Coming Back Around

Hi there, hope everybody has had a great holiday season thus far. Apologies for not being around the last month, had oral surgery on the Third that ended up being far more debilitating than expected, and then just as I was getting wind in my sails again came down with a nasty cold that morphed into an inner ear infection. The ear infection remains, but I’m ready to pick things up again. Look for more coming out of this space soon.

Emerging From The Writer Cave

Hello one and all, I return from my Writer Cave bearing good news. I know, I know, not the first time returning, nor will it be the last, I’m sure. Blame it on an overwhelming drive to finish up this novel in the face of more than two years of work. But hey, at least I’m in the closing stages of Came to Believe! Well, the last few chapters of what is ostensibly the final draft, anyway. A few more steps to go through after that, but I’ll talk more about that on Friday.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: I have a plan for this space now.

Now, don’t expect to see content as ambitious as what I’ve posted in the past. I’ve shifted priorities to focus on quality in my novels, which is rather intensive and eats up a lot of writing time, which means daily posts are just not possible. It’s sad and frustrating, but it’s reality. And at least I do have a reliable process now, after five years of searching. One of the biggest lessons of the last ten months or so has to been to trust this process and understand that it will ultimately provide, even if it seems at times to be magic. Again, I’ll talk about this more in the near future.

My current goal for this space is to provide a “home base” of sorts for my efforts, both writing and marketing. At the moment, this means a weekly post focusing on the major themes of what is beginning to look like a series. This series revolves around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and, more specifically, the city of Harrisonburg and towns of Dayton and Bridgewater, though other towns are represented. It’s an area that is undergoing a transformation from rural stronghold to metropolitan region, all driven by an influx of student loan money. It’s a rich vein to mine, with lots of ephemera that only shows up on the sidelines in the books but could be expanded upon with the proper time and care. That’s what I want to bring you in the weekly posts.

 

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You can also expect a bi-weekly update on the status of my latest works and talking about my overall writing, pitching, and marketing process. These will be quicker entries, just a few hundred words to get you up-to-date.

In the meantime, I’ll also be updating my Facebook Author Page, Pinterest boards, Tsu page, and Twitter with relevant content; for example, you may see me talking about Halloween in the Shenandoah Valley here and sharing some photography from past and present Valley Halloweens over on Pinterest, all while talking about this year’s festivities on the Facebook author page.

It should be an interesting adventure, and I hope you stick around for it. More in the near future.

 

 

Omens and Portents

Welcome back again. I regret to inform you guys that I am still not back up to normal speed. My schedule is so crazy at the moment that I can only fit in the bare minimum for blog posts, nothing like what I’ve been providing to you guys before. I’m hoping that next week gets back to the regularly-scheduled posts, but I can’t make that promise just yet. Work and other commitments are consuming my time like you wouldn’t believe, spilling well beyond work hours into the evening hours.

Isn’t it a strange time to be alive? Things have been kind of hush-hush, but I’ve been following some of the “exercises” in the Arctic and potential confrontations between NATO and Russia. Talk about disconcerting. Add to that the huge sun flare  that caused trouble all over the world and today’s eclipse and it becomes very tempting to regard this as the passage to something very dark. It’s likely all a coincidence, but I can’t deny being on edge more than once over the past week, especially over that whole military situation. That’s one that bears watching, I believe.

Anyway, let’s review what’s going on with my progress at the moment. Great news is that I finished Chapter 16! And I think it’s really, really good. Obviously I’m biased and it’s hard to judge your own work, but I look at it by the metric that it accomplishes exactly what I wanted it to accomplish and does so in a fairly weighty manner. It’s a chapter that needed to have a certain gravitas, and while it took a lot of maneuvering to get it there, I think I have it. Now my critique group will tell me if it works as a whole, but that’s for down the road.

In the meantime, I’m in the throes of Chapter 17, and the first draft is going along pretty quickly. I don’t know that I’ll complete it this week (again, owing to my schedule), but I would not be surprised to finish it early next week, maybe by Tuesday. I’ll do what I can to get at it this weekend. The great thing about Chapter 17 is that it’s relatively light after the heaviness of the previous 3 chapters. It’s a chance for the reader – and the author – to catch their breath. In this scene, Lindsay arrives at the hospital after having learned of something bad happening to one of the main characters, meeting up with Dean outside the entrance to the ER. They have a brief chat and, upon learning that they won’t get to see their friend that night, head back to Lindsay’s place to console one another and really get down to the business of knowing each other. The part at Lindsay’s place is going to be an adaptation of a previously-written scene from the original version of the novel, one that had served as the tail-end of their first date.

