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My book is weird, but it makes sense to some people.

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One of my favorite book genres is sci-fi. Growing up, I loved reading Star Wars (fanfic) novels. I used to work at Macy’s when I was 16 and on my breaks I would go downstairs in the mall to Walden Books (is that store still around?) and select a new Star Wars novel to read. I was a little ticked when I found out Disney “de-canonized” all of those great books!

In addition to Star Wars novels, I’m a fan of H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, and R.A. Dick (to name a few). I also love the horror sub-genre attached to some of the older sci-fi classics, especially those works by H.G. Wells like “The Time Machine” and “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” I don’t encounter too many other fans of these classics, which is why I’m always excited when I meet someone who shares my interest in these fascinating stories.

One of my teachers from high school recently wrote me an email in response to reading my novel. Here’s some of what he said (I edited it for spoilers):

“The dreamscape plot was twisty enough to keep me guessing and engaged.  It felt like an original take on an established sci fi/horror sub-genre and I felt it resolved itself well.  Overall, your world-building details seem to be your biggest strength; the weirdly steampunk-ish origins of the dream machine were doled out nicely a little at a time and the video-game interface was established organically in the story.”

You can imagine how pleased I was to find that someone actually understood what I was trying to achieve in this story! It’s not an easy thing to explain to people who don’t know the genre and I’m afraid the publishing industry doesn’t have a category for “weird,” which is how some of my readers have classified my book. (Incidentally, if you do like “weird” stories, you should check out “The Child of 100 Years.”)

Do you like sci-fi novels? What are some of your favorite authors/books?

How to start a writing book

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Step 1: Buy a laptop.

Step 2: Open laptop and start writing your masterpiece.

Step 3: Boom. Novel finished.

I wish it were that easy! The truth is, most writers will tell you book writing can be a painful and sometimes very tedious process. Admittedly, I’ve entertained delusions of grandeur at various times, but the reality of writing is that if you’re not doing it primarily because you enjoy it, you’ll be disappointed, and probably end up frustrated.

But back to the whole starting a book thing. I know many people out there have great ideas for novels that never actually materialize. For a long time I only ever dreamed about having a book published. I used to get a cool idea for a story, write a paragraph, or maybe even a page, and then get bored and quit. Pretty pathetic, I know. Everything changed once I started taking graduate courses and realized I could actually write well. Which brings me to my first point:

  1. Become a GOOD writer. Not perfect, mind you, but good enough to properly punctuate and structure sentences. You also want to vary your sentences so they don’t all sound the same. This takes practice and you may want to actually pay attention in English classes. Reading aloud after you’ve written something is a good idea so you can make sure it flows.
  2. Summarize your story. It helps to know what you’re actually planning to write about! Years ago, I would get story ideas based on existing books or movies. Now my inspiration comes primarily from dreams I have at night. I have vivid dreams and I tend to remember them well the next day. Lots of writers out there outline their whole book before getting started, but I’m usually too eager to begin writing to do this. I find that once I have a main idea, as long as I know the direction the story will take, I just want to get to the fun part.
  3. Get to know your characters. This is what did it for me. I got through steps one and two, but still found that I was having difficulty with the story. I stopped and wrote character bios for each person in my story and suddenly I felt like I knew them. I could actually imagine them interacting with each other and responding to events in the plot. It was almost like they were telling the story for me. That’s when writing really took off for me.
  4. Stay consistent. You really have to make time to write. I hear people say all the time there is never a “right” time (no pun intended). I’ve taken breaks with writing over the years, but find that I’m the most productive when I write even a little each day (my goal is at least 1,000 words). Figure out what works for you. Are you a night owl or early bird? You may want to consider skipping that Netflix show and using that time to write instead!

Now that you’ve gotten started, finishing is the key…but we’ll save that for another time!

What’s your writing process? Comment below!

 

White Tunnel: Prologue

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Cassidy stumbled in the dark forest, annoyed that her new cloth sneakers were most likely getting dirty. If she’d known they’d be playing manhunt tonight, she would have dressed more appropriately in black to better hide herself, and the dirt. Although right now, she had a bigger problem than the dirt on her new shoes – she was pretty sure she was lost.

To make matters worse, she felt weird, like she was dreaming. No, it wasn’t like dreaming exactly. She was nervous and paranoid all while feeling rather relaxed. The trees looked funny too, almost as if they were alive. Cassidy was beginning to suspect some of the party snacks were laced with something. However, having never been high before, she wasn’t sure.

Why did I go to this stupid party?

Cassidy had already sent out several text messages to her friends, letting them know she was lost. Unfortunately, she hadn’t received any responses and could see her phone seemed to be lagging. She figured this particular area of the woods had bad cell phone service. After all, she was in the middle of nowhere. She couldn’t even hear her friends’ shouts and laughs any longer.

The night was getting colder, uncommonly so for mid-August in Connecticut. The paranoid-yet-relaxed feeling, had subsided and she now felt merely dazed and very tired. Maybe a rest would help. Her legs ached and her feet had started to rub uncomfortably in the new sneakers.

It was already well past midnight. Thankfully, the moon had come out from behind the clouds, illuminating the woods. In fact, everything seemed unnaturally bright for some reason, as though actual light was coming from somewhere other than the moon. Cassidy followed the source of light until the trees separated into a small clearing surrounding a circular pool; although, it was unlike any water she’d ever encountered.

The pool was barely twenty feet across, but quite noticeable, because whatever substance filled it glowed bright white. It was mesmerizing. Instead of wondering exactly what type of liquid filled this small pond, Cassidy found herself drawn to it so that soon she was kneeling right at the edge of the pool. She passed her hand over the liquid, but didn’t try to touch it. The white substance pulsed in respond to her movement, almost welcoming her.

She sat there for a long time, gazing at the glowing liquid, forgetting she was lost. But at last, her phone buzzed rudely, disturbing her trance and reminding her she needed to get back to her friends.

Just as Cassidy pulled out her phone to check the message, she heard a rustling behind her that made her head pound and her nerves tense. She slowly turned, she watched a hulking black shape appear from behind the foliage and move toward her. Cassidy had heard of bear sightings several miles from her friend’s house, but didn’t expect to come across one now. She froze, her mind scrambling for a strategy to deal with this potentially deadly situation. The best thing she could think of was stay completely still, hoping the bear would turn around and leave.

The bear stopped too, watching her warily for a moment. Then suddenly, it charged toward her. Cassidy knew she shouldn’t run, but she couldn’t remember whether to try to intimidate the bear, or play dead. In her indecision, she lost her footing and fell backward into the glowing pool.

The world vanished, replaced by complete, pure white and a feeling of euphoria. Cassidy floated for several minutes, entirely overcome with the sensation. Her friends, cell phone, even the bear in the woods were all forgotten.

Then strangely, her feet landed. She was no longer falling or floating, but looking ahead into nothing but white all around her. She couldn’t seem to go back up, because she was no longer surrounded by the liquid substance. It wasn’t a pool at all, now that she was in it. It was more like a tunnel.

Cassidy felt compelled to keep moving, almost as if the tunnel itself beckoned her further. Like it was alive. The floor and walls were even warm and soft to the touch. She passed through the serene white, as if in a dream, but like all dreams, it was soon over. The tunnel abruptly ended and Cassidy tumbled out onto soft, cool grass. Then weariness overcame her and she fell asleep.

The Reunion: Chapter 1

“It’s going to fall,” I said.

Dominique very carefully pressed her pointer finger against a Jenga block in an attempt to push it through the opening. “I’ve got this,” she replied, her attention fixed on the teetering tower.

“No, it’s going to fall,” I insisted. I watched as she continued to push the block, in a vain attempt to free it from its place. The blocks tumbled in a heap. “I told you.”

She let out a classic, Dominique-style laugh, cackling good-naturedly at her error.

I shook my head and smiled. “You’re so stubborn sometimes. I guess some things never change.”

We had already begun to rebuild the tower. Dominique took a bite of her free oatmeal cookie, courtesy of the hotel lobby. “You know me too well,” she said, still chuckling at herself.

“Why don’t we see each other more often? It’s not like we live very far away,” I mused.

“Yeah, but you’ve got your big career and all. I don’t make it to Manhattan much anyway.”

“But Queens is right around the corner. I’m just a bad friend,” I muttered.

Dominique laughed. “We may as well be across the country. I’ve got the husband and the kids, and you’ve got all those books to edit. You seeing anyone these days?”

I made a face.

Everyone asks me this question.

“I see people everyday,” I replied.

Dominique shook her head at me. “What was it you said about things not changing? You’re gorgeous Samantha. Why haven’t you found a nice guy yet?”

“You assume I’m interested in finding ‘a nice guy.’ Maybe hooligans are more my speed,” I retorted with a smirk. “Or homeless men. A little unpredictability adds spice to a relationship.”

Dominique was losing it. She laughed loudly at my silly joke and I couldn’t help but join in this time.

“How’s Paul?” I asked her.

“He’s alright. Sort of in a slump with the job right now, but that’s how construction is. Little Hector is going into kindergarten now.” She shook her head. “Time sure passes quickly.”

You’re telling me.

It had been five years since we graduated from Lloyd Hastings University. I hadn’t particularly wanted to come to the five-year reunion, because it didn’t feel like much time had passed since I’d left the place. Although I enjoyed the freedom and social life from my undergrad years, I’d been through some unpleasantness as well, and I’d found five years insufficient to erase the sting of it all. I was also currently very much focused on my Manhattan editing career, even if I hadn’t yet climbed very far up the publishing ladder.

“Do you have any idea who’s coming this weekend?” I asked casually, while I pushed a block on one side and grabbed the other end.

Dominique found herself another block to remove as she replied, “You mean Richard?” She shrugged. “You would know better than me.” She listed several other people she had heard were coming.

“Mark should be coming too,” I told her. “He texted me last week.”

“Isn’t he a lawyer now or something?”

“Yeah. He works in Westchester. I never see him either though,” I said. I let out a quiet sigh.

“I always thought you and he would hook up,” she commented. Her dark eyes traveled from the wooden tower to my face as she pulled another block and leaned back in her chair.

“Yeah, a lot of people thought that. We were only ever friends,” I said.

“You were always too busy chasing after Richard,” she remarked a bit wryly. “You nervous about seeing him this weekend?”

“I don’t know. It’s not like anything is going to happen. It’s only two nights. Then we all go back to our grown-up lives.” I turned my paper coffee cup absently. “I think I heard he’s engaged or something.”

“Oh yeah. I saw he posted about that online.” Dominique had taken a break to finish her cookie. She turned her attention back to the Jenga tower and said sympathetically, “He was never right for you Sammy. Any other guy would have loved to have you pay attention to him. Richard was an idiot, plain and simple. You don’t want someone who doesn’t appreciate you.”

Something about her sympathy almost made it feel more humiliating. I had spent most of my undergrad years pursuing Richard, only to find that he could never make up his mind about me. Since graduating, I lamented this wasted time and agonized over what I’d done wrong. The worst of it was that there was never any closure. I knew Richard had been attracted to me – he’d told me so more than once. I thought we had great chemistry together, but then I made the mistake of telling him my feelings before graduation. He was awkward after that, and I had little contact with him since.

Dominique knew all this and had, on more than one occasion, reassured me Richard wasn’t worth the effort. I was getting tired of hearing it. Even though I brushed off the upcoming encounter with him, I secretly hoped something would reignite. But I was too ashamed to share this with Dominique.

“Let’s go for a walk,” she suggested. “I have to pee.”

We scooted our chairs out from under the table and exited the hotel’s conference room. It was a four-star hotel, the type of place fancy enough to make you feel like you got your money’s worth, but easy on the budget. The halls were carpeted in a deep shade of green and the walls were decorated with typical hotel-artwork. I could smell chlorine from the pool. We wandered back toward the hotel lobby where we’d met earlier that day. The lobby had one of those gas-lit fireplaces and a few stuffed leather chairs. In the corner of the room there was a bookshelf with games, which is where we’d picked up Jenga.

Dominique and I seemed to be the first ones to have arrived; at least, I hadn’t seen anyone else from our university yet. We’d arranged ahead of time to share a room together. I remembered how messy of a roommate she’d been in college, but after five years, I sort of missed those days. Things were so much simpler back then, before taking on more adult responsibilities.

I’d always been rather studious, so I didn’t really struggle with class assignments and papers. By contrast, Dominique was usually catching up or barely passing class. She had a tendency to procrastinate and get caught up in social things. More than once I helped her edit through her papers late at night to meet an early morning deadline.

Cleanliness and study habits weren’t the only things that differed between myself and Dominique. I’m innately quiet and reserved with people I don’t know well, unless of course, I’m interested enough to get to know someone. I was often believed to be rather stuck-up in college, merely because I didn’t mix in many social scenarios. I kept to myself and had a small group of good friends.

Dominique was rather loud and would sometimes burst into rants in Spanish when she was excited or upset. She liked to talk to people, even those she didn’t know, and genuinely cared about your family or whatever it was you were going through. Somehow these distinctions in our personalities made for a great friendship.

“My hair is crazy. The rain always does this,” Dominique said as she untied her frizzy, black hair in front of the bathroom mirror. She quickly swept it all in a big bunch on the top of her head and wrapped a hair band around it so it sat in a loose, messy bun. “I’m such a mess,” she laughed.

We left the bathroom and wandered aimlessly down the hall together, catching up on the mundane details of our lives. We ended up at the indoor pool, and each grabbed a towel from the wall to sit on as we stuck our bare feet in the Jacuzzi tub. The pool area was empty.

“Do you still think about Hector?” I asked her quietly.

Dominique sighed and lifted her eyebrows as she moved her feet back and forth in the warm water. “Yeah. It’s difficult not to with little Hector around everyday. He looks more like his dad all the time. Paul’s been great with him though. He seems to understand him.”

Dominique had spent most of our four years at college dating Hector Reyes. The two of them had a rather intense relationship. He was a muscular guy, a little intimidating if you didn’t know him. His tattoos suggested that he may have at one time belonged to a gang, but he was conscious of keeping them covered on most occasions. Dominique and Hector were prone to argue in Spanish, especially in public or when the situation least warranted it.

I liked Hector, yet I sometimes wondered how suited he and Dominique were for each other. I sort of assumed most of the relationship was based on pure attraction rather than compatibility. Sure enough, halfway through our senior year at Hastings, Dominique was pregnant with Hector’s son. It was right around that time in late March that Hector was found dead. He had gone to a friend’s funeral back home and gotten hold of some narcotics. Detectives discovered his body in an abandoned building, not far from the funeral home. We were told the cause of death was drug overdose.

I remember how shocked I was when I heard the news. It was the first time in my life I had been good friends with someone who died. Sure, I’d lost older relatives, but it’s different when the person is in your circle of friends.

Dominique nearly fell apart afterward. She was barely three months pregnant and felt crushed at losing her baby’s father, not to mention she had been fiercely loyal to Hector. She didn’t finish the year, although we were close to graduation. I knew she would have probably had to retake some of her classes anyway, since she had failed a few of them. None of that mattered to her anymore when Hector died.

If not for meeting Paul, I’m not sure how Dominique would be now. Paul was a calm, steady man with kind eyes. I was happy she had found someone to help her raise Hector’s son.

“Do you ever see Hector’s family?” I asked her.

“I visit his mom sometimes in Harlem. She likes to see her grandson now and then. Paul doesn’t come though.” She kicked her left foot and made a small splash. Dominique became thoughtful. “It’s strange. Sometimes when I try to remember things about Hector, I feel like they’re gone. It’s almost like it was just taken from my memory. I guess the culprit is time really.” She shrugged.

I found this statement somewhat intriguing, but couldn’t really relate to it. My memories of the things Richard had said to me and the times we’d shared together were all too fresh in my mind. But I knew one of the reasons for this was that I had replayed the memories over and over for a long time. Dominique had moved on in a sense. She now had a husband and children to think of and probably didn’t have as much time to dwell on the past.

“Lately I’ve been thinking about the last time I saw Hector,” she said. “I drove him to the train station. We had a long, serious conversation in the car that day. I remember he said something sort of odd then but…” Dominique frowned and looked at me. “I feel like it was about something important, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was.”

Read Chapter 2

 

How I feel after publishing

It’s been nearly a week since I released my debut novel, “The Child of 100 Years.” I worked on this story on and off for 4 years, so it’s a little hard to believe it’s finally finished.

When I started out, I had a vague idea that made up a random scene in the middle of the story. It took a while to find the complete picture. It really was like fitting a puzzle together, piece by piece. Some of the pieces ended up not fitting so well – I had to think critically about those things and analyze every part of my writing. For example, I spent a lot of time while writing my first draft getting to know my characters. That’s really what kept me going. I came up with names, descriptions, and brief backstories. I thought carefully how these people would respond to various conversations and social settings. I tried hard not to settle for cliches. In the final draft, I had to balance character development and plot, so much of what takes place between Elena and her friends has been left out. Vincent’s backstory was a bit more developed in the first draft as well, but after a while, I felt it was more important to know about Abel Dumont.

As editor and publisher, these are the kinds of decisions I need to make. I can honestly say however, that I love having creative freedom. Becoming a publisher has shown me how challenging completing a writing project really is. I give myself deadlines and have to step outside of writer mode and into editor mode. I have to read the book over and over again – searching for words and phrases that don’t fit, or things that seem out of place. I also have to think like a reader. Would I want to keep reading this book? Does the ending feel rushed, or have I successfully brought the story to a close? Forcing myself to think like this has made me a better writer.

I suppose if I were to sum up how I feel after publishing, I’d say I feel satisfied. I’m satisfied with the story – and the process of writing it. I’m satisfied with myself for pushing through and finishing this project.

Now it’s on to the next!

A midsummer dream

Goal achieved! After months of rewriting, I finally finished the second draft of my debut of recognitionmanuscript. Whew. I’m not sure about other writers, but I feel like I’m getting a bit of “wind in my sail.” The more I write, the easier it’s become.

I’m turning my attention to my second manuscript, “The Reunion” next. I also have some ideas for an anthology series and possibly a YA fantasy series. Lots of ideas rolling around in my brain! School starts in a few weeks, so my progress will be a little slower, but check in with me now and then.

At this time, my work is free, so read it on wattpad.com – remember to follow me and vote!

Excerpt from chapter 16…

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“Something’s down here,” Vincent murmured.

     My heart thumped unbearably.

     It was almost impossible to see even a foot ahead of us at that point, but we pressed on, feeling along the walls as we did. They were cool and cut from stone. We were underground.

     The stench and the groaning increased as we progressed, until it felt as though the ground beneath us shook. I drew my katana, concluding that whatever it was, we were going to have to fight our way through. Vincent followed my lead and readied himself as well.

     Then all at once, the tunnel ended, and we were in a cavernous room which was clearly the source of both the smell and the groaning. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see a thing.

     “Stay together,” Vincent whispered beside me. “Can we cast more light?”

     I tried to concentrate on light, and the small circle surrounding us did in fact become more luminescent, casting a dim glow at least a few feet ahead of us. Then the room itself undimmed very slightly and our eyes were met with a giant, moving figure in the far corner of the room. It was formless and nondescript, but it writhed and squirmed, groaning as if in pain.

     “What is that?” I breathed.

     “We should turn around…” Vincent started to say.

     There was no time. The creature moved like liquid along the walls until it was behind us, blocking the way we’d come. It was quick and noiseless as it slithered and the groaning filled the room so that it was impossible to tell where the giant form would be without looking at it.

     Then the black monster rushed toward us and we were forced to defend ourselves from the onslaught of darkness. I was vaguely aware of the fact that it came at us as individual shadows, as if pieces of it broke off to attack.

     The terror I’d been subject to up to that point melted into adrenaline and rage. I whipped my sword through each foe, matching their speed and fluidity. I was aware of Vincent somewhere nearby, flashing like lightning as he decimated shadows. But we made no progress. The shadows persisted until we found ourselves being pushed backward. They were pinning us in.

     “We have to get at the big one,” Vincent shouted to me.

     I’ll cut around left.

     I knew Vincent would be able to hear my thoughts. Sure enough, he sped off to the right so that we could get around the shadows and engage the larger form behind them. The closer we got to it, the stronger and thicker the hoard. We managed to break through them and were suddenly attacking something much larger and more difficult to cut through. The black monster – whatever it was – seemed to be made out of the sludge substance we’d encountered earlier. Yet it moved impossibly fast and consistently avoided our attacks.

     I started to notice the more we attacked, the more we were covered in the creature’s sediment. It began to impede my movements. Vincent was slowing down as well.

     “This isn’t working. We should fall back,” I heard him say.

     Turning, I realized we had forgotten the shadows behind us. They had made their way back toward us and now we were pinned from all sides.

     “This isn’t good,” I said.

     I heard Vincent abruptly cry out. His leg was wrapped in a black rope of slime attached to the larger mass, like a tentacle. He made an attempt to stab it, but before he could, it yanked him off his feet and dragged him toward it.

     “Vincent!” I shrieked, bolting after him.

     I couldn’t get to him in time. He was swallowed up in the monster and I was left alone in my nightmare.