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Book Launch – Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker

Good morning! Today is the big day! Book Two of the Darkness Falling Trilogy has arrived.

Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker is now available on Amazon for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!

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Here are the links:

US

CA

UK

AU

If you were hoping for a paperback version, I had some issues with CreateSpace. The paperback should be available shortly; within the next week. I’ll post another blog announcement once it happens.

I would like to thank everyone who has followed along with my blog to this point in my publishing journey. Also, a big thank you to everyone who has purchased or picked up Soldiers and Slaves for free. If you do read the book, please remember to review (even if you hate it!) because feedback will help me improve and/or know what I’m doing right.

I am now hard at work at the third and final installment – Darkness Falling: Secrets of Syerset. I hope to have it done by early 2017! I’m also doing another edit of Soldiers and Slaves due to feedback on typos. It just takes some time to get done. After that, I have many other stories to tell and intend to keep writing and publishing.

Thank you again and have a fantastic weekend! *

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Writing News

Excerpt for Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker

With the launch of Book Two of the Darkness Falling Trilogy only two weeks away, today I’m posting an excerpt! Please enjoy and if you haven’t read book one, it’s only .99 cents on Amazon. (Shameless Plugging) 

Be aware, this could be a spoiler for Book One!

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After a moment of silence, Brosen nodded. “The sword. You said that the old man made it. What do you mean?”

“I don’t know the details, but he uses energy. He used to be Ka Elta’s advisor, but Ka Harn banished him thinking he was involved in his father’s death. After that he went to Gillinera and made his own army of Enforcer types.”

“Did he take Enforcers with him?” Brosen asked.

“I don’t know. All I know is that those Mutilators are like us but different.”

“That woman. She’s powerful.”

“Yeah, and not friendly. Her name is Lethel Jilorn.” The mere mention of her caused Treve’s muscles to tense.

Brosen was quiet again, eyes distant. “I’ve been thinking about my fight with her, but now I have more questions. If they’re like us and they have power like that, then shouldn’t we have power, too?”

It wasn’t something Treve had considered. “What do you mean?”

Brosen ran his hand through his hair, and in that moment he was his normal self. “I mean; we’re not just soldiers. In training, we’re told we have heightened abilities over regular people. We can run faster, jump higher, see better in the dark, and are stronger than people without Enforcer blood. But we’re never given any training in those skills beyond what is necessary to police the population. After fighting that woman and traveling with Impyra, I think we all have a lot of untapped potential.”

Treve felt uneasy at the idea. “We’re not like the Mutilators. We are, but we’re not.”

“You said Garinsith trained an army of them, right?”

Treve nodded slowly.

“That means there are more than three soldiers. Why does he need an army?”

It was a question Treve never asked himself.

“A better question is; why does he need an army that far better understands their abilities than the Enforcers?”

“And he calls them Mutilators.”

“Doesn’t sound like a friendly name to me.”

“I wonder if Ka Harn has thought about that,” Treve mused.

“Maybe, but my confidence in our Emperor’s ability to reason things through isn’t that high.”

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That’s all for today! Next week I’ll be posting my edit for the Silly Editing Challenge.

Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker will be available June 18.

Short Story

Short Story: SoulWave (part 2)

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If you missed part one of SoulWave you can find it here.

__________________________

Lindsey took advantage of the Eternally You staff’s offer to take her purse and coat down to her car and inform her driver that she would not need a ride.

The receptionist called the elevator for her and gave her a final, professional smile as the doors slid shut. Around her, the car began to descend but she did not move with it. Instead, she was given her first taste of passing through the steel, wires, and wood and left to float in her own illumination in the dark elevator shaft.

After a moments she realized that there was no longer a need for elevators or doors. She considered passing through the walls but the idea was unnerving. It was one thing to move through something thin, such as drywall, but quite another to fly through solid concrete. Instead, she descended down into the elevator and out through the metal doors.

The lobby of the building which housed Eternally You was just as richly decorated as the clinic. There was a small café near the windows with a view of the busy sidewalk. Lindsey floated past, unable to smell the coffee brewing. She also took note of the confused glances in her direction, and some full on stares.

Out on the sidewalk she crossed in front of a young man who jumped back when he saw her. “Whoa! What is that?”

“Excuse me,” she said, hurrying past.

