You can check out my books on, and at Barnes & Noble too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Making NaNo Work for You

Here we are on the fifteenth, right smack in the middle of November. And, if you're a writer, smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo. As of this point, I've written about 14k words, which is better than I thought I'd do, but nowhere near what I need to complete 50k words in just one month. 

Any time you talk about NaNo, you're met with mixed reactions. Some are gung-ho, some flat-out refuse to participate, and some are on the fence. I react to it the same way I do to all things trending and buzzed-about in the book world: do what works for you. There's plenty of posts out there about how to hit the desired word count. This is a post about letting NaNo work for you, as opposed to the other way around. 

Literally the only month that would make for a worse selection as "National Novel Writing Month" is December. It's bad enough as it is in November. I'm helping to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, and it's just not possible to run the vacuum, crumble cornbread for dressing, and write brilliant sentences at the same time (believe me, I've tried in years past). So right out of the gate, with the holiday, and the lead-up to Christmas, and the daylight getting cut back by an hour, you're at a huge disadvantage. 

So what's it good for? I think NaNo is a great push for writers who need one. And let's be honest, most of us need a good push now and then. I look at it not as a contest that you sign up for and participate in - because I'm not, nor will I ever be a social writer (more on that later) - but as a way to challenge yourself. Your goal is 50k words on paper, sure, but the point, I think, is to just get in a good habit of writing every day with purpose, and limiting distractions. I think NaNo is a great way for writers to mentally knuckle down and Get Stuff Done. 

Know How You Work Best
In order to do your best work, you have to know how you work best. Are you a morning or evening writer? Do you like to write straight through, or hop around? Are you an extrovert - inspired by social interactions? Or an introvert - drained by social interactions? 

I'm an introvert, at my creative best when sitting alone, music playing quietly, without any outside voices in my head. Alone time - quietly reading or daydreaming - is the time when I recharge and find my writing voice again. Being around others, even if it's fun, mentally and physically drains me. Are you someone who, after a night out with friends, just wants to lie down and be quiet for a while? You're probably an introvert like I am. And for true introverts, social media is a horrible brain- and soul-sucking death trap of badness. 

Because I'm writing professionally at this point, I have to have a constant, daily social media presence. But if this is your first novel, by all means take advantage of the anonymity and keep off social media. I bet you'd be surprised by your productivity. 

Set Reasonable Goals
Last year, I realized that I could make my final word count with a daily word count goal of only 1,600 words. I loved this because it allowed me flexibility. Some days I didn't meet it, and some days I exceeded it. By the end of the month, I'd surpassed my final goal, but it hadn't felt like a struggle. If you know you won't be able to reach 50k, then don't sweat it. Use the month as a motivational tool to simply write more, no matter the word count. 

Don't Compare Yourself to Others
You aren't writing their book, and you don't live their day-to-day life. Sometimes comparison can be motivating, but for the most part I think it leaves you with a sense of inadequacy. I've struggled a little over the past year realizing that a 500+ page book takes a long time to write, and that it's important to listen to my body when health and wellness make writing difficult. Again, because I write professionally, I have to just limp through on the days when I don't feel like it, but if you're starting out, don't rush yourself. Don't look at others' numbers and find yourself lacking. That sort of thing is a creativity killer. 

Have Fun With It
The way you look at something can greatly affect its level of stress, so I think we ought to look at NaNo as something fun to challenge us, and not a requirement that makes us want to pull our hair out. It's better to write 20k great words than 50k mediocre ones that are slapped on the page in the name of making word count. 

At the end of the day, writing is a deeply personal, deeply solitary art, one that taps into all your emotions and motivations. If NaNo helps you be a better writer, then get after it. If it doesn't, well...I'm not in favor of anything that squashes sprit and creativity. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Up Next...

What happened on the Eastern Front seventy-five years ago was just the beginning. 

Now, a warrior and a witch are on the run.

She was his Red.
And he was her Rooster.

They fled New York five years ago, but it's the best place to find some allies...

The immortals are starting to find one another, now that Vlad's awake, and an heir is alive, and a storm is gathering on the horizon. 

The adventure that began in White Wolf continues next year.

Sons of Rome Book Two:

Red Rooster

Coming 2018

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The World of the Sons of Rome Series

*rolls up sleeves*

*rubs hands together gleefully*

White Wolf is officially a week old today! I want to say a great big "thank you" to my readers, to all of you who've bought the book, and to those who've let me know how much you've enjoyed it. It's been incredibly exciting to read your comments and reviews, and know that you get it. Thank you!

I started writing in earnest back in January, and it's been so difficult to keep quiet and not blurt out a bunch of spoilers - that's how excited I was. Now that the book is out in the real world, I feel like I can finally talk about the world of this new series

All fiction requires world-building, no matter how true-to-life the setting. Knoxville is a real city, but when I write Dartmoor, I'm writing a fictionalized version of it, one secretly run by the Lean Dogs, populated with local businesses of my own making. In every fictional book, it's an author's job to build up the setting so that it feels like a real address rather than a collection of props at a stage play. 

As much as I adore high fantasy, I've known for a while now that making a story feel grounded in the real world is one of my strong suits, so it was important to me that the Sons of Rome take place in our world, past and present. My personal approach to writing paranormal involves characters who happen to be supernatural, living in the real world, rather than a supernatural world visited by a few key real-world visitors.

I want to pull the veil back slowly; the paranormal elements are undeniably there, but revealed as plot points and important character traits. As with all my work, I want it be an immersive reading experience, so you sink down into the story, into the magic, getting to know the characters, coming to care for them, without bogging you down with checklists of "monster rules," so to speak. 

One of my favorite things about the series - and the world-building, I suppose - is the way it feels really geek-friendly. This isn't a book series for readers who want a sequence of standalones with neatly wrapped-up HEAs and couple-driven plots. There's romance - and starting with book two there's a lot more of it going forward - and there is a sense of resolution in each book, but mostly it's the kind of ongoing narrative like you'd see in the Outlander or Song of Ice and Fire series. A series specifically designed for readers like me who want to get invested in a set of characters and follow them on a long adventure. I love the free rein that gives me. I have a series outline, but there's plenty of room for side plots and bonus novellas to help round out the world. 

As far as the timeline goes, the series stretches from the founding of Rome to the present day, so be prepared for lots of flashbacks and historical portions.

It's going to be a long trip, and I'm thrilled so many of you have started it with me. Thank you, all. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

#WhiteWolf Debriefing Part II: Character

My mantra is that it’s all about the characters. No matter the subject matter, no matter the setting, no matter the action – as a writer, I have to love and believe in the characters in order to tell their stories. With every book, the goal is to create characters who stand on their own as individuals; who aren’t there for the sake of eye candy, but who are truly interesting, no matter what they’re doing. Characters who are people first, professions and habits second.

With White Wolf, the added challenge was the paranormal element. Personally, I love all things spooky, gothic, darkly atmospheric, and just a touch monstrous. I love vampires, and werewolves, and ghosts, and the things that lurk in the shadows. But I don’t think any of those things should ever overshadow character. In my years of reading fantasy, science-fiction, and paranormal books, I’ve found that when the concept of a story weighs heavier than the characters in a story, the book suffers overall. It might be cool, but it isn’t something that sticks with you. The stories we carry with us, the ones we obsess over, are the ones in which we loved, hated, or in some way identified with the characters.

And so my goal with the Sons of Rome series is to write books about people…some of whom happen to be immortal, or who have powers. Some of whom might drink blood.

Books can struggle, I think, when extraordinary characters are caught up in mundane, ordinary drama. What I want to do is write ordinary characters caught up in extraordinary scenarios…which in turn call upon them to be extraordinarily brave. I think that’s why comic books, and movies based upon them, have always been so wildly successful: the audience can readily identify with the central figures, who are just regular folks trying to get by, and who are then called upon to react to insane situations that test them again and again. As the audience, we aren’t simply told about someone’s exploits, like a bored guest at a dinner party who just wants the braggadocios jerk at the center of the room to shut up already. Instead, we’re right there with the characters, taking the journey with them.

One thing that’s very exciting for me as a writer is getting the chance to write about some real life historical figures, some of whom have become a part of pop culture. The challenge for me, and one I’m looking forward to, is to take someone like Vlad Tepes and move beyond the myth, to write him as a man, someone multi-dimensional and sympathetic. To write him as someone who isn’t fictionally superior to my original characters, who can interact with them all in a meaningful way.

At this point, I have lots of favorites. Val for covering his loneliness and anger with sarcasm and polish. Nikita for his grim determination and aloofness. Sasha for being a sweetheart, when he has very little reason to be. And I’m especially looking forward to spending more time with the titular character of book two, who is one of those special mortals who carries just as much weight as the immortal monsters around him.

I especially love that this series isn’t comprised of tidy romances, because it allows me to explore all the characters as we move forward, letting them grow and mature in a realistic, organic way, rather than forcing a happy ending for each book. As a writer, I want to keep challenging myself, to be a better writer with every day, every chapter, every book. I think even readers who don’t normally read paranormal books will be able to fall in love with these characters, and I hope you’ll all give them a chance.

Happy Saturday. More debriefing to come in the days ahead.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

#WhiteWolf Debriefing Part I: Impressions

*Spoiler-free for anyone who hasn't read/hasn't finished yet*

The scary part about anticipating something for a long time is the possibility that it won't turn out as wonderfully as you'd hoped. Be it a vacation, a reunion, a movie, or, yes, a book - there's always that fear that it won't live up to your expectations, and then you'll be let down. In this particular case, for me, the worry was about writing. Because the Sons of Rome series is something that's lived in buds, and half-formed sprouts, and secret little carefully-nurtured hothouses in my mind for a long time. Because I was the child who was allowed to stay up and watch old monster movies, and I always wanted to tell my own monster stories. The questions were only how? and when? and in what way? After years of squirrelling away characters and scenes, it was finally time to start work on this dream I'd been guarding for so long, and I was nervous.

No, I was terrified. 

Writing a book is - in an appropriate metaphor given certain scenes in White Wolf - a bit like going on a long train trip. The old fashioned kind. Let's say, just for fun...on the Trans-Siberian Railway. You board with a stomach full of butterflies...and proceed to sit. For a very...long...time. You stretch your legs occasionally, but you don't go far. You stare longingly out the windows. You eat and read and nap sitting down. The train stops along the way, but they aren't your stops, and so you never get off. Sometimes the scenery is all breathtaking icy vistas, the sun-kissed snow shining like glass. And sometimes it's night out, and the windows are dark, and you start to wonder if you'll ever really get there. But you finally arrive at your destination, disembark, and you're not at all in the same place you were when you started. 

That's where it gets dangerous. What if you've come all this way...and you don't like where you ended up?

Well, for me this time, I can say with much relief and satisfaction that I'm thrilled with where I ended up. As corny and melodramatic as it probably sounds, I came out the other side of Wolf White feeling like an important transition had taken place. I feel like a better writer. More seasoned, for sure, and definitely more confident. I'm so glad I can say that the first leg of the trip - and it's going to be a long trip - was worthwhile. For me, at least.

As for the book itself:

There's something I really love about a good war story - and I'm thinking here of Tim O'Brien or Kurt Vonnegut - that I think of as defining those kinds of tales. Even as the story moves forward in a linear fashion, we the readers begin to feel a little punch-drunk alongside our heroes. The narrative unfolds in a sequence of raw, visceral patches of violence, undercut but an ordinariness that, by contrast, hits us almost like joy. A good war story is a wound that won't heal; a scab we keep picking at, just to feel the hurt. 

When my mom read White Wolf, she described it as an odyssey, which I thought was lovely. Because it is an odyssey, more so than it is anything else, probably. And I can only hope I managed to capture a little of that raw war story feel as well. 

Writing this one felt unlike any other writing experience. The characters stood out cleanly as individuals, fully-formed, but prickly, hard to get to know - hard to stitch together. They knew I was new at this genre - as a writer, anyway - and so they were patient with me. And so the whole writing process was an odyssey for me as well, and now, after, I feel exuberant and ready to tackle the next leg of the trip. And the next, and the next. 

All this rambling nonsense is just to say: this one felt different. Dynamic, and challenging, and like a new beginning. And while different can be scary at the outset, being nervous probably means you're doing the thing you're supposed to be doing. I've always wanted to write a vampire story, and while I had no idea it would end up being this one, I'm having a marvelous time.

Cheers to the unexpected taking you by surprise.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

White Wolf is Live!

It's live!! 

This series has been a long time coming for me, and I'm so thrilled to finally kick things off with book one. This is one of those action-adventure, get-obsessed, geeking-encouraged series that I hope you'll all enjoy as much as I already do. 

You can get it here:
*paperback coming later in the day

And if you haven't already, come join the Sons of Rome readers' group on FB for deeper discussion.

Happy Halloween, and happy reading! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

One More Week!

Just one more week to go until one of my favorite holidays...and the release of White Wolf

Here's what you can expect:

- White Wolf is definitely not a standalone. Each book in the series has its own storyline, which will be wrapped up for the most part by the end, but the series as a whole reads like a fantasy saga, with an ongoing plot that unfolds slowly as the series progresses, with characters growing and changing throughout. While the romantic storylines play an important part, the books are not couple-centered, and the love stories continue to evolve over time. This series is for anyone who really wants to sink his or her teeth into a series with plenty of action, intrigue, and complicated relationships of all kinds.

- The Sons of Rome series is definitely intended for adult audiences.

- Comps? Think along the lines of Underworld, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, and even Supernatural. Unapologetically paranormal, but grounded in the real world, with a major emphasis on interpersonal relationships. Heavy influences include Dracula, real world vampire legends, and the collected works of Poe and Irving. 

- About half of the book, clearly marked, takes place in 1942, but the ongoing storyline that will continue into book two will take place in the present day. 

- The short story prelude, "The Stalker," will be included in the paperback version of the novel, for everyone who likes to read the real thing.

White Wolf releases one week from today! I can't wait to share it with you all.