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Who I am, and why I write

Welcome! My name is Erin Manning, and I write clean Young Adult fiction for ages 12 and up. I'm an avid reader and I've been...

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Shield of Ebdyrza--now available!

 



Great news! The fifth and final book in The Adventures of Ordinary Sam, The Shield of Ebdyrza, is now available!



A word about the paperback's price: I've always tried to keep my books priced as low as possible, but because this book is over 400 pages, unlike the earlier books, I've had to take the price point up a little to be able to offer it in all markets. I work hard to keep the digital copies at $2.99 US because I believe digital books should be affordable. And I always enroll my books in Kindle Unlimited so that those who choose to pay the monthly subscription fee (which is a great deal for any avid reader) can read all of my books without any additional charge. 

I'm extremely grateful for the readers who have reached out to me along the way to tell me how much they and their children have enjoyed Sam's adventures! I couldn't do any of this without you. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Book Update!

 It has taken me a little bit longer than I had hoped to complete the final edits of The Shield of Ebdyrza. But I'm happy to report that I have submitted the book files to Kindle Direct Publishing and only have to wait for file approval before the book will be available!

Meanwhile, here's a peek at the cover:




As soon as the book is available at Amazon I will let you know! Thank you for your patience. 


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Coming soon!

Just wanted to let my readers know that the fifth and final book in The Adventures of Ordinary Sam series, The Shield of Ebdyrza, will be published soon! I'm in the final editing stages and plan to have the book available by August 15.

Thank you to all the loyal readers of this series who have been waiting so patiently for it to be finished!

UPDATE: I realized after I posted this that August 15th is a Saturday, so look for The Shield of Ebdyrza the following week! 


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Smijj of Hope is now available!



I'm pleased to announce that the tenth and final book in my Tales of Telmaja sci-fi series, A Smijj of Hope, is now available for sale! Click the links below to see the book:

A Smijj of Hope--paperback edition

A Smijj of Hope--ebook edition

A word about pricing: as long-time readers know, I try to keep the prices of both my print books and ebooks as low as possible. This time, I had to increase the price of the paperback to $15.99 (US) only because A Smijj of Hope is the longest book I've ever published, at nearly 400 pages, and that affects the printing prices. In order to be able to list the book for sale internationally I have to follow Amazon's pricing guidelines, so I won't accidentally offer the book at a loss in any market. As always, though, the ebook is $2.99, and I have enrolled the ebook in Kindle Unlimited so that KU users can read it for free.

This has been a long journey. I wrote the first draft of what would eventually be the first book in the series, The Telmaj, during my first National Novel Writing Month experience back in 2006. It took me six more years to decide to try self-publishing it, and I published The Telmaj in the fall of 2012. Eight years, nine more books, and thousands of words later, Smijj has finished his story of adventure. In the meantime I've published four books in a second series and one stand-alone novel, making A Smijj of Hope my fifteenth published book.

I am deeply grateful to all of my readers who have let me know how much they've enjoyed these stories! I've got more clean young adult science fiction on the way, as well as the last book in the Adventures of Ordinary Sam and the first book in a new fantasy/magic series coming soon. Thank you for reading!


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Editing is for everyone

As I continue the final editing process for A Smijj of Hope, I thought this might be a good time to share a little bit about what it's like to edit a book as an indie writer.

Every indie/self-published writer is different, and everyone's editing process will vary, but for me editing has three distinct stages: the initial editing stage, the middle stage, and the final stage.

The initial editing stage ideally takes place not too long after I've written the last word of the last chapter of my work-in-progress. While it's a good idea to wait just a little while, I have found over the years that a quick read-through soon after finishing the first draft is a good way to catch really obvious typos as well as note any glaring contiunity areas or places that simply need work. In the initial phase, I might take some notes about these things, but I'm not usually ready to dive in and make those major changes.

The middle phase of editing is where the heavy work gets done. I've read my WIP (work in progress) a time or three, and I've cleaned up some things, but now is when I ask the tough questions: does this scene make sense? Would it make more sense someplace else in the chapter? Do the chapters seem wildly uneven? Does the dialog sound too forced, or is it, on the other hand, so colloquial that it sounds more like bad English than like ordinary speech? This is the part of the editing process where whole scenes might get deleted and, sometimes, new ones added in to make things run smoothly. The amount of work will vary wildly from book to book; on one occasion already I kept going over a new character introduction uneasily until I finally realized that the character I had imagined just did not work. I erased her entirely and replaced her with a much more dynamic character who went on to become one of the more prominent characters in the remainder of the series.

Finally, I reach a state where I'm more or less happy with the manuscript, and that's where the final edit comes in. At this point, since I'm self-publishing, I have already begun the uploads of title information, description, cover and so on that will go ont he finished product; now it's time to upload the best version of the WIP so far. Almost done, right? Well...

...not really.

In one sense, begining the final edit means I'm much closer to the end of this book's journey, but in another, I go into the final edit expecting a minimum of two more times of reading the book. First, when I've uploaded the file, I'm given options to order a printed proof copy, generate a digital proof, or both. For years I've ordered printed proofs, but in the present stage of the pandemic I decided to see how things would go with a digital copy. If this was not my fifteenth book I don't know if I would have tried it this way.

Once I get that proof copy, in whatever format, I need to read through the whole thing slowly and carefully. I just finished that first step, and I found over 40 things I wanted to change in an almost-400 page book. That's not that bad, though I know some new writers find that reality a little daunting.

Some of the changes were purely optional: a word choice that didn't sound quite right, or a sentence that seemed clunky, and that sort of thing. But I had actual errors among that list of forty, things it was worth it to change.

I made my changes and uploaded a new file tonight. Immediately I noticed that the initial pages in the title page section (the part where you have the title page, the list of other books in the series, the standard disclaimer, the publishing date and ISBN, etc.) had an error: an extra blank page had thrown off the whole manuscript so that the book text started on a left-hand page instead of a right-hand one. This is not a good thing for most books; I had to upload a new file right away.

Next, I will read through the whole book again, making sure all my changes were made correctly and no new errors are present. If necessary, I will make more changes and generate another proof before completing the book setup.

As you might have guessed, all of this ends up requiring many, many readings of a WIP by its author before the book gets published. If I'm lucky, I can line up a beta reader or two as well to help me find mistakes and give advice and feedback.

How does this process differ from traditional publishing? That depends in part on if you're writing under contract for a Big 5 publishing company or just an average person who is hoping to find an agent and make it in this difficult world. For the former writer, professional editors will be present at every stage of the writing process, but for the latter--and for most writers--you will do every single thing I've already said minus only the book setup parts (cover, etc.) before submitting your manuscript to a reputable literary agent.

Some new writers will make the mistake of thinking that getting an agent and a publisher means you get to skip most of this process; that is, you just write the first draft, and then professionals tell you what to do with it from that point on. It really isn't true, though. To be a good writer, whether you're an indie or a traditionally-published author or a mix of both, you have to learn how to move through these stages of editing and make your book the best it can possibly be.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Smijj of Hope--Coming Soon!

I realize this blog has been sadly neglected; I still haven't quite figured out how to use it properly.

But I'm excited to let everybody know that I am now in the final editing stages of A Smijj of Hope, and if all goes well it should be available for sale by the end of May.

Thank you for your patience! 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A short and spooky tale

This past month I participated in a Twitter writing challenge. There were daily word prompts, but other than that each person could write whatever he or she wanted.

I wrote a short story using the prompts. While I've been posting it daily on Twitter, I thought it would be fun to post the whole story here. The prompt words I used are in red.

*****

Carnival. From the Latin “carne vale,” or farewell to meat. A word that rose from the penitential practice of giving up meat for Lent. Written in human blood on the wall of the dingy apartment, it took on a much more sinister meaning.

I glanced at my partner out of the eye above my ear; one of six total, though the two on the back of my head were covered by my hair. “Well?"

My partner, Sol Brisham, is human. Mostly. He lacks extra eyes or retractable appendages. I’m told human girls find this attractive. “Nothing, Cy,” he replies.

I raised an eyebrow. “Nothing?”

“The place is more butcher shop than cemetery. You can see that for yourself.”

I nodded. “Except that in butcher shops the bones still have meat on them. These are stripped clean, just like the last three cases.”

“Right. Which means we’re dealing with a flesh-eater. But which one? The M.O. is new to me.”

“I’ve processed millions of records, and--same. Something is killing and eating humans, but there’s no record of anything that does it this way. At least, no record we’ve found yet.”

Sol shook his head. “No. And if this was a simple case of human sacrifice, the bodies wouldn't be reduced to skeletons. We need to figure out what this is, and fast.”

