A New Chapter

Hi, everybody! (If you read that in the voice of Doctor Nick from The Simpson’s, you’re awesome)

As I announced earlier this week on my Facebook page, I’ve been in the middle of a hard edit on the Reaper Series to fix a few minor errors that made it through the initial editing stages. Like I said on my Facebook page, as an independent author, I don’t have the time, money, nor the team to publish a book the way that a professional publishing firm can. BUT the good thing about it is that if mistakes are made, I can fix them whenever I want. Publishing houses would have to recall thousands of book units if they wanted to fix a printing error in their publication, but not me! I can just click a button.

Anyway, while the hard editing I’m doing is just for those minor little grammatical errors that slipped through, and the story itself doesn’t change at all, I also wrote a new first chapter for Angel of Death. So I’m going to share that with everyone now, so that the people who have already bought and read Angel of Death can enjoy (hopefully) the extra chapter without having to mess around trying to either update their current ebook version or download a new one, and maybe it will even encourage those of you who haven’t read it to go and give it a try. Remember, Angel of Death is free forever, people!

So without any further ramblings, here it is. The brand new first chapter to Angel of Death. If you have feedback you’d like to share with me, please do, I love hearing what my readers have to say. 😀

 

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THE FINAL SUNRISE

The prisoner never raised his head all night, not until he felt the warmth of the sun on the back of his neck. As he sat on the edge of the bed and peered out the barred windows, he saw the sun beginning to rise, the light peeking back through the iron bars at him. He knew it was the last dawn he would ever see.

He never thought before that this was how his life would end. It was 1775, he was still a young man, and his life was to be suddenly cut short, just because of one foolish evening.

When the American colonies decided to go to war with England for independence, he had thought it was only a concern for those who called themselves his owners. But then those same people had “donated” him to the cause, making him a soldier, fighting to defeat the oppressors of his oppressors. So then he had thought his life would end with him lying facedown on some blood soaked battlefield, having died fighting for a cause that was never going to be extended to him.

Freedom.

Darius clenched his fists to stifle his fear as he felt it swelling inside once more. He stared at the irons they had locked around his wrists and slowly counted to ten to calm down. He remembered when they had put the irons on him. He remembered he had never struggled, never argued, just stood there and allowed himself to be imprisoned. As a slave in Boston, he was used to wearing chains. He had worn them his entire life, both literally and metaphorically.

Darius turned his ear to the door of his cell when he suddenly heard footsteps approaching and a tense conversation.

“Do we have to shoot him?” asked a soft, nervous, voice.

“What’s wrong, Thomas?” an older, gruffer, voice replied. “You never shot a colored boy before?”

“Darius took a deep intake of air and slowly exhaled. They were coming for him. It was almost time.

“I just mean,” Thomas began, “that wouldn’t it be better to hang him? Isn’t that more… traditional?”

The older one, who Darius could now identify by he gravelly voice as being named Raymond, snorted with derision.

“Hangings are for thieves and common crooks,” Raymond growled. “Traitors, though, you gotta shoot ‘em. Firing squad. No less than they deserve.”

At that moment, Darius saw Thomas and Raymond appear on the other side of the cell door. They were both dressed plainly, but Darius could see their muskets on their backs and their pistols at their hips. The two militia soldiers glared in at him, both judging him, both condemning him. Though Darius noted that Raymond looked at him with far more contempt than young Thomas did. Thomas had always been one of the nicer ones. Not exactly nice, but nicer, which was always the best Darius could ever hope for.

Raymond unlocked the heavy door and pushed it open, sill glaring at Darius with disdain.

“On your feet, boy,” Raymond barked. “It’s time.”

Without saying a word, Darius slowly rose from the side of the small bed he had been sitting on, his chains jangling at his wrists. Without argument, without struggle, he allowed the two militia soldiers to lead him out of the cell.

Once outside, with Raymond and Thomas standing on either side of him, Darius came face to face with the rest of the small militia squad, all staring at him furiously, looking as though they longed to draw their pistols and shoot him in the head right there and then. Darius almost wished that they would just get on with it already, but his fear of what was to come was close to overwhelming. It was a struggle just to keep his hands from shaking and he felt as though he might be sick. However, he kept himself composed. He didn’t want these men to know his fear. He wouldn’t give them that. They could take everything else, had taken everything else, but they couldn’t take his pride.

“Let’s go,” Raymond grunted to everyone.

They all then began marching out of the small town. Darius refused to look around, but he could feel the eyes of the locals on him. Watching him march away. No one spoke up for him; no one tried to defend him, which Darius had known from the beginning that they wouldn’t. It wasn’t the way the world worked. Not his world, anyway. But the stoic faces of the locals were soon left behind and Darius found himself, all too soon, standing before a small forest just on the outskirts of the town.

“This is it,” Raymond said.

He then grabbed Darius’ shoulders and forced him to turn around and face him, then shoving his back against the nearest tree.

“Any last words, boy?” Raymond growled.

Darius remained silent and looked past Raymond at a point far in the distance. He focused on the sunrise and swallowed his fear, taking in the glowing pink and gold of the sky.

“When you get to Hell,” Raymond sneered, “tell Myles we sent you. I’m sure he’ll be real glad to see you again.”

Raymond stepped back and stood with the other men, spitting on the ground at Darius’ feet.

“Ready!” Raymond shouted.

The other soldiers all drew their muskets.

“Aim!” Raymond boomed.

The soldiers took aim and Darius offered a silent prayer to God, but didn’t hold much hope. He knew Hell awaited him for the things he had done. So instead of more prayer, Darius just set his eyes on the horizon, taking in the colors of the morning, and lifted his chin slightly, almost in defiance of the men about to end his life.

“Fire!”

The sunrise was the last thing Darius saw in his life.

For My Awesome Fans

The following is the first chapter (1st draft version) of my new book that I am writing, City Of Crows. It is a supernatural thriller, with maybe a little bit of horror thrown in to the mix. I’m sharing it now so that my readers, who are completely awesome and always give their support and encouragement and show so much enthusiasm for everything I do, can get an idea of what the book will be like, as it’s a little different from the last four books I’ve written. For those of you who read this, you are amazing! Enough talk, on to the story!

 

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CITY OF CROWS

Ana Velasco’s feet pounded hard against the earth as she sprinted through the woods. Her heart was pounding loudly in her ears, the only sounds she could hear now being the fearful thump-THUMP of her beating heart, and her own panting breath. She was struggling for air, struggling to keep breathing, she had been running as fast as she could for so long. She had to, though, if she stopped… she died.

Ana raised her arms and shielded her face as she ran though a low hanging thicket of tree branches, sending leaves flying everywhere as she ploughed through. She heard the branches snap under the force of her momentum, but she just kept running, too afraid to even slow down, too terrified to even look back. She knew they were back there. She knew they were following her. Chasing her. Pursuing her.

Hunting her.

Continuing to run as fast as she could, Ana felt her foot catch on something sticking up out of the ground. She cried out as she fell, throwing her hands forward to try and stop herself from falling. She hit the ground hard, her face crashing into the dirt and fallen leaves. Even though her arms and hands were now chafed and scratched and bloody, and her head throbbed painfully, Ana pushed herself up to her feet, sobbing gently as she gasped for air, twigs and dried leaves now caught in her long black hair, and kept running.

Finally, Ana saw up ahead the place she was heading. It was a small cabin, desolate and seemingly abandoned. The cabin looked ancient, like it had been built hundreds of years ago out of nothing but what the builder had found on the forest floor. Long lengths of wood packed in tightly together, the gaps sealed with mud. But there was safety in that cabin. Behind its rickety door and uneven windows, Ana knew there was her only hope.

Ana didn’t spare a glance upward as a shadow passed over her face. Instead, it seemed as though the passing shadow urged her to run faster.  Her long black hair trailed out behind her as she fled, like the tail of a comet, until Ana reached the door to her cabin and pushed her way inside. Panting and wheezing, Ana immediately turned and slammed the door shut. As she leaned against it and looked around the inside of the small, one room, cabin, Ana wished that the door had a lock. Although, she knew that a lock would serve her no purpose now. If they wanted to come in, they would. And she didn’t have much time.

Still panting, trying to ignore the excruciating stitch that was twisting like a hot knife in her side, Ana hurried around the cabin and began pulling open the cabinets and snatching out numerous objects, not caring when she knocked other items to the floor in her hurry.

“Quick, quick, quick!” Ana muttered to herself fearfully.

Ana swept numerous items out of her cabinets in a hurry, carelessly tossing them to the floor as she searched. Blue candles and bottles of incense all thumped against the wooden floor and rolled away, but Ana paid them no attention. She thrust her arms deep inside the cabinets above her head and finally found what she was looking for. Still panting in her exhaustion and fear, Ana retrieved a compact mirror and a tall, thick, white, candle. Clutching them both tightly in her hands, Ana turned around and hurried towards the corner of the large rug that covered the majority of the tiny cabin floor. Clutching the mirror and candle in one hand, Ana bent down and grasped the corner of the rug in her free hand and yanked it backwards, tossing the whole rug aside in one fling.

Beneath the rug was a symbol marked on the floor in white paint. It was large, taking up the entire space that the rug had covered. It was a wide circle, but within the circle was a five pointed star, painted as though in one continuous stroke, the line never breaking. One point of the star was pointing directly at the door through which Ana had rushed only moments ago.

This star was known as a pentagram.

Ana quickly set the compact mirror down on the floor above the point of the star that faced the door, opening the mirror and placing it carefully outside of the pentagram’s circle, the reflective glass facing the only way in or out. Ana then put the thick candle down on the floor, directly on top of the tip of the pentagram’s point closest to the door, right behind the compact mirror. Her hands shaking, Ana then took a book of matches from her pocket and tried to strike a match, but her hands were too unsteady.

“Dammit, come on,” Ana pleaded through gritted teeth, not sure if she wanted to yell in anger or sob in fear.

Finally she managed to strike a match and a small flame began to flicker at the end of the stick pinched in her fingers. Ana lit the candle and then blew out the match, falling to her knees in the center of the pentagram, facing the burning candle. Somewhere outside, she heard the distinct call of a crow, which was then answered by another crow.

Caw! Caw! Caw!

Forcing herself to ignore them, Ana focused on the burning fire of the candle, poured all of her attention into it, and stared at it without blinking. When she spoke, it was in a hurried whisper, as though in a single breath that she couldn’t wait to exhale, speaking words as fast and quietly as she could.

Craft the spell in the fire, 

Craft it well, weave it higher,

Weave it now of shining flame, 

None shall come to hurt or maim. 

None shall pass this fiery wall, 

None shall pass, no, none at all.

Having spent all of her breath, Ana puffed for a moment, then drew in another deep breath and repeated the chant, even faster than before.

Craft the spell in the fire, 

Craft it well, weave it higher, 

Weave it now of shining flame, 

None shall come to hurt or maim. 

None shall pass this fiery wall, 

None shall pass, no, none at all.

Ana jumped when she heard the scuttling noise on the roof of her cabin. She instinctively wanted to look up toward the noise, but knew that she needed to keep focus on the burning flame on the white candle. Ana then heard the call of a crow once more, this time from the roof of her cabin. It must have landed there. Ana swallowed hard, her throat dry and sore, but repeated the chant again, this time louder than a whisper.

Craft the spell in the fire, 

Craft it well, weave it higher, 

Weave it now of shining flame, 

None shall come to hurt or maim. 

None shall pass this fiery wall, 

None shall pass, no, none at all.

Then the fire on the candle suddenly began to burn brighter. It seemed to intensify, growing taller as Ana spoke her words, staring unblinkingly into the center of the flame. Ana could hear the wind outside suddenly growing stronger, banging the shutters outside her windows. The wind now howled through the forest, wailing and moaning, while the sound of cawing crows could still be heard outside. Ana said the words again, louder still, almost shouting them. By the time Ana had finished the chant once more, the flame on the candle was now towering from the floor to Ana’s eye level, a good three feet as she kneeled before it. Ana began the chant once more, this time yelling the words at the candle.

