Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Writing Snippets - Flash Fiction Little Women and the Vampire


This is my inaugural post for Lands Uncharted. I’m Gretchen Engel. I don’t have any full-length novels published. My manuscript for The Barber Surgeon won the ACFW Genesis Contest for Speculative Fiction in 2018, and I have several short stories that have been published. Most of my stories take place in a fictional steampunk world. I have always loved historical fiction, so my spin on the genre is what I describe as “Downton Abbey with gadgets” and at the ACFW conference, which is primarily women and heavy on romance, I pitched my writing style as speculative fiction for women who think they don’t like speculative fiction. I was that woman until I was about thirty and even now, I enjoy fairy tales, sweet romantic fantasies, urban fantasy, and of course steampunk. This is why I eagerly accepted the invitation to contribute to Lands Uncharted, I know most of these ladies through Realm Makers, ACFW, or both. These ladies are my people.

I just got home from seeing Little Women, which is phenomenal. I can’t decide if I like this somewhat nonlinear but deeper adaptation or the 1994 version better. Both are fantastic in their own way. I may have to watch my DVD of the 1994 version again for comparison. Little Women is a touchstone book for me. I sat on my grandmother’s lap while she read experts from it when I was maybe five or six. The Little Golden abridged version was the first chapter book I owned. I received it just before I entered second grade. I’ve since read and listened to the full-length novel.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a flash fiction piece for a speculative-themed mash up with classic literature. My mind immediately went to Little Women.

Little Women and the Vampire

The four March sisters sat in their parlor before the fire. Meg and Jo read while Amy sketched and Beth tapped out a tune on an imaginary piano. Books could only hold Jo March’s attention for so long. She unfolded her long legs and stood. “The walk needs cleared.”
With father off at war, the manly duties of the home fell to tomboy Jo. She grabbed a shovel and scooped out a path. She glanced up from her work and noticed the curtains moving next door.
Curious, Jo walked over to the mansion and asked for Laurie, the teenaged grandson of Mr. Lawrence their family’s benefactor.
The butler told her the young man was ill, but Laurie peered behind the man and mouthed, “come back in an hour and use the side door.”
Jo obeyed Laurie’s request as if he’d compelled her to do it. She returned with a basket packed with soup, flowers from her sisters, and a pair of kittens. “I come bearing comfort for the invalid.”
Once she shut the door, Laurie emerged from the shadows. His alabaster skin pale against his black hair. He led Jo to an untidy sitting room. The young man moved a chessboard from the table and a pile of books from the sofa. “Thank you. My only company is Mr. Brooke, my tutor. How is Meg?”
“Fit as a fiddle. Thank you again for offering your carriage.”
The two met at a party when they both sought refuge from the crowd. Old Mr. Lawrence drove the girls home from the party after Meg twisted her ankle dancing.
“I haven’t met Beth and Amy but heard you calling their names.”
“You have good ears to hear through the glass and these heavy curtains.” Jo ambled to the window. “This room would be so much cheerier with some light.”
Inhumanly fast, Laurie blocked Jo’s path. “Please no. My eyes are weak. He looked down at his white hands with nails that almost pointed at the tips. “Side effects of an illness I contracted when I was abroad.”
“This will help.” Jo lifted the soup tureen from the basket. She procured a spoon and handed both to Laurie.
He grimaced but took a sip. He clutched his neck and choked.
“Broth’s supposed to cure. It’s only a bit of chicken, salt, and garlic.”
“Indeed,” Laurie rasped.
A dark-haired man not much older than Jo and Laurie entered the room. “It’s time for your lessons.” The man gave Jo a tight smile. “I didn’t realize you had company.”
“It’s only Jo, Margaret March’s younger sister.”
The man stammered an apology with a blush and a timid handshake. “John Brooke. Give Margaret my regards.” He backed out, dabbing at a small bloody spot above his collar.
Jo stumbled backward. “I will, and I must be going.”
The kittens mewed.  Laurie snatched up the basket and licked his lips. He held it out stiffly. “That is probably best. I will call at your house. I hope you’ll invite me inside.”
###
One dark gray day the following month, Amy answered the door. “Do come in Laurie.”
Laurie studied Amy and the room. “What a lovely home and girls.”
Amy blushed and curtseyed. “May I go with you?”
“We don’t want children ruining our fun.” Jo slung her ice skates over her shoulder and walked out the door on Laurie’s arm.
Jo treated Amy like a baby. She’d teach Jo that she was not a child. Amy picked up Jo’s notebook of stories and flung it into the fireplace. She ran upstairs for her skates.
Amy laced on her skates and caught up to Jo and Laurie. She passed them for the center of the river. Amy heard a crack and slipped under the water.
###
Jo sat next to Amy’s bedside furious over her burned notebook but relieved Amy would live thanks to Laurie. He dove into the icy water as if it were summer.
Amy stirred. “Laurie saved me. I think he bit me to keep me alive like a regular samphire.”
“Silly goose, you mean vampire, and they’re imaginary.” Then Jo spotted the two red marks on Amy’s neck.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Weekend Reads: Convergence by Clare Revell (Katie)


Weekend Reads (Katie)

Review of Convergence by Clare Revell




Clare Revell excels at the creepy and fun psychological thriller. Convergence was a quick, intriguing read filled with time travel, mystery, and a battle in the mind between good and evil.

Etta is our main character, and she’s in love with the man of—or rather, from—her dreams. Trouble is, he doesn’t really exist. Does he?

Here are a few things I loved about Convergence:

The sharp wit of the main character 
The creepy factor of the villain (the dark man)
The mysteries of the real versus the imagined

If you like mysteries of the mind (I do!!!), time travel, and lots of sharp wit than you will definitely want to give this one a try. The book releases in just a few days (yay!), and you can find it online here.

I mentioned Clare excells at these types of books, so I thought I’d give a little extra proof of that (because if you like this one you’re going to want more!). Last year, I read Clare’s Down In Yon Forrest (check it out on Goodreads!). It had a similar tone, and I absolutely loved it so keep that in mind for the future.

 Happy reading!










Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Writing Contest for Speculative Fiction! (Heather)

Do you write fantasy? Dystopian? Space Operas? All three? If you write anything on the spec-fic spectrum, take a look at the Mountain Brook Fire's Fire Award contest!

Mountain Brook Fire is the new speculative fiction imprint of Mountain Brook Ink (MBI). MBI is a traditional, royalty paying publishing house that I am proud to call 'home'! My trilogy, The Tethered World Chronicles, is published with MBI and but has officially moved to their new spec-fic baby: Mountain Brook Fire (MBF).

To celebrate their love of speculative fiction and this new publishing imprint, they are hosting a fabulous writing contest for previously unpublished manuscripts!


I can't say enough great things about the hard working team of industry experts at MBI/MBF. Founded by award winning author Miralee Ferrell, this small but mighty publisher has expanded to over 35 authors with multiple awards and movie deals. Miralee and staff help promote each author's books, help to educate authors on how to promote their own books (something authors must do regardless of how fancy-shmancy the publisher is), and provides things like professional covers and content edits.

The grand prize for this contest is a contract, but there are other valuable prizes for finalists. For a full list of prizes and submission guidelines, click this link. Contest is open from February 1st through March 31st.

So . . . get busy polishing up those drafts and send in your manuscripts, people! What are you waiting for? Wouldn't it be cool if one of our readers or authors won? Do you have a story lurking on your computer, waiting for this opportunity?


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Planning 2020 (Kimberly)

Planning 2020

Hello all! How do you plan your schedule? Is it completely detailed or perhaps you have a lot of floating/vague dates more along the lines of "maybe this quarter"? Scattered dates and checklists all over your house or at least your desk? Or one centralized master planner to rule them all?

Honesty moment, I've spent a lot of time being one of the scattered planner people and as I get further into my career, I find that doesn't really work for me. Whether traditionally published or indie, there's a lot of things beyond just hitting word counts we authors must track. There are various stages of the writing journey to reach publishing or submission deadlines, newsletters, blogs, social media, and also ads if that's part of our marketing plan. Add in your life outside of writing and things can quickly become overwhelming, chaotic, and a stressful mess of missed project dates and goals.

I've used regular date planners in the past, but they don't always click due to how much of both writing and business I need to track. So, this year I decided to try something new. I picked up The 2020 Author's Planner by Audrey Ann Hughey, an indie author who definitely understands there's more than just writing to track through the year. We're not very far into the new year, but I'm already loving this planner!

One of the two covers for the planner. Photo from Amazon.com.


The planner is aimed at consolidating the creative and business sides of being an author. What I especially love is the first page of the introduction urges you to be FLEXIBLE. Planners shouldn't be carved into stone, which can often be a downfall leading to author burnout because the author made every deadline immovable. However, planners with the cushion of flexibility can really help streamline and destress your author life whether you're a plotter or a pantser.

Some of the unique features of the Author's Planner are the sections aimed at clarifying our vision/goals for 2020 including the following: 1) agent submission and query tracking for those pursuing traditional or hybrid publishing, 2) reading list for business and pleasure, 3) income and expense tracking for each month, 4) a marketing plan ranging from publishing dates to visibility growth, and 5) a social media calendar. One of my favorite things is how each month begins with a reflection on the previous month and what did or didn't work before launching into the plan breakdown for the current month. Then the weekly calendar maintains a broad focus beyond just word count, which I love. You can make goals ranging from writing to editing to visibility, notate your writing buddy for the week, track the number of pitches you're sending out, and also address wellness goals and life priorities.

Now if this sounds a bit TOO organized and overwhelming for your needs, there are other planners that cater to author needs. One of my friends, indie author and designer Rachel Rossano, has just released her own all-in-one Writing & Marketing Planner. This is the kind of planner you grab if you want to easily track both marketing and writing without feeling bogged down by a bunch of extras. I haven't ordered this one yet. However, it's already moving to the top of my list for next year's planner picks because it's more streamlined while also organizing both the creative and business sides of the job. What I love about planners is that we can play around with them and experiment until we find one or two that's just the right fit for our lives and business styles.

Cover Photo from Lulu.com.

When I sat down at the end of the year to assess my 2020 goals, I knew better organization was going to be a major factor in my success. I've done the make your own planner and used word count oriented planners in the past, but this year I wanted something more structured that had room to coalesce my writing with the business side. Two of my priority goals are to publish a minimum of twelve books this year and to broaden my marketing focus, which would be difficult to achieve without being intentionally organized. Being scattered interferes with my focusing abilities, so I'm already benefitting from using more author oriented planners and I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of 2020 unfolds.

What about you? What planners are you using this year? What made you choose them? Any trips or tricks for planning your year? I'd love to hear about them?

Until next time!
Kimberly


Monday, January 13, 2020

Christmas Giveaway: We have winners!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our first Lands Uncharted Christmas Giveaway! We have our winners! I'll list them below along with the "basket" they won. (Note: Winners, it may take a few days for the author whose box you won to contact you, but be sure to keep an eye on your spam folder in case the email goes there.)


Lizzie's gift box: Holly Flores 



Katie's gift box: Jill Hackman 




Laurie's gift box: Kelly S. Delrosso 



Lauricia's gift box: Laura Pol

Congrats again to the winner, and I hope everyone's New Year is off to a great start!

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Heather)

Hello fellow readers and writers of Lands Uncharted! I'm thrilled to be joining this cozy, well-read fantasy family 😇. For my first post on Weekend Reads, I'm going to introduce you to a book that, perhaps, needs no introduction because it's actually considered a classic.

Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World (book 1 from The Wheel of Time series) is so old it may be new to many people who are only now coming into the fantasy genre. Published in 1990, it has been around long enough to stand the test of critics and create millions of fans.


And yet, somehow, I stumbled onto this series only recently (and I'm probably the oldest authors here 😳).

Inspired by Tolkien, Robert Jordan (whose real name is James Oliver Rigney Jr.) set about to create a world equal in authenticity to Middle Earth. His series grew to include fourteen books, the last three ghost-written posthumously by none other than Brandon Sanderson (who had a copious amount of Jordan's notes and outlines to write from).

Okay, okay. Maybe I'm really late to this party. Perhaps I'm The Last Fantasy Author on Earth to discover Robert Jordan. *hangs head in embarrassment* But! I'm not only reviewing the book . . . I'm reviewing the audiobook!

Yes, audiobooks constitute 95% of my reading these days. My theory is: if I have time to sit and read, I should be writing instead. So, I happily multitask by listening to books as I drive, cook, and do household chores. So, if you see a review from me, you'll probably be hearing my thoughts on the performance of the book, as well as the content.

The Eye of the World is superbly narrated by Michael Kramer and his wife Kate Reading (thank you, Google, for that interesting tidbit). Michael brings the many characters to life with everything from baritone buoyancy to affected accents. I was surprised when Kate Reading's voice suddenly chimed in for the first time, as the female perspective didn't come into play until maybe halfway through the book. Even then, her chapters sparsely populate the pages, but she easily matches her husband in putting auditory-flesh to Jordan's characters. At close to 30 hours in length, audiobook fans can be thankful for their excellent delivery.

In epic-fantasy style--that doesn't bog down in detail as much as Tolkien--Jordan brings us a coming-of-age tale with classic good vs. evil themes. When Trollocs--savage half-men, half-beast creatures--attack the village of Two Rivers, three young men and one young girl flee for their lives with a few other superpower-type adults.

Readers follow this core cast into a journey fraught with peril, magic, and definite overtones of a sovereign God who has a purpose for each person.

Rand al'Thor is one of the young men who flees Two Rivers. Revelations cause him to question his purpose--and his very identity--as he learns the truth about his birth. He runs, he denies, he examines. His dreams are often haunted by an evil dude who is reminiscent of the serpent in the Garden asking, "Did God really say ____?" Doubts plague him and his faith in ways that are very relatable.

Jordan is a Christian, and his worldview beautifully flows into this fantastic fantasy without feeling preachy or contrived. His characters have character. His story is one that inspires readers to desire the valor, courage, and faith reflected in each of the young men, as well as several heroic females, who make this life-altering journey to save their world from evil.

If you love a long, intricately imagined story, this is a book you won't want to miss. And although The Eye of the World is part of a larger series, there's no cliffhanger ending that leaves you frustrated and sucker-punched. It is a good stand alone read, though I daresay it may take you more than one weekend!

Okay, so tell me: am I truly The Last Fantasy Author/Reader on Earth to discover Robert Jordan? Let me know if you've read any of his books and what you think about the world he has created!




Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Writing Snippets: A Deleted Scene (Lauricia)


Greetings and welcome back to Lands Uncharted. I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to one of our new topic categories: Writing Snippets. Here you will find odds and ends from the works of the authors who blog with Lands Uncharted.
For those who don’t know me, my debut novel is The Healer’s Rune. It is the first book in a trilogy and was published long enough ago that the second book is due soon! The Healer’s Rune is a story about Sabine Rhyonselle, a Human who is tired of her people living as slaves to the fey Rüddan in everything but name. But the ban on magic use keeps Humanity indebted to the Rüddan, whose superior strength is the only thing that once protected them from being annihilated by the Aethel. At least, that’s what Sabine has always believed. When she learns otherwise, she must overcome centuries of prejudice and lies, forge an alliance between two enemy races, and find the location of a powerful talisman in order to break the chains that bind Humanity to the Rüddan. Along the way she learns a dangerous secret about herself that could get her killed.
The Writing Snippet that I have for you today is a deleted scene from the second book in the series, titled Guardian Prince. There is so much about this scene that I love, but it just didn't work for the direction of the chapter I had it in. This is why I'm thrilled to share it here with you. And while I don’t  have a release date yet, I do have a cover! The excerpt begins after the cover pic. I hope you enjoy this taste of book two. I'd love to hear your comments below!




By the time Sabine woke the next morning, the sounds of busy activity filled the camp. Rubbing the sleep from her face, Sabine rose from her pallet, stretched, and stepped out of her tent...
...into the hustled activity of a camp being torn down at a rapid pace.
“Sabine,” Tayte said, his manner brusque as he handed her a hunk of cheese and a blush-pink apple, then began pulling up the stakes of her tent. “Eat quickly. It’s time to go.”
Glancing around for Bree, Sabine polished the apple against her cloak. “What's happened?”
“The Dryht's raven has brought a message.”  Tayte finished with the stakes and began winding the cables that had held the tent taut, meticulous about the details despite his obvious haste. “The portal gate has fallen.”
Sabine gaped, the apple half-raised to her mouth. “When?”
“During the eighth watch. They sent the bird back as soon as the portal was breached.”
Sabine bit into the firm apple, its juicy tartness registering dimly as she chewed and observed the activity of the camp. Sabine's tent, the last one standing, would be down soon.  To the left of the camp Gaelan and Kyarr were saddling and loading the horses while Koen brushed the ground with a fallen limb, stirring up the forest undergrowth with the branch's twiggy limb and obscuring the more obvious signs of the group's overnight stay. Unable to discern any way she could help, Sabine did as Tayte had suggested and ate her food.
They mounted and rode out a few moments after Sabine finished, Gaelan and Aodhan in the lead and Kyarr and Koen bringing up the rear. They rode as briskly as they could along the narrow path, and Sabine worried for Bree, but Gaoth stayed close to the dog, as if guarding her. Sabine wondered what the bird could actually do if Bree got lost, but figured that, since Gaoth always found Koen, the two animals would find a way to make do.
Half a watch after they broke camp, it began to rain. Light and patchy at first, it soon collected into an icy downpour. Sabine raised her hood, even though she expected the rain to soak through her cloak quickly, but noted that the cloth was not actually absorbing any of the water. Rather, the droplets beaded up and rolled off as they hit the soft red fabric, as if the cloak were magically water-repellant. Curious about how that worked, Sabine reasoned it must be something all the races except hers knew about, for everyone else seemed to be benefiting from the water-repellant cloaks, as well.
Still, Sabine's forearms and lower legs were uncovered and the water was cold. She draped her cloak as best she could but only succeeded in covering more of her mount than herself. Still, the horse didn't seem to mind. It even sighed subtly, as if grateful for the small amount of relief.
A short while later the rain intensified and changed directions, blowing directly into Sabine’s face. The horse seemed to have had enough, for it turned its head and pulled sharply against the reins. The movement startled Sabine, but she tugged instinctively against the animal, correcting its course.
The horse complied briefly but soon yanked against the reins again. Sabine was more alert this time, so her reaction was well timed, but as she resisted the horse's attempts to turn away from the rain, she noticed Tayte correcting his mount, as well. He looked in her direction and smiled grimly, glanced down at his horse, then shrugged.
Sabine wondered how Diera would manage if her mount responded to the rain in the same way. As if to answer her question, Diera's horse pulled to the left, away from Amala's. The princess's handmaiden grabbed for Diera's reins, but Diera motioned her away. Instead of pulling against the horse, she allowed it to turn into the direction it was already pulling toward. Rather than stopping halfway, however, Diera continued to turn the horse until it faced forward once again.
“We're not going to get very far this way,” Tayte yelled over the rain.
Sabine nodded her agreement, but Tayte could not have seen her, for he had urged his horse forward until he caught up with Aodhan and Gaelan. The three halted and huddled in a conference.
“We can't stop,” Gaelan said as she and the other two ladies caught up to them. “I don't like pushing the horses, and I certainly don't enjoy being out in a storm like this, but we don't have any choice. Now that the Rüddan Emissary has broken through the portal, she won't be that far behind. This storm is mild compared to the blizzards she grew up with in the north—it's not going to slow her down.”
Sabine shifted her leg, trying to avoid being mashed as her horse pressed into the huddle. Amala tugged her mount away but had nowhere else to go, since she was blocked on the other side by Diera.
Koen and Kyarr caught up to them. Kyarr joined Gaelan and Tayte in the discussion of possible options, but Koen only peered around the rim of his cloak's hood, examining the dense wood around them.
“Perhaps I can help,” he said to no one in particular  Dismounting, he walked to the largest tree beside the path, a towering maple that soared so high its crown was obscured among the branches of the other trees. Gently, almost as if asking permission, he place both hands flat on the rough trunk and bent his head, as if listening.
Sabine cold not tell what the Dryht was doing, but a short while later the tree's branches began to stir. The tree looked as if it were swaying in a stiff wind, but the direction and intensity of the rain did not change. The limbs of the maple brushed against those of the other trees to its left. Soon, those trees began to sway, as well. They, in turn, reached to the trees on their left, as well as those across the path from them.
As the third ripple of trees began to sway, Koen removed his hands from the maple and returned to his horse. The stately tree leaned after him, as if it would follow, until its limbs arched over Sabine and the rest of the group.
The relief from the rain was almost instant. Although a fine smattering of drops still found their way through the branches now arched over the path, the intensity of the downpour was greatly diminished. Sabine stared in wonder as the trees along the path cascaded in a slow, graceful wave, bending to form a leafy tunnel.
“They will cover us,” Koen said as he remounted, “but we should not tarry. Although they bend, it is a great effort.”
“Tarrying was not something I had in mind,” Gaelan said, staring at the limbs of a cedar that trembled subtly over his head. Backing his horse out of the huddle, he turned it around and resumed his position at the head of the group.
Sabine fell into place with the others, awed by the Dryht's magical display. Although the rest of the group seemed to take it for granted, Sabine felt as if she had just witnessed something sacred. She knew it was silly, but she wished she could thank the trees.
Once everyone had ridden a few steps farther along the trail, Sabine turned in her saddle to look again at the maple Koen had touched. She saw it rising gracefully back to its upright position, limbs quivering softly as it settled into place once more.
*     *     *