Sunday, April 23, 2017

Creating Taylor Jones

Creating Taylor Jones

Many readers have asked me who my favorite character is or which character is the most like me.

Obviously, I don't have just one favorite character.

Though I love ALL my protagonists and hate ALL my antagonists, my favorite characters are:
1 - Stephen and Terrence
2 - Chi
3 - Taylor
4 - Chase
5 - Willow

I've explained many times why Stephen and Terrence are my favorites, but I haven't talked about Taylor much, mostly because his story isn't out yet and I don't want to spoil it with too many details.

"Yes, Thia, I did see the bloodbath in the metropolis. 
And there'll be more. 
Revolutions always come with great loss of life. " - Taylor

Taylor is a character I love writing. He's honest and straightforward. He doesn't play games. He doesn't lie. What you see is what you get. Characters with the strongest personalities are the easiest for me to write, and those are Stephen and Taylor, who just write themselves...almost.

But the thing I love the most about Taylor is that he is the ultimate alpha male!

Often, alpha males are presented as jealous men who try to control their love interests and show their masculinity through abusive behavior. Those, to me, are not alpha males, but insecure little boys who cannot let women be independent and free.

It is time we stopped teaching women that raging jealousy is hot, that a man being overly possessive is a good thing, and that abuse is romantic. I write about the men I want to see in books and in life: Men of various orientations, men who are not scared of powerful women, men who know the meaning of respect. 

Taylor is the ultimate alpha male because of all that. He is a feminist to the bone. 
Kayla is the strongest female in the series, and she is the perfect love interest for Taylor because he isn't scared of strong, powerful women—quite the opposite. 

"He didn't have to leave," I protest when the door closes behind Taylor.
"Sure he did. I don't want him listening in on our conversation." She casts me a heartwarming smile and lets herself fall down on the couch. Then she pats the space next to her.
"Why not?" 
"Thia, I have a life besides him, you know. He's fine with that. I'm allowed some alone time with my friends." - Kayla 

This quote may make sense to us, but to men in Taylor's society, giving free will to a woman is not even a concept they understand. 

Someone once asked me why some of my male characters are feminists when they are raised in such a patriarchal society. In Taylor's case, there are multiple factors. 
First of all, Taylor's ancestors were oppressed and treated like property. His females ancestors were sold to men who sought to own them and possess them. 
How could he not be a feminist? How could he not want justice? 

But the main reason for Taylor's feminism is his profound love for his sister Karen, who was gay and sold into marriage to a man in order to profit their parents in a society where status is everything and women are nothing. Can you imagine Taylor's rage and heartache when he lost his sister to such an unfair system?  

"After a while, he proved to be such a big asset to the Underground that he was put in charge of the rebels in this area. He had to do terrible things to keep his position in the media too, but he never talks about that. Kayla told me never to raise the topic with him." 
- Chi

Unlike some other cis men in his society, Taylor isn't scared of gay men either. His best friend is bisexual. And never has Chase's bisexuality threatened Taylor in his masculinity. He doesn't view Chase or Akio as less than men the way some insecure straight men do.
Taylor couldn't care less who his male friends sleep with, and that's how it should be. 

All those factors make Taylor a strong male figure throughout the series. Those factors make him a strong alpha and one of my favorites. 

Of course, like all the other characters in the series, Taylor has flaws. His biggest flaw being his raging anger. 

Readers often ask me if I create characters based on people I know. No, I don't. However, Taylor is very similar to my husband in that he is a good leader with a firm grip on his team.

I love how stern and serious Taylor is. 
But his anger is all mine. But unlike me, Taylor can take a deep breath and fuel his anger into fruitful actions. I envy his ability to control himself even when rage starts boiling through his veins. His actions and his quick rise as a rebel leader come from the deep-seated anger that fuels his heart and his profound need for justice in a world where there is none. 

That need for justice runs deeply through my own veins. It comes from having lived in France, where the lower class was crushed and starved while the nobility kept gorging themselves on already full stomachs. A country where people had to rise and fight for a fairer system. A country where many sacrifices had to be made, many lives were lost while the population raged against the system during France's bloodiest revolution.
But the anger in me also comes from seeing the horrors done by humans onto other humans, from living in a region where the forests are filled with war trenches and each village has an American cemetery for those who lost their lives during WWI. 
And from seeing the consequences that Nazi camps had on my grandfather and his life. 

Patricia Kass gets me because she comes from there as well, so I'm dropping her song here:


Because of that, many of my characters are angry. Stephen, Chi, Chase, and Taylor especially. 

It's harder for me to write sweet characters such as Willow and Terrence because I need to contain my cynicism while writing them. 
I envy Willow and Terrence their innocence and ability to love without restraints. Truly. 
I understand and relate to my other characters' anger better. 

Finally, some have questioned Taylor's actions in Standing Ground.

Taylor is merely human. Therefore, he reacts and responds like a human being. If he didn't, he wouldn't be any better than characters like Fox. Taylor makes mistakes because he is profoundly human in a world that has lost all sense of humanity. 

I'm going to finish this with Taylor's playlist:

(Taylor's role as a rebel leader forces him to make decisions he doesn't always like)

(As a man living in a society that oppresses woman, Taylor carries a lot of guilt, especially when he was raised by his own father that way)

(Taylor craving for his long-lost innocence)

(Though this song talks about the Berlin wall, I think it fits Taylor's need for change)

(Taylor's solitude as a rebel leader in charge of so many lives)

(Taylor's song for his sister Karen)

(Taylor's song for Kayla)

Let me know if you have any other questions about Taylor and Kayla. 

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, March 9, 2017



Thank you so much, Elle, for doing this interview!

Elle Middaugh lives in the Allegheny Mountains outside of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, with her wonderful husband and three beautiful children. She spends most of her time raising kids, writing stories, playing video games, reading, and attempting to keep a clean house.
She’s a proud Navy wife, a frazzle-brained mother, a fan of health and fitness, a lover of hot tea and iced tea, and a believer in happily ever afters.

1- Please, present your book in a few words:
Elemental Secrets follows a teenage girl named Valerie who discovers that there are Elementals (people who can control the classical elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Wind) hidden in plain sight all around her. When she learns their secret, she's sentenced to death. When she doesn't die, even more secrets arise...

2 - What is your favorite place to travel to? Which one of your characters would you take with you for the trip and why?
I actually haven’t done much travelling in my life lol I’m a bit of a homebody, I suppose. But if I could travel anywhere… I think I’d start with Australia! And if I had to pick a character to share it with, I’d choose Cade. Some people don’t like how broody and edgy he is, but I’m, like, half in love with him! Haha <3

3 - Who's your favorite character in your series and why?
Valerie. She’s the main character, the heroine. A lot of people don’t really like her, but she goes on a long journey of personal growth throughout this series (book 1 is the only one out yet, but you’ll see!). She changes and matures so much along the way, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the person she becomes.

4 - Who's your least favorite and why?
Hmm. Probably Chase. He shows up long enough to tempt Val and confuse her (turning the stereotypical love-triangle into a love-SQUARE! And then he moves right along… it was an important lesson for her, though. Beauty is only skin deep.

5 - What's your favorite food? Any food you hate?
Oh man. I used to say pizza instantaneously, but since having my third child, I haven’t cared for it as much. I’m totally into peanut butter and jellies! Lol I wish I wasn’t. I TRY to eat clean (we’ll say, cleanER). So mostly, I hate foods that are sugary – but only because they’re so damn delicious and I don’t want to want them! lol

6 - Do you fangirl? If yes, what or who do you fangirl over?
I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say which dude I obsess over… but, straight as I am, I tend to “fangirl” over my favorite authors (usually women lol). I find a favorite author and I interact with them in any way possible (but, like, in a super casual way. I might be obsessed with them, but I want us to feel on the same level, like they’re talking to a friend - totally normal lol).

7 - Who's your favorite author and why?
Sabaa Tahir! I fell completely in love with An Ember in the Ashes, and A Torch Against the Night just continued to fan the flames. I love that she’s so much like me, yet different. She’s American, but her family originally came from Pakistan. Just by being so incredibly awesome, she really motivated me to learn a bit about her culture. And that can’t be encouraged enough in times like these!

8- What are your goals for your series? What would you really like to see happen with it?
I mean, obviously I’d love for millions of people to read it and completely love it lol I really don’t think that’ll happen, but… Ultimately, I want the bad guys to lose; I want Val to be with the man she loves; I want some sort of peace between Humans and Elementals; and I want it all to mirror our world today. I want parallels to be drawn, and I want my version to somehow spark an awareness in the real world. I want people to seek change. But not just nationally – globally.

9 - Where do you come from? Is your background influencing your writing?
I live in a small town in the Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountains. I think it’s sheltered me, for sure. I don’t see hateful things happening every day, racist things, sexist things, etc. Sometimes I’m a bit naive. Sometimes I get confused about social issues. But I try to be a good person. I think that comes through in my characters.

10 - Between Voldermort, Magneto, and a super villain of your choice, who would win and why? Could they beat your characters, and why?
I am the worst at watching movies (and I’m not super into comics! Sorry). So Voldemort I understand, but he won’t win against most. He’s too weakened and too single-minded to think straight. Could he beat my characters? I’d say no lol they can control the elements! Cade would use the Earth to knock him down or burry him whole. Val could freeze his wand-wielding hand and then burn him to death (Val has two power slots, Fire and Water). Sienna or Holden could cause some freak tornado to pummel him with debris… I don’t know lol Voldemort has magic, but only what his spells allow. My guys have total control over our physical world. They’re pretty badass.

11 - Talk about something that's important to you. It can be anything.
How about the importance of being kind?

My family divvies up holidays (mom totally claimed Christmas, and that’s cool with me). I claimed Thanksgiving. It seems like (stereotypically) everyone hates thanksgiving. (The bird burns, everyone argues, shit gets broken, etc.). But at least for me, that’s not exactly how it goes. For me, people get together, they eat good food, they laugh, and they play games or watch movies – what’s not to love? Are there sometimes arguments? Yeah. But when you put certain people together, there’s bound to be a little friction.

My favorite tradition is going around the table before food and having every single person name one thing they’re thankful for. It could be as silly as, “I’m thankful that I got my socks to match today.” J I just like making them remember the whole point of the holiday. To be thankful. To realize what they’ve been blessed with. And then I hope they take those realizations out into the world and pay it forward by being kind to someone who might need a small blessing of their own.

I believe in the butterfly effect; we have no idea how wide the ripples of our actions spread, how one tiny action can completely alter the course of time. But if I’m going to affect someone’s entire life with one action, I’d want it to be an act of kindness. To change their life for the better. You never know what people are struggling with. Just be kind!

 Interact with Elle!




Saturday, January 28, 2017

Indie Books I've Read These Past Few Months!

Indie Books I've Read:

Here we are again with another post about my favorite indie authors! :-)

I will start with Santino Hassell. I'm not sure he counts as an indie author because I don't know what category his publishing house falls under. But oh well, this is my blog and I love his books, so there you go.

*happy sigh* Ugh...These books are LIFE! If you haven't heard about them, then you haven't been reading my Instagram posts. 
The writing is flawless. The covers are gorgeous. And the characters are so real their presence can be felt in the room while reading.
I love how these books tackle the prejudices gay men undergo on a daily basis, but also the prejudices latinos have to face every day. 
These books are important, and they are my ultimate favorite MM novels. 

Next is "Dear Ancestors" by CP Patrick. 
You HAVE to read this book! It is SO important. It's beautifully written and heartbreaking. It's reasonably priced, too. 
I believe everyone should read it.
No words can express how essential this book is. Only CP Patrick could use such a beautiful language to describe such horrible events and experiences. 
Go...Read it...Now! You won't regret it! You will learn a LOT! Your heart will grow! Your heart will break! Your soul will fly!

Elizabetta Holcomb... *sigh of awe* Nope, I am not jealous at all... Mmm, okay, I am totally jealous. Her writing is spectacular. Anyone who thinks indie authors can't deliver quality hasn't read her books. Her writing is perfection.
The cover is SO pretty... and Elizabetta opens our minds to a different voice with a character who has autism. 
"Category Jeremy" can be read before or after book 1 "The Guardian." 

I'm sure you've seen this next book all over Instagram. If not, well, you're following the wrong Instagram accounts. ;-)
"IA: Initiate" is popular, and for good reasons!
The writing in this book is so unique. Loved it! 
And Naz is a strong, heart-warming character seeking to protect his little sister. 
I love this book! You must read it! Yes, now... ;-) 
The author is approachable and kind, and you should go say "hi" to him before buying his book. ;-)
The book is getting a whole new cover!!!!!! I want to rebuy it just for the cover! 
Here is the cover reveal!!

E. Mellyberry...
Well, well, well, just rip my heart out, why don't you?
Here is an emotional book that will raise many questions and make you doubt your own judgment and feelings. The cover is also interesting, though I can't say why without giving spoilers.
If you want a strong female character, Lea is it!
What a beautiful book with characters from Indonesia! 

I had the pleasure of beta reading "Given to Fly," and I am jealous that K. L. Montgomery can reach near-perfection with just a second draft...Wow!

Her character Annelise is so relatable you will feel for her.
I won't talk about her d***bag husband...he's not worthy. 
Let's move on to Trek, shall we...
TREK!!!!!! *sigh* Trek is a nerd...Trek wears glasses...Trek is smart...Trek is handsome... Trek is a single dad and a widower...Trek is perfect...And Trek is mine... So move along, ladies! Trek is claimed, thank you very much! 
This book is coming out in March. You can preorder your copy here.

Here is a book from my FAVORITE Indie publisher from France: Le Petit Caveau.

If you love vampire novels, this publisher is the best of the best. 

The books are gorgeous, the publishing house is made of volunteers, they ship worldwide, and you need these beautiful books (ALL of them) if you speak French.

This is my blog, so I'm going to advertise my books... No shame! =p

Who should read my books? Mmmm, readers who like to feel more emotions than they can handle. I don't go easy on my characters (yes, I promise I do love them...very much!).

Btw, my series is getting whole new covers this year, so go grab these if you like the current covers or want them for your collection. =p

Also, "Under Ground" is turning 4 years old this year! Ah! I know it only came out last year, but it's actually four years old already... Time flew by and all my babies have grown so much. :-)

2017 will be the year of Chase, Kayla, and Terrence. Hope you're ready for more heartache before the grand finale.

For this post, I also wanted to present the following books:

These are the books I will talk about next time. I will write that post in a few months because I am currently reading other books for research. 
But I've already started these novels and I definitely recommend them. :-)

Thank you for reading!