Writing Process Blog Tour

Hello, friends! Last week my friend, Rob Smales, (http://www.robsmales.com/my-writing-process-blog-tour) invited me to participate in the world-famous Writing Process Blog Tour. He asked me to answer a series of questions about my process and to share them with all of you lovely people. I felt this would be a great thing to share, since beginning writers are so often trying to figure out how it works for other writers. The thing I would like you most to take away from this blog is that there is no right way. Whatever helps you put words on a page is a valid process. So, without further ado:

1. What am I working on?
I am working on two novels right now. One is an urban fantasy called Blue, which is about a young girl with Christ-like powers who runs away from an abusive home and finds out the world is even weirder and fuller of magic than she realized. The second is the as-of-yet untitled third to my Knight of Avalon series, a New Adult fantasy series about a half-fairy girl and her fight for equality on the Island of Apples.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think the most ‘different’ aspect of my work is the way I present the magic. In Urban Fantasy, magic is often hidden from ‘normal’ people. In my work, magic is an everyday aspect of modern life. Avalon is a sovereign nation, the Fey have an embassy in Los Angeles, and there is a customs office on the border between Earth and Faerie. I strongly believe there is magic in everything, and it is plain to see if a person is looking for it. My work reflects that.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I think there is powerful metaphor in fantasy fiction. Fantasy writers are free to comment on the state of our society more openly than other writers. If I make racism and homophobia an Elvish problem, no one feels accused, but he does stop to examine the workings of his own beliefs.
4. How does my writing process work?
I can’t lie; my writing process is deeply inefficient. It starts out with a flash of inspiration. I usually only see a character, or possibly a piece of scenery. For example, with Knight of Avalon, the flash was a wounded Faerie creature stumbling into a YMCA on a stormy night. With Blue, it was a young girl with purple tips in her hair running away from home, and the knowledge that the girl could heal with the touch of her hand. I usually stay up too late on those nights when inspiration strikes, writing on whatever surface I can touch; maybe it’s in a notebook with a pen, maybe it’s on a bunch of coffee filters.
I then hammer out a rough draft. That usually takes me a while, because every time I try to make an outline, I fail miserably. The story is as likely to die during birth as to actually reach draft form if I write an outline. So instead I just write things down until something sticks, pantster-style. That involves a lot of back-tracking and rewriting, a lot of re-reading to get back into the proper mood. It sounds like a bad plan, but after twenty years of writing, it’s what works best for me.
I have also realized that I need constant feedback to stay on track. I belong to two different writer’s groups, and they read every chapter for me. It is usually better if I have something rough before I begin workshopping, so I get as far into the draft on my own as I can. They help me with editing, proofreading, and things I can’t provide for myself.
When I have finished the rough and workshopped the whole thing, I then select a handful of beta readers. They read the whole book, and then when I have their feedback, I rewrite. The re-writing can take a while. I re-write until the book gleams. Then it’s off to the publisher for a professional edit, and I start something else. The least amount of time this process has ever taken is six months, and the most is thirteen years. The length of the work is a factor in the time frame, as well.

If you are still curious about writing processes and how they work, please tune in next week to three more lovely writers:

Dawn Colclasure is a writer who lives in Oregon. Her articles, essays, poems and short stories have appeared in several newspapers, anthologies, magazines and E-zines. She is the author and co-author of twenty books, among them BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents; 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat The Block Tips to Turbo Charge Your Creativity; Love is Like a Rainbow: Poems of Love and Devotion; On the Wings of Pink Angels: Triumph, Struggle and Courage Against Breast Cancer; and the children’s book The Yellow Rose. Her website is at http://dmcwriter.tripod.com/.
And here is her blog:

http://dawncolclasureblog.blogspot.com/

Author, Ruth J. Burroughs, has been writing science fiction since elementary school after reading Dodie Smith’s, The Starlight Barking, the sequel to the more famous spotted dog story.

After reading poetry in Albany New York’s summer open mike events Ruth was invited to read her science fiction at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s WRPI 91.5. She received an Honorable Mention at Speculation’s Rumor Mill for her micro story, Zombie Bouillabaisse, which was later published on Macabre Cadaver Magazine as a reprint. Her blog is here:http://mareimbriumdowns.wordpress.com/about/

And finally, L.M. David has been writing novels since Jr. High School. Originally drawn to the genre of Science Fiction, she later developed a deep fascination with paranormal/urban fantasy/romance, attracted to the dark erotic world of vampires that sparked a deep interest with the folklore and legends of the undead.
L.M. David is an avid reader and when not writing, she builds computers, quilts, and makes jewelry. She has worked as a legal assistant and now as an insurance medical biller and coder. Although born in New Jersey, her family relocated to California and she now considers herself a Southern Californian. http://lmdavid54.wordpress.com/

Thanks for reading!

Review of Queen Morgana and the Renfairies, By Teel James Glenn

There was a time, long ago, when the land of Faerie and the human realms stood open to each other. Anyone who desired it badly enough could cross. But Morgana, the queen of the Fairies, has had her heart broken one too many times. The best way to protect herself from the pain of loving mortal men is to close the ways between the worlds. If both worlds have grown a little darker because of it, that’s not her problem. A least her heart is safe.
Of course, even a creature as powerful as Morgana cannot close them all—at Renaissance Faires, a place where the Fair Folk are so desperately desired, the ways can be opened by an (un)lucky few. Someone powerful knows it, and plans to use that knowledge to change the worlds forever…
This book was a hilarious mix of film noir and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a few fun trips to the Ren Fest thrown in and even a little sidetrack into Tijuana for the stout of heart. It was poignant in places but always entertaining. I recommend it for adult fantasy lovers with bawdy senses of humor. Enjoy!
Queen Morgana and her minions are available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Queen-Morgana-And-The-Renfairies-ebook/dp/B0079UVRXI/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
And Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/queen-morgana-and-the-renfairies-teel-james-glenn/1109114228?ean=9781611602340

Review of Watergirl, By Juliann Whicker

Only in high school can a girl be nicknamed based on her phobia of water.
When Genevieve was a little girl she nearly drowned, and she has been dreaming of death under water ever since. Naturally, the sensitive souls at her school call her Watergirl in honor of her greatest fear. But that’s not the only thing about Gen that makes her feel like an outsider: she has a strong, uncontrollable obsession with the school’s handsome quarterback, Cole. Thanks to his constant snubbing and awful girlfriend Sharkie, Gen has decided to move on to some of the more attainable fish swimming in her particular sea. While she’s at the self-improvement, she’s also decided to learn how to swim. There’s a handsome new boy at school named Oliver, and he seems like just the sort of person to help with her backstroke and help her get over her desperate crush.
It’s not long before Gen realizes there’s something unusual about Oliver, as well the swim team’s ice- king of a captain, Sean. Could they have some connection to her ability to sing so powerfully she loses consciousness, or to the monster that lives in the lake and seems to protect her from her own watery death wish? And is Sean’s mother really as murderous as she seems?
This book was full of round, interesting characters and constant intrigue. It was an easy read, without much to make it inappropriate for young teens. If you like (clean) paranormal romance with a twist, this is the book for you!
Watergirl is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Watergirl-Juliann-Whicker-ebook/dp/B00ESNCWJ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394219260&sr=8-1&keywords=watergirl
and Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/351358

Announcing…

Hi all! I just wanted to take a minute to let everybody know that The Storm Prince is now available through fine ebook retailers everywhere! This is the second book in the Knight of Avalon series, a companion novella to Lady of the Veils. It can be found on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Storm-Prince-Knight-Avalon-ebook/dp/B00I5ZF7GO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393319108&sr=1-1&keywords=The+STorm+prince
At Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-storm-prince-m-l-john/1118427521?ean=2940148133353
At Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/403860
And last but never least, at my publisher’s website: http://www.gypsyshadow.com/MLJohn.html#SPrince

I would love it if you’d take a look. Thanks for reading!Storm-Prince-Cover

The Storm Prince will be released February 1, 2014!

The Storm Prince will be released February 1, 2014!

Beriani Quintinar, the youngest son of Faerie’s High king, is brilliant, beautiful, and spoiled as only a prince of the Sidhe can be. He has committed an unforgivable sin—he has fallen in love with the half-human daughter of a traitor. When ogres conquer Avalon and execute his father, he must convince the treacherous Queen of Summer to give him troops enough to win back his homeland. But if he makes it home, what kind of king can he be when he has already committed treason?

A defiant prince of Faerie fights to retake his homeland and uphold the ideals for which his father was executed. The Storm Prince, by M. L. John, coming soon!

Review of Certainty, by Eileen Sharp

Last Week I read Certainty, by Eileen Sharp. It is a YA paranormal romance about a boy named Ren Tanaka. Ren has just moved from California to the east coast. Though he may seem to be little more than handsome and charming, Ren has a secret he can’t tell anyone-he can see the future. The moment he meets MacKenzie from two doors down, he knows two things about her: she will be his wife someday, and her little brother is in grave danger.
This book was very sweet, more romance than paranormal. The characters were very real to me. I spent quite a few pages crying over their fates. I don’t read a lot of romance, but this made me think of love the way I did when I was Ren and Mackenzie’s age. It felt so full of possibility here, so clean and good. Ren’s powers, when they did come into play, were very realistically used. He is afraid of himself and what he can do, but he still manages to love people for who they will grow in to. I wish there was a way I could see into Ren and MacKenzie’s future the way they see into their own. I know they’ll grow into fascinating people.
The story and the telling deserve five stars, in my opinion, but there were a few things to point out for readers to whom these things are important. There were some continuity errors, like Steve’s name being exchanged for Ryan sometimes. The grammar was good, but in some places this book could have used a second set of eyes. Even so, I am glad I read it and I would recommend it to any person who enjoys a really sweet YA romance.

You can find Certainty at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Certainty-Eileen-Sharp-ebook/dp/B004S7AL96/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387230670&sr=1-1&keywords=certainty

Rough Drafts, Fair and Foul. Final Installment.

We have, at long last, reached what I hope will be the rough draft of the first chapter I am keeping. (Please imagine trumpets here, or something. I feel like I deserve trumpets after this many drafts.) After this I may rearrange lines or paragraphs, alter sentences, send it through a workshop, et cetera, but I will not be rewriting it. I’m done with that. Finished! Caput!

Sounds like a firm decision, yeah? You may even be asking yourself, why this one? The fact of the matter is I could probably keep rewriting this single chapter for the rest of my life. There comes a point where making the decision to stick with a draft is not so much a matter of good writing vs. bad writing as it is a matter of courage vs. cowardice—am I doing eternal rewrites because I’m scared? I would like to deny it outright, but I can’t. My first book, Lady of the Veils, met with limited critical success. There have been times when I was worried its follow-up would not be as successful. How many times have you read a review that said, I loved the first book in this series, but the second one is terrible? Not even blockbuster hits are immune to this. I read that about The Hunger Games a week ago. That’s a lot of pressure for a writer.

Now that The Storm Prince has been accepted by Gypsy Shadow, maybe I feel as if that fear has been defused a bit-the second book, even though it is just an expansion of the first book, is already set to hit the presses. Good, bad, right or wrong, it’s out of my control. Maybe that book gives me the courage I needed to finish this one. Whatever it is, I feel confident in this chapter. Now all I need is a title. And, you know, all the other chapters besides the first one.

Even so, I would love to hear some feedback from readers. Since this will be my last first draft, I need to make it as wonderful as possible, so if you have any ideas I would love to hear them.
For your reading pleasure, the final first draft.

Chapter 1

Karen MacGregor shifted from foot to foot and rubbed her palms against the scratchy lace of her skirt. The weight of fear bowed her shoulders and made a cold knot in her belly. The people outside the courtyard screamed their epithets for her. The high walls of the palace muffled their words, but not enough. Hate, it turned out, carried.
A heavy hand rested on her shoulder and she looked up. Geordie Harris wore the midnight blue uniform of the Royal Guard. A man the size of a small mountain, Harris’ tattoos swirled across his bald scalp. His expression was ever-tranquil. When they split up this morning, he wore leather both scuffed and grimy. Now, his massive chest and shoulders gleamed with medals and silver cord. A tooled scabbard hung from his belt, the pommel of his ceremonial sword jutting from it. If the hollows of hunger and stress shadowed his cheekbones, they could be overlooked in favor of his splendid clothing.
“You’re screwing up your dress, Mac,” he rumbled. “You want to go out there with sweaty lace?”
Karen looked down at her dress as if she had never seen it before. When she last checked her reflection half an hour ago, she loved her clothes. Her dress was blue satin with a lace overlay. The sleeveless bodice clung, and the skirt flared out to just above her knee. She had paired it with silver, peep-toe flats and tied her hair in a twist that almost tamed her wild curls. She had even put on a little make-up, tinting her lips pink and darkening her eyelashes. When she spoke her words shook. “I’m scared, Geordie.”
“Don’t try to sell me that. You’ve never been scared of anything in your life. There’s no room for fear in a body as little as yours.”
Shaken as she felt, she smiled. “I’m not a Chihuahua.”
Harris shrugged. “Could have fooled me.” She elbowed his side.
The air in the south courtyard smelled of unseasonable magnolia blooms and pine. The grass grew in a luxurious carpet and the hedges that hid the security wall from view were clipped to perfection. A cherry tree drooping with fragrant blossoms shaded a bench of carved stone. Karen stepped off the path and sat, smoothing her skirt under her.
The ogre occupation had not been good for the garden. When Karen had first made her way through after retaking Avalon, it was a tangled jungle of climbing roses and ivy. Irises hid among the overgrown grass, peeking out like feral children. A body with swollen hands floated in the Koi pond. Now, after an army of gnomes with pruning shears had done battle with entropy, it was suitable for a royal ceremony.
From the other side of the wall, a high-pitched voice screamed loud enough to be heard over the angry rumble: “Filthy half-breeds! Our kingdom is defiled!”
Karen flinched. She should be angry instead of afraid, shouldn’t she? She should fight back, because she had made herself into a person who fought back. She had learned to fight, to stand tall and take up her space. So why did she feel so small? Why was she so afraid, not that the racists outside would harm her, but that they were right? What if her humanity really was a spreading, fatal virus and the best thing she could do for everyone involved was to fade from sight and leave them all alone?
Geordie swallowed. For the first time it occurred to her he might be as hurt as she. Though his shoulders could hold a world still if they had to, Harris had grown up the same as she, half-Fey and unwelcome in a land that called their births treason. Maybe the noise of Avalon’s prejudice was loud enough to make even him feel small
“What time is it?” Karen asked.
Geordie glanced at his watch. “A minute later than the last time you asked.”
“Dave is going to be late.”
“Probably,” Geordie agreed. “He usually is.”
A door slammed against a wall, and they both startled as they looked toward the palace. Harried, David Thoreau dashed toward them, still shrugging his uniform jacket on over his white shirt. He had skin the color of light chocolate and curls cut very close to his scalp. His eyes were golden and sharp as an eagle’s, though now his face was more concerned than intense.
“Am I late?” he gasped, accent thick with Texas.
“Not yet,” Geordie said. He slapped Dave’s shoulder hard enough to make the smaller man dance for balance. “Lookin’ good, son.”
Dave regained his composure and granted them a wide, white grin. “Yeah. It hurts to be this fine, but somebody has to do it.”
Karen laughed. “We’re all very grateful for your sacrifice.”
Thoreau raised both eyebrows in her direction. “Damn. You’re almost attractive in that outfit, Mac.”
Karen snorted, then hoisted her middle finger in a gesture with which they were all familiar. “I’ll never look as pretty in a dress as you.”
Thoreau didn’t take the bait. He spoke to Geordie as if she could not hear him: “She even painted her fingernails. It’s like she thinks she’s a girl.”
“She’s a girl who’s going to bust you in the face,” Geordie said.
Thoreau threw his arm around Karen’s shoulders and rubbed his knuckles across the top of her head. Karen squealed and bit him. Dave jerked away, shaking his wounded hand.
“Ow! What’s wrong with you?”
“Don’t mess up my hair,” Karen panted. “Geordie, does it still look okay?”
Laughing and shaking his head, Geordie said, “Imagine you two jokers as knights. Jesus.”
A throat cleared, and the three half-Fey looked up. A page in blue livery bowed from the waist and announced, “The time is come, gentles.”
The three straightened and sobered. Karen stood, brushing imaginary wrinkles from her skirt. They were about to make history. Or they were about to die in a hate crime, which would, come to think of it, also be pretty historic given the circumstances.
They followed the page down a shaded path that curved past a wide lawn. Chairs were arranged on it in rows. Roughly a hundred people stood as Karen and the others appeared. Cameras flashed, light brief and dazzling despite the sunny day. She scanned the crowd and located her family: her brother Julian, his fiancée Dahlia, and her parents sat in the first row. Dad nudged Julian and grinned from behind his auburn beard. Mom tipped her chin up, green eyes shining with…could those be tears? Dahlia waved. Karen smiled back and flapped her hand near her hip, hoping it was too subtle for the reporters to notice.
Four wide, shallow steps led to a clear pond. At the top of these steps stood a group of Sidhe, luminous and graceful, three male and one female. Each was tall and slender. They, too, wore dark blue with silver accents. Jewels glinted from fingers and throats. Intricate braids twisted their long hair, and their faces were serene.
A long line of Royal Guards in the same dark-blue uniforms Dave and Geordie wore flanked the nobles. Physically, each was different from the rest, but their identical proud stances and fierce expressions made it clear they were a unit. Karen looked away from them. She knew what they must be thinking of her. Half-Fey can never be real knights. She wondered if they were right.
High King Beriani Quintinar stood in the center of the top step, dressed in his blue robes of state. The platinum of his crown bound pearl-colored braids and his skin glowed with a faint bioluminescence that was almost invisible by daylight. Tear shaped sapphires dripped from the earlobes of his delicately pointed ears. His lips were full and his eyes were storm-cloud gray. He held a thin sword of silvery metal.
Karen drew a breath and found she couldn’t release it. He was not beautiful. He was as terrifying as an Old Testament angel. Had he looked like that when he kissed her forehead goodbye this morning? He had seemed more…familiar then. He had also been wearing less clothing. Maybe that was the difference.
The king’s voice carried over the distant sound of chanting and the rustling of fabric, clear and bright as a trumpet’s note. “Kneel, Geordie Harris, David Thoreau, and Karen MacGregor.”
For a second, Karen’s knees froze and she found she couldn’t bend them. She had been knighted once before by the late Lord of the Host, and she had not been asked to kneel then. Prince Rhyn had taken control of her body and forced her onto her knees at his feet. Dave tugged her hand and she remembered how to work her legs. She lowered herself to the ground.
“Geordie Harris.” Beri’s voice still held its resonant, clarion quality. Was that tone magic or court training? “You have lent your sword in our attempt to retake our homeland from those who would usurp us. You have valorously risked life and limb in service to the High Throne. Do you swear, here before these assembled nobles, to do so until your mortality takes you?”
Karen swallowed. He had changed the words. If he were knighting a Fey, he would say do you swear to do so always?
“I do so swear,” Geordie said, voice so low Karen could hear it vibrating in the ground under her knees.
She looked sideways at her kneeling friend as the king placed the flat of his blade against first one of Geordie’s shoulders, then the other. Geordie’s eyes squeezed shut, as if he was afraid the sword might slip and he didn’t want to watch it happen. A lump formed in Karen’s throat. She thought of Lillia, the long-faced girl who had loved Geordie and died in his arms. There was nothing Karen wouldn’t give to see Lillia’s face in the crowd beside her own parents. Maybe ghost stories came true in Faerie, and Geordie’s fiancée was somehow there to see this even without her body.
“Arise, Sir Geordie, Knight of the High Court,” the king said.
Karen looked back down. Beside her, the words began again.
“David Thoreau. You have lent your sword in our attempt to retake our homeland from those who would usurp us. You have valorously risked life and limb in service to the High Throne. Do you swear, here before these assembled nobles, to do so until your mortality takes you?”
Dave’s voice was hoarse, as if he, too, had come near tears. “I do so swear.”
“Arise, Sir David, Knight of the High Court.”
In Karen’s peripheral vision, Dave stood. She could see nothing but the hem of his pants and the high gloss on his black shoes.
Suddenly, the edge of the robe was in front of her. Karen’s heart kicked into overtime.
“Hey,” the king whispered. Karen looked up to find him smiling at her. He had a gorgeous smile, full of perfect teeth and affection. “Are you well? You look as if you are about to be ill.”
Karen swallowed. “I’m scared, Beri.”
He raised an eyebrow. “And when did you learn how to be afraid, when you have never known before?”
“I don’t know,” Karen said. Where did these people get the idea she was fearless? “Everything. The people outside. The people up there.” Myself. I’m not ready for this. I’m not a real knight; I’m just a half-human girl with a sword.
Beri’s face was so bright with pride it lifted her and calmed her all at once.
“You are worth an army of them,” he said. “Are you ready? Or are you going to back out like a sissy?” The word ‘sissy’ did not translate well into High Fey, so he used English instead.
“I’m not backing out.” She said it even as she decided. “Just get it over with.”
He raised his voice again, so it carried away from her and out to the surrounding crowd. “Karen MacGregor. You have lent your sword in our attempt to retake our homeland from those who would usurp us. You have valorously risked life and limb in service to the High Throne. Do you swear, here before these assembled nobles, to do so until your mortality takes you?”
Karen swallowed and looked up to meet his eyes. “I do so swear.”
A frightened cry rose behind her like a startled bird and Karen spun, still crouched at Beri’s feet. Julian stood, leaning heavily on his new cane and pointing to a spot on the wall. “Karen!” He shouted “Eleven o’clock!”
Light caught the silver metal hidden among the hedges. A gun’s report thundered off the garden walls. Beri dropped onto the top step. Karen shrieked. The world screamed around her, voices climbing in a confusing cacophony. She threw her body over his as cover and her mind jabbered: too late, too late.
Beri groaned; she oriented on his face. His lips peeled away from his teeth with pain.
“Where are you hurt?” Karen asked.
“Belly,” he gasped.
Karen drew away from him. She couldn’t see the color of his blood against the blue robes, but moisture spread further across his abdomen with every heartbeat. Her dress was wet, too, and clung to her. Beri’s white fingers, speckled with red, knotted in her skirt.
Hard fingers grasped her bicep and yanked her up. Karen resisted even as she realized a wind sprite in a blue uniform held her. His skin shifted color like the rainbows on the surface of an oil slick and his mouth was a hard line.
“Come away, Lady,” he said.
“No! I-“
“You are not a medic. You are a knight. Come away.”
“But-“
The sprite clutched both of Karen’s arms, hard enough to hurt. “The shooter, Lady. Healers aid the wounded. Knights apprehend shooters.”
His words cut through her panic. People ran around them, hid under chairs. Knights attempted to scale the wall with only the hedges for handholds. Karen ripped open the Veils and yanked her sword back through. Before the wonder on the sprite’s face could fade, she opened another way. Hard wind picked up as she did, tugging at her hem and the other knight’s immaculate silver cords.
“I’ll be right back,” Karen said. The Way glittered before her like a piece of star-specked night, and she stepped into the spangled darkness.
She held all her destinations in her mind even as she traveled. The first step through the Veils brought her to a park in California. She stayed just long enough to see honeyed sunlight filtering through a lacework of leaves before she opened another Way back to Avalon. The noise hit her first. The protesters still shouted at the wall and waved their insulting signs, but a few closest to where Karen opened her Way fell back with startled squawks. Karen went up on her toes, straining to see over the sea of heads. There, only a few yards ahead of her, was a person using the butt of his rifle to beat his way through the mass of bodies.
She thought he’ll be gone by the time I get through, and without another moment of hesitation dove into the crowd.
“Excuse me!” Karen cried, voice strangled by the hot press of bodies around her. “Please, this is an emergency!”
She flung out a sharpened elbow, then stomped an instep. Someone cried out with injury, and suddenly she could see a way through the press. She barged into the negative space created by their movement and found herself on the broad marble steps at the front of the palace. Ahead, down the cobbled road, a person with a gun ran from her.
She could chase him, but it was obvious from his long-legged stride she wouldn’t catch him. She was fast in a fight, but being five feet tall had its disadvantages. Instead she tore open another Way and placed herself at the mouth of an alley at the base of the hill. As the wind from her casting died, the gunman sprinted toward her. Karen crouched, and when her prey passed she tensed and leapt. They tumbled over each other, sliding against the sidewalk as people dove for cover. The gun skittered into the street. A civilian shouted alarm.
They landed; Karen had clawed her way on top. The world went red with her fury and she drove her fist into the gunman’s face, then again. His nose crunched under her fist. She realized she had broken her knuckle open on one of his teeth and stopped.
“Who sent you?” she snarled.
“My master wishes me to deliver a message.” He spoke English, his voice breathy and hollow, as if he were standing at the bottom of a very deep hole.
For the first time, Karen calmed enough to get a good look at the shooter’s face. His nose listed sideways, but the only blood smearing his skin came from her hand. He was human, with tawny hair expensively cut, and he wore a Western-style suit with a blue tie. His skin was pasty, almost gray, and his gums were mottled. He smelled of antiseptic.
“Who’s your master?”
“The only master there is. Death.”
Karen sucked in a breath even as her skin rose into hard bumps.
“The Master says you have broken the world by allowing life to a dead thing. Give him back, or we will dismantle this city marble slab by marble slab.”
Allowing life to a dead thing. There was only one person she knew who had ever come back from the dead. Her hands shook. She buried them in the gunman’s shirt, pulling him up to meet her gaze. Something dark rode his breath; his cloudy eyes did not focus on her. She knew he was listening anyway.
“You go back to Hell and tell that arrogant bastard he’s already been paid. Quay died to save Beri. No one owes him anything. Do you hear me? We’re even!”
The gunman nodded his understanding, then his head sagged backward and his eyes rolled up behind his eyelids. Karen released his shirt and the back of his skull thudded against the sidewalk.
“Hey,” Karen said. “Hey, are you all right?”
The gunman didn’t respond. She reached around for his wrist to check his vital signs and found his skin cold and rubbery. There was no pulse. The certainty that she straddled something long-dead flooded her. Appalled, Karen jumped away from him and skittered backward until she bumped into a car parked against the curb.
Only then did she wonder what the talking corpse meant when he said we.

Review: M.A Ray’s The Saga of Menyoral: Hard Luck

Today’s review is of M.A Ray’s debut novel, the Saga of Menyoral: Hard Luck. The main character is Dingus, a sixteen-year-old boy with extraordinarily bad luck. Not only was he born a half-breed in a racist backwater, but he has a tendency to lose his temper in a spectacular way. It would be better for Dingus if he could keep his head down-an ability which he quickly proves he does not possess. He only survives a lynching due to the interference of Sir Vandis Vail, a famous knight with orders from a goddess to make poor Dingus his squire.
I enjoyed Hard Luck more than anything I’ve read in a while. It reads like an extended beginning, which makes sense because it is the first book of what sounds like it will be a pretty long series. Even so, it kept my interest: the characters were as real as people you’d meet on a bus, even the ones that could fly. There was just a hint of the epic battle to come, but there was enough to keep me rooted in place. I read the whole thing in two sittings and wished I had more.
This book was a solid beginning and a riveting debut. If you have time for a well-written fantasy epic in your life, Hard Luck is for you. Five stars here.

You can find Hard Luck at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H5IPASW

Review of Daughter of Mythos, By Melissa Drake

I recently finished reading “Daughter of Mythos,” by Melissa Drake. This book is a YA fantasy about a girl named Nora with a mysterious past and an uncertain future. Nora is a foster kid, but she has a bigger problem than most: whenever she gets comfortable in a new home, something terrible happens. An unseen force tears her new home apart, leaving Nora to clean up the mess. Usually, that involves moving to yet another foster home, trying to integrate into another new school, and trying to build a life with people who really don’t trust her. When it happens again, she’s off to yet another new home, but this time, something is different. The people here know she is something different. Something special.
It isn’t long before Nora has a quest before her: She will travel through a new world, be dogged my demons and wicked sorcerers, and she will be asked to perform tasks she thought impossible. Along the way, she might fall in love, she might make a new friend, and she might even die. Who knew growing up could be so uncertain?
This book was fun and fast-paced, and the beginning immediately drew me in. The story was interesting throughout, and I kept reading until I got to the end because I wanted to know what happened next. The editing was good and the plotline was easy to follow. It took me a while to read this, though. I think it was because there was a lack of depth: description, dialogue, and character. We are left to make assumptions about creatures and lands we have never seen. We are told Nora is fighting demons, but we are never really told what demons are; what they look like, sure, but not why demons are present in a world that is more Fantasyland than Hell. Mythos is beautiful and has a purple sky, but beyond that I never really got a good image of it in my head. All relationships were a little thin, a little surface-only—I never connected with anyone, even when Nora did. Because of this, emotional impacts didn’t hit as hard as one might hope, and I repeatedly put the book down. In short, this book was not true love for me, but it was true like.
I am giving this book four stars because it was entertaining and I think kids would really enjoy it. My son (who is ten) picked up my Kindle and was hooked. Mythos is a safe world for him to read with Melissa as his tour guide. I have recommended it to a few different young readers. So if you are looking for something light and good fun, you’ll like Daughter of Mythos.

To purchase, please visit Melissa Drake at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Mythos-Melissa-Drake-ebook/dp/B00DZDRJ94/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386274699&sr=8-1&keywords=daughter+of+mythos

Rough Drafts, Fair and Foul, Part 4

At this point, you are probably wondering how many of these drafts I have written. I honestly cannot answer that. It is definitely tens, maybe hundreds. Don’t worry, I have no intention of posting twenty-seven drafts of the same chapter, even if they DO exist. But there are five major revisions, and of them, this is nearly the last. This series will complete next week with the draft I intend to keep. Yay, nearing closure! But in all honesty, I am still posting these long after everyone is bored because I am trying to prove a point: if you are the type of writer who rewrites everything  a million times before it makes you happy, you are not alone.

If you are a fan of George R.R. Martin, you are aware that his sixth book has been awaited by fans for years. Every time he is questioned on it, he roars, “IT’LL BE FINISHED WHEN IT’S FINISHED!” Some of his fans probably think he is stalling from sheer wickedness, but you and I know better, don’t we? George is what’s called a ‘revisionist,’ or if you are a hater, a ‘pantster.’ What that means is that the story reveals itself to him as he writes, changing as it goes. He writes ‘by the seat of his pants,’ if you will. When it does change, it becomes necessary to go back and revise the beginning to match the new storyline. Stephen King is another famous version of the revisionist, though I mostly credit his productivity to his beloved wife, Tabby. Seriously, it’s probably a lot easier to write a book a year when you have someone to wrangle your children and cook your dinner. Not even lying, I wish Tabby King would come be my wife for a while. My husband might have something to say about it, but she would be a big help.

I am also a pantster. I have tried again and again to write using an outline, and I just can’t do it. When I commit a story to outline, it feels to me like pinning a bug to a display board: the story dies, but it’s easier to keep your eye on. So I rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. It may not be the most efficient way to finish a manuscript, but when I send my editor a book, I know I’m satisfied with it. Of course, there does come a point where you have to tell yourself, All right, that’s enough revision, you pantster, but we’ll get more into that next week.

This particular rough draft is pretty close to what I finally decided to keep, timeline-wise. I decided the best course of action is to start the new story as close to the end of Lady of the Veils as possible. There are a few benefits to this: I know who the characters are, because I remember them from the last book. There is plenty of story left to tell, because Avalon is in a state of rebuilding, which is more interesting than a state of peace. I don’t have to try to figure out why the villains waited so long to attack, because they didn’t wait. For a while, I even considered using this draft as the final one. It bogged down eventually for a number of reasons, one of which was the fact that I didn’t pose enough questions in the opening chapter and it couldn’t sustain itself. 

So here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1

The inside of the Avalon International Airport was conspicuous for its lack of ash.  It had either been spared the fire which destroyed half the city or been repaired with magical efficiency. The only evidence left of the siege was a deep gouge in the checkerboard tile. Karen MacGregor wondered whether magic or science had caused the scar in the floor. 

The only other people in the airport were a cluster of paparazzi, some human and some Fey. They stayed fifty feet away from her as Faerie law required.  Karen heard the sound of a flash bulb being tested.  Most of the photographers had given up taking pictures for now.  She supposed they were saving their film for her mother.

Karen kept her eyes trained on the muted television mounted to a nearby wall. The news was on, and all the reporters looked grim.  Were they discussing the new numbers of the death toll or the endless downpour of rain?  She had never imagined the Apocalypse would be so wet, but she supposed it was as good a death as any. 

David Thoreau stopped pacing to flop into a chair beside her, long legs splayed out in front of him.  He threw an arm casually across the back of Karen’s chair and gave her one of his rakish grins.  Thoreau was still dressed in colony gear, leather armor and scuffed boots.  He had skin the color of light chocolate and curls cut very close to his scalp.  His golden, cat-pupiled eyes glittered with humor now, but when he looked out at the paparazzi his eyes went hard.  His sword still hung at his side, a scabbarded threat rather than a veiled one. No one was around to ask him to disarm. 

“What happened to your gun?”  Karen asked. 

Thoreau snorted.   Accent thick with Texas, he said, “A wise man once told me, ‘You beat the Sidhe with a sword or you don’t beat them at all.’  I left it back at the colony when I found out we were done fighting ogres.  Where’s yours?”

Karen recognized the quote.  Shannon had once said the same thing to her. He wasn’t wrong, either.  A Knight of Summer would stride right through her bullets and kill her for the disrespect.  She shrugged.  “Lost it.” 

For a long moment they watched the news.  Karen wasn’t much of a lip reader, but she could make out the word genocide.   

Thoreau said, “So, I’m thinking about asking your mom out.  If I marry her, I just want you to know it’s cool if you call me daddy.”

Karen barked laughter.  “All right, go ahead. But I’m going to tell her about that time you almost married Shannon O’Grady.”

Thoreau’s laugh was so loud it echoed, as if he didn’t care who heard him. He sat up and leaned his hands on his knees. “I did not! He proposed and I busted his lip!”

Karen shrugged.  “I’ve always thought it was messed up that you hit him. He couldn’t really be blamed. We both know that in a skirt, those gams of yours go all the way up.”

“Oh, you little rat! I lost a bet! You’re never going to let me live it down, are you?”

“I just feel like my mother deserves to know her new boyfriend is a cross dresser, that’s all.”  Karen batted her eyes innocently over her smirk. “I’ll tell you what, we’ll compromise.  If you guys get married I’ll call you mommy.”

Thoreau gaped at her. “You are such a pig!”

Karen, gasping laughter, managed, “That’s what all the girls tell me.”

Thoreau balled up a fist and pretended to punch her in the arm before giving up completely and laughing along.  They trailed off into chortles and then companionable silence.  Feeling grateful to have something to laugh at, Karen leaned her head against his shoulder.   

She said, “Thanks for coming with me.  You’re a lot better at looking scary than I am.”

Thoreau squeezed her with the arm he’d placed on her chair.  “I’m a lot better looking than you are, period.” Karen elbowed his ribs, and he chuckled. “Ow! Would you quit doing that?”

“Probably not,” Karen told him.  “What time is it?”

“Twelve forty-five,” he answered, checking the watch on his wrist.  “Fifteen minutes.”

Karen sighed and fidgeted in her chair.  Her tailbone ached.  “This is not going to be pretty. Can we just go?  Please?”

Thoreau snorted.  “You want to leave your parents at the airport with no ride, in the pouring rain, in a city occupied by the Unseelie Host?  Really?”

“No, not really,” Karen said miserably.

 Thoreau turned his attention to the television. Karen followed suit.   The charred and skeletal remains of the Agromancy wing at the Wizard’s Academy haunted the screen for a moment, and then the camera cut back to another sad-eyed reporter.  Karen had loved the city of Avalon since she was old enough to love any place at all.  Queen Aynia had not destroyed this beautiful old city when she took it.  No, that had been Karen’s doing.  She had unleashed the Host on Avalon herself. 

She turned her attention away from the television and her eyes caught the furrow in the tile again.  She abruptly realized why Thoreau kept pacing.  

“How much longer?” Karen asked.

“Fourteen minutes,” Thoreau told her.

Karen sighed again and fidgeted.  Damn Julian for getting too badly hurt to come along! She thought. Lucky bastard. “I wish I’d brought a deck of cards,” Karen said.

Thoreau laughed.  “It’s just a few minutes, Mac, would you settle down?  Watch T.V or something.”

Fifteen minutes stretched into twenty-five before the loudspeaker announced her parent’s flight had finally landed.  Karen jumped up, and then sat back down.  Beside her, Thoreau stood smoothly and offered her a hand.

“Time to man up, Mac,” He said. “They’re just your parents, for chrissakes.”

“They don’t call my mother ‘The Dragonsbane’ because she’s a good cook,” Karen grumbled.  “When she asks me to come back to the states, what am I going to say?”

Karen had left home last November in the middle of her senior year of high school for reasons that, in retrospect, seemed pretty thin. I was protecting Beri seemed like a ridiculous excuse to give her parents for abandoning them.  Beri was a wizard-level meteomancer. The idea of her protecting him was like the idea of her protecting a Mack truck.  

The worst part was that, if given the chance, she would do it again.  She was going to have to justify this whole year to her parents without being able to honestly say I’m sorry.  

Grabbing her wrist, Thoreau said, “I don’t know what you’re going to say.  But you can’t hide out here forever.”  He hauled her toward her parent’s gate while she dragged her feet.

People, mostly human but some Fey, poured into the airport. Many of them held camera equipment or were so attractive they could only be on-air personalities. Karen bounced nervously on her toes and thought, great, more reporters.   

At the end of the hallway, something glowed against the wall. 

“Holy hell,” Thoreau said reverently. 

            Her mother and father approached.  They stood close to each other but did not touch.  Though they often took comfort from physical contact, Karen’s Fey mother had been exiled for marrying her human father.  In Faerie it was against the law for them to display their affection in public places.

Marty MacGregor was a tall man with a salt-and pepper beard and dark eyes.  He seemed thinner than Karen remembered him, and his thick hair was more gray than brown.   He was dressed in a well-made suit and a tie that had rumpled during the flight. 

Mirya MacGregor was Daoine Sidhe.  She was not tall as her people went, but she moved with an air of confidence normally reserved for much larger Fey.  She looked barely older than Karen, though she was more ancient than the city they stood in. Her skin glowed faintly, casting the room around her into gloom. Her sun-golden hair was cut fashionably short and revealed the points of her ears.  Karen had always known her mother was beautiful, but now she seemed indefinably sadder.  Mom had become breathtaking with her new gravity.

            Tears burned Karen’s throat.  She shook free of Thoreau without speaking and launched herself at her parents.

            Dad caught her.  Karen buried her face in his chest, sobbing as she had not done in a very long time.  He smelled of laundry detergent and felt like a mountain when he wrapped his arms around her. He shook with sobs.

            “My little girl,” Dad whispered, over and over.  “My girl.”

            After a long time he pushed Karen away, holding her at arm’s length and studying her with red-rimmed eyes.  Karen gave him a weak smile.

            “Hi, Daddy.” She felt inexplicably shy.

            “Hi yourself.” Dad’s voice was gruff with emotion.  “Well, look at you!  I haven’t seen you in a dress since you were a little girl.”

            Karen looked down at the hand-made frock she wore and gave her father a lop-sided smile.  “Yeah, I know it.  All my jeans wore out in the forest.”

            She turned to her mother.  Mom clasped her hands against her chest, eyes shining with tears.  It struck Karen for the very first time how much her mother looked like Queen Aynia.

Karen had only met the Queen of the Summer Court the day the Fey monarch was executed.  She suspected she would spend many years watching the light in those luminous green eyes go out while she dreamed.  Her mother was just as lovely, just as glamorous as the Queen had been.  Guilt wrenched Karen’s insides.  She had assassinated her own grandmother, and this beautiful Fey she had loved all her life was the only one left who might really mourn.

            Mom reached out for her, and Karen stepped into her embrace. Her mother smelled of vanilla soap and lilacs. She was suddenly small again.          

“Mom,” Karen whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.”

            Mom shushed her.  “No.  I have always known you would come to this, Karen MacGregor.  You have had a soldier’s heart since the day you were born.  If you had not fought this war you would have fought another.”

            Karen drew away to meet Mom’s eyes.  “Not for that, Mom.  I’m not sorry for that.  I’m sorry I killed your mother.”

            Mom looked into her face solemnly for a long moment.  Karen realized she could hear the clicks of cameras behind her.  Then her mother leaned down to kiss Karen’s forehead.

            “If anyone else had slain her, my vengeance would have been terrible to witness,” Mom whispered.  She pushed a dark curl of Karen’s hair behind her ear.  “But child, she brought her death to herself when she made an enemy of you.”

            Karen blinked.  “You’re not mad?”

            Mirya’s lip twitched up just a hint. Her eyes were still unbearably sad.  “Mad? No. My heart aches. I wish my mother had dandled you on her knee as a grandmother is meant to do.   I wish she could have lived long enough to know how beautiful and brave her granddaughter would grow up to be.  I wish she had the courage to love you as I do.  I grieve my mother, who was once my Queen. I suppose I always will. But do I blame you for doing what had to be done? No.  No, Karen, I do not.”

            “Well!” Dad’s voice was too loud, too cheerful.  “This is very sad talk for a very happy occasion! Take us to your brother, will you?”

            Karen grinned, wiping her cheeks free of tears.  Mom gave her a stunning smile and took her hand. 

Thoreau still stood several feet away, looking out of place.  Karen gestured for him to come closer.  His eyes were full of stars as he looked at Karen’s mother.  Karen recognized the dazzled look.  A Daoine Sidhe of a royal house could be quite a sight the first time a person saw one.

            “Dave, these are my parents, Marty and Mirya MacGregor,” Karen said. “Mom, Dad, this is David Thoreau.  He’s currently acting as my bodyguard.”

            Dad stretched a hand out to shake with Thoreau.  “Thanks for taking care of my little girl.”

            Thoreau dropped his eyes. Karen smirked.  He was probably remembering what he’d said before the plane landed.  “Well, she mostly takes care of herself, but sometimes two blades are better than one.”

            Karen’s father gave her a measuring look.  He said, “When you left home you were a vegetarian.  Now people actually refer to you as ‘a blade.’”

            Embarrassed, Karen shrugged. “I’m still a vegetarian,” she said.

 

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