2016 Year End Rundown and 2017 Goals

2016 Year End Rundown and 2017 Goals

A lot has happened in 2016! I published Moonburner and Burning Fate, edited Sunburner, and finished the first draft of a new book, The Confectioner’s Guild! I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time, produced an audiobook, teamed up with some amazing YA authors to publish That Moment When Anthology of short stories, and brought you some great giveaways too. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing books.

Sometimes I get a little envious of authors who write for their day job, marveling at how many books they publish each year. But when I think of what I’ve managed to do while working as a lawyer, I feel pretty good about how far I’ve come (and realize why I was felt stressed for a lot of the year)!

I’m looking forward to 2017 being even better. Overall, I want to keep learning, keep enjoying the process of writing and editing, while connecting with more authors and fans, and selling more books. Oh is that all? It’s important for me to find balance–making forward progress while still not driving myself insane with ALL the things I could be doing, because there is basically an endless amount of work that could be done.

Some specific goals for next year (because if you write them down AND share them, they’ll be much harder to ignore!)

  • Consistently get up early to do my author work before I head to work
  • Finish revising Sunburner and publish it, with a goal of a June 2017 launch
  • Start a street team to help with the Sunburner launch
  • Finish editing The Confectioner’s Guild and submit to literary agents (and hopefully get an agent!)
  • Write the first draft of the sequel to The Confectioner’s Guild in November and December
  • Work on connecting with local schools and bookstores to do some in person events
  • Connect with more writers and authors in person, though attending the PNWA Conference and PNWA and SCWBI events
  • Grow my email list to 10,000, my Facebook following to 2,000 and my Twitter following to 5,000
  • Lastly: keep learning & keep reading!

I think that will be plenty to keep me busy throughout next year.

Thanks for following and reading!

DONE! First draft of my third book is complete!

DONE! First draft of my third book is complete!

Whelp, The Confectioner’s Guild is done. It wasn’t pretty there towards the end. This book was definitely the equivalent of a marathon where I went out way too fast.

I raced right along to get my 50,000 words done for NaNoWriMo during November, and then…I just REALLY didn’t want to finish it. But, I eventually dragged myself back to the keyboard and finished! Remember, if you want to get a taste of The Confectioner’s Guild, you can read the first three chapters for free in the That Moment When Anthology!

Ya short story anthology

Last year, when I wrote Sunburner in two months, I told myself I would never do that again. And I remember why I said that now! It’s really hard to put out 1600-2000 words a day consistently, especially when works get busy (which it did as soon as November hit, thanks Murphy’s Law)! But, the afterglow is so nice, because you just wrote a book in two months and can take your time editing and making it the most perfect it can be. So, perhaps it all evens out in the end.

Next for me is 10 days off for the holidays, and I will be starting my final edits of Sunburner first thing come January to incorporate feedback from my beta readers. That should be off to the publisher by January 31, if I stick to my schedule, and I will be able to begin my edits to The Confectioner’s Guild with a fresh set of eyes.

But now, a glass of bubbly to celebrate. Happy Holidays!

BOOK REVIEW: Caraval, by Stephanie Garber

BOOK REVIEW: Caraval, by Stephanie Garber

Check out my review on The YA Shelf, reprinted below!


This book whisks you on a magical adventure full of deliciousness for all of your senses. Caraval is about two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella (Tella for short), who live under the iron thumb of their cruel father. Scarlett, the practical older sister, has agreed to marry a stranger to try to ensure a better life for her and her sister. Her only flight of fancy is the letters she has written since she was a child to Legend, the mysterious proprietor of the famous Caraval, an exclusive yearly exploit that is part game, part performance. When Legend sends them three tickets to Caraval, Tella, the flighty younger sister, heads to the game with the help of a dashing young sailor, Julian, and Scarlett is forced to follow. Before long, they find themselves swept up in the madness of the game.

Scarlett is thrown headfirst into the mystery of Caraval as Tella is kidnapped, and she must compete with hundreds of other players to rescue Tella before it’s too late. The game winds Scarlett and Julian, who grow closer as the game progresses, through an enchanting island full of strange locales and even stranger people. As Scarlett and Julian struggle to determine what’s real and what’s part of the game, the reader starts to wonder as well!

The good: Garber’s writing is so delicious you want to eat it up. The imagery is rich and colorful, and you are quickly pulled into the gorgeous tapestry of Caravel. The characters and players have a Wonderland-esque quality about them, and you never get bored. Scarlett is a likeable protagonist, smart but innocent enough to be overwhelmed by the madness of it all. Her romance with Julian is sweet but sultry, and definitely pulls you in! The plot lines are interesting and myriad, the clues and riddles intriguing to try to unravel. This is definitely a book that takes you for a beautiful ride.

The not-my-favorite: Tella is a fairly annoying character. Luckily, she’s only in a few scenes, but every scene shes in she manages to screw things up. The sisterly bond between Scarlett and Tella doesn’t come through very strong (perhaps because they’re not together for much of the book), so I find myself wondering why Scarlett is so protective of Tella when Tella is so obviously self-destructive. The lack of rules in the world of Caravel felt a little too convenient for the author, as well, and there were several events that were not explained well within the framework of the world. It’s a pet peeve of mine when magic conveniently solves something (especially if it’s not being used consistently within the rules of the world) and this book was definitely guilty of that. But, for those who aren’t as particular about their magic systems, this might not be an issue!

This book launches January 31, 2017, and I received an ARC from Flatiron books. This is definitely one you don’t want to miss!

That Moment When…Anthology Has Launched!

That Moment When…Anthology Has Launched!

A few months ago I submitted the first 5,000 words of my new book, The Confectioner’s Guild, to an anthology put together by the Alliance of Young Adult Authors. My story was selected to be one of 40 featured in the anthology! The anthology launched last week, and is available on Amazon for free!

Download it HERE to check out my story and stories by some other amazing YA authors! You might just find your new favorite author…(besides yours truly)!

That moment when anthology
That Moment When is an anthology of young adult writing featuring some of today’s hottest new talent in young adult fiction. Find your next favorite author as you read through 40 thrilling short stories.

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Get it on Kindle / Get it on iBooks / Get it on Kobo

We’ve gathered a handful of thrilling stories from all of your favorite genres and put them together into an epic anthology of young adult fiction. Some of them are just the beginning of a unique adventure, while others are complete stories that will spark your imagination.

With over 200,000 words (about three full-length novels) That Moment When will provide weeks of reading pleasure.

6x9-boxset-covervaultOUR THEME
Have you ever reached a moment in your life when everything changed? A crossroads of sorts–a point of no return. An event or realization so enormous you knew it would impact you forever in ways you couldnít begin to understand? Discoveries so momentous they changed everything you thought you knew about the world, and yourself?

That Moment When is filled with exactly these kinds of moments.

If you read the stories in this anthology, I guarantee you’ll find at least a few that thrill and excite you. Make sure to follow the authors if you want to read more – most of us have at least one free book on our sites.

All your favorite YA genres!

PARANORMAL & URBAN FANTASY

SCIENCE FICTION

DYSTOPIAN & POST-APOCALYPTIC

FANTASY

THRILLER & HORROR

AND MORE (UNIQUELY SPECULATIVE FICTION)

 

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Get it on Kindle / Get it on iBooks / Get it on Kobo

The Alliance of YA Authors is a community of over 1000 young adult writers. Many of us are award-winning, bestselling authors; others are brilliant debut authors just starting out. We team up to make it easier for you to find your new favorite reads, with book giveaways, contests and joint book promotions.

 

Epic YA Book Giveaway!

Epic YA Book Giveaway!

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 I’m collaborating with some other amazing YA authors to bring you a FANTASTIC holiday book giveaway! Enter to win one of several MASSIVE prize packs, and go into the draw for weekly $25 Amazon gift card prizes.

Just for entering you get access to a lucky-dip of 8 FREE Young Adult e-books from New York Times, USA Today, International, Award-Winning, and Amazon Bestselling Authors – not to mention some of the BEST YA authors from around the globe!

YA Reader Giveaway Blitz!

