The Days I Forgot

We were at the zoo. It was pushing 80 during a record-breaking heatwave in Alaska. The house has no air conditioning, the kids were going crazy, and the zoo had popcorn, pokestops, two pokemon gyms, and some new cygnets that have grown a lot this week. So we went… chilling by the polar bear (who was on his hind legs nibbling at some berry bushes), and watching the river otters chase blocks of ice with frozen food in them.

And I was taking pictures as I talked with my kids.

A kindly person touched my arm. “Put the camera down,” they said. “You need to be in the moment. The memories are worth more.”

They walked away and I was left in silence. What they didn’t know is that I know the memories of that day will fade fast. I’m turning 34 next month and my memory has been getting worse for the past decade.

It’s mostly (I think) due to the depression (which is under control – yay!) and the chronic migraines (which were under control but aren’t any more). There are whole years I don’t remember. Like 2012… my fourth child was born, her internet nickname is Bunny, and I had severe postpartum and anemia. I don’t remember that year or much of 2013. I can’t tell you when she crawled, or cut her first tooth, or took her first step. I don’t remember a single developmental milestone or whether she stayed on the growth chart. I don’t remember anything of that year. I do have photos, and the kids will tell me. I might have a journal somewhere with the details. But it was a rough year.

It was 2014 before the anemia was addressed to the point where I could function and not fall asleep because of the lack of iron. Two whole years of lost memories and spotty recollection.

The anemia is under control, but my memory is still not what it was. I used to be able to remember names and facts with one mention. I can’t. Maybe too much of my brain is used up, maybe I’m just confusing things, maybe I’m just too old. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but I have a solution.

I take pictures.

Almost every day I’ll snap a photo of the kids. Of them playing, cooking, laughing, dancing, playing piano, going to gymnastics, going to school. I have pictures of them climbing glaciers and watching whales. I take pictures all the time because then, on the days where my memory falters, I can flip through them.

I don’t always remember the day. But I’m good at picking up the background clues. The length of their hair, the background walls, the people with us… I know the state we were at. I can guess the rest. And the kids remember.

So, no, I won’t put down my camera. I won’t just “be in the moment” because of some mistaken belief that the memories will always be there. Because I know that isn’t true.

People hate me and my Millennial ways. They can hate my phone snapping a hundred pictures of my kids standing by the fluffy baby swans. They can rage. I’ll take my pictures anyway. Because these days are worth remembering.

Who Do You Write For? – a guest post by Bishop O’Connell

The Returned_HiResAs writers we often have one eye on our intended audience as we write, even if it isn’t conscious. Like a lot of art, if you ask a writer about his book, either you or he will compare it to something else: “It’s Harry Potter meets A Tale of Two Cities.” Inadvertently, or perhaps quite intentionally, this book’s audience has been identified. It is the very small but dedicated group of readers who enjoy books about child wizards during the turmoil of the French Revolution. Most of us don’t intend such comparisons to define our intended audience, but it happens and permeates what we write. No matter your genre—including literary fiction—odds are you have a set of preconceived notions that go with your selection of an audience.

As a fantasy writer, I tend to take for granted that my readers will know that elves have pointed ears, dwarves are short and bearded, magic spells are cast by wizards, and countless other small things. I’m assuming those readers will have enjoyed other fantasy novels, particularly what is considered the canon (Tolkien especially) and thus have some context. But, our assumptions can cut both ways. Experienced fans of our genre might read in a mystical explanation to something completely mundane. Conversely, the uninitiated might be completely mystified by something that is a given to most fantasy readers. How do we as writers prevent this?

For me, the answer is simple: assume your reader has never picked up a fantasy novel before. That’s right, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. This has two benefits. The first is that you prevent any confusion or frustration on the part of your reader. The second is that you’ve just opened your book up to countless readers outside your genre. That’s not to imply this is an easy feat. What is easy is to be so proud of the complex world you’ve created that you can’t wait to show your reader and you inundate her with information. In my post, Too Much Information! Knowing What to Reveal and When I went over the “how” of exposition. What I will delve into, is the “why.”

