What inspired you to become an author?
I have always had an overactive imagination which writing has provided an outlet for. When I was really young, maybe eight, I used to exchange letters each week with my oldest brother who was away at college. The fantasy creatures we made up were mortal enemies, and battled each other in an imaginary world we crafted together.
The first book I shared with anyone outside of friends and family was a children’s novella originally written for a class assignment called The Bat Boy. My teacher was very impressed and recommended that I enter it in my school’s writing contest. I was one of five lucky students selected to read our short stories to local grade school children. Of course at the time I felt anything but lucky—I was so nervous reading in front of forty or so people that I could barely keep track of what page I was on.
I have to credit my wife with starting me down the path toward becoming a published author. Knowing I used to love to write—and having watched me fill every available space in our house with paranormal and urban fantasy books I consumed faster than I could purchase—she asked me one day why I wasn’t writing novels of my own. That simple question got me writing again. I decided to pursue a career as a professional writer almost six years ago, while writing the first draft of what would ultimately become Dangerous Waters. The more people I shared sample chapters with, the more encouraged I became that I was crafting a novel with broad appeal.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I guess I fall somewhere between the seat of your pants contingent and the micro-planners, leaning more toward the former. When I get a new idea for a series I first kick it around in my head for a while, thinking about where I’d take the story, what some interesting sub plots might be, and adding some detail to the central characters. If I find that I’m still obsessed with the idea several days later then I know there’s enough interest on my part to warrant moving forward.
Ideas that make it past the daydreaming stage are captured in a catch-all word document covering everything from a skeleton plot arc to explanations of the supernatural powers that come into play and details on the central characters. This document is continuously updated throughout the writing process, and serves as an invaluable reference as the cast grows and elements are further refined.
From there it’s on to initial research, focusing on the location the book is set in and the defining characteristics of my protagonist. Is she on the swim team? Does she write poetry? Does she work as a barista? Are there pantheons or other mystical lore involved? These defining elements will be referenced throughout the book, and in order to sound at all credible I need to educate myself up front.
Once I have a good feel for the protagonist, the defining elements of the story and the high level plot arc, it’s time to start writing. I start each chapter by putting together a one page bulleted summary outlining the key events that occur, the chapter’s purpose in advancing the overall plot, and important character interactions. This is still very high level, along the lines of knowing I want to get from Detroit to Buffalo and stop at Niagara Falls along the way. I’ve found I write far more impactful scenes if I let the story—how I get from Detroit to Buffalo—come naturally, allowing my characters to take me in totally unexpected and wonderful directions.
Do you write in different genres?
I enjoy writing in both the Urban Fantasy and Fantasy genres. I find Urban Fantasy writing to be a little easier. By being rooted in the “real” world, it provides the author and reader with an established foundation to tie the magical / supernatural elements into. If, on the other hand, your world is full of carnivorous jasperia vines, soul stealing mist clouds and all manner of unique creatures, you need to get the reader’s head around these elements in addition to introducing the main plot and your central characters. On the other hand, Fantasy writing provides a blank canvas for the author which is incredibly endearing to me. I hold Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight) in high regard as a Fantasy Author and have learned a great deal from her writing.
Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?
I come up with a working title before I start writing but it is subject to change. Dangerous Waters, the first book in the series, had a working title of Hidden Shadows until I finished the first draft.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Wow, that’s hard! It would be a toss-up between Kelley Armstrong (Otherworld series), Richelle Mead (Bloodlines, Vampire Academy), Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight), and Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles). I see elements in my own writing style that I can attribute to each of them.
What books are in your to read pile?
Both the Sea Haven and Drake Sister’s series by Christine Feehan, A Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, Prince Lestat by Anne Rice and The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.
What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?
I am currently working on a fantasy romance called Kerrigan’s Race that features a female Olympic swimmer who is captured and taken to a foreign world full of mermaids, griffins, fae, elves and other strange creatures. I will also begin working on book three in the Sisters in Blood series soon.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’d be happy too! The below excerpt from Omnipotent Blood is from one of my favorite scenes in the book, when Brooke explores the valleys of hell for the first time atop her sister that she’s transformed into a dragon:
“Rise, Ruby,” I commanded.
Once she’d climbed to her feet, I dissolved her gown and motioned for her to climb up onto the altar. Having been told what was to come next, she placed her hands and feet within easy reach of the iron shackles, allowing me to quickly secure them. Knowing I was about to make my now-paralyzed sister immortal filled me with such happiness I couldn’t resist raising her veil and giving her a loving peck on the cheek.
Lilith placed her tri-bladed dagger in the palm of my hand. The black-vial handle had Mary Antoinette Jewel written across its face in the same stylish font and striking crimson lettering as mine had been. I’d never heard her middle name before. While I took a moment to focus on my target, part of me absently wondered why her parents had chosen it.
With a quick lunge, I plunged the twisted steel deep into Ruby’s heart. She let out a faint gurgling noise before she stopped breathing and her heart went silent. Thanks to Hanna, the jeweled golden candle holder was already sitting next to the altar, ready and waiting for me. I inserted the ceremonial black candle and whispered the simple incantation I’d memorized from the grimoire I’d been given. The eerie black flame hissed to life, rising high above the candle.
The sound of my own voice echoed through the temple as I began to recite the first chant and dance around my sister’s prone body. Just as with Aimie, the demonic candle spoke to my spirit, letting me know when and where to place the wax to help dislodge her soul. My body moved on its own accord as I wove the enchanting spell, calling to Ruby’s spirit like a siren leading a ship toward its watery grave. I was so lost in the ceremony by the time I’d completed the last of the chants Lilith had to shake me just to bring me back to my own body.
“Someone’s been practicing,” she said with a beaming smile on her face. “I could not have performed the harvesting ceremony any better myself. Now hand me your sister’s soul so you can call forth her ignis demon spirit.”
I eagerly did as she instructed, unsnapping the vial from the center of the three twisted blades still buried to the hilt inside Ruby’s chest. Rather than tucking it away to be filed in the vault as I expected, Lilith raised the small black cylinder to her mouth. Her tongue sharpened to a needle-like point and penetrated the seal before she tossed her head back and began to feed. Watching her consume my sister’s soul was surprisingly difficult for me. I knew she’d be feeding off my own soul soon enough—if she hadn’t already—and as demons we no longer had any use for them, anyway, but there was still a startling sense of finality to it. Slowly the elegant red lettering began to fade, marking the end of her soul’s existence. By the time Lilith finished feeding, her body was glowing so brightly I had to avert my eyes to keep from being blinded.
Seeing my sister’s still form lying on the altar made me quit wondering about what our goddess would be able to do with her newfound power, and I was able to focus on completing Ruby’s conversion. I carefully withdrew the dagger from her heart, breathing a huge sigh of relief when it began to beat again.
The summoning spell for an ignis demon was far more complex than the spell for a succubus, as it required a greater concentration of the darkness to form such a powerful spirit. After conducting a final practice rehearsal inside my mind, I raised my arms high above my head and began to sing out the lengthy chant. By the time I was halfway through, sentient black smoke-like tendrils began to seep up from the depths below and coalesce around my sister’s body. I continued to sing as they forced their way into her mouth and eyes and between her legs. Fearing I would get distracted, I turned away when her body began to mutate, choosing to watch the dark tendrils rise up from the depths of Hell instead. When the last of the smoke disappeared behind me, a fierce roar bellowed through the temple. I turned to find myself face to face with a seventy-foot-long dragon.
Ruby lowered her enormous head so I could rub the scaly red skin between her nostrils. Grayish horns protruded from the top of her skull, but the rest of her countless bony growths—including the spikes that ran the length of her spine down to the tip of her tail—were blood red like her body. Her striking brown eyes were the same color as when she was in her human form, allowing me to see a bit of my sister within the beast. Unfortunately there wasn’t room inside the temple for her to extend her majestic wings. The confined space seemed to be upsetting her.
Feeling a little suicidal, I leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on her snout. “You are so beautiful, Ruby. Can you understand me?”
She nodded, inadvertently knocking me onto my rear. I laughed as I climbed back to my feet. “Easy with the gestures there, sis. I’d say you’re like a bull in a china shop, but you could eat a bull in one gulp.”
She let out a little snort that I took for her version of a laugh. When she opened her enormous mouth to reveal her six foot fangs I couldn’t help taking a step back from her. It was like looking down the throat of a lion, only a thousand times scarier.
I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to tell me by holding her mouth open until Lilith spoke up. “She wants you to climb inside, my young general. To prove you still trust her.”
The are-you-nuts, wide-eyed look I shot back made her and Hanna both laugh. “Look at the bright side. Even if she eats you, I’ll be able to piece your body back together once you come out the other end. No harm done.”
“How comforting,” I growled back at her. Being remade from a steaming pile of dragon poop. There’s an image I’d never get out of my head. Still, if my sister wanted to eat me, she could have done it by now.
I slowly walked forward, stepping over the two-foot-tall teeth in her lower jaw to climb inside her mouth. When she lifted the base of her forked black tongue toward my butt, I figured she wanted me to sit and eased myself down onto the sandpaper-like skin. She carefully closed her jaws until I was cocooned inside in complete darkness. Suddenly her tongue shot forward. I let out a scream as she knocked my legs out from under me, sending me sprawling onto my back. The sides of her tongue rolled around my body, wrapping me up like a burrito before my sister was on the move. I could hear stone breaking apart as she lunged forward on her powerful lizard-like legs. Soon the ground dropped out from under us.
