A Typical Writing Day
Leonard D. Hilley II
Forrest Wollinsky: Vampire Hunter is my ninth novel.
So what is the writing process like for an author, and how does one get from page one of a novel to ‘The End?’
First, let me simply say that all writers are different. No two authors come from the same mold. We’re all eccentric in our own ways.
Currently, I am a full-time author. In 2014, my epic fantasy novel, Shawndirea, was released. I was blessed to see this novel remain in the Top 100 Fantasy Novels on Amazon for ten weeks. Shawndirea qualified me for membership with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, which had been a dream of mine when I first starting writing years ago. The second book in this series, Lady Squire: Dawn’s Ascension, was released in January.
My writing day starts around 2-3 a.m. I have an Espresso machine so it’s caffeine first. While drinking coffee, I check all my social media sites for messages and emails. I reread the pages I’ve written from the day before, revise, and add more description or dialogue. At 5 a.m. I go to the gym for a little over an hour and then eat breakfast.
Generally, I begin writing new material around 7 a.m. and stop around 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Depending upon my mood, I write in my home office or in the living room. I unplug the router and disconnect the Internet while I work. This is an absolute necessity. Otherwise, I don’t get as much writing done. For example, with the Internet running, I write approximately 6-8 pages. Without the temptation of the Internet, I can write 16-22 pages. My best day produced 28 pages.
For most of my projects I need to research, so while I am writing, I jot down any questions or topics to look up at the end of the day. I love to research, so this is why the Internet can become a time-suck for me during the hours when I need to be writing, as I overindulge in finding information.
“How long does it take you to write a novel?”
Honestly, this depends upon the characters and the flow of the story. Forrest Wollinsky: Vampire Hunter was written in 22 days. This book simply gushed out. I have a science fiction novel that I have been working on for over ten years now (Finally finished!). Predicting how easily a book can be written is impossible. No two authors are alike, and no two books evolve in the same manner.
As an author, I have never outlined a book. I follow the characters, which was the advice Ray Bradbury gave years ago. A predetermined outline constricts the characters’ leeway. Forcing the characters to do something often brings about their own sense of rebellion. Without an outline I get the same “Ah-ha!” moment as the reader when a character does something unexpected. Elements of surprise keep readers reading, and this writer writing.
When I taught English courses at a local junior college, I explained my writing process to my students. I am simply the note-taker. I write down what I see and what the characters say. It’s their story. A good writer has to know his or her characters inside and out. Discover their likes, dislikes, and what makes them tick. Trust me, if you know your characters, they can sort through their own dilemmas and find a resolution that neatly wraps up a novel.
“Where do your ideas come from?” is another common question.
If you wish to become a writer, keep a notebook on hand at all times. Snippets come from time to time and if not written down while fresh in the mind, these words can become lost later when you want them the most. I also keep a daily journal; listing the number of words I write each day, so I have an accurate page number. This is good for tallying progress over time.
Here’s a reason why a notebook is handy: In 1996, I was getting ready to go to sleep when an opening sentence for a science fiction novel came to me. “Dropping a cat from the top of a ten-story office building was not the best way to remain hidden, but it was necessary.” (Before anyone frets, the cat isn’t a normal cat. It’s a genetically created shifter that looks like a cat. It isn’t killed or injured from the fall.) The sentence intrigued me, so I wrote it down. I didn’t have any characters, no plot, and essentially no idea where that line would take me. But from this one sentence, five books in the Predators of Darkness Series have evolved with two more planned in the near future. And the cat, by the way, is one of the most beloved characters in the series.
The beauty of a writer’s life is getting the unexpected. Shawndirea was never meant to be an epic fantasy. It was intended as a novella backstory for Devils Den, but these characters were over twenty years old in my mind. When the opportunity was presented for them to come alive on the page, they took over. I had anticipated a 40,000-word novel but ended up with 148,000 words. Lady Squire: Dawn’s Ascension was even longer—200,000 words. A third novel for this series is in the works.
“I work full-time and never have the time to write.”
Almost a year ago, I was teaching full-time. Two years earlier, I contacted one of my professors from graduate school, complaining that I was too exhausted to write and didn’t have the time to write. His reply? “A true writer will find the time to write regardless.”
That line hit home, and I’ve never looked back. While teaching, I’d write before classes began, during quarter breaks, between day and night classes, or on the weekends. Whenever I could squeeze in time to write, I did. I finished two novels in two years during my spare time. Books don’t write themselves. Words become sentences. Sentences become paragraphs, and paragraphs become pages. Over time the pages add up and you have finished a novel. But it never happens if you say, “One day when I have more time I’ll . . .”
Leonard D. Hilley II is the author of nine novels. If you enjoy epic fantasy like The Lord of the Rings or The Game of Thrones, check out Hilley’s Chronicles of Aetheaon Series: Shawndirea [Book One] and Lady Squire: Dawn’s Ascension [Book 2]. Devils Den is set twenty years after Shawndirea.
For sci-fi and end-of-the-world enthusiasts, check out the Predators of Darkness Series. Predators of Darkness: Aftermath, Beyond the Darkness, The Game of Thrones, and Death’s Valley.
For paranormal romance/urban fantasy: Succubus: Shadows of the Beast.
For updates about future novels, LIKE Leonard D. Hilley II author page on Facebook. Author website is coming in the near future and will be announced on the author page.
Forrest Wollinsky: Vampire Hunter
Leonard D. Hilley II
Genre: YA Friendly; Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Publisher: Nocturnal Trinity Press
Date of Publication: March 13, 2016
Number of pages: 266
Word Count: ~83,000
"Killing Vampires Since 1888."
I was born in Bucharest in 1880 in the heart of the vampire population. At eight years old, I was considered a freak of nature since I was already the size of an adult male. Other children my age, and some of my teachers, shunned me.
Being rejected by one’s peers cuts deeply. Then I met my first werewolf and discovered a master vampire was plotting to kill me because of what I am. From that moment, my destiny stole my future aspirations all men grow up wanting.
This is how my destiny begins.
The wind howled like an awakening banshee as it swirled and lashed around our snow-covered cottage nestled in the barren trees at the edge of the forest. I was only eight years old, but it was the harshest winter in my one hundred and thirty-odd year memory.
My father had been gone for several days, which wasn’t unusual. Mother had said that he was hunting and should return soon, but the blizzard had set in with a fury, burying the roads, fields, and the forest floor beneath several feet of snow. Wherever he was, he’d be stuck for quite some time.
Snowdrifts lined three sides of our meager cottage and the snowstorm had barely started. The outside layers of snow helped insulate our rugged home. The warmth of the fire felt like the heat of summer, making it almost easy to forget about the freezing howling winds outside.
The hearth fire crackled softly under a black bubbling pot of rabbit stew. Garlic cloves were strung together above a basket of dried yams. We had enough food to last out the week, which made me wonder why my father had chosen to hunt during the worst of the blizzard.
My mother sat in her creaky rocker and was sewing a new coat for me from rabbit hides. Only eight, I was as husky and tall as a young man in his teens. It seemed that I outgrew my clothes about as quickly as she could make new ones.
While she sewed, I sat near the fire and sharpened a long curved dagger my father had given me. He had traded fox hides for the blade, and I expected to soon use it whenever my father returned with his kill.
A slight pause in the winds caused my mother to stop rocking. She leaned slightly forward and cocked her head to the side. The curious frown on her face caught my attention. I set down the whetstone and rose to my feet.
A gentle rapping at the door was faintly noticeable since the winds had quieted, and probably would have gone completely unnoticed had they continued to whistle. But there it was again.
A bit bolder, but not overly pronounced or with desperation.
With my dagger gripped in my hand I eased toward the door. Confusion furrowed my mother’s brow. She set her quilt aside and held her scissors to her side, ready to help fend off whatever danger awaited outside that door.
Stepping to the side of the door, I lifted the metal latch that secured the door and eased it against the door panel, careful to be silent.
Without fear, I grabbed the large oval handle and yanked open the door. A whoosh of cold air sprang forward, sucking out our much-treasured heat.
On the path directly outside the door, the snow was stained crimson beneath the gray overcast sky. A trail of blood cut farther down the path into the forest. Large heavy snowflakes dropped, steadily trying to erase the blood path. No other tracks were in the snow. No bandits or attackers were visible amongst the snowy tree trunks. The bloody path ended at the door where the body lay.
A desperate weak hand shook, reaching up for me.
“John!” my mother shouted, running across the room to the door.
In terror I stared down into my father’s haunted eyes, barely recognizing him. His face was battered, and his eyes were swollen nearly shut. Blood caked in his graying beard. His useless legs twisted behind him. How far he had crawled or how he had managed to do so with the amount of blood he had lost? It was a mystery then, and remains so even to this day. By every means he should have been dead, long before he got to the door, but his stubborn determination enabled him to ignore his pain and fight to pull himself back home.
I sheathed my dagger and grabbed his nearly frozen hand, heaving him out of the snow and across the threshold. Mother quickly closed and secured the door when we were safely inside.
My father’s cold hand fell from my grip and a huge sigh gushed from his mouth as he lost consciousness.
“Father?” I asked, dropping to my knees in front of him. Blood trickled from his nose. I glanced toward Momma. “What happened to him?”
“Get him to the bed,” she said, wiping away tears.
Placing my hands beneath his underarms, I lifted, pulling him up enough to wrap my arms around his chest until he was upright. His body was cold, but the heat of his leaking wounds stuck to me. I cringed. So much blood. I fought tears. He was dying. Had to be. Nothing lost so much blood and survived.
My father wasn’t a massive man, like he and my mother always insisted I would become. He actually weighed less than I and was several inches shorter. In spite of his stature, he was a crafty fighter, capable of defending himself against men twice his size. Stout and thinly muscular, he had incredible strength and feared no one.
For once, I was proud of my abnormally large size and his lack thereof. I hefted him and walked toward the bed, his boots scraping the wooden floor as I moved. Gurgling sounds rumbled in his throat.
“A bear?” I asked, looking at her. “Was he attacked by a bear?”
Mother brought a pail of lukewarm water and set it by the bed. She shook her head and tore strips of cloth.
I eased my father onto the bed and laid him back. He gasped and groaned in pain, but his eyes never opened.
“Strip off his coat,” she said. “His boots, too.”
I quickly obeyed.
She peeled back his shirt, revealing long gashes across his chest and abdomen. The lacerations were too narrow to be from bear claws, but the cuts were dark and deep. Older white scars were visible. On his chest above his heart was the singed outline of a cross. Two puncture marks near his shoulder were swollen, bruised. Two dark dots.
“What did this?” I asked, pointing at the wound. My fingers almost touched the marks, and she slapped my hand away.
“No!” she gasped.
“What kind of animal could do this?”
Her dark eyes were hollowed from fear. She was paler than normal and seemed more delicate.
“Mother, please tell me what did this to Father?”
She took a damp cloth and washed blood from his nose and beard. With another cloth, she washed his forehead. Tears heated her eyes. She spat out a word with complete contempt as she whispered, “Vampire.”
My chest tightened. Anger rippled inside me. “A vampire attacked him while he was hunting game?”
“No,” she replied. “He was hunting the vampire.”
“It is his calling, his duty. Magistrates and governors seek him out to kill vampires. They pay in gold and silver coins.”
I stared at my father’s frail body. His chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. “Why has he never told me?”
“To protect you.”
Frowning, I asked, “Why would they wish to harm me? My schoolmates tell tales that are quite scary. I’d never venture into one of their lairs.”
“You’re like your father, but you’re too young. In time you’ll be as fearless as he.”
“Too young for what, Mother?”
“To train to hunt the vampires.”
My eyes widened and fastened upon my father’s incapacitated body. He was barely alive. The possibility that he would die during the night was greater than the chance of him surviving his injuries. I didn’t think I was foolish enough to pursue the fanged demons of the night. Trained or not, hunting vampires was destined to become a short-lived profession.
“His legs are broken,” I said.
She nodded. “I know.”
Tears streamed down my mother’s cheeks. She cried quietly without calling attention to herself. I took a damp cloth and pressed it against one of the lacerations across my father’s stomach. I hoped the pressure might stop the bleeding. Some of the cuts were scabbing, but the two puncture wounds pulsed softly, in rhythm with his faint heartbeat. It was unnerving to witness, as if the injuries were alive, feeding off of his body.
While I held the cloth, her eyes widened. She rushed from the side of the bed and ran to black water pot near the hearth. She was back in seconds.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Momma was too frantic for words. She turned my father’s head to the side, pried open his mouth, and black blood oozed out. She took the damp cloth and inserted it into his mouth with her finger. She swirled her cloth-covered finger around the inside of his mouth like one washed a dish. When she pulled out the cloth, it was saturated with more of the dark blood.
“Is he bleeding that badly?” I asked.
She shook her head. “It’s not his blood.”
“Under the bed,” she said softly. “Get the box.”
I lowered to my knees and peered under the bed. I grabbed the handle and pulled the heavy suitcase box out, scraping the floor loudly.
I lifted the heavy box and set it on the edge of the bed.
“Open it,” she said.
Inside of the box were several sharp wooden stakes, a wooden mallet, a silver cross, glass vials filled with powder, and more glass vials filled with clear liquid. My mother took one vial of the liquid, read the label, and popped the cork. She walked around to the other side of the bed.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“The puncture marks have to be purified and cleansed. Or your father will become a vampire.”
“The bite somehow causes the victim to turn. Don’t ask me how. Your father would know but—” Her voice broke into sobs.
I wanted to tell her that he was going to be okay, but I couldn’t tell a lie that convincingly. His condition was severe. No way to deny it.
Then the revelation gripped me. I suddenly realized his injuries were intentionally far worse than I had imagined. The vampire who had inflicted the damage upon my father intended for him to die so that he, too, would become a vampire.
“What’s in the vial?” I asked.
“That will cure him?”
Mother replied, “If we can fully cleanse the wound, it’s possible that we can save him. But, it’s painful for him to endure. In his weakened condition, the cure might well kill him.”
“And if that should happen?”
“You will have to drive a stake through his heart. I can’t . . . I simply can’t do it.”
Stunned, I looked into her eyes with uncertainty, questioning. She nodded solemnly. I knew the depth of her love for my father prevented her from killing him, even if he were to turn, but I wondered if I was capable. Could I drive a stake through the heart of my father? In the matter of age, I was still a boy, struggling with a problem that only an adult should have to consider. I had to shoulder the responsibility but how?
About the Author:
Leonard D. Hilley II grew up in Fort Payne, AL, where his never-ending curiosity introduced him to the world of biology and books. During his youth he was an avid insect collector and reared butterflies and moths. His love for science eventually merged with his writing. He currently resides in Marietta, Ohio, where he writes science fiction thrillers, epic high fantasy, and YA mysteries.
Education: B.S. Biology; MFA in Creative Writing
Leonard D. Hilley II is the author of Predators of Darkness: Aftermath, Beyond the Darkness, The Game of Pawns, Death's Valley, Shawndirea, and Devils' Den.
Leonard D. Hilley II also writes short stories for YA. Two books were inspired by his love of biology: Rearing Dragons in My Backyard and Fiddling Worms. He also writes a mystery series for YA: Dee's Mystery Solvers.