Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Fragile Ego of The Writer

Happy Easter, folks! May all your bunnies be solid chocolate.

First of all, I have a lot of news for this post!
  • All my books are free on Smashwords through April 15th. Remember, Smashwords is where you can get your ebooks in any format for every kind of electronic reading device. Just click on the Smashwords link at the bottom of this blog and enter the coupon code displayed on the right.
  • I'll be featured this week on Julie's Book Review as part of a month-long blitz featuring reviews, interviews, and giveaways by various authors. Check it out starting April 1st and enter for a chance at some cool prizes! (Also, you'll get to read about me! Always a treat, right?)
  • A cool new website is launching Monday, April 1st. www.ultimatefantasybooks.com is all about Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopian, and Romance books. It will feature competitions, author interviews, and all kinds of other cool stuff even yet to be thought up by its creators. It also features an alphabetical listing of authors where you can view their books, bios, links to purchase, and places on the Web to connect with them. (Ahem. Yours truly is on the list, of course.) You gotta check it out!
Okay, now on to this week's ramblings...

    A few weeks ago I was witness to a status posting on Facebook that kicked off a series of responses lasting an entire weekend and running the gamut of emotions from tearful despondency to red-faced outrage. Like many “issues” that surface on FB, this one was fraught with as much misunderstanding and mud-slinging as a Jerry Springer episode, and throughout I held my nose in the air with self-righteous indignation, telling myself I was above it all.

    But, of course, I got sucked in anyway.

    Here’s what happened, in a nutshell…
    An author made a series of negative comments via Twitter about Red Tash’s paranormal fantasy novel, Troll or Derby. Tash responded. The situation escalated as others got involved. I’m not going to share any of the gory details here, because who-said-what is not what I want to talk about. What made such an impression on me was just how deeply one author was affected by another’s criticism.
   Here’s the deal…
   Red Tash has some serious writing skills. Okay, that’s my opinion, I know, but one that I share with a lot of other folks. At this writing Troll or Derby is at #2 in the Dark Fantasy genre on amazon.com. It has fifty-seven reviews with an average reader rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. (You can click on my April blog archives to see my own 5-star review.) Ahem. That’s pretty damn high, slightly higher than Hunger Games, for instance.
    I figured if I was Red Tash, and I had that much positive feedback on my novel, and that high a customer rating, including a 5-star review from John Hundley himself, any negative comments would roll off me like water from a duck’s back. Come on, Red, give yourself a break!
    Then I started thinking about it with my heart instead of my head. Empathy kicked in, and I got it… completely.
    If you ask a writer why they write, ninety percent of the time you’ll get the pat answer, I love to write. That’s certainly true, at least on some level. I mean, it’s the answer I usually give. But if that were all there was to it, we’d just happily type away on our keyboards, dictate into our voice-to-text software, or scrawl across parchment with our quills, cranking out nonsense sentences or random phrases without a care as to the quality of what we produced.
    It ain’t like that.
    At some point every writer wants at least to look back over what they’ve written and be pleased. A smaller percentage will timidly present it to a friend to see what they think. Those with bigger balls will think about publishing.
   And then there’s the novelist. Crafting a written work of over 40,000 words (typically 100,000 to 175,000) is a long-range project that involves outlining, writing multiple drafts, editing, re-writing, and all manner of blood, sweat and tears. Even the most prolific author rarely produces more than one novel per year. That’s a significant amount of one’s life spent carefully monitoring plot lines and nursing relationships with a specific set of characters. It’s very easy to liken a just-finished novel to the birth of a child. Your chest swells with pride as you present it to the world.
   And someone says, “That baby’s ugly.”
   When I cautiously gave my second draft of The Draculata Nest to a friend for feedback, I got a voice mail message the next day saying she thought it was “really good.” I was on cloud nine for days. It took lots more of that sort of ego massaging for me to get up the nerve to publish it, and yet after months of editing, cover design, formatting, etc, I still hesitated to hit the upload button to make it available on Amazon.
   Each sale sent my heart soaring and then when a day or two would pass without one I would be despondent. I would be delighted to see a new 4 or 5 star review appear and then fall apart at the one negative comment embedded among the accolades. Some of that was good, because I took the constructive criticism and wrote a better sequel; but I’m not sure the emotional agony was worth it. Eventually, I got the inevitable 3-star review, followed by the inevitable thoughts of giving up writing entirely.
   Yeah, Red, I get it. The negative comments hurt. And, if you’re like me, you’re hard enough on yourself already. The last thing you need is some hack trashing your work. But I bet even Shakespeare’s rotting bones tremble whenever some poor ninth grader who’s forced to read it mutters, Hamlet sucks.
   So come on, Red. Feel the love. There are plenty of us who are ready to strap on skates, take up residence in the local landfill, or maybe just show up at your house to watch Adventure Time!

