“You’re Only As Good…” : The Intersection of Trauma, Fiction, and Publication

I know it probably sounds pathetic to most people that I identify myself so much by my career as an author – especially since I’m not and likely never will get rich doing it. I know there are plenty of people who, no matter what they say to my face, probably think it’s a waste of my time, because it’s not liable to make me rich.

 

I’ve always identified myself as an author… For as long as I can remember (back to even before I could read or write in reality), I’ve had that facet of myself, that identity wrapped up inside me. In my tumultuous childhood, writing was a lifeline, and the only voice I really had.  Life traumas have left me questioning whether or not I should have ever published, but never whether or not I should have ever written.  I think that’s the part that confuses some people.  They think the two are interlinked, and that if one writes, one must publish.

 

Truth? In some ways, I was much happier with my writing, before I published. The self-doubt and self-loathing I’ve struggled most of my life with didn’t invade my writing world until I published the first time… That was when the inner chorus of “See, you’re not worth anything” and “I told you no one wants you” and the “Why do you bother?” grew louder… and every time someone looks down their nose at me about “wasting time” or my “hobby,” that chorus gets louder still.  Every time the icy shoulders come out or someone talks over top of me or changes the subject when I start talking about my books, the chorus becomes more insistent.  Every time I schedule/pay for time to advertise, only to have someone else horn in, and everyone instantly turns their attention to that other person’s work, the chorus becomes deafening.

 

Truth? For every one person I’ve received an e-mail from about how much my work has helped them (and yes, there have been a number… I’m not discrediting that) over the years,  there have been twenty who haven’t even given me or my work a chance, and who’ve done the “snake oil salesman” routine, and told me “how wonderful” my work is, like I can’t see through them, and like I don’t know they’ve never read a word… not even the free postings I’ve offered over the years (and I’m not saying anyone has to read anything I write… what I’m asking for is honesty. If you don’t read it, don’t tell me you think it’s “wonderful”… I’d much rather you just said, “It’s not my speed” than lie to me, thanks.).

 

Am I bitter? No, that’s not the word I would use. Bitterness implies being angry at someone else, or a system, and I’m not. I know how this game is played. The problem is, I’m no good at playing it. I believe an author’s work should be able to speak for itself, not that the author should be out there prostituting themselves for the next reader… I know it’s a shabby way to look at things, and I’m likely to get backlash for it… I’m aware of that. But my truth is built on identifying myself by my work… I’m ashamed to say I allowed other people to dictate the kind of work I did, when I first started out. I allowed publishers to “sex up” my books, even though it destroyed the foundation of those books and characters, and stripped me of my own identity at the same time.

 

Who am I angry at for that?  I’m angry at me. I’m disgusted with my naivete, that I thought that was just how the industry worked, and that I had to go along with every change. I’m thoroughly annoyed at myself for allowing others to convince me I’m not good enough, that my work wasn’t good enough, unless I stripped away everything that made it me, and instead turned it into some kind of printed-page porno.

 

There’s a lot more to me, and to my work, than I think too many people give me credit for… And yet, I’m left with that rising chorus that says I’m worthless as a person, because I’m worthless as a writer, and that the proof is all around me… And, these days, without my identity as an author, I literally AM nothing. I keep writing, because I know that if I stop, if I pause long enough to take a breath, that swelling wave of self-doubt and self-loathing will drown me. And this time, it might just succeed in killing me.

Writing Crossroads and Publishing Options

I’m at a crossroads, of sorts, with my writing. I have two currently published series with books still due out, and two more under consideration. Over the past three decades I’ve been writing, and especially over the past decade I’ve been published, I’ve undergone a lot of changes and growth as an author, and now I find myself at a crossroads I can honestly say I never really considered hitting.

 

For most of my writing career, one of my major points of focus was to get published. It was a dream that kept me going, and writing, through some very difficult straits in my life. My drive was always to be published by an actual publishing house – whether small or big press didn’t matter to me.

