book clubs and week-long freebies!

I’m so bad at promoting my own books.  This week (March 23-March 27) The Art Kids is free on Amazon Kindle.  Go download!

Tonight I’ll be appearing at my first book club discussion of one of my books!  My coworker Sue read Bethany Caleb after the author panel I did at the library back in December.  She loved it and had her book club read it, so tonight I get to make my second official author appearance.  It’s a little scary – what if everyone hates it??, but Sue has been so positive about it that I’m feeling pretty good.

All month long there have been people coming into the library and saying, “Oh, Katie, you’re the one who wrote that book!” which has made it all too clear how little into self-promotion I am.  When I self-published my books, I didn’t put much thought into promotion.  I did some Goodreads giveaways, and offered up free copies to some review groups, and occasionally do free days on Amazon.  I liked that it was all online, and sort of anonymous.  I had this secret life as an author.

When I was a teen I read this book by Christopher Pike called Master of Murder, about a teenage boy who wrote bestselling novels, only he wrote under a pen name so no one knew it was him.  Everyone at school thought he was a loser – meanwhile, he had legions of fans of his novels.  Something about this scenario appeals to me…

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writing weather?

You’d think, after having four giant snowstorms in as many weeks and getting a number of days off from work for that very reason, with nothing to do other than sit in my apartment alone, that I would have done MUCH more writing than I have.

Nope.

Yesterday cabin fever set in and I had to get out.  My couch has become synonymous with marathoning TV shows and watching movies, and not writing.  I had some luck after taking advice from another blogger about changing location to break out of writer’s block – took my laptop into the kitchen to sit at the table and write and actually got quite a bit done.

Today I’m with Janina at Barnes & Noble writing.  I updated my word count over on the Scavengers page so you can see that I really am trying!  It seems like everyone else in the world also has cabin fever and is out today…

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more writing soundtracks

I’ve added a few new playlists over at 8tracks:

You can get an idea for the track listings on the book pages, although because of 8tracks’ rules I can’t always include every song I listened to while writing.

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Scavengers, Chapter 1

Despite taking a week off to work on Scavengers, I still have to push the pub date back (again).  So, as a thank you for waiting patiently, I give you the first chapter!

-1-

I was already having a pretty bad couple of days before I got kidnapped.

Not that my life was really all that awesome before, what with my father being all paranoid about the government and doctors and everything.  He was so paranoid he moved us out to the middle of nowhere, “off the grid,” which wasn’t so bad except for the no TV, internet, any communication whatsoever thing – but Pa had been slowly weaning us off that stuff for a while.  It was more the no school, no contact with any “outsiders” thing, and then when Mom got sick, things went right downhill.  Pa said the doctors would’ve only made her sicker, and I was little so I believed every word that came out of his mouth, but sometimes I wonder if she’d still be alive if he’d taken her to a hospital like a normal person.

Still, it was better than now.

Daniel came along, and after about two seconds of it being cool to have a new friend, now my life is all werewolves and murder, and now, being kidnapped.

One minute I’m scarfing down some snacks behind a highway rest stop, the next I’m being clubbed in the head and waking up blind without a clue as to where I am or how I got here.

These guys, I have to think of them as guys, because they talk like all they do all day is play video games and eat chips – they’re definitely not “men,” these guys have me blindfolded and duct taped and tossed in the back of their van.  At least I think it’s a van.  I can’t really picture being kidnapped in something that isn’t an unmarked white van.

It smells like old coffee and motor oil and farts in here.

Whoever is driving isn’t very careful about how fast he drives over bumps.

“We’re gonna get caught if you keep driving like a maniac, Je-“

“Shut up, stupid!  Don’t use names!”

“Why the fuck not?  I don’t get why we needed to tie him up.  Aren’t we really—“

“God, Ry- fuck, you moron!  Stop talking!  Why you gotta give us all away?”

“I didn’t!”

“Slow down!  Shit, the cops are gonna see us coming from a mile away.”

“Yeah, act cool. Cool, man.”

“Bite me.  None of you guys have a license.”

“Whatever, Jeff.”

“Stop using my name!”

I wish I could just tell these dudes to stop yelling, my ears hurt.  One of the perks of being a werewolf: super sensitive hearing.

I have no clue why these guys snatched me unless they’re working for the enemy pack that turned me to begin with.  They were looking to kill Daniel, I guess, that’s why they came to our house.  One of them bit me and I turned.  But they left me there, so maybe they weren’t planning to turn me?  Or maybe they left me for dead?  If they got wind I was still alive somehow, then Daniel better watch his back because they are following him.

“Stop kicking me, fucktard.  God, there is not enough room in this piece.”

“Ow, watch it!”

One of them growls, followed by more growls, and now I’m getting kicked or stepped on or something.  I growl back at them.

“Jesus, would you idiots knock it off?” snaps the one named Jeff, the driver.  “You keep poking the bear, it might just wake up and bite your head off.”

“Bear?  I thought he was a wolf.”  That’s the one named Ryan, I think.

“Moron.”

“Loser.”

“Guys.”  Jeff means business now.  “You get this guy mad enough, and he’s going to turn.  That’s what Geo said.  He can’t control his anger, or his wolf.  So shut the fuck up and stop fighting.”

They think I’m Daniel.  That’s why they kidnapped me.

“He’s supposed to be the secret weapon, right?”

“Ryan, can you please just play it cool?  We don’t need a villain monologue right now.”

“Villain?  Come on.  We’re the heroes.  Aren’t we?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Maybe I don’t.”

As the scuffling restarts, I inhale through my nose and exhale deeply.  They think I’m Daniel.  They think I’m some kind of secret weapon, and now they’re bringing me to their evil leader, and then they’ll find out that I’m just some kid, and the evil leader will have them killed and me too.

“Hey, is this the new Metallica album?”

“Yeah.”

“Crank it up!”

I’d rather have the fighting than this heavy metal crap blasting out my eardrums.

Daniel can’t control himself?  He seemed pretty in control to me.  He taught me how to control my wolf with some kind of alpha-male magic.  He growled this command at me and suddenly I felt everything fall into place.  He was in charge and I was okay with that.

Then I remember that day, with the axe, and wonder how close Daniel was to losing control then.

Daniel was out chopping wood, and when I heard Pa call for me, it was to get his gun and get out there, where Daniel was gripping the axe like he was going to slice Pa in two, shaking, crazy look in his eyes.  “I’m sorry,” is what he kept saying, and I didn’t get it at the time.  I felt like he was saying, “I’m sorry I’m going to have to axe murder your father,” so when Pa told me to shoot him, I kind of had to.  But now I wonder, maybe he meant he was sorry he couldn’t control himself.  In that case, why didn’t he just turn into a wolf right then and kill my Pa?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t make any sense.  Then for the next week I had to listen to Pa’s lectures about “this is what happens when you bring in outsiders,” the world outside is corrupt and full of murderers, etc.

Now I’m one of them.

When that black-haired man who turned into a black wolf bit me, my brain broke apart like a piece of pottery.  I was on fire, and I was cold, and I felt so so hungry, and Pa smelled like sausage, and I was an animal, a passenger riding inside the mind of the animal, and he bit my Pa and ate part of his face, and I wanted it to happen, I was so hungry.

Turns out Daniel killed his father too, the first time he turned.  But his father was abusive so he probably deserved it.  My Pa might’ve been strict, but he never beat me unless I was being punished, and I was usually a good kid.  He never made me bleed or anything.

Finally it seems like the van has reached the highway.  The road flattens out, no more slamming my head into the floor.  So of course, I fall asleep.

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inspirations: wolf point

I talk a little about my inspiration for the first book in the Wolf Point series over on the Hitchhikers page, but as I continue the series I feel the need to talk about an inspiration that has actually helped me to build the world of the Wolf Point series.

One day, I was looking at a map, and saw the town of Wolverton (located somewhere in England).  I had this idea that there could be a town like this that got its name because werewolves lived there.  I’m not sure how much time passed between having this idea and when I discovered or searched for the town of Wolf Point, Montana, which seemed like the ideal place in the U.S. to have such a town full of werewolves.  Nearby are the Wolf Mountains, yet another ideal location.

