Books I & II of The Lova Chronicles is available now!

The Lova Chronicles kicked off with The Earthen Shroud in August 2013!

Want Your Book to Read Like a Movie?

Check out my book trailer and see how I did it!

Author Book Signing

I've only done this once, but I had the time of my life! You can too; see how.

Food-Inspired Art

Check out my guest post on Notebook Blogairy about how food inspires my writing.

Pages From My Diary

I started a new blog series: awesome, intimate, legendary.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Q: How long does it take you to finish a work?

This was a question asked during my "Ask Me" Poll conducted a week or so ago that I didn't get a chance to answer.  But the question has floated in my head for awhile, so I thought I'd answer it in a separate blog.

The truth is some works take me much longer than others.  I worked on The Grim, my first (and maybe last!) novel for nearly five years!  It was painstaking, and it took quite a bit of determination to decide I was going to finish it.  I would plan to write, and when forced to stare at a screen and churn out pages, I often struggled with the result.  I could spend hours trying to generate copy that I oftentimes ended up deleting.  It wasn't for lack of passion on the subject; I have determined that I simply can't write unless I feel inspired to do so.

This goes for my short story and prose work as well, especially the prose.  Stories come to my head like visual plays.  If I can see it taking place, it's not hard to describe.  My prose comes from an emotion, something I'm feeling intensely at the time.  Sometimes that feeling is of joy, or relief, but mostly it comes through as pain.  If you read my last blog, Suffering More: a Lesson from The Five Heartbeats, I described how pain is often the most identifiable emotion we have, and because of that, my most powerful prose works are usually derived from some sort of intense heartbreak.

Typically, a short story takes me a matter of days, sometimes even hours.  This does not include the editing process.  Prose flows out of me in the moment, and once written, I don't edit except to correct spelling or grammar.  This is to preserve its original intent and depth of feeling.  I like my prose to feel as raw to the reader as the emotion was when I wrote it.  As far as novels go, I may never write another.  I have several unfinished manuscripts in my arsenal, and whether I'll ever complete any of those or attempt another is something altogether different.  Personally, a novel is a commitment that I cannot frequently make; it can be emotionally draining and is without doubt a tedious and time-consuming heartache that I find not easily endured.  For many mainstream authors, novels can be churned out for mass consumption, but a journey like The Grim is meant to resonate, and, therefore, cannot be duplicated.

Because I have to see the story in my mind, I tend to need peace and quiet when I write.  The atmosphere has to feel calming and empty so that I can fill that space with what I see in my head.  In this kind of environment, everything flows almost effortlessly, and I can finish a project (or put a sizeable dent in it) in a matter of hours.

Thanks for the question!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Suffering More: a Lesson from The Five Heartbeats



One of my favorite movies is The Five Heartbeats, an old classic about a band of five men who rise to stardom from their small black neighborhood, written and directed by Robert Townsend circa 1991.  One of the main characters, Donald "Duck" Matthews, finds out his fiance and his brother, J.T., also one of the band members, have been having an affair behind his back.  During his acceptance speech following this discovery, he makes a poignant statement that has resonated with me the whole of my writing career: "A critic said, 'Donald Matthews will be a great writer one day when he suffers more.' And I said to myself, What does that mean?  Now I know what it means."

There is something about suffering that causes an empathy among us as human beings.  When you read something that's happy from beginning to end, it feels unrealistic and detached.  You separate yourself from it.  You look at it and say, "Eh, that was alright."  But write about pain...and suddenly the whole world says, "Yeah, I've been there."  It's a heart-wrenching human identifier that we respond to instantly, even with animals and people whom we've never met.  It's the empathy of pain that tugs on your heartstrings when you see hungry children in third world countries, the wounded and abused animals in shelters around the world, and the deaths of endangered species.  It's the pain in a love song that makes you cry over a broken heart. As a human emotion, happiness is not something we readily identify with, because for many of us, the notion of true happiness has never been attained.  But pain is an emotion, a depth of feeling, that has touched us all.

It seems I write my best when my heart is in pain.  My best prose comes from the darkest places, places I couldn't get back to on my own if I tried.  It's where the mind goes when it is overcome with sadness, and can only be reached by reliving the occurrence that originally brought it there.  Writing brings that feeling to life.  It reminds us where we've been, and takes others to that place in the hopes they'll understand why you feel that way.  Writing was always and ever meant to convey emotion, by whatever means that emotion can best be displayed.

What is the correlation between art and suffering?  Why have the greatest creative geniuses of our time been such tortured souls?  And most, if not all, died young and alone.  Is this the sacrifice of true artistic greatness?  Were all like Daniel Webster, sacrificing art for their very souls?  Even one of my favorite authors, and whom I've been compared to by a few of my mentors, Edgar Allan Poe, was notorious for his dark prose and stories, but died in his thirties, married but estranged.  True, in his time people didn't live very far past maybe forty, but the question remains: is suffering the only human emotion by which we touch others so magnificently?  And if so, is the sacrifice for greatness worth the anguish that accompanies it?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marketing 101

With every new strategy I attempt at marketing myself and my work, I am finding out all too quickly who and what I am.  I have tried quite a few things that have failed.  And then there are the random tactics that oddly enough get me the most praise.  I have tried taking everyone's advice, and tried taking no advice.  I have put myself in compromising positions while finding that there are some things I am able to do naturally.

Essentially, I am a writer.  Writing is what I live and breathe.  Without it--while I may serve other roles as mother, daughter, sister, lover, confidante, friend--I am a lifeless corpse.  I must do the thing at which I excel, and  that is to write.

So when my website started to get away from me, I was brought back by some awesome fans who made my mistakes very clear.  And I listened.  And I changed.  I embraced what makes me ME.  I am a writer.  I write.  So on my site I have refused to bombard you with superfluous fluff.  I've decided to talk less and do more.  I have added a showcase page where you can view my other work: short stories, prose, and the like.  The Grim is more than ten months away; I have to give you something while you wait!

Also gone are the days of my video blogging.  I am uncomfortable on camera, and it's been pointed out by more than just myself.  (It was part of that advice I mentioned earlier).  I don't want to patronize anyone by doing things that are simply not me.  I want to connect with you, my audience, but I have to do it in the way that's best for me: here, on these pages with my computer and the written word.  I'm more comfortable behind the scenes.

And there you have it, the moral of Marketing 101: if nothing else, be yourself.  And who'da thunk such a cliche would never get old...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Ask Me" Poll Q&A: Pt. 2

This is the second and last part of the questions I'm answering for the "Ask Me" Poll I issued last week.  The questions were so awesome, you guys!

Q: What is your writing process?
A: To be honest, I don't really have one.  If it's inspiration you're inquiring about, I find it everywhere: on my job, with my friends, and even just in random observations of the world around me.  Once I have an idea, I play it out, almost like a movie, in my head.  If it's something I'd watch, I dedicate myself to writing it.

Q: Most writers have a particular genre or forte.  What's yours?
A: I did a lot of research for this question haha, to determine which genre of fiction my work can be best categorized by.  And the answer is none.  The Grim is my first novel, but my strength is short story fiction.  I have written horror, romance, war, and prison stories so it's difficult to narrow my body of work to one genre.  I don't like to limit myself; me and boundaries don't quite get along :-)

Q: If your book becomes a movie, would you star in it?
A: Interesting question!  If you watched the "Ask Me" Poll blog video, you can tell I'm not very comfortable on camera.  So I probably wouldn't act in a movie of my novel.  But I have thought about the possibility of my book becoming a movie, and I've got some great actors I'd love to solicit for the roles!

Q: Why not pursue both your loves: writing and singing?
A: I can't (or won't) do both because launching yourself as an independent artist in any industry is a lot of hard work and dedication.  A lot of the initial work has to be funded yourself, unless you're one of the lucky people who are able to find sponsors early.  Besides, I'm a much stronger writer than singer.

Thank you to everyone fan who sent in questions.  I appreciate your encouragement and support!  Keep reading and I'll keep entertaining.  Before you know it, May 1, 2012 will be here!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Howling Wolves

The wolf is howling.
Can you hear him?
But not in anger or hunger.
This howl is of pain.

Of what use am I to the howling wolf?
A bear—rescuer only to the lonely
And loner he is…
In hibernation I seek companionship
Yet he howls at that which is beautiful
—but elusive—
She will forever be out of his reach
Brightly she shines over everyone
And no one
Because she cannot love
She can only be desired

The wolf believes these trees shield him
That the moon lights his way
But the snatch of gray in his coat
Glitters in her glow
Enough for a hunter’s aim
And now he is scarred by her

…and still he howls.

There are no other bears in these woods
Nor wolves like he
Winter forces me to sleep
I have called him in from the cold
But I am bear, and he wolf

And wolves howl at moons.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Ask Me" Poll Q&A Pt. 1

Here are the first answers of many questions.  Did I answer yours?

Q: What is the name of your first work?
A: My first work, technically, was a poetry compilaton called Barely Breathing, written under the pseudonym Micah Michele.  It was coauthored with my best friend, J. Mahogany.  You can purchase it on my website: http://www.raynettastocks.com/products.html.

Q: When did you first decide to become a writer?
A: I've always loved to write.  I will admit that I pursued the idea of becoming a lounge singer for several years (haha), but eventually, I realized my true calling is storytelling.  I think I'm pretty good at it :-)

Q: Are there any future works pending?
A: Absolutely.  My first novel, The Grim, will be available in May 2012.  Following that, I intend to publish a short story/prose collection.

Q: If you could do anything else besides write, what would it be?
A: I probably would still sing.  I really do enjoy it.  I would probably also teach.  I know how much students hate English; I'd love to dedicate myself to helping people find the written creativity in themselves.

I'll post some more questions soon!  If you have a question you'd like me to answer, send them to me!  I'll answer as many as I can between now and May 18th.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Price of Fame

When I embarked upon the writing of The Grim, it was a fantasy: a dream come true in more ways than one, that I was realizing in vivid and insurmountable color and anticipation.  And when I decided to publish it, I couldn't believe how all the pieces began to fall into place, as though the very dream I was chasing was running toward me too.

No one told me how much work it was going to be; how much energy I was going to have to put into it; how many volunteers I was going to need to pull off the book's launching; and least of all, no one told me how much it was going to cost me.  Now, almost five years to the day I began writing and with debt in the thousands, I wonder if I bit off more than I can chew.

Professionals and mentors encourage me, telling me all amateurs start here: scrounging for scraps and clawing for the momentary blissful spotlight that accompanies independent authorship.  "Eventually, it will be worth it," they say.  "You'll look back at this experience, counting the profits, and you'll never doubt yourself again."  Hmm, interesting concept...

Meanwhile, my son has outgrown his shoes and jeans; I need a summer wardrobe and a heart transplant; and my father and significant other (both of whom live with me) are still in search of jobs.  It begs the question if my sanity can remain in tact--because clearly there are a million other things I could be doing with a couple thou than spending it on a dream that may or may not render the happily ever after my advisors convince me is coming.  I almost feel I've been selfish: pursuing a passion despite the financial hardships I now face.

For now, I am eager for the "eventually" foretold to me.  Eager to experience this gratifying exhale that will remind me what all the compromising was for.  Until then, I pray the work I've done with the novel and its release rewards me with the happy ending I sacrificed for it, and that God keep me and the people who've stood by me as I created it, that we may exhale as one.