Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Brothers, the Woods, and the Future

Once upon a time, two brothers went for a walk in the woods, and on their way, they met the Future. She was neither pretty nor plain, short nor tall, fat nor thin. She simply was. The brothers had never crossed the Future’s path before, but they still recognized her, for her eyes were as deep as mountain springs and her shoulders seemed to bear a heavy load.

“I would show you your futures,” she whispered, though it cut them to the very core. “Then you may ask a single question. But ask wisely, humble brothers, for questions do not always produce their intended answers.”

The elder brother stepped around his younger, as was his right. “Show me my future,” he demanded.

“As you wish,” the Future said, and with a tip of her head, the forest faded.

A new scene rose up around them. The elder brother knew it well, for it was the workshop where he fashioned the tables and chairs that filled his village. He loved his occupation and took pride in his work, but the simple farmers for whom he toiled knew nothing of artistry. They did not appreciate his skill, but he did. Oh, he did.

As he watched himself multiply tables, each one slightly bigger and grander than the last, the elder brother grew angry. He would wear out his life on these undeserving peasants. Then someone rapped on his door. It was one of the king’s heralds, and as nearby trumpeters blasted a fanfare, the king himself alighted from a carriage and landed on the workshop’s doorstep. The king had heard of his work; his tables and chairs were much admired in the capital. The elder brother’s heart pounded as he watched the king commission him to construct the finest table and chairs he had ever constructed, with a sideboard to match. The herald set a sack of gold on the doorstep at his feet, and as the king promised him more and climbed back into his carriage, the elder brother could already feel the weight of that sack in his hands.

The vision closed, and no sooner had the woods drifted back into focus than the elder brother asked, “When will these things come to pass?”

The Future considered him for a long moment, then, finally, said, “Five years from this very day.”

The elder brother sneered, then pressed his lips into a line. “If I must wait five years, then five years I will wait.” And with that, he stalked away, leaving his brother to face the Future alone.

The younger brother watched his elder go, then turned back toward the Future. “Would you show me my future also?”

“I would,” the Future said, “for I only speak the truth.”

He licked his lips, then mumbled, “Very well.”

“As you wish,” the Future said, and with a tip of her head, the forest faded.

A new scene rose up around them. The younger brother knew it well, for it was the bakery where he made the bread that adorned his brother’s tables. He loved his occupation and took pride in his work, but there was something he loved even more, and that was the woman who entered the bakery and dinged the cheerful bell.

She bought bread every day for her invalid mother, but on this day of days, he gave her a tiny cake with frosting like lace and sprinkles like stars. When she took her first and only bite, she bit into a ring. The younger brother blushed at the thought of such forthrightness, but when the woman said yes, his embarrassment melted away.

Another scene rose up around them. The younger brother knew this place as well, for it was the home that he had lived in since he was a boy. As he watched, his own boys raced by one by one, tiny heels thumping the wooden boards he and his brother had worn smooth. The home was adjacent to the bakery, and life was simple but rich. Then one night while they slumbered, the oven flared to life, consuming the bakery, the home, two of his boys, and his dear wife. As he watched his life’s work turn to ash before his very eyes, the younger brother thought he could smell the smoke of that faraway night.

The vision closed, and no sooner had the woods drifted back into focus than the younger brother whispered, “Must these things come to pass?”

The Future smiled knowingly. “No, for though I only speak the truth, I only speak one of many. The future is as inscrutable as the face of the wind.”

The younger brother wiped his eyes. “Then I will labor to ensure that this one remains a vision.”

“As you wish,” the Future said, and with a tip of her head, she disappeared.


Years passed, and the younger brother took nothing for granted. He courted the woman who always bought bread for her invalid mother, and when he asked her to marry him, he simply handed her the ring. He dashed his fire every night and brought it back to life every morning, though it cost him much sleep. He never forgot the vision the Future had shown him. He forged his own path.

On the other hand, the elder brother did nothing to secure the vision the Future had shown him. He daydreamed by his woodpile and hardly set foot in his workshop, content to waste his days as the five years trickled past. But five years came and went, then seven, then ten, and the king never came. He drank much and laughed little. Finally, when he could bear his own stench no longer, the elder brother roused himself and stumbled to the home that had once belonged to him.

“You saw my future!” he exclaimed, falling to his knees before his brother.

“Yes,” the younger brother said. “But you did not see mine.”

The elder brother blinked. “I do not understand.”

The younger brother smiled sadly. “You did not improve the time that the Future gave you, so you did not become the carpenter that you might have been.” He drew his brother up. “The future is as inscrutable as the face of the wind.”

The elder brother blinked again, but this time, he understood. He went away sorrowing, having lost that which he had never had.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Expertise Exchange

I don't know about you, but I often wish I could talk to an expert when my characters are involved with things I know nothing about. The last thing I want is for someone who actually knows what he's talking about to read my book and think, "Wow, it's clear this writer was making things up as she went."

