Demonic Mystery Man

Whilst writing Flawless Dreams a strange man showed up.  He had no face.  He had no place, not in the story I was writing at the time.  However, I have often found that one part of my brain is different than the other and this makes strange things happen when I write.

I can’t speak for other writers, but for me, my stories play out like a movie in my head and I am just the conveyor of the story to others.  It works, most of the time.  Sometimes characters do things I don’t expect and no matter what I try, they won’t do what I want.  Pretty sure I’m not crazy, but there are moments I’m in doubt since I don’t feel like I’m in control of the storyline.

Que up the song Return of the Phantom Stranger and enter the demonic mystery man…

I knew who he was.  I have known of his existence since I started writing these stories nearly 20 years ago.  He wasn’t supposed to appear yet.  I hadn’t planned on him showing up for nearly five more books.

Yet, there he was.  Hunting in the shadows.  Repeatedly making appearances to screw with the characters and the plot of Flawless Dreams.

I deleted multiple chapters to get rid of him, but he kept worming his way back into the story.  Obviously, some part of my mind believes it is time to tell his story.

This left me with a bit of a problem.  As soon as I sent Flawless Dreams to K. Smith Proofs, his story began to form in my mind.  I wanted a break.  I spent so much time last year struggling to write and battling my own personal demons, that I didn’t want to deal with my characters’ demons.

But he refused to be ignored and by the end of the night, I was typing up the first chapter of a book I had not intended to release this year.

I spent the weekend out of town with friends and family.  Lola the Destroyer got to go and she had a great time.  But even though I was out of town, without my laptop, and without work on my mind, when I closed my eyes, he was there.

This is the part that makes most writers think they might be crazy.  How do you explain to someone, anyone, that you can’t control a character?  It’s a figment of our imagination.  It isn’t like it’s a real person with needs, wants, desires, and fears.  We should be in control, but sometimes, we just aren’t.  Even when I’m not pounding out words on my keyboard, they continue to exist in my mind.  Sometimes, they appear in my dreams, like the mystery man of Flawless has.  Sometimes, they just take over a thought and we get lost in our own imagination.

Anyway, the next book will not be Ritual Dreams as I had intended.  The mystery man demanded my attention and he got it.  This means that Demonic Dreams will release after Flawless Dreams.  I would apologize for this, but I think my readers will enjoy Demonic Dreams.  It will answer some questions they have about some key issues that haunt the D&R characters.

And I’m going to try to release it as fast as I can.  I know that after readers finish Flawless Dreams they will instantly want Demonic Dreams.  I’m already several chapters into it and the mystery man will have his story told.

 

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Just the Kissy Bits – The Other Side of The Story

Flawless Dreams had been going pretty well for a couple of months.  Slower than I would have liked and I knew it, but I was willing to go slow because I was avoiding writing a chapter.  Then it just suddenly stopped.  Nobody moved forward.  Not even Aislinn who usually charges ahead regardless of what I have planned with the plot and trust me, she’d already taken a few weird twists and turns with my original idea.

The problem was the killer.  He’s charming, similar to Malachi, meaning he can get the girls with his all-American good looks, farm boy appearance, and psychopathic sweet talk.  I had been working on the problem, usually a word or two at a time for the duration of my entire time writing the damn book.

I have written sex scenes before, some of them very steamy.  I have written some romance, very sacchariny sweet.  I went back and read those pieces often and came up with a single line.  At that moment, I was pretty sure Flawless Dreams was doomed.  I even considered plagiarizing one of my unpublished books for the bits I needed.  But it was real romance and I needed something not quite real, but looked real from the outside.  What’s a writer to do?

I could shelve it or I could call in reinforcements.  But who?  I know lots of authors, I know lots of romance authors.  However, it had to be someone that I trusted and thought I could work with.  Someone who would understand my writing and not be upset if I made some changes to make it flow better with my style.  And someone that would understand that my character was romancing a girl so he could have her lovely lovely bones.

That really only left one person…

I’ve read C. Patt’s book and I liked it.  Kind of surprising since I have issues with most books that involve historical settings.  Her willingness to listen to my suggestions on the history bits, made me fairly sure that she would be able to handle it if I made changes to her contribution to Flawless Dreams.  Plus, we had done some “work together” on her book to make it more historically manageable for me and readers as a whole.  The icing on the cake, she’s read the D&R books and understands that I can do blood, gore, death, destruction, etc, but I’m not so fond of quivering lips or sweet nothings.

