New Project

5 Mar

img_20170305_145844635

 

When a story is mulled over long enough, it begins to take shape. It has no title yet, no names picked for characters. Those details will come. The premise was something I’ve thought about for a long time – a romance about a woman, a ghost, and a castle…

Only, when I started to outline the story it kept leaning towards a tale of primal horror.

No.

I kept trying to format it back to a love story, fought with the outline, revised the catalyst…but at some point it took on its own shape and changed into something completely thematically different.

I’ve never written a real cover-your eyes jump-scare don’t-go-into-the-basement screamer. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of movies and TV shows, read lots of books. Fuelled by a steady diet of The Dead Files and Stephen King, I should be able to do this. Should. The reality of making it happen seemed like a good idea at the time (kind of like sky-diving, until you have to jump out of the airplane).

The first week, I could not wait for a free moment to sketch out a few scenes, re-arrange them to fit. The mood was Unbridled Enthusiasm. Then I hit the half-way mark in story mapping, and that sneaky bastard Doubt wandered into the room, mocking my efforts.

Is it scary enough? Or more importantly, original enough? With no sinister soundtrack, no creepy visual effects, no jump-scares, can I frighten people with only words?

I meant it to be a romance story. Honest, I did. I tried.

Synchronicity Release – February 21, 2017

20 Feb

Synchronicity Cover

 

Every book release is a special event, but this one is particularly so.

This novel started as a screenplay, written in the early 90’s. Predating CGI-based special effects, I’d been told the movie would be too expensive to produce. So I filed it away, in my box of Lost Hopes and Dreams.

Time passed. Lots of time. Years and years. The urge to write resurfaced, never truly defeated by life or work or circumstance (or child birthing). I found the original notes in the basement, packed away in a bankers’ box, the manila file folder titled Vampires in Space. It was a solid outline, complete with the design of the space station.

I’d been meaning to re-write that screenplay into a novel…but the script felt worn, redundant; tired. So I wrote Inner Demons instead, and gave it to my niece to test-read. She devoured it, asking for another book in the series based around Nigel.

Naturally, I thought of Vampires in Space.

First hatched in Inner Demons where Nigel had a supporting role, his was a character I particularly enjoyed. The Inner Demons concept breathed new life into the story. I kept the framework, re-wrote the details, hammered away at the craft of story-telling…and thus Synchronicity was re-born.

Physics hasn’t changed much in the last several decades – you still stick to the same side of a rotating wheel, and yes, I fact-checked that detail with a physicist friend (one of the weird topics we discussed during break). Certain scenes – like the ones featuring the observation tower – felt like coming home. A blend of everything I enjoy: vampires, sci-fi, coffee, and scotch.

This post makes it all seem easy – but it wasn’t. Nothing worthwhile ever is. It took years before its final shape emerged. But the journey was amazing.

 

Here are some of the novel’s influences: monsters spawned from the wellspring of 70’s sci-fi and shaped by the 80’s craze for vampires.

(hey, I said they were influences, I didn’t say they were awesome examples)

Books:

John Wyndham: The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids

Ray Bradbury: The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451

Movies:

Outland (1981) (the one with Sean Connery – cowboys in space)

Blade Runner (1982) (androids in non-space)

The Hunger (1983) (vampires not in space)

Lifeforce (1985) (naked vampires in space)

 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Doctor Varma – look him up.

Interview with Steve McHugh – What’s New

4 Dec

 

promise-of-wrath

 

Steve has a true passion for what’s he’s doing – and it shows. He’s come a long way from his debut release of April 28, 2012 when he self-published his first book, Crimes Against Magic, selling 28 copies opening day. Now he’s got the whole Hellequin Chronicles under his belt with book 6 Promise of Wrath released September 13, 2016. He’s working on book 7 Scorched Shadows right now, but took time from his busy schedule to answer some more questions.

 

You left your full-time job in December 2015, to have more time to write. At what point did you decide that you could give up your day job? Was leaving that security net scary?

Through most of 2015 it became apparent that there was no chance I was going to be able to write books quickly enough for the amount of stories in my head. At least not if I worked full-time too. I was doing maybe 1 ½ a year while working. So far this year, since leaving my job, I’m finished 2 and started a 3rd.

On top of that I started to earn enough that it just didn’t make sense to keep working full-time and write. My writing had become my major earner, and it made financial sense to run with that.

It was nerve-wracking to leave and move away from a job I’d done for over a decade, but I’d pretty much done everything I could do while I was there and was essentially coasting because it was easy. I needed the shake up of doing something new.

You tried the traditional route first, looking for an agent, then decided to self-publish. How did you feel when a publisher approached you later? And then you were contacted by an agent. Why did you decide to sign?

Self-publishing was never really my first thought when I was trying to get an agent. I did it because I had friends who had been very successful doing it, and I wanted to give it a try and see how things went. As it turned out, it went well, but when 47N asked if I’d like to work with them, the idea of having a publisher do marketing and the like, allowing me to concentrate on the actual writing side, was something I thought would help me in the long run.

After book 3 came out, I started looking for an agent. I contacted maybe 7 or 8 and explained my situation, but got rejections. Paul, my current agent, and I got on really well from the start and having someone go to bat for me in negotiations meant was great.

You’ve hinted at a new project in the works, a departure from Nate’s adventures. What will that story be about?

I’ve just finished a book that will be out next year. It’s called Divided and it takes place in the Hellequin universe, but isn’t a Nate book. It’s about a young woman by the name of Layla, who through circumstances of someone else’s making, ends up with these incredible powers, throwing her into a world she didn’t know existed.

It was a lot of fun to write, and Layla is a big departure from Nate who was already well established by the time the first book came around. Layla gets sort of dropped in the deep end and told to survive.

What advice would your old self give to a new writer? (Throw yourself back in time about six years to answer that question.) How about now?

I don’t know. I’d probably tell him to just keep writing and not worry about reviews or rankings. I’d probably tell him that he gets to do his dream job and that all of those days when I had to go to a job I didn’t care about were worth it in the long run.

On a non-writer related topic, how’s the puppy?

Unfortunately, our youngest daughter and the puppy didn’t really get along. Harley was far too skittish around the dog, and the dog was constantly trying to show her dominance over our daughter. So, we returned the puppy to the breeder. We’ll try again with an older dog in a few years when Harley is a bit older. It was sad, but it was a learning experience.

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-McHugh/e/B007YYWVHA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480881232&sr=8-1

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-McHugh/e/B007YYWVHA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480881232&sr=8-1

New Release Coming Soon…

20 Nov
synchronicity

Synchronicity Cover

 

 

 

A snowstorm continues raging outside, the first one of the season. Two days ago it was warm and sunny, fall leaves scattering on green lawns. And this should make me sad…but it doesn’t. Why? Three reasons:

  1. I don’t have to drive anywhere today in this crappy weather. No shovelling. Yay.
  2. Still full from last night’s BBQ grilled steak. Yummy.
  3. This cover. Wow.

Yup. This cover. It’s new and exciting. The initial buzz still hasn’t worn off yet. Another fledging about to fly into the world. I thought I would get used to this feeling. Nope. And that makes me happy.

Hat Trick

29 May

THE HARVESTERS-medium

 

While listing all of my published work for a new contract, I released how much that list has grown in the past few years. Perhaps my list is shorter than other authors’ lists, but it is significantly longer than the one I had three years ago.

This will be my third novel released – all of them dear to me, in different ways. This one stands alone, not part of a series, nothing to fall back on. Just pure sci-fi, no ghosts or bats or gothic themes. A true product of the ‘80’s influence: different in tone and theme and voice.

A Hat Trick is when you score three goals on the same game – and that’s what this release date feels like: the culmination of a lot of hard work, a significant event, something that should be celebrated.

 

The Harvesters will be released on May 31: my personal hat trick.

 

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

23 Apr

Where did the idea for the story come from?

