What I’m Writing in Spring 2017

It may not feel like it, but spring is here! What are your plans?

Here’s what I’m up to.  I’m writing a comedy screenplay about a spokesman for a dystopian government. I call it Utopia PR. I’ve got the plot outlined and have written about 35 pages. That means I’m about a third of the way through (think of each screenplay page like a minute of a movie). I’m hoping to finish the script over the next couple months and enter it into a contest or two. It’s been a lot of fun to let loose and have a laugh, especially given the current state of the world.

As for my third novel, The Wanderer and the New West, I’m afraid there’s not a lot new to say. The search for a literary agent continues. I’ve received definite interest but I’m waiting to hear more. I really can’t wait to get the book into your hands! I’m hoping to decide in the next few months whether to take matters into my own hands and self-publish, as I did with my previous novels.

Speaking of which, happy to report that sales have been up on We, The Watched and Divided We Fall, especially since the presidential election! Seems that ads about dystopian governments are getting clicks these days. You may have seen that sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are way up, too, so maybe my books are getting some kind of Orwellian bump. Thanks, George!

George Orwell, presumably giving We, The Watch free advertising.
George Orwell, presumably giving We, The Watched free advertising. Photo Credit: BBC

Democratization Can Be Dark… And Other Lessons from WordCamp US

WordCamp Badge

Among other things, I am a blogger. This thing that you’re reading right now is in fact a blog post…on a real-life blog! Mind blown, right?

To create this mind-blowing blog, I use WordPress, free and easy-to-use software that powers about a quarter of the websites online. WordPress has a great community that gets together all over the world. Last year, I attended and wrote about their first annual U.S. conference, WordCamp US, in my hometown of Philadelphia. WordCamp US was back in Philly this year, attracting about 1,800 attendees and a gang of dinosaurs to the party.

#WCUS Party Crasher Rex
#WCUS Party Crasher Rex at the wordcamp after party

WordCamp was a blast, obviously. I only got to attend the second day (Day 1 was Friday and would have interfered with my day job), but I listened to a few great talks.

Dennis Hong did a hilarious and yet scary (hil-scare-ious?) talk on the dark side of democratization. The idea is that while the internet has enabled anyone to publish, this may not always be a good thing. The sheer amount of content now produced promotes skimming over thoughtful reading, he said. Also, thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis often loses out to cat pictures and emotion-based pieces that get us all riled up — and may not even be true.

While there are no easy answers, Dennis had some advice to make the internet a more friendly place. When something online angers you, take a deep breath before you share it to your friends. Be stoic like Yoda, he said, and decide if it’s worth sharing — because all you’re doing is helping the video go viral. If someone is being ridiculous online, don’t engage in a shouting match. It’s better to be patient, empathetic and take the conversation offline. If you’re creating content, it’s okay to grab a reader’s attention with a flashy headline, but make sure the content that follows is thoughtful and accurate. You can read more about all this on Dennis’s website.

I also learned a bunch of interesting facts from Maile Ohye from Google. Did you know that 65% of India — or about 864 million people — are not yet online? That’s a lot of people still to join the internet! Not only that, but 60% of the world’s traffic is still 2G. It’s important to keep these facts in mind when building a website, Maile said. Also, here’s something to look forward to next year — she said Google will be demoting mobile website that display pop-up ads blocking your view of the content! Woo! Those sites are way annoying!

Which brings me to another fun fact from Maile — 53% of visitors abandon mobile sites that take more than three seconds to load. Sounds a little impatient, but thinking about my own behavior I probably do this as well. I guess with all that democratization of content, we just don’t have time to wait around.

For more possible dark directions for society, read my novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall.

Time keeps pushing me on now

So here’s an end-of-summer jam you may not have heard. It’s “El Matador” by the band Semisonic. Yeah, those guys who did “Closing Time” and “Secret Smile.” This one is off their severely underrated follow-up, which was their final LP as a group.

It’s hard to believe summer is coming to an end. Also hard to believe this was my first full American summer since 2011. My wife and I moved to Australia at the start of summer 2012, which meant that it was winter there. We came back at the end of (American) summer 2015, got a lick of the sun, then dove straight into the autumn leaves.

I’ve had a productive year since returning to Philadelphia. After regaining my bearings (I can order a “coffee,” and no one asks what kind!), I spent the first few months doing freelance work for Technical.ly Philly and a few other places. I made a brief sojourn to India (and wrote a tech story about it). In March, I got a full-time gig at Communications Daily as their Philly-based states reporter.

On the creative side, I finished writing my third novel, had it analyzed by a Bat-editor and started pitching it to agents. I’m really excited to have you read it and hope to have a better idea of the release date by the end of this year. In the meantime, I wrapped up a screenplay of We, The Watched and a few new short stories. Speaking of my debut novel, you may have seen that I received an excellent review from Kirkus. And then an even better review of the sequel, Divided We Fall. That was pretty cool.

Lately, I’ve been looking with anxiety at my long-sleeve shirts. Soon I will get/have to wear them. We’re racing toward winter and the year 2017. I don’t know exactly what the new year will hold, but my aim is to make it a big one. As Semisonic sings in their end-of-summer classic: “Time keeps pushing me on now, and I’ll ride this wave to the end.”

P.S. If you like my novels, check out the show Mr. Robot. It’s a tech-fueled dystopian rush.

Kirkus Reviews: Divided We Fall Delivers on Promise of ‘Riveting Debut’

I’m excited to announce that Kirkus Reviews has followed up its rave review of my novel WE, THE WATCHED with a stellar review of the sequel, DIVIDED WE FALL.

You can check out the full critique over at Kirkus, but here’s a quick taste:

… a gripping dystopian narrative … Bender’s sequel is a worthy delivery on the promise of his riveting debut.

A novel about a scheming president offers an excellent read for those who love thrillers or 21st-century history.

KIRKUS REVIEWS

If you haven’t read DIVIDED WE FALL yet, check out this page for a list of stores where you can buy it in digital ($3.99) or paperback ($13.99). You can also get WE, THE WATCHED for FREE by joining my mailing list! And check out “Fire Eyes,” a short story that ties into the series.

DIVIDED WE FALL picks up on the events of WE, THE WATCHED. With the nation under attack, Agent Eve Parker must find and arrest her fiancé, who has lost his memory and become a revolutionary named Seven. However, when Eve learns more about the President’s plan to broaden citizen surveillance, she begins to question just who is right.

I hope you enjoy the book and look forward to reading your review!

Wanderer enters final round of edits

Cowboy with two guns

Wow, my next novel The Wanderer and the New West gets better by the day!

Over the past couple of months, my editor Rachel Gluckstern has been dishing out expert advice on how to amp up my novel about a west won by gun evangelists. Together, Rachel and I have fleshed out the backstories and motivations of each character, and made the big plot turns hit even harder. We’ve also improved the organization of the chapters and expanded upon my frightening vision of a near-future America.

Gunslinger and a crowd of guns
Art by Sandy Bender

After two rounds of content edits, we have moved into the final phase: copy editing. This is a more technical edit — spelling, grammar and style — but critical to your reading enjoyment. We expect to have this finished by the end of the month, and at that point I plan to shop the manuscript around to potential agents (please contact me if you know anyone). I’m also planning to pitch the novel at an upcoming writers’ conference this April in Philadelphia.

Because I am so excited for you to read my new novel, I may decide to self-publish the novel like I did We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. However, because this new story is my best work to date, I’m going to give traditional publishing one more stab.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates! Please also join my mailing list if you haven’t already. Thanks for all your support!