Ink-Stained Scribe

New Book Release! Adult Contemporary Fantasy, UNLEASH

BRETHREN, THE TIME HAS COME. After months in the editorial trenches, the date is set for the literary force that shall soon be unleashed!

UNLEASH will debut on May 23rd!

Early praise for UNLEASH

Early praise for UNLEASH

UNLEASH is the first full-length novel I'm self-publishing, and I'm thrilled to enter the field with a veritable battleaxe of a book. Seriously, I love these characters, and there's a big part of my soul in this book.

So what's it about?

Her fight for freedom has just begun.

Helena Martin doesn't know who she hates more, the sorcerers who fired the magic-laced bullet or the gang-lord master who used her mother as a shield. Both hunt the remnants of her pack and the only way Helena can protect them is using her newly-unleashed magic to lead the two factions away.

With a coveted book of spells as bait, she flees Miami and heads for her mother’s Minnesota hometown, where salvation comes in the form of a dog rescue willing to take in a different kind of stray. The illusion of a peaceful life is seductive but with sorcerers and bounty hunters sniffing around every corner, Helena fights to keep her past, her pursuers, and her unstable power a secret.

Then she discovers it’s not the spell book her enemies are after, but Helena herself, and the strange power she can barely control. When her master’s bounty hunters threaten her new home, Helena realizes that protecting the people she’s grudgingly come to love leaves her with one option: join the sorcerers who killed her mother.

One Hell of a Year

Approximately one year ago, with K.T., Pip, Piper, Matt, Tee, and boom.

Approximately one year ago, with K.T., Pip, Piper, Matt, Tee, and boom.

Having spent the last two weeks on my parents' couch suffering from near-transfusion-level anemia, I'm finally 1) back in my own bed, 2) snuggling my own cat, and 3) trying to remember how a stove works.

 I'm sad to say I have not had the brain-power to write since the 11th.. Honestly, I didn't have the brainpower for anything but marathoning the entirety of Yuri! on Ice and wondering how many women in the past were actually exsanguinated by their own uteri.

2016 has been a hell of a year. The shadow of tragedy has been relentless, and today I mourn the passing of the woman who taught me that the word "heroine" is just as badass as "hero". My Princess, my General: Carrie Fisher.

The negatives have piled up this year, with shooting after shooting, the deaths of beloved idols, tragedies in Aleppo and Gatlinburg, and the political self-immolation of the U.S. and the U.K. (following campaigns that were emotionally and physically exhausting already). Living in North Carolina, I have even less to be proud of than the average liberal American.

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Still, the new year is days away, and though I know the concept of 2016 is "an abstract human concept that can't bear ill will", it sure feels like this year has been out to get us. It's useful to think of it that way, because it means there's a possible end in sight, which keeps me from sliding into nihilistic oblivion.

New Years represents the mental and emotional reset that many of us desperately need. But like the chalkboards of old, things written in the past will never quite disappear, so we can't go into 2017 with a completely clean slate. We have smears and the ghosts of old words still haunting us. In January, the US inaugurates a dangerous man, and who knows what civil liberties will crumble after that?

If we can't completely erase the bad, however, we should also try not to forget about the good. I saw marches and outreach and rousing speeches, I saw people spurred into action rather than despair. I saw communities coming together after tragedy, and people celebrating not only the lives but also the causes of those idols who touched their hearts. There was Hamilton taking over broadway and the existence of Joe Biden memes.

On a more personal note, I managed to achieve almost all the goals I'd set for 2016. This was a two-fold achievement, as I had some tough objectives both personally and creatively.

I wanted to graduate my cardiac sonography program, pass my board exams, get licensed, and get a job. I did all those things.

I wanted to move back to Raleigh with my roommate and start paying off my school loan and my car. I've done those as well.

Creatively, I wanted to query Hellhound and finish the  second draft of SONG OF THE HERETIC, both of which I did.

The only thing on my list from last year I didn't accomplish was writing the third of the MILLROAD ACADEMY EXORCISTS books. Honestly, I chose not to work on that. Instead, I'm drafting a new book, which called to me much more and, as something I can pitch at agents, makes more sense for where I want my career to go.

I also did a lot of fun things this year, like visiting my Words of a Feather Podcast cohost K.T. Bryski in Toronto, visiting Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine in VA, being on the cover of Countless Hues of Crimson, and narrating two books.

So, I'm not going to wipe the slate completely clean on January 1st. I'm going to hold my breath, clap the erasers, and let go of all the bad stuff that isn't useful or important to remember. Then I'm going to write my plan for 2017.

