Goals, Step One – What Do You Want?

Goals. What are they? How do they help us? Why do we need them? Why are they so hard?

If you’re reading this then, like me, you’re probably running up against a circumstance where you have to sit down and write a set of goals from scratch. Or perhaps you’re refining your goals, in preparation for submitting a business plan or grant. Perhaps you’ve read through some of the literature and seen the acronym “SMART,” and thought about what it truly means to make a goal:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic/Relevant
Timely & Trackable.

And perhaps, also like me, you’re staring at a blank screen trying to figure out the best words to capture those goals.

Let’s start from the beginning. Grab a scrap of paper, or a large whiteboard, or have someone take some notes on a computer. You can do this by yourself, or in a large group of people. Focus on the question: WHAT DO I/WE WANT?

Here’s the time for opening your brain and shutting off your inner critic. Limit yourself to one- or two-word phrases that answer that question. For example, when setting goals for my business I wrote:

Entertain
Coach/Mentor
FOCUS: Veterans
Challenge
Money

There were a couple of other keywords in the list, but you get the idea. This is the kernel of what I want. These are the seeds of my goals.

Chances are, the larger the group, the more discussion and wading and culling you will do during this goal-setting process. The thing to remember is, these are the words that are coming from you heart. This is what you want when you’re not overthinking it. These words will likely end up incorporated in the rest of your eventual business plan or organizational map, as well as your SEO optimization, future planning sessions, etc. Think of them as the focus and compass of your strategy (goals) that will inform your tactics (targeted measures to achieve those goals).

After you’ve got your goal keywords written out, then comes the next step–transforming WHAT you want into HOW to get it. It’s not a process that happens overnight. In fact, I recommend that any organization re-visit its goals and plan (the WHAT and HOW) on an annual basis to stay on track. Goals change as organizations grow and thrive, and what you might want when you’re starting out may change once you hit that measurable and trackable benchmark. Perhaps one goal is no longer relevant, or you find out you weren’t specific enough to use it to generate tactics.

Take a moment to think about what you want. Write down your keywords. Make them loud and proud, in the largest letters you can. And if you need someone to bounce some ideas off for the next step, hit me up at infamous_scribbler ~at~ yahoo.com.

Good luck!

A Conversation with Dan Jolley…

Welcome back!

Today, the guest here at Infamous Scribbler is artist, author, and game creator Dan Jolley. His latest novel, Gray Widow’s Walk, is the story of an angry young woman, Janey Sinclair, and the powers she must learn to control, before they end up consuming her. Today, Dan discusses being a multimedia creator, good and bad writing advice, and of course, gives us a peak into the world of his new creation.

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Q (Infamous Scribbler): I noticed in your bio that you are from Georgia. How has your natal geography influenced your writing?

A (Dan Jolley): I don’t know that it’s been a huge influence on my actual prose or scripts, but I definitely do like to set stories in Georgia when I can. When I first came up with the idea that would eventually become Gray Widow’s Walk, many years ago, stories set in Atlanta were relatively rare. Now, what with The Walking Dead and various other media projects setting up shop there, it’s a lot more commonplace. One thing I did have a little fun with, though, was in my comic book series Bloodhound, when I set the fictional Red Clay Federal Penitentiary in my hometown of Ringgold, Georgia. I had a few hometown folks approach me and say, “Of all the things you could’ve put here, it had to be a prison?”

Q: In your new book, Gray Widow’s Walk, your protagonist is an angry young woman. What were some of the decisions you made and challenges you faced when writing Janey?

A: Yeah, Janey Sinclair’s life has been a series of cruel, unfair tragedies. Her mother died of cancer when Janey was nine, her father was shot right in front of her (Janey herself was shot in the same encounter and almost died) when she was sixteen, and she lost her husband in a horrible way when she was twenty-five. She’s got some seriously pent-up emotions. Most people deal with that kind of trauma in one of three ways: they handle it in a healthy fashion, usually by going to therapy; or they disappear into drugs and alcohol; or they let it consume them completely and self-destruct. Janey has the opportunity to exercise a fourth option, because—in a way she still doesn’t understand—she’s developed the ability to teleport from one patch of darkness to another. So she’s got an outlet that no one else has, and decides to try to prevent other people from going through the kind of trauma that she has.

There are definitely some superhero tropes in the book, though it also has elements of science-fiction and horror, and one of the decisions I made early on was not to make Janey too powerful. Teleportation is already an incredibly potent ability, so I wanted be certain that she had reasonable vulnerabilities, and not ones like “the color yellow,” or “alien space rocks.” That’s why she stole a suit of military body armor before she started prowling the streets. Janey’s a little stronger than most people, but she can be hurt by things like bullets and blades and poison gas just like anyone else.

As far as challenges, definitely the biggest one was writing a convincing female protagonist, since I am terminally male myself. But I’ve had some practice with that, in the form of three original YA novels I wrote back in 2007 and 2008, a trilogy called Alex Unlimited. The protagonist of those books is an 18-year-old girl named Alexandra Benno. When I first pitched that property, the protagonist was a boy, and the publisher said, “We really like this, and want to pursue it, but would you mind changing the main character to a girl?” I wasn’t sure how that would turn out, but I agreed, and to my own surprise, it worked out beautifully. (Apparently my inner child is a teenage girl.)

Plus, for Gray Widow’s Walk, I was diligent in getting as many female beta readers as I could. The last thing I want to do is make some boneheaded mistake thanks to being entrenched in a male perspective.

