December 31, 2016

What I read in 2016

Welcome again to my annual summary of the books I read this year. In 2016, I read 82 books. I managed to read at least 100 books in 2015 and 2014, but this was a busier year for me, especially at my day job. However, I’m still happy with the amount of reading I managed to do in the last twelve months.

The ratings for the books I read this year broke down as follows:
  • 5 stars - 23 books
  • 4 stars - 30 books 
  • 3 stars - 29 books 

This works out to an average rating of 3.93 stars per book, almost identical to my average rating of 3.92 last year!

Of the 82 books I read, 26 were indie published. This is a smaller percentage than last year’s 47%.

The ratings for the indie published books were distributed in an interesting way:
  • 5 stars - 5 books 
  • 4 stars - 13 books 
  • 3 stars - 8 books 

For some reason, there were far more 4-star books than 5- or 3-stars. 4-star indie books accounted for 43% of all the 4-star books I read this year, while indie books comprised only 22% of the 5-stars and 28% of the 3-stars. Why did the indie books cluster so much around the 4-star rating? I have no idea, except that it seemed that the indie books I read were largely good but not great whereas there was a broader spectrum to the traditionally published books I read in 2016.

In my next post, I’ll list my top ten favorite books of the year. Stay tuned!

December 17, 2016

2016 Holiday Sale!

It's the Christmas holiday season again, and since this is the most wonderful time of the year, I'm discounting my books on Amazon. Between now and the New Year, every one of my books will be on sale for 99 cents or FREE! Get them before prices go back up!

In the Hands of
New Eden
Keep Your
Enemies Close
Gifted All That
Remains of Me

Transmissions A House in
the Woods
Protect Search Rescue

George and the
Galactic Games

Drive Through a
Tangled Wood
Celestial Spectral Tales

Happy holidays!

November 26, 2016

New habits

When I undertook the NaNoWriMo challenge this year, I was skeptical that I would be able to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Despite successfully completing NaNoWriMo the last two years, I had more doubts this year than ever before. My day job has been busier, and regular family responsibilities have made it hard to find time to write all year long. Why would things suddenly change in November?

Yet, as we get close to the end of the month, I managed to stay on track! 50,000 words not only looks possible but likely. What’s different? This month, I changed the way I wrote in three ways.

1. I embraced the crappy first draft. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and even though I've tried to treat the process of writing a first draft as more of an exploratory activity resulting in an unpolished manuscript, I never could. I used to tweak and edit as I wrote. It made the editing process easier, but I wound up spending a lot of time and energy on the first draft. For NaNoWriMo, I've been writing and not looking back because I had no choice. There wasn’t time to come up with a better way to phrase something or to fix a scene that was painful to read. I know large sections of my NaNoWriMo novel are crappy, but even the crappy parts have been useful in guiding me later on in the story.

2. I let my characters take charge. I'm a plotter in more than one sense of the word. Yes, I outline and think through the entire story before I start my first draft, and this year’s NaNoWriMo was no different. I’m also a plotter in the sense that I focus on plot over character development or world building or anything else. This month, as part of writing a crappy first draft as fast as I can, I found that I often let my characters take charge. I'd write about things they did and said that I normally wouldn't have if I was more focused on moving the plot forward. I have no idea whether I'll keep some of the scenes I wrote, but I feel like my characters became more fully developed as a result.

3. I'm writing everywhere. Before this month, my first drafts were written in MS Word documents. That meant that I could only write when I had access to that document, which was when I had my laptop with me. For NaNoWriMo, I tried writing via Evernote. I created a new note whenever I started a new chapter. Thanks to my manuscript living in the cloud, I could write wherever and whenever and on any device I wanted. Throughout the month, whenever I had a few free minutes, I'd pull out my phone and type a few paragraphs. They weren't lengthy passages and sometimes didn't move the plot forward, but those bits and pieces really added up.

These new habits may or may not make me a better writer going forward, but they'll make me more productive. Using Evernote, or another cloud-based solution like Google Doc or Quip, is something that I definitely plan to continue doing. Even if I wind up scrapping my NaNoWriMo novel, I'll have developed new habits that will help me in the future.

November 10, 2016

Five Years!

