“Meet My Character” Blog Hop

Grindhouse1The “Meet My Character” Blog Hop is a tour through the blogs of various independent speculative fiction authors as they talk about a character from their latest work. Each week a new author discusses what makes their character tick, and this week I’m up.

But first, big thanks to Marina Finlayson for hosting the previous stop on the Blog Hop. Marina is a reformed wedding organist who now writes fantasy. She is married and shares her Sydney home with three kids, a large collection of dragon statues, and one very stupid dog with a death wish.

Twiceborn, the first book in The Proving trilogy, is her first novel.

Now it’s time to meet my character.

What is the name of your character?

Mimi St. Laurent. She’s the protagonist of the short story, “Deviltown,” from my latest release, Grindhouse.

When and where is the story set?

This is a great question – I don’t even know! When I wrote this story, I had it in my mind that it was going to be very dark, very noir – I don’t think I really pinned down exactly where it would be set though. Maybe New York in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s? But then I hesitate to even say that because there may be some modern references in the piece that wouldn’t lend themselves to that time period so whatever. I think the mood of the story is more important than where it’s set.

What should we know about him or her?

Mimi is probably one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written. She’s a pre-op trans hooker with dreams of becoming the woman she always wanted to be, and dreams of escaping the streets. She’s incredibly savvy, sassy, and she takes no shit. She’s probably the character most like me personality-wise.

She’s also a recycled character. I was writing a story for a literary magazine about a young boy who grows up around drag queens and Mimi was from that piece. She was the boy’s drag mother and I liked her so much that when that story didn’t quite pan out the way I wanted it to, I took her from that world and put her in this one. It’s kind of a shame because bad shit happens to her in this story.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his or her life?

All three stories in Grindhouse are revenge tales. They deal with women who have been victimized mentally, spiritually, and oftentimes sexually, seeking vengeance against those who hurt them. Mimi is brutalized by one of her johns and it really fucks up her head. She can’t think of anything else besides retribution. Her attacker committed a hate crime against her, tried to kill her even, and when she realizes the police don’t give a shit about bringing this man to justice (because of her lifestyle and gender issues), she decides she has to take measures into her own hands.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Mimi’s personal goal at the beginning of the story is to get out of the life and to have surgery to become a woman. She’s been trapped in the wrong body her entire life and she’s thisclose to having enough money to make her dream come true.

Her goal towards the middle and end of the story is to kill the bastard who raped and beat her, leaving her for dead in an alley.

What is the title of the book, and where can we find out more?

Like I said above, “Deviltown” is a short story in my micro collection of shorts called Grindhouse. You can find this book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and other e-retailers.

When was the book published?

December 31, 2014. It’s my first non-spec fic publication (though the final story in Grindhouse, “The Beautiful People,” may or may not have a spec fic element to it).

Next week’s “Meet My Character” Blog Hop participant is Jennifer R. Povey.

As a fiction writer, Jennifer R. Povey has short fiction credits from a number of magazines including the Australian popular science magazine Cosmos (for their website) and long-running ezines Big Pulp and Bards & Sages Quarterly.

As a freelancer, she offers quality, human-readable web content and copy to individuals and businesses at reasonable rates. She also writes articles and guest blog posts on a variety of subjects, but specializes in material related to fiction writing, equestrian activities and travel. She also provides proofreading and basic copy editing services.

She also enjoys horseback riding, travel, role-playing games and hanging out with her highly supportive and wonderful husband, Greg.

The Writing Process Blog Hop

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this site, but trust me – I’m not dead. Although this post would be very interesting if in fact I was dead. I mean, trying to figure out the metaphysics involved alone…

Anyhow, I’ve been invited to participate in a spec-fic blog hop, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to get acquainted with some very talented writers like this one:

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Michael Patrick Hicks has worked as a probation officer, a comic book reviewer, news writer and photographer, and, now, author. His work has appeared in various newspapers in Michigan, as well as several The University of Michigan publications, and websites, such as Graphic Novel Reporter and Leelanau.com. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from The University of Michigan in Journalism & Screen Studies and Behavioral Science. His first novel is CONVERGENCE.

http://michaelpatrickhicks.com

Go check him out, folks!

Now, onto the topic at hand: my writing process. I’m sure many of you have lain awake at night, tossing and turning, wondering how it is I come up with my stories. You’ve probably racked your brains trying to discover the method to my madness – I know I have. So when I saw the questions we blog hop participants were being asked to answer, I thought, “How in the world am I supposed to talk about my ‘process’ when I don’t even know what it is?”

Well, since I’ve deemed 2014 my year of introspection, I’m going to attempt to make sense of what’s going on in this crazy head of mine. Bear with me, Dear Readers – this could get messy.

1) What am I working on?

I have several things going at the moment. First, I need to finish one final story for a new short collection (Grindhouse, release TBD) I’ve been working on since November (!). All three stories in Grindhouse are very different from anything I’ve ever written. For starters, they’re more violent. They also have a ton of graphic language and explicit sex – it’s like a 1970s B movie in print. Or a Tarantino film. Same diff.

Then I’m getting back to my roots with an erotic horror novella. I’ll be tackling a second zombie novella, and of course, I’m always trying to craft the best pieces I can for my Dark Tales series. eVolume Three needs to be released soon and I kind of want to mine classic horror tropes again since eVolume Two was more thriller/suspense.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think my work is different, but maybe it’s not – maybe it’s incredibly derivative. I’ve been heavily influenced by film and television, oddly enough more so than books. Maybe a lot of what I put in print is something Carpenter or Craven or Argento have already done. I don’t know; I haven’t seen every film they, or their peers, have made. But I know I take inspiration from them, as do many of my peers, so I can’t claim to be a special snowflake in that regard.

I would also say my stories are darkly humorous, but again, that’s not unique to me. Stephen King does dark humor better than just about anybody. He’s the first author I can remember reading so of course some of his style would rub off on me.

When I read this back, I’m like, “Damn – I’m not original at all.” This realization would probably bother me if I didn’t know there are only something, like, seven plots in literature and they’ve all been done before. Hell, even Shakespeare cribbed things from writers who came before him.

So maybe the point isn’t to try and be original. Maybe the point is to give audiences tropes they’re familiar with, but do it in such a way that it feels fresh and new. Context is everything. If you tweak and twist a trope enough, it becomes something else entirely. Throw in interesting, vivid characters, sparkling dialogue, and a killer hook and ending, then voila! You’ll have a kickass story that nobody else has (assuming you can tell a good story to begin with). I think I do a decent job of this. I’m always striving to improve my craft, though, always pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and always trying new things.

For instance, I never thought I’d write about zombies. I love zombies as much as the next person, but I thought, “God, that’s so played. How many ways can you tell a post-apocalyptic zombie story?” Turns out, there are an endless number of ways to do it, some of which have been brilliant. Others…not so much. Still, I knew I couldn’t do it. If I was going to write about zombies, I had to do it on a more intimate level. So I wrote a novella called Good Eats and took the zombie myth back to its Haitian roots. There’s no virus, no survival camps, no bullets to the brain. It’s all hoodoo and dark magic. I wanted to write a novel about grief and loss; how those two things can drive seemingly rational people to do unspeakable things in the name of love – and the devastating consequences that occur once those wheels are set in motion.

Like most things I write, most people either love Good Eats or hate it. Some folks thought it was just “eh.” I’d never written a novella before so I thought I did a decent job of it my first time around. Plus, I love the story. It resonates with me; it’s one of the few things I’ve written where I’ve been physically moved while pounding out a scene. And the rising action all the way through to the denouement was wicked fun times.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I’ve said it once before, but it bears repeating: I love to be afraid. It’s perverse, I know, but facing Big Bads in fiction and coming through it (relatively) unscathed makes me feel I can do anything in real life. I like to think there are others who feel that way too, so I write for them as well.

4) How does my writing process work?

Okay, this is the part where things will probably be nonsensical (note: you were all warned at the top this was coming).

I don’t have a process per se. If I did, it would probably look something like this:

– turn on laptop

– stare at blank screen and flashing cursor on white page for twenty minutes

– stare at the ceiling and count how many cracks are in the old plaster

– stare out the window at all of the fancy rich people going in and out of the private club across the street from my apartment

– wish I drove an Audi or Jaguar like those fancy rich people

– go back to staring at my blank laptop screen until I go cross-eyed

– slam the laptop shut and turn on old Buffy episodes and wish I could write anything half as inventive and witty

– two hours later, weep because I’ve made zero progress on my WIP

See? This is why I dread questions like this because that’s legitimately how my actual “process” works. At some point, I’ll get hit with enough inspiration/energy/luck/whatever to get off my lazy ass and put words to page, but for the most part, the above is how I spend my evenings when I’m supposed to be writing.

Hey – maybe if I am dead, I can be reanimated as a more efficient, more disciplined version of me?!

Ah, who am I kidding? I’d come back even slower, and more brain dead, than I already am.

***

Next up on the blog hop?

