Monday, November 9, 2015

Free Audio Short Story

Triangle Radio Reading Service is a non-profit based in Raleigh, NC.  They provide audio content including news (over 65 periodicals), magazines, and fiction to the blind and print impaired.  You can stream over the net, download podcasts, or listen over the air.  It's truly a great service and one I hope gets a ton of attention.

I am very proud and pleased to say that they chose to include my short story "Altersensor's Broken" in their monthly sci-fi broadcast.

You can listen to it for free here.  My story starts at 4:45, but if you have the time, you should listen to the story before as well.

And thank goodness, my dreams have very much improved since my last post.  I reduced the stress in my life by giving  up a side project and BAM!  Bad dreams over.  :)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Disturbing Dreams

I went to bed last night anticipating a wonderful morning.  I spent all last week sick and not writing.  I thought I would leap out of bed this morning and run up the two flights of stairs to my writing lair (I desperately want to find a cooler name for my office).  I woke up twenty minutes earlier than intended, which is fantastic, but instead of feeling an utter sense of joy, my body was tingling with fresh anxiety.  Why?  Becuase of a damn dream.

My last dream of the evening started with a flag football game – well, we were playing on a stage and there were only four players to a team, but the game was based on flag football.  I was team captain and my team could not get it's stuff together.  We pushed and pulled in different directions and I got frustrated and annoyed and incredibly grumpy.  The game had gone from a fun activity to an important event in my life, and one that I was failing at miserably.

Then, magically, I was no longer in the game but visiting a friend.  In real life, this friend has a wife, a daughter, and a son on the way.  They are a very happy family.  In my dream, however, he was destroyed.  His wife had left him and taken the child with her and my friend had fallen apart.  He'd lost weight, his cheeks had sunk in and he wore ill-fitting clothes that had been found either in his apartment or on the street.  He spoke quickly and made no sense.  He was going to move, going to start his life over, but first he had to figure out how it had all gone wrong in the first place.  It was unsettling to see someone I love so upset and unable to move forward.

I woke up shortly after leaving my friend's apartment to find my husband waiting for me on a park bench.  So at least my dream ended sweetly.

I spent the first few minutes of the morning feeling as if I'd just escaped a haunted house.  My body tingled, my mind raced, and my adrenaline was buzzing.  As I settled into my morning routine, I thought over the two dreams again.  In the first, I'd agonized over a recreational activity.  In the second, I saw a friend in the midst of a breakdown.  In real life, I stress out over everything.  Maybe this was my brain's very pointed way of telling me to relax, that the trivial things I stress over aren't worth it.  I hope so, because if this was a prophetic dream then my friend is in for one hell of a time.

Monday, October 12, 2015

I'm Being Published

Sorry for the long absence.  The hubby and I went on amazing vacation, I started a new job, and I've been writing and improving (performing improv, not necessarily improving my life) like a madwoman.  But none of that is why I stopped by today.

Welcome to Sortilege Falls - the first book featuring Grape Merriweather, will be published by Fire and Ice Publishing!  I signed the contract just before vacation.  WtSF will be available in June of 2016.  My happy dance looked something like this:
Image by
Whoo hoo!!! Yippee!!!!!

Now, back to work.  :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Writing Off Ramps

I've been very lucky when it comes to author readings.  I've seen/heard Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Jasper Fforde and many others.  Sometimes it's just cool to hear a story in the author's voice.  Other times, you pick up a piece of advice that will influence your writing in the best way possible.

Jasper Fforde, author of the Thursday Next series among others, offered a piece of advice that I have recently taken to heart.  If you've read any of his work, you know that his worlds are well built but sometimes there are small instances that aren't fully explained right away, like when Thursday Next sees herself from afar (sorry, I forget which book).  A fan at the reading asked him about this and he said – paraphrasing here – "I think of a novel like a highway and I write in a lot of off ramps.  I don't always use them in the same novel but sometimes I'll use it in the next book in the series."  So he allows himself to write in quirky moments and characters that are entertaining but not necessarily explained or heavily used in the plot.  He said himself that sometimes he never uses the ramp, and he often has no plan for it.  But more often than not, those ramps get used.
Jasper fforde 2012
Wiki Commons Photo: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0
In Welcome to Sortilege Falls, the first book in my Grape Merriweather series, I wrote in a character that I thought was a cool bit player that added to the other-worldliness of the town without being too distracting.  I had no future plans for the character other than maybe making a minor appearance in book two.  But I quickly realized that this character was a gift I'd given myself unintentionally.  She is now a HUGE part of book two.  I've created a whole backstory for her and now she's integral to Grape's mission. Thank you Mr. Fforde for making me feel free to not always explain every choice I make in every novel.  I am now making off ramps of my own.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Researching Agents and Small Presses

I am currently querying agents for my YA Fantasy novel, Welcome to Sortilege Falls.  I spend several hours a week researching agents, looking at their recent sales, and sending out queries.  So far, it's going as expected.  I've been asked for a partial and received a lot of rejections, completely normal.

But I'm a just-in-case kind of gal.  I know that I could spend the next 6-12 months querying and still not find representation.  My hope is to find an agent that loves the book like I do and is totally jazzed to rep it, but if not, then I have a back-up plan.  I've decided to approach small presses after the agent search.  I don't want to do both at the same time as that can cause problems.  And note, if I get an agent, I have no intention of still shopping my book around on my own.

Books with question mark by AJMy search into small presses has actually proved to be a blast.  Why's that?  Well, it involves a lot of steps which I tend to enjoy and I don't know why.  First, I find the small press.  Then I check out the titles, submission policy, etc.  If they carry books in YA Fantasy and they are open to submissions, I check out how the titles they've already published are doing on Amazon and Goodreads.  What's their sales rank?  How many reviews do they have, etc.  If everything looks good there, meaning that more than two recent titles have over 20 reviews on at least one platform, I then google the publisher and try to find out all that I can.  Absolute Write has proved an invaluable resource.

I have to admit, this is the part that appeals to the gossip-pleasure-center of my brain.  A lot of the presses I've found that have good sales and a high number of reviews get pretty good feedback from their authors.  BUT, I've heard some crazy stuff on Absolute Write and other sites.  Publishing houses refusing to pay authors, books being published unedited in order to get them out quicker, small presses shutting down after one or two years of operation, etc.

The publishing world is becoming a very interesting place to investigate.  I sometimes have to remind myself that I have writing to do and that research is supposed to be a small part of my day.

What about you interwebs?  Have any techniques you use to find agents or publishers?  Heard any crazy stories?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Holy Fourth Batman!

One of my best friends came to Raleigh to visit this past weekend.  It was a lovely visit filled with fun, beer and food.  And food.  And then some more food.  Oh, you've stopped chewing for five minutes?  Well, let's shove some more food in your mouth.  Because America.

Well, that's unkind.  America did not force me to overeat.  I am more than capable of that myself, thank you very much.  But goodness, Raleigh has some terrific restaurants and you can't let your out of town guests go by themselves.  Well you can, but then you'd be a horrible person.  Thinner, but horrible.

Then there was the beer.  UGH, RALEIGH, you're killing me.  NC beers are soooooooooooo good.  How good are they?  When I waited tables, I once heard someone say the desserts at the restaurant were so good, they would make you slap your momma.  Yes, NC beers are that good.

Basically, this weekend was pretty stellar.  I hope to relive it in 2016!  Hope you all had a happy fourth as well!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Recent Reads I'd Recommend: Syndrome E

This post will contain spoilers.

Syndrome E is a psychological thriller/crime novel that revolves around one intense film and several mysteries.  Mystery one - five male bodies are found with brains and eyes missing.  Mystery two - an experimental film from the fifties is found that causes one man to go blind and is eventually linked to these murders, but no one knows who made the film, how they made it (lots of odd sequences including a bull stopping on a dime), or why.

What I didn't know going into the novel:
That this was the third novel featuring the same character: Franck Sharko.  I had a feeling a few chapters in that there were other books featuring this character BUT, neither my enjoyment nor comprehension were hindered by not having read the earlier novels.

What I liked:

I loved the description of the films (there end up being two).  Traditional movies are difficult enough to describe in word form, so to do a scene by scene retelling of an experimental film (think Meshes of the Afternoon or Un Chien Andalou) is quite the task.  The author mixed in the character's reactions, which helped, but it was really his ability to create full pictures with few words that impressed me.

All of the technical explanations were handled wonderfully.  I have always been a sucker for a story that can tell me how things work mechanically without boring me to tears (I'm looking at you hardcore science fiction).  This novel had the task of explaining film history, 1950's film technology and capabilities, the eye/brain relation, the definition of a psychopath, subliminal messages, different medical tests, and several police procedures.  I felt that all were deftly done and handled mostly in dialogue or character ruminations.

The story.  Damn!  I loved it up until the end.  I won't give it away here, but I had issues involving the killer's motive and their inability to make different choices or explore other options over a LONG span of time.  If you read the book, you will know exactly what I mean.  BUT, until then, I did love the story.  The murder mystery involves France, Canada, Egypt, Belgium and the USA.  MK Ultra, and Project Avocado are involved.  And even though the story is about the murder, the author never skimped on developing characters both big and small.  Every character had their likes and dislikes, their niches, and attitudes.  My favorite is the first person to die, an old man who falls from a ladder while trying to reach for a film.  He starts it all and we only get to know him post-mortem through the eyes of others, but he has a depth not afforded most victims, and his flaws and foibles are revealed slowly.

What I didn't like:

Two things.  One, the love story that developed between Sharcko and Lucie, the two cops working the case.  It just didn't seem necessary to the story and actually, for me, detracted from the plot.  Every time one of them would think lovey dovey thoughts about the other, I would just roll my eyes.  Yes, they are both flawed, lonely, isolated, damaged people but them falling in love just did nothing for me.  I would have thoroughly enjoyed a partnership based on respect and admiration, but that's just me.

The ending.  UGH.  Okay, SPOILER ALERT - the person who committed the murders was the little girl from the movie.  She was drugged and exposed to violence until she broke and became violent.  This is captured in the film and the hidden film within the film (a really cool part of the story).  The film was made under a doctor's supervision.  Then, the girl was adopted by the doctor and groomed to take over his research - having to deal with mind control and aggression.  However, in the 50+ years since her adoption and the death of her father, she never sought help, and states that she had no choice.  Her explanation at the end of the novel felt weak for such a strong, well crafted story.  I hated ending the story on a note of disappointment.  What a let down after an intense, well-written, well researched, gripping novel.


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