Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Slow and Careful Consideration

There's so much you can get dinged for in English, and with every pass I take over something I find more. It's a sifting process, and the collision between 'knowing the rules' and 'total creativity' is the place where grammatical accidents happen.

We want to have total freedom and create without limitation.

We need to follow the rules.

I feel I do a pretty good job but I have my hang-ups, like stringing together disparate ideas with commas, and my successful struggle getting over verb-tense issues. I go over my older work and I wonder what I was thinking, but I can see the desperate struggle to get the words out while not being attentive of the rules. As with any art, you get a lot better as you go on - if you keep going on.

We get better, all of us do, as long as we devote a little time each week to learning and re-learning the basics. This is something I even do, I pick up older English books every week, flip to a random page, and just read. They can be basic or advanced theory, but it is a part of my training regimen every week to keep brushing up. I liken it to exercise and calisthenics, running practice sprints, weight-lifting and the other training athletes perform.

This helps, it really does. I have a library of basic grammar to advanced fiction theory in real books and sitting on my shelf reminding me I am using shelf space to store these so they expect to be used. I leave them lying around, on my breakfast table, by my bed, in stacks near my computer - everywhere. My little writing books are a part of my life, and that's where I want them to be.

I'm not perfect though, and sometimes silly stuff slips through. I try to do penance for my sins, picking something I messed up on and writing a workshop on the subject. This has helped as well over the years. Also, please, never be afraid of 'doing the work' - knowing you have an issue and going back through everything line by line looking for that one issue. That blood lost now is called the learning process, and the repetition of fixing the error over and over again toughens you up and teaches you the rule like nothing else.

So I adopted a process of a 'slow and careful consideration' when I do my editing passes. I know I have to do several on a project, because an editing pass is also another opportunity to learn and apply knowledge, and the more you do the better it gets.

It stays with you though, so never think editing time is wasted. Every hour spent editing makes the next book all the much better. You will likely spend the same time editing the next book finding new issues, so don't expect editing to get better as it goes along. You are learning, conquering old things, and tackling new things with each book and with each pass.

It gets better as you go, but you do feel better as you keep up your training regimen, and use every book as a new opportunity to learn.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

CLS Romance: Detail Passes, 18,000 words

I am at 18,000 words with my CLS Romance project, and I am finding myself going back and doing detail passes on what I wrote. I find it helpful to go back and ask the basic questions about a chapter, where are they, what do things look like, or when is this happening? Asking the basic who. what. when, where, why, and how questions will get you looking at your work as a reader, and you will then determine if that extra information adds to the scene or distracts from it.

Sometimes, I find that I wrote something, and it doesn't have a strong sense of place, so I need to pull my narrative and descriptive paintbrushes out of my writer's toolbox and set the scene.

Other times, I will see an info-dump and want to convert that into dialog so the reader can pick up on the information slowly and over the course of a conversation.

These are detail passes, like a painter stopping and going back into a place in the painting to add little pieces of detail to make the picture pop. Now, it's possible to overwork a chapter with too much detail, but never, ever consider your first draft to be a final - chapters always need detail passes and you should ideally never release something raw to readers.

After I am done my pass, there is always room for another to layer in further details and information. You may have forgot about the cold in a winter scene, or forgot to describe the tone and color of the light. You may have forgot to describe what the characters were wearing, or that may not be important. You may have missed a chance for some great dialog or character development.

As for progress? I am not done yet, and I have this feeling I am either halfway or 2/3rd done with this. I do not want this to go 70,000 words though, even though I could sit here and just turn this into an epic. I have my plan, and it shall take me as long as it takes me. I am feeling 30 to 35,000 words is my target based on the outline I have remaining, and my tendency to add in detail and interaction as I go fluffing things out as bit.

Mind you, that is still a hefty amount of post-work. It took me a couple weeks to get On Black Wings finalized, so we are talking a solid week or two of editing work to get this project to a releasable state. This is with those detail passes I am finding necessary and also very fun to sprinkle in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

CLS Romance: 15,000 Words Done, Being Selective

I had a wonderful two days with my romance project this week, clocking 8,000 and 4,000 words respectively. I am clearly in love with the book, and it also reminds me of why I love writing in the genre - both romance and fantasy.

Oh yes, CLS Romance is in the fantasy genre, or should I say, a fantasy sub-genre. I love writing in fantasy because it gives me a strong sense of character, place, and also freedom. In fantasy, there is a freedom for characters to be heroes, for danger to be real danger, and for decisions to matter.

With the modern world, there are expectations and rules to follow. In a fantasy world, some actions are justified and also heroes can be heroes without being second-guessed by those in the world or quite possibly the reader. For a book that focuses on one subject (romance), I want there to be as little focus on baggage around the world and on the story, and more of the characters.

It's always a danger when writing stories where your focus is tight, you get comments like "what about this?" and "what about that?" - while this is great feedback and I love it, there is also a careful consideration to not throw in so many "the world should work this way" stuff so it derails your story on a tangent, or all of a sudden "things cannot happen" the way you want them too.

As an artist and a writer, you need to be selective.

In fact, the quality and ability to complete your story directly depends on your selectiveness. Things need to "work" and "make sense" but you don't have to paint everything or include every detail. This is not to say things should be so out there they are beyond belief, but I can't throw in "what ifs" that make logical sense that would drive my plot into never-never-get-it-done land.

It's also true in life, you need to be selective in the things you commit to, the choices you make, and the projects you choose to work on. It's the greatest lie of modern life that the 'have everything' Internet indoctrinates us with.

Having everything and trying to do everything is the surest route to unhappiness.

It's only when we are selective and limit our choices is when we are able to focus and find enjoyment in the few things we love, and do these few things well.

Monday, November 3, 2014

CLS Romance: Coming Back

Like two lovers apart, sometime spending some time away from each other makes the heart grow fonder. You will know if it's love if after a long time, you see your love again, and those same feelings come rushing back and you fall in love all over again.

And I feel it.

Such it is with my CLS Romance project, I re-read the entire introduction and the love bug has bit me again. There is this separation I like to put between myself and a project, I get the entire book plotted out, I write a killer intro, and then I walk away - and it could be for weeks.

When I come back to it, if I feel those same feelings rushing back, I know the love is true and worthy, and I am ready to begin again. It has just happened with my CLS Romance book, and I have so many feelings and ideas I am absolutely swimming with excitement at pushing through with the next part of the story. until the end.

I need that time away. I came back and discovered new things I love about the book, and I found myself adding little this' and that's to the book, sprinkling in a dash here and there, and putting a whole new level of meaning and love on the book. It's how I express love for my work, tender care and deeper meanings, along with lavished attention and detail.

It is perspective, but it is also rediscovery.

I love romance, and I am coming up with guidelines and little rules for myself to keep the romance beautiful romance in my mind, and raising the heat and passion without going the erotic romance route. Not that I couldn't, of course, but I want this to be what it is, and I am getting a kick our of this being a straight romance book and playing by those rules. This is also teaching me more about erotic romance by not having those routes to explore, I must find different ways of expressing love and lust, along with showing the thoughts and passions of those involved.

I am fighting multiple perspectives as well, my mind is positively filled with writing PoVs of other major characters and how they see the world. I would just love to write these and go down those rich paths of discovery and background, but I must fight those urges to preserve focus.

This book is about focus in a way, discipline and careful crafting.

I see myself spending some cozy and quality time with this project in the coming weeks as all the possibilities come rushing back to me and fill my thoughts with the prospects of love and heartache, romance and choices, colorful lands and memorable characters.

I have fallen in love, again.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fall

How could I leave a Halloween post up when the rustle of leaves bristles by my window, and the crisp snap of the chill air blows outside? It's Fall, a the time nature decides to remind us we all grow old and wither, but as well we also bloom to our brightest colors and vibrancy in our further years.

This is Fall, a time when the leave glow brightly and put on the show of all shows, and the cold air blows in from the north, and majestic clouds billow overhead with the spattering of rains as ice and snow loom in our minds.

This is Fall, a time when we celebrate all that we have to be thankful for in our lives and experiences, and gather with family and friends to be home again.

We look forward to the coming of Winter and the blowing ice and snow. This is the herald of a time of change and growth towards the year's final steps into renewal and rebirth.

Until then, enjoy the moment.

For Fall is a time to open our eyes and take it all in. The festivity, the celebrations, the relaxation from the hectic times of summer where we try to cram in every last drop of enjoyment out of the sun and warmth of that now passed season. It's time to take our lives down a couple gears, slow down, and enjoy the show which nature provides for us without fail, year after year.

This is our time.

This is the time to let go, take part, and enjoy the glorious colors of life. The season is upon us! How could you miss out at the hay rides, the cooking, the trips through the orange, yellow, and red fires of fall foliage? The parties, the life, the love we share as family and friends? This is our time to be together as a people to make this moment one to remember.

We don't want to miss the chance.

Or, it may be okay. We may celebrate this in our own way alone as we sit at our window with a hot mug of spiced cider as we watch the squirrels dart about as they bury food for the long winter ahead. We could sit at our desks and write what we write, talk to our fans, and take on that 'writerly role' we smile when someone tells us they love what we do. Thank you for being a fan, we say, and onto the next connection we go. Life goes on as it gets colder outside, and because we don't need to rush about, we are just fine where we are. Work needs to be done, and the world will go on without our participation in it.

But still, in the rustle of the wind and the leaves outside, the season calls to us.

And then there's a call on the phone, and a knock on the door, and someone we love with rosy cheeks and all bundled up says there is a Fall concert downtown, and they would love us to go with them.

And life wins again.

We bundle up, put on our best coat and scarf, and venture out into the slowly dying world as the season's final show blooms around us with color and the dying throes of life, and we realize there will be another renewal, and other spring, another summer, and yet another Fall for us to enjoy next year.

But right now.

This moment.

This Fall.

This is where we are.

So we decide to put our work aside, venture out of our cave, and enjoy the show while the show goes on. For this is Fall, a time where nature lies down for a rest to come back again next year, and the cold wind kisses us on the cheek as we go downtown to that concert, and we realize one thing.

We are a part of all this after all.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

On this eerie night where ghouls and goblins creep the night, when the witches and werewolves inside us all roam about the world, let's toast those who write the spooky, the unsettling, and the quite very scary words which keep us glued to our books in the dark of night. Under the covers with a flashlight we read, in darkened study by the glow of the fire, or even in a lonely reading chair next to a single, solitary lamp in darkened room.

Poe and Lovecraft, King and Barker, all terrifying scribes who's words make us creep page after page, wondering if that creak or pop in the house isn't something terrifying conjured from our very darkest imaginations.

To those writers who give us a chill when we face the night, or a thrill as we turn the page, I honor you with this small tribute.

You make us look at the world a different way, to see the hidden terrors underneath, and create a lasting memory in our minds of what could just possibly be out there. The mysteries of life, and death. There is still a lot we just do not know, and science cannot explain it all, no matter how hard we try. So there is always that something else, the unknown, the what could be.

These writers try to fill in the gaps.

It is an important role, coloring in the places outside the lines, expanding our consciousness, and making us look at ourselves, and our fears, in entirely new ways. There is a salving effect of horror fiction, because we see one twisted mind's interpretation of the worst, we are a little better prepared when life throws the worst at us.

So we face our fears through these works, ones we have, or ones we never realized we had. We enjoy the thrill ride of a masterfully crafted tale, suspenseful chills, frightening terror, and well-written prose told to us by the masters of thrills and chills.

There is an art here I hope is never forgotten, and also a culture of scary stories and chilling tales that harken back to a simpler time. When the world didn't know as much as it did today, when the terrors written about in books mirrored the real-world fears of what science and technology were doing to the world, when robots symbolized the fear of industrial progress, and mad scientists represented our fears of out-of-control science.

Those fears of progress, science, medicine, intolerance, illness, and others - they are still with us today. They may be well hidden behind our cell-phones, computers, instant communication, or 55-inch television lifestyles - but they are still there. We fear becoming ill for no reason, losing our job to a machine, science's power over us, isolation from others, or even popular social forces of alienation or segregation. Those are still out there.

There is even a culture of fear we live with every day. The fear of others, strangers, and the constant barrage of crime, uncertainty, and fear coming over the giant LCD and cable-ready gods we create shrines to in our living rooms. Breaking news, the red lights flash and the dire bell tolls. Waiting for the next one is almost like an addiction to us.

But through our innocent fears we face these real ones.

I hope we never lose those innocent fears, the escapes even through campy and silly ones like Count Dracula, the Mummy, werewolves, or even Frankenstein. It's fun to be afraid of the things we know are not real, and there's a security there in which we toughen and practice ourselves for the hard times. Survival is why we laugh in the face of danger, for we need to conquer our fears to soar in the skies and experience freedom of action, thought, and mind.

Writers who help us face our fears bring us one step closer to being free.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

CLS Romance: Update and Self-Help

My CLS Romance project is still in that 'rethink' phase where I am working though several plot and story issues. I have the outline, and as with every project you create an outline for - there's a good side and a bad side. Outlines help keep you on track, but they can also sit there like a mental lead weight around the project. I always tell myself this:

You are always free to break free from the outline at any time.

This keeps it fresh, while giving me the security of having a plan to fall back onto. There may be books where I completely jump track, like my previous novel, On Black Wings. There came a point in that book where I just said, this is how I want it to end, and I took it from there.

Never let an outline become a 'work list' and feel like a lead weight on your creativity.

I am feeling better about it, but I wanted to rethink the beginning and figure out some more ways to raise the heat level early without resorting to some of the tried-and-true romance clich├ęs for early flash heat. I also wanted to be careful not to add too much 'you saw this coming' cute stuff to the beginning, I have some of that in there now and it needs to go. I want the story to generally feel like a surprise even though you know what's coming, and I don't want it to be a predictable plot arc.

Self-help? Yes, I am working on a six-book self-help series for another website and project, so my time shall be scarce for much other than what I do normally. This is likely not good news for the CLS Romance project, but I keep working on this regularly and hope for a breakout. You know, those, OMG moments where you can't stop writing and you end up pushing through to the end. You have to always keep your toe in the water with all your current projects, touch them, work on them every day, and then when you get that energy rush - stick with it.

Even if you are not going to put serious work in, at least open the file and make a couple changes every day. Let your book know you love it!

So work continues as normal, all my projects are ticking along wonderfully, and expect to hear more from me soon on a lot of books and other works that I want to release before the end of the year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writer's Inspiration: Escape

I love writing inspirational pieces.

Writing is my way out, and I believe in the power it has over everything - life, love, and even being able to raise your self-worth and give you a reason to be.

Writing is my escape.

I believe in the power of writing to make us heal, make us whole, and bring us together. I believe in free expression, and I believe in the power of words.

After all, every famous speech that changed the world started out as words on a page.

I want everyone to find their inner scribe, that thing that excites them, and the words that need to come out. I don't want anyone to feel trapped in one genre or another because of 'what's hot' or what the market wants. The market wants things which people poured their hearts into, things with meaning and a power all their own.

In this world, you believe in the barriers that hold you. The only thing holding you back is your belief in those walls. Writing is the only way through. Expression helps us fly. Every one of us can contribute, even if it just for ourselves, and every one of us can change the world.

You have to follow your dreams. You need to believe. You need to break the chains of your own mental design. You need to step, just once towards the light, and then take them one at a time until you are free.

You can do it.

No matter how hard it is, the sand that shifts under your feet, the darkness that lies to you that says no one is hearing you, and the overwhelming odds against your success - you need to walk towards the light of freedom. With every step you might make ten back, but the next day you will wake up and take another one in the direction you believe is right for you.

You can't live like you used to, in denial, with the ghosts of self-doubt, with the howling winds of past failures and when the branches of heartache bang on your windows. You need to trudge forward through the snow as it only seems to get deeper, for going on is better than going back.

It's better to face an uncertain future of potential promise than it is a walk back through history of failure.

For failures are why we were meant to forget things.

Some people live with the memories of failure all their life. Day after day, they open the door, let their failures in, wallow in their stories of sadness and regret, and spend the day they will never get back lost in the misery of reminiscence. When the sun goes down, they fear the next day's remembrance and the stories of sorrow that shall be told again. They begin the day with dread, and end it with regret.

Tomorrow, I want you to not let the ghost in.

Instead, walk outside right past it. Walk away. Step into the sun.

Walk through the light of promise and hope and look around, you'll discover a thousand things to see, and thousands more to love. Just life itself waiting there to be seen, to be considered, every moment waiting for someone to take it into a though, and turn it into words. Every moment a word on a page, and so many it may seem overwhelming at first.

But you can pick out the ones that inspire you, for you as a human are a very intelligent and selective creature. It takes a special sense, a special ability that we learn all our lives from the moment we emerge from our mothers to the final seconds we have in this world. You will find the moments you will write about through the things you love. What will be important to you will be instantly recognizable, it shall leap right out at you, and the millions of choices you have will fade away to that one that sings true to you. What makes you shine will be the things that shine to you.

For love is our greatest sense.

You just have to trust love, and let it show you the way.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kindle Worlds

I've always wanted to publish for Kindle Worlds, sort of a commercialized fan-fiction portal that Amazon setup with a bunch of licensed property holders. There are some fun ones in there, but none that grab me right off. Some I'd love to see?
  • Lost, The Walking Dead, Downtown Abbey, Game of Thrones and other fun TV shows
  • Classic novels and movies from the 1940's to 1970's
  • Some communities where fan-fic has been unofficially supported like Star Wars and Star Trek
  • Even just famous figures, such as movie stars or personalities
  • Cult classic shows like Buffy, 24, Charmed, or any other odd but recognizable choice
Yes, more, more, more. Part of the problem is that it probably takes time and money to secure rights, and they have to know that there is interest there before they choose what they would like to pursue. Without interest, they aren't going to chase it down. It's sort of a vicious cycle, I would love for this program to do well and expand, but if I can't find properties I am interested in, it is hard for me to dive in and start writing.

I would love for them to grab the rights to dead-properties, like old TV shows or any other abandoned but interesting license. You would think things long off the cultural radar, like The Lone Ranger, Three's Company, Dynasty, The Love Boat, or any other classic TV show would actually want new fan-fic books to come out for those properties - since any interest beyond them slowly fading away into obscurity.

There are limits to what you can write for all of these, and the rules do change between books. You can bet each is reviewed as well. You are definitely not going to write the next 50 Shades with any of these, so it is sanctioned fan-fiction to be sure, but an interesting opportunity to get your name associated with a brand.

So check it out, and support this if you find something you like. Who knows, maybe someday I will get my wish and rights holders will realize they need to play and let us writers in for their franchises to become part of the cultural language and common dialog again.

We can dream.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

CLS Romance: The Tide Goes Out

There's always that moment in your book where the initial rush wears off, and you start thinking hard about it. You reflect on your opening, and you make changes. Maybe you share it with others, and they say, "Wouldn't it be cool it...?"

Yes, that's where I am with my romance novel.

I have a great portion of the first part done, it's just I want some time to consider where it's going and how I want things to develop. It may require some reworking, but there are some great ideas I didn't consider for a book like this, and I want time to piece them together with what I have.

The tide goes out, and it's that strange moment in a project where the mental thought work you put in will be the difference between the book being what you want, and something that is a bit more difficult to get through. Both get to your vision, it's just the latter taking more rework time after you are done than the former.

You need this reflective moment, and it helps. You feel the pull of the water as the ocean rushes out around your feet, and the starting wave of energy is spent as things pull away. Good writers use this chance to realign, reflect, and retool themselves for the long walk up the beach that is called 'writing a novel' since this is a long walk and not a sprint.

Creative energy is the food for the long walk on the beach.

You talk about your book, you gather ideas, you let things cook so you can solidify them in your head. You always got your original plan, but there are so many good ideas out there you pick and choose them to make your work that much better. I am always careful of that dreaded 'out of scope' idea that comes in and derails a project, but like a great artist, you be very selective and support your ideas with all the stuff that comes in later.

Good artists are very selective. What you choose to drop makes or breaks your works.

But the tide goes out, and you take a moment to reflect. It's natural, and you needn't worry about losing momentum or getting it done. You are  a master writer, it will get done, and you will do it. You will make time. Don't dread, do. But be confident enough to know when nature is telling you to slow down and take in the beautiful ideas around you and use them to enrich yourself,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kindle Singles

So I was looking across Amazon and I heard about the Kindle Singles program. This is a place where you can submit 5,000-30,000 word articles or short stories and sell in this program. It's different than Amazon's normal bookstore, and it seems they are trying to put some editorial control over this store and nurture it as a "best of" mini-bookstore within Amazon's ecosystem.

In a way, it feels like "Amazon: The Magazine" except you buy articles and short stories per book. Some are free via Kindle Unlimited, and some are not.

It feels like semi-random content here, with essays, interviews, articles, fiction, and other "journal" type content all in the same place. They bill it as "high quality" work, so I am feeling there is a measure of review and editorial control in this store.

I haven't heard of this program until recently, and it is strange to see how Amazon's sub-stores can get lost within the massive retailer, such as Kindle Worlds and other initiatives.

It doesn't seem like a place where new writers could make a regular place for themselves, unless you were really into something they wanted. I may check this out as an avenue of publishing.

It does seem like a prestige store, I don't know, I may try to submit something and see how it goes. Is this part of the normal store? Are there any other restrictions besides length, quality, and content? Is everyone free to submit? I'm trying to get a sense if this is more "exclusive club' or 'general store' or something in-between.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Proof Work

Proof work is always long and a bit tedious. I am doing a proof on a project at the moment, and the one thing about this project is formatting will make or break it.

On the Kindle.

I know, you can't really predict too much on the Kindle, and you don't have a lot of control over both margins, bulleted lists, and much else when you are trying to split text from other text. You basically have paragraph spacing, left margins, and empty lines.

So I am formatting, uploading to my Paperwhite, making notes, plugging the thing back in, changing things, and repeating the process. Over and over again. I am happy with what I got, so I am going through and double-checking everything now.

The Kindle and the Paperwhite are odd devices, they are mainly readers of books, and you have to work within some strange restrictions if you want things looking good on everyone's screens. Ideally, they are for reading bulk text, and they do that very well. There are still some things I prefer PDFs for, such as technical documents or complicated layouts.

I do wish the Kindle and the Paperwhite had a simple layout language.

So I am proofing some more today, and going over this project's forward so I can get the tone and content right. I know, nobody reads those, but I do since they set the tone. Every part is important, every mistake is painful, and proofing "just one more pass through" is always a long and arduous process.

Monday, October 20, 2014

CLS Romance: Heat Level

I want this book to be hot without being explicit. Does that make sense? I feel you can have a scorching book that pushes the boundaries without the traditional erotic-romance explicitness.

In fact, I think I can go even hotter without it.

I know, care to explain? My goal is to blow out the heat level of traditional erotic romance without going to erotic romance, and yes that means a lot of twisted teasing and thoughts, but those are so deliciously fun and a thrill to write I am salivating thinking about writing them.

No, I don't want to 'fade to black' during the good parts, there will be some edgy content there, but I know where the lines should be, respectfully, and I want to see if it is possible for me to make this sizzle without having to break out the nasty parts and let those be the heat instead of the mental, touching, lustful, and relationship parts.

It is going to be a challenge, I know. But I love those.

I'm not shy about going explicit, but I don't want to for this book because I want room to explore the relationship through relationship, and not sex-as-plot. It's not that type of book, really. I strictly define erotic-romance as needing plot-through-sex, and that's not the point here - this is about two people, their feelings, their trials, and their emotions between each other.

This also may be a thought-provoking book on erotic-romance versus romance as well, that if a story is about the story, make it about the story without having to feel pressured to write in explicit parts because the market demands it. It is a chance for me to explore this, and to also play with making it as hot as I want it to be without having to write a sex scene every second chapter.

There will be those, I am sure, but they are special and I want to write them when I want to write them. They are story-driven events, not marketing-driven.

There is a thought here that erotic-romance may be a commercial art, like graphic design is to traditional art. When you are writing to put in a sex scene on a regular and predictable schedule, you are creating "art" for a commercial demand. Now, commercial art can still be artistic and well-designed, and art in itself, as Andy Warhol proved, but it is commercial art. It is meant to sell a product or service, in this case, itself, and it serves the commercial master before it serves the artistic one.

Not that commercial art is bad per se, but there is an honesty, truthiness, and freedom in understanding the concepts behind what we do as writers and artists.

How did I get here? Wow, I need a map to get myself out of this discussion because I am all over the place today. It is am interesting thought though, and one I want to explore when I write this. Ah, wonderful segue. The book?

It's going to be hot.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

CLS Romance Project: I Drew a Map!

I haven't drawn a detailed map in a long time, but I found myself drawing one yesterday with my new romance book project.

I know, a map?

Trust me, I needed a really good map. There is a fair bit of travel in this book, romantic locations, plot elements, and lots of different things happening that I needed to sort it all out and draw a map so I would have something to write with.

I can't share the map now since that would give away everything, but someday you may see my sloppy, hand-drawn mess of a map that I needed to get my book off the ground. Now, I don't want to confuse people with a who-is-where-what thing, I just needed it to lay out place names, people and where they were at different plot points, and the flow of the story.

There will not be a test on this, please, but the genre I am thinking about requires maps in order for things to make sense. Remember when I said I needed to do a lot of backstory and world development so the characters in the romance book would have something other to talk about other than "I want you" or "I don't want you"? Yes, this is that work.

Oh, and another small clue, I started the tag CLS Romance Project for this book as well so those interested can track it. I'm not saying what CLS stands for either, nice try.

But, a map? There is a clue there I'm not going to even hint at. Part of the fun is showing and not telling. I'm probably terrible at keeping a secret though.

Oh, and on this map are several other short stories related to the main story that I may put out as freebie shorts. It depends if they are strong enough to release as a part of the book, or if they distract from the main storyline too much and I want to keep them as separate content. They contain supporting cast that aren't the focus of the story, but they are in and important to the story in major ways. I may do a month of pre-orders and release the stories as the run-up, who knows, and I shall see how it goes.

Oh Goddess, that is an ugly map. But it gets the job done.

Back to writing!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

CLS Romance Project: 2,300 Words Done!

Progress report!

The first three scenes of  my new romance novel are done, and I am 2,300 beautiful words into this project. Oh my, I hit a very hot scene early, and some very emotional and soul-searching parts. This one turned out a lot better than I ever imagined it would have! I am so stoked about this beginning, it just sings to me and I love the setup and first couple characters.

It just snaps and sings, and the dialog is just so beautiful and poignant. It is one of those 'binge writing' projects you stumble into, where the situation and the characters take over your life and that is all you think, eat, and dream about?

Yes, part of writing is becoming so infatuated with the little worlds you create you live in them in your head constantly. I am all this now, and it is so hard to pull myself away from my computer to do anything else.

It is that 'promise of unbounded situation' that I love, and knowing the book can go anywhere I dream.

And do I have dreams.

And I have managed to do my first scorching hot scene and not get into the explicit stuff, and it worked very, very well. I could have went there, but the scene just worked so much better without it, and I feel it is actually hotter without having to write those parts. It's odd but true, and I find leaving enough sexy detail in there to get the reader's mind going is a lot more hotter and desire inducing than actually 'going there' and doing the blow-by-blow explicit stuff.

I love it, and it does take a lot of skill to pull off well without feeling cold or boring people. We become the writers we need to be as we write in different genres. I still like the steamier side, I am finding it a challenge to make this even more steamy while placing the erotic parts in the reader's minds and not on the page.

Challenge accepted, and I love it.

There is a theme shared here with my previous book, On Black Wings, and it shocked me when it came out. Of course, that is a deeply moody book, and I want this one to be lighthearted and fun, but it is a fun little link in the chain between my works - a subconscious similarity that made me smile. See if you can find it!

So lots of fun progress, and I'm addicted to my work again, which is always a rush and a great feeling. Tomorrow I am back at it, and working on the next exciting part.

Yes, I am on a total 'writer's high' right now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Planning a New Book - Romance!

Oh yes, the fires have been lit, and I am in the planning stage of a new book. This time, I want to tackle romance. Why romance? I don't know, I do what I want to. I seriously do not want to be pegged into one place, I love writing free and being free.

I know, I know, I'll change my tune ones I'm a bestseller in a category and that one thing is all I'll do.

So romance! Not erotic romance either, just fun, be still my beating heart, bodice ripping, and tear-inducing romance. Well, maybe there will be a little heat, or a lot. I'm thinking the latter. There is a way to write romance that is extremely hot without being overtly erotic, remember, there are some unwritten rules here between romance and erotic romance that have to deal with subject matter and tone. I am looking forward to exploring those and sharing the differences with you.

There will be a twist to this to make it fun and interesting, so do not expect anything normal coming from my keyboard. Several twists in fact. It will be fun, trust me, and it will be a little more lighthearted than our dark and brooding debut paranormal horror novel sitting over there on the sidebar. Several eye-catching and twisty twists shall make this a very fun novel indeed.

Romance can be fun, it can be very emotional, it can be hot, and it can have a kick to it that makes it emotionally satisfying and highly dramatic. I just want to do it my way and have some fun, so we will see what I will come up with.

I have a beautiful cover done for it, and a title.

Oh yes, that's how I roll - cover and title first. What I write has to be true to what's on the cover, the characters, the feelings, the look, and the emotion. Having a cover done also gives me an investment in getting it done, because I can open it up and look at it every day until it is time to hit the "submit" button on Amazon and send it to you.

No, I'm not ready to share. Not yet!

I have it all plotted too, with the major backstories laid out. Romance needs a lot more in terms of prep-work, you do not have easy filler, and character and background become very, very important. I will still probably be doing prep-work for a week or so until I am happy I have enough to pull from to get it going and keep me going.

I want this one to have some heat to it as well, but tasteful and sultry heat. It will be a little bit more mature, but I want it to sizzle without having to cross the line to where the story is driven by sex-as-plot. It will be driven by lust, and then most likely love, and I want room to explore that. There is a lot of fun to be had with love and lust, and I feel without such a heavy sexual burden there will be more room to play and have fun with the concept.

It will be hot though, most teasingly so.

And twistedly delicious.

I love writing, and I love being different. I don't ever want to walk the predictable road, and I want what I do to break genres and stereotypes. I'm just doing what I love, sharing, and creating little stories to share with you. What I try to do is say 'don't be afraid to be different' and also 'to be true to yourself' - that is what is important.

Do what you love. Write what lights your fires.

Be unique. Live!

And love.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shattered

I don't think anyone makes it out of the book without their lives totally turned upside down. Of course, in a way it doesn't matter by the end, but those scars remain in a couple of the characters.

We lose a lot along the way, and I think there are just a handful that remember what really happened by the end. Yet again, it matters and it doesn't.

We have been conditioned to accept the standards of plot and resolution by Hollywood and other forms of media. The Princess and Price Charming, the three-part story structure, the inevitable romance, and the necessity for happy endings always. If we don't get those we are preconditioned to become unhappy and compare a piece of work to one that does fit within our model of how a narrative arc should flow.

I threw a pane of glass down on the ground and I wrote about my characters picking their way across it. That is my plot. We do have this tendency to mold things that had no structure into things with structure, and you even see that with history books and other forms of non-fiction - of course the story of the computer pioneer had this difficult beginning, the typical Hollywood midpoint struggle, and the successful ending - that fits within our popular-entertainment model of the world, so that's how it must have happened!

Well, only it didn't happen that way, that is just the story that made the best movie.

Wars, biographies, the events of history, and even our entertainment - it feels like everything is colorized into our popular fairy-tale model after the fact and retold in the traditional narrative model. Even things that didn't happen "that way" will be molded and shaped after the fact to fit the model. Even if a director consciously abandons the 3-part fairy-tale story model someone will come along after the fact and find a way to fit it into how we were conditioned to see stories and fables.

I didn't want to write my book that way. She had trouble sticking to one timeline and story arc she had no control of her position in time. She jumps back, forward, and all over the place trying to figure out what's happening to her and how she is going to survive. She can't even control it most of the time, and others put her in positions that she has no control over.

Yet she reacts as we would. She picks herself up and survives. No matter what fragment of the glass pane she's on, we feel her pain and we share her emotions. Like the ant working its way across the glass, we follow Jessica through her trials and choices for good or worse, and that is the story.

What ultimately ends up happen on each shard of time is interesting, and it pulls us into the whole of the story. She is the thread and arc in which we experience her world, not an artificial construct of traditional storytelling narrative.

Her story is a lot like the ones in our lives, fragmented, disjointed, lost, and without a feeling of home or connection. Even if there is that grounding in a place we call home, there is an unsettling feel to it all like the moment is temporary and fleeting.

It's life, and the figments of narrative we use to cross this moment in time, and where we end up with our choices and actions. Some for the negative, and hopefully we make selfless choices for the good of us all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jessica's Breakdowns

Our heroine has it tough in my book, On Black Wings, and it's a place I wanted her to be. I wanted to drag her though misery and heartache, having been there myself a couple times, it was so therapeutic to write and cry, suffer with her, and just pour out raw emotion on the page. It's a tough book, she loses it all, loses herself, and wanders aimlessly in a body she frankly hates.

She hated her teenaged self, which I think is a unique perspective for a heroine to take, she actually likes her older self and despises her younger self. Well, she's stuck that way, so she's battling what's happening to her along with her negative view of herself.

It contributes to her first breakdown, which we can see come crashing down the moment she goes back in time to try to save her older self and family. She fails miserably, and her future husband attacks her, blaming her for the entire event. She retreats, and then gets angry, and then she just loses it in the next scene. She uses the wings' power to leave, but she doesn't know where to, and she falls into the arms of the bad guys.

She's staring at her tombstones in a scene very familiar to something the Ghost of Christmas Future would conjure up. Only the ghost here is the black horseman Heinrich, the king of the merchants of war, and he's not really too patient with her mental state. He instructs her on her new role, and she's confused, lost, and you can tell she has no clue of what's going on by her blind following of the man. He also starts planting the seeds of doubt in her mind, and he is the first one to tell her why she has changed, why she is younger now, and why she has to give up on trying to change the past.

He gives her a good mental raking over the coals, and she shows a couple signs of recovering as she pulls things together in her mind, and she starts wondering if there is a way out or if she is truly trapped in some sort of nightmare. She begins piecing together her sanity at the end of this scene when-

War enters the scene, and all hell breaks loose.

She doesn't have much of a chance to recover, and she must will herself to stay alive. She is being setup for her eventual encounter with King Tanas, the white horseman, and that should be the complete extent of her brainwashing. Only she has other plans, and the four horsemen find it is a pretty difficult job shaping her to their wills.

She breaks down another time on the jet where Azrael tells her this entire event is her fault. Everything, the end of the world, the releasing of the horsemen, everything is of her doing. Azrael doesn't do her a big favor by being so casual about it, but he has a way of discussing things and telling people their fates that is just so straightforward and blunt - it's just his style. The man sends billions of souls on their way, he has this air of not appreciating the finer points of negotiation and letting someone know their fate softly.

She turns this moment and breakdown around. This is the point where she shows a little selflessness, and she realizes her role in this - that it can be undone, that there is a chance, and that she is the one who will make it happen. This last moment that someone tears her down will be the moment she turns, and she takes on the role of the heroine.

There is a final breakdown, when Tanas has her confined to the hospital bed as her older self, sick, mouth sewn shut, and basically his prisoner for all of time. There is a reason why I abandoned the 'past tense' mechanic here, she is one person now, and she is negotiating for her freedom by agreeing to do what exactly she was trying to stop from happening.

She has to agree to end the world.

And she does. Yet, she holds out in her mind she is going to end it, and undo it all in one stroke of a pen with her actions. She doesn't say so, but she surrenders with a silent knowledge that she will definitely and absolutely turn on the forces of evil, and get a little sweet revenge on the four of them in the process. In the end of the book, for all they have put her through, for all of the suffering and trails she walks through, she gets revenge on them and turns everything back in their faces.

Oh yes, there's a little empowerment and revenge written in here with her acting as the new angel of death, and when she takes on her true role, she discovers she can fly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Zombies

These are actually terrifying, something out of a nightmare.

They appear in the book as the villains who somehow capture Jessica and tie her down in a very, very bad place. She wakes up captured, and it is how she gets her wings, so it is a pretty critical scene. There is an open question how she gets them, it is hinted at later, but there are two sides here trying to control her and shape her.

The zombies? Clearly on the side of War, although one wonders if the herald of Death did not have a hand in creating these monsters. The horseman Death's allegiances are murky, and even in the end battle, Death provides another powerful opponent for the forces of good to fight. That is intended, I wanted that figure to be strange, almost alien in his motivations - trying to hurt her one minute, help her the next, and you can never really figure Death out at all.

The zombies though...no eyes, black flies crawling out of their skin, howling, gray-fleshed minions of the undead. They can shoot guns and use weapons too, and I have no idea where this nightmare came from, only that it is terrifying to me. They have dogs too, and they are just as nasty.

She escapes on their first encounter, and learns something special about her wings when the dogs come for her. She figures out how to use them as weapons and protection, and that comes in handy later.

The undead hunters return later, this time surprisingly in the real world, and we learn a little after what happens when the ash comes down. They are there to pick off the survivors, and Jessica takes a turn towards the heroic side and fights back like a mother protecting her children. She lays waste to them in quite a dramatic fashion, and then has to escape and get a family to safety when more come at them.

She shows a dark side of herself here, and this continues to the rescue of Azrael where it nearly consumes her soul. She allows her rage and hatred to control her, and she quickly realizes what she has done, and her path to saving the world closes to her irreversibly. This crushes her, she almost goes cationic, but it is Azrael's safety and recovery that pulls her through this one, and Azrael drops the huge news on her.

She's responsible for all this. The end of the world. Everything that happened to her - everything.

She goes even deeper into darkness with this news. More on that later.

But the zombies, animated dead that provide evil with an army of lost souls to conquer the world, they were fun to write for, extremely spooky, and a classic villain for her to fight. They play a big role in the story, and they are something worthy of the nightmare the four horsemen are trying to bring upon the world.

Monday, October 13, 2014

People in Charge, Two Armies

There are two sets of soldiers in the ancient world, along with a group of radicals in the modern world that play into events in my book, On Black Wings.

War controls two of these forces. The first is a group of corrupted Teutonic knights who hold Azrael, inhabit the castle, and who capture Jessica the first time they meet. It is the same group BEcks' men tear through in the rescue. War also has a group of mercenaries in the modern world who appear late and attempt to stop them from saving the world.

King Tanas has an army as well who treats Jessica as a savior, the new angel of death they were promised by the false king. They do not play a role in the end of the book, and are curiously absent at the climax.

They are both the enemy, but they have two different faces.

War's armies are belligerent, sinister, evil forces corrupted by hatred and death. They fight Jessica and the good guys fiercely, swinging swords, taking lives, and doing everything imaginable to further the apocalypse. In the end battle, War corrupts more, and his mercenaries descend on the final battle to extract a terrible toll.

Jessica can do nothing about it either. She picked her fight, her sacrifice, and in that act another terrible thing happens to the forces of good. This sacrifice turns out to be a blessing, an unknown gift, and Jessica turns everything around in that moment with a single prayer.

Tanas' armies are subtle, loyal forces. We do not know where they are, what they have to do with this, and what role they play at the end of the book. This is on purpose, there is an open question as to Heinrich's and Tanas' loyalties at the end of the book, and this goes unresolved. She sees them as liars, but did they really? Were they really trying to help her? We don't know, and her thoughts are left adrift in uncertainty about these two.

This is life. Loss, questions unanswered, and thoughts of true intentions go adrift. She doesn't know, nor shall I answer for the reader's benefit. It's up to you, really.

Or me should I write a sequel, which I don't have an intention to.

There is a third army here, and another loyalty to consider, Death's armed zombies and the massive monster at the end of the book. We know a little better where Death's loyalties lie at the end of the book as he throws his gold in with War in an attempt to stop them all from saving the world. War shall always ally with Death in a way, even though the two of them may part in intentions, they will always be together in their aims and goals, inseparable.

Kings and those who profit from death and war? We may never know their intentions, yet we have our suspicions, and our vigilante to control these forces of ruler-ship and profit must always be resolute. As a people, we must come together with those forces, to put them under the people's control, and to steer our course as humanity together to peaceful waters and times.

Again, my choices, and why I made the loyalties and aims of half of the Horsemen vague at the end of the book. Two of these horsemen humankind can control, and we should reign them in to the will of the people for peace and a future we want to control.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

People in Charge, the Allies

Unlike many horror and supernatural stories, in my book, On Black Wings, the government is a friend. The world is ending, the people in charge are scrambling, and no one has the faintest clue of what's going on. The government retreats and searches for answers.

They find answers in her.

They reach out to Jessica, Becks, and Azrael, and pull them in. The three of them become part of the answer to the fateful day, and high-level members of the government craft a plan to save the world. I won't say who she meets, because that is part of the fun of the book.

This is Colonel Beck's part of the book, the world he lives in includes the government, and as a soldier, he sees them as an answer and a friend. He brings Jessica into that world, and they work together with some pretty important people to set things right given her powers.

It is a very strange turn, and one I thought I might have to roll back in the story - but it felt true and real. This is part of the book's turn, the decisions she made being a part of her journey, and the people she meets mattering to the outcome of events. I stuck with it, no matter how strange and odd it may seem in a book about paranormal horror and life-changing events, and it worked.

There is a tone of disaster movies, planning, and fighting back here that I love, and the end of the book pays homage to some of my favorite movies and scenes in them. I know, it is strange and off-key for a book like this, but it is striking, a swash of bright paint across my dark portrait to make a statement.

Things can change. Those in charge can help change things. There is a power in working together and empowering people for positive and progressive action together as partners from the lowest level to the highest. It is a trust in society and the positive forces which bring government and people together to create lasting and positive change for the better.

A dark book with a hopeful and positive message? I know. I know. Trust me, there is enough darkness and loneliness in this book to go around. I wanted this contrast, this message, this cooperation and trust. Her life? Still ruined, and there is nothing those in charge can do about it. Yet they place their faith in her, and she in them, and that bridge built is what helps them get through these terrible times.

The book takes on a tone of action and quite possibly adventure by the end, but it is not adventure for adventure's sake - it is close to tension and a ticking clock that she is a part of and must be somewhere at the right moment at the right time. More than that, she has to carry others with her, help them, and be a part of that moment with others in order to save the world.

There are things, evil things, that pull her away, and we wonder about the ending and if it is even going to happen at all. The forces of darkness strike back, get her to be a part of their world, and she returns to the mission different, jaded, dark, and hiding secrets.

She still carries on. She knows what is right, and she knows she could be pulled away a million times - in time, yet she trudges on with the plan.

I love the government and the people in charge in this story, they are real people, searching for answers, and finding one in her and the people she met along the way. They are also a part of the ending, the sacrifice, and the message sent across worlds and time to try and make things right for a world that will never know how close they came to destruction.

It is a relatively positive ending, yet is still has loss, bittersweet emotions, and sacrifice. Her life is ruined, gone to the ashes on the wind, and she is left with one last decision at the end. Like life, what she knew is gone, and there's nothing anyone in power can do to restore her loss. She must walk on, alone, and make that final choice.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Real and the Unreal

Reality breaks down hard in my book, On Black Wings. I wanted things to get surrealistic quickly, but still retain a grounded feel to them. Right from the first lines, she is detached, talking from the past, and things aren't what they seem. In a way, it's like she knows what's coming, and there is nothing she can do about it.

And a black horse shows up at her doorstep, and we are off.

The horse may be a metaphor for something else, a later post, a discussion we will have soon.

The world is flipped on its head, an unknown place, and oppressive and unrelenting in its embrace of death. It's the same world, only at its end, and her riding through the storm of ash is another message, another metaphor.

She meets knights soon after she gets her wings, and undead ghouls try to hold her down so she can be brought to the forces of evil. She meets ancient men she thinks are men, but she knows they are something more, something different. She is captured by knights, and thrown in a dungeon cell. There is some ancient world floating out there in the nether, something real yet unreal, yet it feels it is connected to our world in some unseen way.

It's not explained either, it is there, yet we are here, and there are places where these two worlds touch and cross. It is possible the stone War set free breaks down the walls between these worlds, and creates the situation she finds herself in.

Yes the medieval and the modern blend in this celestial battle, places she appears in, goes to, and flees from - neither the modern or the ancient matter, it's people, it's places, it's things and causes that matter the most. Like saving the world.

Her motivations to save the world are born out of saving the ones she loves, but there is a moment where she realizes the responsibility put upon her, and she takes up the cause. She still retains her darkness, her other sinister motives, but the fights for a path out of the hell which she was thrust into.

It requires crossing the boundaries between worlds, something she understands little yet it is an unknown skill she must master.

There is one point where the worlds meet, and the modern world makes its power and darkness known to the ancient world. The ancient world strikes back at the end of the book, making its terrible creatures known as an answer to that incursion. It could be seen as a war, and she takes up fighting it with the true mantle of a heroine sacrificing herself for the good of all.

That crossing of the worlds, the mix of the real and unreal, it is a big part of the story, and I wanted it to seem like it mattered little to her plight. She was where she was, and her mind was so broken down at points it didn't matter where she was, it mattered what was happening in that moment.

The entire experience is a metaphor, being thrust into strange places with strange people, disconnected from a life you knew back then but none of it applies anymore, a lost and listless feeling that you are stepping into someone else's life and picking up the best you can.

You're not home anymore. Home never existed. She is a leaf lost to the wind, settling down in a place for a moment, dealing the best she can, and the wind takes her away.

The next place she lands is her reality. She is so jaded she could never be in one place, she could never have the concept of home, and she could never feel settled.

It's a feeling of being lost while being in a place that is home in name only.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brad, her Husband

Oh, Brad, where do I start?

It's like one of those relationships where someone is stressed to the breaking point and then just savages you, and you are sitting there wondering, where did that come from?

Yeah, that.

Brad loves her, and they love each other, but there is that undercurrent of something else wrong. During the first major Brad scene, where she wakes up and has those scars on her back, he's a great guy. This is the first real chance we get to see him without him doing something stupid in another timeline and getting himself killed, so it was critical and important they share some quality time together. It's a great scene, and it shows how much he cares about her.

And then things turn dark.

It's her own fault, she goes back to try and undo what's been done, and she makes a mess out of it and end up getting everyone else except Brad killed - leaving her younger self and Brad alone in the house together, the world outside still ending. He's a wreck, just quiet for the longest time with her, and she's numb, having seen this story before.

She has her wings too, so this is the first and only time he gets to see them on her younger self.

Brad hints at the fuzzy nature of time travel and changing the past, and his mind is already a bit mind-toasted from having to forget about the earlier incident where she fainted in his arms from having seen the scars on her back. This should have warned her that messing with the past and the future is not a good thing - but it doesn't. She's in full selfish mode here, and understandably so, and she just messed up her shot at setting things right because her older self won't listen.

She gets herself into this twice in a way, she caused the paradox, and her older self didn't listen - a two-sided coin with the same side on each.

He blames her, and yes, well, I can't blame him. He goes after her savagely with verbal attack after attack, she's special, he's not. She's young again, he's not. She's immune, he's not. He just lost everyone he loves, and she doesn't have to worry about that because it never happened for her. It's a brutal scene, and it was tough to write, and she is just devastated by this turn.

She does the only thing she can do, she leaves an angry and upset mess.

And she walks into the Four Horsemen's arms.

It's her descent into darkness, and her clear break from the past, and something Heinrich presses her on ruthlessly in the next scene where she's staring at her own grave. It is a very emotional and raw pair of chapters, and its savages her psyche. I don't know how she recovers from this, honestly. Well, she almost dies as War enters from stage right, and she flees in one of the most visually shocking action scenes I would ever want to see on the big screen with an entire cemetery exploding and flaming coffins exploding around her as she runs for her life.

Brad pushes her into this, and in some ways it is her fault. There was an undercurrent in this relationship that comes out where he feels she is just using him and their family for some expedient way out of her family's life, and it is painful and comes out at exactly the wrong moment. Or the right one, family stuff like this is always raw and emotional, and the two of them are not perfect.

But her older self and Brad do end up the story on a more positive note, along with their children, alive and well. It is a bittersweet ending, and her younger self walks away from having anything to do with them anymore - letting them live their lives. She walks away, and it's a sad thing for her, but what can she do? As an angel of death, there's no way she can ever be a part of that family again, so she has to let go.

It's a sort of thing where despite the relationship's problems, you carry on despite. There is a victory of ignorance here, or you can see it as the past really not mattering and what's now winning. This entire situation is born out of thinking to the past and regretting how your life came out, and not being able to change things. Her younger self in a way is that emotion, that desire to change the present by regrets in the past, and it doesn't work. Her older self ends up being quite happy with the way things are, and her younger self walks away, letting them be happy and accepting that.

I think this is one of the deepest storylines in the book, and true to what the book is about.

When she leaves Brad, things start to move for her younger self. There is a ticking clock started here for the ending, she is fighting to stop the same end of the world that destroyed their family, and her older self's relationship with Brad. Those undercurrents and feelings will never come out, and maybe that's for the better for these two.

But younger Jessica will always know those words and that pain.

She sacrifices the life she could have had, takes all the pain and scars on herself, saves them without them knowing any better, and walks away. She's on another road now, with the shadow of her black wings over her and her life. She realizes she can't go back and change things. She lives with that and moves on.

It's heroic and heartbreaking all the same.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Azrael, the Fallen Angel of Death

Azrael's black wings are now Jessica's.

It's an interesting plot theme, the mantle of the angel of death being put upon an unsuspecting and neophyte teenager, ripped from her future life and shoved into the younger point in life where she gave up on living and her future. She feels his pain through them, and she can't handle the power and responsibility of them as well.

They had to go to somebody, and the Horsemen chose her for a particular and special reason central to the book that has to do a lot with the theme of the book.

He is a background character throughout the story, and he comes into the forefront after he is rescued by Jessica and Becks. He provides a lot of the celestial background and narrative, and serves as a vehicle for her acceptance by the good guys' team later on. He also joins the fight, but he accepts the loss of his wings and he tries the best to make due.

I wanted the losses to be permanent in this story, and he knows he isn't getting those wings back through some sort of comic-book retcon reboot, so he tries his best to help in his weakened state. Even Jessica tries to undo her losses, and the results are so disastrous she gives up even trying. Jessica does manage to save the lives of her family, but as eerily prophesized, she had to give them up entirely in order to save them - even her older self is lost to her by the end.

Azrael is just such a cool character to write for, even without his wings. He is a man out of place and out of time, aware of the passage of every soul, knowledgeable in celestial matters, but just so out of place and vulnerable. He is not a comic-book figure like Thor, but someone scarred and weakened, but still aware of his role in the workings of Heaven and Earth.

The theme of accepting loss continues here, Azrael is too seasoned and mature to be mad at Jessica for the loss of his wings, and he is cool to the actual instigators of the plot - though I would love to see what he would do if he could confront them with his full power, it would likely be judgment day for the Four Horsemen. Still, he is injured, and he knows his best chances for a return to the status quo is through Jessica and being more of a mentor role for her, which he plays well throughout the end of the story.

He has this reserved quality to him that I find comforting, like he is certain his old job will still be there when he returns to the celestial realms. He is the one who strikes the names of souls from his book and sends them on the final journey, and he has this quiet "you shall learn" attitude towards Jessica I find fascinating. He probably knows the path she will walk, so his is a bit quiet about it at first as he helps her understand her place, and deal with the emergency at hand.

Yes, essentially, he is one of the only characters in the book with his head screwed on straight. He's wounded, but has this measure of calm to him that goes beyond a normal human's reactions - he is of the celestial realm, and acts accordingly. He also understand the time-shifting thing well, but he can't explain it to someone else. It is something he had to learn, and he knows now she must.

He would like to return to his work, but he knows it will never be the same.

Even if he is back at his "book of souls", he knows she will be the one sending souls along from now on. She actually does this by instinct during the rescue scene, which is why what happens during that scene is so critical to the story (and why it had to go so violent). She has this wonderful turn in that scene where she understands the mantle of responsibility, and actually makes some heartwarming send-offs for the souls that do not deserve punishment.

It is a critical scene, and she goes from a very-dark insanity and madness to a heartwarming shepherd of the dead in the matter of minutes. Partially because of the wings, partial (and likely) because of his proximity to her, and we see a potential and turn in her character here that I found very warm and human - despite her turning into a total monster in this scene. There is a contradiction there between the type of person who takes souls, and one who cares about sending them on their way in the proper manner.

She shows a motherly concern for the souls she sends here, and even telling one in his next life that she will expect an improvement when she sees him again - it's a remarkable and powerful scene, and I loved that little bit of her motherly side showing through an angel of death giving a soul another chance at redemption.

In a way, what she wants she just gave, and in this act she redeems herself in some small way.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fictional TV Shows

I had so much fun with pop-culture in On Black Wings. There are three television shows Jessica tries to relate her current situation with, and they keep coming up in the book. The first is Time Wizard, a show about a time-traveling magician she keeps trying to use to understand her ability to travel back and forth through time. It's a funny pop-culture reference where she tries to explain what's happening through her by using a TV show, and it is kind of what real people would do, so I loved the idea and went with it.

Some of the other characters in the book are fans, so it is hilarious when they bring it up to her. There's even one point where she is so sick and tired of being reminded of it she's like, "Yeah, just like that show."

Another faux TV show is The Undead Hordes, another cable show she talks about when trying to explain the zombie hunters with guns. It is another fun pop-culture reference that comes up a couple times, but she quickly realizes these zombies can shoot guns and the ones in the show can't, so it's not as useful a comparison. But zombies shooting guns is kind of cool, it runs against genre, but it was fun enough to run with it and make these a part of the forces of evil.

More on them later.

The last is Thrones of Thorns, a faux cable drama she uses when talking about the Medieval knights and peoples she meets with people in the modern day. Her and Brad are fans of this, and Brad even goes to say the people she sees in her "nightmares" resemble the actors in the show, and this all is a figment of her imagination.

That there is a powerful clue, and it supports a theme that runs through the book that this all is a figment of her imagination she is experiencing when her older self is under surgery for a head injury.

Brad could be right. She could be lapsed back in a coma at the end of the book and all of this could be a dream. Or at least that is what the bad guys want her to think, and this fact is used against her with vengeance. They have power and knowledge, and they are ruthless and wicked, so they pull no punches. The forms evil takes could be based on figments of her imagination and the things she saw in shows, and they could have different forms altogether when the masks are taken off.

But something says to me this isn't a dream. At the end, what she does is real. There are hints in that direction as well with some of what the characters do and say. That uncertainty, that off-balance feeling, it was important for me to keep that going and never let up, so the trippy dream-like nightmares played a part right up until the end. Again, this is what I wanted, and I had to go back during my final passes and reinforce this thought.

Bet yes, the veiled pop-culture references and my silly names are silly, but in reality, people going through this would have to use TV and fantasy to describe what they were going through. It felt real and good to me, and it gave me a couple lighthearted moments along the way as people are trying to figure out if she was crazy or not.

I take it all back, I'm the crazy one.

Oh, and there's one final faux pop-culture reference her by Colonel Becks, World of Orcwars, an online game he plays and makes a comment about when he sees her armor. She tells him "she hates him" in a disgusted tone of voice as I was laughing writing that line, and the rag-tag group of heroes pull themselves together and gets back on the road to save the world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Adam, the White-Winged Angel

Adam is an interesting character that came out of nowhere. He represents the celestial forces of good fighting back against the madness spread by the forces of evil in my book On Black Wings. He is part of the heavenly response team, and needless to say, they probably played this entire situation wrong. The forces of good up above were clearly taken by surprise here, and Adam appears in two places in the book.

He confronts Jessica once peacefully as first under human guise, and he wants her to stop what she is doing. He tries to do things without invoking his angelic form, and he probably has a good reason to stay hidden. At that point, he doesn't know how far she has fallen, so there is a bit of walking on eggshells for him when he first meets her, feeling her psyche out, and he was possibly told to check her and then report in to the angelic forces back home.

He returns, and she is gone. She does look for him, but he is gone at first. It is an awkward moment between them, two people 'losing' each other because of an ability one doesn't understand and the other does. It's a strange twist of fate they lose each other, but it's one of those things that just happens.

He loses track of her until later in the book, and he attacks Jessica and two of the horsemen with furious intent, and he was sent to take the three of them out. There's obviously something going on up above that labeled her as a threat, so he swoops in and changes the direction of her path. She was cooperating with evil up until that point, but his sacrifice makes her think twice, and she is back to a familiar place again.

Adam's fall signifies what she could become, and the blood on white wings metaphor is a strong one. Adam is quite likely who she wants to see herself as in an ideal world, a white-winged angel of goodness and light. When he falls, she is taken aback, and she takes it upon herself to save his life.

She takes his sword and his bow, and in a way, she becomes him in spirit.

Adam's fall puts her back on the path, and she has a wonderful scene on a stretch of desert highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas that is a classic scene, again right out of a movie. She's on the freeway, sexy armor and black wings, and cars are speeding by her honking their horns thinking she is an exotic dancer heading home to LA. Nobody knows the better, the world ends in seven hours, and she waits for her friends to pick her up so she can get back to saving the world.

It's another one of those moments where you ask if someone isn't sending these people her way to gently guide her back on the path. You'll need to read the book and think about that one, and I don't have an answer because I'm leaving it up to you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Past Tense as Older Jessica

I had some fun in two of the earlier chapters for her future self in On Black Wings, and you see this shift in the beginning of the book. Whenever she is in her future self body, the verb tense switches to past tense. A clue? Her future self is in the past? I wanted it this way from the very start, whenever she switches to her future self body as a PoV, the tense switches to the past tense, and we are writing again.

There's one exception, the hospital scene in the end. Again, I do this on purpose, at this point her past and present forms are together again, and she realizes who she is. Her younger self's PoV takes over, she knows what it happening, and the tense is the default present tense.

This isn't a mistake, I wanted things this way.

I wanted to throw readers just a little bit, and I wanted that off-balance feeling to hit you when she shifted bodies between her younger self and her older one. It's like her future self is a past memory coming out of the recesses of her mind. She remembers these things, right? They are real, aren't they? Well, we don't know, and her perceptions are totally screwed up when the action starts.

It's also why the verb tense shifts so suddenly when her seventeen year old self walks down the stairs and enters the scene. Right there, mid chapter, bam, instant tense shift, and we are in present-tense while we watch the horror unfold. Did I need to do this? Probably not, but I wanted to so I stuck to it. It also gives me a clear PoV tone of voice when speaking as either of her so the reader can pick up on that later when she starts jumping between younger self and older self. A chapter starts in past-tense? Uh-oh, she just shifted to her older self.

I know this is going to get pointed out in a review as a possible oversight, but whatever, artistic choice and something I really wanted to do that hospital scene later as a striking contrast. Why is she now in present tense? Shouldn't we be in past, what's going on? Another throwing the reader for a loop, and a possible hint at her mental stability and how she sees her older self.

Could that hospital scene finally mean she's pieced herself together? The reader must decide.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

She Fights Back

After she meets with King Tanas, there's an unexpected jump in the story. She's pulled back in the real world, the one where the terrible disaster is happening, and she has her wings for possibly the first time.

She finds a family alone in a house, and she steps up to rescue them.

She has just went through the transformation into a villain, she was wearing the armor Death had gave her, and now she is thrust back into the real world with her wings, but no armor. There's a message there, or someone is trying to tell her something, do not believe you are what you appear to be. She quickly has to find herself, throw on some quirky Hot Topic style fashions, and get everyone to safety.

And then the undead hunters with no eyes attack, and they are shooting at them.

We are in the new world now, the one the four horsemen wish to create, a world of terrible monsters not unlike the Walking Dead but much more hellish, and she uses her wings to protect them and sends the family back into the house.

And then she fights back, picking up a rifle and laying waste to a crowd of ghoulish zombies.

It's a dramatic moment, and a clear change from her. There is a part of War's influence here growing on her, and one that will darkly blossom in the scene at the castle where she rescues Azrael. She is infected by his madness, and she finds killing zombies comes quite naturally to her. The influence and powers the horsemen are seeding her with are growing, and she is becoming one of them in power and in spirit.

The only thing that saves her is her motherly instincts, and the safety of the family comes first. She has already blown saving her own family, so maybe saving this one will make up for it. There's a fun scene with a car chase that comes next, and then the book hits the high point in the church before all hell breaks loose.

Someone put her there, or did she put herself in this house? This is the beginning of the change for her back towards good, and the first words to her not spoken by evil. So this is really a critical jump, and I don't explain it nor do I really want to. This is one of those 'reader meaning' moments you can read all sorts of stuff into. It breaks a rule she can never go where she hasn't been, so something strange is going on here.

Perhaps this is someone else guiding her towards the truth? It's up to you to decide, and that is the way it should be.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Heinrich, the Black Horseman

Heinrich, the merchant prince and the man on the black horse, is another incredible character I loved writing for in my book On Black Wings. He is the second-in-command of the plotters on the bad guy's side, but he is also the first of the horsemen Jessica meets.

She meets him as she appears looking at her own grave, and at this point she is tired, broken, and in a mental state where she just failed to save her family. She's given up in a way, her wings useless, her fate uncertain, and her life shattered and adrift. There is a subtle bit of manipulation going on here by Heinrich by bringing her to in in this state and at this place, so immediately there should be a motive not to trust him, but she doesn't care, so her defenses are down.

This is the longest chapter in the book as 4,000 words, but it just flies by for me because it is so gripping and tense in her post-breakdown haze. I did the most editing here to shorten, but so much was critical a lot survived the cut. Most of it, in fact.

Heinrich is a reasonable, practical man. That should be enough to give you pause. But she can't, she is out of sanity and energy and she could care less about her life or the next nightmare she stumbles through at this moment. Her husband has just tore into her, she watched herself die, her children are lost, and she just cannot take it anymore. The title of the previous chapter, "It's His Turn to Cry" should give you a big clue on her mental state, she is just about out of care right now.

He does the rebuilding of her in evil's image, or at least he starts. He's reasoning with her, trying to lecture her, teach her the meaning of why she is here and why she was chosen. He plants seeds, he twists her perceptions, and most importantly, he tells her she is already dead. This is a key point in the book, she lost faith in life at seventeen, so this is why she is her new younger self. She may have kept on living years after she died, got married, and had kids - but only in body - not in spirit. This is where the train stopped for her.

Again, if you see her future self as a projection of her dreams, it makes sense, and it gives her that first break with the future. If you see her as her older self trapped in a younger body, this is a terrible, horrible realization. She takes it as the latter, still trapped in that mindset, and she breaks down further. Things only get worse for her here, as all the things she feared, and worse, come true.

He also plants another seed which stays with her, that her going back in the past has made things worse. Her insistence on holding on to the past is keeping her from reaching an end to her suffering. Think about that line. It's a truth and a manipulation all in one. Heinrich is one of the four, he's a merchant of death, and he is smarter than her by leagues. He outwits her, which I know isn't hard given her current state, but the seeds are planted here for her future betrayal of her friends.

She becomes a bad girl in this chapter, and that sticks with her through until the end. There isn't really a way out, except through her actions. She never really has a point where she monologues against this man and King Tanas, she shares her doubts and hatred for them after they turn on her at the end, but again, there is that open question of were they really trying to help her?

Later on, yes, we realize they have a huge self-interest at heart here, and they want her to be a part of the master plan. They still likely have hopes of this at the end, and Heinrich's fate is left open for many of the same reasons I left Tanas' fate open. We need to be conscious of the 'merchants' we deal with, beware of those who sell weapons which could become self-fulfilling prophecies, and be socially conscious of who we deal with and what they are doing to our world. Yes, there is a heavy progressive theme here, but really, it is a wholesome, grass-roots, be aware of what you are buying and supporting message that I feel is important for people to be aware of and shop with a clear conscious.

And the scene ends with War coming down and ruining everything. There's a reason for that too, it is the book's first WTF moment, and it is meant to shock and up the ante on just what she is getting involved with. She ends the chapter near-death from just looking into War's eyes from a distance, and we now realize what we are up against.

And at that point, she is closer to Death than she realizes, as the next horseman manipulates her and rebuilds her into the image of the angel of death they want her to be. Evil corporations without your best interests at heart? There is a message here, yes, as she mindlessly clicks-through her 'user agreement' with Heinrich and her soul is sold down a path of evil.

Be careful who you deal with.

Friday, October 3, 2014

King Tanas, the White Horseman

I loved writing for King Tanas, he is such a lying and deceitful bastard with twisting words, false sympathies, and fake smiles - he makes my skin crawl.

He is the man on the white horse, the one who wears the false crown of leadership - a king, a leader of men, and the wickedness ultimate trust and power brings to humanity. Every word is honeyed and smooth, every argument reasonable, yet behind every word likes a snake and a dagger, with venom and hidden intent.

He is Jessica's friend, someone who know who she is and wants to help her. He praises the image Death has created her in, and soothes her fears with kind words. In short, he is exactly the person you do not want to trust in a time of uncertainty and change. He offers her shelter and comfort, and he leaves out every word which would give her pause, saying truths by careful omission.

She even nearly falls for him at one point, highlighting the aphrodisiac raw power brings to a man. It makes my skin crawl, but this isn't unheard of. Power is that alluring.

He reappears later, and his true intent is shown. He puts her in quite a dire position, and for him to do this shows his callous disregard of her and the lengths he will go to abuse his power. It means nothing for him to keep her awake forever and unable to return to her angel form, he is a wicked, wicked man with no conscious and soul. He makes her an offer she can't refuse, and she regrettably accepts.

Or does she?

There is a point here where she could have turned, and I'm not certain she didn't in a way. She could have sacrificed herself at this moment and prayed for another way, however impossible that would have been, but she didn't. She walks with evil again, and her selfishness and self-interest are shown as she plots with the conspirators. I am still wondering why she made that change, and then she kept her secrets as the book drew to a close.

I am certain she did switch sides there, at least in her older-self's interests, and her future family's. She saves them through that action, but she realizes she must let go. She loses them to herself forever there, and accepts the mantle of being one of the bad guys. She does so out of acceptance of their power and might, she can't blindly fight them on principle, she has no idea of their power, and given War's demonstration, she has a good reason to play along.

Or is she?

It is a turn for her, and no, I'm not writing a sequel, even though it would be compelling to see her cross paths with these wicked men again. She is not a good guy, and like her fallen angel compatriot, Azrael, she is an outsider to Heaven looking for redemption. It is kind of the character I wanted her to be, a typical woman who never was that religious being thrust into the middle of prophecy and events tied to scripture. She fits the Azrael role well, but she is a confused outsider trying to survive. In this weakness, she sides with evil at a critical point, and agrees to do their bidding.

But evil's hand forces her in another direction by the end.

Yet King Tanas' hand is felt, and we are left to wonder about his role. Was he working for her, or against her? Did he send those men? Were all his words truthful, and was he really trying to do what he said? She has good reason to disbelieve him by the end, but the question is open for a reason. As long as there are those in power out there who would use that advantage for personal gain, we must be ever watchful and vigilant. His story was not cleanly wrapped up because it is the truth of the world which we live today, and a call for responsible and civic leadership which is selfless, honest, and progressive in its governance of its people.

But who is King Tanas, really? He offers clues, and there may be other clues hiding in plain sight. I'll leave that for you to discover.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Anderson Becks, the Warrior

I never intended Colonel Anderson Becks to be that important of a character, but he surprised me.

He was "the soldier who spoke at the diner" for the longest time, wanting to take Jessica in like some heavy brute in the movies. All he was there for was to make her run away, a 'heavy' if you will.

Then during early summer, I took a break away from the book. I left it, I put it aside. I think I got as far as the scene where she arrives at the church, and I needed inspiration before I could go on with the project. There is a reason the church is the turning point in the book, because I needed some time away to make the book what I wanted.

There does come a point in projects where you are in such a new place you feel lost. At this point, Jessica had been all over time and the history of the event, the bad guys have spoken, and she was on the run. She had just saved an innocent family, and she ended up at a place where the survivors of the terrible day had huddled together to pray.

It was as good as a place of any to take a break for myself.

So I worked on several other projects, I took some time off, and I read through the book several times before I wanted to commit to finishing. When I came back, I wrote the chapter where the religious leaders in the church helped her figure out the forces behind the events of the day, and then it hit me - she needed to go back.

She has this moment in the church bathroom where she is very reflective, and she is staring into the bathroom mirror just talking to herself. I had always intended for her to go Ellen Ripley on the evil knights holding Azrael, but a thought hit me - she couldn't do this alone. In a way, she told me this, and she was sitting there alone in the church bathroom waiting for an answer from me as the writer. By now she has a little more control over her powers, so she decides to go back and go to the one person who has the power to help her - the Colonel and his men in the diner.

It was a surprising turn for me and Jessica, for the first time she's seeking out help and not going it alone. It is also a chance to introduce those who make the regretful task of war their occupation, the warriors themselves. I wanted this balance, I didn't want the book to be so anti-war that it left no room to honor those who fight them for us, so the Colonel became the second most important character in the book almost immediately. He does play such an important role later where he directly changes the ending, so there is an honoring of the sacrifices these people make.

The book needed this message, and it needed this man as a metaphor with his story.

All of a sudden, the book had an ending, and it had balance through this character. The Colonel took the book on a whirlwind ride by the ending, his contacts and role put Jessica on a completely different path than the dark and brooding beginning. We meet some great characters, the book steps into a grand finale worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, and she realizes what she must do and how she must do it.

Involving him was really Jessica's decision, not mine, and I went with it. These are those magic moments when a book surprises you, and you need to chase them down to see where they go.

Yes, the tone of the second half is more action-adventure than gothic-horror, but again, this is the book I wanted to write. It had to be this way, it felt true to me, and it showed the change that positive action in the face of uncertain adversity and what that could do. Then again, this was the Colonel's doing, he led me down this one possible path, and I enjoyed it so much it became the book.

There is a message here too that kept true to the ideas I wanted to present. It couldn't drag on forever with the dark horror elements, and once our heroine changed, the tone and direction of the story had to as well. If it were to drag on with the dark elements and the hopelessness, the book would not have the meaning I wanted it to have, and the message would be lost. So act two of the book is purposefully a roller-coaster of horror, tension, and action.

There still are some very, very dark parts to this half, and some parts where our heroine becomes a willing tool of evil, betraying her friends for a selfish cause. She lives with this sin, and by the end she realizes the role she has to play, the promises made to her by evil be damned. Things just happen, evil made its bed and she reacts harshly, and she rises to the moment.

And in the final pages the warrior sacrifices, and something wonderful happens. She helps this along by doing the right thing, and it is a very personal, beautiful, and bittersweet moment. That sacrifice honors the warrior, but not the war. Balance is achieved, and the story can end.

She walks away a little wiser, a lot sadder, and with pain in her heart. She knows, however, she has done the right thing, so that makes the pain a little easier to live with every day.