I Feel Busy, Oh SO Busy

Hello! I hope you aren’t too upset with me. I’ve recently taken up bar tending on weekends. So, I am veryyyy busy these days. Also, I’ve been spending my off time critiquing a manuscript in exchange for mine. It was a good experience!

 

Now, Mystic Waters news. I know my last post discussed Rosemi and I “doing it on our own” but that isn’t exactly what I meant. We’re going through Anterior, a small publishing house. I’ll be posting more information as soon as I get the word. Aren’t we all excited??

We’re still planning an event in my hometown when I come home in June. If anyone is interested, my email address is on the “About the Author” page. Let me know! It’s open to all.

I’ve been working on Chasing the Tide. To say this book is completely different from the first in the series would be an understatement. We see our friends flourish under pressure and I love every minute of it. I know I’d previously posted Mystic being a Quadrilogy but I may just do a trilogy. Then again, there may be six books! It’s definitely too soon for me to tell.

In other news, if you haven’t seen the Divergent movie, please remove your a** from the dingy computer chair you’re sitting at, and make your way to your nearest movie theater. I have such a love/hate relationship with this trilogy due to its timing while reading it but I wanted to cry like a baby when watching it. Do you ever wonder how Veronica Roth must feel, seeing her characters come to life? That has got to be amazing. I couldn’t help, while sitting there, my eyes wide, that maybe one day that’ll be MW. Wishful thinking.

 

Now playing M83 – I Need You.

 

All my love,
Cynth

Rosemi and I Decided To Take Over the World (Kind Of)

Over a week ago, I spoke with Rosemi via Skype and, after many laughs and introducing her to my husband, we got down to business. Before I get to what it was we discussed, I’m going to post what she tweeted today once I sent her Mystic Waters:

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Yes. Rosemi and I have decided that we’re going to go it alone. I’m not bashing traditional publishing, self publishing, or utilizing small presses. This was just a decision that fit our situation. Maybe Mystic Waters would’ve gotten better publicity with traditional publishing but I have faith in my story as well as those who read my blog, follow my Twitter and Facebook page. There are some decisions that just make sense. This is one of those.

Today was a great day in (fictional) Mystic. I finished this draft at 95,100 words. I took things away, added things…overall, it was an eye-opening experience. As an author, I had to step back and see the B.S. for myself. There were some sentences that just had to go. Even some paragraphs. But it’s the cleanest I’ve seen it. I’m crossing my fingers that Rosemi agrees. But, if she doesn’t, I know it’s for the best.

I know I haven’t been posting as often as I used to, but again, bear with me. I’m almost at a regular schedule again! I’ll keep you posted if any changes! Details to come soon.

 

Now playing The Beatles’ You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

 

All my love,
Cynth

I’m Working…I Promise

Now, most of you know I made it home on the 18th (FINALLY). I’ve taken the last few days for myself to get into the groove of things as well as spend some time with friends and family.

Tonight I tried something. We’re on our last draft of Mystic Waters and it’s due to Rosemi in a few days. So today I sat down with my friend and read a few chapters aloud to her. I have to encourage this method to other writers. I found mistakes I otherwise looked over. There were sentences that weren’t graceful or wording that didn’t quite fit. So that’s some advice I’d like to share. Once you have your story down, I encourage reading it aloud to someone who is interested in the story.

It’s weird being back home.

Wonderful.

But weird.

You never really know just how crap a situation is until you’re out of it. At least, when you come home from Afghanistan. I ask you all for patience. I’m still attempting to get into the groove of things. Hopefully next post will give you all a bit more info! Until then:

 

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I’m home.

 

 

Now playing Chandelier by Sia.

 

 

All my love,
Cynth

The Post That Was SUPPOSED To Come From Germany

Look at the title of this post. Not the happiest camper to have had my flight home canceled a few days ago. And to make up for me not posting despite my personal issues, I’m going to give you an excerpt! Don’t leave me. I promise to be better next time. Xoxo.

 

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The familiar shock of power flew through me and my hands were set alight. The glow that covered them from wrist to fingertip, shimmering with the promise of something terrible, was enough to shock me back to reality. Hurting anyone was out of the question so I breathed deeply, the steady rise and fall of my chest interrupted by my shivering against the cold wind that stung my wet skin. I couldn’t live if I did something like that again. I watched the lightning crack through the darkness. Even the rain and lightning and thunder in all the world wouldn’t chase away my demons.

“Liza! Elizabeth!” I could hear Farah calling for me, but I stood there and let the rain wash over me, cleansing me. Nothing I could do would ever change what happened. It would never erase my greatest sin, which was beginning to consume me. I saw the way her steps faltered when she noticed the muted glow coming from my fingers, dimming further as I calmed myself. I didn’t bother to hide them. There was no fight left in me, no more denial.

“Wha…what?” Her hands tightened around the stem of the umbrella and I could feel the shock coming from her. I didn’t respond.