Q: Your work spans a variety of media, including video games, comics, and of course, novels. Is it a challenge to work in different formats? How do they affect your writing process? Did they bring anything new to the Gray Widow’s Walk series, and if so, what?

A: There’s definitely some mental gear-shifting when I go from one medium to another, but I’ve worked out a few different methods to make that easier. I got my start writing comic books, many moons ago, and over the years, largely through trial and error, I’ve gotten it down to a sloppy sort of science. I actually have a series of blog posts on my website, www.danjolley.com, called “How To Write the Way I Write,” that explains all the nuts and bolts of comic book scriptwriting.

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Learning to write comic scripts first was a big help. I sometimes say it’s like learning to drive on a three-speed, stick-shift, two-ton flatbed truck. If you can drive that behemoth, you can drive anything. Comic book scripts, even though there’s no set format for them the way there is for a screenplay, are incredibly rigid in their parameters; your page count is set, your panel count per page has to be tightly controlled, your word count per panel also has to be tightly controlled, you have to take into account the page turn, which means all your big moments and surprises should really be at the beginning of even-numbered pages, etc. Writing in other media doesn’t seem so difficult once you’ve mastered all that.

One of the biggest successes I’ve had with techniques for writing prose might not work for everyone, but for me, using a walking desk is the way to go. I set up a shelving unit over my treadmill, got my wireless keyboard and laptop in the right positions, and now whenever I write prose I plod along at two miles an hour, typing as I walk. It gets the blood flowing through my brain just right.

And probably the biggest benefit of working in deadline-based creative jobs for as long as I have is that I’ve gotten really, really fast. Once I have a solid outline in place, knocking out a chapter a day is pretty standard. You can expect the next two books in the Gray Widow trilogy to come out on schedule.

Q: Without giving away too much, what plans do you have for Janey and the crew?

A: Well, the biggest question Janey has in the first book is where the hell her teleportational ability came from, and in the second book she’ll probably regret not being more careful what she wished for. Also, that same source is what “augmented” Gray Widow’s Walk’s principal antagonist, the twisted, grotesque, bloodthirsty shapeshifter named Simon Grove. Janey will definitely encounter more people who’ve been affected, not quite in that exact way, but in similar fashions. Plus, there’s the question of where Janey and Tim Kapoor are headed, as they try to figure out exactly what their relationship is, and how Janey’s past will influence it.

Basically, life doesn’t get any easier for anyone.

Q: What is the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever been given?

A: The best advice is this: Finish what you’re writing before you start editing. Just plow through that first draft. Don’t go back and try to get the first page, or the first paragraph, or the first line exactly right until you’re done with the whole thing, because if you do, you run the risk of getting hung up in the editing and never completing the story. Now, what this means is that your first draft will probably be really shitty. That’s okay! First drafts are supposed to be shitty. My first drafts are the ripest heaps of camel dung. But once you have a first draft, you can go back and fix it. You can’t fix what isn’t there. (I’ve heard it described as shoveling sand into the sandbox. You’ll have time to sculpt your castle once the box is full.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever been given any really, truly bad writing advice, but I have been given some really, truly bad feedback from an editor. At one point, I was writing a monthly comic book series, and after I turned in a script, the editor called me and said, “I don’t think you’re firing on all pistons, Dan.”

I sort of sputtered, and said, “Okay, but, uh…what did you not like? What do you want me to change?”

He sighed and said, “I just don’t feel like you’re bringing your A game.”

Talk about useless. He refused to give me any specific feedback, so I had to flounder around in the dark, and ended up doing five or six drafts of the script until he finally decided I had delivered what he was looking for. To any editors out there reading this? I know you’re overworked. I know your job is massively hard. But please, don’t do that. Don’t be that guy.

Q: Anything to add?

A: I’ll be a guest all four days of DragonCon this year, set up in Artists’ Alley, and I’ll be part of the Seventh Star Press crowd at Imaginarium in October. Come say hi! (IS Note: We’ll definitely stop by! I need a signed copy…)

Also, please give me a shout on Twitter (@_DanJolley) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/dan.jolley1). Or both! I’m there more often than I probably should be. (IS Note: So say we all…)

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There you have it, folks. Stop by, pick up a copy, come to DragonCon, get it signed, and say hi! Until then, happy reading.

A Conversation with A.L. Butcher…

Good morning, Happy Monday, and welcome to A.L. Butcher, the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles fantasy series, and featured author of the week at the Goodreads Paranormal group. I invited Ms. Butcher here to talk a little bit out her work, her writing, and a few other topics as well. Without any further ado, let’s get started –and don’t forget to click through a few links and check out her stuff!

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Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing — something that I won’t read in your biography.

A (A.L. Butcher, Fantasy Author): A bit about me – when I was a kid I was obsessed with squirrels, LOVED THEM!!!!! I wanted to be a squirrel… When we bought our first house last year what sold it to me for certain – squirrels in the garden. So now I suppose I’m an honorary squirrel. Oh and I’m coulrophobic.

A bit about my writing – I have a whole folder full of Phantom of the Opera fanfic.

Q: Who was your most challenging character to write — why? How did you overcome the challenge?

A: All the characters have different quirks and different challenges to maintain. Novel-wise I’d say it was Dii (Dii’Athella) the elven sorceress. When we meet her she starts off as an escaped slave in a world where her very existence is illegal. She has seen very little of the world and knows even less about her own origins. As the books progress she becomes stronger, braver, more resourceful and who she truly is, not who she believed she was. It’s hard keeping her as the sweet, kind soul after her terrible treatment but she needs to remain true to herself, her real self. It’s an ongoing challenge.

