Converse with the author (me)

If you are looking for a way to keep up on the most recent news from me, regarding my writing and books, and view the most recent excerpts and more, you might consider checking out my new social media group over at Facebook. You can find it at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/esthermitchellreaders/

Now, this is a closed group, so you have to be approved to join, and I have two rules:

  1. No lurkers. I intend for this group to be a place for real discussion of your favorite and least favorite aspects of my books, for questions about the characters, the stories, the writing process, and more. You don’t have to be actively involved all the time, but if you go too long without comment at all, I’m going to assume you’re no longer interested, and you’ll have to rejoin.
  2. NO promo. Absolutely, positively NO promotions for other books or authors in this group. You won’t get a warning if you do it. You’ll just be removed, and you won’t be allowed back in. It’s rude, and disrespectful.

So, if you’re interested, look me up at the link above, and let’s talk! 🙂

Guardians Witch Hollow Meme

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Not Something I Usually Do…

Normally, I reserve this blog only for all things writing, and try to leave anything personal off of here.

I’m sorry for this post, but it’s become necessary to do this, because not addressing this issue will most certainly impact not just my health, but my life, and my ability to continue writing.

Due to an ongoing medical condition, I was forced to leave my job back in February. Up until June, I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth with the help of family and close friends. Now, I’m facing the possibility of losing my car — my only source of reliable transportation — if I don’t come up with at least $750 before 8/15.

To press home the point of what I’m up against, I thought I’d share something a little more graphic, since I gather most people might not understand how important it is I find a way to keep my car…

Here’s a photo of my left leg, from mid-shin down, taken earlier this evening. What you see is the damage still remaining 3 years after my immune system and disease tried to destroy my ability to walk completely, by eating away at the blood vessels, tissue, nerves and bone throughout my body — most visible in my feet.

HSP Scars Left Leg - 8-9-16

The Rheumatoid Arthritis is another symptom of the widespread autoimmune disease eating away at me. All of this limits my ability to walk to practically nothing, and requires I have transportation that doesn’t mean having to walk more than a handful of feet to get to it.

This is why it is so absolutely imperative I find the support I need to keep my vehicle. Without my car, I won’t be able to leave my house, and my ability to get medical treatment, medication, and basic necessities to life will disappear. If this happens, it won’t be long until I am unable to write at all, and the rest of the eventualities are too terrifying for me to even consider, at this point.

If you’re willing to help, you can do so on the Go Fund Me page below, where my friends and family have been contributing toward the goal of paying off my car and helping remove a stress that contributes to my continued illness.

https://www.gofundme.com/esthermedical

Everyone who contributes can opt to receive special gifts, as well as complete repayment of the contributed amount, as soon as I possibly can. Just be sure to leave your name and address when you donate.

If you prefer not to donate via GoFundMe, you can e-mail me at esthermitchell(at)esthermitchell.com (replace “(at)” with @) for additional options to donate.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. If I can keep my car, and lower my stress, I can complete books faster, which means more for you to read.

“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.

“Aectetis”

image from werner22brigitte

image from werner22brigitte

This is a little something I’ve fooled around with, off and on, for a number of years… Just a little project to keep my muse engaged with the active, battlefield mentality I often need to write suspense.

I’ve always had a love for Greek mythology, for vastly personal reasons. I will note that this isn’t a researched novel. References are ones gleaned from decades of pure fascination and study of Greek mythology and history. If I ever decide to turn this into a novel, I’ll be doing lots of research… for now, it just remains a little exercise for my muse, that I thought I’d share a bit of, with you. Enjoy! 🙂

 

“Aectetis” —

They were sent from the gates, into the gaping maw of the desert cavern, but neither man went willingly.  No man who knew the tales, or believed in Hades’ wide dominion, would have been willing.  Aectetis blessed himself repeatedly and murmured prayers to Athene, while Taracles muttered curses against the darkness hovering around them.

“This is madness,” Taracles muttered as he thrust his torch savagely into the inky passageway, his sword clenched in one hard fist, his dark eyes steely.  “I tell you, Aectetis; Sikander’s run mad.”

Aectetis swallowed hard, but offered no answer.  He couldn’t have spoken, at the moment, had his life depended on it.  His scalp itched with sweat, beneath the cockle-crested helm, and his leather armor might as well have been Prometheus’ stone, about his neck. It suffocated him. Why was he here? He had neither Taracles’ Spartan toughness, nor the great Aristotle’s Athenian scepticism.  He was provincial, a farmer’s son, with little understanding of either war or philosophy. He believed in the power of the Gods, and mere mortals ought not to trifle with such things.

“I heard from the Emperor’s man that Sikander’s gripped with fevers that roll his eyes up in his head; that he hears voices.  Voices!” Taracles scoffed openly, his voice edged with dark humor.  “Can you believe that? The Furies come to claim his fool head, and yet none dares question his whims!”

A skittering in the darkness brought Aectetis’ gaze quickly around, and he battled down a rising wave of pure panic.

“Do you suppose it’s true? What they say of this place?” Aectetis dared not breathe more than that, lest he anger the spirits here.

“That it leads straight to Tartarus; that the voices of the damned echo here?” Taracles shrugged nonchalantly.

“No.  That there’s a demon down here.  A demon unlike any other,” Aectetis whispered, clutching his heavy bronze shield closer.

Taracles laughed harshly. “Demons?  Aectetis, you’re too old for such children’s tales!”

“But what if it’s true?” Aectetis insisted, unable the still the growing panic in his chest. He swore he could hear the monster breathing – Aechidna’s own foul spawn.  “General Ptolomy says the Emperor’s had terrible visions, in his sleep; that he dreams of a demon come to suck the very breath from his lungs.  Do you suppose –?”
Taracles’ scowl effectively cowed Aectetis.  “Now, you listen to me, Aectetis, and listen well.  Sikander’s a raving madman, and any fool with eyes can see it. I can tell you exactly what we’ll find in these caverns.  Nothing.  There are no demons here, or anywhere else, for that matter.”

“But the locals believe—“

“Ignorant peasants!” Taracles spat disgustedly, as if he’d tasted something foul.  “Their superstitions should not sway an Emperor, or a general, from conquest.”

The comment, spoken as only an aristocrat would dare, stung.  Aectetis forced the anger away, aware that it was a small enough matter, at the moment.  Survival was a more pressing concern than pride.

Silence hovered around them, and Aectetis’ heart beat in dread.  This wasn’t right.  There should be sounds – the echo if their sandaled feet on the cavern floor, the drip of underground water, the shift of rocks, even the sound of their breathing – yet no sound penetrated the oppressive stillness.  The closer they moved toward the wide cavern at the tunnel’s end, the heavier the silence grew, until Aectetis feared he’d gone deaf.

Moving cautiously, they entered the subterranean hall, and abruptly stopped.  No wind stirred here, no sound murmured in the stillness.  It was, Aectetis decided with a shiver of dread, a tomb.  The eeriness of it all crawled along his spine.

A form moved in the darkness of the torch’s jumping shadow.  Aectetis turned his head to better see, just as his torch sputtered and blew out.  A moment later, Taracles’ died as well, plunging the cavern into utter darkness.

“What was that?” Aectetis’ horrified whisper finally pierced the hovering silence.  “Taracles?”

“It was probably a draught from the tunnel.” Taracles sounded annoyed.  “Let me find my flint.”

A moment later, a soft glow sparked in the darkness, and Aectetis’ muscles slowly relaxed.  “Thank you, Taracles.  I –“

“Quiet, fool!”  Taracles hissed, brandishing his blade.  “That light isn’t mine.  There’s someone else down here!”

Aectetis’ voice died on a terrified gasp, his heart pounding harshly in his ears as he flattened himself against the wall behind him.  More than ever, he wanted to flee this place.  But Taracles would see that as cowardice, and as long as Taracles remained, Aectetis could do no less.  He would not dishonor his family, or his people.

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.