Friday, September 27, 2013

One step closer to completion of Red Awakening

I finally got all the final edits for Red Awakening, Book 2 of The Erebus Files, done today! Now it's on to formatting in preparation for a Smashwords pre-order release, hopefully by October 1st. Official release date is October 31st.

Spoiler Alert - FREE STUFF!

For those of you who haven't read Lucid, Book 1 of The Erebus Files, I'm running a special on Smashwords until October 20th. You can get Lucid for the low, low price of ... ABSOLUTELY FREE!!. That's right, just enter coupon code AJ64T at checkout. Snatch it up now for reading so you'll be ready for Book 2

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Inspiration from life - a Catch-22 for writers

I was talking to an old friend last night on the phone, and we got onto the subject of "the good 'ol days," which in our case, was the years when we worked together at this company that shall remain nameless and all the crazy people we knew there, and I happened to mention how those people and events shaped my first book, Being John Bland.

As writers, we all drop that obligatory notice on our copyright pages about names, characters, places and incidents not being based on fact, but the truth is, everything we write is in some way, shape, or form at least partially based on or colored by our own experiences in life; i.e., facts.

When I started to write, I remember people always told me, "Write what you know." But the truth is, we're not supposed to actually do that, because that flies in the face of our copyright statement and thus opens us up to lawsuits, liable, and all other sorts of other undesirable outcomes. So what, exactly does that mean? How are we supposed to write what we know if we can't base our writing on actual people, places, or events?

I don't have an answer here...just spitballing, basically. It's one of those hypothetical chicken-and-egg scenarios that fly by and stick to your brain in the middle of the night, sort of like "Why did they call a chair 'chair?' Why not some other collection of random vowels and consonants? After all, they were creating a language."

Maybe normal people don't think like that. I have ridiculous questions like that pop up into my head all the time. Though, to be honest, I've never really considered myself to be normal, whatever that is. The problem is, like a dreaded song that gets stuck in your head for days on end (it's usually one you can't stand, like for me, "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights"), once one of these questions finds a host and takes hold, you can't shake it until you come up with some semblance of an answer that satisfies that sadistic little accountant in your brain that tries to file random data in its proper pigeonhole.

And I may be digging myself deeper into rather than out of the hole. I think I'll just go back to writing now. Thanks for listening--blogging is way cheaper than therapy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Coming up next - NaNoWriMo!!

30 DAYS...50,000 WORDS.  Can you do it?

Yep, boys and girls, it's getting to be that time of year. November is right around the corner, which means National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo will be here before you can dangle a participle.

For those of you unfamiliar with this happily-controlled chaos, NaNoWriMo is a worldwide race to write an original 50,000 word novel in 30 days. When I first participated in 2008, during which I wrote the soon to be published Red Awakening, Book 2 of The Erebus Files, I had intended to make it a yearly event. However, Life, and all its many quirks, turns, and detours, interfered with that. Four moves (one state-to-state), three jobs, nursing my mother through terminal cancer, and my father through losing my mother, took center stage to any creative endeavors or goals.

Life has settled down somewhat since then, and even though, as of yesterday, the contract that has for the past six months been paying my bills expired, leaving with me with a sudden wealth of time and a dearth of money, I am bound and determined to participate in this year's contest. Despite being in the middle of writing Hazard, Book 3 of The Erebus Files, I will happily put it aside to work on my chosen NaNoWriMo novel, the as-yet untitled second book of The 'Ru Lexicon. I'm frantically pulling together an outline and gathering my characters in preparation.

For any of you budding or seasoned writers new to this phenomenon, you'll never find a better excuse to write that novel than NaNoWriMo. Plus you get to do it with the support and encouragement of a HUGE community of both professional and hobby writers. So what are you waiting for? Join in the over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, punch-drunk fun that is NaNoWriMo!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Character Abuse

Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you, just before reigning down whatever punishment your latest show of bad judgement deserved, "This hurts me more than it does you." *snicker*

I only laugh because, as a kid, my internal reply to that was always, "I doubt that."

And then I became a parent. And a writer.

And now I'm faced with doing some terrible damage to one of my characters. [SPOILER ALERT] In fact, to my main character in my next book, Hazard. I'm just glad he can't reach through the page and get me back, because he's not the most pleasant person to deal with when he's mad.

Unfortunately, that's what writing is all about. I remember reading a blog post by one of my favorite writers a few years back, and her advice to another newbie writer was, "You have to be willing to beat up your characters." Without the danger of losing everything, there's no tension in the story. No need to keep reading to see if he/she makes it out.

Conflict requires tension. With nothing to overcome, the story ceases to demand our respect. And the bigger the stakes, the higher the tension level. It's like pulling on a bowstring to see how far you can stretch it without breaking.

I didn't realize how important this was to the success of a story until I saw the antitheses of it in action. As it turns out, it was a movie, not a book: My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Whether you liked the movie or not (and, as a writer, I was most certainly in the latter category), you have to admit that everything in that story was too easy. It was like the whole thing was coasting downhill. There was no conflict--the unlikely girl sees a handsome guy she likes, he falls in love with her, they get married and everyone dances. Ech! I kept waiting for a bump in the road, something to derail all the insipid happiness, but it never happened. It was one straight, unbroken line from Once Upon a Time to They Lived Happily Ever After.

I guess if you like your fiction to go down like pre-digested oatmeal, this story is just what the doctor ordered. There's no excitement, no finger-biting, no blood-pressure-rising worry about whether the hero/heroine is going to be able to accomplish their goals. For me, however, I like worrying about my hero/heroine. I love books that won't let me put them down until I KNOW everyone is safe and all the ends that can be have been tied up with a scraggly ribbon.

I love it when other people beat up their characters, but as a writer, it takes time and experience to learn to do that with your own. I'll admit I've worked to that end in my books, and with every one I write, it gets a little easier. And for those of you who don't write, you have to understand just how hard that is. A writer's characters are like their children--they create them, bring them into this world, nurture and protect them. As much as you, as a reader, might love your favorite characters and hate seeing bad things happen to them, imagine how the writer feels having to do that to them. Even worse is the writer who has to kill off a beloved character. But sometimes, in the interest of good storytelling, it has to be done. Someday I may have to do that, too (killing off a main character). It's a big step, though, and one I'm not quite ready to take. For now, however, I'm preparing to put my character through a life-changing battle that will leave him close to death and probably wishing he was already there.

In advance I say to my readers, sorry.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Work on Hazard

With Red Awakening complete, I've gone back to working on Hazard. 2000 words written today. If I can keep up the pace (allowing for reasonable interruptions), I might have it done by the end of the year. That would be three books completed this year (go me!).

This all depends on whether or not I decide to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, and it's a possibility. I was thinking of writing the next 'Ru book for it. I have an outline, so I could hit the ground running on it. I'll have to see how things shake out, work-wise, during the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Updates, Excerpts, and Explanations

First, to business. An updated Chapter 1 excerpt for Red Awakening is available on my website. Stop by and check it out, and by all means, provide feedback. I had intended to finish up the final scene this week, but the current project on my day job is under a tight deadline this week, so all energy is focused there.

Why I Write What I Write

I received an email this week from Smashwords about a new feature they were offering - author interviews. They provide a series of questions and authors get to pick the ones they want to answer and the results are posted on the author's Smashwords page. One of the questions was why did you decide to become an indie writer. Like many writers who have chosen this path, there are a number of factors that entered into that decision. For myself, it boiled down to writing on my own terms. My brother is a screenwriter, and I've seen what happens to his scripts when the studio heads get hold of them. Everyone has to mark it, and before you know it, the story is unrecognizable by the writer.

I don’t want anyone else rewriting my words. I know what I mean and where I’m coming from, and no matter what anyone else might think they know better about, I’m the only one who has lived inside these characters’ heads. I’m the only one who really KNOWS what they meant.

Another question concerned genre, and why I chose the one I did. Aside from wanting to write what I want to read, I think it comes down freedom. Fantasy, particularly urban fantasy, gives me the freedom to create my own boundaries and invent my own rules. I think of the craziest ways my character can get out of a given crisis, and then I mold my mythos around that capability. The action may be based in a world identifiable to my readers, but then I take them away from that world, to a place where magic still exists. And I believe that strikes a chord with people because there isn’t enough true magic in our lives any more. Science and technology have provided indisputable proof that much of what we once believed was magic can be scientifically explained. But mankind NEEDS magic. We need to believe there’s more out there than the tangible boundaries of the world as observed by our five senses. Even those who claim to be skeptics can’t deny getting a rush of excitement when something beyond our understanding occurs.

Odds and Ends

Since I've been trying to concentrate my creative efforts into my novels of late to meet my self-imposed deadlines, blogging has become a hit or miss affair. Some things I would like to comment on, however.

I'm in the middle of reading the latest Bill the Vampire book (Holier Than Thou) by Rick Gualtieri, and I have to say these books just get funnier and funnier. If you haven't checked them out, do so. It's a nice change of pace for me after having been immersed in hardcore, kickass demon fighting for the past few months (both reading and writing).

Change is happening around Casa Church these days, and chief among them for me are my efforts to sell my beloved Maggie. For those who don't know, Maggie is my sweet 2006 M3 coupe, a car I lusted after for years. I thought I would never let her go, but I've come to realize that if I want to devote my energy to my biggest love--writing--I have to make some sacrifices. A sports car like that requires a certain amount of discretionary income to maintain, and working for that income requires more time than I am now willing to devote. It boils down to I'd rather write than drive. So Maggie will go bye-bye, to be replaced by a more rationally suited mode of transportation, and while I will miss her, I can console myself that the sacrifice has been made for a worthwhile cause.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cover for Red Awakening

While Red Awakening, the second installment of The Erebus Files, is nearing completion, the cover art is finally done. I played around with several different looks for this one, but finally settled on the title character against a red-hued sky with a junkyard wasteland in the background, harkening to the novel's main setting. I will be posting a revised first chapter on my website later this week.Still shooting for publication before Halloween.