Sequel writing — The Embers of Light

The sequel to my first novel is coming along nicely. The second installment of The Dia Chronicles will be, The Embers of Light. I mentioned a while back that I’d written 10 chapters and decided to scrap them. While that wasn’t an easy decision to make, I’m glad I did because this new version is so much better!

As I write this first draft I am so much more aware of my writing process. In the first round of writing, I don’t much care to concentrate on word count. My main focus is the WHO, WHAT and WHEN. While I do have a rough plan, I find that I don’t stick to it. I’m pretty easy going when it comes to what the characters want to do.

Some writers write a long first draft and then cut in the rewrites. I choose to take a different approach. My first draft will probably be somewhere around 60,000 words — much shorter than it needs to be. But at that point, at least I’ll know the order of the plot and the action.

In the 2nd draft I will focus on the WHY, smooth out details and layer in more description and character thought. Many fantasy novels are well over 100,000 words. But I am not creating an entirely different world, so I don’t feel like my novels need to be that long. By layering the 2nd draft, my word count goal is 100,000 words. When I get there, that’s when I know I’m in a good position to CUT — that’s right, I said cut. 🙂

In the 3rd draft I will continue to smooth out details, but this time I will cut as much unnecessary detail as possible. I am known to write in too much exposition, so that always needs to be examined first. Then I look for the overused words that I can chop as I go. By the time the 3rd draft is done, I hope to be sitting at about 90,000-ish words.

I wrote six drafts of The Darkness of Light — SIX! I really don’t want to do that this time. The more you write, the more you know about yourself and your writing process. Hopefully I stick to the plan this time.

Interview with YA Author Greg Wilkey on Writing, success with indie-publishing and the dreaded –Rules of Writing

I am really excited to bring to you an interview with indie-author, Greg Wilkey.

In 2011 Greg burst into the indie-publishing world with his debut novel, Growing Up Dead, and has had continued success with the sequels in what has become the Mortimer Drake series. Not only are Greg’s novels enjoyable to read, but they’ve been endorsed by the Queen of the Damned, herself – Anne Rice.

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Greg Wilkey is an educator and author of young adult fiction. Currently, he has written and published four books in his popular Mortimer Drake Series. He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1971. He developed a love of stories and adventure at an early age. He has always loved to read and write. He graduated from college with a degree in education and began a career in teaching world languages in 1993. He spent the next 15 years as a classroom teacher of Spanish until moving into school administration in 2007. He has been married for 20 years to his wife, Alicyn. He makes his home in Chattanooga where he and his wife are the proud pet parents of three spoiled cats. ​

Greg was kind enough to chat with me about his writing habits, hope for traditional publishing and the rules of writing.

You’ve published four novels in 2 years. That’s impressive. With a full-time job as an assistant principal, how do you find the time to write?

It’s not an easy task to find time to write, but I make myself write every night for at least an hour. Usually, that happens late at night before I head to bed. The majority of my writing time is on the weekends and during the breaks in the school year. I love waking up early on the weekends and heading to my home office. I can spend countless hours lost in my imagination.

 I remember the first time Anne Rice endorsed your novel. In fact, that’s how I found out about it in the first place, but I have to say that it wasn’t just the endorsement that got my attention—it was the name of your character, Mortimer Drake. I thought it was such a great, catchy name. How did you come up with it?

        The name came to me after I began researching and mapping out the first book. I wanted something to play on the word “dead.” I immediately thought of the word morbid. That got me to thinking about other words that were similar: morte, muerte, mortuary, etc. Suddenly, there it was: Mortimer. His last name was intended to be a reference to the most famous vampire of all, Dracula. I played with a few ideas before I decided on Drake. And there you have, the origin of my young hero’s name, Mortimer Drake.

Most writers identify themselves as either a story plotter or a fly by the seat of their pants writer. Which are you, a plotter or a pantser?

        I am actually somewhere in the middle (a “plontster” maybe?) I do outline and map out key scenes that I want to write. I spend a lot of time plotting out specific details of the beginning, middle, and end. Once I start writing, I let the characters and the mood of my story lead me and connect the dots. In fact, that’s how I know the story is working. Once the characters take over and guide me from scene to scene, I’m happy. I will admit, however, it does make more work for me. Every once and a while, the characters will go in a direction I never saw and I have to rethink the scenes. That’s the great thing about writing fiction. Anything can happen.

Do you have any unusual writing habits? Any funny quirks that happen only when you write?

        I have to have music or background noise. I cannot write in silence. In fact, as I work on a book, certain music will start to work its way into the story and I begin to develop this internal soundtrack. When that happens, I will download songs by artists in that genre or select that type of music on my Pandora Radio. It’s funny, because as I was writing the Mortimer Drake Series, I discovered that I loved alternative rock/heavy metal music. That’s the soundtrack of Mortimer’s world. Who knew?

While you’ve had success with the Mortimer Drake series, you’ve said in other interviews that you still hope to find a place in traditional publishing. Do you have other projects that you’ve set aside for this purpose?

Yes! I have mapped out three books in a new series I am writing. I already have two publishers that have expressed possible interest in seeing the first book. I am working to complete the manuscript by March so that I can submit it. I am hopeful, but I am truly enjoying my journey as an indie author. If I don’t land a traditional publisher, I will certainly self-publish again. I have a strong following now. It feels surreal.

 Can we talk about “The Rules of Writing” for a moment? These are the rules that agents, editors and self-appointed writing gurus constantly preach at aspiring authors, and yet, time and time again we see these rules broken.

        If I have learned anything from my life as a reader and a writer, it’s that there are no set rules. Every writer has his or her own guideline. In fact, I recently posted my “rules” on my author’s page on Facebook. Here are my very own 7 rules:

1. Read. Read a lot. I can’t imagine being a writer and not reading. I read everything from non-fiction to autobiographies to children’s picture books. I am always looking at how other authors use language.

2. Set aside time to think. I have to do this. Once I get an idea going, I need time to just sit and think about it. This looks differently depending on where I am. Sometimes I think in my office. Sometimes I sit on my patio in my favorite rocking chair. Sometimes I think while I’m watching an old movie. This step for me is crucial because this is when I let the idea marinate in my imagination. This is where the story starts to grow.

3. Research. I love to do research for a book, but I have to be careful not to get lost in this step. I can spend hours reading articles and following links that interest me. The research is important to me because I want my readers to have something real to connect with in my books. Good fiction must have a touch of reality to be believable.

4. Map out the story. I have to do this. I know that not all authors follow this step, but for me it is necessary. I don’t have to outline every detail, but I at least want a basic road map of the book. I like to have a sense of where I’m going before I start the journey.

5. Be ready to trash the map. Now, having stated rule #4, I have learned to let the map go and follow the lead of my characters. There is something wonderful about letting go of control and giving myself over to the world I’ve created. Sometimes, it’s better to let the characters dictate their actions to me. In fact, as a writer, I want this to happen. When it does, I know that my story is now a living organism with a life all its own.

6. Don’t revise while writing. I had a hard time with this one in the beginning. I was so worried about grammar and vocabulary that I’d spend all my energy on correcting and editing every line that I wrote. It took me a long time to figure out that was why I never finished a book. I was burning out before I really got started. Now when I write, I just write. I let the story flow onto the page. I just want to get the words out of my head. I want to paint those scenes before I lose them. I don’t worry about the language mechanics until the end.

7. Have fun. This is my favorite rule because writing is too hard and too painful not to enjoy. I love to write. I have to write. It’s who I am and I can’t imagine not doing it. I love to hide out in my home office with my favorite music playing while I slip into my imagination. As long as I’m having fun, that’s all that matters. I write for my own pleasure. If others read and enjoy my work, that’s just wonderful, but I can’t allow that to motivate me. No, I write because I love it.

What are your thoughts on:

Adverbs – I use them. I think that YA fiction, at least for me, needs a lot of action. I like to use active verbs, therefore, I like the adverbs.

Using anything other than “said” to carry dialog – I think “said” pretty much does the trick, but I do like to occasionally toss in a new verb, you know, just for fun.

Avoiding detailed descriptions of people, places or things – I try to avoid too much description. Again, for me, I want my readers to fill in some of the gaps for themselves. I use enough description to set the mood and create the picture. I truly hope that my readers will be able to insert themselves into the story and see everything through my eyes and through theirs. I like to leave a little of the story open for the reader’s imagination.

Character thought exposition “He knew”, “She thought” etc… – I am torn on this one. I use it some, but the more I develop my own style, I tend to use it less. I guess I’m evolving. I try to let the story and the actions relate the character’s thoughts. It’s not always easy.

What can we expect from you next?  Will you take your Mortimer Drake novels from the YA world into the New Adult category?

         I am actually mapping out a possible 5th book for Mortimer. I left a tiny little door open in the last book of the series just in case I wanted to come back to Mortimer’s world. I still miss him, but for now, I am fully dedicated to my new young adult hero and his adventures. I am having a blast creating this new universe. I am very optimistic about my future as an author. I will never stop trying. I promise you that!

You can find Greg on Facbook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greg-Wilkey-Author-of-YA-Fiction/351753751608643

You can find his books in ebook and paperback through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Book 1 GROWING UP DEAD: Mortimer Drake discovers that he is the product of a supernatural mixed-marriage. His mother is human and his father is a 925 year old vampire. His life is completely turned upside down as he struggles with this knowledge and his emerging vampiric nature. The truth behind the myths and legends of the vampire are revealed as Mortimer enters into a centuries old war of the Undead.

Book 2 OUT OF THE UNDERWORLD:  Mortimer Drake and his family continue to work toward a new understanding of how to survive as a supernatural family living in the mortal world. Unexpected events have altered their close-knit family even more as Mortimer’s mother gives birth to a baby girl. Is she human, vampire or something entirely different? A new battle in the war among the Undead begins as the Mother and Queen of the vampire race is discovered.

Book 3 HOPE AGAINST HOPE: The world has changed for the living and the undead alike. Mortimer Drake and his family have been forced underground in the wake of the Dark Revelation. Humankind has learned of the existence of vampires and society has crumbled into chaos. The centuries old conflict between True-born vampires and Cross-blood vampires has taken a backseat to a new war that has spread across the globe. HOPE, an organization determined to wipe out the vampire race, has risen to power under the absolute authority of the Director. HOPE promises to restore peace, safety, and security, but that promise has a price. Vampires have been forced from the security of the shadows. They can no longer hide behind the myths and legends. If Mortimer wants to survive, he will have to learn to trust new friends with supernatural secrets of their own. If he fails, the world will never be the same again.

Book 4 STAR BLOOD: The Collapse of the HOPE movement brought a renewed sense of unity to the world. For the first time in recorded history, humans lived side by side with creatures of myths and legends to build a new life fueled by optimism. Vampires are joined by their preternatural kin – merfolk, fairies, and werewolves – to pave a new path for life on Earth. But this feeling of faith and hope is short-lived. Mortimer Drake and his friends must now a face a new enemy from somewhere beyond the stars that threatens to destroy all life on the planet.

For those who “don’t usually read fantasy” – Yes you do!

“I don’t usually read fantasy.” I’ve head this a lot lately, especially from the people who’ve had a chance to read my upcoming novel, The Darkness of Light.

To be truthful, when I sat down to write it, I hadn’t intended to write a fantasy novel at all- it just happened. Before I wrote it, I probably would have said that I don’t read fantasy either. And if we’re talking about sword-wielding  dragon slayers, that’s definitely not my first choice. I’m more of a paranormal, horror, historical kind of reader. If anything falls within those definitions, I’m on it!

So how did I end up writing a fantasy novel and why do my “non-fantasy” readers like it so much?

Well, while my novel is certainly labeled fantasy, it was constructed in such a way that it reads like the novels I love to read. I wrote the book I wanted to read. If I changed my characters to let’s say…vampires, then my book might be called a historical paranormal novel. But because I used mythology instead of folklore (there is a difference  between the two), my book is automatically considered fantasy.

There are many sub-genres within the fantasy genre. When we think of the sword-wielding dragon slayers or completely made up worlds, we are talking about Epic Fantasy. In epic fantasy there’s usually some kind of major threat to the world and the protagonist must overcome the villain in order to save their race…usually.

My novel is more of a Low Fantasy, in that the storyline revolves more around the characters struggles and development. The threat centers on the characters and not the entire race of beings, and the setting is mostly real world.

Then we have to consider the labels. If you say you don’t read fantasy, but you love Twilight, Werewolves are your new obsession, or Anne Rice is your favorite author (like she is mine), then guess what? You DO read fantasy! If you like any kind of paranormal anything, you DO read fantasy! BOOM! You’ve just been mind blown.

That’s right. While the industry has attached the label of “Paranormal” to these kinds of books, they are actually fantasy. Anne Rice has been labeled many things: Gothic horror writer, Paranormal writer, Dark Fantasy writer….Wait!, What? It’s true, Anne Rice writes dark fantasy, as in, it involves dark, supernatural characters that live in our world. The Twilight series is also a Paranormal Fantasy…any kind of paranormal, supernatural, ghosts, witches, werewolves, bagpipe people…(you get the point)…is fantasy.

Now that we’ve settled that, I would also like to point out that millions of readers world-wide have read the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings. What do you think those are? Kitten tales…NOPE! That’s fantasy as well.

So you see folks, while you think you might not read fantasy, you really do, you just didn’t know it. And as far as my book goes, I wrote it because it was a book I wanted to read, but it didn’t exist. You won’t find dragons in my book, or any other kind of strange creature. But you will find a sword wielding hottie, and supernatural characters in a real historical setting… hence the label: Historical Fantasy

The Darkness of Light teaser

Mara stared at Valenia. The veiled dwelling in the rock fascinated her now just as much as it had when she arrived months earlier. The true exterior, hidden from human eyes, was magnificent. It wasn’t simply a cavern, but rather a grand fortress molded from an imposing mass of rock.