 

In 2004, that dream became a reality. While my first attempt to publish had fallen flat before it even got a running start, in 2004 I started with a publishing house that was also in start-up. I have to admit, I was leery at first, but eventually was won over, and so began my journey as a published author. I was doing well enough, but I was also becoming disillusioned, and quickly. The publisher wasn’t a good fit (as I feared from the beginning), and the changes that were being made to my books and my vision for my career were disheartening. Then, in 2007, that publishing house closed its doors and I (and the other authors there) had a fight on our hands, getting our rights to our work back. That scarred me, made me even more wary than before. But I still had a dream to pursue.

 

The next publishing house to come along and request my work had a difficult time getting me to agree, but promises were made, and I eventually agreed to give them a chance. I should have known better, but when that also disintegrated, my growth was spiraling the wrong way. I was starting to question if it was even worth writing, anymore. Yet, I couldn’t give it up, either. Writing was part of my identity, now, and I knew I needed to keep going.

 

I found two wonderful publishers, who treat me and my writing with respect and dignity. Under The Moon currently publishes my Underground (Science Fiction) series, and Desert Breeze Publishing is running my Legends of Tirum (Fantasy) series, with optioning currently out on my Section Psi (Science Fiction) and Project Prometheus (Paranormal/Military) series.

 

However, I’m at a crossroads on the rest of my writing. I’m not sure what I want to do. I have series that I’ve spent a lot of time and effort developing, and having to completely re-edit because the first publisher to have them twisted them beyond recognition. I’m asking myself if I want to take a chance with a publisher, for these books, or if I want to just publish them, myself. The crossroad I’m at is a “maybe traditional publishing wasn’t the way to go” one. Would I be better off, and truer to my craft, to publish the books myself, under my own imprint, than to let someone else get to call the shots?

 

I just don’t know, yet. But, in the meantime, I’m keeping my options open. If a publisher can promise me not to alter my books beyond recognition, and leave me an open-ended clause that says if I don’t like the edits suggested I either don’t have to accept them, or I can yank the book, I’m willing to entertain letting them have an option at my Guardians, Inc. and High Stakes series. But I’m going to be stubborn about the changes I allow to these series… I think they have a lot of sales potential as they are, and I’m still kicking myself for my early allowance of the twisting they underwent.

 

So, let the bargaining begin… You can reach me via e-mail. If I don’t have any option requests by the time the first book is finished, I’ll take that as a sign I’m doing this myself.

Guardians DecalSectionPsidecalPPSeriesDecal

The Underground insignia.

The Underground insignia.

“London Tubes” – Excerpt from THE MEADOWTHORNE THICKET

This is a little First Person POV paranormal I’ve been kind of kicking around, when my Muse needs a break, for the past couple of years. I don’t know that it’ll ever really go anywhere or amount to anything more than an exercise meant to keep my creative muscle in shape, but I thought I’d share and get your take… think it’s worth pursuing?

“London Tubes” — Excerpt from THE MEADOWTHORNE THICKET –

People always tell you that it isn’t until you’ve stared into the face of death that you begin to realize the truth about life. If only those people knew how right they were.

It’s not that I have more or less love of life, these days, but more that I have an understanding of just what Death is, and the reality isn’t nearly as terrifying as the holy rollers and priests would have you believe.

I grew up one of those waifs time forgot about – and I don’t mean all that Oliver Twisty rubbish full of “pleases” and “sirs.” It’s not such a bad life, really. Not that it’s easy, or anything like that, but if you figure out how to survive, you can make a pretty decent run of it. I never really knew anything else, anyway. And it wasn’t like I was uneducated, either. I read whatever I could get my hands on, taught myself how to calculate the amount of dosh it took to get from the High Street Station to Greenwich by Tube and back again, and listened in to every business deal or gossip session held by mobile, so I’ve always been pretty much in the know. At least, that’s what I thought until the day Death found me.

