The Formula of Attraction

June 26, 2011 at 9:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

There was a time, perhaps when you were six years old, when formulas were quite simple and made complete sense: 

1+1 = 2

Straightforward and not the least bit confusing. 

As you got older, the world changed and shifted.  Those easy equations took on a different form, with more variables and odd little symbols embedded in them.  By the time you reached adulthood, they looked a little something like this: 

 

What does this mean????   Hell if I know.

I do not profess to be a math genius – whatsoever.  But I am a woman of science and observation, so it’s only natural for me to make relations between variables.  ‘A’ appears to be directly proportional to ‘B’…hmmmmm.  And I’ve come up with a bit of a hypothesis for modern-day attraction between species.

In recent years, it seems that the simplicity of attraction no longer applies:  one boy plus one girl (or any variation of this – gender is not the focus of this blogpost) = Love.  That one boy used to be the neighbor you grew up with your whole life; maybe he was the only boy who was precisely 3 years older and 3 ft. taller than you in your small village; or worse, he may have been the one your parents insisted you marry based on social hierarchy.  But mom, he’s my cousin for crying out loud!  In all cases, it was pretty much a no-brainer back then. 

 In this day and age, a girl has a lot more to ponder what she wants in a man.  It’s no longer about the Montagues versus Capulets or the Jets versus the Sharks and their synchronized snapping dances down back-alleys.  Those days are long gone and have been replaced by a new rivalry:

Vampires versus Werewolves.

So first, let’s just break these groups down into some basic understanding of what they are.  For those of you living under a rock, today’s vampires aren’t the ones you remember from watching Saturday afternoon horror shows: 

 

Hello Nosferatu and good-bye.  Forever.  I don’t think we’ll ever revert back now that we’ve gotten a little taste of how sexy a vampire can really be:

 

What woman doesn’t dream about a midnight tryst with one of these guys?

 The same goes for Werewolves.  Once upon a time, little red riding hood met up in the woods with one of these:

 

Enough to make a girl run all the way to grandma’s house.

But I’m pretty sure Red would’ve stuck around if she’d been met by one of these delectable canines: 

 

Grrrrowl.

So now that we’ve established WHAT they are, let’s take a look at WHO they are. 

 The vampire based on today’s popular fiction is one of two flavors:  the brooding, tormented type who harbors a sense of guilt  (think Edward Cullen or Louis de Pointe du Lac); or a bit more exuberant about the life of a vampire (as in Eric Northman or Lestat de Lioncourt).  They are the undead, therefore cold, pale skin is a common characteristic.  Vampires are the artisans of the paranormal world, genteel and socially assimilated.  In most cases, they are capable of dazzling their prey, beguiling them with charm and unearthly beauty.  Women swoon and obey their every command, making them a very domineering group.  It is this power of seduction that has given rise to newfangled groupie types.

 Werewolves are much simpler creatures in that most lack the dramatic personality types of vampires.  Sure there are a few tormented souls but overall:  give them a bone, and they’re happy.  Weres tend to be strong with superhuman senses; unrefined and untamed with a propensity for violence if provoked; the ruffians of the paranormal world.  Because they are living beings, they’re not only hot-bodied but hot-blooded and appear as normal human beings in their un-shape-shifted form (think I made that word up).  And don’t discount a Werewolf’s ability to impress the ladies.  Physical prowess and rugged good looks are what draw women in, making them the ultimate alpha male.

OK now that I’ve summarized the wiki Cliffs Notes on the two, let’s move on.  Getting back to my hypothesis.  If we take the personalities of these supernatural beings and the women who love them, it’s only natural that a correlation begins to form in one’s head. 

I’ll take the opportunity here to confess that I’m not a relationship expert and will not be held responsible for anyone taking my theories to heart, and ultimately marrying the wrong person…er, being. 

I believe that women who fall for the fangalicious variety are the outgoing, outspoken females in society.  They typically don’t take crap from anyone.  But secretly, I think these women harbor a desire to fall victim to the seductive nature of a man.  Do with me as you will.

Conversely, and based purely on observation, those who flock to the beastly types are often times timid and shy; the quiet ones who would rather be home on Saturday night than out mingling with cocktails in hand.  Are you talking about me?  These women dream of taming a wild beast. 

And so my simple equation for the two is as follows:

A α D = B α C

In other words, I think that women who read about vampires are looking for a nice ass-spankin’ by something delicious while those who read about werewolves are looking for a not-as-nice, ass-spankingly delicious something.  Make sense?

But what about those who like both you ask?? 

That equation is even simpler than the first one.  They’re called demons.  And they are what I tend to write about 😉

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Forks

June 19, 2011 at 8:04 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

No, I’m not talking about the home of the Cullen clan. 

The forks I’m referring to are the kind that show up when you’re riding along a scenic little path, content as can be.  The calm winds blow through your hair and the sun warms your face.  The world seems right.  You close your eyes just for a moment to take in the serenity of your surroundings and open them in time to come to a screeching halt.

What the hell just happened? 

The straight and predictable path you were traveling on abruptly came to an end, leaving you teetering at a point of divergence, with multiple paths before you.  Each promises an infinite number of outcomes.  The sun disappears and clouds form in the distance, portending a storm.  You don’t have much time.  So which path do you choose?

Alright, enough of the destiny chatter.  It’s Sunday morning and I’m sure no one has had enough coffee to sit and ponder that. 

I’m fitting the last pieces of this massive writing puzzle that I’ve been working on lately:  the website, the edits to my manuscript, figuring out what direction this series is going to take me.  And I’m preparing myself for the next step, which will ultimately be publication, in one form or another.  This narrow path that I’ve been walking for the last few months, knowing what my mornings and evenings will entail, is about to become a bit convoluted. 

Like most authors these days, I’m trying to decide which route I want to take.  And because I didn’t spend countless hours fulfilling a writing degree, or even recognizing in the last 10 years that I wanted to become a writer, I honestly don’t know which yields better success.  I’m not just talking about money here; I’m talking about successful publishing and all the decisions that go into designing a decent book.  And do I have what it takes to contend?  Am I considered a “writer” in the real world?

I won’t dive into the last question too much, except to say that I firmly believe it is the drive and passion you have for something that defines what you are.  I spent 7 years working on 2 degrees in science, studying infectious diseases and biostats, and yet I feel no more a scientist than the girl who simply dreams of becoming one.  The difference between the two of us is that she will do whatever it takes to get there, while I dream of another path I wish I’d taken.

Going back to my original conundrum, I’ve been reading and studying the topic of publication as much as I can (in as much time as I can).  I’ve teased out pros and cons with each, and am left possibly more confused than when I began.  No big surprise there.

Traditional publishing brings editors, a marketing scheme, reviewers and the validation that comes with a recognized publisher.  Sounds enticing, if you’re able to make the slush cut.  Because I’ve never pursued publication until recently, I don’t have the experience of an agent taking an interest in my writing, only to have it passed on.  I can only imagine that if I’m tapped to send more than the first 5 pages of manuscript somewhere, I’ll be squealing with delight.  Not good.  This is what scares me about pursuing traditional publishing:  the possibility that my beloved book will never materialize.  And if it does, what happens if, as a debut author, I’m not meeting the sales mark?  Forget for a moment that this is a series and that I have other books I’d like to publish.  Sounds like I should go out and buy a lottery ticket; I’m pretty sure my chances of winning are greater.

Small press might get my book out there.  And I’m certainly not opposed to this path, perhaps even leaning a little toward it.  It also comes equipped with an editor, launch plan and reviewers.  But if I’m not going to go the traditional route with all the big guns backing my marketing campaign, do I have at least some say in the details such as coverart and ideas to launch my book?  I’m not a control-freak here, but if the big six isn’t branding my story, I suspect I’m going to need to exert a little effort to get it out there.  And I’d like to incorporate some of my own creativity in the process.

The last is self-publishing, or my least favorite term – “vanity publishing.”  Come on, I think just about every famous author has some little anecdote tucked away, detailing the difficulty in getting published.  I once read that Margaret Mitchell was rejected by 38 different publishers before Gone with the Wind was finally picked up.  Can you imagine a world without Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler?  There are some great writers out there who simply can’t snag the attention of an agent.  They take the time to write a query, a synopsis and outline chapters all for the purpose of dazzling an agent who reads hundreds of these a week.  Vanity publishing?  Really?  How about we just call it, “I worked my ass off on this and would like to get it out there” publishing.  Even if that means paying to do it.  This route brings total creative freedom.  Ultimately, it’s subject to the scrutiny of reviewers, bloggers and the same fickle public as a traditionally published author (though at a reduced readership).  A crappy manuscript isn’t going to become a bestseller (OK some do, but that’s a blogpost for another day).  Call it whatever kind of publishing you want.  There’s a reason Amanda Hocking and Zoe Winters are icons of self-publication:  they wrote something people liked.  But self-publication doesn’t come without its share of stresses either:  self-marketing, self-sustainability and the dreaded, self-editing.  Of course, you can pay to have the manuscript edited, but these ‘per word’ services can become expensive if you haven’t taken a fine-toothed comb to it yourself first.

