Harperpages

The blog of author Harper Alexander


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Six Month Blogoversary

So, guys, I missed my six month anniversary on here.  I was going to do something special, but I don’t know what, and now I’ve missed it anyway.

But one thing I didn’t miss this year, which is enough of a celebratory event that coincides with my blog’s six month anniversary, is entering the AMAZON BREAKTHROUGH NOVEL AWARD contest.  I have been trying for about four or five years to enter this contest, and somehow I miss the submission deadline every year.  But not this year.

Unfortunately, I’m sharing this too late for anyone else to read this and decide they want to enter, too.  But perhaps you were all aware of it already, and more on top of things than I am.  If not…  Sorry to spread the word just past the deadline.  Heh.

I realize there’s probably not a huge chance of getting all that far in the competition, but hey, I JOINED.  If I didn’t, I would always wonder.  Now I don’t have to, and I know how (to join), and I can do it with ease every year.  One day, maybe I’ll have a book finished that happens to be winner material.  Who knows!

In the meantime, here’s to six more months of blogging and new milestones!

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The Beginning of Crooked Bird

I’ve been focusing mainly on my YA novel ‘The Tournament of Eden’ lately, but for the times when I’m burnt out on that I decided to go ahead and let myself work on an alternative project simultaneously. I have a number of stories (sequels and such) that need to be worked on, and they’re certainly queued for progress as soon as I have the proper inspiration, but since said proper inspiration hasn’t struck me yet, I’ve gone ahead and started something new, because I WAS stricken with the inspiration for it. Sometimes, like it or not, that’s just how it works. So long as I don’t get TOO offtrack and forget queued works entirely, I’m getting to a place where I’m okay with letting inspiration run its desired course.

So, that being said – onto more relevant introductions! My new story, which I intend to craft as a novella (but THAT often changes) is called Crooked Bird.  It’s a more lyrical, ‘rich’ sort of narrative than the easy-read adventure I’ve been having fun with for The Tournament of Eden, and I think I need this type of project to keep my dreamer’s soul properly fed.  I’ve gone back and forth between these two writing styles a LOT, trying to find my niche, but the truth is I really enjoy doing both, so both it is!

And with that long-winded introduction, I’d like to share an excerpt with you all, because I said I was going to start doing that.  Here is the first chapter of Crooked Bird for your enjoyment:

…………………………………….

I had heard rumors of the place same as anyone growing up. The kind of gnarly echoes that frighten a child, but fade into perspective as a twisted sort of therapeutic chatter that defines their real core, as you realize with age you live in a time where story – any kind of story – is the best escape anyone can seize.

I was born the day before the war ended. A rosy-skinned symbol of hope, wet with life, as so many ashen-skinned heroes lay in the same wet that, for them, meant death. You could say only one day of my life was flavored with the war-torn salt that rained on the wounds of that generation, but I bear something greater than a wound because of it. I bear an emptiness, because of the father the war took from me,  before I ever knew him. Sometimes I think I can remember being born, and that my cries had nothing to do with leaving the warm cocoon of my mother’s body and everything to do with the fact that I knew – somehow I knew my father was dead, and I grieved for him as my first awareness.

I never told my mother that I felt this connection to him. What was I to say? ‘When I cried coming out of the womb, it was because I knew my father was dead, and grieved for him’?

I never had the opportunity to tell her, anyway. For she was stricken by the emptiness far more severely than I was, and paid attention only to the window after my birth, as if she were so fragile that she had to put herself in a glass case, or at least the illusion of one. I knew my mother’s face only by the pale reflection of it in that pane, always staring out at the stubby forest of chimneys that sprouted from the rooftops of Slateburrow Street. What did she find in those chimneys? Did she numb her mind tracing the abrasive mortar between bricks with her conscious? Did she see visions in the chimney-smoke?

Did the clusters of brick begin to blur after staring at them for so long, shifting behind tricks of smoke until they took on the shapes of gargoyles, becoming entrancing, frightening sentries that kept her rooted there?

I used to wonder this, as a wispy-blond child, freckled with innocence and awe, because I had woken from many a nightmare and turned away from the frightening shadows of my room only to find myself staring out the window at those very same chimneys, and mistaking their dark shapes for gargoyles myself.

Later, when I got older and gained a notion of bravery, I began to sneak out onto the rooftops at night and paint pretty pictures on those chimneys so my mother would have something pretty to stare at, and to be sure they couldn’t be mistaken for gargoyles anymore. I spent a good three years of my young life dedicated to this cause, a nightgown-clad cherub-saint growing up on moonlight and paint fumes, the chafe of off-shoulder lace against the downy goosebumps of my skin and the slate-brittle shrapnel of shingles beneath my feet. It was an unorthodox childhood, to be sure, but at least I was putting myself to good use. Unlike those who spent their days staring into nothingness or dumping bottles of spirits down their throats as if to replace the spirit that had died inside them.

Unlike the ones who gave themselves mindlessly to story and fantasy and the gossip of everyone else’s life but their own in order to escape reality, which was the most prominent fad of all. Dothame’s opera houses, libraries and gossip parlors were like anthills in those days, dedicated streams of legs always going to and from. Often, the legs ambled with a limp, or weren’t a pair of legs at all but one limb of flesh and blood and one imposter, made of wood or innovative synthetic material or something entirely more questionable.

Questionable, of course, only because the story-happy population of Dothame latched onto the irresistible opportunity to twist reality into something different; namely, in this case, the perfect theme for a new kind of speculation about the place.

The Place being that infamous, savagely-mystical isle across some impossibly hidden ocean, where devil tribes and bestial herds are said to roam, and all manner of unnatural things are bred and born and never beheld.

Legends of this place preceded my time by many generations, but the missing limbs gave it a new angle. A trick of shadow as a man’s trench coat flared wide about his deformity, or a particularly unnatural limp, was all it took for the story-mongers to start the rumor-mill churning, speculating about how so-and-so’s peg-leg looked a little more bestial than wooden, and about some ridiculous black market of limb concocting and trading going on between our city and the strange, fantastical isle across that hidden sea.

My best childhood friend, Leea, prided herself in being one such story-monger, always going on about some new glimpse of iridescent feathering about a man’s ankles or elephant-like hide where the flesh or boot of his calf ought to have been.

I, the skeptic of the two of us, challenged her fantasies with the same denouncement every time:

“Where would you hide an ocean, Leea?”

And of course, she never had an answer at the ready for that.

There were places, though. Places one could hide an ocean. As an explanation for knowing as much, as I do now, let us just say I did not spend that coming summer in the libraries and parlors and opera houses like everybody else…


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‘Ace’ Freebie Promotion

Today through June 4th, my Young Adult fantasy Ace can be downloaded for free over at Amazon.com!

Just follow this link! – Ace

Ace is one of my less serious works – by which I mean, I wrote it largely for fun, and didn’t necessarily focus as much on the ‘art’ of the prose.  Of course it ended up with an art all its own (just one a little more dependent on an edgy, sarcastic narrative than one of poetry) and also developed its own kind of depth.  This is a work where, more than ever before, I allowed my silly side to come out, and just had a great time – but no work is complete without developing its own kind of meaning, which it did, and Ace (and its sequels) now have just as special a place next to my heart as all the others.

Here is its blurb:

“There will be crime on your hands, and treachery on your heels. A cruel, cruel world on your shoulders, and no flowers on your grave. And the joke, well…unfortunately, bless your heart, the joke will be on you. Only you. For there is a presence of hostility whose fangs are sunk deep into your future. There are gnashing teeth on your heels and around every bend. There is a price on your destiny. The bounty hunters among the angels will be after you. There is no stealth, Lady Spade. There is only running. So I suggest you run.”

If she had been so lucky, Ace might have received just such a warning. But the entirety of the point, here, is that she’s not. She has been chronically hapless from the web of the womb. Cursed with relentless, ruthless misfortune. Her very own entourage of bad luck, its signature everywhere, its shadow widespread and swift. The only compensation for this forsaken fate, destiny’s sole remedy: the fact that she is gifted and lucky at cards. Grossly lucky.

But survival is far from sympathetic. And not all games are as easy as cards on a table.

(Edit: cancelling the last two days of the free promotion to take advantage of a more strategic timeframe to finish it up in.  Also because there seem to be a few errors/glitches in the Amazon.com sales page for this title and its information.  Not sure what’s going on there.  We will see.)


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The ‘Book a Month’ Project

As I sit here trying to figure out precisely what I would like the main focus of this ‘writer’s blog’ to center around, the obvious occurs to me: I have recently undertaken the challenge/project of writing a book a month.  I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out if I want to think of this (and if I want other people to think of this) as a writer’s blog, a reader’s blog, a self-publishing blog, or a general literary blog.  I like (and have things to say and share) in all of these categories, but it’s nice to have a constant.  Something everything else accumulates around.

I started thinking about other blogs – how people like to follow other people’s unique journeys of one sort or another, how the most successful blogs seem to be those where someone undertakes some interesting or never-before-seen challenge.  And I realized, quite un-eloquently: duh.  I turned to my mother, sitting in the next room just waiting to be a consultant (read: a source of affirmation) and promptly informed her of the ditz she had birthed for not identifying, amid the search for blog-worthy content, the potential of the fact that I have in fact just undertaken the unique, arduous task of writing a book a month.  “I mean, be honest,” I said, “How many people do you know who are writing a book a month?”

And, being the source of affirmation I have come to count on, she confirmed it: “Wellll – no one, I guess.”  And there you have it.  My unique undertaking to add to the subscription pool.

Here’s how it works.  Basically, as stated, I write a book a month.  Thus far it has only been going on for two whole months, but – so far, so good.  I was inspired to try this following a rather life-changing loss of a source of stability I had been counting on for my future, wherein I found myself asking: what am I going to do?  With myself, my life, my career…  As any aspiring writer can attest to, an aspiring writer does not typically pay the bills with their aspirations.  While it is our dream to turn our passion into a career, it is a hard, hard market to get a good break in, and even if you have what it takes, it is often painstaking.  You have to do something else along the way.

And that’s exactly what I had been doing.  ‘Doing something else’ while I kind of wrote on the side.  Compared to most people, even many writers I know, I wrote a lot, but it was still at more of a ‘hobby’ level as far as time and attention went, because frankly other things were paying the bills.  And there were advantages to only spending so much time and attention on writing.  It meant that whenever I did write, I was totally eager to, and there was all this pent-up creativity just waiting to be unleashed onto that paper.

But I started thinking to myself: what if I actually put as much time, attention, and effort into this as I would academic assignments or work?  What if I actually treated it like a job, and set goals and deadlines for myself?

I knew that such a clause had the potential to kill creativity and see me quickly burnt out, but the idea intrigued me.  It certainly couldn’t hurt to try, and I was interested to find out if I could actually do it, and what kind of results it would produce.  So I decided to go ahead with it.  If it totally killed my creativity, I would cut back and loosen my expectations, but in the meantime I would surely at least make some decent progress.

Well that was two months ago, now, and the trial has been thus far successful.  I decided to set a quota for myself of 1,700 words a day, which by the end of a given month amounts to a nice, round, book-length 50,000.  Sometimes I write less than 1,700, and sometimes I write way more, and sometimes the book ends up being 60-, 70-, or 80-thousand words, but so long as I reach at least 50,000, I’m perfectly happy to let it be whatever beyond that it aspires to be.

Surprisingly, it’s quite easy to just sit down and write 1,700 words a day.  Except where other engagements are concerned, that number is not an overwhelming amount of words for a writer.  Who knew discipline was all it took?

There are definitely times where it feels as though I’m burning out creative reserves, or where I feel the pressure of plotting and developing things on a schedule.  There are many times I start second-guessing my work, thinking ‘What if I’m pushing it?  What if this is junk?  What if I’m ruining one of my babies or stifling its potential by pushing it through?’  But then I remind myself it’s a first draft, nothing is set in stone, and in the end, when it’s time to edit – if I like it, I keep it; if I don’t, I fix it.  And it all comes together, and no world (mine, or that of the book) falls to pieces.

And, as there’s no high like finishing a book, the gratification is proving enough to spur me on to the next project.  Hopefully, blogging about it will only boost its energy.  There’s nothing like having a sounding board, and a group of followers to be accountable to, to keep something alive and kicking.  And if this project serves to inspire someone else along the way – I will be all the more glad I chose to blog about it!

I would love it if you joined me on this journey.  It is always a pleasure to hear from readers and other writers – and of course, as a writer, it is always the best kind of reward and fulfillment just to have readers.  I will keep you all up-to-date on book progress and ideas, and hopefully we’ll all have some other literary fun along the way!  There’s lots of fun stuff in the literary world to share and discuss these days.

Let the official kick-off of the Book-a-Month project commence!