Inspiration, Publishing, Shifting Isles

When Characters Have Their Own Way

So, I finished writing a book last night.

Not the one I was supposed to be working on, mind, but one that grabbed my attention just about a month ago and wouldn’t leave me alone.

With the release of Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4) at the end of December, and a completed draft of The Five-Hour Wife (Shifting Isles, Book 5) around the same time, I was trying desperately to start working on Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) in hopes of getting myself back on track after it took so much longer to finish Broken than I’d anticipated.

But, no matter how hard I tried, I was stuck. Betrayal just wasn’t speaking to me. At all.

I fought and struggled and tried to focus on writing Betrayal. I really did try. It drove me insane. I know exactly where I need the story to go; most of it is already laid out in my head; I just can’t seem to get it down on the computer.

The problem? I was completely and thoroughly distracted by a minor character having a mind of his own and taking charge of my muse.

In Broken, the MC, Daivid Thaton, works at a strip club in order to pay off a debt due to money he’d stolen from the owner of the club. One of his coworkers at the club is Remy, who popped into my head one day and pretty much demanded a place in Daivid’s book, just to torment Daivid’s very heterosexual masculinity. Remy has all of a handful of lines and appears in only two scenes in the book, and that was the extent of my plan for him.

Well, Remy, apparently, had plans of his own, because while I was struggling to work on Betrayal, he jumped up in all his flamboyant glory, threw his arms in the air, and shouted, “I need a book of my own!”

What can I say? I obeyed.

It didn’t take much for his story to take shape. Just his few lines in Broken got me thinking: How does a kid wind up being a stripper and a porn star? Why does his boyfriend not mind his job, and even gets off on it? Was it an easy road to that relationship, or was it a struggle getting his boyfriend to accept him as he was?

And there it was. Story concept. And as I started writing it, other characters popped up out of nowhere, more backstory developed to come back to haunt Remy, and suddenly, in a matter of weeks, the gorgeous, energetic Remy Dawes had managed to star in a book of his own.

But, of course, he couldn’t leave it at that. He had to drag in his boyfriend’s brother, who will also have his own book (alongside Elliden Crawford, who makes appearances in Return To Tanas (Shifting Isles, Book 3) and Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4)), and then Remy’s boss stepped up and said he needed a book, too, which rounded out the stories and developed this neat little M/M romance trilogy that would run as a side-step from the main Shifting Isles anthology.

The trilogy, which I’m calling Matchmakers, after the name of the club where Remy works, will be available…well, I’m not really sure. Since I really should be focusing on the main series, I should be putting this new one off until the end of my current writing schedule, which is already about three or four years out. Then again, this project has me so wound up and excited that I just might make it a special release amongst and between the scheduled release dates of the main Shifting Isles series. I hate to be vague, but there you have it.

I just hope I can get back on track with Betrayal. Granted, all my deadlines are self-imposed, so it’s not like the end of the world if I get off-schedule, but still…my OCD wouldn’t be too happy with me were I to do that.

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Broken — Now available!

41f+T193FWL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Finally! It’s done! Wow, you have no idea how glad I am to have this one behind me. After having Return to Tanas absolutely explode out of me in a matter of days, getting stuck over Broken for over a year was beyond frustrating.

But, it’s done. It’s published. It’s now out of my hair.

And it turned out a lot better than I originally thought it would. This story line went through so many changes along the way until it finally flowed well and everything tied together. It still amazes me how moving a key event from one plot point to another dramatically changes the pace and tone of the story.

With Broken, we take a slight change of course in the world of the Shifting Isles. From Benash’s story in The Prisoner to his daughter Saira’s story in S.P.I.R.I.T. Division to Saira’s son Graeden’s story in Return to Tanas, we now drop down one more generation, but the Crawfords are now just supporting characters, and the protagonist is Daivid Thaton, a grown orphan who crosses paths with the Crawfords, and not always in a good way.

Daivid has committed several thefts throughout his life, and gotten caught every time, so he pays the price over and over. On one hand, he doesn’t mind getting caught, because he hates being indebted to people, and he always intends to pay back his victims, but each time he gets caught, he accumulates a new mediation debt on top of the amount he stole, so he’s perpetually broke and quite often homeless.

I got to amuse myself a bit with this one in terms of free market justice. There are no police and courts like we have in the real world, so crimes are subject to a mediated agreement between criminal and victim. Because of his criminal record, no employer will hire Daivid, but he does have a job — only because it was offered to him by his victim as a means of paying off his debt with his own labor.

And Daivid hates the work, but he accepts it because he’s simply thankful to be employed at all, and thus able to not only work off his debt but also (mostly) keep a roof over his head. Why does he hate the work? Well, you’ll just have to read it and find out (keeping in mind that he agreed to the mediation terms, since the alternative meant no employment, certain homelessness, and an even greater mountain of debt that he would have more difficulty paying off — his choice based on his subjective scale of values).

(Thank you, Ludwig von Mises.)

And on top of his debts, Daivid is also trying to track down the parents that abandoned him, not to mention trying to get through the drama of his upcoming wedding.

But then an accident puts a stop to everything…

Broken is now available at CreateSpace.com, as well as on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle formats. I’ve also unlocked the Pinterest board for the book if anyone is interested in a few visuals for characters or settings (as well as a few interesting articles on up-and-coming technologies that are used or at least hinted at in the story). The book is also listed on Goodreads for those of you book junkies like me who like to keep track of what they read.

Happy reading!

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

A Year of Excess

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

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

 

Excessive Anxiety

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

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

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

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

 

Excessive Writer’s Block

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

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

Twice.

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

 

Excessive Work Hours

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

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

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

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

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

 

Excessive Good News

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

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

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

 

Excessive Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Excessive Boredom

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Excessive Book Ideas

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

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

So far, anyway.

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

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

 

Excessive Coffee

Mmmm….coffee…..

Publishing, Shifting Isles

Return to Tanas — Now available!

Return to TanasAnd here we are again! Wow, six books out now. This is crazy. It’s funny to look back at my life and think that I never imagined myself writing, whether as just a hobby or a potential career. I always loved English classes, but I was a total math geek all through school, so to have all these stories bouncing around in my head all the time is a bit surreal.

Then, to have a paperback book in my hands, with my name on it…

There really is no way to describe that feeling. It’s just incredible

Alright, so, third book in the Shifting Isles series, Return to Tanas follows the life of Dr. Graeden Crawford, second son of Charlie and Saira Crawford (from S.P.I.R.I.T. Division). Graeden is keeping a big secret from his family, and it takes getting trapped on the Isle of Tanas for him to finally find the motivation to confess.

Assuming he ever makes it back home… ūüėČ

This book just absolutely exploded out of me. I literally wrote two-thirds of it in six days. The whole thing was just laid out in my head, plain as day, and my hands ached from all the constant typing I did that week.

Gods, was that really a year ago, now? How time flies.

Yep, just about this time, last year, I was writing this book, trying to keep ahead on my writing schedule. Ever since then, I’ve been absolutely stuck on the next book (Broken, Shifting Isles Series Book 4), but thankfully it’s finally starting to come together — and hopefully in time for its December release date. In the meantime, though, I’m so excited to share this newest baby of mine with the world.

Graeden was a lot of fun to write. He’s kind of an asshole, but with a reason. And the reason…

Well, you’ll just have to read it. But I will say this: The big reveal gets me choked up every time.

And I wrote the damn thing.

Still, every time I get to that line, the tears of joy and excitement and relief start welling up. Can’t be helped. It just gets to me.

I had a lot of fun with this one delving more into the comparisons of Tanas (a socialist country) and Agoran (an anarcho-capitalist society). The first two books did that a bit, each being set on one of the Isles, but to have both in the same story, it makes for a striking difference.

And lots of good tension. Oh, does Graeden ever love to argue with the Tanasians!

The book is now available in print at the publishing site, CreateSpace, as well as on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle formats.

I’ve also listed the book on Goodreads, and released the Pinterest board, for anyone interested in some of the visuals that go along with the story.

I particularly love the idea of holographic imaging for use in medicine — that concept was a lot of fun to play with!

87d3115e2ab62cdcd0625729e601ea0fSo, once again, enjoy! I’m off to get back to work on Book 4 while I’m stuck here in a hotel in a tiny little town in Texas.

Yeah, I really don’t do vacation right, I know…

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

Writing Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publishing, Shifting Isles

S.P.I.R.I.T. Division — Now available!

S.P.I.R.I.T. DivisionIs there anything better than release day?

I think not!

Here we are again. Another book. Set approximately 30 years after the events of The Prisoner, this second volume in the Shifting Isles series follows the story of Honorary Detective Asenna Shyth, who has an inexplicable telepathic connection to victims of violent crime. The story takes place on the Isle of Agoran, the only free land in the world of the Shifting Isles. Instead of dull, dreary Tanas, this story is full of stunning cities and futuristic technology. I had a lot of fun playing around with ideas for eco cities (think: vegetable gardens growing up the sides of skyscrapers) and holographic imaging (I’m picturing something along the lines of Tony Stark’s technology).

In the story, Asenna Shyth uses her telepathic gifts to try stopping rapists and murderers before their crimes can be completed, but a serial murderer continues to elude her, leaving no DNA, no fingerprints, and no surviving victims to identify him.

And throughout it all, she’s also trying to break through her own amnesia.

The book is now live on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle formats, as well as directly from the publishing platform at CreateSpace.

You can also find the book on Goodreads, and I’ve unlocked the Pinterest board, for anyone interested in some of the visual inspiration I had for the story (please note, of course, that this may contain spoilers).

And now, on to Book 3!

Inspiration, Shifting Isles

How the Grinch Stole My Writer’s Block

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really ought to be the Grinch for Halloween.

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

*deep breath*

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

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

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

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

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Publishing, Shifting Isles

The Prisoner — Now available!

BookCoverImageThe Prisoner is now available on Amazon.com! Alright, so it’s a couple days earlier than I planned to release, but I was just so eager, I couldn’t make myself wait those few extra days to click “Approve” on the CreateSpace website.

Compared to the Lethean trilogy, I am so proud of the way this one turned out, in terms of everything from story content to text format. And the cover! Natalie Fawn Danelishen and Craig Lively did an amazing job putting this beauty together! I’m pretty sure I squealed when I got the proof in my hands, it was that wonderful.

More information is available about the book under the Books tab and the Shifting Isles Series tab. I’ve stored a¬†PDF version of the entire book, available for download for FREE (yes, free! Download it, read it, enjoy it!). The book is also available to purchase in Kindle and Paperback formats on Amazon.com, or directly from the publisher at CreateSpace.com.

The book is also now listed on Goodreads, and I’ve moved the Pinterest board for the book out of the Secret category (although, fair warning: the Pinterest board might contain plot-spoiling images).

Alright. Phew! That’s enough excitement for me for one day. Now back to working on the next volume in the series (due out in June!).

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.

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!