hasn’t worked out well.  From here on out, I’ve changed all the covers for my novels that I’m going to update.  Future work will be done with a bit more traditional methods, which have proven successful for others in the past.

Now to compare.  To see a larger version, click the cover itself and it will expand to an easier to see size:

Old Covers

Darya Rising Official Cover

Darya the Pirate Official Cover

New Covers

Darya Rising New Official Cover Darya the Pirate New Official Cover

Nothing about the writing has changed.  Some online retailers have already changed their data to reflect the updates, such as Apple and Barnes & Noble, but the others might take a week or two to fully change over.

Now back to my Vacation.  ^_^

PS… A Peek at Things to Come – Will be available sometime in 2015!

Darya Queen of the Galaxy Official Cover

 

 

 

 

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Vacation Mode

August is here, so I’m officially on vacation.  I’ll be back in two months.  I have a ton of decompressing to do on various issues, mostly personal ones that don’t belong here.  When I get back, I’ll be recharged, refreshed and ready to write.

Until then, stay safe out there.

^_^

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