Thursday, October 9, 2014

For the Love of a Woman

Every day, my newsfeed flows with images of the one literary character who literally lives in my house.

I’ve been a Wonder Woman fan ever since I can remember (probably around 8). Since then, I’ve surrounded myself with comic books, figures, toys, and other paraphernalia resonant of a more childlike past, back when I could get lost in my own world without the benefit of C. S. Lewis’ wardrobe. It didn’t take much to travel through a portal of my own devising to get to Themyscira (then, Paradise Island) and imagine what life would be like on an island with immortals surrounding you, or to know that inner peace that I would find being around others who share my interests for a few millennia.

Today, I am still surrounded by all of the trappings of the Amazon princess, and those items do indeed provide inspiration for me on many levels. The magic and mythology of Wonder Woman has ensnared my heart, and while that might seem odd for a man my age, I feel that I’m more connected to the world around me because I have a passion that makes me smile. I share this passion with many people—some of the best friends I could ever ask for—and I’m just happy that I can be myself. Life is way too short to be anyone else.

I’m lucky that I have something that inspires me, fuels my inspiration to write, and emboldens me. I can see pictures of just about anything in my newsfeed, but whenever I see HER, regardless of the artist (and I see these images every single day), I can’t help but smile and stop for a moment. She represents so much more than a superhero. Her image stands for feminism, peace, compassion, love, wisdom, knowledge, and power (not just physical power, either). People use her insignia to show that they, too, are truly potent. Her eagle or the =w= is an icon, an archetype.

I like when I have to explain to someone why I feel for her the way I do. I feel like I’m breaking down a wall, opening up myself just a little so others can see just how I view this character some consider fictional as non-fiction to me. She exists. She’s real. Look around the world, the Internet, TV, etc.—her presence permeates culture.

As the song says, “Change their minds and change the world.” That’s what I do in the classroom, and I’m who I am today partly because of my love of one woman. Ain’t she a wonder?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Going Up Against Self-Doubt, the Author Killer

I used to think that not being inspired would kill or squelch my motivation to be an author, but I've come to learn that inspiration is only a small piece of it. What eviscerates an author's desire to move forward is Self-Doubt. It goes beyond being thick-skinned about criticism, too. Being a teacher, I know that criticism is part of what helps an author (or anyone, really) grow beyond the moment and into the stronger place. Knowing what others think is a good thing, although it does depend largely on the spirit in which that feedback is given. Even when I think I have a handle on things, that insidious creeper of an emotional pick axe strikes, that self-doubt that can push a writer off the path.

And, no matter how much desire exists within a writer's heart, he can't always embrace it long enough to get past that Self-Doubt. Armor is only as good as its lack of flaws, and even the most minuscule flaw can render one's authorial armor useless. No matter how much sunscreen you put on, if you miss that one spot, you get burned. You learn to endure the discomfort for as long as it lasts, and you hope to prepare for the next time because it will happen again. And that is when you are the most vulnerable to the pick axe. It strikes without mercy, too.
There is a way past it, though. Embracing your flaws, your imperfections. When someone points out something that he or she thinks is wrong or unsatisfying or undeveloped or whatever, you have to look close enough to decide just how much validity it has. It's not easy to do, though. What I do know is that I cannot compromise what I want while I am re-evaluating.
Recently, I've been having been playing mental tennis matches between continuing to write or stopping altogether. Just bringing everything to a halt. Walking away from it all. It was a dark, dark place to look into, and it made my heart pound, but it was necessary. I had to have a few hard conversations with myself about what I wanted. I had to revisit the reason why I want to write, and here's what I've come up with:

I don't care about being published. I mean, I do it because that's the only way to get my stories, the ones I yearn to tell, out there into the world. But, I'm not looking to be famous. Unlike some authors who devote their lives to the craft (and there's nothing wrong with that), I already have a passion that fills my life: teaching. Writing isn't a hobby, and it isn't a career. It's a part of my DNA, and I can't resist the urges to do it. My mind fills with stories and ideas and conflicts and connections and characters... and I need release. Self-doubt, like a cancer, has plagued my inner drive to write, and I need some "literary chemo" in order to get past it. I'm sure you know that once you feel doubt, that feeling escalates until it can be debilitating. I need to re-dedicate myself to my drive to write because I AM a storyteller.

Complicating this are the uproarious emotions that come with starting a new school year: new students, lesson plans, administrative duties, going to work with that face that shows everything is okay so you can focus on what's important. Putting my career before everything else means that I have to put writing away until I can focus. I hate that feeling. It's almost like suppressing a part of who I am as a person. How do you suppress your personality? Do you lose a part of yourself when you do this? Can you get it back?

It's exhausting.
So, my course of action is simple:
  1. I do my job to my absolute best (that's a no-brainer).
  2. I push and push past the self-doubt, no matter what, to devote time to my writing, since that's a part of me I need to express. It's an imperative I cannot ignore.
  3. I need to revisit the uncomfortable, more unpolished aspects of my writing and see if anything can or needs to be done. It won't happen right away, but it's on my To Do list.
If you've read this, thank you. I needed to vent a little. Since I'm on a temporary Facebook hiatus, I needed an outlet to speak my mind. I welcome any comments below that might help me on my journey.

As the picture above shows, I'm armed and ready to go up against the Beast of Self-Doubt. The faith I have in myself provides the armor, and it needs to remain strong and unyielding. May my aim be true, my blade swift, and my resolve unwavering.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Guest Post: The Dragons of Dragonica

The world of Draconica (where the Draconica) series was created, was given life by an ancient race of powerful beings known as the dragons. No one knows how they first came to exist, but some state that they have existed since the dawn of time – possibly before. Dragons were extremely powerful and very intelligent beings, sometimes appearing as winged lizards, other times appearing more humanoid. They possessed the ability to create weapons using their breath, such as fire, ice, etc. Some also possessed psychic abilities or other such similar powers.

However, all dragons had mastered the art of travelling through Time and Space, allowing them to travel to different places in the world at any time they desired. This was a skill that the dragons were highly secretive about and to this day, no one knows how they were able to do it. But the dragons have appeared all across the Universe and even visited our world at one point – which is why we have our own version of dragons.

When they created Draconica, it was said that it was originally a dead world. Wanting to give it life, they travelled across the Universe, bringing back life and forging the geography of the worlds based on the worlds they visited.

Though now extinct, the dragons are worshipped as gods by the people of Draconica and their legend lives on in the Dragonkin – humans that were granted dragon powers so that they will never be forgotten.

These are the dragons of Draconica and their role in Draconica legend.

Jeova - The Father of All and the first dragon. He created the Afterworld (Heaven) and the Necroworld (Hell) in the wake of The Black Hurricane. Said to be the most powerful of all the dragons, Jeova is worshipped as the one true King of Draconica and his influence spreads far and wide across the land.

Abadon - Wife of Jeova and known as The Destroyer. She was responsible for The Black Hurricane, a catastrophic event where she destroyed most life on Draconica. She was imprisoned in the Necroworld, where she has been for many thousands of years.

The Magistrate - He Who Judges The Passed. A dragon that guards the entrance to the afterlife and decides where souls go when they die.

Dronor - The son of Jeova and Abadon and creator of the Dragonkin. In his life, Dronor was a protector of mortals and sought to create peace amongst them. He also brought the Age of Sorcery to an end when he taught the mortals about science, so that they would not have to rely on magic.

Arkana - The Forest Wyvern. She created and tended to the forests of Draconica.

Frostella - The Ice Dragon. She created the ice world Naedor by blowing a terrible blizzard during a fit of rage.

Karana - The Storm Drake. Known for creating terrible storms and hurricane force winds.

Kerrigal - The one who first taught magic to the mortals. He became the rival of Dronor when he tried to teach science to the people.

Venomac - A deformed dragon known for his ugliness. It’s said he created the swamps of Draconica by breathing on Arkana’s most beautiful forest lands.

Tah - The Dragon of the Sun. Second in power only to Jeova and worshipped by the people of the eastern lands. He created the deserts when his aura burned the land and turned it to sand.

Nar-Gar - The Serpent of the Sea. A huge sea monster that turned Draconica into a set of islands by breaking the lands apart.

Baala - The Four-Horned Warlord. Founded the Baalarian Empire and taught the world of Draconica about warfare. He was previously a war ambassador in his life and no country could go to war without his say so. He died during a war with his brother Leoni.

Leoni - The Bloodthirsty Lion. Founded the Leonidan Kingdom and brother to Baala. He challenged his brother for dominance and was killed at the end of a seven year war.

Isiah - The Dragon of Love. Wife of Baala. She taught the mortals of Draconica how to love. Marriage was a concept that she taught to the mortals.

Dahli - The Muse of Art. Helped found the Republic of Garmany, the leading country in art, design and technology.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Character Tag Blog Tour

I have been asked to participate in this Character Tag Blog Tour by Brandon Witt. The follow questions are about a character in my upcoming release, The Liar's Prophecy.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Although he's not a main character for the entire novel, the fictional character I want to talk about is Akmon.

2. When and where is the story set?

Akmon's part of the story is set in ancient Arkadeia, a country located in the Peloponnese part of Greece. Arkadeia figures prominently in the series as the kingdom of Apollo and his wife Alkinoë.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Akmon was left as a baby in an orphanage in Megalopoli by an unknown priestess. As he grew older, he took on the responsibility of caring for the other children in the orphanage, acting as a big brother to those with whom he lived. He was known for telling stories to the younger children as well as doing everything he could, even with limited resources, to make their lives tolerable.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Part of the conflict in Akmon's like is who he is. He doesn't know who his parents are, although he finds out, but he isn't prepared for the truth. As he travels with one of the main characters, he encounters parts of his past that forever change how he sees himself. One of the greatest challenges he will have to face is giving up what he has known to experience something completely new.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

His goal is find out who he is, but equally as important is his devotion to his friends. He would rather put himself in harm's way to protect those he cares about that allow someone to feel pain. Not formally education, his "street smarts" have taught him more than most people learn in a classroom.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The Liar's Prophecy. Here is the blurb (it's a work in progress):

Aegis, Talon, and Aether struggle with Zodiak’s absence from the team as well as their friend Ari’s brave sacrifice to help defeat The Nebulous One. Prisoners from Tartaros having escaped when Hades lived as a mortal on Earth start appearing all over the world, following prophecies they believe will give them power. A set of gruesome murders starts an investigation that leads to betrayal that could tear apart the team. One of Gaea’s own children, a powerful prisoner long forgotten, has decided to make mortals pay for his millennia in the gods’ dungeon.

On his own quest, Zodiak has to confront his own failings, his role as a son of Apollo, and new truths hidden by the gods. Through his travels, he learns the prisoner’s identity and needs to devise a way to defeat him with the help of some new allies.

In the midst of this chaos, the prisoner secretly releases The Liar’s Prophecy, and an unsuspecting Task Force: Gaea has no choice but to see it to completion, actions that could bring them to madness. Zodiak must get back to Aegis, Talon, and Aether before he loses them for good.

One among them is fated to fall because even death cannot protect you from your past.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I'm expecting to release it January 2105.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

An Interview with Dan Wright, author of Final Ragnarok: She Returns

1. Please explain how you came to be a writer, what inspired you to write your book(s) and how long it took.

The Draconica series, which is my Fantasy/Manga series, came about because I always enjoyed reading about Medieval Fantasy and Greek Mythology. This helped me craft the world of Draconica as it is now. When I got into Anime/Manga, that also helped my writing style, as I tended to write with a more tongue and cheek feel.

My first book took me about five years to write, on and off. The other books took significantly less than that – one an off about two years per book or so. I try to fit in my writing around my real life commitments, where I can.

2. What did you enjoy most about creating this book?

It’s the first part of a two parter – and it’s my most epic story so far. I really went all out with this one, seeing how far I could push myself. I’m particularly proud of the big battles that are to come later in the series, but also the huge twist at the end of this one. I think my readers won’t believe how this turns out – in a good way of course! 

3. Some writers embed parts of their lives into their work(s). What aspects of who you are appear in your work? If not, why didn’t you?

Hmmm. I try not to put too much of myself in my characters. If you do that your characters risk becoming “wish fulfillment fantasies” and this tends to turn off a lot of readers in my experience. That’s not to say my characters don’t reflect my views and beliefs, but I try to keep myself out of the character personalities where I can. 

4. Why did you want to be a published author?

Simply, because I wanted to tell a story. And maybe make money doing it, but that’s not my main reason. I have a job that helps me pay the bills so anything I make from this is just a nice little bonus. 

5. In the process of writing, did you find you deviated from your original plan? If so, how severely? If not, what about your plan kept you focused?

Absolutely. Nothing I ever write is EXACTLY how I imagined it. I often finding myself changing things – whether it’s to fix something that doesn’t work in context of the story or just to try out a new idea. My first book, Trapped on Draconica, for instance went through about a million changes before that was published. My problem is that I’m always changing my mind and that often means my work gets torn apart as I try to write it. Guess that’s just the joys of editing! 

6. Some writers plot out a great deal of their work while others write “by the seat of their pants.” Would you say you’re more of a plotter or a pantser? 

Plotter most definitely. I always plan for months on end before sitting down to write it on computer. I prefer to know what I do before I sit down to write. It’s just the way I do things. 

7. What message, if any, does your book have, and what is that message so important to you? 

A common theme in my books is friendship, love and family, which are things that I hold close my heart. Redemption is also a huge part of my work as I like to think that everyone deserves a second chance in life. For this book, the main theme I would say is “Light in Darkness”, because sometimes, to appreciate the light in our lives, we have to crawl through darkness to get to it.
8. If you could co-author a book with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why? What kind of book would you write with this person? 

Andrez Bergen is an author that I would love to write with. He writes some of the most original sci-fi I’ve ever read. If it were a dead author, I’d pick Douglas Adams. Hands down, he’s my favourite author and I’d love to have been able to work with him on something.
9. A new author approaches you for advice. What three things would be at the top of your list?
  • Don’t follow trends. Write a story that you want to tell, not what’s popular.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Contrary to popular belief, writing is not always easy, and you will get knocked down a few times. But just remember what they said in Batman Begins... “Why do we fall? So that we learn to stand up again.”
  • Some authors will say that you need to read a lot to be a writer, and I don’t necessarily agree with this. Yes, you need to read to know how to write, but you don’t have to be a bookworm. All you need to do is have a basic grasp of grammar and an imagination.
Also, as an extra bonus, I’d say find someone to proofread your work. This is of utmost importance and it’s always better to have a fresh pair of eyes look over your work. 

10. When you talk with fans of your work, what types of things do they ask you about? 

Funnily enough, at the moment, the thing I mostly get from new readers is why my character Zarracka is a lot like Elsa from Frozen. People seem to think that Zarracka is a copy of Elsa as she’s a princess and has ice powers. Then I tell them that Zarracka came first! I even created my own meme over it, just to put this to an end!

The upshot of this is that it seems to have attracted a lot of people to my work. Zarracka seems to be my most popular character – which is kinda funny as she is really the villain. I guess villainous characters are always the popular ones.

Formats Available In: Digital and Print

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: TBC

When Daniar Dragonkin heard those words, she had no idea of the full horror that would follow. Now, enemies converge to bring to life a monstrous plan that has been set in motion since long before the events of Trapped on Draconica. A plot to bring Her back from darkness.

With her family threatened, her old enemies back to torment her - and a civil war in Baalaria preventing any help from her sister, Daniar faces the darkness moment of her entire life. Her sanity will be pushed to the limit as she faces evil in it's purest form. Heroes will die. Villains will rise. And She will return - bringing with it the end to all of

She Returns is the first book in the Final Ragnarok saga - and the conclusion of a trap that has been building for years. Everything you'd read about Draconica so far has been leading up to this moment. This is where it all changes - and where Draconica's ultimate fate (and of it's people) will be decided.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Work It! Workshops At RainbowCon 2015

Something we strive for at RainbowCon is education. We want to help authors and aspiring authors hone their craft and reach their audience better. One way we do this is by offering hourly workshops where experienced authors, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals help teach attendees about different aspects of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

These workshops will be events that attendees will have to RSVP for due to the size constraints of our workshop room. Each workshop will have an attendance cap of 24 people, so if you're an attendee interested in a particular workshop (and all workshops are FREE as part of the conference fee), when we open up RSVPs for workshops, be sure to jump in quickly on the ones you want to attend!

I want to share with you a bit about some of the workshops we currently have planned! We want you guys as excited as we are, so if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave a comment!

Peer Critiques - We have a few hours each day of the con where writers can gather together in our upstairs meeting room to review each other's work. This can be invaluable in the early stages of the writing process, and anyone can join in and help their fellow authors.

Plotting - Something that may be a problem for some authors is the actual plotting of their book. How to work with exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement during the writing of a book. The workshop will also touch on series plotting and the difference between character-driven and plot-driven books. (This one is a two hour workshop!)

Editing - Join editors to discuss grammar, dialect, punctuation, work relationships, house rules, and expectations during the editing process.

Writing Bad Guys - A one-note bad guy who is bad solely to be bad or to provide simple motivation to the protagonist leaves readers with a sour taste in their mouths. In this workshop, learn about making a three dimensional bad guy with hopes, dreams, motivations, and fears readers can believe in!

Worldbuilding - For authors who write in contemporary fiction, worldbuilding may not be as necessary a skill. But, if you write fantasy, science fiction, alternative history, or any other fiction genre, worldbuilding is a skill you can never overdevelop. This workshop—which spans two hours—will discuss all the ins and outs of worldbuilding in various genres: fantasy (including paranormal, urban, and high), science fiction (both hard, soft, and speculative), historical, horror, and action.

Queries, Synopses, & Blurbs - An essential skill for all authors, learn how to query an editor or publisher, how to correctly write a synopsis, and the best way to create an eye-catching blurb!

Integrating Kink - An adult-only workshop, this one talks about the differences between kink and fetish and how best to weave them believably into your fiction. 

Young Adult Fiction - There is an ever-increasing need in the world of fiction for LGBTQ persons to be represented. This workshop will talk about how to reach the young adult audience and what aspects set it apart from adult fiction.

There are many other workshops on the schedule, but these are just some highlights to whet your appetite! We're so excited about our workshops for 2015, and we really hope they help authors improve and expand their writing skills.

RainbowCon is a four day QUILTBAG-centric event for anyone and everyone. If you love QUILTBAG fiction and media, then this is the place for you. You don't have identify as GLBTQ to attend! You just need to love and support the GLBTQ community. In 2015, we've expanded our programming to include not only content for writers and readers, but also anyone who loves QUILTBAG television, movies, comic books, educational, and fandom topics. We're an inclusive conference, and we want everyone to enjoy themselves. Check out our website to see all the fun we have in store for you!

Registration is now OPEN! Come celebrate artistic diversity!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Latest Jim Morgan Cover Reveal!

I've been a huge fan of James Matlack Raney ever since his first book in the Jim Morgan series came out, and here's the cover of his latest novel, out this fall:

Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World is the climactic follow up to the IndieFab Book of the Year Finalist, Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, and the final chapter in the Jim Morgan series. Check out the first two books HERE, and look for Door at the Edge of the World in Fall 2014.

James Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Now he calls Southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Friendship Fuels Creativity

I've just had my 47th birthday, although I don't really think of myself as being in my mid/late 40s, and I'm what you would call a sentimental sap. I'm also an idealist and a hopeless romantic. I have learned that I can't take anything for granted, and that includes my friends. It's difficult to maintain consistent contact with people (especially when you have 2000+ friends on Facebook and 1800+ on Twitter), but I feel that, if we've made a connection, there's a good reason for it. I was a late bloomer when it came to making friends, mostly late high school and college, and I'm an introvert. With all of that, I have come to a realization:

Friendship fuels creativity.

The positive energy that comes from the bonds that we make with others is a self-sustaining source of power for being a creative person. It's a purely positive energy that has immeasurable effects on the human mind. Connections made between people amplify the ability (and confidence) to test barriers and break boundaries.

As a writer, I rely on my circles of friends and acquaintances to contribute to a certain level of sanity (being completely sane wouldn't help me; I need to be on the edge a bit). I'm so grateful for the people in my life, and the words "thank you" are ill-equipped to convey how I feel toward them and the efforts they go to brighten my life. Expressing gratitude in human terms simply cannot tell the important people in my life just how much they mean to me. So, I want to let them know a few things.
  1. Your friendship makes me smile, and that smile in turn raises my endorphins, something that raises my mood.
  2. When I'm in a better mood, my creative process becomes easier to manage (since we all know that creativity spikes and dips), and I can work through the slower periods knowing I have people who care about me and who I care about.
  3. With that added confidence, I can push through writer's block or force myself to tackle a snag in a plot element that I might not deal with otherwise or take a risk.
I make no real distinction between friends I know in a virtual arena like Facebook and those I know in person. Friendship IS friendship. If you've taken time to listen to me vent or talked with me about life in general or we've helped each other in a jam or whatever—I value that connection.

It's because of that that I'm a better writer because I can channel our positive connection into something productive. Friendship is a type of love, and I'm willing to take leaps of faith or risks to help a friend in need because of that love. Mutual bonds help make people more confident, and more confidence is a catalyst for creativity.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The world is filled with endless wonder

The laughter of children. The tears of those in love. A brother's embrace. A teacher's smile. A random act of kindness. A cat's purr. The serendipitous swish of a fish's tail.

All of these things make up the wonder of the world around us. Actions and reactions, movement and stillness, sound and silence—they all build upon themselves a place of magic and mystery. One kind word can set one's path ablaze with inspiration. The grazing of a hand on a cheek can instill within someone the hope to pursue anything.

A well told story or a gentle lullaby have the same effect. The metamorphosis of clouds in the heavens from one shape to another to no discernible shape at all...  these all mean something. There is undoubtedly amazement and goosebumps in a single breath.

If you truly look around, with all your senses wide open, you cannot but help to experience the moments in life that rival the flavor of nectar or the immortality of ambrosia. To experience life's briefest seconds to minutes to hours to infinity means to touch and be touched, speak and be heard, share and be loved.

Don't know where this came from, but it just came out right now. Appreciate the world that is filled with endless wonder because if you do not, you lose everything.
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