New to the World of Magla? Meet Cam

In the world of Skywatch, technology rules. Daj, a Maglan sponsored by Scitech, needs lots of camera time to keep up the ratings on his vid streams. Lucky for him, he’s got a little friend that can get all the angles that the Nanosite technology can’t reach.

Here’s a pixel sketch of one of my favorite characters in the book!

Meet Cam. She’s a Camdrone Mark I, practically a fossil amongst the ever-developing tech, and Daj has known her for as long as he can remember. She’s a personal tracking camera drone, but she’s so much more.

She’s the only thing Daj has left from his parents.

Want to hear more? Read Skywatch, releasing on 6/10/21 on the major sites, including Amazon. Audiobook is coming in July!

If you’re interested in getting an advanced copy for review purposes, check it out here on Booksprout.

Did you miss the post on Daj? Read it here!

Books are for Reading, Not Eating! releases on 5/18 but something else is coming soon…!

What are you eating this time, Liz?

Liz McKeeting eats the darndest books. What will she turn into this time?

In case you didn’t know, I have a children’s book releasing in just over a week. It will be available in ebook, paperback, and hardback formats through various bookstores including Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

My next novel, Skywatch, is coming out on June 10th. Here’s a sneak peak at the cover… Enjoy!

Cover art by Brennan Wagner.

Introducing the main character of Skywatch

Skywatch is my upcoming sci-fi novel releasing in June 2021. It is set on a distant planet called Magla where technology is embedded in nearly every being. This tech called “Nanosite,” allows users to be connected to each other all the time.

Today I’d like to share with you some information on my main character, Daj. Daj is a vid streamer, sponsored by a big-name corporation to advertise their tech; mainly new gear that he shows off on various jumps and trick runs across the city.

He’s got millions of followers and viewers. He lives for it the views and the social aspect of it all, but he’s always wanted to fly. That’s why he does tricks and stunt runs, but he’s got a bigger picture in his mind. Someday he wants to be a space pilot manning the rigs in the Dust Field in the planet’s atmosphere.

Is he a likeable character? Well, he is pretty self-centered. I mean, who wouldn’t be with all those followers and fans? He has little time for anything besides his dreams of flying.

My beta readers have stated that he is a believable character because he wants what he wants… but that’s because he doesn’t know everything yet. You can’t blame him for what he believes in because that’s how he was raised… right?

So, within a short time, Daj is in the thick of danger… and is forced to make decisions that might affect other people besides himself. Will he make the right ones?

A lot of my influence for this character comes from my job. I have taught a lot of students over 21 years, and the social media push in the last few years has made me think of a world where being connected all the time isn’t really just in our heads anymore. The means to be connected 24/7 is out there… but what if it was built into people? Could you really escape it? And would you want to?

Read the novel, Skywatch when it releases in June 2021.

Skywatch: Creating an original world for the story

The Dagger
ship design by Brennan Wagner

Always being connected to technology is nothing new for Daj, a young Maglan who dreams of flying. With constant access to vid streams, friends, fans, and everything digital, there’s nothing else he needs. When he stumbles upon an anti-tech group, however,
he begins to see the other side of a world controlled by technology.

When coming up with ideas for the story I felt like I had to run as far away as I could from my sci-fi roots… that is everything Star Wars. I’d spent years living and breathing SW (and no, there is no connection other than coincidence that my title is also SW…) that I always wanted to write a story in that universe. In fact, I had once upon a time created a bit of fan-fiction explaining how the Death Star plans originated.

And of course, there’s always the super-space-battle drawings I used to make as a kid all the time.

I think this drawing played out as a movie in my mind… first I drew everything and then the “Ultimate” battle began. Yes, I was only 10.

The reason I wanted to “unlearn” what I had learned, was so I could go into a story fresh and try to create everything my own, with no influences. See my article on creating fresh ideas.

Skywatch is an original sci-fi story set on a far-away planet called Magla. I toyed around with setting my story on Earth in the (near) future but there were too many things I had to think of… avoiding pop culture, phrases, etc. But then when you go to a different planet, you also have to wonder “Is this too similar to Earth? Why? Do they have dogs there?”

Being the science/math teacher I am, I had to think about the evolutionary trends on the planet. I created Magla as a planet with a high magnetic field. How would life have evolved on that planet? Would they have learned to adapt to it somehow? Use it for their own advantages? What different niches would organisms have?

I didn’t address all those things in the book, but I certainly thought about them as I crafted the world and its life forms. Of course, I don’t want to spoil ALL the things about the life on that planet as it is key to the storyline. You’ll just have to find out more in the next couple of months!

Keep an eye out for more articles and news about my upcoming story, Skywatch, releasing in June of 2021.

Skywatch ship design by Brennan Wagner

Upcoming sci-fi novel: Skywatch

ship design by Brennan Wagner

I’ve been writing and editing a novel for a year and a half now, and it’s finally time to launch! There are still some finishing touches on it, but by June I will have it available.

Skywatch is a sci-fi story set on the planet Magla. The people on that planet are always connected to a form of nanotechnology that allows them access to vids, friends, games, digital upgrades… and that is normal for them.

Daj, a young stunt-streamer with a huge following and sponsorship, dreams of flying, just like his parents did. When his biggest stunt goes wrong, however, he begins to see the other side of a world controlled by technology.

Stay tuned… more news coming shortly!

Creating an original work of fiction in a saturated market

Ever wonder if someone has a truly original idea? It’s so hard in this world with the sheer number of movies and shows and books and comics and any other form of fiction to think that you can come up with something that is just your own.

I grew up reading Dragonlance and Endless Quest and of course Tolkien. Could I come up with a work of fantasy or science fiction that isn’t the slight bit influenced by those sources?

