Monday, July 27, 2015

The Voice

Many years ago I sent a manuscript to an agent, her reply confused me. She explained as she politely rejected it, "Great story, but there's no voice." I have to say, I was perplexed. I thought angrily, "Of course there's a voice! Didn't she hear my characters? Didn't she read the story?"

What I didn't understand about her comment was that it wasn't MY voice. 

Let me explain.

Ever since I started writing novels, I've written them for other people. I've always had someone else's wishes in mind. Sure, most of what I was writing was literally from my own mind, but I always considered who the book was for. Some books I wrote for my husband who loves fantasy, others for my children or immediate relatives; many for my friends and fans. I even named characters after some of them as a way of honouring them. Many read my books, of course; several stated that they were too busy or 'didn't read books' (who doesn't read books?! lol).

But when one friend, my best friend, declined to read my book based on her religious beliefs regarding ghosts, I was devastated. When I wrote Dimensions of Genesis, I actually had her in mind. She'd lost two family members within just a few years of one another, and I wrote a book about Heaven and lost loved ones. I guess I thought it would comfort her somehow, being able to imagine them as spirits en route to a better place.

It was then that I began to wonder, who was I writing for? 

There have been many, many moments where I was writing and I was struggling, the words just didn't want to come, the characters resisting to speak or 'act' for me. Writing became a chore, difficult and frustrating. And, truth be told, I was bitter for a long time after my friend's rejection. It took me eight years to figure out why writing was so hard: I was trying to force the words, force the characters to do what I wanted them to do because I thought that's what writing was. Those are the moments when you are not using your own voice, you're trying to will the story towards a direction of your choice. Funny thing is, it's not your choice how the story goes. 

Real writing is magic. 

Your subconscious is amazing! It has this way of stitching together the story without you even knowing. Your subconscious IS the voice! I used to draw up outlines, I'd spend days sorting out what I wanted my characters to do, the chapters, the scenes, and how I wanted the story to end--only to have the characters hijack the story and march off in a different direction, hence destroying my precious outline. Finally, after years of struggling, I surrendered. I let them do what they wanted--I let them tell the story. And you know what, the story was so much better. The writing was better. (And easier!)

And so, let go.

When you are writing, let the voice go (you know, the literary voice that starts rattling out the story faster than you can type, and the characters that plague you at 3:00am with their incessant chatter and endless antics). Don't try to edit it, or control the ideas or flow of the story, just let it go. Now, I'm often amazed at how when I start writing, a movie of my characters begins to play inside my head, the words flow freely, scenes appearing on the screen like magic--if I simply let go. Don't think of anyone else and how they are going to feel about this scene or that; and whatever you do, don't write with anyone else in mind. You don't need to listen to their voice or their story, you need to listen to your own. 

So what is my voice now?

Scary, apparently. It's ironic, I don't even watch horror movies, but that's what my voice likes to write: Horror (not gory, just creepy). All my book ideas are scary and dark, the kind that keep you from sleeping or makes you look behind you as you run up the basement stairs. 

Why do I write Horror then? 

Well, I think it's because we cannot appreciate the light until we've been lost in the dark. Fear teaches us how strong we are. It shows us what we can overcome, and what we can live through and still be whole. 

Danielle :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Grave Alice - Chapter One

I thought it would be fun to share the first chapter of Grave Alice with you. I'd love to hear what you think.  :)