Coupled with the idea of a town name, I thought about surnames like Wolf.  Wolf, Woolf, Wolfe, etc. would be fairly obvious, but there are many surnames from other countries and languages that essentially mean the same thing.  I liked the idea that families were given this surname because, in actuality, they were werewolves, and perhaps through the years, this knowledge was lost or hidden to the general populace so that today, we don’t think that a person having this last name is a werewolf.  In researching various names that mean “wolf,” I got the idea for The Five Families who emigrate to the U.S. and settle in Wolf Point:

  • Connor (Irish, meaning “Wolf Kin” or “Lover of Wolves”)
  • Loupe (French: loup means “Wolf” – although I’m discovering that loupe might be derived from louppe which means something else entirely)
  • Roulfe (Scottish – apparently my own spelling – from Rolfe, meaning “Wolf Counsel” or “Renowned Wolf”)
  • Randell (English, meaning “Wolf’s Shield”)
  • ???? This branch of the family I have not decided on a surname yet.  I would like this branch to be Danish, for which the word for wolf is ulv (you’ll see why later)

So as I wrote Hitchhikers and Dreamwalkers, I envisioned these families coming to the U.S. due to persecution against werewolves in Europe.  When I began to write The Beast, I wanted to see if I could work some of the real werewolf executions into the story of the real life Bete du Gevaudan, a wolf some believed to be a werewolf.  Instead, I discovered that wolves were hunted to near extinction in a number of European countries right around this time period:

  • 1500: the last wolf was killed in England
  • 1680: Scotland’s last wolf was killed (but possibly existed until 1888)
  • 1770: Ireland’s last wolf was killed
  • 1772: Denmark’s last wolf was killed
  • 1927: last wild wolves in France killed
  • 1966: Sweden’s last wolf killed (a wolf bounty was in place from from 1647)
  • 1976: Norway’s last wolf killed

The story of The Beast takes place right around 1770, so I imagined now that all these wolf families were being displaced from their country of origin and seeking refuge in France.  Because of the Beast’s rampage, France became unsafe for them, and they moved to the New World and settled far west, which by the time of the second prequel novella brings us to 1870, during the Westward Expansion.

I briefly mention in Hitchhikers the Five Family’s relations with the Native American tribes of the region, basically that they settled and kept to themselves.  I imagined this relationship to be similar to the French-Canadian fur trappers’ relationships, a working relationship that did not bring conflict.  I also mention in Hitchhikers the belief of the Five Families that the werewolf gene is passed through bloodlines, although it is later shown in Dreamwalkers that their belief that they are the only bloodlines with the werewolf gene is false.  In Scavengers, I want to bring in the story of the Native Americans in the area, especially since I’ve been conscious from when I first chose Wolf Point as a locale that the town is located on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and the racial makeup is about 50% Native.  Now I am tasked with researching the tribes of the area and how to weave a werewolf pack into that.

It’s been completely fascinating for me how one small idea has led me to build this entire world…

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back when YA was an afterschool special

“Vintage” young adult books fall into only a few genres, and I’ve just had the pleasure (?) of reading a few that fit the “Afterschool Special” genre.  This breed of YA is rarely seen for today’s teens.  Reading these books is like being hit over the head with the book’s Very Special Message.

The Wave (1981), written by Todd Strasser under the pen name Morton Rhue, is based on the true story of a classroom experiment that got out of hand.  In teaching his students about how an ordinary person could become involved in the Nazi movement, a teacher institutes “The Wave,” a movement based on discipline, community, and action.  Within a week, the movement spreads beyond the classroom.  Members of The Wave are bullying non-members into joining.

This novel brought to mind some experiments I read about in college, such as the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Obedience Experiment.  However, the retelling for teens is full of those stock characters you often find in vintage YA.  The main character is the popular and pretty Laurie, dating football star David.  Naturally, Laurie is one of the few who questions The Wave – no one wants to be the drone who buys into The Wave!  The teacher, Mr. Ross, is probably the most three-dimensional character of the lot, unsurprising as it was the original teacher’s story that was mined for the screenplay for the actual afterschool special this book is based on.  Mr. Ross, the “cool teacher,” comes up with this idea and begins to waver between knowing the experiment has gotten out of hand and believing he has created something good.  The ending is especially heavy-handed.

The Very Important Lesson: Nazism is bad, Individualism is good.  Even you can become a Nazi if you don’t think for yourself!

The second Very Special novel I read was Too Young to Die (1987) by Alida E. Young.  Check out this awesomely cheesy cover, which actually depicts a scene in the story!

It seems this story was written as some kind of public service announcement about Students Against Drunk Driving.  That’s the main thrust of the story: popular kid Shane gets hit by a car, driven by a classmate who was drunk driving.  His girlfriend Robin starts a crusade S.A.D.D. chapter at her school and alienates all of her friends in her undying concern for her boyfriend, who lies in a coma in the hospital.  Statistics about drunk driving accidents are spewed.  Months go by.  Eventually she sees that the kid drunk driving, Troy, felt guilty about the whole thing.  Takes her almost the entire book, too.

The most unbelievable part of this story, I thought, was that Robin was only fourteen.  Not to say that a fourteen-year-old couldn’t be so in love with her boyfriend that she sits by his bedside for months.  Part of me – the sarcastic, skeptical part – had Robin pegged from the very beginning as that girl who laid all her hopes and dreams of becoming popular on her boyfriend.  Without Shane, who was she?  Basically no one.  She doesn’t seem to have any of her own interests.  I felt like this was the true reason why she sat by Shane’s bedside all those months.  Ah, well.

The Very Important Lesson: Don’t drink and drive!

Last, and sort of least, was More Than Just a Smart Girl (1987) by Lurlene McDaniel.  I say least mostly because this wasn’t as heavy-handed as the first two.  But it was still a story about a nice girl who learns a Very Important Lesson.

Alissa is such a smarty-pants she got skipped ahead and now at age 13 she’s starting high school. What’s scary at first turns super awesome when she discovers that Derek, the star football player, is in her study hall and also needs her help with math homework. Soon Alissa is lying to her old fat friend Georgia and to her parents and doing Derek’s homework for him and hoping Derek will realize she’s just as pretty as any of the cheerleaders.

This book was so predictable I laughed a few times. I think everyone in the world could see that Derek was just using Alissa; I mean, she practically begged him to let her do his homework for him. The story is written in such an old-fashioned way that I could have told you exactly how it would end, including Alissa making it up to Georgia and her new friend Casey’s brother Steve showing up to be The Nice Guy. Not only did Alissa learn that she shouldn’t bother putting on make up or dress up for a guy, but Georgia learned an important lesson as well, as she “decided not to be fat anymore” and went on a diet and lost a bunch of weight.

The best part was Alissa’s freak out after she figures out Derek is using her.  Throughout the entire book she’s such a nerdy wallflower and then she basically loses it in the hallway at school.

The Very Important Lesson: Don’t change for a guy.

Sure, these are important lessons to impart to the youth.  Luckily, YA has evolved as a genre so the lessons aren’t *quite* so laughably obvious.

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Scavengers cover reveal!

Scavengers finally has a cover!

scavengers ebook cover 6 copy

This took me a long time… mostly due to issues getting permission to use images.  For both Hitchhikers and Dreamwalkers, I was able to find images over at sxc.hu and Flickr, and the photographers got back to me fairly quickly.  Both of the images I used for this cover were from Morguefile, which is a great site to find images because the site encourages people to “remix” the original photographs.  Still, because this is a commercial project, I needed to get permission to use them, and I was thrilled when the photographers responded right away.  You can find out a little more about the original images with links on the Scavengers page.

Of course, Scavengers still is not completely written… I’ve pushed back the pub date twice and I’m still writing… so the current pub date of January 31st is probably not going to happen, even though I’ve been working on it a lot this week.

Part of the issue in writing this third book is that I now have to coordinate timelines with two other books, and start planning for more books in the series.  Zeke’s story will not be the last Wolf Point novel.  I’d like to have a book featuring Remy’s point of view, and Misty’s.  There are also the prequels I want to write, following up to The Beast.  If I can ever finish Scavengers I think I’ll do the Camp Nanowrimo for the two novellas I am planning in that prequel trilogy.

But Scavengers has a cover!

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