Haunted Writing Clinic – The first page!

Hello everyone! So sorry to have not been around as much as I should have been. New job, craziness all around. But I’m here now, and I’m going to show (not tell!) my first page of upcoming novel, Sanity Vacuum. But first, here are some observations about first pages in general:

  • I like to start the story in some action, mixed in with anticipation. It keeps the readers reading, and it keeps me writing.
  • Keep it simple. I establish a main character. Ever been hit with a story that slaps you with multiple characters in the first couple of pages? Or worse, switches POV multiple times. Pick one character and stick with her for a while. She’ll grow on your audience–complexity can come later.
  • Set a scene: descriptions! Show, don’t tell. Give the reader enough detail to paint a beautiful picture in their imagination. Stay away from minutiae. Learn to love body language. Avoid excessive adverbs.
  • Avoid too much jargon. This mostly applies to science fiction and other-universe fantasy. You’ve created a vibrant, beautiful world, we know, that’s what we’re here for! Don’t overload our neurons with it all at once… that leads to overcooked brains. The master chef won’t approve.

Now, I’m going to serve up my own first chapter. I’m doing a cover reveal for this beauty on Friday, so do check back!

Chapter One


The deafening boom of the rocket’s engines filled the air, and Vivian Skye’s lungs. She watched in awe as the spacecraft took flight, climbing into the scintillating green-red glow of Aurora’s chaotic skies.  This was her first visit to the spaceport in the capital city of Antica, Aurora’s only major link to the stars and galaxy beyond. Located close to the planet’s equator, the site was one of the few places on the planet where the electronics required for space flight would work unshielded above ground. Aurora’s star, Helios, was unstable and often experienced geomagnetic storms. While there was little danger to humans in terms of radiation exposure outside the forbidden Polar Regions, most technology would be disabled or damaged beyond repair after leaving the equatorial zone. Aurora had been one of the first worlds colonized by Earth in the early days of space travel—in modern times, it would be passed over as unsuitable for advanced human life.

Vivian swallowed in an effort to center herself, lost in thought. She had never been off-world before. Few Aurorans ever left, preferring a simple life of agriculture and crafts to braving the rigors of deep-space travel and the burgeoning interstellar economy. She gripped the rail as the trail of smoke parted the dancing green and red lights, nerves and stress rattling in her stomach. She didn’t understand her trepidation and fear, because she’d worked her whole life to be able to leave Aurora and travel among the stars. Vivian had studied hard, forsaking friends and a social life for a chance to attend Aurora’s Advanced Technological Institute, the only university on the planet that taught her subject of choice—quantum informatics. Quantum computers fascinated her; she’d read all of the non-classified papers she could find without the benefit of having access to a reading pad, and had collected every book about the ABACUS incident that was available on Aurora. She smiled at the unthinkable reality, that advanced computer intelligence had conquered Earth almost a century ago. So much of humanity relied on ABACUS-type quantum computers that it was impossible to eliminate them, so securing them from being able to become sentient became a renewed focus in quantum informatics.

A New Project Beckons

I’m back after an extended disappearance! I didn’t forget about you guys, but, no news is no news. Now, I have news, am making news and am ready to rock some socks.

Sanity Vacuum is done for the moment and awaiting edits, which leaves me with a void in my life. As we know, nature abhors a vacuum (haha) and thus, there is only one or two logical things to do, especially since day job style work is slow.

1. Fill it with zombies

Bedlam is getting moved off the back burner, and finding itself thrust back into the angry, violent recesses of my mind. The fourth part of the Zombie Bedtime Stories introduces new characters, new places, and new atrocities. There will be some familiar places, and names, because the whole series is interconnected and will lead up to the terrifying and ultimate series conclusion. I love the Zombie Bedtime Stories, and it will get its 12-15 story run.

2. Write a sequel

That’s right, I started the sequel to Sanity Vacuum today. The working title for the series is The ABACUS Protocol, and the title I’ve picked for the sequel is The Pandora Machine. There’s not a lot to tell here yet, but it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Victory at day 25: My NaNoWriMo Adventure

The dust has settled, and I have emerged victorious over the beast of NaNoWriMo. I planned on finishing today, and that’s exactly what I did.


I win!


It was a tough fight. It took all of the stubbornness, self-discipline, perseverance and sheer will I had, but I cranked out an average of 2000 words/day for 25 days straight, when most sane or less-driven people were telling me to get my half-dead posterior back to bed. As of yesterday, I’ve been breathing mostly without pain, and can manage very short walks. However, I seem to have caught a cold.

Now, here are my final thoughts on NaNoWriMo, made 100% more true and legitimate because I won.

  1. Get mad. At yourself, your characters, anything. Just be angry. Stare at those stats with hatred and rage in your eyes (especially the “Words remaining” section.) Lemma 1: Don’t get depressed. Be awesome instead.
  2. Find cheerleaders, people who will cheer you on and are so overwhelmingly positive they make you want to puke.
  3. Get writing buddies. Check their progress daily. If you’re not in the top of the bunch (after the crazy people who finish in 10 days, of course) then refer to item 1.
  4. Stick to your goal. If you miss it, compensate the next day. If you manage a spectacular failure of a day, then figure out a way to average it out, and refer to item 1.
  5. Convince yourself that whatever you’re writing is the most fascinating subject known to man. Fall in love with it. Rave on twitter about space stations.
  6. Don’t be afraid to brag. It feels good.

I started crying as I was writing my last sentences. I never cry at books or movies as a rule, I’m usually very aware of the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Something about Sanity Vacuum was different. Maybe it was the way I ended it, or the fact that I’ll miss my characters. Perhaps there’s a certain casual brutality to the zombie genre. I usually know which characters are fodder, and inoculate myself accordingly.

Tomorrow, I go to a small press fair, and see what’s out there in my fair city. I might try to pick up a paying gig with a local company or two, for some spending money and more name out-there-ness. I know the word is exposure, let me have my fun. I won NaNoWriMo today.

Otherwise, I begin writing Zombie Bedtime Stories part 4, Bedlam on Monday, and I begin putting the final touches on Deadlocked. It rolls out in about a week, and I think it’s the best one yet.

December will be a full month. I have one book release, a novella to write, a novel to edit, and two blog hops. I hope you guys are along for the ride! January, I’m wanting to do a blog tour. If anyone is interested in hosting, drop me a line.

Now, I have a bottle of champagne that urgently needs my attention.

The Making of a Zombie Bedtime Story

I’m pleased to announce that Deadlocked is nearing completion. After marathon NaNoWriMo writing sessions, I managed to squeeze in the editing time I missed out on while I was sick, and finally, Deadlocked is off to the beta readers. This is an exciting time for me, I use an opinionated mix of people who don’t really know me, people who know me and are highly critical and opinionated, people who like zombies, people who don’t like zombies but like a good story and two people who do not speak English as a first language (If they have trouble understanding a sentence, or find it unclear, then it’s probably not a good sentence. They are both fluent and enjoy reading English books.)

However, this is the end of the production for a Zombie Bedtime Story. Let’s switch to the beginning, because I am going to be restarting the cycle very soon:

I have a list of ideas, and a rough order that I want the series to follow. I’ve shuffled some ideas and events around, but the series itself has a definite beginning, middle and end.

I take the idea I want to work on, and flesh it out into a story. This story will have a beginning, middle and a conclusion. In my opinion (probably the only one that matters), each story needs to stand on its own. I leave Easter Eggs and tie-ins to future story lines, but nothing as overt as a “true” cliffhanger.

I’ve had good results both with and without outlines, but I usually have a good idea of what the main and side conflicts are, who the characters need to be and what particular flavor of gore I’m going to use. I have a notepad on my desk labeled “squick,” if I’m stuck for something extra gross I refer to it.

Once actual writing starts, the story grows organically, and new characters evolve or appear, buildings, extra character development and back story occur at this stage. I didn’t just sit down at the drawing board and decide what my characters hopes, habits and phobias are. They evolve out of my own sadistic desire to torture them, or because I want to get to know them better. Also, something about character development should go here.

Eventually, I finish writing, and get to editing. Here’s where I add extra details, ramp up the gore and make my characters swear more. I’ll usually flesh out the ending, for that final blaze of glory. If you’ve read Locked In, you know what I’m talking about.

I’ll edit again, especially around where I added new content. Then I send it off to be edited by a very patient person with an encyclopedic knowledge of English grammar, vocabulary and a strong stomach. Once I get it back, I adjust my manuscript accordingly, learn to use a damn em-dash and then, I am at the stage where I sent it off to many proof-readers.

Why did I make this post? I’m not sure. I wanted to write about Deadlocked‘s impending release, in a different kind of light. (It will be after US Thanksgiving, that much I know. I am tentatively hoping for the first week of December.)

What is Deadlocked about already, Thea?

That is an excellent question. Deadlocked is the third part of the Zombie Bedtime Stories, and it flows mid-way out of part #1.

Deadlocked follows Haley’s partner, Frank, as he comes to the realization that something is very wrong. All of his questions and concerns are ignored and he finds himself silenced at every turn. He is determined to save his partner and his friends. However, Frank is no hero, and finds himself fighting for his life as his efforts to do the right thing go horribly wrong.

Stay tuned for excerpts!

This post brought to you by the fact that I didn’t realize I was wearing a hat for the majority of the day.

NaNoWriMo word count: 12,125. There’s a space station in the story, and space stations are cool.


A new review, Deadlocked off to the editor, and Bedlam begins

What a title. I’m saving the best for last, though.

I needed to rework Deadlocked‘s ending. The previous one didn’t feel perfect, which simply will not do at all. I may play with the order the stories come in, after Bedlam. Speaking of Bedlam, I just finished its outline. It certainly lives up to the name, lets just say that.

In news that is awesome, The Zombie’s Bride just got a review from Double Shot Reviews. Head on over and check out what they’re saying, then download the story for free!


At long last, Deadlocked is finished, and a cute picture I drew

You heard it here, and maybe during my self-congratulatory tweets last night. Deadlocked‘s first draft is finally complete! I really struggled with this one, lots of stupid life-stress caused huge amounts of writer’s block. But, I crawled forward in 200-word blocks until the end, where a few more substantive writing sessions finally finished it.

Today, I’m going to be taking the Red Pen of Doom to this lovely manuscript, to fix the damage writing in 200-word segments can do, general coherence and to tighten up my descriptiveness and prose. Whatever prose really means.

In other news, The Zombie’s Bride is approaching 2500 downloads. That’s a nice number, but it seems to have little to no effect on sales. I’ll focus more on the main Zombie Bedtime Stories plot line for now, as I want Bedlam to be released by Christmas. This is, of course, barring extenuating circumstances, such as finding full-time work.

Finally, some artwork. My recently was able to get my hands on a Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet courtesy of my boyfriend’s wonderful negotiation skills. After figuring out how to draw with it, and a crash self-taught course in Photoshop Elements, I came up with this little thing:



My cover artist‘s job is safe.

The Zombie’s Bride, now free on Kindle, and other good things

At long last, Amazon has made The Zombie’s Bride free for Kindle. This is not a limited time offer, I consider it to be a sampler of my work, put out there as a way to entice people into trying my other work (notably, the Zombie Bedtime Stories.) So please, download it early, and often!

It’s interesting to note that I’ve moved 560+ copies in one day as of this writing. It’s pretty well ranked, and I’m hoping that good things will come of it!

In other good news, I’m pretty hopeful for even more reviews to be out within the next week, thanks to some nice blogger-types. Now, all I have to do is finish Deadlocked already, and I’ll be set for meeting October goals.

October goals:

  • Write outline/chapter guides for NaNoWriMo
  • Start/Complete Zombie Bedtime Stories draft #4: Bedlam
  • Sell 50 copies (combined) of Locked In and Locked Out. (I made my goal of 25 for September, why not aim high?)
  • Edit Deadlocked and aim for end of October release (or early November, depending)



A review, and Deadlocked is almost written!

You read that right. I got a review for Zombie Pride! It’s from the nice people with the Zombie Response Team. If you haven’t checked out Zombie Pride yet, now you can read exactly what you’re missing out on! Don’t worry, it being free isn’t a limited time offer.

In other news, Deadlocked is almost finished. I have to write the conclusion/closing, and it’s time for edits. You’ll see a blurb and cover within the next couple of weeks. I’m excited with how it’s turning out. I’ve been slow writing it, but the deliberate pace seems to have an overall positive effect.

I want to write most of part 4, Bedlam, during October. I’m (liberal estimate) hoping to have part 4 out by Christmas. There’s going to be a delay called NaNoWriMo, but let’s just say that I’m conjuring up something quite different during that month from what you’re used to. Of course, it won’t be available for a long time, so it honestly doesn’t really matter.

Another day, another draft.

I put in about 7 hours today planning how to implement my mom’s suggestions and edits into my manuscript for Locked Out. Tomorrow I get to spend several more hours inputting it all, but I think the story is that much deeper and more enjoyable because of it.It’s also going to gain at least 1000 words, perhaps closer to 2000.

My struggle against writer’s block met with a small victory. I managed 300 words before burning out, completing the first chapter of Deadlocked. I hope I can feel more inspired tomorrow. Being behind on my arbitrary and made-up deadlines really gets on my nerves.

One thing I’ve noticed is that for every hour of writing, I spend about 3-4 hours editing. In addition to this, contrary to almost anything I’ve read is that I gain words when editing rather than paring a manuscript down. Maybe I’m just really bad at remembering what readers want to know? Locked In went from 4.1k to 6.2k, which is a huge gain.

I’m simultaneously fired and awesome, so that’s all for tonight.

A new review!

So after another unproductive week, I have a new review, and a new reason to refocus my efforts on Deadlocked.

Much thanks to Dianna for her awesome review of Locked In. It’s straight and to the point, which I enjoy and appreciate. And don’t worry, you’ll hopefully be seeing much more from me very soon!

This weekend I have mercifully few tasks, so I want to get caught up on my writing. That’s what really matters.Hoping to have some cover art to show, too, if all goes well.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!