Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, JA Wood, Publishing, Shifting Isles

A Year of Excess

Wow. 2015. What a year! And I can’t believe it’s about to end already. Where has the time gone? I swear it was just yesterday I was packing up 2014 files at work to store away, and now I’m about to do it all again.

As for writing? That’s been a rollercoaster all on its own. It certainly didn’t help that life was seriously getting in the way all the while…

 

Excessive Anxiety

To people who have never experienced shyness or social anxiety, it’s difficult to explain just how debilitating it can be to try to be social. Add in any other layers to this anxiety, and it can be downright earth-shattering. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store requires an internal pep talk, deep breathing, and a whole lot of hurry.

It can be terrifying to go through the day feeling like you have a spotlight trained on you at all times, when all you want it to just curl up in a dark corner in the safety of your own house and hide away from the world. You don’t want to be seen. You don’t want to be acknowledged. You definitely don’t want to have to interact with anyone for any reason whatsoever.

That’s not to say I’ve been a complete hermit. I did get up and go to work every day, but it was robotic. Habit. Familiar. Fifteen years of going to the same office every day made it easier to stick to that routine without having to talk myself into it each morning. I did go to the grocery store, because it was necessary. Other than that, I pretty much stayed home. Home was safe. Home was comfortable. Home was my own familiar territory where I could be myself and not have to constantly put on a mask for other people and pretend to be something I wasn’t.

Through all that, I could turn to my stories for solace and escape, except for one problem:

 

Excessive Writer’s Block

Gah! How completely frustrating! After having written Return to Tanas (Shifting Isles, Book 3) in pretty much a matter of weeks, it then took me over a year to complete the next book, Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4), which is due out at the end of this month. I struggled with this one to the point that I almost threw my hands up and quit. I just could not get the plot to come together. It was almost unbearable to reach the point at which I realized the story wasn’t working and demanded a complete rewrite.

So, I finally gave in and did a rewrite. Scrapped some 50,000 words (half a novel), and started over entirely from scratch.

Twice.

Then, thank the gods, it finally started to come together. Move a few key scenes to different plot points, and what a difference! The character arcs and plot progression finally flowed the way they were supposed to. After battling this one for over a year, Broken is finally and blessedly finished and about ready to be released. Now, of course, I’m way behind on the writing schedule I had set for myself early in the year, and though I know it’s not true, there’s a part of me that’s inclined to blame that at least partially on…

 

Excessive Work Hours

For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week at my day job. No lunch breaks. I pretty much park myself at the desk and I’m there until closing, eating like a Hobbit (every two hours) between answering phones and writing up invoices. I’ve done this schedule before, and I’ll probably do it again, whether I like it or not.

Alright, so, it’s not quite as bad as I make it sound. It does pay the mortgage. It does pay the bills. It does give me a definite sense of security and familiarity. I don’t take lunch breaks mostly by choice — it’s just easier to be there all day rather than leave my customers waiting, easier to be there rather than coming back from a break and trying to play catch-up. Still, it’s exhausting. For a person who thrives on solitude and silence, being in a noisy environment all day long, especially with the constant drone of conversations layering over one another, it leaves me at the end of the day with a bone-deep ache for peace and quiet.

It also leaves me with little time to take care of things for myself. Even just trying to get to the dentist or the chiropractor can be a challenge. And one thing I’d been wanting to do all year, but hadn’t managed, was to go visit my old high school so I could take my English teacher, Ms. Mayfield, a copy of one of my books. Though I was always the math wiz in school, and never thought I’d pursue a hobby or a career in writing, Ms. Mayfield helped foster a deep and long-lasting love for philosophy and the written word. Finally, just the other day, I had an opportunity to stop by the school. I didn’t get to visit long, but to see her again was so cool. She has such a passion for words, something I’ll never forget. And to see the smile on her face when she had my book in her hands — that made all the struggles worth it. Ms. Mayfield is one of those teachers who makes you love school, who makes you excited to learn, and she’s definitely a person I’ll treasure forever.

But, after a bunch of hugs, smiles, laughs, and shared memories, I had to get back to work. The office was a disaster when I got there, and a bit overwhelming, but I managed to get everything righted and caught up and then finally take a breather when I found a few minutes of quiet.

One of the perks of working for the family is that I’m allowed to write in my downtime. When the phone gets quite and the flow of invoices slows down, I can fire up the laptop and knock out a few thousand words, if I’m lucky. I’d never be able to get away with that working anywhere else. And for a while I really thought I was going to be stuck having to find another job until we started getting…

 

Excessive Good News

Thanks to the very nasty divorce my mother put my father through a few years ago, the family business wound up with an obscene amount of debt in order to buy her out. We’ve been teetering on the edge of collapse because of that for so long, there wasn’t even a tunnel, let alone a light at the end. Every day I woke up thinking this would be it, that we’d lose everything, that I’d lose my house, that I’d lose my writing (alright, so I’m a bit dramatic). Then, this year, everything turned around.

Debt still there? Yes, but suddenly it’s more manageable. The bills are all paid. I don’t have this terrifying stack sitting beside my computer anymore. I sit at my desk and look around helplessly because I have nothing to do. No budgeting to plan. No bills to decide which to pay and which to let go another month. No stressing over how to shift things around to make sure my employees get paid first. The To-Pay slot in my filing rack is empty. It’s so weird! And after having put myself on voluntary cut pay for almost two years, I finally got my regular wage back, so I’m saving money again. No more fretting about losing my house, my sanctuary, my safe space where I can be alone with my characters and forget the world for a while.

But not having to stress over work meant that there was suddenly all this new space in my brain to worry about other things, which meant my anxiety spiked. Until, one day, I finally got angry, put my foot down, and decided to make a change. First discovering and then attacking the root of my anxiety meant I could finally see a possibility of life — not just existence but life — in my future. Which led to…

 

Excessive Happiness

Now, if you had asked me, any time prior to a few months back, if it were possible to be excessively happy, I’d have laughed in your face. Excessively happy? No such thing, right? What could possibly be so bad about being too happy? Was it even possible to be too happy?

Oh, yes. It’s possible. It’s so incredibly possible.

Once I decided to do something for me and started moving forward, the happiness started out exquisite. I hadn’t felt true happiness in so long that it was such a relief! Finally, I was starting to feel alive!

The happiness was so intense that it was almost erotic. I would lie on the couch on a day off work, just staring out the window with a big smile on my face, almost (and I never in my life thought I’d use this word in a serious manner) writhing with pleasure just from being so damned happy.

