Oh Curses!

“What kind of books do you write?”

This is the most common question I get in a crowd. My answer – Horror and Dark Fantasy – never fails to surprise the non-writers in the group. I’d say 90% of them respond with an “Oh. You look like someone who writes children’s books.” (Snort) I admit it. I’m a short, cheery looking lady in her 50’s who really does look like she should be writing children’s books about purple elephants or orange kangaroos.  Those, however, are not the stories I’m given.

Fascinated by the constant struggles of Good vs. Evil, I write stories with characters who have a foot on each side. Gruff mutant tracker. Murdering convict. Pariah and thief. These aren’t your typical “Dudley Do-Rights” of the world. Which brings us to our blog topic and another question I’ve gotten from readers.

“Oh, why must you curse so much in your books?”

Looking at the characters I’ve just listed, it’s pretty self-explanatory. I keep my sarcastic answer deep inside.

“You’re okay with the sex and bloody violence, but it’s the occasional F Bomb you get heartburn over?”

I typically write about characters who wander on the seedy side of the street. They hang out with the dregs of society. Their dialogue has to be authentic to the story and the setting. Bill Dolan (Lost Man’s Parish) is a convicted murderer in a prison city. If I had him say “shucky darn” rather than a strong expletive, he wouldn’t be real for the readers and he’d probably get beaten up. This truthful (and hopefully helpful) answer usually sets them to nodding. I’m not sure if this is in understanding or agreement.

Cursing can be useful in underscoring a character’s personality. Using it, however, for the shock factor doesn’t make sense in this day and age. Make sure it’s organic to the story. There are times when it isn’t appropriate and can be off putting. In my upcoming Epic Dark Fantasy, The Lords of Valdeon, cursing would be as out of place as “shucky darn” in a prison. In the world of Andara, gentlemen don’t curse. There are those among them that do though. You’ll find an occasional “Bastard” thrown in there, but typically it describes someone as the bastard son of so and so.

Word choices are important. Enhancing the story is good. Awkwardly pulling the reader out of the story is bad.

The Juggling Act

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[Image from Dreamstime.com]

I’ve reached that glorious state in my writing career when I have more than one literary project active at the same time. It’s exciting and empowering. My motivation level is way up on the “Can’t wait to share with my readers” scale. It’s a very positive situation to be in, BUT there is a downside. How can I get everything done on time without going crazy?

The Projects:

Pariah

My 104k word urban fantasy, Pariah, is back from my editor.  It’s almost impossible to see the white of the page through all the red ink. Seriously, she did a fantastic job. Who knew I was clumsily misplacing those slippery modifiers?

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My target goal is for an early Fall release. This is an Indie Pub effort, so I have to coordinate with book formatters, designers, distributors, printers and book tour folks. They are all waiting for me to complete my final edits. No pressure!

Son of Lions

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll have heard laments of my ruined epic fantasy. Poor advice and a lack of self-trust sunk my rubber ducky on the first manuscript. Fast forward six years to find me rolling up my sleeves for another go.  I love this story. It’s very near to my heart. Frankly, I’ve invested too much time and emotion into this nine book series (all in draft form) to abandon it to frustration.

My target goal: Complete a workable draft of the first book to send for review by Spring 2015.

Marketing: The never ending project

This is ongoing. It’s never a good idea to completely ignore your published book babies.

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Phantom Harvest and Lost Man’s Parish

The Plan:

I took a revisions workshop at the last Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. It was given by Colorado Author, Cindi Meyers (Check out her books). In my opinion, Cindi is the foremost expert on juggling literary projects.  Okay, she may have a little competition from James Patterson.  Visit her site and you will see how many wonderful books she has out there. During the class, Cindi described how she managed her time editing one book and writing the draft of another – sometimes ON THE SAME DAY. Respect!

In my day job as a program manager, I’m expected to juggle many projects, tasks and pieces of information each day. Unfortunately, I have not been able to master this ability with my own creative projects. YET. I’m not going to beat myself up. Instead, I’m going to play to my strengths.  One skill set I’ve developed is the ability to completely focus on a project. No distractions. How do I use this to my advantage when I’m juggling several literary projects? Planning. My brain has to focus on one story at a time. I determine how long a task (Final edits on Pariah for instance) will take me. I schedule this for “X” amount of days/weeks/months. When I know the date I’ll finish, I schedule another project to start on that date.

Project 1 (Begin Date and End Date). Project 2 (Begins on the End Date of Project 1 and End Date).

If I can manage to overlap projects, while still doing a quality job, then I go for it.

Final Thoughts: This plan works for me. It might not work for you. Each of us has to determine how we work best. Above all else, we cannot forget to enjoy the journey.

Phantom Harvest Wins!

Phantom Harvest is the WINNER of the EPIC 2014 eBook Awards for Fantasy Fiction!  A very special Thank You to the EPIC Judges. This is a great honor.

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This book was a team effort. Many Thanks to my wonderful Editor, Marsha Briscoe at Whiskey Creek Press! And to Gemini Judson who did such an awesome job on the book cover and design. Cheers!

For More Information On EPIC: http://epicorg.com/

Check Out Other Books from Whiskey Creek Press: http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/store/

 

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Mutants at the Alamo?

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My Dark Fantasy Phantom Harvest is up for a 2014 EPIC EBook Award in the category of Best Fantasy. Later this week I head to San Antonio to attend EPICon. The winners will be announced during the conference.  Despite the tough competition, I’m hoping to bring home good news. Fingers Crossed! If I win there will be much celebrating by my sister and I!  If I lose there will be much merry making by my sister and I. Hey, it’s San  Antonio and we’re right on the River Walk. 😉

Tune into the blog next week for the results!

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Pushing the Boundaries of Technology into the Realm of Fantasy

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Maialen Tate is much more than Gideon’s love interest in Phantom Harvest. She’s my vehicle for exploring the potential of biometric and prosthetics technologies. Maialen is a powerful empath who has voluntarily been fitted with high-tech implants. Her eyes, parts of her brain and her finger tips have been replaced, allowing her to merge with any technology. Ironically, she is also limited by the very technology she has embraced. If Maialen loses control and lets too much power escape, the system in her brain shuts down. This could result in permanent brain damage.

Most of the Mutant World view Maialen’s kind with fear and awe. They are the penetrating eyes of the Mutant Guild. The dangers of Maialen’s power do keep her isolated. Even the slightest touch of her skin will destroy the mind of most mutants. That same touch will easily kill a human.

Excerpt:
The limo pulled away from the curb, and they glided through the stylish streets of the Ashford Heights. Blocks of tall skyscrapers molded with glass and stainless steels were laid out in perfect symmetry. Chic restaurants and little bistros were staggered among them, catering to the whims of the wealthy.
Maialen stared out the window and watched as the buildings began to degrade. Angry graffiti written in neon paint told stories of the miserable “have nots” for whom New Athens wasn’t a home, but rather a prison. In their neighborhood, the sky wasn’t clear with a gorgeous view of the twin suns. Technology didn’t line the streets to carefully sanitize the air. This was New Athens as it really was…gritty and mutated.
“You sure you won’t change your mind?”
Maialen shook her head and gave Norm a confident smile. “Tell me about the Outskirts. Will we see any of it as we travel? How long will it take to get to Hawthorne?”
“You better hope we don’t see any of the Outskirts on this trip.” Norm stuffed a hand inside his parka and pulled out his stash of cigars. “It’s a dangerous place and home to the more maladjusted mutants of our society.” Norm chuckled at a private memory and stuffed his precious cigars back inside his pocket. “If all goes well on this trip, you’ll sleep through the night, and come morning we’ll be in Hawthorne.”
Maialen felt her fear rise again and quickly tucked the anxiety away before Norm could see it clouding her face. She’d promised to help Pete and no matter the risk, she was determined to be there for him. A tingling sensation began on the back of her hand and ran up the length of her arm when she thought of Pete. Her fingers stroked the unsettled energy upon her forearm as she reached her senses out. Something, elusive and painful, was changing in Pete’s world. Maialen let out a frustrated breath. She couldn’t see anymore.

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The Secretive Life of a Cat

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Hiroshi is an enigma locked up in a puzzle box within a riddle. Part wise elder. Part horny frat boy. He is a complex mixture of honor, devotion and secret shame.  He is also in the top two of my “favorite characters I have created” list. This memorable character initially started out as a side kick for Gideon. As I explored his origins and motives, Hiroshi became a force whose secrets drive the rest of the Mutant Casebook Series.

In the second installment of the series, I open the book with a peek at one of Hiroshi’s dark secrets. He has been on the run from the law for escaping Manzanar, one of the WWII Japanese internment camps. The Calamity (See Blog Post “Inside the World of the Mutant Casebook” from January 13) catches him before the law can.

I will always remember the day my father drove us past the desolate dirt fields of Topaz, the Japanese Internment Camp in Utah. Only the foundations remained then. I remember how the wind beat at the boxy timbers and wondered how anyone could live in such a place. Though I don’t know how old I was, I do know that day changed my perspective on life. It taught me sometimes good people do bad things out of fear. I suppose Hiroshi was born out of that day.

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Excerpt:

Hiroshi leaned over and grabbed a few folds of the dead hunter’s coat. He lovingly wiped the blood from his blade. The overly large sleeves of his robes swung precariously over the pooling blood. Gideon rolled his eyes as he took in Hiroshi’s latest outfit. He was dressed in a Dôbuku sugata, a leisure garment worn by ancient samurai or at least one Samurai in particular. From the navy robe to the straw rope sandals, Hiroshi was playing Sanjuro Kuwabatake.

“You’ve been watching Yojimbo again.” Gideon stuffed his blaster back into place.

“What can I say? My new little friend loves the classics.” Hiroshi flashed an obscene grin at the bar maid and then brushed aside his horse hair straight pony tail over his shoulder. Patches of red and white formed a spray paint pattern against Hiroshi’s midnight black hair. “Besides, I was dressing the part. It looks like a scene from A Fistful of Dollars in here.” Casting a cursory gaze across Gideon’s form, his eyes rested on the blasters hanging on Gideon’s hips. “Clint.”

Hiroshi sheathed his sword and stood majestically, making sure his bar maid friend had the full view of Japanese manhood. He wagged his eyebrows at Gideon and winked. “I think I’ll go with the cuddly house kitty. You’ve got this covered, right?”

His form shimmered for a moment and then dwindled in swirls of white, red and black. Seconds later, a Japanese Bobtail cat stretched lazily on the bar floor. Its small body had large patches of black and red spilling across silky white fur. Hiroshi was a bakeneko, or werecat. He had three settings: annoying human, cute woman-magnet kitty, and large predator cat. He was also the only male bakeneko in the Outskirts, or the human world for that matter.

Few people made the mistake of teasing Hiroshi about his uniqueness. And if they did, they’d quickly wish they’d kept their jokes to themselves. It was a sore spot with Hiroshi…that and his bad Haiku.

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Tusks and Tough Guys

Happy Birthday Phantom Harvest!

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The world of Phantom Harvest is mutated and violent. Nobody can walk its gritty streets or dangerous wilderness better than Gideon the Sounder. A child of two violent predators, Gideon has learned to use his natural talents to his advantage. He’s become a gifted tracker, one of the few who can make a living in the dangerous Outskirts of the Mutant World.

Gideon’s a tough guy. It was fun and cathartic writing those fight scenes. Yet, it’s Gideon’s flawed side I found so intriguing. His mother is a feral predator who tried to kill her young son with her bare hands. An elusive criminal holds her prisoner as leverage to force Gideon to do a job for him. Gideon has every right to abandon her and walk away. He doesn’t. Even he can’t quite explain why he risks everything to save the mother who wants him dead.

Excerpt:

“Tell me you aren’t serious?” Hiroshi’s outraged voice came from the back seat.

Gideon bolted upright, twisting around to face the stowaway and smacked his head on the snowcat’s ceiling. Sneaky damn cat! “I thought you were doing shots from the barmaid’s chest.”

Hiroshi gripped the back of Gideon’s seat and pulled. Warm fingers held Gideon’s forehead, forcing him to meet the angry black eyes.

“Are you actually going to waste a thought for that Sounder cow?” Hiroshi’s frown deepened as his gaze locked Gideon in place. “You are a fool!”

Gideon pushed his hand away and sat back up. “Come on, Hiroshi.”

Hiroshi leaned back in the seat and folded his arms. His accusing eyes never left the rear view mirror. “Does she still bear my mark?”

There was no ignoring the trail of Hiroshi’s sword stretching from his mother’s left cheek to her right hip. It had been a battle that the three of them could never forget. It was a hurt Gideon couldn’t forgive.

His mother had taken her twelve-year-old shame to the Outskirts. When Hiroshi stumbled upon them, her tusks had already gored Gideon mercilessly until his innards were spilling out into his trembling hands. She’d wanted her offspring dead. It took Hiroshi’s mutant powers to force her away from her wounded son.

“She’s my mother.”

“She’s an incubator. I’m your family. Remember that!” Hiroshi gave one last disgusted grunt and morphed into his predator cat form. The massive gray body turned away from Gideon and plopped down on the backseat, rocking the snowcat wildly beneath the weight. A deep rumble vibrated the vehicle when Hiroshi let out a disgruntled sigh. There was no talking to him now.

Gideon started the snowcat and pulled away from the plant. He’d been in such a good mood a few hours ago, dreaming that his shitty luck had changed for the better. Thank you, Franklin Gallagher.  Dark Elves and their plots within plots.

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Inside the World of the Mutant Casebook Series

Phantom Harvest turns one this month! This week’s birthday feature is a look inside the world of the Mutant Casebook Series.

The Mutant Casebook Series is based on a “What If” scenario. What if atomic testing in the 1950s went wrong and there was an accident that ripped a hole in reality? Humans were pulled into another world. Their molecular structure mutated, giving them extraordinary power and changing their bodies to fit their new environment. How would the mutated humans cope? Would they cling to their old lives, building cities and developing governments? Or would they simply succumb to animal behavior?

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Phantom Harvest introduces the dangerous and diverse Mutant World.  Created by an atomic test gone horribly wrong, the “Calamity” ripped a hole in reality. Humans torn from their homes were split apart into many versions of themselves. Some theorized that a devious intelligence based the human mutations on the person’s core nature. Many of them became Dark Elves. These beautiful, ruthless beings took control. They established a corrupt governing body and built the city of New Athens. Its economy centers on a priceless mineral containing killing magic protected and controlled by Dark Elves. Other types of mutants made up the dregs of their new society. Some stayed within the protection of the city.  Others, criminals and vicious killers, migrated to the savage wilderness known as the Outskirts.

The Dark Elves have a limited work force to mine for their precious mineral. They eventually entered into a treaty with the Human government. Miners are given VISAs and are allowed to travel from the Human World through the conduit to the mining town of Hawthorne. Resting at the opening of a conduit between the Outskirts and Kansas, Hawthorne has become a dangerous place to work. Though the mutants have tried to make their human employees feel at home (convenience stores and pizzerias), it is still a savage frontier town.

Excerpt:

Two suns filtered by a constant haze hung like the decorative lights in a cheap bar. They added to the ambiance, but did little to warm the patrons. Their dulled spheres overlapped one another, tied together by the same force that wrought their existence and left their third instance – the original sun – back in the human world.

The new generation of mutant-born in this world had never seen gentle clouds drifting across the brilliant skies of the human world. Their skies were dull yellow fading into a blue-gray fog. Gideon had once heard Hiroshi describe it as dusk against a tornado sky.

This pimple on the ass of the world had been the epicenter of a reality-shattering rip in the veil between two worlds. It wasn’t clear which side had caused the dimensional rift, but “The Calamity” as it came to be known opened a conduit between the human world and this one. Humans were snatched from their own reality and transported to the mutant world. They were altered forever and forced to spend their days as mutants in the Outskirts.

There was no going back through the conduit for any resident of the mutant world. Border Patrol made sure any who tried wound up as pig slop on a farm in the Bible belt. Give a human border patrol agent a big gun loaded with killing magic and watch mercy take a one way ticket to hell.

Gideon pulled the collar of his coat tightly about his neck. He shoved his hands in warm pockets. The Calamity had been several decades before his time, but being this close to the Hawthorne Conduit still gave him the creeps. He looked to the bluffs a short mile from Hawthorne’s city limits. Step into those bluffs and you’d find yourself in the human world…a place called Kansas. Gideon turned away and headed toward the parking lot.

He’d been to the human world. They could keep it.

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Phantom Harvest turns One!

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Phantom Harvest has its first birthday on January 31, 2014. What an eventful year it’s been! Blog tours, book signings and interviews…whew! My favorite part? The response from my wonderful and supportive readers. It’s both humbling and gratifying knowing fans of the book enjoyed the story enough to want another one. I’m working on Book Two in The Mutant Casebook Series now.

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Another piece of exciting news! Phantom Harvest is a 2014 EPIC Ebook Award Finalist for Best Fantasy. The winners will be announced at EPICON in San Antonio in March 2014.  I’m very pleased and proud of the book’s success. In honor of my “book baby”, I’ll be posting fun facts about the world of the Mutant Casebook Series on my blog this month.

Here is the back cover blurb:

Gideon, a half-breed mutant with a surly temper and rotten luck, struggles to scrape a living as a tracker in the desolate territory near the gateway to the human world. Business seems to be picking up when Gideon is approached by a powerful dark elf with deep pockets and a serious problem. Human miners at the dark elf’s plant are being taken by an elusive predator. Gideon is pressured to find the killer before word of the disappearances reaches the human world, endangering the tense relationship between their two races. But, nothing is simple this close to the conduit between worlds. Archangel, a ruthless mercenary operating in the secret sectors of mutant society, has set his own deadly game in motion.

Surrounded by savage wilderness and cut off from contact with civilization, Gideon must find a way to protect his friends and survive to collect his bounty.

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