S. Elliot Brandis has studied both psychology and engineering. He can tell you not only how they built that bridge, but why they felt the need to in the first place. Or so he would have you believe. In truth, he enjoys the little things in life: Bloody Marys with too much tabasco, and jeans that haven’t been washed. He often wears a cowboy hat when he writes. It keeps the light out of his eyes.

In May he publishes his first novel, Irradiated: a tale of two sisters living in Brisbane, Australia, post-civilization. He invites you to visit him at selliotbrandis.com.

***

Before signing off, I’d like to thank all of the writers, editors, publishers, cover artists, etc. who nominated “Child’s Play” from Dark Tales: eVolume One for Best Short Story for the 2014 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards! I had no idea this was a thing, I only heard about it Saturday for the first time on KBoards, so imagine my shock when I clicked on the link and saw my story listed as a nominee. I still keep refreshing the page expecting it not to be there, as if it were a figment of my overactive imagination. But it’s there and I couldn’t be happier. Even if I don’t make it to the finals, I’m thrilled to have been acknowledged since I’m still a noob to the industry. I had no idea other indies knew I existed, let alone read my work. So thanks for the shout out. I’m in good company.

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NaNoWriMo 2013 – Final Day Progress Report

There’s only one thing to say:

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Yes! My month has been crazy so the fact that I was able to win (with over 51,000 words) anyway is a miracle. I finished my novella and one short story for Grindhouse – I have one story left to go and I anticipate finishing that one either tomorrow or sometime in the first week of December.

Can you guys believe the year is almost over already?! Here’s to a wonderful 2014!

NaNoWriMo Progress Report

Here we are at the end of dreaded Week 2 of NaNoWriMo. Frankly, I don’t know why everyone thinks this week is the hardest – I find that this is the time of the month where I’m most in the zone. But that may also have something to do with the fact that I loathe beginnings. I really do. The three years I’ve done this main NaNo event, I’ve barely cracked 1,000 words in the first week.

This year I did slightly better, but I didn’t really begin digging into my first project (I’m doing two – more on that later) until Tuesday. I took off Tues.-Fri. so I could write and I’m proud to say I kicked NaNo ass – my first novella, Good Eats, was completed yesterday at 35,000 words. It will be released around Christmas this year and here is the cover:

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and the synopsis:

Good Eats is a 35,000 word novella that tells the story of the Crawford family in 1960s Louisiana.

The Haitian Creole people, their religion, Vodoun, and the rumors of hoodoo rituals have brought esteemed cultural anthropologist Michael Crawford, his nine-year-old daughter Libby, and his Haitian Creole nanny, Virgine Santiago, to the area. Michael’s a skeptic of the Vodoun faith and hoodoo in general until the day his daughter is discovered lifeless at the bottom of a creek. Devastated and unable to let go, Michael makes a deal with the local bokor – bring his daughter back and the bokor’s debts will be paid for life. Two days later, Libby comes back. The question is: as what?

I am in need of beta readers for this story so if anyone’s interested, drop me a line using the contact form at the top of the blog, leave a comment with your email, or email me directly at indiespiritpress@yahoo.com. I need one or two betas who can give me a pretty fast turnaround (like a week) and I’ll be providing a questionnaire with the story so I can direct the feedback. Betas will receive a free copy of the ebook and a mention in the acknowledgements section. Plus – good karma 🙂

Now, got to get ready to finish this challenge with three short stories for a collection I’m releasing the end of next month. The cover for that is awesome and I can’t wait for people to see it.

Good luck to everyone participating in NaNo this year!

Buyer Beware

I was going to get on here today and write something warm and fuzzy about my writing process for NaNo or the wonderful discoveries I’ve made in the premade cover world of indie publishing, but this morning has turned into an utter nightmare and has really brought my mood way down.

One of the cover designers I’ve recently worked with has been skating on thin ice with me for a while and has just fallen right through it into the murky abyss below. I first contacted this person a few weeks back on a Thursday after stumbling upon this person’s site the day before. I liked a lot of this person’s covers, even recommended this person’s business to other indie writers on Lousy Book Covers, so I read this person’s FAQ section that says they answer all email inquiries they receive in a timely fashion and their turnaround time for premade covers is 24 hours.

Perfect, right? I thought so, so I ordered one for an ebook I had coming out. I did this on Thursday. When I didn’t hear from this person on Friday, not even to say, “Hey, I got your email – I’ll get to your order when your payment goes all the way through” or “Hey, got your email – I’m swamped so I’ll get to it within X amount of days,” I emailed again Saturday night asking to be contacted immediately since I paid for a product on Thursday and had heard nothing from the seller about it. For all I knew, I was sending money to a dummy account and talking to thin air.

Finally, this person gets back to me Sunday and states they received my order, but that the site states they don’t work weekends and it’s obviously a weekend. Never mind the fact that my order was sent on a Thursday, not the weekend. Anyway, this person did give me my cover, along with a snide comment, but I let it slide because this person also claimed to have been ill all week and couldn’t get to a computer. Okay, fine.

Letting this person’s attitude slide was the first mistake. The second mistake was ordering from this person again.

I went back, foolishly, thinking that that experience was probably just a blip – two people who have never interacted before just having different styles of communication. I think that when one is running a business where people are paying you for goods, if you’re going to be out of the office or away from your desk, then putting an out of office message up to let your customers know what’s going on is good service. I do it all the time both at my day job and when writing. But maybe that’s just me.

I ordered two covers from this designer Sunday night, got them Monday morning, and Monday afternoon I sent this person an email asking for a correction to one of the covers. Now, I sent this email because I thought I’d sent one earlier that morning asking for the correction, but checking my sent folder later that day, it hadn’t gone through. So I sent an apologetic email that afternoon saying I was sorry to be spammy (I wasn’t sure if this person had gotten the first message), but could this correction be made. I heard nothing from this person all week. Then, I get an email Friday morning, this person’s newsletter to be exact, and I was stunned. I’d heard nothing but radio silence from this person all week, but you’ve been in your email to send out your newsletter?

I couldn’t believe the rudeness. I’d checked my sent folder again, just to make sure my message hadn’t been swallowed by the iPhone Yahoo mail monster again – it was in my sent box. The message had gone through.

So what am I meant to take away from this? To me, it reeks of unprofessionalism and looks as if I’m being ignored. So I send another email asking where this person is and then ask about future covers, you know, trying to keep the conversation cordial and businesslike. Hours pass and I’m up early into the morning doing research on cover designers and find a few that are cost effective and good. I decide then that I no longer want to be bothered with this other designer any longer so I email asking to be taken off the mailing list.

Well, this morning I wake up to a page-long rant from this person that I stopped reading the minute this person referred to me as “missy.” First of all, no one is going to come out of their face and condescend to me that way. Period. I don’t care who you are and what you do – when I approach you courteously, you approach me in the same manner or don’t approach me at all. It’s that simple.

But in the beginning of this epic rant, this person went on to say they never received the email I “claimed” to send so I forwarded the exact message back and pointed out if the message hadn’t gone through, and this person genuinely didn’t get it, that’s all they needed to say. The nasty and belligerent tone wasn’t necessary. I would have apologized for my mistake and moved on, but I let this person know that their response to me was all the confirmation I needed that I made the right choice in cutting ties with this person.

So the designer sends me another email minutes later with my corrections – and another 50,000 word rant that I didn’t even bother to read. I thanked this person for the corrections and said that once again, they proved how completely unprofessional they were by their response. All this person needed to do was either a) move on (as I did – I wasn’t even expecting to get the correction at this point and figured I’d hire someone else to fix the cover) or b) send me my corrections with no message attached.

This person chose to act like a butthurt three-year-old because I asked to be removed from a mailing list. Now, I could have avoided this entire situation if I had done my homework before interacting with this person. This designer posts on a board I frequent and is constantly getting into Internet skirmishes with people who post things this person doesn’t agree with. I was actually very appalled by this behavior when I discovered it yesterday because if you’re trying to promote your business to indie writers, fighting with them over nonsense isn’t the way to go about it. Again, it smacks of an unprofessional person. If I had seen these posts prior to yesterday, I would have taken my business elsewhere.

The real capper came a couple of hours ago. I’d told this person to stop contacting me, that our business was through. This person sends me yet another email (although, this one wasn’t the length of War and Peace so I guess I should be thankful for small favors) telling me that they are apart of a mailing list of other cover designers and this designer has told them about me, calling me “Rude, unprofessional, and not worth the time,” or some other such nonsense, and then basically threatens me by saying none of the designers in the business will ever work with me. This person then signs off, “Good luck.”

I was livid. I was shaking, I was so pissed, but you know what my response was? “Wow! Very classy.” And that’s it. I couldn’t say anything else or stoop down to this person’s immature level and I’m not going to let someone bring me to that point. It’s not worth it.

Moral of this story? Vet the people you do business with before any money changes hands. Seriously. Save yourself the headache.

Now I’m off to go ogle the beautifully weird cover I just received from another, highly respected indie cover artist this afternoon. It’s awesome and the designer was fast, courteous, and professional. Love it.

UPDATE: The person she was talking about has emailed her once again. The email has been deleted with no response and was not read. We’re looking into blocking the email address from coming to Indie Spirit Press’s account and if we receive anymore unwelcome correspondence after asking said person not to contact this company’s email box again, we will look into filing harassment charges. Internet stalking is NOT okay, folks.

A Call To Arms…Er, Something

I have been incredibly lax about posting here lately, but October was a busy month for me and I anticipate November will be the same. For starters, last month Dark Tales: eVolume One was made free on Smashwords midway through the month and I saw an increased number of downloads for that ebook. It made me step back and take a look at my product more closely. I was getting decent downloads with an okay cover and vague blurbs – but what kind of numbers would I get if I switched out the cover for something professionally designed and posted better descriptions?

Well, I did both toward the end of the month and saw my downloads increase. Then, I took the stories I’d written last month and put them together in a second volume. I wanted to release that ebook collection on October 28 in time for Halloween, but found myself hitting all kinds of roadblocks on the way. Dark Tales: eVolume Two was released two days late instead and I was floored by the response. After two hours of it being live, the collection had tripled my usual daily download rate. And after linking volumes one and two together as a series on Smashwords, both eVolumes quickly surpassed Indie Spirit Press’s other title, Preppy Little Liars, in downloads. Yes, my ebooks are free so that might have something to do with it. And yes, the holiday was probably another big booster. But people were downloading Dark Tales: eVolume One long before Halloween so I don’t think that’s the only reason it’s doing well.

More importantly, my ebooks are now selling on Amazon when they weren’t before. My numbers aren’t huge at either retailer, but I’m seeing a steady increase in sales and downloads so that is a very nice feeling.

But you know what would be better? More downloads. More reviews. More word of mouth. And that’s where you lovely blog readers come in. I’ve been so grateful for the support you’ve all shown me every time I post an excerpt here or a free fiction story – it means a lot to get the comments and blog follows. Unfortunately, many readers won’t know this blog exists or that I exclusively post here so the feedback on this blog doesn’t reach them.

A lot of readers, when looking to purchase books for their ereaders and smartphones, still look for good, quality reviews to help determine if a book is worth their time or not. If I want to reach a wide range of readers (and I do), I need more downloads. I need more reviews. So my plea to those of you reading this post is this: if you’ve read any of the excerpts I’ve posted here for either volume of Dark Tales and enjoyed them, please head on over to Smashwords or Amazon and leave a review. If you haven’t read all of the pieces in either volume, you can still review, just be sure to note that you’re only commenting on the story you did read in your review. And if you’ve read my stuff and aren’t wild about it, still leave a review. I won’t know what needs improvement if none of my readers gives me quality feedback. I write for you guys – I want to know whether or not the stories are resonating with you.

Another thing I’m going to ask is for more downloads. Both volumes of Dark Tales are on Smashwords for free at the moment. I was going to price both at .99 to match Amazon starting November 1, but then decided against it. For one thing, most of you didn’t even know the first volume was free in the first place and I was too busy the day of the second volume’s release to announce it’s free status for the day. So I think I’ll leave both free throughout the month of November to give readers old and new a chance to sample me without investing a dime.

But book covers aren’t cheap (okay, mine kind of are, but that’s for a later post) and the more I write and release, the more those costs add up. Dark Tales: eVolume’s One and Two are on sale for .99 at Amazon as stated above. I think for a collection of short stories, that’s a very reasonable price. What I’m asking of you, dear reader, is if you’ve read my stuff and liked it, please consider downloading the paid copies from Amazon. I know not everyone has a Kindle, but the sales would go a long way in ensuring I can continue to purchase quality covers for the Dark Tales series and any other fiction I decide to publish through Indie Spirit Press.

I also ask that if you know people who love horror or thrillers or general crime fiction, please pass the links to my work along and encourage these readers to download and review. Tweet about the books, post links on your blogs, talk about them in your newsletters – whatever works best for you. And I’d be happy to return the favor for any writer who blurbs me or sends readers my way. Indie Spirit Press is all about writers helping writers whether they are indie published, traditionally published, or somewhere in between (gotta love those hybrids!). Think of all the good karma points you’ll receive if you help get my work out there 🙂

Last but not least, if you enjoy the stories posted here by either myself or Amber Turner and you feel the information about self-publishing here is of value, please consider using the donate button over on the sidebar of this blog. You can give as much, or as little, as you’d like. Every little bit helps when it comes time to hire good cover designers and the like. We strive to release good, professional quality content, but that takes a lot of money we don’t yet have. So anything given would be deeply appreciated – and we will look into giving some nice donor gifts to those who offer their support.

Thank you again to everyone who follows this blog and to everyone who reads (and comments on and/or favorites) the stories.