Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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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!!

Prodigy Returns Cover

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.

The Secret Origins of Prodigy

Prodigy - Edward MullenRecently I was asked: “Where did you come up with the idea for Prodigy?”

I thought it was an interesting question and that others would like to know, so here is the tale of how Prodigy came to be.

When I started writing my debut novel The Art of the Hustle, it was just a side project, something to keep me busy. I had no idea at the time that I wanted to be a writer and hadn’t really written fiction. In fact, I kind of stumbled into writing. The Art of the Hustle originally began as an inspirational email I wrote to a friend who was suicidal. I told him a story from my past and highlighted some of the troubled emotions I had gone through in hopes it would help him get through whatever he was dealing with.

When I was done the email, I realized I had written a huge amount of text, and I wanted to do something with it, turn it into a story perhaps that others could read. I sent the short story out to a few other people and the response was really positive. They all wanted to know more.

I kept writing my story, which followed my life pretty closely. I had so much fun writing the book that I completely re-evaluated my life choices. At the time, I was studying for the LSAT and was trying to get into law school. I decided that maybe a career in writing would better suit my personality.

I decided to write a second book, but if I was going to be serious about being a novelist, I should be able to write about anything. Sure, I could write a story about my life, but what about something I’ve never experienced? I accepted the challenge and deliberately wrote a story from a female perspective, set 100 years in the future, and who has a form of autism that makes her exceptionally brilliant.

At the time, I had just got my iPhone and was blown away by the technology. I had never seen anything like it and it captured my imagination. I particularly found the iBooks app of interest. I couldn’t believe I could access nearly any book ever printed on a such a small piece of metal and glass that could sit in my hand.

Naturally, I asked myself, ‘What’s the iPhone 100 going to be like?’ In other words, what would be better than this? I then thought, instead of reading any book, wouldn’t it be cool if you could just download any book you ever wanted into your brain and it would forever be in your memory. And if that’s possible, you could do that with any piece of information. What if everyone did this, what would that do to society? What if we all became enlightened, rational, and kind?

And so the story began to swirl around in my head. I had some concept of perfect civilizations from political science and philosophy classes I had taken, so I set out to theorize my own version. This was also fueled by my frustration at home stupid us humans can be. So my society had no crime, no poverty, no corruption… The only problem was, there was no conflict for our hero to go through. I then created a controversial law called The Child Rearing Act and opened with scene that suggested society wasn’t so perfect.

To pay homage to Plato — an ancient Greek philosopher — I reference his masterful work, ‘The Republic’. Milo finds a paperback copy at one point and reads from it. Some others have pointed out that there are a lot of Greek references in the book. Yes, I know! This is deliberate. I borrowed (stole) the concept of the guardians from Plato, called a character Archimedes, and made about two dozen other references.

So there it is, that’s how Prodigy became a real story. I’m so glad it resonates with so many people. I really enjoy the characters, especially Alex, and would love to see her on the big screen one day!

Thanks for reading, I appreciate you.

Edward

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How to Introduce Backstory Without Boring Readers

How to introduce backstory without boring readersI get a lot of questions regarding writing advice. While I’m no expert, I certainly have some opinions that I’m more than happy to share. Recently, I was asked:

“How should I go about adding background information about characters, setting, and whatnot, while making it seamless and natural to the storyline, and engaging for the reader?”

I would advise not to go too crazy in the beginning. In other words, it may be best to keep the backstory to a minimum in the first couple of chapters. Offer as little backstory as necessary, just enough to provide context, but not enough to make it a slog to get through.

Reading an entire novel requires a huge time commitment and a lot of effort, and there are a ton of other forms of entertainment competing for the reader’s precious time. What a lot of readers do is read the first couple of chapters and see if the book is heading in a direction that will entice them to continue reading. If not, they abandon it and pick up something else. So more than any other time, the opening must be awesome, and backstories are generally not awesome, so save it for later, if at all.

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In my book Prodigy, I have an intro, which I was not a fan of, but I just found it to be the best way. I basically set up the entire context of the story in one go. This is the point of an intro so I don’t think the reader minds as much. It’s when you begin your story, introduce your character, and then ‘info dump’ by stating everything about her.

An example of bad background info would be, “Amy sat quietly in class, listening to her teacher drone on. She was reserved ever since the accident last summer, where her and her friends went camping and accidentally killed a guy…” this may be okay, but not in chapter 1.

I consider it bad because upon first mention of Amy, it’s ‘dumping’ the backstory onto the reader. Your reader doesn’t care about Amy yet and at this point has nothing invested in her, so why would they care about her backstory? If you were to ask me, I’d say have Amy do something interesting, make the reader care about her, and then fill them in on some other details piece by piece – definitely not all at once, and definitely not in the first chapter.

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You may also do a prologue. In the Art of the Hustle for instance, I have a prologue of the main character when he is rich. He’s being interviewed on some talk show and the interviewer asks him, “How did you become a billionaire, where did it all start?” And then I open with chapter one as this young broke kid finishing high school. I think this was way more compelling because the reader knows he eventually becomes rich, but doesn’t know how. As the story unfolds, the reader is trying to guess how he becomes rich.

As the story progresses, I try to use dialogue as much as possible to introduce backstory. This seems natural since characters meeting for the first time don’t know much, if anything, about each other. So naturally they would ask questions that would reveal their backstory. Even then, I wouldn’t get too crazy with it. I may do a bit and then back off out of fear that the reader would get bored.

Batman / Bruce Wayne dead parents

photo credit: Frank Miller

So let’s say you are writing Batman and you open with an epic fight scene (usually a good way to hook the reader). Then you could have Bruce back at the bat cave, looking at a photograph of his dead parents and Alfred come in and say something like, “Today’s the twentieth anniversary of your parents’ death,. You would have made them proud, Bruce…”

In this example, we’ve seamlessly worked it into a piece of dialogue that naturally fits the scene. It seems organic and not shoehorned in.

So to reiterate, my preference is to provide background information sparingly, work it into the story as seamlessly as possible (e.g. through dialogue), and try to avoid ‘info dumping’ at the beginning of the book.

I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, let me know.

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Hachette Book Group’s #WhereIWrite Project

Edward Mullen Where I Write

As part of Hachette Book Group’s #WhereIWrite project, I will be broadcasting LIVE on Periscope, Monday July 6th at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. If you have Periscope and Twitter, be sure to log in and view my LIVE broadcast. If you want to see where I write and ask me some questions in real time, get the app, figure out how it works, and spend a few minutes with me next Monday!

About the Project:

“#WhereIwrite is a global project started by the Hachette Book Group that aims to celebrate writers and the places where they create. Each month for the rest of the year, Hachette will be turning over the keys to their project to various other publishers and writing platforms to allow their creators to share the spaces that inspire them to create the content their readers love most.”

Thanks,

Edward Mullen

https://twitter.com/writermullen

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Prodigy Eternal – Chapter One

The highly anticipated sequel to the cult-classic Prodigy will be available in eBook stores soon!

One year has passed since Alexandra Gray became the symbol of hope for society. Sheathed in the undercurrent of Tokyo, Alex has remained out of the public eye, desperately trying to reclaim a piece of her old life, all the while searching for her purpose.

Becoming close with a group of rogue hackers, Alex is offered a chance to escape the burdens of fame and slip back into a life she once knew. But upon placing her trust in the hands of people with ulterior motives, she discovers the misstep could have serious repercussions on the world — consequences far more dire than even her betrayers may realize. Now it is up to Alex to contain the situation and undo the damage that she has inadvertently caused. Standing in her way is an elusive and powerful foe who will stop at nothing to avenge a wrong that has been committed against him.


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Chapter One

Tokyo — 2119

The constant awe and admiration of staring eyes had become too much for Alex to bear. She had been hiding for the past year, moving from place to place and trying to find purpose. While discovering what the world had to offer beyond the confines of her home in Megalopolis, Alex mainly ended up in population-dense cities since they provided the best cover.

With a proper disguise, she integrated inconspicuously among the people without the risk of being identified. There were a few instances where savvy pedestrians would stare at her face for a little longer than she felt comfortable with. Their curious eyes would study her flawless bone structure and wonder if they had inadvertently stumbled upon the famous and elusive Alexandra Gray. But before they settled on a conclusion, Alex would vanish like an apparition, leaving them with nothing but doubt and a fleeting memory.

Reports of sightings would invariably emerge with people claiming to have had genuine encounters. Tall tales and rumours travelled through close circles of friends and eventually spread out like a virus, infecting the ears of anyone with an interest. With each story and occasional blurry image that was captured, her legend grew stronger. Having one of the most recognizable faces on the planet didn’t make lying low any easier. Even the best disguises were not immune to the diligent observation of those who were on the lookout for her.

Hiding behind large sunglasses and a full head wrap, Alex approached a market in the busy Shinjuku district of the Japanese metropolis. Fully immersed in the orderly chaos, she slinked her way through the crowds of people until she reached a vendor selling frozen fish. Amongst the chatter between customers and merchants, haggling over prices, Alex heard a siren in the background and tensed up. She was not wanted by the authorities, but the discomfort of knowing she had broken several laws with impunity never left her. The sirens faded and the voice of a shouting man flooded her ears.

“Miss, hello, do you want to buy?” the vendor asked.

Alex snapped out of her daze and regained her focus.

“You want to buy fish?” the man asked.

“I’m just looking, thanks,” Alex said politely.

“Next customer, please!” the man shouted.

Everything about Tokyo was unique. It was unlike any other spot she had been, and she felt more like she had landed on another planet than in another city. The customs and behaviour of the people were noticeably different. Despite what she had learned at the Facility, the once touted ‘global super-culture’ was showing signs of divergence. The architecture was similar to her home of Megalopolis, but distinctive at the same time. Tall glass-covered structures stretched up beyond the clouds and out of sight, while colourful lights and floating holograms sparkled across the night sky.

Alex manoeuvered past the fish vendor and squeezed through a barking herd of customers. As she made her way to the subway, a familiar face on a large screen caught her attention. The sound from the news broadcast poured out from concealed speakers and into the crowd, but no one seemed to be paying any attention. Alex stopped and watched, even if it would only be for a few moments.

“Hi, I am Marika Martens for the Global News Network, and we are gearing up for what will be a historic event this weekend. This Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of when our planet was saved by the heroic Alexandra Gray. There have been many rumours and speculation as to Miss Gray’s whereabouts, but one thing is for certain, history will forever remember this young prodigy.

“Joining us live is one of Alex’s closest friends, Milo Rion. Milo, welcome to our program.”

“I’m happy to be here, thank you for having me.”

“Milo, you are one of Alex’s closest friends and have become somewhat of a celebrity yourself. How has your life changed since that fateful day, and how do you intend to celebrate this Saturday?”

“I appreciate some of the spillover attention I’ve received, but that has mostly died down now. I get the odd person recognizing me here or there, but honestly my life hasn’t changed all that much. I’m still picking away at my school requirements with the hopes of graduating soon. As for how I intend to celebrate — I don’t know, I haven’t really given it much thought. I’m just thankful to have had Alex as part of my life for as long as I did. So I suppose more so than other times, this Saturday I will be reflecting back on some of the special moments we’ve shared together.”

“I’m sure you get this question all the time, but I have to ask — where is Alex?”

“You know, I wish I knew, but we haven’t spoken in a long time. I hear the rumours just like everyone else and am left to wonder where she is and what she has been up to.”

“If she is watching this, is there anything you would like to say to her?”

“Alex, if you’re watching, I just want to say that I miss you very much and I hope you are safe.”

A single tear emerged from behind Alex’s glasses and rolled down her cheek. She wiped it away and sniffled.

“We’re now going to play a clip from Alex’s last public appearance, where she addressed millions of adoring fans all over the world.”

I stand before you completely humbled. I didn’t ask for any of this attention and praise, but I am truly honoured you herald me as your saviour. The truth is, I was just one small part of a much larger operation. I could not have done it without my mother, her friends, as well as my two best friends…”

As the footage played, Alex was nowhere in sight, having dispersed into the crowd like a whisper in the wind.

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