Oh, it’s not all dramatic and scary ghost-story, like I heard from the old birds who bilked tourists getting off the Greenwich Tube in the city. They liked to talk a lot of guff about some black-caped figure with a scythe and bony hands, that’d come and suck the life right out of you, if you weren’t careful. I don’t know who they were trying to scare more – us kids or themselves.

Death don’t look anything like that. Fact is, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed them, if I hadn’t needed fare, that day. Sometimes, even picking a pocket can be an act of Fate.

london tubes

Character Revelation: The Black Moment vs. the Moment of Truth in Fiction

It occurred to me while I was writing, last night (as things like this most often do), that one thing I’ve never seen discussed in any depth is the difference between the Moment of Truth, and the Black Moment, in a story. Perhaps that’s where some of the confusion starts (and maybe even ends), with some authors.

I’ve discussed Emotional Black Moments (EBMs) before, and how these are character driven. Emotional Black Moments are all about a character coming face-to-face with death, disaster and fear. A plain Black Moment, however, is far less about the character, and much more about the events he or she might find him/herself caught up in. Black Moments are points in the plot when things seem the most bleak, problems the most insurmountable. Black Moments encompass more than a single character.

The defining characteristic of a Black Moment is in how a group of characters comes together to resolve the issue at hand. Whether that group is a large one, or comprised solely of a hero and heroine, they must work together to resolve the Black Moment. These Black Moments can involve one or more EBM, as well, as Black Moments are often catalysts for extreme emotional moments and upheavals that cause considerable character growth and development.

In contrast to a Black Moment, a Moment of Truth is always about an individual. Like an Emotional Black Moment, these Moments of Truth are about character change, growth, and development. However, unlike an EBM, a Moment of Truth is about how a character acts or reacts when placed in a situation that necessitates some kind of self-sacrifice (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or a combination thereof).

The best example I can give of a Moment of Truth is when a loved one is being held at the point of a weapon.  How would your character act/react to this situation? Is he or she frozen in panic? Do they move to try to disarm the assailant? Do they try to talk everyone out of the situation safely? Do they fall apart and start crying?

Defining how a character acts/reacts in a Moment of Truth is tricky, if you haven’t taken the time to really get to know your character. A lot of what I call “pantsers” (ie, people who just sit down and write a book without really doing any kind of plotting or character creation) have difficulty with Moment of Truth moments. They tend to rely on the stock reactions (ie, “Oh, it’s my hero, so he’s going to act tough and say a lot of tough things, and then either the bad guy’s going to give up, or my hero’s going to shoot him”), and this reveals giant flaws in the character(s) involved.

Let me give you an example of how knowing your character(s) leads to a more realistic Moment of Truth.  In my novel HOPE OF HEAVEN, my hero, Peter Talladay, is a very protective person – particularly of family and women, including Hope (my heroine). However, he’s also a man dedicated to his job fighting terrorists, has a stubborn streak a mile wide, and is obsessed with avenging his family’s (mother, father, brother) murder.

When Peter’s Moment of  Truth comes, at the hands of Gordon McGuire, he has to decide between calling Gordon’s bluff and refusing to do what’s demanded (and thus potentially getting Hope killed), or doing what Gordon wants, which might spare Hope, but would mean giving a terrorist what he wants, and most likely letting the murderer of Peter’s family go free.

Now, the stock response to this situation (if working with a stock tough-guy, which Peter isn’t, but we’ll just assume for the purposes of this part of the argument) would be for Peter to try to disarm Gordon, followed by a fight of some kind, during which Peter (being the big, strong hero) would subdue and incapacitate Gordon, leaving him unable to perpetuate any kind of harm.  Totally predictable.