 

I hope you enjoyed that bit! I’m attempting to redeploy and plan an event once I get back home. I’ve just gotten word that the Mayor of my hometown will be in attendance! If you find yourself without plans on June 21st, email me…well…before the 21st would be best. ;)

 

Now playing Lea Michele’s Cue the Rain. Her album is genius. I’m in love.

 

All my love,
Cynth

Second Liebster Award!

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Yesterday I was nominated for my second Liebster award by the ridiculously awesome Hiba Tahir. I’ve grown fond of her tweets and loved the bit she said about me in her post last night.

Anyway, I know we usually follow the rules on my blog:

1. Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them.
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

 

But…I really don’t have time to! I’m very sorry. Between packing up and making time to write before bed, I’m swamped. I will, however, answer the questions she provided!

 

1.) When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing (seriously) once I deployed because being in a situation that puts you at great risk, it also opens your eyes to great possibilities. It is my life’s goal to help other people find the courage my deployment gave me.

2.) What’s your favorite line you’ve written?
This one is tough. I especially love one line I wrote in the sequel to Mystic Waters, Chasing the Tide:

It was a collision of two hearts, destroyed by one another, healing.

I can’t fully explain why, but that sentence really speaks to me. If we know anything about love, we know that the one who breaks us is often the only one who can fix us. I suppose that’s why I adore that sentence most.

3.) Do you ever base your characters on real-life people?
Yes. Well, I tried. My character Amare, is based off of someone I’m currently deployed with. The reason I tried to do this was the real-life Amare is such a strong, beautiful woman. And she’s quite the a** kicker. And, while MW is all of those things, she couldn’t be Amare. She had to be herself, the person who’d keep the story true. So fiction Amare is a lot more reserved and calculating than real-life Amare. I love them both equally. :) Also, Farah, Liza’s best friend, is loosely based on another friend of mine, Sarah. I hadn’t quite realized this until I’d already written her in. It wasn’t intentional. It just was. However, Edric is not based on my husband. Let’s get that out there now.

4.) Writer’s block – we all experience it. How do you cope?
Write through it. It’s better to edit sh*t than to have nothing to edit. Sometimes you really have to bull yourself into getting into the swing of the story. But there’s a reason there are many rounds of editing. Once you’re out of your funk, you’ll realize that the bit you wrote when you felt hopeless doesn’t fit the story and you change it. You’re the boss, always. Well…whenever your characters let you think you are. ;)

5.) Do you have any special writing rituals?
My readers know it’s music all the way. Whether it’s a post, a chapter, or a sentence. Writing and music go hand-in-hand in Cynthia’s world. Having started writing in Afghanistan, I can’t be picky about noise or people. These things happen.

6.) Which writers, dead or alive, inspire you most?
Gosh. I’ve never really thought of that. While I have authors I like, I don’t think any of them inspire my style of writing. I’m the type of writer who doesn’t mind fragments if they fit the scenario. I love the jumbled mess of emotions and I want to feel it all. If I had to pick someone…J.K. Rowling. She changed my life the day I met Harry Potter.

7.) If you could spend a day inside one of your novels/stories, what would you do?
I’d likely just sit and watch everything unfold. I wouldn’t do anything, I wouldn’t say anything. I’d do just what I’m doing now: observing and loving every bit of it. This is something Liza and I have in common. We’re outsiders and once on the inside, we bring our outsider tendencies with us. :)

8.) What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your novels/stories?
The idea that maybe mermaids could exist. Strength. Hope. Faith. I want people to read Mystic Waters and feel what I felt when writing it.

 9.) What is your favorite book? (I know it can be hard to pick just one, but try to keep it at least fewer than three!)
Today? Making Faces by Amy Harmon and Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren. I’m kind of in a smutty book phase because I’m a girl and I’m deployed. But they cannot be 50 Shades knock offs. I need story and definitely romance (hi, Sylvia Day!).

10.) Share the link to whichever of your blog posts is your favorite and explain why it’s your favorite.
My favorite post is the Dream a New Reality post. It’s always easy to harp on people for not chasing their dreams. But when you’re so happy in what it is you’re doing…when you’ve found your passion, you want to help people find the courage to chase theirs. I’ve witnessed lives gone too soon. If you want it, go for it. Because we’re all going to die. Leave the greatest legacy you can. And when you think of your grandchildren telling their children about you, don’t you want to have the image of shiny wide eyes in your mind? Do something worth being proud over. God bless.

 

Now playing Toby Keith’s American Soldier. This song makes me cry every time. Don’t mind my sniffles.

 

All my love,
Cynth

Writing Magic

Magic

 

Did you miss me? I’m very happy to have my blog back. :)

I’m not going to pretend I’m some seasoned writer. But so far I haven’t had anyone call bullsh*t on my posts, so today I’m going to tackle my own struggles with writing magic. It’s very tricky because magic can be anything, come from anything, do anything. At some point there has to be limitations, right? Here we go.

 

Initially I wanted to make my protagonist this awesome and undefeatable demi (half mermaid/merman). Hell, I wanted to make all demi bada**. But if they were unstoppable, there’d be no conflict. So, while Liza is indeed powerful (unbeknownst to her), she has weaknesses. There is a yin to a yang, a good to an evil, and a weakness to a strength.

Liza’s situation was a bit different than other demi. She’s my baby. She’s very much like my child. I can’t even really explain how I came up with demi, sirens, the whole shebang. There was a blur of research (including the full moon, the legend of Goody Hallett, and other mermaid facts) that led to me creating these creatures. Being half mermaid/merman was an idea I fell in love with. Also, I fell in love with merpeople race as a whole. I almost think of them as angels, they attempt to be so pure.

I’m getting away from my topic (as usual). Writing magic. When I write a scene where someone is using magic (whether an affinity or an ability), I want you to see it. Because I can. I can see everything. And if I’m anything at all like merpeople, I like to share. Here’s a little piece of what I’ve written:

 

I opened my eyes in wonder. Through the glow of my fingertips, I could see the liquid being released into the air, like there was no gravity. I gasped, the excitement stamped clearly on my face. I was enthralled—I was powerful.

 

Rosemi always said I wrote better when I show rather than tell. And I take that seriously. I show you what exactly she does/sees. When writing, a movie is playing in my head and I’m simply writing it all down so you all can enjoy it as well. If you don’t learn anything from this post, remember that. If you can’t see it in your own head, how do you expect others to? Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about and maybe I’ll look back on this post and cringe in embarrassment over the stupid things I thought I knew. But today I’m telling you readers see things when they read. They picture it based off of their own experiences. See, your idea of a blue shirt is completely different from theirs. And that’s fine. But if they can’t even picture the magic you’re attempting to create, it’s all for naught.

Off topic again. Writing magic. If you give your character a power, there should be something about it, especially if they are a main character. I got this from Veronica Roth’s blog post where she explains that if there’s a gun in a scene, it has to go off eventually. Same thing with magic. If there’s a power, there’s always something behind it. Either the power saves everyone or there’s this awesome story behind it. Hell, if your magic power is being able to pick locks with your eyes, at one point there’s going to be a door that you really need to open. Get where I’m going? OK.

 

I’m done blabbering. I have to get ready for bed. Early morning tomorrow. Also, I took a PT test this morning. I passed, if you’re curious. Know that I’m not putting my physical fitness on the back burner. I gave my word to the Army and I’m nothing if not loyal to the end. My blog posts may not come every other day like they usually do. I’m getting ready to move out, so things are hectic here. Stay patient. I’ll be posting/writing as often as possible!

 

Now playing Pia Mia – Fight for You ft. Chance the Rapper (Yes, from the Divergent soundtrack).

 

 

All my love,
Cynth

Author Derick William Dalton and Houses of Common!

Tonight I’m introducing you all to Derick William Dalton, author of the newly published Houses of Common. And if you’ve already met him (or read his work) then you can just consider yourself VIP at this party. A little info about the book and DWD himself:

 

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(Houses of Common is less expensive through CreateSpace with this $4 off code: APSQBFT8)

 

 

This being my first time ever interviewing an author, I’m a bit nervous. But I assure you all, DWD is pretty awesome. Don’t worry, I tried to tone down the social awkwardness and keep my questions helpful to you as well as interesting. So, without further ado, let’s grab a seat and get this interview rolling! Mr. Dalton?

 

We’re a good match, because this is my first time being interviewed as an author. I’m no stranger to fame, though. I got my picture in the paper for the fifth grade science fair, and in high school, I had an interview with a local TV reporter which did not air.

 

 

1. I’ve spoken a bit about authors and their wacky inspiration. I know mine came from a Disney coloring page. Another is Stephenie Meyer, revealing the Twilight Saga being inspired by a dream. Where did the inspiration for Houses of Common come from?

Wacky. That’s a good word choice. Two sources congealed the ideas in my head and sparked the urge to start writing Houses of Common. The first was an article I read when I was supposed to be working on my thesis for a master’s degree in education. How’s that for hypocrisy? A teacher not doing his homework. The article was by Robert Zubrin, entitled Getting Space Exploration Right. Here’s a link, because it’s an awesome piece: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/getting-space-exploration-right. Zubrin noted the discovery and colonization of North and South America changed the world superpowers, in that those who colonized became the powers, and those who backed out, well Portugal? Who’s that? He predicted the same will occur with colonization of the moon and Mars. See how that’s more interesting than articles on educational law and classroom management? 

 

The other was a botany class. Genetics and medical stuff is what hooks me, not plants. But after a few classes, I changed my attitude. One day in particular, the reproductive cycle of ferns was the topic. The offspring look nothing like the parent fern. It’s more like a miniature water lily. The lily-looking plant’s offspring is the fern. It’s called alternation of generations, it’s really weird, and I started wondering what that would look like in a humanoid. That’s where the main character’s species came from. Thanks Dr. Roberts!

But here’s what I need to know: Did your inspiration come before or after the Disney page was colored?

 

 

2. The coloring page remains uncolored. There’s this completely sensible part of me that says if I color it, I may ruin the luck I’ve had so far in writing. Like someone snapping their fingers and I wake up from a dream! Silly, I know. But it’s a small fear of mine. Which brings me to my next question. Something I constantly discuss on this blog is fear. I truly believe the Jack Canfield quote: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” What is your greatest fear as an author?

You do realize you just handed your enemies full knowledge of your kryptonite. All they have to do is locate the the Magic Disney Page of Fortune, and defile it with cadmium red, or more fittingly, mermaid fin green.

My fears? In high school and college when I taught swimming lessons, and when teaching high school biology, I’d occasionally have nightmares about the job. In them, I’d swear in front of a bunch of six-year-olds, and wake up horrified at the pool-time fun wiped off their sweet little faces. Or I’d slip an off-color joke into a biology lecture, and have to explain to parents and the principal. I never did any of those things, but the dream was a recurring and disturbing one. Now, I worry about writing something that could be misinterpreted and interrupt the flow of the story with the similar jolt my nightmares would have given in real life. Hooray for beta readers and editors!

 

A bigger fear? I have a pact with my sister, Jessica Parsons (she has a completed novel, Time Walker, and is searching for agents right now). We’ve agreed to be brutally honest if we notice the other becoming an arrogant, insufferable jerk. We’re all familiar with authors who lose their personable nature in direct proportion to success. When in doubt, I think WWBWD. What would Bill Watterson do?

 

 

3. As my readers know, I cannot write comfortably without music and usually I’ll post a song at the end of each post. Music is something that gives me strength as well as direction and I’ve always wondered if all authors feel this way or if I’m the only one. Do you need absolute silence while writing or do you listen to music? If you listen to music, what does your soundtrack look like?

When I’m writing a first draft, silence is my muse. Sometimes the two together are a salve. Occasionally instrumental music is helpful, my favorite being my Pandora station seeded with “John Williams” as artist. Heroic movie themes for my heroic propaganda. (Hey, could that be a new genre name?) But lyrics at that phase are a killer. Can’t write anything with someone’s voice in my ears. Editing is another story. My kids can even be at the same table asking me questions about homework without throwing me off. So, I sometimes broaden the music when revising drafts. A few songs in particular have helped me with characters:

 

Ranyk – the protagonist of Houses of Common is a terraformer whose deep respect for life is counterbalanced by issues with authority. The Ramones had Ranyk in mind specifically when they recorded their version of What a Wonderful World. Really. Look it up.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-3ox-6WhBA

 

Sckiik – Ranyk’s sister is a former cop and current head of security for her species’ US Embassy. A spiritual person with a violent job, I heard this hymn by the cover band Mishmash and now it’s the soundtrack in my brain during her girl-power scenes. http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Do+What+Is+Right/2GOa2P?src=5

 

Dr. Perinath – She’s Ranyk’s boss, the one authority figure who knows how to wrangle him. This song has personal and historical meaning for her, and it’s one of my favorites, too. Can’t beat 40s big band! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhyhP_5VfKM

 

Sean and Qi - Theirs is a Romeo-and-Juliet story with a happier outcome (so far), a conspiracy theorist twist, and a big pile of reality to irk them. That’s all the info you get until book three (wicked laugh) but here’s a great song. The video? Kind of lame. It would be WAY better if it was about Sean and Qi. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1R_txIuuio

 

 

4. I’m fairly new to writing and have yet to be published. So for you to have been published and me to be able to ask you questions, the next one is obvious: Any advice for writers/new authors?

As I’ve listened to other writers answer this question, I’ve realized there are almost that many paths to the profession. Advice I’ve been given doesn’t often work for me. It was trial and error in figuring out how to craft a story. So, this may be meaningless to many, but here’s what I’ve learned.

 

Good feedback is painful and your friend. It’s scrubbing the gravel out of road rash. It’s setting the subluxed ulnar fracture. It’s incising and draining the infected cyst. The most useful feedback I received from editors and beta readers nearly always left a bruise.

 

Well, wasn’t that pleasant.

 

 

5. I agree. The best things in life (and writing) are usually the hardest to do. Something else I find difficult at times? Naming characters. I think naming characters can be one of two things: instantaneous or something absolutely annoying. How did you come up with your characters’ names (Sckiik, Ranyk, etc.)? 

You’ll think I’m joking, but I swear I’m not making this up. The alien names are the product of an arcane ritual in which I extend my index fingers, close my eyes, and tap out a rhythm on the keyboard. I never learned to type without looking, so it’s truly random. Then I look for interesting phoneme strings and add a vowel or consonant as needed. I’ll forgive anyone for thinking that’s just cheating. Or for stealing the idea.

 

When choosing from existing names, sometimes I pick one with a meaning to match their purpose. Sometimes one that sounds like it fits and no other reason. Like your instantaneous method. One of my character’s names sounds like the French translation of a phrase which suggests subterfuge. I found that by accident and couldn’t pass it up. Travers le rideau. Through the curtain.

 

 

6. This blog is dedicated to sharing my journey as a writer. From typing the first words of this novel to now; what’s your story?

If I write the rest of my novels like the first, my writing career will be a very short story. But I won’t, so it won’t. Because I’m not going to interrupt any more novels with starting and finishing grad school two different times. I also won’t interrupt the next novel three times for adorable little babies (or unadorable ones). Not going to build my own house again, ever. In short, I’ll have the sequel done in six months instead of ten years.

Maybe I just inadvertently shared some advice. About not giving up or hanging it up or hanging yourself.

Here’s how come I only clicked pause and never stop. I like the process of writing. I like learning new things and letting them loose in my head to see what random connections they’ll make. I like outlining a story and putting it into complete sentences. (Complete sentences? Did anyone else’s internal fourth grader just moan and groan in teacher-mediated torment?) I like walking away for a week and coming back to a chapter that’s a really enjoyable read. None of my other jobs in research or education or medicine can boast that all their facets are enjoyable. Hmm. Maybe it’s the walking away for a week…

 

Following is an excerpt from Houses of Common. I chose this section even before I knew I was being interviewed by an active duty Army Girl. Yeah, I’m a fan of tough chicks. And of members of the armed forces. Much of my clinic work is with Vietnam vets and younger soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s rewarding to help, and to see how our society has changed toward them. My sincere thanks to you, Cynthia, and any readers who serve.

Now some sci-fi… 

 
 

Houses of

Common

by

Derick William Dalton

 

Blog Tour Excerpt

 

 

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Diplomatic Impunity

 

After three days of cramped solitude, Sckiik still wasn’t tempted to activate her link. Her brother Ranyk would be annoyed she wasn’t available for a conversation on his return from months in space, but he didn’t know Sckiik was hiding in an air duct of a high-rise building in Washington, D.C.

Sckiik slid the duct panel aside like silk on glass. On the floor three meters beneath her, a hit man assembled his rifle with jerky but efficient choreography. Scruffy and sour-faced, he settled into a prone position. From his wristwatch, a holographic man appeared, sipping from a mug.

“I’m in position,” the hit man told him.

Yes, you are. Sckiik checked her chronometer. Gentlemen, you may begin.

“The Ambassador just exited the Beltway,” the holographic man said. “And the bus is right on schedule.”

A monitor in Sckiik’s helmet visor showed a slow but busy roadway a dozen floors below her. She watched a District of Columbia bus swerve from its lane and plow into the driver’s door of the first car in a diplomatic motorcade. The vehicles on the roadway screeched and crunched to a stop. Three cars back, behind a tinted window, sat the target.

The hit man adjusted his rifle and froze. “I have him,” he breathed out. “Tan, skeletal, and ugly.”

Sckiik’s monitor showed the Rildj Ambassador to the United States sitting calmly in his vehicle, waiting for traffic to clear.

The rifleman drew in another breath, his index finger poised on the trigger guard.

“Die, my alien fr—” The hit man didn’t finish his sentence. Didn’t pull the trigger.

The hologram set his mug down. “Is there a prob—” He stopped talking mid-sentence too, eyes fastened to the pool of fluid in front of the hit man’s face. “Did . . . did you just vomit?”

Dropping silently out of the air duct and now standing beside his inert form, Sckiik removed the hit man’s wristwatch with a red-gloved hand. She maneuvered it to show the holographic man the exit wound where the hit man’s mouth had been, the bullet hole in the back of his head, then her pistol before slipping it into a pocket of her red vacsuit.

“Sir,” she offered, “I recommend you sit quietly with your hands on your head. FBI agents are about to break down your door.”

Directing the wristwatch at the traffic accident, Sckiik pointed out the moving cars and buses on the roadway. Two hovertrucks had already lifted the bus and mangled car out of the way. “You went to a lot of work to make the Ambassador three minutes late.”

Exiting a stairwell onto the building’s roof, Sckiik strode to the waiting hovertruck as five FBI agents vacated it. She watched them head for the stairs to clean up her mess. A link message from the Rildj Embassy interrupted her gratitude.

“Sckiik? We have another one.”

 

Sckiik sealed the red vacsuit over her dark red exoskeleton as she strode down the hall. In the dense air of Earth, she could hear the man running to catch up with her. Could hear the fabric of his suit rustling, his breathing from down the hall, and even his heart beating when he was just behind her. By his aroma, he’d eaten Chesapeake Bay crab yesterday, was worried, and had taken aspirin.

“That briefing wasn’t brief, Al. Now more?” Though she liked him, Sckiik didn’t slow as she spoke. He was detail oriented and quick with logistics, but he’d done his job, and now Sckiik needed to do hers.

“No, I just wanted to wish you luck, Sckiik. It’s been good working with you. I expected the Ambassador’s routine to be shaken up, and I’m happily disappointed.” Out of shape, he was breathing hard from catching up.

 Sckiik stopped and turned toward him. “Three assassination attempts and one on the way. That’s not shaky?”

“Besides that.” He smiled.

Sckiik did her best impersonation of a human smile, and hoped it was convincing. Flexible as it was around the eyes and mouth, her Rildj exoskeleton couldn’t express what Al’s human features could. Behind his smile, Al’s face was lined with worry. He knew where the Ambassador and Sckiik were going and what was expected before arrival. “Thanks for working out the transportation details.”

“Hey, I have connections with the engineers.” Al’s infectious smile had a mischievous curve to it, his teeth standing out stark white against his cocoa-brown skin. Sckiik smelled a wave of testosterone.

“You mean a bedroom pass,” she deduced.

Al’s smile spread. “Guilty. Be safe, Sckiik,” he said. “Don’t cut it so close this time.”

“My timing was intentional.”

Sckiik continued down the hall, but she could that hear Al hadn’t moved. She turned again and waited for the rest of what he had to say.

His eyes flicked across Sckiik’s rows of spines, most of them longer than ten centimeters. Two rows ran up her back, angling off to the side, similar to her chest. They thrust out from each elbow, and protruded from the front of her upper knees and the back of the lower. Her vacsuit hugged each of them, enhancing their prominence. Shorter spines extended from the edges of her cranial plate, wrapping around, pointed alternately up and down. But his scan was cursory, not showing the revulsion of those unfamiliar with Rildj females. Sckiik didn’t blame them, admitting to her skeletal timbre and the blood-red hue, though it made her grateful her strangeness didn’t derail Al’s question.

“Is this necessary, Sckiik? The moon? ”

Sckiik appreciated that Al could be candid with her after such a short time. And he wasn’t intimidated by her appearance.

“The Ambassador knows what he’s doing, Al. So do I.”

“That’s why he hired you. But if the CIA information is correct, this will be the fourth assassination attempt in six months.”

“Access to helium-3 is worth the risk. The Hudson’s Bay Company mines plenty of it, and the Canadian government is willing to negotiate on tariffs. It takes fuel to colonize the galaxy, Al, and you’re not the only species with the drive to spread out.”

Al nodded and left, but Sckiik didn’t think he was convinced. She glanced down the short hall of the small building, fitting for the Rildj Embassy to the United States. Her home planet was small, the population smaller. She and the Ambassador were the only Rildj at the embassy; her brother Ranyk was the only other in the whole capital sprawl. The entire galaxy only contained three million of her species.

Something here doesn’t fit. We’re not politically important, and we’re economically irrelevant. The Ambassador shouldn’t even need a head of security. What do we have that’s worth an act of war to take? Did our colonies cross someone else’s? The Ambassador and I need to have a frank talk on our return. Maybe involve some of our own Iraskan agents. For now, time to show another assassin how this is done.

 

II

Brought to You

 

 The moon diminished as Ranyk’s starship passed. Earth distinguished itself from the stars beyond, a growing blue-and-white crescent. From the pilot’s seat, Ranyk soaked in the symbolism of a lone planet in the black.

Pale blue dot. Makes border disputes and religious disagreements—and being annoyed with that blowhard in accounting—seem a little pre-Renaissance and post-lobotomy.

The small orb in his view screen teemed with vivid organisms, only a fraction of them human, but still a striking contrast to the rarity of life in the galaxy. It blurred his sense of self to be part of something so rare yet numberless, and thinking on it deeply made him wonder if vertigo were a good word to apply to emotions.

Introspection was like a favorite vacsuit. Pondering the science of life, working the math in his head, and personalizing the effects were all second nature to him. Not all at once or for an extended time, though. His attention wandered more than he and his starship, especially when near enough Earth to get live communication feeds. His sister wasn’t responding to his link messages, so he scanned interplanetary signals, and found his favorite band. They had played the Mariner Valley on Mars last week, and the signal was still bouncing around among satellites.

A hologram of the concert flashed over his control panel. He started to celebrate his luck, but was cut off. The image of the musicians and their acoustic perfection was replaced by a large container of refined and processed food held by a shirtless human male. His face was not shown, and corporate logos were tattooed across his hormonally enhanced and well-oiled musculature. A swanky, synthesized saxophone completed the scene.

Ranyk sat up, reaching for the controls to skip the advertisement, but found them locked out. He tapped them again, and seemingly in response, the man flexed his arms and made his pectoral muscles dance rhythmically. Ranyk tried to mute the sound, but the advertisement had commandeered his entire communications array.

The ad finally ended. Ranyk noted the bulging man hadn’t actually eaten anything, and his annoyance increased when he realized the opening of the concert was over.

Biological needs tied sensationally to a commodity? I can overlook that. It’s the foundation of capitalist America. But the illegal system override and poor concert etiquette? I think an RSVP of technical difficulties and vandalism is in order.

Ranyk leaned forward to analyze the signal and found the satellite responsible. It belonged to one of the many media, nutrition, and pharmaceutical conglomerates.

Though he was three hundred thousand kilometers out from the offending satellite, he made a minor course adjustment to match its future location. Ranyk stood, snapped on his helmet, and made his way to the unpressurized and gravity-free cargo bay at his ship’s bow. From the workbench, he grabbed the recycling bin, and with a careful hand set leftover bolts and broken rivets to hover in front of the cargo door. He soon completed a sculpture from lazily-spinning metal objects numbering over a thousand.

A human fist with an erect middle digit.

That’s gallery-worthy, he decided, then bent his attention to his new enemy. “From Hell’s hardware I stab at thee.”

Ranyk returned to the cockpit, opened the cargo bay, and tapped the braking thrusters. Inertia carried the hardware store junk out of the cargo bay, the parts rocketing through space in perfect formation. Another course adjustment, and Ranyk had a new approach vector to Earth.

 

Four hours later in close Earth orbit, Ranyk checked his chronometer and isolated a video feed of the offending satellite. The sun bathed it in the blistering radiation. Sparkling light reflected from Ranyk’s metal sculpture was the only warning before it shattered the satellite’s solar panels into glistening blue powder. It bored holes into one side of the fuselage and ragged, overlapping craters erupted on the other. The satellite began a slow, spiraling descent to an incendiary end in the atmosphere of Earth.

“My first art show. Documented for posterity.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

It’s been such a pleasure speaking to Derick William Dalton and I sincerely encourage you all pick up his new book, Houses of Common. And if you’re an author, feel free to reach out to me for a spotlight post as well. After all, if authors don’t help authors, who will?

 

All my love,
Cynth

Guest Post: The Importance of the Author-Editor Relationship

Self-publishing and small presses are redefining the publishing world, and I love it. Authors can now select publishing services à la carte, and new voices are reaching the reader with more purity and raw emotion than ever before. However, for writers who are serious about having a long-term, successful career as a novelist, one aspect of publishing that is not optional is developmental editing.

The question writers should be asking isn’t, “Do I need an editor?” Even editors need editors. (Thank you, Melody, for checking this post.) The real question a serious writer should ask is, “Who will be my editor?” Your editor will be your and your manuscript’s long-term friend and enemy—frenemy, if you will. Typically, your editor will love your manuscript and you will dislike your editor for making them change any of it. Today I’ll share with you a broad overview of the main differences between a good, great, and ideal editor.

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A good fiction editor reviews your manuscript’s premise, plot structure, pacing, characters, dialogue, and marketability. A good fiction editor identifies weak points and makes useful suggestions for story and character development while ensuring continuity. A good fiction editor is professional, always meets deadlines, keeps a style sheet, and treats you with respect.

A great fiction editor does all of the things a good editor does while understanding your vision, loving your characters, and preserving your voice and writing style.

An ideal fiction editor does all of the things a great fiction editor does but also knows when to motivate and guide you and when to keep their mouth shut. They get to know your personality and writing process, and they offer only as much help as you actually need. An ideal fiction editor might suggest that there is a character that will eventually need to die but won’t name names. When all is said and done, the manuscript remains yours.

At a book signing once, the author was asking the people he was signing books for what they did for a living. Based on their reply, he wrote something witty before signing his name. When it was my turn, I told him I was a book editor. He said nothing and signed his name. Just his name. No witty comment. No further eye contact. I think it’s safe to say that he does not have an ideal author–editor relationship.

If you follow Cynthia’s blog, you’ll know that her and I do have the ideal author–editor relationship. It was easy in this case because Cynthia is a talented writer, Mystic Waters is spellbinding, and I am in love with the characters.

However, I do not think that I am everyone’s ideal editor nor is everyone my ideal client. I experience literary heartache over fictional characters, and I do not give my literary heart to just anyone. A novelist should be as careful about giving their manuscript to an editor, but they should certainly get a developmental editor. The sooner you cultivate an author–editor relationship, the better it will be for your writing.

 

Song, hmm. “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles. The Beatles wrote a song about querying. Freaking love it.

 

 

- Rosemi

Writing Romance

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“We’ve spent a lot of time together.” I was playing with his hand when I said this, unable to look into his eyes, too afraid of what I might see. I continued, “Tell me a secret.” Finally I looked up. As he smiled, he brought his hand to cup my face.

“Whenever I think of myself, I think of you. I find myself planning my days around you.”

Phew. Romance. The stuff women dream of! Not all women but certainly a large percentage of them, myself included. I’m one of those women that believes in reading romance novels. I love a good love story! I don’t think it makes me silly at all. I mean, I’m in the military. If I can’t at least look girly, I should be able to experience it at the hands of a great novel.

Ever wonder what goes into a steamy romance? I can’t really tell you because I don’t write steamy romance. But there’s romance in my books. And if you’ve liked my Facebook page, you’ll see some of it is a little heavy. No sex. I believe my characters deserve their privacy. But there’s some excitement for everyone. If I’m going to discuss the things I think of when writing Edric and Liza’s story, you’re going to have to read this with an open mind, knowing I’m no expert and I have no degrees nor have I taken any classes in writing. I’m just telling you, as a writer, what works for me.

- Be honest. Too many times I read romances where the hero and heroine are just too much. They’re either too great or too awful. When writing Liza, I knew she’d never loved before, so she was going to be naïve as well as eager. Because she hadn’t been tainted by heartbreak, she was completely open to the experience (thanks for showing me that, Rosemi). Meanwhile, when writing Edric, I knew he never expected to find love. He was a tough guy. But I also knew that, because of his history, he was only too eager to be happy after living a life of misery. Both of them are eager and expectant. And while you fall in love right along with them, you also know that relationships aren’t perfect forever… ;) Go with your characters. If you give them the voice, they’ll show you the way. Stay true to them.

- Men don’t always have to be tough… In fact, too many times that stereotype completely screws up the storyline. Yes, Edric is…well, Edric. But he doesn’t have to play King Kong with Liza. I know when men get around a woman they love and respect, they have a softness for her. We like that. Keep doing that.

- …And women don’t always have to be weak. OK. This one isn’t too bad if you let her grow into her strength. A woman does not have to rely on a man for her strength. Their strength should be equal because they are partners. Right? Meh. Maybe.

- Love is blind. But not stupid. You ever get that heroine who acts like a complete FOOL because she’s “in love”? I’m talking, doing things illegal or immoral. Why?? I don’t understand. In my opinion, that isn’t real love. That’s desperate infatuation. While not everyone is perfect and people have personal issues, if someone loves you (healthily), they’re going to want to keep you safe. So…you see how this doesn’t make sense to me?

- There isn’t always a happily ever after… Sad, I know. And I won’t be saying if Mystic Waters has a happy ending or not. Besides, there’ll be more than one book so that wouldn’t matter anyway! What matters is following the path your characters give you. I know most people hate when books end on a sad note. Look at the grief Veronica Roth got for Insurgent! I heard she’s even received death threats! But, even though I hated the ending as well, I admire her sticking to it. Because she stuck to her character’s true nature. To what Tris would’ve wanted. I know people will threaten your life. But hire security and continue writing because life isn’t all sunshine and happy days!

- …But every love should have a lesson. Maybe it’s the first love that teaches you to guard your heart. Maybe it’s your ex boyfriend you caught cheating on you. Or your husband left you for a younger woman. In books, every love has a lesson. At the very least, it creates a stigma that makes it harder for another man to penetrate the barriers now surrounding her heart. Things do not happen in books just because. Everything has a lesson and/or meaning. Including love.

- If you bring your readers along for the journey, they’ll fall in love right along with your characters. I know this because in writing this story, I fell in love. And when I come across a great love story, I fall just as desperately as the protagonist. Bring me along for the ride. I want to experience the first meeting, the first laugh, the first kiss…I want it all. Because if you make it believable enough, you’ve done your job as an author. You’ve evoked emotion, simply using words. And isn’t that just magical?

These are the things I keep in mind, the things I believe in, when writing. I’d promise to discuss writing magic or world building next but the next blog post belongs to Rosemi! That’s right. My first guest post will be on Monday by my agent, Rosemi. I also have an interview lined up Wednesday as well as an excerpt of his new book, so stay tuned for that! Great things happening over here! March is a great month and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings us!

While writing, I tried playing one of those most romantic songs I had and ended up with Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years. Also, the excerpt above is from my book. I had to add that into this post belatedly. I hadn’t realized I didn’t mention it above.

All my love,
Cynth

Why Rosemi?

OK. Rosemi, don’t think I’m totally awkward for this post. Well, you know I’m awkward, but don’t tell everyone else. I like that they think I’m this put together author who, despite being deployed, is rather pleasant and maybe even talented? Alright, that may be too much. Stay focused. This post is going to discuss my finding Rosemi (rather, her finding me) and our happiness together since then. Yes, this is a love story. Ha!

When I announced that I was going to work with Rosemi (Roe-se-mee) — make sure you pronounce it with an ‘s’ and not a ‘z’ — I briefly touched on this topic. Most of you know I had someone lined up to edit for Mystic Waters before even seeing Rosemi’s email. And, the person I had in mind was nice. I even expressed how excited I was to work with her. Which was completely genuine! At the time. Until I received Rosemi’s email.

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I’ve only shown the very first part of the email because that’s all it took. For those of you who’ve used the EFA (Editorial Freelancer’s Association), you’ll know that you receive almost hundreds of emails in response to your request. Sure, the obvious thing was that she read my blog (a LOT of my posts) and that was important to me. But, she followed me on Twitter as well. And, after a few days, I emailed her. I had to. She wanted it. More than anyone else, in my opinion. And my gut told me she was going to get Liza. If Rosemi’s initial email planted a question in my head, her second email answered it.

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HOW COULD I SAY NO TO THAT?!

So, I said yes. And I’ve been literarily smitten since. For instance:

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Haha!

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*Sigh*

Rosemi has held my hand throughout this entire experience and I can confidently say Mystic Waters and Chasing the Tide would not be where they are if it weren’t for her. When you pick an editor, be sure that everything points in the right direction. Maybe that wonderful person I initially picked would’ve worked out well. But Rosemi is more than my editor. She’s my partner! And she’s like Liza’s fairy godmother. Between her having answers for everything and her crazy links that always answer my questions, I’m a lucky girl! Glad to have you on my side and don’t worry, I’m getting back to work. ;)

Now playing Atlas by Coldplay.

All my love,
Cynth