Category: Uncategorized

Fun stuff! A writing process blog tour!

blog tour, genre fiction, Habeas Corpse, marketing, Mistresses of the Macabre, Uncategorized, voices in my head, writing life, writing process March 10, 2014

Hey folks!

Today’s post is a stop on a blog tour! I’ll be chatting about my writing process and sending you, dear readers, in a couple of directions to read about the writing processes of some other very incredible writers. Take a look back at Mackenzie Lucas’ blog and how she produces her paranormal and contemporary romance and then look forward to see how a few other writers manage theirs.

First up is my thank you to the talented Mackenzie Lucas. She writes titles like Essence, The Megiddo Mark, and one of my favorites, Pompeii Reawakened. PR_cover

If you enjoy steamy romance, either paranormal or contemporary, I promise you’ll love Mackenzie. Go read about how she manages her writing at her blog here.

On to the questions!

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I’m actually working on several projects right now.

My thesis needed rewrites before I could send it off to an agent, so I’ve been tackling that. It’s been much harder than I anticipated. It’s not horror, it’s more of a cozy-ish mystery, and my voice changed a lot in the time since I finished it. I’m finding it a challenge to go back and write something that is a lot less edgy and graphic than Habeas Corpse. It’s a quandary for me and I’m slogging through. An agent expressed interest in seeing it, so I have to get the rewrites finished and plan out five more books in the series. I will keep you all posted, naturally, if something comes of it.

I joined a Facebook group that challenges me to write 52 short stories this year, one per week. Some weeks I’ve written two, some one, some none, so I’m always playing catch-up with it, but I think it’s a great exercise in finding new ideas for stories and putting them into a story quickly. I often find an idea and let it simmer (procrastination at its best, really) before I start writing. The 52 in a Year has been a good way to get around that.

I’m also working on the sequel to my published novel, Habeas Corpse. In the tentatively titled Edas Corpse, the second book in the Corpse series, Theo is confronted with several problems. Detective Gavahan needs his help to uncover what is possibly a blackmarket for human flesh and the murders surrounding it. Should Theo work with his nemesis, or should he stay with his kind? If he agrees to work with the cranky detective, can he resist eating again? What is on Shelby’s newly undead mind?

To grab a copy of Habeas Corpse, published by Blood Bound Books, head to Amazon.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

It really depends on which piece of work we’re talking about. My short story, “Black Bird,” published in Dark Moon Books’ Mistresses of the Macabre, is a very atmospheric piece. It’s been described as semi-literary. Rather than going for the gross-out horrific in this piece, I went for the feel of brooding sorrow, anxiety, and paranoia. It’s subtle, and honestly, one of my favorite of my own works.

Habeas Corpse is different in that my protagonist is a zombie. Most zombie fiction is post-apocalyptic and centers around the survivors struggle against the undead. Theo is the undead. He’s also not a typical male protagonist, particularly for the post-apocalyptic fiction. Think of Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead or Tom Imura of the Rot and Ruin series. They’re strong males, kind of the silent, swarthy type. They know how to handle weapons and take care of their family. Theo? Not so much. He good with a game controller and in the next book he’ll ride a Vespa. He breaks the stereotype of the male in zombie fiction.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I write what I do because I love it. I write in multiple genres: mystery, horror, and a smidge of fantasy. Each genre satisfies something for me. Mystery, something I believe is in every story, satisfies my love of puzzles. The classic “whodunit” will always be a favorite for me, and I love reading all mysteries from cozies to police procedural to true crime. It makes me think and gets my neurons firing. Horror touches the darker side for me, the side that loves the chill that runs up my spine when something truly frightens me. It makes me appreciate that I am alive and allows me to reconnect with the most primal of all emotions– fear. I’m also a fan of morbid and graphic writing, so describing how Theo feels when he eats is such a sensory experience. If I’m not grossing myself as I’m writing, it doesn’t work for me. Fantasy is an extension of horror, in a way. Both genres are often lumped together as speculative fiction. It’s writing about things that don’t exist as if they do. I have a short story about a wizard named Wendell. It’s based in a traveling carnival and Wendell has a troupe of sideshow freaks. It’s solidly a fantasy story, and I love it because it allows my brain to go places that I can’t in real life. Writing is a form of escapism for me. There’s nothing I love better than spending a day with my characters putting them in impossible situations.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Setting daily goals is integral to my writing process. My goals vary depending on what I’m working on and existing deadlines. If I’m producing new work, I have a word count goal for each day. I record my word counts in a calendar to track my output over the long term. If I’m editing, I usually have a page number goal or chapter number goal. I also have to account for marketing and social media so I can maintain (and hopefully increase) my community presence. I have a checklist of things I need to do over the course of a week to use social media. I will admit this is the first thing I allow to slide if I need time for my word or page counts.

