Now Offering: Editorial Services for Novels

Please email me at if you’re interested. I’m looking to edit large-scale manuscripts. I am able to do line-editing, overall structure, character development, etc. As a teacher of English and creative writing, I have a wide breadth of editing experience. I also am writing my own novels and work tightly with a critique group in my community. Here’s what I’m offering:

– First 10 pages critiqued for free. From there, you can decide if you’d like to use my services in the future.

– Fair, competitive prices. I’m looking at a lot of the mainstream editing websites. Several of them charge nearly $1500 for manuscripts longer than 50,000 words. I would be looking for significantly less than that.

– Deep and insightful commentary on your novel’s structure, line-by-line writing, and developmental content.

Please pass this along if you know those that would be interested!

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I’ve already sprinted through three solid books in 2015, and have several around the house half-read, but Golden Son?

I devoured Golden Son.

It has the kind of compelling storytelling that demands your attention until the ride is over. For those that haven’t already discovered Red Rising, you should start there. Not only is the first installment amazing, but a massive bidding war was won by Universal and I’m pretty sure the movie will turn this into even more of a cult following than it already is.

I reviewed Red Rising (Post found here: ) if you want to read about it. Anyways, on to Golden Son and why Pierce Brown did it the right way.

1. Why not make your characters do the most interesting thing every time?

That’s what it started to feel like as I made my way through Golden Son. I wondered how Brown could follow an action-packed opening in a world without some of the constructs that the first book relied upon. The first novel involves an arena much like the type we see in Hunger Games and other dystopian stories. As we’ve also seen in those dystopian books, the authors struggle to maintain our interest as they remove the rapid-paced action of their original arenas.

Pierce Brown had no issue with that. The story takes us spiraling through one action scene after another. Betrayals are compounded by new alliances, new threats, and new challenges. In some ways, Brown is served by the populace he is writing about. The Golds in this society are simply lethal. There natural proclivities toward war and their insatiable hunger for power provides him the perfect backdrop for Darrow’s maneuverings. It really seemed like Brown was following one rule: do the most interesting thing. In each scene, he has his characters ratchet up the heat of what’s happening. Raised stakes, multiplying enemies, plots within plots. It makes for a joyride of a read.

I was at the World Fantasy Convention this Fall and Christopher Golden had high praises for Pierce’s work. He said that, in some ways, the story itself wasn’t something new. We’d seen lowly man rise up from the dust before. But he claimed Pierce’s writing and style and ability to drag us through his story at 150mph is just too good to pass up. I agree.

2. Internal Monologue

I always admire a writer that succeeds in their internal monologue because I find it so difficult to create. Genuine, internal feeling is difficult to conjure from thin air because, frankly, we have enough problems figuring out how we are feeling from moment to moment. Pierce has me feeling every emotion of his main character through genuine and provocative internal monologue. I simply love the way that Darrow considers others around him. At some points, the purpose is to analyze the threat they represent to his plans. At other points, he seeks to answer questions that each and every one of us ask about what it means to be human. He’s an easy main character to follow.

3. Present Tense

I’d love to analyze, at some point, how many authors write in the present tense. I’m not sure of Pierce Brown’s reasons behind choosing to write in this style, but I really find the present tense fitting for his purposes. Every scene seems to orient around dramatic actions, fighting, and moment to moment shifting in power. The present tense that’s employed in this story launches us forward and leaves us feeling active in the scene. I might as well be sitting at the war table or clawing through the mud after Darrow.

4. Sentence Structure

Recently, I noticed Joe Abercrombie discussing the topic of sentence structure on Twitter. He was lamenting the fact that we look at long, winding sentences as the “beautiful” parts of prose. In reality, a short and crisp sentence that fits the necessary tone can be just as lovely. The example attached to his post was Cormac McCarthy and his use of short sentences to emphasize, disrupt, and draw the attention of the reader to certain emotions. I really think the same thing is accomplished in Brown’s first two works. Really love the variance and I really hate that people will likely attack his use of short sentences as “uncomplicated” or “prosaic”. He knows his stuff.

Lastly, I will conclude by saying how much I loved his acknowledgements section at the end of the book. Sometimes, you just forget how much an author has gone through to get published. I just finished my first book. I had one very respectable agent take a long look at my novel (including rewrites and a second read), but we didn’t connect. Now I’m waiting to see if anyone will take my book on. I’ve just completed a second book, and I’ll begin a whole new process with it. It’s easy to read Red Rising and Golden Son, recognize the transcendent talent of the author, and think that there are just some people who it all comes to more naturally. Seeing the road he’s taken to get where he is was super impressive. It just shows that, if you really love doing something, you should continue to fight for your right to do it.