Short story-wise I’d say it was Ilsa or Rufus from Of Blood and Scales, which is featured in Heroika: Dragon Eaters. Ilsa is a Bloodsister – think nuns who use blood magic to fuel their spells and worship an old deity. Her abilities meanshe sees the world differently to other people, seeing what is REALLY there, reading emotions people don’t even think show and generally being pretty suspicious. She needed to be more mysterious, ‘other’, than the non-magical characters, who all have their own skillset.

Rufus Redblade was an embittered mercenary trying to support a regime that’s failing. He’s not a bad person, but he knows he needs to do what he must to succeed and prevent civil war.

Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9Q: What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you’ve received? How has it helped you in your work?

A: Write what you want to write and what you want to read. My work is not mainstream. It’s been described as ‘sex and sorcery’, that is sword and sorcery with a goodly helping of bedroom fun. That said it’s fairly dark. But I like fantasy with a hint of erotica, a hint of romance, a lot of heroes and morality, and I use morality as a relative term here. I read gothic horror, sci-fi, fantasy, crime fiction, history and lots more. I like the mythic aspect of fantasy and the world building. I’m a fan of Tolkien, Janet Morris and Terry Pratchett with their supreme world building and mythos, their complexity and the feeling that these adventures take place somewhere which is both real and unreal. An alternate Earth, if you like.

The companion series to my novels are tales of lore, legend and myth from the world. I read ancient tales of the Greek and Roman heroes and gods and I think a lot of that gets reflected in my work.

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Q: What was the most surprising thing you’ve discovered in your writing?

A: Friendship. I am a bit of a recluse really but since I’ve been writing I’ve made some really good friends, including my best friend. We talk daily even though we live thousands of miles apart.

Q: Scene: A big Hollywood producer calls, wanting to put your books on the big screen. Who is your dream cast?

A: Archos – Ian Mckellen

Olek – Chris Pratt or Chris Hemsworth or Luke Evans

Dii – Evangeline Lilly

Ozena – Emma Watson

(IS Note: I’d watch that! :D)

Q: What would you like people to know about your writing, process, or characters, that they may not know?

A: Writing is a stress release for me. I suffer with depression and writing helps. Often it’s poetry – which I doubt anyone else will see.

Thank you very much, Ms. Butcher, for stopping by! If you enjoyed this conversation, check out her presence on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, or her blog.

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A.L. Butcher Bio: A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles fantasy series, and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genres.  She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative.

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Hello? Hello? (tap tap) Is this thing on?

Okay, first of all, never tap the mic to see if it’s on. You will piss off the sound person and damage the equipment. Second, you know it’s been a long time since you blogged if the URL no longer autofills with your http address.

THIRD!! Writerpunk Press has revealed the cover for its next anthology, Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk. In three … two … one …

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Ta-DAH!! Isn’t it fabulous?

Among the stories will be included my story, The Case of the Lonesome Cigar Girl in the Sixpenny Temple, which is a steampunk riff on Poe’s story, The Mystery of Marie Rogêt. It will be out in May, so prime your Amazon one-click’s and get ready to purchase a copy. Also, it’s a charity anthology, so you will also be helping puppies and kittens. Really, buying a copy of this book is for the good of humanity. For real.

For those Poe fans out there, the Mystery of Marie Rogêt was the second, and least-well-received of his detective stories featuring Detective C. Auguste Dupin, the first being the Murders in the Rue Morgue and third being The Purloined Letter. It was based on the facts of a widely known case at the time, namely the murder of Mary Rogers, and Poe claimed that he would solve the case in his story (a claim that was mostly responsible for getting the story published and little else.) The entire story can be found in Daniel Stashower’s excellent nonfiction book The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allen Poe, and the Invention of Murder, upon which I relied heavily while plotting my story.

When setting out to write a punk version of “Marie Rogêt,” I knew that I wanted to first, set the story in the world of my steampunk detective series. Second, I wanted to use the same device that Poe did, namely that the main detective character is confined to chambers, and solves the mystery through the information gleaned from the newspapers and other characters. In my world, this allowed the secondary characters a little time to shine, and showed that my main character could solve a mystery using her brains (and not simply luck or her fiddly little devices.)

(I may also have an ulterior motive in that someday, once reprint rights revert, I hope to publish a collection of these detective stories. But I have to write a few more for that to happen. To get a taste, my first story was published in eSteampunk Magazine, and the second has been accepted for an Emby Press anthology that has yet to go to print.)

And lastly, I wanted to highlight some of the issues that the stories of the time addressed, but not in a deconstructive way. Mary Rogers was, in some part, written off as a light-skirted female who, although no one came outright and said it, was seen as someone who invited unwanted, scandalous male attention that eventually resulted in her downfall. Without giving away the ending, it became important for my story that a female detective was on the case, bringing to it a perspective that understood without judgement, and concluded without condemnation.

If you like punk genres and Poe, this is the anthology for you. If you like punk genres, period, check out the first two Writerpunk anthologies. If you are a writer and would like to submit to future Punk anthologies (we’re currently working on an “English Class Goes Punk” project), come join us in the Writerpunk group on Facebook!

Until the next time, my friends!

 

A Conversation with JoAnne Keltner…

Welcome back! A few days ago I posted a spotlight on JoAnne Keltner and her new paranormal YA, Goth Girl, Virgin Queen. I wanted to know a little more about the author and how the book came to be, so sent her a few questions, which she graciously returned. I think it’s fascinating how she became a fan, and then an author, of the YA genre. Sit back, relax, and spend some time in the creative space of a new author!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): What drew you to the YA genre, and what are some of the aspects of writing in that genre that are most challenging/intriguing?

A (JoAnne Keltner): What drew me to the YA genre was that I enjoyed reading it. I started out reading some titles in Spanish–The Giver (El Dador) and Messenger (El Mensajero) by Lois Lowry, A Ghost in the House (Un Fantasma en la Casa) by Betty Ren Wright, and a few others–to keep fresh what I learned in high school and college Spanish. Despite having to turn to a dictionary often, the stories really drew me in. I loved seeing the world through a young person’s eyes. Problems are magnified, and the world is a lot more intriguing and dangerous. I began reading a ton of other YA titles in English. At the time, I had some ideas for a paranormal adult novel. I had been free writing a lot on the ideas, trying to flesh out a plot, but my ideas and characters seemed mundane. But, after reading the MG and YA titles in Spanish and English, I started to think what my ideas would be like with my main characters as young adults, and low and behold, the magic happened: I found my genre! The ideas I had been tossing around at the time turned into two different stories: Goth Girl, Virgin Queen and Obsession. I think that in writing YA, I allowed my characters to be adventurous, immature at times, and risk takers and to make mistakes and to learn from them, whereas I kept judging my adult characters, which is what held me back from creating a great story.

The most challenging thing about writing in that genre is keeping up with the concerns of young adults today and what appeals to them. I don’t have the pleasure to be around this age group. No grandkids; no nieces or nephews. But in my work, I’ve drawn on my own experiences as a young adult and remembered what my boys and their friends were like growing up. I’m also reasonably in tune with pop culture.

JoAnne Keltner, Author.

JoAnne Keltner, Author.

Q: Who was your favorite character to write, and why? Your hardest character?

A: Definitely Jackie of Goth Girl, Virgin Queen. I love her imperfections–being afraid of the power within herself and at times not being able to separate her own emotions from those of others. I love that in all of her imperfections, she is kind, although sometimes she hurts others unintentionally. She’s the most human, three-dimensional character I have ever written about. I also love the relationship she has with her great grandmother, Babu. I can relate to it because I was close with my great aunt and learned so much from her.

She [Jackie] wasn’t afraid to touch Babu’s hands and absorb her emotions. Jackie got a good feeling from her. Babu filled Jackie’s inner vision with white light. She renewed her spirit. And this is what Jackie needed for the commitment she had made for tonight. -JoAnne Keltner, Goth Girl Virgin Queen

The hardest character I’ve written about and am still writing about is Hailey from an urban fantasy I’m currently working on. I know her, but not as fully as I should. It’s like she’s keeping things from me. She and I need to have a good talk. Or maybe I can peek into her journal! (IS Note: I definitely know THAT struggle!)

Q: Did you learn anything writing this book, and if so, what?

A: Yes. I did a bit of research about the Russian Orthodox religion, which I find fascinating. The most interesting things I learned about this religion is that parishioners stand during service because there are no church pews and that priests can be married, as long as they marry before they are ordained. I also learned some basic Russian by listening to the Michel Thomas Learn Russian CDs, even though two Russian translators helped with Babu’s (Jackie’s great grandmother) dialog, and how to read Russian–not that I always know what I’m reading. I know how to sound out the letters–the great mystery of the Cyrillic alphabet has been solved for me.

I also learned to give readers what they want–not to hold back the good stuff for a book two in a series. If book one never takes off, there won’t be a book two.

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Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from Goth Girl, Virgin Queen?

A: I would like readers to take away from Goth Girl, Virgin Queen the power of love and the value of accepting yourself for who you are and accepting others for who they are. This is the most important message in this book.

Driving to the Oktoberfest, Jackie focused on the road. Sometimes she looked at Jason, but focused only on his mouth or his jacket. When he was around her, his aura turned from black to reddish purple, almost like his spirit had been bruised. She interpreted it as a mixture of pain and love—the love he felt for her pouring over his pain like salve. Yes. She sensed Jason was in love with her. But this relationship worked out well for the both of them, she supposed. Jason liked to suffer. It made him feel alive. Though, she knew he’d never admit it. And she was comfortable being around him, not just because he allowed her space, but because he accepted her as she was. He made the guilt she carried more bearable. -JoAnne Keltner, Goth Girl Virgin Queen

Q: Do you have any favorite writing tips? Please share one with us!

A: I guess the most important writing tip I can share is to learn all you can about story structure and plotting. For me, these were the elements I needed to incorporate into my writing to get published. I was always good at writing prose–had even scored twice in the Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition in the 90s–but was weak at plotting. There are all kinds of writing styles out there, and different readers will be attracted to different styles of writing, but a good story always captures a reader.

Q: Anything to add?

A: Please visit my website, www.joannekeltner.com, to check out Goth Girl, Virgin Queen and Obsession, or find me on Goodreads. From time to time, I post info on my blogs about giveaways and other updates regarding these titles.

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Thank you very much to JoAnne for coming by to share some of her process. I’m looking forward to reading Goth Girl, Virgin Queen.

A Conversation With John F. Allen…

Good morning! Today we have author John F. Allen with us, talking about his new release, Codename: Knight Ranger. Take a look at what John has to say about the writing process and his new release!

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How does writing as a veteran influence your work?

Answer: I’m very aware of the sacrifices military men & women make in service to our country. I’m also very focused on positive representation of those who serve, although as with any organization, there are bad apples.

Who was your hardest character to write, and why?

Answer: I’m not really sure. All of the characters I’ve written have come fairly easy to me, although at times the most challenging can be children.

