Walking Dead : Behind-the-Scenes with Project Prometheus and TWIST OF FATE

Project Prometheus BadgeThe concept of the Zombie is one that’s been twisted and mangled so much by Hollywood, it bears little resemblance to the original concept of a Zombie as believed by faith structures like Vodun, or seen in mythology dating back into antiquity (the first written reference I’ve ever been able to find, in my research, dates back almost as far as written language). Zombies, by both Vodun standards and according to ancient mythology, were human agents (ie, living people) made to appear dead through the use of plants with psychoactive effects and trance-like states and “curses” performed on the person. Through this, it became possible for another person to control that person’s actions. However, much like hypnotism, the Zombie could not be forced to perform acts their own moral compass would instinctively halt. However, while many psychology professionals will tell you that a person won’t do anything under hypnosis that goes against his/her basic moral compass, I’ve often wondered what it would take to erase that line. Could a certain combination of drugs, or toxins, or some other influence (hence where the Vodun comes in), cause the line between right and wrong to blur, under hypnosis?

From my research into religions like Vodun, an idea began to take shape. If Vodun priests could make a person disappear, have them declared dead, then have them reappear, looking like the animated dead, what would stop an organization like the Brotherhood of Spiders from doing the same? And a story began to take shape, that is at once very tragic, and very capable of restoring hope.

I decided to explore this concept in TWIST OF FATE, with Nicholas and Misty Jarrod, whose marriage ended in tragedy. Or did it?

Look for the book that started it all, IN HER NAME, available at Amazon.com or from Desert Breeze Publishing!

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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.

Project Prometheus & Remembering 9/11

While most of today I’ll be talking about the release of Project Prometheus’ first book, In Her Name (well, re-release, really), I wanted to take a moment, right here at the beginning, and talk about the events that happened on this date thirteen years ago. The events of September 11, 2001 had a profound impact on the entire world. They also inspired a great deal of the most important changes made to the development of the book I’m going to be talking a lot about, today. Because of this, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the men and women who died that day, and who died in the days, weeks, months, and even years afterward, because of those events.

It was anger that drove what In Her Name would become. Not just anger at what happened, though that factored into what drove me. I was angry because the first instinct was to blame an entire ethnicity, before anyone even knew who was to blame, or if there actually was anyone to blame. Even after things began settling down and the task of figuring out what happened and who was responsible began, I wanted to show the world how wrong it was to turn a person into a criminal just because of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.

And so, a woman who had merely been a priestess of an ancient faith evolved, to become a heroine in her own right. Manara Binte Alzena became a symbol, and a lesson. Matt Raleigh came with built-in prejudice. The product of a disastrous childhood, he despises all things paranormal or spiritual.  Manara is the embodiment of everything his prejudice has set him up to hate. But she’s also someone to be admired, whose dedication to preserving life and serving what is right and just in the world has put her at dangerous odds with her world. She’s rushing headlong into Iraq, where her faith and her status could easily cost her life. But she’s determined to do what she has to do, no matter the cost. That’s something Matt can’t help but admire.

By putting a man with a deep hatred up against a woman who is both the embodiment of everything he hates and a source of great strength and help for him, I address the age-old question of which is stronger – hate, or love. It’s a question (and an answer) I think we could all learn a little something from.

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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, re-drafted the outline, researched some more, re-drafted 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 Desert Breeze Publishing, starting, coincidentally enough, on September 11, 2014.  Stay tuned… here comes IN HER NAME (Project Prometheus, Atlantis Silver, Book #1)