Monday, December 19, 2011

Sale Ending Soon!

Merry Christmas!

Just stopping by to remind everyone that there are only two weeks left to my year-long sale on The Fourth Dimension and Retail Ramblings.  From now until January 1st, you can get all four books for under $3.00!

You can find all the details here:  All Books On Sale Through 2011

When 2012 rolls around, all four books will return to their regular price of $2.99!  So get these deals while you can!!

And I'd like to once again thank all my readers for your support over the course of this year.  I'm going to try really hard to make sure that the next volume of The Fourth Dimension gets onto paper early in 2012, but I just lost my job so I need to focus on getting my bills paid before I can really focus on it.

God always seems to provide, so I'm sure it'll all work out!

Thanks again, everyone.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

God bless,
Kevin

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend Sale - ALL EBOOKS FREE!

First and foremost, I want to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday!  I hope you all get to spend it with friends or family or pets or whatever makes you happy.

To celebrate, I'm offering everyone an opportunity to get all five of my books for free!  No strings attached - the coupon codes are all listed below.  The only thing you need to do is sign up for a Smashwords account if you don't already have one.  It's easy, free, and it allows you to download my ebooks in the appropriate format for your preferred ereader device, or in HTML, Java, or PDF format for reading on your PC!

Here's how it works:
  • To get started, head on over to Smashwords.com and follow the instructions to create a free account if you haven't already done so.
  • Then, either search Kevin Domenic or just click HERE to be directed to my profile and list of available books.  You'll find the first three volumes of The Fourth Dimension - my sci-fi/fantasy fiction series, Retail Ramblings - my collection of stories from my years in the retail industry, and my newest release, a Christian fiction novel called Building Blocks.

Key to the Stars is free to download even to non-members.  So is Building Blocks.  However,  the other books normally cost $0.99 to download.  Thanks to Smashwords' coupon generator, you can use the following coupon codes to download the remaining books absolutely FREE!

The coupon codes are:
  • Alliance of Serpents, Volume II of The Fourth Dimension: HP49V
  • Eye of the Tornado, Volume III of The Fourth Dimension: EE74H
  • Retail Ramblings: SM34L

So head on over to Smashwords.com and start downloading, because this sale will only run through Sunday, November 27th of 2011!  Post this blog page to your twitter, facebook, Stumbleupon, tumblr, Google+, and any pages to help me get the word out!  Monday will be here before you know it, so jump all over this opportunity now!!

On top of that, my fiance Laura runs a store on Etsy.com called Keilantra's Kreations.  She specializes in hand-made journals of various styles, and her work is highly recommended (check out her feedback list!).  Her journals have been used as notebooks, wedding and funeral guest books, scrapbooks, and even diaries.  On top of that, she's running a sale of her own right now.  Enter coupon code NOV20 at checkout to receive 20% off your entire order!

So whatever the occasion or need, click HERE to check out Laura's store, Keilantra's Kreations.

Thanks for your interest in our work, and we hope you have a safe and happy holiday!

God bless,
Kevin

Sunday, November 13, 2011

To Touch Reality


I stumbled across something this morning that served as a powerful reminder of just how much of an impact the stories that we create can have on the lives of the people who enjoy them.

It was a conversation on Reddit regarding movies and the personal changes they had brought to people's lives.  Many users told very heartfelt tales about how each story taught them something very valuable about themselves, their lives, or the world.

The post can be found here:  "What movie has personally changed something about you, be it your way of thinking or the way you do something, and how?"

The notion that a movie or a book can change a person's life is often considered to be a bit silly and perhaps over-dramatic.  I mean, if I told someone that a movie like Iron Man taught me the importance of taking responsibility for my mistakes, most people would laugh and say something along the lines of, "It's just a movie."

But for many, it seems, movies, books, and even video games have a lasting effect on how they view life.  And I think it's very important for people like writers and filmmakers to remember the power they wield, and more importantly, to respect that power.  You never know what people are going to take away from your work, but hopefully, it will be something positive and uplifting. 

For example, I once worked with a woman who told me that her son's hero was Goku, the main character from the anime series Dragon Ball Z.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Goku, he was the epitome of good.  He stood up for what was right, protected the innocent, and never hesitated to put himself in harms way to help someone in need.  And I remember thinking, "If Goku can still be a hero for kids, then maybe I can also create a hero for people to look up to."

These days, the antihero rules.  But I am a firm supporter of the good old-fashioned hero of chivalry. Honor, nobility, and all that. The anti-hero rubs me the wrong way. No "good guy" should use questionable tactics to win. It undermines the spirit of conflict, in my opinion.  I mean, how do you choose who to cheer for if both characters are using the same underhanded tactics to achieve their goals?

So that's the message I put out there.  I try to present a protagonist who is a good role model.  Someone that people can look up to.  To draw inspiration from.  Some may just see it as another character in another book, but others might see a person who possesses qualities they lack.  Or maybe they might be able to empathize with the character's journey, or growth, and find hope in the hero's victory.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not trying to say that everyone should share my view of what a story should or should not be.  But we need to be aware of the message we're sending.  People, whether it be readers of a book, players of a game, or viewers of a movie, often take away much more from our works than we sometimes realize.  And we should remember that.  Our words, our themes, our characters, and our stories can find their way into reality through the ideals and lessons learned by our audiences.

After all, with great power comes great responsibility.


God bless,
Kevin

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Building Blocks Released!!

Greetings,

I must first apologize for not having updated in a while.  Building Blocks was nearing completion and I wanted to spend as much free time as I could with cover creation and editing.  A special thanks goes to Crimsanity Creations for the awesome cover shot.  The whole image holds several symbolic meanings for me personally as well as Herbert, the protagonist of Building Blocks.  Readers can check out more art from Crimsanity Creations over at deviantArt.com!

Also, because it is a Christian book, I wanted to take the time necessary to make sure that everything I wrote matched up with Biblical teachings as I certainly don't want to lead anyone in the wrong direction.

But it's done now, and Building Blocks is available for your reading pleasure on Amazon.com, Smashwords.com, and Feedbooks.com!  Please note that this book is meant to be free for everyone, but Amazon.com's minimum list price is $0.99.  So I highly encourage you to download the book for free from Smashwords.com or Feedbooks.com!  Links are listed below.

I am aware that a Christian novel will not be everyone's cup of tea.  That's OK - I didn't write this with expectations of literary market domination.  But the most common question I get asked when people find out I'm a Born Again Christian is, "If God exists, why does he allow bad things to happen to innocent people?"  There's no easy answer for that question, but the short answer is this:  Anyone who thinks that God is a magic genie who will grant our every wish is mistaken.  God allows bad things to happen because doing otherwise would mean controlling us in one way or another.  Controlling our decisions, controlling our actions, controlling our voices, our feet, our hands, or our thoughts.  If God were to step in and stop a man from killing his neighbor, He'd be forced to momentarily take away the free will that He gave to humanity in the first place.

Obviously there's far more to it than just that, but that's what Building Blocks is about.  It's about a young man named Herbert who has thus far struggled through a miserable life and can't help but wonder why a just and loving God would let so many terrible things happen to him.

I'm offering this book for free forever because I didn't write this book for money or book sales.  I wrote it because I wanted to try to provide a better understanding of who God is and why He does the things he does.  I hope to be able to get Amazon.com to drop the price down to $0.00 once the book becomes available on Barnesandnoble.com (they have a price-match policy).  But until then, my best suggestion is to simply download the book in your preferred ereader format from Smashwords.com.  And as always, please please please leave a review!

As for me, I am going to take some time off from writing.  Building Blocks was a new experience for me; it took me out of my comfort zone of fantasy fiction and third-person storytelling and challenged my writing abilities to grow in a different direction--a direction I had not before explored.  I don't regret it for a moment; I'm glad to have had the opportunity to try something new.  But as a result, I find myself a bit burned out.   So I'm going to take the rest of the year to relax and recharge.

But plans for next year are already coming together.  First and foremost, work on Volume IV of The Fourth Dimension will commence.  Alongside that, I am planning to write short stories from the Fourth Dimension universe detailing Arus' journeys through the stars as a soldier of the Aeden Alliance.  If all goes well, these tales will be released in "Episodes" on The Fourth Dimension Official Website for free.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, and I'm excited and anxious to get started.  Unfortunately, my mind is fried at the moment, so I'm going to enjoy the holidays as Arus and his friends adventure their way through the corners of my mind.  But rest assured, there is much much more to come.

The story of The Fourth Dimension has only just begun.

God bless,
Kevin

Building Blocks on Smashwords
Building Blocks on Feedbooks

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

I have mixed feelings about today's "observance" of the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America that have come to be known simply as 9/11.  I remember the day vividly; it was like watching a movie unfold on TV with the most realistic special effects I'd ever seen.  We weren't too far from New York.  We could see the smoke on the horizon.

