Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

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Book Review: FERTS by Grace Hudson

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got a book I found myself enjoying a lot more than I expected! I found it a sort of cross between The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Equilibrium. Dystopian fiction worth reading indeed.

FERTS

FERTScoverThe war is over. Resources are scarce. The population is dwindling in the Forkstream Territories.

Pinnacle Officer Wilcox has created FERTS amidst the chaos, a facility designed to protect the female population from raiding hordes.

Beth 259201, a newly-demoted Epsilon Internee, suspects that there is something more that lurks beneath the carefully constructed order of the facility.

 

She has a gift, one that could brand her a defective. A novice fighter, she must use her intellect to survive. Her own life, and the lives of many more may be at risk. Will she succumb to the plans in store for her or will she conceal her secret long enough to discover her own path?

My Review: 4 Stars

While it took me a chapter or two to get into the book, by page 30 I was fascinated. I found myself curious to find out more about these “Beths” (each with their own unique number) and the horrible “breeding world” in which they lived. I LOVED the way the girls were ranked according to the various factors (attractiveness, musculature, personality, etc.). It was a fascinating look at what would happen if modern society broke down “being a woman” into numbers and formulas.

The story overall was pretty good, though I found myself enjoying the first 2/3 more than the last part. The climax was good (satisfying ending), but there was quite a bit that felt dangerously close to Deus Ex Machina.

SPOILER: DO NOT READ IF YOU HATE SPOILERS!! The character develops a sort of telepathy or precognition, but I didn’t catch the explanation of how or why. Unique powers like that need explanation or a reason why. END SPOILERS

A lot of details were also left vague, unclear, or unexplained. While the initial world-building was excellent, too many questions were left unanswered. Not the least of which was what made the main Beth so different from all the other Beths around her.

But, all in all, a good book, and one I’d highly recommend to any dystopian fans!

Here’s a Taste:

Cerberus strode out through the rear of the observation tower, leaving Quinton to his track and surveillance duties. The console zoomed in through trees to show the clear, glowing bright red outline of a young Internee, bent at the waist, visibly panting. Her hand gripped the tree beside her as she crouched, other hand planted firmly on her right knee to steady herself. She had lasted all of two minutes, the Ward Beacon surely must be having some kind of effect on her Implant Marker by now. Quinton looked more closely through the cracked monitor, admiring the sharp outline of her jaw, the defiant spread of her shoulders, as she leaned back against the tree, resisting the call.

“Go back,” he whispered.

She raised her head, as if sensing something.

He checked her file in the logs, Epsilon Circuit, three years trained, two years fight duty. Beth 259251. They were all marked as Beth, only the numbers would change between Internees. She was assigned to Epsilon Circuit due to a hormonal imbalance at fourteen. She had contracted a common autoimmune disorder, causing her fertility rating to drop to a 5.6, but it was her muscle mass that relegated her to the betting Circuit of Epsilon. Her muscle mass was far above regulation and despite her condition she was physically strong, testing high on agility. Her fight record was exemplary, a formidable opponent for any challenger from the Epsilon Internee fight pool.

The endurance monitor blipped. Her heart had begun to stutter. She had five, maybe six minutes to get back within the ward zone before her time ran down.

“Back, come on,” he muttered.

It was none of his concern, certainly nothing he would voice in front of the other Operators for fear of derision. The Internees were plentiful, and the common Epsilon fellows were worth far less than the price of a basic ration.

The endurance monitor spiked, displaying elevated cortisol and increased respiration. She clung to the bark under her fingers, scrabbling for equilibrium. He had seen this routine so many times before and had grown tired of the spectacle. He could do without another demonstration tonight.

Before long, Beth 259251 stood to her full height, appearing to move towards the ward zone. Quinton exhaled, shifting back in his seat, ready to log her return. She hesitated, then turned to face the sparse plains of the suspension zone. Each small step was heavy, but she persevered, dragging her body further from the tower reach. The beacon’s steady hum permeated the forest. Her hands crept up to cover her ears, routinely dropping back down in futility. One minute and forty-five seconds later she dropped to her knees, heart rate spiking, shuddering. The endurance monitor blipped once last time as her form faded to a dull green on the console.

“Recovery detail, suspension zone border.” He called out the coordinates into his radio, ignoring the crackle, repeating the details to ensure they had been received.

“Confirmed, Quinton. Log response time at 18:16.”

“Proceed as logged,” Quinton replied. He hissed a breath out through his teeth. The Epsilon fellow was no longer his concern.

About the Author:

Grace Hudson lives in Melbourne, Australia, land of sun, surf and drop bears!

She spends a lot of time in her writing cave but can be tempted to come out to check social media from time to time.

Her debut dystopian novel, “FERTS” was released in June 2015. Open Doors, an Aussie urban fantasy was released in Feb 2016. The Rogue Thread (Book 2 of FERTS) and Alpha Field (Book 3 of FERTS) are the latest releases for 2017.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/FERTS-Book-1-Grace-Hudson-ebook/dp/B010II21DW/

Read Grace’s thoughts on her website: http://www.gracehudson.net

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GraceHudsonAuthor/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/GraceHudsonAU

 

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Guest Post: What We Learn When We Rewrite

Today, I’m fortunate enough to have a guest post written by an awesome editor and friend, the epic Michael Dellert. His post: the nitty gritty of re-writing!

What We Learn When We Rewrite

The only truly creative aspect of novel-writing is the first draft. That’s when the story comes straight from head and your heart, a direct tap into the subconscious. After that, the rest of it—the rewrite—is grunt work. But it’s grunt work that has to be done, and work from which we can learn.

When I first sat down in 2014 to write my first book (Heron’s Cry), I was essentially teaching myself to write all over again. I jokingly referred to the whole undertaking as, “the first thing I’ve written since my college Creative Writing workshop that’s more complicated than a grocery list.”

