Tag Archives: Erin Zarro

The Evolution of a Series by Erin Zarro

Ever Touched final cover 3-30-17This week I’m featuring a guest post by fellow Turtleduck Press author Erin Zarro. Erin is celebrating the release of Ever Touched, the third book in her series of…futuristic paranormal romance? urban science fiction? Here she is to tell you about how she got this far…

So, when I first set out to write the first book of my Fey Touched series, Fey Touched, I was feeling pretty good. It was to be an experiment in self-publishing. But as I wrote the book, it sort of took over my life.

But in a good way, of course. 😉

You see, Fey Touched was technically a rewrite of a previous novel I’d written in 2003, except I changed a lot of the worldbuilding and preternatural creatures. They were originally vampires. Then I changed them to Fey (the creatures of myth). Then one day at work it hit me SO HARD. Why not write about creatures based in science? And everything fell into place then: the Fey Clans, the Breeding Queens, the Fey Touched. The inciting incident, and what followed.

The book almost wrote itself. I saw the things happen, and wrote the story accordingly. In fact, I was superstitious about plotting, thinking it would wreck the spell I was under. Until the last ten percent, when I got stuck on how exactly to end it.

It was an exciting time. And Fey Touched was the fastest book I ever wrote and published at just nine months (when a book for me takes from first draft to publication an average of two years).

And it sold moderately well, which spurred me on.

So then came Grave Touched, which was a bit of a departure. There were science-y things in it, but it leaned more toward paranormal with ghosts. This is where things kind of went off the rails. I’d been experiencing excruciating eye and face pain (which I learned later was trigeminal neuralgia*) and I’d just started revising Grave Touched‘s first draft. And I found I could not do it. The pain was excruciating (I would not get a diagnosis for almost three years). In despair, I broke down and told my fellow Turtleduckers that I couldn’t make my deadline. I hated doing it, but I just wasn’t able to turn in my best work with pain and stress screwing with my mind.

So plans were made to fill the hole, and I was given a new deadline, a year into the future.

Except…I had to quit writing for three months. I feared it would be forever. But it wasn’t, and when I returned to it (out of necessity – I was quite literally losing my mind), things were tough. I had to work myself back up to the higher wordcounts I’d once written in order to make my deadline. It was rough going because I was still in pain, but I managed to make it – and Grave Touched was rejected by my editor. [Siri’s note: Full disclosure: that was me.] It wasn’t my best work, and deep down, I knew it. I was given the opportunity to rewrite it and resubmit it, which I took.

My muse was not on board this time, and it took months of incremental progress to get going, but once I hit my stride, I was all right. I was still having pain, and very little relief, but I worked on it because there was nothing else I could do. This book had to be done and it had to published, come hell or high water. I believed in the story, and I was not about to blow another deadline. My editor had given me a list of things to consider as I rewrote, and I used it as my guide.

I turned it in, and it was accepted.

That book was probably the hardest I’d ever written, so when it was released on 5/1/15, I was elated. I’d managed to do the thing I didn’t think I could do – write to a deadline and publish with severe eye and face pain. Whoa.

And finally, we come to my current release, Ever Touched. I’d just gotten my diagnosis and was on medication so things were better, but not perfect. Ever Touched was a bit of a departure again – but this time, new beings in the Fey Touched world. It came as a tiny whisper as I closed up after work one day, “Old but new. First Fey. Holographic wings.” And with that, the Ascended were born! (And there is another new race of people as well, but I won’t spoil it.)

Ever Touched wasn’t plotted much – very loosely, and I liked it that way. Throughout the process, I wondered if I’d pushed things too far, or maybe, hell, it sucked. The whole thing with GT had shattered my confidence some, so there was always the question of whether or not I could do it again. I believed in myself, and my fellow Turtleduckers believed in me, but there was always that little voice inside that said, “Maybe it really does suck, and everyone’s afraid to tell you.” Which made no sense, because my editor, Siri, the one who’d rejected GT, would indeed give it to me straight. And the others would, too. We’re about quality and we’re professionals and we’d be fine. But I wondered.

When I turned EvT in on December 1st, it was with trepidation. This would be it. Was EvT worthy of publication? I was also trying to avoid another three-year gap between books. Marketing-wise, it was suicide. Thankfully, it was accepted, and I was shocked to discover that it didn’t need many rewrites at all (thank you, Kit!) and was pretty sound as is.

This blew my mind. I’d expected some rewrites. But for it to be pretty clean…this was amazing (and a first. I have always had to rewrite books. Always).

Ever Touched may or may not be the final book in the series. I wrote it so it could be either, because I couldn’t decide at the time. But for me it feels like coming full circle. I started out all excited to be experimenting, was hit with serious health adversity, almost gave up writing altogether, and now have emerged triumphant and better than ever. In the book, there is also a big triumph over a cruel, horrible enemy. And I wonder if this enemy was a symbol for the trigeminal neuralgia – that the Fey Touched’s victory over him is a parallel to my victory over the TN. It certainly feels that way at times. On the whole, writing this series has had its ups and downs and tears and frustrations, but it has also been one of my greatest joys. I always tell people that I am not doing this for the money (and really? I haven’t sold much more than the average indie) but because I simply love it.

This book also has a special place in my heart because the two main characters, Brianna and Cobra, are two of my favorites. It took me three books to discover both their secrets, and I’ll be honest, I got a bit teary writing some of their scenes (especially one in particular). I discovered their theme song, “The Sound of Silence” (as covered by Disturbed) after writing three-quarters of the book. I was writing a certain scene while the song was playing, and it was so perfect that I was stunned. (You’ll understand when you read it).

Ever Touched is a book I am proud of. It took a lot of guts to do what I did in it, and to stretch the science in the way that I did, but I am glad I did it and didn’t give up till I found some cool stuff to work with. That’s all my muse, and my love of science, which is what started me on this back in 2011. Why not combine science and fantasy and see what develops? I’m so glad I took a chance on this series.

I can’t tell you what’s coming for my Fey Touched folks, but I can say this: I am probably not completely done with them, or their world. Stay tuned.

*Trigeminal neuralgia: an excruciating inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which supplies sensation to the face in three branches. It is also called the “suicide disease” because people have attempted suicide to be free of the pain. Mine is atypical; that is, it’s not a usual presentation. I have mainly eye pain and some face pain; it’s usually face pain mostly. And that’s how I discovered it myself. The pain feels like someone is poking my eyeball constantly. Hard. And it never went away. Never, unless I was sleeping. And no one could figure it out, until I did last year. I finally have medication that reduces the pain significantly, but does not eradicate it. I am beginning to have more pain these days, which is to be expected as it is a chronic, progressive condition.

Siri here: I’m so proud of Erin for fighting through and getting Grave Touched and now Ever Touched out into the world! You can buy Ever Touched at Turtleduck Press, or if you’d rather start with the first in the series, Fey Touched is available here.

 

 

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Cover Reveal: Ever Touched by Erin Zarro

Hi folks! Today I’m excited to give you a sneak peek of the novel I spent last month copyediting. (You might have seen hints on my Instagram.) This is the next Turtleduck Press release, due out May 1st. It’s book 3 in the Fey Touched series, but it stands alone pretty well — each book in the series tells the story of a different couple within the same group of badass, genetically engineered, crime-fighting humans. (Call it…urban science fiction? Or Earth-based science fiction romance? We at Turtleduck Press love genre-bending!)

So, without further ado, here are the lovely cover and book description / back-cover copy for Ever Touched:

Ever Touched final cover 3-30-17
One secret remembered, another forgotten…which one will explode first?

Brianna has two problems: she cannot remember her past, and she astrally projects to another woman who has predictions tortured out of her. As a result, she is lonely and feels distanced from her co-workers — the only family she has ever known — the Fey Touched Hunters. She is their intelligence gatherer, and her episodes are interfering with her ability to do her job.

When Fey Touched Hunter Cobra, her friend, finds her alone and injured from an episode, she accepts his help. But she’s terrified of doctors and of being thought mentally ill, so she refuses to tell him what’s wrong or let him take her to get medical help. Still, Cobra continues to help and protect her. They find themselves falling in love.

But Cobra, too, has a secret that could rip their fragile bond apart.

When Brianna discovers through her episodes that someone has plans to destroy the Fey Clans, the Fey Touched decide to put their hatred aside and help them. But it’s not just a matter of someone with a grudge: there are other, more powerful players — beings thought to be legend.

As they unravel the mystery, Brianna’s episodes become more frequent and more dangerous until she is faced with a choice. To find the mystery girl and help the Fey Clans, she must risk opening herself up to the Hunters and to Cobra, and put her own life on the line. But is she prepared for the answers she’ll find?

Siri here: Ever Touched will be available May 1st from Amazon et al. While you’re waiting, here’s a preview of what’s in store. Keep an eye on the Turtleduck Press site for buy links!

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Genre-Bending Books (Redux)

The Passage by Justin Cronin coverI’m a fan of science fiction. And fantasy. And everything in between…sometimes especially the books that fall in between. I’ve written before about science fantasy, about works that blend speculative fiction and realism, and of course, steampunk. But that was all several years ago, and now I’ve got a whole new crop of genre-benders to share with you…

Futuristic Fantasy

Start with the present day. Fast forward a few decades, or maybe a little more. You can see a clear connection to our own world, including geography. The technology level might be similar to ours, or higher in certain areas, or maybe lower, depending on what might have happened between now and then. (Gotta love verb tenses when talking about futures that may never arrive…) But there are also fantasy creatures or tropes–magic, gods, vampires. In this category we have:

The Passage series by Justin Cronin

This is what literary agents call a “high-concept” book with a “strong hook”. Two words: vampire apocalypse. Cronin starts in the present day, where a vampire virus has just been discovered. Then he fast-forwards through time, pausing for a while here and there to dip into the lives of a set of characters, some of whom pop up again and again. The books veer between thriller and literary drama–what agent Donald Maass calls “breakout novel” territory. That’s a lot of genres, but somehow it all works.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinsonblog-brown-girl-hopkinson-cover

Toronto in the future, or at least Hopkinson’s version of the future, is a lawless place controlled by a drug lord. Infrastructure and social safety nets are all but gone. The placenames and layout of the city are still recognizable, though much decayed. But at the same time, the voodoo gods are drifting around, looking for a chance to get involved…

Above by Leah Bobet

Another story set in Toronto, but this one starts out sounding much like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, if the young protagonist had been from the underworld peeking out instead of our own world peeking in. It goes on to deconstruct stories like Neverwhere and a whole lot of other things. I can’t say too much about it without being spoilery, so instead I’ll just give a bonus shout-out to Bobet’s second novel, An Inheritance of Ashes, which is more…

Fantasy with Hints of Technology

A fantasy-seeming world that hints at not being a straight-up secondary world a la Tolkien. Or a world with some futuristic trappings that’s clearly more interested in fantasy tropes and telling fantasy stories. (Think Pern or Dune.) Or some mad blending of the two.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi OkoraforCover of Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Like Brown Girl in the Ring, this is a compelling near-to-mid-future story of a young black woman coming into her own magical powers. I’ve placed it here not because it’s set in Sudan (which looks more like fantasy to Western eyes) but because it’s less interested in the tension between magic and technology than Hopkinson’s novel is. It’s a classic fantasy quest story, with powerful sorcerers and training sequences and visions and even a band of misfits trekking long distances. There just happens to be advanced technology here and there.

The Tearling series by Erika Johansen

Girl living a quiet life in the forest learns she’s the heir to the throne and is whisked away to start her new life in the palace. (That’s not much of a spoiler–it’s all in the first few pages.) Another classic fantasy tale, modernized for today’s reader? Maybe…except that the heir occasionally uses words like genetics. The second book in the series delves more into why this is so, losing the tight focus on character but adding worldbuilding context.