   Okay, that's all I've got this week. Remember, my books are free on Smashwords right now, and all the links to purchase are below...
    Next week...
                   ... more excerpts of Clifford and Claire from the upcoming Red Wolf Rising.
   Until then, Happy Reading!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords free thru April 15 with coupon code BX73L

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords free thru April 15 with coupon code SP83A
 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Need Inspiration? Walk With Your Dog

    The question most asked of any author is probably, where do you get your ideas? It’s a hard question to answer thoroughly, because by the time a thought has been pondered, massaged and conceived into an idea by a writer it has gone through a process so complex as to scare Sigmund Freud. However, we can often trace the idea back to a point of inspiration, and that is the way we usually answer the question, by relating what inspired the idea.

    A writer is always searching for sources of inspiration, and one of the best for me has been to walk with a dog. Now, I’m not talking about dragging your pet around on a leash once a day so they can poop, although that can be rewarding in itself. No, I’m talking about taking a walk with your dog, where the path is a mutually agreed upon decision between two friends.
    If you let a dog lead the way, he will take you on the road less traveled. Years ago I had the great fortune to have been a central figure in the life of a wonderful basset hound named Beauregard. Over the course of a dozen years, Beau and I hiked over a thousand miles together around the Carolinas and Georgia, often with him leading the way and sometimes blazing a trail of his own for us both. It was he who led us down a side path off a trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway that afforded this view and inspired in me thoughts that a dragon might dwell amongst these rocks and fly over such terrain.
   Years later, when I needed artwork for The Dragon of Doughton Park, I was hooked up with the artist, Ray DeLotell. Ray dove into the project with great enthusiasm, and it wasn’t long before he was sending me photos of natural settings and sketches. He was inspired, and the ideas were flowing. I asked myself, wow, where is all this coming from?
    Then one day I visited Ray at his apartment and I met his friend Booth, a large, friendly black lab hybrid. Booth’s enthusiasm for life and the outdoors is infectious, and he regularly takes Ray for romps along the local greenway. Suddenly, I understood very well what was going on. See if you can find the various elements in the photos taken on their walks that found their way into the final cover art.
   Booth might be one of the wolves.   
 And that tree...
  Those limbs stretching across...
... all combined:

   Cool, huh? Ray’s done the cover for both my books, which you can purchase by clicking on any of the links below. (The ebooks are only $2.99!) He’s also volunteered to do the cover for Red Wolf Rising, which is due out at the end of this year. You can see more of what springs from the mind of Ray Delotell (and Booth) at freedreamstoker.com.
    Until next time...  Happy Reading!
                                   
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Clifford and Claire, Part 4


    So, as promised, this is the fourth and final installment of the Clifford-and-Claire excerpt from my upcoming novel, Red Wolf Rising. I hope you’ve been enjoying this little sneak peek, and I hope you feel forgiving of me for being a lazy blogger by posting stuff I’ve already written, but the saved time has been well-spent for me in that I’m making great progress on the book!