The contest is open to residents of the UNITED STATES.
NaNoWriMo 2016, Here I Come

NaNoWriMo 2016, Here I Come

Guys, I’m gonna do it. NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Where writers all over the world get together for the singularly insane challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. Sunburner is going off to beta readers next week, and so it is the perfect time for me to turn to a fresh new task–writing a new book!
I’ve had an idea for a new book in a new world for months now. Like a shiny new toy, I’ve been so excited to write it, but I’ve forced myself to finish editing Sunburner first. It’s called The Confectioner’s Guild, and it’s about an apprentice chocolate-maker who makes magical confections. Her life is turned upside down when the head of her guild is murdered, and she finds herself as the chief suspect! It’s mystery meets fantasy meets YA and did I mention chocolate? I’m excited to research this one. Yum!
YA Fantasy Confectioners guild Luana
I’m aiming for 90,000 words with this novel, and I’ve already written the first 5,000. The first 5,000 will be part of an Anthology put out by the Alliance of Young Adult Authors, which should come out in January, so you’ll be able to get a taste of the book very soon…no pun intended! My goal is to write the next 85,000 words in 45 days, from November 1-December 15. Roughly. That’s 2,000 words a day, approximately, which is even more than I would have to do to qualify as a NaNoWriMo victor! It’s ambitious, but I accomplished a similar feat last year when I wrote Sunburner (which wasn’t officially through NaNoWriMo).
But, I am giving myself permission to let all the other author biz stuff slide while I’m focusing on this. So, I won’t be blogging or on social media much. I WILL be on Twitter, as I’ll be tweeting my word count and progress each day, so if you are curious about the book or the process, follow along. My username is @clairedeluana. #amwriting!
BOOK REVIEW: The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater

BOOK REVIEW: The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater

Can I share about my newest girl crush? It’s on Maggie Stiefvater, the author of the Shiver books, The Scorpio Races, and *squeal* the Raven Cycle. I tend towards fantasy in stand-alone worlds, and so I wasn’t sure what I would think of the Raven Boys, the first book in the four-part series. It’s about a psychic’s daughter named Blue, who has always been told that if she kissed her true love, she would kill him, and Gansey, a golden-haired all-American golden boy rich kid who is obsessed with discovering a sleeping Welsh King. Unusual premise, but I’m interested.
The Cycle:

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

 If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take? Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself. One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams. And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

 Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


A few chapters in, I was hooked. I flew through all four books in about two weeks, reading book 2 and 3 in less than 24 hours. Three things make these books.
  1. Stiefvater’s writing style. Now that I’m a writer, I tend to notice a beautiful turn of phrase. They stand out to me, and I think about the writing process that probably went into that gorgeous snippet of prose, the satisfaction the writer felt when they got the wording just right. Uh, these are peppered throughout the book. The writing is really gorgeous, and funny, and poignant, and frankly I’m jealous. But in a good way.
  2. The characters. The Raven Boys. Blue befriends Gansey and his three close friends, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. Each of these boys has incredibly deep, unique, magical stories that you don’t see coming. By the end, you know them each inside and out. She peels the onions of each of these boys over the course of the books and wow, you just love them, and the messy dynamics between them. Blue is a wonderful protagonist but for me she was almost a foil for the boys, this was their story as much as hers. Then there are the secondary characters, which are also colorful and lively. Blue lives in a wild house full of loopy psychics and you can just imagine the smell of patchouli and candles… but it feels so homey you want to visit.
  3. The magic. You think this series is about one thing, and in each book it deepens and grows more complex. After the first book, I was excited to keep reading, but I wondered where she could go with the story for three more books. Things changed dramatically, weaving in whole new magical elements that were unique and thought provoking. The story is dark and spooky at times, but lovingly rendered, and you just want to eat it up!

Is the series perfect? No. especially the last book left me wanting a bit more. The ending is satisfying, but could have been stronger. There were some tangents that felt unnecessary, loose ends left untied. But, that’s ok, because overall, I loved it. I highly recommend this series!

The Chick’s Guide to Writing Dudes

The Chick’s Guide to Writing Dudes

My WIP Sunburner is my second novel, but it’s the first where I’m writing from a male point of view. In my first novel, Moonburner, the entire book was from the protagonist Kai’s POV. Now, about 2/3rds of the story is from Kai’s POV, while the rest is from the perspective of Hiro, heir to the sunburner throne and Kai’s love interest. I have doubted myself throughout the writing and editing process, wondering if Hiro’s chapters fall flat.

In my case, Hiro is what I think of as a pretty typical dude in fantasy literature: strong, handsome, chivalrous, skilled in combat, smart but not overly intellectual, concerned with maintaining his honor and status. That’s all well and good, but what does that look like on the page? Inside his head?

So, I took some time to think about and research a few differences between men and women, and how they might impact portrayal of a male versus female protagonist. Full disclosure: stereotypes ahead!


Alright, here we go.

  • Women tend to absorb more information through their senses and store more of it in the brain for other uses than men do. Meaning, women are more detail-oriented, while men are more prone to be big-picture thinkers.
  • Psychologically, men are more visually oriented than women. I.e., a male character might spend more time seeing and observing his setting visually.
  • Women talk a lot more than men. Each day, women speak up to 8,000 words and use as many as 10,000 gestures. Men use fewer daily words (up to 4,000) and gestures (up to 3,000). This will definitely impact characterization, though just because a guy isn’t saying something, doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking it.
  • But…when a man says something, it’s often exactly what he’s thinking. There’s less hidden meaning and innuendo.
  • Women are more emotional than men. Seriously. Their brains have a larger hippocampus and deeper limbic system, which means they can feel a larger range of emotions. But that doesn’t mean guys don’t have feelings!
  • Because men often aren’t as comfortable with the full range of emotions, a typically male approach to a stressful (especially emotional) situation may be to withdraw, rather than engage or open up.
  • Men are more pragmatic–looking for solutions immediately, rather than sympathizing or empathizing. I don’t have a scientific study for this one, but seriously, I feel like every dude I’ve ever complained to has immediately tried to solve my problem. Sometimes I just want to vent!
  • Men tend to have a higher libido and have more daily thoughts about sex. Especially if you’re writing romance, this is an important point!
  • Men are more ego driven, which can influence behavior. This can manifest in needing to feel like a provider, defend their honor or the honor of their partner if insulted, proving they aren’t afraid, etc. They also have weaker impulse control, which could account for higher levels of aggression and violence in men.

So that’s all well and good, and provides a nice framework for writing a stereotypical dude character. But one of the most important parts of creating compelling characters is making them multi-faceted and interesting. Thus, you don’t necessarily want a male character who perfectly conforms to all the stereotypes of male behavior…he will likely be far more interesting to the reader if he has unique attributes, perhaps even some attributes that would be considered  typically female. Just be cautious about going too far, as part of the author’s job is to meet reader’s expectations, not confound them.


If you want to dig deeper into this, check out some of the sources I relied on for this post:

13 Real Differences between Male and Female Brains

Different Brains, Different Behaviors: Why Women Lead Differently than Men

How Often to Men Think About Sex

Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus

How to Write from a Guy’s POV

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh

BOOK REVIEW: The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh

This magical read is based on A Thousand and One Nights, the Arabian tale of Shaharazad. Girls are being murdered by the young caliph of Khorasan. Every day he marries one, and in the morning they are strangled with a silk cord. After Shahrzad’s best friend, Shiva, is murdered in this same fashion, Shahrzad volunteers to be the next doomed bride in order to exact vengeance on the cruel king. But when her chance for revenge arrives, she realizes she can’t do it…because she’s developed feelings for the caliph. Duh-duh-duh…

Wrath and the dawn

First, the good. The setting is sumptuous! Adhieh paints a lush landscape of fragrant foods, colorful silks and damask, stern warriors wielding scimitars and falcons. The setting is definitely one of my favorite characters, and keeps the book interesting when the plot lags.

Like in the beginning. This one got off to a slow start for me. I didn’t buy the fact that the caliph (named Khalid) would be so entranced with Shahrzad’s storytelling that he would postpone killing her just to listen to the rest of her tale. Shahrzad frustrated me as well, as her behavior seemed flippant and foolhardy, despite the fact that her life hung in the balance. The alternating viewpoint of her childhood love Tariq, who set the wheels of a rebellion in motion after finding out about Shahrzad’s impetuous choice to wed the caliph, kept me going in the beginning. But luckily, it got better.

Shahrzad is a fiery and enjoyable heroine, with a quick tongue and wit, and a strong sense of loyalty to her friends. I didn’t mind the Stockholm syndrome-esque element of her relationship with Khalid, their love grew slowly and organically enough that I bought it. The secondary characters were great, and I liked how we got to spend time with many of them, from Tariq to Despina and Jalal. The intrigue grows to a head as Shahrzad uncovers the real truth behind the murders and truly falls for Khalid, right as her family and friends put their rebellion in motion and try to rescue her. This book definitely ended on a cliffhanger, so fair warning if that is your pet peeve.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and would recommend it. My main complaint seems to be with the 1,001 Nights backstory, which Ahdieh only had partial control over.  Khalid feels inconsistent in his treatment of the curse which requires him to kill his brides. First he decides to kill all these girls to avoid his other subjects suffering, but then stops to save Shahrzad, even though he knows it will cause more death and make all the prior girls’ deaths meaningless. But, setting that aside, the story and characters were wonderful. I will be reading the sequel!

Welcome to the 2016 Young Adult Scavenger Hunt!

Welcome to the 2016 Young Adult Scavenger Hunt!

Welcome hunters!

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I’m Claire Luana, and I’m delighted to be a host for this awesome YA Scavenger Hunt!


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A little about me:

I live in Seattle, Washington.

I have two dogs named Jameson and Guinness.

I’ve summited four mountains.

I’m a lawyer for my day job.

I know how to Scottish Highland Dance.

I love country music and I’m learning to play the mandolin.

I’ve written three young adult fantasy novels. Moonburner and Burning Fate are published, and Sunburner is coming next year!

 


You are currently hunting on TEAM PURPLE!!!

Looking for my exclusive bonus content from my new novel, Sunburner? You’ll have to keep searching.

But, first, a few rules.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE RULES

DIRECTIONS: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on TEAM PURPLE, and then add them up to win these amazing books (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!)

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HINT: THE SECRET NUMBER IS HIGHLIGHTED IN PURPLE!

ENTRY FORM: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

RULES: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

On this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each participating YA author, you also get a secret number. Add up the numbers, and enter it for a chance to win a major prize–one lucky winner will receive at least one book from each author on my team in the hunt! But play fast. This contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online until noon PST on Sunday, October 9th!

There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PURPLE TEAM but there is also a RED TEAM BLUE TEAMORANGE TEAMGOLD TEAM, and GREEN TEAM! Check out each team for a chance to win six different sets of signed books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, I’ll introduce the author I am hosting on this hunt.

I am super excited to be hosting Robert Slater, an author friend of mine who also lives in the Western Washington, where we only get 21 days of sun a year! Here’s Rob:

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest team-purple[Hoquiam, Washington], PURPLE TEAM member, Robert L. Slater, wanted to be an astronaut or a rock star. At 42, he gave up those dreams to become a writer of science fiction and fantasy, where he can pretend to be both.

Rob Slater - Northern State Hospital-7805Like some of his characters, he has a propensity for speaking in lines from 80s movies, drinking Mountain Dew and eating pizza. He loves music as a listener, a zealous fan, a guitar player, and a singer/songwriter.

After nearly 20 years as a schoolteacher, he is beginning to have a hint of insight into young-adulthood. He has been in that hood a long time!

His first novel ALL IS SILENCEAll_Is_Silence_cover features a teen with a past and maybe not much of a future. Then a pandemic hits.

In a future that could be ours, Lizzie, a suicidal teen-age girl, barely navigates her own life. Then everything falls apart. In an apocalyptic land nearly deserted by disease, she lacks reasons to live until a shocking turn of events reveals a phone number. Her call pulls her dangerously cross-country to meet a stranger she thought was dead.

Rob will give you an intro into the bonus content:

The two following scenes were the first I wrote about Lizzie, my young adult anti-hero protagonist in ALL IS SILENCE and STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS and the forthcoming NO MAN’S LAND. I’ll give short intros to each.

Original Lizzie scene written in summer of 2011 perhaps, at least a year before ALL IS SILENCE came to be during NaNoWriMo 2012. Warning: Censored swearing. Like the novel these were deleted from it is intended for older young adults.

Original Working Title: Zombie Zoo

Lizzy stared across the shotgun in her lap at the body on the floor. Damn fool hadnít absorbed all the pellets. Half of the canned goods in the pantry had small holes still leaking liquids. F***ing a**hole. Not like there weren’t more canned goods than any of the survivors could ever eat in their lifetimes or before the cans rusted away or the food went bad. Besides she’d always hated her step-dad’s choices in food: Garbanzos, Mixed veggies. Creamed corn. Pickled beets.

But did she want to stay in the house now? No way in hell she was going to bury it. It. Not human. Humans didn’t act like that to other humans. Even under these conditions. She drug the body out the front door, wryly observing that her visitor had ruined mom’s creme-colored carpet. NO way those stains would ever come out. She let his body roll down the stairs, ‘Fair Warning.’ She hoped the others were close enough to see the results.

