All posts by julimonroe

Interview with Dafydd Smith, Main Character of the Warlock Case Files

This is an old post from my former Blogger site. Most of them aren’t evergreen, but this one still is. Keep in mind, however, that some of the answers were from several years ago, before certain story events happened. I decided to leave it “as is,” though, so you can see how Dafydd looked at things around the time of Werewolf Puppy.

Enjoy!

J: I have to ask. What’s with the name? It’s kind of odd.

D: It’s a mom thing. There was this series of books she liked, set in Wales, where one of the characters had his name spelled like that. She restrained herself with my six older brothers, but I guess by the time I came along, she couldn’t take it any longer. It’s pronounced like “David,” by the way.

J: Gotta love moms. So, how did you become a warlock?

D: It’s not really that I “became a warlock.” I was born to it. You see, I’m a seventh son of a seventh son, and we have magic. It’s in our blood. *laughs* You know, once I jokingly asked my grandfather and dad if the family bred for magical talent. The look they gave me shut me up fast, but I think it answered the question.

J: How did that feel?

D: Kind of weird, but no big deal. Someone needs to do what we do, and I like practicing magic.

J: What’s it like?

D: To do magic? It’s kind of hard to explain to the non-talented. It’s not something you do. It’s part of who you are. For me, doing a spell or creating a potion is just so…right. When it all comes together, there’s this feeling of accomplishment. It’s partly that I’m doing something most people can’t, but it’s more that I just love the feeling of power going through me that I can direct the way I want.

J: What’s the difference between warlock, witch, wizard and all that? Don’t warlocks kind of have a bad rap?

D: Isn’t it funny that they all start with “w?” But I’ll start with warlocks and their reputation. Warlock literally is a male witch. And yeah, witches had a bad rep down through history. Salem and all that. People said we got our powers from the devil. But I didn’t make any deals. Like I said earlier, I was born to do magic.

Witches are just female magical practitioners, and I’m afraid wizards only exist in fiction. Gandalf is awesome, and I love him as a character, but his kind of magic is just for fantasy novels.

J: So you don’t have a spell book?

D: Not really. I was taught ways to do magic and ingredients to help focus the power, but each ritual or potion is a little different for me. Like today a red candle feels right for a finding spell and next week, I might feel that green is better.

J: Depends on your mood?

D: Or time of day. Phase of moon. Or sometimes something I can’t exactly point a finger to. Like I said, it’s hard to explain if you’ve never done it.

J: How do you like hanging out with a hot vampire?

D: Uh, is there any way to answer that which won’t get me in trouble?

Yeah, Paul is easy on the eyes, but I really respect him for what he knows and what he can do. He’s strong and can do the physical stuff. And he’s smart and has a lot of knowledge about the supernatural. I mean, I knew about ghosts and demons, but he’s showed me lots more. Most of it icky, which isn’t so cool, but it’s okay. We make a good team.

J: But you are gay and think he’s hot, right?

D: Well, yes and yeah.

J: When did you realize you were gay?

D: More like when didn’t I? I pretty much knew when I was little.

J: What was it like coming out to your family?

D: I didn’t. They all knew about the same time I did. You have to know yourself really well to do magic, and my dad, who did most of my teaching, knew from how my energies balanced. And it was no big deal to all of them.

Plus mom loved to dress me up and adored that I loved to shop and stuff. None of my other brothers liked it.

J: Do you have a boyfriend?

D: Not now.

J: But you’re looking?

D: Sure, but it’s not a priority right now. Any anyway, you’re writing me. Don’t you know that better than I do?

J: Sure, I do, but the rest of the readers don’t. If you are interesting to them, I’ll make money and keep writing you. Bore them, and you go back into the drawer to gather (virtual) dust.

D: Well, if you put it that way…

J: Do you make a living as a warlock?

D: Hardly. I sell nutritional supplements to make money. Multi-level marketing also runs in the family. Mom is an awesome Mary Kay Director.

J: Hence the loving to dress you up.

D: Yep!

Thanks, Dafydd, for that insight into what it’s like to practice magic and hang out with the undead. Dafydd’s willing to answer some follow up questions. Leave them in the comments, and we’ll get answers back.

Thanks for reading!

