Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm Gonna Wash That Gray Right Out of my Hair

If you remember that jingle from Miss Clairol, then like me you probably need it too.

I got to thinking about my new gray hairs after finding a gray hair in my eyebrow and other bodily spots this week. I reached for the tweezers for the one on my eyebrow. It is also the main reason my pictures are in black and white rather than color on my blog and my back covers of my books. Is it vanity? Probably.

What does gray hair say about a person? They are old! But yet, I don't feel THAT old even being a grandmother. They are wise because they'd lived long enough to become gray. They are too cheap to buy hair color. A mark of intelligence. (???) But mainly it's a right of passage.

I've always used the defense against coloring my hair...I earned every single one of them. This is only partially true because I first started going gray at eighteen. At eighteen, I hadn't done that much to earn the gray hair so I colored it. I ended up with some pretty damaged hair over the years.

Now, at over half a century old, I'm decidedly salt and pepper. While it may look sexy on the likes of George Clooney, it's kind of drab on my head.

But I earned every single one of my gray hairs mostly during my children's teenage years! Yes, I earned them. I can point to certain hairs to certain events. This comes in handy when they retort, "I couldn't have been that bad!" In response to the mother's curse uttered during their teenage years, "I hope you have ten children just like you!" and of course, they did.

I remember my mother having what she called a wisdom streak in her hair. It ran from her mid forehead and back. A solid streak of gray. Looking in the mirror, I have that same streak.  The only picture besides Barbie was Cruella De Ville and that didn't quite fit me. Calling it a wisdom streak does have it's benefits to the female psyche. I learned and earned it. It's a reward for all those hard years of my earlier life. BUT it's still just gray hair.

Now your local water supply can do some really funky things to gray hair just like blonde hair. Most well water is heavy in iron (which a water softener system removes). Gray hair becomes battleship gray and not very becoming, but I found a product by Matrix called "So Silver." After the first use, I was sold. My dingy gray shone with a halo type quality. Do I have plans of coloring my hair...not likely. My gray hair is my right of passage, my wisdom for all to see, and I did finally earn all of them.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Creating Imagination

Most parents these days have not nurtured the creative nature in our children. Part of that is due to both parents working...I know I was in the rat race once upon a time. Unlike my children I learned how to quilt, knit, sew, crochet, paint, draw, and a host of other creative things from my mother and grandmother. I was luckier than most because my mother was an artist. She taught painting to other people in our basements or sun rooms around the world to earn money unlike many other mothers who had to actually go out to work.

On my days off, we would plan picnics in the park or at the beach. The kids would have friends spend the night, or a host of other things in the attempt of spending QUALITY time with my offspring. Although I taught all my girls to cross stitch and even my ex-husband, there is more to teaching creativity and fostering imagination. Both are the basis for any good writer.

One rainy off day, my children had thought their picnic ruined. I changed their minds with a quickness. I laid a blanket in the middle of the living room floor and told them the furniture was trees and bushes. They could climb on the trees if the wanted to. They soon warmed to the idea.

I broke out the old record player and put on the album "Teddy Bear' Picinic." Each one of the girls picked out their favorite stuffed animals to be guests and we all sat on the floor eating fried chicken legs, potato salad, and fruit ka-bobs. We sang along to the music, played other records, and poured imaginary tea into their tea sets. The teddy bears were honored guests with dollies coming in second.

My husband came home and wondered what all the commotion was. I told the kids that down the darkened path (hallway) was a pond and they were allowed to go swimming (a bath).   Yes, there was a mess in the bathroom after they finished, but the fun they had diving under the water looking at the fishes (toes). Meanwhile, I put away the food. I broke out the fondue pot for roasting marshmallows for s'mores after their swim. To the children it was almost as much fun using their imaginations and creating their new picnic world as being at the park.

Does your child have an imaginary friend? I did as a child and so did my children even though they had siblings to play with. We'd go out to dinner and a place would be set for their "friend." My current husband played along with our children and their friends.

One evening we were at a BBQ restaurant and the check came. Now, my number two daughter kept her imaginary friend much longer than my other children mainly because she had rheumatoid arthritis and her "friend" understood her pain and her embarrassment of having to wear braces on her limbs better than anyone else in the world. (But I digress) My husband fumbled around in his pocket for his wallet. My daughter leaned over, patted him on the arm and in a conspirator's tone whispered to him..."It's okay, Billy Bob Joe went to the kitchen to do the dishes." Billy Bob Joe joined us on many such occasions over the years and my husband would always lean over to my daughter and ask if Billy Bob Joe went to the kitchen before he paid the check. It was almost sad when he didn't join us on outing as my daughter outgrew him.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging a child's imagination and creative ability. No one ever gets whatever they are creating the first time. It takes practice. Are your children stuck in video this or that? The television? The computer? Turn them off. Why bother being creative when there is someone else around to do it for you?

Creativity and inspiration for writing comes from all sorts of sources. Whether it is based on true life events or world building for science fiction or fantasy. It should be nurtured and encouraged in children so they become well balanced adults. Life is just too serious not to be able to escape every once in a while. From little acorns mighty oaks grow. My grandchildren have the double impact of having parents and grandparent influence their creative juices. While none are writers, I do have an artist, musician, a builder (architect), two dancers in the brood so far for the future generations.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So It's Wednesday Again

I've been tiling my floor in my storage/craft room. One 12x12 inch space at a time. I chose earth tones because I want the room light and bright. Okay, I hear you...what does this have to do with writing? A lot.
There are several ways to lay tile on a floor as far as design goes. You can lay them on a perfect square. Linear with pain stalking detail and dividers for the grout. Linear writing is when you go from start to finish in a linear time line. For some writers this works perfectly.