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

 

The idea for The Harvesters came from a dream – actually a terrifying nightmare – that just wouldn’t fade once daylight invaded. Farmers’ fields being torn up by a giant machine, abandoning a home, frantic escape by car, making sure my loved ones were all accounted for…the struggle, the mad dash, the anguish of leaving things behind…

A compelling idea. Story-worthy.

The more I researched the genre, the more comments and articles I came across telling me my project wouldn’t work. Sci-fi wasn’t targeted for “women over 30”. The main character was a mom, trying to save everyone. Not daunted by those parameters, I plunged ahead anyways and wrote a few scenes.

When I tried to mold that dream into a story, it just wouldn’t work. It was dark, it was deadly, and it didn’t have a moment of victory. So I discarded the outline, quit working on the chapters I had written, and moved on.

A few years later (and a few books later), I was attending one of Brian Henry’s writing workshops intending to polish up my kids’ chapter book (The Persnickety Princess, released April 12 2016). I had an eureka moment! The Harvesters might work if I changed the point of view to the oldest sibling’s – a teenager. Armed with this new concept, I tackled the old outline and much to my surprise had a whole novel a few months later.

The book is all about things I know – the setting, the sports, the power struggles, injected with a hefty dash of sci-fi. The sunset at the lake, the wind turbines, the clash of sweaty kids on a football field, the dusty bookstore. Secrets and lies and the struggle to survive – all very human concepts. The realism grounds the fantasy.

And it all started with a nightmare.

 

The Harvester will be released on May 31 2016 by MuseItUp Publishing.

99 Hours in Joanland – Part Two

21 Aug

This is part two of my real-life experience with surgery.

Down The Rabbit Hole

When I was a kid, I had read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. They had been called classics, highly recommended, and I was a voracious reader. Sounds like the perfect combination. But I didn’t like those books. Not at all. I remember thinking that the stories had a surrealistic dream-like quality that was eerily unsettling. As an adult, I re-read the books and did some research on the author, and found out why those stories were so odd and uncomfortable. There is no mistaking that altered state. And I knew I was in an altered state now. Waking up was weird and disorienting. First I could hear, then I could see, but I couldn’t respond or move my body. I’d woken up from surgery before, so this effect didn’t freak me out. What did freak me out was the amount of time that had gone by – like maybe eight hours?

I was so happy to be through the successful reconstruction, and very very alive. I ran my tongue over my teeth – yup, all still there and no damage (another possible effect of surgery). Another reason to be happy. The recovery nurse told me that my room wasn’t ready yet. I laughed and replied “I’ll just wait here.” Like I could do anything else – I was stuck on that stretcher, tubes and IV’s connected to my body. My husband was waiting outside the recovery room, joining us in the hallway as the porter wheeled the stretcher to the elevators. I was so happy to see him. Things like this test your relationship, and we’d been through so much already, but when you really know you can trust somebody, that you can let yourself fall and they’ll catch you – that’s special. As the hospital corridors flashed by, I fisted my hands. They felt like they had woken up, too. I could feel all my fingers, no numbness, no pins and needles. I hadn’t felt them in their entirety for years. I wondered what medication they had given me, because to have your hands wake up like that was weirdly delightful. Everything was weirdly delightful. Let’s face it – being high is grand. I was so happy to be alive, that I got to keep my kidney, and now on the road to recovery. Happy, happy, happy. Yeah, cue the ominous music.

I don’t remember much about the rest of that evening. Just wheeling to my room, the blip of machines, the pulsing of some contraption that was wrapped around my lower legs so I wouldn’t get blood clots. I was hooked up to a narcotic painkiller pump so I could push a button when the pain got to be too much. A catheter had been inserted so I didn’t have to get up to go pee. Oxygen was vented into my nose. A drainage tube had been inserted into my abdomen, hooked up to a circular bag. The IV kept me hydrated. Both incisions were covered, and they both felt fine. My husband told me that my spleen had been nicked during the surgery, but fixing it wasn’t a problem. You don’t need your spleen anyways; other systems will take over if it’s gone. After I got settled, my husband went home. I wasn’t really there anyways, kept drifting in and out of sleep. Blink, I was gone. Blink, I was back. Somebody came by every hour to check on me. Morning light. Fade out, fade in. Breakfast. Tick tock goes the clock. Fade out, fade in. Lunch. Tick tock. The surgeon came by, checking the incisions. He read the chart on the pain pump, telling me I had a good pain tolerance and that the pump was addictive and he wanted to get me off of it as soon as possible. I agreed – his recommendation seemed logical, a good idea. It made sense to give it up. I knew the stuff was bad for me, so I had used it sparingly and sucked up the rest of the pain. You’ve got to expect some pain after surgery, right? If only I’d known what I was going to be up against. Maybe it is better that I didn’t know. Somebody came in and removed the pump. The catheter went, too – no pain, no problem. Until I actually had to get up to go pee.

I couldn’t get out of bed. It was like going to sleep normal, and waking up nine months pregnant. My abdomen was distended to the point where it was pressing into my diaphragm, making breathing awkward, a deep breath impossible. I’d been through natural childbirth twice, surgery three times before – I thought I knew something about pain. I would have to invent a new scale; my previous “ten” had been chewed up and spit out by this monster. My legs were wrapped in those claustrophobic bindings, and I had no abdominal muscles to help me rise. Just sitting up became a huge problem, such pain rippling, cramping, hammering. I was counting the minutes between oral painkiller doses, and the nurses wouldn’t give me the meds off schedule, not even ten minutes too early. Supper came, but I had no desire to eat. It made me nauseous just to think about food. My brother and his wife dropped by to visit. I wished they’d come by a few hours earlier, when I was still high and happy. I must have looked bad, as she kept talking about patient advocates and how patients needed someone on the outside to fight for their needs. But I never once felt like I wasn’t getting the help I needed, and I didn’t want somebody sitting beside me all day, watching me sleep. It would have been too exhausting to pretend that I was okay, to put on that false front, to act like I had my shit together when clearly I didn’t. My husband came by, bringing our daughter with him. I could see the tension and shock in her face, that her mom would be such a mess.

That night I was in such pain, I wanted it to be over. The logical part of me knew that the meds were taking over my thoughts. The emotional part of me wanted to give up. Which side would win? While I was wrestling with this dark mood, a man appeared, standing at the foot of my bed. I didn’t know him. I wondered if he had wandered into the room by mistake, or had come to visit my room-mate. He was wearing a weird hat, the big brim shadowing his face. His clothes were odd too, from a different era. The strange hat tipped me off, that and the fact that nobody else was reacting to his presence. What I saw wasn’t at all like a dream – there was too much reality injected in the details. It didn’t have the weird, altered state that goes on in a dream. He asked, in an impatient, bored tone, if I was going to cross over. I always figured that when I crossed over, somebody I knew would come to get me, not this indifferent stranger. If this was a hallucination, why didn’t it contain someone familiar? It really shook me up, that the afterlife would be so different to how I thought it would be. Maybe I’d seen too many episodes of The Dead Files. Or maybe this was just the way things were going to be. Logic claimed he was a hallucination. Emotion claimed he was a ghost. Both sides agreed that he was scary. Months later, the creepy image of that man in his wide-brimmed hat still haunts me.

No way did I want to cross over. I had too much to live for, a beautiful family that was counting on me. Many people, some of them strangers, had invested their time and effort to get me here.

I told the man “no!” Adamant, final, determined. He left, drifting backwards to dissipate through the wall. He came back again later but never said anything, just stood there and waited as if I might change my mind. I closed my eyes, trying to shut him out. Eventually he left again, right through the chair and the clock and the shelf and the wall. I couldn’t fall asleep after that happening. To sleep meant that dreams may come, weird unsettling surrealistic illusions, and I had had enough of that altered state.

Morning couldn’t come soon enough.