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.

*****

“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:

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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.