Socialpunk: Excerpt from Monica Leonelle

I’m pleased to share with you an excerpt from the new novel, Socialpunk, by Monica Leonelle.  

A little more about it:

Ima would give anything to escape The Dome and learn what’s beyond its barriers, but the Chicago government has kept all its citizens on lockdown ever since the Scorched Years left most of the world a desert wasteland. When a mysterious group of hooded figures enters the city unexpectedly, Ima uncovers a plot to destroy The Dome and is given the choice between escaping to a new, dangerous city or staying behind and fighting a battle she can never win.


From the Novel:

After playing God for six years with the world he created, he couldn’t control any of his subjects, none at all. Over the years, he had watched them evolve and become the sum of their own choices rather than the sum of his; and for that, he regretted ever giving them life.

A small, blinking red light from just inside his eyelid reminded him of the news they sent him earlier that morning. The company had cancelled his funding and would shut down his project within three months. According to them, the project cost too much and took up too much space, and the inconclusive results couldn’t be published reputably, now or in the future.

Six years of his work, tens of thousands of lives at stake—and he could do nothing to save any of it. He bowed his head, letting his chin rest on the rim of his breakfast smoothie. The smoothie reeked of powder—crushed pills—but he supposed he had better get used to it. He wouldn’t be able to afford the luxury of real food after they canned him.

He closed his eyes and called up the camera view of one of his favorites, number 3281. She fascinated him; he couldn’t deny it. When he had designed her, her pre-teen rebelliousness lit fire in her eyes. A survivor, he’d thought. He’d meant for her to have it all—to grow up, to get married to the love of her life, and to have a beautiful family of her own someday.

But he had only given her sadness so far. Instead of creating a strict father, he had given her an abusive one. Instead of creating a loving boyfriend, he had given her a friend who could never love her. And instead of creating a strong, proud mother, he had given her a meek one, who watched the whole thing unfold and did nothing about it.

He looked at his last and final creation sitting in the chair across from him—his own son, not awakened yet. The law forbade him to have any children of his own, so this boy would substitute.

But he had done the unthinkable with this creation—he had bestowed on it his own thoughts, emotions, and decision-making processes. He’d given the boy his own mind, his own physical characteristics, his own wants and desires.

He had never done so with any of the others because of the dangers of investing too heavily in any one of his subjects. But who could he kid? He had not stayed objective thus far, watching some of his subjects more closely than others, wishing for the happiness of some at the expense of others. He had become an abomination, a monster of his own doing, who had created subjects only to watch them suffer.

He couldn’t forgive himself; not now, not ever. His eyes lingered on the vial that sat next to his breakfast smoothie, that he’d stowed away for the day when they destroyed all his work, his entire world. He would save it, tuck it away for now, for as long as he could protect them. When things spun out of his control, he would drink it and end himself the way he had ended them.

In the ancient stories, gods frequently gave their sons as gifts. Now, he would give his son as a gift to her, number 3281. So she could be happy in her last months on earth, before they destroyed her with the rest of them.


Monica Leonelle is a well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit.

Socialpunk is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

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Behind the Villain: Ellette of Morning Star

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Desiree Finkbeiner, author of the recently released Morning Star, the first volume in the Ethos series.  Ethos is a great new YA fantasy series that has inspired a lot of conversation between Desiree and I over recent weeks.  Among the things that I find so intriguing about Desiree’s work are the many facets of her characters, particularly the villain Ellette.  Because I had so many questions about the character, I asked Desiree to allow me to “interview” first her villain and then herself to learn more about the concepts behind Morning Star and the world that she has created.

First, I present the interview with Ellette, the fallen warrior of the Ethos series.

Gwen:  Ellette, what is the strongest emotion that drives your actions?

Ellette:  Fairness. Life is cruel and unfair to those who try to do the right thing. I did everything I was told to do; gave up my chance at happiness so that others could be happy, and look where it got me. What’s the point in sacrifice if it carries no reward? The universe is unfair to those who sacrifice, giving the spoils of their labor to schmuck who stands in line behind them with their hands out.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to be the great mediator, the one who makes it fair for everyone. Rather than a select few carrying the weight of the universe on their shoulders, why not force everyone to do their share? No one gets off without contributing to the greater good. Since life will be unfair to everyone, therein lies the fairness. No rich, no poor. Thus, no one will be special and no one will be left behind. I’ve a plan that will be the great equalizer of the people. In my name, all will be fair, unlike the balance of the so-called universe, which is really nothing more than the illusion of fairness.

Gwen:  Creating a fair world, by any definition, is not an easy task and requires making hard decisions.  I imagine that you’ve had to make quite a few in your life.  If there is one thing that you regret, what is it?

Ellette: I regret the time I wasted in the service of others who didn’t appreciate the sacrifice I was giving for them. All the wasted time and life energy I could have used on pursuing my own dreams, wasted on ungrateful souls could who could care less.

Portrait of Ellette by Desiree Finkbeiner.

Gwen:  As you think about all of those that you spent your time on,  was there someone who affected your life profoundly?

Ellette:  Aziza. Her name meant, cherished, beloved. And love her I did, as if she were my own. I met her in Africa while I was on post to watch over the mushroom. Aziza was the daughter of a very rich man, from the tribe of the small village where I traded for supplies. He had six daughters, and she was the fairest, the youngest. Perhaps about four of your human years in age. Never had I met a soul so filled with life and adventure before Aziza. She had given me so much, and filled my heart with love, something I had never experienced before. Because she had given me the gift of trust and friendship, I responded to her love with a gift of my own.

One night, on a full moon, I came to her as the village slept, so she could see me in my true form. I took her for a night fly, soaring high into the sky so she could feel the wind in her face. It was to be our secret, something we shared between us. Each time the full moon came, we did this until her family grew suspicious. She had spoken of my magic to her sisters and made them promise not to tell, but she had broken my trust by breaking her promise to keep it secret.

It broke my heart, so to teach her a lesson about loyalty, I told her I would not be visiting on next full moon. But she came seeking me, snuck out in the night all alone. I told her never to seek me because the land had been plagued with cobras and jackals. She didn’t listen, and it cost her life. Of course, I was blamed for her death and they rounded up a posse of their best warriors to hunt me, calling me the white winged demon.

I was heart broken and I regret ever loving her… had I not loved her, she’d have grown into a beautiful woman.

Gwen:  A tragic story.  Have you kept anything of her–even something that remains secret?

Ellette: I still have a lock of Aziza’s hair, taken from her corpse, as a reminder why love is dangerous.

After hearing Ellette’s story, I asked Desiree to expound upon what her creation was like from an author’s perspective.

Illustration from the forthcoming print edition of Ethos: Morning Star.

Gwen:  One of the most difficult challenges a writer faces is creating a great villain. What was your greatest struggle as you developed her character?

Desiree: The hardest thing was looking back into my past at who I was when I was younger. I absolutely loathe who I was from about age 17 to 20, I was a terrible person and made some poor decisions (wrote a book about it in high school but deleted the file later on, now I wish I could go back and read it). I really do feel that I was a wicked young woman at that time in my life; manipulative, controlling, prideful, stuck-up, attracted to darkness, seduced by the occult and dark arts. I based my villain off of myself. It was a time in my life where I was estranged from God and sought after worldly aspirations. I was spiritually dead to light, lost in a very dark place. But it’s because I have experienced falling and losing my path, that I’m able to craft a dark character from a realistic perspective.

I know Ellette’s demons all too well, for I had created my own hell and it took a miracle (and a lot of prayers) to free me from the prison I had built for myself. And though those experiences are very personal, let’s just say, I’m grateful for those who didn’t give up on me. Ellette is my flipside… So the hardest part was revisiting my past to allow that character to live once more in my fantasy world.

Gwen: Did you find it easy or difficult to relate to the choices that Ellette made?

Desiree: Obviously, I relate completely. I understand heartbreak and what it’s like to desire power over others. I also understand how easy it is to let hatred and bitterness canker the soul. Luckily, I also know what it’s like to embrace light and let forgiveness heal the wounds of past transgression.

Gwen: How do you, as a writer, reconcile yourself to writing “evil” or “dark” characters?

Desiree: Evil is a part of us all. Some of us embrace it, and some of us seek to cast off works of darkness to embrace light. Unfortunately, sometimes life requires embracing darkness before we can appreciate light. One cannot know love and joy without first having passed through loss and sadness. So those two ancient enemies (good and evil) are necessary for us understand the universal question “Why?”. Without evil, there could be no good, and vice versa… so in order for there to be balance in the universe, the two must constantly oppose one another and stand for their cause.

I like to look at it this way. Wherever there is light shining its rays to illuminate an object, there is also a shadow cast by the object where light cannot pass through. In order for something to be completely filled with light, it must first become transparent. But when something is transparent, it no longer has visible form to be considered beautiful by the naked eye. So the shadows cast by light actually create beauty in the world around us. One simply cannot exist without the other. So in order for there to be a hero, there must a villain of equal power to oppose the goodness and light, otherwise, there’d be no adventure… and no point for anything to exist.


Desiree Finkbeiner, author of Ethos: Morning Star

Desiree Finkbeiner attained a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Missouri Southern State University (2006) with a heavy background in business, marketing, music and fine art– She was heavily involved in campus affairs and served actively in several committees focusing on campus entertainment and events. She performed with musical acts/bands in rock and electronic genres, released seven studio albums, performed in 11 states and has written hundreds of songs. Her band, Carbon Star, was a finalist for VH1’s “Bands on the Run” reality TV show in 2000. Then she performed with Pointy Teeth until finally leaving the music industry for the quiet life.

Continuing education is a constant adventure for Desiree with topics of interest ranging from civil and corporate law, history, political conspiracy, homeopathic medicine and spiritual healing. She prefers to read non-fiction, especially on topics that educate and broaden her perspectives on controversial issues.

With thousands of completed art works in her archives, most of which appear in private collections worldwide, Desiree hopes to focus more on publishing, marketing and licensing her work so she can leave a legacy behind.

To find her work, visit her author page at Hydra Publications.  Ethos: Morning Star is currently available on Amazon.

Researching the Read – The Theoretical Backdrop to ‘Seven Point Eight: The First Chronicle’

Today’s guest post comes via Marie Harbon, author of Seven Point Eight. The beginning of this five-part epic is available in Kindle format for free today (4.16.12) at Amazon.


Researching the Read – The Theoretical Backdrop to ‘Seven Point Eight: The First Chronicle’

by Marie Harbon

Seven Point Eight is a new sci-fi/paranormal series, uniting quantum physics, mysticism, fringe science, psychic powers, folklore, consciousness, complicated love, conspiracy and nostalgia. With such an array of ingredients, it was vital the underpinning theory remained accurate.

In a series of drafts, I laid the research down in layers. Prior to writing, a number of ideas floated around in my head, as I love to read non-fiction, the geekier the better. In particular, I already had the basic gist of some quantum physics concepts and knew the urban myth of The Philadelphia Experiment, which makes an appearance at the beginning and end of the book. (It returns in The Second Chronicle!)

The main layer included the scientific concepts, such as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the basics of Einstein’s work, plus facts about the size of atoms, the ether wind experiment and the nature of the brain operating at beta, alpha, theta and delta waves. I presented these concepts as clearly as possible, without hindering the plot.

There are also a number of alternate history concepts in there, such as the quality of resonance inside the Great Pyramid and its acoustical properties. Mystical concepts unite with quantum physics, with a theosophical and Eastern twist.

Additionally, I unite consciousness research, looking at the nature of reality through mystical eyes and those of psychedelic substances. It draws together hallucinogenic substance use with the history of visionary experiences through the ages, seeing the Gods and Goddesses of folklore through new eyes.

Much of the inspiration for the alternate dimensions came from experiences of the brain on DMT, my own imagination and science fiction. We meet them in the first book, and revisit them throughout the series.

The last layer of research I laid down included the tidbits; historical events that were concurrent with the story, culture and music highlights, daily news, cars of the time and the general feel of the decade the scenes were set in. The First Chronicle begins in the 1940s, moves through the 50s and steams through the 60s, linking to two young characters in the modern day.

All my sources are listed in a bibliography at the end.

Yet, this is not written at the expense of the human story, for it’s very much a tale of community. The drama of love, betrayal, bitterness and above all, courage are closely interwoven throughout the story through the lives of five principal characters.

Seven Point Eight: The First Chronicle is currently available through Amazon in paperback and in the Kindle store.

It’s FREE from Mon 16th April through to Thurs 19th April, so grab it while you can! (Amazon) (Amazon UK)

Seven Point Eight: The Second Chronicle is due for release in August 2012.


And for a special treat, here’s an excerpt from Marie’s novel.

Continue reading

Sykosa! An excerpt from a new YA novel by Justin Ordonez

Please enjoy this excerpt from Sykosa, a YA novel (for 18+ readers), by Justin Ordoñez. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.


First period. American history.

Who knows which is worse. At this hour, it’s too early to care. Luckily, it’s never too early to bitch and moan. And she would do so, save her teacher is already on it. He’s up at the board—in shock that not a pupil noticed how his cuff smudged all his bullet points. Like wrist trajectory were her problem. That’s a math problem. And math problems aren’t her problem for another two hours. Yawn. He’s still going on—something about full attention being on…

Her fingernails.

Fingernails, you see, are better than lectures.

Particularly these lectures. Particularly this class.

She wishes nail polish didn’t break the Academy’s Personal Code, then her fingernails could be pretty colors, and she’d feel like a pretty girl. They should let her do her nails in class. It’s no different from doodling. It also increases hygiene, and in high school, that’s nothing to scoff at. She may paint her fingernails this afternoon, just for fun, then remove it and—

Hang on. Her teacher said something will be on a test.

Never mind, she already knows it.

Anyhow, if she does do her nails, she has a problem. She doesn’t know what to do. However, she does know she doesn’t want to do something she’s already done. If she’s gonna do her nails for one night, then it’d be nice if it were a departure of some type. Alas, her brain has no ideas. Being pretty is hard! Yet, she likes it so very much. That does it. She needs to talk to Niko. For one, Niko’s her best friend. Two, Niko’s gifted in the department of being glamorous. And luckily, Niko’s her neighbor, so she drafts a note that she passes across the table.

What should I do with my fingernails?

Niko reads the note in delight, then dies of boredom.

I thought you were gonna share good gossip or something.

No, I want to do my fingernails.

Do something slutty. That’s always good for a thrill.

That’s a good idea.

Niko always has good ideas. Niko’s brilliant!

She wishes she were Niko.

And Niko wishes she were Sykosa’s breasts. That’s me, Sykosa! Well, technically, it’s my breasts. Breasts are an urgent topic for Niko, seeing as her prime puberty years have passed, and to Niko’s horror, she’s all As in the bra and all Ds on her report card. That’s harder on a girl than people think. And it’s why Niko collapses her cheek on her hand, then inconspicuously stares at those far-bigger boobs. Niko thinks she does it for a second or two. In reality, it’s seven or eight. Now, before anyone makes any assumptions, Niko’s not gay. She’s about as boy-crazy as a girl gets. To the point that she collects boyfriends as if they were Girl Scout badges.

And to be fair, this breast-staring is harmless.

Though every girl has her limits.

Hers have been exceeded. Not by Niko, but by Tom. He also has his cheek in hand, his eyes overcome by her chest—for what is maybe ten or eleven seconds.

Unlike Niko, he’s thinking of her as if she were some toy.

He may be right.

In the only snowstorm of the year, as the Academy froze under the sickly sweet smell of a dysfunctional oil furnace, she retreated behind the two bell towers of the Academy chapel. And on that very day, this very boy—in his ski jacket laden with those sticky tags they put on bags at airports—stumbled onto her smoking self and put his tongue in her mouth. It was a bold move. And it impressed her. They didn’t need to “talk.” Besides, it woulda fucked up the moment. I get shy fast. Accordingly, she kissed him until her heart beat so hard she became faint. It meant something. This feeling. She caught her breath. They sat beside each other. Seconds later, she wished they hadn’t stopped, so they restarted, then kept at it.

This time without the tongue.

Niko steals the note, then writes a new one.

Why is he looking at you like that? Only I’m supposed to look at you like that!

Niko’s the type who admits her faults shamelessly. While it’s slightly backward, Niko does so not as a deterrent from such behaviors, but to enable them. She rarely complains. Because that’s Niko. And somehow that excuses everything Niko does. That said, she supposes she’s predisposed to Niko’s jealously over her body, perhaps to the point of flattery. You see, this Tom-thing is nothing. Or if it is something, it’s certainly not enough of something. Not enough for her to buy a prom dress.

Why do you think he is looking at me like that?

Because you * him.

Not to delve too far into the well of note-passing dynamics, but she—and the Queens—use secret codes in case of confiscation. “*” means fuck, in all forms and conjugations. She has not * Tom. She has not * anybody. Her lips quiver at the *. It feels like something she’ll put off until she is thirty. Simultaneously, she also feels like it could happen in the immediate future.

Sometimes she just “knows.”

Gross.

Afraid?

No!

But, she is afraid. Everything is too complicated. It should not have to be. She goes behind the chapel. He goes behind the chapel. They make out. Simple, right? It’s not. Regardless, if even that must be complicated, then certainly the concept that she wants to go to Prom, thus he should ask her to Prom and then they should go to Prom is simple, right? It’s not. You see, he has this best friend, this confidante, this main focus, this everything—and her name is not Sykosa, but Mackenzie.

Or as you will soon find out: “M.” That’s what he calls her.


One random tour commenter will win a $100 Amazon gift card. Just leave a comment on this post, and you’ll be entered to win. For a full list of participating blogs, check out the official tour page. You can enter on just my blog or on all of them. Get out there and network!

About the book: YA fiction for the 18+ crowd. Sykosa is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the lives of her friends. Set at her best friend’s cottage, for what will be a weekend of unsupervised badness, Sykosa will have to finally confront the major players and issues from this event, as well as decide if she wants to lose her virginity to Tom, her first boyfriend, and the boy who saved her from danger. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Sykosa is Justin Ordoñez’s life’s work. He hopes to one day settle down with a nerdy, somewhat introverted woman and own 1 to 4 dogs. Visit Justin on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Come follow the Glory Book Tour! Review — Glory by Devin O’Branagan

Title: Glory
Author: Devin O’Branagan
Publisher: CreateSpace
Format: Kindle and Paperback
Pages: 220 Pages

This story begins when Glory Templeton, a seventeen-year-old girl, is told by her mother that she holds the cure to a plague that is wiping out humanity little by little. Raised by scientists, Glory has some understanding of the danger in which she is in–what she does not know, however, is how treacherous her path will become.

A YA novel, this one will appeal to fans of Twilight though it does not have some of the qualities that I dislike in the Meyer novels. Unlike Bella, Glory is a forceful character who knows what she wants and acts as a leader of the diverse group that she finds herself in company with. As the plot unwinds, the teenager learns that she is to work with vampires, angels, and witches among other beings and must learn to resolve her own emotional reactions to the events unfolding around her while fighting more personal desires.

Glory is a well-written, fast-paced novel that sets the stage for other stories in the same universe. O’Branagan introduces supernatural archetypes that slightly twist the usual take on the paranormal, making for an engaging read. This is a book that my own teenage daughters would both enjoy and find confidence in. Glory’s ability to drive her own narrative is reminiscent of Hunger Games’ Katniss although, like most YA heroines, she falls into the trap of romantic complications. This does not prevent her ability to control her own destiny which makes this novel especially interesting to readers who like a little romance with their action.

If there was one aspect of Glory that I disliked, it would be a brief reference made early in the book. This reference presents a view of average teenagers as disconnected from the world and so absorbed in their personal dramas (and technological pastimes) that they cannot see the world around them. Personally, I disagree with this generalization; however, this isn’t a fault of the book but rather, the opinion of the reader.

Overall, I would recommend Glory (and plan to) to YA readers who crave a little more out of the traditional heroine. Its premise is unique, its world intriguing, and Glory herself has many stories left to tell.



For more information, visit one of the following links:
Glory on Amazon
the Glory website
Devin O’Branagan on Twitter
Devin on Facebook