The Story Behind the Story–A Real American Hero and Laser Rifles

Okay, my blog has been deader than the Jar-Jar Binks fan club. So in an effort to blog more and get more action on my website (action, pow!), I’m going to start telling the story behind some of the stories I’ve written over the past couple of years.

I love novels. I was born to write novels—but I also like short fiction because it is a playground, it is a proving ground, and it is practice, wonderful practice. My friend used to say whenever I wrote, no matter how small the project, it was like a jazz musician working on their chops.

So without further ado, here is the first story behind the story and an example of me working on my chops.

In July 2014, my story POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS COMMANDER hit the streets, and soared to a #1 position in Amazon’s Kindle Worlds Action/Adventure category. Well, it’s not like it’s my story because I wrote it with the fabulously talented Peter J. Wacks, so it’s our story, a G.I. Joe story, and it’s funny, poignant, and one reviewer called it heart warming. There’s also lots of killing and laser rifles.

Like Dr. Evil. “Lasers.” Why lasers?

I’ll get to that.

It all started out in the 1980’s. I was what they called a latchkey kid. I’d get home from school to an empty house and I’d watch T.V. from about three o’clock to ten o’clock every night. Not a lot of friends for me. Real people were too scary.

Luckily, I had my imaginary friends. Like Liono, Optimus Prime, and the G.I. Joe team.

I watched a ton of G.I. Joe and loved every laserblast. Yeah, laser rifles. I’m getting there. I’m getting there.

Flash forward twenty years. Um, make that thirty. Hollywood came out with not one but two G.I. Joe movies. And yeah, not the greatest cinema ever, but I adored the movies. I got to be thirteen again, and being thirteen again, I didn’t care about an iffy plot or flat characters. I just wanted action!

In G.I. Joe: Retaliation (the second movie), they have ninjas fighting our heroes on a mountain side, dangling off ropes, and sword fighting. How cool is that?!

I posted on Facebook that I loved G.I. Joe. Just a quick post that probably alienated some people, but at least I wasn’t talking about religion or politics or Doctor Who. Aaron? Liking G.I. Joe? Really?

Yeah. Love it.

I was at a poker game with some author types, and Quincy J. Allen saw the post and suggested fan fiction, like funny fan fiction. He had heard of someone looking to co-write a satirical G.I. Joe story. The idea hit me immediately. What if Cobra Commander had PTSD (as in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)? What if he was in a clinic with one of the G.I. Joe guys who was also suffering from PTSD? The story would write itself.

I thought nothing of it until I got a call from the managing editor at WordFire Press, the big cheese, Peter J. Wacks who was wondering if I was serious. I was.

We wrote it. I didn’t have time, but for this story, I made time. I wrote on airplanes, I wrote in hotel rooms after a long day at my day job, and after an exhausting conference, on barely any sleep, I pounded out ten thousand words in a day.

We polished. And it’s now live on Amazon.

Of all the things I’ve written recently, it’s my favorite. I mean, really, I researched, I watched G.I. Joe cartoons, I read wiki after wiki, and at first I wanted to use pulse rifles, or normal machineguns, but after watching the old cartoon, I couldn’t help but use laser rifles. Thanks to toy collectors, I researched the model #’s so the weapons the characters wield are real. Kind of.

Thanks to Michael Haspil, I put in an epilogue about PTSD because yeah, knowing is half the battle. And thanks to my mom, the EMDR therapy in the story is as realistic as I could make it for characters using “laser” rifles. My mom is a kick-ass therapist and is very patient with me.

The coloring books in the story were Peter’s idea, and while I was uncertain about including them, it’s one of my favorite scenes. Cobra Commander and Gung Ho are coloring together, and of course I wanted to use Hasbro coloring books, My Little Pony and The Transformers. We couldn’t use the real names, so Peter called them My Little Horsey and Shifterbots. Shifterbots! Brilliant. Cobra Commander and Gung Ho fight over who gets which one. It’s funny.

At 17,000 words, it’s a quick read. I hope y’all enjoy it. And of course, if you read it, leave a review!

Who knew that all that afternoon T.V. growing up would pay off?

This story is my first professional sale (cha-ching) and the first story I’ve written that has hit a bestseller list.

Thank you, Peter J. Wacks, for inviting me in and working with me.

Yo Joe!

 

 

 

 

Four Questions of Ultimate Creative Amazingness

Vivian Trask tagged me to answer four questions.

Vivian Trask?  Who is Vivian Trask.  Click here to find out and to see her answers!!!

My answers are below.

1) WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I’ve hit my bottom.  Like a drug addict stealing their mom’s Honda for more heroin, I have sunk as low as I can.  I’ve officially hit my limit at five books.

The Juniper Wars:  Thorn Sisters – Epic sci-fi/western – A girl with two troubled sisters falls in love with a mysterious boy during a post-apocalyptic cattle drive

In Too Deep – Contemporary Romance – When a disgraced sea captain with a habit of losing ships and a hunky celebrity chef accused of poisoning his food come together to save their careers, the last thing they need is to fall in love (Co-writing this with the wonderful Andrea Stein).

Sass McQueen and the Kung-Fu Princess – Silly Middle Grade – Two extraordinary girls have to learn how to control themselves to save their school, Poopenkitten Elementary

Sparked – YA sci-fi/romance – A girl learns about life and love from a self-aware android trained to kill

Elizabeth’s Midnight – YA Contemporary/Fantasy Lite – Emotionally-stunted, overweight girl travels to France with her grandmother to see the grandmother’s love from World War II whom she claims is a sorcerer-prince from another world.

2) HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
Genre.  I hate genre.  I understand I need to accept it’s yoke, but I am plotting to destroy the master and be my own, free man.  Until then, I won’t surrender, but I will comply.

With all the books upon books upon books, we’ll take the next project to be published, which is Elizabeth’s Midnight.  Hurray!  Bella Swan from Twilight was vanilla, but likeable.  I mean, she did have that power-which-is-not-a-power thing, but in the end, she was your every girl.  Bethie Meyers in my book is not likeable.  She is fearful and troubled and doesn’t really want to go on grand adventures.  Until she finds herself on one. Slowly, but surely, she becomes the hero of her story, which is how it should be.

How are my books different?  Ha.  In my critique group, one of the women laughed and said, “Aaron, only you would have this dumpy, fearful girl and her demented yet dynamic grandmother looking for treasure in a cramped bathroom in the ruins of some ghetto apartment complex.”

So, yeah.  There you have it.

3) WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
I struggle.  I know, it’s a cliché, the struggling artist, but no, really, I struggle with the day to day stuff.  The easy stuff.  Sleep.  I screw up sleep on a regular basis and that’s pretty much just lying down and closing one’s eyes.  I thirst for meaning.  I hate the mundane.  I am driven to write down the stories that plague me, and the stories come from every direction, all the time.

I like character arcs because my life has been one long character arc.  I went from huddling in the basement , watching T.V., fearful, always so fearful, to traveling the world, to writing books, to getting the books published, to marketing the books as best as I can.  It’s a struggle.  It’s a character arc.

And I like drama, and huge climaxes, and guns, swords, magic, impossible quests, unbearable odds, tears, lots of tears because if my characters aren’t crying, I’m not doing my job.

Darkness, death, defeat, despair and then…hope.  Genre?  Death to genre.

4) HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
I write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write.  I don’t stop to edit.  Wait, hold on, before I do all the writing, I do this:

I write the pitch.  The pitch of the story is the heart of the story and I need to know what that is.

I do a “Save the Cat” 14 beat outline.  I am a slave to the outline.

I do a quick synopsis based on the outline because I’ll have to do one anyway even if I self-publish.  Might as well take a crack at it sooner rather than later.

Wait!  Wait, before the pitch, the outline, the synopsis, I go for a long walk and I tell myself the story.  I get bored easily, so after about ten feet of walking, I start up the story machine in my head.  I walk the story and then I do that other stuff.

Finally.  I write, write to the power of ten, and I don’t stop until I get to that ever-loving denouement.

