Zoe Cannon's YA Fiction

(Guest Post) My Name is Ariele and I Write Books: The Saga Begins

by on Oct.20, 2014, under Guest Post

Hello, Zoe’s fans. My name is Ariele Sieling and I write books.

This blog post is the first in a series across several different blogs. I will be sharing snippets of my work, some amusing memes I made (think, what would my characters say if they had iPhones?), infographics, more information on the world I’ve been building, and possibly a sneak peek at my current work in progress. You can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or learn more about me through my website.

As I said, my name is Ariele and I write books. My genre is scifi and my medium is humor. Recently, I released my third book, entitled The Wounded World, that takes place in a galaxy far far away. Just kidding, it takes place all over the universe with a little bit of Earth mixed in.

The book is about Quin, a young man whose father worked for one of the most powerful government agencies in the universe. Upon coming come from military duty, Quin discovers that his father has disappeared, leaving only a dangerous new piece of technology behind. Together with his friend John, Quin sets out on a journey to find his father and solve the myriad of problems the man has caused. Intrigue, humor, and a teeny tiny bit of romance all weave together to create The Wounded World.

Sound interesting? You can grab a copy here.

If you want to know a little bit more, have a taste of the book itself.

woundedworld-ebook

Chapter 1: The Multi-Coloured Door

The countryside blazed by, a blur of green, brown, and blue, with speckles of red and orange. Quin idly wished they would install a Door at the outpost where he was stationed, so he didn’t have to take the train back and forth from Pomegranate City, but it was apparently an unknown security risk. But wasn’t pretty much any door into anywhere a security risk on some level? At least if you thought about it too much.

He shifted in his seat and crossed his arms. The woman across from him was giving him the eyes – that expression which said, “I’m interested in you and so I’m going to twitch my facial muscles around awkwardly until you feel so uncomfortable that you say something to me.” He ignored her and glanced at his watch. One hour into the trip. It was about time for him to take out his book.

“Excuse me, sir,” the woman across from him said.

He looked up, annoyed.

“I would just like to ask you a question.” She shifted in her seat, adjusting her pale yellow blouse and retying her scarf.

He nodded once.

“Have you ever noticed how perfectly everything aligns? The sun, the moon, our planet – the way we are able to cross great distances in a single bound, yet become as one to each living thing as we simply move one step at a time?”

Quin frowned. Not a typical come-on. He stated, “Religion died out centuries ago.”

“I’m not talking about religion,” the woman said. “I’m talking about hope.”

Another woman stuck her head around the seat and stared. She was wearing a green hat. Quin wondered briefly if the hat had a name or if that was all it was – a hat.

“It’s not about hope,” the woman in the green hat interrupted. “It’s about fear. You people proselytize to everyone you come across, not so that you can give them hope, but so that you can terrify them into giving your organization money to support lazy good-for-nothings that—”

“No!” The woman in yellow cut off the other woman. “The future is uncertain – there is much to be lost and gained. I and my brothers and sisters only want to encourage others to focus on taking control of their future, on not fearing death, and on seeking to love each other.”

“You’re a liar and a coward, spreading lies and brainwashing our young people to make poor decisions and spend their money unwisely!” spat the woman in the green hat.

Quin blinked twice and raised his eyebrows. This was getting unexpectedly heated.

The woman in the green hat stood up, glaring at the yellow-bloused woman.

The yellow-bloused woman continued, “You’re close-minded and ignorant, and you only care about maintaining the status quo, and not actually about improving our culture! As we reach out into the universe and meet other races and other cultures, we need to expand our thinking—”

The woman in the green hat simply could not wait any longer. She leaped forward and grabbed the first woman by the throat. The first woman responded by putting her foot in the green-hat’s stomach and pushing her back with all her might. Then a young man from across the aisle became involved, trying to separate the two, but instead found himself kicked in the knee and stumbling helplessly into an older gentleman who sat quietly reading the paper. The older gentleman began to swear loudly as Quin stood calmly, towering a head and a half over the tallest of the brawling passengers, picked up the first offender by her shoulders, and carried her into next car. He deposited the second woman back in her original seat; and he helped the limping man to the train’s medic.

Quin had never stopped a fight on a train before, but he supposed he just could add it to his Experience Portfolio, under Accomplishments. Shortly after he had relocated each of the individuals involved in the altercation, the train’s security arrived. As a regular on the train, Quin knew all of the guards personally.

“Mr. Black,” the security guard, Arthur, stated, nodding politely. “Thank you.”

“Welcome,” Quin replied.

“We’ll need your statement.”

“I’ll write it down.”

The security guard handed him the standard form, and Quin scribbled a few lines before handing it back to the officer.

“I’ll just keep my eyes open,” Quin said, gesturing to the car.

“Much appreciated, sir,” replied the security guard, and he scurried off to the next car.

For the rest of the trip, Quin paced casually back and forth, keeping a close eye on the now tense passengers who read their newspapers and chatted quietly. His height, massive build, and black scowl encouraged good behavior among the passengers. The train conductor came through once, nodding politely and murmuring, “Mr. Black,” in a quiet greeting.

The train arrived in Monapliet Station; hundreds of people swarmed the platform. As Quin moved forward weaving carefully through the crowd, a man to his right threw a punch. Before he knew it, a full-fledged brawl ignited around him, with punching, kicking, and insults. They shouted “non-believer” and “god-hater” and “it’s our god-given right.” After a few moments, Quin stood sweating over a number of brawlers who lay unconscious on the ground. The rest had fled or were being tazed by the Pomegranate City law enforcement.

It was turning into a rather unusual day, Quin thought.

“Officer Jones,” said Quin, reaching out to shake hands.

“Mr. Black,” Officer Jones greeted him. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Quin nodded. “Have a nice day.”

He left the station and began to walk towards his house. A newspaper boy yelled, “Newspaper! One quarter! Pamphlet! On the house!” He threw a coin at the boy, and the boy tossed him a paper. Quin caught it neatly and opened it.

The headlines read “LIFE STARS HOLD CONFERENCE AT TRUCE CENTER,” “YOUNG MAN KILLED IN FOUNTAIN BRAWL,” and “ADMINISTRATOR ADERICK FROWNS UPON RELIGION.” The second and third pages told of the weather, how to safeguard personal residences, and of a missing girl. He flicked the newspaper boy another coin as a tip and strode down the street, stopping only at a vendor stand to pick up some fruit and pre-made sandwiches. He had no doubt that his father’s house was empty of any nourishment.

An hour later he reached the house, a modern construction which showed off the most recent advancements in technology. It sat on a rotating platform, which was programmed to turn different faces of the house depending on the position of the sun. It maximized heat efficiency during the cold months, and minimized heat buildup during the warm months. It also used solar power to fuel its many systems.

Quin stepped into the entry pod, which slid to the nearest door, like a horizontal elevator. He wondered when John was going to show up.

He frowned as he entered his father’s house. The kitchen television was on. As far as he knew, his father had been gone for months, so either the television had been on the entire time, or someone had recently been – or was still – here. He looked around cautiously.

“Life Star proponents have started their own radio station,” the newscaster stated, “and have begun broadcasting shows focused on converting others to their belief system. Their efforts include various shows focused on the politics of planet building, how Door legislation should be broadened to allow citizens to build and maintain them for private and commercial purposes, and proselytizing young adults looking for someplace to turn…”

Quin padded forward quietly, the content from the news show sliding through the back of his mind. Then he heard a small noise and froze as a much smaller person than him came barreling from the other room and tackled him. Quin braced himself so that when the collision occurred, he barely moved.

“Doggone it, Quin!” the gentleman responsible for the attack exclaimed. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! You’re as hard as a wall!” He grabbed his arm overdramatically and collapsed onto the nearest chair. “Why is it that I can never surprise you?” Popping back up from the chair cheerfully, apparently uninjured, he held out his hand. “Good to see you!”

“John,” Quin acknowledged. He and John had been friends for over a century, and John was known for staging periodic surprise attacks to “test Quin’s reflexes,” as he said.

“I’m so glad you’re back!” John began.

Quin headed for the kitchen to put away the groceries, knowing he was in for a full-on story.

“So, the Committee has been keeping this secret, something to do with your dad. I figured it out one day when I heard Drake and Tom talking. I may have been listening through a heat vent, but that is beside the point. So I did some digging around – almost got myself caught, too, but not quite – and came to find out it has something to do with Dad’s disappearance!”

“Disappearance?” Quin stated. It always bugged him a little that John called the man ‘Dad.’ He understood that John had basically been part of his family since they were kids, and that Grise was the closest thing John had ever had to a father, but still. The man was a selfish idiot and a traitor.

“Yeah,” John replied. “He said he went on vacation, but he has been entirely off the grid since he left, and he was supposed to come back three weeks ago.”

“Ah.”

“So, after some digging around the office and listening at doors (and heat vents), I decided that maybe it would just be easier to come here and dig around and see if I could find anything suspicious. I am your best friend, after all, so I figured if I got caught, it would be fine. You know.”

Quin nodded.

“You’ll never guess what I found.”

“What?”

John grabbed Quin’s arm and dragged him towards the living room; directly in the center stood a Door. Quin halted in surprise. This type of Door was not a typical door, not the kind of door which led from one room to another and was indicated by a wood frame of some sort. This Door was of the type which allowed the user to jump massive distances, to travel light years, with a single step. Quin knew a lot about these Doors, as a special agent for the military whose job it was to travel through them every day. But the Doors he travelled through were located in government facilities, hidden in difficult-to-find locations, or at least secreted away in a family basement. This one sat in the center of his living room.

“How did that get here?” he asked.

“I think your dad made it,” John said.

“But…” Quin frowned. Why would he make it and then leave it sitting in the middle of the living room for anyone to find? Unless… he wanted it to be found.

“I also think he wanted us to find it.” John began to circle the Door like a cat on the prowl. “But it’s not just that. Doors are hard to make. And I don’t just mean hard, I mean hard. It’s some of the most advanced science we have today, aside from planet construction. He’s smart enough though. But a Door, I mean, really?”

“Yes.”

All of a sudden, John spun around and bolted towards the couch. From behind it he pulled out a small toolbox, opened it, and began to take out instruments of various sorts, commentating all the way.

“We should go through it. To see what’s on the other side. But first I need to make a few measurements – we wouldn’t want to destabilize a solar system, now would we? Or get chopped in half when we jump through!”

Quin frowned, feeling very hesitant, which was odd, as stepping through unknown Doors was something he did nearly every day anyway.

“But you see, there is something very odd about this Door,” John stated, suddenly changing conversational direction, “something very odd indeed. First and foremost it is the wrong colour.”

Quin turned back to look at it, nodding. Instead of a typical Door, which was almost like a blue film hugging onto a thin curtain of air, this Door was multi-coloured, although the effect was very subtle. He could see strings of purple and deep blue blinking amid the nearly invisible haze of light blue.

“Of course, lots of Doors are the wrong colour,” he continued, “but not wrong like this one is wrong. I’ve never seen a wrong Door this wrong before. Wrong Doors – the unstable ones – are usually slightly green, or have a pinkish tint. But this one has more than one colour. Does that make it dangerous, or does that make it special?” He pulled a wand from the toolbox, ran a wire from it to a boxy computer-like instrument and began to scan the Door. The computer began to print out a series of documents slowly.

“Secondly,” John added, “this Door has left a mark on the ground underneath it.”

Quin had noticed that too, but not thought it pertinent. It was a thin black line directly under the Door, almost like a scorch mark in the living room rug.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before.” John pulled away from the Door and looked at the readings on his scanner. Then he stepped over to the computer and pulled out the printed documents.

Quin raised an eyebrow. Whatever he was learning, it probably wouldn’t take long before it came pouring out of his mouth.

John shook his head and rapped the paper with his forefinger.  “Well, that’s odd.” A frown settled onto his face as he absently loosened his tie. “According to these readings, this Door does not exist. It cannot exist. Except that it does exist and it can exist, but only because of these three numbers…this coefficient here…” he paused, scanning the sheet rapidly. “Quin, we need to go through.”

“No,” Quin said. “Too dangerous.”

“Quin, we need to go through.”

“No.”

“Quin!”

Quin raised his eyebrows.

John took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Okay, I will tell you what. I will do some equations while you send some rats through. Then we can go through.”

He went to the hall closet and pulled out a chalkboard as Quin stood and watched. Quin remembered that his father, Grise, had used this very often, but this time it was completely erased – spotless, in fact. This was very odd. If the Door wasn’t evidence enough, that detail also seemed to indicate that he was hiding something.

“Well? Get going!” John demanded.

Quin rolled his eyes and went to where John had hidden the toolbox. There he found a cage with a rat in it. That had been the sound he heard earlier which had alerted him to John’s presence.

“You brought a rat.”

“Of course I did!” John made a face that communicated, ‘Do you even know me?’ and went back to scribbling equations on the blackboard.

Quin removed the rest of the equipment from the toolbox. In included a small leash, electrodes, some wires, and a tiny hat, all equipment which John had once explained as, “a ‘Rat On A Leash With A Camera.’ Clever name, eh? I made a little hat for the rat. A little army hat – I modeled it after yours. You know, the green one? It’s got a built-in miniature video camera with a wireless tap that sends its information back to the Door, which has a modem hooked to it that transfers the information straight to the computer. In addition, I wrote a program which, with wireless electrodes, allows us to monitor the rat’s vitals and take air and dirt samples from anything he touches.” John’s explanations were never simple, but always verbose.

The rats were standard – protocol now, ever since the incident where one of the Globe’s staff members had sent a robot through and confirmed that the location was safe. Then, an entire team went through and never came back. After the fact, it was determined that there was an undetectable gas that had never been encountered before which was poisonous for most living creatures, except for those that evolved in it, of course. Since then, standard policy was to send something through that could actually die, as opposed to a robot only designed to detect what it is designed to detect, and not unknown substances.

Quin taped the electrodes to the rat’s head, and attached the hat and leash. Then, he placed the wireless transmitter on the floor and pushed it partway through the Door. He took the rat and shoved it in, watching carefully as the computer began to transmit data.

Oddly enough, there was a pause before the data began to run.

“It paused!” John exclaimed from behind him. “There was almost a ten second pause before it started transmitting.” He came over and looked at the equipment over Quin’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Quin agreed. “Odd.”

Then an image appeared on the monitor.

“Is that a…” John leaned even closer. “A dump?”

Heaps of junk surrounded the rat. Old bed springs twisted into the air with tufts of grey pillow stuffing clinging to them. Smashed up machines dotted the dirty earth with old plastic bags, batteries, and bottles in scattered heaps nearby.

“Grise built a Door to trash?” Quin commented skeptically. “Seems atypical.”

“That is quite unusual,” John murmured. “Bring Raul back. Make sure he’s okay.”

“Raul?”

“Yes, the rat! He has a name too, you know!” John reached out and pulled on the leash himself. It went slack, but the rat did not appear for a full ten seconds.

“He seems fine,” Quin noted, examining the rat closely.

“Maybe he’s going somewhere farther away than we’ve ever been before,” he muttered. “Let’s push him back through, to see if we can figure out where that place was.”

“One second,” Quin said, handing the leash to John. He went into the kitchen and cut up the apple he had purchased from the street vendor on his way home, and brought a small piece over to Raul. The rat ate it hungrily. He then pushed the rat through.

There was another ten-second pause.

The image flashed on screen: the camera bounced up and down as the rat ran forward into a lovely green orchard. The grass was neatly trimmed, and each tree grew equidistant from the next. Deep red fruits peeked through the thick foliage that dressed the branches.

“Trees?” John and Quin chorused. How could he have ended up in two places each time? Doors were… well, monolocus, or so Quin thought.

John closed his eyes, tapping his fingers against his temples. “Trees,” he muttered. Quin watched as the rat scurried around at the end of the leash, straining to escape into the beautiful, lush countryside. The vibrant colours radiated into the room.

“I think those are apples on the trees,” Quin pointed out. “And we just gave him an apple. Coincidence?”

“Oh… apples!” John exclaimed. “Apples, apples, apples! How could I be so thick? Pull him back through.”

Quin yanked on the leash and the image on the screen disappeared for ten seconds before Raul stumbled back into the room.

John bent down, grabbed the rat, and darted into the kitchen. He opened the freezer and dumped the rat in.

“John!” Quin exclaimed. “That’s air tight! Ethics committee!”

“Hush, Quin, it’s only for a minute! And the ethics committee isn’t here.” John frowned. He glanced at his watch. “Another thirty seconds.”

Thirty seconds later he pulled a perfectly fine, if slightly chilly, rat out of the freezer and ran back into the living room, practically tossing the rat through the Door as he skidded to a halt on his knees on the carpet.

They waited for an interminable ten seconds.

Then they saw a bright, clean beach appear before them. A hot, white sun blazed in the blue skies that stretched over a white-capped ocean, and tall, straight-trunked trees rose out of the sand. The rat scrambled over a log that lay in front of it, coming face to face with a lizard.

“Look out!” Quin exclaimed, gesturing to the lizard.

At that moment the lizard opened its mouth and burped. Flames licked along its tongue and over the edges of the log, right into the rat’s face.

“Raul!” John exclaimed, yanking on the leash. The rat stumbled backwards and into the Door. The screen went blank for ten seconds as they waited for the rat to reappear. As soon as Raul fell into John’s arms, the scientist jumped up, dumping the rat into Quin’s arms. “Pop lizards! That was a pop lizard! Those are on Mara!”

“So Grise went to Mara?” Quin frowned. This also seemed like unusual behavior for his father, given that their technology was several centuries behind Sagitta’s.

“No, no, no.” John pushed himself away from the computer, one hand gripping his hair. “No, no, no. That’s not it at all. The first one wasn’t Mara; the dump was filled with metal. Mara isn’t advanced enough to have all that metal.”

He strode over to the chalkboard, shedding his jacket and loosening his tie. “I need to think. If there are two or more places… time differences or possible… differentials…” he continued to mutter, and then trailed off into a series of barely intelligible words. “…cognitive mathematics… insanity… partial influence of the vector… coefficient…”

Quin stood behind him for a moment, watching as John absently erased Grise’s blank chalkboard over and over. Then, he carefully removed Raul’s equipment and placed him back in the cage. He also gave the rat a few more pieces of apple before turning his attention back to John.

“You know those ten seconds?” John drew a picture of a blank computer screen with the number ten. “This is what I would call ‘bad.’ This is unusual, weird, wrong, if you will. But it can’t be wrong, because it exists. But we should be worried. Yes, worried. Or maybe not. Who knows, really? Change is inevitable, after all.”

Quin listened quietly. Eventually John would get to a coherent point.

“But when you walk through a regular Door,” John continued, “do you forget where you are for a moment? No. Do you experience a moment of discomfort? No. Do you experience confusion? Only if you’re getting really old.” John began to pound the chalkboard with the chalk. Little pieces flew into the air and landed in a scattered pattern on the floor. “But the real question is: do you stop transmitting data? No!

“So, the rat left here and arrived there, but, for a period of time long enough for us to discuss his absence, he was somewhere else. Where was he? Where was that rat?” John rapped on the chalkboard once with his chalk and it broke in half, the free half flying sideways and shattering as it hit the floor. “Damn rat.”

He began to pace in front of the chalkboard.

“A moment. A space. Why? Limbo? Dead? Time travel? An invisible world? And Raul went three different places, so maybe that was just a fourth, or woods with ponds…” He gripped his hair as he descended into his mindless chatter once more. Then he spun around and began to scribble rapidly, numbers bleeding from the chalk and dripping down the black surface of the chalkboard.

Quin shook his head. John was gone, at least for the time being, visiting that place only mathematicians ever visited, full of lines and numbers and all sorts of things he couldn’t possibly fathom – nor did he wish to. He tidied up the remaining equipment, filled the toolbox, and placed it all back in John’s hiding place.

He glanced at John as he wandered back towards the kitchen. John was writing with both hands. He smiled, unwrapped himself a pre-made sandwich, and then threw himself into a living room chair where he promptly fell asleep to the sound of scratching chalk.

What did you think? Comment below or grab a copy here.

 

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Infinite Ink Authors Birthday Extravaganza

by on Oct.08, 2014, under Uncategorized

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A few of us Infinite Inklings have had birthdays recently, and to celebrate, we’re running a giveaway for all our readers, old and new. (Yes, you can still enter even if you haven’t read any of our books yet!) Scroll down to meet the Infinite Ink Authors and take a look at any of our books you might have missed, and then enter to win your choice of a Kindle Fire HD or a Kindle Paperwhite. (International winners will receive their choice of $119 in Paypal Cash or a $119 Amazon gift card.)

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~ Treehugger ~
~ The Torturer’s Daughter ~
~ Contributor ~
~ Fevered Souls ~
~ The Breeders ~
~ The Scourge ~
~ Daynight ~
~ Virulent ~

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Meet the Authors

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~ Kea Alwang ~
~ Zoe Cannon ~
~ Nicole Ciacchella ~
~ SK Falls ~
~ Katie French ~
~ AG Henley ~
~ Ash Krafton ~
~ Megan Thomason ~
~ Shelbi Wescott ~
 
Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • $10 Amazon gift card (INT)
  • Winner’s choice of a Kindle Fire HD or Kindle Paperwhite (US only) or if winner is INT, winner’s choice of $119 PayPal Cash or Amazon gift card.
Please note that Juniper Grove Book Solutions is not responsible for the handling/sending of the Kindle giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Instigator by Nicole Ciacchella

by on Jul.03, 2014, under Uncategorized

The final book in my favorite indie dystopian series, the Contributor series by Nicole Ciacchella, came out this week! If you’re already a fan, go grab your copy on Amazon now – I’m in the middle of reading it now, and so far it’s shaping up to be just as good as the other two, if not better. If you aren’t familiar with the series, and you like YA dystopia with skin-crawlingly believable worldbuilding and a strong main character who is more interested in righting the wrongs in her world than in deciding whom to kiss, start with the first book, Contributor, here.

Instigator cover

 

Disillusioned and angry at the revelation of the Free Thinkers’ secret patron, Dara isn’t sure whether her decision to join them was the right choice. Guilt over Letizia’s loss plagues her, and she feels betrayed by one of the few people in whom she placed her trust.

Adjusting to life outside of the domes hasn’t been easy over the past six months, especially because the Free Thinkers’ progress is so frustratingly slow. Nothing has changed, and she doesn’t know how much longer she can deny her searing need for vengeance, or even whether she should place her faith in the Free Thinkers. The more the truth about both them and the Creators is revealed, the less certain she is that the two are all that different. What if she handed them the incriminating evidence they need to exploit to ensure a future that looks a lot like what the Creators envisioned?

Yet Dara has never been more certain of one thing: the Creators must pay—for what they did to her mother, for what they did to Letizia, and for what they’ve done to humanity.

Excerpt:

“Storm coming?” Javier asked, joining her. He folded his arms over his chest, adopting his usual carefree expression and posture, but she’d come to know he wore it like a mask. Almost everything he did was calculated, and behind his placid exterior was a mind rarely at rest.

“I don’t think so,” she said after studying the sky for a moment longer. Conditions didn’t feel quite right for the vicious dust storms that ripped through the area with surprising frequency but little warning. She had developed a healthy respect for them; they were not to be messed with.

“Another sabotage mission completed,” he remarked. He sounded as if he were satisfied with a day’s work well done, but she heard a note of something in his voice, a note that mirrored the disquiet in her own head.

“Prick, prick, prick,” she said, unable to keep the sarcasm from her tone. “Think the Creators will bleed to death anytime soon?”

He smiled. “Doubtful. Still, I guess we are annoying them and setting back their master plan. They can’t be too happy with us about that.”

“So they have to wait for their toys. Poor dears.” Disdain dripped from her words, but the thought didn’t make her feel any better. Who cared if they inconvenienced the Creators? Inconveniencing them was the least of what she’d had in mind.

“The time isn’t right. You must be patient,” he said, mimicking Mal’s tight voice, making Dara smile despite herself.

“I’m really sick of that word.”

“You’re not alone there.”

“Do you think an actual plan exists?”

“Depends on which day of the week it is,” he said, giving her a crooked smile. He leaned against a rusting beam, seeming unconcerned about it crumbling under his weight. “I know they have plenty of plans, I’m just not sure what those plans are and whether they’re the plans I’d like them to be.”

“Raj keeps telling me we can’t be rash.”

“Inertia. I thought the Creators were the only ones who suffered from it. Looks like I was wrong about that.”

Get the book on Amazon!

NCiacchella Author Photo

About the Author

Nicole has progressed from scribbling in notebooks to banging on keyboards, but she’s never managed to stop daydreaming at inappropriate moments.

When not answering the demands of her characters, Nicole can often be found curled up with a good book or spending far too many hours acting the hero in whatever video game is her obsession of the moment.

One of Nicole’s other great passions is travel. She loves being married to a native Belgian, both because she likes the idea of being “The American” and because it gives her plenty of excuses to visit Europe—that wondrous land of coffee, chocolate, pastry, and some other stuff—as often as possible.

Michigan born and raised, Nicole lives there with her honorary Michigander/Belgian husband and her two children. A Michigan State University alum, Nicole bleeds green and is a Spartan for life.

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No Return is now available!

by on May.21, 2014, under No Return

No Return B3

No Return
The conclusion to the Internal Defense series

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | paperback

Every dissident knows about Becca Dalcourt.

They know about the lives she’s saved. About the prison break she carried out against impossible odds. They know she turned a dying resistance into the first real threat Internal Defense has faced in a long time.

And even now, with the resistance under attack from the inside, they know Becca can save them.

They’re wrong.

The conclusion to the story that began with The Torturer’s Daughter and Necessary Sacrifices, No Return explores what happens when an ordinary person becomes a legend – and how to choose between who you are and who the world needs you to be.

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Mary Hades: a new release from Sarah Dalton

by on May.16, 2014, under Uncategorized

Fellow Shattered Worlds author Sarah Dalton just released her new book, Mary Hades, last week. The book is based on her bestselling Kindle Single “My Daylight Monsters,” and already has some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I admit I can’t read this one myself, because I can’t read horror, but if you’re a fan of YA horror, be sure to check this one out. :)

Mary HadesAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | Google Play

Not many seventeen year old girls have a best friend who’s a ghost, but then Mary Hades isn’t your average teenager.

Scarred physically and mentally from a fire, her parents decide a holiday to an idyllic village in North Yorkshire will help her recover. Nestled in the middle of five moors, Mary expects to have a boring week stuck in a caravan with her parents. Little does she know, evil lurks in the campsite…

Seth Lockwood—a local fairground worker with a dark secret—might be the key to uncovering the murky history that has blighted Nettleby. But Mary is drawn to him in a way that has her questioning her judgement.

Helped by her dead best friend and a quirky gay Goth couple, Mary must stop the unusual deaths occurring in Nettleby. But can she prevent her heart from being broken?

The first in a series of dark YA novels, Mary Hades follows on from the bestselling Kindle Single My Daylight Monsters. A spine-tingling tale with romance, readers will be shocked and entertained in equal measure.

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Why We Need Diverse Books

by on May.01, 2014, under Musings, Personal

I’m posting as part of today’s We Need Diverse Books campaign. You can find more posts on the campaign’s Tumblr and follow the hashtag on Twitter.

diverse-books

I learned about the world through fiction.

I didn’t know, when I was a kid, that I was on the autism spectrum, or that I would grow up to be asexual. I just knew that I was different. I knew I didn’t understand things that other people understood. I knew that other people didn’t think the way I thought. And even though I wouldn’t start thinking about sexuality for years to come, I had a vague premonition that I was different in that regard too, whenever I saw boys and girls proto-flirting on the playground.

Looking at the world straight-on left me overwhelmed. Talking to people left me bewildered. But words – words were my domain. They translated a world that was written in a language I didn’t know. They taught me how other people thought, and how they related to each other, and what they were like.

But there were things books didn’t teach me.

For one thing, they didn’t teach me about people like me.

I remember the lightning stab through the heart I would feel whenever I stumbled upon a character I could relate to. I would read the book over and over, trying to inhale it through my pores. I would try to force it on my perpetually unbookish friends. “Mom,” I would say, as if I had come fresh from a mystical vision. “This person is like me.

It didn’t happen very often.

I got older. I learned about myself, discovered how to name my differences. I went to fiction to find reflections of myself, to find a map that would show me where I belonged in this world, and came away with empty hands – or worse than empty. Of the autistic characters I found, most of them were barely more than a collection of symptoms taken straight from a reference book, and either they were embarking on a heartwarming journey of becoming less autistic (don’t get me started), or they existed solely as someone else’s inspiration (including the reader’s) or as a challenge for a non-autistic character to overcome. Of the asexual characters I found… well, one was a convicted murderer, and one was a self-centered brat. Needless to say, neither one found true love.

I want to read books that tell me that people like me can be heroes. People who do the things I do and think the way I think and love the way I love. I want books that reflect my own experiences. Books that tell me I can obsess over strange things and rock when I’m happy and scream at loud noises and still be a fully realized human being in my own right. Books that tell me I can live happily ever after with the love of my life without ever swooning over his hotness. I want books that tell me the things that make me who I am are more than just problems to overcome, or bits of flavor in someone else’s life.

But that isn’t the only thing that books didn’t give me.

Stories shape how people see the world. That’s what they did for me. People will assume, on a subconscious level, that the stories they read reflect the world they live in, even if it isn’t true. And what happens when they don’t see people who are different from them? What happens when all they see are negative or stereotypical portrayals of differences? (To use one example: A lot of autistic people complain about the portrayal of the main character in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. A lot of non-autistic people, on the other hand, gush about how this book helped them to understand autism. I’m sure most people who differ from the norm in some way can think of a similar case. That stereotypical portrayal that left you with a “this is me/this isn’t me at all” sense of cognitive dissonance. That book or movie that makes you silently gnash your teeth whenever someone brings it up, or tries to tell you how much it helped them understand “people like you.”)

Stories shape how people see the world – but this is a double-edged sword. If we’re shown a world in which everyone is the same, then that’s what we’ll see.

And while I want to see myself reflected in the books I read, that’s not all I want. I want to learn about all ways of being, not just the ones that are most common. I want to read about lives and experiences that give me that shock of recognition, and I want to read about perspectives I’ve never considered before. I want to expand my view of what it means to be human, and what it means to live in this world. I want to see the world as it is, in all its infinite diversity.

Both these things are equally important. But right now, all too often, the books I read don’t give me either one.

Watch the We Need Diverse Books Tumblr if you’re interested in reading more diverse books – tomorrow people will be sending in their book recommendations, and on Saturday we’ll try to show there’s a demand for diverse books by buying them ourselves and encouraging others to do the same.

If you’re interested in my own portrayal of autism in fiction, my short story “Flight,” available in this free anthology, retells the story of Beauty and the Beast with two main characters on the autism spectrum.

 Kea’s Flight by Erika Hammerschmidt and John C. Ricker remains my favorite book about autistic characters. (As a bonus, it also contains an asexual character who is neither obnoxious nor a murderer!) My thoughts on this book are too complex to be summed up in a couple of lines, but you can read my gushing Goodreads review here.

 Finally, “Difference of Opinion” by Meda Kahn is a short but powerful story about an autistic woman in a science-fiction world.

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No Return Cover Reveal

by on Apr.22, 2014, under Uncategorized

The third and final book of the Internal Defense series will be here soon, and I finally have the cover to show you! (…Okay, the cover has been done for a while, but I didn’t want to share it until I had an actual release date for the book.) This was a difficult cover to design – it had to look right with the covers of all the other books in the series, have the same theme as the other covers in the series (namely, an important concept in the book represented in a figurative way, with a strong central image), and fit the book itself. I had the Necessary Sacrifices cover figured out long before I had finished the first draft (that seems more industrious than it is – I tend to use cover design as a way to avoid writing while still feeling like I’m accomplishing something :) ), but for this book it took me until I was well into the revision.

But thanks to my many hours of browsing stock photo sites, many Photoshop-induced dents in my skull, and the comments of several beta readers who told me (all independently of each other) that a certain location was the most vivid and meaningful in the book, the cover is here! Enjoy:

 

No Return B3Every dissident knows about Becca Dalcourt.

They know about the lives she’s saved. About the prison break she carried out against impossible odds. They know she turned a dying resistance into the first real threat Internal Defense has faced in a long time.

And even now, with the resistance under attack from the inside, they know Becca can save them.

They’re wrong.

The conclusion to the story that began with The Torturer’s Daughter and Necessary SacrificesNo Return explores what happens when an ordinary person becomes a legend – and how to choose between who you are and who the world needs you to be.

No Return will be released on May 21st, 2014. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR list here.

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

by on Mar.24, 2014, under Uncategorized

I’m following Megan Thomason, fellow Infinite Inkling, in this blog tour about authors’ writing processes. Visit her website here: http://www.meganthomason.com.

What am I working on?

Right now I’m finishing up the last of my edits on No Return, the final novel of the Internal Defense series. I’m looking forward to getting this book out there and wrapping up the series, and yet at the same time, it’s a strange feeling. I’ve been writing about these characters for so long that it’s going to be hard to let go.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Most dystopian novels focus on creating an exotic world very different from our own, and then telling an epic story about fixing that world. I wanted to do something different with the Internal Defense books. As I said when asked to explain the motivations behind my books for the recent launch of Infinite Ink Authors, I wrote this series because I wanted to create a more realistic-feeling dystopia. Most dystopias are larger than life, both in terms of whatever is wrong with the world and in terms of the heroes who are trying to fix it, but there are plenty of real-world governments, both now and in the past, that could be classified as dystopian. I wanted to combine that kind of atmosphere with contemporary American culture, and show what that world would look like from the perspective of someone who has never known anything else – and then turn that ordinary person into a hero.

Why do I write what I do?

That’s a hard question to answer. The simplest explanation is that I write what I do because these are the stories that come to me. But I suppose I love both speculative fiction and the YA category because I’m endlessly curious. I love to explore what makes people who they are, and YA is the perfect place to do that because the characters in YA are often learning about who they are and deciding who they want to become. And I love to explore new possibilities and ideas. I like to ask “Why?” and “What if?” and “What makes things this way?” There’s no better place to do that than in speculative fiction.

As for who all my stories end up being kind of dark (okay, maybe more than kind of)… it sounds strange, but I think it’s actually because I’m a huge idealist. And idealism doesn’t mean as much in a happy world. It’s easy to believe in hope when everything is going well, and it’s easy to do the right thing when your choices are black and white. That’s not what interests me. I like to write about people who do the right thing even when it costs them everything, who believe in a better world when things are at their darkest, who fight for what they believe in even if they know they can’t win.

How does my writing process work?

It’s different for every book, and is always changing as I learn more about the craft of writing and about how my own mind works, but these are the steps I usually go through:

– I come up with an idea.

– I noodle around with the idea for a while, scribbling down notes and getting a sense of the shape of it. This is usually where I figure out what my main character is like, the basic trajectory of the plot, how I want it to end, and what themes the story will focus on. It’s also where I start getting ideas for specific scenes.

– I take the scene ideas I’ve already come up with and fill in the gaps between them, until I have a basic outline that takes the story from beginning to end with no missing pieces.

– I outline each of my scenes in more detail, using a process similar to this.

– I write the first draft. This usually goes pretty quickly – a few weeks on average – because I already know where I’m going.

– After putting the book aside for at least a few days, I reread it and figure out what I need to change. While writing the first draft, it’s hard to see the big picture; this is where I can finally step back and see the book as a whole. I look at how each scene fits into that larger picture, and what I need to do to make all the parts of the story fit together seamlessly. I write notes for each scene – creating a new outline, in a way – laying out what needs to be changed, what needs to be added, and what needs to be removed.

– I start the actual revision. The revision process always takes at least twice as long as the first draft, sometimes much more than that. Not because my first drafts are that messy – I actually write pretty clean first drafts – but because it’s just a slower process. In my first drafts I go down every path I see, following every tangent, especially in terms of what my characters are thinking and feeling. In the revision, I prune away everything that isn’t necessary. I’m ruthless. If something doesn’t serve the story, out it goes. It’s normal for my books to lose at least ten thousand words between the first draft and the second. No Return lost more like fifty thousand.

– After the second draft, the book is basically done. I don’t do five or ten different drafts – I do a single revision, but I make it massive. By the time I’m done, I know I’ve turned the book into the story I want to tell. All that’s left after this is my final line edit and proofreading pass – and then publishing!

Following me next week on the #mywritingprocess tour are:

Katie French, YA dystopian author and fellow Infinite Inkling: http://www.katiefrenchbooks.com

Ariele Sieling, YA sci-fi author: http://www.arielesieling.com

Christopher Kellen, fantasy and science fiction author: http://www.christopherkellen.com

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Psst! Something is happening.

by on Mar.15, 2014, under Uncategorized

Want to discover a bunch of new YA spec fic authors?

Want a chance to win free books and maybe an Amazon gift card?

What to find out what I’ve been helping to put together for the past couple of months?

Visit the Infinite Ink Authors site here!

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Shattered Worlds Release

by on Feb.26, 2014, under Uncategorized

Shattered Worlds Final Cover Small

The Shattered Worlds boxed set is available now! Get six full-length dystopian novels, including The Torturer’s Daughter, for only 99 cents. And if you want to follow along on our blog tour, you can find the schedule here.

Have you entered the Shattered Worlds giveaway? If not, there’s still four days left – enter here to win copies of all the books in the set plus their sequels, copies of the sequels only, or a $60 Amazon gift card!

Get the ebook:
On Amazon
On Barnes & Noble
On Kobo
On Smashwords

 

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There is no Them. There are only facets of Us.
- John Green