Friday, August 29, 2014

Adapting the Writing Process

I was thinking about doing a characterization this morning on a character I’m developing. That got me to thinking about my change as a writer over the years. It’s surprising to think how drastically I have adapted. Most think that writing is some sort of routine that we are somehow born with. But it really isn’t.

When I first started, it was all about the passion. I think that’s because I started writing as a teenager. I once had a friend say I write teenagers so well. That’s because everything is important, life/death, career-ending situations. The world is out to get them and they are on their own—that’s pretty much the mentality. I think I poured that passion into my writing. I was addicted to the flow of words and my emotion. Yet, very little was placed on where I was going with a story or who my characters were. 

There is something to be said for writing that way. It certainly radiates emotion from the page. But finishing a story was a struggle. I’d “write myself into a corner” or I’d fight with people who said the path wasn’t making sense. I was too invested in the experience that I wasn’t paying attention to what I was writing. 

As I moved into my twenties, I started looking at the plot. I wanted to be unpredictable, which meant I had to look at the journey a little more. For most of the time, I was still focused on the passion flowing within me through the words. But I had more of a focus. Yet, I still bucked the “planning” system, thinking it would stifle my creativity. 

As I move into my thirties, this view has started to change. I realized a lot of the issues with plot go away when there is a plan. I’ve discussed before that I had to gut the middle of The Lord of Nightmares after my first attempt at writing it. The main reason was because I really didn’t have a set idea of what I wanted to discuss. Was this a love story between The Lord of Nightmares and Madison?—believe it or not, that was the first idea. If not, then what was this? Who were these Nightmares? What was their purpose? What was I trying to say? Once I defined that, I took off with a new idea. 

I’ve seen the importance of research to answer these questions. I can define my civilizations more. I also have learned techniques for characters. I was having trouble with one until I analyzed them.  That character came alive. Writing his scenes became easier because I knew him. I knew exactly how he would respond and what he wanted to do. 

I wouldn’t go as far as to say in embrace all plot, character, and mapping outlines. But, I have started to identify the strengths of the basics. Who knows? Maybe my forties will be finally giving in to the entire outline. Writing is a process and as such is ever improving.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Won't Reach My Goal...Maybe...

I am currently one book behind schedule according to my Goodread’s goal for this year. This isn’t all that surprising. I knew setting 20 books for 2014 was a bit of an overshot. I feel silly saying that because there are some who read twice—even three times—that number in a year. I contend they don’t write and they don’t have crazy jobs…but that’s probably just for self-preservation.

I had a discussion with a young, aspiring author this weekend at my latest book signing. Her parents expressed that she was an avid reader (as was I at her age). I said that was good. Writers should be readers. I have heard that belief from a number of well-known authors. I remember going through school and knowing some grammar just because it “looks right.” That’s from reading.

I had another discussion at the same event with a gentleman who was expressing his love for series. The three he listed I had never heard of—although, they are quite successful. This just proves the second point that I have always heard: don’t get into it for the fame and fortune.

I’ve discussed a lot about the series that I am currently reading. I know this is because I have been reading this 15 book series for about four years now. But, I am not a big series person. I love the concept of following characters I’ve invested time into. I also know publishers prefer this because it helps promote sales. However, as a reader, I have two problems with series.

One: it’s a huge commitment. I remember when the Left Behind series came out. I wanted to read it so bad. But, seven books…that are super huge….that’s a big commitment for a 14 year old, or at least that’s what I said. I never read Harry Potter (I’ll pause for the gasp here) because I knew it would be 7 books. By the time I was curious, it was too big. I felt like reading would equate to succumbing to a trend, and I try not to do that. So, to say that I am on book 10 of a series…I’m pretty proud about that.

But why do I love the Dresden files by Jim Butcher so much? I was talking with someone about the series at a writers meeting. I think I figured it out. One, the humor is just way too funny to hate. Two, this is basically a detective story that happens to have a main character as a wizard. I love the mock reality of that. And three, the main character is great and competent…but still flawed. It is the perfect combination in a character. I want to see how he survives…and sometimes there is doubt if he will.

So, I will continue to read. There are so many books still on my list. And, if I succeed in my goal of 20 books or not, I can say my life (and writing) is enriched through the experience.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday's Quote: Neil Gaiman

“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you'd most like not to lose.”~ Neil Gaiman

When I think about what my five favorite books of all time are, I can see where he comes up with this quote. There are so many great ones out there. It seems like each book I enjoy is for a different reason. However, they all come back to plot and characters. Did the books touch me in some way. Then, I really started thinking about it, and I discovered that most of my favorite books of all time come from childhood. I don't know if it's because the emotions of children are heightened so the books impacted me more or because the plots were so pure.

My favorite books are:
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
Pretend You Don't See Her by Mary Higgins Clark
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Then again, maybe there are others I haven't thought of. Like Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, The Giver and Number the Stars both by Lois Lowry. Oh! Or Devils Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. Then from college, there's Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. And who could forget Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte--who is one of the only authors that completely shocked me with a twist I didn't see coming.

You know what, all books are fantastic! It is impossible to choose five. What are yours?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Favorite Scene in Zeus Defended

I decided to showcase one of my favorite scenes from Zeus Defended. It involves Jocasta, who is probably one of my favorite characters to write. I find this funny, because she is probably more of an “anti” heroine: she kills people for a living, she has questionable morals, and many of the people express fear of her. But, in her heart, she is trying to do the right thing and be the right way. She may not pick the right methods, but, despite her hardness and selfishness, she cares about her country. I think that makes her somewhat heroic…maybe just a flawed. So, here it is, my favorite scene. 

I cut out part of the reason this is my favorite. This is one of the first scenes I wrote after taking a writing class to help build my description abilities--although, for the sake of space, I didn't include the intro. The second reason it is my favorite is because it is where she decides to go against all training, to abandon what has been drilled into her in order to do the right thing: 

After a moment, Jocasta asked, “Do you ever question our duty?”

"In the Imperial Guard?”

Jocasta nodded.

Brasidas hesitated, looked around him, then said, “At times, but it is not my place.”

Jocasta nodded. “That’s what I used to say, too.”

“And now?”

Jocasta shrugged. “And now Alcaeus is dead.”

“He told me once that it was a citizen’s duty to question.”

“But we’re not citizens.”

The only sound in the room was new water rushing from the pipes to refresh the bath.

They were ghosts—sworn to protect the President to the death. Thinking was not in their nature. They acted. They acted for him. And yet they were soldiers of Zeus. Soldiers were ingrained with the instinct to defend the country to the death. Country before anything else—including life. Never did the two divisions of the army seem to serve separate entities. Yet, something had changed a month ago. A light had shown through a death. It illuminated a growing canyon between the army and the Imperial Guard. Did they in fact serve two separate objectives?

Jocasta didn’t like to look at her president through that kind of looking glass. She had lived in that distortion of a reality for the majority of her life. But something didn’t seem to fit anymore. Alcaeus’ death brought on too many unanswered questions. Why was he killed? Whose idea was it to lie and why did they lie? What did he want to tell her upon her return? He had said he wished to tell her something. Was it what she had suspected? Why would a man dedicated to serving his country suddenly find himself on the opposite side? But more disturbing to Jocasta was the final question. Would she join him?

Finally, Brasidas broke the silence. “No,” his voice echoing off the tile, “we are not citizens. We are Zeus.”

Their eyes locked for a moment. Jocasta nodded. “Yes, we are.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is There a Need for a Writing Filter?

I’m not sure what caused me to think about it this week, but I started pondering on the changes that the “independently published” movement would cause to the genres as we know it. In other words, people thought of agents and acquisition editors as roadblocks. They were the threshold guardians (a totally fantasy world term, but one that applies) who would deny passage to aspiring authors. They were the crushers of hopes and dreams on a purely exaggerated level.

But, what if they actually served a purpose? In other words, they had seen a lot and how audiences react. They’ve seen what books have “made it” in the market. I remember talking with an agent when I was first starting out about twelve years ago. He was angered because I killed a family in front of a small child in the first scene of my book. He said, “would you let your child read this?”—which was purely hypothetical because I was a teenager at the time. My answer was of course not because it is not “harry potter” children’s book fantasy. In fact, while most outsiders classify Atlantis Cursed as partly YA, I actually wrote it as “adult.” 

While he was off base on my intent, he had a valid point. If I was trying to sell to elementary school kids, then someone would need to say the scene was not appropriate. Even when blending genres, there are certain things we cannot do. For instance, we can’t say something is science fiction if it takes place in the past and has no scientific adaptations to our current reality. Likewise, we can’t sell a historical mystery if we want to write about a society living on mars in which there is no murder being investigated. Or, even worse, let’s look at a romance novel that has no love (or unfortunately lust with the trend at the moment) and instead is about a group of friends out camping. 

I know these are exaggerated to make a point, which is probably a logical flaw somewhere, but I think there is some merit for writers not to stay completely isolated. They need someone in the business to second guess some decisions. I may think something is great, but others may see it in a different way. And, if the entire market thinks so, then I have a problem. There is merit in seeking outside opinions. What will be the response? Will people interpret it in the same way as I intended? 

“Independently published” author is a little misleading. These authors should be anything but independent. They should be seeking outside sources more so than anyone else. They should seek beta readers and editors. I’m not a big component for critique groups due to my own experiences, but I have heard, when done right, these are also valuable. In other words, maybe we should make sure the response to our novels will be what we want or if we should address otherwise unforeseen issues.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday's Quote: Colum McCann

“Literature can remind us that not all life is already written down: there are still so many stories to be told.”~ Colum McCann

Colum McCann
Photo taken from his goodreads profile

This was a popular quote from last week. I can see the appeal. I have always loved literature. I feel like it can truly open up someone's world. We can travel to different cultures and even worlds. We can dive into morality and social dilemmas. Literature grants access to some of the strongest debates, but in the safety of fiction.

Literature reminds us that life is not all written down. There is still things we can do. There are still experiences we can have. There are still discussions we can conduct. There are so many stories left to be told. In a world filled with movie re-makes, I think it is good to remember this. Literature is so rich and vibrant. Let us never forget that.

Want more quotes, follow me on Twitter.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Deleted Scene: Pandora Meets Pythagoras

In the original version of Zeus Defended, I showed Pandora meeting Pythagoras. In Atlantis Cursed, Pandora is credited for setting up a treaty with Zeus when she had fled the country. In later revisions, I felt it was better to start in the current Zeus and Jocasta's story instead of wasting time in this back story. Again, this is a little rough in the prose because it was cut early, but here is the deleted scene of Pandora meeting Pythagoras in the International Greeting Room:

"Make yourselves at home,” a deep voice said from behind. Thoricus and Pandora turned to see the President standing behind them. He wore slacks with a silk shirt and a matching sash tied around the waist. He looked young, despite his older age. His eyes reminded Pandora of something, but she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what. 

They all sat on one of the many chairs, Thoricus and Pandora on one side of the table, President Pythogoras on the other. Thoricus and Pandora sat on the edge of the chairs, their hands folded in their laps. Pythogoras, on the other hand, leaned back in the seat, his arms spread over the back and his legs crossed.

“I was surprised when I heard who was here to visit us today,” President Pythogoras said. By his demeanor, this could have been a casual conversation instead of a political agenda.
Pandora shrugged. “I thought it would be nice to see how our old friends were doing.”

Pythogoras smiled. “We’re doing better now. It was tough.” He paused, then added, “Nothing like your curse, I assure you.”

Pandora tried not to flinch. She forced a smile and shrugged. “The curse has been defeated. Now, Atlantis is trying to heal the wounds left behind.”

“I can understand,” Pythogoras said, trying to play the sympathetic role although the way he slowly tapped his fingers against the back of the chair suggested a lack of interest. 

“And what about your country? What have you overcome?”

Pythogoras shrugged. His attempt to belittle the problem failed, Pandora could see right through his politics. “Oh, nothing much. Right after the war ended, we discovered it was all in vane.”

“What do you mean?” Thoricus asked. 

Transferring his gaze to the captain, the president said, “The whole thing with the assassination of our princess not being the work of Aphrodite like we suspected. Turns out you all were right. A militia group within the country of Persephone claimed responsibility for her death.” Pythogoras laughed softly. “You’d think they could have mentioned it before we went into a four year war that devastated, as well as embarrassed, us.”

Thoricus shrugged. “I think that was their intention.”

Pythogoras studied him a moment. Pandora couldn’t tell if the president didn’t appreciate the comment or was just taking in the truth of it. Finally, Pythogoras nodded. “Yes, I believe that would fit them just right. Anyway, this news shattered an already broken nation. It didn’t take long for King Nike to be overthrown. Since then, we have had repeated troubles with the Persephone government. But I won’t bore you with the details. The point is, Persephone will soon learn their lesson and this whole thing will be over.”

