Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Get Excited

I understand the concept of being humble, but I don’t know if I’ll ever understand how writers, or any artist for that matter, can’t seem to bring themselves to get excited about their own work.  If they don’t love, believe in, and expect a great reception and good sales for their art, why on earth would they expect anyone else to do what they won’t?

Artists MUST get to the point in their lives where other people’s opinions don’t dictate their actions or attitude, which is, of course, a panacea of contradiction, because artists’ success depends wholly on other people’s opinion.   Artists must produce a product that the public will love, purchase and embrace. Success or failure depends on acceptance. 

An artists’ love for their own work is the first step toward success. Creating a marketable and saleable product is the next. Keeping a balance between modesty and drive is crucial.  So, get excited and enjoy the ride.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray 


Monday, July 30, 2012

Who Surrounds You?

We’ve been told to be careful with who we hang out with our whole lives, starting with our parents warning us about wayward friends.  Most cautions were not in judgment against them, but for our protection.  When we became teenagers and thought we knew everything, we began making those decisions for ourselves, some resulting in huge mistakes.   This is all part of growing up.  Now that we’re adults, we need to use the wisdom we’ve gathered through our lives to this point, including both from our parents and our mistakes, but this doesn’t need only apply to our friends. As writers we must apply this principle to the people with whom we network in the business. 

A person is usually judged by the friends surrounding them, just as a writer is judged by whom they choose to network.   It is very important that we align ourselves with where we want to go and what we want to achieve, not necessarily where we currently stand.  It is a fact that if a person desires promotion, they must act and dress for the position they want, not the position they currently hold. If you want to be successful, you must align yourself with those who’ve succeeded, not be constantly surrounded by failure. 

Take an assessment.  Who are you investing your time and attention?  To those you admire and respect, or with those who want to hold you back?  Do the people around you encourage, inspire, and incite you to push through, to reach higher, to take another step, or do they accomplish nothing themselves and complain about those who do?  Do all the people around you only placate and pat you on the back, but never offer good, solid, sometimes hard, criticism to push you to your boundaries?  Platitudes are great, but only for the ego. 

A true writer should desire the truth, in a pursuit to improve and perfect their craft, but most often the artistic ego can’t handle the truth or constructive criticism.  An egotist only desires to stroke the ego.  Since becoming a writer and delving into the artistic world, I’ve never met more narcissistic people than those in the artistic guilds.  They’re mostly a bunch of snobs.  I don’t quite understand where this pretentiousness and elitist attitude extends from, but the air is thick with them, and usually the snootiest of the bunch is the one who holds the least amount of natural talent. Combine that with the one-trick ponies, which after twenty years have yet to display another gem of their genius, and it’s easy to find yourselves in company that is designed to hold you back and lead to failure or stagnation.

Be careful with whom you align.  Choose those who sow wisdom, knowledge, encouragement and truth into your life and career, not just their opinions.  Be selective which fellow authors you network with – do they write, market, inspire and encourage the way you hope?  If not, let them go, or else they will drag you down to their level.  However, please be careful not to block opportunities to sow into others who’ve yet to reach your level of success.  Just as you look to move up into the world of success, don’t forget to be a helping hand to others.  Whatsoever you do to the least of these …will be done to you.  Whatsoever you sow, that also shall you reap.  What you do FOR others reflects more on who you are, more than anything you can say.

Seek the opinions and reviews of those with the highest and strictest levels of excellence, and not your friends.  True friends tell you what you ‘need’ to hear, not what you ‘want’ to hear.  However, in my experience, there are few ‘true’ friends in this world, and those who try are often rejected because the recipient’s ego can’t handle the harsh truths that sometimes have to be said.  I’ve lost many of so-called friends because I’ve dared to tell the truth.  But I appreciate everyone in my life who’s dared to sow the truth to and in me.  Because of them, I’ve enhanced my craft and pushed myself to yet another level of excellence. 

I encourage you today.  Seek the next level above you. Write something that pushes you to the edge of your ability and beyond.  Seek a network connection that will help you take a step up.  Reach out to another author in whom you admire and respect, and to whom you are a huge fan.  Take a chance and submit a query to a bigger agent or publisher.  Request a review from someone you know is truthful, yet harsh, and whom you fear may give you hard criticism.  And, look for someone you can lend a hand or bit of encouragement. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review - Rise of Empire - Michael J. Sullivan

Publisher: Orbit (1st Edition)
Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:
Publication Date: December 14, 2011
Royce and Hadrian have been called upon to aid the struggling kingdom of Melengar as it alone stands in defiance against the newly formed empire. As war approaches a desperate gamble behind enemy lines is their only chance at forming an alliance with the Nationalists to the south.

But Royce has plans of his own and uses this opportunity to discover if an ancient wizard is using Riyria as pawns in his own bid for power. To find the truth, Royce must unravel Hadrian's hidden past. What he discovers will lead them to the end of the known world on a journey rife with treachery and intrigue.

And so continues the second tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.

I’m absolutely blown away.  Part of me feels like I’m betraying some of my favorite epics with the new guys on the block, but I find myself so impressed and infatuated, I can’t help but get lost in my admiration.  Sullivan is quickly climbing *the list* of my all-time favorite authors, because he’s created such wonderfully exciting characters inside a beautifully constructed adventure.  I call it an adventure because there’s a huge difference between reading a story and being pulled into an adventure.  Those who’ve experienced a great book know what I’m talking about.

Where to start?  How to start?  The problem is, I want to go and dive right back into the story, and am a little sad the ride is over.  This review comes at the end of the third installation, because I didn’t want to stop after the end of Rise of Empire to write a review, and immediately jumped right into Heir of Novron.  In fact, I’ve neglected editing on my own novel to enjoy a few days of adventure in the land of Elan. 

Okay, I’m pushing emotion aside and getting down to the stone foundation of the story. After being so impressed and blown away with Theft of Swords, I happily jumped right into Rise of Empire and was so excited to find that it picks right up where the first installation left off.  Well …sort of.  I expected to instantly meet my new favorite pair of heroes, but instead was introduced to a new character, Amilia.  It took only about a page and a half to get over my disappointment at not immediately meeting Riyria, before I was totally consumed with compassion for this poor girl, and dripping with disdain for the wretched hag, Edith Mon.  I know how hard it is to introduce a new character into an already established story.  But characterization and development is one of Sullivan’s greatest strengths.  He doesn’t use descriptions that haven’t been used before, especially in the fantasy realm, but he masterfully uses what’s familiar in such a way as not to bombard or heavily compound them to drown the reader. He delivers just enough saturation to whet the appetite, and then allow the imagination to fill the gaps.  I, for one, appreciate that. 

The story then re-introduces us to Thrace, a brave girl who overcomes some very difficult obstacles in Theft of Swords, again … sort of.  Sullivan does an exceptional job of describing the shell of a person whose survived great tragedy and loss.  Anyone familiar with survival would have little problem instantly relating to Thrace’s (now re-named Modina) state, or the compassion and understanding of Amelia’s role in her life.  This again, is a testament to Sullivan’s ability to master the art of characterization.  I’m a character-driven reader and writer.  I’m always more interested in what’s going on in, and about, a character.  The personal journey of a character is more important than the physical journey in my book (both metaphorically and literally).  I wasn’t expecting this aspect of the story, but definitely found myself completely immersed, both intellectually and emotionally.  (Yes, I’m using a lot of “ly” adverbs. LOL!  I must be disciplined when using them in writing novels, but when it comes to reviews – I let them fly.)

Just when I’ve about forgotten about Hadrian and Royce, being so completely immersed in Modina and Amilia, the boys make a return, and it’s like diving into a pool of cool water after a time sunbathing.  I don’t know why I call them boys, because there’s nothing boyish about them, except their curt sense of humor.  But even they are not the same upon arrival in this second book.  Hadrian is in a sort of depression because he’s reached a point in his life where he desires to step into maturation – living up to his potential and fulfilling some divine purpose.  He’s tired of running from responsibility and facing his destiny.  Royce on the other hand, the carefree and careless wanderer, finds himself in love.  Both, love and purpose pull our heroes into different directions.  There’s so much involved with these two characters that it would probably take several books just to explain it all.  And not just these two, but most of the secondary and third characters as well (Princess Arista, Esrahaddon, King Alric, Hilfred, Degan, Mauvin, Gwen, Magnus, Arcadius, etc.,I could go on, but what’s the point.  They all have their own stories and development, and I’ve come to love and hate them respectively).

