#IWSG May 2017: Being Overwhelmed, Weird Research, & Another Con

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Created and hosted by the Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writers Support Group posts the 1st Wednesday of every month. Click the image to learn more or sign up.

Monthly Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

At this point in my writing, I haven’t really had to research anything too weird yet. I guess I could at least mention a few cool things I’ve researched, like: scientific terms and effects of two moons for a story I haven’t started yet or how to create a language for a story I’ve been developing for about three years.

For now, I’d say the most interesting thing I’ve researched is angel lore. After I completed the first draft of my first book, before I even knew it was a book, I decided to look into the different worldviews of angels to see if anything interesting could be added to my story. I bought a book online that had high ratings and was recommended by several different sites. Can’t for the life of me remember the title now. I still have the book, but it’s in storage somewhere.

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So, the month of April was a bit crazy for me. I did a virtual convention, went on Spring Break, took a trip with my sister, did a live convention, and battled and assortment of illnesses- some still in progress. I’ve had a lot of low points in the past month, but the high points made it all bearable.

I only finished one book in the month of April and I still need to write a thorough review for it. I’m struggling to finished up the first installment of “We Are Jardin”. Who knows when that will be ready to publish. My YouTube channel will suffer a bit this month. I’m working on a RavenCon wrap up video and have no real Reading Challenge update to offer. Plus, I have two more author events coming up that I’ll have to work around my ongoing medical issues.

All in all, I guess I can’t complain too much. I’m busy in a good way and my health is always an issue. If I waited around to be healthy all the time, I’d never get anything done.

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What have you had to research for a book?
Read any good books last month?
Hope this post finds you in good health.

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After hanging out with Alex, be sure to stop by and visit this month’s co-hosts:
Michelle Wallace,
Nancy Gideon,
Tamara Narayan, and
Liesbet!!

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Click here to visit other IWSG blogs and sites to receive and share more inspiration and support. (This month, I’m #66).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

#IWSG April 2017: #B2BCyCon2017, Monsters in Our Wake, & a #giveaway

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Created and hosted by the Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writers Support Group posts the 1st Wednesday of every month. Click the image to learn more or sign up.

So, I have a lot to share this month. Gonna keep some stuff real short so I can spotlight an amazing interview. Please stick around to see it all. It would really mean a lot.

1) My Countdown to Con Season is coming to a close and the cons are on. Check out these two videos to see what I have to look forward to this weekend OR bookmark them to watch later.

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2) Monthly Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge?

No, no I haven’t. I’ve wanted to, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

3) So, I’ve been trying out new authors this year and it’s been paying off pretty well. Please enjoy this interview with J. H. Moncrieff, an author I’m sure to become a lifelong fan of. Be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the interview.

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Where did the idea for Monsters in Our Wake come from?

This book was initially inspired by my anger at the irresponsibility of the oil industry and offshore drilling, but it got a lot more complex as it came together.

I can already tell that this is going to be a passionate interview. I’m so up for it.

How did the title of this book come about?

I normally struggle with titles, but this one just popped into my head while I was writing. I loved it, and it suits the book, so I went with it. Thankfully the publisher liked it as well.

What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?

I thought it was a straight-up horror tale, but some readers are also seeing elements of sci-fi and fantasy, which surprised me. As I was writing it for a horror press, choosing the genre was easy.

Many find that the line between horror and sci-fi is a very thin one; the Alien films are a prime example. Are you happy or worried about the effects sci-fi elements will have on your readers?

At this point, I’m not sure what to think. It may broaden my audience and attract some sci-fi fans, which would be great, as long as it doesn’t turn off those who think sci-fi is always about aliens, distance galaxies, and technology. Just like horror, sci-fi suffers from a lot of misconceptions.

What would you say is the overall message or the theme of this book?

If I had to pin it down, I’d say the overall theme of this book is the importance of respecting all living creatures and their environment, but it’s also about the importance of communication.

Misunderstandings and miscommunication are to blame for most of the conflict in Monsters in Our Wake.

I hear that. Empathy and better communication all around would make the world a much better place.

Tell me about the main storyline within this book.

The story centers around a family of ancient sea creatures whose lair is invaded by a crew of offshore-oil drillers. The creatures retaliate, damaging the drill ship and stranding the crew in the middle of the South Pacific. And then things really get crazy!

Whoa, I’m in! I mean, I was already, but that’s a great pitch. See my review here for more of my thoughts. Would you like to tell our viewers what kind of sea monster we’re dealing with (giant octopus, dino-relative, etc…) or should they just read the book?

It’s not really spelled out in the book, except for some elements of physical description, but the creatures are related to the famous Loch Ness monster, so I picture them as giant plesiosaurs—something we know once existed but thought was extinct.

Who is the protagonist of this story?

Nøkken and Flora are the protagonists. Nøkken is extremely intelligent, with an incredible amount of wisdom and insight, due to his advanced age. But he’s not as “above it all” as he would like to think.

Flora is a single mother who’s taken a job with an oil company to pay for karate lessons for her son. She quickly realizes she’s out of her depth when most of the all-male crew resents her presence and expertise. Her anxiety disorder only complicates matters.

Who is the antagonist of this story?

There are no clear good-or-bad guys in Monsters. Every character is flawed, with both positive and negative traits. Most of the crew view Nøkken and his family as the monsters, yet the humans are the ones who invaded the creatures’ home and who will destroy it without a second thought.

There is a certain crew member who has a great potential for violence, but the tendency to react with violence to those we don’t understand or identify with is the real antagonist in this story.

I love when a story doesn’t have a clear good or bad guy, it usually adds more depth when characters are portrayed with flaws. It humanizes them even when they are not human.

What is the major conflict in this story?

The crew on the drill ship just wants to do their job and return home; the creatures are driven to protect their own home, the ocean.

That’s the major conflict, but there’s quite a bit of internal conflict between the crew members and also within Nøkken’s family. Picture Lord of the Flies on the open ocean with sea monsters.

I like that description. It really does give you an idea of what to expect without giving too much away. Do you think readers will find themselves sympathizing with both sides of this conflict?

Yes, most definitely. Even characters you may start out hating often have redeemed themselves by the end.

Where and when is this story taking place?

Monsters in Our Wake is contemporary and set in the remote South Pacific.

Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take.

While I had a lot of leeway when writing about Nøkken and his family, the oil industry was a different story. I had to do a lot of research, and I had a great source who works in the industry. In the end, I had to make the ship in Monsters a prototype, because nothing that exists right now fit my plot the way I needed it to.

It took about a year before I was happy enough with Monsters to submit it to the publisher.

I don’t think the average reader realizes how much research can go into one story. I think it’s a mark of a good writer.

Who is your favorite character in this book?

Nøkken is by far my favourite character and the most fun to write. Since he has a unique perspective, I suspect readers will love him as well. So far, reviewers have mentioned that being able to see the story from the creature’s point of view is one of the things they liked most about the book.

Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?

This book was originally inspired by my anger at Big Oil and its destruction of the environment. I’m extremely passionate about the natural world and the ocean, so that informed a lot of the creatures’ rage about what is happening to them.

But a lot of people depend on oil companies for their livelihood, and that is addressed in the story as well. Once I began writing, I realized it was a lot more complicated than, “Oil bad; environmental protection good.” We definitely need to strike a much better balance than we’re currently doing, though.

I agree, all too often I feel that we as people place limitations on ourselves that come back to haunt us. We never should have become so dependent on fossil fuels that our world is suffering from it. We should have been researching and implementing alternative fuel sources from the start, not just because it’s good for the environment, but because it would be one less thing for people to fight and kill over… I’m off my soap box now.

What is one thing from this book you wish was real or could happen to you?

I would love to see a sea creature one day. Visiting Loch Ness and seeing Nessie has been my dream since I was a child.

That would be really cool! I have a thing for dragons and have always thought of Nessie as a type of water dragon.

What is something you wish wasn’t real and hope doesn’t happen to you?

Ha! Pretty much everything in this book. I wish people respected our oceans more. I wish there was a less destructive way to harness natural resources—or that someone would come up with a better alternative.

I also felt for Flora and her struggles to fit into a man’s world and overcome her anxiety attacks. While I’ve never experienced that exact scenario, I think almost everyone has felt like a “fish out of water” at some point, and it’s not an enjoyable experience.

Anxiety attacks are often overlooked because not that many people have them. While I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, I sometimes wonder if people did experience just one, if they would continue to be so dismissive about them… Darn it. No more soap box from me. I promise.

Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature-length film; quick-cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.

Julianna Margulies would make a great Flora. And I’d love Morgan Freeman to do the voice of Nøkken.

As for theme song, something orchestral and powerful? I’m sure James Horner would do it justice.

That sounds like a movie I’d be glad to see.

Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?

I’ve already had a few people, including a director, tell me it would make an amazing film. So while I can’t plan for that and the budget would have to be huge to pull it off, I can always dream.

If anyone knows J.J. Abrams, please feel free to send him a copy.

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To obtain your copy of Monsters in Our Wake, please visit this link: AMAZON

Sign up for the J.H. Moncrieff newsletter for a chance to WIN 1 of 2 ebooks of Monsters in Our Wake.

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Are you doing or have you done the A to Z?
Think you might check out B2BCyCon?
Isn’t J.H. great? And how about Monsters in Our Wake?

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After hanging out with Alex, be sure to stop by and visit this month’s co-hosts:
Christopher D. Votey,
Madeline Mora-Summonte,
Fundy Blue, and
Chrys Fey!!

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Click here to visit other IWSG blogs and sites to receive and share more inspiration and support. (This month, I’m #69).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

#IWSG March 2017: “Ever reworked an old story?” & outrageous expectations

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Created and hosted by the Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writers Support Group posts the 1st Wednesday of every month. Click the image to learn more or sign up.

Monthly Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

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Yes and no. I recently re-wrote a short story that was derived from a blog writing prompt and turned it into a novella (see “We Are Jardin”). I’ve also developed recent stories from ideas I wrote down years ago. I think it’s worked out pretty well. I don’t, however, think I’ve given new life to anything I’d written more than five years ago. Maybe I should give some of my old stuff a once over to see if there’s something special there.

As for my insecurities, outrageous expectations. I do it to myself, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change it. It’s part of who I am. I want things for myself that just may never be possible. So, I’ve decided to attempt the unlikely even if I look stupid, which won’t be too far off from the fact that I already feel a little stupid. In spite of that, I’m proud of myself for trying to do things. Too many people never really try to do anything for fear of failure or looking stupid.

So, maybe I’ll continue talking to my camera as I try to grow a You Tube presence that just isn’t meant to be. Maybe, I’ll keep writing books that no one is the slightest bit interested in reading. Maybe I’ll keep posting to a blog that, while I’m ecstatic about the followers I have, it hasn’t grown in over two years. And when it’s all said and done, I’ll at least be proud of myself for doing something.

In happier news, I found out that J.H. Moncrieff has a new book, Monsters In Our Wake, that looks really cool, and hopefully a little scary. I’m hoping to read and review the book soon and have already contacted J.H. for an interview. I’m really excited about this. I really do miss interviewing authors on a regular basis. Gotta look into doing that more.

And to end things on an annoyingly selfish note, here’s my latest You Tube video.

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Reworked any old stories?
Have any perceived outrageous expectations?
Want to be interviewed?

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After hanging out with Alex, be sure to stop by and visit this month’s co-hosts:
Tamara Narayan,
Patsy Collins,
M.J. Fifield, and
Nicohle Christopherson!!

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Click here to visit other IWSG blogs and sites to receive and share more inspiration and support. (This month, I’m #69).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

#IWSG February 2017: “Being a writer changes how you read” & my #YouTube channel.

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Created and hosted by the Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writers Support Group posts the 1st Wednesday of every month. Click the image to learn more or sign up.

Monthly Question: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

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Being a writer has turned me into a hungry reader. I used to just read to escape and or enjoy a good story. Now when I read, I want more. I want to be inspired. I want to learn. I want to see what does and doesn’t work. I want to experience the stories, good or bad, to better my own writing.

I still read for pure enjoyment, but now I also read for review and critique. I find that while I’m more critical over plot, character, and world development, I’ve become more compassionate about all the technical stuff. I don’t ignore or make excuses for outright bad writing and poor editing, but I recognize how difficult it is to find good, reliable, and affordable editing services as an indie; and don’t get me started on critique partners and support groups. Anyone can call him or herself a writer, but to be a good writer- to be an author- it takes determination and creativity that not everyone has.

Being a writer has made me truly respect all the books I’ve always loved. If you’d like to know more about my thoughts on reading, please consider following this blog (I post reviews twice a month) and checking out my You Tube channel.

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Has being a writer changed your reading experience?
Live in or near Hampton Roads? Please check out my giveaway on the side panel.

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After hanging out with Alex, be sure to stop by and visit this month’s co-hosts:
Misha Gericke,
LK Hill,
Juneta Key,
Christy, and
Joylene Buter!!

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Click here to visit other IWSG blogs and sites to receive and share more inspiration and support. (This month, I’m #69).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

#IWSG January 2017: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard? Oh, and Happy New Year!

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Created and hosted by the Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writers Support Group posts the 1st Wednesday of every month. Click the image to learn more or sign up.

Happy New Year Everyone! Lots of changes coming, but first…

Monthly Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

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I’ll admit that I still sometimes want to roll my eyes when I hear someone say “show not tell”, but when writing fiction, it really is a must. It’s just too bad that not everyone who strives to be a writer has had a classical education in creative writing. Most of us have to learn here, there, through trial and error, and wherever we can get viable and applicable feedback.

But if you really want to know what writing rules drive me crazy, I have two words: voice and p.o.v.

Everyone always wants to give their two cents on the writer’s voice, until the writer’s voice sounds just like theirs. I don’t think it’s wise to say “never use passive voice” because there may be times when it’s needed. It would make more sense to say, avoid using passive voice. I don’t think it’s wise to say “don’t use dialog tags”. I think it’s better to say “use them sparingly and wisely with variety.” Sometimes long convoluted sentences are part of the story, scene, or character. These and other tidbits are all opinions that can alter the author’s voice…

And just for the record, not all the best stories ever written are in first person. Why are people so against third or second person? Why can’t people handle more than one point of view?

Lastly, for me a preface or prologue is an extra bit of info to introduce the story or tease the action to come. It’s not technically part of the story and can be or not be read. So why are so many writers against them?

On a completely separate note, thank you, Chrys Fey, for your article “Dear Persistent Writer” in the last newsletter. Those words of encouragement came right when I needed it.

Also, since it’s a new year, I’ve changed a bunch of things and will be trying some new things. I’ll be posting about it all later, but wanted to mention that there may be pictures of cute dogs on my side panel at any given moment. That’s new. You’re welcome.

Also, in a rare weekend post, I’ll be announcing the winners of my Teacher cash prize and other giveaways this Saturday.

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Do you strongly dislike third person or prologues?
Any changes for you this year?
Slightly random here, but do you have an active You Tube channel?

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After hanging out with Alex, be sure to stop by and visit this month’s co-hosts:
Eva,
Crystal Collier,
Sheena-kay Graham,
Chemist Ken,
LG Keltner, and
Heather Gardner!!

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Click here to visit other IWSG blogs and sites to receive and share more inspiration and support. (This month, I’m #71).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords