My flight to France departs tomorrow, so travel is still very much on my mind. Today’s “travel” excerpt is from Elevation:
As Sam reached for another branch, these contemplations still in his head, he felt a large hand on his arm. When he turned to look at Nathan, the young man gestured towards the hover
“Hey, little buddy – the first chance we get, you’re going to have to let me teach you how to drive one of those things; Sarah, too. We may stumble across another one, and I’d rather have you or Sarah driving it than one of those Controls. I still don’t trust them, exactly, no matter what Elliot says. And there’s always the chance we could get separated. If that happens, I don’t want you two getting stranded. If any more of the scholars’ men catch up to us, you may need to make a run for it. I wouldn’t want them nabbing you because you couldn’t get away when you had the chance.”
Sam shrugged, physically and mentally. He didn’t really like that idea, but he wasn’t about to argue with Nathan and his good intentions. Nathan had been technically eager from the start, at least as far as the hovers were concerned. He had tried to start one of the vehicles on Fervor after they had been abandoned by the adults on the island, before they had received the Directives at the Gathering forbidding it, and he had almost succeeded without the proper training. Sam, on the other hand, had never been interested in driving a hover. He also had found that even though the Languorite had stripped him of his obligations to follow the Directives, he still faced a slight wave of nausea whenever he had to travel in or even be around one of the vehicles. Conditioning, perhaps.
“We’ll learn,” Sarah agreed. “Even if we don’t really want to – right, Sam? It’s important. In fact, I think the first opportunity that Fiona has, she should teach us how to use any of the devices that she knows how to use. It’s not like we’re restricted by the Directives anymore. We’re free from them now; we have to get used to that, again.”
Just a gentle push, that was Sarah’s way, but that was all it took. Sam wanted to please her, not because he felt compelled to like he had with Francis, but because he wanted to; she deserved his cooperation.
Hopefully my flight will go well. Wish me luck!
You would think with not one but three books soon to be released (one just out – Providence, one waiting on cover art and a few final touches, and one in final edits also waiting on cover art) I would focus all my efforts on that, but the short stories I have out in submission land don’t just go away while I’m busy. So while I rev up for releases, I have to juggle everything else that comes my way. Sometimes I drop the ball. I allowed myself to be tempted into starting a second book when halfway through reading a first one for review purposes. I ended up with two half finished books yesterday, which meant no review.
Nevertheless, even though it can be overwhelming, when I have so many things coming at me, I seem to get much more done. I’ve been tackling illustrations, a short story by request, a short story rewrite based on publisher feedback, blog posts in advance, work on a teaser tale for Prisoners of Fate and promo work. I can keep up this pace for a couple of months, but by August I’ll be needing a break – good thing I have vacation time then.
For promotion, May December Publications has a few things on the go. They have dropped the prices for print copies of books 1-3 in the Fervor series (Fervor, Elevation, Transcendence) and reduced price for Kindle version of Magic University, the intro novel of my Masters & Renegades series, to $0.99. I have my fingers crossed that folks will give my work a go. My fantasy novels have managed to win over some non-fantasy fans. I consider that a solid accomplishment.
Submission blitz update – While I did not get an official letter, I did get another rejection. The ToC was posted for one of the anthologies before all letters had been sent, and my story didn’t make the cut. “The Storyteller’s Affliction” goes back on the shelf for now.
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“Soul mates” is a term you’ll hear in connection with people in love who consider themselves made for one another. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s love letters to Sophie, he implies that they are already bound by the soul. He refers to her letters to him as “spiritual food” that helps keep his soul alive. He also compares her love to religion, “purifying his aims and desires”.
Considering true love is supposed to take root in the soul, it’s hard not to make some reference to the soul when writing a romantic relationship into your plot that is far deeper than warm fuzzies or simple infatuation. It is difficult to explain otherwise, that kind of all-encompassing connection between two people.