The Fey Touched series by Erin Zarroblog-erin-zarro-fey-touched-cover

Finally, I have to put in a plug for Turtleduck Press author Erin Zarro. Her fantasy world looks not unlike ours…except that there are vampire-hunting fey…and occasional evil scientists performing genetic experiments and the like. Intrigued? Book 3 in the series will be out May 1! I’ll be posting more about it as the date draws closer.

 

Are you a fan of genre-bending books? Please share!

 

If You Liked City of Hope and Ruin…

Since the time for gift-giving is fast approaching, I wanted to pop back in and share some ideas. (For books, of course–is there any other kind of gift for a reader?) If you liked City of Hope and Ruin, or know someone who would, here are some others to check out.

Cover of Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

If you liked the post-apocalyptic/fantasy blend with strong female protagonists of colour then try…

  • Brown Girl in the Ring by Jamaican-Canadian writer Nalo Hopkinson
  • Parable of the Sower (near-future) by famed American author Octavia Butler
  • Who Fears Death by Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor

If you liked the dual-author, dual-protagonist structure then try…

  • Sorcery & Cecelia; or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (YA) by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (an epistolary fantasy, with the two characters writing back and forth to each other)
  • Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer (okay, this isn’t even fantasy, but you’ll still love it, trust me)

If you liked the mixture of urban fantasy with a tinge of SF and the “chosen family” angle then try…blog-an-inheritance-of-ashes-leah-bobet

  • Above (YA) by Canadian author Leah Bobet
  • Fey Touched by Turtleduck Press author Erin Zarro (first in a series, and book 3 is due out May 2017!)

If you liked the demons from another dimension breaking into a fantasy world and the village/rural/wilderness setting then try…

  • Burning Bright by Turtleduck Press author KD Sarge
  • …okay, I have to put Leah Bobet on here again, because her An Inheritance of Ashes (YA) is exactly this (and was one of my favourite reads this year)

If you liked the Eastern European feel of the world then try…

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone (YA) by Laini Taylor (set in Prague)
  • The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
  • The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (set in Moscow)Shards by Kit Campbell

If you liked the combination of romance, SF/fantasy adventure, and save-the-world stakes then try…

  • the Erin Zarro and KD Sarge novels recommended above
  • Shards by my co-author, Kit Campbell
  • any of our other novels at Turtleduck Press!

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Grave Touched: A Labor of Love by Erin Zarro

Erin Zarro author photoHello again! Today we have a guest post by Turtleduck Press author Erin Zarro, who is celebrating the release of her second novel, Grave Touched.

Full disclosure: I am the chief editor at Turtleduck Press, so I saw a version of this book early on and…well, I’ll let Erin tell it:

When I first conceived the idea of writing this book, I was over the moon. I’m a huge fan (and believer) of ghosts, and the idea of ghosts possessing people intrigued me. I started writing it before book 1, Fey Touched, was published. But then I had a problem with my left eye (severe excruciating pain that required taking a break from writing) and things kind of went off the rails.

When I finally got back to writing, I was able to make my next deadline. I’d worried about that, because I’d blown my first deadline because of my eye. The last thing I wanted to do was blow another deadline and create yet another hole in our publishing schedule. They were wonderful and understanding, but I still felt like a failure.

About two weeks after sending it to my editor, Siri, I got an email from her. It was not good news. She felt that the book wasn’t ready to be published. She gave me a extensive list of things that weren’t working. Naturally, I’d felt that I’d nailed it — at first. But then as I thought about her issues, it dawned on me. This was not my best work. She was absolutely right. Somehow, in the midst of my desire to make my deadline and having eye pain, I screwed up badly. And of course I wondered then if I was a crappy writer. Maybe Fey Touched was a fluke, and I suck. Maybe I went back to writing too soon, and was a bit delusional as to my abilities. Maybe the pain was screwing with my head. Maybe the book wasn’t working and it would never work. Maybe it needed to be trunked.

