Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blood Crave's Birthday and a Distraction (for me)

Wow. So today's the day. BLOOD CRAVE is now available for everyone to (hopefully) enjoy! I am filled with an overwhelming amount of excitement, nausea and dread, as is my custom whenever something I write goes public.

Instead of going all mushy on you guys and boring you to death with thank-you's, I'll just say this: To everyone, EVERYONE who helped me in the process of writing this book, you are so very special to me and this is a day for us ALL to celebrate. And to everyone who reads my books . . . . crap, I just hope you like this one!! ;)

So, in honor of my second (holy monkeys I can't believe I have TWO books published) I decided to distract myself from the excitement by writing some Flash Fiction. Writing sometimes helps me deal with my nerves. It's a distraction.

This FF was inspired by a song by Imagine Dragons called Radioactive.



Here ya go, people:


I awaken to a sky that is not how I remember it. There is no blue. There is no sun. There is smog and there is cloud, thick and green, that clogs my lungs and makes me choke.

“We got another live one,” says a voice and I try to sit up. I can’t.

“Check her vitals,” says another voice. “If she’s got any hiccups, knock her out again. New mandate. No weaklings.”

Beeping. Cold touches on my wrist and abdomen. I am naked.

I lay flattened against a table, restrained by what feels like rope. I pull against them. Wrists. Ankles. Stomach.

“Don’t do that,” says the first voice. “We’ll let you up just as soon as you pass the health check.”

I try to ask what that means, but only a strange choking sound erupts from my throat.

“Don’t do that, either. Voice activation comes later. When you’ve earned it.”

No voice. I have no voice? My heart begins to beat harder.

“Pulse is a little fast,” says the voice. Something cold on my throat. “Calm down or we’ll have to zap you again.”

I focus on the sky, on the furious clouds roiling above me. It stinks of sulfur and burning earth. What has happened?

“Better,” says the voice. It is a woman. Her voice reminds me of the way my doctor spoke: mechanical. Almost bored.

The restraints release. I feel her hand behind my shoulders, guiding me into a sit. My body feels stiff like it used to the morning after a swim meet, like I’ve used the muscles too hard, and then not enough.

I look around and suck in a breath.

I don’t know where I am, but wherever this is, it is a nightmare. I appear to be inside a city, a city that has been burned to the ground. The wreckage of once-great buildings surrounds us on all sides; fires still burn, black smoke churning the smog to charcoal. Giant tanks, like the ones I saw in war movies, rumble to my right and to my left gunshots sound and people scream.

Thousands of people painted in red clothing stand in rows. They clog the street, their backs laden with guns, faces blank.

In the distance, I hear a siren.

“Great,” says the voice with a sigh. I turn. She is an older woman with soot streaking her face. Her hands are dirty. Her clothes, crimson rags. “Another raid.”

I try to ask what that means.

“The scourge,” she says. “Another attack.”

At mystified look she says, “Never you mind, soldier. You’ll see soon enough.” She pushes me off the slab and I stumble to my feet. My toenails were painted purple before. Now they are about an inch too long, bare.

Beside me, several more naked people lay on slabs, and tubes connect them to what looks like a gigantic air tank with DANGER slapped all over it.

“You were the first of your batch to come around,” she says and begins pushing me toward a large cammo-green tent where naked people go in and people wearing red stagger out. I don’t want to go in.

Above me, a strange aircraft whizzes by, blowing my hair back. My hair. It is down past my knees.

The air craft shoots some kind of gun – it makes a shriek and fire erupts a few blocks down. I start.

“Scourge,” the woman says. “They got into the city, looks like. Better hurry up and get that gun, soldier. You’re going to need it.”

She shoves me into the tent.

A face appears, a man with a scar tracing his left eyebrow. I try to shield my breasts. He rolls his eyes. “Honey, I’ve seen it all before. And then some.” He takes my elbow and steers me to a corner of the tent where women stand with scissors and razors, nail clippers, soap.

The first woman grabs me roughly and forces me into a seat. “Any preference, sweetheart?” she asks, monotone. She holds my hair in a fist. She means to cut it.

I can’t speak, so I touch my shoulder.

She slices off my hair. A crimson sheet falls to the ground.

I am ushered to the right. This is a cot. The woman there shaves my legs, my underarms. The next woman cleans my body with a bucket of lukewarm water and a white bar of soap. The next woman clips my nails. The last woman reaches into a closet and pulls out a pile of red.

“Try this on for size,” she says. She helps me pull on underwear and stiff pants, a black undershirt and a thick, scarlet jacket with about a million pockets. Tall black boots with laces that go all the way to my shins cover socks about half an inch thick.

She shoves me and a man catches my arm this time. I look behind me. Two more people have taken my place on the assembly line.

The man begins tucking things into my pockets. I see a knife. A compass. Some kind of rock. Papers, something clipped to my belt. Lastly, a gun. A large one with a strap. It streaks across my chest.

He claps a hand on my shoulder.

“Welcome to the resistance,” he grumbles. His eyes don’t meet mine.

I’m pushed out of the tent.

For a moment, I stand there, unsure of what to do next. And then I see there is a line of people like me heading toward a crumbled building. A man out front is directing them inside.

I start walking to him across the street, my eyes eating up about ten different things at once. Countless pallets with naked souls who appear to be in a coma, war tanks bigger than my house; soldiers marching, someone calling “Recruits!”

More shouting. Louder. Closer.

I turn, and my eyes catch on blasts of fire in the distance. People around me begin to rush around. The siren blares.

“To the wall!” shouts the man who was ushering the recruits inside. A blur of red explodes from the building and he leads them down the street.

Someone shoves me from behind.

“Go!” he roars and follows the recruits.

I obey. My legs feel stiff, my arms are led by my side.

Less than a hundred yards away, I see a metal wall that stretches to heaven. Barbed wire crowns the top, red people consume the bottom, swarming it like red ants on a candy bar. The wall is made of scrap metal welded and nailed in a patchwork.

And it has a hole in it.

Red people flood through it; I hear shots fired on the other side. I see a plume of thick smoke.

“Get in there, soldier!” Someone says from behind and pushes me toward the hole. I smell flesh burning, hear unearthly sounds. I don’t want to go through the hole. I want to do anything but go through there. Whatever these people fight – whatever is making those sounds – I don’t want to know what it is.

But I am caught in the tide of soldiers going through the wall, and I can’t stop it. I burst through the wall and into a battle.

My first thought: I don’t know how to use my gun.

My second thought: I’m not even holding my gun.

I fumble it into my hands and put my finger on the trigger. My father had a gun; he never let me touch it.

People scream, soldiers shout orders, gunshots and the thuds of bodies hitting the ground. I still can’t see what we’re fighting.

And then it is on top of me. A human. Or, at least it was human at one point. It is bald. It is naked. Its skin is burned and wrinkled around it’s body like it has once been boiled. The eyes are white, the mouth bleeding, toothless. It makes a sound I never imagined a human could make, a hoarse keening sound; an animal being tortured.  Its hands close around my throat.

I feel my back hit the ground.

I can’t breathe. Blood from the creature’s mouth drips into mine; I gag.

I am going to die.

I am going to die.

A loud crack. The creature goes limp.

I suck in a breath and push the creature off of me, rolling away. A hand appears, and I take it. It is a boy, he is younger than me. Maybe sixteen.

His face is streaked with blood; his storm-gray eyes are wide with mischief. He pushes my gun back into my hands and says, “This is it, the apocalypse. Start killing.”
 
*********

Hope you enjoyed, and I REALLY hope you'll all rush out and buy Blood Crave and love that too!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Flash Fiction

Been having major writers block lately, so the flash fiction hasn’t been exactly flowing. To combat this, I’m doing some SUPER flash fiction. 100 words. That’s all. I based this FF on an image I found on Pinterest.



As part of the exercise, I’m making myself highlight what exactly inspires me about the image. This way I can access my creativity more easily in the future, and without the help of Pinterest (teehee).
So. I love that there’s a zombie. I love the way the zombie looks – like the boogieman!!! And I love that the image appears to be set in the past. This, to me, is the real allure. I love the idea of writing zombies in the past – like colonial America or something. Or London back in the days. I DON’T much like the expression on the chick’s face (she looks like she has a thyroid problem), but I do like the guy. It could be her uncle or something cool. And that’s about it. Here’s the fiction:


* * *

My breath shuddered to a halt in my throat like an old car without any gas. Slime coated the street below my boots; the creatures’ secretions. Jonas looked over at me, his head pressed up against the blackened brick wall, chest heaving. He was thinking the same thing as me: One of them had died here.

Moonlight glanced off his shotgun as he silently checked the bullets.
I heard it coming closer, smelled its rank festering flesh in a gust of dead wind. Beside me, Jonas sucked in a breath and I squeezed my eyes closed, trying not to think about the fact that it might be his last.

“Another will die here,” he whispered.

The gun went off.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blood Crave Trailer

With only 15 days until Blood Crave’s release, I am getting super excited/nervous/sick/happy/jittery as is usual for a release. At least for me. I tend to obsess over all those little things one cannot control. Like whether people will like it. And if the critics will like it. And if I’ll get one or three or (please, God) five stars on Goodreads.

When you pour so much of yourself into something, it’s pretty natural, I think, to want everyone to love it. Obviously, this will never happen. If there are people out there hating on Harry Potter, then I KNOW there’ll be people hating on what I do. Like I said: can’t control it.  So I try not to worry over it. I can only focus on those people who DO like the book and have PARTY TIME with them in these coming weeks before the release.
SO.

To all of you amazing people who love the Blood on the Moon series, I have a special present for you! A teaser trailer for Blood Crave to get you excited about the release. I beg thee to share it, comment on it, tweet it, do whatever you will with it! Have fun! Watch it a million times like I did, because it’s utterly beautiful!
Enjoy!

I want to also say a special SPECIAL thank you to my sister, Brittany Knight, who created this trailer from start to finish without ANY help whatsoever. She is a genius, and I am just thrilled that she is my cherished one! ;)

15 days, people! 15 days!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Recommendation

A question I get asked a lot is: Can you recommend any amazingtasticle books to me?

Sure, maybe some people don’t use amazingtasticle, but you get the point. I usually recommend whatever I’ve read last (unless I didn’t like it) but I thought I’d do a public You Need to Read This Immediately Review (YNTRTI).

What I’ll do is list the books I’ve read recently (in no particular order) and then tell you which, of all of them, I recommend you rush online (or to Barns & Noble) to purchase as soon as humanly possible and stay up half the night reading until you finish. If I list it here, it means I liked it. But it’s not YNTRTI.

My picks:

White Cat, HollyBlack**(Also Red Glove and Black Heart)


Delirium, LaurenOliver (Also Pandemonium)

And the winner is . . . Delirium! Both books, actually. YNTRTI!!!!!

In case you live under a rock and haven’t heard of Delirium, it’s a dystopian novel about a world where love is a disease. Awesome concept. People are “cured” of love at eighteen. But our heroine, Lena, meets a dude (SWOON!!) and comes to question everything about her safe loveless society.

Now, I have a confession to make. I didn’t want to like this book. I wanted, strangely, to hate it. I can’t say why, but I had a bad attitude going in. Man, did Oliver win me over. I found myself unable to stop reading this book I wanted to hate. It was flawlessly written (SO BEAUTIFUL) and the plot was well-conceived; the world-building thorough and endlessly creative; the characters real and intriguing. I just loved every aspect of it.

And then. AND THEN! Pandemonium. Just . . . just . . . SO GOOD. YNTRTI, I mean it!!! I’m pumped beyond words for the third book, and I have to wait until February.

So, if you’re looking for a book to read until BLOOD CRAVE comes out, Delirium is it. 24 DAYS!
**Also. Note that I linked the authors' websites. That is because you totally need to go check them out. We authors spend a lot of time and energy making these things look nice for you, so go do them a solid and poke around. (Not that, you know, John Freaking Green needs me to promote his website for him, but hey. Can't hurt, right?)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blood Crave Release Date

Being the author of a book means I'm usually the last to know about publishing details. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I seldom know when cool things (like cover releases, blog tours, etc.) are going to occur. Thus it is that I JUST NOW found out the release date of BLOOD CRAVE.

*Excited!*

To celebrate, I've made this wonderful little widget.

--------->

See it? ISN'T IT AWESOME??

My amazing agency sisters told me how to make one. I heart them so.

Everyone have fun spreading the widget around on their blogs ans stuff. Do whatever it is you do with widgets!
So get ready, readers! BLOOD CRAVE is coming in 33 days! August 14th, you can't come soon enough.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Music Makes the Book

I write to music. Ninety percent of the time, I have to have some music going on in the background in order to get a good flow going. I don’t know why, but it helps me write. Maybe it’s because I was a musician for most of my life (I played the flute! I was a total band nerd.) and so my brain just craves music when it’s being creative. I don’t know. But when I write to music, it’s not just any old song. For instance, I like “I’m Sexy and I Know it” as much as anyone, but when I’m writing a love scene, it’s just doesn’t set the right mood if you know what I’m saying.
The music has to match the tone of what I’m writing. If it’s an action scene I put on something heavy metal or fast (Anberlin and Paramore are my personal favs). If it’s a peaceful scene some Jack Johnson does the trick. Something sad? I go with Coldplay. Actually, Coldplay is my go-to band when I write. Beautiful. Peaceful. Unobtrusive. They’re perfect for background music (and foreground music, they’re AWESEOME).
Recently, a reader sent me an email. The simplest email I’ve ever received. Straight. To the point.  No fancy flattery or introductions. Just: “Hey Jen you should totally make a playlist for blood on the moon.”
And yes. Yes I should. In fact, I have! I just never shared it with anyone. As I said, the music gets my writerly juices flowing and I often make VERY long playlists for my books so that I don’t have to constantly change/choose songs. Since BOTM’s playlist is practically endless, I’ll just choose my favorites.
(Also, I’ve been reading that I’m not allowed to link the actual song on here, so I’ll just post the names and if you’re interested, you can listen to them on iTunes or something. Sorry! Music industry is LAME).
The beginning of the book was written to the tune of Mumford & Sons. Faith’s entry into college starts out pretty creepily what with the camping trip into the woods and Lucas being a weirdo, so Mumford & Son’s worked for me. Plus Lucas is Scottish, so the whole Celtic thing M &S has going on really called to me. Some favs:
The Cave
Thistle and Weeds (Really liked this one for the camping scene with the kissing.)
Awake my Soul
Towards the middle when things get steamy between Faith and Lucas, I went for some Joshua Radin. During the more quiet, intimate scenes, this guy got the job done.
Any given kissing/love scene was written to these babies:
Sky
Lovely Tonight
Star Mile
Paperweight (On repeat throughout the entire scene where Faith and Lucas are in his bedroom in Gould)
Now, the Derek love scenes were a little different. More of a dark, sad theme, since their relationship was so tortured. Snow Patrol and Fink were some good bands. During the scene where she and Derek are hiding from Vincent in the dilapidated cabin, I had Snow Patrol on repeat:
The Golden Floor
Set the Fire to the Third Bar
Run
And lastly, the action scenes. The ones where Lucas is attacking crap and Vincent is trying to eat people, you know. The fun scenes. I usually went for Paramore, but sometimes it was Anberlin or Nickleback, sometimes Shinedown. Any scene with Lucas being Lucas was written to Shinedown’s, The Crow & the Butterfly.
For the action scenes, I liked Paramore’s whole first album. Just put it on repeat. I also liked Anberlin’s . . .
Dismantle. Repair.
Godspeed
A Whisper and a Clamor
And while we’re talking about Anberlin, can I just say how totally underrated they are???? They are probably the ONLY band (other than maybe Coldplay) that I can literally listen to the entire album without skipping a single song. And I almost never hear them on the radio. It's completely unfair. They are amazing. The Haunting? My favorite song. Like, ever. It’s also another of my favorites for writing love scenes. I wrote a lot of the BLOOD CRAVE love scenes to The Haunting. And Breathe. And An Unwinding Cable Car. OMG An Unwinding Cable Car is so wonderful. Seriously, everyone go download all their albums and enjoy. Every one of them is utter perfection.
So that’s about it. I hope everyone has fun matching the music to the scenes. I always like when authors post their playlists because then I get to do a little scavenger hunt through their book, re-reading scenes as I listen to the songs on iTunes. So have fun!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Flash Fiction: Sages

Flash fiction, anyone? This is a scene I wrote a while ago, but I still really love it. I actually got about 25K words of this story done when I pooped out on it. I didn't properly plot or outline, so the story kind of got away from me.

It was about this group of powerful witches and their male counterparts, called sages. When a witch and a sage teamed up they were superpowerful, capable of doing amazing things. But the sage has no power of his own until he matches up with a witch. So the woman has all the power (tee hee). The catch is that once you team up with a sage, it's for life. The only way out of the bond is death. So if you pick a jerk, you're stuck with him. He gets to use all your power and can even kill you himself using your own power against you. Lots of trust involved, and I had a great story to go with it. I just never planned it out right.

Anyway, if I ever go back to it, I'll have to do an overhaul. But, I thought this would be a nice little snippet to share for FF. Enjoy!

Sages

One more second and he would finally kiss me. Our lips were centimeters apart, breath mingling in wisps of fog. I could smell Cole’s skin, a mix of the cologne I got him last Christmas and the ever present scent of incense from his mom’s crazy house. It was a perfect smell, one I associated with comfort and friendship.

But tonight, it was finally going to mean more. His skin was an aphrodisiac. The fingers I’d played cards with, shared popcorn with at the movies, traded text messages with for five years, were tracing slowly along my jaw line in a way he’d never touched me before.

I closed my eyes, shivering. I’d been hoping for this moment since I could remember. The first kiss. The first of many, with any luck.

“Genie,” he whispered, lips so close I could feel them moving. “You’re incredible.”

I smiled. “So what are you waiting for?” I peeked at him through half-closed eyes. His expression wasn’t eager or dreamy as mine probably was, but morose and even a little . . . pained. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

He blinked his dark eyes. “Nothing. Just nervous.”

“Me too,” I admitted, feeling a flutter of anticipation tickle my stomach.

His lips crooked into a small, joyless smile. This was supposed to be the best moment of our lives. Why was he ruining it with his weirdness?

I leaned back. The mood was tarnished now. I couldn’t get a perfect first kiss out of a screwed-up mood. But Cole caught my cheek with his warm hand and something electric shot through my body. It was so strong it almost hurt. It made me jump away.

“What was that?” I asked, rubbing my arms through my parka. My bones felt achy, and not from the cold. Though it was close to snowing, I’d yet to feel even an inkling of discomfort—how could I when Cole was finally about to make a move? Now everything hurt. “Maybe we should go in the car.”

“I’m sorry,” Cole said. He was still so sad. His voice was like a man dying of thirst. Hoarse, desperate.

“Don’t be sorry,” I said, gathering my parka around my midsection. “We’ll just get in the car and crank the heater.”

I stood, casting the frozen lake—my perfect setting for my perfect first kiss—a wistful look. A full moon reflected dully off the surface like the sun through a foggy window pane, a rim of dark trees surrounding the opposite bank in a collar of ink. Dew sparkled on the sheer sheet of ice and coated the gray grass beneath us, tiny mirrors reflecting miniature moons within each droplet. It truly was perfect. But, I’d just have to try again some other time.

But Cole snatched up my hand with hard fingers. I looked down at him, wondering if maybe he’d changed his mind and finally gotten some balls after all. But his eyes were still funny—not sad anymore, though that was still in there, but oddly . . . focused. His face was tight; the curve in his dark brows was rigid; determined.

He stood, looking down at me with his hand still clamped possessively on mine. I didn’t make him remove it. Perfect kiss, perfect kiss, perfect kiss . . .

“I don’t want to do this,” he said.

I felt my insides deflate. What? Why? Why did he even bring me out here if he didn’t want to kiss me? And what wasn’t to want? I wasn’t a supermodel or anything, but I was pretty. And I had excellent oral hygiene. Furthermore, I’d been told by several guys—two of whom were fairly attractive—that my lips were Angelina-Jolie-kissable. So what was Cole’s problem? I started to tug my hand away, thinking that I wanted to jump into the frigid lake and drown myself. I don’t want to do this . . .

“But I have to,” Cole said and his hand became viselike on mine. It was actually painful. Not romantic.

“Cole,” I said, wincing. “That hurts.”

“It’ll be over in a minute.”

I blinked at him, still trying to wrench my crushed fingers from his. “Let go,” I said. “You’re freaking me out.”

“Just stay calm. I promise once it’s done, it won’t change anything. You might not even remember.”

What was he talking about? Why was he acting this way? Like I wouldn’t remember my first kiss. Sure, I was prone to leaving my car keys in the ignition or forgetting to feed Cucumber every once in a while but I could certainly remember that. Not that I wanted to kiss him now. He was acting like a serial killer!

I pushed against his chest, trying to get out of his grasp, but he snatched that hand up too and without warning, the electricity welled inside me again.

Cole flinched, cursing. “Don’t panic. Stay calm.”

But I was about to scream. The electric current inside my stomach was spreading throughout my entire body, making me shake. Crackling purple lines that looked suspiciously like lightning exploded in the corners of my vision. I couldn’t even see Cole’s face anymore.

“What’s happening?” I gasped. The current intensified, sapping the strength in my knees. I fell against Cole and the current jolted me hard.

“Stop it!” he yelled. “I can’t concentrate!”

I began to writhe, still hopelessly caught by Cole’s fingers. Flames and lightning consumed every inch of me, turning my body to shaking jelly, my mind to an overextended light-bulb. I was going to burst.

“Imogene!”

Was that my mother’s voice? What was she doing here?

I felt something grab me around the middle and a surge of sickness punched my stomach. I heaved, and went limp as the electricity stopped. I crashed into the frozen ground, panting. Numb.

My mother stood above me, screaming at Cole.

“I knew it!” she screeched.

Cole said something, but I couldn’t hear it over the blood pounding in my ears. I looked up at them; the spider web effect was still attacking my vision. Except now it was bright turquoise and it was emanating from . . . Cole. His eyes shone with it, his hands emitting something that looked like neon lightning.

My head swam. I fell into the grass.

“Don’t even think about it,” my mother’s deep voice warned. “Paul will be here any moment. Get out of here while you still can.”

“If it’s not me, it’ll be someone else,” Cole said, strong and powerful. I’d never heard him talk like that before. “You can’t hide her forever.”

“You have no idea what I can do,” my mother hissed. “But you can stick around to find out.” Suddenly, a blast of orange shot through my fading vision. Fire? Was that fire?

I heard a hoarse cry and then Cole panting.

“I would have been . . . easy on her. The others won’t be so kind.”

“Get the hell away from my daughter,” my mother growled. “And never come back.” Another shriek of fiery orange behind my now-closed eyelids. The sound of feet pounding the hard ground.

My mother’s cold hand on my head. “I’m here sweetie,” she said. “I’m here.”

“Mom,” I croaked. The world swirled around me like water flowing down a drain and the last thing I remember thinking was . . . It would have been an epic first kiss . . .

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Sometimes Truth about First Drafts

I read once on another author’s blog (I believe it was Natalie Whipple) that writing the first draft of a novel, to her, was like falling in love. Not only is this an awesome comparison, it’s also pretty much correct. The moment you get that first spark of an idea is the moment you meet. The fleshing out of plot details, characters, and emotional arcs is you getting to know your new love. And as you write the book, you become completely and utterly smitten.
Only afterward do you figure out that your perfect lover has all these flaws and jerk qualities. Like plot holes.

But.

Sometimes, writing a first draft is like seeing your ex again for the first time after a bad break up. It’s painful. Awkward. And really, you just want it to be over.

Such is my problem with my current WIP.

Generally, I don’t have this problem. Generally, I love to write a first draft. It’s all magic and rainbows and unlimited ideas. Anything can happen, and that, to me, is one of the most exciting parts of the writing process. But the book I’m writing now is the third and finale book of the BOTM series. Now. It’s not that I don’t love my characters. I do. It’s not that I don’t think the plot is killer. I do. And it’s not that I don’t think the story is worth telling. I do!

It’s just that BOTM and I have had a hard year. We haven’t broken up (let’s face it, we can’t break up because I wrote it and published it, so we will be linked forever), but I’ve had to deal with some unpleasant realities about the book, my writing, and my self-esteem. I’ve shied away from writing this last book for almost six months for many reasons. It’s painful to think about BOTM after all the things I went through. Elation. Excitement. Disappointment. Confusion. Jealousy. Inadequacy. I could keep going, but you get the idea. Sometimes it was awesome to be a debut author, and sometimes it plain sucked. In all honesty, I wasn’t quite prepared for the suckiness. Not that I thought I’d be a best-seller or anything. I just wasn’t ready for the harshness of readers, reviewers and general reality.

It messed with my head. I’ve never been Mrs. Confident anyway, so this year really took a toll on my self-esteem. I gained like five pounds, too. (WHY M&M’s? WHY MUST YOU BE SO TASTY AND FILL THAT HOLE IN MY HEART WHERE MY PASSION USED TO LIE!?!?!)

It’s really hard to force myself through this novel. And it’s not as though I haven’t tried throughout the past six months. I have about five 10K manuscripts in my “BOTM” file, all of which I scrapped. I have about 20K on my current draft, and things are finally feeling . . . not right, but they feel salvageable. I mean, I’m going to have to tear the book apart when I finish the first draft. But like I said, this is just the first meeting after our break up. Everything is raw and painful and forced.

All I can hope is that once this draft is done, I can move on to the healing process.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Blood Crave Cover Reveal

YES! It's finally time to reveal the goregous cover of BLOOD CRAVE!




I am so incredibly thrilled with the work the design team did at Running Press. They always astound me, but I am especially excited about this cover. Faith looks so self-assured and, well -- I'll just say it -- she looks like a badass! Faith is such a strong, passionate character, and this image matches the picture of her I have in my head perfectly. I am assuming that is Lucas looming behind her, looking oh so sexy and grumpy (as is his custom).

JUST. LOVE. IT.

And, even more exciting, is that the reveal of the cover means the actual release is getting closer! All of the burning questions I left you hanging with (I know, I'm ever so cruel) will be answered. No definite release date to be revealed yet, but SOON!

In the meantime, I leave you to coverlust over BLOOD CRAVE!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soul Searching, Wish-Granting and Light Bulb Illumination

I am a slow reader. Even with a great book, it usually takes me about a week to get through it. It’s not that I don’t like to read. In fact, it’s one of my Top Ten Favorite Thing to Do in Life (it’s right between playing video games with Han Solo [my husband] and doing girly crafty things). However, I’ve got a lot on my plate between running a house, taking care of my munchkins, working out so I don’t “let myself go” (where will I go, I wonder??), writing, running my business, being *shudders* social . . .

I don’t have a lot of time to sit and read. Granted, I make other things a priority, but still. Reading is sometimes rather low on The List.

But every once in a while, I come across a book that is so good, so beautifully written, SO FRIGGING EPIC that I simply cannot put it down. I devour it. I have recently come across one such book.

I have been affected by this book in so many ways, I can’t even begin to organize them within my head, let alone discuss them here. But suffice it to say, that it’s one of Those Books. You know, the ones that change you and the way you think about things.

Yes, I’ll relieve your suspense now. The book is The Fault in Our Stars by the genius John Green.

Like I said, I just finished it last night (along with an entire box of tissues) so I haven’t properly digested all of the many thought-provoking layers of this novel. But I did want to discuss one little part. It’s this epic line which is repeated a lot in the novel, and which I continue to repeat to myself almost hourly.

“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”

This is so epic. So simple. Yet, it’s exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been struggling for a long time with my writing. After Blood on the Moon came out, I’ve been tossed around on a roller coaster that DOES NOT, John Green, only go up. It goes down and around, and upside down – in fact, it’s one of those horrid old wooden roller coasters that jerks you around and makes your neck hurt for three days afterward.

I’ve been all over the Internet, searching through other writers’ blogs, their forums, twitter feeds, Facebook pages, whatever, looking for some clue to HOW THEY DO IT. How do they handle the negative reviews and the Mean People, and the ridiculously difficult challenge of ignoring it all and carrying on? I’ve pondered deeply the thought that maybe I’m not cut out for it. Maybe writing isn’t for me.

But whenever I do, I get this awful sinking feeling right in the middle of my body, and I can’t help but repeatedly think the word: failure.

I HATE to fail at something. I hate being beaten, conquered, trumped, pwned – all that stuff. If I make something a goal, and I can’t achieve it, it bugs the living crap out of me. (Which is why I always make it my goal to LOSE at board games so I don’t freak out when it happens). And this – making it as an author – is the biggest, most ambitious goal I’ve ever set for myself. (Besides parenthood, but that’s another story).

So as I read and re-read these authors’ words, I started seeing a connective thread. Something ALL of them said in one way or another. I heard their advice, and I knew it was what I needed to do, but somehow, it just wouldn’t sink in.

Until.

The Fault in Our Stars.

Sometimes I wonder about fate and destiny and whether the world is all coincidence or fated. Usually, I don’t care enough either way to really ponder it thoroughly. But right now, I’m forced to make a decision. Because reading this book right now, right when I needed it most, cannot have been mere coincidence. There HAS to be some force Out There that set this up for me. It took me to the bookstore (which I haven’t entered in over six months) with my book-obsessed sister-in-law, who recommended that I read John Green’s book. I’ve been so low about writing lately, that, had this happened even a week earlier, I wouldn’t have picked the book up. But something inside me told me I was ready. I had to read this book, or my writing career would be over before it even began. (I know it sounds nuts, but that’s what I was thinking). So I started reading, and I started understanding that this book was given to me for a reason. And it all came together with that line, “The world is not a wish-granting factory.”

It connected everything I’d been feeling, everything I’d been reading about in those authors’ blogs and suddenly, gracefully, everything became clear.

The reason I’ve been struggling so hard is NOT because of bad reviews. It’s not because of Mean People. It’s not book sales, or blog tours, or book-deal-envy or any of that stuff. It’s about me. And what I’ve been putting out into the world.

All authors say the same things when giving advice about writing, and it boils down to this: It’s not easy. Being an author is hard work. You need to accept this, and stop trying to fight it – or worse, wait around for it to get easy. It’s not going to get easy. And the longer you wait, the harder it gets. I found that out the hard way. As John Green said, “The world is not a wish-granting factory.” Nobody cares if being an author is your dream. They care about what you put out there – your book. Your writing. And if you don’t work hard at it, nothing will ever happen. Your dreams and wishes will not come true (Ahem, DISNEY) if you just lay around singing about it (CINDERELLA).

You have to work. You have to take it seriously and – as hard as it is – ignore the Mean People and the bad reviews and the fact that even though you poured your heart and soul into your book, it isn’t a best-seller, or even a mid-lister. You – I – have to get over it. Move on. Because the world is not a wish-granting factory, so you can’t treat it that way. If you want something – and damn do I want it – you have to work your ass off for it. And then maybe – just maybe – you’ll be lucky enough to get it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank you, Anonymous


Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment! You're so right -- I haven't posted in ages! Busy doesn't even begin to explain what I am, but that's no excuse. I'm posting again starting TODAY. No more lame excuses. So thanks, Anonymous, for reminding me that there ARE some people who like this blog. Myself included.

Creatively yours,

Jen

So does everyone want to check out something a little different? It's not flash fiction, exactly, it's the first chapter of a book I contemplated writing, and then pooped out on. Maybe if it gets enough love I'll consider restarting it. It needs some polishing, but I love the character of the book. Bitter. Sarcastic. Darkly funny at times, but with genuine emotion. I've got about 14K words done (this was written about a year ago) but today, I'll just share chapter one. Enjoy!



Chapter 1

Chunky

My mother must have hated me.
There’s no other explanation for her actions—none. Why else would she arrange that, upon her death, I be sent to live in the backwoods of Mississippi with an aunt I’ve never met?
Why, mom, why? Why would you do this to me?
I sat in the backseat of a taxicab staring out in horror at the dilapidated house before me thinking these words repeatedly. The house—the entire town, really—was like my worst nightmare come to pass. It consisted of a few run-down strip malls, several lonely-looking churches and a smattering of shacks that housed the residents. Dirty, disheveled and overgrown, the house which I would now call home stood crookedly before me, reminding me oddly of a mangy dog cocking its head. I wrinkled my nose at it. This was where I was going to be spending the next two years of my life.
This couldn’t be happening…
“You gettin’ out?” the taxi driver grunted, shifting around to glare at me in the rearview mirror.
I closed my eyes. If only the answer was no. If only I had anywhere else to go. I thought wildly for a moment about telling the driver to take me back into the city where I could make a living as a bum. The dread I felt at having to live here, in Chunky, Mississippi was that intense.
I’d rather be homeless.
“Hey,” the driver barked. “You’ll be paying for the time you’re just sitting here, you got that?”
“Yeah, I know,” I muttered. I opened my eyes and heaved myself out of the taxi using every last shred of determination I had left. The sun beat against the top of my head as soon as I exited, and the air felt like it was saturated with steaming gutter water. I rounded the back of the taxi and pulled out my suitcases from the trunk. Giving the house a wary glance, I went to the passenger window of the taxi to pay the driver. Any second now my estranged aunt would realize I had arrived and come barreling out to greet me…or else, remain sitting inside brooding about having to take me in.
Not that she wasn’t getting paid for it. My mother, in addition to making arrangements for me to live here, had also arranged for my aunt to receive a healthy amount of money for taking me in. All of this money had come from the college fund she’d set up for me when I was a baby.
Great thinking, mom…now I didn’t even have college to look forward to anymore.
I stuffed a fifty at the driver and watched sadly as he took off in a whip of dust, confirming the dismal reality I now faced: life in Chunky.
It seemed like a long time before I managed to make myself move toward the front door. I gathered my many suitcases and made my way down the rocky path that sliced the overgrown front lawn in two. A pair of humongous oak trees shaded the scrawny lawn, their branches scratching at the roof of the house as if begging to be let inside. I was grateful for their cooling shade as I had not yet become accustomed to the muggy Mississippi heat.
The screened-in porch was lacking a door, so I tugged my baggage up the front steps and stood resentfully on the doormat which said, ironically, Welcome Home. I raised my arm to knock on the door, but before I made contact with the rotting wood, movement to my right made me pause. I looked over to see the olive-green velvet curtains twitching as though someone had just pulled them back.
Then, without warning, the front door banged open and the strangest woman I’d ever laid eyes on stood beaming at me as though I’d just given her a million dollars. She was about six feet tall and wide as a baby rhino. Her hair, which had been dyed so frequently that it now matched the color and texture of copper wire, was stuck in purple curlers. She wore faded blue jeans, a tie-dye t-shirt and a polka dotted apron over it all. For some reason she was also wearing oven mitts shaped like lobster claws.
This woman was my Aunt Violet.
“Ellie!” she screeched in a high-pitched raspy voice that made me wonder if she was a smoker. She wrapped a rotund arm around me and pressed me to her more than ample breasts. The wind was knocked out of me and I choked on the stench of cheap perfume as I tried to breathe. “Oh come on in, honey child, come on in!”
She grabbed me by the scruff of my shirt and shoved me inside as she gathered up all of my luggage. Rubbing my neck, I took a quick look around. The shades were drawn and none of the lights were on, giving the living room a dank, cave-like feel. All of the furniture was mismatched and worn, though I was surprised to see my racing bike propped up in the back corner, seemingly unharmed. An odd smell that reminded me of wet cat permeated the air and mingled with a spicy, meaty scent coming from the kitchen that, unfortunately, must have been dinner.
My Aunt Violet bumped me with her bubbly butt as she scooted her way into the house with the bags. I made a move to help, as she seemed to be struggling, still wearing the lobster oven mitts, but she waved me off.
“I got it, darlin’,” she said. She straightened up and rounded on me with her hands on her hips. She was a giant woman—so the opposite of my mother, who happened to be her sister. Where my mom had been gentle and quiet, this Aunt Violet seemed loud and rather crass and filled the whole room with her presence. Not that that was hard to do since the room was about the size of my closet back home.
Aunt Violet stared down at me, grinning. I counted three gold teeth in her wide, painted mouth.  “Hard to believe we aint never met,” she said. “I s’pose I should introduce myself. I’m your Auntie Vi!”
“Ah…hi,” I muttered.
“And of course I know your name, muffin. Your mama wrote me about you all the time. Ellie this and Ellie that. Another award for runnin’ something called a tri-apple-thon?”
She peered down at me, waiting for confirmation, but I could barely hide my grimace.
“Triathlon,” I grumbled.
“Right!” She beamed. “’Fraid we aint got nothin’ so fancy as that down here, but the high school’s got a track team. Think there’s close to five kids on it, I gather. Coach Sykes’ll be lucky to have you. ‘Spect he might even make you captain if you wanted. Aint no other kids on the team that won first place in the Junior Olympics or— ”
“No!” I said loudly. My heart had begun to race as Aunt Violet babbled on. Listening to her talk about my past life—the one I’d lived with my mother in Chicago—felt like rubbing salt in the wounds I’d been trying so hard to heal.
My mother’s death, not two weeks ago, had changed everything. Not only was she gone, but I’d been forced to face some other devastating truths about the life I thought I had. My friends—or, I should say, the people I thought were my friends—had abandoned me; too afraid, it seemed, to even look at me, let alone talk to me about how I was feeling. It was like they couldn’t stand being around something so sad so they just ignored it— ignored me, I mean.
The truth was, that everything I’d ever cared about, everything I’d ever wanted or fantasized about, suddenly seemed utterly pointless. Who cared if I won the Chicago Triathlon or raised five hundred dollars running for breast cancer, or gotten straight A’s all year, or finally been noticed by sexy soccer player, Jake Harris?
My mother was dead.
And the life I’d had while she was still with me was gone now. The girl I’d been for sixteen years was no longer alive and I couldn’t bear to hear tacky, tasteless Aunt Violet spout on about it as though it weren’t happening.
But the look on her face as her smile faded made me amend my outburst. Poor, stupid “Auntie Vi” didn’t understand what was happening. She didn’t even seem upset that her sister had died…
I cleared my throat and stared at my shoes to keep from feeling any guilt at causing the crestfallen expression on her face. “I mean—I don’t want to join the track team…if…if that’s okay."
Aunt Violet seemed to recover quickly and her smile snapped back in place as though it had never left. “’Course it is, pumpkin! You can do whatever your little heart desires; it’s up to you.”
The only thing I wanted was to get away from Aunt Violet’s ignorant smile and be alone.
“I’d like to get settled,” I said, striving for a polite tone. “If you don’t mind.”
“Oh!” Aunt Violet smacked her hand to her face. Her nails were caution-tape orange and every one of them had a chip. “Silly me, of course you gotta be tired from the trip. You know, I ain’t never been in a airplane before. Musta been super fancy, all them in-flight drinks and squashy pillows…”
She continued to bluster on as she gathered up my bags and barged down the narrow hallway to our left.  Along the walls I could see faded pictures hanging of little girls in pigtails, playing in a bucket of water, or else chasing chickens across a farm. I knew immediately these were pictures of Aunt Violet and my mom; I had seen similar photos in an album my mom had kept hidden in her closet.
Aunt Violet led the way into a room at the end of the hall, still carrying on about a trip to Hawaii she was longing to take.
“Bathroom’s there on the right,” she interjected as she preceded me into a small, stark room stuffed to the ceiling with boxes. “This’ll be it,” she said, dropping my bags. “Man came by the other day and dropped all these boxes off. Took me ‘n Barney close to an hour to get ‘em all to fit.”
I wondered briefly who Barney was before a rude ringing sound went off in the kitchen and Aunt Violet jumped so high her curlers scratched the plaster off the ceiling.
“My biscuits!” she screeched and ran out of the room yelling something like, “Make yourself at home,” as she went.
I stared gloomily at my new room. What the heck did she expect me to do with all of these boxes? Even if I unpacked them all, I wouldn’t have room for their contents. The room I’d occupied in Chicago had been about three times this size. And, I thought as I opened a slim, mirrored door to my right which revealed a closet, I’d had about five times the closet space. A small, twin-sized bed that looked as if it was meant for a five year old stood underneath a mountain of boxes. I noticed the headboard had paintings of unicorns on it and the bed sheets—from what I could see of them—were faded pink with creepy dancing bears and carousels. I sighed, staring at the bed with disgust. I’d have to move the boxes off so I could sleep…
Stalling at the thought of this daunting task, I reached into my pocket for my cell phone, which no longer got any service, but still showed the time. It was 5:56. At least I hadn’t changed time zones.
With nothing else to do but move the damn boxes, I gathered what was left of my emotional stability and approached the first one. I yanked it down and, with shaking hands, pried it open. I almost moaned with relief at the sight of my shoes. It wasn’t anything painful—like pictures, or souvenirs, notes from my former friends, or my triathlon trophies. No reminders of my old life. I pulled out the dirty old converse, six different pairs of running shoes, and one lonely pair of completely practical high-heels and stuffed them pell-mell into the closet.
Okay. Next box.
This one was considerably more painful. It was filled with items from my mother’s room. It must have been brought here by mistake, since all of her things had been sold or given to charity. I gazed down at the box, tears threatening to overcome me, as I reached to pick up one of her dresses, folded on the top. It was a flowery summer dress she only wore when it was warm. I could imagine her smile as we walked along the bank of Lake Michigan, talking about boys and school and idiotic stuff I couldn’t remember now if I tried. The vivid print of the dress seemed oddly muted now, empty in my hands. I brought it to my face and—knowing what I was going to be inflicting upon myself—I inhaled deeply…
What seemed like hours of sobbing later, I had given up on my mother’s box and stowed it, still filled, into the far back of my closet. I couldn’t stand crying anymore…especially since I knew Aunt Violet had to have heard me.
I wasn’t what you’d call a silent crier. More of a wailer, really.
By the time I’d finished unpacking the boxes on my bed, which all happened to be filled with clothes, I heard the thump, thump, thump of Aunt Violet’s gargantuan feet plodding down the hall.
She cracked the door without knocking and stuck her face in.
“Dinner!” she piped merrily, apparently either totally unaware that I had been sobbing for the past hour, or else refusing to acknowledge it.
She stumped back down the hall and I heard the clattering of plates and silverware as she set the table.
Glumly, I followed her into the kitchen, which also housed a yellowed linoleum table and three plastic lawn chairs, one of which, I was surprised to see, was occupied by a man I didn’t know. He was thin, well-groomed and smiling placidly at me with intelligent green eyes that startled me with their beauty.
Aunt Violet, who was bustling over with a platter of biscuits the size of Frisbees, noticed my frozen stare and smiled even more brightly.
"Oh, I forgot you ain’t yet met,” she said, casting a loving look at the man. “This’ll be Barney. Barney, this is my niece Ellie Meyer.” She bent close to him and said in a very audible whisper, “Member the one I told you, whose mama just died?”
But Barney seemed to ignore Aunt Violet completely and just watched me intently as he said, “Lovely to meet you,” without a hint of a southern drawl. He obviously wasn’t from Chunky. “Please, feel free to call me Bernard.”
Aunt Violet snorted as though the thought of calling him Bernard was totally hilarious and scampered back off to the stove.
“Ah…hi,” I said, still shocked to see the man sitting there. “Who’re you…exactly?”
“I am your aunt’s boyfriend.” He smiled, revealing a set of straight white teeth.
My mouth hit the linoleum.
It wasn’t that my aunt had a boyfriend that was the shocker; it was that Bernard was so…so clean. He didn’t fit this gritty, disgusting house or my sloppy, stinking aunt. If I’d had to picture Aunt Violet with a man, it would have been the stereotypic dirty trucker dude, complete with a bulging hairy belly that protruded from his pit-stained wife-beater. Bernard, on the other hand looked more like he belonged immortalized within the pages of GQ.
He was young, slim and dressed chicly in a pair of grey slacks and a pale blue shirt that brought out the light green of his eyes. Even the ugly florescent lighting of the kitchen seemed to flatter him.
I was still openly staring at him as Aunt Violet set the table with a plate of meatloaf and buttery peas and took her seat next to Bernard. The plastic chair underneath her gave a desperate groan.
I continued to stand before the table, unable to accept Bernard as Aunt Violet’s lover.
Bernard cleared his throat sharply and Aunt Violet suddenly exclaimed, “Sit!”
I snapped out of it and took my seat in a hurry. For a while, there was only the clinking and clattering of plates as Bernard, Aunt Violet and I passed the platters around and scooped mounds of potatoes onto our plates. I wasn’t particularly hungry and the food, to be honest, looked a bit dodgy. There were hunks of something gelatinous in the meatloaf that didn’t look at all like meat.
“Excited, Ellie?” Aunt Violet said out of nowhere.
I paused in my effort to stir my food around so it looked like I’d eaten something.
“Huh?” I asked. Excited about what? My mother dying? Being forced to live in Chunky for two years until I turned eighteen? Having to listen to Auntie Vi and Barney doing it in the next room tonight?
“School tomorrow,” Aunt Violet said brightly.
I dropped my gaze to my plate, thinking for the first time of having to go to a new school. In truth, it hadn’t even occurred to me until now. It was like my brain hadn’t had room to contemplate anymore unpleasantness. Now, with the prospect of a new school looming dangerously close I couldn’t help but feel a little flutter of anxiety.
I’d never had much trouble making friends in Chicago. I was one of those people for whom conversation came easily, even when meeting someone knew. Back then, I’d had the energy and enthusiasm for it. Friends and boyfriends and getting the latest bit of gossip between classes were of the upmost importance.
Now…who cared?
I sighed deeply into my plate.
“Your Aunt tells me you’re quite the athlete,” Bernard remarked genially. “You certainly don’t eat much for someone who runs seven miles a day.”
“Yeah, well…I haven’t been running much lately,” I muttered.
“Understandable,” Bernard said. “Violet told me it was a car accident that led to your mother’s death?”
Coldness swept through me and I nodded stiffly.
Bernard opened his mouth to say something else when—
“Swimming!” Aunt Violet screeched.
I jumped, knocking over the salt shaker and stared up at her with wide eyes, perplexed at her outburst.
“There’s a river down the road that’ll be right fine for swimming,” Aunt Violet said happily. When I continued to look baffled, she said, “For your tripe-a-lathon trainin’!”
I continued to stare, almost sadly at her. The poor woman was insane…How had she ever managed to trick Bernard into dating her. Maybe she was secretly rich. Or perhaps great in bed. It certainly couldn’t be her cooking prowess…
Bernard put his hand on Aunt Violet’s rotund arm in a soothing manner.
“Violet, dear,” he said gently. “That river is hardly fit for swimming. It’s barely three feet deep.”
Aunt Violet gave me the most devastated look, as though her entire world were crumbling.  I felt a swoop of pity hit me.
“It’s just as well,” I mumbled. “I haven’t been swimming much either…”
Aunt Violet continued to look crushed.
Bernard cleared his throat pointedly and Aunt Violet’s toothy smile snapped into place. “You can still ride that fancy racing bike to school every day, though. That’s somethin’. Your mama told you love ridin’ that thing rain or—”
“Wait,” I snapped. “What do you mean ride to school?”
“School bus comes by ‘round the corner,” Aunt Violet continued, ignoring my gaping stare of incredulity. “But you’ll be happier on your bike, I think. Cruddy old bus breaks down a lot and the kids gotta walk it. Not much fun when it rains, eh Barn?” She elbowed him in the side, snorting a little amidst her mirth. “I can watch ‘em from in here, schleppin’ down the way. Used to have to go out there with ‘em sometimes, headin’ off to work. Lucky for me, I aint gotta work no more now your mama left you so much money.”
“You don’t have a car?” I asked, still unwilling to believe it. Who didn’t own a car these days?
“Not since the old Ford kicked it not two years back. Middle of a flood it was, too…poor old truck just couldn’t take all that water under the hood.” She sighed sadly.
“So—so I have to ride my bike? Every day? Even in the rain?”
“Oh, I think you’ll find the rain more pleasant than the heat,” Bernard said with a charming smile. “It can become rather toasty down here in the summer. You’ll be glad to cool down.”
My mouth, which was still gaping open, snapped shut. Oh, easy for him to say. He wasn’t going to be the idiot arriving at school the next day on her bike.
I pushed my plate away. Someone just kill me now…
 
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