Posts Tagged ‘excerpt’

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.

Promo: Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall

Morning, squiders! Happy Tuesday! Today I have Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall for your perusal. (There’s an excerpt at the bottom as well.)




YA Fantasy
Date Published: June 18th 2019
Publisher: Capital Station Books

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Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

A fast-paced flintlock fantasy for those who enjoy How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

About the Author


Shami Stovall relies on her BA in History and Juris Doctorate to make her living as an author and history professor in the central valley of California. She writes in a wide range of fiction, from crime thrillers to fantasy to science-fiction. Stovall loves reading, playing video games, entertaining others with stories, and writing about herself in the third person.

 

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Excerpt:

I outlined a fresh grave for the cemetery as bells rang from the isle’s tower, signifying the start of the celebrations. The soil reeked of ammonia and rot, but the crisp morning breeze washed the scent away, dispersing it over the ocean. I removed my shirt, allowing the wind to cool me while I worked.

Every ten years, the people on the Isle of Ruma gathered to watch the fledgling phoenixes bond with a few chosen mortals. Lamplighters did their duty despite the glorious sunshine, each lamp’s fire representing the flames of phoenixes. Merchants cleared their horses and carts from the main road in anticipation of the crowds.

This was my second Day of Phoenixes. A decade ago, on my fifth birthday, I missed the bonding ceremony to attend my father’s trial. He was convicted of murder, but because he hadn’t been born on the island, he was taken to the mainland for final judgement. That was the last time I saw him.

Although the last Day of Phoenixes had been inauspicious, I intended to change that. Once I had finished digging a shallow grave, I would make my way into town.

I slammed the shovel’s head into the dirt and scooped deep. The cemetery sat near the edge of the island, far from those gathering to observe the hopeful students trying to win the favor of the phoenixes.

Tradition stated that anyone who handled sewage, waste, and dead bodies wasn’t allowed to attend the bonding ceremony, which was just my luck. After my father was sent away, I could’ve been given to any profession for apprenticeship. I could’ve gone to the carpenter and learned the craft of woodworking, or I could’ve gone to the silversmith and learned the art of fine metal work, but misfortune hounded me like a shadow. I was given to the gravekeeper, slated to dig corpse-holes until the end of time, forever exiled from the festivities.

I still intended to go. Even if it meant ignoring the traditions of the isle—something unheard of on our tiny spit of land—no one could stop me from proving myself to a phoenix. No one.

I scooped another mound of dirt and tossed it to the side.

“You look deep in thought, Volke,” my fellow corpse-hole apprentice, Illia, said. “What’re you planning?”

“I’m waiting for the trials to begin.”

“And then what?”

“You’ll see.”

Illia sat in the shade of a cypress tree, her legs crossed and her chin in both hands. Most people hated the thought of sitting on graves, since it was supposed to bring bad luck, but Illia wasn’t like most people. She leaned back on a headstone and exhaled as the ocean wind rushed by, catching her wavy brown hair and revealing the scars on the side of her face.

 She held a hand over the marks, like she always did. The moment the wind died down, she pulled some of her hair around to cover her scars, hiding the old knife wounds that had taken her right eye.

 I finished one half of the grave and huffed.

Illia and I lived in a tiny cottage on the edge of the cemetery, apprenticed to Ruma’s sole gravekeeper. We both held the glorious title of gravedigger. Like me, she had no family. Well, we had each other, and Gravekeeper William, but he hardly counted.

For ten years, Illia and I had considered ourselves brother and sister, and siblings always know each other’s mood. Illia displayed all the telltale signs of irritation—narrowed eye, rarely blinking, her mouth turned down in a slight frown. She hated the fact I was keeping secrets from her. If I didn’t explain myself quick, she’d exact her revenge.

“I don’t want to become the next gravekeeper,” I said as I threw a mound of dirt off to the side.

With an eyebrow sarcastically raised, Illia asked, “So you’re going to impress a phoenix and leave this place, is that it?”

“That’s right.”

“Only two phoenixes were born this year,” she said, wagging her finger. “And the schoolmaster has already picked his two favored disciples to win the right to bond. No one wants you to take a phoenix from either of those try-hards.”

“I don’t care.” I scooped out another clump of dirt, my grip on the shovel so tight it hurt. “Bonding with a phoenix is too important. Besides, no one on this isle likes me anyway. Why should I start caring about their opinions now?”

Guest Post: The Sea of Distant Stars by Francesca G. Varela

Good morning, squiders! Happy Thursday! Today I have a guest post about writing process for you from Francesca G. Varela, who is currently doing a virtual tour for her science fiction book, The Seas of Distant Stars.

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Literary Science-Fiction
Date Published:  August 7th, 2018
Publisher: Owl House Books
 
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Agapanthus was kidnapped when she was only two years old, but she doesn’t remember it. In fact, she doesn’t remember her home planet at all. All she knows is Deeyae, the land of two suns; the land of great, red waters. Her foster-family cares for her, and at first that’s enough. But, as she grows older, Agapanthus is bothered by the differences between them. As an Exchanger, she’s frail and tall, not short and strong. And, even though she was raised Deeyan, she certainly isn’t treated like one. One day, an Exchanger boy completes the Deeyan rite-of-passage, and Agapanthus is inspired to try the same. But, when she teams up with him, her quest to become Deeyan transforms into her quest to find the truth―of who she is, and of which star she belongs to.
Excerpt

It had been so long since Agapanthus had really swam—train-swam, counting her strokes and holding her breath until either her forehead ached or the upper, back end of her throat began to complain. Now she just floated, usually. Maybe a steady, parallel lap from one end of the shore to the other. She wasn’t even sure what she thought, anymore. Part of her had given up on the right-of-passage, but the other part of her wanted to prove it to them. What if she did it? What if she really did it, and she emerged from the small round boat to a feast and cheering crowds, and Leera would cup her chin in her warm hands and say, smiling, “I can’t believe it,” and Pittick would at first rest his hand on her head, but then hug her, and she couldn’t even imagine what he would say. Something about how he was wrong. About how much stronger she was than any of them had guessed. Something about being proud.

Agapanthus looked down at her legs. They were coated completely in red sand, no skin showing at all. She stood and brushed off the clinging particles. They felt like little teeth boring into her. Drops of mist speckled the edge of her cheek as the wind climbed over the Waters. She was going to brush the droplets away, but, instead, she left her fingers splayed over the side of her face as she stared out toward Shre. If anyone saw her, they would think she was odd—just staring with her hand up like that, her other hand wrapped over her ribs, her shoulders fallen, like the Contact’s had been. But no one was there to see. That was the good thing about being alone. One of the few good things.

 

Guest Post – My Writing Process

A lot of people ask me where I get the inspiration for my novels. Sometimes, a character pops into my head from nowhere—from the ether, it seems. They are real, and alive, and I know instantly that they are the one I should be writing about. Other times, I see a vague image—a quiet, numb sunset on another planet, or a girl looking up at a field of stars in the broken wilderness of some future world. This image is my sole starting point. Other times, I have a message I want to spread; a plea to protect wild places, an invitation to enjoy the connection we share with all things, or a warning to not take this connection for granted.

For the most part, I usually begin my novels blindly. I have an idea where things will go, but I let the writing take me there.

The hardest part for me is getting started. Back in high school, when I wrote my very first novel, I learned that the only way to not to get overwhelmed by the length of a novel is to go word by word. To think of writing 60,000 or more words when the pages are empty—well, that’s intimidating. But to think of writing your first 500 words—that’s achievable.

Typically, my daily goal is 500 words. Once I hit that mark, I feel accomplished for the day. 500 words a day will get you to a full-length novel in only a few months, if you’re diligent. And, even if you take a few days off here and there, or take a break when you’re off on vacation, you’ll still make good time. Using the 500 words a day method, I finished my second novel—Listen—in about nine months, and I finished my newest novel, The Seas of Distant Stars, in about six months.

Once the writing is finished, I take time to edit. First, I read through and fix up any issues with the plot or character development. Then I read it again and make grammatical corrections and changes to the prose. Then, and only then, do I let friends and family read it and give me feedback.

I long ago decided to keep my books a secret until they were finished. So, every time I’m working on a novel, no one is allowed to know what it’s about until it’s done. I guess this is because I want the story to be purely my own for a little while. Some of the best writing advice I can offer is to write like no one will ever read it. Write for yourself. Take chances. Be creative. Be edgy. Get those words on the page. After all, the only way to write a novel is by actually writing it! So, write a little each day, and let your instincts and imagination guide you.

About the Author

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Francesca G. Varela was raised in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In 2015 she graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing, and she then went on to receive her master’s degree in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah.

Francesca’s dream of becoming an author began in third grade, and her writing career had an early start; she wrote her award-winning first novel, Call of the Sun Child, when she was only 18 years old, and she wrote her second novel, Listen, when she was only 20.

When not writing or reading, Francesca enjoys playing piano, figure skating, hiking, identifying wild birds, plants, and constellations, and travelling to warm, sunny places whenever she can.
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Why They Tell You Not To Use Speech Tags

This advice seems to be everywhere lately, Squiders. Have you seen it? The basic gist is that using speech tags when you write is amateurish and distracting.

I feel like this advice can be really confusing to people, especially newer writers. So! To clarify, this is advice is not telling you to leave off speech tags. Then you get something like this:

“How dare you!” Jenny said.
“How dare you!” said Louise.
“You knew he was my boyfriend! You had no right to invite him to go to that party with you!”
“Hey, you were busy and he was lonely! What’s so bad about keeping a friend happy?”
“Oh, is that what they call it these days.”
“Look, I don’t like your tone.”
“Listen to you! Don’t like my tone. Like you have any room to talk.”
“I have a freaking mansion compared to you!”

Do you see the issue? After a couple lines of dialogue, it becomes near impossible to keep track of who’s actually talking. If your readers have to stop and count to see who’s talking, that’s a bad thing.

So speech tags are good, right? Well, kind of. Here’s an older post about general speech tag usage, but generally you should be conservative with what speech tags you’re using. Or not use them at all!

Here we get into the root of the above advice. You need speech tags to tell who’s talking, but if you overuse them, you get what’s called Talking Heads Syndrome.

Here’s an example of that:

“How dare you!” Jenny said.
“How dare you!” said Louise.
“You knew he was my boyfriend!” Jenny cried. “You had no right to invite him to go to that party with you!”
“Hey, you were busy and he was lonely! What’s so bad about keeping a friend happy?” asked Louise.
“Oh, is that what they call it these days,” said Jenny scornfully.
“Look, I don’t like your tone,” said Louise.
“Listen to you! Don’t like my tone. Like you have any room to talk,” retorted Jenny.
“I have a freaking mansion compared to you!” shouted Louise.

See the problem now, Squiders? We might know who’s saying what, but it gets repetitive and boring, because Jenny and Louise aren’t doing squat except talking. It’s also completely unrealistic, because who just stands there and talks in the middle of a fight?

So when people say ‘don’t use speech tags,” they’re not saying to make it impossible to tell who’s talking. They’re saying to have your characters do something instead of being a talking head.

Jenny pushed through the crowd to Louise. “How dare you!”
Louise pulled away from the girl she’d been talking to, towering over Jenny. “How dare you!”
“You knew he was my boyfriend!” Jenny cried. “You had no right to invite him to go to that party with you!”
“Hey, you were busy and he was lonely! What’s so bad about keeping a friend happy?” Louise smirked at her, and Jenny dug her nails into her palms to keep from hitting her.
“Oh, is that what they call it these days,” said Jenny, letting the scorn drip through her voice.
That got Louise’s full attention. “Look, I don’t like your tone.”
“Listen to you! Don’t like my tone.” Jenny crossed her arms over her chest. “Like you have any room to talk.”
Louise’s eyes flashed. “I have a freaking mansion compared to you!”

Now, that’s a late-night first draft example, but do you see the difference? You know who’s talking through the action, and now it’s much more engaging than just having two people yell at each other. You can use actions, thoughts, etc. instead of speech tags to give a sense of emotion, setting, what have you. And, sure, the odd speech tag can stay. Sometimes people do just say something. But in this case, they’re also doing other things.

Have any thoughts about speech tags, Squiders?

Also, good news! City of Hope and Ruin is now available for pre-order on Amazon! We’ve got it on sale until launch. Only the ebook version is available for pre-order, but there will be physical copies launching at the same time on May 11. And if you missed the excerpt, you can read it here. Pick it up now before the price goes up! (Or wait until we get a cover.)

(It will also be available for pre-order on other ebook platforms, such as Nook and the iBookstore. Lemme know if you prefer one of those and I shall link you.)