Monday, July 14, 2014

Novels Flow like Rivers from the Ocean of my Overactive Mind

How's that for a blog title? It's practically a whole article's worth of things to think about in just a few short words. Chew on it, people. Just chew until the gristle and fat melt in the heat between your teeth.

Seriously, though, I have been churning out the tales since the summer of 2012. I am in the final stage of prepping Mary of Cosmos for publication. That fun stage is called "compiling the errata," and it involves combing through every paragraph looking for typos that might have slipped through the cracks.

It is typically at this stage that I get absolutely sick of the novel I'm working on. Eventually, a mild fondness will return, right around the time it actually gets published. And then I will find things in the published manuscript that I wish I'd written differently or better, and I will lose some of that mild fondness for a long time.

And that, folks, is how it goes for each novel.

By the way, my editor had this to say about the Mary of the Aether series: "I have to tell you, I have LOVED working on this series. It is one of my absolute favorites! I’m pushing my 14-year-old son to read it, even if the titles all start with 'Mary.' He is a big fantasy buff and I think he would really enjoy the character developments and interactions. I could definitely see this series doing well if it just catches on like it should!"

I do believe that could be considered a ringing endorsement. I'll take what I can get.

Anywho, the last book I completed, you might recall, was a post-apocalyptic tale called Fading Man, the story of a man with memories of a place he's never been. His long journey to find this place brings him into a dangerous wasteland called Tockland. That's what we call the setup. Obviously, there is a lot more to it, including Pradeep and scadglings and bleakness.

That novel is currently being shopped around, which means I have queried every single literary agent and publisher in the known universe.

In the meantime, I have begun yet another novel. It will be novel number eleven. Yes, I've churned out ten novels since 2012. Why stop now? For the latest one, I'm returning to the fantasy genre with a book that is tentatively titled The Vale of Ghosts. If written well, it will be haunting, a bit creepy, and ultimately awe-inspiring. If not written well, it will grasp for those things and fall short. We shall see!

For the record, the ten novels I've written since 2012 are (in the order I wrote them): Mary of the Aether, Mary of Shadows, Shadows of Tockland, Bloodstone, A Whisper in the Void, Garden of Dust and Thorns, Mary of Starlight, Mary of Cosmos, Children of the Mechanism and Fading Man.

Now for a brief plug. If you haven't read Children of the Mechanism, check it out. It's dark, compelling, troubling, but ultimately hopeful, full of harrowing scenes set in the dark and dangerous passageways of a massive factory. We're talking hideous killer robots, strange machines, troubling revelations, and desperate escapes. If you buy it from the publisher's link, it's just $7.75, and that price includes both paperback and ebook.

There you go. Back to grinding through the paragraphs to root out typos. Fun!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The End of Aether

With all of the books I've written and published, it's crazy to think that my very first novel came out only two years ago. It's been a crazy, prolific couple of years since then, but it all started with Mary of the Aether back in July of 2012.

Since then, the series has continued with Mary of Shadows and Mary of Starlight, and I've also published a science fiction novel called Children of the Mechanism (and I've self-published a few other books, as well).

But the series that kicked it all off will come to an end this August. Mary of Cosmos, the fourth and final volume of my Young Adult urban fantasy series, is in final editorial revisions.

The comment from my editor was, "I had a very hard time finding anything to correct. The few items I found were mostly spelling or punctuation things, and very few at that. I’m thinking this Revision Phase will be more like a proofread for you," which is encouraging to hear. In fact, as I read through the manuscript, it does seem to be in really good shape.

Looking at the whole series, it's strange how the series started off as such a small story, a few characters running around a small rural town, with magical elements that were pretty mild until the last couple of chapters. The fourth book takes place mostly in that same small rural town, but the magical elements are so huge, and the stakes are so high by comparison.

Of course, the struggle of getting more epic is trying not to lose sight of the characters. I actually think book four brings things back down to a personal level from book three in a great way. We actually get back into some of those small interactions and relationship moments that hopefully make people care about the characters. We shall see how people react.

I must say, the first chapter of Mary of Cosmos is a doozy. In fact, I won't even be able to release it as a preview. The preview will have to be chapter three. If you want, you can read chapter three right here. Definitely, don't do so if you haven't already read the rest of the series. It be spoiler-tastic.

To pique your interest, here are the first couple of sentences of chapter one:

It took five days of healing to get her right eye open, another three for the left. Five more days passed before her hearing returned, and the first sound she became aware of was the creaking of her shattered bones coming back together.

Now, if you haven't read the rest of the series, let me greatly encourage you to do so. Click on the nice little graphic and go forth.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What's in a Chapter Title?

It's always interested to me when a novel contains a table of contents. Seeing all of the chapter titles before I've read the book always makes me speculate and try to predict what I'm in for. Of course, some chapter titles contain obvious spoilers, which isn't a good thing. But sometimes you can get a vague but intriguing sense of what's in store from reading the chapter titles.

To that end, here are the chapter titles for my forthcoming post-apocalyptic novel, Fading Man. What sort of sense do they give you about the story contained inside?

Chapter One - Admiral Vinegaroon
Chapter Two - Pradeep
Chapter Three - All Places Are Bad Places
Chapter Four - Hasty Retreat
Chapter Five - Desperate Measures
Chapter Six - A Warm Welcome to Tulsey Town
Chapter Seven - Secrets and Souvenirs
Chapter Eight - Shadows and Substance
Chapter Nine - Kingdom of Sickness
Chapter Ten - Cities of Ruined Flesh
Chapter Eleven - A Brutal Philosophy
Chapter Twelve - Hell to Pay
Chapter Thirteen - Break It All Down
Chapter Fourteen - A Fearful Gathering
Chapter Fifteen - Standing in the Way
Chapter Sixteen - Dead Inside
Chapter Seventeen - The Heart Gives Up
Chapter Eighteen - From Water to Dust
Chapter Nineteen - The Desperate and the Dying
Chapter Twenty - Pieces
Chapter Twenty One - Darkness and Light
Epilogue - A Place beyond the Horizon

There you go. There's your table of context for a novel you've never read. But based on those chapter titles, what sort of story would you expect to encounter?

In other news, here is a recent article about Children of the Mechanism. You might as well check it out, unless you've got other business to attend to. In which case, go right ahead and attend to your business.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Don't Get Too Excited or You Might Burst into Chunks

So I just finished the first pass through my latest novel, Fading Man. That means revisions and rewriting, which means fixing typos, filling in plot holes, deleting unnecessary or repetitious text, adding things here and there. I also added an epilogue to tidy up the story a bit. The ending was too dark for my taste, so the epilogue gives a little burst of light right at the end to send the reader skipping merrily on his way.

As it turns out, 2014 is shaping up to be a rather prolific year for me, in terms of writing and publishing novels (if not so much in terms of sales or publicity). I have already published two novels this year. First came Mary of Starlight in February, the third volume of my young sdult series. Then came Children of the Mechanism in March, a science fiction story. In September, the fourth and final volume of my Young Adult series, Mary of Cosmos, will come out. And then hopefully by the end of the year, Fading Man will also come out (assuming I get the revisions done in a reasonable amount of time).

That's a whole lot of writing and publishing in between bouts of playing MMOs. I'm not sure what I'll work on next. I've got a couple of novels sitting in a folder that I've started. One of them is a young adult novel about a kid living in a trailer park who one day befriends a strange super-dimensional being that lives under the trash in a corner of his bedroom. Yep, you read the right. It's called The Figment Tree, and I've already written the first 20,000 words or so. The second novel is perhaps even weirder. It's about a boy who lives alone in a giant gray house with a sentient robot toy. Outside of his bedroom window, he sees only endless fog stretching out forever. That one is called Voices in the Gray House. I've only written the first chapter of that, but it's based on a short story I published a few years back. We'll see if I feel like finishing either of them. I always have to work on something that lines up with my current mood. I'm weird that way.

Anyway, let me give you a tiny sample of each of the novels I've either written or published this year, just so's you'll get a taste of 2014. Here we go.

Mary of Starlight
Chapter 6: A Sea of Blue and Red

         Pain stabbed into Mary’s shoulders and down her back, that old familiar pain, and with it, a great wave of exhaustion washed over her. A million twinkling lights filled the black canopy around her. Stars like she’d never seen before, the great hazy trail of the Milky Way, constellations she had no name for, and the sliver moon resting in the midst of them. She would have sailed up there forever, two hundred feet above the earth, with the wind in her face, and her hair whipping out behind her, but she could only fly for so long. She needed rest, so she cast her gaze to the dark landscape below and looked for a safe place to land.
          She was in the middle of nowhere on the eastern edge of Texas. She had passed a tiny one-stoplight town some miles back, but there was nothing now but a hint of trees and hills. On the horizon, she saw lights, a kind of shifting haze of red and blue, very far away but beautiful and strange. She knew what it was, of course. How many times had she seen such lights? Police cars, possibly other kinds of emergency vehicles, stopped somewhere up the road. Mary came down gently in the middle of the empty highway, touching down on the asphalt so softly that she did not make a sound.

Children of the Mechanism 
Part Four: Feeding the Grong

          Kuo sank his hands into the meat trough and scooped up a large mound of the damp, gray paste. He brought it up to the lid of the trough and dumped it into the plastic bucket on the floor between his feet. Some of it slopped onto the floor, but Kuo was careful to pick up every little bit and flick it into the bucket. The grease ran between his fingers and dripped onto his feet, tickling his toes. When the bucket was full, he grabbed the rope handle in both hands, set his feet farther apart, and rose. The bucket was heavy, but Kuo was strong. The only risk was losing his balance.
          Kuo turned, saw the line of feeders moving across the room, saw the Watchers beyond them with their mouthless faces and bent arms. Oh, the Watchers were always nearby, weren’t they? Always staring, staring, staring, and sometimes Kuo thought he knew what they were thinking. They looked past the other feeders and fixed their black eyes on Kuo alone.
          “I know what you’re doing,” Kuo muttered. “I can read your minds. I know you’re playing the game with me.”

Mary of Cosmos 
Chapter 1: The Long Awakening

          It took five days of healing to get her right eye open, another three for the left. Five more days passed before her hearing returned, and the first sound she became aware of was the creaking of her shattered bones coming back together. She had the unfortunate pleasure of listening to the bones mend over the next two days, and only then did she manage to raise her right arm. She held the hand over her head, trying but failing to flex her fingers. The ring finger and thumb were still broken, pointing in wrong directions. It took another couple of days to fix that. And finally, a week after her fingers mended, her spine came back together and she managed to sit up.
          She had fallen a hundred feet and slammed into the side of an oak tree. That single blow had shattered most of her ribs, snapped her spine and broken her right arm in three places. It had also sent her spinning wildly another thirty yards into the forest, until she finally hit the ground and rolled, fracturing her skull, eyes sockets, breaking her legs and feet and her other arm. After that excruciating ordeal, she had finally come to rest under the low branches of a pine tree, buried under a mound of debris that her tumbling had kicked up.

Fading Man 
Chapter Thirteen: Break It All Down

          Joe hurried to catch up to the others, though his back and ribcage still hurt from the fall. But the terrible sounds blasting out of the open vent suddenly quieted, as if someone had covered the hole. Joe glanced back and saw a misshapen lump squeezing itself out of the opening like some formless flesh struggling to be born. The shape shifted and revealed a crooked head, shiny gray skin swelling out of what might once have been a human face. A single eye, pale as a chip of ice, rolled about until it found Joe. Then the gray skin parted to reveal a toothless mouth, as red and angry as a wound, and the scadgling began to wail. The mournful sound carried out across the river and filled the empty lands beyond.
Joe drew the .38 out of his pocket and pointed it at the scadgling. It ceased thrashing, and the wailing sound faded out like a siren running out of batteries. The wound-mouth closed, but that single eye kept staring.
“Don’t follow us,” Joe shouted. “We don’t want to hurt anyone. We just want to leave.

So there you go. A delicate sampling of everything I have thus far either written or published in 2014. And which one, O Reader, piques thy interest most? In other news, here is a recent interview I did with Ten Minute Interviews. Go check that out for no particular reason, if you don't mind. I mean, you read all the way to the bottom of this blog entry, so you're clearly someone who is willing to read long, rambling things. And I applaud you for that. I truly do.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Fading Man Has Faded

Well, I recently finished the first draft of my latest novel. I am currently in the middle of The Great Slog, aka revisions. Here's the thing, sometimes when I finish a first draft and I go back to do revisions, I am greatly disturbed at the low quality of the prose. I mean, it's never as good when you go back and read it for the first time as you thought it was when you were writing it. However, Fading Man turns out to be better than I expected. At least in terms of the prose.

We'll see how the story plays out. I'm a little concerned at the bleakness of it. Yes, the man who wrote Children of the Mechanism, where kids are being dragged down refuse holes by dead-eyed robots, is concerned about the bleakness of his latest novel. But here's the thing, I always want to give some amount of hope in anything I write. We'll see if I managed it this time around.

What is Fading Man about, you ask? It is the story of a guy named Joe Mund and his troubled wife, Eleanor. Joe has memories of a place he's never been, a city called Verum. He has spent years trying to find this place, and his journey has finally taken him into a plague-ridden wasteland called Tockland, where the water is poisonous and scadglings roam the ruins.

That's not the official blurb of the book. It's more like the set-up. Now, as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, this novel is based on a short story I wrote when I was 20 years old. It is interesting to see how the 40 year old version of me approaches the same story. In the short story, the theme was all about trying to find yourself and figure out who you are. In the novel, it's more about the long-term damage caused by an obsession with self discovery. Perspectives change as we get more decrepit, I guess.

Anyway, I should have a free sample in a few weeks.

In other news, I am now selling my self-published e-books through BookShop, which is basically a direct sale from my own account. If you haven't read one of these books, the BookShop is a great option. Check out the links:

Shadows of Tockland

Bloodstone, Deep Water: Book One

A Whisper in the Void, Deep Water: Book Two

Garden of Dust and Thorn

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing More Than I Know What To Do With

People, I write so much I don't even know what to do with all of my writing. Let's break it down. First of all, I write at least 1,000 words on a novel each and every day. Right now, I am working on a post-apocalyptic novel called Fading Man, which takes place in the same universe as my other post-apocalyptic novel, Shadows of Tockland. It am about 70,000 words into the story.

Of course, there is also a lot of writing involved in promoting my books, from guest articles to interviews, blog entries, social media posts and forum participation. On top of that, I work as a staff writer for a disaster recovery agency, creating blog articles, press releases and resumes. Finally, I have a Hubpages account, where I churn out articles in two categories: tips on writing and various reviews.

At the risk of promoting myself too much, let me encourage you to check out some of my Hubpage articles, specifically the ones on writing. I am trying to use my long road to publication as a platform for helping other writers. So far, I've got the following articles:

Writing and (Finally) Getting Published

Surviving Your First Book Signing

Tips for Your Next Book Signing

Creative Ways to Promote Your Novel

Creating a Compelling Protagonist

Tips to Avoid Getting Bogged Down in Writing a Novel

If any of those topics pique your interest, feel free to check them out. Hopefully, if you are an aspiring writer, they provide you with some helpful information. You can check out my profile there for a full range of topics.

You know you write a lot when you wear the letters off your keyboard. Goodbye, letters A, S, M, N, W and E.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Giving the Garden Another Look

Of all of the books and stories I've published in the last few years, without question the thing that has gotten the least attention is a fantasy novel called Garden of Dust and Thorns. I attribute its lack of attention mostly to the fact that the cover art and title don't give much of a sense of what the book is all about. Even the blurb doesn't give a compelling sense of the story, the characters or the unique strangeness of the novel. Of course, since the book is self-published, all of these things are my own fault. But that's the way it goes.

I am convinced more people would really enjoy the story if they had a better sense of what it's really like. I happen to be very fond these characters and this setting, and I won't have them ignored, I tell you! Just kidding. But maybe I should do a little more to get the word out, what say? Fine. To that end, here is an excerpt of the book to give a good sense of it. It is slightly spoilerish, but read it anyway if you haven't yet tried the book.

This particular scene takes place after our protagonist, a young woman named Adhi, and her shepherdess friend, Evirsi, flee from an invading army and take refuge deep inside the massive garden that is the setting of the novel.

Chapter 3: The Spirit of the Old Planter

The first light of morning was just peeking through the trees, when Adhi finally stumbled to a stop in the shelter of an overhanging rock. A crude nest of moss and leaves had been laid down here by an animal, but it looked long abandoned. Adhi curled up on the nest and tucked her hands under her cheek, thoroughly exhausted, her dress covered in grass stains and mud and bits of leaves. A small pear tree cast shifting shadows on the ground beyond the rock, and Evirsi lingered there, her knees drawn up to her chest. She rocked back and forth, looking half-crazed. But the forest around them was quiet now, still, as if it had no memory of the night before.

“You should rest,” Adhi said. The images of men in black and gray moving through the clearing were fresh in her mind, but she felt strangely calm.

“I don’t hear them,” Evirsi said. “Maybe they turned back. Maybe they lost track of us. I know I did. I have no idea where we are.”

“Rest a little while,” Adhi said. “We are safe here. Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel the spirit of the Old Planter?”

Evirsi cast her gaze around at the endless trees, bushes and shrubs and creeping vines, flowers blooming in a myriad of colors.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, after a moment. “I don’t feel anything but sick to my stomach. Is that the spirit of the Old Planter? Sickness in my stomach?”

“No,” Adhi said and sighed. Why couldn’t anyone understand? What was it that made everyone so insensate? It was impossible to explain.

Finally, Evirsi scooted back under the rock and lay down on her back, folding her hands on her stomach. Adhi closed her eyes, listening to the familiar sounds of the Garden but alert for anything unusual.

“I hope Omaan got away,” Evirsi said. “Do you think it’s possible?”

“There are many tall rocks along the ridgeline north of the city,” Adhi said. “It is possible to find a good hiding place there. Or so my brother says.” She wanted to believe it as much as Evirsi did, but the words came out of her mouth and dropped right to the ground like bits of lead.

“So many people to hide,” Evirsi said. “I hope there are many, many tall rocks. I hope…” Her voice trailed off, and when Adhi finally looked at her, the shepherd girl had fallen asleep.

Adhi closed her eyes again and she, too, felt sleep stealing over her. How could it be? That was her last thought. The city overrun by strangers, the Garden invaded, people scattered in all directions. How could it be?

She slept for hours, dreamless, though it felt like mere minutes. A sound, indistinct but forceful enough to make her whole body shudder, pulled her out of sleep. She opened her eyes, but the light was painful. Clapping a hand over her face, she peered out between her fingers, seeking the source of the sound. Evirsi had rolled onto her belly, her face hidden beneath her long hair. Beyond her, hazy rays of light danced between the trunks of trees.

Adhi rubbed her eyes and sat up. She heard the sound again, but it was clear this time, a low melodic echo, as of some great gong being hammered. With the sound, the rays of light became brighter, the whole forest suddenly filled with a pale brilliance. Adhi gasped and held up both hands.

“What is it?”

The sound faded and with it the light. Once again, only yellow sunlight trickled down through the branches. Adhi rose, brushing the damp moss off her backside, and stepped over Evirsi. She moved out from under the overhanging rock and approached the small pear tree. There was an open space just past it where the grass grew knee-high, but then the trees closed in.
She saw a cluster of banyan trees, straight as pillars, an enormous chestnut tree that had cast its spiny burrs all over the ground, and a pair of skinny birch trees with papery bark. Nothing out of the ordinary in that direction.

Adhi leaned against the pear tree and looked back above the rock to a high hill covered in a thicket of lavender and periwinkle, many different shades of purple. But this, too, was as always. The strange light was gone, and she began to think she had dreamed it.

A sudden wind shook the branches, bent the pear tree almost double and sent Adhi stumbling backward. It swirled around her, lifted her hair, filled her nostrils and forced her eyes shut. But it passed quickly, a brief gust, as of some giant’s breath, and then all was still again. Adhi opened her eyes, and there before her, standing beneath one of the great banyan trees, was an elk. A great red bull elk with a massive set of antlers, it stood as if it had always been there, calmly regarding her. It was taller than any she had ever seen, a good seven feet from the ground to the tips of its antlers, and it had an enormous shaggy mane around its neck.

A long quiet moment passed, and Adhi held her ground, crouched slightly in case it charged. But the great beast only stood there, large black eyes fixed upon her. Finally, it tipped its head, as if in greeting, snorted and turned. With a loud crash, it leapt through the underbrush between the banyan trees and was gone. Adhi listened to it moving through the Garden, swift as a jackrabbit, headed west.

To the heart of the Garden. A voice spoke, soft as a whisper, and Adhi did not know if she heard it with her ears or only in her head. But the words were distinct and very close. To the heart of the Garden. Where the first tree rises at the confluence of every stream. Come.

Shaken, Adhi went to her knees, clasping her hands. She stayed there a long time, waiting for the voice to return, waiting for something else to happen. And finally she felt a touch on her shoulder. Startled, she lurched to her feet, caught herself against the trunk of the pear tree and swung around. Evirsi stood there, bleary-eyed and frowning.

“What are you doing?” Evirsi asked in a sleepy croak. “Are you sick, too?”

Adhi blinked. “No. No, not sick. Didn’t you…didn’t you hear anything, see anything?”

Evirsi shook her head. “Was it the men approaching? Is it time to move on?” She looked around, turning a complete circle. “I am completely lost. Which way is forward?”

Adhi took a step in the direction the elk had gone. “To the heart of the Garden,” she said. “Where the first tree rises at the confluence of every stream.”

“What?” Evirsi said, stepping up beside her. “What does that mean?”

Adhi shook her head. “I’m not sure.”

Evirsi seemed to consider this and shrugged. Then she reached up on her tiptoes and plucked a ripe pear from the tree. She turned it this way and that and rubbed it against her dress. Clearly, she meant to clean it, but her coarse linen dress was filthy with dust and dirt. She only made the fruit worse. Nevertheless, she took a big bite, devouring to the stem.

“It doesn’t seem real,” she said, spitting out bits of pear as she spoke. “Last night. Maybe it didn’t really happen. Maybe we imagined it.”

Adhi moved to one side to avoid the flying bits of chewed food. “I wish you were right,” she said. “But it did happen.”

Evirsi sighed and tossed the remnants of the pear over her shoulder. “Well, maybe they left. Maybe they took what they came here for, and they’ve gone back. It’s so quiet now. We should go to the city and check.”

“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea,” Adhi said. To the heart of the Garden. Where the first tree rises at the confluence of every stream. Come. “In fact, I think I—”

She heard it before she saw it, a high whistling sound, and then she caught a blur of some spinning object out of the corner of her eye. Adhi turned back in the direction of the overhanging rock, just as something slapped against her legs. She felt it wrapping around her, and then she went down. Only as she fell did she see what had hit her, a long rope with large spherical weights on either end. She slammed into the pear tree and slid down to the ground on her back, as men stepped out of the high tangle of lavender and periwinkle.

“Evirsi, they’ve found us,” she said. “Get out of here!”

The shepherd girl watched Adhi fall, a confused look on her face, as if she thought Adhi had simply thrown herself down. She shook her head and turned. Three men stood on the hilltop, wreathed in black and gray cloth. Even their eyes were hidden in the shadows of heavy hoods. Two of the men bore long spears. The one in the middle was currently unwinding a bit of rope. Adhi heard the clink of stone weights.

“Get out of here!” she shouted.

Evirsi started and nearly fell. With a whimper, she glanced down at Adhi, opened her mouth as if to speak but then took off running. She leapt through the space between two banyan trees just as another weighted rope came spinning after her.

“Don’t stop,” Adhi yelled. “Keep going!”

Evirsi shouldered her way through the underbrush and disappeared from sight, as the rope and weights slammed into one of the banyan trees and wrapped around the trunk. Adhi sat up and began untangling the rope from her legs, surprised at how tightly it had wound itself. She grabbed one of the weighted ends, a smooth and polished piece of granite, and lifted it.

Shadows hit the ground on either side of her. Two of the men had leapt from the overhanging rock. One of them knocked her hand away from the rope with the butt of his spear, and the other pointed his weapon at her chest. The third man stood at the edge of the rock. He drew a small curved sword from a sheath at his belt and hopped down to join the other two.

“Chase down the other girl,” he said, gesturing toward one of the men. “Magesh wants every single person brought back.”

* * * 

Okay, that's just a tiny sample. There are some major action scenes, intense battles, a lot of really strange magic, rampaging animals left and right, and ultimately a story with something to say. Well, maybe that sounds cliche, but it's true enough. Anyway, that's my pitch for Garden of Dust and Thorns. Follow the links and check it out.