Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh Muse, Where Art Thou??????

So I decided to put the book I'd been working on on hold for a while. Ok, so I got frustrated that I wasn't coming up with anything that I liked and decided to scrap the whole damn thing. I did after all change the plot three times. Nothing was working for me. Now I've got a great idea, a tentative plot, and a really solid batch of characters...

And I haven't touched the thing in months.

Now admittedly, my world right now is a blur of Doctors appointments, baby shopping (I have a whopping 2 bottles, and a pacifier so far), and the general 'getting ready for baby' that one begins in the second trimester. But that's still not really a good excuse. I seem to have more than enough time in my day to play Bejeweled on Facebook, to sew, and to read.

So it must be the Muse. She left. Gone. Flew the coop. Any number of other euphemisms.

What do I do now? Do I wait till she comes back? Do I push through and hope I don't get another 'great idea' that ends up in the recycle bin? Or do I just think about it when I can, and hope that something comes to me?

Really, please, let me know.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A day at McJob: There’s more to living than the life of a secret, undercover agent

Picture yourself here: You’re in a bookshop, you see a new urban fantasy or paranormal mystery on the shelf and you pick it up to read the blurb. Your intrepid protagonist is, surprise, surprise… An FBI agent, a private investigator, an investigative journalist, a police detective… Need I go on? Part of my work as a fiction editor involves reading submissions, many of them falling within the paranormal and fantasy genres. Many of the authors’ protagonists are, surprise, surprise, FBI agents, private investigators… Get my point? We have a theme going here, no doubt popularised on telly with programmes such as Dexter, Blood Ties and more, where the popular avenger-of-dastardly deeds gets some sort of twisted, dark or supernatural spin. Often the writer offers his or her audience an endemic lack of understanding of how their country’s legal system works.

Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in the mood to just relax, I’ll watch or read something with a cop or PI as a lead, and I’ll suspend disbelief when I notice plot holes large enough to drive a London bus through. Hell, even lawyers can sometimes do some good and provide an interesting perspective. But really, it’s so done. To death. Why can’t a school teacher or a graphic designer also solve a mystery or become a hero? Surely their unique perspective will lend a different angle than the oft-seen, hard-bitten cop. I’ve lost track of how many crime-busting vampires, werewolves or (insert supernatural creatures of your choice here) I’ve encountered in my quest to escape from reality.

What I’m saying, as authors, is we need to break away and find something a little different. Write what you know. I’ll happily write about artists, musicians, witches, journalists, riding school instructors, veterinarians, tattoo artists, graphic designers, magazine editors, body piercers, bookshop owners or professional gardeners… These are folk I know. These are folk I regularly interact with and have a basic understanding of what they do in order to make ends meet. Because I know their world, I can breathe life into characters who follow these professions, convincingly.

I prefer reading and writing about characters who have real-life worries about not meeting rent or deadlines, and who also have larger problems to overcome, which threaten not only their livelihood, but their lives. How many times have you read a novel where characters dash about with seemingly endless quantities of cash and property? This is not Anne Rice’s Mayfair witches, dah-ling. This is the real world.

Having financial woes or some sort of trouble at work just adds to the building up of tension, making your character more believable. How does Joe Soap the plumber unblock drains, keep his wife in lacy underwear and save the world from the Lovecraftian horror lurking in the city’s sewers? Sometimes an unusual profession will place your character in a unique position to identify a potential threat no one else would notice. Be creative. Have fun, and keep it real, and turn the existing tropes on their heads.

As an afterthought, if you’re still possessed by a yen to write about a police officer, conduct a lot more research than watching a few episodes of the latest flavour of cop show. How about dropping by your local police station and chatting to some of the officers in charge? You’d be surprised how friendly (not to mention helpful) a police officer having a quiet day can be if approached with sincerity. If you can, ask to be given a tour of the station. Find out how police procedure in your area is executed. If your setting is not local, see how much information you can dredge up about where you intend to set your story. Then, dig deep within yourself to find ways to make this tale stand head and shoulders above the rest. Better yet, find out if a real private investigator will allow you to shadow them for a week or so. There’s nothing like a bit of experience to add that touchstone of reality to your story.

My muse? I think she's here somewhere....

Ah... my muse. I feel I should wax prophetic about her. And yet.....

Writing habits are an interesting thing. They are highly personal and yet very public. Think about it. Whether I write or not is up to me, right? I mean, I can sit at my computer and play Facebook games all day or I can open my manuscript and write a few hundred words. Who would honestly know the difference?

