Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Ghost of Manuscript Past: 777-ish

Well, I've been tagged in one of those "post paragraph 7 of page 7 of your manuscript" thingies. This one is focused on something old that you've written but isn't published yet--at least as I understand the instructions.

Oh, btw, instructions are for losers.

Like the girl who tagged me -- Rachel Marks, whose post you can find on her blog, and whose awesome published work you can find on Amazon, including her very soon to be released urban fantasy Darkness Brutal -- I'm a rebel when it comes to stuff like this. Call it control-freakism if you must, or OCD, but the fact is, I want my own rules and I want to do it my way.

So, what I'm doing is giving you a sneak peek into a current project that is based on an old short story of mine. I wrote Willing Blood, a 4000-something-word short story, ages ago (at least it feels that way) and it was published in an online zine called The Absent Willow Review. It won Editor's Choice for the month it appeared as well. Unfortunately, that zine has since gone away :(.

I loved the characters in Willing Blood, and so did my husband. He encouraged me to make a novel based on this story. Well, doing so with the story as-is doesn't work. For one, one of the characters dies at the end. Also, the story is told, in full, in the short version. because of that, I decided to just use the characters, "adjust" their relationships to each other, and create an entirely new story, tentatively titled Relent.

Here we go....the opening of Willing Blood:

Simone’s nails dug deeper into the leathery skin of the demon’s neck, and a thick, black liquid oozed over her fingertips.
“I told you to leave her alone, Wraith,” she said, forcing his head to the side and ramming his cheek into the brick wall of the alley. In human form he was devastatingly handsome. In his present state he was anything but. His laboring, sulfurous breath gagged her, but she showed no indication. “She’s mine,” she hissed.
The demon’s eyes traveled up the opposing wall to a second-story window, on the other side of which lay a sleeping girl. The forked tip of a scaled tongue poked out between his black lips. His voice rattled through his constricted throat. “Yes…Lady Simone.”
She eased back on her grip, but held herself at the ready to tackle him once again. “You know the law, Wraith. She’s too young. If I catch you here again, I will be forced to…dismantle you.”
The demon cringed and blinked acquiescence. She released him. He sucked in a breath and exhaled yellow vapor. “Thank you, Lady Simone, for sparing me. I shall not disappoint you.”
Simone’s full, red lips curled into a satisfied smile. I hope you try again. It will be my pleasure to take you apart, cell by cell.
The demon spread his bat-like wings and shot straight up between the alley walls. A howl echoed with his departure, and Simone was left alone in the quiet pitch of midnight. She examined the black ooze that coated her fingers. It was already beginning to congeal, turning from black oil to opaque liquid glass, its freezing point a mere 70 degrees. It tightened around Simone’s fingers and tingled icily as it froze against her skin. With a slight twitch of her finger, the dark glass shattered and scattered silently across the litter-strewn alley. Simone sighed and then walked down the alley, her stiletto-heeled boots clicking on the pavement.

And page 7-ish of Relent:

She glanced at the time again. But she didn’t have anywhere she had to be—just a soft couch and book she was nearly done with…

A sigh slipped out, and she said, “I’ll stay. Do you need anything else?”

“Only your company.”

Her heart skipped for a moment. His voice still carried no hint of flirtation, but there was no mistaking those words. They made her realize she’d both been hoping and fearing his interest, but she couldn’t put her finger on why. Just that it felt like the desire to play with fire. She shook her head at the thought.

 “Listen, I—”

“Please. Just sit. I want only to talk.” He leaned slightly sideways and pulled a leather wallet out of his back pocket, opened it, and handed Simone a twenty dollar bill. “There, the bill is paid. You can do what you need to end your shift and join me. Then you and I will go our separate ways.”
All the way to the register she berated herself. It was ridiculous to sit down with him. She should just go. He’d already paid—she had no obligation to stay. For anything.

But suddenly the sofa and book waiting for her at home felt like just that. She rang out the order, grabbed her purse and stuffed her apron inside it. She ducked into the bathroom and ran her fingers through her auburn hair. Her t-shirt and jeans were, fortunately, stain-free. After a deep breath, she exited, slipped between the tables as she crossed the restaurant and slid into the booth across from him.

The sky was fully dark now, and the brightly lit signs and billboards created a colored haze through the greasy window, which vibrated as another tricked-out low-rider eased past the diner. For a moment, as the guy looked out in response to the noise, his black eyes reflected the neon lights and seemed to glow eerily red. But he blinked and turned to face her, and the effect was gone.

Simone shifted in the lumpy vinyl seat and crossed her arms on the edge of the table, mirroring his position. He’d still not taken a bite of his burger or another sip of his drink.

“You know my name,” she said.

“That I do.”

She huffed. “Well?”

“It is lovely, Lady Simone.”

So, he was going to play. That didn’t mean she had to.

“I try not to judge people on their looks, so I assumed your head wasn’t full of muscle too. But I guess I need to explain that when someone says something to indicate she is at a disadvantage because her name is known by another party, but the other party’s name is not, in fact, known by her, the other party should…” at this she leaned forward, “tell her his name.”

He lowered his head almost as if in a bow. “You need only have asked.” When he was eye-level to her again, he said, “I am called Wraith.”

Simone straightened back up. “Where’d you get a nickname like that?” But after she’d said it, it seemed like a silly question. Look at him, girl! He was nearly ghostly pale. She’d never seen such ivory skin on someone, much less a guy, with such dark features otherwise. It made him look almost ethereal—or it would had he not looked like he could crush a boulder with his bare hands.

~~~ I'm supposed to tag someone. I'd really rather just leave an open invitation, but maybe Kessie Carroll, Becky Minor, or Jill Domschot will take me up on this? Maybe they'll even make their own rules, too?? :D

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway of Finding Angel

To celebrate my new book cover, I'm running a Goodreads Giveaway!

Because I didn't know that using the ISBN would link it to the old edition, the Goodreads Giveaway doesn't feature the new cover!

Yep--if it can go wrong, it will.

Still, it could mean a free (signed) book for you with THIS cover:


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach

Finding Angel

by Kat Heckenbach

Giveaway ends May 10, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New Cover for Finding Angel!

And finally, now that everything is done, tweaked, uploaded, tweaked again, uploaded again, linked, etc....

The new cover for Finding Angel!

A great big, ginormous THANK YOU to the cover artist, K.M. Carroll. I am so happy with it!

Oh, and btw--the new price on the ebook is now $2.99. And the print version is on sale for $8.62 on Amazon! CLICK HERE

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dear Publisher, What Were You Thinking? Or: A Photographic Diatribe on Book Cover Art

I got this book--The Book of Speculation--which I have only read a few chapter of so far--through Amazon Vine, so it is an Advanced Reader Copy. Often ARCs do not have the final cover image on them.

Sometimes they look something like this image I found online:

In this case, I must have gotten a slightly later edition of the ARC. Here is the cover of the copy I have:

That's not the final cover, nor is it the cover image that appeared in the newsletter when I chose this book. I'm not showing the final cover yet because I want to make a point. I will say now, though, that I chose the book based on the TITLE and description, and despite the final cover. Had the book had this as a cover, I would have been even more intrigued.

On the back of this book is another image, one that looks as if it might have been yet another cover image idea:

Oh. Em. Gee. That is a cool cover. And from what I've read so far, it totally captures the spirit of the book. 

I'll give you that description now:

Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home--a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls. 
On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm.
Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family--and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her--and perhaps himself--Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past.
The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic.
Now....the final cover image:

A generic picture of a girl (when the protagonist is male, nonetheless) holding a stack of books. Not *a* book. Not *the* book. A stack of books, A picture that does not say "quirky, literary, fantasy, mystery with oceans and mermaids and circus freaks." No, a picture that says, "We're trying to appear a little nerdy, but this book prolly has romance in it."


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Frustration...Finally Fixed

I've been trying for a few weeks now to find a book I actually care about reading. I was beginning to think it was just me, that my brain was being resistant to input of words or story, and then finally last night I picked up a book and found myself not wanting to put it down.

I'll tell you what book that is at the end, but for now, I want to list off some reasons I was having such a hard time with the books I kept trying. Some I may name, others not. I'm not here to slam authors or their works.

First, there was an indie book I discovered through...somewhere. Probably one of the ebook promotion newsletters I subscribe to. It's a YA and the main character is overweight. There are a lot of "issues" YA books out there, but this is one issue I haven't seen tackled before. Eating disorders, yes, but fat-shaming, no. I was really hoping for great, emotional, well-handled writing. Instead, I got angsty, annoying, and frankly the thing that has become a major pet peeve: mixing in other "issues" because apparently having a single focus isn't good enough for readers, or maybe isn't impressive enough to publishers? I don't know. All I can say is, if your book is about a girl dealing with being overweight, you don't need to work in that her bff is getting beaten up by her stepfather. You do not need to cover every possible struggle a teen may have to deal with in one book.

Read THIS one, and skip the sequel!
The next book I'll name: Tower Lord, by Anthony Ryan. I was sososososo looking forward to this book. The first book in the series is Blood Song and it's brilliant. You have to take your editor hat off when reading it, though--the man doesn't know what a comma is for to save his life. The book is filled with run-on sentences and depended clauses that should be set off with commas but aren't. I was hoping that with the success of Blood Song Mr. Ryan would have invested in an editor who'd catch those errors in Tower Lord. No such luck. Still, I'd have forgiven him if the story were brilliant again. Truthfully, I never understood why Blood Song needed a sequel. It's a perfect stand-alone. I was happy to find out there was a sequel initially, though, because of how much I loved Blood Song. However, everything that made Blood Song brilliant was missing from Tower Lord. Too many characters and POVs were added, and the story felt totally all over the place. I have been assured that the last 1/4 of the book is an awesome, mind-blowing twist, but at this point I can't bear to sludge through the first 3/4 in order to get to it.

Another book I attempted to read was a YA with a 15-yr-old male character that was written in a voice I'd have placed with a 11-yr-old. He was naive, cried way too easily, and didn't relate to people at all on the level his age would dictate. Even an immature 15-yr-old wouldn't act like this (and I know--I have a 14 yr old son). This guy was supposed to be really smart, too. But he acts lost at all times. Also, the pacing of the book was wrong. Too much focused on describing details the reader doesn't need, and not enough actually telling the story.

So, I tried reading a different YA, this time with a female protag. Started off okay. Not angsty--instead a normal, average girl. But everything just started happening too fast. Barely introduced to her life, then she receives a strange magical object in the mail, is instantly affected, descriptions zoom past, hardly any reaction from the character other than being breathless. Couldn't we have had some hesitation? Not just dive in and wow? Readers need anticipation and suspense, not just action.

Which brings us to last night and the book that finally captured my attention: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson. It's the sequel to Steelheart, which you really do need to read first. Basic concept: a burst in the sky caused certain people to develop superpowers. These "Epics" didn't become superheroes, though. Instead, the power, when used, is destined to turn them into super-villains--egomaniacs who want to control normal humans. The main character, David, watched an Epic named Steelheart kill his father, then spent years studying Epics to learn how to bring them down, and eventually joins with a secret group called the Reckoners whose goal is to rid the world of Epics. It's loaded with action, totally fun, well-paced, and doesn't skimp on characterization.

Man, does it feel good to finally have a book worth reading in my hands again!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Back to the Beginning

It's that time of year for me again. Happens every year, the time when I find myself thinking about what I've accomplished, and conversely what goals have not been reached. I've been writing since 2007, which I realize is, relative to many other writers, not a long time. And in that short time I've managed a certain level of success. Many short stories published in magazines and anthologies ranging from very small-time online-only indies to internationally-in-print like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Two novels published through a small press. Two self-published novelettes. I've been invited to speak and teach at several conferences and local workshops, as well as present at multiple writers' and artists' groups. Finding Angel made finalist in three contests, and now has 64 reviews on Amazon.

But I've also hit some major bumps in the road:

Being an "indie" author has meant I can't get books into bookstores. The only one that was willing to take my books on straight consignment was a small used curriculum store in our local homeschool resource center, and that bookstore has since closed. My area has exactly one independent bookstore that sells new books rather than used, and I had to pay a fee to have my books on consignment there. They did nothing to bring attention to the books, placing them spine-out amongst large-press YA novels, so I sold none and had to pick up my copies after six months.

I've tried making contact with local schools in order to speak, and for the most part have hit a wall. While I did manage to get invited to speak twice for the Great American Teach-in, I've yet to be able to go to a school for a true author visit.

I've participated in every author event I could get into locally, as well as renting space at craft fairs in order to sell books, and found that author events are generally not attended well, and those who attend usually want writing advice and are not there to buy books. Craft fair attendees all but run in the opposite direction when faced with a table of books for the most part.

I still find online marketing to be frustrating and impossible to figure out. I've taken classes on it, picked the brains of fellow authors, read innumerable articles...and am more confused than ever.

So, what is my point?

The fact is, all of the above negative issues have been sucking the joy of writing right out of me, and I need to decide what to keep going with, and what to let go.

The first to go will be craft fairs. They're too expensive to participate in, too time-consuming, and have been completely un-profitable.

Next, I will stop stressing over the places I can't get into right now. Bookstores are closing left and right, and the ones that are still around are so filled with non-book junk. Also, the authors I know locally, both small press and large, who have done signings all say they're not worth the time. The latest story I heard was from a friend who wrote the most awesome children's book. She had a signing at B&N, where they'd advertised and set up a beautiful area for her to sell books in the children's section. She sold not one single book because all the moms and little kids were in the TOY section. As for schools--if they don't want me, then fine. I'll do what I should have been doing all along and focus on my fellow homeschoolers. I intend to find homeschool conferences to participate in, and teach creative writing locally.

Speaking of teaching--I've found that I really enjoy teaching about writing at writers groups, conferences and workshops. More of that in the future.

Ah, but that's all book-selling and marketing, or at least platform building. What about my writing?

Well, yes, that's the point. If I can get rid of all the distractions and stresses, maybe I can get back to my roots and spend more time with my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. The thing is, my focus there will be different too...

I know that indie authorship is on the rise. And there are some benefits to it. But it's simply not working for me. I need help with marketing, but no, I can't just run out and hire someone. I'm finding that all the stuff indies keep telling me about how publishers never help with this...totally bogus. The authors I know who have bigger publishers have people who set up events for them. They also have the creds to get into more places as speakers. Unless an indie is a HUGE self-made success, we're simply not taken seriously. Sorry, that's been my experience, and I simply want more.

So, I"m starting over. I'm going back to the beginning, working on manuscripts that can be shopped to agents. Yes, this means that Toch Island 3 and all related stories will be put on the back burner. Of course Toch Island is the most precious thing to my heart, but to add more to an already nearly unknown series seems fruitless to me. Harsh? Maybe. But you're not the one taking time from MY kids and husband in order to make NO money. HUGE gratitude goes out to all the fans of Toch Island--more than you can possibly know--but until sales increase I have to put my family first.

I also want to get back into short story writing so I can get work out there in the meantime. I loved writing short stories, and frankly loved selling them to markets, and I think I need more of that again to stoke the writing fire for me.

Overall, I need to go back to the way things were at the beginning, back when I was writing and loving it, back when I had hope of someday being a success at this, back when I wasn't distracted and dismayed by all the weight carried by an indie author. Back to the beginning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sewing and Sharing

Ah, my once-monthly blog post, which I keep promising will come more frequently. Sorry yet again. Busy-busy. Homeschooling, camping, and other this cloak I sewed:

Which took LOTS of fabric and many days to make.

Anyway, since I have little news to share about myself despite my hectic schedule, I'll share about some fellow authors:

Mike Duran's newest just hit Amazon yesterday. I got to beta-read The Ghost Box and totally adored it. It's urban fantasy and had great characters and a cool plot with lots of weirdness. 

Jeff Chapman's latest short story Last Request: A Victorian Gothic is now available as an audiobook. I simply love his writing. Dark, atmospheric. And this story does not disappoint.

Lastly, the faculty for the 2015 REALM MAKERS conference has been announced! A great line-up. I won't teaching this year, but I do plan to attend, and there are some sessions I'm very much looking forward to! Check it out, and make sure you follow the Faith and Fantasy Alliance blog so you can stay updated about the conference.