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Through the Darkness

Not All Girls Want To Be Leia...or Padmé or Rey (an open letter to Disney and LucasFilm)

by Cypher Lx on 12/24/15

Let me start by saying that I am a huge Star Wars fan. I was a mere four years old when the original film premiered, and I had Star Wars posters on my bedroom wall. I had action figures, too. Like every kid in my generation, I fantasized of being a part of that galaxy far, far away. Unlike most of the little girls of my generation, I didn't dream of being Princess Leia. Don't get me wrong. She was an incredible woman who bravely led the Rebellion, and is still a force to be reckoned with in the newest installation. Leia knows her way around a blaster and will do whatever it takes to save the people she loves.

The next generation brought about the prequel trilogy, and another strong female character known as Padmé. While I wasn't quite as impressed with her as I was with Leia, she still had that presence that commanded respect. By this time, I was in my twenties, and yet, the character didn't appeal to me as a woman of approximately the same age.

Now that The Force Awakens has debuted, I'm not ashamed to say that I scheduled a vacation day just to see it on opening night. And then went to see it a second time the next day. I will most likely see it a third (maybe even fourth) time before it leaves the theaters, and then buy the DVD when it's released. Did I mention that I'm a huge Star Wars fan? This newest film rekindled the childhood wonder I had when I saw the original movies. Along with bringing back some of my favorite characters, new favorites were introduced, Rey being one of them. Even stronger and more resourceful than her female predecessors, she brought something to the screen that will be an inspiration for a new generation of little girls.

Still, not every little girl wants to be Leia, Padmé, or even Rey. Some of us secretly wanted to be the "bad guy". Darth Vader had the commanding presence that didn't require a single word to be spoken. Darth Maul, my favorite and shortest lived Sith, had some of the most awesome fighting skills, not to mention the double bladed lightsaber. Kylo Ren, despite his violent outbursts, has more control of his abilities than most other Force sensitives. The problem for little girls, and now grown women like myself, is that the awesome Dark Side characters I mentioned are male. Where are the iconic Dark Side adept females? The Light Side has both, so why is there no balance in the Force? I do commend the fact that there are now female Stormtroopers and that Captain Phasma is a woman. It's definitely a step in the right direction.

So, why is this so important to me? Little girls are still placed into gender roles, despite years of gender equality progression. Some have been picked on for even liking Star Wars because, for some reason, it's considered a boy's interest. For little girls who want to be something other than a Light Side princess/general or queen/ambassador or whatever Rey might be, things become more difficult.

When I was little, I wanted to be Darth Vader. Just the long, black cape alone was enough to make me love the costume. As I got older, I wanted to be Darth Maul. I bought a double bladed lightsaber and had battles with my males friends on summer nights. I usually won. Now, because make believe isn't just for kids, I want to be Kylo Ren. He exhibits the momentary loss of control over his emotions that I think every grown person with a ton of responsibilities wishes they could have when things just don't go right. The temper tantrum that was okay to have as a child, but became unacceptable once adulthood struck.

Prior to the new Star Wars release, I became a Cadet with the 501st Legion, an organization that is a dream come true for Star Wars fans to become their favorite Dark Side character while being able to do something good at the same time. I had a difficult time deciding on a costume build. There just aren't a lot of choices for a female unless you want to wear full body paint and, in some cases, a bald cap. Two of my favorite characters weren't even an option. I'd make a less than imposing Darth Vader, and Darth Maul was out for the obvious reason that all the face paint in the world wouldn't make me very convincing. That left me with costume builds of "male" characters that were carbon copies of each other (i.e. Stormtroopers), other nondescript characters, and the rare female characters that only hardcore Star Wars fans would be familiar with. Since ninety percent of the events are for children, chances are, many of those characters won't be recognized. Now, that hasn't kept me from continuing with my builds. I have a Sinya, Staff Officer, Tusken Raider, Jawa, and Mother Talzin in the works. I'm even planning on starting a Kylo Ren build. Unlike some of the other Dark Side males, I actually have a body type closer to Kylo's. Experience in other costuming has taught me how to camouflage the obvious fact that I'm a woman, and the mask will do the rest.

Yes, I have accepted that female Dark Side adepts aren't plentiful, but I think that they should be a serious future consideration, for the benefit of the newest generation of little girls who don't want to be Leia, Padmé, or Rey. Believe it or not, girls like to embrace the Dark Side, too.

Star Wars, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens, The Clone Wars, Princess Leia, Padme Amidala, Rey, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Kylo Ren, Dark Side, 501st Legion, Disney, LucasFilm

Literature for Causes

by Cypher Lx on 08/25/12

25 August 2012

Recently, I started a new Facebook page called Literature for Causes.  While I am still promoting Christmas Evil to raise money for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, I found that there are a lot of other authors out there who are doing similar things with their books.  On this new page, I started posting these books and the causes they are affiliated with.  I never realized how many authors are doing this.  And they are typically self-published.  I've probably said this before, but I will say it again. Self-published authors don't make very much on their books unless they really luck out like Amanda Hocking.  So to donate even a small portion of what they make from sales is a large chunk of what they actually receive after Amazon and Createspace and Barnes & Noble gets their cut.

The link to this new page is:

Check it out for new reading and various causes.

Cypher

Donation Update

by Cypher Lx on 08/06/12

As promised, I am giving an update on my goal to donate to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children through the sales of Christmas Evil.  Sadly, there have only been two sales so far. One through Kindle and one through Nook. I have had other sales for Darkest Before Dawn and Salt Bowl Death, but these novels are not being used to raise money for the cause.  So as of right now, I have raised only about $2. If you add in the Kindle copy I downloaded myself to make sure the formatting was right, that makes it about $3.  As of right now, I will have to carry over that amount until I meet my goal of $100 to donate to NCMEC.  I can only assume that with everyone in summer mode, no one is really thinking of Christmas, hence the slow sales. Please spread the word about Christmas Evil. I can't do this without your help.

Cypher

Christmas Evil Donations to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

by Cypher Lx on 07/11/12

11 July 2012
1336hrs

Well, it's Christmas in July! Christmas Evil has finally passed my super critical eye and is available for purchase in the CreateSpace eStore if you click on the cover photo in my Books section. In a few days it will also be on Amazon listings as well. I also plan on making it into a Kindle and Nook edition. As I said before, I wanted to do something special with this book. If you've been reading my Facebook and Twitter posts, you already know that I will be donating 50% of the proceeds to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Now, I hope to answer questions that I know must be going through some people's minds.

1. Why the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children?

The idea for Christmas Evil originally started as a joke between my husband and I during our adventures at DragonCon last year. I had forgotten about it until NaNoWriMo came about once again and needed an idea to write. He reminded me of the joke.  Only it wasn't a joke anymore.  As I started writing, I became very aware of certain elements that were coming out in the story.  While I technically finished NaNo with a little over 50,000 words, the story itself was not complete. It took me a good amount of time to figure out how to work in the things I did in a tactful way. It is a horror story, yes. However, there are parts that I was a little iffy on how to handle without being offensive. I hope I did that job well. It was these very elements that made me decide that I would donate a portion of what I make to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  Despite the word "National" in the title, there are links to 19 other countries in their network. The organization is the same one that brings you the AMBER Alerts.

2. Why 50% of the proceeds, and what does that mean?

I self-publish my works.  While that gives me a lot of control for how my book is constructed including cover art, I have no control over how much they decide to charge for actual production (this depends on page count, dimensions, etc.). CreateSpace determines a base cost and I have to choose a listing price above that. Depending on the distribution channel, my royalties can change drastically.  I chose a list price of $13.00. Now, here's how that breaks down. Through CreateSpace, I make less than 50% of that. The rest goes to them. Through Amazon.com, I make less than 30% of the list price. The initial 50+% goes to CreateSpace and the rest goes to Amazon. That means that the royalty I receive if I sell a paperback through Amazon is nearly halved from what I get through the direct eStore. Yes, you read that correctly. So, the 50% that I will donate for each purchase doesn't mean 50% of $13.00. It is 50% of whatever amount is left after CreateSpace and Amazon take their cut. This also changes a little with overseas sales (though I don't know the conversion rates at the moment).  So if you want more of what you are spending to go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, order direct from the eStore link on my website. Another reason I chose 50% is due to the fact that I like to keep some stock on hand for those that want the book, but don't have computers to order it. Yes, there are those who don't use computers. No, really. I'm not kidding. Like the rest of you, I have to pay shipping costs. So what little money I get to keep from these sales, some of it will be going to that.

3. Will you be offering it on Kindle or Nook?

The answer is a resounding YES!  I would never deny you wonderful people of the electronic age. I am an ebook person myself (though I do love the feel of turning actual pages when I'm chilling on the couch).  I will be offering it at the same ebook prices as my other two books and the 50% of my royalties will still be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

4. How much of the donation goes to the support program services?

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children utilizes 93% of the donations for their Support Program Services.
You can visit http://www.missingkids.com to find out more.

5. How do I know that an actual donation is being made from my book purchase?

Good question. And I have an answer for you. I plan on taking screen shots of how may copies of Christmas Evil were sold in a month as well as showing receipts after each donation (blocking out personal information, of course). I would like to be able to donate at the minimum $25 each time. If I can't meet that minimum each month, I will hold over the donation until I reach that amount in the following months. The easiest way to make sure that I can meet this goal is to spread the word.  Not only are you donating to a good cause, but you're also getting a book to read.

6. Will you be giving it away for free on KDP Select or as a paperback on GoodReads?

No.  Sorry.  This is the one book that I will not do that with.  I like a free book as much as the next person, but this one is being sold for a cause.

7. What about the third party retailers on Amazon that are trying to sell your books for above the retail price you set?

My answer to that is...don't do it. I feel that my prices are reasonable for a paperback book.  I put a lot of time and effort into writing it and designing the cover art. I go through rigorous editing and so do the other people who assist me in that task. So, if I think that my price is reasonable, don't fall for the ones that are charging more. I don't get any of that excess money they are asking for and neither will the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Those third party retailers are strictly making a profit. Much more than I will ever get.

So there you have it. All the questions I could think of.  If you have a question that I haven't answered, please leave a comment and I will make sure to address it.  Above all, I truly hope that you enjoy reading Christmas Evil.

Cypher

Twenty Things...

by Cypher Lx on 07/09/12

09 July 2012
1353hrs

I came across a good list of things that you probably shouldn't say to a writer on Laura Resnick's website. I haven't read any of her stuff yet, but she writes fantasy, so I will definitely be checking her novels out.

Twenty Things NOT To Say To A Writer
A Handy Safety Guide

 

1. "Have I read anything you've written?"

People ask me this all the time.

Come on, dude, how would I (or any other writer) have the faintest idea 

what you have read? I'm a novelist, not a psychic.

Recommended instead: "What's your latest (or next) release?" Or: "Can 

you name some of your titles? I read a lot, so maybe I know your work."


2. "Have you ever had anything published?"

Actually, this is a fair question, given that some aspiring writers call themselves 

"writers" when asked what they "do." But anyone who writes professionally is 

so tired of being asked that, they may remove your tongue if they hear that 

question even one more time.

So I recommend that you instead ask, "What's your latest release?" A 

professional novelist will answer this question. (And an aspiring writer who 

has not had anything published will presumably clarify the situation.)

 

3. "How much money do you make?"

Yes, people ask us this. Surprisingly often.

Try instead: "What sort of money do writers make?" Which is probably

 a lot closer to what most people are wondering when they ask

 invasive questions about my personal earnings.

There's a lot to say about money in this industry; writers discuss it

 often with each other and are probably willing to tell you a bit about

 how money works in publishing. But if your mother didn't teach you

 this, then I'll say it now: Asking someone whom you scarcely

 know how much money she makes is rude.

 


4. "Where do you get your ideas?"

Probably the single most-asked question.

Pardon me while I yawn.

Getting story ideas is simply the way writers think. Some people can play 

the piano by ear, some people have perfect pitch, and some are natural 

athletes. Writers get story ideas; if we didn't, we wouldn't be writers.

But, okay, for some specific examples and anecdotes from me and from 

some other writers, see the "Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?

page of this website.

 

5. "Will you write my great story idea and then split the income 

with me?"

To clear up a couple of common misconceptions: (a) Ideas are not the 

crucial aspect of successful fiction; execution is. (b) Ideas are not the 

hard part of writing a novel; writing is the hard part.

In using her skills to write your idea for you, a writer has nothing to gain, 

and a great deal to lose—such as time, energy, career momentum, and 

income.

 

6. "If you help me write my life story, I'll split the income with you 

after we sell the book."

Unless publishers are already interested in publishing your life story 

(probably because your life is already being splashed all over the media, 

but possibly because you are a well-known expert at something unusual 

or important), the chances that anyone will pay you (or, more importantly, 

pay me) for your life story are remote.

 

7. "I'm going to write a book someday when I have time."

We hear this one all the time, everywhere we go. Statistically, there are 

more people in America who say they "want to write a book someday" 

than there are people who read books.

Realistically, if you're not already writing, the chances that you're ever 

going to start writing are marginal. Most people never get past just talking 

about writing.

Additionally, most people who start writing a book never finish it. (And most 

people who finish writing one whole book... never sell it and never write 

another.)

The only people who write, who stick with it, and who have a serious chance 

of becoming professionals are the ones who can't stand not writing. And you 

already know who you are. (Hi, there!)

 

8. "Will you read my manuscript?"

Aaaagh! Back—back, foul beast! Back, I say! Stay in your lair!

Now and for all time, if a writer is willing to read your manuscript,

 she'lloffer. Because, believe me, she gets asked this so often

 (sooooooo often) than she knows you want her to offer.

But do not put a writer on the spot by asking. The list of reasons is

 very long (see some of them here and here), and includes, for

 example, this being a much bigger imposition than you realize

 (much), the probability of injured feelings (yours), and legal risks for

 the writer (yes, really).

 


9. "Will you read the manuscript of my 

offspring/spouse/sibling/parent?"

Remember what I just said about how awkwardly it puts the writer on 

the spot if you ask her to read your manuscript? Well, take that and 

multiply it by thirty if you're not even asking her for yourself, but 

rather for someone whom you love.

 

10. "Will you introduce me to your agent?"

This, too, really puts the writer on the spot. For a long list of possible 

reasons. Your excellent work may not be suitable for her agent. Or 

your work may be unprofessional and unpublishable, and the writer 

is too polite to tell you so. Or the writer may have had a catastrophic 

experience with the last person whom she referred to her agent and 

been warned (by the agent) not to do it again. Or the writer may be 

having problems with her current her agent, and she neither wants 

to discuss those with you nor refer potential clients to an agent whom 

she's finding problematic. And so on and so forth. So just don't ask. 

If the writer thinks it's a good idea, she'll bring it up. (Yes, really.)

 

11. "Do those [insert dismissive adjective here] books that you 

churn out sell well?"

If someone isn't deeply invested in her writing, then there are many much 

(much) easier ways to make a living than writing books, which is insanely 

competitive, disastrously unstable, and skull-crushingly difficult to do. 

So try not to slap a writer in the face with this sort of comment, which we 

hear more often than you would believe.

 

12. "How long does it take to write a book?"

This is a lot like asking how long it takes to have sex. I mean... it all 

depends, doesn't it?

"How long it takes to write a book" varies tremendously, based on the 

specific writer in question and on the specific book in question. So it 

can take two weeks or two decades. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

 

13. "Do you get to choose your own book covers?"

Pardon my weary sigh of resignation.

Most writers have little or no say in how their books are packaged**, 

and any writer who's been working for a while has probably had at 

least one dog of a cover that killed her sales figures and/or 

embarrassed her. For more information on this subject, see 

A Book By Its Cover elsewhere on this website. (**However, when 

it comes to the new and expanding practice of writers self-publishing 

their own ebooks, we do often have control over our covers, since we 

are, in effect, the publisher. On the other hand, writers also usually 

have more modest fiscal resources than major publishers do for creating 

the covers.)

 

14. "I bought your book at the second-hand bookstore."

Ouch.

Writers only earn income from new/retail sales, not from used-book 

sales. And not earning income makes it hard for us to eat—and we 

really like to eat. So we encourage you to buy our books from new/retail 

venues if you want to read them, not used/second-hand. Personally, 

I also encourage my readers to check out my books via their local library 

system. (However, if a book of mine is no longer available in new/retail 

venues, and can only be purchased second-hand, then, by all means, buy 

it used. In addition to eating, I like to be read.)

 

15. "I'd like to try one of your books, but I'm waiting to see if any of 

them become available as free ebooks." [Or some variation thereof.]

If you're unwilling to pay for a writer's book, you're well within your rights (as 

long as you don't download or share a pirated copy). But perhaps you could 

omit telling the writer that you don't think his work is worth paying for.

 

16. "You should write [insert recommendation here]."

If you're a doctor, do I tell you what ailments you should treat? If you're a 

contractor, do I tell you what you should build? If you're truck driver, do I 

tell you what kind of merchandise you should transport?

 

17. "Here's what I didn't really like about your book..."

It's the editor's job to point out to a writer where a manuscript has problems, 

so the writer can fix them. And once a book is published, readers have lots 

of opportunity to post on websites and blogs what they think of a book 

(including what they didn't like about it), as well as to share their opinions in 

person with friends, family, and co-workers.

But you might want to seriously consider how you expect anyone, including a 

writer, to react when you say directly to him, without being asked or invited, 

"Let me tell you what I don't like about the way you do your job."

 

18. "Will any of your books be made into a movie?"

This is not a decision made by writers, it's made by movie producers—

i.e. the people who brought you Porky'sGigli, and Armageddon. So, 

realistically, the chances are always very remote.

However, if a writer has a movie deal, you won't need to ask this question—

nor will you be able to get a word in edgewise.

 

19. "You must be rich. I just spent $7.99 on your book!"

Not really.

Writers only get a tiny percentage of the cover price (ex. 8%), and we 

only get it about two years after you buy the book, and we only get it then 

if (a) the book has earned-out its advance payment (most books don't), 

and (b) the publisher is maintaining accurate accounts (which is not 

universally the case).

 

20. "As long as my story's really good, an editor will be happy to 

correct my shaky punctuation and grammar, right?"

Reality check: If someone's going to pay you to write, then the very least 

they expect is that your written language skills will be immaculate.

(Unless, of course, you're a politician, a politician's former lover, a rock star, 

a movie star, a supermodel, a billionaire's widow, etc., etc. In which case, 

you don't even need to be able to scratch your name in the dirt with a stick 

to get a multi-million dollar book deal. But I digress.)


To check out more of Laura Resnick go to http://www.sff.net/people/laresnick/index.htm .

Cypher

Sneak Preview of Christmas Evil

by Cypher Lx on 06/19/12

19 June 2012
1257hrs

I'm currently in the final stages of formatting Christmas Evil for publication. What had started as my second NaNoWriMo project became more than I hoped for. The idea behind it was made in jest during Dragon*Con and was simply going to be a fun thing to do.  NaNoWriMo built the basic structure of the novel, but I realized I could make it into something worthwhile (at least, I hope so).  After doing a lot of historical research as well as various Christmas legends, Christmas Evil evolved. I am truly excited about this and wanted to give you all a sneak preview.  Here it is:

Laughter echoed through the air.  Children’s laughter.  But it sounded maniacal, almost evil.  Angela found herself walking toward the orphanage she volunteered at with the Sisters.  It was late at night.  Why would the children still be awake?  As she approached the door, a chill went down her spine.  She shouldn’t go in.  Something was horribly wrong.  But her hand went out to the door knob anyway and as it twisted, she realized it was unlocked.  It shouldn’t be unlocked, she thought.  As Angela wandered through the darkened first floor, the laughter came again, only closer.  Toys were scattered on the floor and she was careful not to trip over them as she made her way up the stairs.  She stopped midway when she felt her shoe slip on something that was coating the tread.  Looking down, she saw a dark, thick liquid beneath her.  She refused to imagine what it might be and continued more slowly up each step.  Peeking between the rails at the top, she could see the entire second floor, which was one large room that served as a community bedroom.  Child-like figures ran about the room like little elves prancing about and laughing as if they were playing some kind of game.  The orphans she had come to know were sleeping soundly in their beds, she thought, until she saw glazed over eyes staring directly at her from the closest bed.  The little boy’s arm was dangling off the edge and dripping blood onto the floor, tiny bite marks marring his pale skin.  Angela covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a scream.  The boy had reminded Angela of her sister a little because of his tendency to rebel.  But he didn’t deserve this.  One of the wicked little creatures lapped up the blood that had pooled beneath him.  It was when she redirected her gaze that she saw two more sets of eyes staring at her.  Her sister Gina, and the thing that had stolen her.  The demon held another child in its grasp, its teeth buried in her delicate throat, its stomach bloated from feasting on its prey.  The child let out a whimper and with one quick twist, the demon snapped her neck and dropped her to the floor with a thump.  The weird elf-looking things stopped their dancing about when they heard the noise and joined Gina and the demon in the middle of the room.

 “Angela,” Gina hissed.  “Are you finally going to come with us?”

 Angela reached for her guns, but they weren’t there and she panicked.  The little creatures started advancing on her as if they had been given some unspoken order.  She did the only thing she could do without her weapons.  She closed her eyes and screamed.

Keep an eye here for more information about Christmas Evil, including when it becomes available as well as other information following publication.

Cypher

The 50 Shades of Grey Phenomenon

by Cypher Lx on 06/12/12

12 June 2012
1415hrs

Yes.  I went there.  This is a phenomenon that has been sweeping the world.  I know this for a fact, because I have internet friends from all over and the craze has taken hold everywhere.  It is just as big, if not bigger, than Twilight.  This shouldn't come as a surprise to me since it is Twilight fanfic with changed names.  So why am I shocked?  Because I'm still trying to grapple with why Twilight became so popular.  I read all four books and watched all but one of the movies, and still don't get it.  What is so cool about having a stalker boyfriend who watches you while you sleep and gets jealous at the drop of a hat?  Not to mention the unrealistic clumsiness of the main female character.  Some have said that Twilight lets girls put themselves in the place of Bella and allows them to dream of the perfect man.  Huh.  Yeah, I still don't get it.  Are we trying to reverse everything we worked for as women by allowing men to control every aspect of our lives through YA romance?  And don't even get me started on the need for a thesaurus in each of these books.

That, of course, brings me to 50 Shades of Grey.  No. I haven't read the trilogy.  Nor do I intend to.  First, let's just look at the cost.  When I first looked it up on Kindle, it was $12.99.  Thirteen dollars for an ebook?!?!  Are you kidding me?  For that price, I want a paperback at least.  The price has come down a bit, but I still refuse to buy it.  However, while I was there, I decided to read the reviews.  And there are a lot.  In fact, the bad reviews nearly equal the good ones.  I started with the good reviews first, thinking that perhaps someone would be able to give me some insight as to what is so great about these books.  I was disappointed.  Almost all of them had to say the same thing.  The male character is hot and the female character falls madly in love with him...or something.  They all started blending together after a while, basically saying that it was a very sexy story.  Okay.  So now on to the bad reviews.  Here's where I hit pay dirt.  The story is basically the same Edward-stalking-Bella scenario (of course the names were changed), but now add in a poorly researched BDSM relationship.  And apparently, that is the whole plot.  Of course, there was also the obligatory complaints of the need for a thesaurus as well as an editor.  Again, I won't go there, because that will just open another can of worms.

Now, I figured there are probably some biased reviewers on both sides.  I then sifted through many articles and blogs written on this very topic.  Basically, what I have learned is that the same Twi-moms that read Twilight and devoured it are reading 50 Shades.  That says something right there.  50 Shades had a built-in fanbase.  Not only that, but from all that I've heard and read, the BDSM relationship as it is written, is not how it's supposed to be.  Apparently, those that give glowing reviews to this trilogy haven't read much romance beyond YA.  Those that are familiar with BDSM have said that it is "vanilla" and insulting.  Why insulting?  From what I gather, 50 Shades doesn't have a balanced dom/sub dynamic.  When compared to the Beauty Trilogy or Exit to Eden, 50 Shades doesn't hold up to critique.

So the question is, will I ever read it.  I can't say never.  Especially since I swore I wouldn't watch Titanic.  I did watch it, by the way.  But I didn't enjoy it and only had any kind of interest when the ship finally sank.  However, I will say that I probably won't read it unless it's free or someone pays me to do it.  I don't want to lose precious hours of reading something that has as many people hating it as loving it.  I'll stick with the stuff I know I will like.  Right now, I wait breathlessly for the release of the first book of the Angels of the Dark series by Gena Showalter.  That's a book I know I will enjoy reading.  Until then, I will finish editing Christmas Evil and finish writing The Cold of Night.

Cypher

This is My Body Project

by Cypher Lx on 04/30/12

30 April 2012
2229hrs

A friend of mine, who is also a photographer/artist/model, has started a page on Facebook called the This is My Body Project.  I love the idea behind this.  The mainstream modeling industry has made it difficult for women, and even men, to feel comfortable in their own skins.  Granted, there are some breakthroughs being made. I've seen some recent examples of actresses and models standing up for natural beauty by having photo spreads done without makeup or airbrushing.  Kudos to them!  However, there is still the unrealistic standard that real everyday girls are trying to live up to at the risk of their health.

Alternative modeling has given a more realistic version of modeling in the fact that the models are tattooed or pierced or thin or full-sized.  But there is still the issue that the models appear to be way above the average in normal beauty.  The truth of it is, there is still a good deal of makeup and photo editing involved.

So, what is the This is My Body Project?  Kitty Kat began the project for women to submit their photos with the words This is My Body written on their least favorite parts of their own body.  It took off like wild fire.  So much so, that the page has well over 11,000 followers.  Now there are men who have submitted their photos and model comparisons.  In the Model photo album, you can see the model in a professionally done photograph side by side with the way the model looks in everyday life.  I can guarantee you will be surprised at what you see.  I submitted a set of photos to Kitty Kat for the album as well.  That's how much I believe in what she is doing.

The missions statement:  This is My Body Project is an internet sensation urging people young and old, of any gender specification, to accept their bodies the way they are and hold confidence in themselves. We encourage others to do the same!

Please visit the Facebook page and 'Like' it.  Show it to someone who needs a boost of confidence.  You can find the page at http://www.facebook.com/thisismybodyproject .

Cypher

The Confusing World of Me

by Cypher Lx on 04/27/12

27 April 2012
1248hrs

It's been a long while since I've posted.  With so much going on, it's been hard to keep up with everything.  Recently, I've read some things about being an author that related to my crazy busy life.  I've read similar things written about being a model, an artist, etc.  So what is this mystic piece of information?  Apparently, according to these various sources, if you don't spend all of your time promoting yourself and your work on every single channel available, you are obviously not serious about what you do and shouldn't be doing it. Huh.  Really?

This got me to thinking about a couple different things. The first is, do people not take me seriously as a model, artist, or author because I don't bombard them with daily posts about me?  That seems rather counterintuitive.  For one thing, do people really want to be accosted by constant promotion?  I certainly don't.  The second thought I had involved the time it takes to do all of that.  I have a full-time job, a husband, and many other priorities.  I write in my spare time, which is limited.  I design my own book covers, because I like it and because hiring a professional is out of my budget.  I don't get to model very often because my schedule typically does not coincide with those who do the photography.

For people to consider me serious about any of my work, am I supposed to take my other obligations less seriously?  The truth is, I am very serious about all of my creative endeavors.  But like so many other people out there trying to do the same things as me, I can't give up my full-time job and I refuse to neglect what little social life I have.  There are so many others that face the same obstacles as me when it comes to being thought of as serious about what we do.

So, if you are like me and feel like you aren't being taken seriously, don't give up.  Eventually, someone will notice all the hard work you do while trying to put food on the table with a full-time occupation.  And to those of you who wonder how serious an artist of any form could possibly be if they aren't constantly trying to get their name out there, consider this...unless that person gets some sort of lightning strike lucky break, chances are they have to deal with the same obligations as everyone else.

On a writing related note, keep in mind that self-published authors do not equal bad writing.  People who self-publish do so for many different reasons.  I have read some very good self-published books that would never have been picked up by major publishing companies because it's not the current trend.  And that's the key to who gets published mainstream and who doesn't.  If you aren't already contracted with a publishing company and no one knows your name from the thousands of other potential authors out there, they don't want to take the chance with writers if they have a unique idea.  In the mainstream market, it could be an instant hit or not receive any notice at all.  Big publishers only bet on sure things.

Take a chance.  There are a ton of self-published authors who offer their ebooks from $.99 to $2.99.  Sure, there may be some real stinkers out there, but there are also some gems.  It just takes a little digging.

Cypher

Holiday Horror

by Cypher Lx on 12/04/11

04 December 2011

1642hrs

Once again, the holidays are upon us.  I always get a bit jaded about the whole thing.  I avoid any type of store on Black Friday.  I don't much like to decorate.  The only things I go shopping for outside of the house are the things I need, like food (for the humans and animals) and basic living essentials.  Any Christmas shopping I do is typically done online.  It's also this time of year that I feel financially strapped.  Because our house is heated by oil, I have to spend a good chunk of money just to keep the temperature at a steady 65 degrees.  If you have ever purchased heating oil, or even looked at the prices, it gets worse every year.  So when it comes to shopping for Christmas presents, I look at the bank account and wonder how I'm going to manage.  Well, miraculously, I do.  Every year.  I guess the fascination I had for the holidays as a child wore off when I had to start paying for all of the things adults have to pay for.  I know I can't be the only one who feels this way.  Christmas comes earlier every year.  Decorations were sitting side by side with the Halloween stuff before Halloween had even arrived.  A week before Halloween, masks and costumes had already been put on clearance and shoved aside or packed away for the next year.  Christmas carols were already playing in stores on November 1st.  Did everyone forget about Thanksgiving?  It would be that holiday that comes between Halloween and Christmas, in case you were wondering.

Does any of this have a bright side?  Well, yes.  First of all, I am proud to say that I met my 50K goal for NaNoWriMo.  The story isn't actually finished yet, but it will be soon.  The nice thing about NaNo is that you don't have to have a completed novel to finish the month.  It's a rough draft that will be edited over and over during the following months (or for some participants, years).  The whole point is to spark creativity and encourage young people to write.  This was my second year participating and both years I made a small donation so that young writers are supplied with the materials to accomplish the same goal.  It provides those children with the opportunity to be creative.  If I could give more, I would.  There are so many children who don't have the encouragement from others like I get when it comes to being creative.  I have always had a good support system.  I think all children deserve the same.

So, I've said a little bit about the novel previously, but it has evolved into something even bigger for me.  I've been able to vent some of my holiday frustrations through my writing as well as my photography.  I designed a book cover for the novel which can be seen on the BOOKS page.  I had a lot of fun smashing Christmas balls and candy canes and making blood splatter.  It really made me feel better.

Christmas Evil will be available sometime early next year.  This will allow everyone to recover from holiday debt before even considering spending money on themselves.  Besides, it may not be the best thing for people to read just before Christmas.  After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best to place a warning on the page when it becomes available.  I'm not particularly religious, but I do have respect for religion and those who are devoted to whatever they practice.  I would say that Christmas Evil has highly religious overtones, but that would be an understatement.  It is also extremely violent with scenes of torture and graphic death.  There are elements that will be offensive to some people.  With that said, am I going to apologize?  Absolutely not.  My purpose is to portray the actual horrors of humanity, both past and present.  Yes, it is fiction, but I used real events that occurred throughout history to create a world where you should worry about what you're inviting into your house at Christmas time.

Well, enough with the morbid talk.  Have some egg nog, a warm cider, or a glass of spiced wine.  Watch some Christmas movies like Elf or How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Curl up on the couch with that special someone and listen to holiday music while you watch flames flicker in the fireplace.  Whatever it is that you do to actually enjoy the holidays, just do it.  Take a moment to forget about who wants what under the tree, or how much you've spent and still have to spend.  Take the time to truly enjoy what is important this holiday season.  Family and friends.  Appreciate the ones you have and remember the ones you've lost.

Happy Holidays.

Cypher

NaNoWriMo 2011

by Cypher Lx on 11/11/11

11 November 2011

1251hrs

I know I mentioned NaNoWriMo before, but I also realized that it's been well over a month since I wrote.  Things have been busy.  I take two classes while working full-tine, and just the month of October is full of things that I do because it's my favorite time of year.  Usually.  My birthday was mediocre, mainly because I had bronchitis and was feeling miserable the entire week.  I was also supposed to attend two Halloween parties on the 29th which didn't happen because of...a SNOWSTORM???  So, power and heat went out and roads were a disaster.  Trees were coming down left and right.  Fortunately, none of them fell on our house or cars. We were lucky.  Our neighbors a few doors away weren't that fortunate, but at least no one was hurt.  We did get to go to Pennhurst Asylum the next day though, and on Halloween, trick-or-treat with our niece and nephew.  I haven't done that in years.  It was fun watching them run up to each door to get candy.  The other thing that the freak snowstorm managed to kill for me was the NaNoWriMo kick-off party for my region.  I didn't get to go because I could barely get my car down the road in front of my house.  Yes, it really was that bad.  I think we got something like six inches dumped on us within hours.  So, if you live in an area that rarely gets snow, if at all, and one inch shuts down cities, that's what six or more does to us.  Especially, when it happens in October.  That's almost unheard of in Pennsylvania.  In the winter, it's normal.  But not two days before Halloween.

Thankfully, our power was restored before November 1, because that was the first day of NaNoWriMo and I fully intended to start on time this year (unlike last year when I started 4 days late and played a lot of catch up).  I am actually ahead in my word count and have been meeting my goal each day, if not exceeding it.  So what am I writing about, you ask?  It's a Christmas horror story.  Partly inspired by a discussion at DragonCon and partly inspired by the freak snowstorm, it is based on the premise that the Christmas legends we're told as children about the happy bits are actually lies to protects us from the true evil that lurks the holiday season.  Almost sounds like the dangers of consumerism, doesn't it? Well, I can assure you that it's not.  No. It's about what really happens to children who are naughty.

Now, I am sure that there are parents reading this that are thinking, "What a great thing to read to my child around Christmas time to get them to behave!"  Not if you don't want them scarred for life.  It is not a novel for children.  It may even scare some adults.  I did a great deal of research and found that some of the older Christmas legends weren't as pleasant as the ones we have now.  Modernization of society has sterilized the more horrible aspects of many of the stories we hear today.  Grimm's Fairytales are prime examples.  I love Disney. I really do.  But most of the Disney-ized stories we see were not how they really happened.  The good guys didn't always win.  And Christmas wasn't just coal in your stocking if you weren't good throughout the year.  To put it into perspective, Santa Claus is actually a very recent addition to Christmas.  There are legends that are much older and far scarier.

So, keep that in mind this Christmas.  I doubt that the novel will be ready for publication by the time December 25th rolls around, but it will be finished by November 30th.  I know that may sound a little confusing, but I will probably edit it two or three times first and I still have to create the cover design.  But consider this while you wait for the joyous holiday season to arrive.

Have you been naughty or nice this year?

Cypher Lx

Model Mayhem, NaNoWriMo, and Other Things

by Cypher Lx on 09/26/11

26 September 2011

2055hrs

After several different people asked me if I had a Model Mayhem page, I finally decided to create a profile. I suppose the reason it took me so long to make one is that I have to manage so many other web profiles and my website that I didn't want to have another thing to worry about.  It's hard to keep up with it all.  MySpace, Facebook (including my fan page and two book pages), Twitter, NaNoWriMo, Amazon, The Xfactory, this site, and now Model Mayhem? Did I really need another profile to deal with?  Apparently, yes.  So now it can be viewed through my Links page when my profile is approved.  It may take several days, so please be patient.

Yes, I mentioned NaNoWriMo twice now.  For those of you who have no idea what in the world I'm talking about, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.  Each year, the entire month of November is devoted to writing a 50,000 word novel.  I participated last year and finished just under the deadline with a few hundred words over the goal.  It was a month of pure insanity.  I started four days late, I was working and going to school full-time, and I spent every waking moment doing schoolwork and writing Salt Bowl Death.  My mental health was questionable, but I was pleased with the outcome.  This year I will be doing it again.  The difference?  I'm only taking two classes (since I graduated, I don't feel the pressure of getting certain classes in), I know about NaNoWriMo way ahead of time so I can prepare with ideas, and I know what I'm in for.  Although I'll still be working full-time, as long as I write 1667 words or more per day (piece of cake), I won't have the same kind of pressure to play catch up.  But don't expect a whole lot of blogging during that time.

October is fast approaching and with it some of my favorite things.  Fall leaves, Halloween, my anniversary (which happens to be on Halloween), the Gravedigger's Ball, haunted houses, and Halloween parties.  Oh yeah, and my birthday.  Mostly, I love to be able to dress up in costume.  Okay, so I kind of do that all year round.  But it's more fun when other people are dressed up, too.  The Gravedigger's Ball is black tie or costume since it's a fundraising event for Laurel Hill Cemetery.  While I don't have the kind of money that many of the patrons that attend do (not even close), I do love the cemetery and its history and feel that it should be preserved. So, although I won't be bidding on any of the auctions, just attending the ball helps.  Plus, I get to dress in costume!  This year, I hope to finish a formal steampunk outfit for the event.

I've also started working on the book cover for The Cold of Night.  My wonderful friend, Seregon O'Dassey, modeled for me and we got some really great shots.  You can see them on my Facebook profile to get an idea of what the cover might look like.

Well, that's about it for now.  I have lots to do and never enough time.

Cypher

Dragon*Con

by Cypher Lx on 09/06/11

06 September 2011

1516hrs

For those that follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you know that I have been at Dragon*Con for the past few days.  The last time I went was about ten years ago, so this was an exciting event for me.  It is held in Atlanta, Georgia and when I went before, it was a twenty hour drive each way with only a day and a half to spend at the actual event.  Needless to say, we didn't get to do much that time.  I entered the Dawn look alike contest that year and that was a good portion of the time we spent at the con.  This year, we flew down and were able to attend the con each day.  I should mention that I hate to fly, so this was a major event for me. So let's begin with that.  I was a wreck about getting on the plane.  We're talking panic attack scared.  I'm not a big drinker, but I had to have a double scotch just to get relaxed enough for the first flight that took us from PA to NC.  Before the plane even took off, I had to do breathing and relaxation exercises so that I wouldn't freak out.  During the NC layover I had another single of scotch.  While I wasn't even close to being intoxicated, I was now relaxed enough to actually fall asleep on the flight from NC to GA.  Of course, it did help that I had also been awake for twenty four hours at that point. We finally arrived in GA and had to walk forever through the airport to get to the car rental place. I never realized that airports were so enormous. We finally caught on to the transit system between concourses. While they are really fast, they nearly rip your arm off when you are holding on for dear life during the harsh starts and stops.  We get to the rental counter and find out that we have to put down a $200 security deposit because we don't carry credit cards (a bank card with a Visa logo doesn't count).  Then the girl is trying to sell us all the unnecessary stuff that they are trained to talk you into.  First off, I was extremely tired and cranky.  Not a good combination for me.  Secondly, I was trained to do the same thing when I worked for a car rental agency.  Mix those two elements and I was getting extremely frustrated to the point of nearly having a breakdown.  Thankfully, the hotel wasn't very far and after check-in, I finally collapsed into an exhausted sleep.

Dragon*Con Day 1

A lesson we learned from the first time was to pre-register. What a time saver!  Instead of waiting in the cattle shoot line for tickets, we just flew through and got our badges.  We also downloaded the Dragon*Con app to our phones which made it easy to schedule what events we wanted to attend.  Horror Icons was one of the first ones we went to see.  Robert Englund, Tony Todd, and Lance Henriksen.  I had met Tony Todd before at a Fangoria convention years ago and he still looks great.  Seeing the other two was amazing.  I have been fans of all three for a long time.  You can imagine my shock when Lance Henriksen came up to me after the panel was over, shook my hand, and told me I looked great.  I should mention, that for most of the weekend, I was dressed in various modeling attire that I have worn for different shoots.  But to have someone who is famous approach you instead of the other way around?  I can't even tell you how that felt.  They are amazingly nice men and very personable.  Another panel that we attended was with the Cruxshadows.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is one of my absolute favorite bands.  Not just because of their music, but because they truly appreciate their fans.  Of course, Rogue and Jessica's baby stole the attention.  She is incredibly adorable.  the rest of the day was spent going to other events and browsing the merchant areas.  Afterwards, we went to Ruby Tuesday for dinner near our hotel and with all the normal people there, I was a bit of a spectacle. Not in a bad way. I just don't think that they see many people like me outside of Atlanta.

