Moving right along

After a two-week hiatus, during which my kids were on their winter/holiday break from school, I’m once again back to work on Darkness Falls. 

I love my kids, but it’s pretty much impossible for me to get any writing done when they’re home from school. Even if I retreat to my office in the basement, they find me down there with complaints of who’s bothering who, who’s not sharing with the other, who’s breathing the other’s air, etc. But even if I could manage to squeeze in some writing time, which I actually did on more than one occasion, it’s still hard when there are also holidays and family get-togethers added to the mix. I, for one, am really glad it’s all over, done with, and behind me so (a) my bank account can recover, and (b) I can get back to the business of finishing this loooooooooonnnnng overdue book!

As for Darkness Falls itself, I’m back to around 27,000 words on it, having cut a bunch out, rearranged other parts of it, and reworked parts of the story that just weren’t clicking for me. I’m pleased with the direction it’s taking, and I think my wonderful, patient readers will be, too! 😀

I’m still farming my other recent manuscript, Freak of Nature, out to prospective agents. I had a better-than-expected response to my initial queries, sent out quite a few partial submissions upon request, and even a couple of fulls. I still have several pending, and remain hopeful. But at the same time, that little muse in my mind keeps turning back to Freak and coming up with new ideas for ways to revise and rework it. So after I’m finished with Darkness Falls, I’ll probably tinker with it again. One of the biggest reasons I’d love to have an agent again is to have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who can tell me if they feel like I’m on the right track or not. Even at this point in my life, in my writing career, it’s hard for me to decide sometimes.

So that’s me in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to 2017, come what may politically. From a personal standpoint, I’m in a good place, and I hope to not only stay the course, but continue to pursue bigger and better things, especially when it comes to my writing.

And speaking of which…Creepy Pasta is open to submissions again. I’ve been trying to come up with a good follow-up to my one-hit wonder with them from 2 years ago, “The Periphery People.” That’s definitely on my writing to-do list this month, too.

 

 

 

Update on DARKNESS FALLS

Dear Readers,
 
You guys have been so incredibly supportive and patient as I’ve worked on other projects in between the Brethren books. I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting DARKNESS FALLS, the last book in the series — and the exciting conclusion of Brandon and Lina’s love story. I also know I’ve been incredibly remiss in getting that book to you, and for that, I’m truly sorry. But I wanted to let you know I’ve been working on it in earnest now, and am really excited about the story that’s developing. Brandon and Lina will always be characters who are near and dear to my heart, and I want to give them a book that does the two of them — and everything they’ve been through — justice! I’m about 27,000 words into DARKNESS FALLS as of today, and will keep you guys updated on my progress.
 
In the meantime, here’s a little teaser for you from the manuscript. Enjoy!
 
From DARKNESS FALLS:
 
“I thought you’d turned control over to Benoît,” Lina said. “All of your business assets. Dominance over the clans.”
 
“I tried,” Augustus replied. “God knows I tried, Angelina, and Benoît did, too, but…” The cleft between his brows deepened, and he hung his head, his hands closing into fists. “When Michel died, I realized I couldn’t run from this anymore. I couldn’t put aside my responsibilities, my obligations to my people for my own selfish gains.”
 
“And what does Eleanor think about that?”
 
It had been for Eleanor that he’d agreed to relinquish dominance over the Brethren in the first place; for Eleanor that he’d sacrificed everything he’d worked for, the veritable empire he’d built nearly single-handedly over the last three centuries. He’d done it gladly, willingly—only for her.
 
A pained expression crossed his face. “Eleanor is dead.”

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack…

For those who have been wondering about the radio silence: This is what I’ve been up to for the last year. I’m so sorry it’s put me behind on the last Brethren book, but it’s been an itch I’ve had to scratch, and as you’ll see from the post below, it’s been the most challenging writing project I’ve ever had. Thank you for your readership and patience. I promise it will not be in vain.

So this has been the most unique WIP I’ve ever worked on. I came up with the idea for “Freak of Nature” last summer, and spent several months, beginning in August, outlining it in a lot of detail. I’d anticipated this would help me write it quickly. However, once I actually got into the writing itself, I threw the outline out the window, figuratively, and forged ahead by the seat of my pants, plotwise. And the more I wrote, the more I realized my original idea just wasn’t going to work. The characters all would, but most of them changed backstories, personalities, even perceived “faces” in my mind at least two or three times.

I have probably written more than 300,000 words in this manuscript. I’ve cut or changed at least half of them, and rewritten some scenes at least two or three different ways at different points as the story progressed. My “might use, might not” file (or “YUMN” for short) is as long as the manuscript itself. But in the end, it all fell together like a giant puzzle, with scenes I’d written months ago that I’d subsequently cut finding new homes in new places further along in the work. I’ve reworked, recycled, and reconfigured “Freak of Nature” so much, I’m surprised Pinhead and the Cenobites haven’t come to get me yet.

Even the end turned out to be a work in progress, even of itself. I finished the manuscript last month. Sort of. Because I already had ideas in my mind, and a list on my computer, of loose ends I needed to go back and work out, and of subtle little things I felt I needed to add. More scenes were reworked. Some were cut, others readded.

It took another month for me to go through more revision rounds, during which time, I chopped 18,000 words from the manuscript. This might sound like a massacre, but as with any editing project, I feel it’s tightened the book and improved it considerably, enough so that I am now comfortable trying to market it to literary agents.

It’s taken 15 months to get here.

By comparison, my first published book, “Dark Thirst,” was based off an idea I’d had for years, and a submission of three chapters that had taken me about a month to write. The rest of the book, I finished in 2 weeks. The biggest difference is me. When I wrote “Dark Thirst,” I had just had my son. I was able to write pretty much full time. I had few outside responsibilities besides my job. And the idea behind it, the world and characters, had pretty much been cemented in my mind for a long, long time.

“Freak of Nature” was a whole different beast. My kids keep me hopping when they’re home, even when they don’t have afterschool activities. My house has become the one where the neighborhood kids congregate and play – I’ve had nine at a time running in and out and all around, whooping and hollering. I work long hours; part of the 15 months it’s taken me to write “Freak,” I worked at nights. My job was stressful, and my outside responsibilities have grown increasingly stressful, too. Writing often has to take a back seat, whether I like it or not.

“Freak” was also a brand new world. Brand new characters. A new landscape for writing, a new mythology to master – one that kept changing in my mind, so the story would have to be changed to accommodate it. I was getting to know all of the people, places, and things in this new and exciting place that I was beginning to fall in love with. And then there was the science behind it all. Because I love writing speculative fiction, but there’s always the Scully to my internal Mulder – I have to be able explain why even the most outlandish ideas in my story have even a modicum of scientific possibility. If I can’t explain it, I can’t write it.

My originally idea morphed time and again, but in the end, the center of it remained unchanged. I wanted to write a book targeting young adult readers, where the protagonists are gay, but the fact that they’re gay isn’t the central focus of the story. It’s a secondary plot line, sure, because it’s something they have to acknowledge and try to deal with, but I didn’t want to write a “gay” book, or a book “for gay kids.” I wanted to write a BOOK. You know – a regular spec fic adventure story. Just with two lead characters who happen to be gay. And I also wanted them to be the HEROES, for a change, instead of the sidekicks to the guy and girl who eventually triumph over evil, fall in love, save the day. Like in the Mortal Instruments books – I love the relationship between Magnus and Alec, and thought they were a million times more interesting, complicated, and engaging than the “heroes,” Clary and Jace.

Anyway…am I happy with “Freak of Nature”? Yes. I’m sure I’ll find a million faults with it every time I look at it, because like most writers, I’m my own worst critic. But I’ve got my beta readers reviewing it, and like I said, today I begin the Great Agency Hunt to see what we can make happen next. Yay, me!

And what does this mean for the last Brethren book? I have more time now to dedicate to it — in fact, with NaNoWriMo coming up in November, I’ve decided to allot that time to firing out my draft for the book. I already have some of it finished, but I need to go back and catch myself back up on the previous books so I can pick up where I left off.

A special thank you to my readers for being patient with me, and hanging in there. Y’all are the best, and it’s you more than anything that keeps me inspired and imagining the possibilities.

How to Write A Book – By Me

I think I’ve finally figured out my methodology for writing a book. First, I come up with a good idea, and write it down, then spend some time fleshing it out. Next, I think too hard about it, decide my original idea sucks, cut most of it, come up with a new idea involving the same characters and general premise, then write it down and spend the next couple of weeks fleshing it out.

Then I decide that sucks, so I cut some of it out, then tinker with it some more, and, using the same general premise and characters, along with some of the ideas, I come up with another idea. Then I flesh that out.

Then I decide the whole damn thing sucks, I’m a failure at coming up with original ideas and have been a fool all along for thinking I could write a grocery list, never mind a book, and I drink some Moscato and feel sorry for myself.

Then I think some more about it because dammit, I’ve fallen in love with my characters, and so I figure out some more plot points and start tinkering again, and then, while looking back through old drafts of the idea, decide my original idea wasn’t so shitty, after all, and maybe there’s hope for me yet, so I decide to start working with that again.

And there you have it, folks. My method for writing a book…or in this case, outlining one.

Hate the system, not just #AskELJames

Bashing E.L. James on Twitter isn’t the answer. She didn’t make millions of the 50 Shades books single-handedly. No unestablished author reaches that level of financial success on their own. She has a literary agent who pimped out her work, a huge publishing company willing to pay for it — and pay to overhype it ad nauseum. There are bookstores and retail vendors (both online and brick-and-mortar) only too willing to take top dollar from publishers to prominently display and promote her work. And let’s not forget our own culpability in her success, too, as we are part of the general public who, having been saturated by media about her books, believed the hype, bought them rabidly and lined up in droves to see the movie adaptation.

Hating on authors like E.L. James for profiting off a system that rewards what is marketable (by the PUBLISHER’S definition) over what is well-written doesn’t solve the problem. As consumers, we need to put our money where our mouth is — or where our Twitter feeds are, in this case. Demand more from publishers, bookstores, retail outlets. Don’t settle for what they tell us is “good to read.” Don’t just buy what’s on so-and-so’s “best seller” list. Don’t let these big “NY” publishers take you by the hand and lead you to books THEY think you should read — books they WANT you to read only because they’ve sunk a lot of money into promoting them because they fill a very specific, proven marketing niche, and not out of any real confidence in the author or the work.

Find out for yourself — try books from small presses, independent authors, midlist and new authors at bigger publishers. There are thousands of us out there — literally tens of thousands of hidden gems and undiscovered talents to help broaden your literary horizons, authors with amazing stories just waiting to entertain you.

Think outside the Fifty Shades box and put your money to work. THAT’S what keeps hacks like James and her poorly written work where it belongs — and NOT on bookstore shelves, on movie theater marquees, and in million-dollar returns in her publisher’s bank accounts. #takebackyourbookstore #fictionrevolution #askELJames

Deal signed with Etopia Press for The Netherworlde Series

I’m super-stoked to announce that I have accepted a three-book deal with Etopia Press for my paranormal-romance trilogy, The Netherworlde Series. The books will follow Jason Sullivan, a young man murdered in cold blood and resurrected as the slave of a sadistic demon, who must fight to reclaim not only the life he lost, and the woman he loved, but also his very soul.

FORSAKEN, Book One in The Netherworlde Series is slated for release in September, 2015. I’ll be posting more information as soon as it’s available, but for now, will share with you this teaser trailer for the book!

DARK THIRST reissued for Kindle!

dark thirstThanks to the eagle-eyed readers who let me know that Dark Thirst wasn’t up for sale in ebook anymore, I was able to contact my publisher and they’ve reissued the title for the Amazon Kindle!

Here’s your chance to read the book that launched the Brethren Series — nine volumes so far, and still going strong! — and that Romantic Times Book Reviews called “new twist on the vampire legend, filled with cultural differences and the challenges facing a deaf-mute hero” and “a fascinating and unique romance.”

Check out an excerpt from Dark Thirst here, and download for your Kindle today for only $3.19 here!

Premade book covers – No one needs to know but you

Why haven’t I ever looked into pre-made covers before now? In the past, I’ve hired some very talented graphic artists to create covers for some of my titles. I’ve also designed and created my own, using my serviceable, albeit limited, knowledge of Photoshop. In both cases, I’ve also had to rely on my own ideas for what would constitute a good cover, and provided input on subject matter and layout suggestions.

To be honest, that ain’t my forte. If I had any eye for graphic art, I’d be a graphic artist, and while I’ve done some design work in the past (and have definitely seen so-called “professionals” whose work is worse than mine), I don’t consider that to be where my true talent even remotely lies.

When I get my hair cut, I like my stylist to be imaginative, to look at my face shape, to listen to my preferred regimen for hair care and style, and then use their creativity to come up with what they feel would work best for me. I used to live by the motto that if I came out of a salon looking pretty much like I did walking in, the stylist didn’t do his or her job right.

I have come to realize I expect the same level of creative liberalism from my cover artists. I like dinkering with Photoshop, but after spending much of this week exploring the immense and varied offerings of premade covers out there, I realized I don’t know enough to even begin to compare with some of them. I also realized that, for all of the input I might offer in terms of commissioned layout, characters, background, etc., I know jack shit about these things, and ought to trust them to the professionals in whom I am investing my money.

So I’m shopping for premade cover artwork to replace the lackluster cover I doctored on my own for “Darkness Falls,” book 10 in the Brethren Series. Even better, I may have stumbled across a series of three premade covers that would be perfect for a new series — a series I got the idea for, having seen those covers.

I know premades aren’t for everyone, but trust me — there are some immensely talented artists out there with keen eyes and great senses of style and art direction. If you’ve got a book you’re indie publishing, I highly recommend checking this option out first before commissioning a specific work you have in mind. They’re the professionals. Trust them. And best of all, most are surprisingly affordable.

Out of print, not out of luck

I had a moment of depression tonight to realize my book, “Dark Thirst” is out of print. I had a reader contact me through Goodreads, asking if it was available in ebook. I found this kind of odd, since it hasn’t been available in paperback for some time, outside of used copies, but has sold pretty well in both Kindle and Nook formats since its release. But when I went to both Amazon and BN.com, I realized to my dismay that my reader was right — it’s no longer available.

Which kinda sucks, considering it launches my entire Brethren series, and is considered by a lot of fans to be the best book of the bunch. (I have a harder time choosing the best from among them — too much like choosing your favorite from among your kids.)

So I have an email asking “Hey, uh…what’s up?” out to my former editor at Kensington, the publishing company who’d released both “Dark Thirst,” and its sequel, “Dark Hunger.” We’ll see what, if anything, I hear in reply. I suspect the book is out of print — the literary equivalent of purgatory, or limbo. If so, I’m going to try to get my rights back to it and go from there.

Ironically, this discovery comes on the heels of me deciding to draw the Brethren series to a conclusion with my current work in progress, the tenth installment, “Darkness Falls.” I’ve enjoyed the ride with Brandon, Lina, and the gang over the years, and love the connection I’ve found with so many readers who have invested so much time, energy, and emotion into the Brethren world. But before I end the series, I want to make sure it’s available to those who want to read it — in its entirety, and that includes “Dark Thirst.” One way or the other, it will be available to readers again in the immediate future.

I’ll keep you posted.

5/5/2015: Update

After corresponding with my former editor at Kensington, I have been assured that “Dark Thirst” will be available for sale in ebook formats very soon. Not sure why it was pulled in the first place, but I suspect it’s because it’s been eight years since it’s initial release. That’s a long shelf life, even for an ebook.

I’ll post an update once “Dark Thirst” is available again, and plan to have a hella huge Grand Re-Launching Party once it does! Stay tuned!

Of singing rabbits and Indiana Jones: An Earth Day Retrospective

Earth Day, 1990: The 20th anniversary of the Earth Day celebration. It was kind of a big deal because the world wasn’t so eco-friendly or eco-smart back in those days, but we were starting to try a little harder, and making some progress. And at my high school, for some unknown reason, the Adults in Charge let me write and direct a series of short plays commemorating the occasion, and these were then (even more astonishing) performed before the entire student body.

I actually dusted off and tinkered with one of those plays several years later, and it was selected for performance as part of the Western Kentucky Playwrights Festival in Murray. It featured two teen boys, best friends since childhood, but polar opposites in personality, talking about how one boy had knocked up his girlfriend. There were liberal political statements galore in both the Earth Day, and later the Festival versions of that play. Most not particularly subtle, because well…I’m not. I wish I could find the script for it. Both times it was performed, the actors portraying the characters did great, as memory served, and really brought my story to life. That remains one of my proudest moments as a writer.

Then, of course, we had the “main show,” a satirical piece which, as memory serves, had a princess, a bunch of singing rabbits, a witty narrator who lipsynced Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, and Indiana Jones, barreling onstage from the back of the packed auditorium to the blaring sound of the iconic theme music. Yeah, it didn’t make a lot of sense, and I probably violated all kinds of copyright laws. But the crowd enjoyed it. LOL, that, too, remains a pretty proud moment.

And that’s what why Earth Day always makes me smile.