Audiobook Review: My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart

24693755A few months ago, I reviewed Give Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell by Martin Rose, and I mentioned the sequel was coming out soon. I was fortunate to receive a review copy of the audiobook version of My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart, and I’m excited to be writing my first audiobook review.

Because the reader makes the book, I’ll start with him. Christian Rummel was the perfect reader for this book. He had a scratchy, world-weary, sarcastic tone which matched my mental image of Vitus’ voice. Since the book is written in first person, having the right reader was critical, and Rummel nailed it. He was great with all the other characters, but his Vitus just shone. I just checked him on Audible, and it looks like Brandon Sanderson uses him for his self-published works, which is a testament to his ability as a reader. I also see that he reads the various Lost Fleet books, which I have been meaning to catch up on. Lucky me. I have two free Audible credits coming in the next couple of months.

Enough about the reader. What about the book? It’s an odd one. When we last saw Vitus, he had recovered from being a zombie, so I wasn’t certain what to expect in this book. Turns out recovery has a price. He’s in a new body, but he’s in jail for murdering his brother. Some sketchy government types who have some connection to Vitus’ father offer to get him released in exchange for some investigative work.

The book went in several different directions and tossed out lots of twists, red herrings, action sequences and some not inconsiderable body horror. You have been warned.

I have two complaints with the writing. First, we spend way too much time in Vitus’ head. I get that the guy has had a rough life. I do. However, I would have enjoyed the book more if he had done more and whined less. Second, he was stupidly blind to the motivations of one of the characters. To reveal which one would be a spoiler, although I’m pretty confident readers will know which one I meant.

Of course, he was on drugs through most of the book, so maybe I should cut him a big of slack.

The afore-mentioned drug, atroxipine, which was how Vitus controlled his zombie instincts in the previous book, plays a surprising role in this one. Honestly, I can say I didn’t see where Rose was going with the drug until I got there.

The plot behind the plot was entertaining and intriguing and, without spoiling anything, took me back to one of my favorite movies from the 80s. (Email me, and I’ll let you know which one, if you’re curious. Revealing it here really would spoil the entire book.)

Rose has created an interesting cast of characters, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them in future books, at least, the ones who survived this one. Vitus is a worthy character, although I’d still like to see him do more and whine less. I think if I had read the book, I’d give it 3 1/2 stars like I gave the previous one. However, considering how good Rummell was as a reader, I’m adding another 1/2 star to my rating. It’s worth a listen just to hear his narration.

4stars

Working Through a Block

writer's blockFor more than a year, I’ve been meaning to write the story of Dafydd taking Paul home to meet the family. Late last year, I started on it with the overly optimistic idea of making it a Christmas story. Maybe if I’d started it in September or October…

Anyway, when I realized it was too close to Christmas, I quickly revised it as a Spring Equinox story and continued on. Right into a block.

The story was going along great. I had fun describing Dafydd’s rather large family and their reaction to a vampire boyfriend in their midst. I had an idea for a short case for them to solve and then realized I’d gone down a dead end.

This doesn’t happen to me often. Usually, if I hit a tough point, I step away from the story for a day and come back to inspiration. Not this time. More than a week later, I was still stuck, so I wrote a chapter of the next novel to try to break the block. Still nothing.

As I wrote earlier, I’ve been using the method Dean Wesley Smith detailed in his book Writing Into the Dark, so what were his words of wisdom? Go back about a thousand words and take a new run at the trouble spot. Nope, that didn’t work.

I finally decided to re-read the entire story. I did a bit of light editing along the way, and as I neared the end, I found where I had taken a wrong turn. However, I was still lacking in inspiration.

Without revealing too many spoilers, the case involves an angry ghost, and my original idea of his motivation was just horrible. (No, I will not share it.)

I finally broke the block with a bit of logical thinking.

  1. What makes ghosts angry? Usually someone wronged them or someone murdered them. My ghost had been murdered, but that didn’t work as the motivation here.
  2. I thought bigger. What if it wasn’t something that happened to the ghost, but some historical event that had angered the ghost? That would work with the events of the case.
  3. I researched major events in San Francisco in the 70s and finally found something that worked. Added bonus? It ties nicely in with Dafydd’s personality and motivation

A bit of logic and research wins the day! Logical thinking can get in the way of creative thinking, so I’m intending to use this approach with caution. However, this time it got me out of a nasty block.