Chapter One

I awoke to the sound of laughter, distant, disturbing, uncertain if it was real or a figment of my disquiet subconscious. So many sensations assaulted me all at once: pain, fear, confusion.
Where am I? What happened to me?
Muted hues of gold and shadow danced behind my eyelids, sunlight warming my right cheek. It was daytime, that was all I understood other than the pain. My head, my neck, my face; all were plagued by a throbbing, an unending ache. What confused me more was the lack of pain in my legs, back, and arms. Not only could I not feel any pain—I couldn’t feel anything at all.
Nor could I move; not a muscle, not a toe. Threads of panic wove tight knots within as I tried in vain to force my body to comply. Only my tongue, thick and swollen behind my teeth, and my eyes rolling in their sockets, appeared under my control. Everything else was as though dead, leaving me to deliberate the perverse notion of whether the rest of me was intact at all.
I took inventory of myself, recalling the essentials as to ensure I was not simply in the midst of a terrible dream from which I had not yet awakened.
 I am Alice Winters of Chicago, Illinois, born September 12, 1870. My parents are George and Madeleine Winters. I just turned eighteen…
All of this information came easily to me, lucidly. I was most certainly awake. This was not a dream at all.
I sensed someone walk into the room, their footsteps light upon the floor. A woman, I thought. There was something about the way she walked. Delicately. As not to disrupt.
I willed my eyes to open, compelling them. Only one obeyed, my right, and minimally at that. Through the narrow slit, I could vaguely discern the stark-white blanket covering my body, my listless form outlined beneath, my breasts, legs, and feet resembling a bumpy landscape covered in snow. Though blurred and tinted slightly red, the world appeared as though underwater. Every so often, movement swam by, a figure floating amongst the waves of incomprehension.
Dry and stinging, it took several attempts for my right eyelid to remain open long enough to absorb anything appreciable about my surroundings. I took stock from right to left, then back again. The room itself was completely unfamiliar. On my right stood a stocky buffet made of dark wood, its top littered with metal racks holding clear vials filled with contents of varying shades: the darkest red, a bright green, and a silver substance so thick it looked to be liquid metal.
An open window ushered in the sound of chattering birds and squirrels as a gentle wind disturbed the long white drapes hanging loosely on either side. Indistinct perfumes wafted in, tickling my nose; a blend of grass, pine, and flowers lingered on the breeze like ghosts. I inhaled them, gathered them into my lungs as though I might never again breathe their essence, as though it was the last taste of summer I might savour upon my tongue. It reminded me of my youth, of times as a small child running through overgrown meadows, cheeks pinched pink by a warm, mid-afternoon sun, my long auburn hair trailing behind me like fire.
Reluctantly, I pulled my attention to my immediate surroundings. I needed to figure out where I was and what had happened to me. My gaze slid from left to right, then back again, taking in as much as I could before I was forced to rest my eye due to a sharp, stabbing pain originating behind the socket. When the pain subsided, I tried again. This time, I saw so much more. In the far left corner, sitting stock-still as though patiently awaiting its next passenger, sat an aged, wooden rocking chair with a patchwork quilt draped over the back. Behind it, ivory paper lined the walls, chocolate-colored crown molding framing the room like a picture. There were tiny, blue emblems spaced precisely throughout the wallpaper, but my eyesight was still too poor to properly distinguish them. A time-worn sepia portrait of a lovely woman in a stylish, Victorian dress decorated the far wall, a coquettish smile adorning her dainty mouth while a yawning lace parasol rested on her shoulder. The space resembled a bedroom, and if not for the odd assortment of vials upon the buffet and the tall pole holding a bag of fluid at my bedside, I might have thought myself to be inside a comely hotel suite.
Utilizing my limited senses, I concentrated on my hearing, closing my eye as to focus on anomalous sounds within and outside the room. Wheels rolled on wooden floors whilst footsteps sounded on stairs amid the hum of quiet conversation. I held my breath, listening, eavesdropping on the world on the other side of the door. It was busy, but oddly subdued.
The woman stood before the bureau, unaware of my gaze as she cleaned and tinkered with the area. Atop her head, nestled neatly amid an upswept chignon of chestnut brown hair, was a nurse’s cap. Reality set in, akin to the aftermath of a furious inferno, ash drifting as burnt feathers, landing like snow upon scorched soil.
This is a hospital.
It was then that I noticed yet another odour, one I hadn’t sensed previous. Perhaps the feral aromas of nature had distracted me, yet upon reflection, I suspect that something deep inside me had tried to protect me from it. While the room smelled clean, disinfected even, it was marked with something else, a peculiar scent that loitered beneath the sanitation; something tangy, coppery.
Like a dark instinct, I knew it was mine. I was broken, my body a stranger I was unsure I wanted to acquaint myself with. The lithe, limber young form I’d known for so many years was gone, virtually indistinguishable, and I a wanderer lost inside its ravaged realm.
A storm of emotions bombarded me then, so many I could not even separate them by name. Fear does not adequately brand the agonizing burn that exploded inside, the volcanic eruption of terror. I fought against the panic and utter shock that attempted to rip itself from within; freeing itself as would a ravenous, caged beast. My heartbeat thudded furiously in my ears. Hot, angry blood pulsed through my veins, surging, writhing, struggling to calm the tempest building inside. I wanted to strike out, hit something, punch someone until they felt as I did. Or just to feel. To feel sensation, even pain, where only deadness now resided. I wanted to scream, cry, be consoled. I wanted to stand up and run out of the room. But there was nothing. Incompliance. I was a prisoner of myself, tied up, held captive by invisible irons.
What had happened to me? When I searched my memories, trying to summon the last vision before this moment, nothing would emerge. Fleeting emotions, terrifying and intense, arrived in their place. I willed myself to feel them, perhaps then the rest would follow.
It did.
Not everything, just flashes, glimpses, terrifying images played before my mind’s eye. Echoes of screams, shattering glass, the sense of tumbling and rolling over and over—the sky, the ground, the sky—eventually converging into one.
Smoke. Blood. Blackness.
I winced, not realizing the pain it would induce, my entire face felt on fire with the slightest movement. A scream rose into my throat, pulled from the depths of my soul, but dissipated into a wet, pathetic gurgle as it attempted to move beyond my lips.
The nurse spun about, her hand over her mouth. “Oh! Miss Winters! You’re awake!” She moved to my side, her face becoming clearer. She was younger than I had assumed, not much older than myself. Nineteen? Twenty, perhaps?
For a moment I had a surge of regret, a longing for a future I somehow realized I would not likely see. I felt Death stalking me, sensing the long reach of his morbid desire to steal me away from this world. While I didn’t know what had happened to me, something deep and dark inside of me told me unequivocally that my nightmare had only just begun.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Grave Alice

For many years I've struggled with what genre I'd like to write in. So, I experimented with several. With the Dark World Trilogy, I learned very quickly how hard it is to write fantasy. To create a whole new world with intricate characters and histories was, I found, very exhilarating and fun, but also exhausting. I've written science fiction with Inhuman, and spiritual adventure with Genesis. My mom wants me to write comedy, but frankly, I'm just not that funny on paper. Nightmara, while not my best work, was the funnest to write. 

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the works of one author in particular, devouring nearly all his books before the age of sixteen. 

Stephen King.

I've always been fascinated with fear, and with being afraid. Perhaps it's twisted, but I love being afraid. I love a terrifying, psychologically warped plot that leaves you jumpy for weeks after you've read it. I love ghosts, monsters, and that feeling when you run up the stairs really fast because it feels like something is behind you. And, in turn, I love to scare people. 

Hence my choice to write in the Horror genre. I've chosen Gothic Horror particularly, as I love the Victorian era. I may not remain in that genre forever, but dark ideas seem to be the most prevalent on my list of 'novels to write'. 

For those of you who loved Dark World, don't worry, I plan to write more in that world in the future. :) 

But for now, here is a small taste of Grave Alice: (Warning: adult content)

The dream began. How I would come to loathe, despise, and yet yearn for the nightmarish world inside my mind. It always started the same way, always the girl, the ghostly girl standing beside a glorious, shining apple tree. The fruit weighs on the branches, burdening them with their delicious ripeness; brilliant red skin glittering despite a sun silenced by cloud and gloom. She watches me from beneath a canopy of emerald fronds, glowers at me, hates me with eyes of smoldering obsidian. She is naked but for a filthy, threadbare shift; right strap torn, exposing her breast. Her arms hang stiffly at her sides, hands clenched in apparent rage, bare toes curling and uncurling in the black loam beneath her feet. Long blonde hair drapes her shoulders, twisting like golden corkscrews; oddly immaculate despite the condition of her dress. I could not, however, make out her face; all but her eyes are disfigured with what appeared to be black ink, as though scribbled out with a quill gripped by an angry hand. Perhaps if I’d known who she was, I could have interpreted what she wanted.
Thick, silvery fog rolls in around her then, like the cold breath of some huge, imperceptible beast. The girl appears fearful of the anomaly, placing a protective hand upon the tree. Silvery miasma plays about her ankles, twisting as it rises, moving serpentine around her body, bringing a moan to her lips as it disappears beneath her gown. Bewitched, the girl closes her eyes, steals her hand from the bark and begins touching herself, loving herself. Then, as if sensing the girl’s erotic preoccupation, another arm is born of the fog, reaching for the tree, wrapping smoky, sinister fingers about its trunk. Instantly, as would the touch of death, the leaves turn brown and the apples begin to rot, blacken, spoiling inside their shriveled skin. One by one the fruit falls to the cold earth, shattering as though made of glass, exploding into a million sharp and shimmering pieces.
The girl, one moment enthralled in the raptures of some phantom lover, suddenly screams a scream that tears my soul in two as the apple shards are swept up in the air by an unseen force and begin to impale her, slice her, cutting her into tiny bits, cutting and cutting until she falls upon the ground amidst the remnants of apples, herself but a puzzle of silver pieces. All that is left of her is the reflection of one of her dark eyes, blinking bewilderedly, trapped within each of the mirror-like fragments.
And then, just as swiftly as it had come, the fog morphs from white to black and into a writhing tornado. The ruins of the girl are pulled up into the storm and whisked away, her cries but an echo on the wind. The apple tree, wizened, blackened, crumbles and blows away like dark ash.
But where the roots of the glorious tree once held firm, amid the sludge and decay, germinates a tiny seed. I look to the sky, searching for the sun, awaiting it to surrender but a sliver of light, to nourish this insignificant life form.
The clouds darken and swirl, wavering like hypnotic mists, sunlight struggling to break through the wall. I feel myself crying as I kneel before the sapling, its curled body frail and barely hanging on. Somehow I know it is the last, the very last of its kind. After this, there are no more. No more beauty, no more fruit.
I weep, my hands over my face, rocking, pleading, but instead of the sky opening up to heed my prayer, the black tornado returns, the sharp fragments that shredded the ghostly girl tears me into pieces, setting me adrift upon the dark wind.
I am no more.

While the nightmare continued to vary amid the duration of my stay, the essence remained the same: a shattering of innocence.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Myth is Live On Amazon!!

Myth is live on the Kindle! Here are the links!

I will blog the links for Nook and Kobo as soon as they're live.  


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Slowly But Surely

After a round of weird bad luck, slicing my finger and getting five stitches, a sick husband (twice), and a flurry of competitions for rhythmic gymnastics (my daughter, not me), I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for Dark World III. With just a few thousand words to go, and a lot of twists and turns not even I saw coming, the characters of Myth are finally coming full circle.

With fingers crossed (not the one with stitches) I hope to get Myth out by the end of May. I thank you so very much for your continuing patience. I know I take a long time to write, but I've become a bit of an obsessive perfectionist with writing and want to make sure its perfect for you. :)

I'd love to hear your comments below and any guesses on what you think might happen in this next installment of Dark World.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

On Writing...

Writing is frustrating. Some days my fingers fly around the keyboard like wildfire, unable to keep up with the story unfolding inside my head. Other days, like these past few, every word is like trying to pry gemstones from solid ice. I wonder why my muse picks and chooses to come and go as she pleases? I wonder why the story, after moving so swiftly through my imagination, has chosen to pause itself? Perhaps it is my human limitations that hinder progress?

It seems, occasionally, that when my writing goes into creative hibernation, that my reading becomes voracious; as though it's the one that's been starving and now needs immediate sustenance. It is difficult, however, to find the right foods to feed the need. Not all books are created equal. I often pick up three or four from the library only to return all of them unread but for a few chapters. Why is this? I'm picky. Very, very picky. I hate wasting precious time and energy on a book that I feel will not quench my creative thirst. 

The books I read have to have certain qualities, such as beautiful writing. You know the kind, the prose that flows like verbal silk, words wound together as though angels have inspired them. Second, a lovely cover. Yes, I know, that's a bit shallow, but it's true. I feel that the package should entice me, seducing me to peek between its pages. And lastly, a different story. Something unique, odd even. So often I find the same stories retold, rehashed and milked for every ounce it's worth. Example: Vampires. Need I say more?

So as I wait out yet another writing hiatus, I fill my head with the words and stories of those who inspire me. Perhaps they are my muses, or my own muse has flitted off to inspire another in order to feed my future literary addictions? 

Who knows?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Sneak Peak at Dark World III

Dark World III


The monster wandered the shadowy realm, his new home whether he liked it or not. Thick, hot, oppressive air held his lungs captive as blistering crimson sands branded the soles of his naked feet. Subterranean springs intermittently discharged scorching waters into the atmosphere whilst angry volcanoes raged endlessly in the distance, their garnet tributaries bleeding from earthly wounds that seemingly never healed.
This world, this dark land, seemed to embrace all things malignant, all things evil. What trace of humanity he had left lingering inside recoiled in fear and confusion, terrified of what might be waiting for him around every shadow-cloaked corner, but the dark passenger that now occupied the greater part his soul was elated, grinning, and pleased to be home again. This new malevolence twisted and crawled through the blackened web-like veins spread all over his body, owning him as though possessed. Relentless hunger pulled at his innards, thirst for blood clawed at his throat. Despite his weary, every creature he’d happened upon inevitably lost the battle, becoming his next meal. This thing inside of him, this beast, could lash out, summon any strengths needed when the time arose. In those moments, he’d become powerful, god-like—indestructible. He’d torn at their flesh with his teeth, greedily, uncontrollably, but never was he rewarded satiation or reprieve from the inhuman suffering. The hunger always remained. Always tormenting him, always controlling him.
Nevertheless, there was something else lurking amid the dark corners of his newfound Hell. Something stronger than the blood lust. Something that diluted the poison inside: revenge.
He vowed to find his way back from this dark world. He would make them pay for this. He would find the ones responsible and show them what true pain was.
But for now, he had to find food, had to feed this unappeasable monster within, had to silence the demons screaming inside. Then, he would search for the one he sensed nearby. The one he’d hurt first.
The one he’d sent here.