Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 - The Year in Review

Well, the year's not quite over yet, but I thought it might be a good time to do a year in review. If something significant happens between the time of this post and January 1, then I'll come back and update it. However, chances of that slim, so let's get on with the show.

Bear in mind, this blog is mostly about my writing, so we're looking back at the year from that perspective. And, oh man, a lot of stuff happened. There's a lot to mention, so let's get to it.


In March of 2013, I decided to dip my toes into the waters of self-publishing. I had already published one novel, Mary of the Aether, through an indie publishing house and signed a contract for the sequel. But I had a bunch of novels sitting on my hard drive that I thought were worth a read, so I polished them up a bit and put them out through BookBaby.

I published them in this order:

1) Shadows of Tockland 

A post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set in plague-ridden Northwest Arkansas. The story of a traveling clown troupe and all of their harrowing adventures. It got a few really good reviews, including this one.

http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Tockland-Jeffrey-Aaron-Miller-ebook/dp/B00BU7U43K/ref=pd_sim_kstore_3

2) Bloodstone, Deep Water: Book One and A Whisper in the Void, Deep Water: Book Two

Deep Water started out as a single book, but it ballooned to over 200,000 words, so I chopped it right down the middle and published it as a duology. It's a fantasy story with a long history. Basically, it is my third attempt at telling the same story.

I wrote the first version right out of high school, and it was flat-out awful. It was intended to be the first volume of a trilogy, but I never bothered to write volumes two or three. I don't even remember the title of this first attempt at the story, but I do remember the main characters had the incredibly stupid names of "Kieves" and "Redert." My goodness.

The second version was written in 2001, and it came after a period of both intense personal tragedy and great personal happiness. This merging of two conflicting emotional states created a book that was rather dark and troubled but ultimately hopeful.

The final version is the one I self-published this year, and it is actually quite a bit darker but still ultimately hopeful. There's a lot of personal emotion bound up in this story. The writing thereof was cathartic.

Here's a brief, glowing review of Bloodstone.

http://www.amazon.com/Bloodstone-Deep-Water-Book-One-ebook/dp/B00C2BXY12/ref=pd_sim_kstore_4
http://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Void-Deep-Water-Book-ebook/dp/B00CA6X9UU/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1


3) Garden of Dust and Thorns

A "one off" fantasy novel I wrote in the latter half of 2012 about a girl trying to protect a dying garden from an invading army. I'm not sure what the impetus was for this story, but it has something to do with loss and restoration.

http://www.amazon.com/Garden-Thorns-Jeffrey-Aaron-Miller-ebook/dp/B00CIWILUY

Of those four self-published books, Shadows of Tockland has without a doubt garnered the most attention and made the most sales. Deep Water has gotten a little bit of attention, but Garden of Dust and Thorns has mostly sunk into the mire of the internet. Oh well.

Anyway, the self-publishing frenzy ended in May, and I went back to writing other things. I finished a dark science fiction novel called Children of the Mechanism, which I then sold to Malachite Quills. It comes out in February. It is also a story with a long history. The novel is based on a short story I wrote for a creative writing class way back in 1994, which was inspired by a documentary I had watched on CNN about children in the Holocaust. Yep, I told you, it's dark.


I also sold the third volume of my Young Adult series, Mary of Starlight, to Whiskey Creek Press. That happened sometime early in the summer. It also comes out in February. It is a much tighter story than its predecessors, and the second half of the book is pretty intense, relentless, and ultimately quite epic.


I also wrote the last volume of that series this year. It's called Mary of Cosmos, and it wraps up the whole four volume tale pretty nicely. I signed the contract for that one in November, so it should come out sometime toward the end of next year.

After that, I worked a little bit on a new YA novel called The Figment Tree, but I haven't kept up my pace on that one. Honestly, I am still trying to get a bit more publicity and attention for the nine other novels I've already written. Yes, nine novels. If I ever finish it, however, it will be the story with the longest history of anything I've written, since the original idea goes back to my childhood.

