Killing the Hero

I’ve killed off characters in my books. There are several in particular who I mourned as the author, and still others who I really hadn’t noticed. It seems to be a popular past-time in fiction to strategically murder personalities that we, the readers or viewers, have fallen in love with.

I know everyone hated to see Coulson go in Marvel Avengers, myself included. But then, Joss Whedon has made a name for himself as one of those directors who has no qualms offing a beloved character for the sake of driving up tension. But, of course it’s more than that.

Yes, the tension goes up, but it also has a profound effect on all the other characters on either the page or the screen. As storytellers, we’re told this is good. And in part it is. Life is not without loss, and storytelling is an art that is at its heart about life in all its gritty, beautiful detail.

However …

It’s becoming a cheap trick.

Without spoiling dozens of popular stories across several venues (TV, Movies, Novels) I can say that I have seen no less than 7 traumatic deaths in the last couple of years alone. Some of them I even knew were coming at the very start of the story, which is a problem in and of itself.

As a storyteller myself I have to sit up and take notice. While I understand the impact a death like that has on the story-line and on the other characters, I have found myself sitting back as a reader/viewer feeling cheated and manipulated by the author/director.

This should alarm us.

We are becoming desensitized to this sort of story mechanic. That’s not to say we can’t keep using it, but more to say that we must be very, very careful when we do. If we must kill off a beloved character, then it has to hit our emotional buttons on every level. It has to mean something both to us as authors and to the story itself, or our readers will feel the cheapness of it.

 

Official Release – Tapped

I’m starting off the New Year with a bang!

ScornedOr … well … a mistaken “bang” on the 1st because in my NyQuil induced haze I accidentally “leaked” the novel online but we’re moving past that now. This is my first self-published novel and I’m equal parts terrified and pleased by it.

Tapped is a space-traveling adventure that follows the Barlow family as they unwittingly begin an underground railroad for refugees in Consulate space. It’s a story about what makes a family. It’s a story about the consequences of standing up for your convictions and a brothers-in-arms story all wrapped up together.

The original concept for this novel was that I wanted a mother-son story. We have a lot of mother-daughter, father-son novels out there but I haven’t seen as many dealing with the relationship between a mother and her son. And since I happen to be the mother of one incredible little boy it was important to me that the Greeks not get the final word here.

(No, really. The Greeks had the whole Oedipus thing that was really gross and weird. Just … yuck.)

In any case, I’m throwing confetti and will enjoy some wine and a comfortable evening celebrating my first self-published release. It has been an adventure learning how to format and prepare a book for publication and, to be honest, kind of fun.

Tapped Blurb:

Jorry thought winning a galactic war would be enough to buy a peaceful life. She was wrong. Running from the government she fought so hard for, she carves a simple life out for herself and her family. When her family is dragged into a black market deal Jorry finds herself directly in the sights of those she’s been hiding from and must decide how far she’s willing to go to protect the people she loves.

Self-Publishing Journal Entry #4 (I think?) — AKA, “DANGIT, HYDRA!”

Dear Diary,

I spent New Years Eve sick on my couch. I did not have the joy of watching the infamous “potato drop” in my home town. I could not smell the glorious turkey breast as it was cooking in my crockpot (Thank you to my Grandmother and to my Aunt Debbie for passing along that recipe, it was good even though I couldn’t taste everything.) And in my NyQuil induced haze I decided it would be a perfect moment to get some final tweaks done to Tapped before my January 13th deadline …

The Big Orange Beast warned me not to do this. He meowed and jumped onto the back of my chair andIMG_0238 bopped my head a few times and I, still in a medicated stupor, did not pay him any mind. I imagine he would be snickering at me but he’s too annoyed that the child has a friend over and is currently hiding under my desk.

I know because he keeps chewing on my toes.

After many a night pondering and working and trying things out I opted to use CreateSpace to help launch Tapped into the world. It was very easy to use.

Too easy to use.

I went through the Proof Copy, understanding that this was the phase my publishers would have called the “Galley Proof” but not understanding that once I approved said copy it would be IMMEDIATELY published to the CreateSpace store and … several hours later … to Amazon.

I was 99% certain I had given a publication date of January 13th earlier in the process but it seems I missed something. I’m blaming the NyQuil on that one.

After much scrambling and panicking and trying to figure out how to take down the novels suddenly out for sale I finally decided to roll with it.

So this is me mimicking Marvel after the Avenger’s trailer was released … “Dangit, Hydra!”

Tapped is on Amazon. You can find it in two different paperback sizes, the 6×9 (which is cheaper and Scornedlarger) or the 5.2×8 (which is two bucks more and smaller because I wanted something purse-size because I am totally the book-in-the-purse type … when I carry a purse.)

And, of course, you can find it for Kindle.

I recognize that this has the potential to hurt sales. Everything I’ve read about publishing and such says that the week before the book goes up (which should have been next week) I’m supposed to be running about cheerfully telling people about the upcoming release and building all the happy-vibes so that people will buy it and stuff.

“Dangit, Hydra!”

Now I’m on to Battle Plan Bravo.

Why no, I did not have a plan B in place for this. But I’m like MacGyver and can figure a way through almost anything if I have a paperclip and a gum wrapper. (I really don’t care if I just dated myself either. MacGyver was totally my hero growing up and I maintain that he’s swoon-able.)

Excuse me while I go make Battle Plan Bravo for next week. In the meantime, my very first ever self-published novel is up for sale. I’m sure I made every mistake known to the publishing world in it and apologize in advance.

Residual Haunting is now Live

Cover Art by Chris Howard
Cover Art by Chris Howard

Welcome to October!

As promised, Residual Haunting — my first ghost/semi-horror/paranormal story — has found its way onto Wattpad and its own Story Blog. (Take a moment to admire Chris Howard’s amazing artwork on the cover! I absolutely love it!)

Now then …

Why am I posting a draft of this novel online for free?

It seems like a silly thing for an author, who wants to make money on telling stories, to post their work before any real editing can come of it (thus subjecting any Readers who dare to take the trip to a rough ride of possible typos and awkward wording) and to do so for free.

Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, Residual Haunting is a grand experiment for me. It’s an exercise in whether or not I can write something completely on the computer (normally I hand write everything first) and I know I’m going to learn quite a bit in the process. (Honestly, I already have but we’ll get to that later.)

If by some chance my experience with Residual Haunting can somehow aid a fellow writer then I would like to share it. Thus, we find the serialization process begun. I’ll go through a focused dissection of the experience when we’ve reached the end.

Second, I love the history of serializations in general. I got to play Beth in “Little Women” when I was in high school so the concept of serializing stories gives me fond memories. (If you remember, Jo had her stories serialized in the paper.)

And Third, it’s fun.

No, really. It’s fun. I had a blast with Persona last year and promised myself that I would do it again once I found a suitable book (one not on contract and focused on learning something about the craft) and Residual Haunting fits that bill.

So! If you like the paranormal and are adventurous enough to embark on this journey with me then welcome to the experiment! Follow the links above to find the story in your preferred format (Wattpad or Blog) and let’s get started!

Attack of the Secondary Character – Round Robin Discussion

The beast roared again.

It knew Relo was there.  It had known the moment he’d walked into the cave, its heightened sense of taste and smell had alerted the beast to this trespass.  But Relo had anticipated this.  In thirty-four years as a Tapped Acolyte he’d hunted every species Nellis had to offer.  He knew each weakness, each strength, and when Nellissian people were threatened, he had no qualms about exploiting such knowledge.  This, after all, was not a matter of fair play but a matter of survival.

Me: Relo … huh … that’s an interesting name. Sounds kinda like “reload” which makes sense given the whole science fiction element, right?

Cat: meow?

Me: (Because I really am crazy enough to discuss these things with my pets) I know, I know. Relo … what? Relo Bomani? Sounds exotic and … you know … they’re on an alien planet and all … OK. So … the hero’s name is Relo Bomani.

…. approximately 700 words later ….

“I see I missed the action,” Seach said.  Most of his face was still in shadow but Relo knew the man was frowning.

“It was a surprisingly fast battle.” Relo looked down at his thigh and tried to determine how bad the wound was.

Seach walked to him, fixing the light on his wounded leg. “But not uneventful. Sit still.”

“Actually, I think I cut myself on its tail when I tried to get out of the way.” Relo took the phosphorous light from Seach and angled it so his friend could work.

Seach snorted his amusement as he crouched beside him, slipping the pack off his shoulder as he did so. “Serves you right for coming out here alone. I swear, sometimes I think you are trying to die.”

Me: … huh … I like this Seach fellow.

Cat: (just purrs cause by now he’s laying on my feet)

… 3000 words later …

Me: Ugh. I hate this book. I do not like the way it’s going. Relo is too … just too … strong. Not enough vulnerability in him. And he’s not funny.

Cat: (lots of meowing cause he’s crazy enough to think I can understand him)

Me: I know! Seach is so much more interesting. He makes me laugh. And he’s not afraid to fail. I totally love him.

Cat: (stops meowing because I’m scratching under his chin and he’s in kitty heaven)

Me: But you know, I’m not liking much of this plot either. Let’s change everything. We’ll make Seach the hero. Keep Jorry as the female lead. Relo can be the secondary.

Cat: (suddenly bops me on the hand because he’s had enough attention for one day but he’s too lazy to move out of hands reach)

… About a year later … 

“You know Jorry won’t drink that,” said a familiar voice.

Seach relaxed and glanced at Lieutenant Cavil as they continued through the D-Fac. Her black hair was shaved close and he could see little spirals of dark curls pressed up against her scalp. She grinned at him, her teeth bright white against the backdrop of her ebony skin. Cavil was beautiful in that hard way that military officers could be. It was like all the training and battle she had seen managed to sharpen her appeal and for half a second he forgot the danger they were in.

“Lieutenant Cavil,” he said with a smile. In his peripheral view he saw Jo look up from her computer. “It’s been a while. Decided you were ready to tell me your first name?”

“It’s been two years and eight months,” Cavil said and laughed. “I thought you would have lost interest by now.”

“Lost interest in a beauty like you?” Seach clucked his tongue and winked at her. “Never.”

… So … Have I ever had a secondary character steal a book from me?

Yes. Very much so. I revamped all of Tapped to accommodate a new hero in Seach and I have never regretted it. He’s funny and vulnerable and he really made the story for me. He even counterbalances Jorry as the lead female character precisely because of those traits.

Hop over to some of my fellow authors to see if they’ve ever dealt with a scene-stealing secondary character before!

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com
A.J. Maguire https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.com/my_blog
Victoria Chatham www.victoriachatham.webs.com
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Geeta Kakade http://geetakakade.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://rhobinleecourtright.com

Dead Magic Release!

Witch-Born fans can rejoice today! (That’s right, I said “rejoice” because we really don’t use that word often enough these days.) The sequel and (likely) final chapter of the steampunk-magic-imbued saga has been released through Double Dragon Publishing. 

Yes, yes, I know … “But you just had your first science fiction (Deviation) released last week!”

Quiet, mongrels! You’re not rejoicing like I told you to! 

(I might be a little spirited today. The strap on my favorite purse broke and I am torn between grieving it and celebrating the new release. I apologize for any and all shenanigans.)

But no, seriously, Dead Magic is officially released. See its understated and quietly brilliant purchase link at the side of this post … Or if you don’t like sidebars you can follow this link to its brand new Amazon page

Marvel at the steampunky cover art (created by the ever-so talented Deron Douglas)

deadmagic-510

Why yes, that does appear to be a naked man in the background. See the tattoos? Witch-Born fans should automatically recognize them!

Bask, my lovelies, in the blurby thingy that must be placed on all books … 

Return to the Steam Punk world of Magnellum for the second book in the “Witch-Born” series.

Magic is gone and Valeda Quinlan knows it, she just can’t prove it. Determined to learn the truth, Valeda finds herself at the mercy of Elsie Delgora, the last known Witch to have ever seen Magic. Scrambling for survival amidst the noble Houses of Magnellum, Valeda agrees to help Elsie in return for Magic’s location. But the help Elsie needs is more than Valeda bargained for. Sent on a mission to find Lord Winslow Agoston, Valeda is confronted by powers far beyond any Witch-Born and forced to take on an even larger role in the fate of Magnellum.

In all seriousness this book was a joy to write. I had fun with Valeda and Winslow and I sincerely hope everyone else will too. 

Terraforming Mars

Deviation, my newly released science fiction, lands smack dab on Mars.

In spite of the massive amounts of research I had a lot of fun on Mars. Actually, scratch that.

Because of the massive amounts of research I had to do, I had a lot of fun on Mars. Astronomy fascinates me. I think stars are cool and pictures of nebula are awesome and … yeah, I’m a nerd. So it’s only natural that my first science fiction novel actually features another planet.

Mars is the planet we tend to like the most when it comes to the idea of relocating the human race. (Or at least branching out. Earth still needs our tender loving care.)

planet-mars1There are many reasons for this but in the interest of this post I’m just going to direct you to HowStuffWorks.com because they already have an awesome article on the hows and the why’s of it. (Yay! Kevin Bonsor!)

Now, I understand that I cheated a bit when it came to terraforming Mars in my book, but that all boils down to story. I wasn’t writing a guidebook to terraforming a planet, I was writing a story about redemption and grief and relationships.

That said, I still wanted to make it believable.

I also wanted to give the information without overwhelming readers with technical jargon. So I made a timeline with news articles. Readers will notice that there’s a snippet of a news article at the beginning of every chapter. That’s where I provided information both on what happened to the female race and how humanity reached Mars.

First we bombed the core … cause Earth’s weird half-molten center is what gives us the tectonic plates, which is what gives us the magnetic field and atmosphere that keeps us … you know … alive and stuff. There’s probably a lot of things wrong with the theory of bombing the Martian core but the very concept made my creative brain go into hyper-drive, so I used it.

Then, because things weren’t growing fast enough for us, we built a mirror-like greenhouse thing around Mars. (No, really, check out the HowStuffWorks.com article. It’s totally plausible.) Mars is further away from the sun so we needed to catch all that heat and redirect it to the planet’s surface.

And then … and this is my favorite part … we “seed bombed” the planet’s surface.

Yes, that’s right. Seed bombs. They are exactly what they sound like; bombs with seeds and fertilizer and all the good stuff plants need to get started.

Add a little water, a little time, and a lot of luck and viola! Terraforming!

Now then … scientists across the globe are likely to slaughter me for turning Mars purple and genetically altering animals to live on the planet. Those are all story elements. I rely heavily on the fact that I am not a scientist, I am a novelist. In those instances I would hope that people remember they are reading a work of fiction and focus instead on the characters rather than the mechanics.

Deviation-510Honestly, I think we’ll live on Mars one day. It won’t be tomorrow, but some day.