Category: What Have I Been Writing?

Toot, Toot! (That’s the sound of me tooting my own horn)

Baltimore
This is the perfect author’s photo for any book I write about superheroes chilling at the harbor.

Hi Guys! Just wanted to share the good news: Last week I was featured on a blog post by Tu Books (A division of Lee and Low Publishing)! 

It’s always nice when someone takes time to recognize your work, and even more so when they’re already in the business. Here’s a taste of my interview below, and you can read the rest of it (along with fellow author Shilpa Kamat’s interview) here. Thanks for all your support. One day, we WILL see Seraphim published!

Tell us a little about the main character in your novel.

Cassandra Rose is a former child prodigy who won dozens of trivia contests, spelling bees, and brain bowls as a girl. After having a psychotic breakdown at the age of 12, she spent the next 5 years being home schooled in solitude. Now at 17, Cassandra is socially starved and desperate to fit in. But when she enrolls in a small private college, her past comes back to haunt her.

There are some autobiographical aspects in Cassandra’s character, which I believe is probably true for every author’s first book. In the case of Cassandra, I took them to the extreme. I was not a child prodigy who had a nervous breakdown, merely a gifted kid with anxiety issues. When I enrolled in a school rather similar to Cassandra’s college (in terms of size and atmosphere), I spent my entire first semester either alone in my room or going home on the weekend. This is where I formed the idea of a girl who is not an outcast due to social awkwardness, but because of a dark secret.

What is your writing process? What techniques do you use to get past writer’s block?

I’m a huge fan of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Both Seraphim and my latest novel started out as NaNoWriMo “Brain dumps” that got poured into a word document at a rate of about 2000 words a day. The 50,000 word result is always a mess, but at least it’s on paper. After that, I spend the next six months editing that work into a proper draft.

The best technique to get past writers block is to stop reading. I’m a big reader (I know the location of every library in my city and have subscriptions with Audible, Amazon Prime, and Forgotten Books) and I believe that no one can be a serious writer unless they are also a serious reader. But when I can’t write, usually it’s because the books (yes, plural) I’m reading are hurting the process. For example, the author’s style might rub off on me, and I’ll unknowingly change a character or my voice. Then I’ll start to struggle, because the book doesn’t sound quite right, and I’m not sure why. Or I might come across an idea that I really like, and then decide to put something similar in my book. Suddenly I’m trying to add an alien into a book about witchcraft, or trying to create an entire fantasy realm for a story that really doesn’t need it. That’s a recipe for instant writer’s block. Forcing myself to step away from other people’s work and focus on my own (usually for no more than a week or two) gets me out of most ruts.

What are your favorite books or writers in the same genre as your manuscript, and why?  

In Young Adult, I’m a fan of Susan’s Ee’s Penryn & the End of Days series and The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. As for fantasy, I love Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.When it comes to the pinch of horror I like to put in every story, I have to recognize Joe Hill, and his father Stephen King, who I grew up reading and who wrote the first 1000 plus page book I ever read (It, age 15).

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ANNOUNCING THE 2015 NEW VISIONS AWARD FINALISTS!

This is what we’re talking about. Can you imagine this little beauty on my book cover?

Just wanted to share the good news. 

My first book has been nominated for a New Visions Award!

So what is that?

The NEW VISIONS AWARD is for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author.

What does it mean?

If I win, Seraphim is on the short road to being published!

Am I nervous?

Oh you bet. I’ve had a few people read over my work, and it never gets any easier. I suppose when I’m published I’ll be nothing but nerves.

What can I do?

Fingers crossed! Keep those good vibes coming! 

More information of the award (and my awesome headshot) here.

Quarter Finalist!

Good news, everyone! My novel just made it past the “Quarter Finalist” round for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award! If you haven’t heard of the ABNA, it’s a contest sponsored by Amazon and Createspace. The grand prize is a $50,000 publishing contract with Amazon, and there are five smaller prizes of $15,000 each.

 

Find out more about how it works here:

Now that I’ve made it past this crucial round, editors from Publisher’s Weekly will be personally reviewing my manuscript and rating it on the following judging criteria: originality of idea, plot, prose/writing style, character development, and overall strength of submission.

In addition, Amazon customers can download, rate, and review the excerpts on Amazon.com, providing feedback to Amazon Publishing Editors about submissions.

Thank you guys for all your support! Together, we’re one step closer to seeing Seraphim published!

The Semi-Finalists (top 25) will be announced on June 13th, 2014, and I’ll keep everyone updated on Seraphim’s progress. Until then: fingers crossed!

Round Two!

Good news, everyone! My novel just made it past the pitch round for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award! If you haven’t heard of the ABNA, it’s a contest sponsored by Amazon and Createspace. The grand prize is a $50,000 publishing contract with Amazon, and there are five smaller prizes of $15,000 each.

Here’s how it works:

  1. March 2: All authors must submit a 300 word (or less) pitch for their novel (This is a clear, concise explanation of what your book is about, and why someone should want to spend time reading it). Winners are announced on March 18th. Read my pitch here.
  2. April 14th: If a book’s pitch is chosen for the next round, Amazon reviewers then read and vote on excerpts from the novel (Usually the first 3,000 to 5,000 words). At that point, the top 500 quarter-finalists will be announced.
  3. June 13: From those 500 will come 25 semi-finalists, and those 25 full manuscripts (Between 50,000 and 125,000 words) will be made available to the entire Amazon marketplace.
  4. July 8: The final 5 finalists are announced (at this point, everybody’s a winner)
  5. July 21: The grand prize winner is announced.

Amazon has been holding this contest for the past few years, but most people aren’t aware of it. For one thing, Amazon rarely publicizes the contest, and they don’t have an ongoing dedicated schedule to confirm that it will continue in the foreseeable future (In fact, the 2014 contest was announced a month late, leading many to assume that it would not be held this year.) But for a few reasons, I’d like to recommend all aspiring novelists submit their work to ABNA.

  1. It’s Free: There are far too many contests out there taking advantage of writers who wish to have their craft acknowledged. “Reading Fees” or “Entry Fees” of $20 or $25 for short stories or poems are not uncommon. The most expensive contest fee I’ve seen was for the Writer’s Digest Best Self-Published Novel Award, which charged the ridiculous amount of $99 to enter a novel (and that’s the early bird fee).
  2. National Exposure: Even if you don’t win, there are still going to be plenty of agents interested in looking at Amazon’s castoffs. And if you’re already self-published, having your book available to Amazon reviewers will no doubt give your sales a boost.
  3. $50,000: Right now, I have a 1 in 2000 chance of winning $50,000 and a 1 in 400 chance of winning $15,000. And it didn’t cost me a dime (Sorry to keep harping on fees, but I’m kinda cheap. And really, $22.50 to read a poem? Are you crazy?)

The Quarter Finalists (top 500) will be announced on April 14th, 2014, and I’ll keep everyone updated on Seraphim’s progress. Until then: fingers crossed!

Seraphim (PItch)

SeraphimSeraphim is the first novel in the Ashes of Angel’s series. This pitch made it through the first round of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

When a former child prodigy tries to start a new life at a small town college, she discovers her deadly past isn’t so easy to escape.

Cassandra Rose won dozens of trivia contests, spelling bees, and brain bowls as a girl. But after having a psychotic breakdown at the age of 12, she spent the next 5 years being home schooled in solitude. Now at 17, Cassandra is socially starved and determined to fit in. Enrolling in tiny Calvary College seems like the perfect escape, but when Cassandra starts to see strange lights and winged creatures in the forest surrounding campus, she once again questions her sanity.

Only this time, the demons might not be in her head.

Our heroine must face numerous trials during her first semester at Calvary: from going to her first frat party, to getting her first kiss, to tracking down the creature that has been stalking and killing her new friends.

Seraphim is a story about the angels and demons that walk among us. It combines the awkwardness, excitement, and natural fear most young people feel when they leave home for the first time with the very unnatural horror of realizing that monsters do exist, and they might be out to get you.

Library of Virginia’s ‘Dark Side’ Essay contest.

Image

 

As an exercise in super short story writing (under 1000 words), I submitted my entry for the Library of Virginia’s ‘Dark Side’ Essay Contest. Above is the photo that inspired the story.

The original link can be found here: http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/dark-side/2013/05/31/central-national-bank-richmond-virginia-ca-1950/

My submission is below: 

The Bloody Banker

Richmond is one of those old cities. Not as old as London or Paris, but still old enough to have plenty of ghosts. Thanks to the Nickel Bridge Killer, there are a few more ghosts in Richmond tonight.

I used to think that murder was something reserved only for the most foul, the most evil creatures. The ones who have nothing where their souls should be. I want to still think that. But after these past few weeks, that’s been tougher to believe. How do you feel about vengeance when it’s someone you love being murdered? You feel pretty damn sure that vengeance is the only thing that matters. But how do you feel about it when someone you love is the one doing the murdering?

My little brother and I were close as kids, but no more or less then any other siblings I guess. I got into trouble more than he did; I remember that. He liked books, science, and math. I was more of a P.E. guy.  And when he graduated and went off to that fancy college, I stayed home and married Doris. Then he came home, and got a job at the Central National Bank. I was a patrol cop, nothing more than a glorified meter maid, but it was honest work, and it fed Doris and the kids.

The first girl was found in Byrd Park, where a lot of rich children play. She was young for a hooker, maybe eighteen or nineteen. She had this yellow hair, the kind our mother used to call bottle blonde, but I think it may have been real on her. It reminded me of Donald’s freshman year at the University of Virginia. He was real sweet on a bottle blonde named Susan, or maybe it was Sally. Anyway, it didn’t go anywhere. She was rich and he was just some cop’s little brother. You can probably guess the rest.

The next two girls were found a week later. They weren’t far from each other. One was found off Boulevard and another floated ashore during high tide on the James. They were both bottle blondes again, just like Susan. Donald and I used to spend time near that stretch of beach where the third girl washed up. It was just a few yards from Nickel Bridge, and except for the cars above, plenty private. I’d pull crabs out of the muddy water, and he’d pick seashells off the sand. If we found big enough crabs, we’d take them home to boil. I used to throw the small ones back. But one day, when Donald was about eleven, he asked if he could have a few of the smaller crabs. I tossed them his way, not thinking much of it. Then Donald pulled a hammer out of his back pocket and started smashing the crabs open, right there on the sand. They didn’t all die right away; some tried to scuttle back toward the water. But Donald chased them down and got them all. As they died, their eyes stuck so far out of their heads they looked like snails, and their guts oozed out like dark green slime.

Later that day, I asked Donald why he did that. He said he didn’t know; he just had the idea to see what they looked like before they got cooked. But I didn’t think it was a sudden impulse. Why else would he bring a hammer to the beach? He must have been thinking about smashing them crabs open for who know how long. Anyways, I never took Donald back to that beach. And I never ate another crab after that.

The fourth girl had her head smashed in, just like the other three. She had been attacked from behind, and there was a fair amount of blood in her hair, but you could still make out the roots, and yeah, they were bottle blond.

It’s true I’m not a detective, but I have been a cop for nearly ten years. And sometimes you just know, especially when it comes to family. I called Donald this morning and told him to meet me here, at the bank. It had to be after dark, where nobody’s prying eyes can see. If things go down the way I think they will, I don’t want anybody saying I helped the Nickel Bridge Killer escape justice. It would cost me my pension, and I couldn’t do that to Doris. But Donald’s my brother, and I have to know the truth.

Our mother used to say the Donald and I were like oil and water. He’s scrawny and I’m solid, he’s a successful banker and I’m a lowly cop, he’s a genius and well, let’s face it, the last book I read was in high school. But I’m smart enough to know I’m all he’s got. Donald may be a killer, but he’s still my little brother. No matter what happens tonight, he won’t forget that.  

What do you guys think? Sound of in the comments below!

James River Writers: First Pages Critique Contest

Recently, James River Writers annouced that they would select some lucky writers to have the first page of their work read at their annual conference.

http://www.jamesriverwriters.org/what-we-do/programs/annual-conference/2012-conference-first-pages

Of course, I submitted Seraphim to the contest. Want to know what they get to see? Here’s the first page:

 

Seraphim

Genre: Young Adult

Bryan Turner swerved off the busy highway and onto the tiny side road that led to Grey Woods. The narrow trail cut between thick undergrowth, curved around the wood’s muddy lake and ended just outside fraternity row- where the last students at the last party of the summer would be waiting for Bryan to bring the beer.

He didn’t really want to enter campus this way, Grey Woods was creepy as hell. Plus, it took him an extra twenty minutes and he’d be stuck cleaning mud off his tires tomorrow. But it was well into Saturday night and he had already started drinking. The town cops had set up their end of the month DUI check points and if he was going to make it back to frat row for Ethan’s party, he couldn’t stay on the main roads.

The gravel road became a dirt trail that twisted through the warped and sickly trees. Bryan slowed his truck and squinted into the darkness. The townies nicknamed the path ‘ghost alley’ because it was nearly impossible to see, especially at night. It was a sliver of space in the overgrown forest, like a thin part separating a mess of wild hair. But Bryan had great eyesight and knew the trail better than most, so he figured he’d be at the party in less than ten minutes.

Clusters of black oak and white ash trees towered over his pick-up truck like gnarled and twisted monsters. They reached towards his vehicle, the claws of their branches narrowly missing his custom paint job. Their leaves radiated in the moonlight, giving the trees an eerie emerald glow. It was like driving through a lush jungle, with one exception. There was no wildlife in Grey Woods. No squirrels in the trees, no fish in the inky black water. Any animals had disappeared a long time ago, like rats fleeing a sinking ship. The silence of what should have been teaming with life made the woods seem even more creepy, and explained why the only people who went in were students looking for enough privacy to make out or get high.