But because Peter isn’t a stock character, his reaction to the situation is quite a bit different. First of all, when he first realizes Hope is injured, his reaction is one of fear. He actually freezes for a moment, until she assures him her injury is only minor. Then, faced with the threat of what Gordon could do, Peter does the only thing his heart will let him do – he cooperates, aware that as long as Hope is in danger, there’s nothing he can do to take out the threat of Gordon McGuire. In the end, he lets McGuire have what he wants, to spare the life of someone he loves. No theatrics involves. In his Moment of Truth, Peter faces the difference between revenge and self-sacrifice, and sacrifices his desire for revenge and even his sworn duty, for the life of the woman he loves.  I am, of course, simplifying this scene quite a bit in an effort to not give away any pertinent spoiler details about the book. Let’s just leave it at this: Peter runs an emotional gauntlet in this scene, requiring him to deal with a LOT of issues all at once, and in a very limited window of just a few brief moments.

A Moment of Truth places your character in the unenviable position of having to, in a split second, make a judgment call based entirely on his or her personal morals and beliefs. If you haven’t yet answered the question of just who your character is, you can’t possibly hope to answer the question of what he or she would do when put in a life-or-death situation (theirs or someone else’s). Is your character going to step up and do the right thing? And just what constitutes “the right thing” to him or her, anyway? Do you know?

Amateur writers often make the mistake of not really investing in their characters (and I don’t mean they should be emotionally attaching to the characters on the deep “this is my baby” kind of way… that can get anywhere from frustrating to an editor, to just downright creepy). By investing, I mean time. Sit down, get to know your character(s).  No, you don’t have to use the 50-page bio package I fill out for every character. Nor do you have to invest in any fancy character generation program. But what is essential is that you get inside your character’s head.  Sit down and at least write a brief introductory bio for (or from) him or her. Find out what makes the character(s) tick.  Not just their physical attributes, but also their emotional and mental traumas, triumphs, etc. If you want readers to invest their time and emotions into your character and stories, you have to make the effort to get to know your characters.

If you’ve taken the time to really get to know your character(s), when the EBMs, Black Moments, and Moments of Truth arrive, your character(s) will literally leap off the pages with their unique and fascinating reactions.

What Doesn’t Kill Us: The Truth About Emotional Black Moments in Fiction

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the fiction industry. I say disturbing because to me, as both an author and a reader, the true story behind every good story arc is what makes the characters tick. And defining a character means putting him or her up against whatever nightmares you can throw at them, and watch how they deal with it. But the trend I’m noticing is more and more authors and script writers shying away from the truly difficult questions – the Emotional Black Moment, or EBM, as I call them.

 

The truly amazing characters in fiction are defined not by every action in a book, movie, or TV show, but by one single defining moment (or series of moments) of all that time – a moment where they shined not through physical prowess, but through their reactions to their own personal EBM. The more often they encounter these types of EBMs, the more depth and strength a character gains. But an author or writer who is afraid to let his or her characters face these moments in dooming the character to a cardboard existence. Those are the characters no one remembers.

 

No, I don’t claim to be the next NYT Bestseller, or a Hugo or Pulitzer Prize winner.  So, what qualifications do I have to speak on this subject?

 

I write characters people still, years after reading my books, write to me regularly to tell me how much impact the characters had on  them, and how they find themselves re-reading my books because they feel that close to the characters. One young lady put it most succinctly when she described her reaction to the Black Moment for one of the most complex couples I’ve written about, to date. She said “I wanted to go back in time and fix it all. I wanted them to be happy again.”

 

The characters she was talking about were Trevor Watkins and Jaye Michaels, from SHADOW WALKER. And, I have to admit, writing that book, even knowing what was going to happen, what HAD to happen, I, too, wanted to just erase the past that formed the foundation of their EBM as a couple. I didn’t, of course. They had to go through that. They had to face those demons, and each had to face personal demons, as well, in order for them to grow and become the solid, unshakable couple they needed to be to face the story arc’s Plot Black Moment.

 

SPOILER ALERT: There’s a HUGE EBM coming for Underground, in HERO’S HOPE… Something that will shake the foundation of the entire team, and especially the core of Tamia and Rick’s relationship. I won’t say anything more on that, right now, but I think that’s enough…

 

So, how does an author create a character’s EBM? Well, it starts with giving a character a real back story. There needs to be something there to feed into the EBM. Someone who’s lived a life of roses can’t possibly be expected to stare down a Black Moment capable of twisting a jaded reprobate inside out. If you only work with “life of roses” types of characters, be prepared that you’re never going to be able to create a truly impactful EBM… They’re not going to be able to handle it.

 

Characters who face and succeed in overcoming the most memorable EBMs start out with a past. Maybe, as in Tamia’s case, they have an actual criminal past, a past littered with poor choices involving drugs and violence. Or maybe, as in Trevor’s case, they grew up neglected by an absent, abusive, or negligent parent, witnessed horrors, and experienced shattering traumas in their past, already. And sometimes, their scars run a lot deeper under the surface, as in Telyn Gwndal’s case (from Legends of Tirum), whose belief in her own worthlessness was subtly applied by the society in which she was raised, a bastard child only accepted by her mother’s people because of who her mother was, but never for herself.

 

These characters each face their own personal EBMs, as well as EBMs that involve their significant others (Tamia faces her first EBM when she’s forced to reject the man she loves for fear of losing him and something else she holds precious – she’s about to face the worst one ever in HERO’S HOPE. Trevor faces his in a very big way when his amnesia lands him smack between a future he wants more than anything, and a past he can’t quite absolve himself of.  And Telyn’s about to face her biggest one, yet, in CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS.)

 

It’s not easy to face a character against an EBM. Our natural instinct, as authors, is to protect and shelter our characters. To treat them with kid gloves, so to speak.

 

Trust me, you have to banish that instinct forever, if you intend your characters to grow.

 

Yes, you’ll write painful scenes that leave you drained, crying, and feeling generally like the most miserable traitor on the planet. You’ll want to tear those scenes up and never look at them again. But if you put them aside for a little while, then come back and read them again, you’ll realize what awesome characters you really have, and how much more you respect and love them for what they’ve undergone and overcome.

 

Now, I’m going to shock you with the next exercise. Kill your character.

 

I hear the panicked gasps, the thuds of writers dropping like flies. :)

 

I’m not talking about publishing these scenes. I’m talking about sitting down and writing a “What if” that kills your protagonist(s). Be brutal, be decisive. Do it.

 

I can hear the wailing, already. “But whyyyy?”

 

Because if you can’t kill your character, you most certainly can’t torture them emotionally. If you can’t place them in mortal bodily peril (even if it never makes it into the book), you’ll never be able to rip their souls out and stomp all over them with jackboots.

 

Trust me.

 

Some of the hardest scenes I’ve ever written involve death. I’ve literally killed good guys, before (I killed Kelly Blake in TERMINAL HUNTER. I liked her character… but I killed her, anyway). I’ve placed characters in such mortal peril there seemed to be no hope for them (in TAMIA, I dangled Tamia, my title character, so close to that edge I terrified my audience momentarily – I know, because they told me. And in SHADOW WALKER, I put a gun to Jordan Watkins’ head, and a knife to Trevor’s throat. In SPIRIT MAGE, I teetered my hero, Nacaris, on the thin line between life and death, and taunted pushing him over the line. In BURDEN OF PROOF, I nearly drove Chelsea Hanover mad by setting her attacker loose on her yet again, leaving her battered, broken, and in terror). These scenes have been the most difficult to write, but also the most rewarding in watching the characters involved learn from, grow from, and overcome adversity because of them.

 

Don’t believe me? Read the books… Then come tell me what you think. I dare you.

TamiaCover     In Her Name CoverLegends of Tirum 3: SPIRIT MAGE

Story Behind the Story: Bringing Project Prometheus and IN HER NAME to life.

While there are stories that have clearly been with me longer, there are few characters who ever compelled me more to write their story than Matt Raleigh and Manara Binte Alzena.

 

The idea first came to me in the late 1990s, and Manara wouldn’t stay silent. I’d find myself jotting notes or scenes at random times — even waking in the middle of the night with scenes running through my head. I’d never attempted a story this complicated, before — not only does it contain elements of romance and mystery, but it also contains a spy thriller twist or two, and the introduction to a battle that’s been waging for thousands of years, along with demons, gods, and priestesses of gods… and a whole host of surprises.

 

I started out with a barely drafted idea, an oddball cast of characters I wasn’t sure were even going to play nice together, and the knowledge that I had a loooong road of research ahead of me. I started my research in June of 2000. For the next year, I drafted my outline, researched, redrafted the outline, researched some more, redrafted the outline, and wrote scenes in amongst it all that I wasn’t sure would even make it into the final book. Then, in the midst of my final research jag (ironically enough, into Iraq and terrorism), 9/11 happened, and IN HER NAME took on a new and unexpected twist… a “character” I hadn’t planned on — a demon desiring to be free of his captivity, and capable of turning sane men into monsters who would do his bidding, no matter how bloody. Urusat remains one of my more terrifying creations.

 

But it was Matt and Manara who surprised me most, in the end. They started out the most unlikely of a pair. I really wondered at times if the events in the story would drive them apart forever. Even I had no idea where the story was going — I had a plan, but they weren’t following it *lol* — and I was absolutely, completely unprepared for the ending. :)

 

Originally, I planned for IN HER NAME to be a stand-alone book. Imagine my surprise, nearly 40 book concepts later, to discover not only did I have a series (Project Prometheus), but also several sub-series within the main series.

 

So, I’m going to give you a few glimpses of their story, which will be available from FyrRose Productions, beginning in 2014.  Stay tuned… here comes IN HER NAME (Project Prometheus, Atlantis Silver, Book #1)

In Her Name Cover

Building the Dream: Inside Project Prometheus

I’ve never really gotten inside the workings of the Project Prometheus organization.  I’ve explored what makes it tick, a bit, but not into the meat and bones of what the organization is, or how it came to be.

It all began in the late 1990s, with a character who wouldn’t be silent, and had nothing to do with what would eventually become Project Prometheus.  Manara Binte Alzena was someone with a story I really wanted to tell. She’s not a Muslim, but she was born and raised in the Middle East (Syria, to be exact). She’s a woman reviled by both the West (for no other reason than she’s Middle Eastern) and by the Islamic world, for her beliefs and her refusal to adhere to codes she doesn’t believe in about a woman’s proper place.

But Manara was so much more than any of these things, and I needed the proper story frame to really let her shine. What better than a group of mercenaries who aren’t your typical mercenaries, either? And so began the first steps of IN HER NAME, and the foundation of Project Prometheus.

As a former US military brat and always a military history enthusiast, I’m fascinated by the inner workings of both military systems around the world and the politics that are often an influence on them.  And then, in passing, I read something regarding stated US policy, and it surprised me.  The US Government neither condones nor participates in the use of mercenaries.  In fact, the stated policy is that any American citizen who joins a mercenary unit loses his/her citizenship as an American.

Now I grew up in the military – I’ve seen enough, heard enough, and lived through enough that this information really surprised me.  From the Swamp Fox during the Revolutionary War to Somalia, I’m aware of dozens of instances in which the US either made use of or worked in co-operation with mercenaries.  This contradiction sent me searching deeper, and inspired an idea.

What would happen if a mercenary organization fought for the same thing official US policy stands by, and was based in the US?  What would happen if the men and women recruited by this organization were some of the most decorated personnel in both military and civilian Law Enforcement channels?

From this thought came the idea of Project Prometheus.  The first thing I decided was that these were mercenaries.  The second was that they wouldn’t all be US citizens.  These men and women would be chosen for their skills, and their dedication to a common cause – peace and safety for the world, no matter the cost.