As the author of Fear of Flying so succinctly put it:

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.” – Erica Jong

That was my experience as a writer for many years as well. I was so adamant about writing well (grammatically) that I never got to the end. I was “that guy,” the writer who keeps polishing the first three chapters—but doesn’t finish the work.

Then I heard the phrase, “Perfect is the enemy of done.” I realized I wasn’t helping myself as a writer by being such a perfectionist. And so I adopted a new approach to my work and started writing Heron’s Cry.

The Matter of Manred

Forward!

First, I gave myself a strict deadline: Thirteen weeks. And I put a hell of a consequence on that deadline. If I didn’t type, “The End” by 5pm on the 91st day of the project, I wouldn’t ever call myself a writer again. After 30 years of self-identifying that way, I didn’t know what else I would call myself, so it meant a lot to me to keep that goal.

By not backtracking each day, I was always moving forward, getting closer and closer to the last page where I could finally type, “The End.” By writing that first draft all the way through without looking back, I got my internal editor off my shoulder. The first draft was all creative stuff that just “came to me,” often as a surprise. Reading what I wrote afterward, I often mumbled, “Wow. I wrote that!” I let my stream of consciousness flow, and the words appeared on the monitor. And I was amazed at how damn good they were. Or at least, how damn good I thought they were.

Backward!

But not surprisingly, that first draft was a huge, unwieldy thing. I had aimed for just 65000 words, the minimum word-count for what I considered “a novel,” but I came in at more than 120k words.

And as amazingly good as I thought the words were, there was no doubt they needed major revisions before I could even think about publication.

But I wasn’t discouraged. Hell, I had just done what for thirty years had been impossible for me: I’d finished the first draft of a novel. A whole new world had opened up to me. I could finish a story. The world hadn’t ended. No nuns with wooden rulers came around to rap me on the knuckles. The sun still rose in the east every morning.

So since then, I’ve been editing Heron’s Cry. I’m not in a rush. I don’t have a deadline, I enjoy the process, and I’m a stubborn person. When many other writers might have shoved that manuscript under the bed or buried it deep within a desk drawer after the fifth or sixth edit, I continue to comb through it with renewed enthusiasm. My protagonist is becoming more proactive, the plot more tightly woven. I’m embedding subtle clues and red herrings through the narrative as I become more adept at plotting.

The Rewrite Process

So how do I do it?

My earliest edits in Heron’s Cry consisted of cutting, and this is a practice I’ve kept up through my subsequent works. I’ve learned to embrace that oft-repeated mantra that every scene must move the story forward or, at the very least, define character. If I can’t justify a scene, it’s gone. I got over the trauma of cutting—words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and even (yelp!) whole chapters. And I applied those lessons to my other books, creating lean but complicated fantasies.

Needless to say, this hasn’t been easy. But I discovered a way that made it less painful: I created a “Cuts” document. Everything I cut went into that separate file, “for posterity.” Nothing was ever truly gone. If I changed my mind, I could reinsert it with the click of a button. The “Cuts” document for Heron’s Cry is 190 double-spaced pages (about 47000 words).

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And what I found was that a lot of those cuts were backstory and exposition, not relevant to the story at hand. So I started book number two, Hedge King in Winter, as an excuse to tell that backstory and repurpose that exposition. And then I went on to book three, A Merchant’s Tale, and then my first published full-length novel, The Romance of Eowain, and now my forthcoming new novel, The Wedding of Eithne.

As I mature as a writer, the “Cuts” document for each book is shrinking because I’m learning to evaluate scenes before I write them. For The Wedding of Eithne, the “Cuts” file is just seven pages.

No Rest for the Wicked?

I’ve probably edited Heron’s Cry more than twenty times already. I can flip open the manuscript, glance at a line or two, and know exactly which scene I’m looking at. Around edit number ten of Heron’s Cry, I realized I needed to do a major story revamp, so I copied the entire manuscript into another document for safekeeping. This freed me to be as bold and daring as I liked. If I mess something up in the revision, I still have that earlier version to fall back on. This is a nice strategy for short stories, too.

But when will it be done? I’m not sure yet. Keeping in mind that perfect is the enemy of done, I’ve set deadlines on my other four books, and told the story that leads up to the events in Heron’s Cry. Now that those books are finished and almost all out of the nest, maybe 2017 is the year to bring Heron’s Cry to the world? Or maybe I’ll keep myself guessing.

mike5a

About the Author:

Michael E. Dellert is a writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 20 years. His blog, Adventures in Indie Publishing, is a resource for creative writers of all kinds. He is the author of three books in the heroic fantasy Matter of Manred Saga, and his latest book in the series, The Wedding of Eithne, will publish on 28 March, 2017.

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Just for Fun…A Bit of Reading

So I was going over old emails and I stumbled upon the original version of Blade of the Destroyer. This was pre-edits, so there were a lot of things very different.

One very different element was the intro scene! Instead of it starting with Lord Damuria falling from the cliffside to die on the forest floor, there was an actual chase scene with multiple POV characters and multiple deaths. Though it got chopped out in the published version, I thought I’d have some fun and post it here:

(WARNING: 2,400 words, all pre-editing so VERY rough)

 

He is coming. The Hunter is coming.

Lord Damuria’s mind raced as his booted feet crashed through the Forest of Souls, south of the great city of Voramis.

The sounds of forest life around him stilled as he raced past, and the scent of loamy earth filled his nostrils. Pain flared as tree branches whipped at his face, but he had no time to register the sensations. Exhaustion seeped into his muscles, but still he ran, desperate to escape the inexorable bringer of death hounding his trail.

Gods damned Hunter. The image of the Hunter’s last victim–Count Arendus of the House of Damasc–still lingered in Damuria’s mind. What a horrible way to die, hanging by your own entrails, eyes cut out. I refuse to die that way. 

Smoke hung in the air, filling his lungs and setting him coughing. His ruined carriage blazed behind him, the bodies of his guards smoldering among the wreckage. He could taste death on the air.

Behind him, struggling to match his inhuman speed, a trio of men he had hired as heavy muscle followed. They moved through the forest with all the grace of stampeding wildebeests, but Lord Damuria knew the noise of their passage would distract the Hunter. Perhaps even long enough for me to reach the city. Panic rose within him, and he fought to control his panting as he raced.

“My Lord Damuria!” a voice called out from behind him. “Where are you, my lord?”

He could not remember the fool’s name, but he didn’t care. The three would be dead before long. If I don’t move faster, he thought, I may very well share their fate.

 

* * *

 

Elwig’s scream echoed loud in the silence of the forest. He fell to the floor, his leg caught in an exposed root.

“Fuck!” he bellowed in his pain. “My leg!”

“Damn it, Elwig!” Trasik shouted. He could see Elwig’s leg bone protruding through the skin, and blood pooled beneath his fallen companion. Binding the leg will stop the bleeding, but the poor bastard won’t be running anywhere.

He whirled around, his panicking ears searching for the source of the sound he thought he had heard. The crackling of the burning carriage filtered through the silence, and his eyes darted in every direction.

“Alright, Elwig, get-” He stopped mid-sentence as he saw his companion. The tip of a crossbow bolt protruded from Elwig’s face, the man’s eyeball hanging from its socket by a thin strip of flesh.

Trasik’s blood turned to ice in his veins. The Hunter, he thought. Lady’s twisted teats!

Twigs cracked behind him. A strong hand grasped him arm.

“Shut the fuck up, Trasik you cowardly cunt.” Grannt’s harsh voice grated in Trasik’s ears. “You’re supposed to be protecting Lord Damuria, not cowering and hiding.”

“But Elwig-” Trasik whined.

“Is dead, you pig-fucking numbskull. We were hired to protect Lord Damuria, and that’s exactly what we are going to do. Do you want to end up like fat old Lord Drathos?”

Grannt hated being paired with Trasik. The fool is all muscle and no brains. He may be good in a street fight, but is utterly useless when it counted. He struggled to keep the revulsion from his face as he dragged Trasik along behind him. Gods damn the Third for sending him with us.

Terror spread on Trasik’s face. “Head on a spike, cock hanging out of my mouth?” he whispered. “Not a fucking chance!”

“Then run, dimwit!” Grannt shouted, following his words with a hard slap to Trasik’s face. “We have to reach Lord Damuria before the Hunter does the same to him!”

Dragging along a very reluctant, very terrified Trasik, Grannt resumed his sprint through the forest. His ears strained to catch any sound of his employer as he ran.

Where in the hells, he thought, did that pompous twist Damuria get off to now?

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria’s breath came hard, but at least he had left the smoke behind. An odd thought flickered through his consciousness for a moment.

If only Lord Daavros could see me now…

His rich robes were the envy of Voramis, cut in the latest fashion and tailored to fit his body like a glove. What had once been costly silk was now little more than a hindrance, and he cast aside the heavy cloak in favor of greater freedom of movement.

Brightly colored fabrics worth a worker’s yearly wages ripped on branches. What I wouldn’t give for a drab cloak of a sensible color, instead of these garish clothes that stand out in the forest!

Soot from the burning carriage streaked his face and clothes, and mud caked both knees. His dark hair, once so coiffed and controlled, flew in the wind, sticks and leaves tangling in his locks with every step.

Never in his life had he run so far so fast, but desperation pumped through his veins as he pushed through the forest. His feet kept time with his racing pulse, and his heart felt like it would beat free of his chest.

He is hunting me, thought the fleeing lord. That merciless creature of death, that force of nature. The Hunter of Voramis. A wild, feral smile broke out on his face as he ran. He will find I am not so easy a kill.

 

* * *

 

Trasik’s terror had subsided, but Grannt could see the fool would go into shock if he stopped moving.

“Gods damn it, Trasik, run faster!” he said aloud, turning to find his companion. “We have to catch up with Lord Damuria before-”

He was alone in the forest. Trasik was nowhere in sight.

What the fuck? Grannt thought, sliding to a stop. He was just here…

His thoughts trailed off as he saw the headless corpse on the ground behind him. Trasik’s head rolled to a stop between two elder trees. Blood streaked the man’s blond hair, and the spreading stain of blood contrasted with the pristine white flowers in full bloom. The sweet scent of honeysuckle hung thick in the forest, but all Grannt could taste was the coppery tang of Trasik’s blood where it had spattered him.

“Keeper’s shriveled taint!” he cursed aloud. “Gods damn you, Hunter!”

He drew the pair of daggers he always carried hidden beneath his clothing, but knew they would do little against his merciless foe. Still, he thought, I will not meet The Watcher with empty hands.

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria risked an anxious glance over his shoulder as he ran, and it almost cost him his head. Sheer luck allowed him to avoid a low-hanging branch, but he nearly lost his footing as he ducked. The forest flashed by in a mottled brown and green blur, but the aristocrat kept his eyes firmly focused ahead.

Fuck damned Hunter. I have to be outpacing Him.

No time to think, no time to look around. Just run, his panicking mind told him.

He had left his guards far behind in his hurry to escape. Their lives were his, bought and paid for, and he was happy to spend them in his escape from the Hunter.

They should slow Him down long enough for me to reach Voramis, and safety. The Bloody Hand will protect me from Him.

His optimism was little more than wishful thinking. Ever out of sight, deep in his subconscious, Lord Damuria knew He was there. The thick forest around him would not hide the terrified noble from the Hunter’s merciless blade.

The Hunter would follow him until his strength failed him, and the chase would culminate in death. But whose death, that remains to be seen.

As if the Hunter could penetrate his mind, a thought flickered through Lord Damuria’s mind: Run. I will find you. Run and, hide little mortal. Wherever you go, you cannot escape me.

Was it just his imagination?

 

* * *

 

“Come on, you bastard!” Grannt shouted at the silent forest. “You’ll not take me that easily!”

The familiar leather grips of his knives, worn smooth by years of use, comforted the man. A wicked smile spread on his face as he remembered the dozens of men and women who had met their end on the sharp steel.

I’ll not share the fate of Elwig and Trasik. His eyes flicked in every direction, searching for any sign of his hunter.

There! He had seen a flash of motion, the barest hint of something flickering in the shadows beneath the forest canopy. I see you now, you bastard.

The dark figure of the Hunter rushed towards him in a blur of motion, gliding through the trees at superhuman speed. Grannt’s face split into a feral grin, and he thrust forward with the knife in his right hand, expecting to impale the cloaked and hooded creature.

His knife found empty air and he stumbled forward, off balance. He tried to swing with his left hand, but his arms refused to move. His body felt numb, detached.

Looking down, Grannt saw blood spill down the front of his cloak. Bright red gushed from a gaping wound in his throat, turning the rich earth beneath him to ochre mud.

Odd. Grannt’s final thoughts came with startling clarity. The bastard didn’t even slow down…

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria struggled to fill his lungs with air. The nagging pain in his side blossomed into agony, yet still he ran.

He struggled to clear his mind, to push the terror away. Fear would get him killed, like it had so many of the victims the Hunter had claimed in Voramis over the years.

If I don’t outrun Him, if He kills me, our plans will come to naught. All we have worked for, all our efforts, wasted.

His mind cast about for a way of escape, and a sudden thought struck him.

The cliffs. If I can reach the cliffs, I have a chance. I can outpace Him, and the only way He’ll follow is if the bastard sprouts wings. A feral smile spread across his face.

“You’ve not caught me yet, Hunter!” Lord Damuria panted aloud.

 

* * *

 

The craggy cliff face rose ahead of him, towering high above the tops of the forest. Almost there! I just need to climb the damn thing, and I’ll be-

The thick head of a crossbow bolt embedded itself into his right shoulder with an agonizing “thunk”, plowing destruction through his upper body and sending him stumbling.

Lord Damuria grimaced as he fell to one knee, the hard bone of his kneecap encountering a sharp rock buried beneath the soft loam of the forest floor.

He barely managed to stop himself from falling to his face, throwing out his right hand to arrest his forward motion. Waves of agony radiated from his broken shoulder, and muscles torn by the crossbow bolt refused to hold him.

Can’t stop!  the animal within him screamed. Lord Damuria knew that if he stopped running, he would never escape.

He pushed himself to his feet, struggling to ignore the sensation radiating through his upper body. A glance at the head of the bolt protruding from his shoulder showed him what he feared most: argam.

The thick black tar was highly toxic, and he could see the sticky poison turning his blood a sickly green. He knew he was already dead, but refused to give in.

Lord Damuria felt hot wetness on his back. His blood. He could smell the poison, the putrid stench of blood turned rotten by the argam.

And still he refused to yield to his certain fate. The argam’s venom clouded his brain, but he fought for clarity.

If I can reach the top of that cliff, I can escape. He would have to endure the pain of his shattered shoulder if he was to outrun the Hunter.

His was a maniacal, desperate laugh, bellowing forth with the futility of the situation. I will not die so easily, Hunter.

Lord Damuria stumbled forward, picking up speed as he ran towards the cliff face. Throwing himself as high into the air as he could, he slammed into the rock wall. The impact knocked the breath from him, but he was beyond caring.

He hung from the cliff, the ache in his arm spreading with the argam. The pain of his shattered shoulder cut through the mind-numbing effects of the poison like a knife; a very dull knife.

Hand over hand, the stubborn lord pulled himself towards the top of the cliff. His parched throat begged for water, but he focused on one thought: reach the top.

Time slowed to a crawl as Damuria climbed. Thoughts of the Hunter faded, even though a part of him knew the bastard was right behind him. He struggled through the pain, fighting to reach the top of the cliff.

He could see the top, could almost feel the breezes of the plains above whispering across his face. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself rushing across the plain towards his city, Voramis. Only there would he be safe.

His hand reached for the lip of the cliff, shaking with exhaustion. You’ll never catch me now, Hunter, Lord Damuria thought. I’ve escaped your-

A scream ripped from Lord Damuria’s throat as the crossbow bolt slammed into his leg. The tip of the bolt buried itself into the cliff face, pinning him to the rock.

Green oozed from his leg. This bolt too had been coated with the venomous argam. Damuria’s body became sluggish, the poison spreading quickly through his body. Thick green blood stained the rock wall. My blood.

His fingers cramped, stiffened. He felt his hold on the cliff wall weakening.

It is inevitable.

Another bolt streaked towards him from below. The broad head of the bolt severed his hand at the wrist. Blood spurted for a long second before dwindling to a trickle. His pain and poison-numbed mind registered that he had little blood left to lose.

Lord Damuria knew it was the end.  I refuse to meet the Long Keeper like a butterfly mounted for display.

With a final gasp of agony, he thrust himself away from the cliff face. The bolt in his leg held him suspended for a long moment, but the force of his fall ripped it from the rock.

The wind seemed to hold his body up as he fell, and he experienced a moment of weightlessness. Then, after what seemed like a pain-filled lifetime, his body was released into the clutches of gravity and he plummeted towards the forest floor.

