In Space No One Can Hear You Scream

A while back, I participated in an online screenwriting workshop that was all about finding the essence of your work. It was brilliant in its simplicity and even though it took a while, I arrived at the conclusion that this is the most important piece of knowledge about writing I have gathered so far.

“What is the story about?”

My friend Nick Cole, great writer and excellent marketer, is very big on pitches, specifically on how to condense a story to four lines. If you read his books you’ll know why he believes so strongly that the pitch is important. It helps boil the story down to its fundamentals and by doing that, exposes the reason why people want to read it.

Boiling it down is also a great tool to conquer writer’s block. We all know the feeling of being stuck in the murky mud. Asking the question what the story is about will loosen up the rocks. Doing that allows us to dive deeper into it and find the hidden treasures that are buried there. Only if we as writers know what the story is about, and only if we are emotionally affected by it, will the reader get swept away.

Let’s go one step further: Capturing the emotional essence of a story in one single sentence will increase the chances of having our work read tremendously. Think back to Alien’s “In space no one can hear you scream” tagline. You don’t need to know anything else about the movie. Deep and utter terror lies in those eight words.

In order to find the essence of the story, there is another question that might have to be answered. What is the essence of the writer? What am I about? Why am I writing? What is it that burns deep inside my soul that needs to come out? The essence of the writer informs the essence of each story she writes. There is no other way.

Writing is deeply personal. We can always only write about ourselves – our fears and nightmares as well as our dreams. What do we stand for? What are we about? What is our essence? That is obviously a larger process and not done over a few weeks, months, or even years. But if we’re in this for the long run, why not ask the question early on and discover the answer through our writing?

Cheers,

Stefan

The Call to Greatness

obama

Eight years ago — I remember sitting at my kitchen table with the sun streaming in through the window — the TV was on with President Obama’s Inauguration address. His speech contained the most inspired words I had ever heard from any politician, or any public figure for that matter.

I felt lifted up, suddenly filled with purpose and hope. This was a significant moment as it reaffirmed my wish to become a writer, to inspire people as much as I was inspired at that very moment. I jotted down a few lines.  They turned into a poem that would stay with me from then on. Whenever I feel unprepared for this journey, whenever I feel lacking the very basic modules of inspiring others, I turn to the poem, knowing that it didn’t come from me but from something much bigger, something that connects all of us on a level we very rarely have access to. This place seems to be what we all aspire to reach, in whatever shape or form we do so. I strive, at times in vain, to get close to it. But sometimes, not often enough, I can hear the call with such clarity, it cannot be dismissed.

 

The Call to Greatness

 

The call to greatness, ever present

Lifts us up to higher ground

Calls us to our highest purpose

Freedom’s choice, no longer bound

*

We will meet it either trembling

Or with steady resting hand

For we cannot hide forever

From our destiny’s command

*

Our oath has not been broken

Our promise’s still our word

From afar, our truth has spoken

All through time has it been heard

*

Here I stand on ground made holy

By this ancient symphony

As I reach for my own glory

For my Father’s company

*

There, with cold and bloodless fingers

Darkened veil, and evil sense

Grips my throat, my heart and lingers

Fear, employed for my defense

*

Fear of death has lost its power

And its ever present threat

It is not the great deceiver

But my greatness that I dread

*

Should I dare to leave my smallness

And my littleness behind

Should I forfeit my own blindness

For a vision that is kind

*

And then one day, maybe not this day

And maybe not even tomorrow

But one day, I know it for sure, my friend

We will exchange joy for our sorrow

*

That day will come and it will be the day

When we take a deep breath

And we pick ourselves up

And we dust ourselves off

*

And with outstretched fingers

We touch the face of God.

The Dragon Rises – Apocalypse Weird Gets it Done!

the dragon will rise

When George Lucas pitched his Star Wars script to the studio, they reluctantly accepted and green lit a very low budget for a space opera that, in their minds, would hopefully make the money back and most likely not have an impact on anything. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall the moment George asked the studio to keep the merchandise rights. They chuckled and gave it to him. Well…

Not that long ago and in this very same galaxy, a small group of authors approached Amazon to pitch the idea of publishing books by multiple authors writing stories in the same world. Amazon liked the idea. They loved the idea. They said it would be impossible to implement as they would have to build a completely new and separate department for it. They declined. Maybe they chuckled. We won’t know.

A week ago, I looked at the publishing schedule for Apocalypse Weird. We are well into 2016, with 2 books per month and no end in sight. Didn’t we just start this whole thing? New authors are coming on board and all of the books that are out right now, have been green lit for their respective sequels. HOW COOL IS THAT???

Because new stories were developed and approved while I was still writing, the sequel to The White Dragon – Genesis won’t be out until May, 2016. That’s a year from now. That’s a long time to wait if someone liked the book and I felt that I wanted to compensate readers for their patience. And here’s the cool thing about working with fellow indie authors. They get it. They get when something sounds right and benefits the reader, and they act on it.

I asked Nick to consider allowing me to write two books before March, 2016 (the deadline for handing in the manuscript to Ellen Campbell, our editor in charge). He said yes. So, here’s what will happen: The White Dragon – Crucible will come out in May 2016. One month later, in June, the conclusion of the series, The White Dragon – Alchemy will be published. I’m thrilled to have a deadline. It somehow gets the creative juices flowing.

Thanks to everyone who has read the first book. Thanks to you, I can do what I love and keep writing Kasey’s story.

Please read all the other books in the Apocalypse Weird universe. It’s a rich reading experience that will just get richer as new books become available.

Cheers,

Stefan

Apocalypse Weird: "A Renegade Band of Authors"

 

bluestonepressSo, the Blue Stone Press, a local newspaper for the area I live and work in, has done an article about Apocalypse Weird and my involvment with it. I am now officially a member of a “renegade band of authors who are out to revolutionize publishing.” I’ll take that description any day. The writer of the article, Anne Pyburn Craig, totally got it. She got what AW is about and what we are trying to do.

20150506_152426

This article is one of many small ripples in the large pond of publishing. Each author does what he or she can to get the word out, to get people excited about the project. This work on the ground level is necessary to collect a base of readers and fans who stand behind the project and who, through their enthusiasm for the stories, spread the word even further. That in itself is revolutionary. Here is the article, hopefully readable. The online version will be available in about 2 weeks.

20150506_152106

20150506_152141

 

Until next time,

Cheers and keep reading!

Stefan Bolz

 

The Apocalypse Just Got Personal

 

I don’t like small talk. I can hang in there for a while during a party but anything beyond that is hard for me. You can only say so much before there is nothing else to talk about for the moment, unless its meaningful to some extent. (Disclaimer: small talk does not include discussing geeky stuff. That is exempt and not considered small talk. Please feel free to discuss the latest Daredevil episodes with me at your pleasure and convenience ;-).

I feel the same way with my books. You won’t find small talk in them. Maybe a little, as comic relief or to foreshadow something further down the road. I’d rather say what needs to be said and stop there. Here is one reaction someone hopefully displays after reading AW: The White Dragon – Genesis:

 

 

When I sat down to write the Genesis, I wanted to make it personal. An up close account of the first thirty six hours of a terrifying apocalyptic event through the eyes of an eighteen-year-old girl who, up until that moment, had been just that — a teenager, with all the hopes and dreams, heartbreaks and tribulations that come with it. Her level of preparedness was equal to zero. Other than a baseball bat — her dad had insisted for her to keep one in her car when he gave her the car for her birthday that very morning — she had neither weapons nor a flashlight or even a pocket knife. She wasn’t even wearing flip-flops.

Kasey

As I have experienced throughout my own life, any growth on my part was usally accompanied by an unsettling feeling that ranged from basic anxiety to and beyond straight-out fear. Sometimes it was hidden, expressed in ways that didn’t look like it at all. At other times, it was plain terror. I’d come out on the other side stronger, sometimes wiser but always just a bit further up the path. Not sure why I’m mentioning this other than that most of my characters go through hell and back to search for what they are looking for, just like me.

But for Kasey, the apocalyptic event is only the trigger for something larger than herself. The apocalypse, as heart wrenching as it is for her, is solely the spark that ignites something in her that she had no idea existed. Sometimes the situation at hand isn’t about the situation at hand. There’s more at stake. There’s meaning behind the small talk and for Kasey, the first part of her story, Genesis, is exactly that: a beginning. The beginning of something bigger than herself, something she’s afraid of, something she fights and doesn’t want to accept. The refusal of the call to adventure is what Joseph Campbell called it. It is when life tells you that there’s more here than the eye can see. That there is more to you than what you know at this very moment. That you are born for things that are greater than you can possibly imagine.

“Use the force, Luke! Trust me!” That line has been beaten to death. However, the meaning behind it is still intact, bruised maybe but still there, dusting itself off. Kasey has kept a diary throughout her life but had never seen the patterns, the signs, that indicated that she was not just a happy little teenage girl but that there was more. Much more.

As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for the final e-file for the Advance Reader Copies. It’s been a great ride. I very much hope that you enjoy the book. I loved writing it and the story has stayed with me until today, has bugged me to explore the continuation of it and accompany my characters all the way to the end.

Good luck!

Stefan

Get Genesis Now!

[book size=”150″ slug=”apocalypse-weird-genesis” desc=”0″ purchase=”0″ notereviews=”0″ excerpt=”0″]

[gravityform id=”1″ title=”false” description=”false”]

On Dragons Uncommon and Writing the Weird

Genesis_FT_FINALAbout five minutes after I had read the first few lines in Nick Cole’s description of what Apocalypse Weird would be, the beginnings of a story formed in my imagination. I told Nick, “You had me at Black Dragon.” Those were the third and fourth words in his description, starting with Imagine a…

I wanted to write an action novel, a supernatural episode of 24, in real time, with Jack Bauer being eighteen-year-old Kasey Byrne, my main gal in the story. But I didn’t want only action. I wanted an overriding philosophy, a greater story arc spanning different worlds and times and ancient training grounds and a revelation for my main character at the end that would turn the tables and set the stage for the next book. The underlying mythology crept up piece by piece and mid-way through the story, I knew I had at least two more books in my head. At the end, there was material for four, plus this one.