It was a scary time.  The years that followed were even more so.  We went to war against an opponent we couldn't see.  They weren't confined to any one location.  Even worse, our country decided to label it the "War on Terror."  Knowing our nation's almost arrogant proclamation that it never loses wars and that our military was/is the best in the world, it was frightening to think that our government wasn't going to stop until terrorism itself was eradicated.  Not because we didn't WANT it that way, but because terrorists will always rise up from one place or another.  You can't catch ALL of them any more than you can catch ALL criminals across the world.  So, faced with an objective that could never be reached and a military that doesn't stop until the job is done, I couldn't help but feel that we were going to be stuck at war forever. 

And that's just what Osama Bin Laden was looking for.

Ten years later, and we're still at war.  Bin Laden is dead, but the events of 9/11 have already had their effects.  Telephones wiretapped without permission, surveillance cameras in public places, intrusive and violating searches/pat-downs at airports, and much much more have become a part of life for every citizen of this nation.  Loyal or disloyal, peaceful or violent, loving or unloving - they're all the same to good ol' Uncle Sam.  And it's all in the desperate struggle to make sure another 9/11 doesn't happen. 

Bin Laden may be gone, but his mission of seeing America destroyed is still a work in progress.  9/11 set in motion a chain of events that continues to reverberate throughout our nation's very way of life.  Government officials call the changes "necessary."  Some of our citizens agree, sadly.  But for a large number of us, seeing our freedoms taken away one by one has been a bitter pill to swallow.  Not because we have anything to hide, but because the fall of ANY of our freedoms opens the way for the loss of more. 

An episode of Star Trek, summed up in these clips, says it all:

The Drumhead Trial

"The road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think.  Something is very wrong here, Mr. Worf.  I do not like what we've become."

"You know, there are some words I've known since I was a school boy.  With the first link, a chain is forged.  The first speech censured,  the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied chains us all irrevocably ... The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged."

"You think we've come so far.  The torture of heretics, the burning of witches, all ancient history.  Then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again."

"Villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot.  Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged."

That sums up my feelings about America these days.

Then there is another viewpoint that was recently brought to my attention.  Be warned; I found this offensive at first.  Until I read the reasoning.

Someone posted this online:  "What's the difference between a cow and 9/11?  After 10 years, you stop milking the cow."

As someone close to 9/11 when it happened, that kind of bothered me at first.  But then I looked into the logic behind it.

We lost a total of 2,977 victims on 9/11.  Yes, that is tragic and sad.  You know what else is sad?  The 4500 or so American troops lost during the wars that followed.  And according to a recent study by Brown University, at least 132,000 civilians have died from both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars - and that's a conservative number, they claim. 


The Vietnam War claimed nearly 40,000 American troops.  Civilian deaths numbered in the millions.

The Gulf War claimed approximately 150 troops.  Yet over 103,000 civilians died during attacks. 

What about the world wars?  What about the innocents that died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the atomic bombs were dropped? 

Why do we mourn the deaths of 3,000 civilians and ignore so many others?  When comparing the numbers, our losses almost seem tame. 

Then there are natural disasters which are seemingly forgotten.  Does anyone even think about Japan anymore?  Between 20,000 to 30,000 lost there.  The government of Haiti puts the death toll from the 2010 quake at 316,000.  How about the 2004 earthquake in the Indian ocean that sent a tsunami across several countries that saw 185,000 dead and 1.69 million displaces from their homes?

The point is that absolutely tragic things happen across this world, yet we sit here ten years later still licking our wounds from 3,000 dead.  Are we really that self-centered that the 3,000 people in the twin towers deserve to be remembered every day while the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives taken by war are forgotten?  Are those 3,000 people really that much more important than those killed by natural disasters that were NO ONE'S fault?

Yes, 9/11 was sad.  But I can't help but feel just a little self-centered worrying about it when there are millions others who've suffered tragic losses as well  How are the cleanup efforts proceeding from the Alabama tornadoes?  Joplin, Missouri?  When was the last time you heard anything about Japan's recovery?  Are the families of the civilians lost in the Iraq/Afghanistan war seeing any sort of aid?

I want to propose a change.  I don't think 9/11 should just be about the World Trade Center.  I don't think it should just be about the Pentagon or Flight 93.  I think 9/11 should be a day of mourning for all the innocents.  Whether it be war or natural disaster or disease or whatever, 9/11 should be a day of remembrance.  The images of the twin towers plastered with the slogan "We Will Never Forget" seem to have prevented us from healing over something that, outside of the "safety" of America's walls, happens every day in random countries around the world.  So, instead of refusing to forget our own pain, perhaps we should try to remember the pain of others.

It's time we realize that the world doesn't revolve around us.

With that, I'd like to extend my condolences and prayers for anyone stricken by tragedy, anyone struggling through loss, anyone suffering from devastation.  Whether it's a lost loved one from 9/11 or a child that died of pneumonia, if you're hurting, my heart goes out to you.  I pray that God lifts up your soul and comforts your sadness.  You're not alone in your struggle.  Not ever. 

Never forget that.

God bless,
Kevin

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Building Blocks, by Kevin Domenic - Coming This Fall

Here's a snippet from my upcoming Christian novel, Building Blocks.  I hope to have the book available to readers by Halloween, but if not, then certainly by Thanksgiving.  Hope this wets your appetite!

-----------

Doc wanted me to come in early the morning after our last session because he wanted to have some extra time to go over everything we had witnessed during the past two weeks.  So I showed up at his office a little after six in the morning.  Surprisingly, his aeromobile wasn't parked outside.  There were no lights in the building, and now that I think about it, there had been no activity on the street either.  The town was desolate.
I waited for him to arrive, but when he hadn't shown up by , I decided to go knock on the office door.  Maybe his wife had dropped him off.  Did he even have a wife?  I started to realize that I knew nothing about Doc.  Not about his family, his friends, his hobbies, likes, dislikes, or anything else.  And though I realize that doctors generally try to avoid personal friendships with their patients, one would think that I'd have learned something about the man given all the time we've spent together working on my issues.  But I knew nothing at all.
Not that it mattered, anyway.  Everything I thought I knew was about to be turned upside down.  As soon as my knuckles connected with the wooden door, the world turned white.


-----------

Keep your eyes here for the latest updates!

God bless,
Kevin
The ebook version of Retail Ramblings has been featured on Practical Frugality as part of an exclusive promotion! For a limited time, you can get Retail Ramblings for FREE from Smashwords in the ebook format of your choice!

For details on how to participate in this offer, click here:

Practical Frugality: Back to the Books Giveaway

Thanks again to all my loyal readers! Be sure to check this offer out right away, because it won't last long!

God bless,
Kevin

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Interview!

I was recently interviewed for Steven R. Drennon's website. Check it out at the link below!

Adventures in Writing: Interview with Kevin Domenic

It would also mean a lot to me if you could share the link to help spread the word! Post it to facebook, twitter, and any other of your favorite social media sites! Thanks everyone!

God bless,
Kevin

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords

When I decided to start publishing my books as an indie author late last year, one thing that concerned me was distribution of my work. I didn't know the first thing about listing my books on websites like Barnesandnoble.com or the Sony Reader Store. I did some research online in search of some guidance until someone suggested I check out Smashwords. So I did.

For those who might not be familiar with the site, Smashwords is a tool used by both authors and publishers to distribute ebooks to a wide variety of sites on a multitude of platforms. Rather than trying to contact each individual retailer, Smashwords does all that work for you. All you need to do is create a free account, format your ebook according to the Smashwords Style Guide, and upload them to the site! On top of all that, there's a very helpful FAQ available that will show you step-by-step how to do it all.

You will be given the opportunity to write a description about your book, set a price, add tags, a cover, and even the ebook formats in which you'd like your work to be published. The Smashwords site will then review your submission and tell you whether or not your book is suitable for publishing.

What's that? Why wouldn't it be suitable?

First off, it's not about content. And it's not about whether or not you're a good writer. It's all about proper formatting. There are a number of different variables that go into creating a file that is readable by an eReader. If the book isn't formatted specifically to the Smashwords Style Guide, technical errors might arise that could affect the way your book appears to the reader. Centered lines might lose their justification, font sizes might be altered, lines may over lap, or any number of other possibilities. So the Smashwords "Meatgrinder" will process the book to find out if any such errors exist. But rest assured that if you follow the Smashwords Style Guide, there should be no problems when uploading your book.

Another benefit of proper formatting is the opportunity to be included in Smashwords Premium Catalog. If you want your books to be distributed to other retailers as opposed to being available solely on the Smashwords site, you'll want to make sure your books are formatted to the correct specifications. Smashwords will then add your work to the Premium Catalog. Details about all benefits of inclusion can be found on the Smashwords Distribution Page. It should be noted that both Apple and Sony require an ISBN number, but Smashwords makes fulfilling that requirement easy. Once you are accepted into the Premium Catalog, you simply request an ISBN from Smashwords (It's free!) and they'll distribute your books to the iBookstore and the Sony Reader Store.