It’s dicey, given their mutual sex addictions, to put them both in one place at a highly-charged emotional period for both of them, but I think them choosing not to get intimate is a way bigger triumph for the characters, a sign that this relationship is a little different, means a little more. And it greases the wheels for the climax.

I also planned out the next three to four chapters last night, which gets me up to Chapter 21. I’m aiming for the book to be between 25 and 27, so the end is well in sight, it’s just a matter of the events that get us there and what the climax might look like. I have a pretty good idea of it, but I’m still allowing it to be somewhat fluid as events change so much between conception and actual execution. I’ve found this to be the best method for telling a story, as I’ve mentioned before – keep that balance between spontaneity and structure.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep cranking away and keep you guys updated. I really want to get this one done by August and a series of events have convinced me that it’s time to redouble my efforts to get there, even if it means pushing other priorities down the list (though not the day job, that one’s non-negotiable). Funny, though, I use that flashback app that rounds up your posts from the previous five years for that date and one of the recent posts talked about how I was going to have to write new chapters for this novel and how it would be a long process – oh how naive it feels.

So yeah. I still owe you guys a longer, more emotionally-charged post, but I’m not there yet, time-wise or emotion-wise. I also owe you the continuation of the questions, but again, just don’t have the time. I’ll be back with that next week, hopefully. In the meantime, hope all is well with you in these strange, strange times.

Something for Now

Hey, heads up right away that this will be an abbreviated entry. Apologies, between this and the late entry last week it must seem that I’m slacking on my duties, but honestly I’m just slammed and at a weird point in my life. I haven’t had a good, restful week in over two months. At least I can share it with you? Maybe that’s the one saving grace of this whole mess.

As I mentioned last week, we lost a beloved pet, which sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Thursday morning started out looking somewhat okay – looked like a snow day, which would mean not too many people bothering me on messenger and a chance to get caught up with work and writing. Went out to do the morning ritual of feeding the cats and guinea pigs and found poor Wendell dead in his cage.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected; he had always been a frail guinea pig, victim of some mystery illness that the vets couldn’t quite sniff out. I suspect some form of cancer, as he had a cyst early in his life and was never quite the same after, but his tests came up clean for some reason.

So we knew our time with him would always be short, and honestly, we were damn lucky to get the four years that we got, but you’re never quite ready for it. It hit us hard, and it seems to have hit the other pigs as well, maybe moreso Quimby than Bertram. The latter seemed a little shell shocked for a day or two, but has returned to his normal self, while Quimby preferred to hide away and shunned any contact for a bit. We hung in there with him, though, and he’s come back out of his shell a bit. We really had no idea that they were so close, as they lived in separate cages and males don’t usually bond that much. All we can really do is be there for him until he gets through it.

Anyway, we’ll miss Wendell, and definitely remember him. He was one of those unforgettable pets.

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All right, so like I said, shortened entry this week. Just too much going on between our loss, last week’s storm, a whirlwind weekend, and a job interview. Just wanted to check in with you guys and let you know that I’m still here, still cranking away. Time is by far the most significant issue that I’m encountering at the moment. The desire is still there, along with the will and/or motivation, whatever you want to call it. I just cannot find the time to work on the novel without something else intervening. I mean, hell, I’m managing to write between 10,000 and 20,000 words a week, but it’s always on something other than the book. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it.

Next week is going to have to be the center of an attempt to refocus on the novel if I want to finish it this year. At one point I thought I might have this done by July or August, but it’s beginning to look doubtful. Hopefully I can manage a few weeks of just working on it, and nothing but. Maybe a vacation in May? I don’t know. Next time we’ll catch up on last week’s question and get a new one going. Until then…

This Vanishing World

Welcome back for the next thrilling installment! Thanks for joining me again.

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Promo talk time. Maybe you recall me mentioning a Valentine’s Day Special last week? Well, starting on February 13th we (myself and the awesome ladies of Dark World Books) are running a special on Corridors of the Dead, Pathways of the Dead, and Room 3, with each priced at 99 cents until February 20th. My capable assistant Franny is handling the promotional details, but I should have more news in the next day or two.

Connection

Alright, I’ve told you why I walked away from things and what it means to be back. Let’s wrap this up with marketing talk. The most important promise I can make is that I won’t just shout at you. No more schemes, no more mindless broadcasting on Twitter, Tsu, or Facebook; the new focus is in-depth, targeted information about key themes, events, and locations in my life and stories, a means of connecting more deeply with you, the reader. This blog is “home base” for these efforts, though you can expect to see more on Facebook, Twitter, Tsu, and many other places in the coming months.

Right now I’m still in broadcast mode, but that changes next week, when I plan to post a question of the week and spur discussion by sharing my answer first. I don’t expect many answers for the first few months, but I hope that at some point you’ll participate, as together we – and hopefully that includes you – will figure out where this is all headed.

Might as Well Face It

It might seem odd to discuss love addiction when we’re so close to Valentine’s Day, but I think it’s appropriate. I know the very concept of love addiction sounds preposterous – straight out of that cheesy Robert Palmer song – but it exists, and I have seen its effects firsthand. It can be just as if not more insidious than its cousin, sex addiction, as it’s far more culturally accepted.

Think about it, songs, books, and movies are written about how we lose ourselves in the process of falling in love. I mean, hell, Valentine’s Day itself is built upon the notion of love transforming our mental state and making us do things that we wouldn’t normally do.

Now I could write a book on the difference between love the noun and love the verb, but all I’ll say here is that sometimes “falling in love” conceals flaws in our own thinking. Now imagine getting hooked on the sensation of falling in love rather than the object of your affection. What to do? A normal relationship only stays in that phase for so long, leaving you with the reality that neither of you are very perfect. Some people deal with this by trying to change and control their partner into being their fantasy lover; others pursue a never-ending string of new people. Both become an endless pursuit of some divine state that by its nature cannot be sustained.

This is love addiction.

And so we get to Lindsay, the recovering sex/love addict (they can coexist within one person) with whom Dean falls in love. Lindsay joined the recovery group after a series of disastrous liaisons with coworkers, culminating in one of them paying her for sex. Her behavior is viewed through the lens of sex addiction, but she did not see these as one-off encounters, rather a series of betrayals by people that she loved. These were acts of courtship, not titillation.

This backwards logic leads her to select Dean. It’s still unclear whether it’s a bad choice; they do genuinely have a lot in common and care for one another, but it will be a hard road for her.

The Mother and Child Reunion

Speaking of dysfunctional behavior, let’s turn our gaze to Dean and try to understand what created the egotistical, sex-driven beast that we encounter at the beginning of the novel. This early personality is the construct of a Dean who doesn’t truly understand himself. Much of it is due to a dark, suppressed secret that I will save for your first read through the novel, but his parents share in creating this false self.

Dean grew up in the shadow of an overbearing, alcoholic mother whose sole joy in life was dominating her weak-willed husband and vulnerable son. This turned his mother into a feared and loved icon, with his father inspiring a great deal of his anger and hate, all of which warped Dean’s view of women and relationships.He has only ever known relationships to be a surrendering of the man’s will to the woman’s whims. Commitment is surrender.

This attitude transforms him into a misogynist who only pursues unavailable or unsuitable women, projecting the blame for his shortcomings onto the female population. He’d marry, if only women weren’t so shallow. If they didn’t “friendzone” him. As far as he’s concerned, women only want money and/or status, and so he uses those to get the one thing that he wants – sex. Maybe one day that perfect woman will arrive, but until then he has no use for romance, as it’s only an excuse to put a leash on a man.

The good news is that this guy doesn’t stick around for long, as his attitude leads him to the brink of jail time and losing one of the few things he values: his license to practice dentistry. Life is forcing him to understand his flaws and break the cycle, a process which will span Books One and Two and drag him and Lindsay through hell and back.

Photo(s) of the week

Now for this week’s photo(s), which tie perfectly into the themes of what I’m coming to think of as the Shenandoah Valley series. This series is both borne of and a commentary upon my complicated relationship with rural America. I grew up in a small rural town, one that I both loved and wished to escape. Sound familiar? It was not an easy life, but even in the struggles I found untold rewards and riches. Even at a young age I recognized that the country offers so many untold stories, ones that lurk on dusty back roads and mountain ridges, tucked away from the prying eyes of the outside world.

I realized a few years ago that this secret world is vanishing as the ultra-rich take the spots once occupied by hard-working, blue collar folks like my family. Obviously I don’t have the power to stop this change, but I can document what remains while it’s still possible. So my wife and I ride the backroads, searching of signs of that vanishing world and its decay, hoping to capture what’s left before it gets bulldozed for another McMansion.

In that spirit, I’ve chosen two pictures this week, both of which represent this vanishing world. The first appears to be a decaying restaurant or service station that lies at the intersection of two relatively well-groomed roads, surrounded by a growing cluster of McMansions. I give it a year, maybe two at the most before it’s gone.

The second is an old farmhouse that’s hidden down an old dirt road in a place not likely to be gentrified for quite some time. This building is truly something special, a structure that should be preserved for history, not left to rot. It appears to have started as an old stone house, likely sometime in the 1800s; over the years its residents added a wooden attic, later tacking and on the white facade. This place had a powerful, ancient feel to it – very creepy and foreboding, the kind of place populated by uneasy ghosts rather than harried exurbanites. I wish I could put you there with me, but for now, I hope the pictures suffice.

And that will be it for this week. Next time, expect a proper status update on the novel, a talk about Dean and religion, and the first question for an interactive discussion.

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Return to Form?

A strange thing occurred to me this morning as I brushed my teeth and did that old study-yourself-in-the-mirror thing, and it’s strange specifically because of when it happened. I realized that I’m not done writing dark fantasy. Part of me has been flirting with abandoning the genre altogether and going full-on literary, though I’m not proud to admit that here. I now realize that was based on a belief that my dark fantasy had to be cleverly structure and draw the reader on with its mysteries. Don’t get me wrong, I think that can be a fun way to write a story and if I’m allowed to toot my own horn a little I think Room 3 benefitted enormously from the approach, but my critique group has enlightened me to some of the problems inherent in what I’ve been doing.

Linear storytelling has never been my cup of tea. Even when I wrote short fiction in college I had a tendency to jump all over the place in the timeline and allow the reader to reconstruct the tale. There’s something to be said for it, that you experience the twists and turns of discovery right along with the reader and allow them to share in some of the mystique of the creative process.

The problem comes when the structure drives the story, rather than the story driving the structure. I had become so enamored of the approach that it blinded me to the possibilities of really toiling away at a linear piece and turning some of the energy devoted to high-flying literary acrobatics to instead focusing on the word craft and emotional texture. Hey, it’s all a learning process until the day we die, right? Anyway, this leads me to the conclusion that I’m not done with dark fantasy, as I haven’t attempted a truly straightforward, linear piece without a central mystery. I want to see how I could stretch my wings in such an environment.

So, mea culpa to those who have read my dark fantasy works to this point. You guys aren’t forgotten, I just need to work this stuff out of my system so I can come back and do something (hopefully) really dynamite. Still lots out there waiting to be written, it’s more a question of time than desire.

Oh, and a total side-note, anyone watching Under the Dome this season? Could that thing be any more ridiculous and overwrought?

Post 500? Meh

I guess this is technically my 500th post, but age has proven that numbers really mean very little. The important milestones are those with emotional significance, those that connect you with other people, not the ones that are the result of simple accumulation. There’s a metaphor for consumerism in there.

Anyway, occupied with editing Came to Believe for critique group review, so have (for my money) the greatest song based on a painting:

Where Things Stand

So it’s been awhile. Well over three months, closing in on four, and I’m sure some people have questions about my silence. Maybe not many, but a few. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t have told you what the silence meant. It’s not that I didn’t feel inspired, it’s just…well, look. I sat down to write, really write, back at the end of August and I discovered something new: while I love writing, I’m not fully in love with being a writer. And I think the two things are very different.

What has this realization meant? An almost total pull-back from marketing efforts. A long, hard look at what I want to do with my career. A lot of writing, and I mean more than I’ve written in my entire life. Lots of considerations, and my mind tends to work best when I push those ideas to the subconscious and plow ahead with day-to-day life, so it’s taken some time to get here.

This isn’t a resignation letter, although I do recognize it sounds like one, especially with that ominous title. It’s more a statement of intent. I mean, first things first, did you guys know I released my third novel a few weeks back? I really did! The sequel to Corridors of the Dead, Pathways of the Dead, is out there, and I’m proud of it. Yet I’ve done zero marketing, and again it comes back to the question of why.

The truth is that my heart is no longer really in dark fiction. Oh, I plan to finish the Among the Dead series, don’t fret on that one, dearies. The first draft of City of the Dead is already halfway finished and on the backburner as I plow through the first revision of my next novel, and I know how most of Portal goes down, including the ending. It’s going to be a fun ride.

But it’s not where my heart is.

Today my heart is with a deeply flawed sex addict dentist named Dean and his struggles after his wife passes away in a tragic car accident. It’s with a woman who moves back to her small town home after 20 years in the wilderness to discover that not much has changed. It’s with a circle of friends and how one tragedy forms a fulcrum that changes their lives in a myriad of ways.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve rediscovered my love for literary fiction and want to take it “mainstream”. I’m plowing through the next book, tentatively titled Broken Wing and Rusted Drill, and plan to pitch it to literary agents once it’s done in hopes of getting a deal with a larger publisher. As I told a coworker last week, I’ve never really known how to sell books like Room 3 and Corridors of the Dead, but I know just how to sell Broken Wing and its sister titles. If a major won’t take it, I’ll scour the smaller publishers. I believe in the title and think it will place somewhere. Will it sell? Well, I hope so. No way to find out unless I try.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to self-publish the dark fiction with Qwendellonia, at least until the end of Portal. I guess it just means that my indie experiment currently has an expiration date. Maybe I’ll end up back here afterwards, who knows? But I think I’m ready to communicate with you guys again either way, in a more mature fashion. No more bullshit.

Good to see you again.

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Not Forgotten

Hey everybody, just wanted to check in really quickly. Site is not forgotten, neither is the most recent series, so no worries on that front. I’m in extreme crunch time at the moment, having finished another novel right before I publish Pathways, so I’m trying to catch back up with the Pathways schedule (which seems to be shot again) while finishing the Corridors clean-up. My apologies to those waiting on the next installment, but it is coming. The delays are making for a better book and aligning my schedule to better get City and Portal out in a much more timely fashion. Everything is just about nailed down at this point to make that work.

Also entered a contest to write a themed 7,000-word short horror story by October 5th, so there’s a lot of activity going on there. Once that’s all done I’d really like to make it a freebie for you guys.

Other than that, reviews for Room 3 are holding up so far, and thank goodness because the book really means a lot to me. Thanks to everyone who’s enjoyed it and reviewed it so far. I have a good feeling about where this is all going, so hang in there with me…

Status Update for a Quiet April

Hey everybody, back again. Before I get started, a reminder that I’ll be appearing in Kensington, Maryland on Sunday at the Kensington Day of the Book festival. I’ll have copies of all my books there and will be happy to sign any existing copies that you might have, or even just chit-chat.

As for other matters, I’m sure like five of you are probably wondering where I am these days, and that’s an excellent question. The good news is that I’m doing lots of writing. The bad news is that I’m not doing it here. This site is definitely not abandoned, so no worries on that, I’m just slowing it down as I need to dedicate more of the writing time and words to the novel itself.

And City of the Dead is going really well. I’ve received some great feedback from the critique group and I think the story, while complex, is really going to knock your pants off. Just about everything is an upgrade from Corridors of the Dead – more action, more mystery, and more drama, with the last third of the book just completely coming unhinged (in a good way). I know I probably sound like a shill for my own work but I’m just excited by what’s coming together here and it’s why the book has so heavily drawn my attention of late.

Toby Neale put me back on the right path last week with the point that we need to connect with our characters first and foremost and that put things into the proper perspective. The characters are really what matter and I do love them – I just needed to remember that.

Anyway. Book is sitting at just about 87,000 words and I’m approaching the end of the second section. Still not sure on the release time frame yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to have this draft done by the end of May, early June at the latest. From there it shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as Room 3, as it’s already seen way more eyes than Room 3 did when it hit beta. I’ve just been lucky to get a lot of the pain out of the way early.

So patience – good things are coming!

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