Drowning in the Pool of TBRs

Last weekend, I found myself with not a lot to do. That’s my favorite kind of weekend. Yes, I knew that I should start working on the next installment in the Twisted Soul series, but honestly I wasn’t quite ready yet. So what’s a girl with free time to do?

I opened up the Kindle app on my iPad and was promptly overwhelmed. You know all those wonderful free books that you find to download on Amazon everyday? I’ve apparently been doing a bit of stockpiling. I scrolled down, and down, and down, and down some more. Whoa- I knew I was behind on my reading but this was ridiculous.

I thought I had been pretty good about tracking my downloaded books and adding them to my TBR (to be read) list over on Goodreads, but like so many good habits that one feel by the wayside sometime in April.

So coming back to all the free time I had last weekend- I gave myself permission to read. That probably sounds a little silly. I can read whenever I want right? Well, with all of the work that went into the creation, release, and promotion of Shadows Deep, I felt guilty about taking time away from that to read. So I didn’t.  At least, until last weekend.

Since then, I’ve read 4 books and I’m getting ready to start on my 5th. I’m thrilled to say that none of them stunk either. (You never know picking up free books.) In fact, I’d even say that a few of them were freakin brilliant.

I’d rate them like this (most favorite at the top):

Wool by Hugh Howey

Breakers by Edward W. Robertson

Darkhouse by Karina Halle

Wet Linda by Paul Parducci (on this one you have to ignore the rather blatant formatting issues in places, but hang with it)

I’m going to feed my brain some nonfiction goodness with my next read- I’ll keep you posted on that one. In the meantime, I think I’ve figured out to float in my TBR pool and the water’s just fine. 🙂

DON’T Bring In the Clowns

When you write stories to scare people (and I occasionally do) you find yourself searching  for the perfect words to make readers feel like they are right there in the action experiencing the bone chilling tendrils fear running up their spines alongside the main character.

Or, I’ve found you can just use one word: Clown.

I usually put my blog images right at the top of my posts. I didn’t do that here because I was concerned that someone was going to stumble onto my blog, see the image, and close their browser without reading the rest of the post and put me on some kind of blacklist. Whatever you think, most people agree that clowns are….creepy.

The fear of clowns does have its own phobia. It’s called coulrophobia. If you don’t believe me that this concept draws people out in droves, check out the 291 comments on this recent The Body Odd article.

I believe that Stephen King definitely had a hand in all this. His book “IT” seems to have almost universally scarred a whole generation and is mentioned every time I bring this subject up in a group setting. (Who can forget Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown in the made-for-TV movie?) (Thank you, Mom, for never getting me a clown for my birthday parties.)

The other culprit of this cultural fear? John Wayne Gacy, the “Killer Clown”. I gave you the link because if you don’t know the story, the guy was a sicko and I don’t want to even talk about it.

Clowns wear make-up and funny clothes and it’s like you can never guess their true intentions. Their make-up is pronounced and sometimes even garish. Sometimes they change the pitch of their voices and grab your attention with over-the-top gestures and actions. All in all, clowns can come across as disingenuous. Now I know there are some folks out there who make a living as lovely, warm, friendly clowns. (Unfortunately, I think most people believe you are myth made up to reel us in so you can scare the heck out of us.)

Personally, I don’t really mind clowns- but only at arm’s length where I can see them at all times. 🙂  (If you’ve read IT, you’ll totally get what I just did right there. :))

Courtesy of _gee_

So sound off in the comments. What do you think about clowns? “Meh” or “Scare the living daylights out of me”?

On Location with Edge of Shadows

My debut novel, Edge of Shadows, is set in the Uptown/Lakes District of Minneapolis, MN. It’s amazing how much inspiration that area proved for my writing of that story. 

Edge of Shadow’s main character, Ellie Coulter, lives and works in the neighborhood, and I thought she’d be the best person to tell us a little bit more about why she chose to settle there.  Ellie..take it away!

Ellie: Thanks Cege! Although I am a bit uncomfortable being in the spotlight like this, Cege told me it would be easy because all’s I had to do was share why I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Uptown.

It all started when I had to make the decision about where to open my coffee shop. I lived in the burbs at the time, but in my exploration of the cities over time (I’ve lived here all my life), there was always something about Uptown that drew me in.

The first thing you notice is the architecture. In downtown Minneapolis, just a few short miles north, there are the usual massively tall buildings that are trying to touch the sky, but in Uptown it’s a mishmash of old and new buildings that are more hunkered down to the ground. Everything here centers around the Hennepin/Lagoon Ave intersection and builds out from there. I’ve watched lots of movies in the Uptown Theater on its single screen, and I actually prefer it to the modern cineplexes.

A block up from the Lagoon theater is Calhoun Square, which is the Uptown equivalent of a suburban mall. You’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, and even a gym there. Then spreading out from Calhoun Square, you’ll find more independent shops standing alongside some bigger name chain stores that we all know, but for some reason, it all works.

Because space is at a premium, parking is always a little bit of a challenge so a lot of people do their shopping and night life clubbing on foot. It’s just easier to get around. You’ll see all sorts of people on the streets: young and old, professional, hippie, artistic, and goth. They are all here and they all blend in together. For someone like me, who has never felt like I fit in anywhere, the “come-as-you-are” vibe immediately made me feel comfortable.

So I leased a small space not far from the Hennepin/Lagoon Ave intersection and set up my coffee shop. I worked hard to make the space welcoming for everyone and I feel really fortunate to have some regulars.

When I got divorced, it was natural for me to move closer to work, and I found a great little studio apartment in one of the old homes just a few blocks from my shop. There are lots of places like that here. The big old houses that were built around the turn of the last century don’t always make sense to keep as single family homes, so the owners subdivided them into smaller apartments. It’s quiet and I love it.

Adjacent to the Uptown commercial district are three recreational lakes: Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, and the Lake of the Isles. I walk my dog Skipper around Lake Calhoun almost every day.

It’s fun visiting with customers who come into the shop from out of town because they always say that when they think of Minnesota they immediately picture big snow drifts and hostile winters. Sure, winters are a bit more extreme here than other parts of the country, but Minnesotans don’t let a little thing like the weather keep them indoors. Regardless of season, there are always walkers and joggers taking advantage of the trails that follow the curves of the lakes. (And during the winters, the lakes freeze over and you can actually walk on them- I’ll admit that freaks me out.)

But one of my favorite parts of living here is the mansions over on the Lake of the Isles. Cege will tell you that I’m a bit of a daydreamer, and I love to just walk along the bike path and imagine what life would be like if I lived in one of those big houses. One of my employees, Linda Jordan, owns one of them. In Cege’s book, Edge of Shadows, I actually get to live in it for awhile, but things get pretty hairy pretty quickly.

History, art, theater, food, people, and fun. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Uptown, Ellie! Hopefully the next time someone visits Minneapolis, they’ll want to check it out.

Shadows Deep Is Here! Launch Madness Begins

I have to tell you, I am THRILLED to finally be able to say that the Edge of Shadows sequel, Shadows Deep is available! I am so appreciative of all of the support I’ve received since the release of EoS in November 2011, and it has been phenomenal to have one of the very first questions from fans be “When’s the next book coming out?” It created a lot of pressure too. 🙂

From the beginning, I’ve had the makings of 4 different book series in my mind. (You’ve seen the first book in three of them now.) I had to make a choice in March if I was going to work on the first book in the 4th series, or go back and revisit Ellie and crew to find out what happens next in her journey, so I created the book in physical and digital forms, using Sodapdf to edit the digital versions.

Well, it’s pretty clear which direction I went and I am so happy that I did. Creating a sequel was a lot more work than I was expecting, but at the same time it was like coming home. Ellie’s facing a whole new set of problems in Shadows Deep, and I can tell you that she’s finding out things about herself and her past that she never saw coming. And…it’s not over yet. I can now share that there will be a third installment of the Shadows series that you will likely see before the end of 2012.

Now for the Fun Stuff: Launch Goodies!!

May 15th is the “official” launch date for Shadows Deep, and I’ve got some fun stuff planned for everyone.

