October Updates and Special Announcement

Wow, can you believe we are already in October? Crazy right? This week I wanted to provide a personal and writing update. Also, I have an exciting special announcement so stay tuned (this is a Scribbler Exclusive). Let’s get to it shall we.

The last few months a lot has been going on with my writing and me. If you’ve been following along then you know we have been amid a bathroom remodel. We can now see light at the end of the tunnel. Thank goodness! It hasn’t been that bad, but it’s exhausting. I’ll be thrilled when construction is over and we have, not only, our bathroom back, but also our house (if you want to see the images from the construction check them out here and here). Once everything is complete, I’ll provide a final update with photos for you to check out.

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When it comes to my writing, I’m working on The Calling – Book 2, which I’m toying with naming… The Called. There are a couple of reasons for this name, which I can’t get into now, no spoilers and all, but the name is significant within the story. Also, it was one of the names suggested by a reader over on my Facebook Page (check it out here). What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Overall, the writing is going well and my goal is to have the first draft finished by the end of the year, which is ambitious, but we’ll see. Should be a piece of cake, right?

Oh, did you see the character interviews I have with two popular characters from The Calling? If you want to know more about Victor Rey (click here) and Juliet de Exter (click here). You need to check them out, they were a ton of fun and you might get hints into what may be coming in The Called - Book 2 in The Calling Series.

This month I will be getting the edits from my Editor for A New World – Contact Part One (learn more by clicking here) which is slated for release on January 21, 2019. As with The Calling there will be a launch party here in San Jose. If you’re in the area or can make it out this way stay tuned for more details in the early part of January 2019. I hope to see you there, last year it was a lot of fun… just saying.

Believe it or not, I have a second book coming out next year T.A.D – The Angel of Death (learn more by clicking here) it be released on March 11, 2019. As with A New World – Contact there will be many more details as we approach launch day.

I’m looking forward to sharing these new characters and new universes I’ve created with you.

Now for my Special Announcement. This is a Scribbler’s Exclusive… drum roll, please…

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I have a limited number of copies of The Calling, which I will personalize, autograph, and send out to folks in the US for $20. This is a print book, and the cost covers the physical book and shipping (standard USPS mail nothing fancy). To be part of this limited exclusive offer of The Calling First Edition please email me at info@mdneu.com and we can work out the details (name, mailing address, and payment). If you are outside the US and would like to take advantage of this amazing deal, please email me and let’s see what we can work out. I will keep this offer open for a limited time (I’m not saying when it will end). And remember for right now this is a Scribbler Exclusive, so take advantage of it now before time runs out and I open it up.

Well gang, that’s all I have this week. Coming up later this month, I have a couple of amazing interviews so keep an eye open. Remember to like and share below. See you all next week.

Interview with Editor and Author Jason Huffman-Black (Professional Editing name: Jason Bradley)

Today on my Scribbles Page I have the honor of welcoming Editor and Author Jason Huffman-Black. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jason for the last year and a half and today I’ve finally pinned him down for a chat.

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To start, I just have to say I’m so happy to have you here. I’ve got a bunch of questions not only about your life as an Editor but as a fellow writer especially now that I finished your novel Snakes Among Sweet Flowers, which by the way was brilliant. However, before we get into that please introduce yourself, your writing, and your editing.

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Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Jason Bradley. I’ve been editing for the past ten years, for several publishers and also freelance through Superior Author Services (click here for all the details). I get paid to do my favorite thing—read. Needless to say, I love my job.

I write under the name Jason Huffman-Black, with one novel, Snakes Among Sweet Flowers, published at Dreamspinner Press (click here for more about the book).

How about you tell us something that isn’t in your bio. Something that most people don’t know about you.

I’m 38 years old and live in Fort Worth TX with my partner. We have joint custody of our teenage daughter. I’m a submissive and a masochist. My partner is my dominant and the love of my life.

Thanks for sharing. Now, where to start. First, if you don’t mind, let’s talk about your writing. Tell us about Snakes Among Sweet Flowers.

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Snakes is the story of Cam, an ex-con, who has moved to a small town to start over and hide out from old enemies. His plan isn’t exactly to go the straight and narrow, though. More to find some unsuspecting new victims for his scams. But in small towns, everyone knows everyone else as well as what they’re up to, and Cam soon realizes that makes his life of crime a bit more difficult.

Jackson is a member of the local law enforcement who immediately has his suspicions of what Cam has planned and isn’t going to allow it.

While the two are at odds from the beginning, they also find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other.

I’m not a big romance reader (or writer for that matter) but I have to admit this was wonderfully written and I could tell you put a lot of heart into this story and characters. So what inspired you to write Snakes Among Sweet Flowers? Where did the story come from?

Thank you. I’m glad that the emotion I felt while writing Snakes Among Sweet Flowers came through in my words. I’m prone to getting inspiration from songs. I don’t remember the song on the radio, but I was driving somewhere alone, one of my favorite thinking times, and the first scene of the book came to me as I listened to the radio. I had such a clear vision of Cam and his inner struggles. I went home and wrote that scene, then kept writing. I never planned the book out. In fact, I had no idea where it was going.

Wow, I would have taken you for a planner, especially since you’re an Editor as well.

No. However, I scheduled a time once a week to write and aimed to complete a chapter each week. Most of the time, I started writing without even knowing where my characters would be at the end of the chapter.

This story has many of my own personal struggles embedded within. I’ve struggled to come to terms with religion and parent issues. Since I grew up in Georgia, the characters, while maybe not directly modeled after one person, are familiar personalities to me. I think my grandmother stands out as a major influence to the side characters in Hog Mountain. Those side characters are my love letter to small-town USA.

That is very cool. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was near the end with the preacher, that was nicely handled and without given any spoilers was that part always intentional? For me it was one of the most emotional parts of the book (which rarely happens to me) did something like that actually happen or was that scene strictly your doing?

I grew up in the Church of Christ and it was not pleasant. Nothing like that scene ever occurred to me. More a fantasy of what could be, I guess.

That’s unfortunate. Nothing wrong with that kind of fantasy. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

Thank you. It’s made me a stronger person, and a more accepting one as well…I hope.

I have to ask, do any of the main characters Jackson, Cameron, or Grant reflect anyone in your life? Maybe you or someone you know? I’m asking because for me I know these guys. I’ve met them all in my life and I felt really connected to them.

You know, all three had some of me in them. And some of others. Jackson has a lot of Mark, one of my dearest friends, the blond good guy, idealistic Superman personality. Then again, some of the things he did, like going with his parents to clean up the church before services, that was direct memories from my life. Cam has a lot of Ethan, my partner, in him, but as I said, many of his struggles are very personal. And Grant! I have known so many Grants. I kinda wish I could write Grant his happily-ever-after because he deserves one.

Grant is definitely unique and given what I’ve read I can see how he could use a happily-ever-after.

Many of my readers didn’t like him and I can understand why. But Grant is a creature of his environment. He’s learned that even though most everyone assumes or knows he’s gay, he will be accepted as long as it’s never actually acknowledged. As long as he wears a thin façade of heterosexuality, everyone can turn a blind eye to anything that might conflict with that image.

He comes across as one of the snakes of the story, but he’s very much a victim, along with his family, and his cattiness derives from being well aware of how hypocritical people can be.

One thing I want to compliment you on in your writing are the ‘adult’ scenes, you handle them so well. You don’t drag them out for pages and pages showing all he mechanics of everything, which is wonderful for me, because I really don’t care about that especially as I read. I don’t need the help, I get the idea and I know how it all works. So was this intentional on your part? Keeping the scenes simple and to the point? Also, I want to commend you for keeping it real often times romance writers go so far to the extreme I have a hard time believing any of the adult scenes are based in reality. Thank you for that.

I’m feeling you on this one. I was actually asked to add more to one of the sex scenes. I only added a few lines, though. I know that some people want the super-long sex scenes that tell every move a guy makes and how many fingers they use to get them there. To each his own, but for me, that usually stops the flow of the story dead in its tracks. I want any sex scene to progress the storyline, not halt it. But I want them to be hot too. And I don’t think things have to be super graphic to be hot.

Definitely not. There is a lot to be said for the ‘fade to black’.

I agree. I have nothing against sex scenes, but I have an active imagination, so fade-to-black works for me too.

I know you have a few other works out there just curious at what you think I (and everyone else) should read next?

I have a free short story called I Am the Highway and then I have what I would call more of a scene for an event on Goodreads called Just Be. If anyone would like either of those, I can provide them. I’ve actually considered adding to I Am the Highway and publishing. Maybe someday. I also have a very short piece in an anthology titled Crack the Darkest Sky Wide Open. Otherwise, I don’t really have anything else out there. I’m hoping to correct that in the near future. I’ve got several half finished manuscripts.

What are you waiting for? Get to it man. (Chuckles)

That’s the plan!

Now let’s move on to your life as an Editor. Tell us a little about that? What’s it like being an editor?

It’s wonderful. Like with any reader, there are definitely some stories I enjoy more than others, but there is a great pleasure in helping an author to make their story the best it can be.

People don’t always understand how much work goes into editing, care to share your thoughts on the subject. If you could wave your magic wand what would be the one thing you want all authors and readers to know about editing?

It’s important. Don’t rush. Don’t skimp. Find an editor who works with your style of writing and listen to them. That doesn’t mean accepting everything they suggest, but remember that rules are there for a reason, so consider the advice given. Argue your case when you disagree, but don’t get mad. Editors are there to help you.

I know it’s hard to hear someone criticize your “baby,” but use that criticism constructively.

That is good advice. You really need to trust your Editor, especially if you’re a new author.

I agree, but don’t be afraid to debate a change or ask why a rule is important to follow.

Do you have any tips or tricks you can share to help in the writing process? We all write every day, so are there general tips that everyone can use? And to that point what about authors what is the one thing you wish all authors would learn to make the editing process go a lot easier?

I think the main thing is to learn from your edits. Sometimes I over-explain the reason for an edit, but it’s so the author can understand and learn why they shouldn’t do a certain thing.

The most time-consuming work on an edit is when an author doesn’t remain firmly in one Point-of-View (POV) during a scene. Everyone has the occasional slip, but I’m talking about constant switches. Head-hopping, as it is called, is a bitch to fix. By choosing the POV character at the beginning of a scene and placing yourself firmly in their head, writing the scene as if looking through their eyes, you will save yourself and your editor a ton of work. Consider that the POV character can’t see their own face and that they only know the underlying emotion and motivation of their actions. Consider the personality of the POV character. Would they notice certain things?

If John is the POV character, he would not comment on the color of his own eyes or know that they sparked with his anger. John wouldn’t know what the person mumbled under their breath so no one could hear them. He can’t report that no one noticed the person peeking in the window, because John would have to notice it in order to report it in the scene.

I remember having to fix all that at one point in my first story. It was a pain in the butt to fix. Now, I think, I don’t have that issue… too often.

Any good writer will tell you that they have learned something new with each release and evolved. Don’t be afraid to change. Otherwise, we stagnate.

Now, as an Editor, what is your favorite type of genre to edit?

That’s a hard one. The most difficult to edit is probably historicals, mainly due to all the names/dates/random points that need to be checked. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them, though. I do have a special place in my heart for LGBTQIA+ manuscripts. The world needs more quality books out there with diverse main characters. If there is a “gay agenda,” I nominate this as one of the primary bullet points. (I would also like to know what the other bullet points are, please?)

I’m still waiting to find out what the “gay agenda” is it seems to keep changing. Alright, we’ve chatted a bit about your writing and your editing, so when you’re not doing those two things what do you like to do? What do you do in your off hours?

Off hours? What are those? Ha!

Well, I’m an introvert who would rather stay home in most cases. I enjoy cooking and baking. I would say other than reading, that is my hobby. I bake breads and sweets and am always trying new recipes.

Oh, I love baking and cooking, well and eating. What’s your favorite things to bake?

I love breads! All kinds. I made loaves of apple cider bread to give as presents last year for Christmas. I also make small buns stuffed with meat and cheese. They are wonderful for packed lunches or even breakfast (especially my bacon and cheese ones) with a cup of coffee. And then there are cookies and muffins.