I did manage to dredge up some regional attention for Mary of the Aether this year. In June, I got an e-mail from a guy named Ken Stamatis, who is a professor at Harding University. Every summer, he does a series of regional workshops for teachers called "So Many Books, So Little Time." For this workshop, he puts together a list of fifty Young Adult novels as recommended curriculum for the upcoming school year. Now, he works mostly with the big guys like Scholastic, but for some reason he decided he liked Mary of the Aether, and he put it on his list this summer.

As I understand it, it's the first time he's put an independent book on his list. As a result, I got a bit of attention across the state, a number of orders for the book from Arkansas teachers, and I made a few special appearances at schools. It was fun. I enjoyed it. Honestly, however, I wish I had found a way to keep the momentum going. Things pretty much died down after a few months.

http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/meet-author.html


Anyway, that is where things stand now. I've made a few internet appearances, doing interviews, book giveaways, and things of that nature. I also had a table at the Northwest Arkansas Author Book Fair, where I got to have a nice long conversation with a prolific writer of westerns named Dusty Richards.

http://jeffreyaaronmiller.blogspot.com/2013/10/northwest-arkansas-author-book-fair.html


In 2014, I've got three novels coming out, so I'll be busy trying to figure out how to promote them. We'll see what happens!

Thanks for reading this insanely long, rambling post. You win a free high five the next time I see you.

Sincerely,

jeffrey miller

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Let's Play A Strange Game

Okay, I've played the quote game a few times where I post one quote from a character from each of my novels. I've also played the game where I posted the opening paragraphs for each of my novels.

Well, now it's time to play a stranger game. In honor of December the 8th, I am going to post the eighth sentence on the twelfth page of each of my novels sans context! If it's a bit of dialogue, I might include the whole quote, instead of just one sentence, but that's it.

Sound random enough for you? In the comments, let me know which of the following sentences sounds the most intriguing.

Mary of the Aether:

“Crazy people in the woods,” he said. “Is that what you asked me about? Crazy people in the woods?”

Mary of Shadows:

“Let’s all have another slice of cake, shall we?” Kristen said. “Just carve around the spatters of blood and feathers.”

Mary of Starlight

She walked around to the back of the building, past a boy sipping a soda—he smiled at her, and she thought there was something mocking in the smile—and found the dented and graffitied bathroom doors near the dumpster.

Mary of Cosmos:

There were figures moving on either side of her, gliding down a beam of light as they dropped into the valley. 

Children of the Mechanism:

Bik smoothed out the mat, a small rectangle of spongy material just barely large enough for him to lie on. 

Shadows of Tockland:

“The audience,” Telly said. "The people. We call ‘em rubes.”

Bloodstone, Deep Water: Book One:

It curled around the ravine wall like fingers, then gushed out onto the road in a great dusky cloud.

A Whisper in the Void, Deep Water: Book Two:

“No, it’s not your fault,” she said. “You didn’t know what sort of man he was. But I did. I did, Jeren, and I tried to tell you.”

Garden of Dust and Thorns:

Here the people of Haven gathered up pears and apples, figs and dates and bananas, oranges and lemons and pomegranates, all that they could ever need and more.

And there you go. The eighth sentence from the twelfth page of each of my novels. Fascinating, I'm sure...

Hey, in other news, get on my mailing list, so I can keep you informed of the latest junk going on in my fictional universe. Click exactly right HERE! Fear not, it is the safest link of all time. It just takes you to the sign up page.

Thankee, folks.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who Doesn't Like Free Chapters?

Okay, what are the latest goings-on in the writerly world of Jeffrey Aaron Miller? Well, dagnab, that's a good question. Let me see if I can scrounge up some information.

Ah, he does have a couple of novels coming out in February. Would you like to know about them? Sure you would.

Children of the Mechanism
http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/blog-page.html
This is a rather dark science fiction story coming in February from Malachite Quills Publishing. I say "dark" only to give fair warning to those who have read Mary of the Aether and will be surprised at the difference in tone. However, those who have read Shadows of Tockland will understand (and if you haven't read Shadows of Tockland, go do it, people. Seriously).

Anyway, back to Children of the Mechanism. To quote the blurb: In the dark depths of a massive factory, slaves live and work under the gaze of cruel robots called Watchers. Their lives are short and harsh and meaningless. Until the day a door opens where no door should be, and some of the slaves escape into the corridors. Gradually the true nature of the factory is revealed, a truth that might change everything and throw open every door. 

It's based on a short story I wrote way back in 1994, which I turned in as a creative writing assignment. I distinctly recall that it troubled my creative writing professor, who was a youngish, bright-eyed teaching assistant. Anywho, I have posted the first chapter on my website, if anyone is curious. Check it out HERE!


Mary of Starlight
http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/mary-of-starlight.html


Mary of Starlight is the third volume of my four book Young Adult series that began with Mary of the Aether and continued with Mary of Shadows. The release date is earlier than I previously thought. I have been telling people April, but actually it looks like it will come out on February 1.

If you haven't read the previous books, I don't want to say too much. You should go and read those books immediately, please! Thanks :)

I will say that each volume of the series is exponentially more epic than the one before it, as Mary's powers grow, the danger grows, and all things converge into a massive showdown that will obliterate the universe! Or something along those lines. Look, I'm trying to be vague here. If you haven't read the previous books, don't bother reading the blurb for this one. It's got all kinds of spoilerish information. However, if you have read them, press on.

Here is the blurb for book three: Mary Lanham is on the run, desperate to stay one step ahead of the terrible Devourers who pursue her by the dark of night. She flees through lonely places, following country roads, passing through tiny towns and trying to stay out of the public eye. Meanwhile, back in Chesset, her friends find themselves under attack by Lookers who want to use them as bait to draw Mary home. A trap is sprung, and the whole world watches as universes collide in an explosive showdown that will change everything.

I have a sampling of chapter one (but not the entire chapter) if you want to check it out. That link is right HERE!

The fourth and final volume of the series is called Mary of Cosmos, and it should come out sometime toward the end of next year. It concludes the whole story nicely, I believe, but I'll let you be the judge of that, Dear Reader.

Other News

In other news, here is a recent interview I did with Arkansas Book Reviewer, if you haven't read it. It was connected to a giveaway, which is now over, but the interview itself might still be worth a few seconds' perusal.

As for current writings, I am working on another YA novel at the moment called The Figment Tree. I don't want to say too much about it, except that it is set in a trailer park in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in the summer of 1991, and it involves some really weird magic and strange situations and interesting characters.

Here is just the opening sentence to give you a taste of what I mean: It was the first day of summer in the glorious year of 1991 when Nuffy Noe climbed over the fence into the dog-infested forest and saw the lights.

There you go. Live the dream, people. Now, do me a huge favor and go read something I've written! I will be ever so grateful!  :D


Monday, November 18, 2013

Almost 1,000,000 Words

Well, NaNoWriMo is going on at the moment, and I started late, so I've been struggling to catch up. I am working on a Young Adult novel called The Figment Tree which is set in a trailer park in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1991 (which is the city and year in which I graduated high school). It's a fun little story with some magic and beautiful strangeness to it.

As I mentioned, I started late, so I've been trying to catch up. Currently, I've got a little over 15,000 words written, so I may not hit the requisite 50,000 by the end of the month. However, I am aiming for about 2,000 words a day, so I'll get close.

Anyway, as I was thinking about The Figment Tree this morning, it hit me that this is the tenth novel I've written since 2009. The word count of all of those books combined is almost 1,000,000 words. And suddenly it seemed like a crazy amount of writing for someone who 1) doesn't yet make a full time living at fiction writing, 2) had other full-time jobs along the way, 3) still managed to play plenty of hours of online gaming.

It just builds up over time, I guess.

The ten novels were written in this specific order:

1) Mary of the Aether (my first published novel. A Young Adult urban fantasy)
2) Mary of Shadows (the sequel, which came out this year)
3) Shadows of Tockland (a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, available only as e-book)
4) Bloodstone (the first volume of an epic fantasy, available only as e-book)
5) A Whisper in the Void (the second volume of that epic fantasy, also an e-book)
6) Garden of Dust and Thorns (a totally different epic fantasy, also an e-book)
7) Mary of Starlight (the third volume of the Mary of the Aether series. Comes out next April)
8) Children of the Mechanism (a dark science fiction novel, coming in February)
9) Mary of Cosmos (the concluding volume of the Mary series, coming in November of 2014)
10) The Figment Tree (incomplete, another Young Adult urban fantasy)

So there you go. I'm churning these suckers out, I guess, though it doesn't seem like that when I'm working on them. Quite the contrary, writing the books always feels like a slow process. And remember, I am also churning out about 38 SEO articles a week. I have actually worn some of the letters off of my keyboard (letters A, W and S, I'm looking at you).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mary of Cosmos Is on the Way

Well, it's super late (or super early, depending on your point of view), and I just submitted my latest novel, Mary of Cosmos, to my publisher. It's the fourth and final volume of my Young Adult urban fantasy series. Once complete, the series will look like this:

1) Mary of the Aether
2) Mary of Shadows
3) Mary of Starlight
3) Mary of Cosmos

Only the first two volumes are out. Mary of Starlight comes out in April of next year. Consequently, there is not much I can say about Mary of Cosmos right now without spoiling one million plot points.

I will say, however, that I believe the concluding volume wraps things up a nice, epic, intense way. There a whole lot of crazy stuff going on from beginning to end, including but not limited to explosions, destruction, angry conversations, turgid emotions, dangerous scenarios and outright pain and agony.

So there you go. Look for it sometime toward the end of next year, depending on when I get a contract offer.

Now I get to finish the editorial work on Children of the Mechanism, which is science fiction rather than urban fantasy. No magic in this one. Just cruel robots and mysterious corridors. But it does include most of the things I listed above for Mary of Cosmos.

Okay, I'm loopy. Time to sleep.

http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&keyword=jeffrey+aaron+miller

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another Round of the Quotes Game

Once upon a time, I made a little blog post where I put one quote from each of my books, both released and unreleased. I enjoyed it. Did I ever! Let's do it again.

Here is one quote from every single book I have written since 2009, both published and yet-to-be-released.

"Mark my words, the ever-night is coming, and when it does, you'll be glad you've got some wild nutters at your side." --Cakey, Shadows of Tockland

http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/shadows-of-tockland.html


"It’s a miserable thing to be helpful—to be needed, to be essential—and someone can’t see it." --Aleas, Bloodstone, Deep Water: Book One


http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/bloodstone-deep-water-book-one.html

"There is a heaviness in me now, like something coiled around my intestines. I hope to make it go away. I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I don’t want to be the person I have become." --Jeren, A Whisper in the Void, Deep Water: Book Two

http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/a-whisper-in-void.html


"You’ve lived in the shadow of this Garden all your life. And you had no idea what was here. None of you did, not even the caretakers. This will be to our everlasting shame. While we lived outside the wall in the dirt, we had everything we could ever need in here.” --Adhi, Garden of Dust and Thorns


http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/garden-of-dust-and-thorns.html


"If you hold on, we will live. If you let go, we will go down, down, down. Do you understand how important it is for you to hold on?" --Ekir, Children of the Mechanism (Coming in February 2014)

“I never want an explanation for any of this. Never. I don’t know what you did. I don’t care what you did. The whole world has gone crazy, and I don’t want to know anything." --Kristen, Mary of the Aether


http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/mary-of-aether.html



"I’ve been selfish. I see that now. I wanted a happy little life, but I was entrusted with this power by people who loved me. I’ve wasted so much time whining when I should have been learning." --Mary, Mary of Shadows

http://www.jeffreyaaronmiller.com/p/mary-of-shadows.html



"Quick to violence, paranoid, cruel, all of you, all of you! How dare you! Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know what I’ve tried to become? How dare you!" --Mary, Mary of Starlight (Coming in April 2014)
 
"The world will burn out like a torch, but the light will shine brightly, and I will rise like the brightest ember into the stars at the end." --Somebody, Mary of Cosmos (coming in November 2014)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

So. Much. Writing.

Oh, people, I have almost worn my fingers down to little nubs from all the writing. Honestly, I'm about done with the SEO content writing. Mentally and emotionally, I mean, not actually. There's only so much you can write about dental veneers, urological supplies and complex commercial litigation.

