Author Archives: Danny Valencia

Finally Published!

Well it has been a whirlwind of a month. I finally saw the fruit of my labors, and my book was published in December. It is currently available on Amazon and B&N. Personally, the Kindle version is probably the best option. But I know some people like to have a physical copy.

After all the wait, I am now having to publicize and market my book. My hope is that the first book is successful enough that it will be able to finance a second book. After that I hope that it will continue to fund itself if nothing else.

So, last week I did an interview with a local newspaper. You can find the link to that article here. That was a really interesting experience mainly because the whole conversation was focused on me.

Next, I did a podcast interview with a colleague of mine. You can find their podcast here.

Outside of those, I am contacting local libraries, book stores, and conventions to try and coordinate book signings or other related events. This is all so new for me.

So, have you gotten your copy yet? What do you think?

If you want to help out, please go to Amazon and leave me some feedback. The more stars the better! You can find it here!

Book Update: Coming Soon (Hopefully)

Hello Friends,

I just want to give everyone an update on where I am on the book publishing path. Secondly, explain what is going to be next, hopefully sooner than later.

Summary

I have been pretty much none existent as far as blogging is concerned over the last year. At the end of 2016, I started a new teaching position, and therefore, much of my attention was spent getting acquainted with that amazing job. However, as the last school year ended, I was working more and more on my book. Editing here and revising there. Finally, I really felt like the story was where I wanted it to be, and I liked the flow much better than previous manuscripts.

So, in June of this year, I set the book up with the editing service that my self-publisher provides. I used the Kickstarter money that I raised back in 2015 to pay that off. However, it was more than expected because of the size of the manuscript. So, what my Kickstarter didn’t cover, I paid for out of pocket.

I waited until the beginning of August, and finally the book was finished with its editing. Unfortunately, school started at the same time, so I have to give the majority of my time to my teaching career. That’s not to say I am upset. But I was hoping for the process to finish before school started, so I could preview the edits and send it off to production.

However, I am currently looking over the book’s edits and making sure none of the meaning was altered in the editing. Westbow Press did a great job, and I trust them very much. However, they encouraged me to review it, just in case.

Next Steps

I have been review the book in its entirety the past two weeks. When I am completed, I will send the book to the publishers to prepare for the next step of production. My goal is to be as quick on my end in getting things submitted to them, so the production isn’t slowed because of me. Hopefully, it will be ready and sent out by the end of this year.

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Lack of Blogging

Well, if you are one who keeps up with this blog you noticed there hasn’t been much of a blog for the past few months. I have been very busy with work. The spring is a very busy time in the education field. A lot of activities, ceremonies, and such. Outside of work, I have been focusing on a possible job change.

To be honest though, I haven’t been terribly motivated to blog. I am not sure exactly where I want to take this blog sometimes. The main focus has been on creativity, writing, and such. However, with limited time and lack of motivation, I just haven’t had much focus on getting the blog posts created.

On the book front, I have been continuing the process of overhauling the Third Act. I have really changed a lot from the last manuscript draft. So now the story has more depth and hopefully pace. I have wanted to keep the book down to a more appropriate word count, so I have been trying to streamline it a bit more.

That’s really all for now.

The Kidney Stone Epidemic (Update)

So, I said in my last blog that I was going to make the next blog a continuation on villains and motivation. However, that was before I got a kidney stone. Have you ever had a kidney stone? It is literally the worst pain I have ever experienced? I was literally on the couch for a week solid.

It started on a Saturday, went away and then came back on a Monday night. Boy did it come back. Of course it came back when the doctor offices were all closed, so we had to go to the ER. (Can’t wait for that bill.)

All in all, I am just glad it is over. Well, until the next stone. Apparently, now that I have had one I am 50% more likely to get another one in the next five years.

Anyhow, here is a little update on things so far. I joined reached out to a few of my friends who have interesting projects they are working on. Mostly in the writing domain. However, I have been dying to meet with like minded people and hash out ideas, encourage and be encouraged, and help hold each other accountable on goals, timelines, and deadlines.

I have been working really hard on the outline of Book 1. So, what I have been doing is ironing out the three Acts. I have the three Acts mapped, and now I am trying to get the three parts really air tight. I’ve been looking at the various scenes and seeing what is good, bad, or needs to be changed.

Many scenes have merit, however, they take away from the pace. Others are really weak and can really be shortened to a small paragraph. Others are too short and glossed over, so they need to be expanded upon or removed because they might become confusing.

The biggest issue has been ACT III. I have been working on getting the transition scene from ACT 2 to ACT 3 more tight. Personally, I was not happy with the current scene because of the pacing of it. So I scrapped it and worked on a bunch of variations. Then I went on various tangents seeing how each would play out in certain ways.

After a lot of work, I am starting to hone in on the outline that I feel has the most merit. It’s all very maze like. If you go down this pathway, you get these cool events but lose these. However, this path has this and this, however, it misses this. So I have to choose which path is the most well paced, best bang for the buck, and most rewarding to the reader.

I have several points that are kind of key points, and these are the ones I cannot miss out on. The scenes that have to happen. Like Gabriel has to do this, this, and this while there. And the bad guy has to do that and that.

What does it take to be a Villain?

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One of my favorite parts of the fictional world are the villains. For most movies, books, or television shows the main focus is the heroes. However, one of my favorite characters is usually the villain. Well, that is if the villain is well done. As I work on my own series, I have been analyzing what makes a great villain. First off we need to figure out some details about a villain.

What is a villain?

The dictionary definition for a villain is “a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.” So, essentially the villain is the person or organization that is causing a conflict in the story through action or presence. For example, the Galactic Empire is the iron fisted group that leads to the Rebellion being spawned. This can be lead to prove the point that without a villain, the hero would not exist. 

In the fictional world, the villain has several roles. In order to understand what a villain is, we need to look at the roles of a villain.

The villain is the second most important character. I truly think that the villain is second only to the hero in importance to the storyline.I think that this is definitely the case. Without a good villain, the hero can’t rise to the occasion and defeat him or her. So, if the villain is weak or lame then you cannot have a really dynamic and impactful hero. The easy example is Voldermort. His actions in a lot of ways made Harry Potter the hero he was. As well as being crucial to the story, Voldermort and Harry have several similarities in personality.

Honestly, I think that it could be argued that the villain is even more important than a hero. However, not every story fully utilizes their villain, and some have a villain that doesn’t take up to much screen time. So, we can safely say they are generally the second most important.

Likewise, the villain is the antagonist. In some cases, the villain is completely on the same level as the hero. They are as smart, cunning, powerful, etc as the hero, but with a more nefarious spin. For example, Moriarty is almost like the evil version of Sherlock Holmes. His aims are to literally antagonize Sherlock for sport, gain, and self-revelation.

Personally, some of the most fascinating villains are the ones who don’t necessarily see themselves as villains. They see themselves as something else. Either a necessary force of justice, someone worthy of more than their station in life, or in some cases they see themselves as the hero. There are so many different examples of this, but I don’t want to start getting into motivations just yet.

Next….

Next week, I want to explore the motivations of some of the more interesting villains in fiction. Please comment on the Facebook page here. I want to hear about your favorite villains and why.

Update: December 2015

The the last few weeks have been a lot of overhaul on the book’s opening. I have done a lot of reworking on the first three chapters, which I really wanted to get to a point where it grabbed the reader with the pace, intensity, and intrigue.

So here are a few of the concepts and changes that have occurred as of late:
1. Omit immediate flashbacks from the “narrative” of the book. So this is not to say that there will not be backstory in the book. In fact, I hope to have a lot of it in my series. Personally I love backstory. My favorite book of the Harry Potter series might be The Half-Blood Prince because of all the backstory on Tom Riddle. However, I think starting with a flashback of Gabriel’s recruitment isn’t the right fit for a children’s book. That scene hasn’t been removed but is now in the prologue spot, which may or may not make it into the completed work.
2. Increased pace and intensity. So as a means of trying to get the young reader immediately interested, I worked to add more of a quick pace early on. Gabriel starts off the book rushing around his room and packing. Also, I have added some parts early on to give the reader some “wow” moments.
3. Add dimension to the characters. This is a big one. I went through each character and added some aspect to them. Whether that be a verbal tag or a character trait that makes them more unique. Each of the main characters was given specific characteristics from the beginning, but I have more intentionally gone through to list their characteristics visually, verbally, and in personality.
4. Increase the scope of the world. For a story to be really engrossing, the setting has to be rich with history and culture. So I’ve been adding small details to the narrative that will intrigue the reader in small doses. This is some of the stuff that was in the original prologue, which I moved and reworked. I felt the prologue that I had at first kind of gave too much away. No one wants a history lesson at the beginning of the story. It just isn’t fitting for a children’s book. So I redid it and put it in the orientation scene.

Staying Positive in a Negative World

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So this morning I was in an car accident. The other driver hit my and caused me to hit the guard rail. So, I am currently in that no-man’s- land where I am waiting to hear from the mechanic whether or not my car will be totaled or not. However, I am doing my best to be positive in the midst of a physically and emotionally stressful situation.

I am not one of those overly positive people, however, I definitely am someone who does his best to see the bright side. I think it is important to keep our focus not on the small, stressful situations, but I try to learn from hard life lessons.

Even though this whole situation: the timing, the physical pain my body is in now, the financial pressure, and the uncertainty all can be part of something important. I just need to do my best to acknowledge that this all has a purpose and that I will learn and grow from it.

As a person, I am sometimes plagued with stress over things I cannot control. A student that fights me on every issue, a car wreck that wasn’t my fault, etc. Things like this would eat me up, if I let them. But if I try to maintain a positive outlook, I can cope with the never ending stress that our world offers. I have to choose to remain positive. If I want to stay positive, I need to be intentional with my thoughts, emotions, and desires.

Now let’s look at this in a practical way.

  1. It’s about perspective. Considering my car accident. I can look at all the negatives (and there are plenty) that this will bring. Money, time, energy, and the unknown. Or I can look at the positives from this situation. I’m not gravely injured or worse, I had insurance, the other driver wasn’t hurt, and it happened before a long holiday which will hopefully offer me time to get the car fixed or find a new one in time for next semester.
  2. You have to choose positivity. Every situation in life could be looked at in two ways. You can either see it as an obstacle, or you can see it as a chance to learn something. If you choose to look at them as obstacles, every task is going to be daunting. But if you choose to see it as a chance to learn or grow, then you have a goal and a challenge to achieve.
  3. It takes practice. Like most things in life, what you practice is what will become part of who you are. Negativity is a bad habit. We fall into it like we fall into a bad posture. We have to be intentional and practice a good, positive posture which will foster a better way of life.

So what are you choosing today? Will you allow the stress of work, life, school get you down? Or will you choose to be positive and keep your outlook right?

 

What is Failure?

So I have had the idea of failure on my mind for awhile. I recall a student I had who suffered from this mentality that he could not accomplish the things before him. Even before we started an activity (even one that was done together) he would say things like “I can’t do this” or “this is too hard.”

I tried to build up his confidence and remind him that he can do things. I often wondered if this was a real mentality or some sort of crutch he would use as a way of getting out of working hard. I wish I could get into his head and figure out why he thinks that. However, I don’t have that “Gift”. Maybe one day.

But this brings me to my initial question: what is failure? Now the easy answer is when you mess something up or don’t get it right. However, I would disagree. We have so many chances in our country. My dad came from a foreign country, worked hard, and became a self made man because he never gave up.

He wasn’t instantly successful, and he made plenty of mistakes that could have ended his career. Like that coffee business. That was interesting. Let’s just say he will never need to pick up coffee again. However, my dad continued to work and do his best.

So, now for my perspective on what failure is. I hope you care, otherwise this would be weird. I personally think failure only really happens when we completely give up. If we continue to try, even in the midst of falling short of our goal, then we won’t fail in the end. One of the most common quotes I use with my students about this topic is from Edison. He tried over 10,000 experiments to create a lightbulb that didn’t work. But what did he say? “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

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I think this is so sobering. Even if we fall on our faces 10,000 times. If we get up, we just learned another way that doesn’t work. 

These are some of the things I share with my students:

  1. Sometimes you actually have to work hard. Not everything in life is going to come easy. It is always surprising to me when a student is surprised that they have to put forth more than the simplest of effort into something. Sometimes you will have to try a problem over and over again before you get it right.
  2. Developing thick skin is really important. I posted awhile ago about taking correction. Sometimes we need advise on how to continue. Sometimes that correction doesn’t sit well with it. But, you know what? That correction might be exactly what we needed to hear.
  3. Try, try again. Never stop until you meet the success you want. Whatever you goal is. Keep working at the task at hand until you achieve you dream. I know you can do it. 

My Worst Thanksgiving

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As we are all enjoying the last few hours of Thanksgiving Break, I wanted to share my most memorable Thanksgiving. All though at the time it was one of the worst things I could have imagined, it ended up being a powerful events in my life.

So it started the Friday before Thanksgiving. It was the last few weeks of my student teaching. In education, you spend the last semester of college doing in the classroom training called student teacher, where you gradually take the reigns as the full time teacher. I was in the midst of that when I heard my name being called to the front office. I asked the regular education teacher to take over, while I went to the office and figured out what happened. I thought maybe I was parked in the wrong spot or something in the parking lot.

However, when I got to the office, one of the deacons from my church and a long time family friend was up there. He broke the news to me. He told me there was no easy way to put it, and that my house had burned down. I was floored. Literally. I fell to the ground and was just shocked.

After he consoled me, I returned to the classroom and collected my things. Thankfully, the teacher was very understanding and let me leave early. I drove back with a colleague who I was carpooling with at the time.

When I arrived back in town, I went to our church where  my mother and sister were. They were crying uncontrollably. I consoled them as best I could. They were completely heartbroken because we had several pets, that we were certain did not make it out.

My former youth pastor drove me over to the house and I saw the wreckage of the house. Several of the local fire departments were there, however, none of them were able to salvage or contain the fire. They were essentially just making sure it didn’t spread. As I arrived, I saw them knocking down my bedroom wall.

In the days that followed, we were tasked with cleaning up the ashes of the house. I spent most of my Thanksgiving Break sifting through the debris for anything that was salvageable.

In spite of all the chaos and bad memories, I learned several important life lessons from this event.

  1. In tough times, you learn who your real friends are. It may sound cliche, but when this happened, my best friend was in the air force. He somehow got emergency leave and was able to come home for a week and help my family out. He bought my sister and me a bunch of new clothes.
  2. The importance of stuff (or lack thereof). After the fire, I was very shocked to learn that all my stuff was gone. My clothes, my movies, my CDs, and all of my video games. However, all was not lost. My family was safe, because fortunately, no one was in the house when it happened, and even though we lost everything, we were completely reimbursed by the insurance.
  3. God has a plan. Long before the fire, my dad worked with a business partner and built two houses. One sold quickly, but the other didn’t. We were able to move into that new house after a few weeks and were set up thanks to this unforeseen circumstance.

Update: Change the Intro

Well the past few weeks have been very busy ones for me at work. My school has had so many events and back-to-back things going on at the beginning of the school year. I have honestly fallen behind in my blogging. I have, however, been working on my writing when I get a chance. Also, I have been taking a writing course online. I found it on Groupon while looking for any deals on professional development. I saw this and thought it would be a good refresher for me and maybe get some new information out of it. For $16 on a normally $200 course, you can’t really go wrong. Even if I don’t get anything new out of it, I figured it would be a good review.

As for the writing, I decided to change the first few chapters. I was rereading the first part of the book and wanted to add to the intensity and urgency of the book. Really attempt to grip the reading. Originally, the first chapter was a flashback, or dream of the past that Gabe has. I like the sequence, but I don’t think I want to start with something that was the past. I want to keep that content, but I will probably put it in somewhere else. Maybe in another book, but we will see.

So now the opening of the book is starting with a revised start. Gabriel is getting ready for the new semester, running around trying to get ready. I added a new layer of motivation for Gabriel, but you will have to wait to see who/what that is. I’m also adding some to the second and third chapters to get them to feel more real, intense, and interesting. This will hopefully get the chapters to be more gripping to the reader and pull them in quicker. Let’s face it, some kids need to be pulled into the book quicker than later if they are going to keep reading.

So that is my update for where I am right now.

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