What is Burn the Sky?

Here is how our book went from an idea and became a realisation over two books.

Before I get into what Burn the Sky is, let me point out what it’s not. The start fits right into the point of view of a seven-year-old girl, but this doesn’t mean we aimed the story toward the young adult or children’s market. We aimed the story at mature readers. I wouldn’t suggest buying our book for someone under the maturity of a fifteen-year-old. Burn the Sky contains a third-person point of view with PTSD, and because of this reality, I’ve had a verbal comment from a friend: “I won’t let my ex-army husband read it.” Other subjects are murder, death, and very mild themes of child abuse.

Burn the Sky is our first novel, a joint project between my wife and me. I started the project in 2018 with the story I’m currently working on. The basic manuscript had a terrible two thousand-word prologue that didn’t set up anything except it was a cold nuclear winter.

After attending a writer’s workshop, the presenter/speaker said, “If you have a prologue, get rid of it. Nobody reads them anyway.”

Well, that stuck, and I began writing the untitled manuscript that eventually became “To Burn the Sky”.

I got hard at work, starting by adding a main character in a scene I had no idea how to set up, but continued writing chapter by chapter, or pantsing (I am not a plotter, so flying by the seat of your pants). Before I knew it, the untitled got its name and my wife, Amanda, began helping me with the story.

The two of us didn’t know what we were doing, and when I approached a new, small-time hybrid publisher in another state, we flew down there with the manuscript in hand. The feedback he gave me both crushed and gave me hope to be better.

Over the next few months, I tapped away on the keyboard, editing the same chapters repeatedly and getting nowhere. My wife once again offered her help. I was so determined to have a book with my name on it; I didn’t want to co-author. But Amanda was fantastic, adding her touches to the story, building characters, fixing scenes and just filling out the colour in the line art I’d created; I had to ask her to co-author. She was so thrilled that she would not become an author’s widow and would also put her name on a book.

I taught Amanda how to write on a professional level from all my YouTube and blog research posted by other authors or editors. I had many arguments with her about pronouns and how to massage them into the text to reduce the first person initial pronouns along with the simplicity of “I walked”, “I looked”, etc… Eventually, the two of us began writing on each other’s level.

By the time we’d begun what we had thought was our last edit, I once again contacted the publisher. He had on his to-do list to contact us regarding closing the contract. I told him I had 180thousand word book, and he said he only wanted about 80thousand for our first release.

Amanda and I went back over what would be act one and found it had a natural break. We gave it an ending, ran through another edit and hit the submission date just in time.

Our editor was stunned at how finished our manuscript was; she forgot to edit as she went.

One of the biggest mistakes we made for first-time authors was we didn’t market beforehand. Nobody knew we had released a book, and now we are playing catch-up. We didn’t have a Facebook group or page, no mailing list, no Twitter or Goodreads accounts.

We had three friends review our book, which became a slog to get more reviews.

The second mistake has a double-sided blade—writing to market. It can be a problem if you don’t get into the market at the right time.
Our book doesn’t fit a market or hit all the usual tropes of sci-fi or post-apocalyptic stories. I purposely wrote outside of the tropes in these genres. What we have outlined and written is non-conforming, and our reviews on Goodreads have reflected the originality of our writing.

We improved book two from the verbal feedback and written reviews. That added approximately 35thousand more words to build the world and characters and enhance the story arc. Book two had about a 50% re-write, and now, Burn the Sky duology is approximately 216thousand words.

So if you have a manuscript and you feel it doesn’t work for one reason or another, join a writers group, attend workshops, research and watch respected authors and editors on YouTube to learn their craft, and read books. Not every piece of information will help you; you can never write to every taste. Just write your story, have it proofread, and if you self-publish, please employ a decent editor to help you polish it up.
Feedback and reviews help you, the writer and soon-to-be author, to improve. Reviews also help promote books you love to other readers.

Burn the Sky was nominated last year for the Miles Franklin award 2022.

Book two, Burn the Sky: Redemption, is coming out end of July 2022. The pre-release link is here. Redemption will be released to the Wide network of retailers after launch.

If you’re still undecided, check out the reviews on Goodreads, and we can’t wait to read your review.

Burn the Sky Part 2

It has been some time since anything was posted here. Everything snowballed over this last month with editing, the response from the editor and just life.

I’ve been out of work since February, and we will be first-time parents later this year. So that will be a significant lifestyle change in the Breeze household.

While everything felt chaotic, Amanda and I have been working on a trilogy that follows the Burn the Sky duology. The wants and needs of our primary characters and different factions have been our primary concern while developing scenes. Who wants to read a scene that doesn’t add to the evolution of the story?

With three major factions and three minor, there is so much going on in just a few short months (equivalent). It might sound like a lot, but it still comes down to; what those factions/characters do in that time that is interesting to read without being over the top.

Without any spoilers, books one and two overlap, so they have to be written together as such. This will be a long slog putting down the complete trilogy in bones before fleshing out those first two.

In the meantime, we have had more reviews on Goodreads and Amazon for part 1. It’s slow going receiving reviews to help promote the books. If you have read our books, please don’t be shy. Reviews are free to leave, and reviews means there is more potential for our story to be seen by more people.

If you haven’t read or reviewed our book, here is what other people have said about Burn the Sky: Hope. We look forward to reading your review.

The second and final part to Burn the Sky is due for release on the 28th of July.
Pre-orders can be ordered from our publisher before being available from Amazon and the wide network of bookstores and online retailers.

That story’s not unique?

Where do stories come from? And how original is original?

I’ll answer the second question first, then the first question second, and hopefully, that might answer both together.

Warning – This post will contain the word “original” a few times more than the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

In today’s world, with over 7 trillion people all coming up with ideas every day, how can you make an original story work for even a minuscule percent of those people? That question can be for movies, books, scientific discoveries or even blogs.

The answer: there is no original story or plot, just the way you tell it. Take the 1939 movie, Wizard of Oz, for example. There have been so many adaptions, parodies, animations, TV and theatre productions you’d have to see the Wiki for the extensive list.

I’m choosing this story because most people have either seen or heard of The Wizard of Oz or a reference somewhere, like parodies in The Simpsons. With such an old story going back to the 1900 children’s story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it makes it easier to find adaptions I can talk about. All in all, there were fourteen books written by L. Frank Baum between 1900 and 1920.

Return to Oz (1985) – I am pushing my memory to remember this movie, but this was the first major revamp of the original story. Some of the content in this movie comes from the third book, Ozma of Oz and the seventh book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz.
Return to Oz was an original movie, but it was carved from other stories. Does this make it original though?

Wicked (The stage musical) – Most people know of the stage show Wicked from 2003 onward, adapted from the novel written by Gregory Maguire. Set before The Wizard of Oz, written as a prequel and ties into the events of the first book from a different point of view. It uses the same setting, showing the development of the good and evil characters leading up to and including Dorothy’s actions on the world.
Is it an original idea if Maguire uses another person’s product (even though the books are public domain, but the movies aren’t)?

Oz The Great and Powerful – (I have to say it needs a comma) This movie, as much as it might tussle with copyrights, is an adaption of the novel, Wicked, even though it’s set 20 years before the first book. I don’t feel this story is very original, but, once again, what’s original?

If you break the Wizard of Oz down far enough, it is just a story of someone taken from their comfort zone and forced to find their way back. How many stories can you think follows this plotline? It’s a basic plot design you find in other stories.

The Wizard of Oz covers adaptions, but what about a complete ripoff?

William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet during the 1590s, and over the centuries, the premise has been repeated so many times it’s impossible to count.

Written long before the copyright laws came into existence, all of Shakespeare’s works are now in the public domain. So when in 1996, Baz Luhrmann moved the same events to modern times and included guns, the moviegoers got to see Shakespeare again, it probably was time for a fresh revision of the original story. But do guns and cars instead of knives and horses make it fresh and new? Well, it has a 60-70% approval rating depending on the critic site you look at, so I guess most people who have rated it think so.

Adaptions, ripoffs, what’s next? Original stories? Let’s dive into something completely different.

In 1979, Ridley Scott released Alien to the cinemas. It did a great job of scaring popcorn down people’s shirts in most countries. Let’s break down the originality of this movie in a simple way.
This will contain minor spoilers if you haven’t seen it.

The characters start happy and jovial, then the inciting incident puts the story into a gradual slip then fall toward the end of the movie. It finishes with a minor victory that leaves the audience with the struggle and pain of the main character.

This seemingly original story still follows the same structure as most others in the horror genre. Most of the junk coming from the movie studios these days follow this very format, with one main character surviving to the end. Now don’t get me wrong when I say this, Alien is not the usual cut down, slasher flick because of the way it was told, compared to the movie’s release date. Before Alien, there weren’t many science fiction movies with horror as a sub-genre, especially with that sort of budget.

When you look at the brief I just laid out, that story has been told thousands of times before with vampires, zombies, a group holding up a bank, or that love story (with or without the horrific death of characters, depending on the story I guess).
It doesn’t matter if it’s for science, science fiction, non-fiction or parts of your own life; there is no such thing as an original idea. Every idea is an amalgamation of old ideas someone has had before.
There is no such thing as an original story, only how original you tell it.

Basically, all stories can be broken down inside the story structures of:
The Hero’s Journey
Freytag’s Pyramid
Three-act Structure
The [Dan Harmon’s] Story Circle
The Fichtean Curve
Save the Cat
The Seven-point Story Structure
Kishōtenketsu.

This list might seem confusing to some and simple to others, but when you dive into how these work, they all have the rise and falls, inciting incident, the height of the story and conclusion in one direction or another.

A few months back, someone told me, if you break down stories far enough and make them as raw basic as possible, the simplest story structure contains someone coming or someone going.

So the real question is, how original is your idea?

I think originality comes from the heart and not so much from the mind. Did you come up with a different way to say something, or is it plagiarism?

Originality can come from many sources. These are a few ideas that came to me as I was writing this blog.
The three little pigs crossed with Pride and Prejudice, but with vampires in space;
Elvis impersonators travelling through time and written by a third person (like The Great Gatsby).
Adding a different twist on the end of an old story could give you a new and original story, even if the concepts have been reused since Neanderthals started forming a language.

After all that, the question remains, are you fulfilling the readers’ expectations?

I hope after all that, it answers the first question.

I used a few resources to contribute to this blog, so I’d like to mention that here. Wiki articles were confirmed by other non-listed sites. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oz_the_Great_and_Powerful https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptations_of_The_Wizard_of_Oz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Frank_Baum https://oz.fandom.com/wiki/L._Frank_Baum https://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/10-oz-adventures-wizard-oz-emerald-city/

DNF a book? Why?

At what point in time do you give up on a story? Some people don’t put books down, even if they’re terrible, they just persist.

Bad could be terrible for several reasons, and only you, the reader, know the answer to that question, and everyone is different.

I’ve compiled a few reasons why I’ve DNF’d the last few books I’ve tried to get into.

I won’t name authors or books because I’m not doing reviews on this site.

White Wall Syndrome – The situation where nothing is described.
Is nothing a thing? Can I describe it? Maybe we go with ‘the situation lacking detail.’

The pain where something described happens at a location, and the scene isn’t defined.
The first book I tried to read recently had this. People moved in and out scene, and from the title of the book and the names of characters, I saw castle walls, a large fireplace and a bear-skinned rug or something. The traditional fantasy type story setting. The problem was, none of that description was in the story. The next chapter had what I could only guess was the main character going to a school.
That made the idea of the setting I had built up in my mind very confusing.

WWS could work if the POV is hog-tied and blind-folded or is blind, but then the story needs to introduce other sensory information like smell, taste, touch or hearing to bring the reader into what the POV can experience. Even if the character is in a sensory deprivation tank, you still have something to say about their surroundings.

It’s always a good idea to bring in those extra senses anyway, but not to be overdone, like…

Excessive Worldbuilding – Complete opposite of nothing is everything.
Worldbuilding can make or break a story. Too little, like WWS can place characters into the Matrix loading program, but too much can detract from the story’s events.

He kicked open the door and brazenly stood there in the doorway, waiting to be attacked. Nobody waited for him except the fluffy white cat, startled, hissed and stood with its back arched on the plaid winged back Ikea branded armchair on the short-pile green rug. The room was filled with that 1970’s timber furniture and walls, and its record player crackled while the needle skipped at the end of the Pink Floyd album. Tile-looking lino stretched throughout the apartment, right up to the fridge in the kitchen through the narrow doorway closed off by saloon doors.
Like the living room, the kitchen had that same 1970’s feeling. The dirty plates filling the grotty sink looked like they’d been there since the kitchen was new.
Only a carton of milk sat in the large, bulbous, ancient noisy fridge. Its used by date was two weeks ago.
Satisfied nobody waited for him, he closed the apartment door and continued down the hallway.

I had to really stretch to think of that much detail, and maybe it might be the right amount of detail, if that apartment was used for a setting, and like a Chekov’s gun, someone tried to drink the milk later. But for a scene where the person could see around a corner to the sink, and knew the used by date of the milk in the fridge is too much detail, especially when the person didn’t leave the doorway.

I am trying a few different types of books. One in the sci-fi genre had this problem of too much worldbuilding, and I got bored reading half a page of characters doing their thing and chatting away and then, the rest of the chapter involved describing the workings of the ships weapons, shields and how they could be combined in combat against another ship with the same type of shields and weapons.

Head-hopping – You’re not the person you once were.
That sci-fi book had head-hopping. Start of the chapter was the Captain (the main character) talking to someone, then all the worldbuilding and right at the end of the last chapter, I read something like – ‘I didn’t know that could happen,’ the pilot thought.
I closed the book at that point.

When our book, Burn the Sky was in its early development, we had feedback from the members of a critiquing group; we jumped heads too often in a chapter. We reduced this before the book was released, and by the time we came to edit Burn the Sky part2, we reduced it even still to only one POV shift, if required, per chapter.

If POV shifts are required, they’re required, but for the love of your readers, make the change stand out, so we know it’s happened and who we now are riding along with.

POV characters – Important or just some dude?
Some people are worthy of being our point of view into the world, and others are, well, not.
The more POV characters in a story, the harder it is to follow along with. This part can fall into both worldbuilding and head-hopping.

Doing a quick internet search, the best number of POV’s is between 2-5 characters, depending on the story.
A romance might only have two, but a large scale sci-fi or fantasy might have five or more. If there are too many heads to follow, maybe it needs trimming.

Our earlier drafts had just a chosen one in the scene to be our POV. We edited part2 to the point where Amanda wanted to remove a tense scene with our antagonist and another character. We kept it in because it gave depth to a previous scene that would have been missing otherwise, and adding a location-based POV character would have changed the events. We did use his POV again, but he was written 3rd person, distant.

Use of 1st Person – I turned to see, boring.
I have written about point of view and voice before, and I even see big authors doing this. Each book I pick up and smell is a new adventure, but when I read first-person written like this, I can’t help but cringe. I try to push aside in my mind the constant press of the author to make me see what the POV is doing, but when “I smell the campfire,” and I’m sitting in my favourite chair, and there is no fire near me, I get reminded I’m reading a telling of someone doing something.

I have to say, our earlier versions of Burn the Sky had this kind of 1st person writing, and the story reads so much better when the environment interacts with the POV, rather than having the POV realise their environment.

Over-simplified context – You can still drown in a shallow story.
The current book I’m reading is from a big-time author, and the story is very straightforward.
The main character is written 3rd person, distant, and all the other characters are written the same. You can tell who the main character is by the “camera” following that person the most. It’s not a turn-off as much as the other points above, but even though the story is action-packed, the main character could be killed off, and I wouldn’t care if he was replaced by Marvin, the paranoid android.
The book is written like a movie and has no depth to a certain degree. It’s not even omniscient.
From the information I have read about readers preferences, this type of writing is falling out of favour.

And then, suddenly – the blog post is nearing its end.
Sometimes a “suddenly” or one of its synonyms could contribute to the story, but (and just like that but) it tells the reader something is going to change the fortune of the MC.

Max leapt from the rock face and landed hard on the stone surface of the ledge. All of a sudden, the rock crumbled, and suddenly the darkness in the crevasse below shouted out just like lazy writing and a cliché had a child.

Okay, so the “suddenly” in that context could work, but the “all of a sudden,” or replacing that with any “suddenly” substitute gives away the change in pace for an adverb.

There are exceptions to all of this, but personally, I haven’t read anything that could break these rules.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why you have given up on a book, or have I been too harsh on my reasons above?
Add your comments below, or join our Facebook group and comment below the link to the article.

Married with characterisation

By Amanda Breeze

What? You write with your husband? Together? How does that even work?

Not surprising, this is a common reaction when we say we write as a husband and wife author team. People are baffled to learn our marriage has survived, let alone prospered under the pressure authors commonly face (particularly first-time ones). And yet, somehow it has. However, when you look into it, it isn’t as uncommon as people think.

David and Leigh Eddings wrote several series together, including their most famous work, The Belgariad. And while David’s name featured predominantly on the books’ covers, Leigh was often in the background editing and helping refine the work. Their later series of books featured both their names on the cover.

Nicci French, famous for their psychological thrillers including, The Lying Room and The Memory Game is actually the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.  

For us, it all started back in 2018 when Lee first came to me with this hair-brained idea he wanted to become an author. True, I almost keeled over in shock—I thought he was kidding. But when he looked at me seriously and said he believed he could write a story – and publish it – who was I to deny him?

So off he went, spending his spare time drafting a novella, talking to me about it on our regular coffee shop trips and listening to my ideas for improvement, however constructive (or destructive) those ideas may have been.

After a while, I found myself invested. I loved the grand idea he had and the concept of a world built entirely of our making based on a young survivor of a nuclear apocalypse, so it was easy to support him.

Then one day, entirely out of the blue, he said he’d found a publisher. I was shocked; I think my jaw dropped to the floor that day. Having read the first draft, I knew it needed refinement (and that’s being mild). I at least had some experience writing, not professionally of course, but I knew my way around a story, so I offered to help. At first, I offered ideas and edited chapters. Then later, I helped write some of the chapters he’d been struggling with. One of which would end up being a pivotal fight scene between our protagonist and her rival in Burn the Sky part two, which has since been rewritten dozens of times.

When it was done, we hopped on a plane and flew to meet with this publisher to present him with the manuscript in person. For one hour, we walked the perimeter of Lake Wendouree in Ballarat, anxiously awaiting the verdict on our work.

Long story short, it wasn’t good. But… the work showed potential.

The question that followed would ultimately determine Lee’s future as a published author. Did he want to be a good author, or a great author? Naturally, he responded with the latter, and it was in that moment, that revelation, Burn the Sky would become the two hundred-thousand-word epic is today. But sitting there, in the back of the publisher’s car listening to this conversation, I knew it wouldn’t happen if Lee worked alone.

That was Lee’s revelation. My revelation was something more jarring. Before that day I’d never heard the term ‘author widow’. This is where an author’s wife becomes neglected in favour of the written work. It’s so common, it has broken many a marriage because a wife loses her husband to his work. I wasn’t going to let that happen. So, in that moment, I made a commitment too. I vowed never to become an author’s widow. I would support Lee in his work, and we would produce these books together as a team.

Over the next few months, we tore Burn the Sky apart and using the advice we’d received from the publisher, critiquing groups and online resources, we discovered our style and re-crafted it. Lee rewrote chapters, I edited them. Where chapters were missing, I wrote them, and together we rebuilt the world of Jorth from the ground up. Then we edited them again and again until they sounded right.

It has been by no means a simple journey. We have had many shouting matches, and there have been times we’ve threatened to give up. But we have found that it is from these moments our best work emerges.

One chapter in particular nearly broke us. That chapter is Bonded, which has since been split over two chapters in part two. It required both our strengths to craft it into one of the best chapters I think we’ve written so far.

This is because we’ve learned to understand the value each of us brings to the process. Knowing our strengths and our weaknesses are vital to making this work. Like an artist who sketches a basic outline then fills it in with colour, Lee creates the tension, action and technical elements that give the world function and form, whereas I refine the dialogue, develop the character interactions and add detail to the world. We each represent different points of view, and that’s a strength many authors struggle with.  

Our best advice;

  • Share the load; both do the writing and editing, then switch. We use suffixes on the file names to denote who last worked on it. That way, we can preserve changes.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and understand your partner’s. Work out how they complement each other.
  • When something gets too hard, leave it for a while, think on it and then come back later.
  • Be supportive.
  • Communicate, bounce ideas off each other, brainstorm. Particularly changes.
  • Create a shared environment where you can work collaboratively, like a shared drive (we use OneDrive), Office 365 – our manuscript is a collection of shared Word documents (one document per chapter), we have a shared Excel file for planning and our wiki is in a shared OneNote notebook.
  • Act out action scenes so you can both visualise and articulate them.
  • Do a final read through together, preferably with the shared document open on your own devices with one of the computers reading the text out loud – you’d be surprised how incredibly useful that is.
  • Have fun.

So, while it may be uncommon for married couples to work together as authors, it isn’t impossible. Like Nicci French, our story proves that, with commitment, understanding and collaboration, it isn’t necessary for a wife (or husband, or partner of any kind) to become an author’s widow (or vice versa). Instead, both can be two vital halves of a team that produces well rounded literary masterpieces – at least that’s our intention now and into the future.

When the story starts/continues…

Some authors can bang out books in just a few weeks, while others take years to perfect that masterpiece, and others who spend so long world-building, they only release a few books in a lifetime. J.R.R. Tolkien is one author I’m thinking of when I say this, but that, by far, is not poking fun of or attacking the man who devised his own constructed language for a story. That is hardcore.

A few authors can write a rough draft in weeks and edit, pushing out a 60-100k plus quality book in just a few months. This is also hardcore.

But writing a book or a series doesn’t have to be hardcore. Most authors take a few years to write their first novel. I have heard of some people writing their first on the train, with analogue pen and paper (yer – it still exists), on their phones or tablets, and some on their laptops now they’re more compact.

Whenever I can, I attend a writing Friday. The number of people using pen and paper or their tablet and external keyboard is more than I would have thought for a 5-6 hour writing session, compared to the awkward mobility of sitting on a train, but I guess writing your first book is not a rolling in money event. It might make you wealthy in the long run, but in the short term, that wealth has to be a self-rewarding pat on the back, along with any feedback from alpha and beta readers you can get to read your work. We had difficulties obtaining test readers, so don’t be too depressed if nobody wants to read it.

The best way around this is to join a critique group in your area. Treasure the responses to the last word. Just remember though, it’s your work, your story. Don’t allow others to say “there should be more car chases” and another says “there should be more fireballs and crying”. If you keep adding suggestions to other people’s likes, you’re not going to write your story, and it will turn into a burning mess.

Probably the best advice I remember from our critique group was, “research deep POV”. And so our writing style took a change in direction, as you can read here.

After release, our initial feedback has been fantastic. Here is one comment from Goodreads –

The changing narrative, from first to third person and from psychological to sociological, is never hard to follow and actually makes it easier to understand what part of the story you’re reading.

Chielhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58394844-burn-the-sky-part1

Not all authors are published, either by lack of luck or lack of skill, or something else like fear of rejection.

Matthew Reilly was rejected by every major publisher in Australia at the time. It seems he didn’t fear rejection; he just had terrible luck. He self-funded 1000 copies and distributed them from the back of his car to any bookstore willing to stock them. Then he got his luck back when an editor for Pan Macmillan discovered a copy of this book, and he was signed up for a two-book deal.

Self-publishing in 1996 was almost unheard of at the time. Now Matthew Reilly is a New York Times bestseller and has 19 books, short stories, and soon a Netflix movie.

If you’re afraid to fail, you’ll keep failing forever.

I held a printed copy of my 34k word novella “To Burn the Sky” and didn’t know what to do after that, so I contacted an indie publisher two states away to find out more. We flew down there and had an eye-watering (or should that be an eye-opening) conversation with the owner. His comments was – I enjoyed the story concept, but I can’t read it. You really need to learn how to write.

He still sent us a contract, and 18 months later, when I called him to say we had almost finished, he said he was just about to pick up the phone to see if we were still interested in the contract.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: We have almost finished the final draft, let’s get the publishing underway with book covers and stuff.
Publisher: I’ll send you the Q&A document to fill out.
Me: Ah, we haven’t quite finished it yet, but it’s around 180 thousand words.
Publisher: {silence}….
Me: Are you still there?
Publisher: Well, I did tell you to keep writing until you’ve told the story. But I only contracted you for about 80k.
Me: Well, I guess we can cut down to just act one and give it an ending.
Publisher: Sounds good. We can do the next book or two later.

So, it turns out, that extra time allowed us to refine characters and events more from the feedback we received. At least this time, we managed to get a few beta readers who provided awesome feedback.

Book two of Burn the Sky concludes this story, and I personally know some readers who are hankering for its release. Its estimated release at this stage is 2Q 2022.

If you enjoy Burn the Sky, the mostly written and as-yet-untitled next book continues the story. There is so much to edit and tech/story consistency to fix up before it’s ready for alpha readers, but it should be just as gripping.

Remember that guy who gave up? Neither does anyone else!

Knocking out a great book takes time, and the skill to create that masterpiece develops over your writing career, whether that’s one book or 300.

Don’t stop learning. Pursue your passion.

Begin. Believe. Become.


I wrote this today to get my wandering mind back on track with writing. It’s been a few days without (what’s the analogy of pen to paper with a computer?) keyboard to screen? (not quite, it sounds too aggressive.)

Update: I was scammed to save you

So I have this family member I’m going to call Notalie for the sake of anonymity. Notalie is a wonderful person going through some issues of their own, like most people. Sometimes they send me messages like – “have you seen this?” “what do you think?” and the latest, “have you seen how to make insane amounts of money?” (well something like that).

Well, having some amateur experience in trading stocks, foreign exchange and crypto, I had to check out this magic trading bot hosted on the companies servers.

This magic had been toted as “being on Shark Tank”, but the episode had supposedly been pulled, otherwise everyone would be millionaires in days. One of the ‘Sharks’ had supposedly opened an account with the minimum starting capital on the show, and within minutes made $80 and more than doubled his account by the end of filming.

Let’s break down how I was scammed.

First up, their company website has one of these types of account sign up boxes normally reserved for mailing lists on blogs.

I started to feel a little uncomfortable about this type of unofficial sign up, but hey, different country, different companies.

This should have been my next red flag. The article I read mentioned Australian servers, but it was the Mirror I was reading.
It was The Mirror wasn’t it? Nope! It was a website that had the same logo as ‘The Mirror’, the UK online news site, but just called Mirror. I didn’t catch that until I was writing this article.

The site even had News Politics Sport Etc… across the top like you’d expect from an online newspaper.

So I filled out boxes, because I wanted to change my life today!
I was forwarded through to a nice looking page where I could click on charts and see I didn’t yet have an account balance. Not surprising, as I hadn’t given them my credit card details, yet.

I received a phone call from the UK within 30 seconds of logging into their secure site.
Well, I didn’t get time to read the finer details of the site, the woman (I’m going to call Charlatan) kept talking me through setting up my account, asking questions like “what’s my normal profession?” “how long have I worked in that for?” then “how old are you?” Besides the first question, she wasn’t going to get any answers out of me.

Well then, it was a rush to get me to the payment page. She even emailed the link to me instead of using the link in the secure portal. The link is a Gateway SAP page, and whether the page is actually an official SAP website, I’m Not Sure.

This woman kept me on the phone so I didn’t have time to read their website, didn’t have time to research or read reviews from other customers and kept talking over me.

The ‘Mirror’ article had said the company name had been one thing, but their website used a different name, and I even wondered if I was signed into the correct company portal. The website name rhymes with Monopoly, and I thought she was saying Monopoly over the international line.
I reply with, “I’m not playing Monopoly, I’m trying to read your website.”

Well, I spent almost 30 minutes on the phone with Charlatan being pushed here and there, still not having time to read the site details.
And now for the Gateway SAP link. Charlatan says, “I’ve just emailed the link to you, fill out the details.”
“But I’m Not Sure. I need to read more about your services.”
“Well, you have 7 days to get all your money back if you don’t want to stay with us. If you click here, you can see the nice page that says withdrawal.”

They always say, “now what do you see?” just to make sure you’re wallet is ripe, I mean to see if you’re on the right page.

Finally, I get a word in sideways.
“I would like to do some reading, and some research on your services.”
“But you get the 7 day refund! No questions asked. I use the platform myself.”
So the questions I was thinking was, why are you still working on a cold-call centre and not filthy rich as your service suggests? Second, why do I deposit my money in as Euro’s but when I press withdraw, it comes to me as United States Dollars?

It took about five minutes, but finally I got that dog doodie off my shoe, I mean Charlatan off the phone.

So the research? How did that go?
All the pages I visited, the reviews I read all had wonderful statements about them, some actual review sites had a mixed bag of 4, 5 and 1 stars.
So people either like the product, or they hate it for one reason or another.
Then it clicked, all the review sites were like ‘Mirror’, hacked up reviews on ‘review sites’, and all of them had a sign up here button.

Their main page even has a red bar along the top like this. Wow – that’s urgent!!! Hurry!! The clock on the end ticks down from six minutes every time you visit the site.

No description available.

This is a well used marketing technique that forces you into making an impulse decision. They know if you have time to go away and think about it, they’ll lose you, so they add the sense of urgency triggering the FOMO response – Fear of Missing Out.

The other phishing technique they employ is persistent cold calling. Once they have your number, they’ll hound you until you give in.

I got another call from Australia this time – Potential Fraud – so I ignored it, then an hour later, another call, then a Suspected Spam, then the next call didn’t have a tag, so I answered it.

“I am Con Artist (again, not their real name) from Monopoly you enquired about earlier today.”
“Oh, I’m not interested, thanks.”
“But you filled out the information this morning.”
“Oh, arr, yer. My situation has changed.”
“How can your situation change since this morning?”

I hung up on Con. I wasn’t going to be spoken to like that. How rude!

When my phone notified me of a message later this afternoon, (because I’m waiting for some calls) the first thing I did was go click on the MMS to download the voice message.

Oh damn. The MMS says Suspected Spam. Quick, disable the wifi and mobile data and delete the message.
My phone finally gave me the toast notification saying the message failed to download.
That was lucky. I have no idea what could have been in that 4kb message.

Australia has some good consumer protection laws. You can ask the ACCC for your money back and they’ll ask a bunch of questions, then fight to get your funds back.
When dealing with an overseas company, they can’t do that to the full extent and just mark you down as some poor bastard who got scammed and lost money. You become a number on the ‘scammed by XXX database’.

Don’t even put your name down on these types of lists, unless you have a burner phone and an email address you don’t care how much spam you get.

This was a very elaborate scam and I can see how people can easily get caught up in ‘the moment’, pressured into handing over payment details.

I didn’t lose any money today, luckily, but it does go to show how even the I.T savvy could get netted. So, it wasted more than two hours of my day, and I’ll probably be fending off emails and calls for many more years to come. But if my experience serves for anything, it’s a warning to anyone reading this, stop and think before acting, do your research on the company and don’t get scammed.

Now it’s time to overhaul my computer, checking for any nasties.

EDIT: 2nd December – DO NOT sign up with Monafoli or Immediate Profits. They will never leave you alone. From what I have read, they provide profits for you in the first seven days “money back guarantee” but lose your money after that, then ask you for more. It seems like a pyramid scheme.
I have been called by robo callers since I put my name down, and every number I block. They keep calling from new numbers. The robo call I had this afternoon, there was a delay while someone picked up the call.
I have told them three times to remove me from their database, but they keep asking why? What’s wrong? You signed up to our…
I have called them a scam and yelled at them to stop calling me, but they won’t stop. The next time they call, I won’t be as nice. I have lost my patience with them.

Award nomination

This will be just a short message, but…

I never thought it would happen. Burn the Sky -Part1:Hope has been nominated for an award. The Miles Franklin award.

This information is a week old. I had been in the middle of writing the POV and voice piece, and didn’t have the time to flip subjects just as I was about to hit publish.

We are so proud of this

Next post will be titled something like – I was scammed, so you don’t have to be

Point of view and voice

Who speaks for me? The narrator posing as me, or me posing as the narrator?

When it comes to the point of view for the character, for the readers, what voice do you give to your story? Do you do 1st person or 3rd person?

It can’t be 2nd person unless you’re reading an instruction manual or a ‘pick-a-story path’ type book. They generally read something like, ‘you wander to the other side of the room and pick up Chekhov’s gun. The strange man steps out and attacks you.’
Reading an entire book like that could be strange to most people not expecting to be told you are the main character in the story. I’m not saying you can’t write a book like this.

When I began the quest to write Burn the Sky, I always had the thought of 1st person present tense for Jayne, my main character and 3rd person past tense for all other characters. I wanted to do that back then because I wanted to show the reader who the main protagonist was. I didn’t know it at the time, but you don’t need to write this way to show the reader this. We continued the 1st and 3rd styles of writing, and once we had finished the book, edited, published and received feedback, we realised we’d pulled off the different styles in a way most people hadn’t read before.
I’m going to share a little piece of history, just a few lines of terrible first-person writing.

This was the day I lost everyone I cared about. My parents were out when the sky died. They never came home.
Being as young as five, I couldn’t do anything other than hide under my bed as my house shook itself apart and the air became ash. My only protector; my teddy bear, was missing. I was too scared to move.
I felt safe under my metal cage, all that padding above my head. I thought I would never have the courage to leave.
Tired, but I couldn’t sleep. Surely, I would never sleep again.

The opening passage, To Burn the Sky by Lee Breeze

At a count, I think that was 16 pronouns -I lost, I cared, my parents, I couldn’t – That was horrible to read and felt like I’d licked a fermenting mouldy lemon to post it here.

It took months of reading, research and rewriting to learn how to get better. Mmmm… preparing for more mouldy lemons.

The fresh afternoon air creeps up the hill, cast by the mountain’s shade not far away, the day seeping into history.
My house is that one at the end of the street, flowers behind the short fence, green roof and blue front door. When the mountain shade touches the flowers in the garden bed, I have to go inside.
Mum and Dad are at the hospital bringing home my baby brother. I can’t wait to meet him.
Amity lives next door, and she’s sleeping on our couch tonight.

opening passage, Burn the Sky by Lee and Amanda

As you can see, my writing had gotten better, but it still needed work.

Also at this point, I’d brought my wife in to help add depth to characters and the world. We submitted this to a critique group and mostly received the comments of – If you’re going to write first-person, learn how to write deep point of view.

Back to the reading, research and rewriting.

I’m not going to drag out works by other authors because I don’t think that’s fair on them, but most people who write first-person don’t go much beyond the construct of – “Personal pronoun sense/action/event happens to them” or the other way around. Another way of starting such a sentence is with ‘ing words – “Lifting the thing” or “Standing…” or with the subject first like “The object…”
In my first version of ‘To Burn the Sky’, this was the three ways I fell back to when starting a sentence, and it became tedious and difficult to read.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to subject you to more earlier revisions.
Finally, after all those months of revision, we settled on this. We voiced our earlier chapters in the perspective of a seven-year-old girl, so the language is simpler to reflect her age than what we write later.

My name is Jayne. I’m seven cycles old, and I don’t think I’ll make it to eight. Right now, I hide where all my nightmares and monsters bury themselves when they aren’t tormenting me.
Nothing changes when I open my eyes, although they now burn like I’ve been rubbing them with grit paper. I would cry if I could, but I have no more tears left to give.
Everything around me is black, and the metal springs of my bed above still press down, squashing my hip in place. My head hurts from all the crying, my throat burns, and I can’t smell anything anymore.

The opening passage, Burn the Sky by Lee and Amanda Breeze (published revision)

Jayne’s language becomes more adult by the end of Part1, and at this point she’s about 12 cycles old (cycles is years for some sci-fi franchises).

Curiosity urges me to explore this relic of a town that seems oddly frozen in time.
Some houses are barely standing, with their contents destroyed. Nothing of interest remains. The rest, still with their windows to protect them from the extremities, are mostly intact. I peek in to find tables set as though ready for dinner, but only dust-covered bones remain of the meals.
Through all the dust and debris, it gives me a glimpse of how people might have lived before the war. Had Sera been with me, she would have loved this place. That thought kills my excitement and I go back to my search.

Chapter 12, Burn the Sky -Part1: Hope by Lee and Amanda Breeze

The trick to first person, to make it as in-depth as you can make it, is to hide the pronouns between words, and don’t over do them. Make the pronouns part of the action in the scene.
One way of doing that is by making the environment have an affect on the character rather than the character doing something that’s because of the environment.
So next time you type out “I could smell the smoke”, think about how the smoke is affecting the character – is it choking? Does it smell like a campfire from far away? Does it remind them of the camping trips with their Dad?
Maybe something like these roughly constructed paragraphs would work better – “Lazy wind in the treetops spread the smoke around as though playing with it and occasionally blew the intoxicating smell in my direction. Memories of all the times I’d spent camping with dad consume me like the smoke. The mesmerising fire crackled, spitting out a small burning log onto the ground.
Kicking the log back, I realised it had been three years since I last saw him, and a lifetime ago since I watched my dad do the same thing.”
Sure, there’s ten pronouns (eight if you don’t count the it’s), but it gives the reader more of an idea about the character with all that extra detail.

I’m not saying you can’t start sentences with ‘ing’ words, pronouns or ‘the subject’, but mix the sentences up with different openings.

When you have what you think it takes to write first-person, write a short story (a chapter is just a short story in a larger book) with your POV character and one other person, then have them cross the landscape on foot. Submit your work to a critique group and improve from their feedback.

Amanda and I wrote a chapter like this for Part2, but that other person was Jayne’s antagonist, her bully. This chapter almost broke us, throwing our hands up in an ‘I give up’ moment, but I’m glad it didn’t.

If you love what you do (writing), don’t give up, find a way of making it work. Remember to read, research and rewrite. Your research could be any way you like, other published books, YouTube, or blogs.

Being an author is long, hard work in the chair. Be good to yourself and exercise.

Authors are small business owners, and without the sales, there is no way they can write full time, then they need another job, so they write slower and publish less books. What I’m saying here is, don’t pirate books.

Another day, another…

My time being a full time author is coming to an end.

Last year, I had a certain situation at work that put me on medical leave with insurance. That insurance has now expired, but I don’t think the location based issues have been fixed.
The hard choice of returning to these problems while keeping particular long term employment benefits as opposed to another job, that might not offer the same options is a real consideration. Falling back to a one income household until writing contributes to the bills could be trying on so many levels.

One book doesn’t pay the bills.

We see writing as a teenager who uses your phone, computer, internet and all your spare time, all at once. Our teenager, Jayne was born on paper and moved over to the document application on screen in 2018. The fiery red-head lives with us every moment of every day, while we take walks, on holiday, even joining us in the shower and in our sleep. Jayne is our main character from our books, Burn the Sky.
It’s about time that teenager gets a job and starts earning their own money.

Did I slip up there? Books you say? – Yes, we have now sent off our final of Burn the Sky to the publisher for their edits before we have our say on the changes. It is still early days in this process, so no release date yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of cover they present us.
With Part1: Hope, the cover was so much more in your face than we ever thought a cover could be, and to start with, we didn’t like the decision. The conversation with our publisher went something like this –
Us – We don’t like the cover.
Publisher – For the reasons you don’t like it, it’s going to stand out in the sea of covers.
Us – What were the other ideas you had?
Publisher – Think about it for a few days. We still have time to change it.

24 hours later
Us – Oh wow. We can understand what you mean now.

For those of you living in the Brisbane area, you should see Amanda and I around a little bit more. I have been combining our social medias together, joined a local author group with a few locals and hopefully sell more books through organised events.
Selling more books comes back to being able to write more as a full time author.

I recently finished a 10 week residency at the Queensland Writers Centre and walked away with about 50,000 words into the book that follows Burn the Sky. I’m biased, but I think it flows well and sounds great. Now Burn the Sky Part2 is complete, my co-author, Amanda has started with her initial comments in chapter one.
I’m still working through the middle of the book with my first round of edits, and hopefully finish that soon, so I can begin structuring book 2 of this next series.

In the mean time, we still have to look forward to the 1-2 week dash of editing/reading/editing the editors work when the manuscript returns from the publisher.

There is now a catalogue page where our books are listed in order of to be read, and links for buying the books.
(https://leebreeze.com/available-catalogue/)

If you have read our first book, we are on GoodReads and Amazon and we would love to read your feedback, so we can improve for the next books.
Don’t forget – Good feedback leads to better writing.

Next blog, I’m thinking of writing about how we learned the processes, language types, and 1st to 3rd person.

The featured image is inspired by the act of authors turning coffee into stories. Thanks Rima Kruciene on Unsplash