Thinking About It

Change is good.

I know of late, my thrill with writing has been lagging. When you’ve basically written yourself into a comfort zone, there isn’t much to be excited about. Sure, I tend be on the crazy side of the concept of comfort zone, but you still want a challenge. I think some of my dissatisfaction might be traced to some pseudo post-partum depression over ending the Southern Werewolf Chronicles. The series started way back in 2007. That amounts to seven years I’ve spent with these characters, nurturing them, loving them and all around just plain living with them. Leaving that part of my world behind is sad. I know the characters will still be popping up in my Bite Marks series, but that leads to another problem.

I’ve lost my way a bit with my Vampires. I have forgotten where I wanted to go. Could be the story doesn’t like the way my plans are leading it. Whatever the case, I can’t bring myself to open a doc and begin the next stage of my It was a dark and stormy bloodsucking night. This might not excite my readers of that series, but I’m not going to start writing again on the series until my head is screwed on straight where they’re concerned. Hate me if you want, but I refuse to write crap for the sake of just to write something. Ain’t going to happen.

So, what am I going to write?

A few weeks ago, I began work on the third book in the Scrolls of Eternity series. A couple chapters in, I decided perhaps my head just wasn’t screwed on straight for writing anything. A few days later I came down with a case of strep throat. A week of 102 degree fever really kicks fevered imagination into high gear. In the midst of cold sweats and raging cover tossing bed twisting, I had several whacked out dreams that concreted an idea that had been rolling around in my head for awhile now.

I’ve spoke of it before but being sick gave me the push to start working on a religious themed horror novel. Huh? Yeah you heard me right. Religious Horror. That doesn’t even sound right, but to me it does. The greatest books deal with issues, concepts, the nature of humanities relationship with the world both around them and the one beyond. Be it Science Fiction, Fantasy, or even Horror, man’s struggle to understand where he comes from seems to be a defining moment in who we are as a people. Whereas I love the escapism involved in Romance, and yes you can explore these themes in Romance, I wanted to as I said above step outside my comfort zone and try something completely outside my usual writing.

That said I am approaching 14,000 words on this new venture. More importantly, I am finding myself consumed by the characters. Like I hope you will be one day, I can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. For the first time in ages, I don’t know what comes next. I have a loose outline in my head, but how I get from Scene A to Scene B and beyond escapes me. I just enjoy the rollercoaster I’ve bought a ticket to ride. That’s what I’ve missed the most about writing, the uncertainty of it all. With the Love Bites and Bite Marks books, I did something predictable. I planned out the whole series after book three. Right now, I know how the thing ends. It’s like walking into the movies and seeing the last five minutes before your showing starts. My aunt revealed how Thelma and Louise ended and to this day I haven’t watched that movie. I know one day a new spark will drive me to go back to Bite Marks and finish them, but right now my mind is caught up in exploring this new world I’m in the process of creating.

I have always been a fan of books that make you reexamine your ideas on how things work. I honestly love anything that causes me to think. Thinking has become an undervalued component of the human condition. It’s just so easy to coast through any medium of entertainment. Television and Movies takes the work of out using your imagination. Most forms of our escapism today is built around the premise of giving us what we’re used to. No thinking involved. I’ll be the first to admit I’m as guilty as anyone of blindly accepting this and being okay with it. Who wants to strain their brain after working all day?

To reinforce the main purpose of this blog, it takes real courage to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. My as of yet untitled WiP has me doing just that. It will be the story of two men confronting what they each hold to be divine truth and deciding if it is worth building their lives around. Since the first man, or woman, took up a burnt stick and drew a squiggly line on a stone, man has tried to define our place in the universe. We’ve created deities to explain it. We’ve set ourselves as the center of the universe. We’ve made images and massive structures to last eons to show what has moved our hearts and minds.

But, what is the nature of God? Is there a God? How do the beliefs of an individual dictate their place in our society? These are just some of the questions that hold my attention rapt and questing to know more. So, it came as no surprise when the idea for this book came about, these issues would play a big part in the structure and theme of the story. It’s a bit scary because this book will be the most personal of any I have attempted to write. Its success or failure isn’t as important to me as the cathartic exercise involved in writing it. The selfish egotistical part of me wants it to strike a chord with the people who read it. We all want to be accepted. Writers more so, because we truly do pour ourselves into our work. For me, when this book is finished, I don’t care if you walk away swayed to my way of thinking. What matters most to me then?

That you close the book, or tablet, and just simply think.

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Moment of Doubt

Sorry for being so quiet of late. I’m in a slump of sorts. Usually when I finish a book, ideas are fighting to get out of me. True, I’ve got ideas, but not the words to make them into reality, or what passes for reality in the literary world. So, I’ve basically brooded over what to do next. Unfortunately, I’ve come up with nothing.

I have come to feel that I’m at a crossroads. My life has taken many turns this year. I’ve spent it examining my own mortality. Becoming a grandfather, and just this week a great-uncle, I’ve gotten into the habit of re-examining my life. What impact have I had on those who have passed through my life? Have I used my God given talents to their fullest extent? Does my writing have meaning? You know. The usual when it comes to us self-doubting creative types.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I used to call myself an artist. If you look at the definition as any person who expresses themselves through a visual or musical medium, then I never stopped. Writing is a visual medium, so let’s not discount it in my definition. Whereas sculptors, painters, photographers, and so on, use a ‘visible’ format to get their ideas across, authors force you to accept their visions through the words they use.

As someone who has worked in both areas, let me tell you, writing is a much harder medium to work in. Mainly, because the response to art is immediate. You’re there in person when someone views your work. You get an instantaneous view of what people think. Writing is different. You rarely get to communicate with a reader. It could be months or years before you actually get to talk to someone who has read one of your books. You’re left with doubt as to whether you’ve achieved what you set out to do. Sadly, when you do hear, it’s not always what you want to hear, or read, if we’re talking reviews.

This may be pathetic or self-serving of me to bring up, but after checking a pirate site and looking to see if my books were there, I found out one of my books had been downloaded like a kajillion times. Okay, I might be exaggerating. The point I’m getting at is this. The fact those kajillion people illegally downloaded my book gave me a warped sense of vindication. That I hadn’t been wasting my time isolating myself from humanity. People liked my books enough to steal them. Whoopie! Never mind, people hadn’t bothered to spend hard earned money to equal those illegal reads. I had reached someone enough to point out my book was good enough to steal to read. How pathetic is that? A writer gets worked up because he’s made the best non-seller list. Don’t answer. I’m not sure I’m up to reading the answer.

With yet another book under my belt, I sit here wondering not what next, but if next. I’ve never been a quitter. Non-starter maybe, but I’ve never quit to the point that sometimes I should have. With the urge to once again paint filling me, do I owe it to myself to return to my first love? Balancing both is like splitting your mind in two. There is a constant struggle to hold in the dominance of one over another. One will always suffer. The thing is I quit all those years ago because at the time I knew I couldn’t do what I wanted the way I wanted. Basically, I couldn’t be the best I could be. With time between me and the then me, I’ve found the muse and skill to be that me I wasn’t able to be then. Could the same be true of writing? Have I reached the end of this me? Not quitting totally, but stepping back to examine what I want to write, or maybe just find myself again.

Since 2006, I have written over 25 books that are or were in print at one time. That’s a lot of verbal usage for one guy to regurgitate out of his head. I could just be burned out. The ideas seemed tired and trite. I am moving slower than I did when I first started out. Needless to say, the books I do now are better than when I first jotted words onto the screen.

So, maybe I’m not burned out. I could just have a firmer grip on who I am and what I want to write. I could just be resisting writing just to be writing. I have never want to just throw books out to throw books out. The stories I write are a big part of me. To write something I don’t believe in would be denying who I am. I have enough negative delusions without adding more.

Which brings us to who am I. My life is taking on different meanings. I am currently considering going back to school for my masters. Life itself is uncertain as it never has been before. I’m growing older, and the world is constantly changing around us all. As someone who expresses the world around them in literary terms, how can I express anything with uncertainty the word of the day? Perhaps that’s the problem. I have been trying to tell stories set in a safe world when normal is well normal. The world is anything but set in stone. As I travel down this road, I need to take that fact into account.

I guess I’m just adjusting like the rest of you. The world can be a scary place, and it’s my job as an artist or author to take your minds off your troubles either with words that make you escape your own hardships for a time, or give you a snazzy visual image that let’s you see the beauty in the world. Despite everything else, I try to never lose sight of why I write or paint. It has never changed from when my brain first opened itself to create. I create to give people an emotional release. Ultimately, when I make people smile, it makes me smile.

In spite of my doubts, I can’t deny bringing joy is the greatest calling there is, and one I hope to never stop doing.

Change the Words with a Smile

Image

 

Things change.

 

That’s the truest statement ever uttered. As you grow older, notice, I didn’t say grow up, your comfort zone is constantly being challenged. Things happen. You adapt. Or, you stagnant. That is true in life and especially true in writing.

 

I’ve been writing Paranormal Comedies for over seven years. When you do something for that long the magic begins the fade to a dull throb in the back of your skull. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy writing it, but something comes up missing. The ideas just don’t seem fresh. I find it harder to see things with a new eye. As a result, questions constantly bombard me that probably wouldn’t have been in my head when I first started writing.

 

What am I doing?

Is the new book really new or just a retread of what I’ve done before?

Where am I going with this?

How many stories can you realistically tell about Vampires?

Should I go in a different direction?

How many ways can I crack a joke about facial hair on female werewolves?

What happens when Vampires go to the bathroom? I mean, what does Vampire tinkle look like? Do I even want to know? Probably, not, but… it does bear some investigation at a later date.

 

Just not today. Today is about change. Weird asides can wait for another day.

 

How does one go about change? For me, it was examining all the things I love. Science Fiction, Superheroes, Westerns, Biblical heroes, Murder She Wrote. Hey, don’t look so surprised. I do love me some Jessica Fletcher. The point is I have a wealth of loves to choose from. Just because I write Paranormal, that doesn’t mean I’m not well rounded in other areas.

 

To explore that wealth, I set out to try beginning a book based on my loves. As hard as this may be for some of you to believe, I have the start of a few books that have nothing whatsoever to do with Vampires. That said, I had to find my comfort zone. We all have them, but finding them is the hard part. For me, it was finding a theme that I could slip into and feel safe writing about.

 

First off, I began a Biblical themed Young Adult about David. Why David? Because, he came from nothing to achieve everything. Even failure. Born a shepherd, he went on to kill a giant, lead an army, lead a people, and ultimately father a dynasty that still reverberates through us today. But, more than that I wanted to understand him not as a historical figure, but as a young boy thrust into something greater than himself. How would he cope with that pressure? How could he adapt to a role greater than anything a teenage boy should be able to handle? These are themes that are universal and still affect us today.

 

So how far did I get? A couple chapters before I realized how much work it would take. To do the story justice I needed to understand the truths of who young David was. That would take something I hate to do–research. I did the obvious thing. I downloaded a few Kindle books on the subject. Bought some hard copy books on his life. You get the picture. Ultimately, I decided before I could do his story justice, I needed to step back and read those books.

 

But, like any author, I wanted to write a book now! So, while I did my — shudder — research, I dipped into another of my loves. Superheroes. Stealing a muse in the form of the son of a good friend I began work on a series called The Scrolls of Eternity. What would you do if you suddenly became the avatar for an ancient Egyptian god? That was the question that burned in my head. Incorporating the mythology of my years of comic reading I set about to answer that question. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I would write a comic book without pictures. Patrick Michael Hughes came alive in my head. His alter ego, Horus, had already been alive there for years. Since, the early Nineties, I’d been trying to tell his story in one form or another. With this book, that dream became a reality.

 

I’m not saying it was easy, but I worked out the kinks and got my brain wrapped around the concept. The first book in the series, Rebirth, comes out in a few short weeks. Like all origin stories, it is only the beginning. A stage setter if you will. Already, book two is percolating in my head, with the first bits sitting in a fresh document. Will it be better than book one? My answer is yes. Whereas book one introduces the world to the legend of Horus, Storms of Chaos will bring growth to Patrick as he copes with what being a superhero is all about. When you add teen angst into the mix, he’ll also discover that becoming a man might be an even harder thing to do.

 

Am I pleased with the end result? Yes, but it could be better. I say that only because as an author, I’m not living the story. I’m only writing it, but like real life, I can look back and see where I could change this, or change that. Fiction often mirrors life. And, it should! If you can’t believe the story you’ve written, why should anyone else? Like my own life, I can see subtle things Patrick could do to make his life easier, better? Then again, easier often isn’t better. Patrick’s story isn’t about easy. It’s about making choices that are often difficult, but will make him a better man. They might not always be the wisest decisions, but from our mistakes we learn. That is real life in a nutshell. Screw up and you just might learn something.

 

Before I go back to my own real life, I have one more WiP to share. I have always loved Westerns. Growing up some of my favorite memories are of watching John Wayne movies with my grandparents. I know the Star Wars and Comics might have thrown you, but to me those old westerns are my true comfort zone. So, sitting on my computer is my first attempt at paying homage to my early heroes. It’s a story I look forward to telling because it is so different from what I’ve done before.

 

With Scrolls, I stayed within the shared world of my Love Bites universe, because that world is so alive and rich to me. Plus, you never know when you might need a Vampire to liven things up. On the other hand, the Western is a true stepping out of my normal happy place. It might take me awhile to get there with it, but I can’t wait to see what happens.

 

I guess the thing is this. Change is good for the soul and challenges the mind to become better than it was. Stronger. Faster. They can make me better. They have the technology. At least, I hope they do. Who is this ‘they’ I’m referring to? Well, my muses of course. Only, I call them my friends, my family, and all the people who come in and out of my life on a daily basis. That includes you guys reading this. You inspire me to keep throwing my thoughts out into the universe, whether you want to read them or not.

 

Before I go, let me say one more thing. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. You guys are the true inspirations. You inspire children to dream. I know my dad did. So, really if you want to blame someone for all this literary rambling. Blame him.

 

Thanks Dad for being my inspiration every second of the day.