The Best Alien Book of 2017

The best alien book 2017 I AM ROME

The Best Alien Book of 2017 hands down is ‘I am Rome’. How do I know this? Because I wrote it! You may think I’m more than a little biased, and you would be right, but hear me out.

The impetus of this book came from the TV show Person of Interest. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think… this seems very Batman-y. I did some research and discovered that I was not the only person to think this. The show was created by Jonathan Nolan, who wrote The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). I then discovered an interview on YouTube where someone asked him if the show was supposed to be like Batman and he said yes, it was an homage to Batman.

Batman is essentially a billionaire and a crime fighter. What Nolan decided to do for the show was break those identities apart into two separate characters. I thought this was a great idea so I decided to steal it. I wrote ‘I am Rome’ as an homage to the greatest superhero the world has ever known — Superman. Superman is essentially a farm boy and an alien. I am Rome separates those two identities into individual characters.

Here’s the back blurb:

Seventeen-year old pizza delivery boy Joe Smith lived a simple life. He had a bike, a job, and a crush on a girl, but that was about it. He didn’t have dreams beyond working on the family farm and continuing to live in the same rural community in which he was born. Until one night when everything changed.

After finishing his shift at the pizzeria, he headed home, riding his bike down a long and lonesome stretch of highway. Guided by the dim glow from the moonlight and a small light affixed to his helmet, he battled fatigue as he struggled to peddle the long distance home.

When a strange object flew overhead fast and low, and crashed into the neighbour’s cornfield, Joe had to investigate. Thinking it was a small plane or a downed satellite, Joe rushed to the scene of the crash. What he discovered was far beyond anything he’d ever seen or even imagined before. The strange craft was not from this planet.

Hidden among the tall stalks of corn, Joe watched with caution. From the rubble emerged a wounded alien.

If this doesn’t sound like the best alien book, then I don’t know what does. Check it out on Amazon or anywhere else fine ebooks are sold.

A bit about me — I’m an author, blogger, YouTuber, and podcaster from Vancouver, Canada who is perhaps best known for my debut novel, THE ART OF THE HUSTLE and my techno-thriller series PRODIGY. I’m also a Wattpad Star so you can check me out there as well.

The Art of the Hustle 2

 

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Coming Soon!

When you’re on top, there’s always someone wanting to bring you down.

The meteoric rise of Unity Inc. catapulted Trevor Morrison into a stratosphere of success few ever achieve. Now as the name and face of a global empire, Trevor was receiving a lot of attention and praise for creating one of the largest financial tech companies in the world. For the first time, he was financially free, free to pursue his passions, and passionate about the woman of his dreams. He felt as though he was on top of the world and finally the master of his destiny.

However, the higher a person climbs, the harder they tend to fall. After experiencing a sudden and unexpected setback, Trevor once again hit rock bottom. Amid his misfortune, he inadvertently stumbles upon an alternative path to success as he questions his life’s purpose and the true meaning of happiness.

Equipped with a new perspective and lease on life, he returns to his roots to take on the greatest challenge he has yet to face.

The Art of the Hustle 2 – Coming 2017

In December 2010, I sat down with a simple idea to write my debut novel. Six weeks later, I finished that book — The Art of the Hustle.

Published in 2012, The Art of the Hustle became wildly popular and changed the course of my life forever. At that time, I was studying for the LSATs and wanted to pursue a career in law. However, with the success of that book, I decided instead to pursue a career in writing.

In December 2016, I sat down with an idea to write a sequel to that book. Six weeks later (today) I finished that book — The Art of the Hustle 2.

It’s a very exciting day for me and I hope to soon share this story with you all. I am very happy with how the first draft turned out and in the coming months I will polish it and hope that it lives up to its predecessor.

Thank you to all those who have bought, read, voted, commented, or shared any of my books. I appreciate the support immensely. It’s because of you that allows me to do what I love, which is to tell stories.

Thank you!

Edward Mullen

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What I Learned from Almost Dying this Week

This past week has been really enlightening for me and I thought I would share the lesson(s) I learned.

I got really sick, and I still am – I’m like patient zero over here, don’t come near me! I started feeling unwell last Wednesday and by Friday I was convinced something was seriously wrong. I went to the doctor and got a blood test (haven’t heard back yet), and then spent the better part of a week in bed.

Each day I would awake with the sun at 5:30 and watch it set at night. It was like Groundhog Day. I re-lived the same day over and over and over. On several occasions I contemplated taking my own life to stop the madness (not serious considerations, but if I felt this way on a camping trip and I had a gun, I’d probably shoot myself in the face and let the river take me out to sea).