More book sales and writing workshops, that's the answer, and that is the direction that I am bending my efforts. In fact, I just did another full day of writing workshops over in a nice little town called England, Arkansas. I spoke to every grade from 4th to 12th and had a great time. Every once in a while, you see a real creative spark in some kid that hints at genuine potential, and that really makes it all worthwhile.

In other news, I continue to work toward the publication of Children of the Mechanism and Mary of Cosmos.

The opening paragraph of Children of the Mechanism has changed. Let me share it with you. By the way, while we're on the subject, this might be my favorite book that I've written, so be sure to check it out when it appears in print in February.

First came the screaming, the sound of some monstrous thing crying out from the darkness. Then came the babbling, a boy wordlessly pleading for help, and one sound melted into the other. Bik fled from it, fighting his way out of the dream, but the noise chased him, turning at the end into the blare of the morning alarm. Finally, he opened his eyes in the dim, red light and heard it echoing off the metal walls, a singular note, high and harsh. 

People, this one's gonna be pretty intense, I do believe. I can't wait until you get to read it.

As for Mary of Cosmos, it will be the final volume of the series that began my whole writing career. The series goes like this: 

1) Mary of the Aether
2) Mary of Shadows
3) Mary of Starlight 
4) Mary of Cosmos

The first two volumes are out, so if you haven't read them, get to it, friends. The tale of Lightbearers, Lookers and Devourers is waiting to sweep you along to its epic conclusion. In fact, here is the opening sentence of the final volume, Mary of Cosmos, just to whet your whistle:

It took five days of healing to get her right eye open, another three for the left.

Well, now, if that's not ominous enough for you, I don't know what is.  

By the way, here's a recent review of Mary of the Aether, if you haven't read it yet and need a bit of convincing. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Writing Workshops

Periodically, in between endlessly churning out SEO articles and working on novels, I do writing workshops at area schools. Here are some pics from the latest one at a middle school in Springdale.
So before I get into the weird stuff, let me share the gist of what I do at the workshops. First, I introduce myself and talk about how I decided to become a writer when I was 13. I talk about my books a little bit, encourage them to see reading and writing as more than just "school work." Then I discuss some of the elements of good storytelling, including 1) what makes a good protagonist, 2) creating conflict, 3) making the setting feel real, 4) writing a compelling opening, i.e. the hook.
Along the way, I let the students share their own ideas, and together we craft an idea for a novel. Some of the ideas from the last workshop: a dwarf painter who is being stalked by an obsessed fan who is stealing his paintings, an adventurer who stumbles upon the lair of a mad scientist in the jungle who wants to extract his DNA for his monster-making experiments, a lonely hunter who must track down bandits in a rainforest to avenge his family.
Occasionally, I meet actual future writers who want to ask questions and get advice. But at the last workshop, things got downright unusual. Somewhere along the way, I guess the kids got the idea that I was a bona fide celebrity rather than a mere local author, so they began asking for my autograph. But all they had were pencils and notebook paper, so I stood there for fifteen minutes signing tattered pieces of notebook paper with a mechanical pencil. Some kids even sneaked back in line to get multiple autographs or asked me to sign their notebook covers more than once.

I hope the kids don't think those autographs are actually worth anything. Oh well. Nevertheless, I enjoy doing the workshops, even though my voice is shot by the end of the day. I've got another one coming up next week and then a few more potentially lined up next semester.

In the meantime, when I'm not writing endless SEO articles about cosmetic dentistry, criminal defense attorneys, toenail fungus and country clubs, I am trying to finish the editing of Children of the Mechanism. And that is what I shall go do now.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Writing So Very Many Things

Well, the problem I'm having (which is a good problem to have) is trying to find enough hours in the day to do all the writing I want and need to do.

First, I am working on the editorial revisions of my novel, Children of the Mechanism. Fortunately, my editor is taking it one section at a time, so it's not too overwhelming.

Second, I am revising Mary of Cosmos, so I can send it off to the publisher. I'm about halfway done with that.

Third, I am attempting to write another novel, a YA urban fantasy called The Figment Tree. Of all the projects I have going on, this is the one that is getting most neglected. Sorry, Figment Tree. Don't take it personally.

Fourth, I have about 38 SEO articles to write each week, so I can make a little bit of money and live. That's sort of important, for some reason.

Anyway, it turns out that there aren't quite enough hours in the day for all of that writing, but I'm not complaining. I would much rather do this than sling tires or deliver mail or sell advertising space for a magazine (all of which are jobs I have done or almost did in the recent past).


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Northwest Arkansas Author Book Fair

Well, I had an interesting time at the Springdale Public Library today. It was the Second Annual Northwest Arkansas Author Book Fair. A whole bunch of local and regional authors were there from 2-4pm, selling books from a variety of genres and chatting with folks. Here was my spot.



I wound up sitting next to an author named Dusty Richards. You can see his name and his books in the picture there, but that's obviously not him sitting beside me. That is his wife, Pat.

Anyway, I spent most of those two hours talking about everything under the sun with Mr. Richards. For those who might not know him, he is a fairly accomplished, award-winning author of western novels. He told me he's written somewhere on the order of 197 novels, so it was fascinating talking to him, hearing stories about meeting people like Larry McMurtry, talking to the ghost of Zane Grey, and seeing a lynx walk across his yard out near Beaver Lake. He gave me a free signed copy of one of his books before he left. Oh, and here's his Amazon page, in case you want to peruse his many, many books.

In between stories, I sold a few books and talked to a few readers and some other fellow writers. It makes me realize I need to be more plugged into the local writing community, so I guess I'd better get out of my little box here and start attending conferences and such.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Life of a Full-Time Writer

Well, folks, for two weeks now I have been a full-time professional writer. What does that mean, exactly? It means I earn 100% of my necessary income from writing or writing-related activities. Now, what does that entail? Chiefly, it involves three things.

1) SEO Content Writing - I actually do quite a bit of SEO content writing for income. This is basically creating content for various companies' websites. It can occasionally be interesting, but it is also sometimes pure drudgery, depending on the particular article I have to write.

2) Writing Workshops - I will be a doing a bit of this over the coming weeks and months. Basically, I visit schools and do interactive writing workshops, or talk about the art of writing, or read from my novels. I have a few of these gigs lined up and more planned for next semester.

3) Selling Novels - Of course this is the part of the writing income that I want to see increase greatly. Ideally, this would be most of my income, and maybe someday it will be. Speaking of which, I will be selling and signing copies of Mary of the Aether and Mary of Shadows at the Springdale Public Library on Saturday from 2-4pm. Stop on by and hang out and meet some local authors.

So that's basically it. Those three things, when their powers combine, create a full-time writing profession. Of course, I am always open to new opportunities, so the list might grow in time. We shall see.

Currently, I am in the middle of editorial works on my next novel, Children of the Mechanism. I posted the opening paragraphs a while back, but they have all drastically changed since then. Anywho, the novel is on track for a February publication date, so mentally prepare yourselves!

In other news, there is a neat little website called Find, Read, Love. A couple of my books are already listed there, with more on the way. You should check it out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Latest Developments in the Mechanism

So what's the latest in the world of Jeffrey Aaron Miller? Oh, numerous things. Let's see. I've got an editor and a publication date for Children of the Mechanism. February 13, 2014 is the date on which you will be able to read about Bik, Hen, Kuo and Ekir and their various harrowing adventures with Watchers, the Grong, the Master and mysterious purple stones. Doesn't that sound fascinating and vague? I've included a few unedited opening paragraphs below for your perusal.

October is set to be a busy month for me. I've got a few school gigs going on around the state. Writing workshops and book readings, mostly. I will also be participating in the Northwest Arkansas Author Book Fair at the Springdale Library on Saturday, October 5 from 2-4pm, so head on over if you can. Also, I might be heading to Chicago for some training related to another job about which I daren't yet speak.

In other news, I am filling in the financial gaps with SEO content writing. Since I have the ability to churn out thousands of words a day, I figured I might as well put it to use while the momentum continues to build for my novels.

Anywho, for those of you who are curious about Children of the Mechanism, here are the opening paragraphs to wet your whistle:

The blare of the morning alarm always started in his dreams, sometimes as a monster screaming, sometimes as a boy talking to him, sometimes as a strange noise rising up out of the Refuse Hole like a siren song. Then it followed him through the stages of waking and finally, as he opened his eyes in the dim, red light, he heard it echoing off the metal walls, a singular note, high and harsh. 

On that particular morning, the morning when everything first went wrong, Bik’s limbs felt sore, so he dared to linger for a few seconds, gazing up at the ceiling. He had rolled off his bed mat in the night, and the cold floor was beneath him. He heard boys moving all around, stifling yawns, stretching, moaning and sniffing and coughing. The rumble of the Watcher’s wheels finally roused him, and he sat up. Bik saw it out of the corner of his eye, that lumbering shape. The Watcher entered the Sleeping Room through the archway, returning from whatever strange errand it had been about, and stopped in a corner near the Refuse Hole. A boy relieving himself quickly finished and dashed away. 

The Watcher had a shiny, cylindrical body, fat wheels for feet, a flat, circular head with dead eyes, but it was the arms that mattered most, long segmented arms made of polished metal rods with cloth bulbs for hands. Those were the killing hands, and they were ever poised, ready to strike. 

“One minute until work,” the Watcher said. “One minute.” 

There you go. That's your only tender sampling for now. More to follow in the coming months.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Children of the Mechanism

I just got a contract offer on my novel, Children of the Mechanism, from a relatively new publishing house called Malachite Quills. Having perused their website, I like what I read. They seem to be very supportive of their authors. I'm looking forward to working with them.

As for Children of the Mechanism, it is the story of slaves living and working in the bowels of a mysterious factory, watched over by cruel robots. One day, a glitch in the system causes doors to open, and some of the slaves escape to wander the corridors. Gradually, the true nature of the factory is revealed.

It is based on a short story I wrote way back in 1994, and I think it turned out pretty good. It's sort of a dark and relentless novel, but it resonates with me in a deep and profound way. I hope people like it. Anywho, I'll keep you all posted about the progress.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Opening Paragraphs

Once upon a time, I talked about the importance of opening sentences. Well, what about opening paragraphs? The opening paragraph greatly impacts a reader's initial feelings toward a book. It either pulls them in, irritates them, feels like a slog or just kind of sits there like a lump of damp words to be picked through.

To that end, may I ask, which of my opening paragraphs is most compelling?


The lunatic in the long, gray cloak dashed out of the forest and ran right up onto the front yard, waving his arms in front of him like a child playing tag. He skirted the porch, paused, turned a complete circle and fell onto his hands and knees. A hood obscured most of his face, but Mary could see the tip of a pointy chin covered in whiskers. She sat at the living room window, leaning against the sill and resting her forehead against the cold glass, transfixed by the sight. The crazy man crawled through the high, unmowed grass, his face close to the ground, shifting back and forth like a bloodhound chasing a scent. He stopped at the driveway, lifted his head and appeared to sniff at the air. Then he scooped up a handful of gravel and sifted it through his fingers.


The blare of the morning alarm always started in his dreams, sometimes as a monster screaming, sometimes as a boy talking to him, sometimes as a strange noise rising up out of the Refuse Hole like a siren song. Then it followed him through the stages of waking and finally, as he opened his eyes in the dim, red light, he heard it echoing off the metal walls, a singular note, high and harsh. 


The shapes of men materialized out of the dust clouds, bodies wreathed in loose cloth of black and gray. Hoods and veils hid their faces, but they moved with purpose, marching in ranks. Though the distance was great, Adhi saw the glint of polished blades, of long silver spears and curved scimitars, catching the heavy rays of the lowering sun as it sank below the ridge in the west. She counted over three dozen men, but there were more of them behind the wall of dust. She saw a hint of movement, as of dozens more, gathering in the open land between the dunes.
  
Shadows of Tockland
 
David saw him first, the old man with the scabs on his head lurching out of his seat on the front row, clapping his big, gnarled hands and shuffling toward the stage. Bubbles the Clown was the current performer, a petite woman in a loose, silvery costume. She had a bamboo pole balanced on her open palm, a large ceramic plate spinning on top of it. Every eye was drawn upward, watching the plate wobble, so the old man managed to get all the way to the stage without anyone hindering him. He gave one last clap, did a little hop on his bare feet and lunged at Bubbles, snagging one of her billowing pant legs.


A man in a tattered leather jerkin and pale blue doublet writhed in the shadowy space between the rocks, clawing at his clothes. Jeren spotted him from the cliff’s edge as he braced himself against a skeletal tree. The highway ran a twisting course through a steep ravine, winding its way toward the snow-capped peaks in the west. Tumbled rocks lined the road here and there, piled up in some places to create makeshift walls, safe places to camp when the harsh winds howled down from the mountains. It was in one of these places that the man lay, kicking at the rocks and thrashing.

I daren't give the opening paragraphs of Mary of Shadows, Mary of Starlight, Mary of Cosmos or A Whisper in the Void, as they contain spoilers. But there you go. Opening paragraphs from many of my novels. Which one is the most compelling? And what makes it most compelling? Do you have favorite opening paragraphs from other novels?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's Happenin' Now

Various and sundry things are taking place currently in regard to my writing, so let me just dump it all out on the table and let you look at it.

First of all, I recently did a fairly extensive interview with a website called Arkansas Authors, where they asked me compelling questions like the following:

Looking one hundred years into the future, what do you hope people remember about you or your writing?
I hope people remember me as one who created compelling, sympathetic and believable characters and placed them in memorable settings. I like to move people, to haunt their memories with beautiful, troubling or inspiring scenes.

I highly recommend that you read both parts. It'll give you a pretty good sense of who I am as a writer. Here is part one and here is part two.

In other news, I am lining up writing workshops and book readings for schools around the state. I've already got one lined up for October 15. I hope to get a bunch of them on the calendar, so I am in the process of e-mailing every school district in the state of Arkansas. And, man oh man, there are a lot of them. Anyway, if any school teachers or librarians are reading this, do know that I am available for such things at a more than reasonable price.

In the meantime, I am polishing up Mary of Cosmos, so I can send it off to the publisher. After that, I will begin a new Young Adult series set in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in the glorious year of 1991. Yep, you read that right.  It'll be beautifully strange, people. Just you wait and see.

So there you go. That's all for today, folks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mary of Cosmos is Done

Well, let's make a little entry in the blog here to remember the day and the moment when I finished Mary of Cosmos, and thereby completed the four volume series that began with Mary of the Aether. Indeed, I just wrote the word "end" on the last page of the manuscript not three minutes ago. And when I say "end" this time, I do mean "end." It is a complete and utter end to the series that I thank wraps everything up nicely.

So there you go. Now, go read Mary of Shadows, people. When you finish it, you will be halfway through the series, and I will be proud of you. Yes, I truly will.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Latest Goings On

Well, a lot of stuff has been happening lately, so I thought I'd give a rundown for all who might be interested. Let me list them numerically for maximum ease of following along.

1) Mary of Shadows is now available as an e-book and trade paperback at Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

2) Mary of the Aether was part of a workshop this summer called So Many Book, So Little Time in which it was promoted to thousands of teachers in the region. My publisher created a special order form just for this workshop, offering the book at a special rate, and those forms have started to turn up at the publisher.

3) My publisher created 500 little postcards as a follow-up to the workshop, reminding teachers about the book and giving them information on how to order it. I am sending them out to English teachers and librarians all over the state of Arkansas.

4) I have been invited to attend the Northwest Arkansas Authors Book Fair at the Springdale Public Library on October 5th, where I will be promoting and selling my book, meeting other authors and readers and offering a copy of my book for a random drawing.

5) I have also been invited to speak at a meeting of Springdale Librarians next Wednesday to give a thirty minute talk about my books and myself.

6) Mary of Shadows is being featured this week on a blog called Tess Three in the Morning.

7)  I have a rather lengthy interview at the website ArkansasAuthors.com appearing on Tuesday, August 20.

8) I am one chapter and an epilogue away from finishing the final volume of the series. Mary of Cosmos is full of epic, troubling, harrowing scenes, but it will wrap this whole aether saga up nicely, I believe. I'll get the first draft finished this weekend.

Alrighty, I believe that's about all for now. My novel, Children of the Mechanism, is still sitting in a publisher's office somewhere, waiting to be either accepted or rejected, so there's not much to say about that one yet. I'll let you know how it goes.