Monday, October 13, 2014

Ah, Sweet Suprise!

As I started to approach my word count goal for the first draft of my next book, I noticed something both exhilarating and worrying. I was exhilarated by the story and the many nuances the characters were showing me, by the way the plot was developing, by how quickly the words were coming.
But I found myself becoming disconcerted as I realized one inescapable fact: I was only close to finishing part one. Well, I told myself, that's just going to become two-thirds of the book. But how could two-thirds of a book equal part one? So I decided I would just find a natural breaking point a little earlier, and break the book into three parts. After all, I'd already done that with two of my other books. Why not with this one? But as I searched page after page, I saw that there was no natural breaking point. Fine. Then I'll write one. But that didn't work. The ideas just kept sealing together. I couldn't even figure out how to add in more POVs to what I already had.
All of which meant one thing: part one really had to be that long. And if part one equaled my estimate of what I thought the entire book would be, then there was only one choice left... write two books.
Though I unintentionally wrote a sequel to my first zombie book, I hadn't actually planned to write any series other than my long-planned trilogy of trilogy (which I plan to start releasing in 2015). After talking it over with a few good friends, the conclusion was obvious. I was on a tight deadline and needed to get the first draft done by a rapidly approaching date. There just wasn't enough time to write the equivalent of part one's length. Sure, I'd have to add some material to the second book to make it longer, but ideas immediately started coming to me for that, signaling that I'd made the right decision.
But what about the title? I whined. I'd picked it forever ago. How could I change it? Or add a totally new one? Would it still apply to the first half of the story? Then it hit me. Subtitles!! Yes, that's the way to go.
Looking back, I realize that the biggest lesson I learned was to be flexible. Okay, I already knew that, but it was a huge surprise to realize I was writing a much longer story that I'd originally planned. So it wasn't just about being flexible with the story or the characters, but with the writing process itself. I didn't (and still don't) want to write a second book - it was SO NOT in the plan for next year. Or the year after. But I owe it to the my readers and myself to write the best story possible. If that means longer, then so be it.
So here is another excerpt from my newly rebranded book,

EVRÍSKON: FUTURE LOST


DENA

When I finally awoke, my first thought was that I’d somehow ended up in the same place I’d just been dreaming about. But as I gazed blearily up at the sky, I knew it wasn’t the same one from the memories. The air, too, felt normal, which meant I wasn’t on another planet. Or at least, wasn’t on the only other one I’d ever been to.
With that thought, images began rushing through my head of my final moments before unconsciousness. Getting fired upon… Kean shooting out the lights… reaching the node… a voice… familiar voice…
“No!”
My voice sounded cracked in the still air as my eyes shot wide open. I tried to scramble into a sitting position, but my body had trouble obeying, my limbs weak. It was the worst electrical backlash I’d ever felt. Part of me wondered if I should’ve survived it.
Just then, Amma came into view with Tasoula.
“Mama!”
Tasoula launched herself at me, her round, perfect face alight with joy.
“Baby girl!”
I hugged her tightly, smiling with relief to see her obviously in good health.
“Mama, you were sleeping a long time. You missed our fight.”
Her words jerked me out of the sweetness of enjoying a simple moment with her, returning me immediately to my responsibilities. I pushed her back gently and looked up into her guileless face. Still so pure and innocent despite all she’d been through.
“Fight? Sweet oblivion, how long was I sleeping?”
Amma settled down on the ground next to me.
“You sleep almost three days. We think,” she added belatedly.
“Three days! But… and what do you mean, you think?”
“There’s no sun, Mama. Just clouds.”
Just clouds… were we still on Earth? I glanced around – trees, grass, rocks. Everything looked like it belonged on Earth, though it was brown and sickly-looking.
Where were we?
“Oy thought oy ‘eard ye!”
Kean emerged from around the corner of the boulder at which I was apparently situated, gun held laxly in his hands, a wide smile on his face. I smiled up at him in return, grateful to see him also in apparent good health. He walked up to where we were gathered and squatted next to me.
“Been sleeping on the job, eh?”
We laughed at the old joke, but movement caught my eye as another figure emerged from behind the boulder. I looked over, confused at the extra person. He was dressed in all black, the material in better shape than any I’d seen in a long time. My eyes traveled upwards, noticing the excellent musculature. My gaze settled on the face, on the red glare shining from deep inside the pupil.
“Kill it!” I whispered. Then again, louder. “Kill it!”
Kean glanced behind himself then turned back to me.
“Dena, wait –”
“Kill IT!” I screamed, struggling to move away, get away from the thing approaching us. Why wasn’t anyone else doing anything?
“Run Tasoula! Kean, your gun! Kill it!”
The thing kept walking towards us. Desperate, I tried grabbing the gun out of Kean’s hands.
“Kill –”
“Dena, wait!” Kean gripped the gun, keeping me from drawing it. I tried to stand, but Amma and Kean pushed me down. Frantic, I thrashed against them. Kean wrapped his arms around me. Though not particularly big, he was strong enough to hold me down as the other moved closer.
“Dena, listen, listen –”
“No! No, you don’t… understand…”
The exhausted weakness I’d felt upon waking returned. I started to slip into unconsciousness.
“Dena, it’s okay.”
Amma spoke up.
“This one is safe, child.”
Desperately, I tried to make them understand.
“No, he… it… kill…”
My world went black.

Friday, October 3, 2014

There's Too Much Going On!!! Or How to Find Balance.

Normally, I let myself relax for a while after a new book comes out. By relax, I mean go to work, go to the gym, see my friends and family, and spend time promoting the new book. I usually don't jump right into the next book.
At least, I used to not do that.
This year, it seems, my 'regular' habits are getting overturned by my desire to catch up with all the ideas in my ideas and get them down before I lose them. After all, I've already started 11 other books, not to mention several short stories, plays, and scripts. In between teaching, theatre, and the rest of my life, I simply do not have enough time to do everything.
And yet, the first draft of my next book is already 50% complete... has my head exploded yet?
Truthfully, one of the most important aspects to living as a writer is trying to find and maintain BALANCE. 
When I was in college, I was always that student who sat down at the beginning of the semester and worked out my calendar so I never had to stay up all night the day before a paper was due. And I wrote a lot of papers. But I never lost much sleep.
To this day, that maxim holds true - I hate cramming! So I plan. I spend a good amount of time planning, actually. but in the end. I really end up with more free time. Because here's the thing. I never want what I do to consume every facet of my life, because that leads to burnout, and burnout leads to dislike or even hate for a thing once loved. And I never want to hate writing. Instead, I plan out my books based on daily word count goals. Writing, editing, and publishing HEART: a visceral fantasy in three months sounds like a lot of work - but I was teaching eight different courses at the same time. How did I do it? In reality, three months divides into 90 days, and if I'm writing, say, 1500 words a day, and I'm consistent, AND I give myself days off, I'll still get a first draft done in about six weeks.
Recently, I decided I can't use upcoming deadlines as an excuse to let my house fall into disarray. So I decided to spend a minimum of thirty minutes a day cleaning up some part of my house. Why? So that I don't end up have to spend hours or even days after every project finding stuff, rearranging, dusting, etc.
There's just too much going on for me to willingly give up my free time, which is how I recharge and maintain my mental health. So if you're struggling to find time to write and juggle everything else, just remember that finding a routine that works for you will allow you to FIND BALANCE. Because no one wants to lose sleep. And no one wants to start resenting his/her passion(s) in life. And most importantly, your stories deserve a chance to find the light of day.

So here it is, the product of my balance: the first excerpt from my new book, Evrίskon, a sci-fi adventure with a little magic thrown in.

"The commanding hybrid looked at the woman who had spoken. Her cropped hair was threaded black and gray. Lines curved around her eyes and formed deep grooves surrounding her mouth. A scar crossed one side of her face, from her ear to her jaw. Though it had healed cleanly, her mouth was slightly twisted on one side. She was lean with the look of one who had long ago learned to fuel her body on willpower and determination rather than normal human sustenance. Yet energy flowed around her, and as Hybrid-John897 scanned her with his optics, he picked up increasing levels of electro-magnetic interference.
Commander, is this the correct human? His first officer, Hybrid-Mike2564 queried via Link. She does not match records.
It is her, Hybrid-John897 replied as he looked into her eyes and studied the electrical field surrounding her. Scan with facial recognition protocols and age subject by eight years of last known contact.
His first officer obeyed immediately.
Confirmed. Voice and facial data match.
The entire exchange took little more than 6.24 seconds, but Dena knew exactly what the hybrids were doing. She stared straight ahead, appearing to focus on the leader. But as the spell flowed out of her and dissipated into her bioelectrical field, she gathered her will and focused on her second spell. He hand, resting in pocket, suddenly clenched on a tiny, jagged, rounded rock.
Go, she commanded.
A sudden flash lit the entire tunnel.
The hybrids staggered back in surprise, their weapons up and primed as they waited for the attack to finish. Hybrid-John897 struggled to focus his optics on making sense of what was in front of him, but all he could see was a haze of electric particles obscuring his scanner.
Switch to sapient vision, auto-enhanced, he commanded calmly as he stopped reading his data stream and waited the few seconds necessary for his real eyes to adjust. A human failing, he thought, given that switching to his cybernetic optics took less than a dozen nanoseconds. As his vision came into focus, he looked out over the scene in front of him.
Into a madhouse.
Thousands of people rushed back and forth, crossing the train terminal, but as he tried to focus, a distant, human emotion flushed through him.
Bewilderment.
The target, Dena Evrískon, had disappeared. Or at least, had somehow changed herself. His mind struggled with his processors to understand what he was looking at. Where before the electrical flash, there had been still, orderly bodies of all shapes and sizes, there was now only one. Or hundreds of one. Some distant, human part of him recognized the irony in what Dena Evrískon had managed to do. Just all every machine was connected to the Nexus via the Link – many who are one – so, too, had she just created her own Nexus. At least, that was the only way Hybrid-John897 managed to justify it to himself and the programmed signals that enhanced his body’s capabilities.
The madhouse in front of him resolved into the same face, same body, same sex, repeated over and over. Blond, female, tall, unmarked face. There. And there. Hundreds of them. How was a field of bioelectricity capable of doing such a thing?
Commander, orders are required. Do we fire into the crowd? They are useless, unarmed, and running away.
Hybrid-John897 consulted his internal orders before responding.
Negative, Hybrid-Mike2564. Our primary directive is to capture and apprehend target. Drones have been assigning for the cleansing. They arrive in two-hundred forty-five seconds. Fan out and begin search. Have every unit switch to organic-input optics.
A new thought occurred to him.
In the left eye only. Keep the right eye available to read any coming electrical surges of any type.
Affirmative, Commander.
Hybrid-Mike2564 turned and relayed orders to the rest of the unit. Less than ten seconds after giving orders, Hybrid-John897 was on the move, his eyes trying vainly to make sense of the order around him. Though he was tempted to shoot first, he obeyed his programming. As he stepped into the crowd, he turned to address his first officer.
Who had disappeared.
Hybrid-Mike2564, respond.
No response.
Hybrid-Mike2564, What is your position?
Nothing.
Hybrid-Mike2564, this is Unit 4903 Commander Hybrid-John897. You are ordered to respond.
Again, silence.
Had his first officer cut off his feed to the Link?
Distracted, Hybrid-John897 missed a pattern in the movement around him. As he looked around, he noticed the space around him had cleared.
And then the tunnel lit up – this time blinding him in both his visions.
When the light faded, the humans were gone." 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Full Circle

This past weekend marked the completion of my first full year of promoting and attending cons and/or other events for my books. As with many other events, there was the prep, the anticipation, the wondering whether or not I would recoup my costs and hey, even make a little money. Oh, and have a good time - otherwise, what's the point?

I was leery last year when I signed up for Monster-Con 2013, because I only had out one "monster" book, PLAN B: ZOMBIE, only my zombies were funny, if not downright silly, and what if true horror/zombie fans wouldn't respond? As is often the case, balancing my time to write with performing and teaching meant that I was very close to broke. Did I seriously want to shell out money for a market I had no way of really measuring? I didn't write comedy, DIDN'T like zombies, yet there I was, with a ZOM-COM of all things, ready to sell.

But I told myself: This is an investment in ME. In this product and your belief in yourself as a writer. Even if you don't make money back, you'll meet a lot of people and start getting yourself OUT THERE.

And that's exactly what happened. Not only did I meet lots of people, I was suddenly invited to all sorts of events that I had no idea existed - all within my city throughout the year. Just like that, my con was on.

Oh, and I did sell lots of books. Turns out, there is a market for zom-com. I also learned that not everyone will want to read my books, but I shouldn't take it personally. After all, I'm very picky when it comes to buying books, so why would I expect potential readers to be any less than me?

A year and MANY events later, I came full circle by returning to Monster-Con 2014. Instead of one zombie book, I had two, plus another three books (with yet another one only weeks away from premiering). I knew a lot of other vendors and the organizers, and I was familiar with the terrain as well as the market.

As the day started and I zoomed into my marked spot, I had a gut feeling that the event was going to be successful. Everyone was in a good mood, I was in my green zombie makeup, and my setup went smoothly. Before I was halfway completed with laying out my books, I made my first sale. And it just got crazier and more exciting from there. 

The entertainment was nice (though the School of Rock <an absolutely talented group of kids> made it hard to hear/talk during their performance). There were many people in costume, from teeny kids to a giant, puppet-like clown. I must say, I enjoyed all the people it managed to frighten! The only drawback would be that it was, at times, hot/humid in the mall, and as someone in costume, I found myself sweating uncomfortably.

My favorite part, though, was seeing all the friends I've made over the past year. No, it was making new friends. No, it was seeing the excitement in the eyes of my future readers as they made their purchases. No, wait, it was all the people eating green zombie finger pops!

Or maybe it was all of that.

Monster-Con 2014 was a wonderful experience that brought me back to where my entire promoting career as a writer began, and as I'd hoped, it was just as rewarding an experience as the first time.

My conclusion: my first year ended with a fabulous bang! 

And that makes it worth every minute, sweat and all.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Pain of Writing

Writing is hard.

There are a million and one little ways to get distracted. Waiting for your computer to catch up. Checking out the latest notification on Facebook, or Gmail, or Yahoo. Reading Yahoo or MSN news. Watching trailers. Reading excerpts of upcoming books, or reviews of newly released ones. Stopping to research concepts or look up synonyms of words. Writing a line. Getting up to get a drink or stretch. Answering the phone or texts. Playing Words with Friends! Starting a blog and coming back months later when you remember it in-between all of your projects...

But, on the eve (okay, well, a few weeks away) from the release of my latest book, there's one other painful aspect of life as a writer that I'd like to address: my body.

That's right. As a writer, my body suffers more than anything else for my art. What? Why? How is that possible, you wonder? Well, I'm in the middle of my obsessive editing/rewriting phase (I wrote nearly 5,000 words in one day!), which requires not only a whole lot of typing (especially as I hop through websites doing research), but also a LOT of SITTING. That's right. Here it is, the essential truth: my back aches. It cramps and twists and throbs and knots and begs me to stretch and massage and soothe it, please, soon, just after the next line, the next paragraph, the next page, until at long last, hours later, I'm so stiff and tense that I force myself to halt and uncurl from wherever I'm sitting - couch, table, desk - massage my strained eyes and neck, and get up and move.

What can I do? I have deadlines, projects and somanystories trying to get out! The easiest, and honestly, the best, solution I have is to get up and go for a walk. Not a jog, not a full blown sprint, but a nice, long walk to both clear my head and let my back take a break from its very important job of supporting me as I work. Massages and swimming are also nice, but in a jiffy, a walk is usually how I make it through my day.

So for all you writers out there fighting back pain, give yourself a break and go for a walk. It will refresh you, head to toe, outside and In. In: that place our ideas gestate and fight to be born. Yes, writing is a pain in myriad ways, but the stories - oh cruel dictators, oh sweet lovers...

Okay. Enough! It's time for a walk...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

POVs Unite!

Ah, the book progresses quickly, and I find myself as ever in awe of how the story takes shape. My most recent challenge was combining a 1st person POV story into a 3rd person POV - the 1st person character becoming an integral part of the 3rd person storyline. Part of me wonders - is this done? Am I breaking some rule? Who will I anger or annoy in doing this?

Then I remember - my onus is to be true to the story. And this is how it wants to be told. 

After all, I'm living in the Land of Wonder... where every curiosity may be allowed.

So please, enjoy this rather humorous excerpt from my book, coming very soon!!!

HEART: a fantasy of organs

Excerpt from Part III: Queen of Hearts and Knave

"“Cheshire!”
His glowing eyes appeared almost immediately above the Queen, though the rest of his body remained hidden.
“You come quickly for once.”
His grin appeared, as wide and pointy as ever.
“Something in your voice hints at… mischief.”
The Queen almost laughed.
“Is that all that is necessary to create a timely creature out of you?”
The Cheshire licked one of his suddenly visible paws delicately before answering.
“Oh, certainly not. Games and puzzles and desserts work quite nicely, too.”
“Then you will quite enjoy what I have in mind.”
“Oh, this smacks of conspiracy,” he giggled, clapping his paws together in delight, his black-furred body floating upright in front of her. “My absolute favorite.”
“I wouldn’t call it conspiracy. Yet.”
His large body floating up and began to spin in circles around the Queen’s head.
“Oh, Queenie, tell me quickly. The waiting is so tiresome!”
The Queen reached out a calming hand. The Cheshire responded by butting his head impatiently against her fingers. She smiled slightly, remembering what it felt like to be amused.
“Very well. I propose, dear cat, to have a party.”
He froze for a moment in shock before resume his customary air of aplomb.
“That might be worth forgiving your incorrect feline reference.”
“Ah. Then you will help.”
The Cheshire’s ears perked up and his grin grew to equal the size of his large body.
“Help? Why Queenie, you must let me plan the entire affair!”
She nodded.
“Though I do want a specific guest list, Cheshire.”
He whirled in the air, landing lightly on her unadorned head.
“But of course! Your every wish will be fulfilled.”
He jumped off of her head to land on the arm of the throne. A scroll with a feather-tipped pen appeared in his paws as he reclined on his hind legs. The Queen looked at him and wanted to laugh, but it would have been hollow, empty. And she wanted to honor the truth between them. So she said nothing, instead pushing away the ever-present hunger.
“Now then, when would you like to throw this Grand Ball?”
The Queen closed her eyes, lost in thought.
“As soon as possible. I feel… it must be soon.”
“I see. Party… in… a hurry.” He muttered to himself, writing a subtitle under Grand Ball. “Yes, right then, that’s all in order. Two days, you said? Very good. Now tell me, who will be your Guest of Honor? The Knave, yes, I can see that.”
He scribbled hastily, adding unnecessary flourishes to the page. His every move showcased his delight.
Which is well-deserved, the Queen thought, as I have never thrown a party before.
“Now then, other special guests? Myself, well, quite obviously. Your Royal Blacksmith? His son? Tell me.”
He finally paused for breath and looked back at the Queen, his tail lashing behind him in quivering expectation.
“The Hatter. And-“
“The Angry Hatter? But- but- he’ll yell and scream the entire time. In fact, weren’t you supposed to eat his heart? Hmm, this might be your best opportunity.”
She broke into his reflections, repeating the words slowly.
“The Hatter. As a Special Guest.”
Her voice remained firm and even, a sure sign she would not change her mind. The Cheshire recognized this instantly and went back to writing out his list.
“Ah, very well. I shall just have to be, shall we say, a bit more creative with seating, though I supposed you will want his companions.”
“The March Rabbit and the Doormouse? Oh, I suppose. But I wanted the Hatter for another reason.”
“And that is?”
The Queen looked out over the cold vista spread below her, the ground covered in icy, sooty sleet. When she spoke, it was in a low, frozen voice that echoed the landscape.
“The Hatter is cursed by Time, remember?”
“Ah,” the Cheshire replied just as softly, momentarily distracted from his List by the longing in the Queen’s voice. “Yes. He offended Time.”
“And so it must always be Spring, wherever he goes.”
“And so it must,” the Cheshire echoed." 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Continuum

As I enter the final stages of the first draft of my next book, I find myself quite enjoying the MASH. That is, the mix of fantastical fairy tales, stories, and fables that I decided lived in the same book. As someone who's always enjoyed re-working fairy tales based on some variation of their origins, I've found it particularly satisfying to bring two very different worlds together in my most recent work. 

I suppose, in many ways, this will continue to be a theme in my writing. Zombies+comedy. Post-apocalyptic earth+mermaids. Logic-bound scholars+djinns. Robots+magic roads off-planet.

And now this. A blend of two (or three) well-known stories twisted to fit the parameters of this particular storyline. But I like to think of it as keeping the characters alive, changing, and growing, for surely that's better than letting them grow old, stagnant, and forgotten? Better for them to exist in a living continuum built of the collective cultural stories from our past and present, in which the reader can dive deep and emerge from the other side changed - hopefully for the better. 

As both a writer and a reader, I can think of no better homage to all the authors and readers who came before.

Please enjoy my next Excerpt from: 

HEART 
a fantasy of organs

from Part II: Hunter


By the time I was sixteen, I had exhausted all possibilities my realm offered for finding the Piper. So I set out to the Borderland, ready to cross into the other Realms and conclude my Hunt. But the Realms were endless, one after another, and decades passed as I searched for clues to lead to the Piper. Each land I discovered let to one strange encounter after another, leading me down many unexpected paths. But for everyone I met, I never ceased my Hunt, never ceased asking: “Have you heard the music of the Piper?”
But there was never anyone who could answer. Not until one day, a harried-looking rabbit advised me to find the Worm.
I’d just cross from the Borderland into a strange world filled with odd machines and balloons that carried people across the sky. The path I was on led straight down into a huge city, hung about with clouds of webbing, scurrying creatures crossing above.
Suddenly, a rabbit nearly the size of a boy hopped past me. Something about his focus caught my attention, and I found myself running after him.
“Hey. Wait.”
“No time to wait! I’m running late, I’m running late!” he answered in a sing-song voice.
“Just a moment. That’s all I’ll take.”
The rabbit stopped abruptly and turned on me, his eyes wide with fury.
“Oh, sure, that’s what they all say. Just a moment. Next thing you know, they’ve grown into a giant and destroyed your house!”
His words made no sense to me, so I decided to let him move on.
“You’re right, of course. Do carry on.” I turned to go.
He spluttered behind me.
“Well. Well then. Someone with Sense. Finally.”
His watch suddenly started ringing, and within those tones I caught a familiar pattern.
“Oh no! I’m late!”
He turned to hop off but in a swift move, I caught his ears in one of my hands and raised him up. With the other, I gripped his neck.
“How dare you? How utterly shocking! You ingrate! I’m late, I’m late!”
I brought his furred face close to mine.
“Your watch. The alarm. Where did you hear that music?”
“What? My watch? Got it from the Worm! The Worm! Was singing it, wasn’t he? Took it from a Piper, he said. Let go, let go!”
I shook him once, hard.
“Where is this Worm?”
The rabbit started shaking as his watch rang another alarm.
“His home moves! I don’t know!”
I shook him again, harder.
“Where was the last place you saw him?”
“In the- the Borderlands. Or maybe the Land of Wonder. It’s hard to tell. The smoke! The smoke!”
I thought about killing the rabbit, but decided his Soul would be too small for me to enjoy. But before I set him down, I asked one final question.
“Tell me, what is your name?”
He squirmed in my grip, so I tightened my fingers until he started to go limp.
“My name, my name! It’s White Hare. White Hare! There, you see? I’m… late… I’m…”
His voice trailed off as he started to lose consciousness. Tired of the encounter, I let White Hare slide out of my hand.
“If you’re lying, or I do not find him, then I’ll come back and find you. You will not enjoy the consequences.”
White Hare continued lying on the ground, gasping for air and muttering to himself as I turned and strode away.
“I’m late… I’m late… so rude… as big… as a house…”
His nonsense words faded from my hearing as I turned back towards the Borderlands. I’d never heard of the Land of Wonder, though that wasn’t surprising, considering the thousands of realms I’d yet to visit. But the Borderlands – I’d wandered there many years. That was where I’d begin.
If I hadn’t had the motivation of my missing Soul, I might’ve been daunted by the sheer scope of the area I was to search. But my Great Hunt was my Purpose, so it never occurred to me to doubt.
And in time, sure enough, I found him.
The Worm.
Of the many strange manner of creatures I’ve come across along my Hunt, there was perhaps none as challenging as the Worm - though not in a manner I’d have ever expected.