Either way, I highly suggest you get hold of this series before every single person you know is bragging about how much they like it. Someone once told me that it was the White Person’s Mecca to find a great band before everyone else does. I think it is EVERY reader’s journey through Middle Earth to stumble upon a great work of fiction that none of their friends have heard of. For me, that’s been Red Rising and now Golden Son.

Go get it!

Best Reads of 2014

This is a selfish list… but here are the books that I’ve read during the 2014 Calendar Year. My goal was to read 50 books this year (A good writer has to be a good reader). These are the books I’ve read, enjoyed, and am now ranking for your potential reading pleasure:

1. Red Rising by Pierce Brown- From start to finish, I was enthralled. As mad that I have to wait for the second book as I am about waiting for George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter.

2. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest- It might have just been the new world of steampunk, it might have been the flashbang style of what happens inside the city walls, but whatever it was… it worked.

3. The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater- I think she had the most likeable band of characters that I’ve read in a long time. It helps that her prose is full of clever turns of phrase and authentic interactions.

4. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller- Considering I just got married in March, this makes sense. What a great book for understanding and gaining perspective on marriage.

5. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.- Finally read this. Dark and haunting and, at times, mystifying. But his writing is so good that you have to read it just to see a style that is borderline unachievable.

6. The Tarot Accounts by Keith Dupuis- A member of my writing group, Keith just finished his first book in the past few weeks. The world sincerely needs to be on the look out for his work. The stories of Rune and Brand will be bestsellers in no time.

7. The Daedalus Incident by Michael Martinez- Hard to figure out where to put this one! It was such a teasing, pleasurable combination of genres. I didn’t love one of the viewpoint characters though, and that caused it to slide a little in my eyes.

8. Looking for Alaska by John Green- I get the hype on him and totally understand now why my students find his work so appealing. It’s raw and unapologetic in its approach to a younger generation that is facing real life problems. I loved the characters, but also think his main way of interesting the audience in his characters is a bit cheap. Are there kids that have ridiculous and amazing talents? Of course. But a kid who memorizes the last words of famous historical figures? It’s plausible, but it made Pudge feel a little fake to me.

9. The Darwin Elevator by Jason Hough- The fact that this even cracks the top 10 is a credit to Jason’s ability. I’m just not that into science fiction, but I loved his characters. I actually thought the major weakness of his character was the major weakness that my character suffers from… A steady person that happens to be in the midst of incredible circumstances. Our characters lack that poetic individuality that makes them a long-lasting favorite in the eyes of an audience.

10. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb- Seriously a treat to dive down into what I would consider foundational fantasy. As with any book of this style, there are times where the description weighs a hundred pounds and the pace is too slow. But who wouldn’t want to be trained by Chade? Cool story and fun to read.

10. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire) by Naomi Novik- Once again, the idea of this world is gripping and fascinating. Dragon air forces during Napoleonic times? Yes, please. The climax doesn’t pay off though, and the style can be weighty at times.

11. The Gunslinger by Stephen King- The prose in this story is just easy and interesting. There are some creative worldbuilding elements, but I struggled to fully enjoy them. A lot of chasing that amounts to little pay off.

12. Divergent by Veronica Roth- I’m sorry, but it just isn’t fun to read. I felt the same way about it that I felt about Eragon after reading Game of Thrones. You just can’t go back to something like that. I get why the book is popular, but I prefer the depth of almost every book above this one.

It’s May and I’ve only read 16 books… Good thing the summer is almost here.

Honorable Mentions Just Because I Read Them For Class and They Don’t Count:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Romeo and Juliet by Billy Shakespeare

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Book Review: Red Rising

I was introduced to Pierce Brown’s novel, Red Rising, by a member of my writing group. Keith described it saying, “You want to be mad at it for being like Hunger Games, but it’s better.” The summation of this review is that Keith was right.

The story takes place on dystopian Mars. Our narrator, Darrow, is a Red. Being part of the lowest of a color-coded caste system, he and his people work deep in the bowels of a colony on Mars. Circumstances lead Darrow to join a revolutionary group that will use his skills and abilities to infiltrate the Golds by enlisting him in the “Institute”, an arena-like school for the social elite.

