Choosing a Sequel’s Title…Plus an Excerpt!

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Yesterday marked the four year anniversary that I self-published The Dark Proposal. Since then, I’ve been taking my sweet time writing its sequel. It’s been a long road working on it, with a lot of doubt mixed in. But I’m happy to say that I’m finally getting somewhere with it, and even have a title in mind!

Actually, I have two in mind. I am split between the two prospective titles, because they both represent the story.

One of them is, Blood Ties, which illustrates how torn Claire is between the vampire world and the human world. She now has vampire blood in her, yet she is trying to hold on to her humanity. As the vampire world becomes more and more troubled, where would her loyalties lie?

The other is Between Light and Dark, which also illustrates how torn Claire is. But in this case, she is also haunted by the mistakes she made that led her to become a vampire and is seeking some hope, hence the light. Furthermore, this title goes hand in hand with its predecessor – light, dark.

The more I write, the more I will figure out the title. Who knows, I might come up with something totally different.

In the meantime, check out this excerpt! Enjoy!

She grabbed her bathrobe, and went to the bathroom. She first started a shower, but switched to the bath once she realized Daniel would want to know why she was doing that. She was a vampire, no need to cleanse herself of anything, including him. So, her bubble baths would have to do. This was something she had begun doing since returning from Paris, and was one of the rare freedoms Daniel allowed for her. These baths weren’t just moments of indulgence for her. They made her feel clean, physically and mentally.

As she stripped off her bathrobe, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Did she recognize that person looking back at her? That person was a young woman with eyes that seemed as dead as the body she inhabited. Did she know she was staring back at herself?

Repulsion rose again and Claire had to calm down before she smashed the mirror. She let the tidal wave come, and it poured out in silent sobs. The blood tears came and flooded down her face onto the pristine sink. She didn’t care if the tears were really the blood of her victims or not. She just wanted a release.

After a few moments, she gathered herself enough to step into the tub. As she lied in the rosewood scented bubbles, the tears flowed more and she even choked a bit on her sobs. She made sure she did this quietly enough with the faucet running and the shower doors shut, so Daniel’s sharp hearing wouldn’t alert him. Luckily, he probably wasn’t even thinking about her right then.

Tilting her head back against the tub, Claire sighed and shook her head to herself. Her friends and family had no idea what she had become. She had rarely spoke to them since moving in with Daniel. The last time she spoke to her mother was on the phone two weeks ago. It was to wish her a happy birthday while explaining that she was too busy to visit. Her mother sounded frustrated, as she lately had been. But Claire also heard something else: helplessness. Her family had no clue on what was going on with her. It had to be agony for them to be lost like this. But if they ever found out, that agony would be replaced by outrage. She had put them in danger and she was now a monster. That would be it.

The same reaction would come from her two former best friends. Samantha would sound off obscenities while jabbing a finger at her, and Monica would storm off without saying a word. Claire would be left with only to turn to the vampire world she despised.

And she had to accept being a vampire.

She closed her eyes as a sob shook her. There was no way out of this. She had to be a vampire. She had to accept and live what she was now. No use in trying to maintain her humanity. Daniel was painfully right.

Claire’s body tightened. She could still feel him inside of her, using her like a masturbation device.

And she was attached to him for eternity. No matter what, he would be a big part of her life. The mere thought sickened her right to the bone, and she wanted to vomit.

A single blood tear rolled down her face, and she roughly brushed it away. Opening her eyes, she saw the bubbles and the water were tainted with blood. Blood from her tears.

Stunned, Claire stared at the bubbles and water around her. The blood was like ink, with its redness swirling around in the water, or relaxing to dye it faint red. Some of that inky crimson hue was caught in the bubbles. A large one rested near her left knee and it had that thick redness inside. It looked trapped, stuck in endless whirling, with no way of getting out, unless the bubble would burst.

Claire blinked a few times to rid herself of the shock. Even her cherished baths were blood stained. Her life was now bound by blood. Blood would be everywhere for her. Her very existence will be consumed by blood, and she will consume it, too. Blood and her were forever entwined. There was no more room for denial.

She gritted her teeth. There was no way she was going to live her life like that. She was so much better than this. She was not the sadistic killer Daniel wanted her to believe. She was not going to relish in human blood, no matter how much her new nature insisted. She was not going to embrace her vampire self.

Claire unplugged the drainer and stood to turn on the shower. Using her supernatural speed, she rinsed herself off of the ugly bubbles and water. Not only didn’t she want Daniel to hear the shower and get curious, but she also wanted to be rid of the redness as soon as she could. Claire’s anger began to crash down her regret and gain more steam. She was angry at Daniel and herself, and that anger was getting stronger with each rough stroke of her skin.

Once relieved of the bloody filth, she turned off the faucet. Glancing down at the floor of the tub, she saw the remaining bubbles and water were not fully rid of their redness. Worse, the tub’s porcelain now had a faint pink hue and might need some cleaning to be white again.

An ache suddenly came from her upper arms and torso. When she looked, she saw she had scratched herself while rubbing her skin in super-quick speed. Thin lines of blood had formed on her arms, stomach and chest.

Claire’s anger disappeared as quickly as the water going down the drain.

Letting out a sigh, she hung her head.

She was unsure of what to do that very minute, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year…

The only thing she was certain about was to lower herself onto the floor of the tub, pull her knees up, bury her forehead on them, and lose herself in her thoughts.

Blood had bound her to this world is more ways than one. She didn’t want either, but had no other choice. Only she didn’t want to follow through on that choice.

But what else could she do? There was no way out of this. It was permanent, and likely eternal, whatever that meant. She would never again be human, no matter how much she wished she still was.

All she could really do was get used to it.

But how?

 

 

 

Choosing the Name for My Vampire Trilogy

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Happy End of Summer, everyone!

Yes, isn’t sad that summer is over? For me, it went by too fast and I barely had time to enjoy it. But unfortunately, this year’s summer was far too hot and humid, so that experience has me looking forward to the much cooler fall. Seriously, some seasons aren’t worth getting ill over.

In the meantime, I am still working on my sequel. It is a long and hard journey, mainly because of my crazy schedule that has me working hard in an expensive city. But I am making headway, and I believe by this time next year – or maybe sooner – I will be celebrating its release, five years after the first book, The Dark Proposal, was published.

I know, it’s a long time to go between releasing books in a series. In this case, I am writing a trilogy which is quite ambitious and pretty far fetched for someone who has a busy schedule. But I am determined to keep my word and keep on writing. I know I am pulling a George R R Martin here, but it is what it is. I am not a full time writer and it will be eons before I reach that point. I do what I can and I hope the results will be at least descent.

Later this month, I will be revealing the two possible names for my sequel. I’m split on the two, but I’ll reveal them anyway to mark the 4-year anniversary of The Dark Proposal’s release. But before I do that, I want to discuss the name of my books’ trilogy.

I am calling my trilogy The End of Eternity. It may seem odd that I am not calling my books The Dark Proposal trilogy. After all, many books and movies go by the first name of their series. They include The Twilight Series or the Star Wars trilogy. But I see The End of Eternity as fitting, and my apologies if it seems like I am giving away the story.

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

When I started writing The Dark Proposal, I not only was exploring abusive relationships, but I was also asking the question: how could vampires survive today with so much technology and surveillance? I would imagine it would be far from easy and would be a problem unlike any other for vampires. I would imagine through the centuries, vampires would have dealt with the witch hunts, the Inquisition and other atrocities due to superstition and fear. But crime scene technology, social media, surveillance, and other modern technology would make it difficult for a vampire to get by. It’d be like the supernatural versus science. Who wins?

I originally wrote a story about all of this, but struggled with it because the characters were boring and no real backstory to them, no matter how hard I tried. Writing about Claire and Daniel’s relationship help add some color to the technology vs. vampire issue nicely.

So, The End of Eternity trilogy will answer the question of modern technology vs. vampire, along with what would happen if a young woman found herself in a relationship with a man who turned out to a murderous vampire. See, that’s the fun thing about vampires. There are so many issues and stories to explore with them. The possibilities are endless, and I think there are many good stories still waiting to be written about vampires. Maybe mine will set off a trend!

So, my trilogy is called The End of Eternity.🙂

Writing and Editing at the Same Time

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Some say when you write a novel, you should write first and save the editing for later. After all, if you do both, you’ll become distracted from the real goal of finishing the story’s first draft.

Well, I happen to be one of those people who edits as she writes. Meaning, I don’t save the editing for after I am through with the first draft; it is my priority alongside my writing.

Image by Nic McPhee via Flickr

Image by Nic McPhee via Flickr

Usually what I do before I write is that I read over the previous scene or two. Often I do this in order to get a feel for what is going on, so I could get into the ‘mode’, if you will. As I read over the scene, or scenes, I notice grammar or spelling errors. I also notice wordy paragraphs, redundant sentences, and things not well explained. So I edit these parts instead of saving them for later. I believe it is best to polish your work while you are creating it.

To best illustrate this, think of a sculptor. As the sculptor chips or carves away, some leftover pieces of the clay or stone remain on the artwork. This could be dust or pieces not yet brushed away. A sculptor has to brush away those pieces in order to continue with its work.

In other words, when I write, I edit in order to move on. The previous step – in this case, a previous scene – needs to be sharpened as much as possible before I move on. Of course, the actual sharpening comes much later, but I am all for sharpening all the way. It is a way of perfecting your work, and possibly making the editing easier in the end. It is also a good warm-up for the writing you are about to do.

How about you? What is your take on editing as a novelist writes? Do you support it or believe it hinders a writer rather than helps? What is your method of writing and editing?

Fire away!

Writing the Theme of Your Story

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Themes are a big part of a story, any story – especially the good ones. They’re as important as, say, character arcs, plot development and so on. They’re the heart and soul of the story.

As author K.M. Weiland explained on her website:

Why are you writing this story? Why are you writing about these characters? What is it about their journey that has drawn your heart? What is the core of the tale? Justice, mercy, love, revenge, self-discovery? Whatever it is that’s moving the characters is what’s also moving your story. That’s your theme.

Supposedly, theme cannot be planned or forced, but instead come naturally. Theme appears in the story as you write your arcs and developments. It blossoms on its own, an echo of your subconscious. It is the fuel for your story. It is the reason why a writer writes in the first place.

Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire to explore death, mortality and losing God. The Kite Runner is look at the complicated relationship between fathers and sons. Love in the Time of Cholera‘s theme is love in all its variations.

So, why did I write The Dark Proposal? And why am I writing its sequel?

The reason why I wrote my first book is because I wanted to explore abusive relationships. Having been in difficult ones – though no where near as Claire did with Daniel – I felt like I needed a release. I also wanted to write a vampire story where the vampires were once again evil and deadly – the exact opposite of what was popular four years ago.

But did I succeed with theme? What was the theme of my story?

Chuck Wendig describes theme on his blog as:

Every story’s trying to say something. It’s trying to beam an idea, a message, into the minds of the readers. In this way, every story is an argument. It’s the writer making a case. It’s the writer saying, “All of life is suffering.” Or, “Man will be undone by his prideful reach.” Or “Love blows.” Or, “If you dance with the Devil Wombat, you get cornholed by the Devil Wombat.” This argument is the story’s theme.

A friend of mine says the central idea of The Dark Proposal was “be careful what you wish for”. He explains that Claire so wanted to have a rich lifestyle, that she was blind to Daniel’s abusive ways, and then later, used it as escapism for the vampire life she was about to enter. That’s one way to look at the argument.

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

I have grown so much as a writer during the four years since I wrote my first book. Today, I am focused on going deep with my stories and being more honest with myself when I write. I don’t think I was very honest as a writer when I wrote The Dark Proposal. Part of me cringes when I admit that. But as one musician friend told me, if you do that, then it means you are growing as an artist.

Writing from the heart is not easy. You are literally exposing yourself as a human to hundreds, thousands and maybe even more to judge and tear apart. It is scary enough to produce a book that you poured your heart and soul into. And by that, I don’t mean every part of your mind. The best artworks come from the very essence of the person, their heart.

So as I seek to be more honest as a writer, what theme do I hope will come out of The Dark Proposal’s sequel? I know I cannot force it, but I really hope redemption and healing would be one or both. Actually, I hope it will be the theme for the whole trilogy (yes, my book was meant to be the first of three). I also like the whole “be careful what you wish for” theme will come into play. I’m sure there’s always more than one theme in a story, or different ways to figure out the theme.

Or rather, what kind of redemption and healing do my characters need in order to fuel that theme?

Claire needs to heal and be redeemed from her mistakes and naivete. Daniel needs to be redeemed from being so evil. There is room for redemption and healing for Hilde, the Five Brothers and even The Black Roses. Even Samantha and Monica need to heal. There’s a lot of pain in The Dark Proposal, and everyone has a lot of coming to terms to do.

Which raises another question: what kind of writer do I intend to be? Sure, I want to be one that goes deep with questions and the human experience. But will be the regular theme in my stories? Will there always be a re-occurring one? Who knows? But since themes come from the heart of the writer, maybe the themes of my stories will be similar, just written differently. Or not. It also depends on the perspective of the reader.

The key here is to keep on writing, and get more to the heart of what I’m trying to say, or express. But I obviously cannot force myself to expose my heart in a story, just like a theme cannot be forced.

I’ll let Chuck Wendig finish off the meaning of theme:

A writer can engineer the theme — building it into the work. Or a writer can unearth it — discovering its tendrils after the work is written.

 

A Review of the Recent Seasons of My Favorite TV Shows

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Well, what a year it has been with some of my favorite TV shows! Like many, I’ve been watching Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, The Americans and House of Cards. I even binge-watched the second season of Salem. So, with the first half of the year over, allow me to review the shows I’ve watched during this time!

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

GAME OF THRONES:
Wow, what a wild ride this season was! All the seasons of Game of Thrones is a wild ride, but this one had an obvious feminist take on it. All the major female characters took a major part in the game, and even became the actual game players. It was great to see Sansa Stark rise and become the smart woman she is now. And I am so glad she got her revenge on Ramsay Bolton! That smirk on her face was one for the ages. Game_of_Thrones_title_card

The ending of the Season 6 was something else. I’m still so upset over Cersei using the weaponry on the High Sept, killing hundreds of people. That whole scene seemed over the top for me, and I’d like to know how Jaime is going to handle knowing his beloved sister did something he tried to stop so many years ago. I am also still sad Queen Margery is dead. As sneaky and untrustworthy she was, she was a smart woman who knew who to play the game. I was wondering how she was going to slither her way out of the High Sparrow’s grasp, but looks like we’ll never know. Sigh!

And what about Jon Snow?! Of course, everyone knew he was coming back from the dead. And I am so glad his true parentage has been revealed. That was a secret that couldn’t be kept quiet. And he’s King of the North now! We all know how that ended last time, but there’s no way Jon is going to die twice.

I am feeling bummed that the Season is over, and we all have to wait 10 months before Season 7 begins. But it is good to know that when it does, sh*t is really going to get real in Westeros!

THE AMERICANS:
What a great, underrated show. I don’t understand how it does not get Emmy or Golden Globe nominations. I know there’s a lot of great shows out there, but this one needs to be recognized.

The_Americans_Intertitle

What a great fourth season this show had! Last year, there was a huge cliffhanger where daughter Paige told her pastor that her parents were Russian spies. This season, we saw the intense consequences of that action, along the consequences of the other actions both Philip and Elizabeth do for the sake of making the world a better place. It was painful to see what they did to Martha, and Yung-Hee and her family. But it was interesting to see Elizabeth’s iciness begin to thaw, and to see her question – even just a little bit – whether all she was doing was worth it. That is something we have seen both characters do since the very first episode, and it is a question that keeps growing bigger for them, Philip especially.

But the question now is, how loyal will Paige remain to her parents? And when will the writers do something for Henry, who seems to just exist to make noise during intense scenes?

ORPHAN BLACK:
This show keeps getting better and better, and I don’t mean simply because of Tatiana Maslany’s acting. Although the latter continues to astound me, the storyline of this show keeps getting better.

Image via Flickr via Creative Commons

Image via Flickr via Creative Commons

I liked how this season, we finally got a look at what drove Beth Childs to suicide, and it was great to see the Neolutionists play a role in this show again. Too bad, they are incredibly ruthless and scary. But looks like no one is as scary and ruthless as Rachel is, the evil clone. I doubt she’s going to last Season 5; Sarah seems to have good reason to knock her off. Better Rachel than the much loved Cosima!

One thing: is the show ever going to explain how Sarah’s daughter, Kira, was able to survive getting hit by a car in Season 1? I hope so because it is never good to leave a loophole that keeps viewers guessing.

HOUSE OF CARDS:
My god! If there was ever a character, or characters, to love to hate, it is Frank and Claire Underwood. To me, they represent all that is awful in the world – and it is addictive to watch them. Grrrr!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I just want to know what will stop these two? What or who will stop them? Because it looks like nothing, not even each other. They play dirty, even though their world is a filthy one (politics, I mean). I guarantee in Season 5, more people are going to die because of them. By that, I mean, the New York governor running against Underwood in the election, or Claire’s new boyfriend. Hey, remember what happened to her last paramour?

The writing and dialogue on this show continues to be amazing, especially the last line of the season: “We don’t run from terror; we make the terror.”

SALEM:
I really liked the first season of this WGN show, so when Season 2 came to Netflix, I happily binged-watched. Unfortunately, it was a dissatisfying season. Salem_-_Title_Card

It started off OK, but then the story line began taking too many odd turns. I also felt the acting was much weaker this season, and some actors might have been miscast in this show. For example, the guy who plays John Alden just doesn’t fit. He fits as a witch hunter, but not as a romantic hero. The final lines of the season, where he whispers, “I love you, I love you” over and over to a supposedly dying Mary Sibley, sounded awkward.

I also don’t like where this show is going. It was so sad to see Mary and John’s young son turn into a vessel for the devil, and the weird things this devil wants to do with Mary is really creepy. Also, I wish Anne Hale didn’t turn to the dark side, so to speak. I think it would’ve been better if she kept wrestling with her powers rather than quickly become an evil witch in her own way. It was too quick for me.

But I’ll give the third season a shot, in hopes that everything is turned around for the better. Right now, it seems like the writers don’t know what to do with the show. Let’s hope they fix what started off as a good show.

 

The Real Richmond College

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Many authors create fictitious names of businesses, entertainers, institutions and others in order to avoid using famous names without permission. It also helps not to use famous names of places, people, and things so it would not sound like an author is trying to misrepresent the like by the way they write about, whether intended or not.

I certainly did this when I created Richmond College in “The Dark Proposal”, the higher ed institution on Staten Island, where Claire graduated and worked part-time at, met her two friends, Samantha and Monica, and of course, met vampire Daniel Bertrand there. I clearly didn’t have the resources to use an actual college on Staten Island, nor did I want to ruffle any feathers. So I made up a name.

Well, to be honest, not really. Richmond College used to be an actual institution on Staten Island, starting in 1965. It merged with Staten Island Community College in 1976 to become the College of Staten Island, which these days is part of the City University of New York (CUNY). I chose this name for Claire’s school because I wanted something authentically Staten Island for my book, since I aim to bring attention to the borough where I was born and raised in.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

While also aiming to have something related to Staten Island, I chose an actual college on Staten Island as the setting for Richmond College. Meaning, in my mind, I used an actual campus. That college campus is that of Wagner College, until recently, the only school with dorms on the Island. I once taught ESL one summer at Wagner, and it is a very lovely campus, sitting atop of the highest part of Staten Island. Since I needed a college with dorms for “The Dark Proposal”, and in 2012, the year I wrote the book, Wagner was the only one with that, I chose its campus as the setting. Whenever I visualize Richmond College for my book, I picture Wagner College.

So, there you have it. The Real Richmond College(s).

Author Interview: Matthew D. Ryan

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When I first started this blog over four years ago, one of the first people to comment on it was a self-published author named Matthew D. Ryan. He had just written a vampire story that was not in the same class as Twilight, so he showed me some support as I aimed to self-publish a vampire story that was also not like many of the other vampire stories out there.

That book Ryan self-published was called Drasmyr, and it is the prologue to a dark fantasy trilogy called From The Ashes of Ruin, involving a vampire, wizards, sorcerers and so much more. His latest book just came out, so I decided to feature Matthew D. Ryan on my blog.

Here he is!

MC: What inspired you to be a writer?
MDR:
I kind of ran out of other options and just fell into it. I studied philosophy and mathematics—not English—in college, earning a B.A. in both. Yet, even then, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher (which is about the only thing you can use a
philosophy degree for). Immediately afterward, I moved to Boston to work at my brother’s cellular phone business. After a year, I decided that I didn’t want to remain in a company where I was “the boss’ brother” and I was only lukewarm toward the job, anyway. So, a friend and I did a little bit of traveling around the country. When I got back, I wrote a short story about a vampire who seeks revenge on a wizard who has betrayed him. That short story eventually became the prologue to “Drasmyr.” I shopped “Drasmyr” around a little bit, but failed to get it published at a traditional publisher. So, I put it on the back-burner and went on with my life. matthew d ryan

I struggled for a while, looking for meaningful work. All I could really find were temp jobs and other low-level positions. Eventually, I went back to school to get a computer science degree. Almost completed it, too. But at the end, I decided my heart wasn’t in it, so I bailed. I also tried martial arts for a while (I have a black belt), but that, too, only held my interest for a short time. So, I went back to writing. So far, my interest has held up, but it certainly hasn’t proven very lucrative. I’ve always enjoyed reading, so writing came naturally to me. I’ve also always been a big fan of the fantasy genre—I played AD&D for thirty-some years. So, you know what genre I prefer to write in. Still, I’m not making much money at it, and that can be very dispiriting at times. I know you shouldn’t write just for money, but I’d like to make enough to at least earn a

Anyway, that’s about the way I wound up doing what I do.

MC: Why did you choose the self-published route?
MDR: I tried the traditional route first a number of different times. Unfortunately, the competition is extremely fierce, particularly for vampire novels. I polished and polished and polished only to receive rejection after rejection for a variety of different reasons … or no reason at all (which is the most frustrating). Then my brother self-published his first novel. I was … envious. And it stirred my spirit up. So, I figured I’d give it a go. I even selected the same two publishing venues as my brother: Smashwords and Lulu.

Oh, I almost forgot. In between the first draft of “Drasmyr” and its final publication on-line, I also wrote and self-published a short book on mental illness (I’m diagnosed as having schizoaffective disorder—which is lots of fun … Not!). But that has little to do with my fantasy career (or does it? :)).

MC: Your vampire, Drasmyr, is the Bram Stoker-kind. What made you go with the traditional vampire rather than be innovative as other writers are with their vampires?
MDR:
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No, seriously, I have has always liked the traditional conception of the vampire. Perhaps it is my fascination with evil, but I really like the conception of the vampire as an almost demonic entity. It comes with a host of powers that can be augmented or tweaked without losing its diabolical flavoring. The traditional vampire can shapeshift, pass through the narrowest of cracks, control weather, control animals, mesmerize mortals, and more. They also have an array of specific weaknesses that enrich the creature and round out its uniqueness.drasmyr

Although other writers feel inclined to innovate on the nature of the vampire, I feel the traditional vampire is rich enough in complexity and diversity as is. I particularly enjoy the way it threatens one’s characters with eternal damnation—something which seems to have gotten lost in many modern tales. Indeed, nowadays it seems people want to become vampires, or at least date them. And that, I find particularly strange. No, I far prefer vampires as embodiments of evil. And the Bram Stoker conception of such is just hard to improve upon without radically changing the creature in unnecessary ways. So, why not keep it as is, tweak it occasionally, but only if necessary. That’s the vampire I like.

MC: What is it about dark fantasy do you think is appealing to readers?
MDR:
It’s a mix of horror and fantasy, two genres dealing with impossible, or at the very least, improbable situations and creatures. It can be used to blend magic and evil in fascinating ways. Courtesy of fantasy, both the foes and the heroes can be augmented in spectacular, intriguing ways. Yet, even so, the darker element allows for the sense of the macabre and horrific. Because it is dark fantasy, it is a way to reign in the power of fantasy’s super-humans. They become, in spite of their augmented abilities—like spells and magic weapons—as imperiled and vulnerable as we sometimes find ourselves in modern life. In that way, it becomes something of a cathartic experience, yet it still satisfies a yearning for the fantastic.

MC:Is there anything that you did while self-publishing that you wouldn’t do again? If so, why?
MDR:
That’s easy, although my answer would apply the same if I had gone the traditional route. I would not have started my writing career with a series. I would have written a number of stand-alone novels first. Although I really enjoyed writing my novels, they, with the exception of “Drasmyr,” all tell a single contiguous story. Only “Drasmyr” could be regarded as anything approaching a stand-alone: It ends leaving the reader with something of a sense of closure, yet a suspicion that there may more to come. The others, though, are written as cliff-hangers. I only intend to write four of them, so they won’t inconvenience readers’ sense of closure too much. I’m on the third (or the fourth, if you include “Drasmyr”) such novel, so I’m getting near the end. Anyway, in terms of brand exposure and sympathetic tendencies toward the reading public, I think advertising efforts might be more lucrative if I had limited myself to one-shot stories. In other words, the fact that it’s a contiguous series makes it more difficult to schedule blog tours—since some touring companies might not schedule book 3 in a four book series because it’s not a complete story—and to take advantage of other similar advertising venues. If I had to do it over, I would have done my next series—which I intend to consist of five stand-alone stories– first. Looking back, it seems to be almost a kind of hubris to start writing with a contiguous series spanning several novels. It’s a lot of extra work developing a series instead of single tale. But it’s fun, and I enjoy it, and I intend to keep at it.the sceptre of morgulan

MC: What is next for your series?
MDR: The next instalment in my series is entitled “The Citadel.” It picks up where the prior novel left off. I don’t want to reveal too much—that might ruin the
surprise. But I’ll give you this much: Gaelan’s internal struggle continues as he grapples with his burdens and prepares to undertake his self-appointed task, a task that may yet destroy him completely. Coragan and his group continue with their struggles as they undertake a dark quest in a forbidding realm: Morgelliard, the planeshard holding Morgulan’s ancient, impregnable fortress known as simply The Citadel. Korina continues her own machinations as she closes in on the Sceptre of Morgulan. Meanwhile, back in Drisdak, Ambrisia, Regecon, and Galladrin prepare to engage the dark cult known as The Children of Lubrochius while at the same time, playing a dangerous game with the other powers of the city: the nobility who rule during the day, and the Shadowhand that comes out and rules the night. All these threads intertwine and play off of each other like a castle’s ancient tapestry: the whole, far, far more than the sum of its many parts.

Interested in his books? Matthew D. Ryan is offering coupons on two of his books until Friday, June 10th, on Smashwords:
The Children of Lubrochius: SA88Z
The Sceptre of Morgulan: VW73X.

To learn more about Matthew D. Ryan and his books, check out these links:

Check Out His Blog: https://matthewdryan.com

Writing a Story is Like a Coloring Book

I have to say that writing a story is like those adult coloring books. You probably have heard that the latest trend now is coloring books made for adults. I have a book myself, and I find it so addictive! It certainly helps me focus when I feeling stressed.

Image by Maxime De Ryuck via Flickr

Image by Maxime De Ryuck via Flickr

Anyway, as I color and as I write, I notice how the two are related. When we color in our adult books, we are filling in the blanks with the most appropriate colors for a specific drawing, or the best color that blends well with another.

I feel it is the same with writing a story. You have a blank page, and then the outlines are put in. Then slowly, bit by bit, you color in those outlines with the best colors to detail the story. Once all the colors are in, you’ve got your story fully done.

What I mean by that is, the outline of a drawing in a coloring book could represent the basic outline of your story. It could be a literal outline, or the first draft. The colors, especially the main ones to fill in the large blanks, are the major factors of the story. They include character development, climax, resolution, and all the others that make a story a story. Finally, when you color in the smaller blanks, you are adding specific details, such as a description, background information or brief dialogue. That is what I mean by a coloring book being like writing a story.

Of course, unlike coloring books, you are free to delete certain scenes or re-do them with different…colors, so to speak!

Writing a novel is not easy. There’s a lot of blanks to fill in and the outline has to be well-done in order to proceed with those blanks. But if done carefully, you can create a beautiful story.

 

Outlining Your Story Using Spreadsheets

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I’ll be the first to say that I am a Spreadsheet Queen. I can’t live without spreadsheets. Whether it is to keep track of finances, freelance work, or plans for the summer, spreadsheets is the way to go for me, and likely for many other people.

That probably also includes fellow authors outlining their next book. Some authors choose between outlining or flying by the seat of their pants when it comes to writing. I myself have debated this issue. But lately, due to my crazy schedule, I find it best to outline. And I’ve made that possible for myself through spreadsheets.

How do I outline using spreadsheets? Simple. I make each column represent each chapter. So when you see my sheet, you’ll see Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3… all lined up in columns. Next, I put the scenes of each chapter in the rows. This is a good way to figure out which scene should end or begin a chapter, or which scene belongs in which chapter.

Photo by Craig Chew-Moulding on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo by Craig Chew-Moulding on Flickr via Creative Commons

Doing this has made the planning of my sequel very easy. Granted, I do not stick to it religiously; I have moved a few scenes around and added a few more without consulting my spreadsheet. But overall, spreadsheets has been helping me keep track of the scenes of my second book.

It is not unusual for authors to use this to help plot their books. JK Rowling plotted her Harry Potter books using spreadsheets, and I’ve seen a few other, less-known authors do the same thing.

Because life can be so busy sometimes, I recommend authors to outline their stories. It is too easy to come up with an idea, only to not be able to write it down because either you’re at work, going to or from work, or busy with home life. Also, writing is a discipline, and if you are working on a book, you need to be organized and professional about your craft and your story. I was not like this when I wrote my first book, but then again, I was unemployed at the time. That meant having plenty of time to write whenever I pleased, as much as I wanted.

Nowadays, I do not have that luxury and I have to rely on spreadsheets to make my next book possible. It is funny how being a professional these days has made me rely on a program intended for professionals, in order to be more professional with my story!

Raise your hand if you use spreadsheets to help organize your story!

 

Choosing the Appearances of My Characters

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I was meeting with my writer’s group this week, and as always, we discussed our latest projects and what we are doing with them. Somehow, the topic of characters’ physical descriptions came up and it lead to an in-depth discussion on how authors describe the appearance of their characters.

This is a topic I’ve seen pop up on Goodreads, Google+ and other places where writers gather to chat. It intrigues me that something that seems trivial sparks such debate, as akin to writing in present or past tense, how explicit a sex scene should be, and so on. I say this because I am the type of writer who likes to describe the appearance of my characters.

Not that I go into total detail, right down to a small freckle or chipped tooth. But I do like to tell a reader what color is the hair and eyes of my characters. I do this because I find it fun to imagine what my characters look like. I’m the kind of author who often wonders what actors would play them, if my book or other story ideas were to ever be made into a movie or TV show.

In addition, I believe hair and eye color say a lot about how that person would be perceived by readers. Whether we like it or not, people are judged by their hair and eye color. Dark haired men are seen as seductive and masculine, while blond men are seen as boyish and playful. Blond women are seen as youthful, fun and a target for casual sex. Brunettes are serious and good for long-term relationships. Redheads are vivacious and easy to remember. Blue eyes represent innocence, while brown eyes represent seriousness.

Granted, these are all stereotypes that can be largely untrue. But color represents something, especially when it comes to hair and eyes. And the aforementioned stereotypes do come to mind more often than we admit (the saying “blonds have more fun!” is a popular theory). So, when I am deciding what my characters look like, I can’t help but consider what hair and eye color represent.

Photo by Matlachu via Pixabay

Photo by Matlachu via Pixabay

My main character, Claire McCormick, has brown hair and blue eyes. I deliberately chose that because I wanted a mix of innocence and seriousness for her. She’s a 22 year-old college grad who is naive and insecure in a lot of ways, but has room to grow and be tough. She’s also not an aimless, carefree person. So with that, I gave her brown hair and blue eyes.

Now, imagine I made her a blond. That would change your perception of her, yes? It could also change your expectations of her. Red hair just wouldn’t work, and neither would jet black hair. Don’t get me started on pink, lavender or gray hair.

Some would point out that if light-haired men with light-colored eyes appear harmless, why did I make the evil Daniel Poncher, Claire’s vampire boyfriend, look like that? Because I wanted to through my readers off. Since Daniel is practically the abusive boyfriend, giving him dark hair and eyes might make readers more fearful or angrier at him than they need to be. He might also come across as too sinister than he already is. So by having him with light brown hair and blue-green eyes, he’s less threatening, even though he is a threatening character. I simply wanted to have a contradiction for Daniel, and it also makes it easier for me to write about him. Having him tall, dark and handsome (OK, he is a handsome guy) just wouldn’t have worked for me.

Now let’s look at height. Daniel is medium height, about 5’8″ while Claire is a medium sized girl at about 5’5″. This is the first time I ever mentioned their exact heights; I only mention that they are of medium height once in The Dark Proposal. I left it vague because I did want my readers to figure out their exact heights on their own, and also because the exact measurements weren’t too important. But did it matter to mention that both Claire and Daniel were of medium heights for a man and a woman? Yes, because I feel with those heights they are both less threatening and more likely to be taken seriously by readers. If Claire was something like 5’2′, readers would probably fear more for her physical safety in the hands of Daniel. But if she were 5’10”, they would probably feel she should beat him up in retaliation (then again, relationship violence can happen to anyone of any size). At the same time, I feel having them as medium sized makes them easier to relate to and are more approachable as characters.

There’s a lot of explore with this topic. So much goes into why authors make their characters look a certain way, or choose not to give any description at all. It is perhaps a bigger topic than choosing to write in present or past tense, or writing violent or explicit scenes. It gives a whole new meaning to the saying, “To be or not to be?”

What are your thoughts? Do you think certain hair and eye colors effect how you see characters? Does it matter or not? Or is it all subconscious?