Are you a “pantser” or “plotter”? How did that influence your writing process?

Answer: I’m a hybrid writer, part pantser and part plotter. I extensively work out ideas in my head and use a wiki (plotter) and I don’t use an outline (pantser). However, once I’ve written something I summarize in the wiki, so that I can reference things later as needed. This helps to maintain continuity in my writing.

What/who are some of your writing influences?

Answer: I find that I’m most heavily influenced by Robert B. Parker, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charles Saunders, Stephen King, Walter Mosley, L.A. Banks and Eric Jerome Dickey. Also to some extent, Don Pendleton, John Grisham, Eric Lustbader, Robert Ludlum, Faith Hunter, Patricia Briggs, George R.R. Martin and Tom Clancy. My writing is also heavily influenced by comic books, primarily Marvel Comics and in that vein, writers such as: Denny O’Neil, Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker, Christopher Priest, Ed Brubaker, Dwayne McDuffie, Alan Moore, Peter David and Neil Gaiman.

What’s next for Knight Ranger and company?

Answer: I have Book II in the Knight Ranger series coming out sometime before the holidays and a three novella compendium due out sometime in 2016. Knight Ranger will also appear in other works within the Ivoryverse over the coming years in addition to more solo adventures.

Anything to add?

Answer: Stay tuned to my website: www.johnfallenwriter.com and my author’s facebook page for the latest news and announcements regarding upcoming projects and appearances.

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Codename: Knight Ranger

Captain Alexandre Cornelius “Neal” Du Bois is a US Army Ranger and decorated war hero. When his unit is ambushed by supernatural hostile forces while in Afghanistan, only Neal survives. When he wakes up in a secret government facility, Neal discovers that his whole life has changed forever.

A shadowy government agent named Elijah Bishop arranges for Neal’s brain to be transplanted, without his permission, into a bio-engineered body capable of amazing feats. Armed with advanced body armor and weaponry, he becomes the epitome of the Ultra Soldier.

To protect his family and those closest to him, he must let the world and everyone he loves believe he is dead. With assistance from Dr. Avery Clarkson–the scientist responsible for his new body–Neal reluctantly utilizes his superhuman abilities to work for Bishop and his organization called G.E.N.E.S.I.S. (Global Espionage Network of Elite Supernatural Intelligence and Surveillance), in order to track down those responsible for the slaughter of his unit and keep the world safe from supernatural terrorist forces.

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About the Author

John F. Allen is an American writer born in Indianapolis, IN. He is a member of the Speculative Fiction Guild and the Indiana Writers Center. He began writing stories as early as the second grade and pursued all forms of writing at some point, throughout his career. John studied Liberal Arts at IUPUI with a focus in Creative Writing, received an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force and is a current member of the American Legion. John’s debut novel, The God Killers was published in 2013 by Seventh Star Press.

John currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife, son and daughter.

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Check out more about John on his Website, Facebook, and Twitter! Pick up a copy of Codename: Knight Ranger now!

Print Version:

http://www.amazon.com/Codename-Knight-Ranger-John-Allen/dp/1511496533

Kindle Version

http://www.amazon.com/Codename-Knight-John-F-Allen-ebook/dp/B00YG3NJZK

Barnes and Noble Link for Codename: Knight Ranger

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/codename-john-f-allen/1122019036?ean=2940151360548

Saturday Spotlight: Markie Madden’s Fang and Claw

Earlier this year, I sat down for a Conversation with Markie Madden, in which we talked about her book, My Butterfly Cancer, and some of what it takes to set up a publishing house. Fast forward a few months (okay, more than a few), and she has just released Fang and Claw, the first of the Undead Unit Series. Take a minute to check out her work!Fang-Front-Cover1-420x596

Excerpt from “Fang and Claw”

Colton stopped short, scrubbing one large hand over his eyes to clear his vision. That’s impossible, he thought as he rounded the final corner of the building. There were two of her. The hands gripping his service pistol trembled and went sweaty. For a brief moment, he was startled at the sight of two Laceys, squared up and fighting kung fu style. Kick, block, punch. Spin, kick, roll. He couldn’t shoot because, as far as he could see, there was no way to tell them apart.

Blood ran from the nose of one of the Laceys, and when they spun around, he noticed the other one had a shallow but down the cheek. One of them jumped up, spun, and delivered a kick to the chest of her opponent that would have stopped any human, and quite a few Immortals, in their tracks.

“Give it up, Blyge!” His bellow fell short; the wind at the top of the building was howling so much that any word he may have voiced was immediately shoved into the back of his throat.

But somehow, Jason Blyge knew he was there, just behind the stairs leading down from the roof. One Lacey looked up with a feral grin. In a flash, s/he snatched the real Lacey close, one slender yet muscular arm wrapped around her neck. Her hands went to her throat, but it was obvious that they were matched in strength. The __________ sneered at him, swaying back and forth as s/he held Lacey in a choke hold, making sure s/he was in constant motion.

“Put your gun down and slide it toward me!” The ________ demanded.

Colton hesitated. It was against departmental policy to negotiate with suspects, but an entirely different situation when the subject had his partner in a death grip on top of a skyscraper. He lowered his gun a fraction.

Seeing that Colton had no intention of putting down his weapon, Blyge continued to weave, presenting a moving target, while making his way closer to the edge of the building. Lacey was no longer struggling against the grip of her copy, but Colton could tell by the look in her eyes that she was evaluating, trying to get a sense of the _______’s weaknesses. But, he could tell that she was also scared.

“Put your gun down,” the suspect demanded again. “Or I throw her off the edge!”

Colton, well aware of his partner’s fear of heights, saw the terror in Lacey’s eyes intensify. Her mouth moved almost imperceptibly around the word, “Don’t.” He now knew he didn’t have a choice. He wasn’t about to let Blyge throw his partner from the building. But if he gave up his pistol, he would have to rely on the secondary weapon he wore around his ankle; the ankle holster was meant as a backup, not as a quick-draw weapon. Slowly, he lowered his service pistol, crouching at the knees to lay it on the pebbled surface of the roof. With both hands out to his side, he straightened and kicked the weapon so that it clattered across the gravel with a skittering noise.

Blyge’s eyes tracked the gun as it slid across the roof. His distraction was obviously the moment Lacey had been waiting for; she placed one foot between each of Blyge’s, landed a hard backwards kick to one of his kneecaps, and did a neat little twist and dive, sending the copy of herself over her back and through the air. Colton breathed a sigh of relief, for at least he could tell them apart now. The real Lacey had the vicious slice down the right cheek.

Lacey remained in a fighting stance as the suspect climbed slowly to his feet. Then he charged, and she waited until the last minute before stepping to one side and using her hip to throw him off balance. He grabbed her wrist as he went by, and fumbled to keep his feet under him. The rest happened in slow motion.

Pick up your copy of Fang and Claw today! For other retailers or formats visit Metamorph Publishing.

Undead-Unit-Series

The Undead Unit Series

Over a hundred years in the future, it’s a world where supernatural beings live and work among humans. Of course, the government has forced them to take the Undead Oath in order to gain citizenship; they must not prey on humans for food. They’re often given tasks in jobs suited for their species, but just as among other minorities, they must struggle to prove themselves.

As if dealing with racial prejudice isn’t enough, there is also a criminal element, just as there is with any group of beings living in society. The Dallas Police Department has introduced an elite new squad made up of Undead officers and detectives. This unit is dedicated to solving crimes involving Immortals. Headed by veteran Lieutenant Lacey Anderson, can the Undead Unit overcome its obstacles, both internal and external, or will it be doomed to failure?

Markie Author Pic

About the Author

Markie Madden was born August 19, 1975, in Midland, Texas. She grew up in the small town of Flushing, Michigan. While in high school, she took creative writing and was a photographer for the school newspaper. In 1993, she won the National Quill and Scroll Society award for best photo in a high school paper. She began writing her first novel, Once Upon a Western Way, while still attending school.

Markie is now married with two teenage daughters, three rescue dogs, and her horse, Athena, who is featured on the cover of her horse care guide, Keeping a Backyard Horse. She tried many times over the years to publish her novel, first on her own, and then hiring a literary agent, all without success. In early 2012, after getting her first smart phone and e-reader application, Nook, she discovered the world of self-publishing through a website called Smashwords. She finally published Once Upon a Western Way through this distributor in April, 2012.

In the late spring of 2013, Markie came down with a mysterious illness, which was ultimately diagnosed as leukemia (AML specifically). She underwent a rigorous treatment of chemotherapy, during which, at one point, her life was endangered. While she was hospitalized, an old high school friend who is also a published author reconnected with her. Since cancer and the treatment of cancer forced her out of the traditional workforce, Markie turned her attention back to the world of writing.

By December of 2014, Markie was the successful publisher of three books, her first published work, Once Upon a Western Way, now available in print as well as e-format, as well as a self-help guide to horse care, Keeping a Backyard Horse, available in print and e-format, and her cancer memoir, My Butterfly Cancer, available in print, e-format, and audiobook. Her other two will soon be available in audiobook format as well. Markie has founded Metamorph Publishing, in order to publish her own books, and she is now working with two other independent authors as well.

Currently, Markie lives in the small town of Fisk, Missouri, with her family, her dogs, and her horse. She is still writing and is working on a crime/paranormal series called The Undead Unit Series. Book one of the series, Fang and Claw, is now available. The second book of the series, Souls of the Reaper, is expected out in 2016, along with a thriller novel entitled Cured Delusions. You can find her at her website: https://metamorphpublishing.com.

Fayetteville ComicCon Rundown

What do a group of nerdy people do for fun on the weekend? Well, if that weekend was this past weekend, and the first Fayetteville ComicCon was happening–we were over there. It was a super fun event, and I am already looking forward to next year and plotting who of my writer friends/Con vendors/artists I can rope into sharing a table and getting more involved. But first, a quick rundown of the day’s events.

First, I hopped in the Jeep with Ladybug, a stroller, and my camera. I had intended to cosplay this whole, elaborate costume, but being the chronic procrastinator I am, I ended up wearing a Sarah Connor Charm School T-shirt, and instead hung out with fabulously-dressed folks.

See what I mean? Fabulously dressed folks.

See what I mean? Fabulously dressed folks.

The first thing we did when we got to the Con was park and head off to the end of this REALLY REALLY LONG line. We were a little astounded to see that it wrapped around the building, up the steps, and down the long sidewalk of the Crown Expo. Gritting our teeth and wishing we had bought tickets at one of the places in town ahead of time (lesson learned for next year), we hopped on in. About 45 minutes later, as we just neared the top of the stairs, we had two friends tell us that the Con was actually in another building, and the line was way shorter over there. So we got OUT of line, and headed over to the right building, letting the people at the back of the line know that there was a shorter line someplace else. (Some folks actually took us up on that.)

After getting through the ticket line, we walked into the large Expo hall, which was where the majority of the action was happening. There were vendors, gaming tables, some food vendors, and a stage that had demonstrations and contests. The roar was nonstop, and the crowd kept coming and coming. On the floor, there were some awesome cosplayers. I found anime girls…

Anime in real life. Awesome.

Anime in real life. Awesome.

 …pirates–well, pirate…

That's CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow...

That’s CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow…

…refugees from Gotham…

Did you say your names was ... Mr. P.N. Gwin?

Did you say your names was … Mr. P.N. Gwin?

…a mad Steampunk hatter…

I salute your mad hatting skills...

I salute your mad hatting skills…

…and some creature looking for a lagoon.

Splish splash...

Splish splash…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the way, I picked up a few comic books. (Before the rundown, here is a hint to future comic book vendors–if you’re going to sell signed Issue Number 1’s, it would be awesome if you had some of those collectible covers to put them in, even if you had to charge an extra quarter. I had a baby, a stroller, a backpack, and a camera, and I was very, very, nervous about buying a nice comic, getting it signed, and getting it home in one piece.) I picked up Tugg: A Hero Among Us, Numbers 1 & 2 (okay, they had the actual Tugg there, in person, and he was so cute …. PUPPY!!!!) I also stopped by Micah Myers’ booth and picked up an Alterna comics one-off, Snarl, which looked pretty interesting. My final comic book purchase was an indie comic from 15-year-old artist and writer Alannah Ross, Sentinel. I would have liked to have spent a little more time at the booths chatting with the artists and writers, but the press of people was really kind of amazing, and so it was purchase, wave, and move on. I’m hoping that next year there will be some sort of artist track or separate vending area, or perhaps more than one panel track where Con-goers can chat up the creators who are selling their stuff.

Speaking of panels, while I’m a big fan of them as far as the general concept goes, there weren’t any I was dying to attend. Still, since I was at the Con, I figured I should hit up at least one. I ended up heading in to the panel area and after a short delay while I snapped some more photos of breakfast sandwiches…

Most delicious Cosplay ever...

Most delicious Cosplay ever…

…some gentleman who wanted to raid a Lost Ark…

Got lost in his own museum, he?

Got lost in his own museum, he?

…some fabulous Steampunk fashion…

Steampunk is so awesome...

Steampunk is so awesome…

…and these folks who just wanted to keep flying.

Got a job, we can do it. Don't much care what it is...

Got a job, we can do it. Don’t much care what it is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sat in the panel for a little bit, until Ladybug started fussing. One small quibble I had with the panel was that there were no microphones for the members, and no moderator. This meant that it was hard to hear the speakers over the ambient noise filtering in from outside (this was a LOUD Con), but also that it was hard to keep them on topic. I’m also hoping that next year there are some writing-centric tracks, and I also volunteer as tribute to help lead one.

After the panels, we decided to do another walk around the vendor floor. We poked our noses around some more of the vendors, checked out some of the gaming tables although we didn’t play, and watched a martial arts (the kind in armor with swords) demonstration. Finally, as Ladybug started to fuss, our footwear started to make itself known, and my stomach started to remind me that it was mid-afternoon and I hadn’t had anything substantial to eat all day except coffee, we headed out into the sunshine and back to the Jeep.

Overall, the day was a lot of fun. I am so glad that the organizers put this together, and I’m hoping that next year, our writing group will represent with a table in the vendor hall and possible participation on a writing-centered panel, or even track. Clearly, there was a lot of interest, and participation, and it was fun to go and be with our people. Even the strange ones.

People are Strange.

People are Strange.

See you next year!

Saturday Spotlight: Jeffrey Cook & Katherine Perkins

Jeffrey Cook is an intrepid imaginer of worlds, a steampunk Shakespearean par excellence, and kind of a fun Facebook friend. If you have been at a Con in the Pacific Northwest, you may have caught a glimpse of him or his works. But since not all of us are so geographically advantageously situated, I have him and his coauthor, Katherine Perkins, here today as our Saturday Spotlight.

Foul is Fair
Book I in the Fair Folk Chronicles

Blurb (YA Contemporary Fantasy):

Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once.

Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

FoulisFair

Excerpt:

“So…” Megan asked, finishing a bite of the sandwich Lani made her and occasionally wincing at the disinfectant being applied to her arm. “My dad is what, ’80s David Bowie? Glammed up, stealing babies, turning into owls?”

Lani frowned. “Sort of, but don’t get me started on owls.”

“What is your problem with owls?”

“I’m not scared of them, to be clear. I’m a big girl. I just think they’re up to something”

“Okay, okay, forget the owls.”

“Gladly.”

“So aside from something about attachment issues with the father I’ve never met, exactly what’s going on? Why would someone want to kill me?”

“I’ll take this one,” Cassia said. “Faerie is all about politics and schemes. Bad blood can last a lot of centuries, and your dad is one of the major players. He’s done a hell of a job hiding you all these years, particularly after he managed to spend four years with your mom. The people who knew were either actual allies, or weren’t willing to cross him. Now that he’s missing, somebody also leaked word on who you are and where you are. As word gets out, plenty of people want to meet you—and at least a few others are just as interested in making sure you’re not around to meet. The redcap may just be the start.”

Despite the threat to her life, Megan fixated on another part of the explanation. “My dad is missing? Like, missing from, uhm, Faerie, missing?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Lani said. “I got some advance notice from Ashling, but not much. I knew it wouldn’t take long for more people to find out.”

“How did Ashling find out?”

“After the thing with her wings,” Cassia said, “Riocard took her in. She’s been his hunting guide for a while, when he’s not sending her to keep an eye on you.”

Megan scratched her head. “I’m having trouble keeping track of who is on what team here.”

Lani applied a little more disinfectant and started bandaging Megan’s arm. “It’s not always about teams. My dad might disagree with him a lot of the time, but it’s absolutely critical that we find your dad before Halloween and get him back where he’s supposed to be.”

“So he’s … he’s not even on your team. You’re just worried because he’s my dad?”

“Not just. I want you in on this because it’s important, and you deserve to know. But just because we’re not affiliated with the Unseelie doesn’t mean they’re not important. If I’ve learned anything from Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s that without Autumn, we’d all freeze to death.”

“How are you trying to use science geek stuff to explain to me that… that we’re faeries?”

“Well, we’re only half.”

Author Bios

Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s the author of the Dawn of Steam trilogy of alternate-history/emergent Steampunk epistolary novels and of the YA Sci-fi thriller Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets. He’s a founding contributing author of Writerpunk Press and has also contributed to a number of role-playing game books for Deep7 Press out of Seattle. When not reading, researching, or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football.

Katherine Perkins lives in Coralville, Iowa, with her husband and one extremely skittish cat. She was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and will defend its cuisine on any field of honor. She is the editor of the Dawn of Steam series and serves as Jeff’s co-author of various short stories, including those for the charity anthologies of Writerpunk Press. When not reading, researching, writing, or editing, she tries to remember what she was supposed to be doing.

~ ~ ~

Interested? Pick up a copy at Amazon, check out Jeffrey’s author page, swing by their Facebook page, or follow Jeffrey on Twitter!

A Conversation with Sandra Boutwell-Falcone

I met Sandra Boutwell-Falcone, an independent author, through one of my Facebook groups wherein we writers like to mingle and talk shop. I invited her on my blog, but before posting the interview, I picked up a copy of her book Marabella: Discovering Magics. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and am going to be keeping an eye out when the author writes the sequel.

Marabella, or Belle, grows up in a tiny village where a group of people who belong to a tribe known as Demalions are known to stop by. One of them, her father, loved her mother for a short time before an untimely accident with the ferry. As she grows, she finds herself able to access “magics” and begin to use their powers. Throughout the book, you learn more about not only her but her family and her connection to the Demalions.

I especially enjoyed the representation of female friendships and relationships in this novel. Belle has a special connection to her mother, as well as to the other women in the village. The extra details around these relationships were my favorite part of the book.

With that in mind, I had a few questions for Sandra about her background, writing, and of course, her book!

Author Sandra Boutwell-Falcone

Author Sandra Boutwell-Falcone

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a little bit about yourself and your book, Marabella, Discovering Magics.

A (Sandra Boutwell-Falcone): I grew up in rural Louisiana and now live in Arkansas. I am a Southern girl. I spent about 20 years in retail in the natural health industry, but I have always been a writer. I started writing stories and journaling at a very young age. Marabella, Discovering Magics is my first novel. Several years ago I found myself out of work and going stir crazy. My husband suggested I write something…anything to keep me occupied. I found some handwritten pages in an old notebook from college. (I never throw anything away.) I had written down an origin story for a Dungeons and Dragons character I played back then. (Yes, I am geek proud!) Her name was Marabella and this series grew from that.

Q: In your bio, you list gaming and people watching as two of your hobbies. How, if at all, do your hobbies factor into your writing?

A: I like the RPGs (roll playing games) that include fantasy and magic. I sometimes get ideas or inspiration from the games. People watching is not exactly a hobby. I don’t get out much but when I do, I like to observe the folks around me. An airport is a great place to see all sorts of characters. My brain just starts churning out back stories for interesting people I see.

BookCoverPreview

Q: In addition to writing your novel, you also write articles for others, including a pet store Web site. How do you go about researching and writing your non-fiction pieces?

A: The pieces I write for the web are generally short informative articles, under 1000 words. Attention spans for people trolling the sites for info are usually short. I use various internet sites, product literature, and books for facts. Where I get information depends upon whether it is an article about a particular kind of animal, a service, or a product.

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of writing and publishing Marabella?

A: I wrote off and on for several years. When I finally put it all together and started editing, I found that to be incredibly challenging. Until I started trying to market and promote my book, editing was the toughest. Promotions take so much time away from writing.

Q: What is something you have learned, that you didn’t expect to, during this process?

A: I learned that even though I have an English degree and I am perfectly capable of editing for others, I need someone else to edit for me. I will certainly hire an editor for my next book.

Sandra Boutwell-Falcone at a book signing for "Marabella: Discovering Magics"

Sandra Boutwell-Falcone at a book signing for “Marabella: Discovering Magics”

Q: What is new and upcoming for you?

A: I am putting myself out there to try to get a few more paying gigs writing web articles to pay the bills and I am working on the next book in the series, Marabella, Quest for Magics. (IS Note: YAY! The sequel!)

Q: Do you have anything else to share?

A: I would like my friends and fans to know that I really enjoy getting the fan art. I have a few pieces a young lady drew after reading excerpts from Marabella, Discovering Magics before it was published. I love putting that on the blog. I have not posted much lately, on my blog or anything else as I have tried to give full attention to book 2. See my links below. Please check them out and LIKE or follow.

Check out more about Sandra by clicking here:

Blog – http:/.marabellaspeaks.blogspot.com

Website – http://sbfalconewrites.wix.com/s-b-falcone

FaceBook – https://facebook.com/pages/Marabella/505991099535227

You can also follow her on Twitter – @Sbfalcone – and Instagram – sbfalcone!