“CRAFT THE SPELL IN THE FIRE,

CRAFT IT WELL, WEAVE IT HI-“

Suddenly, the door to the cabin burst open and a powerful gust of wind pushed its way inside, sending pages of books flipping rapidly and discarded candles rolling across the floor. The small mirror was knocked over in the wind and fell closed on itself, no longer reflecting the door. The sudden blast of wind surprised Ana and she turned her face away from the door, shielding her eyes with her arm, breaking eye contact with the candle flame for the first time since she lit it. The instant Ana looked away, the towering flame suddenly died.

“No!” Ana cried as she realized what she had done.

Before she was able to do anything about what had happened, Ana looked up and saw the shadowy shapes approaching through her door, descending upon her.

All she could do was scream.

Dealing With Pessimists

As an author, I often receive criticism about what I do. Not if I’m good or not, more like people simply doubting that anyone who wants to be an author could actually become that. Today I had an exchange with someone who called into question my ability to do what I do. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, and it sure as Hell won’t be the last. But when this sort of thing happens, I always think of an old story I heard years and years ago. I think it’s good for other aspiring artists, or anyone who wants to make their dream a reality, to read. And remember it when someone tries to tell you that you can’t achieve your dreams.

There was once a swamp full of frogs. These frogs all went about their day without trouble, no one doing anything to upset the daily routine. One day, however, a small group of young frogs came across a tree at the edge of the swamp. The tree was rather tall, but had a delicious looking fruit growing from the high branches. The frogs all wanted to eat the fruit, so tasty did they look, but they were afraid of climbing the tree, because it was far taller than anything else they had seen in the swamp, and they were only small frogs.

Finally, one frog worked up his courage and began to climb the tree. As he climbed, the other frogs gathered below and started to call out to the climbing frog, yelling, “Come down, you won’t make it! You’ll fall! Come back, you’ll fall!”

The first frog made it about a quarter of the way up the tree before he finally lost his grip and fell back down to the swamp.

Another frog suddenly decided to give it a try. He hopped forward and began to climb. As soon as he started to climb, the other frogs all began to shout again, “Don’t do it, you’ll fall! It’s too big, you won’t do it! You’ll fall!”

The second frog made it a third of the way up the tree, but then slipped and fell back into the swamp.

It continued that way all morning. A frog would attempt to climb the tree, and as the other frogs all shouted their doubt down below, the frog who was climbing would eventually slip and fall.

Finally, the smallest frog hopped forward. He said nothing to the other frogs, but just began to climb. The frogs down below all yelled out as they had with all the others, shouting, “You’re going to fall! Don’t do it, come back! You’ll fall!”

But the little frog just kept climbing. He made it a quarter of the way up, a third, then halfway. The frogs down below started to yell louder, insisting that he would fall, that he can’t make it, to just stop.

Still, the little frog climbed. He climbed all the way to the top of the tree, made his way out onto the branches and began picking the delicious fruit. He ate his fill, then dropped some down to the other frogs down below. He then easily climbed back down to meet up with the group of frogs who all stared at him in amazement.

“How did you do that?” they all asked the little frog.

But the little frog was deaf.

He never heard them shouting their doubt. And because their pessimism went unheard, there was nothing to stop the little frog from succeeding.

Best Apps For Writers

Notability – $4.99

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Notability was named the Mac App of the Year by Apple! Apple Editors’ Choice on iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Notability is the one place to create, share, and manage your notes. It combines handwriting, typing, audio recordings, and photos so you can create notes that fit your needs. And with iCloud support, your notes are always available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Anytime. Anywhere.

Scrivener – $56.99

screen800x500Scrivener is the best app you could get as a writer and this is the main software that I personally use.

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers designed for composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on getting you to the end of that awkward first draft.
Compose your text in any order and in pieces as large or small as you like. View the components of your draft individually or as a whole. Import and refer to research files such as images and PDFs alongside your writing.

Whether you prefer to outline first, hammer out your first draft and restructure later, or do a bit of both, Scrivener’s corkboard and outliner tools are completely integrated with the text, so working with an overview of your draft is just a click away.

iBooks Author – Free

mzl.jftlkfsn.800x500-75-100482906-primary-idgeNow anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. Add your own text and images with drag-and-drop ease. Use Multi-Touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more. Preview your book on your iOS device or Mac at any time. Then submit your finished work to the iBooks Store in a few simple steps. And before you know it, you’re a published author.

The Brainstormer – $2.49

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The Brainstormer is kindling for creative minds. A tactile tool to randomly combine a plot, a subject and a setting or style, the Brainstormer provides a moment of inspiration for writers, painters, or any creative mind. Combat creative block, spark new ideas and summon up quick subjects for doodling, sketching or journaling.

The Brainstormer has three spinning wheels featuring plot/conflict, theme/setting and subject/location. By manipulating the wheels — or do a random spin — you generate combinations that make fantastic creative prompts for writing, sketching or any creative activity. Edit the wheels: tweak the built in lists or create entirely new scenarios from scratch.

More Wheels! The Character Builder wheel combines of archetypes attributes and backgrounds, and the World Builder combines theme, mood and place to create one-of-a-kind settings. NEW! Sci-Fi Brainstormer generates ideas with a science fiction flavor.

Coffitivity – Free
screen568x568Research suggests that it may be more difficult to be productive in a totally noise-free space. This is why some people are in their creative element in the middle of a bustling, chatter-filled Starbucks. Coffitivity offers the soothing background noise of a coffee shop in the comfort of your own home. Plus, the coffee is free at your place.
With the app, you can:
• Choose from several Coffitivity audio tracks to create your ideal work environment
• Open your favorite music apps while Coffitivity continues to play
• Adjust volume of Coffitivity to create the perfect mix with your tunes
• Use Coffitivity on the go – even without access to the internet

iA Writer Pro – $24.99

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This app is perfect for those writers that may get distracted easily. The “sentence syntax control” feature sets Writer Pro apart from the rest of the content creation and organization apps. This feature highlights your adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs, prepositions, or conjunctions, allowing you to control and streamline your writing style. Different views for the Write, Edit, and Read functions also help you focus on different aspects of your work during different phases of the writing process. Self-editing may be one of the hardest parts of the writing process but with this app it makes it a bit easier.

Social Media – Free

Social media is onsocial_media_strategye of your most valuable resources as a writer, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or even YouTube it’ll help you spread the word and hopefully get more sales. It is even more important for those indie authors out there like me. The truth of the matter is people will overlook your books if they don’t know who you are and that is why having social media accounts are so important. To become a success at the indie game you need to have an established fanbase that will continue to buy your books and spread the love.

Plagiarism and the Indie Opinion of the Indie Author

As some of you might know, I’m relatively new to the whole independent author world, and there have been a couple of things that I’ve learned. The first thing I learned was:

I freaking LOVE it!

The second thing, however, is that there seems to be a stigma attached to indie authors. Over the past couple of years, I’ve found that a lot of readers don’t trust that an independently published book can actually be good and entertaining. As well as a lot of “officially” published authors don’t think of indie authors in the highest regard. I read one interview with a particular, widely-known, author who referred to indies as “bottom feeders.” Only slightly insulting, but let’s move on.

The reason I began thinking about the opinion people have of indie authors lately is because it was brought to my attention on my Facebook page that there is another indie author out there who has written something I’m told is remarkably similar to my own Reaper Series. One of my readers picked up this ebook on Amazon as a recommended book, having just completed the Reaper Series. They told me they couldn’t even finish reading the sample chapter because they found it to be so similar to my own story.

So I went and checked out this book, which was written by another indie author. I initially imagined it to be a coincidence, but even the description of their book sounded a lot like the premise for the Reaper Series. This author had even titled their own series, Reaper Series! Still, I didn’t want to pass judgement until I read it. And I quickly learned one thing while reading the first book in their series.

No wonder indie authors have a bad name. Seriously, if people like this are the standard, it’s no surprise at all that indie authors are looked down on. I’m not saying at all that all indie authors are like this person, because I am an indie author, why would I insult myself? I seriously hope this type of author isn’t the standard of indie authors, but if this was the first book someone read from an indie, I couldn’t blame them if they were hesitant the next time they saw an independent book.

I was shocked at the similarities this story had to my own. Not to mention that it was released about six months after mine, giving the “author” plenty of time to read and rip-off my own story premise. I had a look at this author’s online presence, checked out their social media, their web page, their Amazon author page, all of it. And my immediate impression is that they have no original concepts, just stuff that they steal from successful books and movies and then jam them all together into one poorly written book. I started reading one book that, based on the description, sounded like a patchwork quilt of Armageddon, Cowboys VS Aliens, and The Terminator. The series that seems strangely similar to my own was mixed with Mortal Instruments, the Fallen Series, and maybe a little Twilight.

What I took to be particularly awful about this author wasn’t just how they took concepts from successful art forms and twisted them to use as their own stories, though. What really annoyed me was how blatantly obvious it was that they were only writing because they thought they could make money out of it. That’s all they cared about, the money and the attention. They would constantly blog about how quickly they wrote and published a book (less than a month), they would post screenshots of their Amazon sales charts, even post how much money they made in a month. It was like a child standing on top of a slide screaming at her parents, “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!”

I don’t want to just complain about this author, who I won’t name, but seriously, here’s a little advice about what to look out for in the indie world of books. Firstly, be wary of books that have lots of reviews, but only 4 and 5 stars. Even the greatest books of all time have negative reviews, just go and look up Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, I guarantee there’ll be a bunch of 1 star reviews of them. I don’t do this, because I refuse to sink to that level, but many indie authors will buy positive reviews. There are plenty of blogs and websites that will honestly review your book in exchange for a free copy or a small fee, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are just as many who will guarantee a positive review for some money. I view that as false advertising. With X amount of 5 star reviews, people who are looking for a good book would see that rating and think that it must be a good book, only to then part with their hard-earned money to buy a book they most likely won’t finish, because it’s just too God-awful! That’s clearly what this author has done, as all of the reviews on their Amazon page are about as long as this blog.

On the other hand, though, don’t assume that because someone is independently published, they’re a bad writer. Some big name authors actually started out as indie authors. Matthew Reilly self published in 1996. Mark Twain started his own publishing press because no one else would take his work.

Really, don’t just think because you had one bad experience with an indie author that all indie authors are the same. Because as authors, we’re all different, just like “officially” published authors. Some are great, others not so good, some have expensive marketing backing up their work, others rely solely on reviews and word of mouth.

Oh, and if you’re an indie author, DON’T plagiarise! Seriously, what the hell is that author thinking?

A Two-Sentence Horror Story

Who says a story needs to be long? Sometimes the best and most chilling ones are micro stories. Check out my two-sentence micro story below.

“I can’t sleep,” she whispered as she climbed into bed beside me. I awoke with a start, drenched in a cold sweat, clutching the dirt-covered dress she had been buried in.”

See what you can come up with and add it in the comments.

PEACE!

EXCELSIOR!

Like every writer out there, when I have an idea for a story, I write it down and set it aside to come back to later. However, I recently found a note set aside, buried amidst numerous other papers and notes, that I have absolutely no freaking idea what I was thinking. Or even why I would write it down! The note simply reads:

EXCELSIOR!

Written just like that, as well. All capitals and an exclamation point at the end. I always associated the word with medieval times and King Arthur and stuff like that, but I have never written, nor do I anticipate writing, anything medieval-esque. So why did I write this obscure word down? And why did I write it like the idea was exciting and brilliant?

There is an episode of South Park that features a parody of Al Gore, who shouts this word every time he leaves the scene. Is that what I was referring to? Did I think it was that funny, I had to write it down immediately? Doubtful. I am left with no choice at this time to continue trying to find the answer to this mysterious note.

According to Urban Dictionary, excelsior is, “A phrase often shouted after succesfully completing a mission.”

Well, this ties in with the Al Gore thing, but what the hell did I write it down for? Was I feeling triumphant? Did I just smash out an epic chapter of Reaper and feel like shouting my triumphs, but couldn’t because I was on the train? Naturally the reasonable solution to this would be to write down my triumphant shout, who wouldn’t do that? (Epic sarcasm)

To further add to my confusion, Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel Comics, used this word as a sign-off for decades! Why the hell have I written this word down? I have absolutely no idea.

My quest for answers continues.