Harperpages

The blog of author Harper Alexander


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Matchy-Matchy and Deadlines

Book Hands

Today I was reading a bit more of The Night Circus, when I closed the cover and was delighted by the sight you see above. I hardly ever paint my nails, and while I wear rings now and then (they are my favorite piece of jewelry), I tend to get irritated with how much they get in the way of functioning and I don’t end up wearing them as often as I’d like to if style were the only factor. So I was quite tickled to find I’d randomly done my nails (while waiting on my silly ancient computer to snap out of its ‘Not Responding’ vacation) and put on a ring that matched the color scheme of the cover perfectly. I had to snap keepsake pic.

In other news, the re-release of Paradise is right around the corner on the 29th, and I still have two scenes to edit. Every single time I sit down to edit them, something else waltzes in and distracts me. And not just frivolous distractions, but actual events that prevent me from editing. I’m feeling a bit cursed, but am determined to get at least one of the remaining scenes edited tonight. Worst case scenario – I’m going to take Friday off work in order to finish, so I can format everything Saturday and get all the files submitted no later than Saturday night, which does still give me a day’s leeway.

Wish me luck!

Book Hands

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New Paradise Release Date

Paradise 3D Group Book Rendering 1

Paradise is back from the new editor, and I’m hard at work applying the suggested edits. Based on the scope of what needs to be updated, and the rate I’m getting it done so far, I have planned the release date for February 29th! Remember, the first edition of Paradise is already out, and this will be a fresher, more polished version replacing the old one. But as far as I’m concerned this might as well be the official release, because I can confidently say this round of edits has helped fulfill the vision I intended for the story, and now everything will be staged as necessary for finishing the sequel. So there you have it! The ‘official’ version of Paradise will be hitting shelves (and e-readers) on February 29th!


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City of Winter and Tarnish Cover Reveal

City of Web and Tarnish

And now, the cover reveal for the second volume in the freshly-edited Mischief saga, City of Winter and Tarnish! I just love it so much. Originally, I entitled this volume City of Web and Tarnish. I always knew I wanted a visual of a door perched on top of a heap of rubble, but I was never quite sure how I was going to fill in the background. Not for lack of ideas, but just because I could have done a number of things and didn’t know what would look best until I sat down to put it together. I always figured I’d just do a faded view of a ruined city or something along those lines, but literally as I was starting the cover design and saving the file, I typed the ‘W’ of ‘web’ into the file name and suddenly thought of the word ‘winter’. It just came to me, and I stopped, cursor blinking, considering the possibilities. I’d really fallen in love with ‘City of Web and Tarnish’, and it made sense, but Winter ALSO sounded amazing, and also happened to make sense plot-wise, since what’s through the doorway is essentially a winter landscape. The more I tried the name on my tongue, the more I liked it. And as soon as I started thinking about the design possibilities, I was sold. I love the graceful twist on what was originally a purely desolate vision, and I’ve always focused on telling the story based on a combination of beauty and horror. So the contrast of delicate lacy snow against grungey, haunted ruins is perfect. I’m so charmed with the result!

City of Web and Tarnish


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Deadly Lush Update

Okay. Here’s the beginning-of-the-year update. I’ve been stuck on Wonderland for quite some time. Partly because I didn’t like how the current scene was fitting into the timeline (but it’s a crucial scene and there’s nowhere else to put it), and partly because I got some amazing new ideas that completely contradict with already-existing amazing ideas. I didn’t know what to do. No solutions seemed keen on presenting themselves. Month after month after month.

Until the idea of a third book trickled in. I resisted, because I’m really trying to not go off on whole long series all the time. If I do, I get far too side-tracked from all of the other stand-alone book ideas piling up on my to-write shelf. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how perfectly a third book solves all of the problems I’m having with the second book’s plot and pacing. It just won’t be denied, and so – yes, there is going to be a third book after Wonderland. I can’t say I’m that upset, really, because from the beginning I thought it would be perfect to have a Paradise, Wonderland, and Eden, but I had no ideas or desire for a third book. But it seems it was meant to be, so now Eden will see the light of day! I’m definitely not upset that I have to come up with another gorgeous cover to match the first two. They were so much fun, and I still can’t get enough of looking at them.

So that’s where I’m at right now. The Deadly Lush books are going to be a trilogy. As soon as I let the third book into the picture, ideas for finishing the second book came pouring in. I have everything outlined and I’m excited about the whole thing again, so here’s hoping I can spew out a ton of words over the next month! I just custom-designed some notebooks and 3-ring binders from Zazzle to reflect the atmosphere of the series, and I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival in the mail so I can fill them up with the rest of the story!

I also custom-designed a new coffee mug, so I’m all set to get back to being a serious writer. Here’s hoping 2016 is more fruitful than 2015. I can do this!

Oh, AND I think I’m going to get Paradise re-edited while I finish Wonderland.


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Paradise – Chapter 1

As usual, I’ve been overtaken by a string of rebel inspiration. Queen of Spades is just shy of being finished (I need to relocate a certain paper with important notes on it before I can actually wrap things up on that front), and I still have great ambitions to blaze through the fourth and final Breathtaker book and get back on the horse where Starless is concerned as well (and, speaking of horses, what about the sequel to Whisper, you might ask? Oy. Yes, that too. Hard to find the inspiration for that one when I feel like the first needs a rewrite…)

In the meantime, the string of rebel inspiration in question is for a book that’s been on the back-burner for years. I’ve been excited about it for years, have wanted to buckle down and write it for years, but have had two conflicting plot ideas to choose between that wouldn’t let me move forward. Well, I finally figured out how to make both of them work rather than choosing between them, and the story just clicked into place, punched me in the face and opened up before me all the way to the horizon, so I had to jump on the inspiration-wave and get to it.

So today I’d like to share with you the first chapter. It’s unedited, since I just wrote it last night, but I’m pleased with how it’s flowing. The book is called Paradise, and this is how the thrilling, fantastical dystopian adventure begins. Enjoy!

***

Chapter 1 – Shore of Hope

The murky tide dragged itself back out toward the ill-colored sea, bubbling and hissing over a broken mosaic of decaying shells. They prattled like shivering clams in the rivulets of bubbles, always pressing closer, always crawling over one another like a horde of ivory beetles. Now and then a crab walked the carnage, click-click-clicking across the shards, and was quickly snatched off the beach by a dirty-nailed hand and stuffed into a bag of other motley tricks.

The people crawled over each other like beetles as well, up beyond the sloping shore and jutting cliff-sides that sequestered the cove. The once-quaint dwellings nestled about the hillsides had been crowded out by secondary shacks, full-up with refugees who had made it across the Badlands to the coast. There was hardly room to breathe, anymore, not that anyone was overly enthused to fill their lungs with the stuff that passed for air. It was difficult to tell if you passed your friends, or neighbors, in the streets, thanks to the gas masks that rendered everyone a similar wasp-like creature.

Shiloh never wondered if she passed her friends in the streets. She didn’t have any. Friends were a burden and a risk when survival was such a fierce issue. She knew well that backstabbing was a way of life, when times were desperate, and she had no desire to culture relationships that might compel her to want to care for others besides herself. She was barely getting by as it was.

Hoisting her sack over her shoulder, she began to scale her choice cliff-side toward the shelf that hosted her shack. She could feel the crab she had collected moving inside the sack, prodding her in the back as she climbed. A strand of red-tinted dark hair stuttered across the eye pieces of her mask in the sea wind, but she had made the climb too many times to need the crutch of sight to find the foot- and hand-holds. Habit saw her shimmy up the ascension like a spider, and then she was weaving in and out of a cluster of shacks to home-sweet-home.

We meet again, you wretched cluster of boarded-up rot, she thought as her rickety door came into view. You had to talk to yourself – and things – when there was no one else to talk to. When friends were few and far between and family was as dead as the crab in her sack was about to be.

Shiloh remembered her family vaguely, but they had all been dead by the time she was six. She remembered the struggle to keep a mask on her claustrophobic mother – the panic attacks that kept seeing her mother strip the apparatus off, exposing her too often to the tainted air. Eventually the exposure had taken its toll, her mother’s lungs and body giving out from the radiation and pollution. After that her older brother had fallen while scaling the same cliff Shiloh scaled every day, and her father had wandered grief-stricken into the sickly waves.

No doubt those keeping their vulture eyes out for dwellings freeing up expected Shiloh to be next, and soon. But when days passed and Shiloh realized no one was coming back to feed her, she had risen on wobbly legs, crossed the room to where her mother’s mask lay discarded, and exchanged it with her own, whispering into the muffled, masked chamber:

“I’ll show you how to do it, Mama.”

I’ll fill your shoes. Don’t worry. I’ll be what you never could.

And though the panic attacks gripped likewise at Shiloh now and then, a similar case of her mother’s condition running through her veins, Shiloh kept her mask-free indulgences to brief sessions on the rooftops every other night, where she liked to sit beneath the sickly stars and gaze seaward, a scarf tied tightly around her face to filter what it could.

With crab in her belly, she sat there now – dark eyes scanning the darker horizon. The ocean fog was a strange color. Gray, but tinged also by a color you could never quite put your finger on. At times brown-ish, sometimes almost violet, and other times still an eerie green hue. Ever-changing, perhaps. Or multi-colored, like a bruise.

Bruised air.

A cold breeze gusted over the rooftops, and Shiloh felt her nostrils flare with the rare opportunity to catch the scents of the world. Her mother had always said she had ‘fierce nostrils’, which flared every time she was angry, or incensed, or determined…

The world smelled of rotting fish and despair. But also…also vaguely of something sweeter. A prick of something that Shiloh could only ever identify as ‘hope’.

Because hers was a shore of hope. People braved crossing the Badlands every year to get to the coast, where they might merit an invitation across the sea to the legendary Paradise. All you had to do was end up being one of the lucky souls to stumble upon a fateful message-in-a-bottle granting you passage, washed up on shore from across the Utopian Sea.

Only a certain number of people could be allowed into the gates of Paradise every year, of course, but deliverance from this dystopian world was an allure that had been drawing people to the coast for years, now. Ever since the first lucky soul had taken a chance on his mysterious message-in-a-bottle and sought to escape the doom and despair, and sent back his own bottled memos of the wonders he had found.

Those that had followed in his wake had upheld the tradition of sending back accounts of their deliverance, of their newfound pleasures and good health, feeding the hope of those who still waited, stranded on this far wretched shore, for their chance.

Shiloh was one such dreamer. Her parents had crossed the Badlands before she and her brother had been born, and so she had grown up on the Coast of Hope. Had grown up watching the sea for incoming vessels – little glass ones that carried with them scrolls of sweet deliverance.

Twice, she had gotten her hopes up when she stumbled upon corked bottle-necks protruding from the sand, only to discover the contents were accounts from those who had made the crossing.

But it was enough to keep her hoping. To keep her hoping and praying that one day, if she watched the troubled waters carefully enough, it would be her turn to secure an invitation across the sea to Paradise.


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What Does it Mean?

spychild new cover  treachery's game new cover

I shared this briefly on Facebook, but realized it would make a good blog post, where I could explore it a tad more deeply.

So, interestingly enough, it turns out my most highly-rated book/series is the first one I ever wrote. It seems that back when I was young and inexperienced, I knew better what I was doing than I do now.

The books I’m talking about are Spychild and its sequel Treachery’s Game, or the combined version known as The Master of the Shadows. I never think of this as my best work, because, well, let’s face it, it was the first thing I wrote, and I wrote it in my teens, and supposedly I’ve  been developing my writing skills and getting better since then. At least, that’s what all the hard work has been for, but maybe I’ve just been fooling myself this whole time (how sad).

Anyway, I never think of this little saga as my best work for the above reasons, but I realized the other day that it has nothing but 5-star reviews on Amazon. Whether you look at the two books separately, or at the combo version, readers seem to have nothing but good things to say about it. None of my other books have gotten away with only praise.

This, of course, is wonderful for this little saga that I all but don’t even consider part of my main bibliography, but… Realizing this has made me stop and think. What did I have then that I don’t now? How has something that I wrote as my debut work in my teens, that took me only a couple months to write, out-shined what I’ve written since I’ve spent time and effort honing my craft? Bettering my grasp on language? Studying story-telling? Learning how to develop characters? Learning how to plot? Learning how to edit?

It seems I should take lessons from my younger self. If only my younger self was still around to advise me…

Anyway, if you want to check out my most highly-acclaimed series, you can do so here (the first book): An Apparently Awesome Little Saga.


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Everything Short of a Mermaid Sighting

In preparation to continue my beachy, mermaid-ish series that started with Breathtaker, I have spent the last few weeks doing extensive research. ‘Extensive research’ includes moving to San Diego, CA, walking six miles to the beach, getting my first sunburn of the year, getting a sunburn on top of my sunburn, catching sand crabs, getting stung by jellyfish, swimming with seals (from somewhat of a distance), getting pummeled by some great waves, and the otherwise regular pastimes of beach-going such as sea-shell hunting and frollicking in the shallows like a child.

I think I’m ready! I have done my best to get the sun in my skin and the sea into my veins, and I think these sequels are going to flow like the ocean itself.

Squeeee! I’m so excited. If only I could write on the beach without either a), Papers blowing away, or b), getting a keyboard-full of sand.