Monday, April 18, 2016

Undead Ultra Relay - come run with us!



I'm celebrating the release of Undead Ultra with a 200-mile relay from Geyserville, CA to Arcata, CA. Registration is now open at: www.undeadultra.com. Lace up and come run with me and the Healdsburg Running Company! I promise sweat, dirt, and adventure!


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Interview with JC Kang, Author of THE DRAGON SCALE LUTE

Hello! I am so excited to share this interview with Asian-American author, JC Kang. His debut Asian-Inspired Fantasy novel, The Dragon Scale Lute, is releasing on March 2. If you like a good Asian-Inspired Fantasy, be sure to check this one out!


So JC, tell us a little bit about the Dragon Scale Lute.
Well, it’s part coming-of-age sword and sorcery, part political conspiracy, with a touch of romance.  Set in a realm loosely based on Imperial China (with Qing and Tang influences), it follows Kaiya, a fourteen-year-old princess who has the potential of rediscovering the art of invoking magic through music.  Her homeland appears stable; but the emperor’s spy network, led by Kaiya’s banished childhood friend Tian and his half-elf sidekick Jie (she thinks HE’s the sidekick), uncover a brewing rebellion.  The emperor wants to placate an ambitious lord by offering Kaiya’s hand.  However, she meets a foreign (based on India) martial mystic who suggests her voice, not her marriage, will better serve the realm.

What inspired you to write Asian-themed fantasy?
I am something of a Born-Again Asian. I grew up in the South—the Confederacy’s capital, actually—in complete denial of my heritage. The very few Asians I knew in middle and high school were recent immigrants from China and Vietnam, who, in my teenage eyes, fit comfortably into negative stereotypes in the 80s.  Luckily, I grew up, lived in Asia for a while, which changed my view of things.

So it’s kind of like atonement?
Hah, maybe?  On top of being Asian, I’m also a geek.  I watched Star Wars, and read classic fantasy like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (which is why I go by JC).  Too many stories from my youth focused on Caucasian heroes, and oftentimes, the villains were People of Color.  I have kids now, and I wanted to write stories with heroes that had faces like theirs.

You flip the script, then.
I wouldn’t say that.  I didn’t want to make it like Asian cinema, where some villains are horrible stereotypes of Caucasians, or create race-based hostilities.  My world is home to East Asians, South Asians, Native Americans, North Africans, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, East European, and Middle Easterners, along with classical fantasy beings like elves, dwarves and a dragon.  There are good and bad guys (and gals) in every ethnic group, just like in life.

It sounds like the influence of multiculturalism.  Are humans, then, pretty much like those on earth?
Well, in addition to cultures based on historical peoples, I give each of the ethnic groups a unique sphere of magic.  For the East Asians, it is evoking magic through artistic endeavor.  South Asians experience combat in slow motion.  Middle Easterners—

Wait!  Don’t tell us everything.  So did you randomly place all these different ethnicities on your world map?
OK, I have a confession to make.  I used to play Dungeons and Dragons, and I created the original world as a teenager.  Which is to say, naiveté and puberty went into its creation.  Yes, you’re cringing. I am, too.   Hear me out.   I was cleaning out my junk from my mom’s house one year, and stumbled on my Dungeons and Dragons world. While I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of my fourteen-year-old self,  I did appreciate a few of the underlying ideas in this world.

I spent the next six days remaking my world, taking into account trivial matters like gravity, climate, and supply and demand.  And unlike the first version, I used diverse human ethnicities. I considered how their proximities would influence each other culturally, religiously and technologically.

On the seventh day, I rested.  I looked at my new creation, awestruck at how decades of life experience could influence a world.  In that moment of modesty and deep contemplation, I realized I would never play Dungeons and Dragons again. 

On the seventh day?  Delusions of grandeur?
Maybe.  In any case, we were in midst of a blizzard, and with not much else to do, I wrote.   Why not?  I had worked professionally as a technical writer and an editor.  I knew about varying sentences structures and avoiding repetition of the same words.   I started with an action adventure love story set in the Asian part of the world, and in the span of three weeks, I pumped out a 150,000 word novel.

The Dragon Scale Lute?
Hah, no.  It turns out, technical writing and fiction writing are two very different beasts, and that first novel was pretty bad.  I joined Critique Circle, an online crit exchange site, and basically learned the craft as I went.  That first novel is now Book 3 out of 4.  The Dragon Scale Lute is chronologically the first book, but I wrote it last.

So it’s a polished, refined tour de force.
Um… right.  I’ll let you be the judge of that.  It comes out on March 2.

We look forward to it! 

You can connect with JC on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cover Reveal Part 2 - Undead Ultra



A while back I posted the cover for my forthcoming book, Undead Ultra. After that, my writing buddy Lan Chan released her novel Poison. I immediately fell in love with her cover and asked who her designer was. Lan recommended DDD - Deranged Doctor Design, an online book cover designer that specializes in genre fiction.

I decided to have them create an alternative cover for Undead Ultra, just to see what they could come up. I could not have been more pleased with the results! Not only was DDD professional, fast, and affordable, but I found them to be extremely flexible and accommodating to this picky and perfectionist indie author.

Ultimately I was looking for a cover that would appeal to running fanatics and zombie lovers. I think the cover crafted by DDD completely delivered!


Undead Ultra is currently scheduled to be released in the first half of 2016. 

Book description for Undead Ultra:

Undead: a deceased creature that has been re-animated through science or supernatural force.

Ultramarathon: any footrace longer than a traditional marathon (26.2 miles).

Kate and her best friend, Frederico, are ultrarunners. For them, a typical Saturday morning is spent pounding out a twenty-to-thirty mile “fun run.” 

It’s during one of these Saturday morning runs that the zombie apocalypse strikes. In the midst of the chaos, Kate receives a desperate call from her college son, Carter. She and Frederico flee their hometown and set out to help him. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away and the freeways are clogged with car wrecks, zombies, and government blockades.

When their hatchback is totaled early in their journey, Kate and Frederico are forced to strike out on foot. Though both are conditioned to running long miles, neither has ever run so far before. As pain, injuries, hunger, and fatigue plague them, the zombie threat becomes ever-present. Will they have what it takes to finish their race and save Carter? 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Writer's View: POISON by Lan Chan


It is with great excitement that I share my review of POISON by Lan Chan. Lan and I have been writing buddies for several years. It's really neat to see my friend achieve her dream of becoming a published author, and it's even more exciting to share her kick-ass novel with the blog-o-sphere! Oh, and just check out her cover! Isn't it amazing?!

CURRENT ISSUES EXTRAPOLATED INTO THE FUTURE

One of the things I love most about speculative fiction is its ability to extrapolate on current trends and issues we see in the world today. This is by far my most favorite aspect of the genre, and my favorite aspect of Chan's novel. The issue she chose to tackle was GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- and possible threats they pose to the future of society. With the production of GMOs on the rise and political battles raging on this subject in our own society, this book is a truly compelling read.

In the world of POISON, natural flora and fauna has almost been completely eradicated in favor of GMOs. This has been done purposefully by Seeders, the ruling class. They keep the world's populace in servitude by making them dependent up on them for food. Only the Seeders can have viable seeds, and seeds are only given out to obedient citizens. The seeds doled out to the populace have been genetically manipulated so that they will not produce viable seeds when they grow. Unruly citizens are punished by the withholding of viable seeds. The land surrounding the towns has been infested with predatory animals and poisonous plants, making survival in the wild impossible without the Seeders.

Despite this well-hatched plan for world domination, the Seeders are faced two major consequences for their actions: 1) Ingestion of the GMOs has led to a new strain of cancer known as the rotting sickness. Those stricken with the rotting sickness waste away, descend into mental madness, and eventually die. 2) The Seeders' viable seed source is dwindling. As they have annihilated virtually all naturally growing plants, they have no source or replenishment.

This is the world in which our protagonist, Rory, finds herself. The Seeders think she is the missing link to saving their world from starvation and the rotting sickness. Rory, driven nearly insane by their machinations and violence, has other plans . . .

PROTAGONIST ON THE BLEEDING EDGE

Which brings me to my second favorite aspect of this novel: the character Rory.

This is not your average YA heroine. She's not soft. She's not needy. She doesn't pine after handsome boys. If anything, the more handsome they are, the less she trusts them. She's tough and walks on the bleeding edge of sanity.

Rory was taken as a young girl and forced to join the Seeder circus, where she was badly abused. A few years later, her mother was murdered before her eyes for being part of a people (the Wanderers) who illegally cultivated viable seeds. Rory herself was brutally and publicly mutilated for being half Wanderer. By the time we meet Rory as a teenager, she is already teetering on the edge of sanity. When she embarks on a quest to save her town from starvation -- a Seeder punishment for an imagined crime -- the very core of her being is threatened.

Rory is betrayed at every turn. She is forced to make hard decisions. She is forced to kill and murder. The people she loves and cares about are killed off one by one. Each blow pushes Rory deeper into inner turmoil. The only way she can escape is by popping handfuls of sleeping pills, usually four at a time. She has panic attacks. She lashes out at everything and everyone. She spends much of the book fantasizing about the various ways she can kill her enemies.

When she’s not fantasizing about mayhem, she’s sowing it. At one point, when forced to attend a Seeder dinner party, she snaps -- and stabs another dinner guest through the hand with a fork.

I could practically feel her prowling through the pages of this book like a caged, feral cat. In light of all she endures in the novel, her rage and fragile grip on stability ring true. Chan has truly crafted an edgy and unique character.

BREAK NECK SPEED

If you like fast-paced novels, you will not be disappointed with POISON. Chan writes at break-neck speed.  And though I do enjoy a fast-paced novel, at times it felt like the plot accelerated too quickly. For lack of a better analogy, I wish the pace had occasionally slowed so readers could stop and smell the roses. (Or poisonous plants, as it were.) As a reader, I never had a chance to become truly grounded in a place or situation before being catapulted into the next harrowing obstacle. In the grand scope of the novel, this is only a small nit and it's more of a personal preference.

HOW ABOUT A PREQUEL!

Chan succeeded in creating a very detailed past for Rory. So detailed, in fact, that I'd love to read a prequel about her days in the Seeder circus. Hopefully this will be something the author will write in the future!


All in all, POISON is a fast-paced read with a fascinating heroine and a plot that may make readers pause before taking their next bite of GMO corn.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Writer's Toolbox Audio Book


Writer's Toolbox, World Integration, was recently released as an audio book. I partnered with the incredibly talented voice actor Al Kessel on this project. Copies are available now at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

About the audiobook: World Integration tackles the tricky task of incorporating world-building details into a science fiction or fantasy novel. This can present an interesting dilemma for genre writers. How can information on a fictional world be delivered to readers in a way that is natural to the storyline? How can important details be shared without bogging down readers in pages and pages of boring exposition? 
This is where World Integration will help. Writers will learn valuable techniques for weaving world building into a genre story, as well as the pros and cons of each technique. All methods are accompanied with examples from published works. This book is for all science-fiction and fantasy writers looking to improve and enhance world building in their novels. 
Writer's Toolbox is a how-to series dedicated to helping speculative fiction writers improve their craft. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cover Reveal: Undead Ultra

Coming in 2016! Undead Ultra -- a zombie ultrarunning novel.

In the midst of a zombie outbreak, Kate and her running buddy, Frederico, have one goal: to find Kate's son, Carter. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away and the freeways are clogged with car wrecks and zombies. When their hatchback is totaled several miles into their journey, Kate and Frederico set out on foot for the race of their lives.


Cover design by the amazing Joey Manfre. Thanks a heap to my writing buddies Lan Chan, Mario Alves Jr., and Dinesh Pulandram for all their valuable feedback during the cover design phase.