I can't believe that five years have passed since I published my first novel, George and the Galactic Games! While it's not my best-selling title, the book still holds a special place in my heart. Sometimes you'll read about authors who have a book inside them that's begging to be written, and, more so than any other book I've published, George and the Galactic Games was that book for me. If not for how much I wanted to write the story of George and his adventures, I wouldn't have pushed myself to finish this novel. Which meant I would've never have written all of the novels after it. So I should thank George for kickstarting my author career. Thanks, and Happy Book Birthday, George and the Galactic Games!

If you're interested in reading the book, you can purchase the e-book edition for just 99 cents on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or iTunes.

October 29, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016

It's that time of year again when writers try to pen a 50,000-word novel in just 30 short days! This will be my third year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I'm proud to say that I completed the challenge on my first two attempts. :-)

One thing I've learned about NaNoWriMo is that, as with most things in life, your odds of success are greater if you prepare for it. I've gone into the previous two NaNoWriMos with a rough idea of what I'd write, and this year is no different. Two months ago, I already started thinking about the story I would tackle. I went through my notebook of ideas and picked one that interested me and that I think will sustain me for a grueling month. After that, I expanded the idea into a half-page synopsis. Later on, I turned the synopsis into a plot outline encompassing about two pages.

(Now that I think of it, a logical next step would've been to break down the outline into thirty chunks so that I had a daily plan. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to do that and probably don't have time to do so before November starts. Next year, I'll remember to do it!)

The story I plan to write this year is a modern retelling of the Cassandra myth. In Greek mythology, Cassandra possessed the gift of prophecy but was cursed so that no one would believe her. I thought that was an interesting combination and wanted to explore how it would play out in a current day setting.

As with the last two years, you will be able to follow my NaNoWriMo progress on Twitter. Wish me luck!

October 1, 2016

And zombies

Not too long ago, I watched the movie adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was primarily due to the undead element rather than any love for Jane Austen. The experience made me wonder what other literary classics would be improved by the addition of zombies. My conclusion? Just about every one!

Here are ten examples:
  • 1984 and Zombies - What if the reason that Big Brother suppresses freedom is because it's trying to hide the existence of a zombie apocalypse?
  • A Christmas Carol and Zombies - Scrooge visited by the Zombies of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
  • The Great Gatsby and Zombies - I didn't enjoy reading this story in school, but I might have if Gatsby's extravagant lifestyle took place despite an ongoing zombie apocalypse outside his mansion doors.
  • Jane Eyre and Zombies - Like the women in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I can see Jane growing up as a great zombie slayer.
  • Lord of the Flies and Zombies - Let there be zombies on the island where the boys landed!
  • Of Mice and Men and Zombies - Lennie as a domesticated zombie?
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray and Zombies - This one isn't too far of a stretch since Dorian Gray already possesses certain undead characteristics.
  • Romeo and Juliet and Zombies - How would this classic fare if zombies were thrown into the feud between the Montagues and Capulets?
  • A Tale of Two Cities and Zombies - I might have enjoyed reading this book in school more if it was set in the midst of a zombie apocalypse rather than the French Revolution.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird and Zombies - Could a story of racial prejudice be as effective if it was about zombie prejudice?

September 10, 2016

Release announcement: Courage

Hello, readers! I'm happy to announce the release of a new collection of three short stories, Courage!

 You can purchase Courage for just 99 cents from the following retailers:

Damsels in distress? Meek girls in pretty dresses? You won’t find them here! 

These three YA fantasy tales prove that heroism comes in different packages. Don’t underestimate the courage inside anyone. 

"Moon Warrior" - Separated from her tribe after a sand dragon attack, Luna finds herself alone with no food or shelter. She must cross a desert wasteland to find her people again, but when she loses their trail, she discovers that her warrior instincts may not be enough to save her. 

 “Slave Runner” - Malika and her sister are captured by slave traders but receive an unexpected gift of freedom when their captors encounter a deadly gathering of ghosts. The sisters escape to a nearby village, where they learn that the new sanctuary isn’t as safe as they thought it would be, and ghosts aren’t what they most need to fear. 

“The Brave One” - Kora and Myko return from a food-gathering trip to find that bandits have invaded their village. They have to do something to save their families, but what can two girls do against five armed men? 

August 27, 2016

"Girls" books

Not long ago, I noticed the trend of books containing the word "Girl" or "Girls" in the title. It turns out that I'm not the only one. In 2009 and 2010, there were a combined total of five books with either of those words in the title. This year, there will be 79!

I decided to do a brief analysis of my own reading habits, using my Goodreads account as the source of truth. In the five years since I started using Goodreads, I've logged 516 books read. Of those, ten contain the word "Girl" or "Girls" in the title. I don't know how 2% compares to a typical reader's profile, but I personally expected more. I read Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, for instance, but I haven't read any of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books.

Of the ten books, three were self-published and seven were traditionally published. Two of them received a 5-star rating: Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and The Curse Girl by Kate Avery Ellison. Five others received 4-star ratings, and I rated three of them as 3 stars. The most recent book that I read from the list was The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig last month.

I don't know if this analysis will cause me to read more books with "Girl"/"Girls" in the title or fewer. I have a feeling, however, that I will be more conscious of the title the next time I pick up a book with the G-word in it.

August 6, 2016

A Horde of Horses

Today, I decided to post a piece of flash fiction that I just published on Wattpad. If you like it, you can read the other parts of this collection of stories that I call A Spoonful of Stories. I hope you enjoy it!

A Horde of Horses

Some people have nightmares about being chased or of falling or drowning. Others suffer from dreams of fires or natural disasters.
My nightmares involve horses. Which is odd because I’ve never ridden a horse, and the closest I’ve gotten to a horse is seeing one in a pasture while driving by in my car.
In my dreams, I start off walking in my neighborhood, usually from my apartment to the supermarket. I don’t notice anything amiss until there’s a tap on my shoulder. When I turn around, a horse’s muzzle brushes my face.
For some reason, I don’t find this odd. I reach into my pocket and pull out a sugar cube. There’s always a sugar cube in my pocket. Never mind that I would never carry sugar cubes in real life. I don’t think I’ve ever bought sugar cubes. I’ve only seen them in restaurants when I order coffee. And on television, where someone is feeding sugar cubes to a horse. I suppose I’ve only ever seen a horse eat sugar cubes, apples, and hay in my limited experience, and it’s not feasible to fit an apple – or hay – in my pocket, even in my dreams.
The horse takes the sugar cube from my palm. It raises its head and snorts, then looks down at me, expecting more. I search my pockets, but all I have are my keys and cellphone. I’m not carrying my credit cards or any cash, so I can’t buy more treats.
I shrug my shoulders to tell the horse that I can’t help it any longer. That’s when the second horse emerges from behind the first one. Has it always been there, but I didn’t notice before? I turn to walk away from both animals, but I see more horses approaching me from every direction. They come pouring out of every doorway along the block, from inside homes, stores, restaurants. They emerge from around the corners of buildings and shadowed alleyways.
I want to run, but my legs are frozen. Even if they did move, I wouldn’t be able to outrun the horses.
“Help,” I yell, but the sound dies before it leaves my mouth. There’s no one around. The cars have all disappeared, and so have the people on this street. I glance from one window to another, but I see only empty rooms beyond the transparent panes. Where has everyone gone?
The first horse nudges me in the back, sending me forward. Its companions form lines on either side of me, allowing me only a narrow path between their towering forms. Not seeing another option, I walk along in the direction that the horses lead me. They shift their bodies to alter the path. It curves to the right, but I can’t see over them toward the destination.
A traffic light passes overhead, informing me that I’ve crossed an intersection. The procession of horses streams along, carrying me along with them. They whinny, they stomp, they snort. They stink.
There is just enough room for me to walk unobstructed, but sometimes, I feel hot breath on the back of my neck or a nip on on my hair. I don’t know which animal has done it because they take turns circling me and eyeing me. I keep my head down and shuffle forward.
The equine wave directs me toward a warehouse store, the Costco knockoff that we have in town. There are no windows on the sides of the building, just a giant metal door that’s now rolled up to leave a gaping entrance. The lights are on, but I don’t see anyone or anything moving inside. The horses that are closest to the entrance turn to the side as soon as they near the doorway. The ones behind them follow suit, creating an illusion of waves breaking upon the shore.
They mean for me to go inside.
I step through the doorway. The heavy metal door clangs shut behind me. The bang of metal hitting concrete startles me, but just as jarring is the silence that encompasses the warehouse afterwards.
I’m alone, a prisoner of the horses outside.
Then I hear a footstep. It comes from in front of me, inside the warehouse. A woman steps out from behind a pallet of breakfast cereal.
“What’s happening?” I ask.
Her face is expressionless. She reminds me of a zombie, except that she looks normal, down to the rosy color of her cheeks. However, she doesn’t answer me.
Behind her, more people walk into the center aisle where I’m standing. They all wear the same bland looks on their faces.
“Are you all OK? What happened to you?”
A small girl next to the woman says, “The horses want us.”
“Want us for what?”
“The horses want us,” she repeats.
The crowd continues walking toward me. Their numbers circle me in every direction. I back away until I hit the warehouse door.
“What are you doing?” I say to them. “What do you want from me?”
The little girl is the only one who speaks. “The horses want us.”
Something strikes the metal door behind me, nearly knocking me down. I hear faint neighing on the other side of the door.
The crowd of people moves closer still. The girl is within arm’s distance.
More banging against the metal door. I cover my ears with my hands and close my eyes.
That’s when I always wake up.
I don’t know what would’ve happened next, and I don’t want to find out.
I also don’t know why I have these recurring nightmares. Like I said, the closest I’ve ever been to a horse is driving past one in my car. But whenever I do now, I wonder, why does it want me?

July 23, 2016

A Harry Potter summer

Nine years after the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and five years after the movie release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2", the series continues to play a part in my life.

In June, my family embarked on a movie-watching journey and went through all eight Harry Potter movies. It was great fun reliving the series and seeing Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint grow up in front of my eyes over the course of four weeks.

The movie binge was in preparation for a family trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in April. I recommend that all Harry Potter fans visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Los Angeles or Orlando at some point in their lives. The name of the theme park accurately describes it because you will feel like you're transported into the world of Harry Potter. Among the highlights for me was finding Cedric Diggory's ash unicorn wand at Ollivander's. I took a wand quiz last year, and that was the wand that was for me, but I hadn't been able to find it until now.

My Harry Potter summer isn't over yet because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is scheduled to release on July 31! I've already pre-ordered my copy and am looking forward to devouring it when it arrives.

The way that the Harry Potter series has endured in the public consciousness and in my own life is amazing. Who knew that books about a boy wizard could capture the imagination of so many people?

July 2, 2016

4th of July weekend sale

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July (or any holiday) than with a book sale? For the next three days, three of my novels are discounted to 99 cents on Amazon. Pick up your copy before they go back up in price!


Amazon links:

Also, remember that there are several other ways to enjoy my books for FREE!

June 18, 2016

The trouble with time travel

I recently re-watched "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Near the end of the movie, Hermione reveals that she has a time turner, which she and Harry use to go back in time and fix past situations. That made me wonder why we don't see the time turner again in the series. In the next book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they could've used it on numerous occasions and saved a lot of grief, especially when it came to Harry, Cedric, or Moody. (I'm intentionally keeping it vague in case anyone hasn't read the book yet.) The time turner would've definitely come in handy during the Hogwarts battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Therein lies one of the main problems with introducing time travel in a story. If time travel is possible, why isn't it used more often? And why do the characters decide to pick the moment in time that they do pick to travel back to?

The Terminator series is another example where this comes into play. The first Terminator movie actually did a good job addressing the problem, in my opinion. Kyle Reese explains that the time travel machine was destroyed right after he and the terminator traveled to the past, and that's a credible reason why the plot device is used only once. Likewise, sending the terminator back to kill Sarah Conner before her son is born sounds like a logical plan. The trouble comes with the sequels. Now we know that another time travel machine can be built. Why not send armies of terminators? And why choose the two periods in John Connor's life that Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 chose?

The other big problem with time travel is the paradox that it can create. If the terminator in the first film was successful in its mission, then there would've never been a John Connor. In that case, there wouldn't have been a reason to send the terminator back in the first place, so who would've killed Sarah Connor? It's the famous grandfather paradox where you go back in time and kill your grandfather before your parent was born, which ensures that you'll never be born, so how could you go back in time to kill your grandfather?

Whenever I watch a movie or read a book with time travel involved, I can poke holes in the plot. That's why I stay away from time travel in my stories. Well, except for this short story, which you can read on Wattpad. :-)

June 4, 2016

There are no new ideas: Star Wars/Harry Potter edition

Star Wars (at least episodes 4 through 7) and Harry Potter are two of my favorite series of all time. "Star Wars: A New Hope" was released in 1977, and twenty years later, we got Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for those of us in the U.S.).

