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.

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

______________________________________________

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…’

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

Round Two (Teaser Included!)

Uncommonly StrongUncommonly Strong (Lethean Trilogy, Book II) is finally here!

I know, I just put out Book I less than two months ago, so it’s odd to say finally in this case, but considering how much I had to fight the plot in this book, finally feels very apropos.

Whereas The Lethean (Book I) and Hale and Farewell (Book III) seemed to practically write themselves, Book II gave me a world of trouble. There were huge chunks that I tore out and rewrote several times before I became even just content with the story, and finally got it to a point where I was happy with it. It could still probably use some improvement — what couldn’t? — but as a reader, I quite enjoy it now, particularly for the characters.

Though I do rather adore Landon and Victoria from Book I, I had a little more fun with the personalities of the characters in Book II. Sati is always making lighthearted comments that no one finds funny (I don’t know anyone like that…*ahem*…); Joseph is all about the love of his family, even when they drive him crazy (cue plugging his ears when Thomas and Spencer start in on their openly intimate talk); Thomas is Joseph’s three-minute-older twin brother, the stylish, suave one who is the most open-minded and often the voice of reason, though he does have his dark side, too; and Thomas’s partner, Spencer, who is pretty much the adult kid in the family, always smiling and enjoying life.

As a bonus, Uncommonly Strong includes a short story at the end, partly inspired by the 2013 documentary Bridegroom. The overall theme of the Lethean trilogy is that love is love, despite what society or the law may have to say, and after watching that film, it triggered some inspiration to delve a little more deeply into the characters of Thomas and Spencer. In general, though, it’s not just about any particular minority rights, so much as general human rights. In The Lethean, Landon and Victoria come from vastly different social circles, and their relationship would have been at least frowned upon if not forbidden in Regency England. In Uncommonly Strong, Thomas and Spencer being a gay couple certainly has its related persecution — and even Sati and Joseph’s relationship is questioned by Sati’s very religious foster family. In Hale and Farewell…well, I won’t spoil it. That one is not as obvious a forbidden romance but the element does come into play.

I am so thankful that author Lisa Clark O’Neill suggested serializing The Lethean. It was originally meant to be a standalone novel, but after she mentioned the possibility of turning it into a series, I started looking more into certain aspects of the Lethean lifestyle and culture and wondered how those aspects would play into different situations. Thus, Books II and III came to life — and I’m so glad they did, because I absolutely love Book III and can’t wait to get to that one! It’s already written, just waiting for a few final rounds of editing, and should be available in July.

By the way, Lisa has a new novel out as of yesterday. Be sure to check it out here. And if you haven’t come across her Southern Comfort series, I highly recommend it.

And, of course, I must once again tip my hat to the beautiful and talented Natalie Fawn Danelishen for her work on the cover art.

So, without further ado, here is Chapter 1 from Uncommonly Strong. Enjoy!

 

Chapter 1

Are you ready?”

Joseph Hale put the question to his twin brother, Thomas, as they stood side-by-side at the mirror in the immaculate men’s bathroom on the twenty-third floor of Haven Marketing. Just down the hall was the conference room where they were scheduled to present a new ad campaign, and they had ducked into the bathroom to check their teeth and straighten their ties before meeting the new client.

The brothers were nearly indistinguishable. They had the same straight nose, the same diamond chin with the same short boxed beard, the same broad shoulders, and even the same steel grey eyes. Other than the fact that Joseph favored pinstripe grey suits, while his brother preferred his signature taupe, the only way to tell them apart was that Joseph’s hair was so dark it was almost black, while Thomas’s was closer to chestnut brown. Even then, people still mixed them up – and once, back in high school, when Thomas had dyed his hair to match that of his three-minute-younger brother, not even their own mother could tell them apart without reading them by touch.

I’m always ready.” Thomas grinned confidently, and pulled out a comb to run through his hair.

Joseph laughed. “You’re not ready.”

Thomas pocketed the comb with a sigh, rolled his eyes, and turned to face his brother, grabbing Joseph around the back of the neck and bringing their foreheads together.

Joseph’s laugh vanished as he and his twin turned serious – head-to-head, eyes closed – and he realized he was more anxious about the presentation than he wanted to admit. Without thinking about it, his hand copied that of his brother, and they stood there for a long moment, clasping one another’s necks while they shared encouraging thoughts through the touch of their foreheads.

It was a habit that had developed from childhood, an unspoken ritual that they never failed to perform, especially when something important was about to occur. They tried to do it where they wouldn’t be seen, strange as it must look for two men to stand so close and so silent for so long, and hoped that if anyone ever did witness it, they could chalk it up to nothing more than a twin bond.

Yet, it was so much more.

Thomas focused all his thought on the celebratory drinks they would share once they succeeded in their presentation; and Joseph, reading his brother’s thought, grinned.

* * *

Peter Jenkins, President and CEO of Haven Marketing, rarely had a chance to sit in on a campaign pitch – and seldom visited the San Francisco office – but when it came to a potential client the size of Carson Electronics, he certainly couldn’t afford not to be present.

Especially,” he muttered to himself, “not after two of my best teams have failed.”

He watched the Hale twins stroll down the hallway toward him, looking composed and confident. At least, he certainly hoped they were confident. Carson’s Board of Directors were being extremely gracious coming for a third presentation, and though circumstances weren’t exactly dire, Jenkins wanted the security of this contract in order to help Haven weather the shaky economy.

Jenkins stuffed his hands into his pockets and tried to swallow his nerves, wondering if the Hales’ presentation would be accepted where the others had not been.

The first two teams had taken radically different approaches to the sample television spots they’d made for the Carson Board. One was raucous and colorful, the other pale and muted. The only similarity between the two presentations had been the dull monotones of the team leaders’ voices.

Both presentations had been utter failures.

Jenkins had asked the Hale brothers to rehearse their pitch for him the day before. The ad itself took rather a middle ground between the two failed presentations, being neither too boisterous nor too quiet. It was a good, professional product, but what struck him most were the brothers themselves. Whereas the other two teams had been so businesslike as to be almost boring, the Hales had given an energetic, masculine introduction to their ad. Jenkins hoped this more impressive lead-in would be what it took to capture the attention of Daniel Carson – a man who looked like he belonged in a plaid shirt with a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder rather than in a business suit with a pen in his hand.

Good morning, Mr. Jenkins,” the twins said in their annoyingly perfect synchronicity.

Good morning, good morning,” he responded, a little too gruffly, shaking their hands in turn. “Are you boys ready for this?”

Yes, sir, Mr. Jenkins,” the light-haired one responded. Joseph? Or Thomas? He wasn’t quite sure and was too anxious to bother asking.

You both know how much we could use this contract,” he said sternly, and watched them both nod in reply. “I like your presentation, and I’ve heard good things about you from your department head, so if you can pull this off – if you can succeed where Edwards’s and Benson’s teams failed – it’ll mean tremendous promotions for you both.”

We’re ready, Mr. Jenkins.”

We won’t let you down, sir.”

Jenkins looked from one to the other, opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by a secretary coming to an abrupt stop at his side, nervously clutching a binder to her chest.

Mr. Jenkins,” she said quietly, “the Carsons are here. I’ve just shown them into the conference room.”

Jenkins swallowed and forced on a smile. “Thank you, Tina. That’ll be all.”

The secretary nodded and hurried off, while Jenkins spun on his heel and led the way to the conference room, hearing the light footfalls of the twins behind him.

* * *

The first handshake was always the most stressful part of meeting a new client. Joseph knew that both he and Thomas were steeling themselves for the physical contact that would give them the competitive edge they needed – or would reveal their secret.

Upon Mr. Jenkins’s introduction, Joseph and his brother took turns shaking hands with Daniel Carson himself, and both twins inwardly sighed with relief when they realized their secret was safe. Then it was Mr. Carson’s turn to introduce his associates: a wiry assistant named Brian and a voluptuous blonde named Gertrude. Their handshakes with Gertrude lingered ever so slightly, and as the Carson team took their seats, Joseph and his twin shared a look of understanding.

* * *

Jenkins was already irritated. He didn’t think anyone else could tell, but he had seen the extended handshakes the Hale twins had shared with the woman, and his first thought was that his boys no longer had their focus on the task at hand. He had to admit, Gertrude was quite the distraction, and he realized he was already bracing himself for another utter failure.

Across the room, at the foot of the conference table, he saw the twins share a brief look, and the almost imperceptible nod one gave the other right before they both turned their attention to the Carson representatives.

Jenkins clenched his fists in his lap, waiting for the rugged, manly presentation he’d seen rehearsed the day before, and felt his jaw drop when he began to witness something entirely different.

Whereas, the day before, the twins had been the very image of a boys’ night out – an approach that Jenkins was sure would work on rugged Mr. Carson – they had now slipped into entirely different mannerisms. Their movements were fluid instead of rigid, their voices soft instead of bold. The words were precisely the same as they’d been during their rehearsal, but what Jenkins saw now was something that bordered on sensual.

To further his dismay, he saw that, while certainly not ignoring Mr. Carson, the twins were directing their attention and presentation primarily toward the woman.

Carson Electronics,” Thomas wrapped up, giving the woman a look that could only be described as smoldering while he delivered the tag line: “One step ahead.”

Jenkins felt himself turning red with anger. He was going to throw both of these boys out on the street as soon as they received their certain rejection from the Carson team.

Very impressive, Mr. Hale, and Mr. Hale.” Daniel Carson nodded to each of the twins after a brief, whispered conversation with the woman at his side. “I just have one question for you. No one has ever seen through our farce before. How did you know that Gertrude has the final say?”

Jenkins choked on a “What?” as his jaw dropped again, and he saw the twins share a look, grinning with satisfaction.

* * *

Alright, explain to me what just happened in there!”

Joseph and his brother, along with Mr. Jenkins, had just said goodbye to the Carson team – after signing a six-figure advertising contract – and now the twins braced themselves as the boss was finally free to drop his forced calm and explode.

Just like they explained, sir,” Joseph said. “Gertrude is actually Gertrude Carson, who started the company, but no one has ever taken her seriously because she’s a woman, so on paper she’s only V.P. while she lets her cousin Daniel appear as acting President.”

Yes, yes, I heard all that.” Mr. Jenkins waved his hands in frustration. “What I want to know is how you two knew that! And you didn’t say a word about it yesterday! When you started changing your presentation, I thought I was going to have a heart attack!”

We didn’t know it yesterday, sir,” Thomas added respectfully. “We only just…realized it when we met them today.”

Yes, but…how?”

Joseph looked at his brother, who shrugged, so he simply turned a smile on his boss and said, “Call it a hunch.”

* * *

At their favorite downtown bar, Joseph and his twin squeezed through the crush of bodies and took a booth in a relatively quiet corner. In the heat of the room, and free from contact with other people, Thomas gladly divested himself of his jacket, lounging comfortably in a black polo shirt and khaki slacks, with an off-white fedora tilted low over his brow. Joseph unbuttoned the cuffs of his blue-and-white striped dress shirt and rolled the sleeves up to his elbows.

A waitress took their drink orders, and once the brothers were alone again, Thomas pulled a gold ring from his pocket and slid it onto his left ring finger. Though Joseph was used to the action by now, he still couldn’t fathom how his brother could stand not to wear his ring at all times. Joseph knew that, when he finally met his own partner someday, he would never want to see his own ring off his hand. At least Thomas’s partner was aware of the behavior and didn’t seem to mind one bit.

A few minutes later, the brothers were enjoying their respective bourbon and scotch, while a martini sat at Thomas’s elbow, waiting for its drinker.

They sipped in silence, watching the crowds around the pool tables and on the small dance floor, one brother occasionally resting a hand on the other’s arm to silently share a thought. Whereas the cacophony of thoughts that could be picked up from direct contact with such a crowd could be burdensome, silent contact with one another was a source of amusement. The brothers, being what they were, could watch people and make comments about them without uttering a single audible word.

Joseph rested his elbows on the table while Thomas slouched back, tugging the fedora down lower over his eyes. Joseph could see his older brother smiling to himself as he sipped his drink, quietly enjoying their accomplishment of the day.

Across the room, Joseph spotted a young man wearing skinny jeans, a pink plaid button-up T-shirt, and a grey scarf. Blond curls peeked out from beneath a black slouch beanie, and a broad smile lit up the man’s freshly shaved face as he squeezed through the crowd, walking with a slight limp.

Joseph set down his drink and rested a hand on Thomas’s arm, making him grin.

You don’t need to tell me he’s coming.” Thomas laughed, sitting up straight and pushing his hat back with an index finger to the underside of the brim. “I can feel him, you know.”

Joseph shrugged and laughed. “Force of habit.”

Hi boys!” The newcomer giggled, blowing Joseph a kiss before sitting down right beside Thomas. “Sorry I’m late–”

His words cut off as Thomas gathered him up in his arms and gave him a long, deep kiss.

Joseph rolled his eyes. “Tom, Spencer, really? Can’t you guys wait until you get home?”

The couple ignored him, kissing one another hungrily, so Joseph focused on his drink and tried not to laugh.

Mmmm, I missed you too,” Spencer managed to get out when Thomas stopped for a breath. “What was that for?”

We had a really good day,” Thomas murmured, and kissed him again.

Guys, come on!” Joseph laughed.

Thomas sighed and nodded toward his brother. “We really need to find him his partner.”

Spencer gave Joseph a pointed look, then made a show of kissing Thomas back before straightening himself on the bench and resting his head on his partner’s shoulder.

Really, Joseph,” Spencer said, “you just don’t understand.”

I just thought we were celebrating, that’s all.”

And what do you think we were just doing?” Spencer grinned childishly. “What are we celebrating, anyway?”

Spencer started sipping at the martini while the twins recounted their successful presentation, and he had to look back and forth between the two as they habitually finished one another’s sentences.

When they were finished, Spencer sat forward and held up his hands, saying, “Wait a minute, wait a minute! You guys read your clients? Again? Isn’t that cheating?”

How so?” Thomas asked.

Well…doesn’t that give you an unfair advantage, being able to read their thoughts?”

Not necessarily,” Thomas said. “An advantage, sure, but–”

“–it’s no different from any other ‘advantage’ a person could conceivably have–” Joseph continued.

“–like some people are naturally better at math–”

“–and some at making speeches–”

“–and some at engineering–”

“–or sports–”

“–or art–”

“–and they couldn’t help being born the way they were–”

“–and neither could we help being born Lethean–”

“–so we just use what we have to work with, that’s all.”

Spencer put a finger to his lips and loudly shushed them, then shook his head, dizzy from the conversation.

Thomas looked slightly chagrined at having said the word aloud, but as the trio glanced around, no one seemed to have taken any notice of their conversation, so they each heaved a sigh of relief. There were very few of their kind left in the world, but maintaining the secret of their Lethean heritage was still considered a cardinal virtue.

They knew perfectly well that, should their abilities ever be made public, they could be in for a world of trouble.

It’s not like we asked to be born this way,” Thomas continued, lowering his voice. “It just simply happened, so like Joseph said, we use what we’ve got.”

Right. It’s not like you’d see a world-famous athlete give up his ability just because of some supposed ‘unfair’ advantage over, say, someone who’s disabled,” Joseph added, to which Spencer had to nod in agreement.

Besides–” Thomas grinned, putting an arm around his partner. “I wouldn’t give it up for all the money in the world. I hear the sex isn’t as great for regular humans.”

Pfff, speak for yourself.” Spencer laughed. “I’d still be great in bed, even if I were only human.”

Thomas looked at his brother and shrugged. “He’s got a point there.”

Mmmm, you know it–”

Guys! Really?” Joseph interrupted, rolling his eyes.

Spencer laughed and jabbed his partner in the ribs. “You know what we should do? As soon as we get a chance for a vacation, we should take your brother traveling to find his partner. Get him all nice and paired up and then he’ll finally understand what he’s been missing, and stop pestering us about our pillow talk.”

You know, that’s not a bad idea.” Thomas grinned and turned to his twin. “How about it, Joe? Where is she, do you think?”

She?” Spencer raised an eyebrow, and laughed deviously. “What if it’s a he?”

Joseph looked down at the empty glass between his hands, and quietly responded, “No, she. I’m not sure how, but I can tell it’s a woman. And she’s very far away. Very faint. Somewhere east, but…”

He felt the other two watching him, but didn’t take his eyes off his glass. After a moment, Thomas reached over and rested a hand on his shoulder, asking seriously, “Joe, what’s wrong?”

Joseph glanced up at his twin and back down at his hands, sighing. “She’s in pain, and always so tired. It’s very faint but I can always feel it there. She’s very weak, and I can feel her fear. I wish I could understand it, but she’s too far away.”

Have you tried sending her positive feelings?” Spencer asked, serious for a change. “I know that helped when Tom did that for me. Remember? When we were in the hospital and–”

Thomas visibly shuddered. “Ugh, don’t remind me,” he said, automatically reaching down to massage Spencer’s bad leg.

Have you tried that, Joe?” Spencer asked again.

Joseph nodded. “Every day. I can’t tell if she feels it, though. She’s just…ugh, by Lethe, she’s just too far away.”

Well, I think–” Spencer began, but got interrupted when another man approached their table.

Tom! Joe!” the man called, and Joseph looked up to see their coworker, Brad Edwards. “I hear you got the Carson contract. Congratulations.”

Joseph shook his offered hand, surprised at the truth and sincerity in the man’s voice, considering Brad’s was one of the Carson pitches that had failed.

Thank you,” Joseph replied while Brad perched on the edge of the bench next to him.

No hard feelings?” Thomas joked while he reached across the table to shake Brad’s hand.

Nah.” Brad waved it off. “I knew our pitch was crap. But what could I do? The team insisted it was good enough, but it didn’t seem right to me, and I couldn’t very well go against four other people who agreed with each other, now, could I?”

Why not?” Thomas asked. “If you know in your gut that something isn’t right, why would you play along? Why would you let others decide for you?”

Brad shrugged. “Just easier that way.”

Joseph stifled a laugh, thinking of all the times he and his twin had bickered over certain ad concepts, neither one backing down without good reason. He could never understand how people like Brad would simply bow down to the opinions of others.

Looking over at his twin, he figured Thomas was probably thinking the same thing.

A low whistle distracted him out of his thoughts, and he heard Brad say, “Would you get a load of those legs! Look, Joe, I think they’re checking us out.”

Joseph felt his twin kick him under the table, and turned to follow Brad’s gaze. Leaning against the bar were two women who looked as though they’d just stepped off a magazine cover, complete with slender legs, short skirts, and overflowing low-cut tops.

Brad smacked him on the arm. “Come on, Joe.”

No, thank you.”

Brad swung around to face him with an incredulous look. “Are you crazy? They’re looking right at us and you’re going to pass that up?”

Joseph shrugged and spun his empty glass around on the table.

Dude, tell me you’re joking.”

In response, Joseph just shook his head.

What, are you gay or something?” Brad asked, then a horrified look came over his face. “Shit. Sorry, Tom. No offense.”

Thomas held up a hand like he was waving off the comment. “None taken.”

You’re really not interested?” Brad asked again, and Joseph shook his head. “Christ Almighty, man. Very well. Suit yourself.”

With that, Brad got up and approached the bar alone, and Thomas kicked his twin under the table again.

What?”

You’re supposed to at least pretend,” his twin hissed, and Spencer nodded along beside him. “You don’t want another Mike Callahan incident, do you?”

Joseph grimaced, remembering the fight with Mike all those years ago. “No,” he answered. “But do you have any idea how hard it is to fake interest in a human?”

Thomas grinned. “Oh, sure. It’s hysterical.” He shared a look with his partner and the two burst out laughing.

Did I miss something?” Joseph asked.

When Thomas finally got his laughter under control, he said, “Spencer dragged me to this gay bar one night, a couple months back, even though he knows I hate dancing.” He paused and shot his partner a look, but Spencer just grinned back at him. Thomas cleared his throat and continued, “As a joke, he asked me to try dancing with other men. I couldn’t keep a straight face for the life of me, and this one guy was absolutely furious that he couldn’t get me hard.”

Ha!” Spencer laughed. “I almost forgot about that. The guy with a tattoo on the back of his hand, right? Oh, the look on his face was priceless.”

Joseph cut through their laughter, asking, “So you couldn’t do it for one hour, yet you expect me to keep up the charade day after day?”

Well, until you find your partner, Joseph, I–”

I don’t like pretending to be something I’m not,” Joseph interrupted him, and the mirth across the table evaporated.

Thomas reached over and squeezed his hand. “You’re right, Joe. I’m sorry. I just don’t want to see you have to go through another incident like–”

He was cut off when Spencer grabbed his arm, gasping, “Ah! Tom, it’s our song. Come on, let’s dance!”

Spencer jumped up from the booth, tugging on Thomas’s hand, while his partner complained, “Did I not just remind you – again – that I hate dancing? And besides, you’re only going to aggravate your leg.”

Pfff, like you don’t enjoy helping me with my stretches.” He tugged on Thomas’s hand again. “Thomas, darling, dearest, mera pyaar, mon amour.” He pouted. “Please?”

Thomas turned to his brother and sighed. “The things I do for love.”

Spencer grinned and seemed to drag Thomas to the dance floor, but once there, Joseph could tell that his brother was happy right where he was, in the arms of the person he loved more than anyone else in the entire world.

In the arms of the person who carried the other half of his soul.

Inspiration, Lethean, Publishing

Welcome to the rollercoaster ride…

Just two books in (Uncommonly Strong is about ready to be released — hooray!), and I’m already noticing a pattern…

First of all, I cannot multitask to save my life. More than one thing calls my attention and I simply start to lose it (not a beneficial trait when it comes to working a customer service job from 7:30 to 5 everyday).

The one great exception, however, is writing. I can think about or work on several stories at once, which is how I wound up with close to twenty novels-in-progress on my laptop. Unlike any other aspect of my life, when it comes to writing books, I can entertain ideas about multiple story lines or characters simultaneously, or jump from one to another and back again without breaking a sweat — and I absolutely love it.

This rule unravels, I’m now discovering, when it comes down to the dreaded Final Edits time. Namely, when a book is “complete” and ready for the last few rounds of tedious, torturous, nit-picky combing for spelling, grammar, and continuity issues. At that point, life itself pretty much goes on-hold, no other books can find even a sliver of space in my mind, and everything becomes about that book and getting it to the finish line.

It’s frustrating, exhausting, and all-consuming, because the perfectionist in me kicks into high gear and won’t let anything else slip into my awareness. Then the phone rings (as it just did before I typed this sentence… grrr…) or a customer walks in and I have to stop myself from shouting, “Do you not realize I’m trying to edit right now? Put the world on hold! This is important!”

Okay, so perhaps that’s overstating it a bit (alright, a lot), but you get the idea: multitasking gone.

Then comes the blissful, blessed moment when the book is finally done. *Insert pleasurable sigh here* All the agony, the excitement, the stress, the waiting — it’s all finally over. All the “pacing in the maternity ward”, as it were, is finally behind me, and I can look at the finished product and think, “Damn, I did that.”

With my mind still fully wrapped up in that book, I upload the final text, get my wonderful friend Natalie to make up the cover design, and as I sit and wait for a response from the publishing platform that the file is ready for final proofing, I sit around my house, staring at the walls, and wonder, “Now what?”

Writing — I’m all over the place. Editing and final upload — so single-minded that nothing else matters, and once it’s done, it leaves a bit of a void that I have no idea how to fill. Sure, there are plenty of things I could be doing (chores [blegh!], or working on other novels [go figure!]), but I find myself stuck in this sort of limbo, where my brain can’t quite let go of the finished book. I plop down on the couch in a daze, contemplating the movement of shadows across the living room wall as the sun sets outside my window, and wonder what on Earth I’m going to do next.

A few days later, something snaps and I’m on to the next thing: picking up the next book in my ever-present stack of items to be read, delving into another work-in-progress, or jotting down a completely new story idea. The rollercoaster surges forward again, and I wonder how I could have possibly felt so static the last few days.

When Hale and Farewell comes close to release in July, I’m sure it’ll happen all over again.

Up and down, up and down, chaos, swirling, spinning, and then full stop — and I’m loving every minute of it.

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Lethean, News, Publishing

It’s here!

LetheanDreams really do come true.

There exists in the world a book with my name on it. I’m still rather in shock.

The UPS driver who delivered my final proof said he’d never seen someone react with such excitement to receiving a package.

And I’m still chair dancing. 🙂

The Lethean will be available on Amazon.com (in both print and Kindle formats) in a few days, as well as under expanded distribution, but it is immediately available in print on the CreateSpace store here.

Tremendous thanks to author Lisa Clark O’Neill for her guidance and suggestions, as well as to Natalie Fawn Danelishen for her hard work on the cover art.