Forsaken Lands 2.5: Brothers in Arms – NOW AVAILABLE

It is upon us: Brothers in Arms is now available on a kindle device near you.

Brothers in Arms: A Forsaken Lands Story by [Sydney M. Cooper]

Dmiri’s journey from loyal Celet officer to leader of a rag-tag military coup has taken everything from him – his friends, career, and reputation. Working alongside unlikely allies from a foreign land, Dmiri is forced to face the harrowing truth about the people and institutions he once revered.

This 30,000-word novella told from Dmiri’s perspective takes place immediately following the events in Forsaken Lands II: Sacrifice, and contains mature content including violence, explicit language, and references to torture.

It’s amazing to be back in the game after being out for so long, and I’m so happy to finally be in a mental space where writing is realistic. Naturally it’s going to be a while before I publish anything again – the next project is Forsaken Lands III, and that is going to take a lot of work. In the spirit of celebration and out of a sense of tradition, the following is the playlist used while writing:

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing cover by Caleb Hyles

Airplanes by B.o.B.

Killer in the Mirror by Set it Off

The Plagues covered by Caleb Hyles and Jonathan Young

Castle by Halsey

Hurt cover by Caleb Hyles

The Other Side cover by Caleb Hyles and Jonathan Young

Brothers in Arms is above all a story of character evolution through conflict and grief. The identities of the characters is not a central focus, though it is absolutely my intention to be inclusive of LGBTQIA+ identities (generally my characters come to me as they are and it doesn’t take any effort on my part!). Representation in media matters. Seeing a mirror of one’s own experience in fiction is deeply validating and important for everyone – it has certainly been important for me. I would like to be unambiguous on this point: Dmiri and Garren are gay men, Eling-Mai is asexual/aromantic, and Dexyr Wu is non-binary.

Well, there it is. I hope someone, somewhere reads it – and if you do, I hope it means something to you. It has to me.

A Story in Parallel Process

I left the United States for a life in New Zealand on March 16th, 2020 – a country far, far away from Donald Trump, the US healthcare system, and the world I once knew. This move was over a year in the making, something I had considered for years and finally brought to fruition. I knew that moving to a new country would include some unexpected events, but a pandemic was far from my list of potential surprises. I left the United States two days before the New Zealand border closed, and nothing about the world has been the same since.

Leaving the US and embarking on this adventure has shifted my perspective in numerous ways. As I finish editing my soon-to-be-released novella, Brothers in Arms, I realize that the evolution of this short story (several years in the making, now, accounting for years of lost inspiration in residency) has paralleled my own growth as a person and citizen of the world.

Brothers in Arms is a story from Dmiri’s point of view, split between the events of the “past” when he lost his rank, and the events of the “present” just following Forsaken Lands II: Sacrifice. Without spoiling too much, Brothers in Arms was originally a story of triumph. I wanted to show Dmiri at his best – orchestrating a military coup, convincing others of his ideas, rallying people to his cause. Dmiri is a person of principal and skill, who we only start to know in Sacrifice. I wanted to show what he gave up to get where he was, and how he gets the opportunity to bring his grand plans to bear.

The skeleton of the story has remained the same, while the themes have radically changed. As I went through a period of demoralization in residency (nearly quitting medicine altogether), divorce, and changes in friends (some new, some lost), I started to see how the reality I created in my head wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be after all. In many ways, we humans need to believe in grand ideas to make sense of the world, to protect ourselves from the anxiety that accompanies uncertainty. We want to believe that the people and institutions we admire authentically embody the virtues we project on them; we’d like to think that good triumphs over evil eventually, and those who are supposed to “stand for something” are built on solid foundations. Some people manage to hang on to these beliefs for the long-haul, and I can certainly see the appeal. It’s cleaner, safer, and easier to live in a world where permanency and absolute truth exist.

Pulling away the curtain to see a more unadulterated world (do we ever really see reality as it is, anyway?) is not always something that happens quickly. I have experienced it in fits and spurts, flashes of recognition that something is deeply awry interspersed with moment of clinging to the safer belief in what is familiar. In the end, though, there must be a breaking point – the moment where what is seen cannot be unseen…

…for me, anyway. It seems that there are plenty of people who choose to see only what they want, epitomized by the great mask debate that rages on in the country of my birth. I digress.

Brothers in Arms is no longer a story of triumph, though there are elements of success and finding camaraderie. Losing one’s faith in people and institutions is not epitomized by a sense of success; a “victory” in these instances is hollow. What is gained when we see things we once managed to ignore – things like systemic racism, sexism, abuses of power, and unprincipled people masquerading as stalwart authorities – is contrasted by the loss of the security we once had.

The feeling that we are left to grapple with in the end of the day is grief, and that is the story of Brothers in Arms now, years after I typed the first words on the page.

Darker themes aside, I’m glad to be in New Zealand and I’m extremely excited to be on the cusp of publishing for the first time in five years (what?!). There is one other short story on a back burner which might show up between now and the release of Forsaken Lands III: Redemption, but I can be certain now that Redemption will one day be finished. In the meantime, look out for Brothers in Arms hitting the internets in the next 1-2 months, and check out this excerpt –


I’m not a nervous person – at least, that’s what I tell myself. I had been a part of the Celet military in some capacity since I was eight years old; twenty-four years, all-tolled. Absent gods, when did I get so old?

I pride myself on being calm and well-conducted under pressure, but judging by the way I had worn a four-finger dent in my desk with my incessant rap, rap, rap on the wood, any bystander would assume I was plagued with the mental disease. I was starting to wonder if it was true myself. Perhaps I had misjudged my vices all these years.

I was grateful for the knock at the door to my quarters. I laced my fingers together in the hope that they would calm themselves. “Come in,” I called.

The door clicked open to reveal my visitor, Second Eling-Mai Nyugen. She was fully clad in the Celet officer blues, dark hair pulled back in a severe-looking bun, all within specs. Her pistolet hung at her side practically halfway down her leg – Mai was small even among the Celet people, but carried with her an imposing presence. Her thin fingers rested on the grip of her weapon, a sure sign of her own apprehension. She had nothing to fear inside this room; it was what waited for us outside on the Zhyra outpost which set our nerves on edge.

True to protocol, Mai closed the door and stood just beyond its threshold, waiting for my instructions.

I waved at her inelegantly. “I think we’re well beyond protocol by now, don’t you?”

Mai’s shoulders remained stiff and strong when she approached my desk and sat across from me. I imagined I look haggard in my rumpled two-day-old uniform with sleeves pulled up over my elbows. I hadn’t properly slept in as much time, of course. The mess of classified documents I procured from one of the shipments we dropped off two weeks ago were sprawled out in front of me, marked up by my own hand so haphazardly that even I couldn’t read it.

Mai’s sharp eyes took all of it in with one sweep. Her cheek twitched.

“The watchers are reporting land,” she told me. “We’ll be there by sundown, unless you’d like to postpone.”

“Is that what you want to do? Postpone?”

“I…” Mai trailed off uncharacteristically. She shook her head. “I just thought I should ask before we proceed.”

I couldn’t fight the smile. I tried to straighten up, pulling the wrinkles out of my uniform jacket. “This is still a voluntary mission. You can go below deck and I will happily call you my prisoner.”

I might have been hallucinating, but I thought I saw her fight off a smile, too. Instead she just blinked. “And you can still turn this ship around.”

Mai, I’m asking you as your friend – are you sure you want to go down for this?”

“If I wanted to abandon the Resolute I would have jumped off at Tayk like everyone else,” she caught herself just in time, “sir.”

“You still can’t call me Dmiri,” I mused. Ever since we’d graduated from the academy together she used my rank or title when speaking to me. I supposed that was partly my fault for keeping people at a comfortable distance. My reputation in the fleet was a good one – I was trusted, even liked by most, yet I could count on one hand the number of people who really knew me. Mai was one of those people. She knew me all too well. I watched as her lips pressed together. She did not find this amusing.

“Dmiri,” her voice lowered, the use of my name so surprising that I jumped and hit my knee against my desk. She acted as if she didn’t notice. “Are you sure you want to go down for this?”

I couldn’t quite meet her gaze. Instead I rested my eyes on the papers, fatigue stinging me with each blink. She asked a question I’d been asking myself constantly since we found those manifests.

I swallowed. Damn and hell, this anxiety issue would kill me. “They cannot court martial a legend.”

Mai glanced to the side with a grunt of disapproval. “Not all of us are legends.”

“They will be reasonable,” I told her, and impressed myself with how confident I sounded. It was a skill I’d had since I was too young. I could convince and charm people by making them think I knew what I was doing. What I’d learned by practicing this skill was that I was not the only one pretending; in reality, no one knows that they are right. Leadership is a costume, nothing more. “We’re just asking questions.”

Mai, of course, knew this secret too. Her dark eyes sparkled with silent understanding when they met my own. “You should change,” she remarked, standing and folding her arms behind her back. “I will bring us in.”

She half-bowed to me, as was custom, and turned to leave. “Mai?” my voice crackled. I would need to exorcise my uncertainty before I showed my face to the rest of the crew, let alone to my adversaries.

Mai looked at me over one shoulder. “Yes, Dmiri?” her own voice was soft.

“Thank you.”

The silence between us was warm, if just for that moment.

“Captain,” she concluded, disappearing beyond the door.

When I stood my muscles ached, and not with good reason – they ached not from being active, but from sitting, keeping my spine jammed vertical in a chair for much too long. I traced a finger along one piece of paper, despairing at how little my work had won me.

Codewords and cooked numbers. The ledgers were full of shipments marked as if they were simple supplies – food, water, containers, bandages. Deep in the paperwork was much darker stuff: thousands of bullets, hundreds of weapons, and medical equipment I wasn’t qualified to judge. Jamming devices – a few dozen of them – more than the entire continent had produced in a decade. The military hadn’t employed jamming devices since the Rice-Wheat Uprising nearly fifty years ago.

Goods befitting a peaceful mission of resource-gathering they were not.

I strode across the room, fussing with the buttons on my jacket. One of them popped off, clattering on the floor. I didn’t bother to hunt after it. The jacket, undershirt, and pants hit the deck just before I reached the door to my bathing suite. The light clicked on in the cramped space, and I was greeted with my reflection, inescapable from the position of the showerhead.

I could deceive myself into believing I was less vain than the masses, but this would be folly. For all I felt like a jaded old man, I was still young, particularly for my position. The bits of gray peeking out from my slightly-too-long-for-regulations black hair were my penance. I was the youngest captain of a Class 1 naval vessel in Celet history, a journey which required a level of physical training and academic rigor which most would find excessive. I could have saved the stress and accepted the usual course in life, arriving in the very same position just five years in the future. No one would have been disappointed.

No one, that is, except me.

For all I would tell anyone who asked otherwise, I still wished I could have achieved what I did without inviting the gray in my hair. I built so much out of my life – so much to lose.

I turned the knobs, tensing when the frigid water coursed over my forehead, chest, and back, a procession of shivers jolting me from the mental fog. I breathed deep, hoping to chase out the pain in my chest and the closing of my throat. I pressed my forehead to the wall and hit my fist against the stone, teeth bared. I would not turn back. I couldn’t return home with suspicion in my heart. I could do as everyone else apparently had done – bury the truth, accept the lies, wait for a promotion. That wasn’t the man I decided to be when I joined the military. I had plenty to lose if I continued, yes, but I had just as much to lose if I turned back. I would rather risk imprisonment than lose my self-respect…

Wouldn’t I?

Every moment I spent under the water was another moment the ship forged on. Time was limited and I was running out of space to house my fears. The chest pain receded just enough that I could hit the faucet and remove myself from the shower. Some might not bother with shaving their face at such a juncture, but I did – I wouldn’t have my crew knowing that I’d spent two days wracked with uncertainty in my quarters. I donned my uniform, grabbed my pistolet out of my trunk, and straightened up. My bones ached and popped.

Beneath the rational weight of my decision I knew the truth – I would never go home again.

Cut Scene: The Original Prologue

Tragedy has an interesting past that I don’t think I’ve shared before. The very first scene was written when I was 15, just after I completed my first (never-to-be-published) novel, 4012. Teveres was originally created as a gray-morals character to be featured in 4012‘s sequel (which I never wrote), a contrast to the story’s heroine. Teveres was someone from another planet, as this was more on the sci-fi side of speculative fiction, and his situation came to me in one picture: a powerful young man with green-and-gold eyes, face-down in the dirt after the brutal murder of his family. He was supposed to end up running away and meeting 4012’s heroine.
Six years later I was inspired to create Aia’s character, and in the process stumbled upon this scene on my hard drive – it just so happened that Teveres was exactly the kind of person the story needed. The life-and-death duo of Aiasjia and Teveres, born out of story fragments. Oddly enough the scene which brought Teveres into this story just didn’t really fit in the final product, and was cut during the editing phase.
It’s not much, but here’s a little blast from the hidden past: the prologue that never was.


When Teveres hit the ground outside his father’s plantation, he stayed there. Like a slave, like a beaten child, like a rodent he dug his hands and knees into the ground, letting the dirt agitate the skin beneath his fingernails. Spittle dropped from his lips to the moistened soil; he could feel his tongue sending a river of blood down his throat that choked him.

Ignorant fools.

The men and women of the city – his city – cackled around him. They were more like animals than people, circling him in his weakest time. He grew up in their presence, helped them educate their children and tend their fields, yet they lacked the basic decency to treat him like a fellow human being. They disgusted him.

In his fury, he caught only fragments of words. “Whore, just like his mother,” “Slimy son of a bitch,” “Dirty,” “Arrogant,” “Blight-touched,” the words just kept dribbling from their unbridled mouths.

Hair dripping from the rain, he began to shiver. “I’m asking you to stop,” his voice was low-pitched and eerily controlled. The undercurrent of rage was lost on the mob.

“And what will you do, my lord?” the farmer called, “your lands have been taken. Your house is in ruins. You are nothing.”

They think it was me. How could they think this was me?

A woman hit him in the head with a farming implement. His ears rang and his vision blurred, drowning out everything but his sense of touch. Someone spat on him.

“Don’t make me do this,” he hissed.

When one of the men kicked him, Teveres didn’t move. He didn’t have to. He breathed in, out, calmed his heartbeat and closed his eyes. When he finally looked up to the chalk-colored skies, the ringing in his ears was gone and everything was still. The townspeople all lay quietly, peacefully deceased. A smile made a hesitant tug at Teveres’s lips.

He fled.


In other news, I am now 108,000 words deep in Forsaken Lands 2… and it’s still not done. Maybe this month, my friends. Maybe this month.

Kickstarting Diversity in Fiction: An Interview with S.E. Doster

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to connect with fellow fantasy author S.E. Doster, writer of The Alliance Series. Her first book, The Alliance: Bloodlines, tells the supernaturally-charged story of unlikely heroes and their fight to take back their city. Doster is now working on the sequel, Drakon, while she is running a Kickstarter campaign to support her upcoming Sacrifice novel. She, like myself, is a strong supporter of character diversity in genre fiction, and took the time to answer a few questions about the topic and her latest work.

Tell me about Sacrifice and your Kickstarter. What inspired you to go the Kickstarter route?

Traditional publishing can be a hard industry to break into, but trying to find a home for such a diverse novel proves to be even harder. I originally intended my first Kickstarter to be one of my comic book projects, but the passionate enthusiasm of my beta readers convinced me to try Sacrifice first. I self-published the Bloodlines novel with a meager budget and the help of friends, but the overall quality of the product suffered. I wanted to give Sacrifice professional editing, formatting and cover design, but each of those come with such costly fees.

Sacrifice is an Urban Fantasy thriller that involves meta-humans and supernatural creatures. The story includes the romance of a lesbian couple, but that factor doesn’t define the story. There are gay and straight characters of all races, but it’s shown in a community that already accepts equality.


Diversity in literature… what are your thoughts on its importance?

I think it’s very important that we work to increase the diversity in literature. There are so many groups of kids that don’t get to see main characters like them. It sends the wrong message when bookshelves are filled with books that contain mostly straight, white male protagonists. Characters of color or even queer characters seem to fill the much smaller roles in novels, but how does that even make sense? Mainstream literature shouldn’t be filled with primarily straight white characters because the world is not made up solely of straight white people. I have a very diverse group of friends of all races both gay and straight, so I decided to write a book that reflects real life for me.

Over the last few years we have seen a small increase in diversity on television, but the publishing industry seems stubborn to accept the change. This is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken, or we’ll continue to give future generations literature that does not reflect real life or teach equality.


How do you think independent authors impact diversity in literature?

Indie authors have the ability to be their own boss, and choose to include diversity that maybe wouldn’t be accepted with a traditional publisher. They can write without fear of an editor demanding changes to avoid too much risk. I’ve seen many indie authors embracing diversity, some are writers like me that don’t want to wait for publishers to wake up and smell the diversity (pun intended) so they create the stories they want to read.

The one negative impact I see with indie authors is the percentage that lacks the polish of a traditionally published novel. I want to read LGBT fantasy novels, but I’m usually discouraged when I search Amazon or Goodreads for LGBTQ or lesbian fiction. I usually locate novels with poor reviews and covers, which makes me incredibly sad. The stories may actually be wonderful on the inside, but poor editing, formatting and covers can still be a detriment to sales and reviews.

I know how tough self-publishing can be when you’re paying out of pocket, and I understand why some indie authors settle on quality, but this is why the Kickstarter was important for Sacrifice. We need more quality diverse novels if we hope to see them hit the shelves of our favorite book store.


What can readers do to help promote diversity? What can writers do?

Readers can send letters to publishers to demand for more diversity, and support books that are diverse. There are some campaigns right now that promote diversity, and one of them focuses on children’s literature. You can find their site here: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/ This group offers great suggestions for diverse YA and children’s books.

Writers should make a conscious effort to bring diversity into their own stories, as well as supporting fellow writers who do the same.


How can we help with the Kickstarter, and when do you expect Sacrifice to come out?

Every little bit helps with crowdfunding. Like and share the Kickstarter post on social media. Tell your friends and family why diversity is important, and donate to the campaign if you can! Every single dollar helps. If every single person who saw my Kickstarter could donate just one dollar, (which is less than the price of one soda or cup of coffee) and asked/shared with their friends, we could make self-publishing Sacrifice a reality.

The Kickstarter launched on September 4th, and still needs your help to be successful!

Many thanks to S.E. Doster for participating in the interview! I for one am very happy to support her cause for all the reasons she’s given. As I’ve said before, media is an incredible vehicle for self-discovery and change; by promoting diversity in our entertainment we expand our own ideas of who we are and what we can be. Please visit the link above to donate and/or share her message.

Wattpad – Because it’s Pretty

image

http://w.tt/1owiq8U

Alright. All you’ve heard from me is Faerie-this and wings-that for a while – if you’re still wondering why I’ve gone so far into the world of glitter and magick I would point you in the direction of this post. I’m on week 6 of Internal Medicine crazy times, with only 2 weeks left. Two weeks left, people! I cannot describe to you how much I’m looking forward to my first weekend off. It’s… it’s like…

See, I can’t do it. It’s probably all the sleep deprivation sapping away my language centers. Anyway.

In an effort to make Fae and Folly more cohesive, I had the stroke of brilliance to add it to a place called Wattpad. If you haven’t heard of it yet (and I’d be surprised if you haven’t – it’s kind of a big deal), it is a website for sharing free stories with people around the world. Many of the stories on Wattpad are serial in nature; some are by big-name authors you’ve heard of, but most are just regular folks trying to share the written word. What’s cool is that it’s easy to access and totally free, which I’m always happy to support. Adding F&F to Wattpad also gave me an excuse to cobble together a little “cover” for Fae and Folly, seen above. Not so bad for a hippie doctor chick with very little graphic design experience, if I do say so myself (and I do).

Forsaken Lands 2 is going perhaps slower than it was at the beginning of this 8-week internal med stint, and I truly feel sad about that. I’ve had some awesome inspiration for Les’s scenes lately but none of the energy/focus I need to actually produce anything of merit – hopefully that will change here shortly as I transition into a more humane schedule with weekends. Seriously. Weekends are amazing. I miss them so much.

Did I mention that fatigue causes me to have very loose associations? Mm, yes – well, it does. I should probably stop talking now. 😉 If you haven’t checked out Wattpad yet, I encourage you to follow the link and see what it’s all about! …that and check out Fae and Folly. It’s quite adorable.

See you on the other side, folks.

Book Release: BROKEN, a FORSAKEN LANDS Novella

I am very pleased to announce that Broken is now live on Amazon! You can check it out here.

broken for real

Sixteen-year-old Elden is a young man driven by impulse. A natural telekinetic raised by strict disciplinarians, he has struggled all his life to be what anyone expected him to be. On the eve of his brother’s induction into Justice training Elden faces a series of crucial choices, the outcome of which will determine his future in ways he never imagined.

This 20,000-word novella contains a significant level of explicit language and descriptions of substance abuse.

In other news, progress continues on FL2 as well as the Fae and Folly serial (as you can plainly see from previous posts!). However… I will be starting on a hardcore internal medicine rotation on Monday which will last until August 25th. Between the shock of (finally) being a new doctor and pulling 70-80 hour weeks, I may kind of disappear.

Maybe.

There’s also a chance that I will cling to my fantasy world so closely that you’ll get sick of me. It could really go either way at this point. I just wanted to let you all know in case it turns out to be the former – even if I’m in hospital wards purgatory for the next 8 weeks, I can assure you that nothing will keep me from writing on a longterm basis. Eventually my time on internal med will end, and I will go back to the comfort and safety of my chosen specialty.

Until then, please enjoy the novella! If you have thoughts on it – good or not-so-good – your reviews would be welcome. Reviews are an indie writer’s lifeblood!

Enjoy the rest of your week, dear readers.

Quick Post – A Preview of the Much-Anticipated Novella

Since this clip was posted on social media, I wanted to additionally toss it up here on the blog – a little taste of Broken.


I heard my father’s footsteps coming towards me, and another wave came over me. I shivered and tried to push it away, tried to straighten up. He was the last person who I wanted to see me like this, not that it would be the first time.

“You look terrible.” That tone was a tone he used with prisoners, sometimes. It wasn’t sympathetic, even though it seemed like the words could have been presented that way. He was judging me right then.

I stared him right in the face. We never looked much alike, me and Da. He kept his hair real short, out of his eyes, and always looked neat and clean. Since I got old enough to have a line of stubble I’ve always had it, where he never had any sign of a beard. He always had a tight lip that seemed to be frowning, which I guess made sense since he dealt with Kaldari and criminals all day. We had the same skin, though – olive colored and easy to tan.

If he’d been anyone else I might have come up with some snide remark or a twist of sarcasm. Instead I just stood and shivered, hoping that whatever other nothing I had in me would stay down. My throat burned.

“You have nothing to say for yourself?” the only change was his eyebrows creasing together, but I knew what that meant. My father didn’t show anger like I did. He could be furious at a person, and all he’d do is twitch. Crease of the eyebrows, well, I should be glad he didn’t have any kelspar on hand, at least none that I could see. “Where do you even find the-” he paused, “never mind, I don’t want to know. Not today.”

Where do you even find the coin? – that’s what he wanted to ask. He’d been holding that question back for a couple months at least. What I wanted to point out was that he should have figured it out by now, being an officer and all. With my abilities I could pickpocket people without even using my hands, which makes it pretty easy. I bartered a lot, too, and I wasn’t so bad at hustling cards. He would have known all that if he knew me at all.

All my thoughts didn’t translate into words. I didn’t have anything to say to him and never had. Ever since I could remember me and Da just never got each other. He was so disciplined, and me, it was like I was born in the wrong family. I worked my throat on a swallow, wishing I had water to drink. I was freezing, my chest hurt to breathe, and gods but I just wanted to lie back down, preferably on a mattress this time.

I started walking inside like he wouldn’t follow, even though I knew he would. He was at my back, not missing a beat. I swung through the never-too-quiet door and made a line for the bedroom that I shared with Keller. My mother looked up from the kitchen table, but didn’t seem interested in stalking me like he did.

“We’re not done here,” Da growled, his composure slipping. He was getting really mad now, which was not a good sign. Usually he just let me go at this point. “Where do you think you’re going to hide?”

I brushed past the red-and-gold tapestry that covered up our room, and my father followed with me. I carried on like he was invisible, like maybe if I pretended he wasn’t there hard enough he would disappear.


The contest for early release copies of Broken is up and running (you can enter here) and final little editing and formatting touches are being added for the 6/26 release. I have a family wedding to go to in another state this weekend and 8,000 more words to write in Forsaken Lands 2 before I start working as an actual physician on July 23rd (this alone is so ridiculous that I can’t even begin to think about it)… so yes, it’s a busy time. Unfortunately while I believe I will make the wordcount goal in FL2 I do not believe it will be finished at the same length as Tragedy. Indeed, I believe it will be longer.

Much longer.

I can’t wait to finally get this sequel draft finished. While it may not be done by the 23rd, getting it up to 90k will be a solid start, and hopefully it won’t be too much longer before it’s done. Look for a preview of the new novel at the end of Broken.

Alright, that’s it for my updates. Write on!

Pre-Release Giveaway: Win an Early E-Copy of ‘Broken,’ a Forsaken Lands Novella

In case you missed the blurb and cover reveal from earlier, this is what you’re playing for –

broken

Sixteen-year-old Elden is a young man driven by impulse. A natural telekinetic raised by strict disciplinarians, he has struggled all his life to be what anyone expected him to be. On the eve of his brother’s induction into Justice training Elden faces a series of crucial choices, the outcome of which will determine his future in ways he never imagined.

This 18,000-word novella contains a significant amount of explicit language and descriptions of substance abuse.

How to Enter: It’s easy, of course. ^.^ Follow the link to the Rafflecopter Giveaway Page and read the instructions – there are points for liking the facebook page, following on twitter, and retweeting about the giveaway. Winners will receive their e-copy in the format of their choice 1 week prior to the scheduled release on 6/26.

For anyone finding this blog for the first time, Forsaken Lands is of the speculative fiction/fantasy genre, and focuses heavily on the interpersonal relationships of the characters. This novella in particular dives into the life of one of the main characters before he joins the novel storyline.

Told you I’d come up with a contest! 😉 Promotional in nature? Definitely. That’s why I’m also doing a blog on my promo experiences as a new author at the end of the giveaway for everyone out there who might be interested. Be a part of a grand experiment and win a free book!

Thanks for checking this out. I hope you love Elden’s story as much as I loved writing it. Have a lovely day or evening out there, folks.

Updates – ‘Broken’ Novella Release Date and Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Elden is a young man driven by impulse. A natural telekinetic raised by strict disciplinarians, he has struggled all his life to be what anyone expected him to be. On the eve of his brother’s induction into Justice training Elden is faced with a series of crucial choices, the outcome of which will determine his future in ways he never imagined.

As mentioned in a previous post, the writing for Broken happened fast – really fast. I’ve wanted to take the time to explore Elden’s past since his conception, so as soon as I got myself into his head I couldn’t get out until the story was finished. The whirlwind of inspiration was a surprise, albeit a welcome one. Broken takes place approximately 5 years prior to the events in Tragedy, when Elden was 16 years old. In it we get the chance to meet the younger, less-experienced boy who becomes the cocky, life-hardened man we see briefly in Tragedy and more prominently in Sacrifice. He gets a lot of POV time in Sacrifice, which will make Broken a nice introduction to the character prior to reading the sequel (and yes, I am going to finish this sequel – I swear it).

Broken’s release date is now set for June 26th, which should theoretically give me plenty of time to get feedback from the betas and finish up a final edit. Having a release just before the big residency wave hits will *hopefully* keep the writing going strong through the first part of intern year. Intern year is still a giant void at the moment, a point at which it seems my life ceases to exist (mostly because I *still* don’t have a schedule). For now I’m just going to keep writing, reading, and trying to finish as many projects as possible before I hand over the keys to my life. There are a few blog post ideas I’ve come up with, as well, that I hope to write up between now and then. To keep me honest I’m going to put this list out there for all to see –

  • What it means to write “strong female characters”
  • Marketing: one writer’s experience, what I’ve seen from others, and what I’m planning
  • The big Kindle Select vs. Wider Distribution debate
  • Contests?!

If something on that list sounds particularly interesting to any of you, please comment! I will bump that topic to the front of the queue.

Alright, that should be plenty to add to my to-do list. I should probably scurry off to work on some of the more practical items on that list… like packing for my move, which I haven’t done. At all. Have a lovely evening out there in the real world, folks. 😉

The Healer-Writer and Other Reflections on Med School

When I started writing I was faced with a decision: how much did I want to reveal about who I am and what I do to potential readers? At the time I started conservative. I decided to be a bit vague on my location, generally indicate that I have cats/not kids, and made reference to being a “medical professional.” I’ve been thinking about that last part a lot lately, and anyone who knows what’s going on in my life knows why. Five days ago I graduated from medical school. I’m a doctor.

There. I said it.

I had been reluctant to be upfront about what I do because of interviews and residency-related things that were taking up my time. Medical school is a long and treacherous journey in which any single person’s opinion of your “fitness” as a physician can bite you, and bite hard. I wasn’t sure what others might think if they dug into my creative pursuits. My imaginary world is rather personal – it reflects a lot about my values and identity. I’m proud of who I am, but I’m also an unassuming person who tries not to offend people in real life, particularly if they’re my supervisors. There were plenty of reasons not to specify my profession and schooling at the time, so I didn’t.

Having graduated and secured a residency, I’ve come to re-think this whole thing. At this point book sales are going relatively well by my standards (this isn’t saying a whole lot, mind you, but it buys my sandwiches), and I have a few people who are reading this blog stuff. With the increased attention I want to talk more – the trouble is finding things to say. I find that there’s always this block in front of doing anything besides promoting books and showing off snippets, because when you get down to it, >50% of my time in any given week is devoted to medical things. So much of what I could be saying has to do with what it’s like to be a med student (now a physician) and how I balance that with being a creative person.  Until today, I’ve avoided all that.

Another reason I’m doing this is because I wrote a piece a couple nights ago about my experiences in med school. I tend to reflect a lot (as so many writers do), and ended up with a decent writeup on what what the last four years look like from down here at the med school finish line (also known as the residency/actual job starting line). I was thinking, hey, I’ll post this on facebook, tag these friends that I’m talking about…

…and then I thought about how I could just put it on the blog where I post the rest of my writing anyway. People I meet in real life seem to find the ‘published a book in med school’ thing pretty interesting, so maybe you, dear reader, might also find it interesting. If you’re a medical student you might even find it inspiring regardless of whether you have any interest in my fiction. I know that I found it inspiring to read about students and docs who were still functional, complete human beings, especially during first year before I figured out how to make my life and my work jive together.

Many people have asked how I ever “found the time” to do what I’ve done, so I’d like to address that briefly before I go on. Those that ask the question act as if my writing was some tedious, required activity, a massive feat that must have taken dedication and strength. I always laugh when I get this question, because I’m not sure I would have survived the process without it. I wrote more during rotations I found distasteful (hello surgery, peds and OB-GYN) than on any other rotations. In fact, the entire scene from the temple in Torvid’s Rest was written in between delivering babies while I was on labor and delivery nightshift. I would love to encourage anyone in the medical field (physicians, NP’s, PA’s, what have you) to indulge in their passions outside of medicine, no matter what that passion is. I haven’t been in the profession that long, but I’ve already seen my share of burnout – I’d like to think that having an active non-medical life is one of the keys to avoiding that.

I could tell you a lot of stories about being the ninja fiction writer in med school, but this post is already getting too long, and there’s the whole thing about the reflective piece I wanted to share. I’m attaching that particular bit below.

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Somebody told me once that the best part of medical education is the time between when you get your acceptance and when you matriculate. Well, I’m done with medical school now, so I guess I can have an opinion on that. For what it’s worth, I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment. I see things a little differently.

Med school is an insane ride. Even periods of time that seem innocent like “after the match” or “before matriculation” can be fraught with anticipation, stress and busywork. Every step of the process had a little bit of horrible and a little bit of wonderful in it, in different proportions. It was akin to a giant swing or a poorly-constructed carnival ride wherein there are periods of abject terror – reaching the top and fearing you might fly off and die – followed by periods of the swing-back, where things are better, and even great.

I have snapshots of the last four years in my head, all floating free now that graduation is over. Sitting here and analyzing it, there was more than enough of the fear and anguish part – of thinking, “why didn’t I go into marine biology?” or “maybe I should have been a starving author,” or better yet, “I can’t tell if food service was better or worse than this.” I saw classmates who struggled personally and professionally at times, not one of us immune to the episodes of self-doubt, wondering if we did the right thing or if we would even make it out the other side. There was drama and professors who drove us batty, gossip and class-wide turmoil. More than anything else there was a whole lot of frantic studying just hoping to pass a test, bargaining with one’s preferred higher power (be it deity or luck) for one more day where we could prove that we belonged in this profession. On clinical rotations we saw the beginning of life and its end, people in pain, torn-up families and good people who were suffering for what seemed to be no greater purpose. We witnessed both the triumphs and the failures of medicine, sometimes because of holes in our science and other times because of simple human inadequacies.

Each one of those despairing memories is contrasted with events that still make me smile. I remember very clearly the first time my friend-crew got together, and the first of many times we celebrated following a test. There were late-night study sessions interrupted by hysterical bouts of laughter, trips to conferences and the fun we had after. There was time spent in class, chatting with the almost-back-row-gang, turning white as a sheet when a certain professor asked uncomfortable questions. We daydreamed about our future lives, and watched those dreams grow and change into what they are now. I worked alongside colleagues who were resilient in the face of unruly hours and ridiculous expectations, who met every challenge without sacrificing their compassion. We were privileged to meet and care for some incredible patients. We all have those private memories of the patients who called us “doc” when we insisted we were students, the ones who thanked us for our kindness, and those who said we were going to be great physicians.

The thing I remember best about this whole mess is the laughter and the people who I call friends – great human beings, and now, some of the greatest doctors I’ve ever met. We have stories that nobody can take from us and share a bond that is entirely unique.

In many ways I grew up in medical school, and I think that probably goes for a lot of us, no matter how old we were when we started. The changes induced by a medical education are inescapable. For some people, sadly, it stole things from them; surely I lost my share of hobbies and knowledge throughout this process, but I’d like to think that I’ve gained far more than I’ve shed in order to become the person I am now.  Intern year is going to be another swing upward with the stomach-dropping fear that goes along with it, but I have faith that all of us are going to make it. We made it this far.