I’m guilty of resorting to describing a soulful bond between characters on more than one occasion. Here are a few examples (the first one involves telepaths):
Camille raised her eyes to his, digging that hole for him even deeper. Then, to make matters worse, she flung her mind wide open to him, so that he was aware of every raw thought and feeling there. She had been wounded by this warped lottery, although she had hidden it well, and she desperately sought comfort, but the hardest part for Royce about this sudden exposḗ was her current state of arousal and how much she did want him. That was too much for him to resist. This abrupt move drove all thoughts of Katrina temporarily out of his mind, and there was a cascade effect, as their mutual attraction reinforced itself when they delved into each others’ psyche. His thoughts interlocked with hers, sweeping away any remaining reservation like it was a fine layer of dust. Straying beyond the point where he could deny impulse, he found himself kissing her. The tendrils of her thoughts teased at the inside of his head, exploring everything that he was the way that her tongue explored the interior of his mouth.
But Addy was older now; she was becoming a woman, and she yearned for something more than friendship, just as Lee did. For some inexplicable reason though, she wanted that from Javan and no one else … Javan – intangible, unreachable and only real to her. It didn’t make any sense, but nothing much ever did in her messed-up, frustrating life. Maybe it was his words: “you’re my purpose, my reason for being. You’re my heart.” Those were the sentiments she couldn’t let go of. They had gripped a part of her soul that was now his and his alone.
-When You Whisper
After commiserating with Finch, Clayton made his way to Dee’s room. She did not try to stop him from coming in, but she was completely non-responsive when he tried to communicate with her. He stayed there with her, speaking with her gently and soothingly about little mundane things that had happened around the Academy over the past couple of years, despite the fact that she ignored him completely. He watched her the whole time he spoke to her, refusing to let the soulless look of her grey eyes dissuade him from his efforts. This would be one of many days he would have to do this, he knew that, but he would persist, and remain constant. That was what she needed, so that was what he was prepared to do.
He stayed with her until he had to go teach his classes, but he returned at every opportunity. He continued to sit and talk with her until he ran out of things to say, and then he would stay there anyway, just holding her hand. This was the way it was for many days.
-Lines of Opposition (Masters & Renegades #5)
I have enough of these references to fill many blog posts because that is the type of connection to which many of us aspire…finding that soul mate.
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Sometimes you may hear stories about spontaneous human combustion. I’m getting to the point where I think I’m about to burst into flames any minute, exploding because I haven’t done any writing lately (not quite like this picture here). I’ve been doing plenty of editing, but it’s just not the same. As soon as I’m done my current editing project, I really want to start writing something new. My problem is not that I don’t have any ideas what to write, my problem is I have too many ideas and I can’t decide what to work on next. So I’m putting it out there … I’m going to post a selection of my latest book ideas here and on a variety of social networking sites and ask everyone’s opinion. What do you think I should write next, and why? E-mail me your suggestion at firstname.lastname@example.org or post it as a comment here, or on facebook. I’ll send a copy of one of my books (Fervor, Elevation, MU, Casualties of War, The Blood is Strong or a zombie anthology) to the most creative explanation I receive detailing which book I should write next.
So here’s what I’m considering (** warning – there may be spoilers in these descriptions):
Masters & Renegades # 9 – Dagramar’s Zoo: Now that Renegade magic is legal in Seaforest, Nia and Snyder decide to seize upon the opportunity to visit their son and grandchild in Feltrey. When the pair fail to arrive at their destination, a frantic Prince Emrys and the captain of his guard, Jarvas are forced to head off in search of them, hoping that they are not lost beyond rescue. (the hubby didn’t want me working on this one until after #5 is published and #3 isn’t even out yet.)
M & R associated – I have a few possible prequels in contemplation:
An Urwick prequel – how he came to leave the underrealm and why he chose to become a Master when he was already a Renegade. It would also look at his run through the Admission Trials, the consequences and his apprenticeship to Jadira.
Another prequel would expand on Kraken Chasm and explore the creation of the Defiance.
Lastly, I could write a prequel based on the voyages of Traveller, from the Snowy Barrens to her employment with Galgamir.
Endeavour (Fervor #5)
When You Scream – Sequel to When You Whisper- Follows Felicia’s life after the first book
Paranormal adventure/romance – Audrey’s father is an established writer who crashed hard after her mother’s death and has written nothing since. At the advice of his agent, he decides to change his environment, and he picks up Audrey and what is left of his life and moves to Sandor Island in hopes of finding solace and refuge from his grief. Audrey’s own life is upended, and at first she feels trapped and bored on the somewhat isolated island until she discovers that there is something very strange about the island’s other inhabitants, its history and its shores. Instead of being stranded in the middle of nowhere and nothing, she finds herself at the centre of a war between the ghosts of pirates and a clan of nereids. She also is introduced to love in a very unanticipated way – one she is not sure she is willing to explore.
Sifting the Ashes:
Post-apocalyptic horror/dark fantasy – a post-apocalyptic tale told from the point of view of Ash, a crow. “The humans rose from amidst the animals and we adapted. The humans started building their cities, and we adapted again. We changed with them, we grew with them, thriving and remaining strong. Now the humans have fallen and we will adapt again. The world is ours to make of it what we will.”
In Her Blood:
Fantasy Romance – An expansion on my short story “The Last” (posted on my account on Scribd and Wattpad.)
Nine choices – as many as I had contestants in MU. It’ll be interesting to see if I get many responses and how creative those responses will be. I’m looking forward to reading them.
After reading the response an aspiring comic book artist was given during a critique of her artwork, I honestly took offense to some of what the critic had to say (you can find the response at this link: http://kxhara.deviantart.com/journal/Contest-A-Fat-Female-Superhero-315317673 ).
Truth is, our society has a warped idea of what is acceptable in the way of female body image. It’s unrealistic and most often unhealthy. Genre fiction, sadly, has tended to support these unrealistic ideals in the past. “It’s necessary for the fantasy,” you’ll hear. “It’s what they fans want,” you’ll also hear. “Heroes are supposed to be more than human – they’re supposed to be perfect,” is a common quote.
That might be your perspective, but it definitely isn’t mine, and I know for a fact I’m not the only one who feels that way. There is a sizable market of people looking for diversity in genre heroes and those who insist on supporting the supermodel/playboy bunny stereotype for heroines are definitely losing out on that market.
I understand that there is a visual element to comic books, but not every man finds a beach-ball bosomed, wasp-waisted woman attractive, and many women find those unnatural forms and silly comic book poses somewhat repulsive. I think there should be more effort to counter these market standards and demand something truer to life. I have found that with written genre fiction, the more mature fiction and not the trendy paranormal romance that holds to societal ideals, there has been an increase in character realism and presentation of varying body images. Not, however, without a fight.
At Hal-Con 2011, I had a discussion with Kelley Armstrong where she described how she had to stand her ground to keep one of her lead male characters described the way he was, rather than converting him to the industry expected teenage-heart throb. He turned out to be one of her most beloved characters with her readers, but only because she trusted her gut instead of towing the industry line. Realism is endearing. It is actually difficult to properly connect with a character who doesn’t have flaws, because the rest of us have them. Imperfection allows for empathy, or sympathy – depending on the circumstances.
Kelley’s not alone in fighting to present realistic characters. According to my husband, the book “The Moon Maze Game” by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes (2011) features some very strong female characters, at least
one of which is a “heavy” woman. And I have certainly read other well-written genre books with similar protagonists or supporting characters.
So changes are happening, at least on the written front, and I’m hoping to be part of that change. I have multiple characters who are described as overweight, several in my Masters & Renegades series, including Reeree, Burrell and at one point, Dee, and Mallory, a Fixer in my Fervor series, who makes her first appearance in Elevation.
In my yet to be published works, there is Kerza, my heroic witch from Sleep Escapes Us: “While Alina would not have necessarily described the girl as plain, she certainly wouldn’t have declared her beautiful either. She was fleshy in an unpleasant way, not voluptuous or zaftig. Her skin was so pale it almost glowed in the shadowy tunnels, her shaggy dark hair was a tangled mess that hung over her face, and she moved as lifelessly as one of the undead on the surface.” Far from the societal ideal, and while she cleans up a little as the story goes, she remains overweight for the duration of the tale.
There’s also my female protagonist in Intangible: “Silvana had tried. She had searched diligently for a job that would cover all of her expenses, but she was an unschooled teenager who looked strange, her auburn hair streaked with oranges and greens, her nose and brow pierced, overweight and wearing clothing that certainly didn’t match the latest trends.”
And don’t assume that because they are fat and not the “standard beauty” that these ladies exist simply as comic relief – “fat foils.” They are prominent active characters who are heroic and self-sacrificing. They also have romantic liaisons with men who are sincere, appreciative and respectful.
My point is, it is up to future writers and artists to demand such changes, by pushing boundaries and voicing our objections to ridiculous unrealistic standards. Wake up world. It’s time that genre fiction, comic books and graphic novels included, got real.
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(Image: rough sketch of one of the cover concepts for Sleep Escapes Us)
Despite the fact that I write dark fantasy and horror, I do a fair amount of research for my NaNoWriNo novels. Since I’m using a mythological backdrop, I search for as much relevant information on the mythologies I’m using and the area where the myths originated. In the case of Sleep Escapes Us, I actually wanted to set the story in Ancient Thrace and the surrounding regions, so I felt some elements should be historically accurate, despite the fantasy and supernatural aspects of the tale.
I also like to include a certain amount of realism in my fantasy and horror tales, even if the events never did, or never would, happen. In this instance, I wanted some validity to my herbalist character, Kerza’s skill-base. This is what I came up with…
The Flora of Sleep Escapes Us
When I started my research into Ancient Thrace for Sleep Escapes Us, I was pleased to stumble across information from Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica and Pseudo-Apuleius’ Herbarius , sources that discussed the Dacian names for plants along with their English and Latin names and the uses for some of the specimens mentioned. I planned on having Kerza knowledgeable in herbalism, so I knew it would be a great resource for my story. It turned out there were several places I could make use of the information beyond the witch’s remedies and incenses. Here are the various points in the story where the Dacian flora came into play:
In chapter 3, Zalmoxis prepares to sacrifice Zelmis using a zuuster club, which is the Dacian term for wormwood (Artemisia arborescens or Tree Wormwood). This is shrub with a woody base, and a club would have to be made from securing a bundle of the woody stems into a solid bunch with some heft. It may have been supplemented with a more solid core, of wood or stone in order to issue a lethal blow. The plant was believed to be linked to things psychic and death/afterlife.
In chapter 5, Alina asks her father, afflicted by infection, where she can find the diesema (mullein or verbascum) to purge his blood. It is used again later in Kerza’s treatments for Sur. Mullein has been used historically to treat everything from colds to colics, although mullein remedies meant to be drunk have to be finely filtered to eliminate the irritating hairs. Mullein contains glycyrrhizin compounds with bactericide, concentrated in the flowers. Different extracts have varying levels of efficiency against bacteria.
In chapter 9, Kerza prepares an herbal remedy in the form of a tea. In addition to diesema, she also mentions using diassathel (wavyleaf mullein or verbascum sinuatum – sathel signifies “sieve”), which has similar properties to diesema, and lax (purslane or portulaca oleracea, supposedly used as a laxative), which was historically used to treat infections or bleeding of the genito-urinary tract as well as dysentery.
In chapter 11, Kerza tries to escape Sur’s company by excusing herself to gather kinouboila (wild pumpkin or cucurbita foetidissima), but Sur follows. Supposed medicinal benefits include using pulverized root in tea to speed protracted labor in childbirth, tea made from boiled peeled roots is used to induce vomiting, powdered seeds and flowers mixed with saliva reduce swellings and dried root ground to a powder, mixed with cold water, can be drunk for laxative.
In chapter 14, Kerza makes a stomach soothing tea from salia (anise or pimpinella tragium – having a carminative effect to settle the stomach), tuedila (peppermint or menthe x piperita – reduces abdominal pain and stomach irritation) and a bit of amalusta (chamomile or matricaria recutita – used to treat sore stomach and an irritable bowel syndrome). She also finds gonoleta ( gromwell or lithospermum tenuiflorum- used as an oral contraceptive).
In chapter 18, Kerza uses incense made from dracontos (rosemary or rosemarinus officinalis – used in incenses as it was considered a divinatory herb, possibly because its use in large quantities can cause seizures) and ziodela (sweet marjoram or origanum majorana – used historically as an incense, a mild sedative). She then anoints Alina and Zareus with holy oil made from azila (hound’s tongue or cynoglossum – it softens and soothes the skin, but it has a narcotic effect, depressing the nervous system) and hormia (annual clary or salvia horminum – primarily for aromatic purposes, a soothing/relaxing effect).
I was pleased to have a source that allowed me to have proper names for the herbs and assured what I was using was native to the area. This was probably one of the most useful results of my research for Sleep Escapes Us.
Sleep Escapes Us is available in first draft format, posted by chapter, on Scribd.com and will remain there in full until the end of December. If you would like to read it (by year’s end), you can find the first chapter at:
Also – this month marks the release of the ebook version of Elevation, the sequel to Fervor (the print version to follow at a later date). You can purchase it at Smashwords or Amazon:
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Some may have noticed that I missed my regular blog posts last week. This was due in part to trying to wade my way through the swamp of work I had to deal with when NaNoWriMo came to an end. In addition to tying up Sleep Escapes Us, my NaNo dark fantasy/horror novel, I also had to complete the last touches to Elevation, including things like the preface, acknowledgements and the back cover blurb. I’m also feeling kind of run down and burnt out (I have a cold right now.) I’m officially taking a vacation, which means as soon as I get out the last couple of submissions I had already promised to send, I’m just going to take it easy for a couple of weeks. I’m doing a bit of gift-wrapping, baking, game-playing, lots of reading and just chilling with friends and family.
Of course, going on vacation means time to try something new, so I decided to play around with a little cartooning, just for fun. I’ll be putting out a few strips before year end, and if people like it, I might make it a regular thing. Here’s my first go at it (still a little rough, but I’m working out the kinks.).
COFFEE & ZOMBIES
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Another year’s National Novel Writing Month is over and I’m happy to say that this year was another success. I beat the 50K challenge and surpassed the 60K goal I set for myself, clocking in at 74K a day early. I’m still a little disappointed, however. I would have like to have finished Sleep Escapes Us in its entirety, but when I validated, I still had three chapters to go (two now). Squeezing in those last two chapters won’t be that easy either. With new deadlines looming for going over proofs, finishing illustrations, writing blurbs and other supplementary fare for Elevation, Fervor’s sequel, from May December Publications and deadlines for several things I have in the works with Trestle Press, it will likely be at least a couple of weeks before I can hope to have those last two chapters done. Never mind the demands of the holidays…
I found myself getting a little frustrated and disheartened part way through November. Feeling overworked, in some instances undervalued, and facing a steady stream of short story rejections, I came to a bit of a mental impasse. I wanted to just write and forget the rest of it all. I decided the best way to handle it was to refocus upon the positive and take a break from the more taxing activities like submissions and going over critiques and reviews – sort of a “negativity vacation.” I stopped posting negative responses to comments or status updates, I dropped writer groups where the conversations went nowhere and did not offer anything positive or productive and I stopped reading articles that were just there for the sake of doom and gloom. It was refreshing. I started enjoying writing again, and I’m finding that I’m re-energized and smiling more often. I mean, this is all supposed to be “fun” right? -Even if it is hard work.
So I figured one of the best ways to keep being positive is to share the good this you come across with others. Here are a few of the more inspiring links I came across this week:
Another writer’s contemplations regarding perseverance: http://www.jlake.com/2011/11/29/process-perseverance/
Reflections on why a writer writes: http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/11/called-to-write/
Musings on how writers are like snowflakes: http://sablecity.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/my-best-writing-advice-write-like-you-write/
The curse, and blessings, of needing to be a writer: http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/nanowrimo-the-common-traits-of-the-successful-writer/
Also, if you want a taste of the first draft of Sleep Escapes Us, I have Chapters 1 – 17 posted to scribd.com, starting with Chapter 1 at:
The tale of Sam and his house-family does not end with Fervor. Thanks to my ever faithful, living, breathing, scissor-bearing muse, Barb, who started asking for a sequel as soon as she finished reading it (which got me thinking) and an eager publisher who also poked and prodded for something to follow Fervor (which provided me with incentive), the ideas behind Elevation were born. Coming up with a title for the second book proved challenging, and I didn’t stick with the first one to come to mind. Another challenge was the format. For reasons that become clear if you read Fervor to its conclusion, straight directed POV, third person narrative, with Sam at the helm, just wasn’t going to cut it. I had to use a few tricks that surprised and at times frustrated me, in order to make Elevation work, but I think I’m happy with the results, and I hope my readers will be too.
So now, as promised last week, here’s an excerpt from Elevation. There are items that could be considered spoilers for Fervor throughout Elevation, and in this excerpt as well – consider this a warning:
“Land! I see land!”
The exclamation had come from Fiona. Normally, it was difficult to interrupt others in the connection, but Sam and Sarah had been communicating in seclusion and Fiona, who was normally very reserved within the connection, lacked control when she became over-excited. Her shared thoughts on those occasions were jarring and atypically forceful. That was how they had stumbled upon a persistently searching Elliot when they had found him, the latent picking up on one of her panicky outbursts all the way from the coast of the mainland.
Sam glanced up towards the front of the hover. The young woman had leapt to her feet briefly, gaping at the sight of the coastline approaching them, in absolute amazement. Sam and Sarah had never been on the mainland, born, or rather, created, and raised on Fervor. But The Bigs had originally come from there, when they were mere toddlers, and only Fiona had any memories of that time, out of all of the people that Sam knew. Fiona stood there, trembling with excitement until Nathan insisted that she return to her seat. The trip until now had been a simple one, but guiding the hover to the exact coordinates that Elliot had given them would be a challenge, and would require a much higher level of concentration on the driver’s part. Sam was thankful that Nathan had been willing to assume that role, and that that burden had not fallen on his shoulders. Unlike Sam, Nathan had had a natural inclination towards the hovers, even before things had started changing on Fervor.
Fiona did return to her seat as he had asked, but that did not eliminate her completely as a distraction. She could not help but share her excitement, grasping Nathan’s hand tightly and leaning towards his seat to press herself up against him. Sam suspected that were he in Nathan’s shoes, he would find that very distracting. He was starting to understand what he and Francis had found so appealing in their Keeper, now that he was no longer trapped in the body of an eight-year-old.
With a November 2011 release date, Elevation will not be the last book in their tale either. A third book, Transcendence, is already in the planning stages, its outline complete. I’m hoping to have the first draft finished by the end of September – sooner if I cave to the threat of sharp scissors.
In the meantime, if you want an inexpensive but reportedly moving read, why not check out my award winning offering from Trestle Press, my digital short story, “The Ghost in the Mirror”. If you have a Kindle (or are willing to download the free Kindle for PC application), you can find it at Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Mirror-ebook/dp/B004W82QNK – or if you are looking for other digital formats, find it at Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54209 . This is my first publication with Trestle Press, but there will be more to come and I’ll be posting all my new stories from both May December Publications and Trestle Press as they become available.
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