She dead-bolted the door. Plenty of windows if someone really had a death wish and she’d hear them. She strode through the house checking all the windows and doors. She knew how hard this house was to break into, she’d been locked out of it enough. He step-dad had always threatened that she would get kicked out the day she turned 18. Well, I’m leaving a little early, dickhead. I won’t be 18 for three more months. Hell, I might not make it to 18.

She finished her inspection at the upstairs shower. Thank god the electricity and water hadn’t failed. How long would that take? She closed and latched the door then shoved the window to make sure it was locked. She set the shotgun upright on the toilet tank. Within easy reach. She longed for the time a few days ago when she thought she was the last person alive in a hundred miles. That illusion had been shattered rather unpleasantly.

Her black knit dress was stained with blood and the other bodily fluids. She’d have to get more clothes. She’d want more skirts like it, calf length and dark. Let you pee without getting tangled up. In case you were surprised. She’d been wearing her mary janes but her combat boots were coming out of the closet or out from under the pile of dirty clothes on her floor. Second hand at Sally Annís, they were actual combat boots, not some Hot Topic knock-off.

She stripped off her t-shirt happy to find no blood or bodily fluids. It had a graphic that looked like kanji but read ‘F*** You,’ if you rotated it sideways. Mom had never let her out of the house with it on.

She jerked the water knob and twisted it all the way to hot. She grabbed the shotgun and sat down to pee. For the umpteenth time she checked that the magazine was full and that one shell waited in the chamber. Maybe her OCD would come in handy in this brave new world. She didn’t bother to wipe, reset the gun on the toilet and climbed into the steaming hot shower. She wanted to sear off the top layer of her flesh. The regular cuts on her arms had healed to angry white lines, though a few still stood out red from the last time she’d used her knife. So long ago. A thought flashed through Lizy’s head, but she shoved it aside. How easy would it be just to go to sleep? Mom had enough sleeping pills in her cabinet, but no, the last experience had led inevitably to this moment. But maybe she’d take the bottle with her.

The water poured down drenching her hair, dead and faded from too many bleachings and colorings. The water was hot, but not too hot. The Dickhead wanted to save electricity so the hot water was set to 110 degrees.

As she soaped herself she dispassionately looked at her own body. She’d always been a bit on the soft side, but two weeks of being sick, plus the aftermath had given her muscles a tightness and tone they’d always lacked. If Chad could see her now would he even recognize her? Her hair had grown out enough that sheíd seen dark roots at the scalp and heíd never seen her with hair more than about an inch long. It was long enough now to lay down. Rinsing the soap off she felt the stubble in her armpits and on her legs. F*** it. Sheíd always thought shaving was stupid.

Under the hot faucet she let it flow over her face, rinsing her mouth, letting the water in and out. She scrubbed at herself. Suddenly tears flowed. Where the hell was Zach? How come he hadn’t been around when the a**hole and his gang had showed up? He’d promised to be back. Like he’d ever been on time.

For the all times she’d wished everything and everyone would go away, now she wished she wasn’t alone. She sank down into the water, tears washed away by the deluge. With hair in her eyes and shaking with sobs, she wrapped her arms around her legs and gave in. She’d never cried before. Not like this. Not since she was a little kid. Never let anyone in. No weakness. Weakness got you pushed around. Like her mom. Always needed a man. What kind of man was never as important as the fact that he had testosterone and a penis. Her body wracked with all the pain she’d never shared. And the only people she really cared about: Mom and Billy. Gone.

When the water changed from warm to lukewarm to cold in a matter of seconds she broke out of it. She gritted her teeth, slammed the knob in, shook her hair and scraped the drops of water from her body. Her legs complained as she stood and her fingers had gone all wrinkly. She grabbed the fluffy towel with ‘For Guests’ emblazoned on it. The ‘good’ towels her mom always said. Like they’d ever had any f***ing guests since Auntie died.

The crying had done her good. She felt wrung out, but clean inside and out. When she stepped out of the tub a wave of dizziness swept over her she realized how hungry she was. She wrapped the fuzzy towel around herself and pulled the T-shirt over her damp hair. Funny how free she felt. She glanced at her face in the mirror amazed that her face did not look more like she’d been crying. She smirked at herself. Not bad for a vigilante killer. She snagged the shotgun off the toilet as she headed downstairs.

20 minutes later one of the last pizzas from their store run was sitting half eaten on the table. Sheíd never eaten like that. A half-finished beer sat next to the pizza. Lizy belched. Tasted as bad the second time. D***head certainly had no taste.

Author’s Note 2016: Writing’s a bit rough, but the essence of Lizzie is there. I changed the spelling of Lizzie’s name and this scene disappeared only to be found again after I had finished the book.

The next scene was the Original Opening Scene of ALL IS SILENCE as written during National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo] 2012. That month I wrote 60, 000 words. In December I wrote an additional 20,000 words. The first draft was 100,000, but I wrote most if it in that short time. My other working titles after ZOMBIE ZOO included:

AND EVERYTHING AFTER
then
ALL IS SILENCE IN THE WORLD
and finally
ALL IS SILENCE

Original opening

No good sleeping in when her little brother, mom and mom’s live in boy-friend, man-friend, were making so much noise. She pulled a black hoodie and jeans over her t-shirt and underwear, ran her fingers through her short hair. The Boris Karloff buzz-cut had grown out to a boyish length and she wasn’t taking so much crap about it anymore. She had stuff to do. The flood was coming and they needed to move the house.

She didn’t know how she knew it was so important, but the urgency was undeniable. She grabbed the combat boots and pulled them on over heavy socks–too much dirty work for the Docs. Lizzie’s little brother, Jason was giggling along with her momís chuckle. She’d never been into Saturday morning cartoons–too silly and obnoxious. She slammed the door and headed down the long hallway.

Thanks for letting me sleep in,” she said to the room.

Her mom shot her an odd glance from near the stove. “It’s almost dinner-time, lazybones.”

Jerkwad, mom’s boyfriend laughed loudly. “When you turn eighteen-“

You’re not my dad,” she cut off the response she wanted to say aloud.

“What’re you gonna be when you grow up, sissy?” Jason asked.

Lizzie glanced at the clock–6:18. But the light was wrong. “We’ve got to get the house moved. The floods are coming.” The rain pounded on the window.

All three of them stared at her.

Jerkwad spoke. “What the Hell are you babbling about?”

The water’s rising. The rain. The news said-“

You ain’t watched the news, Lazy.” Jerkwad shook his head, grinning. “You’ve been asleep all day.”

“Mom?” Lizzie begged. “Make him shut up.”

“He’s right, Liz. What’re you talking about?”

Jason chimed in, “You goin’ Crazy Lazy on us again?”

I hate you all! I hope you all die in the flood. Iím moving the house.” She grabbed a Coke out of the fridge and raincoat off the peg. “I’m moving the house.” She slammed the door. Its aluminum weight did not give her the satisfaction she wanted. When had the heavy wood door gotten replaced?

The rain pelted her as she pulled on the hoodie and jacket. She turned to the house and found the old single-wide trailer she’d lived in as a kid. Weird. Where was the house? This would be easier to move. She grabbed Jerkwad’s work gloves that never got used and headed around to the front. She started tearing the lower panels away to get to the wheels she knew were under there. Inside she could hear them laughing and joking. Lazy Lizzie was turning into Crazy Lizzie again. She shoved in her earbuds and hit shuffle on her phone. Something metallic and grinding from the 80s soothed her anger. Good working music. With a vengeance, Lizzie tore away more aluminum panels, sending them flying as they broke free.

The sound of a phone cut through as the song ended. Isn’t someone going to answer it? They call me lazy!? She sent the last panel flying across the yard. How had she done that so fast? The phone still rang. She shook her head in disgust and pulled open the back door to the little kitchen. The house was cold and empty. She slammed the door. The solid wood reverberated. What the Hell was going on? The ringing continued, but Lizzie couldn’t find the phone. It wasn’t on the wall. “Where’d you guys go?” she hollered. The phone stopped. Mom had been cooking. In the new house. Then it was the single-wide. Now she was back in the house, but it was empty. Am I going crazy?

A new screeching sound replaced the phone. Jason’s stupid freaking bird screaming alarm clock. Damn thing could wake the dead. I must be dreaming. It is morning. The dream spun downward as Lizzieís body sank into the bed. She sighed. For a minute she’d wondered if they were right and the Crazy Lizzie had returned.

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