Zoning in TKZ

By Joe Moore
@JoeMoore_writer

I’ll be flying most of the day and may not get to respond to your comments. In case I don’t, here’s wishing all my TKZ blogmates and friends a wonder Thanksgiving Holiday.

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Someone once asked: “I’ve heard writers talk of being ‘in the zone’ regarding their writing, which I take to mean being in an altered state of extreme creativity. But how, without drugs or other stimulus, do you get into that state?”

In fact, we hear the term in the zone used often, not only with writers, but athletes, artists, and just about any activity that requires skill, creativity and deep concentration.

So what is “the zone” and how do we enter it? Why is it so hard to remain there for extended periods of time?

Being in the zone can last for a few minutes, a couple of hours or a whole day. For those that never seem to enter the zone, it might be because they try too hard to do so. Sort of like when we stop trying to solve a problem, the solution suddenly comes to us through our subconscious.

Let’s try to define what being in the zone means, especially when it relates to writing. For me, it’s a mental state where time seems to disappear and my productivity greatly exceeds normal output. It might start after I’ve finished lunch and sat down at my PC to work on a new chapter. Without any feeling of the passage of time, I suddenly realize a couple of hours have gone by and I’ve produced 1000 words or more. I don’t remember the passage of time or anything that deals with my surroundings. I only remember “living” or becoming immersed in the story’s moment, having the words flow from a deeper source, and “awakening” from the writing zone as if only a few moments have passed.

I’ve never been hypnotized, but I can assume that being in the zone is somewhat like self-hypnosis. My body remains in the here-and-now, but my creative senses somehow find a hidden room inside my mind, a place normally under lock and key. And I’m able to enter it for a short time to let what’s there emerge into the light of day.

It can also feel like driving down the Interstate on a long trip deep in thought and suddenly realize I can’t remember the past ten miles.

I’ve never been athletic, but I bet it’s a similar scenario: a golfer is able to tune out the surrounding crowd of tournament spectators, the dozens of network cameras, the worldwide audience, the cheers from the distant gallery as his opponents make a great putt, and he’s able to enter a place where only his game stretches out before him. The rest slips by in a blur. Personal mind control.

So what is a good method for getting into the zone? Some writers use the “running start” technique by reading the previous day’s work or chapter. It gets them back into the story and hopefully the new words start to flow.

Others listen to music. This is something I often do. Nothing with lyrics, though. I listen to movie scores or piano and guitar solos. I find that it can help set a mood or become background “white noise” that blocks out other audible distractions. That’s because, for me, the biggest obstacle to zoning is distractions. It’s important to reduce interruptions and distractions by creating an environment where they are minimized. This means shutting my office door, closing the drapes on the windows, unplugging the phone, disconnecting Internet access, and most of all, choosing a time to write when those things can be fully managed. Doing away with distractions is no guarantee that I will enter the zone at will, but it does give me a fighting chance to at least knock on the door to one of those dark, hidden rooms upstairs and let my story flow out.

How about you Zoners? What’s it like for you to write in the zone? And do you have a method to slip easily into the zone?

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“Cotton Stone is a heroine for the ages.” – Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author.

3D-collection1Less than a week to go until the release of THE COTTEN STONE OMNIBUS. The collection includes the complete series: THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY, THE LAST SECRET, THE HADES PROJECT and THE 731 LEGACY. All 4 thrillers for only $7.99. Pre-order now!

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The Amazon Daily Deal

By Joe Moore

Today, Amazon has graciously chosen THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY (Midnight Ink, 2005) as their “Daily Deal”. This means that for one day only, they have reduced the price of the Kindle version to $0.99. I don’t know the tgcprocess by which they choose books for their Daily Deal, but I really appreciate it. Back on October 18, they picked my latest thriller THE PHOENIX APOSTLES, and by the end of the day, it became the #1 bestselling Kindle book on Amazon. So having 2 of my novels picked is a really big deal, and really cool. As you can imagine, I’m hoping for a repeat performance today.

THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY is very special to me because it began my writing career being the first book I ever had published. And the story of how it came about is also very special.

In 1994 a friend phoned my co-writer Lynn Sholes and told her to read the article Crusade’s End? in the April issue of Discover magazine. The caller thought it had great promise as a premise for a book. The article was about Leon Decoeur, an archaeologist, working late on Christmas Eve at a dig site in Jerusalem where he uncovered an ancient cup he believed could be the Holy Grail. Preserved inside the cup was a brown residue, later determined to be human blood. Discover quoted Decoeur, "You remember that cosmologist a couple of years back who claimed he’d seen the face of God? Well, I think we’re going to see His DNA."

As all writers do, Lynn started asking What If questions. In this instance it was: what if someone used the DNA to clone Christ?

At about the same time, I was a freelance writer reviewing books for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other Florida newspapers. A mutual friend introduced me to Lynn. I reviewed her second novel (she was writing historical fiction at the time and eventually had 6 novels published) and we began talking about the business of writing. I joined Lynn’s local critique group where we often discussed current projects and those we envisioned in the future. The Discover article story came up repeatedly, but Lynn just didn’t feel comfortable taking on the task of making a book from it since it was outside her genre. So, even though the story intrigued everyone who heard the cloning-Christ premise, it sat dormant until I couldn’t stand the waste of a good idea any longer. One day, several years after the magazine article, I called Lynn and “threatened” her. I told her if she didn’t write that story, I would outright steal the idea and write it myself. I think that shocked her into the reality of “getting on with the rat killing!” as she likes to say. Lynn and I decided on collaboration. We spent countless hours writing a detailed, 52-page, chapter-by-chapter outline. Finally finished, we agreed we didn’t like major segments and started all over again, adding more dimension and texture.

The more research we did, the bigger the story grew. Finally, we thought the skeleton was ready for the flesh, and we began the first draft. That’s when we became acutely aware of the differences in our writing styles: her voice was lyrical, mine bold. Those two voices fought each other on the page. But we also realized our strengths: Lynn’s was character development while mine was plotting. It took a great deal of work to put our egos aside and build trust in each other before our different styles started to blend. (This is why you rarely see collaboration in writing fiction. It’s generally an impossible task.) After three years of working on our book, we felt, as did our beta readers, that our voices were blending and our strengths were paying off to the story’s advantage. When our manuscript was finally complete, we sent it off to Lynn’s agent who loved it.

Then came the bad news. Enter Dan Brown.

Now, TGC was conceived, outlined, and drafted a decade before Brown’s book, still he took all the air out of our story. Even though TGC was not the same story as THE DA VINCI CODE, it was still a “Grail” story. And there were small coincidences and idiosyncrasies in the plots, like killing someone off and making it look like an allergic reaction. So we went back to the drawing board. BTW, our working title from the beginning was CORPUS CHRISTI (Latin for the Body of Christ). When we finished, we changed it to THE ENOCHIAN PROPHECY.

We worked our way through the book again, doing more research so we could replace those close calls with THE DA VINCI CODE. And we even added a few additional twists. Then we sent it off again.

It found a home with Llewellyn Worldwide, and the book was published in 2005 as part of Llewellyn’s launch of their new mystery imprint, Midnight Ink. They wisely changed the title from THE ENOCHIAN PROPHECY, which no one knew the meaning of much less could pronounce, to THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY.

That year, it was named Book Of The Year by ForeWord Magazine, landed on a number of international bestseller lists, and was eventually translated into 24 languages.

TGC was the beginning of my writing partnership with Lynn Sholes resulting in 5 novels published: THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY, THE LAST SECRET, THE HADES PROJECT, THE 731 LEGACY, THE PHOENIX APOSTLES and the short story BAM! JUST LIKE THAT. We’re closing in on finishing the first draft of #6, the standalone thriller THE BLADE.

So what is THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY about? Here’s the website promo copy.

From a newly unearthed crusader’s tomb in Iraq to the guarded treasure vaults of the Vatican to a secret genetics lab on the banks of the Mississippi, THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY uncovers a sinister plot of ultimate revenge.

A small wooden box hidden for centuries is passed on to network correspondent Cotten Stone by a dying archaeologist. With his final breath, spoken in a language Cotten has not heard since childhood, he declares that she is "the only one who can stop the sun . . . the dawn." Unable to open the box, Cotten seeks the help of John Tyler, a noted biblical historian and Catholic priest on leave of absence from his duties but not his vows. Inside the box, they discover a cup wrapped in a cloth bearing the insignia of a powerful medieval order that professed to be the Guardians of the Grail.

Cotten is propelled into the headlines as she and John deliver the Cup to the Vatican for authentication, and she reports the story of its journey from Calvary to cable TV. But her life quickly becomes caught up in a global plot driven by an ancient sect devoted to bringing about the Second Coming. As those around her fall victim to the Grail Conspiracy, Cotten soon learns her true legacy and must question if she is stopping an abomination or is she working on the side of Evil. In the final conflict she learns why she is the only one who can stop the ultimate revenge against God by the Prince of Darkness.

If you haven’t read TGC, please take advantage of Amazon’s $0.99 Daily Deal and download a copy to your Kindle. If you’ve already read it, I hope you’ll download and enjoy it again. I’ll be forever in your debt.

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This is my last post until next year since TKZ will be taking it’s annual 2-week Winter break starting December 19. Thank you for reading and commenting on my posts throughout the year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

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The journey of Cotten Stone

By Joe Moore

facebook-731 October marks the publication of The 731 Legacy, the fourth (and final) installment in the Cotten Stone series. My co-author, Lynn Sholes, and I have lived with our main character for over 7 years and have grown to know and care for her very much. Ending a series is almost like a death in the family—someone you have become close to has passed on. But like real life, it’s inevitable.

Cotten’s journey began over a decade ago when Lynn and I were members of a local writer’s critique group. Writing under the name Lynn Armistead McKee, she was the only published author in the group with six books in print. One evening she mentioned an article she’d read in Discover Magazine about an archaeologist who unearthed a well-preserved relic at a dig site in Jerusalem that he believed was the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. Tradition holds that the cup was also used to collect Christ’s blood at the Crucifixion and became know as the Holy Grail. Traces of human blood were found inside the relic and the archaeologist believed it to be the blood of Christ.

Based on the article, Lynn proposed her idea for a book: What if someone used the DNA in the Grail to clone Christ. Someone evil.

I was blown away by the idea and encouraged her to write it. But she was reluctant and felt it might be too ambitious a task for her to take on. Her style was more lyrical with romantic undertones. This was a “high concept” thriller that she didn’t feel comfortable undertaking.

I was so intrigued with her premise that after waiting a couple of years, I finally threatened her that if she didn’t write the book, I would steal the idea and write it myself. We compromised and decided to work on it together. We felt that the areas I was weak in she had strength, and vise versa. We spent a summer constructing tgcan extensive outline and then began drafting the first chapters. Our collaboration could only be described as a train wreck. Everyone that read our first chapters could tell who wrote what. It was a mess. But we didn’t give up. And the thing that probably saved us from abandoning the project was the 10 years we had spent in our critique group. We knew our strengths and weaknesses, our styles, and our voices. So we put our egos aside and maintained a solid respect for each other’s skills while plowing forward until we completed what became The Grail Conspiracy three years later.

Lynn’s agent shopped the manuscript around and quickly got us a contract. Within a year, our book was named ForeWord Magazine’s Book-Of-The-Year, got translated into over 23 languages, and became an international bestseller. Cotten Stone’s journey had begun.

We had no idea that the publisher wanted a series until we noticed it said “A Cotten Stone Mystery” on the proposed cover. They wanted more? Apparently so.

tlsSo we came up with the concept of The Last Secret. Like TGC which combined cutting edge science (human cloning) with an ancient relic (the Grail), we continued this scheme with Cotten’s next adventure. The science was quantum physics and the relic was a 5000-year-old crystal tablet that predicted the Great Flood and held the key to surviving Armageddon along with revealing the path to the Kingdom of Heaven. Cotten’s journey took her on a race to find the tablet before it could be destroyed by the same group that wanted to clone Christ.

thpBook 3 was The Hades Project, again combining science (quantum mechanics) and a relic (The Spear of Destiny). The Forces of Evil were back, this time about to reek havoc with the world’s first quantum computer. To complete their project, they needed the rarest element on earth to power the computer, and the Spear just happened to be made out of it. The race was on.

That brings us to The 731 Legacy and the discovery that the remnants of an ancient killer retrovirus are scattered across the human genome. The Forces of Evil figured out a way to reassemble the virus and create a new generation of suicide bombers that can kill selected targets with something as innocent as a cough on a crowded bus or a sneeze in church. Like the previous chapters of her journey, Cotten had a tough time dealing with this one and came close to tumbling off the edge of the abyss into Darkness.

The Cotten Stone journey has been great fun to write. And many have told us equally good fun to read. Lynn and I have watched Cotten grow from a rookie network reporter who rejected her special calling in life to senior investigative correspondent for the Satellite News Network and the full acceptance of her “special” legacy. She learned a lot along the way and so did we. And despite the fact that the journey has probably ended, at least on paper, the good news is that in the end, Cotten and her fans finally got what they’ve been asking for all along the way. What was it? You’ll just have to read The 731 Legacy.

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