Most readers will totally think I set it all up, but you know otherwise. I hope you enjoy it when I publish the story. If all goes well, look for it in a month or so.

Want to be a beta reader? I’d love to have you. Just email me and let me know. My email is on the About Me page.

Image credit: Flickr user SEO under a Creative Commons license

Be Wary of Writing Contest Rights Grabs

ID-100335501Have you ever considered entering a writing contest? I looked at several this year, especially ones with no entry fee. However, I never entered them because I paid careful attention to the terms and conditions, and I didn’t like what I saw.

I didn’t copy the terms of one, but I remember the gist. Basically, if you entered, even if you didn’t win, you were agreeing that the contest organizers could, in perpetuity, submit your book to a library, with NO royalty paid to you. Granted, libraries aren’t buying my books at the moment, but I didn’t want to give up that right forever.

Another, I did copy. Read this:

Each Entrant hereby grants Sponsor the irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, fully transferable right and license to reprint, copy, transmit, display, reproduce, perform, use, create derivative works from, and exhibit any entry and/or materials and information submitted by such Entrant in connection with the Contest for any and all purposes in any medium.

With respect to any offer any Entrant or Winner receives from any third party to reprint, copy, transmit, display, reproduce, perform, use, creative derivative works from, and/or exhibit his or her entry, materials or information, Sponsor shall have a right of first refusal to engage Entrant or Winner at the same cost and on the same terms as the third-party offer. Entrant or Winner shall notify Sponsor and provide Sponsor a 10-day period for Sponsor to determine whether to accept the offer at the same cost or the same terms.

I ran this one past Kris Rusch to be certain I was reading it correctly, and she agreed I was. Basically, if you enter this contest,  you are not only granting them the rights to use the story, forever, without paying any royalty, you are also granting them first right of refusal anytime you want to publish, republish or create derivative works. Imagine having to check in with the contest organizers before submitting to an anthology or self-publishing the story. I think it could be argued that you’d have to check before writing a sequel–note the clause “create derivative works from.” Oh, and did you notice that it applies to all entries, whether you win or not?

Here’s what Kris had to say about such contests.,”It’s pretty simple: Smart writers don’t enter those contests. Period.”

I knew that publishers were attempting to grab as many rights as possible for as long as possible, but I hadn’t realized contests were doing the same thing.

As always, before you submit your work to anyone or anything, read all the fine print. If you aren’t sure what it means, hire a lawyer to review and explain it. Your writing is your hard work. Don’t sell or give away rights that you don’t have to.

Image courtesy of kittijaroon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking a Break From the Novel To Write a Short Story

monster-152733_640I was making good progress on the next Paul and Dafydd story when I alluded to Dafydd having taken Paul home for the holidays. Realizing it was the holiday season, I decided to write that story. I’m over 5K words in, and I think I’ll have it wrapped up in another 2K or so.

I have another Paul and Dafydd short story that had been published several years ago in an anthology, and I’ve been meaning to release it as a stand-alone short for a while now. If all goes according to plan, I’ll release both of them in another couple of weeks, a bit late for prime Christmas season, but still out there before the magic day.

I’m going to experiment with these by putting them in Kindle Unlimited for 90 days. While I am against a narrow release in general, I don’t have as much of a problem with a short-term, narrow release for a short story. I’ll see if being in Kindle Unlimited for a few months leads to a bump in the other novels. My hope is that fantasy readers are willing to buy. I also plan to have my cover rebranding done at the same time, assuming I can find the time to work on the old covers. So far,  I’m busier this month with other business than I had thought I would be. Not a bad thing, exactly, but it is impacting the writing plan.

Still in this for the long haul, so not worried. If my plans go belly-up, I can always hold the Christmas story until next year and just go with the anthology one. Looking forward to seeing how the KU experiment goes.

Oh, I decided to make my author Facebook page active again. Feel free to stop by and “Like” me.

Review: Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell by Martin Rose

Cover of Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring HellGoodness, Vitus has issues! That was the refrain running through my mind as I read Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell by Martin Rose.

