The most important question: “What is it for?”

There’s a scene in one the books I’d written where one character, Ty, questions the motivation of another character, Aries, to do something dangerous. Ty asks her why she wants to go through with something that seems impossible, against forces that are much more advanced than her. He isn’t satisfied with her answers. He asks the same question again and again and in doing so he breaks through her defenses of the more obvious reasons to the true reason why she wants to do it – the fuel that will eventually propel her to move forward.


We need to ask this question. It’s the only question that gets us a real and true answer. We need to ask this question with regard to our life.

Why am I here? What is my purpose?

There is a phase in every child’s life when it asks this question a million times, it seems. You remember? The kids are on to something at that stage. As if they have access to the sense of something bigger, vaguely perhaps, but almost within reach. What is our life for? What are we doing here?

Seriously, what are we doing here?

The saddest question of all is the one that is being asked at the end of one’s life: “What was this all about?” Too many ask this question too late. It’s sad because without purpose there is nothing. Without purpose, this life will have been nothing but the blink of an eye, too short to have meaning of any kind.

We might not know what the answer is for a while. But we need to ask the question. Like a four-year-old. Why am I here? What the fuck? So that I can work a little? Live a little? Go to the beach once a year? See my children grow up? Retire and die? Really?

We need to ask the question.


With everything we got.

We can’t be satisfied with surface answers. We can’t stop until we know, with every fiber of our being, why we’re here. Purpose is everything. What do we want from life? What is it for? What the hell is it all for?

Have you ever met someone who was certain of his or her purpose in life? Their lives aren’t perfect. Nothing here is. But there is a burning in each one of them – a burning that grabs you, if only for a brief moment, and lifts you up to a place where you can soar freely for a while.

What is your purpose? Ask the question. Don’t stop asking. Don’t be satisfied. Until you find it. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to everyone you encounter.

Why are you here?

Don’t be afraid of the first answer, the very first time you ask the question. The answer will most likely be: “I don’t know.”

Don’t stay there. This is a devastating place. It’s a place where dreams die and a deep depression takes hold. Ask again: “Why am I here?” Ask again: “Why am I here?” Write down the answers. Sit with them. Don’t be satisfied. Ask again. And again. This is a painful process but it’s much less painful than answering “I don’t know” and stopping there. Don’t give up. Once you’re past the first answer, the path is set and you’re on your way. Stay on it. Stay with it.

At the end of the path, someone is waiting for you, stretching out their hand toward you. Remember why you came and you will know where to go.



Selling a Movie Option

It was the summer of 1973. I was eight and spent most of my school vacation at my grandmother’s house that year. What I remember from that summer was one thing: the movie The Time Machine. I must have watched it a dozen times at least. I was fascinated by how the passing of time was depicted through the glass ceiling in the traveler’s workshop. I loved the Eloi. I was scared of the Morlocks. To this day it still is (maybe because I’ve seen it as a kid) one of my all-time favorite movies.

Fast forward 40+ years to 2014. I had been writing for a while and had the distinct pleasure of being included in Sam Peralta’s The Time Travel Chronicles with a short story called The Traveler. It was meant, in part, as a homage to A.G. Wells’ novel The Time Machine, the basis for the movie. As it so often happens, the story took on a life of its own and I found myself bawling while writing the ending. It doesn’t happen often that something of your own writing grabs you so deeply. I could only wish that readers would have the same reaction.

The Time Travel Chronicles came out in November of 2015. At roughly the same time I began to write the screenplay for it. I’ve been studying screen writing for a while and felt that it would make an awesome little indie movie one day. Knowing how impossible it is to actually sell and/or option a script (out of 40,000 registered scripts, only 400 get optioned each year), I didn’t have high hopes that it would go anywhere. In March of 2016, when the contract with Sam Peralta was up, I published The Traveler on its own as a short. The e-book and paperback went on Amazon. I also published a pocket edition that I handed out to people in the hope they would pass it on to the next person once they had read it.


