Monday, July 30, 2012

"Healer": Eternal Life Can Be a Pain...

Lots of updates to go around, people!

About six weeks ago, I sent in a proposal to Barnes & Noble to see if they'd want to stock my book, A Cure for the Condition, on their shelves. Well, let me tell you, I did not wait with bated breath. I didn't expect anything out of it, because the book is indie published and B&N is notorious for not working with smaller publishers. 

So, when I got a letter in the mail last Thursday from them, I immediately sighed and wanted to toss it into the rejection bin (which is, consequently, in the same location as the trash can). I mean, when a letter starts off, 

Dear Ms. Urban,

Thank you for the opportunity to review your book, A Cure for the Condition...

it's usually not a good sign. But, upon reading further, they admitted they liked the book and wanted to purchase twenty copies for their shelves! Twenty copies! I about had a heart attack.

First thing I did? Ran into my house (ignoring the "please take off your shoes at the door" rule), skidded to a stop just inside the bedroom, and yelled, "Barnes & Noble wants to carry my book!!!"

And a celebratory chocolate-chip milkshake later, I contacted my publisher to see if they would use one of B&N's third party distributors to carry the book so it could be ordered. Unfortunately, that answer was no, but I am being given the opportunity to be my own distributor (which is fine by me as long as my books make it to those shelves!).

So, I will keep you updated on that little tidbit of beautiful, wonderful news. 

Next up, my new novella, Healer

Life is comfortable in eighteenth century Philadelphia; jobs are aplenty, the town is flourishing, and people are learning. Barely eighteen, Martin Krane learns of his younger sister's illness. Pneumonia threatens her life and Martin will do anything to save her. A mysterious stranger in a seedy pub befriends him one night, spouting strange stories about a "cure for death." Martin soon learns that saving his sister's soul may mean he must exchange it for his own.

If you've been reading my blog posts religiously, you'll know kind of who Martin Krane already is. Healer is the novella/prequel of Martin's origin. My hope is that this will be available on Kindle for 99 cents very, very soon. Look out for it!

And always, feedback about the cover and blurb is absolutely welcome. Thanks all!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ell-Oh-Ell. Jay-Kay

Today, I have decided to do something a little different. I'll be writing this entire post in French!

Très drôle. Je blague.

Which translates roughly into: LOL, J/K.

I'd never do that to you. Besides, the only French I know is "Hello." "1,2,3,4,5,6." and "I need some toilet paper."

So, what then, am I writing about today? How about some Character Development? Yeah, that sounds good. 

Yesterday, in "The Few, The Proud, The 238" group, some of us got into a discussion about Heroines (stop laughing, immature people!) that weren't ALL good. Right now, it's important to have a character with flaws. A flawless, goody-two-shoes main character is, in my opinion, as boring as papier toilettes (toilet paper).

As you've seen in my current series, The Death of Me, Katie (my main character, or MC) is very focused on finishing out her Life List before she dies in thirty days. Katie's a joker, she's an outcast. She only has one friend in high school, and tends to stick to herself. Katie also watches A LOT of film. She makes many references to her favorite shows or movies. Here are a few:

Book #1 (The Death of Me)

The second bell rang. The three of us began walking in the direction of the cafeteria. “But his timing sure is atrocious.”
“You and your vocabulary,” Sherry muttered.
“I like it,” Martin interjected. “It shows she’s smart.”
“Yeah, well no one asked you.”  She shot him a sideways glare.
“People don’t have to ask for my opinion.” He snorted.
“That’s right; it just shoots out like pea soup from the mouth of the devil.” I grinned.   

Book #2 (The Death of My First Assignment)

“Hmm…” He glanced above me into the kitchen. “Hey… There’s a Kubrick marathon that starts in ten minutes. Take your mind off the job for a few hours. You interested?”
I tilted my head to one side. “Open the pod bay doors, Kevin.”

Book #3 (The Death of My Best Friend)

“What are you, some kind of perverted half-wolf?” I pushed against his sinewy chest. 
He studied me for a moment, then smiled again. “So... Samantha you are not.”
I nodded dramatically. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Yoda. I—” I stopped, his words sinking in. “You’re actually looking for Sam?”

Book #4 (The Death of His Tribe)

“Okay, I officially feel like I’m stuck in an episode of Poirot.” I peered into the dark office and watched Martin’s back as he fiddled with the lock on Margie’s file cabinet.
“I say...”
“What did you find, Captain Hastings?” I asked in a faux French accent. “Is it the jewels Masseur Lavington hid in the...Chinese...Box...? Okay, I’ll stop, now.” 

Book #5 (Untitled)

“These are beautiful moments--these less-than-rare moments when Starscream gets his butt kicked twice by Megatron in five minutes...” 

Katie is notorious for her sarcastic comments and using them in every day life as though her existence is a film. But, like anyone else, she has her flaws. She's a tad judgmental of others:

When she shook her head, I almost judged her sanity right then and there. 
“No. It happened to me once before when I took acid.”
I did my best to hold in my hum of disapproval. It came out as a half-cough instead. She didn’t seem to notice. 

“Well, what have you never done?” Kevin asked. 
“Besides heroine?”
I winced, and unfortunately, she saw it. 
“Gimme a break, Miss Pure. I’m eighteen, I’ve tried it all.” She rolled her eyes. 

To me, being judgmental of others is a huge flaw. People should let others be the way they are. Who cares what they do as long as it isn't hurting you? But, Katie just can't seem to let people be who they are. 

However, her other, more major flaw, is that she can't seem to stop helping people. Regardless of whether or not they like her, are horrible to her, or she doesn't even know them. And it gets her into trouble:

“It’s only a few more days, I—”
“No.” He shook his head. “So, it’s a few more days now, but what about next time? What about next time you wanna help somebody? What lengths are you going to go to then? How much danger are you willing to put yourself in, Katie?”
I narrowed Sam’s eyes. How could I have answered that?
“I’m not willing to see you get hurt. I’m not willing to lose you.” 

In the end, character flaws are important. And it's how the character deals with them that makes the reader either love or hate them. Sherlock Holmes was overly intelligent. He could solve any case. But he was rude, short-tempered, and addicted to Opium. Those are some heavy flaws. 

If you were to write a character, what kinds of flaws would he or she have? Do you think Katie's flaws are too much? Would you like to read about her adventures in the afterlife?

Monday, July 16, 2012

"A Cure for the Condition" Giveaway!


Hello all you Historical Romance lovers, out there! I thought I'd give you a little treat! I've got some promotional copies of my debut novel left over, and I'd like to give some away to you in return for being great readers and either helping me out with a review or spreading the word to your friends. 

If you'd like to enter the contest, just leave a comment below and I'll be choosing the winners next week!

Thanks for your support!

An excerpt is as follows:


“The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche


Part 1

November

Chapter 1
A forlorn, soft piano melody enveloped her as the book lay at an awkward angle in her lap. As her eyes remained closed, absorbing the musician’s brilliant performance, she had no idea her step-brother was watching her.

“Ah, Princess Catherine—there you are!” he said, barging into the room as he had many times over the previous two years.

Princess Catherine inhaled before his gravelly voice could release her daydreams. Sitting straight on the stiff sofa in the parlor, she placed the book next to her.

“Yes, good afternoon, Malcolm,” she replied.

Malcolm supplied her with a half-smirk and proceeded to lean against the sofa on which she sat. Princess Catherine couldn’t help but experience an ever-so-slight tingle when she peered into his crystal-blue eyes.

Although her step-brother’s nose was somewhat too large, his lips thin, and his face angular, Malcolm had a strong jaw, well-groomed silver hair, and a smile that could draw women from countries away. At times, his boyish half-smirk made it difficult for Princess Catherine to recall he was seven years her senior.

“I heard about your meeting with the suitor this afternoon, and I must say I am intrigued,” he said.

Catherine donned an immediate scowl. “Malcolm, is this going to be another instance such as when you barged into this room as I was learning that piano and tell me I am causing a ruckus, or will it be reminiscent of when I returned home wearing rouge and you mocked me endlessly?” she demanded.

Malcolm feigned ignorance, putting a hand to his heart. “Why, dear step-sister, I am saddened by your accusations! I merely wished to extend my…condolences that the meeting did not go as hoped.” He suppressed a half-hearted chuckle.

“Of course,” Catherine replied, clearing her throat. “I’ll have you know our feelings were requited. I did not much care for the man.”

“Oh? That’s not what was told to me. I was told he stifled a laugh at first sight of you, and then appeared bored and lazy the remainder of his stay,” Malcolm said, pulling on a lock of Catherine’s brown hair.

She pulled away and supplied him with a sharp stare.

“My, my, you certainly are a harbinger of rejection, aren’t you? Inquiring minds are dying to know, Princess—what’s that like?” he asked.

“I suppose you should ask the multitude of women at your feet, Malcolm; perhaps they would be a more fitting choice. Tell me, how many with whom have you been?” she demanded, attempting to quell the sting of emotion forcing its way through her middle.

Malcolm stopped for a moment and furrowed his brow. “I don’t know; I don’t count,” he replied smugly, turning his attention back to her.

“Of course not.”

“Oh, poor Catherine,” he continued. “No man will ever desire to be the Prince of a woman as plain as you. Why, your ridiculous freckles and mousy brown hair will never draw in a man of merit.”

Catherine inhaled a sharp breath and straightened her back. “How dare you! I am an educated woman, I speak three languages fluently, and I am heir to the Cannary throne!”

“Oh come now, you’re seventeen and still have yet to find a husband. How many suitors does that man make, anyway?”

At his words, Catherine stood and clenched her fists at her sides. “I will not stoop to your level of…affectionate teasing, Malcolm!”

For a moment, her step-brother said nothing, seeming to be surprised by her sudden outburst. However, after regaining his composure, he was hit with a fit of laughter so powerful he was forced to double over and clutch his belly.

“Affectionate! Oh, you are much too entertaining!” he said between chuckles.

Wanting no more of his belligerent behavior, Catherine stormed from the parlor and down the hall to the Queen’s study, the familiar twinge of despondency trying to force tears from the well behind her eyes.

“Princesses do not cry!” she told herself before knocking on her mother’s door.

Once she heard the unmistakable soft voice of her mother granting her entrance, she pushed the door open and barged into the room.

“Oh, Catherine, dear!” her mother said, a warm smile on her face. She pushed aside a pile of papers and supplied her daughter with her full attention. “I apologize about that abysmal meeting between you and Mr. Elgar this afternoon.”

“It is fine, Mother,” Catherine replied, seating herself in a plush chair across from the large maple desk at which the Queen worked. She straightened her back and folded her hands in her lap.

“You must understand that I feel you are at an age where you must find a husband.” The Queen smiled again, gentle wrinkles creasing into the skin around her eyes and mouth.

“It is no bother, Mother. However…”

Queen Victoria leaned forward, awaiting her daughter’s next words. “What is it, dear?”

“Well...there is this...man…” she stumbled with unease.

“Ah ha!” her mother cried, standing from her desk. “I knew it! I would recognize that look anywhere!”

“Mother, please…”

“Nonsense! Why did you not tell me of this man sooner?” Queen Victoria demanded, rounding the corner and embracing her daughter.

“He does not share my feelings,” Catherine replied with a sigh. With purpose, she omitted the fact that this man was also her step-brother.

Her mother pulled away and looked deep into her daughter’s emerald eyes. “Any man who does not find you perfect is utterly mad,” she said with a smile.

Catherine returned her mother’s gesture with a strained smile of her own. “But, I am convinced he is the only man I desire, Mother.”

The Queen took a seat in the other plush chair adjacent to her large desk and sighed.

“Catherine, I’d like to tell you a story,” she began.

The Princess nodded and allowed her mother to continue.

“When I was not much younger than you, I married your father. I believed he was the handsomest man in the world. I doubted I would ever find another love such as he gave me. But…” she paused, a frown creasing into her long face, “when he died...well...I was torn, you know this.”

“Yes, but I would rather not speak of Father,” Catherine replied, her voice tight with decade-old anger.

“Of course, I understand. At any rate, when I met Malcolm’s father two years ago, my belief in love was renewed; Callum is a wonderful man. Catherine, I am sure one day you will find a man who will return all the affection and love you hold in your heart.”
* * * *
After a late supper that night, Catherine was studying her books in a small den across from the castle’s dungeon. Many of the words and phrases in the books were familiar to the Princess, and she found herself submitting to a brief chuckle at the Cannary License Act of 1872, which prohibited civilians to operate bovine while intoxicated.

Soon, as often happened on late nights when studying, she found herself intimidated by a particular clause in one of Cannary’s oldest policies. Placing a piece of parchment between the pages to mark her place, she stood from the plush sofa and made her way down the hall toward the bedroom of the Queen and Prince.

“Mother?” she called, knocking on the door.

Silence followed, so the Princess rapped again.

“Mother?” she said with more force.

When no one answered, she turned the brass door handle and peeked into the room. What she saw was unimaginable.

Blood was spattered on the painting of her great grandfather and the pink striped wall above the four-poster bed. The sheets were soaked with the sticky red substance as it dripped off of the bed skirt into a puddle on the floor. The Queen and Prince of Cannary lay motionless, bathed in the crimson fluid. Catherine stared unmoving at the scene before her in utter terror.

Her lungs froze as she tried to call for help. All her prior schooling and instincts left her as she stared at her mother and step-father’s lifeless bodies before her. She was unable to remember whom she was to call in a situation such as this. At last, when her head began to swim, she pulled in a labored breath and opened her mouth.

“Malcolm!”

Her step-brother was the first person who had come to mind, and she shouted his name with all the strength left in her body.

By chance, his room was just across the hall and he emerged a moment later, raking a hand through his tousled silver hair.

“For what reason are you shouting, Catherine?” he demanded, yawning wide.

“Moth...mother…” she stuttered.

Malcolm let out a sigh and trudged across the hallway to Catherine’s side. She was vaguely aware of his presence, but couldn’t tear her gaze away from her poor mother.

After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Malcolm pushed Catherine away and pointed down the hallway.

“Go, Catherine! Go to your room! Whoever’s done this may still be here!” he shouted at her.

Startled by the force of his voice, Catherine’s composure returned, and she scampered toward the end of the long hall, followed by her step-brother’s shouts for the guards.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Blog Hijacked Part II (Posted by Katie Bunny)

Damn! I missed him by a few days! 

Anyone seen Martin Krane? He has a habit of disappearing unless I really need him. Oh! That's it!

"Martin! Martin! Help! There's a wraith after me!"

... ... ... ...

Crap. Didn't work. Remind me to slap his impossibly adorable face next time I see him. He's going to be the death of me, I swear (no pun intended). Oh, wait...maybe that was supposed to be a pun. I don't know, it's hard to think when you've only got THIRTY DAYS to live.

Care to make the switch with me, Mr. Spurlock? You may just get me off the hook.
Nah... That wouldn't be fair. It's my life; my mistake. I gotta live with it. You're probably wondering what the heck I'm talking about, right? Well, thirteen days before my sixteenth birthday, I got into a car with a classmate who was blitzed on recreational stimulants (is Marijuana a stimulant? Or is a downer? Does a downer count as a stimulant?). I'm an idiot, I know. And, even though I was warned, I took my chances. Can you guess where it got me? Yeah, yeah, yeah. She crashed into a tree and I died, okay? I hate reliving that accident. 

But, dying has taught me some stuff--some pretty exciting stuff, if I may say so myself. See, I went to this endless sandy beach. An old friend of mine appeared to me and gave me this crazy spiel. Only...she wasn't my old friend. She was the embodiment of the beings in the next stage of existence. They can't appear to us because our brains only comprehend three dimensions. Basically, when we die, we leave our bodies behind and go to the...sixth dimension or something. Of course, I get left out. I always get left out. 

The snow and I have something in common... We're both left out in the cold!
So, this old friend tells me that I can't pass on because I haven't fulfilled my ultimate goal. I guess only those people who have LIVED can pass on. Crazy, right? So, I get to go back for a month to do all that stuff I'll never get to do. Which is why I NEED MARTIN!

... ... ... ...

Sigh... No luck. He's supposed to be helping with my Life List. 

Oh, yeah... I'm also not supposed to tell anyone anything about the afterlife or they'll suck me back into Purgatory for eternity (so this little post is between you and me. Winky face). Martin Krane is the guy they sent down to make sure I don't "spill the beans" to anyone. And I gotta say he's DOING A FANTASTIC JOB! 

Okay, deep breaths, Katie. He's probably just creating a report for the alter-dimensional "edlers" or hanging out with my best friend, Sherry, or running a brush through those soft, gold lock of his or...flirting with Christina. Gah! Stop thinking about him! Come on!

This is so sad. I have NO idea what the heck I'm supposed to be doing! In the last two weeks, I've turned sixteen, had my first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and SIXTH kisses, tried whiskey, earned a solo in choir, and told my whole family I loved them. What's left? Overcoming my shyness? Yeah, right.

Okay, guys, I've got two weeks left. What should I do?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blog Hijacked! (Posted by Martin Krane)

Why do they call it that? Hijack? It sounds so...morbid. Then again, I do enjoy a morbid joke every now and then. Wanna hear one?

Okay, so, this real skinny guy walks into a cemetery and he sees this skeleton. And the skeleton says, "Hey, dude..."

Wait... Crap. I forgot the punchline. Come on, Martin, think... Real skinny guy walks into a cemetery... Skeleton says...

Damn. Major brain drain. That sucks. Sorry. 

Speaking of morbid, ever wonder what a day in life of an alter-dimensional guide is like? I guess not, huh. I mean, you probably don't even know what an alter-dimensional guide is. 'Kay, so, you probably already know that when people die, their souls move on to the next dimension, right? Well, if you haven't achieved a life goal or overcome a great obstacle, the alter-dimensional "elders" in charge of that dimension are gracious enough to offer you a second chance. This second chance can range anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. 

Now, a guide is someone they send down to watch over you to make sure you don't spill the beans to your loved ones. You do that, and it's Limbo for Bimbo (I made that up, because you're a bimbo if you can't keep it to yourself. 'Nuff said).

Allow me to introduce myself--my name is Martin Krane, and I'll be your guide into the afterlife. That's how I usually introduce myself. Sure, sometimes there's a gap between the person's spinal cord and brain stem, seeing as how they just DIED and CAME BACK TO LIFE. It can take some...finesse to pour a bucket of scalding hot morbid on them. There was one time where... No, you probably don't want to hear that one; it's really nasty. Like, super, duper, disturbingly nasty that I don't even want to... You get the hint.

Anyway, after I introduce myself and the person I'm helping has come to terms with their own mortality, it's my job to keep the wraiths away. Wraiths are from yet another dimension. They buy and sell human souls in a kind of dimensional black market. 

IF they looked like this, they might be easier to spot.
Unfortunately, wraiths possess dead bodies (loonngg dead bodies), so you won't know them from regular humans. Of course, I can tell the difference because I'm from the afterlife. Wraiths think that just because someone is given a second chance, they can offer them lame deals to get the person's soul. But if my assignment makes a deal with a wraith, that wraith owns them (at which point I'm off the hook and have some free time between assignments, but every soul I don't bring home, I'm at fault, so...yeah). When the person dies, they get eternally consumed. Trust me, it sucks.

So, all I gotta do is keep the wraiths away by banishing them (releasing their souls--it's a neat little trick, too. I get to suck their soul out using my super alter-dimensional powers), and help my assignment achieve their goal. FYI...I've had a 98% success rate so far. I don't wanna talk about the other 2%. Just know you're in good hands with me.

In closing, my friends, if you ever find yourself on the opposite side of life with a handful of days to relive and no idea what to do with them, just look out for the tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed savior with an amazing physique. You can ask for Martin Krane, or Adonis. Doesn't matter to me. 

Ha! That's it! The skeleton says to the guy, "Brian, get back in your grave before the humans see you!" Get it? Because the guy was so skinny? Man, I crack myself up.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Favorite Transformer is Sludge

Right now. Because I'm stuck in it.

He's really dumb.
Currently, I'm working with an editor on my manuscript, The Death of Me--as you may already know. In the original context, Katie was seventeen going on eighteen. Halfway through, she turned eighteen. Now, this is a tough gray area in Young Adult. At eighteen, we are still in our "teens", but we have freer rein over what we can and can't do. Our parents can no longer tell us to clean our room because we're adults. No more curfews, etc. 

See, in Young Adult, there is an age barrier. 18-24 is considered "New Adult" and is very, very hard to sell to big publishers. Therefore, I have changed Katie's age to sixteen. 

But, by doing this, I've been forced (well, I went willingly, but you get the drift) to go back through the already written books two and three to change her age. This means that most of what she could have done at eighteen will be hindered by the fact that she still has to stay in school and do what the adults tell her to. 

I have a problem, though. I know where I want to story to end up, but getting there is half the battle. 

Ew. This is what I'm really stuck in.
Sludge is hard. How do you get out of it? A lot of writers have a lot of different ways to bypass the sludge. Me? I just plug through it. It's going to go through a round of beta readers and edits anyway, right? Might as well just go on (even if it bores me) and hash it out later. Skipping ahead is bad--makes you forget where you were going. And writing something else is even worse, because then you're stuck in that sludge. 

Alas, I am hopeful that the black sticky mess will clear. The end is in sight; I can feel it. But until then, I've got my rubber rain boots on.

FYI... Starscream is my real favorite.

Monday, July 2, 2012

This Brave New World with Such Characters in it!

So, I was recently asked where I come up with ideas for characters. Well, they come from a lot of places. Mainly, my own head. Ha! 

But, seriously... I have the following characters in my current series, The Death series:

Katie Bunny, Martin Krane, Sherry Raymond, Kevin Carter, John Gray, Julian, Irish Moses, Mandy, Wizzlespoons, Mary and Stan Bunny, Serena Gibbons, Sam Preston... 

As you see, the list goes on. Obviously, Katie--being the main character--is very near and dear to me. How did I come up with her? She's me. She's me when I was sixteen. I don't have any pictures (nor do I wish I did), so have this one.

I am so obviously NOT sixteen
And all the other characters are based on people I knew from that time in my life. Well, all except Martin Krane. Martin is completely my own creation. He actually has a nice little back-story that can be traced. 

Ever heard of the show Martin Mystery? No, here's a synopsis:

"Martin Mystery is a dripping goo-fest of slime, thrills and comedy, starring Martin and Diana: two mismatched teenagers with hilariously opposite personalities on a mission to investigate the weirdest paranormal enigmas and the slimiest creatures from beyond. Commissioned by 'The Center' - an undercover bureau specializing in mysterious phenomena - and with the help of Java, a massive caveman lost in time, they leap from their average school duties to eerie slime-dripping caves and lairs." -David Michel from IMDB.

It was one of those pseudo-anime shows that came out of Switzerland... Or France... I don't remember which. I was a huge fan--watched the damn thing religiously. Why? I don't know! Maybe it was the paranormal aspects. Maybe it was the ongoing war between Martin and Diana. Maybe it was the fact that I followed the voice actor, Sam Vincent, wherever he went (whether it was his portrayal of geeky Edd from Ed, Edd, n Eddy, or his voice from Gundam, or being an extra on Fringe--yeah, I just about died with that one). OR... It TOTALLY could have been the way they drew his cute face:

Does HE look sixteen? No, I don't think so.
He is cute. I don't care what you say. Now, Martin started off as my after-school best friend. He always knew how to make me laugh. When I started writing FanFiction with a friend at sixteen, he always made it into my stories. It didn't matter what they were about; Martin was always there. 

But because Martin was so young, I didn't have a place for him in my adult novels, the A Cure series. So, for a long time, he went unnoticed. But, when I started writing The Death of Me, the first name that popped into my head was his. Now, just a surname change and voila, my Martin won his place into my book and back into my heart. I love you, Martin. 

Oh, and just because I liked captioning pictures in this post, here's another super adorable actor guy that I watched in I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK:

Oh, isn't he just SO cute?