Pandora smiled. “Well, I’m glad. Both our countries deserve to be happy. It was a mistake to go to war, but mistakes can be corrected.”

Pythogoras hesitated, then asked, “What exactly are you suggesting?”

“I don’t know if you are aware, but I am…” Pandora paused, her voice suddenly failing her. Quickly, she regained herself and corrected, “was married to King Sebastian. Since his death, I have taken control of Atlantis.”

Pythogoras smiled. “Ah, but I keep track of current events. Your country is in the middle of a civil war.”

“Yes, a civil war that the Senate will win.”

“And what weight does your word hold when the Senate regains power?” Pythogoras questioned with an edge of skepticism sharpening his voice.

“More than you think,” Pandora assured. “Look, Atlantis is wounded. From what I hear, so is Zeus. I think the best for both is to join forces once again and help each other gain back what was lost.”

Pythogoras thought about it for a moment then smiled. “Very well. I will sign a treaty with Atlantis as soon as the Senate regains power.”

Minutes later, President Pythogoras watched them leave. The second the door closed them out of the room, the picture belonging to Zeus swung open and an auburn haired woman with fierce eyes climbed out of hiding. She placed her shooter on a nearby table and approached him. 

“Why make a pact with them?” she asked with a frown.

Pythogoras’ smile widened into a smirk. He transferred his gaze to the young woman. “Because, Jocasta, Zeus can benefit from such a power. With Atlantis on our side, there is nothing stopping us from declaring war upon Persephone.”

“Even with Atlantis wounded?”

“Give them a year,” he assured. “They’ll be ready to prove to the world they are a top power once again.” 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Reflection on a Writer's Responsibility

This is one of those days where I had planned to write something, but felt compelled on one particular issue. I, like many, was saddened by the passing of Robin Williams on Monday. He was such a great actor with so many great films. What saddened me the most was learning of his severe depression and the possibility this was suicide.

In the last year, I have known quite a bit of families impacted by similar tragedies. I am starting to think that the 20’s and early 30’s are marked by tragic death. It’s like a threshold we have to go through when entering “adulthood.” In some ways, this particular tragedy affects me the greatest. 

I have read in writer reflections and have had writer friends recently express their battle with various forms of depression. I really believe it is a byproduct of the creative cycle. Emotions flow when writing, sadness is no exception I am not going to glorify what I go through as anything on the level of their struggle, I will say that most who know me know I go through what I call “mood swings.” I question my ability as a writer. I question my purpose in life. And I even start to question my self-worth. In many ways, I do believe there are times in college when my life might have been different had I not been surrounded by such a strong support system and had I not held onto my faith. I feel it is what helps me stay in the “mood swing” category. 

This weekend, an unrelated discussion came up about regrets in my previous writings. For a while now, with all the tragedy going around my circle of friends this year, I have begun to regret one thing: David’s suicide in The Lord of Nightmares. I often say this novel came out a little dark because I was really starting to question the evil in the world. Where was the lightness of childhood? What hope did we have as people? Writing David’s suicide, I think, was my subconscious reflection on this feeling of death being the only way out. 

What I regret is not necessarily that I wrote it. In all honesty, I’m not sure how I would have changed it if I was aware then of the issue as I am today. I guess my regret is that I missed a bigger discussion. Things like suicide are so real in our world, but we tend to gloss over them as a society. For instance, on the radio Tuesday, the DJ’s went from talking about the tragedy of Williams to and “issue” on a reality show. We feel the impact, but we don’t really feel the importance. 

I’m not sure how I would change David’s death. I think the psychology of it is worth exploring. I guess I would have changed the discussion. I would have made it more prevalent to the story. Ultimately, I think I would have liked to push that David was mistaken. Death is not the only way out. As writers, I think we forget that we have a threshold. Let's entertain, yes. But let's also discuss and encourage.

Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. You certainly brightened my life for quite some time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday's Quote: Hilaire Belloc

“Write as the wind blows and command all words like an army!"~ Hilaire Belloc

Hilaire Belloc
Photo taken from his Goodreads profile

I have been thinking a lot about marketing recently. Mainly, I've been trying to understand how to market online without seeming like the equivalent of a telemarketer on social media. For me, it is hard to wear two hats at the same time. I can't seem to edit, market and write novels all at the same time. I am just not structured that way. But, when I am not writing, I miss it. I'm thinking about it. I think that is why a lot of my quotes on twitter last week revolved around writing.
I love this one. Take control of writing. Take control of your words. It sounds so easy and yet is so difficult at times. Yet, I think it speaks to a willpower in writing. Many say to write and to make it a priority. Schedule it in, do it, don't let anything stop you. The essence of that thought is in this quote. Write. Don't judge, don't criticize, just write. Let the words overpower you. Let the story take control, but command the characters like an army. I love that visual.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Character Interview: Superior Nicias of Gaea

1. What was your childhood like?

My childhood is best forgotten. It is something I have spent my life trying to over come. But, I guess we can never avoid it. It is always there. I will forever be Nicias of Gaea, which just reminds me of where I came from. My family was pretty poor growing up. I wouldn’t say I went to bed hungry, but most nights I was not full. Most of my childhood, I worked in the fields with my father. He was a tough man. How could he not be? He worked hard to provide for his family and yet could not fulfill our needs. I think it ate at him. He distanced himself from us after some time. Then, I think he grew to resent us. His life would be better if he were on his own. Soon, the debts became too much for them. I was sold for labor. Everything after that should be left unsaid until Clieto and her judgment day.

2. What are the pitfalls of having powers? If you had a choice would you become human? Why/Why not?

There is so much talk about Immortals and their abilities. The world tries to define us as being different. I’m not sure we really are. Do I live longer? Sure. Do I heal faster? Sure. Can I do some things that are impossible for “humans.” Yes. But I am still flesh and bone. I can still feel pain and sorrow. To separate myself from the human race is to separate myself from humanity. People start doing that and they start to believe they can use us. Armies start to see us as weapons. Citizens start to either fear or worship, but ultimately resent us. Separated from the human race, we become something that must be tolerated or obliterated.

I am human. Do I like having my powers? I guess. I never knew a different life. I can’t even imagine not having my skills. I have learned to use Telekinesis to enhance my fighting. Could I be the same soldier without it? I’m not so sure. People certainly hold me on a pedestal because of it. It grants me more influence than I think I’d have otherwise, but I’d like to think I am nothing special because of it. I’d like to think it is just a small part of my presence. I’d say the only pitfalls result from the fear of those who disagree with this thought.

3. What was it like suddenly having to watch Pandora?

I have lead men into battle and felt responsible for their lives. But with her…it was different. It was more pressure than I even felt before. She touched me somehow. I guess it was because she was so innocent when I agreed to help her. She was so young and had seen such evil, more than even I had. It wasn’t right. I guess that’s what drove me. But I still contend there were others better suited for the job.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Author Interview: Paranormal writer Michael Hammor

As part of my interview series, I asked local author Michael Hammor to invade my blog. Here's his interview:

First off, BJ, congrates on getting “Zeus” published. My name is Michael Hammor. I'm the author of the dystopian paranormal series, Bedtime Tales From The Apocalypse. I just released the third book July 12th. I write what I know. This series is basically short stories, episodes if you will, and once finished will comprise the novel, Daughter of the Apocalypse.

I'm a military veteran with a decade of service. Most recently I spent the last four years as a civilian contract instructor training soldiers. I was laid off because the President decided my services were no longer required. He doesn't want to win this war, obviously. Add his actions towards the economy to the immigration problem, and we are fast approaching the world I write about.

I was laid off in September 2013. I have been unemployed ever since. It is a daily struggle to make sure my family has what it needs. Our struggles come out in my writing.

1. What lead you to write a post-apocalyptic story?

Brenda, I write what I know. I can’t completely make up anything, which is why you won’t likely see any dragon or sword fantasy work from me. The apocalypse is my greatest fear. I believe we are fast approaching the point of collapse. It’s a fun exercise to examine an asteroid strike or a zombie virus as the causal events that herald the end of the world. It’s not realistic. I developed scenarios for a decade for military officers. It’s rarely as simple as a single event causing anything. Think of it more as a cascade effect, or dominos. When the end comes, it will be from the combined effects of Greed and Selfishness.

