In which our heroine finally gets to see the belugas…

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Since arriving in Alaska in early 2015 one thing I’ve been absolutely keen to do is see the beluga whales at Beluga Point. Just a few miles south of Anchorage proper, along the Seward Highway, there is a turn off near an outcropping of stone where -rumor had it – you could see beluga whales.

I’ve seen belugas before. They’re small, white whales seen frequently in aquariums or Arctic documentaries. They’re called the Canaries of the Sea… and they are darn hard to catch!

In 2015 I didn’t see a single beluga whale. So I was bound and determined to see the belugas this year.

Last Sunday a friend sent me a picture… there were belugas at Beluga Point! Thus begun the week-long quest to be at the point when the whales were. I tracked tides. I drove down in rain and fog. I was worried the whales would slip away again.

Sunday was beautiful: warm, bright, and sunshiny. The perfect weather for an evening drive down the coast soaking up the last of summer. The kids climbed on the rocks. We watched the current swirl and eddy as the tide flowed back to see. We saw an otter… but no whales.

Just as we were getting to leave someone else spotted a spout in the distance… the whales were swimming out to sea! Everyone clambered around, first to the east and inlet, then to the west and the sun. Climbing over rocks and slipping along the mud until we saw the whales on the horizon. Beautiful white whales, rolling in the sunbeams and waves.

The top picture is the closest I came to getting an actual photograph. You’ll have to take my word for it: those ripples are whale ripples.

If you ever come up to Alaska, try to make it down to the point. Even on a cloudy day the views are some of the best in Anchorage.

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Want me to edit your book?

I am taking on new clients between now and September 10th to fill the rest of my 2016 editing calendar.

Submission Packet Critique (synopsis, query, and first 5 pages) $25
First Chapter
(up to 20 pages)  $50.00
First Three Chapters (up to 50 pages) $100.00
Entire Manuscript Critique $1.00 a page minimum of 200 pages.
Emergency Fee to Jump the Queue  $50
* all page counts are double-spaced, Times New Roman, size 12 font *

To reserve a space please contact me at liana.brooks1@gmail.com

What do I get for my money?
I will provide content edits that focus on the the whole story, pacing, plot, and character development. I’ll post notes throughout the manuscript using Word and Track Changes. I’ll tell you where, when, and why you’re messing up. I’ll tell you what you’re doing right, and what you shouldn’t change. I’ll also provide a detailed letter of what I think will improve your work. If needed, I can provide a list of reputable line editors who can whip your commas into shape and keep your participles from dangling.

Every writer is at a different stage of development. All writers (including me) have trouble editing their own work. A fresh set of eyes can not only improve your writing, but can help you refine your style so you stand our in a crowd.

What genres will I edit?
Science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, romance, and crime fiction for any age group. If it goes boom, bang, or crash, I can help.

Why let me edit your work?
I stared beta reading and critiquing in 2005. Prior to that I was a newspaper editor for a local paper. I’m a hybrid author with experience prepping books for Big 5 publishers, agents, small presses, and self-publication. I know what people are looking for right now and I know how to fix your manuscript.

Why am I offering my editing services?
I have four growing kids who need new sneakers and the cost of living in Alaska is ridiculously high. I’d rather edit for you than stock shelves or wait tables.

 

Editing Ad 3

 

Making Changes And Getting Back In The Classroom

Purple FlowerI’ve been talking about going back to school since I graduated from college. I wanted to go back for my master’s degree. I’ve talked about getting certified as a teacher and taking classes for fun. What I wasn’t planning on was going back as the teacher. But I am!

Teaching is fun for me. I enjoy public speaking (weird- I know) and I don’t mind being the center of attention. In the past my teaching has been limited to homeschooling the kids over the summer, teaching Sunday School, or giving lectures about 72-hour kits and hurricanes for the city. All of those have come with pre-made curriculums and we’re pretty easy.

This time, I’ve been invited to write the curriculum for a multi-week computer class being offered to ESL students, immigrants, and refugees coming to Alaska. The class will start by covering basic computer skills (turn it on, use a mouse, find the internet, Google), and will eventually cover other things like using Word and Excel so the students have those skills for school and jobs.

I’m excited because it means getting out of the house and hanging out with people on a regular basis. I’m an extrovert. I need to talk to people! And it’s nice to be able to give back to the community. My grandparents were refugees after WWII. They’re passage to the USA was paid for by a church, and they worked as custodians there to pay the airfare off before getting jobs. They didn’t know English. My grandma still doesn’t get computers. But in this modern age, people really do benefit from being able to use a computer.

You will probably hear be talking (very vaguely and with no specifics because of privacy reasons) about my students and the class starting in September.

If you’ve ever taught this kind of class, I’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t. Creating a curriculum from scratch is a new challenge. I’m up for it, but I have a bad habit of over-planning classes and we only get an hour each week! So, hit my comments and let me know what you find works best when you’re teaching someone to use a computer.

Love!
~ Liana ~

Impulse Buy Books of the Week: The Defenders of Love series by Carolyn LaRoche

WitnessProtectionebook

I rarely feature box sets on the Impulse Buy, but this is worth the triple-shot. All three Defenders of Love books are on sale for a limited time. Three full novels, each for 99¢ on Amazon for a limited time. Get them while they’re hot!

WITNESS PROTECTION: Someone wants NYPD detective Angelina Ferrara dead…again. Following her heart instead of her mind landed her in Witness Protection. Can she trust it and handsome detective Logan James to keep her alive this time?

HOMELAND SECURITY: All Katie McCoy wanted was a quiet Friday evening, a frozen pizza and a pair of comfy pajamas. Damn her stupid ex-fiance to hell for the armed men that stormed her apartment and dragged her off on a matter of “national security”. Wearing those comfy pajamas and nothing else, she wasn’t at all prepared for the interrogation that awaited her…or the man with the questions.

 BORDER PATROL: He’s running away from a broken heart…For Keegan James, his career meant everything. Until he let his heart get in the way of his good sense. Oh, she was thinking about the future too—with another man. So, he did what any jilted lover would do and left the FBI to move to the beach to join the Border Patrol. He bought an old farm in need of a ton of work—or a total tear down. Unfortunately for him, the entire property is under investigation by the DEA for drug trafficking and the agent on the case thinks he’s involved. What’s worse? She’s smart, sex and good with a gun.

All on sale for $0.99
WITNESS PROTECTION
| HOMELAND SECURITY |  BORDER PATROL

Carolyn LaRoche_ Defenders of Love

 

Carolyn LaRoche_Author PicCarolyn LaRoche grew up in snow country but fled the cold and ice several years ago. She now lives near the beach with her husband, their two boys, two finicky cats and one old dog. When she is not at the baseball field cheering on big hits and home runs, she is busy teaching science to unwilling teenagers.

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This Post Needs A Cute Title

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Around August 16th every year I write a birthday post. Sometimes witty, ofttimes personal, but always there. This is that dreaded birthday post.

I’m trying hard to think of something that’s changed in the past year, but to be honest, I feel like life has been very stagnant. My past goals were very big and obvious: survive the move, get an agent, publish a novel. Now I’m coming up on the release of the third book in the Time and Shadows trilogy and I feel… detached I suppose?

Looking at the cover of DECOHERENCE I thought I’d feel something more. A sense of loss, or a sense of wonder, or a sense of accomplishment… but I looked at it and felt nothing, really. It’s a book. I write books. It’s what I do.

Other people go to the gym at 5am, or work in an office with a suit on, or fight fires, or fly planes… I write books.

Don’t get me wrong; DECOHERENCE is a good book. It’s possibly the best I’ve written (statistically, it is because an author gets better with each book they write). But I’m in that point of life where I’m not starting a new journey or hitting the peaks with the incredible views, I’m in the slog of it. One step after the other, slowly and steadily working towards a distant goal. I’ve started, I’ve made my choices, but I’m not seeing results just yet.

That’s why DECOHERENCE doesn’t feel like a final chapter: it isn’t. It’s the last book in the Time and Shadows series, but it isn’t the last book I’ll write, or publish, or love.

And maybe that’s why this birthday doesn’t feel so special. I’m in the grind right now. I get kids to school, and I write my books, and there’s no major shake ups or changes. Everything is fairly stable – which is wonderful! – but all my goals have been set and I’m on track.

So what does this year bring? Hard work. More hard work. Hustle and bustle and work.  It’s not glamorous, but neither is being 34. It’s not inspiring, but neither is 34. The hard work needs to get done, but it doesn’t get talked about, just like 34.

So, here’s to 34! The year of working hard, doing your best, and knowing that the best is just around the corner. 🙂

Building a City from the (Under)Ground Up – a guest post by Brooke Johnson

Over the past few weeks I’ve blogged about the basics of an ecosystem, the four simple needs of an ecosystem, and apex predators. Today, Brooke Johnson is going to kick off a series of guest posts about civilization building. She’s going to bridge the gap from basic ecosystem to flourishing civilization. 

Brooke Johnson_THE GUILD CONSPIRACY coverWhen I first sat down to write The Brass Giant, the first book in my Chroniker City series, I never could have expected that this simple idea that popped into my head one late night of insomnia would somehow develop into this vivid alternate universe, sprawling with characters and stories. All I knew was that I needed to tell this one story, about a young girl who wants something impossible for her time—and how she makes that dream possible. I never imagined that Chroniker City, the fictional city in which series takes place, would grow so far beyond my original idea.

The city sits twenty miles off the southern coast of Wales, built onto a small island of rock eight miles west of Grassholm. In our world, a remote lighthouse stands there, built in the late 1850s. However, in my alternate timeline, a wealthy German engineer by the name of Gumarich Chroniker instead chose the location in the early 1830s for his greatest engineering project—a mechanical, self-sustaining city that would eventually become the technological hub of the modern world.

What I didn’t realize, was that in the course of writing the novel the city would evolve beyond that original world-building. As I delved deeper into the setting, the city gained history and layers and several different dynamics that I did not expect.

And I love that the world came alive like that. I love that this city started as nothing more than a simple what if… and then became this multifaceted world—from the subterranean levels of engines and boilers beneath the city to the leading polytechnical university of the modern world.

But one aspect of the setting stands out from the rest: the subcity. In The Brass Giant, I spend a good number of pages beneath the streets of the city proper. My main character navigates the dangerous service tunnels and networks of pipes to sneak into a restricted workshop, she visits her brother in the subcity boilers, and even uses her knowledge of the subcity layout to escape prison and go into hiding when she’s accused of espionage by the Guild. There’s much less of the subcity in The Guild Conspiracy, the second book in the series, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

It’s this colossal, subterranean engine room that drives power to the city above, recycling water from the surrounding ocean to fill the boilers beneath the city streets, using the high temperatures from the active machinery to separate the salt from the excess water so that it can be used for plumbing, selling the leftover brine as an export. Fishing is a large trade, being an island city, and because of its close proximity to the mainland, the city has access to farms for importing poultry, meat, and produce.

As for the rest of the city, it operates heavily on trade, labor, and public service jobs among the lower and middle classes, with the upper classes usually involved in international or imperial business, trade, and financial investments. The Guild, the elite establishment of engineers, employs scientists, academic professionals, and engineers in order to develop new technologies and meet imperial demand for their creations. There is a lot of money in Chroniker City, but most of it remains in the hands of upper society.

The unique ecosystem within the subcity is what brings Chroniker City to life for me, transforming what could have been yet another ordinary London-esque setting into a fully mechanized city, a character in its own right, with many secrets hidden in its deep, dark hollows. This city is alive, and I hope that some small hint of its depth and mystery reach readers as they venture through its streets so that Chroniker City comes alive to them in the same way it exists in my head.

 

Want to read more about Chroniker City? You can buy Brooke’s ebook for $2.99!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | HarperCollins

 Brooke Johnson_ press kit author photoBrooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving author. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes one day to live somewhere a bit more mountainous.

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Impulse Buy Book of the Week: MACHINATIONS by Hayley Stone

Machinations_StonePerfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival. 

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

$2.99
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

“A tension-filled story of loss, loyalty, and forgiveness, with abundant Terminator-style shoot-em-up scenes and a snarky, kickass female warrior. I inhaled it!”
Jennifer Foehner Wells, bestselling author of Fluency

 
“This violent, bloody, romantic tale is full of awesome mechanical foes and authentic characters you love or hate, like real people . . . The nuances of the title promise more than meets the eye, and the prose delivers.”
Perihelion
 

Machinations is an action-packed SF thriller loaded with fantastic characters and gut-wrenching emotional twists. [. . .] The prose is stunning, the action is non-stop.”
Linnea Sinclair, RITA Award-winning author of Gabriel’s Ghost
 

Machinations is a thrilling fusion of action and heartbreak, with quick pacing, rich characters, and a one-of-a-kind story. A great debut.”
G.T. Almasi, author of Blades of Winter

 

Hayley Stone_author photo_2_resizeHayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Machinations is her debut novel from Hydra/Random House. Its sequel, Counterpart, releases October 11th, 2016.

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Quantity Creates Quality

Everyone knows the story of the pottery class divided in two groups… one was graded by how many pots they made, the other half was graded on how good the pot was. Inevitably, the students who were creating for quantity created better quality pots. Why? Because the more you do something the better you get at it.

No writing is ever wasted. No time spent creating art is ever wasted.

So what if you wind up trunking a novel and throwing it away? I threw out all my notes from seventh grade, too (actually – I set them on fire – but that’s another story). Does that mean I forgot everything I learned in seventh grade? No! What I learned stayed in my head.

So you spend time writing a book and hit a point where you realize it isn’t going to work. The market is wrong, you don’t love it any more, there’s no villain, whatever… you save it, close it, and open a new document and start a new story. That time invested was time you spent learning.

You know what happens when you create your first selling piece? A few years later you’re going to look back at that book that was your Very Best Story Ever and realize it kinda sucks. What happened? … well, if you didn’t stop writing after that first sale, you’ve spent hundreds of hours writing, creating, and improving. Even if you only spend thirty minutes a a day writing, that’s 182 hours of dedicated practice. And most authors spend 30-40 hours a week writing, reading, or studying writing. That’s a thousand hours a year.

After several years and several thousand hours of practice, your old best record is no longer your best.

This is all really easy to say, but it’s really hard for some people to put in practice because it means letting books go. It means that, sometimes, you have to retire a story. Give up. Quit. Walk away. Start over. And not start over by rewriting the same story a new way, but start over with new characters in a new universe with a new plot.

Eleven years ago I joined an online critique group just for fun. Over the years a group of us got together, started pushing each other to take our writing further, and we grew our careers together. Every single one of them that went on to have a career in publishing is an author who knew who to let a story go.

It’s tough… so very tough! I cried the first time I had to give up my favorite series. I still dream about bringing it back. But I knew, realistically, that the writing, plot, and content were not good enough for publication.

The writers who didn’t learn how to let a series go and move on are still unpublished. They’re still editing stories they wrote ten years ago and refusing to either kick the book out the door, or stuff it at the bottom of the hard drive. It’s hard to let go, but you to progress as a writer, really to progress with any form of art, you need to know when to stop. The painter needs to know when to walk away and stop adding layers. The singer needs to know where the song ends and when to let their voice rest. The actor knows they need to play different roles. And they all know that you can do this without being a failure.

No work is wasted as long as you learned something from it.

So, take a deep breath, evaluate your work honestly, and don’t be afraid to start something new because the more you create, the better you’ll get.

Sustainable Extra-Solar Living – Apex Predators and More! (repost)

Continuing last week’s post on sustainable living, definitions and why they pertain to writing.

Biomass Majority

Why you need these: This is my own term for all the creatures that fall in the center of the food web in an ecosystem. They aren’t at the bottom, but they aren’t at the top. They are the links that keep the ecosystem working. These are the things big enough to eat, but small enough that they won’t eat you. The prey animals, really. You need them on a sustainable planet unless your characters are living off of rations or algae byproducts.

Possible Plot Points: Creatures falling into the Biomass Majority will probably figure into your culture’s trade as an import/export. Trade is always a good source of conflict. Dig a little deeper, pull an HG Wells, and make your character a member of the Biomass Majority, suddenly they are an import/export AND a food! That should keep the pace up!

Apex Predators
Why you need these: In most cases, the characters you deal with are the Apex Predators on the planet. One way or another, they are at the top of the food chain. Even if your characters aren’t the top carnivore, someone needs to be. Without apex predators to keep populations in check you wind up with over-population, disease, famine, and wide-spread death. Trust the biologists, we know of what we speak, it’s better for a few members of the Biomass Majority to die than for all of them to die slowly because there are no apex predators.

Possible Plot Points: You have seen Jurassic Park, haven’t you? Apex Predator 1 meet Apex Predator 2, there are some very successful movies based on this concept. Any imbalance in the predator-prey relationship is risky. Good for conflict, bad for characters. :o) The ascension of a new Apex species would make for a good book, as would the view from the falling species.

Rare Species
Why you need them: Anything limited is valuable. We haven’t started discussing imports, exports, and incomes but rare species figure into the wealth of the planet. From an ecologists stand point, rare species are indicator species. The fewer there are of a given species, the more small changes affect their population.

Possible Plot Points: You will only get away with this in science fiction, but introduce the concept of Indicator Species but having characters mention that there are fewer frogs this year, or pygmy hippos, or hyper-intelligent shades of the color blue. You can use these creatures to foreshadow. You can also make them the object of a quest or obsession. Or the main characters could be the rare species. You’re only limited by your imagination.

 

 

Next Week: Fuel and Energy

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: THE GUILD CONSPIRACY by Brooke Johnson and the CLOCKWORK series by Beth Cato

Brooke Johnson_THE GUILD CONSPIRACY coverIn the face of impossible odds, can one girl stem the tides of war?

It has been six months since clockwork engineer Petra Wade destroyed an automaton designed for battle, narrowly escaping with her life. But her troubles are far from over. Her partner on the project, Emmerich Goss, has been sent away to France, and his father, Julian, is still determined that a war machine will be built. Forced to create a new device, Petra subtly sabotages the design in the hopes of delaying the war, but sabotage like this isn’t just risky: it’s treason. And with a soldier, Braith, assigned to watch her every move, it may not be long before Julian finds out what she’s done.

Now she just has to survive long enough to find another way to stop the war before her sabotage is discovered and she’s sentenced to hang for crimes against the empire. But Julian’s plans go far deeper than she ever realized … war is on the horizon, and it will take everything Petra has to stop it in this fast-paced, thrilling sequel to The Brass Giant.   

$2.99
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | HarperCollins

Brooke Johnson_ press kit author photo

 

BROOKE JOHNSON is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving writer. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes to one day live somewhere more mountainous. You can find her on Twitter @brookenomicon.

Website

 

 

Clockwork Sale 2016

 

 

Beth Cato_ ClockworkCrown_331x500

Raised in far northern Caskentia, Octavia was orphaned at age twelve when a Waster airship crashed atop her village. She has been plagued ever since by memories of fire and the screams of blood and death that her attuned ears could hear.

Soon after, she was taken in by Miss Percival and trained as a medician at an academy for girls with an aptitude for healing magic. Octavia excelled–perhaps too much. Her connection to the Lady and her Tree isolated her from her peers, and eventually, Miss Percival as well. Her formative years were spent working in medical wards at the front line of Caskentia’s most recent conflict with the Waste.

Octavia is now twenty-two. Armistice has been declared. She is yet another mouth to feed at the academy. It’s time for her to set out on her own as a business-woman, but this is not be a relaxing jaunt by airship to her new employer.

All she wants is a place to call home.

All she needs right now is to stay alive.

This week only, you can pick up both CLOCKWORK DAGGER and CLOCKWORK CROWN for less than $5. Two novels, five dollars. It’s a bargain you won’t want to miss. 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s | Books-A-Million | Poisoned Pen | Changing Hands | Mysterious Galaxy

BethCato_DeepestPoison500x330 (2)

Beth resides in Buckeye, Arizona, on the outskirts of Phoenix. Her family includes my husband Jason, son Nicholas, and elder-cat Porom. She’s originally from Hanford, California. If she wears ruby slippers and taps her heels three times, that’s where she goes by default. Her literary agent is Rebecca Strauss of DeFiore and Company.

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