One of the people I gave a copy to was Jillian Fisher. I had first met her at one of my very early readings of The Three Feathers at a local farmer’s market a few years back. We had stayed in touch and when the paperback came out, I gave her a copy. I didn’t hear anything for a few months and had forgotten all about it. I knew she was connected to the movie business but didn’t know exactly what she did. A few months later, I think it was September of 2016, I got a message from Jillian on Facebook. It looked like this:

I was happy that Jillian liked it but thought that she already had a copy of the book. I wasn’t sure what she meant with “I want it.” We talked back and forth until I finally got it. She wanted to option the story. She had been working in location scouting for two decades and had made many great connections in the movie business over the years. Now wanting to branch out on her own and become a producer herself, her first movie, she felt, should be The Traveler.

Cool, right?

Fast forward a few more months to April 2017. Today. I signed the option for The Traveler. I can’t imagine a better home for it. Jillian and myself have a similar vision for the movie (which is basically to make people bawl their eyes out during the ending and then come back for seconds :-).

As it so happens, Jillian, together with her producing partner Anjul Nigam (Growing Up Smith and others), is optioning both the short story and the screenplay. The latter has been a very long time coming as I started screen writing in the early 2000s and have tried for one of my scripts to be optioned since then.

This is Jillian and myself after the signing of the option agreement.

The kid watching The Time Machine a dozen times during that summer of ’73 is dancing around the room right now. Throughout life, some circles stay open, others close and return to the beginning. This is one of them. Nobody knows where it’ll go from here but I have a feeling this isn’t the end of the story. Only the beginning. As Samuel Peralta always says, “The best is yet to come.”

I will post updates here on how things are going. Please sign up for my newsletter if you wish to stay informed on the progress.





On Forging and Writing. And Pain.

I think it was Hemingway who said that writing is nothing but sitting down in front of a type writer and bleeding. I agree wholeheartedly. When I began writing this post, I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to convey other than a feeling I couldn’t quite pinpoint. All I knew was that it was about forging and writing and pain.

The three go together. It’s so interesting that when you look at a mundane day-to-day task and you don’t think anything of it until you look closer and from there you discover a whole other world coming to life because of it. The thing itself becomes a door that opens and what’s behind it is nothing but endless vista.


You heat up metal to such an extend that it begins to glow. It’s not melting. Yet. But it gets so hot that it glows red. Then you can form it and shape it and make it into something new and beautiful. I’m an electrician by trade. In order for anything to happen, anything at all to happen in an electrical circuit, things have to heat up. The resistance of the very material the current that flows through generates heat. Electricity is heat.

The Traveler(3)

Can you hear the metal scream? It’s a powerful scream, a life changing scream. It’s a scream that foreshadows change. It’s like when you bench press and you’re at the eleventh one and you don’t think you have it in you to get this thing up once more but you want to and you start to scream and eventually you push it all the way up.

Forging and pain and writing go hand in hand. At least for me. Take the Hemingway quote where writing is nothing but sitting in front of a type writer and bleeding. We think pain is bad. We think it’s something to be avoided.  We think we need to distract ourselves from it. For this post, I’m talking about emotional pain, the pain that is inside, that turns your stomach upside down and makes us hurt even though we don’t know where. Our heart, our mind, our soul. We try to avoid it but that would be like the iron rod that wants to stay at room temperature. Sure it’s more comfortable that way. But is it better?

Some spiritual practices tell us to stay with it for a while, to let it rise up from the depth and come to the surface so it can be dealt with.

I’ve been through several phases in my life that were painful. The first one (only in hind sight do I see the pain there) was when my parents separated when I was eleven. It was excruciating. Then there were some break ups and heart breaks and then there was a phase where the pain was not connected to anything other than the inevitable pain that comes with major internal change.

I was the metal that lay in the forge waiting to reach a temperature high enough to become something new, something that was still the original material but now closer to the form it was meant to take on. The new is already present in the original, it’s all there waiting for heat and pain to get it to a point where it can be molded into something closer to what it was intended to be.

I very rarely can write a story without tapping into that experience – the pain that is the heat that preludes the change for the better. It’s the moment when it’s the hardest to continue, when the storm is the strongest and the night the darkest. That’s when the metal reaches the temperature that allows it to be forged. That’s when beautiful, intricate, stunning forms take shape. Like a song. Like a painting. Like a story.