Vitus Adamson is a zombie, but not your usual zombie. He was created as part of a government experiment gone bad, and unlike your usual zombie book, this one isn’t about an apocolypse (or not exactly about one). He’s a unique creature for most of the book. He’s not brainless. Far from it; he’s a private investigator, which makes the book an intriguing mash-up of horror and noir.

The plot starts when two clients show up, looking for their son, but the picture they hand Vitus is of the son he thought he lost when he became a zombie. As the book progresses, we learn more about Vitus, his family and how he became a zombie.

The horror in the book is more of the body horror type than the scare-you-into-keeping-the-lights-on type. I can’t say I was ever spooked by the events of the book, but I will say that reading it while eating is not the best idea.

Vitus was an intriguing character. Bring Me Flesh isn’t my usual reading fare, but I met Rose at a writer’s convention, and I bought the book to support a fellow writer. That said, I was never bored and did not think about quitting. It held my attention all the way through, even though the writing was awkward at points. I did occasionally need to go back and re-read passages to make sure I understood what was being said.

There were some good twists and turns. Without spoiling anything, I will say I had one classic “never saw that coming!” moment. 🙂 The blend of horror and noir was handled well and makes this more than just “another zombie book.”

The sequel, My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart, was released earlier this month, and I intend to purchase it as soon as I get my TBR list a bit more under control. Considering how Bring Me Flesh ended, I’m curious to see where Rose is going to take Vitus’ story. I kind of  hope he gives the guy a break, but somehow I doubt it.

STAR-3.5

Writing Into the Dark: Works Surprisingly Well

Writing Into the Dark coverEarlier this year I read Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith, and I was thrilled to see that something I had been doing is actually a good idea.

In the book, Smith talks about “cycling,” where you go back every 500-700 words and revise/review what you wrote. It’s a good time to add depth, fix consistency problems, uncover typos, etc. I’d been doing something like it but not consistently. At some point I had read “never go backwards.” The idea was to always move forward in a book. Editing as you go was a waste of time and a good way to get blocked. Smith says it’s the opposite. Cycling allows you to keep writing in “creative voice” while still finding and fixing errors along the way.

His goal is to write one draft and never go back to read through the entire story. Finish draft. Send to first reader and editor. Fix errors they find. Publish. Move on to next story.

That philosophy ran counter to everything I thought I had learned about writing, but as I read the book I realized it was the approach I wanted to use. I just needed someone to tell me it was okay.

The other focus of the book is on writing without an outline, which I have always done. And always kind of felt like I was doing it wrong. For the current book, I decided to completely embrace his method, and three chapters in, I already see the benefits.

He spends a lot of time in the book talking about the dangers of writing from critical voice instead of creative voice. He says beginning authors believe writers can’t add foreshadowing and come up with all those great plot twists without outlining. Smith says outlining leads to writer’s block because it’s boring to, in effect, write the story twice. He says you have to trust your creative voice and that it knows what it’s doing if you just get out of its way.

So what’s happened for me so far? Well, when I started this book, I knew four things needed to happen (one is too big a spoiler and I’m not going to reveal it here, so I’ll only talk about three of them.) 1. Dafydd was going to get an apprentice. 2. Paul was going to hunt a serial killer. 3. Buildings were going to start falling down around DC–magic is involved. I wanted there to be some connection between 2 and 3 but I had no idea what it would be.

Halfway through Chapter 2, the connection revealed itself, quite naturally, and a big zinger happened at the end of the chapter, which works (I think), but I had no idea was coming. Part way through Chapter 3, #3 started happening, and I think it’s a pretty cool way to introduce that particular plot element.

While I have the high level understanding of the relationship between points 2 and 3, I’m still fuzzy on the details, but I’m confident now that my creative voice has it all under control, as long as I’m willing to listen to it and keep critical voice firmly muzzled.

If you haven’t read Smith’s book, I highly recommend it. I think it’s going to take me to my next level as a writer, and I’m excited about that!

iPad Mini 4 As Writing Device

 I recently upgraded to an iPad Mini 4, and one of the ways I planned to use it was for writing. I’ve been writing on an iPad for several years now, and I can be highly productive at a Starbucks or Panera with my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard. My biggest concern about moving from a full-sized iPad to a Mini was the screen size.

I needn’t have worried. If anything, the Mini might be even better to work on than my old 4th generation iPad. For a start, I’ve always had trouble getting my iPad at the right angle. My usual case is the Apple Smart Cover, and it’s either too low or not angled enough. The Mini smart cover has the same problem, but I have an old tablet stand from Amazon, and the Mini fits in it perfectly. Finally! My iPad at the correct angle.

The biggest upgrade for me has been Split View, and it’s the main reason I splurged on the Mini 4 instead of buying the cheaper Mini 3, which Best Buy still has in stock. The 3 doesn’t support Split View, and I had a feeling it would be useful, providing it was usable on the smallish Mini screen.

Good news. It is, at least for me. How do I use Split View? Now that I’m working on the fourth book in The Warlock Case Files, I can’t keep everything in my head. Sometimes I need to refer back to a previous book for details. I have the three earlier books loaded in iBooks, and I use Simplenote for writing. Both apps support Split View, and it’s been convenient to have Simplenote open on one side of the screen and iBooks open on the other, for quick look-ups. The Safari browser also supports Split View, and I’ve had it open for research as well.

By being so small and light, it’s easy to carry my Mini and keyboard when I’m on my way to a meeting. I make sure to arrive at least a half hour early, which gives me time to bang out a few hundred words while I wait.
Productivity on the go!

So What’s Next?

My latest book has been on sale for a couple of weeks now, and while I’m hardly setting any sales records, I’m not disappointed either. This year has been, for me, a miserable sales year, but I’m looking at it as a learning experience, not as a disappointment.

I got some feedback last year that the covers of my books made them look like Young Adult, which they are not. While I’m not writing erotica, there is a scene at the end of Reincarnated Lover that would probably upset a few parents if they saw their teens and tweens reading it.

I also made a discovery when Scribd severely cut back the romance titles in their catalog. My books had been categorized as romances. The relationship between Paul and Dafydd is an important part of the Warlock Case Files series, but they are not romances. My sales drop suddenly made sense. I had been selling fairly steadily prior to the introduction of Kindle Unlimited. As soon as Amazon introduced the subscription service, my sales plummeted. It took me almost a year to figure out why.

Romance readers are voracious, and many of them flocked to Kindle Unlimited. As far as I can tell, from reading other blogs, sales of romance books were severely cannibalized by Kindle Unlimited. I’ve chosen to go wide, so my books aren’t available in KU. I knew romance readers were borrowing more than buying, but my books weren’t romances, so why did my sales drop?

It wasn’t until my books disappeared from Scribd that I figured it out. Back when I published Haunted Vampire, I selected “Gay” as a category, thinking, why not? Dafydd is gay. Oops. Gay is a romance sub-category (which was not and still isn’t obvious from the category structure).

So I finally figured out why my sales had dropped. I’ve deleted the Gay category, but it will take a while for the classification to go away. When you look at the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendations, the “Also Boughts” are still almost exclusively gay romance.

So what to do about the situation? Changing my categories was step one. Step two is going to be a complete rebranding. I took the WMG Publishing Cover Design class earlier this year, and I’m going to create new covers for the Warlock Case Files books. I’ll brand them so they have a similar look and feel to Buried But Not Gone, which, I hope, doesn’t look at all like a romance cover!

I’m hoping new covers will help, along with changing the category. I’m also hard at work on the next Paul and Dafydd book. Having a new release in that series should also help.

So 2015 has been the year of learning, which I’m okay with. I’m here for the long haul, so I still have plenty of time to figure out all the moving pieces of indie publishing!

Buried But Not Gone On Sale Now

Buried But Not Gone coverI’m excited to announce the release of Buried But Not Gone, my latest book!

Here’s the blurb

Denise Evans thought she could move on with her life after the horrific suicide of her husband. Until someone started killing her students. A local warlock, Jim Novik, suspects someone or some thing may be using her husband from beyond the grave. Some things are

Buried But Not Gone

A new urban fantasy in the same magical universe as
The Warlock Case Files

Available on AmazonSmashwordsBarnes & Noble and Kobo