Tag Archives: J F Lewis

Natural Assumptions (Time Traveling Vampires and Comics?)

By J. F. Lewis

In short, don’t forget to make them when you are world building or plotting.

That’s it. You can go home. Lesson learned. No?

Okay. For example: (spoilers for those of you following Flashpoint: Batman). In the DC comics universe, there is an event which is setting up the reboot of the DC continuity. Time has been altered and as a result Thomas Wayne (the father of Bruce Wayne) becomes Batman because it is Bruce who is killed by a mugger in crime alley. This changes things. Thomas Wayne’s Batman kills the bad guys instead of locking them up. It makes sense. He is a surgeon cutting out the cancer of society one “tumor” at a time. Yet, he won’t kill The Joker. Why?

Because Brian Azzarello did him homework. Batman needs a recurring foe. Batman versus the Joker is an iconic battle. Who would the Thomas Wayne refuse to kill and try to help at all costs? His wife. It makes a brilliant, if tragic, kind of sense. And in issue two, when Batman is rushing to confront the Joker, The big reveal is even more gut wrenching when Batman approaches his wife with the shout, “What have you done now, Martha?”

Don’t forget to do this in your own writing.

If one character makes a big decision, really consider what will happen as a result. Let that mental avalanche of consequences roll through your imagination so that you don’t miss a moment of greatness or tragedy or emotional moments. Don’t skip the highs and lows by accidentally glossing over them.

Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis

First Time Author Mistakes

by Crymsyn Hart

It’s been over ten years since I’ve first started to seriously look to get involved with the publishing world. I had graduated college with BFA in writing, had a complete novel that had been critiqued by a few of my teachers, and I was looked for an agent. I’d gone to the book store gotten the latest edition of Writer’s Market and started perusing through it. At this point I didn’t know anything about how to go about anything except from what my teachers and other writers at school had told me. And they all recommended Writer’s Market, which is a great book that now has a great website. But I wasn’t very Internet savvy at that point.

So I perused the pages that listed agents, went on line here and got some information on agents. After following the guidelines: sending in a query letter, synopsis of the work, first three chapters, whatever the agent called for, in the mail, I got many rejections. Most were form letters, but there were a couple with small notes saying the book wasn’t for them, but keep trying. Those were always encouraging .I amassed enough rejection notices to wallpaper my bathroom I think. Then I received an acceptance letter.

At this point, I was ecstatic. This guy was going to help me get published. But I had to send him some money first to help him cover the costs of shipping, copying, etc. Sigh… That was where he got me. Well my grandparents were happy to put up the money for me, but still. Words of wisdom, if anyone ever asks you for money up front, it’s too good to be true.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart

Relationships that Matter

By J. F. Lewis

As a series progresses, it’s interesting for me to see which relationships flourish and which ones don’t. For readers of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series (spoilers ahead) the relationship between Ferro and Logen is one that we know from the beginning cannot possibly work. We know it must fall apart, the only question is when and how messy the fallout will be.

In my Void City series, it is (I hope) clear from the beginning that Eric and Tabitha can never actually work out. If I were writing a romance, it would be different. I would have to find a way for them to stay together. Urban Fantasy, however, does not require a happy ending. On the other hand, all stories require a satisfying ending. The important relationships must have closure even if they do not resolve the way the reader (or writer) might hope they will.

As the series progresses, it has become quite clear to me (and hopefully to the readers) that the familial relationship (the strictly platonic love story, if you will) between Eric and Greta (his utterly insane, yet charming and deadly adopted daughter) is the most interesting facet. One reader put it this way, “Here’s a guy who is basically good at heart, but a murderer who loves unconditionally a… monster who has become everything the guy fears that he himself has become. And the cool thing is, she loves him unconditionally, too.”

It’s no coincidence that in BURNED (Void City, Book 4) the main.secondary POV will be Greta. It’s a tough call to make because I know that Tabitha (the previous secondary main) is some people’s favorite character, but writing must serve story. If I get in the way of that, then I’m not doing my job and I’m cheating the reader out the genuineness of character I try to portray in Void City.

What about you? Ever had to make a hard call when writing? Ever hit one in an author’s work and wish things had gone the other way?

Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis

The Time Traveling Vampire Goes To SDCC

“Get thee to a convention”
-Gail Z. Martin

“Holy crap! Somebody hide me!”
-J. F. Lewis

By J. F. Lewis

I’ve never gotten the hang of writing a blog in advance. Maybe if writing was my day job, I’d be better at it, but I always find myself thinking either late Monday night or sometime Tuesday wondering what the heck I should write about. And, seeing as how that’s where I’m headed tomorrow, this week, it’s SDCC.

I don’t think I can fully express the San Diego Comic Con experience to you. You really just have to go. Picture a con where TV, Movies, Gaming, Video Games, and Publishing all show up in force. Set it in a civic center (a huge one) and then fill the darn thing up.

My first year, I literally spent most of the con trying to see all of the dealer’s room… And failed.

Year two, I actually wound up on a panel (and it was awesome).

This year, I’m on a Thursday panel moderated by the mighty Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy:

3:00-4:00 Magic & Monsters— Adult and young adult science fiction and fantasy authors discuss the costs and consequences of “magic” in their novels and the scary, hairy, and dangerous creatures that lurk in the worlds they have created. Visit the worlds of Kim Harrison (The Hollows series), Andrea Cremer (The Nightshade series), Anton Strout (The Simon Canderous series), Lev Grossman (The Magicians), Ben Loory (Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day), J. F. Lewis (The Void City novels), and Diana Rowland (The White Trash Zombie series), guided by moderator Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy. Room 25ABC

It’s always mind-blowing. Alway awesome and, to be honest, I’m still a little surprised I get to go.

Are you going? Have you ever been? What would you do and who would you want to see most? Enquiring minds want to know! 😉

Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis

Twitter Novels

Crymsyn Hart

This past weekend a friend and I were sipping coffee at our local Books A Million café. She pulled out her cell phone which is the same kind I have and asked me how I liked it. I glanced at the new EVO I’ve had and sighed. It’s a win loose battle for me. I love my Blackberry because I can write on it. The new phone being touch screen and me texting rather fast it’s a disaster. But I need the phone for other reasons for my day job. Of course my Blackberry is still nicely tucked away and I use it when I’m out and about. After the phone debacle, she suggested that I should try writing twitternovels. I’ve heard about them. A whole story in an update of 140 characters, I don’t possibly see how anyone could write a novel on twitter, but with further investigation I see there are lots.

While it’s an intriguing idea, and my friend is working at it, I’m not sure about it. Short it hard for me. I would think that 140 characters is near impossible to set the mood, conversation, tone, and have people follow it. But then again Stephen King has done it. Many others have done it. I’m sure it’s the new form of writing. It’s great to think that you can be anywhere and be writing. Walking down the street or hanging on the subway. Not tied to the desk.

What do you think? Is this a new trend that going to stick around? Anyone follow the them? What do you think that makes them good?

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart, Gail Z. Martin, J.F. Lewis, Tina R. McSwain

The Time Traveling Vampire Gets Tested

By J. F. Lewis

Last week, we took a giant step forward in time when discussing THE TIME TRAVELING VAMPIRE and approached the idea of handling revision letters. Now let’s skip back a bit. The idea is simple: Mr. Garrett is a Victorian era vampire possessed of a time machine. He’s married to a lovely wife (who is not a vampire) and he travels forward in time to feed on those he finds to be more deserving victims. But that’s just the concept. Where do we go from there?

Some authors would start an outline at this point. But that’s not how I work.

For me, it would be straight to the first scene. Of course, just because it’s the first scene written doesn’t mean it will wind up as the actual first chapter. As a discovery writer, the first scene is the acid test, almost a pre-write to work out the voice both of the character and the narrative. It’s also a test to help answer the questions:

Can I really write this?

Does this really work?

Is this worth my time?

There are two “Can I write this” barriers. The easiest one crops up very early. In my case, I find a scene that I feel most captures the central character and start writing. It may not be more than five or six pages (generally not more than two thousand words). If I’m not enjoying the process at that point, if it feels stale to me or more like a passing interest than something long term… I drop it and see how I feel about it later. Is it something worth spending a hundred thousand words on? If I’m not burning to continue after a few thousand words, the answer is a pretty clear: No.

The second barrier pops up around ten thousand to thirteen thousand words. Right there is a point for me where, if it’s not a novel, I’ll start to feel it. Other ideas pop up during any project, but usually, I only write enough of them down to remember them and come back to later. If I catch myself spending too much time brainstorming other ideas, that’s another bad sign.

By the thirteen thousand word mark, I’ll pretty much have the answer to the other questions, too. If I need to learn more or do intense research, I’ll know by then. If the plot isn’t going to work, I’ll have a fix in mind or start thinking about how to change it. By that point, I can generally give an idea of what the overarching plot is and where I’m going. I should even have a rough idea of how it’s all going to end.

Time is a harder question to address. Before I was published, I didn’t give it much thought at all. I wrote what ever I wanted and assumed it would find a market. But for THE TIME TRAVELING VAMPIRE, I would likely have a market in mind, know what genre it is, and may already have run the idea by my agent or even let her see a writing sample. If she hates the very idea of it, thinks it unsalable, then I might abandon the project completely.