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The Hardest Thing About Character Development

Today, I’m fortunate to have a guest post by the awesome L.E. Fitzpatrick, author of The Reacher series. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart: character development…

The Hardest Thing About Character Development

I’m a character writer, which basically means the characters always come first. Before I have a plot, a setting, even an idea, I have a character. In The Reacher series the first characters that came to me were the two brothers; John and Charlie. I knew that one of them would be serious and almost robotic, while the other would be tormented and broken. They were created in a split second while I was getting out of the shower and, at that moment, I knew who both men where, what they felt and thought, what they would do in any situation. I guess I probably know them better than I know myself.

From that concept you’d think character development would be easy right? Well it wasn’t. I had these characters at a present moment, the moment the book would be set and I had them in epic detail. What I didn’t have was a back story. Why was John so serious? Why was Charlie broken? I had the dynamic of their relationship but no idea why John supported his effectively useless brother (and at the early stages they weren’t even brothers). So it was time to scratch my head and think for a while.

The back story was like an archaeological dig. I had to take these two men and brush back the layers of dirt to reveal things about them I hadn’t discovered yet. For instance, I started to see that Charlie was broken because he blamed himself for his wife’s death. And that discovery then posed more questions. I had to peel back the story of how his family was torn apart. How he tried to be the perfect husband but failed. Why he failed at a normal life.

Each question expanded the character and for me that expansion always had to be realistic and credible, otherwise it just didn’t work. The character needs to be developed until there can be no more questions. There has to be history and reason behind everything.

It takes time and it can often go in directions you don’t want to go in. When I started The Running Game I was actually going to set it in an alternate past but these characters just didn’t fit there so the setting had to change. And as the setting changed, the world around them grew so quickly it was like it had been there all along.

But that’s the easy bit. The characters, John and Charlie, did all the work for me on the back story. What comes next is where do I take them? How can I change them? How can I fix Charlie and let him forgive himself? How can I make John more human? This is the hardest part for me because there are so many options and I have to pick the best one.

In The Running Game I got to work on fixing Charlie. He needed something to kick his life back on the straight and narrow and in the sequel, Border Lines, you get to see Charlie return to his former self. Now it’s John’s turn. Book three is going to start his journey, but it also is going to start a spiral for other characters too. The thing is life doesn’t stop, it evolves, it erodes, it heals. Plots are the same. My characters age, they make mistakes, they have successes but they never stop spiralling and as an author the biggest challenge is keeping that spiral going.

 

About the Author:

L E Fitzpatrick is a writer of dark adventure stories and thrillers. Under the watchful eye of her beloved rescue Staffordshire Bull Terrier, she leaps from trains and climbs down buildings, all from the front room of a tiny cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside.

Inspired by cult film and TV, L E Fitzpatrick’s fiction is a collection of twisted worlds and realities, broken characters, and high action. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of her imagination and creating hugely entertaining stories.

THE RUNNING GAME, is the first in her paranormal thriller series, set in dystopia London under the Creativia label and now BORDER LINES is the second instalment of the Reachers series.

 

L.E. has actually just launched a new book, one I’d highly recommend checking out:

BORDER LINES

When the perfect job comes up, Charlie doesn’t think twice about taking it. This is the break he’s been looking for and nobody, not even the rest of his team, can persuade him otherwise.

Border Lines Complete
The job means working for an old enemy and crossing the border into London. Both are risky, but Charlie has no idea how high the stakes really are. The team will have to confront their past, each other and a killer who is closer than they realize. But can they all make it out of the city alive?

“We all remember that kid in Piccadilly. That determined look he had on his face as he willed all those people to him. Just using his mind, he pulled them close then blew them all to pieces. It could be anyone. Your neighbour, your friend, your lover. Remain vigilant. Reachers are everywhere.”

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/L-E-Fitzpatrick/e/B005DD5CE8
Connect via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lefitzpatrickbooks/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/L_E_Fitzpatrick

Read her thoughts on her website: www.lefitzpatrick.com

 

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Guest Post: Looking Up

Today, I have the pleasure of posting not my own thoughts, but someone else’s. The post below is written by Michael Bolan, the author of The Devil’s Bible series. I thought it was quite an intriguing one, and definitely worth sharing:

Looking Up:

When I was seventeen, I crashed my car. I had passed my driving test a few months before and I lost control, and pretty much destroyed the car. Luckily, I walked away, physically unscathed, but with the most vivid memories of the experience: the fencepost stabbing through the roof beside me; the windscreen frosting with cracks but never quite shattering; the seatbelt-defined bruise on my chest that made breathing an agonising ecstasy. People talk about hyperawareness in times of stress: it’s true.

Since that day, I have often thought about how much information the human brain can (and does) process on a daily basis. The internet suggests we have up to 600,000 thoughts per day, but we give no conscious attention to over 98% of them. Imagine what we are missing. We tune out so many stimuli to prevent our minds from being overloaded that the world’s beauty often goes unnoticed. Being able to focus and concentrate on one thought, one idea, at a time, without being distracted by outside influences, is something which takes patience and focus.

My wife is always espousing the benefits of mindfulness, not just in her yoga practice, but in her day-to-day life. Mindfullness can be noticing and experiencing each footfall as you walk down the street, hearing a lone bird singing over the noise of the traffic, or simply being aware of the individual elements of your environment, and the way they interact.  The more you pay attention, using each sense to listen, feel, see and experience your surroundings, the more you can understand and, ultimately, describe it to your readers.

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I always found it hard to really come to grips with the concept, but a friend explained it to me in a way that I could understand. She recently spent some time in London, and on her return asked my opinion of the city. When I explained my dislike, she asked if I had remembered to look up.

Try it the next time you are in London. Above the neon hoardings and household brands there are a thousand stories told in the buildings’ facades: the gung-ho adventurous beginnings of the insurance industry; the international traders circumnavigating the globe hundreds of years ago; or the families where generation after generation carried their company through good times and bad.

But the principle isn’t just valid in Piccadilly Circus. And it has a lot (everything?) to do with being an author. Most authors write from their own experiences; their stories are shaped by what they have gone through, who they have met, etc. The gift is to process and record those experiences such that they can be used at a later date. But they also need to describe things that they haven’t experienced, that can only be learned through close, careful and undistracted observation. A storyteller must connect deeply with his characters, must stand in their shoes and experience their lives for himself, even if it is within the confines of his own mind.

When I was researching The Devil’s Bible, I had to stand on the Charles Bridge, imagining what it would have been to hold the bridge against an enemy, muskets firing, fires burning, men and horses screaming. That was the easy part. To ponder the quiet chill of the air or the stiffness of leather armour; to remember that smoke stinks and blood smells sweet and metallic at the same time, that’s what brings prose to life.

So here are my five tips for bringing mindfulness into your practice as an author. But before paying attention to the outside world, it is important first to turn your attention inwards and observe what is happening within yourself. Simply finding a quiet moment to close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, calm the mind, balance emotions and encourage rational, clear thinking, whether you’re facing a blank page or an unsympathetic audience.

  1. Feel

Watch how a child experiences the world and try to copy that. Feeling is both physical and emotional, be it the rough surface of a freshly-cut log or the harshness of a parent’s words. It can be a joyous or an uncomfortable experience, but the key is to keep an open and inquisitive mind at all times, and a rich vocabulary to describe it.

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  1. Think/ Don’t think.

Sometimes you need to think, to focus on a problem and grind out a solution. But creativity often calls for people to let go. Think of that cool moment just before you go to sleep when your frontal cortex slows down and stops trying to process all of the day’s stimuli and other parts of the brain run amok. Some writers use alcohol or narcotics to reproduce this effect, but you can do the same through mindfulness. Which is guaranteed hangover-free.

3. Listen

It’s amazing how often we fill in people’s sentences before they have finished speaking, hearing what we want to hear, not what is actually being said. Actively listening means that you hear and process what is being said, and what it means. And don’t just listen to people’s words – hear the timbre and inflections of their voice, notice their gestures and expressions. After all, words make up less than 10% of communication.

  1. Don’t rush.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and even God took a rest on Sunday. Learning to become mindful takes time. Removing distractions, being aware of our surroundings, filtering out background noise, experiencing completely – these things are tiring and take time to master. Be patient and practice a little every day, and soon the art of clear observation will become habit.

5. Begin

Try this now. Put down your laptop or smartphone. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Slowly open your eyes and spend one minute fully experiencing your immediate environment. What can you hear, see, feel, taste, smell? Try to put your experiences into words. Write them down if it helps. Then take your new sense of connection to your environment into the world, and reflect that in your writing.

I first realised that something had changed in my thinking process when one of my lead characters surprised me by plucking his own eyes out. I had been purposely thinking about other things to clear my mind, when he upped and mutilated himself. When I complained to fellow authors, they pointed out that the author’s role is not to force characters to do what he or she wants them to; it’s to record the story that is happening.

So the next time you find a character not playing ball, or a storyline trailing off into nowhere, stop, listen and observe. The answer is there, you just have to find it. And hopefully it won’t take a car crash to shift your thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

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Get in on the Ultimate Horror Book & Prize Giveaway!

Do you love a good horror novel? Are you a huge fan of Stephen King (aren’t we all?), H.P. Lovecraft, or Thomas Harris? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

This month (October), I’m participating in a massive book and prize giveaway. The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer is among the 25 ebooks being given away, along with 5 classic horror books with their matching Funko Pop characters. The prize package includes books from Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, H.P. Lovecraft, and Thomas Harris.

Considering that this is Halloween month, it seems only too appropriate, right?

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The contest ends October 30th and winners will be announced on Halloween! Enter here for a chance to get your hands on this awesome bundle of book goodies. If you’re a horror/dark fantasy fan (like me), you won’t want to miss this.

Some of the e-books included:

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley

Miskatonic University has a long-whispered reputation of being strongly connected to all things occult and supernatural. From the faculty to the students, the fascination with other-worldly legends and objects runs rampant. So, when Carter Weston’s professor Dr. Thayerson asks him to search a nearby village for a book that is believed to control the inhuman forces that rule the Earth, Incendium Maleficarum, The Inferno of the Witch, the student doesn’t hesitate to begin the quest.

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Weston’s journey takes an unexpected turn, however, when he ventures into a tavern in the small town of Anchorhead. Rather than passing the evening as a solitary patron, Weston joins four men who regale him with stories of their personal experiences with forces both preternatural and damned. Two stories hit close to home as they tie the tellers directly to Weston’s current mission.

His unanticipated role as passive listener proves fortuitous, and Weston fulfills his goal. Bringing the book back to Miskatonic, though, proves to be a grave mistake. Quickly, Weston realizes he has played a role in potentially opening the gate between the netherworld and the world of Man. Reversing the course of events means forgetting all he thought he knew about Miskatonic and his professor and embracing an unknown beyond his wildest imagination.

See it on Amazon

Gideon: A Novel by Alex Gordon

When Lauren’s father dies, she makes a shocking discovery. The man she knew as John Reardon was once a completely different person, with a different name. Now, she’s determined to find out who he really was, even though her only clues are an old photograph, some letters, and the name of a town—Gideon.

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But someone—or something—doesn’t want her to discover the truth. A strange man is stalking her, appearing everywhere she turns, and those who try to help her end up dead. Neither a shadowy enemy nor her own fear are going to prevent her from solving the mystery of her father—and unlocking the secrets of her own life.

Making her way to Gideon, Lauren finds herself more confused than ever. Nothing in this small Midwestern town is what it seems, including time itself. Residents start going missing, and Lauren is threatened by almost every townsperson she encounters. Two hundred years ago, a witch was burned at the stake, but in Gideon, the past feels all too chillingly present.

See it on Amazon

The Lost Reflection by Bruce T. Jones

Brian Denman is an ex CIA agent and mercenary turned private investigator who arrives in New Orleans to probe a centuries old myth. It illuminates a modern labyrinth of adventure love and vampires, culminating in an epic battle of destiny and revenge.

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See it on Amazon

 

And a whole lot more! You know you want in…

Click here to join the fun

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The Results are In…

This weekend was A BLAST!

Not only did I get to spend three solid days partying at the Book Launch Party (on Facebook), but I got some very real, very tangible results for my books. And it’s thanks to all of you!

First up, I ran a few promotions for The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyerusing Book Pup, The Fussy Librarian, and a couple other smaller sites. The results were pretty epic: around 2,500-3,000 ebook downloads, and then there was this:

Best-seller

#2 in Dark Fantasy, and so high in the Kindle Store overall: AWESOME!

Book 1 2016 Launch Rankings

Bonus: The rank for Book 1 hasn’t dropped too far since the promo ended on Sunday. That means people are still buying the book. Exciting!

For The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen, I didn’t do a whole lot in the way of marketing. I had perhaps 15 to 20 guest posts, podcast interviews, author interviews, and promo posts, but that was it. No paid marketing campaigns, no big book blasts.

All things considered, the results here were pretty awesome:

Book 2 Launch Rankings

Made it all the way to #6 in Hot New Releases for Gothic Fiction

Bonus: Once again, the book still has a pretty decent ranking, so there are still a few sales trickling in since the weekend.

 

I’m excited to see how things continue from here, and definitely researching what to do now that I have two books: i.e., how to use them to promote more effectively. But I wanted to take this time to post and say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the Book Launch weekend in some way. The list of people is far too long to name, but to all the authors, PAs, readers, friends, family, and random awesome people I met:

Source: coffeeconnectionhilliard.files.wordpress.com

 

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Brandon Sanderson’s Lectures

If you want to improve your creative writing, the best way to do so is to learn from others. Especially if those others are best-selling authors considered by most to be the masters of their craft.

Brandon Sanderson is an author that I greatly respect, and I (and many others) consider him the “gold standard” when it comes to fantasy writing. Not just the structure of his sentences, but world-building, character development, and most important of all, magic systems!

(Come back next week to find out about the Three Laws of Magic…)

Most fantasy readers will be familiar with the name (if you’re not, go Google him and you’ll see how many top-rated books he’s put out), but they may not be familiar with his series of lectures.

A few years ago (prior to 2010, I believe), he gave a series of lectures on the craft of writing. They were all EXCELLENT, but the video quality was iffy at best. However, in 2015, he recorded another series of lectures and posted them all to YouTube.

Find them here…

It’s a simple 8-video series, but each of the videos is about an hour long. They delve into every element of crafting excellent novels (not just fantasy, though fantasy is the focus).

This includes elements like:

  • World-building
  • Magic systems
  • Character development
  • The business of writing
  • and more…

I myself have not yet listened to the lectures (it’s on my to-do list, I PROMISE!!!), but I listened to his previous series and know for a fact that they were truly amazing. For any writers who want to excel at their craft, they are an amazing (and totally free) creative writing resource you would do well to take advantage of. They are 100% worth a few hours of your life!

 

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The Big Day is Finally Here!

It’s the happiest day of the year–like Christmas, my birthday, and Valentine’s Day rolled into one.

That’s right, it’s BOOK LAUNCH DAY!!!

Apologies for the exclamation mark overuse, but that’s just how excited I am. After more than a year of hard work and patiently waiting, The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen is finally here.

Click Here to See it on Amazon

Look at this gorgeous cover, courtesy of the amazing Marie Story.

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Here are a few early reviews:

“Lament of the Fallen is an excellent follow-up to Blade of the Destroyer. The Hunter’s struggle with his demonic nature and the need of the blade are powerful. He doesn’t want to kill, but the world is not so kind to him. Bandits, a cabal of Mages, assassins, and more plague him as he struggles to understand his place in the world and defy his heritage and purpose. He might be destined to help bring back the Destroyer and end the world, but can he defy it?

Peloquin creates an interesting world with fascinating characters and dark setting. The journey of the Hunter is fascinating as he goes from assassin to hero. As he learns whether he is an evil man or if he can choose to be good as he struggles with his “addiction” to murder. The need burning inside him, always eating at his self-control, demanding he stop showing mercy. He stop showing compassion.” — RJ Reviews

“The complexity of the Hunter’s personality blossoms in this book. He has always seen himself as a loner, as all assassins must be. But he discovered at the end of the last story that he really needs people. The double fear – that his friends are a danger to him, but he is much more a danger to them – lays another layer of suspense on the external violence and internal struggle of the novel.

As with the rest of the series, all the settings and deeds are described in beautiful (and horrible) detail of sight, sound, and odour. Secondary characters are more rounded and individual than before, because they matter to the main character. Especially wonderful is Bardin, the beggar/scholar/madman, where Peloquin achieves the difficult task of creating an insane character who acts according to expectations.” — Gordon A. Long

And here’s a taste of what’s inside:

A rough hand shook the Hunter from sleep. Instinct kicked in. Seizing his assailant, he pressed his sword to the man’s throat.

Visibos’s eyes flew wide and he held up his hands. “Easy, Hardwell. Just waking you for your turn at watch.”

The Hunter nodded and lowered the sword.

Visibos shook his head. Rubbing red-rimmed eyes, he stumbled toward his blankets with a yawn. Within seconds, the low rumble of his snores floated around the campsite.

Darkness hung on the campsite like a thick blanket. Only glowing embers remained of the fire, but the Hunter made no effort to rebuild it. He preferred shadow. Unseen, he could watch both the forest and his new traveling companions.

He filled his lungs with the fresh, clean night air and rolled his neck and shoulders to work out the kinks of sleeping on the forest floor. His blankets, while thick and warm, provided little cushion against the hardness of the earth beneath him.

Slinging his baldric over his shoulder, he buckled on his sword. A quick inspection of his saddlebags revealed nothing out of place. He ran a hand across the smooth surface of the iron-lined box. Soulhunger’s voice pounded in his mind, pleading to feed. A twinge of pain settled behind his eyes.

The Hunter savored the scents of the forest around him. The smoke from their dying campfire hung heavy in the air, and beneath it, he smelled muted hints of plant and animal life. A cool breeze rolled past, carrying with it the scent of decaying leaves, pine sap, and a sweet-scented flower he couldn’t identify.

The Hunter wrapped his cloak tighter about himself as the chill of the early morning wind sent a shiver down his spine. The crook of a large tree offered him a comfortable place to sit his watch, as well as protection from the occasional gust. He leaned against the thick trunk, curling his legs to his chest. The shrouds of his dark cloak hid him from his companions, and he was all but invisible beneath the forest canopy.

His eyes roamed over the sleeping forms of his traveling companions. Only the red tresses of Sir Danna’s hair were visible, her thick bedroll swaddling the rest of her in a snug bundle. Loud snores rose from the lump he knew to be Visibos.

‘Kill them!’

The demon’s intensity startled the Hunter. The creature filled his mind with images of Soulhunger drinking deep of the knight’s heart-blood. His sword sliced into Visibos’ neck, spraying crimson.

No! The Hunter shook his head, endeavoring to shake loose the gory thoughts. His fingers traced the scar on his chest.  I will not harm them.

‘Leave them alive, and they will discover your lie. You are no more Hardwell of Praamis than you are Danther the tailor or Lord Anglion the Foolish.’

Rubbing his eyes, the Hunter tried to calm the pounding in his head.

How could they know? They have no way to uncover the truth. No, they are no threat to me.

‘Foolish Bucelarii! How little you know. The humans you protect will be your undoing.’

The Hunter closed his eyes, massaging his temples.

Why will you not leave me alone?

He was so tired of hearing that voice in his head. He wanted freedom from that voice. He needed peace.

‘You know what you must do.’

 

VERY IMPORTANT: If you buy the eBook version at any time this weekend, you are eligible to participate in my Raffle. You could win one of the THREE signed paperbacks, as well as any of the 100+ eBooks donated by my author friends.

Click Here to See What You Could Win and How

Thank you so much! I hope to see you at my Book Launch Party–we’re going to have one heck of a fun time!

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Duel to the Death: Talorc

I, Andy Peloquin, challenge you, Guy Donovan, to a duel to the death! But it is not we who will fight, but our characters…

In the black corner, weighing in at 180 pounds, standing a cool 6 feet tall, the Hunter of Voramis!

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Tale of the Tape:

  • Superhuman reflexes, strength, speed–think Captain America, but stronger
  • Thousands of years of weapons training
  • Body has accelerated healing factor–can survive a sword to the heart (can be killed by drowning, iron weapons, beheading, and suffocation)
  • Cannot be killed by anything but iron
  • Accursed dagger that heals him when he kills
  • No magical abilities whatsoever
  • No hesitation to kill if he perceives opponent as a threat/obstacle to his desires–classic anti-hero

In the red and gold corner, we have Talorc the dragon!

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Tale of the Tape:

  • Flies
  • Breathes flame (provided by chewing volcanic rocks infused with white phosphorus)
  • Claws (though technically he’s a wyvern, meaning two wings and two legs in the back) and a barbed tail
  • Lots and lots of teeth

Two enter the ring, only one can leave alive!

How would Talorc kill the Hunter? He can make multiple passes in the air, blasting him with his white phosphorus flame. On the off chance that he’s not able to fly, he’s still got teeth, claws, a barbed tail, and sheer size going for him.

To kill Talorc: The Hunter would try to overwhelm him with his inhuman speed, strength, and skill. All he has to do is pierce the dragon’s skin with Soulhunger, and the dagger will consume his soul. Not even someone with considerable magical abilities can survive Soulhunger’s bite–it was created to kill demons.

Who would win?

Over Talorc’s short life, he has fought and defeated more humans than he can count. He dominates the sky, flying overhead and raining down an inferno to scorch any pitiful human to the bone.

But the Hunter is no puny human. He is Bucelarii, descendant of demons. Though he has never faced such a fearsome creature, he has learned to adapt to any threat. His inhuman speed keeps him out of the path of Talorc’s fire, and decades spent as an assassin has taught him to cling to the shadows. If Talorc cannot find him, he cannot burn him alive.

The Hunter waits until the right moment, when Talorc is near the ground, within reach. He springs on the dragon’s back, and with every ounce of his half-demon strength, drives Soulhunger through Talorc’s thick hide. Soulhunger tastes blood, and the dragon shrieks as its soul is consumed. Its death struggles last far longer than any of the Hunter’s previous victims.

Winner: The Hunter. May the Watcher have mercy on the dragon; its soul is forfeit.

 

Want to find out more about this fearsome creature who would dare challenge the legendary assassin of Voramis to the death? Click here to read about the mighty Talorc…

 

Who do YOU think would win? Did we get the match-up right? Leave a comment below and let me know…

 

Want to match your character against the Hunter? Click here to enter your protagonist/antagonist in a duel to the death!

 

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