Let’s ignore the obvious: you don’t want your reader to be bored by a dissertation before getting to the story. That’s important, of course, but what I want to discuss here is the second reason. I take Ms. Rowling’s lead and assume ignorance on the part of reader and that opens my books up to a broader audience. Really, in the end, don’t we as writers want our stories to be read, and enjoyed, by as many people as possible? I certainly do. I’m sure there are those who think of themselves as purists and unless you know the arcane details you’re not “worthy” of reading the story, but that’s not for me. I want my tales to be enjoyed by anyone who picks it up, even if their usual preference is romance, mystery, biographies, printer manuals, math books, cereal boxes, newspapers, well, you get the idea. I believe if you strip out the supernatural aspects out of my novels and replace them with mundane aspects, the plot and characters still hold together. At least, that’s what I strive for. That, and no readers left scratching their heads when they’re done.

This is something all of us should strive for. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a book about faeries, or the Founding Fathers of the United States. After all, your readers might not be American or aware of American history. See? There I just assumed the readers of this piece were mostly American. I could’ve deleted that line, but I think it serves to show all of us that we have to strive, constantly, against those sorts of assumptions. Don’t limit yourself, or your work, by not inviting someone in to enjoy it. Be a good host and make your party as inclusive as possible, and ensure each guest is as welcome as possible. I hope if you’ve read my books, you found them so welcoming, and if you haven’t, consider this an open invitation.

Buy THE RETURNED

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Signed Editions available at The Fountain Bookstore

 

Bishop OProfile‘Connell is the author of the American Faerie Tale series, a consultant, writer, blogger, and lover of kilts and beer, as well as a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Born in Naples Italy while his father was stationed in Sardinia, Bishop grew up in San Diego, CA where he fell in love with the ocean and fish tacos. After wandering the country for work and school (absolutely not because he was in hiding from mind controlling bunnies), he settled Richmond VA, where he writes, collects swords, revels in his immortality as a critically acclaimed “visionary” of the urban fantasy genre, and is regularly chastised for making up things for his bio. He can also be found online at A Quiet Pint (aquietpint.com), where he muses philosophical on life, the universe, and everything, as well as various aspects of writing and the road to getting published.

Website | FaceBook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page 

DECOHERENCE Cover Reveal!

Decoherence 1

Readers of Blake Crouch’s DARK MATTER and Wesely Chu’s TIME SALVAGER will love Liana Brooks’ DECOHERENCE–the thrilling, time-bending conclusion to the Time & Shadow series!

Samantha Rose and Linsey MacKenzie have established an idyllic life of married bliss in Australia, away from the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, away from mysterious corpses, and—most of all—away from Dr. Emir’s multiverse machine.

But Sam is a detective at heart, and even on the other side of the world, she can’t help wonder if a series of unsolved killings she reads about are related—not just to each other, but to the only unsolved case of her short career.

She knows Jane Doe’s true name, but Sam never discovered who killed the woman found in an empty Alabama field in spring of 2069. She doesn’t even know which version of herself she buried under a plain headstone.

When Mac suddenly disappears, Sam realizes she is going to once more be caught up in a silent war she still doesn’t fully understand. Every step she takes to save Mac puts the world she knows at risk, and moves her one step closer to becoming the girl in the grave.

DECOHERENCE hits the shelves September 13th!

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Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

 

So… what do you think? Are you excited to read DECOHERENCE now that you’ve seen the cover?

8 Weeks To DECOHERENCE!!!

DECOHERENCE 7

DECOHERENCE is right around the corner!

I’ll be perfectly honest, when I started writing THE DAY BEFORE over five years ago, I never thought anyone would get to read the first book let alone the final book of the trilogy. This isn’t the ending of Sam and Mac, but it is the close of the mystery of who Jane Doe is, and it’s been a long time coming.

The first two books in the series really opened a lot of doors for Sam, and they made readers ask a lot of questions. I get emails frequently asking about small details. And I want you to know: THOSE ANSWERS ARE COMING. All those questions you’ve been asking about the penny in THE DAY BEFORE, about Connor’s comments in CONVERGENCE POINT, you’re going to get those answers. DECOHERENCE wraps up the original mystery that started with page one of THE DAY BEFORE and, I think, it gives Sam and Mac the emotional closure they need.

Now, that being said, if you absolutely had to, you could read DECOHERENCE by itself. But I really don’t want you to do that. So I went back to my publisher, and I begged, and I wheedled, and I sent some bribes, and they have given me a few more review copies of THE DAY BEFORE and CONVERGENCE POINT to give out to readers who haven’t had a chance to buy them yet. All I am asking in return is that you leave an honest review somewhere on the internet. If you have a review blog site, that’s great. If you would like to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo that would be even better. Leave it everywhere if you can! All you have to do is to state in the review that you received a review copy for an honest review. And, please, be honest. Something you didn’t like might be a selling point for someone else. You may hate the dog in the book, someone else might really want science fiction with a cute mastiff puppy. You never know.

All you need to do to claim your free download code is sign up with the form below. If you’ve already purchased these books and they’re waiting in your TBR pile, now is the time to read them! You have eight weeks to finish 800 pages.

If you have read all the books, left your reviews, and are sitting there biting your nails waiting for DECOHERENCE, sign up for my Behind The Scenes newsletter because for the next eight weeks I am sending subscribers deleted scenes, sneak peeks, and a chance to sign up for a brand new, never seen by anyone short story about Sam and Mac that will be available in September. You don’t want to miss it!

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: THE RETURNED by Bishop O’Connell

The Returned_HiResAlmost a year after their wedding, and two since their daughter Fiona was rescued from a kidnapping by dark faeries, life has finally settled down for Caitlin and Edward. They maintain a façade of normalcy, but a family being watched over by the fae’s Rogue Court is far from ordinary. Still, it seems the perfect time to go on their long-awaited honeymoon, so they head to New Orleans.
Little do they know, New Orleans is at the center of a territory their Rogue Court guardians hold no sway in, so the Court sends in Wraith, a teenage spell slinger, to watch over them. It’s not long before they discover an otherworldly force is overtaking the city, raising the dead, and they’re drawn into a web of dark magic. At the same time, a secret government agency tasked with protecting the mortal world against the supernatural begins their own investigation of the case. But the culprit may not be the villain everyone expects. Can Wraith, Caitlin, and Edward stop whoever is bringing the vengeful dead back to life before another massacre, and before an innocent is punished for crimes beyond her control?

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

Signed Editions available at The Fountain Bookstore

Bishop OProfile‘Connell is the author of the American Faerie Tale series, a consultant, writer, blogger, and lover of kilts and beer, as well as a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Born in Naples Italy while his father was stationed in Sardinia, Bishop grew up in San Diego, CA where he fell in love with the ocean and fish tacos. After wandering the country for work and school (absolutely not because he was in hiding from mind controlling bunnies), he settled Richmond VA, where he writes, collects swords, revels in his immortality as a critically acclaimed “visionary” of the urban fantasy genre, and is regularly chastised for making up things for his bio. He can also be found online at A Quiet Pint (aquietpint.com), where he muses philosophical on life, the universe, and everything, as well as various aspects of writing and the road to getting published.

Website | FaceBook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page 

A Little Gift

As I’m writing tonight the world is an uproar. There have been massive bombings during the holy month of Ramadan, shootings of civilians in America, and now police officers are being attacked. People are grieving. They fear for their lives and the lives of those they love. Parents are struggling to explain the madness that has gripped humanity.

Humanity has always struggled with violence. Our mythology is filled with it. From murdering brothers to the slaughter of infants… every culture has some horribly violent story that is the bedrock of their lore. In struggling to identify and define the darkness in ourselves, to find the truth to the question of Who Am I? we label the not-me as Other. We create lines in the sand; imagining differences and weighing their worth.

The ability to differentiate Me from You is part of the brain’s developmental process. It’s necessary for so many things we do. But we too often let fear shape that process. We let the Other become a monster, a boogeyman, the eternal Stranger that we must vilify or avoid lest they destroy us. Fear leads to hate. Hate leads in violence. Violence leads to heartbreak.

I can’t mend broken hearts. I don’t have a magic wand or a quick, tweetable cure for everything. But I can give you something to be happy about. I can give you a safe space, and my love, and my listening ear.

I also have a porpoise video from the cruise we took with my in-laws. The ocean is my first love. Even before I was a sci-fi geek looking at the stars, I was drawn to the water. My bachelor’s degree is in marine biology, and I admit, I would love to go back to the field. Being on a boat makes me happy. SCUBA diving is something I will give up sleep for and get cold for… and if I can find a way to do an Arctic dive before I leave Alaska, I will.

Watching dolphins and porpoises frolic in the wake of a ship will never cease to thrill me. They’re beautiful, joyful, and free. It’s not a long video (my battery was dying!) but I hope it gives you something to smile about.

How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?

*Originally published February, 2014, I have updated the Novel section to reflect what I’ve learned in the past few years.*

How long does it take to write and publish a book?
Answer: It depends on the book and the form of publication. Here are my averages:

Seventy_533x800Short Stories 
– like REAL LIES, SEVENTY and Prime Sensations in the TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE anthology –
REAL LIES took me a day to write because it’s microfiction. It’s super, super short (5 pages) and I wrote it in one sitting. SEVENTY and Prime Sensations were both written over the course of a week for an anthology call. I’d seen the anthology call, plotted it out, and scripted most of the story before I sat down to write.

REAL LIES went on query for nearly nine months to several ezines. They all closed during the first upwelling of ebooks and so I self-published it with the help of my friend. The cover art is a stock photo, the editing was done by Amy Laurens. Start to finish… 10 months for five pages.

SEVENTY went on query for about seven months, four of which were spent waiting to hear back about the anthology. It was originally published in M-BRANE #5 with no additional editing. Start to finish… thirteen months for the first printing, 2 years until the ebook came out.

Prime Sensations was written, edited, and accepted in under 2 months because I submitted just before the anthology closed. Start to finish…six months between writing and publication because I was working with experienced editors and authors who know how to make things happen.

 

EVFIL_HiResNovella
– like FEY LIGHTS and the Heroes and Villains stories –
FEY LIGHTS was written with the intent to self-publish and the idea was an old one that I dug back out and tidied up. It took roughly a month to write, two more months to edit, and then another six weeks to create the cover art, format, and get it published. It was an experiment and I don’t really recommend the Do It All Yourself route to anyone. Start to finish… four months plus change.

EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE was written for an anthology call. I wrote it subbed it, and heard back in about five months. I did another edit to lengthen it for publication elsewhere, sent it out, and heard back in another seven months. Start to finish… thirteen months between writing and publication.

EVEN VILLAINS GO TO THE MOVIES was written knowing I was an In House author with Breathless Press and that I had an editor there. That meant I got to skip most of the messy parts of submission and skip to the head of the line. Still, it took me seven months to write and four more with my editor to make it publication-ready. Start to finish… eleven months.

EVEN VILLAINS HAVE INTERNS was written over the course of ten months or so. I wrote a manuscript, hated it, and rewrote from scratch. By that point it was late to my editor and pushed back in the publication schedule. Start to finish it took fourteen months.

The Day Before: A Time And Shadows Time-Travelling MysteryNovels
2014 – JANE DOE is the only novel I’ve taken from rough draft to finished, edited, query-ready novel and even then there’s a big question mark over whether it’s still good enough. JANE took over a year to write, and about thirteen drafts until I considered it polished. I queried for three months before revising based on the rejection of a full request. Queried again. Revised again. Queried some more. Got a lot of great feedback. Picked up plenty of rejections. Had some editor interest. Revised. Got rejected. And JANE is still out there. It’s been a full year since I sent my first query. 

2015 UPDATE – Back when I originally wrote this all of this about JANE DOE was true. That was February of 2014. In May of 2014 I turned a Revise & Resubmit into Marlene Stringer. She called me in July 2014 to offer representation. The official paperwork was signed in August and we did several editing passes of the book. The first expression of interest came in late September and the book was sold in October of 2014 to HarperVoyager (and imprint of HarperCollins). The title was changed to THE DAY BEFORE and it was published in April 2015. Start to finish… close to five years.

JANE’S SHADOW /CONVERGENCE POINT  will be my second published novel. It was sold on spec (meaning based on a synopsis and as part of a series) in the three book deal to HarperVoyager. I had the basic idea for the story and the opening chapter last summer. I started writing in earnest in November of 2014, the publication date is November 2015. That’s nine months to write the book, and three months of editorial love with my publisher. Twelve months start to finish.

2016 UPDATE – I’m currently editing the last book in the Time & Shadows series (DECOHERENCE). I’ve gotten a lot better at tracking my writing and writing regularly, because when you have less than 12 months to write a book you don’t have time to dither. Right now, I can write and edit a full novel (75,000 – 120,000 words) in four months. I usually have 2-4 weeks to edit with the notes from my editor. Four weeks usually means a rewrite is in order. How did I move from writing a book over 4 years to writing it in 4 months? PRACTICE.

I look at my schedule, know exactly which days I can write, and I make writing a priority. I track my daily writing and editing with stickers, because I like stickers and having a calendar with a visual reminder of how well (or how badly) I’ve done this month helps me focus. I have deadlines, and I love deadlines. To quote Tina Fey, “Sometimes the show wasn’t done because it was perfect, but because it was 11pm.” When you hit a deadline, you can’t edit any more, you turn the book in and hope that the editor won’t ruin their liver while writing their editing notes.

 

CONCLUSION: Shorter works take less time to write, and your first pieces will take longer to write and polish than your newer works. Invest in yourself, and give yourself as much time as you need to write.

 

Postcards From Liana

Hello Lovelies!

It’s a holiday weekend here and I have relatives visiting. But I promised you pictures from my adventures, so here they are! While I’m running around the mountains of Alaska, you have a wonderful week. Good luck to everyone doing Camp NaNoWriMo!

I’ll be back to regularly updated posts after July 11th.

  • Liana
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Byron Glacier as seen from the northern side of Portage Lake.
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Potter’s Marsh with the Chugach Range in the distance. Water birds nest here and the salmon were starting to swim up the river.
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Explorer Glacier is barely visible from the picnic benches near Portage Creek. The salmon will arrive here in early August.

Pacing Matters!

There are times as a reader who also happens to write that I want to quietly pull another author aside and give them some advice. Nine times outs of ten what I want to talk to them about is pacing.

It’d be a quick conversation. “Sweetie, these are really fun characters. Great plot. Your pacing sucks. Could I maybe, pretty please, help you tighten this up? Maybe just… I don’t know, refer you to some really good references?”

I don’t because it’s rude to comment on a finished manuscript like that. If the author wanted my opinion they would have asked for it. And if the book wasn’t good the editor or beta-reader would have put a kibosh on things before the book ever hit the shelves. These aren’t bad books, but their missing a few key elements that would move them from Okay to Everyone Must Read!

Let’s cover the basics of pacing…
1) Set A Time Limit 
— The killer kidnaps the victims seven days before killing them, the bomber is targeting an event next week, the treasure must be found before the house goes on sale the third, grandma only has days to live, if I don’t find a solution I will marry Prince Charming in two days and never realize my goal of taking over the world…

Whatever the source of friction is there needs to be a deadline. Characters who are wandering around for fun are boring. There’s no urgency. No risk if they fail.

2) Never End A Chapter With Sleep
— “It had been a long day. Jane climbed into bed, pulled the sheets over her head and drifted off to dreamland.” is an invitation for the reader to close the book.

Take a tip from the writer’s of Nancy Drew: Always end the chapter in the middle of action. Never give the reader an easy out.

3) Let Characters Be Wrong
— It’s okay if the characters fail. It’s okay if they use bad information and get to the wrong place. Actually, it’s more than okay, it’s good! If everything comes easily to your characters there is no reason to care about the story. The reader knows it will be okay in the end.

4) Let Characters Fail
— Let them die. Let them lose. Let them have heartbreak and sorrow.

George R.R. Martin does a great job of this. You never know when he’s going to kill a character. What you do know is that no one is safe. It keeps the tension up. It means you won’t know until the last page if the character you’re invested in will survive.

 

What tips do you have for keeping the plot tight and the pace moving?