THE MAN WHO LOST EVERYTHING is now available!

LostEverythingI’m thrilled to announce that Miles Franco is back again! The third book in my Miles Franco hardboiled urban fantasy series, The Man Who Lost Everything, is available right now in ebook format on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Kobo are dragging their feet, but the ebook should be available there in a couple of days. And if you prefer print books, you can also grab the paperback on Amazon.

To say thanks to all of you, the ebook is available for only $0.99/£0.77 (or equivalent) at all of the above outlets for the next few days. So get in quick before it goes back to the full price of $4.99.

Here’s the blurb:

Every man has a limit. Miles is about to find his.

For the first time in his whole miserable life, freelance Tunneler Miles Franco finally has his shit together. He’s left behind his history of violence and interdimensional smuggling to take on consulting work with the Bluegate Police Department. He’s collecting regular paychecks, he’s paying tax, he’s even going on blind dates.

But when his friend, Detective Vivian Reed, comes to him for help, his peaceful life is shattered. Vivian’s sister has been kidnapped. They have issued no ransom. No demands. They don’t want money. They only want revenge.

If Miles and Vivian are going to get her sister back, they’ll have to abandon everything they’ve worked for. There will be no room for law or conscience where they’re going. Miles is returning to the mean streets that made him.

And there will be no coming back.

And without further ado, here are the links to all the places you can find The Man Who Lost Everything:

Ebook

Paperback

Happy reading!

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PS: If you’ve reviewed any of my books before and you’d like a free review copy of The Man Who Lost Everything, email me at chrisstrangeauthor@gmail.com and let me know!

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THE MAN WHO LOST EVERYTHING is coming December 4th 2014!

Miles Franco is back! The third book in my hardboiled urban fantasy series will be available in ebook and paperback from December 4th.

Keep your eyes open; for the first few days, you’ll be able to snag a copy of the book at a huge discount. But it’s limited time only, so get in quick!

If you haven’t read any of my Miles Franco books before, there’s never been a better time to start! The first book in the series, The Man Who Crossed Worlds, is now available as a FREE ebook on Amazon and other platforms! (If it’s not showing up as free for you at Amazon, send me an email at chrisstrangeauthor@gmail.com and I’ll send you a copy.)

To celebrate the impending release, I’m also revamping the series with new covers. Check them out below, and then read the blurb for The Man Who Walked in Darkness.

MilesFrancoSeries

Every man has a limit. Miles is about to find his.

For the first time in his whole miserable life, freelance Tunneler Miles Franco finally has his shit together. He’s left behind his history of violence and interdimensional smuggling to take on consulting work with the Bluegate Police Department. He’s collecting regular paychecks, he’s paying tax, he’s even going on blind dates.

But when his friend, Detective Vivian Reed, comes to him for help, his peaceful life is shattered. Vivian’s sister has been kidnapped. They have issued no ransom. No demands. They don’t want money. They only want revenge.

If Miles and Vivian are going to get her sister back, they’ll have to abandon everything they’ve worked for. There will be no room for law or conscience where they’re going. Miles is returning to the mean streets that made him.

And there will be no coming back.

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P.S.: If you’ve ever reviewed one of my books before, either on your blog, Goodreads, or a storefront like Amazon, I’d love to give you a free review e-copy of The Man Who Lost Everything (as well as the earlier books if you haven’t read them). Just email me at chrisstrangeauthor@gmail.com and let me know you want a review copy.

If you’ve been meaning to leave a review for one of my books and haven’t gotten around to it, you can post one any time before the end of December and I’ll still be delighted to send you a review copy of The Man Who Lost Everything. It doesn’t matter whether the review is positive or negative, so just be honest!

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Nominations for the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Awards are open!

Mayday 3dNominations for the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand’s premier science fiction and fantasy awards, are now open!

Since my novel Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller was released in 2014, it is eligible for the Best Professional Novel category. But to get on the voting ballot I need your help!

If you read and enjoyed Mayday, I’d really appreciate it if you could take the time to send in an email nomination. You don’t have to be a New Zealander to make a nomination — the SFFANZ accepts nominations from any living person on Earth until 31st January 2015. The more nominations Mayday gets, the better chance it has of making it onto the voting ballot.

All you have to do is copy and paste the information below, add in your name and email, and forward it to: sjv_awards@sffanz.org.nz

You can nominate multiple works in a category (each in a separate email), so if you enjoyed any other Kiwi SFF novels released in 2014, be sure to nominate them as well!

For further information, go to: http://www.sffanz.org.nz/sjv/sjvAwardsNominationGuidelines.shtml

Here are the details you need to nominate Mayday for Best Professional Novel:

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Book Title: Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller

Author: Chris Strange

Type of work: Novel

Year of release: 2014

Publisher: Cheeky Minion

Author Contact: chrisstrangeauthor@gmail.com

Category: Professional – Best Novel

Genre: Science Fiction

Your name: [Insert your own name here]

Your contact: [Insert your email address]

Send email nominations to sjv_awards@sffanz.org.nz

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Thanks so much for your help everyone. You guys are the best!

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5 Tips for Kicking Ass This NaNoWriMo

Participant-2014-Twitter-ProfileWelcome to Hell, boys and girls.

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo. And if you’re signed up, you’ve got a long, crazy, awesome journey ahead of you.

To kick start you on your way, here’s a few tips that’ll help you have fun and avoid frustration this November.

1. Back Up Your Work

If you take one thing away from this post, make it this. Back up your novel. Do it every day. There is nothing more crushing than seeing three weeks of hard work and creativity go down the drain because you didn’t back it up.

And don’t just keep your backups in a different location on the same computer. If your hard drive fries or your laptop gets stolen, what are you going to do then?

Think that’ll never happen to you? Maybe not. But if something does go wrong, you’ll be kicking yourself that you lost everything when it’s so easy to protect yourself.

Cloud storage options like Dropbox or Google Drive make it super easy to back up your novel to an off-site location. Even emailing the file to yourself will do the trick.

I suggest you keep backups in at least two locations other than your main computer. Keep one set of backups on an external hard drive or on another computer, and keep another set of backups off-site, using something like Dropbox. Even if your house burns down, you’ll still have your NaNo novel. Hey, it’s better than nothing.

And whatever you do, don’t entrust your entire novel to a USB thumb drive. Those things corrupt files at the drop of a hat, and they’re easy to lose as well.

2. Get Ahead Early

Later on in the month, things will get hard. Your enthusiasm will start to wane. Life will distract you. And I’m told those of you in America have to deal with a strange ritual called Thanksgiving.

So do yourself a favour. Get ahead of your word count goals in those early days. Instead of stopping at the daily average of 1667 words, push on to 2000, or 2500. Those extra words will add up. If you miss a day further down the line, you won’t have quite as much to catch up on the next day.

3. Write Every Chance You Get

If you live a pretty busy life, you can’t afford to wait around for a nice big chunk of time where you can do some writing. You have to get out your club and go hunting for that time.

Write while you have your breakfast. Write on your lunch break at work. Write in the bathroom. Write when you should be studying or putting on the laundry. Use writing as procrastination from more important tasks. Carve out a few minutes here and there throughout your day. A hundred words here, two hundred there. It adds up faster than you’d think.

If you don’t have a laptop you can carry around with you, use something else. Write longhand in a notebook and transcribe it later. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, you can write on that. Yes, you can. I don’t care if it feels weird writing a book with your thumbs and a touch screen. If you can write a text message or type something into Google, you can write a few more paragraphs on your book.

You really have to fight for this writing time. This may mean you have to neglect friends and family a bit. Tell them what you’re doing, and tell them that this is important to you. If they love you, they’ll understand. Or forgive you, at least.

4. Avoid Procrastination

I’m going to be a big hypocrite here and tell you not to procrastinate. I’m absolutely terrible at this. But if you’re a procrastinator like me, you’re going to have to figure out how to get your butt in that chair and actually write.

Raymond Chandler, that master of hardboiled fiction, was also a procrastinator, and he knew it. So he came up with a method to solve this problem. Every day, he marked out a certain amount of time. For those hours, he locked himself in a room with his typewriter. And he had just two rules.

  1. You don’t have to write.
  2. You can’t do anything else.

With nothing else to entertain him, he would eventually start writing out of sheer boredom.

Of course, that’s a bit more difficult these days. For most of us, our primary writing device—our computer—is a source of all manner of procrastination aids. Facebook, emails, news sites, Facebook, YouTube, Facebook, and of course, Facebook. If you’re the sort of person who can easily get trapped in an endless loop of checking emails, checking the news, checking Facebook, checking emails…, then there may be only one cure:

Turning off the Internet.

I know, I know, that sounds like a drastic measure. Like cutting off a leg to cure an ingrown toenail. But if turning off the Internet (or using a browser blocker) for a couple of hours a day is what it takes to get you a finished novel, isn’t that worth it?

5. Keep The Words Flowing

Whatever you do, don’t stop. Don’t go back and edit that last chapter. If its bothering you that much, write a note to yourself about what needs to change, then move on.

Don’t get bogged down trying to come up with the perfect name. Call your love interest Sexypants McMuscles and move on. Later on, you can always do a “Find and Replace” with the real name. Or maybe you’ll realise that Sexypants McMuscles is the best goddamn name ever.

Likewise, don’t spend half an hour on Wikipedia looking up some detail that isn’t crucial to the plot. Just type [XXX research this] or something so you can find it later.

Good Luck!

That’s it from me. If you have your own tips, leave me a comment!

Good luck and Godspeed, brave novelists. Get out there and write. And most important of all, have fun.

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The Road to NaNoWriMo: Novel Prep (Part 2: Plot)

Welcome back to my series on NaNoWriMo preparation. Last time, we talked about planning out your characters before you start writing. Today, let’s look at a method for creating a basic plot outline for your novel.

Remember, this is just one possible way of outlining your novel. I think it’s a pretty good method, both for newbies and experienced writers. I’ve been using it myself more and more. But in the end, only you can figure out how you write best. Take what works, and leave what doesn’t.

In the last post, I encouraged you to come up with goals, motivations, and conflicts for your main characters, and to write that information down so you can refer to it. This time, we’re going to use that information to create a plot skeleton that gives you the basic shape of your novel.

We’re not going to plot out every single scene in your novel. Instead, we’ll just be looking at the seven key scenes that almost every story has in some form or another. Different writers have different names for these scenes, but in the end it’s all the same.

If you have a plan for these seven scenes, you’ve got a rough roadmap for your entire novel. There will still be gaps where you can explore and go in different directions. But this method gives you a few landmarks to head towards when you start writing.

I’ll list each of the seven scenes here, and then we’ll go through them in more detail. As we go through each scene, write down how you think you’re going to fit that scene into your novel. If you have no idea yet, leave it blank and come back to it later when you’ve got some of the other pieces filled in.

Here are the seven key scenes:

  1. Opening (Inciting Incident)
  2. Plot turn 1 (The Point of No Return)
  3. Pinch 1 (Apply Pressure)
  4. Midpoint (Information Obtained, Plans Made)
  5. Pinch 2 (The Darkest Moment)
  6. Plot turn 2 (The Last Piece of the Puzzle)
  7. Climax

Opening (Inciting Incident)

Openings are hard. There’s no way around that. You’re trying to introduce characters, places, maybe a whole new world. You’re trying to hook the reader. And you’re presenting the inciting incident, that event that changes everything and propels your protagonist(s) through the story.

That event—the inciting incident—is what you want to focus on for now. That’s going to be the core of this scene. The event that changes things for your character. It could be something big. A bomb going off, or the detective getting a call to inform her that the serial killer everyone thought was dead is killing once more. It could be your character getting fired, or getting arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. If your story is a quieter one, this inciting incident might be less dramatic.

But the point is that we want to introduce the first threads of the story nice and early. This serves two purposes. It hooks the reader, making them want to continue. And it means you don’t spend the first three chapters with your character wandering around doing nothing in particular while you try to figure out how to write yourself into a story.

You could read entire writing advice books dedicated to the opening scene. But don’t get too worried about trying to make your opening perfect just yet. Until November ends, the most important thing is to get the words on paper, even if they’re not as good as they could be.

Once you’re in revisions , you’ll have plenty of time to cut out info dumps and think of cool opening sentences. But for now, just think about that single incident that changes things for your character.

Plot Turn 1 (The Point of No Return)

This scene is where things really start to get serious. Here, your protagonist’s goals, motivations, and conflicts become firmly established. The character knows what he has to do, and why he has to do it. Maybe he doesn’t know how he’s going to do it yet, but he knows he has to try.

Often, this is the point where the character has a chance to back out of her quest. She could turn around and go back home and ignore the problem. But then something shows her the consequences of giving up. She then makes the conscious choice to work towards achieving her external goal.

In Star Wars, this scene occurs after Luke Skywalker rejects Obi Wan’s offer to teach him about the Force. When he returns home, he sees that his uncle and aunt have been killed by the Empire’s stormtroopers. He now knows the consequences if he refuses the call to adventure. So he chooses to go with Obi Wan and fight the Empire.

Pinch 1 (Apply Pressure)

The pinch points are scenes where pressure is applied to the characters. New threats appear. Your hero gets her butt kicked and figures out she’s in way over her head.

This is a good time to show your character exactly what she’s got herself into. Maybe she thought achieving her goal wouldn’t be too hard. Show her how wrong she is.

In an action story, this might be the protagonist’s first direct encounter with the villain or his minions. In that case, your hero probably gets defeated and only barely escapes. In a different type of novel, this might be where the protagonist comes face-to-face with the controlling mother-in-law who will stop at nothing to break up the happy couple. Or maybe your protagonist flunks a test she thought she was going to cruise through.

Basically, we want to ratchet up the tension and show both the audience and the character that it’s not going to be easy for her to achieve her goal.

Midpoint (Information Obtained, Plans Made)

Generally, this is where the protagonist goes from being reactive to being proactive. She’s sick and tired of wandering around in the dark, clueless and running away from threats. It’s time to fight back. It’s time to actually figure out how she’s going to achieve her goal.

But your character isn’t just going to wake up one morning knowing how to achieve her goals. She needs new information. That’s the other major component of this scene. New knowledge.

He may discover an important clue that changes everything, or work out that the enemy has one weakness that maybe—just maybe—he can exploit. This new information can even be something simple, like the heroine finding out that the hero likes her as much as she likes him. It all depends on your story goal.

Your protagonist has some valuable new information, but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing from here on out. No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

That’s why this is also a good place to crank up the stakes. Increase the conflict, and increase the protagonist’s motivation. Maybe the bad guys kidnap someone important to the protagonist. Maybe there’s now an added time pressure. (We’ve just learned that there’s a bomb, and it’s going to explode in less than three hours!) Maybe our heroine just found out the hero likes her, but she also found out that he’s about to marry another woman.

Granted, this is a lot of stuff to cram into one scene. In your novel, the “midpoint scene” may actually be spread out over two or three scenes.

Also, bear in mind that this scene doesn’t have to come exactly halfway through the novel. It’s fairly common for this to happen a little earlier. Not a problem.

Pinch 2 (The Darkest Moment)

You thought things were bad before? You have no idea, pal.

This scene is where it all goes horribly wrong. For a moment there, it looked like your protagonist’s plan might just work. He was doing everything right. He learned from his earlier mistakes. Victory was within his grasp.

And then all hell broke loose.

