Covers, Covers, Covers (and a dose of Nano)

I despise making covers. Hate it. Seriously. Anyhow… for my nano novel this year I’m planning to do the second book in a series. The first book being Spider’s Game.

Spider's Game3

The upcoming book is Spider’s Gambit. Its all outlined (as much as I ever outline). Now I’m starting the part I like least. Making myself a cover. So far I have three options. And I’d love opinions on what works best.

Spider's Gambit 2 Jesse Sprague Spider's Gambit 3 Spider's Gambit

I also have been experimenting with new covers for my fantasy novel Kingdom South. Two options there…

Kingdom South option 2 Kingdom South option 4

Now that I’ve spent all day playing with pretty pictures… Perhaps I should get back to the real work.

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Everyone Needs a Support Group… Doesn’t Mean I’m not Crazy

I’m getting overwhelmed by everything I “have to do” right now. And sadly, the more overwhelmed I get, the less likely I am to do any of it. I just get tired. Like down to the bones, aching tired. I think all day about all the things I need to get done that I can’t as long as I have a three-year-old trying to wrestle onto my lap. Then when his bedtime rolls around, all I have energy to do is crawl into bed.

I have a novel 3/4ths of the way drafted, with people who have already stated an interest in beta reading… and I haven’t written a word on it in weeks. Every other writing project is fairing about the same.

The only thing I’ve managed to write is a few one-off horror stories. Which I can only assume is because there was no pressure to write them. I sat down, dumped out my thoughts, vented my hidden bloodlusts and was done. I have this fear that if I edit my horror pieces more than a good once over I’ll just stop writing them.

But the biggie is… I have my novel out with agents and editors, waiting on a response. There is nothing I can do about that. Nothing. But somehow it puts extra weight on the other things like somehow if I just wrote more on my fantasy novel, or finished that rough draft, or finished editing my paranormal-scifi… somehow that would help my chances.

It’s like a noose just hanging over my head. Not doing anything but waiting to swoop down and destroy me at any moment. I feel like shouting “I can’t do this! I’m not strong enough, I give! I’m out.”

I won’t because I can’t. There is nowhere to go but forward. So I pile these projects around myself to keep busy and then I drown in them.

I’ve found myself wondering this week if it will always be like this. Will the possibility of rejection always hang this heavy? Why can’t I just find a way to find contentment?

Speaking of… on a completely different note— my novel Deprivation is a fraction away from 20k views. All week, that’s the thread I’ve been holding onto (and trying desperately to keep my brain from reminding me that 20k isn’t nearly 200k or 2 million… I really need a zapper to silence that voice.)

Visit The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Family & A Tiny Terror

This week has been a scramble and I admit, I’m not entirely prepared to blog. Things with the family have just been so busy. My dog needed surgery (which in Seattle is unaffordable. I had to go down to Oregon) and before that it was camping.

Me, my baby boy, and one of his three grandmothers out camping

Me, my baby boy, and one of his three grandmothers out camping

Not only have I not thought through an adequate blog entry… I haven’t been writing. So… I’ll post the little bit of writing I have done. A short horror story I call- Laura’s Smile (its still unedited at this point. This is mostly to keep me motivated!)

Horror, Laura's smile

Jesse Sprague Author Laura’s Smile

The worst nights plunged me into the dream, always the same dream. Picturesque but somewhere under the layers I always knew, right from the start, that it was a nightmare. I step out the patio door onto the worn wood deck and drop my backpack at my feet. Heavy with books, it clunked down and at the sound they both looked up at me.

Laura had a plum tree in her parent’s backyard and the summer had been a hot one. The limbs still sagged from the weight of forgotten fruit. She sat in its shade, only her painted toes sticking out into the early September sun. Her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail fell in an untidy mess down her back. She wore his sweatshirt despite the heat, but I hardly noticed because her smile outshone it all. An expression of pure joy that eclipsed the sun and inside I screamed at myself to look away. She lifted a hand and waved at me, motioning me over.

My eyes fastened on her smile, on the slight gap between her teeth, the crinkles at the corners of her eyes.

Next to her, he was a shadow, unimportant to the dream though at the time he’d seemed all important to me. This boy who sat beside my Laura, held her hand, gave her his sweatshirt.

I smiled back at her as my heart splintered into pieces. That happiness scalded me and internally I writhed under the weight of her joy.

A scream ripped me from the familiar dream. On the bunk above me my cellmate grumbled and turned over. The bed creaked blending in a cacophony with my erratic heart. Her smile followed me from the dream, painting itself on the night. A smile she gave to me.

I kicked free of my blanket and rolled off the bed turning to the wall where her face stared back at me. Most of the face was vague, forgotten with time but the smile was perfect, joyful and it accused me. Underneath the image were my words: Live for Laura. I fell on my knees and pressed my hands together in the only sort of prayer I knew.

I couldn’t undo that night. I’d come to terms with that. I’d come to terms with my actions and the iron finality of them. I had to own them and no action I took could ever undo what I took from her. Fifteen and with a single hour I’d defined my life, killed my future and hers. But I was still here and as I gasped sucking air into my lungs, I repeated my familiar mantra to myself.

Earning back her smile was impossible and I deserved the torment of the dreams. Seeing her smile and knowing I’d destroyed it and that I was only witnessing a reflection. But every day I could live in her honor, try and do her memory proud. Perhaps, was it possible I could someday outweigh that single act and meet her in heaven? No. That was beyond me, but perhaps I could earn a quiet peace.

When I’d caught my breath, I stood up again. Tomorrow I’d have a chance. Parole was the brightest hope I’d had. I was so young then, I’m a different man now. But I should try and be rested.

So I crawled back beneath the blanket. Laura’s smile never haunted me twice in an evening so I closed my eyes in peace. Sleep was foggy on my brain when a soft wind stroked my cheeks. Cold as graveyard wind, my first instinct was to turn away but my body was heavy. A smell like meat left out too long in the heat swamped my nostrils.

“Joey,” she whispered. Her voice was hoarse and wet. More of a gurgle than a human tone but still I knew her.

Laura. I squeezed my eyes closed.

“I don’t want you to live for me,” she said. Hands slipped under the blankets, fingers thin as bone stroked me. “You touched me, Joey, after you stabbed me. Did you like me better dead?”

“So sorry Laura. I can’t take it back.”

Her grip on me was tight and something slimy and cold slid from my ear to my mouth. Against my will my eyes opened. Her mouth was next to mine, lipless and rotted. She grinned, no longer a gap tooth smile. One of her front teeth was missing. I felt a phantom pain in my knuckle, remembering the punch to her jaw that had dislodged tooth, sending it spinning into her throat. Blood had spurted from her mouth as she coughed and gagged.

“Sorry? I don’t want sorry.”

She wasn’t there, couldn’t be there, but the smell blocked out all reason. And my body responded to her touch in ways I didn’t intend. Her flesh against me was spongey and slick. The nightshirt was torn at the neck, falling open to reveal sunken, rotted breasts in a blood-caked bra.

“Stop,” I said.

“There’s only one thing I want from you.”

I shoved her but she was stronger now. She held me down and even as I heard her finger bone’s snap I couldn’t so much as budge her. She laughed and black saliva dripped to my face. And then she was gone. I gagged and turned on my side, next to my head was a blade.

I picked it up reverently. A gift from Laura. The blade shone in the sallow light and I stretched a finger toward the gleam. The steel burned cold, far colder than the room around me. Even in the dim light, I recognized the blade.

Ten years ago, I’d bought this same weapon. Meant for hunting, it had an odd weight unlike that of the military knives my uncle kept in a locked cabinet or my parent’s kitchen knives. The impressive size impressed me at fifteen, made it seem destined, a sign I was acting out some sort of divine will not just a deluded teenage urge.

I slid a finger down the edge half-expecting her blood to coat my fingers, drip down my wrists. Half dried blood became sticky, like honey coating my skin… but the only blood was the warm, wet trickle from my finger. Laura’s gift seemed to drink the liquid leaving the blade pristine.

My finger lifted to my mouth and the sharp metallic taste brought a flood of memories. Her blood spurted up, spraying into my eyes, my nose, and my mouth. My hand fell away and I grinned, for a moment I might have walked on air.

Was this what she wanted? Could it be that my blood would pay the price, earn her forgiveness? I was willing to devote the rest of my life to honoring her, but I was aware nothing I did could bring her back. If my death could earn me true clemency…

I recalled her blood warming my thighs as I plunged the blade through the hand she used to shield her face and then again into her chest.

I lifted the blade to my throat. Fitting for a hunting blade, a quick pressure across the throat and the animal died. Cold steel settled against the hollow of my throat. My eyes closed, and I took in a deep breath, her scent still lingered in the air, abrasive and angry.

My grip tightened.

My cell-mate let loose a loud rattling snore and my eyes flew open to the dreary cell and the picture of Laura’s smile on the wall.

No. My death would solve nothing. It would not balance the scales. I’d already wasted one life, wasting another wasn’t the answer. That was why I’d tried so hard for parole. The best way to earn my soul back was to live. But if Laura wanted me to suffer, perhaps parole wasn’t the answer either.

I stood and pivoted, staring my grizzled cell-mate in the face. I lifted the knife and held it over his neck. So simple, I kill him and I’d never get out. And I’d be taking out a fiend. My grin broadened thinking of the deluge of blood. Thinking of how his hands would raise to his neck, trying to hold the life inside him. Power ran in me and I was a god. Life and death were mine.

Again the blade fell. No, it meant nothing if I enjoyed it. Would I have enjoyed it…No. It was only thoughts of earning Laura’s forgiveness that were confusing me. I wasn’t a killer. It was just a mistake.

I tucked Laura’s gift under his mattress. I was getting out tomorrow and I was sure she’d understand I couldn’t’ be caught with a hunting knife. I settled back into my bed. Yes, tomorrow I would be free.

** This story was inspired by a documentary I watched on mandatory life sentences for killers who committed crimes while under 18. While the central idea (the horror of the smile) was from a specific person in that documentary, the crime is not. I don’t like the idea of fictionalizing real people’s pain. Laura is purely fictional and not based on any real victim.

https://www.wattpad.com/159844646-12-01-and-other-tiny-terrors-12-01-laura%27s-smile

The Lost Path, Found

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up. As an author, as a girlfriend, as a student, as an employee…it’s the same urge. Just bone-aching tiredness inside and knowing that I’ll never get to what I want. Even if I got there, the goal would move and leave me grasping.

I’ve had enough nights lying awake regretting something stupid I said or did to last me until eternity. And sometimes, I have given up. I want to write down a particular moment in my life this week. I don’t know if anyone will read, but it means so much to me that I feel like I have to get it down.

After graduating college, getting a job…all that junk. I finished my first series of novels. Sent them out. Got turned down. Gave up. I didn’t have the time, energy or hope to succeed. So I let it go. And as the years went by I wrote a bit here or there but it was only because I couldn’t ‘not write.’ I didn’t finish anything and I never tried to get published or show my work to anyone.

My mom kept pushing for me to keep trying. My husband never pushed, but he always encouraged, even a whisper of that dream. My dad would ask every time I talked to her “You writing anything.” But I wasn’t.

Then my mom, god bless her heart, apparently decided she was going to take things into her own hands. She contacted a man she knew at church who happened to be a published author and own a small publishing house. She asked him to talk to me.

That is how I met Nathan Everett. We talked about nothing in particular, my goals, my writing, all those things I thought I had buried. He asked me to send him some of my writing to look at and we set up a coffee date to talk. So I sent him my novella Shopkeeper.

When I met up with him, mind you this was only to talk, I had not sent him something to be published, just so he could see what I wrote. He sat me down, told me how much he loved it. Said that he wanted to publish the piece. He said that if I needed he would pay all the costs. That he’d only ever offered this to one other client, but he thought this little story of mine should be seen.

Well, things didn’t work out that way, but I will be forever thankful to him for that moment.

Sheesh, I’m crying again thinking about it, and I cried then. After giving up on myself. Completely. Admitting–this won’t happen. This can’t happen and dreaming about it hurts too much. After living that emptiness for so long, to have someone (who wasn’t family…was in fact, part of the industry) believe in me just broke down all those walls.

And I remembered how badly I wanted this. I remembered how alive I felt when I wrote. And I wanted that, I wanted it so badly it hurt. Not to get published, though I wanted that too. I wanted the dream back, pain and all. Because that’s who I am and without it, I was living a half-life.

That’s not who I want to be for my son. It’s not who I want to be for me.

So I picked back up the metaphorical pen and I wrote. I started to do my research. Joined a critique site to learn to do it better. I did Nanowrimo. I entered a contest. I wrote short stories. I tried. I tried every day and I knew that this time I couldn’t give up.

One person believed in me and that was enough. It was like a shield against all the doubt.

And no, I’m not a bestselling author now (ten months later…) but in the past year I’ve had a short story published, been a finalist in the PNWA’s literary contest and have a featured story on Wattpad.

And that’s because I decided to live. But more importantly I decided that no matter what it took I’d do it. I learned to use commas for god’s sake… I finished a degree in English Lit without bothering to know how to do that.

img041

So this is me saying thank you. Thank you to Nathan for believing in me when he had no reason to. Thank you to my mom for using her magical mom powers of knowing everything 😉 And thank you to my husband for supporting my dreams completely, never even complaining that I am not at my computer 100% of the time. I have so much in my life, and its not just writing.

I Put Words on Paper (or Computers) so I Write Words

A question I’ve been hearing a lot of recently is “So what do you normally write? What is your passion?” My auto response has been that I write science fiction with an eye to fantasy, but the more I think about it, the more that isn’t true.

The truth is I write a lot and I’ve always discounted my horror writing as being my slack off pieces. But that’s not what horror is to me at all, it’s just a different sort of release, a different style of imagining. Most of my short stories are horror and many novels have a bent towards that. But these aren’t slack off pieces or throw away bits. They just come from a different part of my psyche and refuse to conform to rules. In trying to make them fit for traditional publishing, I do feel like I’d have to sacrifice the integrity of the story, but that doesn’t mean are any less worthwhile to me… just that I won’t be querying them. So I feed them to the ravenous beast that is Wattpad, where they meet a few appreciative eyes.

Horror Novel Cover

Horror Novel Cover

The reason I think I see my sci-fi/fantasy as being “what I really write” is that those are the works I am willing to go through a gazillion drafts. They are the babies whose basic nature does not seem averse to traditional publishing.  I recently tried to put a fantasy novel up on Wattpad, or the beginning to one, and there is this horror in me that I’ve now killed this novel’s chances for publication. But it’s a tight spot. Having only horror and horror sci-fi visible means that any agent considering my sci-fi/fantasy works is going to say “Wow, she doesn’t really write what she’s pitching.”

In conclusion, this is one big vent. I write prolifically. I write because I must. I write because I’m inspired whether that inspiration be a shiver that crawled up my spine while darting across a dark parking lot, a fascination with gothic heroine’s and their kidnappability, a desire to build a world to suit a spiffy MMO character (Yes…this is how several of my characters have come to me…don’t judge.)Felix

I write how I read. My bookshelves became acquainted with Christopher Pike when I was twelve. They met their first fantasy heroine when I was eight. Science fiction came later but in a rush as I drank in old classics and newer gems. Telling someone which of these genres I read would be impossible because the truth is I read them all. I’ve even been known to sneak in a steamy romance when no one was looking…saved some of those too…they are all missing covers. I read and write fantasy because the world we live in can feel like a trap. A release has an exotic beauty to it. I write sci-fi because I like to play god, toy with worlds, universes, cultures. I read sci-fi because I like to be part of other authors playing the same god games I do. And I read and write horror because the dark undercurrent of fear makes me feel alive.

fantasy horror author

Sexy Lamps, Roses and Villainous Rodents

Rabbits! My next novel will feature one of these nefarious beasts asthe villain. Yes, a fluffy, hippity-hoppity devil monster.

For two years now, I’ve been trying to regrow some rose bushes the previous owners of our house cut down. I spray them (to keep the bunnies off.) It rains. The bunnies eat them. I spray them again, water them…the bunnies eat them. This year I bought chicken wire and caged the roses, sprayed them, watered them…the bunnies ATE THEM.

I should take solace that at least they made it through most of the summer this round and my raspberry bushes are not completely destroyed. I don’t.

One of these days, I’m going to aim for one of those furry beasts in the driveway and hit it. This will be followed by a maniacal laugh. I swear this time I will not be stopped by the “aw, it’s cute” reflex or the “it’s only acting on its nature trying to survive,” hippy morals I was raised with. Bunny is going down.

Both on and off topic does anyone remember the Buniculla books? My bunnies aren’t like that. They are pure evil. Thought I’d clear that up.

The novel with a bunny as the villain will also have a sexy lamp in place of the female protagonist. You’re welcome.

http://sjwiki.org/wiki/Sexy_lamp_test#.VcQlZ_lVhHx

Kingdom South- New Wattpad story

I’ve finally worked up the courage to branch out on Wattpad and post a little fantasy. In its current incarnation, the piece is called Kingdom South. The novel is a tale that weaves a dark tapestry of fairytales together.

Kingdom South

Cover for fantasy novel by Jesse Sprague

It was a lot of fun to write and I hope it will be as much fun to read. If you are at all interested:

https://www.wattpad.com/152166383-kingdom-south-part-1-let-down-your-hair-chap-1

Lost to time Vayle waits, her hair in a pool around her. A single door leading from her tower. A door she dares not take. Magic has passed from the world, banished and feared but still Vayle abides. She sleeps until the voice of the third son of a king ignited the silence. Surrounded by a graveyard of time and trees, everything around her shouts of death but Vayle dares to hope for something else.

What happens to the maid with the long hair if the witch never returns to the tower? What happens to Snow White if the king is more wicked than the step-mother?

Part one Cover

Cover art for part 1: Let Down Your Hair

The Best Writing I’ll Ever Do

You know what the worst is? No? Well, how could you there are a bazillion answers to that. At the moment, I’m talking about rewriting. Now let me be clear, there are different kinds of rewriting. Most of them are not awful at all. Like:

When you decide a scene doesn’t work and cut it. Then you have to rewrite

When you decide a scene no longer makes sense because of other changes so you rewrite parts.

When you decide a scene isn’t adding enough so you cut it and add in some sort of one line transition.

Now all of these don’t suck. They aren’t always fun, but they don’t suck. I have a magical folder on my computer called ‘deleted scenes’ in which I hold these little gems. I never look at them again but having them there keeps there from being a little hole in my soul.

What sucks is when you LOSE your work and have to rewrite it. For me what happens then is whatever I wrote becomes the best writing I ever did, will ever do. It is impossible I can ever write that so well again. In fact, I might as well give up writing because to write that again would only be a shallow imitation of real art.

Why do I feel this way? If you know, I’d love to be educated. All I know is logic doesn’t have any part of the madness.

This week I lost one of my notebooks, in which there were several scenes I had not yet transferred to the computer. I obsessed. I turned the house upside down. I sat at my computer and pried approximately five words out of myself over a solid hour before quitting.

This morning I found that notebook and read the scene. It’s awful. Terrible. Just… I don’t even want to put it on the computer.

On the upside, since I couldn’t get any real writing done last night I got a huge laugh out of doing character interviews with some friends on CC. And did a final edit of my synopsis before sending out some queries today.

But I think I’ll frame that awful scene. Literally frame it on my office wall and stare at it next time I lose/delete something I can’t retrieve. Maybe I will believe tangible proof that just because it’s gone doesn’t mean it’s good.

Oh and my phone is still broken so now I get to decide if I’m going to dredge up some internet pictures of find some highly inappropriate picture from my personal stash to tack onto this.

If I Knew how to Speak, I Wouldn’t be a Writer.

Well, this was an eventful weekend. I attended the PNWA literary contest and I learned several things, mostly about myself but also about the world at large.

The first is… I’m not crazy; I’m just a writer. Having met other writers it has suddenly clicked that all those things other people give me ‘that look’ for…are things all the other writers do too. It was so liberating to stand in a room with people who understood things like ‘I don’t know where my book is going now. My characters refused to do what I wanted.’

The second is… smartphones are really fragile. Like ridiculous. Standing in the bathroom this morning my cell slipped from my exhausted fingers to the tile. Now I am not 80,000 feet tall. It did not fall from the roof of a building. From my hand to the ground. Even if I was holding over my head (which I wasn’t) that’s what? Just a little over six feet? Shattered the screen and I must now make an e-bay trip to see if I can avoid paying $400 + for a new one.

The third is… I’m not nearly as bad a loser as I thought I was. I was really worried that as a finalist in the contest I was going to be super upset when I lost (yes that is how I thought of it.) But when the awards came I found I was almost as excited for several of the other finalists as I was for myself. I found myself calculating the odds that either me or the two others I was rooting for in my category would place. 9 finalists. 2 winners…and discovered it was actually pretty good odds. Well, I didn’t place, but one of the others I was gunning for finished first. And despite my apparently compulsively low opinion of myself I was legitimately happy.

I keep emotionally poking myself trying to dig up some of that gooey self-hatred I expected and nothing’s there. I am just happy to have met the amazing people I did and happy that such deserving people won. Could it be I’m actually not a raving bitch deep inside?

The fourth thing is… I really need to work on my public speaking skills. And by that I don’t mean standing up in front of a crowd and speaking but literally speaking in public. Every agent and editor I talked to at the conference the first thing out of their mouths was ‘Are you nervous?’

And while I guess consistency is good, I’m not sure that I want to be remembered as that ridiculously nervous girl who can’t talk if there are more than two people in the room. And while I know that the spoken word isn’t my forte I probably shouldn’t sound like I have the vocab of a five year old… its just not going to sell me successfully

I intended to take a picture of all the beautiful author and agent/editor cards I got at the conference. But if you’ll refer back to point two, I no longer have a working camera. So Instead, I’ll give you a random picture of my dog running. You’re welcome.

2014-06-24 16.49.38-1

Featured List & Ice Cream: There is no Such Thing as Calories

Ugh, I won’t share the temperatures because most people would just laugh, but it’s ridiculously hot here. It’s my own fault for living in a place so temperate that even small variations seem extreme. But heat added to good news means celebrating with ice cream.

Yes, good news again. This has been a fantastic year for me and I will just have to cross my fingers that it stays that way. I submitted one of my stories, Deprivation, on Wattpad for the featured list, which for those of you who don’t know is Wattpad version of real publishing. The featured list serves to give Wattpad some validity in the writing world by showcasing works that are, if not publishable, close to. It also helps little nobodies like me get my work out where people can see it.

Deprivation

Fantasy/horror novel titled Deprivation

Any of you who are writers know the word ‘platform’ probably with a bit of a shudder. Well…this is fantastic news for my platform.

The actual change in my story from not featured to featured they said would probably happen in about two weeks. Which isn’t in time to use it as more than an aside at the conference but I’m not complaining.

The day I got the e-mail, I took my son to Costco for frozen yogurt. A. Because it’s cheap. And B. because I figured that would be fewer calories (kill me I’m a little vain and want to fit into my summer dresses.)

froyo

But when we got there the little guy saw they had a strawberry sundae and asked so prettily. So I’m pretending that has just as few calories. Because I’m often delusional when I try to diet.

Veryberry

Costco samples also have no calories if you are wondering.

This whole year so far feels like that, ‘calorie free’ enjoyment. Like somehow it’s going to happen that I’m just kidding myself and none of this is real. I do it every time. When my story got published, I sort of held my breath till it actually showed up in the magazine. When I got the call I was a finalist, an illogical part of my brain screamed it was a prank call. And now that same voice is telling me Wattpad could just change it mine be like ‘sorry, we got your story confused with another one… yours is actually kind of gross… why would you write about a severed hand sticking up out of the floor? Sicko.’

But unlike Costco samples, so far all of it really has been ‘calorie free’ enjoyment. Of course, if I’m to push the comparison further I do a lot more ‘working out’ for my writing than I do for my diet. Carrying my son to and from the car counts as cardio you know…even more so if I park in the basement and have to carry him up the stairs.

I think if I wasn’t getting rejections along with the successes I’d have pinched myself a lot. So far I’m making a 25% acceptance ratio, which I’m proud of thank you. Part of me thinks I should hurry and get two rejections in before the conference though…just so maybe I get a yes there.

Additionally, this is a lot more mentions of my son than I usually allow myself since this is meant to be my writing blog, not a parenting one. But as a stay-at-home mom it’s hard to remove the little guy from my stories without way more effort than I’m willing to put in when it’s this hot.