Promo: An Unwitting Trickster by Kai Strand

Good afternoon, squiders! Got a book promo for you today. Looks interesting!

 


Young Adult Fantasy / Mythology

Date Published: 06-08-2021



Immortal Trickster, Luke, is starting a fresh life in a new-to-him seventeen-year-old body. With yet another lifespan stretched out in front of him, he’s questioning what purpose his endless compulsion to play tricks serves.

Agnar, a Thor look-alike claiming to be his adoptive brother from the planet Asperian, appears to declare Luke has been away from home too long. One problem. Luke doesn’t remember Agnar or living on another planet.

With more questions than answers, Luke cautiously agrees to accompany his “brother” back to Asperian, but the travel portal rejects him, leaving him behind to continue his mundane life of trickery. When interplanetary soldiers show up intent on killing him, he’s forced into hiding and his list of unanswered questions grows.

Will Luke remain trapped on Earth forever, pulling meaningless pranks? Or will he finally figure out his true purpose?


About the Author

Award winning Kai Strand, author of the action packed Super Villain Academy series, is often found exploring hiking trails and snapping pictures of waterfalls in her Oregon hometown. Mother of four, Kai uses her life experiences to connect with young readers. With middle grade works such as Save the Lemmings, The Weaver Tale series, and The Concord Chronicles series, and emotional YA adventures like Finding Thor, I Am Me, and Worth the Effort, Kai has written compelling stories that tweens, teens, and their parents love.

Kai has given numerous presentations in classrooms, to writer groups, and at workshops about her work and the writing process. She loves interacting with teens and gaining their insight on their latest reads as well as what they would like to see in future stories.

To find out more about Kai, please visit Kaistrand.com.


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Half-Formed Places is Live!

Happy Friday, squiders! This week has been more of a mess than I hoped, but I did manage to finished the formatting on Half-Formed Places and get it live on Amazon!

HFP cover

The collection contains four short stories of varying lengths, three of which were published on Turtleduck Press between 2014 and 2016, and one which is brand spanking new.

Now, you may have noticed that this is not one of the covers that I posted last week or whenever it was, though it a combo of the font from the water cover and one of the other images. After discussion with the other TDP people, we vetoed the water cover since there’s no water-related stories in the collection (now, the next one, however…). So it’s a compromise, hooray.

Anyway, the collection is available for a dollar (or the equivalent in your currency) or through Kindle Unlimited. I hope you’ll check it out!

Uglies Readalong: Specials (Book Three)

Oof. Sorry for missing last week, squiders. It was a mess, all the way around–too many things that I had to get ready for and/or get done. But that’s all behind us now.

Let’s move on to our discussion about Specials, the third book in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy.

At this point we’re basically all spoilers, so I guess, uh, don’t read if you intend to read the trilogy.

So, once again, we find Tally in a new state of being, having been turned into a Special at the very end of the last book. She’s back with Shay and several former Crims, the Cutters, working as a specialized Specials team.

This books feels a little different than the others. In Uglies, Tally is desperate to become Pretty, and in Pretties, she’s desperate to escape back to the New Smoke and be cured. But in this book, Tally likes being a Special, and at no point does not becoming one appeal to her, even as other characters bring up a cure or use it themselves.

The only thing weighing down Tally’s newfound happiness as a Special is Zane, her boyfriend from Pretties. He’d been brought back to the city at the end of the last book, and Tally hasn’t seen him or heard from him since then. When Tally and Shay go to visit him, Tally finds he’s still suffering the repercussions of taking the Pretty cure from the last book–muscle shakes, memory lapses, etc. So Tally decides the best thing would be to have Zane become a Special, so that they’ll remake his body and brain and fix him.

But you have to have certain qualities to be a Special. Shay and Tally put together a plan to help Zane escape the city, which will make him seem like he has those qualities, but their plan goes too far, is too scary, and ends up having consequences outside their own city.

What I found interesting about this book especially, was that there was no clear “this is the right way to think and this is the wrong way to think” theme that you find in a lot of YA dystopia. While there is an antagonist, her ideologies aren’t necessarily portrayed as being bad. And Tally never completely aligns with the “rebel” side either, definitely not in this book but not all the way in the others either.

It’s a bit refreshing, honestly.

The book ends with the “wrong” system slowly disintegrating, but Tally putting herself in a position where, if the “rebel” system replacing it gets out of hand, she can act as a check and balance.

Overall, I thought the trilogy was worth the read. I don’t think we’ll go on to the fourth book, which takes place some time after the change in systems with a new viewpoint character, but you’re welcome to if you would like!

Thanks for reading along with me, squiders! I’ll see you again later in the week.

New SkillShare Class Up!

Oof, squiders. I always forget how long the video portion of a class takes.

In my head, every class–and this is my fifth class–the hard part is putting together the PowerPoint part of the class, and the recording part is the easy part.

Well, I guess the recording isn’t too bad.

But the editing of those recordings? Oy.

I think I’ve spent about eight hours on the editing part. My video editor was starting to get REALLY grumpy.

(It is my longest class, at 40 minutes, but 8 hours for 40 minutes? Oof.)

Though, I will admit, it’s generally easier for me to focus on the recording/editing parts. Maybe they’re just more interesting because it’s not something I do very often.

Seriously, though, why do the PowerPoint portions always take me so long? I wanted this class up in March, maybe April. And here we are, in late May. Excellent job, self.

That being said, I’m considering doing a workshop for my next class, one where students follow along with me as I work on something. It’d be less formal, and it would involve no PowerPoint.

Maybe an outlining workshop, to follow up this class (oh, yeah, this class is about types of outlines). I do need to get a novella or two going, so it would be killing two birds with one stone.

(I had an idea for a novella yesterday while I was walking the dog, but I’ve already forgotten it. This is why we write everything down. WAIT NO I REMEMBER)

But it’s done! It’s up!

Work has been accomplished!

Anyway, if you’re interested, the new class is here! And I shall see you guys next week, no matter what.

Help Me Pick a Cover!

Hello again, squiders! Every so often, over at Turtleduck Press, we pull off the older free short stories, and then I gather mine up and release them in a short story collection. The first one, The Short of It, came out in 2017 and included stories from the start of TDP until 2014 (as well as a new story), and the one I’m working on right now will include stories from 2015 and 2016 (and a new story).

Anyway, it’s cover picking time. I’ve made a couple and I’d love to get your feedback on which one you like best!

Thank you for taking a look!

WriYe and Organization

Oof, why is May going so fast? Seriously. Ahhhhhhhh

Anyway. It’s time for the monthly prompt from WriYe, which is about writing organization, something I am alternately very good at and also sometimes terrible at.

How do you keep your writing organized and backed up?

I mostly use Google Drive. I keep all my outlines and other background information there–conlangs, worldbuilding, feedback, etc. I also try to keep the most recent version of each draft on there as well, though sometimes this leads to issues (such as a local version syncing incorrectly and the cloud version eating the most recent update), so sometimes I will also NOT back up the most recent version for my own sanity.

I realize this is risky, but when Drive makes me waste an hour finding the proper version or makes me create 15 copies of the same document because it can’t just save over the pre-existing version, sometimes it’s worth it.

(I do back up other ways as well. I lost 4K on a story once and it was not fun.)

I also keep things like word count trackers and agent/submission lists there, so I can access them from anywhere. And my random idea file, so things can be added at a moment notice.

That being said, I do also do planning in notebooks, because sometimes that just works better, and sometimes it is too much work to type all that into a document (especially if there’s artwork involved, and often there is, for maps or uniforms or what have you). I have a set shelf on my desk that’s for writing notebooks, which I’ve put into place after one rather important one wandered off (RIP).

Do you have any tips or tricks to share that have helped you?

More backing up is better. I have an external hard drive that I back everything up to periodically, and I keep a version of each completed draft on Google Drive and in my email (in case Drive does something weird). I also sometimes back things up onto a flash drive.

That way, if anything happens, it’s still somewhere.

Organization within storage areas is also good–I keep the novels separate from the short stories, and keep all information for each specific novel or series separate from the others.

(So, like, Novels>Series>Book 1, etc.)

This allows me to easily find the stuff related to a specific project as opposed to having to scroll through a long list of things (though search functions do exist, but if you’ve named a document something not obvious you’re screwed).

So, uh, that’s me, I guess. I do think there’s a thin line between organization and obsessive organizing that can take away from working time on other things, so I try not to stress about it too much.

How are you, squider? Thoughts on organization?

Excerpt: A Season in Whispers by Jackson Kuhl

Good morning, squiders! Today I’ve got an excerpt from Jackson Kuhl’s A Season of Whispers, a new Gothic novel that was recently released.


Gothic Mystery/Horror

Publisher: Aurelia Leo

Date Published: 08-10-2020 / 

Audibook Launch April/May 2021


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In the summer of 1844, Tom Lyman flees to Bonaventure, a transcendentalist farming cooperative tucked away in eastern Connecticut, to hide from his past. There Lyman must adjust to a new life among idealists, under the fatherly eye of the group’s founder, David Grosvenor. When he isn’t ducking work or the questions of the eccentric residents, Lyman occupies himself by courting Grosvenor’s daughter Minerva.

But Bonaventure isn’t as utopian as it seems. One by one, Lyman’s secrets begin to catch up with him, and Bonaventure has a few secrets of its own. Why did the farm have an ominous reputation long before Grosvenor bought it? What caused the previous tenants to vanish? And who is playing the violin in the basement? Time is running out, and Lyman must discover the truth before he’s driven mad by the whispering through the walls.

A Season of Whispers is Jackson Kuhl’s debut novel of Gothic mystery, transcendentalist utopianism, and antediluvian hunger.

 


 

About the Author

 Jackson Kuhl is the author of the Gothic novel A Season of Whispers and the Revolutionary War biography Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer. Kuhl has written for Atlas Obscura, Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, National Geographic News, and other publications. He lives in coastal Connecticut.

 

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Excerpt:

He awoke engulfed in darkness. Stumbling through his mnemonic geography he managed to raise the fire and find and light a lamp. Outside lay impenetrable black and chirping frogs and crickets; Lyman had no conception of the hour but judged he had missed supper at the main house. Resolution would have to abide his stomach until daybreak. He poured himself some water from the jug and washed his face and hands and unpacked his clothes into the dresser. The other bag he stuffed under the bed. With log and poker Lyman built up the fire as high as it would safely go and sat staring at it, and gradually a snowfall of calm gathered in his hair and upon his shoulders, an accumulation of peace he hadn’t known for weeks. Finally he was secure: ensphered in a globe of night on the edges of civilization, as isolated as a Sandwich Island maroon, but not so alone as to be lonely. The purest bred hound, raised on a diet of nothing except dirty stockings and pinpricks of blood on grass, could not track his footsteps from New York to the little stone ruin perched on the periphery of Connecticut wilderness. He wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and dozed again.

The second time he woke to the sound of a violin. He couldn’t have been long asleep. the fire burned brightly; but the night beyond the house had gone silent, with only the scraping of the bow across strings. Lyman lay there a long time, icy needles stabbing him, wondering where the music originated. There was no wind to carry it from the house or some other building. Maybe someone fiddled while walking along the road? An approaching visitor. Then the playing, mournful at first, kicked up to a merry jig, and Lyman jumped to raise the lamp wick and push on his shoes.

He followed the sound from the bedroom to the stairs and descended. It was louder on the first floor, seeming to rise from the boards rather than out-of-doors. When he reached the basement door, it abruptly cut off.

It so happened that the basement door at the top of the worn stone steps, along with the front and kitchen doors, had not been stripped of its iron and thus functioned as intended. Additionally—and Lyman hadn’t thought this odd in the daylight, but now wasn’t so sure—the door was fitted with a crossbar, which, as there was no direct entrance from outside to the basement, seemed unnecessary.

He undid the bar, opened the door, held the lamp high. Nothing but shadow—the light failed to reach the floor below. Neither glimmer of light nor sounding of fiddle note wafted from the darkness.

The flame of the lamp leaned and flickered. Air brushed the hairs of his short beard: a breeze on his face. Something moved toward him at fast speed he realized, something large, its mass pushing the air ahead of it. Even now it noiselessly rushed up the stairs at him.

Lyman slammed the door, shot the bar through its cleat, threw his weight against the wood—steeled himself for the impact against the other side.

None came. After a long moment he looked at his lamp. The flame stood straight as a soldier.

He took a deep breath. Upon returning to his room it didn’t take him long to convince himself he had imagined everything, that the only music had been the cotton of a dream clinging to his sleepy skull. He tossed another log on the fire and lay back on the mattress, listening as the usual players outside again took up their instruments and played him off to sleep.

Out of the Woods

Hey, so it’s May! Oh man, it’s already the 5th. I feel like April flew by and May’s going to same. Time needs to slow down. I can’t believe it’s almost summer.

So, let’s talk about Camp Nano and how it went.

I did not connect with anyone, at all. They got rid of the cabins and now just have groups, which are the same groups from Nano, so all my online writing groups have one, and I think I looked in, oh, twice? And no one else seemed to be talking either. It autoposts any badges you have earned, so that was really about it. I also posted in my local Nano region’s discord twice or so as well.

I mean, there is some argument to make that the social aspect of writing challenges takes away from writing time, and that keeping it to a minimum might be better in the long run, but why do a social writing challenge at all then? The idea is to have accountability and all that jazz.

I haven’t been connecting very well to any of my writing groups lately. People don’t seem active when I’m active, or they’re not working on similar things, or not working at all. Also, all my social energy has been going to my Among Us group, some of who I get along with really well, so I don’t necessarily have the energy for my writing groups, especially when it feels harder to connect to them.

(Some of that may also be lingering confidence issues, like we talked about last week.)

As for Camp itself, I got 17,000 words on World’s Edge, which is less than the 25K I hoped for, but still better than I’ve done the rest of the year.

It feels a little unfocused, but not to where it’s not fixable in revision. I’m at 73K, so we’re only a little ways out from The End, and I’m not 100% sure how the end needs to go, so that’ll be fun moving forward.

I also realized that I set my word for the year as Polish, and I’ve done almost nothing for that. I mean, I poked at the beginning of Book One for a month or so, but I didn’t really get anywhere. I also submitted Book One to #RevPit last month and heard nothing back, so yay. Not sure what to do there. Going to leave it alone for the moment.

I think, after I finish World’s Edge’s draft, I’ll edit the scifi novella I finished last year. It’s shorter, so it should go a bit faster, and maybe I can get back into my groove. Maybe go into editing Ex-1 (the space dinosaur novel) after that, or maybe poke at some novella ideas.

I just want things getting finished, you know?

I just want my mojo, and my confidence, back.

Oof.

Anyway, Camp was a success, I think. It was nice to be moving on something, and I hope to finish the draft this month, though I’ve set a more modest goal of 15K for the month. Extra is good, but I’m not going to stress out about it.

How have you been, squider? How are your goals doing?

WriYe and Success

Eking this end at the end of the month, haha. Interesting topic this month, considering how the last year has gone. More and more recently I’ve felt like I no longer have any idea about the writing industry or how to be successful, and I think a lot of that has to do with my own productivity issues due to medical issues and the pandemic, combined with increasing knowledge about writing in general and a feeling of incompetence.

Actually, one of the writing blogs I follow had a post about that in the last week, how over the past year they’ve felt disconnected from writing, and I really identified with that.

But, anyway, on to the questions.

What has been your biggest writing success? How did you get there?

Hm, that’s a good question. I guess the first story I sold, maybe? It feels pretty great each time I sell a story, which has never been a terribly consistent thing. I hope, as I become more experienced, it’ll be more often.

As to how I got there, uh, practice, I guess? I try to write short stories, both for fun and purpose, fairly regularly, and I also read short story collections to see what other people are doing and how it’s working. Sometimes I’ll look at anthology calls to try my hand at writing a particular type of story. It’s really just experimentation at this point, which may be why it’s not more consistent.

What has been your biggest writing disappointment? How did you bounce back from it?

I have been trying, for years, to get a mentor through contests like #RevPit or #PitMad. I’ve tried different stories, different submission materials, you name it. I’ve tried contests specific to my genres and more general ones. I’m lucky if I get a response from one of the people I’ve submitted to at all, let alone one that gives any sort of feedback. And, of course, I’ve never been selected.

Now, you might say, Kit, you are published author, so why do you want a mentor?

I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s, as I try out more ambitious projects, or as I run into issues with ones that are dear to my heart, that I’d like someone to point me in the right direction. Hold my hand, as it were, and tell me what sorts of things might help me out.

It is frustrating, to never hear anything back from these contests, and it certainly doesn’t help my self-esteem or my confidence in my stories. But it helps to take a step back and realize that each of these people get a ton of submissions and can only select one per contest, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything about my writing or my story. And there’s new contests and/or mentors every few months.

This is an interesting question right now, because I have been feeling so out of sorts, and I’ve been feeling like my stories are uninspired and predictable, and like I haven’t been able to write anything truly good in a while. It probably wouldn’t hurt to sit down and do some soul searching, and see if I can get some of my mojo/confidence back.

Or it may be that I just need to take a break for a bit and let it come back naturally.

How are you doing, squider? How are you feeling?

Uglies Readalong: Pretties (Book 2)

Hey hey, look, I got a book done when I said I was going to! It’s a miracle.

So, for those of you just joining us, we’re reading through the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, which is YA dystopia and came out in the 2005 to 2007 time frame, so pretty early in the whole YA dystopia craze there.

This month we read Pretties, which is the second book.

In our dystopian world, everybody goes through an operation when they are 16 which makes them a Pretty–basically conforming people to an acceptable range of appearance to help avoid the bloodshed and wars that humanity has faced in the past. Before their operation, they’re an Ugly.

Spoilers from here on out. You’ve been warned.

In Uglies, our heroine, Tally Youngblood, is forced to go into the wild after her friend Shay, who has run away from the city to live outside. Special Circumstances, or Specials, are essentially the enforcers of the society, and they tell Tally that the only way she’ll get to be Pretty is if she helps bring Shay back to the city. But as Tally learns more about the Smoke and the people who live there, she starts to change her mind about being a Pretty herself, especially after she learns that part of the Pretty operation changes your brain, making you, well, compliant.

However, things go poorly at the end of the book–when Tally tries to destroy the tracker so she can stay in the Smoke forever, it goes off, bringing Special Circumstances down on everyone. Tally stages a rescue and manages to get most of the Smokies to safety outside the city, but her friend Shay is turned Pretty in the process. One of the Smokies is a retired doctor who has devised a cure to the brain changes made in the process, but Shay, now Pretty, refuses to take it, and without a subject, they can’t tell if the process works.

So Tally volunteers to be made Pretty to test the cure. End of Book 1.

Pretties starts up about a month after Tally has become Pretty. New Pretties live in New Pretty Town (we’ve talked about how spot-on the place names are before) where they essentially do nothing except party. But at a party, Tally notices someone dressed as a Special, which throws her off, and, when she pursues the person, she’s surprised to find it’s an Ugly, and an Ugly she recognizes from Outside. All her memories of her time in the Smoke and the time after it have been suppressed by the operation.

The person has to run before the real Specials catch him, but he tells Tally that he left her something, setting off a chain of puzzles that lead her to the promised cure and her own letter, written before she turned herself in, to explain what the cure is and why Pretty!Tally needs to take it. But the puzzles attract the attention of the Specials too, and Tally shares the cure with Zane, the leader of her Pretty clique, to get rid of the evidence.

That’s the set-up. Tally does take some time to get going AGAIN this book, but it was less bothersome this time because I was expecting it.

Most of the book follows Tally and Zane as they plot ways to escape from the city and head back Outside, made troublesome by tracking bracelets the Specials have put on them. They also experiment with ways to make the rest of their clique “bubbly,” a term that basically means clear-headed and aware. Tally and Shay fight–Shay blames Tally for what happened out in the Smoke, and she remembers too, when bubbly–but finally Tally, Zane, and their clique have everything in place and make their escape.

There are complications, of course. Tally’s best friend from her Ugly days chickens out last minute, making it so Tally’s escape is almost ruined; Zane has been getting progressively sicker since taking the cure; Tally is approached by the head of the Specials and offered a spot, and all that jazz.

And, in the end, everything gets worse. We’re definitely not pulling any punches here.

So far the series has been very readable, and Tally is better in this book–determined and focused, and willing to protect her friends.

And I will say that, knowing that the last book is Specials, we didn’t get there in the way I thought we would. Hooray! I like surprises, especially when they make sense.

Did you guys read along? What did you think, Squiders? I’m glossing over the love triangle aspects to this because it doesn’t really interest me (which is also how I felt about it in Hunger Games), but if you like that sort of thing, which guy are you rooting for?

Let’s have Specials done for, hm, May 20, and we can decide if we’re going to do the fourth book at that point or if we feel fulfilled.

See you Friday!