Blackcoats: A Brief Overview

Cryptids, alternate dimensions, zombies, lizard-people—all that stuff is real. That’s where the Cryptid Handling and Extranormal Secret Service comes in. Adam and Holly are two teenagers drafted into C.H.E.S.S. against their will after being genetically experimented on by rogue government scientists. Now they’ll have to learn to work together if they hope to make it out alive.

Blackcoats is a new series, though I’ve been working on it for years. It began as an attempt to create my own Animorphs-inspired series, throwing in a healthy dose of Chuck, Fringe, Men in Black, and Spider-man. The end result is basically Alex Rider meets Maximum Ride.

The first book, Dead Man Walking, will be out on Tuesday this week, and the following book, The Next Mutation, will be out two weeks later. The third book, One World Over, will come out two weeks after that. All are available for pre-order on the Books Page. The plan at the moment is for the series to be comprised of five books, which will closed out the story and tie up all the loose ends. I have plans for further books, but whether or not I write them depend on if the demand is there and how well the initial five books sell. Like Animorphs, the books are written in first person POV, with each book being told from a different character’s POV. The first five books only rotate between Adam and Holly, but that will change if a sixth book is made. As of this writing, the fourth book is fully outlined and the fifth books is heavily outlined as well, though it won’t be finalized until the fourth book is finished. The goal is to have the fourth book out by the end of the year, and the fifth book out by June 2022 at the latest (though hopefully before then).

The books take place in the same world as A Spark Ignites, but other than the Inventor appearing in both, and a few blink-and-you-miss-it references and cameos, Blackcoats is it’s own separate thing. If you haven’t read A Spark Ignites, you’re not really missing anything, but if you liked Blackcoats, then maybe you should check Spark out.

Blackcoats: Dead Man Walking

The cover for my next book, Blackcoats: Dead Man Walking, is finished! This is the first book in a planned five book series, and will be released on March 9, 2021. (The next book will probably be a few weeks after that, and the third book will be in late April or early May.) I’ll update this post with the preorder link when it is available.

The goal was to make an Animorphs-style book, but I ended up with what one beta reader called Alex Rider meets Maximum Ride (I hope he meant the early books). I’ll post the blurb the cover. I’m really excited about this release. It’s been too long since I released anything (under my own name, anyway), and I can’t wait to share Blackcoats with the world.

When Adam arrives home to find his house swarming with government agents, he quickly discovers that his father was a secret government scientist specializing in fringe science and the paranormal. An agent reveals that Adam’s father was caught performing illegal experiments, including genetically modifying Adam’s DNA.

Now, with his father missing and the genetic tampering beginning to take effect, Adam’s only chance to find a cure is to help the agency track down his father. The mystery deepens as agents go missing, and all the evidence points to a man long dead. With the clock ticking and hints of a mole within the agency, Adam must uncover the traitor, find his father, and secure a cure—before it’s too late.

State of my Writing

I’ve been less productive than I’d like, but I figured I’d post a bit about where I stand with my current projects, if only to give myself some accountability.

A Spark Extinguished – The sequel to A Spark Ignites has a first draft, which I’d written years ago, but it just wasn’t working. I set it aside for a while, and it was only recently that I figured out how to make it work. It’ll require rewriting half the book, and it will be less conventional than the first book, but it can work. I plan on getting back to it sometime in 2021, probably in the latter half.

Untitled Jewish Fantasy Novel – I have a solid outline and wrote and rewrote the first chapter several times, but I still can’t figure out how I want the story to be told. I put it off to the side for an indefinite amount of time, until I figure it out. Maybe once I finish The New Avalon Chronicles.

The New Avalon Chronicles – A fun Animorphs inspired YA SFF series with zombies and werewolves and secret agents. The first book is done– I’ve written twenty drafts, might give it a once over before publishing. Initially I’d hoped to have it traditionally published, but while numerous agents showed interest, they all ultimately passed. The most common reason I heard was that they would not be able to sell it in the current market, and I’d written a book that would’ve fit in with the market a decade or two ago. So self-publishing it is. Anyway, the series is intended to be a total of five books, the second of which is in middle of the third draft, but will need at least two more to be presentable. The third book already has a detailed eleven page outline, and the last two have decent five page outlines. I plan on publishing the first book early next year, and the second book within three or four months from the first book. Still considering whether or not to try out commissioning an audiobook. I’d be expensive, so if I do, it’d be just for the first one, and I’d see how it does.

I have a handful of other projects in various states, but nothing as far along as what I have above. Well, there are two other books I outlined recently, but I doubt I’ll have time to work on them before finishing the projects mentioned above. Things can change though.

Am I Allowed to Write This?

(Yeah, I know this is controversial. Please hear me out and read the post in its entirety before passing judgment. Thanks.)

