Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The latest on Bradbury

The Bradbury Institute has hit a milestone - I've finished writing the first volume, The Key of Darkness. It came in at around 30, 600 words, novella-length territory there. I gave it a mildly cliffhangerly ending which I have been planning since Pete took over as the hero. Now I have to start planning the next volume, which I think I have a name for but I'm not going to reveal yet because it may change.

I've been debating about converting it into an ebook on Smashwords so people can get a free copy for their ereader if they want. The idea of selling it for .99 is a little tempting but I can't afford professional editing or cover art so I doubt I'll do that. It doesn't feel right to ask for money for something that doesn't have the pro editing and cover art and all that. Self-publishing is fine if you can afford it but since I can't I either have to be good enough for a publisher to offer me a contract or I have to give away my work for free. It really surprises me that so many people can afford to self-publish in this economy, but whatever. Anyway if I can make sense of the directions on Smashwords and come up with a cover I'm not embarrassed by, I might put it up there for free. If not, then I might turn it into a pdf and use that with Calibre to convert to epub and mobi. Or I may just not bother because I doubt I could create a decent cover. I don't know.

*Sigh* Since I suck at being an author, maybe I should just focus on being a writer.

Chapter 14 went up today. The Key of Darkness runs to twenty chapters so I've got a little time before I need to have chapters from the next volume ready. I pretty much know what happens but I think I might work up an actual outline this time. TKOD turned out to be an introduction to the characters and the world, so in the next story I need to start making things really happen. Maybe not blow stuff up yet, but definitely imply that stuff could at any moment blow up.

Here's a mild teaser for that cliffhanger ending: I stole a name from Battlestar Galactica. I blame it on a mild case of Stockholm syndrome and the fact that it's a cool name - Leoben. But I'm not going to tell you anything about the character of Leoben in Bradbury. For that, you'll have to wait for the final scene of Key of Darkness.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interview and giveaway with Cassiel Knight

By Cassiel Knight

Trust no one…except the one who walks in the dark. 
Relic Defender, Book 1 
Anthropology PhD candidate Lexi Harrison never bares it all when she belly dances for a strip club crowd. She doesn’t have to—she’s that good. Every performance earns money toward her degree, and restores the sense of power that her painful childhood ripped away. 
Something is different about tonight. A man whose silver gaze seems to touch her skin beneath her veils. When a rowdy customer crosses the line, he comes to her rescue with the speed of a falcon—complete with wings. 
Mikos Tyomni has never seen anyone dance the raqs sharqi like Lexi. Trust his tormentor, Archangel Michael, to put him in close contact with the cause of his downfall: a mortal woman. Particularly this mortal woman. The Defender. He has only thirty days to win her trust before Hell’s deadliest demons attempt the mother of all prison breaks. 
No matter how sexy the messenger is, Lexi’s career plans don’t include some crazy idea that she’s the last line of defense against the forces of evil. Until her university mentor’s murder leaves her holding the key to Hell. And fighting a losing battle against a passion with the unholy power to bring down Heaven.

Please welcome author Cassiel Knight, here to talk about her novel KEY OF SOLOMON. Hang around for the giveaway too!

The Key of Solomon sounds like it’s got some great action and adventure as well as romance. What led your to make your female main character Lexi an anthropology PhD candidate?

I’ve always been fascinated with history and often wonder if I’d really known about archeology as I was trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up if that’s what I would have ended up doing. Because I was enamored of Tomb Raider, Relic Hunter and movies featuring treasure hunts, I knew that’s what I wanted my heroine to be. And by choosing this career for her, I got to do a lot of research into ancient history and learn archeology.

Tell us about Mikos – he’s a fallen angel, which sounds awesome.

Mikos is awesome but I might be a bit biased. :) He Fell for all the reasons other angels Fell. Pride and lust to name the biggest. Now he wants to return to Heaven but he has a lot of good deeds to do first. Mikos has a dry sense of humor and although he’s been on Earth for a while, he doesn’t always get the current references. He’s a bit irreverent toward Archangel Michael despite the Archangel being the one who can get him back into Heaven. Mikos is definitely alpha but not in an over-the-top way. He’s a perfect partner to Lexi in that he manages to restrain her, sometimes, need to rush into things.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book, without giving too much away, of course.

There are actually two places I like. The first one is when she sees Mikos for the first time. Or think she sees him. It’s just before she dies. Ah ha, got you! Now you have to go read this, right? :) The second is later when he tells her he’s an angel. I love the first one because of her immediate reaction to him and what she thinks she sees. My sister told me when she read that scene, she actually got chills. In a good way. That’s pretty exciting for an author to hear, even from family. The second scene is because it’s done in typical Lexi-style. Humorous and no-nonsense at the same time.

What kind of research did you do for this book? 

Oh, lots and that was really, in a lot of ways, the best part. Besides the putting it all together. I relied on internet and library research plus my own library is now filled with all kinds of reference books. They look so pretty sitting on my shelves. Happy sigh. As far as what I researched, the first thing I did was find and read all I could on angels and demons then the legends of King Solomon, which the book is loosely based on. Before doing the research, I knew of King Solomon and stories of his treasure but I hadn’t realized he was said to work magic and control demons by virtue of a ring God gave him. I found all this fascinating which became a bit of a problem when I spent more time on research than writing.

Relic Defender is a series – what can you tell us about the next book, The Skull of Doom?

First thing is it’s actually going to be called “The Death Skull”.  :) I had toyed with both titles and the second one stuck. And my editor liked it too. It’s coming out next August and is Jackson and Marisol’s story. Of course, if you haven’t read it, you have no idea who they are. Well, let me tell you a bit about them. Both Jackson and Marisol are in the first book. Marisol is a fallen angel who works with Mikos but she is different in that she doesn’t want to be redeemed or return to Heaven. She’s a warrior angel so all she knows is fighting. And winning. Jackson, a charming Texan, is a mercenary turned protector. When Archangel Michael throws these two together to find the Death Skull, sparks fly. And they aren’t just the ones coming from Marisol’s fingers. I have a rough first chapter of book 2 on my Relic Defender website at plus, if you are on the fence about Key of Solomon, you can find some excerpts there you can’t find elsewhere.

What’s your writing style, pantser or plotter? If you’re a plotter, what works best for you?

I wish I was a plotter. I’m really a pantser with maybe some very light plotting. Sometimes, I have a general idea and I definitely know the hero/heroine. Everything else just comes. I have tried plotting, but then I write and it’s more stressful to try and stay on the plot then letting my imagination flow.

What has been your favorite part so far of being published? 

My covers. Really. Have you seen them?! :) And telling people I’ve written a book and it’s actually for sale. But more than that, I like being published because it lets me continue to write. It was hard to keep going for a while when I was spending a lot of money and getting nothing (except satisfaction but satisfaction doesn’t pay the bills, you know?) in return. Now, I still spend money but at least, I get some return. And I enjoy creating a new world and playing with new characters.

Tell us about yourself.

Eeek! Is this the dreaded bio stuff? I always have a hard time with this since I wish I was more interesting. I live in Oregon with my husband of almost 21 years (has it really been that long? And he’s still alive? A miracle.) in a house on just under 4 acres with way too much yard work and grass to mow. It’s a good thing I like gardening because that’s what I do a good part of the summer. I have three Shih Tzu females I love to pieces. My husband and I didn’t have children (I have a 30 year old step-daughter from his first marriage) so my girls, Ginger, Abby and Chloe are my children. I have a day job working for the County I live in. It’s okay as day jobs go, but isn’t where my heart is.

Now for the stuff I really like to talk about. Key of Solomon is my first major epublished book. I published a futuristic romance in 2007 with a smaller epublisher. I’m excited to have published with Samhain and hope to have a long career with them. In February, the book I sold to the small epublisher will be re-released by my brand new publisher, Lyrical Press, with a new cover and updated story. Almost feels brand new to me which is fun. It’s a post-apocalyptic story with a sexy spy and a mysterious man with a secret that could shatter her world. You can see the cover and read the opening at my website,


KEY OF SOLOMON purchase links:

Thank you for the great interview, Cassiel! This book sounds awesome and it's on my wishlist. Lucky for y'all, Cassiel has generously offered to give away a free copy to one commenter. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email so you can be contacted. A winner will be selected randomly and posted on Thursday. So comment away for a chance to win KEY OF SOLOMON!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pantsing and chaos

Cross-posted at Write Club.

As I write this it's Thursday evening and my mouth hurts from a trip to the dentist. I can still feel where the needle went in to numb the area in preparation for drilling a ginormous hole in my wisdom tooth and then refilling it with metal or perhaps drywall mud, I have no idea. Before the drilling began the dentist and his assistant and I had a nice if brief chat about books that I wished could have gone on longer because it's always fun to talk about books and find out what people like to read, plus it would have delayed the drilling. But the drilling had to commence and anyway I'm fine now, except my mouth feels weird. While it's possible I may have had a post topic in mind earlier today, if I did it's gone now. But I am determined not to miss another Write Club Friday, so I'll be doing this by the seat of my pants, which makes it just like everything else I write.

The whole "pantsing v. plotting" thing is something I've thought about quite a lot this year. I have repeatedly used different methods of outlining and filled out several kinds of character worksheets, and none of it ever works. Once I start writing all bets are off. Despite reading numerous writing advice articles that stress this is how professionals do it, it still doesn't work for me to plan out every detail before I start writing. Filling out all those outlines and worksheets is  a very left-brain logical and orderly type activity, or at least it seems so to me. The actual writing, the storytelling, is more of a right-brain creative and intuitive act. What I have a problem with is reconciling the two so that I can be more workmanlike and professional with my writing instead of ruminating over things and turning ideas over in my head until I figure out what works best for the characters/story.

It seems to me there's a component beyond outlines and worksheets and daily word counts that doesn't get discussed much. Maybe people don't want to sound crazy, or maybe this doesn't happen to them when they write, but there is definitely a sense of stepping off the map of the known world when writing fiction. Part bard, part shaman, a storyteller crosses into another world and brings back tales of heroism, love, revenge, redemption, healing, grief, and so many other things that are universal parts of the human experience. The part of the storyteller that enables them to cross over, to create, may be deep within the brain or the soul or that indecipherable concept we call heart. Wherever it is, it's just as real as the fingers that fly across the keyboard. As real as the feet that carry you through a dance. Telling a story is an act of raising energy just as surely as dancing or chanting or singing or any of the other numerous ways magic is raised. Energy and magic are chaotic things. Chaos doesn’t let you color inside the lines, or stick to an outline.

I realize this goes against the conventional wisdom. If extensive outlining and filling out character worksheets and meeting a daily word count quota is what works for you then by all means - carry on. Every writer is different, just as every story is different. I just thought I would present another side of things. Order is important, control of the story and the characters is important, but maybe at least during that first draft a little chaos is important too.

Feel free to berate me in the comments for being unprofessional and even a bit daft. ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wishlist: The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll

The Mysterious Roots Of Modern Music
By Christopher Knowles

Sex. Drugs. Loud music. Wild costumes. Pyrotechnics. These words all describe a rock concert or a hot dance club on a Saturday night, but they’re also equally appropriate descriptors for the ancient spiritual phenomenon known as the “mystery religions.” These ancient occult rites used many of the same trappings as rock 'n' roll — heavy drinks and drugs, loud, percussive music, outrageous ritual garb, and lots and lots of sex — to bring the initiate out of his or her mundane life and into the transcendent realm of the gods. In this book, author Christopher Knowles shows how, 2,000 years later, the mystery religions got a secular makeover when the new musical form called rock 'n' roll burst on the scene. The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll traces the history of the mysteries — their rise, their fall, and their eventual metamorphosis into rock music and other myriad offshoots. In the process, he reveals how readers’ favorite rock bands fit into the same archetypal roles as the ancient gods.
Description from Goodreads.

I would say I have a spot waiting for this book on the shelves with my other music books, but the truth is those shelves are packed so tight I'll have to make room. Which I will gladly do, next to Greil Marcus, Nick Tosches, and my beloved Peter Guralnick volumes. The idea that rock and roll is the latest in a long line of ecstatic mystery religions is something I totally grok, though I do prefer the word experience to religion. I've had my eye on this book for a few months and now that I'm in the mood to read some music non-fiction I'm really wanting it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Novel Lesson

Cross-posted from Write Club.

I wanted to be a writer for many years before I actually was a writer. I knew I wanted to tell stories but I didn't know any of the things I needed to know. At least I was self-aware enough to know I didn't know. ;) I took a creative writing class at a nearby university but all I learned from that experience was that the professor hated the publishing business and was bitter about the stack of rejections he had for his literary masterpiece. My short stories  had the whiff of genre fiction so he never had much to say to me.

A few years later I felt on the verge of giving  up. I had a manuscript I'd been struggling with for a long time but it was going nowhere. Ultimately I put it away. I didn't give up writing, though. I had a few ideas about a very different type of story than the one I'd been working on unsuccessfully for years. About a year later I had my first finished novel, a Young Adult paranormal that came in at a hundred thousand words.

What did I learn from the experience? Nothing about point of view, that's for sure. The thing was full of head-hopping. Didn't learn tight plotting either. The story meandered around like a wayward puppy with a bad case of "ooh shiny let's go over there! ooh shiny what about this over here?" It was littered with adverbs and egregious comma abuse and no telling how many other grammar offences. What I did learn was invaluable: I learned I could finish something.

There comes a point in every manuscript, sometimes several times, when it feels like it will never be finished. It will feel as if the story is falling apart and that it would be a merciful death to delete the document. When that happens, especially when it happens more than once, you will hate your book. You will hate it with the fire of a thousand suns and a whole lot of other overworked metaphors. You will want that book to DIE.

Unless you are insanely lucky, this will happen with every book. The way I deal with it is to think back on that first book and the lesson it taught me - that I can finish. Whether I get a second wind or a grudging determination from that thought, it helps me to fight my through to the finish line on the current book.

It doesn't matter how bad that first book sucks or that no one will ever read it. What matters is that you  did it, you finished it, and you can carry that knowledge through every book you write, through every dark period in the writing that makes you want to give up and switch to fan fiction. This is why I think National Novel Writing Month can be a great experience, even if the novel you have at the end of the month stinks so bad you hide it away in the darkest corner of your hard drive. That breakthrough experience of reaching THE END is one of the most valuable lessons a writer will ever learn. Whether it takes you a month or a year, it's a lesson you have to learn if you're serious about writing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Death Sword and Hell's Music

Here's a couple of books I've enjoyed this past week that just happen to be written by friends.

The only thing more dangerous than an angel of death is one obsessed with vengeance.  
Karla Black has always known she’s different from other people. She learns just how different after she's fatally stabbed and brought back to life as a half-human angel of death.  
With newfound power comes a newfound boss.  
Samael despises her. He considers Karla impure and resents her relationship with her partner Xariel…who also happens to be Samael's ex-lover. When he takes that hatred to a higher level, Karla vows vengeance - a task easier said than done.  
With the loss of their angelic powers, Karla and Xariel face a dilemma – how will they defeat an unstoppable Samael, whose poisoned rapier can kill human and angel alike?  
If Karla doesn’t awaken to her true identity, both heaven and earth are in danger of annihilation.
Corporate angels and an ancient curse make for some good urban fantasy in Death Sword. Pam's working on  the next in the series and I hope she doesn't take too long.

