Beta Readers Wanted

tumblr_ntbae1JXQ21tjufa4o1_1280I’m seeking beta readers for my new book.  The working title is Bernie and the Time Lords.

The plot picks up where Bernie and the Wizards left off.  You’ll recall that Bernie has a new job with The Business.  He is now a Troubleshooter and his task is to ‘fix broken universes.’

Bernie’s next assignment is a world the gods created to produce a glowing powder the gods sprinkle on their streets to light them up at night. For some reason, the miners have stopped producing it.  When Bernie investigates, he finds the problem is more complicated than just renegotiating for a new trading agreement.  Everything on their world keeps changing.  Could it be that something is changing their past?  You know Shemal (Bernie’s boss) prefers to solve problems by restocking planets with more cooperative species.  Bernie is under pressure once again fix the problem before Shemal decides it’s easier to wipe out all the people and start over.

WHAT IS A BETA BOOK?

tumblr_nn2ctyrrWf1tjufa4o1_1280A beta book is not ready to be published.  It means I’m looking for input on the plot, the characters, and everything else.  I want to know what you think.  If you find things you don’t like, then I’ll do everything I can to make the book better.

A beta book has not been professionally edited, so you’ll find minor mistakes (typos, missing words, etc.).  After I incorporate your suggestions, that’s when I’ll submit the book to a professional editor for final proofing.

The book will be available in the standard ebook formats (.mobi, .epub, .pdf).

WHAT DOES A BETA READER NEED TO DO?

tumblr_nullr8B4ob1tjufa4o1_1280There are lots of things I want the book to do, and that’s why I need your feedback.  I want my readers to:

  • like the characters
  • ponder big questions
  • not want to put the book down
  • love the ending
  • tell their friends about the book
  • and more

That’s why I need your help.  I want you to:

  1. Tell me about characters that are not engaging so I can strengthen or remove them.
  2. Identify anything that’s confusing (chapters, paragraphs, or dialog).
  3. Evaluate subplots.  The Universe Builders books have lots of subplots.  If you think one of them is unnecessary or is not adequately resolved, help me identify it so it can be enhanced or removed.
  4. Provide feedback on the ending.  Can you think of a better one?  Was the book satisfying?  Does it make you want to read more in the series?  Does it motivate you to tell your friends about it?

Remember, you don’t have to worry about typos, misspellings, missing words, or anything like that.  My editor will take care of all of those things.

HOW WILL BETA READERS BE SELECTED?

work 17This is what I’m looking for in a beta reader:

  1. Readers must have read the first book, Bernie and the Putty.  (The new book is #4 in The Universe Builders series.  If you haven’t read book #1, it will make it harder to understand and evaluate book #4.)
  2. Readers must have completed at least one online review.  (I will select people who gave the book four or more stars.  Why?  It doesn’t make sense to seek input from someone who didn’t like the book.  I can’t please everyone.  My goal is to please people who liked the Universe Builders.)
  3. Readers must agree to provide me with your feedback within forty days of receiving the book.
  4. Readers must agree to post a written review of the book shortly after it’s published.  (See “REVIEWS ARE VERY IMPORTANT” below.)
  5. If you’re interested in being a beta reader, but haven’t posted a review of Bernie and the Putty, it’s not too late.  These are places where you can post it:  places to post reviews.

HOW WILL WE COLLECT YOUR FEEDBACK?

To collect your feedback, I’ve created an online form.  The form will ask for your thoughts and comments on various aspects of the book.

After reviewing everyone’s feedback, I may ask to speak with some of you by phone.  With your permission, I may call to discuss your thoughts and comments in more detail.  (This may not be possible or practical for everyone (e.g., different countries, different time zones, etc.)

REVIEWS ARE VERY IMPORTANT

Image-21When the book is published, I’ll need as many reviews as I can get.  I’m counting on you, my beta readers, to provide the first reviews for the book.

On the day the book is published, I’ll send you an email to let you know.  I’ll then ask you to publish your review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites.

I’ll also use excerpts from your reviews in some of the book’s promotional material.

For each reviewer, as my way of thanking you, I’ll send you a signed print copy of the new book.

SO, IF YOU’RE INTERESTED…

If you’re still interested in being a beta reader, let me know.  I promise to take your input seriously and do everything.  With your help, I’ll do everything I can to make Bernie and the Time Lords the best it can be.

Signup Here:  [Yes, I’m interested in being a Beta Reader (click here)]

Thank you!

 

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Creation Mechanics and the Universe Putty

Creation Science 101

Gods create things. Universes, in fact.

It may sound complicated, but, as they say, ‘Magic, once explained, is merely science.’ The gods do it with three skills. They use willpower, visualization, and concentration. When we explain it, you’ll see creating things isn’t as complicated as it might sound.

First, consider willpower. Gods have a lot of it. You might not think Bernie received his fair share, but on the scale of gods vs. men, you will find every god has a ton of it. They need willpower to conceptualize the vastness of what they’re trying to do. If they didn’t have enormous willpower, as soon as they had the idea of creating anything as big as a universe, they would be so overwhelmed, they would just give up. Willpower is essential.

The second thing gods need is the ability to visualize. They must carefully picture in their minds exactly what they’re trying to create. It has to be fully three-dimensional. One reason Wanda was good at her creations was her excellent visualization skill, which came from her detailed planning. Bernie, on the other hand, was weak in this area because he often tried creating things before he’d thought everything out.

The third thing a god needs is enormous concentration. Think about what’s going on here. With the willpower it takes to create on a cosmic scale, they then have to visualize exactly what they want to create. Every detail of the creation has to be understood and pictured perfectly in their mind. Then they unleash their power of concentration. It is the concentration that makes the visualization real and gives it substance.

Then the god moves on to the next thing he wants to create, carefully repeating the process over and over until his universe is complete.

Now one thing about the nature of universe creation might surprise you. When a god first creates something, it’s quite fragile. During the visualization phase, almost anything can destroy the creation. It’s like a sculptor creating a statue with soft clay. During the visualization phase the artist shapes his sculpture and makes it look exactly the way he wants. The concentration phase is like baking the clay to make it hard and strong. The gods do the same thing. Until this concentration process is complete, their creations are very delicate. That’s why gods have to be careful with their creations until they have a chance to set properly.

Many things contribute to a godly creation being more complicated than any sculpture, but nothing more so than the creation of living things. The gods must imbue their creations with the spark of life. They may even want to define the purpose of that life. Although the spark is instant, it can take a while for the creation itself to absorb the spark and fully understand what their creator wants. If the god doesn’t concentrate long enough, you end up with a creation that’s alive but has no idea why.

Universe Putty

Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, the gods never have as much time as they want to concentrate on their creations. Recognizing the problem, the gods discovered an unorthodox solution. They found if they get ten or twelve gods in a room, put a dot on a blank wall, and then have everyone 1) visualize the same dot and 2) concentrate on making it real, something amazing happens. By focusing their combined creative energy on the same thing at the same time, it produces a “creation excess.” All around the dot, a wild and mysterious gooey substance begins to form. Soon, there’s enough that it starts sliding down the wall and onto the floor, where it’s collected and put into containers. They call this ‘Universe Putty.’

How is Universe Putty used? Well, during the creation process, the gods use the putty in both the visualization and the concentration phases of creation.

During the visualization process, it is helpful to slap a little putty on your visualization to keep it in place while you are working on other details. For example, as you visualize one side of the object you want to create, you can add some putty to it. This freezes your visualization. Then you can pick it up, turn it over, and work on the other side; you don’t have to keep thinking about the first side anymore. You’re free to give your full attention to the back side. As you can see, putty is very handy stuff.

The putty is also useful during the concentration phase. After you complete your visualization, you have to make it real by concentrating on it. If you add a dab of putty, you don’t have to concentrate for as long. This frees you to go on to the next part of your plan without having to wait until the last thing you created is completely dry.

As we said before, not all gods are created equal. Some gods have better visualization skills. Others are better at concentration. Because of this, some gods don’t use as much putty as others, but everyone uses at least some.

In school, students are taught good workmanship, so they learn to go back periodically and remove any excess putty. First of all, it’s expensive. Second, leaving it all over your creation is a sign of slovenly workmanship. But more importantly, too much putty can cause unexpected consequences, so you have to be careful. It is, after all, pure creative power.

And the only really safe place for it is packed away in the jar it came in.

 

[This was excerpted from Bernie and the Putty, the first book in multi-award winning Universe Builders series, available at fine bookstores everywhere and online at Amazon.com.]

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SILVER MEDAL – Readers’ Favorite

We just learned that The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Wizards won a Silver Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Book Contest.

The book was entered in the Young Adult – Fantasy – Epic category.

The Awards will be given out on November 18th at special Awards Ceremony at the Regency Hotel Miami.  Marge and I attended this event two years ago when we won the Gold Medal for Bernie and the Putty.  It was a great event, and we have been talking about attending again.  (I’ll keep you posted.)

We also received an editorial review for the book, and I’m pleased to share it here:

The Universe Builders: Bernie and The Wizards by Steve LeBel is the long anticipated sequel to Bernie and the Putty. This story picks up one week after Bernie’s first world wins the prestigious universe award. Armed with his ingenuity and problem solving skills, Bernie’s first assignment is to fix a veteran’s world by solving the problem of why the harvesting of the two designated crops that this world has created is at a standstill. After meeting with the world’s creator, Bernie decides to drop in amongst the population to gather some information, in the guise of Wedon, an old weary traveler to all but a shaman named Reva. She uses a spell that reveals his true form. Suspecting that Bernie is more than he appears, she hopes that he might offer to help and maybe even do some healing for her villagers.

Mr. LeBel’s writing shifts between Bernie’s assignment and his friends, Lenny and Suzie, whom he meets during breaks from work. They also give support by way of advice and tidbits of knowledge that help Bernie to understand things in his assignment. LeBel’s characters have a certain quality about them that helps move this story along at a pace that forced this reader to turn each page with bated breath. When Bernie is reunited with his father at a banquet, they are both seated as guests of honor. And the results of meeting an ancient God gives Bernie quite the surprise. Wow ! This character driven book was well worth the wait. Bravo! Encore!

Click here for a Complete List of awards won by The Universe Builders Series.

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“The Hat”

 

I just had a reader tell me I “bear a striking resemblance to Terry Pratchett.”

Such flattery!

If you aren’t aware of him, he’s an English fantasy author that has been one of my favorite authors for many years.  I love it every time someone compares me to him.

But I should tell you, wearing a hat like this isn’t easy…

My main character, Bernie, seems to be confused.  He thinks my authority resides in my hat.  Maybe when he has a little more experience with earth culture, he’ll figure it out…

I will say one thing, though.  I suspect Terry and I were inspired by someone else who made the hat famous.  I never loved hats before I saw him in one…


Sadly, Terry Pratchett passed away a couple of years ago.  I had a fantasy that one day I would send him a copy of my book, but I never had the chance to do so.

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Halloween Fun

This is how I dressed for Halloween last year.

My costume is of the Great Protector (from Bernie and the Putty).  Underneath the white robe, I’m wearing jeans with unraveled cuffs, untied tennis shoes, and a ‘Save the Lookies’ T-shirt.

To my great surprise and pleasure, several other people came dressed as characters in my book.  One couple came as ‘Putty People,’ and they won a prize for ‘Most Original’ costumes.

Can you tell that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays?

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pORd4UA8DCE[/embedyt]

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TV Interview: APN TV Media

This was a very interesting interview for me.  In addition to meeting some great people, I also had a chance to talk about my book with a TV audience.

Suggestion:  Move the slider 9:30 minutes into the show.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_bY_rHtIZc[/embedyt]

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The Senate on Alcandor’s World

On Alcandor’s world, in Bernie and the Putty, there was a special place where the Senate met in a huge amphitheater next to the Senate’s Office Building.  This is the picture that inspired that meeting place.

GriechTheater2

I can almost imagine the platform that had to be erected every time Zardok, the high priest, decided to address the Senate.

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What is a Shimmer?

A godly shimmer surrounds all the gods in my stories.  It is inspired by two concepts.

  1. Each god has an inner glow that shines with a brightness that makes it hard for ‘mortal’ creatures to look directly at them.  The glow is golden or perhaps sunshine-like.  It extends beyond their skin approximately 12 inches.
  2. Secondly, shimmers are influenced by feelings and changes colors depending on the feelings of the god or goddess.  This picture depicts the concept, although I don’t really follow the color scheme very closely.

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As the gods age, their shimmer shows less variation.  An elder god, for example, shows few signs of emotion (they’e so old, there aren’t many things that surprise or excite them, so there are few color changes in their shimmers).  Elder gods also tend to have shimmers that are more intense, although they rarely extend more than 6 inches in any direction.  Youngsters, on the other hand, have shimmers that are constantly whipping around and can look like a kaleidoscope of changing colors, depending on what is going on with them.

The girls in God School sometimes take classes and learn to control their shimmers, but boys rarely do.

fitting in 01

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The Great Protector

In Bernie and the Putty, Bernie takes on the role of the Great Protector.  When it’s time for him to make first contact, Lenny convinces him that he should wear a robe with grey hair and a beard.  “It will make you look wiser,” he said.

This is a great picture and pretty close to what I think Bernie looked like:

the-great-protector

We host a Halloween party every year, and, since most of my friends read my book, I decided to dress as the Great Protector.  Underneath the robe (which symbolizes Bernie’s graduation gown), I’m wearing frayed Levis, a “Save the Lookies” T-shirt, and tennis shoes with the laces untied.   The Great Protector’s first appearance was in a library.

The Great Protector from The Universe Builders

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Air Angels

In Bernie and the Putty, the lookies had a harrowing encounter with two air angels.

The concept for air angels comes from two fish I used to have when I kept fresh water aquariums as a kid.

The first was an angel fish.  They were remarkably thin, having evolved in waters full of reed-like blades of weeds.  Their thin shape was perfect for maneuvering between the weeds.  Their graceful nature, seeming to float in the water, was translated into the idea that a really light creature could do the same thing in air.

blacklace4The second part of the inspiration for the air angels came from gouramis.  What I drew from them was the way they used their remarkable ‘feelers’ to touch things and examine their surroundings.

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