April Updates

Well, April is upon us once again. Figured I’d take a few minutes and make a post since I’ve been somewhat lax in regards to the blog as of late. (There has been much writing and editing going on). Seems I’m on a fantasy kick as of late, editing Eldritch Heart while also putting some last minute touches on Emma and the Elixir of Madness, and also starting the first draft of Emma and the Weeping Spirit.

Some good news – Curiosity Quills has signed Emma and the Elixir of Madness, the fourth book in the Tales of Widowswood series (a middle-grade fantasy). Also, I’ve started drafting on the fifth, Emma and the Weeping Spirit.

The Eldritch Heart is in mid edits, and I am excited to the point of losing a little sleep since it’s proving difficult to pry myself away from the computer. There’s some welcome tweaks happening which is making the story more fulfilling and complete.

Also, in about a month, the fourth book in the Division Zero series, Guardian, will release. This is a novel I hadn’t initially planned on ever writing. The end of book three left Kirsten at a place I thought good to leave her… however, I kept having readers tell me they wanted more time with Kirsten. So, I sat down and spend a couple weeks thinking about various plot ideas before settling on what would become the fourth novel in the series. (Attention Book Bloggers: early review ARCs are available. If you are interested in reading Guardian early to post a review on release day, please email me. Mcox2112 at gmail dot com.

I’ve also been elbow-deep in edits for the second book of the Roadhouse Chronicles series – The Redeemed. I’m humbled at the wonderful feedback I’m receiving in regard to the first novel in that series, One More Run, and my editor seems to like The Redeemed. The only downside is having to wait for its release date.

Eldritch Heart will probably wind up back with the editor later tonight, and I’m fortunate in that she is as excited about it as I am. Anyway, I suppose I’ve rambled enough for now.

 

Happy reading!

Characters and Food

Perhaps I should have titled this post “Why You Shouldn’t Blog While Hungry.”

I was having lunch today and wound up randomly thinking of jalapeño-and-egg sandwiches, which in turn made me think of Kirsten from the Division Zero series. Ever since I wrote in that she’d developed a fondness for them, I’ve associated that food to her character.

From a development standpoint in writing, adding the little details to a character often helps deepen their reality for the reader. Small quirks such as a favorite meal add a bit of normality to characters. I once had a reader comment about Althea from Prophet of the Badlands. In one scene, she’s stuffing enchiladas, so she wants to keep her hands ‘food clean.’ When her leg itches, she scratches it with her foot. That minor action resonated with a reader enough for her to comment on it, specifically a character who by all rights is beyond a normal person (strong paranormal abilities) doing something like that – so mundane – that it made her relatable and real.

This of course got me thinking about the various main characters (and primary support characters) in my novels. I gave a bit of thought to what their favorite foods are (since I happened to be eating lunch while thinking around this idea). The result of this is a little ramble about my characters and what they like to eat.

(Yes I was hungry while writing this.)

So, without further delay, here is a list of my characters, the series or book they appear in, and their favorite foods.


During his days playing for the Arsenal Frictionless Club, a rather impressive fish and chips wagon frequented the area around the stadium. Aaron has been on a quest for F&C that’s anywhere near as good as what the old man with the cart made, but has yet to find anything close.

Chicken Enchiladas are the first meal she had after being taken in by Karina and Father. After spending half her short life enslaved for her healing powers, eating them always reminds her of being welcomed into their home and having a real family.

Anna ran away at twelve, forced to live on the streets of London after accidentally killing her father when her electrokinesis lashed out defensively during a drunken beating. She had few happy memories growing up. Her friend Penny begged, wheedled, and scammed enough money to somewhat routinely provide them both “the full English” most days. (At the time, it was the extent of her ability to cook). The elaborate breakfast always makes Anna think of the happier times she’s had.

Much of what Aurora does is motivated by her love to make people around her uncomfortable. She adores the way people squirm while watching her eat it.

Emma’s mother has never grown out of her fondness for Nan’s cherry pie. While not technically a “meal,” it is her favorite food item.

Much to Riley’s abject horror, her father lives as a recluse in the vast open nothingness of New Mexico. His cabinets are packed full of Spag-Os, which he likes for their ease and simplicity. He’s also rather fond of the taste.

A dish his grandmother served when he was growing up, and still makes once a year at family gatherings. During his time in the UCF Military, many of his platoon mates called him “Toofey” for his constant grumbling about not being able to have this dish.

A family recipe that’s been around for a few hundred years, Nan’s cooks-all-day stew is her favorite both for the flavor, for the way it warms the whole house with its fragrance, and because her grandmother made it.

  • Evan Wren (Division Zero) – Grilled chicken (with loads of black pepper).

It’s the first meal that Kirsten attempted to cook for him (and one of the few her nascent cooking skills don’t butcher).

A good steak dinner was always high on his list of pleasant meals, but it elevated to a state of fond longing after he became a vampire and could no longer partake.

During her time with the 494th Night Terrors in World War III, Genna returned to base after a harrowing mission she felt certain would kill her. Upon heading to the mess, she found the freshest thing available to be a tray of mac and cheese. Ever since, the simple dish has become like eating “holy shit I’m alive” in physical form.

From his years living low in the grey zones, Joey developed a taste for “the dreaded third stage.” When the molecular rearrangement of OmniSoy starts to break down, the food devolves into a puddle of tasteless slime. When enough time passes after that, it congeals into a cheese-like substance known as (by Joey) – the third stage.

After years of living in underground tunnels between the Sanctuary Zone and the Habitation District, Pope has gone from eating rat to survive to becoming fond of it. In addition to liking the taste of grilled rat meat, it represents his independence from both the high and the low end of “established society.”

With her insane metabolism due to her out-of-control pyrokinetics, Kate needs to eat about three times as much as a normal person not to starve. Since she is stuck living in bad parts of town, the fast food chain CyberBurger provides her most frequent source of meals, and her favorite: the double orbital – a two-patty monstrosity with all the trimmings.

Much of Katya’s childhood was spent as a ward of the OOI (Office of Operational Intelligence, the ACC’s military intelligence group), being trained as a “ghost” or spy. For years, she had no ‘favorite’ food, having a guaranteed (if plain) – meal at all felt like luxury. After defecting to the UCF, she’s developed a fondness for Italian food, especially if it is loaded with garlic.

Kenny’s favorite eats are simple. He lacks the patience for “fancy” dining and much prefers to grill something himself over an open fire out in the Badlands.

While attending UC Berkeley for Xenoarchaeology, Kerys spent many long hours sitting at a table in “Saint Vito’s Pizza.” A fan of chicken parmesan sandwiches since her early teens, she almost always had one while studying.

Long hours spent on the road driving other people’s crap between settlements always ends best at Wayne’s Roadhouse in Hagerman, New Mexico, where he can enjoy a “roadkill burger” cooked by the android Bee. He especially loves mashing French fries into his mouth while chewing on the burger.

  • Kirsten Wren (Division Zero) – Omelet sandwich with jalapenos.

Nicole (her friend) – suggested it once, and initially, Kirsten was hesitant at the idea of mixing jalapenos with eggs. After trying it, she’s become hooked.

A servant girl in the castle, Kitlyn’s options for food have been rather limited, though among her narrow choices, she has come to adore “servant’s feast” the most, which is made of various leftovers that go together mixed into a stew pot. (Typically some combination of turkey, ham, beef, beans/peas, and bread.)

Emma’s father’s favorite thing to eat is a breakfast of cheese, apple slices, muffins, and sometimes sausage. He loves stacking cheese atop apple slices and eating them together, which Emma cannot even bear to look at.

Mamoru is still a tween boy addicted to video games somewhere deep inside beneath the rigidity imposed upon him by being raised as a samurai. The noodles appeal to that part of him. Also, they lend themselves to being consumed fast, so he can get back to whatever he had been doing before needing to interrupt himself with food.

Masaru has expensive tastes, and often frequents the Toko Lounge, where he orders a spread of high-end sushi that can cost several thousand credits per serving.

Despite possessing an unusual intellect and a high-school education by the age of nine, Maya is still only a child. After years of re-hydrated prepack meals, she has fried chicken fingers at The Hangar (a military-themed bar) – and discovers the meaning of addiction.

Paige’s eight-year-old sister, she is soft spoken, cute, and highly girly… unless pizza is involved, at which point she turns into a little red-haired Tasmanian devil.

Emma’s grandmother’s favorite meal is baked ham, coated in enchanted herbs and seasonings and left to bake all day, best served with roast potatoes.

  • Natalie Rausch (Caller 107) – Rotisserie Chicken

After the divorce, Natalie would visit her father once or twice a month at his high-rise apartment. Whenever she spent the night, her busy lawyer dad would usually pick up a pre-cooked chicken for dinner and they’d share it while watching movies.

The dish got served at home somewhat frequently when she was growing up, and it is the first thing she cooked for Elizaveta.

As princess of the Kingdom of Lucernia, Oona has never known want for anything (except freedom from her obligations and a life without fear of assassins). Her favorite meal is Turkey, specifically drumsticks. Castle rumor holds that if turkey is served and she winds up not getting a drumstick, at least one servant will wind up reassigned to shoveling out the stables.

They’re quick, easy, and present an opportunity to dodge having to argue with her mother or deal with the fact that her mother often “forgets” to cook for Paige while feeding her little sister.

A long-time bachelor and officer in the Mars Defense Force, Pavo’s meal of choice is noodle bowls from any of the hundreds of vendors in Primus City. He does not have a particular favorite (shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, seafood) – as long as it’s got broth and noodles, he’s happy.

It’s the first “real” dish her mother taught her how to prepare. Of all the recipes in her cookbook, it reminds her the most of spending time with Mom.

The giant egg-and-bacon sandwich is the first food she has in several years that was not generated out of OmniSoy. Kree finding her leftovers and adorably “stealing” them cemented the vastly unhealthy thing as her favorite.

Sabine has spent more years as a vampire than as a mortal girl (8), so she does not remember much of real food. She has developed a fondness for the way a good-natured woman’s blood takes on notes of fruit or sweet things in a vampire’s brain. However, one thing she does remember is having breakfast with her mother, which often consisted of toast spread with fruit jam.

Sarah’s father Billy is a veteran, and qualifies for the free cheese sandwiches provided as assistance. Living out in the Habitation District where most people wonder IF there will be food, not WHAT to eat, she’s developed a fondness for the self-warming mystery meal that inflates to a simple cheese sandwich on white bread when activated. A reliable source of nutrition, she likes it because it’s always there for her and it also reminds her of Dad.

Growing up in the Enclave, where 95% of all food is vegetables, Triss became quite sick of sautéed vegetables, salad, vegetable stew and a dozen different permutations of squash. Soon after finding herself out in the Wildlands, she got a taste of Dust Hopper meat (think a massive rabbit) – cooked over an open flame. For being her first substantial meal that did /not/ consist of vegetables, she’s developed a fondness for it even if most people out there consider it “what people eat when they ain’t got nothin’ better.”


Well, now that I’ve written this, and re-read it a few times… I made myself hungry again. Happy reading!

/wanders off to have a snack.

Cover Reveal | Daughter of Ash

The fourth novel in the Awakened series (of six), Daughter of Ash is releasing in kindle ebook on Tuesday. (Paperback should be along in a week or two.) I’m pleased to be able to share the cover [by Eugene Teplitsky] for it a little early!


Designed to be the perfect assassin, Kate is as beautiful as she is deadly―everything she touches, burns.

The government attempted to engineer a pyrokinetic the likes of which the world had never seen, but their plans went awry. Her power to command fire as a living extension of her psyche was more than they had hoped for, except for one problem. Her skin is hot enough to destroy most materials on contact. Useless for infiltration, they declared the project a failure and slated her for disposal at the age of seven.

Years after escaping, she hides on the outskirts of society in the shadows of East City. A chance encounter brings her under the wing of a Syndicate underboss, El Tío. Kate kills without hesitation to earn the favor of the only person ever to show her kindness, but her happiness is as false as her holographic clothing.