1) I want to give away some copies of Shadows Deep, of course! So 5 ebook copies (Kindle or Nook) are up for grabs. What do you have to do to be entered to win one? Either comment here on this post OR on my Facebook fan page and tell me who your favorite Edge of Shadows character was and why. I will pick 5 random winners and announce them on Friday, May 18th.

2) The Edge of Shadows Kindle book is on sale through June 30th, 2012 for only $0.99!  Grab your copy today or gift one to a friend.  On May 15th, you’ll even find it for FREE on Amazon.

3) If you like vampires and you haven’t tried my vampire series, I invite you to download Heiress of Lies for FREE on May 15th-May 16th. If it strikes your fancy, I’d love to hear from you.

4) I’ve started a Q&A group over on Goodreads entirely focused on discussing Shadows Deep. Join in the conversation and ask me anything you want as you are reading it.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far on this writing journey, and know I’ve got lots more planned for you this summer.

Happy Reading!

Paranormal Headliner: David K. Hulegaard and a Giveaway!

Today I’m welcoming fellow author David K. Hulegaard to the blog, and he’s got a special treat for you! (Read all the way to the end for more details on that.)  In addition to writing about spooky things, David is also a paranormal investigator (how cool is that??)! 

A Little Bit about David

David K. Hulegaard is an author and student of film and music. He developed an extensive imagination at an early age while burying his nose into a mixture of R.L. Stine books and literary classics.

With an established professional background in the real world of category management, consultation and marketing, he felt unable to quench his thirst for creativity. This led to the release of his debut novel in October 2010.

He currently lives in Oregon City with his fiancée, where there is never a shortage of inspiration. Citing a variety of influences, he loves to dabble within many different genres and settings to tell a story. 

You currently live in Oregon.  What’s your favorite thing about living there?

David: In general, the Pacific Northwest is quite remarkable. We get a bad rap because of all the rain, but when you grow up here, you don’t even really notice. That’s not to say that we don’t love our sun. There are many sights and sounds to experience here, so we like it when the weather cooperates. 🙂

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

David: I was quoted in my 6th grade yearbook as saying that I wanted to be “the greatest baseball player to ever walk the face of the earth.” Needless to say, I didn’t make it. Ha!

What do you do to unwind and relax?

David: I like to go for walks when it’s nice outside, or just cuddle up with my fiancée and catch up on our Netflix queue. I’ve also been known to play a video game or two, but that’s my dirty little secret.

Share one thing about yourself that not a lot of people know about you.

David: I am an accomplished singer/songwriter.

You’ve mentioned that you are also a paranormal investigator. When did you start that work? How many different sites have you investigated? What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?  

David: I’ve been obsessed with the paranormal since my first experience as a child. It wasn’t until 2004 that I even knew there were people that investigated it. I did my first investigation in 2008 and have been on a couple dozen cases since then.

The scariest thing that’s ever happened to me on an investigation wasn’t even paranormal, funny enough. My team was in a dimly lit basement doing an EVP session when we started hearing these loud rumbles. It sounded like furniture being moved around, which was one of the claims. It gave us a good startle. Much to our surprise, however, the noise turned out to be the snoring of a member that had dozed off. We had a good laugh about it later, but it was pretty intense at the time. We recommended that she see a doctor. 🙂

David on Writing

You are currently in the middle of a series. What are you enjoying most about writing about the same characters over the course of several books?

David: The evolution of their personalities, hands down. When you’re writing a series, you need to allow time for your characters to fully gestate. It was important to me for my protagonist, Miller Brinkman, to not be a “super hero.” He needed to be imperfect. He needed to make mistakes. I want the reader to identify with him and say, “That’s what I would have done in his situation.”

As the series moves on, Miller starts to change and adapt. He’s been through something traumatic, and he didn’t come out the other side unscathed.

You’ve mentioned that you write in multiple genres. What do you like (or not like) about each of them?

David: There are unspoken rules for each genre, and it’s challenging as a writer to learn them. More often than not you’re forced into learning the hard way. You take your lumps and move on, knowing next time what to do and what not to do.

In Science-Fiction, you have to provide an ample amount of description because the reader can’t see what’s inside your head. You have to paint the picture for them. It’s imperative that your narrator is active, but transparent.

In literary fiction, description is still important, but it’s the relationships between the characters and the dialogue that propels the story. Your job is to tap into the heart of a story and put it on display for the reader to connect to emotionally.

If I’m being honest, my style of writing borrows bits and pieces of the rules from several genres. I don’t follow an exact template. In the end, I believe that’s what makes my stories stand out. A reader may come in looking for a spooky ghost story, but find themselves emotionally invested by the end. I’ve been told more than once by a reader that I’ve brought them to tears. That’s when I know I’ve done my job.

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

David: In my mind there is no greater thrill than the process of creation. I imagine anyone with an artist’s heart would tell you the same. My head is filled with stories that I hope to be able to entertainment people with, and that desire is always enough to bring me back to the keyboard.

How do you decide on the titles of your books?

David: That’s a good question! For me, I enjoy giving my books subtle titles that may not mean anything at face value to the reader, but as they progress through the story it clicks. In particular, “Noble” has a double meaning. It’s a definable word that can be applied as a trait of my protagonist, but then as you read the book, you discover that it has another purpose. MUWAH HA HA HA!

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your books things you’ve encountered in real life?

David: 99% of what I write is inspired by real life. People I’ve met, places I’ve been, behaviors I’ve seen, thoughts I’ve had. After reading one of my books, my mom usually calls to “check in” on me. J The other 1% is entirely imagination, usually stemming from some crazy dream I had and can remember just enough to scribble down when I wake up.

What is your writing process- do you plot/plan or do you write from the seat of your pants?

David: I first create an outline and insert all of the plot elements that I currently have. Next, I look for ways to branch out from those points and expand the story. Once I have an outline ready and begin working on the book, I’d say about another third of the book just comes to me as I write. That’s the beauty of writing, really. You can’t force it. You just have to open up your mind and let the ideas come to you.

How much research do you do for each of your projects?

David: It depends on the type of book that I’m writing, but every book requires at least some research. The “Noble” trilogy begins in the late 1940’s and required a ton of research. I would think of things that I wanted to have happen in the story, then research whether or not my idea agreed with the technology available at the time. I was surprised by some of the things that did exist back then. It made telling my story much easier than I imagined!

The book that I am currently working on has required a lot of research into the life of pioneers in the late 1800s. It has been quite extensive and exhausting, but absolutely fascinating.

What do you think it is about your writing or your stories that resonates with your readers?

David: I often get told that my books are “easy reads.” At first, I thought that was an insult. Ha! It’s true that my books aren’t necessarily going to cause anyone to strain their brains, but that’s what I think allows readers to enjoy them. My books won’t require you to put them down while you go grab a dictionary. Personally, I think that’s distracting because it removes you from the story. Instead, I rely on just good old-fashioned storytelling and hope that’s enough to entertain the reader. I try to write the way I would tell you a story through live conversation. I think that makes them more personal because the reader is hearing “me,” not some pseudo-intellectual version of me that I couldn’t live up to in person.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

David: Staying motivated can be tough at times. The ever-looming fear of writer’s block can also shake my confidence and slow me down. At the end of the day, I know that this is what I want to do, and I press forward. The only thing that can stop me is me, and I refuse to let that happen.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

David: Read. Read lots. Focus first on developing a compelling story. Do you have likable and/or relatable characters? Does your lead character have enough opposition? Does your story have a hook? Do you know how it will end? Who are you writing this book for? You need to be able to answer these questions before you’re ready. 

Don’t listen to pretentious authors that claim to know the “rules of writing.” If they had it all figured out, they’d be famous. You will learn the technical aspect of writing as you progress. All you need concern yourself with is finding an editor. Behind every good writer is a great editor. An editor will show you the ropes and teach you a few tricks to sharpen your writing skills. Don’t let fear be a deterrent. Have confidence, have patience, and just let the words flow through your pen.

What is your favorite supernatural character to write (I think you’ve written all of them-lol!)?

David: I’m writing her right now, and she’s not happy. 🙂

What are you currently working on?

David: I’m working on a book titled “Hopestill.” It’s about Lorne Abernethy, a man that grows tired of the increasing crime rate within his hometown, so he moves to a quiet town that he remembers from his childhood. It’s a picturesque example of small town life, and he loves it. People wave when they pass each other by. Cars stop to let pedestrians cross the street. Waitresses put a hand on your shoulder and call you “darlin’” as they take your order. Unfortunately for Lorne, looks are deceiving. The woods outside his new house carry a dark secret; an old Pioneer legend that the locals refuse to talk about. Lorne’s life takes a dramatic turn after he begins to see the woman in white around town.

You recently went back and did a major overhaul on Noble. A lot of authors would probably be afraid of doing something like that after releasing a book. What do you think are the pros of doing something like that?  Any cons?

David: To me, it was something that I absolutely had to do. When I had gotten about halfway through writing the sequel, it became obvious how much I had improved as a writer since publishing the first book. We’re talking, like, leaps and bounds. My beta readers actually asked me if I was sure that I had written this new book. Ha!

I wanted my “Noble” trilogy to be taken seriously, and I knew for that to happen that the quality of the first book needed to match its sequel (“Noble: Bloodlines”). So, I took three months “off” and hired a new editor to help me clean “Noble” up and make it suitable for re-release. It took a lot of time and effort, but I am so proud of the finished product.

Luckily for me, “Noble’s” sales had been relatively low, so replacing the original with a second edition could be done quietly without upsetting anyone. Reviewers of the original were kind, saying that it was a great book in need of better editing, which is exactly what I did. I contacted each of those people personally and sent them a free updated version of the book as a way of saying, “Thanks for sticking with me.”

David’s Paranormal Perspectives

How would you define the paranormal genre?

David: I worry sometimes that there is a misconception about what “paranormal” means. The genre is quite vast, though I’ve found that most people tend only to think of it as vampire and werewolf romance novels. That’s a shame because there are so many great books that fall under the paranormal label and get ignored.

How you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

David: I think it’s great! Of course the success of anything inspires a lot of “me too’s,” but that’s when you have to put it into the hands of the reader and let them decide what’s good and what’s imitation. A shining spotlight on the genre is a great opportunity for any author hoping to get some exposure.

What scares you?

David: I love those tense moments during a scary scene when you think something is going to happen, but then it doesn’t. The character walks toward a closed door at the end of the hall. The violins swell to a crescendo as her hand reaches for the knob. The hair on the back of your neck rises as she twists and inches the door open. Then… silence. There’s nothing there, yet you remain on edge. That, my friends, is how you capture fear.

What is your favorite paranormal book?

David: Oh, so many for me to choose from. I don’t think I could narrow it down to one. Lately I’ve been reading Joshua Unruh and William Vitka. Joshua has a brilliant series starring a character named Hob Lesatz. It’s very Dresden Files-esque and I love it. I beg him monthly for a new installment. 🙂

What is your favorite paranormal movie?

David: Do I lose points if I tell you it’s “Ghostbusters?” I know it’s not scary, but it’s a classic. It takes a lot to scare me, so I’m often disappointed by my movie selections, but some of those Japanese films from the early 2000s did some permanent damage to my mind’s eye. Can anyone truly ever get over that creepy scene where the girl comes crawling out of the TV set? 🙂

What do you think draws people to this type of fiction?

David: I once met a psychic that asked me if I thought I was “sensitive.” I told him no. He said, “You must be at least a little bit sensitive, otherwise you wouldn’t be interested to the paranormal in the first place.” In retrospect, I think he’s right, and that’s probably true for just about any paranormal enthusiast. Something ignites a person’s interest in the paranormal, be it a personal experience, or just a general curiosity about the unknown.

I think it’s great that our society has evolved enough to the point where we can discuss these things intelligently without being thought of as crazy. Well, I’ll let you read my books first before you decide whether or not I’m crazy. 🙂

Connect with David

Official website: http://davidhulegaard.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/dkhulegaard

Twitter: @HulegaardBooks

A Special Treat: Win an Autographed Paperback copy of The Jumper

Entering to win is easy! Just leave a comment for David below. I will pick one random winner on Friday, May 11th.

Thanks for stopping by David!