Tag Archives: my novels

Meet Annette Young of If Dreams Can Die

Some of my favorite villains are those who see themselves as heroes, and Annette Young falls wholeheartedly in that flock.

I tend to create character profiles for my point-of-view characters because I need to know as many facets of their personalities as possible. Typically, this happens before I begin the first draft of a book, which means my initial impressions of a character doesn’t always match up with the final product.

portrait of Annette Young

Of course, I had gotten to know Annette quite a bit by the time the third book came along. She quickly became one of my favorite characters—not only because there’s a dearth of middle-aged-housewives-turned-deities in fiction, but also because I sympathize with her to such a high degree.

Is Annette two-faced or simply a woman divided? I’ll let the reader decide.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt* from the character profile I penned roughly three years ago.

*Warning: if you haven’t read both If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep, you will encounter spoilers!

Annette Josephine (Ringgold) Young

Appearance

Annette was a big woman in the later years of her life. She was of average height for a Caucasian woman (5’5″) and weighed more than 300 lbs. She had dark brown eyes and long brown hair, which she typically wore up in a bun or some other conservative up-do. She would wear a ponytail at home or in casual circumstances where she knew her companions well.

When she was younger, she spent a lot of time outdoors, and living in the South, she sported an attractive tan throughout the year. After the car accident that claimed her husband’s and daughter’s lives, she became more of a shut-in, and her complexion lightened.

She has no tattoos or any other body modifications; she finds such things crass. Her ears are pierced with one hole each. Annette has dimples and a few chins.

Annette always took great pride in how she looked and was wont to wear fancier clothing and accessories than the occasion strictly called for. She prefers dresses and ostentatious jewelry, such as a bejeweled owl broach. Her favorite fragrances are of the floral variety, especially roses. She wears a lot of makeup—some might say too much eyeshadow.

In the dreamscape, however, Annette has reverted to the very thin frame she boasted prior to marrying Herbert (before love “fattened her up”). As the Lady of Peace, she wears her long hair in braids and sports a simple, shapeless white dress. She also goes about barefooted. The only jewelry she wears are golden hoop earrings. She appears to be in her mid-twenties, though everything else about her resembles a picture of her from her First Communion.

Attitude and Behavior

Annette consistently conducts herself with an air of propriety. She has excellent manners and insists that others show the same courtesy to her and others around her. While she takes pride in her looks, she doesn’t come off as haughty. When angry, she might snap and come off like a scolding schoolteacher. Even when she is upset, she tends to hide her feelings behind a mask of civility.

Others might mistake her for being naïve or simple-minded because she tends try her best to get along with everyone, but she is a very intelligent woman.

Since her mother used to scold her for fidgeting, Annette tends to fold her hands on her lap or in front of her (when standing) so that she isn’t tempted to play with the fabric of her clothes, tap her fingers against surfaces, and so forth. But despite her best efforts, she has been known to shake her wrists to make her bracelets clatter when nervous.

Annette has a thick Texan accent, and sometimes she uses expressions associated with the Deep South. But her drawl comes off more like a Southern aristocrat’s than a redneck’s. She can be sarcastic at times, but it’s subtle because she prefers to be positive when she speaks. She doesn’t swear and scolds other people when they do. Her body language also conveys how she feels: she might frown or sigh or click her tongue or fold her arms or wrinkle her nose to express displeasure. Her smiles are very warm.

History

Her childhood was very structured and, one might say, old-fashioned. She was a debutante, and proper etiquette was stressed her house. While her parents weren’t particularly wealthy, she was a little spoiled because she was an only child. She lived with both of her parents, who if they weren’t passionately in love, seemed to get along well enough. Her entire youth was spent in Berryville, Texas, and after she married Herbert Young, she moved to a larger city nearby.

She liked spending time outdoors, socializing with family friends. Some of her favorite activities included playing cards (bridge mostly), croquette, and other lawn games as well as swimming. For a short time, she even competed in swimming. She also dabbled in various crafts, including painting and sculpting, but as she got older, she turned to more utilitarian pastimes, such as quilting and needlepoint.

Annette has fond memories of her youth and young adulthood. She wanted for nothing and was generally treated well by those around her. She has always been an extrovert who prefers to surround herself with friends. Most of her best memories center on special occasions and large gatherings, including religious milestones, holidays, and her wedding. One of her favorite memories was when she met Herbert at the Henderson County Fair. He won her a goldfish, which he named Annie Fishgold—a sort of play on words for Annie Ringgold, the name Annette went by when she was young.

Hobbies and Interests

A couple of Annette’s favorite past times are baking and eating. While she once played tennis and other outdoor party games, her poor physical shape prevented her from doing much of that after she put on so much weight. Playing cards while gabbing or discussing just about any topic over a nice meal are her ideas of a good time. She also dabbled in floral arrangements (her favorite flowers are marigolds). She enjoys traveling and adding to her decorative spoon collection.

Although she wasn’t much of a reader in her youth, her thirst for knowledge on certain topics made her a voracious reader as an adult. Most of her books have to do with dreaming, coping with grief, and religion—particularly New Age concepts, such as astral projection, lucid dreaming, prophecy, and anything that pertains to the afterlife. She might watch horse racing on television, but most other sports are too barbaric for her, including football. She likes dramas and romantic comedies with happy endings. She has been known to read the occasional bodice-ripper too.

Annette is a big fan of Frank Sinatra and other crooners from the Big Band era. She feels as though there’s a certain classiness to the music. She also likes older movies and musicals. As with TV shows, she prefers a certain level of romance in her stories, and happy endings are a must. Annette has a healthy sense of humor and likes to laugh. She has a somewhat sophisticated sense of humor and isn’t a fan of slapstick or jokes at others’ expense.

Beliefs

Honesty was an important virtue for Annette growing up; lying was not tolerated in her house. She tries to be honest whenever she can, but as her plans have evolved, she has leveraged deception on a more and more regular basis. So while she abhors being lied to, she has had to “bend the truth” and keep secrets from those around her—regrettably.

Most of her crimes, she feels, are imperative and that the ends justify the means. Her desperation would prompt her to kill—and woe be to anyone who gets in the way of her reuniting with Herbert and Deirdre.

Annette is not proud of her vices. She tells herself that all of her misdeeds will be overshadowed by the good she is doing. Her biggest fear is failing to reconnect with her lost loved ones—and damning her soul if it turns out God is real.

Despite the fact that she grappled with depression while grieving for her deceased husband and daughter, she remains an optimist. Everything she has done since The Accident is out of hope that she can reconnect with her family. She used to believe in fate, but now she believes an individual must make her own destiny.

Annette was raised Catholic. From a young age, she was captivated by the idea of the spiritual realm—praying to the departed souls (saints), the idea that there were angels flitting between Heaven and Earth, and the realms beyond death: Limbo, Purgatory, Hell, Heaven. She took most of the teachings of the Bible very literally, and she mostly lived her life in accordance with the tenants of Christianity.

For as long as she could remember, she had very vivid dreams. She hoped, at first, that it meant she was a modern-day prophetess, but her parents scoffed at the notion (they were Catholic, too, but more as a habit than anything else). Her priest tiptoed around her questions, but when (in private school) she was caught reading about dream interpretation, she was told that such notions were ungodly—one step away from Ouija boards and fortune telling.

When Herbert and Deirdre died, it shook her faith to its core.

Relationships

Annette loved Herbert dearly. She once felt as though she had been blessed by God and thanked Him for bringing them together. When that love was taken away from her prematurely, she devoted her life to reclaiming it.

Annette was a virgin when she married Herbert. He is the only man she has ever been with, and their sexual habits were rather ordinary. It wasn’t the most important aspect of her marriage, though she was sexually attracted to Herbert, who wasn’t a traditionally handsome man. He’s the only man she’s ever been with.

She loves children—her Deirdre most of all. Annette always wanted a big family, and she surrounds herself with mannequin children in the dreamscape, finding peace in their play.

She has few friends, but those she trusts are very dear to her. They include Levi Nathan (first and foremost) as well as other members of PEACE, some of whom are dream drifters while others attend to the real-world administration of the organization. Two of her closest friends were Milton and William, though her relationships with them have become strained in recent years, and she worries that both men now see her as an enemy.

Annette doesn’t really hate anyone. She is disappointed by William’s betrayal, and even if she sees Project Valhalla as an obstacle, she doesn’t have anything personal against its members.

 


 

More extras are still coming your way!

Help an author out. Please rate If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep at Amazon and Goodreads!

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Writing

FREE EXCERPT: If Dreams Can Die

Book Three of The Soul Sleep Cycle won’t be available until May 21, but you can get a sneak peek today.

Read the prologue and first two chapters of If Dreams Can Die.

And don’t miss out on the other extras coming your way:

Reviews are important. Please rate If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep at Amazon and Goodreads!

5 Comments

Filed under Writing

COVER REVEAL: If Dreams Can Die

It’s with great joy that I present the cover for Book Three of The Soul Sleep Cycle:

 

The grave could not contain her grief.

Annette has devoted her life—and afterlife—to reclaiming her departed family, no matter the cost. To stop her from destroying the dreamscape, former enemies must unite and declare war on the so-called Lady of Peace.

But how do you defeat someone who is already dead?


If Dreams Can Die depicts the final confrontation between a death-defying cult and the CIA-sanctioned dream drifters sworn to defend the collective unconscious.

 

Book Three will be available in paperback and for Kindle on May 21.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the talented Mary Christopherson a huge shout-out for all of her hard work on the series’ covers. I can’t wait for the new paperback to join its predecessors on my bookshelf.

And because 35 days is a long time to delay gratification, I’ll be posting weekly updates on this blog as a countdown of sorts:

Did you like If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep? Please leave a review at Amazon and/or Goodreads!

4 Comments

Filed under Writing

Renegade Chronicles coming to tabletop RPGs

After playing a one-shot Dungeons & Dragons adventure over the course of three days, I’ve decided to transform my sword-and-sorcery trilogy into game modules.

The decision comes after diving headfirst into the world of D&D last year. I estimate it’ll take me 3.5 years to transpose Rebels and Fools into a tabletop RPG and another 8.25 years to prepare the other two books as well as at least one bonus adventure that explains what the heck happens in Port Town after Klye’s band of rebels leave.

I could’ve jumped into writing a new novel, since The Soul Sleep Cycle is all but done, but it’s just easier to repackage something old than come up with new.

Features of The Renegade Chronicles games will include:

  • Every natural 20 will summon an army of drunken midge who cast random Level 9 spells on your enemies.
  • Every natural 1 will summon an army of drunk midge who cast random Level 9 spells on you and your party.
  • During every short rest, Scout will regale you will useless facts about the island. (Did you know that the best mutton in Capricon can be found in the village of Aron?)
  • All NPCs will be romanceable—except for Opal.
  • You can import your characters from other tabletop games, though dragonborn, tieflings, and any other races not native to Altaerra will be automatically converted into boring Level 1 human fighters.
  • Druids will be able to turn into Shek’s two-tailed scorpion, Ranfir (and only Ranfir).
  • You can recruit powerful NPCs to your party, including Father Elezar, Albert Simplington, and that one guy who leads the band of highwaymen in the second book.
  • Everyone gets 1 luck point, regardless of class, whenever Klye says, “I don’t believe in luck.”
  • Avoid TPKs by using time magic to kill Dark Lily when she’s still a kid.
  • If at any point you find yourself dual wielding the vorpal sword and Chrysaal-rûn, you win.

The D&D-inspired Renegade Chronicles modules will be available on eBay.com and Facebook Marketplace after I’ve play-tested them a bunch. So as not confuse the game with the book, the first campaign will be called Fools and Fools.

(Happy April 1st, everyone!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

TEASER TEXT REVEAL: If Dreams Can Die

OK, no more procrastinating. Without fanfare (or defense), here is the back-cover blurb for my upcoming novel:

 

The grave could not contain her grief.

Annette has devoted her life—and afterlife—to reclaiming her departed family, no matter the cost. To stop her from destroying the dreamscape, former enemies must unite and declare war on the so-called Lady of Peace.

But how do you defeat someone who is already dead?


If Dreams Can Die depicts the final confrontation between a death-defying cult and the CIA-sanctioned dream drifters sworn to defend the collective unconscious.

 

Ideally, these 100 agonizing words (or less) will entice those who’ve already read the first two installments of The Soul Sleep Cycle to buy Book 3—as well as encourage new readers to give the series a shot—when If Dreams Can Die releases this spring.

Next month I hope to share another revelation: a sneak peek at the cover!

Meanwhile, I have plenty to keep me busy, including planning for my next novel and a handful of events.

Another ‘Year of Yes’?

2018 pushed me beyond my comfort zone, especially when it came to conferences, conventions, and book fairs. I learned a lot, and even if some events weren’t exactly worthwhile, others bore fruit—though not always how I expected.

For instance, I presented to the Fond du Lac Area Writers last year, after which the president of the club submitted an article to the local newspaper, highlighting the books of area authors. An author from farther north saw the piece and invited me to be on a panel at a book festival in Green Bay this spring.

And while participating in the 24-Hour Theater experiment was rewarding in itself, I’ve been asked to return to the Fond du Lac Area Writers to talk about my experience.

All in all, it looks like I might be doing just as many events in 2019, if not more. Here are a few of them:

  • How-To Fest — I’ll be conducting a workshop on how to self-publish a book (as well as the pros and cons of doing so) April 6 at the Fond du Lac Public Library in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. More info here.
  • UntitledTown — In addition to participating on a panel about writing speculative fiction, I’ll be leading a fantasy world-building workshop. The book festival will be held April 26 to 28 in Downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin. More info here.
  • Lakefly Writers Conference — Last year, I attended this conference and sold a few books in the vendor hall. This year, I’ll be giving a presentation about the essentials of world building in speculative fiction. The conference takes place May 10 and 11 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. More info here.
  • Fond du Lac Area Writers — This will be my third time serving as a guest speaker at this local writing club. With If Dreams Can Die fresh off the press and the aforementioned events under my belt, we surely won’t run out of things to talk about. The meeting is May 28 at Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac. More info here.
  • Fondue Fest — While nothing is set in stone yet, I’m confident I will be selling and signing books at this annual downtown Fond du Lac festival (Sept. 7). After all, it was my most lucrative event, sales-wise, last year. More info here.

Sprinkle in a flash fiction-writing workshop for teens, a nontraditional book release party, and maybe a farmer’s market or two, and it seems my “Year of Yes” has indeed earned a sequel!

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Don’t call it a dirge

Plan A: reveal the teaser text for my forthcoming novel, If Dreams Can Die.

Nope. I should’ve known better.

While I’m ahead of schedule on most aspects of production, nothing—nothing—is more difficult than crafting the back-cover blurb for a book.

For the prior novel, If Sin Dwells Deep, I was reasonably satisfied with an early draft of the blurb. I shared it here and then agonized over it for another week or two, coming up with something significantly better. Rather than repeat that process, I’m going to spend another month tinkering before I share those very important words.

But I still have a blog post to write…

Plan B: share the playlist instead!

Soul Sleep Soundtrack

While planning, penning, and proofing If Souls Can Sleep—Book One of The Soul Sleep Cycle—I got into the habit of jotting down songs that suited my story. At the end of that project as well as the next, I compiled said tracks into unofficial soundtracks.

Naturally, I did the same for If Dreams Can Die, the conclusion to my genre-bending series about life, death, and the dreamscape. While many of the songs skew to the darker (depressing?) side of what music has to offer, I promise that the book itself won’t be all doom and gloom.

Meanwhile, here are 14 songs that capture the mood of If Dreams Can Die. And if you need me, I’ll be struggling over how best to boil down 367 pages into a few compelling sentences.

3 Comments

Filed under Writing

‘The End’ is not the end

road displaying "start" and "finish" signs

Last week I finished proofing the third and final draft of If Dreams Can Die.

Which brings me to a whole new beginning.

Because I’m an indie publisher, the end of a manuscript just means it’s time to take off my author hat and try on a few others for the production and marketing phases.

With a handful of other books under my belt, I’ve learned how to streamline the process for publishing paperbacks and e-books. Some of it requires a creativity all its own, while other tasks are more tedious than tricky.

In case you’ve ever wondered how a story gets from my laptop to your hands, here’s an overview of what happens after “The End.”

Front and back matter

While the story itself makes up most of the pages, there is plenty of other text needed to transform a manuscript into professional-looking book. Here are a few examples of what I typically include before the prologue and after the epilogue:

  • Copyright page: Largely comprised of legalese and other details average readers don’t care about, the copyright page is nevertheless required for books sold at Amazon.com and other online retailers.
  • Other works by the authors: It would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t list my other books, both ones that are from the same series as well as earlier works.
  • Cropped out book blurb from the back cover of If Sin Dwells DeepEpigraph: Although this is by no means mandatory, all three of The Soul Sleep Cycle installments include a relevant definition and quote prior to the prologue.
  • Title page: This is by far the easiest page to write, since it displays the book title, author name, and publisher only.
  • Dedication page: The dedication is a short page that calls attention to a person or group who helped with the creation of the book. Minimal though the content may be, I nevertheless put a lot of thought into this each time.
  • Acknowledgements: This section near the back goes into more details than the dedication page, listing individual thankyous. In The Renegade Chronicles, I published the same acknowledgements in all three volumes. For The Soul Sleep Cycle, I included this section in Book One only.
  • About the author: Although the length and format of these mini bios vary from author to author and publisher to publisher, they are nonetheless an expected back-matter element. I always use the same portrait and few paragraphs, making minor alterations as needed.
  • Teaser: If there is to be another book in a series, I always put the prologue or first chapter of what comes next. The hope, of course, is that the reader will get hooked and buy the book to keep reading.
  • Everything else: There are no hard and fast rules about what other sections should be included. Largely, it depends on the book. For example, I included a map of Capricon in The Renegade Chronicles as well as an appendix that serves as a quick-reference glossary of important people, places, and magical items. I’m toying with the idea of creating a timeline and an afterword for If Dreams Can Die. We’ll see.

And then there’s the back-cover blurb, which has to be some of the most agonizing text an author ever has to write. I dedicated a lot of time to this for If Sin Dwells Deep (as described here), and I expect the experience for If Dreams Can Die will prove equally challenging.

The cover

A book’s cover is arguably the most important marketing tool an author has. If the cover misses the mark, well, that’s a really difficult obstacle to overcome.

Fortunately, I’ve known and worked with a lot of talented graphic designers for my day job as a marketing specialist. I’m absolutely in love with all of my book covers. The process has been different for each endeavor, but for The Soul Sleep Cycle, I’ve starting using a planning document that conveys the following information to the designer:

  • Ideas for tone
  • Thoughts on the color palette
  • Possible concepts for main art
  • Ideas for background imagery
  • Suggested typefaces
  • Specifications for paperback cover (e.g. dimensions, resolution, file type, file size)
  • Specifications for e-book cover (e.g. dimensions, resolution, file type, file size)
  • Production timeline

Even though my contributors tend to be friends, I nevertheless insist on keeping the acquisition of cover art as professional as possible, using work agreements/contracts to keep ownership and rights clear. I also compensate them for their excellent work.

I recently met with Mary Christopherson, the graphic artist who kicked butt on the covers for If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep. I shared my thoughts on If Dreams Can Die’s cover, and—because it is a true collaboration—she shared hers. Together, we came up with a plan and will touch base often throughout the project in order to come up with a final product we can both be proud of.

Proofing

As an indie publisher, I try to keep as much of a project in-house (read: DIY) as possible. The cover is one exception to this, and proofing is another.

Manuscript with many editor flagsDon’t get me wrong. I always proof my work. In fact, I create a style guide for each series so that I am consistent in how I represent things like dates, titles, song names, and so forth.

But even if I think my text is pretty clean after proofing it, I will never be able to catch all of my mistakes. Common culprits are missing words, extra words, and homophones. Again, I’m blessed to know someone who combs through the entire book, including front and back matter, to mark up what I miss. (Thanks, Dusty!)

Once I get the edits back, it takes me a couple of hours to update the paperback and e-book files.

Layout

Professionals who excel in graphic design might use programs like Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. Since I’m more frugal—both with my money and the time it would take to master such software—I use Microsoft Word.

Suffice it so say this is not ideal. I’ve waged many a battle with Word to ensure page breaks behave and spacing remains consistent throughout the book. This step once took weeks to complete. Even though I still have the occasional skirmish with Word’s obtuse interface, I’m much faster these days.

Worse comes to worse, I just look at the files from my past books and reverse engineer the result.

Odds and ends

Then there are the mundane tasks scattered throughout every phase:

  • Assigning ISBNs (the unique identifying number) for paperback and e-book editions
  • Buying the barcode for the paperback
  • Ordering and reviewing a proof copy of the paperback
  • Registering for copyright
  • Following the many, many steps needed so that the book is ready to print on demand
  • Getting everything in order with Kindle Digital Publishing to make the e-book available

Screen shot of Kindle Digital Publishing dashboard

Marketing

I won’t go into too much detail here, since book marketing is a big topic all on its own. What I will say, however, is that there are myriad marketing channels—from big, expensive tactics to quick but important touchpoints—and I learn something new with every book I publish.

With If Dreams Can Die, my marketing plan will have to be modified since it’s the third book in a series. For instance, it probably doesn’t make sense to create an advanced reader copy (ARC) and pay to appear in NetGalley, since reviewers who didn’t read the first two books won’t gravitate to Book Three. I’m better of reaching out directly to reviewers who are already acquainted with the series.

Likewise, a Goodreads Giveaway might not be worth the investment.

Determining the best way to promote The Soul Sleep Cycle’s conclusion is just another to-do on a long list that will keep me busy from now until If Dreams Can Die launches in early May.

Then it really will be “The End”—at least until I decide to release the entire series as an e-book collection.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing