Breaking Through Fear of the Unknown

Earlier this month my writing partner on the Arcadia Chronicles, Kenneth Mader, and I were scheduled for our first signing at the Barnes and Noble in Burbank, CA. Our high hopes for that event were somewhat, but not completely, dashed by the COVID-19 scare. It was all so bizarre experientially. I got on a plane from North Carolina to California on March 11th, using general recommended precautions, washing hands often, using a face mask when dashing through a crowded airport. My flights were comfortable and easy going. On my longer flight from Atlanta into Burbank, I sat with two young women who were off on an adventure together. They had left husbands and kids at home and were ready for some girl fun. We chatted a little, and I recommended a few places to eat such as Pink’s burgers in Hollywood, and what have you.

It was strange, upon landing, to discover how much had changed in the six hours that I had been traveling. It was as if the world had imploded. My sister-in-law picked me up at the airport and told me she had decided to postpone her spring wedding, a most upsetting matter for her, but also the responsible choice, but this was in part because the fears surrounding the spread of this virus had dialed up far more than could have ever been foreseen. Plans we had made to go to San Diego for a day changed, we chose to stay in as much as possible (a situation helped by a series of rainy days) and only dined out a handful of times compared to our usual foodie frenzy when visiting. The signing at Barnes and Noble that Saturday was not totally disappointing. While the store was something of a ghost town, Ken and I saw it as a good practice run in that we had an excellent panel talk with our handful of supportive attendees and wonderful discussions with our co-creators on the project, Debra and Gerald Hopkins. Ken also filmed that talk, and hopefully some sharing will happen soon.

Over the next couple days after, however, tension in the news began to rise even more. The virus was spreading in L.A. County, and that was when we all began to hear the term “social distancing” as a softer alternative to “quarantine”. I thought of those two young ladies on the plane who could not have expected this situation any more than I could have, because I’m sure it put a damper on their plans as well considering that Disneyland and other parks closed and businesses were dialing down how they operated. I hope they made it back home safely and well.

I myself decided to leave a day earlier than planned and came back to North Carolina where I only went back to my job for a couple days. Because of being in a “hot spot” as California became, I have since kept a distance from my mother, whose health is compromised for various reasons, and I’ve got a few more days of that before I’m cleared to actually be in the same room with her (so far, so good, no symptoms other than allergies).  As I’ve adhered to the recommendations, like everyone else, there is a level of stir crazy that can go with that, even as we are still allowed to get out and take walks and get fresh air. But with commerce as a whole grinding to a halt and only necessary businesses and emergency services staying open, it is another form of Lovecraft’s fear of the unknown at work here. We have no idea what’s to come in the days ahead for our health and how the economy will recover. That’s far scarier than any Outer God pursuing the hero of Corvus Rex with nefarious intentions or the creepy, slimy ghouls haunting the Realm of the Arcadia Chronicles.

I’ve discovered that willful isolation, even for an introvert such as myself, is more difficult than expected. I still love having experiences, and that is remedied by taking walks, but finally given time to sit down and actually write? I hit a wall. Too much time left my mind too wound up, unable to focus. I have so much I can work on. An interlude novella for Corvus Rex. Book two of Arcadia. Screenplays. Visuals for all of these projects have flitted through my mind and out again, so how to net those muses and sit their flighty butts down for a real creative conversation has been a challenge. Then, suddenly, an answer of a sort came to me in that kind of lightning inspiration that finally sticks and begins to break down writing block walls, and it is not at all what you would think.

For the moment, it is a little surprise, and in the next day or two I’ll reveal this technique and once you see it, I invite anyone to try it for themselves in their own way. You do not even have to be a creative to try this bit. I promise. The beauty of it is that after coming up with this idea, and planning and plotting bits and pieces of it out, the other muses are settling down again and finally seem to be ready to focus.

As they say, whatever it takes. Please stay tuned.

Signing at Barnes & Noble, Burbank today.

I am in town for the first launch “party” and signing of The Arcadia Chronicles with my partner in writing, Kenneth Mader at the Barnes & Noble in Burbank, CA. Today at noon we start signing and hope to see a decent turn out, but there is, of course, a great big catch to that.

We are amidst the craziness that has resulted from the COVID-19 scare. The trip out from North Carolina last Wednesday was quite surreal. I got on the plane over news of the general concerns of the virus, I got off the plane some six hours later to wiped out shelves, multiple institutions shutting down, Disneyland closing, and notices to consider self quarantining. The scenario has all of the early setup of a sci-fi thriller.

Thus, I cannot begrudge anyone who decides not to come in for our meet and greet. On the plus side, it is unlikely that our little event will be anything shoulder to shoulder, there will be some precautions in place, and we are still excited regardless. So if you should feel inclined, please come say Hi and check out The Arcadia Chronicles: Afterlife. If not, all good, please just stay safe and take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Listen to the Whispers

From my partner in writing on The Arcadia Chronicles.

KENNETH MADER

There are times in one’s life and career when something you’ve dreamt of and worked towards for many years comes to fruition, in a way that far exceeds your expectations and at the same time is exactly how you envisioned it. That time came for me last week.

It felt different than my film experiences since it truly is a first for me. I’ve been making movies since I was a wee lad, but book writing always seemed more fantasy than reality. A kind of “one day I’ll do that” goal that other commitments and life in general tended to get in the way of. That also ended last week.

For months we have been in the thick of edits and revisions on my upcoming book AFTERLIFE, but last week I received the final artwork for the cover, and I’ve got to say it rocked my world. 

Co-written…

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Behind the Scenes, dissecting a book trailer

When you realize your humanity just took a turn for the worst.

This is one of my favorite scenes in the trailer, but where is it in the book? I can say, without spoilers, that it’s actually a composite of two different scenes that take place at two different times thus making the situation more complicated. As an exercise, it was interesting to decide what elements to draw from the book and compress into a teaser. The spine thing started out as something of a joke (that is my husband’s chiropractic model spine which I was allowed to cover in blech), but it soon became serious business in the plot as new baby monster Zyraxes realizes he’s going to have to keep himself in check.

 

The Corvus Rex Journey, There and Still Going

I talk much about how I came to develop Corvus Rex in the afterword of my first book, The Substance of Darkness, so I do not aim to rehash all of that here, but I do want to discuss other elements, decisions I made along the way, etc. without much in the way of spoilers.

Book one is, essentially, an origin story and something of a slow burn. Our hero is born, grows into a warrior, goes through a horrific transformation, and establishes an arch nemesis.

He also happens to be having a conversation with a young H.P. Lovecraft.

Corvus Rex Book One

This element, which I have discussed elsewhere, is not new in terms of general concept, but it is a matter of how I’ve done it that will be different from other authors using Lovecraft as an historical character or elements of his works. To that end, I decided early on that I would not read any further stories set in Lovecraft’s overall mythos (Dream Cycle or Cthulhu Mythos) by modern authors, even those by my beloved Neil Gaiman, though there is one exception that only visits the mythos occasionally and even then it is almost more to spoof it than anything. Some day, when this is all over, I will go back to reading some of these newer, brilliant authors and enjoy their takes on H.P.’s works.

However, for now I will read Lovecraft’s contemporaries, those to whom he wrote many letters and encouraged to play in his universe, such as Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, or Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian), and I read some of Lovecraft’s inspirations such as Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe, and Robert E. Chambers (The King in Yellow) to name a few, because these have some historical bearing on my story.

This decision was partly because I did not want to second guess myself on some of my plot devices. I didn’t want to find myself saying “Well, so-and-so already did that,” or, “But that’s like (insert plot element) in (insert title).” I also, to a certain degree, stopped sharing my story plans with friends. This all goes back to the old adage that there is nothing new under the sun. It’s true, and there are no new ideas, but I could shield myself from feeling derailed before I got to what made my presentation different from all of the others. In the past, if I shared an idea, ultimately a friend who had read some other novel would say, “Oh, like in such-in-such,” and I would say “No, this is not that.” People have an instinct to compare elements, and that’s not a bad thing, really, but you can’t convince them of the differences without sitting them down and having a come to Jesus talk.

I have to say that taking this course has been quite a break-through, and I’ve felt more free to explore this world I’m playing in and share my interpretation without too many stalls. Now, almost the entire series is developed, with a few holes to fill in and questions to answer, but it is a relief to know where it is all going and how it will get there.

Corvus Rex: The Substance of Darkness will finally be available in print this weekend in a gorgeous 6×9 matte copy, and yes, it is an independent publiscation. This print version has been run through the proverbial wringer in terms of proofing and the Kindle copy will be updated to match this quality and prior Kindle purchasers can access these updates in their Amazon libraries. I believe in honesty, and I would be remiss to not admit that stuff was missed when I published the ebook. In fact, I right drove myself crazy the moment I discovered just one typo in the Kindle version… and then another… and then… What happened? I asked myself. It is possible that I uploaded an incorrect file, or Word failed at some point to save one of my comb-throughs. Whatever the case, I’m happy to say that it’s fixed now and I’ve actually stumbled upon a great method to edit from now on for both me and my other proof readers, and it is this method by which I will operate with the next four books.

Is it unprofessional for me to admit to these mistakes? I don’t think so, honestly. I’ve read professionally published works that were full of missed typos (once even encountered a publisher who had left a partial paragraph from another novel accidentally pasted into the wrong work). When I commented on my typos to one of my proof readers, she was surprised and said, “Well, it goes to show that we were more caught up in the story than catching typos.”

Okay, I’ll accept that. As long as I’ve presented a good story that people are enjoying, that makes me very happy indeed.

The Substance of Darkness trade paperback goes live this Saturday on Amazon, and I am pleased to say how proud I am of it even after stumbling over a few stubborn booboos.

It is done… and more is coming.

The first complete draft of Corvus Rex: The Substance of Darkness is done. I hesitate to call it a first draft as so many chunks of it have been through edits, re-edits, and experiments that it is more like draft four and a half. At last I pushed through to the end, and while it is now time to turn it over to a few beta readers and take a step back, I resist the urge to go back and start edits myself on those last couple of chapters. For one, my eyes are a little burned out and I need to refresh and focus for now on a piece for The Arcadia Chronicles. Continue reading “It is done… and more is coming.”

Decisions! Decisions!

In the last few months, I intentionally held up the finish on Corvus Rex Book One because of an experiment. If you get a bee in your bonnet, after all, you must remove the sting. So I decided that Corvus needed something more on the background of a supporting character, but in the long run realized that by revealing so much about said character, it would change the entire nature of the rest of the book. It would force me to juggle what my main character knows or doesn’t know during the formative experiences that mold him. Continue reading “Decisions! Decisions!”

We’re getting published!

The  “we” in the “we’re” is myself and my writing partner Kenneth Mader (please see his blog post on it here: My First Novel). Around 2015-2016 we embarked on a journey collaborating on an urban fantasy series titled The Arcadia Chronicles. It’s based on concepts developed by Ken and friends Gerald and Debra Hopkins and also a short film in Ken’s directing oeuvre titled Passing Darkness in which Gerald and Debra both starred. Continue reading “We’re getting published!”

On the status of Corvus Rex Book One

It has been far longer than intended for Corvus Rex to hit the presses. Much has happened since this journey began (an ill timed move to Santa Fe, NM and then back to North Carolina within the same year among other stressors, for example), and the journey continues. I’ve come around to evaluating how I wish to go about putting this book out, and that also includes the story’s presentation itself. So far, it has been a large experiment, and once it comes to an end, we shall see if it works out or if a new perspective should be taken. Continue reading “On the status of Corvus Rex Book One”