Every Villian Believes Themselves A Hero

There are several antagonists in Dead Like Stars, book one of my Bloodlife series, but my favorite, and most misunderstood of the lot, is Ecrin.

Inspired, in appearance, by Tilda Swinton’s character, Eve, in The Only Lovers Left Alive, thin and tall, with matted pale-blonde hair, Ecrin is both good and bad. She’s is a mystery, and she may not be who she’s believed to be.

Tilda

Ecrin is a difficult character to write. For one, she’s not human–no big deal, few characters are in this series–but she’s also duplicitous. It’s quite possible that she’s playing both sides. It’s why her scenes are written in distant third person, rather than the first person found throughout the rest of the book. She is cold, calculating, and deceptive because she has to be. But underneath it all, she is driven by a noble cause. I can’t reveal her secrets today, but you’re sure to find out more in book two, Darkling Like Stars, which will be released later this year.

Please enjoy this excerpt from Dead Like Stars. Our first run-in with Ecrin. (Spoiler alert: violent-ish content).

A black cargo van rolls to a stop outside a steel and brick warehouse, and a motion-activated floodlight blinks on. The harsh light barely penetrates the van’s darkly tinted windows, exposing only shadows of the two inside. The passenger door opens and a woman steps out. She jerks a heavy robe over her high-collared, white uniform and tucks her matted blonde hair into the hood as she makes her way to the front of the van. She pauses before the warehouse’s steel double doors, and a look of what might be annoyance flashes across her face, her violet eyes narrowing for an instant before she turns to the sound of the driver’s door closing.

The driver is masculine with a smooth, bare head, but he looks like something pretending to be a man—it’s his eyes, dark, possibly black like those of a demon in a horror movie. Like his partner, his skin is so pale, it’s nearly indistinguishable from the luminescent whiteness of his uniform over which he straightens his own grey robe, then flips the hood up before stopping at the woman’s side. He is taller by a foot and it takes her a moment to find his face, just a fraction of a second, as if she expects someone closer to her own height. Their eyes meet and the light finds its way beneath his hood. His eyes aren’t black but violet, the same color as the woman’s, yet different: apart from the color, her eyes pass for human, but his are solid, insectile, pupilless. He glances down at her, the skin between his non-existent eyebrows pinches together, and they speak in an unknown, harsh language—their voices soft and feminine, eerily similar—then he slips through the double doors into the warehouse while she circles to the rear of the van and opens the doors.

The hold of the van is bare metal; the floor has dark patches of rust or maybe dried blood. At one time there may have been carpet and seats but they’re missing now. A heavy wire mesh separates the back from the cab.

Hardly two minutes pass before the warehouse doors swing open. The tall man in grey steps out, and a procession of people follow, single file, their faces blank, necks and shirts smeared with blood. They cross the few feet of asphalt to the rear of the van, where the robed woman shoves them into the van.

A brunette woman of perhaps thirty stumbles; the robed figure catches her by the hair and yanks her upright with incredible force, then pushes her into the hold. The brunette’s face remains blank—even as she scuffs her knees on the bare metal—and the others already in the van take no notice; no one offers help, and she doesn’t wait; she picks herself up and shuffles to the back, pressing in against the others to make room.

The robed woman hesitates, her fist bunched in a man’s sweatshirt, squints at a streak of blood on the back of her hand. She pushes the man in, casually wiping her hand clean on the front of the next person’s shirt, a slight grimace twisting her pale lips.

The van fills rapidly, even though the vacant people pack in close, and still more people file out of the warehouse. The robed figures don’t seem concerned. Their calm demeanor suggests they’ve done this before, many times.

 

Want to meet more villains from other awesome Urban Fantasy writers? The Villain Crawl continues…

 

Author Tiffany Apan on My Haven on this Desolate Terrain A 19th-century Romanian aristocrat who takes pleasure in seeing those beneath him suffer…

Author Susanne Leist on Susanne Leist A human vampire steals Linda’s heart. He taunts and teases her, but will she succumb to his desires?

Author K. Matt on Welcome to Hell BentThree brief interviews with three different villains: a genetically-altered serial killer, a centuries-old, supreme luddite of a mage, and a cyborg/arms dealer.

Author Debbie Manber Kupfer on Paws 4 Thought Alistair is a werewolf seeking justice. When his mentor sends him on his first mission he knows who the victim must be.

Author Maaja Wentz on Maaja Wentz Necromancers are the unsung heroes of the undead world in FEEDING FRENZY. Find out why you should worship the fungus among us when the Entity rises!

Author Rebekah Jonesy on Heart Strong Leucosia, siren daughter of Achelous, is sick. And very hungry. With her health deteriorating she is forced to subsist on the softest human flesh, but she has a plan.

Author Aziza Sphinx from on Aziza Sphinx Into the Dark My name is Emiliano Ortega. I didn’t ask to be a paw in Truth’s game yet here I am playing the Reaper when all I want to do is sleep.

Urbanfantasy giveaway

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Attachment Theory for Writing [Dys]Functional Relationships

I’ve been obsessed with relationships lately, specifically the romantic sort, though there’s not a huge difference between romantic and platonic relationships. Both require effort and care to thrive. My obsession led me to a book called Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin.

Wired for Love expounds on attachment theory, the idea that the early interactions with our primary caregiver (usually our mother) lays the framework for how we experience relationships as adults. This book helped me realize the patterns I perpetuate in relationships, and how to move toward security and trust.

Whether you’re navigating your own relationship or dictating those of fictional characters, it all comes down to how we relate to another, and how we relate is derived from our attachment style. In Wired for Love, Tatkin proposes three styles of relating, they are the securely attached Anchors, and the insecurely attached Islands and Waves.

Secure Attachment
Anchors: People who are anchors experienced secure attachment in their early life. They grew up with reliable caregivers in a reliable environment. As children, their needs were met so they felt secure and supported by their caregiver(s). As a result, they are able to enter into new relationships without fear of being abandoned or losing their autonomy.

Insecure Attachment
Waves and Islands: People who are waves or islands did not experience secure attachment in their early life. As children, often their needs did not come first. Instead, they learned to meet their own needs. As adults, these types struggle with trust and tend to be distant in relationships.

Waves: As children, waves were rewarded with parental love for being dependent on a parent, and they may have been responsible for the emotional wellbeing of at least one parent. As a result, they tend to be more needy or clingy and fear they will be abandoned.

Islands: As children, islands often had to perform or be on display to receive love from a parent. As adults in romantic relationships, they fear their independence will be taken (as it was in childhood) and as a result, they crave and create distance between themselves and their partner and avoid depending on others.

We all aspire to be anchors, and many people are quick to assume they’re an anchor. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a true anchor, and that’s okay. Life is about growing and changing. If you’re done growing, you’re dead.

Realistically, we all have elements of each. None of this is bad though, and knowing your type gives you the opportunity to edit your reactions. For example, a wave wants to pull away when their partner seeks closeness. The wave’s reasoning: My partner is showing me love now, but experience (in early childhood) shows love can be taken away at any moment. The wave, fearing abandonment, turns away from their partner’s affections, rejecting their partner before the inevitable rejection, thus maintaining the self-fulfilling prophecy of the wave’s core belief formed in childhood: everyone who says they love me will abandon me.

Hack your (or your character’s) style. If you’re an island or a wave (or a combination) do the opposite of your initial reaction. If your partner upsets you, and your impulse is to pull away, move toward them. Stay with the discomfort, stay engaged, and talk it out. Allow yourself (and your characters) to be vulnerable and see what you learn.

In Dead Like Stars, Sasha is mostly an Island. She fears developing a relationship with Ambrose for many reasons. She fears losing her sense of self, but she’s also afraid of depending on him. The fact that she’s forced to depend on him (and others) in this book is a huge struggle for her. Her character arc over the series has her striving for anchor status. We’ll see if she makes it!

What about your characters? Do you write Islands, Anchors, or Waves?

 

Through the end of March, Dead Like Stars (a preview only) is part of a giveaway on Instafreebie. If you love vampires (and werewolves) go get some FREE BOOKS!

Vampires werewolves.jpg

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How I Became a Writer

Happy New Year!

In an attempt to renew my writing goals, I joined DIY MFA Book Club. This post is inspired by the prompt: How did you become a writer?

My earliest memories of writing are from age around eight. I would watch movies and record every line of dialogue, scene detail, and action until I captured the whole movie on paper—yes, this was pre-internet! Why do I suddenly feel so old? Back then, my favorite movies included The Lost Boys, Legend, and The Three Musketeers. I had grand ideas of my sister and I performing the movies as a play, but that never happened. Turned out I just enjoyed the writing process, and once I finished, I’d move on to the next movie.

The following year, I’d moved on from screenplays to fiction. I wanted to write my own Goosebumps novel. It was a short-lived dream. The book wasn’t shaping up to my harsh, 9-year-old standards, so I trashed it and abandoned that dream. There were plenty of books to read, I didn’t need to write my own. Then, I discovered Stephen King, and he shaped the rest of my childhood.

In my teens, goth angst provoked a return to writing but in a new form: dark, angry, antisocial poetry heavily influenced by Marilyn Manson and The Cure. Short-form was my limit. I started a few novels, only to hopelessly abort them a few pages in. I still have much of this drivel, mostly poetry. No, you can’t read it.

Perfectionism is my crux. Nothing is ever finished to my satisfaction, nothing is ever ready. If it hadn’t been for a long cold and a certain highly-imperfect, commercially successful book (which shall remain unnamed) that convinced me to believe in “good enough”, that a novel doesn’t have to be perfection to be enjoyable or successful, I never would have published—let alone started—Dead Like Stars.

I’m slowly pulling Darkling Like Stars (book two in the Bloodlife series) together. It’s taking me longer than expected due to this strange, unpredictable thing called life, which has driven me to therapy and literature on interpersonal relationships. Perhaps I’ll tell you about it sometime, but chances are it’ll all come out in my fiction.

In what unlikely places have you found inspiration? What’s motivated you to pursue your dreams?

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Who Likes Free Books?

I love free books, and Grizzy (my cat) does too! That’s why I’m giving away a free, signed paperback copy of Dead Like Stars! Head over to Goodreads to enter the drawing before Monday (the 28th) at 11:59 pm (PT). While you’re there, perhaps you’ll add Dead Like Stars to your ‘to read’ list and follow my author page. There you’ll find a Q&A section where you can post questions and read answers about my books and other aspects of writing. I love answering your questions, so ask away!

If you don’t win a copy this time, don’t fret. I’ll be running more giveaways in the future! Be among the first to know: sign up for my mailing list!

Dead Like Stars has been doing fairly well. There are 6 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads so far, but I’d love your help to reach 20. If you enjoyed my book, please take a moment to write a review. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy, just choose a star rating, add a sentence or two, and you’re done! As an independent author, reviews increase visibility and add credibility. Your words will help others find mine.

For those of you who’ve been asking about book two, Darkling Like Stars: I’ve been making progress, though not as quickly as I hoped. I have around 60 thousand words. Some context: Dead Like Stars is around 90 thousand words—so I have a pretty sizable chunk.

In other news, I’ve been working my way through my vampire-themed reading list. I just finished Prophecy of Three, book one of the Starseed Trilogy by Ashley McLeo. It’s a fun read, full of magic, witches, and vampires. You can check out my review and get a copy for yourself on Amazon.

Next on my list are

Vampire Girl by Karpov Kinrade

The Scarlet Thread by Derek Murphy

Additionally, I’ve been wanting to re-read a favorite from way back in the day: The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike.

 

Have you read any good vampire books lately? Tell me about your favorites!

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Dead Like Stars Available at Wells & Verne

Dead Like Stars has been on Amazon for a little over a month, and now, if you live in Portland, Oregon, you can get it, live and in physical form, at Wells & Verne.

This display is gorgeous! Many thanks to the talented Michael Bailey at Inspired Installations for constructing and organizing this and for convincing me to explore this fantastic opportunity to connect with local readers.

Check out more of Michael’s work and like/follow his Facebook page. Word is he’s planning a thrilling, not to be missed, art exhibit in spring 2018 called the H’Art Museum, featuring many strange and fascinating created and collected pieces.

Lastly, as a self-published author, I’m not backed by a national marketing team or a fancy publisher. If you like my work, I welcome you to join this Independent’s cause.

Helping is easy!

  • Share this email with friends
  • Buy Dead Like Stars for you, for friends
  • Leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads
  • Add Dead Like Stars to suitable lists on Goodreads
  • Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, and other social media
  • Request Dead Like Stars at libraries and bookstores, and ask your friends to request it too
  • Tell friends about Dead Like Stars in person and on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

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The Only Thing You Have To Fear . . .

I know I’ve been promising a book release for a while, and I am working on it. I promise! Thanks for your patience. 

When I started writing Darkling Like Stars (previously Blood Life) about three years ago, I wanted to write something I’d like to read. Writing is hard work, and, for me at least, it’s insanely personal. Part of me (most of me) never imagined I’d share it with the world, and a lot of me is super resistant to the idea. I’m sure this is a large factor in my delay, that and my editor woes (though, my new editor, Dario, is amazing. I recommend him 100%).

What am I afraid of? David Jauss says “Like a dream, a story, if it’s any good, tells the truth about the author’s secret, inner life, for, as Oscar Wilde said, ‘One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead.’ And about the nature of that truth, the reader sometimes knows more than the author.”

That’s close, but not quite my problem. I am a fairly open person about certain aspects of my life, but sharing my writing is like letting someone snoop around in my thoughts. You are reading my thoughts, and while those thoughts have been refined with editing and are fully realized by the time you read them, it’s still mortifying.

This book has gone through many changes over the years, and there’s been yet another change. Lately, I’ve been struggling with writing the blurb for the back cover, leading me to realize part of the problem: I’ve jammed too much into this book.

Solution: Darkling Like Stars has become two books: Dead Like Stars (book one) and Darkling Like Stars (book two). There will be, at least, one more, likely a prequel featuring the alien antagonists (the Quaadah), tentatively titled: Before These Stars.

So, book one is almost ready, book two is 85% finished, and despite my fears, I’ll be releasing them to the world . . . soon.

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Another Willamette Writers Adventure

Now that the Willamette Writers Conference has wrapped up, my writer friends new and old have scurried back to their hidey-holes, and my anxiety levels have stabilized at a comfortable medium-low, life is back to normal. I just finished a copyedit on another writer’s MS, and I’m addressing the final edits on Darkling Like Stars before sending it back to my editor for another pass.

I love the Willamette Writers Conference, it’s a great venue for creating community. It forces us quiet, lurking writers out of our comfy homes and packs us all into one building with very few hiding places and an abundance of coffee and sugary treats. It’s fun and awkward, some of us are less awkward than others, or they’re just better at hiding it. I’m not. So naturally, I thought it would be a grand idea to pitch a workshop to Willamette Writers. They’ll never say yes, I thought . . . until they did. But, I survived my talk, barely, and I’ll use the feedback from this time around to give it another go at Orycon in November. Maybe I’ll see you there?

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Creep on Your Characters (and Your Friends)

I like to watch . . .

Not like that, perv, but, yeah, if we’ve met, I’ve likely spied on you, analyzed your movements, wondered at the reason you say a word in a particular way, kept track of the trends in your speech. Kind of creepy, right? Sorry, I’m writing, and I can’t turn it off. Anyway, here’s some tips and tricks I’ve picked up whilst creeping on everyone. After I ramble a bit, I’ll also share a fun (strange, maybe) character development trick/tool I use.

Dialogue

Each character should have their own flavor: word choice and patterns of speech. Also consider how their speech may change depending on who they are around (code switching).

Is there a word/phrase your character likes to use? Maybe they use it repeatedly, possibly even incorrectly. Bonus points if you can think of a reason/origin for why they use this word or phrase.

Listen to the people you know and you’ll notice they’ll always say certain things. Maybe your sister always says, “you know?” after something she says. Why? Maybe she’s worried no one listens to her, so she tacks this on at the end to elicit a response. 

How can word choice show character? Think of the way Vizzini from the Princess Bride incorrectly (and excessively) uses the word “inconceivable”. This demonstrates his character. He latches onto this multisyllabic word to sound smart, he thinks he’s a genius and this serves to foreshadow his upcoming loss in a battle of wits against Westley. While you don’t want to do exactly this, obviously, you should consider how you can make word choice work for (or against) your characters.

As you write dialogue, always visualize the character talking. Read it out loud, drop words—most people talk in fragments, especially when they know each other well.

That said, it’s okay to have awkward dialogue, such as stating the obvious, so long as it’s a character trait. However, if you do this, the other characters should call them on it or in some way react to this odd manner of speaking.

Character Tics

What does your character always do when (insert emotion)?

Watch the people you know. Does your partner talk with their hands when excited? Maybe your friend obsessively fiddles with her rings when she explains things? Go on, spy on everyone, it’s fun to be creepy.

Now for the fun I promised, but first, some work:

Write a journal entry from the perspective of your character (preferably in 1st person) ‘cause who writes their journal in third? Weird. Get inside your character, be super honest, this is your (character’s) personal journal where they can write anything and everything without fear, because (of course) afterwards it’s going straight into the fire (not literally, duh). Force your character to reflect on their dreams/goals/past/future. This doesn’t need to be pretty or even cohesive, stream of consciousness is fine, just get into their head for a few pages. Note: This is not something you will include in your story/novel, it’s only an exercise, what you write here will influence how you write this character.

Done? Great! On to the fun. It’s time to discover your character’s personality type. Yep, now that your character is fresh in your mind, you’re going to take a personality test as your character. Answer each of the weird questions only as your character would. Force them to be super honest (and consistent). At the end, you will be rewarded with some literature describing their traits (weaknesses, strengths, etc.).

Now, do this for each of your major characters.

Want More Fun?

Use these results to discover which Harry Potter character your character would be. Because procrastination is FUN! You can find this here and here (these two sites vary slightly).

What are your favorite character development tricks?

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Cats Can’t Write

Sometimes I envy my cat. Hell, more than sometimes. Presently he’s sleeping at my side, snoring ever so slightly. Now and again his foot twitches and I imagine he’s creeping through a jungle of dream grass stalking some tantalizingly elusive prey, a bird-mouse perhaps? Or maybe his favorite toy, koala-ball, has become sentient. Either way, it’s a pretty damned awesome dream if you’re a cat.

I wonder what it would be like to sleep like that, like nothing else matters. How would it be to not have my guilt-tripping inner nag constantly whispering, “It’s been six hours! You’ve slept enough! Shouldn’t you be writing? TICK! TICK! TICK! Gotta get those stories out before you DIE!”

But she means well, and she is right. After all, each second, day, hour, I am closer to death, and how horrible it would be to die with an untold story!

I think about this every day on my ten-mile bike commute. Every car that almost swipes me, every bus that veers into my path. I want to shout, “NO! Not yet! I have too many stories to tell!” Which is a lot different than my pre-writing mindset. Settle in, I’ll tell you all about it.

Yes, I’ve always been a “writer” but there was a period (a really fucking dark period) of about ten years in which I didn’t—couldn’t—write anything.

I started smoking in around seventh grade, and I would smoke cigarettes whenever I wrote. When I turned eighteen I decided an asthmatic shouldn’t smoke, and quit. In quitting, I also inadvertently quit writing. I couldn’t do it anymore, not without the ember’s red glow, the waft of swirling grey smoke. It was over. Cue the depression.

So I stumbled through life, sure it all had some purpose, but I couldn’t figure out what. I’d thought it had been writing, but obviously I had been wrong about that. So I decided I would live only as long as my two cats, then, once they died, I too could go. My bike rides then were indifferent. I could die, but meh, it saved me the trouble of having to do it myself.

Good times.

What snapped me out of this funk? Well, oddly enough, all it took was one over-hyped, mind-numbing book. I’m not going to name names, and which book it was isn’t really important. Really, it was more of a cumulative thing and this book just happened to be the last straw. It poked a shining hole into my darkness and forced me to pick up my pen for the first time in ten years. Now my life is measured in stories, not cats.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do.

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