I loved creating stories and adventures on the backs of journals and notebooks and spare scraps of paper until finally in 2000 I started to craft the world of the Soulkind.

The original stone I found… there’s a story, but that’s for another post!

Magical adventure stories have always struck my heart, and so I created a land where magic has been locked away for a thousand years, and now it is awakening. The Soulkind are artifacts that used to control certain forms of magic and allow those that master them to pass down what was created in each generation. A thousand years ago when that magic was silenced, the souls of their Masters were trapped inside them as well. As the magic awakens, what will happen to the souls who don’t wish to pass on?

            And what will people do with the power of magic? Some will use it for good, some for their own self-interests, and there will be those that won’t have the skill to use it. I focused my story around a small group of friends and their adventures in the Soulkind Awakening. They’ve all dreamed of using magic, and now that it is here, they all want to be students.

            The Soulkind Series has three books, The Soulkind Awakening, The Shadow of the Soulkind, and The Soulkind Master. The main story arc closes in the third book, but I have started to plan out some short stories or another series I can follow. I haven’t decided yet, but my wall is covered with sticky notes with character names and plotlines. I like my characters too much to say goodbye!  

            If you’re interested in an epic fantasy series, check out the Soulkind Series, available on Amazon. You can get it in eBook, Paperback, or as an Audiobook.

            As for what’s next, I have two projects arriving this summer. One is a kids’ book my wife and I co-wrote, called Books are for Reading, Not Eating! Ever since we had two kids and read them book after book, I always wanted to create a kids’ book… one that is fun to both read and to look at. I didn’t have the time or skills to create the illustrations, so I put the story on a shelf until I could figure something out.

Liz McKeeting, the spunky little book eater from my kids’ book!

            Since then, I found an illustrator for the book and created a Kickstarter to fund the project. Please check it out if you have a chance!

            My last project for the year (possibly!) is a science fiction story called Skywatch. Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to write a Star Wars story. Seeing the first movie as a little kid in a drive-in made a huge impression. That was the definite beginning of my creativity and imaginative play as a kid, and that has carried through to adulthood. I’m a science and math teacher as well as a writer, so I used some of that background to create a new planet with its own organisms as a backdrop for a story. The story follows a young Maglan named Daj who dreams of flying. Most everyone on the planet uses an immersive form of technology that allows for all sorts of instant connections. Daj ends up seeing the other side of the world without technology.

            Skywatch releases in June 2021. You can stay in touch with the project, and all my others, at stevedavala.com. I’m also on Twitter and Instagram @sciteachah.   

Tips to Get a Children’s Book Self-Published

Did you ever read a kid’s book and say, “I could write one of those?” Well, I did too. I mean I had lots of experience reading plenty of them to my kids. I know the kind of book I liked, and the ones that really engaged the kids (and me, too). I had a goofy idea and whipped out some limericks bing bang, and I’m done. Easy like that.

Well, not really. And not even close. There’s so much more to it, and if you don’t have the art skills to illustrate an entire book, you’ll be spending some serious money.

I think even more attention needs to be given to the editing of a kids’ book, especially if you have rhyme. I think of all the Dr. Seuss books I read and how some of them are still rattling around in my head. If one line doesn’t flow even slightly I think a parent will be turned off from reading the book. So that’s why I had my quality assurance team member (aka Laurie my wife) take a look. She has an analytical mind and she actually had fun re-structuring the lines I made to flow with a certain meter.

Tip #1: Read it out loud and make sure rhymes flow easily. Better yet, skip the rhyming or patterns and just focus on the flow. I am in the middle of another kid’s book and this one doesn’t have a rhyme pattern. It is easier.

So, when I first looked at someone illustrating my book, I thought, “This might be only a couple hundred dollars, right?”

Wrong.

Think thousands, if you expect 24 pages with two-page illustrations. And a cover. Who has that kind of money? Unless you can market your self-published book like a boss (and I haven’t figured that out yet…) then you’ll have a hard time making all that money back.

Two things that helped me were finding a quality but well-priced Illustrator and running a Kickstarter or some other fund-raising project.

Tip #2: Use Upwork to find an artist that works for you!

Upwork.com is a place where you can find all sorts of Freelancers from all over the world ready to do all sorts of work. You can preview their portfolios, see their recommendations, and see how much they charge. It’s a very cool site. Upwork of course takes a cut off the amount you hire someone for.

I scanned through 15 or so potential artists and sent out the hire message. I got back people very interested in taking on the job and I had to sort through and find who was the best fit for me.

Tip #3: Run fundraiser to support your project.

Kickstarter and GoFundMe are the top ones I know of, and there are others I did not research yet. I chose Kickstarter since I was familiar with it. Make sure to look at a project that is similar to yours… to see what to do, and what not to do! I spent too long thinking about reward tiers and then I changed them all and, well, I wish I could start it over!

A good Kickstarter can spread the word about your book, get people to pre-order, and help fund the costs behind self-publishing. I’ll tell you when the next three weeks are over if I actually get the money, though! Interested in what my campaign looks like? Here’s the link to Books are for Reading, Not Eating!’s Kickstarter.

Of course, once you get this far and have the files for your book you have to put them together into a paperback and/or eBook. I chose Amazon KDP to self-publish though since I have some experience with them already with other books.

Here’s my fantasy books on Amazon from The Soulkind Series.

You can hire someone to format your images/files, but why not save money where you can? After spinning around for a bit trying to get help on KDP’s help forum, I found the video I was looking for on Youtube to help.

Tip 4: Use someone’s experience for formatting a book/eBook!

Here’s a video that really helped me.

So helpful, with sizes of images, PDFs, RGB vs CYMK… confused? She can help!

There are other tips for helping with getting a kids’ book published, but these are some of the most useful things I discovered along the way. Let me know if you have ideas that helped you, or if you have questions for me!