In an effort for Princess Arista to prove useful in her male-dominated world, she leads Royce and Hadrian on a quest to try and partner with the rebel forces fighting against the new empire (Boy! That sounds like a Star Wars episode), but find things don’t happen as easy as she imagines.  Her pampered and protected world, and everything she believed and was used to, crumbles around her, and she discovers who she really is beneath the rubble, dirt and persecution, and it happens to made of some pretty strong steel.  I’ve come to admire this character.  While she has flaws, and makes some bad decisions (she is human after all), she’s not weak and needy.  There’s nothing I hate more than a woman who can’t function on their own strength, or find their own identity, without a man. Loving someone should be a choice, not a necessity, and Arista is a great example of the ideal woman in my mind.  She’s also one of the great heroes in this story. She may not fight with a sword of metal, but her wit is a very sharp blade. In this second installation (or the third and fourth parts), Sullivan allows us to take that journey with Arista through all her encounters, failures, mistakes, and her achievements, discoveries and successes.

Like I said earlier, the thing I love most about this series is that it is character driven, even when it comes to the back story, as our characters move through the historical, political, and religious chess board. Again, there’s no new elements in this story that can’t be found in a dozen fantasy stories already written, but how those elements are used, displayed and manipulated is what makes this story stand out from the rest.  It’s like a painter. All painters use the same colors, but what makes them different is how they mix them and apply them to the canvas.  Sullivan is an excellent artist with a great vision, and I love the masterpiece he’s presented.

I don’t want to give too much away with the plot, so I think I’m going to end this review here, and finish it on the last segment of this series. I just hope I was able to convey what I feel is the BEST element of this story and it’s made other readers rush out to experience it for themselves.  I wish Mr. Sullivan the best of luck with this series and hope it brings him much, much, much success. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review - Theft of Swords - Michael J. Sullivan

Publisher: Orbit (1st Edition)
Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:
Publication Date: November 23, 2011

THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY.  Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles--until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.

Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires in order to keep a secret too terrible for the world to know? 

There is a new author that has found a spot on a special bookcase in my office (or at least will as soon as I order a printed edition – one I hope comes signed); a series of four shelves that hold my all-time favorites.  Such authors that have made this shelf are J.K. Rowling, Garth Nix, Cinda Chima Williams, Christopher Paolini, Rick Riordan, Stephen King, Ursula K. Leguin, Piers Anthony, Charlaine Harris, Jane Austen, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, R.T. Kaelin, Anthony Ryan and D.J. MacHale.   His name is Michael J. Sullivan, and I absolutely fell in love with his Riyria series. Well, more to the truth, I fell in love with the two protagonists, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn.   These two make me think of a young Garth and Hub from the movie Second Hand Lions – they both argue about everything, but when working together surmount impossible odds.

 It didn’t take but perhaps a half of a chapter before I was absolutely hooked.  The chemistry between Hadrian and Royce was illustrated so elaborately and simply, I couldn’t help but instantly draw a clear picture of them in my mind.  I was plucked out of my mundane twenty-first century existence and dropped right into the center of a middle-age fantasy saga.  Yet, Sullivan didn’t go to the King or Jordan extremes with dumping me into the center of several paragraphs of description.  He kept it active, yet colored the scenes in beautifully, allowing my mind to smooth out the edges, which in my opinion is the mark of a true literary artist.

 The story starts with two thieves, doing what they do best – thievery.  Well, actually the story starts off with two thieves on their way to do thievery when they are ambushed by a band of common thieves.  The brilliance of dialogue and character development were poured out by the barrel full in this opening scene, as Hadrian and Royce not only argued with one another while being held-up by arrow and knife-point, but then proceeded to chastise their assailants in the proper procedures of highway robbery, to the point that not only did their accosters stop their attempt to rob them, but aided them on their way, more particularly when they found out the two people  they were trying to rob were the infamous Riyria.

Needless to say, the thieves were successful in their midnight raid, brought back their spoils and divided their profits to all in their little network.  Here we get to meet some minor characters, some that play bigger parts later in the story.

With a job well done, and their storehouse filled, and a decision made to live easy for the upcoming winter, an unexpected and urgent job plops into their laps.  Going against their own set of thief rules (beware of things that sound too good to be true and don’t thoroughly examine the job), they accept a job to steal a sword in order to save a man from dying in a duel for simply ‘looking’ at another’s man wife. This dueler was a man of renowned reputation for being an excellent swordsman, and placed much value and superstition onto a particular sword.  With the offer of a hundred gold coins before and after the theft, the boys found they couldn’t resist, even if they disagreed through the whole consideration.  Once they’ve accepted the job, everything from this point forward goes haywire:  they are set up and accused of killing the king, are imprisoned to face horrible torture and beheading as decreed by the crown prince, yet aided by the princess to kidnap the prince (to save his life), escape with him, and journey to a secret prison to release a five-hundred year old wizard.  What is amazing about this whole journey is that Hadrian and Royce treat each of these exciting adventures as if it were just another day and another job.  Throughout the whole adventure, their comic relief comes at just the right moments.  The story on the whole is not too heavy, too dark and too on edge, but quite balanced with a little of it all. I didn’t want to stop reading.  I wanted to lock myself away and close the door to the world around me, and become completely immersed in this fantasy world.

 The rest of the story includes a couple of great battles, a little magic, a lot of religious persecution, a contest, an evil serpent, a sword, a tower, a conspiracy and a people who not only need, but can’t survive without Hadrian and Royce’s involvement, aided by the elusive wizard Esrahaddon. 

 I loved every minute of this story.  I have my own speculations of what is to come, but I won’t share them here.  In fact, I’m so excited about reading the next installment I’m going to end this review.  I highly recommend this book and this author.  This makes the third writer I’ve met recently that has really impressed me, and their stories have moved me. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Goodreads Give-A-Way - The Blood of Cain

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Blood of Cain by T.L. Gray

The Blood of Cain

by T.L. Gray

Giveaway ends July 31, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Birthday Give-A-Way

I love my publisher, Vabella Publishing.  If I haven’t said it lately, I’m saying it today.  What’s even more special is that I know my publisher loves me back.  Not just me, but you too, the readers.  How do I know they share such admiration?

Beginning on Monday, July 23rd – Friday, July 27th, Vabella Publishing will be offering The Blood of Cain – Second Edition for FREE on the Kindle download from Amazon.com in honor of my birthday.   

So, for those of you who had the privilege of reading the First Edition, and haven’t had a chance to get your hands on the new extended (nearly 10,000 more words) Second Edition, here’s your chance.  It’s FREE.  Just go to the Amazon.com, enter The Blood of Cain into your search field, select the NEW Second Edition (it is important you select the new edition labeled (The Arcainians) series, and then click Download for $0.00.  But, you have to wait till Monday.

One of the best presents I could receive, is that you receive The Blood of Cain – Second Edition for Free. For those who take advantage of Vabella’s gift, I encourage you to let them know how much you appreciate it by posting a review on Amazon, a comment on Vabella’s Facebook Page, and/or a tweet on Twitter.

Monday, July 16, 2012


The measure of life is usually described by the number of years we’ve existed, however I’m beginning to understand that time isn’t the real measure, but by the experiences we’ve had within that time is what truly make up our lives.  These moments are what we call milestones. 

By definition, a milestone is a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, or the like of a person, nation, etc. Some of the most notable milestones are: birth, start of school, graduation, first job, first love, first heartbreak, or leave for college, or graduation from college, marriage, the birth of a child, retirement, or death of a loved one.  These are the events we remember most which mark our passage as we journey through our lives.

Being a writer also has its milestones which measure the life and experience of our artistic adventures.  Some writers place a few milestones in front of them, to set as a goal to reach, while others just make note of them as they pass.  Either method is neither right, nor wrong.  Which method you choose really doesn’t matter because, like with life, most of our milestones happen beyond our choosing, planning or expectations.  We will cherish some and despise others, but combined together they will make up and mark our artistic life.

Can you clearly see some of the milestones you’ve passed already as a writer?  Do you see the milestones in your immediate future?  Do you strive or hope for certain milestones?  I just wanted to give you a little something to think about. Sometimes we need to take a moment to reflect where we’ve been and set our sights on where we want to go.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Murphy's Law of Distractions

Isn’t it one of those Murphy’s Laws – that as soon as set yourself to do a specific task, a thousand other things appear to pull you away? If ever there was a clear stumbling block for writers, this would be the most popular. Only the utmost dedicated and disciplined will be able to navigate through the distractions and make it to the finish line.

While we all have our own methods and practices, I’ve developed a personal routine to help minimize the distractions in my own writing life. Murphy continues to bombard me daily with new and inventive distractions, but that only gives me more opportunities to strengthen my resolve.

