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Holly M. Campbell
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The Duchess Quest
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Fire of the Sea
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Without Curtains, by Holly M. Campbell
Against her better judgment, eighteen-year-old Rebecca Douglas returns home to Clayton Creek. To the house where her mother was murdered. Where the Shadow—a monster with gleaming red eyes—haunted her dreams every night. All for the funeral of a man she stopped calling “Dad” a long time ago.
To Rebecca’s surprise, her father left her a box of “personal items.” At first glance, it’s filled with old journals, family photos, and a dozen letters addressed to her that her father never sent. But things aren’t always what they seem. Rebecca has just inherited a few family secrets…and one murder mystery… Read More!
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The Importance of Giving Up (and Moving On!)
Sometimes, it’s wiser to admit defeat: I can’t always finish everything I start. That’s what today’s post is about – the importance of giving up. Which author said a writer must finish every story he starts? Was it Neil Gaiman? Well, whoever said it, I beg to differ. I can’t force-feed myself a project, nor would I recommend it. I have to be absolutely on-fire to finish something. Once in a blue moon, it’s oddly comforting to scroll through my folder of “Abandoned Projects” and remember all the stories I got maybe 4 chapters into writing before deciding that I totally. Don’t. Care. Tales of heartbroken mermaids and odd young debutantes who mingle with fairies, and a woman who really sees ghosts but is forced to reckon with a sexy, Victorian-style spiritist (a.k.a. charlatan) are left hanging by thin threads, locked in corners that I’ve written them into. And really, I couldn’t care less. When the passion’s gone, there’s no use continuing, regardless of how “good” I thought the concept was, or how far I got. The neat thing, however, is that if I open these files, I’ll often recognize names, or possibly character traits or places that I ended up using in my now-published (or contracted…or soon-to-be contracted…) works. And that’s when it hits me: these aren’t “failed” or “abandoned” projects. They were practice, exercises. Not everything I write is going to turn into a novel – why should it? But neither is the experience useless if it doesn’t. Looking back at some attempted beginnings, I realize they served their purposes. They inspired me in a different direction. They taught me what works and what doesn’t, what I don’t like to write versus what I do. And sometimes, they bring an important character into my life, if not for that project, then for another. After completing my fifth novel, I had a mini-crisis over what to write next. I wasn’t ready to leave my latest universe, so I enthusiastically started outlining a sequel. It lost steam, however, as I realized I had nothing else original to say; I was only trying to prolong my time with the characters whom I dearly loved, yet whose story was perfectly sufficient by the end of the last MS. So, I had to first admit that. And then I dragged and dropped the sequel plans into “Abandoned.” Though that defeat left a sour taste in my mouth, I attempted to rewrite another sequel that had been previously rejected as it stood. I loved the new 10+ pages I stayed up ’til 3 AM producing, was proud of the writing, and had a clear view of the characters. But that, also, quickly faded from my interest. I have too many new, more marketable ideas to pursue. What to do? Should I stick with these sequels in the name of loyalty, completion and finishing whatever I start? …Nah. *Drag & drop.* Get ’em outta my way. I’ve got fresher fruit to harvest, bigger fish to fry. Since allowing myself to let the old stuff go, I’ve been bombarded with new inspiration: new characters, new loves, new journeys and adventures. I’ve finally begun penning another outline – a viable one, this time – and won’t stop until the pages of my little pink notebook are full. So today, I am thankful I gave up on what wasn’t working, so that I can now move on to what is!
Cover Reveal: The Light Side of the Moon
Coming Soon in paperback and e-book! I am pleased to show the cover for The Light Side of the Moon! This stand-alone book focuses on what happened on Earth after the Kiposians came. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do the cover illustration, while Lyndsay Johnson did the wonderful lettering design. Summary: Due to overpopulation, lack of natural resources, no public education, and a surplus of political bickering, Earth is a cesspool and our solar system’s colonies have failed. Nevertheless, outside our solar system, exploration has thrived. Encouraged by the conquest of Kipos, idealistic dreamers look beyond Earth to build a utopia from the abandoned Lunar Colony Serenitatis. Industrialists reconstruct the colony, but struggle to turn a profit while encouraging scientific discovery. Brimming with hope despite intense uncertainty and physical hardship, the impoverished Ella Sethdottier follows rumors of plentiful jobs on the moon. On roads fraught with danger, she discovers Earth is a bigger place than she ever imagined, but Serenitatis is little more than a prison colony. Ella forges unlikely friendships with corrupted androids and the quixotic prison doctor, Ian Whitlatch, who champions equality and rights for inmates. Amid corruption and nobility, tragedy and victory, the fate of the colony hangs precariously in the balance.
Why I believe in diversity in science fiction: an answer to the counter-arguments.
