You Want to do What?

First, let me preface this by saying my friends are lovable asshats. I ran out of time to think this week, so I asked them to drop blog topics for me to pick from. Two were viable. The rest made me wonder why I have so many oddballs in my life. The wonder lasted until I looked in the mirror and caught myself in an Avengers t-shirt and red scotty dog flannel pants with my hair sticking out in every direction. If I threw stones, my glass house would resemble Alderaan.

What topic did I pick? Christina B. gave me this gem:

Random acts of writing. Just when you think everything is okay, the story takes a drastic turn!

Plot shenanigans are ultra rare in my writing universe nowadays. I realized a couple years ago that it was far easier to plot my ass off before work began on a manuscript. I let it sit for a couple weeks, note any new ideas, then write like the wind. Having a solid outline doesn’t negate all surprises. I kinda wish it did. Usually these “What the hell do you mean it’s not happening this way?” moments require going back through the book to fix a plot point, or tweaking the outline to reflect the change so I don’t have to edit the damn thing in after the fact. As I write, I have a page of “Gods Damn It” notes to apply during editing round one. Sometimes these are plot hole patches, conversation changes, notes on wound locations, etc. Most often they’re reminders to put clothes on my characters because I never remember to dress them, but clothing is a huge part of self expression and needs to happen to fully flesh out my fictional friends. I did have a WTF moment recently when a character requested a latex dress. That was fun research.

With my characters—who are all far too real for my sanity’s sake—their suggested changes are never simple things. The Inbetween series is rife with changes I never saw coming. Garik in particular likes to go, “Oh, by the way, that thing you thought was this way? It’s actually this way.” If he were real, I’d punch him in the nose for each time I had to go back to fuss with minor things which were series-encompassing details. Sometimes the characters don’t get their way. I let my imagination run, give the people in my head a lot of leash to romp, but there are times I say no because the change is too much, too weird, or doesn’t make sense within the main story arc. Sorry, Garik, I don’t need a scene with you discovering organic bath balls.

Heh, I said balls.

For Sydnee’s long-overdue book, her drastic turn happened early in the game. What luck! I won’t say what it is (spoilers!) but her foot-down decision one afternoon while I wrote changed the entire book. Which was a good thing because that week I’d realized I had no clue how to end her story. Not only is Sydnee’s book her story, it’s the end of my vampire series. Her ending has to be their ending. I’ll tell you now, the vampires are going to a place I hadn’t predicted when I originally laid out the game plan going into this final story. Those kind of story-leading-the-writer moments are okay. Sometimes I can’t see the big picture and have to step aside to figure out where the characters would naturally lead the plot without me micromanaging every detail.

What if the characters can’t figure it out, either? That’s where my writing group comes in. I’ve got a couple people who’ve been on the writing path with me since day one, sentence one. Sandi and Quamaine are the reason why I kept writing, have remained a writer, and have every faith in my ability to do something meaningful in this career. They’re also in my life to call me on my shit when I send them a scene or dialog chunk giving me problems. Occasionally you just need another brain to assist. Talking things out with them, hearing what they think may be the snag or where they think the scene is heading, helps recalibrate the writing work. It may even spark a dreaded, but secretly hoped for, surprise change to the story. I do the same thing with my editing clients as necessary, and without charge, long before they send me a finished manuscript. Why? Writers cannot work in a vacuum. They need feedback at some point. I’d rather do it now than later when it may require extensive rewrites. Everyone needs a sounding board. That’s what managers at day jobs are for—a person to listen to your problems and help fix them so you provide the content you were hired to create. I am my own manager. I am a shitty manager, too. This is why I have my writing group, and I highly suggest other independent authors do the same. It gives you people to help long before paying an editor to fix the mistakes. Matter of fact, with a solid writing group, your editor may think you’re brilliant and their first pass won’t look like the manuscript is bleeding from ten-thousand paper cuts.

What about you? Do you look forward to the, “Whoa, wait. What,” moments while writing? Has a random idea sparked an entirely new direction for a story, causing you to scrap pages upon pages of work? If so, be honest and tell me how many Kleenex you went through while dumping* those pages in the circular filing cabinet.

(*Never actually toss scrapped story content. Shove it in a file to pilfer through later for bits to flesh out the rest of the story, or even start a new one.)

Well, That Wasn’t Fun

Self awareness is never a comfortable path. Matter of fact, it’s downright painful during days when the world around you forces you to dig deep and Fix The Gods Damned Problem inside yourself before you self-destruct. Moments of awareness tend to arrive around the time you think you’ve gotten your shit together just enough to be completely heartbroken the instant you realize you’ve been stuck in an unhealthy decision pattern affecting half your life, that you’ve slapped a Barbie Band-aid over the problem, preventing you from finding happiness in any truly meaningful way.

I had a moment of stark clarity this weekend. I did not like what I saw in the soul mirror.

Every decision I’ve made regarding love came while cowering under fear’s vast shadow. Fear I’d die alone. Fearful of the day I reached the point where my stubborn determination to keep my head screwed on tight enough isn’t enough and I have no help. Most shamefully, I let fear reinforce the notion that I am not good enough.

I honestly thought I’d worked through this. The core of my self care has always been to keep fear from pushing me to poor romantic choices. Man, understanding how far I had to go sucked on a level I cannot fully convey in words. My heart hit my combat boots. I found what privacy I could and had an hour-long cry. The next morning, it was wash, rinse, repeat on the self pity front until I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and stubbornly moved through the day. The talk I had with myself while I cried never fully left my mind. It dogged me as the day progressed, haunting conversations with friends I see too rarely.

Warning: The following is adult in nature. Younger readers, please do not read on.

Continue reading “Well, That Wasn’t Fun”

I Need a Second Brain

Things have been a tad . . . hectic in Murphlandia. If you haven’t followed my Twitter account, then you were unaware of my eight-day vacation. Yes, it is as exhausting as it sounds.

However, life waits for no man.

Yesterday was a holiday, so I did take a half day to recover from our travel day. Six hours on Amtrak soaking in the weird existing between Anaheim and our home town. It was informational. At one point, we watched a man in his mid-twenties do his best to polish off an entire case of Corona between Bakersfield and Fresno.

I’m pretty sure I woke up with his hangover.

Which is why moments ago, I tapped my mother on the shoulder and said, “In twenty-five minutes, tell me to go make the pesto for the garlic bread and check the lasagna.” I’m so exhausted, I’m borrowing intelligence from family members just so I remember to feed them food that hasn’t been turned into charcoal.

This isn’t the first time, either. Throughout my life I’ve collected a series of people who, for lack of a better term, speak Née. Occasionally I simply forget how to human and do ridiculous things in order to complete simple tasks. Or I’ll forget everything except my shoe size and last name. It’s normal for me. There’s simply too much going on in my head on these weird days. If I don’t compartmentalize, things get wonky. I get wonky. It isn’t pretty.

That’s where the Née fluent come in handy. Often, the first clue is what background noise I’ve selected. If there’s a marathon of bad television going on, bring caffeine. If I’ve resorted to non-stop musicals and singing at the top of my lungs, be concerned. Find me in the office staring at a wall, I probably haven’t eaten since dinner the night before. Hear me rummaging in my desk for gummy bears, means I skipped lunch to work. These things do happen. Most of the time I’m not actively aware of it or catch it in time to work out of whatever’s consuming my brain.

The secret? I don’t think I’m alone in this. Especially amongst my creative friends. We’re all the type to hyper focus and Just Get It Done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t leave a lot of mind left to do the basics. Hey, most days I applaud if I remember to shower. Everyone else does too. It’s how I pay them back for lending me their brains so often. Everyone wins.

Getting to Know: Jillian

Most readers already met Garik back when they read Enslaved, but this is the first time any of you will meet Jillian Griffin. She thinks of herself as a hotel owner with a past best left behind herway behind her. The incubi see her as something altogether different and wonderful. Let’s see what my associate, Quamaine, can dig up about Jillian before you guys meet her properly in Infliction.