I recently started re-watching the Harry Potter movies and noticed several similarities between it and the original Star Wars trilogy. For example, both series feature a trio of heroes. In Star Wars, they're Luke, Leia, and Han. In Harry Potter, we have Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Luke and Harry are the "Chosen Ones." Leia/Hermione and Han/Ron are the sidekicks whose relationship gets off to a rocky start but eventually turn into romance. Then there are the Chosen Ones' mentors, Obi-wan and Dumbledore. Both initially took on students (Anakin and Tom Riddle) who not only turn bad but also acquire second names (Darth Vader and Voldemort). The mentors' later pupils (Luke/Harry) wind up defeating the dark predecessors.

There are other similarities, which led me to think that I couldn't be the first person to notice. Sure enough, I found this post that lays out some more similarities side by side.

The point isn't that I think J.K. Rowling copied Star Wars. I don't think she did. There are only so many unique ideas that certain archetypes are bound to pop up again and again. When I started reading the Percy Jackson series, for example, the similarities to Harry Potter were immediately apparent. (Look, another trio, but this time it's Percy, Annabeth, and Grover!) I like all three series very much because of the way the stories were told, and they tell their stories differently. As a writer, don't be afraid that your story has been told (because chances are, there are elements that have been) or that you've stumbled upon the one unique story that the world has never seen (because you haven't). The key is how you tell your story. It's all in the execution, not the idea.

May 21, 2016

Putting first things first

 Image courtesy of

For those of you who are familiar with Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," you may recognize the title of this blog post as being habit #3. I recently (re-)learned the 7 habits, and this one resonated with me because it's one that I have trouble with. Putting first things first means that you can't do everything in the 24 hours you're given each day. You have to focus on your highest priorities and say no to the unimportant things. I've written about priorities before, but somewhere in the last few months, I stopped following my own advice. One of the casualties is my writing. I'm embarrassed to say how little I've written this year, even with my idea of writing during my commute.

This is a shame since writing is important to me. It makes me happy, and it helps define who I am. It's time for me to put writing first, or at least ahead of the less important things that I've been spending my time on. This blog post is my way of publicly holding myself accountable to following through on the habit. Will it work? Hard to say, but if I don't write, I hope it's because I'm doing something that's even more important than it.

May 7, 2016

How to read my stories for FREE

Readers, did you know that you can read some of my stories for free?? That's right, FREE!

Here are four ways:

1. "Drive," the first story in the Driver Series, is permafree. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic YA, this series is for you. Why not try the first installment without paying a cent? You can download "Drive" from the following retailers:

2. Sign up for my newsletter and get a Smashwords coupon for a free e-book. There's a link in the top right corner of this blog (see screenshot below) or you can go here to sign up.

3. Last year, I started posting some short stories on Wattpad. You can find them by going to my profile at

4. If you're a book blogger or book reviewer, I'm always happy to send you an e-copy of one of my books for review. Contact me at

April 30, 2016

Anti-social? Who, me?

Before I experienced what it's really like to write a novel, I believed in the stereotypical image of an author cranking out his or her masterpiece in solitude. Think Thoreau at Walden Pond or Jack Torrance in The Shining (minus the homicidal tendencies, of course).

Image courtesy of

While working on a book alone isn't the reason why I wanted to become an author, it certainly has its appeal. I'm in introvert by nature, which means that I prefer to spend my time and energy in the internal world of ideas rather than the external world of people. That might make me sound anti-social, but I have to admit that I am somewhat. The ideal of buying my own island if I had the funds sounds great, if only for writing purposes. If I could lock myself up for days to work on a story (assuming food and a comfortable place to sleep are still readily available), I think I would thrive under the circumstances.

Alas, solitude isn't part of my reality. In the real world, I still work a day job where I interact with people everyday. Even when I write, it's often when I'm surrounded by lots of people, like on the train or at my kids' extracurricular classes. Fortunately, I'm able to block out most distractions (refer to statement above about living in the internal world of ideas) when I write. On the other hand, I sure wouldn't mind being alone.

April 10, 2016

Release announcement: Rescue

The fourth short story in The Driver Series, "Rescue," is now available! For the time being, this will be the last installment of the series. However, I've had a lot of fun writing about Claire and her post-apocalyptic world, so I won't say that this is farewell forever. :-)

You can purchase "Rescue" at the following retailers for 99 cents:

For the first time in memory, there is peace between Claire’s people and the Outsiders. The Drivers and their Protectors now have the gratifying task of spreading that goodwill across the region.

Claire and Shaun head to Half Moon Bay to deliver greetings and gifts to seal the peace treaty with the tribe that lives there. The mission goes smoothly at first, but events take a turn for the worse. Claire soon finds that it’s not just peace that is at risk. She faces the possibility of losing what’s most important to her. 

