Cover Release: An Elden Novella Called “Broken”

Well my friends, interesting things have been happening over here. While working on Forsaken Lands 2 I had a conversation with my sister, and at some point I asked the question, “Hey, who do you think deserves the next short story?”

As soon as she said “Elden” my mind got spinning, and in 12 days I had about 18,000 words on paper – enough to qualify as a novella. Mind you, I had planned to work on a short story after the novel draft was finished, but Elden’s tale was so juicy that it simply took off with my better senses, and here we are. Fortunately I’m pretty sure that I can still make my goal of a June 23rd first draft of FL2 despite my 12 day novella diversion. What’s even better is I will now be releasing a new title in the next 1-3 months, prior to the release of FL2! Check out the cover –

broken

I’ll be working up a formal blurb in the next few days. In short, it is another first-person origin story of sorts, giving you a window into Elden’s life at age sixteen. Several points about his past are revealed, including the beginning of his dangerous relationship with the Kaldari fire drug. After my beta readers give me their feedback on the draft I will make necessary changes, consult with my editing folks, and then bam – it will be out on the net. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll do three months of Kindle Select or go straight to wider distribution. More on the intricacies of that decision to come.

I’m on break between the end of my training and the beginning of my new job, so there will be lots of writing happening in the next few weeks as well as a (much less arduous) move to a neighboring city. I’ll see about getting some blog posts out in that amount of time. Who knows… perhaps I’ll release some snippets from Broken while I’m at it. Interested? Shout out!

Preview Chapter – Forsaken Lands Book 2

Hello out there blog folk! It’s been a wild month-and-a-half or so. Despite an ever-changing schedule and an impending move (again), the work on Book 2 has been proceeding as scheduled. With 73,000 words in the Forsaken Lands sequel, I’d like to present a sample of what’s been going on so far. Slowly but surely this thing is getting finished… goal date to finish the draft: June 23rd. More blog posts to come in the next few months! Sorry for the decrease in chatter.

The scene below is from the second chapter of Forsaken Lands Book 2 and contains spoilers – you have been warned.

           Even balled up in her fur cloak with the hood drawn up, Eila had glittering green eyes and a thin little body that made all sorts of interesting shapes in a fight. She was probably younger than him – maybe 16 – but she was better with a sword and a hell of a lot better at speaking the Kaldari’s god-cursed language.

           Elden gifted the girl with one of his sly half-smiles and threw the stone right back. She laughed and said something under her breath that he couldn’t understand.

           Sigh.

           It was getting colder than he could ever remember. Seven Kaldari huddled around the center of a traditional Kaldari Chitaka, a semi-permanent, round, tent-like structure that he helped construct from animal hides about a week ago. There were sleep sacks scattered around the periphery of the structure and a blazing fire in the center, the smoke pushing cold air out through the hole in the ceiling. Even with the roaring fire and the close quarters, Elden hugged his own body tightly to keep in what warmth he could. The snow outside formed a barricade, so thick that folks could barely squeeze through to use the outdoor facilities. Fortunately the snow seemed to slow the Celet down almost as much as it slowed the Kaldari. They hadn’t seen action since the Chitaka went up.

           Though he’d spent several weeks with these people, Elden felt incredibly alone. When a Kaldari patrol cornered him outside of Nivenea on the week of The Fall, Elden had given serious thought to killing them all. He had the ability to do so, certainly, and no real moral issue with it, but part of him knew that being a loner wasn’t going to work forever. The emergence of the Celet and their mysterious weapons brought his entire world into question – he could run, but to where? And for what?

           He was nothing without a group to hide within, so it made some amount of sense to just go with them. Growing up on the Kaldari Border Elden had picked up a little of the language – mostly slurs – just enough to get along. He understood more than he could express, at least. “Yes” was the only word that seemed to matter, anyway.

           Given his poor control of the language he came off as quiet, but nobody seemed overly disturbed by his lack of conversation. Quite the contrary, they treated him as if he were some kind of ideal stoic. Unfortunately stoicism wasn’t his usual gig. He found himself craving real human interaction, without the fear of being found out.

           It might not have been worth all the isolation except that the Kaldari gave him a steady supply of the fire, which saved him from the withdrawals. The fire alone might not be enough to keep him around. As time went on he gave greater consideration to joining the infamous Nivenea’s Sword, the Children of Elseth’s resistance movement against the Celet. Elden had his first encounter with The Sword just the day before, and he couldn’t help but admire with tenactiy. More than that, he liked that he was able to understand what they were saying effortlessly.

           Gods I hate being alone in my own head.

           <That one, where did he come from again?> Eila whispered to the male, Berik, beside her.

           <I heard he was Alke,> Berik replied.

           <He’s so slow,> Eila chuckled.

           Elden stared up at the ceiling as if oblivious. She either believed that she was speaking softly enough that he wouldn’t hear, or more likely, she thought he was too dumb to understand. He had no intention of finding out which. He grabbed his bag and stood, stretching his stiff legs. Berik raised eyebrows in his direction.

           Elden jerked a thumb toward the entrance flap, <Pissing.>

           Berik nodded.

           Pausing just a moment to gather his wits, Elden pushed through the hide-flap into the biting cold of the night. Outside the Chitaka very few people stood guard; he counted four, one at each cardinal. Only their shadows were visible through the dark and falling snow, outlined by torches which seemed to be swallowed up by the forest. Ice hung heavy on the pine trees, the whiteness turned to black with the occasional sparkle of stray light. He could see no stars; when he looked up the snow stung his lashes.

           Somehow being physically alone was comforting compared to the sensation of being alone in a crowd. Hunching his shoulders, Elden trudged out to the edge of the camp where people typically went to relieve themselves. The forest was too quiet; his every movement was amplified a hundred times, yet the guards spared him only stray glances. They did not expect an attack this night.

           Once safely out of sight of the guards, Elden huddled up against a tree. He checked one way and then the other, took a long breath, and relaxed. When he raised his hand his lighter slowly levitated from his pocket, spinning free while he packed his stolen pipe. His covash was getting low, but a hit or two and he’d be able to forget enough to get to sleep.

           Plans could wait.

           He lit the pipe, careful to shield it from the wind and keep it from falling out. His supply would need to last until… well, until something. He didn’t know what. He used his mind to effortlessly place the lighter back in his pocket and took his first pull. He had to avoid using his abilities in the presence of others who might be suspicious. The freedom to move objects with his mind was absolutely freeing, a pleasure he too infrequently enjoyed.

           Movement off to his left caught his eye mid-drag, giving him pause. He hadn’t heard anyone coming up on his position, but the movement was unmistakable. When he turned to look he was met with the bear-sized frame of the Kaldari merc, a large bag slung on his back and a thick cloak drawn around him, only adding to his size. A hook was attached in place of his right hand, lost in the fight at Nivenea’s Fall. For a man so substantial he moved with the grace of a feline.

           Elden quickly concealed his pipe up his sleeve and hitched his breath, hoping that the man would pass him by. The merc halted his progression and slowly turned towards him – the feeling of the merc’s eyes on him gave Elden a start.

           “You did not see me,” the merc’s gruff voice came from beneath a faceless hood, appropriately lowered so that the guards would not hear. “Go back to the camp.”

           Elden leaned his head back against the tree, closing his eyes. He opened his mouth to formulate a reply in Kaldari, but stopped abruptly.

           The merc was speaking to him in Leyvada.

           He was inclined not to answer back in order to maintain this illusion of being a Kaldari soldier, but by the merc’s rough, staccato laughter, he had already fumbled too far. He knew. The merc grunted and kept walking, his back to Elden.

           “What the hell was that?” Elden whispered urgently.

           When the man looked over his shoulder Elden caught a glimpse of his long, black hair peaking from beneath his hood. “Your accent is very bad.”

           “You’ve known? All this time?”

           The merc’s shoulders slumped just slightly. His tone was flat. “Yes.”

           “And you didn’t think I was some kind of spy?”

           At that the merc laughed again. “Spy? If you are the spy I pity The Sword for sending you.”

           Elden couldn’t help but feel taken aback by the comment. He wasn’t a spy, but he didn’t think he would be so bad if he was. The other Kaldari accepted him, and showed no inkling of suspicion. To be identified by one man out of dozens was hardly something to scoff at.

           The merc began walking again, and something very stupid and very deep inside Elden’s psyche cause him to follow, even as he was telling himself, Leave this guy alone, idiot. He’s dangerous. He supposed that it was his power that got him into these situations. His whole life he’d struggled to impose deterrents such as fear into his every day actions, but doing so was difficult when he’d never met a person that he couldn’t defeat in a fight… at least in theory.

           “Do not follow me,” the merc said patiently.

           “You’re not giving me an abundance of options. I’m not done with you,” Elden proceeded, reckless with the need for change. “I want out of here, and it looks like that’s where you’re headed.”

           The merc didn’t turn around or stop. “And you think this is what I am doing, getting ‘out,’ as you say?”

           “You’re leaving the camp alone in the middle of the night, and word is your loyalties aren’t proven. Nobody trusts you.”

           “They let me live with them, they cared for my wounds. You think they do this for a man they do not trust?”

           “Look man, I don’t care why they let you in, I just want to follow you until I find someplace else to hide for a while. I don’t belong here.”

           When the merc swung around to glare at him, Elden instinctively ducked and raised his energy, ready for a fight. To his surprise the bear-man did not hit him. The shadowed face studied him a moment, and Elden could feel his hairs standing on end.

           “I can just go ba-” Elden began.

           “Your name is Elden.”

           Confused, Elden crossed his arms, in part for warmth and in part as a defensive posture. “And your name is…” he searched for it in the depths of his memory. “Garren.”

           “You are from Vail.”

           Elden physically and mentally withdrew, wary of Garren’s knowledge. He hadn’t told anyone where he’d come from, that much he was sure of. “Who says?”

           Silence.

           “If you wish to find the other Deldri then you follow me. If you do not wish it, you do not follow.” The statement was final. Garren turned away yet again and set off into the woods.

           “How do you know?” Elden called after him at the loudest volume he imagined to be safe.

           No answer. The mysterious merc man just kept walking, disappearing into the darkness, the snow, and the trees. Elden hesitated another beat – he was faced with one of his recurring life decisions, to go or to stay, to follow on to an uncertain future or wallow in the disappointing reality of his present. He supposed that he would continue making these decisions forever until eventually he found the decision which led to his happiness or he died, whichever came first. He was relatively certain that this was not one of those happiness-making choices.

           Settling his bag squarely over his shoulders, Elden followed his new-found traveling partner into a future unknown.

 © 2014 Sydney M. Cooper – No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Sequel Syndrome

“I can only hope it’s true enough/That every little thing I do for love/Redeems me from the moments I deem worthy of the worst things that I’ve done…”

I always have a song to go with every scene. It doesn’t have to be playing the whole time I’m writing, but generally it has to be playing when I start writing, and I have to replay it periodically while the scene is going. The tone of my environment is very important for my writing performance. Lately I’ve been working on some Les-heavy scenes, and Les tends to be a Panic at the Disco kind of guy. So, for fun, I give you today’s scene theme music before I launch into our discussion –

Things have slowly been calming down in my personal life while they’ve been ramping up in my writing life (two different lives, of course). The sequel is now at 52,000 words and climbing, and the further I go the more appreciation I have for every sequel I’ve ever read, particularly the good ones. Ask anyone who has talked to me in the last month and a half, and they will tell you that at some point I mentioned “book two” and some variation of “kicking my ass” in the same breath. Until the last few weeks I’ve been suffering from horrible writer’s block/writing anxiety and self-doubt, even as I’ve received praise from readers about Tragedy.Both the joy and the torment of writing is stretching yourself – forcing yourself to understand a new viewpoint, solve a new problem, or sharpen a new literary skill. For me, the sequel has been a challenge in ways I could not imagine.

I knew Suffering (which I am considering renaming to Sacrifice, but that’s beside the point) would be more complicated. At the end of book one the world opens up, and book two is all about the flood of information and the fallout from the climax of the previous story. In the beginning I’ve got four separate groups of people doing their own thing, which later consolidates to 2-3, depending on how you count. I thought to myself, sure, juggling that many plots/subplots is going to take a lot of mental energy, and that’s going to be hard. There’s going to be more action, which is not necessarily my forté, and also more interpersonal development; figuring out how to stay true to your characters while ensuring they have an actual arc takes a bit of a deft hand.

The problem I didn’t anticipate was the variable independent of my actual story – the problem is I’m writing a sequel, and sequels are just plain difficult. I’ve written two full novels by this point in my life, one that is published and one that never will be, but until now I’ve never written the continuation of a larger story.  Problems of writing a sequel widely include ruining something that was previously good, worrying about disappointing an audience, writing a story that is “all middle,inconsistencies, and my personal white whale, obsessively wondering why your sequel rough draft looks nothing like your beautifully polished first novel (I never claimed to have a rational muse, just an inconvenient one). One need not list the many sequels which failed to live up to their debut counterparts *ahem* but they are legion, and consumers have almost come to expect that the second installment of any story, regardless of the media form, will be somehow diminished.

Of course, there are some sequels that managed to dodge the sequel syndrome. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was actually my favorite of the series, and was pretty well-received by most readers; The Wrath of Khan is known to be one of the great classic Star Trek movies. The Two Towers is also well-regarded in the arena of sequels (and again was my favorite of that series), and nobody in the movie world should forget The Dark Knight as perhaps one of the best movie sequels to grace the screens (bias here – I adored Dark Knight). These sequels share several common traits; they stand well on their own as stories, in general, and they deepen the observer’s connection to the characters in some way. In Khan we had the heart-wrenching moment of Spock “dying” behind the glass. Dark Knight had its own fascinating arc within the Joker and his ever-escalating trail of violence. Many blogs out there in the world seem to agree that the keys to writing a good sequel are – as you might guess – the very opposite of what makes a bad sequel.

All that said, I’m doing my level best to avoid the sequel syndrome pitfalls by keeping things interesting, getting the plot moving, and throwing in a few surprises. It helps that one of my characters is unpredictable by nature, giving me a great tool to liven things up from time to time. As to the anxiety of ruining the series and the problem of trying to edit before I get words on the page, I’ve decided to forcibly restrain myself from editing as I type. The rough draft looks perhaps even rougher than it already was, but at least things are moving now. I have to remind myself that Tragedy wasn’t beautiful in its first iteration, either.

The learning curve sharpens. To you, dear reader, I leave a question: what do you think makes a good sequel?

Because Everything is Word of Mouth

Hey there folks. So here are just a few updates – this week I’m going to be proofing the physical copy of Tragedy with the hope of being able to approve it for distribution before the end of the month. YAY. I’m about 10,000 words into Book 2 (again!) and loving where the story is going. It’s hot stuff. I’m not going at NaNoWriMo speeds, but I’m getting there (and by the way, to those of you who are NaNo’ing it up, you have my utmost respect).

Tragedy has gotten a pretty reasonable number of downloads/buys so far. I’m not getting rich over here, but the story is getting out! The point of getting the word out at this stage of the game isn’t about the money, though, and that’s what I would like to briefly discuss today. As the title of this post would indicate, everything about promoting your work as an artist seems to come down to word of mouth. Advertising, free promotions, being seen… all of that is done in the hope that the person who sees your work will take a minute to enjoy it and then tell someone else about it. As an indie author, reviews are a huge part of that. I know that when I’m clicking through books to read on Amazon one of the first things I look at are the reviews – I probably miss some great books by sorting them this way, but with so many books out on the net you have to use some kind of criteria.

This is not just a plug for my own reviews, though (of course I’d love ’em if you want to give ’em). I recently had the pleasure of exchanging emails with a lovely woman named Felicia who is in the book blogging/reviewing/author-interviewing business. She has her own blog where she runs her opinion pieces, but also recently started a blog called ‘Connect and Post.’ The idea is that authors, readers, and bloggers can come together on this page to exchange reviews, interviews, and guest posts. I think it is a fabulous idea and I am very happy to be one of the first authors to appear on the page.

Additionally, Tragedy now has a listing on Goodkindles, a website which features mostly indie authors and helps get the word out about new releases. I can’t say how effective it is, but it’s another avenue to get your stuff out there if that is your goal (as it is mine).

If I find any other especially effective resources for discovering new authors and getting the word out about new releases, I will be sure to let you know. Similarly, if you as a reader or author have found a great way to connect indie authors with readers, please let me know!

I think that’s about it from me. It’s been a while since I had anything deeply philosophical to post – I’ll see what I can do about bringing in some more profound material for next time. 😉 Have an excellent week out there!

The Challenge of Cheerfulness

Well I’m sure you’ve been waiting for my exalted opinion on the matter (no really, you can breathe again!), so I will start out by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Bishop’s latest novel, Written in RedI’m not going to go full-on book report on this mini-review, but I’ll give you my impressions and my sincere recommendation that you give the book a try if it sounds at all interesting.

A departure from her previous works of fantasy, Written in Red is an urban fantasy novel complete with werewolves, vampires, and a variety of other paranormal creatures (those that are called “The Others”). I expected that this novel wouldn’t be your run-of-the-mill, standard vampire vs shifter kind of story, and I was completely right. The characters had the Anne Bishop charm that I have come to expect from her work, and The Others were portrayed in an organic, character-driven light that I haven’t seen so much in other urban fantasy books. Specifically, she did a great job characterizing her shifter characters as very animalistic and… well, other. Of course she has done this kind of thing in the past – the kindred from Black Jewels were some of my favorite characters.

Above all, Written in Red was an example of how an author who has a history of writing deeply dark and sometimes disturbing fiction can take you to the extreme opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Somewhere in the middle of Written in Red the main character, Meg, works her naiive charm on a very broken, sad character, and the moment where Meg’s kindness comes to fruition was so adorable and lovely that it brought me to tears. So freaking adorable!

It got me to thinking, of course, about my own work (after all, learning is about observation). I view Anne Bishop as a sort of role model – I have been in love with her characters for the last 8 years, and devour each book in less than a week of purchasing it. She’s not a classical master of prose or anything like that, but she is an author who has sucked me into her worlds over and over again. Her darker themes please me on whatever level causes me to write dark stories, and her style is fluent enough that it doesn’t grate on my senses. The heartwarming thing, though…

If you met me on the street, I don’t know that you would peg me for the kind of gal who writes tragic, bloody fantasy stories. I smile pretty easily. I like to laugh and joke, and I fancy myself to be a cheerful person most days. I wear colors, though I have been known to dress in some quantity of black (it is so very attractive… and helps one blend in with creatures of the night… >.>). However, as cheerful as I might be in person, I do not write heartwarming stories in any sense of the word. Sitting on the bus during my commute, I kept trying to think of a hearth-fires-and-hot-chocolate moment from any of my scenes.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t come up with one. Witty moments? Maybe… at least I’d like to believe I have a few of those in there. Funny moments? Smirk-worthy moments, at least. Heartbreaking moments? I certainly felt heartbroken when I was writing a few of the scenes from Forsaken Lands and Fathers and Sons, so I can only hope that you felt what I was feeling at the time. Heartwarming moments, though, not so much.

Anne Bishop had a few of those delightfully cheerful moments in her prior work, but none so prominent as those in Written in Red. It’s an intriguing proposition, really, to consider putting a scene in the book that makes the reader feel that unique blend of heart-wrenching and soul-feeding happy-sadness that comes with a dramatic… is there another word for heartwarming? I’m getting tired of using the same word too many times in this post. Anyway. It’s a skill that would seem to take some training for those of us who specialize in the tragedies; a skill I would like to sharpen in the future. Will there be any warming of the hearts in Forsaken Lands 2? It remains to be seen at this point…

That’s just my musing of the night. I was feeling guilty about not posting anything in a while, especially when the release date for Forsaken Lands Book 1 is so very, very close! The cover art is coming together beautifully, and the final pre-publishing edits are certainly somewhere in the process. I wouldn’t say almost done. Or even halfway done. Close enough that I can finish it off before the end of the month, though, that’s for sure!

Trust me, we got this over here.

As usual, I leave you with a question to close: are there any emotional states you have a hard time reaching with your writing? To those who primarily read, what scenes do you find authors struggling with in the work you enjoy?

A little riff – rambling, reading and editing

I’ve been away from the keyboard for a little over a week now. This post may be a little rambly, but I’ll just have to ask you for a pass on that one (after all, the description at the top of this blog does specify “ramblings” as part of the content). Seattle has taken me on a wild ride between working and exploring this fabulous city. There hasn’t been a lot of time for writing, though I have been reading a lot – and if you ask any author worth their salt, they’ll tell you that reading is as important, if not more so, that actually putting words on a page.

The book I’ve been reading is by my favorite author, Anne Bishop. Now, I will say that her books are not for everyone; I totally get why a person wouldn’t want to read The Black Jewels Trilogy, a story which was dark and explicit enough that the first time I opened it I considered throwing it away. I like reading the books of authors who exemplify in their work what I hope to show off in mine, and Anne does an amazing job (in my humble opinion) at writing edgy, lovable characters. She has certainly done that with her latest novel – the one I’m waist deep in at the moment – Written in Red. If you like urban fantasy with a strong character focus, I highly recommend that you check it out. I don’t know how good it will be for your brain, but I certainly think it’s been good for mine! I might post a more extensive review when I finish it, who knows.

While I haven’t made a whole lot of writing progress lately, what I have been doing consists of somewhat tedious content and cleanup editing. Unfortunately for me, editing is this trance-like state of ruthless abandon requiring exquisite concentration… and I’ve had approximately none of that since I’ve been displaced from my home, living out of a suitcase in an alien city.  Nonetheless, slow, painstaking progress has been made. If you’d like to take a look at things I’ve been working on, I’d recommend clicking on over to Teveres’s Intro – the first half of Tragedy’s prologue up on createspace.

I think that’s about it from me, folks, so I’ll leave you with a question: which authors have inspired you, and why?

Have a great week!

Self-Promotion: The Hardest Part

Before I get into my ‘click here, check this out’ portion of the post, I would like to give you a token of my appreciation. Several of you have been liking these blog posts and following along – it’s not much, but it’s a start, and I appreciate each one of you. For those who are interested I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Elden, one of the lesser but still very important characters from Tragedy. Enjoy the sneak peak!

    Elden leaned his weight against the newly-stained wooden banister, looking out over the bar scene below. He swirled the tincture of fire in his glass as he watched from his perch. The establishment, while not necessarily new, was well-kept and recently repainted. Smoke and soft chatter wafted up to his quiet indoor balcony, keeping him company like an old friend. A young woman played a pleasant song her violin against the far wall, just beyond his view. Two bartenders worked in tandem behind the L-shaped bar, a handful of young people gathered around ordering drinks and talking. The tall bar tables were abandoned at the periphery – everyone wanted to be close to everyone else, except him. Solitude suited him.

     Taking a drag from the minty Covash smoke between his lips, he smiled to himself. While most of the dozen-or-so people in the room were having a good time, there was discord off to the corner of that bar between the slender, fair-haired Willow and her painfully thin summer-colored boyfriend, Douglass. Willow was on the offense again, her tree twig finger pointed squarely at Douglass’s chest while Douglass hand his hands open, his whole body curved away from her. Elden could read the cluelessness plain on Douglass’s face.

    It would have been easier to feel bad for the sap if he wasn’t the thousandth man in Vail to get tangled up with Willow. Elden made it with her for a solid week before Willow’s malicious nature drove him away. It was all well enough – the sex was good, and he only expected to get a night or two out of it at the maximum. He considered the experience overall as a win.

    Douglass, on the other hand, was never the brightest kid in Vail. He had an undying belief in one day finding a woman and having a family, even as he destroyed his body with covash and lylic. He was the last of the romantics.

    In the year since he arrived in Vail Elden had made many acquaintances, but no real friends. To even think that he might someday find a person to settle down with was preposterous. He had yet to meet a man or woman who could accept the fluid nature of his existence. Six years ago at the age of 16 he left his home in the border town of Chall to travel the world. In that time he had lived in at least a dozen different places. Each time he found a place to stay, something seemed to happen. He would save someone falling off a roof, or he would shatter the entire bar’s stock of glassware, and suddenly wherever he was living lost its hospitable charm. Surviving an entire year in Vail without incident was nothing short of miraculous.

    Elden glanced about his dark little corner, a six-foot-long space with two broken down tables and sets of chairs. Only card-players ever came up to the balcony, and even then only on third nights. No one ever bothered him when he took over the space. He tossed back the rest of his drink, distantly missing the way it used to burn his throat. Too many years of drinking the swill numbed him to the sensation. Even the energizing buzz from the tincture’s herbs barely touched him anymore; they only served to keep him sane.

    Night air blew through as the front door opened below him. At the base of the staircase to his dark, abandoned balcony was the doorway to the outside, and in the doorway stood an intriguing young woman. Her auburn hair was spun back in a bun to reveal wide cheekbones. Underneath her cloak she was dressed in the work clothes of a healer, or perhaps an engineer – he could never tell the two apart. He could visualize her curves, the kind he hadn’t ever seen on one of the local girls. She had to be either a traveler or new to the town.

    He almost yelped when she looked up at him like she could hear him thinking. Her eyes were striking – the color of new spring lilacs, with a sheen of intelligence. She screwed up her lips to one side of her face thoughtfully. As quickly as she commanded his attention she suddenly broke from it, approaching the bar to place her order.

    She maintained a forcefield-like barrier between herself and the others around her. No one came close or spoke to her. She watched them, just as he watched them. She sat there a few minutes examining the others around her before her drink arrived and she turned her attention back on him.

    His curiosity sufficiently piqued, Elden took one last puff from his light before he gripped the edge of the banister and hopped over it to the stairs below. He was not a large man, standing 5’11” with the physique of someone who clearly spent more coin on tincture than bread. His boots landed softly on the wood, calling for glances from only a handful of patrons who quickly shrugged it off. They expected such things of him anymore. Vail was getting too comfortable with his presence.

    The girl kept sidelong eyes on him, a mug of ale in her hand. Her intensity was almost a deterrent, the way she analyzed him without a word. He put on his best lazy, alluring half-grin, to make it look like he didn’t notice. Men and women instinctively moved away when he walked up beside her. It was for best, for certain; if they didn’t move, he would have had to push them. No one enjoyed that.

    Domini, the large, black-haired bartender at that side of the bar gave Elden a casual wave.

    “Need anything E?” Domini’s booming voice asked.

    Elden shook his head, strands of slightly-too-long golden brown hair brushing over his eyes. “Good here Dom.”

    The girl was amused even by his brief exchange with the bartender. She raised one eyebrow, sipping her ale delicately like she might sip tea. “Can I help you with something, then?” she asked. In her voice he could hear the hint of an accent, one he’d heard from people raised outside the cities. A country girl.

    “Might be,” said Elden. He offered a hand to her, which she shook with a light touch, her pale skin contrasting against his olive-tan hands. “You must not be from here.”

    “I’m from Alta,” she said smoothly, withdrawing the hand. With her accent it was unlikely she was from Alta, a sizable city on the Kaldari border, but it was no matter. “Came here for work.”

    “Oh yeah? What sorta work?”

    “Not the kind you’re looking for,” she said with a laugh.

    Feigning insult, Elden guffawed. “Have I said something unwelcome? I don’t think so.”

    “No, you haven’t said anything of that sort.”

    The way she responded was curious, like someone who was lying by omission. If he were looking for something serious, he would have walked away immediately. He could see that she was trouble on legs. It didn’t stop him with Willow, either.

    “You’re not in here looking to make friends, are you?” he challenged her.

    “Neither are you,” she used a grating matter-of-fact tone, “I’m an alchemist, since you really want to know.”

    “So you’re here to fix the town.”

    “Town would have to want fixing.” She look him up and down critically. “So would you.”

    “Nothing broken here, hon.” He gestured with flourish, “I’m the most put-together guy you’ll find in Vail, that’s a fact.”

    “Oh, no doubt,” She laughed at a private joke. “Where are you from?”

    “Nivenea,” he lied.

    “I spent a while there,” she said. “Nice place. Why’d you leave?”

    “That many gifted people in one place makes me nervous.” Half-truth, this time. He was gifted himself, but not in any way that people respected. His parents were gifted, too, but like most of the divinely gifted, they had a narrow definition for who did and did not fit in their world view. Elden was never able to meet that standard.

    “So what do you do here?”

    Grow covash and piss on the law. “Handy man. I do whatever people need.”

    A subtly as he could manage, he used his mind’s eye to travel the outline of her body. He pulled her towards him only by a half centimeter, gently. It was something he had done a hundred times before on other potential partners; usually the slight decrease in distance between them encouraged discussion.

    She was the first person to ever react to it directly. She jerked, pushing further away from him. His mind’s feather-touch disintegrated against any amount of her strength. The sizzle of anger was in her eyes when she looked at him.

    She couldn’t know it was him, could she? No one else ever had. Coincidence, maybe. Either way, his interest evaporated. He was hunting for deer; she was a panther.

    “Well, it’s been lovely, but I have places to be,” he winked, “Handy work and all that.”

    Before he could turn away she grabbed his wrist, her fingers locked tightly against his skin. She narrowed her eyes. “What’s your name?”

    “Elden,” he blurted unintentionally, and regretted it. Something told him that he didn’t want her to know his real name. “What’s yours?”

    “Delia.” She abruptly let go.

    An awkward pause grew between them. He didn’t know what to do with his hands or his face. After several long seconds he finally withdrew from her. He saluted Dom casually on his way to the door, walking slowly even while he wanted to bolt.

    I know what you are, an unwelcome voice intruded on his thoughts. It sounded like Delia’s voice, but she had not spoken. He physically shook himself all over to clear his brain, bewildered. He’d had hallucinations before, but rarely were they so clear.

   Maybe he needed to slow it down after all. Folks said that years of tincture could cause strange reactions in people, and he was coming up on 4 years of a bad habit. He banged the bar door open, letting the icy air filled his lungs. He didn’t look back.

Now to the shameless plug part of this post. 😉 I don’t like always doing straight-up promotion posts (and I hope that I haven’t been boring you with too many of those), but I feel like it’s worth noting that my short story Fathers and Sons has been re-uploaded with a chapter from Forsaken Lands attached to the end. If you haven’t already picked it up, it’s only $0.99 on Amazon. If you like it, please review!

On the novel front, I’ve been making some headway on Forsaken Lands 2 as well as doing more cleanup editing on Tragedy with the help of my husband. I will be uploading it to Amazon as soon as the cleanup and the cover are finished. Although I will be out of town on a job next month, I will continue my work on the editing and try to get in a blog post or two. It is my sincere hope that I can get the novel out by the end of September (if not earlier).

To those following and liking this blog, I thank you for listening. Please chime in if you want to hear more or less of what I’ve been talking about. The feminism post was pretty popular, so I might do another post like that in the near future.

Peace and long life, friends.

Previews and Updates

Hello again theoretical reader! It’s been several days since I’ve had a chance to update this blog, so I’ll just get right to it.

Currently I am doing some tweaking of the manuscript while I wait for the cover art. The cover is being designed by the lovely and talented Raechel Gasparac. I am thrilled with the design and can’t wait to share it with the world! It should not be long before it’s finished, and after that it’s just a matter of getting things uploaded and formatted properly.

In the meantime, I have posted parts 1 and 2 of the prologue to Tragedy on createspace. Part 1 features Aiasjia, the female protagonist of the story, while Part 2 follows Teveres, the corresponding male protagonist. I encourage you to click the links, read the chapters, and leave comments if you feel moved to do so.

Moving has been a bit of a chore as always, but now that I’m starting to get settled in I should be able to update this page more frequently. If you are more than just a theoretical reader – dare I say an actual human being at the other end of this internet tube – I would love to hear your comments! Are you out there? Are you intrigued? Is there anything you’d like me to write about in the future?

Hopefulness

One of the authors who inspired me to take a chance on epublishing is Lindsay Buroker. The writer of the Emporer’s Edge series (which you should absolutely pick up here!), Lindsay also maintains a blog about self-publishing. She has mentioned several things that helped her get started in the self-publishing business – one of those things was publishing a short story. On that advice, I’ve decided to put a short story prequel to Tragedy up on Amazon to see what happens. That process is currently in the works, and I will update you when it is officially on the market.

Fathers and Sons was something I wrote both as a sample of my work, and also as a way for me to better understand Garren as a character. Most often I write in third person limited, but for this I went with first person present-tense, which very much matches Garren’s… utilitarian mode of thinking. I would like to write a couple more short stories from the perspectives of my main characters, if only to learn more about them for myself.

If I’m very lucky I will manage to make a little bit of progress on this promoting-the-book thing each night. I’m going to call tonight a win in that category. Back to packing up boxes… four more days till the big move!

Message in a Bottle

Me again, writing to you future readers who may or may not exist. 😉 It’s the 4th of July, and I am completely exhausted from non-writing events this week. I didn’t even bother with the fireworks today, though I did have a lovely time shopping with the mom in law. Rather than sitting outside with the Texas mosquitoes, I decided I would try to update my much-neglected blog.

Much has happened since the last time I wrote. A good friend of mine – the artist from my earlier post – convinced me to send my work to a traditional publisher. The response I received was interesting, and even though it was a rejection, I see it as a necessary part of my own self-publishing journey.

The publisher (who will forever remain nameless as a courtesy) got back to me promptly, and it seemed the editor I was in touch with quite liked the work. It got all the way up to being discussed with the marketing team, at which point they sent me a peculiarly-worded email stating that while they’re rejecting this book, they encouraged me to keep submitting, and to submit other stories to them in the future.

It’s clear that someone in that company did like the book enough to push it forward in the process, but that somewhere along the way not enough people were convinced. The thing is, I did not write this book for the benefit of anyone but myself. This creation of mine, which I would like to share with others on the off-chance that it will be meaningful to them, was not drawn up to be focus group fodder. Indeed, the more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up with for why the book might have been rejected (other than the possibility that a large number of people at the company just didn’t like the writing itself). Among them were my portrayals of religion, drug addiction, mental illness/suicide, sexuality and abortion.

I would like to state that much in the same way that I did not write this novel for the sake of other people, I did not write it with the intention to address controversial issues. My characters reflect my life as someone who has seen a lot of things and loved a lot of people who society found unlovable. Though the book is not meant to be a political statement, I did very intentionally write flawed characters, each of them uniquely important to me. I dearly hope that you, my theoretical reader, fell in love with my characters too.

With a rejection in hand, I am actively embarking on my adventure in self-publishing. I will continue writing and publishing whether my work is loved or hated by the masses in the hopes that the stories resonate with even one person.

All of that said, I am going to conclude this post. I have some more editing to do, along with preparations for a cross-country move. Change is good!

Corners embrace you, friend.