Being the Outsider

alone-girl-sitting-on-window-waiting-someoneAt some point in our lives, I think we’ve all felt like an outsider.  It doesn’t matter if you’re cool – or not, rich, poor, or anything in between.  There will always be some dividing line that separates us from the rest of the group.

Of course there’s the biggies like race, sexual orientation, and religion/politics.  But the minor things can feel the same.  Maybe it was that time that you were the piano player in the midst of the drummers.  How about being the star football player at the ballet tryouts?  When you feel like you stand out, it sucks.  There’s a piece of you that wants to run and hide, another that wants to prove you can do this, and the one that is terrified.

I tried to capture that feeling in BloodLust.  Imagine being one of a kind, so rare that people stop and look, so freakish that everyone around you is scared of YOU.  How long would it take before you wanted to give up?  How could you change people’s minds?  What would you do?  Would the desperation to be accepted sink in after a year?  Ten?  Twenty?

Then imagine finding a place you truly belong.  Your personal nirvana.  Would it hurt more, or less, when that feeling of security is ripped away?  Could you go back to the hell you lived in before?  What other options would you have?

One of the most common things said about my writing is that it’s “real”.  Doesn’t matter if that’s one of my romances or the fantasy novels, my readers can find the grain of truth buried in the story.  Well, this is how it gets there.  Every book is built on one great lie.  One “What If” you might say.

From that single question, the characters develop, the world evolves around them, and the quest comes into focus.  The plot is always about the character’s personal goal.  The STORY is about that one question that makes the whole thing spin in my mind until it comes out my fingers.  Right now, I’m lost in the despair of being all alone while surrounded by so many others.  The end result is BloodLust, coming out in April.

There are always characters that don’t cooperate

LieutenantI pick up these pictures from all over the place as inspiration for characters.  This one is the Lieutenant from BloodLust.  It just looks like I thought an officer should.

So, I was going through my inspiration folder, saw this, and started thinking about that book.  Probably the hardest part was writing a character – who got POV chapters – who could see into the future.  Oh, it’s a fickle talent and not one that can be relied upon.  His visions come when they want and aren’t always about what he THINKS he needs to know.

But how do I keep the secrets?  How do I prevent spoiling the entire plot of the book… hell, the series?  Well, I peppered the novel with hints.  Some won’t come into play until book 5.  Some apply to the next chapter.  The thing with Blaec’s knowledge is that sometimes telling another will twist the potential outcomes just enough that bad things will happen.  It’s not a friendly skill.  It’s not the kind of thing you’d wish on your worst enemy, but he’s always had it.

Zep (2)I had to fight to keep him on track.  Oddly, though, he wasn’t the character that went rogue on me.  No, that was Zep.  My beta readers had to listen to countless hours of me whining about keeping that man on track.  Granted, he’s also become one of my favorite characters to ever write.  (The gorgeous photo to the right was my inspiration for him).

Zep was supposed to be the friendly antagonist.  He didn’t agree.  By chapter three of the first book, he’d already scrapped the original plot, re-written it into something better, and dared me to fulfill his every expectation.  When I tried to play it safe, he proceeded to say something that carried be off track (back to where he wanted me to go).

I always see these memes about the imaginary friends writers have, and well, I think the characters from Rise of the Iliri are mine.  At least they are my first group of book buddies – and that gives them a special place in my heart.

And unlike my other books, the Rise of the Iliri series is MEANT to be read again.  The first time through, you might miss a few things.  Oh, the story is just as good, and you’ll be sucked right in, but I’m hoping that the second time will be even better.  The third?  Who knows.  I’ve personally read it more times than I can count, but that’s a little different.  Oddly, I’m not sick of it.

Now, I’m trying to capture that magic in every novel I put out.  I’m not sure I’ll succeed, but I’m going to keep trying.  But at least I know, when the characters are real enough to change things on their own, the book should end up great.

One more off my list

Sal RunningCover, editing, series, move to the next.  THIS is the problem when you write about a novel a month for almost two years.  The entire process gets all bottle-necked.  Let me assure you, it’s an amazing problem to have.

You see, at first, I wanted to have my books published by one of those big places.  You know the ones I mean.  The problem is that I don’t write the stories they want.  Vampires?  Nah, that’s been done.  I make genetically modified humanoids subjugated by population.  Feudalistic Europe?  I’m more of a Germanic/Rome kinda fan.  Humans vs. monsters?  I prefer monsters vs. humans.  Over and over my fans keep saying two things consistently.  1.  Characters that feel real.  2. Unique plot.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict the sales of a “unique plot”.  That means companies who are forced to watch their bottom line get a bit nervous.  A series about gamers, written in a style like romance serials but with an action/adventure style plot?  They can’t figure out how to market it.  Then again, I can’t either, so I just tell my fans on twitter and facebook and hope that word of mouth really works.

But, the rambling point I’m coming around to, is that while waiting to see who would be interested in my first, second, or whatever book, I kept writing – and researching.  The deeper in I got, the more I realized that trade publishing may not be the answer I’m looking for.  There’s no way the big publishing houses can keep up with my writing.  They wouldn’t give half my books the time of day because there’s no profit/loss research on that subject.  And….

Truth be told, I’m a fan of the indie control.  I don’t have access to $5000 cover artists, but I do have people with skills.  Maybe it takes my artist longer.  Maybe my editor has a day job.  Maybe my beta readers are literary fanatics sick of reading the same ol’ thing.  Everyone involved in getting these books out to the fans are readers, the kind who like to curl up with a book and escape for a while.  And now that I have decided to throw all of my eggs in one basket (indie publishing) they are right behind me making this happen.

Which means two new series for my readers.  And yeah, all of these books are “done” (but waiting for editing and the finishing touches).  I just don’t want to scare away my fans, making them think their favorite series will be forgotten.  Most of these books are complete, sitting on my hard drive, waiting for a little polish to make them worthy of being seen.  Most of the work needed to get these books to the readers are things out of my control, so while I get excited about a new cover, or being able to announce yet another release date, know that I’m at home, frantically typing away on the rainbow colored list of corrections that need to be made so you all can get the one after that.

And this is why I love being an indie author.  Because I can tell you all the truth.  I am not gagged by an agent or publisher, urged to hold my tongue so that expectations aren’t crushed with the print is running late or the release date is pushed back.  I love being in control, even if that means accepting that I’m going to make mistakes.  I love knowing that the book I created will be the book you see – and hopefully love enough to tell all your friends about.

 

What’s in the works

I have a secret.  It’s a series, nearly completed, that’s stuck somewhere between fantasy and science fiction.  Based on a planet colonized LONG ago, where Earth has become a memory so distant it’s not thought of, metals are nearly impossible to fine in pure form, and humans aren’t the only sentient species.

For thousands of years, humans have domesticated the iliri.  They are slaves, cheap labor, and all around second class people.  They’re also pissed.

Imagine a world where electricity is impossible to move because there’s no metal wires, where guns and gunpowder are too expensive to keep producing, where DNA manipulation is old world technology.  Where a single UN survival knife is worth enough to buy a city and armor is made of resin and acrylics.  Imagine a world where the servants are beasts who’d rather eat you than scrub the tile… Then imagine what happens when they learn to fight back.