This is the supplemental blog for GATEWALKER, a contemporary fantasy serial written by Joey Cruz.

Click on the cover image to the right to read it on!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chapter 4 - Illusionists Are Badass

Gatewalker Chapter 4

Making Of

WOOOOOOOOOOO! This was a tough one to get though. I love writing action, but it produces just about the ugliest first drafts I'm capable of. And despite how long it took to produce, it actually clocks in about a thousand words shorter than the typical chapter. Hopefully the content will make it worth the wait.

The first attack on Brian and Sevellis is a scene that's been bouncing around in my head for as long as the story has existed, but I could never settle on just what I wanted it to be.

At any given time, the attack was supposed to take place on: an Amtrack, a busy freeway, the New York subway, or even a ferry.

The reason I settled on a Greyhound bus is threefold:

1) I used to ride Greyhounds all the time with my Mom, back and forth from New York to Massachusetts as a kid and liked the idea of revisiting those memories to inform the setting.

2) It's one of the cheapest methods of long distance transportation and has the least strict standards for who gets to ride. ANYONE can ride a Greyhound, which is exactly what two low budget fugitives like Brian and Sevellis need.

3) This is obviously a prejudiced blanket statement based on very few actual scenarios that I can remember... but it sure seems like, especially in the last ten years, BAD SHIT HAPPENS ON GREYHOUNDS.

Remember a few years ago, some dude on a Greyhound freaked out, beheaded the passenger next to him, paraded the head up and down the aisle and then started EATING IT?


I love Greyhound for the memories... but they scare me now! So, it seemed like the most logical place to stage my ambush.

Sorry, Greyhound.

(something tells me I'll have to change the company name when the story goes to print...)


Finally, a song with lyrics!

I recently discovered the band Civil Twilight through their song, "Letters From The Sky", which has been used just about everywhere (and, yes, has a place in Gatewalker... but not for a while yet).

So, I grabbed their most recent album, Holy Weather, and kinda, sorta fell instantly head over heels in love with it. Why? Well, aside from that I don't get a lot new music these days, and that their sound is very similar to early U2, which I love... some of the lyrics to their songs feel like aspects of Brian. There's a poetry and introspection in their writing that fits both who Brian is now and who he will become.

This is a band I'll be calling back to several times throughout the course of the story, but for their debut, I decided to go with something more thematic than literal. I can't say that "Move/Stay" is 100% lyrically accurate to the story in this case, but it does capture that mood of urgency, of action. It's a GTFOD song. Which is appropriate, considering...

Hope you like it.

(remember, any soundtrack songs you like can be sampled and purchased as MP3s in the Amazon widget to the right! Build your own Gatewalker soundtrack!)

That's actually all that I've got for the blog this week. A shorter entry for a shorter chapter! What do you think, should this be the norm? Or do you prefer the longer, everything and the kitchen sink blog posts? Let me know in the comments below!

And be sure to swing back for the Chapter 5 bonus features, wherein I reveal my next Casting Call pick!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cross Pollination

Gatewalker Chapter 4 will take an extra week to come out, due, in part, to a visit from some old friends -- one of whom agreed to sit down with me and Rachael to discuss marketing strategies...

I think we got some good work done that day.

Yep, that's the mysterious K.R. Cross, author of one of JukePop's highest rated stories, Daggers, sitting between myself and the intrepid Rachael Cruz.

You'll be seeing interviews with both of them popping up on this page in the coming months. In the meantime, go check out their stories!

Read Daggers HERE!
A dark fantasy saga of revenge and redemption unfolds as the children of the Blackstone - born with otherworldly gifts, stolen from their homes, and schooled in the art of killing - seek to break the bonds that hold them in captivity.

Read To Embrace The Sun HERE!
Taj has been a slave for as long as he can remember. He dreams of something more, and through his adventures and YOUR choices, he may learn the hidden truths behind who and what he really is.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chapter 3 - All Cards on the Table

Gatewalker Chapter 3


So this all sprang from the material I had to cut from the tail end of Chapter 1.

Probably my strongest certainty when preparing the story for JukePop was that I could not include Brian's full backstory in in the first chapter. It would be way too much, too soon. But, the story was the story. Brian begins the story in the care of someone who actually HAS all the answers to his questions and has no reason to withhold any of it from him -- who in fact NEEDS to explain everything to Brian in order to successfully protect him.

Sevellis would tell all. But if I let him, the first chapter would be a giant infodump with no clear ending point.

Once I solved the pacing problems I was having with the beginning of the chapter, though, I realized that the best breaking point was just before Sevellis tells his tale, and that the promise of that info would be the cliffhanger that closes out the chapter. Not exactly a gun in the face, but something that would hopefully pique people's curiosity.

The question of where to drop the orphaned exposition remained. I wanted to keep each chapter moving to a different place and different situation, at least in the beginning, and I knew that the next big event in Brian's story would be him watching the funeral. It didn't take long for me to realize that I could intercut the funeral with flashbacks to Sevellis's exposition.

You tell me how well it works.

As for the ending: originally, this chapter was only supposed to be the funeral. Then, the funeral with flashbacks. But it as I planned out the structure of it, I realized that the entire thing was a dude feeling sorry for himself and remembering something happened a few days ago. That's it. Brian made no progress. The story didn't move forward; in fact, it kind of took a step BACKward.

I'd been waiting years to write this funeral scene, but it needed something else. A third act with which to inject some life back into the tale. And what better ending than the event that was originally supposed to occur towards the beginning of Chapter 4. I'm all about pacing and reveals, and this one just felt right.

I'm really looking forward to delving into Chapter 4. I hope you are too.

Making Of

Every chapter you write is the most difficult one you've ever written... until you have to write the next chapter. That's just the way it goes. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if this one turned out to be the exception. This sucker was tough.

I fell into the trap of loving my own words. Back when I'd originally written the exposition scene between Brian and Sevellis, it went very differently. Brian was angrier, Sevellis had more magic, the backstory and setting were somewhat looser and undefined. As discussed above, I had written myself into a corner... but it was such a beautiful corner. The characters were robust and distinct, their dialogue snappy and emotional. The tension ebbed and flowed, with the exposition woven throughout in the most natural way. Sure, it was a bit rough and overlong, but I really enjoyed it. (Maybe someday I'll post it as a deleted scene.)

Anyway, as I developed the story more, all those details I had come up with on the spot were changed and defined. None of it fit, which meant that the whole thing needed to be reworked. And I knew it!

But, while writing the new scene, I'll admit, I spent a lot of time trying to get the old dialogue to work within the shiny new context. I spent so much time trying to shoehorn the old scene into the new one that all I could do some nights was move old paragraphs around and pull my hair out. What I SHOULD have been doing was writing all new one.

As it stands now, only a fraction of Sevellis's speech and I think one exchange remains from the original draft. The rest is all new. I figured it out eventually. But it's one of the reasons this chapter came in late.

Let this be a lesson to you new writers out there!

Once you've realized that you have to kill your babies, do not try to resurrect them later on. If you turn your cutting room floor into a pet cemetery, your old ideas WILL come back and eat you.

ABC, baby. Always Be Creating. Remember that and you can't go wrong.


I'm sure the score to 2007's Atonement was wonderful and deserved every accolade it received... but James Newton Howard's Michael Clayton score deserved an Oscar.

As subtle, understated, and pervasive as the movie it complemented, this album is a treasure trove of low-key, atmospheric mood music. Contemplative, dreamlike, and surprisingly emotional (again, like the movie). It's perfect writing to write to.

For this chapter, I went with the final track on the album, 25 Dollars Worth. In the movie, this plays over George Clooney's face as he rides through Manhattan in the back of the taxi cab. It's the shot that ends the movie, and it blows me away every time I see it. Seriously, if you have not made the time to see Michael Clayton, you are doing yourself a disservice.

I needed something that captured the inherent sadness of a funeral, but also had an undercurrent of hope, or new beginning. A funeral for the living, rather than the dead, if that makes sense. I also needed something that shifted tones to appropriately fit the chapter's bouncing around. When I landed on this, it was so perfect that I ended up listened to the track on loop while writing most of the chapter.

Casting Call

In last chapter's bonus blog, I said I had three actors from Marvel's cinematic universe in mind for three of the characters in the Gatewalker film adaptation that exists solely in my head. Nobody answered my challenge to guess who they are (you bunch of shy suzies), so I'll be revealing each of them as their characters reenter the story. The first is Brian's stalwart guardian and (as revealed in this chapter) Magicist Supreme! (Magicist Majora?) (...ew)


should be played by

Sevellis basically exists because I wanted to write an Anthony Hopkins character. An older gentleman with a youthful twinkle in his eye and a wry, understated sense of humor. And, when he needs to, he can bring the fury. You'll get to see more of that next chapter.

I did receive one interesting casting suggestion in the JukePop comments section. Daggers author K.R. Cross offered up one Josh Peck as a potential actor for our protagonist Brian.

Not bad. He's a little too old, and a little TOO New Yawk (believe me... not every teen in NYC has the thick accent -- in fact, most don't). But he's one way to go.

Which actually gives me the opportunity to reveal a little something about Brian himself.

I have a very clear sense of who he is, what his quirks are, what he likes, what he fears, what he hates... but the one detail I have left intentionally vague is the color of his skin.


Two reasons:

1) The nature of Brian's predicament allows for him to be any color without having to reflect the Earthbound culture of that color. He's adopted, his real parents are long gone and from another dimension, he was raised in an ordinary middle-class family whose ethnicity I have also left blank. You know they're strong, you know they're tight-knit... that's all you need to know. He didn't grow up White or Black or Hispanic or Asian or identifying with any other culture the people of Earth identify themselves with. He grew up New York. His personality was shaped by open-minded parents living in one of the most open-minded cities on the planet.

Who he is is not determined by the color of his skin. He's a human being. Period.

Being half-hispanic and all-caucasian myself, I have something of a vested interest in this kind of portrayal. I'm ready for more people to be judged by their actions.

But that's just my little soapbox. The second reason is much more fun...

2) When I read a story, I like to imagine myself as the main character. It's only natural. It's escapist! I want to be the hero saving the day and getting the girl. That's an easy fantasy to invest in when the main character is a white (or partially hispanic) male with brown hair and brown eyes, because HEY -- that's just what I look like! But, I imagine it's not so easy for someone who doesn't look like that. They don't get to be the hero. They have to stay out in the audience.

By making Brian race-neutral, ANYone who reads the story can put themselves in his shoes and experience his journey firsthand.

Well... unless you're female. (Sorry ladies. I'll catch you on the next one.)

SO... what that means is, in the Gatewalker movie, ANYONE could play Brian! Andrew Garfield, Donald Glover, Dev Patel, Dante Basco (can you guess the connection between those last two names? TRIVIA!)... anyone.

Though, all of those actors I just listed are too old.

So, start throwing actors at me in the comments below! And don't just stick to one ethnicity. Branch out! Try to find the right actor.

As always, thanks for reading.

Until Chapter 4!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chapter 2 - A Night at Carnegie Hall

Gatewalker Chapter 2


"Not enough."

Those were the last words of the first story I ever wrote about Midian the assassin, though the scene preceding them was very different from what you just read. It was early in my explorations with prose and, having burned through the first ten -- yes, ten -- R.A. Salvatore Drizzt novels in less than a year, I desperately wanted to write an action scene.

The story had sprouted leaves early in the day and was so clear in my head by the end of it that I didn't even wait to get home to start writing. Instead I broke out my notebook in the middle of my after school hangout and started scribbling in pen. My friends were all aspiring comic artists and storytellers themselves, so they understood. Sometimes you just had to get that idea out. Besides, these were the guys who introduced me to the Salvatore's novels, so I was sure they'd appreciate the end product. When I finished, I practically threw the thing at them to read.

And they hhhhhhhhhhhated it!

Absolutely tore me to shreds. These were good friends.

The story wasn't a story, it was an action scene, and Midian wasn't a character, he was a special effect. He was what happened when you took an abiding love for Drizzt Do'urden and combined it with your new favorite movie, Grosse Pointe Blank. He was awesome in all the ways only a teenage boy could make him, but lacked any the complexity to make him worth reading about.

As discouraging as that response was, I couldn't let go of the character. The idea of Midian was too good; a bad guy -- a killer -- that you loved to watch work, and couldn't help but root for. I tried playing him as a D&D character, then as a modern day Rifts character, then as a regular hitman in a friend's homebrewed role-playing game. I tried like mad to figure out WHAT story he belonged to, and then, one day, it hit me: the story about the boy on the train.

Now there was a playground where Midian could run wild.

And he will.

Just you wait.


This chapter was a challenge to write, because the entire thing takes place in a building I've only been in once in my life -- when I was too young to remember it.

If I close my eyes and really think, I can see the surface of the concrete shell around Carnegie Hall; the glass-encased concert posters lining the outer walls, the stained-glass marquis touting its name... but that's where my memories end. I couldn't tell you anything about the place that you can't get from the wiki page, and that's the main problem I was facing in writing this chapter.

Chapter 1 was chock full of texture and detail because I've BEEN in all those places. I know the smell of a freshly painted apartment. I can clearly hear the conductor blasting "STANCLEARUHDAHCLOSINDOORS" over the subway car loudspeakers.

Before my research, I didn't even know what color the Carnegie Hall carpets were.

And it wasn't easy to find out, either! Pictures of the non-auditorium interiors of Carnegie Hall are extremely hard to come by -- and I'm pretty sure some of the ones I did find aren't supposed to exist! It took an intense bout of Google Image searching and at least one "Help!" post on a message board (special thanks to PeterSparker on the Bendis forum at!), in addition to the general descriptions located on the Carnegie website, to paint enough of a picture for me to... well... paint a picture.

I'm still worried certain parts will stand out to frequent patrons of the Hall, but hey, that's show business, baby.

(if you are someone who knows the areas I describe in this chapter, please feel free to correct me on anything. I'll revise it for the future!)

And, to anyone appalled at the crime I've allowed to be committed in New York's beloved concert hall, I say: take heart. Carnegie Hall's honor will be avenged in quite the unexpected way (I hope).


In case you hadn't guessed, this chapter's soundtrack is referenced directly in the second scene.

York Bowen was a classical pianist and composer in the early 1900's. I discovered his Symphony No.2 through, of all things, my Akira Ifukube-(that's the original Godzilla film composer for you laymen out there)-themed Pandora station, and was instantly smitten. I like my classical music to have some verve to it, and Bowen's work does not disappoint.

Like Midian says, it feels like a forgotten film score. Now it gets to be one! After a fashion.

Casting Call

I am a dyed-in-the-wool used-to-read-Wizard-magazine-for-the-articles hardcore comic geek; of COURSE I think about which actors would play the characters in my story. Sometimes it's ALL I think about.

We are now two chapters into Gatewalker and all the main characters have been introduced. My question to you is:

Can you guess which three Marvel Movie-verse actors I've cast as which three characters in the story?

Post your answers below along with suggestions!

And give me some feedback! Is there something you want to see on the Bonus blog that I'm not providing? Is there something you want to see less of? Words? For instance? Hit me with it!

See you back here again... after Chapter 3!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chapter 1 - worth way too many words

"The first time I died, I was sixteen years old and going to school on the island known, at the time, as Manhattan..."

These were the first words of a story I wrote when I was seventeen years old and going to school on the island still known as Manhattan. The year was 1999, I was failing at school but succeeding at youth, and had just discovered the world of heroic fantasy through books like R.A. Salvatore's Dark Elf and Icewind Dale trilogies, and games like Dungeons & Dragons and Rifts

The original story wasn't even really a story at all. It was two hand-written pages -- one whole sheet of narrow-ruled loose leaf paper -- depicting a single scene: a kid -- basically Me -- riding the train home from school -- as I did every day -- describes, in great detail, his own death at the hands of a crazy dude with a gun. It was melodramatic and flowery (at one point, after being shot, he locks eyes with his own reflection and doesn't recognize himself for the look of horror on his face) (I was really into The Crow) but, as with most of my ideas from that era, it had the seed of something cool.

Eight years later, when I decided to make a go of it as a professional writer, this story jumped immediately to the forefront of my mind as one I'd been waiting to tell. I knew my original opening was way too purple and green, so I chose to use it as inspiration, a guidepost, and start in a much more interesting place... the rebirth.

"Brian's eyes opened onto a cottage cheese ceiling," were the first words I wrote of this new beginning,  and the entire first chapter -- basically a less refined version of what you see on JukePop -- flowed out of me with surprising ease. But then I stopped, because, I realized, it was the first chapter and I was already preparing to spill the beans on the entire mystery of Brian's past.

Which meant I needed to get into some heavy worldbuilding... and I'd done none. My story took place in the real world, and that world was there for me to describe freely, but the other world of Gatewalker... THAT needed some serious work.

So, I stepped back from it at that point and started thinking about the world my story took place in. Soon, other stories stepped in to fill the void and Gatewalker went unfinished, but not forgotten.

Fast-forward five more years and there I am, staring at the JukePop ad on Craigslist, wondering which one of my stories could work as a serial...

Fast-forward five more months, and here we are now. :)


So, I guess I'm doing these blogs in sections, because it takes entirely too much thought and effort to construct one continuous narrative about all the stuff I want to talk about, and I've got fiction to write.

One thing I wanted to cover about the writing of this chapter is that, right up until a week before I submitted to JukePop, it opened with Brian's awakening. Just, no explanation, BAM, here you go, feel some stuff. I loved -- LOVED -- the idea of starting a story with the vivid, traumatic experience of coming back to life after a violent death. This isn't some miraculous rebirth for Brian; it fuggin SUCKS. Everything hurts. Everything is cold. His entire sense of equilibrium, his sense of reality, is all flipped and FUBAR.

Congratulations, kid, you're alive again!

*ragged scream*

Isn't that great?! And you don't have to drink blood or avoid sunlight or anything!

*agonized groan*

(yes, for those of you who were wondering -- SPOILERS -- Brian is not a vampire, sorry)

Anyway... this was the opening I wanted, but I didn't know how to end it without info-dumping everything and the kitchen sink. These were the challenges I'd avoided five years ago.

So, I consulted several storytellers who I trust implicitly, and one of them, my buddy Mike, made it all click. We were sitting in the Shari's diner by my home and I was explaining the basic gist of the story, how it opens and why it opens there, and suddenly he reached across the table, slapped the forkful of pie I was about to eat out of my hand, grabbed me by the front of my shirt (what, this is how I remember it), and said:

"You just told me the most interesting part of your story, and it's not even in the story."

He was talking about the subway scene. Brian's sudden, unexpected death, which I wrote, horribly, thirteen years ago, and then decided to skip in favor of my TRAUMA opening.

So, I started thinking about how I could work the subway scene in. And that led me to remember another story I'd given up on years ago because I'd seen too many movies, comics, and TV shows similar to it. Suddenly, the few remaining elements of that story that were still usable felt perfect for Gatewalker... and that's how Claire and Danny joined the story. 

But, now there was a pacing problem.

The story jumped directly from Brian dying to him waking up, and it just... didn't... feel... right. The readers needed a break. They needed to catch their breath and sort of clear their palatte so that the beginning of the next section could hit them with the desired impact. (you guys tell me; did it work?)

So, I added the interlude; part 1.5 of the story. That will be explained more as the story continues, but lemme just say, it's my favorite part of the first chapter. I loved writing it and you will see its like again.

Once I had that pacing worked out, I realized that the chapter had a rhythm to it now that allowed me to cut out early, before all the explaining happened. And once I had that, the rest just fell into place.

So, special thanks to Mike Murphy for slapping me around when I needed it.

Okay, this post has gone on WAY too long, but screw it, the blog is still finding its shape. We'll all look back on this one day and laugh. Right?

One more segment...


All my stories have soundtracks and Gatewalker is no different. 

For chapter one, I didn't have any particular music attached to the scenes or characters conceptually, but I did listen to several albums during the writing. The one that fits the atmosphere of chapter one the best is the soundtrack to the movie Collateral. It's got a great mix of songs; very eclectic, as are all Michael Mann film soundtracks, but each track is perfect for its moment in the movie. 

The one I probably played on loop the most as I wrote Brian's scenes with Sevellis was track 13, Car Crash by Antonio Pinto. It's quiet, it's desolate; captures the isolation and trauma Brian is feeling in that empty apartment. 

(there's at least a page's worth of prose that I cut out of the story just drawing out the quietude of those scenes -- I loved the atmosphere, but worried it might be boring for the SLAM BANG Opening chapter of a serial, so I chopped -- hopefully some of that atmosphere remains)

And I think that's just about enough of that then thankyouverymuch. To think, I was worried that I wouldn't have enough to talk about on this blog. 

Okay, Chapter 1 bonus content is complete! Give me feedback! Does it work? Is it interesting? Am I just babbling incoherently? I welcome your comments, criticsms, and suggestions (that Oxford comma was just for you, Kerry).

See you again after Chapter 2!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Welcome to the inaugural post of the Gatewalker Bonus Features blog!

In short, this will be the Special Features DVD to JukePop Serials' Feature disc.

If I'm doing my job right, Gatewalker should be updated on JukePop with a new chapter every other week -- and that's in writing now! You can hold me to that! Over hot coals if need be!

With each new update there will be a corresponding blog post HERE discussing the stuff behind the stuff. Relevant background tidbits, thoughts about the story itself, info about the locations where the story takes place (I grew up in NYC, so many of the places I'm writing about, I've been to) (except for chapter 2... heh!).

I'll also be cluing you in on the music that inspired the story, scenes, and characters. (Music is a huge -- HUGE -- part of my life and fuels most of my creative endeavors, so I expect it will be a large part of this blog.) And if technology does what technology is supposed to, there will eventually be an Amazon box to the right that will showcase whatever albums I've spoken about so you can click on it to buy them and then Amazon will give me money and happiness will rain from the heavens. 

But that's not working right now.


It's also my hope that, as time wears on, I'll be able to post up some interviews with other JukePop authors. Why not cross-pollinate? We're all in this together, right? Like gladiators!

oh wait, those dudes killed each other... 

ANYway, there's one more thing I'll add before wrapping this post up, and that is a special thanks to the amazing Kerry Ellis, who came to my rescue when I desperately needed a book cover on launch day. If you scanned the front page of, saw the Gatewalker cover art and said, "That looks frikkin awesome..." it's all Kerry's fault. She also designed the kickass title banner at the top of this very blog. Ridiculous, right?

You'll find her BRIGHT RED business logo in the sidebar -- please take a look. If you're in need of an editor or book designer, look no further. She's also a talented writer and photographer. And she worked for NASA. There are no ends to her awesomeness. Go see for yourself.

Okay! Bonus blog away.

We will see you again... soon!