Then we're all going to kick its ass.

To My Creative Friends on The Morning of 11/9/16

We have a job to do.

As far as I know, all of my creator friends voted against the hateful rhetoric of DJT, and this morning, we lost.

It hurts, and it's terrifying, and it's hard to imagine just what brought our country to this moment. Yes, Hillary won the popular vote, and the electoral college failed the intent of its purpose. The thing is, the race should never have been this close. The fact that it was means we have a job to do.

Fiction, film, drama, art have long been the voice of the disenfranchised, the tutor of the young, the friend of the lost an lonely, and the escape of those in need of a harbor. It is also the herald of hope.

Millions of people felt angry and scared and lost enough to vote for someone who handed them convenient scapegoat after scapegoat, who promised them protection from the other, preservation of a slipping grip on institutional power that may not be right and may not be palatable, but that is at least a familiar terrain to navigate with the resources they have.

So we have a job. Not only to comfort and give shelter to the aching hearts and trembling hands of our own wounded brethren, but to learn.

We have to address what caused that pain, that fear, which is so easily sharpened into anger with only the addition of a target. Is it poverty? Health? History? And how can we, as creators, address those fears as well?

We love the story of the disenfranchised. We love to support the underdog. We love to give them heroes who are one of their own. It works because, on some level, we all feel disenfranchised. We've all felt pain and fear and unfairness, and we've taken solace in the story of a person in our own shoes beating the odds, changing the paradigm, and finding that most important beacon of all, hope.

We have a job to do. We must humanize the enemy, let them be seen. Realize that they see themselves in our moisture farmers and kitchen boys and kickass princesses. We must provide the tools they haven't found, give them friends who are utterly unlike themselves in race, gender, religion, and values, but human and flawed and real.

In our work, we must show acceptance and sisterhood and love. We need to give people hope, and we do that through art. As creators, we can draw the maps to change, introduce the friends along the road, and provide a safe place for the experience of that shift.

We need diverse art. We need it for the sake of those who do not find themselves represented in the mainstream. We need it for those who would deny the humanity of people of color, of women, or the differently-abled, or our LGBTQ siblings. We need it for those who would demonize and dehumanize people of color, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, elders, or prisoners of war.

We have a job to do, and that is to teach through beautiful, inspiring, hilarious, erotic, heartbreaking example that we are all human, and we are in this together, and we have hope.

Project Update

Good tidings, dear readers.

WHAT'S UP WITH ME

At last, I have graduated my sonography program and moved into the realm of society's economic contributors. In other words, I GOTS ME A JOB! I've settled into it well, and this past weekend, the Librarian and I have finally moved back to the city and into our own apartment.

What does this mean for my writing?

~I GET TO DO MORE OF IT~

I work at a cardiologist's office that's open four days a week, leaving me a good chunk of weekend time to write.It also means that going to conventions will be easier than ever--no haggling over weekend shifts or using up valuable vacation time just to squeeze in that extra day, especially since we get all holidays off already.

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

WHAT'S UP ON THE WRITING FRONT

I've got my contemporary fantasy novel HELLHOUND on submission right now, and SONG OF THE HERETIC is out with beta readers.

These were my two main goals for this year, but I've also decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, in order to launch a new project with my best friend and creative partner, L.A. Erickson. It's an Epic Fantasy series called THE WAR OF THE VANISHED SEA and I'll be writing the first book, WITCHBLOOD, during NaNo.

The final installment of THE MILLROAD ACADEMY EXORCISTS is outlined, and I plan to write it in the spring, around the time I hope to begin querying SONG OF THE HERETIC.

Are you doing NaNo this year? ADD ME!

WHAT I'M READING

Imprudence (The Custard Protocol)
$14.88
By Gail Carriger

I became friends with Gail a few years ago at the second annual Smoky Writers retreat. At that point, I hadn't actually read any of her books beyond the Finishing School series (which I loved), but the moment I got into Soulless, I blew through them. Needless to say, I've been excited about the release of the second book in the Custard Protocol. There are even some bits in there I recognize from Smoky Writers, including a wonderfully ignominious tale of death brainstormed one night in the hot tub.

This week, Gail shared the story of our trip to YA'llfest last November, where we met (and fangirled over) Mercedes Lackey. It's a great read about inclusiveness in fiction, and I think Gail summed up our reasons and reactions to encountering LGBTQ characters for the first time quite well. Read the post HERE.

 

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO

I've been listening to a lot of contemporary classical recently, because of SONG OF THE HERETIC. Even though I can't really write to music (too distracting), I tend to create playlists for all my books and listen to them while I'm in the car. It's great for brainstorming and envisioning s

WHERE I'LL BE

Librarian and I are headed to the Maryland Renaissance Faire this weekend, where we'll hang out with Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine and their BAMF of a daughter Sonic Boom. It's been a few years since I've been to Faire, but I'm looking forward to lacing up the bodice, strapping on my drinking horn, and sallying for for the Day of Wrong.

The One in Which I Drop Fake Genitalia (and End Up Editing an Anthology)

"Draw me like one of your French girls!"

"Draw me like one of your French girls!"

As I mentioned in my January update, I've gone back to school for Echocardiography.

Woo, education! Woo, eventually not starving! Woo, learning how to wipe butts that aren't my own!

Let me explain that last one. I'm currently in the final week of my clinical prerequisites to qualify for the program, which included a Nursing Assistant lab where I practiced things like "assisting patients in ambulation" and "bowel training" and "attaching a condom catheter".
 

While the class practiced skills like foot-care, feeding, and bed-baths on each other, the level of intimacy required for certain skills exceeds most people's comfort threshold, hence the hottie in the upper left corner. That's my man(nequin). Trust me. He's even creepier up close. He's also missing his other arm, which is totally not my fault.

Anyway, these mannequins have switchable nether regions. That makes sense, right? One mannequin, two nether regions, endless teaching possibilities. Unfortunately, these mannequins were old, and had a couple of literal screws loose. So, I was carrying one with a partner when my mannequin underwent a shift of identity and forcibly ejected his(hir?) plastic penis onto the linoleum.

"MAN DOWN!!"

I yelled it before I thought about it, earning a few confused stares. I proceeded to giggle by myself for the next five minutes, because no one else found it funny.

Which is fine, because I thought it was hilarious. Then again, I still think farts are funny.

At least mom laughed. Thanks, mom.

ELYSIAN SPRINGS ANTHOLOGY

Besides satisfying a prerequisite for my Echocardiography program and providing me with blog fodder (blodder?), the experience of this Nurse Aide class sparked an idea that has gone way beyond what I intended.

We were going over the effects of aging on the body and I just sort of wondered: what happens to aging superheroes? What sort of retirement/assisted-living/nursing home would be able to accommodate people with powers? Who would work there? Who gets to tell Wolverine he's on a puree diet?

Thinking it just a funny thought, I posted on facebook: Anthology about a nursing home for aging superheroes. Who's with me!?

I was, quite seriously, not prepared for the reaction.

Remember that time I became an assistant editor at IGMS? I'm still doing that. It's given me the chance to deconstruct what makes a good story, and also given me confidence in my ability to be a part of a professional publication.

Which is good, because now I'm editing an anthology, and I've got almost thirty contributors who've already pitched stories. Good thing I've got some experience in the submissions department. Even better, I've got a bunch of extremely talented friends to draw from.

ELYSIAN SPRINGS: The Super-Skilled Nursing Home for Ageing Superheroes is an anthology that combines humor, tragedy, and superpowers. I've got twenty-something amazing pitches, a ten-page comic commissioned from Jason Strutz and Jeremy Whitley, and several iterations of cover-art from Pieter Wessels. Headliners include Tee Morris, Gail Z. Martin, Misty Massey, and Jared Axelrod.

All this, and I'm still writing and narrating. I have so much coming down the pipeline, and all of it is super exciting.

Write-Life Balance

Holy crap, y'all.

I'm working on getting a balance between work, school, and writing this semester, which has been just as challenging as usual. This semester I have twelve hours of coursework, which includes Anatomy and Physiology, Conceptual Physics, and Statistics. *shudder* Statistics.

These are three classes that are not in my usual area of comfort, so it's twelve hours of brainhurt.

So, it's a mixed blessing that my hours at work have dropped significantly. That's good because it leaves me with more time to focus on studying. ON THE OTHER HAND, I'm most likely going to lose my insurance at the end of the quarter.

Through it all, I'm still trying to finish the rough draft of Song of the Heretic. Later this month is the Smoky Writers retreat, where I had hoped to write the second novella in the Millroad Academy Exorcists series. I'm still planning to write that at the retreat, but I'm also uncertain whether I'll be able to get SOTH finished beforehand.

It was hard in January to get myself to sit down and write as often as I wanted to--partly because of school stress, partly because I was brain-tired, and partly because I prioritized different things.

This month is all about getting those priorities balanced. Fitness and social life are other factors that affect the organization, particularly given that socializing requires me to drive an hour away from home.

So, who's with me? Who else is going to use February to sort out their writing-life balance?

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Goals for 2015

I love setting goals. Like, I love it a stupid amount. Big goals that break down into little goals with smaller steps that have little check-boxes next to them. I'm a To Do List junkie--the type of person who spends probably a little too much time scheduling and creating those pretty little check boxes (which I still draw in proper kanji stroke-order, because Japan). I browsed amazon for the perfect day planner (it has a to-do list section) and I have a gigantic desk calendar to help me keep track of important dates and monthly goals at a glance.

That said, I'm not that great at sticking to these schedules, but I like to have them anyway. They remind me where I'm going and give me something to set my sights on in the distance. They're my way of dreaming about the future, of showing myself that dreams are within walking distance if you're willing to take the steps, even if you take them slowly, or out of order.

2014 was an interesting year. I remember telling Abbie at our writing retreat in March what I hoped to have done by the next retreat: SONG OF THE HERETIC drafted, the second Millroad Academy book drafted, and a good start on my next novel-length work.

I'm about 20 scenes from the end of SONG OF THE HERETIC, which is, surprise-surprise, about the length of two books, and while I have the next Millroad Academy Exorcists novella outlined, plus two other novel-length works outlined, I haven't started writing anything else. I have had about three more novel ideas, though. Someone stop me.

Writing isn't the only thing I've been up to, though. This year's goals have several categories, so I'm going to do what I do best. I'mma make a list.

Writing Goals for 2015

  • Finish SONG OF THE HERETIC's rough draft
  • Edit SONG OF THE HERETIC
  • Query SONG OF THE HERETIC
  • Write rough draft of Millroad Academy Exorcists, novella 2
  • Edit and release the second MAE novella
  • Write rough draft of HELLHOUND
  • Release Case of the Copper Condor on Tales from the Archives
  • Don't suck as an Assistant Editor

School Goals for 2015

  • Get an A in Anatomy & Physiology
  • Don't fail Statistics
  • Don't fail Conceptual Physics
  • Get into Echocardiography program
  • Don't fail at Echocardiography program
  • Study regularly
  • Find the awesome

Narration Goals for 2015

  • THE BEST KIND OF THIEF by Amy Sparling
  • THE BEST KIND OF PROM DATE by Amy Sparling
  • SHADOWS ON SNOW by Starla Huchton
  • MAE book 2
  • [redacted] for Abigail Hilton

 

Personal Goals for 2015

  • Continue journey for optimum health
    • Paleo diet
    • Exercise regularly
    • Chill
  • Make an effort to go more places and see more people
  • Remind self that dates are not a totaly waste of time
  • D&D/Pathfinder
  • Be more awesome

I think that covers it. Notice that "blog regularly" wasn't in there. Hah. I know better.

What are your goals for 2015? If you had goals last year, how did you do? Did you achieve them? Leave a comment below!

2015 Updates and BIG NEWS!

Last year kicked off with the inaugural seven-day Smoky Writers Retreat at the end of January and ended with a nearly finished fantasy manuscript, a short story, and a whole bunch of audiobook contracts. I also went back to school for another degree. This year is either going to be awesome or make me cry. Possibly both.

Though the second Smoky Writers retreat isn't until February this year, 2015 started with some really awesome news. Are you ready for it?

Are you sure?

As of this week, I'm the newest assistant editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show Magazine!

Get it, boys.

Get it, boys.

I've been writing "Lady Lauren's Panacea", the magazine's fantasy book review column for the past year and a half, and I received the offer in the midst of my promotion for EXORCISING AARON NGUYEN's KDP Select Free days. For the foreseeable future, I will try to do both.

So what's this Smoky Writers Retreat?

So glad I manufactured that question! It's a retreat started by Alex White, author and podcaster extraordinaire, which takes place in the Smoky Mountains and was created for us to have several days of focused writing time, broken only by several delicious meals that we don't have to cook. The evening holds readings from that day's work, followed by games, drinks, and long soaks in the hot tub.

It's like being a writer and a rockstar at the same time. Is it February yet?

Back in School

Yeah, so living with mom and dad is more and more acceptable for millennials like me, and when you've got an English degree and no desire to go back to answering phones, you're basically stuck with Starbucks and house rules. To be fair, the house rules include wine o'clock and no rent, so I'm okay with them.

So I'm back in school for a degree in Echocardiography, which is ultrasound on the heart. THAT'S RIGHT, I'MMA MAKE THE BIG MONEY. Or at least enough to get my own place and, like, feed myself properly.

Anyway, I'll finish by Summer 2016. Then I'll be singing that Roxette song nonstop. "Listen to your hea~rt..."