But then there are other options in laying tile and writing too. Offsetting your tile is like when you bounce here and there within a chapter filling in bits and pieces of scenes. Yes, you are still basically writing in a linear fashion with a slight twist. You choose where you want to begin and end the scenes and piece them together slightly skewed from beginning to ending.
The diagonal tile placement or writing is when you take a high point and jump to another high point filling in the pieces leading up to your high point and the lull between another high point in your story. It's zigzag. There is a rhythm although twisted. There are probably more ways to write a story than there are tiling layouts so I will leave off with the last example.

Like the diagonal placement of the tiles this variation is the scattered layout. You layout your major scenes and then juggle the rest of the in between later. This is also known as writing in chunks. It's like a quilt. You almost know how the pieces are going together, but not quite until you finish what you are writing. For me in particular this last style of writing would drive me nuts although it has worked very successfully for several NYT bestselling authors.

I'm a mathematical type person who sees angles which allows me to quilt one block at a time, but when it comes to writing I choose one of the first two options. I know my beginning, middle, and end. I have the story I'm writing laid out in my mind and on paper before I write. Although creative, I'm linear. I have to see the continuity of the story before continuing.

After saying all this what design did I use for my floor. I saw this picture on the internet and although it was a back splash...I decided on doing my floor like it. Being a quilter and linear writer helped me with the layout for my 10'x12' room. Lots and lots of end rolls of newsprint with colored pencils and I had my floor laid out. Grouting it all will be a royal pain, but it in the end...it will be one of a kind and fabulous!

What did you expect? Standard floors from a creative person. Oh, I forgot to mention...I'm not using mosaic tiles, those tiny 1x1 things, mine are 6" and cutting them down into the curves. Because sometime when writing and laying tile nothing is truly linear.

So what tile, er um, writing style do you have?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Monday, January 23, 2012

MIA/Burnout/Broken Heart

I recently read a blog which said I'd dropped off the face of the Earth. sigh It's basically true. I pushed myself so hard with publishing four titles last year, accepted multiple projects, continued writing, had my house destroyed, my husband's health issues, my health issues (in case you didn't know I'm in heart failure, and had a stroke), computer malfunctions, problems with children and grandchildren, and a host of other things has slide lined me. About the only thing I do do these days is blog, edit, and write as fast as I can, but way slower compared to last year. I had the ability to write 6-10K words a day. I'm lucky to write 200 words now... all this in a matter of months.

I'm exhausted all the time with my heart not working right. I'm in bed at 8 PM every night with naps during the day because of it. I start each day with the best intentions only to have to change plans and energy disappearing like a water puddles on a hot day. So what does my cardiologist say about all of this...heart transplant. I refused. I'm an older woman who has lived her life to the hilt. I have no regrets or bucket list. Are there still things I want to do... of course. Life is all about the adventure of living life.

All in all, I'm depressed because I still feel my surroundings are falling in around me, the upkeep of the house mostly gets undone. Stacks of critiques lay in a pile on my desk. Writing assignments are half done. My ministry duties have tripled. Even shopping for groceries has become a major undertaking. I just don't have the energy so things fall through the cracks which are becoming canyons. But I still feel pressed to continue on. I am the only one in my household who can do it.  While I put on a brave outer face, my inner self is suffering. This is the side no one sees or only rarely.

 So this year brings some changes. I have to slow down more than I want to.
1) What it means is while I will keep the promised writing gigs, I won't be taking on any new clients. It breaks my broken heart to say it.
2) I will continue to help other writers to my best ability, but it will be a far cry from previous decades.
3) I still plan on publishing the books that are in progress.
4) If you've emailed me and haven't received a response, I will answer but it may take me a week to get back to you. It all depends on what you are asking me to do.

It's either this or not be here...and I want to be here. Know that the spirit is willing but the body is weak.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Genre Revisited~ Still Searching

This is the second time this week I've mentioned genres, so I guess it's a themed week. I looked up the definition of Chick-Lit and I'm wondering if my novels fall into that particular category.

The number one definition for Chick-Lit is it written by women for women. Well, now this created a puzzle for me because my novels can be enjoyed by both sexes. They are gutsy enough to be enjoyed by men, not overly romantic in nature, but there are some pretty difficult situation resulting in an emotional roller coaster for my characters.

BUT according to novelicious.com,  

"Chick lit is intelligent, funny, emotionally truthful, hearty, romantic fiction that accurately reflects the lives of women today." 

Okay, so I've got funny bits of humor, real world situations of women. It's intelligent and very emotional, but not overly romantic. (Buzzer sounds- wrong answer)


a)A genre of fiction concentrating on young working women and their emotional lives.
b) Any literature that is intended to appeal more to women than men, with a focus on strong or quirky females.

Now there is some food for thought. I've heard it described as a strong female central role, emotional roller coaster women can relate to, written by a female...well that fits my novels. They all have a weak-turned strong female lead and albeit flawed. My characters are all in against the odds and run the gambit of emotions the female reader can relate to (even most men can relate). And finally, I am a female author. So in some ways this genre category fits also.

I mean Hemmingway and Nicholas Sparks? Neither are female and yet they write what is classified as Chick-Lit by Dictionary.com definition. 

I can remember a time when there were just a few classifications for novels... there was nonfiction and fiction. In the fiction range you had science fiction, literary fiction, westerns, mysteries, and suspense. Of course children's books had no set categories except fiction and nonfiction. Isn't it amazing how much simpler things were way back when? 

Hindsight is like that.  I recently bought a new hair brush. I can remember when there were only a couple on the market. Now, there's half rounds, rounds, vented, unvented, natural bristle, man made bristles, the ones with the little balls on each bristle and without...an entire pegboard of just hair brushes to pick from.I just wanted a hairbrush, just like in writing be sort of genre specific. All these new sub-genres can drive a writer into insanity.

So what genre are you books written in? How many tags and sub-genres can you place your books?

Keep writing and loving the Lord. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's in a Name ~ Genres

I write suspense whether it is espionage, children's, southern, or horror. But when you look to specify a genre in most of the online publishing it can be quite a pickle.

Escape from Second Eden has espionage in it. Yes, it takes place on foreign lands. Yes, there is a ticking clock but time is not measured in days or hours, but a year. So when I look at a genre it's Suspense, but not a thriller. There is romance but not the hot, dating kind of new found love but an old established relationship with children. There is humor, bits of horror which have disgusted some readers, historical facts but isn't old enough in setting to be classified as a historical...modern ancient history of the 70's. Now throw in the fact that this was based on actual events (partially fictionalized). So how do you pick a genre for a novel like this?

It's a crap shoot at best. Because it's suspense, it's listed as a suspense/thriller.

The Sacrificial Lamb is southern suspense which isn't truly a genre. Southern fiction is supposed to be a cozy-up thing. But in this particular novel there is child abuse, murder, court room drama, vendetta, family life and recovery. There is a slight ticking clock in that the murderer wants to silence the main character before he gets convicted and will stop at nothing to do it. Besides the dialect (southern speak-think Jeff Foxworthy) and the setting it could be any place in small town America. It's not a murder mystery where you have to figure out who the killer is...you know in the first chapter who the killer is. So how do you pick a genre?

Once again, genre selection is elusive. It is listed as a suspense/thriller.

Then you have my last novel published in 2011 (besides the children's series)... Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption. Because of all the medical research it could be listed as a medical suspense/thriller similar to "Outbreak."

BUT there are zombies in it. This makes it horror.Yes, there is more gore in it than my other novels. But there is also romance, there is a medical drama unfolding, survivalists, and of course, the flesh-eating, living dead beings.

While I understand the need to classify books so people know what they like and can put a title to it, it is hard to classify some books into the mold. It's a publisher's tool. Somethings cannot be classified as one or the other. There are gray areas which some novels cross over multiple genres and if you just put it in one you miss the boat where other readers are involved.

Okay, so self-publishing is a bit different because you can add tags or keywords for searches. This helps a lot in getting your novel found, but how many tags should you have? At first I was hesitant about putting too many tags or keywords, but then I noticed other authors using 20+ keywords for their novels. The list of keywords is longer than the description of the novel (blurb).

Is this overkill? Or extreme to put so many? I guess not as they are getting larger sales numbers than I am. GoodReads has 8,004 tags in their giveaway section. Is your mind reeling yet? So at what point does this mini classification system reach an overload point? As an indie author you want to be found, you want readers to read your book, and you want there to be a sanity level.

So, you've done your homework. You know who your reading target audience is...terrific, fabulous. You've pretty much settled on a genre by publishing standards, but your novel is still outside the box. How do you highlight the point that this novel isn't your ordinary espionage/thriller/horror/romance/southern fiction? The blurb?

I've said many times I write for myself. I write the stories that are in me and most involve experiences I've had. As a writer I write what I know and I know too much. DO I break down and write the standard point A--->B romance, suspense, thriller, horror or do I still go with what I write the way I write it? So far every reader of my novels has come away with a different take on the novels. Some focus on the espionage, embassy life, military, the south, family, survival, etc while others focus on the zombies, politics, recovery and a long list of other things within my novels across both genders. It's an everyman field day.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Momentus Mondays~NOT & the Indie Author

What is it about Monday mornings which gets you going off in different directions than you originally intended? When I went to bed last night I had my day all arranged. If I worked the regular 9-5, I'd be at work right now and it would be structured time. But no, I'm an indie author and my time is my own. I should be writing. I am sort of. I'm blogging, but that doesn't get the next four books completed either.

I'm just having a hard time getting myself in gear today. It's like this EVERY Monday. I've got ten windows at the bottom of my screen minimized (my work and others), but my mind is drifting in different directions all at the same time. I started today with good intentions.

I spent the weekend stripping wall paper in my guest bedroom...too many interruptions and no it's not done yet. Cans of paint still sit in my hallway ready for me to start that project. Like I said the last post...when I can't write I do other things. Life has a way of putting OTHER THINGS in my path constantly. The problem is that I'm NOT blocked and want to write.

The fact that it's 55 degrees outside makes me want to till my garden. I burned it off two weeks ago to sterilize the soil before planting.