Sometimes trouble comes in a very appealing package.  
It’s never nice when your boyfriend leaves you for someone else. It’s even more of a slap in the face when he leaves you for a man. Emily Clark has put her wild years and the boyfriend she considered “safe” behind her, ensconcing herself in a Luddite lah-lah land centered on her secondhand bookstore.  
But when her self-absorbed younger sister runs away from home to end up on her doorstep, Emily discovers the past has a funny way of creeping back into her life. And when an alternative musician uses her shop as a hideaway from a nosy reporter, Emily finds herself falling for the enigmatic man. By the time she realizes his celebrity status, it’s too late--she’s head over heels for Simon van Helsdingen, a notorious shock-rocker. Not only must she deal with her sister’s delinquent ways and their dysfunctional family, but Emily must navigate the stormy seas of being with a man whose reputation for trouble puts Ozzy Osbourne in the shadows. 
For all the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, I found this to be a really sweet love story between two unlikely people. I've read and enjoyed Nerine's darker work, now I'll be adding her alter-ego to my list of favorite authors.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Author Spotlight: Silke Juppenlatz

Author Silke Juppenlatz is on the blog today to talk about her love of music and her time working as a merchandiser for touring bands. She's got some great stories so let's get to it.


"Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music, without the idea, is simply music; the idea, without the music, is prose, from its very definitiveness."
Edgar Allen Poe -- “Letter to Mr. B-----------"

I don’t often blog about my books. There’s only so much I can say, and after a while it feels like I’m beating people over the head with a big stick. So… I’m going to put my baseball bat down, and blog about something completely different.

Like many other writers, I tend to draw inspiration from anywhere I can get it. Often it is music, a line in a song, a particular image a melody brings to mind. We are inspired by sounds and lyrics, we let it set the mood and it helps us create.

I’m definitely among the writers who listen to music while writing, but when it comes to music…I’m inspired by a little more than just the sound, or the lyrics.

Music is melodic poetry. But I wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t have a very odd musical taste. I can mix it up to an extreme degree. I go from Classical to Speed Metal, Blues to Hip Hop…you name it. If I like it, I like it. If not…then not. (Freestyle Jazz is not for me.)

Lyrics do it for me all the time. Howl was conceived because of a song.

I love Aerosmith and Alice Cooper because of their off-the-wall lyrics. (How can you beat “There’s a cockroach in my coffee.”)

I had the great pleasure to see Aerosmith live many years ago, just after their comeback. (Joe Perry had one hell of a bod, let me tell you.) I’ve seen Alice Cooper live a few times too.

Live gigs do it for me. The atmosphere; the heaving throng of people; the bass, kicking your belly; the sheer adrenaline and energy pouring from the stage. The sound, the smell, the visuals. Everything.

You see, there is this one job I never mention when I apply for work. Never. Every employer would look at me and go “You did…what?”

I used to be a merchandiser, many years ago. Now, that might sound boring and you’ll wonder why I wouldn’t put this on my resume…but I couldn’t give them an address of where I did this job. You may wonder what this has to do with music, or writing, or inspiration.

But if I tell you that for almost three years, I rarely spent a night in the same place twice, that I’ve seen pretty much all of Europe in that time and met (and worked with) some incredibly talented people -- people you will most definitely have heard of --  then it probably puts a slightly different slant on the whole “So you sold stuff, so what?” thing.

Try to explain to your future boss that the job you had for three years entailed travelling in a tour bus, which was pretty much your home for the duration of the tour.

I mostly worked for/with heavy rock bands, but the odd “other” as well. (I never thought I’d enjoy Frankie Goes to Hollywood – but I did. I stood on our sales booth at an open air concert when Huey Lewis & the News were on, loving every minute of it.) It was hard work, long hours, little sleep, much coffee. And a gazillion memories I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Michael Schenker Group, taken by Silke backstage during a festival

I learned a thing or two during those years.

Take all ancient weaponry off the walls before you let a certain drummer into the bar – because he thinks he’s a swordfighter after a few drinks and it gets tedious trying to have a good time when someone swings a (blunt) sword in tight quarters.
Don’t bother trying to watch “Blazing Saddles” while traveling with an Irish band because you’ll never get further than the “But we don't want the Irish!” scene. Someone will rectify the situation by ripping the tape out and stomping on it.
I learned to fight dirty. It only takes one thorough soaking in sub-zero temperatures to change your attitude. Yep, those freaks turned a hose pipe on me. I didn’t get mad. I got even. Trust me when I say no one ever tried that again, and I sent a roadie very fast up a ladder. There was a staple gun involved.
The only cure for “You’re a girl, you do the laundry” is a strategically placed red sock among their tighty whities. They’ll never ask you again after that. Apparently it puts a serious dent in the macho rocker persona when you strip down and your undies and socks are pink.
If you get in the bus with a rock band – don’t sneer at the people they work with. It really pisses them off and you might end up standing in the snow somewhere on the Autobahn. (More than one girl departed the bus in a hurry after being rude to me.)
If it’s clean, wear it. Doesn’t matter who it belongs to. If the owner quibbles, use some really girly fragrance and they won’t want it back. Who cares if their sweatpants are four miles too long, and too wide. That’s what a belt is for. Stolen from one of them, of course. (Leg length can be fixed with scissors, if you like to live dangerously. Because afterward none of your own clothes will ever be safe again.)

So yeah, because of those few years, music, and the people involved in making it, means a lot to me. I’ve sat there, on long, long bus journeys, listening to songs being composed, messed around with, heck, even recorded. It left an indelible impression. Even with all that, I still can’t play an instrument – and some damn good musicians tried to teach me. I’m hopeless. I’ll just listen, thanks. :)

My parents (well, my mother) never understood and proceeded to kick me out of the house just before I got home after a tour. It could have been a disaster, but instead it put my feet firmly on the ground. I have those musicians and roadies to thank for it, because they didn’t let me down. You see, when you work together day in, day out, for months…you become a family. I was the only female on the crew, I was very young (19 when I got kicked out) and God help anyone who did me wrong. (I was also completely off limits, in case you wondered.) When they heard what happened, they devised a way for me to stay with various people until I could hold my own.

Many of the hero traits in my books come from the guys I used to work with, both the musicians and the crew. When it came down to it, they were all pretty decent human beings.

When it comes to characters – look around you. Look back at your own life and recall what you did, who stood out. There are heroes to be found in unlikely places, in the most common situations. It doesn’t have to be a rockstar, or some macho guy. It could be the shy, quiet delivery guy, who is looking out for everyone. The steadfast farmer, who never says anything to anyone, but who’d be the first to help someone in a bad situation. It could be the arrogant loudmouth you went to high school with, who steps up to take you home when a date turns ugly, to make sure you’re safe.

Either way… I hope you enjoyed the blog and the little excursion into my checkered past. :) It was fun. Exhausting, but fun.

And for what it’s worth…when I hear that “Bum-ba-bum, Bum-ba-bum” intro from “The Heart of Rock And Roll”…I’m right back on that table, yelling along with 20,000 other people…

Rock on, Dudes and Dudesses!


Silke, that sounds like it was an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing with us!

Be sure and check out Silke's latest release, HOWL.

When life hands you wolves, howl. 
The alpha wolf in Zalin's pack is slowing going insane, which is tough enough to contend with, but the guy is gunning for the woman Zalin loves--the rancher's daughter who saved his hide. He's torn between taking off to avoid a confrontation with the Alpha, and sticking around to protect Lucia. Opening his heart to her is not an option-- he's had enough rejection to last a lifetime. 
Lucia is fascinated by the "wolf" she saved--at the time unaware he was more than a canine. Zalin seems out to save her from his Alpha, but she wants more than protection from him. When spilled family secrets make her doubt everything she knows, she turns to Zalin for stability, only to learn he's planning to leave. 
Will Zalin desert the one he loves when she needs him most, or will he howl a challenge on her behalf?


Silke grew up in Germany and is used to things going bump in the night -- and it wasn't always the acrophobic cat, or someone hitting their head on a low beam on the ceiling.

She writes paranormal romance, usually at night, and blames Anne Stuart to this day for all her ambitions and strange stories, after reading one of her books.

These days the only thing going bump at "oh-dark-thirty" is her -- usually when she smacks into the sofa while creeping to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.

Silke likes to hear from her readers. Feel free to contact her via her blog at Evil Author, follow her on Twitter, look her up on Goodreads or become a friend on Facebook.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nine to Five

Dolly Parton's Nine to Five is about workers trapped in a cubicle hell but I think it's a good song for all workers, whether you're in an air conditioned office or out on a factory floor. (Actually I associate this song more with office workers.) For whatever reason you don't find a lot of blue collar working class heroes in fiction, unless they wear a uniform. I think that's one reason I like Supernatural so much - the Winchester brothers are definitely a couple of working class heroes. This fan-made tribute to Sam and Dean and all their hard work set to Dolly's fabulous song is one of the best things I've ever found on YouTube.

Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Big sale! And a taste of Mojo 2

The Lyrical Press store is having a 50% off sale this weekend. Bring on the Night is marked down to $1.75 and Mojo Queen is $2.75. So if you'd like to give either book a try, or any other Lyrical authors, now is a great time to do so.


Work continues on the second Mojo book. Here's a taste:

Movement on the forest floor caught my eye. The dropped cigarette rolled two inches, then sprang into the air as if picked up. It lit seemingly by itself. The whisper of an indrawn breath raised goose bumps on my skin, fear scratching up my spine with the sharp claws of a cat. I looked over the tops of my glasses to see a washed out shadow pierced with sunlight. Staring, I watched as ash grew on the cigarette, smoke furling from its tip to give the shadow more depth. I didn’t dare breath or move. This was not Haschall, not my friend, not anything I could identify. Whatever it was, it was very real, and strong enough to chill my blood. 
Very, very gingerly, I unfocused my eyes and reached out with my senses. A check of the weather, so to speak, careful not to put any force into my will until I knew what I was dealing with. The only answer I got was a deep chuckle as something invisible touched my face, as if a heavy masculine finger traced a line from the top of my cheek to my jaw. 
The cat claws became tiger fangs. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

On being un-branded

A late night fit of whimsy led me to give the blog a makeover. Again. It's fun! I'm starting to think this is a seasonal thing, changing how the blog looks. Or maybe I only think that because of that cute little graphic in the header I like to call "BookWitch." She seems perfect for this time that hovers between full summer and encroaching autumn. Blame her for the purple accents. We'll see how long she hangs around. It gets closer to Halloween I might want to go darker.

Changing the look of the blog to reflect where my head's at is something I do once in a while. I also go through spells where I talk about music a lot, instead of books and writing. These are things many experts in "branding" would probably tell me not to do. I've read all the advice on branding, on turning your name into a product in order to sell your books, on creating your online platform. It's not bad advice, and if it works for you then by all means, brand away. It hasn't really worked for me. My taste is too eclectic and my brain runs in too many directions for that to work. I've worried that this inability to brand myself will hurt my career. But then a post like this will come along in the reader and I feel better: Nathan Bransford says, On the internet there is no such thing as a brand. There is only you. It's a great post. If you're an aspiring author or like me and still new to publishing, go read this post. Think about it. Then read it again.

The final product of our efforts as writers, the finished book that goes out in the wild for sale, that's what we're selling. We sell it when it's finished, and yes, it's hard to switch hats and pretend to have a head for business. For me, anyway. But until it's a finished product, that manuscript is art. Writers are artists, just as much as anyone else in the creative world. Our medium is words instead of paint or a guitar or a thousand other things. The selling of the final product is an important part of this process, but it is by far NOT the most important part. Unless you are one of those writers who writes only one book and puts all your efforts into it, and then the selling of that one book, most of your time is going to be spent creating more art. (It's fine if you only want to write one book. I'm not one of those because I'm incapable of shutting up. Hence the too-long blog posts.) If I'm going to have an online presence it's going to be just as scatter-brained as I am, because that mess that swirls around in my head is where the art comes from. I think it works that way for all of us.

Normally I don't have enough confidence to feel like I should be giving anyone advice, but this is something I really believe in: don't worry about making yourself a product, because as a writer you are an artist. Be an artist. If that means your public face shows you as curious, whimsical, struggling, discussing different topics and ideas, one day you're sharing deep meaningful thoughts with the world and the next all you want to do is reblog pictures of Jared Padalecki on your Tumblr, it's all good, because it's all you. Be an artist, be authentic, be you. Readers will respect that, even if they think you're a little nuts. We're artists - being a little nuts is one of the perks. :)

Here's some Jared as a reward for getting through another of my too-long posts: