Finding Samara

If anybody had been following me when I first started the publication process of Assassin Marked, they would know the struggle I went through to come up with a cover for it. Since it was such a short story I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I also couldn’t find any stock photography that portrayed Damian.

Fast forward two years later to when I began preparing my first full-length novel, The Unfettered Child, for publication. I wanted to really do my best with it, so I started early. I had several plans:

  1. Getting my daughter to model the main character
  2. Making a costume
  3. Doing a photo shoot
  4. Finally, making the cover

When I first had the idea, my daughter was keen on doing the photo shoot for me. For months we talked about it, and I went about buying the supplies to make the costume. After getting these supplies to a friend of ours, Dennis Swain, a tailor who makes costumes, my daughter decided that she didn’t want to do it anymore. Understandable, she didn’t feel comfortable showing her face to 1000s of people or more.

Panicking, I searched Pixabay for a suitable image that I could use. I found a few, but I wasn’t really satisfied with any of them.

None of these were suitable, and all of them would require a lot of shooping.

I did come up with a few designs from these. The one with the beanie, I replaced with a fur hood and cropped the chest. I put some really cool effects in her eyes. It was a nice substitute, but not good enough.

The frowning, dark-haired girl was the closest in appearances to Samara, but not quite sufficient. The redhead had a good expression, but changing that hair color would have been horrible. Finally, I did something with the silhouette, and that made it close to the final design of my cover.

I was very disappointed. After some time, the subject was brought up again, and my daughter took pity on me and agreed to do it again, on the condition that her face not be shown. Not a problem, an action scene is generally better than just a simple pose.

She had mixed feelings herself. One part of her was very interested in being on the book cover, while the other part was afraid of being in front of a camera. She very obviously doesn’t like her picture taken. For me, she was the best candidate for Samara, despite her hair color.

So it was decided, we were to move onto the photo shoot.

To be continued …

Assassin Marked

Michael released Assassin Marked in October of 2017. However, Damian made his first appearance long before that, in a short story Michael wrote while still in high school.

Although nothing ever came of the original story, Damian continued to inhabit some primal domain in Michael’s imagination. He finally returned to our world in a dialog practice that Michael wrote for a college writing class. This, too, found itself filed away among many of Michael’s other writings.

Years later, Michael’s wonderful wife (who also happens to be a professional editor) took a look at Assassin Marked. After much persistence from her, Michael made the story what it is today, and Damian emerged from his secret hut, hidden away in Michael’s imagination.

The DuFonte Chronicles

In addition to Assassin Marked, Damian will be featured in future stories and novels in the DuFonte Chronicles, including Lavender Rose.

The DuFonte Chronicles!

Angela (Pooled Ink Reviews) rated it FOUR STARS  “ASSASSIN MARKED is a short story that introduces what is sure to be a very interesting world. Damien seeks vengeance, Victorias loyalties tear her apart, both have a choice to make that will alter the course of their lives. Do they obey orders? Or do they allow love to sway them and death to chase after? This is the story of an assassin marked.  …more

Grace J Reviewerlady rated it FIVE STARS “Firstly, let me say that Im not and never have been anything remotely like a fan of sci-fi. However, I just have to follow that up by saying I LOVED this short story! …more

Amanda (A Brighter Shade of Hope) rated it FOUR STARS “I would recommend this book to anyone who loves science fiction, gunships and assassins or is up for a simple but gripping read set in the solar system. I’m not sure if there are any plans for continuation of the story, but I would definitely love to read more of Damian, Victoria and the ruthless Syndicate in the future.  …more

 

 

Assassin Marked book cover floating in space

The last two weeks, I have been super busy writing. Not anything new. I’ve mostly been improving The Unfettered Child, preparing it for publication. Yup, that means my Camp NaNoWriMo project has been put on the back burner. Sorry, Camp NaNoWriMo!

This upcoming novel is entirely unrelated to Assassin Marked, but don’t give up hope, folks. I’m certain you will enjoy The Unfettered Child, and it won’t be too long before you see Lavender Rose’s release (the full-length sequel to Assassin Marked). Sorry, people waiting for the sequel.

Assassin Marked Ad
Free on April 30th

Speaking of Assassin Marked! As the title to this blog post states, I am running an Amazon promotion, so you can download a digital copy of Assassin Marked for free. Yeah, that’s right! Starting right now and continuing throughout today, April 30th, you can get Assassin Marked for free. What are you waiting for? Click here to order.

In other related news, something that’s been milling around in my head is turning Assassin Marked into a graphic novel. Turns out I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. Earlier this month, I received the following review on Goodreads:

Goodreads Review.

The main reason I’m bringing this up is that I would love an artist to step up and turn it into a comic book. What do you say, artists? Want to earn some royalties?

That’s all I’ve got for now. Thank you for your time.

~Michael C. Sahd

While perusing the endless posts of writers seeking help and advice on social media, I’ve run across some who ask, “How can I make magic work in my story?”

Many established authors have broached the subject and invented unique methods, but new writers want to make something fresh.

Pimply Wizard
A young wizard

The real question is: What is a fantasy story without magic? Of the top of my head, I can’t think of any high fantasy stories that don’t include magic of some kind. J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan, and so many more authors have included magic in their stories.

Each of these authors approaches the use of magic in their own way, and applies their own limits to its use. For example, Harry Potter must have a wand and must know the correct incantation. Stupefy anyone lately?

These limitations, I feel, are very important for an author to include, and would perhaps be the first thing to consider when developing a magic system. Without them, a character runs the risk of becoming a superbeing without challenges, and challenges are what make a story good.

While you are developing your system, consider including a learning curve for beginners, and the opportunity for growth. Remember Willow‘s first spell? He accidentally shot himself into a tree. Perhaps you can have a school for magic, or an apprentice system. Regardless of the method you choose, all of your characters should have a starting point, and a place to grow into.

Willow

These three things–limitations, learning, and growth–serve as a foundation to your character and their magical growth. Next, you can develop magical structure and techniques, but honestly, these are not important to flesh out unless you feel your reader needs them to understand the first three things.

In my current work-in-progress, for instance, a mage must draw upon their own inner reserve of power, which grows stronger as they practice the art. As the mage uses magic, it drains them, making them feel tired. If they push too hard, the mage will die from the exertion.

It’s a very simple explanation, and I like it that way. This allows me to focus on telling the story. Don’t let your lessons on how magic works interfere with the tale you’re weaving.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how magic works for you. Let me know in the comments below.

~Michael C. Sahd

If you are unaware of who Paul Burt is, you’re about to learn. How? Well, he narrates Assassin Marked. That’s how. Of course, you can also find out more about him at his website, or by clicking his name above or the image below.

Paul Burt
Paul Burt

If you’re wondering how I met Paul, it was on ACX, a website to help authors connect with voice actors. I auditioned a few voice actors, and I liked Paul’s reading the best out of the bunch. I feel he most accurately captured the noir style I was going for with Assassin Marked.

Those of you that have read Assassin Marked know that a good portion of the story is written from the point of view of the female protagonist, Victoria Maruska. I feel that, as a male, it is very difficult to portray a female’s voice when reading out loud. Many men give the female voice a high falsetto that is really awful to hear. Paul Burt managed to pull off Victoria without the falsetto, and it was pretty good. The only way it could be better would be if a woman had read it (but then Damian’s portion would have suffered, haha).

I’m really excited to see how well my readers like the audiobook. To get a copy of the audiobook, you can click here and sign up. Just think, now you can listen to Assassin Marked while driving or while waiting for an appointment! Even though the audiobook was only released this afternoon, people have already ordered it. I can’t wait to hear their feedback!

Here is a sample of Paul Burt reading the book:

Assassin Marked Audio

I hope you’re as excited as I am. If you get it, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

That’s all for now.

~Michael C. Sahd

Valentine’s Day 2019 seemed to be like any other day. I got up in the morning, took the kids to school, and then went to work. Same type of day as any other.

At 5:00 PM, I went home, again just like any other work day. Upon arriving at the house, I found my wife in the bedroom talking on the phone. I didn’t want to disturb her so I went to the kitchen and heated up some leftover pozole that I had made a prior day (It was very good pozole, I might add).

Bowl of Posole.
Homemade Pozole (Yes, this is the exact bowl I’m referring to).

I had just finished heating up my bowl, when my wife walked into the kitchen. I was just chewing my first bite when I looked up to see the disappointment transforming her smile.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said dejectedly.

“Oh,” I said, “you had something planned.”

“Well, no,” she said, pouting. “It’s OK. Eat your pozole.”

“No,” I said, putting my bowl in the refrigerator. “I only had one bite. Let me get ready.” Already, she looked pleased.

After getting ready, we asked our oldest son to watch his younger siblings, and headed out to the car. “Let’s take my car,” I said, and we both hopped in.

As I was pulling out of the drive, she said, “This is going to be tricky trying to surprise you while you’re the one driving.”

Stepping on the brakes, I said, “You can drive.”

“Nah,” she replied, and I continued backing up.

“Well, I can put on a blindfold and you can guide me,” I said, to which I just received a fake chuckle. What can I say, dad jokes aren’t very good at the best of times.

We opted for her to just tell me where to go, and I would be surprised as we neared the establishment. I didn’t mention that I had already guessed where we were going.

The destination was Tokyo Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar, despite the fact that my wife absolutely hates Japanese food (Oh, the sacrifices we make to please our significant others).

