18 April 2016

"Who Shall Conceive the Horrors of my Secret Toil?" How every book is a Frankenstein

The process of writing a book is eerily similar to creating Dr. Frankenstein's monster:



"Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?"

"The dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation..."

What? You don't think creating a story is that intense? Allow me to elaborate.

"Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil...?"

When I started Fractured Memories (Book 1) I needed something gruesome for the Skinnies to do to themselves. To prove to the audience that they were both disgusting and insane. Somewhere between the Reavers from Firefly and a zombie. Tattoos were too boring and full-on maiming was too close to both the Reavers and the Yuuzan Vong from the now abandoned Star Wars cannon. I wanted something a little different.

So, I did what I always do, and initiated a series of Google searches that led me to a technique called Scarification. Go ahead, type that into Google and then go to the images. Toss Africa in there too.

Pretty interesting. Watch some of the videos, if you have a strong stomach.

Then I saw one of a guy with a forked tongue.

Seriously?

Uh, yes, the process is, while probably painful, quite simple. And if you put some effort into it, you can apparently control each side separately. Google it. I dare you.

"...as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave..."

Each of my stories starts one place and ends up in another. I'm getting better at outlining, but it's still a long, grueling process for me to write a book. Not to mention five of them in the same series. As I revise, I dig through the old drafts looking for the bits and pieces that can be plucked from their graves, dusted off, polished off and used again.

"...or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?"

I have tortured many a living animal to animate the lifeless clay of my story. We'll start with my husband, who gets to put up with my pity parties when things aren't going well in the writing world, as well as any political or science questions I may have about my story.

If I'm feeling exceptionally hopeless, I drag the poor guy to Sweet Tomato where we eat and talk until I'm satisfied that I've figured out how to fix a plot problem. He usually has loads of suggestions, which I then shoot down before getting to the answer that will work.

Then there are my beta readers. Some of them read three or four drafts of New Sight, the first novel I published. They continue to beta read for the Jagged Scars Series and provide invaluable feedback.

"The dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials..."

If I come to a pivotal moment in a story, and I'm not sure what to do with the plot or the characters, I'll start a list of at least twenty possibilities. They don't have to be good, or even reasonable—sometimes I literally write "Ninja Monkey Attack"—but I have to jot down twenty. Somewhere in that process, I find the idea that will either solve my problem or lead me to the solution.

What's slaughterhouse about that? I always feel as if I am bringing ideas to life only to kill them on the spot. Kind of eerie, if you think about it.

"...and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation."

The other day, a beta reader came back with a complaint that my character didn't have a growth arc during a critical part of the story. She was right—I hate it when she's right—and so I started thinking about how to resolve it. Another beta reader gave me a suggestion, I twisted it and came up with what I thought would be brilliant.

And it is brilliant!

But it might never see the light of day, because the brutality of the scene is both graphic and spine tingling. The character certainly snaps out of her old ways and decides to take a new path, but I'm not sure it's appropriate for YA readers. But it's so dang good!

In the end, this is the description of Frankenstein's Monster:

“His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips.”

Hopefully the finished product of my book is much less horrifying than that!

My new release, SeveredTies (Jagged Scars Book 2), went through the transformation from bone and sinew from man and beast into a story of a young woman with near crippling PTSD who has to help save a whole complex of people from the same fate her family suffered. She's tough, but not invincible, and when she falters, her friends are there to keep her from diving off the cliff of her mind into oblivion.


Please check it out.

Fractured Memories(Jagged Scars Book 1) is on sale for 0.99 over at Amazon.
Goodreads is hosting a giveaway for Fractured Memories for a couple more days (See the widget at the top of the blog)

Stay tuned for a giveaway for Severed Ties.

11 April 2016

A Little Something to Whet Your Appetite

With a week until Severed Ties comes out, I thought I would taunt you with the beginning of one of my favorite scenes.
This is a moment of levity in Wendy's world.
Well, if you can call getting shot at levity.



Wendy followed Jeff along the edge of the shield.

“What if there are people in here?” Jeff asked.

“Then we’re going to get shot,” Wendy said.

“I’ve always admired your honesty.”

“Gee, thanks.”

They each grabbed a few dirt clods, and every five feet threw them at the shield. All of them disintegrated on contact.

The sun began to dip toward the mountain peaks behind them. Ten steps, toss dirt, more steps, more dirt. Jeff followed behind her, testing the sections she missed. They watched for natural barriers, but found nothing more distinctive than trees.

“I wonder how far up it goes,” Jeff asked, craning his neck.

Wendy took another set of steps and stopped. “Farther than we can jump, I bet.”

“Too bad the transport broke down,” Jeff said.

“You think that was an accident?” Wendy asked.

“Not really, but I thought I was the only one that was that paranoid.”

“Better than being dead.”

“You’re morbid today.”

“But I’m alive.”

Jeff laughed. “Fine, you have me there.”

The radio crackled to life. “We might have found the entrance,” Riggs said. “Northeast corner of the complex.”

Wendy and Jeff shared a flat stare. They were on the southwest corner.

“On our way,” Wendy answered through the radio.

“I’d race you, but your legs are way too short to keep up,” Jeff said.

Wendy shot him a scowl. “You sound like Kev.”

“Maybe Kev is smarter than he looks.”

“Let me punch you first. Just one shot. Give me a head start.”

“Do I look like an idiot?”

“Do I have to answer that?”

Wendy’s lips spread into a grin as she and Jeff started to jog back around the complex. She liked it when she could let go of the pain inside. Even if only for a few minutes. And Jeff had a knack for helping her do just that.

Even moving fast, Jeff’s ears and eyes were alert. He swerved, grabbed Wendy and tossed them both to the ground before Wendy registered the rustle in the bushes by the shield. He rolled, putting himself between her and the danger. Wendy pulled her gun out and got ready.

A soft whine preceded a bright flash, which left a two-foot wide smoldering patch of the forest floor where they had been standing a moment before.

“Move!” Wendy said.

04 April 2016

Severed Ties Cover Reveal

Severed Ties
Jagged Scars Series
Book 2


Wendy is no stranger to death—she killed her first Skinny before she was ten—but the slaughter of her family is personal. Pelton's betrayal to the Den planted a wicked seed in Wendy's heart that is slowly growing into a ravenous monster bent on revenge. Its rage is bleeding into her dreams, her nightmares and her waking hours, staining everything, including her sanity.


When the monster almost overpowers her, Wendy decides she should leave Shelter. But before her friends will let her go, a plague sweeps through the complex. Doc doesn't have the meds they need to cure it, but the map Wendy wrestled from Pelton could lead them to a place that does. Now Wendy must hold her mind together long enough to keep everyone she knows from dying. Again.


Teaser:

Mike leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. "I'm here to make a deal with you. You play a penitent, remorseful young lady who has been through a lot in the past four months for the Council and take what punishment they give you, then you can stay."
"Why should I trust you? Dennis told me that you'd asked him to toss me in that cupboard."
"Did he?"
Wendy leveled her gaze at Mike. "Did you?"
A few seconds went by as the older man's eyes narrowed. "No. Although I had my doubts about you. But I don't send children to do my dirty work."
"I have no reason to trust you. You have no reason to trust me. Let me go and I'm out of your hair. This deal doesn't sound like much of a win for me."
Mike held up a finger. "Help us translate the map. Once you do that, I'll put you on the teams that are going after the Primate."
Wendy had her mouth open to retort, but shut it. "What?"
"I plan to go after this guy. He's destroyed at least four other settlements besides the Den. He's killed everyone in his path. He needs to be stopped, and I'm going to be the one to do it. If you do as I say, I'll make sure you're on the first team that goes in."

21 March 2016

The Power of Secret Socks

I have this friend. We're the kind of friends who've known one another for forever, but don't hang out much and yet we still feel obligated to get gifts for each other for Christmas. A few years ago, this friend bought me a set of DC super hero socks.

I opened them up and fell in love immediately.

I mean really, look at them. Who can resist wearing a tiny Robin uniform on their feet all day? Or Wonder Woman?

This friend of mine has started an obsession that may never be satisfied. Well, at least not as long as they keep making awesome socks of geeky things that I like so much.

I'm sure you're dying to find out why this is. What compels me to continue to buy fun socks?

Well, here's the thing. Picture the first day of your work week. You drag your sorry corpse out of bed and to the shower only because your muscles remember how to do it without you having to think. You didn't get to laundry, so the options of what to wear are limited to the same thing you wore Friday, or those stupid pants that pinch in all the wrong areas and the blouse that your not so favorite sister bought you for your birthday three years ago that still has the tag on it.

You look around for shoes, and the thought of wearing heels makes you want to weep and then die, not to mention fall over. You spy your boots and figure they'll work. Close enough. Not like anyone is going to notice. Everyone is going to be grumbling about the meetings anyway, so---bah, you had forgotten about the meeting.

Time for drastic action. You need to be sharp. You need to be awesome. You need some empowering and you need it quick.

What do you do?

Pull out the sock drawer and dive for the Wonder Woman socks. Slip those on and you'll feel like a new woman. Each time someone or something tries to bring you down, think of your socks, and smile that knowing smile that always shoots paranoia through your co-worker's hearts.

You've got this. No problem.

There are plenty of possibilities.

Need a ridiculous amount of self confidence? Slip on Naruto.


Behind on a big project? The Flash is your guy.

Going to need magic to get out of the jam you're in? Griffindor to the rescue.

Sure you'll need to go back in time at least once in the day? The Doctor is at your service.


Thinking you might have to rip someone's arm out of their sockets? Chewie is always willing to help.

You see, no need for despair. Just slip on your secret socks and go forth!

How do you cope?

07 March 2016

Five Perfectly Deplorable Reasons to Open Facebook

As a part time writer, I sometimes get lonely sitting at my computer, staring at a blank screen on my left and the ruins of my last rough draft on my right. The blank screen longs to be filled, and the rough draft begs to be edited. Sometimes I feel like I'm being torn apart, and no one can understand. 

Words can't tell you that you're great or that it's okay that you're wearing the same sweats you've been wearing all week or that your book isn't as bad as the one you're reading on Wattpad. It can't be. Right?

So where can you go for help? Where is the safe place to reach out and find that bolstering support that we all need in our creative endeavors? Where can you discover thousands of "elegant little compliments" that will be there for you even when your family has resorted to slipping chocolate and soda into  your writing space through the cat door and your friends have backed away from your house slowly after catching a whiff of the smell that's coming from your office?

Social media. That's the answer. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Tumblr. Twitter...

These places are safe. They entertain you. They lift you. They love you. Allow me to give you the top five reasons you should abandon your creative endeavors and submit to the power and time sucking addiction of social media.



1-I just need to relax my brain.

Seriously, sometimes ten minutes of thinking is too much. I mean, if you hash out your story too much, then it turns stale in your head and suddenly writing it sounds like the only thing worse than eating brussel sprouts for breakfast. When this happens, take a break. Jump on Twitter and see what the presidential candidates are up too. This is sure to brighten your day, because obviously you have way more common sense than any of those idiots. You'll be yourself in no time.

2-If I don't promote myself, then who will?

This is true. In this day and age, social media is a great way to gain followers and fans. So yes, you should be on your platforms, saying funny things and sharing great images about your characters or your kids or your socks or your action figure collection. Not to mention trying to get the Kardashian's attention on Instagram. Because if they like your comment, you could be set for life. Life.

3-I must tell the world how I feel!

Once in a while, the strangest thing happens. The stars align, your brain clicks on, you settle into your chair, you poise your hands and you type the most amazing prose that's ever come out of  you. Ever. This is obviously a crowning moment and an achievement not to be trivialized, so it's only natural that you should spend the next hour or two either looking for or making the perfect reaction video on Tumblr. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, but one of those Tumblr posts is sure to properly communicate your ultimate triumph to the whole world. All six of your followers. Friends. Whatever they are.

4-I can't get left behind.

What if I miss that perfect picture or slide show on Snapchat, and all my friends are talking about it, and I didn't see it? Not acceptable. Constant vigilance! How can you be a world renown author if you're not up to speed on every single pop culture reference in the world?

5-I just need a little help.

I mean, we're all here to help each other, right? And surely there is someone who has posted a video on YouTube about the exact problem I'm having. You see, my characters need to change a tire on a Hummer only using a flamingo, a golf club and duct tape. I'll start with "Change Hummer Tires." See! There are a bunch I'll just click on...ooh, there's a new princess rap battle.


So you see, let those weapons of mass distraction lose in your life. It'll be worth it. Really.

22 February 2016

5 Perfectly Wretched Ideas for Curing Discouragement

As most of you know, I'm in the middle of writing four books of a five book series. Book one came out last May. Well, it's kicking my butt. Pretty much I feel like this guy right here. Only with more chocolate around.



This is normal. I go through these weeks when I'm pretty sure that I'm the queen of the world, but all too soon the world decides it doesn't want a queen (what's up with that?) and pulls the proverbial rug out from underneath my feet. That's when I end up discouraged. Stupid world.

I look at my work in process and think about burning the entire thing. Computer, monitor and all.

If anyone else is feeling this way, do not despair, there is help!

1) Call a friend who is always having more drama than you:

For instance, the other day I was venting about my woes and sorrows to one of my writing buddies. She's got four kids and a very busy husband, so I don't dump on her very often, but this was one of those days. I asked if she could do lunch the next day. When she told me she had a Minecraft themed party to throw for her five year old's birthday for eight of his friends, I instantly felt better. So. Much. Better.

2) Read someone elses book:

The trick to this one is to find a book that's worse than mine. I know, pretty low, right, but seriously, I've downloaded a dozen or more freebies from writing acquaintances. I'll go to the gym, get on the treadmill, pull up one of their books (probably the one with the worst cover) and start to read. This is what I say to myself, "See, it could be so much worse." Bad mood gone.

3) Binge watch Netflix

For plotting help. Really. Watching a season of a show with a nice, juicy, long arc is perfect research. How did they foreshadow? What was the pacing like? Will Dean or Sam take off their shirts this episode?
You can stop judging me now. It's all for the writing!

4) Chemical enhancement

Invoke your drug of choice-chocolate, bacon, alcohol and whatever else you shouldn't put into your body-then take a nap, hoping the your dreams will resolve all of your story issues. And all of your other issues.

5) Violence

This.

Try one of these avenues of healing and in no time you'll feel like this guy!

04 January 2016

The Finger Trap

Pretty sure you've all met Johnny Worthen on this blog before. He's a strange chap that insists upon wearing tie-dye shirts no matter where he is or what he is doing. As a matter of fact, near the end of The Finger Trap the main character, Tony, sports his own tie-dye shirt. (Don't think I didn't catch that, Johnny.)

So, I know Johnny. He's a great guy and a (I might choke on this) literary writer. If you know me, I'm a commercial fiction girl. To each his or her own-I go one way, Johnny goes the other. A few months ago he asked (okay, begged, because that's what we authors really want for Christmas, our birthdays and every Thursday) for people to review his new book, The Finger Trap.

First off, the cover is awesome. Jolly Fish Press might not boast a big office or Brandon Sanderson as one of their authors, but their covers are top notch. I'm neither a literary fiction or a mystery girl, but the cover was enough to get me to agree to read it.

I'm not the audience for this book. There's more language than I like, and the pacing is a little slow (remember, I'm a blow things up now and ask questions later kind of a girl). It took me quite a while to get into the story. The main character starts out as a charming loser, with the charming barely overpowering the loser at the beginning.

However, and this was a big surprise for me, between the beautiful writing, the quirky voice of Tony and the transformation he goes through, I must admit that by the end I was actually cheering for the guy. Not the jump out of your chair and fist pump, but the sly smile of, "Oh, these guys are in so much trouble, Tony is going to take them apart piece by piece."

And he does. Not physically-he's not much of a fighter as illustrated by the number of times he gets beat up in the book-but mentally. He uses his strengths to pick the mystery apart, gather the pieces and put them back together in a brilliant ending.

Oh, did I mention he's been framed for the murder of a girl he barely met, he just went through a divorce that's been scheduled for six years and he's not a finisher?

Well, in this story he finds his reason to finish something. Which is why I'd recommend it. Like I said, some of the language and subject matter isn't what I would normally pick up and read, but I know that plenty of people don't mind it, so go read the book. The care the author put into the prose is apparent from the first chapter, the voice of the character is dry and funny and kept me going when I thought the story was a bit slow, and Tony's transformation is one of the best character arcs I've read in a long time.

If you want to stalk Johnny, go here.
He loves adoring fans, even if they chase him with sharp objects.