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Saturday, August 27, 2011

The End is Near...

No, I am not talking about the end of the world and for all my fellow world citizens who are in Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene's path, I hope you stay safe and take care of yourselves. Evacuate if you are told to and remember everything can be replaced except family and friends. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, I am nearing the end of my writing odyssey. As The Vamp Saga is a series, I am just saying goodbye to my cast of characters for a while. I have other irons in the fire after all that need tending to desperately.

I have decided (and will have to update all my pages and bio) to release the first part of Murder, Inc: The Pop Star Series in December, just after I have released Death Wish: Book I from The Vamp Saga and will be in the process of finishing TBP series with the last ebook from that saga, The Beautiful People: Part Two, which will encompass books five through eight for those readers who aren't fond of novella length. 

What am I doing, you ask? Well, I'm releasing books because that is what I want to do and it is how I plan to earn a living. The more work I have out, the more my (potential) audience can get the feel for my writing style. There are some who will never get into the pop culture/entertainment novel series I put out and there are some who will never really care for the vampire series (being all vamped out/paranormaled out... did I just make up a new word?). 

I can tell you right now I will never be releasing a thriller as I am not skilled in that area and there are plenty of gifted thriller writers out there so the genre won't be missing me. I write what I know and love best: pop culture and paranormal and even take a brief foray into erotic-literature when DeGeneration: Part I is released Summer of 2012. I say erotic-literature because there is plenty of explicit sex in the book but it is also a love story of great magnitude; a novel about possession, obsession, money, class, and a generation that is lost in its own degeneracy ... Generation X, my generation and a situation I can write about only too well. 

I suppose some of my work could backfire and potential customers might be "put off" because the same author they like also has an erotic-literature series. The people who like the erotic-literature series might think a lot of my other work is too dry. What none of my work is missing, fortunately, is angst. I love it, thrive on it and think it is a great way to tell a story and get people emotionally invested and involved. 

I have started a "Question of the Blog Day" because I genuinely want to interact with the people who follow my blog or just pop in and out to see what I am prattling on about now. If you can, please leave feedback as I do value it and find it helpful.

Question of the Blog Day: Do you think an indie-writer should stick to one genre or is it okay for us to "pull a James Patterson" (that is jump around and write all sorts of genres)? Why do you feel the way you do?

What I have been reading:  The Queen Bee of Bridgeton by Leslie DuBois, a cute story about a black girl from the wrong side of town who wants to be a ballerina and the popular white basketball player who is in love with her. Did I mention she goes to an exclusive school and so does not fit in? It's syrupy, adorable and more than what I hoped for in the YA genre. 
In The Shadow of The Moonlight: The Awakening by J.J. Bidell, a paranormal YA novel about a young woman who gets accepted to study abroad at a university in Maine but there's just one little secret she can't tell anyone: she's a cat person (were-panther for True Blood fans).  I'm not finished so I will be leaving a review but all I can say is wow. The plot is intriguing and the research involved is amazing and detailed. Did I mention it was translated from German to English? 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Moonlight-Awakening-ebook/dp/B005IHDW82
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/84422

Added to my TBR List: 
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kissed-Fire-Sunwalker-Saga-ebook/dp/B005I58P1S

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eyes-Vetala-Cycle-Novel-ebook/dp/B0052BPGTM
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/61836
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shapes-Vetala-Cycle-Novel-ebook/dp/B005IE7VX2
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/83582

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let's Get Digital & Other Books in regards to self-publishing.

I have a confession to make. I really do like reading fiction and my TBR list is so freakin' long at the moment, I think I will have to start actually planning a schedule of what books I should read next. A good friend of mine, David,  gifted me a copy of his latest book on self-publishing. The book is free in PDF form on his website but I will also list the links for Amazon and Smashwords websites where the book can be bought.

Some of the myths David shatters in the book are the same myths which held me back for so very long. I thought I would never make any money, I needed a "real" job, writers are just overly dramatic people and so with each rejection that inevitably would show up from an agent, my spine toughened and I tried to keep the big picture in mind. I would publish whether it was the last think I ever did. There might be obvious gatekeepers but they aren't God and I was determined to usurp them and undermine their authority.

This book is a wealth of information because it gives an overall picture of how much money there is to be made out of self publishing. There are many indie authors who many every day people may have never heard of but who are raking it in (and making a healthy profit to boot). They prove the theory if you produce a quality product, hire an editor, format your ebook correctly and have a professional cover, there is money to be made even if during this worldwide recession.

If you are a writer, poet or author and  truly are thinking about self publishing then LGD is the Bible and you definitely need to read it from the first page to the last.

Let's Get Digital is available at the following Retailers:
Smashwords (I highly recommend anyone outside the Amazon Kindle zone to buy from here to avoid excess fees and overages):  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/74884
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Get-Digital-Self-Publish-ebook/dp/B005DC68NI

If you prefer lighter reading, Mike Cooley has released Traditional Publishing Is My Bitch! (and other Inflammatory Remarks), a funny self-deprecating non-fiction piece by an ultra cool indie-author who doesn't take himself too seriously.

Traditional Publishing Is My Bitch! is available at the following retailers for FREE!
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/80052
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/traditional-publishing-is-my-bitch-mike-cooley/1104808425

List price for TPIMB is 99 cents below
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Publishing-inflammatory-remarks-ebook/dp/B005HFQ2JG

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Random Act Of Kindness

Inspired by the post on David Gaughran's blog (http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/a-sneak-preview-chapter-1-of-a-storm-hits-valparaiso/), I have decided to share an excerpt from my new novel, Death Wish: Book I (DW:BI) from The Vamp Saga. Mind you it is not in the rawest form possible. I had the first two thousand words edited for free by the amazing Karin Cox, editor extraordinaire. Enjoy as the book is slated to premiere Black Friday, November 25, 2011. I would like to whip up some support now. Thank you in advance and don't be shy to tell me what you think! ;-)

“You can’t possibly be serious.”
“I am as a heart attack. I’m telling you to stay home.”
“I can’t. Every employee has to be there. If you are breathing, you better drag your sorry ass outta bed, because it is an honor to meet one so high up on the food chain, not to mention our boss and the owner of the casino.”
“Bitch, I am tellin’ you to stay the fuck home. There are other jobs. You don’t have to kiss nasty vamp ass to get ahead you know.”
“Goddamn it, Nico, not everyone can be as fortunate as you and work for the Russians or the French. Hell, I’d settle working for anyone human at this point, but I don’t have a choice, and you damn-well know it. So get the hell out of my way and let me go to work.”
I eyed my brother angrily. I knew he was tempted to try his warlock shit on me, but he relented and finally slumped down on the sofa in defeat.
He was very good looking, even if he was angry and my brother. If we weren’t fraternal twins and if he wasn’t gay, I might have been tempted to go there, but there are certain things you don’t do if you are a morally aware and ethical person—sleeping with kin was up there, along with fraternizing with vamps, werewolves and what not.
Our world had changed, yet stayed the same. My favorite French quote was now even more apt: Plus ça change, plus ça la même chose. Or, if are more partial to Italian, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa proclaims in The Leopard: “If we want things to stay as they are, everything must change.” Yes, that quote works too.
I’m guessing life isn’t much different now than it was ten years ago, back in 2010. The only difference was that just a select few knew about vampires then, and vampires hadn’t received their rights yet.
They were crafty motherfuckers, one had to give them that much. They launched their platform and tied it tooth and nail to homosexual rights—can you believe that shit? Yep, they equated themselves with gays and said their civil rights were being “trampled upon.” Who had been eating whom all these centuries? Because last time I checked, vamps never gave a damn about humans except as a food source. But, like most homosexuals, they were highly intelligent, wealthy and a select minority. They thrived. They were able to grease the wheels and buy politicians, and fifty years after the Civil Rights Act, 1964 was passed, the Civil Rights Act, 2014 was a shoe-in; Congress passed the bill 401 to 99 and the Senate 98 to 2 (the two senators who hadn’t agreed didn’t live to see the year 2015). The law extended full civil rights, including marriage, to homosexuals and to vampires. Now the gay rights, I can understand—they’re human. Vampires, well, let’s just say something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I mean that in a Shakespearean way, not in an “I have something against Danes” way.
No one could understand how they did it, but they did. There they were—the twenty dead motherfuckers who make up The International Vampire Council—smiling with the President of the United States of America (this was before we joined the Anglophone Union due to trade issues, a crippled U.S. economy and immigration from “less desirable nations”) as he signed the bill into law. They looked so odd, with their waxy skin and slight elongated canines. You could almost imagine their fangs unsheathed, almost see all of the blood they must have shed over the centuries. Oh, it was disgusting, but like a car crash, or an old episode of The X-Factor, you were transfixed—at least I was.
So, what is my beef with vamps, you ask?
They’re sexy, aren’t they? They’ve been airing the same tired propaganda about themselves since Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer, Charlaine Harris and Amanda Hocking, among others, have been writing books. We’ve seen the movies and the television shows. We know what they are and all about their plight. We understand their issues with us and we know their legends, and how grotesquely old they can become. We know they aren’t all killers; that they can decide to feed on us and allow us to live. We know all about their skills of persuasion—how they can hypnotize us to make us do what they want, or make us forget we have been bitten at all. We know vampire concubines take Vitamin B-12 and hope and  pray their blood isn’t so sweet or alluring that a vamp accidentally kills them one night in the middle of a sex act.
I admit it: I am a live-and-let-live type. I wouldn’t have shit against the bloodsucking undead if they hadn’t killed my father and kidnapped my mother. Yeah, she was now one of the undead, too. She was very valuable. Besides being a witch, she knew a lot of shit about vampires. She was also a cold-hearted bitch who was fucking a vampire on the side while still with our father. We weren’t sure exactly what happened to our father. Her lover was sent to ground for murdering a very “valuable” human and my mom was made a vampire for her troubles. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take us with her, so my brother and I became orphans at the age of ten.
A nice set up, eh?
We kept in contact, despite what happened to us once we were taken in by the system, also known as the Children’s Protection Agency. My brother was good-looking, innocuous and charismatic—he was adopted immediately. Me? I was mouthy with an attitude, plus I looked too “ethnic.” I stayed in the system. Nicolas was given a very good education and graduated from Stanford Business School. He was a child prodigy with a photographic memory and an IQ of nearly 200. Me, I wasn’t so lucky; for True Blood fans, I’m the Jason Stackhouse to my brother’s Sookie.
Don’t get me wrong, I am considered good-looking, sexy, and get my fair share of complimentary looks from both sides of the sexual aisle.
I might have looked too ethnic growing up, but as an adult it turns out I am pretty desirable after all. I have skin the color of caramel—a perpetual tan that never fades and only darkens if I am in the sun. My eyes are dark and my sable-brown, cherry high-lighted hair is curly—a flat iron is my best friend. It is probably one of my most arresting traits; I like my hair because I can change it to look like a white girl with a deep tan, or I can keep it curly and instantly look like the mulatto I am. I inherited my father’s French nose and fine bone structure, along with my mother’s blend of African, Native American and Irish features, blessing me with high cheekbones and bee-stung lips.
My brother could be a dead ringer for a young Vin Diesel, remember him? He has a full head of beautiful dark brown hair that he chooses to shave off. He looks yummy as a baldy, but I would prefer him with hair. His eyes are his most alluring trait—gray-green, they complement his masculine nose, etched facial structure, and generous mouth. He is tall, almost six foot two, and slim yet athletic at one hundred and eighty-five pounds.
I would like to think I have a lovely shape, too, but at five foot three and one hundred and thirty pounds, I have a little “junk in my trunk.” Hence why I am a dealer at Transylvania Hotel, Casino & Spa instead of a cocktail waitress. Transylvania, you get it? The vamps love irony, too bad they don’t actually get it.
My specialty is poker, but I don’t like dealing in the high stakes rooms (too many Asian vamps congregate there, and they are willing to pay for anything); I insulted a customer one night and ended up at the Let It Ride table for my troubles. I get a steady stream of customers, but my table closes early so I only work thirty hours per week—technically part time—and don’t have to deal with vamps, thank God.
What is Let It Ride, you ask? It’s a fun derivative of poker in which you don’t actually play against other players but against the House itself. Anything with two cards higher than 10’s in your three cards is a winner, and you can win even more depending on what the House is holding. The odds are too much in favor of the mark, as we call gamblers, and thus the reason the game isn’t open more than six hours per day, five days per week. I work Tuesday through Saturday, with Sundays and Mondays off. As I am the only Let It Ride dealer at Transylvania, the table is closed otherwise.
Unfortunately, tonight, on what usually is my night off, I have to go in. No choice, as the owner of Transylvania Casino, Mikkel Damgaard, is gracing us with his presence. It couldn’t have been Saturday night, oh no—he was too busy having his waxy white ass kissed at the ultra-posh, seven-star Damgaard Hotel, Spa & Casino, which sits on the most lucrative real estate on Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as The Strip. Transylvania is nothing, a five-star, pseudo-palace of a hotel located in Summerlin, a very opulent and beautiful suburb of Las Vegas, but a suburb all the same.
I should inform you now, that most of the gaming industry is controlled by vamps, and the pharmaceutical industry as well. They chased out the mob and the corporations (fear of death will do that to us mere mortals) around the same time they got their civil rights and proceeded to take over. Whatever hold the Americans and Europeans had on the pharmaceutical industry was pretty much wiped out during the stock crash of 2019. That was the year Vamp Pharmaceuticals came out with cures for every kind of cancer and HIV/AIDS. How did they ruin Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lily, GlaxoSmithKline, et al, you ask? Their cures were dirt cheap for developing countries (they damn near gave ’em away in most of Africa, Asia, Central and South America) while competitively priced in high-income countries. They managed to sink most of the pharmacy giants even before their cures for the common cold, erectile dysfunctions, and vaccinations for every known communicable disease hit the market. It’s kind of hard to discriminate against an entire race of creatures who were not only giving you drugs to help you live, but drugs to get high on as well.
Once the Prohibition Repeal of 2018 took place, vamps decided to make legal, synthetic forms of all street drugs. Nothing became as popular as vampire blood or “VA neg,” as it’s called on the streets. Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s not a psychedelic at all, but it is a stimulant that gives you enormous amounts of energy and a sex drive that is out of this world, and it heightens your senses to a level you wouldn’t believe. You can get a prescription, but the best stuff comes straight from the source—a vampire lover, if you have one—or is found on the streets, where it comes in powder form. It looks like red cocaine (due to being mixed with aspirin) and you snort it.
Instead of dealing with “crack babies,” hospitals were faced with VA-neg-addicted babies until Vamp Pharmaceutical came up with a nice little cure-all for that too, with no side effects. They began and ended an epidemic within the same year.
I know what you’re thinking: the bastards have taken over the world, but they’re wealthy and part of mainstream society—how bad can they truly be? They even came up with the nifty idea of blood banks, where humans who can’t afford medical treatment can be cured for free in return for a few pints of blood. Vamps have an endless supply of real human blood to feed on, and they have saved humanity from the brink of destruction at the same time.
Believe me when I tell you they aren’t doing it to be altruistic. They couldn’t give a damn about us; they have been complaining for years about the quality of human blood and how far it has slipped. Their “magic” cures for humans were to help them, not us. They wanted better tasting blood. Imagine being stuck in a world full of Budweiser when you remember what Beck’s, Heineken and Carlsberg taste like. The unique flavors of Belgian and German lagers. The subtle differences between Swedish and Danish, or Mexican and Chilean beer. Well, that’s where vampires found themselves in the early part of the twenty-first century. Human blood tasted like shit. We were polluting our environment, low-income countries were experiencing industrial revolutions, and everything had gone from sugar to shit. They had to expose themselves to help us or face their own extinction.
Vampires en masse were committing suicide or going to ground. They no longer wanted to live. They found themselves in the same existentialist crisis humans had during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Blood had no taste, and humans would soon be extinct at the rate they were destroying their own environment. Mother earth heaved from too many souls aboard and shitty health to boot. What could the vamps possibly do?
Well, for one, the oldest twenty—who hadn’t gone to ground—decided to stop the war with the humans and become part of society. They became politicians, bureaucrats, and company owners; stockholders and taxpayers. The International Vampire Council officially helped with the creation of the new G6 (or Global Six as it is known). Once the European and African Unions fell apart in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the IVC personally aided the formation of new inter-country and continental unions.
The Anglophone Union (AU) is part of the Global Six, and is still ruled tentatively by the United States. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t citizens of the U.S. anymore, but of the AU, which consists of the States, all the former Providences of Canada (except Québec), New Zealand, Australia, England, Wales, Scotland, Israel and a united Ireland. The other members of the G6 include the Francophone Union (FU members include France and its former colonies like St. Martin and Guadalupe, Québec, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, formerly Belgian Wallonia and Monaco); the Great Nordic Regional Union (GNRU members include the almighty Germany, Austria, all the rest of Switzerland, the formerly Belgian Flanders, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and the entire Scandinavian region of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland); Japan (mostly controlled by centuries-old Japanese vampires, who were quietly converting as much of the population as possible to prevent the dreaded race-mixing); China (the new “old powerhouse,” due to the manufacturing of cheap but inferior goods) and India (technology kings supreme).
Despite the vampires’ sphere of influence, the world is still a hot mess. It’s biblical how fucked up things are, but life has never been smooth sailing—we live in the world of the twenty-four hour news cycle, where television and computers are updated every microsecond. That is a lot of news to ingest. People get their kicks from their eReaders (“dead tree” books are so 2010), 300 terabyte computers and 80 terabyte iPods—yes, they’re still around, just more compact than ever, as are cell phones and lap tops. The pesky devices can fit in your handbag—I don’t mean a Birkin—and with the push of a button they can become full use, life-size devices. Advances in technology have included iPad and eReader devices that use the same technology of the now defunct laptop, not like those old monotone Kindles we had when I was growing up. Those used to be the shit—I do remember that much.
Okay, so now you know more about what the world is like now, I can tell you what my brother and I were fighting about. He doesn’t want me to go to work tonight because he has a “bad feeling.” What the hell does that mean?  I have no idea, as he’s the warlock, not me. I didn’t get any special abilities from either of our parents. I’m not a mathematical wizard like Dad and I’m not a witch like Mom. Nope, all the good shit went to Nico—and all I’m left with is well, the crappy throwaway genes. There is absolutely nothing special about me whatsoever.
I’m smart but not super smart like my brother. I do have common sense, which isn’t so common as we all know. I should realize my brother would never warn me about anything (let alone call me a bitch) unless it was serious and he truly did fear for my life. Unfortunately, I am barely hanging on at the moment. I am living with him and Drake (his boyfriend) because my ex and I broke up. I can’t afford a place of my own so I have no choice. I am trying to save up but it’s hard and life hasn’t exactly gotten easier.
Now that all these stupid Unions were created in the world, it’s not just American idiots competing for the same tired ass jobs. You have your fellow Canucks, English, Welsh, Scots, Aussies, Kiwis, Irish and Israelis to worry about too. Yes, we can travel to anywhere in the Union but let’s face it: most people don’t have wanderlust. Though we are part of this grand Union, the vast majority of us have stayed put in the countries we grew up in. The only thing I have in common with a chick from Sydney or Manchester or Edmonton is we all speak English, full stop. We can still even tell which part of the Union fellow citizens come from because there has been no blending of peoples . . . most have stayed right where their ancestors have lived for hundreds of years. To be honest, the only people doing the moving are vampires and low income immigrants who now have residency permits and can work anywhere in the Union. The dream about “freedom of movement”, the same tired ass line used to justify the former European Union and our current one, is a just that, a joke and a dream. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

An offer no sane person would refuse!

Do you like a raunchy beach read full of beautiful characters and gorgeous Southern California locales? I have been promoting other indie authors lately but I have seemed to left myself out of the equation.

Don't get me wrong. I am so proud of all my indie author friends and I am so excited about my new series which will be released starting November of 2011.

However, I am also steadily releasing my old series, The Beautiful People. I never actually talked about the fact that I combined the first four novellas into The Beautiful People: Part One, which is currently available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.

So, here is the deal I have in store.The Beautiful People: Part Two, will be released in December but I am also releasing the separate novellas each month. Five of eight have been released (No Love & Other Addictions: Book Five was released earlier this month). Controversy: Book Six will be released in September, Confessions From A Film Star: Book Seven will be released in October and the conclusion, Birthdays, Funerals & The Premiere: Book Eight will be released at the beginning of November.

To celebrate the release of The Beautiful People: Part One, I am offering a sweet deal. Anyone who decides to spend $6.99 on this book should be rewarded. I am offering a free copy of No Love & Other Addictions with all copies of The Beautiful People: Part One sold for the remainder of the month. Email me at vegasgyrl007@gmail.com with proof you have purchased the novel anywhere it is available and you will be emailed a free coupon code from Smashwords to pick up your copy of Book Five in ANY e-Book format!

Here are the links and happy reading! Summer is almost over and Labor Day approaches soon. Don't you want to enjoy the last dog days of summer with a raunchy beach read? Happy Reading! ;-)

Links to The Beautiful People: Part One
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-People-Part-One-ebook/dp/B005FA750I
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-beautiful-people-danielle-blanchard-benson/1104579403
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/77474

Links to No Love & Other Addictions: Book Five
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Other-Addictions-Beautiful-ebook/dp/B005FQSY2U
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/no-love-other-addictions-danielle-blanchard-benson/1104680998
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/78526

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reading & Writing...

The question has been posed many times on the Facebook board, Indie Writer's Unite, how do you read other novels while writing one of your own? I am an avid reader and could not imagine not being able to read even while I am writing a book of my own. What's more frustrating is sticking with a story once I've started to read it. I do have a few ground rules though: I won't read the genre I am writing and I try to avoid styles that might creep into my WIP (work in progress). 

I have been reading quite a few interesting stories lately. I read a short story, Ain't No Sunshine by Leslie DuBois, currently free on Kindle, and have started Guardian of Eden by the same author I snagged for $1.99 on Kindle. I am also currently reading Sand by Lili Tufel, Her Book Of Shadows by Larry D. Marshall, and The Righteous by Michael Wallace. 

I decided to start sharing my reading list because if I can help other indie authors then all the more power to them. There are some great books out there and not all of them are published by the Big 6 publishing houses. Leslie DuBois' novels and Sand are bittersweet romance books without the cheesy sentimentality of a Harlequin novel while Her Book of Shadows and The Righteous are mystery-thriller types which are very much plot driven and keep you guessing until the end.

In terms of my new novel, Death Wish: Book I (The Vamp Saga), it is practically writing itself. I am over half way finished an I am so proud of this accomplishment, I still can't believe it was possible. I wouldn't recommend anyone to attempt such a feat as writing a book within a month's time but it is in the spirit of being an author and an artist. No one can predict how long it will take to finish a story. Sometimes it takes many months and years and every once in a while, a matter of weeks. 

It's been very difficult as I have had to discipline myself to write every day (whether I am feeling inspired or not), at least three thousand words per day, seven days a week. I don't get any breaks or slack from this schedule and I have managed to accomplish what I have set out to do. I've also learned the hard way that writer's block is a state of mind, not an actual affliction. If one is disciplined to write then one will write. One might end up throwing part of it away, changing plots around and fiddling with the story but the important part is to continue to write.

Being an author is like any other craft. The more one practices, the better one becomes. That is not to say one won't make mistakes and no longer needs an editor (an editor is always needed) but one does become a better and more skilled writer. I have learned the easy way that just as I can't survive without reading, I shouldn't allow myself to survive without writing either. 

1) Ain't No Sunshinehttp://www.amazon.com/Aint-No-Sunshine-ebook/dp/B00408AYJU
2) Guardian of Edenhttp://www.amazon.com/Guardian-of-Eden-ebook/dp/B004V9HFRM
3) Sandhttp://www.amazon.com/Sand-ebook/dp/B004VF69MS
4) Her Book Of Shadowshttp://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Scott-Riker-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0051VBC64
5) The Righteoushttp://www.amazon.com/The-Righteous-ebook/dp/B004LX0B9M

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writing, Riots ... oh my!

My goal for this week is to write 21,000 words and I am starting off with a bang. I have actually been able to write with everything going on in the world and it hasn't been this exciting in awhile. The news is having a virtual orgasm on all the carnage and bloodshed which is going on at the moment: soldiers killed in Afghanistan, the S&P downgrade of U.S. credit worthiness (AA+ isn't that bad... rather have our AA+ and relative peace than Britain's AAA... look what happens when austerity measures are imposed too severely), the world stock market exchanges going schizo on us, Italy and Spain on the verge of default and now the riots in the UK which started in London but have also filtered to other cities (including reports of riots in Bristol, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Liverpool). The lack of police control and government leadership can't be expressed clearly enough but 25% of the police budget had to be cut and up to 40,000 police officers had to be laid off!*

My blog is usually not political. I am a progressive: there I said it. I don't necessarily think ultra conservative but I am not a tree loving, peace-for-all liberal hippie either. I have lived long enough in the world to weigh the pros and cons of both sides of the coin. Extreme liberalism brought us communism (Karl Marx had some great ideas but what resulted was a bad experiment gone wrong) and extreme conservatism brought us fascism and capitalism (they might not seem so similar but believe me, they are . . . just one brings race/ethnicity into the mix while the other believes in the survival of the fittest as long as you were fit to begin with).

My point is that neither is fair and neither is sustainable. We've witnessed the fall of communism and looks like we'll be witnessing the fall of extreme capitalism too. We are re-living the 20s all over again but most of us just don't know it. All the wealth is centered at the top of the sphere and none at the middle or the bottom. Western countries seem to be cutting salaries and making people work for less and less money to compete with China, India and all the other emerging nations and the world as we have known it seems to be no more.

So, what does this have to do with my book? Well, for one, it takes place in 2020 and the perfect storm we are witnessing has brought about some havoc in the world by then. If you think this is bad, you haven't seen anything yet. Now you are wondering if my book takes place in some sort of apocalyptic nightmare (relax, people, it doesn't). Everything is the same as it is now . . . just a bit different. "If you want the world to stay the same, everything must change". That's all you need to know and that's the only cryptic message I will give you.

It's not so hard to see where the world is going if you know what to look for and I was born and raised in a political household so I always know how to find the clues. Is it a weakness of mine if I admit I am a tad bit frightened and can understand why my sister chose not to have children although I have two? Perhaps she is the one who is the bravest of us two. I admit, I want progeny here to see what happens once I'm gone but they might not want their progeny to witness the destruction and thus, our family line might still end, just a generation later than it should have.

All I can say is it's tough being human; we can wish to be born in a better time but what time was better than now? Really, when you think about it? The idyllic 50s (oh that would have been during the years when my grandfather was chased off his land in Mississippi by the KKK and the reason why my sister and I were born in California instead of the southern part of the United States); the 20s (oh wow, until you realized half the world was in recession, Germany was a mess from World War I and would drag the world into yet another battle and a greater war which would be World War II). There is no better time but the time we are given on this earth and all we can do is make the most with what we have.

I know this post is all over the place but really, when it all comes down to the nitty gritty, all I can really say is that we are blessed to be alive. Love your family and cherish your friends. We are all in this together. We have all been thrown onto this small planet in this small galaxy and we must live here. Why do some of us feel the need to destroy? There is a flip side of course. From destruction comes creation. It's happened many, many times in the history of our planet. I'm sorry to get so sentimental but I have to take a page out of a speech given by a man who was beaten by four police officers in Semi Valley which caused riots in the state of California and the city of Los Angeles, April 29, 1992. Rodney King sobbed at a press conference: "Can't we all just get along?"

How poetic he was and the question begs to be asked: why can't we all just get along? Of course I know the answer: human beings are built for conflict, warfare and aggression. It's in our very nature and at the heart of all civilizations. We weren't meant to be peace-loving humanists (but we try). Which of course brings up another saying, "To secure peace is to prepare for war".

Now, that's more like it.

Or what about Josef Stalin, didn't he have a lovely saying? Oh yes, "The death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions is just a statistic." Rest in peace, Mark Duggan . . . look how much destruction and havoc your death has wreaked upon the UK.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Writing & Other Simple Pleasures...

This is when I appreciate having a blog. I didn't have one while I was writing The Beautiful People series (formally titled Film Star before I saw the light and realized we Yanks don't do irony very well and no one outside of the Brits, Aussies and Kiwis would get it). I wish I would have had one because it is quite cathartic to write about the whole journey and the process of creating a book. I suppose I should back up and explain why I find this present metamorphosis so exciting. 

I haven't written anything before the first week of August since April. 

Nothing, nada, not a damn thing. 

It's something we authors, poets and writers experience. A dreadful infliction known as "writer's block". It's awful, terrible and saps all our creative energy and efforts. All the sudden the magic that has flowed from your fingertips, whether onto paper or into your laptop, is gone. The tap which has gushed over with ideas turns off and there is a whole lot of . . . nothing. 

This is the most coherent way I can describe it but for me, it came at a devastating point. I had just discovered the joys of self-publishing and whilst uploading to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), SWs (Smashwords), PubIt (Barnes & Noble for Nook) et al was the easy part, I wasn't selling anything and I couldn't write either. Talk about a major blow to a writer's self-esteem.

To be fair, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was spamming my few followers on Twitter and the advice to be had on the Kindle author boards was more or less useless for me. Let's face it: every author is different and what one person did to sell 50,000 copies of their novel in a month isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for every other author.

We have seen this in modern publishing and outside of the indie genre as well. That is why we know who JK Rowling, Stephen King and James Patterson are whilst only some people are familiar with Elizabeth Gage or Marius Gabriel for instance. They all wrote worthy material but some authors sell better than others, full stop. Some genres sell better than others. Right now, it seems to be romance, thrillers, paranormal and YA. If you aren't in those genres, you might sell but don't expect to sell 70,000 in one month (or even in a year).

Let's face it, chick-lit is so 2001. It's had its time and while there were a few memorable books (The Devil Wears Prada is the only one that comes to mind but that's only because I remember the movie with Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep), but most of it was throwaway junk with the same silly characters and useless, forgettable plots. I was marketing my work as chick-lit, probably not the best idea in 2011 when the economy sucks and no one wants to read about someone else living the bling bling life of the early 21st century.

But someone does want to read about it . . . not just 20,000 readers a month. I feel lucky and blessed (I'm spiritual people, not religious so you will hear no talk about God or Jesus from me) to be doing as well as I have done. I sell more each month than the last and while they are modest sales, I am happy someone is interested in my work at all. I love checking KDP to see yet another sale. And that is how I have approached self-publishing . . . old school but still thinking globally while acting locally and pleasing one customer at a time (no pun intended as I write books, I'm an artistic prostitute, not a literal one).

So, what does all this have to do with writer's block? Well, when I let go and realized there were certain aspects of book sales (okay, most of it other than having a decent story, the best cover possible and writing about something some people will find interesting) were out of my hands, I was able to relax and the words started coming to me again. 

Unfortunately, not for my high-art literature novel, DeGeneration, but for my new series, The Vamp Saga. The first novel, Death Wish: Book I, was originally set to be released in January of 2012 but I have moved up the deadline to black Friday of 2011 (the last Friday in November) in time for the holiday season. Yeah, I know what you're thinking: the paranormal market is almost as dead as chick-lit. Overwritten and overwrought with mostly awful, pathetic stories with no plot but plenty of reason to throw a vampire, werewolf, necromancer, fairy, whatever the f*ck into the mix. 

There are some gems out there. 

I can't speak for the mainstream YA paranormal authors because I don't read paranormal YA (a bit too long in the tooth) and my oldest daughter isn't old enough for YA yet. I don't think I want her reading about vampires though, even when she is old enough for YA. To me, that is strictly an adult genre and the equivalent of having YA erotica. It just doesn't make much sense.

As I have told my fellow readers, my series is strictly for adults only and Death Wish: Book I is writing like a dream. It is one of those novels which just flows easily because it is a story that was meant to be told and I am supposed to tell it. Yes, my dears, I know you are all waiting with breath that is baited but you'll have to wait a bit more longer. Quality cannot be rushed as we all know. 

In the meantime, I can recommend Kissed By Darkness (The Sunwalker Saga) by Shea MacLeod and Blood Skies by Steven Montano. Both are available on Amazon and Smashwords. I have to admit I haven't read Blood Skies yet as I don't want to steal any ideas to use in Death Wish (I have read Kissed By Darkness and although my novel was to remain humor free, there is humor in it, damn you Shea!). As a matter of fact, at the moment, I am only reading thrillers as I can't read paranormal and write it at the same time (even if mine is more a mixture of paranormal, urban fantasy and science fiction).

I am currently reading The Righteous by Michael Wallace (a very engrossing book but it wouldn't have been an Amazon best seller if it wasn't); next up on my list: Her Book of Shadows by fellow indie author and friend, Larry D. Marshall.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An Interview with Mr. Jack Wallen himself!

Okay, boys and girls, ladies and gents, here is my interview with the yummy Jack Wallen who has the face of a movie star and the writing skills of a well-honed legend. His newest book, Shero, is available at all the usual suspects (Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble). I have been looking forward to posting this interview so without further ado, here it is!

1) Why did you decide to stop acting and become a writer?

That was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made in my life. I was a stage actor and, at the time of my retirement, was working with one of the premiere theatres for young audiences in the country. When the economy tanked I foresaw the arts were going to really suffer and thought should get out while the getting was good. I didn't want to be one of those actors desperately trying to hold onto a career that was no longer there. And I adored performing for children (there is no more honest audience out there), so I decided to retire on "top of my game". But oh how I do miss it. The only way I can get my "fix" now is through my podcast on zombieradio.org. That was the brain-child of one of my beta readers and is giving me no end of joy in creating.

2) What are you most passionate about?
My wife. I adore her. Our relationship is something quite special and without it I'm certain I would have lost my mind by now. But beyond that...my passion would probably be my creative soul. I love to create.I love the process, I love how it makes my heart sing, I love the way it makes my mind churn, I love the end results it produces. I loved this as an actor and I love this as a writer. I can not get enough of it. That is why I have such a hard time functioning in the business world -- there is so little creativity in commerce.

3) If you are doing a serial or series, what made you choose to tell your story in this way?

My I Zombie trilogy started out as a question -- "What would it be like to turn into a zombie?" I wanted to know what it felt like, soundedlike, tasted like...and so I started out writing I Zombie I (http://www.amazon.com/I-Zombie-ebook/dp/B004LGTRX0). During the creation of that book, I fell in love with the characters and realized their stories needed to dig deeper into the human condition -- they wanted to play a much bigger part in the scope of the Apocalypse. And then I realized that there was so much story to tell and that I could actually go so far as to explain the why and how of the zombies that filled my world. Thus the trilogy was born. Plus, I wanted to take myself, the characters, and (most importantly) the reader on a ride they might not ever forget. That required depth and breadth I couldn't cover in a single book. I also knew my characters all had stories totell of their own. It wasn't "just" Jacob Plummer's descent into madness or his fight to discover the truth. It was also Bethany Nitshimi's longing to discover the cure and uncover the real purveyors of the virus. It was a fight to live and a struggle to bring back some semblance of life among the chaos. And ultimately it was my job to plunge the world into chaos and then, within the span of three books, try to bring it out.

Of course, I'm no Hollywood ending... so you can imagine there are loose ends I refuse to tie up. At least in this series. I am happy to say that this series has spawned yet another zombie series that will star one of the characters that comes about at the end of the third book. That new series will very much tie in with the I Zombie series in many ways.

4) What are three surprising qualities about you that would shock most of your readers?

I think the main thing that will shock most of my readers is that my characters say and do things most others won't. I have moments, when I'm writing, where I think "Should I go there?" and I inevitably do. Readers don't want the mundane. They don't want the things they can see or do every day. They want characters and stories brave enough to venture into places, emotions, actions they aren't willing to venture into. I also deal with people (such as members of the GLBT community) that many writers don't deal with. There are such incredibly wonderful, colorful, eclectic people out there that the world needs to know...and I want to bring them to an audience that might not have known them previously. And when I deal with those characters -- I make no bones about celebrating their diversity. Why? Diversity is what makes the world move and move in such a glorious, beautiful way. 

After reading my works, and reading my blogs and other writings, it shouldn't be of much surprise that I myself am quite the non-conformist. For the longest time I did what I did to simply stand out. That was the early days of college. After a while, it simply became who I was. It wasn't out of the norm to see me walking around in a skirt and combat boots. Why? Because it was comfortable and I quite liked the way it looked. I'm in my forties and my hair is still spiked to Jesus, my ears are pierced, and I might still have the stains of black nail polish on...you just never know. Life is too short for boring. Life is too precious for normal.

5) Your turn. Tell me what is on your mind at the moment? Talk aboutwhat ever you like and make it as long or as short as you want it.This is your space to shine and to tell us all about you, your books,  or what ever you're thinking about and want to get off your chest.

I am currently wrestling with what might be the end of my day job. That was a dream of mine, but for a time when my book sales were ready to usurp the mantle of income from that dreaded day job. That time has yet to come, but the end of the day job might well be at hand regardless. Although I have wonderful faith in my books and the characters that fill the worlds I have created, I stand at a precipice, knowing that the loss of that day job will open up a world of time for me to focus on those worlds, but also knowing my family has to eat.

I have been, for over half of my 44 years of existence, an artist of one sort or another and I can say, with absolute certainty, that being an artist is one of the hardest things one can do. When the soul is of the artistic bent, it can be challenging to feel as if you are doing nothing more than greasing the wheels of the machine. But it's more than that...it's a soul that deeply, passionately, painfully cares about the creation of the art. Although most of the time that is a joyous and wondrous thing to be a part of, it can hurt just as deeply.When the art isn't appreciated, when the sales aren't there, when the words don't come... it can make you feel like curling up and disappearing. That is the downside of being so desperately connected to the art inside. But, if you're like me, there is no breaking of that connection. It penetrates the skins and wraps itself around the very core of the being.

So it's crucial for the artist to figure out ways of making it through those rough patches, of finding ways to not feel like existence is nothing more than making the wheels of commerce go 'round, of getting the words out and the sales up. Whatever you do, don't give up. Giving up means "they" win -- whoever your "they" is. I refuse. I will fight, tooth and bone, to make sure my "they" do not win. I will come out on top... one way or the other and the only wheels I will be greasing are the wheels on my bikes.

Jack Wallen http://www.monkeypantz.net
Writer of many things. Purchase my novels on amazon.com,
autumnalpress.com View my tech articles on techrepublic.comlinux.com,
and ghacks.net

I thank Jack for this up close and personal opportunity to interview him. It has been a blast. As this will be my last author interview for probably the next couple of months as I must focus on my own writing, I will try to blog at least once or twice a week about what is going on in my life.

No way am I giving up the pleasure of interviewing my IWU authors. This is a terrific time to be an indie writer and probably one of the best times in the world in terms of the sheer variety of books which are available. I never take any one of you for granted and am grateful you allow me to share my life with you. Until next week, I wish you all happy days of love and joy. Jack, I wish you all the luck in the world; if anyone deserves it, it's you.