Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Prophecy's Promise Cover Reveal

Yey!  I'm so excited to reveal my book cover from the amazing team at Deranged Doctor Designs.  I'm officially ready for pre-order on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Prophecy's Promise - Chapter One Excerpt

In advance of my May 1 publishing date, here is the first chapter of my debut fantasy novel, Prophecy's Promise.

The Cover Design reveal is coming soon!


I fell backward in my chair, kicking over the desk and scattering notes and books across the room. For a few heartbeats, I lay on the ground, the wooden chair digging into my back. Mist, the tangible incarnation of magic, clung unnaturally to the walls of my dormitory room.
The flicker from the nubbin of the candle refracted against the Mist, casting an eerie glow. I had never seen the Mist so condensed. I swallowed, breathed deeply, and willed myself to stand up. The words from the Apparition echoed in my head. They were something a bard might chant, but beyond the realm of all possibility, I knew the Guardians, the children of our absent gods, had just sent me the first Mist Apparition in nearly a millennium. I repeated the warning, committing the words to memory.
“The land dies
Scorching, smoldering
Earth split and cracked
The Edge crumbles
Spewing destruction
Put the land together
Quench the rocks”
I righted the chair and desk and collected my books and papers, attempting to organize the chaos the tipsy desk had created. I’d been warned that over-zealous cramming in preparation for the final Initiation Exams could mess with my head, but, deep down, I knew that the words I’d just heard had not been from a stress-induced nightmare.
Tendrils of the Mist clawed toward me. Without being Woven, the Mist should be static, but the Apparition had hyper-charged it. I threw open my door. Mist oozed into the common room. The embers glowing in the fireplace reminded me of the melting rocks I had seen in the Apparition.
I hurried down the Apprentice Corridor toward the kitchen and away from the Mist. The corridor’s stone floor scratched against my bare feet, but there was no way that I was going back to my room, not even for shoes. Rounding a corner, I almost barreled into Lead Initiate Altis Acrovena, nephew of Queen Leona Mauzaca, second in line for the throne, and, as of three months ago, the new commander of all Mist Weavers.
“By the Guardians!” I swore in surprise. My hand fluttered to my mouth as if trying to unsay the words. I bobbed a hasty bow. “Lead Initiate, I apologize.”
Altis sighed. “Apprentice, what wakes you this night?”
“I had a weird dream. I apologize for the interruption,” I said, positive that he did not recognize me. Thankfully. The idea of a Mist Apparition sounded insane. No one would believe me, and I’d never recover from this if it turned to gossip. The Lead Initiate stroked his well-groomed beard and glared at me. I shifted uncomfortably, realizing exactly how under-dressed I was in my summer-light nightgown.
“You had a nightmare? That’s a feeble excuse for missing curfew.”
“It wasn’t a nightmare,” I mumbled. I shouldn’t have left my room. But perhaps a lost mind was better than accusations of slinking about the corridors. “I think I had a Mist Apparition. The Mist was bizarre, like it was stuck in my room, so I came out here. It… It scared me.”
“You want me to believe that you had a Mist Apparition?” He scoffed.
“It told me that The Edge of the World is crumbling.” I waited for him to laugh, but there was no humor in his wide eyes. His expression had morphed from disbelief to shock. I pushed on, my words tumbling over themselves. “But that’s crazy. Maybe I'm...” I shook my head, unable to think of how to finish my sentence.
The Lead Initiate shook his head slowly, frustration plastered on his face. “Did it say anything else?” He stood as if trying to stretch every nanometer of his height. Not that he needed to try. I barely came up to his shoulders.
I forced myself to not step back and recited the words that I had heard in my Apparition.
“You had a Mist Apparition.” He folded his arms across his chest and was quiet for a moment. Maybe he’d let me go back to my room. “Come see me tomorrow after lunch. I’ll make sure to excuse you from any classes, and we will talk more about this.”
“I don't have classes—besides the ones I teach. I am to sit for my Scholar Exams in eight days. Maybe it was a nightmare.” Gods and Guardians, please get me out of this.
“You are a Scholar?” He made a face that looked like he smelled something vile. “Your Exams? How old are you?” Surprise clung to his voice.
“Oh, yes. Lead Scholar Nazarie Jarrobe‘s niece. Hailey, right?” he said.
Damn. The Guardians stole all my luck. Altis stood a little taller and grimaced, but I suppose he was trying to smile. “Well then, Hailey, go to bed. Don't speak to anyone of your Apparition. Come see me right after lunch tomorrow.”
“I have to study in the afternoon—I teach all morning,” I protested.
“You are not studying tomorrow. You are meeting with me. I need to understand the details of what you saw. Anything, no matter how small, could help.”
I opened my mouth to protest again but realized that it wouldn't matter. I don’t think Altis Acrovena heard dissenting opinions often—or at least not ones that stuck.
I walked back to my room. I’d lost too much time to this. It would be fine if the Mist Apparition came nine days from now once my Exams were complete. Once I’d become the youngest Scholar in history—once the hours of poring over these books had paid off—the Guardians or even the gods themselves could pick whatever asinine path they wanted for me.
While none of the Mist remained in my room, I could feel an undercurrent of tension. Whatever sent the Apparition was angry with me. Fine, I was angry at it, too. “Nine days. Just nine days.” I shouted, hoping it heard me.
I tore the tattered green quilt from my bed and retreated to the common room. I nestled into the fluffiest sofa, the one tucked in the back nook, hoping to catch an hour or two of sleep before diving back into my studies. It felt like moments later when I opened my eyes. But the sunlight streaming through the window indicated otherwise. Luckily, the clock had been wound so I knew the time… a quarter to ten in the morning. Unluckily, I’d missed breakfast, and my first class started in fifteen minutes.
The other apprentices who shared the common room with me had been careful to not disturb me. A thick pink quilt that belonged to Meena, my closest friend, had been tucked in around me. The silky fabric made my own quilt look old and threadbare. Meena must have coaxed the others to leave me to my rest. I hurriedly changed into my day clothes. No time for a bath.