More faces and exclamations of surprise met her along the way. People pointed and snapped pictures with their phones. Perhaps being at eye level for conversation was helpful for others, but traveling would be much better at a higher altitude. She made her way to the rooftops, where only those on upper floors would be able to see her pass. At least she would be less aware of their reactions.

Without having to concern herself with traffic, it was a quick flight to her office. It had been four months since she took a leave of absence until she was well. A few weeks ago she lost hope that she would ever return.

Lindsey felt a swell of joy overtake her as she descended into the lobby. If she was going to take the lead once more, the employees would need to get used to her presence. She prepared herself for the shock and confusion that followed. At the security desk she stopped to speak with the guard, who stood up and took a step back as she approached.

“Martin, I’m heading up to the office and I wanted you to be aware to prevent any possible negativity from your staff.”

His mouth dropped open and his eyebrows lifted. “Ms. Roker?”

“That’s right. I’ve returned and I’m glad to be back.”

“What happened to your body?”

“It’s a long story, Martin. I’ll have a memo sent out once I’m settled.”

Still confused, he didn’t stop her as she flew past. This time she didn’t bother to wait for the elevator. Behind her, the gasps of surprise from those standing outside the doors were quite audible. She was starting to feel a small sense triumph at the reaction. Her competitors would have nothing on her uniqueness.

Lindsey shared her office space on the top floor with little else than the primary boardroom. The comfort and familiarity of the place made her happy. She was surprised to discover a meeting was in progress when she arrived. All of the usual faces sat in their usual seats around the big glass table; all but one, the vice president serving as her temporary replacement.

As she approached the reception desk, her assistant sat up straight in her chair.

“Good morning, Gloria,” Lindsey said.

“What?”

“I’ve returned from leave and am ready to get back to work. Can you brief me on the meeting?”

“I…” Gloria’s dark eyes widened, then narrowed. “How is this possible?”

“I’ll explain later,” Lindsey said, exasperated, giving up on getting any useful information and instead entering the board room.

“What’s this?” Alan, the head of accounting, sat back hard in his chair when he saw her.

Sitting at the head of the table, in her chair, was Scott Gleeson. His blond hair was slicked back and shining. He dropped his pen with a loud clatter onto the glass table.

“I’ve returned,” Lindsey said. “Before you all start asking questions, I’ve had a medical procedure which separates my consciousness from my body. I am expecting that none of you will show me special treatment due to my new condition.”

“What is this?” Scott laughed, leaning back in the chair, which reclined slightly. “Is this a prank? Did you set this up, Marcus?”

Marcus, heavy-set and balding with nervous eyes behind the thick lenses of his glasses, shook his head vehemently. “No, it wasn’t me.”

“This isn’t a prank.” Lindsey moved forward. Every head in the room turned to follow. “Continue with your discussion, I’ll figure it out as you go.”

Scratching at his temple, she could see by Scott’s expression that he was not amused. “That’s not going to happen.”

“I know this isn’t proper procedure but I’m ready to get back to work.”

“Yeah, that’s not what I mean. How do we know you’re Lindsey Roker, exactly? You’re…” he scrunched up his face in an attempt to find the right word, “a very convincing drone, perhaps.”

“Drone?” she almost laughed at his audacity.

“What would you call it, Beth?”

The older woman shrugged, leaning with one elbow on the table. “Maybe she’s a ghost.”

Everyone at the table chuckled.

“I’m not a drone or a ghost. I’m very much alive and I am still the head of this company.”

“That’s debatable,” Scott said with a shrug. “From where I sit, I’ve been the head of this company for months, and things are better than ever.”

“He’s right,” Marcus was nodding furiously, always one to back the most expensive suit in the room.

“My body is in cryo stasis back at Eternally You, that can be confirmed.”

“Then you’re dead.” Beth leaned back, crossing her arms over her chest. “Only dead people get turned into popsicles.”

“I’m not dead. I’m alive right here in front of you; the SoulWave was a voluntary procedure.”

The faces around the table cast skeptical glances at each other.

“I think being alive, and remaining head of this organization, requires a body.” Alan said quietly.

“Damn it, that’s discrimination!”

“Is it?” Scott shook his head, smiling his infuriating, pretentious smile. “Quite frankly, I believe if you pass on, half of your shares are up for sale and if it was your choice to have this done, it may even count as suicide.”

She knew exactly what that meant. In the event of suicide she would forfeit her remaining shares, the ones which would have been willed to her husband and daughter. Instead, they would drop directly into Scott Gleeson’s pocket.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“It’s not what I would dare; it’s the reality of the situation.”

Another thought came to mind. “It seems to me you’re ready with this knowledge. You’ve been researching it, haven’t you?”

“We had to, Lindsey,” Beth said quietly. “Things weren’t looking good for you.”

“You’re going to hear from my lawyer about this, do you hear me?”

Scott frowned, tenting his fingers before him. “Not to be rude, but I don’t think you have a leg to stand on.”

The executives erupted in laughter. Enraged, Lindsey exited the room, flying directly through the wall and out into the open air. She sped her way across town, ignoring the roadways and flying directly over the rooftops. Her anger boiled through her. It wouldn’t be the last they saw of her. She would bring a case against Scott and his cronies. Once she was installed into her old position, she would find new bodies to fill the seats in the boardroom.

Brooding as she was, it wasn’t long before she was in her neighborhood and her house came into view. The lovely four story home was a dream to behold. A finely manicured lawns with perfect gardens full of flowers waited to greet her. Her husband’s car was in the driveway, and she was glad. In this instance recruiting his help would be beneficial. Until people were used to her new form she would need a body to take the direct focus away.

Passing through the front door she found the house was quiet. “Michael! Michael are you here?” She hurried up to his office to find him sitting at his desk, working on paper work. “I’m glad you’re home.”

“Of course I’m home, I picked up Abby up from school today.” He lifted his head and jolted in his seat. “What the hell? Lindsey?”

“Yes, it’s me.” She sighed in relief to see his face. “I’m so glad you’re both here.”

Michael made his slow way around the desk. “What the hell happened to you?”

“I had a procedure done, the SoulWave. I wanted to surprise you. I’m not sick anymore.”

He drew near, inspecting her with confusion. She couldn’t smell his cologne or feel his warmth. After moment of silence he pulled back, shaking his head and putting his hands into his pockets.

“I’m speechless. This is unbelievable.”

“I know. We won’t have to write up a will. I was thinking that we should put a down payment for you to have it done, too. Not now, of course, but when you’re ready; and for Abby, for the future. We can be a family forever, no matter what.”

“No.” Michael shook his head. “You’re not listening to me, which isn’t a surprise. I can’t believe you would do something like this without talking to me first.”

“Michael, I…”

“Actually, never mind. I can believe it. This is just like you, only thinking of yourself.”

“How can you say that? I did this for us, for our family.”

“For us? No. You did this because you’re afraid to die. Jesus, Lindsey. What the hell are you supposed to be anyway? How will you work? All of your finances are going to be tied up because of this.”

“No, I have documentation…”

“Stop, I don’t care. I’m done with all of this and now you’ve made it easy.”

Lindsey felt as if she were spinning, her emotions began to boil back up. “You want to talk about selfish? I was in pain, dying, and about to leave both of you forever. I found a solution. All you can think about is about the money.”

“You’re right, I’m thinking about the money, because how are we going to pay for a place to live? How are we going to pay for Abby’s school? Our debts? No, I’m not the selfish one because I actually think about these things.

“I’ve wanted a divorce for a long time, but then you got sick. I wasn’t going to be the asshole who divorces his sick wife. Besides, at least I knew I had an out. You were going to die. Now what? You’re going to live forever and you expect me to spend eternity with you?”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m sick of you and how you never consider that other people might want a say in what happens around here. I want out, and I want half. Actually, I want more than half. Look at you. You don’t need a house. You’re a ghost.”

“Michael….”

“Mommy?” a small voice said from the doorway. Abby peeked her little head around into the room, eyes sad. Her sandy-blond hair was pulled into pigtails and she carried a doll under her arm. “Is Mommy home?”

“I’m right here sweetheart,” Lindsey said as calmly as possible.

Her daughter looked up at her, startled. “You’re not my mommy,” she said.

“Beautiful,” Michael said, shaking his head.

“Yes, it’s me,” Lindsey lowered herself to Abby’s level, but the girl screamed and ran.

“Abby!”

“Now you’re a terrifying monster. Good job. That’s another thing I’ll get. How does a ghost take care of a kid?”

“Shut up, you prick!” Lindsey snapped, hurrying after her daughter.

Abby ran to her room, slamming the door behind her. Lindsey was right behind her, but stopped at the wood, choosing to wait.

“Abby, it really is me. I’ve just changed, that’s all. Now I can stay with you forever.”

She listened for a response. After a few moments she could hear Abby sobbing.

What have I done?

Lindsey passed through the door. Abby was sitting on her bed, hugging her doll tightly to her chest. When she saw the light she scrambled toward her pillow, pulling the blanket over her head.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“What happened to my mommy?” Abby asked, still hiding.

“I’m right here, I just look different now. I’m not sick any more, and I won’t die. I can be with you forever.”

Very slowly Abby lowered the blanket, her eyes were red with her tears. Lindsey waited while the girl considered whether the change was good or bad.

“How will you tuck me in?”

“Well,” Lindsey thought for a moment. “I can’t but I can still read you a story if you hold the book and turn the pages.”

“How will you kiss me goodnight?”

A powerful sorrow filled her. If she still had eyes she would have cried from the pain. “I can try. It will be different.”

She dared to move closer to the bed. Abby reached out her hand, and Lindsey brushed against her fingertips.

“It’s warm,” Abby said before pulling away. “I miss my old mommy.” She began to cry again.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I am your old mommy. I just don’t have a body any more, and my body was full of sickness. Isn’t it better that I won’t die?”

Sniffing into her dolls hair Abby nodded, but continued to cry. Lindsey stared helplessly at her daughter, unable to pull her close and comfort her. She was filled with grief at her losses; things that she never expected to lose once her body was gone. Her career, her husband, her daughter; everything was hinged on the fragility of flesh and bone.

“I still love you, Mommy,” Abby said suddenly.

“I love you, too. Forever.”

___________________________________

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed my short story, SoulWave! Please feel free to leave a comment.

 

Short Story

Short Story: SoulWave (part 1)

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“Have you been diagnosed with a terminal illness? Are you suffering in pain and torment knowing the end is near? What will happen to your loved ones if you leave them behind?

“At Eternally You Inc. we have solutions that could solve all of death’s problems. From cryogenic stasis to our patented, cutting edge SoulWave, your last breathe doesn’t need to be your final goodbye.”

Her eyes tracked away from the LCD screen hanging on the wall, annoyed by the commercial. The smiling faces of attractive, vigorous people spending time under a blue sky captured the dream beyond the reality. This service wasn’t for the healthy; it was for the desperate and dying.

I’m already here. No need to keep pushing the sell.

For her comfort, the reception area was luxurious decorated with almond finish on the wooden tables and firm wingback chairs with rich, cream colored upholstery. Tall vases full of fresh sprays of tropical flowers graced the end tables. At the desk, the receptionist was dressed in a designer suit, her hair perfectly styled and her makeup finely applied. She was the centerpiece to the illusion crafted by design to cater to a clientele who could afford the services offered by Eternally You, clients exactly like Lindsey Roker.

Her hands shook as she lifted the glass of water given to her for her wait. It was a real glass, not the cheap paper cups usually found in a doctor’s clinic. The water was cool as it slid down her throat; not enough to sooth her nerves or the endless pain in her muscles. It was better than sitting still. Patience was not her virtue.

“Ms. Roker,” a young nurse called from the doorway, chart in hand.

Gathering her purse and jacket, Lindsey teetered uneasily to her feet. Her life was full of accomplishment. Wealth, fame, family; she was highly regarded for her philanthropic contributions to the less fortunate. She lived the dream most people would strive for in vain. It felt rather unfair that her existence was to be cut short by an incurable illness.

Following the nurse back into the sterile white clinic, the atmosphere retained the well-polished appearance of luxury. A series of small interview rooms lined the corridor to her right while to the left the area opened out into larger rooms encased in glass.

Futuristic white machines edged in blue light hummed quietly on standby settings. Human-sized tubes where bodies were frozen were easily recognizable. In the farthest room to the rear of the clinic, a large orb-shaped machine reminded her of a free-floating eyeball stared in her direction.

I’m walking through a damn sci-fi novel.

It wasn’t far from the truth. Eternally You was the first to have their cryogenic containment approved and sanctioned by the government. The SoulWave technology was the latest craze to hit the media; a promise of true immortality beyond the hope of being revived if a cure was found.

It was an exciting time to be unwell for the wealthy.

The nurse stopped at an exam room door and motioned for Lindsey to enter. Her smile was warm and patient but well practiced.

“All of the legal waivers are in order and your payment has been approved,” she said cheerfully. “Dr. Mentz will be with you momentarily.”

“Thank you,” Lindsey said, taking a seat on the exam table.

It was a familiar dance over the past eight months. Wait in the reception area, sit in the exam room, discuss the test results and prognosis, worry herself into a frenzy. Her company needed her. Her husband needed her. Her daughter needed her. She wasn’t dead but she felt useless in this endless parade of doctor visits and experimental treatments. The idea of laying helpless in a hospital bed waiting for the end was not appealing.

When next the door opened a young man with dark hair stepped in; his white lab coat and serious expression the pristine uniform of the medical profession. He surveyed her chart, making notes.

“Your lab work and preliminary exam have all come back with good results,” he spoke without lifting his gaze. “You are within acceptable ranges for all of our procedure options.”

She found it ironic that his use of the word “good” merely meant she was close enough to death to legally flash freeze her body. If nothing else, it lessened her concerns that she would be forced to wait and retest once her illness progressed.

“Have you gone over the pamphlets we sent you home with last time?”

“Yes,” Lindsey said, folding her hands in her lap. “I’ve decided on the SoulWave.”

Dr. Mentz nodded, writing that into her chart. “You’ve discussed this with your family?”

“Yes,” she said, but it was lie. This was her choice, not theirs.

He looked her firmly in the eye, concerned. “No one chose to be with you today for the procedure?”

“It was my decision to be alone. I don’t want them to see me looking like a corpse.”

“All right,” Dr. Mentz said, nodding absently.

He set the chart down and sat on the small rolling stool by the counter. Leaning forward, rested his elbows on his knees and lanced his fingers together. “Before we beginning there are a few things that you should be aware of that other patients have reported.”

I don’t care about them; I just want to get this over with. She gave him a tight lipped, tolerant smile. She knew it was the law to discuss potential side effects.

“You will feel disoriented at first. You may experience dizziness. Although you will no longer require food or sleep, you will have phantom sensations for these activities. Much like having an arm or leg amputated, your mind will try to compensate in awareness for what has been lost.

“To lessen feelings of hunger, it is suggested you spend as much time in the sunlight as possible. Solar energy will sustain you. If you feel as if you can’t function due to feelings of fatigue, it’s recommended you find a safe, quiet place to rest where you will not be disturbed. Patients report that these sensations begin to fade after a few months.”

“I understand.” Not needing to eat or sleep would be beneficial and add more hours to her day, she didn’t think it would be a problem.

“It is also common to experience depression and anxiety associated with grief and loss. If at any time you feel overwhelmed by these feelings our psychology staff is here to help. Also, your body will be kept in complimentary stasis for thirty days. Should you choose to reverse the procedure we will preform a reversal, however results may vary on your functionality once revived. It isn’t the same as cryogenics.”

“I know.” Lindsey frowned. “I highly doubt I will want that.”

“Lastly, you will no longer be a physical being. You will have a presence which appears tangible, but you will not contain matter as you do now. Some patients find the ability to move in any direction they please freeing, while others try to mimic their old life. Just be aware that you will pass through objects and will require assistance for many tasks you take for granted.”

“I did read the brochure fully. Can we please get started?” Lindsey said, unused to be lectured.

“Of course,” Dr. Mentz stood up and offered his hand. She shook it, confused. “The last time you will shake hands.” He smiled but she was not amused.

He left her alone to remove her clothes and dress in a hospital gown. She ran her fingers through her sandy blond hair, feeling the strands pass between her fingers; soft and rough and familiar. It was either this or disappear into the unknown of eternity. Losing her physical form was worth it to leave the pain behind but remain in the world she loved.

The nurse returned to lead her to the white orb at the center of the clinic. Multiple assistants were present, all dressed in surgical gowns and masks, their eyes hidden behind protective goggles. Her heart began to pound. Lindsey allowed the nurse to help her lay down on the narrow table where the machine opened at the front.

“This is going to be similar to an MRI. If you think you’ll feel claustrophobic we have a mask to help keep you calm.”

“I’ll be fine, I’ve had many MRIs.”

The nurse gave her that same sad smile people offer to the dying; gently squeezing Lindsey’s shoulder once to remind her of her bravery and walked away. She lay still, staring up at the ceiling while the final preparations were made. In the pamphlet it said the procedure only took two minutes. It would be over soon.

“We’re going to step into the protective area now, Ms. Roker. Do not be alarmed.”

“I won’t,” she said.

The room became quiet when the door shut. Only the hum of the machines remained to keep her company. Slowly, the panel began to slide into the small opening in the SoulWave. She clenched her fists as the light dimmed and she was encased by the smooth walls. Tiny blue lights flickered to life all around her. They began to blink in disorienting patterns. Lindsey closed her eyes. This wasn’t like an MRI at all. Was this the last thing she would see with her eyes?

Her breathing was loud inside the tube. The pain in her bones screamed at her for laying on her back. Behind her head, the crackle of an intercom startled her.

“We’re going to begin now,” Dr. Mentz’s grainy voice said. “The chamber is going to spin around you and you may feel dizzy. Keep your eyes closed to prevent nausea.”

“I’m ready,” she said, upset at the tremble of fear in her voice.

The whir of the machine grew louder as the turbine began to spin. She felt the air press against her, a false wind generated by the motion. Flashing light penetrated her eyelids until at last she was bathed in a solid blue glow. Her mind raced as the memories of her life flashed before her in succession.

Learning to ride a bike, her days in private school with her friends, music lessons, graduating university with honors, her first date with her husband, their first kiss, starting her own business, her wedding day, growing into a multinational corporation, the birth of her daughter, the deaths of her parents, the diagnosis of her illness.

Everything blended together into a blur of time and space. She felt herself lift up off of the table. Her pain eased into a vague ache. Lindsey looked down at the SoulWave machine spinning and humming. She could see the bottoms of her feet in their white surgical booties at the end of the tube. It took several moments to realize she was hovering near the ceiling.

The lights in the machine began a steady pulse and the spinning slowed. Once it stopped the door to the safe area opened. The Eternally You clinical staff stepped out, applauding their success. Lindsey Roker was free of her disease riddled body.

“Let’s get her into the cryo chamber before she flatlines,” Dr. Mentz instructed.

Lindsey watched them lift her lifeless body onto a stretcher and rush it into the next room. From here she looked so frail and old; a worn out suit left on the floor after a long day of work. Within a matter of moments she was placed into the chamber and flash frozen into stasis.

“To keep your loved ones at ease, it is best to hover at eye level,” Dr. Mentz said, looking up in her direction. “The best way to accomplish that is through concentration. Movement will become more natural for you in time.”

She thought about how the room would look from her normal height. After a few moments she descended downward and found herself in a reasonable proximity.

“Very good,” he said. “Now you can take a look at your new form.”

The nurse who held up a large hand mirror. Instead of the haggard, exhausted face she was used to there was nothing more than a glowing orb of pale white light reflected back.

“Congratulations,” Dr. Mentz smiled. “You have achieved immortality.”

——–

This ends part one of my two part short story series SoulWave. Check back next Saturday for part two!

I hope you enjoyed the story. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Writing Tips

Characterization: Villains

When I was young I wanted to tell fantastic tales of magic and mystery that filled readers with awe. Breathtaking landscapes, mystical creatures, and the ultimate battles of good versus evil. Setting up a good scene is an important part of storytelling, and one that worked very hard at achieving. I would not only create the moment but the historical significance of why the world worked the way it did and how things had come to that point.

What I didn’t understand was that stories aren’t about scenes, they are about characters. The scene is important, but how the characters respond in that scene is even more important. The human element, (even if those humans are fairies or aliens or animals,) is what connects the fictional world to the reader. Because of this, getting to know your characters is the key to making them believable.

As I’ve grown as a writer I’ve also learned to make my characters alive instead of props to the action around them. I like to imagine creating a new character is a lot like getting to know a stranger. Having conversations with my characters brings them to life in my mind. More than just hair, eye, and skin tone but what really makes them tick. What is their favorite color? How to they hold their hands when they speak? Are they expressive, dull, or moody? What is the thing they like about themselves? What do they wish was different? There are so many aspects of a character that make them feel realistic.

This is especially important for the primary players. The protagonist is the person with whom the audience is going to spend the most time, and making them believable is important. However; I believe it is even more important for the antagonist. Protagonists in a good versus evil world are easy to write. They are the “hero” or the “good guy,” Their motivation is easy because that is the point of the story. When it comes to the villain, however; it isn’t quite so clear cut.

The biggest question I ask myself when creating my villains is: why? If I can’t come up with a reasonable explanation, or can only respond “Because (s)he is evil,” that’s not a good enough answer. Villains are people, too. They have vision, dreams, and motivations just like everyone else. They may not even realize that they are the villain depending on their view of the world. Understanding that view is what will make a villain believable or cliché.

Another way I’ve come to look at it is that I’m the villain. I’m the one pitting my heroes against obstacles, putting them in danger, and threatening them at every turn. Why would I be doing this to characters that I have created and given voice? Because a story about how Tim and Sue went to the market isn’t that interested unless a believable conflict occurs.  I merely pass that onto the character who will act as my emissary in being the epicenter of the struggle on the page.

In the end, being a writer is about waging wars within yourself until you can determine the most interesting outcome.

I enjoy writing villains far more than heroes. It is especially fun to write villains who are not as clearly defined as such. Evil often succeeds in festering because it is masked by the many faces of the human experience. When the problem makes sense, bringing the hero in to solve it becomes a much easier process of action and reaction.

What are your favorite types of characters? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

Publishing Tips, Writing News, Writing Tips

Book Covers: Fun With Images

I may be a disorganized person but I still like to plan as I go. When I decided that Book One was going to be edited and put on Amazon, I was worried the cover would be a hurdle. I started researching right away. I had no idea what  tangled mess of legality of using fonts and images. Luckily, one of my good friends is a graphic artist and she was able to explain much of it to be before I even started looking.

I started out thinking I could probably use a stock photo. I don’t have the largest budget to work with, in fact I have barely any budget at all. I’m sure that this is a reality for many writers, especially at the beginning. As I began researching images and licencing of stock photos, I come across blogs stating that you can purchase images for just a few dollars. In my mind, “a few dollars” is under ten. When you actually look at the pricing of on these sites for licensing for commercial use, even purchasing credits is in the one-hundred dollar range depending on the image.

Everyone’s idea of inexpensive is different. To some, that may be a bargain. To me, that’s a lot of money.

I then learned about creative commons images and public domain. This is a rout that is possible, if I can find something that works. I’ve found many of these photos look like that roll of film someone took at random events and then forgot to pick them up from the developer. If I can find the right one, with the right legal licensing, it’s a possible place to find my image. I haven’t had luck so far.

Of course, Amazon has a cover creator. I created a mock book just to test it out. Similar to the creative commons pictures, I haven’t found an image I can work with. I’m looking for dark, mysterious, and dystopian. The images on Amazon are too generic yet cheerful. Going without an image is an option, but it feels like a last resort.

I also looked at Canva. The price is fine but once again the images are the same as on Amazon. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the same images on both sites.

I’m going to continue browsing all of these resources, of course, but I have little hope of finding what I need.

I’d rather use my own image. Not only would I not be settling for something that only vaguely represents my story, I’d also have fully rights to it and never have to worry.

I consider myself to be a fairly artistic person. My family is full of artists. I understand color, design, and negative space. I can see images clearly in my head, and how they should curve and form and connect to create that image line by line. For some reason, that doesn’t transfer to my hands and I draw at the level of a semi-talented pre-teen.

That’s why I’m a writer and not a painter.

I’ve thought about taking a photograph myself. My only camera is my phone, but that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. With the right enhancements and filtering I could possibly make something that would work. Of course, even there you have to be careful. Recognizable places also have legal rights, just like people’s images.

Although it’s been a frustrating few weeks of searching through images and learning about the legal walls, I am glad I researched this topic in advance. It would be horrible to be ready to suddenly learn all of this when my deadline is up. Whether I take the picture myself, miraculously draw something suitable, or find a photo I can reasonably afford, in the end I’ll know it will get done.

If you have any tips or ideas for creating book covers, or want to share your own ideas, feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.