//October snippets + a small announcement

After a brief period during which I drew more than I wrote, I managed to get some actual writing done between flurries of editing, watching James Patterson’s MasterClass, and plotting NaNoWriMo ’15. I realized I hadn’t posted any snippets I about a month, and felt they were overdue.

TODAY

my weekend

He was no longer the scrawny, lanky boy in the cage. Now she understood the rumors, the reason behind the muttered curses and far-flung tales of bewitchment and devilry. The boy had become a tall, graceful man who no longer hid the tell-tale eye. His long, oily hair hung in his face, but did not obscure the frost-colored iris and hard, black pupil. His gaze never seemed to settle; it probed and roamed, seeking out weaknesses, chinks in the armor of everyone it saw.

His face was still gaunt, his cheekbones and eyes haunted by shadows, but he wore a permanent half-smile like everyone he saw was a private joke, and he the only one who understood it. This was not necessarily what unsettled her – it was the hungry air about him. He was a starving wolf in deep winter, and anything was prey, waiting to be taken down and ripped to pieces.

• The Color of Truth

The door opens and in the mirror’s reflection I see Ice take one step into the room. I take one look at his boots, jeans, sweater, and scarf before scoffing, “You look like a bag lady.”

“Wow.” He scowls at me. “Fine, maybe I won’t give it to you.”

I sigh again and begin to massage the foundation into my skin. “Give me what? Spit it out or leave. I see enough of you as it is, don’t I?”

He walks up and sets something down by the pot of charcoal-colored eyeshadow. “You left it at Theo’s, you moron.”

• Acceso

“I asked you.” There was an edge to his voice; faint but clear. “Tell me?”

He posed it like a question, but Angelica felt that refusing to answer would be a pointless endangerment of her person. “Darling. Angelica Darling. That’s my name, whatever it means to you.”

“Angelica Darling.” He said her name like it was both a poison and a balm; like a prisoner savoring a deadly last meal. “You know of Wendy Darling?”

• Never, Never

“Hey, ‘Kizu, this room is for employees only. What are you…hey.” Honey’s voice softened as she crossed the room in four quick strides and crouched in front of him. “You okay?”

Kirikizu sighed. Company. Perfect. He nodded. “It was too loud out there.”

Her mouth tilted. “I swear I’m never going to get used to that.”

He drew his eyebrows together. “Get used to what?”

“That monotone voice of yours.”

He sighed again. “My voice isn’t monotone. The filter in the muzzle-”

“I know, I know.” She nudged his right hand. “I work with an android who sounds like a human all day, and then I get you, the human who sounds like a robot.”

• The Dying of the Light

Odd-Eyes started out of his daydream so violently Matoko may as well have thrown a rock at him. His pale eye seemed wider than the dark one, but both took her in with an intense dislike and he hissed, drawing back like a disgruntled hunting-cat.

The unexpected reaction slowed Matoko’s steps. “Hissing isn’t polite,” she told him, torn between amusement and offense. The offense faded quickly as she remembered the way he looked in the cage, defenseless and humiliated. He did not look much better now; dripping wet, his breath creating clouds in the cold air.

• The Color of Truth

She could hear the sneer in his voice as he said, “Your great-grandmother had more life in her and by the look of you, she probably still does.”

“She’s dead.”

“Just so.”

Angelica closed her eyes so she could roll them without him seeing. She opened them again and said, “I think it’s probably wise not to ask you too many questions.”

“Yes,” said Pan thoughtfully. “Yes,” he continued, a gloating tone in his voice, “perhaps you are cleverer than I thought.”

• Never, Never

She grinned. “You’re interesting tonight. Well,” she continued, cocking her head to one side again, “you’re always interesting.”

He gazed down at her, his own curiosity piqued for reasons he couldn’t explain. “Am I?”

“Oh, very. You have mystery down to an art.”

“I don’t mean to.”

She laughed quietly. “I don’t think you can help it. It follows you around like a lost puppy. Which is funny, when you think about it. A lost puppy following another lost puppy.”

• The Dying of the Light

“Well, who is this?”

Bisu straightened and twisted around in the same motion, drawing a knife from the sheath around his ankle. He remembered the Shogun’s words. Do not make yourself known. Do not kill anyone. He had already disobeyed the first order. He lowered the knife.

Of all people to have discovered him, it had to be the flowery one.

Kiro smiled. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Thinking you could sneak about here, of all places-” He gasped. “What happened to your poor face?”

From below, Oboro called, “Kiro? Who is it?”

The concern left Kiro’s face and he smiled again; a slippery curve of his mouth below keen eyes. “It seems a palace rat found his way to our barracks! How shall I dispose of him?”

“Palace rat?” Oboro’s voice was laced with disgust as her footsteps sounded on the stairs, closely followed by several other pairs.  “Which one?”

“I don’t know,” Kiro answered. “He must have trouble smiling. It seems he attempted to cut one for himself, but…” The Sword cocked his head to one side, studying the scar that ran from the left corner of Bisu’s mouth up to his cheekbone. “It seems he didn’t finish.”

• The Color of Truth

“I can read you now, girlie.”

“Really?” Tsuki began to arrange the money into piles. “I don’t suppose you’d read me aloud to myself.”

• The Dying of the Light

There’s a reason I want to see Leila. It’s the same reason why I hate it when I do see her. Her wide-eyed naiveté and near-tangible warmth are everything I’m not, and remind me of what I am – broken, tired, and cold. Seeing her is like ripping a Band-Aid off tender skin – painful, but I think, maybe it’s a good pain.

• Acceso

He did not step into the light; rather he strode around the edge, circling Angelica and coming to a stop behind her. He was close now; she could feel his presence pressing against her back like breath on her neck. Her skin prickled with uncomfortable awareness, waiting.

• Never, Never

She was a ward of the Emperor, engaged to a Daimyo, and in love with another man entirely.

He was merely her protection.

Overworked and underpaid protection, he thought with a stifled sigh as he un-crossed his arms and shifted his stance.

Tsuki pushed her chair back with the toe of her boot and crossed over to Kiba’s corner. “Another win,” she said, presenting the money. “Congratulate me.”

“I’d feel more congratulatory if I was surprised,” he replied. “As it is, routine doesn’t surprise me.”

“Heavens, Kiba.” She clicked her tongue. “What’s the matter? Are you bored?”

“Boredom would be a nice change.”

• The Dying of the Light

And oH, yeah…Paper Crowns is getting published.

So there’s that.

Advertisements

//about acceso + writing the tough things

I’d wanted to do something light and fluffy on my blog today to make up for the emotional trainwreck of the last few days, but a chat with a friend this morning made me go ‘nah.’ (One of these days!) If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me mention Acceso. It’s a WIP-novel of mine, currently undergoing its fourth (and hopefully final) draft. It has morphed so much since I first began it four years ago. Collectively I’ve probably written about 150,000 words in it, but each time the shape has changed and I’ve known it wasn’t ready yet. My last draft felt so very close, but not close enough. It was missing something. The characterization was right, the setting was right, but something was missing.

ACCESOcover

                A few months ago, someone posted an article from an anti-porn website called ‘Fight the New Drug.’ The article was the transcript of an email from a veteran porn producer to a newbie, giving him some ‘help.’ The author of the article posed the question – what is attractive about a porn ‘star’ curled up in the fetal position, sucking their thumb because they can’t wrap their mind around what they just did? The answer: nothing.

                That article made a heavy impression on me and it simmered in the back of my mind for several months, until I ran across another article from Fight the New Drug. It was a video by the most famous male porn star of all time (now ex-porn star) and the regrets he had. He shed light on what it was like to be in the industry, how easy it was to fall down the rabbit hole, and how hard it was to climb back out.

                I searched farther through the site (which is an incredibly eye-opening experience, done tactfully and with a Christian viewpoint – for anyone wondering). There were letters from porn stars describing the abuse they endured, the manipulation, the disease, the worthlessness. I kept that website and spent hours digging through it, growing more and more convicted.

                Still, I waited – I wasn’t sure. This was pretty heavy stuff, even for me (and I like to write heavy stuff). The very next day, my Mom posted a video on Facebook. It was the last interview with serial rapist and murderer, Ted Bundy, hours before his death. A handsome, ordinary-looking man with cultured speech and intelligence in his eyes told the interviewer the evils of porn. He said ask any man in any prison what started them on the path that led them there. It would be porn.

                I hadn’t felt a sign that large saying GO WRITE THIS since I wrote Monster four years ago. That was also a heavy subject – for a seventeen-year-old, tackling bioethics was daunting but felt very necessary. Whether the book was a hit or not, I think it touched the people it was supposed to touch – and I have letters and emails from people thanking me for it.

                While I cringe thinking of how much my writing has improved since then, I have always felt the most convicted when writing about heavier, darker subjects. And while I applaud Christian media for exposing the evils of porn consumption (i.e. Fireproof) I can’t think of a single Christian novel, movie, or even song that sheds light on the horrors of those trapped in the actual industry.

                Finally ready, I did some heavy praying and began to write the fourth draft of Acceso. The pieces fell together. While before it was about an exotic performer trapped in a slave contract, it went the last step and he became a porn ‘star’ trapped in an industry he hated. And for the first time, it felt completely right. It still feels completely write.

                It’s not easy, trying to write about something as graphic as the porn industry in a non-graphic way, but I’ve been told by the amazing team of readers I have that I’m doing a good job of it (and they’ll tell me if I’m not).

                When I sent out the first chapter, the reviews surprised me. Several people on my reading team told me that their responses would probably be short – because the novel was hitting close to home, bringing up emotional memories. I was told the novel was helping them tackle dark things in their past. That response was amazing, of course, but there was another kind of response – a response of shock.

                They weren’t shocked because I was writing about the porn industry (by this point, I’m fairly sure my readership is impossible to faze. ‘Oh, she’s writing about this now? Okie dokie!’) – they were shocked because they hadn’t known about anything that happened behind the scenes.

                “I always just thought they wanted to be there,” a good friend told me in surprise.

                The awful truth is that the percentage of porn ‘stars’ who want to be in the industry is tiny. Most Americans don’t realize this, because all we see are the famous porn stars, the ones who praise the industry and the money they make. The porn industry wants people to be ignorant of what goes on behind the scenes – of the drugs, rape, abuse, prostitution, disease, forced abortion, and other horrors that carry on. Because if everyone knew about that side of the coin (which just happens to be the much larger side) Americans would find porn much harder to stomach.

                It makes me angry. The fact that most Christians believe the most harm comes to those viewing porn, and not those acting it out, breaks my heart. It’s kept in the dark, and I wanted to write a novel that both exposed the industry while giving hope. I don’t like shying away from things, but I told the friend I was chatting with this morning, “I’ve probably only scratched the surface and I feel like I’m in deep.”

                She said, “I can see why. It looks deep – but you’re doing an exceptional job with it.” She also said she felt inspired to write about tough subjects herself, but she wasn’t sure where she would start. One thing I’ve realized over years of writing is that my writing is the most inspired, the most convicting, and the most difficult when I’m spiritually where I’m supposed to be. When I’m in tune with the still small voice speaking to me as I write.

                And at the moment, the still, small voice is pretty loud.

What about you? Have you ever felt convicted to write about something you aren’t sure you’re ready for? Is there a Christian work on this subject that I’m missing, or not? Did any of this surprise you?

high time for some snippets

Mads

a Christmas gift for my braintwin


Angel pushed open his front door. “Honey, I’m home,” he called.

            “Nice to see you, too, sugar,” was the response from the living room to the left.

Quizzically, Angel walked into the room and folded his arms. Skata was sitting in the largest wing back chair with his feet up on the leather ottoman, listening to a silver iPod. His head was nodding along with the music.

“That’s mine,” said Angel, wondering when on earth Skata had developed a taste for anything other than classic rock.

“I know,” said Skata. “You have terrible taste in music. Arctic Monkeys? Vampire Weekend – are you being ironic? And who is Cara Dillon?”

Something was very off.

“You’re…not Skata.” Angel shifted his jaw, watching.

The guy in the chair pulled out one ear bud and rolled his eyes. “And pro wrestling is rigged. Any other revelations?”

– No Dark Disguise


“Lander,” began Farr, but Kenna interrupted.

“Enough! He is not Lander.” She looked over her shoulder at Einar, who had cleaned one of his swords and placed it back its scabbard and was now wiping the other clean of the war-grim that clung to it. She knew he was listening; he was always listening, always paying attention, even when his actions suggested otherwise. “His name is Alaric, and he was the Crown’s wizard, the one who ordered the massacre of every child in Alacros.”

– Kenna


“All right.” I hand it to her, and realize she’s staring at my hand. I move the violin up and down, my fingers still curled around its neck. “Take the violin, Leila.”

She takes it mutely. “Calluses,” she says.

I look at my fingers. “Guitar,” I say. “So what?”

“I don’t have calluses anymore.” She groans and hops up onto another bar stool. “I’m going to have to get them all over again. Dagnabbit.”

“Suck it up,” I say. “Play something.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Mary Had a Little Lamb. I don’t care.”

– Acceso


Footsteps sounded on the stairs. The door opened and Skata stepped through, slamming it behind him and looking as if he had just gone through the battle of Bunker Hill. His profuse string of swear words ended with, “I hate bloodsuckers.”

Angel paused a beat before saying, “Ouch. On behalf of bloodsuckers everywhere.”

– No Dark Disguise


“You are an army, yet you hide yourselves within this cave like bears in winter, refusing to come out and help. You could have fought against the massacre, but instead you cowered behind these walls like children behind a mother’s skirt.”

Kenna spun on her heel and connected her fist with Farrien’s face as hard as she could. “How dare you! Bite your tongue, human, or I will cut it out.”

“You forget your own race! You, too, are human,” said Farrien with an angry laugh.

– Kenna


He takes the cup and lifts one eyebrow, looking at me with mock suspicion. He blows across the top, cooling it off, and takes a cautious sip. Then he nods. “Extra honey?”

“Of course.” I shuffle from foot to foot but smile to cover my nervousness.

Apparently, my acting skills stink, because he immediately asks, “So, what is it?”

“What’s what?”

“The catch?”

“I bring you tea all the time!”

“Aha!” He holds up a finger. “So there is a catch.”

“Not really a catch,” I fudge.

“A caveat, then. A clause.”

I don’t know whether all lawyers use words like ‘caveat’ and ‘clause’ in every day speech, or just my Dad, but I’ve always found it endearing. Of course, I was probably ten before I knew what those words meant.

– Acceso


“I want to ask you to stay out of trouble.”

Angel turned to face the skin walker. “Wait, what?”

“I said, I want you to stay out of trouble.”

“Impossible,” said Angel, gesturing toward Skata. “He loves trouble. He wants to marry trouble and have little half-human, half-trouble babies.”

– No Dark Disguise


He was unruffled, there was no sign of anger or excitement with him. Then he looked up. “He also speaks of things which he knows nothing about. Better to keep silent, boy, than speak in ignorance.”

“What ignorance? You’re only angry because I am telling the truth you people won’t admit to yourselves! Northmen are supposed to be great warriors.”

“You would not know a great warrior if he split you from navel to nose,” fired Kenna.

– Kenna


I walk through the first floor – which is technically the thirty-ninth story, but it has two floors, go figure – taking it all in. It has an air of unbearable cleanliness, like their only requirements for a living space was that it be “sleek and fresh.” The wall in the living room is made of glass, looking over the city, across the tops of buildings and into the blue-smudged distance. There’s a Baby Grand, a 71-inch TV screen, a Greek statue that may or may not be real.

– Acceso


“Look.” Angel took a step forward and brought his hands together. “Why don’t you stick around here?”

He directed the question at Skinner, but Skata was the one who abruptly asked, “What?”

Skinner turned to face the vampire, searching his face. Angel let his face be searched; all the skin walker would see was a smile. “Great,” said Skinner finally. No questions, no bargaining. Apparently, he knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Which room is mine?”

“Hold that thought,” said Skata. He crossed the room, grabbed a fistful of Angel’s shirt, and pulled him out of the living room, into the foyer. Then he growled, “What’s your problem, huh?”

“You’re wrinkling my shirt,” said Angel.

“Are you nuts? You know we can’t trust him.”

“Whoa, whoa.” Angel eased out of Skata’s grip, his palms in the air. “Relax. Take a chill pill. Do whatever it is you do.”

“I don’t,” retorted Skata.

– No Dark Disguise


“We honor the fallen with fire, and with prayer,” she began. They were the words she had committed to memory but never thought to speak. The words Dagrun had taught her with firm patience when she was but a child. “May the fire burn away the mortal bindings from heart to name. May the prayer lift their souls to the halls of Elah. May their deeds be sung for a thousand years, and may the wind itself carry the sacred memory of these valiant dead. May it be so.”

The elven voices raised in heavy chorus. “May it be so.”

Kenna threw the torch and watched as flame joined with flame, licking the sky. A funeral pyre in place of the harvest fire.

– Kenna


like pulling teeth

Let me tell you about my mistake. I chose to write an important novel for NaNo. I’ve never done this before; I have always come up with a completely separate, NaNo-perfect idea that isn’t too deep, isn’t too difficult. As a result, NaNo has been fun, I’ve enjoyed it, and writing hasn’t felt like pulling teeth. This month, however, I decided to write Acceso – which is important, heavy, and not something I want to hate by the end of the month. So, I regret to announce that I have decided to quit NaNo this year. This book is too important to me to throw together in a slapdash manner, and too important for me to loathe by the time November is up.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SIX YEARS, I AM GIVING UP ON NANOWRIMO.

This pains me. I have wrestled with this decision for several days, and I have to grind my teeth and admit that this means Kyla will probably win (next year, Fournier). Am I shelving Acceso? No. I’m going to continue to write it, and I’m going to feel free to love it at the pace it needs. I’m not going to force mediocrity into it; it doesn’t deserve that. As for the rest of you NaNoers – you can do this. I’m rooting for you.

HOWEVER…

I am busy writing elsewhere! The indomitable Sky has created a new blog project called The Fangirl Initiative, which means on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I recap (humorously, but helpfully) the latest episodes of Agents of SHIELD and The 100. Check it out, follow, comment, and share – it’s going to be fun, I promise!

Beautiful Books #2 – pluggin’ along

We’re eleven days into NaNo, and I’ve written almost 24,000 words. I thought I was moving at a pretty decent rate until my disgustingly speedy friend Cait finished her novel in seven days. It’s National Novel Writing MONTH, Cait, not National Novel Writing Week. NaNoWriWe doesn’t have the same ring to it. But stepping away from my word-envy, Cait and Sky have released the second set of questions for their ‘Beautiful Books’ series.

1. Be honest: how is your writing coming?

Fairly well. Over the weekend, my word count suffered because I had no inspiration, but it came back this morning and I wrote almost 3,000 words within the 2 hours after I woke up, so here’s hoping that keeps up. Fortunately, I have a very kind family, and my magical friend Rana sent me a care package with coffee, hot chocolate, and teas to keep me going. The coffee and the hot chocolate are gone.

2. What’s your first sentence/paragraph?

“Water is in my lungs. It’s all around me, pushing me down, closing in over my head. Sunlight filters through the blue surface and can’t reach me. Nothing can reach me. I open my mouth to scream, and I watch the last remains of whatever breath I have filter into bubbles and float away. My heartbeat pounds in my ears, and the pressure sharpens, stabbing through my head. I’m dying, and nobody can hear me.”

3. Do you have a book cover, and/or pictures that reflect your book? Do you have pictures of each of your characters? If not, describe them for us! (Be as descriptive as you can.) 

Indeed I do. It’s interesting, this novel, because it has one of the smallest casts I’ve ever written. There are basically ten characters, with the main focus on two of them. After writing my Salvation series, which has my largest cast to date, it’s quite a change.

Accceso cover

accesocast

Left to Right: Ingrid Dayton, Grayson Kinger, Leila Dayton, Hyde, Kayla Dayton, Gerard Dayton.

5. Share a snippet that you really enjoyed writing.

I can’t put the whole novel here, so I have to give you a few of them. I can’t pick just one.

Maybe it’s the things that seem surreal that are the most genuine. The raw, bleeding, colorful, loud, exaggerated things are true, and the faint colors and blurred lines are false, trying to trap us in mediocrity.//

It’s been two days since the hospital and I’m curled up on my bed, staring at the crumpled letter from Julliard. My violin is next to me, propped up on the pillow like another human being. It’s been sitting there for an hour while I try and pull together enough courage to attempt to play it. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard. I still know the notes. I still understand music, the language of it, the way it speaks. It’s just that it no longer speaks to me. Everyone but me can hear it. It’s like music turned its back on me, like I did something wrong and it refuses to speak to me, ever again.//

Candy, a recent hire a few years older than me, waves from behind the counter. “Hey, Leila!”

“Hey.” I smile at the customers lined up and hurry around back.

Candy taps my shoulder to make sure I’m looking at her, and says, “Or should I say, MERRY CHRISTMAS!” She grabs me in a hug and I can’t help the breathless laugh she squeezes from my lungs.

“It’s not Christmas yet! It isn’t even Thanksgiving!”

She backs up and shrugs. “It’s in two days. I can say ‘Merry Christmas.’”

“I think most people say ‘Happy Holidays’ now,” I say. “It’s much more PC.”

“Screw PC,” she says, waving a tattooed hand as if flicking the thought off her shoulder. “Merry Christmas it is.”//

I step into the elevator and push the button for the ground floor and feel the room around me lurch and begin descending. When I was six or seven, I was afraid of the elevator. I was positive, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a monster lurked somewhere outside the box, in the elevator shaft. I had watched a lot of Hitchcock and Twilight Zone episodes with my Dad by then, which fueled my imagination into conjuring up a monster with no eyes, a mouth that took up most of its head, and eight legs with hands instead of feet.

I drew it once. It was awful enough that Mom made me throw it away and told me not to draw monsters anymore.

And as the elevator comes to a grinding, vibrating halt, the monster springs into my imagination with surprising dexterity and color, considering I haven’t thought about it in probably ten years, maybe more.

I wonder if it was just a particularly rough halt, but the doors don’t open.

I glance down at Fred.

Fred glances up at me.

Most people in this situation would pull out the emergency phone and make a call to the front desk. I pull out my cell phone and lean against the wall, putting a text together. When I send it to Dad, it reads HELP! ELEVATOR STUCK! CAN’T CALL FRONT DESK!

It won’t win any literary awards, but it gets the message across.//

6. Now that you’re writing, have any of the plot details, or the process itself, turned out different from what you planned or imagined? 

It has its moments. For instance, Leila decided to kiss Hyde much sooner than I’d planned – her decision the result of nearly two hours stuck in an elevator. Small changes like this crop up, but the main storyline has stayed true to its original form.

7. Is there a character or aspect of your plot that’s difficult to write? 

This has never been an easy novel to write, as depression, suicide, and slavery are never ‘easy’ subjects. The characters are complex, but I can see where they come from, which makes them easier to write than some. I know their thoughts, the way they feel about life. I don’t need to guess. They tell me.

8. What’s your favorite aspect of this novel so far? Favorite character?

I really enjoy the feeling of this novel. It’s a pink dress with a leather jacket, concrete buildings softened with snow, grunge and grit and pastel colors. It’s a juxtaposition of light and darkness in so many ways, and I love it both aesthetically and philosophically. I really enjoy writing both Hyde and Leila; Leila has a snappy sense of humor but she’s a peach princess with a heart of Disney, and Hyde is a sharp, cynical, surprisingly soft-hearted individual.

9. Have you drawn off of any life experiences or people you know to create your novel and characters? 

Yes.

10. Do you have a playlist or certain song for your novel and/or characters? 

I’ve had Taylor Swift’s 1989 on repeat all month.

11. Let’s have some fun for a moment: imagine you are somehow transported into your book’s world. Which character are you most likely to be found hanging out with? 

Probably Hyde.

12. How do you keep yourself motivated to finish your daily wordcount? (Pinterest? Internet breaks? Chocolate?) 

Beating my arch-nemesis, Kyla.

13. What’s your favorite writing quote or piece of writing advice? 

“Make good art.” – Neil Gaiman

14. How does this book make you feel so far? Are you laughing? Crying? Frustrated?

So tell me, fellow harried-author-people, how goes it for you?