If it sounds like discovery writing can involve a fair amount of wasted word count, you’d be correct. But with practice even a writer as seat of his pants as me, starts to get a feel for things earlier and earlier in the process.

Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis

What is your kind of Porn?

by Crymsyn Hart

Now I know what you’re thinking and get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not talking about sex or anything kinky unless you think it is. LOL

This week two houseguests have taken over every available living space I have. Cohabitating with one another has been interesting when I’m not a morning person and they are. One is a relative and the other is a friend of ours. We all got into a discussion at the kitchen table, while they sipped coffee, and I made faces at them, about the coffin in my dining room. While being perfectly zombified, I told them the coffin was my friend and one of my favorite things. They suggested it should end up in one of my books. Of course the obvious would be in a vampire novel, but I’m not all about the obvious. So I fired back that it was part of my porn collection. The comment got me a snarky comment and coffee shooting out of my relative’s nose. But then I explained.
Porn, as defined by one of my hubby’s friend, is anything that gets him going, meaning his favorite thing which for him is remote control cars. So I ask you, what is your kind of porn?

Do you enjoy reading romance? Or maybe just reading about steamy firemen who have to hose you down? Is the crime drama your thing or something completely different?

Some of my porn actually does end up in the erotica I write. Cause well you know I write a lot of sex. But besides the vampires, I go for a good horror novel with lots of blood. So when I write that in a way is also my porn because it’s my favorite thing to do. So if you love to write, I say embrace your porn and make it your own.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart

Revising a Time Traveling Vampire

By J. F. Lewis

I’m working on the revision letter for BURNED (Void City, Book 4) which will hit the shelves in February 2012, so my mind has turned to things like edits. As a result, we’ll skip ahead a bit. Let’s say that THE TIME TRAVELING VAMPIRE has been written and sold pseudonymously under the name I. M. Spartacus to Reilly Kool Editor at Big New York Publisher. Maybe foreign rights have already sold.

This applies a certain amount of pressure. Things have progressed from the land of “tee hee, I can have a scene where Mr. Garret fights a steam punk laundromat in chapter seventeen” to a revision request like: I love this chapter, but it does not work for the book. Maybe rewrite it with sentient mango people?

Welcome to the job portion of the process. You thought the butt-in-seat time was hard? Ha!

If you are like me, you hate revisions. In my Void City books, the edits I get usually aren’t things to which I object. They are quite reasonable, insightful, and they make the end product a much more enjoyable read. But that doesn’t mean revision requests are seen that way initially.

(As an aside, even that’s not why I hate revisions. I hate doing revisions because usually, when I’m done with a book, I don’t like it anymore. I’m sick of the characters and I want a break from them. It’s like the second week of a two week vacation with your best friend. At some point, no matter how much you love spending time with them, you still want their heads on a spike,)

But back to Mr. Garret and the mango people. (It should be noted that there is no analogous revision request in my rev letter for Burned). The inner writer almost always instantly rejects revisions on the first run through. Your inner writer may be more civilized than that, but mine is a whiny fussy baby.


(Never mind that Mr. Garret encounters Mango People four other times in the book and it’s clear that he fought them at some point in the past, so actually showing that fight might foreshadow the later events and make those chapters work better. Further ignore the fact that the laundromat sequence never comes up again and is really a vignette that belongs on the writer’s website as an extra. The inner writer doesn’t care about any of that at first.)

When you hit this point, my suggestion is a simple one: sleep on it. You may be surprised at how reasonable some of the requests seem in the morning or how you develope other fixes that are even better than the suggested ones. I never bounce anything back to my editor regarding revisions until three days have passed (unless time is of the essence). Give your inner writer time to calm down and stop being offended. Then you can sort the requests that are quite good from the few you really do have heartburn over.

Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis


by Michael A. Ventrella


Jeremy Wembley grabbed the broom by the handle.  He took forceful steps toward the back of the room where Patrick stood unaware.   Patrick paid no notice as Jeremy shortened the distance between them, and seemed completely oblivious to Jeremy’s presence.

Jeremy raised the broom just as Patrick turned around.

“I’ll sweep the stockroom now, Mr. Brenner,” he said.

Jeremy knew that if he continued to impress his boss, it would not be long before he could get that promotion—and soon after, get the real reward he desired:  night manager of the Fredricksburg 7-11 on West Norton Avenue.

Unless his arch-nemesis, that kiss-up Eric Stoher got there first…

All the elements are there.  There is a goal the main character wishes to reach, and an obstacle that can prevent him.  There is character development and conflict.

