Cadaverous Cliff Face(s)

I can’t decide what I think about these images in a cliff face. Look at these photos and help me decide…

Walking along your favorite beach, you pause and think, "Gee, almost looks like there are faces in that cliff. Never noticed them before."

Walking along your favorite beach, you pause and think, “Gee, almost looks like there are faces in that cliff. Never noticed them before.”

You step closer and confirm. Yup. Faces.

You step closer and confirm. Yup. Faces.

Or skulls. Eek.

Or maybe skulls. Eek.

What does this tell you about how the faces formed? Is this rock emerging after erosion? Or did Mom call Junior to come along, before he finished digging this one out?

What about this hole with a rock in it? Does this tell you how the faces formed? Is this rock emerging after erosion? Or did Mom call Junior to come along, before he finished digging out one last face?

1) Are these accidents of erosion that coincidentally look like faces? Or did some beachgoer dig out rocks in an act of 3D graffiti?… or ….

2) Or — do these suggest creatures escaping from the rock? Or have I been spending too much time in the universe of my new book series, FRAMES?

3) Are these faces cool, or creepy, or c), both of the above?

 

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic? Containers

Four Answers, Then Tag, They’re It!

Folks, you are about to witness my first participation in a blog tour, a newfangled invention by which indie writers help spread the word that they exist. Lisa Voisin invited me to join. Lisa has followed an interesting life path and it’s no wonder, perhaps, that she now writes young adult paranormal romance.

The way this blog tour works is that I answer four questions, then tell you about a few writers whose books I have really enjoyed. They will continue this tour by answering the same questions on their own blogs in two weeks.

Q1) What am I working on?

I’ve just started writing the second novel in the FRAMES series, the follow-on to Nica of Los Angeles, a speculative fantasy with detective and dystopian elements. Book 2, Chapter 1: my most recently completed sentence reads “As I returned to the street, the air pulsed in a series of quick blasts, punctuated with the deep screams of grown men.” Maybe we should have a contest and the winner will correctly guess what that sentence will read like by the time this new novel matures into a final draft.

Q2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Frankly, I think the author would be the last one to answer this question well.

Q3) Why do I write what I do?

I write what I feel compelled to write. The trick is to sustain that drive through the long haul of finishing a novel. More than once, over the years, I have fought the temptation to freshen my characters mid-book, by sending in a bus to run over the first bunch. Fortunately, I am having a great time writing Nica, and her second book looks to be more fun than the first.

Q4) How does my writing process work?

My subconscious has all the best ideas, but its contributions are scattershot and unpredictable. It’s my conscious writer that keeps plugging away, day after day, to draw the inspirations up to the surface and the page. Screen. Keyboard. Touchscreen.

I write first drafts on my iPad, and love sitting on a summer patio in the dark, illuminated only by my device. However, for editing and formatting, I have to return to my laptop, with its full-service software.

And now I’d like to introduce…

One benefit of being an indie writer is getting to e-meet other indie writers, all over the globe.

Hock Tjoa has this to say about himself:  “Hock is a retired teacher and banker and writes as part of his mission to make more widely known traditional Chinese values, but he makes digressions. He lives in northern California.” I read a play that Hock wrote, based on a Chinese folklore detective, and much enjoyed the dry wit and cleverness of the piece.

Louise White has had nearly as many career paths as I’ve had (!) and has covered both ends of the service spectrum, as a waitress and then a cop. She lives in Scotland and writes a young adult series about a kickass teenage girl who fights demons in a world that is … almost… just like ours. I love how normal and teenage her heroine is, in the midst of all the fantasy.

Tennesseean (?) Fran Veal also writes YA. She mingles teen drama with crime and just a touch of the paranormal. I am one chapter away from completing my first novel by her and it was painful to set it aside so that I could meet various deadlines like posting my blog tour entry on time. But hey, I’m a grown-up, right?

I sense some sniggering, somewhere. Grown-up? Reading a bunch of Young Adult books? And how! It’s one of my favorite genres! Let me know if you want some more YA recommends!

 

 

A Vertical Tide Pool

Let’s face it, erosion is inevitable. In the pictures below, what you will see was once a sea wall, that is, a futile attempt to keep sand where we humans think it should stay. The ocean moved the sand, as it always does; and the ocean removed pieces of the wall, one chemically weathered molecule at a time. The result is a relic that charges my imagination every time I visit its beach, in Santa Barbara, California.

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This former seawall now evokes a line of creatures.

 

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The creatures have tide pools growing up their sides!

 

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I’m guessing that the tidepool growth protects the remaining wall from more erosion.

 

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Detail of a creature’s “leg”.

 

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At the feet, anemones are open for business.

 

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The dense organization of shells makes complex designs in the creature’s hide!

 

The original image.

Sunset instills its own magic on the scene.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic was “Relic”.

A Freebie for Book Reviewers!

nolaRead for Review:

My latest novel, Nica of Los Angeles, publishes on September 4 and is available for pre-order now! This is the first in the FRAMES series, a speculative fantasy with detective and dystopian elements. I’m excited about this series and the reactions Nica is getting so far! One thing is certain – you haven’t read anything quite like this before.

If you’ve been around the indie publication block a few times, you know how important reviews are to indie books like Nica. So, if you will write a review I will give you a free e-copy of Nica (except – in reverse order; but you knew that). To get your copy, leave a comment here… or message me on Goodreads, before the end of July.

Not ready to commit? Read the thumbnail and synopsis below. Or read the first several chapters, which are serialized right here on this blog.

Thumbnail:

When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, where a stray cat has great powers, where books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing persons cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle between good and evil.

Synopsis:

Nica Sheridan Taggart Ambrose Taggart Ickovic (S.T.A.T.Ic.) craves action and change, which leaves her life as stable as old dynamite; and though she’s had more than her share of tragedy, she maintains an unquenchable spirit. Her restless nature has led her into several marriages and countless jobs. Now she appoints herself as a private detective, and her shingle is barely dry when she gets not one but three pairs of clients demanding her attention.

First comes a noxious couple that Nica secretly dubs Mathead and Scabman, who claim to seek a certain duffel bag; repelled, Nica declines their money but they won’t go away. Then, the Garcias hire her to find a missing, 15-year-old goddaughter; Nica doesn’t trust them, but decides she can help the girl in spite of them. Both cases pale beside the third demand for her services.

I became aware that the air had changed. My office smelled like a forest just after a flash flood, when everything is power-washed and tree trunks are smeared with riverbed mud. Fresh and wild.

It took much strength to gently lower that window, but the stranger’s arms – all sinew and muscle – showed no strain. I took a step back to get a fuller look and to get farther away. He was a wolf. I don’t mean a predatory flirt, I mean he was long and lean and fast and dangerous: coarse black hair, ice-gray eyes and smile full of teeth, supreme confidence backed with survival instinct.

“Please sit down,” I suggested or pleaded as I retreated behind my desk. As he complied, muscles flexed inside his garments, a loose cotton tunic and drawstring pants that were as gray as February.

She sat down, too. My other visitor was a princess: not as in daddy’s spoiled girl, as in future queen of the fairies. She was as ethereal as he was earthy, exotic but I couldn’t place the ethnic background. Cornsilk hair, slanted eyes like unpolished silver, her skin like the penny you’ve always kept in your pocket for luck. Her tunic was white as a desert sunrise.

“We are in need of your detective arts,” she said.

“That tends to be why people come to this office.” The joke was stillborn. “I’m usually good with accents but I can’t place yours. Where are you from?”

“I first arrived in the place you call Kansas.”

“Huh.” I’ve been to Kansas and there is nobody like her there. I decided I would not call her a liar and looked to him expectantly.

“Knowledge of my ancestry provides no value. We have need of your assistance,” he said, in a voice that never needed help from anybody.

“The fate of the free worlds is at stake,” she added, in a voice like the first spring breeze on snow.

“Oh-kay.” Note to self, cancel ad in Nutjob Quarterly.

Despite this bizarre introduction, Nica instinctively trusts these two, Anwyl and Anya, who draw her into adventures beyond imagining – and she’s got a crazy imagination. They travel into other dimensions called Frames, often with the Watts Towers – which are folk art sculptures in Nica’s Frame, but sentient, animate beings elsewhere. Nica learns to avoid books, which form deadly mercenary armies; to keep silent around clouds, which can be spies; and to view her stray cat warily, since cats are beings of great power and you never know what side they’re on. There is danger everywhere in the Frames, but also a mind-boggling expansion of reality. For once, Nica feels challenged, engrossed, and strangely at home.

In this first book of the FRAMES series, a band of allies that includes structures, landforms, and creatures sets out to stop Warty Sebaceous Cysts, a repulsive trio who casually commit genocide as part of their plan to free their imprisoned leader, Maelstrom. Freedom for Maelstrom would bring cruelty and horror to all the Frames, so Nica joins the allies’ cause without hesitation, though her efforts get her in trouble with the law at home, and in danger of mind control, pain, and death in other Frames. As she sees it, she was born to travel the Frames.

Cover art by Lars Huston.

Sinister Gaps

Walking in downtown Los Angeles, I came upon a troubling view. The multi-story granite facade on a fancy new building had a hole smashed between two of the slabs. The gap was as wide as my hand could span, and about two fingers high. What kind of forces could take such a small yet through-going chunk out of this wall? Is the building flimsy or were the forces powerful?

Not an everyday flaw.

Not an everyday flaw.

Looking more closely, I sensed something inside the facade. Had I put my ear closer, I would have expected to hear breathing. Or moaning.

Entry to the world behind.

A hint of the world behind the facade.

Instead, I hurried down the block, aware that the nearby homeless guys were wondering what the heck I was photographing. As I strode away, I imagined one of them coming to investigate and getting sucked through, into that world behind. The other homeless guys would describe what happened, but no one would believe them because they’re just homeless guys.

A couple blocks later, this empty freeway onramp had a similar vibe, offering a trip to parts unknown – or unknowable.

On ramp? Or entry to a parallel freeway?

Would a car on this onramp ever reach that freeway?

At the time, I believed I was creeping myself out in preparation to write the second volume of Frames, which opens with an attack from other dimensions. But as I look at the photos now, I’m less sure.

(A recent WP Photo Challenge wanted to see Between.)

More Than States of Mind?

I like my absurdly early, outdoor exercise class because it lets me watch the sun come up. To me, every sunrise offers hope and promise – so seeing the sun rise starts my day right. I do my best to appreciate sunset, too, which brings me calm, an easing of the day’s stresses. When you think about it, it really is amazing that we have these glories to enjoy every single day!

Given the difference in psychological impact between sunrise and sunset, I would expect the two events to be readily distinguishable in my photographs. But I don’t think I could tell one from the other if I didn’t remember when I took the pictures. So maybe it’s not sunlight at a low angle that makes these times of day so special. Maybe it’s the quality of the air that has such distinct impacts on me each morning and evening. Or maybe it’s the sounds of all the birds who are so active as the sun rises or sets.

Or maybe the difference is all in my expectations.

Or maybe I am missing some obvious distinguishing feature of the photos. How about you? Can you tell which of the photos below show sunrise, and which show sunset? (Answers on page 2.)

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise or sunset?

(The topic of a recent WP Weekly Photo Challenge was contrasts.)