In action and adventure stories, this is often the scene where someone important is killed by the enemy. A lot of the time, the victim is the mentor character (Gandalf falling in Moria, Obi Wan being cut down by Darth Vader). But it could just as easily be a friend or an ally who falls here.

Of course, death isn’t necessary in every story. Instead, maybe your protagonist does something that drives his friends and allies away. Or maybe his friends become trapped and cannot help. Maybe the hero and heroine have a fight so bad it looks like they’ll never recover from it. Perhaps your protagonist stands on the edge of a bridge, contemplating suicide.

Even if an actual death does not occur here, it’s common for the theme of death to cast its shadow over the scene. This might be the death of a relationship, or the death of hope.

Primarily, this scene is about despair. For a few moments, both your audience and your protagonist should believe there’s no way she can recover from this.

Don’t pull your punches here. This scene should hurt. It hurts your characters, it hurts you, and if you’ve done things right, it’ll hurt your reader as well. That pain is essential for making the climax even more powerful.

Plot Turn 2 (The Last Piece of the Puzzle)

Your character went through the worst thing imaginable. His friends have left him. He’s bruised and bloodied (either physically or metaphorically). But he’s still alive. And it’s not over yet.

In this scene, your protagonist receives the last piece of the puzzle. She finds one final clue that reveals the murderer’s identity. He realises there never was any magic potion, the magic was inside him all along. He finds out there is hope after all. He begins to believe in the Force. And now he knows what he needs to do to achieve his goal.

This might be a point where your protagonist’s internal goal finally changes. He learns to respect himself, or he learns the value of friendship, or the value of true love, or whatever.

Climax

You’ve put your character in a hole. Now it’s time to get him out of it.

Climaxes can be tricky, but you don’t necessarily need to work out every detail of them when you’re just creating your outline.

This is where the story goal (usually your protagonist’s external goal) is achieved. With the help of the information he learned in Plot Turn 2, our protagonist confronts his antagonist. But it’s a tough fight. For a moment, it might look like our hero will be defeated at the final hurdle.

But then, using his cunning, the lessons he’s learned along the way, and perhaps the help of his friends and allies, the hero snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. The bad guy is finally confronted and defeated. Or after a tense gunfight, the murderer is captured. Or the heroine crashes the hero’s wedding, confesses her love, and they finally kiss.

Victory in the climax usually comes when the hero proves that he has learned lessons over the course of his journey (and especially in Plot Turn 2). These lessons can be both external (finding out about the Death Star’s convenient exhaust vent) and moral lessons (learning to trust the Force).

Tragic endings are also possible, of course. The protagonist might fail to achieve his external goal. He snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, so to speak. Alternatively, he may have a pyrrhic victory. He achieves his goal, but the cost is so great you almost wonder if it’s a victory at all.

That’s all, folks.

And there you have it. The seven key scenes. If you’re planning to outline your novel before you start NaNoWriMo, these scenes are a great place to start. If you have other scenes in mind, slot them in wherever they fit.

Think about other books and movies in your genre and see if you can figure out which scene is the Midpoint, and which is the Darkest Moment, and so on. Different types of stories use these scenes in different ways, but most modern plots follow this basic structure.

For your novel, write down what you think will happen for each of the seven scenes. I do this on my writing program, but if you’re more of a tactile person it might help to write out your scene outlines on note cards or pieces of paper so you can see where everything fits. Once you’ve got these seven scenes pretty well nailed down, you’ll start seeing what needs to happen to get your characters from one key scene to another.

As always, remember that all we’re doing here is creating a guideline. You are not bound to follow this outline slavishly once you start writing. But having a skeleton to work with can make it much easier to figure out what to do when you’re twenty or thirty thousand words deep into the novel and wondering where the hell to go from here.

And that’s about all the pre-NaNoWriMo wisdom I have for you folks. Once November starts, I’ll have a few more posts about how to manage your time and how to keep going when the writing gets tough.

But until then, start thinking about your characters and plot. It might not all click right away. But keep at it, and soon enough you’ll be outlining with the best of them.

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