Breeding Ground – Mummies of the World

breedingground_logoWelcome to Breeding Ground, a new series of posts where I share sources of inspiration for my fiction.

I wanted to offer friends, readers and fellow authors a little peek into where my ideas come from, how I take little tidbits (or story seeds, as I like to call them), and add to, alter and cultivate them into short stories, novellas and novels.

Enjoy!


 

So, for my birthday, Chris gave me tickets to the Mummies of the World exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science. I’d seen some mummies at the ROM before, but I knew this exhibit was going to be cool because it had mummies from, well…all over the world, not to mention mummified animals as well.

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I’m not sure when I first became interested in Ancient Egypt, mummies, hieroglyphs and all that jazz, but if there’s a documentary on NatGeo or The History Channel, you can bet I’ll watch it!

My snazzy scarab paperweight

My snazzy scarab paperweight

So, when I saw the billboards for the exhibit during one of our cross-border shopping trips, I knew I had to go! I’d already seen the Book of the Dead exhibit a few years ago, and this little visit would add nicely to my obsession of all things Ancient Egyptian.

When we first walked into the exhibit, there was a sarcophagus showing off an elaborate painted motif – the perfect welcome to the exhibit. Throughout, there were artifacts, tools and resins used in the mummification process, ushabti, jewelry, canopic jars – everything you would expect (and hope) to see.

My trusty Thoth statue who stands guard while i write

My trusty Thoth statue who stands guard while i write

It was cool to be able to get up close (or as close as the glass cases would allow). Being able to see different types of sarcophagi was fantastic. Some had hieroglyphs carved directly into the wood while others had a layer of linen between the case and the designs, which were painted on the linen.

All in all, I’d say there were maybe a dozen or so human mummies – some from the same family, others individuals, each one breathtaking to look at. You could see faded lace on some of the female mummies, or the socks on another. Some still had hair, while others had intricate jewelry or awe-inspiring burial masks.

There was also MUMAB (the Maryland Mummy), a modern-day ancient mummy created by scientists in 1994 using the same methods as ancient Egyptians. And I can’t forget to mention the family of mummies from Vac, Hungary unintentionally discovered in a church crypt.

Another section of the exhibit displayed specimens from The Burns Collection – human cadavers from the early 1800s that were anatomically dissected and preserved to teach anatomy and surgery to medical students. Some showed off anatomy, or the intricate weaving of ligaments, tendons and veins in medical specimens.

There were also a few different stations, with touchscreens where you could “investigate” the cause of death of a corresponding mummy, viewing scans, medical records, and other info that allowed you to step into the shoes of a medical examiner/pathologist. Egyptologist. Very cool!

I think one of the most curious cases displayed shrunken heads! It was amazing to see a human face in that state – the tiny spray of eyelashes on one; the pursed together, stitched  lips of another. All in miniature form – and don’t even get me started on the process of shrinking a head.

Photo by MummiesoftheWorld.com

Photo by MummiesoftheWorld.com

Another cool thing was seeing reference material on the walls, some of which I’ve used (or that I’m currently using) for inspiration in my stories.

There were 2 different panels that discussed mummy brown paint, a theme in my story The Lockwood Collection. Another specimen allowed me to get up close and personal with a concept in one of my works-in-progress – and although I don’t want to spoil the secret just yet, I’ll just tell you that seeing it up close and personal was really cool and spurred me on to finish the story and get it out to readers! So, stay tuned…I’ll be sure to keep you updated as the story progresses.

Photo by MummiesoftheWorld.com

Photo by MummiesoftheWorld.com

I really can’t say much more about how interesting, thrilling and extraordinary the exhibit was. The cool thing is many of the mummies were on loan from the Museum of Man, which just so happens to be in San Diego, where I’ll be going next month! I’ll be sure to keep you updated if I happen to see any cool things – and of course, any new stories inspired by my adventures.

