Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Origins of a Dark and Suspenseful Urban Fantasy by The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen author R.T. Lowe

I drive to work. It takes me about an hour each way. Most people consider it a massive time suck, and for the most part I wouldn’t disagree, but all those hours alone with only the thoughts in my head triggered an idea. I started telling myself a story. The story took place on a college campus and the main character was a freshman. His name was Felix. In some ways this freshman (and the story) was quite ordinary. Felix made friends, went to class, studied, and partied like any eighteen-year-old away from home for the first time. Then I took that basic story and layered it with elements that interest me. After all, I was making it all up in my mind while stuck on the Merritt Parkway to entertain myself. So this is what I did:

·       I made Felix suffer. I’m a firm believer in putting your protagonist through the wringer. He steps foot on the campus of Portland College already with a heavy heart (his parents recently died in a mysterious fire) . . . and then it only gets worse for him.

·       I created a world in the midst of an approaching darkness, where strange creatures roam the nearby forest and a serial killer (the “Faceman”) murders teenagers who fail a “simple” test. The encounters with the unfortunate victims are chilling, violent and bloody. I made the decision ‘to spare no gore’ after a great deal of thought, fully aware that I was potentially subjecting myself to criticism. I understood that it would shock some (and most likely remove the book from the reading lists for those under sixteen), but I didn’t want to hint at the violence or rely on my readers’ imaginations. There are characters in my book who are truly bad people (or flesh eating monsters, in some cases) and I took the position that their actions should be described in such a way that the reader will understand that there is no limit to their cruelty. To put it another way, I want my readers to literally wince at the prospect of ‘what will happen to that poor girl when she can’t move the piece of wood with her mind’. Spoiler alert: nothing good. And although the campus of Portland College appears immune to the spreading darkness, beneath (and within) its stately lecture halls and ivy-shrouded fa├žades, a hidden world awaits those who can unlock its secrets.

·       I told the story from multiple perspectives, shifting scenes (and chronology) to keep the reader off balance. There is undoubtedly some complexity to the tale, but I believe Young Adult/New Adult readers are looking for stories that make you think. I drive the story forward through the eyes and thoughts of a dozen different characters. Some chapters seem unrelated to the “main” story (especially the prologue which takes place in the 4th century), but the pieces all connect as the plot unfolds and Felix learns that he may be ‘different’ than everyone else.  

·       I created characters who keep you guessing. In the real world, the “good guys” can be as flawed as the “bad guys,” and sometimes the line between good and bad is a matter of perspective. I also made sure that the “magic system” in my story allows for amazing, jaw-dropping displays of supernatural power. The way I see it, if you’re going to write in the realm of the paranormal you may as well go all the way: Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to start a fight with some of the characters in my book.  

·       In The Felix Chronicles, everything is at stake. I’ve always liked stories where the stakes are high, and they couldn’t be any higher than the fate of the world hinging on the outcome of a war that has raged for nearly 2,000 years.

·       I included humor (Felix’s roommate, Lucas, appeared on a reality TV show and he lightens the mood at all the right times) and romance (Felix has a love interest (or two) and Lucas has several as he’s not afraid to use his celebrity to his advantage) to compliment and counterbalance the action and horror.

There’s much more to TFC: Freshmen, but those are some of the highlights. Once I had it locked down tight in my head I sat down and started to write. 500 pages later (and a year or two of very little sleep) I published the book. It may not be for everyone, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you write for an audience of one. And who said nothing good can come from a long commute?

Author bio: R.T. Lowe lives in Newtown, CT.

Back cover summary:

Reeling from a terrible accident that claimed the lives of his parents, Felix arrives at Portland College hoping only to survive the experience. In time, however, his reality star roommate shows him there is more to higher education than just classes, shared bathrooms and bad dorm food, and Felix gradually dares to believe he can put his past behind him.
 But a fateful storm looms on the horizon: In the nearby woods, two hikers become the latest victims in a series of gruesome murders; a disfigured giant embarks on a vicious cross-country rampage, killing teenagers who fail his ‘test’; and an ancient society of assassins tasked with eradicating the wielders of a mysterious source of power awakens after a long silence. Only one man—the school’s groundskeeper—knows that the seemingly unrelated events are connected, and that an eighteen-year-old boy stands in the center of the storm.

Twitter: @TheRTLowe

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Free Book Giveaway! 2 Print Books, A Touch of Darkness and Quixotic: Not Every Day Love Stories, from Author BC Brown

That's right! I'm giving away 1 print copy of A Touch of Darkness (my urban fantasy novel) and 1 print copy of Quixotic: Not Every Day Love Stories (short story anthology) August 13, 2015-August 19, 2015. 

Enter to win yours today!!

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Monday, August 3, 2015

My Pain Is Not For Sale: I Will Never Publish Sexual Assault by J.M. Bates

It is 1989 and I am four years old. I somehow survive a sexual assault. Terrible things happen to children all the time, and they are stronger than they look. Twenty-five years is a long time to heal from anything.

In 1991, I am sitting in a sand box in my parents’ back yard by myself when I decide that I want to be a writer. Though it comes to me randomly, it is a solid thought, as real as truth. A cardboard box full of storybooks in my closet is my best friend at the time. At the age of six I agree on this life plan of telling stories. In the following days I put pieces of colored construction paper together, staple them into booklets, draw cats on the pages with a Bic pen, attempt to tell stories to others when I am illiterate. I wind up writing books with titles such as “FUCK”, “FAST RICE”,  and “MOES” because I mimicked words I found lying around the house.

In 2000, I find myself behind a microphone for the first time in a friend of a friend’s basement, screaming punk songs and feeling my own repressed narrative bursting from my chest as pain fuels fury. The other girls in the band are smashing their own instruments as hard as they can and afterward we are all standing together in the electric hum with tears in our eyes and none of us knows what the hell just happened or exactly what we experienced together.

It is 2004 and I am eighteen years old, on my own for the first time. I do not have a mailing address or a key to the apartment I am currently staying. I am living in a real city with crime and corruption, after only living in a small town with crime and corruption.

I work up the nerve to enter a feminist bookstore. After some initial nervousness, I quickly feel comfort inside the room and for the first time in my life I feel complete safety and validation. The physical walls act as a barrier, solace from the external and even internal turmoil, the untreated anxiety and other generalized hell that comes with post-traumatic stress disorder. I walk around for minutes or maybe hours. After picking it up and putting it back down again multiple times, I buy The Courage To Heal because I heard about it from a Le Tigre song. Back at the apartment, I hide under the covers in the bottom bunk bed of the room I am sharing. The book is large and its pages spread detail the journey ahead of me.

I continue to unfuck my life. In 2006, I am in a movie theater full of men in the audience. There is a villain on the screen holding a woman against her will as he tells her exactly how he is going to rape her. The actual act is not shown but I still feel frozen, nauseated, like it is 1989 again. I look around the theater and see only the bored faces of the men in the audience watching the film, seemingly unaffected by the violence in front of them.

 Later on in the movie, the woman stabs the villain who assaulted her. I literally cannot stop myself from cheering out loud, maybe more like a roar than a cheer. Multiple men angrily tell me to “Shhh!” and “Shut up!” for interrupting the film. I see a few dudes’ girlfriends glance over at me. I can’t tell if they are sympathetic or annoyed.

It is 2015 and I am publishing my first novel. In these years of healing, I have also been observing and absorbing the world around me. I’ve read multiple books and seen countless movies and TV shows with sexual assault used as a plot device to instill hatred against a villain of the story or inspire sympathy for a character who has survived. I can’t help but look back at my own life and think how cheap this is, how easy, how callous, how overly simplified, and lastly, how completely overdone it is to take such a complex trauma and use it in such a way.

In this book and all of my future books, there will be no sexual assault. I am unwilling to use my own pain and the pain of others just to take a lazy writing shortcut. Though I may include survivors of assault in my books, they will be complex human beings who represent much more than what they have endured. The violence I include will only be the minimum of what I feel is required. Any sexuality I write about will always be consensual.

It is not escapism if it is exactly what the world needs right now.

J.M. Bates is a fantasy and science fiction writer from Chicago, Illinois. J.M. is pronounced "jam".
Here's the first chapter of Brilliant Shadows for free:

Monday, July 6, 2015

9 Frequently Misused words

Words. People likey words real good. I mean, we must, right? We use them all of the time. In fact humanity seems to have a fundamental need to communicate whether it be out of necessity, entertainment, or boredom. The problem with so much use is often we misuse those words. Here are the most commonly used words I hear that are used improperly.

     1. Peruse.
      You think it means: browsing or skimming something.
      What it means: Observe something in depth.
       Even I've misused this in the past. A brush with a dictionary however brought me up to   speed.

      2. Compelled.
      You think it means: doing something voluntarily, or by choice.
      What it means:  being forced or obligated to do something.
      The main difference between what this one means and what you think it means is motivation. 

      3. Travesty.
      You think it means: tragedy or misfortune.
      What it means: mockery or parody.
       Things can be a complete travesty without being bad. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a travesty of news. Not because it's bad. Actually it's an excellent show. It remains a travesty however because it mocks the news.

      4. Terrific.
      You think it means: something good or great.
      What it means: horrific, or terrible.
      There are things that can be both good and bad (for example animal culling is both good and bad in that animal herds are thinned to helped the species but, yeah, still with the not good killing part).

      5. i.e.
      You think it means: for example.
       What it means: In other words.
       I think it has a lot to do with this word being shortened. There are a lot of them (etc=et cetera, ex or e.g.=example to name a couple). When i.e. is used, it's really just a fancy way of saying "I've said this once, but I'm going to say it again only using different words. Here's a pretty good example: I read comic books; I love sci-fi/fantasy, i.e. I am a nerd.

       6. Decimate
       You think it means: destruction or annihilation.
       What it means: To destroy ten percent.
       Right now the standing definition of 'decimate' is to destroy ten percent of something (the root word indicator being 'dec' meaning 'ten'). That said, this seems to be one of those evolved-meaning words that will become exactly what we mistakenly think it means.

        7. Irregardless
        You think it means: without regard.
        What it means: nothing at all.
        Now I'm all for making up my own vocabulary, but 'Irregardless' isn't a real word. People mean to say 'regardless' when they use it. Regardless means 'without regard'. The fact this word is made up hasn't stopped it from entering the dictionary however, making word aficionados like myself shake their heads in sorrow. So avoid the ire of people like me, and save having to type anything longer, and just use 'regardless' - you know, the correct word.

         8. Fortuitous
         You think it means: lucky.
         What it means: by chance.
          People confuse luck and chance all the time. People use them interchangeably so frequently that it has blurred the line in actually describing the two appropriately. Think of it this way: 'lucky' is an event that happens by chance one could describe as fortunate. For example, winning a contest is lucky. But 'fortuitous' means something simply happening by chance. A good example might be you dropping your ink pen and you bending down to pick it up right as someone who was looking for you steps in.

         9. Literally
         You think it means: figuratively.
         What it means: actually.
         All right, this is a relatively new phenomenon. Admittedly the children of the nineties may have helped advance this too. And, I am a child of the nineties (more or less), I know I've been guilty of it. But the madness has to stop. When something is literally true, it is actually true. The word's sudden use in hyperbole to denote emotion is just plain wrong. Saying "I literally died seeing Mandi wear the same prom dress I was" is wrong. That person didn't actually die. It's meant to show how embarrassed they were at wearing the same gown to a special occasion. So unless the shock of the embarrassing cause cardiac arrest, it's doubtful the person ever died from the embarrassment.

So basically...

The cool thing about the English language is that it is ever evolving. I'm a big advocate of making up new words or phrases and trying them on for size. With the advent of technology, definitions of so many words have changed drastically. Even linguist and master wordsmiths don't know it all, but if we stop and think about the words we're using (especially the ones cited above) before we use them, we may just come to a place where we don't accept common usage as correct usage.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dog Park Mysteries Author, C.A. Newsome, on Eating Healthy on a Budget

Im obsessed with food, as a way to combat fatigue resulting from a head injury many years ago. It shows up in my Dog Park Mysteries. My main character, starving artist Lia Anderson, shares my obsession. For her its a matter of eating healthy on a budget so she has enough energy for her
projects and doesnt waste time being sick. Shes tried many things, though shes not militant about a strict diet. She and her beau, Detective Peter Dourson, have a dont ask, dont tell policy about his Pepsi addiction.

To date, Lias main rule is to eat some raw food every day. A raw food diet is very healthy, but it can be labor intensive, especially if you get into dehydrating. A 100% raw food diet is not workable for most busy people on a budget. A 50% raw food diet is doable.

Many very inexpensive foods are nutritional powerhouses. Lentils and other beans, oatmeal, canned tuna, cabbage, apples, Kale, avocado, eggs, bananas, and garlic, are a few. Turmeric and ginger are inexpensive if you buy them in bulk, and they are valuable superfoods. I do my best to get ½ tsp ginger and 1 tsp turmeric in my diet every day. I also take stinging nettle tea and raw cacao powder.

Dark greens are essential. Right now everyones darling is baby kale. This is lovely, tender stuff, but you can pack in more nutrition per dollar if you buy bags of chopped, full-grown kale. Just run your blender a little longer, and your green smoothie will be just fine. And a $60 Oster will do the job as well as a $400 Vita-mix.

The trouble with healthy, inexpensive food is, you have to fix it. So youre running late, you dash out the door and your car gets sucked in by the nearest drive-through. Again. Meanwhile, all that lovely kale is rotting in the vegetable crisper.

The more processed and convenient food is, the more expensive it is. That quick dash into a convenience store for a cup of coffee every day winds up costing you more than a months worth of coffee made at home AND a pound of spirulina powder, or two pounds of cacao.

I keep a case of bottled water in the trunk of my car and I always have a supply of mixed nuts on hand. I make my own mix of pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, roasted almonds, and dried, tart cherries. That way, I always have something healthy on hand.

There are plenty of designer diets, and they all work for some people. The interesting thing is the most popular have this in common: They prohibit sugar (Especially soft drinks. Instead of satisfying, sugar just makes you want more of whatever. Which is why its in so many processed foods.). They all prohibit refined grains. Some prohibit wheat and corn, and some limit all grains (Surprised? Why do you think they feed grain to cattle? Because it makes them fat. Grains are also implicated in brain fog.). Milk products are also a no-no, though yogurt is an exception.

I gave up wheat, milk and corn this year, and I traded coffee for chicory and green tea, almond milk lattes. I suspect Lia is going to follow suit. And shell never feel better.

To help you eat healthy on a budget, C.A. Newsome is offering her character Lia Anderson's green smoothies cookbook FREE from 6/28-7/2:

The Starving Artist Cookbook is written by Lia Anderson, star of C. A. Newsome's Dog Park Mysteries. Inside you'll learn her strategies for staying healthy on a budget. Explore her favorite recipes for one, including Pond Scum Smoothies, Easy-Peasy Ceviche, and Raw Chocolate Fudge. Learn how to peel an avocado and open a young coconut. A must for the health-conscious kitchen! This vegan, omnivore, and Aztec Diet friendly book also contains an extensive section on green smoothies.

C. A. Newsome is an author and painter living in Cincinnati with a pair of former street
urchins named Shadda and Chewbacca Wonderpup. They can be found every morning at the Mount Airy Dog Park.

My blog/website:

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