My Routine:

  • ·After I’ve exercised my body, spent time in prayer to nurture my spirit, I then enter my office, close the door (to keep out pets and other family members), and fire up my synapses by writing on my daily blog. Before I begin, I close my email program, silence my phone and log off all internet browsers. Nothing causes more distractions than an email or Facebook notification popping up on screen in the middle of creation.
  • ·Next, I allow myself a block of time to interface, post, market, network, promote, communicate, and surf the internet. In other words …do the ‘business’ part of being a full time writer.
  • ·Then I usually break for lunch. At this time I leave the office (this is important to catch my second wind) to eat, perhaps exercise and read a little bit of my current book, talk to a friend, or sometimes take a little nap.
  • ·The next stage is VERY important, and usually the hardest part: I re-enter my office, check my emails, check my social networks, check my blogs, but for only for a limited time. THEN, I must CLOSE them all off again, and put my fingers to the keyboard and allow my gift to shift into gear to labor on my current WIP (Work In Progress).
  • ·The last stage, which I think is most important – about 4-5pm, I cease being writer, author, entrepreneur and become wife, mother and friend. It is of the utmost importance that we don’t live our lives in our work, but bring a balance to the whole. In order to effectively write about life, we need to live it. To effectively write about relationships, we need to have them. To effectively write about overcoming, falling, picking ourselves back up, making mistakes, or learning important life lessons, we have to experience them. Find what works for you.

Please keep in mind, even though we set up a productive routine for our lives, we must remain flexible. Life happens when it happens, and it doesn’t care for the schedules we make for ourselves. There is no “Writer’s Hell” waiting for us if we bend the rules from time to time, or get off schedule to deal with life. However, and this is KEY to being productive and getting those projects checked off your list, we MUST be self-disciplined and self-dedicated to get back on schedule as soon as possible. Writer’s MUST be self-motivated and self-reliant. Only ‘we’ can write what we were meant to write and the responsibility of production remains with us.

What is your schedule like? Do you wonder why you just can’t finish that novel you’ve been working on for years? You might find the problem is in your routine.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, July 09, 2012


A systematic series of actions directed to some end; a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner.

I heard a great message yesterday focusing on the aspect that we spend our lives living from process to process, everything from breathing, to working, to learning, to maturation. Yet, due to our human nature, we tend to place our focus on the beginning and the end of our processes, often despising the period between, mainly because of and abhorrence for patience.  However, the essence of life happens during the process.   This is when our character, our skills, our talents, our personality, our values, our hopes, and our desires our developed. 
So, why do we despise the process so much?  As best as I can tell, it’s because of our destructive and rebellious nature.   We’ve deceived ourselves into thinking that finishing the race is the prize, but the true reward lays in the fact that we ‘ran’ the race.  We can set a million trophies on our reward shelves, but if we were just given the prize without having done the task, then the prize becomes worthless.  What good is a published book if we didn’t go through the toil of writing, editing, submitting, marketing and struggling through the process from conception to bookstore shelf, or eBook download?  It is during the process that we develop our gifts and abilities, that strengthen us as a writer (or insert whatever talent you have), and gives us the skills needed to publish many books.  

I’ve seen many writers abort their dreams because they wanted to avoid or skip the process, mostly due to impatience, or lack of belief.  Instead of going through the toil of learning their craft, they give up, or pay someone else to do the work for them, thereby losing the prize of completion or the value of the prize.  Getting published isn’t the true treasure or ultimate goal for a writer.  It’s having a vision (a story idea), then believing it will be published at the moment of conception (before seeing the first word appear on the page), and then sustain that belief as they begin the journey through the process of transforming that vision into reality.  For some, it may take months.  For others, it may take years.  Our dedication and obedience to the vision, and submission to the process, most often determines the length of the journey.  I personally don’t want to wander around in a desert for forty years.  I much prefer the direct route, even if it’s fraught with danger and impossible tasks, because I’m foolish enough to believe that if I have enough faith, nothing is impossible. 

I’m about to publish my fifth book, have ghost-written two other published books, and helped edit four other publications by other authors, not to mention the countless articles, reviews and blog posts already into the ether; my bookshelf is brimming with printed accomplishments.  What I value most is not the finished product, but the process I went through to receive them.  Each accomplishment has increased my faith for the next one on the horizon, and I wouldn’t change one tear that was shed to get here. I hope this blog post has encouraged you can do the same.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray