Wednesday, August 29, 2018

COVER REVEAL: Wayward Stars!


It's cover reveal day for Wayward Stars, the sequel to my award-winning YA sci-fi novel, Starswept! Coming February 26, 2019 from Snowy Wings Publishing! The cover features photography by Roberto Falck, with graphic design by Streetlight Graphics!

And now, without further ado...


Isn't it awesome?? It's one of the shots from that epic underwater photo shoot we did for the Starswept cover back in January 2017. In case you missed it, here's a behind-the-scenes video from the photographer:



This time around, I wanted the lighting on the cover to be slightly more ominous to reflect the growing dangers Iris must face in her journey across the stars. For the hardcover version, that will be red foil on the lettering and frame...


Below is the book's description!


[Warning: Since Wayward Stars is a sequel, the book’s description may spoil some plot points for the first book in the series, Starswept.]

***

Sing your truth. Defend your dream. Defy your stars.

A month has passed since Iris joined an underground rebel group to save Dámiul from the brutal prison he was sent to for fighting back against his world’s oppressive system. Here, conformity and compliance are enforced through telepathy, and Earthling performers are brainwashed into absolute obedience.

Word of a merciless crackdown on those who sympathize with their cause leaves both Iris and Dámiul yearning for action. Determined to liberate her kind, Iris volunteers to return to her former patrons and covertly recruit supporters.

A raid on their hideout catapults her plan into action sooner than expected and forces her to leave Dámiul behind. After persuading the authorities that she’d been telepathically manipulated into helping him, Iris assumes the role of a dutiful musician while secretly spreading whispers of a possible uprising among her fellow performers. But the authorities always seem to be one step ahead, and anyone who defies them is swiftly mind-wiped.

Soon, Iris is forced to confront a horrifying fact: there’s a traitor among them. Desperately clinging to her cover, she races to find out who before her true loyalties are discovered—and the search leads her to an unthinkable answer.

Add it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36177820-wayward-stars

And here are the two side-by-side!! Don't they look good together?


Monday, August 20, 2018

The Road So Far... As of Now

Hey y'all! Been a while since I wrote anything on here, so I thought I'd drop in and say how things are going, writing-wise.

Your new rom com heroine
Though before I start, I can't not mention how utterly THRILLED I was to have watched TWO rom coms in one week starring Asian American heroines!!


Both were super awesome in different ways... Crazy Rich Asians was a lavishly produced Hollywood affair full of glitz and high society drama, and To All the Boys I've Loved Before was an adorable and sweet teen movie. Both were deliciously trope-y in the best possible way... CRA with its fish-out-of-water tale and classic rom com moments (spoiler - highlight to read: OMG WE GOT THE AIRPORT SCENE!!! ME AND MY FELLOW ROM-COM-LOVING FRIEND WERE SQUEALING!! WE GOT THE DAMN AIRPORT SCENE!!!), and TATBILB with its fake-relationship-to-real-relationship set-up, also full of classic moments.

Your new teen idol

OH, and I found it interesting/irritating/unsurprising that both Lara Jean of TATBILB and Rachel of CRA would have been whitewashed if certain producers had their way. "Why must they be Asian American? There's nothing Asian about their stories!" Okay, the second half of that is stupid and false -- Asian Americans are Asians, for crying out loud. But I can see why they'd think that. Neither Rachel nor Lara Jean spends a whole lot of time dealing with their specific Asian-ness. Lara Jean has her Korean snacks and face masks, and Rachel delves a little deeper with her worries about not being "Asian enough" for her wealthy Singaporean boyfriend's family, but I *suppose* both stories could *technically* have been written about white women based on plot alone. HOWEVER, the very fact that it's their American-ness, rather than their Asian-ness, that grounds their characters makes their stories all the better for Asian American representation. Too often we're expected to somehow Asian it up for the white gaze... It was awesome getting to see two Asian American heroines to simply be. No mystical connections to ancient Asian magic or whatever...

Okay, so that veered off topic! Wellp, now that I'm done gushing over Kevin Kwan and Jenny Han's Asian heroines, let me talk about my own!

STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON (aka STABD - hah! Get it? Stab'd? #AmDork), as y'all may know, is slated for release in June 2019! After two rounds of developmental edits, the book went into copy-editing at the beginning of this month. I turned in the latest round of revisions a few weeks ago... hopefully that means the manuscript is just about done! Meanwhile, I've seen an almost-final draft of the cover, and it is AMAZING!! Can't wait to share it -- I'm bursting already! This time last year, I hadn't even started querying the book yet... and this time the year before, I had no clue I was even going to write it. I've grown so used to the glacial pace of publishing that this feels fast to me...

Speakings that take so long, they might as well be written in Ent-ish, WAYWARD STARS, the sequel to STARSWEPT, is currently in revisions (and I'll be revealing the cover next week!). Since I'm self-publishing that one with the Snowy Wings Press co-op, I get to be a little more flexible with the timing. Right now, I'm targeting February 2019. This one's been a long time coming... I wrote the original draft of STARSWEPT way back in 2013 and wasn't sure if I'd do a sequel (I left room for one, but was hoping to get a trad deal and wasn't sure if that would include sequels). But I had an idea for one even then... but didn't write it until four and a half years later, after STARSWEPT had been through the trad submissions wringer. Anyway, it was a little weird returning to that universe after so much time, but I think the sequel is shaping up nicely...

Meanwhile, my agent will be sending my new (well, new to him) manuscript MIDNIGHT SWAN out on submission soon *gulp*. That's another one that's been a long time coming... I wrote the first draft in 2015, put it through a year of self-edits, sent it to my then-agent, got rejected, shelved it for another year while I wallowed in self pity (and worked on STABD), put it through even more self-edits, then sent it to my current agent, who fortunately likes it better than my last one did. I have no clue how submissions will go, but a gal can hope, right?

Never one to sit idly, I'm also working on a shiny new manuscript: a full-length origins story for my crime-solving space gals, bio-engineering apprentice Chevonne Watson and sentient android Sherlock. Y'all may recognize them from my short stories. Tentatively titled PROJECT SHERLOCK, this one depicts how the two met and solved their first crime together - my Study in Scarlet. I have a *very rough* first draft, which is going to my critique group.

Also coming soon: A short story for the next Crazy 8 Press anthology (Theme: pulp fiction, and I picked Western, because the Wild, Wild West is fun), a fourth BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthology (slated for next summer), for which I will be writing a sci-fi short story (I have a vague idea), and maybe, possibly, a horror novella. Yup, you heard that right. I'm delving into the dark side. Again, I have a vague idea... hopefully I can pull it off.

And that's where I'm at so far! Stay tuned for the WAYWARD STARS cover reveal!

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Shore Leave Schedule!

Hey everyone! I'll be at Shore Leave 2019 next weekend! Here's my panel schedule:

Friday, July 6

9PM-10PM Hunt/Valley
Glenn Hauman's Wake

10PM-12AM Hunt/Valley Hallway
Meet the Pros

Saturday, July 7

9AM-10AM Salon E
When Does It Count As Representation?

12PM-1PM McCormick
Crazy 8 Teen Workshop: World Building

2PM-3PM Salon F
From Holmes to Sherlock

3PM-4PM Salon F
Crazy 8 Press Presents

Sunday, July 8

11AM-12PM Chase
All Fiction Is Political

12PM-1PM Salon A
Ordinary Heroes

Monday, June 25, 2018

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: L.K.D. Jennings

An interview with author L.K.D. Jennings.





Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?


I am mostly an indie author, with a pair of ebooks through Amazon and my newest book, Mark of the Conifer, was published via Kickstarter. I still submit to literary agents and collect rejections. I think a lot of what I write is a little too strange for the mainstream, considering my Highsong series is about psychic dolphins in space and Mark of the Conifer is a dinosaur version of Watership Down.









What got you into writing?


I remember being in an advanced reading class in 2nd grade, where we made our own books. Mine won an award and that was it for me. I also had major back surgery at the age of 14, and I wrote my first novel recovering from it.


What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?


Mark of the Conifer was very piecemeal. I knew I wanted to write a dinosaur book, but I wanted it to be scientifically accurate. The right period for the right species and soon. I visited the Utah Museum of Prehistoric Life in 2007. It’s an award-winning museum, totally incredible. Being able to look a Brachiosaurus skeleton in the face on a second story set the fire under me. I really got into research and then was like “Great! Now where’s my plot?”


Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?


There’s a character called Spines-Rake-Sky who is my secret favorite. She’s kind of like a female ronin samurai dinosaur, a great fighter with a great heart who lost her family. She suffers from depression and is a deathseeker, and I found her more relatable than a lot of the other characters, who are younger and maybe a bit more idealistic. They haven’t suffered the kind of loss she has, and while I think it makes her wise and cynical, it also makes her compassionate and protective. She doesn’t want her friends to suffer like she has.


What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?


I have a few, but they all contain spoilers. There is one scene I really like, where the the villain and her brother are talking about the kind of brave new world they’re building under their rule. I wanted to have a very fascist feel, with a lot of propaganda and pithy slogans that solve every problem. Sarkanj, the brother, says “The jaws of enthusiasm are just as good as the jaws of genius.” That’s a Marxist quote: “... in the end, one will be found among us who will prove that the sword of enthusiasm is just as good as the sword of genius.” I was pleased at how well that translated into dinosaur culture, and it fit amazingly well for Sarkanj’s character: he’s very calculating, and would definitely have been the one to come up with easy answers to manipulate the gullible.


What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?


I like dialogue. I as part of a D&D group growing up that all wanted to be actors, so we really immersed ourselves and learned improv. How to be quick-witted and still in character was important to us, and it trained my ear for how to make dialogue sound natural but still literary.


How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?


I write rough drafts pretty fast, no more than 6 weeks most of the time. But I’m terrible at rewriting and I definitely need more structure there. I’ve had much stronger plots outlined than Mark of the Conifer; Conifer was pieced together bit by bit over seven years and then took another 3 to edit. I am a very diligent outliner and I like that process, but I wish I could actually write, edit, and polish one novel a year.


What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?


Digression. If you can accept magic or talking animals or whatever fantasy elements there are, you can accept just about anything else. You don’t have to explain, you just have to make it plausible. I think there’s a lot of freedom in being able to say “This is the way the world is.”


Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?


Brian Jacques. He wrote the Redwall series. I read those books over and over and over when I was a teenager. He really had wonderful rhythm that made his books amazingly readable, and that came from his background as a musician and a radio host. I can still see a lot of him in my own writing.


Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?


I sometimes surprise myself when I read back over my dialogue and make myself laugh. I take that as a good sign that it’s probably worth keeping.


Thanks for stopping by!


Thank you for having me!




ABOUT THE BOOK
TITLE: Mark of the Conifer
AUTHOR: L.K.D. Jennings
GENRE: Fantasy/xenofiction (non-human characters)
PAGES/WORD COUNT: 321 / 125,000
SEXUAL CONTENT: None
TARGET AUDIENCE: YA/NA
PUBLICATION DATE: May 22th, 2018

Hatched beneath a solar eclipse, the raptor Sunstrike enters the world in the shadow of Sol— the goddess of the dinosaurs. Devoted to Sol’s holy law, he keeps the Pact: the sacrificial regard between hunters and hunted.

But the balance is destroyed by the Empress Charr, a tyrant bent on ruling the North American Cretaceous. Her regime carries a mysterious magic: fire.

Sunstrike sets out on a quest for justice that reveals a terrifying destiny. He must face the Empress, as his dreams foretell that failure will mean the end of the world — and winning means the ultimate sacrifice.

Purchase links for Mark of the Conifer: 



Thursday, June 21, 2018

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Coleman Alexander

An interview with Coleman Alexander, author of Between the Shade and the Shadow. (Look at that cover!!)


  


Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

I started my author journey about fifteen years ago, right before high school graduation. For years, I worked out of sight, only when alone or in a corner where no one could peer over my shoulder. In those days, I was scared to admit that I wrote—fearful it wouldn't live up to my expectations, fearful that I would be judged for it. I spent most of my time daydreaming, and the writing I did didn’t ever seem to finish. I would write and write and write but I could never look at anything and say, look at what I made, it’s done. Instead, I toiled for almost twelve years without finishing anything. It wasn’t until I graduated grad school that I finally admitted my writing wasn’t a hobby, that I wanted to be an author. I’ve spent the last seven years doggedly pursuing that goal, but crazy as it seems, I think the work is only just beginning. The whole time I’ve felt like I’m climbing the mountain, but here at the publication of my first novel, I realize, I only just got to the trail. 


What got you into writing?

I started writing about fifteen years ago, shortly before high school graduation. In those days, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but it came about as a compulsion that to this day is rather inexplicable. I daydreamed of adventure and of being a hero, and so I started writing what I liked. At the time, The Fellowship of the Ring had been recently released, and visually, it provided the stimulus to create. Fantasy fiction before that had always been my favorite genre, but it was like my imagination hadn’t yet fully wrapped my head around just how wild the lands could be or how diverse the worlds could look. It sparked my imagination, and I just started to create the story I wanted to live in. Fifteen years later, that world continues to grow, and after another fifteen years, maybe a few readers will come to love it as I do. 


What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

Between the Shade and the Shadow is actually derived from my other work, The Realmless, which a yet to be finished story still a couple years away from publication. Ahraia, the main character, plays a role in that series, and I knew the precise moment that she comes on to the stage, which intrigued me. From there, I knew one thing about her—she was wild. Born of the forest and the darkness, but I didn’t know a thing about her culture or society or why she was in the particular place she had come to be. The place isn’t exactly the place you would choose to find yourself, and so I started asking how she got there. The next thing I knew, a story was starting to form, and when the first line sprang into mind on a flight to Arizona, I was off to the races. 

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

The world I’ve been creating is rather extensive, and most of the characters I’ve written haven’t seen the light of day yet. Many of my favorites are still stuck in rough drafts, and so it doesn’t make much sense to tell you about them, but from my first novel, Between the Shade and the Shadow, my heroine, Ahraia, is my favorite. She is strong and wild, and she marches to her own beat. She doesn’t conform to her society, and like me, would rather run from it all. Luckily enough for her, she doesn’t have a mortgage to keep her grounded. 

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

This is tough. I’ve got a couple. Ahraia’s magic was always fun to write, but my favorite scenes are the first and the last scenes, and they are also the oldest. The last scene has too many spoilers so I won’t delve into here, but the first scene was the very first scene I wrote (in this book), and I fell in love with it because of the first two lines. “Midnight had come and gone and Ahraia still hadn’t found a shadow. If she didn’t find one soon, she was dead.” It came to me on a flight, and at the time, I was pissed because I couldn’t get to my computer to start writing. And so I made notes on my phone and tried not to let anything I was thinking slip away. The scene describes Ahraia’s hunt for a shadow, a type of woodland creature that will accompany on her journey towards adulthood, and takes her out of the forest for the first time in her life. I think the scene captures Ahraia’s spirit. 

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

I like dialogue and action. If my plot is solid, it comes so easily that sometimes I can’t keep up. 


How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?
My writing process is always developing. For the first ten years, I didn’t finish anything. I can write quickly, but finishing is my challenge. In the last couple of years I’ve had a lot more luck. Between the Shade and the Shadow took about three months to get the first draft out. That draft is entirely unrecognizable to today’s book. It was utter trash and it took almost another year to finish the second draft, and after that, I digressed into draft after draft. I think it was first book struggles.  

[answer]

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

I love Fantasy for a couple of reasons. First of all, the world can be full of wonder and adventure. It can be dark or light. It can be deep or frivolous. But the big thing to me is the range of ideas it can explore. This first book really was my exploration of the struggle to maintain self-sovereignty in the face of societal pressure. My central series meanwhile, gives me a chance to explore the ideas that I think are most important in the world— the struggle against racism, ignorance, hatred, bigotry, and oppression. Another story I'm working on examines the idea of tradition and love. In essence, I think the genre, along with science fiction, is uniquely positioned to set up and examine human problems, whether at a micro or macro level.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

I think all the books I’ve read influence me. The big ones growing up were The Redwall series by Brian Jacques and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Most of the time, bad writing inspires me to keep pushing, and every once in a while good writing convinces me I should quit. But it’s only temporary. And if I take too many days off, I get agitated, so I get back in the chair. 

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

All the time. I try to write from a loose framework, but I’ve never written a scene that went exactly as planned. The scenes that don’t work are when I try to force a character into doing something. Most of the time, I have to let them run the show. It is, after all, their motivation that is driving them, and so if you suddenly allow that driving force to become convoluted, the story falls apart. But motivations change, and that dance is what makes writing so difficult sometimes. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Of course! Thanks for having me!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Coleman Alexander lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, exploration runs deep in his blood. Whether visiting the remote wilds of Alaska or the imaginary lands of his books, he is happiest with his head in the woods or the mountains. The farther off the beaten path the better. 
His favorite author's include J.R.R. Tolkien, Patrick Rothfuss, and J.K. Rowling, and his work is influenced by a great number of fantasy and science fiction movies and books. Music plays an integral part of his writing process, and he is always diving down the rabbit hole for new musicians. 
Between the Shade and the Shadow is his debut novel, but is only the first piece of a much greater world he is creating, the world of The Realmless.


 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the deep heart of the forest, there are places where no light ever shines, where darkness is folded by pale hands and jewel-bright eyes, where the world is ruled by the wicked and kept by the wraiths. This is where the Sprites of the Sihl live.
But Sprites are not born, they are made. On the path to Spritehood, spritelings must first become shades. They do so by binding a shadow: a woodland creature, who guides them through their training. Together, they keep from the light and learn to enchant living things, to bind them, and eventually, to kill them.
Ahraia is a shade who has bound a wolf for a shadow, as strong a shadow as there has ever been. But while her wolf marks her for greatness, Ahraia struggles with the violent ways of her people. Illicit as it is, she would rather be running wild beneath the moons. But a test is coming, and the further she and her shadow wander out of the darkness, the deeper they wander into danger. Ahraia’s time is coming and what awaits her at the end of her test will either make her or kill her . . .


Genre: Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy, Coming of Age
Page Count: 464
Publication Date: June 21st, 2018


Excerpts:

Excerpt #1

Midnight had come and gone and Ahraia still hadn’t found a shadow. If she didn’t find one soon, she was dead.
Her hair stuck to her face even in the bitter cold and though the sky was clear and overflowing with stars, a fine dusting of snow spun from the treetops with the gusting wind. The branches swayed and shifted. The light of the moons danced dangerously across the ground. But it was a lifeless dance—the woods were desolate. Deserted.
Dead, Ahraia thought. Like I’m going to be.
The lightrise was coming.


Excerpt #2

“Do wolves have names?” Ahraia murmured aloud.
The wolf’s thoughts burned like dim flames, ill-conceived beyond instinct. Her shadow’s ears tucked back nervously. She was thinking of the plains and the moons and her pack.
We tell stories about the moons, Ahraia conveyed, making her thoughts known to the wolf. They were wolves once, like you, sisters who roamed the plains. My people tell the story of the Blood Wolf and the Dark Wolf, but my favorite is the story of the Bright Wolf. Ahraia ran her finger’s through her wolf’s fur, knowing how unspritish that was to admit. The Blood Moon and Dark Moon were smaller and slower—they didn’t burn like the Bright Moon. Her shadow didn’t care. Her ears stood straighter; she was listening.
The Bright Wolf was the strongest wolf to ever walk the lands, Ahraia thought to her wolf. Losna was her name, and it was known from Everdark to Everlight. But one day, Losna’s mother was killed by the Dae-Mon. So bitter and angry was she that she leapt into the sky to chase after the Dae-Mon. Losna became the Bright Moon, the Masah, the great hunter of the night. Now she spends her night ruling over the world and her days chasing the Dae-Mon. That is why the wolves call for her. Because they love her. And they miss her.
Ahraia let her mind fall into silence. They walked for a time, dodging between slivers of moonlight that fell to the forest floor.
Losna, her shadow thought.
“I will call you Losna.” The name rolled off Ahraia’s tongue and rumbled in her heart. She nodded, as though it was decided. “It’s a good name,” she said, running her fingers through her shadow’s fur.

Excerpt #3

Ahraia’s mother knelt before her, a summer breeze rustling the silver-white hairs that had escaped her tarry-vine.
“Do you know the true purpose of our shadows?”
Ahraia used Losna to steady herself, clutching tightly to the thick clump of fur at her neck.
To guide us as shades? she conveyed. Her eyes and ears tipped down as tears dripped over her cheeks.
Three years had passed since she returned from binding Losna, and, since that day, she had heard her mother’s voice many times—but this would be the last.
Fog swirled from the opposite bank, spilling out over the waters of the Winnowlin and hiding the stars above. Her mother’s cheek bled from the Posturant’s cut, her mark of defeat.
Her mark of condemnation.
If she was nervous, she didn’t show it. Her stark-white eyes were fixed on Ahraia, her ears upright and face a veil of calm. Ahraia’s own lip quivered, and she couldn’t help as a stricken sob escaped.
Stop that, her mother conveyed. Golden veins darkened across her eyes, like tendrils of clouds crawling across the Bright Moon. It shows weakness. And you of all shades can’t show weakness.
Ahraia dragged a light-scarred hand across her face and sniffed hard. Losna nuzzled her, her tongue scratching across her wrist.
That’s better. Her mother wiped the remaining damp from her cheek, ignoring her own bloodied face.
“The true purpose of a shadow is not to guide the shade—but to make a sprite of her. Our shadows are a measure of us. They choose us as spritelings, when we are weak and naïve, grown of soft roots—and they leave us as sprites, hardened and sharp, cut from stone. But it’s what lies between that makes us who we are.”

Excerpt #4

“Wolves have ever been the most revered among us. Like us, they’re ruled by the strongest, with no heart for the weak. Losna marks you, as the light marks you. But unlike the light”—her mother paused, took her hands and turned them, so her scars were hidden—“Losna marks you for greatness. She marks the strength within you.”
She locked eyes with Ahraia and conveyed the next so softly that no one but Ahraia was privy to her thoughts. You will be an Astra one day. Perhaps even the Masai of the whole Silh.