Ice & Smoke – Audio Sample

Try out the first few pages of Ice & Smoke in audio form, read by yours truly!

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Ice & Smoke

Behold my second novel!!! Independently published, at some expense and a great deal of effort, with many learning experiences along the way. More blog posts to follow on that subject, but for today, just this: The book is now available as a Kindle ebook, with Kobo coming soon.

Also please join me in drooling over my cover art. The artist is my brother Christopher, and yes he’s available for commissions, etc., and I am so freaking proud to be his sister!

 

Ramping Up

It’s been a long time since I had any news to share, but I am excited to announce that my second novel is going to be coming out in the next few months! I’m self-publishing this one, for several reasons that will probably be their own post. I haven’t done that before so this is very much learn-as-you-go, but learning I am, and my goal is to release Ice & Smoke, a YA fantasy about a princess and a dragon, by the beginning of March.

Part of that process is ramping up my online presence in a number of ways, since the only advertising this poor book is gonna get is what I do my own self. I have a Twitter now, @elizabethbelyeu, and at some point I’m going to be forming an email list where readers can sign up to occasionally hear from me in their inbox (nothing spammy, I promise, I wouldn’t have time or energy for that anyway).

I’m really excited about all of this! Wish me luck, everybody, and I really hope you enjoy the book when it comes out!

Something of a Genre Change…

I’ve been thinking of writing a cookbook.

Unless you know me personally, you can’t understand how utterly hilarious that sentence is. My culinary history includes such highlights as (1) not realizing I should add water to the condensed soup, (2) burning pancake after pancake after pancake (still raw in the middle) until I set off the smoke alarm, (3) deciding that opening a can of Spaghetti-Os was too much effort and just skipping dinner entirely. I currently have about five recipes that I can reliably handle, and I just cycle through those over and over until my sister-and-roommate falls on her knees begging for a vegetable, any vegetable.

My general incompetence at cooking is complicated by what you might call my incompetence at eating. From my earliest childhood I was a picky eater, but where most kids grow out of that, I got, if anything, worse as I got older. I can’t tell you how many family dinners ended one of two ways—me fixing myself a cheese sandwich, or me glaring mulishly at a plate I refused to touch while my dad ranted about hungry children in India. (“So send it to them!” I said once in exasperation. Somehow he didn’t see the wisdom of that.) Everywhere we went—restaurants, social gatherings, family reunions—I faced the horror of having nothing to eat, and/or being pressured to put things in my mouth that I could barely stand to look at. It was never a matter of wanting to be difficult! I didn’t want to hurt the cooks’ feelings, and I wasn’t looking for special treatment—all I wanted was just one single dish of non-terrifying food.

And yes, terrifying is the right descriptor. See, what I finally discovered a few months ago is that I’m not just a “picky eater.” I have a freaking eating disorder. It’s called ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), and unlike more famous eating disorders like anorexia, it’s not body-image driven but rather an expression of anxiety. Anxiety runs strong in my family; my mother has it, my grandmother has it, my sister-roommate has it. I thought I had been spared, but it seems I merely have an unusual manifestation. Instead of getting stuck in catastrophizing worry spirals or having to breathe my way through panic attacks, for me it all gets channeled through my relationship with food.

Unfamiliar foods make me deeply anxious and panicky. Trying something new requires a lot of gentle support and psyching myself up. I need to feel safe and relaxed or my entire being is going to reject the idea of eating the Scary New Thing. I’d figured out a certain amount of this even before hearing of ARFID, but I can’t tell how exciting it is, how much of a relief it is to have a name for this weird way that I am, to know that other people have this problem, too, and I am not a complete freak. It’s true that I haven’t been formally diagnosed by any kind of professional, but I am ridiculously textbook, guys. Ridiculously.

And now we come back to the cookbook idea.

See, on the subject of being textbook, there are certain foods that are commonly accepted or rejected by ARFID sufferers. On the Yes list are what I call the “golden foods”—things on the white-brown-yellow spectrum are much more likely to be acceptable. Bread, cheese, pasta, corn, chicken, that kind of thing. The No list frequently features entire food groups such as meat, vegetables, and fruit. (In my case, I’m good with most meats but my only vegetable is corn and my only fruit is apples. You’ll notice they’re yellow.) (The inside of the apple, of course. I won’t eat the peeling.) And that’s where cooking gets really difficult. There are only so many ways to combine bread, cheese, and chicken.