Here’s what I loved about this book:

1. Character motivation-  The Hunger Games gets off to a cleaner start than this novel. The system of selection, Katniss’ sacrifice, are all much cleaner than Darrow’s awakening into a revolutionary. However, Brown does a much, much better job of building a character that burns with anger over what happened to him and his people. Katniss has an embittered point of view that goes from hopeless to triumphant. Darrow gives us fire and passion throughout, and is far easier to root for.

2. Violence- Like many dystopians in the Young Adult genre, this book features immense amounts of violence. My take? If you’re going to have the violence in there, it should at least make sense and be well done. The Hunger Games pits young children against each other in a believable, violent setting. Red Rising does the same, only it does it better. The men and women heading into this arena are all built for violence. The system their mentors put them through is cruel and merciless. Brown does a far better job of providing us with tactics, gruesome descriptions, and turned tables. I think what stood out is how he can slow down those scenes and display what’s happening. His descriptive writing really reaches a level that Collins can’t touch.

3. Supporting Cast- To me, this was the major difference. If you think about the characters around Katniss, they’re okay. Peeta? He’s got that politician polish to him. Gale has that “revolutionary” thing going. Haymitch was a clever derivation from the “wise mentor” role. Some of the opponents even fascinate us in book one… Rue is heart-breaking and Foxface is a survivor and Cato is brutal and…. they all lack depth! They’re forgettable in the end. Not the supporting cast in Red Rising. Cassius is fascinating, and has a reason to hate Darrow that is undiscovered. Sevro is a chilling, demon of a character that we can’t help but love. Titan is terrifying, but only a shadow of greater evils to be faced. I was surprised by how well-done all of Brown’s characters were. Really easy to love or hate, but infinitely followable and understandable.

4. The World- Authenticity of language and world-building terms were just wonderful in this book. He had me wanting to say “bloodydamn” or “gorydamn”. I wanted to fight the Golds alongside the Reds. I wanted to talk in the HighSpeak with Cassius. There is just an infinitely cool and well-built world in this book by Pierce Brown.

In conclusion, if you liked The Hunger Games at all, you’ve found the next and better book to read. I really believe that this book outshines it’s predecessor in word for word writing. I’ll never deny The Hunger Games as a brilliant and entertaining book. It’s just not as clever as what Brown has done, and not nearly as well-written. Already looking forward to the sequel!

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Add Mrs. Stiefvater to the list of authors that need to be known by more people. I guess with 44k followers on Twitter (@mstiefvater) , she IS a household name. But when my librarian asked who she was, I lamented the unfairness that not everyone’s heard of this wonderful author.Artwork by: Cassandra Jean

The Raven Boys falls into a category that I would label as “convergence”. We have a paranormal thriller that features college aged students seeking enigmatic treasures. I say convergence, because the story reminded me a little of Steven Erikson’s epic fantasies. though the scale is not as large, fate and magic and circumstance seem to slowly gather all the characters to a time and a place, creating a convergence.

I don’t want to dive too deeply into the plot. Boiled down to its essence, the book centers on the converging worlds of a psychic family and four boys that attend Aglionby, a school for the rich and famous in Henrietta, Virginia. The boys? They’re on a quest to locate a mystical figure that promises a different reward for each. The women? They’re mostly trying to keep Blue from a first kiss that will doom the recipient.

What I want to talk about is not the plot, but the style and wonder that Stiefvater creates through her prose. I’ve broken down a few things I noticed and loved:

1. Recreating Gatsby- It might just be that the name “Gansey” sounds like it, but Stiefvater manages to recreate a passionate, respected, tortured soul reminiscent of the great Gatsby. In Gansey, we have a focal point, a person for the other characters to orbit. He is alluring at times, proud at others, but always he draws the plot forward and the other characters into more interesting circumstances. The quest for the mystical treasure, at its heart, is his. The way that another character, Adam, reveres and despises this character had me comparing him to Nick Carraway. Although, I find Adam far more likeable than Nick.

2. Internal Dialogue at it’s finest- Stiefvater’s greatest accomplishment, in my eyes, were the authentic character observations. The characters have an understanding of one another. They make remarks, and observations, that are accurate and telling. Between the four boys (Adam, Ronan, Gansey, and Noah) there is a unique friendship that takes on all the many facets of a beautiful diamond. I was really quite astonished by her ability to make these seem so genuine. Here are two observations that Blue makes about Gansey in the book:

 “When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.”
“He strode over to the ruined church. This, Blue had discovered, was how Gansey got places – striding. Walking was for ordinary people.”
Those seem like simple observations to me. Yet, internal monologue can be so hard to get down. I chalk it up to Stiefvater’s excellent understanding of voice.
3. Covering Her Bases- The wider you cast the net, the more people you seem to catch. Every character in this book has peculiar and unique strengths. If you’re a hothead, you’re going to love Ronan. If you are someone who can sweep a room off of it’s feet, you’ll love Gansey. If you like characters that think carefully and react calmly, Adam’s your meal ticket. If you like someone that questions, challenges, and stands strong, Blue will be irresistible! Good characters can be mirrors for us. We will hold them up and see certain things we like, or don’t like, about ourselves. We can read their stories and learn, read their stories and change.
4. Shades of Magic- I say shades because the characters and the interactions seemed central. Paranormal activities were a fine addition that touched every character in some form or fashion. This, to me, is one of the most proper ways to do it. If the magical system or idea is the main thing, don’t we get bored? She had some wonderful bits of magic, and I thought they stayed consistent throughout.
So what did I NOT like:
1. Promise of Premise: I could end up wrong on this one. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say I’m wrong. But promise of premise is important. Here’s what I mean: when your book sets up something to happen, we want to see it happen. Promise of the premise can be seen easily in The Truman Show. At the start of the movie, we’re told that Truman is inside of a world that is run by actors and is completely fake and he doesn’t know it! The premise we’re promised is that this unaware man will have to somehow come into contact with the lie he is living and begin to understand it, challenge it, or hate it. If the movie doesn’t explore this premise that it’s promised at the beginning? We’ll hate it!
So… The Raven Boys features a delayed promise of premise. We are given information at the beginning that will come to fruition, but not until book 2 or 3 or whenever. That ISN’T always a bad thing, but I think in this case it made the climax of the story a little less of a payoff for me. I was given powerful questions to chew on at the start of the story, and they’re sitting on my lap into book 2. Which seems like a necessary thing for ANY series. But it’s also the slightest of frustrations with an otherwise flawless book.
My advice? Go. To your library or local bookstore or amazon…. Go and buy this book. It delivers in so many ways. I think it may be one of the better studies of character building that I’ve read in a long, long time. Really powerful stuff and I’m already moving on to her second book in the series, The Dream Thieves.
Happy reading!


Hot Reads, Zeke! – 10 Books to Grab Now

As a teacher and a writer, I cannot tell you how often people ask me:

“Are you reading anything good right now?”

People want to read and they often struggle to branch off from a series they liked. Fans of Hunger Games always like to read…. the Hunger Games. We have this tendency to re-read, when there are thousands of new books out there! So here is a list of great books I’ve read (and some that I’ve just heard of) that I think will fit the interests of readers that have liked some of the best selling books over the past 10 years.

1. Red Rising by Pierce Brown- A character living in the caves of Mars that thinks the surface isn’t habitable, but little does he know… This book was suggested to me by Keith Dupuis. He described it saying, “You want to get mad at it for being like Hunger Games, but it’s better than Hunger Games.”

Suggested for readers of: The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.

2. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie- A very gritty fantasy world that is incredibly character-driven. The story of impending war is told from multiple perspectives and we center on the ominous figure of Logen Ninefingers, whose luck seems to be running out. Like Game of Thrones, this fantasy realm has magic as an almost dying art. Very few people are a part of the world that possesses magic and it allows for real, authentic characters and their decisions toward good and bad to be central.

Suggested for readers of: A Song of Ice and Fire, Lord of the Rings, etc.

3. The Daedalus Incident by Mike Martinez- I wrote a blog post about this not too long ago. It’s a wonderful book. Combining science fiction and a sort of steampunk-ish adventure aboard sailboats cruising space. Oh, and Benjamin Franklin has been invited. Highly suggest this for readers of science fiction!

4. The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough- 23rd century Earth has centered around the city of Darwin after a mysterious, alien plague has transformed the rest of the population into, for lack of a better word, zombies. A space elevator (also installed by mysterious alien forces) is the rally point for all of civilization. I’ve just begun reading this story, but I can already tell its going to be great. The action moves quickly, the world is absolutely fascinating, and there are mysteries that we are already unfolding at the start of the story. Wonderful stuff.

5. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik- I stumbled upon this series as I did some research on dragons. Imagine the Napoleonic Wars… but with an air force of dragons. The story follows a naval commander that captures a dragon egg from an enemy ship. His adventures with the hatched dragon are worth the read.

Suggested for readers who like: Harry Potter, naval books, historical accounts, etc.

6. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova- The book that made me fall in love with Europe! A young girl adventures with her father through modern Europe… and a dark history haunted by the ghost of Vlad Tepes, also known as “Dracula”.

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green- A name that a lot of folks know these days, but if your kids have trouble getting into reading, John Green provides plenty of entertainment that will rope them in. His characters are realistic, have authentic high-school voices, and don’t shy away form actual problems.

8. The Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson- An obvious name in fantasy, but too few people actually know his work. If you’re into the epic fantasies that focus on war-torn and war-impending colonies, this is the book for you. I loved Erikson because his learning curve is STEEP and his magical system rocks. Not to mention his characters all feel a little larger than life. Gripping read… I didn’t hit the brakes until the 6th book, when I was ready for other styles and genres.

9. “Insomnia” a short story by Stuart Dybek – Have you ever seen the famous diner painting called Nighthawks by Edwin Hopper? Well, Dybek brings it to life in his stunning, fluid prose. We explore the thin line between the waking and dreaming world, as well as the thin line between connection and disconnection in the world we live in. We need more writers like Dybek being taught in our schools.

10. “China Men” by Maxine Hong Kingston- Again, a name that is growing in popularity and even in use in schools. I recently discovered someone at my school is teaching one of her other memoir’s. She does a wonderful job of blending the stories of her childhood with fictional tales and mythical tales. Kingston successfully demolishes our view of immigration and the difficulties that come with a family moving to America.

Hope you enjoyed the list! Please share with others!

A Mid-Book Review: The Daedalus Incident

“Never trust anyone that has not brought a book with them.” Lemony Snicket

My current book is The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez ( I encountered the book through Sara Megibow ( who, aside from being a wonderfully available agent willing to answer questions of interested authors, is great at championing her clients’ works. Out of respect for the advice she’s offered me, I decided to check out The Daedalus Incident.

And so far? I’m thrilled that I chose this one to read. The tale follows two storylines. The first features Jain, a gritty lieutenant involved in the mining operations on Mars in the 2100’s. Martinez does a pretty great job of projecting our current world forward in terms of technology and general space exploration. The world he’s built around Lt. Jain is believable, interesting, and a tasty treat for the science fiction fan. The other story features Lt. Thomas Weatherby and his undertakings aboard the HMS Daedalus in the 18th century.

The only catch?

Some kind of alchemical advancement has drastically altered the course of history. Martinez shoves us into the action as he shows the Daedalus traveling, not through the high seas, but the Void as they round Mercury. This alternative history drags in a number of curious, historical figures that everyone that’s been to high school has heard of.

My take: This is a very solid book. I have to admit that, after reading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, I didn’t think I’d be up for another story featuring a “proper” naval commander. Weatherby grew on me quickly though. And his side of the story is jam-packed with wonderful, imaginative science fiction / fantasy elements. The mystery behind how the world has transformed so drastically does a wonderful job of pulling us forward in the plot. The worlds we get to experience? Creative and clever. I love this side of the story and cannot wait to figure out the mystery that Martinez is leading us toward.

So what do I not like?

I have to admit that Lt. Jain’s side of the story took a while to pick up for me. There is a mystery there as well. We begin to wonder if these two worlds and histories will collide (with cleverly dropped hints by Mr. Martinez). However, Jain is one of those “tough and gritty” characters that I have a hard time attaching to as a reader. The introduction of a Bill Nye-esque character helped pull me back in. I have to admit, I’m not a huge “hard science” guy, so there are parts where I drift in and out.

I also did a lot of thinking on the ideas of “the teaser”. Martinez deftly maneuvers between the two story lines, often leaving us with somewhat climactic discoveries at the end of each chapter. I first encountered this “leading on” of the reader in The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Her chapters are done so well that you are really forced to keep going and learn more. I noticed sometimes that in Martinez’s work, I was feeling two different ways.

Half of the time: Enticed. I wanted more. I loved it. It pulled me on through the text and I was genuinely getting goosebumps over the mystery.

Half of the time: Mad. I was enjoying that section and was upset that I’d have to read a full 4 pages of something I wasn’t as interested in to wait for the revelation of what they discovered.

I guess there’s just a balance to be struck in these kinds of stories. I know that I was writing a story with multiple perspectives and I had to stop. I just didn’t have the chops for it at that point.

Mchael Martinez not only HAS the chops for it, but he has succeeded in creating a genuine, genre-bending, thrill-seeking adventure book. Go find him at your local bookstore! Or order on amazon! Or anything! Whatever you have to do to get your hands on this good read. I highly suggest reading it if you have any interest in the following things:


Naval Ships

Some of our founding fathers

Romance / Fighting / Plundering


Alternative History


Until next time, happy reading!