Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is Your Well of Story Ideas Drying Up?

Most of the authors I know, including me, have so many ideas in their TBW (To Be Written) pile, they could write nonstop for a couple of years and not get all the stories written. However, others struggle to add to their TBW list.

If you are a struggler, maybe this post will help.

Yes, I do have a healthy TBW list, but I like keeping new ideas flowing and add to my list all the time. Sometimes an idea just reaches out and grabs me and moves to the front of the line, and other times the idea just simmers and stews, and I know that one day it will make a great novel, but not today.

Still, even I go through droughts. Recently, I found myself in one such dry patch.

For those who don't know, I was unemployed for almost two years. Actually, the two-year anniversary of my unemployment just past last week (I blogged about it - LOL). Emotionally, things were rough for a while. I won't go into all that here, but in January of this year, after endless searching for a "real job," I decided that I already had a real job. I'm a writer. So, this past January, I devoted almost all my time to writing and getting my first book published. If I couldn't find a job, I'd create a job with the talents I've had since about birth (I was writing before I was in school).

Then, in the middle of May, my good friend and a former boss I'd worked for before taking my last job called me. A position had just opened up, albeit a temporary one, and he thought I'd be perfect for it. Since my unemployment benefits were running out in two weeks, and my book income wasn't quite enough to live off of yet (and because he was my friend), I took the job.

Bear with me...I'm getting to my point.

So, I started my new job the week before Memorial Day, which was also the week my second book was released, and all was good. At this time, my idea well was beginning to dry up. Sure, I had a ton of ideas already working, as well as a series of 10+ books that I'd only finished the first two of, but, as I said earlier, I didn't like that my mind wasn't churning over new material.

My first few days at my job were pretty slow since it was right before the holiday, and they received Rolling Stone magazine and Sports Illustrated. Guess what? I found a treasure trove of story ideas. I read an article on John Mayer and immediately saw a story about a musician who suffered being in the public eye. A special section focusing on EDM (Electronic Dance Music) made me change one of my character's hobbies to music and mixing his own tracks of EDM. An in-depth article on boxing gave me loads of information for fight scenes and my warriors. I was so blown away that I immediately subscribed to Rolling Stone, and have considered a subscription to Sports Illustrated.

But my discovery of rich ideas didn't stop there. At home, while I was doing my back therapy after work (I have to regularly perform therapy exercises due to a back injury I sustained about three-and-a-half years ago), I turned on the Travel Channel and became addicted to Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Bizarre Foods, and Ghost Adventures. Oh yes, kiddies, I have a ghost story or two (or more) in the works, all from being inspired by Ghost Adventures. And the food shows help me develop new ways of describing places, actions, and behaviors, all because the hosts of those shows are writers themselves, and you can tell by the way they talk.

Interesting, huh? I went from ho-hum to Wa-HOO! in the idea department.

So, here's my advice to anyone who is scratching their head for new ideas to write about: Read magazines you've never read before, especially entertainment magazines. I love Rolling Stone because they just "do it right" and they aren't a gossip rag. RS isn't afraid to ask tough questions and dig into a story's meat, and that helps me engage at a deeper level where my imagination can begin to work. However, even gossip rags can provide you with some amazing fuel for story, because they know how to engage your emotions and get you worked up.

Watch TV shows you wouldn't normally watch, too. Maybe you'll catch a show on ancient aliens, and the next thing you know, you've got a great paranormal romance developing about a being who comes to earth to check on the progress the civilization has made since his race populated the first humans here. Maybe it's his decision to report back to his leaders whether the planet should be destroyed or left to continue. He's disgusted by what he finds. Filth, despair, war, the depletion of the planet, etc.. Oh, but then he meets...her, and his heart falls for this ethereal woman who, no matter how hard life is, seems to always see the good. He falls in love. When he doesn't report back, others are sent to investigate. These others are more brutal, and they have no hesitations about ordering the destruction of the human race. To them, the experiement was a failure. For the first interplanetary visitor, it becomes a race to find a way to save the human race, the woman he loves, and the planet, and to convince his leaders not to follow through on their plans of extermination.

I got all that from watching a TV show. See how simple this is? The idea may not start out great, but through writing and editing, it can become great. Who cares if the idea is full of problems. It's just an idea, it's not the story. If you saw my first drafts and compared them to my final manuscripts, you'd see that even a first draft can suck, not just the idea of one. Mine are so full of holes and need so much TLC before they're ready to be published, it's almost sad. But that's why I put each manuscript through 5-10 rounds of edits and 6 beta readers: so all those holes can be filled. An idea should be just that: an idea. It's a small seed you can grow an awesome story from.

The most important thing to get your well of ideas to fill up again is to break your routine. Get up earlier or later. Go see a movie on a weekday by yourself if you never do that. Read a book in a completely different genre from what you're used to. Go for a bike ride. Go to the mall and watch people. Go to the museum or take a tour of the city where you live.

You can also look at random pictures on the internet and write a couple of paragraphs about the story being told in the picture (as you see it). Here, let's try that now. Pick one or more of the following pics and create a scene from it. What's happening? Why is it happening? Who is involved? Is there magic at work? What are the emotions of the characters? Why are the characters there? You can simply imagine or you can actually write out a little story or scene, whatever works best for you:

If you did this exercise and feel like sharing, go ahead. I'd love to see what people came up with.

One last thing that has helped me come up with new ideas is to put on my headphones, turn on my Pandora radio station (Kaskade radio is my favorite right now), lean back, close my eyes, and let my mind get lost in the music. I have come up with a TON of ideas for books and scenes within books by doing this.

Hopefully this has helped some of you find new ways to break open new ideas. Does anyone have any other suggestions for coming up with new ideas? Where have some of your best ideas come from?