Through Smashwords, I have published four books with another one coming this Fall. My first three novels are sci-fi/fantasy books, and the other is a non-fiction humor book about my career in retail. The first Volume of my sci-fi/fantasy series, called Key to the Stars, is available for free right now on Smashwords. Click the image below to download!
You can also check out my Author Page at Smashwords. You'll find all of my books listed there along with a brief bio and my Twitter feed.

That's really all there is to it. Smashwords really does make the entire process easy. Just trust in the Smashwords Style Guide, and you'll be selling ebooks across the web in no time! Welcome to ebook revolution, fellow indie writer. It only gets better from here!

God bless,
Kevin

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Building Blocks Update

Hey everyone,

Sorry things have been so quiet here. I've been spending the majority of my time doing one of three things. First off, I've been hard at work editing Building Blocks. It will probably be some time before it's ready for the public, but I really think it's coming along well.

My job has been working me overtime as we've been short-staffed as of late. But they are supposed to be bringing some help in next week, so hopefully I won't have to spend so many hours at the office.

When I haven't been working or editing, I've been sleeping. I don't know for sure that I have sleep apnea, but it only makes sense given my symptoms and family history. Gonna have to see a doctor about that sometime soon.

At any rate, I hope to have more going on here and on my facebook pages once I can dedicate more time to my writing.

In the meantime, I'm still looking for people to review any and all of The Fourth Dimension books. The Amazon.com pages are in major need of more reviews, but anywhere that readers might post something would be much appreciated! Please help me get the word out so that more people can follow Arus' journey across the stars!

Oh, and I've also begun preliminary outlines of Volume IV. Can't wait to get started on it!!

Hope you're all doing well. Be good to each other.

God bless,
Kevin

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Altered Earth: A Sci Fi Compendium

My work has been featured in a compilation ebook featuring various indie authors over at feedbooks.com! Check out the official site of The Fourth Dimension for complete details!

The Fourth Dimension - Altered Earth: A Sci Fi Compendium

God bless!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Final Fantasy Heroes - AMV

Found this little video on Youtube. As someone who's done a bit of video editing myself, I have to say that the creator of this one did an excellent job. It symbolizes everything I'm trying to bring back to mainstream entertainment as far as true heroes go, and I've always been a closet fan of this song anyway. :P


Anyway, enjoy! And all credit goes to alliric1425 for making this. Great work!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Syria Says Interview

Yay! New interview posted on SyriaSays.com! You may need to scroll down a little to get to it because the site is updated quite frequently.

But check it out here! SyriaSays.com

Not only that, but I have an ebook sale going on in honor of the July 4th weekend! You can get the details here: The Fourth Dimension - July 4th Sale

Have a happy and safe holiday, everyone!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Character Development: How Anakin Skywalker Killed Darth Vader


I've had a number of other authors and blogs approach me about writing "guest blogs" for their sites. The idea is for me to offer my advice on the different aspects of writing from my own experience. The problem I have with this is that I don't see myself as any form of authority on such subjects. I can't tell people what to write or how to write it because I'm no expert myself.

So I've been trying to figure out what kind of advice I could offer. After all, I may not be an expert, but I have been writing for a lot of years. Surely there's got to be something I learned along the way that could help others.

Then Spike TV ran their usual Star Wars marathon over the weekend.

Let me first and foremost say that I am a Star Wars fan. I'd stop myself short of calling myself a Star Wars nerd/geek because I can't speak the alien languages, have read very few Star Wars books, and I don't own nor do I plan to own a lightsaber. Unless it was real. And cheap. And turned everything it touched into candy. As long as it's not licorice. Or apple. Strawberry is good. Orange, too.

Where was I?

Oh, right.

I do enjoy the Star Wars movies. The original three (ahem - the originals, not the special editions) still rank among my favorite movies of all time. And while there were a number of issues that kept the prequels from being nearly as good (Yoda should have remained a puppet, and his lightsaber duel, while entertaining, did not fit with his character), I still found them to be overall enjoyable movies.

Still, there is something that I, along with many other Star Wars fans, cannot look past.

Anakin Skywalker.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: Character development. I'm going to explore the characters of both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader in an attempt to illustrate what can both make and break a good character in the eyes of the audience.

Think back to the first time you saw A New Hope. The doors slide open, and in walked Darth Vader. Clad in black, shrouded by a flowing cape, and his ominous breathing left you wondering just what exactly could've been behind that mask. And as the movie wore on, we were shown a ruthless dictator. He was a being that would choke the life out of someone who simply disagreed, a figure that didn't hesitate to slay his former master at his first chance, and a heartless murderer who sat back and watched while his beloved Death Star blew Alderaan outta the sky. Or stars. Whatever.

Then came The Empire Strikes Back. We find that Vader is obsessed with finding young Luke Skywalker. One would presume that he sought to exact vengeance upon the man responsible for the destruction of the Death Star. But we soon learn that Vader is interested in turning the boy to the Dark Side of the Force. That idea is even more chilling. For Vader, killing Skywalker would be nice, but it would be far more satisfying to turn the Rebellion's newest hotshot pilot against them.

But then we find out the truth. Luke is Vader's son. So it is a man in there, after all. And he's a man with at least some measure of compassion, because he'd rather have his son standing by his side than as another corpse on the battlefield. Luke, of course, refuses before making his dramatic escape. And although you can't see his face, you can tell that Vader is disappointed. Not angry, but disappointed. Seems the man in black might have a heart after all.

Return of the Jedi saw the culmination of Vader's continuing quest to find his son and convert him to the Dark Side of the Force. By the time they meet face to face once again, Vader almost seems unhappy to have to take Luke to the Emperor. He knows, as the audience does, that Luke Skywalker will die if he does not turn to the Dark Side. Yet at the same time, he can't deny his own feelings of compassion that he has for his son. Even when Luke accuses him of having good within, Darth Vader doesn't deny it. He simply turns the conversation in a different direction. He's a conflicted man, dedicated to his duty and loyal to both the Emperor and the Galactic Empire. But inside, there is a part of him that can't argue with his son. He knows Luke to be right.

And of course, in the end, we see Vader's repentance. After seeing the truth with his own eyes, perhaps even inspired by Luke's refusal to take his father's place beside the Emperor, Vader finally does the right thing by sending the wailing old Sith falling to a bitter end within the Death Star's reactor. Or wherever those giant pits all over the Death Star lead to. Seriously, those space stations were riddled with design flaws.

So there it was. Darth Vader, ruthless murdering Lord of the Sith still knew right from wrong. And in the end, even he was capable of repentance. It was a powerful story and a great message.

Then George Lucas decided to go back to the beginning and tell the stories of how Anakin became Vader in the first place. This, he said, was his plan from the beginning. After all, the first Star Wars movie was Episode IV.

And this, ultimately, would tarnish the name, image, and character of Darth Vader, who up until that point had arguably been one of the greatest villains of all time.

In Episode I, we were introduced to the wide-eyed youth named Anakin Skywalker. Cheesy dialogue between he and Padme aside, little Anakin was portrayed as the shining example of innocence, a light in the darkness. And while that's fine considering he was just a boy, the seeds of Darth Vader needed to be sown from the very beginning. Given the cold-blooded nature of the man in the black mask, one would've expected that at least a hint of those tendencies should've shown in little Anakin Skywalker. More specifically, a dose of anger could've gone a long way.

Vader's most defining trait was his anger. His temper got away from him so frequently that he nearly choked a man to death just for disagreeing with him over the power of the Death Star. When one of his admirals made a slight tactical blunder, Vader choked him out too. Anger was his weakness. That was made very clear throughout the entire original trilogy.

Why, then, was little Anakin's "weakness" portrayed as fear over losing his mother? Fear!? Darth Vader knew nothing of fear! It didn't fit with his character at all.

And when Episode II rolled around, the Anakin we were treated to amounted to little more than a cocky teenager. What's worse, his main character conflict became his love for Padme despite the fact that Jedi aren't supposed to have emotional attachments. In order for any of this to make sense, Vader would've at least had to have referenced a lost love at once or twice for the audience to make the connection. But Vader never even hinted at anything having to do with Luke's mother. Vader's motive was always to ensure the lasting dominance of the Empire and to see the will of the Emperor carried out no matter what the cost. His actions, attitude, and ruthlessness came from his deep determination to maintain order in the universe by whatever means necessary. In order for Vader's evolution to have made any sense, Anakin would've needed to share that passion for those ideals.

Granted, there were a few moments when it seemed like Lucas might take the story in that direction. Anakin's conversation with Padme in the meadow, for example, addressed his feelings about democracy. He felt that "someone wise" should make the leaders of the various worlds across the universe agree on political policies. Had that subject been explored a bit more, it would've had far greater effect in connecting the Anakin Skywalker of the new movies with the Darth Vader of the old. It wouldn't have to get overly political; a single scene where Anakin witnesses the bickering of the Senate could've done the trick. Something to further establish his feelings that the Senators could get far more accomplished if they didn't spend every session arguing.

In the meantime, Anakin's slaughter of the sandpeople finally showed us a taste of the anger that drove Darth Vader. The scene that followed with Padme, however, undermined the whole thing. I mean, the dialogue was great as Anakin proclaimed that he'd slaughtered them all, even the women and the children. But as a young man who was beginning to succumb to his anger and hatred, it would've been far more beneficial had he not been tearfully remorseful about it. That took away from the direction Lucas was trying to take Anakin's character. Had he been proud of himself - maybe by brushing off any objections from Padme - it would've foreshadowed the eventual birth of Vader brilliantly.

I will say that Episode III did a better job of depicting the development of Anakin's political ideology than Episodes I and II. With the Jedis' lack of trust in him combined with being denied membership of the council, it was only natural that he would begin to wonder why they were excluding him from their plans. At the same time, a growing need to remove Chancellor Palpatine from power led to the idea of the Jedi taking over the Senate to ensure a smooth transition. With Palpatine in Anakin's ear planting the seeds of dissension and Mace Windu's attempt to kill the chancellor (to which Anakin proclaims, "It's not the Jedi way!"), it made far more sense for him to turn his back on the Jedi and become the Emperor's apprentice. To him, the Jedi had turned their backs on their own ideals. From his eyes, it really did seem as though they were plotting to take over the republic as Palpatine had said.

If Lucas had rolled with that story alone and connected it with with my earlier suggestions regarding Anakin's polical ideals, his purpose and mission would've been far clearer and certainly more believable. But the focus was still on Anakin's relationship with Padme. His main concern was still all about saving her life. For a man on the verge of turning his back on the Jedi, ready to slay them all - adults and children alike - along with anyone else who stood in the way of the Chancellor, the idea that he could still be obsessed with saving Padme seemed unrealistic. His number one focus had become the protection of the newly-formed Galactic Empire. The Dark Side had consumed him through his anger, and morality had apparently slipped away. A more realistic approach would've been for him to blow Padme off entirely. "He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed." The Darth Vader of Episode IV wouldn't have cared if Padme was bawling her eyes out. He would've shoved her aside and gone on his way.

No, he would've used the Force to choke her to death before going on his way.

Had that happened, followed by a tense scene in which doctors rush to save the babies, it would've established the Darth Vader we all grew up with. It would've solidified Vader as one of the most memorable villains of all time (although I don't think anything can really change that anyway, I just feel that the Anakin Skywalker we were treated to tainted the legacy of Darth Vader).

Plus, we never would've been subjected to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s
Then again, without that scene, we never would've gotten this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjPmjwszr2w
But I digress.

Character development can be one of the more difficult aspects of writing. But I think what I've illustrated here is that the character's actions and experiences must directly relate to what he or she will ultimately become. I mean, think about your own life. We are all products of our upbringing in one way or another. Each memory, each experience, each lesson learned, each battle lost, each struggle overcome, they all come together to form the people we are today one way or another. Characters must be same the way. It's how we identify with them.

And if you can't identify with the characters of your stories in one way or another, why are you writing about them?

Just my opinion.

God bless,
Kevin

Friday, June 17, 2011

Author Interview: P.H.C. Marchesi

P.H.C. Marchesi has written a wonderful young adult sci-fi/fantasy story entitled Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes. As most know, this genre is where my imagination takes flight, so it was great to chat with another author with a passion for the same. We sat down for an interview recently. Here's what she had to say.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived there for several years until my family moved to Vienna, Austria. I attended the International School in Vienna, learned English and German (in addition to Portuguese, which was my native language), and met kids from all over the world. I also got the chance to travel to several countries, and experience different cultures. Eventually I came to the United States for college, and then graduate school. Now I teach literature to undergraduates and write young adult fantasy. I can’t imagine a better life! I also adore animals, and share my life with a variety of rescued pets.

2. How long have you been writing?

As a kid, I remember writing little picture books that I illustrated and put together myself. I also remember writing for different occasions: for example, one of the earliest things I wrote was a eulogy on the death of a beloved pet fish. I didn’t know it was a eulogy back then, of course. All I knew was that I had to write something, because it was the only way I could deal with the situation. As I grew up and continued writing, I found that I preferred writing high fantasy – especially since I spent a great deal of time daydreaming about different worlds, anyway! I learned to put my feeling, experiences, and life observations within the fantasy worlds I created.

3. What is Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes about?

The novel is about thirteen-year-old twins whose lives change drastically when a planet from a different dimension, Miriax, recruits them to seal a dimensional hole that allows evil aliens to travel beyond their dimension. From that moment on, the Kitt twins find out that the universe is full of life-draining Klodians, space ghosts, cities in jungles, books that choose their readers, walls that spit on you, and lilac tea served with mushrooms. Shelby and Shauna also discover certain special powers they have, and realize that those alone aren’t enough to defeat evil and turn them into heroes.

4. How did you come up with the plot?

Gradually! I knew what would happen at several key points when I began writing, and I knew most of the ending long before I knew bits and pieces in the middle. The story went through several drafts, so that I could eliminate inconsistencies, polish the characters, and even change my mind about certain things. I suppose I could also say that I’ve been coming up with the plot for years, dreaming about different worlds, exciting adventures, and so on – and I’ve known for a long time that I wanted a boy and a girl to be the heroes of the book. I wanted to write a novel where both were equally important and interesting, and where both had to work together to do something great.

5. Tell us about Shelby and Shauna.

Shelby and Shauna are thirteen-year-old fraternal twins. They are, as siblings often are, completely different from each other. Shelby is impulsive and daring, as well as fiercely loyal. His sister, Shauna, is introverted, optimistic, and determined. Because they’re such different people, they complement each other, though (of course) sometimes they also annoy each other! They haven’t had an easy life, and so they’ve learned to rely on each other. At the beginning of the book, they live in a tiny attic apartment in Manhattan, and dream of doing incredible things.

6. What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?

In my novel, the boy and the girl co-star as heroes. In addition, the premise of two planets from different dimensions (Miriax and Klodius) orbiting Earth is something new. The world of Miriax, to which Shelby and Shauna Kitt travel, is entirely different from any fantasy world I’ve read about. Maybe this is because, having grown up in different countries, I read books from different cultures. Or maybe it’s because the different places in which I lived all merged together in my imagination to create Miriax.

7. Did you have any specific goals when writing this title? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

I wanted to show that heroism can mean many different things. I also wanted to highlight the value of friendship, teamwork, creativity, courage, and compassion. These are, I think, essential qualities for individual and global success in the 21st century.

8. How long did it take you to write? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

I had a complete draft after a year, and then had to put the project on hold because I was nearing the completion of my graduate degree. After I graduated, I began to work on the book again, and it went through several more drafts before I felt I was done with revisions and the novel was ready. I then hired a cover artist to do the cover.

9. Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?

My family. I was fortunate because my creativity and imagination were always encouraged and valued. I had room to grow. I had moral support to take risks. And, most importantly, I was allowed to daydream, and thus eventually create the world of Miriax.

10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

The novel has a FB site with regular updates and giveaways at http://on.fb.me/iDEkCo, so please visit! I’m on twitter (@PHCMarchesi), and I have a blog at http://shelbyandshaunakitt.blogspot.com/, which I would love for readers to visit.

11. What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

An exciting story, interesting characters, a creative/innovative premise, and writing that does justice to all of these.

12. Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Oh yes – often! I love when that happens, because that’s when writing is at its most spontaneous. Usually this means that the unconscious mind has been working on the story, and has figured out where it should be going. As a writer, you have to be flexible and allow the story room to grow in a direction you might not have foreseen.

13. And just for fun, favorite movie or television series?

To be honest, I’ve watched very little television recently. Between teaching at a university and writing, I’ve had almost no time to sit in front of the TV and watch something from beginning to end. As a child, ET and the Star Wars trilogy were my favorite movies, and I was completely hooked on sci-fi shows such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers. Later it was Babylon 5 and Star Trek:Voyager, which I still enjoy.

Thank you so much for stopping by for a chat! I wish nothing but the best for you and your book!


Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes at Amazon.com
Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes at Barnesandnoble.com
Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes at Goodreads

Friday, June 10, 2011

Author Interview: Jason G. Anderson

Jason G. Anderson, author of Cryoskip's Footprints, was gracious enough to take some time to talk with us about his short story. Here's what he had to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Australia, in the small island state of Tasmania. I was born in the north of the island (Devonport), but moved to the south (Hobart) to attend university. I was lucky enough to get a job soon after graduating, and ended up staying here. I work in Antarctic science (as an assistant, not a scientist), where I help scientists manage the large amount of data they generate/collect. It's interesting work.


How long have you been writing?

I'm a relative newcomer to writing fiction, only really starting to focus on writing it in 2010. Before that, I had been writing some roleplay gaming material, and self-publishing it in PDF form.

I'd entertained the idea of writing fiction for many years, but like many people I'd never done anything about it. Around September 2010 I decided it was time. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I decided that would be the real test for me. If I completed it, and still enjoyed writing at the end, then I knew it was something I could become committed to. I managed to successfully finish, and I've been writing ever since.


What is Cryoskip's Footprints about?

Cryoskip's Footprints” is the second story in what I've called the Atomic Wasteland Tales. It's set in a world that suffered a global nuclear war decades ago, and the survivors are doing the best they can to live and survive in the ruins of our world.

Footprints deals with two people who were alive before the war, but for some reason (unknown to them), they were kidnapped and put into cryogenic suspension. When they work up (years before the story), they found themselves in the wastelands. Over the years one of the two main characters (Butch) has decided to settle down as best he can, but the other (Derek) has never given up his search to find out why they were “slept”. In Footprints, Derek believes he has found somewhere that could give them some answers, and he manages to convince Butch to join him in investigating the site.

Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones looking for the site.


How did you come up with the plot?

The seed of the plot came from a news story my wife was reading, about a family in the US who had bought an old missile silo and converted it into a home. I imagined a company doing something similar to a larger military base (especially a company that wanted to do some secretive research), and the story grew from there.


Tell us about Derek and Butch.

Derek is the action hero of the story. We see early on that he's a good fighter, and he is the one driving the group forward. It's obvious that his time in the wastelands has changed him (not for the better), and he has never given up the quest to find out who they mysterious Cryoskip were. I guess it's fair to say that it is his obsession. So far he's not willing to sacrifice everything to find the answers he's after, but there may come a time soon where he has to make that choice.

Butch is the tech guy of the story. He was a computer tech before he was slept, and likes to tinker with the few working items he finds (or trades for). He has settled down, in an attempt to make some sort of normal life for himself, but he is still willing to put all that on hold when Derek visits him. He obviously has some issues from the early years that they spent in the wasteland, although no details are covered in this story.


How long did it take you to write Cryoskip's Footprints? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

Footprints was a real bear to write, and took much longer than it should have for it's word count (10k words). I started it in mid-January, but didn't manage to finish it until late April. I struggled getting the words from my head to the keyboard.

I did the cover art myself (using a stock photo and some manipulation in Photoshop), but I hired Lynn O'Dell (Red Adept) to edit the story for me. I'm currently planning to hire Lynn for all my editing work, as I find her a pleasure to work with.


As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

Absolutely! You can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jason.g.anderson, and I'm on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonGA. I don't spend a huge amount of time on either, but I try to keep any eye on everything.

Of course, I also have my normal website at http://www.jasonga.com


What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

For me, it is a combination of the characters and the overall story.

I have to like (or at least understand and barrack for) the characters in a story for me to want to continue reading. Ideally the characters should grow in some way over the story, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case if they are challenged in a significant way. The characters are our eyes and ears in the world of the story, and any failings here can ruin an otherwise good book.

The overall story is equally important though. I want something to happen in the book – something interesting, exciting, thrilling, or even scary. Most importantly, the story should have an ending. It doesn't have to be an end that ties everything up neatly. The author can leave a few side-elements unresolved. But I shouldn't get to the end and have the feeling the author forgot to write “To be continued...” after the final paragraph.

Really, at the end of the book I want to be able to look back over everything that's happened, and say that it was an enjoyable ride.


Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Many times! Not so much in the short stories I write, but the two novels I have in progress have had many scenes where I thought the characters would do X, and I found them suddenly doing Y.

I usually keep the changes because it means my subconscious has come up with some new ideas that are probably better than my initial planning, but I do stop for a few moments to consider what the new actions mean to the overall story. It could well mean that some things I have planned for later need to be changed, and it's better to make those changes earlier rather than later. If nothing else, it gives my subconscious something new to work on :)


And just for fun, favorite movie or television series?

I have quite a few favorite television series – I couldn't pick just one. Doctor Who was a childhood favorite, and I've really enjoyed the new series that started in 2005. From the SyFy channel I like Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, and Eureka. Finally, the series Lost Girl that showed last year was very intriguing (I liked how they were playing with all the fey myths), and I'm really looking forward to the new season.

And I have to say I think TV executives who believe a mid-season break is a “good idea” should be taken out the back and shot.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Best of luck to you!




Cryoskip's Footprints at Amazon.com (US)
Cryoskip's Footprints at Amazon.com (UK)
Jason G. Anderson at Goodreads.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All Books on Sale through 2011!

Hey everyone, got some great news to tell you all about!

From now through the end of the year, you can get Key to the Stars, Volume I of The Fourth Dimension series, for free at the following sites!


Barnes & Noble - Nook
Apple iBookstore - iPod / iPad
Feedbooks - Kindle/Nook/iPod/iPad/Sony eReader
Sony Reader Store - Sony eReader
Kobobooks - Kobo eReader
Diesel eBooks - Diesel
Smashwords - ALL


Additionally, you can purchase the rest of my books on each of these sites for just $0.99 each!

Amazon.com - Kindle
Barnes & Noble - Nook
Apple iBookstore - iPod / iPad
Sony Reader Store - Sony eReader
Kobobooks - Kobo eReader
Diesel eBooks - Diesel
Smashwords - ALL


I do apologize that Key to the Stars is not free on Amazon.com, but Amazon doesn't give the option to list a book as free. You can, however, get Key to the Stars for your Kindle from the Feedbooks link at no cost!

The prices for all of these will go up starting in 2012, so get these deals while you can!


Thank you so much for your interest in my books. After reading, please don't forget to post reviews to each website!

Questions? Comments? Feedback of any kind is always welcome! Just send an email to kevindomenic@yahoo.com. And be sure to bookmark Searching for Heroes and visit often for news on sales, new books, author interviews, and much more!

Thanks again!

God bless,
Kevin

Friday, June 3, 2011

Author Interview: Tara Shuler

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tara Shuler, author of the Blood Haze series. She was kind enough tell us about herself, her writing, and Shelter, the first entry into her vampire series.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.


I'm an avid gamer. I enjoy playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Splinter Cell, Legend of Zelda games, and several others. I love almost all types of music. I love science fiction. I consider myself a bit of a nerd. (And I'm proud of the title!)

I'm a very creative person. If it's creative in nature, I've probably tried it at least once. I'm a graphics designer, writer, and artist.

One of my biggest goals in life is to learn to play the piano really well. I've never had the time or money for professional lessons.

2. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing short stories off and on since I was about eight years old, and I wrote a novella when I was fifteen. I just started writing novels in February, 2011.

3. What is Shelter about?

Shelter is about a seventeen-year-old vampire named Alice Wright. She's been tutored at home all her life, and hasn't had much interaction with humans. Her mother decides to send her to a human high school for her senior year, and she has to try to fit in with the humans the best she can, even though she's actually just as afraid of them as they would be of her if they knew what she was. She meets a couple of guys who both develop feelings for her, but they both have secrets that cause serious problems for her.

4. How did you come up with the plot?

It's a little strange, because the plot came up with me, so to speak. I'd already written a novella a few weeks earlier, and I planned to make that into my first book series. However, I started writing a new story one day and it took on a life of its own. It just started playing like a movie in my head, and I had to type like crazy to keep up.

I wanted to write a story with a strong female lead. A lot of books I've read in the genre have human females and male vampires, and the human females are often weak or somewhat unlikable in some way. I wanted the heroine in my story to be the star of the show, rather than the men who fell for her.

5. Tell us about Alice Wright.

Alice is a seventeen-year-old vampire. She's a very strong person, although it's a little difficult to see in the beginning of the story. She's actually afraid of the human students at school, because she's always been taught that vampires really have to blend into human society as seamlessly as possible in order to avoid detection. She struggles with her fear of not fitting in, and manages to find some great friends in the process. Of course, those friends turn out to complicate her life in ways she never could have expected!

6. What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?

A lot of books in the genre have weaker females, or they focus on the male characters so much. I wanted a series where the female is the lead. I wanted her to be strong and protective, rather than the one who needed to be protected. Don't get me wrong... the men in her life are extremely protective of her. But she is smart, and strong, and very capable of taking care of herself (and others.)

7. Did you have any specific goals when writing Shelter? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

The main thing I wanted was to show that women don't have to play the victim, and they don't always have to have men protect them. Sometimes, they can (and should) take care of themselves, too.

8. How long did it take you to write Shelter? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

I wrote the draft in less than one week, and I edited it in another week. I created the cover art and design myself. I didn't have the money to hire anyone. Fortunately, I'm kind of a one-woman show!

9. Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?

That's a tough question. I'm not close with my family because of various issues. I guess my biggest supporters have been my children. They've been incredibly encouraging through the entire process.

10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

The book series has an official website at: http://www.bloodhaze.com

I'm on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/TaraShuler

And I have two fan pages set up for myself and the series:

http://www.facebook.com/BloodHazeSeries
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Shuler/159042924159061

My personal Facebook page is at:

http://www.facebook.com/TheRealTaraShuler


11. What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

I feel character development is probably the most critical element. If you can't develop some sort of emotional attachment to the characters, it's hard to enjoy the story, no matter how good the plot itself happens to be. I also feel that it's vital to paint a picture of every scene in the reader's mind. Dialogue is important, and action is essential, but if the reader can't see it in their mind, nothing else matters.

12. Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Absolutely! When I started to write Shelter, it was going to be very different from the story it is now. The characters took me in a completely unexpected direction, and I am so grateful they did!

13. And just for fun, favorite movie or television series?

I am a die-hard Twilight fan. I absolutely love the series. As for television, I really love Supernatural, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and other sci-fi and paranormal type shows.

14. Do you have any other books available?

Book two in the series, Storm, is also currently available. Book three is due to be released later in May 2011. Not to give too much away, but in books two and three, the action really builds, and Alice discovers she has a lot more "power" than she ever realized!

I also have another series in progress. It's another vampire-based romance, but geared more for adults rather than young adults, and it's a little darker.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your work with us, Tara!


Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One) at Amazon.com
Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One) at Smashwords.com
Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One) at Barnes & Noble.com
Tara Shuler on Goodreads

Friday, May 27, 2011

Author Interview: Cheryl Shireman

Cheryl Shireman took some time out to speak with us this week regarding her novel, Life is But a Dream. A sweet woman with a creative spirit, Cheryl told us about the inspiration for her book and the journey she took to create it.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.


I live on a lake in the Midwest. I am married, have three children, and one absolutely adorable granddaughter who calls me Bomb Bomb.

2. How long have you been writing?

I started writing when I was a teenager. And even before that, I loved the feel of a pen in my hands. I used to write down the words to songs (capturing the words by playing the songs over and over again or by catching them on the radio!) and poems in spiral notebooks (long before the internet made this easy). So, even before writing my own words, I fell in love with the arrangement of words – whether in song, poetry, or favorite childhood novels.

3. What is Life is But a Dream about?

It is about a woman who is going through a very tough time. Her marriage seems to be ending, her only daughter is leaving home for college, and due to her husband’s job loss, she has also just lost her home. She retreats to a secluded lake cabin to escape her misery. While there, she begins to think about the possibility of suicide. Ending her life suddenly seems much easier than living her life. The reader follows her through the journey, and ultimately, the novel is about a woman who redefines her life and displays a courage she never could have imagined. In short, it is about the search for meaning, the power of love, and the discovery of the untapped strength that is within every one of us.

4. How did you come up with the plot?

I liked the idea of a woman going to a secluded area to redefine her life. With that premise, I started thinking about the character. What would drive her there? Why is she alone? What is important to her? What is she afraid of? How did she get to this point in her life? And what is she going to do about it?

5. Tell us about Grace Adams.

Grace begins the novel very depressed. She has devoted her entire life to her husband and daughter and now feels as if she is no longer needed by either of them. Facing an empty nest and the possible demise of her marriage, she feels as if her life no longer has meaning. At the beginning of the novel, she is passive in many ways, and is so overwhelmed with grief and self-absorption that she is not thinking clearly. As the novel progresses, the reader follows Grace on her journey and watches as she struggles to find meaning and significance in her life. Grace is also quite funny. Despite the often serious nature of the novel, there are scenes that will make you laugh out loud as Grace ponders all of the possibilities life has to offer.

6. What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?

Grace is a character who is realistic and very easy to relate to. That was important to me. I wanted the reader to pick up the novel, begin reading and think, I have felt that way too. I think I have accomplished this, for, over and over again, I have been asked if this character is based on a real person. This is, of course, the ultimate compliment for any writer.

7. Did you have any specific goals when writing Life is But a Dream? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

I wanted to explore the devastating consequences of depression, the pain of losing a job, the grief associated with losing a home, and the realities of the empty-nest syndrome. And I also wanted to include humorous situations, because I think humor is a great part of all of our lives.

8. How long did it take you to write Life is But a Dream? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

It is difficult to say how long it took me to write the novel, because I worked on it off and on for ten years. There was one point where I put it away and didn’t even look at it for probably three years during that period. So, it went through many rewrites, changes in the story, and even changes in narration. Originally, it was written in third person, but I felt that I could not develop the intimacy between Grace and the reader unless I told the story through her eyes. That was a major turning point.

And no – no outside help. At least none that I hired. My husband designs websites and he designed my website and also helps me to create my covers. I am the creative side and he is the technical side. We make a good team.

9. Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?

Easy answer. My husband and my children. They have never given up on me. They have always encouraged me. They have always believed in my writing ability, and without a doubt, are my biggest supporters. And they love me a lot. Which is a pretty great bonus.

10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

Yes! Thank you for asking.

Website - http://cherylshireman.com/
Facebook – http://facebook.com/cherylshireman
Twitter – http://twitter.com/cherylshireman

11. What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

Great writing and realistic characters. I love novels with scenes that I must highlight or read aloud to someone. And I love characters that I think about long after I am finished with the novel.

12. Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Yes! Not only a scene, but the entire book! In Life is But a Dream I planned to introduce a minor character in one chapter. But as I wrote that chapter, I became fascinated with the character and he ended up becoming a major character and instrumental to the novel (Paul, the detective). I never saw that coming! In my latest novel, Broken Resolutions, which is about a bunch of friends who get stranded together after a New Year’s Eve snowstorm, I began the novel with a specific ending in mind. As the novel progressed, my main character seemed to develop a mind of her own and I ended up with a different ending. For me, those kinds of developments are part of the appeal of writing. Sometimes, it is as if the characters in a scene just take off and I have to type really fast just to keep up with the action – not entirely sure where they are headed. That doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it really is magical.

13. And just for fun, favorite vacation destination?

Ah…another easy answer. Colorado. Colorado. Colorado. And just in case you didn’t catch it – Colorado. I love going there in the summers and exploring the mountains. Always my favorite vacation destination.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Best of luck to you!

Incidentally, if you'd like to stop by and say hello to Cheryl or any of the authors I've been interviewing, head on over to the Readers and Writers United group on facebook! We all gather there to interact with our readers and each other. Feel free to drop by!



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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Final Fantasy VI Prologue

This is a novelized version of the introductory scenes of the video game Final Fantasy VI. I found myself wondering what the story would be like if it were in book form. So I took the opening scene and wrote it out.

I did it all over a weekend, so it's probably got lots of errors and stuff. Doesn't matter, that was never the point. I just wanted to add another dimension to the story. I think I succeeded :)

Oh, and for you purists - yes, I did change some things. For example, "We'll approach from the south" was originally "We'll approach from the east." But when you play the game, the only way in and out of Narshe (and the way the soldiers used) is from the south.


Enjoy and comment!

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Long ago, the War of the Magi reduced the world to a scorched wasteland, and magic simply ceased to exist.

One thousand years have passed. Iron, gunpowder and steam engines have been rediscovered, and high technology reigns. But there are those who would enslave the world by reviving the dreaded destructive power known as "magic."

Can it be that those in power are on the verge of repeating a senseless and deadly mistake?
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It started, as so many tales have, on a cold night. Snow rarely fell south of the mountains, but in Narshe, it was always winter. The cliff sides faced away from the sun's daily arc, far above the desert lands of Figaro. The constant chill served as a ward against those who might otherwise perceive Narshe to be a cozy community for retirement or raising children. People didn't come to Narshe to live. They came to work.

And work was abundant. Many recent industrial advances had come from Narshe. For a time, it seemed as though every able-bodied man was uprooting his family and marching north. Miners, in particular, were plentiful. Narshe's mines dove deep into the mountains and had provided an abundance of resources to feed the technological boom. The network of tunnels expanded every day, providing work for just about any man strong enough to swing a pickax. And with so many of them working side by side every day, it was only a matter of time before they unearthed something far more precious than any stone or jewel.

It was a discovery that immediately caught the attention of Emperor Gestahl himself.

Cold wind rushed through the valley just south of Narshe's entrance. It was the kind of cold that made faces raw and bones numb. The mountains usually kept the stronger gusts from reaching the worn path, but this wind was persistent. And it was gaining in strength. Snow fell, lightly at first before gaining in both strength and density. Soft thunder rolled between the clouds.

A storm was coming.

On a precipice just south of Narshe where the path split to form a small plateau, Vicks and Wedge took a moment to survey the area. They'd thus far seen nothing unusual during their journey, but the nature of their mission led Vicks to believe that would soon change. His dark eyes scanned the snow-covered path ahead before coming to rest on the glowing lights of Narshe on the distant mountainside. "There's the town," he said softly, gripping the control sticks of his Magitek armor.

Wedge moved beside him, the mechanical feet of his Magitek unit stomping heavy holes in the snow. "Hard to believe an Esper's been found there one thousand years after the War of the Magi."

Another set of iron feet shifted behind Vicks. He didn't want to acknowledge the presence of their third member, but he knew that sooner or later, he would have no choice. She was assigned to accompany them for a purpose, he knew. But that was all he knew. A new recruit? A spy? Were his loyalties to the Empire in question? Or was the woman really just a puppet as Kefka had claimed? Whatever the truth, the rumors about her . . . abilities . . . didn't sit well with Vicks. The less interaction he had with her, he thought, the better. Then again, perhaps ignoring her would give her the chance to catch him off-guard.

He shook his head and wiped the snow from his helmet's brim. Best not to continue with that train of thought. "Think it's still alive?" he asked, returning his attention to Narshe.

Wedge shrugged. "Probably, judging from the urgency of our orders."

But the more Vicks tried not to think about her, the more he could feel her eyes at his back, burning a hole through his skull. He had avoided the subject during the entire journey from Vector, but now that they faced their objective, the woman's purpose was likely to become clear sooner rather than later. If, by chance, Wedge knew anything about her . . . Well, it couldn't hurt to ask.

Rotating the two steel control sticks, Vicks brought his Magitek armor around to face their pale-skinned companion. "And this woman, this . . . sorceress . . . What's she doing here? I heard she fried fifty of our Magitek armored soldiers in under three minutes."

Wedge grinned, stomping big prints in the snow as he lumbered over to her side. "Not to worry," he said, pointing to the twisted metal bands circling her head. Another thing that made Vicks shudder. "The slave crown on her head robs her of conscious thought. She'll follow orders."

That wasn't an answer, Vicks noticed. If Wedge knew anything of her identity or purpose, he didn't seem eager to share. Instead, he headed past both of them and down toward the main path to Narshe. "We'll approach from the south. Move out!"

A long trail of mist streamed from Vicks' nostrils as he sighed. Regardless of his concerns, he wasn't about to disobey an order from his superior. The only thing he could do was follow and pray that what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

Had they traveled from the capital on foot, they'd surely have made camp on that hill. Not even the biggest fool in Vector would attempt to travel through that dark valley during a snowstorm. With visibility dramatically reduced by both the darkness and the snow, predators could be upon the party before their pistols had left their holsters. A soldier knee-deep in snow couldn't move with any amount of agility, and hidden boulders and dips in the path buried well below the snowdrifts could break ankles or even swallow an unsuspecting soldier.

But with the Magitek armor to carry them, such concerns were, quite literally, beneath them. The Empire's mechanized bi-pedal armor units were hailed as one of the best inventions to come out of the research facility in years. Armed with the latest in Magitek weaponry and plated with heavy iron for added protection, the mechs had a tremendous impact on both the role and the effectiveness of the traditional soldier. A single man could calm a riot, crush a blockade, or level and entire battalion. In addition, the units were able to carry a soldier across great distances faster and safer than ever before possible. For a man, walking along that snowy road to Narshe would've been a brutal and exhausting experience. But the mechs plowed through the snow with ease while onboard scanning units watched for predators and other dangers that might pose a threat.

"Still, even with all this technology, they still couldn't build a canopy to protect us from the elements," Vicks muttered, brushing snow from his mech's control console. "Unbelievable."

Wedge, who had taken point, looked back at him. "Why, are you cold?"

Despite the weather, Vicks was actually quite comfortable. The heavy brown uniforms they wore were well-insulated. "No," he answered, shaking his head. As he did, his eyes came to rest on the woman. She marched along beside them in silence, her eyes fixed forward as though she could already see the Esper ahead. Unlike them, she only wore a simple dress of pink that ended just above her knees. Vicks almost shivered as the wind blew through her long blond ponytail. "I bet she is, though."

Wedge looked back at her before shrugging. "Not our problem. You heard what Sir Kefka said. She'll do her job whether she's comfortable or not."

It didn't quite seem right to Vicks, but he was a mere soldier. He didn't know everything about His Excellency's plans or what kind of crimes this girl might have committed. Perhaps it was her punishment for what she'd done to the other Magitek soldiers . . . if the rumors were true.

The snow was already slowing when they reached the base of the hills where Narshe was located. By the time they arrived in town, it had stopped completely. Vicks couldn't help but feel a bit anxious. While the leaders of Narshe had yet to formally sever ties with the Empire, they had made their dissent known on numerous occasions. Emperor Gestahl's methods were not popular here, and it was likely that the people would be displeased with the idea of three Magitek soldiers entering their city to take possession of their latest archeological find. But the Empire was Narshe's biggest financial backer; an estimated eighty percent of minerals gathered from the mines were purchased by the scientists at the Magitek Research Facility. In short, if Narshe wanted to prevent the collapse of their economy, they'd have to hand over the Esper.

At the towering archway that served as Narshe's entrance, Wedge came to a stop. Vicks and the woman followed suit. "Let's put her on point," Wedge said, positioning his mech behind hers. "No sense in taking any risks. Forward!"

Without question, the woman took the lead, and Vicks and Wedge followed her into the town. The first thing Vicks noticed was the lack of activity. True, it was a good deal past dusk, but there wasn't a soul to be found on the paths, and no light shone from any window.

As if to answer his thoughts, Wedge spoke. "Lookouts must have seen our approach and told the people to take shelter."

"Fine by me," Vicks responded as they marched northward. "I had expected we'd have to argue with local security forces over this whole thing. The easier they make this for us, the better it will be for everyone involved."

In his travels around the world, Vicks had never had occasion to stop in Narshe. It was a primitive little down despite its flourishing economy. He had expected large mansions and cobblestone streets, but the brick-and-mortar homes were no more impressive than anything that could be found in South Figaro. Oil lanterns on tall iron poles lined the paths that twisted around each building, and large staircases of wood led to structures built into the higher elevations. Some of the town's layout seemed a bit haphazard, but there was little doubt that the aesthetics had been sacrificed due to the formation of the mountainside. Odd hills and cliffs and valleys had apparently forced some creative choices for construction. Though some homes were level with the ground, there were others that were build almost entirely on wooden scaffolds to compensate for uneven land. Then there were structures that seemed to be built right into the cliffsides with only a single staircase erected to provide access. How or why they managed to construct such a thing was beyond Vicks imagination.

Wedge's voice pulled Vicks away from his thoughts. "Narshe's mines are located at the northernmost part of the town. If we keep heading-"

He was interrupted as a pair of soldiers dressed in old blue robes stepped onto the path about ten paces ahead of them. They were lanky men carrying primitive weapons. No match for the mechs, but Vicks clung to hope that they might be willing to negotiate.

His hopes were dashed in an instant. "Imperial Magitek armor?" one of the soldiers yelled, hoisting his sword. "Not even Narshe is safe anymore!"

Their charge was ended just as quickly as it had begun. A deafening crackle pierced the air as a scorching beam of fiery light shot forth from the chest cannon of the woman's Magitek unit. The blast sent their bodies sailing through the air. One man came down hard on the rooftop of a house, his body rolling and sliding downward before falling to a smoldering heap on the ground below. His partner crashed down beside him, smoke rising from his charred remains. Neither man so much as twitched.

"Serves 'em right," Wedge said with a grin.

Vicks shook his head. "Let's keep moving."

The trio marched past the fallen men and continued northward. Despite the fact that he was an imperial soldier, Vicks didn't like violence. He'd joined the military to help people and preserve peace. But lately, he'd found himself questioning his purpose. Much of that had to do with the Empire's apparent motives. More and more, the word "magic" had been making the rounds amongst the troops, and Vicks didn't like it. The stories of the ancient War of the Magi should've served as warning to anyone who might decide to purse such power. If that was the Emperor's goal . . .

No, it couldn't be. His Excellency was far too wise for that. Perhaps he learned of others who sought the power and mobilized the Empire to intervene. There was another faction opposed to the Empire, an organization calling themselves the Returners, who seemed to be trying to start an uprising. Perhaps they planned to use magic to do it. That must be it. Emperor Gestahl was just trying to protect the people from the Returners, and to do so he needed to secure Narshe's Esper before the Returners could get their hands on it. That made sense.

It didn't explain the technology that powered Magitek armor, though. But there had to be a reasonable explanation for it all. The Empire was not evil. It couldn't be.

Another Narshe patrol stepped onto the path ahead. "Narshe's freedom depends on us!"

This time the woman fired before the men had even managed to take a step. A bright beam of blue shot from her mech this time, immobilizing the guards in a thick shell of ice. She pressed a few buttons on her console, and her mech raised his steel arm. Latched atop its forearm were a pair of foot-long missiles. With a pop-hiss, one ignited and flew toward the frozen men. The collision sounded like the shattering of fifty panes of glass. The remains of the men showered down upon the buildings and pathways ahead, leaving the way forward clear. Vicks couldn't even try to imagine how that must've felt.

The path shifted upward ahead, narrowing through a ravine past several more homes and into the hills. As they marched through, Wedge's ears seemed to perk. "Did you hear that?" he asked.

Vicks stopped and listened carefully. For a moment, there was nothing but the stillness of the night. Then he heard it; something that sounded like numerous feet scampering through the snow behind them. He and Wedge turned their mechs around to prepare for whatever might be headed their way.

"We've got 'em trapped, now!" a voice yelled from behind. Vicks looked back to see two more men racing toward them from the north. As he faced his console to bring his mech about, two dogs burst around the corner to the south, snarling and barking as they bounded toward the imperial soldiers.

"We'll take the dogs," Wedge shouted. "She'll handle the guards."

The last thing Vicks wanted to do was kill a couple of dogs, but they seemed to be ready to rip his throat out given the opportunity. As they galloped closer, Vicks angled his Magitek mech directly toward the one on the right. Wedge aimed for the other to the left. Simultaneously, they pushed the triggers of their left control sticks, unleashing powerful bolts of electricity into their targets. The dogs squealed and tumbled backward before resting motionless in the snow. Vicks looked back just in time to see the two guards meet a similar fate.

"C'mon," Wedge said, turning northward once again. "We need to keep moving."

They continued along at a slow but steady pace, following the ravine up a steep incline toward Narshe's northern border. A short distance beyond the final house, Vicks could see four figures standing with weapons drawn. "They won't even give us a chance to speak," he grumbled. "If they'd just talk to us, maybe we could avoid bloodshed."

"What are you worried about?" Wedge asked, almost laughing. "They can't touch us. We're Magitek soldiers!"

Vicks shook his head as snow crunched under his mech's feet. "I'm not worried about us. I'm worried about them. I don't want to have to kill people if it isn't necessary."

"But their actions make it necessary," Wedge told him. "That's not our fault. Don't blame yourself."

Vicks raised an eyebrow. "What would you think if Magitek soldiers marched into your town?"

"I'd think they must have had good reason," Wedge said flatly. "I would never question orders from His Highness."

Again, Vicks sighed and shook his head. "I suppose."

The four soldiers stood at the top of the rise, waving and shaking their weapons menacingly as though they really thought they stood a chance against the imperial troops. Vicks wanted to call to them, to offer amnesty, to beg cooperation, but he couldn't undermine Wedge's command like that. Instead, he kept his mouth closed, and eventually, he heard the rallying cry he'd hoped to avoid.

"We must defend the mines!" The guards screamed, rushing down with weapons waving above their heads. They were dispatched by a few quick blasts from the Magitek cannons.

"Fools," Vicks growled. "If they'd stayed in hiding, they'd yet live."

Wedge nodded with satisfaction. "Exactly. They chose to oppose us, and therefore chose their fate."

It wasn't quite what Vicks had meant, but it was clear that he and Wedge were of separate opinions on the matter. "Let's just get the Esper and get out of here."

Just beyond the top of the hill, the three came to one of several mine entrances. This particular opening had piles of fresh wood and tools lying on the ground beside it, suggesting that it had only been recently constructed.

Wedge must've noticed it, too. "According to our source, the frozen Esper was found in a new mine shaft. Maybe this one?" He guided his Magitek armor inside without waiting for a response. Vicks and the woman followed close behind.

The tunnel itself was relatively short. Oil lamps lined the walls, providing the only source of light in the dim shaft. Half-finished train tracks ran along the center of the dirt floor, leading right up to the far wall where they disappeared under a pile of rocks and dirt. Vicks' first thought was that there had been a cave-in, but upon closer inspection, he began to think otherwise. A cave in would've left more structural damage, and debris would be littered about the floor. This looked more light a neatly organized pile of rocks and boulders purposely designed to block the path. Only one way to find out...

"I'll handle this," Vicks said, positioning his Magitek armor as close to the pile of debris as he could manage. He tapped a few buttons on his console and pulled back on the right control stick. The mech raised its heavy arm and pulled back, mechanical fingers clenched. Vicks pushed the stick forward, and the Magitek unit mimicked the action, thrusting its fist forward with immense force. The punch blew a gaping hole in the rubble and sent rocks and debris scattering across the floor. Again, Vicks wound up and delivered a stiff blow, shattering through the largest boulder in the center of the pile. Over and over, he pounded his way through the wall of rock until there was a wide opening through which the mechs could pass.

"I would've just blasted through," Wedge said, crossing his arms.

"I didn't want to risk damaging whatever is on the other side," Vicks responded. "Unless you'd like to be the one to tell Emperor Gestahl that you incinerated the Esper."

"Nonsense," Wedge said, pointing toward the silent woman. "I'd blame her. That's what she's here for."

Vicks rolled his eyes and headed through the opening. What he saw on the other side nearly took his breath away.

It was a wide open cavern unlike the typical mine shaft. The train tracks stopped midway into the room. Just beyond that, a single guard beside what looked like an oversized snail's shell. But that wasn't what had caught his attention. Against the far wall, standing nearly twice again as tall as Vicks himself, was a giant block of ice. And inside, a giant creature resembling some kind of bird with green and red feathers lay dormant, encased in its frozen prison for over a millennium.

They had found the Esper.

"By the Goddesses!" Wedge exclaimed as he entered behind Vicks. "Look at the size of it! We'll never be able to get that thing back to Vector ourselves!"

"You won't have to worry about that!" the guard shouted, patting the giant shell. It was nearly the size of the Magitek unit. "We won't hand over the Esper! Whelk! Get them!"

A low growl came from the shell, a resonating vibration that shook Vicks to the core. From the opening near the floor slithered a giant snail, its neck oozing with an unidentifiable slime. Teeth like giant needles lined its oversized mouth, and its beady eyes twisted about, presumably surveying the room for food. As soon as it saw the guard standing beside it, the head shot forward, mouth open further than Vicks would've thought physically possible. It came down over the soldier's head with a crunch, silencing his screams as it lifted his body into the air. The beast ate like a snake, swallowing the little man in two more bites.

"OK, try to stay out of its reach," Wedge said while it struggled to get the guard down its gullet. "Its head may be fast, but it's still a snail. Its maneuverability is its weakness. We'll-"

But Vicks already knew what to do. "Hold it. Think back to our briefing."

Wedge was obviously getting impatient. "What about it?!"

"Do you remember hearing about a monster that eats energy . . . "

Wedge's eyes widened. " . . . and stores it in its shell!"

"Right," Vicks nodded. "So whatever you do, don't attack the shell!"

Whelk growled angrily, its beady eyes shifting between the two of them. Vicks and Wedge moved to either corner of the room while the sorceress woman stood between them.

"Ready?" Wedge called out. "Fire!!"

Vicks unleashed a powerful blast of fiery light, hitting the monster right between the eyes. At the same time, Wedge let loose a blast of ice energy which formed a frozen patch on the left side of the beast's head. Their female companion followed that with a missile that exploded into Whelk's neck, leaving charred burns across its disgusting pink flesh. The creature let out a piercing roar as it writhed in pain.

"Again! We can't let up!" Vicks shouted, firing again. But this time, Whelk withdrew into its shell, and the fiery blast crashed into the pink shell.

"No!" Wedge yelled, but it was too late. A thick band of electricity rolled across the shell before it shot toward Vicks, throwing him from his mech. His body slammed into the wall before crashing to the floor.

Everything hurt. A dull ache rolled through his arms, his legs felt like jelly, and his chest smoldered where the blast had found its mark. As he struggled onto all fours, he was startled to see the their female companion standing over him. She didn't say a word. She just clasped her hands together and lowered her head. White light surrounded her body and raised up, seemingly hovering above her before coming down on Vicks like a soothing blanket. Within seconds, the pain left him, his wounds closed, and strength flowed anew. It was like something out of a storybook, something he wouldn't have believed if it hadn't happened to him. The rumors about her had to be true. That was magic!

From the other side of the room, Wedge was screaming. "Can I get a little help over here!?"

The monster was back out of his shell and angrier than ever. Vicks jumped to his feet and climbed back into this mech while the woman returned to hers. Wedge was backed into the corner with Whelk's teeth snapping just inches from his face.

"Hold on!" Vicks called, shifting his mech into position. With a silent prayer, he fired a crimson blast into the side of the creature's long neck. The beam cut through flesh with ease, severing Whelk's head from the rest of its body. It hit the ground with a disgusting splat.

And then it was over.

"Took you long enough!" Wedge grumbled, stomping over the remains of the creature's head.

"Did you see what she did?" Vicks asked him. "She healed me! She used magic!"

"That's not surprising," Wedge responded. "She does-" He cut himself off. "Hey, what's she doing?"

The woman was standing in front of the Esper in silence. She stared at the ancient creature intently, eyes as wide and glistening.

Vicks and Wedge shifted to either side of her. "Hey, what's the matter?" Wedge asked her. "Do you know something we don't?"

Of course, she didn't respond. Vicks looked back at the Esper. The ice glistened in the flickering light of the lanterns. Somehow, though he couldn't explain quite why, he got the feeling that it was studying them just as much as they were studying it.

Without warning, a blinding light filled the cabin, accompanied by a horrific scream from Wedge. When his vision cleared, Vicks was surprised to see Wedge in a crumpled heap on the far side of the room, his mech blown to pieces around him. "Wedge! Are you-"

Another blinding flash of light, and this time Vicks felt like every bone in his body had been shattered to pieces. He sailed from his mech as it exploded beneath him, sending mangled iron and gears across the room like shrapnel. The pain that radiated through him when he hit the ground was indescribable.

When he looked up, everything was blurred. Vainly, he tried to crawl to his feet, only to find his body unwilling to respond. The world spun, glowed, faded. He could see the woman, rising from her Magitek armor, surrounded by a brilliant blue light. The light formed repeated arcs between her and the Esper as consciousness began to slip away. Did Gestahl know this would happen? Did Kefka? What was it all for?

Darkness swallowed everything.