Why I Prefer Frodo Baggins to James Bond

Frodo Baggins is my favorite fictional character.

He accepts a quest that he knows is too much for him, that he’s been told is too much for him. He wants nothing more than to keep on living his comfortable quiet life, but he takes the Ring to Mordor anyway, because he knows he’s the only one who can. He pushes himself to the limit of his endurance and beyond. When he has nothing left; he just keeps going; even when his physical strength gives out and he can no longer walk, he crawls forward. When I read Lord of the Rings as a kid, Frodo shaped my view of what a hero is.

And yet this is a controversial preference. When I reread Lord of the Rings a couple of years ago, I discovered that a lot of people dislike the story because of him, or even love the story but wish he weren’t a part of it. They see him as weak, as not properly heroic. Where I see the ideal hero, they see someone pitiful and passive.

There are two types of fictional heroes, I’ve noticed, that people tend to gravitate towards. And I suspect both are popular for the same reason. When we read, we often put ourselves into the shoes of the main character. It’s natural. We want to imagine ourselves stepping outside of our ordinary lives for a while, defeating monsters and having great adventures. We like to think that if we were those characters, we could do what they do.

The first type of hero is the larger-than-life character, the kind of person we wish we could be. They’re good at what they do—not just good, but the best. They have the skills to get out of any situation they find themselves in. Hardly anything fazes them. The people around them admire them and fall in love with them. They triumph because of their competence. James Bond, for instance, is a classic wish-fulfillment character in this mold.

The second type of character is also wish fulfillment, but in a different sense. These characters aren’t larger than life; they’re ordinary people, or appear to be at first. They might be skilled at certain things, just like we all have our own strengths, but their skills aren’t on a superhuman level. They are not unfazed; they go through their stories as uncertain and afraid as we would be in their situation. But these characters also triumph in the end, and when they do, it’s because of their inner strength.

The first type of character lets us imagine being somebody else—somebody stronger, somebody smarter, somebody better. The second type of character lets us imagine being heroes as we are—ordinary people who are capable of accomplishing extraordinary things.

I think I prefer the second type because they let me imagine myself as a hero while remaining myself. To be a James Bond type, for instance I would have to be an entirely different person, with an entirely different personality and set of strengths. And while I can understand the appeal of that kind of fantasy, that’s not what I want. I like who I am, even though my traits aren’t those of the typical hero. I like being a quiet person with a quiet life. I like being more intellectual than physical. I like being cautious and needing time to analyze a situation before acting. In short, I like all the things about myself that would make me completely unsuitable as a larger-than-life action hero. And while it can be fun to step into the head of someone totally different for a while, what I really love are stories that let me be myself in my daydreams of heroism.

And more than that, I love stories that say that people who aren’t the type of person everyone wishes they could be (and really, who among us is capable of being James Bond?) can also accomplish great things—not in spite of who they are, but because of it. Aragorn, after all, who does fit the mold of the classic hero, would have been corrupted by the Ring long before he reached Mount Doom.

A Job You Love Is Still a Job

“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

This platitude gets repeated over and over again. And as someone who turned my childhood dream into a career, I can tell you that there’s not a bit of truth to it.

When you do something as a hobby, you probably only do it when you feel like it. It’s what you do for fun, or to relax. I remember when I wrote purely for fun, before I was even thinking about publishing anything. I remember writing thirty pages in a day in a rush of pure inspiration, and waking up the next morning with an idea for a new story I loved even more. I remember dreaming up endless details for stories that never got put to paper, because the dreaming was the fun part.

When you start doing that same thing as a job, you do it every day, whether you want to or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re not feeling inspired. It doesn’t matter if there’s something else you’d rather do. Or maybe you really do want to write (or draw, or whatever else) but what you want is to work on that new idea that came to you overnight, not the overdue project that you’ve been stalled on for the past week. That doesn’t matter either. You have to write, or the book won’t get written.

It can be a difficult shift to adjust to, especially given the expectations around working a job you love (see the above platitude)—particularly creative work, and particularly if you’re self-employed. I’ve seen more than one person who turned a hobby into a career talk about how it ruined the thing they used to love. They say that’s why you should never try to make a living doing something you love, and should instead ruthlessly separate work and play. They end up quitting writing entirely, or art, or programming. For some, that’s the right decision. But for others, I suspect all they really need to hear is, “That’s normal. You didn’t ruin it, you just started doing it when you didn’t want to do it. Nothing is fun all the time when you do it on demand. That doesn’t mean it can’t still be fulfilling.”

Yes, writing is less fun for me now. I still have days when inspiration runs through my veins like lightning, and I can’t sleep because of all the ideas circling through my head. I also have days when my unfinished draft feels like a weight pressing me to the earth, and I don’t want to get out of bed because it will mean sitting down at the computer again and trying to wring words out of my brain for That Awful Book again. Most of the time it’s neither of those things. It’s just the thing I do every day. It’s a routine. It’s work.

But work isn’t a bad thing. Writing is less fun than it was when I only did it when I felt like it—but fun isn’t my number one goal in life. Everyone needs fun, including me. Sometimes I need a day off to just play video games all day and not think about the stupid book. But I’d feel better after a week of beating my head against a wall over a project that matters to me, and getting that much closer to sending it out into the world, than after a week of nothing but video games. I suspect most people would.

It’s not about fun. It’s about fulfillment. It’s about spending my life doing something that matters to me—and however I feel about the writing process on any given day, telling stories still matters just as deeply to me as it did when all my writing was for fun. Maybe more, because my years spent improving my craft have given me a deeper appreciation for what goes into a well-told story and what it can mean to a reader.

I didn’t ruin writing for myself. I don’t even want to go back to how it used to be. I finish my projects now instead of walking away when they’re not fun anymore; I do the unsexy work of revising and editing to make my stories into what I want them to be; and regular practice—however unwilling at times—has improved my skills enough to let me write a book that begins to approach how the idea looked in that initial burst of inspiration, instead of a pale reflection. I sit down at my desk every day and add something to the world that did not exist before. I have no regrets.

And I have friends who looked at what it took to be a professional writer and decided they only ever wanted to write as a hobby. As far as I know, they also have no regrets.

I’ve seen a lot of backlash lately against the idea of following one’s passion. I don’t agree with it. I think a lot of the people who turn their backs on their dreams to go for the smart choice are going to wake up thirty years from now and wonder why they didn’t even try. I believe in doing something with your life that matters to you, insofar as that’s possible, whether it’s how you make money or not. Which means, yes, I believe in chasing your dream and following your passion.

That is, I believe in following your passion as long as you know what you’re getting into.

Just don’t go into it thinking you’ll never work a day in your life. Work you love is still work—and that’s not a bad thing.

Infinite Ink Winter Sale

In my corner of the world, it’s only a matter of time before the snow starts in earnest. I know some of you have already been hit hard. If you need something to read while you’re snowed in (or are just looking for an excuse to stock up on books), the Infinite Ink Authors have more than 10 books free or on sale today. The Torturer’s Daughter is free, and Necessary Sacrifices and No Return are both half-price at $1.99. You can also enter a giveaway for a $100 gift card here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Here’s a full list of all the books that are available:

Zoe Cannon

The Torturer’s Daughter (free)
Necessary Sacrifices ($1.99)
No Return ($1.99)

Aimee Henley

The Scourge (free)

Nicole Ciacchella

Contributor (free)
Infiltrator ($0.99)
Instigator ($0.99)

Katie French

The Breeders (free)
The Believers ($1.99)
The Benders ($1.99)

Shelbi Wescott

Virulent (free)

Ash Krafton

The Heartbeat Thief ($0.99)

There’s everything from dystopian to post-apocalyptic to paranormal romance, so pick what you like and then pass it along to anyone you know who reads YA!

Summer Update

Now that 2015 is more than half over, just a quick update to let you know what I’ve been up to writing-wise:

With the Internal Defense series completed, I’ve been working on the start to my new YA series. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but you may have seen me talking about it on social media from time to time. I can’t say much about it yet – talking about a writing project before I’ve finished it is the quickest way for me to kill the project – but this is what I wrote about it on the Infinite Ink blog last year:

The new series will be longer than Internal Defense (think Harry Potter), and its futuristic world will be very different from the scarily-familiar bureaucracy of Becca’s dystopia. But it will involve a lot of the same core themes – tough moral choices, survival in a grim and dangerous world, finding hope in hopeless situations, and a heroine learning her own kind of strength.

(Oh, and parents who kill people. That too.)

I’m intentionally going slow with this project – the Internal Defense series brought me to the edge of burnout, and I want to make sure I stay mentally fresh while throwing myself into a project as big as this one. But I’ve been working steadily on it, and although I can’t give details, I can confirm that it’s going well.

If you’re interested in learning more about the new project as I work on it, I post periodic updates on my Facebook page… or if you just want to find out when the first book is ready, join my mailing list to get a notification when it’s available for pre-order.

YA Spring Fling Giveaway

YA Spring Fling med

The YA Spring Fling giveaway runs from March 20th to April 3rd and gives readers the opportunity to win ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks and swag from some of the most awesome YA writers around. Head over to Sarah Dalton Books to enter.

Today I’m hosting Laurie Wetzel on my blog as part of the YA Spring Fling blog hop. For more information about Laurie and her books, visit her website or her Amazon page.

What’s your favourite thing about spring?

What I like best about spring is watching nature awaken. We come out of winter, drab and covered in mud, and within a month or two, everything is green and beautiful.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I love giving life to an idea. Stories pop into my head all the time—especially when dreaming. And unless I write them down, they cease to exist outside of my mind.

What’s the worst thing about being a writer?

Not having enough time to write. I have almost a dozen stories waiting mostly patiently to write them.

Tell us more about your books.

The Unclaimed Series follows several characters whose lives intertwine. MJ is an angel, charged with protecting mortals from demons. Justin is a demon who just wants to have fun. Maddy is a mortal who, among other things, has the ability to restore emotions in all paranormal beings.

Tell us something interesting about your main character.

Up until meeting MJ and Justin, Maddy questioned whether there was such a thing as life after death.

Coffee or Tea?

Neither. Never tasted either one, but I’m curious to try some of the fru fru ones just to see what all the fuss is about.

Plotter or Pantser?

Pantser! I let my characters have complete control of their story. I’m just along to jot it down.

Are there any books involved in the YA Spring Fling that you’re secretly lusting after?

Rosamond’s Heart by Cate Dean. The cover caught my eye, and after reading the blurb, it sounds very intriguing.

What was the last YA book you read?

CHARMING by Krystal Wade.

What are your top tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

Work on your aim. Ammo will be limited so make those shots count! Get in with a group you can trust to have your back. Depending on how long the apocalypse lasts, zombies won’t be your only enemy.

What inspires you?

Life. Music, art, stories, movies, conversations, the simplest things can spark an idea.

Where can readers find your books?

Amazon:
http://amzn.to/1luhvqu

Itasca:
http://bit.ly/1oNzNlQ

Barnes & Noble:
http://bit.ly/1qkAcZB

Kobo:
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/unclaimed-6

Copia:
http://www.thecopia.com/catalog/details.html?catId=16411029

iBooks:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/unclaimed/id909062319?mt=11

Scribd:
http://www.scribd.com/book/236768070/Unclaimed

Goodreads:
http://bit.ly/1ldQHdW

Something to read over the holiday weekend…

Or maybe you’re just snowed in like I am. (Is winter over yet?) Either way, if you need some new reading material, my fellow Infinite Ink Authors and I have put four YA novels on sale for 99 cents each, from February 16-18: The Breeders by Katie French, After Life by Shelbi Wescott, and the first two books from my Internal Defense series, The Torturer’s Daughter and Necessary Sacrifices!

Go check them out on Amazon here:
The Torturer’s Daughter
Necessary Sacrifices
After Life
The Breeders

(Guest Post) How to Apologize for Your Series Not Being a Trilogy

The Benders, the newest book in Katie French’s Breeders series, releases today! Check it out here!

How to Apologize for your Series not Being a Trilogy

By Katie French

I’ll admit it here before God and everybody: I broke a cardinal rule of the dystopian series. I did not write a trilogy. Now, once the audible gasp of horror settles down, I want to take a moment to defend myself. My series, The Breeders, will not be ending after my latest installment releases. The reasons for this are legion, but I will give you my favorite. I love a long series. The two best series in my book are The Dark Tower by Stephen King and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. If you haven’t read them, crawl out of your nuclear bomb shelter and head to your local library. If you have read them, you know what a long series can do to a person. Reading these books changed me, for good or ill, only my husband can be the judge. But a long series give the reader time to form some serious bonds with the characters. I wanted that for my readers.

However, I know that some readers will be disappointed when they get to the end of book three and see there is no neat, red-ribbon ending. So, I’ve compiled a list of things I will say to them to excuse my egregious disdain for modern dystopianism.

Tactic 1 – Denial: “What do you mean the series didn’t end with book three? I can’t believe they’d mess up like that. Well, that’s what you get when you rely on Amazon. You know those money-hungry fools are always trying to gouge the little man.”

Tactic 2 – Distraction: “What? Oh, my series? It didn’t end? Speaking of series, did you hear that on the next season of Orange is the New Black that Crazy Eyes and Piper get married? No, really it’s true. I heard it on Access Hollywood.”

Tactic 3 – The “Justin Beiber”: “Yeah, so my series isn’t a trilogy. Who cares? I’ve got good hair and chicks dig me. If I call you baby with my eyes half-lidded, you’ll forget your last name.”

Tactic 4 – Saying Sorry: “I’m sorry that you’ll have to read more heart-pounding, page-turning books. Imagine all the levels of Candy Crush you’ll miss reading more of my stuff.”

Tactic 5 – Honesty:  “I want to give you more in Riley’s world. Stick around. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.”

All jokes aside, I hope you like book three enough to read book four. And really, if we love books and the characters that inhabit them, don’t we wish for more? What I wouldn’t give for another Harry Potter book or another ride with Roland toward the Dark Tower. I hope that someday someone feels the same way about my books. I hope I don’t let them down.

———

katie-french Katie French imagined herself an author when her poem caught the eye of her second grade teacher. It was about birds and frankly, it wasn’t very good, but it sparked a love of literature.  In middle school she spent her free time locked in her room, writing her first young adult novel. This thoroughly solidifying her status as a class-A nerd. She currently works as a high school English teacher, a job that she loves even when it exhausts her. In her free time she writes, reads great books, and takes care of her two beautiful and crazy children.  She is represented by Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary. Her young adult best selling series, The Breeders, is available now on Amazon. 

Check out her Blog / Find her on Facebook / Holla at her on Twitter / Find her books on Amazon Find her on GoodReads

 

———

bendersThe third book in the award-winning, best-selling dystopian series, The Breeders.

They’ve escaped the Breeders.

They’ve  broken out of the Citadel.

Now, after all they’ve been through, Riley, Clay, and Ethan know one thing for sure: nothing tastes sweeter than freedom. And no one can rest easy with Auntie Bell in bondage. The group journeys home to rescue her and liberate Clay’s town from the cruel Warden. But when an ally betrays them, they must face the very enemy they’ve been trying to avoid.

Captured and separated, Riley is sold to a slave-owner who uses human beings for sport, while Clay and Ethan become the latest in a series of lab rats to be poked and prodded. As a slave, Riley conceals her identity to survive among the other benders, but it’s only a matter of time before a dangerous job takes her life. Clay and Ethan find themselves a war zone between a madwoman and marauders. And the odd don’t look good.

“Thrilling, chilling, and creepy in all the right ways, The Benders will more than satiate French’s fans!” –S.K. Falls, bestselling dystopian author of World of Shell and Bone

“A full throttle race to the finish, The Benders is electrifying. The third book in The Breeders Series only made me hungrier for the next.” –Kimberly Shursen, author of thrillers HUSH, Lottery and Itsy Bitsy Spider

“Once again, the characters you know and love are in peril. Don’t pick up The Benders if you have an appointment to make or a train to catch.”Amy R. Biddle, author of The Atheist’s Prayer

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

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.

 

Infinite Ink Authors Birthday Extravaganza

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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

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.