Happy reading and writing!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Micah's Fall - Part One (Little Micah) - Chapter One

Micah's Fall
Part I
Chapter One

The boy darted swiftly in and out of the trees, making hardly a noise. His long, black hair whipped behind him, blending with the night’s shadows, and his navy eyes searched ahead and to the right.
Focus, focus.
His father had taught him to keep a clear head on the hunt.
Coming to an abrupt stop, he lifted his bow and nocked an arrow with expert quickness, drawing the string back by his ear and holding his breath. His young vampire hearing picked up the approach of both the wild boar as well as the other hunters from the clan who were corralling it toward him.
Closing his left eye, he tracked with his right as he looked down the length of the deadly arrow to the tip. He slowly swept toward the left, following the crashing noises of the boar as it tore through the trees in the darkness.
As soon as the animal burst through a patch of undergrowth, the boy took a second to steady himself then released the bow. The arrow zipped through the air and penetrated the boar between the eyes.
A squeal peeled from the animal’s throat as it lurched and fell, and the boy rushed forward as the rest of the clan’s hunters broke into view.
One of the adult hunters buried his knife in the boar’s neck, ensuring the beast was dead, then another rushed forward to capture the blood that poured from the wound inside an animal-skin satchel. They would take the blood and the carcass back to the village so that the females could prepare the overnight feast for the newly-mated couple within the clan.
“Good job, Micah.”
Micah smiled proudly up at his uncle, Rory, his heart beating wildly with adrenaline as it always did after a kill.
“You’ve got some skill there, boy.” Rory sounded impressed and clapped him on the shoulder.
Micah panted and turned back toward the scene in front of him as the other hunters quickly prepared the boar for travel. If they had been humans, the pitch of night would have prevented them from seeing anything around them. As it was, Micah and his clan mates didn’t need light to see. Their vampire vision, heightened by the excitement of the hunt, easily delineated tree from shadow from beast.
Rory knelt down beside Micah, his own black hair falling over his face. “What do you think you’ll do with this talent, Micah? Hmm?”
Micah looked into eyes so much like his own and his father’s and shrugged. “I don’t know.”
His uncle arched an eyebrow at him. “You don’t know?” He wrapped his heavy arm around Micah’s shoulders and gave him a paternal shake. “You’re twelve years old, Micah. Almost an adult. I’d say you have the makings of a fine warrior, boy.”
Micah looked down at his bare feet, which were covered with dirt. Did he want to be a warrior? His father was. So was his Uncle. So were several other elders in the clan. He looked at the boar again, remembering the feeling of power that roared through him every time he hunted. His muscles reacted without thinking, and he instinctively knew where to aim and when to release his arrow. Even during training exercises and games back in the village, Micah excelled far and away over the other young. He was stronger, faster, and more cunning than all of them.
Nibbling the inside of his cheek, Micah grinned at Rory then nodded. “I will be the greatest warrior our clan has ever seen,” he announced confidently.
“Just our clan?” Rory roared with laughter. “Why not the world, lad?”
Micah pursed his lips then licked them before nodding. “The greatest warrior in the world!” He yelled and raised his bow into the air.
A couple of the adult hunters glanced over, shaking their heads and smiling at the young, overly-confident boy with the grand plan for his future.
“That’s my nephew talking.” Rory clapped him on the shoulder once more and stood.
The boar was ready for transport, so Micah spun on his heel and trotted back to the village to let the females know to prepare. Their meal was on the way.

Micah's Fall - Introduction

Last week I mentioned I would be posting a free read here on my blog. I want to do this for my fans, many of whom have said that they would like to know what happened before Rise of the Fallen took place. In other words, what brought Micah Black so effectively to his knees with anguish? Well, the first chapter of Micah's Fall will be up in just a few hours.

Here's what I want you to know about this free read:
  • Micah's Fall is a prequel to Rise of the Fallen (and the All the King's Men series I'm currently writing and publishing).
  • I have created a tab at the top where all the chapters will be posted in sequential order.
  • This free read is ONLY A ROUGH, FIRST DRAFT, which means it will likely be riddled with errors since it has not gone through any edits. I put my manuscripts through 5-10 intensive rounds of edits and proofs before I finalize them, and this story will require a TON of research into historical facts. This free read is simply a skeleton for me to build around through edits. If anyone has knowledge they feel will help me make the story more accurate/interesting, please email me or leave a comment.
  • This story will eventually go through editing and proofing, and it will be published, but only the first draft will be posted here. Reader feedback is EXTREMELY welcome, so don't hold back if you have something to point out or say.
  • The published version of this story will likely be drastically different than this rough draft version being posted here. Anyone who read the early draft(s) of Rise of the Fallen knows that the final product hardly resembled the first few drafts. And I added 30,000 words to the first draft of Heart of the Warrior and rewrote entire chapters before finalizing that manuscript. So, yes, I have a history of completely tearing apart my rough draft before becoming happy with the final version that gets published. Beta feedback is critical for me to do that. Consider yourselves all beta readers.
  • No posting schedule has been set. I could post one chapter a day, week, or month, depending on what's going on elsewhere in my life. Hopefully, you will see at least one new chapter each week, but I can't guarantee that.
NOTE: I own the copyright on this story. This means you can NOT re-publish my story or profit from it without my direct written consent. If you are enjoying the story, feel free to refer others to my blog and/or my books by posting my blog link or promoting the books, but you are not legally allowed to reproduce this story as your own or post it elsewhere. If I find that this story is being copied and pasted anywhere but here, I will immediately remove all posts and cease posting further chapters. Please respect my intellectual property and follow these guidelines so everyone can enjoy the story.

With that, enjoy the free read.

Thank you

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Monday Muse - Aaron Avila -- Who? Oh, Just Come and Look

Post and pictures deleted at the request of the model.

What I Love About Living In Indy

Today, as the Brickyard 400 gets underway about 20-30 minutes from my house, I am reminded about one of the things I love about living in Indianapolis (Indy, as we Hoosiers call it). We get at least two guaranteed flyovers every year.

I love flyovers.

I could spend hours at an air field watching American heavy metal land, take off, and fly over.

This year, for the Indy 500, we got my favorite all-time jet as a flyover. The A-10. The A-10 tank busting Thunderbolt was close to being decommissioned before the Gulf War, where it proved its worth for being highly maneuverable and deadly against enemy artillery. An A-10 even took out an enemy attack helicopter. Let's see an F-16 do that. Yes, I'm proud of my A-10s, which seem to have solidified a place in the American military for many years to come.

The A-10 has a very distinct sound, sort of like a high-pitched whine but with some power behind it...almost like it's shifting gears but not. It's hard to describe, but once you've heard an A-10, you don't forget it. In my opinion, this is just about the baddest bad boy in the sky.

But today's Brickyard flyover gave the A-10 a run for its money. Never before has an F-22 Osprey done a flyover at an Indy race. We've had A-10s, F-16s, KC-135s, B-1s, but never an Osprey. This was a treat.

I'm lucky enough to live near the path for the holding pattern for race flyovers. Every year, the hubs and I prepare for the chosen aircraft to fly over or near our house anywhere from 5-10 times in preparation for their flyover at the track.

Today, I had my window open as I watched the clock draw nearer to race time and listened for the telltale roar of whichever aircraft we got this year. I was working on the final proof for Micah's Calling when an odd noise in the distance caught my ear. My hubs said, "Oh, that's just a commercial airliner." We live close enough to the airport that jets fly over all the time, but this didn't sound right to me. The noise grew louder and included the telltale sound of helicopter rotors. "Oh no it's not!" I yelled, and jumped out of my chair and took off for the front door. I couldn't see them, but I knew something unique was hitting Indy this year.

I came back in and did a quick Internet search, and sure enough, we had ourselves a pair of F-22 Ospreys.

Hubs and I got in the car and drove down the street for a better look since we have trees all around us, and because the Ospreys were taking a shorter route than usual flyovers and not coming as far north as we live. Let me tell you, Ospreys are impressive up close. They were huge and had both a jet engine and helicopter sound, making them way cool to watch as they flew over us five more times.

At any rate, this is just one of the things I love about living in Indy. What a bad-ass way to take a break from Micah's Calling - watching a pair of cool birds fly over before the race.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 27, 2012

What Being Unemployed Taught Me

Is it really July 27th?

Wow. I almost missed my two-year anniversary of being unemployed. On July 27, 2010, I was "let go" by my former employer.

Who celebrates their unemployment anniversary? you might be asking. I do. Why? Because, for better or worse, losing my job awakened me to the person I was meant to become. What follows is a mix of humor, sadness, realism, and revelation. Here's how things rolled out to get me where I am today:
  1. On July 27, 2010, I was called in to my boss's office and was told they were letting me go.
  3. I had seen it coming, so I had already cleaned out my desk and cleaned up my files. I gathered my things, went to the parking garage, called my hubs, and said, "Well, I'm unemployed."
  4. The first couple of weeks things were great. I had a hefty severence, and I felt I'd have no trouble finding a new job.
  5. I was wrong.
  6. Got a contract job. Got deathly sick because the guy I worked for refused to stop wearing cologne despite my ongoing asthma attacks in reaction to it.
  7. Lost the contract job. Was sick for a month with extreme respiratory distress and fever. 
  8. Got another contract job.
  9. While running an errand for new job, a woman ran a red light and T-boned my car, sending me spinning through an intersection into oncoming traffic and then up onto the curb and into a light post. (The woman said, "Well, your light was turning yellow," as her reason for running the light. Um, that means your light was red, lady. Red = stop. You didn't do that).
  10. Ouch! Chiropractor and auto repair shop, wherefore art thou?
  11. The day after the accident, I was informed by my boss that they were going to hire from within the organization to replace me since I was only a temp.
  12. Depression begins to sink in.
  13. The day before my last day at my temp job, I found out my mom had taken a turn for the worse at the hospice and only had days or even hours to live.
  14. October 29 - Happy birthday to me. Urgh.
  15. Job ended (this was the beginning of November) and I spent as much time as I could by my mom's side. The first day or so she could talk a little. Then she could only communicate by blinking. The last couple of days, she no longer communicated at all.
  16. My mom hung on longer than expected, but on November 7, 2010, my mom passed away.
  17. I'm feeling beaten down. I've decided not to even look for a job for the remainder of the year at this point.
  18. Spent the following two weeks going through my mom's things. Cried a lot.
  19. The day before my mom's Celebration of Life ceremony, a plumbing nightmare of Godzilla proportions erupted in our house.
  20. Hello Niagara Falls.
  21. Calgon, take me away (if only I could take a bath)
  22. Got through my mom's final farewell ceremony and remembered her fondly.
  23. Plumbers, plumbers everywhere!
  24. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Happy New Year! Here's to a better 2011.
  25. Unemployment benefits begin.
  26. I begin writing Rise of the Fallen in roleplay format on Facebook, posting it on a fan page.
  27. Micah and I - we be tight with one another. Depressed, emotionally spent, and ready to jump. That's the two of us in a nutshell.
  28. I start seeing a therapist for my depression.
  29. I'm crying a lot. A LOT!
  30. Fetal position on the bed. Yep, that's me.
  31. Did I mention crying?
  32. Lots of trips to the unemployment office to attend classes, networking, and career testing. Yes, I cry while I'm there. I'm just sitting there crying, feeling demoralized and like I've somehow failed.
  33. Had a temp agency play under-handed dirty pool by going into a company I had an interview with through a different temp agency and ended up screwing me out of the job. I arrived for my interview and was told to leave immediately. I had no idea what had happened until I called my agency, who promptly dropped me for the other agency's actions.
  34. My faith in humanity is shaken.
  35. I can't do anything without crying. Dishes, laundry, grocery shopping...breathing...yeah, the simple things.
  36. Sign up for state-funded classes in medical records management while taking a medical transcription course.
  37. Micah and I get closer to one another as his story begins to take shape. He makes me cry. Surprise surprise.
  38. Catharsis begins to take place through writing Micah's story.
  39. Classes start in May, 2011.
  40. I'm writing, studying, and continuing to search for a job that just isn't there.
  41. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  42. Hope it's not a freight train coming my way (shameless Metallica plug).
  43. Study, write, study, write. And where are the damn jobs?
  44. Dread Sundays when I have to enter my unemployment info online.
  45. Become a certified medical records specialist by end of 2011.
  46. Lose faith in the job market. Because even with my new education and a year-and-a-half of searching, there are no jobs in sight. I can't even get a nibble.
  47. I guess it was a freight train instead of a light.
  48. Happy New Year. 2012 begins on a low note. I'm crying again. A whole year of crying. Woo-hoo! Mom would be proud.
  49. I'm shocked I have any tears left. Didn't God dish out an annual tear quota when he made me?
  50. First week of January, I'm at Whole Foods at 8:00 A.M., facing a decision. I received a call for a "group interview" for a job that makes me physically ill when I think about working there. What do I do? Do I go or pass on it?
  51. With tears in my eyes as I'm walking out of Whole Foods, I ask God for a sign. Do I write books or do I go to the interview? Yeah, I'm crying. Again.
  52. By the end of the day, I have received six major signs that make it clear I'm supposed to stay home and write.
  53. Within two weeks, the first draft of Rise of the Fallen is finished.
  54. On March 24, Rise of the Fallen is published.
  55. I receive word my unemployment benefits will end early and by June I will no longer be eligible to receive benefits.
  56. MAJOR SPEED BUMP. Panic sets in. I had counted on my benefits running to the end of 2012.
  57. Shift gears to get Heart of the Warrior out earlier so I can hopefully generate enough income to live off of so we don't lose our house.
  58. Quite by coincidence, the week before my unemployment benefits run out (early May, 2012), a good friend and former boss contacts me to inquire if I know anyone who would like a temporary job writing and formatting documents at the company where I used to work with him.
  59. Ha ha ha! Slick move, John. You knew I'd want the job.
  60. May 24, 2012, Heart of the Warrior is released.
  61. Unemployment benefits run out.
  62. Start new temporary job.
  63. Despite hitting a few bumps as I adjust to working a M-F 8:00-5:00 job into my writing regimen, I'm happy again, albeit trepidatiously.
  64. In a revelatory moment, wonders if everyone can now see why I don't give a flip about Matthew Darringer (or however you spell his name). I've got my own problems and kinda see him as small potatoes after almost two years of Hell on Earth. I really don't have the extra energy or desire to give a shit about him given the dark hole of oppression I've just worked myself out of, and I can't afford to be dragged back down into it when I'm still a bit fragile myself.
So, what did I learn? What did my stint with unemployment teach me?
  1. I am a phoenix. I can burn into cinders and rise from the ashes a stronger, smarter, and more capable version of myself. This is why I named my publishing company Phoenix Press.
  2. Everything happens for a reason. Losing my job and being unable to find a new one forced me to face my fear of putting my writing out in front of the world. In doing so, I am now able to do what it is I love and make money doing it. Even if I didn't have this temporary gig with my friend's company, I would be making enough money on my writing to just barely get by, and there's nowhere to go but up, so yay for small victories and baby steps.
  3. Speaking of the temporary job, I've learned that God or whatever higher power is up there does send us what we need when we need it. Worrying gets us nowhere. We have all that we need to get by in the moment. Trust in that. I mean, I went almost two years without finding a job, and out of nowhere and totally unsolicited, I get a call from the only person I would ever consider working for again. If that's not Fate, I don't know what is.
  4. I need to trust my inner voices that lead me. In the past two years, they have not led me astray.
  5. No matter how bad it gets, it does get better and I will not die from it. I'm a survivor. It's true: What doesn't kill me does make me stronger.
  6. Did I mention that everything happens for a reason? Instead of fighting Fate, I should accept what that bitch gave me and I'll be a lot happier and will move on more quickly. Fighting the cards I've been dealt only makes it hurt more and last longer. In fact, I should thank Fate and not call her a bitch. She knows what I need better than I do.
  7. No matter how bad it gets, I can still laugh at myself and find humor and love in every situation, even if it takes me a while to find it. That's what gets me through and gives me hope.
  8. There are more important things to worry about than what this guy said about that one. A LOT more important things. I've learned that one the hard way. When you worry about whether or not you're going to lose your house or have food to eat, it kinda puts things into perspective. So go ahead and cuss my name. I've been through worse.
  9. Most importantly: By losing my job, I found myself.
May your tomorrow be brighter than today, and happy two-year anniversary to me! I'm ready to face another year of self-discovery.

Happy reading and writing!


My Little Facebook Vacation

I haven't gotten so much writing done in weeks. In just two days, I've written more than I had in two weeks. It's amazing. How have I done this? By taking a vacation from Facebook.

I know Facebook is a necessary evil in this world of high social connectivity where, if you want to gain more fans and network more effectively, you have to have a presence. However, lately I have found that Facebook is just one massive depot for negativity and frustration with the crippling ability to stop even the staunchest writers from getting much traction.

So, I have taken a little vacay from Facebook Land, and let me just say, the water's great here. My creativity burst back to life, and I've been a writing fiend, whereas before I was struggling to find my mojo. Ideas are flowing like a flooded river, overflowing the banks, and it's great. I'm loving it.

The good news is that I haven't felt the need to log in to Facebook for two days. I love my fans, so I do miss them, but I know I'm doing more for them while being off Facebook than I was doing for them on, because if I'm not writing, I'm not giving them anything to read.

What's more is that I have a friend (she happens to be my editor) who is constantly reminding me that my goal is to reach a writing status on par with J.R. Ward, Kresley Cole, and Gena Showalter, among others. She keeps me focused and always asks me, "Do you see J.R. Ward posting on Facebook all day, every day?" She'll say, "You don't see J.R. Ward doing such-and-such or this-or-that." In other words, she's reminding me that I need to emulate that which I wish to become so that one day I can become it.

Yes, J.R. Ward has a Facebook presence, but you don't see her on every day, all day, posting in groups and engaging in heated discussions about emotional issues that have nothing to do with writing or her next book. She still keeps connected with her fans without becoming distracted by the low-hanging fruit of negativity. She keeps her nose clean, and she keeps her fingers on the keyboard, and her mind focused on her current WIP or next book. And she gives her fans what they want. This is what I need to do.

So, while I see the merits of maintaining a bit of a heavier social presence for now, while I'm still a "newbie," the message is clear: If I want to become the kind of writer I aspire to be, I will eventually need to ween myself away from the heavy distraction of Facebook. I may eventually dispose of my profile and simply maintain a fan page, which seems to be the logical progression. I won't make any decisions for now, but this sure seems to be the direction I need to look toward.

One thing is certain: getting away from Facebook certainly does have a positive impact on my writing. If I can write 5,000 words and complete the hard copy proof on an entire manuscript in two days off of Facebook, imagine what I can accomplish in a week. A month. Even longer. Removing myself from Facebook has allowed me to focus not on what everyone else is doing and saying, but on my own work and my own thoughts. It has allowed me to focus on what is truly important while letting me relax.

And isn't that what vacations are all about?

Happy reading and writing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Micah's Calling - The Cover is Almost Done (And a Prequel? What? Oh Yes)

It looks like my next book, Micah's Calling, will be published sometime in mid-August. The manuscript is in its final round of edits and will be sent to my editor for a final proofread this weekend, and the cover is about halfway done. The book is a novella supplement to the All the King's Men series and is the rest of Micah Black's story (which mostly took place after the end of Rise of the Fallen).

Micah's Calling is a true supplement, meaning that if you have not read Rise of the Fallen (ROTF), you might be a little lost. I had a new beta reader read the novella before reading ROTF, and she said she felt confused at times. Then she read it again after reading ROTF and said it worked exceptionally well that way. She was able to enjoy the story knowing all that had come before.

This novella is most definitely an adult read. It is primarily about Micah's mating phase, known as the calling, so obviously there will be a lot of mating. However, I tried to make the sexual encounters varied and non-repetitious, and I even glossed over a couple of the scenes for fear of obscuring the story, which is one that delves deeper into Micah's past, his relationship with Traceon, and his desire to start a family. With this novella (which comes in around 40,000 words, so it's just shy of being an offical novel), we get to know Micah a lot better, as well as Trace. And we see how Sam figures into both their worlds and how the three of them are growing closer to one another in ways none of them saw coming.

Here's what to expect in Micah's Calling: exhibitionism, voyeurism, mild-to-strong elements of BDSM, and STRONG sexual content. This is probably my sex-heaviest book to date, and probably will be until I get to Traceon's book in the series (his story is told in book five). I was a little reluctant to include so much sexual content, but by the nature of the story, it had to be there. When you have a male vampire who is in a hormonally heat-induced state of arousal for two weeks, where all he is driven to do is impart his seed repeatedly in a non-stop effort to impregnate his mate, a lot of intercourse is going to occur and drive the majority of his thoughts. Add in a tortured male who requires the degradation of submissive BDSM play to control his immense power, and you've got an intense story heated with lots of innuendo and direct physical action.

At any rate, as I was finishing the hard copy edits of Micah's Calling yesterday, I was moved to begin writing the prequel of the series. I've received many comments from readers, friends, and fans, saying they could see a prequel and would love to see what came before to lead up to Micah's fall and subsequent death wish in Rise of the Fallen. Sooooo, here's the deal: I'm working on putting the prequel down in draft form, and if I feel the draft is good enough, I will post the first draft ONLY as a free read on my blog, most likely chapter-by-chapter or maybe by sections.

Now, keep in mind that my first drafts are NEVER like the final product. Ever. I edit the holy living doo-doo out of them, as you saw from my writing sample (from AKM book three, Rebel Obsession) in yesterday's Show vs. Tell post. I treat first drafts merely as a skeleton from which to build the meat of the story, and each draft goes through 5-10 edits and proofs before it's finished. In fact, I might write something in the beginning of the first draft and mid-stream completely change the concept, knowing that I will have to go back and change what was already written. I will add entire chapters during edits. I will rewrite entire chapters during edits. If readers can understand that what they will read on my blog is an exceptionally rough draft, then by all means, I will move forward with this idea and invite you all in to the first stage of my writing process. And all my fans/readers can serve as beta readers, too, offering ideas or observations. I would love and welcome that.

Any thoughts? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Show vs. Tell - Don't Over-Caulk Your Window

NOTE: An unedited and unfinalized excerpt from my next AKM novel, Rebel Obsession, follows. Adult content.

I'll bet a thousand dollars that some authors read the title of today's blog post and said, "Oh God, not another lesson in showing vs. telling." Why? Because the concept of showing vs. telling has been beaten so forcefully into author's heads that it's almost become a catch-phrase or some kind of offensive slur. In fact, there is a mini-movement of sorts to do away with the concept. Obviously, I think that's a bit extreme, as well as misguided, since the concept of showing vs. telling receives the attention it does for VERY good reasons: 1) Many authors don't truly understand it (it took two years for me to get it) and NEED to learn it;  2) If you're simply telling your story to your readers without showing them anything, you are losing them.

Since the idea of writing and selling books is to keep the readers you've got and gain new ones, obviously you need to be learning all the ways to do that, which includes mastering the art of showing a story and not just telling it.

Readers want an experience, and the only way to give them that is by showing the story to them so that while they read it, they are watching the movie in their minds. It's hard to "experience" a story when it's just being told to you to the point you can't live it, breathe it, smell it, and even taste it. When you engage their senses and their imaginations through word pictures, you allow readers to build the "movie" in their mind so they can watch it while they read.

Perhaps the vehement antagonism toward showing vs. telling stems from the thought that when some writers are told they need to show more and tell less, they think they're being told they have to show everything. No, that's not the case. You need some narration (aka telling) to balance out the story, because you simply can't show everything, but when you can show a scene, you should, because it makes the scene infinitely more interesting.

I'm going to show you a sample from my own writing to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. I'm editing my next AKM novel, Rebel Obsession, and as I was reading over chapter two, I sat back and thought, "Ew! This is so boring. It's just straight narration and all telling." So, I reworked it. Keep in mind as you read these samples that this is only a first edit and that the story will go through at least five more rounds of edits before it's finished, but I have begun to transform the original "telling" scene into one that "shows" more of what's happening:

Original Scene

Io sat in the passenger seat of the Suburban next to Severin, and wasn't that about as comfortable as being rubbed with barbed wire? More than two weeks ago, Io had learned that his bestie, Arion, had taken Severin as a mate, and vice versa. All this had happened the night Sev's chest got blown open by that Gina chick who had thought Sev had killed her brother.

What a nightmare. Sev almost hadn’t made it through, flat-lining once while the doctors had worked on him.
But Sev had managed to survive, much to the relief of everyone, especially Arion, and had just returned to work a couple of nights ago. His and Arion’s newly-mated calling phase with one another had finally ended, which had made it safe for him to return to his job.
As far as his would-be assassin was concerned, Gina had split town after Sev graciously exonerated her of all responsibility. Mistakes happen, after all. Not usually with such destructive results, but Sev was a bigger male than Io. Io doubted he would have been able to excuse Gina’s actions under the same circumstances.
Oh well, Gina wasn’t his concern. And neither was the relationship between Sev and Ari, but even two weeks later, Io still couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that Ari was gay. Or that Ari and Sev had just spent the past two weeks doing God knew what to each other as they’d experienced their mated calling phases with each another. The calling was the time when a newly-mated male was his most fertile and went into hormonal heat. In fact, the only thing Io looked forward to about having a mate was the calling, being that it would make him a goddamn fucking machine. Two weeks of nearly constant orgasms and physical plowing into his mate was appealing on about a hundred different levels. The rest of the whole mating scene? Well, that was another story. But the idea of Sev and Arion having their calling with one another? No, Io didn’t like thinking about that.
If that made him homophobic, then he was guilty as charged.
How in the hell had his best friend turned out to be gay? Arion was a God damn fa--. Io stopped himself from thinking the word. He didn't know why, though, because for decades he had tossed the word, faggot, around like it was an everyday term. But now, with Arion turning out being gay, he just couldn't bring himself to say it or even think it, anymore.
He cleared his throat. "So, uh…how's Ari?"

Edited Scene

Io sat in the passenger seat of the Suburban next to Severin, and wasn't that about as comfortable as being rubbed with barbed wire? Sev had effectively stolen Io’s best friend, Arion, away from him when the two ended up coming out two weeks ago about their homosexuality, as well as the fact they had mated one another.
Double-take what?
Io still hadn’t wrapped his mind around how his bestie could have turned out gay after all the chicks they’d bagged together, but there was no mistake. Ari and Sev were mated to one another, and the bond that connected them was one of the strongest Io had ever seen between mates.
Just the thought of what the pair had spent the past two weeks doing to each other through their calling phases was enough to make Io squeamish. He just couldn’t picture Ari fucking a guy, for Christ’s sake, and if he tried to his stomach lurched. To say Io was homophobic was an understatement. But now he was all confused, because he had never imagined his closest compadre would turn out to be batting for the other team.
Sev turned down the heat in the cab and pulled into a parking garage where drecks liked to deal cobalt.
“How you feeling, man?” Io quickly dashed an awkward glance toward Sev before looking away uncomfortably. He knew that Sev knew how he felt about gays. Or at least how he used to feel about them. Now Io wasn’t sure what to think.
“Good.” Sev inclined his head warily.
“Your chest okay?” Io fiddled with the zipper on his military cargo pants.
Sev’s chest had been blown open by that assassin, Gina or whatever her name was, the night Io found out Ari and Sev had mated each other. Sev had been lucky to survive, flat-lining once before pulling through.
“Yeah, it's fine.” Sev threw Io an inquisitive look.
Io bobbed his head in acknowledgment. “Good. Good. Glad to hear it.” He averted his gaze and looked out the window, feeling like ants were crawling up and down the back of his neck. Being around Sev was so fucking awkward.
“I’m glad you’re glad.” Sev spoke in a measured cadence, as if he sensed the tension in the cab of the Suburban and was beginning to get pissed off about it, or maybe he was just irritated.
They circled up to the top level of the parking garage.
Io cleared his throat. "So, uh…how's Ari?"

This type of mass rewriting is typical of my round one editing cycle. After I let a manuscript rest for several weeks, when I pick it back up and read it with fresh eyes, a lot of crap pops at me that reads like a bad B-rate horror movie where ketchup is used for blood. My job is to take all that roll-your-eyes bullshit and turn it into something plausible that paints a vivid picture.

I don't think my edited version is perfect, but I do think it's way better than my original version. I removed most of the vapid narration and play-by-play, and eliminated a ton of unnecessary crap that I can work into the story later if need-be. I condensed one giant paragraph into a couple of sentences and rearranged the elements. The most important thing is that you get more of a sense of the discomfort and awkwardness between Sev and Io from the second version. I did this by adding dialogue, pulling more from within Io's point-of-view, and by using tiny snippets of narration sprinkled throughout.

So, you see, the point isn't to totally eliminate telling and narration. It's to make sure you're showing where possible and using the concept of telling to accent your showing to balance out your manuscript. Many authors weigh far too heavily on the side of telling, which makes the story dry and boring.

Think of telling as a gap filler. It's like the caulking around a window to seal out the cold air of winter. It's a small detail that you should hardly notice, if at all, which means if people are noticing it, you're using it too much or inappropriately, obscuring the view the window is trying to show you. If you over-tell your story, it's like applying caulking to the panes of glass to block out not only the cold air, but the picture, as well. It makes your window less effective and hinders its ability to provide you with a view. 

I know one author who uses absolutely no dialogue, which is the easiest way to show a story. I couldn't even finish the first chapter of her book because I couldn't picture anything that was happening and started tuning out because it was 100% narration. For example, instead of including the conversations written as dialogue (showing), she simply narrated that a conversation occurred between two characters (telling) and wrote lines such as, He told me I had to go upstairs so I thanked him. Why couldn't she have written:

"Go up two flights of stairs." He pointed up and bobbed his head in the direction of the stairwell.
I glanced over my shoulder then turned back and smiled at him. "Okay, thank you."

Seeing the dialogue with action tags is way more interesting than just being told about a conversation, wouldn't you agree?

So, don't lash out at the next person who says, "Show, don't tell," because they might have a point, and you might be applying to much caulking to your window.

Happy reading and happy writing.

Influence Through Love, Not Hate

I really don't like bringing my personal bullshit to my blog or my writing haven, but something has been troubling me for a couple of days to the point that I've shut down. It's time to face the fact that I need to purge this crap from my system, and I have found that the best way for me to purge is to write.

As many of you know, someone I thought of as a dear friend passed away last Friday. I hadn't known him for long, but I felt a powerful connection to this person. I don't know if he felt the same way about me, but for me, he had touched my heart very deeply. In a short time, he made a greater impact on me than people I've known for years, and I truly felt he was a kindred spirit. Maybe it was that he and I both shared a deep love of music, or maybe it was that he was Native American and I hold a special fondness for Native Americans. Or maybe it was just that he was a powerfully magnetic soul with enough charisma to fill a football stadium. He was a bright light in an ocean of darkness. His name was Talon, and even now I cry that he's gone, and I tend not to get this emotional when someone dies. I think I'm so emotional over Talon's death because I know how many people were touched by this very special person, and now a big gaping hole has been left in their lives where Talon used to be. It tears me up.

But my fond memories of Talon have been tarnished and interrupted by a mass of hate and negativity, some of which has been aimed at me.

Apparently, and unbeknownst to me until Sunday, some jackass (who shall remain unnamed here because I refuse to give him any more power than others have already given him) made disparaging comments against Talon and his partner. Talon was gay and had a beautiful relationship with his partner (and he still does even in death). Jackass (JA) posted a spew of hate against Talon that anyone with half a brain would have poo-pooed away as nothing more than juvenile nonsense not worth their time and energy to address.

Apparently, JA has a history of spewing his hate venom in an effort to bully others. From what I've learned about him in the past week, he has a particular disdain against homosexuals and women who write M/M romance and erotica.

So what? The guy's a turd. And as any six-year-old has been taught, the best way to take away a bully's power is to ignore him and act as if he isn't there. But JA isn't just a bully. He's a master gameplayer. This is JA's game: to provoke and provoke until you react. The longer you ignore him, the more vicious his attacks become as he seeks to find your hot spot that will trigger a reaction, but eventually, if he is unable to get a reaction, he will move on to someone who will react. Talon's death was perfect fuel for JA. What better hot spot than to attack a person who was beloved by so many. And it worked. JA got the very reaction he was seeking. He won.

Being that I grew up with a master mindgame player (God rest my mother's soul), I feel I can speak with some expertise on this subject, because I was being taught about mind games and how to avoid them from about the age of eight. My dad didn't want me to turn out to be like my mom, so as he went through years of psychotherapy in an effort to save their marriage (and then to recover from the divorce), he became an expert on mindgames and taught what he learned to me.

So, when I say that with people like JA you just have to take the high road for as long as it takes to make them disappear, I'm not talking from ignorance. I'm talking from first-hand experience. No matter how angry he makes you, or how outrageously stupid his comments are, you just have. To. Ignore. Him.

At any rate, JA's comments against Talon sparked an immediate reaction, and not only did a large group of people strike back and speak out about his attack on Talon, they also addressed his long-standing animosity toward women who write M/M romance, along with everything else he has spewed over the course of his existence, thus confirming to JA that they had heard every word he's said for the months they were "ignoring" him and that they had been affected by it. Any traction these people had gained through months of "ignoring" him was lost in less than 24 hours.

Why do I care? you may be asking. How has this affected me to the point I have shut down and felt I needed to speak up about it? might be a better question.

The other day after seeing yet another several FB posts about JA and his senseless drivel, I posted on a thread and said that I couldn't help thinking that JA was sitting back watching the reaction he had stirred up and was laughing about it. That simple comment sparked what I can only call a gang mob attack on me. I tried to point out as the attack on me escalated that I felt these people had valid points and that this guy was, in fact, a jerk, but that if they truly wanted to hurt him, they would just ignore his insensitive comments. I also couldn't help but wonder what seeing all the rehashing of JA's comments was doing to Talon's partner, who was having to deal with enough emotional upheaval over losing his loved one. I simply couldn't see how this was doing him any good, helping him, or supporting him.

You would have thought I was the devil incarnate.

I received inboxes. My heart was questioned. It was insinuated that I had a cold heart and that my head was in the sand and that I was a bad person if I didn't take up arms against JA. Hurtful things were said to me. I was lectured and, yes, bullied. These people became the very thing they claimed to be fighting against, which left me wondering if they had lost sight of who the real enemy was. I felt as if I was being categorized with JA as one of the enemy. Some felt I needed to be "educated" about what's going on. No, I don't need to be educated. I'm quite aware, thank you.

One person, who I think of as a close friend, posted on her wall about "crabby interneters" who had made their way to her wall and she should feel sorry for them because "they have a handicap where they are unable to grasp the control to see something they don't like and just move the heck on. smh." The discussion in question was taking place on her wall, and I was the only one that I could see being referred to as the "crabby interneter." I sat back and thought, "Is she talking about me? Because if she is, I guess we aren't the friends I thought we were." But more than anything else, that last sentence she posted was what stuck out at me. She was saying that if you see something you don't like on FB, you should just move the heck on. In other words, ignore it. Which is what I'd been saying. Here's the kicker: When it comes to JA, nobody does that. They don't like what he says, but swarm like killer bees around him, anyway, working themselves into a frenzy over his shit-spew. When it came to my comments, they didn't like those, but came after me, anyway, instead of "moving the heck on." So, is that message for everybody, or just for everybody outside the inner circle? Or just me?

*heavy, emotional sigh*

These people claim the platform against JA is one against bullying, in general. There's nothing wrong with building a platform against bullying. If that's your plan, by all means, you have my full support. As a person who was bullied as a child to the point of physical shoving and pushing by people trying to hurt me, I'm vehemently against bullying. However, what has transpired in recent days doesn't come off as an anti-bullying campaign. It comes off as an anti-JA campaign. It comes off as a personal attack against him and looks like an open, personal war has been declared, and Facebook has become the battlefield. If I hadn't been told this was about bullying, in general, I never would have guessed that, because it looks like his camp is at war with their camp, and it's ugly. It's negative, black, and something I don't want to see or be a part of. At all. It's not that I agree with JA. I don't. But I don't agree with the mob mentality of going after him the way he goes after others, because it means the anti-JAers have sunk to his level.

JA has spies everywhere. I've been around on Facebook long enough to know that much, so I'm sure JA has been fully briefed about what is occurring all over Facebook about him, and he's preparing for his next attack. So, did this outcry against him really help or just add more fuel to his fire? My bet is that it only made it worse, so if the intent was to improve the situation: FAIL. What's more is that they all "know" JA is fake, and look at all the attention they give him, anyway. *shakes head* I don't get it.

One more thing that bothered me about this whole issue is the timing of the counter-attack on JA. At a time when emotions were already sky-high and off-the-charts, and when all of us should have been focusing on the tragic, horrible loss of Talon, and on supporting his partner through this difficult time, a group chose to wage war and diminish the beautiful message that was Talon's life and memory. I know I stick my foot in my mouth and suffer from bad timing syndrome on a regular basis, but the timing of this incident just blows my mind. Could these people not have waited a week or two? Did they have to react on emotion instead of logic and tarnish what should have been a time of reflection and support?

At any rate, the attack on me when I tried to point out that we were giving JA too much power and drawing more attention to him than he was worth was so awful, I don't feel I can talk to any of those involved, anymore, and I'm wondering if I can even keep them on my friends list. I'm still affected by things that were said to me, and it's been two days. I'm severely troubled by the incident and don't know entirely what to do about it because of the things that were said and the attitudes taken against me. I feel ostracized by people I thought of as friends, but now I'm not sure what they are.

One thing I do know is that I refuse to be subjected to the negative energy, anymore. Negative energy breeds negative energy. Love breeds love. You wouldn't see the Dalai Lama react to JA the way this group has, and the Dalai Lama is one of the most influential people in the world. If you want to influence people, you do so with love, not hate. So, from now on, if I see anything negative come down my Facebook newsfeed, especially where JA is concerned, I will be unfriending whoever posted it. I go to Facebook on my author account to be inspired, network, learn about writing, and to connect with my fans. I don't use my author account to wave banners, take up political causes, or goof off. That does not mean I don't care, or that I turn a blind eye, or that I have a cold heart. It means that I delineate what I do as an author from what I do as a person. For my person to be attacked through my author account tells me that from now on, my author account will strictly be used for author account purposes. Is that the effect this group wanted to have? Is this how they plan on convincing others to join them? Because all they did was alienate me.

I'm sorry I felt the need to expel my thoughts and feelings about this issue here, but even under my author persona, I am a human being with my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I can't always be in a good mood, and sometimes I have to keep it real. And this was all-too-real to me, but after this post, I will NEVER discuss this subject again. I'm done with it and am mentally wadding it up and burning it as I type this. This post is the last bit of energy I want to give this painful, horrible experience.

My final thought: Be careful how you show your beliefs to the world, because there's a fine line between condemning something with your words and condoning it through your actions. By speaking out against "bullying" the other day, some of the people involved became bullies, and their message was diminished as a result. Maybe they don't care that it's me who feels that way, and maybe if they see this post they will whisper among themselves about how idiotic that Donya bitch is. There's nothing I can do about that. I just hope that if they do that they have the decency to unfriend me first, because I don't need "friends" like that in my circle.

As for my friend, Talon, I only regret that this incident took me away from remembering him as I wanted to remember him, and I'm sorry that it made his partner feel as though I didn't support him, because there is nothing further from the truth than that.

Thank you for letting me purge myself. I promise my next post won't be such a downer. I'm planting a new seed today, and negativity is not part of the fertilizer for it.

As always, happy reading and writing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Monday Muse is in Jeopardy

My Monday Muse posts might be in jeopardy. I read a blog over the weekend written by a lady who was sued for using a picture she didn't have the rights to. She ended up having to go through her history of blog posts to remove every single picture that she either didn't have the rights to or that she hadn't taken herself. Suck! The legal battle lasted months and cost her a lot of money she didn't have. Yes, she had a disclaimer posted on her blog that she claimed no rights to the pics she used. Yes, when she was contacted by the owner of the pic and asked to remove it, she promptly did so. And yes, the owner still sued her, anyway, under the premise that she was using the pic for promotional purposes and could have gained financially from doing so.

Soooo...it looks like my Monday Muse posts might have to go the way of the dinosaur. Which is too bad, because all you lovely fans seem so enjoy them as much as I do. Rest assured that making the decision to stop posting the muse is a hard one, but I can't withstand a legal battle right now, and that's one I would lose if anyone ever wanted to push the issue.

Some models, such as Andrei Andrei, seem to be really cool about their pics being used. And I have a feeling Andrei has become so successful and popular as a model because role players on Facebook have been using his image for years. In role play (RP) and author circles, everyone knows who he is. You just have to say, Andrei, and everyone knows who you're talking about. But here's the kicker: Andrei doesn't own the rights to his pictures. The photographers do. So even if he is fine with his picture being used, his photographers might not be, as I found out as I tried to get permission from one of his photographers to use a pic she had taken of him on my upcoming novella, Micah's Calling. The photographer would not give permission and wanted me to pay a healthy chunk to use the pic, so I had to pass.

This is certainly an interesting subject, but it's one that could change the face of blogging, because a lot of bloggers use "man candy" and model images (and other images) they don't have rights to on their blogs. And the repercussions for RPers can be even more severe if photographers and/or models begin to go after those using their images/pics for the faces of their characters.

If it happened to this blogger, it could happen to others.

It's a sad day in Blogville. :( 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Monday Muse - Johnny Depp

Back when I was in high school, this movie came out titled Nightmare on Elm Street. No big thing really, right? Just another scary movie with a baddie wielding knives for fingers, wearing a dirty, red and green striped sweater, and terrorizing the dreams of teenagers. Oh, but wait! Who's that? Yum-o! Glen's kinda hot. Who plays him? Johnny Depp, you say? Who's Johnny Depp? I think I watched Nightmare on Elm Street so many times just because Johnny Depp was in it...and that's before the Deppmeister was even a household name.

Did you know that his good friend, Nicolas Cage, got him the read for the part? Just a bit of trivia there.

Next came 21 Jump Street sans Channing Tatum. Rowr! There's Johnny Depp again. I remember that my dad recorded the episodes for me on VHS. LOL. That Johnny Depp boy was fine, fine, fine!

Nowadays, Mr. Depp is known more for Captain Jack Sparrow than he is for Glen or whatever his character's name was on 21 Jump Street (see, I don't even remember...I just know he was HOT). I happen to think this hottie would make a fine vampire character for one of my stories someday. Hmmm. I'll have to think about that.

For now, sit back and let out a little purr over the amazing, eclectic, and sexy Johnny Depp.