Kasey Byrne is a girl who loves to surf, who just had her last day of high school and who celebrates her eighteenth birthday on the beach, on the eve of summer solstice. She thinks she is just a regular teenager with all the hopes and dreams and disappointments that come with it. Her parents are divorced and she’s navigating her way through life just as any teenager would. She has no idea who and what she is and what she could become. Like so many of us, she doesn’t know her own potential. During the storm of terror and the thirty six hours we spend with her in book one, something inside her begins to awaken – something she has dreamed of and written pages upon pages in her diary about without knowing what it is.

When I started writing, I had a very specific goal: I wanted the book(s) to be epic and reach beyond a linear, two-dimensional story to a different place entirely. To write a book about a dragon is tricky. It has been done so many times and even though dragons are amazing and extraordinary creatures, stories about them can become cliched very easily. I didn’t want a cliche. I wanted to take the cliche and turn it on its head and inside out and make it into something completely new and exciting. I hope I succeeded. The time is almost here. On April 21, 2015, it will be up to you, the reader, to decide if it worked.

Until then, until the day the White Dragon takes flight, I remain very truly yours,

Stefan

P.S. This is Kasey’s car. Let’s just say this is a “before” picture ;-). In the story it’s light blue instead of green. She got it on the day of her 18th birthday. Unfortunately, this was also the day when the apocalypse reached the shores of Long Island.

Jeep

I Have a Dream

I have a dream. This dream began when I first published The Three Feathers. I remember that I woke up one morning and found myself with a single thought that would not leave me during the day. The thought was too daring to even think any further on it. It was too big to even consider writing it down. Eventually, after a few days, during a moment of courage, I wrote one line on a piece of scrap paper and pinned it to our fridge:

“Joshua’s journey shall be known by all.” By all. Not by many. Not by some. But by all. A dream too big? A goal too far fetched? Yes. No. Maybe. Then I realized that there might be a connection between Joshua’s journey in the book and the books journey into the world. There were times when my little rooster friend did not believe it possible that he would find the three feathers from his fading dream. He had many obstacles to overcome, the main one being self doubt. “Who am I do follow my dream and expect it to come true?” he thought more often than not. But in the end he did what he set out to do and he found what he so fervently searched for.

So here it is: it made its way from a single thought onto a small piece of paper and out into the world. It is prayer and promise alike. It is the invitation to dream big and to believe that if it can be dreamt, it can be done.

“Joshua’s journey shall be known by all.”

A very nice recommendation by a fourth grade teacher

Last spring, I had the opportunity to read aloud Stefan Bolz’s book The Three Feathers prior to its official publication, thanks to the suggestion of one of my students.  Although it is not the type of book and genre that I typically choose for my own personal reading, I make it a point to read a variety of text types aloud in class, and we hadn’t yet read and discussed a fable.  Throughout the reading of the story, I found it to be very well-written and engaging, and so did my class of fourth graders.  We all enjoyed getting to know the characters and reading about the friendship that develops between them, as well as making predictions about what the characters were going to encounter and how they were going to get out of dangerous and difficult situations.

In a class of students with mixed reading abilities, I found that all were able to enjoy hearing the story at their own level of understanding.  Some students were able to interpret and discuss the book’s message and theme, and others just enjoyed the humorous and suspenseful moments that occur throughout the text.  As an adult reader, I found that the book reminded me a lot of The Lord of the Rings stories, and I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys that series.

Sincerely,

Maggie Kievit

Interview with the Blue Stone Press

Lori: Stefan, congratulations on your book. From what you have told me so far it sounds very intriguing. I have to ask you… its main character is a rooster. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?

Stefan: Thanks, Lori. The story is about Joshua Aylong, a rooster, who lives a comfortable life in his pen doing what rooster do, protecting the hens, settling quarrels, and calling out each new day. One night while all the other chickens are asleep in the coop he realizes that there must be more to life than what’s in front of him each day. Something is missing and one day Joshua musters all his courage, pushes away his fear and doubt, flies up onto the highest perch inside the pen and, to the amazement of the other chickens, spreads his wings and flies out and into freedom. Little did he know that what he was about to encounter would change his life forever.

Lori: Would you tell us why you chose a rooster as your main character. Why not any other animal or person?

Stefan: This might sound strange but I didn’t choose him to be the main character. I didn’t wake up one morning thinking that I had to finally write that story about a rooster I have been contemplating for so long. The story, and Joshua, came about in a most unlikely setting: a sand box.

Lori: A sandbox?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