A single word, and one of the most loaded words in the English language, I think.

So I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Ten for ten is the goal; I hit 50,000 words written nine years in a row, and have seven completed manuscripts and one hugely incomplete one to show for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it will take me one more NaNo of working on Book 8 before I can call it completed. It’s more or less a saga in and of itself. And if you don’t know what I write, it’s fantasy/science fiction. A lot of magic, a whole lot of action, and a few things about human nature, as described in action by people who are anything but human.

It’s one of those things that so many of my fellow Wrimos find themselves doing: write the story you wish you had available to read when you were a certain age. My saga is part-YA and part not really. Well, a lot of ‘not really’, considering some of the more questionable things that I’m now putting my characters through.

And I find that one of the emerging themes in my storyline is trust.

As I said before, one of the most loaded words in the English language.

So much of the human condition relies on trust, and both as an author and a lifelong student of practical psychology, I’m finding that more often than not, we already know who is trustworthy and who isn’t. As was the case with one of my best friends, I knew I could trust her right away. Yes, she and I disagree sometimes, and yes, we can be at loggerheads, but the fact remains that, no matter how we butt heads, I trust her. I knew that from the first chat we had. Her writing style, her choice of words, her choice of expressions, and yes, okay, the fact that her coffee habit can put mine to shame – all of that gave away little cues to her personality, and I knew immediately: we mesh. The other part of that was little more than instinct. Very frankly, I just knew. I can’t put it into any more detailed terms than that. I knew, and I knew I should. And it’s been a great time since.

I play on the themes of instinct and knowing what’s ahead  a lot in my writing, sometimes fairly directly. In part, it’s part and parcel of writing fantasy. In another, it goes right back to human nature and basic behavioral psychology. You can call it the subconscious brain processing information faster than our conscious brain can get to it. You can call it the ‘sixth sense’ – not a term I’m fond of using, but whatever. But the fact of the matter is, you. always. know. Especially when it comes to trust. You just have to listen to that feeling, and that’s a lesson that most people learn the hard way.

Ever heard the saying that when something is too good to be true, it very likely is? There’s a reason for that. And that reason is that people generally go to great lengths for their own gain, with too many people being none the wiser. When someone puts on too much of an act of being a “good person” – pillar of the community, church every Sunday, the sort of a person whom everyone would say, “No nicer guy/girl than that exists!” – it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the opposite is true, in my book. You may think it cynical, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of it in “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” very succinctly, when he has Sherlock Holmes explaining on why the countryside makes him uneasy:

There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.

But that, of course, was Victorian England. Hate to say it, but 21st Century USA isn’t that different. I find that the nicer the neighborhood, the more polished the person, the worse the vices underneath the gilded shell.

Again, this circles back to trust. You want to trust outside appearances. It’s our instinct to think that a bright, clean neighborhood and a bright, clean person are exactly as they appear. In truth, that’s precisely what the people who want to hide their vices are counting on. Appearances make for a very easy hiding of reality. You would truly be surprised at how well people hide who they are, and what they do, in order to get something.

Nonetheless, the human condition is to trust. We humans are pack animals, mostly; for all our quests for solitude and peace, we rely on people around us. Friends, for one. Family, whether or not that’s blood family, adopted family, or the family of choice. Even if we don’t rely on them for anything financial or material, we rely on them out of our own social nature. And we want to believe that we can trust the people around us. We want to believe that they have our best interests at heart.

And yes, oftentimes, that is the case. But there are also quite a lot of people who are able to fake an entire relationship if it means that they get something out of it.

Michael Baisden writes about this on a pretty regular basis. Here’s the thing: of all the people who make money off giving others advice, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he says. He’s not consistent in his messages, which only makes him human, but the absolute best and most consistent point that he always makes is make the person you’re with earn your trust. Don’t just give it to them immediately. Make them work to earn it, and take your sweet time with it. Forget emotions, forget being in love – use your brain and make the best decisions based on what you see for yourself.

I find myself in enthusiastic agreement with that. Trust is the number-one thing that we rely on. We place it in people every day, whether or not it’s new friends, old friends, coworkers, family members, you name it. We trust. Doesn’t it make sense to first see whether or not the person is worthy of trust? It does. But that’s the shit that takes time, and sometimes, though rarely, the person we aren’t sure whether or not we trust will go all-in in building it, and not giving you any reason to doubt.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people would get into any sort of a situation – workplace, relationship, you name it – where the other person in it just is not and never will act in their best interests. Oh, they do an excellent job of faking it; one may never even know. But it’s either the lack of follow-through, the continued infringement on your goodwill, the continued use of your money, the ongoing flaking out on plans, or the attempt to cover up wrongdoing or breaches of trust with gifts – this isn’t a pattern of behavior exclusive to romantic relationships. Yeah, you see it all the time when someone is a habitual cheater, but it applies to the workplaces too. To friendships. Family members. It’s very small things, if you take each individually, but altogether, it adds up to that famous Rhett Butler quote: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

My first job out of college comes to mind when I think of trusting the wrong people. Looking back now, I can bravely say that I put too much trust where it didn’t need to go. When I got hired, I was plunged into the work (administrative) with no basis. No support. No training. No consistency. No procedure, from the top down. Of course, this bred disorganization everywhere. Nearly every outburst from either ex-boss or the ex-managers about the general incompetence of the office – which, honestly, didn’t exist; all of us were wicked efficient at our jobs – was followed up with small rewards to tide it all over. “Take an early day, it’s fine”. Or “Let’s all go out for lunch, we need a break”. I repeatedly complained about having next to no help while swamped in peak season – instead of people hired, the first year I voiced a complaint, I got extra time off and $100 in cold cash. That’s nice, but it helped very little; I was still working insane hours, and the phone kept ringing in my sleep. When they did hire interns the following year, no one else had the time to train them because of when they were hired (peak season, again), which left yours truly training them. So yeah, this left me working four people’s jobs at once. I got a huge post-season bonus check that year. I also have a blank spot in my memory for the middle part of April of that year from the stress alone, though I clearly remember running away to Philly on April 6th to all but collapse on my friend’s shoulder in absolute exhaustion. Rewards-wise? I cleaned up like a bandit. I got extra time off, all paid for, in addition to the massive bonus. But… none of this fixed the underlying issues in the workplace. None whatsoever. That was why I quit: because I realized that none of this will change, and that it would eat me alive before I would see any improvement, and that, above all, I was never going to get paid what I’m truly worth.

And every time I complained, my then-boss would always promise something, and always say, “You can trust me.”

I did, and that was my mistake.

I thought that my then-boss would eventually give me a salary worth the work I was doing. It took me an inordinately long time to realize that it was never going to happen. More than one person in my life told me to walk out, that it wasn’t worth the toxic environment, and I’d vociferously defend staying there, because I’d keep getting the little rewards and mistook it to mean that the bigger rewards were coming. I realized it was never going to happen when I was offered shorter workweek rather than my annual raise. And in retrospect? All the signs were there, in front of my face. I just didn’t read them.

So why didn’t I quit before? Easy answer: fear, and mistakenly believing I couldn’t do better. I didn’t think I could get another job where I’d be paid as well. I worked my way to a certain amount of flex; I could travel, and was slowly entrenching myself in the music world. Boss also didn’t care that I had Photoshop on the work computer; hell, he had me do some graphics and marketing while I was at it. What got me to quit was the realization that nothing I did was ever going to be enough, and that no amount of ‘more effort’ was going to give me what I’m worth. It took me a long time to see that, and once I saw it, nothing could stop me from making a fast exit.


In truth, it’s the same structure as abusive relationships. The cycle is disturbingly similar. Why? Because you have hopes that the person you’re with will change for the better. That the intermittent rewards will become consistent. Very likely, before the abuse pattern begins, you have a certain halcyon period where they win your trust, and even sustain it for a while. And you begin to trust that they will work out whatever is wrong, and that it’ll be as good as it was before.

That’s actually 100% exactly what the other person is counting on. They know you trust them. And they exploit that without a second thought. Why? Because they benefit from your efforts.

In the example of my first job, I was a target, and it’s only now that I recognize that as such. I didn’t know that I could negotiate my job contract, and was afraid to be unemployed, because student loans. One of my ex-managers delighted in telling me that no one else would hire me because the job market was crap (and I did go on interviews multiple times) – I outlasted him by about two years. When I was hired, I was fresh out of college, with a degree I wasn’t using, and no work experience past my college front-desk job. At that time, I’d have gladly taken whatever I could get, and it showed. My former boss picked up on that immediately, and built my trust early on. It’s a huge, massive part of what kept me working there even when it was clear to everyone else that it wasn’t ever going to be what I wanted.

In a typical abusive relationship cycle, all the Well-Meaning Wilmas, as I call them, always ask, “But why did they stay in the relationship?” The truth is, the answers are very similar to the reasoning I had to staying at my first workplace. “I thought I couldn’t do any better”. “I would have no money otherwise”. “I wanted to keep the kids safe”. Because the other person won their trust and bamboozled them into believing that yes, eventually it will be all good all the time. That it does get better. That if there’s just a little more X, a little less Y – whatever X and Y happen to be – then everything will be okay.

It goes back to Issendai of Livejournal and the brilliant post on sick systems. Seriously, read that. It has to be one of the most brilliant pieces of writing you can ever have on this subject.

And you know something? Building a sick system, and keeping a sick system going relies on – primarily – trust.

One part of that blog post that I can echo and confirm is that intermittent rewards are the most addictive kind there is. That, which relies on and results in winning someone’s trust, is usually all some people need.

And you can ask, “If this is what people do to us, why do we trust in the first place?” We need to. It’s human. It’s part and parcel of who we are.

But let’s come back to instinct for a moment. You know, the gut feeling that everyone tells you to listen to. The one that we all ignore in favor of thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’ll change when…

One of the things that Michael Baisden said once that I really resonated with was, “If you’re asking whether or not you trust someone, you already know you don’t.” I find that to be a very true statement. And there are quite a lot of people out there who would go to great lengths to make sure you never have to question their trust. They will tell you whatever it is they think you want to hear – often on target, especially if they had some time in getting to know you – to make sure you never question their motivations. If there’s enough trust exchanged between you and that person, you probably will never question whether or not you trust them – until something happens that will make you question it. And that’s when it’s gone for good.

I’m not an advocate of snooping. I understand why people do that, but it’s the fastest way to wreck trust. This applies to any situation. The minute that you start going through someone’s things or communications, whatever trust that there was evaporates, on both sides. Even if you find nothing incriminating, you already know you don’t trust the person. And should they ever find out you’re snooping, will they ever trust you again? Of course not. Never.

Trust is something we can’t live without. Bottom line and bar none. We need people around us whom we can rely on, we need people around us who can and will and should tell us when we’re fucking up, and to help us un-fuck up if need be. But it one of the most absolutely fragile valuable things in the human spectrum. We don’t know what will break it; something done by that person, or information that comes to light elsewhere. We don’t know to which extent it will break: will it be a hairline crack, or a hit that’s strong enough to shatter it? Trust is such that once it breaks, getting it back is impossible. Sure, you can repair it. But think of it as the most valuable of Ming vases: it falls, it breaks. You can glue it back, you can even paint it over so that the design seems seamless on the outside once again. But will it ever be the same? No. And you will find that its value is hugely diminished once broken.


To circle back to my books for a moment, this is actually the biggest theme that I’m working with for the storyline that I picked for this year’s installment of the Origins arc of my series. Without so realizing, I’ve been taking one major theme in human nature per book and working the storyline around that theme.

So far, I’ve covered a lot of themes in my series: Book 1 was the more or less typical good vs. evil, where you actually question how ‘evil’ someone is and how much of their actions was really their own doing. Book 2 spoke about what happens under someone’s nose, and how long one can keep secrets for before they catch up to you. Book 3 analyzed just when something is not right, and when to walk away from it or to dig further at it. And Book 4 talked about finding answers and being very careful what you wish for, because you just might get it – and it’ll be a lot more than you can handle. The fifth book is about revenge and damage control alike, and the sixth is going to have a slant on how to manipulate public opinion to serve your own needs, and what happens when you go too far in your own agenda. Book 7 discusses protecting what’s truly yours, especially if it’s something you love. And Book 8 is an extrapolation on tenacity and perseverance.

So as such, Book 9 needs to discuss trust, and it needs to hit each and every single one of the points and events that I’ve described above, but not lose any of the action that I generally like my books to have. And the perfect character is Akarra, mother to Shourron I. I made the decision from the start of the story to put her through as much crap as one can possibly go through, and watch her outlook on life and the universe around her change. I put the character through a variety of twists and turns, few of them pleasant – I was bound to write an installment that’s a little “darker” than the others, looks like this is it – and my endeavor is to make people ask questions about whom to trust. Why. To which extent is a gut feeling correct? And so on. These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves in life; my job as an author is to make my characters – and readers – ask them.


The Obligatory NaNo post…

Well, it’s that and if I have to look at the memoriam to Bruce N. at the top of my page, I’m not too sure how long my strength will hold out.

But yeah, I’m doing the challenge again. 50,000 words, 30 days,

Think it’s easy? Oh, hon, you are just so funny!

Try it. It’s anything but easy, and I have no idea how I managed to participate – and win! – for the past 9 years. My books actually have a three- to four-year cycle from concept to publication: I write most of it for NaNoWriMo, then let it sit for two years, and only then, two years after the first draft is completed, do I revise it, and send it off to my editor, and start haranguing my cover artist, and get the template together.

The first novel in my series, that I published in 2009? I wrote that in 2006. And it was before I learned about what it was to self-publish. My, how things have changed. How things changed indeed from 2009 to now, 2015, when I have five books and a script-book under my belt.

I will say, without hesitation, that there is a lot of freedom when it comes to writing sci-fi/fantasy. You create everything from scratch, you set your own rules, you set your own canon – and it’s also one of the most difficult things to maintain. You create a world, a story, a set of rules, and it’s on you to not screw it up. As I will be writing Book 9 of the series – how I got to 9, I marvel to this day – I am also going to be revising Book 6 and prepping that for publication. Target date for publishing… July 15th. And the biggest challenge will be to keep the story within canon. I have set the rules into place with the first arc; now the challenge is to stay with it.

And yes, Ragan Whiteside, this is why you wait a year between installments. :) Because really, the revision process? That’s how long it takes! I have to cut out all the excess verbiage I am prone to when I’m narrating, I have to add scenes, add characters, kill characters, and then adjust the grammar. And all of that before my editor rips it apart.

Why Book 9, if this will be my tenth year? Easy answer: last year, I stretched my Origins story from the year before last. It turned out to be such a massive to-do that I just could not manage to get it completed within just one year. It was massive enough for me to stretch over two NaNo wins, and… I did it. Again. Even though, if truth were told, my motivation has been at nil. By that point, I was just too busy with photography and travel to think about writing.

found via Google Images
found via Google Images

Considering what these last few months have been, I will also confess that I very seriously thought about throwing in the towel altogether for this year. Very seriously. I love writing, and I love my story, without which I wouldn’t even be anywhere near any of this, but there is only so much that I’m capable of doing before everything in me up and says, “ENOUGH!” I am exhausted, mentally if nothing else. Losing two very important people in my life nearly back-to-back was an exercise in perseverance that I never, ever want to repeat. I still haven’t the foggiest how I managed to get up, go to both my jobs, do the photos for Sinbad’s show at the Cutting Room, and stay on top of everything.

Indeed, strength is a funny thing. It may not always seem like it’s there, but when it’s all you have left, the caliber of it will surprise the hell out of you.

If I can survive the past few months – hell, past few weeks alone – I think that by now, it’s safe to say that I can go through anything and come out on the other side of it.

And that’s why I’m taking on NaNo this year again. 50,000 words, 30 days. Ninth manuscript in my hands. Will edit Book 6 and work on the script version of Book 2 simultaneously. Why? Because I can.


The Obligatory NaNo Post

In retrospect, maybe I should’ve taken a break from writing this year.

I really don’t want to have to admit this, but there’s simply not enough time in the world to make everything happen the way you want to. I’m swamped with my photography work; I have not yet unburied myself from the cruise photos – still have to go through the 70s Night and comedy show shots, and that’s the second half of the cruise…so maybe, progress? – and I have two more post-cruise shows’ photos to get through as well. Next week I have two shoots. The week after I have another shoot. It’s also concert-planning season, so if I’m going to have gigs, now is the time for me to think about where they will be and send off portfolios and samplers to make it happen.

Where does writing fit?

Oh, and I’m still toying on that translation I’ve started last year. Yes, it takes a year to translate three books by hand from one language in another, and it’s something I love doing.

It’s not something I like admitting, when I can’t do something, but this year’s NaNo may well prove to be a bad idea in the regard of my overall creative workload. I won’t say that I don’t like it – I love every minute of it – but I simply do not have as much time to contribute to it as I have before, and that’s something I’m loath to admit. I love my series. I love my storyline. I don’t love not being able to give it the time and devotion that I want to allocate to developing it and making it grow.

The reason I love NaNo so much is because it motivates me to be industrious when it comes to the series. I do the bulk of my storyline exclusively during NaNo, and the wordcount requirement makes it imperative to get as much of the storyline down as possible. It’s absolutely fantastic for when I’m trying to get a big story out, such as what was with Books 3 and 4 of the series. Most of the plot was put down during NaNo, and it made for an easy edit job and an easier publishing down the line. I chose the two most complex characters to do a background on – Rhyssius and Morrhia – and this is going to take me a lot of time. I have set up the bulk of the story, but I need to put two and two together, and bridge them from two individuals to what they had ended up. The problem is, there is a lot of back story there, and there’s also a side-story to weave in about how the quaint semi-medieval world had ended up becoming connected with the rest of the universe. A lot of continuity that I had hinted at before needs to be brought to fruition.

It’s just…time! All of this takes time! And time is something I have precious little of. Taking on an incredibly complex storyline – hell, continuing it, all considered – is not an easy endeavor when you have a job, a business, and a backlog affiliated with the business.

How I’ve ended up with a word count that’s a full day ahead of schedule, I don’t know, but it’s good insurance because I would need to be ahead. One of my shoot gigs is actually an all-day endeavor, as opposed to me just being a weekend warrior for it and writing on the go with my laptop. So if I’m not writing for an entire day, I’d at least have a good cushion that will keep me on track.

After all, in the eight years I’ve done NaNo so far, I won all eight times. I want to continue the win streak, else I’d think myself extremely remiss. My entire life as I know it had changed ever since I wrote the first book – how much will it change if I keep at it?


Bending Rules on NaNo This Year

I know this will catch me flak from quite a few people in the writing circles, but for the good of my books, this has to be done.

My NaNo novel for this year will be a continuation of the one I started last year.

Please hold your fire with the rule that you have to start a new novel every year. A lot of authors just will never tell you if their draft took them two years. So what I’m doing isn’t radical, but it’s just a step-away from my own adherence to that rule.


Simple reason: I could not, for the life of me, find the time to finish the draft clean before today, and if by October 1st I’m not done with the first draft of the prior year’s NaNo novel, then I can call it a hopeless cause. Usually, by Oct. 1st, I have a completed first draft of the book I’ve started the prior November; that is always the case with every other part of The Index Series. But unfortunately, this year just got straight-up crazy-busy, and I couldn’t manage to set aside the time for writing. Usually, I’d even write at work, during the slow days, but this job, unlike my other job, is very demanding. Not a bad thing, but if you’re trying to finish a book, it’s a detriment.

I will see what I can input between now and Nov. 1st, but I am aiming for a total wordcount of 130,000 words. I have 63,138 words written now. Whatever I write to hit 130K will put me over the finish line for NaNo.

The most important thing for me is to finish the draft. I think that unless I release the screenplay version of Book 1 that I’ve been planning to do, or Book 5 (which I too have to finish editing!!!), I will be breaking my annual-release streak that I had going since 2009. Granted, this year was more of a re-release (considering new cover and edit job on Book 1), but still. It feels almost like I’m stepping away from where I started with it.

Really. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for 8 years so far, and won it each time. And that’s great; it got the story that I want written out of my system. But I want to keep writing and write it smart, as well as write it. What’s the saying? Work smart, not hard. I want to work smart on this, and since I do the best of my writing in November, then I figure that the best way to do this is to do this when I write best. So two NaNos it is.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I refer to the National Novel Writing Month. Eight years I wrote my ass off for a month, of these came seven and a half books, of which four are out and available for sale. And if I didn’t follow my friend Candice Watson’s advice in actually going for NaNo in 2006 and writing my first book, none of that – hell, none of a lot of things – would’ve happened.


“If you care about writing, stop doing it!”…say what!?

That was the message in this article, and it just went on and pissed me right the hell off.

So, let’s get this straight. Lady has never read the Harry Potter series, yet she “knows” they’re not worthwhile, and carries the attitude that JK Rowling should stop writing – why? So that other authors “have a chance”? Because waaaah, it’s so hard to earn success on your own?

Two words to the author of that article: bite me.

I say that as a self-published author multiple times over who had to endure five years of JK Rowling comparisons because I work in YA fantasy/sci-fi.

Here’s some truth, folks. Authors are successful by merit of sales and merit of product. I personally happen to have loved the Harry Potter series and read the books well before seeing any of the movies. And yes, JK Rowling is enjoying financial and personal success for life as a result. But again: she earned it. She earned her accolades. She got the first book off the ground and got the sales traction that warranted enough notice for the first movie to come about. She did that doing the exact same thing that writers throughout the world do every. single. day.

And not one of the authors who got to the stage of even a midlist owe another author a spot. Same applies to music. We will help each other out, no question. We’ll edit each other’s work, just the same as my music folks will co-produce, co-compose, guest-star on each other’s recordings, etc. But there is no one who owes anyone a spot they hadn’t earned.

And if it’s “too hard” for someone to compete against JK Rowling, or “too hard” to even become an author in the first place, then they have no business even trying.

Harsh, but I’ll stand by this sentiment and you’ll never hear me apologize for it.

I’ve started self-publishing my series before it caught on as a massively viable option, and if I had a dollar for everyone who thought that they’re paying me a compliment by saying I’m the next JK Rowling, I’d buy two houses, not just one. It’s not a compliment: it’s setting a standard of competition, regardless of the author’s desires and outlooks. Here’s the thing, folks: I don’t compete. I see no benefit in measuring my achievements against someone else’s. I went into publishing The Index Series being well aware that I will likely never reach the same level of accolades and accomplishments as the Harry Potter series – I may hope for it, but I knew well that it wouldn’t happen. I learned about the ins and outs of authorship and publishing the old-school way: trial and error. Did I make money off my books? Yes. A lot? No. And the same could be said for a lot of self-pubs out there.

But I would never, not in my lifetime dream of asking even Stephenie Meyer, whose writing I find repellant, to “step aside” so that I could have a shot. Hell no. Never. I’d scrape up the funds to pay someone to market my books for me, but to ask someone to let me have a spot for no merit whatsoever but it’s “too hard”? I’d never show my face in public for shame. I’d pay an editor, I’d hire a marketing specialist, and I’d actually attempt to prove by merit that my books can be as popular as Harry Potter, or Twilight (shudder). Yeah, I’ll take whatever help I’ll pay for, take whatever help that’s offered to me, but to request that someone else step aside is unthinkable. It’s an attitude of entitlement, which I do not tolerate in anyone, and myself least of all.

You want to be as successful as JK Rowling? Then write better than her. Or at least write stuff that will sell as well as the Harry Potter series, or better. But take the entitlement and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

No love,



Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

At 50,349 I claimed my eighth win in a row.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is your reference:

And those of you who do: before you give me a shout of huzzah, consider that this has been honestly one of those years where I had no idea which way was up in terms of my writing. As I learned the very hard way when I had first started out on my journey as an author, if I do not market my books on a constant basis, I cannot hope for sales. And that caliber of marketing requires either 1. money to have someone do it, or 2. time to do so on my own.

That’s exactly my problem.

As a self-published author, I don’t have a marketing team behind me. I am extremely lucky to have a great production team in my graphic artists and editors. But as far as marketing goes, I am on my own. And that’s a problem because – as you may have gathered if you are on my Facebook page – I am extremely busy. The photography business has been evolving and growing, and has been the primary object of my attention. I have two jobs, three if you count the business. In other words, I’m lucky if I remember to breathe.

But every year, no matter how busy I get, I always carve out time for NaNoWriMo, even though by now, anyone else would have trimmed that out of the annual schedule of things to get done.

But not me.

Though this year I only knew what I wanted to write, not how I wanted to write it, was entirely too scrambled with business-related and job-related commitments to actually put thought into my story. Last night, as I wrote a critical scene to the book that I knew I’d have to rearrange and stick somewhere else much later, I had to wonder how I was going to connect the dots, since until then, I wrote the bulk of the story in order, but for that one scene. And I realized that I both missed this particular outlet of creativity – having carved the setting of my books in nothing more than my own imagination from the get-go -and really, really wished I worked on my time management better, so that I wouldn’t be so scrambled in the first place.

It also reminded me that I really need to restart and rework my marketing of my stories. Right now, my photography has excellent, fantastic exposure and a measure of respect. Could I potentially parlay jazz lovers into sci-fi lovers? Maybe. They already know I write, do they not? And I’m just as sure that $3.99 for an e-book is feasible for cost.

The truth is, though, I know very well that without NaNo, the entire concept of me as an author would just be nothing more than an errant thought, something straight of Langston Hughes’s poem A Dream Deferred. In all actuality, this challenge is primarily responsible for all my creative business in the first place. I’d have never decided to go to my first jazz show if I weren’t thoroughly sick of editing Book 1 back in March 2007; that show had resulted in the one connection that had opened every single door since. I’d have never accomplished this lifelong dream of mine of writing a series if I hadn’t decided to do NaNo time and again. I’d have never formed the friendships and connections that I formed if I wasn’t able to say, “I’m an author” and speak nothing but the truth. And I would have never gotten to half of where I got if I didn’t write in this blog too.

The habit of regular writing is something that is directly responsible for everything else. A decision to participate in NaNoWriMo had ended up evolving to things far and above greater than just writing books. And it’ll get better still, of that I’m sure.

What I’m planning on doing is this: at the end of NaNoWriMo, which is November 30th, my reformatted Book 1, with editing courtesy of Cassidy Frazee, will be available for free for five days. Link forthcoming. But on top of that, I’m doing something a lot more special: I’m also working on the release of the screenplay version of the same first book. Having experimented with script writing, I feel confident that I can release the first draft to the public. It will be released similarly to the novel version: print and e-book. If you have a non-Kindle reader, either download the Kindle app, which is free for every platform of operating system and phone/tablet, or contact me directly; I’ll be glad to send you a PDF.

Happy writing to the rest of my fellow participants!


Writing prompt again/Character Growth

From the NaNoWriMo facebook group: One of your characters has just achieved the victory they’ve been working towards. Flashbulbs go off, reporters flood in, all clamoring to know, “You just did what no one thought you could. What are you going to do now?”

The sisters exchange cool looks. Kataria takes a deep breath, and says, speaking for both of them, “I think I’ll get a good night’s sleep. There’s still more to do tomorrow.”

I like the question, but I think I like this hypothetical answer even more. “There’s still more to do tomorrow.” Considering that at the time of her introduction to the series, Kataria would have never said this, never mind actually gone into public service that did not include that much of a warring capacity with a direct leading benefit to herself, this makes me go back and have another glance or two at the progression of character growth through my own books.

I often say that my story has written itself, and right now, I’m seeing just to which extent that’s true. It has not so much as written itself in regards to plot, but the characters had seemingly taken control over their own growth process. For being from outer space, they’re very human-like; some more self-serving than most, but all of them dealing with very, very human problems. And the thing is? They’re dealing.

Even to go back to Book 1, which I have been working to re-release, the growth is evident. Arriella was not dealing with anything at the time. She stepped out of her boundaries in more than one regard, why? – because she didn’t want to confront and deal with the truth that turned her established, steadfast life upside down. She didn’t want to go forward, because staying where she was was a comfortable idea. By the end of the first arc, she was still not dealing. By the second arc, she had no choice, and found out the hard way that there are certain things that you just have to do. Dealing with your problems is at the top of the list.

And the number-one thing that both Arriella and Kataria had to deal with was the simple fact that because they are who they are, because they’re in a position of power, because they’re in a position of leadership, their work does not stop. They achieved one thing. They achieved what they needed to – at the time. But just like our own, very human lives go on and bring us fresh challenges and goals, theirs do too.

They just involve a lot more than ours.


A Whole New Different Project (and question for my folks)

It’s NaNoWriMo time in about three weeks, and while I’m right about ready with what I know I’ll be writing – another installment in The Index Series – I have started thinking about my other love: history.

When I was about nine years old, give or take a year, I read a book that was de rigeur in my mother’s generation. It was the autobiography of Alexandra Brushteyn, an author, teacher, and pioneer of literacy in days of post-revolutionary Russia. Mrs. Brushteyn wrote the story of her fascinating, multifaceted, challenging and all-in-all astounding life in several autobiographic books. The specific book I read was a trilogy that encompassed her childhood and school years, which took place in pre-revolutionary Russia of the late 1890s-early 1900s.

To say that this story was amazing is not to give it anywhere near the accolades it deserves. Through the eyes of a nine-year-old growing into adulthood in that period and place in history, you get to know an entirely different world. Who in the US even knows US history of that era, never mind Russian pre-revolutionary history? No one ever considers that before the epic political and historic mess that Russia had become, it was a world that, all considered, didn’t differ that much from any other country in that time.

And lately, I dove right back into the book, having found it – and all the others that followed it – in e-book format.

And it occurred to me, especially in the wake of the current state of affairs that all the lessons that Mrs. Brushteyn learned as a girl of nine, and continued to learn well into her life, are effectively the same lessons applicable today.

Now, the book is in Russian. I speak the language fluently still, though a proud New Yorker of most of my life. And I wonder…what if I translate it? What if I translate and have it released in English?

I posit to you, my readers – and crucially, my fellow authors – a major question:

What are the copyright/rights issues to keep in mind when translating a published work, especially if the work is, technically, out of production?

This book is old. It’s about 53 years old, and it’s not been in print for as long as I recall. Right now, the e-book transcriptions I have were a fan project – that I know of – and I am not sure if there’s an English translation done already; I’ve not been able to find one. I am not sure if I should treat this story as public domain, or if I have to query someone for permission to translate. The only people who may have a stake in the translation may be the author’s descendants, but I haven’t the foggiest as to where they are right now.

I would really, really enjoy doing the translation of this story. It’s about 500 pages of grueling work that’ll test my knowledge of both languages, but it’s a story that I feel, especially in this place and time, needs to be told.

Chime in, author folk.


Movie 1? Script 1? Hey. Why not?

So it occurred to me: between changing jobs, changing a lot about my health and life and living in general, and chasing a lot of music…I’ve neglected to update on my books!

That is a remission that must be remedied expeditiously, and my announcement is thusly: In due time, hopefully well before NaNoWriMo 2013, I will have a second edition of my first book, Mages, available in paperback and Kindle formats, as well as its screenplay twin.

Yes, the screenplay will be live as well.

Now, you may ask, “Why a screenplay on sale? Why not just pitch it?”

One step at a time, folks. I am going to pitch the movie version of the entire series, but really, what I want to do is tap a new readers’ market. People love screenplays. They may not want to read a 350-page brick of a novel, but they may not be so fastidious about a movie script that runs through, effectively, everything in the book but in 1/4 of the time. Unfortunately, in today’s go-get-’em digital rush, the speed’s the thing. If the book doesn’t read quickly – and I tend to run on the verbose side of authorship – then it will greatly lose in its audience, which I cannot afford to do.

Moreover, the books for the second arc will take some time in editing, and I have been priding myself on releasing a book per year so far. And you know what, I want to keep that up. Between working on the second arc’s edit and laying down the groundwork for NaNo 2013’s project, which shall be the Origins arc, I want to ensure that I have a continued presence in the publication market. So far, one novel a year has been enough, but this is now a year that I’ve not released a book -YET. That, to me, won’t do.

The interesting thing about it is, I’ve been experimenting with Scrivener for file conversion, and find that the e-book variant is an amazing thing. I can format everything I need perfectly in novel format. Screenwriting on this one is a breeze. 

What I’d like to do, especially in this little experiment, is to marry two readership groups: screenplay fans and sci-fi fans looking for a new story.

What I’m also doing, by systematically releasing the books as screenplays, is also re-branding the series. So far it’s been an arc, but a kind-of-disconnected arc, and it’s in need of some reworking. So this is why the first two books will have new cover art – to be revealed at publication; although if you’re on my Facebook page for the books, you may’ve glimpsed it – and the marketing material will be revised. I think it’s safe to say that the books do have a logo to go with, and it’s time to put that to good use.

Until next time…



Ends, Means, and In Betweens

You may’ve heard it asked aplenty. “Do the ends justify the means?”

Now I’ll ask you the same question that my character, Kataria, is facing: which means will justify your end?

This is actually the sort of a dilemma that I’ve directed my characters into, especially with Book 7. We already know that if the means don’t justify the end, then perhaps the end goal is not worth it, but what about if you have an ultimate end goal in mind? What means will you undertake if you already decided on your end result?

This theme echoes a lot of things in my life, and a major streak of mine is to go for whatever it is I am wanting at the time, with little regard to what the effect on others will be. It’s something that I have largely exercised myself out of, if only in respect to considering others, but when it comes to maintaining focus on something I really want to do, or to have, then there’s little that can be done to dissuade me from that path. I’m one of the most goal-oriented individuals you will ever come across. Like with most of my travels: I will pay towards whatever trips I will take with a single, singular determination. The bottom line that I put before myself is, “I will go on this trip, by hook or crook.” Everything else is jut a matter of how, and I’ve gotten myself into more than one tight spot in trying to achieve it. It taught me a lesson in money management, for sure, and it also taught me to pace myself. But above all, it taught me that the means I undertake do justify the end – in only this case, though.

But that’s just traveling and budgeting. There are certain other end goals for which I am nowhere near as scrupulous. Protecting myself and my own? I have very little limit. Protecting people I love? Trust me, you don’t want to cross friends of mine unless you actually want my wrath. Protecting my business and my integrity? I get vicious. There’s certain things – and certain people – whom I will protect by means that most other people will shy away from.

One of my characters, Kataria, who started as a member of the supporting cast in Book 3 and slowly evolved to the main stage in Books 5 and 6 – both of which are to be released later on – has to face this exact dilemma. She has to protect something important to her. She has to protect it in a war. But if she wants to succeed in making herself safe, she has to do something that will risk losing everything that she’s striving to protect.

So does she go through with it?

Would you go through with it? Would you do something that you’d never ordinarily agree with otherwise in order to protect what’s important to you?

Food for thought, folks.