Quamaine: What is your biggest fear?

Jillian: Spiders dressed like clowns. Okay, seriously? Losing the hotel. It’s been an uphill struggle to get where we are, watching it implode would kill me.

Q: What really makes you angry?

J: Not having control. I can deal with just about anything life throws at me—until my hands are tied in some way.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your career?

J: The weird family I’ve built to keep the business running smoothly.

Q: Have you ever had a nickname? What is it?

J: Mom had a boatload of nicknames for me growing up. None of which I wish to hand over to anyone as ammunition.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge?

J: A good night’s rest. Seriously, though, opening Coleridge by myself with a safety net far in my peripheral.

Q: Would you rather trade intelligence for looks or looks for intelligence?

J: I’d trade it all to ensure everyone I care for is happy. Physical appearance doesn’t mean much to me. I mean, it helps, but it’s not everything.

Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of love?

J: I—I can’t answer this one. Let’s move on.

Q: If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

J: Warning — Contents Under Pressure

Q: What is the worst nightmare you have ever had?

J: We shouldn’t dwell on nightmares. They don’t mean anything.

Q: Who knows you the best?

J: My coffee pot.

Q: Do you see yourself doing something very different five, ten years from now?

J: Professionally, I’d like to see Coleridge doing well enough, I can open a second hotel in the city. Personally, I’m not one to count chickens before they hatch any more. Living to see tomorrow is always my goal.

Make sure you’ve read Enslaved before Infliction makes its way into our realm. 91XY8KqUEdL._SL1500_

Author Wishlist

We all do it, even those of us far below the rank of “She Who Has Encourage Fan Art.” Except, I really want fan art for one character in particular.

You guys haven’t met her yet.

Which sucks for me because I don’t want to spoil her for you guys. Just believe me when I say, you’ll fall in love with her the second she steps on stage in Infliction. Well, after you stop saying, “Holy shit.” Because it’s a plot twist I didn’t even see coming. When this awesometastic character gently rapped on my brain’s door to enter the Inbetween world, I thought for sure it was a mistake. Then I saw why she (we’ll call her B from now on) was really there. B ends up being a vital part of this world.

She deserves all your love. I’m exaggerating only a smidgen.

Unlike other characters living in my grey matter, B is fully formed–down to the way her eyelashes sweep together every time she accesses a painful memory. I want to see B face-to-face. Mostly, I want to see how you envision her. Does what I keep in my head while working with her translate? Gods, I hope so. B is by far the most beautiful person I’ve seen.

She’s real, yet not. Now I understand how some writers get far too attached to certain characters. It wasn’t until I met B that I actually hoped someone would attempt to capture her beauty visually. It’s my one author wish for the next year.

Any fellow authors have a similar wish to see how others envision their favorite character?

Getting to Know: Garik

To get you guys excited for Infliction, I’m going to start dropping breadcrumbs as we get closer to the release date. Which I still don’t know for certain, but rest assured, it’s closer than any of us think. These guys are ready to come out and play. For a little refresher, I asked my cohort, Quamaine, to interview Garik. Let you guys get reacquainted with the Inbetween’s smoothest talker. Listening to this man talk makes me blush.

Quamaine: Name a song that describes your life the best.

Garik:This Calling” by All That Remains

Q: What is one of your most painful memories?

G: My first night inside the compound. It was constantly noisy. My brethren appeared and vanished without warning—often mid-conversation. We’d been forbidden to use powers in the nursery—that much I remembered. The rest of it is a vague recalling of what they taught us, but no real memories until the first night I spent as a mature incubus.

Q: How would you change one aspect of your life to make it better?

G: It’s isolating, that’s for sure. We’re constantly surrounded by people, yet never have the time to bond with them—save a few.

Q: So what’s your day job? Does it pay well?