     The summer months were moving quickly as Mara settled into her new home and became acquainted with the Dia living there. Mara spent much of her time with little Isa, wandering the golden beach and exploring the flat, wooded acres that bordered Valenia. She hadn’t gone any farther than that since they found the murdered family in the forest. The image of the young family, mangled and bloodied, still troubled her, along with the haunting memories of her mother’s own tragic end. Her nights had become a struggle to ignore the visions while her days were spent hoping they wouldn’t return with the darkness. But in spite of these tormenting dreams, Mara felt safe at Valenia, because at least there, she was never alone.

January 28th, 2014

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January 28th, 2014 – Official Release Date for The Darkness of Light

We have an official release date!

January 28th, 2014

Available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes an Noble.com, and Kobo

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     At the dawn of the sixth century, in the aftermath of her mother’s brutal execution, Mara Black is forced to flee the only life she has ever known.

     Mara can tell she’s different, but isn’t sure why. After she encounters two mysterious strangers, she discovers her secret is but a drop in an ocean of many. She is a Dia, a descendant of ancient gods, and her mother sacrificed herself to protect Mara from their past.  

     Summoned by an uncle she didn’t know existed, Mara thinks she’s found the family she’s always wanted, and Corbin, a love she never thought possible. But not everything is as it seems. Her uncle has other motives for protecting her, and her mentor, Malcolm, becomes so jealous, he’ll do anything to get what he wants. When tragedy strikes, and the true darkness among them comes to light, Mara discovers that sometimes love can give you everything, and obsession can take it all away. With her powers gone, and destiny calling, she has to look deep within to find the courage to save herself. Mara, along with Corbin and her newfound family, must fight to get back what was taken, or die trying.

The Tuatha Dé Danann: The mythology behind The Darkness of Light

As a follow up to my Fact vs. Fiction in Literature post, I wanted to explain my treatment of the mythology in The Darkness of Light.

I used the legend of the Tuatha Dé Danann as the mythological component of my story. For those who don’t know who or what the Tuatha Dé Danann are, I will give you a cliff notes version.

The Tuatha Dé Danann (The people of the Goddess Danu) are mythical beings said to have once ruled Ireland. They came from the sky on clouds and were godlike people, not entirely human and not entirely god. These are the beings that would later become known as Faeries.

I would like to stress that at no point in The Darkness of Light are these beings ever referred to as Faeries. Why? Because I feel as though the word Faery denotes some pointy eared, diminutive creatures that fly. The original Tuatha Dé Dananns were not portrayed this way, and in fact, they were more like humans in size and appearance. Instead of calling my characters Fae, or Faeries throughout the novel, I chose to use the Gaelic word for God, which is “Dia” (Dee-ah).

The Dia (Dia, because there is no plural form of Dia) in my novel have supernatural powers. They can alter their appearance; some can create fire, heal, read minds, and control the weather. Their power comes from a Light within them, and their personalities can be either benign or malevolent – much like the legend suggests.

Anyone familiar with the Tuatha Dé Danann will be quick to point out that I have set them in the wrong country (Britain). I am aware that the lore is Irish, but when researching my novel, I had to consider the state of Ireland in the 6th century. Christianity had taken over so much so that my characters would be far too restricted, and by that time, many Irish people had immigrated to Britain anyway.

Also, when the kingdom of the Tuatha Dé Danann was defeated, they spread out. Is it that crazy to think that they’d sail across the sea and settle in a land that wasn’t ruled by their conquerors? No. It made sense to me. Plus, I knew the second book would include Welsh “faeries,” (the Twyleth Teg), so I wanted to keep the setting close to Wales.

There were a few other modifications I made to the legend. The most notable of which involves the Lia Fàil, (the Stone of Destiny.) This was said to have been brought by the Tuatha Dé Danann to Ireland, and is said to wail when the next king of Ireland stands before it. The actual stone of the legend resides on the Hill of Tara in County Meath.

In my story, I turned the Lia Fàil into a magical charm that will guide the wearer along their chosen path.

The next deviation from legend happened with the coire (Kor-yuh), which is Gaelic for cauldron. This was another gift brought to Ireland from the Tuatha Dé Danann. It was said to be a cauldron that would feed the entire country of Ireland.

I struggled with this one. After all, how exciting is a cauldron of food? So instead of using the coire in its original form, I chose to make it a lost power that only one Dia can possess. I won’t get into too much detail about it; you’ll have to read the book. But I want all mythology buffs out there to know that I am aware of the alterations I have made. This was not an oversight.

I love the legend of the Tuatha Dé Danann and I tried to stay true to the myth as possible, but my story was intended to be more of a continuation of the legend rather than an accurate retelling.