Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 1

*I now have an official author page on Facebook. You can find the link in the sidebar. I'm also on Twitter, if you haven't already linked up with me.

It's countdown time until my science-fantasy novel Trefury: Mendi's Curse is published (coming Sept. 2014). Continuing to explore my research and writing process for this novel, I'm going to share some of the music I listened to while writing the story.

This first song is "You Can Still Be Free" by Savage Garden. It's a beautiful, emotional cry for hope and it fit perfectly the opening chapter for one of my main characters, Thssk. Thssk is at a point of little to no hope, he's in hiding, and he wants everyone else to leave him alone. He's had some major disappointments, like the near destruction of his kind, and his long-standing estrangement from his human wielder. Thssk is an ancient, powerful creature, but he is also vulnerable. By the end of the chapter, Thssk comes out of hiding with a vengeance. Not just proactive, but a definite force to be reckoned with. His little light of hope is enough to carry him forward.

Everyone goes through low moments, times when we feel we can't take one more step, that we have nothing left to give. Tragically, some people choose to end their life when they hit rock bottom, or they quit life and hide. It takes courage to keep on going, to take that one more step, even if it's a baby step. Life is full of disappointments, rejection, hardship, and pain and sometimes when we're crumpled up at the bottom of a figurative ravine we can't see a pathway out, or we don't notice that the sky is still blue above us, or pay attention to the pretty wildflower growing an arms-length away. We are focused inward, nursing our pain. It's when we take the effort to look outside ourselves that we can find a hand grip to get out of the ravine. Maybe it's through helping someone else climb, maybe it's by taking a different path, maybe we have to admit that we were wrong and make retribution or start over.

I've been at the bottom of a ravine many times. That is why I could write about Thssk and get into his character. His overall arc deals with conquering his past demons and not only moving forward, not only reaching the top of his ravine, but finally flying high as he was always meant to.

Question for you:
What do you do to pull yourself or others out of an emotional ravine?

Previous Behind the Scenes Posts:
Forbidden Without Knowing Why
Let's Talk Hair

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The End is in Sight

It's been a slow blogging summer, as you may have noticed. There are a couple of reasons, one being health related, but the second reason is much more relevant to you, my readers and friends: I'm getting ready to publish my first book.

It's not much of an announcement these days; thousands of people are publishing every year, whether traditionally or on their own. With a plethora of novels hitting the marketplace each year, the advantage belongs to readers. You can find just about anything you want to read. I have a handful of writer friends who have books that have come out or will come out this year. It's exciting to be among them.

Here are some of their books (in no particular order):

Coming Sept. 9th from Month9Books
Thyra Winther's seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can't reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she's doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.

Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal.

A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai's childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra's willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts -- to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her breast. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup's devotion and the fire of a young man's desire, the thawing of Thyra's frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing.

CROWN OF ICE is a YA Fantasy that reinvents Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" from the perspective of a young woman who discovers that the greatest threat to her survival may be her own humanity.

Released July 2nd from Forever Yours
Mala LaCroix has spent her whole life trying to escape her destiny. As the last in a long line of "witch women," she rejects the notion of spirits and hoodoo and instead does her best to blend in. But when she finds a dead body floating in the bayou behind her house, Mala taps into powers she never knew she had. She's haunted by visions of the dead girl, demanding justice and vengeance.


Landry Prince has always had a crush on Mala, but when Mala discovers his sister, murdered and marked in some sort of Satanic ritual, he wonders if all the rumors about the LaCroix family are true. Yet after Mala uses her connection to the spirit world to identify his sister's killer, he starts to form his own bond to her . . . a very physical one. As they move closer to each other and closer to the truth, Mala and Landry must risk everything—their families, their love, and even their lives.

Coming Aug. 5th from Forever Yours
Mala LaCroix sees dead people—really. After using her psychic gifts to catch a killer, she's locked in a psych ward and must strike a deal with the devil to secure her release. Apprenticed to a dark arts practitioner, Mala vows to free herself and save her loved ones from danger. But she doesn't know who to turn to when her crush on Landry Prince turns into something more serious.


Landry has sacrificed everything to protect Mala. A near-death experience changes him forever, and now he, too, possesses supernatural powers he doesn't understand. Mala and Landry must band together to defeat the dark forces—both human and otherworldly—who would use their abilities for evil. Even as they fall for each other, they must prepare to battle for their very souls . . .

Coming Sept. 9th from Forever Yours

Deep in the Louisiana bayou, Mala LaCroix cannot escape the mysterious things she's seen. Haunted by her otherworldly past, she only wants to hide her special abilities and care for the man she's come to love. But the dark swamp she calls home holds more than just Mala's secrets, for a killer is leaving behind ghosts trapped between worlds, hungry for vengeance . . .

Landry knows Mala could never turn her back on those in need. It's part of what attracts him to her. But now that he's wrestling with his own demons-and losing-he fears that just being near the woman he loves endangers her life. And that traps him in a terrible dilemma: leave Mala alone to catch a murderer by herself or stay close-and risk entangling her in the brutal battle for his very soul.

Coming July 22nd from St. Martin's Griffin
Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon's lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet's leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don't want her running—they want her subdued.

Released Feb. 2014 by T.J. Loveless

After a bloody tour in Iraq, all Karen Barnes wants is a simple life, surrounded by horses and the mountains of Wyoming. But when a stranger tries boarding a famous horse worth millions at her stable, Karen grows suspicious that the horse has been stolen.When her worse fears are confirmed and her life is threatened, her instinct for survival kicks in. But things are far worse than she could have even imagined when she discovers that the theft is just a coverup for espionage.

With the lives of those she cares for at stake, can she find the courage to fight one more battle, or will the violence and carnage tear her to pieces?

Released Jul. 7th from 7DS Books

(Anthology, including author Darke Conteur.)

slay verb (used with object), slew, slain, slay·ing. 1.to kill by violence. 2. to destroy; extinguish... A Slayer has but one purpose. 7DS Books debuts the newest collection of short stories in SLAYERS. Seven short story missions of your not so typical slayers taking on highly unusual targets. These captivating stories slice through tales of aliens, super slugs, demons, and beyond. Did that say super slugs? Yes. Read something dripping in fresh plots and bizarre characters.

Released Mar. 1st by Elephant's Bookshelf Press
To be human is to have regrets, to question decisions, even to doubt our own abilities and capacities. Whether it’s because of a path not taken or a decision made for selfish or – perhaps worse – unselfish reasons, we all have had moments and decisions we regret. We might regret not recognizing an opportunity. In the end, the choices we make help shape our future. The final anthology in Elephant’s Bookshelf Press’s “Seasons Series,” Winter’s Regret includes stories from P.S. Carrillo, Liz Coley, Sakura Q. Eries, Morgan George, Michelle Hauck, Kelly Heinen, Amanda Hill, Precy Larkins, Robert Wayne McCoy, Mindy McGinnis, A.T. O’Connor, Jeff O’Handley, Paul Parisi, Matt Sinclair, A.M. Supinger, Charlee Vale, and Cat Woods.

Released Apr. 23rd from Createspace
Lucy London puts the word genius to shame. Having obtained her PhD in microbiology by the age of twenty, she's amassed a wealth of knowledge, but one subject still eludes her-people. The pendulum of passions experienced by those around her both confuses and intrigues her, so when she's offered a grant to study emotion as a pathogen, she jumps on the opportunity. When her attempts to come up with an actual experiment quickly drop from lackluster to nonexistent, she's given a choice: figure out how to conduct a groundbreaking study on passion, or lose both the grant and her position at the university. Put on leave until she can crack the perfect proposal, she finds there's only one way she can study emotions-by experiencing them herself.

Enter Jensen Walker, Lucy's neighbor and the one person on the planet she finds strangely and maddeningly appealing. Jensen's life is the stuff of campus legend, messy, emotional, complicated-in short, the perfect starting point for Lucy's study. When her tenaciousness wears him down and he consents to help her, sparks fly. To her surprise, Lucy finds herself battling with her own emotions, as foreign as they are intense. With the clock ticking on her deadline, Lucy must decide what's more important: analyzing her passions...or giving in to them?

(no picture available yet) Dark Light by Rick Pieters
Coming this Fall from Cliffhanger Press

Carter Collins doesn't much like the taste of fame or his glamorous, gay Hollywood life, and his father's stroke hands him the reason to leave—to return home and help. No more spotlight. Just family, old friends, the family business . . . and interdimensional aliens staging a hostile takeover.

Avebury, Ohio has a new evangelist who's silencing opposition as he builds his tabernacle, and it was no stroke that felled Carter's father. The Reverend's prayer cubes can kill or control. Now Carter finds his mother clutching one, ready to sign over the family's TV station and hand the preacher the pulpit he seeks. This evangelist is a Trojan horse for sinister beings not of this Earth.

Aided by a discarnate guide, Carter pieces together the real reason he's here. The town protects a prime portal, an entry point for Earth's life-force energy. That gateway needs a guardian against invaders who would invert the energy and plunge the planet into a new age of darkness. If Carter accepts his role as guardian, he'll draw in friends, family, even his life-partner. This time, the spotlight could well mean his death, or theirs. But not accepting it could be much worse.

Coming Aug. 3rd on Amazon KDP Select
Set sail with Captain Carvin on four voyages on the magic seas of Ryuu.

He faces pirates early in his career. The King sends a sorceress with him on a voyage to a far land to recover precious artifacts. He must deliver the King's sister to her future husband through treacherous seas. Years later, he is reunited with the sorceress on a scouting mission in a sea controlled by the enemy.

Coming Nov. 15th wherever ebooks are sold
Intergalactic trader, Ven Zaran, contracts for a cargo that takes him to one of the few non-Confederation worlds. It is a danger he thinks he is ready for, but in a flash his ship is seized and half his crew arrested on minor charges. With corruption at every level of government, Ven has to resort to more drastic measures to free his ship and crew. He's fought gangsters, pirates, and false charges before, but taking on a corrupt planet might be more than he bargained for.

(no picture yet) Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette
Coming 2014 from Elephant's Bookshelf Press

Everyone needs a little magic in their lives

Twelve-year-old Billy Bobble and his best friend Suzy Quinofski didn't mean to change the universe. Billy just wanted to find a way to help his hoarding, schizophrenic mother, and maybe impress a coven of older girls in high school. Suzy wanted to help her friend and cling to her last remnant of childhood: a belief in magic. None of this would be noteworthy if Billy weren’t a quantum physics genius, and Suzy his equal in microbiology. Together they make a real, working, magic wand and open a door to the Quantum World, where thoughts create reality, his mother isn't crazy, and all things – good and bad – are possible.

Everyone's publishing journey is unique, including mine. Right now, I'm finishing up my edits based on copy editing feedback from someone else, and then I'll start going through the proofreading and formatting process. My cover artist is already at work, and if everything goes as planned, my first book will be out in September.

When we pick up a book to read, we really don't think about how long it took the author to write and polish their story. We don't think about how long it took them to publish through a traditional publisher, or to do all the edits and formatting in order to indie publish. No, we pick up a book and devour it within a very short time. And while we read, we're oblivious to the author's long hours, tears or anger, triumph over writer's block, or the many parts they've torn out or rewritten. We see only the finished product. We read it. Then we move on to the next book. As readers, we're spoiled and we take a lot for granted.

A little while back I was looking through the books on my bookshelf, checking out how other people have designed and formatted their novels, and I got thinking about all the books I've read over the last five years. How many of them do I want to go back and reread? Which characters still stick out in my mind? Which situations or worlds would I want to revisit? It seems like people grab a book, read it, and then hurry on to the next new thing without ever looking back. Ignore your To-Read pile for a moment and ask: which books that you've read recently would you like to go back and revisit?

Maybe it's just me. As a reader, I only buy books I've already read and want to reread (the library is my friend). This is mostly due to money, but I think not having a large budget for books is a blessing in disguise, because I don't have the temptation to spend frivolously on books I may end up not liking or which were cool for a one-time read. You gain favorite, trusted authors. You find yourself quoting those books, or going back to them to fulfill a special emotional niche.

As a writer, I haven't focused on speedily churning out novel after novel after novel (even though I have plenty of completed first drafts waiting to be polished), and I don't intend to. My goal is to write rereadable books and I hope that my first one will be a novel people will want to revisit again and again, that you'll discover something new each time you read the book. So what does that say about my debut novel? No, it's not an easy-breezy, consume-in-one-afternoon read. It's the type of book I like to read, and a type which most of my beta readers and critique partners have said they like to read.

Taking this step to publish is huge. My dad died this past April from cancer. He was brilliant, but very few people knew it. He was a modest man, a man of great ideas and solutions. He just had one problem: he was good at starting things and coming up with the ideas, but he wasn't good at finishing those projects or promoting his ideas. During his last days he expressed his regret over and fought to stay alive in order to finish some of those things. The moment he relaxed, realized he'd run out of time, and let go of those tethers, he passed away. It taught me that I was in danger of doing the same thing. Oh, I didn't have a stack of unfinished first drafts leering at me, but I was terrified of actually publishing, of actually finishing a book as far as anyone can finish it. So, I set a publishing date and notified the right people, got to work again, and heart-in-throat I'm now nearing the end.

Thank you again for being a blog follower and for sticking with me even though I didn't have a product for you to read yet. That's about to change, and I hope that if you choose to read this book or any others that come after it, that you feel comfortable approaching me to talk about it, or about the writing process. I do have some more in-depth Behind-The-Scenes posts coming up, as well as a few other things that go with a book launch. In the meantime, check out the books by my friends and stay tuned for further updates.

My questions for you this week are: Have you ever conquered a fear, or are you working on conquering a fear right now? What was/is it and do you feel stronger now?

Or - What are your favorite books to reread? If you're a writer, how does knowing the long writing process intimately affect how you approach reading?