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Monday, March 24, 2014

#EggcerptExchange and Cover Reveal: Waterfire

On April 14, I'll be featured at amazing author Tina Gayle's Eggcerpt Exchange. I'll be featuring Tina here soon, so look out for that!

In honor of this auspicious occasion, I thought now would be a good time to reveal the cover for my YA novella, Waterfire. Waterfire is the second novella in the Providence Trilogy. The cover is done by Amygdala Design and actually inspired the fire drill scene on the docks.

Changes in my life have delayed the publication of the Providence Trilogy, but it should still debut, one novella at a time, in 2015.

About Waterfire

Told as a series of diary entries, Waterfire chronicles the way Kelly learns that she has the power to set things on fire with her mind. All such pyrokinetic teenagers must attend a school where their power is repressed at all times. With the help of her friends, Kelly must escape the prison-like regime in order to save her mother's life.


September 7

Maybe if I write about the first day here, it will stop rattling around in my head like big clumps of lead.
Actually, I wish I had a big clump of lead to carry around with me instead of this stuff. They give us small patches, like nicotine patches for people who want to quit smoking, but with our kryptonite to wear against our skin and help control the urges. It does seem to cut down on the incidents – I haven’t made a fire since I got here a week ago. But, God, it itches like crazy! I’m always scratching at mine, I can’t help it, and I have to be careful with where I put the new patch of the day because I could look like an idiot scratching my armpits or some other sensitive area all day. They let us take them off at night so we can sleep, because everyone has an adverse reaction to their patch, but not everyone itches. Melinda, the high and mighty, claims it makes her tired so she can’t do PE. Like she’s having her period, all the time. I swear, she’s like a Victorian with the vapors every day at two o’clock. And the teachers fall for it! They let her go take a nap in her room. I wonder what she really does in there while we have to jog laps around the gym and bounce ridiculous balls off stupid things, like each other. I mean, what does that have to do with not setting anything on fire?
Anyway, my first day here, I barely had time to drop my bags before we had a get-to-know-you kind of meeting, which they called “orientation.” They made us all sit in a circle on the floor – yes, the concrete floor, with no rugs or pillow, what were they thinking? About flammability. I swear that’s all we are to these people — big walking fireballs. Todd, the lanky upperclassman who led the group with a senior girl and one of the teachers, had us go around the circle saying our names and what our kryptonite was. It was probably more to orient them to us, to prepare the patches, than for any other reason.
So there are precisely twenty of us newbies here. They started the circle with Brian, who was sitting right next to me, but it went in the opposite direction! So after Brian said he couldn’t produce flames in the presence of tungsten, eighteen other people went ahead of me. I was getting more nervous by the minute and barely heard what the other people said, with their run-of-the-mill kryptonites like lithium, beryllium and even krypton, which seems reasonable enough but is pretty expensive for the school to have on hand. My ears pricked up when a girl named Jill admitted phosphorus took away her powers. I snickered quietly to test whether anyone else would, but there were no takers. Come on, it’s embarrassing to be a pyrokinetic and have that ability erased by phosphorus, right? The stuff they put in the heads of matches? Doesn’t that seem a little ironic, at least?
“There’s no shame in any kryptonite. We all have one,” said Todd. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye like I was some kind of troublemaker.
So I rolled my eyes to show my disregard for authority to the other new students and held my breath again. Maybe if they didn’t laugh at phosphorus, they wouldn’t laugh at me, either. Maybe. Possibly.
No one was looking at my reddening face because it was Melinda’s turn, whoop de doo. She demurely announced her name and said, “My kryptonite is platinum.” She flashed a smile that I swear cut the air with a knife-sharpening sound. She drew a shiny necklace from under her blouse. “I already wear this all the time, ever since my parents gave it to me. I won’t need a patch.”
A hushed “ooh” went around the circle. Todd was nodding, as if Melinda had already arranged it all with the administration. Brian, right next to me, sucked in air. I couldn’t say exactly what he was thinking, but I knew right then that I liked him. A lot. Unbidden, the image of placing a darkly shiny tungsten wedding band around his finger entered my mind. It helped that he smelled pretty good. Since then, of course, it’s hard to smell anything other than my stupid patch.
Melinda’s act was hard to follow and I didn’t notice what anyone else said, so when it came to me, it still seemed like I had to compare myself to platinum. I covered my mouth to muffle the name of my fire-dampening element, but of course Todd said, “What was that? Say it again.”
“My name is Kelly,” I repeated, putting my diaphragm into it. “And my kryptonite is sulfur.” I wondered if I’d started a blaze on my face. I couldn’t feel my cheeks as I smiled, bracing myself. It was the same sinking, sick feeling I had with Uncle Jack a month ago. The laughter bubbled under the surface. I could feel it coming.
“Fire, but not brimstone,” Melinda said in a way that questioned the possibility.
Then it started. Todd snorted and the teacher, Ms. Matheson, barked a laugh over the snickering that was growing so sinisterly in volume. She clapped her hands over her mouth and composed herself to say, “There is no shame in any kryptonite! Hush! Quiet! My weakness is lead!”
She reached into her purse beside her — I’d thought she was just kind of weird to keep her purse with her in this situation — and pulled out a key ring with no keys attached to it, but several irregularly shaped rocks that must have been made of lead. She certainly hefted it as if it weighed a ton. “I can’t wear lead against my skin because it would poison me like a regular person, beyond taking my pyrokinesis away.”
The laughter died down with the interest in the new distraction. I thought of getting up and walking out, but Ms. Matheson continued and I had to hear. “I have to carry these pieces of lead with me at all times so I can get to them in an emergency, like a diabetic or something. I can’t even put this charm as far away from me as the conveyor belt when I go through airport security. Believe me, that can add to the difficulties of a trip.” Then she smiled so sweet and silly at all the newbies, they had to chuckle the way you might at a cute baby.
I loved Ms. Matheson then. She looked into my eyes and I could tell that was exactly what she wanted — a new friend from among the outcasts. She must be a weirdo in her life, too, with no friends her own age. I looked away and stayed quiet, hoping no one would remember me for the rest of the orientation. When Todd and Ms. Matheson finished explaining about curfews and hall passes and field trips, I stood up as slowly as I could, my every movement calling attention, in my mind, anyway. They were commencing a ritual of significance I didn’t learn until later and didn’t notice me slip out. Without a hall pass. [...]

What adventures will Kelly get herself into? Waterfire is a humorous, dramatic, and engaging novella and also a love poem to Providence, Rhode Island.

Though Waterfire isn't available yet, I do have other books with a similar flair available now
And I'm at, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for letting me share!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Javan Rhino Flash Fiction

The rare Javan rhino.
Today's the day! My story, "The Last Ultrasound," will appear at Linguistic Erosion.

"The Last Ultrasound" is the first of five short-shorts to be published in honor of a specific species of rhinoceros. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but it seems fitting to start with the rarest of all rhinos, the Javan, which number today only about 30 in the wild. Contrary to what the story describes, there are no Javan rhinos in captivity anywhere in the world.

Their rarity makes Javan rhinos difficult to describe. They appear to be mostly solitary. The only camera trap photos with more than one animal in them show a mother and calf. In appearance, the Javan is similar to the Greater One-Horned or Indian rhino, but averages about two-thirds the size of its bigger relative. One big difference between the two species is that female rhinos don't appear to grow a horn beyond the smallest stump. All other rhino species have horn growth in both sexes.

The most charming thing about Javan rhinos is that they really love to swim. It's real swimming, not just wading. Check it out:

Although "The Last Ultrasound" might paint a grim picture, there is still hope for the real-life Javan rhinos. Thank you very much for reading! Remember: no one needs a rhino horn but a rhino.

Monday, March 17, 2014

"I've Had a Long String of Bad Luck..."

For the past several years, I've been doing the opposite of what it seems most writers do: searching for a full time job beyond my writing.

My husband and I had an arrangement that he would work whatever jobs he could find so that I could have my own schedule and do all the things I do: writing, editing, translating and publishing. All too frequently, however, I took freelance positions beyond my work-from-home publishing jobs that brought in some much-needed money, but were a tremendous distraction from the writing focus. I sometimes thought back fondly to my days as a cataloger in the library, when I had none of the inconsistency or instability of freelancing. Why did I ever leave that beautiful place and those lovely people?

Eventually, we got tired of the moving and the instability, and decided to return to our beloved New England and make things happen from there. That decision was the main missing piece for us. Once we made it, it was only a matter of time before everything would fall into place for us.

I've accepted a full time position in educational publishing.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I've been trying so very hard all these years to get a "real job" in publishing, but honestly, there were times I felt it would never happen. I'm in shock at how quickly it's all taking place.

There's going to be a major adjustment period while I figure out how many of my writing, editing, translating, and publishing activities I can handle with a full time job, and yes, we do have to move again. At least this time it's less than an hour's drive. Thank you for bearing with me while I figure this out and become a geographically stable, professional member of society. The one certain thing is that I won't give up on my writing, especially Seven Noble Knights.

Definitely don't miss March 19, when my Javan rhino story debuts!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Flowering and Wilting of Writing Groups

Some of the best ladies in the world, my critique group.
We left our saga in Arizona, an epic place, to be sure. I was involved with that critique group in person the entire year and a half we were in Arizona and made it through about half of the first draft of Seven Noble Knights. The worst thing about leaving Arizona was the possibility that I would no longer be involved in the group. Luckily, these are some of the kindest, most generous people in the universe, and I've been allowed to Skype in every month since I left despite a key clause in our bylaws that specifies this as an in-person group.

Skype at its best can really give you a sense of personality. They added an in-person member when I departed, and I'm amazed to think I've never actually been in the same state with her, much less the same room. Based on that cyber-support, I finished Seven Noble Knights. What I most remember about living in Atlanta is writing the last chapter of Part I and the next several chapters getting away from me in length and complexity. Should I devote so much space to the migrating sheep? Which details of all the research I've done really develop the characters?

I tried to get into writers groups in Atlanta (the South is so wordy, it seems everyone writes!), but was daunted by two thoughts: Would I have to start over the critiquing of the entire novel? And I knew in my heart I was not in the right place and we would be leaving soon, so there was little point in investing as much effort as is necessary to find a group that really works.

The unnamed town where we lived in Illinois was a cultural wasteland that required a car to get anywhere, so the Arizona ladies were my only lifeline to the outside world. My most vivid memory of Illinois is scribbling the last few lines of Seven Noble Knights by hand because they wouldn't come while I stared at the screen. Oh, and completing it before the Mayan Apocalypse.

Then came North Carolina. You'll forgive me if I never felt settled in there, since we never lived anywhere but a hotel. I thought it might be the right place for us, and tried out a couple of critique groups, but while some of the writing was really enjoyable for me, barely one or two people ever seemed to understand what I was trying to do, whether it was historical or contemporary. Several months in, I saved myself the frustration by no longer attending. I had Skype to fall back on!

The reason I'm thinking about all this is that I'm now in a place I don't intend to leave within a year, so my best way to put down roots is to find a critique group. I have time to find one that works! I'm shopping around, but have already become a regular at one that meets every week.

Meanwhile, the writer the Arizona group added when I left has herself left, throwing all five of us into surprise and grief. She made her exit saying that the group wasn't giving her the regular discipline she needed. Not everyone has been able to submit writing on a regular basis, while she has been churning out the pages in an admirable fashion. I thought for a moment that this might mark the end of the Arizona group, and I was terribly sad, because it's become about much more than writing. It's a group of friends who all like to write and who support each other through many of the other things life throws at us.

Luckily, the remaining members agreed with that part. I'm still in transition, and deciding how to use all the wonderful local resources in order not to feel alone in this writing thing. But at least I haven't lost my best gals. Further critique groups may come and go, but Low Writers are forever.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop: Kathleen Rollins

At the end of February, I told you all about my writing process and promise there would be an unmissable post from Kathleen Rollins. Today, it's here! Be sure to take a look at her amazing research and storytelling abilities.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Evolution of Writing Groups

Most people, I think, realize that writing is a lonely business if you don't have some kind of support group, a magical few people who either read your writing willingly or understand what you're going through because they're writers, too — or, in the best of all possible worlds, both. When the support group does both those things, they're called a writing or critique group.

When I first decided to take fiction writing seriously, back when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts (sigh!) (I'm not quite back there, but I'm within commuting distance), the first thing I did was dig through my files to see what I had. The close second was to look at and find out whether there were any writers in the area willing to meet.

Of course, now there are plenty of groups to choose from all over New England, and they fill up and get waiting lists. Only five years ago, it was a different scene all together. I had to try running my own Meetup, and it was disastrous. The most I ever got was one other attendee. I didn't know exactly how it should work, so I have to give myself a break on that. How painful to wait in some café and feel like a sore thumb with a Meetup sign, only to be joined by someone who confrontationally wanted me to have a better handle on what the heck I was trying to do. (That was the worst time. The other times I tried were more low-key and vaguely disappointing.)

Then, the moving saga began. I married my husband in September, and in late December, we left Massachusetts during a snowstorm for the middle of nowhere northeastern Pennsylvania. It was so cold, overnight all the tires on our tow trailer deflated. And it got colder and more desolate from there.

I'm sure Pennsylvania is wonderful. Indeed, I love Philadelphia and the beauties of the mountains. But I was trapped in a mountain home, in utter isolation, with no possibility of even the half-hearted attempts at Meetups from before. I would write it off as eleven months of nothing, except that I was in PA when I began getting published in literary magazines and when I began this blog. Reaching out through cyberspace!

And then, Kismet. We moved, against our wishes, to Arizona, but I was determined to build or join a community. That place is chockablock with writers of every age and ilk! I started through Meetup again, and met the founder of Fireship Press, which led to my editing career. Then, another writers Meetup was such a behemoth that smaller groups began splintering off, and that's where I found the critique group I still Skype into today. You know it's working when people willingly add technology into the mix. The group has been a tremendous comfort to me through too many moves and oodles of rejections. What a relief!

Tune in on Wednesday, March 12, for the continuing saga of the writing group!

Monday, March 3, 2014

New Flash Fiction Publication

When I was living in Atlanta, I took a break from my epic novel, Seven Noble Knights, to compose a very compressed, short-short piece of writing, which I call "Found on the Coast Near Astoria, Oregon." I've revised it over the last year, and now, to my delight, it's published and ready to read in the inimitable Quail Bell Magazine.

This is a deeply personal fictional interpretation of a collage of images found in everyday life, presented in a way I think is mysterious and intriguing and not based on any kind of reality. Please read it and enjoy, imagining your own stories to surround and explain what's on the page.

I'm particularly thrilled with the photo the editors included. Thanks to everyone at Quail Bell and thanks to my readers!