Dragon*Con Day 2

Star Trek day.  Yes, I said it.  My husband and I dressed in our Star Trek uniforms to attend the con.  I, of course, put my own cyber twist on it.  It confused some people.  One guy even questioned me because he couldn't identify the species I was trying to portray.  I told him I was my own species.  He seemed satisfied with that.  Oddly enough, we met another girl who had the same thought and was also wearing cyberlox with her Star Trek uniform.  Unfortunately, my husband didn't get to see William Shatner.  The line to see him was so incredibly long, we didn't have a chance to view him in person.  We did get to talk to Voltaire (one of my husband's favorite musicians) and Rogue, so not all was lost.  Later we went to a panel our friend David Palumbo, who is an amazing fantasy artist, was running. Check out his work at http://www.dvpalumbo.com/ .  That night we had dinner at Max Lager's.  If you are ever in Atlanta, you must eat there.  The food is awesome.  After going back to the hotel and changing, we went to a panel discussion about 101 ways to gruesomely kill a character in novels.  It was totally worth staying up late for that, even though it was such a long day.

Dragon*Con Day 3

We went to several more panels, one of which featured Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, David Palumbo, and Anthony Palumbo.  For those of you who don't know all of the names, they are all artists.  Boris and Julie are married and David and Anthony are Julie's sons.  They have collaborated on a project that Julie has been dreaming about for a long time.  Each of them are doing art work for Julie's Tarot deck.  Just from what was shown during the panel, I can tell you that the deck will be absolutely gorgeous when it's finished.  That night, we went back to the hotel room to change and take a nap before the Cruxshadows show.  This is where getting older kind of sucks.  We had been going and going for so long, that even with the short rest, we couldn't hang for the whole show.  Enter lesson number two.  The next time we attend Dragon*Con, we will be staying in one of the host hotels. The whole driving back and forth thing was a killer.  But as usual, the Cruxshadows put on an amazing and highly energetic performance.

Dragon*Con Day 4

Last day of the con and I dressed relatively normal.  Well, for me anyway.  We did some last day shopping and I got a pair of custom made vampire fangs.  Once we got everything we wanted, we ate at Max Lager's again (did I mention how fabulous their food is?) and headed to the airport.  Our plane was delayed because of the bad weather.  Apparently, several tornadoes touched down in the area, so it kind of screwed things up.  They switched our plane so we could make our connecting flight in Philly.  This time, I wasn't nearly as agitated about flying and fell asleep not long after the plane took off.  We boarded our plane in Philly, which was one of those really tiny commuter planes.  It only takes about twenty minutes to get from Philly to Allentown, but it seemed like an eternity because we hit major turbulence on the way. Now my anxiety level was jacked up one hundred percent.  By the time we landed, all I wanted was to go home.  Guess what?  Our checked luggage never arrived.  Stress level is now through the roof.

Well, we're home now and our luggage was delivered to our house today.  The animals have been very affectionate because of our absence.  My whole body is sore from all the walking that we did.  Was it a good trip? Most definitely.  Even with the flying fiascos.  My husband was joking that we could have had more time doing things at Dragon*Con if we didn't have to stop every five feet for someone to take my picture.  Honestly, with so many people in costume at the con, I had no idea that I would attract so much attention.  Even in my most normal looking goth attire, I had people stopping me.  However, I am flattered that people thought I was worth photographing and I loved meeting each of them.  After all was said and done, I look forward to going back again, learned some more valuable travel lessons, and maybe one day, if people get to know my work, I'll be privileged enough to be a guest there.  But even if that never happens, Dragon*Con will always hold a special place in my heart.

Cypher

Throwing Down

by Cypher Lx on 08/22/11

22 August 2011

1407hrs

I have come to the conclusion that my original goal of writing a blog every day was very unrealistic.  I tried in the beginning, but other things frequently sidetracked me.  Such is life.  One would think that after graduating, I would have had more time on my hands, but it filled up with other activities, like concentrating on my third novel and various training situations involved with my full-time job.  Soon I will be starting classes again.  Fiction Writing and Ancient Egyptian Religion.  If you're wondering why I would be taking a fiction writing class after writing two novels...there is always room for improvement.  The other class?  I've always had a passion for anything relating to Ancient Egypt, so taking the class is for enjoyment purposes for the most part.  But now, I am finally taking the time to update my blog.  So what am I going to write about this time?

Conflict.

Generally, I don't like conflict.  Like everyone else, I like to live a relatively peaceful existence.  However, there is something to be said about witnessing conflict as well as writing about it.  When I write, I tend to create volatile situations that have the potential to either explode or at the very least cause tension among my characters.  I see it as a way to get my aggressions out.  When the situation is eventually resolved, either by diffusion or violence, I find it cathartic.  Witnessing conflict gives me fodder for various storylines.  Of course, I never use the real situation.  I'll change the people involved and the source of the conflict.  I see it as a study of human nature.  As much as we say we want to live peacefully, we thrive on stirring the emotions of others.

I witness a lot of these conflicts on Facebook.  It's particularly funny when it involves people that I not only know personally, but have known for many years.  I know how their minds work because I have interacted with them on more occasions than I can count.  Watching the conflict from the perimeter is entertaining.  I often see people post the phrase, "I don't care who this offends..." and then write whatever it is that's on their mind.  Of course, it offends someone.  It always does.  So a word war begins and the original poster becomes offended by the remarks made.  Congratulations!  Now everyone has been successfully offended.  When you make an opening remark about not caring who you offend, you are essentially throwing down the gauntlet.  Everyone who is as opinionated as yourself will join in the fray, whether to support you or contest you.  If you don't want this, do not preface your post with such an antagonizing statement.  The only conclusion I can come to is that if you do this, you secretly crave instigating an argument.  Maybe this isn't the case for all people.  But if you have such strong beliefs that you feel you must advertise them on a public forum, be prepared for the backlash.  I have purposely distanced myself from certain people (including family) with regards to anything involving religious or political discussion.  These particular people don't want to hear anything but their own opinion, so God forbid if you disagree with them. They will launch an all out attack.  I'm all for an educated and well-worded debate that allows for both people to voice their beliefs.  But when one or both of the participants is so close-minded that they have to sling insults, nothing is gained except hurt feelings.

That's the difference between what I witness and what I write.  If you properly flesh out a conflict and a resolution (regardless of the outcome), there is always something to be learned from it.  What the reader takes from it is up to them.  People utilize their own schemas to interpret what they read.  So, sometimes they won't see what you intend, or find something that you hadn't even thought of.  The question is, how effective is a writer if they only use their own schema?  I study the conflicts I see and try to remain objective.  Yes, I have my own beliefs.  But to look at something from all sides and all points of view and to actually learn something from it is more valuable than putting someone down for not conforming to your standards.  Besides, how boring would it be if I only wrote one point of view?

Cypher

Paranormal Romance

by Cypher Lx on 07/19/11

19 July 2011

1508hrs

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to catch up on my reading.  Typically, if I like a book, I can plow through it in a day or two.  Like I've said before, I am a very avid reader.  While I may have some misgivings such as the ones I have voiced in The Men of Romance blog, I do still read paranormal romance.  Many of the series that are out there have incredibly amazing and intricate plotlines.  I'm going to write about a few of my favorites here because I am certain there are others who read this that will also love the following books.

