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.

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Lethean

Cheers to a Bad Review

Yes, you read that right. I’m actually pleased I got a bad review (note this particular review isn’t something someone posted publicly but sent to me personally after reading my first book, The Lethean).

Since we live in the real world, a bad review was bound to happen. It’s just a simple fact of life.

You can’t please everyone.

And that’s a good thing! You’re not supposed to please everyone. If you did, there’d be something radically wrong with the very fabric of reality and human nature. Human beings are unique individuals — no two alike — so we’re not all supposed to like the same things. We’re not all supposed to fall into the same categories. We’re not all supposed to agree. And that, my friends, is a beautiful truth.

This, of course, is the foundation of libertarian / anarchist ideology, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe. It not only accepts but embraces the fact that each human being is a unique creature with his own wants, needs, likes, and desires. Any other philosophy attempts to squeeze individuals into confining categories that don’t apply at all times and places, lumping people together under labels that aren’t truly accurate.

Thus, I embrace the fact that this particular reviewer did not like my book. That’s a good thing. I don’t want everyone to like it. Besides the fact that, if I did want everyone to like it, I’d only wind up sorely disappointed, I would also be guilty of denying human nature and my own individuality. I don’t want everyone to like the same things I do. I don’t want everyone to be just like me. I want to be myself, and no one else needs to be that but me.

Now, is that to say a bad review didn’t sting? Sure it did, on some level, but for that matter it also provided a good learning experience. Some of what this reviewer complained about told me that he didn’t give it quite as close a reading as I might have liked, but he also gave me some truly helpful feedback that I can put to good use. A weakness of mine was pointed out that I can now learn from and correct in my later works, and this will only help me build up my tool chest when it comes to crafting a good story. Thus, I am thankful for the reviewer’s constructive criticism.

So cheers to the (constructive) bad review! Now I’m off to continue working on the next series, and with every little bit I learn and discover, the better these stories grow in my mind. I can’t wait to get them down on paper!

Lethean, Publishing

Digital Book Day — Free Book Link!

Happy Digital Book Day! Below is the link for a free PDF version of my first novel, The Lethean. This link will be live for one day only, so grab it while you can!

Be sure to check out the other authors offering free ebooks for Digital Book Day.

Did you know that reviews are the best way to support your favorite indie authors? When you’re finished, if you have any thoughts to share about your reading experience, Amazon and Goodreads are great places to leave a review!

Enjoy!

Book 1 – The Lethean PDF

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UPDATE (as of midnight ET, at the end of Digital Book Day): Thank you to all the readers who stopped by and participated in Digital Book Day, courtesy of digitalbookday.com. The day has come to a close, so the link is now down. It looks like CJ Lyons will be putting on DBD again next year, so be sure to head over to the site and sign up to be notified when it’s coming up again! I hope everyone got a ton of great reading material today! Don’t forget: the best way to support your favorite authors, especially indie authors, is by leaving reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, so be sure to share your reading experiences with the world! And check back here for other teasers and excerpts of upcoming works (and I just might offer more free content from time to time, so be sure to follow the blog here, my Facebook page, or my Twitter account to keep in touch!).

Lethean, News, Publishing

Digital Book Day — Celebrating Readers!

DBDsquareMonday, July 14th, we’re celebrating readers by giving away free ebooks!

That’s right. Free ebooks! I’ve just signed up to participate in Digital Book Day, a day to celebrate readers by offering a book for free!

For one day only, you’ll be able to download a free PDF version of my first novel, The Lethean, and if you click on the DBD link above, you’ll have access to tons of other great reading material from other authors…

But only on July 14th! Be sure to check back here, and on the DBD website, on Monday the 14th to get access to free reading!

And don’t forget, when you’re done reading, the best way to boost your favorite indie authors is by leaving a review of their work. Amazon and Goodreads are great places to spread the word about your reading experience!

Mark your calendars! This is going to be great!

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.”

Lethean, Teasers and Excerpts

Teasers

Just a quick site update, and for your reading pleasure, I’ve updated the Books page to include links to teasers from each of the books. So far, I’ve posted the prologue and first two chapters of The Lethean, as well as the first three chapters of Uncommonly Strong. The prologue and first two chapters for the third book, Hale and Farewell, should be up by the end of the week, in time for the book’s release on June 29th.

From now on, as I add new titles, I’ll continue adding free teaser content for each book to give you a taste of the story, as well as links at the end for where you can purchase the books in full, either in print or Kindle formats.

Enjoy!

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Lethean, Publishing, Teasers and Excerpts

Hale and … Pause

Hale and FarewellLook at this beauty! Another wonderful cover by my dear NFD. So dark, and grim, and dystopian — just right for the final installment of the Lethean Trilogy, Hale and Farewell, which takes place in a futuristic dystopian United States (or, at least, what’s left of it).

Right now, the proof is slowly making its way to my mailbox, and the book is scheduled to be released for sale on June 29th, the second anniversary of the day I started writing The Lethean.

Once again, I must extend my sincerest thanks to author Lisa Clark O’Neill for all her guidance and encouragement, but also her suggestion that I serialize The Lethean, which was originally intended to be a standalone novel. I find it amusing that, of all three books in the trilogy, Hale and Farewell wound up being my favorite by far, considering I — qua reader — absolutely devour all things Regency England (hence the setting of The Lethean) and actively avoid all things dystopian.

Took me by surprise, but I couldn’t be happier. I absolutely love Hale and Farewell.

Well, I suppose I could be happier. I realize now — too late, of course — that I made a mistake with Uncommonly Strong, the second book in the trilogy. I got overeager, wanting to plow through releasing these books, mostly because I was far too excited to get the third book out, that I rushed the second. It’s not perfect; it lacks a certain proper pacing; it has some unnecessary scenes; it’ll never get rave reviews…

Yet, in a way, that’s okay. It was a good learning experience, and now I know what not to do from now on. In the meantime, I’m studying story craft (something I obviously should have delved into much more deeply before I even thought about publishing in the first place) and using it to fine-tune my upcoming works.

Right now my computer is bursting with files in progress. I’ve got a 14-part fantasy series that will explore a variety of themes, people, and ideas: oppressive government (no surprise there), murder, the sanctity of the mind, economics, magic, addictions, rape, technology, travel, war, love and marriage, GLBT issues, philosophy, and much more. I’m hoping to have the first one ready to go by the end of the year, but we’ll see how that goes, considering there’s another standalone project I also have in the works: the one book that I really must write, a massive reworking of the book that got me started writing in the first place, five years ago now.

Goodness, how time flies! Seems like just yesterday…

That book, in particular, will probably be a while in coming. I’m doing some massive outlining and trying to make sure it all weaves together properly before I even think about tackling a single line of it, let alone a chapter. Thus, in the meantime, a pause in releasing new books.

But for now: Coming soon! Hale and Farewell.

Happy reading!

Here, have a teaser:

She took one step forward, putting herself one step closer to the Tower than to the Underground, and felt her chin come up, her spine straighten, and her shoulders square. That single step was the most difficult thing she’d ever done in her life, but she knew in the very depths of her soul that it was right.

Chances were great that she would lose everything she wanted, but it would be worth it. Better to die with honor and truth than to live with shame and a lie.

She clenched her hands into fists. The choice was made.

‘Sleep well, Marcus Thane. Tonight will be your last…’