I folded up the blankets and placed mine at the foot of my bed and Meena’s outside her door. I snatched my folder of lesson plans and hustled toward the Classroom Corridor. I always reprimanded tardy students. I didn’t want to set a bad example.
The classroom was nearly full when I entered, but I wasn’t late. Most of us top-level apprentices tried to get out of teaching the lower years, but I adored it. Their amazement at the most mundane matters of Mist reminded me of when I had first come here. Now years older than any of them, I am equally amazed at all the wonders of the universe that the Mist might allow me to control. These children hadn’t even chosen their Tracks yet. They could be Scholars, like me, or Mystics, Warriors, Healers, Engineers—or a handful of other Tracks. For all of our differences, we all started out as students.
I stepped up in front of the class, and everyone, except for one boy, looked toward me. He had his fingers wrapped around Jussi’s blonde braid and was moving it dangerously close to the inkpot.
“Kevyn!” I hissed in my best teacher voice. Jussi shrieked and tried to stand up, but Kevyn still gripped her golden blonde hair. Her head jerked back, and the shock of it sent her tumbling out of her chair. Kevyn let go of her braid in time for her butt to smack the floor. The whole class erupted into laughter as she started to cry. Immediately, I Healed her bumped bottom. I’m no Healer, but all Tracks learn the basics.
I pointed to the corner, and Kevyn retreated to it—his corner, practically. He spent more class time sitting there than in his proper seat.
My mentor, Scholar Shezdon Lacour, entered the room and observed the commotion in silence. Shezdon was a tall, thin man with knowing eyes. His grey hairs out-numbered the black ones these days. His bushy brows wrinkled as he observed my class.
“Yes?” I asked, horrified at the mess in which he had found my classroom. I will be studying with him after passing my Exams. We both focused in languages and mathematics, an unusual but interesting combination. At least I think so.
“Meena said that you needed someone to cover for you today, but I’m glad to see that you are feeling better. The Lead Initiate will see you now,” he said.
The children leaned forward, eagerly trying to figure out why the Lead Initiate himself had summoned their teacher.
“Are you in trouble Apprentice Troubade?” Kevyn asked.
“She’s a Scholar. She’d go before Lead Scholar Nazarie Jarrobe if she were in trouble.” Shezdon told the children. “She has an important task to complete for the Lead Initiate.”
“But my class—”
“I’ll take over for today.”
Moans came from the children, and I shot them a fierce look.
I left them and walked to the Initiate Corridor. I knew it well. Aunt Nazarie had lived in her quarters since I had come to the Mist Weavers a decade ago. Her first act upon completing her own Scholar Exams had been to return home and collect me, the niece she had never met, taking me away from her cruel, provincial brother and sister-in-law.
That decision undoubtedly saved my life.
Nazarie had pointed out the Lead Initiate’s quarters before. Every time I walked by the mahogany door inlaid with the Weavers’ Crest, gaudy with gold and rubies, I wondered about the man who lived behind it. I closed my eyes and raised my hand to knock, but hesitated. If the world really was dying, how would I be able to do anything to stop it? It was some cosmic mistake. The Guardians had contacted the wrong Weaver.
“Come in,” Altis called, although I hadn't knocked.
I sighed and pushed the door open. The Lead Initiate’s chambers were much more unassuming than I’d envisioned them to be. A simple burgundy rug covered the stone floor, and only a single painting of a forest adorned the austere gray walls. The painting itself was easily twenty feet long and filled the wall upon which it hung, only serving to emphasize the lack of luxury in the rest of the room. The door probably cost more than all of Altis’s furnishings.
Altis did not look up from the maps that littered the top of his desk. “I assume you know geography.”
I nodded, but he wasn't looking at me so I mumbled an affirmative reply. He motioned to a seat on the other side of his desk. “We've known for a year that The Edge has been eating away at our country, but what you told me last night was the first confirmation that it extends beyond our borders.”
“With all due respect, are you really sure I had a Mist Apparition?” I asked. “No one has in a thousand years.”
“Last night, after we spoke, I told the queen about what you told me,” Altis continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “She agreed that we should intensify our study of the phenomenon. Currently, The Edge is affecting only a few small settlements. We agree that this might change. We also agree that for whatever the reason, there is a role you must play in this. Something you will do to help fix it. Your aunt has already given her permission.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “No, no... I can't do that. I thought all you wanted was my description of the Apparition?”
Altis glared at me. “I would have expected you to be honored. The queen herself has asked for your help.”
“But my Exams are in eight days. Once an Exam is set, it cannot be moved, it cannot be retaken. You either are a Scholar or you aren't. Surly Nazarie intended that I assist once those were completed.”
“We don’t have time.”
“What difference will eight days make?”
“Possibly a great deal. This is your chance to be a real Weaver.”
“Scholars are real Weavers, maybe the most real of all. Those Patterns you memorize were discovered by Scholars. The best ways to build a bridge or a tower or this very castle were designed by Scholars. The—”
“We aren’t here to discuss the finer points of Weaver Tracks,” he interrupted. “We are here to discuss what your queen has asked of you.”
“You don’t need a Scholar. You need a Mystic or another Warrior. I am going to get in the way.”
“At least we agree about one thing.” The ice in his voice betrayed his annoyance with the situation. If he didn’t want my help, why was he demanding it? “But the Guardians have their reasons, no matter how insane they may seem. I've an assignment for you, the details of which have been delivered to the library. I'm sure you know where it is.” I heard the ice again. “You're dismissed.”
There was nothing left for me to say. Everything I had worked toward since I was twelve was being torn from me. This man would not see me cry. I nodded curtly, and though I wanted to, I did not slam the door as I left.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Second City Chicago

Great news!  I made it into the advanced comedy writing classes at Second City!  The writing program is a year long.  The first eight months you get in by signing up.  The last four is by audition.  And I got in!  Yey!

I wrote about Second City back when I signed up for the second set of two months.

What does that mean?  Over the course of the next four months, my fellow students and I are going to compile sketches that we've been working on over the past eight months, audition actors and ultimately put on a show that will run for four weeks at Second City.

Zander (I'm also pregnant and that's the baby's name, short for Alexander) is due to be born about half way through that process, so that will be interesting.  :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Exploring Theme

Theme is not just for literary work.  Genre fiction and mass market novels can benefit from the extra layer of dimension that theme gives a novel.  We all have unique points of view, and our characters ought to as well.  Even if your work is purely genre or mass market, a theme can add substance to your writing.  Theme is the deeper meaning underneath the events of your story.

My work actually starts from a theme or concept and bubbles out from there, but perhaps there is a theme buried within your work that you did not realize.  Prophecy's Promise is about how there is no true good side.  Another theme is that sometimes to save something we have to let it go.  The Lioness started from hearing a co-worker talk about his experiences as a Bosnian refugee living in Turkey.  I talk about war and genocide and honesty in relationships.

In both cases, I'm not trying to answer anything, but ask questions.  Is war ever okay?  Can you be truly in love if the other person doesn't know your past?

What is theme?
It's the overall message of the story.  I think Dean Koontz put it well when he said "Theme is a statement, or series of related observations, about some aspect of the human condition, interpreted from the unique viewpoint of the author."

Some examples of possible themes:
  • Ethical questions (death penalty, charity, honesty, etc)
  • Unrequited love
  • The importance of family
  • The importance of friends
  • Grief
  • War's impact

Why is theme important?
Even if you are writing something meant for enjoyment, you are still writing to communicate.  You are still expressing your thoughts and view points.  Theme is deeper than the events of your story.  It's what will keep your characters in your reader's thoughts.  It is also what can tie your characters and events more closely to your reader's life by giving your reader something to think about.

I would argue that a novel without a theme is small talk.  A novel with a theme is a conversation.  Theme adds substance to a novel.  And you may already have a theme without realizing it.  Readers will pull out themes from your writing, maybe even some that you did not intend, which is great. Your work is speaking to them.

Is there a deeper concept or theme that you are trying to convey in your current work?  Or even if you aren't trying to convey it, does one exist?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Heroic Qualities -- or the Makings of a Protagonist

I don't know about you, but when I think of some of my favorite books, I remember the main characters.   They are different.  They are special.  Even if they seem normal, there is something inside of them that sets them apart.  That lets us root for them.  That lets us remember them.

Heroes are partially made by the events they come in contact with, but great heroes have special qualities that are apparent from the beginning of the story. These qualities help us care.  These qualities get us to care about the main characters.

Here are just a few examples of some of my favorite characters in books and two qualities that I admire in them.  These aren't necessarily the top or most obvious traits, but but I personally like about these characters.

  • Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Driven.  Integrity.
  • Phedre in Kushiel's Dart.  Smart.  Sensuous.
  • Anne in Anne of Green Gables Optimistic.  Kind.
  • Dresden in Storm Front (Dresden Files Series) Honorable. Helps Others.
  • Lyra in His Dark Materials Cunning. Tenacious.

Also, many of these good traits end up getting in their way.  Dresden rushes into situations that are over his head in order to help people.  Phedre can be a bit too sensuous (well, she is a courtesan) which gets her in very interesting and dangerous situations and causes friction with her lover.  Atticus is so determined to do the right thing for a wrongly convicted man but this puts his children in danger.

Any strength taken too far can become a weakness.  Persistence can become obsession.  Optimism can keep people from seeing life's realities.  Integrity can become unbending.  Each character's strength taken too far can be their greatest weakness or if not a weakness, can add consequences and conflict.

  1. What are some of your favorite characters?  What are two traits that you admire in them?      
  2. Can you add one or two of these traits to your protagonist?
  3. How can each of these traits cause problems for the protagonist?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Clocking Writing Time

My first draft of The Lioness is complete at a bit over 50,000 words.  On the first draft, I'm a very sparse writer.  It's mostly dialog and basic movement information.  It's tons of action and very little reaction or internal motivation.  I'll more about that at some other time.

I am a very slow writer during the drafting process.  According to the notes that I have kept, I write at less than 500 words per hour.  That means that this first draft is over 100 hours of just writing time.  That does not count planning or thinking time.

How do I know this?  I track my writing time and my word count increases during that time.  I'm trying to notice patterns in when I am more productive.  Here is my log from September through this weekend.

  • I mostly only write on the weekends.  But, I could tell you this without tracking my time!
  • Sometimes I am very bad and miss almost a month of writing.
  • Word count per hour is slightly higher if I've written within the past few days
  • If I write every day, the count per hour does go down after a few days (I think because I've not spent as much thinking time in between)
  • Some scenes are just easier to write.
  • Dialog is fastest for me.

Do any of you track your writing time?  Do you notice any patterns?  About how many words per hour can you add to your WIP?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year Wrap Up

This was a big year for me.  Here are just a handful of highlights.

February - Finished my first novel to what I think is print-ready.  Took four or five years, with many starts and stops.

May - Visited China

August - Decided to self publish once I have three print-ready books.

June - Started second novel, The Lioness.

September - Found out I'm pregnant with my first child

October - To Maine and back road trip for fall foliage

December - I'm within spitting distance of finishing the first full draft of my second novel.  It's at 45,000 words right now and I have three chapters that need plot.  Well, two and an "epilogue" chapter.  Maybe I can do it today!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bun in the Oven

The base of my pun for my blog title is actively true.  There is a bun in the oven!  I'm 16 weeks pregnant.  The baby is due May 18th.

It has slowed down my writing clip.  NaNo became a 5,000 word month rather than a 50,000 word one.  But, it also gives me some motivation to wrap up my novel before the kid shows up.  Last weekend was the first time that I had the mental energy to write since early October.  It's been tough.

My WiP is about 30,000 words done.  My goal is to have it 100% complete before the baby comes.  I'm a slow first drafter, which is very blocky and the revisions is where I really start to add words at a decent clip.  So, I'm feeling pretty good about that goal.

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to write with a newborn. 

For any of you writing Moms out there, how long after giving birth until you were back to a writing habit?

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Welcome to day T-1 of NaNoWriMo, a month where writers make a goal to write a 50,000 word novel.

I'm not doing that.  I'm going to try something a bit different.

My goal is to revise my very rough first draft.  My goal is to polish up a chapter a day, starting today.  I've got 31 chapters, so starting a day early will let me get through everything by the end of the month.

I'm a very basic/outliney draft writer.  I don't write much prose.  I write tight dialog with a few sketches of who is where.  So I need to go back and fill in the lines.  Also, all of my battle scenes current read something like A fights B or A fights and wins.  As I said, basic/outliney.  It's just my process.  I even still have a few chapters that are a couple sentences long.

So, one could argue that I'm not even done with my first draft.  But, I'm excited and ready to take it to the next level using NaNo as my driver.

Anyone else out there doing a modified NaNo?  What are you doing?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sketch Comedy -- Behavioral Interview

From the Second City Website
I'm starting to take a Writing Class at Second City, an improvisation/comedy venue in Chicago.  Second City alums include Tina Fey, Steve Carell, John Candy, Mike Meyers...actually many of the Saturday Night Live cast members studied at the Second City, including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner.

I'm not going there to change my career nor my writing focus, which is fantasy.  I'm just hoping that it will add a new dimension to my writing.  Even though this class focuses on Sketch Writing, there will still be some improv. I'm hoping that it will translate to faster writing and better dialog.  I took Writing I almost a year ago and then didn't continue with it.  I've also taken a couple of Improv Classes as well.  After seeing a Second City performance on Saturday, I decided to look into continuing.  Low and behold...classes start today.

Here's my first and only sketch ever, it's what I wrote in Writing I.  What do you think?  If you like this, I can post all of my sketches as I write them.  I'd love to hear your feedback!

As an aside, Second City offers an online writing class if you feel sad that you don't live nearby the LA, Toronto or Chicago training centers.

Please note that this contains expletives.

Behavioral Interview
by me...Lauren Amundson :)

(Sara is sitting in a chair behind a desk.  There is another chair on the other side of the desk.)
Sara – Send in the next candidate.
 (Jimmy enters; both look shocked to see each other)
Jimmy and Sara (nearly together but not in unison) – What are you doing here?
Jimmy – I’m here for an interview.
Sara –I’m the hiring manager.
Jimmy – Oh, shit.
Sara – Please, sit down.  HR should have given you a folder.  Please hand it to me.
(Jimmy sits and hands the folder to SaraSara flips through it.)
Jimmy – You look well.   It’s been, what, four years?
(Sara keeps flipping through the papers for a few more moments.)
Sara – Fine.  Let’s just try to be professional.  Describe a situation when you were able to strengthen a relationship by communicating effectively. What made your communication effective?
Jimmy –Come on, that’s not even fair!
Sara –  It’s on my list.  I have to ask it….but I think I know the answer to that one.  Excessive vocalization; poor listening skills.  (pause to take notes)  There are times when we work without close supervision or support to get the job done. Tell me about a time when you found yourself in such a situation and how things turned out.
Jimmy –  Well, back at ABC Corp, I was a member of a team that --
Sara(Interrupts) I think you know the unsupervised situation I am referring to.
Jimmy – I admit, and have on multiple occasions, that sleeping with your friend, Tina, while you were out of town was wrong.  And I apologized.  And bought you that necklace.
Sara – Give me some specifics on your decision making process in that situation.
Jimmy – I dunno.  I was drunk.
Sara – You were not.  You were stone-cold-sober.  I walked in on you.
Jimmy – Oh, I got confused about which time. 
Sara –Tell me about a time that you had to work with difficult people and give an example what you did to make the situation better.
Jimmy – I usually try a direct approach.  In one situation, your mother was butting in about my expenditures.  You had complained to her rather than having a direct approach with me.  See, I like directed communications, not trap ones.  I explained to her that she needed to mind her own fucking business.  Successfully, she never came to our apartment again.  Much better.
Sara - Can you give me an example of motivating those around you?
Jimmy – I used to tell you that you gained a lot of weight, but now you’ve lost most of it.  That must have been motivational.  You look great.
Sara -   I see that you describe yourself as a ‘people person’.  Can you give me an example?
Jimmy – Tina seemed to like me.
Sara – Great, I think I have everything I need.  (shuts folder) We’ll be in touch about the next steps.  The receptionist will see you out.  Thanks for your time.
Jimmy – So, I’m not getting the job, huh?

Sara – No.

Related Posts with Thumbnails