Cover of Fey Touched by Erin ZarroOn and on and on. I suffer from clinical depression, so this just added on to the refrain of “you suck, your writing sucks, you’re never going to sell anything” and so forth. This was a dark time for me. I’ve lost my way before — ironically just before I started writing Fey Touched. I’d rewritten a different novel 4 times in order to make it acceptable to an agent. Well, I was rewriting the love and magic right out of it. I took the advice of several writer friends and set it aside, resolving to write something purely for fun and for myself. That book was Fey Touched.

So I’d accomplished that but I wasn’t sure I had it in me to do it again. I agreed to the rewrite and the tentative deadline, which gave me about a year to work on it, so I felt fairly confident that I’d be able to make it. If I could get my muse on board.

She wasn’t, not at first. She saw this as an unnecessary rewrite and balked at doing anything. It’s funny because I really did want to do the rewrite. But maybe someplace in my subconscious I felt like I was beating a dead horse. It took awhile to get into the flow, but once I got started, I was able to keep progressing.

This entire process took three years. Sometimes I worried about wasting my time. But now, after completing it and publishing it, I’m happy to say that everything I went through with this book was so worth it. I learned that one misstep does not make me a failure as a writer. I learned that I could produce (and produce salable fiction) with excruciating eye pain. I learned to follow my instincts and my muse. But most of all, I learned strength. It would have so easy to give up. To say, hey, it’s just not working, I need to do something else. But I persisted, because the book needed to be written. My idea needed to be expanded upon and explored. My characters needed this growth. And I, too, grew as a writer.

I’m glad that Siri rejected the first incarnation. Sounds weird, but it’s true. Had she not rejected it, I might have published it anyway and that would have been detrimental to my career. It was not ready, and I know that. Because of this, I kept believing in myself and in the book, so much that I couldn’t let it die.

With writing, a lot of people don’t understand the amount of work that goes into a novel, both writing and publishing. Any novel could take months to years to complete. And every writer is different. When you suffer from chronic pain, every day you have to refigure your goals and productivity. I am, by nature, very stubborn and very driven, so I didn’t let it stop me. But it was tough. Some days I didn’t know how I’d come home from work and work on the book. Editing and revising was a study in patience. And it’s harder with a hurting eye. But I didn’t have the option of quitting. I’m a writer, and I write. Nothing else matters.

So, it can be done. Blood, sweat, tears, and persistence will win every time. Hopefully I’ve inspired some of you to try to meet your goals even through adversity. It’s an amazing feeling to have done the very thing you didn’t believe you could do. Try it.

The final incarnation of Grave Touched that’s published is a love song to my muse, a crazy journey, and a story I’ve wanted to tell for three years. I am truly proud of it, and proud that I’d nailed it this time. And thankful that I’m still doing my thing, regardless of anything else.

I am a writer. Nothing more, nothing less.

Grave Touched by Erin ZarroSiri here. I’m so proud of Erin for fighting through all those self-doubts. (Heck, I posted just last month about my own struggles with imposter syndrome.) The new version of Grave Touched is a whole lot better, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Grave Touched is available as a Kindle ebook here, and a print version is coming soon. If you’d rather start with Fey Touched (the first in the series) the ebook version of that is currently on sale for 99 cents.

Happy reading!

Turtleduck Press News: Grave Touched by Erin Zarro Cover Reveal

Hello, lovely blog readers! I’m excited to share some news from Turtleduck Press. On May 1, we’re releasing our next novel, a futuristic paranormal by Erin Zarro. Here’s the brand-new cover and cover copy:

Grave Touched by Erin Zarro

Fey Touched – humans, genetically engineered for immortality and flight, tasked with protecting the rest of the world from rogue Fey…

Grave Touched – dead souls in search of living bodies to possess, especially those who’ve had a brush with death…

When Fey Touched Hunter Emily wakes up in a hospital, she doesn’t know that she was in fact dead. Nor does she know that her lover, Nick, broke all kinds of rules to bring her back. But the grave touched do.

Fey Touched Healer Asha does know that her mate, Joe, saved her when her abilities nearly killed her. And she knows the voices in her head are the grave touched trying to stake their claim. Asha needs Joe’s help again, but unfortunately she’s the only one who believes the grave touched exist.

The grave touched are plotting to take over the corporeal world, and they’re gaining strength. Only Emily and Asha stand in their way – and both are about to be possessed.

Grave Touched.

Siri here. If you like spicy paranormals, we hope you’ll check out Grave Touched on May 1 (in print and Kindle editions). Although it can be read alone, it’s the sequel to Fey Touched, Erin’s debut novel, so if you can’t wait to dive into this world, go read Fey Touched!

Guest Post by Erin Zarro: Opening a New Window

Erin Zarro author photoThis week I’m on a blog hiatus, so my fellow Turtleduck Press author, dark SFF and horror writer Erin Zarro, is here to fill in. Please give her a warm welcome!

They say that when a door closes, a window opens.  And that has never been more true than it is right now.  Long story short: in February (8 months ago to the day), I began having severe, excruciating pain in my left eye.  I was checked out, poked, prodded, and tortured by 3 MRIs (hello, claustrophobia!) and as of right now, no one can conclusively say what precisely it is.  The closest thing is optic neuritis, a painful inflammation of the optic nerve.

I’m not a wimp about pain of any kind, and I usually write through everything (including migraines and recovery from surgeries), so that was my first instinct.  Problem was, I had severe vertigo that made it impossible to stay focused on the screen.  After that went away, it was just too painful to work on the computer.  (I do have a day job, and I *have* to look at a computer screen most of my day).  Soooo I took three months off writing, and that nearly drove me insane and made me wish I were dead.  Not writing was like not breathing to me.

At some point, I determined that maybe I *could* do a little bit of writing, just not the novel revision I’d planned to do.  (Revision is tough, even under the best of circumstances).  So I thought, hey, I’ll just write 100 words a day.  When it’s flowing, and I can bear the pain, I’ll roll with it.  But surely I can crank out at least 100 words, right?

So I did.  And it felt amazing.  It was like coming home after a long time away.  It was sunshine and autumn leaves and Christmas all at once.  It was just what I needed.  But something was missing.

I’d done this for about a month or so when I discovered Holly Lisle’s How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck class (yes, that’s the actual name).  It was free and short-term, just 3 weeks.  I’ve always been curious about flash fiction, but never considered it because I’m a novel writer, and I write long.  How could I write a story that feels like writing haiku? I figured I’d give it a whirl.  Worst case, I suck and no harm done.  Best case, I learn something new and can use it in the future to write flash fiction.

So I signed up and waited for lesson 1 with trepidation.

Long story short: Holly Lisle is a genius.  Seriously.  She has an actual methodology for determining what to write about, what to throw at the character (s), and how to end it, usually with some type of twist.  It was broken down so easily and went so smoothly that it felt like a dream.  But most importantly, I really, really enjoyed it.  And writing 500 words in the span of 2 or 3 days was just enough to get me back to writing with purpose.  It felt amazing, and I discovered that I’m actually pretty good at those twist endings.

There was also a board set up where students can talk, mingle, and critique each other.  I met some wonderful people, and learned a lot from the critiques. My stories are so much better for it.

One of the things Holly talks about is self-publishing, and getting people to start the process — just dipping their toes in, starting small, nothing too intimidating.  And she suggested we take the flash stories we wrote in class (I wrote 7) and put them into an anthology.  I decided to put mine up for 99 cents as a gateway into my writing.  I figured no one will turn down 99 cents.  But hopefully they will enjoy it, and maybe I’ll get some sales of my other stuff, too.

Cover of In Flames by Erin ZarroIt took me about a month to get my anthology, In Flames, put together and up at Smashwords.  It was a learning experience.  I’m very happy with it, and I did everything myself, even the cover!  I feel good.  I feel like the months I spent not revising were put to good use.  But even more importantly, it kept my hand in it even when I wasn’t feeling up to anything intricate.  It saved my sanity, too.

So, if you’re curious, you can download In Flames at Smashwords at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/349458.

I’m still in pain, but I’m back to writing fully again.  I still don’t have a diagnosis, either, but that really doesn’t matter.  I was able to come back to writing, opening a window I never knew existed.  And that’s enough for now.