Month: September 2013 Page 1 of 2

A writer torn between two genres, two worlds…and Horror always cheats.

If only the best writer of his generation, Richard O’Shea, had come down clearly on one side or the other between the horror and fantasy genres, none of this would have happened. But he didn’t, and now both worlds play dirty to get his soul.  The fairy lands send their queen:  a lusty, foul-mouthed punk with glitter and sex in her eyes.  Hell sends something darker.

The two worlds won’t share him.  They’re getting old, and need fresh meat, as it were, to revitalize their realms.  Richard wants to believe that the punk charms of Fairy have won him over…but Hell doesn’t need Richard to like it in order to win.

Now the only thing between Richard and Hell’s dark charms is Victoria, his editor.  An editor who carries both pens and swords…and has very sharp teeth…

“The Whispering Tree” is available at B&N, AmazonSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.

Free Fiction Monday: The Whispering Tree

Strong language and adult situations, for those of you who find such thing appealing.  I was thinking…I particularly like those stylized black and white covers.  Here’s a version that fits my short story template.

A writer torn between two genres, two worlds…and Horror always cheats.

If only the best writer of his generation, Richard O’Shea, had come down clearly on one side or the other between the horror and fantasy genres, none of this would have happened. But he didn’t, and now both worlds play dirty to get his soul.  The fairy lands send their queen:  a lusty, foul-mouthed punk with glitter and sex in her eyes.  Hell sends something darker.

The two worlds won’t share him.  They’re getting old, and need fresh meat, as it were, to revitalize their realms.  Richard wants to believe that the punk charms of Fairy have won him over…but Hell doesn’t need Richard to like it in order to win.

Now the only thing between Richard and Hell’s dark charms is Victoria, his editor.  An editor who carries both pens and swords…and has very sharp teeth…

“The Whispering Tree” will be free here for one week only, but you can also buy a copy at B&N, AmazonSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.

The Whispering Tree

The love of my life had just told me that the reason she’d been holding herself back was that she wasn’t human, but a Fairy. A real one. And that, if I had went to Fairy with her, according to the rules of fantasy, we would be setting inevitable machines of tragedy in motion that would work to keep us apart forever after.

I’d just told her that I intended to find a way around the rules. It was what I did, after all. Not break rules so much as just…weasel around them.

“But the rules—”

“When you have the rules figured out, it’s time to change the rules,” I said, more bravely than I felt.

She put her hands on the small, round table…and headbutted me. Oh, I don’t think it was intentional; in her next movement, she grabbed both sides of my head and kissed me. “Then run away with me,” she said. “To Fairy. And we will change everything.”

I saw stars and the inside of my skull felt as though it had a nosebleed. “Didn’t you just tell me that if I loved you we’d have to live here forever—”

This story is no longer available for free.  Please see the links above or your favorite ebook seller to purchase a copy.

 


The Garlic Ice Cream Incident

Last weekend was the Pikes Peak Urban Gardens’ garlic festival.  It wasn’t big, and there wasn’t as much garlic as you might have expected.  I mean, a garlic festival, you expect things to reek of garlic.  You expect a six-foot dancing garlic bulb and a raw garlic eating contest.  Roast meat slathered in garlic–perhaps even on a spit.

Maybe someday.  Now it’s small enough to fit in a garden center that doesn’t take up even a small block.

There was a guy playing guitar.  A guitar-shaped guitar without a lei of garlic around its neck.   He played non-garlicky songs.   There were food trucks outside the festival.  We got an iced coffee–one of the trucks was run by a guy that does food stuff up by where my husband works.   We passed by someone selling juice out of the back of a smart car.  There was supposed to be garlic popcorn, but it hadn’t got running yet.  There was a video of how to grow garlic:  it ran for ten minutes and started on the half hour.  It was like one of those movies that you see in an art museum, on a loop.  It’s not something you couldn’t find elsewhere; it’s just there to give context.

We stopped by all the tables.  I ate a salad from Seeds Community Cafe, which was a good thing.  I’d heard of them but hadn’t bothered to go because I thought they were a bunch of do-gooders with more ideals than sense, and who couldn’t cook.   But the salad was good, and now I think I’ll go check them out sometime soon.  I ate all of the salsas from the salsa contest; there was a Japanese salsa (which turned out to be a green salsa with tamari sauce) and a beet-garlic salsa (which sadly tasted nothing of garlic).  I had a veggie taco that was mostly potatoes.  Good, but it reminded me of why being a vegetarian is hard:  all that freaking starch.

It was a small festival, okay?  We didn’t say for the cookoff or whatever else there was.  We stayed for maybe an hour.  It was good, a good place to be.

But what I really want to tell you about was the garlic ice cream.

What did you think of, when you first read that phrase?  Garlic ice cream.

I think it’s important.

Did you decide it was going to be disgusting?  Did you decide that it was interesting, and you’d have to try it?  Would it help if I told you that it was made by the cooks over at Blue Star?

We tried it.  We stood in line and got a two-ounce cup of it with a little spoon.  Lee took a bite first and decided it was godawful.

I took a bite.  At first, it was awful.  But I’ve tasted weird food before, and I love finding out how the mind works.  I know this stuff is made by people who would otherwise only make delicious things.  This horrific flavor sensation, of vanilla ice cream with raw garlic mixed in, isn’t all there is.

Then I think, “cold garlic cheese spread.”

There’s a snap in my mouth, and the ice cream tastes different.  Now it’s not vanilla ice cream with garlic on top.  Now it’s chilled garlic cheese spread, thinned out with milk and cream, and the garlic’s not raw, it’s roasted.

Two completely different flavors; each of them was more or less all in my mind.  An optical illusion of the taste buds.

It wasn’t just me, either.  I told Lee, and the same thing happened to him.

We both finished the entire thing, sitting at a table under an awning, listening to Mr. Guitar Player pick along.  Soon after that, we left and went over to Ivywild.  They gave us beer coupons at the garlic festival, so we went over there, got a sausage plate, and drank our beers.  The sausage plate, by the way, had sweet pickles on it, which were apparently good if you like that kind of thing, which I don’t.  Guh.  I tried one, but no–there was no snapping into place of the flavors, no sudden reinterpretation.

I’ve been thinking about this for days.

About how our minds affect our taste buds.  About how our opinions affect our perceptions.   About how optimist, pessimist, and realist don’t really cover this.  (The pessimist is guaranteed to hate garlic ice cream; the optimist is guaranteed to at least try the garlic ice cream but will probably taste the same thing the pessimist does; the realist is guaranteed to eat garlic ice cream.  What is it, what outlook on life is it, that can go, “this isn’t garlic ice cream–this is cold garlic cheese spread”?  A sales mentality?)

I keep running into things that make me go, “You’re not seeing what’s in front of you.   You’re seeing garlic ice cream, not cold garlic cheese spread.”

Because I’m a writer, I think about how this affects my books.  Is a book better because people say it is?  Once Twilight became Twilight, was it all but impossible for some people to like it?

I’m still pondering.  How much of what I see is completely warped by my opinion?  Not just a little better or a little worse than I would otherwise think it?  But completely different? How much of what I wrote above is even true?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I have Exo protein bars (made with cricket flour) coming to the house.  I hope they get here soon.

 

Cover Update: The Society of Secret Cats

Now (or soon) available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s, and more.

What if cats were really there to guard your dreams?

Lost in the Forest of Dreams, the dashing, handsome cat Ferntail must rescue his human girl from her horrible nightmares, nightmares that come from outside her mind. Will a mysterious and beautiful cat from The Society of Secret Cats help lead them out of the forest…or further astray?

Free Fiction M–WEDNESDAY: The Society of Secret Cats

This one is late this week because…erm…I found more typos than I could live with.  So–this will be up until next Wednesday, if you please.

Also!  A preview of the forthcoming “King of Cats” follows the story.  Sooo happy with that one.

What if cats were really there to guard your dreams?

Lost in the Forest of Dreams, the dashing, handsome cat Ferntail must rescue his human girl from her horrible nightmares, nightmares that come from outside her mind. Will a mysterious and beautiful cat from The Society of Secret Cats help lead them out of the forest…or further astray?  Now (or soon) available at AmazonB&NSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s, and more.

The Society of Secret Cats

 

Mice are delicious.  But even more delicious are monsters, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night.  Your mother or father might tell you that they are all in your head and that you’re just imagining things.  In a way, they’re right. Monsters are all in your head.

But you’re not just imagining things.

This story is no longer available for free.  Please see the links above or your favorite ebook seller to purchase a copy.

 

Cover Update: The Society of Secret Cats

Now (or soon) available at AmazonB&NSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s, and more.

What if cats were really there to guard your dreams?

Lost in the Forest of Dreams, the dashing, handsome cat Ferntail must rescue his human girl from her horrible nightmares, nightmares that come from outside her mind. Will a mysterious and beautiful cat from The Society of Secret Cats help lead them out of the forest…or further astray?

What comes before story?

When you are reading or writing a story, what comes before the story?

Well, if you’re a plotter, you might answer “an outline,” which is a rather literal interpretation of that question.  Or “character development” or “theme” or what have you.  But no, that’s not where I’m headed.

When you are reading or writing a story, what should take precedence before the story?

What, when you are reading or writing a story, is more important than the story?

  • Appropriateness of plot.
  • Appropriateness of language.
  • Appropriateness of characters.
  • Appropriateness of morals.
  • Appropriateness of choices of the characters.
  • Appropriateness of tone.
  • Appropriateness of ending.

Are any of these things actually more important than the story?  They should be in service to the story, yes, but are they more important than the story?

No.  If you find that a story calls for a certain type of plot, language, character, morality, character choices, tone, or ending, and you don’t provide exactly that, then you’ve made the story lose integrity.

Should Harry Potter have used magic?

Some people don’t think so.

Should A Clockwork Orange have used the language, characters, or character choices (i.e., extremely violent ones)?

Some people don’t think so, either.  But A Clockwork Orange, whether you like it or not, has integrity.

Should people be forced to write about things they don’t want to write about?

No…but neither should they be standing up and saying that nobody else should, either.

Don’t betray your stories…but don’t ask other authors to betray theirs, either.

Write your own stuff and stop editing other people’s (unless you’re an editor, obviously).

More than likely, if it’s good, it sells (either traditionally or indie).  And if it doesn’t, then perhaps it’s not because someone is oppressing you.  There’s a touchpoint that I use to determine whether someone’s being an ass:  If they end with “and therefore, our main concern should be making sure that everyone is treated fairly,” then their hearts are in the right place.  But if they end with “and therefore, we’ll do whatever it takes to get what we deserve,” then I know that the preceding opinions are just a bunch of hooey.  When people talk about shutting down other people’s opinions (rather than just disagreeing with them), then I know they’ve lost their ability to empathize with real people and are just writing cardboard cutouts in a cardboard cutout story–no matter where they are, politically or spiritually.

Their stuff isn’t worth reading.

If you can’t be bothered to write someone who is fundamentally different than you are with empathy–then go home, because you’re not a writer.  You’re Darth Helmet playing with his little figurines.

</rant>

 

 

What’s happening to the reader now? How about now?

I’ve been studying books this summer.  Books, short stories, even movies.  Let me tell you, the more I work on this the more I think that it’s the way to go.   So stop reading this stupid blog and go study a book!

How should I study it, you ask, because you’re smart and you ask the questions that I want you to ask.  (Every writer wants that audience.)

You know, I can tell you how I started, but really, it’s a bootstrappy, state-dependent kind of process, so it’s going to be different for you.  You can start where I started, although I can assure you that you’ll head elsewhere soon after.

What you do is read books.  Doesn’t matter what kind of books.  Just keep reading until you hit one where you’re like DAMN I AM SO JEALOUS.  Not one that you like, but one that makes you irrational.  One that you recommend to other people, one that makes you despair of ever being A Real Writer.  Or, scratch that, you could start with any book.  You could start with a horrible book.  It doesn’t actually matter; personally, I find it more enjoyable to work on books turn me green, because as I work, I slowly find out how to do it.  Ah, the power.

What you do is you go back to the beginning and start typing parts of the book in, OR outlining.  Or both.  Or some other technique that you’ve made up that makes you slow down and pay more attention to the book, to analyze it (and to absorb it on a less critical level while your brain is distracted by Shiny New Ideas).  Right now I’m outlining, except when I hit something that makes me go hm…, and then I type.  Sometimes I just type for the hell of it.  “Ah, I already know what’s going on in this scene, but I don’t feel like being too terribly analytical today, so I’ll just type.”  It doesn’t matter.  Just throw yourself in.  You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction if a) your brain hurts, or b) you’re bouncing on your seat going “LOOKITLOOKIT.”

I’m working on The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch.  I have worked on many, many stories this summer.  I studied romances, I studied crime capers, I studied a James Patterson thriller.  I studied a buttload of short stories across genres.  There wasn’t a single story that was a waste of my time, even when I found out things like “this author is really weak at plotting” or “you can write a short story with only two real characters in it, and nobody will know the difference if you populate the character’s thoughts and dialogue with references to other people.”  I learned to see things the authors didn’t want me to see.

By the time  I got to Locke, I could handle typing things in without my brain hurting, and I could outline without breaking a sweat.  I worked on him for a while, found out some cool structure stuff (like how to write more than one time stream per chapter, and maybe how and when to write omniscient)…and then started seeing something different.

Scott Lynch dicks with the reader.

Constantly.

I’ll give you an example.

In short, the book’s about a con artist, Locke Lamora, in a fantasy world.  The city he lives is run by two groups, the official government (the Duke), and the unofficial criminal government (the Capa).  Someone’s been murdering the Capa’s men in particularly brutal ways; Locke goes to the Capa to pay him the weekly cut of his little gang’s takings, and sees the Capa torturing some of his other men, who should have been able to stop the latest killing but are claiming they have no memory of it.

This is a brutal torture scene.  Broken glass and a heavy canvas sack are involved.  There are two guys out of eight left.  The floor’s splattered with blood and everything reeks.  The Capa has the torterer work on the next-to-last guy while he questions the last guy.  The last guy doesn’t change his story:  none of them remember what happened that night.

The Capa goes down a list of things that might have caused them all to forget:  drinking, drugs both natural and magical, sorcery, and divine intervention.  The victim denies drinking or drugs, and the Capa says, “Oh, forgive me.  You weren’t enchanted by the gods themselves, were you?  They’re hard to miss.”

And then they move on, and the last guy gets thrown to something nasty under the boat where they are, and the rest of the scene is underscored by the thumps and scrapes against the wood.

See what I mean?  Dicking with the reader.  This happens in almost every chapter, if not every other scene.  Lynch tells you a) how things are going to fall out, b) why, and c) with what method.  He hasn’t, as far as I can tell, yet told us who was going to do it, although I can see the necessary pieces and parts laid down.  Of course everything must fall out the way it does, because of the groundwork that has been laid.

So I’ve begun reading to determine what’s happening to the reader at any given point.  Here the reader is being encouraged to ask certain questions–then having the questions answered misleadinginly.  Here the reader is being distracted by a torture scene in which Locke is worried that he’s next (because of course he’s been lying to the Capa about the take), and can’t see when the author throws in the method that the bad guy is using to get to his victims.  Here the author is letting the reader see that nothing has changed about Locke since the last time he had a major screwup.  Here everything goes smoothly for the character…all too smoothly, until there’s a gratuitous fight scene to distract the reader from the fact that it’s all too easy.  Here Locke patiently explains how he’s deceiving his victims…while behind the shadows, someone else is doing the same thing to him.

When I first read the book, I had no idea how it would come out–I just felt like the ending was surprising and inevitable, which is the way you want a book to come out.  Now that I’m studying the book, I can see that there was nothing really surprising about it–it was just that my main focus wasn’t on the details that would have told me how the book ended.  The details were there for my subconscious to absorb–but my consciousness was always distracted from those details, time after time, so that I wouldn’t give the ending away to myself too soon.

I don’t know that I’ve mastered the idea yet.  I’ll tell you when my brain stops hurting.  But something I do know is that you’ll never pick up on this kind of thing on a good writer unless you do something that breaks the spell of being purely a reader.  People say that if you want to be a writer, you have to read a lot of books.  Well, you can read as many books as you want, but you’ll never see this stuff on your own–because the writer is deliberately distracting you from it.

Pretty cool, eh?

New Kids’ Fiction: Exotics #3: The Subterranean Sanctuary

Mr. Hightower snorted.  “At any rate, it’s only you, dear Rachael, that we need, not these others. They can go.”

Returning home again after the terrible events at Xanadu House, Rachael Baptiste has learned not to trust humans…because they might be part of the Lighthouse Parents, a hostile group out to arrest and destroy the Exotics.

Her parents do nothing about argue.  Her Exotic friends pretend to be normal.  Her human friends hint that it might be better if the Exotics just disappeared.  And now the horrible Mr. Hightower wants her to spy for him…on her mom.

Rachael doesn’t know what she should do…but she knows that if she doesn’t keep an eye on Mr. Hightower and his group of Exotics, she won’t be able to stop them…

The third Exotics ebook is now available at AmazonB&NSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s, and more.  POD to follow.

Chapter 1


As soon as she read all the way to the bottom, the bright pink piece of paper hanging on the wall made Rachael feel sick to her stomach. Nobody was looking, so she ripped the paper off the wall and stuffed it inside her backpack.

She started running toward her classroom.

Her teacher, Mr. Miller, said, “Slow down!”

She slowed down so quickly her shoes squeaked on the tile floor, then walked slowly enough to make the pickiest teacher happy, slow-motion slow.

Mr. Miller laughed. “Okay, okay, not that slow!”

Rachael sped up to a normal walking speed, went around the corner, then ran all the way to class.

New Kids’ Fiction: Exotics #3: The Subterranean Sanctuary

Mr. Hightower snorted.  “At any rate, it’s only you, dear Rachael, that we need, not these others. They can go.”

Returning home again after the terrible events at Xanadu House, Rachael Baptiste has learned not to trust humans…because they might be part of the Lighthouse Parents, a hostile group out to arrest and destroy the Exotics.

Her parents do nothing about argue.  Her Exotic friends pretend to be normal.  Her human friends hint that it might be better if the Exotics just disappeared.  And now the horrible Mr. Hightower wants her to spy for him…on her mom.

Rachael doesn’t know what she should do…but she knows that if she doesn’t keep an eye on Mr. Hightower and his group of Exotics, she won’t be able to stop them…

The third ebook in the Exotics series is available at AmazonB&NSmashwordsKobo, Apple, Powell’s, and more.  The POD will follow shortly.  You can read free chapters here.

 

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