March 26, 2016

The downside of reading a great book

Image courtesy of hashisho

Recently, I went through a reading slump. For some reason, the books I read just didn't appeal to me. Although they received good reviews, I found them sort of ... blah. I struggled to finish some of them, and, in a couple of cases, I put them down for good, which is rare because I seldom DNF books. It didn't matter what the genre was. It didn't matter what time of day or day of week I read the books. Fortunately, after two or three weeks, I started enjoying reading again.

The reason for my book slump? I read a really good book right before it. It may seem ironic that a great book could lessen my enjoyment of reading, but it did because the books I read after it paled in comparison. The authors of the subsequent books couldn't capture the same magic that the great book did. I kept wanting to feel what I felt when reading the great book, and I was disappointed when I didn't. I know that this is unfair to the books I read immediately after the great book, but I also didn't believe that I should stop reading. What got me out of the slump was getting used to the writing level of the majority of the books on the market again.

I just need to recognize that I will come across a great book once in a while, and while that experience may diminish my fondness for the next few books after it, it doesn't mean that the subsequent books are bad. It just means that they aren't as great as the gem I read before them.

As an author, my experience also makes me nervous about when readers read my books. What if my book is the one they pick up right after they've read what they consider to be a great book? How will my book stack up in comparison? Perhaps I can now chalk up bad reviews to the fact that the readers just finished what, in their minds, was a great book. Yeah, I'm sure that's the reason.

March 19, 2016


I tend to watch my favorite movies over and over again. I don't remember how many times I've seen the original Star Wars Trilogy, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Matrix," "The Princess Bride," or "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I know I've done so enough times to easily recite lines from those movies (much to my wife's chagrin).

It got me wondering why I don't do that with my favorite books. It's rare for me to read a book twice, even one that I love. I've read my favorite YA book, The Hunger Games, three times, but once was for "research" while working on one of my own novels. Even thrice is a rare exception for me. How many times have I seen "Star Wars: A New Hope"? Must be at least ten times by now.

So I'm going to make it a point to re-read more of my favorite books. If re-reading a favorite book is nearly as satisfying as watching a favorite movie, then it will be time well spent.

March 5, 2016

Everything sounds brilliant at 2:00 am

I'm one of those people who have vivid dreams and remember them after waking up. My dreams have often been creative fuel for the stories I write. Back before I published my first novel, I wrote a lot of short stories, and I estimate that more than a third of those story ideas originated from dreams. (For me, dreams work better for short stories than for novels because the events in my dreams aren't expansive enough to fill a novel.)

Unfortunately, I also suffer from insomnia in that I wake up several times in the middle of the night. In a perverse way, my insomnia helps my creativity because, while I'm lying awake in bed, I'll hash out a dream I just had. However, the downside of doing so in the middle of the night is that my brain isn't awake enough to filter content correctly. I can't count the number of times I've woken up at 2:00 am thinking that a dream was the greatest thing since the story-telling equivalent of sliced bread. But frankly, those dreams often weren't as good as I thought they were. There's something about the half-conscious state I'm in that makes me think that bad ideas are good.

If an idea passes my 2:00-am-half-brain-dead test, I'll log it in my journal for further consideration. I'll then read through my journal in the future, when I'm fully awake. I don't know how many times I've asked myself why I thought some of my dream-inspired ideas were any good to begin with. Thankfully, I'll catch those not-so-good ideas before they turn into stories that I subject my readers to.

Except for this blog post, which came to me at 2:00 am one night.

February 20, 2016

Fixing my lack of writing

In early December, I published a post about how to sustain a writing routine. I should've known that was going to jinx me because I've hardly written anything new since. Sure, the last two weeks of December were taken up by the holidays, and 2016 has resulted in even more work at my day job, but those are just excuses.

Writing is still important to me, and I want to find a way of getting back in the habit of doing it somewhat regularly. This week, I embarked on what I hope will become a new habit. I take the train to work every day, and I've been spending that time reading. However, the train is too crowded for me to use my laptop, and there's no wifi, so I don't work or write during my commute.

Yesterday, I brought an 80-page composition notebook with me and wrote a quick short story that covered the front and back of one page. It wasn't a great story by any means, but it was good for loosening my "writing muscles." With an 80-page notebook, I can write twice a week for the rest of the year to fill it. That's my plan for the remainder of 2016. Let's hope I do a better job of sticking to it.

February 10, 2016

Release announcement: All That Remains of Me

The day has finally arrived! Today is the official release date for my latest novel, All That Remains of Me.

You can purchase the e-book edition now for the special introductory price of 99 cents! The price will go up soon, so act quickly.

During a routine drive to dinner with her parents, sixteen-year-old Annie Walker’s car is struck by a pickup truck. The resulting accident kills her parents and leaves Annie unconscious. When she wakes up, she thinks she’s in a hospital, but the truth is far stranger. Annie has been downloaded into a computer program called PATTIE.

With the help of PATTIE’s brilliant programmer, Eric, Annie struggles to come to terms with her new existence. She also finds that being inside a computer has both advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, the disadvantages can kill her.

January 30, 2016

A Spoonful of Stories

A few years ago, I had an idea to write a collection of flash fiction. I was fond of the format where an entire story can be told in 1,000 words or less. However, like some of my other writing ideas, this one was set aside in favor of more promising ones.

This year, I'm resurrecting the idea and posting the stories to Wattpad under a project called "A Spoonful of Stories." There will be 26 works of flash fiction in all, where the title of each story features alliteration using a letter of the alphabet (e.g., the first story is titled "An Armful of Armadillos"). Some of these short stories have been on my hard drive for years, and some will be newly written just for "A Spoonful of Stories." My goal is to post a new work of flash fiction every month.

I hope you'll like reading them!

January 16, 2016

Cover reveal and pre-order announcement: All That Remains of Me

Check out the cover for my new YA sci-fi novel, All That Remains of Me!

The book is now available for pre-order on the following sites for the special introductory price of 99 cents! After the official release date of February 10, the price will go up, so request your pre-order now.

During a routine drive to dinner with her parents, sixteen-year-old Annie Walker’s car is struck by a pickup truck. The resulting accident kills her parents and leaves Annie unconscious. When she wakes up, she thinks she’s in a hospital, but the truth is far stranger. Annie has been downloaded into a computer program called PATTIE.

With the help of PATTIE’s brilliant programmer, Eric, Annie struggles to come to terms with her new existence. She also finds that being inside a computer has both advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, the disadvantages can kill her.

January 2, 2016

Favorite reads of 2015

My last post summarized the books I read in 2015, and here were my top ten favorites from the year.

1. Armada - Ernest Cline
When I read this book, I thought it was specifically targeted to me because I could relate to so many of the references made. If you were a video-game-playing, sci-fi-loving kid of the 80's like I was, this book is for you! Despite the somewhat cheesy ending, I liked this book even more than Ready Player One.

2. Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor
Beautifully written, with characters and a story line that sprang from the pages to envelope me, this could have been my favorite book of the year just as easily as Armada was. Karou was a unique character who I found easy to root for. I look forward to finishing the series.

3. The Brothers - Katie French
The fourth and latest book in the Breeders series is my favorite so far! Read my review here.

4. The Benders - Katie French
Yup, two Breeders novels made my top 10 list this year! If you haven't started reading the series yet, you definitely should. Here's my review of The Benders.

5. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
I liked Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series, but A Monster Calls was even better. This story was touching and thought-provoking, yet simple and quick to read. Although the subject matter is best suited for a more mature audience, I think that readers from middle grade on up could benefit from this wonderfully written and illustrated book.

6. The One - Kiera Cass
Last year, The Selection made my top 10 list of favorite books. While The Elite suffered from Middle Book Syndrome, the series (or at least America's story) wrapped up nicely with The One.

7. Nil - Lynne Matson
I was skeptical at first about the premise of Nil (kids are mysteriously transported to an island where they have a year to escape or they die), but the plot and the characters wound up drawing me in. I plan to read the sequel this year.

8. Lake Ephemeral - Anya Allyn
Lake Ephemeral, the third indie book on my top 10 list, was a fun story that kept me guessing as to what was going on. Read my review here.

9. Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris
I loved the concept of an autobiography written in Choose-Your-Own-Adventure format. This book was as fun as I hoped it'd be. The only problem was, given the different lives that he lived depending on the paths I chose, I'm still a bit hazy on what really happened in Neil Patrick Harris's life. I guess I'll have to wait for his official autobiography to find out.

10. Love Songs - Jamie Campbell
Rounding out 2015's top 10 list is yet another indie book. You can read my review of this fun and touching love story.