Well, I would. It would be obvious to me. And my family would notice. Those rare days when I actually do play hooky from writing are the inevitably the days one family member or another will ask how the story is going. Or my critique partner will want to meet on an "off-time" and I better have something to give her!

But what about those days when you just don't want to write? Or (even worse) can't think of a single thing to type? It happens to all writers — published or not, fiction or non. My friend and writer's group buddy Lori Armstrong tells of a time when she was working on one of her Julie Collins' books. According to Lori, Julie spent more than six months sitting at a stop sign at an intersection on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Lori couldn't figure out which way Julie was supposed to head. It finally occurred to Lori that Julie shouldn't be on the Reservation in the first place!

The same problem happens to reporters — especially small-circulation or just-starting-out ones. Let's get serious! How many craft sales or parades can a person cover before they can't find a new spin on the story?

I've sometimes wondered if I didn't have to share my muse with a more prolific author. Maybe sometimes she hangs out with me, and the rest of the time with someone else. Then I can blame the other writer for my few words written that day. But, if I have to be honest, I don't think that's the case. I think I just plain don't listen.

So how do I find my muse?
  • Read a book. No, seriously. Sometimes all it takes to put me back on the "write" path is to read someone else's published work.
  • Do a craft. I knit. I crochet. I sew. I paint. I don't do any of those super well, but I do each of them well enough to enjoy it.
  • Take a walk. I try to get a walk in each day. It gives me time to think, to plan, to plot.
  • Just write. How often do I stare at a blank computer screen waiting for just the right words? I've noticed that if I start typing the "wrong" words, I'll get to the point that the correct ones start to flow. Or at least I'll have something to work with!
What other ways can the muse hit? Anything I should try?


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Topic of the Week

"My Muse: Over-achiever or under-performer?"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Beginnings, news and something new all around...

Alot of things are going on around here this week, new beginnings (both storywise and lifewise) and surprises.  The thorn in my life aka our house remodel is well on its way to being finished.  Most of the heavy lifting stuff is done and my work list grows shorter, very slowly.  Fall is hinting at the south, meaning its wet, cool, and soggy.  I've warned the family that I fully intend to be moved in by All Hallows Eve, another beginning for us.  By that day, I'll officially be a published author, something I was still dreaming of this time last year.  Frightening Journeys will be a year old as well.  We've all come such a long way since then, ladies.  I'll leave you with two things, the beginning of Gypsy Moon and a contest to honor its October release.  Have a great week, everyone!  May life take you to wondeful new places.

Be blessed,

  1. ----------------

GYPSY MOON by Brianna Roarke published by Red Rose Publishing

Pressing his snout to the wet earth, Howl breathed deep. Mmm, she was close. The musky scent of his mate lingered here, but there was more, a hunter. Hackles rose. Humans mean death. His ears pricked up as a crack broke the country silence. Hot metal burrowed deep into his flesh, pain ripped through him as he ran. An anguished howl turned to human scream as werewolf shifted into man.

Clutching his bleeding arm to his chest, Howl ground his teeth against the white-hot pain. It wasn’t often he recalled events while werewolf, but he remembered the few moments before he’d changed and being shot. How could the change have come outside of the full moon? It wasn’t like there was a guide to go by, he thought bitterly, figuring the injury was enough to shift him back into human form. Sure, let’s just drag out the old magic werewolf book and see if it says anything about silver bullets, or shifting to heal. Yeah, right.

Some will hate me for saying it, but Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, outranked by Christmas (1) and St. Patty's day (2). I think its because of all the pretend. Anyone can be anything they want on that day. I love giving away candy and helping the kids just love fall. It brings to mind cooler air, colorful leaves and football games. Halloween, though alot of people ds with their costumes, though my son is too old to go trick or treating (his rule not mine. I go every year, but I hold off on the candy. lol) and the girls are getting there. Imagine my delight when what I thought would be my second book was actually scheduled for release October 29th, before Earth Enchanted, making GYPSY MOON my first book. Werewolves and witches at Halloween? I couldn't have asked for better timing. What a treat! This month to celebrate the release of my first book I'm having a contest. Details below.

When witch and veterinarian Ana Brannon finds a wounded stranger in the woods surrounding her cabin, she is determined to save his life. Little does she know her gentle way with animals and powerful magic may be just what the werewolf ordered. Howl Raven is a private investigator with a past and a secret. When he shifts outside of the full moon, he finds himself at the mercy of a werewolf hunter. Can Ana’s magic help banish the wolf from his blood or will she be doomed to suffer the destiny of her mate?

Help me give Gypsy Moon a spooky hello.

I'm running a contest for the October 29 release of GYPSY MOON! To enter you must do one of the following.

1. Friend me on Facebook type CONTEST in a message with your request and a contact email.

2. Sign my guestbook.   http://brynnacurrybriannaroarkebook/

3. Email me at briannaroarke@wildmailcom and type CONTEST into the subject line.

(since I don't want anyone to get spammed, limit five emails per entrant)

4. Follow me on Twitter and direct message me with your contact email. (BrynnaCurry)

5. Visit and leave a comment on any post since 9/21/09. 

6. Visit and leave me a comment along with your contact email. That's it! You will be entered to win a signed cover pic and a Halloween treat from me. Since I love Halloween, I will choose the winner that evening before I take the kids trick or treating. You may enter as often as you like and each thing you do will enter you once. The winner will be posted in all of these places and contacted privately. Thanks and good luck.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Born of blood, sweat and tears.

Growing up in a mixed religious home, we celebrated a lot of different holidays. I tended to ignore the assumption most kids had that Hanukkah was the Jewish Christmas until a few years ago when for some reason the same folks seems to feel that Christmas had come under fire. Let's face it, the USA is a multiracial nation with a multitude of faiths, and while the majority may be Chritian at the moment, that won't last forever. It's the way of the world. Jews understand this more than anyone.

So, I pestered the cantor and the Rabbi for stories. And yes, I can be a pain in the nether regions at times. The tale of the first Hannukah was really a frightening one. It was one of war, slavery, and a window on an era when the Hebrew people were fighting not only for the right to worship as they wanted, but for the land they occupy today.

When we are born, it is in a torrent of water, blood, fear and pain. Water from the rush of amniotic fluid, blood from our mother and the severing of the cord, fear of leaving the womb and the new, huge world, and the pain of being slapped coupled with the chill of the cold air hitting our delicate nostrils and lungs for the first time. Yet mothers don't focus on the pain or the exhaustion, just the image of their newborn's face as it is placed in their arms, the scent of their skin, the weight in their arms, the joy beating in their hearts.

In a similiar way, many holy days for the Jewish people were born; two of which are my favorites - Purim (I hope to do a story on one day) and Hanukkah - showcased in Festival of Lights. In Festival of Lights it is the rainy season, a time a Hebrew prays for, to nourish the earth for an abundance of crops and lush fields for stock in the next year. There was blood, as the leader of the Maccabees, who had studied the guerilla-style warfare of a certain horse-riding nomadic clan, gathered his diasporic army from the desert to launch the same sort of pitched battles against the Seleucids (Greeks). People ran through the streets of Jerusalem in fear, not knowing if a neighbor was friend or foe until the Maccabee forces came up with the idea to put hammers (translation of Maccabee) on their tunics, something only fellow Jews would understand. Despite the pain of injuries, the loss of tens of thousands of lives, the Jews chose to remember not the military victory, not the eviction of the Seleucids/pagans from the temple but the Miracle of the Oil. The eight days and seven nights where the light in the temple burned, purifying hearts, minds and the building alike with a flask of oil that should have lasted only a few short hours.

When I wrote the story I had an author's note that got scrapped, I'd like to post here:

Many things mentioned in this story have been lost to the mists of time. However, there are a few things of which we are certain.

The Scythians lived throughout what is now the Middle East and in small enclaves in modern-day Crimea. They were a fierce nomadic warrior people who fought on horseback from 1,000 B.C.E until they disappeared. They were greatly feared and admired but their stories were confused by the Greeks (Herodotus) and intermingled with the fear of the Huns until they finally scared the fledgling Christian tribes into the creation of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
How does this fit in with a story on the first Hanukkah? Very simple, Hanukkah is another holiday whose precise story is lost to the mists of time. The most popular is the account of the Maccabees overthrowing the Seleucid Empire attended by the Miracle of the Oil. To this day, Hanukkah is still considered a “new” Jewish holiday, despite its ancient origins.

Now, how are the two really related? One of the oldest bloodlines of the Jews, those originating from the ancestral lands of Judah, is the Ashkenazi. By their name, they are a blend of the Ashken or Ishkuzi race, namely the Scythians, who joined by religious conversion or marriage with the Hebrew. Again, definitive proof has been lost. Some dispute the notion, stating Ashken relates only to the Diaspora and the Hebrew word for Germany. It is solely the whimsy of this writer that sets a definitive date and time for her romantic notion.

It's the year 167 BCE and the practice of Jewish faith has been outlawed in Jerusalem by the Hellenic overlords the Seleucids. Hoping to protect his aspiring Rabbi son, Jacob, Moshe makes a most unusual purchase at the Syrian slave markets - a female Scythian warrior.

Saka Ishkuzi has known nothing but deprivation, battle and harsh extremes of icy mountains and sand dunes. Her background forged the perfect weapon. But the biggest battle wouldn't be protecting the aspiring Rabbi Jacob's life but her heart from his gentle touch.

Return in time to the first Hanukkah to witness miracles of faith and love.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The opening paragraph, or even sentence, in any book will set the tone for that book, and lay down certain expectations for the reader. No one likes a weak opening. It’s like a limp handshake—sweaty, boneless, and something you can’t wait to get away from at the first opportunity.

Consider these openers:

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea." – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Marley was dead to begin with.” -- A Christmas Carol

“Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” – Gone with the Wind

Consider a book’s opening very much like a pick-up line. If it doesn’t grab you or is charming and exciting, your interest probably won’t be captured and you’ll walk away to be potentially tempted by a new one.

Here’s the opening paragraph for my work-in-progress:

Brilliant light from the Harvest Moon streamed through the window, competing with the weak glow from the candle on her worktable. Rachel Goode snipped off the last thread and placed the scissors into a basket near her elbow.


Standing, she shook out the length of the black velvet, pleased with how the dress had turned out. Round, full skirt that fell to the floor in elegant waves, faint glimmers of silver thread gleamed in the folds. The bodice was a masterpiece of scooped neck trimmed with runic symbols in the same silver thread, designed to catch an admiring gaze.

Kinda cool and spooky and intriguing. Well, I don’t really know if I like it yet…


The thesis paper of your whole novel. But nothing beats them. From the moment I type the opening sequence of a story, I feel such a rush, this wonderful can’t-be-beat feeling that I’m hovering on the verge of quite possibly the most wild ride I’ve ever created. I can’t wait to see where my characters go, why they get into trouble, how they’ll get out of it, when will they kiss, is there going to be a happy ending?


Just one of the aspects of writing that I love. So, as I post this blog, I’m rounding the end of chapter one with this newest novella with high hopes and even higher expectations. See you at the end.

What’s the best opening of one of your favorite books you’ve read or written?

Monday, September 21, 2009

What is real fiction?

“When are you going to write some real fiction?” This is a question I often get from my mom. She’s been asking this since I first announced I was writing a SF novel at the tender age of thirteen.

This question is also, usually, closely followed by the question, “When are you going to start reading some real fiction?” Both my husband and my mom regularly ask that one and, frankly, I’m tired of hearing it but realise these well-meaning people whom I love very much truly do believe they have my best interests at heart.

First off, I’m going to answer the first question by asking another question. “What is real fiction?” If we’re going to play word games, we may as well refer to the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, which states that fiction is: Invention, invented statement or narrative; conventionally accepted falsehood.

So, in my mind, vampires, blood-crazed serial killers and shape-shifters are just as false as reading about emotional, angst-ridden women trying to make it in world that doesn’t care. It’s a matter of opinion as to which I’d prefer to read about and, to be brutally honest, I far prefer reading or writing about the former. I have my fill of a realistic setting every day when I catch the train to work to deal with bolshy ad sales reps or stroppy clients. When I read, or write, I want to be transported somewhere else magical, where the supernatural is the order of the day. I guess that answers the second question, as well.

This being said, it doesn’t mean I won’t ever touch so-called “serious” or “literary” fiction with the soggy end of a barge pole. Since I’m serious about my career as a writer and editor, I will, from time to time, look at reading material outside of my chosen genres. I feel there’s so much that I can learn from great authors such as John Fowles, Salman Rushdie, AS Byatt and the like. It’s just that I’m not going to pick their books up nearly as often as others would like me to. Hell, I’m even considering to further my studies and look at a bachelor of arts focusing on literature. One day.

The big “but” is that mostly, when I look to entertain myself, I am unashamed of my love for fantasy, the paranormal and things that go bump in the night. And I’m not going to apologise, either. I’ll write my tales about black magicians, vampirates, drakaina and gods know what else I can dream up and if you’re looking to be immersed in my world, you’re more than welcome to step over the threshold.

A brief history of the telegraph, newspapers, and war

First, the background. I may have mentioned that my background is in journalism. Let me assure you that I learned the lessons of that trade well.

Let's take the headline for example. Pick up your local newspaper and read any given headline. I'd wager that there is a noun and verb in it — not withstanding my dad's favorite exceptions — and that the first paragraph of the story expands on that headline. That's because the headline is actually taken from the information in the lead (or first) paragraph.

That lead paragraph probably contains the answers to those famous journalistic questions
of who, what when, where, why, and how. Or at least answers to most of those questions. The
rest of the article expands on those "5Ws and H."

Now for the history lesson part of today's post. Any ideas why articles are written that way? Anyone?

Well, war played a big part of it. Read a pre-Civil War newspaper article and you'll find the flowery language of the day. There's a good chance the article will start with a weather report. Much different than today's writing style!

Styles changed during the American Civil War.

First, thanks to the invention of the telegraph, newspapers could send their reporters to the battle field and have those reporters send back stories in a timely manner. The telegraph was much faster and more reliable than a horse and rider.

But, of course, there was a downside. Both the Union and Confederate armies used the telegraph to relay information, as well. This ranged from supply requests to troop movement orders. As you can imagine, the other side didn't want their enemies to have more supplies or to receive reinforcements!

The easiest way to keep the enemy from getting their needed information? Cut the telegraph lines!

Thus, reporters who were used to starting their stories with the daily weather report would often find their articles cut off in mid-transmission. The newspapers back home may not have gotten to the part about which side won the battle when the lines were cut. So a new style of writing was born. The type that adds all the important info up front and the details to follow. (That way, if the lines got cut, the newspaper still had a story they could run!)

What does that have to do with fiction writing?

Easy. The principle is the same. Mostly.

Clearly in my mystery novels, I don't want to start with "Miss Scarlet did it with a candlestick in the conservatory," but I do want to make the story interesting enough that the reader will want to continue. I want to "hook" them in.

A good novel — mystery or not, paranormal or not — hooks the readers from the first paragraph. Recently I read the best opening paragraph I've had the pleasure to read in some time:

“For the third time that morning I shut my eyes tight in the absolute and certain knowledge that I was about to die. Around me, people were screaming. Lots of people, but the prospect of dying in company did nothing to alleviate the terror.”
— "First Drop" by Zoe Sharp

What a great opening paragraph!

And then there are the opening lines that stay with you, long after the name of the author or the novel has left your brain. (Anyone know where I can find the book that starts out: "She was the alpha and omega: the beginning and the end." ? I know I read it in high school...)

So share your favorite opening lines. Let's vote on the best ones!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Topic of the Week

"Beginnings and why they're so vital"

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Have you ever read a book where it seems as though the characters are someone you've met before? Do you feel like you know there life history, or should? Some writers have a talent for making their characters breathe, but how do they do it? Is it the deep point of view we hear so much about? Their emotional and physical encounters with each other? Their past? Their growth through the novel? Or is it simply an innate ability on the author's part, a talent that can't be taught? Maybe its a little bit of all of those things.

Nothing ruins a book more for me than flat characters. If I can't see, hear, and feel them and their emotions, how will they imprint the story in my mind?

I give my hero/heroine pasts and so much conflict it scares even me. Inner thoughts (innerds as one of my editors calls it) are a great way to see inside the character's mind.
On another note, I got the cover for Earth Enchanted in yesterday. It's a smidge racy so I won't post it up, but if you'd like to see it.
Beth (who is going back to refinishing the dining room hardwood and laying down tile. yip. eee.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hatching with Hitchcock

Growing up I was a huge black and white TV freak. Well, to be brutally honest, I owned a black and white television and didn't realize that most of what I watched took best advantage of the screen type I was stuck with. Go ahead, blame being a quasi-impoverished Appalachian American, I do...LOL! It took me until I was sixteen and my driver's license exam to discover I was essentially color blind in one eye, but by then I was smitten by the black and white movie. Mostly, by the films and characters created by one Lord Alfred Hitchcock.

Maybe that was part of the reason I took up the calling to become an engineering student. For the longest time I told folks it was because my father teased me and my brother as children, "there they are - my children - the rocket scientist and the brain surgeon." Since he always referred to me first, I picked the first career. However, I wanted to be a writer, a crafter of stories and a creator of unforgettable characters played by charismatic leads such as Carey Grant. Hitchcock did it, but he began his career in the sciences, so why couldn't I?

A plot was born! I went to college and took aerospace engineering alongside Elizabethan poetry and caused not a few folks to scratch their heads in confusion when I maintained excellent grades. But my favorite professor Mrs McCoy (yes, that really was her name) of Hofstra University proved to me that writing was my first love. She dragged me to her office, made me sit at her word processor, and type stories from my past then an odd poem or bit of fiction. After a few weeks of hit-or-miss crap, words started to flow. I found myself filling notebooks with stories when I should have been taking notes in chemistry and physics.

I did end up getting my engineering degrees - not in aerospace. I lacked the drive to finish that push. But I did finish and I did love it. At first. I found out rather quickly I don't possess the right mentality for engineering, I obsess on safety issues to the point of paranoia. The guilty man in Poe's Telltale Heart? He had nothing on me. I lost sleep, missed meals and developed before and after ulcers. In desperation for something, anything, new I responded to an ad in the local paper for a freelance news reporter, and my life was saved. Infrastructure news.

Some years later when flocculation beds became so interestingly rendered in an article that an octogenarian called to compliment me, an editor rethought where my talents should be used, and I was reassigned. It marked what I have come to think of as the beginning of the end of my time on the news desk. I had a flair for writing death and dealing with the dying, and after a few years it broke something inside.

This something comes out in the Blood and Honey series, including Flesh, and in the characters you meet there...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

If you cut us, do we not bleed?

Characters. The people who drive our books and stories. The people in our heads who demand to have their stories told.

I think it's important to make sure your characters, while having a life of their own, have very realistic tendencies so they'll read believably. You have to give them a bit of humanity, especially if you're writing in the paranormal genre. Case in point, one of my heroes, while a werewolf, is deathly allergic to broccoli. Why? It makes him vulnerable and makes him identifiable.

On the other hand, characters need to be bigger than life. Someone a reader would root for and want to see succeed no matter what.

Bottom line? Don't write your characters so they come off flat. Give them a life of their own and they'll take care of the rest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Horror with Heart: A few minutes with Keith Pyeatt

Today, I’m pleased to introduce author Keith Pyeatt. For the past few months I’ve had the privilege of editing his novel, Dark Knowledge, which is due for release through Lyrical Press, Inc. in October. Keith has been an absolute pleasure to work with and I'm not ashamed to say he taught me a thing or two about our craft.

So, without further ado, I'll begin by sharing Keith's biography, just to give you a little more background, before plunging into a little Q&A.

Keith Pyeatt spent a decade living in an isolated log cabin he built in northeastern Vermont. He began that decade an engineer and came out of it a novelist. One can only imagine what happened out there in those rural woods of Vermont that turned him, because he won't talk about it, but he writes horror.

Keith's first published novel is Struck, a paranormal thriller set in Albuquerque, a nearby pueblo, and the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon. Dark Knowledge will be out on October 19.

In a nutshell, tell us about Dark Knowledge, and what sparked the idea for this novel.

Dark Knowledge is Flowers for Algernon with a Dean Koontz twist. It's about a mentally challenged man who can't resist a gift of knowledge, but it comes with a dark destiny. He's thrust into a deadly contest where he must fight for his life while piecing together his mind and his heritage. The more he learns, the harder it becomes to distinguish good from evil. The greater his intellect, the more difficult his choices – and sacrifices – become.

My spark was a desire to write a different kind of good vs. evil story, where the extremes couldn't be separated, sometimes not even identified. I also wanted to let loose my imagination in wild and wicked ways, and the alternate worlds in Dark Knowledge gave me that opportunity. The resulting novel is tough on my hero, imposing psychological tension on top of the physical threats, but it was tough love. He's stronger for it. The perk was that I didn't have to worry about momentum. Pace took care of itself.

Who are some of the authors you enjoy reading and look up to? What is it about their writing that fires up your imagination?

I read various genres and find inspiration from any writer who holds me in their fictional world by letting me move into the character(s) so I live the story as opposed to always being aware that I'm reading about it.

Like so many horror writers, Stephen King hooked me on paranormal thrillers, and I admire his character building and story-telling skills. Jonathan Kellerman triggered my love of psychological novels with his Alex Delaware series. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler left me inspired over the power of characterization. Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz fired me up for well-written paranormal novels. More recent reads (not necessarily recent novels) that inspired me with story-telling, story, and characterization were Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and Pompeii by Robert Harris. The classic horror of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House inspires me as a horror writer who loves character development.

Have you ever had any weird, inexplicable experiences, or heard about some that may have crept into your novels?

I have had inexplicable experiences. They're too personal to put into my novels, but they opened my sometimes overly logical mind so wide it hasn't closed again. Letting my imagination wander into areas previously closed off has helped me write paranormal fiction (and, I think, be a better person). I'm still a bear about making my characters react logically and arrive at logical conclusions, but what they're reacting to often comes from that wide open area of my mind.

What scares you?

Writing has helped me understand some of my fears, and they often center on losing control, especially of my mind. Some aspect of being possessed and/or replaced and losing the essence of oneself tends to creep into my novels. Water and swamp critters with big teeth and dead eyes scare me--alligators, crocodiles, sharks and moray eels. Things I can't see but I can hear or smell or just feel are near and threatening scare me.

Are you willing to give hints about your next project?

I'm superstitious about my works-in-progress and don't discuss specifics, but I'm excited about what I've got going. I've enjoyed writing a few novels with distinct but somewhat subdued paranormal elements, but now I'm returning to some of the things I enjoyed about Dark Knowledge. My next novel will be even darker than Dark Knowledge, with a strong paranormal element, but if it works out the way I have planned (which isn't always the case with my novels), the threat will come from man, and it'll be the paranormal element that's in jeopardy, the opposite of Dark Knowledge.

What is your advice to aspiring authors?

In addition to the usual advice about reading widely and writing continuously, I recommend writers learn their craft and then learn some more. A clever or thrilling tale is great, but there's a lot of competition. Unless you're connected, famous, or infamous, you need every edge to get a publishing contract. I advise aspiring writers to finish their book or story, find good critique groups, work hard, be open, and learn from giving critiques as well as from getting them. Then write another story or book. Then another. Keep going back to early works and use sharpened skills to improve them.

Local writers' organizations can be a great asset and can even help writers find critique groups, but if there aren't organizations near you, go online. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the critique groups and helpful sites you can find on the internet. Keep improving. There will always be room to get even better than you are now. That's the fun and the curse of writing.

Link it! Find out more about Keith and his novels:
Keith's Website:
Keith's Blog:
Keith's Author's Den Page:
See what others are saying and purchase Struck at Amazon:
Prepare for Dark Knowledge by visiting Lyrical Press:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fictional characters need to be real, too!

I've probably mentioned this before, but I'll do it again. My "training" is as a journalist. That's what I went to college for. It's what I did the first seven years of my "working" life. It's what I knew I was supposed to study.

And now I use that training to write fiction.

That may sound odd to some. Journalists are supposed to be impartial and objective. They are supposed to only report and let the readers make up their own minds. (Notice, I did say supposed to. I won't pretend to think that actually happens all the time. But that's how the trade is supposed to work.) On the other hand, some people may believe my journalistic training has only prepared me to write fiction.

Either way, my training has helped me breath life into my characters. Part of my training was done by the military — yes, I'm a DINFOS trained killer. So for years the government paid me to write about missions and aircraft. I quickly learned those are boring. It's the people who accomplish the missions and the people who fly and maintain that aircraft who are interesting. One of my instructors used to say "people like to read about people."

So my characters have to be real. Sometimes they're based on people I know. Often my characters are a mix of two or three people. My good guys aren't perfect and my bad guys have some redeeming qualities. (Hey, another writer once told me "the bad guys are the heros of their own stories.")

No one wants to look at a two-dimensional picture — one where there is no depth or contrast. The same is true for works of literature. Our characters must have depth and contrast and feelings and passions or else they don't work.

I'm curious, though. Who are your favorite fictional characters and why? Let me know!


P.S. Welcome Nerine and Melissa!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Topic of the Week

"Breathing life into your characters"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Winds of change are blowing in...

Happy Friday, Everyone!

With fall approaching, the winds of change are blowing in. Football season is kicking into gear (I'm a big Auburn University fan), the weather is shifting lending to cooler nights and a Halloween atmosphere is already sneaking into the deep South. But I didn't pop into your regularly scheduled blog to talk weather.

Starting next week, we will be vamping the blog adding author interviews, contests, new release updates from our favorite authors and publishers. We will still have our weekly topic, so don't worry you'll be missing anything. We are also expanding.

PLEASE WELCOME two very talented writers to Frightening Journeys! Nerine Dorman and Melissa Glisan. Melissa will be a regular on Friday, while Nerine will take over my usual Tuesday post. No, I'm not going anywhere, I'll be moving to Saturday, giving our readers a full week of posts. Welcome, ladies, to our blog, I know you're going to love it here!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Distractionary Tactics

Working through distractions? Now that's funny because life itself is a distraction.

A typical day can start off with good intentions, but then the need for clean laundry comes up, or you get tired of looking at the piles of dishes in the kitchen. And don't get me started on the whole Internet thing when I'm supposed to be writing.

What's a writer to do?

Either galvanize the willpower or try to set aside blocks of time to get non-writing related stuff done. Think of it as a game. Tell yourself if you finish a chapter, you can run errands, etc. I know it won't work every time. Also, think of writing as a job and allow yourself a few breaks in the day. That way, you can look forward to your lunch hour or whatever.

I know it's hard. Almost impossible some days. Just remember this. If you never get the book written, you can't sell it and therefore can't grasp that elusive title of author.

At the end of the day, it's your choice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What was I supposed to be doing again?

I don't work well through distractions well at all. One distraction, and my train of thought is screwed. And it's only gotten worse in the last 18 weeks. Everything is baby related. It occupies my every thought, whim, fear, and hope. I'll be sewing and suddenly I start thinking about something else to sew for the baby. Ten seconds later, current project abandoned.

But it's not just baby related. In fact, as I sit here typing right now, I'm really thinking about chocolate.

My life is one big distraction right now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oh, look a dragonfly...

Ahh, the downside of taking your work with you everywhere you go, somethings always willing to help you procrastinate. Like this weekend for example, thanks to the holiday I was lucky enough to have Monday off. Yay! I thought. Another extra full day to work on the house. You may have gleaned by now my obsession with finishing the inside of our new house before Christmas. I'm shooting for Halloween, anyway, the house has become a driving force in my everyday life. It's also a huge distraction, from writing, editing, reviewing and occasionally eating and sleeping. So, Friday I say "I'm working on the house tommorow. So don't make any plans." Of course Saturday dawns and ... there's laundry, the lawnmower needs fixing, grocery shopping, cheer games and volleyball to get ready for etc.

Okay so Sunday...nope had to knock out the edit on EARTH ENCHANTED (formerly known as Blood Shield.) So, Labor Day was spent...laboring. Instead of working on the house, or one of the six wips I have sketched out, I'm going to watch my daughter cheer, in the rain, darn I think I forgot my umbrella, must have been distracted


Monday, September 7, 2009

Attention Deficit — Oh look! Something shiny!

This week's topic is fitting. Or, rather, it fits my life.

A typical Monday has more distractions then it does hours in the day. I'm up around 5 a.m. — getting the cups of coffee that my body requires and goofing off online. This is the time that I use to do, well, nothing.

By 6:30, the teenager is up and in the shower, the dog is barking, the cats are fighting, and hubby is wondering why there's no coffee.

By 7:30, I've showered and dressed, the kid has left for school, the dog is barking, the cats are fighting, and hubby is wondering why there's no hot water for his shower.

By 8, the dog is whining because he's ready to go for his walk. I grab a yogurt and realize there's a coffee cup on the table. That goes into the sink. I go to the bedroom to get my shoes and realize the bed isn't made. Oh, wait! It's Monday. The sheets need to be changed. I strip the bed and carry the dirty ones to the laundry room. I go to the linen closet and get clean sheets. On the way to the bedroom, I see hubby's shoes, so I grab them. The dog is still whining to go on his walk.

I get the clean sheets on the bed and realize I forgot to throw the dirty ones into the washing machine. Dang it! I start a load of laundry and realize the cat litter has to be changed...


Add the fact I work out of my home as a web designer, and you can see where distractions can really mess with my day. My only advice for anyone who suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder (or it's not-as-severe cousin, "Oh look, it's something shiny" Syndrome), is to keep on pressing on. Whether it's housework or web design or writing the next chapter, I just have to keep on pressing on. Eventually it will all get done.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Topic of the Week

"Working through distractions"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What to do?

Yikes? You mean I have to have downtime from writing? What does that mean? :-)

In fact, I kinda sorta blogged about this yesterday at Paranormal Romantics. If I'm not writing, I'll read, bake, cook or travel. My favorite place to be? Disney World (which was where I was at last week and couldn't post because I had no internet and the power cord to my laptop died)

The brain needs time to recharge and remain idle sometimes. It's when the new ideas will come and you can step back from your work and see what's wrong with a problem passages sometimes.

My best advice? Take that much needed week and play. You'll never be sorry!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Even My Hobbies Have Hobbies

I'm one of those people that can't stand to be bored. The brain doesn't shut off. *In fact, as we speak, it's 3am, and I can't sleep because my brain won't let me.* I've always been this way, bed time was a chore. I used to have to tell myself stories just to get sleep.

It's the same when I'm awake too. I have to occupy myself with something, or I get bored, my mind wanders, and I start to fidget. So I have hobbies. I sew, I paint, I write, I make multi-media art pieces. I read more books in a month than some people read in a lifetime. And the video games, oh yes, the video games.

And lets not forget the current new hobby I've acquired... Incubating a human being. A lot more work than I ever assumed, between the decorating, registering, reading, researching, and worrying. It takes up a lot of my time.

Something tells me I'm never going to be bored again.