BODIES IN MOTION: Chapter 17

ROWENA

Start at Chapter 1

In the evening light, the landing gear of the Sciarra armada stretched like pillars between their shield and the seawall. A forest of shadows and light with loading ramps.

Rowena leaned back in the hastily-constructed chair—a frayed blanket and a metal frame—and watched as Titan paced under the bulk of the Sabiha.

Mars settled in beside her. “You watering the drinks, Lee?”

“No.” She glared at Mars. She wasn’t in the mood for a playful fight.

He was young enough to smile back like it was nothing. Poor kid. “He’s not sitting down. Not holding still. If the giggle water you brought won’t help, I don’t know what will.”

“We could knock him unconscious,” Rowena said. “Hide him in the cargo bay until this passes.”

“Mmm.” Mars frowned and still looked like a younger, happier version of Titan. “Do we have options that won’t require getting my captain’s permission?”

It was Rowena’s turn to grimace. “Has he eaten today?”

“Not that I’ve seen.”

“Run down to Cargo Blue, pick up anything that looks edible, and we’ll see if a hot meal doesn’t work.”

Mars nodded. “It’ll be better than ship’s rations, at any rate.”

When he walked away, Titan turned around, startled. “Where’s he going?”

“To get food,” Rowena said as she stood up, holding another bottle of the drugged water that was supposed to relax nerves and sooth aches. “Here, have another drink,” she said as Mars walked through the Sciarra shield, becoming another ghostly shape in the shadows.

Titan looked away. “I’m fine.”

“For someone who took a beating, sure. But the medic said rest and this doesn’t look restful to me. You’re…” She waved a hand at his jittering leg.

With a muttered grumble, Titan stilled. “I’m fine.”

“And I’m the princess of the flower festival,” she said. “Sit down and stop fidgeting or I’m going to knock you out and lie when Mars comes back.”

“There’s an op going without me,” Titan said as he fell into one of the chairs, making it groan in protest. “My op. It’s my case. I should be out there.”

“With no weapons, no defenses, and no backup?” Rowena scoffed. “Sure. Sounds very sensible.” She sat down beside him. “Should I replay one of your lectures on unity and trust? I have them all saved. From ‘Carver Is A Decent Person’ to the all-time favorite, complete with laugh track, ‘I Can Work With A Silar.’ Some of the fleetlings worked out a comedy sketch to that one.”

Titan’s head lolled to the side, he did not look amused.

She smiled. “We can work with these people. Your words. Not mine.” She lifted her bottle up. “Drink! Forget about them! They are mostly competent and have handled situations in Tarrin without you before. So find something else to think about.”

Titan took a swig of the giggle water. “Selena-”

“Selena?” Rowena asked in shock. “We’re using first names now?”

“Yes.”

“No! Pick something else!”

“Carver?” Titan hesitated.

Rowena shook her head. “You are not good at this game. You’re supposed to think of something distracting but not enraging.”

“Like the Lee’s new candidates for the OIA and Starguard?”

“Yes!” After a moment she punched his arm. “You were supposed to warn me about that. If Hoshi gets backing from another crew, it’s going to be that much harder to throw a coup without dropping bodies. I hate killing family. Even if it’s Hoshi’s side.”

Moonlight danced in the water as Titan waggled his drink in disagreement. “It’s not for Hoshi. It’s so we can pick an instructor from your crew for the new training house. Especially since it’ll be weeks before they let me take a rotation again. Silar and Carver are decent at hand-to-hand combat, but they’re also trying to keep the guard running.”

“Lees don’t do hand-to-hand combat.” Not as a crew, at any rate. She and Aronia had learned because she’d trained with Mal during the war. But… She shook her head. “Hoshi won’t recommend anyone worth having.”

“The training house gets to take whoever they want,” Titan said. “Hoshi can recommend but we don’t have to listen.”

A terrible suspicion flared. “Ty, you didn’t recommend this, did you? You know the Council will shut it down. Warmonger crews can’t recommend promotions for other Warmongers. This is going to blow up in your face.”

He shook his head. “I didn’t recommend it.”

That left… No one that she could think of. The Sciarras were the only crew she was friendly with, and Hoshi couldn’t make friends without bribing them. “Someone is backing the Lees?”

“Not really.” Titan looked up at the sky trying to avoid the conversation.

“Who recommended this?” she demanded.

“Eh.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does if it’s a trap!” She set her empty bottle down and stood up. “Did you think of what could happen?”

Titan scowled at her. “Who do you think I am? Of course I checked. I went through every angle and threatened someone with a slow and painful death if you got hurt.”

“Who recommended this?”

“Selena.”

Rowena choked and coughed. All the oxygen had suddenly gone missing.

Titan thumped her on the back. “You okay?”

“Caryll recommended this madness?” Reality asserted itself. “No, that makes no sense. You have brain trauma. That’s what happened. Let’s go to the med bay.” She stood up and grabbed Titan’s hand. “You were hit in the head, now you’re hallucinating, that makes sense. Come on.”

He didn’t budge. “I’ve been cleared. Twice! I’m fit for duty.”

“Titan!” She dropped his hand in frustration. “It still won’t work.” That thought calmed her. “Caryll’s recommendation would have to be supported by other allied captains, and you won’t get that.”

He lifted a shoulder and dropped it. “You’d think, but the Silars backed it.”

“Captain Silar? He hasn’t left his quarters since landing. How’d Caryll get that signature?”

“She has Hollis’s.”

The magnetic poles of the planet shifted under her. Up was down. Down was up. It was possible the stars were in the sea now.

She pinched herself. Still awake and alive. “You must have a concussion.”

“Run a scan!” Titan said.

“Food!” Mars shouted as he teleported in between them, holding three boxes and what looked suspiciously like a nishu book. “Um… Did I miss something?”

“Titan has a concussion.”

Mars shook his head. “Not unless you hit him. The medic ran a check while I was there.”

“See!” Titan glared victoriously.

Frustrated, and not sure she wanted to finish the argument with Mars around, she nodded at the book bound by thin pieces of metal and filled with the yellow-green paper the fleet made from algae. “What’s that?”

“Dinner.” Mars floated the boxes to Titan. “I grabbed a couple of sampler platters. Things deep-fried in grease, a salad, and something with cheese and sugar that Fiona Glenndie says is delicious.”

“Sugar and cheese?” Titan asked skeptically.

Mars shrugged.

Rowena ignored the boxes and gave the book a mental tug. They were always somewhere in the fleet, illegal, single-copy manuscripts written by bored crew members and filled with ridiculousness. Some of them were entertaining. A few showed real artistic skill. Most were smutty wet dreams that someone decided to share—because having sex on a bunk across the room from your cousin wasn’t enough for some people.

With a smile, Mars grabbed the book and held it tight. “You don’t want this.”

“I do, actually,” Rowena said, tugging at the telekyen molecules in the binding. “That’s why I’m trying to pull it away.”

“Who gave it to you?” Titan asked as he opened one of the boxes and poked a cautious finger at lumps of golden-brown things. “And what is that?”

“Tempura vegetables from the islands,” Mars said. He put the book behind his back and raised a light shield. “And I wasn’t given the book. The Ravma crew was out celebrating someone’s promotion and didn’t notice when I picked it up. Not objecting is consent, right?”

Rowena rolled her eyes as Titan said, “No.”

“That’s theft,” Titan mumbled as he bit into the tempura. “And this is… odd. Sweet? Orange. Is it supposed to be these colors?”

“How should I know?” asked Mars. “Do I look like an expert on grounder cuisine? I think that’s a root of some kind, if it helps.”

“Food grown in dirt.” Rowena grimaced, broke Mars’s shield, and teleported the nishu book to her hands. “That’s worse than sleeping in dirt. Grounders.” She shuddered, then flipped the book open. “‘Taking The Captain Captive’,” she read. “This looks fun.”

Mars teleported over and landed beside her with a grin. “Look at the pictures! That’s a decent drawing of Titan.”

It was. And a highly sexualized drawing of Caryll.

Rowena wrinkled her nose as she read the opening. “Oh, suns of the homeworlds. This is… This is nasty! Criminally bad. ‘She looked up at him with limpid eyes blue as the lakes of Rasare. ‘Take me,’ she begged. ‘Take me away from this crowd to your secret place.’” She raised an eyebrow. “You have a secret place, Ty?”

“Yup, right behind my station on the command deck. I have snacks there when I’m working at night.” He grabbed the book and pushed the box of food at her. “Who did I capture this time?”

“Selena Caryll,” Mars said. His grin grew wider as Titan stared down in growing horror.

Rowena laughed. “I told you it was bad!”

“Sciarra grabbed her hair and shoved her against the bulkhead…” Titan read aloud. “Not unless I want my balls cut off.” He shuddered for dramatic effect.

“Unless she likes it rough,” Mars said.

Rowena and Titan turned. She shook her head. “What? No. You’re a youth! You don’t get to talk about rough sex!”

The younger Sciarra made a face. “If there was still an Academy I’d be at it. All of you had sex there!”

“No I didn’t!” Rowena said.

“No she didn’t,” Titan agreed. He turned the page on the book. “This is awful. And illegal. Why did you bring it here? No one is allowed to write non-factual stories about living or recently deceased people. The Captain’s Council could sanction us if we don’t report it.”

Mars waved a hand in Titan’s direction. “You’re a guardian! This is reporting it! Better you than Silar. He’s making the rounds in there and if he found one, he’d probably read it.”

“One of these days we just need to kill Silar,” Rowena said. “It’ll make life so much easier. Carver is busy trying to figure out how to have a wife, Marshall is always gone on Descent doing schooling. We’d have run of the place if Hollis wasn’t around.”

Titan froze then turned to her slowly. “What did you say?” There was an edge of fury in his voice.

She frowned. “Let’s kill Hollis? This is not a new idea. Or a bad one.”

“About Marshall,” Titan said forgetting about the book. “Where did you say she was?”

“On Descent. At one of the big universities there. Her family insisted she get a grounder education. Don’t you listen to gossip? The Allied crews have been talking about it for days. She had some big test today, defending a theorum or thesis or who knows what. A challenge of some kind.” Rowena shrugged indifferently. “She left yesterday and is out of coms range until tomorrow. Unless the challenge kills her. Which would be nice.”

Titan’s smile had turned into a frown of pure rage. “Marshall wasn’t in Enclave today.”

“Not once, as far as I know.” Rowena looked to Mars for explanation. He seemed as confused as she was about Titan’s sudden mood shift. “Why does it matter?”

“Carver said Marshall was seeing to Selena’s wounds.”

Mars frowned. “That seems unlikely.”

“But it doesn’t mean someone else didn’t,” Rowena said quickly, trying to keep control of the situation.

Titan pivoted, fists clenching at his side.

“I’m sure she’s somewhere safe,” Mars said. “She’s a captain. She’ll have found somewhere to hunker down.”

Silence descended as Titan stopped moving.

Rowena held her breath.

Bowing his head, Titan swore. “I’m an idiot.”

“No argument there,” Rowena agreed. “But, for clarification, what were you thinking you were being an idiot about?”

“The Jhandarmi director cut the guardians out of the op they’re running tonight. He said that they have a safe house nearby with a shield provided by the fleet during Landing.” He shook his head with a bitter smile. “The Baluars were out. Carver and Marshall were busy handling the negotiations. That left who?”

“Caryll,” Rowena said. The name left a bitter taste in her mouth.

Mars wrinkled his nose. “It wouldn’t have been her choice. Back then Carver held full control, she was one of his top lieutenants. All he had to do was give her the order, and tell her to classify it. She couldn’t tell you if she wanted.”

That was debatable. Technically, Titan was high enough in the Starguard that he should have had access to that kind of priority data. It was the kind of tiny, insulting oversight that could start another war. Stifling her own angry thoughts, she said, “It’s a logical place for a wounded captain to go. She can keep an eye on the Jhandarmi and rest. If she set up the shield she can probably slip into the safe house without even noticing.”

Titan nodded.

She smiled at him. “Nothing to worry about then.”

“I have to go stop her,” Titan said.

“What?” Rowena stared at him in disbelief. “Why?”

“Carver told the Jhandarmi we’d stay out of it. If Caryll steps in, even if she means well, it could damage our treaty. We’re dependent on their good will to get the rest of the medicines back.” He held out his hand. “I have a two percent charge. Come on, Ro. You promised to back me. Even for the stupid stuff.”

She closed her eyes and went through a litany of her grandmother’s best curses in her head. “You’re an idiot, Sciarra.” Teeth clenched, she reached out and touched the back of her hand to is, initiating the energy transfer. Her hand warmed, the pulsing of her heart creating small sparks as she gave Titan the strength he needed. She wasn’t below sixty percent when he pulled his hand away. “Is that enough?”

“It’s just a teleport and a shield unlock. I know her codes. I’ll be fine.”

Rowena crossed her arms. “Fine. Thirty minutes, and then I’m coming for you. Enclave shield and orders can get wrecked.”

“Thirty minutes is all I need,” Titan said. He smiled as he teleported out.

“All Sciarras are idiots,” she muttered under her breath.

Mars jabbed her with his elbow. “Hey now. Look at me. I’m adorable.”

“Like my little brother who outgrew me six years ago,” Rowena said, letting the cadet jolly her back into a smile. “Come on. Let’s try this sweet cheese thing you found while we wait.”

“Do you think Titan will be okay out there?” Mars asked as he took a seat and set up the rapidly congealing meal.

Cold grease had an unpleasant odor that made her push the box away. “He’ll be fine. Boil down Ty’s personality and what you get is loyalty. Once he’s given his loyalty, it’s there forever, whether you deserve it or not. That’s why we make a good battle team.”

“Because you’re loyal?” Mars asked as he held out the second carton and a wedge of something that didn’t look like cheese or sugar.

Rowena poked the creamy lump with a fork Mars offered her. “Because I’m stubborn. Ty knows I’ll come rescue him. If I promise to do something, it gets done.” She cut into the food and sequestered a piece.

“Titan says you have integrity. You always do what you promise.”

“I try,” she mumbled before biting into the grounder food. It was tart with a following sweetness. Not bad considering it had the consistency of caulking putty.

Mars claimed the rest. “How much longer until we go rescue Ty?”

“Twenty-three minutes,” Rowena said as she sat back and stared up at the sky. “Twenty-three long minutes.”

Meet The Characters
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Hello out there!

Dear Reader,

At this point you are probably wondering whether or not I survived the drive through Canada and, if I did, will I ever return to the blog and stop leaving auto-posted chapters here. Regular readers are probably expecting a return to nice things like blog posts on writing or news about my favorite books.

Consider this the post you’ve been waiting for! Huzzah!

The summer blog break is almost at an end!

My kids go back to school September 5th, which means I will resume a normal blogging schedule (3-4 posts per week) on September 6th. Coincidentally, that week should see BODIES IN MOTION wrapping up for the grand finale and I should be kicking off a new project by mid-September. I have several posts scheduled including a series on encouraging young writers, fast drafting (and probably a reprint of the NaNo Boot Camp), and how to write a first draft you can work with. This will be interspersed with pics from my explorations of the Pacific Northwest and random other things that will appear randomly. (Random is good).

If there’s anything specific you’d like to see in my return to regular blogging feel free to let me know in the comments, my email, on Twitter, or in my Tumblr Ask box. I’m super excited to get back into a regular routine and my office is almost done, so soon I’ll have some pics of my new work space for you. What are you getting excited about?

Query Help Available Now!

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Over the course of your career you will probably have several editors. Over the course of a book you will have at least two editors with most publishers (a content or developmental editor and the line editor). For an author who is serious about their career these aren’t luxuries, editors are the secret prep step that makes readers come back for each dazzling story you write.

Getting your story in front of an editor is the hard part. If you’re an indie author you can hire an editor (like me – hi!) to do the work, but for the other avenues of publishing you need to query and get your book under contract first. The best way to do that is with a great query (it reads like the back-of-book blurb) and fantastic opening chapters. If your query isn’t getting the results you want it may need some professional attention.

I offer affordable rates for submission packet critiques, query critiques, contest critiques, and even pre-write consults if you want want to bounce an idea off an industry professional while you’re getting started. Openings are available now, so why not turn your story into a success story? Hire the help you need today!
To reserve a space please contact me at liana.brooks1@gmail.com

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Ehlers-Danlos In Fiction

I never meant to drag my illness into fiction. In fact, it’s been something I’ve intentionally avoided. Ehlers-Danlos is a weird genetic mutation. The things it does would make most editors frustrated.

It turns out: it does frustrate editors. A lot.

Without planning on it I accidentally gave the Lee sisters in BODIES IN MOTION Ehlers-Danlos symptoms. Arnoia’s pregnancy is threatened by a late-stage placental tear, something that ended six of my mother’s pregnancies. My mother miscarried in the later part of the second trimester with each one. With modern medicine I might have had older siblings, but with what was available in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was nothing to be done.

Rowena has the fragile Ehlers-Danlos skin although it’s protected by her augmentation. And that’s what my editor picked up on. She noticed a later chapter of BODIES IN MOTION where Rowena cuts the palm of her hand with her nails. “Not possible,” my editor said.

I looked down at the scratches on my hand, deep grooves left from a midnight mosquito bite and itching in my sleep. Nails can most certainly cut skin! But not all skin. Just skin like mine… papery thin, velvety to the touch, changed because of a mutation in the body’s connective tissue.

Changing Rowena and Aronia would have required very little. I could have given Aronia other pregnancy problems, there are many. I could have had Rowena express her rage another way. But I’m not going to.

I won’t name Ehlers-Danlos in text because BODIES IN MOTION is not an Earth-centric novel. There’s no mention of Earth, or the cultures we know, and I want that separation. I am not dwelling on the disease in the book. No one is getting magically cured. No one is going to be debating the worth of their life because of having Ehlers-Danlos. This isn’t a novel for the inspirations market, it’s unapologetically SF and SFR.

But it will be in the series.

So, if you are an EDS spoonie and want a book with a hero like you (or anti-hero/antagonist/whatever Rowena winds up being), here’s a pair of fighter pilots and warriors with genes like you. Ehlers-Danlos is found the world over in every genetic group. It’s hard to diagnose, autosomal dominant, runs in families, and can be undiagnosed for years if not generations. It’s a disease that will undoubtedly follow humanity where ever we go. Now it gets a face to go with it. I have full faith Rowena will Ehlers-Danlos regret trying to hold her back.

 

Pre-order the print/ebook combo now from Inkprint Press. 
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The Path To Failure

I have another secret to share, come here. Closer… closer… STOP! Right there.

Look around. Do you see everything around you? This, my friend, is the path to failure. This is where dreams are broken. This is where it all falls apart. We call it life, sometimes adulthood, but what it really is the graveyard of our hopes.

Okay, you can back up now.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Shake that negativity off. Take another deep breath and look around. You see this?

This is the path to success. This is where all your dreams come true. This is where everything works for you like you are a Cinderella whose fairy godmother took over the mob and took out those two step-sisters years before you ever had to scrub a floor.

Do you know what the difference is between the path to failure and the road to success? There is none.

There is only one road.

Some days it looks like you are careening towards failure. Everyone else took the express route and found their Prince Charming, their book deal, their million dollar dream and you are still scrubbing floors and writing books by candlelight as you weep into your ink-stained hands.

Suck it up, Buttercup, this is what success looks like before they photoshop it.

It’s hard work, long nights, gut checks, honest chats with friends, and getting knocked back on your butt ninety-nine times. And then you stand up for that hundreth time and punch back. Failure is success that quit. Failure is what happens when you stop standing up when you get punched down. Failure is a step on the long road to success.

Cry if you must. Take a deep breath, look out at the scenery. Take a detour and check out the little things. Then get back on the road and keep going because that’s what turns failure into Success.

If you quit because of a rejection letter, or because you didn’t get the job, or because you failed the first test in a class you aren’t giving yourself a chance to be brilliant. Believe in yourself a little bit longer. Stand back up. You’re getting there.

Where have all the knives gone?

This post is 5 years old, written during out family’s sojourn in Florida. It’s worth sharing because it still amuses me. 🙂

Have you ever seen Sinbad? Not the old black and white (I loved those!) but the animated movie from a decade or so ago? If not you can check out some clips HERE. The thing is, it’s currently Bug’s favorite movie of all time. Especially the opening fight scene where Sinbad has two swords.

At this point that’s the only part of the movie he watches. Once the fight scene is over he runs off to play outside.

On a completely unrelated note (or maybe not) I’ve noticed I’m losing butter knives at an alarming rate. I mean, sure, sometimes you lose a knife or two to kitchen mishaps. You might leave one at a picnic or a church potluck. But I bought new butter knives not two months ago to replace the casualties of last summer’s BBQ season and this morning I couldn’t find a single one!

Enter the three-year-old, running as if his life depended on it, “Hiyah!” He kicked an imaginary foe and light twinkled off his twin blades.

My eyes narrowed. “Son, are those mommy’s knives?”

He blinked, startled by my demand that he re-enter reality. With three years of experience dealing with mom he went with honesty. “No, these are my swords!” And off he raced to save the day.

Every single time Sinbad is on Bug moves his favorite chair in front of the TV and attends the viewing with his trusty swords in hand, a devotee of swashbuckling agog at the animated prowess. And every single time I trail after him trying to find where he stashed all his other weapons.

I finally gave up and sat down on the much-abused recliner to watch with him today. For my pains I was stabbed in the head. By a butter knife. By a butter knife hidden in the stuffing of the headrest. You see, the recliner is ripped open, the stuffing is visible and Bug just couldn’t resist hiding his treasures there.

While he was distracted I emptied the secret hidey hole and hid the hoard in the dishwasher. I have my knives back! At least until he watches Sinbad again…

Isn’t imagination a wonderful thing? It can transform a square patch of grass into the surface of Mars, the depths of the ocean, or the tower of a castle. Imagination can turn dull butter knives that can’t damage a banana into the sharpest swords. Imagination turns a blank page or an empty screen into a life filled with wonder and emotion.

What have you imagined today?

Do I need to buy your book? A Quick Guide To Supporting Authors…

I originally published this list in April of 2012. A new friend had found out I’d written a book but at that point the only books I had out were romance. She wanted to be supportive, but didn’t want to read romance. Not every book is for everyone, so here are some (updated!) ways to support the authors you know and love even if you don’t want to read their books.

Here’s the thing, every author wants you to buy the book they’ve written. It’s how authors work. We write things down, edit like frantic marmots on meth, and then beg, plead, and cry until someone publishes our work. Then we set our hair on fire worrying if everyone will hate our work. What I’m saying here is: authors are lunatics. We really are.

And because authors are lunatics, we’ve set ourselves up with the expectation that no one will buy our beautiful book. Why? Because we know there are millions of wonderful books out there and readers only have time (and money) for a small percentage of those wonderful books.

In this instance, this person is a good friend from my writing group who doesn’t like romance or e-books. She likes mysteries and hardcovers. I get it. EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE isn’t a book she can buy and donate, it isn’t a book she wants to read, it isn’t a book she wants to recommend. I’m not going to hate someone for not loving my book.

I’m not going to be angry because someone I know doesn’t buy my book.

If you know an author and can’t buy or don’t want to buy their book, but don’t absolutely hate them, there are ways to support an author for free.

– Leave a Review – You may not know this, but Amazon doesn’t recommend a book until it has 50 reviews. I imagine Barnes & Noble and Kobo have similar algorithms. This is even more important if you’ve read the book for free (library copy, loaned by a friend, ect), leave the author a review somewhere. It makes us happy.

– Give A Tweet – Unless you object to the book, recommend it to friends. Word of mouth us how a majority of books sell. If you don’t have Twitter, mention the book on Facebook, tell someone at work, or casually drop the name. It’s okay to name drop authors, if no one else knows who you’re talking about, tell them the author is a fabulous up-and-coming writer you liked before they were cool. Go Hipster You!

– Be Nice To The Author – You’d think this would be a given, but it’s not. I’ve seen more than one author snubbed because they were finally published. It doesn’t matter who they are, they are still a person and you can be polite.

– Request The Book – If your library is like mine you can suggest books for the library to purchase. This now includes e-books. Most books are in the library catalogs, and libraries take patron requests seriously.

– List It On GoodReads – So this is slightly sneaky, but it makes authors happy anyway… List the book as To-Read on GoodReads even if you never plan on touching the book ever. I get giddy every time that little number goes up.

– Give The Author A Cookie – This might only work if you’re my friend from my writing group and you happen to make these delightful little lemon cookies that are addictive. But, if you are, cookies! I like cookies! I’m easily bribed like that. If you can’t bake, socks are an acceptable alternative.

Really, most the authors I know are chatty, happy people who just happen to spend half their life in an alternate universe. If you can’t buy a book, don’t stress it.

There Are Three Rules To Writing A Novel…

… and no one knows what they are. Or so says the infamous quote seen on mugs and hats everywhere people want to make money off of frustrated authors.
I’m not saying these are the missing three rules, but they’re my best guess for the time being.

1- Write it all down. Too many young authors dismiss an idea by saying “I’ll remember it later” or “it’s a stupid idea.” You won’t and it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s fanfiction, or parody, or something you wrote just because it sounded funny – write it down. Write it, edit it, and polish it before you judge your work. As long as you agree to learn from your mistakes there is no wasted time, and more than one author has become famous writing “just for fun” while they waited for the perfect book to come along.

2 – Assume your reader is intelligent. They want to read your book, don’t they? That proves they’re intelligent. So trust your reader and don’t hammer them over the head with needless details. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and give your reader a minute description of a car unless this car is radically different than the common definition. And get so lost in your love of words that you alienate your reader. Yes, a book set in ancient Rome would be more accurate if you wrote it in Greek and Latin, but far fewer people would be able to enjoy your work. Your readers are intelligent, don’t make them jump through hoops to enjoy your writing.

3- Start editing at chapter three. After your first draft is finished reread starting with chapter three. Many authors use the first two chapters to set the stage and establish characters. If you can start reading at chapter three and enjoy the book the readers don’t need those first two chapters. You may need them as an author, but your audience doesn’t. Of course, if you read from chapter three and nothing makes sense pat yourself on the back, you started your story in the right place!

There, now when someone tells you that no one knows how to write the perfect novel you can smirk knowingly and say,”I do.”

What three rules do you believe every good book follows?

Previously Published June 2012

Finding Your Strengths

All writers are not created equal.

Some are gifted at world building, others excel at pacing, some write witty dialog without breaking a sweat (looking at you, Whedon). Whatever your skill, you should identify it and make the most of it?

Why?

Let’s pretend that your greatest strength is dialog. And then you write a book with a character that never speaks to anyone. Everything is description and inner monologue. Guess what? That book is not going to snap the way your previous books did.

Worse, your readers who come to you looking for a specific style of writing might be turned off.

Think of writing a book like you would plan to dress for a photo shoot; even if you’re changing the style of the clothes you still want to accentuate your best features.

So how do you find your strengths? Here’s four quick questions that will help you find your best angle…

1) What do you like writing best?
If you find the descriptive scenes just flow, you might have a knack for world building. If you always know where to end a scene for the right dramatic tension, congratulations, you’re one of the lucky few who has a talent for pacing.

2) What scenes do you think of first?
If the dialog comes before the character description, you probably have flair for dialog. If you know your characters better than you know your neighbor, you are a natural character builder, and I bet no one has ever called your characters “flat.”

3) What do your reviews say?
Look at your critiques and reviews say? Do they mention lush worlds, colorful characters, or snappy sass? That’s your talent!

4) What do people ask for your advice about?
When someone sends you a message and says, “How would you do this?” you know you’ve found your strength.

Previously Published January 2016

Don’t Embrace The Boulders – Keep Chasing Your Dreams

The highway of life is filled with mole hills, bumps, potholes, and occasionally boulders. Big, fat, road-blocking boulders that fill all six lanes of your highway and stop forward momentum at fatal velocities.

Potholes are someone else’s choice interfering with your forward progression, like the CEO embezzling a few billion dollars and your company going bankrupt. You have no control over this, and it’s definitely going to throw you off your stride for a bit.

Mole hills are little things that may look big, like losing those last three pounds or remembering to get birthday cards in the mail by Friday. At the end of your life a mole hill is a trivial thing that’s easily forgotten. Bumps are also small. They rattle you, but they won’t kill you.

Boulders… those are a different beast entirely. Boulders are huge things that stop you from moving. Career-ending decisions. Dead end jobs. Addictions that throw you out of the loop of life and down to the sidelines.

Boulders take many forms. Sometimes they’re an addiction. Sometimes they’re a lifestyle choice. Sometimes the boulder is something we have very little control over, like a cancer diagnosis or clinical depression. Sometimes the boulder is something entirely of our own making.

Whatever the case, don’t embrace the boulders.

I see too many people who see a boulder on the road of life and assume it’s the end of the road.

The teen mom who’s life came to a screeching halt because she had a kid, and fourteen years later she’s never dated, never left home, never done anything but let one choice dictate her entire life. She’s embraced the boulder and refuses to move on.

Or my alcoholic uncle who has lost his family and friends to his abusive drinking, who lives on the edge of poverty because his paycheck goes straight to the liquor store, and who doesn’t understand why no one is excited that he’s decided to try home brewing. Alcoholism is his boulder. He’s embraced it. He has decided that alcohol is more important than anything else in life, and that he can’t cut back on it because being an alcoholic is what he is.

The author who throws in the towel because on publishing house rejected their novel that came over the transom. ONE. Not hundreds of rejections. Not dozens of rejections. ONE REJECTION, and the author wants to quit because Sad Author wrote the book with that publisher in mind.

It makes me want to set my hair on fire!

I get it, I really do. Some of these are very hard things to deal with. Addictions aren’t something you can always handle alone. Certainly a cancer diagnosis isn’t something you can shrug off. Depression sucks, I know, I’ve got it. But, Dude! YOU ARE NOT DEAD.

It’s a boulder. It’s blocking your way. But it is not the end of the road.

Don’t embrace the boulder. Don’t sell yourself short and let a mistake or a low point in your life define you. You are so much more than the obstacles you face. You have infinite potential to do good and help others. You have the unrivaled ability to create something wholly unique and wonderful. Don’t throw that all away because of a boulder.

Previously Published November 2012