“Tony Breeden has created an adventure that addresses many of the most important issues that face every generation. Johnny Came Home teaches lessons on responsibility, acceptance, exclusion, & loyalty from a Godly perspective. I highly recommend this book for adventure spirited people that want stories that have good nuggets of Biblical principles.!”

-“Buddy” (Amazon review – 5 stars)

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“This was an awesome book with a mixture of action and personal relationships. It included sound biblical truths without being preachy. It definitely leaves you wanting a followup. The characters are well rounded and believable. Tony has a unique writing style that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I couldn’t put it down!”

-“Lady Ace” (Amazon review – 5 stars)

K G Powderly, Jr., author of The Windows of Heaven series, weighed in with five stars on Johnny Came Home’s first Amazon review. His review expounds on the mythological elements I crafted into the world of John Lazarus:

As a boy, I lived at the pharmacy comic book section, where The Avengers and X-Men captured my imagination, and made me want to be a mutant (I’m old enough to remember before Beast got blue, before Wolverine was even a thought). While I got over my mutant fixation, I still confess enjoying Marvel comics because their heroes have human problems compounded by their super-powers. Reading Tony Breeden’s Johnny Came Home made me feel nostalgic. It was refreshing to see Christian characters deal with super-powers that not only gave them “mad skills,” but complicated their lives.

Science fiction is an expression of today’s mythology, which may or may not have religions spun around it. To most people, myth is just a fanciful story that never really happened. But to the professional mythographer and historian, the technical definition of “myth” is “any story–whether from real history or made-up–that explains why things are as they are.”
As a student of myth with a Bible-centered worldview, who has written fiction dealing with the origins of ancient myth, I was delighted to find Johnny Came Home peppered with allusions to the central Greek flood myth characters. The “evil overlord” corporation, Titan (named for pre-deluge deities as the Greeks recalled them), is in the business of making a new kind of human–a “next step in human evolution” or, when viewed from a biblical worldview, a fanciful depiction of the restoration of human capabilities lost through the Genesis Fall and Deluge. Titan’s hidden agenda is dark and sinister, as monstrous as many of the Titans of Greek myth.

In Greek mythology, a titan named Epimetheus creates man of clay, while his brother Prometheus angers Zeus by giving man fire. To hinder the titan brothers, Zeus sends them a woman as a gift, Pandora (her name means, “all gifts”); with a box that she must never open. Curious, Pandora opens it anyway, and uncontrollable evils spring from it, unraveling creation. The box is shut, trapping “hope for the future” before it escapes, but not before evil gets so bad that Zeus wipes out the Titans and men with a deluge. Pandora’s daughter, Pyrrha, marries Deucalion, son of Prometheus. Zeus relents, and preserves the couple from his flood in a giant floating box, to repopulate the earth by them afterward. Zeus also overthrows his father, Chronos, with the other Titans, setting himself up as the new chief god, while imprisoning the Titans in Tartaros, beneath the lowest chamber of Hades.

Breeden alludes to this myth (and related Atlantean myths of Poseidon and Atlas) with genius in naming the players of his story; set in today’s world. What’s more, he views the myth and his own story through the lens of the Bible’s redemptive history, and its view of human life. Best of all, he does it in a fun and readable story that appeals to kids from 10 to 90. While Johnny Came Home has no flood, it deals with a form of chaos only opening “Pandora’s Box” can unleash.
John Lazarus returns to his hometown for mysterious reasons not even he understands. Three years ago, John’s father died in a house fire that John barely escaped. His father was Sherriff, a devout Christian, and an employee of Titan burdened with a terrible secret. The world thinks Johnny is dead…

I hope Tony Breeden hooks up with a graphic artist to make a graphic novelization of Johnny Came Home. But sparing that, I hope the [subtitle] “(A John Lazarus Adventure)” means a sequel is coming, or better yet, a series. Johnny Came Home is a delightful read with many plot twists and surprises. Breeden so brings it home!

Well, the subtitle does mean exactly that: two [and possibly even three!] John Lazarus Adventures are being written even now. As for a graphic novel… just wait and see.

In the meantime, buy Johnny Came Home at the DefGen.org eStore and begin the adventure!

As many of you already know, Johnny Came Home was self-published on Sept 28, 2012!

We’re very excited obviously… and we’ve been so involved with promoting it that we forgot to update the website!

For those of you just tuning in, Johnny Came Home is an action-packed apologetics sci-fi novel filled with epic battles, zombies, comic book gadgets, flying saucers, conspiracy theories, and Biblical truth! While this book addresses issues pertaining to Biblical authority, creation versus evolution and racism, when I say it’s action packed, I mean it. I set out to write the kind of novel I would normally pick up at a secular bookstore but without the secular worldview!

In fact, one reader has this to say about Johnny Came Home:

“For some reason, the book reminds me of Transformers. Probably the nonstop action, explosions, and destruction.”

So basically if you’re a bit weary of going to the local Christian bookstores only to be greeted by wave after wave of historical and Amish romance novels, you’re gonna want to do yourself a favor and buy yourself of copy of Johnny Came Home today.

So far, this book is available in two formats: paperback and and Kindle.

Those of you who like the feel of a good book in your hands as your read, can head over to Amazon.com or the Amazon-powered DefGen.org eStore to buy your copy for only $12.95. Here’s the link: http://astore.amazon.com/defgeorg-20/detail/1452845506

Kindle users can download the eBook on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009K51P8C/. If you need a little nudge, simply take advantage of the Try It Free option on the righthand menu on that Amazon Kindle page to read the first 5 1/2 chapters. I pretty much guarantee you’ll want to read the rest!

God bless and enjoy the book!

Tony Breeden

DefGen.org

Recently, I made the decision to self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace. It wasn’t because i don’t want picked up by a traditional publisher. It wasn’t because I wanted to skip the oh-so-crucial refinement process.

I made the decision because I had reached that point where you just kind of know you’re done. The book is finished. It’s time to stop tweaking and take it to the next level. I made the decisioon because I really feel like this book needs to be out there and with all of the options available these days, it seems silly to wait around doing this thing the way we’ve always done it simply because it’s the way we’ve always done it. I sometimes tell people that my name is “Y Not?” spelled backwards, so why not just dive in, eh?

In any case, I uploaded my file with one of CreateSpace’s templates, added my cover file and then ordered a proof. In case you aren’t familiar with that term, a proof is a printed version of your book that shows you what it will look like when its published. In other words, its your book with the word Proof emblazoned across one of the back pages. If you approve it, that’s what your book will look like. If you see something amiss, you get to fix it and order another proof.

The first proof had a cover image flaw. The image I submitted was the wrong size, so they cropped the picture. That left me with a church steeple with a pole sticking out of the top instead of a cross!

I’m on Proof #2 now and I just discovered that I’ll be on #3. Why? Because when I converted my .doc file to a PDF after my edits, it added an extra blank page in the middle of my document. I didn’t catch it until after I ordered my proof. The crazy thing was that my page numbering stopped at the blank page and then STARTED OVER again! Obviously, this made my Table of Contents a joke and, well, it just looks unprofessional to have the page numbering start all over from 1 in the middle of the book.  I fixed it by emilinating the page manually and then converting the .doc to an .xml before converying it to a PDF. I have no idea why this worked. All I know is that it did and that I did it on a whim. Thank you God for inspiration!

If Proof #3 turns out OK, Johnny Came Home will be published within the week!

 

Ugh.

My amazing wife just finished Johnny Came Home and I had to edit the book yet again.

Since the things I missed were fairly easy to fix, but oh-so-crucial to making the book the best it could be, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on repeated words, unnecesarry sentences, character development, flow, paradoxes, danglers and descriptive word choice.

The first thing you should look for is repeated words. My personal sins are too many to list in this category, although my over-use of the word “dude” comes to mind, dude. Here’s an example:

Johnny sighed, took note of the fact that his passenger was still asleep, and decided not to wake him just yet. Weasel would have a thousand questions that he wasn’t prepared to answer just yet. He headed toward town.

The simplest solution was to delete the repeated phrase. In other case, where a word is repeated more than once, you have to get a little more creative.

I also used the word “merc” and “mercenary” quite a bit in the last draft to decribe a type of zombie soldier utilized by Titan’s corporate rival. You won’t see either variant anywhere in the most recent draft, because the word simply didn’t fit. Mercenaries are guns-for-hire. Zombie soldiers  don’t really have a choice in the matter [and I’m pretty sure they don’t get pay and benefits!] Point is: don’t just go to Thesaurus.com and pick a synonym for the word “soldier,” for example. Make sure the word actually describes your character so readers don’t get the wrong impression. In my case, it would have been easy to assume that Titan’s rival was using both zombie troops and hired guns, when in fact they only brought along the former.

Next, let’s talk about flow. Flow is that magical [and oftimes elusive] element that keeps your readers turning the pages at the right pace. Those last four words are really important. If you’re building up an action scene, you do not want your readers bogged down in a patch of dialogue. We talked about that in my last post on self-editing. Though less obvious, action scenes can also interupt the flow. In my case, I had two epic super-powered fight scenes that did not advance the plot in any way. They were just there because I got these cool images in my head and they leaked out onto my storyline.

Let’s face it: I write the movie I see in my head. Sometimes I also write the video game tie-in. The problem with the video game tie-in [and the key difference between a video game and a movie, in my opinion] is that the game has mini-bosses, something neither movies nor novels have [generally speaking]. Mini-bosses were conceived of to give gamers more bang for their buck. They are not necessary to the game’s story arc. They’re extra. Superfluous [like that last word and this parenthetical remark]. As a novelist, you want your readers to keep turning pages at the right pace, so you don’t want to muddle the pace or cut off the flow completely. Action or dialogue that doesn’t advance the plot is like a big parenthetical in your book. Or as we say in my neck ofthe woods, a rabbit trail. Get rid of them. I ended up cutting out two chapters worth of material.

That’s not to say that your book should be a Spartan page-turner. One of the things I had to do was to go back and put two scenes back in. You see, character development is important. I mean, why should we care about a character? Why should we invest our time in them? What makes a particular character, major or minor, someone who isn’t interchangeable with any other character? For example, I had cut out a scene where a character remembers her life before the fire that took Johnny’s parents. In retrospect, this scene was important because it not only introduced and fleshed out a character important to my protagonist, it showed us the impact Johnny’s disappearance had on those he knew and gave us a better picture of Johnny’s father, someone who continues to influence him. I cut that scene to bring down my word count. It was the wrong scene to cut! Use discernment when editing your novel. Ask God for wisdom; He promises to give it to you in spades!

I also had at least two major paradoxes in the book’s setting and in a plot point, respectively. When I set up my book, I initially decided that Midwich isn’t really known to anyone outside and isn’t on any maps or internet databases. Johnny takes an unmarked interstate exit, drives down twisting country roads and drives through a mountain tunnel before he finally sees his hometown. He only knows how to get there from memory. Cool concept, but completely unrealistic. I mean, people have been living there for a while and presumably have family elsewhere and go on vacations. People have bound to have noticed that it wasn’t listed on Google maps or whatever. At some point in writing Johnny, I must have subconsciously recognized how ludicrous this was because I wrote in a tourist attraction. A tourist attraction in a place no one knows about. Let that sink in. I solved my paradox by re-writing the opening chapter, having the town known, but geographically isolated, and having Titan hiding in plain sight as a benefactor and provider of jobs [so why would anyone suspect them of anything nefarious, right?]

The last problem I had was the dreaded dangler. The dangler occurs when you remove a character and like Jason Vorhees or Freddy Kreuger, they just keep popping up no matter how many times you kill them off. In my last post on self-editing, I meantion that Dr. Phineas was removed from the book. Well, most of her. Not only did she show up by name at least five more times, she showed up by vague reference twice and by pronoun confusion once more! The pronoun confusion was the result of switching some of the plot elements and dialogue that I needed from Phineas to another character. That character was male… a male who thought to herself. The references were simply oversights, but I’m still not sure how I left her in by name five stinking times. After all, I hit CTRL + F and ferreted her out of the novel. Not sure how I missed it, but she’s gone now for sure. [Cue chilling music]

Anyway, even with putting scenes back in for clarity and character development’s sake, I’m down to 70 chapters, 355 pages and 98,502 words. That means I lost 2 chapters, 4 pages and about 1500 words over the Browne & King edits.

And now, pending comments from a few early reviews I have out there, I’m [finally] ready to submit Johnny Came Home to a publisher.

God bless you, and keep writing,

-Tony Breeden

While doing some market research for Johnny Came Home, I came across a post by John W. Otte, author of Failstate, a novel about superheroes who enter a TV show in hopes of winning their vigilante license. Anyway, there’s a good video on his site on what video games can teach us about backstory.

If you write speculative fiction, you’re gonna have to deal with backstory. After all, no one dumps their characters into a vaccuum. Instead, we create entire worlds with their own histories, cultures, buzzwords and politics. These things shape our characters actions and worldviews, so at some point we have to find a way to convey the backstory so our story will make sense.

In the video, Otte notes that video games use cutscenes to convey backstory. The problem with cutscenes, as Otte aptly notes, is that they change the role of the gamer from participant to audience. In other words, it brings us out of the story, out of the action and interrupts the flow of the game [or in our case, the novel]. He invites us to convey our backstory in such a way that our readers aren’t tempted to hit the ESC key [as it were].

He goes on to show us how videogames convey backstory in three particular ways: the info dump, through dialogue and progressively.

From the reader’s perspective, the information dump is basically a wall of text that hurts the eyes. It’s almost always a bad idea.

A better way is to reveal the backstory via character dialogue. Otte warns against the perils of the “as you know” trap (where characters relate or ask about information that they ought to already know), and the pitfalls of the dumb puppet trick (where you introduce a character ignorant of the backstory and basically use him/her to get your readers up to speed).

The backstory in Johnny Came Home is mostly revealed in a progressive manner. You get snippets of backstory from the character’s dialogue and thoughts, but mostly you just piece it together as you go along. I agree with Otte that it’s usually the best way to go about it. Browne & King give the same advice in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

The video contains some clips of cutscenes from video games to illustrate his points nicely. You can check out the full video post at http://www.leastread.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-can-videogames-teach-us-about.html