News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Teasers and Excerpts

Looking Ahead

I’ve just gone through and added a few updates to the site, mostly to keep myself motivated and on-track. The last few months have been…

Well, you know the saying: You make plans, and life happens. Oh boy, does it happen.

Between massive stress at work and a bit of a person crisis, I’ve been having a really hard time focusing on writing. The odd thing is that I’m actually ahead of the schedule I’d set for myself, but over the last few months, I’ve been slipping farther and farther behind and letting myself get distracted and upset by life in general. So, to keep myself going and get this next series out, I’ve already posted projected release dates for each of the next fourteen novels, as well as some preliminary information about other works that I’ll be releasing after those. Hopefully having posted deadlines will keep me moving and give me something to look forward to.

Starting late next month, I’ll be releasing the Shifting Isles series, a set of fourteen books set in a fantasy world. At my current writing pace, I should be able to put out a new volume every three months. That is certainly the goal, anyway. That puts the series wrapping up in June 2018, after which I’ll be releasing a standalone novel and another series, all set in the same world but at different time periods. I’ll be posting more information about the Shifting Isles series, the standalone novel, and the following series as more time passes and more information can be released without offering spoilers.

I know, this is like Marvel-level teasing, but I just can’t help myself.

The hard part is that all of this is teasing me as well. The new series idea (which won’t start releasing until 2019) is really grabbing my attention lately and making it difficult to focus on drafts for the upcoming SI series — another reason for the posted deadlines. Now I have to put the new ideas aside and get these SI drafts done so I can finally move on to the editing stages.

So, on that note, back to writing!

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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.

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.”

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…’

Inspiration, Publishing

Write To Live

A running theme in several conversations I’ve had lately is the overabundance of people who work at jobs they hate (but pay the bills) and would rather be working at something they love (but likely wouldn’t be able to make a living that way).

I know this very intimately.

When I first started working at the family auto repair shop (6 June 2000; I was 16 at the time), I absolutely loved my job. Loved it. I was excited for the new skills, the new responsibilities, the chance to prove myself and earn an income. As an introvert, I wasn’t too keen on the constant interaction with the general public, but as time went on I got to become acquainted with these people, learn their stories, share their hopes and woes — all the little things that get discussed in and around the process of writing up repair orders.

Time passed, and the more I continued at this job, the more I became frightfully aware of the big, looming monster always hiding in the shadowy corners of the room. The more I learned, and the more responsibilities I was given, the more I discovered all of the ever-present negative sides to my employment:

Taxes. Regulation. Taxes. Fees. Restrictions. More regulations. And did I mention taxes?

And, over time, these things only got worse. And worse. And worse.

Coming up on fourteen years at this job, I’m so completely burned-out and disgusted by the limitations that I find myself now operating on autopilot rather than being eager to come in to the office everyday. From the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave, my coworkers and I are so hemmed-in by financial burdens (due to taxes, licenses, fees, etc.) and legal burdens (having to word a repair order just so, having to store items just so, having to constantly fill out any number of reports and forms for the State, etc.) that it just makes work a burden rather than a pleasure.

I now literally despise my job.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not ungrateful. I am very thankful to have a job. I know a lot of people today are out of work and would probably be eager to take my place. I know that, very well. I am exceedingly thankful for being employed and being able to (just barely) pay the mortgage that keeps my sanctuary intact. I am also exceedingly grateful that the conditions of my employment are such that I am permitted to write in my downtime. Still, because of all the governmental interference into my workplace, I just can’t stand being here.

Thus, writing — my love, my passion — is my solace, and keeps me sane when my paid work leaves me feeling empty and meaningless.

And it seems as though a lot of people are in the same boat. Work is not exciting and fulfilling. It’s no longer a chance to learn and grow. It’s just a paycheck — nothing more.

I look back on my high school years and recall all the constant pressure from teachers and counselors to figure out a career path, to determine a passion, to find a direction in life. Back then, I had absolutely no passions whatsoever. I had not a single clue what I wanted to do with my life. I had no direction, no desires, no goals except to go to college and continue getting straight A’s — but in what field, I couldn’t even begin to decide. Thus, like many of my peers, I took a job that paid the bills and kept waiting for inspiration to hit.

And waiting.

And waiting.

And still nothing struck me. I just kept going to work everyday, and waiting for a passion to strike me. My job didn’t inspire any ideas, nor did college. I found myself mechanically wandering through existence — not life, but mere existence — and wondering what was the point of it all.

Then came the best and worst thing to ever happen in my life: I was raped.

I know, right now you’re thinking, “Best and worst?!” Let me explain.

Obviously, rape is traumatic — in that sense, literally the worst thing that had ever happened in my life. Immediately after it happened, I slipped into an even more mindless existence, turning into an emotionless robot that simply went through the motions of working and feeding and bathing, but not actually feeling anything or engaging in life. I could go on for hours about the aftermath, though it’s not particularly relevant here (though, of course, I am writing a book about it all — surprise, surprise). The important part, though, is why this traumatic evil turned into the best thing in my life.

When medication and psychotherapy failed me, I sat down one evening and started writing about what happened to me. I’d never been prone to writing in journals or doing anything with the written word other than for school assignments, but once I got that first page down, describing the most vivid memory I had of being raped, suddenly I found that I couldn’t stop.

The words just wouldn’t stop coming.

In five weeks, I had a 300-page novel on my hands, and a couple months after that, I had a 600-page sequel, and a few hundred odd pages of scraps of ideas for a third. Then came ideas for another book, and another, and another, and before I knew it, I wound up with something like twenty novel ideas stored on my computer. The high school math wiz had suddenly turned into a wordsmith.

And I was happy. I’d found my passion. I’d found my purpose. Without even the slightest inkling of ever actually publishing anything, I kept writing, and kept getting story ideas. I just couldn’t stop.

Writing brought me back to life, gave me something to love, and gave me a reason to live. It’s all I want to do, and though it’ll probably never be an income source sufficient to pay the bills, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In and around doing my day job, my mind is always on my stories, working out plot lines and figuring out characters. It’s darn near all I think about in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, and all I think about in the evenings while I’m exercising or having dinner. When I’m not reading someone else’s book, you can be sure my mind is on one of my own.

I feel free, and alive, and whole when I’m writing. The day job will have to stay, since I still have to pay the bills, but now I’ve got something more, something worthwhile.

I love to write. And I write to live.