BURDEN OF PROOF Patron Search

I’ve been talking for a while about getting my charity series, starting with Burden of Proof (to benefit RAINN and The Rape Foundation) back out and available for sale.

This is a project very near and dear to me, as it helps me donate more to some of the charities I already actively support.

However, in order to make this dream come true, and to be able to reach out and help more people, I need your help. In becoming a patron of this project, you become part of the chain of donations, and help those impacted by rape and domestic violence, and many more, as time goes on.

Please consider becoming a patron, today. Every penny raised goes to the production of this book in e-book, paperback, and hardcover book, and the proceeds go to help victims and survivors of rape and domestic violence, and to help prevent these crimes from happening, through education and support.

If you are interested in helping by becoming a patron of my project, please follow the link below and donate, today.

Thank you, and bless you all.

Become a Patron – Click Here 

Burden of Proof Final

An Author’s Life

~Esther Mitchell, 2016~

Yes, I’m an author.
I fall a little in love with my heroes.
I want to grow up to be my heroines.
I recoil in horror at my villains.
I laugh out loud at my comic relief,
and my heart breaks for every heartbreak my characters feel.

Yes, I’m an author.
I have a thousand friends,
who all understand me just as I understand them.
We know each other’s secrets,
We laugh, cry, and live together,
all within the same small space.

Yes, I’m an author.
You can call me crazy,
You can call me strange,
You can shake your head and walk away.
It’s not going to change anything.
Because there are a thousand people in my world,
all waiting for me to smile, to wave,
to ask, “What have you been up to, today?”

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Beyond Dracula: A Brief Look at Vampires and Vampirism

Now, before I go into any detail, let me make one point very clear (because I get asked this question repeatedly): Yes, I do believe in the existence of vampires.  What I do NOT believe in are the concoctions of fiction spawned by old cinematic special effects.  Having said that, let’s first examine what a vampire is.

Vampires, by all historical accounts, fall into one of two categories: the Living, and the Revenant (dead).  Living vampires have never been dead.  They’re most likely not going to be harmed by anything WE wouldn’t be harmed by.  They can be super-fast, and super-strong, but they’re certainly not going to be turning into sand, bats, rats, or what-have-you.  The most common type of Living vampire is known as a Psychic Vampire.  Some psychic vampires don’t even know they ARE vampires.  These people feed off of the energy of others, leaving them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually drained.  Have you ever been around someone, and when you left, you just felt like you needed to go home and sleep for 24 hours?  If this happens repeatedly with the same person, chances are good that person may be a psychic vampire.  These are, by far, not the only Living vampires, but they are the most prevalent.  There are Living vampires who drink blood, as well (though why, no one is certain.  The live human stomach is full of acids that break down and render blood useless), and even some types of cannibals fall under the category of Living Vampire.  Contrary to some belief, vampires are not categorized solely by whether or not they drink blood.  They are categorized by the fact that an encounter with one leaves you missing some vital bodily force, whether that be energy, blood, or flesh.

Fiction’s more common vampiric friends and fiends are the Revenant, or Risen, vampires.  These are the corpses of people (and animals) who have died.  Contrary to most popular fiction, being bit by a vampire will not instantly turn you into one, and nor will drinking their blood.  By historical accounts, turning into a Revenant vampire has more to do with the manner of your death and burial than it does ever encountering another vampire.  A violent death, leading to a desire for blood vengeance, or an improper burial can cause a body to rise as a vampire.  Yes, being drained by a vampire can kill you, and perhaps even instill that need for vengeance, but the concept of being bitten and becoming a vampire are not mutually exclusive.  Also, drinking a vampire’s blood isn’t likely to do much (see above where I referenced blood in the living human stomach), and though transfusion of vampire blood might, in theory, turn someone, there is no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, to support this (there are no documented cases, since the development of blood transfusion, that note any vampiric tendencies after a transfusion).  Another point that’s supported by historical evidence is that vampires are not confined merely to the physical plane.  There are vampiric entities and spirits which are not corporeal (physically present) on our plane.  They often behave in a manner similar to ghosts, except that they drain spiritual/physical energy from their victims.  These often fall into the “vengeance” category of the Revenant vampire.

