The final book of the Puzzle Box trilogy is finally here! Check out this gorgeous cover:
After the events of Malevolent and Malcontent, Libby and Mal are reeling from their soul separation. Libby has learned to use life motes in new, amazing ways. Mal has regained his humanity, yet is crushed under the weight of the devouring power laid upon him. Despite this, their devotion to each other has grown into passionate adoration.
When a new type of undead appears, Mal tries to stop the revenant’s insane misuse of magic. The revenant is aided by a terrible monster called the Hunger. Not even the Marchers can stand before them.
Now Mal and Libby must discover their own deepest secrets to end the zombie apocalypse and defeat the revenant and the Hunger, or lose everything they hold dear.
It’s hard to summarize the third book of a trilogy without giving away every last detail of books 1 and 2, but there you go. The other two books are on sale right now, so if you want to dive into the trilogy, now is a good time! I’m working on the paperback, and hope to have that out in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s the links to the first two books, Malevolent and Malcontent.
When I was fresh out of college and needed a job, I took a position as junior art teacher, working for another art teacher I had studied under for years. I was nervous. Jittery. Inclined to talk too much.
“Remember,” my boss told me, “people don’t know this is your first day unless you tell them.”
This was a staggering revelation to me. How could people not tell that I was a freaking noob with no job experience who was scared out of my mind? So I smiled and I worked and I faked it. And you know, nobody knew I was faking it. They thought I knew what I was doing, and treated me like a professional.
It was a lesson I proceeded to apply to everything in life.
Don’t know anything about raising kids?
Don’t know anything about writing books?
Don’t know anything about publishing or marketing?
I heard a story one time about an AA group, where the members were told to pick a religion. One of the addicts asked what would happen if they didn’t believe in anything. The leader told them, “Fake it ’til you make it.”
I think it ties into Imposter Syndrome. Everybody has it. I think it was John Maxwell who says that every CEO has this secret fear that their second grade teacher will run into the room and yell, “He’s an imposter! He failed spelling!”
If you talk to me, you’d think I’m a calm, collected person who has her life together. You don’t see the inside of my head where I’m screaming, “Oh my gosh, what do I say? Am I coming off as a complete dork? Are my kids embarrassing? Did they read my books and did they notice that dangling participle I left in chapter 3?”
I’m really bad about this when streaming with my hubby. Get a camera pointed at me and I turn into a complete clown. I’m cracking jokes and being silly and making fun of the game we’re playing. Inside, I’m just one continuous AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH.
Eventually, I do wind up knowing what I’m doing with writing, or publishing (haha, it changes so fast, though). Jury’s still out on raising kids. But faking it is better than being paralyzed and doing nothing at all. Because that’s pretty much the alternative. Sit where you are … or pretend you know what you’re doing, and move forward.
Halloween is careening toward us, rife with ghosts, monsters, princesses, and jack o’ lanterns. Pretty much everybody loves it, if only for the cooler weather and the changing seasons.
And the pumpkin spice.
Today, I just did something scarier than dressing up and wearing fake fangs.
I finished editing Malicious.
This means preorders and cover reveals and hammering out a decent summary that doesn’t give away every last detail about books 1 and 2. (Is that even possible with the third book in a trilogy?) And worst of all: The Resistance.
Seth Godin defines the Resistance as the lizard brain, the part of your psyche that wants to survive. It doesn’t like changing the status quo. “We’re safe right here,” it says. “Why should we do something scary like publishing a book? We might get bad reviews or something! Let’s just sit on it and never show it to anybody.”
I think there’s something spiritual that goes on, too. I’ve seen other authors talk about it. These voices start whispering, “Why should you even bother? You’ll never amount to anything. The book isn’t any good.” And so on. It’s like, really extreme negative self-talk. I generally have pretty upbeat self-talk, so when this negative stuff starts, I always notice it. Once I address it in prayer, it stops.
And publishing a book is pretty terrifying. Particularly the end of a trilogy. The story has to pay off all the plot and tension set up in books 1 and 2. I want my readers to put it down with a satisfied sigh and walk around with warm fuzzies for a day or two. You know, the kind you get when you finish a REALLY good story and you’re all contented inside.
This was also the hardest book to write. I’ve rewritten huge chunks of it over the course of a year. I’ve slaved and fretted and brainstormed. But when I got it back from my editor, she said this was the smoothest of my books she’s edited so far. My beta readers were enthusiastic, saying this was the best book I’ve written yet. That kind of encouragement should make me feel invincible.
But the Resistance drags its feet. The struggle is real.
How about you? Do you get scared when you’re about to finish a huge project? Or am I just weird?
I’m knee-deep in editing the final book of Malevolent right now. In the big battle in the middle of the book, my editor keeps saying, “Too many similes … too many similes … can we have some metaphors instead?”
This is my confession. I love similes.
I never thought about them very much until I read Signal to Noise by Eric Nylund. It’s a cyberpunk book in which everybody has brain implants that let them interface with computers. They all work in these “bubbles” instead of offices. The bubble interfaces with their implant and lets them visualize their own thoughts and ideas as metaphors. For instance, one character’s office is a steel plant with lots of machinery running. When the hero gives her bad news, in the background, the steel plant has an accident and molten metal spills everywhere.
The whole book is like that. It’s crushingly vivid because there’s a powerful visual metaphor in every paragraph. I counted, once. Every single paragraph. But it has to be that way, because the things he’s describing are impossible to imagine otherwise.
So I developed a habit of way over-describing the crazy things I was trying to write about. Here’s a sample of what my poor editor was talking about, from the middle of Malicious:
As before, I felt the barrier as hot and cold at the same time, like having a fever. I slipped into a weird trance state, almost dozing with my eyes open. There were life motes here. I could use them–this barrier was like a water main under high pressure. All I had to do was give it a crack.
Instead of blocking out Mal’s immense death power, I reached out and grasped it. He made an awful sound, a soft scream I had never heard before.
“It’s okay!” I said, unwilling to break out of my trance. It hurts to have your motes yanked, so I tugged as gently as I could. His motes had a pull like a gravity well and a definite shape. Wielding them like a magnet, I aimed them at the mote stream of the barrier at my feet. Life motes poured into both of us, hot, violent, unpredictable. I pulled in more and more, the pressure building as a fever-heat behind my eyes.
The ghouls were twenty feet away and galloping toward us like apes. Mal stood paralyzed, eyes closed, suffering as I used his power. He wouldn’t be able to stop them.
But I could.
See? Six similes in three paragraphs. I’ll have to revise this. I think I have a problem.
I mean, people who read romance novels are just picking it up to go through the emotions of falling in love, right? That’s why romance has such a predictable formula–there doesn’t need to be a ton of plot. Guy meets girl. Girl and guy have secrets. Girl and guy hit it off (or fight). Circumstances throw them together again and again until they get to know each other a bit–and then secrets come to light and they splitsville … and then they realize they can’t live without each other and work hard to make things turn out. Happily ever after. Fade to credits.
As I’ve mused before, love has a lot of aspects to it. Like when I released Malcontent, I was chewing on the idea of respect in relationships. Too many relationships have been wrecked without it.
I was playing with another romantic plot, and I remarked to my writer’s group, why can’t I write romance without adding suspense? There’s always got to be death. People laughed.
Then I started thinking. When does love NOT have death? When two people fall in love, they have to die to their own selfish desires, their own secrets, for the good of the other person. Heck, it goes on, too. Say they get married and have kids. The parents have to die to their wishes for dates, alone time, any time at all … for the good of the family. Death, death, death.
But out of it comes life, life, life.
God’s built the principle of resurrection into the fabric of our reality. We have to die to those desires so new, better things result. And it happens all the time. Any time a person dares to die to themselves for the sake of someone else, something good results. At least, it does in my life! So I suck it up and die to myself in little ways every day, because the reward is so worth it.
It works the same way in fiction. I find that my best romantic plots involve death–characters who are willing to die for each other, in tiny ways as well as big ways. I guess I just overthink things. Or maybe I’m just coming to understand “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”