It's Never What You Expect

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Characters - His story.

In the post before the last, I shared a little glimpse into my head, into my writing process. Today I’m going to share a little something about where the Mortal Monsters series will be heading.

The first three books are Mackenzie and Eli’s books. It’s their story. Beyond that, there will be several stand alone, offshoot books that are the stories of some of the characters you’ll meet in the first three books.

I’ve been thinking of these characters for a long time. Some of them I’ve even begun their stories. One in particular has my heart. It torments me with want for me to tell it. This one particular character, he has a theme song. A song that puts me in his world, in his story, in his life…

I am not sure if his book will be the first to be released after Mack and Eli’s arc is complete or the second, but he’s in my head, in my veins, this morning and I want to share him with you. So, I thought I’d give you a short, cryptic glimpse and let you know what is to come, what you can expect from the series in the future. So there are no surprises when you pick up book four or five and maybe six.

This particular character’s theme song is: In My Veins by Andrew Belle

Here it is on youtube – I’d use the one from Andrew Belle’s youtube channel, but the image this person used when they posted the video captures the tone in my head perfectly.

I dreamed him and his story up before Eli and Mackenzie came along. When I was weaving him into their story, I had moments when I wanted to rebel against the course his story has already taken. I thought, maybe I could just change it up, but his path is already set, and if I didn’t follow it, his story wouldn’t be the one I have to tell. I wouldn’t be able to tell it, and show you his life, who he is and why I’m completely in love with him.

If I were to change his course, you’d never get to meet the other’s in his story that have stories of their own, ones that also deserve to be told.

I think I love him and his story so much because it’s so personal. There is so much of me in it, of the people who have come into my life and left their mark. One in particular stood out to me this morning. He has shaped parts of this character, and I can’t wait for you all to meet him. I hope you’ll fall as deeply for him as I have… both the character and the one who exists in real life that’s colored parts of him.



Friday, September 11, 2015

Cover Reveal - Powerless by Monica Millard

Powerless by Monica Millard
(Mortal Monsters #2)
Publication date: October 27th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal

Werewolf, shapeshifter, seer. If you’d said these words to me two months ago, I’d have said they were the things of stories and legends. Now, they’re my classmates, my friends and even those closest to me. Best friend, boyfriend and my own mother.
So what does that make me? I’m something different. Something dangerous?
I’ve kept my abilities locked up tight, hidden, even from myself, but the shapeshifter that was after Eli set them free, when he kidnapped and tortured me. With no one left to rescue me, I was forced to accept what I am in order to free myself and save Eli.
Now that my abilities have been awakened, I can’t turn them off. If I can’t get control, they might destroy me, and everyone else with me.
I might just be the strongest supernatural there is, but I feel completely powerless.
Add it on Goodreads:

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Characters - Who's story is it really?

Today I thought I’d share something about my writing process. I’m what in the writing world is termed a pantser. I don’t outline a book before I begin writing it. Usually going into it, I know the overall premise, the main characters and I know how it ends, but not always. Sometimes I find that out as I go.

For me, writing is discovery. I’m getting to know the characters, finding out what makes them tick, seeing what happens just like a reader would. Only, I’m living in the world and getting to know the characters over the course of about three months, which is about how long it typically takes me to write a first draft.

There are always surprises along the way. Things I didn’t expect to happen, characters doing things I had no idea they would. That sounds a little crazy, I know. But that’s normal for someone who daydreams for a living.

One of the books I’ve written, I went into it with the all of those things I said above. I knew who all the players were, and even how it ended, but in my vision of how this book was going to play out, there were bad guys and good guys, no grey areas. It ended exactly as I envisioned, but the tone, the characters I fell in love with and rooted for were not at all the ones I had originally planned.

I had written the first five chapters, maybe more with this idea of who this one particular player in the story was, but he was quietly picking at my mind, wanting me to hear his side, to tell his story. When I finally stopped trying to be in control, when I listened to what he had to tell me (not literally, but still in a way I can’t explain), the story blossomed into something I loved. A story that wasn’t just words on a page, but had life and breath and tears. There were lots of tears while I wrote his story.

And even though he wasn’t the main character, the POV (point of view) character, it was just as much his story as it was hers.

When I write, I always write from the girl’s perspective. Not because I don’t think I could write a boy, but because it’s what comes to me, but also because I’m usually telling a boy’s story too and I fall for them organically, like I would in real life, from the outside, watching them, seeing little things revealed over time that make me love them for who they are in spite of how life has tried to defeat them.

Even though I write from the girl’s perspective, I often empathize with the boy much more. It’s true when I’m reading a book too. I often see the book as their story, even though they aren’t the focus. I have much more tolerance for the boy character as well. I was raised to be a strong girl, and I think I expect that of all girl characters, whether I write them or not. Or maybe it’s because I’m in their head and therefore on some level, they are me too, because I’m reading or writing them.

I share this because my next blog post will be a glimpse forward in the Mortal Monster series.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My 3 am visitor

I have lived in Alaska my whole life (except a few small stints outside visiting other states). I grew up with wildlife in my backyard, or the front or sides, even the porch. Moose are a common occurrence in Alaska, as well as in my writing. You just get used to them, learn to live around them and hope you never get up close and personal.

I’ve been up close and personal a few times.

When I was a kid, still in school, it was dark when I waited for the bus. No matter how early the hour was or how late. In the winter, it’s dark longer here. In grade school, the bus stop was a few houses down at the ‘pump house’. Everything in my neighborhood, the houses, the ‘pump house’, the street in general is surrounded by trees.

There were several occasions when I’d walk to the bus stop, only to find I’d walked right up on a moose, hidden in the dark, cleverly camouflaged with its dark brown colors to blend in with the trees and the night sky.

Let me tell you, you will probably never move as quickly as you do when your fight of flight instinct kicks in because you are faced with a half-ton kicking, stomping, goring death machine. I’m small, but I’ve scaled ten-foot chain link fences in seconds flat to escape a charging moose. I have no idea how I did it, but that’s adrenaline for you.

The yard I have now is much bigger than the one I grew in, it’s filled with trees, forest even. Lots of new growth trees popping where they were cleared to make way for the house. Very attractive to these behemoths.  

Last night, I had one of these late night visitors in my yard, just outside my bedroom window, enjoying some of those new growth trees that have popped up since last year.

Like I said, I grew up in Alaska, and prior to moving out my home in Wasilla, I’d never truly heard the sound of a moose eating. The first time I heard it, I’d just gotten home. It was late, dark. I opened the door to my truck and was confronted with what sounded like bones snapping and flesh being stripped from those very same bones. It was horrific.

As a writer, my imagination can do terrible things and it was working overtime, imaging that maybe a bear had found its way into my yard with a kill and was slowly, methodically eating it right there in the trees, in the dip of the hill below me.

I tried turning my truck back on and angling it into the trees to see what I was dealing with, even went out onto the street, but to no avail. Needless to say, I didn’t exit the vehicle on that side, but parked as close to my porch steps as possible and then crawled over the seat to the passenger side that was facing the house and hurried inside.

Later, when I heard this same sound coming from another part of the yard, this time I was able to get a good angle with my headlights and identify the culprit as not a bear, but a moose, stripping not flesh from bone, but leaves and bark from tree limbs and not bones snapping, but twigs being bitten off.

So there I am, lying in bed at 3 am, the horrific sounds of something very amiss outside carrying into my room through the opened window, my dog awake, barking, warning me that there’s an intruder on our property. Even knowing the sound, having heard it before, in my fight or flight, adrenaline burning away the fog of sleep brain, I get up to find out who or what is outside my window, armed, just in case. I flip on the back flood light (sorry neighbors), open the door and peek out.

There in the small copse of trees, head turned back to look at me in a lazy, I’m the biggest thing around so I’m not really worried about whatever is there sort of way, is an adolescent moose. He almost gives me a shrug and then goes back to munching away.

I turned on the fan to drown out the sounds that, even though I know the source, still sound like the worst kind of death to me, and I went back to bed.

Here is the evidence of his disturbing visit:
Notice the stripped branches all along the right side.

Snapped the tops right off this poor little tree.

More branches stripped clean of their leaves and some of their bark. Imagine what that must sound like at 3am.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cover Reveal - Faceless by Monica Millard


Faceless by Monica Millard
(Mortal Monsters #1)
Publication date: September 1st 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal

There isn’t a lot of excitement or drama to be had for a teenager in Wasilla, Alaska. This is especially true for students of the charter high school, Lakes Charter. That is until a jock is killed in a brutal attack on school property.

The victim is the instigator of the school’s bullying ring and his biggest target, both literally at six and a half feet tall and in frequency, is Eli Markham, the lead suspect. The only problem with that story is at the time the murder took place, he was in the school parking lot installing a new battery with Mackenzie Carver. Me.

I didn’t really know Eli before I gave him a ride. I don’t think anyone does know him. He’s kind of a loner, but we’ve been thrown together and the more time I spend with him, the more I want to learn. All of that will have to wait though, because something is after us, something that isn’t human, something that keeps trying to frame Eli for crimes he didn’t commit.

The scheme might be more successful if I didn’t keep getting in the way of someone’s plans.

Add it on Goodreads

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A New Young Adult Series, News and Updates

I have not been very consistent on this blog lately. I know it’s been a while since you heard from me. The last post was in April and prior to that was December, and that one wasn’t even my words. I apologize for my neglect.

I’ve come to remedy this. To let you in on all the things going on in my life. To share the exiting news and commiserate over the difficulties. I haven’t just mean absent from the blog of late. If you’ve friended or followed me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest, well I’ve been mostly hiding there as well. I’ve had fits and spurts of activity, and have been trying for more lately, but in the last few months life has dealt me a few personal blows.

I lost three family members in May. One canine and two relatives of the human persuasion. I’ve also had a diagnosis of doggy diabetes for my remaining baby. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve tried to find the positives in all these things. Losing my first baby prepared me for the coming losses. I was lucky enough to be there and have some special time with one of them. I was able to say goodbye. And I was able provide support where it was needed with other family members. The diagnosis of my critter has forced me to get up off my butt, but it’s also made me want to take steps to improve my own health and then do so. As a result, I’ve lost eight pounds in the last two weeks.

In those same few months, as you know I finished a novel and began another. I’ve been writing as feverishly as I can, which initially accounted for my absence. I will be releasing the first in the trilogy sometime in the next month. Novel two is in the final stages of the first draft and I hope to have it finished in the next week or so, but happy events may delay that.

I also attended a wonderful writers conference with and even more wonderful friend, who also happens to be an awesome writer.  It was a treasured experience. I learned a lot in just a few short days and met so many wonderful people. I got out of my comfort zone. I took a bus across state lines. It was beautiful and amazing and I loved every minute of it. (We have city busses, but we don’t really have big bus lines like there are down in the Lower 48.)

All of these events have me revaluating my life, reflecting on where I’m at and where I’d like to be. But it’s easy to fall back into ruts once normal life resumes, losing those magical insights we found during times of struggle or change or even the stepping out from our normal routine.

I watched a Ted Talk yesterday. I love Ted Talks, but this one was the type of special that stands above the rest. In it a little girl was talking about her mission to save enslaved children around the world. She is an inspiration. She has a quote that resonated with me so strongly. “Start with your heart.” What a wise statement from someone so young. The context might be very different, but I stopped and thought long and hard about that statement and what it meant to me.

I would like to apply the idea of starting with your heart to my own life. My heart is with my family, is with meeting people and making connections, it’s with learning and it’s with writing. Knowing where my heart is the first step. Going forward, I’d like to try to put those things above all the rest and see how what changes it causes.

If you’d like to have a look at the Ted Talk which I found so inspirational, here is the link:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Five Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author - Guest Post by Susan Kaye Quinn

Five Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author
by Susan Kaye Quinn
Can you spot the self-published titles?
Hint: they all are. 
(Caveat: A.G. Riddle started out indie but is now published through Amazon's 47North imprint along with Marko Kloos)
The truth is that self-published titles now regularly top the charts - if not outright dominate them. Successful self-published titles have great covers and lots of fervent fans - often the only way to distinguish them from traditionally published titles is the publisher listing in the description (and the price - indie titles are usually less than $5.99 for single titles).
How do you become one of these successful indie authors? Hard work, luck, and educating yourself about how the indie marketplace works.
Here are FIVE TIPS to get you started. For a full run-down on how to launch your indie author career, see my Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition now available). To take your indie author career to the next level, pre-order my For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career (releases 7.14).
TIP #1: Study the Bestsellers - In both craft and business, studying successful people will help you discern the ingredients of success. Always be striving to take your craft up a level - by craft I mean storytelling, not just the way you string words together. Because as much as we like to disparage that poorly written erotica book at the top of the charts, I guarantee that good stories well told actually do sell. (Alternatively, if you want to chase the latest trend, that's possible now  - there's no sin in giving readers more of what they want, but it's nowhere near as easy as you think.) As far as business, look who is selling in your genre and what they did to get there. Don't follow what people say - look at what they actually do. The actions of successful people often fly in the face of conventional wisdom. (I welcome you to look at my own path to success as well as many other indie authors - often the most successful are not the ones offering advice about it! #yesIseetheirony )
TIP #2: Be a Professional - Don't dabble. Don't dip your toe into indie publishing with a short story that's not going to sell. Go full cannon-ball jump into the pond with professional covers, formatting, editing, the works. Make sure your novel can comfortably sit in the top 100 of your category. This will require up-front investment, but most books can be well-published for under $1000 - and I know of no other legit business you can start for that little money invested. Don't skimp. (Note: on the other hand, don't throw money away on a $3000 cover that will be hard to recoup; be sensible.)
TIP #3: Launch With a Series - You don't have to pre-write an entire trilogy and release the books one month apart... but that's an option now, with indie publishing. If you can write a novel in six months, you could publish the first book, then write and publish Books 2 and 3 within a year. I've seen both models be successful (note: don't wait more than six months between books). Make the commitment to quickly build a backlist and get books into readers' hands. Delivering three connected novels to readers within a year is a strong way to launch a career (note: I'm talking novels here, not novellas or short stories or serials - those are fun, but not career-launchers).
TIP #4: Launch in Amazon then Go Wide -  There's a lot to learn in indie publishing, so staying focused can be key to staying on track - plus launching a new series in the Kindle Unlimited system gives new authors/new series a boost in visibility. Use this to get your footing. Then, when you've established your brand as an author, you can expand to the other retailers (Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play). You'll be a veteran at that point and in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of exclusivity vs. reach.
TIP #5: Never Stop Writing - the single most important thing you can do in your career is write the next book. Generating new IP (Intellectual Property) is the one thing only you can do - the rest can be outsourced. It's tempting to get bogged down in all the latest and greatest changes in the industry, but the biggest lever you can pull to move sales is to launch a new book. Or an entirely new series. You want to study the bestsellers, but always remember: your biggest asset is your uniqueness. Make sure you're continually feeding your creativity, reaching for that next level with your work, bringing out the fullest expression of your abilities. Spend the bulk of your time doing creative work - reading, writing, watching movies, taking workshops, using craft books to boost your skills, exploring new forms, learning how to write faster... whatever works for you to elevate your craft and increase your enjoyment of writing. This is the creative life you want, yes?
I really should have started with TIP #0: Decide What Mountain You Want To Climb - I have an entire section in my Indie Author Survival Guide about making a Mission Statement so that you know you're climbing the right hill before you set off in dogged pursuit of the success you think you want. 
Knowing what will make you happy, then having a plan to get there? That's the only key to success you actually need.
p.s. if all of this terrifies you, I understand. Truly. Watch this webinar on facing your fears and don't let that hold you back. 
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the Mindajck Trilogy and the Debt Collector serial (as well as other speculative fiction works) and has been indie publishing since 2011. She?s not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: she?s one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. The Indie Author Survival Guide is based on her experience in self-publishing fiction?the First Edition was published in 2013, the Second Edition in 2015, updated to account for changes in the industry. It?s a guide to help her fellow writer-friends take their own leaps into the wild (and wonderful) world of indie publishing? and not only survive, but thrive. Facebook | Tumblr | Website | All of Susan's Fiction
Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition) now available
For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career - preorder for 7.14


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Monica Millard's books on Goodreads
Children of the Gods Children of the Gods (Chosen, #1)
reviews: 34
ratings: 44 (avg rating 3.91)

Chosen - A Children of the Gods Short Story Chosen - A Children of the Gods Short Story
reviews: 4
ratings: 17 (avg rating 3.47)

The Fall The Fall
reviews: 7
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.83)

Monica's bookshelf: read

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Blood and Feathers
The Rithmatist
Forbidden Blood
Last Blood
Out for Blood
Bad Blood
Flesh and Blood
Blood Rights
Girl Parts

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