I am a pantser (a writer who writes from the seat of their pants, just lets it flow without much planning) at heart, but because most of what I write has a mystery thread, I have to be a planner to some extent. My stories almost always begin with the characters. I will come up with the idea for a character or several characters, usually from something I read or see, and try to figure out where they fit in a story. Once I decide what their story is, I write a basic outline with plot points so I have a very rudimentary road map, and I start writing. Often during writing, those plot points change, but that’s fine. I usually know how the mystery element will play out and I have that pretty well figured out, but the characters can grow and develop however they’d like. I didn’t start Habeas Corpse with the intent to kill off an important character, but partway through the writing I knew I had to. I love how organic writing can be and that the characters really do sometimes dictate their own fates.

And now I’d like to invite you to visit these other authors to see how they view their work and learn more about their writing process.

Scott A. Johnson writes in several genres including nonfiction and horror. Visit his blog at Write Stranger.

Kerri-Leigh Grady is an editor and a writer of dark fiction. She blogs here.

Ann Laurel Kopchik writes fantasy, both of the elvish and bedroom kind. Go see her blog here.

Lyn Gala blogs about one writer’s journal through one version of reality. She writes some spicy, yummy, sexy goodness. Got check her out here.

Madeline Price writes dark and sexy fantasies. Find out more about her books and her writing process here.

Inspiration… Or “What Does my Character Look Like?”

genre fiction, research, Uncategorized, writing life January 28, 2014
Just imagine this guy a little grayer.

Just imagine this guy a little grayer.

I’m totally guilty of trolling the internet for images of my characters. I’ve written here before that James McAvoy is the inspiration for Theo Walker. I find inspiration for a lot of my characters this way and I find it helps me keep their features straight throughout the story. I have a basic image in my head of what this character looks like, maybe ethnicity or general features or hair and eye color, and I search the internet, most often stock image sites for a person who looks like what I’m imagining. I print the photo and stick it on my character card.

Hello, Detective Gavahan

Hello, Detective Gavahan

I’m also guilty of employing this little trick with settings. I keep cards for important places in my novels with information like business hours, addresses, cross streets, anything that might be important details to keep consistent throughout the story. In the mystery novel I’m rewriting, one shop acts as a character. I had a local shop in mind when I created the one in the novel, so I went to the website of the local place and found photos of the interior. I printed them and stuck them to my “character” card for the shop.

Sometimes when I’m writing, all I have to do is flip through these character and setting cards for inspiration to strike.

 

012814 blog cards pic

Book review: Sacrifice Island

book review, genre fiction, paranormal, reading, Uncategorized January 21, 2014

Happy New Year intrepid readers! I hope the holidays treated everyone well and you all began 2014 refreshed and ready to go!

No?

Me, neither. The holidays tend to drain me… so busy and too much food.

2013 was such a weird year… many good things happened for me (short story and novel release, conventions galore), some bad (I crashed my motorcycle), and it was difficult to watch a few close friends go through some really painful times. I can’t decide if it was a wonderful year or just one that will go down as a strange year. Either way, it’s one for the record books.

So onward and upward!

Let’s start this year right with a review and a recommendation. Sacrifice Island is a novella released last year by Kristin Dearborn.

sacrifice-island This novella takes a monster of myth from the Philippines and turns it into something new. A duo of paranormal investigators heads to a tropical island to write the next chapter in their book on haunted locations. They’re out to uncover a mystery left behind in the diary of a young woman driven to suicide. They get more than they expect.

Jemma’s character grabbed me first. The reader learns early in the story that something’s not quite right with Jemma, but I couldn’t tell exactly what or where it would lead. I was intrigued with Jemma… she’s very cold despite the friendliness of her companion, Alex.

Jemma certainly grabbed me, but it was the setting that kept me reading. Dearborn uses vivid descriptions and lots of detail to really make the island stand out. I know she visited the area, and her familiarity with the tropical setting shows.

Once the investigators reach the island, there’s a lovely slow burn to the climax. Dearborn builds the suspense subtly and the puzzle of what’s happening on the island is in the forefront. Can Jemma and Alex find out what happened to the writer of the diary before the island claims another victim?

I give Sacrifice Island five stars for the intriguing characters, the lush setting, and the awesome monster.

Tag! I’m it!

Uncategorized October 24, 2012

Hope your shots are up to date… I’ve been tagged by Ann Laurel Kopchik in a game of author infection!

The rules are simple. Search your work in progress for the first use of “look”. Copy and paste that paragraph and the ones immediately before and after into a blog post. Then tag five other authors.

This is from the first finished draft of Habeas Corpse, my zombie novel. The sequel is in the works, and will be titled Edas Corpse.

Theo liked firm brains.

He caught himself licking his lips and glanced around to be sure no one was watching. Nope. The few remaining detectives busied themselves with paperwork, and Skeet shuffled around the body to snap pictures from every conceivable angle. The forensic technician looked ridiculous in the white paper jumpsuit, but then again, Theo supposed, so did he.

He stepped closer to the tempting spatter, mouth watering, and raised his finger toward the smallest glob. It wiggled ever so slightly in the breeze from the open window.

I’m tagging Scott A. Johnson, Kristin Dearborn, Jenn Loring, Erica McEachern, and Mary DeSantis.

Friday Fuel: Life, air conditioning, and the Olympics

Friday Fuel, Uncategorized, writing life, writing parent July 27, 2012

I always have the best of intentions. I really do. I *think* about posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

But somehow something gets in the way.

I have decided that my daily fiction word count must come before blogging. After all, if I’m not writing, what’s the point of a writing blog? I refuse to feel bad about missing a blog post because I’m getting my word count in for the day.

So, what’s been going on?

Well, I finished up a couple new short stories and have been submitting them. I submitted my novel to two publishers and received one really nice non-form rejection (seriously, this publisher told me she loved the character, but the book itself didn’t fit into their line… I actually expected it) and am still waiting on the other. I’m still tossing around the idea of what to do with my thesis novel. I’ve had a couple suggestions for some revisions, but it comes down to me deciding how I want to market it and making it fit my vision for the book.

One of my short stories will be available in a charity anthology due out soon, titled Hazard Yet Forward. I will be sure to provide a link to purchase the anthology when it comes out. It will be a major tome– with short stories from many of my SHU colleagues. The proofing copy I saw today comes in over 600 pages. The proceeds from the sale will go to aid a colleague of mine who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. You can see more at the Hazard Yet Forward blog.

My sprogs are home from school for the summer… well, they’ve been attending a summer day camp, but school’s out, and today is the last day of camp. My husband and I are taking motorcycle classes and should have our licenses next week. Oh yeah… now I can add “biker chick” to my tattooed label.

I also recently discovered that someone I greatly admire is a genuinely good person. I will be sharing this experience in greater detail through the month of August and into the first week of September. Keep an eye out here.

So here’s today’s Friday Fuel:

1. Write a letter to your favorite author and tell him or her how much you appreciate his or her work. Send it.

2. Your protagonist is moving into a semi-furnished apartment and finds a handgun in a dresser drawer. What does he do?

3. On this day in 1940, Bugs Bunny made his debut. Write a short story from the POV of someone seeing your favorite cartoon character for the first time.

4. Your character’s air conditioning broke and the weather forecast is for record high temps. Does this make your character happy or irate?

5. The Olympics opening ceremonies are tonight. If you could compete in an Olympic sport, which would it be?

Have a great weekend everyone! The Pittsburgh Symphony is performing the music from the video game Zelda this weekend, so I’m going and getting my geek on.

Friday Fuel: People watching and Brussels sprouts

Uncategorized December 2, 2011

I’ve been writing this week and I’ve had the privilege of reading a manuscript for review before it’s submitted for publication. I love what I do!

It’s Friday and time for another set of creative prompts.

1. Today is International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. According to information on the website of the United Nations, the focus of today is to eradicate modern forms of slavery, such as child labour, sexual exploitation and using children in armed conflict. Write a story featuring the liberation of someone in a form of slavery.

2. Free write using this as your first sentence: “He fumbled to open the box of matches.”

3. I love to people-watch. On this day in 1939, New York’s La Guardia airport opened. What better place to sit and watch people walk by? Write a story from the point of view of someone waiting for a delayed flight at La Guardia.

4. Your protagonist decides to get a tattoo. What is it and why was it chosen?

5. Thanksgiving was last week in the US. Things get interesting at my house when I try to serve new foods, particularly unfamiliar vegetables. Does your protagonist like Brussels sprouts? If not, what would he or she if presented with them by someone he or she does not want to offend?

Have a great, productive weekend!

Seasons of writing: autumn

Uncategorized September 26, 2011

Autumn! I love autumn! It’s my favorite season. Summertime around here is always a time of serious extroversion, of sitting on the patio and greeting all the neighbors and walkers and generally affirming my place in our community. Block parties, pool time, just being outside around other human beings are the focus of summer. And I do love it, I love being reminded that I’m a part of something bigger and I love knowing that my community is cohesive, but by this time, I’m ready for the turn inward. The contraction and expansion of the seasons is something I love about my Wiccan beliefs. During this time of the year I’m ready to contract my focus, feel the chill of autumn, and bring myself back inside. I love the feeling of a fire in the hearth, of blankets and pillows and sleepy evenings. I’ll be ready for spring when it rolls around again, but for now, I’m ecstatic to see the leaves changing.

I find that writing comes easier to me during the contractive phase of the cycle. There’s something about the autumn and winter seasons that makes it easier for me to dive deep into my stories and characters, as if I’m permitted to lose myself in my work when I don’t have the rest of my neighborhood walking by outside. It’s also easier to get myself in the darker moods I need to write most of my work.

I wonder sometimes if I would find it easier to write happier subject matter or genres during the spring and summer months.

What season is best for your writing?

Book review: Snow by Ronald Malfi

book review, Uncategorized February 21, 2011

The weather here in Western PA is fickle. Last week we had a couple 60 degree days when it got just muddy enough for my low-rider dogs to make a serious mess of my house. Today we’re under a winter weather advisory calling for 2-5 inches of snow.

Last February we had what I not-so-fondly refer to as Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon. In just a few days we got several feet of snow and in a week we had close to four feet. The city could not keep up with it and we were snowed in for the better part of a week. They eventually resorted to bringing dump trucks into the city areas to haul the snow to the rivers.

Anyway, I don’t think I’d ever experienced the kind of cabin fever I experienced last February. The sprogs were off school for the WHOLE WEEK. They broke the brand-new iMac. It was…. something I never want to experience again. I swear I still experience PTSD symptoms.

I was taking a horror class during that time. And it wasn’t too long after Snowpocalypse that I had to read Ronald Malfi’s Snow. The timing was uncanny. Here’s my review (with a short recap of Snowmageddon):

SPOILER ALERT! There are a few spoilers in this review!

I still have post-traumatic stress disorder from February’s Snowpocalypse. Reading this book wasn’t funny. In a detached kind of way, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Malfi’s snow creatures had taken up residence in my front yard.

For those of you who don’t what I’m talking about, several feet of snow fell on Pittsburgh (and lots of other places) within just a few days. There was more expected (we got something like 4 feet total in about a week), so the city didn’t bother with clean-up and we were literally paralyzed. The roads were impassable, buildings collapsed from the weight on the roofs, we had to dig channels in the snow for my dog. It was hard to open doors. My kids were off school for an entire week, and it was too cold for them to be outside a whole lot. They shattered the monitor of our 6 week old iMac. Yeah.

Snow is an overpowering force. Even here in Western Pennsylvania, where snow is usually seen merely as an inconvenience, the kind of snowfall that Malfi describes in Snow is paralyzing. Cars don’t go, at least not safely, and even if they did, it’s not a good idea to go out and potentially get stranded in what could be fatal conditions. Snow is heavy, it muffles all sound and brings the world to a standstill. It’s frustrating and creates isolation that leads to further frustration.

I could totally relate to Todd. I hate snow.

So, here we have Todd, who is desperately trying to get to his son for the holidays (I hate the holidays, too, so this book was a double whammy of panic disorder for me). His flight is canceled because of a freak snowstorm that blankets the Midwest. He and a new acquaintance, Kate Jansen, decide to brave the weather, and along with another stranded couple, rent a Jeep and head out. It doesn’t seem to take long for the Jeep to break down. Naturally, it dies in a small town that has some strange inhabitants.

Malfi’s bad guys are snow creatures. I didn’t really get the feeling they were made of snow themselves, but rather some sort of delicate, mostly translucent material. They came in with the snow, though, and with the aid of snow, can be seen. They take over bodies, not in a classic possession, but more like puppeteers, in order to feed and wreak havoc.

And wreak havoc they do. They’ve somehow used an electromagnetic pulse to disable all electronics in the town and make calling for help impossible. They’ve taken over the bodies of most of the townspeople and terrorize the rest. Kate and Todd eventually team up with part of the town’s police force and have to recover a computer to send for help. It’s not easy.

Todd and Kate struggle to survive long enough to bring in the military. No one’s sure what to make of their story, but since similar reports are coming in from all over the country, we assume that something will be done about the snow creatures.

I had a few issues with the book, of course.

One, I think the temperature required for a snowfall like this is not given enough thought. I know that Todd and Kate talk about being cold, and there’s always the issue of finding shelter, but during the Snowpocalypse it was painful to stand on my patio for more than a few minutes without total protective gear. It seemed like the characters in this book weren’t always wearing heavy clothes, and while the cold was mentioned, it wasn’t enough. It’s a big part of snow: that biting, bitter cold.

Two, I never got a clear sense of the snow creatures. Usually this works for me, the only partial vision of the monsters, but it didn’t here. I think it’s because with the descriptions we got of them physically, I could imagine something, but it wasn’t scary enough.

Three, there was a lot of stomach trouble in this book. It started on page 12: “Todd felt something cold and wet turn over in his stomach. When his scotch arrived, he gulped down a hefty swallow in hopes of stilling whatever angst was squirming around down there.” And it continued throughout the book. On page 77, “[s]omething wet rolled over in his stomach.” Page 120, “ [s]omething was roiling around in his guts– a warning.” And this is by no means an exhaustive list.

There are also some other inconsistencies, like with Kate’s eyes. They went from green to aquamarine in the bar scene, which are two different colors in my estimation. There were also several instances of being able to see the moon– which shouldn’t be if it’s snowing as hard as Malfi says. When Shawna woke up in chapter 17, she put her hand in vomit still warm from the night before (p. 181). Not possible. I also noted a few instances where Malfi dropped from third person POV into omniscient.

The book was enjoyable. The many inconsistencies and bowel issues were distracting for me. To be truly scared, I have to be able to lose myself in a world, and I just couldn’t here. But the thought of creatures emerging from snow? After what I’d been through, yeah, that was awful.

Work cited:
Malfi, Ronald. Snow. Dorchester Publishing Co: New York, NY. 2010.

Friday Fuel and other news

Friday Fuel, SHU WPF, Uncategorized January 14, 2011

On Wednesday, January 12, 2011, I graduated from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program with a Master of Fine Arts!

WOOT!

Yeah, me, a graduate.

It’s been three long years coming, but it felt good to walk across that stage and receive my diploma. I didn’t have that experience as an undergrad, so this was a special for me.

“What’s next?” you ask. A wonderful author I know has offered to recommend me to her agent, so I will begin revising my thesis in preparation for submission. It’s already been through one pretty solid revision, so it’s just fine tuning. I’ll submit it to this agent and hopefully at least get some good feedback.

I also have two critique groups I’ll be active in, with deadlines staggered every two weeks. Working with this wonderful people holds me accountable and keeps me producing. Graduation is definitely not the end for me, but rather the beginning.

Here’s today’s Friday Fuel:

1. You walk across the stage to receive your diploma, but instead of the diploma inside that pleather folder is a plea for help from an alien race.

2. You’re driving on a desert highway, no other vehicles in sight, when a red Camaro comes out of nowhere to pass you, driving erratically.

3. You’re sitting in a coffee shop, reading a newspaper and a man with a slight tic asks if he can share your table. He sits down and you realize he’s handcuffed to his briefcase.

4. You’re having a terrible day your 9-5 cubicle job. You’re tired, cranky and angry. One of your coworkers burns a bag of popcorn in the microwave.

5. You watch a man staple a sign for a lost cat to the telephone pole in front of your house and 15 minutes later watch a woman remove it.

Happy writing!