The first is the Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian.  http://www.laraadrian.com/home.php#quiet There are currently nine novels in this series with a tenth coming next year.  I have to admit, I am very impatient for the next one to come out.  But let's start from the beginning.  To anyone who knows me well, it's no secret that I am vampire obsessed.  Fortunately, there are others out there like myself who share in this obsession.  That's how I found out about this series.  Lara Adrian created a fantastic world where the vampires have a much different origin than the norm, which is one of the many reasons why I like her books.  It does take some getting used to, but it's a fascinating theory.  Of course, I'm not going to share this detail because it would spoil all the fun.  Each Midnight Breed novel focuses on a different Breed male.  You get to know them on a very personal level which brings each character to life.  Another thing I like?  These men have flaws.  They aren't perfect.  Adrian also introduces the other Breed males from the beginning so you are left guessing who the next book is about for the most part.  If you pay attention to the story, however, you can figure it out pretty quickly.  But it's never a sure thing until you hear about it.  Here are Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed books in order:

Kiss of Midnight

Kiss of Crimson

Midnight Awakening

Midnight Rising

Veil of Midnight

Ashes of Midnight

Shades of Midnight

Taken By Midnight

Deeper Than Midnight

Darker After Midnight (not yet released)

The next series that I absolutely love is The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward.  http://www.jrward.com/bdb/ This series also has a much different take on vampire creation.  But where in Midnight Breed it's just the males that are vampires, The Black Dagger Brotherhood has both male and female vampires.  The Brotherhood is an elite group of warriors who utilize specific weaponry.  Again, the males have flaws, which makes for more interesting reading.  In these novels, Ward doesn't write like many other authors.  There is a very distinct style to her writing which takes a little adjustment on the reader's part, but adds to the feel of the ongoing storyline.  I have read every single one and enjoyed them all.  As of yet, there is no news of what the next novel will be. Here is the list of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books in order:

Dark Lover

Lover Eternal

Lover Awakened

Lover Revealed

Lover Unbound

Lover Enshrined

Lover Avenged

Lover Mine

Lover Unleashed

Father Mine (related novella to the series)

Another excellent series is the Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter. http://members.genashowalter.com/  This is not a vampire series, surprisingly enough.  The series is based strongly on Greek mythology and Pandora's Box.  This is much different from anything else that I have read.  It's hard to describe without giving away too much, but I'll try.  Imagine if the demons in Pandora's box were let loose.  When they can't be put back in the box, they are each placed in a different person.  These are the Lords of the Underworld.  Besides having their own thoughts to deal with, they also have the demon that resides inside them niggling at their brains and dictating certain aspects of their lives.  I have not yet gotten through all of the current books, but I can tell you that Showalter allows plenty of mystical entities to use this series as their playground.  Here is the list of Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld in order:

The Darkest Fire (prequel to the series)

The Darkest Night

The Darkest Kiss

The Darkest Pleasure

The Darkest Prison

The Darkest Whisper

Into the Dark

The Darkest Angel

The Darkest Passion

The Darkest Lie

The Darkest Secret

The Darkest Surrender

The Darkest Seduction

Lastly, is the Scanguards Vampires series by Tina Folsom. http://www.tinawritesromance.com/  Yes, that's right.  Back to vampires.  Currently there are only four books in this series, but there is another on its way this winter.  The vampires are pretty much the traditional kind with some variation, but it doesn't make the books any less entertaining to read.  Folsom adds other mystical and mythical creatures into the mix for some variety.  In these books, some vampires work for a nationwide security company called Scanguards which protects those with large amounts of money such as celebrities and politicians.  Instead of a continuing plotline, Folsom uses each book as its own story with the characters and the Scanguards company tying it all together.  She also has a series called Venice Vampyr which I have not read yet.  Here are Tina Folsom's Scanguards Vampires books in order:

Samson's Lovely Mortal

Amaury's Hellion

Gabriel's Mate

Yvette's Haven

Now...with that all said, these are romance novels.  They contain explicit material.  Tina Folsom's books actually come with a warning beforehand stating as much. So, while Midnight Breed, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lords of the Underworld, and Scanguards Vampires are all wonderfully written, be prepared for intense sexual descriptions.  Otherwise, enjoy reading these as much as I have.

Cypher

 

The Men of Romance

by Cypher Lx on 06/20/11

20 June 2011

1409hrs

Where do we get our ideas of the perfect male specimen?  Why, despite all efforts to make them appear flawed, are most men of romance physically perfect?  And why, oh why, are they so possessive and overprotective?  I started asking myself these questions after reading fellow author, Alison DeLuca's blog this morning.  To see what started my train of thought visit Fresh Pot of Tea.

I've always been attracted to the tall, thin types. Of course, at my height of 5'4", most men are taller than me.  So it's not a huge surprise that the men I have dated in the past were at the very least 5'7" or so.  My husband is the tallest man I have ever been with, standing at a full foot higher than me. Okay, so in one aspect, my man fits one of the characteristics of the typical romance male.  After all, don't they all tower over the women at heights of over six feet?  And the women are always petite with huge breasts. Yes, I am petite and am well endowed.  But here, the similarities end.  Once, I attended a bachelorette party that occurred at a male strip review.  If you've been to one, you know that they are usually overly muscle-bound men, oiled up and wearing Speedos after they strip off everything else. Ewww. While the rest of the women were going crazy over how 'sexy' these guys were, I was disgusted.  And like cats who can detect which person in a room doesn't like cats and then purposely nuzzle close to them (which annoys the cat hating person), so do these male strippers detect which female doesn't want the attention. They kept coming up to me and I hated it.  I had to leave early.  It was just too much to try and appear interested.  Okay, so I do like my men to be in shape physically, but when they start looking like WWE wrestlers, I have to draw the line.

Then, of course, we come to the possessive and overprotective features.  I think this is because the women in the novels are, despite all efforts to make them seem independent, really damsels in distress.  For whatever reason, this sparks the primitive instincts of the male to shelter the female from all danger.  She, of course, places herself in danger at every turn, which only makes the male worse.  Honestly, if I had to live with a man that wouldn't let me do anything on my own without his prior approval, I would go insane.

Here inlies the mystery.  Women write these novels.  Is this really what they fantasize?  Do they really want a man with model looks, a wrestler's body, and a caveman's brain?  This is definitely not my fantasy.  I also feel bad for the men in the lives of the women who read these books and drool over these nonexistent males.  How are real men supposed to compete?  Granted, there are some romance novels out there that break this stereotype, but they are still few and far between. 

Are the romance novel males truly unflawed?  No, not really.  The fact that they have such primitive mentalities makes them inherently flawed.  So, they may be perfect physically, but mentally they are severely lacking.  The females of romance novels probably reflect the physical attributes that most women wish they had instead of being satisfied with the bodies they were given.  And the helplessness?  Quite possibly the desire to let go of everyday stresses and be rescued for once.  Personally, I prefer stories where the men have brains and endure the same flaws that are inflicted on normal people and strong female characters whom the men sometimes have to rely on in order to accomplish difficult tasks.  That doesn't mean that I'll stop reading romance novels.  If you're like me, I can tell you that once you get past the romance stereotypes, there is often a good storyline underneath.

Cypher

Literary Madness

by Cypher Lx on 06/18/11

18 June 2011
1359hrs

Long before I started writing, I had a passion for reading.  My parents always had books in the house.  Even if I didn't understand a lot of what I read (I had a habit of picking up books that were way beyond my reading level) I tried anyway.  When I was in elementary school, there was classroom book lending aside from the library.  The books were categorized according to grade level.  Again, I would try to choose a book above my age bracket.  We would have to show the book to the teacher so that he/she would approve it for us to read.  This is where I hit constant roadblocks.  I remember vividly choosing a book that the "gifted" students had read and I wanted to read it, too.  I wasn't in the gifted program.  I found out later that I would have hated it anyway.  In my school district (at least when I was there), being of higher intelligence meant that you had to do even more work than the average student.  But I digress.  When I picked up this particular book, I was told that I wasn't allowed to read it because it was above my reading level by at least two grades.  I cried.  How fair is that to say to a child who loves to read?  Fortunately, my parents didn't share that attitude.  My parents are also avid readers, so there were frequent trips to Walden Books.  That's where I realized there was a whole lot more out there than just children's books that my teachers wouldn't grant me access to.  I discovered Stephen King and Agatha Christie.  Yes, toward the end of elementary school, while my peers were still reading only what was approved by stingy teachers, I was reading Salem's Lot and And Then There Were None.  So began my passions for horror and mystery.  By the time I neared the end of middle school, I was reading on a college level.  So much for the opinions of public school teachers.  I pity the students who never dared to contest such attitudes.  They may never have learned the appreciation for books that I have.  My passion for reading has only gotten stronger over the years.  If I really like a book, I can easily plow through it in a few short days depending on how much time I have.  If I don't like a book, it takes about a week.  I actually go through reading withdrawal if I don't have a new book.

There are a few lessons to be learned here.  One of the biggest ones is that reading as much as I do created my passion for writing.  If other people could tell stories, why couldn't I?  I actually wrote a complete novella back in high school and, if I can find the darned computer disk, I will more than likely edit and publish it.  Another lesson?  I have discovered that some of the best novels are not produced by big publishing companies, but by independent authors that couldn't get picked up by an agent.  The reasoning behind this is different for each author.  Mainly, it's due to what public demand is at the time.  I don't know what the current trend is right now (except for zombies, of course), but I don't write for the current trend. I write what's in my head and many other authors do the same.  I strongly suggest picking up an independently published novel and giving it a test drive. You may be pleasantly surprised.  I also found that balancing both passions can result in a lack of sleep.  When I read, I get so involved that I don't want to stop.  The same thing happens if I'm really into what I'm writing.

The last, and probably most important, lesson?  Never, EVER, discourage a child from reading.  It's the worst possible thing you can do to their fragile psyche.  To tell a child that they're not smart enough for a certain book will only tell them that they're not smart enough to do other things they may have been interested in.  Even though I overcame the reading obstacle that was so blatantly placed in front of me, it had me doubting other things that I had to do in school.  As a result, I stopped caring.  It has taken me several years to realize my potential.  I just recently graduated college with a B.A. in Psychology and a 3.36 GPA while working full-time, writing, and dealing with regular life.  (I still managed to find time to read.) I owe all my thanks to the people who encouraged me and said I could do it.  And to the teachers of years past who tried to dissuade me from trying? Too bad.  I did it anyway.

Cypher

Mediocrity

by Cypher Lx on 06/13/11

13 June 2011

1806hrs

I am not a twenty-something.  I am not willing to objectify myself by revealing as much flesh as possible to please those who look at my photos.  I am happily married.  I work in a career in which my public behavior outside of the workplace can damage my employment status.  I write books that are not dumbed down for the masses or contain steamy sex scenes just to pull in readership.  I walk a lot of fine lines that I refuse to cross.  All of these things work against me in one way or another.

In modeling, age always works against you.  Once someone finds out how old you are, you become condemned to the "too old" pile.  It doesn't matter how young you look or act.  It's the twenty-somethings that always get the attention.  And the more flesh you show the better, including implied nudity.  Granted, I am happy with my looks, but I do not feel the need to expose myself gratuitously.  Some of the sexiest photos I have seen, the model was fully clothed.  The fact that a woman is happily married works against her in the industry as well.  Men who look at her feel that she is unattainable.  Guess what?  The woman was unattainable before you found out her marital status.  Now, some may argue that because I model, I am objectifying myself.  But I'd like to point out that I see what I do as an art form.  If it is done tastefully, it's art.  That's why I won't conform to what other people want to see.

And then we come to the writing.  I can't tell you how frustrated I am with the whole thing.  Or how many times I've considered not finishing The Cold of Night because, despite what people tell me to my face, the actions do not match the words.  There is a series of books that I'm attempting to read right now due to all the rave reviews I have gotten from others who have read the books.  I can't stand these books and am having a difficult time finishing each one.  It feels like mental torture.  The repetitiveness is overwhelming.  I feel as if the author doubts my intellectual level and thinks that I can't remember what she said in the last chapter, much less the last book.  And for God's sake, pick up a thesaurus.  The sex scenes are, dare I say, mediocre and completely unnecessary.  First off, if you feel the need to have sex scenes (pretty much a requirement for romance novels), at least make them interesting.  But secondly, if the sex scenes outnumber the plot scenes to the point where you almost can't remember what the plot was, there are way too many.  Yet, these novels are immensely popular.  This is the type of trash I am competing against.  I have very involved plotlines and only use implied intimacy to convey a relationship.  Again, I refuse to rewrite everything to what the masses want.  If I did that, I would have no desire to write anymore. What would be the point? To be like every other novelist out there that follows some common formula?

There inlies the problem.  I won't settle for mediocrity.  Yet everyone else seems to be.  Models are all doing the same thing and if the public wants to see more flesh, they show more flesh.  Writers who aren't very good have become extremely popular because they write what every other better author has already written, but in a slightly different way.  I want people to use their imaginations when looking at my pictures and use their intelligence when reading my books.  I'm sick of mediocrity.

"Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it and it fixes it fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way."
Blaise Pascal

Come on people! Dare to be different!

Cypher

Obviously, I need to add a disclaimer, since people take things personally. This is all about mainstream industry. It is also about comments that have been made to me on several occasions by people who are superficial and can't get it through their heads that models and artists actually have brains. I have been verbally assaulted on many occasions for my creative choices. If you take any of this personally, it wasn't intended that way. But if you don't like my rants, don't read them. Seriously, everyone on FB bitches about how awful their lives are on a daily basis. Post one thing that is vague, and everyone jumps on it.

The Wonders of Technology

by Cypher Lx on 05/27/11

27 May 2011

1002hrs

On Sunday, I bought a new phone.  I had an LG EnV.  It took pictures and had a qwerty keyboard.  It was a huge step up from the other phone it replaced.  You  know the kind.  You had to punch a number key up to three or four times to get the letter you wanted when texting.  But the EnV started having issues.  For no apparent reason, it would turn off on its own.  At first I thought it was the battery, but it would happen on a full charge.  So now I have an HTC Thunderbolt.  One of the newest models out there, it has 4G and a touch screen. I can download all sorts of cool free apps.  Of course, I had to get Zombie, Run!  I'll tell you, those zombies are everywhere.  But here's the newest issue.  With all the bells and whistles and the less than informative book that comes with it, there is an enormous learning curve.  It took me forever to figure out how to assign a custom ringtone for the text messaging and equally as long for alarm clock notifications.  And the weird thing? It decides on its own to go back to the defaults.  Did my phone come with a special AI feature that no one bothered to tell me about?  Did it decide that it was going to mess with my head?  Technology is supposed to make our lives easier.  That's the claim anyway.  But with each new and more advanced technological device that I purchase, the more I am certain these expensive little things are out to drive me insane.  So as much as I have considered getting a more compact laptop to make traveling with it easier so I can write spur of the moment, I'm thinking it might not be a good idea.  The new laptop might up and steal my car just for a good laugh.  I think I'll stick with what I've got for now.  At least this one hasn't played any nasty tricks on me.

Yet.

Cypher

Rapture Postponed

by Cypher Lx on 05/21/11

21 May 2011

1906hrs

Rapture Postponed Indefinitely, Officials Say

The Rapture scheduled for today has been postponed indefinitely due to low attendance.  Widely advertised, it was expected that more people would clamouring to receive first row seats to this event.  That turned out not to be the case.  Officials stated earlier today that they would have to postpone the event until they could generate more interest.  One of these officials, who asked not to be identified, stated, "We thought attendance would be higher.  We spent a great deal of money advertising on billboards and other media outlets.  It just didn't seem to pan out the way we expected."  He also stated that until more revenue could be acquired, advertising would be suspended for quite some time.  "All of the money we had went into it.  Now we're broke. We do accept donations to our cause, however," he continued.  Was it the fact that the advertising came out too close to the Rapture date?  Or was the public just disinterested in general?  This story will be updated when a new Rapture date is issued.  Until then, don't drink the Kool-Aid.

So what is it about these 'end of times' types that make them think they can calculate an exact date?  They claim it comes from the Bible.  Yet, I have read the Bible.  I even use it for research, among other religious texts. (Very valuable sources when you have strong religious elements in your fiction.)  I have yet to come across a single notation that states there is a specific date that the world will end.  It just seems that too many of these folks are ready to just give up on life and die.  Yeah, bad stuff happens.  That's what makes life interesting.  If everything was all roses and rainbows, we would cease to appreciate it because there would be nothing to compare it to.  We would get bored rather quickly.  It's human nature.  We create conflict to enjoy the peaceful times.  And the Rapture?  It's a very recent addition to Christianity.  If these people had actually read the Bible as they claim, they would see the different passages that say that only the Creator will know the date.  Guess what?  It's supposed to be a surprise.  And who said God doesn't have a sense of humor?

Cypher