G: An incubus is paid in the sighs of women. It’s incredibly rewarding in its own ways.

Q: Oh, well, there’s that . . . . Now that the cat’s out of the bag, what was the first time like?

G: Terrifying. I’d been amongst the mature incubi for less than an hour. Pain I’d only felt once before—when the bonds were put in place—seared my arms. When I stepped out of the fog, I faced a nude woman. I’d never seen a woman before then.

Q: How would you describe the connection you have with your customers?

G: ‘Customer’ implies payment. My callers shaped the man I am now. Their generosity and trust means the world to me, even if they think I’m a dream.

Q:What is your absolute favorite part of a female?

G: The tremble along her inner thigh at climax.

Q: Have you ever found yourself falling in love with your clients or have feelings of intimacy toward them?

G: I love them all in a way. One can’t help it when they see so far into the soul of a person.

Q: What are the stranger things women have asked you to do?

G: Anything involving feet confuses me. Generally, so long as they’re having a good time, I am too.

Q: Why do you think women summon you?

G: Wolfrik has a theory—each caller’s heart longs for a quality certain incubi possess. I know beauty in ever woman. There are too many who don’t see what’s in the mirror in the morning. I make it easier for them to do that.

Q: Do you see yourself doing something very different five, ten years from now?

G: Deryck and Wolfrik think we’ll find a magic well of women capable of freeing us. I’m a realist. My callers will still see me every night when they lay down their heads. It’s the only truth I can guarantee for the future.

For another refresher on Garik, the gods, and the laws governing the incubi, make sure you’ve reador re-readEnslaved before Infliction is released.91XY8KqUEdL._SL1500_

 

Break Out the SPF Vampire

Spring Break is upon us. For yours truly, that means time with the family far, far away from household responsibilities.

It also means it’s giveaway time! I’ve joined up with  a slew of fellow authors, Digital Book Today, and The Kindle Book Review–The #1 Site for Reader Giveaways–and we’re giving away two (2) $200 Amazon Gift Cards. The giveaway started March 23 and goes through April 5. Check it out and enter everyday. Good luck! unnamed

A Little Nosh

For the last two or three years, I’ve drastically changed my eating habits–long story short, either I ate low-fat or ended up in the ER with gallstone complications. Three years ago, I didn’t have health insurance to cover ER visits and surgery, so I controlled it with diet. The habit stuck even after I got health insurance to deal with the problem. Everything I cook now is seriously healthy and, more importantly, delicious as sin. For example, today’s vegetarian beer rock recipe runs about 1* gram of fat per serving–2 beer rocks in a serving. (*Final fat calculation is determined by your choice of meat substitute.)

You guys have to trust me on this one, though. Once you see the dough recipe, you might think I’ve lost my marbles. Note: This is my go-to dough recipe for hand-pies, cinnamon rolls, monkey bread–basically anything requiring a low-rise bread, like pizza dough. I added herbs and spices to make it a little different this time. For chewier bread, use non-fat Greek yogurt.

Dough-
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 1/2 cup self-rising flour
basil, thyme, salt, and pepper – to taste
Mix flour into yogurt until it rolls into a ball. Drop the ball onto a well-floured surface and knead the crap out of it for ten minutes. No, seriously. This is vital.
Split the dough into 1 1/2 inch diameter balls (should yield ~10) and roll flat–about the size of your hand spread out on the counter.

Filling:
1/2 medium-sized red onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head cabbage, cut into 1/2 inch bits
1 package of your favorite meat substitute (I used Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef)
salt and pepper–lots of pepper
pan spray

Optional:

No butter for me, but if you can eat it, use it to sautée the vegetables.10402057_1079923002034124_2670005205922498749_n


Toss the onion in a large frying pan and cook until nearly translucent, then add the garlic. Give that a minute before dropping in the cabbage. Add the salt and pepper. Cook the mix until the cabbage wilts before adding the meat substitute. Warm that through and stir it all together.

Assembly:
Paint three sides of the dough round with egg wash (egg and water mix), leaving the side closest to you dry. Spoon in about 1/2 cup of the cabbage mixture onto the center of the dough. Fold the dough side closest to you over the filling. Follow with the top of the dough, left, the right. Flip the little dough package over and set on a greased baking sheet. Brush the top with egg wash.

Bake at 375* F for approximately 18 minutes, or until the dough begins to brown.

Are you going to try it? I’d love to see pictures!

Little Reminders

One of my first conventions on the working side of the table was Dallas Comic-Con. It was a huge learning weekend and one where we (the ZSC) connected with people who’d come to be huge parts of our lives–we just didn’t know it. Others we met were simply cool cats who made the trip a blast. Todd Farmer is on the latter list. Off the bat, I kinda looked up to the grown-ass man walking around with brightly painted toenails. Why? His daughter asked him to paint them. He owned it with self-assurance I sure as shit didn’t have a clue how to accomplish on my own. It was inspiring. Not half as inspiring as the article I read yesterday.

“I’ve been paid more than fair. And I’ve been paid less than fair. As I suspect is the case with most working screenwriters. We just don’t talk about it. We can’t. One, to speak out runs the risk of being branded difficult. We don’t want that. And two, Hollywood likes to hire success. Therefore it’s important we appear more successful than we are. You may not be aware of this but Hollywood promotes lying. Pretending we are more successful than we are. Younger than we are. Smarter than we are. In this department, actors really have it bad but it’s an industry wide challenge.”

Todd goes on to describe how he went from snagging just enough writing work to squeak by to living in his car, working a 7-4 job which left little time to do what writers are born to do–write. His story–and several other writers I look to for inspiration–is what I dread. The reality that one day words alone won’t be enough to get by terrifies me. Sometimes the worry keeps me up at night, screws with my head and prevents me from doing the one thing I swore would be my way to make it in the world. Then I read stories like Todd’s or Sherrilyn Kenyon’s. See how they managed to pick themselves up, dust off, and write the next thing. It’s inspiring.

It’s also a reality creative people dread to share. At what point in the crapfest are we allowed to raise a hand and say, “This isn’t a glamorous life.” Never, if the people cutting the checks had their way. Writers in particular are expected to be heard only through what’s on the page. Criticizing the process puts us on the “Diva” list. When in reality, it’d just be nice to sell a manuscript worth enough to get PG&E off your back. And if that doesn’t happen, then the writing is pushed back to “When I have time” to make room for a paying gig that’ll devour your soul, but ensures you eat more than rice and beans for dinner five nights a week. We’ve all been there. All had that moment staring into the fridge wondering how soy sauce and wilted lettuce can feed a family.

But if we mention it, if we take steps to make writing pay in a non-traditional manner, we’re whining and expecting others to give us a hand up. In reality, it’d just be nice to get paid for the work we do. Writers gamble with their future a lot. We spend all our time working on something and if it doesn’t sell, there’s six month’s (or more) work shoved in a computer file to be forgotten. There’s so few professions where this is a common occurrence. My dumb ass happened to pick the one where it happens almost as much as breathing.

It’s not all dire straights. Todd and other writers who’ve struggled eventually do bounce back. There’s a lot of humbling effort involved. The road is a little smoother knowing we aren’t alone. More people need to take the risk and come clean about the reality of this life. It’d certainly help fledgling writers who feel like they’re doing it all wrong when rejections pour in. Trust me, you’re doing it correctly. Just have to keep moving forward. If fear of failure digs its claws into your ankles, you’re doomed.

Podcast-Thingie: A Case of the Feels

My room at Alcatraz is ready.
My room at Alcatraz is ready.

I coped out and did a few mini reviews via podcast for this week’s Red Band Society, Black Sails, Gotham, The Flash, and Arrow. Free of charge, I added a couple quick stories from my weekend work trip to San Francisco for Walker Stalker Con.

Tune in and listen to this week’s Podcast-Thingie. I promise, whatever superflu I may have caught can’t be transmitted via internet.