I expected her to turn me down.  The turnaround time was short (and I knew it).  It was just part of a chapter, not a whole meaty storyline for her to run with.  And I didn’t require seminal fluids and I know she is amazing at getting a reader to that part.  By comparison to some of the stuff I’ve read of hers, this was boring and mundane.

Meaning when she emailed me back that of course she would write it, I was shocked. I’m glad she agreed because I didn’t have a backup plan in place.  I wasn’t sure there were a lot of authors that would do it, after all, the scene was meant so that I could kill a girl.  Not exactly what most romance writers want on their CV.

Then came the questions, to which I wanted to answer “Uh” on every one of them.  The truth is, I didn’t know the crap she needed for her part except the physical description and the setting.  Her thoughts had never once crossed my mind.  I really just wanted to get to the stabby bits.  I just needed to get a girl mostly naked so it was easier to stab her.  I hadn’t realized there would be other stuff required.

I have also read some of her unpublished work and let me tell you, what I wanted was really dull compared to what she can do.  Need a gallon of bodily fluids that doesn’t come out of stab wounds?  C. Patt can do it.  So her agreeing to do it made me a little giddy.

My giddiness was abruptly halted when she sent me a message asking me to call her.  She wanted to talk, on the phone, like we knew each other?  Uh, well, yes, hmmm, I’ma  spazz in real life.  I don’t do well with people I don’t know.  I’m very shy and I tend to ramble.  Sure, we’re Facebook buddies and we message each other and we read each other’s books, but that’s not a phone call.  Before I could spazz out, I hit dial.

She had lots of questions and I had vague answers.  I’m surprised she didn’t hang up on me then post on Facebook that I was impossible to work with and didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  FYI: that would have been accurate.  Somehow she managed to pull the details from me that she needed.

However, I was most shocked when a few hours later, I got a message telling me it was done!  We had just arrived at the campground.  Lola was busy playing with a Frisbee. I was throwing said Frisbee.  The husband was making a fire in the pit and debating dinner plans.  Now, we have a campground rule; until he goes to bed, I can’t actually work; post on Facebook, post on Twitter, send emails, read books, write books, etc.  I can reply to messages and texts though as long as it doesn’t become obtrusive.  There is a good reason for this; if I’m working and get interrupted, I become Satan-cranky.  When I’m working, I want to work and everything else be damned.  I would be cranky with Mother Nature if a storm stopped me from being able to work once I started.

So, I had to delay reading it.  But I really wanted to… Especially since the email I used came to my phone.  I kept trying to think of ways to slyly open it up and read it.  Of course, I knew I’d get caught and that would lead to a fight and I hadn’t had dinner yet and fighting before dinner often means no dinner, because then we can’t even agree on dinner (this is a chore unto itself).

I did get to read it after the husband went to bed.  And I liked it.  Yes, there were a few things I disliked, but overall, it worked and my brain instantly started composing.  Only, I didn’t have my laptop with me.  I did have a notebook and jotted ideas down in it.  When I got home, I was exhausted, too exhausted to finish the chapter.  It took a couple of days to recover and get it done, but with it done, the story began to flow like good Scotch from a crystal decanter (lead free of course, no reason to ruin Scotch by infusing it with lead).

Now, it’s almost done.  My time has been limited because of Jude being here every day – he leaves me exhausted and not wanting to write, even though the story is in my head.  It’s like working two full-time jobs at the moment.  But it is almost done.  About ten more chapters on that bad boy and I can send it to the editor.

All because I had C. Patt write the kissy bits so that I could write the stabby bits…

 

When It’s Done

Yesterday, I had a long discussion about achievements with my BFF.  I will immediately point out that any discussion between her and I; whether it be important or nonsense, is treated the same.  We are the kind of people that can have deep, meaningful conversations about the strangest things.

This means that when we do discuss matters of importance, it is a bit of a information dump.  We both work in fields dominated by men – she’s in computer security and my books have been classified as horror by just about every major advertising company I’ve used as well as some of my readers.

The subject of achievements came up.  We realized rather quickly that what women consider achievements are much different than what most men consider achievements.  Let me provide you with examples from both of our jobs:

  • She fills out a daily report with her accomplishments, areas that need improvement, daily tasks, etc.  One day, she had zero accomplishments, because everything she had accomplished was essentially her job, so they went under daily tasks.  To me, that makes sense.  Her boss was concerned however, because the male assessment forms listed multiple achievements for each day.  Upon closer inspection, it was basically a checklist for getting their daily tasks accomplished.  To me, completing daily tasks is not an achievement, it’s a job requirement.
  • It’s fairly rare for me to post a daily word count.  Word counts aren’t really achievements for me, they are the daily tasks of my job.  Then I remembered several weeks ago that a male writer friend of mine had in fact done a blog post about his accomplishment of writing 10,000 words in a single day.  Which is good, but that’s about my average when I’m really engrossed in what I’m writing, so to me, that didn’t feel like much of an achievement.  It felt like a daily task… You have to add words every day (and delete them) to move a book along if you’re the author.

So what did we qualify as achievements became our next topic.

  • For her it was the big stuff; passing a SANS certification, being asked to do a web demonstration on her ultra-cool crimeware detection tools, completing projects, etc.  Nothing that is ordinary, everyday stuff.
  • For me, achievements are getting the cover art done, sending a book to the editor, finalizing it for print, and publishing it.  Everything else, I just consider part of the job. I sat down one day and wrote 17,000 words.  I got a lot done, but it didn’t feel all that important.  In other words, I wouldn’t consider it an achievement.  I did break my previous record for most words in a single day, but even that doesn’t feel like an achievement.

I’m sure there is a psychology behind it, but I’m less certain what exactly it is.  Do women just not feel they should take credit for doing their daily job?  Or for some reason, do women devalue achievements that men value?  I don’t know.  Someone should study it in depth.

Not me, I have been a busy bee and I have an achievement to share.  Triggered Reality is completely done… all the editing, all the beta reading, all the uploading to different sites, all the checking and double checking that I didn’t screw something up in the formatting, etc.  It’s finished and ready to be read by the masses or at least the people that like/love the Dreams novels.

I’ll take the next few days to clear it from my mind and then I’ll get back into Flawless Dreams.  Still expecting a May release date for it.  It is surprisingly on schedule.

 

Writing Progress Report

I’m going to try to do monthly-ish writing progress reports (they may happen every month or every 3 weeks or every 5 weeks, one just never knows with me).  This is where I’m at now:

  • Terrorific Tales has published in ebook form and the paperbacks are in progress.  Just waiting on the final edits from my editor.  It has one Amazon review…
  • Triggered Reality is with the editor.  I have her notes on Eric Clachan’s story and am now awaiting her notes on the other serial killer story in it.
  • Flawless Dreams is about half done and I suspect I will send it to the editor the first week of April.  I am planning May release.
  • Movement in the Shadows has one story done.  So far, it is making me broaden my writing horizons.
  • Death Demon Trilogy Book 1:  Legacies Awakened has six chapters done.  These are the continuation of the Brenna Strachan novels and will center on an adult Callie Strachan.
  • The next Dysfunctional Chronicle has begun to take shape in my head.
  • Ritual Dreams has a plot and a serial killer.  I’ll begin work on it pretty soon (after I finish Flawless Dreams).
  • The second Reality book doesn’t have a title, but will feature the character stories for Brent Timmons, aka the Tallahassee Terror, and Turkish Jack.

Terrorific Tales

I have always enjoyed writing short stories and flash fiction pieces.  They require me to rethink my writing approach.  Which if you have read any of my novels, you’ll know can be quite wordy.  I don’t use a great deal of long, big words, there’s rarely a need, because with a novel why use one long word that half the people on the planet will have to look up when you have the space for two or three much more common words…

This is why Terrorific Tales and Tales to Read Before the End of the World both exist.  I enjoy writing those sorts of things.  They push my boundaries.  I’ve already started thinking about my next short story project; a book of ghost and monster stories – not like Terrorific Tales.

However, Terrorific Tales did give me the ability to do something I had never done before.  I asked readers for prompts and got some.  Then I constructed stories around them.  That was both fun and challenging.  Every prompt I used is credited to the reader who gave it to me.

As I continue to work on Triggered Reality, I realize that taking the time to write Terrorific Tales gave me a bit of a break that I was needing.  I didn’t know I needed a break from the D&R world or the Dysfunctional world, but I did.  That has annoyed most creative writing teachers and mentors I have had over the years.  They always told me to pick a genre or a series or a style and stick with it.

Only, I can’t.  I’m sorry.  Occasionally, my brain just needs to shift gears.  Because keeping my brain focused on one thing or one genre or one set of characters lulls it into a sense of complacency.  Especially since for every novel I have written I have at least one novel, maybe six or seven short stories, and a few dozen flash fiction pieces not written.  Call it Writer’s ADD if you need to have a term for it.

Even when I’m not plopped in front of my computer, my brain is still writing.  It is either composing prose, coming up with new ideas, or creating new characters.  This is why sometimes, projects stall.

Of course, my life factors into it as well.  Innocent Dreams and Flawless Dreams both stalled due to my having a great nephew born and the decision to get married, along with some health setbacks.  I tried to write around them, but I stress out really easily – meditation makes me anxious, so don’t suggest it, I have a fear of boredom and clearing my mind is like to trying to contain a nuclear reactor during a meltdown, so meditation actually stresses me out more – so I had to move away from them for a short while.

Triggered Reality only sort of stalled.  I got the first part written, started the second and decided I hated it after putting nearly 8,000 words on it, and decided to revisit it after writing the third part.  The third part gave me very little trouble, but that second part is still annoying the shit out of me.  It just isn’t right.  I’m going to scrap it and do another story.  That one may be revisited at another time, I don’t know yet.

However, since I know everybody is jonesing for a fix of Aislinn Cain, Nadine Daniels, and the promised Death Demon Trilogy, I added a story for each of them to Terrorific Tales.  Two are explanatory stories that will probably surprise you.  Consider the third a prologue and taste of things to come.

Also, keep in mind that as I move forward with Movements in the Shadows, I might go ahead and ask for more prompts.  What sorts of ghost or monster stories do you want to read?  Not just what ones do I like to write.

 

A Year in Review

I’ve been thinking a great deal about why I’m not yet done with Flawless Dreams.  I should be, but I’m not.  It got me thinking about everything that happened this year and honestly, it was trying.

For those that don’t know, Fortified Dreams was written by the end of January 2016.  It’s a good thing or it probably wouldn’t have released.

I started Botox for migraines, which has helped considerably with the number of migraine days as well as how severe they are.  However, it also had an odd down side.  It had been so long since I had long stretches of time without a migraine, that I didn’t know quite how to function.  I know that sounds weird, but seriously, I went from fighting through migraines almost daily to not having but about 15 days a month with one.  So on the days I didn’t have them, it was like “oh, what is this?  What do I do since I’m not thinking my way around the pain?  Can I even function like this?”  I’m still getting used to it and I panic easier about a headache.  Because headaches trigger migraines.  So I get a little stressed and suddenly, I’m dropping everything because now I know what it’s like to not have a migraine every day and I absolutely do not want that headache becoming one.  My neurologist has told me this is normal, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

From August 2016 to November 2017, I dealt with the chronic leg pain.  Was it a vitamin deficiency?  No, those were coming back normal.  It wasn’t a circulation problem.  Physical therapy didn’t help.  I was on narcotics and then off of them more times than I could count and the only time I had any relief was when I was popping Percocet… The tramadol sucked for pain.  Then I was told there was nothing wrong with them…

So, now I’m crazy and possibly a drug addict.  I come from a long line of alcoholics and drug addicts.  That scared me more than you could imagine.  Was I really not in pain but craving the narcotics, so my mind was making up the pain?  Should I talk to someone about rehab?  I didn’t feel like an addict, but does an addict know they’re an addict?  I already know the answer to that one, which terrified me even more.

I was literally having nightmares where I checked myself into rehab and then threw a clot in my leg because it turned out the vascular tests were wrong.  And nightmares where I checked myself into a mental health facility because I was imaging that I was in pain and it had to be a mental problem.  Then there were nightmares where I would dream my spine had broken doing something and I’d wake up in so much pain, I could barely move.

Yet, I was crazy, because the things that were wrong with me were all minor things and I have a high level of pain tolerance.  I spent two months thinking I had lost my mind and the pain wasn’t real.  I had been duped by my own brain into thinking the SI joint injections had worked then and they really hadn’t done anything because there was nothing for it to work on.

Then came the incident with Fentanyl.  I got it at the ER in Hannibal.  In both an IV and a 72-hour patch.  I hallucinated.  I projectile vomited.  I was incoherent.  Only after yanking the patch off after less than 24 hours and sleeping for 18, did I feel any better and then it was only slightly better.  It took five days to recover from that.  NEVER again will I take Fentanyl.

Now, I’m crazy and nearly died due to Fentanyl.  How fucking fantastic is that?

Until I finally got a diagnosis: arthritis of the hips and SI joints leading to nerve inflammation at the base of my spine.  Specifically the nerves that truncate in my lower legs.  The doctor told me it was as if someone had stabbed me in the base of my spine and we had just left the blade in to continue to do damage, because it went untreated for so long.

Oh my god!  I’m not crazy.  I’m not a drug addict.  My brain is not making up this pain.  It really exists and they can do something about it!

I got another round of better targeted injections and wow!  What a difference that made… The pain is almost zero all the time.  My legs start to bother me after lots of activity, but they don’t just hurt all the time anymore.  And the popping that I was experiencing every time I walked, which was a painful pop and grind, is just gone.  I haven’t had it happen since the injections.

I can do stuff again.  Stuff I enjoy.  And I am so happy about it I could do a jig.  I even went dancing.  It was fantastic.  The next day, I was a little sore, but I was not crying on my couch because I hurt so bad.  Now, I have muscle soreness from time to time, but that is nothing like the pain I was experiencing in my legs and that soreness actually makes me feel better because it means that I’m using muscles I haven’t for over a year.

Besides, there were problems that I’m not even going to discuss on my blog.  No one needs to know how bad my mental and physical state had gotten.  I will admit that I became depressed because I was always in pain and believed I was crazy.

Yes, I’m behind on Flawless Dreams and it is looking slimmer and slimmer that I will get it done by the end of the year.  For that, I am very sorry.

However, I feel better, physically and mentally than I have for over a year now.  I’m still working on the depression and since I can’t take antidepressants, that’s been difficult, but my mood has been picking up now that the pain has stopped.  Slowly, but surely, I am returning to normal.

I hope that is a large enough achievement for my readers.  I promise Triggered Dreams will release on time (January 2017).  I promise Flawless Dreams will release soon, I just don’t have an exact date.  It needs some serious work because a lot of what I wrote is marred by pain and pain meds.  I go back and try to fix it, but I think that just makes it worse.  It might be one of the few books that need more than one draft.

Personally, I’m a little disappointed in myself.  I had big plans for this year and 2017, but I failed to accomplish this year’s goals and I am going to have to scale back my plans for 2017.

Things I Need

It’s December which means everyone’s favorite question is what do you want for Christmas?  The things I usually want are not tangible items that can be given to me as presents.  So, I try to think of things I need.  This year, my list of things I need is also intangible…

I need:

  • The jacket copy (blurb) for Flawless Dreams so I can get the cover finalized.
  • The ending for Flawless Dreams.  It still eludes me.
  • Two or three extra weeks this year because I am so far behind schedule on everything that I’m starting to panic a little.
  • Good indoor games to play with Lola the Destroyer because while she looks more like a German Shepherd, she is half collie and has more energy than me in the cold weather.
  • People to get along. I’m not asking for world peace, just an agreement to disagree and be nice to each other.
  • More best friend time – this is totally my fault and not theirs… I just always seem to be busy, yet I never seem to get anything done and no, that doesn’t make sense.
  • More family time – Thanksgiving reminded me of how much I miss having a house full of nephews and nieces and board games with pizza on a night that no one has to work the next day.  And yes, I’m to that age where board games with the nephews and nieces with food and laughs is better than a party.
  • My favorite indie writers to be successful (I have a list if you want book recommendations).
  • To be approved for membership to the Mysterious Package Company.  I simply love a little intrigue and a sense of humor.

Having said that, I never complain about getting pajamas, games, money, gizmos, gadgets, kitchen appliances I probably won’t use, socks, books, gift cards, underwear (one year, my grandmother who has passed on gave me and my cousin bras that we opened in front of the entire family, like our entire extended family – good thing I don’t embarrass easily), girly-girl things that I can’t figure out how to use because I’m just not a girly-girl, scratch off lottery tickets, candy, cheese assortments, things that I can put other things into (not a trash can Mom), reviews of my books, light weight zippered jackets that I can wear indoors because I live with a polar bear and a dog with a thick undercoat, wine, and just about anything really because I have never gotten a gift I didn’t like.  After all, a gift means someone took the time to think about you and buy you something.  That in itself is special.

