Friday, May 30, 2014

The Lord of Nightmares Sneak Peak

My former books are being re-released through Amazon this weekend. For this reason, I thought it would be fun to release a sneak peak from both novels this week. The one below is from The Lord of Nightmares, a paranormal novel. For a description, click here.

Madison looked up at him, shocked at the sudden coolness in his voice. His eyes were slit. Madison shivered, dropping her gaze.

After a long silence, he said in a calmer voice, “Now, what do you say we get down to business?”

Madison looked up. Finally, he was going to tell her why she was here…what he wanted from her. She knew she wouldn’t like what he was going to say—any action made by this man had to be ill intended. However, all she cared about right now was getting home. If that meant she had to humor him for the time being, then so be it.

The Lord of Nightmares made his way to the stage. He stepped onto it then turned his back to the throne. It was twice as tall as he was, the back made of golden poles that were twisted together like a vine. It seemed to be reaching up toward heaven, like a lost soul begging for freedom from the fires of hell. He sat on the seat and placed his hands on the armrests. It was a perfect fit, as if the throne had been made for him. The chair brought the power of his position to the surface. Before, he was just an alien with the name lord. Now, he was the Lord of Nightmares. He raised a hand slightly, motioning her to stand before his stage. She did what he wished, not wanting to anger him again—she was quite sure a second time would not end with just an evil look.

“I wish to play a game with you, Madison,” he declared.

What? Madison half expected him to pull out a game of demonic monopoly. In all the childish nightmares of her youth, she never envisioned the boogeyman jumping out of her closet one dark night and screaming, “Let’s play twister!” There was something about it that didn’t ring true to the whole demon persona he was evoking. Madison studied this “Lord of Nightmares” with an uneasy eye. It couldn’t be that simple…it was never that simple. “What do you mean?” she asked after a moment.

The smile that came to his lips confirmed her suspicions. This was not a game of monopoly. Oh, no. This was a game of cat and mouse. She had a feeling she was not the cat in this scenario.

“The fear of God strikes sinners at Midnight. Be weary of these Lost, their lives dangle on the Bell. Amongst them is an Ace, wearing a martyr’s badge. But don’t think to die for this Ace without the right of passage. Above all things, remember Silver can only get you so far. For even a cat is limited in the attempt to cheat death.”

Madison stared blankly at this imitation of human life before her. What did he just say? What did it mean? Madison couldn’t even find the words to respond. How could she when she didn’t even understand what he said—beyond the point of it being English words in an order that appeared to be sentences?

The Lord of Nightmares laughed. “The point is to decode the meaning, Madison, and then act on it.”

All Madison could do was nod.

“Win the game and you can go home.” He paused, his eyes seeming to consume her. “Lose it and you are home.”

Madison felt an artic chill fill her body. What had she gotten herself into? She stared at him for a moment. “If I refuse?” she asked, desperate for the opportunity to back out.

He smiled. “Refusal is not an option, Madison.” His smile faded, his pupils seeming to narrow into slits. “Should you choose to become Lost, that is your choice. You won’t be alone. Just know the consequence is to exist until the inevitable arrives.”

"The loss of the game.”

“Very good, Madison. You catch on quickly.”

“And I’m guessing the cat line in your riddle implies I have nine chances to accomplish my goal.”
His eyes twinkled with a childish delight as a cryptic smile formed on his lips. “You will be a great competitor, Madison.” The lord paused then said, “It is late. Nearly five AM.”


“Yes.” He paused then added with a slight smile, “I tend to work during the night hours.”

“Why?” she asked. “Will you burn in the sun?”

He laughed. “Don’t be silly. Dracula’s obsession for crosses, garlic, stakes through the heart, and the sun do not apply to me. I have other, true obstacles.”

“Why don’t you work in the sun if it doesn’t harm you?”

He shrugged. “Because the darkness automatically triggers something in a human’s mind. They frighten easier. Their heart beats a little faster. They’re most vulnerable while it is dark.”

He let that sit with her for a moment, let it soak in—unnerve her. Then, with a smile that made her anxious, he said, “It is time for you to enter the game.”
“But I don’t know what I’m doing.”

