Alif Negotiates (Another Hinterland Excerpt)

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Hi there friends… It’s been awhile again, but for good rea­son. I’ve actu­al­ly been steadi­ly and active­ly writ­ing, although I haven’t updat­ed the word count in the mar­gin in awhile. I’ve been work­ing on a short ten­ta­tive­ly titled The Book about a girl named One. This tale address­es issues of cen­sor­ship. It is very strong­ly influ­enced by 1984 by Orwell and Fahren­heit 451 by Brad­bury. I love both of these books.

Alif’s first incar­na­tion
by The Artist (http://theartist23.tumblr.com/)

 

In any case, I wrote Alif Nego­ti­ates quite awhile back as I was doing a lit­tle char­ac­ter explo­ration. Alif is a char­ac­ter that will show up lat­er in the Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles series. I have plans for him to be the even­tu­al part­ner to Bilqis’s daugh­ter. Of note, his char­ac­ter start­ed here in Honor&Truth, my incom­plete online ser­i­al nov­el. I stopped writ­ing H&T because it had so many plot holes. I went back, rethought things, re-out­lined, and it turned into The Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles. I still go back from time to time and read it and despite how raw and unedit­ed it is, I still like it a lot. Enjoy the excerpt and let me know what you think.

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It’s bright out there,” said Mali.  The ven­dor waved Alif fur­ther into the tent so that he could stand beneath the canopy and out of the sun.  “Don’t think I’ve ever seen you this ear­ly in the day.  Some­thing up?”

Alif wore an old straw hat with a wide brim that wob­bled with each step he took.  Had any­one oth­er than Alif been wear­ing the hat, Mali would have laughed.

Got­ta make a run lat­er this evening and I want­ed to catch you before you left.”

I under­stand.”

Mali made his runs through the mid-Atlantic province on a strict sched­ule.  Each week he’d set up camp at a dif­fer­ent set­tle­ment to sell and trade goods. His spe­cial­ty was elec­tron­ics.  He’d been doing busi­ness with Alif for near­ly two years and he’d come to know the tac­i­turn male quite well.  Alif always vis­it­ed his tent on Fri­days, Mali’s last day encamped, and always after sun­set as Alif’s translu­cent skin was too sen­si­tive for day­light rays.  

I have a trans­ceiv­er set I believe you’ll be inter­est­ed in.”  The ven­dor reached beneath the table where he dis­played his wares and pulled out a ragged card­board box.  “They look like brand new, don’t they?”

Nice.  They don’t make these any­more,” said Alif accept­ing the trans­ceivers, weigh­ing them in his hands.  “What’s wrong with them?”

Mali enjoyed hag­gling with Alif.  He was almost as shrewd as him.  There wasn’t an elec­tron­ic gad­get that Alif couldn’t dis­man­tle and reassem­ble into some­thing bet­ter than it had been when brand new.  In the past Mali had tried to con­vince Alif to leave Set­tle­ment #53 and trav­el with him and be his repair­man.  He even offered thir­ty per­cent of the prof­its.  With Alif’s skill, Mali would be able to sell more goods and expand to include repair work.  And Alif’s cool demeanor would cause would-be ban­dits to think twice before tar­get­ing him.   

Alif refused each time sight­ing oblig­a­tions to his set­tle­ment, but Mali couldn’t see what kept Alif so attached to the set­tle­ment where he lived prac­ti­cal­ly as an out­cast.  They called him Inuwa, ghost, behind his back and the more super­sti­tious among them whis­pered that God had cursed Alif’s black moth­er with him, an albi­no, for refus­ing to iden­ti­fy his father when she grew large with her preg­nan­cy.

So you read minds now, is that it?” asked Mali chuck­ling.

No man can read minds or divine by touch. That’s all super­sti­tious non­sense. But we all have a sense of things, if we would just trust that sense.”

Alif han­dled the trans­ceivers, turn­ing them over in his hands and manip­u­lat­ing the but­tons.   “You have bat­ter­ies?”

Mali reached into his pock­et and hand­ed Alif two bat­ter­ies he’d recharged that morn­ing for just such a pur­pose.  Alif slipped the bat­ter­ies into place and adjust­ed the dials, pushed the but­tons, and speak­ing into one held the oth­er up to his ear to hear his voice echo back.

Alif removed the dark shades he’d been wear­ing to pro­tect his eyes from the sun and turned his atten­tion back to Mali.  His eyes were red rimmed with iris­es the col­or of water.  “I don’t see any­thing wrong with them.  Like you said, they’re like new.  But of course,” he said prob­ing Mali with those eyes, “there is some­thing wrong with them.  Come clean, friend, if you want me to give you the mon­ey.”

Mali laughed again, but this time to dis­guise the chill that trav­eled down his spine when Alif pressed him with those col­or­less eyes.  Did he not know the effect he had on peo­ple?

You’re right.  There is some­thing wrong.”  Mali reached into the box and removed a mon­i­tor about half the size of the trans­ceivers, and like the trans­ceivers it was sil­ver with yel­low trim.  “There is a track­ing device hid­den in them.”  He pressed a but­ton on the side of the tiny mon­i­tor and two green dots appeared and an irri­tat­ing beep­ing sound emit­ted from the speak­er.  He quick­ly turned the mon­i­tor off.

Alif hand­ed the trans­ceivers back to Mali and stepped back.  “You should know bet­ter.”

Of course Mali did.  Track­ing tech­nol­o­gy had nev­er done their peo­ple any good.  The city dwellers used it against his peo­ple time and again to find them, jail them, cheat them out of what was theirs, the lit­tle ragged bit of it that there was.  Those in the cities rev­eled in tak­ing from his peo­ple and as such any­one among the Pros­e­lytes caught with any­thing resem­bling track­ing tech was con­sid­ered a trai­tor and a dan­ger.  At worst, such a per­son might end up dead.  At best, such a per­son would be exiled from his set­tle­ment, which was worse than death.

The thing is, broth­er,” said Mali lean­ing in close so that no one could hear them, “I couldn’t pass up such a beau­ti­ful set of trans­ceivers.  When I saw them, I thought of you.  If any­one can deac­ti­vate the track­ing tech, you can.”  Mali slipped the mon­i­tor into his pock­et when a man approached his tent to inspect his goods.  He greet­ed the man with a smile and a nod, but he was too pre­oc­cu­pied with an old alarm clock radio to pay him any notice.  “Look at them,” he said drop­ping his voice fur­ther, “they’re too beau­ti­ful to pass up.  And you could put them to good use, or resell them your­self and for a pret­ty sum, I might add.”

Alif’s eyes nar­rowed as he con­sid­ered Mali’s words.  “So, you couldn’t sell these to any­one else, could you?”

Mali chuck­led.  The boy was quick as a spark before the fire.  As cold and con­trolled as Alif appeared, Mali had no doubts that there was a fire brew­ing beneath the sur­face.  He also knew that he nev­er want­ed to bear wit­ness to it.

Okay, I’ll take them,” he said, “but at a reduced price.  And I won’t nego­ti­ate.”

I’m the one who is sup­posed to refuse nego­ti­a­tion.  Remem­ber?  I’m the one with the prime goods here.”

I’ll be doing you a favor.  If you get caught with these, you’ll be wish­ing you nev­er saw them.”

Sev­en­ty-five cred­its.”

Twen­ty.”  Alif held up his hand before Mali could protest.  “And my promise not to tell any­one that you had track­ing tech.”

Mali looked long and deep into those red rimmed eyes and knew that he wouldn’t be able to change to his mind.  Besides, he hadn’t expect­ed to get even the twen­ty cred­its for the stolen prop­er­ty.  “Alright, broth­er.  Twen­ty it is.  Shall we shake on it?”

Awesome Sauce, Zombies, and Self Publishing Dos and Don’ts

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I’m excit­ed to wel­come Matt (Awe­some Sauce) Williams back to my site. For those of you who don’t know, he is an ubber pro­duc­tive author and blog­ger whose taste for top­ics knows no bounds. He recent­ly pub­lished a zom­bie nov­el enti­tled Whiskey Delta which he first seri­al­ized on his blog. Today he’s here to tell us about Whiskey Delta and his most recent for­ay into self pub­lish­ing. Pull up a chair, you just might learn some­thing. Talk to us, Awe­some Sauce.

1. For those who don’t know, give a brief run down of WD. What was the inspi­ra­tion? When did you pub­lish?

Whiskey Delta is basi­cal­ly my take on the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse. After read­ing and watch­ing numer­ous fran­chis­es on the sub­ject, main­ly for the sake of research into what makes the genre work, I real­ized they all had some­thing in com­mon beyond undead crea­tures. With­out excep­tion, they all focused on the lives of your aver­age cit­i­zens, or on a mot­ley crew of peo­ple who were thrown togeth­er by neces­si­ty. Always these peo­ple were unpre­pared, untrained to deal with their cir­cum­stances, and had to impro­vise and strug­gle to stay alive. Frankly, I want­ed to see a sto­ry where the peo­ple fight­ing the undead were trained, pre­pared, and knew how to deal with it, even if they still had a hell of time doing it.

Nat­u­ral­ly, I was inspired by the recent upsurge in pop­u­lar­i­ty that zom­bie fran­chis­es have seen in recent years. 28 Days Lat­er was a big one, as wasThe Walk­ing Dead, the minis­eries and the comics. I also gained a lot of knowl­edge from the minis­eries Gen­er­a­tion Kill, which chron­i­cled the 1st Recon Battalion’s exploits dur­ing the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq. Between all that, I had a strong desire to write about zom­bie killers who know their trade, warts and all!

I began pub­lish­ing it chap­ter for chap­ter in the spring of 2012, and fin­ished it just shy of the sum­mer. I took the plunge and decid­ed to make it avail­able to the pub­lic one year lat­er, in April of 2013. While I still want­ed to fin­ish up work on its sequels and edit it before release, an unex­pect­ed shout out from Max Brooks kind of forced my hand and I uploaded it to Kin­dle with­out seri­ous edits. The result was pret­ty rough, but still con­tained the sto­ry I had cre­at­ed with­out alter­ation or dis­tor­tion.

2. WD is self-pubbed, which I think, aside from being brave, is the smart thing to do these days as it leaves con­trol in the hands of the author. That said there are pros and cons. Tell us what they are in your expe­ri­ence.

Self-pub­lish­ing means cut­ting out the mid­dle man — or the gate-keep­er, depend­ing on how you view pub­lish­ers — and being able to take your work direct­ly to the pub­lic, which is a big plus. This is espe­cial­ly use­ful con­sid­er­ing that tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ing is los­ing mon­ey on a dai­ly basis due to the expan­sion in social media, direct pub­lish­ing and print-on-demand hous­es. As a result, they are tak­ing less chances on new authors. Lucky for us, the source of the prob­lem also presents a solu­tion.

On the down­side, there’s the issue of being com­plete­ly respon­si­ble for your own suc­cess. As an indie, you are respon­si­ble for all of your own edit­ing, pub­lic­i­ty and pro­mo­tion. As such, you real­ly have to com­mit to a long, hard slog and hold out while peo­ple real­ize you exist and see the mer­its in your work. You also have to con­tend with the per­cep­tion that indie works are sub­stan­dard, ama­teur­ish works that aren’t worth people’s time or mon­ey. Over­com­ing this is not easy, but hope­ful­ly with time, you’ll estab­lish a read­er­ship and dis­tin­guish your­self from the herd.

3. You’ve dis­cussed the good and not as good news about WD on your site since self-pub­bing it. Tell us what you feel you’ve done right/wrong. What would you change if you could?

Well, one should always be hap­py that review­ers are find­ing nice things to say about your work. And every review has said that they liked the sto­ry, but were both­ered by the qual­i­ty of edit­ing. Nat­u­ral­ly, I feel like I was wrong to pub­lish it so soon and wor­ry that these reviews which call into ques­tion the qual­i­ty of the work will affect long-term sales. So even if I do release a 2nd edi­tion that’s error-free, the dam­age has been done.

How­ev­er, I remem­ber quite clear­ly why I put the book up when I did. I knew that a nod from Max Brooks might trig­ger inter­est in my book and send some peo­ple over to Google to look for it. And I knew that inter­est would quick­ly fade if peo­ple couldn’t find it. I have since come to the con­clu­sion that the fact that it falls under the head­ing of zom­bie fic­tion is what is attract­ing read­ers, but at the time, I was con­vinced word of mouth pro­mo­tion from an estab­lished author would make all the dif­fer­ence.

So real­ly, bar­ring some kind of pre­scient fore­sight on my part — which would have told me to just wait until it was edit­ing before pub­lish­ing, or drop the sequels and focus on the orig­i­nal — I can’t imag­ine hav­ing done things dif­fer­ent­ly at this point. Live and learn, I guess!

4. What advice would you offer oth­er self-pubbed authors?

Best advice I could give was the advice that was giv­en to me over the years. I kept it in point form for the sake of sim­plic­i­ty:

  1. Do what you love, the rest will take care of itself with time.
  2. In the mean­time, keep your day job. Until such time as you’re mak­ing enough mon­ey to sup­port your­self, you’ll need that steady income!
  3. Don’t wait to be dis­cov­ered. Use the tools that are at your dis­pos­al to pro­mote your­self and make things hap­pen.
  4. Do your home­work. Before you can put your idea into prop­er writ­ten form, you need to do your home­work and learn what works best for you.

5. Which of the char­ac­ters in WD would you most want to befriend in real life? Why?

Tough ques­tion, but I think the Mage would be a very good per­son to meet in real life. He’s enig­mat­ic, even to me, and I know for a fact that he’s the kind of per­son who’s had some very inter­est­ing expe­ri­ences. Not only that, but he keeps you guess­ing. You’re nev­er quite sure how much he knows, or whether or not he’s a good guy…

You can catch Matthew Williams here:

Sto­ries by Williams

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After 1 Year and 100 Posts

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A year has passed since I’ve start­ed this web­site in the form in which it now exists. It’s been a good year. I’ve met and con­nect­ed with an awe­some com­mu­ni­ty of indie authors and I’ve man­aged to gain a lit­tle bit of expo­sure for my book and make some sales in the process.  I pro­cured a few inter­views with inter­est­ing and pro­lif­ic indie authors and artists, land­ed mul­ti­ple guests post for this site, and have writ­ten a few for oth­ers as well, learned a bit about self-pro­mo­tion, and wrote mul­ti­ple book reviews.  I am also active on Goodreads.  Star­la Huch­ton did and incred­i­ble job redesign­ing my book cov­er, and I joined Amazon’s KDP Select pro­gram.

I joined two antholo­gies over the past year.  Grim5Next Worlds Undone anthol­o­gy is a spec­tac­u­lar idea con­ceived by Lyn Mid­night where­in 36  writ­ers col­lab­o­rate to cre­ate twelves sto­ries writ­ten in three parts about the apoc­a­lypse. The col­lab­o­ra­tion even­tu­al­ly went on to include artists and musi­cians and even a children’s project. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the project became too large and unwieldy for our love­ly edi­tor and it even­tu­al­ly fiz­zled out.  As of late how­ev­er, it appears that Worlds Undone may be mak­ing a come­back.  I’m hop­ing it will.

The oth­er anthol­o­gy that I am involved with is more per­son­al and dear to me. It start­ed from a com­ment that I left on a fel­low indie author Matt Williams’ site. We dis­cussed the idea of going to space and that dis­cus­sion turned into an anthol­o­gy enti­tled Yuva.

Me: Four nerds verg­ing on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdi­est but fun con­ver­sa­tions cen­tered around the ques­tion “Would you rather go to space or the bot­tom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a dis­tant child­hood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unat­tain­able and unre­al­is­tic. But, giv­en the chance, I would go. This post reminds me of the awe­some­ness of our great uni­verse, of the chaot­ic ran­dom­ness, of the beau­ty of this world and the things we have to be grate­ful for, and of how utter­ly minus­cule we peo­ple real­ly are in the grand scheme of things

Matt: Okay, you need to write this down. I fore­see you doing a sto­ry where a fam­i­ly does go into space. Ho boy, I smell anoth­er anthol­o­gy here!

Me: An anthol­o­gy about space, going to space or any­thing relat­ed sounds awe­some. I vote for you to be the edi­tor. What do we need to do to get start­ed?”

yuva_cover-0Yuva, still in the works, will con­sist of twelve sto­ries of which mine will be first.  We’ve man­aged to fill about eight of the spots, so if any­one out there would like to con­tribute to a space and col­o­niza­tion anthol­o­gy, shoot me a mes­sage.

Over the course of the last few months I real­ized that I had a bit of an unin­ten­tion­al theme going, that of time man­age­ment. I wrote quite a bit about the sub­ject and sev­er­al fel­low indie authors con­tributed some real­ly amaz­ing posts about how they man­age their writ­ing time.  As time is such a dif­fi­cult thing for me to wran­gle I think I was sub­con­scious­ly look­ing for a way to rec­on­cile my lack of time with my desire to be more pro­lif­ic.  I’m still strug­gling with that one but one thing’s for cer­tain, if you want to pro­duce, you just have to do it.

Apart from the issue of time man­age­ment, I didn’t have much of a plan as regards what I’d talk about here, which quite frankly was very much counter to my goal.

Over the past year I’ve read many posts about cre­at­ing a unique author brand. I don’t think that I’ve done that suc­cess­ful­ly as regards this blog.  I blog about the things I like, an eclec­tic mish­mosh of “stuff”, for lack of a bet­ter word.  For many rea­sons I’ve pur­pose­ly stayed away from more chal­leng­ing con­tro­ver­sial top­ics.  I either feel under informed, unqual­i­fied, or quite hon­est­ly afraid to engage in these chal­leng­ing dis­cus­sions out of fear of alien­at­ing read­ers but as I have so few, (haha­ha­ha) it’s pret­ty much a moot point.

Keep­ing with the idea of a theme I’ve decid­ed to choose anoth­er top­ic to give spe­cial focus this com­ing year.  I’ve been giv­ing this con­sid­er­able thought this past month and have decid­ed on crit­i­cal analysis/reviews of SFF books writ­ten by women.  This will cer­tain­ly not be to the exclu­sion of oth­er post ideas and I hope will be inter­est­ing for read­ers as well as a learn­ing expe­ri­ence for me.  I nev­er feel as if I am well read enough.  I plan to read and lis­ten to books.  The first review will be of Bujold’s Free Falling which is already quite inter­est­ing.  I plan to read more by Bujold, in addi­tion to Leguin, But­ler, Zim­mer Bradley, and McCaf­frey among oth­ers.  If any­one has sug­ges­tions of authors I should check out, fire away.

Honor

Hon­or

I’d hoped to have com­plet­ed the out­line of Honor&Truth by June, but that didn’t hap­pen.  Then I got caught up work­ing on my anthol­o­gy sto­ries, hit a writ­ing slump that seems to hap­pen to me every year around Sep­tem­ber, got dis­tract­ed with chil­dren, life, work (which has been a beast!), the inter­net and attempts to pro­mote An Unpro­duc­tive Woman.  So, my efforts are renewed and I’m back at it.

Honor&Truth is a ser­i­al nov­el blog that I worked on for about a year and a half.  I final­ly stopped more than thir­ty chap­ters in.  I didn’t want to but felt com­pelled as I’d nev­er so much as out­lined a sin­gle chap­ter and my sto­ry, writ­ten by the skin of my teeth and post­ed every two weeks, had so many plot holes I couldn’t keep up with them.  I stopped the blog in order to regroup, merge H&T with anoth­er sto­ry that kept spin­ning in my head, and begin a seri­ous rewrite.  Months have passed and on that account, I’ve failed.  For­tu­nate­ly, I love the sto­ry and the char­ac­ters enough to keep press­ing.  And even bet­ter and heart­en­ing, the char­ac­ters Bilqis, Hon­or, Aram­inta (Old Moth­er), Siti and many of the oth­ers talk to me every­day.  Loud­ly.

Honor&Truth has a new name.  As Truth does not exist in the cur­rent out­line, it wouldn’t make much sense.  As it stands the sto­ry of Hon­or exists as the sec­ond tale in the Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles.  But don’t hold me to it.  As I am still in the out­lin­ing phase, this could still change.

I’ve been nom­i­nat­ed for a few blog awards, the last and most impor­tant of which is the Blog of the Year Award.  This hon­or was con­veyed upon me by Matt Williams, to whom I am grate­ful.  A com­plete post about is soon to come.

My great­est work for this com­ing year will be con­tin­ued sim­pli­fi­ca­tion.  In oth­er words, wean­ing out the unnec­es­sary to replace with what I val­ue.  I val­ue my rela­tion­ship with God, my fam­i­ly, my writ­ing, and my health.  So this com­ing year will include renewed efforts to cre­ate peace and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty with regard to those things I deem as most impor­tant to me.  Why is life such hard work?  For­get I asked that.

What have you accom­plished this past year?  Toot your horn!  Tell me about your suc­cess­es and fail­ures.  Tell me what you have planned for 2013.