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Posts Tagged ‘Gabe’

Behind the Scenes of Writing LEAPING

September 7th, 2016 No comments

Author’s Note: Surprise, surprise — this blog post contains some serious spoilers for the book LEAPING, so um, don’t read this if you haven’t read LEAPING yet. That is all. 

Cover of Leaping by J Bennett

A few random thoughts on religion, love, and My Little Pony.

Poor LEAPING. I like this book, I really, really do, and it was a joy to write, but…well. Even as I sat down to write this book, every single ounce of me wanted to teleport into the future so that I could finally, finally start writing FLYING (the last book in the GWBW series). It’s not that there was anything wrong with LEAPING at all; it’s just that I had so many secrets piling up and there was so much good stuff coming in FLYING. That book was calling to me, but I needed to build one more bridge first, and that bridge was LEAPING.

Considering this antsy mindset I was in when I first started writing LEAPING, I was surprised to find how much fun this book was to write. I still don’t understand why some books are so difficult and painful to write while others seem to spring forth from my fingers nearly complete. Both LANDING and RISING were total grinders, while COPING, RECOVERING, and LEAPING flowed onto the page, smooth as butter.

In particular, I really liked writing the first few chapters of this book where Maya, Tarren, and Gabe infiltrate the mansion of a semi-famous musician/reality star. These chapters can almost exist as their own mini vignette, pulling readers back into Maya’s world. Though the mission looks similar to others she and her family have completed, we begin to learn that their world has changed dramatically. The fight has become all-consuming as the number of angels grow exponentially. The Fox family knows that the threat of the angels won’t stay hidden for much longer, but what else can they do but keep fighting even as fatigue and exhaustion set in?

Love in a Time of Angels

One thing that sets this book apart from the rest in the series is that Maya and Rain’s relationship has slowly bloomed into…something. This being the 21st century, of course it’s complicated. It doesn’t help things that both Maya and Rain are vigilantes constantly on the hunt or that Maya worries she might accidentally kill her kinda boyfriend in a frenzy of passion and hunger. Every relationship has its challenges, but this is kind of a big one.

I really enjoyed exploring the relationship between Rain and Maya in this book, especially as Maya struggles with the question of whether she is putting Rain in danger by being with him. Rain’s injury gave me an opportunity to showcase how much Maya’s feelings have evolved and how vulnerable those feelings make her. How can love survive in such a dangerous world? Maya lost her first serious boyfriend, Ryan, in the first book in the series, FALLING, and it nearly destroyed her. Now she must grapple with the possibility of losing Rain too. Like so many of us, the fear of loss is more powerful than the hope for gain, and Maya caves to her weakness and pushes Rain away. It’s a very human response from her, but of course, we all know it isn’t the right decision.

My Absolute Favorite Scene to Write

This one is a no-brainer. Writing the chapter where Gabe staggers back to the motel room completely wasted and graciously shares his My Little Pony stickers with Maya and Rain was basically the highlight of my entire month. When I wrote this book, I had a strong idea of where the plot would go and what needed to happen in each chapter, but as I write, my subconscious colors in the lines, pulling dialogue, actions, and entire scenes from some mysterious creative stew inside my brain. I have no idea where this particular scene came from. I knew Gabe was upset from trying to push Francesca away (mirroring Maya’s own struggles with Rain). When Gabe gets upset, he self-destructs. I knew he would get wasted, and then I kind of just let the rest play out – let Gabe be Gabe, and somehow My Little Pony entered the picture and what turned out to be a weirdly tender moment between Gabe and Rain and then Gabe and Maya.

I’ll be the first to admit that my stories are often dark, because I believe a lot of human nature is dark, but there is always humor to bring characters, readers, and myself back from the edge. Even in the most dire of moments, I believe you can always find humor, beauty, and light.

Building Up

LEAPING was saddled with the responsibility of getting everyone ready for the big reveals in FLYING. A lot of this book is buildup. What really happened to Rain, and where did that mysterious perfume on Tarren’s clothes come from? Maya is pretty sure the answer is a doozy, but we’re going to have to wait until FLYING to find out. In LEAPING, Maya also reunites briefly with her nemesis from RISING, War. This big, mean bully of an angel hasn’t been idle. We realize that he’s taken Diamond’s idea of building an angel army and made it even more dangerous by adding religious zeal to the mix.

Religion is a very, very tricky subject to address, but fiction can be an amazing vehicle for exploring real-world themes. You might be able to argue that religion has always been a part of this series since I decided to call my bad guys “angels.” My goal in LEAPING and in all of these books is not to excoriate any specific religion but rather to showcase the fact that the mythos of religion can always be twisted to suit very human narratives and needs. We all see this every day in the news. Religion can be a call to peace, love, and generosity, but it can also be a call to war, hatred, and violence. The dual faces of religion reflect the duality of our own human souls.

Okay, so that got deep. If we want to head back to the safer ground of plotlines, we find in LEAPING that War is building a holy army of angels. If that doesn’t make your stomach a little queasy, then I’m not doing my job as a writer.

Angels of Mercy

Speaking of duality, I love complications and challenging readers with worlds of gray. War represents the very worst of the angels, the scary bad guys that Tarren and Gabe assume them to be. However, the battlefield can’t possibly be that simple and clean. I started playing with the idea of “good” angels (or at least “not so bad” angels) in LANDING, when Maya met Kyle and Jane. Then I threw Gem into the mix, a mysterious savior and reluctant leader. Now we meet Fiona, an angel who is clearly trying to be good and who is sheltering other angels. Stir, stir, stir. That black and white worldview is getting mighty gray!

Fiona’s little farmhouse is a challenge to Maya, to Gabe, and to you. It’s a warning not to judge an entire group, to recognize that good and evil lurk inside us all. And…if I’m being honest, it was a handy way to give Raven a decent ending after her disappearance in RISING.

Love in a Time of Angels, Part II

Maya makes the safe (i.e. wrong) decision early in LEAPING to push Rain away to save herself from having to deal with the pain of potentially losing him, but through the events of LEAPING, she finally comes to her senses and realizes that love is always a risk, deadly angels or not.

The end of this book casts a teeny tiny ray of sunshine on an otherwise brewing storm in the distance. This was also my opportunity to show Rain as something other than a bumbling, adorable klutz. I really enjoy the subtle hero, and Rain is my banner man for subtle courage. He probably can’t beat your grandma in a fistfight, but you don’t always win with fists and bullets. Sometimes you win with thoughts and hearts, and those are Rain’s two most powerful weapons.

By the end of LEAPING, you should have lots and lots of questions. It should feel like the world of Maya and her brothers is teetering on a dangerous ledge that is about to break. Well, we’re all going to hurtle into FLYING together, where all will be revealed and the battle for the future of humanity will finally be fought. Ooooh are you getting chills? I am. See you there!

Ten Reasons Why Writing and Self-Publishing a Novel is the Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Done

February 22nd, 2015 No comments
young child drawing

My first novel

Like many authors, I knew that I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I wrote “novels” with crayons on big pads of paper and then in dark ink on “secret” notebooks. I even pecked a few shaky stories out on a typewriter as I was growing up. I always had this vision of myself as a writer, even if I wasn’t exactly sure how that was going to happen or how shy little me would ever gather up the courage to put my words out in the world.

Fast forward a decade. I’d spent two years tapping away on my laptop and ended up with a stack of paper filled with my words. This was Falling, the first novel that I felt was actually good.  I spent another year getting close, but not close enough to snagging an agent. At the end of that year with nothing to show for a hundred query letters sent, I was done waiting for validation from someone else. Despite the fact that my heart wanted to jump out of my chest and go running for the hills, I self-published my book and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Here’s why:

1. I am an author!

Writing makes you a writer. Publishing your work and allowing the world to see it makes you an author. When I finally gathered the courage to self-publish, I wondered if I was a “real” author since an agent or a publisher didn’t give my book approval. Over time I’ve realized that validation comes from my readers not agents who only take on a handful of new clients a year in genres they think have the greatest market potential. I write, publish, and sell books. I am an author. Awesome-sauce!