So here I sit with my manuscript becoming more polished by the minute; friends and family asking when they can purchase a copy; and a website showcasing my love for writing about to be launched.  Will I begin the arduous task of choosing the right words to grab the attention of a weary agent and toss a penny into the fountain for luck?  Maybe I’ll investigate some reputable small press publishers?  Or will I give it a go on my own, taking my chances and hoping that what I wrote is interesting and well-written enough to keep me off of the “Self-Publishing Losers” list? 

I’m undecided at the moment.  What would you do?

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One in a Million

June 12, 2011 at 8:50 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

About sixteen years ago (ugh, really?), I was riding in the backseat of my mother’s silver sedan, nervously gnawing at my bottom lip while trying to breathe evenly.  In the driver’s seat was my mother, dodging eye contact with me in the rearview mirror for fear she’d turn into a blubbery mess.  My Aunt Karen sat in the passenger seat, turning on occasion with a bright but sympathetic smile that only made the looming threat of bile inch higher up my throat.  The day I’d been dreading had finally arrived.

We drove through town and as if my heart rate was tethered to this place, the closer we got, the more distressed I became.  Don’t hyperventilate Keri.  But how could I not as I looked around, feeling like Lewis Skolnick (Nerds) on the first day?  It was as I’d imagined:  frat houses and sororities teeming with intimidating-looking Ken & Barbie doll types; hundreds of people my age, aimlessly walking around; cars filled to the brim backed up for miles on Grand River Ave.  MSU was plastered everywhere I turned with green and white banners smacking me in the face.  A nuthouse!  This was going to be my home for the next four years.  And I was scared to death.

I learned from paperwork that I’d received prior to arriving, that my roommate was a girl from somewhere in the thumb named Diana.  Great.  A country girl.  I, on the other hand, lived a stone’s throw away from Detroit, not far from 8 mile.  That’s right – the 8 mile, but before you even ask, the answer is “No” – I did not grow up performing rap gigs with Eminem.  Though apparently, that’s what my roommate thought, so we spent the better part of the first week avoiding each other.

From her pictures, I gathered that she was pretty popular in high school:  standing next to an impressive football player in one shot and sandwiched between two pretty girls in the next, adorned with a crown atop her perfect blonde locks.  Princess Di.  Good God.  What the hell was fate thinking when it roomed me with her? 

One afternoon on a desperate whim for company, I asked if she wanted to walk up town with me.  She seemed just as unsure as I was, but agreed to go.  Somewhere between the walk there, the bookstores we perused, the Heimlich she administered after I nearly choked on the lunch we had together, and the long walk back to the dorm room, we got to know each other.  Weird.  Princess Di wasn’t all that bad.

I could bore you with the life that has transpired between then and now, but instead, we’ll just fast forward to this past week when Diana came to visit me from Texas where she eventually moved.  For anyone who didn’t hear me blab all about it on Twitter, she stayed at my house a couple of nights and we somehow managed to cram four days worth of activities into two.  I’m exhausted this morning, but it was time well spent. 

Back up a couple of months ago when I finished my manuscript for HALOS, I knew exactly who my first beta reader was going to be.  Without telling her that I had finished yet another novel (she thought I was joking when I told her about the first two), I packaged my little darling and shipped it off.  Within just a few days, I received the squealing voicemail of my best friend who loved the book so much she read the entire manuscript in one sitting.  Better yet, she detailed her favorite scenes, expressed how HOT she thought the characters were and confessed how much she adored and envied the MC.  Princess Di?!  Dreaming that she was one of my clumsy and goofy characters in the book???  Her words were pure motivation bottled up with cork and a red bow. 

This past week, I showed her the progress I’ve made since then:  the edits to my manuscript; the tattoo that I showcased in my last blog post; the website that is still kicking my ass as I desperately try to finish it.  She continued to gush about the book and the characters, inquiring about the next installment of the series.  And something occurred to me.

I may never pick up a publishing contract, sell a single book at all, or become any more of an author than I already am.  But its friends like Diana that make me feel as if I’ve already arrived.  They’re a rare breed, only gifted randomly from time to time.  To this day, I’m so glad that I didn’t make my mom turn that car right back around.  And I guess I’m a little glad for the dangerous chunk of burrito that Diana managed to dislodge from my throat, causing a lifetime of laughter that still ends up in our conversations on occasion.

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The Black Phoenix

June 5, 2011 at 9:51 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Hey check out my tattoo! 

OK, it’s not mine.  It actually belongs to a scrumptious imaginary friend.  But you’re going to have to wait for my book and the obsessive edits I’m engrossed in to find out who that is.   

As a matter of fact, I’m not even going to give the slightest hint at what this beauty means to the storyline.  That, my friends, is forthcoming.  Sooner than later, I hope.

So why did I drag you across cyberland from your cozy seat and hot coffee to this blog post on a perfectly good Sunday morning?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Like many writers, when I write, I immerse myself in the world I’m working to create.  I’m not one of those people who sit at a coffee shop, tapping away at the keys in fashionable form.  No way.  I need darkness, music and solitude.  And sometimes, I need a little focus. 

My thoughts have a tendency to meander down a dark and convoluted path.  Give me the sweet chirp of a Red-winged blackbird frolicking under a magnolia tree and by the time I’m finished with it, there’s a vicious flock of angry birds (no relation to the game), carrying a novel, virulent strain of avian bacteria that infects human beings, turning them into mindless, flesh-eating zombies.  I’m pretty sure there’s some run-onism going in the last sentence…   

No focus.  So at times, I need something to draw me back to what the hell I was talking about in the first place.  In all of my stories, I incorporate a cue that not only holds some meaning for the character, but keeps me on track.  It might be a painting, jewelry, a phrase, some physical embodiment that I can visualize. 

In my latest HALOS novel, it’s a Black Phoenix.  Why this mythical bird?  Hahaha!  Nice try.  I think we all know what a phoenix symbolizes in general:  rising up from the ashes, rebirth and immortality.  But again, as it relates to the story, you’ll have to wait and see. 

I found drawings on the internet that temporarily satisfied my craving for some tangible illustration of what I was imagining.  But none of these really took the form of the vision in my head.  Sketching a bird seems simple enough, right?  Ah.  Not so much.  The phoenix is historically a feminine-looking creature; a cross between a dragon and a peacock (in China it is the female counterpart to the dragon).  My character is very alpha-male:  physically strong, dominant and sexy as all hell.  Branding him with a light and feathery bird would be a bad combination unless I’m looking to create some contradiction in my head.  No thanks.  I wanted to maintain the original look of the bird and introduce a bit of badass to fit the character.  This tattoo stretches across his back (between the shoulder blades) and down his spine. 

I come from a family of artists, so I could have had any one of them sketch the bird for me.  But when you need some plumbing done, you call a plumber.  In this case, thanks to a referral from my lovely cousin Amy Lake, I called Chris Hornus of Royalty Tattoo in Durand, Michigan.  His reputation preceded him, so I knew I’d picked the right guy. 

 

 

After giving him some parameters, he got to work.  This brings me to reason number two for why I would bother to have the tattoo of an imaginary character designed by a tattoo artist: collaboration of the arts.  True artistic talent is the ability to take the descriptions detailed by an individual and create the exact image on paper – my words translated to another art form.  It’s as if the man reached into the dark recesses of my head and ripped the picture from the stringy bits of my brain.  Like a mad doctor out to manipulate the minds of human subjects in his bid to form an empire of evil minions.  Where was I going with this?  Right.  Black Phoenix.  Tattoo.  Focus.

Now, I don’t have any tattoos…but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suspect that when a person decides to permanently etch something onto the skin, the skills of the tattoo artist are important.  Like I said, not going from experience.  But this little venture with Chris has given me the confidence that, should I resort to absolute reckless abandon and get a tattoo, I know where I’m going to go to keep me from sobbing with regret the next morning.  I reckon that will be the same time I curse myself for the shiny set of gold teeth and extra piercings I somehow acquired.  But at least I know I’ll love whatever design is branded across my chest.  (psst…the cool thing is, Chris is such a nice guy, he’d probably talk me out of it).  For those of you seeking out a little tattoo work, for yourself or your imaginary friends, check out Chris Hornus of Royalty Tattoo.  He’s friendly, talented and willing to collaborate in order to get the design spot on.

So without further ado, I give you The Black Phoenix:

 

    

What has this sketch given me?  Inspiration.  On the road to publication, there are often fruitless moments along the way.  We write, edit, market ourselves as best we can, edit some more and sometimes that pretty little manuscript does nothing but collect dust.  These moments of exhilaration, seeing evidence of what we have created, are just enough of a push to keep trudging forward.  The Black Phoenix symbolizes many things in my Halos series.  But for the moment, it represents motivation and a swift kick in the butt to keep me headed in the right direction.

What keeps your writing on track?

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