If you are interested in finding out more about vampires, please check back for information on my webinar “Beyond Dracula: Myths and Evidence of Vampirism in History and the Modern Age”

“I Solemnly Swear…” – Fiction Writing and the Pitfalls of Promise

As an author, there’s one rule I hold sacred above all else in my writing — Be careful what you promise.

I’m not talking about deadlines.

I’m not talking about telling people when a book will be out.

What I’m talking about are the promises we, as writers, make to our audience. Promises about circumstances. About events. About characters. About relationships.

These are sacred promises. We have asked our audience to put their faith in us. To willingly, and with absolute trust, follow us along a twisting path through our characters’ lives, to learn about them, to laugh with them, cry with them, fall in love with them, and perhaps (in some cases) die a little with them.

Along the way, we have to be careful of the pitfall of “I promise…” Unless we are prepared to follow through — to perhaps abandon our entire creative endeavor based on a bridge we swore to never set foot upon, to never cross, and certainly never demolish behind us.

We can never promise what we are not prepared to deliver, or are uncertain our characters can deliver. We are the most honest of all deceivers, for we peddle in truths based upon lives that are only, at best, half reality. But this does not give us permission to lie to our audience.

We do not get to make promises we are either incapable of or unwilling to assure the outcome of.

image by hotblack

image by hotblack

Personally, I don’t make promises regarding characters or situations, other than that the situation will eventually be resolved.

The quest will reach an end.

A resolution will, sooner or later, arrive for every situation.

Beyond that, I make no promises. I have no idea where the path might twist and turn, or how my characters will arrive at the resolution. I assume they will be changed, but I have no idea how, no matter how much plotting I do. I do not even promise they will all arrive there alive.

However, if you do decide to make a promise regarding your characters or situations, be aware, you are toying with a trust you must be very careful of.

Audiences do not respond well to being tricked, to having their emotions manipulated by empty promises. They are unlikely to trust your motives, or your storytelling, again, if you offer them something you can’t deliver on.

Once you make a promise, you simply can’t change your mind. At that point, you are committed to a course, and you will have to see it through.

The Creation of an Author, Part 3: What’s With All This Romance, Anyway?

One question I get asked a lot is “Why Romance?”… Most people who know me probably think I’m one of the least romance-minded people in the world.  *laughs* Truth is, I’m probably one of the biggest romantics you’ll ever meet.  I’m just not one of the most traditional romantics.

Most people think of romantics as people who believe in happily-ever-after, are interested in lots of lovey-dovey public displays of affection, and (in the case of women) have what psychology refers to as “Cinderella Complex” – ie, someone’s going to sweep them off their feet and change their lives.  If that’s what you think of as “romantic,” hey, more power to you – but it personally makes me gag. Strange sentiment from a self-proclaimed romantic, yes?

Here’s what I believe (and this is my personal feeling, so I don’t expect anyone to understand or agree):

I don’t believe in happily ever after.  I never have.  Call me a realist about this part of it, but I know beyond any doubt (and I always have), that we as human beings don’t get to determine what makes “ever after.”  We don’t steer our own course when it comes to death (unless you like to indulge in self-destructive behavior or plan to commit suicide – neither of which I recommend), and I don’t believe we directly have any influence over what happens after we die (I’ll save the whole argument of reincarnation vs. ascension for another time and place).  So I consider it arrogant to assume that love is forever.  I firmly believe it can last as long as life, however.  I do believe that, in rare cases, when it’s strong enough, it can endure lifetime after lifetime, beyond the boundaries of death.  But in time, I do believe that love changes, becomes something else.  So I’m more inclined to a “happy-as-long-as-we-can-be” philosophy.

It’s not every girl’s dream to be rescued, or to have some Prince Charming ride in and sweep her away (truth is, I’ve always found that aspect of Fairy Tales to be a little on the creepy side).  But just because a girl prefers to face her own perils doesn’t mean romance doesn’t appeal to all women, no matter the size, shape, age, or sexual orientation… And certainly no matter how much one might protest or claim otherwise.

Some of us are quite capable of solving our own problems, tilting at our own windmills, and facing our own demons.  Some of us kick ass when it comes to taking care of our business, and we certainly don’t need another person to step in and save the day.  We’ve got it well under control, thank you very much.

But does that mean we want to spend our lives alone, or facing an existence built on something dull and lifeless, or even frightening?  Of course not.

Every girl dreams of being a princess (even if some of us are far more Xena than Sleeping Beauty). Not literally, of course, but at least in the eyes of someone else.  We want to be special, to be seen as someone beautiful, awe-inspiring, and beloved. We want to feel as if we’re the most important person in someone’s life, and to know that they compare every other woman they meet to us, and find those others lacking.

It’s hardwired into us to crave grand gestures of love and affection – some symbol that tells the world just how special we are to someone else.  For a lot of women, that’s what an engagement ring is all about.  It’s what lavish weddings are all about.

Plenty of people (women included) scoff at romantic fiction.  They call it trash, written porn, smut, etc, etc.  I can promise you this – none of those people have ever actually read a Romance novel.

Are there novels that are explicit?   Of course there are.  But then, there are Horror novels that are graphic about blood and terror.  There are adventure and action novels that are over-the-top with violence.  Crime novels that are almost too ghastly and grisly with their details, to read.

What is it about Romance that so sends people running?  Could it be the unwillingness to face their own deeply-buried desire to be truly loved?  Perhaps it’s that they’re stuck in our prudish society’s mindset that anything involving sex should be shunned.

Personally, I think it’s the former.  Porn is a billion-dollar industry for a reason… People don’t have a problem with sex.  People have a problem with love.  The idea of facing your own emotions, of admitting that you want more, that you’re looking for something spiritual as well as physical, is something that sends a lot of people (both male and female) running for their lives.

Romance novels are about more than sex.  They’re about connection, about love that’s true, deep, and abiding.  About the emotions that are tangled up inside of sexual desire, and about letting go of the desire, to get at one’s heart and soul.  And they make us face our own wants and needs – make us step up and say, “Yes, I do want more from this relationship than just sex.”  They’re not about perfect people, or larger-than-life situations.  They’re about ordinary people who discover the most extraordinary gift of life – the ability to love and be loved.  In short, Romance novels are about every girl’s dream come true – not the perfect man or woman (after all, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” person), but the perfect match of two hearts and two souls.

 

As for the level of sexuality in some Romance… Well, I don’t personally have a problem with it, as long as it’s kept tasteful.  Personally, I’m not by nature a physically demonstrative person when my emotions are truly engaged.  Instead, I’m more likely to get quiet and retreat inside my shell.  Am I afraid of my own emotions, sometimes?  Hell, yes.  I’m afraid of getting hurt, of being taken advantage of, because I care too much, or give too much.  Once the floodgates open, it’s often difficult to stop the emotions, and I’ve got a long history of pain caused by letting others actually see what they mean to me.  So, instead, I either get very quiet, or I turn into a clown.  People may think nothing bothers me, that I’m either aloof or goofy. Truth is, I’m neither.

There are many times I’ve been accused of being too logical and not at all romantic. Truth is, while it’s easy to express and explore my romantic side on paper, I’m far less comfortable expressing it in real life. Not because it’s not there, but because what’s missing is trust. I have a long history with broken trust, and early experience with overwhelming physical trauma. Both have made me hesitant toward physical contact, and even more hesitant toward reaching out to others, emotionally. So, I turned my attention toward writing about relationships that are troubled, but capable of overcoming that trouble. I write strong women with damaged trust and a desire to fix their own lives — sometimes even a desire to not even let anyone else into their lives. I write strong men who are secure and strong enough to show the heroine how important she is to him, and let her be an active partner, not just a window-dressing prize to be rescued.

This is what it means, to me, to write Romance.

The Creation of an Author, Part 2: Facing the Fears and Doubts

Lately, I’ve been considering the fact that, in terms of my knowledge of the publishing industry and how it works, I don’t know anything, really. I know books. I know research. I know what makes the one become the other. Basically, I know the creative end of things. But I don’t know how to sell.

It’s not that I can’t talk about my work. I can talk about my books and ideas until I’m blue in the face (and everyone else is suitably bored to tears, too, I’m sure), but selling myself or my work? That’s not something I’m very familiar with or good at — particularly the former. I’m terrible at selling myself or playing myself up. I’m more likely to point out my flaws and faults than the things I’m good at.

I keep hearing how I need to be more aggressive about my advertising, and my promotion. Truth is, I don’t know how. While I can and will stand up and shout down the whole world on someone else’s behalf, when it becomes about standing up for and talking about myself, I’m just as likely to not make a peep. Even the “behind the scenes” glimpses I give you all, here, are extremely difficult to write. I spend more time questioning whether or not I should, whether or not it’s worthwhile, than any other part of it.

There’s a reason for this. I’ve spent too many years trying to not be noticed. I spent a childhood abused and ridiculed by my peers, and feeling never quite good enough for my family’s expectations. I learned to hide behind my written words and my cheerful, agreeable disposition, to bury myself in something other than the pain that confronted me on a daily basis. I never believed I was worth standing up for, and even after all these years, I still haven’t quite found the guts to become an in-your-face selling machine. I’m way too afraid of being outright rejected again, in a way that has the potential to destroy me.

Do I question whether my work is good enough? Every damned day. Even months (hell, years) after publication, I can look back on a book and point out at least 10 flaws I’d love to correct. 20/20 hindsight, I know, but there it is. I appreciate the good comments I get, but I always seem to gravitate to the criticisms, trying to find ways to turn them into something I can put to work for me, and use help me improve. While this might seem like a very good thing (and it is, in many ways), it also means I don’t talk about my accomplishments — I talk about my failures.

My biggest fear, career-wise, is that no matter how much I write, or how good others believe I am, I’ll never have the guts to actually make my dreams come true. I’m terrified I’ll spend my entire life being that author everyone says “Who?” when you bring up the name. Do I want to be the center of attention? Hell, no. But it would be nice to know that I’m actually being seen. I’d gratefully settle for mid-list. I don’t have to be the best out there (I’m not convinced I ever could be), but I’d like to know that I’m worth something to someone.

And now, I think I’m done rambling, for the day. Have a blessed and wonderful day, dear readers.

The Creation of an Author, Part 1: A Glimpse Into My Writing History

So I’m sitting here at my computer, playing games because I can’t write (hunching over to write this is difficult enough), and wondering what the hell I’m doing, anymore. I have series bibles mocking me from the shelf directly in front of where I’m sitting, and if I didn’t have to go to “work” (EDJ), I’d have them spread out all over the place, working on my books.

I spend a large amount of my time either writing, planning things to write, or thinking about writing. It’s a curse…lol. I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a crayon (yes, I did say crayon!… You don’t want to know how many books I managed to deface as a child before my parents figured out it would be smarter to give me a notebook, even if what I was “writing” was basically gibberish… Hey, I was 2… I hadn’t figured out the whole written words thing, yet). In my mind, I was writing fantastic stories about my friends… Telling their stories. At the time, my parents (and a great many more, I’m sure) chalked it all up to a highly active imagination. Not me. Those “imaginary friends” of mine stuck around long after the whole process became no longer cute or tolerable to others. I couldn’t help it – they’re as real as I am, even if they’re not visible on this plane.

Eventually, telling the stories I was told by someone else got old. I wanted to write something else. And I discovered a love of fiction that’s stuck with me. A desire to craft characters and situations I can’t always be sure are complete fiction, but which I remain fairly convinced are. Who knows, right?

Over the years, my fascination with science colored how I approach fiction, and it’s become not as much about “This is how it is” as it has been about “What if it was this way? What would it take to prove it?” And a new, speculative angle to my fiction was born. This is where I’ve mostly stuck, since. It’s where I feel at home, blending the possibility of the paranormal with facts, science, and characters who embody both.