 2. My choice, my way

The beauty of self-publishing is that I get to make every major decision related to my book. I guide my cover artist, I decide which platforms I want to publish on, and I decide how to price my book. Last year after publishing the third book in my new adult paranormal series, Girl With Broken Wings, I decided to make the first book in the series, Falling, free. This is the same book I spent two years writing and another year pitching to half-interested agents. A publisher would never let me give this book away for free, but I love its zero price tag. I am giving a readers a risk-free chance to try my writing style and fall in love with my characters. Thousands of readers have downloaded Falling, so I think it’s working.

 3. I had to face my fears

For a long time I didn’t think my book was good enough unless an agent or publisher ultimately decided to represent it. Several agents showed a lot of interest in Falling, but in the end they passed on it. It felt like they were passing on me as an author. After a year of wasted time when I could have and should have been working on the next book in the series, I realized this was my moment of truth. Was I going to keep waiting for someone else to tell me my writing was good enough, or would I listen to my heart? Self-publishing was scary for me. I was putting my words – a little piece of my soul – out for the universe to judge. What if readers hated my book? What if they laughed at me, skewered my writing, or worse…ignored it completely?

Publishing felt like a big leap, but it was also very freeing. After I published that first novel, I was hooked, and I never looked back.

 4. I made some new besties

Writing is not a solitary endeavor as many people believe it is. Over the last few years, I have built a great team of wonderful people around me. At first they were critique partners, beta readers, fellow authors asking questions on forums, and members of my author group. Over time, they became friends. I entrust them with my newborn novels and listen carefully to their feedback. I care about their progress and celebrate their writing success as if it were my own.

5. I got in shape

Sometimes the things you learn as you write change your life. When I first started working on my novel Falling, I needed my vigilante characters to be in fantastic shape. I did a lot of research on the most effective fighting methods and fitness routines and decided my characters trained in Krav Maga for fighting prowess and did CrossFit for overall fitness. At the time, I was plateauing in my own gym routine. After a lifetime of being an athlete, I was losing my edge. I did a search and found a local CrossFit “box” near me. It was love at first nauseatingly difficult workout. I’ve been doing CrossFit for over four years now, and I’ve never been in better shape.

 6. I’m actually making money!

The first month Amazon deposited a royalty payment in my business checking account was one of the most amazing and coolest moments of my life. It didn’t matter that the amount was about $50. I was making money…from writing books. It was a dream come true! What was even more amazing is that the small payments kept coming month after month, which meant that people who were not my family members and friends were paying money to read my book. I still don’t make enough to be a full time writer yet, but my royalties are growing, and I feel so proud that I am earning money for my writing and that readers are voting for my skill as an author with their dollars. Readers have millions of books to choose from, as well as endless movies, television shows and video games. Every download I get and every dollar I make is a personal victory.

7. My friends think it’s pretty awesome that I’m an author

Your real friends, the ones who truly want you to be happy and succeed in life, will think it’s really, really cool that you have written books. They will beg to read them and generously write reviews. They will call you up and want to talk about the characters and chide you for making them cry. In essence, they will understand how much writing means to you and they will celebrate you for completing each novel and publishing. It’s the same way you will support your friends as they train for a marathon, start a new relationship, or decide to throw caution to the wind and start their own business. You recognize how much this new goal means to them and you feel excited for them as they get closer and closer to realizing their dreams. It is an amazing feeling knowing your friends support your endeavors and that they think you are awesome for writing and publishing books even if you never become the next Stephen King.

8I’ve received fan mail

Nothing can describe the feeling of receiving a note from a complete stranger that says, “I loved your book! When is the next one coming out?” No matter how much I told myself that I thought my book was well-written and worth publishing…. No matter how much my critique partners and beta readers told me it was ready….I don’t think I truly believed I had written something good until I heard from my first fan. Every single interaction with a happy reader is a treasure to me. Like I’ve mentioned, the royalties of my books don’t pay my mortgage yet, but every time I get a fan letter, I feel renewed. My purpose and my motivation to keep writing spikes to the moon. I keep every fan letter. They are my inspiration and my remedy for my worst moments of doubt.

9. I found the best office mate in the world

Black bunny with white nose

Avalon

In my novel, Falling, one of my characters, Gabe, adopts a pet bunny he names Sir Hopsalot. When I first wrote this scene, I had to spend a few hours researching rabbits as pets. I found out that they could be litter box trained and that many owners allowed their bunnies to roam free around the house.

Personally, I come from a long line of crazy cat people. One night a few years ago, I felt that genetic stirring in my soul to get a pet. Unfortunately, at the time my roommate was allergic to cats and our small apartment wasn’t a good environment for a dog.

That’s when it hit me – a bunny! I quickly logged onto the local Humane Society’s website, and there I found a picture of an adorable black bunny with a white star on his nose named Avalon. It was love at first sight.

Sure, Avalon occasionally eats my shoes…while they’re on my feet, and he hasn’t figured out that digging in the carpet won’t accomplish anything, but he is an amazing and wonderful office mate. I love that he is a fun and frolicking part of my life…all thanks to my character Gabe and his fictional pet, Sir Hopsalot.

10. I get to do it all over again

I have to admit that after I self-published for the first time, I got a little addicted. I realized that publishing a novel wouldn’t kill me. In fact, it made me stronger and more confident. I was on my right path, and I felt that deep in my bones. My mind is always buzzing with stories, and I feel an incredible rush when I write tight and exciting scenes that challenge my characters physically and emotionally. Since I published Falling, I’ve written two more books and two novellas in the Girl with Broken Wings series. I’ve also just completed the first draft of the fourth novel in the series. I’ve also published a compilation of short, humorous vampire stories in a series called, The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles. I love writing. It nourishes my soul. Thanks to self-publishing, I don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval. I can just keep writing, keep publishing, and keep loving every day I get to be an author.

Fun With Overlapping Narratives

August 2nd, 2014 No comments

Every story presents its unique challenges. Sometimes the plot hits a brick wall and I stare helplessly at my computer, at that last lonely sentence waiting for a mate. Other times the characters pull against their leashes, and we have to trek down mysterious paths together.

My current project, RECOVERING, led me to a different puzzle. This novella overlaps the first half of my novel RISING and is written from the foul-mouthed point of view of my character Gabe. The whole reason that Gabe insisted I write the novella in the first place is that he only makes a short cameo in the first half of RISING.

Roughly 90% of his novella covers new ground, but several early chapters in the novella play out events that are featured in RISING when Maya briefly returns home and interacts with Gabe. In essence I had to write the same scenes over that already exist from Maya’s point of view – same action, same dialogue – but infuse it with Gabe’s perspective.

Sounds easy, right?

Not exactly. To get the scenes just right, I had to carefully reconstruct them from the chapters of RISING, reading and re-reading those chapters as if they were under a microscope.

When I wrote the same scenes for RECOVERING, I had to force myself out of Maya’s guilt and concern and put myself in Gabe’s shoes to show his loneliness and self-loathing. I had to write from his sense of betrayal, shame, and anger using the same dialogue and the same scene structure that already existed.

This little experiment forced me to focus more on Gabe’s inner thoughts to make the scenes seem fresh and also to change the pacing of the scenes so that it wasn’t a rote rehearsal of the scenes found in RISING. For example, Gabe often summarizes longer bits of dialogue that Maya’s narrative in RISING recalls in full. Gabe’s focus will also emphasize different parts of the scene. He doesn’t notice the sad state of the house as much as Maya does. He also thinks a lot about his mother and sister, people Maya never met.

On the technical side, I ended up putting the text of RISING on one monitor and the overlapping text of RECOVERING on the other to make sure every word of dialogue matched up, that the timing of events was accurate, and that Gabe reacted outwardly in the way Maya observed in RISING.

I hope the result is a fresh take on Maya and Gabe’s interactions that doesn’t feel stale or repetitive. I have to believe that Gabe is such a charmer that his perspective can put a new twinkle on everything!

How do you think I did? HERE is a chapter from RISING and an overlapping chapter from RECOVERING. Enjoy the sneak peek of RECOVERING!