Now that ARFID is slowly gaining traction as an acknowledged thing (it was added to the DSM just a year or two ago), I had hoped to find some guidance out there in preparing ARFID-friendly foods. So far, I haven’t found anything. So I’ve been thinking maybe I should be the change I want to see in the world, you know?

After all, I have like… five whole recipes!

But does the Dark Side really have cookies?

So I have this story. It’s finished, unlike virtually everything else I’ve touched in the last five years (there’s a rant for another day). It needs some editing, but it’s a whole product to start from, at least. And I love the story, and people I trust who’ve read it love the story, and we’d all like to see it published. My agent, sadly, does not love it. She declined to take it on.

Meanwhile, I’m seeing more and more writers making a go of their writing careers through self-published ebooks (everyone seems to agree that electronic is the way to go, you can’t make a profit with print copies, they’re just too expensive to produce). People with large, devoted fanbases and reliable income streams via their writing, and that’s—good gosh, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re even supporting themselves 100% with their writing. I’m sure for every success, there’s a hundred failures, or a thousand, who knows. But the successes are compelling.

What this boils down to is that I’m very seriously considering self-publishing my second novel.

I have very mixed feelings about this. I know I’ve absorbed a certain amount of the cultural judgment of self-publication. The plain fact is that an industry without gatekeepers allows some really awful dreck to get out there into the world and make a bad name for the rest of us/them. Part of me has always been fiercely proud that Secondhand Shadow was published by a REAL publisher, however tiny. But what did that get me, really, other than bragging rights? They paid me instead of the other way around, yeah, but they sure didn’t pay me much. I got no marketing, no real support. This makes me start thinking that maybe I might as well do it myself and get a bigger cut of the profits.

Am I selling out, doing something artistically distasteful purely in exchange for money? I don’t think so. I think it’s my own reluctant attitude that’s outdated. The publishing industry is undergoing (or even, has undergone) a sea change that makes the “middle men” of agents, editors and publishers something that’s no longer strictly necessary. I admit I look at others’ success and I want it. I want to actually sell books and have people read them. I have to make money to live, and I want to do it with my writing. (Of course it’s the rare bird that can drop out of the conventional workforce entirely. Right now I’d settle for enough extra money that I can go out to dinner without worrying all night about the cost.)

Money might be a factor on this side of the equation, too, though; self-publishing involves a certain amount of investment. Not, thank goodness, as much as it did, back when writers had to buy paper copies of their book and hope to sell them, but apparently costs like editing, cover art, formatting—not to mention promotion—can add up. There’s a lot of variation, but hundreds of dollars, definitely. And I don’t have that. So we’ll just have to see. First step is to get the manuscript itself into as good a shape as I can, and then get other eyes to look it over and go through the process again. The rest I’ll just keep simmering in the back of my mind, and see what we can come up with.

Word Warrior

Today we talk about how I am a turtle at WORD WARS!!!!

So Word Warring or Word Racing, if you didn’t know, is when two or more writers sit down simultaneously to write for a certain period of time (15 minutes, maybe, or half an hour), and whoever writes the most words is the winner. Winner of nothing more than bragging rights, of course, in my experience — but I’ve found it to be a very valuable tool for making me focus and actually Make Words instead of staring at the screen (or worse, ending up on Tumblr).

Early on, though, I had to resign myself to very seldom getting those bragging rights. Previously-mentioned-writer-friend Deni, my most common Word Race partner, inevitably leaves me in the dust. Her ability to just sit down and spill words in all directions never ceases to amaze and sort of alarm me. It’s like watching someone tear their car, pell-mell and whooping, down the same rutted, potholed road you just finished picking your way carefully through, probably still picking up a nail along the way.

Tortoise and the hare, that became our joke. She might win every battle, yet lose the war–because she tends to zero out between sprints. I plod along more steadily, writing a few words a day, never very many, but always a few. It works for me. I’m fine with that.

And then — and then!!! A couple weeks ago, I was hanging out in a chat room with several other writer friends, and they invited me to Word War. “Sure,” I said, “just don’t expect too much from me. [baymax voice] I am not fast.”

I won handily. Over and over.

And no, I wasn’t writing any faster than usual. But apparently it’s less that I’m a tortoise and she’s a hare, and more that I’m a NORMAL PERSON and she’s…

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Bright Spots

A lot has happened since I properly updated! I’ve moved to Texas with my big sister. We have an apartment we like immensely and jobs we’re… putting up with, haha. I’m working two part-time jobs, sometimes totaling up to 48 hours a week. One is at a library, and it would be ideal if it wasn’t only 20 hours (and every weekend, to boot). The other is in retail, which… yeah. Retail. I have to talk myself out of quitting virtually every day. It’s not worth the money – except that I have to have the money. Urgh.

