Sunday, June 29, 2014

Friends, Support Network and the Writing Cave

This weekend, I had a girls' night with some good friends including one I've only met online until now. It was a great night and a timely reminder that although it's easy to get caught up in writing the next word, the next line, the next paragraph, and the next book, it's also a great idea to step away from the computer and socialize with people outside of my direct family. Ask almost any writer and they will most likely tell you that they enjoy people watching. The reasons for this are multiple, but primarily going out and getting among people is a great opportunity to learn and to experience. 

For example a writer might head to a cafe. Sitting at the table observing the people nearby, the writer might see the following people: a young mother, her long brown hair pulled up into a messy, high pony tail, the bags under her tired eyes seeming to grow larger by the second as she tries to coerce her child into eating the food she offers him; a cashier, tired after an early start and a long shift, forcing a polite tone into his voice as he takes a custom coffee order from a immaculately put together businesswoman, her black and white pinstripe power suit spotless and pressed even after day in the office. If her order of a tall, soy, caramel macchiato with no foam wasn't enough of an indicator, the hint of her unwrinkled, vivid blue satin blouse peeking out from beneath the jacket suggests that she demands the finer things in life and expects things to be exactly as she desires; the couple in one corner of the cafe who were sitting so close it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began, whispering sweet-nothings in one another's ears. All of these conversations take place at once, creating a din of noise that only just drowns out the clink of the cups and the hiss of the espresso machine. The freshly ground beans and constantly flowing brew fills the air with the rich and slightly bitter aroma of coffee, causing the newly pregnant woman walking by the outside to clutch her nose and move faster to get beyond the area where the scent was most concentrated.  

This is the advantage to getting out and about. A writer can observe dialogue from a variety of different cultures and walks of life; see different body types and face shapes; and experience the tastes, smells, and sounds of real life. The trick to decent writing is to try to infuse these little details into a story because it gives the words an anchor in reality and allow to reader to apply their life experiences to build a better image of the world of the characters.  

What was the last book you read which made you feel like you were part of it?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blog Tour & Author Interview

Today, I have something a little different (but hopefully exciting) for you all. I have agreed to take part in a blog tour for J A Kenney's latest release. As part of that, I completed a first - my first interview of another author. Below is details on the book (which I am definitely looking forward to reading) as well as a giveaway link (hint, hint!). So here it goes, my first ever author interview:

How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
As a very young child, I would create stories in my head to entertain myself. I first started writing them down as a teenager, short stories, screenplays, pieces of novels, even the first few rough chapters of the story that later became Silver Strife. However, at that time I never thought I would write professionally. I went to college for business, worked my way up to Senior Accountant. A couple of years ago, I decided to write down that old story that had been brewing in my head for a decade, and so I wrote the first draft of Silver Strife. I was hooked, and have been writing ever since!

What inspires you in your writing?
Everything and anything. I write down story ideas based on dreams, random thoughts, daydreams, nightmares, music, or a stroll in the park!

Do you have a favourite place to write?
I usually write in my favorite recliner, with my laptop on the arm, and my faithful shadow Kitty curled up next to me.

Music while you write, yes or no?
Depends, some days I need the music to set a mood I'm not feeling, or to motivate me when I'm tired. Most of the time I forget little things like music, or chores, or lunch when I'm writing. I tend to get really absorbed in the world and characters I am creating.

What is your current favourite book? Or if you can’t name just one, what was your last five-star read?
I can never come up with one book!
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione (Paranormal Romance)
Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan (Science Fiction)
The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey (Sci-Fantasy)

Tell me a little about Silver Strife.
Silver Strife is based on a future Earth devastated by centuries of war, and ruled by a caste of genetically engineered people called Elites. Quicksilver, who is an immortal, is reborn as one of these Elites, and defects to the rebel forces to try and bring down that government.
At its core, Silver Strife is a story about tough decisions, love, and loss. Quicksilver is sworn to protect all mortal life and she is caught in the middle of a war.

What’s one thing you want people to know about the Quicksilver series?
Immortal Quicksilver began with the idea of Immortal alien beings that were not only somewhere out there, but right here, right now. Born here, living here, dying here, fighting by our side, or against us, influencing history and shaping our world.
The root of all the stories in the series is the war between two groups of Immortals, one determined to enslave or destroy all mortal life, and the other to save it.

Describe the character of Quicksilver in three words.
Ancient Immortal Warrior
I could also say Hell on Wheels, because she never seems to be able to stay out of trouble!


Summary

Silver Strife: An Immortal Quicksilver Novel
Quicksilver is an ancient immortal warrior. One of a group of alien beings that were once pure energy, living in the void between galaxies, and who have taken mortal form to influence history.
The Purists, compelled by a zealot prophet, are immortal extremists who will use any means at their disposal to wipe out all mortal life. Qui and her Conservationist brethren have spent millions of years fighting for their survival.
In Silver Strife, Quicksilver has been reincarnated on an Earth devastated by centuries of planet-wide civil war. She awakens in the body of a human Elite named Lini: one of a race of superhumans, bred and trained by a Purist-led government to massacre the remnants of humanity. Quicksilver joins the rebel forces, despite their reluctance to trust a hated Elite, determined to take down the brutal dictatorship that has decimated the human race.
From their first meeting, she is drawn to Captain David Mitchell, the rebel officer who aided her escape from the Elite's gilded cage. Even after swearing to never love again when her last mortal lover was killed saving her life, she finds herself falling for the honorable and driven soldier.
When Quicksilver crosses the path of an immortal ally on a top-secret mission behind enemy lines, a decision is forced upon her. She must choose between the fate of the human rebels, her mortal lover, and fulfilling her Conservationist oath to protect all mortal life. 
Excerpt

C h a p t e r   O n e

R E B I R T H

I was alive, in a new mortal shell, a different place, and time. If I had believed in some benevolent supernatural creature that controlled every aspect of reality, I would have thanked it. Instead, I just felt a sort of ambivalent relief.
Time was a true fourth dimension. Ages and epochs made long sweeping circles across the void, and immortals traveled between those rings like icebreakers smashing through a frozen sea. So we died just like everyone else, a truth that I thought a glaring irony. However, we came back, born again into new flesh, and in this new vessel, I could forge ahead in the eons long war against the Purists—a war that raged across the whole of space and time.
For years, I caught only brief glimpses of this life: a stern woman’s face looking down at me as I lay in a clear plastic bassinet, the pain of a broken wrist, and the unpleasant jab of tanbark against my spine. Born into this body, my spirit slept in a small corner of its mind. United and yet separate until the physical form was ready, for a child’s mind simply could not process eternity.
My thoughts snapped into place, and I inherited, in excruciating detail, the memories of a lifetime lived. No immortal knew what happened when our minds achieved synergy, but it felt like my soul suddenly clicked into alignment with this body’s neurons. The process was abrupt and shocking even after untold permutations, like a memory dump from a massive supercomputer. Twenty years of daily events, knowledge, and struggles were mine in a split second. I knew who I was, where I was, and what I was. A place, time, and identity that could not have been less to my liking.
My vision cleared. I stood in a well-lit hall lined with thick metal plates and reinforced doors. A calm yet commanding voice played in the background—a subtle reminder to cultivate unity and serve the greater purpose. “Preserve strength. Embody perfection. Maintain obedience.”
My eyes discreetly explored the lines and curves of my body. It was petite and feminine, with sufficient curves to avoid being boyish but a distinct lack of height. The skin on my delicate long-fingered hands was a dark caramel, the nails neatly manicured, and I ran one of them through straight waist-length black hair to feel its smooth silky thickness.
Surrounding me were a plethora of other young people, all of them disturbingly alike. They all had dark hair, dark eyes, and honey-toned skin, complemented by bodies that were young, attractive, and fit. These were the Union Elite. All dressed in uniforms of white button-down shirts, black slacks or skirts, and shiny polished black shoes. They looked like bronzes cast from the same mold, and the effect was eerie, like being surrounded by dozens of identical twins all filing in an unnatural orderly fashion to their next classes. This compound was built to house and educate society’s so-called best and brightest, but the hall and building surrounding it were armored for a reason.
I knew, from this and previous lives, that there was danger here, and not just to the students’ minds from blatant indoctrination. Their Civil War was a constant threat, often bleeding over into these remaining pockets of civilization. The year was three hundred and fifty-six in the Plebeian calendar, and this was the planet Earth.
The Elites’ university was situated on the semi-arid high plains that I remembered as the United States of America. Now this area of windblown and sun-scorched earth was called the North Western Sector. When the new era was founded centuries ago, the people of the world had experienced a brief period of renewed hope. The world had been united, all people were equal, and they would work together to build a better future for humankind. The newly christened Elites would be benevolent and altruistic leaders.
The naïveté of those people and their dream of endless peace had not lasted a decade. Instead, the world had been plunged into a centuries-long Civil War, and was ruled over by a cruel and selfish caste of super humans who viewed the rest of humanity as base, dangerous, animals. All at the whim and design of a single Purist, another immortal, who had twisted those noble dreams to his purpose. Yet, those events were now distant history, and I had to live in the here and now.
A bell chimed, and the students disappeared into their bunker-like classrooms. I stood frozen in place as they passed me by, still caught in the shock of a new and different existence. A number of confused glances were thrown my way.
“Lini. Is something wrong?” A soft touch to my arm preceded the serious expression that drifted into view. The voice and face were familiar. One of the many Elites who was genetically this body’s first cousin. She motioned me toward one of the open doors.
“No, nothing is wrong, Saran. I apologize for my inattention.” I forced myself into motion and trailed after the line of students filing into their next lecture.
The room was stark, white cinderblock walls with a half-dozen small wooden desks facing a larger desk and chalkboard. The lack of windows managed to give it an even more depressing penal feel. I plopped into an open seat, dropped my light backpack on the floor, and turned to face the instructor.
“Today, we will be discussing the foundation of the Union,” said Charles, the history professor. He leaned against his large wooden desk in a casual pose that portrayed both confidence and arrogance in spades. Dark hair and eyes, sharp cheekbones, and a toned body, a model specimen of the Union’s breeding program. In a vain attempt to delay a long afternoon of monotony and conveniently edited events, I sighed, and put my hand up.
Charles ignored me.
“Before the founding of the Union, the world was littered with separate countries. These small powers drove a nearly constant state of warfare, resulting in widespread poverty, and humanitarian abuses. Today, I want us to discuss how these governmental, cultural, social, and economic entities were motivated by greed, racism, and false prophets to enforce their individual wills on all peoples. Saran, if you could read the excerpt on page 325, the third paragraph concerning Manifest Destiny.”
History, or the self-serving fiction of a victorious reactionary authoritarian regime.
The Union had started out as a tempting illusion dangled before the people of Earth by a Purist, but it quickly turned into the malignant nightmare he intended. Millions died in the ethnic cleansing Petrov instituted, and even more in the unsuccessful wars to overthrow him. Hundreds of years later, a small group ruled from on high by virtue of the “superiority” of their birth and technological advancement had ground to a screeching halt. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity was withering under the weight of its own impotence.
The distinct crack of submachine gun fire yanked me back into the present. My senses instantly alert to the slightest movement. Another shot rang out, and men’s shouts laced with pain came from the direction of the building’s entrance. The unexpected sounds faded into a misleading tranquility.
“Raid,” I whispered to shatter the pregnant silence.

Buy Links

 The e-book is available for sale for $5.99 via the BDP Digital Shop and other online booksellers

Publisher Shop
http://www.bottomdrawerpublications.net/#!silver-strife/cg34
Links for Amazon, Apple, All Romance, Barnes & Noble, Kobo etc will be provided when the book becomes available for pre-order soon.

 Release Giveaway

1st Prize: Paperback copy of “Silver Strife”
2nd Prize: $10 BDP Voucher
3 copies of “Silver Strife” e-book


About the Author

J.A. KENNEY
  
J.A. Kenney lives in Aurora, Colorado, with a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains—in the winter, when the sky is clear, and if she stands on her tiptoes in exactly the right spot.

Three cats, a Chihuahua mix who thinks she is a Mastiff, and her beloved husband share her humble abode.

She has been writing since she found out that playing alien witches was more fun than tag. Her stories are a blend of science fiction, fantasy, and romance with strong female protagonists and drool worthy heroes.

When she is not writing she reads voraciously, sings, skis, rides her Harley, and grudgingly assists with home improvement projects.

http://jakenney.com/
 https://www.facebook.com/jakenneyauthor
 https://twitter.com/JennyAKenney

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ode to Beta Readers

Call them pre-readers, beta-readers, sounding-boards, part-time muses, angels, life-savers, whatever you like, today I am doing an ode to beta readers:  
 
When the first draft is done,
The work's just begun.
A read-through or two,
Won't find errors for you.
A fresh set of eyes will see;
"This doesn't make any sense to me."
"Witty comeback," or "Cringe-worthy phrases,"
Someone to read over two hundred pages.
"This story is great," or "Ooh, try again,"
Someone who has a snazzy red pen.
A supportive ear for when fears strike,
Someone to push when you just want to pike.
A sounding board for new ideas,
Someone to wipe your virtual tears.
An angel committed even when,
The time has come for read-through ten.
A person on whom you can depend,
A reader first, but later . . . a friend.


On a more serious note: I love my pre-reader, Jen. She is there when I am having my moments of insecurity and often knows my characters better than I do (or at least she isn't as willing to try to bend their wills to her own needs -- although there have been conversations about one of my characters, Ethan . . . ) Even though we have continents and many thousands of miles between us, I often find talking with her helps to clarify things in my own mind. She also let's me know when my Aussie is showing (seriously, fortnight is such a handy word, I think the US should catch up ;) ) 

So to the giver of commas and grammar advise, the unpaid therapist, and the wonderful person who I consider a dear friend, I say: THANK YOU
 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mixing my Mythology

Some people are very particular about their mythology and lore. What I mean by that is that there are people who get persnickety when the lore that they are familiar with is messed with or mixed up with something from a different culture. For example:

  • People who get upset that Stephenie Meyer made vampires sparkle
  • People who dislike that the vampires in "Being Humans" can abstain from human blood (in some scenes are even seen eating normal food) and go out in sunlight.  
  • People who rage that Supernatural can have demons and angels, but also Norse and Greek gods, and all manner of creature in between. 
There will always be those who love a particular brand of mythology, a particular type of creature, or a particular culture so much that they don't want it to be shifted or change. They don't want to see a different interpretation of their creature du jour, and I can understand that. I can understand why someone fascinated with the specifics of Greek mythology might be upset with seeing Zeus taking tea with Loki.

That being said, in my twin series Daughter of Fire and Son of Rain, I have a number of different myths and creatures that are a little mixed up. Not only that, but some creatures who belong in one region of the world have migrated to another. I apologize in advance if anyone takes offence to this, but there was a conscious choice behind this decision. 

Basically, the world of the series is one where mythological creatures exist (NB: I don't regard this as a spoiler, after all it's a paranormal romance, so at least some of these things must logically exist in the world or it would just be a contemporary romance). In the course of setting the scene I decided that if one type of creature exists then logically any of these creatures might. Just because something is in Greek mythology and another in British folklore, doesn't make one more likely to occur than another. I took the view that, in this world, all myths stem from some version of a real entity. 

In regards to the regional aspect, I figured that with the world getting smaller every day with the advent of plane travel, motor vehicles, etc within the last hundred or so years, that these mythological beings, gods, and creatures would be able to traverse continents much easier than they would have a millennium or more ago.

What is your take on mixing up mythologies? Are you a stickler for the classic rules or a little more liberal in your views? I think this is one of those cases were there is no right or wrong, just opinions based on personal history and preference.  


Saturday, June 7, 2014

I should be ashamed!

I had a blog post planned for this weekend which is now queued up in the "future possibilities" pile because I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a recent opinion piece written for Slate magazine. I saw it on Facebook this morning and honestly don't want to drive more publicity to the page so won't link it here, but in short the opinion was that you should be ashamed and embarrassed if you are an adult who reads young adult (YA) books. My opinion on this opinion piece is that is it the biggest wank I've read in a long time.

Now, I should preface this by saying I'm a big believer in everyone being entitled to their opinion. It's part of the reason I refused to weigh in heavily on the debate of pull to publish that I talked about in last week's blog post. However, in this instance, I don't believe that the person in question is entitled to share her opinion. Why? Not because she isn't entitled to feel that way, if that's her belief than who are we to argue with her. However, her opinion is harmful to others and I think that's what is wrong. I know people who never enjoyed reading at school, and never found the love of books that I myself was lucky to find at an early age. Some of these people have, as adults, discovered series like Twilight, Hunger Games and Divergent which have put them on the course to being book lovers.

Shaming adults for not reading hi-brow "literary" fiction makes people like this, people who are willing to read things purely for the escapism that books, in particular YA and NA (New Adult) books can give. Worlds where good triumphs over evil, where characters can be dragged to hell and back but things can be okay in the end (or at least, mostly okay). If we follow her advice and begin shaming adults for what they choose to enjoy, what happens to these people? The ones who don't want a book to be a slog to get through, the ones who enjoy a bit of fluff to read the way we enjoy romcom movies when we are over watching the terribleness of the world.

Think of it another way:- I watched Frozen with my seven-year-old daughter when it hit the cinemas last December. I enjoyed it. We went back and saw it again at the cinema when there where cheap seats. I bought the DVD when it was released. We love Frozen. I'd probably even watch it without my daughter at my side, just like I watched Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and all the other Disney classics for years before she was born. Should I be ashamed for enjoying a movie made for children? Should I be embarrassed that the story wasn't "highbrow"?

Personally, I love a good YA book. There is nothing like getting lost in a read that you can knock over in a day or two. Especially where the world is rich in color and detail. There's something nostalgic about being able to relive first loves, first kisses, first times.

My Daughter of Fire/Son of Rain twin series is a New Adult series, which according to the article is something to be ashamed about reading if you an adult. I love the concept of New Adult, of being able to relive the wonder of taking those first steps into true adulthood--negotiating relationships which can sometimes be tenuous, that period of adjustment where everyone starts to accumulate the baggage which they will carry through life with them, the woes of higher education and living alone--or with a partner--for the first time. It's a crazy time in our lives and while we're in the middle of it, we don't get a chance to enjoy it. Looking back, it's a time of so much personal growth and development that it's great to get a chance to relive it through the actions of the character of a novel.

My take on the article? Forget it. The writers seems like someone who only wants to read things that challenge her and that's great. For HER. I say read what you enjoy. Read what you love. If that's an 800-page tome which requires a dictionary on hand to decipher every second word than great. If it's a 200-page YA paranormal romance that's also great. Neither is better, just as long as you enjoy it. I'll leave you today with the following graphic which has never been more relevant than after reading the terrible article this morning.