After a few days of this, it got to be overwhelming. I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, giggling. After two weeks, it became such a burden that I found myself wishing for sadness or anger or even numbness just to have an emotional break!

Eventually the happiness tapered off to a sense of contentment. Things moved forward, I took some necessary steps, and I had high hopes for the future.

Then I wound up with some time off work to recover from an operation, and I went into it thinking this would be exactly what I needed. A nice little break from work, some quiet time at home, a chance to get caught up on my writing and editing. Ah, yes, I was definitely looking forward to it. What I was not expecting, however…

 

Excessive Boredom

Yeah, so…being at home, post-op, sounds like a nice relaxing time in theory, but reality was a bit different. I wasn’t in much pain, but I was so damned exhausted while my body healed that I couldn’t seem to get my brain out of a fog. I had eleven straight days of not having to go into the office to look forward to, and suddenly I had nothing to fill them with.

I couldn’t write. I tried. Oh, believe me, I tried. And I knew I had so much to do in order to get back on schedule, but I just could not get my brain to properly engage. So, I took a break from trying, and tried to read instead.

Couldn’t do that, either. I couldn’t focus.

I did ultimately manage to put on a show and zone out while watching it, which provided a bit of a distraction, but even that didn’t hold my attention for long. So I wound up on the couch, staring at the wall, bored out of my gorram mind.

At any other time, I could easily spend a Sunday lying on the couch with nothing but my thoughts and characters to keep me company. I love that. It’s my favorite way to spend a weekend. But during post-op recovery, my brain couldn’t even handle that. So…I got nothing done. Ugh. All that productivity I was looking forward to, and none of it came to fruition.

Eventually, things stared to go back to normal. I went back to work — on restriction, which sucks (no hauling around cases of antifreeze for a while, dang it) — and got back to my stories. I finished the last of the editing and formatting of Broken that I’d been putting off, and the writing for The Five-Hour Wife (Shifting Isles, Book 5) is going well, so I should be just barely on schedule for the posted release dates I’d set for myself. That is, if I can keep on track while my imagination is bombarding me with…

 

Excessive Book Ideas

I was nice and focused on the Shifting Isles series, sticking to my schedule and looking forward to hitting my target release dates. Yet, in the meantime, I keep getting ideas for more books.

Sometime earlier this year, the J.A. Wood series popped into my head, and hit me with such intensity that I knew I’d have to ultimately write it (a series of books set in the world of the Shifting Isles, but taking place prior to the events in that series). Based on the ideas I currently have for it, this new series will probably fall somewhere in the 5-6 books range.

So far, anyway.

And then I got an idea for another new series, also taking place in the world of the Shifting Isles, but pulling in stories of some minor characters you’ll meet in the Shifting Isles books and delving deeper into their own stories. This will be the Matchmaker series, and is currently sitting at a total of three books.

Hopefully it’ll stay that way. For a while, at least. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to release and another to finish, so, I had better get to work. Which means, of course…

 

Excessive Coffee

Mmmm….coffee…..

I Novel, Inspiration, JA Wood, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Writing Therapy

I’m feeling a bit like a failure as a writer lately. Well, for months, actually. I’ve been more or less stuck on Book 4 of the Shifting Isles series since last November, and it’s driving me insane. I deleted 50,000 words, regained a fresh set of 50,000, and now even those aren’t quite working for me. I know exactly where the story needs to go, but I can’t seem to make the words travel from my brain to my fingers to the computer screen, and I don’t know why.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been writing a lot (well, comparatively speaking) in future projects, primarily in the J.A. Wood Series. Considering those books won’t be out for at least three years, and I’ve got a deadline set for Shifting Isles Book 4 in just about five months, you’d think I’d have my attention where it should be, but I can’t seem to drag myself that direction.

And just about the only thing I’ve written with any real urgency in the last several months was inspired by some real-life pain.

I’ve posted before about the fact that I originally got into writing as a means of dealing with the aftermath of having been raped. Putting those words down on paper was by far the best way for me to handle the trauma and get back to some semblance of a normal life. It was a much more effective technique than any session with a therapist ever was.

It seems like any time something bad happens, if I can get it down on paper, throw the problem at my characters, it becomes a more manageable and survivable thing.

Aubbie 3-13-01 to 7-13-15
Aubbie: 3-13-01 to 7-13-15

Last week, we lost our Jack Russell. She was 14 years old, and came to work with us every day. It was sudden, so we had no time to prepare. The void it left was devastating. No more little dog sitting on my lap on the way in to work, no more old lady chasing after her toy in the office and keeping the customers entertained. No more dog-sitting for Dad and having the little cuddle bug snuggled up against me all night in bed. No more belly rubs and rolling around on the floor. No more happy little smiling pant.

I sit here at my work desk, with her bed and her favorite toy right beside me, and I just can’t stand it.

But what did my mind automatically do? It threw the problem at my characters. In the midst of all the crying I did (and thank the gods, I apparently actually can cry!), I started writing a new scene that involved a character suddenly losing his dog the same way.

I felt like a bit of a fool at first, thinking the whole mental exercise was highly inappropriate, but after a few days of thinking it over, I simply had to get it down on my computer.

The problem automatically went to my go-to characters, Will and Alex. They’ve been with me from the very beginning of my writing experience, and someday they will actually see existence in print (in I: An Unconventional Love Story), but for now, they’re sort of this ever-present conscience and motivator and emotion dump for all things I can’t figure out on my own. I’ve probably sounded like a crazy person over the years, talking about Will and Alex as though they’re real people, but it’s simply what I have to do just to cope sometimes. To each, his own, right?

So I dumped the grief on my characters, wrote out the scenes, and instantly felt better. The pain was more manageable, the grief less debilitating. It was a way to channel the pain, acknowledge it, and honor the memories all at once.

And now I’ve also got a new element to tie into the J.A. Wood series, since Will and Alex make appearances in those books as well…

Yeah. My entire world pretty much revolves around my stories, if you couldn’t tell. There are days I’m really not sure how I even keep it all straight in my head. Now if only Will and Alex could kick my ass a little bit and get me back on track with Shifting Isles Book 4…

Inspiration, Shifting Isles

How the Grinch Stole My Writer’s Block

I haven’t really written much of anything since November. That’s a heck of a long and frustrating dry spell, especially since prior to that I’d been writing like mad (I wrote the first three books of the Shifting Isles series in as many months). About a month ago, it occurred to me that the reason I was so stuck was that I couldn’t connect with the main character in Book 4. I just couldn’t get inside his head for the life of me. There was nothing about him that was relatable or familiar for me personally, so all the writing felt wooden and uninteresting — which would certainly translate to wooden and uninteresting for my readers as well.

