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!

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Winter Project: Part Five

The Holiday Season Is Here
It’s December. Time really soars! If I’m not careful, this winter project of mine will turn into a spring project. It’s fine with me if it does. Nobody wants to rush creativity, unless you are the type of writer who is determined to push quantity over quality. Yes, those people do exist.
The meat of the story is well underway now. There are multiple threads weaving through the book, and I’m hoping they don’t end up a tangled mess! The outline has so far kept me on track, which is a real blessing.
Some of the more difficult scenes that occur in the book have now been written. Somehow, I gritted my teeth through the pain and put the words on the page. As some of you know, my father passed away this year. Writing about crime, and in particular the subject of death in my mysteries, can be trying at times. I’m pushing through, however, and hope that I’m producing a book that all of you will enjoy, no matter how painful some of it has been to write.
Right now, I’m working on chapter twenty-two.  Selena and Jameson have been working two different sides of the case independently, and that’s been different.  Now, however, they are working together to uncover some corrupt folks.  Behind that corruption, a killer is hiding.  (Dun, Dun, DUUUNN!)
Time to get back to it.

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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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.

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!