An eerie figure interrupts her routine with a promise of an end to her curse, if she joins The Awakened―a group of psionics as powerful as she. To find them, she must travel thousands of miles across the country, but her uncontrollable ‘gift’ leaves her no option but to walk. Desperate for human contact, Kate throws herself into the Badlands, unconcerned with danger.

Cured or dead… Either way she wins.


To celebrate the continuation of the series, we’re having a virtual release party on Facebook with some prices including a $20 Amazon gift card, a full set (of 4) Awakened paperbacks, some DoA paperbacks, and a few e-book prizes. The party is on March 7th, from 5pm to 7pm Eastern Time. Attendance requires only posting/commenting in the event feed, playing some games, chatting, and hopefully having a good time 🙂

Click here to join: https://www.facebook.com/events/1686642348295454/

Word Count

Word count. Love ’em or hate ’em.

I remember being in school, and being given an assignment to write a 1,000 word essay on something, and feeling like the world had just ended. Oh, if I had only known then… Lately, I’ve made a habit of writing 100,000 word books left and right. The idea of writing something at 1,000 words feels trivial now.

Clare, an indispensable member of the team at Curiosity Quills, recently teased me for never having read the Harry Potter series. In a recent lull, I remedied that – binge reading the entire series while watching each respective movie between the books. (A rather striking example of the difference between movies and books dare I say. That old meme of the movie being the mere tip of the iceberg shines clear.)

I noticed the first book went pretty quick, and out of curiosity, I looked up the word counts for them.

Philospher’s Stone: 76,944

Chamber of Secrets: 85,141

Prisoner of Azkaban: 107,253

Goblet of Fire: 190,637

Order of the Phoenix: 257,045

Half-Blood Prince: 168,923

Deathly Hallows: 198,227

When I first started writing and trying to get published, I kept hearing people say that a long book is never going to get printed. The first novel I completed writing, Virtual Immortality, clocked in at 255k at first draft. (I wound up editing it down to 206k, but it snuck back up to 211k during edits.)

As I sought advice on publishing, I ran into some people who took it like blasphemy to suggest a book over 90k words had a chance in hell of getting picked up. These people got quite sanctimonious at the mention of The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss’s debut novel over 250k words. At that point words like ‘anomaly’ and ‘winning the lottery’ got thrown around. To hear them talk, a book must be within 70-80k words. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but their advice – though given with a touch too much smarm – did have a point. While it is possible to have an agent or publisher pick up a brand new unheard-of author with a book outside the convention, it reduces the chances. It would have been better to hear “a book that big will be more difficult, you should consider writing something smaller,” rather than “oh, my God, you wrote a huge book for your first title? you are shitting over the entirety of publishing and offending the spirits of every dead author who’s ever put pen to paper!”

Okay, perhaps they weren’t quite that bad… but that’s the tone I took away from it. So, for any of you who might be wondering about getting that first book accepted by a publisher or by an agent, know that word count does matter. There is a preconception that a new writer will throw together 300,000 words of drek and hope to get signed. Thus, the larger a book, the less likely it is to get signed. However, if your work wows the agent/publisher/editor enough, the length can matter less. Some agents will see a wordcount past X and toss without even looking further. It’s a gamble.

In my case, I decided not to roll those dice, and wrote Division Zero #1. Compared to Virtual Immortality, it had only one main character (no rotating POV), and a less complex plot with fewer moving parts. Once that book got signed by Curiosity Quills, I sent them VI, and thankfully, they liked it.

It’s said that a writer doesn’t find their voice until they’ve written a million words. I’ve recently completed the first draft of Emma and the Elixir of Madness, the fourth book in the Tales of Widowswood series. At 90,147 words, it brings my lifetime word count (as of 3/9/17) up to 4,002,503. If there’s any truth to that ‘finding a voice’ thing, I hope I’ve done so. Maybe a writer is too close to ‘feel’ their own voice. If any of you think I ‘have’ a voice, please drop a comment : )

So for any of you who may be curious what my word counts look like–(I found the word counts of famous books fascinating)–here’s my list.

Happy reading!


Title Word Count Series
Prophet of the Badlands 144,279 Awakened
Archon’s Queen 126,855 Awakened
Grey Ronin 114,121 Awakened
Daughter of Ash 118,125 Awakened
Zero Rogue 106,528 Awakened
Angel Descended 197,421 Awakened
Hand of Raziel 144,876 Daughter of Mars
Araphel 114,175 Daughter of Mars
Ghost Black 111,508 Daughter of Mars
Division Zero 97,657 Division Zero
Division Zero: Lex De Mortuis 108,531 Division Zero
Division Zero: Thrall 144,914 Division Zero
Division Zero: Guardian 169,572 Division Zero
Heir Ascendant 113,000 Faded Skies
Ascendant Revolution 106,280 Faded Skies
One More Run (Novel) 136,291 Roadhouse Chronicles
The Redeemed (Roadhouse 2) 126,493 Roadhouse Chronicles
Dead Man’s Number (roadhouse 3) 140,152 Roadhouse Chronicles
Emma and the Banderwigh 59,410 Tales of Widowswood
Emma and the Silk Thieves 73,270 Tales of Widowswood
Emma and the Silverbell Faeries 66,974 Tales of Widowswood
Emma and the Elixir of Madness 90,147 Tales of Widowswood
Virtual Immortality 211,386 Virtual Immortality
The Harmony Paradox 231,536 Virtual Immortality
A Dream of Clouds (short) 20,290
Caller 107 54,625
Chiaroscuro: The Mouse and the Candle 100,741
Loose Ends (Short) 10,737
Maestro’s Requiem (Short) 13,066
Nine Candles of Deepest Black 109,045
Operation Chimera 42,180
Out of Sight (short) 19,530
Ruin of Man (short) 16,879
Stolen Orchid (short) 7,247
The Dysfunctional Comspiracy 110,942
The Eldritch Heart 128,707
The Far Side of Promise 108,500
The Old City (Short) 18,823
The Summer The World Ended 92,508
Wayfarer: AV494 98,509

Flame by AK Morgen

Greetings all,

I’m pleased to lend a little blog space to a fellow Curiosity Quills author, AK Morgen to help spread the word about her latest release. Below, is her guest post

-Matt


I’m very excited to announce that the long awaited (and much anticipated!) third book of the Amazon Bestselling RAGNAROK PROPHESIES series has finally arrived! Join Arionna Jacobs and Dace Matthews as they race to stop the apocalypse in this intense and emotional series by A.K. Morgen.


Read on below for all the details, including a giveaway!

 


SUMMARY

Who do you trust when betrayal threatens to destroy everything you hold dear?

When Arionna Jacobs fled town in a desperate bid to save Dace Matthews, she never expected the chaos she would leave in her wake. Now her closest friend is dead, and another is missing, forcing Ari to return to face the devastating consequences of her actions and the broken boy she left behind.

Her problems are only just beginning.

Even as her bond with Dace grows stronger, Arionna finds herself weakening when Freki’s cage shatters. Fighting the wolf for control is tearing her apart piece by piece. And at every turn, she finds that those she’s put her faith in aren’t who they seem, bringing her face to face with Sköll and Hati. As the depth of their betrayal is revealed, Freki spirals out of control, and Arionna must face her greatest fear: losing herself to the fierce wolf within.

The world balances on the edge of a blade, and one wrong move will destroy it all.

With few allies she can trust and little choice left, Arionna must decide between the lives of her friends and her own future with the alpha she loves. Will she be able to stand firm for the sake of the world, or will she falter in the face of defeat? 





BOOK LINKS:





AMAZON | GOODREADS | BARNES AND NOBLE 



EXCERPT

 

“Arionna, dammit, wake up.”

Unseen hands gripped my upper arms, shaking me. A familiar voice called my name over and over. Furious howls ripped through the air.

None of those sounds made sense to me.

I felt different, like I’d been taken apart and put back together in the wrong order. Everything hurt. My body ached, muscles locked tight in protest. My head throbbed. Each painful pulse rattled against my skull, sending ripples down my neck and into my back.

I groaned and rolled onto my side.

The hands shaking me relaxed.

I fought to open my eyes, then blinked, confused. Worn brown carpet scratched against the side of my face. The bottom edge of a pale blue bed-sham fluttered inches from me. Dust bunnies and small pieces of plastic were strewn beneath the sagging bed. A table and two chairs were grouped on the other side. A crack ran up the leg of one chair, splitting the wood.

None of the room looked familiar.

Where am I?

The voice calling my name stopped mid-shout and sighed.

Oh, thank god, he said.

For what? I wondered, marveling that the words came from inside my mind, but didn’t belong to me. How was that possible?

I couldn’t place the soft, silky tones either, but they made my stomach flip and my heart flutter. I knew the speaker. At least I thought I did. Before I could ask him who he was or how he spoke in my head, someone blew out a sharp breath. This time, the sound didn’t come from inside.

“Finally,” that second voice said.

Nope. Definitely not coming from my mind.

I rolled my eyes toward the relieved sound, and then frowned at the guy leaning over me. Long, dark hair hung in his face. His eyes were black, and full of concern. His features were sharp, severe, but handsome.

This time I was certain; I knew this guy.

“Ronan,” I said. His name was Ronan LaCrosse, and mine was… Arionna. Yes, Arionna Jacobs. Memory began to slowly trickle back in. We were at a motel in Illinois, looking for someone. And the howls were coming from Fuki, the little wolf we’d brought with us, though I couldn’t see him.

Where was he?

I tried to figure out why I was on the floor, but came up with a big blank.

“What happened?” I asked, looking up at Ronan.

He held out a hand for me, then pulled me into a sitting position.

The room tilted before straightening again. I clutched my head in my hands, groaning. When the initial wave of nausea passed, I tilted my head up slowly so I could see Ronan. “Did I hit my head?” I asked, trying to blink away the dark spots floating in my peripheral.

“You don’t remember?” He narrowed his eyes, tilting his head to the side like a raven assessing me.

I scooted back against the edge of the bed, frowning.

What was I supposed to remember?

 

GIVEAWAY

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.K. Morgen is the Amazon Bestselling author of the Ragnarök
Prophesies series. She lives in the heart of Arkansas with her childhood
sweetheart/husband of thirteen years, and their six furry minions. When not
writing, she spends her time hiking, reading, volunteering, causing mischief,
and building a Spork army. Ayden graduated summa
cum laude
with her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and
Forensic Psychology in 2009 before going on to complete her graduate degree in
CJ and Law. She currently puts her education to use in the social services and
CJ field. 

Ayden also writes New Adult and contemporary romance under the penname Ayden K.
Morgen.

You can find her on 
Twitter, Facebook, or via her website at http://akmorgen.com.

Updates Feb 2017

Hi all,

So, since this whole writing thing got serious, I’ve been keeping books in these black plastic storage bins – which are great, but they have the mild problem of being opaque, and well… boxes. This of course meant it proved rather difficult to easily find a book when someone wanted one or really keep a good sense of how many of what I’ve got on hand.

In a fit of randomness, I decided to get a shelf.

This, owing to the fact I could see the books, allowed me to realize that I’ve got a crapload of The Summer the World Ended. Also, quite a few copies of Caller 107. So, I’ve decided to try and get a few out the door by offering them on the cheap. For a limited time, I’m selling signed copies of both books for $15. (normally $10 and $15 each). If anyone is interested, please email me at mcox2112 (gmail). [Also if you’d like a signed copy of anything else, they are available as well.]


2017 Releases

This year is looking to be quite exciting as I have seven titles on the way. Less than a month from now, the Awakened series continues with Daughter of Ash. (It vexes me that they scheduled this series out on such a long timeline, but alas…) This series is a bit unusual in terms of series, as the first five books each follow a different main character (though I admit a little favoritism for Althea (I couldn’t help myself and she has a cameo in books 4 and 5). In book 6, all their stories intersect as Archon is forced to step up his timetable

I’m also excited that the Division Zero series continues in June with a fourth book that I had not initially planned on writing. To all the readers who kept asking me to keep going with Kirsten and company, thank you for the support. I hope you’ll join me on Facebook for the release parties!

Happy reading!

_matt