A number of people in the science fiction community are screaming about diversity in books and films. Either they want to bring back the good ole days, or they want to see characters that look how the world looks now. It saddens me that this argument has gotten very nasty. The 2015 Hugo Award Nominations are just the visual tip of the anger iceberg. Anyone who follows my blog knows how much I love StarTrek. I’m going to explain why I think diversity is important for the sci-fi community, but how there is room for all of our visions. I was a young teen with TNG and in highschool, early college with DS9. I loved those show’s wide open universe with all those planets and races. The meme is getting popular now, but I remember the first time I heard Whoopie Goldberg’s story about how she and Gene Rodenberry spoke about how before the original StarTrek there were no black people in sci-fi and how Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols during 1966 to 1969, was a trailblazing role for African-Americans. When I heard the story, it reminded me of being a kid and watching GI Joe, Thunder Cats, or almost every other show and wanting there to be more than one token girl or woman character. That’s when I realized “the girl” was a type, just like “the black guy” or whoever. And I didn’t want to write “types,” I wanted to write characters. I want to tell their stories. I still do. StarTrek and Ms. Goldberg’s story encouraged me to always look at my “cast” and make sure that there was a fairly even split of men and women–and if there wasn’t, it needed to make sense why. That if there were “colors” of skin in my book’s universe that they are shown–and not just in the background. That sexual diversity was shown. The cry for diversity rings loudly. Readers want characters that look like them, that they can relate to, but I don’t think anyone is really saying, “Every protagonist needs to look like me!” Though a few vocal white, cis-gender, heterosexual males are certainly coming close to that. I believe in listening to people, which means I also believe it is also important to answer the (sometimes-bitter) counter arguments with kindness and generosity of spirit. Counter Argument #1: So you are saying that I shouldn’t write all white or all male books? Maybe that’s my vision! People should write what they want to write. Just don’t be surprised when the market makes the final call. I would also add no matter what type of characters you write, you may find you end up with a different market than expected. An example of a terrific all male cast is John Carpenter’s 1982 version of The Thing. They are twelve guys in a small science station in Antarctica so they are cut off from the world. Sexual diversity is not mentioned. However, there is some racial diversity in the cast with Keith David as Childs and T.K. Carter as Nauls. All in all the cast did a great job. So if for whatever reason, if a non-diverse cast works, go with it. I think your collection of work shows your heart more than a single work. Counter Argument #2 Authors are just adding this stuff so they can be edgy. Really, you think authors care about being edgy? I don’t speak for every author, but I care about writing characters that make readers care and I care about finding readers. That’s it. Counter Argument #3: White people shouldn’t write/explore other cultures because either white people can’t understand it or it is cultural appropriation. For me this one is insidious, because I want to be an ally to others. To listen and tell stories. How do I get around this? First of all, I admit I’m a white American, cisgender, and heterosexual. I’m mixed European ancestry, a large chunk of that being Italian. This means I grew up with white privilege. This means there are things that happen I will simply not understand, I own up to that. Then I figure out what I do know. While I never feared the police would racial profile me, I know what if feels like to be afraid. While I don’t know what it is like for a homosexual young man to want to kiss a boy when all your life you are told you can only kiss girls, but I can imagine what that first kiss is like. Love, pain and isolation are part of the human condition. By admitting my ignorance of certain aspects of culture and then using my own experiences, I can research with an open mind. We all have the Internet at our disposal and we can take the time to do interviews. So, authors, no matter what your background, don’t fear writing about other cultures, but its important to research and write from a place of respect. Don’t rush the details, don’t force teachable moments, just do the work. Counter Argument #4: What’s the point of writing diversely, the cover artist is just going to make them white? So far, I’ve always done my own covers, so this hasn’t been a problem for me, but authors have agents and lawyers for a reason. Authors, make sure you have some authority in your cover. And if you don’t. Guess what we all have blogs. Use them, show your character sketch. Be proactive. Tell them what you want. Fans, if you want diverse covers: write, tweet, email publishers. Don’t just complain about it after the fact. And the Counter-Counter Sad Puppy Argument to #4. Why can’t a book with a spaceship on the cover just be about space adventure? Why does it always have to be out race or feminism or…? Science fiction authors have a long history about putting “second stories” into their worlds. George Orwell and Margret Atwood outwardly wrote/writes social science fiction, but Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and Joe Halderman also delved into issues with their stories. So I don’t know when these readers thought science fiction only focused on escapism. That being said, there are escapist stories. Just look for them. I’m sure a google search of “escapist science fiction” will give you somewhere to look. In the bookstore, ask the bookseller, don’t just look at the pretty picture on the cover, flip the book over and read the blurb. Open the book and glance at the first chapter. Online, Check out the reviews. Look at the sub genres. Authors create worlds. Sometimes the author will delve deep into the political or sociological issues of that universe, other times, not so much. I personally love to delve into issues with my writing, but not all my writing is about how I view the world. In closing, I think there is room for all types of science fiction and all types of science fiction fans. I don’t need to like every single book to be a fan, nor do you. We can have conviction and still be respectful. Please remember, that we’re are a community and behind every avatar is a person wanting their voice to be heard. (This post was originally published on my ZB’s Blog of Awesomeness.)