Oh, wait, I thought of something tangible I want and it means I think I might be growing up.  I’ve had this strange desire to wear blouses lately.  But most of my shirts are T-shirts… and good luck family trying to buy me a blouse, I’m so picky about them that even though I want it, it would be hard to buy it for me.

A Reprieve From the Election

Since I have zero desire to deal with the strangest election ever, I’m offering a break from the nonsense that surrounds politics. Instead, the first Cain chapter, unedited, from Flawless Dreams:

After the fall of the FGN, I had spent nearly a month in the hospital.  Another month in hearings for my conduct and the fact that Patterson had escaped.  Three months on unpaid suspension for misconduct.  One week before that had ended, I’d shown up at Nadine Daniels’ house and done my job, which had landed me another 4 week suspension for insubordination.
I had not protested any of this.  The world had changed.  The flaws in our security had been made evident.  Everyone appeared to be terrified.
However, now we had proof.  There was a conspiracy.  There were more serial killers active within our borders than we had ever imagined.  We’d even let some come into the country from other places, like Canada and the United Kingdom.  Not to mention the three super psychopaths that had been converging on Nadine Daniels’ house as mob enforcers had been Russian.  The authorities were still trying to figure out how they had gotten into the US, let alone all the way to Kansas City.
I was spending my suspensions putting my life back together.  I had a new house that was filled with sleeping bags and camping chairs.  My sister-in-law, Elle, had taken a job in Australia.  Nyleena was on sabbatical after her rape and attempted murder by some coked up gang leader.  She had gone with my mom to Australia to help Elle and the kids settle in.  That had been three months ago and they weren’t sure when they would return.
Aside from the fact that I sort of needed, Nyleena, I thought it the best course of action.  Someone was coming for us, all of us.  The VCU had been demolished by the head of the FBI.  Malachi and Caleb Green had been transferred to different divisions, but the US Marshals had come in and swooped them up.  They were the basis for a second SCTU team that was still being assembled.
Kansas City had officially become a section of Hell.  There were twenty active serial killers that we knew of.  No telling how many we didn’t.  It had made us the Murder Capital of the US and we were working our way towards being the Murder Capital of the world.  My mother, Elle, Nyleena, none of them needed to be here for that.  They were better off in Australia.  Before leaving, they’d taught me to use Skype.  So far, I hadn’t used it, but that was because up until two weeks ago, I had been living in one of Daniels’ Security’s safe houses.  It wouldn’t have been prudent to Skype with Nyleena or anyone else for that matter.
There was no official news on Patterson.  This didn’t bother me.  I had a new dark angel by my side.  There were still a few reservations about Apex’s loyalties, but not many.  He had stopped by the safe house three times to see me, to check on me.  He’d even covered me when I had gone to save Nadine from the Russian mob enforcers that were in fact serial killers in their spare time.  He wanted answers as badly as the rest of us.  Like the rest of us, he knew the only way this could happen was if someone was pulling strings from on high.  He’d ruled out the governing body that controlled the SCTU and the head of the US Marshals.  Everyone else was still suspect.  For my own well being, we didn’t discuss how he eliminated suspects or who he actually suspected or what he was doing about it.  There were things I didn’t need to know, it was something I had learned very fast after the fall of the FGN.
The last week, my life had felt empty.  It was a new experience, that I couldn’t pinpoint as an emotion.  I was attributing it to the fact that everyone I knew was either working or in Australia.  Even Trevor was too busy to spend time with me as he decorated houses, one by one, for all the SCTU members.
When the FGN was overrun, they had targeted us.  Malachi, Caleb, Lucas, and myself had our houses burnt to the ground.  Xavier, Fiona, and Gabriel had theirs ransacked and trashed.  They had busted through supporting walls, ensuring that the houses would eventually collapse.  Fortunately, we had all been too busy to be home when the houses did finally give up and fall down.  Trevor, Elle, the kids,and my mother had actually taken refuge with Ivan Daniels’ kids and his mother in his panic room.  Melina Daniels was no slouch when it came to personal protection.  The four adults could have held off a small garrison of psychopaths, if the bad guys had managed to get inside the panic room.  For that, I was thankful.
I couldn’t even go to the newly built Fortress to see my brother.  He’d been attacked four times while in Leavenworth.  He’d survived all of them.  The same couldn’t be said for his attackers, but that sort of attention had landed him in protective custody.  Even I didn’t know his location.  If anyone I knew did, they weren’t talking.
Even I had changed.  I knew it.  There was little I could do about it.  Fighting alongside my brother had made me feel righteous. It surprised me to realize that I missed him.  I had removed him from my memories as much as possible, but when the shit had hit the fan and he had been there to play the white knight, I had suddenly remembered exactly why I had thought so highly of my brother.  He had always tried to be my white knight.  His armor was a little blood spattered and tarnished, but that was fine by me.
It wasn’t just with regards to Eric that I had changed either.  I had realized that I was a soldier in a war I wasn’t sure could be won if we always played by the rules.  People like Eric, Apex, and Patterson were necessary to make any head way.  Yes, they were murderers, who didn’t always do the right thing, but what we were fighting was much worse.  Their body counts were more like resume bullet points than reasons they should be imprisoned.
In other words, my world no longer contained much black and white.  Everything was shades of grey.  We were prioritizing killers based on their victim preferences and body counts, not based on who called us when.  Those days were gone, possibly never to return.
That was the one big change; we could now walk into any law enforcement agency in the country and demand they cooperate if there was a serial killer or mass murderer in their jurisdiction.  We no longer needed them to ask us for help.  We had the power to do it ourselves.
My time off had not been spent idly sitting in a room and sulking.  At least, not all of it.  The head guy needed to be found and like Apex, I had a vested interest in who it might be.  I was going through my own thoughts on who it might be.  However, much like Apex I wasn’t making much progress.  I did have a lead on a guy and I was still suspended.  My plane left tomorrow for Texas.  Ciudad Juarez, Mexico was a city filled with frightened citizens, overbearing drug lords, and more than it’s fair share of serial killers.  Of course, I couldn’t touch any of those serial killers, but I could see what tourism in El Paso offered.
My phone rang as I got up.  I checked the caller ID and saw Gabriel’s name on it.  I tried not to sneer, realizing someone had alerted him to my trip.  Since only three people knew I was going, the list of who had ratted me out wasn’t exactly complicated.
“Cain,” I answered.
“I hear you’re going on vacation to El Paso.  It seemed odd that you would go for a vacation in a city that was a hop, skip, and jump from Juarez.  You cannot go into Mexico, Ace.”
“I have no intention of going into Mexico, especially not at Juarez.  I attract serial killers like most people attract mosquitos.  I’m crazy, not stupid.  El Paso is the closest I will ever get to real Mexican food.  You know how much I love it.”
“You expect me to believe you’re going to El Paso for Mexican food?”
“I do not expect you to believe anything.  That is why I’m going.  I have nothing to do here, might as well go to El Paso for Mexican food.”
“Yeah, I don’t want an international incident, so you aren’t going alone.”
“My mom, Nyleena, they are in Australia.  You guys are on a case.  It seems like now is a good time for a vacation and I do not have anyone to go with me.”
“I’ll have someone on the ground waiting for you.”
“I do not want to be in El Paso with someone who is out of their skull,” I was referring to Malachi.  His new status as an SCTU leader-in-training was driving me nuts.  He kept trying to give me orders.
“It won’t be Malachi.”  Gabriel hung up on me.  I considered telling him I wouldn’t be alone in El Paso, but that would make life complicated for him.

It Isn’t All Bad

So, I’ve spent most of the last two months apologizing for missing deadlines and whining about my pain.  However, it hasn’t all been bad.  As a matter of fact, some amazing things have happened:

  • I officially started Hadena James Publishing, LLC.  All the final paperwork is in the mail and the bank account gets started next week.  I finally got there. – And for a writer, I realize that wasn’t terribly creative naming.  🙂
  • I was invited to join the Horror Writers’ Association.  This is really cool.  I didn’t go looking to join the HWA, one of their active members is a reader of mine and sent me the invite.  Meaning some writer that is more important than me in horror writing circles reads my books!  Feeling a little star-struck by that.
  • I have been asked by a couple of teachers/professors to come talk to their creative writing classes. Most of the requests came because they found my blog and started reading what I had to say about writing, traditional v. indie publishing, and understanding the commitments required to be a writer, regardless of how you publish.  I’m really excited to talk to young people who want to write about one of my favorite things!
  • Flashpoint Designs began creating my custom dart shirt.  It seems like such a small thing, but I wanted something that reflected my love of darts as well as my love of writing and since I like to write things that are a little dark…we went with cutesy creepy.  I can’t wait to show it off!
  • I got asked if I would be willing to give a talk to a group of women interested in history!  This is a huge deal for me.  I don’t get a lot of recognition for things (books or degrees… especially degrees), so for someone to consider my knowledge worth sharing just blows me away.  It’s even more amazing that it’s history stuff because I’m pretty sure there are like 100 people that know I have a history degree and most of them are my readers!  And history is one of the few things I’m as passionate about as writing.
  • The first 3 Dreams & Reality novels have new covers that fit more with the rest of the series.  Covered Creatively is working on The Dysfunctional Wedding cover, Flawless Dreams wrap, and Triggered Reality full wrap cover.
  • I made nearly as much in June, July, and August of 2016 as I did the entire year of 2015.  I have nearly doubled sales every year; this year, I might do more than double which is great!  Thanks everyone for reading and bearing with me this year as I have sorta fallen apart and not written as much as normal.  Next year will be back on track, I promise.
  • But I’m not done for this year.  I still have plans to publish in October, November, and December – no hard dates for any of it yet, but they will be coming soon.  Getting my pain under control is going to help a great deal with my ability to stay focused long enough to figure out a plot.

So, despite the problems, I’m still having some great things happen and I need to remind myself once in awhile about it.  🙂

Jude the Great Nephew, Innocent Dreams, No Order Necessary

For the last couple of weeks, I have been spending about 10 hours a day with Jude the Great Nephew.  My mom is acting as his primary babysitter right now and I work from home.  I didn’t understand what this meant at first.  I mean, I did, I was going to be spending time with the great nephew, but I didn’t know it would affect me psychologically.

Innocent Dreams focuses on child killers.  Some of the children are very young.  Since Jude the Great Nephew has been born, I’ve seen some psychological blocks arise from trying to reconcile how much I want to see him thrive and the fact that I am killing children, even if it is just fiction.

I have some issues with child killers anyway.  The hardest D&R book for me to write was Cannibal Dreams and I got it written by wussing out and switching my serial killer focus from August to Patterson.  In some ways, I resent that weakness, but I just couldn’t stomach it.  I can write, read, and watch blood and gore all day long but one of the movies that disturbs me the most is Mercury Rising.  It’s a good movie, but it makes me cringe.  The plot is excellent, the fact that a child is the target of assassination because he broke a code hits a nerve with me.  Second is Darkness Falls, again it has more to do with the children than it does the graphic nature of the film (which isn’t that graphic and I think got a raw deal from critics).  As a general rule, I try to avoid books and movies that feature violence against children, even if the violence is implied, not shown.

Now that I get to be with him for most of the week, Innocent Dreams has come to a grinding halt.  I’ll get past it, but it may take a little longer than expected.

But never fear!  I have other serial killers waiting in the wings.  I have several serial killers built and plotted out.  Their stories just need to be put to paper or rather, computer screen, and they will be done.  And the important front Cain chapters where the SCTU is dealing with the aftermath of Fortified Dreams can easily be moved to one of these other books.

So, as much as I hate to do it, Innocent Dreams will not release this year.  In its place, Flawless Dreams will be published in November.  Thankfully my stockpiling of serial killers has found a purpose and I can easily make the necessary adjustments and move on with Flawless Dreams without destroying the order of the books… because I like to have options available for just such an incident.  I didn’t know if I would ever use my emergency plan, but after writing Cannibal Dreams, I was smart enough to make one.

Oddly, now that the decision to hold off on Innocent Dreams has been made, The Dysfunctional Wedding is actually flowing at a great pace and will release October 15, 2016.  It will be followed by Flawless Dreams in November and Triggered Reality in December.  I might even make my goal of putting out Terrorific Tales this year too.

I plan to have The Dysfunctional Wedding finished in six days.  I will immediately start Flawless Dreams which has been mapped out well enough that I should have it written in two weeks.  Triggered Reality is actually half done.  I just need to add some stuff to it.  The same is true of Terrorific Tales.

However, knowing that I don’t have to write Innocent Dreams after I finish The Dysfunctional Wedding did something amazing for me.  For the first time since July 8th, I sat down at my computer and wrote 6,000 words in a single day.  I had been struggling to get 1,000.  Today, I suspect my word count will increase even more.  If I keep this pace, DW will be done in three days or less.  I can live with that.

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