Once I realized that, I took the 50,922 words that I had managed to accumulate (read: scrape together) in that manuscript and deleted every single one of them. Started over. Went back to outlining and reconsidered every aspect of the plot.

So, for the last month, that’s what I’ve been battling. I went over my plot points, moved around some key scenes, found some nifty connections that I hadn’t considered before, built up a darker backstory and history between the characters, etc. With each new discovery, I felt better and better about the direction the story was taking.

But still I couldn’t quite fully connect with the main character.

Yesterday, while trying to turn my outline into a manuscript again, I was halfway through the opening scene when I got stuck again. I just wasn’t feeling the character, and I couldn’t figure out what it was going to take to really get inside his head.

It didn’t help that my office was a disaster of distracting noise…

(Wait…hold on…now we’re getting somewhere!)

So I had this character in a stressful situation, made worse by a growing headache. The frequent migraine was an element of the character from the very beginning of the thought process on this manuscript, and it rolled right into the new and improved version, so I just ran with it.

Of course, when it comes to writing a plot, you want to put obstacles in your character’s way, right? And what must certainly make things worse for a character with nasty headaches?

Well, light and sound, of course. Those always did it for me. Migraine = anything above absolute silence and perfect pitch black is just too much.

So I threw in some harsh lighting and an array of noises (slamming doors, people talking loudly, rush hour traffic, etc.), all to make things harder for my character when all he wants is to get home and treat his poor, throbbing head.

All he wants is to get away from all the noise, noise, noise, NOISE! (Thank you, Mr. Grinch)

And there it was. The entire key to unlocking my connection with the character, to make him more relatable, to make him seem more real to me. That little bit of myself that I could inject into him so that I could really get inside his head.

Noise sensitivity. Simple as that. And that was all it took. From there, I went nuts, and the first two chapters just exploded out of me. By giving him that one little element, he finally became real to me, and so much easier to write.

How I didn’t catch onto this sooner is beyond me. I’m constantly complaining about the amount of noise that surrounds me. On a daily basis, I’m assaulted by machines running, talk radio blaring, people chewing loudly, computers humming, people talking…

And people talking, and people talking, and people talking…

Seriously, why must people talk so damn much? And about nothing! And why must people assume that I have nothing better to do than sit and chat or listen to their incessant chatter? Why is it so inhuman of me to want to simply sit in peace and silence? Seriously, people, shut the mouth and pick up a book, for the gods’ sakes!

I really ought to be the Grinch for Halloween.

People talking: Hate. Hate. Double hate. Loathe entirely!

*deep breath*

Alright, rant over. But there it is. That little thing was all it took. Now I can finally make some progress on this book. I was seriously starting to freak out that the whole series was going to come to a grinding halt, but we’re back on schedule!

So why am I sitting here writing this on my work computer when I should be churning out manuscript pages on my laptop, you ask? Well, I may have accidentally deleted some files from my laptop, so it is currently in the capable hands of my trusty computer tech (thanks, Rob!), trying to restore the files. Thankfully, I didn’t manage to delete any story files (phew!).

So why not just try to write some pages on this handy work computer, you ask? Well, I may be a little bit of a habit fanatic, and writing on any other computer just isn’t the same. The shape and feel and level of the laptop is part of the writing experience, so I have trouble getting in the zone on any other computer.

I’m feeling a bit lost at the moment, quite frankly. Sort of like my child is out and expected home any time now and I’m anxiously pacing, waiting for that front door to open…

Inspiration, Lethean, Shifting Isles

Epiphany, Self-discovery, and Other Writerly Insights

10857995_1655437044682890_3877588118554457830_nThe more time I spend writing, the more I realize the truth in this statement. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about myself because of the writing process, and I keep having these little flashes of insight that jump out and surprise me. Sometimes, they even shock the hell out of me.

I recall expressing this very sentiment once, a few years back, about how I was learning about my own philosophical and emotional growth by watching how a particular character grew and developed over the course of writing her story. My sister’s response was, “Yes, but you wrote it, right?”

Right. Exactly. Which probably meant it should have been a conscious thing. Yet, the more I think about my writing, the more I realize there are things coming out that I never even really knew were in my head, and the meaning I’ve been able to derive from those things has impacted me in various ways over the years. Some, trivially. Some, of vital importance.

Somewhere in the middle range of that would be about where I’d put the insight I got tonight while thinking about the latest manuscript I’m attempting to wrestle out of my brain. After three solid months of flying over my keyboard and producing three complete 90-100k word manuscripts, I came to a screeching halt when I tried to attack the fourth. That was in November, and I’ve pretty much been dragging the brake pedal ever since. Four months of almost zero progress. Ugh.

It drove me nuts. (Alright, that’s already too many automotive-related metaphors. Clearly I’ve been working in the family business too long).

I feel a massive void when I get writer’s block, like a piece of my soul is missing. It gets to the point that I want to tear my hair out and throw a fit because I can’t understand why. And, of course, I can’t just step back and let it go, give myself a breather, and come back to it later. I keep trying to force it, which, of course, never works.

So, I start looking for excuses or explanations:

-I’m not exercising enough, so maybe I need that to clear my head. Except, well, really, I’ve gotten along with my writing just fine without exercise before.

-I’ve been under a lot of stress at work for the last year. And that’s an understatement. But now that stress is (mostly) behind me, and has cleared a TON of space in my head. So it shouldn’t be an issue, right?

-I’m suffering a bit of a personal crisis, one that is difficult to talk about in the decidedly red zone in which I live. Hell, it’s the kind of thing that’s not even often accepted in blue circles; and, since I quite decidedly subscribe to neither of those colors, it leaves me feeling a bit stuck in the middle. But, surely, since my writing has always been an escape from real life, why should this one issue hold me back when others in the past have not?

-It’s this time of year. I always get stuck this time of year. Right? Maybe? No, maybe not.

-I’m too distracted by excitement over releasing The Prisoner at the end of the month. Yes, true, quite true, but even that shouldn’t really be stopping me from staying on schedule with the rest of the series.

Well, then, WHAT THE HELL COULD IT BE?!?!