The thunderous flapping of her powerful wings shook her entire body almost like the gallop of a horse. After the initial nausea from my tilt-a-whirl ride, I began to enjoy the feeling of us being airborne and wished I could see where we were going. “Can you fly with your mouth open a bit without dropping me?” I yelled out, hoping she could hear me above the noise. The scorching air I was somehow growing accustomed to came whistling through her teeth as her mouth cracked apart just wide enough for me to peer through.
We were flying above a vast ocean of bright orange magma. Off in the distance I began to make out what looked like the ruins of a sprawling coastal city. Giant granite statues of my god and his daughter stood like sentinels on the high cliffs above the port. Skeletons of mile-wide castles and long-abandoned arenas littered the ground we passed above, as did the foundations of thousands of homes. Further inland, the tracks of ground were sectioned off and plowed in neat rows. Farms had once spanned from one horizon to the other. Now all that was left was an endless stretch of charred, lifeless soil. It was like looking at a post-apocalyptic earth. If I didn’t utterly despise our enemies before seeing such indisputable evidence of the genocide they’d committed, I certainly did now. Soon the angels would pay for what they’d done to our homeland. They’d all pay.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
With Brooke being under the influence of very dark forces for a large portion of the book (and not just in a “tranced” robot, can’t control my body sort of way), it made it challenging to write from her very altered and sometimes disturbing point of view while providing readers with enough signs that there is a piece of her deep down that is still fighting to give them hope. She goes through hell—literally—before ultimately finding her salvation. She wrestles with her sexuality and her faith as well, and is thrust into a leadership position she isn’t at all prepared for, waging a demon-on-demon war (featuring dragons, minotaurs and all kinds of other fantastic creatures) with the fate of mankind at stake. There are so many aspects of her character that are developed in this book. She truly is not the same person by the end.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The best advice I could give anyone thinking about writing a book is to not worry about getting published up front. Let yourself enjoy the unbound creativity that comes with crafting your very own world. Invest time up front to put together a plot arc and a rough story outline. Think about each of your main characters. What’s different about them? How do they dress, talk, act? What role do they play in the central plot arc? What challenges will they face? What are their personal shortcomings? What mistakes will they make along the way? The better you understand your characters, and the more clearly you can define your storyline, the easier the entire process will be. Above all else, commit to finishing what you start and making time to write each day.
Do you have a song or playlist (book soundtrack) that you think represents this book?
Of course J Music plays a key role in getting me in the right frame of mind to write. The playlist for Omnipotent Blood included all of the below, but by my “go to” song was Dressed in Black by Sia.
- Radioactive Imagine Dragons
- Yellow Flicker Beat Lorde
- Chandelier Sia
- Run Boy Run Woodkid
- Sail Awolnation
- Animals Martin Garrix
- My songs know what you did in the dark Fall Out Boy
- Dead in the Water Ellie Goulding
- Dressed in Black Sia
- Elastic Heart Sia
- Fancy Iggy Azalea
- Good for You Selena Gomez
- Dark Horse Katy Perry
If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?
Immortality, if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity. I’d love to be able to sit back and watch the world evolve over tens of thousands of years, bearing witness to all that is to come.
If you could keep a mythical/ paranormal creature as a pet, what would you have?
I’d love to be married to a werewolf and have her turn me so we could run through the woods together, frolicking in our canine forms J
Sisters in Blood
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Freya’s Bower
Date of Publication: October 6, 2015
Number of pages: 294
Word Count: 117,529
Cover Artist: LLPix Design
Having survived the attack inside the Natick Mall, Brooke dreads the thought of spending decades in exile while she waits for the media firestorm from the superhuman brawl to run its course. But soon after fleeing Boston, she discovers the battle caught the eye of forces far more lethal than humans. Captured by the dark Goddess Lilith, Brooke has her soul stripped away, becoming a greater demon tasked with leading Hell's forces to war.
But not even Lilith could have anticipated the powerful bond Brooke has formed with her family. Or the unlikely alliances they'd forge in an attempt to save her. Her love for Sienna and her sisters prevents her from fully embracing the darkness, but the demon spirit inside her is claiming more control of her mind with each passing day.
C.M Michaels grew up in a small town in northern Michigan as the youngest child of a close-knit family of seven. He met his wife, Teresa, while attending Saginaw Valley State University. Together they’ve provided a loving home for several four-legged “kids”, including Sophie, their eternally young at heart, hopelessly spoiled Spaniel.
He has always enjoyed writing, and still has fond memories of reading his first book, a children’s novella, to local grade schools when he was 14. C.M. is currently working on the third book in the Sisters in Blood series along with a Fantasy romance called Kerrigan’s Race.
An avid reader since discovering Jim Kjelgaard novels in early childhood, his favorite authors include Kelley Armstrong, Peter V. Brett, Richelle Mead, Rachel Caine and Laini Taylor. When he’s not writing, C.M. can be found curled up with a good book, watching movies or hitting the hiking trails with his wife.
C.M. currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky.