WIPmarathon Check-in No. 13

Second WIPmarathon report for 2015 and lucky no. 13 since these check-ins started! February was rather busy given that I got a new day job – teaching music, yay! – and that ate into some of my writing time. Also, procrastination and distraction… sigh…

My plan for February was to write words. Sound the trumpets – this happened! I am going to continue to set realistic goals for myself and then celebrate every small victory. Can there be wine and cake for the completion of every paragraph?

Last report WC for M/M WIP: 31, 765

Current report WC for WIP:  18, 878 – I seem to be ‘unwriting’ this one, but I realized that the story wanted to go in a certain direction and I was fighting that all of January. This month I let the story go where it wanted to which meant axing a point of view character and entire subplot, hence the lower word count. While I cut more than 20k words, I managed to add about 10k brand new words in all new scenes! *pats self on the back*

The SNI has been reworked and now includes a sci-fi element (I seriously struggle to right contemporary stuff) and I’m totally in love with it, but want a proper outline before I dive into this, so for now it’s percolating and has a blurb along with a very rough synopsis. I’m not allowing myself to write a single word until I know how this story ends.

Last report WC for YA fantasy: 2, 779

Current report WC for YA fantasy: 14, 624 – which is pretty impressive considering this story scares the crap out of me because it’s epic fantasy and I’ve never done this before and I feel totally out of my depth.

Writing Issues This Month:

Self-doubt threatened to derail my fantasy WIP every single time I opened the document. I keep thinking no one is going to want to read about this world, that it’s all rubbish and silly, but then I start writing and the words flow and cool things happen and I fall in love with the story all over again, which shuts up that irritating voice in my head telling me it’ll never be good enough.

Five things I learned this month:

1. Writing fantasy is so hard. So much world-building. So many details to create and remember and make plausible. I’m loving it, but it’s seriously challenging. I need to create a support document for myself telling me exactly how the world works because I keep forgetting or making tiny changes that result in the need for substantial changes.

2. Writing fantasy is awesome! I am having so much fun with this – creating my magic system and all the cultures inhabiting my world. I love it!

3. The fantasy novel includes an agender character and I almost gave them a gender just because it would make writing easier being able to use pronouns. But I stopped myself from doing this and am sticking with it even if it’s harder because the default straight, white, male characters shouldn’t populate fiction just because they’re easy to write!

4. The power of pyjamas is totally a thing. This week was a school holiday so I’ve been extra lazy and spent quite a few days in pyjamas. The days I did ended up being my most productive writing days. I think this may become my go-to tactic for whenever I’m feeling creatively constipated in the future.

5. I can juggle two works at a time! I’ve never been able to work on more than one work at a time before but because these two novels are so completely different, I’m managing to share my time between them, working on one and then other depending on my mood. So far, it’s working out pretty well.

What distracted me this month while writing:

The TV show Shameless, which I watch on lunch breaks and makes me want to write my own story about a delightfully dysfunctional big family. Swedish lessons. I’m trying to be diligent and actually study this weirdly idiosyncratic language even though it eats into writing time.

Goal for next month:

Write more words. It worked for February so I’m hoping it’ll work for March.

Last 200 words: 229 words to be specific and these are actually the last 229 words I wrote in the YA fantasy. Not sure it’ll make much sense, but here we go…

They’d taken less than ten steps when the forest fell silent. A chill snaked up Taryk’s spine despite the cloying humidity. Shani whimpered and pressed against Taryk’s legs as the jungle became suffused with a glowing mist, illuminating the overgrown path upon which they stood. The mist brightened as it wrapped syrupy fingers around Taryk’s body and wound golden tendrils about Shani’s legs. She snapped at the mist and it broke apart as if to avoid her teeth, rejoining in golden ribbons beyond the reach of her muzzle. Behind them, the horse whinnied in fear and Taryk’s right hand gripped the saber even though he knew very little about how to wield it.

A low humming replaced the silence, gradually drawing closer. The mist brightened again, the light reflected from the wide staring eyes of bushbabies in the trees and revealing the sleek body of a mamba slung across the branches. Taryk froze, unsure of the new threat yet unwilling to give up so soon.

The humming became a chant, the words indistinguishable, as figures emerged from the mist. They were garbed in pale robes, faces shadowed beneath cowls as their rapid procession continued along the path. As one they seemed to sense Taryk’s presence. The chanting continued, but the figure at the front threw back her cowl, revealing a dark face banded across the eyes with white.

Witches.

“We know,” she said and Taryk swallowed hard. “We won’t let them get away with this.”

That’s it for February, how did you do?

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Author Interview with Damien Angelica Walters

I am currently reading an amazing short story collection entitled Sing Me Your Scars. It’s a little bit Gaiman, a little bit Brite, and a whole lot of awesome. I’ll be writing a full review of the anthology when I’m done for South Speculative Fiction Review, but in the mean time, I got to chat to the fabulous author of these stories, Damien Angelica Walters.

B & W Head Shot - DAW - 2014

1) Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Damien Angelica Walters?

DAW: She’s a writer with a penchant forAlien, Star Wars, dinosaurs, dark chocolate, and red wine, not necessarily in that order. She’s also a retired bellydancer who lives in Maryland, near Annapolis, and has two rescued pit bulls, Kane and Ripley. When she counts by two, she does so in odd numbers, starting from 0, but she has no explanation as to why. Her favorite colors are orange and green, her favorite piece of art is “Flaming June” by Frederic Lord Leighton, and Damien is her real name, not a nom de plume.

Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One,The Best of Electric Velocipede, Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Apex, What Fates Impose, and Glitter & Mayhem. Forthcoming in 2015: Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of her short fiction, from Apex Publications and Paper Tigers, a novel, from Dark House Press.

You can find her on Twitter @DamienAWalters or online at http://damienangelicawalters.com.

2) I love the title, Sing Me Your Scars. It’s provocative and poetic – can you tell us what inspired the title?

DAW: I knew I wanted to use one of the story titles for the collection entire and wanted something that encompassed the general tone. I narrowed it down to Like Origami in Water and Sing Me Your Scars, asked a few writer friends for their opinions, and ultimately chose the latter. Without giving too much away, the story itself is an homage to Mary Shelley and her creation.

3) You’re a short story writer and a novelist. What do you find most challenging about switching between the two?

DAW: Novels and short stories require different skill sets. I don’t think switching between the two is necessarily challenging, it’s more of a changing of the toolbox and the focus. I like the freedom of the short form, the ability to experiment with form and voice and tense, but I also like the deeper exploration of a character that a novel allows.

4) What can you tell us about your forthcoming novel, Paper Tigers. Another great title, by the way!

DAW: Thank you! Paper Tigers is about a disfigured young woman and an old photo album she finds at a thrift store. It’s partly a haunted house story and partly a ghost story, but the ghosts are both external and internal. It’s very different from my first novel, Ink, and closer, I think, in flavor to my short fiction.

5) You’ve also been an editor – for Electric Velocipede no less! – how do you think being an editor has influenced your writing?

DAW: I hope it’s made me a better writer, but I know it’s made me more cognizant of the importance of a good first line, setting the scenes properly, and ending on the right note. It’s also made me appreciate reading short stories I don’t care for and spotting exactly why they’re effective stories.

6) What attracts you to speculative fiction?

DAW: It’s the what-if, the magic, the mystery. It’s the ability to tell a very human story in a strange way. To dream up monsters and the monstrous, peel back the layers, and see what makes them tick. To use pretty metaphors to talk about ugly things. It’s a playground of possibility that non-speculative fiction doesn’t hold for me.

7) What’s next, more short stories or perhaps another novel?

DAW: I have short fiction forthcoming in several anthologies and magazines including the UK zine Black Static and Cassilda’s Song, edited by Joe Pulver, a King in Yellow anthology of all new stories written by women. I’m also working on more short fiction, as well as a portmanteau novel.

sing

Sometimes a thread pulled through the flesh is all that holds you together. Sometimes the blade of a knife or the point of a nail is the only way you know you’re real. When pain becomes art and a quarter is buried deep within in you, all you want is to be seen, to have value, to be loved. But love can be fragile, folded into an origami elephant while you disappear, carried on the musical notes that build a bridge, or woven into an illusion so real, so perfect that you can fool yourself for a little while. Paper crumples, bridges fall, and illusions come to an end. Then you must pick up the pieces, stitch yourself back together, and shed your fear, because that is when you find out what you are truly made of and lift your voice, that is when you Sing Me Your Scars. 

In her first collection of short fiction, Damien Angelica Walters weaves her lyrical voice through suffering and sorrow, teasing out the truth and discovering hope. 

 

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BRICKS Blog Blitz

Bricks banner

Today John Davidson’s YA novel BRICKS is in the spotlight!

Bricks cover

Sixteen-year old Cori Reigns learns that not all tornadoes take you to magical places. Some take your house, your school, and life as you knew it. Struggling to put the pieces of her life back together, Cori learns to rebuild what the storm destroyed by trusting a family she didn’t know she had and by helping friends she never appreciated. Continue reading

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C1 Blitz – First Chapter Checklist

I’m super honoured to be part of Freshly Squeezed Read’s Chapter One Blitz. Readers and writers alike know the importance of that first chapter, but it’s tough to get right. Writing an awesome first chapter is an art unto itself, plus, agents, editors, and readers all have certain expectations of a first chapter. In order to hopefully meet those expectations, I like to refer to my trusty checklist. Here it is…

1) Have I sucker-punched the reader with my first sentence? Now, I have read some very clever first sentences that deliver a solid right hook, only to fizzle into nothingness in the following paragraph. A killer first sentence can’t stand by itself. It has to relate to what comes next. One YA writer who I think does an amazing job with first sentences that segue into great first paragraphs is Maggie Stiefvater. If you don’t know this author, you need to! Go find her on Amazon right now, I’ll wait…

2) Have I introduced the main character in a way that makes the reader care? The easiest way to do this is to introduce your MC so that reader can relate to them. Show a vulnerability, a cute quirk, hint at their internal conflict – basically give the reader a reason to root for your character. In my new YA book, I Heart RobotI deliberately opened the story with what was most important to main character – music – and how she felt alone with her passion, making her both quirky and vulnerable.

3) Have I established the setting? I like to know from the very first paragraph whether I’m in a medieval fantasy world or contemporary New York. Don’t keep the reader guessing at the where and when, but you don’t want to go overboard with description either.

4) Does something happen? This is possibly the most important function of the first chapter. Ideally, by the end of those first few pages you should have provided the reader with the inciting incident, the event which changes the status quo and sets the character on the story path. In I Heart Robot, by the end of the first chapters from both Tyri’s and Quinn’s POV (my two protagonists), something has definitely happened to set them on that story path and the reader is already going to be thinking ‘uh-oh’ at the inevitable conflict.

5) Have I established the stakes? This ties in with #1 and #4. By establishing what’s at stake for the MC, you will help the reader care about your character while kick-starting the plot.

6) Am I excited by this chapter? If you’re not excited to write the words, readers certainly aren’t going to be excited to read them. If the first chapter doesn’t make you fall in love with your story all over again, it might still need some work.

My final test for a good first chapter comes from handing it over to beta readers without giving them any description of the book. If by the end of chapter one they’re not sure of the setting, aren’t convinced they care enough about the character to keep reading, and 
can’t tell me what the story is about, then back to the drawing board I go. I reworked the first chapters from Tyri’s and Quinn’s POV several times before settling on a final version and even those needed further edits, so don’t be afraid to rewrite.

A good first chapter is extremely important so be prepared to write and rewrite and rewrite that chapter again until it’s perfect. But also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter how awesome your first pages are if the rest of the book doesn’t live up to that first chapter’s promise.

Happy writing!

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Release Day Blitz for BRICKS

Bricks banner

Anaiah Press is proud to present John Davidson’s YA novel BRICKS which releases today!

Bricks cover

Sixteen-year old Cori Reigns learns that not all tornadoes take you to magical places. Some take your house, your school, and life as you knew it. Struggling to put the pieces of her life back together, Cori learns to rebuild what the storm destroyed by trusting a family she didn’t know she had and by helping friends she never appreciated.

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John D author

About the Author:

Married to my bride for twenty-four years, I have an amazing son and a wonderful daughter.
Born and raised in central Oklahoma, I work in education, first as a teacher now in technology curriculum. I write. I read. And in the summer I make snow cones. Find John on Twitter @jdavidsonwrites or connect with him at his website and on Goodreads.

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Life is But a Dream cover reveal!

Life is But a Dream by Lee Strauss 
(A Nursery Rhyme Suspense Serial Series)
Genres: New Adult, Science Fiction, Suspense

FRINGE meets CASTLE in this New Adult
Sci-fi Mystery Suspense by Amazon best-selling author Lee Strauss.

Dreams aren’t real

Unless they are

And when someone wants to watch you drown

You better pay attention

Sage and Marlow are reunited in this second book of A Nursery Rhyme Suspense serial series. When Sage’s dreams merge with Marlow’s they know something strange is connecting them. But when the drowning dreams start to come true, Sage wonders if she can avoid her own death.

Goodreads

And now for the cover… Continue reading

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The Storycatcher – a delightful picture book!

I am so excited to share Anaiah Press’s first picture book release today!

The Story Catcher BT Banner Continue reading

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Wipmarathon Check-in No. 12

First WIPmarathon report for 2015! January has continued to be a busy month as I navigated the reams of red tape involved with becoming a fully fledged member of Swedish society. I did, however, get quite a lot of time to write and it has been a rather productive month. Here are the stats…

My plan for January was to finish the M/M WIP, research the SNI and write a synopsis, and plan for a major rewrite of an older work. I’m glad to report I accomplished one of these :)

Last report WC for M/M WIP: 35, 899

Current report WC for WIP:  31, 765 – it needed some reworking and despite losing words, it’s much tighter and better. I plan to finish it just as soon as my Muse co-operates.

As for that beloved older work, I managed to rewrite the entire third act and edit the whole manuscript this month, expanding from a measly 73k words to a more respectable 85k. It is done and has been shipped off to my agent. Woot!

As for that SNI – this idea got usurped by the YA fantasy idea I’ve had kicking around in my head for a while. In a whirlwind of inspiration, I went oldschool with pen and paper and re-plotted the entire thing. And I am super excited about this story!

Last report WC for YA fantasy: ZERO!

Current report WC for YA fantasy: 2, 779 – not a lot but I only started writing on Tuesday

Writing Issues This Month:

Nothing really. I managed to get a lot done and stayed motivated despite working on multiple projects, which usually causes me to lose focus. I’m getting better at jumping between works according to the whims of my capricious Muse.

Four things I learned this month:

1. Work on what excites you when it excites you. If that means stopping mid-sentence on one book to write a scene for another because the characters won’t shut up in your head, so be it. Writing is writing and any writing on any project is fantastic.

2. Seize the moment. I managed to write about 500 words on a lunch break between classes and those words weren’t half bad.

3. Don’t be afraid to let the brilliant books you’re reading inspire you. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately – very different from the kind I’m writing – but it has kept me excited about my own project and that’s pretty cool.

4. Get up early. As much as I hate to admit this, changing my schedule so that I’m up around 6.30 every morning has actually been fantastic for my writing.

What distracted me this month while writing:

Job interviews, starting work, residual red tape, the allure of the snow-soaked world outside. It’s actually been a pretty good month.

Goal for next month:

Write words. I have no idea what February will be like since I’ll be working part time and attempting to fit 20 hours of Swedish language classes into my week as well as 8 hours of climbing. I’m going to write whenever I can on whichever project strikes my fancy at the time.

Last 200 words: The last 200 won’t mean much without the broader context so I’ll give you the first 200 of the YA fantasy I’ve been working on. This project excites me because it’s set in a mythical South Africa and draws from African mythology and South African culture. It’s a return to my roots in a way, which is why I think I’m loving it all the more. Here we go… (note, this is totally un-edited, unpolished word vomit)

A single feather fell from the bruised sky, speckled with blood.

Taryk plucked the white pinion from the air before it reached the tiles. Dots of red marked the vane: one for an apology, two for a kiss, and three for a promise. Tonight, Zenza had stained the feather with three dark splotches. Taryk’s heart pounded like a prayer drum behind his ribs; it had been almost a week since they’d seen each other.

Lightning sliced through the clouds gathering above the city and Taryk smiled as he slipped the feather into the pocket of his kurta. A blast of wind tore across Sukhmandyr, bringing with it the smell of evening meals: saffron and cinnamon, chili and tamarind. He whistled for his aardwolf, busy chasing ants along the edge of the balcony.

“She’s going to be heartbroken when you leave?” Akila sashayed across the mosaic in slippered feet and draped herself across the balustrade, long hair whipping in the wind, her gaze on the aardwolf.

If I leave.” Taryk rubbed his pet’s long ears and scruffled the striped mane on her neck. “And Shani will go with me.” They couldn’t force him to leave everything behind. He would already be losing his home and family, and Zenza.

That’s it for January, how did you do?

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A Curse of Ash and Iron Cover Reveal

Today I am super thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for my agency sister’s absolutely stunning cover for her new YA book, A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON coming soon from Curiosity Quills.

Here’s the blurb for the book:

Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets.

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn’t believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her.

Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.

But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever.

A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON release May 21!

And for the cover… Continue reading

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Blog Tour: REVENGE

 

Today the romantic suspense novel REVENGE by Paula Rose is in the spotlight… Continue reading

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