Sneak Peak Excerpt

Tomorrow is release day for Dark Moon Wolf! Here is an excerpt from the first chapter to whet your interest. Pre-order today: http://amzn.to/2m86c9A


I peered down over the crib rail and, at that moment, the clouds moved so moonlight clearly illuminated the creature in my son’s crib. A wolf, unmistakably a wolf pup, with grayish-silver fur standing fuzzily askew, black nose questing in the air, tawny eyes framed by perfect black eyeliner. When the pup saw me, he gave a happy little wriggle and whined more loudly.

The wolf pup’s gaze met mine and, in an instantaneous rush, I knew him and I understood somehow this was Carson. This wolf was Carson. Here was my Carson, here was a wolf pup, here was my baby, and he started to whine more desperately and paw at the crib slats. Everything else shut off—the questioning, the panic—in the face of my baby’s need.

So I picked him up. He snuggled against me happily, nuzzling me with his wet nose, breathing in my scent, licking absently at the sleeve of my nightgown. My mind froze in panic, but my body functioned on autopilot. I walked around the room, bouncing him gently, singing a bit of a lullaby, just as usual. And, just as usual, his eyes grew heavier and his body soon felt lax with sleep. When he was well and truly out, I carefully laid him back in his crib and tiptoed from the room.

As I closed the door behind me, careful not to make the slightest noise, the pent-up adrenaline left my body and I started to shake, my muscles weak and watery, my head whirling. I slid down the wall, hugged my knees to my chest, and focused on not hyperventilating. I pressed my forehead to my hands, feeling my palms break out in a cold sweat. After a while, I stood up gingerly, opened the door to Carson’s room, and looked in.

No, I wasn’t insane. A wolf lay in Carson’s crib. Carson was a wolf. Carson was a… I glanced up at the moon, framed perfectly in the window, and silently closed the door again.

I walked down the hall to the bathroom, poured myself a glass of water, and stared at my reflection in the mirror. Yes, still me. I picked up my glasses from the bathroom counter and the room snapped into clearer focus. My eyes stared back at me from within the green frames, looking about as shocked as I felt.

“Maybe…” I thought and went back to Carson’s room with my glasses on. A sneak peek, however, showed me nothing had changed. I could just see the sleeping pup a bit more clearly from the door.

“Okay, Julie,” I said aloud in the hallway. “You haven’t gone crazy. Unless talking to yourself makes you crazy. But everything else seems pretty normal. You’re not sick, no fever. You’re not dreaming. So Carson is…Carson is…” I raised my hand to rub my forehead, closed my eyes for a moment, lowered my hand, and said it. “Carson is a Werewolf.”

The words echoed in my head and I suddenly burst out laughing, the kind of laughter that has a sharp, maniacal edge—the kind of laughter that, if I didn’t keep it in check, might yet convince me I was crazy. I couldn’t control myself, though, and after several minutes I sat on the floor, gasping for breath, tears streaming down my face, unsure whether I still laughed or had moved on to crying.

A Werewolf. Carson. Me, Julie Hall, librarian, single mother of a Werewolf. Was it possible? An hour ago, I would have said no. As much as I loved the idea of the fantastical, as much as I devoured books about magic, Dragons, Were-creatures, Vampires, the Fae, as much as I spent time wishing such things were true and I’d glimpse a Brownie or a Phouka creeping about the town, I now realized deep down, really deep down, I thought all such things were the stuff of make-believe. But it seemed I was wrong. At least about Werewolves, because clearly a wolf slept in the crib. The moment after Carson was born, my entire being flushed with pride and exhaustion, our bodies still connected by his umbilical cord, my doctor placed Carson into my arms. My baby looked right up at me with those huge blue-brown newborn eyes, alert, wide awake though silent, and in that instant, I felt a surge of insight and love, as if I’d known him all my life and had been waiting for this moment of revelation. Just now, when his eyes met mine in the crib, I felt the same thing. I had no doubt this was my Carson. Every atom of my being told me so.

Occam’s razor: Carson was a Werewolf.

My God. Was this real? I checked on Carson one more time. No change, just a small gray wolf curled in his crib.

I went into the kitchen and put on the teapot. A few minutes later, I filled my favorite blue mug with a generous dollop of honey, a chamomile teabag, and hot water. My hands icy despite the warm June night, I warmed them against the mug as I sat and thought.

I knew nothing about Werewolves. That is, nothing about real Werewolves. Some part of me gibbered at the thought of making a distinction between fictional Werewolves and real Werewolves, but I told that part to hush while I thought about this logically. The gibbering part screeched again at the thought of logic and Werewolves, then fell silent, perhaps in exhaustion.

The fact remained: I knew nothing about werewolves. Obviously, that old bit about the full moon held true. I hoped that meant I wouldn’t have to worry about Carson turning into a wolf at any old time, just once a month or so. But what else did I need to know? Would silver hurt him? Would he have uncontrollable rages and run through the woods like a wild animal? Would he be violent? Would he have any extraordinary abilities? Vulnerabilities? Were there medical ramifications? I thought back to his doctor’s appointments so far, all of which had gone quite smoothly. Now that his Were-self had manifested, could he continue to get vaccinations? I stopped the cascade of questions running through my mind, aware I degenerated into the trivial as a way to avoid the central question.

Why was he a Werewolf? How had he become a Werewolf?

In all the tales I’d read, people became Werewolves after being bitten by another Werewolf. Carson was only four months old and I could vouch for the fact he had never been bitten. Not by a Werewolf, not by a wolf, not by a dog, heck, not even by a mosquito. I had absolutely no idea how this had happened.

But I knew someone who must.

Random Research & the Hive Mind

The hive mind of the interwebs is a miraculous resource. The other day, I posted on Facebook and asked if anyone knew someone involved in fire services for the National alpinePark Services…and a friend of a friend does exactly the type of work I needed to learn about! After some initial discussions with him, I’m knee-deep in research about the Alpine Hotshots and learning about a whole new world.

stelprdb5126258I just read the story of Ed Pulaski and the 1910 fires in the Coeur d’Alene mountains in Idaho. My hotshot contact says every wildfire fighter knows this story–and I can see why!

Read the story here. Wow. WOW.

Now I’m deep in thought about all the professions, all the subcultures, all the communities in our world–how they all have their own lore, their own heroes, their own body of shared knowledge unknown to me.

I am a reader because I want to know about other lives so different than my own. Literature allows us to enter into someone else’s mind and life. Even the most unrealistic fiction nevertheless reveals actual truth about the world and about people.

This is why I write, too. Writing pushes me to enter into someone else’s head, enriches my life with a layers of understanding.

The Alpine Hotshot research is for book three, by the way…a book I’ve drastically re-imagined in the last month (part of the reason I’ve been blogging less).

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Also: Today is t-minus 11 days until the release of Dark Moon Wolf. The first couple of reviews from ARCs are up at GoodReads, which is exciting! I’m happy that the reviewers enjoyed my book.

Shorter. Sweeter?

I’ve submitted the draft of my story “Abso”* for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the process.

(I just thought in my head “Number One” and now the rest of “Ten Duel Commandments” is spiraling through my head, because my household is OBSESSED with Hamilton.**)

Okay. Ahem.

a507601f10e1f5f390c37557dcd0e99e_animal-number-1-http-www-number-1-clipart-png_424-600Writing a short story with a VERY strict word limit of 2,500 words is oddly purifying. My story is set on Mars (no, I’m not ripping off The Martian). The physical location of the story is therefore stark and harsh and somewhat sterile, yet full of beauty and a type of purity. I cut Every Possible Word from my original draft, then fleshed out certain places, then had to cut more words to compensate for the additions. What I was left with felt very much like Mars itself. The ruthless word counting improved the story so very much in the end.

 

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I enjoy writing short fiction. Why don’t I do it more? New resolve: to write more short stories and to look into SFF publishing markets for such things. To do list: Work on new edits for Waxing Moon, Finish draft of Rising Wolf, write short fiction when I need a break from this trilogy, work on the other novel idea that’s rattled around in my head for a year.

 

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Not only do I enjoy writing short stories, I’m enamored with “Abso,” the short story I wrote for this contest. Now…who knows what the judges will think about it, and I make no prediction.

However:

 

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I’m certain this story has legs. I will rework it–probably add another 500 words so that I can deepen the development of one character. And I’m going to submit it for publication, regardless of how it does in the contest.

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I even see the possibility for a set of linked short stories about this world and these characters. Musing on that. I’ve not written linking short stories before, but I will read some of that genre and think about the option.

 

All right, folks. Well, those are my musings on the contest and my short story. We’ll hear from the judges in March and I’ll let you know the results. If you want to read it, shoot me an email.

Now: back to my main WIP. Or editing. So much to do!

 

*Autocorrect wants to turn Abso into Also and it is driving me mad with its insistence.

* We are seeing Hamilton in Chicago over Labor Day Weekend! I know that is in like a zillion years, but we are thrilled. Also: side note to the side note, for a few days after my three children became obsessed with Hamilton, I had them agree to say, “Here comes the General! Rise up!” whenever I came into the room. That. Was. Amazing. Sadly, they have discontinued the practice.

#AmWriting

 

Hello everyone! The weather in Evansville, IN has been dreary, dreary, dreary, and more dreary. And today? It’s dreary.

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So, what can brighten these dreary days? Well, writing, of course!

I’m working on book three of Calling the Moon, some days quickly, some days slowly. The words pour down like a monsoon, or drip-drip-drip like run-off from lifeless winter branches. Either way, though, the water accumulates.

In the next couple of days, I’ll take a break from my WIP* to participate in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. This is a contest with an entry fee, so some might urge you to stay away–and indeed, you shouldn’t consider it if you don’t have the money to spare. The chances of winning a prize are slim, because there are a LOT of entrants.

However…it is FUN. Like. Fun. Image result for balloons sky

The contest is pretty random. You receive a specific writing prompt and have a limited time to write a story within a tight word limit. For the first round, you have 8 days to write no more than 2,500 words. The prompt consists of a genre, a subject, and a character.

Last year, when I received my first prompt, I stared at the screen and thought, “Oh, hell no.” But then…the ideas started to percolate. And then…I started to get excited about it. And before I knew it, I’d written a story that was COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone and genres of choice.

What fun! The contest also has a pretty great forum, full of potential crit buddies and commiseration.

I’ll post my prompt when I receive it, which will likely be very early Saturday morning. What genre will I get? Horror? Crime Caper? Comedy? We shall see!

 

*Work in Progress. You probably all know that, but I would hate for someone to be annoyed and have to Google an unknown acronym.

So Many Publishing Choices??!

Yo, folks. A couple of people have asked me questions recently about all the different types of publishing–what are they? How can you tell if a press is a vanity press? Why should one choose one publishing path over another?

Image result for confusionI don’t have all the answers, but I might be able to clear up some of the confusion.

For most publishing decisions, there’s not ONE right way and all the other ways are wrong. Authors may have reasons to choose any one of the options.

Large Traditional Publishing Houses: 

When most people think about publishing, this may be what comes to mind. We’re talking about your Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster,Tor etc. If you want to go this route, you need to secure a literary agent first. Most of the largest publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from the author–the literary agent serves as your intermediary. These publishers still offer a traditional advance to the author. The author then earns royalties on sales after the advance has been “earned out.” Literary agents take a share of the money for representing and helping the author. Large publishers provide full editing and cover art for the author. They have varying levels of support for author promotion, depending on the author, the market, and the publisher.

Small Publishing Houses: 

Smaller publishing houses will often take direct queries from authors without a literary
agent. Many, though not all, smaller publishers specialize in e-books and focus on the e-book market. Some also release paper russian-matryoshka-stacking-babushka-wooden-dolls-meaningbooks, either through a specific press or a print-on-demand service. Some do not! If you’re considering a small publishing house, you will want to make sure to ask questions about e-books vs. paper books. Most smaller publishers do not offer a sizable advance, if they offer an advance at all. They typically work on a royalty model, where the author earns an agreed-upon percentage of money earned by sales. They do provide full editing and cover art for the author, and may provide help with promotion. They usually release to online stores like Amazon and Barnes & Nobles, but it may be harder to find these books on the shelves of your local physical bookstores.

Vanity Presses: 

If you’re not sure what to look for, a vanity press can easily be mistaken for a small publishing house. Vanity presses pass along publication fees to the author, either as a cost split with the press or as a cost borne by the author alone. For instance, if you receive a contract from a press who asks you to bear half the costs of editing, preparing, and publishing the work, then this would be considered a vanity press. Such presses do offer things like editing and cover art, but you are paying for those services.

Self-Publishing: 

Self-publishing sounds like what it is: an author works without a publishing house to make their book available to the public. These are usually e-books, but there are often print-on-demand options. An author may choose to self publish in order to keep a greater percentage of the profits from sales. Sometimes well-known authors self-publish because they already have an audience base and do not need the help of a publishing house. Some self-published authors do hire editors and cover artists to produce very fine works; others may not seek outside help and might not produce as professional a product. If you’re thinking about self-publishing, you will want to think about all of those issues: editors, cover artists, promotion platform, reaching your audience.

Hope this helps a bit! Here are some good links on these issues:

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/12/how-to-choose-the-best-method-for-publishing-your-book/

https://www.writingforward.com/news-announcements/getting-published/types-of-publishing-companies

https://www.ribbonfish.co.uk/blog/a-short-guide-to-the-different-types-of-publishing/