The last week has been especially tough for me. I wrecked my car, came down with a miserable cold, and my sister went home for Christmas, leaving me to take care of myself, the dog and the apartment alone. (I’ll be following along after her as soon as my work schedule permits — but that’s a whole new set of obstacles, involving a 12-hour drive on Christmas Eve after a full shift, in a borrowed car that I hate, with a dog.)

My GPS is in the car that I wrecked, at the body shop, so I’ve spent this week getting lost over and over again. That usually involves tears and panic, not to mention lost time. The housekeeping is falling to pieces because I don’t have the time or energy to clean up after myself. All I want to do is sleep and I can’t even sleep well because I’m so wretchedly sick.

Not a very merry Christmas season, you might say.

Except really, Christmas is the one bright spot in all the mess. Seeing lights and trees and decorations never fails to lift my mood, even if just for a moment. I still love the carols, even after hearing them on endless repeat at my retail job. I plug in the Christmas tree and outside lights at our apartment, even if only me and the dog are there to see them. And the one thought getting me through all this is that in a few days’ time, I’ll be home with my family, opening gifts and eating pancakes and doing all the things we’ve always done together. I won’t have to go to work or pay bills or do much of anything, just for a few days.

I’m trying not to think beyond that.

Works in Progress

Aaand it has officially been Way Too Long since I posted on this blog. I gotta do something about that. But not tonight, because I’m super tired and just dropped by to throw up a link. RIGHT HERE you can, if you choose, find the first-draft-in-progress of my newest novel! Follow along, comment, go wild! Come one, come all!

(What’s the story about? Why, space aliens, of course. Specifically:

When an alien prison transport crashes on Earth, Leicho is the only surviving guard, and the only thing standing between the clueless human population and other survivors who would prey on them. The single dad and little girl who pick her up off the side of the road are about to get their lives turned inside out.)

Getting My Name Out There. Sort of. A Little.

I has been interviewed again! Dellani Oakes is a friend of a friend, and a very successful writer. She runs an online radio show that she attempted three times to have me on; that never happened due to, in chronological order, (1) Dellani getting sick, (2) me forgetting the show during the whirlwind of setting up for my baby sister’s wedding, (3) me getting the time zone wrong and also pretty much having a panic attack. Yeah… marketing oneself is a unique challenge for the introverts among us. But despite me completely flaking on her TWICE, Dellani was amazingly kind and sweet to me, so check out her site maybe?

I’m also looking into having a signing at my local Barnes & Noble. (I work there part-time now which makes it a little easier to talk to folks about the process.) The trouble is that due to the print-on-demand publishing process Astraea Press uses (as well it should, it’s much more efficient), <em>Secondhand Shadow</em> is not returnable by the bookstore if it doesn’t sell, so while they’re happy to host me, they’re not going to provide book copies. I would need to buy them myself to take along and hope they sell. Since that’s way beyond my financial capabilities at the moment (toothpaste is very nearly beyond my capabilities at the moment), I might do best to scare up a sponsor of some sort?? I don’t know how this stuff works. Will keep the blog apprised, though.

Provehito in Altum (Launch Forth Into the Deep) — A Paris & Carmen story

I needed to tell her. I knew that. When Dove and I had explained to Carmen what had just happened – why she’d just seen a ten-year-old boy gain twenty-seven inches and a decade of general growth – we hadn’t gone into the whole befasting thing. It seemed like more than enough for her to absorb right now without adding ‘also, we need to have a permanent mating ceremony, like death-do-you-part permanent, involving the mingling of our blood. Like soon. Or I’ll die. I mean, I’d never want to rush you into an immediate and rather creepy lifetime commitment. No pressure. But I’ll totes die if you don’t.’

There was still time to figure out how to impart that little gem of information. It was only the first night.

The first night, and I was already sleeping beside her. Beside my Lumi, for the first time in my life. Carmen had accepted everything I’d thrown at her – bizarre appearance shifts, blood-drinking and teleporting and vampire attacks – and not only refrained from checking either of us into the Rubber Room Hotel, but actually allowed me to stay at her side and sleep at her side, as if none of it bothered her at all. She was more freaked out than she let on; I knew that better than anyone, could feel it like a shadow (hah) behind my own emotions. But she chose not to let on.

Maybe one day I could explain to her why that meant so much. Maybe one day I could tell her about the woman who chose to die rather than deal with the horrifying mess of having a Shadow like me.

Also, it might rain diamonds and maple syrup.

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