Tag Archives: editing

Omigosh! This book stinks! [Gasp] But I’m the author who wrote it!

The last two months have been eye opening. I remembered THIS POST and had to come to terms with what really made me write the words: For the first time in my life, typing “The End” felt like a huge relief rather than an epic accomplishment.

Now that I’ve worked with a professional developmental editor, and had a face-to-face chat with my publisher’s managing editor, I had to come to terms with how nicely they were telling me that my book wasn’t quite up to expectations.

Yikes!

And as I read over the editors comments, and read the manuscript again after a several month hiatus, I had to agree. What I thought I’d written, and what was actually on the pages, were two excruciatingly different things.

Ugh_Back_to_the_drawing_boardLuckily though, it was not the story that was a problem. It was the execution in some sections, and a missing link that made the crux of the story confusing. (Among other smaller mistakes)

Several times I’ve explained that my writing process is this:

  1. Write/finish book.
  2. Write/edit/finish something else to “cleanse my pallet” from book #1
  3. Then go back and edit book number one.

The reason behind this is simple… I need time to get away from a story so I can look at it objectively. I did not have this precious time for this novel. I wrote it in two months, and then immediately edited it and submitted it in order to make the tight deadline.

Even at that time, I was a little unsure about the novel. Something seemed wrong, but I was unable to step away and give myself the needed time to think it over … and it was glaringly obvious.

Getting ready for the overhaul

PKO_0002742Knowing I was walking into a TON of editing work, I immediately asked for a one month extension (two months of editing time rather than only one—the same amount of time it took me to write the first draft!) This gave me the breathing room to go over all the suggestions and make easy changes in the first read through; make wider, more sweeping changes and rewrites in the second read-through; and then take a third read through to tweak scenes to make them more engaging.

After that third read, I must admit, I was smiling.

Don’t ever discount the value of a good developmental editor who is not afraid to tell you that there are problems… also, don’t beat yourself up over those problems … just look at them as an opportunity.

Looking back, I still wish that I’d submitted a much better manuscript to begin with, but now I know that with enough time, I can make sure that the words on the page actually relay the story that I intended to tell, and not just the story that I thought I’d told.

Finishing this edit did not feel like a “huge relief” as it did when I first submitted the novel. I feel accomplished and extremely excited by the FIRE IN THE WOODS series again.

And guess what? There are a couple of teenagers hiding inside me waiting to save the world at least one more time. And now I can say with a smile that I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble they get into next time.

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

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How the heck do you write all this stuff?

Last week I shared my writerly “To Do” list, which included:

  1. 1 novel about to release
  2. One in developmental (publisher) edits
  3. Two completed novels just sitting in my computer
  4. Four first drafts
  5. One 95% complete work in progress
  6. Five 5000-10000 word outlines of soon to be written novels

I discussed a little about how I ended up having so many “almost complete” books, and I wanted to discuss the madness of my writing process a little.

My MO used to be:

  1. Write a first draft
  2. Leave #1 to simmer while I write a first draft of something else or edit something else
  3. If I edited, send completed piece out to query. If I wrote, let that one simmer.
  4. Go back to draft in #1 and start editing
  5. Rinse, repeat.

Basically, I liked to distance myself from something before I started editing. It worked well for me for quite a few years, until I suddenly found myself with three contracted novels to write, edit, submit (on time) and publish/promote an all that good stuff.

While writing the series has been a blast, it’s given me WAAAAY to much “simmering” time on all the other projects that I have. And when I had some “down time” from FIRE IN THE WOODS, all I wanted to do was start something new in a completely different world. THAT’S why I am 95% through with a novel that I just love the stinking alien pants off of. (Does that even make sense? Aww, who cares?)

So, will I ever get back to all those first drafts?

I sure hope so, since each of them adds up to a significant hunk of writing time, and a story that meant a lot to me.

But another thing that I am very aware of, is that I learn something every time I write a book. Also, my style changes exponentially.

I am a hugely different author now than I was just a few years ago. Part of me is AFRAID to go back to those works, because I know I will not be as happy with them as I was when I wrote them.

So what is really on tap after I finish book three?

My #1 goal is to finish and submit the novel that is currently 95% done. I think the timing is perfect for that one, and I know Fire in the Woods fans will just love it.

I have one more publisher project that I will probably have to work on soon after that is done.

Then the next project after that will be the Adult Science Fiction Horror that is in first draft form.

Why that one?

Well, for one thing, it is one of the later things I’ve written, so I hope it is in the best shape. Also, I think it is wildly original. The idea still makes me want to read it.

After that is done, yes, I will probably start something new, because I don’t like to do that much editing back to back. I prefer to switch things off once in a while.

The best-plans are meant to be broken

I’m smiling as I write this. Plans are made to be broken. Especially in publishing. Because all that would have to happen to completely blow this plan out of the water would be for one more title to get published. (Which, of course, would be great.)

Come to think of it, I really HOPE that my plans get ruined again this year.

 

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

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Why aren’t you querying those finished novels?

A few days ago I shared a list of all my upcoming projects on social media. It looked something like this:

Here’s what’s coming down the pike:

  • Ashes in the Sky {Fire in the Woods #2} (In production Release date March 1)
  • Fire in the Woods #3 (Contracted: In developmental edits. Release date TBD)
  • YA Science Fiction (95% complete Work in Progress)
  • Adult Contemporary Science Fiction (Aliens) Mystery/Horror (First draft complete)
  • Adult Paranormal (Shifters) novel written in serial (Uncontracted: Number one complete)
  • YA Dystopian Romance (Uncontracted, Complete)
  • YA Space Opera – 8 book series (First draft complete)
  • Middle Grade Contemporary Adventure (First draft complete)
  • Hard Sci Fi Space Opera three book series (First Draft of all three books complete)

 

Outlined concepts prepped, outlined, and ready to be written:

  1. Adult/New Adult Fantasy-Medieval setting
  2. YA Contemporary Science Fiction (Aliens)
  3. Adult/YA Shifter (Dragons) First chapter written
  4. YA Time Travel (Aliens) First chapter written
  5. YA/New Adult Contemporary Science Fiction (Aliens)

 

A few people have asked why I have two complete novels, and four “First Draft complete” while it looks like I am currently working on something completely new.

Well, to be honest, I didn’t realize how many things I had partially finished until I created this list. For me, the fun of creating a story is the best part. I love starting a story, and torturing my heroes to the very end of the tale. So much fun!

Usually, by the time I finish a first draft, I’ve already outlined several new ideas that I came up with along the way. Some of these I take a few notes on, and then never go back to. But many, like the five above, get 7000-10000 word outlines, because I love the premise so much that I don’t want to lose even a single spec of the idea.

Unfortunately, I cannot type anywhere near as fast as my brain works, and that list of stories to write keeps getting longer.

Basically, when the time comes to write a new book, I just pick one from the list. Sounds easy. But sometimes there are several stories screaming at me, and even after I choose, a different story keeps me awake at night.

It all comes down to my writing process, which I love… but the business of publishing usually gets in the way of the fun part. That’s why I have so many first drafts right now.

When I finished this post, it was over 800 words long. I was going to talk about my writing process, but I’m going to leave that for my next post. I think this will explain some of the insanity of my current “too many almost-finished books” situation.

See you next time!

 

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

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Being an Author is a Full Time Job

Today I needed to sit back and come to the realization that being an author is a full time job.

When I already have a full time job, and a part time job that becomes a full time job in November and December, I need to take a deep breath and realize that something’s gotta give.

PKO_0010650 pink robe clockIf there are 168 hours in a week and I have three jobs that take 40 hours a week, plus I need to sleep eight hours a day… well, if you do the math, we come up short.

That is why I haven’t been blogging all that much, and while I love popping in and chatting here, I need to be realistic.

Now that I am a published author I have things like editorial deadlines, appearances, and marketing all on top of my daily 500-1000 words a day writing goal. (Plus, of course, the full time job and part time job that pay the bills)

 

That is an awful lot to keep up on.

PKO_0013466 sadWhen ASHES IN THE SKY was pushed back 6 months, I realized that I wasn’t writing for myself anymore. There are people out there in the world waiting to read my next book, and when it doesn’t make the original pub date, there are a lot more people than just me disappointed. So-even though the ASHES delay was out of my control, I need to make sure I make every deadline to keep my books moving on schedule.

So, as you might have guessed, blogging is one of the things that’s gotta give. But I won’t be abandoning this site. I still love it here. I just can’t commit to a schedule. While I love a challenge, adding another thing on to what I “have to do” would just be insanity.

I will be popping in to provide words of wisdom, or to laugh at my idiocy. Because hey, the therapeutic value of coming here and hanging out totally has its value too. I will try to pop in at least once a week, but if I don’t make it, blame the aliens.

Back to the trenches I go.

Now that ASHES IN THE SKY is complete, I’m working with my editor on book three of Fire in the Woods. (Yes, already. Can you believe it?)

Plus I am plugging away a scene at a time trying to finish book one in my new series.

Yes, writing is a full time job. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

An Author’s Work Is Never Done. No, Seriously… It’s not. You have NO idea.

As I squeezed out the final edits of ASHES IN THE SKY, I was ready to sit back, relax, and coast through the holidays. Wow, was I looking forward to taking a break, relaxing with my family, and maybe even finishing my new book!

But my bubble popped when less than a week after handing in the final copy of ASHES to be sent to the formatter, the developmental edit of Book Three of FIRE IN THE WOODS appeared in my email.

Seriously

I was floored. The developmental edit is usually the most time consuming, and while it is not as tedious as fine tuning, it will definitely suck up most of your life. And my due date was only forty days away.

Goodbye, Christmas break.

After a discussion with my lead editor, we decided that another month would not hurt the schedule. Where that did not leave me “off the hook”, it did certainly take some of the pressure off. Especially since some of the changes were going to be extensive.

Alien Huh CloseSo I dug in, getting about a quarter of the way into the manuscript… before the final formatting proof of ASHES IN THE SKY came back. [head hits desk]

Yep, it’s a funny business like that.

Subtract one week from that extra month of editing, because I now needed to re-read book 2 word by word to make sure there were no problems.

Thankfully, I have finished that proof as of this post. I’m not sure if I’ll have to look at it again since I did require some changes.

So, for now, I am back to those developmental edits.

PKO_0002742

 

If anyone tells you being an author is easy, let me know their name.

I will write their character into a book and Torture them a little.

Hey, it’s the least I can do. {smiles}

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Rekindling your writing mojo after taking an unplanned hiatus

I’m a stickler for goals. I love them.

I love achieving them more.

But sometimes life gets in the way, and goals need to be realigned.

I’m currently 70,000 words into a 50,000 words YA science fiction novel. Yup, that was right – 20,000 words over goal, and I probably need another 15-20,000 to finish.

Think GirlThis was problem #1: I carefully planned out when I needed to finish my novel before my edits came back for ASHES IN THE SKY. Yes, I achieved my 50,000 words on time… but when I got there, my story wasn’t finished. So I kept writing—Even took a writer’s weekend in hopes of finishing the book before I needed to start editing again… but even that only got me smack up against the beginning of the climax, where my main character is staring down at her worst nightmare come true.

A very BAD place to stop writing.

At the most important place in my novel to KEEP WRITING, I was forced to stop for a two-week marathon run of editing, which in of itself would have been fine. But then life problem #2 happened. A huge project at my day job had me working through my precious lunch breaks, and even far into the evenings, leaving my precious characters stagnant, facing horrible trauma and impending doom for an additional two weeks.

An entire month without writing something new

It was a month to the day when I finally got back to my story, and I sighed seeing where I had left my characters. So I did the only thing I really could do.

I opened up to page one, and I did an editing run.

Wait----What

 

 

You should always finish your book before editing! Yes, this is true, but after being away for so long, I needed to re-familiarize myself with the characters, the plot, the tone, and the voice (Especially since I had spent a few week’s back in Jess Martinez’s quirky head)

The deep edit on those 70,000 words took about a week, and even then, I found myself at a loss when I came to the end.

Was this book still inside me? With the kind of tension build I created over all those chapters, would I be able to deliver the goods in the climax?

I knew I had to shake it off, but instead, I kept going back to earlier chapters and revising something else.

Then, finally, I got back to the last scene that I’d written a month ago. That first sentence was the hardest sentence that I’ve ever written. It took me about an hour to type 100 words. Horrible.

Welcome back, muse!

But then the magic muse finally took hold. The characters reignited in my brain. I jumped back on the rollercoaster, ready to sprint to the finish line with them.

Yes, I am excited about this story again. I’m excited to get it out in the world.

All I had to do, was force myself through those pesky 100 words to get myself started.

Yup, feels good to be hanging out with imaginary people again.

 

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The development of a writer: Are you getting any better?

I just had a realization that has me bashing my head against my keyboard.

I think I might be a better writer now, then I was a year ago.

How did I come to this epiphany?

Ashes Teaser postponedAs some of you have noticed, Ashes in the Sky is late. Ashes, Book Two in the Fire in the Woods Series, is now (I think) on its third editor (Maybe the fourth. I’m losing count.)

This is both good, and bad.  It’s good, because I am getting extra eyes on the book, and each of the umpteenth editing rounds I do, the book gets infinitely stronger. (It’s not the editing rounds that are making it late by the way. Publishing is a fickle business. “Things” happen.)

So what’s got bugs in my bonnet?

Ashes1I jut started my final (I hope) round of edits before the proofread. Since this has been through SO MANY editing rounds, the novel should be pretty near perfect, right?

It’s not.

I’ve already gone through the entire manuscript and accepted, rejected, or revised according to the editor’s suggestions. The hard part is over.

Today, I started reading from page one, giving one final check before the proofread.

Here is where the banging my head part comes in.

I’m stunned at how many changes I am making, and I’ve only gotten through the first fifty pages of so.

I see things I didn’t see before. I am finding sentences that could be stronger. I’m replacing lazy verbs with robust ones. I’m finding paragraphs that don’t read quite right, and making them flow. And I even found a scene that had to be completely re-organized to make it make sense chronologically.

Could it be that I am incredibly picky and hard on myself?

PKO_0005301Well, yes. If you’ve been hanging out here for a while, you already know that is true. But I think the BIG difference is that I finished this novel November 2, 2014. That is almost a year ago, and since then I have completed two more novels. You always hear that practice makes you better. I think this is the case here.

Now that have two more novel’s worth of experience under the keys on my keyboard, and I am unwilling to let ASHES go to press when it’s not as perfect as I can get it.

Will it ever be perfect?

No, of course not, but I’m working darn hard to make sure it lives up to who I am now as a writer, and not who I was a year ago.

This kinda makes me nervous to think that I have three more novels that I completed BEFORE the contract offer for this series that I left on the back-burner to edit and submit another day. I shiver to think about the editing of those. I might have to set them aside as learning experiences.

Or maybe use them as 80,000 word detailed outlines, and start over from scratch.

Has this happened to you? Do you see yourself developing the more you write? Try reading something you wrote a long time ago, and let me know what you see.

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Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper: Pacing and Tension – Too Much or Too Little? Part 2

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

PACING AND TENSION – TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE? Part 2

Be aware of things that can slow down your story – or make it race by too fast – and deflate the tension.

Backstory, continued

By weaving in just the necessary information in short bursts throughout your story it will:

*Keep the reader’s interest

*Keep tension high

*Keep the reader wondering

*Keep it dramatic – no matter the genre

 

Could your action be bogged down?

Girl sideMy First Reader Notes: “In action scenes we were slowed down by long, descriptive sentences such as during this chase scene: ‘Mr. Brown slipped over his excessively waxed floors.’ ‘His frantic breath pressed the pause button on the hot chase.’ ‘My toes became the texture of raisins as they squished up against one another like slimy slices of sautéed mushrooms.’” Descriptive sentences like these forced me to pause (and trip) in this supposed fast-paced action scene and have to create the visual from the words before moving on in the story. You don’t want to do this!

Can there be too much action on your story?

PKO_0008514 SICK GUYIs your story TOO active, TOO reactive and over-dense with words, concepts and emotions? This makes for a frantic tale, every moment fraught with intensity. It comes at you from every angle and is exhausting. The desire should be to invite the reader to turn the pages not run for cover.

TIPS: *How to change this? Incorporating the setting instead of using biological emotion would add a richer layer to the story.

*Take a break from the action – let it explode all around, then let it settle and give your character time to digest and reflect on all that has happened. They need to breathe.

 

TIPS FOR PACING AND TENSION:

  1. Deciding HOW and WHEN to reveal information is often more important than the info itself. Decide on your method used to make a big reveal to increase pacing and tension. PKO_0004442 Nervous ScaredHINT: Don’t bury it in the middle of a paragraph! (YES, I’ve done this too!).
  2. Move the story along by cutting out extra, unnecessary details in action moments.
  3. SHOW more of what is happening around your character vs. his telling us.
  4. Don’t have your character waffle back and forth! Chart their growth as they grow in the story.

Now go. Work on making pacing and tension flow with each scene! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

swish skid mark

About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #9: : Pacing and Tension – Too Much or Too Little? Part 1

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

PACING AND TENSION – TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE? Part 1

Be aware of these areas that can slow down your story – or make it race by too fast – and deflate the tension.

purple hairWatch for creating false tension This is tension built up just for the sake of tension but in doing so a character can waffle. Readers get tired of false tension as they will come to believe then that things introduced are not really a threat

 These are the notes that Donna presented on an actual manuscript that came into the slush pile.

My First Reader Notes: “The main character had conflicting thoughts that created false tension. Like ‘I can’t scale that fence, it’s too tall. Oh wait, I bet I could.’ It’s like crying wolf. ”

TIP: Create immediate tension that is not so easily resolved.

Think you need a prologue? Think again.

Shakespeare closeMy First Reader Notes: “The prologue of the boy’s thoughts about his father dying is not necessary.  It’s too poetic, too abstract, and too introspective with too much backstory trying to give us a foundation. His thoughts here and his people and culture can be woven into the story later. Right now it just slows the story down and kills the tension.”

Backstory

Weave it in. We, the writer can know it all but the readers don’t need to know up front about everything. Readers want teasers. They want to have questions and feel smart for guessing. Throw them into the bowels of the story right away to keep the tension tight. Readers will catch up.

Frog HopHead Hopping:

This pulls you from the story – and slows the story down. A reader must re-adjust their thinking to a new point-of-view instantly. Ask yourself “Whose scene is this?” and write from that.

My First Reader Notes:

PKO_0012884“I am at page 78 and starting to feel like this journey is dragging on. Not too much has happened since it started. The reader hasn’t really learned much more.”

TIP: See what other info can be included up to this point that we find out later. What else can we learn by now to move the story forward? Don’t wait to reveal everything later… reveal some now. Drop it in along the way.

My First Reader Notes:

PKO_0004816“The writer needs to slow down some action scenes and even add an extra day at certain spots. I felt like I was running and couldn’t stop to see all that what was happening. I couldn’t entrench themselves in the richness of the world and story.”

TIP: Sometimes when it comes to pacing and tension we need to slow down scenes.

Now go. Work on making pacing and tension flow with each scene! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

 

swish skid mark

About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #8: Character Development Part 2

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

Here are some notes Donna presented to the agent after reading a manuscript:

“The reader should have felt sympathy for the character. But we spend so much time in his head, and not enough time watching him act or react. He is always telling us what he wants, thinks, hopes for, and the same thing over and over, perhaps expressed differently, but the same idea or concept. Therefore, he often comes across as whiny and not all that capable. We need to see him go from hapless tween to reluctant hero to hero.”

Could your characters be one-dimensional?

Huh womanAsk yourself:

Are your characters people we are being told about? We need to get a sense of their personality or what they fear, or what they are capable of from an emotional or physical standpoint. We can’t see this if mostly the narrator tells us.

 

PKO_0002742TIPS: *The kinds of characters that have a history, actions, and reactions are the most well-developed – and the most enjoyable to read. Using the senses to show character is a great way to do this.
*Is your main character always having one emotion or the other? Like being shown as either angry or super sad. How else can he feel? Show him feeling other things. Look for repetitive sections where he is telling us what he feels and change to action. SHOW him reacting vs. TELLING us what’s in his head.

*Ground the reader in the beginning to a character’s description. When a new character enters the story describe them most richly upon entrance.

*Do a global search for your characters actions. Is your character always throwing their hair back? Snapping their fingers? Tapping their feet? Chewing their lip? You need to mix it up a little bit.

Now go. Work on building characters to care about! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

swish skid mark

About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.