A utopian vision from a dystopian author
This post was originally published on my ZB Blog of Awesomeness. So I was getting stuck with new blog ideas. Since Other Systems and the upcoming The Light Side of the Moon are dystopian hard science fiction, a friend of mine challenged me to explain my vision of a utopia. Well, I accept that challenge, Sir. He thought it would be hard. I told him it’d be easy. I know what I believe and I take everything too seriously. I will describe my ideas honestly, however, I understand that not everyone will agree with me. You don’t have to. There are things I believe that I know my family disagrees with. Below are my opinions which were formed because I was born in a certain place and time, I was raised a certain way, and I love StarTrek. While many of the ideas I’m describing are in my work, this society I am describing is not in any of my books. *** Individual Rights: As an individual, you have the right to your person. No one owns anyone else. No matter who or how you are born, you have the right to choose your life in pursuit of your own happiness as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Whether you were born man, woman, pangender, or agender, all were born equal and able to pursue your own happiness. Whether your skin is peach, tan, chocolate brown, or blue, no one is born better or worse. As a species: humans will consider living as one’s authentic self, building something that matters, and helping our fellow humans the most important goals of life. But we share Earth with other species. We will live beside computers, androids, and other intellegent technologies, we will look toward the future. We will allow wild animals the freedom to roam in rich forests and green spaces. As we have domesticated animals for thousands of years, animals might still be kept as pets and livestock, but their lives would be treated with respect. Pets would be cared for with respect and dignity. Farm animals would live pleasant lives until they are harvested. Working animals (police and service dogs) will be treated well and have places of honor upon their retirement. Let’s look at some specifics. Education: From age 5, all children get to go a fully funded public school. Since this is my utopia, I am maxing class size at 10 students per 1 teacher. They will learn reading and writing in their home language, arithmetic, at least two foreign languages, art, music, science and technology. Somewhere in adolescence the focus will shift from general knowledge towards career knowledge. All adults will have the opportunity to find gainful employment in a chosen field of study. This means “Hey, I want to be an electrician?” There is a FREE school for that with a workstudy program that’s paid with a LIVING WAGE. Once finished, the school puts the student in touch with their local union and the union delegates job is to put me to work at a JOURNEY PERSON’s WAGE. They also make sure as technology changes there are opportunities to learn new tech. And as they advance in their careers they can make more money. Wait! Free Education! Does this mean that somebody can cheat the system and go from educational track to educational track without ever finding a real job? Yes. But I don’t think that would be the norm, because they could not succeed in any field if they didn’t take the next step to go on to journey person level. What happens when a child is born? In my utopia, each family will have 5 year of PAID Leave for childcare until child begins school. What if someone is passionate about their work or just isn’t sure they’d be good at childcare? Choose to take it as a credit to pay a nanny or pay Grandma. This can be for Moms or Dads. Or they can mix it up. Maybe, mom stays home for the first year, then dad stays home for the next, then they use the credit to pay for the nanny. It’s up to the family to decide. What about technology changes during the time off? Since education is free, parents are able to get the education they need to catch up! What if someone is taken ill or otherwise has a health problem that doesn’t allow them to work? In my utopia, medical care if free and they will be surrounded by members of their multigenerational home. If more care is needed, there is nursing establishments etc. Safety Net for Families: Baby won’t stop crying? Is your toddler bullying another kid at the playground? Are you just at your wits end with sibling rivalry? Is Grandpa is giving you advice that feels wrong? And you’ve read dozens of parenting blogs and everyone is saying something different? In my utopia anyone can just call CPS. Don’t worry, CPS isn’t punitive; a social worker will set you up with a family counselor, help you locate a capable babysitter, local pediatrician, or whatever you need to be a better, more productive parent. One thing the reader of this post will notice that I find a lot of wisdom in the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If we can solve problems early, we can cut crime and delinquency. Family Structure: Most families, whether by blood, marriage, or friendship, will live in multigenerational homes. Marriage: as long both people are consenting adults, in my utopia, nobody cares who marries who. However all marriages will start with a trip to the premarital counseling which includes the family members the couple are living with and leaving. Families will also discuss with mediators the distribution of wealth, children from prior marriages, other issues. If marriages need a tune up, marriage counseling is also available from CPS and other healthcare establishments. Wait… whose in charge then? No one. Or it is decided within the family. Personally, I have never met a married couple with an unequal relationship where at least one person did not resent the other. We are capable of love and respect and it is especially important in marriage. Divorce is hurtful to all involved. In my utopia, divorces will become rare, because of mutual respect and the work done in advance. Wait…Are you saying homosexuals get to raise children! Gasp! Yes. As long as they raise that child with love, tenderness, and care. Elder Care: The elderly will work as long as they can, perhaps changing jobs to something easier, then be given a living wage until death. Hopefully, their living wage will be supplemented with extras from family or friends in their multi-generational home, but if not, nursing homes with a caring and well-educated staff will also be available. Hospice care will fill everyone’s final days. Health Care: EVERYONE from birth to death gets universal free healthcare including nonjudgmental information on birth control and family planning. What about Vaccinations? In my utopia, they are required except for medical reasons. Abortions? In my utopia, they will be completely legal. (However my hope is with everyone having nonjudgmental family planning, they won’t be needed except in the most dire circumstances.) How are doctors paid? Handsomely by their medical establishment as their education and specialties dictate. Anything else? Yes, there will world-wide standardized forms in every language, so the average person can understand them and fill them out and medical records are easily transferable between hospitals. What, standardized forms! You can’t do that! Yes, I can. It’s my utopia, if you don’t like this you might want to skip the rest of this blog post. Assuming you are still reading, here we go: Exploration: We are a curious species. In order for us to continue to evolve, humans need to map every centimeter of Earth and we need space travel. In order to be able to afford it, we need a world-wide government (or at least a world wide coalition) Government: The overall government will be broken up by regional districts so everyone feels represented. The government will serve the people. All adults vote and their votes matter. To solve the problems we see in our current