What I felt was like someone with giant hands had magically slipped their way under my skin, through the back of my skull and was now cradling my brain, and then with their big-ass banana-fingers, they would squeeze my puny brain. Then I had massively swollen lymph nodes, which I learned are not just in your neck. I was like, ‘Yo fam, I think I have armpit cancer!’ I have these massive lumps in my armpits (thanks Google for talking me off a ledge with the armpit cancer). I felt weak, tired, sore, and sweaty. I would fluctuate between high fever and bone-chilling shakes.

Mealtimes were interesting. I would routinely have to coax myself into eating the smallest of portions. I’d be like, ‘Come on man, just eat one piece of carrot. Can you do that for me?’ Spoon shaking as I lift it to my mouth. ‘Good. You’re doing so good. Okay bro, listen, I need you to do the same thing, this time why don’t we go for one of those big-ass potato pieces. Great. Perfect. Now slurp up some of this high-sodium bullshit Campbells calls a broth…’ This was my internal dialogue for each meal – a quarter of a can of soup. I could never figure out why I was always hungry.

The desire to eat was often, but the opportunities to eat were rare. Occasionally the clouds would part and the sun would shine down on me and I would have these brief hour-long windows (usually twice a day, almost like clockwork), where I would feel reasonably decent (I could stand and walk without wanting to die!) and I would take advantage of these opportunities. I would wash dishes, do meal prep, bathe, etc. Out of necessity, I even ventured outside (in the rain mind you) on one crazy occasion to re-up on supplies (meds and soup). While these windows were brief and few, they were the only thing that helped me stay alive since I don’t have the luxury to hire a live-in nurse or caretaker. But inevitably, the darkness would return and I would be in a state of head-splitting agony, sweat-drenched clothes, and mind-numbing delirium.

Sometimes during these hour-long windows I would feel so good that I would eat a steak sandwich and down a fruit smoothie. Kind of like I stole a base in baseball. It was my way of giving the middle finger to the virus, which I could feel pulsating through my body. But the virus would have the last laugh.

You know how when you get sick and each day that passes you usually feel slightly better than you did the day before? Well, not with this virus. It kept me down like an oppressive master. I felt like shit for seven days straight and I wasn’t getting any better. And if you’re thinking that seven days off from work is awesome, it’s not. It’s not like I was watching GoT all day. I was ‘sleeping’ for 20 hours per day. I learned to sleep on towels, and to have a change of clothes already laid out for me to change into in the middle of the night because I would soak everything with sweat and then shake violently to stay warm. I recalled a line from Les Stroud Survivor man, ‘You sweat, you die’. Well, Les, you lied – I sweated and did not die!

Anyways, this went on and on until yesterday something was different. During one of my brief windows of feeling decent, the darkness never returned. I was so happy. I still felt like shit, but I was very happy. I got a little ambitious and even did 2 chin-ups followed up by mandatory flexing in the mirror. This was the first sign in a week that my health was trending upward.

I had been cooped up in isolation for so long that I was desperate to get out and interact with the world. But in this solitude I discovered the first of many truths. Namely, I was essentially living my cat’s life – sleep all day, eat shitty food, and have no female visitors. What the fuck kind of life is this? What kind of cruel existence have I created for this poor creature? So perhaps when I’m thinking more soberly I will consider getting Socrates a girlfriend or a playmate. I may also consider taking him on adventures. I don’t know.

Anyways, back to me. So if any of you woke up feeling as I did today, it would be an easy decision to call in sick. I feel like shit. However, compared to the past week, I feel markedly better. So I went into work today with a fresh haircut, clean shave, and a smile. Big mistake. I pissed off the virus and he’s like, ‘what the fuck, bro. You think this is over? You think you won?’ I only lasted a couple hours before I went home with my tail tucked. I did notice that being in public during rush hour in downtown Vancouver was really shocking to my system. I had been operating on a sloth-like pace for a week. Then I get thrown into the maddening beehive of commerce and I was like, ‘Yo, why are you people walking so fast?’

The important lesson (aside from my new perspective on my cat’s life) was that life is very temporary. I’m healthy as shit, and I felt like I almost died. And that could happen any time, any day, to any one of us. Some bullshit virus could come along and snuff you out of existence like nothing. And the world will keep on moving.

So my plea to you is this – and I know you’ve heard it before. If you are one of those cheeto-finger, mouth-breathers who doesn’t take your health seriously and only exists to sit in front of your TV and go to work, stop and ask yourself – what are we doing? Life is worth living. We are only on this planet a short amount of time. Pay no mind to gossip, or get consumed with time-wasting endeavours that don’t push progress. Don’t allocate large portions of your day to people who do not enhance you or believe in you. Don’t live in the past with regret.

EM

The 7 Elements of Great Storytelling

book-863418_1280What are the elements that make a story great? Recently, I sat down and decided to write the core elements that I feel make a story great, and I came up with seven.

1.      Writing

Writing a great story naturally involves great writing. This is why I put this as the very first element. If you’re thinking about having a career in writing, your writing must be good – a base level of proficiency should consist of:

  • Fluidity
  • Clarity
  • Purpose
  • Proper spelling and grammar
  • Expansive vocabulary
  • Appropriate word choice
  • Logical coherence

The good news is that almost anyone can reach this level with practice, which is actually encouraging. Unlike other disciplines such as singing or playing in the NBA, writing well has less to do with natural talent or physical attributes, it’s just a matter of putting in the effort. Stephen King wrote in his book ‘On Writing’, “the first million words are practice,” and I believe this to be more or less true. If you put in the work and show up every day, your writing will eventually improve.

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2.      Originality

Your idea or story has to be somewhat original and interesting. I say ‘somewhat original’ because it’s very difficult to come up with a completely original and interesting idea. Most great storytellers borrow ideas from others. It’s okay to be inspired by others and borrow ideas – I borrow ideas all the time, but I make reference of them to give credit where it’s due. In my Prodigy book, I use themes from Plato’s Republic, but I make sure to reference them to let the reader know that I’m not trying to steal Plato’s ideas and pass them off as my own. Instead, I’m paying homage to something that inspired me.

To improve originality, it’s important to be well-rounded in terms of your interests and your scope of knowledge. So try to be very broad with your understanding of things, especially areas where you have relatively no knowledge, whether it’s science, religion, cultures, economics, history, geography… It’s also helpful to be:

  • World travelled
  • Read books
  • Hang out with different types of people
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Watch documentaries
  • Challenge your opinions and assumptions – be critical and objective about your thoughts
  • Be observant about the world
  • Develop a new hobby such as archery, yoga, ballet, rock climbing…

Over time, you will uncover things, learn new truths, and develop original thinking in areas where you would otherwise not have gone down if you just stayed in this narrow lane of topics that interest you.

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3.      Characters

Your characters have to be well-defined and relatable. Part of having well-defined characters means they should each have their own distinct voice and unique set of characteristics that separate them from other characters in your story. Here are some things to consider:

  • Your characters shouldn’t all sound alike
  • Each character should have their own point of view
  • Your reader should be able to tell who’s talking without you telling them
  • Your characters should generally behave in a consistent manner

One method I use, and a lot of other writers use, is character profiles. These are simply one or two page summaries of each of your main characters. Start by selecting an image of what your character looks like (you can draw it if you like or find an image online). Next, write down the answers to the following questions:

  • What are their beliefs or values?
  • What is their background?
  • What motivates them?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their interests or hobbies?
  • What are their opinions?

You can then have a few quotables, something like, “I’m working part-time and going to school to become a doctor,” “My girlfriend is a painter,” “I really don’t like how lazy I am, I want to change.” This will help cement the idea of their true nature in your head.

When you take the time to write character profiles, you can put your characters in any situation and have very good understanding of what they would do and how they would behave in that situation.

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4.      Pace

The pacing of your story has to be such that the reader does not get bored easily. Make them want to keep reading. I often use the metaphor of a monkey swinging from vine to vine – when it swings from one vine, and that vine has reached its maximum extension, there should be another vine within reach, ready to be grabbed and allow the monkey to carry its momentum forward.

So if you have a really lengthy and verbose opening that describes the house the person grew up in, the colour of the carpet, their lovely neighbours… and you go on and on and on about minutia, then it’s going to be boring for many readers – it’d be like starting a race with your feet in mud. Why have your readers slog through mud at all. They should be able to take off with your story and maintain that momentum (or have the momentum increase) until the very last page.

If you want your book to hit with a lot of people, you need to hook them in immediately and maintain a steady pace. This may not come easy to you in the first draft, but it can be done in the editing process. For instance, maybe in the revision you decide that the first three chapters can be combined into one chapter, or better yet, one paragraph. This gets the story started as deep into the story as possible.

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5.      Story Arc

The story arc must be suspenseful. By nature, human beings are really attracted to suspense. In most stories, the hero always wins, and yet despite knowing this, we still love watching movies and reading books. That’s because it’s not necessarily the payoff at the end that we live for, even though that is satisfying. What we truly crave is the uncertainly of the drama.

In his book called, ‘The Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama’, David Mamet talks about this hypothetically perfect ball game in which he does a very good job of describing the kind of natural tension that we love.

He says, “The perfect ball game – what do we wish for in the perfect ball game? Do we wish for our team to take the field in thrash the opposition from the first moment to the final gun? No, we wish for a closely fought match that contains many satisfying reversals, but which can be seen retroactively to always tend toward a satisfying and inevitable conclusion. We wish, in effect, for a three act structure.

“In act one, our team takes the field and indeed prevails over its opponents, and we, its participants feel pride. But before the pride can mature into arrogance, this new thing occurs – our team makes an error. The other side is inspired and pushes forward with previously unsuspected strength and imagination. Our team weakens and retreats.

“In act two of this perfect game, our team is shaken and confused. They forget the rudiments of cohesion and strategy and address that made them strong. They fall deeper and deeper into a slew of despond. All contrary efforts seem naught and just when we think that the tide may have turned back the other way, a penalty or adverse decision is rendered, nullifying their gains. What could be worse?

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“But wait. Just when all else seems irredeemably lost, help comes, which is act three. A player, previously believe to be second rate, emerges with a block, a throw, a run, and offers a glimmer of that possibility of victory. Yes, only a glimmer. But it is sufficient to rouse the team to something approaching its best efforts and the team indeed rallies. Our team brings the score back even and makes the play that would put them ahead, only to have it called back yet again by fate, or by its lieutenant, a wrong-headed, ignorant or malicious official.

“But see, the lessons of the second act were not lost on our team. People might say that it’s too late or the clock is too far run down, our heroes are too tired… yet they rouse themselves for one last effort, one last try, and do they prevail? Do they triumph with scant seconds left on the clock? Oh, they do. They all but prevail. As the final seconds of the play, the outcome rests on the lone warrior – that hero, that champion, that person upon whom in the final moment all our hopes devolve. That final play, run, pass, penalty kick. But wait. That hero that would have been chosen for the task, that champion is injured. No one is left on the bench…”

There is the perfect game as described by David Mamet. It’s very interesting and obviously points to these kinds of ebbs and flows, this tide, this yin this yang, this push pull tension where they’re up, they’re down, they’re up again, they’re down again. And just when it appears there is no hope, somehow by all odds stacked against them, they come back and become triumphant in the most unsuspecting way in the final seconds of the game. So if you can, your story could follow a similar arc as well.

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6.      Conclusion

Your story must have a satisfying ending, which is indeed difficult. When I write, a lot of times I don’t know how the story will end. I may have an idea, but I usually discover it when I get there. I just wing it and hope for the best. It’s difficult to have a satisfying, original, and unpredictable ending that pays off for the reader. If you build up the story adequately, the ending must deliver so that the previous efforts are not lost. You want your reader to finish the book with a smile, unable to contain their joy – they can’t wait to tell their friends, read the sequel, learn everything they can about you… A good ending can also save, or make up for a lackluster climax. An average story with an amazing twist ending can bolster the story in ways that no other part of the book can.

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7.      *Bonus* — Timing

If you incorporate the first six elements of storytelling into your book, you may come close to creating a masterpiece. However, I think one bonus element could be included in the list that may elevate a great book to a nearly perfect book – and that is well-timed comedy or drama in appropriate places. By this I mean, if you’re writing a really dramatic scene with lots of tension, a great way to keep the reader engaged is to inject some comedic relief (or if your book is funny, inject some drama in certain places). Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent example of this. And if done well, it could really take your book to the next level.

So there they are, the 7 elements of great storytelling. If you have any other insights or feel I missed some, please let me know in the comments below.

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The Perception of Publishing

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It’s no secret the publishing industry is undergoing a radical change, but what still needs to change is people’s perception.

Traditionally, for an author to gain exposure, they needed to be published with a major publishing house (which only accepts manuscripts solicited by literary agents). Therefore, literary agents acted as gatekeepers, determining which books are worthy of being published.

However, with the advent of digital books, the marketplace and channels of distribution are open to everyone. While it has never been easier to get a book into the hands of readers, there are still some major hurdles authors need to overcome.

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If publishing were a true meritocracy, then the best books would also be the ones that sell the most. Currently, that is not the way it works. I’m sure we can all think of bestselling books that are terribly written.

The reason this happens is because publishers spend a lot of money to promote a book. The promotion generates interest, which can translate into sales. If enough books are sold within a certain time period, the book will become a bestseller. Once it makes the bestseller’s list, it will convince people it’s good, when it may not be.

Most bestseller lists are reported weekly, based on total units sold. To make the list, a book usually needs to sell between 7,000 and 12,000 copies. That means a book that sells heavily for one week will be on the same list as a book that sells heavily all year round. So a book that sells 7,000 copies in one week and then zero the remainder of the year may be perceived to be better than a book that sells over 100,000 copies per year (but never more than 7,000 per week).

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Since there are many subsequent benefits of being on a bestseller list, many authors and publishers manipulate the sales by purchasing a large volume of their own books. Once they make the list, they can forever claim the bestseller title, which then connotes quality, credibility, and prestige. Being on the list, even in this artificial way, allows a title or author to gain exposure and sales that are perhaps undeserved.

Considering how much emphasis is placed on this list, it does two things:

a.) reinforces people’s perception of books, and;

b.) funnels the herd of book buyers to buy bestsellers over non-bestsellers.

My concern is that given the financial limitations many authors face, it discourages authors from writing, and instead encourages them to pursue a more financially worthwhile career. In effect, robbing society of great storytellers and reduces our cultural enrichment. Therefore, the perception of publishing needs to change.

On Episode 16 of The Edward Mullen Podcast, I discuss the many different publishing options for writers. I will briefly recap that list:

  1. Major Publisher: (Hatchette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Shuster)
  2. Medium Publisher
  3. Small and Vanity Publisher
  4. Self-publish

In the podcast, I discuss the various pros and cons of different publishing options and concluded that self-publishing was the right avenue for me. However, what I’m finding is that I often have to defend that choice to people, as if my books are in some way inferior to books published under the traditional route.

In many other creative outlets such as music, movies, and art… the term independent does not carry the same stigma. In fact, in many cases it is worn proudly like a badge of honour since it represents hustle and a willingness to forgo the corporate world to keep the art pure. It’s also a viable way to earn a living and garner respect. Many independent musicians and movie makers have won the highest awards in their fields. Sadly, this has not caught on in the publishing industry.

As I have discovered, there are many restrictions to being a self-published author, even if your books are read by millions of people around the world. Some of them include:

  1. You may not gain credibility
  2. You may be restricted from entering book contests
  3. Your book will not be distributed in certain stores (including some ebook stores)
  4. Your government may not give you a writing grant

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With music, a song can be uploaded to the Internet and listened to with ease. If your song is good, it can be shared, played on radio and in clubs, and be featured in movie soundtracks. Radio stations will want to play your tune and invite you into the station for an interview. Once you develop a fan base, you have multiple revenue streams available to you such as album sales, touring, selling merchandise, and YouTube revenue. It is by no means easy to make a living and develop a fan base as a musician, but hear me out. If you are an aspiring stand-up comedian, you can follow the same formula as the musician, and eventually find your way into movies, television, and various hosting gigs. The major money-making opportunity available is live shows. A comedian or musician can earn millions by performing at clubs and venues around the world. Movies are similar in that they require a minimal investment of the audience’s time and money.

However, none of these options are available to authors, even the most successful ones. When was the last time you saw somewhere wearing a Stephen King shirt? When was the last time an author hosted anything on television? Yes, writers can earn a living in various ways, but the point I’m trying to make is that authors upload their content for free, but do not have secondary avenues to make money like touring comedians and musicians. Books require more of a time commitment, cannot be shared easily in venues, television, or radio. Due to these financial limitations, an aspiring author may give up to pursue a career that is a more worthwhile use of their time.

In the interest of brevity, I will reiterate two points. First, a self-published book can be just as good as a bestseller, and even outsell a bestseller, but is prohibited of many of the benefits of a bestseller. Second, due to this perception in society, we are stifling the creative potential of our best writers and storytellers, and thereby robbing society of the great benefit of entertainment.

Prodigy Returns Coming Soon!!

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The highly anticipated trilogy to the cult-classic Prodigy series is coming soon to eBook stores!

When Earth’s prodigy finds herself alone and afraid, she must quickly pull herself together and face a new trial. Her mission: locate her father and bring him home. With new threats and challenges emerging at every turn, Alex must rely on her fast-thinking and bravery while attempting to survive in a completely foreign environment. Of course, she is game for this new test as she stands defiantly in the face of adversity. This time, she calls upon some unfamiliar faces to aid her in her quest.

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