Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing Prompt #1: Sharks Swim in the Forest

Here is the first of my Writing Prompt articles, with thanks to "The 180 Prompts I Actually Use" on Tumblr. The prompt in question is "Sharks Swim on the Forest".

The first sign of trouble came about an hour into Jack's hike. He'd always loved hiking in the woods, particularly along this stretch of trail that wound through a particularly dense portion of the park. Even though it was coming up on noon, the shade offered by the trees kept him cool, allowing him to notice the exact moment when silence descended like a curtain.

The birds stopped singing. The insects stopped buzzing. Nothing moved around him. It felt like the entire forest was suddenly holding its breath, waiting for... something. Jack froze where he was, unnerved by the sudden silence. What was going on? He glanced around slowly, looking for any sort of danger.

Then he saw it--a gentle swelling of the loose turf like something was headed past just under the surface. The mass undulated past, and then sank into the soil.

Cold sweat broke out on Jack's brow, and he took a few cautious steps away from the spot. Then under his rear foot, the turf swelled again, and he jumped away. This time he saw something that at first his mind refused to believe. A triangular, back-swept fin pierced the soil, showing Jack a silhouette that nearly everyone could recognize, no matter where they were.

It was the fin of a shark. There were sharks in the forest.

Jack froze. The swell passed him. The fin vanished beneath  the soil.

Run, he told himself.

But where?

Get off the ground. Get up a tree. Just don't let them--

Another swell lifted the soil,  but this time it changed course and headed directly for Jack. There was no time to debate the possibilities of land sharks. Jack broke into a run, headed for the nearest tree with low branches. He wasn't exactly an expert tree-climber, but blind adrenaline would have to serve where experience failed him. He glanced back once, and saw the gray triangle of a fin slice its way through the soil, bearing down on him.

Jack hit the tree trunk at a sprint, trying to turn his forward momentum into upward momentum. He clawed his way up the trunk, scrambling from branch to branch like a terrified monkey--which, all things considered, wasn't all that far off.

He risked a glance down and saw the dirt and underbrush below him explode with the force of the emerging shark. It was definitely a shark, too--there was no mistaking the leathery gray skin fading to white on its underbelly, the gaping slit of a mouth lined with chainsaw teeth, and the soulless black button eyes that foretold death to anything that happened to be edible. The shark lurched upwards, jaws open to bite.

Jack pulled his foot up and out of its reach just in the nick of time, and its jagged teeth closed on empty air instead. He hooked his foot around a nearby tree branch and looked down at the thing as it belly-flopped onto the turf with a meaty sound of impact. A few moments later, the shark wiggled, writhed, and then dove back under the dirt, kicking up a few final clots of turf with the flukes of its tail.

Jack didn't dare relax, though, as the shark and its two apparent pack-mates started circling the tree where he'd lodged himself. How patient were hungry sharks? Jack didn't know, and even if he did there was no way to compare that to these things. He settled himself in for a long wait, hoping his snacks and water held out until these monsters got bored and wandered off.

He had a feeling it would be a long wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Heart of Steel Giveaway!

It's less than a month before I release my SFR novel Heart of Steel, and to prepare for February 17th, I am holding a giveaway on Goodreads! Come check it out for a chance to win your free copy of this quirky romance!

When reclusive cyborg Alistair Mechanus first sees ER doctor Julia Parker, it is love at first sight--for him. However, ten years of virtual solitude on Shark Reef Isle have left his social skills badly rusted, and his initial overtures confuse and horrify her. When his misguided act of kindness spirals out of control, Julia is forced to trust the mad genius with her life. She has the skills he needs to unlock his forgotten past, but learning who he used to be may come at the cost of his remaining sanity.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Heart of Steel by Elizabeth Einspanier

Heart of Steel

by Elizabeth Einspanier

Giveaway ends February 17, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writing Progress Report: Jan 12, 2015

This week's blog post is going to be a Situation Report regarding all the writing projects I have in various stages of pending, both to give myself a chance to get all the information organized and to give you guys a free peek at what's coming up for me.

Title: Heart of Steel
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Length: Novel 
Status: To be released February 17, 2015
Summary: When reclusive cyborg Alistair Mechanus meets ER doctor Julia Parker, it is love at first sight--for him. While he eagerly drops his plans for World Conquest to woo her, ten years of solitude have left his social skills badly rusted. When his misguided act of kindness spirals out of control, however, Julia is forced to trust the mad genius with her life, and discovers a more vulnerable side under his armored plating. She has the skills he needs to unlock his forgotten past, but will learning who he used to be come at the cost of his remaining sanity?
Notes: I'm really really excited about this one. Whereas with Sheep's Clothing   I was sort of acting on impulse, this time I planned everything out (...sort of) and actually got some pre-marketing stuff done in the last half of 2014. Now I just need to finish formatting it for publication, which shouldn't take too long. I also plan on having a Goodreads giveaway to further build the buzz starting next week and leading up to the actual release date.

Title: "The Fetch"
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Length: Short Story
Status: Under Consideration
Summary: A young man finds himself pursued by a terrifying monster who believed he has taken something form it. He might not be so happy to give it back once he discovers what it was...
Notes: I'm really hoping to get this one published in a magazine or something. Call me weird, but even as a self-pubbed author I feel like getting something I wrote chosen by a publisher will validate me.

Title: "Siren Song"
Genre: Diesel Punk
Length: Novelette
Status: Under Consideration.
Summary: Raymond Crowe, a Mage living in Manhattan in 1937, investigates reports that a Mundane nightclub owner might be using a dangerous potion to beef up his singing talent, at the risk of driving the singers insane. Crowe must not only get the potion out of the hands of a Mundane who doesn't understand the risks, but also rescue the sister of one of his Mage contacts and find out who was distributing the stuff in the first place.
Notes: This was my first diesel punk story, and I'm sending it off to magazines for the same reason I'm sending off "The Fetch". This one's quite a bit longer and more involved though, and I can easily see using its setting for further works. We'll see how it goes.

Title: Hungry as a Wolf
Genre: Weird Western
Length: Novel
Status: Beta Reading
Summary: In this sequel to last year's Sheep's Clothing, Wolf Cowrie is back, with a dangerous mission that will test him to the limits: the mayor of a mining town in the Dakota Territory has hired him to investigate the disappearance of the gold mine that the town relies upon for its income. First problem: The gold mine in question is in the Black Hills, right in the middle of Sioux country. Second problem: A lone survivor managed to escape whatever befell the mine, only to transform into something undead and craving human flesh. Third problem: The mayor's daughter seems to have taken a shine to Wolf, and Wolf is still recovering from the tragic end of his previous adventure. What's a gunslinger to do in a situation like this?
Notes: Once I finish getting beta reading feedback on this one and subsequently polish it a bit more, I'll be kicking it over to my editor for a thorough second eyeball check. I plan to start a crowdfunding campaign to finance the nuts and bolts, but I'm still vetting the different platforms.

Title: "One Spooky Case"
Genre: Fantasy Mystery
Length: Novella (for now)
Status: Rewriting
Summary: A by-the-books Watchman gets paired up with a Watch necromancer to investigate a girl's murder in the city of Port Vandalar.
Notes: I have a lot of rewriting to do with this, which might very well double its previous length in order to give the story the tension it deserves and a more satisfying climax. After that, it may well be novel-length. Who knows?

Title: Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life
Genre: Supernatural YA
Length: Novel
Status: Rewriting
Summary: Tiffany Blackheart is a perky, outgoing high school student who wants what every seventeen-year-old girl wants: good grades, friends, and a boyfriend. Especially a boyfriend. There's just one problem--she's a necromancer. Being able to talk to the dead hasn't done kind things for her social life, and neither will the buildup of spectral activity that's due to peak on Halloween. Finding herself on the eve of finally landing a boyfriend, Tiffany has only a week and a half to figure out what's going on before everything blows up in her face.
Notes: This was my NaNoWriMo novel, and I'm taking a heavy editorial chainsaw to the thing before I let anyone else see it, even my usual beta readers. This is my first YA novel, so I'll need to find some actual teenagers to help me get the details right. High school was a really long time ago...

Title: Heart of Ice
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Length: Novel
Status: Active WIP
Summary: Irina Zimaburya has spent the last six years as the Winter Princess, with her powers over ice and snow making her the ideal living weapon in a war that started when she was twelve. Now, on the eve of peace, Irina must try to remember what it is not to be a weapon, but a woman, and relearn what it is to not be feared during the course of peace negotiations. Prince Heinrich is determined to thaw the newly-crowned Winter Queen's frozen heart, but his true mission is not all that it seems...
Notes: I will freely admit that this was loosely inspired by Frozen, though my heroine has a more messed-up backstory and little to no emotional support. I'm making good progress with the rough draft, though, so I'm overall happy.

So this is the rundown of my current projects. It looks like a lot, but jotting them down like this helps me keep all this stuff straight in my head and make it look like I'm a lot better organized than I usually am. I hope to get them done this year, and I'm confident that I will.

How many projects do you typically have going on at a time? Which one mine are you most looking forward to seeing published? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Writer's Vengeance: How to Get Away With Murder

I have a T-shirt that reads, "You're dangerously close to getting killed off in my novel". Killing real-life people off in effigy by way of a character you've written is the best therapy for an annoyed writer, as it typically leave no mess, no clean-up, and if done properly results in no lawsuits against the author.

Admit it, writers--you've done this. Heck, I did it when I first started writing fiction in grade school. Was it childish? Yes. I was twelve. Was it amateurish? Yes. I was twelve, and had not yet gotten the hang of things like changing names to protect the innocent. I wrote thinly veiled vengeance fantasies that today would be termed hate-fics, and not one of them has ever seen the light of day. It was my therapy, and it was my way of coping with the difficulties of life.

Doing it this way as a professional writer can be dangerous, though. M. Night Shyamalan is reported to have done something like this with one of his critics, writing a thinly-veiled version of him into his Lady in the Water as The Guy Who Is Wrong About Everything. Michael Crichton, too, wrote a critical reviewer into his novel NeXt, as a politician with the same name and from the same college, only with a small manhood and an accusation of having raped a four-year-old. Both Shyamalan and Crichton came off as childish and petty with these character assassinations, even (especially) if the characters bore only the vaguest passing resemblance to the originals.

The trick to doing this properly is not to just drop your target into your book without even a name change, even (especially) if you write him as The Worst Human Being In The History Of Civilization. If you write speculative fiction, this is a bit easier, but still, step carefully. Get creative with the name changes, not just changing a couple consonants at the beginning of the surname. Make your target realistically obnoxious, so the sympathy is all on your protagonist (you do have a relatively sympathetic protagonist, don't you?) Then, when the pot is well-stirred so that your chosen victim is recognizable only to you, have fun.

That jerk that cut you off in traffic? His car gets stepped on by the monster of the week. The co-worker that nobody likes who's decided you and he are best buds? A stampede of a chase spills his coffee, wrecks his laptop, and covers him in grime. Your ex? Riddled by arrows while trying to attack the hero's army. Your current squeeze's psycho ex who is determined to ruin your happiness together? Eaten by something horrible. A  narcissistic acquaintance for whom ruining your entire life is considered an average Tuesday? Eaten by something even more horrible, or taken for study by something from beyond sanity and vivisected alive if you're not feeling merciful.

Doing this is the writer's equivalent of coming home from a rotten day, plugging in a first person shooter, and mowing down wave after wave of virtual enemies. If done well, it can be seamlessly therapeutic, relevant to your novel, and equally satisfying to your reader to see That Jerk get their comeuppance, even if they don't know That Jerk from Adam beyond the story. Done badly, though, it comes off as a tantrum in text, and could get you in serious trouble. So get your therapeutic deaths out of your system, writers, but step carefully. Bad writing is still bad writing.