‘Dawn of Destiny’ Audiobook Coming Oct. 14th!

I am ecstatic to announce that after four-and-a-half years, the Dawn of Destiny audiobook officially has a release date! On October 14th, DOD will go live on CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon under the vocal category of music album.

Because DOD is being uploaded as a music album as opposed to an audiobook, it will not be available on Audible. There are several reasons for this, one of which is that the file quality of Audible uploads is not up to par with the quality of the DOD production. Years were spent making sure the sound quality was top-notch, so it seems a slight to the consumer to have that quality reduced on the market. By going through CD Baby, the audio will be released as intended: with the absolutely highest quality. This actually makes purchasing the audiobook easier, as listeners would be able to purchase it the same way they’d purchase a release from their favorite band. DOD will still be available on Amazon, just not through their Audible platform.

I’m excited to talk more about this as the release draws nearer. Until then, enjoy the official launch trailer below!

 

Epic Interview: Kevin Tye

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s time for another interview! Kevin, the most recent entry into our The Next Big Thing casting series, was gracious enough to join me for an interview where we touched on everything from music production to the World Cup.

NOTE: I mistakenly stated during the interview that the current leader of our Lightning Round had three points. In actuality, there is currently a two-way tie for first place with two points a piece. This is important!

TRIVIA LEADER BOARD
1. Andrea Drepaul (2.0)
2. Mark Elias (2.0)
3. Mishael Morgan (1.5)

Keep up with Critical Imprint at Soundcloud or on Facebook here. Don’t forget to also follow Kevin on Twitter @thekevintye, @the_magic_cube, and @criticalimprint!

 

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE.

 

Want to be a guest? Send me an email or tweet me on Twitter!

The End of a Journey: An Audiobook Produced

Audiobook

Four-and-a-half years. Don’t they pass in a blink?

In late 2009, a crazy thought entered my mind. Could Epic make the jump to audio? Other writers were doing it. It was kind of the thing to do. And so I leaned back in my chair, propped my hands beneath my chin, and wondered 1) is this a smart idea, and 2) could I even feasibly do it? The answer to both questions, resoundingly, was no. Naturally, I did it anyway.

The decision to create an audiobook version of Dawn of Destiny was much like deciding to jump out of an airplane blindfolded and without a parachute. I’m a person of many a spontaneous idea. This was, without a doubt, the most recklessly I’ve dived into any of them. I am not an audiobook person. I don’t enjoy listening to them. With rare exception, I don’t like it when people read stories to me. But I like movies. And people always say Epic should be a movie.

Hmmm…

This is how reckless ideas become long-term investments. I decided that if I was going to do something boneheaded, I was at least going to do it right. No narrator reading everything. I would absolutely, positively not read it myself. But I would cast it. Like a movie. With characters, and music, and explosions. Like Michael Bay, but smart. And yes, I would need a narrator to reel it all in–to be the gel that holds the whole thing together. But he would supplement the action. He wouldn’t say what didn’t need to be said. This was sounding better by the minute. And so on January 3rd, 2010, I posted a project audition on numerous voice-over websites. “Come work for me, and I’ll pay you next to nothing.” It sounds cheap, but it’s what I could afford. I’m not Michael Bay. I’m an independent writer from Des Allemands. “Next to nothing” was still gonna break my bank. I didn’t expect to turn many heads.

Over 200 applicants later, I realized I was creating a monster. People wanted to do this. Good, talented people. Okay now…this thing might could be done. Fast-forward ten thousand dollars USD, and I had twenty-five voice-over artists and a stockpile of music and sound effects. I was ready to rock and roll. The only things I needed now were five clones to work on it.

I spent the next months getting the dialogue recorded. This is a process that can be easily explained. Pick up a novel. Catalog everything in quotation marks. Having fun, yet?

It struck me sometime during the fifth hour of producing the first minute of a 9+ hour audiobook that I might be in over my head. I had files and files of recorded dialogue to sift through and decide upon. Do I like the way Scott says “Yes sir,” in this take, or in that one? Or in the one after that? Or the one after that? Now let’s hear Colonel Lilan’s takes. And so on, and so on. Now let’s add music. But the music track is too long. So let’s deconstruct parts of it and create a musical Frankenstein by copying and pasting certain notes in certain places. Then, after that, discover a new song that fits the mood better and is perfectly sized, thus making all your previous hard work moot. But at least it sounds right, now. Two weeks later, and the first five minutes are sounding pretty nifty. Too bad the file sizes are so big that your computer can barely store them. Time to buy an external hard drive. Keep all the files there. Only import the ones you need. Now I have multiple files of the same name on multiple hard drives. Do I keep them both, or junk the old ones? Junk ’em – no use keeping obsolete files when I’ve put days into making them better. Drag to recycle bin, empty. Oh, wait. That was the new one.

It sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m actually not. Yes, this project gave me lots to complain about, none of which I should receive sympathy for, because I did this to myself. But my intent here is to try and convey why this project took four-and-a-half years. Mix into that having a full-time job, and getting diagnosed with cancer, and having a first baby. Mix into that life, because believe me, in that four-and-a-half year stretch, life kept happening. Not to mention in the midst of all this, I was feeling the pressure of having to finish the 160,000-word behemoth, Epic 4: The Glorious Becoming. I’ve had a lot of folks (very politely) ask when the audiobook will be released. While no one has straight-up asked, “Lee, why the heck are you so freaking slow?” I’ve nonetheless always felt the pressure of answering that question. And so here’s the answer: creating an audiobook like this was the kind of project that no person in their right mind ever should have attempted on their own. The best way I can describe it is to say, imagine if you signed on to build a Corvette from scratch in your garage. That’s about as close as it gets.

There are two individuals who singlehandedly (doublehandedly?) saved this project. The first is Patrick Quance, the audiobook’s chief narrator. About a year-and-a-half or two into this project, the audiobook’s original narrator was lost, not in the literal sense, but in the sense that he was no longer involved in the project. The details of that breakup don’t matter, but the gut-wrenching part of the ordeal was that I literally lost a year’s worth of work on the audiobook, as every single thing I’d done would have to be done again, with a new narrator. The absolutely wonderful, fantastic, can-barely-believe-it-happened part is that I discovered the best audiobook narrator humanly possible for Epic: Patrick Quance.

Patrick’s voice is like a mix of Leonard Nimoy and Jean Shepherd (the iconic narrator of A Christmas Story). He has an almost unreal ability to become the text; you’ll hear this difference when you compare his battle narration to his more tender readings. His voice conveys what the words make you feel, and that’s priceless. Of even more critical importance than that…Patrick is a outstanding human being. The experience of getting to know him during this project has been one of the highlights. I want this audiobook to succeed as much for him as I do for myself (I feel this way for all my actors). After the most demoralizing stretch of the project, when it was literally on the verge of completely crumbling, Patrick not only made it bearable, he made it outright a joy. I cannot imagine there was a more appropriate voice or person for the role of narrator. So he’s person number one on my two-person list of saviors.

The second person is Natalie van Sistine, Dawn of Destiny‘s dialogue editor. Without going into full-on gush mode, Natalie is the reason you’re going to be hearing an audiobook in your lifetime. Her role has a simple definition, and an exceedingly, exceedingly tedious process. Natalie patched together every line of dialogue in the project from Chapter 5 (where she came onto the project) to the end. That is what I hate to do. I love getting dialogue; I love hearing it. I hate patching it together. But Natalie doesn’t hate it. In fact, she loves it (or she did before facing this gigantic beast!). She delivered me every chapter of the audiobook in mp3 form, missing only sound effects and music, my bread and butter. Though you don’t hear her voice as prominently as the other actors in this project, you’re hearing her impact every time a line is spoken. So when you see “Natalie van Sistine likes this” on Epic’s Facebook page, take a moment to appreciate that this is a person whose efforts made this project real. Take a moment to thank her for it, because what she did for this audiobook is pretty special.

There are scores of other actors and actresses whose contributions were also vital to this endeavor. Though I hope to get into more detail about them in future entries on more personal basis, I want to at least mention them here. The ridiculously long list of cast members for this project is as follows: Stewart Cummings, Michael Paladine, Joshua Samson, Robin Egerton, Rick Tamblyn, Jake Eberle, Rick Simmonds, Paul Bellantoni, Al Wood, Charlie James, Elisa Eliot, Brian Fish, Gabriel Wolf, Jesse Cox, Steve Bailey, Jake Eastman, Kevin Frazier, Holly Larkey, Chetachi Egwu, Charles Lipper, Roosevelt Sims, Ellen Sowney, Wendy Podgursky, Xander Mobus, and Billy Sage. Counting the voices of Patrick and Natalie, that’s twenty-seven voice-over artists for this audiobook project. It’s enough to roll bonafide credits.

Here’s what I have to tell you: all of the above was written to detail the blood, sweat, and tears that went into this project. And sitting here now, listening to the final results of this labor, I can honestly tell you that it was worth every moment. This audiobook sounds special. If you plug in your headphones and close your eyes, you will be there. I’ve often referred to this as more an audio “experience” than a book. That holds true. Every single person listed above, to a T, has been sensational. More for them than for myself, I want this audiobook to succeed. They deserve it.

So what happens next? Just like with my novels, this audiobook is going to go through a “beta” process. Friends, family, and fans will listen to it and give me feedback. This is all a part of quality control – any product would go through this. If any adjustments need to be made, they’ll be made, at which point this thing will finally see the light of day. Just don’t ask me how, yet. I can pump out a novel on Amazon, but actually publishing audiobooks is new territory for me. So while my betas are listening away, I’ll be doing my research and examining my options to get this out there in the best way possible. This has taken 4.5 years. It won’t be rushed at the finish line. We’re going to do this right.

So sit tight for a little while longer while we sort out the finishing touches and plan the release. It will be worth it. It has already been for me.

 

TNBT Cast: Kevin Tye (Logan Marshall)

Marshall looked exactly like he did in his bio. Same shaved head, same scars, same warrior’s stare. If this mission went bad, he could be trouble.

Want to know what this is about? Check out this blog entry!

There’s been a ton going on lately, yes, on the writing circuit, but none of which I can talk liberally about (yet). It’s not all Epic-related, but nonetheless it’s been taking up a major piece of my time. That’s the most I can explain right now regarding my slowness in getting these up, but you’re gonna have to trust me! I also have a toddler. There’s really…not much more I need to say, there. If you’ve ever had a toddler, you understand.

The style of this entry is going to be a little bit different. Instead of focusing on Logan Marshall, the Australian commando from book four whom you guys should know already, I’m going to focus more on the actor who was awesome enough to lend his face to this little endeavor, Kevin Tye. Truth be told, with some of the newer characters in this series, such as Logan, who was introduced in the latest installment, it’s almost impossible to even talk about them without spoiling some pretty major events. For those who have read Epic 4: The Glorious Becoming, you know that the fact that we come across Logan at all is a spoiler in itself. I’m honestly not even able to find a quote generic enough to use in this piece without giving some element of the story away. So here’s what you need to know about Logan Marshall: he’s good, he’s bad, and he’s mad. The Epic faithful will understand!

Tye-02

If you pay attention to the entertainment industry, you’re going to realize that there are very few one-trick ponies out there. Most actors are also musicians, or visual artists, or producers, or writers. As an almost-all-of-the-above myself, I can really relate to this. In addition to writing, I produce. I’ve also been an amateur guitarist since my teenage years. Creativity knows no bounds, so we usually end up expressing it in a smattering of different ways. Kevin falls into that in truly epic fashion.

Even though I came to find Kevin for his acting chops for the purpose of this casting series, a quick web search of him would turn up a ton of music and production work. He’s the founder of Critical Imprint, an independent record label that specializes in electronic music, meaning he’s also a serious musician himself. If you’re into electronica, you’d be hard-pressed to not find enjoyment in Kevin’s work. This is inspiration music, for those of us who need to sit back sometimes and let ideas just boil. It’s music for mental stimulation.

 

 

To get a full overview of Kevin’s style, check out the YouTube video I linked above, which is thirty minutes’ worth of The Lightside Sessions, an EP from English Ghosts that Critical Imprint released earlier this year (you can find more of Critical Imprint’s releases on their website). Music orientation is purely subjective, but for me, this is a fantastic sound – I enjoyed it enough to purchase it. Kevin lists one of his inspirations as Hans Zimmer (a composer whom you should all know), and you can hear the similarities in his pieces with darker, brooding undertones. I write Epic to this kind of music.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Kevin’s music has found its way into gaming and film. If you’ve ever found yourself dancing to the songs C-Squared or Mellow in Dance Dance Revolution, guess what? That’s Kev. He’s also done a lot of scoring, ranging from indie shorts to full-length films, the most recent of which was movie called Grief that approaches the tragic subject of suicide and how it impacts those around the victim. You can see the trailer for Grief (which he also acted in) below:

Kevin has also worked on two film projects recently called Cathedral Canyon and Crushed Velvet, the latter of which you must watch, if for no other reason, to see Kevin sporting what is quite possibly the largest multicolored mohawk known to mankind. I’m serious. It’s almost the size of Delaware.

Last, but by far not least, is a TV series called H.O.P.E., which is currently in the arduous process of being prepped for pitching. This is a show that looks pretty darn interesting and includes Kevin as one of its cast members. At the moment, H.O.P.E. is in the pilot stage, so while it’s not ready to be rolled out yet, well…you never know where a show like this can go. It’s a little sci-fi, a little mystery…heck, almost a little Fallout 3 in a place or two (if you’re familiar with the game and watch the H.O.P.E. trailer, you’ll get what I’m talking about, as it’s a really specific part). I don’t know too much about it yet, as there’s not a whole lot out there, but it definitely has me intrigued. H.O.P.E. has a Facebook page here that you can check out that seems to be updated fairly often.

I know I’ve been posting a lot of videos in this particular entry, but I want to post one more of a guided tour Kevin did of his home studio. As a novelist, I get to take the easy route when it comes to “manual labor required.” Same goes for actors and to an extent, visual artists (the only one of those aforementioned who need to buy any sort of supplies). But music and vocal work, especially when taken to the professional level, requires pretty much a redesign of part of your house. This is something that’s always blown my mind, and it just underscores how much freaking work goes into this profession before you can even do anything. Check this video out:

Kevin has been unbelievably patient with this blog post, considering I first contacted him about it pretty much a year ago. Like me, he’s neck deep in being a husband and father, and he understands how the latter has a way of grinding other things to a halt. Just the same, his patience and willingness to be a part of this have been hugely appreciated. I definitely want you to be able to keep up with what he’s doing, so be sure to follow Critical Imprint on Facebook or Twitter.

I’ve gotta say…when I first decided to undertake this little casting adventure, I had no idea what to expect. Through it, though, I’ve gotten to know and learn about some pretty incredible people. There are still more to meet! And there’s another lined up. And you’re gonna like him. I’ll give you a hint…

…it’s Scott freaking Remington.

To pass the time, go watch some TV. Maybe go find a soap. This one looks neat.

On the Sparrow

As some people may or may not know, I grapple with aspects of faith. I’m a skeptic, a doubter, by nature. I’d probably make a great atheist. I may be unique among Christians in that I think doubt can be a powerful and positive thing. I would encourage any Christian to doubt their salvation, or that the Bible is true, or that Christ even existed at all, let alone rose from the dead. Doubt everything. Ask the tough questions. Ask the questions other Christians don’t want you to ask. How could God order the Israelites to slaughter babies? Is God capable of hatred, and if not, how could He claim to “hate” Esau? And if he hated Esau, and if hate is a sin, can God sin? Moses was described as the most humble person on the planet…by Moses. Could that have been a little personal embellishment, and if so, where else does that exist? (looking at you, “disciple that Jesus loved!”)

If Christianity hadn’t been taught to you, and you had just picked a Bible up…would you believe any of this nonsense? And don’t pretend it’s not nonsense. If I showed up at church one day and someone asked how my week was, and I told them, “It was fine. I got swallowed by a alligator and it spit me out in Chalmette,” what would you say? Nonsense. If someone asked how home life was, and I said, “Jake (our dog) was bad this week, but when I tried to punish him, he started talking and we had a conversation about it,” what would your reaction be? Nonsense. The Bible believing faithful reading this should be able to pick up on the symbolism there.

A wise person once said that if you question your beliefs, one of two things will happen: you’ll either change your view, or your current view will be strengthened. On the contrary, whoever said, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it,” probably wasn’t thinking it all the way through. At no point in scripture does God advise blind ignorance. It’s quite the opposite.

1 Thessalonians 5:21: Test all things.

1 John 4:1: Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, that they are from God.

These are just two examples, but there are more. So follow the Bible’s teachings, faithful, and start testing things! The path of doubt is for the few and the brave.

Why am I harping on all of this? Because it has been during my greatest moments of doubt – my greatest moments of, “What the hell, God?” – that He has given me answers that defy coincidence and rock me to the core. And it makes sense. To ask God for explanations is to seek, and if you seek, you will find. To seek means to actively search, not to sit back and believe for the sake of believing. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

I’ve had three true, “Wow, God,” moments in my life, two of which came from sheer doubt and one of which was just unexpected. The first had to do with ants, and I am only just now realizing that it’s not on this blog, but on a Facebook note I wrote back in 2009…so I’ll have to post it here sometime soon. The unexpected one had to do with Lowe’s. Yes, the store, and no, I haven’t written about that one anywhere (but I sure will now). The third, and subsequently the subject of this entry, happened today. As in a few hours ago. So let’s begin.

When I got home from work, my wife said Jake was sniffing something in the back yard that looked like a broken egg. I went outside with a shovel. It was a broken egg. I picked it up with the shovel and chunked it over the fence. I Googled what kind of egg it was. It was a sparrow egg. I went outside the fence to find it. I couldn’t find it. I found turtle eggs. This series of events shook my soul.

That’s the gist. Here come the details.

Today, a dear friend of mine from Louisiana College was laid to rest. She was 31 years old, the life of every room she walked into, and a faithful believer in Christ. In learning of her passing, I also learned of another dear college friend who passed away. He was also young, and he was also a Christian warrior. Prayers had been lifted up for them both. Praises to God were shared. “Three or more” were gathered. Both passed away, anyway. Did God not hear? Did He not care? How could he extinguish two lives lived for him, without rhyme or reason, so terribly, terribly soon? Do we even matter to Him? Doubt.

This was the conversation I had with myself (and God) on my way back to work, where I finished a 12-hour shift then returned home. For contextual purposes, you need to understand that this is all taking place during a period of intense doubt in my life as to the things of Heaven. Intense doubt. “Why do I believe any of this?” doubt.

Good, good, good doubt.

When I arrived home, my wife told me about the egg. I didn’t think anything of it; I just filed it down as “one of them things.” I went outside, shoveled the thing over the fence, then went inside to look it up out of curiosity. Sitting on my couch, I Googled the small, brown, speckled egg. It was easy to identify. It was the egg of a sparrow.

Okay…hold on…

My brain was searching through decades of Sunday School lessons.

…his eye is on the sparrow…

Matthew 10:29-31.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

I sat back on the sofa and just stared. He answered my question. Not with someone saying a verse, or with a sense of tired resignation. With a verse coming to me. An egg has never fallen from a tree in our yard before. But today, a sparrow egg did. Just in time for Jake to find it, just in time for me to get home. Just in time to give me an answer that I would comprehend…a personal, made-for-me answer, based on the book I had been struggling with. A little bit of, “It’s okay, Lee. Just keep reading and believing.” The encouragement I needed.

My dear friends from college passed away for a purpose. God was not looking at their lives lightly. He timed the fall of a sparrow egg so perfectly…how much more did he care about their passing? Too soon, it may have seemed to us. But it was exactly when it needed to be for a plan we happen to not be privy to. How incredibly much God loved them to care so much about when they came to Him. Doubt removed.

I got up off the sofa, telling my wife I needed to go outside for a while just to walk, as God was saying something to me. I distinctly said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going digging for turtle eggs (something I love to do!).” I walked outside, looking at those verses in Matthew on my iPhone. I decided to see if I could find the egg I threw over the fence. So I walked over to where I tossed it.

I found turtle eggs.

Okay, God, what the heck?

There was a lesson in that, too, and another loud and clear message from above. “Don’t think you know what is or isn’t coming – this is My plan, not yours.” Relinquish concern. Just move. Don’t be pessimistic. God knows the desires of your heart. He knew, more than anything, I want to find turtle eggs in my yard right now. He used this moment to show me some. The eggs were broken – they’d recently hatched – but that didn’t matter. The lesson was the same. Doubt removed.

But I hadn’t gone to the fence to find turtle eggs, did I? I went to find that sparrow egg. That little miracle message, from God to me. And I could not find it anywhere. I walked. I crawled. I dug through the grass. I had tossed it right there. How could it completely vanish? There was no physical evidence to corroborate my story. There was no egg to show someone and say, “this was the egg!” The power of this story was not in tangible things I could put my fingers on…it was in my testimony. I would be asking people to believe what had happened by faith.

In a series of sudden, left-right-left-right spiritual jabs, God saved the most powerful for last. “Some things, Lee, you won’t be able to prove with evidence. You just have to believe.” Like a certain book He just referred me to that talks about sparrows. Doubt obliterated.

Nonsense? Maybe to those who weren’t there. Maybe for those without the right context, or who have never experienced such things before. Maybe to the casual observer. But for me? Well…God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

Doubt is not the enemy of faith. It’s the breeder of certainty. Sometimes, we just need a little, “God, I’m having a hard time believing this…please explain it to me,” in our lives. Sometimes a little doubt is all it takes to truly believe.

My wife encouraged me to write this entry tonight so that I wouldn’t forget the details, and I’m glad she did. It wasn’t exactly an Epic-related entry, but that’s all right. A time for Epic will return. For the time being…I’m going to enjoy my strengthened faith.

Till next time!

TNBT Cast: Danielle Larche (Tiffany Feathers)

The brown-eyed blonde, Tiffany Feathers, unzipped her flight suit. “You two are totally meant for each other,” she said, smirking.

The brown-eyed blonde, Tiffany Feathers, untied her ponytail. “You two are totally meant for each other,” she said, smirking.

 

Want to know what this is about? Check out this blog entry!

O.M.G.

(and yeah, that felt completely appropriate for an entry about Tiffany Feathers)

But seriously. OMG. The time span between my last TNBT entry and this one has just been ridiculous. For those who want the in-depth explanation as to why this took so long, go read my last entry right before this one titled, “A Difficult Year.” I’m not even going to give you the abridged version. This is Lee Stephen, movin’ on.

So yes, the wait has been long, but oh so worth it, as I’ve got three awesome entries in TNBT series lined up for everyone. And that lineup begins with Tiffany.

Tiffany, like all awesome characters, was an unexpected arrival. I’m just gonna be honest: she completely ripped the spotlight away from Catalina Shivers. Both characters made their arrival in Epic 4: The Glorious Becoming. Catalina was intended to be the star of this little dynamic duo, with Tiffany serving the role of fun-loving sidekick. Then one thing led to another, plot lines twisted and turned like they always do, and all of a sudden…well…a new blond fan favorite was born.

Tiffany entered Epic as a Vulture transport pilot fresh out of EDEN Academy. As a character, she defies the pilot stereotype. She’s not ice cold. She could actually come off as a little bit dingy. But that’s where the beauty of Tiffany comes into play. She’s a gifted, borderline genius trapped in the body of a girl from San Fernando Valley. She’s a character who begs to be underestimated.

Travis rolled his eyes.
Tiffany inhaled sharply. “Did you just roll your eyes at me?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t.”
She sneered back. “You totally did. You did like this,” she said, rolling her eyes in demonstration.
“What? I so did not!”
Her eyes narrowed scathingly. “You’re a sucky eye-roller and a liar.”

It’s difficult to get into too much detail when it comes to Tiffany simply because her role in The Glorious Becoming is both huge and spoiler-laden. One could almost make the argument that of all the characters who move the plot of book four along, none do so to the magnitude that Tiffany does. Those who know the story, just think about that. If not for Tiffany, what happens to the Fourteenth? To Novosibirsk? In a book with a million dominoes, she’s among the first ones to fall.

Without knowing the ins and outs of the character, it might be easy to classify Tiffany as a humorous, quirky plot device who happens to be good at what she does. But that would be such, such a major disservice to the character. There is a lot about Tiffany that readers don’t know yet, some of which will be revealed in Epic 5: Enemy One. But if you paid attention to her through TGB, you might have caught those little moments (they are few) where those layers hint at themselves.

Leaning her head back, Catalina blew out a breath. Running her hand through her hair, she fell solemn. “You think Remington had days like this?”

Tiffany smiled. “Like, yah. Who doesn’t?”

“You never have days like this, Tiff.”

The pilot laughed. “Whatever. I’ve totally had days like this. Remember the onion stain?”

Caught off guard, Catalina cackled. “Right, the ‘onion’ stain. That was definitely an emergency.”

The mirthful grin remained on Tiffany’s face before the corners of her lips slowly leveled, her bemused expression becoming heavier. “Some days can be worse than today,” she quietly said.

Catalina’s brow arched curiously at the Valley Girl’s change in tone, before she too was struck by a new emotion. Sitting upright, she moaned remorsefully. “Oh, Tiff. I’m so sorry, I didn’t even…”

“It’s okay.” Tiffany smiled through shimmering lids. “I know.”

If you enjoyed Tiffany, if you found yourself caught up in her story in TGB, just wait. Of all the characters in Epic, I would count her personal story among the most emotional. One of the challenges of Enemy One will be giving that personal story justice in what’s already to be a jam-packed novel. It needs to be in there to its fullest capacity.

 

Danielle Larche

Danielle Larche

For those who’ve been keeping up with these entries, you know that behind every character cast there’s an incredible person who was generous enough to grant me permission to reference them. Danielle Larche is anything but an exception. If you live in the US of A, you’re probably not familiar with Danielle. That wouldn’t be the case if you hailed from Down Under. That’s because in 2008, Danielle was crowned Miss Australia Globe. But believe it or not, that’s not the most impressive thing she’s done.

I love to see people use their success as a platform for making a difference. Few things get me as excited. That’s why I love to hear stories like Danielle’s. Shortly after winning Miss Australia Globe, Danielle founded Project Dovetail, an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of underprivileged children. So what does Project Dovetail do, exactly? Something that I feel is vastly overlooked. They give children joy. It’s very easy to look at a child, see their immediate needs, then assume that once those needs are met, the child will be fine. But that’s not the case, and that’s where Project Dovetail steps in. Beyond just having food, clothing, and shelter, Project Dovetail recognizes that underprivileged children need something to look forward to – a reason to believe they’re special beyond just having their basic needs met. This can range from taking children on camping trips, to having volunteers bring them cake on their birthday, to making sure they have access to toys and good school supplies. These are the emotional needs, the “I matter to someone” needs. These are the needs most often taken for granted.

If you want to make a donation to Project Dovetail, get in touch with them at info@projectdovetail.org to find out how. I would love to implore you to consider donating. It’s become somewhat cliche for organizations to say, “every little bit counts,” but in a case like this, it’s absolutely true. Five dollars won’t get you much here in America (or whatever first-world country you’re from), but it could completely fund a child’s school supplies in another country. Those dollars can go farther than you could possibly imagine.

Danielle, thank you so much for allowing us to reference you for this casting series, but thank you even more for stepping up and using your success for something truly special. You’re making such a difference.

Anyone who wants to keep up with what Project Dovetail is doing can follow their Facebook page here!

All right, I’m getting that back-in-the-groove feeling. I sense another entry over the horizon. Stand by for character no. 6! He’s not happy. Not one little bit. Kick back, make yourself a Vegemite sandwich, and wait for the show.

“Har, har.” Untying her ponytail, Tiffany shook her head back. Her hair fell down in shiny locks.

A Difficult Year

I don’t write blog entries often. To be honest, I think most bloggers blog too much. Long ago, back in my high school days, I remember someone saying, “talk is cheap because the supply exceeds the demand.” For whatever reason, that quote stuck with me my entire life. I think most people who follow this blog realize by this point that there’ll be no such thing as a “daily dose of Lee Stephen.” I can’t help but feel it’s better that way.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about a release date for Epic 5: Enemy One. It’s a question that, at this moment in time, doesn’t have an answer. I would love to release book five by 2014, but if current progress is to be used as a measuring stick, 2014 might be a long shot. I’ve always been a slow writer, despite the fact that it works to my disadvantage by common “marketing/profiting” sense. I just believe in quality. I know writers who pump out thousands of words per day, every day, and release numerous novels every single year. I don’t believe quality can be forced. As a case-in-point for that, I recently attempted to hold myself to a 750-words-per-day average. This went on for about two months, so for two months, Enemy One grew by almost a thousand words per day. And after two months, I sat back, looked at what my fingers had produced, and saw that it was poor. It wasn’t what you guys have come to expect from Epic or from me. It was story progression, and that was it. It was going through the motions, and that’s never been what Epic’s been about.

I’ve really been struggling lately. In life, in existence, so yes, naturally in Epic, too. The only way I can think to describe it is just to say, flat-out, that I’m tired. In the past year, I’ve had two things happen in my life that have impacted my entire perception of what life is. I experienced the birth of my son, Levi, who is now an 11-month-old bottle of energy and my best little buddy. Watching him grow from an infant, wrapping his entire hand around my finger, into a rug-rat who’s crawling around the house, exploring every nook, cranny, and loose object we forget to pick up, has been an indescribable adventure (if you’re a parent, you know). Bringing a baby into the world changes your perception on everything. The life you live is no longer your own. You look back at your own youth and you foresee your eventual end. Your focus shifts from, “do the best that you can,” to, “do the best that you can for him.” It is the ultimate passing of the torch, and it is completely wonderful.

I was also diagnosed with cancer. After over six months of tests and chemotherapy, I am pleased (and incredibly blessed) to be able to say that I’m in remission. But the cost of this six-month war was great. Though I managed to hold onto my hair, I did lose something much more meaningful: my sense of immortality. There’s nothing quite like the rationalization of your own death to put a permanent tilt on your expectations. It has a way of making things you took for granted seem infinitely more important, while at the same time gently pushing things you once held dearly a little further back in the fridge. If you’ve ever wanted to have your entire life’s priorities rearranged, I wholeheartedly recommend having your first child and getting cancer at the same time.

I’m writing all this really to request one thing: please be understanding and patient with me. Epic has always demanded a great deal from me emotionally. I just haven’t recuperated to the point where I can give it what it deserves. I’m not going to just force out fluff for the sake of doing it. I want Epic to be special. For it to be special, I need to be in the right frame of mind, and I’m just not there yet. This year has been very, very draining. It’s been the most challenging year of my life.

But I am not going anywhere, and neither is Epic. Enemy One, and the DOD audiobook, and everything else I have in store are still coming. My fuel cells just need to recharge.

So bear with me, stick with me, and if you’re inclined, toss a prayer or two toward me. I could really use them.

I may try and blog a bit more over the coming weeks, but it may be on more miscellaneous topics than Epic or writing. Just the same, I think it’ll be beneficial for the purpose of getting myself back into gear, slowly but surely. It could only be a good thing.

Till next time,
-LS

Epic Interviews: Andrea Drepaul

Interview_Andrea_DrePaul

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s time for something new! Okay, maybe not exactly new, but definitely an evolution. Those of you who keep up with my blog know that I’ve spent some time recently interviewing some folks in the acting profession as a sort of spin-off from the “Casting Epic” segment (which is not finished, by the way!). Well…the spin-off is being spun off!

On this podcast, I’ll be spending some time chatting with Andrea Drepaul, an amazing actress out of Toronto. Andrea has nothing to do with Epic or The Next Big Thing Casting. The opportunity simply arose to chat with her, and I took it. The “evolution,” so to speak, is that of my branching out with these interviews beyond those associated with my casting series and into the realm of actors in general. Some people I interview may be part of the Epic casting, and some might not. That may not be a big shift to you guys, but I felt like it was big enough to warrant mention here.

All right, on to Andrea! If you’re a fan of NBC’s The Firm, or CW’s Beauty and the Beast, you’ll definitely recognize Ms. (soon to be Mrs.) Drepaul. She’s been involved in film since the mid-2000s, and her schedule has pretty much exploded since 2011, landing roles in movies such as The Boy Who Smells Like Fish and snatching up a spot in a project by T.J. Scott, the director of Spartacus, which we’ll touch on in the podcast. There’s a lot more I could mention here, but hey, that’s what the podcast is for!

One thing of note! We’ve had enough participants in the Lightning Round, my 60-second burst of trivia foolishness, to have an actual leader board. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear how Andrea did, but for reference purposes, the scores of the other participants will be listed in each blog entry, up to that entry. You’ll find them below, where you’ll also see several links to Andrea’s IMDb and social media feeds. Follow her, people!

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2700032/
https://twitter.com/AndreaDrepaul
https://www.facebook.com/AndreaDrepaul

TRIVIA LEADER BOARD
1. Mark Elias (2.0)
2. Mishael Morgan (1.5)

Without further delay, click the link below to listen!

 

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE.

 

Want to be a guest? Send me an email or tweet me on Twitter!

EUPCE: Mark Elias Interview

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for our much overdo interview with Mark Elias, who was cast as Epic’s The Next Big Thing selection for everyone’s favorite Irishman, Becan McCrae! Mega kudos to Mark for taking the time to sit down and chat while he’s working like a crazy person on his web series, The Adventures of Lewis and Clark.

This also marks the first time that the Lightning Round – a ridiculous staple of these interviews – will actually have a leader board. Last go around, Mishael Morgan rocked the Lightning Round with a whopping 1.5 points that she basically talked me into giving her. Did Mark fare better? Listen and find out!

By the way, if you’re not keeping up with Mark, what the heck is your freaking problem? Check him out at the following links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/markelias

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mark.elias1

 

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE

 

Want to be a guest? Send me an email or tweet me on Twitter!

The April Round-Up!

This entry’s been a long time coming! As many of you know, April was a ginormous (wow…spell-check apparently considers “ginormous” a legitimate word…what have we come to?) month for Epic. In other words, there’s a LOT to talk about.

But I want to start with this:

THANK YOU. Seriously. THANK YOU. To everyone who posted reviews on Amazon, to everyone who spread the word about the promos Epic had going on, to everyone who did anything whatsoever in support of the series this month, you cannot imagine how unbelievably appreciative I am! For those unfamiliar with what’s been going on this month, here’s the 30-second summary. During the month of April, Epic ran several free promos on Amazon, two with Dawn of Destiny and one with Outlaw Trigger. All in all, over 18,000 copies of the two books were downloaded on Kindle. The goal was to introduce Epic to a wider audience and hopefully draw attention to the series as a whole, now four books strong and growing. The determining factor as to whether or not this worked was whether or not the subsequent books in the series experienced increased sales. So did it work?

Resoundingly, yes.

This month, with a day left to go, the Epic series has sold over 1,400 copies. It may even threaten the 1,500 mark. Epic has sold more copies in April 2013 than it has in any other year. During its free stretch, Dawn of Destiny reached as high as #14 on the best-selling free Kindle book list for all free eBooks in all genres in America (and seriously, is there a more appropriate number it could have hit than 14?). It also became the most downloaded, as in #1, free eBook in science-fiction. Basically, the doors of promotion were blown open.

April has been a game-changer for Epic, and honestly, for myself. Now, one month is just that, a single month. But what it’s done has shown the potential of what Epic could be. Though 1,400 copies sold in April doesn’t guarantee 100 sales in May, it shows that these kinds of numbers are possible. The goal now is to maintain. That’s the tricky part – the part no one can do for me. I have never been a promotional powerhouse. It’s just not my strong suit. But though the challenge is hard, the goal is worth it, that goal being to achieve true commercial success. For as much as Epic has been able to sustain itself, it’s never been a series I’ve profited from. The profits have always gone into the costs of production. I’ve stayed afloat. The thought of that changing in the positive is very, very enticing. After going at this for seven years, I think I’m ready.

It would be completely inappropriate of me to write all of the above but fail to mention Duolit, the self-publishing duo of Toni & Shannon who took me on as a client several months back. Saturday marked the last of our twelve weekly sessions together, during which we completely remodeled Epic’s platform. It was my “author boot camp.” The challenge with Epic has always been the total lack of marketing savvy on the part of its author, me. It doesn’t matter how sound a series is, if there’s no fuel in the promotional engine, it’s not going anywhere.

I could probably write ten pages worth of praise for what Duolit was able to do with me and the Epic series, but for the sake of keeping this all in one entry, I’ll sum it up with the following: teaming up with Duolit was the single best decision I’ve ever made as an author. In doing their job, they’ve etched themselves a chapter in Epic’s history. If I was one to label chapters, I’d call it The Turning Point. Everything that Epic has become as an online presence is because of the groundwork they laid and the direction they provided. From a redesigned website to the revival of the Epic newsletter, no stone was left unturned. They deserve all the credit in the world for this month and the two months prior. It will be a joy to share with other authors how Duolit saved this series.

So what’s next? Well, quite a bit! Those of you who signed up for the newsletter know that a major emphasis is being placed on pure writing speed, as I attempt to transform from a once-every-three-years publisher to something a bit more speedy and consistent. That’s huge right now. I’ll have some more specifics regarding that soon, but that will once again likely be a newsletter feature, as that’s more a behind-the-scenes issue than a goings-on of Epic one. But to sum it up quickly, there’s a plan being put into place for speed concerns. It’s time to start pumping out literature.

In the meantime, stay tuned. There’s a lot coming up even in the non-Epic realm, including my podcast interview with Mark Elias, the Next Big Thing cast job for Becan McCrae. Look for that to be posted this week (soon). There are also more cast jobs to be done period, so get ready for new faces in the coming months! Though the casting series isn’t my primary focus, it is something I’ll be diving into every now and then, probably in 3-4 character spurts. As always, it’ll be fun!