Our household is used to trying out new recipes for dinner too. I’m always finding some new recipe to try.

Anything else?

Video games, although I’m a spectator. My reaction times suck, but I adore the games so I watch and help and cheer. We are always playing something. Right now, it’s Metal Gear Solid 5.

And your Favorite game?

Maybe Resident Evil 4 but there are so many… Call of the Wild, the Uncharted series…

Cooking, Baking and Video Games what else you have for us?

I love antique oddities. Of course, since that takes money, and I am not a collector of that, I simply enjoy the ones I own. Not surprisingly, quite a few are books. Connected to this, I also love history. I feel like if there is a heaven, it will be a huge viewing room, where I can hold the remote that will allow me to work my way through the history of the world, learning all the secrets, explaining all the mysteries. And of course, there would be a bottomless bucket of popcorn to go along with it.

Yum…popcorn…I’d be there watching right along with you.

Awesome! What fun would it be to learn all those secrets and not have someone to share it with?

Just because it’s a fun ‘get to know you questions’ I have to ask do you prefer Star Wars or Star Trek Both?

Why choose one? To me, they are so different and each has their merits and flaws but are worthy and definitely treasures!

Now as far as the character I would want to know biblically… it would be the dreadlocked Wookie, Tarfful.

A Wookie. Hmm.

~snicker~

And on that note, any final thoughts for the folks reading this?

Life is so fleeting. Do what you love and make life better for those you come in contact with. Each day is a mission to rise above and be the better person. Keep reading and keep dreaming and keep writing! AND! Be good to yourself.

Nicely said. Thank you so much for joining me here today Jason. It was a real treat.

Thank you so much for inviting me. It has been my pleasure.

Well Scribblers that’s it for this week. Like Jason said go out and read and leave people in a better place than when you found them. Until next week have a great week. And remember you can like and share this Interview below by clicking on the ‘like’ button and ‘share’ button. If you have questions for Jason, leave them below and I’ll ensure he swings by and gives them an answer.


About:

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Jason Huffman-Black could be described as the porn star alter ego of the mild-mannered editor for several LGBT publishers. By day, Jason edits and writes in a cozy chair, while Mr. Huffman-Black travels the globe on such adventurous excursions as wrestling the one-eyed spitting serpent of Tangiers, ass-spelunking into the hidden tomb of King CockTut, and most recently, sharing a prison cell in a small third-world nation with a rather sweaty fur-covered hulk of a man named Javier.

Social media:

For Twitter click here.

For Tumblr click here.

For Facebook click here.

To Email Jason: vslavetopassionv@aol.com

To find him at Superior Author Services click here.

Writing Update – June 2018

Happy Wednesday Scribblers.  I hope you are all having an amazing Summer. This week I thought I would provide my writing updates and share my cool media spotlights. Let’s jump in, shall we?

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I’m excited to share I’ve been moving forward with The Calling–Book Two. The outline is complete, and the writing has started.  I’m four chapters in and I’m digging how things are going. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will share this. Now that the threat from the witches has been neutralized in Book One (have you read The Calling-Book One? If not click here) we are left with magic seeping into our world. Which could lead to a big shift in our reality. Will we see more mystical beings?  And what was Chris’s vision?  Are we heading for a supernatural war?  You must wait to find out.

Do you have some amazing names floating around in your head? If you do, I need three background character names (two men and one woman) they are the new house staff on Juliet’s estate.  If you can think of some good names and want a chance to win a free eBook copy of either; A Dragon for Christmas or The Reunion, check out my Facebook Fan Page for more details (click here). The new characters will appear in The Calling-Book Two

Finally, I want to share my media spots for the last month. Yep, I’ve been making the rounds on both blogs and podcasts:

Frist, I was featured on Nicola Markus Edits; we talked about writing and the editing process.  It was fun and I hope folks take a minute to check it out (click here).

Second, How Author’s Work had me on their podcast. It was a great conversation. We chatted about writing, publishing, workflow secrets, tips and tricks, and we talked about my books.  Andrew and Paul were amazing hosts and I hope to join them again. To listen to the interview click here.

That is all for you this week. Short and sweet. Don’t forget sharing is caring. If you know anyone who loves paranormal and fantasy books share my books and my website with them. You can also share this Scribbles Page with friends by clicking the share button below. Until next week have a great week.

Writing & Personal Update

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It’s time for another Writing Update and given all that has happened over the last several weeks there is no better time than now.  Things for me have been a mixed bag full of blessing and sadness. It’s never easy talking about the not-so-happy events going on in our lives, well not for me, but I figured I would share as talking it through is supposed to help.

Recently, my husband and I had to go to Utah to take care of my husband’s father. He has terminal cancer and dementia.  It’s not been easy, and my husband is an only child, so there is a lot for him to deal with. All I can do is support him and the decisions he makes. Luckily we’ve had some wonderful support from his aunt and uncle so we weren’t totally alone in dealing with all of this. 

A few weeks back we all spent a week in Utah taking care of his father’s house (getting it ready to sell). We also spent time seeing his dad and making sure he is settled in the care facility, which is amazing. The staff are wonderful and so is his father’s hospice worker.  As I’m sure you can imagine it was a stressful week, but we got everything we needed accomplished. By the end of the week we were all exhausted but we still had out humor. Eric’s uncle summed up the week like this, “It’s amazing we’re all still talking to each other.” We all got a good chuckle out of that.

Amidst that, my short story, The Reunion was being finalized and getting ready for its launch. The launch was October 23rd and went off swimmingly.  I’m so thrilled that I had the support of great friends, family, and the wonderful folks at NineStar Press (check them out here).  They really helped and made the process seem less.

Unfortunately, because this has been a mixed bag of emotions. Last week I got news that one of my only living great-aunts passed away (she was 99 years old).  This sad news brought up the memories of my grandmother (my aunt’s older sister) and the realization that that generation has all moved on. We have a close family so that has made it all the more difficult.

Also, on October 23rd it was the fifth anniversary of Eric’s mother’s passing in a tragic accident.  So, the day my debut short story launched there was an air of both joy and sorrow. Eric and I agreed that his mother would’ve been proud and excited and we’re sure that the launch date was no coincidence.

I’m a firm believer that our family never leaves our side and that they are always there with us. The launch day was one way for her and my mom (also passed away) to show their collective support.

There you have it an emotional roller-coaster.

I don’t want to end this on a sad note because as I said at the start these last few weeks have been a mixed bag of both good and bad. To that point, I still have two more books coming out over the next few months, A Dragon for Christmas (December 18th) and The Calling (Jan 1st) I’ve also, been writing/editing three different stories so there is much more to come. And lastly, I want to share some quotes from a few of the reviews I’ve received for, The Reunion (buy it here):

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“…cleverly written and I couldn’t put it down because I just needed to know what had happened in this town!” – Lulu Forth (Alpha Book Club) full review here.

“I thought I knew where the author was going with the story and time after time, they proved me wrong.  And that ending….” – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (full review here).

“A fantastic story full of good times and bad, The Reunion is one of those tales that you're going to want to read over and over again.” – Amazon Review by Wordsmith full review here.

Until next week, have a great week gang.  Remember I love hearing from you, so leave me a comment and don’t forget to like and share.
 

Managing Multiple Writing Projects

First, let me start by saying, “Ugh!” This weeks blog is gonna be short, which I hope is cool with everyone.

Did you know there are literally hundreds of resources for managing multiple writing projects?  There are software programs, books, blogs, webinars, seminars, etc. It’s crazy.  I get people need help to focus; we all need that kind of help…

Oh look, squirrel.

Where was I? Oh right, staying focused.  Right now I have three projects I’m working on.  I’m writing A New World–Conspiracy, I’m writing TAD (my new writing project), and I want to edit/rework ‘The Reunion’ which was just published on Tall Tale TV, click here to check it out.

So, how do I keep it all under control?  I’m very basic.  I use outlines, notes, research, and character sheets. That’s all I use and for me that’s all I need.  I’m familiar with writers who use Scriverner and love it, which is great.  For me it’s one more item to manage.  It’s like using Microsoft Projects at the office, sure it works but you’ve got to manage it and populate it.  Ugh.  That’s way too much work for me. I like to keep it simple.

I understand that what works for me may not work for everyone and that’s great. What I’m really curious about today is what other writers think and use.  How do you keep everything you’re working on straight and organized?  Heck, you don’t even need to be a writer, just a busy person with a lot of balls in the air.  If you’ve got some great tips and tricks tell me.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time, have a great week.

Writing Update?

Over the last few Blogs I’ve talked about various topics, the most recent was about Slow Burn Books if you haven’t read it check it out here.  Anyway, I thought today I would provide an update on all my writing endeavors and surprisingly there are quite a few.

To start, I was recently asked to work on a training video project ‘Know Your Rights’ for the nonprofit I work for. It was a series of vignettes about what to do when ICE confronts you.  Each video would be a different scenario.  First, ICE comes to your home. Second, ICE comes to your work. Third, a police stop. And, fourth, how an agency is to respond when ICE comes to investigate clients.  We did an English and Spanish version.

Know Your Rights!

We spent a few weeks working on the script and in rehearsals.  The thing to point out here is none of the people were professionals.  So, they were relying on my limited experience.  Regardless, I spent whatever time I had with them running lines, rewriting and changing the script and working on blocking and preparing them for taping day.

The day of the video shoot came, and we spent a full day in studio with a crew of five.  I had designed the sets and costuming as well as handled make-up (I was wearing a lot of hats that day including directing).  With the shoot finished the next week I worked with the editor to pull it all together.  The finished product is something I’m exceedingly proud of, and the videos already hit over 600 views (in just a week).  Click here to go to their channel.

I’ve been asked to work with the Editor and take the vignettes and turn them into an actual DVD that other agencies can purchase.  So, that will be cool.

Channel trailer for Tall Tale TV.

My second update is if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter (which I hope you do), you should’ve seen my interactions with Chris over at Tall Tale TV. Chris takes short stories and converts them to audiobooks that you can listen to on his channel.  It's a great way to hear about new and upcoming authors. The channel is new so there isn’t a lot of content yet, but he’s growing it.  Anyway, he had a call for short story submissions and he selected one of mine.  I recently, the last few days, got word that my story ‘The Reunion’ will be airing in the next couple of weeks.  Once, I’m given the date you can be sure I’ll be letting you know.

My next major announcement is that I have a new work in progress underway, ‘T.A.D.’  This new story is set to be a novella and much shorter than my other works.  I don’t want to give away too much because things may change, but this story has elements of time travel and focuses on angles.  I’ve gotten some positive feedback from the first chapter so I’m excited to bring the outline to life. 

My final update is about my other works in progress.  ‘A New World – Contact’ is back with a couple of Beta Readers.  ‘A New World – Conspiracy’ is still in the writing process however, I’m happy to report that Act Two is now complete, which means I’m on to the final act; Act Three.  Yay!

This leaves me with an update for ‘The Calling’ it is complete and has gone through edits.  The rest I’m going to be a little cagey about because I’m hoping to have a big announcement about ‘The Calling’ in the next few months.

Those are my updates for now.  I'd love to hear what questions you have for me ask them in the comments and I'll answer.  Feel free to share this blog with others who will find it interesting.

See you next time.

Are Slow Burn Books Dead?

I’ve been wondering lately what people think of slow burn (slow paced) novels.  I don’t mean novels that go on-and-on about a rope unwinding, or describe every single item in a room to a reader.  What I’m talking about are stories that start off slow, allow readers to become familiar with the characters and their surrounding situations.  The reader actually gets to care about these people and their lives before all holy hell breaks loose.

This was a big topic of discussion on the writers group I belong to.  Most people agree there should be an inciting incident happening pretty quick (as soon as the first couple of paragraphs and no later than chapter five for all books). If you don’t know what an ‘inciting incident’ is it’s an episode, plot point or event that hooks the reader into the story. This particular moment is when an event thrusts the protagonist into the main action of the story.

Anyway, I agree with the need for an inciting incident I don’t see the need to be so fast.  I find in a lot of books/novels these days’ authors drop the reader right into the action, normally within the first few paragraphs. If not, the first paragraph.

So people love this.  It reminds them of movies and it gets their heart beating and, for them, it’s the best way for a novel to begin.

For me, I’ve hardly gotten to learn anything about these people, so why do I care if some monster, explosion or whatever is chasing them.

It’s only chapter two and their mother died in their arms.  The house they lived in blew up and aliens (or vampires or zombies or whatever) are rounding up the survivors.  Well lovely, but hey, could I maybe get the characters last name first.  Perhaps, find out that they have brown hair and green eyes.  I need to connect with these people.  I need to relate to them.

Is that too much to ask? 

Am I expecting too much?

Or worse yet, I’m I the only one who cares about this stuff? Clearly I’m not, because there are tons of books out there that move at a slower pace.

Still, is fast passed action, action, action all that people want?  Look at our movies and TV shows, you barely get any character information before you’re thrust into the action sequence.

Ugh, it gives me whiplash.

So, I continue to wonder are slow burn books dead? I hope not. Because if that’s the case, as a wannabe author, I’m screwed.  Two of my works in progress are what I would consider longish stories.  One ‘The Calling’ hovers around 100k words.  The other ‘A New World – Contact’ is around 169k words.  Currently, I’ve been trimming them both down, trying to cut the fat and leave the flavor.  It’s a slow process.

So, I’m asking, what do you all think? Do you care about these things or do you want a good story that you can sink your teeth in and enjoy?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Remember, you can always like and share this blog post.  It lets me know what you all want to talk about.  What are your thoughts on this topic?

See ya soon.

Religion in non-Religious Books

To begin, in general I love religion. Belief in God plays such a strong role in our society that to ignore it as a writer is a mistake.  You’re doing a disservice to the reader and the story.  Now, I’m not saying to go in and make fun of religion (unless that is the point of your novel, article or short), or bash people over the head with your religious view.  Writers need to treat faith like they would treat any other topic.

It’s important so why ignore it.

The reason I bring this up is that as a writer all my stories hold some link to faith and a belief system of some kind.  I try to be fair with how I present the subject, and I don’t get preachy with beliefs in a Higher Power, and I steer clear of making fun of it. That said, I will point out hypocrisy because all faiths have it.

Regardless, I truly love religion (at one point I wanted to study World Religions) and I love how it affect us, who we are as a people and what we believe as a collective human culture.  Not to mention how we consider our fellow man.  Its saddens me when we attack each other for our religious beliefs. Because when you boil all beliefs in a High Power down to the basic ideal they are all pretty much the same.  There is so much that is wrong in the world today. Do we have to bring out the religious drums and beat them and attack each other over it?

I don’t think so.

Back to my point about religion in stories and as a fact in the lives of the character’s.  For me the subject of belief adds another layer to the character and their development.  When I create a character, I make a point to know what faith they are.  Even if it never comes up, because it will affect the decisions they make, for good and for bad.  Having that character knowledge helps with the details in the story.  Example:

A Jewish or Muslim character won’t typically eat pork;
A Mormon character won’t drink alcohol, caffeine (well some do) or curse;
A Catholic character may tend to be lax about some Catholic teachings; (divorce, contraception, fish on Fridays, church on Sundays, etc.) while being anti-abortion;
A Baptist character can be extremely religious (church every Sunday, bible study, heavy church involvement, etc.).

These are some general examples. How religion affects our characters, how they choose to believe, and how they practice their faith can be different for each one.  Faith in a Higher Power is different for each person. So, as writers we need to know this about our characters.

You may not want to have your Jewish main character eating a BLT on the Sabbath, or your Muslim main character having a huge meal at lunch during Ramadan, or your Mormon main character having a double espresso with a shot of bourbon at a party, or your Catholic main character having a fat juice steak on a Friday night during Lent, or your Baptist main character watching the big game on Sunday.

Again, these are just examples and I’m not saying it’s a rule (there are no rules in crafting your characters).

Once you know your character’s faith, you can play with it in the stories.  It can be a little flavor or spice thrown into the mix.

In ‘A New World - Contact’ I have a Catholic main character married to a Mormon secondary character, and I play with that dynamic.  I also, have a Baptist character who is good friends with a Russian Orthodox character, again you don’t know this as a reader because I don’t tell you in the story but it affects all the character motivations.

In ‘A Calling’ the main character was born Catholic, but his family wasn’t religious so he wasn’t religious. This was kind of fun to play with during the story.  It eventually becomes a major plot point in the work.

The other thing about religion in stories is faith helps with character motivations especially when those beliefs are called into question.  It allows the writer to add another layer of drama to why the character acts the way they do.  Imagine having all your beliefs suddenly called into question.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  How would you react?  How would that affect your life?  What would you have to change?  Would you be able to change, or would it be too much for you to cope with?

Interesting thought. Right? 

Faith in non-religious books, what do you think?  Yay, or Nay?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.  Remember you can always ‘like’ and ‘share’ this blog post.  It lets me know what you want to talk about. What you find interesting. What you would rather not see.  I’d love to hear from folks on this topic. 

See ya soon.

Writing Ideas. Where do they come from, and how do I process them?

About a month or so ago I sat down and began editing ‘A New World - Conspiracy’. There was nothing special about editing that day. I was using the time to rework a couple of chapters.  Anyway, as I sat at my computer I started thinking about recent world events, fate and that sort of stuff.  As I edited, I heard a voice in the back of my mind.

I’ve been told hearing voices is normal for writers - it’s also a sign of madness so, you know, both could apply in my case.

Moving on. Voices and all.

This voice started telling me about himself and started telling me his story.

 Me trying to listen to the Voice in my head.

Me trying to listen to the Voice in my head.

I stopped what I was doing and began taking notes because what he was telling me was pretty interesting.  Once he finished his introduction and telling me a bit of his story, he was gone.  I was left with a page of notes and several questions.

Over the next few weeks I started putting together an outline and a basic prologue.  Then I opened my trunk of characters (I keep about fifty or so various stock characters sitting around for development in my novels should one of them fit). I found a character I’ve always loved and thought would be appropriate for this new story.

So, now with some notes, a very basic outline, and a few characters I started putting things together.  I came up with a premise for the story and I started tossing the idea around my writers group.  I received some constructive feedback and a few suggestions.  These notes and remarks helped me to focus on what I wanted to say. Also, I got a feel for what would be important to the tale. Now the story is starting to come together and I’m putting together a plan for it.

Oh, and I’ve gotten the buy in by my new main character.  He seems happy with the ideas so far.

But how does this affect the other stories that are waiting in the cue to be written?  That’s an interesting question. I suppose, I work in the way of the ‘squeaky wheel’ this particular story idea is one that keeps coming up.  So, I know that I really want to work on this new idea, which means a few of my other stories are left on the stove to simmer.

What brings this story to the forefront of my writing list is how different it is from anything else I have planned out.  And different is good. The other way I realize my new story needs attention is right now my new tale is geared to be a short story, which excites me. I want to see if I can write a short.

Also, the other interesting bit I’ve noticed about this new idea and new main character is that all my other main characters have stepped out of the way.  They’ve kind of cleared the decks to make way for the new kid, which is nice of them.  

I love when all my characters play nice with each other.

Anyway, that is how I work with my writing ideas and that is one example of how a new story idea comes to me.  If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.  I love hearing from folks.  I normally get back to questions within a few hours

Main Character Portraits

 This was some character concept art that was started but never finished.  The drawings are rough and the characters changed, but the artist did a nice job, just wish he could have finished the project.

This was some character concept art that was started but never finished.  The drawings are rough and the characters changed, but the artist did a nice job, just wish he could have finished the project.

Over the past few months I’ve been considering, again, having characters portraits created for several of my characters in my different WIPs. I’ve tried this before, but the projects never got completed and I’ve shared some of the drafts on my Facebook page, which people seemed to like.

For me the purpose of this would be two-fold.  If I decide to self-publish, I’m going to need amazing book covers. So, character portraits would be a good way to try out some artists and see how well we work together. I would also be able to get feedback from you on how you like the style and quality of work.

Style wise, I prefer things a little darker and more moody.  Keeping a nice balance of lights and darks.  With character portraits I would be able to gage reaction and see if that works. I, also, thought they would be a fun way for people to visualize the characters.  I’ve heard of different writers doing the same thing.  So, I’m curious at what you all think?  Would you be interesting in portraits of the main characters?  Or, is that something you don’t think is necessary? Or, worse, is that something that you think would take away from the story?

Anyway, please let me know and if you’re another author please feel free to share your experience with me if you’ve done character portraits or any other visual type representation of your stories.  I’d love to learn about your experiences.

Have a great week and drop me a line I love hearing from folks

To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

Twitter is the question.

I just don’t know Twitter.  I’ve spoken with a bunch of folks (writers and bloggers) and they all say the same thing.  Open a Twitter account, it’s easy, fun and a great way to get connected with your fans and followers.  Not to mention a good way to get out there.  All of that sounds good, but I believe in connect. I’m not saying I have great connect, or that it will change the world, but I do have things to share with my Blog.  It’s only once a week to not bombard people, and to date the feedback has been positive.

The idea of a Twitter feed.  Do I have enough to say?  Am I that interesting (I don’t think I am)? Would people really fallow me?

I don’t know.  It all sounds so “me, me, me” and there is so much noise out there already.  Do I really need to add my voice to the masses? Granted I all have, with the Blog, but somehow that feels different to me.

There are pros and cons to everything, including tweeting.  It does seem like the next logical step in connecting with people, building a brand and creating a following.  The purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is so that I can show publishers that people are interested in my writing.  So, that eventually, one lucky publishers will pick up my manuscripts and help me get my novels out there.

Another purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is that it will make things much easier if I self-publish, because I will be published one way or the other.

 Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

The big bonus for me is reaching out to my followers and fans.  I would get to interact more with you, but is that something you really want?  You poor things.  You must have more interesting things to do then listen to me, don’t you?  Isn’t Dancing with the Stars starting up soon?  

All teasing aside, I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.  So, Twitter or no Twitter? Let me know in the comments below.

Edit Down or Break the Book into Two?

That is the question.

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I’m to the editing point on both my stories (well more editing and trimming down) and I’m running into an authorly dilemma with one of my novels. Do I edit down my novel, or do I break the story into two books?

I’m really not a fan of breaking the book into two.  The story was written as a single novel and I want to keep it that way. Call it pride or being stubborn. I’ll admit to both. That said, if all I do is edit the story down, the book will be between 150k and165k words which is a long novel. I know this, I’ve always pictured it as an epic story. Still, it’s a size agents and publishers tend to bock at (for a variety of reason and I’m not devaluing their valuable advice). If I cut the book into two, I would need to write an ending for the first book and write a new beginning for the second book. I could do it as painful as may be for my ego, it could be done and I’m pretty sure I have a place that I can make it work. 

But, this, to me, seems like a cheat.  I’ve read books that do this, and I can tell.  It’s like the author saw 80k words as the stopping point and rushed to give the reader a half assed ending.  Then they pick up the story at a false beginning and continue on for another 80k–100k words and end the story.  When what they should’ve done, in my mind, is offer one book at 160k–180k words and given the reader something wonderful.

Now, I’m not saying cutting the book in two is wrong.  I’m saying I don’t personally like the idea.  Does this mean it hasn’t been done well? Of course it has.  I’m sure you can find a great editor, or story doctor, to help you accomplish a perfect cut that no one will ever notice. Expect for the author. Which is fine. After all a book is a product, you need to be able to market and sell.

I’m intentionally taking out the ‘art’ and ‘creative’ nature of the book/story so as not to involve emotion.

Some of you may be saying, “You’re too close to the work.  You’re not seeing all the fat to be trimmed. There is plenty to cut.”

You would be 100% correct. I am too close to the work.  But I’m still editing the beast down now.  I’m also going to put the book through another round of beta reads for feedback. Find out what people think and ask them to mark up where they believe the story can either be trimmed or cut.  With luck this will help me remove enough bits from the book to make it palatable for an agent and publisher.

If that still doesn’t work there is the idea of self-publishing. And it has appeal, because I can keep all the emotional connection to the book and treat it the way I want it treated.  Like a fine glass of wine enjoyed slowly on a quiet night in front of a warm fire.

Too much?

Writing Villains

Bad Boys and Bad Girls, every story has them, but writing them can be tough.  Some people love the villain and I can understand why.  Right now we see a lot of ambiguous characters.  Is the good guy really a good guy?  Is the villain really a villain? Or is it all perspective?  Sure that can be interesting, but I don’t count them as villains, they are dark characters for sure, but are they really villains?

I don’t think so.

Maybe, they are just misunderstood and are in need of a hug.

For me the villain is someone who you should never have anything in common with.  You should never understand their point of view.  These characters should be flat-out-evil and we should hate everything about them.

Michael Myers (the original), Jason (the original), even Freddy Kruger (the original) they are true villains. I would even go so far as to call them monsters. Although, monsters to me are something a little different.

Anyway, I write my villains in the same vain (not the murdering campers or teenagers having sex or kids in their dreams sort of way) but still, you should be afraid of these villains.  You should fear them and never want to meet them. That is how I write my villains.  Is that a stereotype?  Probably, but it’s my story and I’ll write the characters I want.

So, if wearing a black top hat and twirling a black handle bar mustache is in order than expect to run into that.

To actually write the villain, for me, is hard.  It puts me in a dark place.  I get moody and grumpy.  I don’t like writing them, because for a short period of time I have to become them, to act like them, and to believe that what they’re doing is absolutely right. Which means there’s a part of me, no matter how small, that could actually become the monster I’ve created. And who wants to admit to that?  Who wants to ever consider that kind of villainess inside them?

Not me.

I hope when you read my books, and you realize what my villains are up to, you understand that it’s not me.  It’s them.  Well, perhaps, it’s a little bit me, but only a small part. One you’ll never meet.  At least I hope you won’t.  However, there is a woman at a fabric store and several cashiers at a computer electronics store that might disagree.

Killing off Characters and Characters Deaths

 How I feel when I have to write a character's death.

How I feel when I have to write a character's death.

Ugh!  This is a nightmare.  Having a character in your story die is akin to cutting off a finger or scoping out a favorite memory in your brain, never to have it again.  How do you handle this? What do you do?  Do you George R. R. Martin and kill with abandon and giggle while you do it (I’m not saying he does that, but I kind of am)? Do you kill the character and surprise! They weren’t really dead and it was all dream (ala Dallas – If you don’t know the TV Show Dallas or what I’m talking about, then Google it)? Do you go in writing a story like Stephen King and know you’re gonna kill a lot of people and not worry about it?

Character deaths are difficult and painful.  People will ask, does it serve the plot?  Why would I kill a character if it doesn’t serve the plot?  Of course it serves the plot.  Are you doing it for shock value?  Um… I don’t think so.  Cause, let me tell you it’s painful to write. So, if all I want to do is shock the reader, then I could have my characters run around naked and describe it in full detail… now that would be shocking.

The death of a character sucks!  I hate the idea of killing a character I love, and one that has potential. A character that I could do so much more with later on in the book or series, why do they need to die? – pounds fits on desk.

Perhaps, that is the point.  It’s like real life, when people die before their time.  When they have so much more to do, and poof, for whatever reason they die leaving all those things left undone.

death 1.png

As a writer, I have to think about these things.  Do I quiet a voice?  Do I bring a young life to a bitter end?  Do I leave the character alive and suffer the consequences with the other characters?  There is so much to figure out, and so much to consider.  It’s never an easy choice. When I’ve had to do it, I won’t lie there have been tears.

I wish I could sit down with the character, talk to them and explain why what I’m planning is for the best of the story.  Would it make it easier?  Probably not.  Would I feel better about it? Nope.

Ugh!

Paranormal Fiction vs. Urban Fantasy

I was chatting with some writer friends and we were talking about our various works in progress and the differences between Paranormal Fiction and Urban Fantasy as a genre type.  None of us could really agree on what qualifies fit our stories.  We all have elements of each.  For example, my novel, ‘The Calling’ is set in a modern urban area with elements of the supernatural, which is the definition of Urban Fantasy. However, ‘The Calling’ also revolves around the paranormal, which is the definition of Paranormal Fiction. So, where does that leave ‘The Calling’?

I wasn’t sure.

Digging into both genres, which are a sub-genre of Fiction, the question I posed to my writers group became how picky does the author, publisher, or agent want to be? For me, either genre works fine.  If I had to pull hairs, I’d probably go with Urban Fantasy because novels that are similar to mine are in that category and it sounds cooler. But is this choice mine to make?

As our conversation continued and with the novel still in the editing phase does the genre really matter? Yes, it does.  When you’re trying to query the novel to agents and publishers you have to tell them the genre your book is in.  And from everything I read and learned from other people you should limit your choice to one genre. So, back to my writers group I went.  After speaking with them ad nauseam the group consensus was that my novel should go into Urban Fantasy.

Great, ‘The Calling’ is a modern day Urban Fantasy.

Yay!  Problem solved.

Or is it?

Because in the back of my mind I always pictured ‘The Calling’ as a Paranormal Fiction story with dark elements to it. That was how I wrote the story, at least I thought I did. I suppose as I move the book along the process, people much smarter than me will pat me on top of my head and tell me that ‘The Calling’ is actually a ‘Ghost Story’ and I was foolish for thinking it was anything else.

Oh, didn’t I mention there are bits of a Ghost Story to ‘The Calling’, yep, there are.

New Year Update

First Off.  Happy 2017.  I hope you all have a wonderful new year.

A lot is happening on the writing front.  I have a short story coming out this year.  ‘The Reunion’ is a dark short story about ten friends reuniting in their old home town. Stay tuned.  Also, ‘A New World – Contact’ is fishing up it’s editing cycle and will be moved on to Beta Reads in the next few weeks. I’m excited to share that book two ‘A New World – Conspiracy’, is in process and moving along faster than I thought.  Initial feedback has been positive so more information will be released on ‘Conspiracy’ later this year.  Lastly, ‘The Calling – Book One’ is going through its editing cycle and feedback and comments have been extremely positive.

So, with the end of 2016 I’m jumping right into 2017 with plenty of iron in the fire, as they say.

One final update, as some of you has been asking, I plan to release some new poetry in January.  Keep your eyes open

Christmas and Other Holidays

Why do I include the holidays in my stories?

I get this question a lot and some people are really venomous about it, which surprises me.  I don’t understand the question, well I do, but I don’t.  The holidays, any holiday, in my case I focus on American cultural celebrations, are a large part of our social world. Be it, Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Ramadan, Lunar New Year, etc. these are important events and to exclude them on purpose is doing a disservice to our novels and the worlds we are creating.

To be clear, I’m not saying all books need them or should have them.

 Why do we decorate Christmas Trees?

Why do we decorate Christmas Trees?

However, for my stories I intentionally include holiday celebrations because, for me, it completes the world I’m creating.  In ‘A New World – Contact’ aliens from another planet arrive on Earth. The story focuses on how both races relate to each other and how they learn from each other.  How could I not include scenes that involve American cultural events?  It gives me the opportunity to show these celebrations through alien eyes.  I’m able to poke fun at us and our traditions. Why do we have Christmas Trees?  Why do some people cut down living trees and others have artificial ones?  How would you explain this to an Alien?  I would expect any alien race to be fascinated with our social customs, why we do them and how we celebrate them.

In ‘The Calling’ an average human guy is called to become an Immortal (Vampire). I don’t focus as much on the Holidays in ‘The Calling’, but I do include them, because, again how do Immortals celebrate a holiday that is as old, or in a few cases younger, then they are?  For me that is interesting and I hope it will be for the reader.

I’m not saying holidays should be the focus of every story, but when you’re writing a story, perhaps include a little holiday cheer.  It can be used as a moment of calm before the storm or as a moment to poke fun at some of our more unique cultural events that we all share.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

What about Writing Inspiration

Sometimes I get asked about my writing inspiration.  It’s an odd thing.  In most cases, I know what I want to write and when I want to write it.  Other times, I’ll be out-and-about and something or someone interesting will strike me, those are the best times.  I can jot down a few notes and move on with my day.

 What I feel like when inspiration hits in the middle of the night

What I feel like when inspiration hits in the middle of the night

The worst time when inspiration strikes is when I’m sleeping and I’ll have a dream about the characters in one of my works-in-progress.  Most of the time I can deal with it, I wake up the next morning and, again, jot down a few notes and move on.  But then there are the times when I’m trying to sleep and the characters talk to me. They won’t shut up.  Crazy, I know, but it happens.

When this happens, it’s normally the main character who won’t shut-up telling me about themselves and what they want.  On rare occasions it’ll be a secondary character who will push aside everything, and everyone, to grab my attention.  They will normally address themselves, however once in a while they’ll address the plot or something happening in the story and give me their opinion and their take on the situation.

Overall, this can be helpful. So I don’t tend to mind too much as long as they let me sleep. Normally after I get up and jot a few notes down.

Recently, on vacation, I was having a massage and one of my characters popped into my head and started talking.  Telling me what they wanted and what they thought would help the story move a long.  So, there I was having a wonderful eighty minutes massage with one of my characters chatting away.  I was stuck, so I had to listen.  What I got out of it, was not only some really great plot points, but help to flush out his character.

More importantly, I was still able to enjoy my massage.

Additionally on vacation, a different character, from another story decided the setting where I was on vacation, would be a perfect place for him and several characters from his story to have a ‘major’ event happen.  I wasn’t planning on this to happen in that story but, the more he talked, the more I liked the idea.  So, when I got back to the resort, I made notes and came up with additional outlines for that story.

Inspiration for me, comes from anywhere and anyone.  I would like to say that I can sit down and get inspired and then shut it off when I want to.  But that isn’t always the case. I suppose I wouldn’t want it any other way. Well except when I want to sleep or relax.  Or like right now.  I should be working on my next chapter, however, I’m writing this instead

Writing Updates

 What my writing space should look like.

What my writing space should look like.

I wanted to spend a little time talking about my current works in progress.  ‘A New World – Contact’ is the first book in a planned three book series.  It’s exciting to write an epic Science Fiction story that takes place over three books.  It gives me the flexibility to tell a complete story with all the details and characters I want bring out.  Each of the three novels is its own story with a beginning, middle and end.  The novels will tie into the greater universe and give people the chance to really get to know the characters and the world.

As it stands right now, ‘A New World – Contact’ has been through a round of Beta Readers and is being edited. The second book in the Series has been outlined and is being written.  The third book of the series has been outlined.  So, the story is there and all its parts are laid out.  I, also plan on keeping the door open for additional stories should the series go in that direction. 

‘The Calling’, my dark Urban Fantasy/Vampire story, is the first book in a two book series.  ‘The Calling’ has gone through Beta Readers and is also being edited.  This adult dark story has been fun to write letting me play around with my darker side. Also, it’s allowed me to explore one of my personal favorite genres, vampires, in a dark setting.  The story doesn’t begin dark, but we travel away from the light at a slow steady pace, which I find fun to write. Unlike my other work, the status on book two of ‘The Calling’ is that there is only a rough outline, but it’s a start.

One final update on the writing front, coming soon is my short story ‘The Reunion’ which I’ve been working on and is getting ready to be posted to this site.  ‘The Reunion’ takes place in a small Midwest town where a group of friends gather for a reunion.  The characters are colorful but they are set against a bleak backdrop.  There is more news coming about ‘The Reunion’ that will be announced in the New Year, so stay tuned.

 Doesn't it look easy?

Doesn't it look easy?

As you can see a lot is going on and I have several balls in the air right now. I encourage you to sign up for my “Update on Scribbles” to get announcements and news on ‘A New World – Contact’, ‘The Calling’ and ‘The Reunion’. Also, if you have questions feel free to drop me a note.