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WIP Wednesday: World In My Eyes

worldeyesSerials and series are a big deal in publishing these days. But damn it if it can’t take what seems like an eternity to fulfill. I have 3 different series on the go right now – all in various stages of completion (not to mention the state of each book). I just can’t say no when a good idea takes hold.

So, I’ve started writing stories that, although set in the same world of some of these series, may not have the same characters, for one. It’s a way to explore the world I’ve created, while giving something to readers to keep (or get) them interested in the world while I work on longer stories.

My buddy Colin F. Barnes (to name but one author doing this and doing it well) has made this one of his trademarks with his Techxorcist series.

He is not only working on what…Book 4? But he has also started a new series under pen name C. F. Barnes in collaboration with another author, T.F. Grant, which will also see separate yet connected novels in the same universe by each author. He’s also working on yet another collaboration project with Darren Wearmouth. I’m not even sure I got all the various series and universes Colin is writing in, both with collaborators and on his own, but one day, I hope to be as efficient and motivated as him to keep up with all my own various series.

It all sounds a little dizzying but I can see exactly why this approach is appealing. As a reader, who wouldn’t want new adventures and new universes to explore (and as often as possible)? As a writer…well I’ve spoken more than once about my million-and-one ideas and the only way any of them are going to see the light of day is if I start to mix things up, ramp up my output and get the stories out to readers.

Right now, I have a suspense/thriller, a near-future sci-fi trilogy, and a paranormal suspense novel set in Victorian England all on the go and I want them to be read! If only that pesky task of editing wasn’t getting in the way…

So when it comes to short stories, I still want to write them. In fact, so many of my longer works have come from the little story seed I’ve explored in shorter pieces. So, I’m not going to quit writing shorts anytime soon…they’re an important tool for me as a writer to uncover bigger stories.

Because I do have big stories to tell.

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Altered Words Challenge

alteredwords_titleSo, I’ve been having fun with my Altered Words series of posts – but why should I be the only one?

I’m extending a challenge to one and all – to take my stories…and tear ‘em up!

That’s right! Consider this an invitation to experiment! Anyone who wants to get in on the fun will receive a 50% Discount code for an ebook of their choice with which to experiment. Already own a copy? Well, what are you waiting for?!

RULES

  • Open up your copy of Flowers for the Dead, The Lockwood Collection or Like Flies To Honey
  • Print out a copy or load it into your favourite photo editing program and black out the words you don’t want
  • Send the poem/prose to me or post it on my Facebook Page

PRIZES
I’ll choose my favorite poem (or poems!) and that person will win a mini prize pack! Bookmarks, stickers, pencils and other goodies!

EXTRAS
Why not write a quick review while you’re at it? Something short & sweet will do the trick and posting it on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

GET YOUR COPY
If you don’t already own a copy of either of the 3 ebooks, just head over to my website, choose either Like Flies to Honey, Flowers for the Dead or The Lockwood Collection ebook and use the following Discount Code to get 50% off:

Use Discount Code: 50OFF
Then, mark it up in your photo editor of choice, or just write the poem out & send it to me so I can share it with other readers! Or feel free to post it to my Facebook page. Easy as pie!

Now…get out there and find your poem!

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Altered Words: Things As They Should Be

No, it’s not a new Nine Inch Nails song…it’s time for another Altered Words post!

Hello, patrons, readers and friends alike! Bet you thought I forgot about you, huh? Perish the thought! I’ve been working on the ebook that will be going out before the end of the month (yeah, not going to lie…this one’s been giving me trouble) – but I DO have a new Altered Words poem to keep you occupied.

I found this poem in The Liminal Man, the 2nd book in the Monochrome Trilogy by my good friend Todd Keisling.

In case you haven’t heard of Todd yet, be sure to check out his Ugly Little Things – a series of creepy, crass and often skin-curdling tales. They give you a good does of his warped style and are sure to be a gateway for any horror lover into Todd’s longer works.

CHALLENGE ALERT!
Later this week, I’ll be issuing a challenge for everyone who wants to try their hand at Altered Words, with details on how you can grab a copy of one of my ebook!

For now, I give you Things As They Should Be…

Note: As I was working on this poem, I was listening to Corvus Mysterium by Lustmord – it makes a nice little soundtrack if you want to use as as mood music by which to read.


THINGS AS THEY SHOULD BE

TLM_pg120

From The Liminal Man – page 120

A monstrous sea of eyes and teeth,
with glee, pursued their prey.
A shrill laugh echoed,
began to weaken,
but a few moments later, he was alone.
A gaping emptiness, a black hole pulling at his insides,
a memory of humanity,
of its many tethers,
that banal coil.
The gray manifested within his being;
through the infinite murk
the Monochrome’s lifeless abyss,
he could see things as they should be.
The riddle of flesh and mediocrity festering beneath their skin,
their strings his to pull now.


 

What do you think of Things As They Should Be? If you’ve read The Liminal Man, does it give readers a good snapshot of the larger story? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Original text of The Liminal Man © Todd Keisling

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Unadulterated Tapestry of Awesome

Okay…I need to take a few deep breaths here. I’m working on a new story that I am so crazy psyched for that I might have a heart attack right here and now.

So…I admit it…I may be a bit of a hoarder. Pens, journals, old Christmas & Birthday cards…I’ve got stacks and boxes of mementos squirreled away.

The same could be said for story ideas. I know I’m not the only writer to have so many ideas, you don’t know what to do with them. You finish one project and then sit there in silent wonder of which one to tackle next when all you want to do is write ALL THE THINGS, ALL RIGHT NOW.

Well, this story…It kind of came out of nowhere, and yet I’ve had the pieces scattered in my brain for a few years now.

This particular story was going to be just a short piece that I was going to include in a collection. I’d actually already written the first draft but it wasn’t working for me, so I decided to cut it down to a flash piece and post it for free on my website & via my Patreon campaign.

And then it happened…I started thinking…Maybe I should just rework the original piece. Expand it a little. Just…A little.

Yeah. Right. Does any story you intend to expand “just a little” ever stay that way. Hell no.

As I was brainstorming, adding bits and pieces, taking stuff away, going through the usual whos and whats and whys, the story started to grow. Little tidbits of research came back to me. What if I add this? Can I tie this idea to that? And what about that other thing i read? Holy crap…I think I’ve got something here.

You see, along with the hoarding situation I noted above, I have tons upon tons of notes, articles, interesting facts, strange news stories – all cataloged for future story ideas. Some are just seedlings – I’m not sure how or when I’ll use them so I’ll file them away for later – and it’s finally paid off because with this idea, I can sew a few of them together into an Unadulterated Tapestry of Awesome that will hopefully be my next project!

I know…I have enough going on as it is…but I will gladly backburner a few of my other projects to work on this thing. I’d hate myself for not striking while the iron’s hot.

Um…You guys…I’m SMITTEN over here. Like I can’t even type fast enough to get my ideas down about this story. Usually I get a cool story seed but when I start to rework it, something doesn’t sit right. Some little segment doesn’t fit or just won’t logically work no matter how hard I try to mash it or stretch it or piece it together with something else until I have to resign myself to the fact that it just won’t work out the way I had originally envisioned it.

Now…I’m not naive to think I won’t run into roadblocks along the way. That always happens. And I hate to jinx myself before I’ve even gotten out of the brainstorming phase yet.

But this little seed that is really starting to grow like fucking gangbusters? It has me all twisted and turned around and so giddy with anticipation that I just want to figure out all the mechanics of it so I can just WRITE IT ALREADY.

I know…you wanna know more. You’re scoffing right now. Pssshhh…Every writer thinks his or her idea is genius. I’m not even saying it’s genius. I’m only saying…this is what is going on in my head right now…

plasma-ball

I know I’m being vague…but I can’t share it, not yet. Just know that is a story connected to The Lockwood Collection and I’ll be able to explore my obsession with mummies even further. Good thing I’m making a stop at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum when we go to California in September, not to mention the Mummies of the World exhibit I’ll be hitting up this month. Inspiration waits!

Now you see the reason for all these big declarations and all the drama. I’m not sorry for any of it. This is what I live for, why I keep the crazy hours, the reason for all the daydreaming and gnashing of teeth and hunched shoulders from sitting at the keyboard.

When I write it…and when you read it…You’ll see :)

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Altered Words – Cold Fear

alteredwords_titleIt’s time for another Altered Words post!

This time, I “found” a poem in a story by one of my Scroll of Anubis ToC mates – Rhiannon Frater!

Rhiannon is the award-winning author of the As the World Dies trilogy, as well as a wealth of other horror, zombie and other dark fiction works. I admit it – I was pretty stoked when I found out my story was going to be included in an anthology with her, as well as a bunch of other fantastic writers. Rhiannon is such a talent that finding a cool poem “hidden” in her work was not difficult at all!

ABOUT ALTERED WORDS

What is Altered Words all about, anyway? In case you missed my first post, Altered Words is my take on “found fiction”, where I take a story, poem, or other literary work and try to “find” a story within by simply crossing out the words I do not want to include in my piece. Anyway, enjoy the poem!

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rhiannon_anubis

Cold Fear – found in Amunet by Rhiannon Frater
pg 27 of The Scroll of Anubis Anthology

The night was stifling,
the breeze barely stirred,
the heat too much to endure.
She was struck by the quiet that filled the house,
shadows thicker and blacker than ever,
moving along beside her in the darkness.
She was alone.
Trembling with cold, she continued,
the shadows following her,
hovering over her.
A sigh, a soft murmur drew her attention,
slowly crept over her;
the cold hand of fear slid down her spine.

Amunet © Rhiannon Frater

 

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#SpookySelfie Week 1 Winners

It’s been a great thrill seeing the first entries for the #SpookySelfie contest and I’m happy to announce the winners for Week 1…EVERYONE!

Tony Rapino…you get an ebook!

Linda Kollau…you get an ebook, too!

And last but certainly not least…Matt Butterweck…you win an ebook!!!

spookyselfie_tony

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spookyselfie_matt2

spookyselfie_matt1

 

That’s right…everyone who sends in a #spookyselfie gets a copy of The Lockwood Collection (or they can choose from my other 2 ebooks if they like).

But that’s not all! The contest is open-ended, which means anyone can use The Skeleton Man sticker found in this blog post at any time to create their own photo, upload it to my Facebook page or tag me on Google+ or Twitter and they will also win a free copy of the ebook.

Winners, email me at maryrajotte[at]gmail[dot[com] with the title of your choice (The Lockwood Collection, Flowers for the Dead or Like Flies to Honey) and your file format of choice (EPUB, MOBI or PDF) and I’ll send your prize out asap.

Don’t forget…it’s never too late to send in your own #spookyselfie…because The Skeleton Man is always lurking…

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Announcing the Spooky Selfie Contest

spookyselfieIf you’re a lover of scary stories and you also happen to be a bit of a shutterbug, well this contest is for you!

The Spooky Selfie Contest is open to submissions!

THE RULES
The cover “model” for The Lockwood Collection isn’t much of a looker, so I thought the best way to cheer him up was to get all of you to take a selfie with him.

I will provide a virtual “sticker” of what Regan Lockwood (the main character in The Lockwood Collection) has dubbed “The Skeleton Man” to anyone who’s willing to pose with him.

All you have to do is take a selfie (or use one you already have and add The Skeleton Man into the photo) and share it!

Here’s an example of my sister and I at Christmas. Check out The Skeleton Man sneaking into our pic for his 15 minutes of fame.

mekimba_skeleton

 

THE PRIZE
Winning entrants will receive a free copy of The Lockwood Collection eBook (or another eBook of your choosing, if you’d prefer).

A little birdie told me there may actually be prizes for everyone who enters!

WHERE DO I SHARE?
You can share you spooky selfies on my Facebook page, on Google+, on Instagram or on Twitter.

Don’t forget to tag your posts with #MaryRajotte, #spookyselfie (or +MaryRajotte on G+) so I won’t miss them – or post the link to the wall of my Facebook author page.

Feel free to share this contest badge with your friends so they can get in on the fun!

Good luck! Now…go strike a spooky pose!

GRAB YOUR STICKER HERE

skeletonman_sticker

NOTE: To download the Skeleton Man sticker, click the button below to save the image to your harddrive. The background is transparent, so you should be able to paste it into or over any existing photo image you have.

Alternatively, if you are having trouble, or you don’t have access to a graphic editing program, send me your selfie, I’ll add the Skeleton Man to your image, post it to my wall and enter you into the contest.

Feel free to resize the sticker as needed.

 

SAVE STICKER

 

 

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New Release – The Lockwood Collection eBook

lockwood_ebookThe Lockwood Collection is a short story first published in The Scroll Of Anubis Anthology from Library of Horror Press.

This story was one of my favorites to write because I am an Ancient Egyptian enthusiast. Like…full-on obsessed! Like…I am in the process of exploring the themes, symbols, myths and legends in other stories…but more on that later.

About The Lockwood Collection
After struggling artist Regan Lockwood receives a mysterious gift from her father, her work begins to take on a horrifying tone. Terrified of this darker side and her unraveling sanity, Regan is forced to confront her father and unearths a decades-old secret from her family’s past.

This time, I had an exact idea of how I wanted the cover to look. My graphic design skills are all self-taught, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to translate my idea into a killer cover.

I searched around online for a few tutorials and using various images, filters, effects (not to mention a bunch of failed attempts and a number of days debating whether I should even attempt it at all, I came up with a cover that looks pretty cool and gives a great hint at the story inside.

BUY YOUR COPY

Head over to the book page for The Lockwood Collection to find out where you can buy a copy or to purchase one directly from me.

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WIP Wednesday – A Writer’s Work

…is never done!

So, I spent a few days (and what felt like a billion eye-crossing hours) in Photoshop working on my ebook cover for The Lockwood Collection.

That, my friends, was just the beginning.

My first attempts were laughable at best. I had an idea for the cover, but I just couldn’t get it to look like anything other than a jumbled mess.

But, I kept at it, found some online tutorials, learned some new tricks, and in the end, came up with what I think is my coolest cover yet.

After that, there was the 3D book cover (luckily I found a Photoshop action for that). Then creating the book’s page on my website (complete with all the buy links to various online bookstores), which also needed a corresponding slide image for my homepage. Then I made a new Facebook cover photo to promote the book, plus a mini book ad to share on social media.

Then, the uploading. Sure, most of that was copying and pasting the book descriptions and such – and even though I uploaded directly to the Kindle store, I used Draft2Digital to hit up Kobo, B&N, Scribd and the Apple store (saves me time and frustration). But it all takes time, you see.

Then…Patreon. There are the update posts, where I announce releases or rewards to the general public, plus ones for patrons.

And that doesn’t take into account all the extras (like behind-the-scenes posts like Inklings; Altered Words poems – which time in and of themselves to “find” a poem in any given work; Spirited Tales, which not only take time to write & edit but to also translate into video format; plus this month I’m giving out a free flash fiction tale, which I’ve also had to write, edit, format, make an ebook cover and blog posts for).

Cripes. I’m exhausted. I spent 5 hours today alone making, pre-posting and scheduling promotional things – and some of the graphic design work was already done. It was just a matter of tweaking and making various images & pre-writing patron perks.

I’m not complaining, really I’m not. I just wanted to offer a glimpse into the self-publishing side of things. I’m sure there are other things I’m not doing, doing poorly, or forgetting about (no matter how many checklists and Google Calendar reminders I set for myself).

Writing the story – coming up with the idea, adding characters & setting, making it MAKE SENSE, making sure it’s entertaining -  is a whole other can of worms.

But as you can see, there is a lot going on behind-the-scenes, not just for me but all of my fellow writers. We work hard, man. But boy, do we love it.

Except for the stories that fall flat, the self doubt, the low sales, the unruly characters…

:)

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