Writing in the Dark #SFWApro

Posted at Apr 9, 2015 5:43 pm

 

Scary stories have existed since humans first gathered around campfires and made shadows with their hands against the firelight. Flames outlined frightening figures and beasts, gnashing teeth and slashing tails. Listeners shrank close to each other and edged just a bit nearer to the warmth and the light of the fire.

 

I think we know a scary story when we hear it or read it, when it quickens our breathing and causes us to leave the lights on after dark. But what really makes a story scary when we’re crafting it? Is there a way to consciously figure this out as we put it on the page?

 

I think so. I think the first step is dealing with a topic that scares you. If we don’t feel the fear, we can’t expect others to feel it or respond to it authentically. We gotta deal with topics that scare us in order to most effectively communicate that fear. What scares you? Is it being alone? Being trapped? Getting lost? Those clown slippers that your grandma gave you when you were four?

 

You think I’m kidding with that last one, but only sort of.

 

Find something that really disturbs you, and you’ve got a good start. Think about the stuff that keeps you awake at night. You’ve just got to be willing to really force yourself to examine it.

 

And I don’t mean something that shocks you. A shock is a shock and is good for what it is. It’s a jolt and it leaves your jaw hanging. It’s a great tool to open or close a chapter with a hook.

 

But fear is something different. Fear is deeper and it lingers. It gets inside your ear and crawls around your head like a spider. A shock is a trick, a device, a thunderclap. Fear is a theme. It’s a storm. It can be quiet or violent, but it lasts longer and is much more interesting to work with. 

 

The second part of creating a scary story is translating that individual fear to a universal fear. As humans, there are a lot of atavistic fears we’ve got, rattling around in our collective unconscious. We’ve all heard of the common fears, like snakes and spiders. They’re relics of our primitive attempts to survive, when such creatures could bite us and leave us twitching and drooling. Those critters appear pretty darn often on the creepy movies of the week, often in giant form. They’re also a really good reason why I make a lot of noise before opening up the shed to drag out the lawn mower.

 

But what about the really deep stuff that’s still relevant to modern life? There are a lot of fears that have been around a long time and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The dark. Imprisonment. Loss of youth. Abandonment. Powerlessness. Screaming and no one being around to hear us. Being buried alive. Contagion. Being separated from the herd and forced to survive on our own. Injury. Death with no happily ever afterlife.

 

We’re wired to fear these things. If you can relate your individual fear to something larger that we all share, then it can be worked into a theme, to something that will feel real to you.

 

  • Claustrophobic in elevators? Tell a story about being buried alive. Go watch the scene in KILL BILL when Beatrix punches her way out of a coffin.  Hey, what would it be like to be buried alive with all these people in this elevator with you? Especially that dude in the back with the bad b.o.? Would you fight that lady for her bag of Taco Bell?  Hm. What happens when the first one dies?
  • Do germs squick you out? Read Camus’ THE PLAGUE. Now put down your hand sanitizer and think about germ warfare in the modern world. Also, use the word “bubo” in your first sentence.
  • Scared of being alone? Maybe your protagonist needs to get lost in the woods for a very long time. Remember THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT?  Go watch it and then go for a walk in the great outdoors. What else do you think is out there in the woods that could stalk your protagonist? And yes, your protagonist’s cell phone is absolutely dead. He is absolutely on his own and has to pull a Survivorman on this situation. No fair giving him superpowers or making him the Chosen One in this episode. Bonus points if he gets all Bear Grylls and drinks his own pee.
  • Clown slippers? Yeah. The whole uncanny valley thing. Stephen King’s IT. Now go see ANNABELLE. Go out and buy yourself a creepy doll at a flea market and stare at it awhile. Betcha don’t sleep, but you might get some ideas about robotics.

 

Take your small fear, feel it, and blow it up big in the format of a story. Really touch it, taste it, and feel your pulse pounding in the back of your throat. Challenge yourself.

 

And if you are afraid, when you start making shadow puppets on the walls, your reader will be, too.

 

#SFWApro

4 Comments

Release Day for DARK ALCHEMY!

Posted at Mar 24, 2015 2:07 pm

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It’s here! Release day for the ebook edition of DARK ALCHEMY! 

 

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad in Laura Bickle’s novel Dark Alchemy.

Some secrets are better left buried…

Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

“…charming adventure, wrapped up with a perfect ending.” – Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Dark Alchemy reads like a stand-alone work, but Petra is such a likable protagonist and the slightly off-balance world in which the town of Temperance exists is so well drawn that it’s hard not to hope we’ll see more of Petra’s adventures.” – RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars

 

DARK ALCHEMY is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, HarperCollins, Google Play, and Kobo.

 

And more good news…the mass market paperback will release on April 28! Pre-orders are open now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

13 Comments

The Worst Advice I Ever Received

Posted at Mar 21, 2015 4:15 pm

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Hands-down, the worst advice I’ve ever received is this little gem: “You don’t need any more cats.”

 

Ha.

 

There were cats in my life off and on, when I was a child. My mother would let her cat, Sam, sleep in my crib when I was a baby. Consequently, the purring of a cat is the greatest sound in the world to me. I am certain that Sam whispered into my ear what was expected to me later in life, in my role as Cat Servant.

 

Cats have come and gone in our house. They always turn up. Some have stayed for a short period of time, as I’ve been successful in fobbing them off on friends and relatives. Others have stayed, due to circumstance or luck. There are, sadly, a whole lot of homeless animals out there. And they seem to find us, like they have little antennae strapped to their heads, searching for the Mother Ship.

 

Our most recent acquisition, Gibby, came by two summers ago. He was a skinny tomcat, all beaten up from getting in fights (and clearly not being very successful at it). He was clearly a tame cat – he approached my husband as he was leaving the house for work and howled at the top of his lungs for food. We fed him, and he decided to make our back porch his home. My husband named him “Gibby,” after a favorite baseball player. He loved to be petted and sit on our laps. When I’d stretch out in a chair, he’d crawl on my chest and fall asleep. I felt around his neck and found scabs from where he’d been in fights. There was a sore lump on his ribs, where I could only guess that someone had kicked him. He had clearly been someone’s pet, and he desperately wanted a home. He would sit on our back step and meow at the door.

 

He wanted IN.

 

Poor guy was skin and bones. Gibby was clearly a massive cat, but starved. He began to plump up, and we frantically began searching for a home for him. One of my husband’s co-workers was amenable to accepting another barn cat, so we took him into the vet to be neutered and checked over before we took him to his new rural life.

 

Gibby, unfortunately, tested positive for FIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. In good conscience, we couldn’t turn him loose on a population of barn cats. Nor were we able to find an indoor adoptive home for him. I contacted every rescue organization that I could find, fully aware that he was going to be a tough adoption. And we had no luck.

 

Since we already had FIV-positive cats, we decided that fate intended for us to keep him. Our other cats with FIV have been with us, asymptomatic, since 2003. I am hopeful that Gibby will have the same experience of a long, happy, healthy life.

 

During this time, I received all kinds of unhelpful advice, mostly from relatives. It boiled down to: “You don’t need another cat.”

 

Probably not. We already had five cats, and Gibby would be the sixth. I spend a whole lotta time scooping cat litter, washing dishes, and keeping track of vet appointments and medications.

 

But you know what? He needed a couple of humans. We had the room. The bed gets a bit crowded with our current crew of cats. But, as any cat owner knows, cats can defy the rules of physics and squeeze in.

 

And as Gibby snuggled up to us and began to fill out, we realized that we did need him, after all. We needed him to stretch out on the couch while we watch television, to sit in the co-pilot’s chair while my husband plays video games. We needed him to sit in the windowsill and trill at those scary squirrels outside. He’s needed to hold down the quilt at the edge of our bed. And he definitely is needed to cuddle when we have bad days at work. And I love to listen to him purr when I put my head on his chest. The most soothing sound in the world, that is. Like coming home.

 

So, to all the folks who say we didn’t need another cat:  No one can ever know what anyone else needs.

4 Comments

Revising with Timelines #SFWApro

Posted at Mar 12, 2015 4:05 pm

 

Writers tend to get into a lot of trouble with time. There’s making time
to write, managing deadlines, and the vagaries of market timing.

One issue with time, however, is entirely within the author’s control. And
that’s the timeline of the story.

I never paid a whole lot of critical attention to time when I read. Sure,
I was conscious that some passages in stories could be languid and slow-
moving like a drippy faucet. Others were exhaustingly rushed. I never was
quite able to put my finger on why.

And then, when my first book was accepted for publication, I discovered
the answer: books can grow timeline issues. They’re very subtle, but can
really cause problems with the reader’s perception of a work.

A timeline problem occurs when characters have too many events crammed
into a period of time – or not enough. A succession of tasks emerges that
would require the bending of the rules of the space-time continuum or
superhuman abilities to accomplish. It occurs when your main character
hasn’t slept for days. It happens when she travels an impossible distance
in an hour. It can take place when your main character hasn’t worked
regular hours at her day job without explanation. This goes for crazy
amounts of overtime, or not working at all. It happens when your character
is doing “cop stuff” for seven days in a row without a day off or at least
a pro forma request for overtime. It’s easy for an author to lose track
of what day it is, and a character can get trapped in a month-long weekend
or a year of Wednesdays.

Mundane concerns? Maybe. But they catch an editor’s eye and seep into the
subconscious of the reader. And sometimes, we’ve gotta pay attention to
the rules of the real world – like time – in order to allow the reader to
suspend disbelief for the really magical things we want to do with the
story.

My first editor asked me to turn a timeline in with my book. Something
simple, listing the day, night, and all the scenes that happened in each.
By reviewing my manuscript in this way, I could see where I crammed too
many activities into the heroine’s day – or (eep!) not enough. When I
finish a draft, I read through it and start constructing my timeline.

I also create a second list that’s not strictly a timeline. It’s one that
notes where chapters begin and end, how many scenes are included in the
chapter, and how many pages each chapter is. Sticking a ten-page chapter
next to a twenty-five page chapter creates unevenness, and keeping a note
helps me be more aware of it. It also shows me where I have a bunch of
stubby two-page scenes strung together. This causes me to question whether
I’m head-hopping or whether I really need to find a way to collapse those
scenes into less choppy ones. It helps me analyze flow. It also shows me
whether I’m doing a good job of ending chapters in the middle of the
action, causing the reader to want to turn the page to the next.

By doing this kind of post-hoc analysis, and correcting the results, I
found that pacing issues automatically ironed themselves out.

I’ve turned a timeline in for every book since, whether or not I was
asked. And it’s really reduced the amount of time I spend fixing
structural issues in revisions. Now, I tend to work with that timeline in
my head, and it keeps me honest. It keeps my very human characters from
turning into Wonder Women and Supermen.

Not only do I have to manage time, but my characters do, too. Maintaining
a timeline is a front-line editing fix I suggest that every writer keep in
her toolbox.

#SFWApro

3 Comments

Confessions of a Plotter #SFWApro

Posted at Mar 4, 2015 9:30 am

I confess. I’m a plotter.

Part of it’s out of preference, part out of necessity. Anymore, when I turn in a manuscript, editors want an outline. Or they want an outline as a part of my contractual obligations, even before I set a word to paper. They want to know the hell I’m cooking up, so that there will be no surprises. That’s the necessity.

As far as preference goes…I dislike staring at a blank page. It’s intimidating. I want to have some idea of where I’m going and how I’m gonna get there.

I begin with a high-level outline. A skeleton or scaffolding. As I work through the manuscript, it becomes more detailed. Flesh gets added to the bones. There are ideas that need to be reiterated, loops that need to be closed, threads to tie up. It eventually breaks into a scene-by-scene outline.

The scene-by-scene outline allows me to easily create a timeline (another frequent editorial request). I find that I’m less tempted to try to pack a superhuman number of events into my heroine’s day if I have a visual representation of how much stuff I’m trying to cram between sunrise and sunset.

Breaking a story into scenes helps me to control chapter lengths. If I scribble down the gist of one scene POV, and the number of pages on a notecard. I can mix ‘em up and put them together in many configurations. Keeps me from getting too wedded to a certain order and keeps me questioning breaks and POV shifts. I also try to write down on the notecard the purpose of the scene. If I can’t come up with at least three, it goes into the trash bin.

As you may have guessed, my outline starts out small. At the outset of a project, it may be only three or four pages. But, as the project grows, I faithfully record what I’m doing on paper and cards. When I’m done, I have a detailed outline that I can analyze for pacing issues, logic gaps, and general WTFckery.

That’s not to say that I have no serendipities, no flow. I do chase ideas down rabbit holes and find my own little synchronicities. The outline is not sacred – it’s meant to be torn apart and reconstructed.

But I like having a light in the darkness to show me where I’m going.

#SFWApro

8 Comments

Guest Post: B. E. Sanderson

Posted at Mar 2, 2015 9:00 am

 

 

Thanks for having me today, Laura!

The day before Valentine’s Day of this year, I published a novel – Dying Embers.  It was a novel I originally started writing almost seven years ago.  Then it was called Manhunter.  The earliest file date I can find for the first incarnation of this book is dated March 30, 2008.  I finished the first draft in May and the final draft in September. 

And then I began the journey toward publication.  I gave it a catchy title, because, let’s face it, Manhunter was lame.  I created query materials like I was supposed to – a query letter with a catchy blurb, a couple of synopses (a long one and a short one).  I sent out dozens of queries and received dozens of rejections.  I rewrote the query letter and tried again, with the same results. 

In the interim, I continued to write.  After all Manhunter wasn’t my first book and it sure wasn’t about to be my last. 

I got a couple of really good nibbles that Fall.  I even got the nicest rejection letter ever to a request for full (when an agent asks to see the whole book), but it wasn’t what she needed.  Since she was my best hope, I set the book aside and went on to the next book, and the next, and the next—each time facing the same hurdles and doing my darnedest to jump them. 

Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution to take my writing more seriously.  I would up my game.  I would spend as much time and money as it took to find myself an agent and get a publishing contract.  Except the more I did, the farther I felt from my goal.  And the closer the brick walls I’d been bashing my head against for years seemed to get, until I felt like I was standing in a coat closet. 

Then I remembered something my husband once told me.  It was a tale of a rat in a rice paper maze.  The rat would run and run through the maze to reach its goals, when really all the rat had to do was rip through the super-thin paper.  It never did, because it never saw how easy it could be free.  All it saw was the walls. 

It still took a while for me to stop fearing the walls, though.  One day last summer, when Hubs and I were discussing budgets, I found the courage and floated the idea of self-publishing.  I feared he’d tell me it wasn’t possible because we’re on limited fundage, but instead, he jumped on the idea.  Not only did he jump on it, he ran with it.  We researched every aspect and discovered self-publishing didn’t have to be nearly as expensive as we’d made it out to be.  Sure, it’s not cheap if you want to do it right, but it wouldn’t break the bank either. 

Then next step was going through all the manuscripts I’d written over the course of ten years and deciding which one would be the most marketable out of the gate.  And then came a bunch of other steps I won’t bore you with.  Needless to say, I did the work, I ticked all the steps off, and I launched my own book.

It wasn’t easy.  But every little thing I did was something I accomplished and I knew the end result would be a published novel with my name on it.  No one else had control over my destiny and I saw that the brick walls I’d been fighting all those years were only so much rice paper.

If you’re interested in reading Dying Embers, it’s available now for Kindle and in paperback format. 

Good girls don’t play with fire.

Emma Sweet is tired of being a good girl. When she catches her husband cheating, she hits on the perfect plan to pay back all the men who ever broke her heart. Revenge isn’t as simple as seducing her old lovers and tossing a match, but watching them burn is deliciously satisfying.   

The one time in her life Agent Jace Douglas wasn’t a good girl, she lost her family.  Now she would rather run far and fast when it comes to fire.  Too bad for her, she can’t walk away from a case where fire is the killer’s signature.  Jace needs to face her fears and catch this murderer before the flames of her past—and the smoldering heat she feels for Detective Ben Yancy—reduce her life, her career and her self-control to ash.

And to celebrate being on Laura’s blog, I’ve made Dying Embers Kindle edition free for today only (March 2nd from 12am PST to 11:59pm PST – according to Amazon).  Thanks again for having me, Laura, and thanks everyone else for stopping by!

 

And if you want to know a little more about me, here’s my official author bio:

Former sales ‘road warrior’ and corporate ‘Jack of all trades’, B.E. Sanderson now lives the hermit’s life in southwest Missouri, where she divides her time between doing writerly things, inhaling books, networking on the internet, and enjoying the ‘retired’ life with her husband and her crazy cats.

 

You can learn more and connect with me at:

The Writing Spectacle

B.E.’s Writerly Space

B.E. on Facebook

B.E. on Twitter

 

4 Comments

DARK ALCHEMY at RT Book Reviews: 4.5 Stars! #SFWApro

Posted at Feb 27, 2015 11:00 am

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I’m thrilled that DARK ALCHEMY got a 4.5 star review from RT Book Reviews! RT Book Reviews says: 

“Dark Alchemy reads like a stand-alone work, but Petra is such a likable protagonist and the slightly off-balance world in which the town of Temperance exists is so well drawn that it’s hard not to hope we’ll see more of Petra’s adventures.”

#SFWApro

1 Comment

Boundaries in Writing #SFWApro

Posted at Feb 24, 2015 5:14 pm

 

 

Boundaries are a good thing. They serve to protect things that are new and delicate. We put cages over young tomato plants to keep them from being nibbled by the wildlife. We ask relatives and neighbors to call before dropping in. We learn to say “no” to events that clutter up our calendars and drain our time and energy.

 

It’s a harder task for some of us than others. I know it’s hard for me. I’ve been guilty of being a doormat in the past, allowing the tide of demands to wash over me, until I was thoroughly resentful. Learning to say “no” to people and things was a difficult process for me in my daily life.

 

Writing is no different. It’s a precious thing that deserves to be guarded from incursions. To be certain, most of the things that encroach upon writing are benign, like that pile of laundry that I really should attack before bedtime. That last volley of e-mails that we ought to finish for work. Facebook updates. The phone. Twitter. Television.

 

Writing can slide to the bottom of the to-do list, becoming the last thing I hope to accomplish before we fall into bed at night, thoroughly drained from the people and tasks of the day. Days slide into weeks without tangible progress on a project. I let the easier things on my to-do list take priority. And also the ones that are more visible to other people. It’s somehow easier to be prouder of a presentation or a freshly-painted room than something that’s for my eyes only. There’s immediate positive feedback, a pat on the back right away. Progress on writing is so often invisible to the world, and it’s easier to mitigate the importance of it.

 

But it’s important to protect the work in progress, especially in the beginning stages of writing. A book, or a grain of an idea for a book, is fragile. I’ve got to plant it in a safe place, away from wind. It needs the right amount of sunshine and water. I have to put it first on the to-do list – first thing in the morning, before it gets a chance to get pushed off.

 

I’m not much of a morning person.  I always dreaded the standard writing advice of getting up an hour early to get writing stuffed into a day. I’d much rather pull the covers over my head and finish up with dreaming. But…even though it’s common advice, it’s good advice. We do first what we deem to be most important. And I was letting writing slide to the back of the list, rationalizing that I’d get to it around midnight because I was a night person. More often than not, I’d throw in the towel and want to just veg in my jammies in front of the TV.

 

I had to learn to create not only priority boundaries, but also time boundaries. I have to force myself to sit in a chair and not surf the internet, check-email, or mess with a host of other distractions. No television. It’s only then that I seem to get the really good stuff done. And…it feels pretty darn good to have that to-do crossed off my list. The rest of the day feels lighter. I feel sort of virtuous. Charged. Sometimes, I squeeze in an extra session of writing during the day because the momentum is so good.

 

And I have to defend writing in other ways, too. A new idea may or may not work. I need some time and space to explore it, so I don’t really talk about it. It’s too easily bruised and can wither under too much judgment and scrutiny. When asked, I’ll talk about it in the vaguest of terms: “Oh…it’s a YA story.” “I think it’s gonna be UF.” But I don’t really know. Not until it’s grown up, and I can see if it’ll become animal, vegetable, or mineral. Mostly, I don’t need anybody poking at it, at this stage. I may decide to go through with the project, or I might not. I don’t know if it has the shiny yet. It may not make it past thirty pages. If so, I want to quietly bury it in the backyard without having to explain myself with a full post-mortem.

 

There’s a time for editing, critique, and the harsh polish of good scrutiny. But not until I’ve worked with it for a while. Not until it’s grown up under my wing and I’ve had a chance to enhance its strengths and diminish its weaknesses. I don’t want to subject anybody to a first draft. As I work through a manuscript, I keep notes of things that need to be fleshed out or fixed. Once it’s complete, before it goes to any beta readers, I do a round of editing to repair the things I know need work.

 

There’s also an odd thing about being a writer: defending the process. To outsiders, writing can seem like a really self-indulgent process, where not much seems to be happening. I get to close myself off in a room and stare at a screen for a long time. Kind of luxurious, hmm? Isn’t there a better use of my time? Shouldn’t I be going out with friends or scrubbing my grout with a toothbrush?

 

I’ve gotten much better about saying “no.” This is work. Just as much as any other. I have to respect the process and respect myself in doing the process. I have no problem turning down social invites by saying that “Gee, I’d love to, but I’m working.” And I am. I have no issues anymore dodging intrusive questions about what I’m working on or when I’m going to share it. “Soon.” “Someday.” “When it’s done.” “Not yet.”

 

So…boundaries. They are a good thing. Because that tomato plant needs a cage to protect it from the garden nibblers. The nibblers are many and varied: time, guilt, demands from others. I’ve got to put these boundaries in place to allow the project to produce some good fruit. And that’s not going to happen if I neglect to water the project or let other people pick at the flowers.

 

Someday, I’ll have tomatoes to show. But not yet.

 
 
#SFWApro

1 Comment

THE DAY BEFORE by Liana Brooks Cover Reveal

Posted at Feb 20, 2015 9:00 am

Check out the lovely cover for Liana Brooks’ April release, THE DAY BEFORE!

 

DayBefore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is:

Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property?

 Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There’s a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it’s not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

 The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

 This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.

 A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it means to be human.

 

About Liana:

Liana Brooks once read the book GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and noted that both their biographies invited readers to send money (or banana daiquiris). That seems to have worked well for them. Liana prefers strawberry daiquiris (virgin!) and will never say no to large amounts of cash in unmarked bills. 

Her books are sweet and humorous with just enough edge to keep you reading past your bedtime. 

Liana was born in San Diego after bouncing around the country she’s settled (temporarily) in the great wilderness of Alaska. She can be found on Twitter (@LianaBrooks), on FaceBook, and on the web at www.lianabrooks.com.

LINKS:

 HarperCollins – http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062407658/the-day-before

 Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Day-Before-Jane-Doe-ebook/dp/B00Q33ZRTW/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1417452140&sr=8-7&keywords=liana+brooks

 Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-day-before-liana-brooks/1120818378?ean=9780062407658

 iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-day-before/id945085387?mt=11

 Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-day-before-2

 GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23607748-the-day-before

 Website: http://www.lianabrooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DayBefore cover

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How Collecting Action Figures Made Me a Better Writer

Posted at Feb 16, 2015 10:50 pm

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Yeah. I never really grew up.

 

I give a good impression of being a responsible adult, though. I’m happily married, pay my bills, and remember to clean out the fridge before fuzzy green civilizations start hailing me as the Bringer of Light.

 

Yet, I collect action figures. I had some when I was a little girl, to be sure. I had the 1970’s Lynda Carter Wonder Woman doll. I had a handful of GI Joes that wound up using Barbie’s Dream House as their command center. But the things that I most avidly collected were He-Man and She-Ra action figures. My brother and I staged epic wars on snow days when we tore the cushions off the couch and set them up as forts and canyons on the floor. We turned the dog into an armored personnel carrier (he was a very patient Good Dog). And the Christmas that Castle Greyskull arrived under the tree…OMG. Epic rejoicing.

 

This was my first exposure to fantasy as a genre. Seriously! I grew up in a pretty rural area, a place where there were no sci-fi conventions or channels beyond basic cable. Magic swords and green tigers and winged horses…oh, my. This was completely accessible to kids, and I reveled in it.

 

Especially She-Ra. I already owned Teela, Evil-Lyn, and many of the male figures from the He-Man group. But I was super-excited to see a line of female figures. She-Ra was their leader, the sister of He-Man and the most powerful woman in the universe. This was pretty revolutionary for the time – powerful girls in charge of the storyline and saving the world! I tuned in to watch She-Ra’s adventures ever day after school, wishing that I had my own flying horse and magic sword. But I made do with my pink plastic sword and the family dog (again, the long-suffering dog who was less than thrilled about being dressed in construction-paper wings).

 

These toys helped me think about the world in a different “what-if” way. What if life and adventure were really unlimited, and I could create and defend the ideals I chose? What kinds of heroines could I develop with my own crayons, magic markers, and pens? What if there really were no rules about how a heroine “should” be?

 

I remembered that, the feeling of no limits. And I keep some reminders around. Through the miracle of eBay, I’ve gathered together quite a few action figures. I remember a lot of them from my past, but others are new to me. Having them around forces me not to take myself too seriously.

 

And they also remind me that there aren’t any limits. They keep me in touch with that childlike wonder. And the possibilities are all mine…even if they are covered in pink glitter.

 

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