How a Little Boy Gave Me a Reason

Categories: A Difficult Mirror, Castles, Reflection, Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, Writing, Tags: , , , ,

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I originally wrote part of this post just before I turned 40. You can read the original if you’d like. However, I sometimes need to be reminded why I’m here. It happens every once in a while: you bury yourself in the business aspect of writing, looking at numbers, trying to forecast the way the readership blows, but when all is said and done, we’re all authors for a reason, even if those reasons are different. The WHY we do things should always come before the WHAT we do.

My reason starts with unrealistic views and ends with a little Samoan boy. I died a lot when I lost him.

On April 26th of 2012, I turned 40. I never thought the approaching birthday would take it’s toll on my sense of worth the way it did, but I finally think I understand why: in the grand scheme of things, why are we here?

I could go into the philosophical reasons why, drip in some religion for you, rant about age slipping by, etc. I could even go on to say I don’t expect much out of the next 40 years…if there will even be another 40 years. Why do all that, though? We all have our reasons for being here, reasons we give ourselves for remaining on the planet as a productive member of whatever society we live in. Even if we don’t yet have a reason, the journey to find that reason becomes reason enough for some folks. Because of our varied views on the nature of Life, the Universe and Everything, what I say won’t have an impact on you.

And that’s the problem, I think.

I’ve heard it said that a writer does what he or she does for one of two reasons (never both): the love of the art or the love of the money. If it’s money a writer is after, it’s well-known that the writer probably won’t get far–unless that writer is backed by one of the large publishing houses and his or her name is worth more than their art. Any large publishing house is about making money–damn the art, damn the beauty of the written word, damn creativity or elan. If a piece of literature doesn’t make money, then it certainly can’t be a piece of literature worth their time. You understand this, of course. This is why high profile authors who started with the grandest of intentions eventually turn out crap just to make their publisher/editor/agent happy. The only way that publisher/agent/editor will be happy is if that writer makes them money. It’s almost like politics, in that respect: people get into the business to serve but the end result is almost always corruption.

So is the other reason–for the love of the art–the only honest reason a writer should write? As an artist with noble and romantic views of the future, I certainly bought into that and embraced it as my external reason for writing. Hell, if I didn’t care about the art so much, wouldn’t I be out there trying to pimp my way into any large publishing house simply to get at that magical pot of marketing money? I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at now, standing with millions of other up-and-coming authors and yammering on about how difficult it is to market or how exciting it is to see a fellow author make a sale. I’d probably ignore Indie or self-published authors and shun them as pathetic wannabe hacks–a view shared by agents, editors and every large publishing house in existence. If the love of the art wasn’t my reason for writing, I could probably write a novel a month and infest the market with mindless entertainment that has a shelf-life of two or three years at the most.

I write for the love of the art, don’t I?

Or could there be another reason hidden deep in the wrinkles of my aging face?

I need to back up for a minute. There is a pain I keep to myself and rarely talk about, yet it is one that influences so much of what I do.

It’s a story about a boy.

My boy.

His name is La’akea, a Hawai’ian name meaning “consecrated light.”

La'akea in the rain.

La’akea in the rain.

La’akea is a Samoan who currently resides with his auntie on the Big Island of Hawai’i. In 2007, I signed up to foster children who had medical issues, those who–for lack of adequate support–languished under social services because many people who opt to foster children do so with the idea they can either make money or raise “normal” children. La’akea was abused from the day he was born until I took custody of him on his first birthday. His retina had been detached, he had fractures in his skull and because of his injuries, he couldn’t walk, talk or eat like a normal child could by that age; he’d essentially forgotten the basics. Due to deep venal thrombosis (a nasty blood clot in his leg), he required two shots of enoxaparin a day. He was quiet and because of his history, afraid of men.

Except me.

From the day I brought him into the house, he and I bonded in a way I haven’t bonded with anyone before. He sat on my lap for months. He couldn’t sleep unless I tucked him in at night. When he woke with night terrors (which occurred around 11 p.m. every night), he ran to me. I battled the MRSA virus with him for over a year and contracted it myself. I taught him what I could, made sure his interaction with my natural children was good, and watched him regain what he lost. By the time he completed his first year of preschool, he was leading other kids.

On July 27, 2010, I left Hawai’i. La’akea couldn’t come with me and after nearly a year of legal battles, he was adopted by his auntie. I haven’t heard his voice since August of 2011. There is, of course, so much more to the story. However for the sake of brevity, I have condensed it down to the most important parts, those parts that exist to support this one statement:

I had left a mark

During the time I was actively involved in trying to move La’akea to Colorado, the voices started again. I mentioned during an interview with Michael K. Rose, that Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors took seven years to write. For quite a few of those years, Maggie (the main character of the novel) wouldn’t talk to me. If I tried to write something into the novel, it wouldn’t sound right.

Then, one day in that Autumn of 2010, Maggie spoke up. From that point forward, I haven’t stopped writing. Castles was released. I started and finished Sketches from the Spanish Mustang. I returned to a novel I had abandoned years ago, A Difficult Mirror, polished it and put it out for the world to see. I plotted and planned out five more novels and have been working diligently on all the things that make writing a career.

I had a drive and purpose. Something in me changed.

What was it I intended to do? What was it that those three years of my life had taught me? Did I seek money or was I writing for the sake of art? Could it be the reason I wrote was completely different than the reasons stated by all the thinking heads of the world? Why was I here?

To leave a mark?

You might be saying to yourself that since I have kids, I have left a mark. Since I am a 20-year veteran of the military, I have left a mark. Since I developed plans and procedures for the training of people who would eventually destroy 7% of the nation’s chemical weapons, I have left a mark.

But I haven’t, have I? Not, at least, in those endeavors. Sure, raising kids leaves a mark on their lives, but it’s something we’re programmed as human beings to do: procreate. It’s an evolutionary principle.

But what of the art? What of the writing?

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being the next Ray Bradbury. That dream transformed over the years to being the next Stephen King or the next Clive Barker. Hell, at one point I would have settled for being the next Michael Crichton, but I knew my research skills were far inferior to his. I wasn’t thinking, however, that I was bound to be the next good writer; I was thinking I was going to be the next well-known, famous and rich author.

Big freakin’ mistake. Because of that misguided goal, I was already bound to fail as a writer. Sure, I may have broke into the corporate masses and held their marketing skills hostage, but what kind of mark would that really leave? That I could write quickly or party with Hollywood celebrities on a beach in California?

No. That was not for me.

La’akea taught me something; he taught me to sacrifice for the sake of leaving a mark on the future. I know he will be better off because I was his father for nearly three years. I know he will remember the lessons I taught him, even if he never remembers who I am. I know in my heart that not only did I leave a mark on his life–on his future–he left a mark on mine. Some of my recent writing reflects that, and I know much of my later work will, too. One day, La’akea will show up in a novel.

This was the last picture I had taken with La'akea.

This was the last picture I had taken with La’akea.

And so I return to writing, to the reason I write, the reason I let Maggie into my head. I write so I can leave a mark. I may be late to the game–although 41 isn’t really that late–but I think I managed to filter out all the wrong reasons for putting pen to paper.

I write to leave a mark, a mark on your life if you choose to read it. In return you, the reader, can leave a mark on my life–feedback, good or bad, I can use to sharpen the words so they leave a mark on someone else.

For me, the world of writing isn’t–or shouldn’t be–about money. It’s not even really about the art. I might never make a living from my novels, but if I can touch one reader–like La’akea touched me–then I have accomplished something. The world of writing–for me–is a method by which I can leave a mark on current and future generations of readers and writers.

You never know–one of those future writers may be a little Samoan who probably doesn’t remember my name.

On April 26, 2012 I turned 40. It took me most of those four decades and a little boy to realize why I’m here, why I write.

I write to leave a mark.

(I miss you, boy.)

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Chain of Shadows (Blood Skies, Book 6) is Available Today!

Categories: Contests, Guest Posts by Others, Tags: ,

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CHAIN OF SHADOWS (Blood Skies, Book 6)
Steven Montano
Available Today!

Chain of Shadows

CHAIN OF SHADOWS (Blood Skies, Book 6)

The barrier between worlds has been broken, and the invasion is about to begin.

Eric Cross, burdened by the loss of those who’ve died under his command, must lead his recently reunited mercenary team against the shadow wolf sorcerers known as the Maloj. Bound to dire artifact blades and charged with protecting the Kindred, Cross seeks help from the enigmatic White Mother, leader of the Southern Claw.

But sinister forces bring his vessel down in a strange and distant land, and soon Cross and his allies are beset by undead armies vying for control of the deadly region called the Chain of Shadows. Trapped in a desert waste where wielding magic is dangerous and nothing is as it seems, Cross’s team will pay the ultimate price in their battle to finally get home…

Return to the world After the Black in this pivotal 6th book of the BLOOD SKIES saga!

Get it now!

Purchase Links:

Amazon US (Kindle):
Amazon UK (Kindle):
Amazon (Paperback):
Barnes & Noble (EPUB):
Smashwords (all Ebook formats):


The big day is here – CHAIN OF SHADOWS is now available!

And for a limited time, if you buy a copy of the book you can also enter to win a free coffee cup! That’s right, sip your java in your very own Cup O’ Darkness!

Chain of Shadows Mug

Chain of Shadows Mug

To enter, just e-mail your receipt/purchase confirmation to Steven will enter your name into a giant spreadsheet, and on November 8th, using sophisticated technology (most likely consisting of one or more 20-sided dice), he’ll select 1 winner to get a complimentary CHAIN OF SHADOWS coffee cup mailed directly to their home.

To qualify, your CHAIN OF SHADOWS purchase must be made and the receipt submitted no later than November 1st! Steven will announce the winners the following week and get your cup right out to you!

About the Author
The Mug O Ugly

Steven Montano

Steven Montano keeps writing novels in the hopes that one day he’ll wake up and actually feel like a real author. Maybe it’ll happen tomorrow.

Steven is the author of City of Scars, the Blood Skies novels (Blood Skies, Black Scars, Soulrazor, Crown of Ash, The Witch’s Eye and Chain of Shadows), Tales of a Blood Earth 1 and 2, and something black…. He’s currently hard at work on Blood Angel Rising, a horror novel; Vampire Down, the next installment of the Blood Skies series; and Path of Bones and The Black Tower, the conclusion to The Skullborn trilogy.

He’ll soon be marooned in Michigan with his wife and children, wondering how he got there.

Visit Steven’s official website,

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Silence and Fire, a Novella Coming November 5th

Categories: Excerpts, Silence and Fire, Tags: ,

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Silence and Fire

Silence and Fire, a novella by Benjamin X. Wretlind

Coming November 5th to….

Silence and Fire, a novella by Benjamin X. Wretlind

A weekend camping trip along the Mogollon Rim in central Arizona turns terrifying when eight-year-old Mark Allen Haines wanders off into the forest alone. What was to be a time of relaxation and an attempt to bring together a fragmenting family, turns into a panicked search. Little does anyone know the forest harbors secrets, the secrets want to speak, and Mark is about to see the world in a completely different way.

Here’s an excerpt for you…

Mark Allen Haines, all of eight years old, stepped across the tiny stream in front of him. It had been a long trek through the forest—perhaps as long as a thousand miles by his own estimate—and he wasn’t any surer of his location than he had been an hour ago. There were trees everywhere. Mama had called them “Ponderosa,” but to Mark, they just looked like trees. Crowded around the base of the trees, there were what Papa called “ferns,” and all around the ferns there were brown needles, moss-covered rocks and twigs of every shape and size. One of those twigs had turned out to be just large and strong enough to act like a walking stick, something he’d seen some old man in a movie use once.

The stream he’d just stepped across bubbled in the stillness of the forest. Its water was cold despite the heat of the day, and when he’d bent down earlier to drink a little of it, he caught a bug in his mouth. Maybe it wasn’t a bug but a piece of forest trash trapped in the flowing stream. He thought it tasted like a bug, but then again, he’d only eaten a bug once when his oldest brother, Matt, put it on a piece of toast and told him that bugs make you stronger and that’s what Superman ate.

He hadn’t felt any stronger after he ate it, and the more he thought about it, he couldn’t remember if Superman really did eat bugs.

A noise to his left stopped him from taking another step. There were so many far-off noises in the forest, he never knew if he should just ignore them or be afraid of them. Chris had said there were bears in this forest and that if he wandered too far from the campsite, he would be eaten. Matt had told Chris to be quiet and then Papa had scolded Chris for saying things that weren’t true, but Mama hadn’t said anything; she just looked at Chris with what might have been agreement. Mark had no idea.

The noise wasn’t followed by a second noise, and within moments, Mark took another step toward what he hoped was the campsite. He’d been lost—and there was no doubt in his mind he was lost—in the forest for a while, and no matter where he turned, it all looked the same. It was like that one place they’d visited in Oklahoma where the buffalo came up to their car and scared them and men in leather jackets who rode motorbikes had told them all there was a haunted wood where the trees were planted in straight lines so that no matter what direction you were looking, it all looked the same. It was Matt who whined to Papa that they should go look, but both Chris and Mark were in agreement that haunted woods should be left alone. But they didn’t leave the woods alone, and soon the three boys and Papa were inside the woods, looking around at the trees while Mama stayed in the air-conditioned minivan.

Mama didn’t hear what Matt said about dead babies and ghosts, but Papa had smacked Matt hard enough she had to have seen the red streak across his face when the boys returned to the van. Mark thought it was funny that Matt got in trouble for telling lies to scare his brothers, but that night he had dreams of those woods, and like most dreams he had, he remembered them vividly. It scared him then, and it scared him now standing in the middle of a forest in central Arizona, looking at the trees, lost, and wanting nothing more than to find the campsite and go back home.

The classmates in his school would have no doubt prodded him forward in the direction of the noise, and because Mark was “different”—a term Mama liked to use on occasion—he would not have had the sense or desire to stand up to them. And while Matt and Chris were overly protective of their little brother, he couldn’t help but wonder if they would have urged him on as well.

To the right of a tree perhaps a few hundred feet away, a man stood. Mark’s heart raced, but he didn’t move. After all, he may not have been seen and if this was a dinosaur movie, he knew he would be better off if he just stayed still and stared back at the man. He was a tall man, but not as tall as his brothers. He wore what looked like brown clothes held together with string. His hair was black, braided and fell to a point somewhere near his chest. Bright-colored beads were interspersed along the braid, and in his right hand he held a walking stick that was larger than Mark’s.

Mark couldn’t be sure, but he knew what the books said Indians looked like. This was definitely one of them, and if the games they played during recess were any indication, the Indian in front of him was not a good person. It was a thousand miles back to the camp and he didn’t even know what direction. He never should have left to explore, but what could he do now? He was out here alone, Mama and Papa were probably asleep in the tent and Matt and Chris were fishing in that lake they’d been talking about. Why didn’t he go with them, instead?

The Indian raised his stick. Mark’s heart raced faster, and he screamed.


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