Official Cover Reveal!

The Cold, Bending Light will be released on May 20th.
I’m excited to share a first look at the cover with you today!
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Top Five Favorite Books Growing Up

A lot of things inspired me to be creative at an early age. Had it not been for the encouragement of my parents while growing up, there’s a good possibility that I wouldn’t have become a writer at all. They served as my earliest audience, my first fans, and fed my artistic endeavors to such a degree that I even wrote my first novel while in high school. Trust me, there’s no way that would’ve happened if it weren’t for them. A handful of teachers also contributed to my writing craft after telling me they saw talent with the words I hammered out on the page, but for the most part, I remember my earliest encouragement, and the things introduced to me that were the most inspirational. The books read to me, and the books I later discovered on my own, sparked my imagination and helped paved the way to becoming an author. So, without further ado, I present my top five books growing up that still manage to impact me today.

5. DUNE
I know what you’re thinking. How did you read DUNE when you were little? Well, the truth is, I wasn’t quite so little when I read it. My first introduction to Herbert was in high school, and it simply blew my mind. Spice Melange? Interstellar Travel dependent on one planet’s production of Melange? Mentats? When Paul first encounters the native inhabitants of DUNE, and becomes the prophesied figure that could change the face of the universe, I was amazed. It’s deep, it’s epic, but most of all, and it was an adventure like no other.

4. Journal of a Novel
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, chronicled the writing sessions of John Steinbeck from January 29 to November 1st, 1951. He wrote these “letters” to his editor, Pascal Covici, who worked for Viking Press at the time, as a sort of warm up before he began the days work. It was a fascinating peek at what was going through Stenbeck’s head during the creation of one of his most pivotal novels. It was great to see the thought process, a sort of behind the scenes, and how he stretched his creative limbs before each session. If you haven’t given this one a read, you should.

3. Pushing Ice
If DUNE blew my mind, nothing in the science fiction field could ever do that again. Right?
Believe it or not, Alastair Reynolds did. It’s a grand adventure following a group of deep space miners who set off after one of Saturn’s moons when it abruptly breaks orbit and heads out of the solar system at increasing speeds. What they discover is a classic mystery that spans generations, and presents a devastating sense of enormity unparalleled in anything I’ve read since.

2. AKIRA
Yes, it’s an epic comic that’s broken up into six parts. No, it isn’t a novel. This tale of two best friends in a post apocalyptic future is not only epic, but gut wrenching as well. When a mysterious force awakens, dubbed by the military as AKIRA, it puts that friendship to the ultimate test. The ending will leave you breathless.

1. The Neverending Story
The novel that takes my number one slot is also my favorite from childhood. There were several close contenders, but they all paled in comparison to this highly imaginative story. There’s adventure and wonder around every corner, but the real surprise is how it involves the reader in it’s immersive plot. Sure, there was a movie adaptation, but it could never compare with this epic and beautiful tale. Heck, the movie only told half of the book, and it barely did that!

-Bonus-
The Princess Bride
Honestly, it’s inconceivable that this incredibly fun tale didn’t make my top five. William Goldman knocked it out of the park when he came up with adventure, full of true love, pirates, revenge, political mystery, and of course, rodents of unusual size. If you haven’t read this book, then perhaps you should go back to where we found you! Unemployed, in Greenland!

So, what did you think of my list? Did any of your favorites show up in my top five? What are your favorites?
Let me know in the comments!

Winter Project 2015 – Part Four

Atmosphere
There’s a howling wind outside. A storm is splashing rain against the windows. This kind of weather is perfect for writing, at least for me. Not sure if it’s a genre thing or not, but the gloomier the better. I’ll often accompany my session with music. Something calming, like George Winston. Solo piano music isn’t just relaxing for me, it really stirs my thoughts, and sets my creative brain into motion. What sort of atmosphere do you try to maintain while writing?
The First Forty-Eight
Today, I’m working on chapters nineteen and twenty. At this point in the story, local search parties have gathered late in the evening. Flashlights dart about in fields and wooded areas. When someone is missing, the first forty-eight hours are vitally important. Piecing together the clues in that time frame, figuring out what was happening in the person’s life in the days before, could very well be telling of what happened to them. Investigators are working on several leads in the case, and the story is beginning to branch out into a wider scope.
Character Sheets
One of the things I need to do that I’ve completely forgotten is the character sheets. You know what they are, right? Basically, just a profile of the characters. Everything from eye color, to height, to personal hobbies and interests are listed here. It’s very useful, because I cannot count how many times I have to skim back through the pages of a story trying to remember what color someone’s hair was. Sometimes, I’ll even include pictures, making it look like an official police profile, which is fun. Maybe I’ll work on that after today’s writing session.
Words On The Page
You ever hear other writers explaining how easy writing is? You know what I mean. Just keep writing until it’s finished, put those words on the page, put one word after another, etc. It makes the process sound so simple. Just sit down and hammer aimlessly on the keyboard. It’s never perfect the first time, you just need to get the story out. Don’t edit as you go. Finish writing the book first. Whatever you have to do to finish, just finish. This is really good advice, but not all authors are the same. Take me, for instance. As I’ve stated above, atmosphere is imperative to my process. Music. Quiet. I’ll usually write early in the mornings, and again in the afternoon. A tactic that coincides with my daughter’s sleeping habits, but one I wouldn’t have thought of without the monthers (more on that here).
If any of these things aren’t present during my typical writing session, chances are good that I simply won’t write. Sure, I might end up making notes, tweaking my outline, etc. But any actual writing might not happen at all.
Now, some authors may be suffering from the First Draft Blues (Here and Here), but for the most part, atmosphere is a major contributing factor to my word count success. Not that word count is the most important thing. Your session could have been only 300 words, but you wrote and that’s what’s important. They could be the best 300 words you’ve ever written! Every little success should be celebrated.
Speaking of putting words on the page, it’s time for me to get back to it!

Need a word count calculator?  Here You Go!

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3 Reasons You Should Give Indie Authors A Chance

Break Your Comfort Zones
Let’s face it, every major book store from coast to coast carries the exact same authors. Stephen King, James Patterson, Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin, etc. Believe it or not, those authors aren’t the only ones writing books! It’s true. Mind blown, right?
Book stores are a lot like Hollywood. They want to spit out dozens of books from their star authors. This doesn’t mean any of them are bad, but it does forcibly limit the reader to these authors. Sure, you can say “there’s a reason why they’re everywhere. It’s because they’re so good.” To which I can reply by saying, “Expand your horizons. You might be surprised by what you find.”

Hidden Gems
There have been some fantastic indie books out there that have really exploded. Still Alice anyone? It’s a bit rare for an indie book to reach such a high status, but that doesn’t mean they all suck just because they aren’t in the Hollywood cookie-cutter organized bookstores. I’ve read some fantastic tales from relatively unknown authors, from steampunk to horror. From science fiction, to murder mysteries. The works of Adam Dreece, J.C. Hart, Lindsay Buroker, or Leigh K. Hunt are good examples of authors I’ve enjoyed reading lately. Ever hear of them? No? Expand your horizons.
Sure, since the introduction of the KDP program, everyone and their grandmother tosses books up on Amazon and puffs out their chests saying “I am an author.” As a reader, just like when you are browsing the shelves at a brick and mortar store, I urge you to read a sample of the book you are considering. See how many books the author has published, too. If you like what you see, give that indie author a shot!

The Stars Are Not Aligned
Don’t go by the number of stars a book has on Amazon. Sure, the company has done a whole lot to limit fake reviews, but that’s not what I’m talking about. When you are browsing at the brick and mortar store, you get to make the decision yourself, without any influence, when it comes to buying a book. You read the first chapter or so, read the author’s bio, and make an educated decision based on your interest alone. Do the same thing on Amazon by disregarding the number of stars a book has (Unless it’s total rating is one star, there’s definitely something wrong).
The reason I say this is because everyone is different, everyone has their own personal opinion, and readers are the harshest of critics. I’ve seen an indie book of short stories get a one star review because the “The book didn’t flow consistently. It was just like a bunch of different stories crammed into one book.” Another indie book, written specifically for young adults, was criticized with one star. The reason? The reader said the book was just fine, but he doesn’t like to read young adult books.
Reviews are very important for the indie author because most people look at the star ratings, and if it isn’t five stars, they’ll skip right over the book.  It’s hard for the indie author to get reviews, too.  They may get one review for every 200 sales.  Why in the world would you as a reader rely solely on how many stars the book has when making your purchasing decision?
Don’t go by the stars on Amazon. You’re smart. You’re intuitive. Decide for yourself what you want to read, and you might be surprised to find a new favorite author.

Do you agree with my list? Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments!

Winter Project 2015 – Part Three

Visualize
What is it that makes us writers? Where does it come from? The same can be asked of a painter, who visualizes scenes onto a canvas from his mind. It’s an interpretation, the original conception is always much different than the end result. It takes practice, trial and error, and repetition to get to the point where the physical creation adequately represents the artists original vision.
Throughout the planning process for my new novel, there was a strong scene that played out in my mind repeatedly. Anytime I thought about the project, this scene would jump into my head. It was a quiet one. Sunny, on an old country road. The only sounds were of wind rustling the autumn leaves, and the crunch of bicycle tires on gravel. The rider was smiling, carefree, so lost in thought that she didn’t even notice the car approaching from behind.
Interpret
That’s the way it was. When I sat down to make some notes, or even to write, I could hear the crunch of those tires, feel the crispness in the air. This scene did actually occur in the novel a couple of chapters ago. The end result wasn’t exactly what I had originally planned, mainly because the time of day was wrong for it. In fact, it wasn’t daytime at all.
It didn’t feel like the scene was totally lost in translation, though. As a matter of fact, I think it turned out better than what I visualized. It was darker, more tense than before. That’s a good thing.
Wherever that scene came from in my head, as with any scene, all I can do is try my best to interpret it with words and hope that I create a moment that you as the reader can see, or feel. For me, making the reader feel is worth every word. It’s worth celebrating. That’s why I do what I do.
The Words
Today, I’m going to be writing chapter fourteen. I’ve been sticking to my new writing routine (more on that here) and things have been going really well, word count wise. It’s nothing like the what the Monthers push out on a daily basis, but it is more than what it used to be.
Selena and Jameson have their hands full today, not only with the investigation but with the TBI and local authorities as well.
The coffee is hot. Scrivener is open. George Winston’s Midnight is playing on the radio. The weekend was long, and I’ve been feeling pretty sick. I can’t stop the words, though.
It’s time to get back to it.

Winter Project 2015 – Part Two


Titles and Outlines
Today, I’m getting geared up for chapter eight in my winter novel. The tentative title for the book is Slow the Rain, but there’s a good chance it’ll be changed. It’s not that I don’t like the title, but there are a few others tumbling around in my head that may just fit the story more.
I came up with the title while writing the outline of the book. Which brings me to something I keep meaning to mention here. Outline. Seriously, do it. It will help you get those words on the page, help keep you focused, and will likely see you reaching the end of your first draft much sooner. I hear writers complaining all the time about how they started writing a book, but then their characters started to do whatever they wanted. One author actually asked me how I keep my characters in line. It’s simple. Before I write, I double check my outline to see what it is specifically that I have to tell next, and then write it. That’s the beauty of the outline. If you do your whole book, you won’t get lost, and neither will your characters.
Adapting
It’s been a slow morning. Yesterday, my new writing routine (see last weeks post) really kicked into gear. During the morning hours, I managed to write all of chapter seven. That’s pretty good, considering I’m trying something new and different with my routine (thank you monthers, more on that here).
The only thing that hasn’t quite worked yet is my afternoon session. You see, the plan is to write early in the morning and later on during the day. Unlike the monthers, this would mean that I’m not writing 10k words a day, but it does mean that I’m upping my word count. Basically, my intention is to get the fans of Selena Marrenger more mysteries at a quicker pace. Seriously, though. Who wants to wait for a book that comes out once a year in a series? If that’s you, great, but it’s definitely not me.
Haaave you met Maggie?
The coffee is fresh. Pumpkin Spice creamer is filling the room with a pleasant, fall aroma. I’ve turned on Spotify, and am listening to the Interstellar soundtrack. It heightens the mood, stirs images in my mind.
Chapter eight follows a police detective named Norma Perry. As some of you may have guessed, I like to write strong female leads. She’s tough, but quirky. If I had to make a comparison, it would be… well, imagine a combination of Maggie’s humor and Selena’s strength. She’s a good detective, has a good head on her shoulders, and won’t back down. Especially when she’s chasing a lead.
Oh, that’s right. Some of you haven’t met Maggie yet. She’s featured in my new novella, Tanglewood. Subscribers to my newsletter got a sneak peak at the cover artwork for Tanglewood as well as a sample. Don’t worry, though. If you aren’t a subscriber, you’ll get your chance in a couple of days to meet Maggie. Yes, you read that right. Tanglewood will be released on October 22!
Now, it’s time to get back to work. I hope to finish all of chapter eight today, and maybe even start chapter nine. The baby is teething, and has been rather fussy, but hopefully I can meet my goals. Wish me luck!

Winter Project 2015 – Part One

The Monthers
There’s a crispness in the air. Each morning brings with it the chill of winter. You know what that means? It’s time for me to get to work on my winter project!
I’ve been reading a lot of articles and forums concerning people who publish books once a month. These monthers seem to be quite insane, writing as much as 10k words a week. To be honest with you, that’s just not how I operate, nor do I think I could ever operate. Especially since I have college classes to think about, raising a two year old, cooking, cleaning, drinking coffee, etc. One thing that I did manage to get from reading posts by the monthers was a few pointers as far as routine goes. One author declared that she writes 2k words in the morning, takes care of her daily life in the early afternoon, writes 1k more words in the late afternoon, takes care of dinner and kids, and then writes another 2k words at night.
That much effort deserves a standing ovation.
It made me think about something a colleague once said: “Do what you love, and treat it like a job.”
Do What You Love
With that in mind, I’ve changed up my routine a bit. Instead of writing once a day in the mid afternoon, I figured, since I’m waking up at the crack of dawn to get my eight year old ready for the bus, might as well write after sending her off. Well, guess what?
It worked.
Not only did it work, it worked spectacularly well.
Does that mean I’m going to write as much as the monther three times a day? Probably not, but it felt inspiring. It made me feel like making it my day job wasn’t so far out of reach. That’s a good thing, because wouldn’t you want to do what you love as a job? Well, I love writing, so there it is! Might as well make it happen.
Bet you want to know what I was working on. You do, don’t you? The anticipation is killing you, I can tell these things. Calm down, take a deep breath. (Breathes deeply, attempting to calm excitement).
It’s a brand new novel.
That’s right. A full length novel. I haven’t even attempted a novel since Monsoon Morning, and now here it is.
The cast is set. The outline is finished. As a matter of fact, I’ve been picking at the book for a couple of months and am already 10k words into it.
What Makes You Tick?
With this new series of blog posts, I’m not wanting to blab on about the story content of the book. Instead, I figured it would be cool to delve into the creative process and routine while working on it. What would inspire me to write particular scenes, what moods am I trying to evoke, does it feel successful?
If you’re into that sort of thing, then stick with me! I’ll keep posting, mainly because I think it could be an interesting study.
Are you a monther? Are you just starting a new writing project and trying to fit it into your routine?
Let me know in the comments!

Behind The Character: Maggie Sue Maguire

UnknownWhen I first envisioned Maggie Sue Maguire, it was while working on Monsoon Morning. The concept of incorporating a private investigator into a story was intriguing, but I wanted to develop the character into something I hadn’t quite seen before in my genre. Most of the PI’s I came across in books were cynical, not unlike the main character depiction in the television series House.
Not all of the PI’s I discovered were male, either. If it happened to be a woman, then she had to be sexy, sultry, and mysterious. Not all investigators look like super models, and I didn’t want mine to fall into that label.
I set out from the start to make Maggie quirky. In an original draft, there was even a nod to the great Spencer that came in the form of Maggie’s feline pet she keeps around the office. Sometimes the days are long in between assignments, and she considers her cat to be quite a good listener when there’s no one else around.
Maggie is smart and witty. Messy, but very much in control when she takes on animages assignment. She has a warm heart, and could very much be the girl next door if you didn’t know any better.
Much like Selena Marrenger, Maggie Maguire isn’t without her faults. She doesn’t claim to be perfect. She’s not one of those super cops you find on CSI. She tends to think with her heart, but isn’t afraid to follow her gut.

You can catch up with Maggie Sue Maguire in my upcoming novella, TANGLEWOOD!

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Support Indie Authors!

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I am an indie author. The decision wasn’t made because of failure in the traditional marketplace, or because of some sort of disdain for the Big Five. It had more to do with being in complete control of my work throughout the publishing process. Being able to choose my editor, pricing, and book length are all sound reasons that led me onto the indie path.
Marketing is a challenge. It’s also difficult when published through a publishing house. As far as they are concerned, if you aren’t Stephen King, then they aren’t likely to spend any money marketing your book.indie This may be the reason why you always see advertisements or books from the same authors all the time. If one didn’t know any better, one would assume that New York Times Bestselling authors are the only ones out there writing books.
That’s the beauty of indie authors. There are a lot of bestselling indie books on the market right now, and finding a new author can be quite exciting. I urge you to find an indie author and see what he/she has to offer. You never know. You may uncover a new favorite.
When you do, don’t forget to show your support by leaving a review.  Authors with big names and multi-million dollar contracts don’t have much of a problem getting reviews from their massive fanbase.  Indie authors, however, need all the help they can get.  I can tell you from personal experience that for every 100 sales, I might get one or two reviews.  That statistic is pretty sad, so don’t forget to show your love!