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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Ground Control: Five Proponents (and Theories) of Ancient Astronauts Pt 1

Welcome back once again! This is a particularly interesting week for me, as I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. I’m still aiming to have the revised version of Corridors of the Dead out in the next two weeks (at least the eBook version) and editing is ongoing with Pathways of the Dead. Did I also mention I’m participating in a short story contest in September? Whew.

But here’s the big thing: I’ll be participating in a writing marathon this coming weekend. Four straight days of writing 10 to 11 hours a day. The goal? Finish a 50,000-word “novel” in four days. I have a concept, I have the majority of an outline (another goal for this week), and I have a detailed schedule. We’ll see if I can make it through, as this is typically a month’s worth of output, but I’m determined. Red Bull, Mountain Dew, and Nootropics will see me through, which reminds me, I really should talk about writing supplmements someday…

Anyway! Today we’re here to start the discussion on Ancient Astronauts. It’s a fascinating theory that’s pretty much completely bullshit but underlies the Among the Dead series. In my novels, the Watchers were extra-dimensional beings sent by the Aetelia (now known as angels) to help guide humanity’s evolution. This stuff is pretty much directly based on ancient astronaut theory, specifically the Anakim or Annunaki, often associated with the “historical” Watchers. It’s a lot to untangle, so let’s take a look at some of the proponents and their theories before talking about the underpinnings of the novels.

Erich-von-Daniken-1-300x227

1. Eric Von Daniken. Dude is completely out of his mind, but insanity is a plus here. Von Daniken is kind of the grandaddy of the movement and has been pushing his theories since the 60s. You may be familiar with his most famous work, Chariots of the Gods? In his view, buildings such as the pyramids, Stonehenge, and the Moai of Easter Island stand as evidence of extraterrestrial
visitation and exchange of technology. He has also famously claimed that much ancient art depicts alien visitors, the most famous of which is the Sarcophagus lid of Pacal the Great:

Pacal-Votans-Tomb-Lid-big

He claims that this depicts an ancient astronaut in his spaceship and I suppose I can see it, but I also see some of the more common motifs that gave rise to ideas like the Tree of Life. He also believed that religions arose as a way of explaining/recording these ancient contacts. I could write an entire entry just about the guy, but if you’re at all familiar with the concept of ancient astronauts, you’ve encountered his ideas, since they underlie so much of the “movement”. They’re so fundamental that I’ve never read a single Von Daniken book and yet a lot of his theories form the basis of my novels. Do I believe it? Hell no, but it’s fascinating to think about.

Sitchen

2.  Zecharia Sitchin. You have to admire this guy’s dedication. Originally an editor and journalist in Israel, he moved to New York in the 50s and became a shipping executive. While working there he taught himself Sumerian cuneiform. Who the hell does that? Anyway, Zecharia became convinced that the solar system held a hidden planet beyond Neptune. This planet, which he called Nibiru, allegedly follows an insanely long orbit and only passes within the range of the rest of the planets every 3600 years. Riiiight. It gets better, though; he believes that Nibiru once collided with a planet he called Tiamat, which once laid between Mars and Jupiter. This collision formed Earth, the asteroid belt, and all of the comets. I’m guessing the Van Oort cloud.

But wait, there’s more! Nibiru is home to an advanced alien race known as…drumroll please…the Anunaki. Also known as the Nephilim (or, as I call them in Among the Dead, Nephil, the half-breeds of Aetelia and humans). These “gods” came to Earth 450,000 years ago to mine natural resources and were the worker bees of the Nibiru colonization efforts. After some time one of the Nibiru, Enki, realized that they were getting screwed over on this deal so they would use SCIENCE to create a race of workers. And those workers…well, humans of course, the result of crossing their genes with homo erectus. Things went great up until 2,000 BC or so, at which point a nuclear war broke out and conveniently wiped away all traces of the old regime of Annunaki. I strongly suspect this whole thing serves as the basis for the Assassins Creed video game series, but only time will tell for certain.

So there you go, two of the Ancient Astronaut theories. Join us next time when we’ll dive in and get really crazy.

Ezekiel's_vision

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Judge Me By My Age: Five Characters Who Are Older Than They Appear Pt. 1

Welcome, welcome. I’m kicking off a new set of features for the site, kind of marrying the old style of Muse features with the new focus on the fiction itself. Tip of the hat to fellow author Marie Loughin for inspiration on that front and helping kick my butt into gear.

For the next few entries (roughly until the middle of next week), we’ll look at five characters in pop culture – mostly movies and novels – who are much older than they appear. This topic centers around one of the main characters of the Among the Dead cycle, Tommy. Born 9,000 years ago in a very different-looking version of the fertile crescent, Tammuz got his start as a scholar in pursuit of the knowledge of the really ancients. The Station tells the story of his discovery and how he ended up trapped in a child’s body, providing vital impetus to the story of City of the Dead, but we’ll get to that later.

For now, let’s start at the bottom.

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5. Claudia (Interview with the Vampire). I can’t point to one character as the “inspiration” for Tommy, but Claudia sure had a lot to do with his existence. For those few who haven’t read the series, Claudia was a six-year-old girl (twelve in the movie) turned into a vampire by Lestat in a particularly horrific turn of hubris and a desire to hold onto Louis. One of the more uncomfortable aspects of her character was the development of human female desires and traits in the body of a child. Tommy’s case is a little different, as he begins a man and ends up in a child’s body, but there are echoes of Claudia’s feelings for Louis in the relationship between Omarosa and Tommy. I tried to avoid the squick factor. I really did. But those characters practically insisted that they be lovers. Anyway, divorced of the ickiness, Claudia’s tale is actually quite fascinating. She’s a slave to others’ perception of her as a child, and it’s something that Tommy struggles with over the course of the series as well.

Eli

4. Eli (Let the Right One In). I guess it was inevitable that this list contain a lot of vampires, though Tommy himself ended up in his predicament through a strange glitch in the system that maintains the Multiverse. Eli shows up suddenly as a mysterious neighbor in this movie and the boy next door is immediately fascinated with her. As she explains once he learns her secret, “I’m twelve…. but I’ve been twelve for a long time.” Eli is conflicted by her place in the world in a very different manner from Claudia. Where Claudia and Tommy struggle with others’ perception of them, Eli has more directly embraced being both a “child” and the nature of being a vampire, but seems to suffer loneliness from living inside of that world that is only alleviated by the arrival of the protagonist, who struggles to understand her world. It’s an interesting angle, and one that could work well for a future story with Tommy.

And that’s it for this entry. Watch over for two more entries in this series over the next few weeks. Your hint for next time:

Hint Hint

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Let’s Catch Up

So obviously it’s been quite some time since my last update; unfortunately, this may be the new normal for awhile. Biggest problem is that I realized how many cycles ended up spent on blog posts rather than actual fiction. One or the other had to give, and the fiction won out. I’d love to be able to give you weekly updates on status, though, and will try to do better on that front.

This is the opposite of bleak news, however; it means that not only have I been deep in the grind on my next few novels, but that the overall quality of the series will be higher. So what have I been up to? Quick update:

  • After my first revision (incorporating notes from my critique group along with some of my own changes), the first three chapters and prologue of Pathways of the Dead were handed over to my front-line editor, who will be examining structure, internal consistency, and plotting. Once she’s done, it’s updates again then off to the beta readers.
  • I am roughly 30% into my first revision now, which translates to wrapping up Chapter 6 yesterday. Some threads have been removed for future novels, while others are being pumped up. The work is always slower at this point, but the future for the novel is very exciting and I really believe in this one.
  • I have been reviewing Corridors of the Dead not only to ensure consistency between the series but also for an upcoming revised edition. Mea culpa, the book is not exactly what I would have wanted. The story is not changing, but some of the words most certainly are, as it’s not up to my current standards. For those folks who have already read the book or have a copy, you’re not missing out on anything new. Promise.
  • City of the Dead is well under way. A good portion of the plot is set in stone and I’m already deep into Chapter Two on the first draft.
  • Notes have begun for Portal of the Dead. I can’t say too much more about that one since it’s still very fluid at this stage, but the key elements remain what they always have been.
  • The cover for City of the Dead eBook is ready; the artist is working on the Pathways cover for both eBook and print, along with print versions of Corridors and City. Once the Pathways cover is ready, we’ll be setting up a tour for the cover reveal, which sort of kicks off this phase of pre-release marketing.
  • Speaking of pre-release marketing, expect to see a WHOLE lot more about Pathways on this blog in the ramp-up to release. Previews, snippets, cut scenes, character profiles, and more. As with last time, this world is a joy to play in and I’ve grown to like it more and more throughout the drafting process. So much to share with you.

I’m still a little hazy on release date for Pathways, but if I had to pin it down, I would say early-to-mid October at this point. Just about a year after Room 3’s release. If nothing else, my release dates seem to consistently hit in the Autumn. Wish I could get you guys more than one book a year, but for at least the next three books this seems to be my lot in life. I guess I can either do quality or quantity, not both, as some writers manage. I’ll take quality.

Catch you soon.

It’s Been a Long Time…New Cover, Winners, and Other Matters

Welcome back, folks. Apologies once again for the delay in posting, but real life has been pulling me away not only from the blog but writing in general. Never fear, though, City of the Dead is practically writing itself (already it’s at 10,000 words and I can see the clear path from Point A to Point Z) and Pathways is entering the editing phase just as soon as I can shake the funk of just finishing a project. That’s an odd thing when you’re a writer, you often just want to get away from a project for awhile – let the subconscious kind of work on the next steps, you know?

So yeah, as I said, in the meantime City of the Dead (book 3 of the series) is roaring along. Things end at a very interesting place in Pathways, and the beginning of City is turning out to be an intriguing, dreamlike experience. Even knowing exactly where everything fits and how it plays out, I’m still fascinated with pushing it forward, which makes Pathways feel a little dull at the moment. That’s the natural course of things for me, anyway. Doesn’t make Pathways inferior or fated to be inferior. It just means that I need time. Besides, I like the idea of having book 3 very close to ready when book 2 launches. This may mean that I leave some space between Room 3 and the Pathways release, but in the end I believe it will be worth it. Honest!

I also have some exciting news to share with you: we have a winner! Well, several of them, actually. The last few weeks have been the tour for Room 3, courtesy of Dark World Book Tours, and we’ve had quite a response.  Lots of entries, but only a handful of winners. I won’t name all the winners here out of respect to their privacy, but congrats to all of you folks. Expect your prizes very soon!

One more bit of news before I check out to work on other things: the covers are coming.

Oh yes, they are coming.

For those eagle-eyed folks who know me on Facebook, they may have seen the latest (and, truly, final) cover of Corridors of the Dead cross in a special sneak peek. Here it is for all you regular readers!

corridors_cover_1800x2700Pretty slick, huh? There’s a coded symbolism at work on this cover, one of a woman who resists the entreaties to turn herself into a weapon and finds herself in the midst of a crumbling world. And here’s the thing: the reason that I’m fairly confident this will be the last cover is that we’re working on the remaining covers in the series and they all align with the themes on this cover. So yes, a City of the Dead cover exists, and Pathways is coming along. Expect a reveal tour sometime in August as things begin to ramp up for Pathways.

In the meantime, thanks for all the support. Hope I can communicate more with folks as things go forward. Just hope for a quieter Summer than the one I’ve had so far.

 

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My Next Novel? Yeah, That’s Finished.

Had a long weekend out of town so this is my first chance to share with you, the reader, but Thursday evening I nailed down the first draft of the second book in the Among the Dead series, Pathways of the Dead. Even now I can scarcely believe that it’s happened; I began what would become known as Pathways last summer and pushed through it even during the Room 3 publication process. I had anticipated the finished first draft in March or April. May is acceptable enough, but it had begun to feel like it just wasn’t going to happen.

Of course, this is far from the finish line. The book is still working its way through the various layers of critiques and editors (TWO editors on this one in addition to the critique group and beta readers). The next stage of the voyage begins on the 24th, when I send a first draft that’s been altered with critique comments to my content editor. She’ll sanity-check the thing and make sure that I haven’t somehow put a character’s pants on his head, that sort of thing. Common errors. From there I incorporate her changes and get it out to my lovely, dedicated beta readers. All of this goes on while the critique group continues to read through the evolving drafts until they reach the end. Once ALL of that’s done, it goes to my final editor for final say.

This is a change. While the editing process on the last two books have not been solely on my shoulders, there have been phases that were nothing but my own changes. If all goes well, this book will see nothing like that. I’ll make my own changes in tandem with suggestions from other authors, readers, and editors, making for a far more polished reading experience.

In the meantime, you can expect to see a new cover for Corridors to accompany a revised edition (no major cheats, just some cleaning-up of the text) that feeds right into Pathways. Pathways cover reveal will be done about a month prior to release, so watch this space for more information.

In the meantime, a quick FAQ for folks who read the first book. This will evolve over time and sit on the Among the Dead page.

1. What is this Pathways nonsense? I thought the sequel was called City of the Dead. I wanted that to be so, but the version of City that I had crafted would have been north of 200K+ words. A thematic split also became apparent during the drafting process, and so it only felt natural to split the two books. City of the Dead is still coming, it’s just book 3.

2. What do you mean by a thematic split? Among the Dead is a series that incorporates elements of many different genres. Book 1, Corridors of the Dead, was an urban fantasy-cum-coming-of-age tale. Pathways is more of an action film with some mystery elements. Book 3, City of the Dead, is a cross between a fantasy and a mystery with some elements of a metaphysical journey. Book 4, Portal of the Dead, is a fantasy thriller. Now imagine trying to maintain some thematic consistency between an action film and a slower mystery novel and you see why City had to be split.

3. Is it still a trilogy? No. Among the Dead is now four books.

4. Are you going to be one of those authors who just keeps going and going with the series? Given the ultimate ending of this series, it would be pretty difficult to keep going. I do have a few ideas for prequels under my vest, but those would be far, far off and only for a good reason. I do think that some of the characters introduced over the course of the series would constitute that good reason, such as Omarosa and Anushka.

5. Omarosa? Isn’t she that woman from the Apprentice? The name Omarosa is actually Babylonian; it referred to a mistress of the universe, probably meaning “the sea.” The name is highly appropriate for the character devoid of any popular connections. Besides, I like the name. We’re taking it back.

6. Who are some of the new characters? Well, you know about Omarosa. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll meet the creator of the robot, Jazshael, from Corridors of the Dead (and oh boy will you meet him). He’s a very interesting, complex character who will pop up again and again through the rest of the series. The original founder of the Acolytes, Alma, will appear. Two characters from Room 3 make appearances as well – see if you can spot them. Both have prominent roles, though one is a younger version of himself.

7. How many characters die this time? Will your blood lust ever be satisfied? ALL OF THE CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM. AND NEVER.

8. Where does Room 3 fit into all of this? Room 3 is a side-story to the series. You wouldn’t need to read it to understand what happens in Among the Dead, but some of the issues that pop up make a whole lot more sense when you understand just what the Watchers were up to in London in the late aughts. In time, I’ll fill in the gaps for folks who might have missed these connections.

9. Are you going to write about magick and fantasy all your life? No, sheesh, MOM. I actually have three literary books in the pipeline and am toying with the idea of using the whole Labor Day Rush method to write one of them. Crazy? Oh, probably, but it’s the best way I can think of to give myself the breathing room necessary to get one of those books out.

10. Okay, I’m interested. When can I buy it? Patience. Good work takes time…I’ll let you know as soon as I can.

Bottom line? STAY TUNED….

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Room 3 Tour Starts Today With the Avid Reader -and- Pathways of the Dead

Hey all, still on something of a self-imposed sabbatical to finish what had once been called City of the Dead…okay, well, sort of.

Let’s start with the tour information. First of all, there’s a giveaway! I’m working on getting the Rafflecopter code for it – you can check in here tomorrow for that – but for today you can hit up the current stop at The Avid Reader. That post features an excerpt and an interview with yours truly. I felt like this was a pretty good interview and worth checking out. Here’s a quick sample:

The Avid Reader: If you could travel back in time here on earth to any place or time. Where would you go and why?

Jonathan D Allen: Assuming that I could come back, I would love to see what came before the Sumerian and Babylonian cultures. I’ve always felt that the evolution of civilization felt incomplete, as if something were missing in the transition from tribes to cities. A lot of my work is about speculating on that connection, and I’d like to see just how off-base I might be.

I’ll be updating every day this week with every stop of the tour, and the tour runs for quite some time, so don’t panic if you can’t get in on the Rafflecopter right now.

In other news, Pathways of the Dead is now very close to the finish line, on the first draft at least. I thought I’d have it done by now but something popped up and it’s looking more like next week. With what remains of the book – finishing critique group, beta readers, editors, and loads of my own changes in between – I think we’re looking at early October. We’ll see, though. I’m definitely ready to get back into the blog swing of things, though. See you again soon.

 

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A Busy Summer on the Horizon

Hey all. Quick little set of announcements for the five people who might care:

  • May is going to be a busy month. We’ll have:
    • A giveaway co-sponsored by Grammarly – look for details about that in the coming weeks.
    • An appearance at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD.
    • A blog tour for Room 3 with plenty of prizes.
  • I’m going to be releasing at least two short stories this Summer. The first will be an expanded version of my story from Somewhere in the Shadows, On the Air. I’ll be firing up on this one soon.
  • The Among the Dead trilogy is now the Among the Dead Quartet. That’s right, I’m splitting City of the Dead into two books: Pathways of the Dead (which will release this year) and City of the Dead, which should release sometime next year. The current process for writing these, along with having a decent chunk of this new City of the Dead, should mean for a more rapid release schedule on the series. I’ll keep you posted.

I think that covers everything for the moment. Nothing too momentous, but at least the fiction is coming along well.

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They Kill Mondays, Don’t They? -or- A Sunday in Kensington

Happy Monday, y’all. You know, inspiration is a weird thing when you’re a writer; sit and wait around for it before writing and you’re bound to be disappointed. Sometimes it also abandons you even as you churn out page after page, leaving you to flounder for the right path forward through a story and yet you have to go on just the same because the alternative is leaving the page blank and allowing your precious time on Earth to slowly drain away.

And yet…sometimes it all fires. I have a confession: I really didn’t understand what would happen in the last third of City of the Dead. Oh, I knew exactly how the book ended and how that closing led to Portal of the Dead – that stuff’s been set in stone since 2011, but I didn’t know how the story got from Brooklyn to the City outskirts and from there to the temple in the center of the City. I also didn’t fully understand the nature of the City itself.

This is not as much of a problem as it might sound, however; I always knew that the City was tied to the subconscious, more a city of impressions and wild flights of fancy than concrete and mortar, so it seemed to make the most sense to rely on my imagination to fill in the gaps as the story proceeded. It can become something of a high-wire act. Will the answers come to you, or will you have to drag them out?

Funny thing happened, though: the answers began to appear in my dreams. On Friday night, in a dream, I found myself in a strange version of Washington, DC where the names of neighborhoods and towns shifted from one to the other. As those names changed, so too did the natures of the worlds that I inhabited. In one, the Metro train looked like ours. In another, it was made of brass, and so on. I ended up thoroughly confused and unsure of how to proceed. It was a pretty upsetting dream, but upon awakening I realized that this was the answer – this was the nature of the City of the Dead, and with that nature clarified, the history of the City laid before me. I jumped out of bed and wrote nearly a thousand words on that history.

That history pointed the way toward a chunk of the story. One of the major components had always been a race against time to learn the history of the city before something terrible happened. Now I understand that history and the nature of the obstacles that the characters must overcome to learn that history.

A large chunk of the City portion remained unsolved, however. I had no fear when it came to writing that, but I really had no idea how it would unfold. Until last night, at least, when I had a series of nightmares that seem to correspond to questions about identity and security – just the sort of questions that the character facing these trials would need to answer. I’ve been frantically writing down the nature of those dreams since, as they represent the missing pieces of the story.

So, two nights, two sets of dreams, and a large portion of the story is laid bare. That’s what I call inspiration, folks. You never know where it will strike, but when it does, you have to grab hold of it.

Now then. Yesterday was a fairly important day, as it marks the beginning of my Spring marketing endeavors. Yesterday was the Kensington Day of the Book Festival in Kensington, Maryland. We arrived around 10:30 yesterday morning and, after some confusion on our table location, got things set up. I had had some concerns about the new table layout, but I think it turned out just fine:

Table

Sales were pretty flat, but I’ve come to realize that these shows aren’t necessarily about sales. They’re about making connections with readers, other authors, and promoters especially. I was approached about a few different promotions which could bear fruit in the near future and made some new author friends. Given that I had set out expecting not to make much of anything and just show my public face, those were a nice bonus. I’m hoping that the May show is a little busier and we make a little more money, but this is a slow build and just making people aware of my name right now is very important. I’ll update you guys as the marketing progresses.

 

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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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