   Next week I’ll have something more “blog-ish” for you, I promise. There is so much sexual tension in this next novel that it’s wearing me out and I kind of need a break anyway. Along with the back-story of Clifford and Claire being told at the same time we’re keeping up with what’s going on with him and Heather in the present day timeline, there’s a new set of characters developing their own little lust-fest. I’m wondering if it might be too much for the average reader.

   Oh, well.
 
  In case you missed last week and are too lazy to click on the archives, these two have just had an unexpected and perhaps inappropriately intimate moment…
                                                            

Claire could feel his eyes on her as she made her temporary escape. She slowed her pace, trying to act naturally, then immediately worried she might look like she was trying to further entice him with a more sensual gate. God, this was awkward. What had possessed her to grab his hand like that? It had been totally inappropriate.
But he had responded. He had definitely responded. She pushed through the door to the restroom.
Well, what male wouldn’t respond to what she’d done? She may as well have grabbed his crotch. If she’d been a much younger woman, he might have… Gasp. She was brought up short by her reflection in the long mirror behind a row of sinks that covered one wall.
She was looking at a much younger woman. When she’d stood before the mirror in her apartment earlier that same morning, she’d noted how her age was showing. It was the natural consequence of poor nutrition, the stress of going through the change so regularly, and the absence of the pack bond all wolves needed to stay healthy and sane. Not to mention her nearly ten centuries of life.
But in the last few hours some of those centuries had disappeared from her face. Wrinkles and lines had smoothed. If it wasn’t for the gray hair, she could easily pass for a human woman in her forties. Early forties, probably. Hell, even the hair looked younger and healthier. She leaned forward and pulled her pony tail around next to her face. Were there a few strands of the original dark black? Her mouth dropped open.
This was much more than could be accounted for by rest and a decent meal. In fact, she hadn’t even rested; she just felt like she had. Was her proximity to Clifford Crane simulating a pack bond, without his wolf being out yet? Even if that were possible, it couldn’t account for such a profound effect.
Perhaps a witch’s spell? If so, it was a doozy. However, she didn’t think she’d encountered any witches recently. She couldn’t be sure, but she didn’t think there would be any in Charlotte, not with so many vampires around. And what would any witch seek to accomplish with such a spell, anyway?
She drew her fingers across her cheek. Soft. Wow.
No, Clifford Crane was the only thing that had happened between waking up this morning and now, as far as she knew. She looked at her left hand, the one she’d shared so intimately with his moments ago. She could still feel the touch of his flesh, and the memory made her pulse quicken. My god, what kind of wolf was he carrying around inside? Her eyes widened, and a shiver ran through her. Could it be?
Hope that had been squashed over the last few months of fruitless searching threatened to erupt in her and she pushed it back down. Careful. Don’t go off the deep end just yet. But the more she considered the possibility, the more it fit. There might be more in her attraction to this man than that of a horny old woman. Perhaps there was a higher purpose.
She needed to find out more about Clifford Crane. She took a deep breath and exhaled. She rubbed her hand over the rough material of her jeans in an effort to take her mind off the memory of his touch. It would be best if she didn’t try to rip his clothes off on the ride back to her car. She smiled at her reflection.
That could come later.
The walk to Clifford’s truck was awkward, and they both remained silent during the drive to her car. Claire kept her hands folded in her lap, afraid they might of their own volition find their way across the console that separated their seats and entwine with his.
Clifford broke the silence as he turned onto Sardis Road. “So, you’re parked at the trail head, right?”
“Yeah. Just up here on the left.” He slowed, waited for an oncoming vehicle to pass, and turned into the lot. “That’s me, there,” she pointed. “The green Subaru.”
He pulled into the space next to her car. “Here you are,” he said.
He shifted into neutral and pulled the emergency brake, but left the engine running, which she took as a signal that he didn’t want to hang around. He’s still pretty freaked out, she thought. Probably can’t wait to get away from me. She put her hand on the latch of the door and pushed it open slightly. Shit. Was it her imagination, or did he visibly relax? “Um, thanks again for the pancakes,” she said.
“No problem,” he answered. “I enjoyed the company.” He smiled.
She couldn’t bring herself to get out of the truck, not just yet. Maybe the smile meant he wasn’t as eager for her to leave as she thought. “Me, too,” she said. “I, uh…” God, she felt like a silly adolescent. “Guess I’ll see you around, then.”
“Yeah,” he said. His thoughts were in a whirl. He knew he was attracted to this mysterious woman, and he had no business pursuing any kind of relationship, especially the way things were at home right now. Yet, it slipped out. “I hope so,” he added.
The shift in her expression and body language was subtle, but he thought he detected an eagerness in her reply. “I probably owe you a meal,” she said.
“Oh no, not at all. You don’t owe me a thing. Just, uh… pay it forward.”
She had a puzzled expression on her face.
“Y-you know,” he stammered, “to someone else who needs it.” Uh oh, that could have come out better.
“Oh, you mean if I run across someone naked and starving in the park…”
“Well, yeah. But, not necessarily nak… I mean, it could be anyone who… you know… you want to help out… or something.”
She looked at him. He was blushing fiercely now. It was so cute, and she had an almost irresistible urge to lean over and kiss him. She allowed herself to elaborate on that thought for a moment, how he might respond, what it might lead to. She became aware that she’d closed her door and inched closer to him.
Wait. I need to discover if he’s what I think he might be, not jump his bones. A seduction would just complicate things. Hadn’t she learned that lesson enough times in the past? Didn’t all relationships end in pain, often with someone’s death? Simple honesty would be the best policy in this case. Honesty, but perhaps in small doses.
She straightened. “Clifford, I think you’re an interesting person, and I’d like to get to know you better.” There, that was open and above-board, right? “Would you mind that?” With only a little bit of manipulation.
“No, I wouldn’t mind. I’d like to get to know you, too. It’s just that… Well, maybe it shouldn’t have to be this way, but I gave up all my female friends when I married Kathryn. She… doesn’t deal with that so well. And… I hope I didn’t give you the wrong impression when I was babbling on over breakfast. My marriage and family are important to me. I can’t do anything to jeopardize them. Nothing would be worth that.”
Not even saving humanity?
“What?”
Oh, god, had she said that out loud? “Huh?”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry. I thought you said something.”
“I didn’t think I did, but at my age...” She shrugged. “Listen, I understand. I don’t want to cause any complications in your life. I’d just like the opportunity to talk some more. Wouldn’t you?”
He would. “Yeah, but…”
“Hey,” she brightened, “what about this? I’m up early most mornings. You looking for a jogging partner?”
He wasn’t. His early morning jogs were the only times he had to himself these days. “Um, I usually do about five miles.”
Wait, please. I’ve seen you jogging. I could run circles around you all day. “I’m in better shape than I look. I should be able to keep up.” He looked doubtful. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ll be fine. And no obligations on your part. You just stick to your regular schedule, and I’ll just show up one day soon. We’ll see how it goes.”
He hesitated. That sounded safe enough, just some jogging and talking. “Okay, that sounds like fun. Um, I’m usually out around four-thirty, five-ish…”
“… whenever the weather’s good,” she finished for him. “Right.”
“Oh, I told you that already?”
Had he? “Uh, sure. You must have, right?”
He grinned sheepishly and ran his hand over his close-cropped hair. “I’ve probably babbled everything there is to know about myself already. Next time, I’ll have to ask the questions.”
She smiled and opened the door again. This time she got out.
“I need to hear some of your story,” he said.
She smiled and closed the door. All in good time, Clifford Crane. All in good time.
   Okay, that’s it. Of course, it’s only the beginning. Look for the rest later this year.

   And, if you haven’t read the first two books, there are links below to sites where you can purchase them in various formats. The ebooks are only $2.99! Check ‘em out.

   Coming up next week…
       Looking for inspiration? Walk your dog.
                                                                                       


The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo     in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords
Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Clifford and Claire, Scene 3


    Hi, folks! As I shared a few weeks ago, keeping up this blog and working on the new novel has put a strain on my already poor time management skills. So, I’ve been cheating by posting some excerpts from the new novel instead.
   It’s working, because I’ve been getting sooooo much done on Red Wolf Rising that I’m really excited about. If I can maintain this momentum I might actually meet my completion deadline later this year.
  So, picking up where we left off last time, here’s how Clifford Crane and Claire Deerfoot first met. Having just found her naked and starving in the park while he was jogging, and assuming her to be homeless, Clifford has taken her to IHOP for a meal…
Her name was Claire Deerfoot and she loved pancakes. She really loved pancakes. She was now sopping up the syrup on her otherwise empty plate with the last fork full of her second short stack. Clifford had never seen a woman of her age and slight stature put it away like she did.
Other than those two things, Clifford knew little or nothing about the woman sitting across the table from him. She had been very close-mouthed and vague about who she was and where she came from. Her facial structure was slightly exotic, possibly Native American, but he wasn’t good at recognizing that stuff. She appeared to be somewhere in her late fifties or early sixties, going by the lines of character in her face, but there was the vibrancy in her movements of someone much younger.
Her hair was beyond gray. It was long and white as snow. And the straw-like, disheveled quality he thought he’d observed earlier in the park was gone now. At some point during the meal he had begun to notice how it glistened as it hung straight and framed her face. It was beautiful, and he’d been disappointed when she’d complained that it was getting in the way and pulled it back and banded it into a pony tail.
But the most striking feature about her was her eyes. They were clear gray, and seemed to hold an ageless intelligence. And they were familiar, so familiar, but he could not jog his memory into recognition. He had her pegged as an academic, maybe a forensic anthropologist fallen from grace because of some bizarre theory she proposed but none of her fellows supported. Perhaps she had been driven to insanity and dereliction from the ostracism of her peers, eventually finding herself living in the greenway.
But that was all wild, fantastical speculation. She had revealed next to nothing about herself. He, on the other hand, had spilled his guts all over the table. She had managed to draw him out easily, and he had just about told her his life story in the last twenty minutes or so. In fact, he realized his own stack of pancakes lay largely untouched in front of him because he’d been running his mouth so. He now took a bite. They were stone cold.
She dabbed at her lips with a napkin and frowned. “Is something wrong?” she asked.
Her question drew his attention back to her face. Hers was one of the prettiest frowns he’d ever seen. For an older woman. In fact, he may have over-estimated her age. Some of the wrinkles he’d thought he’d noticed before now seemed to have disappeared. He shook himself mentally.
“Oh,” he said, “My food’s cold. I can’t believe I’ve been talking so much.”
“You have been going on a bit.” She smiled, which removed yet another decade from her face.
He could feel himself blush. “Sorry, I…”
“No, no,” she chuckled. “Don’t be. You merely answered my questions… in great detail.”
His blushed deepened, and her chuckle expanded into genuine laughter.
“Sorry,” he murmured. “Jeez.” He cut another fork full from his pancakes, put it in his mouth, and began to chew silently.
Her laughter subsided. She took a deep breath and pushed her plate a few inches away. “Whew,” she said. “Thanks for that.”
Clifford watched her lean back in her seat and wipe a tear from her cheek, still flushed from laughing. He swallowed and blurted without thinking, “How old are you?”
She started. “Uh…” The question had caught her off guard. She thought a moment. Nine hundred ninety-two? Or, is it ninety-three? Best not to tell him that. “Is that something a gentleman should ask a lady?”
“No,” he said, “definitely not. I’m sorry, please. I didn’t mean… It’s just that, I thought you were older back in the park, and now…” He cut himself off. From the look on her face he was just making it worse.
She shrugged and sighed. “I am pretty old,” she said. “And when you found me this morning I was really feeling my age. But this,” she waved her hand over the remains of her meal, “has done wonders. I feel young again.”
She had effectively dodged the question. He decided not to push it. Instead, he took another bite of cold, soggy pancake, and regarded his plate as he chewed. When he looked up again, her eyes were on him. Their gazes locked for a moment. He felt as if she could see into his soul.
She was the first to break eye contact. Dropping her eyes to the table she said, “Um, while we’re asking personal questions…” She ran a forefinger through a puddle of syrup on her plate that she’d missed and raised it to her lips. She looked back up at him to see a smirk on his face. “What?”
He shook his head, smiling. “Nothing. You were saying?”
She liked his smile. This was the third or fourth time she’d seen it during the meal, and she was quickly becoming addicted. “I was saying,” she began, putting the syrupy digit into her mouth and sucking on it. His smile widened.
Oh, my god, she thought, I’m flirting with him. She blushed and removed the finger from her mouth. Get a grip. It’s not too late… yet. She cleared her throat and forced a note of seriousness into her tone. “I was wondering, actually, what it is that makes you so unhappy.”
“Huh?” His expression was startled. “What makes you think I’m unhappy?”
“I’ve been watching you…” For months. during the meal. It shows in your eyes when you talk about some things. Your life, your family…”
The question flustered him. He set down his fork and stared in the direction of his plate. “I-I don’t think of myself as unhappy. I…” He looked up. “Does it really show that much?”
“Your struggle to hide it shows,” she said, and from his reaction she could tell she’d struck a nerve. Reflexively, she reached across the table. “Don’t worry. I’m more… sensitive to these things than most. I doubt much that anyone else can tell.” Her hand settled onto his.
He flinched at her touch, as if he’d received a shock. She felt it, too, and she gave an involuntary gasp of breath. His fingers curled reflexively against the table top, forming half a fist against her palm. The tips of her fingers passed lightly over the hairs on the back of his wrist.
The touch was electric. Her pulse quickened instantly. She tried to pull her hand away, but her brain wasn’t sending the signal to her fingers. He lifted his hand slightly, as if to pull it from under hers, and the tips of his fingers brushed across her palm.
“Oh,” she murmured. She couldn’t let go, mesmerized as his fingertips slowly moved across her palm, underneath her fingers, up to their tips and back down. Her fingers responded of their own volition, entwining with his and squeezing almost to the point of pain before releasing and entwining again. Her breathing became shallow and quick.
For a moment their fingers continued a dance of incredible intimacy. Then, suddenly, he pushed his palm against hers and withdrew. He took a breath and exhaled with a shudder. Her eyes locked with his, and she could feel the heat of a deep blush explode under the skin of her face.
He cleared his throat. “Um, I better go or I’ll be late for work. Can I, uh, give you a ride… somewhere?”
She took a deep breath and nodded. They both seemed to recognize the double entendre at the same time. He blushed, and hers deepened. “To my car, if you don’t mind. I parked in the lot off Sardis Road.”
“Oh,” he responded. Your car? That was unexpected.
She immediately wished she hadn’t said it. She’d just blown her cover and now there would be more questions she wasn’t prepared to answer. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to use the restroom before we go.” She slid from her chair and walked towards the back of the restaurant.
He watched her go, admiring the graceful sway of her hips as she walked. “Uh, sure, go ahead,” he murmured. “I’ll get the check.” Who was this woman? I should just take her to her car, let it go, and never see her again.
       But he wanted to know more about her. Much more.
 
   Okay, that’s probably a good place to stop. I’ll have the final portion of the excerpt for you next week. And, by the way, I love to read your comments, so please don’t hesitate to leave one below. Just drag the cursor over the word, Comments, click, and you can probably figure out how to do it.

   And, if you haven’t read the first two books, there are links below to sites where you can purchase them in various formats. The ebooks are only $2.99! Check ‘em out.

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook     ebook for Kobo     in Paperback         
in Charlotte   Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback  
in Charlotte    Smashwords
Until next time, happy reading!