Category Archive: Darkness Eternal

Feb 03 2016

Establish an Emotional Connection Using Deep POV (What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.)



Deep point of view, or Deep POV for short, is a technique used to get inside the mind of a character and make a deep emotional connection with readers. Today we’re going to discuss writing in deep POV.

Woohoo! We’ve made it to the fourth installment in the weekly blog series featuring important writing lessons I learned while writing (and editing) my post-apocalyptic/dystopian Refuge Inc. series, Darkness Eternal. It officially releases March 1st, but you can celebrate with me by claiming a copy now at a special preorder discount.


When my editor returned Darkness Eternal edits to me, each page was marked with red (which is a good thing! Trust me). It’s not just the corrections to spelling, grammar, or word usage that pushes me to write better. It’s comments from the editor like these:



By asking, “What is your character thinking?” or “How does that make your character feel?” or “What did your character want to say?” the editor is giving me a chance to dig deeper into the character’s POV. By answering those questions, it allows me to:

  1. Show a character’s thought process
  1. Build a three-dimensional character
  1. Get readers to understand, relate, and empathize with a character
  1. Develop internal conflict
  1. Become a better storyteller

Besides answering those types of questions about your character’s thoughts and action, here are some other ways to deepen POV.

Eliminate signs of authorship & signs of telling

Has your character ever wondered, thought, felt, or heard? Get rid of those filler words and rewrite your sentences to put your character in action. Your character didn’t just “think.” What is she thinking? Telling instead of showing puts you as the author in the story, which then pulls the reader right out of it. That’s a big no-no.

The best way to stay off the page as the author is to simply describe what your character heard, thought, smelled, tasted, felt, etc., without using those words.

Example 1:

Instead of: I felt a tingle travel my arm.

Write: A tingle traveled my arm.

Example 2:

Instead of: She heard the sound of thunder overhead.

Write: Thunder roared overhead.

Limit “said” tags

Has your characters said, yelled, replied, or asked? Use dialogue tags sparingly or eliminate them altogether in exchange for action tags. Just as “felt” or “heard” makes a reader aware of the author in the story, the frequent usage of “said” and “asked” does the same, and becomes redundant. How effective is having a character say something, then reestablish that she said it with a said tag? That would be redundant, right?

Said tags prevent the reader from sinking into the story or envisioning scenes without much effort. Using said in dialogue often reminds the reader that she’s reading instead of allowing her experience to be immersive.

(Also, it’s a form of telling, and can be viewed as a sign of lazy writing from some readers.)

Example 1:  

Instead of: “Look out!” Sam shouted. The door swung open.

Write: “Look out!” Sam moved to the side as the door swung open.

Example 2:

Instead of: “How was dinner?” I asked, taking off my jacket.

Write: “How was dinner?” I took off my jacket.

You can interchange action tags with thoughts too, as a way to create an emotional connection between character and reader.


“How was dinner?” When he didn’t answer, my world rocked. This was the beginning of the end of the only once-healthy relationship I’d known.

Write using first person narrative

First person and third person narrative are the most popular POVs in fiction, and each have their pros and cons. One benefit to writing in first person narrative is it allows you to get deeper into your character’s mind with a little more ease than third person narrative.

You are viewing the world through this character’s perspective throughout the entire story. You are already using his voice, and when he doesn’t speak, his thoughts are just as revealing. There’s no better way to connect with readers emotionally than to sit them in the driver’s seat inside your character’s head, allowing them to sense and experience your character’s journey as if it were their own.


So now it’s your turn. Tell me. Which POV allows you to better connect with characters, first or third?


Posts in the “What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.” series:

Part 1: Master the Element of Surprise

Part 2: Hook Your Readers 5 Ways

Part 3: Understanding Theme

Part 4: Establish an Emotional Connection Using Deep POV

image credit: [Maureen Didde]

Jan 24 2016

Understanding Theme (What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.)



Understanding your book’s theme is necessary to create meaningful and lasting stories that have deeper meaning than what’s on the surface.

Thanks for tuning in to the third installment in the weekly blog series featuring important writing lessons I learned while writing my story from the post-apocalyptic/dystopian Refuge Inc. series, Darkness Eternal. Darkness Eternal is available now on Amazon at a special preorder discount. It officially releases March 1st.


In general, the Refuge Inc. series explores many themes. One or two are major themes, which are the most significant in the work. Many are minor and appear in the stories briefly. Almost every story, especially those that resonate, have a theme.

Defining Theme


What exactly is theme? The theme of a story is the underlying message within a story, or the point the author is trying to make.

What the theme is not:

  • The Subject. The subject is a topic of the story. The theme is a personal belief or opinion of the author. For example, a writer may choose the subject of “coming out” and the theme for the story may be the author’s opinion that coming out later in life is detrimental in building healthy relationships earlier in life.
  • The Moral. The moral of a story is a lesson or message a reader takes away from the story. Because a moral can be left for a reader to determine for themselves, what resonates can differ for every person.

Developing Theme


Some of my best writing happens when I have a point to make or an opinion to express. That is why it’s best to start by looking inside yourself with self-reflection.

  • What in life has been heavy on your mind, heart, or conscious?
  • What have you wanted to say but too afraid to express?
  • What have you been saying but no one acknowledges?
  • What in life do you wish you can change, improve, or eliminate?

Like all people, you have beliefs, opinions, and experiences. You feel strongly about certain things. Now all you have to do is incorporate those feelings and messages in your story. Here’s how:

  • Use a character or conversation. Allow a character, preferably the protagonist, to express an opinion about the subject of the story, and then show how his beliefs are tested, changed, or enhanced to reflect the overall story theme.
  • Add it in the narrative. Be creative and use your story’s world, settings, and characters to integrate your theme.
  • Include it in thoughts or unspoken means. Some ideas are never publicly expressed, but what’s not said usually says a lot.
  • Using metaphors and symbolism. Sure, the blue drapes in the story can mean blue drapes, but when done right those blue drapes can signify the blues of a character who’s been living a double life.

Caution: Be mindful of how often you apply these methods within your story. Employ a combination of techniques and use them sparingly to avoid sounding preachy.

I hope you enjoyed diving into the topic of theme. If you find this helpful, please consider sharing! Now it’s your turn, what book’s theme resonates with you?


Posts in the “What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.” series:

Part 1: Master the Element of Surprise

Part 2: Hook Your Readers 5 Ways

Part 3: Understanding Theme

Part 4: Establish an Emotional Connection Using Deep POV

[image credit: Jo Naylor]

Jan 15 2016

Hook Your Readers 5 Ways (What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.)

hook image

As a writer, you’re familiar with the method of getting and keeping readers interested in your book by luring them in with a hook. We often think to “hook” a reader requires a snappy, hard-hitting, action-packed opening line, add one and then our work is done. The truth? A great hook propels the reader forward to the next great hook, and the next hook, and again and again, until the reader reaches the end. This can be accomplished five ways.


I welcome you to the second installment in the weekly blog series featuring important writing lessons I learned while writing the latest installment in my post-apocalyptic/dystopian Refuge Inc. series, Darkness Eternal. It officially releases March 1st, but you can claim a copy now at a special preorder discount.

When I create a hook, what I’m really doing is planting a question in the reader’s mind that they will seek the answer to. They want the answer so bad, they have to continue reading until they get it. If you produce this kind of interest early on, you’ve got yourself a hook. But getting a sale, a fulfilling read, and satisfied fans requires more than just a snazzy opening sentence or tagline.

1. Book Cover

Yes, hooking your readers starts with the book cover. No matter the advice, everyone judges books by their covers. You can talk about a book all day and night, but a tantalizing cover is like a picture … worth a thousand words. Instead of just being pretty and grabbing attention, a cover done well triggers something inside the viewer that screams “I gotta read this book.”

To spark that I-gotta-read-this-book feeling in your audience, give them a title, an image, or a tagline that they want to know more about. Your cover’s images and style should make people stop and ask, “What is this book about?” and create enough interest to propel them to find out, which will lead them to your book description.

2. Book Description

This is where the magic happens. After the book cover, the book description is normally what makes or breaks a person’s interest. The back cover description not only helps them determine if they’d be interested in the story, but it’s your chance as the author to show them that they are.

  • Hook them with a catchy tagline, a question, a controversial statement, or a thought-provoking claim
  • Hook them with the first sentence by sharing what makes your story special or unique, introduce an intriguing character or setting, or trigger an emotion
  • Hook them with the conflict, the antagonist, the premise, or what’s at stake
  • Leave them with a question (literally or figuratively) that they’d want the answer to

Write your description with the intention of getting readers from one hook to the next until they decide to open the book and read the first line.

3. First line of the book

Everyone talks about the opening line of the book and how important it is for grabbing your readers’ attention. We write, rewrite, and polish the first line more than any other part of our manuscript for this very reason. A first line is so important there are popular fiction writing contests dedicated to judging them. Much like the hooks of your book description, hook readers with the wow factor.

Here’s some examples of opening lines that does the job:

  • “I was trying hard to get drunk.” – Dark Space by Lisa Henry
  • “Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I change to five, abracadabra.” -Room by Emma Donoghue
  • “I feel that suicide notes lose their zing when they drag on too long.” – Hushed by Kelley York

Indeed, the first line is a big deal, but only if it does its job of getting readers to read further. Enticing readers to want to read to the end of your book is the point, after all. And to properly execute that requires a hook to be set at the first line of every chapter.

4. First sentence of every chapter

Don’t stop at the first line of your book. Set a hook at the first line of every chapter. Give the reader more incentive to move further into your story. Make them feel the same excitement, intrigue, and curiosity at the opening of every chapter as they felt at the beginning of the book. Use your creativity to come up with some inventive, metaphoric or plan catchy first lines to introduce your chapters.

5. First chapter

Use your first chapter like a long first line. The entire chapter should be full of excitement or intrigue to lead the reader on to the next chapter. It’s like a cycle, really.

Make your first chapter tight, leave out unnecessary exposition or lengthy description, set the mood, introduce a special quirk to make your main character likable or relatable, hint at the main conflict, and conclude on a cliffhanger. This will lead you to the hook of the second chapter, rinse, and repeat.

Not it’s your turn. What do you think about the ways we hook readers? Speak your mind in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this post if you find it helpful!


Posts in the “What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.” series:

Part 1: Master the Element of Surprise

Part 2: Hook Your Readers 5 Ways

Part 3: Understanding Theme

Part 4: Establish an Emotional Connection Using Deep POV

[image credit:Derek Gavey]

Jan 08 2016

Master the Element of Surprise (What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.)




Want to turn a dull story into an exciting one? Want readers to talk about your story long after reading it? Surprise them. Plot twists and surprise endings are just some of the components that make up great fiction. Following are some tips you can apply to master the element of surprise in your story.


Today, I’m excited to welcome you to the first installment in a weekly blog series featuring important writing lessons I learned in the past year and a half while writing the latest book in my post-apocalyptic/dystopian Refuge Inc. series, Darkness Eternal, which will release March 1st! You can claim your copy now at a special preorder discount. Surprises are a huge component of the Refuge Inc. series. It’s one of the things that make the stories fun to write.


In stories, plot twists create interest and give readers something to talk about. Most popular and highly praised stories contain at least one plot twist or surprise within their pages. Planting surprises inside a story has become second nature in storytelling, and writers who seek support on mastering the element of surprise should read on.

Examples of surprises:

A surprise is a plot element written to keep a story interesting and to add suspense by putting the characters in a surprising situation.

Examples include:

  • Reveal a secret
  • Make your protagonist fail
  • Close an escape route
  • Turn an enemy into an ally
  • Turn an ally into an enemy
  • Kill a character

Examples of plot twists:

A plot twist is when something happens within the plot that changes the direction of the story in a way no one saw coming. Or an event that twists the story to provide an entirely different perspective of events than was anticipated. To accomplish this, write your story in a way that makes the reader believe one thing, and then twist it to reveal the truth.

Popular examples (from film) include:

(*Psst. The links contain spoilers.)

  • The famous twist ending of the 1999 horror-thriller The Sixth Sense from M. Night Shyamalan, who’s well-known for adding plot twists in most of his work.
  • The popular twist ending of the science fiction film Planet of the Apes (1968).
  • The big reveal at the end of the science fiction/dystopian cult classic Soylent Green (1973).

In each of these films, the reveal changes everything we knew up until the huge twist. So how do you create something similar within your story?

1. Avoid clichés and stereotypes

Clichés and stereotypes fall under the tier of predictability, and predictability is the last thing you want when trying to surprise your readers or create a juicy plot twist. Sure, tropes and themes are expected by readers, but can backfire when overused. Anything predictable, expected, or foreseen should be avoided like … the plague (see what I did there?).

Sometimes allowing realism to steer your twists, turns, and surprises can provide for some highly praised originality if you do it right by fitting it within your story’s world and rules. However, I caution about providing too much realism in fiction, since most readers tend to read to escape reality. However, making your twists believable without relying on familiarity or overdone scenarios is key to an enjoyable surprise.

Examples of clichés and stereotypes to avoid:

  • Falling in love based on looks
  • Nightmares and prophecies revealed to be true predictions all along
  • The protagonist turns out to be the culprit
  • It was all a dream
  • Female’s nausea turns out to be pregnancy
  • The blonde, busty, bimbo
  • The geeky, glasses-wearing nerd who’s an expert in physics and Star Wars
  • An everyday man finds the bomb, discovers who planted it, and diffuses it with only seconds to spare

 2. Foreshadow

Foreshadowing is essential for the reveal of your plot twist or surprise ending. By planting evidence early in your story, you avoid using convenience and coincidence as a plot device.

If your character is going to die by the blade of a sword in the final scene of your story, make sure you introduced the sword somewhere in the preceding scenes. In this example of foreshadowing, your character’s surprise death can still be unexpected without seeming out of place.

If your magical fairy gets trapped inside a rotting tree trunk in chapter ten, make sure readers are aware of her portal producing abilities in an earlier chapter. Maybe she didn’t know the consequences of using her power or she still needed to iron out the kinks, but she definitely knew producing portals was in her arsenal. Suddenly discovering this power ten minutes after being barricaded will not fly for your readers, and will thwart your plan of creating an effective surprise or twist.

The best twists are the ones where you look back over the story and kick yourself in the butt because you should have seen it coming but didn’t.

3. Dig deep for originality

The only way to be original is to forgo borrowing plots and genre tropes and write the story only you can write. That means digging deep within your emotions and experiences, and putting your findings on the page. No one can bring it quite like you. Embrace your uniqueness, take chances often, and create from your heart.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have tips on mastering the element of surprise? Speak your mind in the comments!


Posts in the “What I Learned Writing Darkness Eternal: Refuge Inc.” series:

Part 1: Master the Element of Surprise

Part 2: Hook Your Readers 5 Ways

Part 3: Understanding Theme

Part 4: Establish an Emotional Connection Using Deep POV

[image credit: Damian Gadal]

Jan 01 2016

New Blog Series for Writers & Darkness Eternal (Refuge Inc.)


First, Happy 2016! I hope 2015 was as good and productive as ever for you. And here’s to an amazing and lucky 2016!

Speaking of luck. I’m lucky to have the passion to tell stories and the desire to teach others a few things that I’ve learned from the process. Like many authors, I learn something new with every book I write. Since 2005, my passions for writing grew stronger each year with the completion of story after story. And at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to, the stories. Wouldn’t you agree?


Upon finishing every story, I get so excited as I can’t wait to announce the completion of a beloved project and share with you the fruits of my labor.


Well that time has come again. And this time I’m especially excited about this story!


So, without further ado, allow me to announce:


The latest Refuge Inc. tale, Darkness Eternal, is finally complete and the book will officially be released on March 1st 2016!


So why am I so excited about this book?

Plenty of reasons.


  1. It took forever to write and completion feels oh so good
  2. It’s the most anticipated Refuge Inc. installment from fans of the series and I can’t wait to fulfill the itch
  3. It’s 50k words and twenty-three chapters of action, suspense, twists, turns, and male-male adventure
  4. It’s completely new for the series, set a century in the future after an asteroid impact in a nearly indestructible underground sphere surrounded by toxic air
  5. It’s the best written story and the best storytelling I’ve told to date, in my humble opinion 😉
  6. It’s complex, not complicated, but multifaceted in its details, settings, and characterization
  7. Its themes of leadership and responsibility are timely
  8. It’s a standalone in a five book series and features an uncommon protagonist and a rare antagonist


What’s Darkness Eternal About?


DarknessEternal2As above, so below, except when referring to the underground Refuge Inc. compound.


A century after an asteroid impact and merely fifteen years after a second collision that turned the world into a noxious wasteland, Cadet Connor Nichols and other Refuge facility residents are making the most of their spherical underground utopia they call home.


But when a breach threatens to poison the occupants with ambient toxic air, Connor is forced to make life-altering decisions in an attempt to save lives and his only home. With help from best friend and training partner, Vince Moore, he’s reminded that good leadership requires responsibility.


His struggle is intensified as everything he knew about the facility, the leaders, and himself becomes twisted, distorted, and turned into the unimaginable when his effort exposes shocking secrets that threatens their future.


So what happens between now and March 1st?


  1. Beginning next week and every week until the release day, I’ll feature a special series of posts highlighting particular writing techniques I learned while writing Darkness Eternal over the last year and a half.


  1. Also, I’ll host a special giveaway. I’ll be giving away printed swag, collectables, and one-of-a-kind Refuge Inc. goodies to some lucky fans!


I hope you’ll join me for the fun. Happy reading!


[Image credit: xioubin low]

Mar 02 2014

Darkness Eternal (Refuge Inc.): Cover Reveal, Excerpt & Info

DarknessEternal_print_webWORK IN PROGRESS

Darkness Eternal is still a work in progress as I aim to put together the very best book package I can, including improved writing, editing, formatting, marketing, promo material, and book cover. Speaking of book cover, I recently got the full print cover and promo material back from the professional designer.

TAGS: Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopia, MM, Sci-Fi, Futeristic, Sensual Romance.

DarknessEternal_ebook_Final_smallELEVATOR PITCH:

Darkness Eternal (A Refuge Inc. Story) is a stand alone title that takes place during a futuristic global catastrophe and follows new protagonists, Connor and Vince, on their fight for survival in an underground complex built to escape toxic air in the atmosphere.


WORD COUNT: The complete word count or length is not final and might be longer than the proposed 25k word mark.

PLOT & CHARACTERS: The story is different than the preceding trilogy that followed Adam and Elliot. Darkness Eternal centers on a younger set of men in their early twenties who was raised in the underground sphere known as the Refuge facility. Like the previous books, it contains a lot of suspense and plenty of twists and turns while reminding you that it is indeed part of the Refuge Inc. series.  You will see slight similarities between Darkness Eternal and the other books of the series.

EROTIC AND EXPLICIT CONTENT RATING: Although Darkness Eternal is an M/M read, it’ll contain less explicit sexual situations in favor of mild and sensual male-male encounters. The violence in the story is present only in necessary and believable situations, and descriptions of death is very brief and not overly detailed or gory.


Shocking revelations about the Refuge facility’s underground complex thrusts two friends into a battle for survival.

Partners Connor Nichols and Vince Moore are preparing for active duty as peacekeepers for the residents of the subterranean Refuge facility. Before the catastrophe that wiped out the sunlight and forced survivors to live in an underground compound, the extraordinary details of a similar disaster began to spread as urban legend.

However, nothing prepares them for the harsh truths they expose about the leaders and the mysterious facility.

WARNING: Contains some sensual male-male practices, violence, and brief descriptions of the dead.




My eyes snapped open to a bright red light similar to the lights that announced our failure during tactical training in the simulation. But accompanying the crimson glow was a piercing ring of an alarm. It took a second for it to register, but thanks to the dozen or so drills we’ve had, it finally clicked that there was an emergency. A fight? Some sort of outbreak? Contamination? A deliberate chill crept down my spine.

Throwing the sheets aside, I tossed my legs over the edge of the bed. Still a bit disoriented from being awakened during a deep sleep. I stood and caught the glow of the hour on a digital poster: zero-three hundred.

Someone shouted and blurred figures rushed by me, left and right. Shadows wisped passed our opened room door, accentuated by the red hue. A voice called out orders, “Move it, cadets. To your gear. Move, move, move!”  The orders mingled with the sound of pained whimpers, panicked cries, and flustered breathing.


I scanned the space for the source of the commands. Then a tug of my arm pulled me from the room.

“Vince?” I asked.

“Snap out of it, asshole.” Vince gripped my shoulders and shook. “We got a job to do.”

“What’s going on?” The frightened expressions on many of the resident’s faces kick started my adrenaline, and suddenly my legs were keeping up with Vince as he hastily made his way down the hall, passed people and toward our lockers.

Inside the locker room I met some of the other male cadets. They each pulled on their combat gear, removing sleeping garments to slip on the tough, stretchy combat gear with their last names stamped on the left breast. Some were already suited and were quickly securing their helmets, weapons belt, and … ballistic vests?

“What’s going on?” I cut my eye to Vince. Why weren’t orders being delivered over the P.A. system as planned during the many drills? Where was the infamous, “In the event of an actual emergency instructions will be given for your safety”?

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked, grabbing a vest off the shelf beside the rifle rack where only a few of the weapons remain. He tossed the heavy vest to me. “There’s a contamination leak on Ten. We’re to meet dad on Nine for the rest of our orders.”


Toxins. The dense, murky pollutants that deprived Earth of its oxygen and eroded our bodies from the inside out within hours of inhaling it. Hell itself.


DarknessEternal2Coming soon to print and ebook! 

Find the complete Refuge Inc. Series here.