New Book: Warrior

Yes, my newest book is now out. Thank you world. It’s finally done. Let me say thanks to everyone who helped me get here, first. Now, let’s talk about how happy I am.

This is my FIRST solo work I’ve ever written and published through a company. Makes me feel a little tingly all over. And the cover is soooooo pretty! *squee* Michael, my illustrator, is an amazingly talented man, and you all should read his comic found here

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this post is going to be highly unproductive. I have no words of wisdom to offer at the minute, just excitement over my book release.

Well… maybe a few words of wisdom.

Speaking of book releases and stuff, a friend of mine is in the process of querying agents for her book, and she is having the worst luck. No takers. Nothing. I’m pretty sure I’d have this same problem if I tried to pimp my novel to an agent. Anyways, she’s struggling to get her book out there, but she’s reluctant to self-publish or try alternative routes. Why?

I suspect one of the main problems is that self-publishing hardly feels like a legitimate route. But it is. Honestly, it is. I probably dislike the whole big-wig publishing system a little too much, but I firmly believe that independent publishing is just as legitimate for a good writer to pursue. It’s just as much work and money to advertise your book as it is to get an agent’s attention. Something I like about small press and independent publishing is that the writer and readers are directly connected. There’s no interference from the massive corporate entity that is best-selling publishing. Oftentimes, the bestseller’s list is predetermined by whoever advertises the most, but sometimes, you see a small-press or independent book break that mold. 

I want to see more of that happening. I want to see more writers flinging their work out into the great cosmos for no reason other than to attempt at having a conversation with another individual. I want writing to be about the connection between a writer and readers, not the relationship between a writer and their marketing campaign. I mean, don’t get me wrong, making money off of your books is the best thing ever (my beautiful car agrees; my shabby apartment, meh) but the book needs to be about more than making a quick buck.

Or… at least… I want it to be.

Let’s have some conversations about writing.

And if you’ve made it this far, here’s the link to my book, if you want it. Buy it or not, I don’t care, but I would like to talk about writing 🙂

NaNoWriMo is approaching!

Last year, a certain time-sucking video game released on November 11 (coughskyrimcough) and in preparation for it, I spent all of October doing my homework before the game released so I could spend more time playing it. This year, November is all about Nanowrimo for me (National Novel Writing Month) and I’m in it to win it, or so I’d like to think.

Nanowrimo is the challenge to write 50,000 words within the month of November within a single novel, a new novel that has no prior chapter written. Of course, we can bend this rule to make allowances, but you get the idea: 50,000 words. They gotta be in a story. Every year I delude myself, saying, “I can do this!” and every year I collapse into a mess of tears and failure right around November 15 or so. I think the most I got out ever was 30,000 words. Does that make Nanowrimo a waste of time? No! Those 30,000 words, or 22,0000, or 17,000 might be “failed” attempts, but I got something out of them. I got stories that I could continue to work on. That’s why we march into Nanowrimo every year with the unrealistic expectation of completing it and feeling okay with ourselves when we drop out. This year, though, I’m getting some strategies together:

  1. Bring some friends: sucker other people into doing this with you. That way, you have a support system in place to back you up and encourage you every step of the way. It also makes the event more fun when you host Nano parties with them or just general get-togethers.
  2. Plan: Spend the last half of October laying out some groundwork. Think out your story. Decide what you want to happen in it. Jot down notes and outlines. Most importantly: get a list of character names assembled beforehand. I cannot tell how many hours I have spent trying to think of the perfect name for a character. If you don’t have one ready while you’re writing, throw in a generic, a standby that you can fill in later. The writing train doesn’t stop for anything in November.
  3. Write over the daily amount, always: If you do the math, 50,000 words comes out to about 1667 words each day in November. Keeping that in mind, you should always write more than this, always. There will be a day where it is physically impossible for you to write anything. There will be stretches of days like this, so make your writing time count.
  4. If you fall off the wagon, don’t stress: You might not make it to 50,000, and that’s okay. Most people who make it to the end of Nanowrimo either have a lot of time on their hands or give up any semblance of a social life. It’s okay if you don’t make it. Most people go in knowing in the back of their minds that the might not get all the way through. The point is that you tried and you have something new for it.
  5. Get everything else done first: You know you have some things to do in November. Do them now if you can. They can’t trip you up during Nano if they’re not around to do it.

These are a few starter tips that I employ when prepping for Nanowrimo. I hope someone has a use for these. Or perhaps someone has more helpful ideas! I’m open for sharing! Let me know!

Hooking the Readers

The other day, I walked home in the rain. Not a torrential downpour, but a good, hard rain. The kind that seeps slowly into your hair and clothes and rolls over your nose in slow droplets. I probably looked like a rejected hipster trying to profess their “ironicness” with the plaid button-up, the starbucks coffee in hand, and my cheap glasses that cannot decide whether they are thin or thick framed, but either way, the rain put me in a thinking mood and I realized something.

People really don’t want to read your original fiction.

They’ve gotta be forcibly dragged down to it and coaxed by promises of epicness that probably will not come true throughout the course of the story. Think about it. We look over a new book like a fish at the market: we pick it up, heft it for weight, take a peek inside to make sure there’s nothing rotten, ask where it came from, whether it was farmed or naturally occurring, then we set it down and pick up the one next to it because it looks prettier on the outside.

I know that my own book-reading litmus goes more like a thorough background check from the CIA followed by a rigorous interrogation routine. By the time I actually pick up that book or click on the link, I know the author’s bio, how many other books they’ve written, what awards they won including that 4th grade “best penmanship” prize, and I have seen a slew of reviews and recommendations. Then, without purchasing the material or committing myself to it, I examine said book, back and front, inside flaps, the first three pages. “How is the writing?” I ask. “Does it provide an adequate hook?”

You get the drill. I think the only time I do not hesitate to read a book is when I know the author personally or I have been asked personally to provide feedback.

The short of it is readers are tough sons-of-bitches to please. I recently spent a good deal of time writing fanfiction and reveled in the fact that I immediately rose to high status in that community. Fanfiction is different though. We’ve cut down to the specifics of what a reader is looking for and as long as you’re a good writer and are providing and engaging storyline or romance, you cannot go wrong in fanfiction.

Original fiction is another story, or so I’ve remembered. I recently revived my long-dead fictionpress name in order to give my fans something to drool over while I finish my manuscript. Having made a name for myself with two successful fictionpress novels already and the recently earned reputation on fanfiction.net, I thought I would have tons of readers.

Nope!

33 hits on the story. That was it. I did get one review, however, which stated the writing was good, but they did not know what to make of the story since they only had one chapter to go off of. They wanted to see more. I had hooked a fish.

It doesn’t matter if the first chapter causes a riot or not, as long as the reader has that little urge to click ‘next chapter’ or flip the page. That is what we as writers need to strive for, the ability to get readers to keep going to the next page.

I find that perhaps this post is fueled by my own anxieties as a teacher. With so much of the educational community online, I stress over ways I can get my students to read all the paragraphs I type out for them. This has resulted in a series of subpar pop culture references littered throughout my discussion posts. I’m in my early 20s and have become one of “those” old-timers out of touch with what is hip! Perhaps I should switch to my usual strategy of estranged literary references. Then I’m just weird instead of desperate.

Those Who Found Elissa: Chapter One

Those who found Elissa

Chapter One

Something tickled a strand of Elissa’s hair. Maybe a spider, she dare not move to brush it away, though when the tickle moved down to her throat she raised a hand and flicked it aside, taking flecks of dirt with. She imagined she was quite covered in it by now, a healthy coating to assist her blending in with the shadows. The night had swallowed her up and her pursuers were none the wiser.

Her thighs ached though, by Neniton did her thighs ache, and her ankles too; she could not move her feet into a comfortable place. One shift against the pebbled ground would give away her position. She raised herself slightly, untensing her muscles for a moment before easing back into the crouch. She had lost track of time. It could not have been more than an hour. Still, that was a long time for three drunk, possibly now sobered men to stumble around looking for her in the middle of the night. She heard them moving, pushing things, shaking boxes.

“Where are you, bitch?” one called out. She hid between the outer and inner wall of an old house. A loose wooden plank hung in front of her. She stared out the knothole at the men. Behind her, sod walls and support beams concealed her. Her right hand cramped from clutching at the worn journal she had taken. She felt the old leather crack and creak against her fingers and tried to breathe a little softer.

“Did she get beyond the wall?” one of them asked. The three dark silhouettes gathered in the center of the square. One of them spat.

“No one has seen her. She’s likely still in the town.”

“We don’t know that,” said another. “Maybe she knows a different way out.”

“No matter. Give the authorities a description of the little rat. Someone will find her.”

“And if they don’t?” one asked.

“I’d rather not think about that.” The three of them stood there, shuffling, swaying. They mumble to one another as they walked away, abandoning the dark square once more. Elissa breathed a little deeper. It was just her and the night again. She waited a while longer, despite the way her legs shook. Finally, she pushed the wooden plank forward on its nail and slid it aside. The fresh air felt so good in her lungs. She unfolded herself as she stepped out of her hiding place, holding back groans of pain when her joints protested. Her legs wobbled, but she had the journal. She sighed and brushed off her dark clothes. The morning dew was already beginning to collect on the cobblestone, though the sun had yet to rise.

Elissa set off in the opposite direction the men had gone. It would take her longer that way, but she would be safe. She stayed in the shadows and side-passages. Thankfully, no one else lingered on the streets that night. She made it back to the patron’s house easily. It was a shabby home, nearly identical to the others surrounding it. Pieces of the roof hung off itself; the windows were darkened. It was designed to not draw attention, placed in a shady neighborhood and surrounded by quiet homes. Elissa had to pause and admire her employer’s discretion. Usually, she took jobs from the wealthy. They often employed her to steal some meaningless trinket from a rival, and then gloated about having it once it came into their possession.

She shook her head and ducked down the side passage, a small patch of dirt between the two houses. Her hand searched along the rough wooden paneling until her fingers slipped into the catch. She stopped and pulled the false panel aside. She slipped into the revealed space and closed herself into the darkness. The passage was small; she stooped and felt ahead blindly as she descended into the basement. She finally caught hold of a curtain and pulled it aside. She stepped into the false wardrobe and opened the door, revealing a small, well-lit room. The basement held an assortment of candles and little else. A table lay in the far corner with two chairs. Her employer sat in one.

“Welcome back, shadowbird,” he said. The man dressed in plain trousers and a cotton shirt. He kept his beard well-trimmed, though not immaculate, and his hair was always presentable. On the whole, he made a completely unremarkable merchant. Though Elissa would be a fool to think him just that.

“I have it,” she said, ignoring the handle. She walked over to the table and waited for the next move.

“I know you do. You wouldn’t be foolish enough to return without it,” he said. The man stroked his beard lazily and watched a candle’s flame. The light caught the copper strands as his fingers wound them.

Elissa dropped the journal on the table. Her fingers ached as she flexed them, free of the burden at last. The man gestured to the chair opposite him, but she remained standing. “They searched for a long time,” she said, remembering the frantic shouts as the men had overturned the market square looking for her.

“Of course they would,” said her employer. “You would too if it were yours.” He reached out and laid a hand on the journal cover. He smiled and felt the grooves her hand had left in the leather before he hooked a finger under the flap and opened the journal. He turned the pages slowly, almost daring Elissa to look. She kept her gaze firmly planted on the table’s surface. She had no desire to be caught any more in this man’s business. “Ah, you did well.” The man readjusted himself and bent over the table to better study the pages. He pressed a finger to the page and traced the path of the lettering. “You don’t have any idea what’s in here, do you?” her employer asked. He stopped tracing and looked up at her.

Elissa shrugged. “It wasn’t my place to look.”

Her employer chuckled. “My blind little shadowbird,” he sighed and continued reading. “Perhaps you should have looked.” This time, Elissa could not help looking at the ink blots on the page. She could not make out words, but she knew they were not prose. No, he was reading a list.

“What does it show? Supplies? An incantation?” she asked.

The man shook his head. “Even better.” He shoved the notebook toward her. The ink blots took shape. “Names.”

The list was long, tightly packed with the short scrawl of people’s names, signatures, and little tallies written in the margins. “Whose names?” she asked.

“Traitors,” said the man. He closed the flap of the book. “Illegal practitioners, dangerous people.” The information chilled Elissa’s core. If she had just given a list of names to a Hand, she had killed every person on it.

“And to what purpose do you intend to use this list?” she asked. That was a mistake. Elissa usually enforced a rule: never know the ends to an employer’s means.

The man laughed. “You know what we intend to do.”

Elissa shifted. She stepped away from the table. “You can’t kill all those people.”

“Of course we can,” said the man, waving a hand. “We do it already. You know this.”

She looked down at the journal. “I’ll take it back.”

“I doubt that,” said the man. Elissa looked back at him. Her fingers twitched. He stared at her for a long while, as if challenging her. “You won’t do it,” he said. “You’re a thief. What use are morals and scruples to you? No, the book is safe with me.” The candles flickered. The room smelled strongly of moss and dirt. “You don’t know these people. You don’t care.” She stared at the journal as if it might burn. Her heart beat in tempo with the crickets outside and in the walls.

“You’re right,” she said. “I don’t.”

The man smiled and patted the worn cover of the journal. “Smart girl,” he said. He pulled a small pouch from his vest pocket and dropped it on the table. She heard the coins jangle from within. “Your payment, as we discussed.” He picked up the journal and stood from his chair. “Do not come back to this place,” he said as he walked toward the stairs. “You will find nothing.” His feet thumped up the wooden steps, disrupting the discourse of the crickets.

Elissa remained in the room even after he left the house: the damp, mossy basement of an unowned home. She breathed in and tasted bitterness. Then, she took the bag of coins, the new leather crumpling in her grasp. She tied it to her belt, not bothering to count. The purse felt heavy. She glanced at the stairs then back at the secret entrance she had been instructed to use. Elissa sighed, blinked, then moved to crawl back up the narrow tunnel out into the night once more, where the crickets sawed and the stars whispered of her treachery.