Then I send it to my critique, beta readers, my Grandma Dot, though she’s dead, and  I polish and take out as many of the dumb words and awkward sentences as possible.

Then?  I publish by ANY MEANS NECESSARY.  I don’t get to have trunk novels anymore.  Nope.  That part of my life is over.  Now I publish, pimp, and on to the next story.

I get my work out into the world.  Oh, it’s scary.  Oh, it’s great.

If you liked this blog post, this ain’t nothing.  I tagged three friends and their answers are epic!!!  Click on their names to be WHISKED away!

Christine Ashworth — So, about me. The short version of the bio is, I’m still 17 at heart, I used to be a ballet dancer and yes, I still miss dancing the way I did when I was 17. I’m a romantic from way back, and I’m a writer who currently has a Day Job as an Office Manager. I grew up in San Diego, fell in love with another dancer, and married him. We’ve got two tall sons and live in Ventura County, California. But probably one of the most important things to know about me is, I’m a hugger. I hug. I touch. It’s one of the ways I process people. So if you see me coming, know I’ll reach out and give you a hug.

Gail DelaneyGail R. Delaney has been actively writing ‘for publication’ since 1996, but wrote her first novel at the age of sixteen. That first novel — a high fantasy with Biblical connections — is still sitting on her computer, waiting for the major rewrite that will make it acceptable. She says she has learned a great deal since writing that book, and it shows when she looks back at that rough draft. Gail has had several novels published in the genres of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and futuristic romance. Her novels have received several nominations and awards since she was first published in 2005. Gail’s website is www.GailDelaney.com, but she also maintains two active Facebook pages. www.Facebook.com/AuthorGailRDelaney is her page for all her writing, and if you are a lover of futuristic sci fi, be sure to like www.Facebook.com/PhoenixGailRDelaney

Ross Willard — Ross is a Texas resident who has been writing speculative fiction in one form or another for as long as he can remember. Besides being an avid bibliophile, he is a part time farmer, and plays a mean game of scrabble. Ross can often be found reading or writing at his local independent coffee shop, or working on his website.  Click his name to be swept away.

.

 

Blog Tour and Interview: Jacinta Maree

TheReapersTourBanner1Today, I’m talking to Jacinta Maree, author of The Reapers. I talked to her in February of 2013, and I’m so pleased to have her back! Make sure you follow the rest of her blog tour, too.
Aaron: Jacinta Maree!  Okay, I interviewed you about your book My Demonic Ghost in February of 2013.  I know, the years go quickly.  What have you learned about writing and the writing life since February 2013?

Jacinta: Hey, Aaron, thank you for welcoming me back. :D  How I wish I could write something witty and inspiring to this question. Writing isn’t a race or a competition. I’m forever comparing myself to other writers, I see them exceeding and becoming incredible talented authors and I almost punish myself for not hitting the same milestones as they are. It’s important to remember writing is personal and you have your own unique voice, unique style and unique personality.

Why try and mimic someone else when you can become something incredible by just being yourself? It’s important not to compare and destroy, but to observe and learn.

A: Tell us a heart-warming story about My Demonic Ghost and the aftermath of writing and publishing it.  Go for that Chicken Soup for the Soul moment.  Fan mail, gushing admirers, creepy stalkers.  You have a story?

J: Ha ha ha, nothing so Hollywood I’m afraid. It is crazy to think not that long ago My Demonic Ghost was a story that I kept to myself. As a child I really struggled with spelling to the point I believed I was stupid. Once, in primary school, I had left my work on my desk and a bunch of kids all stood around my table laughing at my horrible spelling attempts. That moment really stuck with me and I felt so embarrassed I never wanted to share my stuff ever again.

But look at me now, I have two books out, one that won an award and the other was a best seller and I feel like I’m meant to be writing regardless of my imperfections. I even get fan mail and young writers coming up to me, telling me how much of an inspiration I was because I never let myself believe I was just some idiot who can’t spell and shouldn’t write.
I think the biggest change is that OTHER authors come to me for advice, it’s like they want to hear my opinion and they respect me enough to search me out.

I find that the most humbling thing, as I always find myself looking up to others, it’s hard to think someone is looking up to me.

The Reapers is the sequel to My Demonic Ghost.  So, in our interview from days gone by, you said that Rachel’s story wouldn’t leave you alone.  Did the The Reapers haunt you similarly?

J: I wrote The Reapers so long ago now that it’s hard to remember. I think Rachael and Lock are just so incredibly strong with their presence, that as soon as I finished The Reapers I was already into Hunters and Creators writing for Rachael and Lock. They demanded to have all the attention.

A: Tell us about the cover for The Reapers.  It is so wickedly cool.  Your design or someone else?  How did it come about?

J: Naww, thank you. :D I find all of my inspiration from images around the net, mostly deviant art and Pinterest. For this particular cover I found an image that I loved and felt fitting, and gave it to my cover artist Catherine Nodet to use. She put all the Reapers touches to it and turned it into the dark, haunting cover you see today.

A: Okay, sequel me, Jacinta Maree.  What was the hardest part of a writing a sequel?  What was the easiest part?  How did you fit in all the backstory of the first one in the second, or did you even try?  Cliffhanger ending for book three, do you not want to tell?

J: So many questions – Okay, I’ll try and answer them all. Before finishing the first book, I already had intentions of writing a second that plays through the background. So it was a lot easier for me to weave my stories together say if I had written the first AND THEN decided to interweave the second through.

I don’t cover Lock or Rachael’s story in the second; they make small and brief appearances throughout the book but it was mostly driven from Jordon’s point and the Reaper’s rebellion. I also loved revealing new sides to old characters, like Gargoyle’s vulnerability and Betrayal’s desperation.
I’m not going to reveal anything big about the ending to book three only that I hope my readers can see the beauty in an otherwise tragic fate.

A: What’s in the works for February of 2016?  What would you like to see of yours out in the world?  More My Demonic Ghost novels?  Tell us, tell us, tell us what the future holds for you?

J: I am happy to say Hunters and Creators, the third installment is sitting with Heather Savage at Staccato Publishing. It came as much as a shock to me that there may even be a book four sitting in there, but I won’t give a definite answer yet.

I’m mega busy right now, I have a steampunk/supernatural called Time Weaver: The Time Collectors series. The book revolves around the concept – what if you could make a wish in exchange for your time, would you do it?

I’m also working on a dystopian/ supernatural called Soulless. This is very hush hush, but it’s looking more and more like a New Adult/ Adult read than a YA. Oops!

Secondly, I have Grave of Machines sitting on the backburner just twiddling it’s thumbs, no doubt waiting for me to work through the horrible writers block and get back to work.

ReapersMore about The Reapers:

The day you die is meant to be the end, but for 18 year old Jordon Hastings, his death was only the beginning.

In a dark and twisted world, lost spirits known as Reapers remain behind after death to help collect the spirits from the realm of the living. A new Reaper, Jordon struggles to accept his fate and lingers in the shadows of his mortal life. But when a demon wolf starts to live through his shadow, hunting his family and friends Jordon has no choice but to leave. As soon as he accepts his new role the truth behind the relationship between Reapers and Angelic Hunters is revealed. His loyalty is tested, making him choose between a corrupted God and a single Banished Spirit.

Available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

JacAbout Jacinta Maree

Self confessed chocaholic, Jacinta was born and raised in Melbourne Australia with her loving family of five. Even as a child Jacinta had an itch to write. Writing was the one constant hobby she clung to, also trying her hand at piano, flute, tennis, horseback riding and drama.

Jacinta works full time in the family business and spends her afternoons either playing basketball, reading, writing or hanging out with friends. She is always happy to try something new; getting her real estate license, practicing ninjitshu, Zumba and parkour to name a few.

For her future, Jacinta sees herself writing. It is a large part of her identity and something she hopes to continue. Aside from her love of stories she loves Japan and its unique and beautiful culture and history. From their delicious sushi dishes right down to their wooden sandals and kimonos. She is also a huge cat person and loves to snuggle up in front of the fire for a good movie or book. Her favorite genres are paranormal and fantasy but she also loves anything written by thriller writer, Stephen King.

Author Links: