Backstreets: Mail

I did a lot of thinking about the other stuff that happened in that one arc of stories in Backstreets. So here’s more of what happened with Carrie.

When Carrie dropped her stuff off in her room, she saw the envelope on her bed. Those earrings she ordered online had come in fast. She grabbed it and headed back downstairs and to Don waiting for her in the living room. He turned when she appeared. “Got something?”

“Yeah, I ordered this a week ago,” Carrie told him, handing him the envelope. “I thought it would take longer to get here.”

Don muttered a couple words and ran his finger along the top of the envelope, a neat slice appearing through the tape and paper. She smiled as he handed it back to her. A magic boyfriend was useful sometimes. So long as they kept it low key, she might be able to keep him without getting caught.

She opened the envelope and tipped it into her hand, a slip of paper falling between the two of them before a plastic bag with a single purple pill. Don went as still as her at the sight of it and Carrie’s back tingled, remembering full well what happened the last time she took one of these things. She almost wanted to throw it across the room, but she wanted an explanation more.

She shoved the bag at Don, looking for a return address on the envelope. It was blank and there wasn’t even any postage on it to let her know where it came from. The only other clue was the note.

“This has to be a joke,” Don said quietly as he handed her the note, his eyes darting to the door to make sure they weren’t being overheard. He held the pill awkwardly, like it was about to bite him. “Who the hell would send this to you? Who else knows?”

Carrie read the note.

For the future when the choice arises.


Taking a deep breath, Carrie took the pill back and shoved it in her pocket, gathering the remaining evidence together and giving it back to Don. “Burn it. Jin never finds out.”

“You can’t-”

“Just in case,” she said, not quite meeting his eyes.


Simya Academy: Questions

I ended up leaving a lot out by not including an epilogue in Simya Academy. Things like, what actually happened to her friends once the book was done.

“You don’t really believe any of this, do you?” Marisa asked once they got back in their dorm. There were only five of them now, Dawn placed on an independent long term assignment, and only three of them in the room. Well, they said that’s where she was.

“She has not been replaced yet,” Angel said. “She might be back.”

“No,” Shane told her.

“You know something about that night,” Marisa said. “It’s been months and no one’s told us anything. It’s not a coincidence that Dawn got put on ‘permanent assignment’ in the middle of the night and the Tower blows up at the same time. Or that, somehow, we’re the only ones who managed to sleep through the whole thing. There is no way she got out of here without going through you first, Shane. And – Roland!”

“What?” Roland asked as he walked into the dorm, closing the door behind him.

“You found something last night, right? The folder?”

Roland’s eyes flicked around the room, carefully checking everything. He went to the window and made sure it was closed before he pulled it out from under his pillow. “There was this,” he said, leaving the folder on his bed. “Ellen’s file. I have yet to go through it, but Dawn’s left a note.”

Shane looked back to the door, then to the rest of them. “Fine,” Shane said. “I will tell you what happened. But only once Jack comes. I am not repeating myself.”


The 2016 Nanowrimo Poll

It’s getting close to NaNoWriMo1 again, which means it’s time to make the internet choose my novel once more! This is my eleventh year participating2 and another year where I cannot decide for myself what to write, so I’m leaving it up to everyone else. Because there’s only four options, you can pick your favourite two.

Looking Glass Saga: Beauty Sleep (Book 6)
With the end of Middle School approaching, Alice is getting ready to deal with her bet with the Bandersnatch. She’s done everything she can, but when her roommate, Adrianna, falls into a deep sleep and no one can wake her up, Alice has to put the bet aside. She hopes the answer to waking her up lies somewhere in Wonderland, but time is running out and if she doesn’t find it, Adrianna may never wake up.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00032]Arcleo
Mirabella knows she is a princess. She knows because she doesn’t want to be an innkeeper’s daughter. When a group of people come through the inn looking for the real princess of a conquered kingdom, Mirabella sneaks out to join them on their quest to fulfill the prophesy to retake the kingdom. The journey isn’t quite what she had hoped, full of danger and uncertainty, and she is not the only potential princess they’ve picked up in their travels.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00032]Sky of Butterflies
Deciding to try their luck on their own, Mateo and Serafina venture out of their orphanage and into the wide world outside, only to be swept up in a revolution. The robots have caught their world up in a tyrannical rule while the rich remain safe behind gilded gates. The kids, however, soon learn that the resistance is not all that it seems to be… and neither are they.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00002]Static
Roughly a year after the events of White Noise, Willow suddenly recovers from her vegetative state and takes Max with her, provoking H&R to try and deal with the situation. Harrison is not a fan of what that means and starts to learn just what H&R have been up to, the real reason of their research, and how far they will go to keep their research private. He still doesn’t know what Willow wants and still can’t quite remember what happened the last time he went into H&R.

NaNoWriMo 2016

  • Arcleo (59%, 36 Votes)
  • Sky of Butterflies (23%, 14 Votes)
  • Static (20%, 12 Votes)
  • Beauty Sleep (16%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 61

Loading ... Loading ...

Poll closes on my birthday, October 25th. Happy voting!

  1. National Novel Writing Month []
  2. Is it actually eleven? That seems like a ridiculously long time… []

Cutting Room Floor: The Edge of Wonderland

I am starting to work on the rewrite of the next Looking Glass Saga book, The Edge of Wonderland!1 One of the fun things about going back through the first drafts, particularly one that I wrote several years ago, is finding the strange lines and weird notes I’ve left for myself in the process of writing it.

Commentary about working on vacation:

Yes. Working through the holidays like AMERICA.

I like this, but it doesn’t work where it is:

“No, that’s what plotting sounds like,” Adrianna said. “I know my brothers. I know what them plotting something sounds like.”


In which I notice I haven’t thought things through.

Alice tried to count the doors, but she didn’t know how many. I have really made this house ridiculously huge and will be downsizing it in the future.

Unfortunately, this cannot stay.

Alice got the feeling of royalty from her, but in a different way from the Queen of Hearts. Where the Queen was unhinged and quite probably completely deranged, [she] seemed much more benevolent and willing to not cut off her head or rip out her heart. Alice appreciated that.

Actually, this might stay as well. I loved this movie.

Apparently Santa Claus, who Alice was aware of but never really knew much about, was a child who was raised by fairies and sometimes attacked by monsters. Somehow, this was not in line at all with any of the things that Alice had grown up learning about the figure and they were quickly joined by Ryan, who was quick to point out how completely inaccurate the fairies were, as well as the creatures that they were fighting against. He seemed to have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the mythology, but he used it to make the movie a little more entertaining.

Also, I know very little about Christmas.

She’d made cookies and watched more Christmas movies than she’d ever watched or made ever before in the time she was here, as well as helped do more Christmas thing that people do traditionally. Dammit, I really don’t know that much about other people’s traditions. Also, generic hanging out at home stuff. She learned to play video games and she kind of sucks at them, but she can button mash all right. Which she cheats on.

Anyway, Christmas!

  1. Still debating on the title. It may change by the end of this whole rewrite []

Office: Xombie Overdose

Just in case anyone thought the twins weren’t somehow entirely responsible for what happened during the zombie invasion, here’s a cut bit from Office that didn’t fit anywhere.

“You’d think they’d know it’s not supposed to be green,” Di said, remaining just out of sight of the small crowd of junkies crowding around what they thought was a box of free heroin.

“You’d think they’d know you aren’t going to get anything good in random boxes in an alley, but this is the second time today.”

“Should we do anything about this?”

A grin crossed her brother’s face and the look in Ezra’s eye told her that he knew just what to do to spice things up a little. He’d been more reckless than her lately and, as much fun as it was, she wasn’t sure if she should be stopping him.

He was always the one to rein her in when she went too far, though. That was how they worked. She jumped at whatever would be the most entertaining and he made sure it didn’t get out of hand. Maybe this streak of boredom was getting to him too. If he wasn’t going to stop her, she’d keep from stopping him too.

“It’s been awfully dull at the office lately, don’t you think?” Ezra asked.

“So boring.”

“And we can’t just leave these guys out here on their own.”

“They’re going to get in trouble on their own.”

“They’d cause too much trouble for the Chief.”

“We should really bring them right there.”

“And take the scenic route,” Ezra agreed. “They might have a few more friends we haven’t seen.”

Di pushed back that voice in her head telling her that this was definitely one of those times that Ezra would tell her it was going too far. The idea of the office plunged in a zombie invasion sounded like far too much fun to pass up. Plus, it had been years since she and Ezra had a chance to really let loose and no one was going to stop them over zombies.

Still, there was something off about Ezra. His expression was as calm as usual, but his smile never quite met his eyes. She knew she should stop and ask him what was going on, even if it meant stopping what might be the most fun they’d ever have at the office.

If it was serious, he’d tell her. If not, she’d ask him when this stopped being fun.


Simya Academy: Othering

There’s a few strange things that got left out of Simya Academy. Namely, I left out everything that wasn’t directly related to Dawn. Like this little bit about what happened with Zeke.

A moment ago there was nothing but fire and that girl, her grey eyes chilling him to the bone. He knew her once as a child, back in those hazy years that would never quite return to him. She changed from the friend he sort of remembered to the demon who looked too at home in the flames.

“What’s going on?” he asked, his voice hollow and disappearing into the night. He could feel the cool open night air and was dimly aware that he was in a field in the middle of nowhere, his knees soaking from the damp soil he now knelt in. It didn’t matter. Nothing made sense anymore.

You needed to get out of there, came the little voice in his head. Frag was there, as he always was, speaking gently and trying not to sound shaken himself. I took the liberty.

Zeke shook his head, though he wasn’t sure what he was disagreeing with. He could still feel the fire. He could see Dawn there. He could hear his brother. He saw everything happen. He knew what happened. It just didn’t make any sense.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, sitting in the dirt and shaking his head, before he managed to get his next words out. “I can’t go back, can I?”

You could, Frag said. I wouldn’t recommend it. It might be time to go.

“Yeah,” Zeke said. “Yeah, I think we should go.”

Zeke didn’t move a muscle, but the field was empty a moment later.


When Life Gets You Down

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been around very much. Sure, posts have been going up, but the vlogs stopped and I’m just talking about stuff that I finished writing months ago. I all but vanished off of social media and I haven’t really done much since that one NetGalley run a few months ago. So what the heck happened?

Short answer: I burned out.

I managed to put out 13 books since October 2013 and that pace finally caught up to me. I was rewriting Changing Tides and I just shut down writing-wise. I couldn’t keep going and my mind and body1 were telling me that I needed to take a break, so I took one. It also told me that I really needed to reassess my pace so that I could keep this from happening again.

This year, I need to take it easy. Next year I’m probably not going to go back to the four books a year schedule either.2 Chances are it will go down to three or two a year, though I’ll try to focus a bit more on getting the games into beta. It’s unfortunate, but I’m glad to at the very least to be ready to do some work on the writing again. Even if it’s not necessarily publishing right at this moment.

I’m going to put Changing Tides on the back burner for now and focus my attention on a few other things. I’ll still get the next Looking Glass Saga book out in October, but I don’t see myself getting any other books out for this year. Instead, I’m going to focus on something just a touch more relaxing in an attempt to get myself back in good order at least for November and drafts season.3 And I’m probably going to still try to get those White Noise sequels written. Because, taking it easy or not, this is still me.

So that’s the new plan. Hopefully there won’t be any more burning out and you’ll be hearing from me a lot more in the coming months!

  1. I was also adjusting to a new job and having a few medical issues I won’t go into []
  2. Especially not with the new job. It’s just not going to work. []
  3. And next year, because I have a few things I want to do next year. []

Bunches of Themes

In the end for Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, all of the stories were grouped based on a similar theme or idea. I played with a lot of different groupings for them, but in the end I found that thematically made the most sense when you were reading the anthologies.1 The ideas, for those who have not checked them out yet:

Syndicate – An introduction to the universe and some basic elements

Backstreets – What the backstreets are

Office – The Syndicate offices and how it functions

Visitors – Things that exist in the universe that should not be there

Evidence – Magical items

Legacy – A look at all those potential “Chosen ones” that exist in these sorts of stories and what they’re doing

And then there’s Simya Academy, which was a tie in novella and isn’t going to be talked about too much in this series.2

As one person pointed out, doing this didn’t work for every book. Backstreets, I agree, was very samey after a while because the type of story is very much the same when I tell something that happens in the Backstreets. It’s essentially a winding haunted house, so they all came out with a very heavily haunted house influenced feeling and narrative structure.

Legacy also had issues in that it was the last book of a very loosely explained series that attempted to give an explanation of what was going on.

Overall, though, I think it worked for this series. Considering I was going to allow users to build their own books from the stories provided,3 I think this was probably the best idea I could have gone with.

You know, until next week when I think of something better.

  1. And for writing them! []
  2. Nor is the actual content of the series at all. []
  3. And an earlier structure that involved rigid classification and no consideration for arcs at all []

Tagging Narratives

Back when I was still sitting on Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, I talked to the CEO of a company of BookRiff and she presented a very interesting idea that I pretty much immediately took to. The idea of BookRiff, originally, was more academic1 and would allow you to take articles and chapters out of various books and merge them into a different book. Ideally, it meant that students could get cheaper textbooks by only printing off what they needed.

I, being someone who had an anthology series with strange linearity, had a very different idea. In one of the early iterations, instead of releasing them in collections, I was going to release every story individually and give people a way to create their own books based on which characters they liked or which stories they wanted to continue with.

This, of course, fell through. But I haven’t quite given up on the idea. I like the idea of a build-your-own-narrative where you pick the pieces you like and put them together to make them your own. A whole book with only those characters you like. An arc that is put in the proper linear order. Just giving people a way to take the existing pieces and let them put them together in a way that makes sense to them.

In my head, I call it a tagged narrative. The idea of it is that it is a group of stories that are user created and grouped under a categorization that the user creates rather than one that the gatekeeper2 imposes. It could be something curated by a lot of people that doesn’t have anything to do with the way the original content creator had grouped the narratives originally.

  1. Or that’s how she pitched it, anyway []
  2. In this case, me, the author []

Office: Escape

This is a scene that never quite made it into the series. This takes place during one of the stories in Office when the office is overrun and Persea has been forgotten about.

That ceiling had taunted her for so long. It laughed as she was kept inside the jar, trapped and unable to escape the glass. There was iron in the lid and she could not break through that. For years, she watched as her captor just sat there, ignoring her and forgetting that she was even there in the first place.

And then he died. And then there was nothing to even watch. There was only the mockery of the ceiling when it remembered her at all.

But now some idiot had finally come in. He was trying to freeze himself in the room, but she knew it wouldn’t work. Already, something was rumbling the shelf behind her, trying to break through the wall. No matter how much ice, she would finally be free and humanity would pay for what they did to her.

The shelf came down in a crash and the jar bounced against the ground. She felt the rumbling around her as more humans trampled the remains of the shelf, but the jar that held her was still intact.

No, that couldn’t be right.

Persea banged against the glass. Even as the room around her froze, she kept fighting against her clear prison. It wasn’t fair! She was so patient, spent so many years in solitary confinement and forgotten. It was her time to be free and she would make the humans pay! She was not meant to be contained!

Outside, the ceiling laughed.