Trade Secrets: Writing “Days of the Phoenix”

I am still trucking away at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — hopefully, by November 30th, I will have a first draft to a brand new novel! Your words of encouragement and positivity are greatly appreciated.
While I’m working on my next novel, I have a novel in the chamber that I am getting ready to release. That novel is titled “Days of the Phoenix” and I am very excited about the project. I have heard some great feedback from my Beta Readers and right now it’s just a waiting game — I am trying to investigate the traditional publishing route with this book, but I’ve always got the self-publishing ability in my pocket. Regardless, a novel that I think is a better read than “Broken Promise Records” is close to being in your hands!

Here in the Millerverse, we’re still celebrating NaNoWriMo and I’m going to share some of the insider details of my next book, coming out soon, titled “Days of the Phoenix.”

The book is named after a song by the band A.F.I. – “Days of the Phoenix” isn’t necessarily my favorite song by AFI, but the name itself has sparked such a visual in me that I couldn’t help but run with it. The name, to me, lends itself to a concept of change and evolution, which is the book’s central theme. The book’s story is about a young man that is one way, he has a deep desire to be something else, and the painful (yet necessary) journey of getting from point A to point B.
Metamorphosis isn’t comfortable, it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it in most cases. The happiest people seem to be the ones who embrace change, right? Someone told me once that people don’t move from places that are miserable because misery is familiar; familiar is a weak substitute for comfortable. That idea is a big part of why the protagonist in the book undertakes the change that he does.

I wrote the first draft of the book in thirty days – I knew last year that I wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, so I began writing a story to see if I could be comfortable at the pace that would require me to finish a book in thirty days. The good news is that I was, the troubling news was that I felt that I had to do it again.
Writing a novel is not a race, you aren’t being timed (except, you know, committing to writing a book in a month) — Broken Promise Records (BPR) and Days of the Phoenix (DOTP) were both equally satisfying to write, they just took different increments of time to complete. What I learned from finishing a book in thirty days is that I really know that I can make a go at being a professional writer and it was even further motivation to obtain that objective.

My Mother died during the writing of Days of the Phoenix – Mom passed away on January 15th — it’s a date on the calendar that will never be the same, I will never experience January 15th again with any sense of joy or completeness. I was about half way done with Days of the Phoenix when I got called home to Pennsylvania for Mom’s funeral; I took a week off from writing to tend to my emotional needs, to be at the funeral, and to connect with family.
One of my first Beta Readers asked me what happened to me between chapters nine and ten. I wasn’t sure what he meant; he insisted that something had changed with me emotionally because the book took on a completely different color. I looked back through the log of words I was keeping and sure enough, the week that I was done with chapter nine and should have started chapter ten, Mom had passed away. The take away from this fact is that people are feeling an emotional connection to the book.

The book is based in the city of Carolina Beach, where I lived for about a year – In the book, the character Simon Bellinger, lives in a blue building on the beach. That building exists and I see it every time I go fishing or go to the beach. When the characters go to the beach, they are actually going to Carolina Beach, which is one of three beaches on the island (Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Fort Fisher).
I liked living on Carolina Beach — don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I moved (I’m looking at you Florence, you axe wound), but it was a nice place to live. There were fireworks on the beach, a grocery store, plenty of places to buy alcohol; complete beach living when you think about it.

Characters from Broken Promise Records are related to characters from Days of the Phoenix – I remember being in about sixth grade and I had written a few bullshit action stories. One of the coolest things (in my window licking, lead-in-the-tap-water world) was a crossover of characters — it made my creative world feel complete. When writing Days of the Phoenix, my sophomore effort, I wanted that same universal completeness — the answer came pretty easy: Hendrix Wilson from “Broken Promise Records” is the first cousin of Simon Bellinger from “Days of the Phoenix.”
I wanted to nod to Quentin Tarantino with his crossover world without being a complete rip off. Doing this has allowed me to create my own Universe (hence the “Millerverse”) and all of my books might be related to each other — or they might not, that’s yet to be seen.

There is a secret detail in the book that only a handful of people are going to recognize – I’m not going to tell you what it is, but its there. Writing a novel, a short story, or a screenplay, is such a personal event. It’s impossible for details from your “functional life” (read the book, you’ll get it) not to bleed in to your creative works, and it was impossible for me to keep those details out.
It’s not a bad detail, it’s not a reputation harming secret, it’s an observation that only a handful of people are equipped to recognize. When they read it, I hope they know that I wasn’t trying to out them, but celebrate who we were and where we had been. In fact, I’d love to sit down and have coffee with them sometime so that we can discuss it and how things were left, how I wish they could have been different.

The book had two or three different waves of Beta Readers – here is my business perspective: if I got an opinion from my first wave of Beta Readers, wouldn’t it make sense to introduce the revisions to someone who hadn’t read the first draft? My fear was that if I let the first wave read the revisions, they would have been satisfied; the next waves would have a different view on the work entirely and I would have a much broader perspective.
I can’t thank my beta’s enough — they helped me edit, gave me advice, gave me perspective, and encouraged me to edit. Their friendship has been remarkably valuable.

The book takes a serious look at mental issues and how people cope with them – mental health awareness is needed now, more than ever. I didn’t make the book a platform for the discussion, but there are a lot of avenues for the discussion to be had. The book is set in the early 2000’s and acknowledges issues such as ADD & ADHD, anxiety, bullying, self-harm and other topics that we need to get out in the open immediately.
It should go without saying, but it doesn’t, that these are real afflictions that have tangible, physical ramifications on everyday lives and there is help. The stigma on these issues is so outdated and there are so many resources available to people who need them. If you are suffering from such afflictions, know this: I am with you and I am encouraging you to talk to someone.

I am looking forward to having you read it – sincerely, I am. Broken Promise Records is always going to be my first born, but Days of the Phoenix is a logical evolution of my style and storytelling ability, that I really want to know what you think about it.
If you are a regular reader of mine, something that would be tremendously helpful would be if you were to share my pages on your social media, tell your friends who are readers, introduce me to them if you don’t want to introduce them to me. Helping me get the word out would be an organic victory for me and would go for miles in my journey and career.
I hope that I have said and done something that has inspired you to read or write. If you’ve written something, tell me about it! I want to know about your works just as bad as I want you to know about mine.
Until our next trip across the Millerverse!

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