There’s been a recent trend in publishing lately, which can be summed up in the phrase “Stay in your lane.” Essentially, ‘if you did not have these experiences, if you do not share the same skin color as your character, then you are not allowed to write that character.’ That seems severely limiting if you ask me, but it is what it is. Who are the gatekeepers who enforce this rule? Agents? Editors? Publishers? Twitter? All of the above? I don’t know. I get the intention behind it, and as far as intentions go, it’s a good one. Noble, even. I just don’t know if the policy as a blanket rule is a good one.

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I recently wrote a draft of a novel that I now realize I’ll probably never be able to traditionally publish if publish at all. The main character of this novel is black, which for the most part doesn’t factor into the plot (its a fun, sci-fi werewolf story), but there is one scene where the main character gets into a fight with her (white) boyfriend for physically beating up another kid in their school who had called her a racial slur. She’s of the opinion that physical violence isn’t justified except to respond to physical violence or to protect oneself, and he disagrees.

Before I continue, here’s a little background on myself. I am Jewish. My grandparents were literal slaves in Auschwitz, my aunt was murdered by Nazis as an infant, just for being born Jewish. As an obviously recognizable Orthodox Jew (yarmulke and everything) I’ve faced my fair share of anti-semitism. Folks have thrown pennies at me or yelled, “Kike,” as they drove by, among many other incidents. This one time, a guy on the train yelled, “Jew-maggot,” at me, then proceeded to go on a tirade about how I’m personally murdering blacks and Palestinians. And in all this, I never responded, never raised a fist. Oh, I was angry, but I didn’t think violence would do anything but make the situation worse. Then, there was this other time, when I was a teenager, I ran into a distant relative, and as we were catching up, a girl walked by. My distant relative immediately started sexually harassing her (verbally, but it was some pretty vile stuff). Before I’d even realized what has happened, I’d decked him, knocking him to the ground with a punch to the face. I don’t think that was the right thing to do, and I probably could’ve defused the situation with words, but I did what I did–and wouldn’t be surprised if I did it again in the same situation. I think I find it easier to take the non-violent approach when it concerns me being attacked, but when it concerns another group, I have a harder time doing so.

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I used these incidents came out in my manuscript. You can’t say it isn’t about my own experiences, because it is, albeit not exactly. I am not black (nor am I a woman), so I suppose my entire manuscript will forever remain a file on my computer. Because I don’t match up EXACTLY  with the character I’m writing about. Because my experience doesn’t match up EXACTLY with the character I’m writing about. (I’m also not a werewolf, though apparently, that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.) Because Twitter or whoever decided I’m not allowed to write about it.

I have a story to tell.

But you’ll never read it.

EDIT: Well soon you can. I decided to self-publish and release the book as in its original format–as my original vision. I had a story to tell, based on my own personal experiences and feelings, and I think I did a good job telling it. I hope whoever reads it does not get offended by it, but I feel I didn’t cross any line, and I’m going to stand by what I wrote. Here’s hoping it doesn’t destroy me.

Update and Distractions

On top of turning 30 this week, I finished the first draft of another manuscript. I’ll probably do another pass over the next week or so, then put it to the side and outline another book, before jumping back into a manuscript I’d started a few months ago. I feel like I have too many plates spinning, and I’m on a time crunch. I’m writing them for my kids, but my daughter will be the right age in just eight years or so. That sounds like enough time, but it doesn’t feel like it. I have in my head six different books that I’d like to be finished by then before I can focus on the older-skewing ideas, but I don’t know if I’ll be fast enough to meet the deadline.

I really need to watch less TV.

Messages in Writing: Put Down the Hammer

I’m a big sci fi guy. I used to love Doctor Who, although lately I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. Meanwhile, I recently binged my way through The Orville, which I loved. Both shows are written by writers with similar politics, trying to explore political and philosophical issues through the lens of sci fi (as good sci fi generally does). So why was it that I enjoyed The Orville while being turned off by the recent season of Doctor Who?

The major difference between the two shows is how they explore their subjects. The Orville will raise an issue, explore it from both sides, tell you what each character thinks, and leave it to you to come to your own conclusions. It lets you think. Doctor Who on the other hand (I’ve noticed this with Supergirl as well) will show an issue, demonize anyone who holds an idea different from the writer/main character, hits you over the head with their ‘answer,’ telling you exactly what you should think. Even if you agree with everything they’re saying, its still patronizing.

The Orville is sci fi. Doctor Who is propaganda.

This realization made me realize what I hated about one of my shelved manuscripts. It was pushing a message, where my answer was the ONLY answer. And it just sucked. Rule of thumb, tell a good story before telling a good message, and second, don’t tell folks what they should think (or at least don’t make it so obvious), and instead let them come to the conclusion on their own. If you’re a talented enough writer, they’ll end up exactly where you want them anyway.

I’m Done Writing

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Yeah, I’ll admit the title is misleading. No, I’m not done with writing in it’s entirety, but I am done with this book. After thirteen drafts, its about as polished as I can make it. And I’ve got other half-completed manuscripts that need my attention. It feels weird, after having spent so long with something to put it aside. I’ve heard that art is never really finished, just abandoned, and the older I’ve gotten, the more true that seems to be. Can my manuscript be better?

Probably. But in its current state its as good as I can make it, as the writer I am today. I’ve very proud of it, and I’m querying it around. But the revision period is over. Perhaps if I get an agent, I’ll return to it again.

On another note, while I had previously spoke of the virtues of self-publishing, I now find myself perusing the traditional route. What changed, you may ask? I find myself with more patience ever since I became a father. I have time to query, to wait. This isn’t a race. And if in a few years I find myself still without an agent and a virtual stack of completed manuscripts on my hard drive, then I’ll probably dive into the self-publishing pool. But for now, I have time. For now, I wait.

Do Research!

My wife was watching Riverdale the other day, and I caught bits and pieces of it. Basically, Archie was being tried for murder. Now, ignoring how this is a ludicrous adaptation of the source material, lets look at what was actually going on. Archie was being tried for first degree murder and first degree murder only. That means that there had to have been mens rea, or for the layman, malice aforethought. It needs to be proven that it was premeditated. First degree murder is notoriously the hardest charge to prove, which is why they usually also consider a second degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. But not here! Without any motive (or weapon!) the prosecution still pushed for first degree murder only. Basically, the prosecutor is the worst lawyer ever, and a sever waste of taxpayer money.

Then, despite being on trial for willful premeditated murder, the court lets Archie out for an extended weekend while the trial is going on. NO JUDGE WOULD EVER ALLOW SOMEONE TO POST BAIL FOR MURDER ONE (at the very least, make him use a tracker or something).

The jury comes back stuck at 6-6. Now with such a split, any prosecutor would not try the case again (maybe if there were one or two jurors leaning the other way, but not HALF OF THEM!), but this one says that she’s going to try the case again.

Yeah, I’m a lawyer, but you don’t have to be a lawyer to pick up on how ridiculous all this is. And all of this could’ve easily been fixed with some tweaks, provided that the writer actually did some research. It’s not like you have to go to the library to look this stuff up anymore. We have the internet now. All it takes is a click.

So please, when you’re writing in an area that you don’t have intimate knowledge of, please do some research. Even a cursory glance at a Wikipedia page will keep you from looking like an idiot.

Yet Another Update

Just checking in. Things have been slow-going, though not for bad reasons. Two weeks ago my son was born, so that along with my daughter has been keeping me busy. Writing hasn’t fallen by the wayside though, at least not completely. I’m in middle of the sixth draft of my book, and this one is going to be a heavy rewrite. The story is still mostly the same, but I realized that the book would be easier to sell as a YA book than as an Upper Middle Grade book, so I’m rewriting the book to age it up somewhat. Due to this shift, the sequel to that book, which I’m still in middle of, has obviously been pushed off to the side until I lock the first book down.

I’ll do my best to keep you guys apprised from here on out.

What has it been? Two Years?

Wow. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Despite the lack of posts, I haven’t been sitting around on my hands doing nothing. So where’s the second Spark book? Well it’s written. It was written a while ago. But I don’t like it. I still like the first half, but something about the second half just wasn’t clicking. Every chapter was a chore, and I still don’t know how I feel about the ending. I’m going to have to completely rewrite at least half of the book. So it hasn’t been released yet, and it won’t be for a while. Since A Spark Ignites had an actual ending and didn’t leave any loose ends, I don’t feel pressured to release a sequel as soon as possible. A Spark Ignites is a stand-alone book, and while I’m sure some people would love a sequel, it just doesn’t need one. So for the time being, Spark 2 will sit as a file on my computer. I hope to return to it eventually, but right now I have other things on my plate.

Being a lawyer is time consuming, as is being a father and husband. It’s hard to find time to write. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped. I’ve been working on another book unrelated to Spark. Several of them, actually. I recently finished a fourth draft of one, and started writing another, not to mention I have several more books outlined. I won’t be releasing anything anytime soon though. Unlike A Spark Ignites, these books are part of a series, and I’ve learned my lesson with Spark. Until I have a number of books finished, I don’t plan on releasing any of them. I’d prefer not to force people to wait years in between books.

So yeah, just letting you guys know I’m still alive, still writing. You’ll see stuff from me eventually. Just bear with me please.