Self-Rescuing Damsels

I’m really excited to have my story, “Ashna’s Heart” as part of Swords, Sorcery, & Self-Rescuing Damsels. This is the story of a fire mage named Kyla who is willing do anything and everything to save her home and her people. But to do so, she must leave her home behind and set out in search of her mentor who stole Ashna’s Heart, which is the only thing that can quiet the volcano at the …

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Saturday Stories: A Brief Introduction

I write a lot of short stories (I’ll be hitting 100 finished short stories and novelettes later this year) and I am looking for a way to both get them out and share them with all of you. So I’m going to post some of them here, on this website, for free. This whole free thing is a “thank you” to all of you that follow along here or on facebook or twitter. I’m coming …

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Of Things Not Seen Stands Alone

I made a mistake last year when I released Of Things Not Seen: A Ghost’s Memoir, Book 3. It’s the subtitle and the “Book 3” part that is misleading. Kind of. It is Book 3 in the series and features Jesus, the secondary character from Shuffled Off and To Be a Fool. It also overlaps with the events of To Be a Fool and follows Jesus from the time he leaves at the end of …

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Back to the Graveyard

I love my ghost friends: JJ, Jesus, Banquo, and all the rest–they are so real to me. With three novels down and a fourth in the works, I must. My “A Ghost’s Memoir” world (Shuffled Off, Drawing the Dead, and To Be a Fool) with it’s SECI chamber (basically a typewriter for ghosts) just begs for more stories and more ghosts. Tales of those who have “shuffled off the mortal coil,” live among us, and are trying to find …

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Making Art With Your Friends

Writers are strange. Their imagined worlds are often so compelling that the “real” world has trouble keeping up. Writer brains are different, they will imagine a character they love and then imagine all the ways they can make that characters life a living hell (often with a triumphant ending, of course). They think about story constantly. What works and what doesn’t. What satisfies and what disappoints. How we learn from story and how we are …

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The Heart of the Hero

I love myths. I love the grand displays such stories can make. Heroes can be heroic. They can display courage and sacrifice themselves for the greater good. They can face their fear and overwhelming odds and still take action. And that’s fun to watch. Superheroes stories are modern myths. My latest superhero/love story adventure is out. Protocol X. In it we get to the heart of our super-hero, Nick Nichols / Neutrinoman. He’s a romantic. …

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A Fool’s Journey

My new novel, To Be a Fool: A Ghost’s Memoir, Book 2 is here and I’ve got a huge sale going on! Well, partially here. The ebook is out and the print book will be coming soon (I’m taking preorders for it now). This book begins right where Shuffled Off ends, furthering the adventures of JJ Lynch, Jesus, and Banquo in the afterlife. Here’s what a few of my early readers had to say: “And …

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Now In Print – Meteor Attack!

Falling in love and saving the world… If you recall, I released the first episode in my Superhero/Love Story series (“Neutrinoman and Lightningirl: A Love Story”) last year. I’m still busy at work on it (two more episodes are in the pipeline) but in the meantime I have gotten the first episode into print. You might notice a rearrangement of the title. The episode name, “Meteor Attack!” is now the title and “Neutrinoman and Lightningirl: …

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Finding Inspiration (the making of Drawing the Dead, part 2)

This is the second, and last, part in a series on my novel, Drawing the Dead. You can read the first part here. In the first installment of this series, I talked about the formula for this novel, or really for any novel. Now I will talk about inspiration. Writing a novel is a long process, and as I writer, I find there has to be something in it for me. Beyond just the accomplishment of …

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A Novel Writing Formula (the making of Drawing the Dead, part 1)

Drawing-the-Dead-Cover-3d-TEST-2a-frontThis is the first part in a series on my novel, Drawing the Dead

In this installment I talk about the formula for how I wrote this novel. A behind-the-scenes look at the parts that made up the whole.

Before we get started, here’s the blurb for the book, so you know what it is about:

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Life and death are not that far apart…

What happens when we die? Viki Dobos knows. Her job is to help people talk to their dearly departed. She draws the deceased, and they come to life on the page… briefly. When a rich Russian man hires her and whisks her away to Hawaii, everything changes. The rich man wants her to do the forbidden, and a handsome man she meets on the beach needs her more than he knows. Viki will have to confront her past, face her fears, and risk everything to help them.

From the author of A Ghost’s Memoir series (Shuffled Off and To Be A Fool) comes an unforgettable story of life, death, and the strange places in between.

And now onto the formula…

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The Dream

If you’re going to do something big, it really helps to begin with a dream. Writing a novel is no exception, and this one started with a literal dream.

First a little back story. My wife, Aleia, has a rich dream life. Much more vivid and memorable than mine. I rarely remember my dreams in the morning, and when I do, they don’t stay with me long. Aleia often wakes up full of them and tells me her dreams before we get up. It’s the early part of the day before my brain is fully online, when reality hasn’t quite formed, when she tells me. I enjoy hearing them, but just like my own dreams, I promptly forget them. Her dreams (and mine) are nebulous cloud-like wisps that are often gone as soon as they form.

But not always…

One morning, I think it was early 2011, she woke up and told me her dream. She is sketching in charcoal our dear friend Wayne who died in 2004 (I’ve spoken about him here). After she is finished the drawing comes alive and Wayne talks to her.

As soon as she told me about it, I said, “That would make a great story.” Maybe that was the key (linking a dream to a story possibility), but it stuck in my brain, like a seed in fertile ground. Soon the idea took root and the sketch of a plot was clear.

The story would revolve around a medium named Viki Dobos who drew the dead (in pastels, a slight divergence from the dream), and helped her clients talk to their dearly departed. This is what Aleia was doing in her dream, and something we all wish we could do.

That dream was the hook for the story and the hook that got me engaged.

Do Something that Scares You

Writing a novel is scary. No doubt about it. My first novel, Shuffled Off, was something of an accident. I wasn’t trying to write a novel. I was just following the story and a novel is what happened.

When I first conceived of Drawing the Dead, I didn’t think it was going to be a novel. I was absolutely sure it would be about 30,000 words (around 150 pages) making it what is called a “novella.” So, in my mind this wasn’t a novel I was writing, so not scary yet.

But the scary part was there…. A female protagonist.

You see when stories come to me, I don’t argue with them. Changing Viki into a male character to suit my comfort level, would have been a disaster. Following the story as it came to me… well, that’s all I can do.

Ursula Le Guin has a wonderful collection of essays on writing called The Language of the Night. This is the book that got me back to writing at the end of 2008. In it she talks about the writer delving deep into the collective unconscious and coming back with stories. More like a discovery than a creation. It has always been this way for me. The stories and characters lead, I follow.

So a female protagonist it would be.

Scary, but as it turns out in art, scary is good. Scary means you are trying something new, stretching yourself, growing.

Follow the Characters

I mentioned above that I though this book would be a novella. I was sure of it. And, every time I told Aleia this she would gently disagree. “No,” she would say, “I think it’s going to be a novel.”

I (again) didn’t want to write a novel.  Writing them is a long and arduous journey and takes a lot to bring to form. But, my process is to follow the characters, and that is what I did.

There are two different styles of writing that are on opposite ends of the spectrum. One is the “discovery writer,” that sits down and does it by the seat of their pants. The other is the “outliner,” that plans each scene before writing a word.

I lean way towards the “discovery” end. While I had a basic plot in mind when I sat down to write, I didn’t have an outline of any kind. (And yes this is very scary too… and very fun.)

So what happened to the novella that turned it into a novel? The characters took over and that 30,000 words turned into 63,000 words.

I remember right when it happened (sorry, not going to mention it, no spoilers), and it is the best feeling. I had characters, I knew who they were, but imagine what it feels like when they start doing things you didn’t plan. When they take over the narrative and complicate your story (and make it better).

Honestly this has happened with every novel I’ve written (there’s a third one coming later this year) and it is really my favorite part of writing.

When this happened I told Aleia, “Looks like it’s going to be a novel.” She just shook her head and said, “Uh-huh.”

Stephen King talks about this in his book, On Writing. He says (and it’s been a while since I read it, so this is paraphrased) that he wants to be surprised as a writer, and believes if he is surprised, his audience will be too.

It’s kind of like writing like you’re a reader. You’re on the journey too, not exactly sure what is going to happen.

Help (lots and lots of it)

While writing is a solitary activity,  you can’t write a novel alone. (Well, I guess you could, but I wouldn’t recommend reading one that was 100% solo.)

I had lots and lots of it for Drawing the Dead:

Do you see what I mean? That’s a lot of help, and each one of them made this a better book. And believe me, you don’t want to read my un-edited and un-proofed text (I’m sure there are plenty of mistakes in this blog post. All those folks aren’t helping me on this.)

The Formula

So, if I had to come up with a formula for writing a novel, this would be it:

Novel = Dream (literal or otherwise) + Do Something Scary + Follow the Characters + Lots of Help

Drawing the Dead is a product of this formula. Interested? Read the first few chapters right now.

Read about my inspiration for this book in the second part of the series.

Read moreA Novel Writing Formula (the making of Drawing the Dead, part 1)