Ritual Dreams Releasing Early

Ritual Dreams was formatted and ready to go in record time. And after sitting on it for a day or two, I realized it was a problem. I hate sitting on books. Sometimes, I think I have impulse control issues. After a day of not making progress on any of my works in progress, I realized it was because I was anxiously anticipating the release of Ritual Dreams…

So, I moved up the release date. Instead of releasing on Malachi’s Birthday (April 1), it will release March 22. That is all. Back to work.

Publishing Ritual Dreams

Confession: I needed to finish and publish Ritual Dreams more than my readers. As an independently published author, my income is variable. The last six months have been hard. My income hit the lowest monthly rates I’d seen since my second year of publishing.

My writing mentor has told me repeatedly that every time a Republican becomes president, his book sales have dropped significantly and the best way to combat it is to keep publishing. He is a horror writer with a couple of decades of traditional publishing experience. And gave me this long string of things that happen when there’s a Republican president and he had 4 presidents to draw from. I trust him to not lead me astray in that, that is his sole purpose in my life. Even with six months of crappy sales, I still made more than the average for a writer in 2018 and average is $31,000 a year. Which is why one of the writing associations I’m in hooked me up with a mentor.

My mentor tells me I’m successful because I fill a niche and write like a man. I’m not entirely sure those are both compliments, but from what I’ve can tell, my mentor isn’t all that interested in women writers. I think the association paired us a joke sometimes.

I do fill a niche and I know it. I wear that a bit like a badge of honor. “Here’s a female author that writes strong female characters that go out of their way to avoid romantic entanglements because it doesn’t further the plot of her books and series.” His words not mine. He and I almost never discuss books. He actually hates mine and I’m not a huge fan of his. But when I typed a sentence in a conversation in Ritual Dreams between Lucas and Aislinn (he has read 2 of them – Elysium and Fortified), I decided I wanted his opinion. Was it too girly? Too dramatic for the series? He liked the idea and so it lived. It might be the only time I ever take writing advice from him. He knows about my health problems. And he thinks writing is cathartic to them. His exact words were something like “just because the body is giving up doesn’t mean you should let your brain. Keep writing, keep publishing, you can do it.”

And that is the only time I have ever seen him play cheerleader. Normally, he’s lecturing me on what I’m doing wrong as an author. Which is fine, because normally I’m reminding him I think his ability to develop a character is seriously lacking and asking how he’s made it this far with the cardboard caricatures he creates. This doesn’t mean he isn’t a good writer, I just like books with good character development and he’s more of a plot driven writer.

However, as January and February passed I’ve had a bit of my self esteem return, because I’ve watched the Amazon pre-order numbers slowly tick up. This morning when I checked it, it had officially surpassed all my other pre-orders. I can only see pre-orders on Amazon, no one else reports them. But that’s fine. I can guess based on my sales of other books…

I’m still fulfilling that niche. Which is what my mentor tells me I need to do. And in my own opinion, Ritual Dreams is good. I know that doesn’t mean much from an author, but I’m one of the rare ones willing to admit that not all my books are up to snuff. There are 3 in D&R that I will never read, 3 that had good plots and I failed to execute. Ritual is not one of those. Ritual is like Fortified and Elysium, it is one of the best in the series.

And because I had a book in the series on pre-order BookBub accepted another ad request. For most independent authors, a BookBub advert is a godsend. But BookBub has serious requirements regarding the minimum number of total reviews and the star average and quality. I was surprised by my first accepted BookBub advert request, because the person that sent me the notification my book had been accepted had obviously read it. Most advert companies don’t pay any attention as long as you have some stars and your average is higher than .5 stars. But with millions of subscribers, BookBub adverts mean a major increase in free downloads and sales. It was Elysium Dreams that was accepted again. Last time, I had 18,000 downloads of the free book within the 2 days of the ad running. And for five months, I had sales from that massive surge of downloads, because while I write horror, I write hard core serial killer horror, I fulfill a niche. It runs March 19, 2019.

Between the BookBub advert and the release of Ritual Dreams on April 1, 2019, I suspect I’ll have several good months, good months that will allow me to catch up on bills and start rebuilding my savings, because having a chronic disease is hard on the checking account, even with private insurance.

More importantly, as my mentor put it. He believes me to be honest enough to admit if a book I put out is crap and since I said it was good, he said it must be and not releasing crap is always a positive. Although, he also admits every author does it and looking back they all have a few books they regret, even him. For me, it’s an emotional exorcism. Ritual Dreams is good. The Lyrica did not permanently damage me beyond repair. I can still write even with this disease. I can even write good {poor grammar intended}. Of course, it helps that I received “It didn’t suck” messages from my editor and 2 alpha readers. I’ll be on pins and needles until all the betas check in and it releases.

The Glamorized Serial Killer

The serial killer in literature is an interesting thing. Recently, a reader shared an opinion article that writers like myself were glamorizing serial killers. But I beg to disagree. I don’t think most fictional crime writers think about their serial killers after the book ends. And of all the literature I’ve read featuring serial killers only two stand out in my memory.

The first is Hannibal Lecter, because Anthony Hopkins brought that role to life. The book version of Hannibal is interesting, but he isn’t as appealing as the version played by Sir Anthony. And if you doubt that, watch the movie Manhunter from 1986. It is based on Harris’ first book Red Dragon. Hannibal Lecter is played by Brian Cox. I remember it so well, I had to Google it to figure out the name of it.

The second is Alton Turner Blackwood the killer in What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz. But I don’t remember him because he was scary or glamorous, I remember him because Dean Koontz had him demonically possessed into being a serial killer.

As for the serial killers in D&R (there have been more than 14 of them at this point), I don’t remember the names of any of them except the one from Ritual Dreams. Did you catch that? Even though I am currently writing Anonymous Dreams, I can’t remember the name of the killer even as I write this post. This is partly because I have a terrible memory and partly because in D&R the serial killer is a device. They exist solely so Aislinn, Gabriel, Xavier, Lucas, and Fiona can do something beyond sitting around having conversations over cups of coffee. Well, that and people enjoy reading serial killer thrillers/horror.

I think most writers are like me. Their serial killers are devices to give the story a plot, not a creation meant to make serial killers seem cool or glamorous. However, I will say if every fictional serial killer was below average intelligence and had trouble functioning in society, the serial killer thriller genre would quickly die away.

Anonymous Dreams Update

As of 9 pm on 2/19/2019 the total word count on Anonymous Dreams was 44,534 words. I had a “delete” day on it. Where I deleted more words than I added, because I decided a few plot lines weren’t going to work.

And after discussing plot points and devices with my internet security goddess/consultant, I went through and changed a few things to make it more seamless, which resulted in a few more deletions. However, I’m happy to report that the route I was going with that, was correct enough for her.

What does that mean? It means I knew and understood more than I thought I did. Oh and yes, the title has been changed. I decided I wanted something more computerish/dark net accurate than Innocent Dreams, plus I still think Innocent Dreams will go a different direction. Hence the title Anonymous Dreams.

I don’t know what my publication plan for it is. My editor is working hard on Ritual Dreams, she says she’s had to look up a ton of stuff which has really slowed down the process. Tomorrow, I will make forward progress.

Off Lyrica

I went off Lyrica in December. After which I finished writing Ritual Dreams. The two Alpha Readers loved the book. I sent it to the editor and then plunged into a different book, that didn’t hold my interest. I was still in Cain mode, so I started work on Innocent Dreams…

And in just 2 weeks, it had 30,000 words. I have been trying to find the words to explain what it felt like to take Lyrica every day. I have failed so far.

I can tell you I had aphasia (forgetting words, occasionally inserting the wrong one) and I can tell you it had a huge negative impact on my memory, but neither of those things do it justice. It literally changed the way I thought.

Often, my own thoughts felt alien to me. I felt like an interloper. It wasn’t just that I felt disconnected from the world around me, I felt disconnected from my own brain. I would do or think things and wonder why. And because of the disconnect, I always felt on the verge of a breakdown. More than once, I thought “this is what it feels like to go crazy.”

I wasn’t suicidal and I didn’t cry all the time with Lyrica like I did gabapentin, but I still didn’t feel like me. Someone recently told me they were glad I was feeling better. But am I?

The short answer is no. I’m still in pain all the time. I still have to drug myself into a near catatonic state to be able to sleep through the pain. And I have more days when my brain is so preoccupied with the pain that it’s hard to think of anything else.

But do I feel more like me? That is a yes. I’m back to retaining knowledge I gather, which was a problem on Lyrica. I’m back to feeling like my thoughts belong to me. I’m back to being able to push myself to focus and write. Sometimes, even when it’s the last thing I want to do.

Ritual Dreams will join Fortified Dreams and Elysium Dreams as among my favorite books of the D&R series. Demonic will join Tortured among the least liked. And so will Flawless. But as I type away on Innocent, I believe it may join Ritual as one of my favorites.

If you’ve suffered through all 13 D&R books, hang with it a little longer and don’t judge the series using Demonic or Flawless. They get better. It just required a serious medication change. I didn’t talk about it a lot, but I was on Gabapentin for the majority of Flawless Dreams. I look at it and Demonic and scratch my head. I had big ideas for both books, big ideas that I failed in executing because of medications. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they are the two shortest in the series.

But I love Ritual Dreams. I love what it became and I love all the work I had to put into it to make it happen and be as good as it is. Even though I had to leave some things on the cutting room floor, because it was just too much for one single book.

I have no release date for Innocent Dreams. I just know I’ll finish it rather quickly. My bestie is going to have to go through at least some parts of it, so there’s that to consider as well.. her schedule is packed as she gets a second master’s degree.

Learning About The Dark Web

I’ve been hammering away on Innocent Dreams as of late. I got the idea while doing the final bits of research for Ritual Dreams (it happens more than one might think). I had read an article about a cult that made a good deal of money selling child porn on the dark web. And suddenly, I needed a book about a snuff film being sold on the dark web. Fiona needs more parts anyone. Gabriel, Lucas, and Xavier have all played first fiddle in a book while Ace played second… So yes, Innocent Dreams would be Fiona’s time to shine.

I thought “I got this.” After all, what better way to learn about the dark web than the internet. I quickly realized that scholarly articles about the dark web aren’t as plentiful as I thought. But that’s okay, because my best friend works in cyber security. And I’m not an idiot, I am capable of learning…

And therefore, “I still got this.”

Famous last words. My readers know that I try to be as accurate as possible about everything. It’s part of the reason I do a ton of research (that I just like to do research). I’ve put down over 15,000 words on Innocent Dreams and in my spare time, I’ve been researching the dark web, cyber crime, and how to catch cyber criminals.

I will point out now, that I started Innocent Dreams, with only the vaguest ideas about the dark web. I mean I read news articles about the bringing down of the Silk Road when it happened. I’ve looked at some Ranker lists about disturbing shit on the dark web. And that’s it. That is literally all I know about it, except that I have to use a client like TOR to access it. Which I don’t have. I have never even looked at a web page on the dark web, let alone have an understanding of what it does. This is an area of technology that has gone right over my head, completely.

A while ago, I banged out a paragraph in which Fiona is trying to explain how things work on the Dark Web and sent it to my best friend, because despite the articles I have read, I’m still a little fuzzy on it. Her reply was kindly, considering I had it almost completely wrong still. I tried to implement her suggested changes regarding something about nodes which are used to back track traffic or something.

But let’s be honest, when it comes to the dark web, I’m an idiot. For instance, I was introduced to the term Dark Net in several articles. Fine, originally I thought it was just an alternate name for the dark web… But the more articles I read, the more I began to think it was some sort of shopping network on the dark web, not unlike Silk Road had been, but with more security measures and things. As I write this, I’m still not entirely sure which description of Dark Net is accurate.

I have some serious techie readers, which has created this fear they might read Innocent Dreams and go “OMG it’s the literary version of The Net! How dreadful!” Which would indeed be dreadful.

On January 30, 2019, I surpassed 20,000 words. My best friend is currently getting another master’s degree and I will have to beg her to look over Innocent Dreams when I finish so she can correct some of the technical stuff… But otherwise, I think it’s going pretty good.

Keeping Up With Technology

Recently, I was listening to Third Girl one of the later Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie and Poirot had a thought that made me pause. The book was published in 1966 (probably written in 1964 or 1965). Poirot is thinking about a writer friend of his, a woman named Mrs. Oliver who writes detective stories. His thought is “this woman make me feel like a human computer.”

The line jarred me at first, forcing me to take a momentary break from the book as I considered it. Then I did a mental head slap. Of course, Agatha Christie knows about computers in 1964 or 1965. They existed back then, in early forms. Not home computers or anything (for my blog readers born after about 1984 – which is the imaginary date I seem to have embedded in my brain as the dividing line for those who once lived without technology such as cell phones, home computers, etc).

As a writer of serial killer thrillers, I try to keep up in advancements of technology that may be applicable to my books. I also try to keep up on psychological theories regarding crime. Just because Christie didn’t have the internet at her fingertips doesn’t mean she would have ignored these advancements and leave them out of her books.

I dare say, it’s probably quite the opposite. Because she was a writer of crime fiction, every advancement on both the side of the criminal and law enforcement would have needed to be within Christie’s grasp. No doubt the prolific novelist had several police officers within her sphere of friends to keep her appraised of technology they were using and I suspect she probably consulted with a handful of psychiatrists and psychologists as well.

Christie did attempt to make her mysteries and detective novels as true to life as possible. Granted, she took some fictional liberties, but that’s just part of being a writer. (Which reminds me that I need to get a lecture on how the dark web works from my best friend for Innocent Dreams – Which is going to involve snuff films just FYI – I’ve been working on the plotting of it since finishing Ritual Dreams and writing has been significantly easier without the Lyrica in my brain).

But this is the stuff I love about older novels. Christie’s novels from the early 1940s suddenly start to feature automatic lifts (elevators… until this time all elevators in a Christie’s novels were run by a porter). Before the outbreak of war in 1938, elevators were manned by a porter who used a lever to take you to your floor. The automatic elevator was a thing, but a rare thing. People preferred the kind run by porters, it added a bit of personality to something as dull and dreary as an elevator ride. With war came shortages of men to work as porters and run elevators for every Jane, Joan, and Jenni that needed to go up to the fifth floor and so the automatic elevator suddenly became fashionable as there was no need for a porter to run it.

My two favorite things; history and literature.

Authors Are a Weird Lot

They say authors are a bit weird and temperamental. I won’t disagree. I’m a bit moody and I live with my head in my own fictional world a lot, even when I’m not writing. They can also act in some extraordinary ways. Ambrose Bierce the father of American science fiction disappeared from the face of the Earth while in Mexico. Douglas Preston moved his family to Italy and ended up getting kicked out of the country because of his interest in the Monster of Florence serial killer case. And on December 3, 1926 Agatha Christie left her home for a drive and disappeared for 11 days.

Christie’s car was found wrecked by a passing motorist, but the novelist was nowhere to be seen. It ended up being the largest manhunt in the history of Britain at the time. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers got involved in looking for Christie.

Her disappearance was worthy of front page news. Her married life wasn’t entirely happy, her husband was a pilot from WWI and a womanizer. Many thought that Arthur Christie had chased her down in his car, forced her into the car accident, then killed her and hidden her body. Others thought it was a publicity stunt. However, by 1926, Christie was a best selling novelist. Her 3 Poirot novel had published earlier that year. It was her 6th novel overall and they were selling well. So while her personal life had problems her professional life was going amazingly well. There was no need for a publicity stunt.

As a note on the oddity of her disappearance, Doyle who was very interested in spiritualism took one of Christie’s gloves to a medium trying to find out if she was alive or dead. Sayers went to the scene of the accident looking for clues. Both produced no leads.

On December 14th, a banjo player at a hotel in Harrogate recognized her from the newspaper. She had checked into the hotel under the name Theresa Neele – which was the name of her husband’s current mistress.

Agatha said almost nothing about the incident for the majority of her life. However, whatever triggered it, seemed to spurn her into taking control of her life. She went back with Arthur Christie to their home, but by 1928, she had kicked Arthur out and filed for divorce.

Many think that she eventually explained all to Dorothy Sayers. But if she did, Sayers never spoke of it either. Several experts in psychiatry believe Christie may have had a mental break down the night of December 3. Whatever the cause, Christie only wrote a little about the adventure and never fully explained it to anyone that spoke about it after her death.

Ritual Dreams

Ritual Dreams will be written by the end of January as long as I can write 400 words a day. So far so good on it. I put 2,000 on it Monday night. It is scheduled to go to the editor in mid-February and release on April 1, 2019.

Pre-Orders are available (links below).

A few things to know about Ritual Dreams. It does involve ritualized sexual abuse, nothing that I get into details about though. Even I have my limits and severe mental illnesses beyond ASPD and BPD.

That paragraph above is part of the reason it has taken a year to write. I realized I needed to learn more about cults and broke out the research, even interviewing one of my readers who grew up in a cult (turns out I have 5 readers that were raised in cults, which is kind of unsettling).

The mental illness I picked was incredibly complicated to write, both from the perspective of the person that has it and as someone who didn’t have a ton of experience with it in real life. And since I did pick a mental illness as a complication of my killer, I had to get those parts right. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t given the mental illness every bit of authenticity I could muster.

Every time I wrote one of the Killer’s Chapters, I had read and scrutinize it and then do it again a few days later. And then I had to find ways to discuss the illness without info dumping, which was exceptionally hard as there was a lot of information that needed to be included.

Of all the killers I have created, this one is the scariest and most sympathetic in my opinion. As Ace dealt with her own existential crisis of not being able to just label the killer a “bad guy,” I had to overcome some of my own demons. And I had to struggle to make Ace not feel sympathy towards the killer, since she is supposed to be incapable of such a complex emotion.

There were nights I went to bed and dreamed of the killer. There were days I stared at a killer’s chapter I had just written and agonized over whether it was “accurate enough.” Then there were other times, I just stared at the blinking cursor and wondered “what the hell was I thinking to tackle this?!”

But once the Lyrica was out of my system, the writing was so much easier. And so much more concise or as concise as any Cain novel ever is, she is rather wordy even in her thoughts.

Offering Audio

I am researching how to offer audio, not through one of the audiobook distributors; Audible, iTunes, etc.  It would be me reading my own books, which may or may not be appealing.

I have audio editing software that I never use.  I’ve never had a use for it, but I have played around with it a bit.  Especially since I can make audio clips and save them as ringtones for my iPhone.  

I try to keep chapters in my books around 2,500 words.  Which seems to be a good length for an audio bit.  So I would release them a week at a time, if I go forward.

The problem is, I don’t know diddly squat about offering audio or HTML.  Part of the reason I don’t have a website is I can’t figure out how to do it myself and I’m not sure it’s worth paying someone to do it for me.  

I will admit the idea is not original to me.  An author I know, just finished doing a reading of one of her books on a YouTube channel she created, but I have no desire to be in front of the camera reading from a book.  I think that would be stressful.  

Unfortunately, my research makes it sound really easy, but I don’t believe it would be.  My most recent research on it, focuses on Podcasts, but I’m not sure that’s the answer either. 

If anyone has thoughts, suggestions, or ideas, I’m open to hearing them.  Unfortunately, I’ve been taking a break from social media beyond my blog.  Sometimes, I just have to disconnect from it to recharge my sanity.  I will be making a return in time for Christmas well wishes.  And would value any input you could give or your thoughts on listening to me ramble out a book I wrote (this would force me to read all the D&R novels..).