Now, Prometheus isn’t anywhere close to your typical mercenary unit.  I’ll grant you that. Most mercenary units are available to the highest bidder, and don’t draw a lot of moral lines regarding what they will and won’t do for their pay.  Most are modern equivalents of land-locked pirates.  But I didn’t want that for Prometheus.  These had to be men and women you couldn’t help but admire and respect – people with histories and lives that lent themselves to the moral codes so often ignored.  So, what to do?

:)  It was simple enough.  By giving them a face – the mythical face of self-sacrificing Prometheus – they became driven to help others, to work for the betterment of all humanity.  They aren’t all warriors, either.  Prometheans come from all walks of life – they are protectors, healers, investigators, teachers and so much more.  As many of their non-Promethean counterparts soon discover, there’s a lot more to being a Promethean than the willingness to fight.

Unexpected Life: Behind the Scenes for the Writing of SHADOW WALKER

A lot of what I write touches my heart in some way, but there’s not a lot that actually shocks me. This book managed to do the latter, in spades.

Shadow Walker 2012 500x750SHADOW WALKER is the book that never should have been, but wouldn’t let me not write it. I figured, at the end of IN HER NAME, Trevor Watkins was pretty much done for. By HOPE OF HEAVEN, I figured it was just a matter of time, and if I wrote any further books, I’d be featuring his funeral in one of them. So, imagine my surprise when not only did he wake up from his coma, but he woke up with a story to tell — a story of betrayal, misunderstanding, guilt, and, above all, a love that refused to be extinguished by any of those.

When I started writing SHADOW WALKER, even with a firm outline in mind that clearly told me how it would end, I didn’t expect it to work. The odds seemed insurmountable, and the characters kept running away from each other, either physically or emotionally, just like they’d done for a decade. I was utterly convinced I would get to the end, hate the story, and consign it forever to my shredded idea pile.

That never happened. Instead, I watched two people with a world of pain and tragedy between them take the ultimate leap of faith, I watched a man firmly entrenched in the physical world, who learned to never forgive a betrayal as a child, open himself to a world of mystery that would require the ultimate forgiveness, to be realized. And I watched a woman battered and bleeding on the inside for a crime she didn’t commit, a woman of sound, practical logic who has denied her heritage and all that comes with it, become a truly powerful woman, spiritually, and take the biggest risk anyone is ever asked to take.

Add into all of that a boy whose one wish has always been to know his father, a dangerous psychopath with an agenda that could mean one or all of their deaths, and a bitter, angry sibling intent on causing pain, and SHADOW WALKER came to vibrant, amazing life… And became one of my favorite stories to tell.

Surprising Twists: The Writing of HOPE OF HEAVEN and the True Genesis of the Prometheans

After IN HER NAME, I really didn’t intend to write any further books using that story line. I figured, I told the story I needed to tell, and that was that, and I planned to move on to other projects.

Was I ever wrong! :)

About a month after I finished writing IN HER NAME, I sat down to start a new project. I wanted to do something with another paranormal twist, but I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with it. So I decided to sit down and free-write a scene (this is a technique I often used just to get the creative juices flowing… like a kind of mental coin toss or die roll… Wherever it lands, that’s where I try to aim for).

Imagine my surprise when instantly, upon starting the free-write, a very familiar face cropped up… A man I left confined to a wheelchair, battered physically and spiritually, at the end of IN HER NAME. And the scene that rolled out… wow! As soon as it hit the page, I knew. I just knew I had to tell his story. I knew I had to know what made this guy tick.

Hope of Heaven Cover His name? Peter Talladay. Matt Raleigh’s right-hand man and best friend. A man with the kind of loyalty no one ever has to question, and a dark past he’s done his absolute best to leave behind himself, by putting himself into self-imposed exile, until his loyalty to the man who once saved his life forced him home, and face-to-face with another character I never saw coming. She wasn’t even in my casting folder. She literally came to life on the drafting pages of HOPE OF HEAVEN.

I’ve always had a fascination with Celtic mythology, and a lot of questions about the Irish Republican Army. Both led me into the stacks at the library, in search of answers. And HOPE OF HEAVEN was born, becoming the true genesis point for my Project Prometheus series, as I realized in writing HOPE OF HEAVEN that I couldn’t avoid the other stories I set into motion with IN HER NAME. Not only did they play major supporting roles in HOPE OF HEAVEN, but they roused a lot more questions that needed answered — in the form of other books.

HOPE OF HEAVEN is the first time I put a protagonist in real, true danger of dying without ever being found. It’s also the first time I brought characters from a previous book forward in a very necessary and pivotal capacity to the current story, without them still being the primary focus of the story.

So prepare yourself to meet battered-but-not-beaten Peter Talladay and spunky and determined to hate him Dr. Hope MacKenzie (who, incidentally, is a blood relation of a character in a completely different paranormal series of mine… there are a number of crossover points between the two series), in HOPE OF HEAVEN, coming in 2014 from FyrRose Productions.

Immortal Beloved: Writing Love After Death

Authors are a strange breed.

We live both in the outside world, and inside our heads.

Being an author is one of the few careers where hanging onto your past works to your advantage, rather than against it. Our past experiences, the people we meet, and the places we go, all come together in our work. There’s an old expression in the publishing industry that you should never annoy an author, because you might just find yourself killed off in print. *laughs* This is true, in many cases. A number of my friends who are also authors can attest to this – we deal best with annoyance through imaginary violence.

However, it’s not just those things/people we’re annoyed by that end up in our work. More often, the people we care most about become immortalized in our work. Their personalities color our favorite characters, and we become as attached to the character as we are to the person, because we know who that is. After all, we took the very best (and sometimes the not so great) aspects of someone we care about and wove them into a whole new world.

I’ve done it, myself. Most notably, I immortalized the man I loved deeply, and lost tragically, in my Underground books. Some of the details have been changed. I changed the name (obviously), but kept his Callsign as Rick’s codename. Many of the physical characteristics are the same, while some are different. His occupation is different – Rick is a Commando and formerly a Navy SEAL. The man he’s based was an Air Force pilot. But the personality is the most important part – the man you see in Rick is the man I knew and loved, in almost every personality particular.

I lost the man I loved in a tragic accident that still scars me, today. I originally started writing the first Underground book,  TAMIA, while he was alive. In fact, he was a large part of not just the inspiration, but the story itself. He urged me to write our future in those opening books of the series, and he was immensely proud of my ability as an author, always encouraging and supportive of my craft. His death came as a blow I never saw coming, and which left me emotionally flattened and broken for a long time. In the wake of his death, and my inability to properly grieve (due to our situation, which I won’t discuss), I started work on the book that would become HERO’S HOPE… and soon learned that there are some scenes, some situations, and some events, which you can’t recreate on paper, no matter how good an author you are. There are some things too deeply painful and personal to immortalize. I lost the man I loved. I couldn’t kill the only connection I’ve always felt I had left to him – I couldn’t follow through, so Rick couldn’t die. That would have been like watching my beloved die all over again.

There are some wrenching impacts in HERO’S HOPE – but there remains one thing: hope. There remain secrets that leave the heroine (whose personality, if not her physical appearance and back story, is based on my own) emotionally broken and bleeding. But I left her with the hope I don’t have, a story not yet completed, and a chance of redemption from her pain.

From writing HERO’S HOPE and the follow-up, VENGEFUL HEART, I learned I’m stronger than I thought. I learned I can and will endure, and that the love I still carry in my heart is a precious thing, and made of tougher stuff than anyone in this world can destroy. I might not get my happy ending, but being an author allows me to create a future for myself I can immortalize on paper, even if I have to do it through characters who are not completely fiction.