Thus, we arrive at a moment, earlier this evening, whilst in the shower (and, really, why is it that those flashes of insight or plot inspiration always happen when one is covered in soap and nowhere near a pen or a keyboard?!?! *sigh*). All along, these last several months, I’ve been laughing at myself over the fact that I can see bits of myself in many of my main characters in this upcoming series, and was inwardly joking about which one most closely resembled me.

Then it hit me: The protagonist in the current manuscript is someone with whom I absolutely cannot identify whatsoever.

*blink dumbly*

*stare at the wall*

*bang head against said wall*

Bloody hells, why did I not realize this before?

Then, in a rush of tumbled thoughts that followed that insight, it struck me immediately, over the course of all my work, which books were easiest to write and which were most difficult.

Wanna guess which were most difficult?

Yeah, the ones with protagonists I just couldn’t get into, because it was unfamiliar territory.

And if I as the writer can’t identify with a character, how in seven hells am I going to make him or her convincing enough for a reader to identify with as well?

So, not counting the first few novels I wrote a few years back and which will never see the light of day, I started really thinking about my protagonists:

In The Lethean (Lethean Trilogy, Book 1), both Victoria and Landon are bookish and independent. *insert big glaring sign over my head that reads, “That’s me.”*

In Hale and Farewell (Lethean Trilogy, Book 3), Hale is part of a team out of necessity but is naturally an independent player. She likes to work alone. Yep. Me.

In The Prisoner (forthcoming work), Benash loves his routine. Even though he really hates it, he also loves it because it’s safe and reliable. Yep. Me for sure.

In S.P.I.R.I.T. Division (forthcoming work), Asenna is a neat freak, a bit OCD, and a perfectionist. Sounds familiar.

In Return to Tanas (forthcoming work), Graeden doesn’t like restrictions and regulations, especially when the prevent him from doing the right thing, or something he wants to do that would harm no one. As a libertarian / anarchist myself, that’s remarkably familiar territory.

In The Five-Hour Wife (forthcoming work), Jani is a reclusive writer with a side job that’s her true passion, and she idolizes talented individuals from a distance. Yeah, I don’t know anyone like that. *ahem*

And so on and so forth. Then I compare these to the two books so far that have given me the most trouble.

In Uncommonly Strong (Lethean Trilogy, Book 2), I had a remarkably difficult time writing Joseph and Sati’s story. Joseph I could semi-sorta relate to, but writing Sati was like pulling teeth. With tweezers instead of pliers.

Thomas and Spencer, on the other hand…

I loved writing that couple. I loved their quirks, their relationship, everything about them. Thomas and Spencer were so ridiculously easy to write.

For a while, I thought I was simply distracted by the dynamic of Thomas and Spencer because of a few personal quirks of my own, but tonight it hit me:

Thomas was the real hero of the story. Not Joseph. Thomas. The one who was always supporting Joseph and doing everything he could for the sake of Joseph’s happiness. The rock in the family, despite his own sufferings. The one who always put aside his needs and feelings in order to make sure everyone else was alright first. Thomas was the one in the hospital urging Joseph to hold on, and there was no way Joseph was going to survive that moment without his brother’s support.

Why the hell didn’t I write that story with Thomas and Spencer in the lead roles? Looking back, that would have made much more sense, and it all probably would have fallen together a lot more easily than it did.

Then I look at this current manuscript with which I’m struggling (Broken, Book 4 in the next series), and I realize that there is absolutely nothing about Daivid that feels familiar. Nothing with which I can identify.

No wonder writing him feels like pulling teeth all over again.

Clearly, I’m going to have to go through a few dozen more “What if” scenarios to see if I can’t tease out the right detail to make Daivid’s story work.

Because, if I can’t, then the rest of the series either falls apart or remains at a grinding halt.

And I am so ridiculously eager to get to the book and series that follow this one (gods, I must be insane, juggling all these story ideas in my head), that I simply must make this one work so that everything will tie neatly together and progress the story along.

Inspiration

The Writercoaster

One thing I’ve been learning over the last few years since I started writing — and what continues to strike me each time it occurs — is that creating is a ridiculously emotional experience.

You start out with an idea, and feel on top of the world. It’s the greatest idea ever. You’re super excited and can’t wait to see it come to life.

Then you hit the snags: the plot holes that won’t fill, the characters who won’t cooperate, the target word count that remains elusive, the research that returns a fact that makes your entire story unravel, etc. Then frustration sets in. This is the worst idea ever. Why are you even doing this? You must be out of your mind.

Suddenly, you find a solution. Aha! The pieces fall into place: changing a setting sparks the right scenario to fill in a plot hole, adding a bad habit to a character makes him more believable and throws in a subplot, adding or subtracting a minor character radically changes the mystery of the backstory, etc. You’re a genius! You’re excited again! This is going to be a masterpiece and you can’t wait to share it!

Then life gets in the way — work, money, families, relationships, etc. — and you either don’t have time to write, or you’re so plagued by stress that you just can’t focus. That source of happy escapism just isn’t quite enough to pull you away from reality, and when you try to sit down at the computer and type a few pages, nothing comes to you. You try to force it and it makes it worse. You finally just give up and walk away, wondering if you’ll ever see yourself write, “THE END.”

The next day, you wake up, an idea in your head before you even manage to get your stumbling, half-awake self out of bed to shut off the alarm. You head straight to the computer and start typing, and keep typing all day, charging ahead with the end in sight.

And then, it happens. You finish writing the climax, wrap up the little end bits, bring your hero to success, and type those last few words.

THE END.

Elation! Wondrous, marvelous joy! You’ve done it! Look at what you’ve accomplished! A whole book! Still a rough draft, yes, but a whole book! You’re amazing! You’re ecstatic! You can’t stop smiling, and maybe even laugh out loud at the computer screen.

Two seconds later, you find yourself sitting back with a joyful sigh of relief, and then it hits you:

Now what?

*stare at the screen, blink dumbly, scratch your chin*

 

On Monday night, I finished the first draft for the third book in my next series. I wanted to have at least the first three or four books written before I started editing the first book and preparing it for sale. Since it’s an extended fantasy series and I’m doing world building as I go, I wanted to make sure I could plant little pieces in each book that would hint back / forward to other books in the series.

Alright, so this was also an excuse to put off editing. I hate editing. That’s when the writing process really starts to feel like work, rather than fun.

I’ve got three complete rough drafts now, and once I finished the third, I was sorely tempted to right on to writing the fourth, rather than taking a break to go back and edit the first.

So, as I sat there on Monday night, thinking, “Now what?”, I couldn’t decide which way to go: on to the fourth, or back to the first?

I finally shut off the computer, post-book depression already settling in.

I went to bed, and couldn’t fall asleep because ideas for Book 4 kept bouncing around in my head, but then I started noticing so many elements missing that I knew I couldn’t dive right into it quite yet. I had some more outlining to do.

The next day, post-book depression hit even harder, and since then I’ve just been staring at my computer and my notebooks, and not adding a single thing to them.

This will probably last a few days, as it normally does, and then I’ll be back in the saddle, writing or editing, and back on the upswing of the coaster, excited about what’s coming up next.

To be followed, of course, by the inevitable frustrations.

“Gods, why am I doing this? What was I thinking? Write a whole book? A whole bloody book? I must be mad! I can’t do this! It’ll be awful. I’ll sound stupid. No one will like it!”

Which — also of course — will be followed by, “Gods, this is amazing! I love it! I have to share it! It’s brilliant! It’s wonderful! Look at what I’ve done!”

Up and down, up and down, every single time. I wonder if this is the kind of thing to which one ever gets used.

Inspiration, News

And then people happened…

Working in customer service has its ups and downs. Well, alright, maybe a few ups and a whole lot of downs, especially for an introvert like myself. On the positive side, it provides a lot of material with which to work when it comes to creating characters. On the downside, though…

Well, even after fifteen years of working as a service consultant in the independent automotive repair industry, there are some things about people that I still don’t understand:

1) People and their spending priorities

I see people spend thousands of dollars modifying their cars — paint jobs, rims, lighting, exhaust systems, stereos, spoilers, body kits, etc. — but they won’t spend $1000 in maintenance to keep their engines from blowing up. I just don’t get it.

2) And more spending contradictions

It’s amazing to me how often we’ll get a vehicle in, perform a general inspection, tell the customer the car needs $1000 worth of maintenance and it’ll be as good as new, and the customer replies, “Nope, I can’t afford $1000. I’ll just go trade it in and buy a new car instead.”

Alright … hold on … let me process that …

So you can’t afford $1000 one time, but you can afford $500 a month for the next six years, plus higher taxes, plus higher insurance, plus higher registration fees?

Did I miss something here?

3) People who self-diagnose wrong, and are shocked when we’re right

This happens all the time, but my favorite example comes from several years back. A man called and made an appointment to bring in his truck for an engine noise. When he arrived a few hours later, I could tell he was coming because I could hear his “engine knock” from over a block away. He pulled into the parking lot, lifted the hood, scratched his chin, and finally came inside to check in the vehicle for service, though he claimed he already knew the problem.

His diagnosis? A faulty air polluter valve.

All I could do was look at him and blink.

“I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing called an air polluter valve,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” he said with great confidence. “It’s an air polluter valve. Back of the engine. Looks just like a spark plug.”

At this point, I kept my mouth shut and just nodded along agreeably, but all the while, I thought, “Well, if it looks like a spark plug, don’t you think it just might actually be a spark plug?”

So, customer leaves, we diagnose the problem. Are you sitting down? It was a spark plug! Shocking! The vehicle had something over 100k miles and had never had a tune up, so we recommended a complete tune up and some other related repairs to get the vehicle caught up on its maintenance. The customer said he didn’t believe we were right but authorized the repair anyway.

When he comes to pick up his truck, before even coming into the office, he goes out to the parking lot, lifts the hood, starts up the truck, and is absolutely shocked that it’s running so smoothly. He came in and told me he couldn’t believe it. He was shocked. Speechless. It made no sense.

I just smiled and told him to have a nice day.

Stuff like this happens. All. The. Time.

4) People who’ve forgotten how to communicate properly

This one … oh, this one just gets me all riled up, because it happens almost daily.

Customer, delivery driver, salesman, or person passing through asking for directions — all of them come up to the door, and start asking me a question…

Before they even have the door all the way open.

Before they’ve even stopped to make sure I’m not busy with a customer or on the phone.

Before they’ve even bothered to see if they have my attention.

So they stand there, letting out the A/C or the heat, while I tear my mind away from whatever it was I was working on, and ask them to repeat the question, since I didn’t hear it.

Then they get mad at having to repeat themselves.

Really?

I mean, did I miss something in Life Etiquette 101, or Basic Common Sense? Why do people do this? The mind boggles.

5) People who do the above … but repeatedly

Yes, repeatedly. As in, over and over, but they still don’t catch on.

Someone will be standing at the counter in my office, and ask me a question. I don’t know the answer, so I start down the hallway toward the shop so I can find someone with an answer.

I’m halfway down the hall when I hear the person (customer / delivery driver / passerby / salesman / etc) ask another question, but because of the acoustics of the office and the hallway, I can’t make out anything other than noise.

I walk back into the office, trying to remember their first question, and ask them to repeat what they just said.

And — surprise, surprise! — they get mad at having to repeat themselves.

But, they repeat the question, I add it to my mental list of things to find out, and tell them I’ll be right back with an answer.

Guess what? They do it again.

So I go back to the office. Again. Ask them to repeat. Again. They get mad at having to repeat. Again. But they repeat, I again say I’ll find out, and head back toward the hall.

I had this happen six times in a row once, with one person, who kept asking me questions about his vehicle (which I couldn’t answer because the diagnostic hadn’t been completed yet so I had to go pester the technician [read: waste his time] by asking him before he was ready with his diagnostic notes). Even after six times, the man didn’t catch on, and it was all I could to hold my tongue.

Face, meet palm. Head, meet desk.

6) People who make contradictory demands

This comes in a lot of forms, but the most frustrating one is when a customer seems to assume that, just because I’m female-bodied, I must automatically be gifted with the ability to do twenty-seven things at once.

Well, I’m not. I can’t multitask so save my life, unless it’s a very, very good day. And the most difficult multitasking for me involves talking about one thing while typing up another. I just can’t do it.

Yet, somehow, people expect I can.

They’ll be rambling on at the counter, asking me questions, looking miffed when I don’t immediately answer, and all the while, they punctuate their mindless conversation with, “Don’t you have my invoice finished yet?”

Well, I might if you’d shut the hell up for two seconds so I can focus!

No, I don’t say that. But I certainly think it.

Then there are the people who come in and say they’re in a hurry, need their estimates written up fast so they can get to work. So, I scramble. I can whip out a new estimate quick when I need to. But then they start throwing a wrench into things.

“How come you haven’t made any coffee yet?” they ask as they stand by the coffee machine, looking personally offended that there isn’t any brewing.

“I’ll get to it as soon as I get a moment,” I say as politely as I can.

“Oh, and can you find out how soon they’ll look at my car?” they ask as I run toward the front door to get identification information off the car. To answer their question, I’d have to go out the opposite door and cross the entire length of the shop, which isn’t exactly conducive to getting their estimates prepared in a hurry.

“Oh, and I’ll need a ride to work,” they say, as though I could simply drop everything else I’m doing, besides trying to attend to all their needs, and leave other customers hanging.

Or, even worse, in an office full of people waiting to be helped: “I planned to have my neighbor come pick me up and take me to work, but that fell through, so can you run me over real quick? We have to leave right now or I’ll be late.”

All I can do is look around my crowded office and resist the urge to bang my head against the wall.

Salesmen are even worse in that situation. They’ll walk into my office, where I’ve got five people waiting to be helped, and look completely put out that I can’t ignore those five people and the phones ringing off the hook just to listen to their sales pitch.

“I only need ten minutes of your time.”

Yeah, well, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s not my time you’re about to waste here. It’s my customers‘ time, and that’s unpardonable. I’m not going to make them sit and wait while you try to sell me something I don’t need. Please, for the love of all that is holy, get out of my office and don’t come back.

Then there are the people who arrive before we open, sit in the parking lot, waiting for us to arrive, and before I’ve even had a chance to get the door unlocked to go inside, they start pelting me with questions.

“Can you take a smog right now? How much would a tune up cost? How soon could you get a particular part if you order it today?”

More blinking dumbly on my end.

Did you really not notice that I just got here? And haven’t even stepped inside yet? And have a locked door between me and my schedule book, between me and my parts catalogues, between me and the phone? How could I possibly answer your questions?!?!

Alright. Deep breath. Moving along.

7) People who expect magic

Scene: Small town, independent repair shop, Saturday afternoon, one hour until closing time.

Action:

Customer calls, telling me they’re on a tow truck and on the way to our facility (the only one open on Saturdays in this town, and almost in the county) with a 1995 Saab, and they need a fuel pump.

“I’m traveling through on vacation. I have to get back on the road today. You have one of those in stock, right?”

I blink dumbly, trying to get my mind to wrap around this question.

There are probably all of two Saabs in this entire county. No parts store in the area will stock parts for vehicles like that. Now, a late-model Chevy truck? Different story. Fuel pumps fail on those all the time, and everyone and his brother around here drives a Chevy truck, so every parts store stocks them. But a Saab?

And besides that, we’re not a parts store. We’re a repair shop. We work on all makes and models. We couldn’t possible even begin to stock something like that, when we don’t even have space to stock every possible oil filter for every possible vehicle. That’s what the parts stores are for.

“What do you mean you don’t have it in stock?” the customer asks in shock. “Back home in LA–”

Ah, yes. LA. Where everything is open 24/7 and Saabs are at least a tad more popular than they are here.

Should’a’ stayed in LA.

8) People who expect crystal balls and foretelling

Customers and vendors are definitely guilty of this, but the people who really take the cake are telemarketers.

I hate telemarketers. Loathe them. Despise them.

I’m going to say it again just because the very thought of them makes my blood boil.

I. HATE. TELEMARKETERS.

They call, they ask for the boss, who is always unavailable (even if he isn’t, I say he is, because, really, he doesn’t need his time wasted with sales pitches for things he doesn’t need — and yes, I’m allowed to do this, because he hates talking to them more than I do, and since I help him run the business and handle most of the finances, I almost know more than he does what products and services the business needs).

“I’m sorry, he’s busy with a customer right now,” I say as politely as I can muster. “Can I help you with something?”

“No, I need to speak to him, since he’s the owner…”

And then comes the inevitable question. I’ve yet to have a single telemarketer not follow up with:

“…Can you tell me exactly what time he’ll be available to chat? I’ll only need fifteen minutes of his time.”

Hmmm. Let’s see. Can I foresee a particular block of time when the boss won’t have customers to talk to, parts to order, technicians to supervise, estimates to calculate? Can I foresee a particular block of time when he’ll have absolutely nothing to do and be able to take your call?

I wish I could. Wouldn’t that be a neat trick? See the future. Hmmm….

Oh, sorry, I was daydreaming.

But, just like I don’t have a magic wand to make fuel pumps for 1995 Saabs appear out of thin air, neither can I predict the future.

It’s gotten to the point that I tell them that. “Sorry, I can’t see the future. I don’t know exactly when he’ll have no other responsibilities to address so that he’s free to take your call.”

Sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Yes, he’ll be free from precisely 1:03 to 1:07 in the afternoon on the 15th of March, twelve years from now. Why don’t you call back then, hmmm? Have a nice day.” Click.

Tempting. Someday I might just do it.

 

So, after days when all these things happen, I thank every god known to man for the ability to escape into my stories. Because, otherwise, I’d probably go insane.

Then again, there’s so much good material here.

Perhaps I ought to write a book…

Hmmm.

Maybe someday. Right now I’m elbow-deep in working on the next series. I’m so excited with where it’s going, and I just can’t seem to stop. I very nearly have complete first drafts for the first three books. One of these days I’ll have to pause writing so I can go back and start editing Book 1. That’s hard to do, though, because I’m enjoying writing them so much, and editing is such a chore. But, in the meantime…

Oh, there’s the phone ringing. Back to work, I go.

Please don’t be a telemarketer. Please don’t be a telemarketer.

Can you believe they’re calling on Saturdays now? Sheesh.

Counting down to closing time so I can go home and get some more writing done.

Did I mention I’m excited about this next series? 😀

 

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration

Take pains; be perfect

ad5fd8beb858b65c90fdcb0882b69842I found this image on Pinterest this morning, and though it has an element of humor to it, it also really strikes home on something that really bothers me about the modern world.

Where are all the men of the mind? Where are the people who actually care about what they do, and how they do it? Where are the people who believe in doing something, and in doing it well?

It’s so frustrating, on a daily basis, having to deal with people who have no competence whatsoever. I find myself doing other people’s jobs for them more often than not because they simply aren’t capable (or, even worse, just don’t care). It is such a rare and precious thing these days to encounter someone who actually does something well, and I tend to be almost worshipful of that.

So many of us stop at “just good enough” or the bare minimum. So few go the extra mile. So many do just enough to get by. So few take pains to do something completely and well.

Should we be perfect? Of course not. We’re human. That’s impossible. But there is an enormous difference between doing just enough and doing something with competence.

I’m guilty myself when it comes to certain things. I know that. I’ll be the first to admit it. But as I look out at the world, I find it becoming so rampant and all-encompassing that it’s utterly depressing.

Perhaps that’s another reason why I disappear into my stories, and idolize certain people. There’s no true craftsmanship anymore, except in rare occasions — and when I see it, I feel almost brought back to life.

As an example: I was walking around my local neighborhood one day, a few years ago, and passed by a house with the most exquisite concrete work I’d ever seen.

I know, a rather silly example, is it not? But completely true. Concrete, as a rule, doesn’t exactly inspire, but I was so struck by how beautifully this path and stairway was constructed that I actually had to stop and stare. I’d never seen anything like it done with such care and precision.

And the same can be applied to just about anything else we encounter on a daily basis. The saying “They just don’t make things like they used to” is painfully accurate. The same could also be said, not just for things, but for services. Actions and behaviors are done with minimal effort, just as things are made with minimal care and quality. But on that rare occasion when one finds something well-made, or a service well-provided, ah! Now there is something to treasure — perhaps even to celebrate.

Yet it remains such a rare thing, and the lack so disappointing. After spending an entire day in the company of the general public, as well as those who work in related industries and can’t seem to do their jobs to save their lives, at the end of the day I simply crave escape.

Thus, my stories. True, my characters aren’t perfect (indeed, they can’t be, or there would be no stories to tell), but they allow me to take a step back from a disappointing world and delve into something a little bit better, where I can encounter a phenomenal musician, or a dedicated security officer, or a precise scientist. For a few hours, I can turn my back on the dull, the mundane, and the “just good enough”, and immerse myself in the lives of people who truly care about what they do, and in doing it well.

This isn’t even restricted to the realm of work, either. The same can be said of relationships or just about any other aspect of life. I was watching Miss Austen Regrets last night, and one line in particular stood out to me: “My darling girl, this is the real world. The only way to get a man like Mr Darcy is to make him up.”

Whether it be within families or romantic relationships, people just don’t seem to take the time and care they once did. Everything is a matter of taking people for granted, or making assumptions, or not communicating, rather than really trying to be present for the people we claim to love. Mr Darcy seems not to exist in the real world because no one strives to be him — and by this, I don’t mean just someone like the character, but the general idea behind that sentence, in terms of all people: We have all these ideas of how families and relationships ought to be, but few of us seem to take pains to be those people for others, so neither can we find those people for ourselves.

Hence, again, I find people disappointing, and disappear into the lives of my characters, or the characters of others. Fiction gives the relief of being able to live, just for a moment, in the lives and with the people we’d wish to encounter in the real world, yet find sorely lacking. We devour works on brave adventurers and romantic heroes and daring achievers because we find those grand, inspirational, competent people missing from the real world.

So, yes, funny as it is, I wouldn’t even mind finding someone in the real world who was competent at adultery. At least it would be a competence! Something done well, if one can be said to commit adultery well. I suppose it’s possible, morality aside…

Alright, we won’t go there. Perhaps we should stick to competence in zoology. Anyway, moving along…

So, please, for the love of all that is holy, whatever you do — in your work, your studies, your relationships, your hobbies — take pains, and do it well. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but at least go a step beyond.

And for those who show competence, go the extra mile, and do things well, you have my eternal thanks and adoration. I would actually love to meet you and shake your hand.

In the meantime, I suppose it’s back into my fictional world I go. I have a date with a man who is trying to escape from prison.

 

 

[Post title is from Act I, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream]

Inspiration

Make It Worse

I’ve been reading a lot of books on story craft lately, each of which presents basically the same information but in different ways, such that one topic might befuddle me, whereas another will drive the same concept home.

In one of these books (and I apologize, I cannot recall at the moment precisely which), the thing that stood out most to me was the concept of adding conflict.

The author put it basically like this: You know how when you’re having a nightmare, and you’re running away, but you keep hitting obstacles, and the bad guy is always right behind you, and you can never seem to get more than a step ahead? That’s building conflict in your stories.

That really struck home for me because that right there is my every nightmare. I rarely dream, but when I do, it’s usually some god-awful terror of being chased or hunted. It’s always dark and hard to see; there’s always some dangerous figure behind me (who is either my birth mother or some faceless person, oddly enough); and I find myself running for my life.

The pavement turns to quicksand, so I can’t get my footing. The doors get stuck and won’t open until the very last moment as I’m trying to get away. The tight spaces get tighter until I can barely breathe and can hardly move. I run and I run and I run, but the dark figure is always right behind me.

Sometimes I have this nightmare of being in some sort of underground labyrinth of tunnels that are barely large enough for me to fit through, and I’m climbing up or sliding down or crawling through, desperate for an open space so I can breathe, desperate to run, and the figure is always there, chasing me.

Sometimes I’m out in the open, but it’s so dark I can barely see what’s ahead of me, and I’m running as fast as I can possibly go, but the ground is slick beneath my feet, or the laws of physics suspend, making concrete shift like sand or motion change such that my normal stride only takes me half as far.

Then I’m diving into some building with obstacles all around, and I’m trying to crawl through without making any noise, without knocking anything over, and trying to keep an eye out for the man with the gun, trying to get to the door before he does.

Running, running, running, always running, while I encounter shifting ground, closed doors, tight spaces, high fences, wild animals — one thing after another, building up the tension until I think my heart might burst and I wake up panting and shaking and practically in tears.

Building conflict. Ramping up tension. Adding stakes. All to answer the question: How can I make this scene worse for this character?

Phew! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a soothing cup of tea.

Because, of course, after the tension must come the release, but whether the release is victory or defeat — ah, that remains to be seen…

Inspiration, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles

The Prisoner

It’s amazing to me, even after five years of living and breathing made-up lives, that inspiration can come from the most unexpected places or in the silliest, simplest ways.

Now that I’ve got the next series — 14 books set in a fantasy world — more or less outlined, I’m diving into writing the first book, The Prisoner. Months ago, I’d already started putting down material for it, and got about 70 pages in when I hit a painfully hard brick wall.

The story just wasn’t going where I wanted, and I started losing interest. It seemed no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to flow properly. So, I set aside those 70 pages in a separate Fragments file and started over.

The second attempt didn’t go much better. It was an improvement, true, but still lacked the proper plot flow. So I stopped again. I was quickly digging myself the same grave in which I’d found myself while writing Uncommonly Strong, and after that disappointing experience, I certainly did not want to slog through the same frustration again. I wanted the exciting experience I’d had writing The Lethean, and especially Hale and Farewell: the kind of experience where the story just flows because you love the characters and know exactly where they’re going, even if some of the details surprise you along the way.

Once I finally got a proper outline done for The Prisoner, that helped quite a bit, but I still couldn’t make myself sit down and continue writing. My love for the characters had simply died, and I wasn’t moved to tell their story anymore (not even that of the female lead, and it was her character that triggered the original concept, though she quickly got switched from heroine to antagonist when I realized the story worked better not centered around her character arc). I tried forcing it, and that just made it all worse.

It was getting to the point that I almost wanted to give it up — except for the fact that I’ve quit everything I’ve ever tried in my life and I’ll be damned if I ever allow myself to give up writing. Thus, I finally just made myself set the whole thing aside so I could get my mind on other things, and hopefully clear my head enough to re-attack it later.

I turned from writing to reading, and as I was going through one series, I became totally engrossed in a character who was beautifully complex and conflicted. Despite the fact that the plot really didn’t pull me in, I found myself still rapidly turning the pages because I was dying to know how things would turn out for this man.

The whole time I read him, I was picturing him looking something like Tom Hiddleston à la Loki — pale, dark, fierce, and a perfect fit for this particular character’s personality (in my mind, at least).

And that’s when it hit me: This was exactly what I was looking for in my own character, but all the while I’d been trying to picture him quite differently.

The Prisoner has gone through quite a transformation from the way I had originally envisioned, but once the male lead came into play instead of the original female lead, one of the very first scenes that I put down was inspired by an insignificant detail — probably just a word or a facial expression — in a Bollywood movie starring Hrithik Roshan, one of my favorite actors. Consequently, his appearance became the foundation for the character I was trying to write.

I love imagining my stories in movie form, camera angles and all, because it helps me play out the scenes and brings it more fully to life in my mind (I’m sure I’m not alone in this habit). When I first started writing The Prisoner, I was going through it with the idea of Hrithik Roshan playing this character, because that was how I originally pictured the lead.

Beyond that one scene, though, I just couldn’t fathom him in any other part of the story. I tried to picture his face, his voice, his movement, and it just flat wasn’t working. I couldn’t see this character going through the dialogue and motions of the story while wearing Hrithik’s form, no matter how much I tried to force it just for the sake of sticking with the image I’d chosen.

Switch to something closer to Loki, though, and the whole character just instantly blossomed to life for me. That face I could see in all the expressions. That voice I could hear in all the dialogue. In one scene, when my character is told to give up his weapons, and he replies with utter calm and self-confidence, “No, I think I’ll be keeping these,” I hear that line in exactly the voice Hiddleston uses at the end of Thor 2, when Thor walks away and Loki drops his Odin disguise, and says, “No, thank you.” That low growl of a voice. That is exactly what I hear in this character’s dialogue. It’s just an absolutely perfect fit.

My love for and interest in the lead character skyrocketed, and all because of a simple change of look and demeanor.

As I went back to writing, I started filtering through the old material that I’d set aside and, to my indescribable joy, found that almost all of it was in fact usable, just with a few detail changes and with a little shuffling of the scene order. Once I had the right look and feel for the character and my interest in his complexities, goals, and moral weaknesses had returned, I realized the only thing making those scenes non-functional was my own lack of interest in the character himself, since I couldn’t fully picture those scenes in all their necessary depth. Now I can, and they work, and the story is coming together nicely.

I went through the file of my third rewrite attempt (amounting to about 26k words), and filtered in all the discarded content from my Fragments file, putting it all in places better suited to the plot, and immediately jumped to 43k words. Those rearranged sections will require some hefty editing, but the overall concepts and scene flow work so much better now than I had originally imagined. I’ve got ideas coming out of my ears, and now the only struggle is deciding which scene to write first because I want to write several at once: I’m that excited about this story. It’s all I can do to put off writing the climactic escape because a part of me wants all the rest of the story filled in first.

What a beautiful problem to have.

I guess I should have paid better attention to my own writing.

“Not all prisons are made of iron bars.”

Well, amen to that.

Inspiration, Lethean, Publishing, Teasers and Excerpts

Trilogy: Complete!

Hale and FarewellThree books, two years, and one very happy author.

With the launch of Hale and Farewell today, the Lethean Trilogy is now complete! I can’t tell you how excited I am to be releasing this third volume in the series. I absolutely love the story and the characters: Hale, the tough warrior-woman being pulled in different directions; Nagi, the aspiring scholar with a heart of gold; Weber, the tireless leader of the vast Underground network. Even the less-than-savory characters, such as Marcus and Bergin, have sides to them that I find interesting.

As for the story, the idea for it started with the climactic battle, since it put an interesting and intense spin on the Lethean soul connection. Once I knew how it had to end, the rest of the story just seemed to fall into place — with a few surprises along the way, of course. The story is told in order but with occasional flashbacks filtered in to better illustrate what is happening in the present, as well as character motivations. Weber’s flashback to his introduction to the Underground was a complete surprise as I was writing it, but I just ran with it and it totally worked.

What I love best about this book is that it really makes me feel something as I read it. Some parts make me laugh, some make me cry. Weber’s speech right before the climactic battle gives me good chills every single time, and Hale’s final battle and her ultimate realization makes me grin uncontrollably.

If you want to read a sample, click here for the prologue and first two chapters. You can also purchase the book from CreateSpace, as well as on Amazon in Print or Kindle formats.

For anyone on Pinterest, you can check out my boards for the different novels. There’s not much to them yet but I’m slowly building them as I find things (and I’ll gladly take suggestions for pins from anyone who has read the books!). Here’s one I really had to search for but was totally worth the effort:

Hale's eyes
Hale’s mismatched eyes

And now, I’ll leave you with an extra little excerpt:

“There have been times in our history when Lethean were feared and condemned as witches or tools of the Devil; then times when we were respected and sought out for our ability to tell truth from lies. At other times, we simply stayed in hiding, wanting to live as normal lives as possible, since people stopped wanting truth. There was no longer a use for us, when people wanted to live in a fantasy world where they expected things to come to them merely by whim and wish, a world where they could put on blinders to reality and deny basic human nature. But now, when people are looking for truth again…”
She fell silent, and he finished for her sadly, “You may be the last.”