In The Traveler, a twelve-year-old girl is devastated by the death of her father, a master blacksmith. From him, she learned how to work with metal. From him, she learned how to create beautiful things out of cold, dead objects. Now, after his death, he challenges her one more time to reach beyond what she thinks she can do and create something that seems entirely impossible.


Buy The Traveler here.


Reality Check on Being a Self Published Author

I’ve had a good month publishing wise. At least for me it was a good one. I still have a regular job that I’m very involved in and that pays the bills, etc, and I wouldn’t be able to leave that behind at this very moment. I like my job. It gives me the flexibility to do what I love to do.

Of course, everyone of us self published authors dreams about one of our books taking off or a movie producer knocking on our door, and I’m no different. There is a fantasy phone call I’m getting periodically. It’s from Peter Jackson. I’m sure, if you’re a writer, you’ve got your own even though I hope it’s not Peter Jackson. I don’t want him to be distracted with another book he wants to make into a three part movie, besides mine. You understand.

So, Peter Jackson it is. Until then, there’s work to do, obviously. More writing and honing the craft and learning how to market my work effectively. So, when I say I’ve had a good month, here’s what I mean:


This is the Amazon chart on my Kindle page (U.S. only). It shows me how many copies of my books have sold and, secondly, how many pages of my books people who are on Kindle Unlimited have read this month. The latter are the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (right column).

Basically, anyone who publishes exclusively through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) gets payed in two ways. One is for the copies sold and one is for the pages that have been read by people who are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

In my case, so far this month people have read just under 7,000 pages of my books. That number sounds like a lot, right? 7,000 pages of stuff I made up has ended up in people’s heads (at least for a moment). In reality, that’s roughly one sold copy per day.

Let’s put this into perspective:

When Andy Weir put his novel The Martian up for the kindle, it was $0.99 and sold 300 copies per DAY. The Martian is an amazing book. I’m hoping to get to a level of writing craftsmanship where I can say the same for my own stuff one day. I’m not a bad writer but I know how much I still have to learn.

My (for me) good month was most likely caused by two things: I have lowered the price for all of my books to $0.99 per copy for the kindle. That’s as low as Amazon allows it. At that price, there is a 35% royalty to me per sold copy. Above $2.99, it goes to 70%.

The second reason is probably the fact that I was involved in two anthologies recently. The Time Travel Chronicles and Tails of the Apocalypse. I had a short story in each of them. Time Travel Chronicles came out beginning of November and Tails of the Apocalypse came out toward the end of November. They both sold fairly well and readers must have liked my stories and bought the copies of my books this month. Makes sense.

I’ll see what February brings and will report back to you but my plan is to keep my books at $0.99 per copy until I sell so many copies that agents and publishers notice it. Not a lot of people know me. There are a lot of books out there to choose from and a lot of really good quality content. I want my potential readers to have as low of a hurdle to have to jump over as possible. Let the work speak for itself but let it be out there and let it be available for as little as possible.

I realize that there are many other marketing strategies that work. But this is the conclusion I came to, in part after listening to some of the Author Stories Podcasts by Hank Garner and talking with or being involved in projects with other authors.

There’s a lot of help out there and the community of self published authors I’m in is incredible. I wish us all much success and more great stories to come out of this than ever before.  And Peter Jackson.




Writing For A Cause: Pets For Vets and TAILS OF THE APOCALYPSE

“There are a number of unique aspects of this anthology, but the thing I’m most proud of is our partnership with Pets for Vets.”

Tails coverThat’s how author-editor Chris Pourteau talks about his latest project, Tails of the Apocalypse. Described as The Walking Dead meets The Incredible Journey, the collection includes short stories written by 14 of today’s most innovative independent authors. Tails of the Apocalypse examines world-ending scenarios—from nuclear war to natural disasters to planetary pandemics—featuring animals as main characters.

The idea came to Pourteau last spring after publishing his own short story, “Unconditional” about a dog searching for his boy, lost to the zombie apocalypse. The overwhelmingly positive response from readers made him think that maybe he’d hit a cultural nerve. And the idea for Tails of the Apocalypse was born.

Over the next six months, he recruited his writers–including four USA Today bestselling authors–edited their stories, developed cover art, and produced an anthology that R. J. Pineiro, author of The Fall calls: “one of the most original and captivating collections of end-of-the-world ‘tails,’ shown through the eyes of an amazing cast of unforgettable furry and feathered characters.”

Giving Tails a Purpose

Even as the anthology took shape, Pourteau felt like he was missing something. The point of these wonderful stories about animals caught up in dystopian situations was about giving voice to those without the ability to speak for themselves. He decided he wanted to donate some of the profits from his self-funded project to an organization that helped animals.

It was one of his authors, David Bruns, also a US Navy vet, who suggested Pets for Vets. From the beginning, it was great fit. The name and the mission of the non-profit immediately resonated with Pourteau. And as Bruns and Pourteau have worked to drum up awareness of their project, they’ve found that the cause resonates with others as well.

Founded by animal trainer Clarissa Black, Pets for Vets matches shelter dogs with military veterans. Personnel train the animals as special companions for veterans suffering from emotional trauma, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year,” says Ann Black, president of Pets for Vets. “And it’s estimated that 20 percent of returning vets suffer from PTSD. Bringing them together provides a loving home for the pet and a caring companion for the vet. It’s a win-win.”

The Big Idea

Pourteau plans to donate $1.00 to Pets for Vets from every copy of Tails of the Apocalypse sold through the end of the calendar year, regardless of format—e-book, paperback, or audiobook. “I’m honored that Pets for Vets allowed us to adopt them as a cause,” Pourteau says. “My goal now is to write them a big check on January 1st.”

Want to Lend a Hand?

We’re calling our project Tails for Vets. If you’d like to be part of the Tails for Vets movement, here’s how you can help:

  1. Join the Tails for Vets Street Team — Get email updates and shareable content by joining the Tails Street Team. Facebook banners, a “badge” you can post online to show your support, and chances to win paperback and audiobook copies of Tails of the Apocalypse are all available to the Tails Street Team.
  2. Buy the BookTails of the Apocalypse launches on November 20th, but you can preorder on Amazon now. Remember: $1 from every purchase goes to Pets for Vets.

Ancient Landscapes – Writing From the Subconscious

“I am somehow drawn to ancient landscapes”, I hear myself say to Julie, my therapist. That was back in 2008. I went to her for a few years and on that particular day, on my way to her practice, this sentence came into my head. I couldn’t figure out why it had come to me. In our sessions, we had explored different inner landscapes, usually connected to a conflict I was experiencing or an issue I was working on. That morning, before I arrived at her house, I realized that I had no idea what to talk to her about. Or so I thought.

About an hour into the session, I heard myself mentioning the ancient landscapes and that I somehow felt drawn to them. There was nothing specific in my mind. No imagery, no picture of old pyramids or anything similar. Julie  asked me if I wanted to close my eyes for a minute and see what would come up. Usually, for that, I’d lie on her table and we go through this process a bit differently but we didn’t have that much time left and I really wanted to see where this ancient landscape was and what it meant, if anything.


So I closed my eyes and for a while I waited for an image to show. It didn’t. Nothing happened until at some point the words “before time was” appeared. I told Julie that the ancient landscape I was referring to might have been there before time was. This was obviously an oxymoron because how can something exist – a stone, a tree or a forest – before time existed? Without time there is no growth and nothing can start or end or be at all. Those and other thoughts passed through my mind in a split second. But I felt that there was something else there, something I had missed or hadn’t understood properly.

Then I saw, almost in a close up, a couple of old stones, overgrown with moss. As I pulled back, I realized that I stood in the middle of what must have been an old foundation. The stones were almost completely grown into the ground. Grass covered the soil. Judging by the outline and size, it must have been an old church or chapel at some point. For some reason I had the distinct feeling that the ground I stood on was very holy. Holy in the sense of clean, untouched, undisturbed – and very old. Another thing that was very interesting was the fact that there was no sound. It wasn’t just the absence of noise. It was complete stillness. Nothing moved. The spot and its immediate surroundings felt suspended. I realized, when I spoke to Julie about what I saw, that I was barely breathing. My breath was completely quiet. As if I almost didn’t need to breathe at all.

I could feel the ancientness (if that’s a word) of this place. It did feel as if it had been there before time was. And then something very unexpectedly happened. As I looked at the partial wall in front of me, where I surmised once stood the altar of the church, suddenly – and I can’t describe this any differently – the walls began to rebuild themselves. But not with their original materials made out of stone, granite, plaster and wood. No. The walls rebuilt themselves out of light. As if the stones had merely the shape of a stone but were not made of stone at all but of pure light. After a while, the church walls reached the ceiling, closing the gap until what I saw was the most beautiful building imaginable, with all the details like moldings, figurines and ornaments completely intact but made not of their usual material but out of light. The whole building had a soft glow to it. It was slightly transparent but looked very solid. And yet not solid in the usual sense. Clearly defined, very strong, but transparent.

What I saw was a perfect representation of what had been there originally. And what was broken, fallen down, deteriorated by eons of time, was still there – untouched and unchanged. As if everything that exists in time, still has its original shape from before time was. The image of the finely outlined church made of light, against the grey sky, was magnificent.

Three years later, I began to write The Three Feathers which, originally, also came out of one of the sessions. When I got to chapter 12, I knew I should incorporate what I had seen at Julie’s office a few years earlier. This became one of my favorite chapters of the book. Something significant happens there albeit very quietly with not much noise.

Here is the excerpt from The Three Feathers. Just before this section, Joshua, our hero, and Grey, the wolf, come into an ancient city from which only ruins are left. But suddenly something unexpected happens, as the whole city begins to rebuild itself out of light.

Thanks for watching and Cheers!



A (Super) Hero For A New Generation

We all know and always look forward to that small segment in all the super hero stories and movies where we find out how the super hero actually became one. Spiderman gets bitten and begins to develop his abilities, the Hulk is being exposed to gamma radiation and changes for the first time, Iron Man develops his suite, learns how to use it, and so on. Usually, any story about a super hero has a small portion of it set aside to tell the tale of how the hero became who he or she is now.spiderman

The White Dragon tells the story of eighteen-year-old Kasey Byrne, an average teenager who lives on Long Island and who has just finished high school when the apocalypse hits full force. The first book, The White Dragon – Genesis, is a real time account, through Kasey’s eyes, of the first thirty six hours of this apocalyptic event.

Toward the end of book one, it becomes clear that the opponent – an ancient demonic being that wreaks havoc on the island while spreading a terror that is beyond the imaginable – is much more powerful than anyone could have thought. In book two, The White Dragon – Crucible, Kasey has to leave this world and travel through a gateway to a different time and place where she will be trained for one single purpose: to find the white dragon, to tame it, and to bring it back to our world in order to save it..

But nobody has ever found the dragon and the odds are stacked against her. For her friends, a small group of survivors hiding out in a thrift shop in Babylon, one hour passes. For Kasey, three years go by before she returns.

While the apocalypse unfolds and throughout her training, something inside Kasey awakens. It is gift and curse alike for it can destroy her or turn her into the most powerful weapon against the evil that has reached the shores of our world.

All three books – Genesis, Crucible, and Alchemy – are part of an overreaching arc, attesting to the birth of a completely new kind of super hero. The apocalypse, as horrific and all consuming as it is, is nothing against the inner battle Kasey has to fight in order to become who she needs to be.

I’m in the midst of writing book two at the moment. May the epicness ensue.



The Emotional Impact of Landscapes in Writing

Have you ever had dreams where the natural laws were suspended, where you were able to swim under water for  long periods of time, or float in the air without wings? I’ve had a lot of those dreams during childhood. In my early twenties, I discovered a German painter named Hans-Werner Sahm. His work could be categorized as surrealism as he paints stunning landscapes that never quite follow the natural laws of physics or nature. Nevertheless, or maybe because of it, the paintings evoke emotions of longing, hope, and limitlessness of spirit.

hochland_hiWe all know that the basic task of the writer is to evoke emotions in the reader. Ideally, each scene includes at least some element of that. Usually, emotion is created when one or more characters in the story go through experiences of loss, love, fear, external and internal struggle, etc. I always felt that landscapes can evoke those very same reactions, albeit in a completely different way.


As an example from my own writing, in The Three Feathers, the landscape itself is what pushes a good amount of the plot forward. The characters travel from one location to the next and the landscape itself, dangerous and beautiful alike, becomes an obstacle or a place of refuge, depending on where they are on their journey. The images create an emotional arc, adding depth to the individual arcs of the characters.


The depth of the landscape can mirror the depth of the emotions the characters go through at any given point in the story. I found that whatever the landscape is, should reinforce the emotion of the characters so that, even if there is a scene where nothing much happens in terms of character development, the emotional impact of the landscape is still present.


Landscapes can make characters seem powerless and small in comparison, adding to the sense of danger and futility the characters have to overcome in order to reach their goal.

Meeting Point

The image above is a good example. For me, it evokes feelings of loss and parting, danger, and a certain finality. I imagine a traveler reaching this point in her journey only to realize that she cannot continue. Her quest is in jeopardy, maybe the life of a loved one on the other side of the bridge is now more in danger than ever before. How will she get to the other side. Here’s an idea: Eagles!!! 🙂

In the book I’m working on right now, I have just reached the point where I was able to begin working on a map of the main character’s whole journey. Simply working on the map always provides me with immense insights into the story and characters. Plot points begin to fall into place and things come together more coherently. Drawing a map, to me, is always the most helpful part of developing a story (Besides, in this case, listening to an extensive amount of DRAGON FORCE!). The book is called Apocalypse Weird: The White Dragon – Crucible. It will be out next year.


Hans-Werner Sahm does not have a web site but if you Google his name, most of his paintings will come up in the search.

Cheers and happy reading and writing,


Hugh Howey – The Birth of a Legend

Can people become legends while they are still involved in the very process of becoming one?


As a writer, it’s hard not to get inspired by someone who, by his very example, pushes others to become better at what they do. A writer’s writer, an author’s author, Hugh Howey embodies the ideal when it comes to those things. The goal of this post is not to boost his ego. There’s very little ego to boost there. There’s no pretense in the man. Besides, his boat is gonna be pretty small and he can’t take a lot with him on his journey.

I met Hugh a few years ago in New York City during one of his early meet-ups. There were twelve of us. I had never heard of him until the day before when my fiancee told me that she had found this guy on the internet and that he’s an indie author, going to NYC tomorrow to meet people. I drove there. My car nearly broke down but I made it and we had a nice time discussing things I had no clue about, as I hadn’t even published my first book yet.


The guy on the left is Dave Cullen, author of Columbine and a really nice guy also. That time, as far as I remember, was kind of pivotal as it was during those few days in Manhattan when Hugh had meetings with Simon & Schuster who would subsequently publish Wool in the U.S. I followed Hugh’s career from that day forward. He even gave me a boost when my first book came out. That was before he got really busy really fast.

What I didn’t realize until now is the gift his journey has given (and continues to do so) to a lot of authors. He’s very accessible and shares his journey with his readers. As an indie author, that’s really helpful to watch. Not only does it give hope in the sense that if someone has “made it,” I might too, but there’s another level there that strikes a cord within me: If you put in the work, the hard work, the sweating, the dark room with no windows where it’s just you and your laptop, if you stay true to yourself against all odds, if you keep your integrity, you might go further than you think. Your voice might reach further than you know.

Hugh is a lunatic when it comes to creating work. He publishes a LOT. Not only fiction but lately there’s a whole series of non fiction also. He will become a legend, I know it. Amongst us writers, he already is. If you want to know anything about writing or publishing or Amazon statistics, chances are, he can give you an answer that makes total sense. You don’t have to agree with him but you can’t deny the fierce intelligence and passion he’s got for books and the publishing process. You wanna know how to format your next book? There are a few articles out there where he explains it. Like really in-depth explains it. He’s there for us. He’s an open book (yeah, pun intended) when it comes to sharing his knowledge.

So why am I writing this? I don’t have the slightest clue. I’m keeping my head down while trying to become a better writer, a more prolific writer, a more profound writer. It works once in a while. But when it doesn’t, there’s always this guy somewhere out there reminding me to keep going, to type those letters and make them into words and form them into sentences and get closer to reaching my own full potential.

Thanks, Hugh. May your journey be fruitful and safe and freakin’ AWESOME!!!

Stefan Bolz

You can find Hugh… Actually, you might not be able to find him, starting in a few weeks. But you can check in with him here:

OR, read ten questions with Hugh Howey here:

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