As we pulled up, we saw a family getting into their car, and two restaurant employees standing outside the entrance. Getting out of the car, we walked, arms linked, up to the doors. As we neared, one of the employees said, “I’m sorry, we’re closed,” in an accent that I’m certain wasn’t Japanese.

“Well, OK,” I said, a little disappointed, and we returned to the car. “OK, now what?” I asked, and she began leading me somewhere else.

The Turtle Restaurant in Brownwood TX.
Fancy McFancy Pants Restaurant

We went downtown, and her path eventually led us to The Turtle. I honestly don’t know much about this restaurant, except that it is fancy. Very fancy.

We entered and were greeted by a hostess. After returning the greeting, we requested a table for two.

“Do you have a reservation?” she asked.

“No ma’am, we don’t, but we can wait,” I told her.

She gave me one of those oh, you poor fool looks, and then said, “I can put you down, but it will be an hour and a half before we can seat you.”

Completely dejected, we retreated from the Fancy McFancy Pants restaurant, walked around the downtown sidewalks for a bit, and discussed our options. We would have waited, but it was a school night and we would need to help the kids with homework and get them ready for bed.

Eventually, we decided to go to Humphrey Pete’s, a local steakhouse. Nothing special for us; we’ve eaten there often enough. However, I did get a mahi mahi plate, a rare treat due to its expense.

What struck me most about this Valentine’s day though, was the wonderful bond I share with my wife. Even at our age and after all these years together, we still enjoy each other’s company, and there is nobody I would rather spend a blasé Valentine’s with.

That’s all I have for today. What did you guys think? How was your Valentine’s day? Tell me your story in the comments.

~Michael C. Sahd

New Year - Fresh Start

I can’t say that I have ever made a New Year resolution list. After seeing one of my fellow writers on Twitter make a post about it, I thought I would give it a shot. So here goes:

Write a little every day: I know I’ve said this many times, but I would like to keep it a goal that I write at least a little every day. I’ve read many books concerning getting published. Even my favorite book by Stephen King, called On Writing, insists that the only way to be a writer is to write more and read more, which brings me to my next resolution.

Read more: I actually do read every day. Every night before bed, I will read a chapter or two to my nine year old. Currently we are reading the Everworld series. I would, however, like to read for myself as well.

Enjoy work: I would like to find a way to enjoy my job, and somehow rid myself of the parts I don’t enjoy. I’ve already started taking measures toward this.

What about you guys, my faithful readers? What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Assassin Marked Book Cover
New Assassin Marked book cover

Happy holidays everyone! It’s time for another book promotion. Today, you have the rare opportunity to download Assassin Marked for free. Be sure to grab yourself a copy to read while you have a bit of time off work next week.

Speaking of time off (or the lack thereof), our house during the holidays has been a madhouse. Although many people make this claim about their households at this time of year, ours was especially hectic this year because we were unaware of our family’s main Christmas party until two days prior! To be frank, my wonderful wife was incredibly busy getting ready for it. She had planned to crochet bags to put presents in this year instead of wrapping them, so on top of cooking the cookies (and yes, the cookies were amazing), she  was also crocheting up a storm.

We ended up with many Christmas parties to attend during the weekend, which meant lots and lots of good food. I could have gorged myself, but I was good and didn’t. Ok, maybe a little.

I did, however, have the opportunity to show off my awesome homemade pepper sauce. This sauce was very simple: peppers, garlic salt, and vinegar. But oh my god, it was good, and, unfortunately for some, also stupid hot. Yes, I used Carolina reapers to make it. I eat hot peppers all the time, so this is not that big a deal for me. Why reapers? some may ask. Well, the flavor is amazing. The reaper has one of the best pepper flavors. It is so good that my wife puts at least one of these tasty peppers in the salsa she makes, despite the heat. If you can handle hot, I highly recommend this pepper.

How did your holidays go? Did you experience anything unexpected or unplanned while you were visiting family or opening gifts? Did you get (or give) anything awesome? If so, let me know in the comments below. That’s all for now.

~ Michael C. Sahd

Carolina Reapers
Carolina Reapers

NaNoWriMo website logo
NaNoWriMo

I’m a bit late for this, but my curiosity is piqued. What is this all about, you ask? Well, we’re going to find out together.

The Facebook group, Ninja Writers, is where I first heard tell of NaNoWriMo, as people have started calling it. In one post, a Ninja Writers’ member exclaimed that he was on his 100th page of his novel. That’s great! I thought. However, underneath that, he wrote, “NaNoWriMo is going well for me!” I thought to myself, What the hell is NaNoWriMo?

So I turned to my friend Google, and I said, “NaNoWriMo?” And Google, being the ultimate at knowing exactly what you want from single word questions, pointed me to https://nanowrimo.org, the National Novel Writing Month website.

I clicked around the site, and I determined a few things from what I read. First, I am very late. You’re allowed to sign up in September. Second, you start posting updates and all that from Nov 1st through the 30th. Third, the novel must have a minimum of fifty thousand words by the end of the month. Fourth, major authors give pep talks and support. Finally, it’s a community where writers meet.

Let’s get started:

After clicking “Get Started,” I am taken to a basic form: name, email, password, age verification, and reCAPTCHA; you know, the basics.

After making certain that I’m not a robot by clicking the checkbox, I hit sign up.

The next page says “Thank you!” and I must wait on an email to complete the sign-up process. Fortunately, the wait is only 0.5 seconds long. The email has a link that takes me to a sign in page.

My first pop-up from NaNoWriMo!

The first item on the agenda is selecting a region. Since my county is not on the list, I choose the next one over.

“Committed to writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November?” NaNoWriMo asks.

“I’ll do my damnedest,” I say.

“Follow these easy steps to get started,” it says:

  1. Fill out your profile. (Will do)
  2. Create your novel starting in September. (Oops)
  3. Select your region. (I did that on the last screen)
  4. Earn badges. (Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!)
  5. Get inspired. (Easier said than done. Am I WRITE? Ha, see what I did there?)
  6. Start Writing. (Erm, Somehow I think this is akin to step 2.)
  7. Claim your win. (Now we’re talking! What do we win?)

 

Ok, so step one: filling out the profile. At the very top of the page, it has a field for the name of your novel, and a spot for a picture. I also note that if you donate to the site, you can get a “halo.” In all, there are five tabs to fill out. I seem to be on the “Author Info” tab, as the fields below ask for the basic profile stuff, location, b-day, hobbies, fav music, website, sponsorship, occupation, fav books or authors, and a bio.

I accidentally add The Unfettered Child as this year’s November novel. I could delete it, but nah.

The other tabs are “Novels,” “Badges,” “Writing Buddies,” “Buddy Of,” “Goal Trackers,” and “Stats.” Over the next few days, I will play with these.

The closest group to me is in Stephenville, so I introduce myself on their forum. They apparently meet quite often at the local Starbucks to . . . write, I guess. Drink coffee and write. I love it.

Overall, the experience is good. How effective it is still depends heavily on how involved you are. Check back and I will write about the “Inspiration” section. From what I see, there are pep talks from successful authors.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

 

~Michael C. Sahd

Thanksgiving Table

On this day of the year, we like to give thanks for things. I was thinking about it this morning while I slaved away in the kitchen, and I came up with a challenge.

Instead of naming off the many traditional things we’re thankful for (such as our family, our jobs, the roof over our heads, etc.), how about we think of something that we dislike and find things about it to be thankful for?

I’m going to start with Texas.

  • I personally am not a fan of the weather here, and a number of other things; however, I am very thankful for my Texas because it is the home of my family. They are a wonderful part of my life, and Texas is a part of that.
  • I am also thankful for okra! I did not know the wonders of this slimy vegetable until I moved to Texas, but it has become very important to me since then.
  • I am also thankful for rattlesnake eggs! I know most of you are thinking, “What? Rattlesnake eggs? What the hell is he talking about?” Well, let me tell you about these wonderful delicacies. First, you take jalapeños and you cut the stems off, then cut the pepper in half. Then you jam each side with cream cheese. Next, you put slices of bacon on top of that and bake the whole mess. Yum. Some folks like to wrap the whole thing in bacon, but that is too much bacon for me. After all, it’s the pepper that makes them so good.

I also really dislike onions. I don’t know if I can do this one. I am grateful for the neat shape of onions. I’m thankful for places that realize that they are not edible and therefore don’t cook with them. That’s about all of the things I’m thankful for about onions.

Aside from finding things I’m thankful for in things I dislike, I am incredibly thankful to the people who have supported and/or read my publication. To that end, in honor of Thanksgiving, I am running another Amazon promotion for a free download of Assassin Marked: https://www.amazon.com/Assassin-Marked-DuFonte-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07688D1T5

Assassin Marked Book Cover
Free today on Amazon!

An interplanetary crime syndicate.

A debt, long overdue.

An assassin gone rogue.

Love. Revenge. Betrayal.

Although he knows it will mean the end of his relationship with both the Crime Syndicate and his long-time lover, Captain Victoria Maruska, Damian can’t let sleeping dogs lie. After overcoming his captain’s well-intended efforts to hold him back, Damian sets off to exact his revenge on the man who had once left him to die on the barren wastelands of Earth. . . .

Victoria may not know where to look, but she knows she has to find him. Following Damian’s disappearance and the not-so-mysterious murder of one of his superiors, the Syndicate has called Captain Maruska’s loyalty into question. As a result, she has been assigned the unenviable job of leading a task force to hunt him down. . . .

On the outs with his lover and on the run from trained killers, Damian DuFonte is . . .

An Assassin Marked.

Have a good Thanksgiving everyone!

~ Michael C. Sahd