The actual nucleus of the first book started scratching at my brain when I was deployed in 2008. The Girl would not get out of my head. I kept seeing this raven haired young girl walking down a highway. I saw her bringing bandits to their final judgment. The Girl With No name struck a deal with me. If I told her story, she would leave me alone. However, the story keeps getting longer and longer.

We used to prepare for a disaster. We had months of food stored. We had thousands of rounds of ammo stored. I had forty something gallons of fuel stored. We prepared for the most likely scenario, a personal Economic disaster (PED). It happened. We have none of the food left. I still have ammo left, the fuel was used to get our RV to where it is now, in the desert. I don’t care to think what would have happened to us if we had not prepared for a PED. Everyone should have at least a month’s worth of food, just in case. That means at least 60 meals per person.

We are in the books. We drive an RV to escape the riots and plagues that are sweeping the population centers. Our experiences are written with some fictionalization for dramatic enhancement and reader enjoyment. I leave out the boring parts like hours of staring into space trying to figure out how to provide for my family.

2. Do you find your experiences in the military helps your writing? If yes, how so. If not, then what do you draw the most from when creating?

My military experiences heavily influenced my writing. I don’t think I would be writing today if it wasn’t for the hardships and sorrows I had to endure; that all soldiers endure. I don’t discuss it often. It’s very difficult for me to address that time in my life. My family sacrificed so much. I left my baby girl still small enough to not be talking or walking, her head bald like a cue ball. I came home to a little person that talked and walked and had a head full of blonde curls. That moment when I came home, and she woke up and looked at me and said “Hi, Daddy!” will forever be the best and worst moment of my life.

3. You write a series of shorts. What struggles do you find when creating plot? Do you sometimes regret what you did in previous releases, or do you basically have the entire thing outlined before you started book 1?

The Girl With No Name originally started as a stand alone short story. It was written for me and me alone. I needed to get the movie in my head to stop playing. I think I wrote the first draft when I was deployed. I hand wrote it. It was very different from the story you have now. It evolved. The plots for the rest of the series weren’t put down on paper until I was done writing Book 2: Aluminum Butterflies. I knew where I wanted to be at Book 6. I know how Book 6 ends. It was getting there in an intelligent and coherent manner that was the problem. My buddy Jeff that edits all my books for free, helped me get my thoughts in order. My other buddy Carl Price was a great sounding board and has actually loaned me two of his characters from a series he is writing.

The character of Lazarus was originally all mine but we have been changing him with every book so he is a closer match to Carl’s character. I do have some leeway as my books take place in the distant future of the two characters.

I don’t regret anything I put in the previous books. Book 1 and Book 2 are almost capable of standing on their own. I shouldn’t run into any trouble since I have outlined the next four books to make sure they align correctly. It’s very similar to my military work. When deployed I had to think many steps ahead, try to get in front of the enemy and what they were doing. It’s not that dissimilar to writing fiction. I used the facts I know, human behavior and psychology, and predicted what the enemy was going to do. In writing these books, I use the information I know or have made up, human behavior and psychology, and outlined what my characters are likely to do on their way to book 6. I am very precise and almost OCD about the process.

But beware, just because you outlined, just because you have a plan, doesn’t mean your characters are going to cooperate.

4. You recently ranked top 10 in one of Amazon’s lists. What marketing strategies do you contribute to this accomplishment?

I made into the top ten in a few categories. I made it into the Number 5 slot for Kindle’s free dystopian titles with my last free promotion. During the same time period I made it into the top 3 in Kindle’s paid One-hour Sci-Fi and Fantasy category with book 2, beating out two titles by Terry Brooks. Book 2 also ranked above Stephen King, but I can’t remember the category. My mother was very proud as Stephen King is her favorite author. Just keep in mind that Kindle ranking are fleeting and almost real time. They won’t be anything near those if you checked now. I took screen captures! They are like baby pictures for you books. You can show them to your books when they are all grown up. “Oh look, do you remember when you beat out Terry Brooks for the first time?” On my last free promotion, I tried so hard to knock Catching Fire down a notch or two but it only got up to number 6.

As far as marketing strategies I have two websites, one for me and one for my books. I post regularly on my blog and facebook. I use twitter. I leveraged a few forums I have been a member of for years. I used to advertise heavily in facebook groups but now I have changed my strategy. I actual participate and talk to people. I give advice when it’s warranted. Eventually people buy your books or ask about them. People largely ignore ads. I know I do.

I have utilized the services of, but it’s too early to tell if it helps. I rely mostly on my own hard work for marketing and promotion. I participated in a ‘Take over’. That’s where you take over a facebook page or a blog and talk about whatever you want. You are basically running the group. I started by engaging my audience by asking about what books they liked and we talked about inspirations for writing. I ended with plugging my work. This is a good strategy because the participants learn to like you. Then I believe they will be more inclined to read your work, since they have invested time in getting to know you. The takeover was last minute so I didn’t get enough time to promote it heavily.

Shortly after that I piloted a table at a local Farmer’s Market. The traffic just wasn’t there. We had four vendors, including myself. I had the model for my book covers there with me selling jewelry. My model is a young homeless woman from my area that we try to support. She captures the essence of The Girl With No Name. Only someone that has known true adversity, tragedy, and sorrow could have captured what I wanted to see in her eyes. We are very active in the local homeless community, being technically homeless ourselves.

5. What is the number one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to publish?

Write, right now. Don’t wait! You will forget! Write for yourself, write for them, just write! Read, a lot. Don’t read for entertainment. Look at the structure of the words. Look at the way dialogue is written. Study it. Copy it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday's Quote: JK Rowling

"What's coming will come and we'll just have to meet it when it does."~ J. K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling
Photo taken from her Twitter Feed

I think what I love most about Rowling's novels is that, while the work is fantasy, the meanings inside are applicable to reality. Someone once asked me if fantasy novels served a purpose. I told them I thought they actually had the added benefit of hiding messages inside entertainment. Someone picks up Harry Potter because they like wizards and then they get a dosage of philosophy and morality as well. This quote is no exception.

There is an uncontrollable nature to life. I can prep and strategize until my heart's content, but something might happen to upset it all. Sometimes we just have to take what's coming and deal with it as it arrives. I love that idea. I think it appeals to me because I am a worrier. Left to my own devices, I can worry myself into literal sickness. I loose sleep. I stop eating. I even get an upset stomach. It all is silly. I will survive whatever comes my way. I just need to meet it head on and not worry until it gets there.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

What Is In a Name: why I use Greek Names

I think one of the trademarks of my Atlantis series is the use of Greek names. I have had a mixed reaction to them. Many times, especially from my veteran readers, I am simply asked how to pronounce the name. Typically I tell them however they want. 

I guess I rest on two positions with regard to choosing a character name. The first is by look. I remember reading or hearing somewhere that JK Rowling chose Hermione’s name because it looked good on the page. When readers were battling between two different pronunciations, Rowling said something along the lines that readers could pronounce it whatever way they wanted. That was part of the experience. I think her fans might have thought that was a cheat, but I completely understood.

I chose the name Menelaus when I was 14 and hadn’t read the Iliad. I chose the name because it looked strong. It looked fierce. Basically, it looked worthy of a corrupt, power hungry king. Life is full of coincidences and poetic parallels. I believe my Menelaus might be very similar to the Spartan leading the Trojan War. 

Atlantis Cursed is filled with Greek names given to me by my 7th grade teacher. We had to write our own myth. Mine involved a fish that fell in love with a bird. He built wings so he could fly and be with her. It had a tragic ending as most mythologies do, but was my way of explaining the “flying fish.” I found and used this list of names as I began writing my novel in high school. 

That was extremely limited, so I soon moved onto searching for names on the internet. There are actually some awesome sites that give Greek mythological names for the purposes of naming babies. This site also gives meaning, which I started to use in my quest to name characters. For instance, I was going to name a king something until I learned it meant “soft.” Not really something that projects the stature of a king. The fact that such a site exists actually explains some crazy student names I experienced as a teacher. 

Naming a character, in many ways, is like naming a child. I know some of the names may be hard to figure out. For instance, in Zeus Defended, there is General Tyrantaeus. I picked it because it kind of looks like “tyrant,” which totally fits the General’s personality. Again, it read to me as a strong name. 

I guess my ultimate decision of picking Greek names comes down to my second, much simpler position. This is Atlantis, a world descendant of ancient Greece. They should have Greek names. It adds a flavor to the work…a dimension that suggests it is real. Ultimately making readers live in this world and believe it to be real in some way is the reason why I write. Names are just one more tool to achieve this result.