In my last blog post on my website, the one for my September update, I alluded to some big news coming soon regarding The Becoming Series. At the time, it wasn’t finalized yet, so I didn’t want to say anything until everything was all said and done.
Well, now everything is all said and done, so I can talk about it and fill you in on what’s going on.
For those of you who pay attention to this sort of thing, some of you might have noticed the series’ sudden lack of availability online—beyond a few scattered paperbacks and such that are being cleared out at retailers. There’s a reason for this—a really good one.
To make a long story short, after about a month of back and forth emails with the publisher, I’ve recently purchased the publication rights back for my first series. This effectively turns over virtually all rights back to me so that I can release them myself. (I say “virtually,” because Audible still has the audiobook rights for the series for now, which is fine, as I have no plans to re-release audiobooks anytime soon.)
Overall, what exactly does this mean for the series and its future?
Well, it means I’ll be re-releasing the entire series soon, but with new covers, loads of additional new content, and some fun, back-of-the-book bonus content. I’m also going in and re-inserting deleted scenes, adding some new scenes, embellishing on some areas that need more detail, and just generally overhauling the whole thing. In addition, I’m planning to modernize the storyline since most of it was written quite some time ago. For example, book one was originally written in 2009 to 2010 when the world was quite different than it is now!
You’re probably also wondering why I’m going to such an extreme amount of work for a book series that was originally released starting almost a decade ago. That’s actually quite a bit of a long story, and it involves going back all the way to 2010 and 2011.
Way back when I first started writing this series, I had an idea to basically tell what amounted to an epic zombie story. The initial idea was to serialize the story in thirty-thousand-word chunks on a monthly basis on Amazon. This was way back when the KDP marketplace, the retail space for indie books, was pretty much still in its infancy, most other retailers didn’t offer a platform like Amazon’s, and a lot of writers still hadn’t yet consistently adopted the space. I guess I recognized its potential pretty early on, and coupled with my lack of confidence that a publisher would even be interested in what I had to write, I saw Amazon as a cheap way to get my books out to readers who seemed to be interested in this story I had to tell.
Initially, this grand vision that I had for the series was to set it up almost like a TV show’s season, with “episodes” that basically followed a pattern for a show. There was going to be a pilot episode, so to speak, which was basically The Becoming: Outbreak, and then the follow-up episode, which was The Becoming: Safe House. My intention had been to tell a few “episodes” of story, then take an “episode” and do a little flashback bringing it back to a more minor character from the book and how they got to the point where they were introduced into the core series. So you had episode one, Outbreak, and episode two, Safe House, and then you would have a flashback episode in episode three that was originally Theo and Gray’s story, which we all mostly know as The Becoming: Brothers in Arms. And then the main story would pick up in episode four and continue on from there.
But what ended up happening was I got contacted by a publisher that was interested in publishing the books as a trilogy. I agreed to a trilogy, because I thought I could still tell the story I wanted to tell in the span of three books. But the story I ended up settling for wasn’t close to what I had originally envisioned.
I don’t blame the publisher for this, not in the slightest. The publishing industry, for good or for ill, has genre-specific expectations and specifications that they like to see met when it comes to publishing a book in a particular genre, and this publisher was no different. I have my issues with this—in my opinion—antiquated notion of restricted word counts delineated by genre, because a lot of those requirements seem to come from the industry’s historical past where word counts were restricted in order to keep printing costs for paperback books down and, therefore, increase profit margins.
So what ended up happening was, after signing the contract and getting down into the more granular specifics of what I would be doing, the publisher requested that I keep word counts for the books down between 80-90,000 words, maybe up to 100,000 words max. Like I said before, these word counts seem to be an antiquated notion and I feel like they really restrict a writer from being able to tell a story in full, and I think that’s what happened with The Becoming and its sequels.
Because of this industry-determined restriction, I never got to fully tell the story that I wanted to tell, and I feel like parts of the series—when you look at the whole storyline as one entity—read very choppy and almost illogical in places.
Spoiler alert! What follows from here contains spoilers. If for some reason you’ve never read the books and don’t want to be spoiled, read further at your own risk!
A great example of this choppiness would definitely be the ending of book one. It cuts off very, very abruptly. There’s no come-down from the penultimate scene of Cade and Brandt’s rescue, and it ends up just—bam—dropping off a cliff, and not even in a cliffhanger kind of way. It just dumps the reader off in the middle of nowhere with no denouement. I have never liked the ending of that book, and I one hundred percent agree with every reviewer who said that the ending of the book wasn’t very good. (Fortunately, that didn’t stop the book from being placed on Barnes & Noble’s Best Zombie Fiction Releases of the Decade list, so at least it had that going for it.)
Another really good example of the issues with the original books comes in books two and three when you look at them as a combined entity. For starters, book two starts off a year after the end of book one and its cliff ending—I’m not even going to call it a cliffhanger ending, because it didn’t even come off as that strategic. There was a lot of planned story between books one and two that got cut out because of word count restrictions. In fact, we went from publishing what I intended to be I think twelve or fifteen novellas to three novels, so I had to cut out a lot of story that I didn’t want to cut, but there was just no room for everything.
In an effort to try to tell some of the overarching story, I ended up making some pretty major mistakes, changing things around that shouldn’t have been changed. I think one of the primary ways I did this was pulling plot threads from plot lines that happened further in the planned novella series and trying to graft them in earlier in the series plot in ways that, quite frankly, didn’t always make a whole lot of sense.
A really good example of this is Avi Gellar, her arrival, and her—for lack of better wording here—story that she tells Ethan and his group to get them to agree to come with her into Atlanta, which was probably the last place on Earth that any of them would have willingly gone, unless there was a damn good reason to go there. Her story flat-out didn’t make sense, especially when you consider the group’s motivations and basically what drove them day after day to continue to not just survive but essentially thrive in this post-apocalyptic setting. I’ll say it outright: I completely agree with reviewers who said it made no sense. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done that. You know, there’s no way they would have agreed to go with her just to recover research, because research wasn’t what motivated them. People were what motivated them, being able to help the helpless, to help people that needed it that maybe weren’t in a position to help themselves fully. That was their main driving force, and I really think I kind of lost that when I was trying to graft a different situation in to usher in Alicia Day’s introduction (which is a whole other can of grafting worms and lack of build-up on its own). That storyline, the storyline about Avi and the research and the CDC, all that originally happened much, much further in the original plan for the series than when it did actually take place in the trilogy. So I really wanted to move that and put it back where it belongs and replace the enticement that Avi uses to get them to agree to go to Atlanta with one that’s more realistic and more in line with what their day-to-day motivations are.
So there are going to be major, major plot changes in the series, but the base of the stories will still be there. These changes, though, I think will really bring the series in line with what I had originally envisioned for it, and I feel like it’s going to bring a stronger, more cohesive, more sensible storyline out that I think you guys are going to love—certainly like better than what the publisher and I released from 2011 to 2015.
I’m honestly excited about this project, and even though it’s a pretty big undertaking, I’m still thrilled at the chance to really sit down and puzzle out how to bring this story back to the original intention and to tell a much grander yet more human story than what I told before. I have learned a lot since I originally wrote these books—not just as a writer but as a reader and as a student of literature—and I really want to bring in those elevated skills and newfound knowledge to bear on this series to make it something I’m genuinely, one hundred percent proud of.
So what’s going to happen from here is I’m going to begin re-releasing the books starting in January (though the re-release of book one may come earlier). I’ve actually received the brand new cover for book one about two weeks earlier than I expected or planned for, so I’m currently working on formatting the new edition of book one, which is about twice the length as the original book one. Within the new book one, I’ve basically taken novellas that were from the anthology that the publisher released in 2015 and have spliced them into book one strategically in order to bring the story to more cohesion; the first half of the story was originally just following Cade, Brandt, and Ethan, but now I’ve inserted what was The Becoming: Brothers in Arms into the first half of the story, so you’ll get Theo and Gray’s story in real time alongside Cade’s, Brandt’s, and Ethan’s storyline. I’ve also strategically inserted sections of The Becoming: Deliverance, which was Remy’s story, into the first book so you also get her storyline and what was happening with her that leads to where she ends up being when the rest of the group finds her in book one and she’s no longer just popping up out of nowhere, all while giving the whole book a really thorough smooth-over and polish to bring the language and writing up to another level. So really, this first book is about the group coming together, becoming the group that basically brings hope to the people that have survived the horrible pandemic that’s happening in this series.
As a plus for those of you who have stuck it out and supported me throughout the years, once I re-release the first book, it will actually be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Google Play, and it will be a FREE book, a completely FREE purchase. You won’t have to pay a penny to read it. You’ll be able to go on your retailer of choice and hit that download button and read the brand new edition of The Becoming for free. I have no plans to charge for this book at any point.
The other books in the series won’t be free. They’ll likely be priced somewhere around $4.99, because this author’s gotta eat and pay the bills. But I hope that those of you who have read the old editions of this series will be willing to repurchase and re-enjoy, rediscover, and re-explore this zombie world that I created all the way back in 2009.
And, once I finish re-releasing all five books? Well, there will be at least one more book—if not two—coming in the series: the long-promised, long-awaited The Becoming: Bloodlines.
Well, that’s about it for now. Coming really soon will be the cover reveal for this brand new edition of The Becoming, and I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the new cover and the re-release. And eventually, when the book is available, I hope you’ll all “purchase” it and read it and review it on any and all retailers, because these reviews are so helpful with giving me the ability to advertise and sell books, which then gives me the chance to write and release even more books for you guys.