He smiled, his sharp teeth seeming to sparkle in the light. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. His look told her he didn’t care. He thought it was time, and, therefore, it was time. He clapped twice, the noise sounding like gunshots as it echoed against the walls. Madison couldn’t help but jump at the sound.

Within seconds, Anthony opened the doors and led her back to her room. Madison soon lay in her bed, mind racing. After a moment, she sighed.

She had never feared a man before in her entire life. If he wanted something from her, she knew it could not be good. There was one thing she knew. If she were to live to see her family again, she would need a stronger will to survive than she previously thought capable. Madison took a deep breath. “Stay strong, Madison,” she whispered. “Your life depends on it.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Atlantis Cursed Sneak Peak

My former books are being re-released through Amazon this weekend. For this reason, I thought it would be fun to release a sneak peak from both novels this week. The one below is from Atlantis Cursed, my first novel and one I wrote in high school. For the description, click here.

To the Senate of our great Atlantis:

There is no doubt in my mind that the 43rd Division of the Army of Atlantis has found its way into the lap of the devil himself. No words can describe the evils we have seen in the few short days we have been in the grand city of Amphitrite.
As we entered the city gates, stories of a curse upon the city began to assail us. At every turn, on every street corner we heard cries for help. Never before has our country experienced such evil as this.

Every one of the stories begins the same: Out of the depths of the forest appears a lone white wolf with eyes of deepest blue. Out of the depths of hell it came to spread punishment on the people of Atlantis, punishment unending until forgiveness is granted for mistakes committed.

When the waters parted all those centuries ago to swallow our tiny island, our ancestors were transferred to this planet for a second chance at life. Now people say this second chance has been violated and our promise to never repeat the corruptness of the past has been shattered.

Twenty people murdered in their own homes, over forty injured, and an entire city in total chaos. How long this infection will take to spread to the remaining communities on this side of the prairie cannot be determined. All I know is that when it does, we could be looking at total anarchy and the collapse of a government that has stood strong for over two millenniums.

I write to you as a desperate man in a dangerous situation. I write to you, the Senate, controller of Atlantis’ fate, in the hope that you will know what to do before it’s too late and our grand civilization once again finds its fate at the bottom of the sea.

Honorably Yours,

Superior Arcesilas of the 43 DAA2822 AT

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday's Quote: Eoin Colfer

“Confidence is ignorance. If you're feeling cocky, it's because there's something you don't know.”~ Eoin Colfer

Photo taken from his Website

When I was little and attending conferences with my mother, we would always pick out people who we would call “writer wannabes.” These were people who talked and looked the part, but when we really started inquiring we soon discovered they were just playing a part. They thought it was cool to label themselves as a writer, but they—at least to me—appeared to not want to actually write. What bothers me even still about this is that those people walk around like they know it all.

They project themselves with more confidence than I can muster even on my best day. On many levels, I admire this about them. I wish I could promote myself with as much strength as they do. I wish I could believe in myself as much as they do. What I like about this quote is that it really speaks to my struggle. On some levels, I believe these types of people can get overconfident because they are not engaged in the world of writing. They stay ignorant of writing styles, story development, market trends, the state of publishing, and anything else related to writing. 

What I don’t gather from this quote is whether it is a criticism or signaling something good. Maybe it is better if we stay confident and ignore what “others” say we should do. Maybe it is better to believe in ourselves even if there are some who say we need to change. Like everything else, I believe there is a balance. Be confident…but not oblivious.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Maybe Literature Should Make Disabilities into Powers

I heard a teenage boy ask why girls worry so much about wearing makeup and the latest fashions. I stated that it is a form of societal pressure. We put pretty girls on magazines and then crop their pictures. Women go under the knife to get rid of wrinkles so they can stay on TV longer—I promise this post is not a feminist rant. I started thinking about movies that are based on real people. The actors change their appearances, but when the photos of the real people scroll at the end it’s easy to see a stark difference. It’s not Hollywood’s fault. I think a “regular” looking person wouldn’t make it in the business in the first place. 

But, then I thought about books. Many books might depict the protagonist as feeling “plain” about their looks and then signal that others don’t feel the same way. In other words, all female protagonists, especially in YA novels, who feel like an ugly duckling don’t find it hard to capture the eye of a boy throughout the course of the novel. Extending this, I was hard-pressed to find protagonists with any sort of flaw. Sure, they may have character flaws in their personality, but none have any real impediments. If a character does, then they are a comedic sidekick. 

The closest I could think of was Harry Dresden in the Dresden files. He burns his hand to the point of crippling in one of the books. He suffers in one or two books after, but then it isn’t really addressed as something he has to overcome. In the Percy Jackson series, the boy suffers from ADHD and dyslexia. What is cool about this concept is that his dyslexia turns out to be a power in which he can read ancient languages. So, I started thinking…in a society that is politically correct and wishing for everyone to be empowered, why are there not more characters who overcome tremendous flaws—or even have those flaws turn into powers?

I’m not saying novels should take a stand and provide “feel good” type storylines, but I am curious if there are plots missing from literature. Is there a way to twist what society determines to be a “debilitating” disorder, but in the right circumstances/worlds this is actually a strength? Imagine the possibilities for avenues not yet pursued. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of the same plot of the outcast girl who meets a boy, or the journalist who goes after a good story. I am tired of the beautiful stereotype that society tells me to aspire to be. While I don’t want the raw and emotionally draining reality, I would like to see a new twist that breaks the stereotype. Although, even if that comes out, how much you want to bet Hollywood will still cast the same smoking hot actors…but maybe have them limp a little? 

What about you? What are your favorite “flawed” characters who overcome their obstacles?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Focusing on Writing: it's all about willpower

I’ve been struggling this month with focusing on my writing…more than just this blog that is. Part of the problem is that I am currently in the “creating a plot” phase. I’m not one of those writers who can jump in and start writing with the prayer that a plot develops—although, I used to be. I am also not a brainstorm person in the sense that I don’t sit down and map out ideas. I have seen some great “bubble” maps and been to a lot of workshops that try to teach the practice, but it never really sticks for me. Sometimes I have breakthroughs, but I find if I force something then it either comes out stifled or I end up replacing the idea later as time develops the story. 

For me, I have to know my beginning and my ending. Then I dive in and map the middle as I write. It seems chaotic, I know, and I probably couldn’t teach it very well in a writing class, but it has worked for me for five books now. Since I don’t brainstorm, I typically sit and think a lot about the story. I read a lot and let ideas surface. Yet, I have to be careful because this can turn into a gap where there is no creativity at all. I started thinking about if I should go back to the mandatory writing period every day.

My problem is that writing every day is really hard for me. It requires me to get up a little after 4am every morning. It takes me most of the time to wake up and get my brain working and then the time is up. I don’t like the stop-and-go nature of this type of writing. I know it works for a lot, but not for me. I read a blog that said to do a schedule in a different manner. Write for a longer period once a week. This sounds awesome. For someone who is routine oriented like myself, I would think the latter idea would work. However, the time I would choose comes on the weekend. This time then gets interrupted by things that pop up. 

It’s all about balance and priorities. If writing is not a priority, then it doesn’t get done. I think that is true for the initial stages as well. If there is too much going on in my mind that is taking priority, then contemplating a novel is not present. Although, the alternative gives me the picture of the “think tank” where people sit and think. Should I schedule time to just sit in a room and meditate on my work? That seems silly. But, scheduling time to think about writing, or to actually write, is important. I saw a quote on Facebook this weekend that made me smile: don’t say I’m a writer. Say, I’m writing. Those words are so true. Be active.

How do you make time for things you love to do?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday's Quote: Alfred Tennyson

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

So short and sweet, and yet this quote is so powerful. Strive for something. I find life is boring if we are not working toward something. I think that’s why I set goals…I’m sure it has nothing to do with my workaholic nature. To seek something. To me, this feels like it can be deeper than just “looking.” Again, I find my life is more enriched when I am learning. There’s constantly something I can learn. There is always something that can come around an open my eyes, cause me to view the world in a whole new way. We should be seeking this. And, if done right, we shall find what we desire. That is such a comforting thought. We are in control of our lives and our happiness. If we put in the work, then we can get anything. 

But this last piece is what makes this quote one of my favorites: not to yield. There are so many times in my writing career when I have wanted to give up. There are so many things in life that tempt me away from my dreams, or convince me that I am not worthy. But we can’t yield. Because, if we do, then we may never achieve them.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Achievement Lessons in Imagine Dragon's Song

Apparently I am on a song kick. The song stuck in my head this week is Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of the World.” I actually love all of the songs the group has released so far. They all seem to speak to a deeper level than just I love this girl or my heart is oh so broken. I’m hoping this doesn’t feel as much of a stretch as the Paramore song.

I've had the highest mountains
I've had the deepest rivers
You can have it all but not til you move it

What I like most about this song is the topic. You can have the highest of mountains, the deepest of rivers. In other words, you can have everything. But you have to move it. I have come to accept that in life. I have to do the work. I have to push what might hold me back. Nobody else will do it for me. Nobody else will care as much. I have to do it all myself…but I can have it all when if I do. The effort is worth it.

I've tried to cut these corners
Try to take the easy way out
I kept on falling short of something

I think there is a lot of this now, especially with self-publishing on the rise. Just because something is self-published doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to go through the same “publishing” steps. It needs to be edited. It needs to be pre-read. The writing needs to be good. Self-publishing is not cutting corners because the alternative is too tough. We can’t cut corners or find a secret card that will skip us to the end. If we try, we will fail…every time.

I coulda gave up then but
Then again I couldn't have 'cause
I've traveled all this way for something

Again, this speaks to me. I could give up any day. I could shut down the websites, social media, etc. I could stop writing, throw everything away. I could live my life “normal” without these dreams and aspirations—probably experience this thing called sleep. Would I be happy? I think I could try really hard to be. But, I also think, deep down I would feel like I was shutting off a part of my identity. That’s what used to keep me going. Now? I’ve come so far. To walk away after all of these years of pushing would be such a waste. It’s like in baseball running all the way, rounding third, and then stopping half way and letting the pitcher tag you out. I’ve come so far. I can’t give up. Something has to come from this. 

This song is a celebration. He fell, he struggled, he pushed his way to the top. And now, he can celebrate being on top of the world. In a world filled with such negativity and despair, it is nice to think that this principle still remains true. So work hard, then enjoy the view from the top.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Do Self-Destructive Characters Work in Books?

So far, I’ve only watched the pilot for the show “Black Box.” In it, the main character is a woman with Bipolar disorder. She’s highly successful when on meds, but crazy when off. However, the show posed the question if the meds held her back from her full potential (her greatest genius). It left me with the impression this show was going to be about her self-destruction. It wouldn’t be the first show. I loved watching the series House on Fox.  In the show, he was brilliant, but happened to have an addiction to Vicodin. Even in literature, we have Sherlock Holmes who was a drug addict, but a remembered detective—dare I say one people love?
This got me to thinking about the types of characters we like. Certainly there are a lot of reality television shows out there. If they are not competition based—and even some that are—it seems at least in America that these shows migrate toward the dysfunctional. People watch, not believing that people could be so troubled and still function in the world. What’s worse, a lot of them are now extremely rich due to the attention.

It causes me to wonder about the appeal. While I can’t stand the reality shows with this type of “character,” but I did love watching House. I haven’t yet decided on “Black Box” yet. In fact, I’m wondering if it’ll be too much. In fact, I told my father I didn’t want to watch her self destruct. That’s not entertainment to me. So, what’s the balance?

I think it goes back to two things. The first is the level of character flaws. They must be forgivable. For instance, House was a druggie and a jerk, but he saved lives. In fact, he would work himself to the point of destruction due to his obsession with solving a case. Now, there is a debate whether it was the people he was trying to save or solving the puzzle, but the “good” he was doing could not be ignored. However, I think the greatest asset to his flaws was Dr. James Wilson. He was undoubtedly a good character and one of House’s only friends. The fact that House had a friend meant there had to be redeeming qualities. It also provided the opportunity to see these qualities.

The second is the level of success. House was a highly successful doctor. He solved cases and saved lives. His drug addiction was more of a “struggle,” and, while it did hold him back and threaten his job at times, it never overtook him. In a way, he was a master of his addiction, or at least he seemed to think so. He might have instances (typically around season finale time) when things fell apart, but his life was not a complete mess.

I was trying to think of other characters in literature that had the same qualities and Sherlock Holmes is the only one I could think of, which makes me wonder if the appeal transfers well into the written word. If it does, I bet these two conditions still apply. What is your favorite self-destructive character?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday's Quote: Thomas Edison

“Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”~ Thomas Edison

This is my favorite quote from last week, which is funny because it comes from a scientist. I guess that goes to show that anybody can be aliquant, not just novelists and speakers. I love this because I hear it all the time in the writing industry. Continue to push. Never give up. You can't "make it" if you give up. It is sad to think about all the people who might have been "right there." They were one rejection away until their big break, but they gave up.

I think the tough part about this is that someone can be working on this hope their whole life and never find the break they seek/deserve. Yet, I think I would rather be an optimist who strives for success their entire life and never fully achieve it, then someone who sits with regret and depression under the cloud of abandoned dreams.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Life Lessons with a Paramore Song

Most songs out today are about love…or maybe lust. In fact, I bet I could describe the beginning, middle and end of a relationship just by pairing songs together. But, every now and then a song comes out that speaks to something more. I find that is the case with Paramore’s song “Ain’t It Fun.” Before I explain my position, you should know that in school I was always accused of seeing an “interesting” twist to poetry analysis. Part of what I like about poetry…or any literature analysis for that matter…is that we bring our own baggage to any song, poem, story that we read. This song popped up during a time when the topic of “real world” versus the “teenage perception of the real world” was flowing through my mind. Therefore, while I know this is technically a break up song, here is how I believe there is a hidden “truth.”

“Ain't it fun?  
Living in the real world.
Ain't it good?Being all alone”

This is repeated so many times throughout the song that it is the part that sticks with me. It’s a sad thought, to be all alone. But it is something I keep reading in writer books and marketing books, etc. You’re all alone. Nobody is going to care as much about your talent as you do. Now, there are resources and a “we’re in this together” feel to a lot of groups. But, what I’ve found is that everyone is out for their own agenda. So, while they are nice and I have learned a lot from a lot of awesome people (writers and business people alike) no one is going to do the work for me. No one is going to hold my hand. I’m on my own, in that sense. 
“So what are you gonna do When the world don't orbit around you?”
This is going to sound conceited, but I think the number one thing that I had to learn in my 20’s is that the world is not about my dreams and my ambitions. While my friends and family will listen to whatever crazy idea I have, the real world doesn’t really care—not unless it benefits them. I think we leave adolescence thinking the world will listen because we can write a riveting story, or because we have a huge talent, or because I am a “good” person. But, I soon learned the world is big and there are millions of others just like me. I need to stand out. I need to put in a lot of effort to be noticed…in the right way.
“You see its easy to ignore trouble
When you're living in your bubble”
My parents used to tell me that I was “sheltered.” I used to think they were crazy. But it’s true. We tend to “bubble” our kids. Protect them from the harshness of the real world. Everyone gets a ribbon. Everyone who tries hard will be successful. The harshness of the world is shielded from us. Then we enter the real world, the bubble breaks, and we realize just how difficult life can be. 
I love this song…even if my analysis exists in my own bubbled world. What songs speak to you?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is it Easier to Talk, but Harder to Be Heard?

One of the questions I’ve been pondering lately is “how do I become noticed in a noisy world?” I think this goes right along with the question “why do some people make it big and others don’t?” I am in the middle of reading Michael Hyatt’s book Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world. I’m almost half through and still am not quite sure how to apply his ideas to my own work. Like most books I read, they discuss how to link things like blogs, podcast and social media together to form a platform. But none discuss how to begin the drive of traffic. They all act like traffic will just come, but maybe it does when done correctly.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder how difficult it is to get noticed in today’s technological age. There are about half a billion people on Twitter and those people post 58 million tweets a day according to Statistics Brain. They also site Facebook as having over one billion users and a little over 54 billion “pages” for artists, politicians, etc. I like the concept of Twitter because it is a rolling screen of posts. Nothing is prioritized, although it can be organized by hashtags. However, with 58 million tweets per day, how much is really getting noticed? Then there’s Facebook, which prioritizes the posts according to topic and interest. That’s seems great as well, but figuring out how they decide what to show is frustrating. Knowing that I can’t reach all of the people who like my page without promoting it (which of course means cost), is more than aggravating.

So, there are plenty of places to get heard, which is great, but there is a lot of noise. A lot of the advice I’m reading right now goes back to the product—in fact Hyatt is big on that. So my books have to be good, I get that. It’s more important than ever to make sure things are edited, sent through beta readers, edited again, designed, formatted correctly, etc. It does irritate me when authors write a book one day and then put it out in public the next. That adds to the noise. And, even though mine is quality, I still have to compete. So, getting noticed has to be more than just quality, but I agree that quality will keep mine alive…hopefully.

Another piece of advice I have heard is to be personable. Don’t just say “buy my book” in every post. In fact, let only 20% be about me. But define personable but still promoting. That’s my trouble. Posting pictures of my dogs may be personable, but will that make readers want to follow me? I can’t be something that I’m not just to attract people, and nor should I. How do we get noticed, then?

I have to admit that I don’t have any answers to this. Just posing the question and thinking it through. Right now, I’m just resting on being kind and presenting quality work—and being willing to learn and grow on the topic.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday's post: Lauren Oliver

"So many things become beautiful when you really look." ~ Lauren Oliver

photo obtained from her Amazon Page
I love this quote probably because it speaks to my impatience. I tend to glance at my world quickly, without really seeing. I think I also judge people to quick. But, I wonder if I am the only one who does this. How many times do we look at someone and judge them based on appearance, or action, or whatever?

I also think this can be applied to me as well. I'm quiet, but I have been called "standoffish." I also don't tend to walk around with a bright smile on my face. It's not that I'm upset or unhappy, it's just not who I am. People read that as grumpy or depressed. I often wonder how many people I haven't met or interacted with because they misjudged me.

It is important to slow down. We need to stop and look. It is such a simple concept, and yet so important.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Does Fan Interaction Work?

I think I mentioned before, I basically went from children’s books to adult when I was growing up. I have recently started reading YA when I am no longer a teen. But, I find life is pretty ironic at times. Yet, one of the novels I remember reading as a young teen was the detective series where I could choose the path of the story. I remember I may read it forwards, then have to turn the book upside down and start reading from the back depending on the decision I made. Do you remember those?

I know that it’s a random thought, but most of my random thoughts come from somewhere. This one comes from The Voice. I promise, it’s related. I love watching this show. Like other “voter” shows, it has an interactive element to the outcome. However, last season they introduced the “instant save.” Not living on the East coast when the show is “live,” I actually hate this aspect of the show. But it’s where the bottom 3 are announced, sing one last time, and then people go on Twitter to “vote” for their favorites one last time. The person with the most votes is then saved. I’m not too broken up about it because I wouldn’t vote anyway, but the idea of changing the ending of the show in an instant is intriguing.

Last year, another show Hawaii 5-0 introduced the “fan” show. In this show, they had alternate endings with different villains. As the show played, fans voted for who they wanted to be the bad guy. The ending was then adapted to what the fans decided. Again, I actually tape this show and watch in on my DVR, so I didn’t really get involved in it. But it must have been popular because they did it again, only I think this time the fans went on a website before it aired and voted. I started to wonder if the “choose your story” was coming back into popularity.

As a reader, I don’t quite understand the obsession. I may like to predict an ending to a good book, but I don’t really have an interest in deciding the ending. However, this could be because I write. If I wanted to create a story…well, I would just write one. It is probably one of the many ways that being a writer makes me different than a “normal” reader. So, I have to wonder if this is something I wouldn’t read, but is worth writing because many would read it.

That brings up another question for me. How hard is it to write a “changing” story? Even if it’s just the ending that changes, I can’t imagine writing a story that would fit two different endings and make it all flow naturally. It would definitely be a challenge, but maybe something worth pursuing. What are your thoughts? Would you enjoy the interactive book?