But, you know, who gives a flying you-know-what?

The fact of the matter is that we want to read stories about people and events that are larger than life.  We want to read about heroes to do great things, make clever comments, overcome great odds.

This is nothing new.  The ancient Greeks didn’t do plays about the guy who cleaned the stables.

And I am no exception.  My books have been about wars and world-shaping events and the heroes whose presence made a difference.

However, at the same time, I have consciously avoided the standard hero that is a mainstay of much of fiction (and especially fantasy).   You know the type – the Chosen One from Prophecy who is the seventh son of the seventh son who is the only one who can wield the magic sword Noonah because he has surplus midichlorians and blah blah blah.   Maybe this hero starts off the book as a nobody, but he or she ends up as the World’s Greatest Swordsman or Most Powerful Wizard by the end and thus, being superior to us lowly humans, saves the day.

In my two published novels (ARCH ENEMIES and THE AXES OF EVIL) and in a short story in the soon-to-be-released anthology TALES OF FORTANNIS:  A BARD’S EYE VIEW, my main character is a teenager named Terin.   His problem is that, thanks to a mistake, everyone thinks he’s the Chosen One Who Can Save The Day.

By the end of ARCH ENEMIES, Terin is still running when a fight breaks out and still can barely cast a minor spell.  So what makes him the hero?

To me, what makes a real hero is someone who doesn’t have all those skills and yet, through bravery and intelligence, rises above what is expected and does the extraordinary.   Terin is the hero because he figures out a solution – he finds a way to solve the problem that is more than merely “hitting the bad guy with the weapon until he falls down.”

I like these kinds of heroes because they remind us that we all can be heroes sometimes.

Oh, I don’t mean to knock down the more traditional heroes:  I love Batman and Luke Skywalker as much as the next fan.  But when I create a hero for my stories, they tend to be average people put into extraordinary circumstances who must then find something special within themselves to make things right.

In the sequel THE AXES OF EVIL, people are now thoroughly convinced that Terin has wondrous powers, even though he doesn’t.  Now he’s confronted with a trio of barbarian prophecies which, he later discovers, contradict each other.  On top of this, his liege wants him to get all the barbarians off his land, and a bunch of silly goblins think Terin’s the one who will lead them to victory over the evil humans who oppress them.

These are problems that cannot be resolved by being the biggest fighter.  Terin solves them all by the end of the book through his cleverness and resourcefulness, and by being brave and willing to risk it all.

That, to me, is very admirable.  It’s what I admire about my real life heroes (Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King, to name two).   And it’s the kind of hero I like writing about, because I can identify with him and understand his fears and worries.




Leave a Comment

Filed under Guest Blogger

More Time Travel. More Vampires.

By J. F. Lewis

When I was a kid, time traveling vampires were everywhere. (That’s a lie.)

I couldn’t walk out of my house at night without seeing them waiting to spring upon me in the dark. If only Mr. Garret (the time traveling gentleman from last Tuesday’s blog) hadn’t broken everything. Everyone knows the story, right? How he travelled to the future one time too many searching for blood of those he considered less moral than himself and encountered other vampires? (I’m making this all up, of course.)

Imagine his surprise when one of the vampires he meets is not just any old vampire, but his beloved wife? What might our Victorian vampiric gentleman do then?

In case you haven’t picked up on it, these time travel blogs are actually an attempt to explain in the strange nonsensical way available to me…how a writer as organic as me tends to work. I’ll be taking you through the process more each week and maybe manage to answer the question: where do your (meaning my) ideas come from? And maybe when we’re done, it will all make sense, I might even make this blog time travel a little itself.

But let’s focus on Mr. Garret a bit more first.

How would he react? Knowing your character enough to answer that question is vital when you’re a “discovery writer”.

How would he react to seeing his beloved wife changed into a monster like himself? If I know our Mr. Garret, he might travel back to try and discover what happened, to find the exact moment she changed and correct it. What havoc might that unleash across his own personal history?

As a writer, there are many ways to play with the terrible consequences that a (doomed or maybe not doomed… It’s hard to say this early on) quest like this might entail. What if the reader gets to notice that Mr. Garret’s wife is intact a different woman each time he travels back… That somehow Mr. Garret’s beloved Emma (or Jane or Rose) is being affected each time he travels and the vampire himself doesn’t even know it because his own personal history is being rewritten as well.

Great fun can be had when the reader knows something the character does not, but all that fun gets buried if the reader doesn’t think the character is behaving as he or she should. More next time…

And I wasn’t kidding about the time travel. 😉

Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis