Tag Archives: Fiction

Cursing in Fiction: Why No Fucks Were Given

Quick, someone get a fuckswatter!
Quick, someone get a fuckswatter!

I write fiction. My fiction includes characters who are just as emotional, flawed, and complicated as anyone in real life. And people in real life curse.

The subject of swear words in writing came up recently at my Rowan University Seminar class. My classmates and I are making preparations to go to the graduate symposium, where we will be giving presentations based on our Master’s in Writing thesis projects. For most of us, these projects are novels and memoirs (except Steve, cause he’s a rebel like that). As part of these presentations, we’ll be reading some of our work out loud. And some of our work has curses in it.

After a brief discussion, we seemed to reach a general consensus that reading a chapter that contains cursing in front of the audience is fine, as long as it’s not like a scene from the South Park movie.

In the last few days, I’ve also seen some people tweeting about this subject, asking questions like, “Is it okay to write curses in a YA fantasy novel?” Answers tend to vary, though what I most commonly hear is something along the lines of, “Yes, if it’s in character for that person to curse, and it’s not excessive.”

Fuck that, and here’s why.

I’m not going to talk at all about censorship, about the infamous Clean Reader app, or about the distinction between the target audience in a Young Adult vs New Adult vs Adult book. Instead, I’m going to talk about death.

Death CartoonI’m going to go out on a limb here and say that death is worse than cursing.

No, no, bear with me!

I’m a fan of the webcomic Erfworld (stick around, I’m going somewhere with this). I’ve been reading it almost since the day it launched, back when it was hosted on the Order of the Stick website. Erfworld is a world filled with magic, where many things are puns or cute, child-like interpretations of normally serious things. For example, there are giant stuffed animal “cloth golems” and dragons that spit bubble gum. And in keeping with this cute, child-like theme, there’s a magical effect across the whole world that prevents people from cursing. If you try to curse, you’re booped out, just like on cable TV. The very gods of this world prevent foul language.

Throughout the course of the comic, the gods DO allow a lot of other things: war, death, destruction, betrayal, scheming, manipulation, and KISS impersonations. They don’t censor any of that. They don’t save people from being killed, even when it’s by being eaten by a dwagon, being torn in half, having your head blown off, or being caught in a volcanic eruption. A lot of people die in this comic. By the thousands.

At the end of the first book, the main character, Parson Glotti, gives a speech about the hypocrisy of this, shouting his protests up to the skies in the hopes that Erfworld’s gods will hear him. He finishes with a big hearty “FUCK YOU!”

And, of course, people complained.

At least one very vocal reader pitched a huge fit on the Giant in the Playground forums (since Erfworld was still hosted there at that time). They said that it was very inappropriate to say the word “fuck” in a comic, particularly in one that is geared towards younger readers (mostly teenagers, I imagine). The response to this complaint basically said that it’s ridiculous to be angry over a bad word being used when you just finished reading a comic where the climax involved thousands of people being killed in a magically-induced massive volcanic eruption. Nobody complained when Parson Gotti ordered the spellcasters under his command to commit mass-murder. But they complained when he said the word “Fuck.”

And, ironically, Parson’s speech to the gods at the end addressed exactly that same point: that it’s hypocritical for them to censor his language, when they allowed the real obscenity of war and death to go on.

This is why I’ll never censor any of my language. My novel, Manifestation, contains two uses of the word “bitch,” eleven of the word “damn,” seven of “shit,” and thirty-six uses of various forms of “fuck” (including one use of “fuck-buddy”). That’s a total of fifty-six uses of the most common curse words in a 240 page novel. And it contains 76 uses of various forms of “die,” “died,” “dead,” and “death.” A lot of people die tragic deaths, and every once in awhile, one of the survivors curses.

Which of those things do you think has more meaning and impact? Which would you not want your children to repeat? If your answer is “the cursing,” then, well, I think you should consider what that says about you.

Death appears in literature because we all, as mortal humans, need to come to terms with it. Sometimes we experience it in real life, when a friend or family member is tragically taken from us. Other times, we see it in movies, TV shows, and books. When that happens, it gives us the chance to think about the meaning of life, about how much our loved ones mean to us, about the importance of holding on to the connections you make in life, and about how to cope with the horrors of war, murder, and disaster. We think about how we would react in the same situation, when we see a family member die right in front of us, or we witness a fatal car crash, or our homes are attacked by terrorists. It brings up a lot of emotion.

And I think it’s perfectly natural for someone in that situation, whether it’s a real person or a fictional character, when faced with something they don’t know how to handle, to stare death in the face and say, “Fuck you.”


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All I Want For Christmas is a Revised Manuscript

Christmas and I don’t get along.

Christmas-Lights-11Okay, so Christmas doesn’t kidnap me, tie me up with sparkling lights, and lock me in the bathroom (though it could!). However, I do tend to have bad experiences with Christmas, and I don’t expect this one to be any better. I’m not on speaking terms with most of my family, my Dad is living on a tight budget so Christmas these days has no thrills, and I don’t expect anyone else in the world to get me anything. Beyond that, I can’t even get on board with the whole “Christmas should be about love and hope and etc etc, not presents!” thing because I’m not religious and I don’t really have the kind of hopeful, positive influences in my life that would make Christmas worthwhile. I have casual friends who I’m sure will text or tweet me some Christmas wishes, but I don’t really have the kind of deep personal relationships where you expect to bond with people over hot chocolate in front of the fireplace Christmas day.

All I want for Christmas is to finish this draft.

I think I’ve been suffering from #NaNoWriMo Burn Out, coupled with a touch of seasonal depression. Which happens every year. After writing 160,000 words on my NaNo novel, I’ve written . . . five blog posts in two weeks, and revised one chapter of Contamination. That’s not much. And I have no excuse. I just sit home all day anyway. It’s not like there’s a reason I can’t get the work done.

All I want for Christmas is some motivation.

I think that Author Fragile Ego Syndrome is keeping me from working on my novel because I’m afraid that it sucks. That no one is going to read it or buy it or like it. That people who praise my writing are just doing so to be nice. That one day soon I’m going to be back to working at a crappy restaurant for a sexist boss, Master’s Degree from Rowan University notwithstanding.

All I want for Christmas is some self-esteem.

What I said a moment ago, about Christmas not being about presents? It’s true. Christmas isn’t about presents. I don’t want material goods. I just want a Christmas where I can get out of this rut and get some work done. I want to be able to send my revised novel to my CPs as their Christmas present. I want to stop feeling like crap. I want to get through a Christmas without crying.

All I want for Christmas is to be successful with my writing. But that’s a gift no one else can give me. So I’ll have to do it myself.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

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Superman and Vanity

superman-evolution2Look at the picture above, and tell me what you see.

Okay, yes, nine versions of Superman. Look closer.

Okay, they’ve all got variations of the same classic costume, except the one dressed all in black. They’ve all got a tall, muscular build. But look closer.

What do I see? Confidence. Shoulders set back. Chins held high. A few of them even have an almost cocky smirk. And why not? They’re Superman. Generally considered (by an average person, not necessarily a comic book buff) to be the most powerful superhero of all. And not only does he have more powers than you can shake your, err, kryptonite at, he’s also suave, charming, heroic, honest, and basically all around perfect.

And maybe that perfection will go to his head.

There’s a line in the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie, when Superman is talking to his father, Jor-El. Jor-El warns Superman not to succumb to his vanity:

Lastly, do not punish yourself for your feelings of vanity. Simply learn to control them. It is an affliction common to all, even on Krypton…Our destruction could have been avoided but for the vanity of some who considered us indestructible. Were it not for vanity, why, at this very moment… I could embrace you in my arms…my son…

Superman’s vanity, and through it, his overconfidence, are almost his undoing. He thinks he’s indestructible, so he doesn’t bother to take precautions. This is how Lex Luthor is able to trick him and expose him to kryptonite, which nearly kills him. (In turn, Luthor’s own vanity and overconfidence leads to him walking away and not watching Superman die, allowing Miss Teschmacher to save him.) I’ve seen this issue be Superman’s undoing in a number of different versions of the movies and TV shows. He underestimates his foes, he doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions, and he may even sometimes consider himself to be above the law.

Superman is just one example. Many other superheroes can have similar vanity issues; just look at all the ego being thrown around in The Avengers and you can see how each character’s pride is affecting their behavior. It’s been addressed in some comics from time to time, when people ask whether these heroes should be held accountable for their reckless behavior when they cause massive destruction while “saving” people.

One of the reasons I started thinking about the vanity of superheroes is because of a conversation I had with my academic adviser at Rowan University about my own writing projects. We were discussing one of the main characters from my novel, Manifestation, and I was describing some of the powers she has and the scale on which she’s able to affect the world in the later novels in the series (which gets bigger and stronger as the series goes on). After describing one particular scene at the end of the second book, Contamination, my adviser asked, “Would you describe her as godlike?”

Godlike characters can be a problem in a variety of ways. For one, there’s what I’ve called the Superman Dilemma, where a character is so powerful that it’s hard for there to be any suspense. But pride and vanity are definitely another issue. Vanity can be something that can actually add conflict, however, if it proves to be the character’s downfall. Vanity can lead to mistakes, it can make a character easy to manipulate, and it can alienate a character’s friends who think the character has gotten too big for their britches.

No wonder it’s the Devil’s favorite sin.

So if you find that your characters are too powerful, too unstoppable, too perfect, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as their power and perfection becomes a foil for them in the story. One way to address this is to put the character up against something that all their power isn’t enough to defeat. This is something I try to do later in my books. A character who has gotten used to solving every problem by throwing her unstoppable, godlike powers at it full force suddenly finds herself faces with an obstacle that can’t be beaten this way. She has to step back from the situation and consider other angles. She has to think. She has to realize that, just maybe, all of her powers don’t amount to all that much sometimes. It’s a hard lesson to learn. But once she learns she has to think outside the box instead of trying to overpower her foes, she ends up being that much stronger.

And hopefully, not too many cities will get destroyed in the meantime.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

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Rudolph and Steve

The elves all knew that Santa had very “traditional” values.

Rudolph the Elf, named after the famous reindeer (who his mother had a dozen posters of in the drawer she thought he didn’t know about), frowned as he read the new posting on the North Pole Employee Bulletin Board. It listed the new Company Policies that the Claus had implemented, one of which was just getting Rudolph all riled up.

NEW NORTH POLE COMPANY POLICIES

As the Administration believes strongly in “Traditional Views” of Christmas

And as the Administration believes in encouraging appropriate

Morals and Views within Employees

All Elves are hereby banned from engaging in “Nontraditional” Christmas Activities

Including but not limited to:

Giving Free Dental Checkups to the Uninsured

Saying “Happy Holidays” Instead of “Merry Christmas”

Same-sex Kisses under the Mistletoe

Ho ho ho,

Santa Claus

Rudolph grit his teeth and stamped his foot. “It’s not fair!” he said. “What right does the Old Man have to impose his moral views on us?

Rudolph’s boyfriend, Steve, patted him on the back. “Maybe we can talk to him,” Steve said. “Make him listen to reason.”

Rudolph tore down the notice and ripped it into shreds. “Yes,” he said. “Let’s.”

Rudolph and Steve marched up to Santa. The Old Man was prepping for the Big Night, and didn’t like to be interrupted. But Rudolph stood tall and cleared his throat to get Santa’s attention.

“Ahem,” he said.

Claus turned towards him and arched a snowy eyebrow. “Yes?” he asked. “Can’t you see I’m busy? It’s almost CHRISTMAS!”

Rudolph and Steve exchanged a look, then broke out into song:

Santa, you red-suited fat man
We have had enough of this!
Just because those are YOUR views
Doesn’t mean that is Christmas!
All of us are individuals
Each with our own beliefs!
You’ll never get these elves
To follow all your stupid rules!

So on this foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa, we’re here to say,
Either join the Twenty-First Century,
Or else, Old Man, we quit!

Then Rudolph and Steve stepped under the mistletoe and kissed. Whether Santa liked it or not.

Scavengers

I just finished #NaNoWriMo last week. My currently untitled novel is sitting at 160,484 words of magic, mystery, sex, love, telepathy, golems, lesbians, teddy bears, and maybe a giant mutated monster or two. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, though I know it’ll need plenty of revisions and work just like all the others. That work is for later, however, and now it’s time to turn my mind to other things.

On the writing front, there’s two main projects on my mind right now. Both of them have something in common: scavengers (did the title of the post give that away?). I’d like to talk a bit about the concept of scavengers first, then discuss how it relates to my upcoming projects.

A scavenger-based society can develop in a variety of ways. In real life, it can happen when some groups of people live in the slums or run-down neighborhoods of otherwise wealthy cities. I read a book earlier this year, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which told the real-life story of people living in such conditions in Mumbai, India. The people in the story live in tin shacks in a muddy, rancid slum, where they deal with crime, pollution from the city, poverty, poor education, and the struggle to survive and feed their families each day. One of the main characters is a boy who collects scrap. Plastic bottles, wire coat hangers, tin foil . . . anything he can haul down to the recycling center to sell in order to earn what he can to help feed his family. Parts of the story follow this boy and others like him as they scrounge in the dumpsters behind hotels, gathering plastic straws and lids to be sold as scrap to the recycling center. Sometimes they have to fight off gangs of larger boys who will beat them up to steal their garbage and sell it themselves. And no one in the city cares, except when it comes to shooing them away so the rich tourists at the hotels don’t have to see the street urchins digging through the trash.

More extreme examples can be seen in some post-apocalyptic stories, where society has collapsed and industry no longer exists. I’m reading a fiction novel right now called The Drowned Cities, set in a post-apocalyptic future where global warming has flooded the coasts, war has torn the country apart, and people struggle to survive amidst ongoing fighting between rival factions that try to claim their own piece of the broken world. People use whatever they can get their hands on, and the author describes things like plastic antifreeze bottles now being used as water bottles, ruined buildings being torn apart for scrap to rebuild elsewhere, and old medicine that is “only a year past its expiration date.” These details do a good job setting the scene and showing the reader just how desperate people are for whatever resources they can get their hands on.

The idea of a society with limited resources will be helpful research for my current and future projects. One of those project, my seventh novel, is currently only in the planning stages. I’ve got about ten pages of notes so far on what I plan to do with it, though I don’t intend to start writing this one until next year, maybe during #JuNoWriMo. Some of these notes are based on ideas I got from books like The Drowned Cities, relating to the idea of where people get the resources they need to survive. Food and other resources can be scarce. People might be having to improvise items to use them for something other than their original purpose. Gabby Palladino, my main character (who is also a poet) may have trouble finding simple things like pens and paper to write her journals and poems. Though I’ve already written things in the past that involve looting old, abandoned stores, so I’m sure she could find an abandoned office supply store with plenty of useful goods.

My more immediate project right now is continuing revisions on my second book, Contamination, which is the sequel to Manifestation. I won’t go into too much detail so as not to spoil some of the events of Manifestation, but suffice to say, some of the characters in Contamination can end up in some difficult situations where food and supplies are scarce. The scene I’m currently revising involves a gang of thugs with magic powers fighting for control over a grocery store, since controlling the store means controlling the food supplies left inside. When you’re desperate and hungry, that’s a higher priority than anything else. There are also other scenes of people doing things like smashing open an old vending machine to steal the stale snack foods inside. People will do what it takes when it comes to staying fed.

I plan to read some more books in war-ravaged post-apocalyptic settings in the near future in order to see how other authors have addressed the scavenger lifestyle. I find it an interesting one, and I think there’s a lot of potential character development to be found in writing a character who has to dig through the rubble to find the things they need to survive.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

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and in ebook format through:

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What I Learned From #NaNoWriMo

Winner-2014-Web-BannerAs I mentioned, I recently won #NaNoWriMo 2014. It was a long haul. I had quite a few nights where I was up until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. My back is killing me. I spent several days in a daze, barely able to focus on anything else.

The novel is complete. At 160,484 words, it’s both the biggest NaNoWriMo victory I’ve ever had and the longest novel I’ve written in the series. As you can see by the progress meters on the sidebar to the right, it’s 28,000 words more than the previous novel. This was more-or-less what I expected, and the reason why is the first “thing I learned” from NaNoWriMo:

I learned to better estimate word counts

When I first wrote Manifestation, I had no idea how long it would be. I also didn’t know how the story would shift away from any original plans I had. These shifts can lead to longer word counts on some drafts, since the story expands in places I didn’t expect, then shorter word counts in revisions, when I cut scenes that end up not fitting the new direction the story went in. One of the consequences of these unexpected turns is that the structure of the novel can change.

For example, when I first started the series, I already knew where the third volume, Collapse, would end. I had a scene in mind for the climax and what consequences it would bring. I started writing with that goal in mind from early on, always trying to move Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah, the two main characters, in that direction. But at the time that I started writing, I thought that would be the end of volume two, not volume three.

I had originally planned Manifestation to stop in a place that is now somewhere around the middle of the second book, Contamination. I had a story arc planned out for Gabby that would take her through various family dramas, build on her romantic relationship with her main love interest, Callia Gainsborough, and help her grow from the introverted teenage girl we see at the beginning into, well, you’ll have to wait and see what she becomes. But when I was moving past the 100,000 word mark on Manifestation, I realized I needed a lot more time to get Gabby to the point I wanted to take her in. So I devised a new climax for Manifestation, finished the first book, and started the second one.

Then, when I was near the end of Contamination, the same thing happened again. I had a point where Gabby’s relationship with Callia was really just getting off the ground, where Gabby’s understanding of the supernatural changes to the world around her are finally coming together, and where Gabby’s growth as a character was reaching a major turning point. But a turning point isn’t a climax, and I realized I needed another 50,000 words or more to get Gabby the rest of the way down that path. Like with the first book, had I not come up with a different ending, the total length of the book would have been over 170,000 words. Instead, I started the third book, and about halfway through Gabby reached the point of character development I’d originally planned. It was mostly smooth sailing after that to finish the third book, reaching the climax that had originally been planned for book two.

This year, I went into my writing expecting and planning for a length of 150,000. I came up with this number by considering the various story arcs of the previous books, how many main characters had leading roles in each, and how much world building had to be done. When I crossed the 130,000 word mark, I reanalyzed based on the number of scenes left, and adjusted my word count estimate to 160,000. The final total word count was only a few hundred off of that second estimate.

I plan to consider these variables when working on future books as well, so that I’ll have a better idea of how much will “fit” in one book. That way I’ll be able to avoid major restructuring like I went through in the early books.

I learned the difference between a “romance” and a “love story”

As you may have seen by recent blog posts, I’ve been studying romance novels lately. I have a few serious problems with the common romance tropes I’ve seen. Examples include characters who seem to constantly profess their love in the narration without me seeing love in their actions, characters who are too perfect (perfect bodies, perfect hair, flawless morals, etc), characters who fall in love too quickly without enough development of their relationships, and the unrealistic nature of the “happily ever after” ending. I’ve been trying to avoid abusing these tropes in my own writing, by either breaking them entirely, or at least approaching them from different angles in order to avoid being cliche.

However, a new variable was recently brought to my attention. I recently wrote a post about exploring infidelity in romance stories, where I considered the possible roles cheating might play in the development of a story. In particular, I cited novels like The Notebook, where the female lead started off in a relationship then cheated on her fiance with the male lead, who she eventually ended up with. After writing this post, however, one of my romance writer friends directed me to the rules of the Romance Writers of America, and I learned there are some things you can’t do if you want the story to be considered an official “romance.”

According to the RWA, a story is only a “romance” if it has A Central Love Story and An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending. That is, the love story can’t be a subplot, and it can’t have an ending that isn’t in the “happily ever after” category.

A happy ending, according to my friend, means things like no cheating. You can’t do anything to betray the relationship or make the reader stop rooting for the characters to get together. If the reader reaches a point where they wish the characters would break up, it’s not a “romance.”

An interview with Nicholas Sparks has another quote that I found interesting in relation to this idea. He responds to the question:

Q: You once said the difference between a love story and a romance is that “love stories must use universal characters and settings.” What did you mean by that?

“Universal” means you feel as if they are real. You feel like you can know them. I don’t write stories about astronauts or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or millionaires or movie stars. These are stories of everyday people put into extraordinary events that are also very real in ordinary people’s lives: accidents, a past you want to get away from, a husband that got violent.

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with his entire view here, but what he’s basically saying sounds like “romance novels have unrealistic characters but love stories have ordinary people.” I wouldn’t call this a 100% accurate statement, but it touches on what I mentioned above. Most romance novels I read have people who are too perfect. They’re rich, famous, gorgeous, and flawless. Now, I think you can have a traditional romance novel that has believable, down-to-earth characters (just many of the ones I’ve recently read don’t). But if you go by Sparks’s views, romances are fantasies, while love stories are more realistic.

Even if you disagree with how sparks describes this difference, I do think that the distinction is related to the “no cheating” rule I already mentioned. Characters who cheat on each other would spoil the perfect fantasy of the ideal relationship. But characters who have to struggle to heal and forgive after an affair might better represent the kinds of people we see in real life.

I’ll probably follow up with some more things I learned in a future post. It was definitely a long and educational experience.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

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and in ebook format through:

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My #NaNoWriMo Excerpt

I was peer pressured encouraged to share an excerpt from my current #NaNoWriMo Project, Arcana Revived Volume Six (currently untitled). The chapter below is an early chapter that introduces Gabby Palladino and her sister, Adrianna.

Be warned, spoilers ahoy. Since this is a sequel, there’s massive spoilers in here for my first novel, Manifestation. Read ahead at your own risk.

Don't say I didn't warn you!
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

Gabby and the Manifested warped into Evesborough, landing at the edge of the city in a flash of light. They staggered a bit in catching their footing and adjusting to the difference in elevation; Evesborough was in the mountains, high above sea level, so it was a stark shift from the coastal city they’d just left. The air was cooler, the sky was clear, and the mountains around them were covered in fresh evergreens that climbed the slopes all around the city.

Gabby rubbed her temple, fighting off a headache. The pressure around her skull from the ever-present weight of her aura was worse than usual. She was sure it was a mix of not only the stress she was going through, but also of the massive mana surges she’d just witnessed Tock wielding in the City of Arcana. Tock’s power had become immense, far greater than it had been last time Gabby had seen her a couple of months before. It was something she wasn’t sure how to handle, or even wrap her head around.

“What happens now?” Mason asked. He stood off to the side with the others, outside of the range of Gabby’s aura. She was having trouble holding the aura in right now and pulses of mana were leaking through it. The Manifested kept their distance in order to remain safe.

“Gather the rest of the Manifested in the city square,” Gabby said. “We’re going to have to make preparations for tomorrow.”

“Preparations for what, exactly?” Vijay asked. “To fight?”

Gabby shook her head no, but she didn’t know what other answer to give. “We’re going to stop the fighting.”

“How?” Mason asked.

Gabby sighed. “Just get everyone together.” She turned to Jaden. “Send out a city-wide summons. Not just our usual crew. I want all willing volunteers with any kind of arcana to come. We’re going to need everything we’ve got.” Evesborough currently held a few hundred thousand citizens, most of them refugees who had fled from other mountain towns in the surrounding area and come here for the protection offered by a more well-defended city. Out of the whole population, somewhere between ten and twenty thousand were Manifested, though they hadn’t been able to perform any kind of census to get an exact count. Plus, many of the Manifested were children who were too young to fight, or people who were unwilling to join the struggle. Gabby could hope for a thousand, maybe two, but that would be it. Not enough to stand against the entire massed force of the Northern Union army, to say nothing of Tock’s mass-produced golem army.

Jaden raised her megaphone and channeled a stream of mana into it. Translucent emerald light flowed from her fingertips into the gemstones that were encrusted around the device, melding arcana and technology together in a design Vijay had developed just for the telepath. When she channeled her thoughts into the megaphone, they were amplified by the arcanatech and channeled across the whole city. All Manifested willing to help us stop the war, please gather in the city square. Commander Palladino requests all Manifested willing to fight . . .

Gabby gave Jaden a grateful smile. “I’ll see you guys there in a few minutes.” She headed off on her own, walking down the street towards the lodge that had been turned into a makeshift command center. She kept her head held high as she walked, giving professional nods to the citizens and Manifested she passed by. The streets were fairly crowded with pedestrian traffic, though there wasn’t a single car in sight. They hadn’t yet had time to develop any arcanatech vehicles, and gas was a resource that had all but run out in the months since the mana storm. She didn’t think there was a single operational car or truck left anywhere in Evesborough, and in the other cities to the south, the military had taken control of all the gas supplies to keep their jeeps and tanks running.

She headed into the lodge, where groups of volunteers were working to coordinate everything from the details of Evesborough’s defense force, to the management of their food supplies, to the manufacturing of arcanatech weapons and devices based on Vijay’s designs. Several people stopped her with questions as soon as she entered and she was stuck for almost ten minutes making decisions about where to mount the newest arcanatech gun turrets, how to handle distributing food supplies to different parts of the city, and how to settle disputes between different teams who each wanted a bigger portion of their limited manufacturing supplies. She didn’t have the first clue what the best answer was to half of the questions, so she just made her best guess, or delegated the task to someone else. She didn’t really know how to lead an army or be responsible for the lives of others. She’d just been roped into the job because of how powerful her arcana was, and how it made the others look to her as their leader.

As she was moving among the various desks that filled the lodge’s main lobby and central rooms, Gabby spotted her sister seated at a desk in the corner. She arched an eyebrow, curious as to why Adrianna was there. Her doctor, Mahir Pavari, stood by Adrianna’s side. Gabby walked over to the and gave them a small wave. Adrianna looked up from the paperwork she was working on and gave her a tired smile.

“Hey, Sis,” Adrianna said. “How did it go?” Her eyes showed signs of strain and dark circles had formed under them. She was dressed in a hospital gown and slippers, with a fluffy blue robe on top.

“About as well as could be expected,” Gabby said. She decided not to go into detail, not wanting to add to her sister’s stress. “What are you doing here? Should you be out?” She looked to Dr. Pavari.

Adrianna frowned and lowered her head. She pressed her palms down flat on the papers that covered the desk before her. “I’m not an invalid,” she said. “I’m perfectly capable of being out on my own.” She glanced over her shoulder at Dr. Pavari. “I don’t need to be babysat.”

Dr. Pavari pushed his glasses up his nose and said, “We’re giving it a trial run. I think it’s good for her to get out and try to get into some kind of normal routine.”

Adrianna pressed her hands down harder on the desk. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”

“I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that,” Gabby said. “It’s okay.” She paused, chewing on her lip. Then she nodded to the papers. “So, what are you working on?”

Adrianna cast a glare up at Dr. Pavari, the turned back to Gabby. “Food inventory. I used to do this at the restaurant.” She patted the papers before her, then smoothed them out, then patted them again. “I know how to do this. I used to do it all the time.” Adrianna had worked at a small restaurant in the West District suburbs for a few years, back before she got pregnant. She had been planning on going back to work when Dante was old enough. Though his death, and Adrianna’s subsequent breakdown, had prevented that. So had the beginning of the apocalypse.

Gabby opened her mouth to reply, but she was distracted by the way Adrianna continued smoothing out the papers before her. Her movements became rougher and she ended up ripping one of the pages. She held the two halves of the page up and pressed them back together, frowning. “I can fix that,” she said, her voice a bare whisper. “I can fix it. I just need tape.”

“It’s okay,” Gabby said, giving her sister a reassuring smile. “It’s not a big deal.”

“No,” Adrianna said. “No. I can fix it.” She opened one of the desk drawers, her hands shaking. She dug through it, her movements becoming more frantic by the moment. She slammed the drawer shut and reached for another. It stuck and she yanked on it, squealing. “I can fix it!” She yanked the drawer open and knocked it off its tracks. Pens, pencils, and paper clips spilled all over the floor.

“Maybe it’s time we head back,” Dr. Pavari said, touching Adrianna’s shoulder. “It’s been a long day, and it’s time for your pills.”

Adrianna sat stiffly, tilting her head towards him. “I don’t like the pills,” she said. She pressed her hands down on top of the desk again. “I don’t like the way they make me feel.”

Gabby swallowed a lump in her throat, fighting off tears. “Addy, if the doctor says—”

“You’re always taking his side!” Adrianna snapped. She stood up and slammed her hands down on the desk. “Don’t talk to me like I’m a child, Gabby!” She leaned against the desk, shaking.

Gabby held still, not sure what to say. She hated having to treat her sister like this. She’d always looked up to Adrianna when they were growing up; her sister was two years older than Gabby, and she used to teach Gabby about life and love and making friends. But their relationship had broken down during Adrianna’s pregnancy, and fallen apart completely in the aftermath of Dante’s death.

Dr. Pavari touched a hand against Adrianna’s back. “Let’s get back to the hospital. You can get some rest, and we can come back to finish the work later.”

Adrianna turned and glared at him, her fists clenched. Then she turned her glare on Gabby. “Fine,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. Fine.” She swung her hand out and knocked the pencil sharpener off the desk. Flakes of pencil trimmings flew everywhere. Adrianna turned and stalked from the room with Dr. Pavari trailing behind her. He gave Gabby an apologetic look and Gabby responded with the bravest smile she could force onto her face.

When they left, she took a deep, shuddering breath. The rest of the people in the room were staring at her, though most of them were trying to hide it. She held back her tears and pushed down her feelings, then forced herself to get back to work. There were still questions that needed to be answered and concerns that needed to be addressed. She was the one in charge, so she had to keep working.

* * *


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Awaken by Skye Malone

Hello! It’s my pleasure today to introduce you to an author friend of mine who recently released a new book and the start of a new series:

Awaken by Skye Malone, Book One of the Awakened Fate series
Awaken by Skye Malone, Book One of the Awakened Fate series

Running away from home was never Chloe Kowalski’s plan. Neither was ending up the target of killers, or having her body change in unusual ways. She only wanted a vacation, someplace far from her crazy parents and their irrational fear of water. She only wanted to do something normal for once, and maybe get to know her best friend’s hot stepbrother a bit better at the same time.

But the first day she goes out on the ocean, strange things start to happen. Dangerous things that should be impossible. Things to which ‘normal’ doesn’t even begin to apply.

Now madmen are hunting her. A mysterious guy with glowing blue eyes is following her. And her best friend’s stepbrother seems to be hiding secrets all his own.

It was supposed to be a vacation. It’s turning out to be a whole lot more.


Skye-MaloneSkye Malone is a fantasy and paranormal romance author, which means she spends most of her time not-quite-convinced that the things she imagines couldn’t actually exist. Born and raised in central Illinois, she hopes someday to travel the world – though in the meantime she’ll take any story that whisks her off to a place where the fantastic lives inside the everyday. She loves strong and passionate characters, complex villains, and satisfying endings that stay with you long after the book is done. An inveterate writer, she can’t go a day without getting her hands on a keyboard, and can usually be found typing away while she listens to all the adventures unfolding in her head.

Skye also writes YA urban fantasy as Megan Joel Peterson and is the author of The Children and the Blood series.

You can also visit Skye’s website, or connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or Tumblr.

Awaken is just 99 cents, and you can pick up a copy through any of the following links:

All Romance eBooks | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

You can also add Awaken on Goodreads. And if you’d like a chance to read some of Awaken before you buy it, check out the excerpt below:

Maddox slowed the boat, killed the engine, and then lowered the anchor. At least a mile off, the shore was a mosaic of green mountains and white buildings below. Puffs of clouds drifted over Santa Lucina, but out here, only the barest wisps hovered in the brilliant blue sky. Baylie leaned back on her seat, a smile on her face, while her dog just eyed the water as though trying to figure out how the demented humans could possibly think this was a good idea.

“So…” Noah started. “Anyone want to go for a swim?”

I smiled. My parents being so psychotic and all, we didn’t even have a bathtub in the house, just a stand-up shower the size of a broom closet. I’d never been able to teach myself how to hold my breath underwater, let alone swim.

But that was going to change, starting now.

“Well, um,” I began, feeling a bit reckless with excitement. “If you wouldn’t mind teaching me?”

His eyebrows climbed. “Uh, no. I mean, sure. I–”

The boat jumped.

“What the hell?” Maddox cried as the rest of us grabbed at the guardrails.

“Did we hit something?” Noah asked, scanning the water.

Maddox shook his head. “I don’t–”

The ocean around the boat began to bubble and roil.

Noah swore. “Get us out of here!” he called to Maddox.

His brother didn’t need the encouragement. Quickly, he scrambled back toward the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition.

The engine wouldn’t respond.

Shudders shook the boat, while all around, the ocean’s surface began to foam like the calm sea had suddenly become a boiling pot on a stove. Waves surged from every direction at once, growing more violent by the second, and on all sides the water darkened, as though a shadow was spreading below us.

“What’s happening?” Baylie cried.

No one could answer. As if shoved from beneath, the deck tipped up at a sharp angle and then just as quickly rocked back, wrenching us hard as we fought to hang onto the guardrails. The lurching came again, throwing us forward and back.

My grip broke. The metal rail hit me, knocking the air from my lungs.

And then came the water.

I didn’t even have time to scream. Waves closed over me, choking my instinctive gasp and tossing me so hard that, in only a heartbeat, I lost all sense of up and down. Flailing, I tried to reach out and find something, anything, to grab onto as the water pummeled me like it was a prize fighter and I was its punching bag.

Strong hands caught me. Steadied me. Pulled me from the maelstrom into a space of calm. I clutched at them, thinking Noah had managed to find me in the chaos.

Eyes like brilliant sapphires met mine.

“You’re okay,” a boy said, gripping my shoulders. “You’re fine.”

I stared at him. In the impossibly black water, I could see nothing but his face and his arms, both pale as though he’d spent his life out of the sun. He seemed only a year or two older than me, and his features were angular, carved like they came from stone, and strangely mesmerizing. In the darkness, his eyes shone like deep blue jewels, simultaneously seeming to reflect light and yet glow from within.

But we were underwater. We should be drowning. And instead, I could hear him as clearly as if we stood in the open air, and the oddest sense of peace was settling over me.

I wondered if I was dying.


Title: Awaken
Series: Awakened Fate (Book One)
Author: Skye Malone (www.skyemalone.com)
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Wildflower Isle (www.wildflowerisle.com)
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-940617-07-7 (epub), 978-1-940617-06-0 (mobi), 978-1-940617-08-4 (paperback)
Cover Designer: Karri Klawiter (www.artbykarri.com)

Secondhand Heart, by Kristen Strassel

Secondhand-Heart-FOR-WEB-200x300Kristen Strassel, author of the Night Songs Collection has a new book that just released. Her book, Secondhand Heart, is a New Adult contemporary romance novel about a struggling country singer, a military widow, and their journey together as they find their way back home and into a new stage of life. I asked Kristen if she’d be kind enough to talk a bit about her book, and she was happy to do so.

1. Your first three books, Seasons in the SunBecause the Night, and Night Moves are all paranormal romance novels with vampires. Yet this newest novel, Secondhand Heart, is a New Adult romance starring a country singer. What made you decide to take such a different direction with this book, and what did you find was different about the process of writing in such a different genre?

I decided that I was going to write books about musicians or vampires, or any combination of the two, so Secondhand Heart fits the bill. Once these characters presented their story to me, I knew it wasn’t paranormal.  Everyone has pointed out how different Secondhand Heart is from the books in The Night Songs Collection, but I feel that they all have my stamp on them. The process for this one wasn’t different. Once I met Daisy, she spoke to me in a very strong voice.  The main difference between paranormal and contemporary is that you have to stick to the facts in contemporary, which is sometimes easier and harder. You can’t make something up to get the characters out of a situation.  I tried to stick to “the rules” of contemporary romance in SHH, but I’m not much for those.

2. Your books tend to include characters who are celebrities in some form or another. Secondhand Heart includes a country singer and reality TV show competitor, and your other books include rock stars and the Las Vegas nightlife. But you also work on movies as a makeup artist. How much inspiration for your celebrity characters and their rock and roll lives comes from your real life experience working in the entertainment industry?

Even before I worked in film, I was involved in the entertainment industry. I’ve always been very connected to music, and have had friends who’ve enjoyed all levels of success. I pull from equal parts work and play.

3. Every author tends to put a little bit of themselves into their characters. What parts of your life, experiences, or relationships went into Cam and Daisy, and how did those inspirations help shape the narrative?

There’s a lot of me in Daisy. We have similar senses of humor, similar bodies, and we’ve been through similar things. If we met in real life, we’d love each other or claw each others’ eyes out. I binge watched “The Voice” while I wrote Secondhand Heart, and I have a giant crush on Blake Shelton, so I’m sure you can do the math on my inspirations for Cam.

4. Will Secondhand Heart be the first book in a series, just as your Night Songs Collection has been, and if so, what can we expect from the future?

I think it will be a series. They’ll all be stand alone books that build on each other, if that makes any sense. I’ve drafted another book which also features a Spotlight winner in a very different story.

5. There may not be any vampires in this novel, but do you see Secondhand Heart and the Night Songs Collection as having any connections? Do they take place in the same “world,” or is Secondhand Heart set in the “real” world where nothing supernatural exists, even behind the scenes?

Night Songs exists in this world, there are just vampires in it. 🙂 When Daisy and Cam go to the drive in, the movie they go see is a complete nod to We Own the Night. Other than that, there are no supernatural elements in Secondhand Heart.

6. You just published We Own the Night on September 1st of this year, Secondhand Heart is being released just over a month later, and you have another book, Silent Night coming out later this year. Are you secretly a robot? How do you manage to produce books with such drive and dedication?

Hahahahaha. I wish. It was actually just circumstance. We Own the Night had been finished for a while, but in order to coordinate the digital release with the Audible release, it had to wait until September.  Silent Night is a Christmas themed story, so I’d been sitting on that one as well, and that will release November 18. I could have waited on Secondhand Heart, but why?  I won’t be able to keep up this pace forever, but it sure is fun!

I’m totally self-employed, and I think that’s really helped me be able to produce material consistently and oversee the release of the books. You can’t ever get comfortable in a creative industry. There are always ten other people willing to take your place.

7. After branching out from paranormal romance into New Adult/contemporary, do you ever think you’ll expand into any other genres as well? Do you have any future plans for your writing that you’d like to share?

My writing partner, Julie Hutchings, thinks I should write horror, but the story has yet to present itself. Right now, I’m pretty content with paranormal and contemporary, but I would never rule anything out. I’m playing with some ideas in these genres that are different that what I’ve written, but they aren’t fleshed out enough to talk about yet.

8. You’ve mentioned on your blog that writing and releasing a book is both exciting and scary (something I think all writers can relate to). Taking a different direction with this book compared to your previous works is probably scarier than usual. How do you cope with that fear? Can you offer any advice to other authors who might be struggling with fear of their own?

I will cry and drink most of this week. Ha. I’m only sort of kidding. Branching out into something new is scary, because there’s nothing there yet for me. It’s strange because I’m not a debut author, but I’m still in the door-to-door phase, working for every sale. But with this one, there are different opportunities and avenues to explore, and I’m exited.  My advice would be don’t be afraid to try new things, especially if you’re an indie author. If something’s not working, you can always change it.

9. Stephen King has said that every writer has to have their “toolbox” well-loaded with all the writer’s tools they need for success. Obviously on a basic level, this includes strong prose, an understanding of grammar, and a personal voice and style that makes their writing unique. What other “tools” would you say have been most valuable to you as a writer, and what tools would you say you’re still learning or you’d like to acquire in the future?

Going through the editing process and understanding what makes a story work were both huge for me. I feel like that’s the biggest thing that improved my writing. I’m a Pitch Wars mentor this year and helping other people with their manuscripts has been an invaluable learning experience. The number one thing that people seem to struggle with is bridging the emotional connection from character to reader. That’s something I want to master. I want my narrators to sound like a friend telling you a story over drinks.

10. Lastly, you’ve said that this is “a story about coming home.” What does that mean to you on a deeper level, whether it be literary or personal? If you could hope for readers to gain one important thing from reading your work, what would that be?

Man, it really is, on so many levels.  Both Daisy and Cam thought they had gone from wanting something to having something. Daisy had married her childhood sweetheart, and was working towards living overseas and becoming a teacher. Cam had won The Spotlight, and was releasing albums and going on tour. He was also married. But both of them are now back home, starting all over again unwillingly. For me, “home” is something that doesn’t change, no matter how much I do. And at times, that can be a real struggle to reconcile the past, present, and future. No matter how successful you are, or how much you’re on cruise control, it can all be taken away at any time. Then it’s up to you what you do next.


You can find Secondhand Heart on Amazon.com, along with Kristen’s other books, Because the Night, Night Moves, and Seasons in the Sun.

kristenpic 2You can also find Kristen on Twitter, Facebook, her website, or her blog, Deadly Ever After.