I've been thinking about this post since reading Dean Wesley Smith's post on setting writing goals for 2014. This year got off to a rocky start for me; I had an abnormal EKG a week before Christmas, which was kind of alarming, and I've been dealing with tests and a lot of anxiety since then. Everything is still inconclusive so far, but right now it looks like we're not dealing with anything immediately dangerous; most likely it's nothing serious, or we've caught something more long-term serious in the early stages.
Getting this glimpse of my own mortality had the contradictory effects of making it hard to make future plans and goals (who can make plans for the future when they're afraid they're going to drop dead at any moment?) (seriously, I'm a terrible hypochondriac) and making me really zero in on what I want to accomplish in my life. The main thing I realized, besides wondering who would make the Christmas fudge and homemade dinner rolls at our house if I wasn't around (getting alarming health news right before Christmas really sucks) is that I would be extremely bummed out were I to shuffle off the mortal coil before getting Daughter of the Wildings out. I've instructed my husband that should something happen to me, DoW is to be made available however seems best at the time - put up for sale, or just posted for free, or whatever. The problem is, as it is right now, still in rough draft, it kind of sucks. It's not terrible, but there are parts that make me cringe or that are just plain wrong, and I really don't want it to go out into the world this way.
So, with that as my focus, and now that I'm not quite so convinced that I'm going to drop dead at any moment *knock on wood*, here are my plans and goals for the coming year.
Although Sarya's Song is the next book scheduled to come out, I'm going to be spending most of my work hours on the initial revision of Daughter of the Wildlings. DoW is a huge project, nearly 300,000 words, and if I'm going to get it released on any kind of schedule, it needs to take priority. This shuffling of priorities will mean that the release of Sarya's Song may be delayed a bit. I'm hoping for a February release, but it may take until March.
My target for releasing the first DoW book, Beneath the Canyons, is June, though that may be a bit optimistic. The plan is to get all six books to where once I start releasing the series, a new book can come out about every other month.
Once Sarya's Song is out and DoW is well under way towards being released, there are a couple of different areas I'm thinking I'll turn my attention to. One is a couple of partially-written novels set in Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara. I also had a reviewer say they wished Chosen was a trilogy instead of one book, because they wanted more backstory on some of the characters and events. Rewriting Chosen as a trilogy isn't going to happen - I just don't feel it that way - but I'd like to do a set of stories giving some of the backstory the reviewer mentioned they'd like to know more about. Maybe I'll make this a Camp NaNo project in April or July. And the very first novel I ever wrote, Prince of the Trozdozh, and its sequel are sitting on my hard drive, calling out to me. I think they're probably salvageable, so I want to run them through my revision process and see it they really are something I can release to the public.
As far as production goals, right now I can't really set a word count goal. By the end of the year I aim to have released 5 novels (Sarya's Song and the first four Daughter of the Wildings novels) and at least one short story collection (the Chosen of Azara companion stories). I had five releases in 2013, so six releases in 2014 sounds like a good progression.
And, onward. Happy New Year, everyone! May it be happy and productive and with a minimum of unpleasant surprises.
Introducing Kyoko M., author of The Black Parade.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
At my most basic level, I'm a big ole nerd. I love comic books, particularly Batman and Spider-Man, I'm a huge fan of urban fantasy and sci-fi movies and television shows, I have a soft spot for Greek and Roman mythology, I love all kinds of anime/manga, and I generally love the craft of writing. I'm most likely found buried under my Dashboard on Tumblr geeking out about silly things or engaging in heated discussions about the role of women in George Lucas films.
2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing when I was around seven or eight years old. It started out as little diary entries and then I eventually began watching a lot of cartoons so I wrote fanfiction growing up. I attempted my first novel in tenth grade and it was awful and I couldn't even get to 30,000 words, if I'm not mistaken. I tried again sophomore year of college, but it was a disastrous little romantic comedy chockful of cliches and I'm glad an agent didn't pick it up. I took a class on Greek mythology my junior year and that's when I got the idea for The Black Parade. From there, the rest is history. Long, painful, hair-tearingly awkward history.
3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I tend to write urban fantasy and high fantasy because those are two kinds of worlds that are vastly interesting to me. I love mixing magic and mundane together, and it comes from a long background of watching television shows, movies, and anime related to those subjects. I enjoy the freedom of writing. My day-to-day life is unspectacular. My writing, however, is vibrant and wild and unpredictable. I love writing because it's always where I discover things about myself moreso than in real life. I love that anyone can be anything in fiction whereas real life is much harsher and more limited. I can be unrestrained when I write. I hope people can someday see me for who I am as an author because it is completely different from who I am outside of a Microsoft Word document.
4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
The Black Parade trilogy starts with the titular 'The Black Parade' starring Jordan Amador, a sarcastic waitress with a drinking problem whose soul was sentenced to hell for killing a Seer: a person who can see, hear, and communicate with ghosts, angels, and demons. She has two years to help one hundred souls with unfinished business cross over to the after life or her soul is toast. Just as she approaches the deadline, she bumps into Michael--a handsome, flirtatious poltergeist and the first one she's ever met. He can touch things, unlike any of the other ghosts she's encountered, and his case intrigues her so she starts solving his mysterious death. Along the way, she uncovers a terrifying plot that the demons have set in motion to help them take over humanity and rule for years to come, and unfortunately, they need her blood to do it.
The Black Parade is followed by She Who Fights Monsters, which is set for release in July 2014.
5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The world of the Black Parade operates as if Paradise Lost by John Milton were non-fiction. Not every single detail from the epic poem happened, but most of it did occur. The angels live among human beings as their silent guardians. Half the angels stay in heaven to keep order and take care of the human souls there while the other half are on earth carrying out various orders. Their orders are either given to them by the Commander or they choose a lifestyle that will allow them to guide and care for the people around them. The demons operate the same way. Half of them stay in hell cooking up schemes to help them damn human souls while the others walk the earth corrupting whoever they can. There is a standing agreement between the angels and demons: they cannot reveal themselves to normal people because it would of course tip the world into utter chaos. However, the archdemons are constantly plotting ways to undo this agreement and rule mankind. There are five archdemons total--Belial, Mulciber, Mammon, Beelzebub, and Moloch. Two of them walk the earth while the other three stay in hell plotting revenge. Conversely, there are three archangels, and it's their job to make sure the archdemons never succeed.
In terms of powers and abilities, the angels have supernatural strength, agility, and the feathers from their wings are deadly to demons if touched. They can also harness spiritual energy, which is a type of energy they naturally produce. It's invisible to the naked eye, and it can be used to attack, create shields, and heal everything except mortal wounds. Demons have the same powers, but they also have the ability to pour their essence into other creatures. For example, hellhounds are a loophole to the agreement of no supernatural occurrences on earth because a demon will take a normal dog and pour his essence into it until the animal becomes monstrous.
Lastly, angels are engineered to be sterile and are forbidden from engaging in romantic relationships with human beings. The reason this is law is because centuries ago, angels used to mate with humans and created nephilim: a race of wildly powerful and uncontrollable half human, half angel hybrids. Additionally, the angel Uriel once fell in love with a Seer named Zora and married her, but it turns out she was a double agent working for the archdemon Belial. Since her soul was bonded with Uriel's, Zora could not go to hell but she also could not go to heaven when she died because her soul was also bonded with Belial's. Thus, she was sent to Purgatory and God forbade the union of Seers and angels to spare them any more pain.
Seers like Jordan are the descendants of the twelve disciples, who in this universe all had children and their children had children and so forth. They can use spiritual energy just like the angels can and they can see and hear ghosts, whereas normal people cannot.
6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Jordan Amador is Jersey-born and raised, but she lives in Albany. Sadly, she has a rough past. Her mother was institutionalized when she was five years old and committed suicide not long after, so Jordan was sent to live with her Aunt Carmen. Aunt Carmen abused Jordan physically and verbally until she was about sixteen and ran away from home. She hitchhiked with a sweet old woman and ended up in Albany, New York working as a waitress until the fateful night when she met a man who was a Seer. A demon-like creature burst into her apartment and tried to kill her so she ran into her room and got her pistol. The bedroom door opened and the frightened Jordan shot the man she saw in the doorway, not knowing he had come there to save her. The archangel Gabriel then appeared and told her that the man she killed was a Seer and he was the last one on earth until now. Her Seer abilities had just awakened, and that was what drew the demonic creature to her. Killing a Seer is punishable by way of hell so she is given two years to help a hundred souls or she's bound for hell.
As a result of her childhood, Jordan is very withdrawn and cynical. She has a best friend, Lauren, who works with her at the restaurant, but lives a secluded life helping the souls of the dead. It isn't until Michael shows up that things take a turning point for her.
Michael the poltergeist seems to be nothing more than a pain in her ass, but as the two get to know each other, she realizes he's actually a good guy. He genuinely cares what's going to happen to Jordan more than what will happen to his own displaced soul. There's a lot of chemistry between the two and their relationship develops into a surprising friendship as the novel progresses. Plus, a few sparks start to fly and things get more complicated the deeper Jordan delves into trouble.
Last, we have our villain: Belial. He's like every wet dream and every nightmare Jordan's ever had rolled into one. He's handsome, but he's also sadistic, arrogant, and power-hungry. He'll stop at nothing to get what he wants, and unfortunately, what he wants is her.
I like Jordan's stubborn refusal to give up when she's been beaten. She realizes that she's clearly out of her league contending with supernatural beings who have been around for centuries, but she doesn't give a damn. She has a burning need to protect the innocent and to protect her friends so she never gives up.
I like Michael's ability to read between the lines with Jordan. Most people would back down when they come up against someone who has a lot of walls, but he smashes right through them. He can tell that Jordan's been hurt and he doesn't like it. He wants to become the kind of guy she'd like having around because he thinks she's worth protecting as well.
I like Belial's style. He loves sin. He loves power. He enjoys pushing Jordan's buttons and trying to corrupt her because she's a challenge. He's made an entire career out of wooing women and she's the first to refuse him for more than just a couple of days.
7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
A fun fact about the book is that the mysterious Seer Jordan kills in the beginning is based on one of my favorite actors. I won't tell you who, but I will say he'll give you a sense of serenity after you meet him.
8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
The Black Parade is available everywhere! Amazon, Smashwords, iBookstore, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. My main website is shewhowritesmonsters.com, and you can read blog entries about writing as well as my book series there.
The Black Parade
The Black Parade Series
Cover Artist: Gunjan Kumar
One bullet is all it took to transform eighteen-year-old New Yorker Jordan Amador into the last hope for souls of the dead. However, it also transformed her into a cantankerous asocial waitress with a drinking problem.
Jordan accidentally shot and killed a Seer: a person who can communicate with ghosts, angels, and demons. Worse still, she did so on the eve of her own awakening, making her the last Seer on Earth with no one to guide her. As penance, God gives her two years to help one hundred souls with unfinished business cross over from Earth to the afterlife or she will go to Hell. Just as she approaches the deadline, Jordan finds her hundredth soul: a smart-mouthed poltergeist named Michael whose ability to physically touch things makes him distinct from her usual encounters with the dead. However, the deeper she delves solving his sudden death, the more she realizes something sinister is on the horizon.
With time running short, Jordan stumbles across a plot that may unravel the fragile balance among Heaven, Hell, and Earth. Her life is plunged into chaos as she is hunted by demons that want to use her valuable Seer blood to bring about the end of the world and discovers that these creatures have a frightening connection to her family bloodline. Plus, the budding romance between Jordan and Michael makes it harder for them to let go of each other so he can become part of the eternal black parade.
Crazed teeth gnashed inches away from my face. The eyes rolled back until only the whites showed. Spider-like fingers strained for my throat. I screamed and ran towards the bedroom.
I slammed the door shut and dove for the nightstand, hands shaking as I checked the chambers to make sure the gun was loaded. The door flew open with a bang. A second bang followed. Then all was silent.
The phantom was gone, but in its place stood a man in a suit beneath his dark grey duster. His hair was black and his face was growing paler by the second. He reached out his hand. My panicked eyes spotted the scarlet speckled across the palm. The room had gone silent because the gun had deafened me. The barrel was still smoking and now I could see the hole I had put through the man’s chest.
I couldn’t breathe, but somehow I could still talk, and my lips were whispering one word over and over.
“No, no, no, no…”
The man said nothing as he fell to his knees in front of me, his azure eyes locked on mine as if he were trying to tell me something, but the strength was ebbing from him in crimson rivulets. I dropped the gun and fell to my knees as well. My fingertips grazed his face as if I could bring him back to life with one touch, but we both knew it was too late. He laid a rough, scarred hand to the side of my cheek where hot tears had fallen, his lips parting to whisper in a soothing voice.
“Don’t be afraid. They’re going to come for you, but please don’t be afraid.”
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please…” I managed to gasp out in between sobs.
The man merely smiled and closed his eyes. “Don’t be. I’m ready.”
He swayed forward and I caught his heavy body, feeling his blood soak my shirt. He slid down until his face rested in my lap, drawing in a few more shallow breaths before going completely still, empty, lifeless. I sat there with my coated hands stroking his hair, still whispering over and over for him to forgive me.
Golden light poured in from all angles, nearly blinding me, and I could just barely see the outline of a man with wings.
When the light dimmed, a blond man stood in front of me with white-gold wings that stretched nearly from wall to wall of my small bedroom. His tanned body was wrapped in white linen and his skin seemed to possess an ethereal quality, glowing like he had some unique source of inner radiance. Blue eyes like twin suns shone down on me with kindness and empathy. A new feeling of shock and reverence gave me enough strength to speak.
“W-Who are you?”
“My name is Gabriel. I am the archangel of the Lord God.” His voice had an echo to it that seemed to soothe and agitate me at the same time. The angel folded his wings into his back and knelt beside the dead man in my lap. His fingers hovered over the wound the bullet had left through the man’s back.
“As I thought…he is dead.”
More tears poured as I tried to explain. “I-I didn’t know it was him. There was a monster chasing me. I got scared. I’m so sorry.”
Gabriel’s face fell into that of a pitying expression. “You are human. It was only natural for you to be afraid. However, the Father cannot overlook what you have done. The man before you is a Seer—one of the few humans in this world who can see angels, demons, and spirits. He was hunting the demon you saw a moment ago.”
“Please, I don’t want to die. I’ll do anything to make this better,” I whispered, bowing to the angel.
He touched the crown of my head in comfort. “There is something you can do to make amends, my child. You must take his place.”
I looked up in shock. “What?”
“You are a Seer, Jordan. Your abilities had not awakened until just now. That is why the demon was drawn to you. Your time to serve the Lord is now. In order to pay for the crime of taking this man’s life, you must help one hundred wandering souls cross from this world to the next. If you do not finish this task two years from this day, I am afraid your soul shall be sent to hell.”
“H-How? How do I even know which people are spirits?” I stammered in protest.
“The dead have no feet to walk upon because they are no longer tied to the Earth. Your task is to discover how they died and help them fulfill their final wish. Do not fear, for I will teach you how to free their souls. After this is done, the soul will go to the next world and I will write down the name in the Book of Penance.”
He held out his hand and a red leather book materialized, spelling out my name in gold cursive across the front. It managed to be both beautiful and macabre. Gabriel placed it by my side and carefully rolled the man over onto his back. He plucked a feather from his wings and pressed it over the man’s heart.
“Rest in peace. The gates of Heaven are waiting.”
I watched with wonderment as the feather dissipated into tiny flecks of light and felt warmth as something nearly transparent rose from the body. I realized with shock that it was the man’s soul. He hung in the air between Gabriel and me for a moment before floating upward and out of sight. His body faded seconds later, leaving only the bloodstained clothes behind. My fingers closed over the grey duster, which was still salvageable in comparison to the shirt and pants.
“I shall be watching over you always, Jordan Amador...”
About the Author:
Kyoko M is an author, a fangirl, and an avid book reader.
Her debut novel, The Black Parade, made it through the first round of Amazon's 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. She participated and completed the 2011 National Novel Writing Month competition. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit degree from the University of Georgia, which gave her every valid excuse to devour book after book with a concentration in Greek mythology and Christian mythology.
When not working feverishly on a manuscript (or two), she can be found buried under her Dashboard on Tumblr, or chatting with fellow nerds on Twitter, or curled up with a good Harry Dresden novel on a warm central Florida night. Like any author, she wants nothing more than to contribute something great to the best profession in the world, no matter how small.
Cloaked in Fur, by T.F. Walsh (spotlight here!)
* * * * (4 stars)
Daci has a terrible secret - the time is rapidly approaching when she will become a full-blown wulfkin. At the same time, all she wants is to find a way to permanently join the human world and her beloved Connell. While she tries to find a way to take control of her destiny, a monster in the woods threatens everything and everyone she knows and loves, human and wulfkin alike.
Paranormal shapeshifter romance isn't my usual reading, but this was a lot of fun. The characters are well-drawn as individuals, and even though the antagonists are pretty nasty, the author still gets you to sympathize with them. The setting, in the towns, forests, and mountains of the author's native Romania, is vividly and beautifully described. The action, and Daci's dilemma, grabbed me right from the beginning and didn't let go until the end.
The ending leaves a few loose ends; this could easily be the first book of a series.
I did get frustrated with Daci's inability to tell Connell the truth about herself, but that was a lesson that the character needed to end up learning the hard way during the course of the story. A few editing problems were also kind of distracting.
On the whole, Cloaked in Fur is a fast-paced, exciting story with characters I cared about in a beautiful setting.
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