government, NO LOBBYEST GIFTS would be allowed. No free dinners. No free boats. Every campaign will be run on an itemized budget. It’s the age of computers! The IRS’s focus will shift from the individual taxpayer to corporate and campaign budgets. Measurements: The world would all be on the metric system (or another standardized system). The United States will stop holding out. Infrastructure: The world would make advancements in clean, renewable fuels from methane collection to solar power. Computer and communication technology will be available to all. Roads will be clear for society’s use. There would be many modes of transportation available. Houses and Buildings would be clustered together with use in mind, with open green space for everyone’s use. Park lands would be consider sacred. As my readers know, I’m pragmatic so let’s move on to Crime: Jail time and fines will be non-existent for misdemeanors—but community service based and focused on rehabilitation. Accidents will be dealt with by mediators and judges. If it is such a big mistake that one must be removed from society (murder, rape, assault with the intent to kill, etc.) the person will serve jail time. Even in jail, the person would be treated with personal dignity to ensure this Correctional Officers would receive proper education and training. Prisoners will see their families as long as the families want to see them. What about the family of a criminal? In my utopia, no one pays for the crime, except the criminal. You and your family will be given the needed care to help rebuild trust. Personal Weaponry: People can have handguns and riffles, BUT must be licensed which includes gun safety courses for the entire household. Also every gun comes with a safety pin or some sort of biometrics reader and a camera on it. (That way only authorized people can fire it and the camera can be used in case of accident or murder.) Civilian Police: The police would only use nonlethal weapons and ALL police must have cameras that would be allowed in court. They would also not fear reprisals for entering therapy and have plenty of personal time. Military: It’s a sad fact that even in StarTrek, Earth always need some kind of defense system. In my utopia, however, we will not need anyone to protect a nation against another nation, because with a world government comes world peace. We can serve the goal of world peace with space travel and education. This military would work hand in hand with private corporations and government agencies in order to train soldiers to develop non-lethal weapons, and the building of infrastructure, and space exploration. Distribution of Wealth: A true progressive tax system would be installed to pay for the social benefits above. With standardized forms and computers to tabulate data, information is cheaper than ever before. The wealthy will pay more than the poor, and all debt forgivable. Business Taxes: Other than cost of business expenses, other tax relief for corporations will be non-existent. Usury laws: While some debt (business debt, mortgages) is a constant, usury laws will be in place to protect the poor. 1 – 5 % would be standard. Religion: All the world’s religions would stop fighting over dogmatic differences and decide to act with respect of individual worship styles. If you believe God has something against pigs, don’t eat pork, but that doesn’t mean you can burn your neighbor’s pig farm. Taxing of Religions: If an individual church, house of worship, mosque, or temple turns a profit, and sits upon the profit then yes they should be taxed as a business. However these entities can forgo taxes by running as Non-Profit Charity and serving the needs of the people surrounding them. Well that’s pretty much everything I thought of. Challenge complete. Achievement unlocked. This started as my dearest, yet pragmatic, dream for humanity, so please everyone be respectful.
Quick Thought: Why So Many People Love Mad Men
“You’ll love the show, Matt,” an old friend once told me after the first few episodes of Mad Men had aired on AMC. “Some of the best story telling on television.” I nodded and smiled, telling my friend, “Sure. I’ll watch it.” But I never did. The show looked like a cliche’d period piece to me, and I had intentionally avoided it. As more episodes mounted up, however, the greater the pull to Mad Men became. My wife started watching reruns, and one morning I stumbled into the kitchen, with the aim of cooking some breakfast, and across the room I found my watch gazing at John Hamm’s Don Draper caring for his pregnant wife by warming up some milk for her. Something about the image of Don doing something so thoughtful and intimate while expressing a great deal of conflict and anguish over this seemingly benign act was undeniably striking. “What is this?” I asked. “Mad Men,” my wife said. “Have you never seen it?” I stepped to the couch. “What’s wrong with him?” “He has a really troubled past.” She went on to describe Don’s troubled and fascinating history. I sat next to her, and I haven’t stopped watching since. Matthew Weiner, Mad Men‘s head writer, show runner, and executive producer, once told the New York Times, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the show’s interpretations are inherently open. That the way he intended it to be read didn’t matter once the show aired since the content no longer belonged to him but to those viewing it. To do this well, Weiner layered his pieces with complex and consistent motifs that built coherent and relevant themes; he developed imperfect, flawed characters who struggled to do right by their loved ones while trying to temper their own selfish desires; he researched the various time periods to ensure not only accuracy but that elements of history would support aspects of the story. In layman’s terms, Weiner has succeeded in creating an original world that is believable and engrossing. It is a narrative dream devoid of structural flaws. In every way, Mad Men is pitch perfect storytelling illustrating one person’s version of beauty and truth, and while I’m truly excited for the premiere of the show’s final season, I’m as equally sad to see it go.
The Dividends of Solid Editing
Edit, edit, edit. Then edit some more. As an editor, I know the value of giving a second, third, or even fourth look to a piece of writing. After my debut novel, New York Dolls, was selected for publication by 48fourteen Publishing, I learned even more how valuable the editorial process is. The book went through more than four rounds of editing and revisions, and even by the third round, errors in continuity were still being spotted. Beyond the typos and grammatical errors and jumbles of syntax, tricky issues like a character wearing a black sweater on one page and a gray one a few pages later kept popping up—things I’d never noticed in the half dozen or so times I’d read, re-read, and proofed the book myself. That sweater situation loomed large deep into the editing rounds of New York Dolls. My main character, Denton Hodges, has a bit of a complicated relationship with her trusty sweater throughout the novel, making it a key component of the plot. Having it suddenly and mysteriously change colors from one chapter to the next would not be good. Where was the editor in me when I was writing those pages? After some creative re-workings of a few critical plot points, I resolved the issue, and Denton’s sweater was saved. Having a few extra pairs of eyes going through the manuscript early on proved to be invaluable. It made me more attuned than ever to checking for consistency in addition to grammar and typos. When you’ve written a book or a screenplay or anything creative, you’re too close to the material to be able to not only judge it impartially but notice what it’s missing or what’s mixed up in it. Whether it’s one or three editors, those extra layers of scrutiny really are needed to make your work shine.
Chemical Attraction’s Springtime Book Tour
Chemical Attraction’s Springtime Book Tour Stop by for a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card. Don’t forget to pick up your copies of the series on SALE for $0.99/each (reg. $4.99/each). Chemical Attraction’s Springtime Tour with Sage
Jordinia: A Reintroduction to the 5 Main Players
With the release of The Duchess Inheritance right around the corner (hopefully!), I thought it might be fun to refresh readers’ memories of the five main players in The Duchess Quest. For those who haven’t yet read the book, this may be a good primer to introduce you to the characters, and maybe entice you to learn more about them by reading the story. There are no spoilers in the following text, and most of the back story included takes place before the novel begins (or is revealed/implied in the opening chapters). So, with that – enjoy! Eludaine “Dainy” Ducelle Age: 18 Birthday: May 5 BACK STORY: Dainy is the eighteen-year-old lost Duchess of Jordinia. At age three, she was rescued from the royal family’s assassination by a rebel soldier who took pity on her. She was raised by her two foster “aunts,” Priya and Paxi, on the coast of Beili in a country called Heppestoni, where she helped them manage their ramshackle seaside inn. Neither of her caretakers were married, nor did Dainy have any marriage prospects while standing out as the only short, curvy white woman in a land of predominantly dark-skinned natives, so it was assumed that the girl would follow in her aunts’ footsteps as a spinstress and innkeeper. That is, until, her blood uncle learned of her survival and sent a brood of men to find her, offering her marriage hand as part of the reward! PERSONALITY: Readers have described Dainy as equal parts spunky/feisty and innocent/naive. At heart, she is sensitive, nurturing, sweet and upbeat, adventurous and playful. On the other hand, she has a tendency to be jealous, willful/stubborn and listless, especially when it comes to a certain someone she admires. She is not afraid to express her emotions and to love unconditionally. She is also a talented singer and hard worker. AUTHOR INSIGHTS: Dainy was raised by innkeepers because I have a dear friend who dreams of owning a bed-and-breakfast. This friend has always been a motherly figure towards me, so I wanted Dainy to be raised and mothered by a pair of women at an inn. When writing her as my heroine, it was important to me that I could relate to her strong emotions and self-expression. I am seldom interested in reading or writing about hard-edged, stoic heroines. Marley “Mac” Macmillan Age: 21 Birthday: October 11 BACK STORY: Marley Macmillan was raised alone with his mother, Marlena, in their secluded cabin the Knights’ Forest. His mother was reclusive, but also a very dynamic woman who taught him how to survive in the woods, read, write, play the strummer and sing. However, the young man longed to explore the world and discover adventure, as well as perhaps love, beyond the forest. When he saw the bulletin from Hessian Gatspierre enlisting men to search for his lost royal niece, Macmillan leapt at the opportunity. PERSONALITY: Mac is often the unsung sweetheart of the story, and the voice of reason. He is a goodhearted, upright boy, though can be a bit of a hothead. At his best, he’s loyal, supportive, sensible and unbelievably brave; at worst, he’s bitter, temper-prone and judgmental. He holds others to as high of an ethical standard as he holds himself. His age also affords him a degree of inexperience and boyishness, causing him to get carried away with unrealistic expectations of other people and the world. AUTHOR INSIGHTS: I’ve often said that, if I could hang out with just one of my characters for a week, I’d choose Mac. He’s easy to get along with, has a great sense of humor (if he likes the person joking with him), and is an overall nice guy. Jonwal “Jon” Cosmith Age: 27 Birthday: December 2 BACK STORY: Jon Cosmith grew up a troubled youth in the capitol of Jordinia when the New Republic recruited and trained him to work for Intelligence. He served as an agent in espionage for a time, until becoming disillusioned with his government’s financial corruption. Since abandoning his post, the man was not above stealing and lying to meet his needs. Due to his shamelessness and good looks, he has a long line of conquests and a formidable reputation among women. When he discovered Hessian Gatspierre’s bulletin, he was certain he possessed every wile it took to find the lost Duchess, woo her and, as such, get his well-practiced hands on her uncle’s gold (if not on her). PERSONALITY: Rogue, rake, Casanova… Jon Cosmith is as slimy as he is smooth, and so obnoxious, it’s charming. Coupled with a shrewd intellect, the man makes for a deadly enemy… or a surprisingly resourceful friend. The question is: which is he? I was once told by an interviewer that Cosmith made him want to throw his Kindle against the wall. But don’t be fooled by the relentless opportunism, sarcasm and unabashed innuendo… deep down, he has his reasons for being the way he is. And a heart – though perhaps hardened – still beats in that finely corded chest. AUTHOR INSIGHTS: Until my fifth manuscript (currently being penned), Jon Cosmith was my favorite character I’d ever written. Most readers are surprised by the degree to which I identify with him. The truth is, Jon and I think the same – the only difference is how we act! He does/says the things I think, but would never do/say. Writing a character with such a blatant lack of self-control was hilariously refreshing. The pronunciation of his full given name, Jonwal, is “Jon-vahl,” after Jean Valjean, as “Les Miserables” inspired much of my writing for the Jordinia duology – particularly Book 2. Boslon “Bos” Visigoth Age: 30 Birthday: August 15 BACK STORY: Boslon Visigoth was born in Dekantor, northern Jordinia, to a woodworking family. At age twelve, his parents, uncle and cousins were participating in a peaceful royalist rally when they were slain by invading rebels. Having been abandoned by his elder brother in addition, Bos was taken under the care of his widowed Aunt Fjelda. Like most in the north, he was disgusted by the rebels’ actions and remained loyal to the royal family, even after they were executed and the New Republic was instated. His happiest moment was discovering the little Duchess to be alive, and he would stop at nothing to find her, seeking no reward in return. PERSONALITY: Honor, loyalty and nobility are Bos’s prime concerns. One reviewer accurately described him as a “big brother type.” He will take the moral high road in any circumstance; as a result, he and Macmillan get along fairly well, while the pair cannot stand the likes of Cosmith. Bos is also a “gentle giant;” though powerfully built at 7 feet tall, he is slow to anger and avoids violence at most costs. AUTHOR INSIGHTS: Bos’s character is based off of my husband, who is 6 foot 9. Although my husband has a much better sense of humor than Bos, and isn’t as perpetually serious, they are both big, protective guys with blond hair and blue eyes. One thing I found interesting was that, while reading the books, my husband reacted to Cosmith’s character in much the same manner that the character of Bos did. Seluna “Selu” Campagna Age: 29 Birthday: July 4 BACK STORY: With her lithe gait and long violet hair, Selu wasn’t always a vagabond. But when her family was persecuted during the rebellion, she had to do what she had to do. When she was released from incarceration, she stole to survive, in hopes that the lifestyle wouldn’t last forever. Yet, things in Jordinia only seemed to get worse. When she came upon Gatspierre’s request to seek his royal niece, she was intrigued. The bulletin called for men only, but what was to stop Selu from disguising herself as one and seeking the fortune for herself? PERSONALITY: Selu is tough, self-sufficient and confident. She knows when to be witty, mysterious and seductive…so that she can then turn around and kick butt. As well, she is fiercely loyal and intuitive. She’s been through a lot and may surprise the reader. AUTHOR INSIGHTS: My sister calls Selu the “bad-ass” (funny, because some aspects of Selu are based off of my sister! Like the fact that they’re both strong, independent women). Where Dainy can tend to be a bit youthful and naive, Selu counterbalances it with her experience and a certain degree of jadedness. What I love most about Selu is her conviction and the fact that she’s not afraid to confront others. *** I hope you enjoyed reading this overview as much as I enjoyed writing it! Stay tuned for more with the release of Book 2.
Without Curtains Cover Reveal!
Here it is! The beautiful cover for my upcoming novel, Without Curtains. What do you think? WITHOUT CURTAINS Against her better judgment, eighteen-year-old Rebecca Douglas returns home to Clayton Creek. To the house where her mother was murdered. Where the Shadow—a monster with gleaming red eyes—haunted her dreams every night. All for the funeral of a man she stopped calling “Dad” a long time ago. To Rebecca’s surprise, her father left her a box of “personal items.” At first glance, it’s filled with old journals, family photos, and a dozen letters addressed to her that her father never sent. But things aren’t always what they seem. Rebecca has just inherited a few family secrets…and one murder mystery. As Rebecca seeks answers, she confides in an old friend—the handsome, complicated, unattainable, and…handsome Troy Adams. As the two grow closer to uncovering the truth, they also grow closer to one another, making the trip to Clayton Creek almost worth it. Almost… The Shadow has been waiting for Rebecca’s return. And he’s haunting more than her dreams. NOTE: This book is not the sequel to Foreshadowed.
The Light Side of Moon Update
As you can see from the title, this post is just to give folks a The Light Side of the Moon update. I originally published this over at my ZB’s Blog of Awesomeness. I know people are curious–I just received another message from a fan. This is what I can say: last Saturday, I awoke to a message in my email with my edited manuscript! Yesterday I finished going through all the comments and answered everything. Mostly, I like her suggestions. In the three editing passes of Other Systems, I was told over and over again to add more detail, I think this time, I might’ve added a bit too much. As I like to say, “On to new and better mistakes.” Maybe my next book will be just right. Today I accomplished two more steps During this edit, my editor suggested a short prologue. I’m still not sure about that, but I wrote it and she sent back corrections today. So I spiffied that up. And I received my French edits back. While the book is in American English, there are some colorful British, French, and German phrases too. It’s been ten years since I used French in actual conversation, but I didn’t do too bad. There was a few mis-conjegated verbs, a vous when tu would have been preferable, and one phrase that was a bit too young for the character, so I’m glad I had a pro look at the lines. (No matter what the language, I believe in accurate slang and had an expert look at each language.) My next step is to read the entire manuscript aloud, because that is how I find mistakes or things that just sound odd. Then I will send it back. Once I finish this edit, I will finish scheduling my summer events. While I can’t tell anyone exactly when the book is coming out yet, I received one question I can answer: The Light Side of the Moon will be released in multiple E-book formats and paperback and yes I will be doing some awesome science fiction drawing workshops over the summer at various King County Libraries. I will also be at World Con.
What’s in a pen name?
The following is a cross-post from my WordPress blog: I’ve recently been asked if C.K. Brooke is my real name, and/or why I use my initials instead of my first name (Caity). Answers: Yes and no; and because of J.K. Rowling, duh! Haha – just kidding. ‘C.K.’ are the initials of my first and last (married, not maiden) name. Not the result of a fondness for Calvin Klein (although I do love their perfume). And Brooke is my middle name (yes, after Brooke Shields). As you can see above, my first name has an unusual spelling that is not intuitive. As for my married surname, it is a 10-letter Polish name with ‘c’s and ‘z’s and ‘w’s and no one can say it, let alone spell it. So, ‘C.K. Brooke’ is a variation of my real name, and I use it not for privacy/secrecy reasons, but for plain old marketability. After all, it would be that much harder to promote a book if people struggled with pronouncing, writing and remembering the author’s name. At first, I wondered if I would regret not seeing my ‘real’ name printed on the cover of my books. But over the last several months, I’ve gotten so used to embracing C.K. Brooke as my professional identity, I don’t think twice about it anymore. I think it would be harder if I chose a fictitious name entirely, but because my pen name still includes elements of my given name, it’s still ‘me’ enough. In addition, no one else had it. Do you use your pen name or your real, legal name? What reasons do you have for doing so, either way? If you use a pen name, how did you create it? Have you tried both – and which do you prefer?
Revisiting old work
This is a response I posted to RL King’s 48fourteen blog. It’s an interesting chain. Read the entire conversation by clicking here. Jonathan Franzen, and I’m paraphrasing here, once said that he simply couldn’t read over his published work since he found so many things he wanted to change. Personally, like everyone else on this chain, I have a very difficult time reviewing my previously published fiction. My debut novel, for example, was printed before it was done in a very raw form. It was, essentially, a rough draft, and there are many, many mistakes throughout, including a first chapter that is slow, confusing, and simply too dark to draw readers in. After winning back the rights, I’ve cut the first chapter completely and have begun revising it to make it more marketable for a wider audience. I hope to publish it again under a new title. I made countless mistakes with that first book, but they all made me into a better writer. Currently, I’m working through edits on my follow-up with the 48fourteen editors, and I’m catching all sorts of missteps that I went right over my head the first time around. And I’ve learned that mistakes are not just okay but necessary. All we can do is write more to hone our craft in the hopes of one day becoming master storytellers. Writing does not have a clearly defined endpoint. It’s a lifelong process in which authors struggle to illustrate their outlooks on the world. And how does one perfectly encapsulate his philosophy through a creative narrative? By trying, again and again, until one day he gets it right.
Who do you write for?
When I was trying to publish The Duchess Quest as it originally stood, one of my best friends asked me what my purpose was: to write the book I wanted to write, regardless of all else, or to write something marketable that would get published? Of course, my answer was ideally both. But in time, I started to lean towards the latter. Especially because the market often reflects the desires of readers… including myself. Sure, I had written the initial 165,000 word draft to satisfy my writer-self… but as a reader, was it something I’d have wanted to read? I don’t have patience for long, dragging openings and endless chapters of expo and backstories. As the mother of an active two-year-old, my time and attention span is limited. I realized it was time to butcher the manuscript, not just to cater to agents and publishers, but to readers… including myself. Because at the end of the day, it’s really about providing quality and exciting material for readers – and of course, as writers, we are first and foremost readers ourselves. Of course, I think any writer at heart will still write, even if no one’s reading (or publishing). I’ve mentioned elsewhere that writing is as essential to me as eating or breathing. It’s a cathartic reflex and is how I make sense of the world. I primarily write because it’s just how I’m wired; I couldn’t stop if I tried. But the question of an audience and how (or if) to share a finished product inevitably arises. When you write, who do you write for? Yourself, the characters in your head who are bursting to come alive and the story within that’s begging to be told? The market or your publisher? Your fans and readers? I suppose my honest answer would be a solid blend of all of the above.
Quick thought: remembering an old fantasy series
When I was a kid, one of my favorite fantasy books was The Legend of Huma, a spinoff of the popular Dragon Lance series. In many ways, the novel served as a catalyst for my love of the fantasy genre, and I’m betting that there are many readers and writers out there who feel the same way. So when I stumbled upon Tor/Forge Book’s (an imprint of Macmillan) website and found a blogpost devoted to re-reading the original Dragon Lance series, I felt compelled to share it. Check out the full post by clicking here. Enjoy!
If I could go back…
I admit it. I read my own book. Not as a writer, but simply as a reader. I thought it would be weird, at least uncomfortable, but it wasn’t. But it did get me thinking, now that I read it as a reader, what did I think? I’m not going to review my own book, but if I could go back and change something, what would it be? My first response it that I would have my book start with chapter two and make the first chapter the prologue. And the people who were kind enough to leave a review would agree. I would not get rid of the first chapter, I felt it necessary, but as a reader, I felt the obvious starting point was chapter two. It is funny how I could not see that through all the countless edits, but I see it now. Maybe I would have changed the ending a little to allow for a sequel or trilogy, (a question pondered since the first draft), although I already know the route I will take if that ever happens. Also, I think I would have tried to add more romance. I read somewhere that a book is never finished, it is abandoned by the writer. The more I think about it, the more I disagree. I believed it once, however, now that I am older and wiser, I think that it is never abandoned, it is waiting for the writer to be ready. So I leave you with this question. If you are a writer, what would you change? -R.L. King Also, Happy Birthday to my mom!
aka Sylvia’s Bed & Breakfast
aka Sylvia’s B&B from The Chemical Attraction Series Yesterday I filmed snippets at The DeLano Mansion Inn (aka Sylvia’s B & B) for an excerpt video for Chemical Attraction. What a romantic place! Joe and Madeline from The Chemical Attraction Series fell in love there. I love using Allegan and its businesses as the settings to my series. To learn more about Allegan’s DeLano Inn, visit their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/DeLano-Mansion-Inn-Bed-and-Breakfast/446848575413
10 Facts You Didn’t Know About The Duchess Quest
Itching for more material while you wait for the sequel? Take a peek at some extra trivia about the making and inner-workings of The Duchess Quest. 1. The name “Dainy” was created when I misheard someone saying the name “Janie.” “Ducelle” is a reference to DuSalle, a family name (on my mother’s side). 2. The working title for the novel was originally The Search Party. Once I’d finished, I knew I needed to come up with something far less boring! 3. The first draft took less than three months to complete – including many sleepless nights and every weekend locked in my grandmother’s old bedroom – and was almost 700 pages long. From there, it required nearly a year of editing to become suitable for publication. 4. The original outline had Dainy romantically linking with a different character (I won’t say who, but you’re welcome to guess). One-third of the way into writing, however, my (and as a result, Dainy’s!) heart was unexpectedly stolen, and the whole story changed. 5. The first word in Chapter 1, “Inconceivable,” is a reference to The Princess Bride, one of the great fantasy/adventure films that very much affected the writing of this story. 6. Jon Cosmith was originally called Rex Harrington, in honor of my childhood crush on Rex Harrison in the classic film, My Fair Lady. When conceptualizing his character, I wanted him to possess the same sort of grating charm as Harrison, but with the moral ambiguity of a character like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. The name “Jon Cosmith” popped into my head while writing the initial chapters, and he ended up being even more delightfully obnoxious than expected. 7. All of the characters speak with British accents. No idea why; it’s just how I hear them in my head. 8. I’m often asked about my “dream cast”. While I try not to write with celebrity appearances in mind, Jim Sturgess fits the bill for Mac, and Christoph Waltz would make a killer Gatspierre. 9. If the main characters were sorted into Hogwarts houses, Bos and Dainy would be in Hufflepuff, Selu in Ravenclaw, Macmillan in Gryffindor, and Cosmith (no surprise) in Slytherin. 10. On my 24th birthday (August 19, 2013), I was one week into writing The Duchess Quest, and made a wish on my birthday candles that, by the same time the following year, the novel would be complete and contracted for publication. Exactly one year later, when I turned 25, I had two novels complete and contracted for publication! Wishes really do come true if you work hard and find a kick-butt publisher.
Foreshadowed Word Puzzles
I suffer from something called “procrastination.” So yesterday, after dropping my daughter off at school, instead of cleaning my house (it wasn’t that messy…I eventually got to it) or working on my novel (I’ll write today), I created word puzzles for Foreshadowed. Is that ridiculous? Or fun? Maybe ridiculously fun? Okay…probably closer to ridiculous. But, anyway, if you enjoy word puzzles and procrastinating, enjoy this Foreshadowed word search, and this Foreshadowed crossword. If you get stuck on the crossword, the answers are in the book.
When Lightning Strikes
A lot of my ideas for my stories actually come during small mental breaks in my daily routine. I will be scraping ice off my car window, doing the dishes, or grading science tests and suddenly zone out because I am hit by what will happen next in my newest story. Then comes the hard part…having to wait all day to get home and write it down when I have my hour of free time in the evening. I find that inspiration often comes when I least expect it, in little spits and spurts.
Writing from life
I have a pretty good imagination. And I don’t believe writers should restrict themselves to, “Write what you know.” Obviously, you should have a handle on the subject matter. You should draw from personal experience as well as thorough research. But it’s not like I’ve ever seen a ghost, fought off an attacker, and (using my novel Foreshadowed as an example), I don’t know what it’s like to hear/see other people’s thoughts. I write fiction. I make things up. And that’s okay. More than okay. But I definitely use my personal experiences to add some authenticity to my stories. Here are some examples, from Foreshadowed: 1) Gaming Hope, my main character, likes to play first-person shooting games. I am terrible at those. My husband likes those games and is pretty good at them. I’ve observed him, observed how the games work, and used what I’ve observed in the novel. That scene where Hope and Bryce are teaching Claire how to play, but she can’t figure out how to raise the gun, and her avatar just keeps spinning in circles? Yeah, that was based on the first time I tried to play Call of Duty. Personal experience. 2) Setting Foreshadowed takes place in the Tri-Cities, Washington. This is an actual place. Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco are three cities in eastern Washington near the Columbia River. I grew up in Kennewick, and now I live in Richland. I made up a few places (like the restaurant where Bryce works), but the high school, the Hanford site, and the alphabet houses are real. I know the setting, so it’s a lot easier to describe. 3) Headaches Lance gets headaches and sometimes migraines because of the accident. Hope gets headaches when there are too many thoughts around her and when she tries to read minds from a great distance. I haven’t been in as traumatic an accident as Lance, and again, I don’t read minds, but I am no stranger to headaches. They have been a part of my life since elementary school. I don’t have any proof (yet), but I believe they’re connected to a horse kicking me in the head when I was four years old. I get a lot of headaches, and frequent migraines. So I know how to describe them, I know how debilitating they can be, and I know how they affect moods. 4) Romance You don’t have to be in love to write about love, but it helps. It certainly helps me. There is a moment in the book when Hope says: His smirk turns into a grin, and it transforms his face. I bite down on my bottom lip as a wave of affection suddenly hits me—hits and drowns me. How did I not realize how much I cared about him before? This was sort of based on my real-life romance. On the outside, it looks like my husband and I had a whirlwind romance. We dated for a week before we started talking about marriage. A few weeks later, he officially popped the question. A few months after that, we were married. Yes, it was quick, but I still feel like the relationship sneaked up on me–and that’s what I tried to do with Hope and Lance. I didn’t want them to look at each other and know. I wanted her to slowly realize, little by little, that she truly, deeply cared for this boy. I was always aware of Chris. I was always happier when he was around. But I didn’t think I was interested in him. I was interested in someone else. Slowly, little by little, I started to realize I liked him. Then we started dating. The scene from above? It’s based on the moment I realized I was falling in love. We were sitting in the back of his sister’s car, driving to Sunday dinner at his parents’ house. It was my first time meeting his family. We hadn’t been dating very long. He had his arm around me. His sister had a mixed CD playing, and we were singing along and sort of dancing to the music. Waves of affection kept washing over me. I would look at him and think, “Wow.” And that was the moment I realized I was probably going to marry this man. It was good timing…because that was the night he told me he loved me.
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