To participate, just leave a comment with your name and e-mail address as well as a few words about what you're an expert in and what you need expert help with. (Even if you don't need help with anything at the moment, you can still share your areas of expertise with us!) Feel free to include fields you've worked in or studied, hobbies or activities you've participated in, places you've been, cultures you know. And anything else you consider yourself to be an expert in. I'll go first:

Name: Krista Van Dolzer
E-mail address: kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com

What I'm an expert in: Mathematics, education, economics (which is actually cooler than you think!). I was on my high school's speech and debate team, so I'm very familiar with those kinds of tournaments and events, especially policy and oratory. I also play the piano, so I have a working knowledge of piano techinique and music theory. I grew up along the Wasatch Front in northern Utah and still visit often, so I'm very familiar with the Salt Lake and Provo areas. And I live in southern Nevada now, so I'm pretty familiar with the desert. I also know a lot of Mormons (and happen to be one myself).

What I need expert help with: Karina, the main character in Bonnie, is a swimmer, and Matthew is a dancer, so I'd love to chat with someone who was on his or her high school swim team and/or someone who's studied contemporary ballet, just so I can get some of the jargon down and get a feel for what practices and meets are like.

If you find someone in the comments you think you could help--or someone you think could help you--definitely get in touch! (And if you're a swimmer and/or dancer, please, please e-mail me!)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cover Reveal! DEMON DERBY by Carrie Harris

This is my first cover reveal, but when Carrie Harris tweeted about the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour (hosted by AToMR Tours), I jumped at the chance. I've been a fan of Ms. Harris's work since BAD TASTE IN BOYS debuted (in fact, I even wrote a review for it way back when), and her upcoming release, DEMON DERBY (Random House 2014), sounds just as engaging. Here's the pitch (and the cover!):

Casey kicked cancer’s ass. Now a demon wants to kick hers...

Casey hates being known as the girl who survived cancer. She wants people to treat her like her old self, fearless and strong. And after a creepy encounter with a crazy guy in an alley, Casey is all about reclaiming her power.

So when she has a chance to try out for the Apocalypsies roller derby team, she jumps on it. Being a derby girl would prove that she doesn’t need anybody’s pity. It doesn’t hurt that Michael, the team manager, is almost unnaturally hot. Which makes sense when Casey finds out that he’s not even human.

Michael’s got a secret: he trains demon hunters. That crazy guy in the alley? Demon. And the fact that Casey went head to head with evil and lived makes her a threat to demonkind. Casey thought she’d already fought and won the battle of her lifetime. But it’s only beginning...

Ms. Harris has an uncanny knack for combining humor, blood, and guts (in the best possible way), and DEMON DERBY promises to be no different. But I have a feeling DEMON DERBY will top both of her previous books. I remember reading a post a while back about the inspiration for the book (when I find it again, I'll add a link), so I know the subject matter hits especially close to home. When you write from your heart, it shows on the page.

Don't forget to add DEMON DERBY to your Goodreads list, and don't miss Ms. Harris's blog and Twitter feed! I promise she is just as funny in real life on the Internet as the characters are in her books. (I had to scratch that out when I realized I don't actually know Ms. Harris in real life, because after following her on Twitter for the last year, I feel like I do:) )

Thanks again, AToMR Tours, for putting together this blog tour (and for letting me be a part of it!

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Rebuttal

Lots of thoughts floating around the Internet this morning about contests and queries and blog trolls, oh, my! Here are a few more.

Personally, I feel icky about charging money for contests, but that's just me. And if you feel icky about paying money for contests, the solution is simple: Don't pay it. Don't enter.

Writers who host contests DO get something out of them, but they also put in tons of effort behind the scenes. As of this posting, I have 776 blog followers. I have no idea how many followers the average unpublished writer has, but I'm pretty sure it's a heck of a lot less than that. I love helping fellow writers, but I also like the idea of having a platform in place should I ever be in the position of having a book to promote, so to say I get nothing out of the contests I host is ridiculous.

That said, contests are way more trouble than they're worth if you're only in it for the platform. I wish you guys could have seen us when the second submission window went live in "The Writer's Voice" last May. There was a glitch, and we spent all evening--literally all evening, at least three or four hours--e-mailing back and forth, trying to figure out how to fix it and make it up to the writers who'd put their trust in us. Like I said, WAY MORE TROUBLE.

A lot of agents read entries more carefully than queries. I suspect several agents would take issue with this, but the fact remains that there are a finite number of entries and an INFINITE number of queries, so it's easier to pay more attention to the former. Which isn't to say that they don't pay attention to queries--it's just more likely that a great query will accidentally get thrown out with the trash than a great entry. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I know of several writers who've gotten query rejections from agents, then contest requests and even offers from the same agents a few months later, so it happens.

If someone comes up with a way to inject fresh meat into contests, let me know. Yes, it would be wonderful if every contest featured a different bunch of projects. Unfortunately, a lot of the same people enter the contests that crop up around the blogosphere, and their relative skill levels don't magically change over the course of a few months. So the people whose entries were well-written two months ago will probably be the same people whose entries are well-written now. When I'm looking for entries based on merit (as opposed to random selection), I genuinely try to put different things through, because it does me no good to champion projects that everyone's seen before (for the same reason that agents generally aren't interested in manuscripts that have already been shopped to editors). But the quality of the writing still has to be there, and those things take months, if not years, to hone.

Posting incendiery comments is NEVER okay. It's so easy to type something snarky or scathing--or worse--when you're frustrated, when you feel beaten down by the mammoth that is the publishing industry, but it's never okay. If you wouldn't say it out loud to somebody's face, then don't say it online. (And if you would say it out loud, maybe you need to take a lesson from Thumper's mom.)

What thoughts would you add? (Bonus points if those thoughts include random CAPS!)