I've got floor tile to lay in my new storage/craft room that all the new construction built. The radiant heat mats have cured and the room is just waiting on the tiles to finish it...this isn't a small room, it's 12x10. Yes, I could have had the contractor do it, but there is something about doing the painting, making and hanging the curtains, and doing the floors myself that make the room mine. Like in my small chapel...I had to do the stained glass windows and door insets. Yes, I could have hired someone or bought them, but where is the pride of taking something from nothing and remolding it into something beautiful? It's like writing. You take a blank piece of paper and type words on it to create your novels and books. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph become a work of art. There is pride in workmanship there.

Yes, I can get quite scatter brained at times due to age and all these projects lining up. Part of the problem is I can't delegate them to my husband as I did a few years ago. Before I could say, you do this and I'll do that...now it's all on me. But simple tasks like taking out the trash is now a two-day project for him.

He does try, but his cancer is getting in the way of all his want-to-do's, and want-to-helps. I'm really trying not to take anything away from him. At best he's good for maybe fifteen minutes at a time with three hour breaks, but he does try. You just can't break a man's spirit by telling him...no, he can't do something so I find little stuff for him to do while I carry the main load. A man's ego is a delicate thing especially for the terminal male patient. I walk a thin line between wanting to do everything for him and letting him try.

Time to get busy. Today, I'll finish stripping the wallpaper, do the shopping for the next two weeks, run to the pharmacy (morphine time) and hopefully I won't have to go to two pharamacies to find it, and finish a critique that should have been done three weeks ago. That will be a pretty full rest of the day. Later after the supper dishes are done, I'll run a hot bath and edit some more of "The Mayan Serpent." Tomorrow should be more focused, I hope.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Brick Walls and Sledge Hammers

I posted a month ago about dead horses can't gallop. It was about knowing when your story is dead. But what if your story isn't totally dead and cremated ashes? What do you do then? Maybe your muse is at an all time low? Maybe your real life has been so chaotic that you can't see the forest for the trees? Maybe you've hit your head on your desk one too many times and killed off brain cells?

The writing brick wall otherwise known as writer's block, writing yourself into a corner, or a host of other things which keep your story from moving forward to its conclusion and you are at a loss on how to fix it.

You can sit and look at your monitor or blank piece of paper or you can doodle, type the same words over and over again just to see something on the page. Something is ALWAYS better than NOTHING, right? Well sort of...

I used to think that just writing random words on a page would be the sledge hammer against the brick wall. Sometimes, you just need to forget about the story and put it aside. Do something else for a while (an hour, day, week) if you are a normally creative being. Everything gets stale over time, think of the loaf of bread sitting on your counter growing your own penicillin.

When your body or emotions are stretched to the max, be kinder to yourself...let it go. Sleep the extra three or four hours your body needs to recoup or allow yourself time to get your emotions back on the right track. Trying to push either of these things into a creative stream is hopeless and pointless. You will only serve to hurt yourself and prolong the agony you are already in.

First Draft Stage- Keep in mind this is the first draft. It DOES NOT have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be coherent. It does not have to be grammatically correct. It's like drawing a picture- first you sketch in a rough idea. Later you will add details which will make the art come to life. Only on television does someone try to paint a picture with a house painting brush and I guarantee you sooner or later the artist is going to pull out a regulation set of artist brushes for the finer details.

Second Draft- Now, you fix all those little things like details, major grammatical errors. You flesh out your characters (giving them CPR). You find out what works and what doesn't work. How do you fix something that doesn't work? Well you write, crumple and trash, and write, crumple and trash, until you get it right. If after a period of time it still isn't right, delete it. Realize sometimes a patch job on a wall is just that a patch job and it will never be as great as the original. (See dead horses can't gallop)

Editing-I know, I know...you have read and reread your scene or manuscript a hundred times trying to get it right. You've read it aloud and know that it doesn't read right or at least not the way you wanted it to. Take a step back and enlist help from others. Let others be the fresh set of eyes your story needs to make it right, but keep in mind this is still your story and anything offered is an opinion. Even if it's from your tenth grade English teacher or your family.

Okay so now you are stumped. You've tried everything to get yourself motivated to write and failed. You are emotionally and physically sound. You've read articles, books, and series on how to defeat writer's block and still you can't recover to write a sentence in your new work. Give up, you are trying too hard.

Do something else. Forget about the story, the writing, the grammar, the errors. Go play golf, go swimming, go to the beach, or pull weeds in your garden...anything but writing. For me, I do home improvement projects. I'll paint walls, build cabinets or book shelves, or just clip coupons. I'll go shopping which I personally detest. I know...I'm woman, but I can't help it. Get a hair cut. Buy a tube of lipstick in a color you haven't bought before. Now guys, change this to aftershave or something manly. I don't want to see you in lipstick. Images of a drag queen like Ru Paul are dancing my brain at the thought.

The point is FORGET about the writing. Something will snap in your brain while you aren't thinking about your story. A light bulb WILL turn on and voila! You will have your fix.

Most times, writers are THEIR OWN worse enemy. Writer's block is like male impotency. The more you think about it the bigger the problem becomes.

As a writer, you are a creative being. As a creative being, you are susceptible to this. You push and push past the point of exhaustion (or at least I do). I'll forget to eat right, sleep, and bounce in my chair until my eyeballs turn yellow before leaving my computer when the writing is going well. It all takes a toll.

A helpful hint while you are writing when the writing is good...stop writing in the middle of the scene or start writing the next chapter before you stop writing. Even if you hit that brick wall afterwards you are not facing a blank page. You will be able to read what you wrote and use it to spur on your creativity.

I will critique and edit other author's works when I really hit my head against the wall. Sometimes, it helps get your own creative juices flowing in the proper direction. NO ONE IS CREATIVE ALL THE TIME. If they were it would be exhausting! Remember, if you are in your box of uncreativity, no amount of pounding on the walls with a sledge hammer will work. There is no sure fire fix. Every writer is an unique individual, but not alone in this struggle. What works for one may not work for another. Give yourself time.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting Paid & the Indie Author

I ran across an interesting blog yesterday about the average salary a housewife should earn and wearing hats here. It got me thinking of just how much money I'd earn a year if I was actually getting paid for it. I'm always talking about the hats I wear and call myself the master juggler so I was wondering just how much I'm worth per hour with all my hats. Salaries source based on 1/12/12 www.indeed.com and are used as  ballpark figures.

As a wife, mother, and grandmother per year...

Housekeeper    $22,000
Nanny              $23,000
Accountant       $61,000
Shopper           $81,000
Tutor                $57,000
Consultant        $58,000
Nurse                $73,000
Chef                  $47,000
Dishwasher       $22,000
Seamstress       $21,000
Chauffeur          $30,000
Per year total   $576,000

Now granted the average housewife does not do all these things 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Yes, 52 weeks because homemakers do not get sick leave or vacation time. Sometimes there is sleep deprivation also. The average is $38 per hour spent doing all these tasks. I know, I know there are many more jobs that aren't listed.

Now as a semi-retired minister, I earn on average of $13,000 per year. Ministers rarely get sick time or vacation time so it averages to about $6.25. So close to minimum wage for a 24-hr on-call service. Weekends and holidays do not apply. It's a work of faith and love, not actual money. I know there are ministers who make more and less.

As an indie author...
Writer                               $57,000
PR                                    $56,000
Editor                                $52,000
Marketing                         $55,000
Cover artist                      $54,000
Video producer                $44,000
Blogger                            $47,000
Web designer                   $76,000
Text formatting                  $50,000
Social Media Consultant   $65,000
Publisher                          $74,000
Sales Rep                         $46,000
     Per year total             $767,000

That's equal to $368.75 an hour over a standard 40-hour week/52 weeks a year. Let's face it if you are an indie author...do you ever really take time off? You even dream story lines, dialog, and scenes, but still I'm being conservative with the 40 hrs a week. I didn't add the accountant in here but that's another hat you have to wear when the royalties come in. Granted you do not do all these things at the same time, but I'll be you do several of them.

Now adding it all up. I SHOULD earn $413 per hour...based on a standard 10-hour work week per section with 2 weeks vacation/sick time (because even being the master juggler I can't do this many things at the same time)....$206,500 per year.

So the next time someone says, "Oh, you are just a self-published or INDIE author, be armed and throw some figures at them.  Would I love to actually be earning this amount of money a year...heck yeah! Wouldn't you?

In the long way around I feel better and worse about my choice of retirement careers. How many people do you know who make $413 per hour besides maybe Bill Gates?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Author Interview~ Thomas D. Wilson

Today is my pleasure to bring my readers an up and coming indie author, Thomas D. Wilson. He is the author of "Whisper" and his newest release, "No Rules of Engagement."

Thomas, thank you for stopping by the Murphey Saga. So tell us a few things about Thomas D. Wilson and your novels, and you know I'll have some questions for you. Shall we begin? Let's start with your latest novel, "No Rules of Engagement." This is totally different than your first novel. Both still fall in the science fiction genre although the first novel, "Whisper" deals more with Earth bound time travels where your new novel is Off-world.

1. What was your inspiration for writing "No Rules of Engagement"?
No Rules Of Engagement, grew as a story over ten years of thinking about a couple of premises.
One of my favorite books is "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card.  As a person who is obsessed with history, especially military history, two things about Ender's Game have always bothered me.
One is that Mr. Card was never in the service and just doesn't have the feeling of the military in his stories.  I am a veteran of the U.S. Army, ex-Tank crewman.

Secondly, a true military genius would not be able to be fooled, tricked or misguided.  Cards reasoning is that was the reason they used children to fight, because they would do what adults wouldn't.  I look to Alexander the Great as the prime example of a young military genius and what they would be capable of.

In No Rules Of Engagement (NROE) the young military genius is named Alexander Hawk.
Because of my passion for military history, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the world would be different if man-kind never developed the fight or flight response.  If they were always the dominate species, with no predators, and they always worked together for the benefit of their species as a whole, communication, compromise, and cooperation, to develop win/win relationships with fellow tribes instead of war.

What would the world be like?
What technologies would not have been developed?
What would have been developed?
What problems would they have on the planet?
What would happen when that species meets a society like ours?  Or Worse!
From ten years of thinking about different aspects of these issues the story line developed for NROE.  It is a series of at least three books.  Each can be stand alone novel, each with the high intensity non-stop action and twisting plots or taken together as an epic story.

2. Where do you see yourself in five years as an author?
I wrote my first two books in 2010, published them both in 2011.  I will attempt to finish and publish two novels every year from here on out.  I realize this is a daunting goal and will require diligence and focus to constantly be working on some aspects of my books.
           I am currently working on the sequels to Whisper and NROE for 2012.
           2013 should be the third book in both series.
           2014 I hope to start a new series, which the proposed title of the first book will be “Stolen Gangs”, and possibly another Wiley Randolph Novel or to start another new series.
          By 2015 I am not exactly sure what I will be writing or working on.

Secondary goals include making or saving enough to Pay for Editing Services.  To be good enough on my Bamboo tablet to do professional looking cover art for each of my new books. To have learned about how to build and use Word Templates to better format my paperbacks. Most importantly to get to ten books (Novels), or One Million words published.  To have found my style and stride as a professional author before I start my best and the most challenging book series project I have.  “The Seventh Service of Jehovah”, a multi-genre intelligent historical/romance/action-adventure/fantasy series which will have narrow minded churches up in arms, it should inspire people to read the bible, check their history books, and question their everyday conceptions of reality, all within the realms of an epic saga that has been playing out since before written records of mankind's activities.  I have to wait until I have matured enough as a writer to do this series the justice it deserves; I am well on my way. Lastly, to stay at home and write full time but I doubt I will be at that point within five years.

3. Who inspires you?
James Rollins – for the pace and intensity of his work.
James Patterson – for his scary ruthless and demented bad guys.
Jack Higgins – with the detailed depth of his characters and the gentle soft twisting of plots filled with intrigue.
Jo Murphey (Yes, You!) – inspire me to write more poetically, thoughtfully, and that I may actually learn enough English skills that my books will only need proofing and minimal editing within a few years.  You have taught me the true value of Editing, and that it doesn’t actually kill you it just makes you wish you were dead while suffering through it.  Just Kidding. 

J.L.- Oh ha,ha,ha! Actually I'm flattered to be mentioned amongst the really awesome authors you named.

Lastly, everyday people, life, and true stories.  As Patrick O’Brian who based an epic sea series of novels off actual history of the British, French, and United States Navies actual ship logs, used to say that the best writers could not dream up stuff better than what actual people have done in the real world throughout time.

4. What is your fondest memory?
After my divorce and moving out leaving my daughter with my ex-wife, I didn’t care if I ever had another relationship with a woman again.  I got to visit my daughter once a week and every other weekend.  We were and are very close.  Back then I was going rollerblading with her at least once a week.  A friend of mine from work would come skating with us.  Soon a friend of his started coming also, and then his friends wife and her best friend started coming skating.

I met Tiffany rollerblading with my daughter.  She was the friend of the friend's wives best friend.  At the end of that year my friends were coming to the Christmas Party for my work and my friends wife could bring her best friend if she was invited to the party, so they arranged to have me invite Tiffany so she could come to the party.  She was the most beautiful girl, drop dead gorgeous, but sixteen years younger than me.  The chance that this girl would have anything to do with me was slim to none, but I got to see her once a week at the skating rink and ended up going to a Christmas Party with her.

I remember later being invited to my friends' house for pizza because it was Tiffany’s Birthday.  Later that evening at somebody else's house Tiffany and I ended up picking up after everybody else and doing the dishes together.  We were both guests and it was her Birthday party and we are cleaning up and do doing dishes.  We were just talking about this and that and working together.

It hit me that this is what a true relationship should be like with someone you care about, being able to work together, talk together, and just wanting to be together.  I started falling in love with Tiffany that evening!  Somewhere along the way lightening struck and God had mercy on me.  Tiffany fell in love with me too.  We got engaged three months later, and got married ten months after that.  Two new additions to the family, Garth (2), Hayden (4), and Tiffany and I have been married for seven truly wonderful and glorious years.
Fondest memory, doing dishes with Tiffany and realizing what true love should be like and that I loved her.  I am so glad I took the risk of falling in love and for once the guy gets the girl of his dreams, plus a hell of a lot more!  We have truly been a blessing to each other.

 Now that is totally awesome, Tom. Love conquers almost all as does families.

5. While "Whisper" has shades of science fiction, you took "No Rules of Engagement" into outer space. Was it difficult for you to create a whole new world?

Not for me it wasn’t.  Throughout NROE I actually created the Macktonic Worlds, there is Brunno’s world which you find out more about in the upcoming sequel, the Gators and their culture and existence, and the Fuzzies!  I grew up reading science fiction and watching Star Trek, and later Star Wars, so the space part wasn’t particularly challenging.  The difficult part has been the Storytelling.  Just enough information as needed so as to not give anything away, telling the right part at the right time.

The re-write of NROE required time tags throughout the book.  This feature, especially with the sequel, to keep track of what happens in what time and the chronological order of events throughout the books has become quite challenging.  Even with the time tags it may be difficult for some people to follow along and keep things straight in their head.  I have considered including an edited version of my time line for the books as an appendix to the sequel of NROE, omitting the stuff that happens in the third and final book.  One of the books reviewers mentioned some inconsistency in the beginning of NROE but I truly believe it was more of a case where they read so quickly to get done with books they are reviewing and not having a clear picture of when and where such and such actually happened.  I have a very detailed timeline to ensure my own accuracy, plan the action throughout all three books, and keep everything straight myself.

6. Tell us about Thomas Wilson

I work a lot, probably too much.  I try and savor the time I have with my daughter and two sons because they grow up way too fast.  I relish the times when I can just sit and talk with my wife, who I just enjoy being around.  I read for enjoyment.  Write as an escape and because it gives me the same enjoyment reading a really great book does, only it last for a couple of months.  I edit, correct, and read and re-read my stuff until it makes me sick because it must be done.  Honestly, my life is pretty boring; maybe that is why my books are so crazy.

7. Can you give us an excerpt of "No Rules of Engagement"?

Chapter One
The Last One
April 4, 2020   1640 ZULU  (Six and a half years before Mackton Two is overrun.)

Colonel Deke Harrbinger read the file on Alexander Hawk for the third time on his way to Sandpoint, Idaho.  Deke had thought he was finished with this.  His orders…collect the top ten children tested in foster homes, orphanages, and correctional facilities across the country.  It's my own fault.  I asked the techno nerds on the team to examine everything, and look for anomalies.  Who would have guessed the anomaly would be a hard case eight year old, named Alexander, would score higher than everybody and hit on every criteria the test scanned for.

Why in the hell is the Army collecting kids?  What is General Lancaster preparing for?

He’d flown all over the country for weeks - personally interviewing and collecting these kids.  Why in the hell was General Lancaster collecting these kids for anyhow?  Can I collect eleven?  The orders said ten and Alexander was two years younger than the rest.  Could they send one of the other kids packing?

Why didn't he finish the test?  It wasn’t timed.  All the others finished the test.  He only finished the first two pages.  Yet those two pages put him at the top of the list by a large margin.
Why has he been beating the shit out of other kids?  Why did he kill a kid last month at this correctional facility?  A lot of questions but he’d have the answers soon.

When Deke arrived at the facility he put Alexander’s file in his briefcase, pulled out one of the Presidential directives.  He turned to the Highway Patrolman who had spent the last two hours driving him from the Spokane airport to this facility.

“Wait here.”

“No way!  I was ordered to bring you out here and drop you off.  That's it!  We’re the State Highway Patrol, not a damned taxi service.”

Deke got out of the patrol car, walked around the car and rapped on the patrolman's window with his West Point graduation ring.  The patrolman rolled down the window.
Deke handed him the directive.  “I expect your ass to be here when I get out!  Don't believe me, call the number on the form.  This is Federal, we outrank State!”

As Deke walked into the building he reflected in all his years in the Army he had never heard of a Presidential directive until this bullshit assignment.  It was on White House letterhead with the presidential seal embossed through the paper and pretty much said anybody would give him whatever he asked for or he could have them fined, or imprisoned for obstructing national security, under articles of the Homeland Security Act.

Deke walked into the facility, located the commandants' office, walked past the protesting secretary and barged into the commandants' office.

“Hey, you can’t just go in there!”  The secretary’s voice followed him into the room.

The commandant looked up from the papers on his desk.  “Excuse me.  Can I help you?”

“I’m Colonel Harrbinger.” said Deke as he put his briefcase on the commandant's desk pushing stuff aside as he did so.  He removed another copy of the Presidential directive, and handed it to the commandant.  Deke closed his briefcase and turned to the secretary who had followed him into the office, who was trying to explain to the commandant how he had just walked straight in here without permission.

“Please excuse us.  This is official government business.”  He shooed her out of the office.

“Well, I never.”  She said as he shut the office door in her face.

The commandant read the directive as Deke walked over to the window behind the commandant's desk and spread the blinds to look out into the courtyard where a crowd of boys were playing.

“I am here to collect one of your boys, an Alexander Hawk.  Is he one of the boys in the yard?” Deke asked.

“Yes, he would be the one by himself staring at the ground.”

Deke realized he had answered without coming over to the window and observing the boys, yet there was one kid all by himself in the corner of the yard where there was no grass.  The kid was just standing in the dirt staring at the ground.

“What is he doing?”

“He has a fascination with ants.  Why are you, how’d you put it, collecting him?  Collecting him for what purpose?” the commandant asked.

"Why do you care?  He’s trouble.  He killed one of the other boys last month.  What is he to you?” Deke asked as he watched the boy.

“Excuse me!  He is one of my boys.  Yes, he has been difficult, but so are most of the boys we get.  I want to know what the Army wants with him?” the commandant asked.

“Difficult!  He killed one of your boys, less than a month ago.  He has a history of beating kids up so badly they end up in the hospital.  That piece of paper in your hand says you are going to do everything I ask you to do or by tonight you will end up in the big boys' version of this place.  You will get the boy for me and bring him here to your office.”

The commandant shifted nervously in his chair as Deke continued.

“While I have a private little chat with him you’ll gather up his records, all of them, and no copies.  When I am done speaking with him, I will take him with me, with all his records, and any personal effects the kids owns.  Go get him, now.”  Deke’s voice went up in volume as he talked so by the time he finished he was yelling.

The commandant left and moments later, Deke saw him walk across the courtyard and speak with Alexander.  They argued and then the commandant motioned to the window of his office.  Alexander stomped the ground and dust rose up around his feet.  He turned and stared at the window before he followed the commandant into the facility.

Deke retrieved his briefcase off the front of the desk and placed it front of him as he returned to behind the commandant’s desk.  He looked at the regular desk paraphernalia and with his arm and swiped everything: pictures, desk pad, telephone, calculator, and even the lap top computer off the right side of the desk onto the floor.  He set his briefcase down and removed his file on Alexander and placed it on the center of desk.  Closed his briefcase and placed it on the floor.  He sat down in the commandant's chair, leaned back with his hands behind his head and crossed his feet on top of the desk, while he mentally prepared himself for the upcoming interview.

The commandant entered with Alexander in tow.

“What the hell!” The commandant viewed his now empty desktop.

Deke swung his feet around the corner of the desk back to the floor as he sat straight up in the commandant's chair.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your shit!  Get the boy’s files, and shut the door on your way out!"

“Sit down, Alexander.”  Deke motioned to one of the chairs before the desk.  “I need you to answer some questions.”

Alexander plopped down in one of the two chairs seemly amused as he cocked his head checking out the contents of the commandant’s desk piled up on the floor.

Deke waited until the boy’s eyes fell on him, surveying and sizing him up.  He studied Alexander.  The file on the boy said he was eight, but he seemed much older than that.  Alexander had sandy colored hair, blue eyes, and had a medium-build; he had some muscle on his frame, but not what you would expect for a rowdy bruiser the way the file portrays him.  This kid didn’t look like a bad ass, but he didn’t look nerdy either.  He just looked average.

"So Slack Nuts finally did it!  People have been threatening to send me to a military school for years.  You don't want me; you can't handle me.  So you might as well just leave me here."

Deke smiled at the kid's defiant attitude, and raised his left eyebrow a notch.

"You're not from a military school?"

Deke saw understanding dawn on the kid's face, and turn to a questioningly look.

"It's the test.  You're here because of that messed up test they made everybody take."

It impressed Deke this kid had figured out in seconds what none of the other ten had.  This kid was very perceptive and smart.

"Why was the test, messed up, explain that?"

"They said it was a standardized national test.  First the questions were way too hard, and then some were worded funny.  They were looking for something besides intelligence and knowledge.  The funny questions required moral decisions, judgments, life and death stuff.  Who decides if things like that are right or wrong?  I didn’t feel like being that honest on some test.  I felt like it was an IQ test designed by a shrink."

"Is that why you didn't finish the test?"

"Yeah, I was trying to avoid you, apparently.  So how did you find me?  It couldn't have been from my test score.  I don't care what your game is, I'm not playing."

Deke laughed, "I'm not playing either.  What you did finish put you on top of ten others selected, and you're coming with me, whether you play or not.  I could care less."

For just a moment a worried look crossed Alexander’s face, but as soon as he noticed Deke saw it, his poker face returned.

"Why do you keep beating other kids up?"

Alexander leaned back in his chair, "Cause people screw with me."

"Why do you continue beating the kids when they are down?  Why do you hurt them so badly?"

"So I never have to fight them again.  You beat somebody bad enough they don't think about revenge, cause they're scared,” said Alexander as he started tapping the commandants stuff on the floor with his foot.

“Leave that shit alone,” Deke stared the kid straight in the eyes.  “Why did you kill that kid last month?”

Alexander straightened up in his chair and returned Deke’s stare, "Cause he screwed with me."

"No.  That's why you beat the kids up.  You crossed a line.  You killed another person.  I want you to tell me why?  I know the answer, but I want to hear it from you."  Pressed Deke as he leaned forward in the chair.

Alexander looked up to the ceiling, fidgeted slightly before regaining his composure, he leaned forward looking Deke straight in the eyes, "Because I didn't want to fight every kid in here.  If I hurt him, his friends might come after me; but if I killed him, they would all think twice before coming at me."

Deke liked the kid.  Straight to the point, no bullshit, and he was smart enough not to try lying.  Alexander hadn't insulted his intelligence or his rank.  He hadn't challenged Deke's authority …yet.  I would have to be on my guard not to insult his intelligence or lie to him, Deke thought.

"Do you have anything you need to take with you, personal effects?  You will not need to pack any clothes, but you might need a jacket."

"Just one thing and my jacket."

"What's the one thing?" Deke asked.

"Nun ya."  Alexander replied.

"What's that?"

Alexander grinned.  "Nun ya freaking business."

Deke reached to the floor and grabbed his briefcase.  Opened it and put Alexander's file inside it.  He rose and walked around the desk, after passing Alexander on his way to the door.  He smacked the kid in the head from behind hard enough to rock Alexander's head forward from the impact.

"That's one, smart ass.  You don't want to get to three.  Go and get your stuff, and get back here.  ASAP."

8. Where can my readers find this new novel and search for "Whisper?"
Barnes and Noble as an E-book
Amazon.com for kindle
Amazon.com for paperback
"No Rules of Engagement" is also available at and Goodreads dot com, and Smashwords dot com, Sony, Apple, and Kobo.

9. What's next?

Currently I am writing the sequels to both of my first two books.
The sequel to Whisper picks up right where the last book ends.  It is the continuation of the love story, but along the way you find out about Wiley's extraordinary training for a very specific purpose and what happened that kept him from realizing that purpose for the Navy.

The Sequel to "No Rules Of Engagement" picks up exactly where the first book leaves off.  For those who enjoyed NROE they are going to love the sequel.  Brunno's world gets a name, the Fuzzies and the Gators have an uncommon link, some new and scary bad guys, and a lot of jumping around through space and combat.  I promise there's never a dull moment.

10. If a reader wanted to stalk you how would they do this?

 website blog
Twitter      @StorytellerTDW
Google +    Thomas Wilson   Science Fiction Author

Thomas, I want to thank you for stopping by the Murphey Saga. I wish you all the best for your novels and their sequels.

For my readers, this novel is one of the few books I've given 5 out of 5 stars to. It is well thought out, action packed, and a terrific read (besides the few odds and ends of grammar errors). It is well worth the reading time.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.