Harperpages

The blog of author Harper Alexander


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The Gates of Atlantis – ‘Deep Breather’ Excerpt with Imagery

She walked on the ocean floor, a voluptuous, billowing dress stretching its endless train out behind her. A shimmery cloud of glitter stirred about her feet with the fine sediment, curling into pearly plumes that rose around her.

Except for this disturbance, the water was crystal clear. Its cold, glassy plane stretched on for miles, colorful fish drifting past, shark silhouettes swarming high overhead. While she didn’t see any of the great beasts themselves, the voices of the wales echoed through the depths as well, that constant chorus she could never seem to turn off.

Where did they call from? Where did they gather to play their enchanting symphony? Or did they call to each other across the water?

And then, up ahead, the water was no longer clear. A murky pall loomed, clustered and still, obscuring something great. A large area of the sea floor was shrouded in murk.

This shroud drew Breya like a moth to a flame. She felt the reflection of it cloud her eyes, drawing her in as if transfixing her, possessing her.

The calls of the wales grew louder. A few more steps, and she felt the vibrations of them, moving through her. It took her breath away–

But what breath?

Had she been breathing, underneath the water?

She walked until she stood at the edge of the pall, and there she paused. What lay within? The calls of the wales were loud now, shrill and reverberating.

A large, glowing jellyfish drifted out of the murk, slow and graceful, manifesting first as a ghostly light and then shedding the murk and appearing in full glory. It rotated ever so gradually in front of her, and she reached up, enchanted, as if to touch it with a finger.

Then the voices of the wales became deafening, and a force of water blew against her like wind just before the great bodies of the creatures emerged in a torrid rush, the pod parting to just barely skirt her.

The jellyfish was churned into the current, tumbling away in a rush of bubbles.

Instead of being bowled over, Breya was simply lifted from the sea floor, where she levitated in breathless wonder.

A dozen or more wales blasted past, their voices echoing around her, their passage stirring the murk from its clingy vigil. The rush of bubbles sustained the obscurity for only a few moments, but as the wales disappeared behind her, clarity seeped over the area.

What the pall had been covering was no less than a city.

And Breya stood at the gates.

She had seen Atlantis in her dreams many times before, but the last few times had been different, like this. They had begun to end with her standing at the city’s gates, rather than drifting about the ruins of the place – and somehow, that felt more symbolic than usual.

She stared in awe at the gates for a moment before closing her eyes and taking a deep, sweeping breath, filling her lungs to the brim as if to ingest the very essence of the place.

Yes. She could breathe.

Cold, ancient nostalgia filled her senses. Magic sparkled through her lungs like a drink of champagne.

How easy, she thought, to get drunk off this place. How divine to revel in its blue liquor.

She opened her eyes, and stepped through the gates.

***

– Excerpt from ‘Deep Breather’. Available March 28, 2014


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The Confidence to Keep Writing – Bestowed or Self-Generated?

I ran across a Tweet on Twitter today, posted by one of the writers I follow, that posed this challenge: ‘The hardest part is that you NEED confidence to keep writing. So how do you do that?’

It’s a very good point, and a very good question, and it got me thinking. There are many things in this field that will discourage us. Bad reviews. Low sales. No one noticing your book to begin with. Any number of things, really, and we can count on one or all of them happening to us, and getting us down. Completely shattering our confidence.

And confidence is one thing that is necessary to keep writing. If you lose confidence in yourself, you lose heart. You stare at the blinking cursor, and read skeptically back over the last sentence you managed to force out, and you sulkily start to believe that you really are delusional, because despite you yourself liking what you wrote, it’s apparent that not everyone else shares that opinion. When the validation stops, and you start questioning the value of the words you’re writing, they lose their steam very quickly.

So, how do you get back on track, and reclaim the fire that once prompted you to listen to the voices to begin with? Once, you were infused with the cause, knowing without a doubt that these visions were transcendent, that these stories needed to be told. It felt amazing to do it, and you couldn’t wait to do it again and again.

I think the answer is right there, in the fact that it started in us to begin with. It’s hard when you don’t receive outside validation, and harder still when you receive the opposite of that. But the fact of the matter is you can never please everyone, and negative feedback is something you can expect. It shouldn’t ruin our confidence in what we believe in, because it’s what we believe in. We should never have been ‘confident’ that we were going to please everyone to begin with.

The discouragement is a reality, of course, and we do have to learn how to cope with that, and get past it. So, how do you do that? How do I do that? Once again, for me, the answer is in the fact that it started in us to begin with. I simply let it rest, give myself some time to get past the initial sting of the outside discouragement, and then I daydream about the project until it returns to a state of being ‘good enough’ FOR ME. I daydream about it until I myself get excited about it again, just because I can’t help it. Because it’s the story I want to be able to read back to myself. That is indeed the main piece of advice I’ve taken to heart as a writer – ‘write the book you want to read’.

If we don’t write for ourselves, because we love what we’re doing, it isn’t going to have much heart or meaning anyway.

There is a second side to this, of course. While we should write because we love it, and should write what we love, I know there are many of us who are trying to write as a career, which means you do have to write for an audience as well, to some degree. But from this stance, I look at the negative reviews as pointers for how I can grow as a writer, how my next book can show more polish, or flow better, or be arranged for better impact. You have to stop taking the criticism as an attack on the heart of your story itself, and take it in a technical sense. You have to take it as something that can hopefully help you craft the next book so that the heart of your story merely gets translated to the reader better, in a way they’re more receptive to.

This won’t completely cancel all the discouragement, because there will still be those that hate your guts, and your heart, no matter what. Even bestsellers have haters. So you have to simply keep that in mind, and trudge forth.

So, the moral of the story – get back to the basics, back into yourself, where the daydreaming allows you to fall in love with what you’re doing. Be open to technical improvement. And learn to ignore the haters that hate other bestsellers.


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These Are Our Waters – ‘Deep Breather’ Excerpt

breathtaker-image-1-web.jpg

Today I figured I would share an excerpt from the part of Deep Breather I’m working on. Enjoy!

***

 We are the predators,” Angust preached to the group of Breathtakers rallied in the underground amphitheater. “We don’t tuck our tails between our legs, and we don’t hide in the crevices. We do the hunting. There may be bigger fish in the sea, but here on land we are at the top of the food chain. And to hunt is our instinct.

“I want Cade brought in. We’ve had a taste of rounding up one of the rascals, and I don’t want to stop there. None of us do. So you have my blessing to swarm the water. Show him it’s not as easy as calling himself a Shark and haunting our waters. We don’t bow to sharks. And these are our waters. So go forth; turn the tables. Bring him down. Bring him in.”

While eager shouts of approval didn’t echo Angust’s speech, a visible keenness spread through the gathering as he spoke. It was easy to see they took to the idea readily, prickling with anticipation, something dark and liberated lighting in their eyes.

Ash watched it creep into their ranks, until Angust’s words rang as true to him as anyone else, because he could see firsthand that he was indeed surrounded by a group of predators. He could see it, feel it, sense it. His skin prickled with a keen instinct of his own, albeit an instinct of decidedly a different nature, because he became all too aware he was the prey in their midst.

He was not one of them. He never had been, and he never would be. And so he sat among them, saying nothing, as they warmed their hearts around the fire posed to take down those like him.


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Deep Breather Cover Tweaks

Deep Breather cover

I’ve made some minor adjustments to the Deep Breather cover, so I thought I would share it again. I’m pretty sure this is the official thing, although I might reverse the gradient on the title… I’m not sure yet. I’ll also lighten it a bit for the paperback version, since they always seem to print dark (especially now that I’ve switched to matte covers rather than gloss).

The book is coming along nicely, finally, and I expect to have it finished within two weeks.

Deep Breather cover


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Those Tricky Book Stores, Always Trying to Sell You Books

I strongly considered going to the book store today, but decided against it for one very compelling reason: if I went to a bookstore, I would want to buy books.

I know, why else do you go to a bookstore? But this is a conversation I have with myself quite frequently: “What should I do today? Well, what sounds fun? I could go to a bookstore – that sounds fun. No, wait a minute, if I go to a bookstore – I’ll want to buy books!”

To be honest, ‘going to the bookstore’ is just what comes to mind when I think about what sounds fun. I honestly don’t think about the ‘buying books’ part until later. The book store is just that place that I want to go. Other people want to go to the park, or the bar, or a coffee shop, and I want to go to the bookstore.

But when that’s your place to go, you go there a lot. And if you buy books every time, it starts adding up. It’s not like the bar, where you go, drink your drink, and take nothing home (at least, I myself don’t take anything or anyone home. I know that’s not the case for everyone). So, okay, let’s use a different example. It’s not like the coffee shop, where you go, consume what you went there to consume, and go home with nothing. When you go to a bookstore, you bring home what you’re going to consume. And it doesn’t disappear when you consume it.

You have to buy shelves to house what comes home from the bookstore. Though, in hindsight, once the stacks have overflowed from the shelves and taken up every spare corner of your living space anyway, you realize you might as well have skipped the shelves, since they’re now only being used to house a fraction of your books.

So it becomes a bit of a problem. But you can’t rid of any books, because that would be like getting rid of your children. And by and by you find yourself at that bookstore again, because where else are you going to go, and home come more children – they needed homes, they really did! – to be stacked on top of the others.

At this point I really have no more room for more books. ‘Well, why don’t you switch to ebooks, then?’ I hear you asking. WOULD YOU SWITCH TO HAVING E-CHILDREN, IF THAT WERE MORE CONVENIENT?

Excuse me, but I like the living, breathing thing.

It’s just that the book adoption center is where I find myself in all my free time. All those beloved characters, needing someone to love them… All those stifled worlds, needing someone to set them free…

That is why I’ve taken to thinking through what happens at a bookstore before going there. To most people, that’s how they do it every time. The logical cause-and-effect process. They think ‘I want to buy a book; I’m going to go to the bookstore’. But to me, the initial cause is ‘going to the bookstore’, simply because it’s a glorious, wondrous, marvelous place. I don’t consider its temptations; I consider its hominess.

But today I thought it through. I stayed one step ahead of what I consider the tricky scheme of the place. You got me last time, Book Store (and the time before that, and the thousand times before that), but I’m onto you now. I know what you’re about. You’re the place that tries to sell me books whenever I go there. And I always fall for it!

But not today. Today I outsmarted you. Today I avoided your brilliant scam.

Don’t worry – I wont be gone forever. But when I want a book, I’ll tell YOU. Not the other way around.

Especially because you always seem to tell me I want five.


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Author James Patterson Giving Grants to Keep Bookstores Alive

As someone who loves actual, physical books made of paper and ink that you can hold in your hands, I declared a new personal hero when I heard author James Patterson was giving out grants to keep bookstores alive. If I were a rich author, I would be doing exactly the same thing with all the extra money that I didn’t need. Maybe one day I can join the cause.

Read the article for yourself here!


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Deep Breather Release Date

Deep Breather cover

Now that I’m over the halfway point, and to help motivate me to wrap things up in timely manner, I’ve taken the plunge and set a release date for Deep Breather.

That’s right – the third book in the Breathtaker saga will be available March 28, 2014! I’ve set a schedule and am getting up early to write for two hours every morning before work, and it seems to be working nicely. I’m fairly confident there will  be no trouble getting it finished and polished within a month’s time!

So there you have it. March 28, everyone. That’s my story (no pun intended), and I’m sticking to it.