“We do, but it will be daylight in an hour. You need to get home. I’m fully charged, so I will head to the Central Library.”

“Like a moth to a flame,” Sol teased me. He yawned, and I caught a glimpse of his fangs. “Okay. See you at sunset.”

Inside the library, I settled down in front of a convenient data port and plugged in. The organic part of me was bored, but the computer half felt the exhilaration of reading through massive amounts of data pertaining to flesh-eating creatures in mere seconds. Finding nothing, I broadened my search.

One word. Jester. It appeared and disappeared so fast I had to engage my human brain and slow down. I read carefully, making note of all the details.

When Sol finally joined me at headquarters, I started to tell him what I’d found. He frowned. “Seriously? Murderous clowns?”

“Not exactly,” I said. “They were aliens. They arrived on Earth during the second half of the twenty-first century. They had a taste for human flesh. The human authorities were out of their league; they thought it was a serial killer. They even used the nickname ‘Memento Mori’ to refer to the alleged killer’s habit of leaving skulls around.”

“But if they were here that long ago, why are they still around?” Sol asked. “Didn’t Grimoire get rid of them? It’s what we do, and I’m a little disappointed in our predecessors.”

“We weren’t even around back then,” I reminded him. “Humans had created ‘Operation Coven’ to deal with supernatural and alien presences, but it was a while before the Grimoire agency became a reality.”

“I see,” Sol said. “So they let these aliens escape? But then why have they been dormant so long?”

“Not these aliens. Just one,” I said. “It took me a while to find and read through all the reports. These aliens were code-named ‘Jester’ because of their strange coloration. As it turned out, there were only sixteen of them who survived the journey to Earth. When the fifteenth was caught, he taunted the investigators; said they’d never capture the queen. Our predecessors nicknamed her ‘the Witch.’”

“Let me guess. They didn’t.”

“Nope. And what’s worse--they changed the records. Officially, only fifteen Jesters set foot on Planet Earth. The Witch became a mere legend.”

“And she went dormant, but now she’s awake and feasting again?” Sol scratched his nose. “So how do we catch her? Ouija board? Tarot cards?”

I gave him a look; that joke was getting old. “Even if she was a supernatural force, that stuff is garbage. You know that.”

“I do. And I also know which rituals work. If our quarry was a supernatural being, which she isn’t. Just good old-fashioned blood-sucking alien. Which I hate. We domestic types don’t need the competition.”

“Considering that you are only one-quarter vampire…” I began.

Sol’s eyes darkened. “It’s enough to get me classified as a monster. Which is why I work here, instead of aboard an alpha probe ship headed to one of the inhabitable exoplanets. Monsters don’t get to leave Earth.”

“Shall I break out the tiny violin, whatever that is?” I asked. “Plenty of normal humans choose to stay on the home world. And plenty of normal human girls think your bloodline is cool. It’s not like you’re a ghost-hybrid. You get plenty of dates.”

“Sure, until I explain that natural sunlight gives me crippling migraines and I have to live a nocturnal life. Fine for dating, but not fine for settling down and raising a family, which...oh, skip it, Cy.”

“I’ll have to. I have to go see the team necromancer. It’s a long shot, but if he can contact any of the recently deceased we may get a description of our killer.”

Sol sighed. “And I’ll follow the blood trail, as usual. Who knows? It may get us somewhere.”

I watched him leave through the eyes in the back of my head. He thought he had dating problems. Try being a cyborg, I thought--not for the first time.

As the days passed, we settled into the usual routine. Sol chased blood droplets from the various crime scenes--he’s skilled that way--while I kept researching the Jesters and the Witch. I’m about as fond of alien perps as Sol is. Give me a good old fashioned paranormal, who can be banished with a splash of holy water or locked up in a cursed object. All we knew about the Witch was that she ate people, apparently with great gusto; we didn’t know where she came from, or why her kind found humans delicious. How we were supposed to stop her was a mystery.

Sol and I were both feeling the stress. Our bosses at Grimoire wanted results and kept the pressure on. The media was keeping quiet--for now. But then came murder number five, and it was a doozy. The first four victims had been solitary types. Different ages, different genders, but living similar lives, just scraping by with dead-end jobs and crappy apartments. Victim number five was Helena Anston, the internationally famous writer. To our murderous alien she was just another lady living alone in a run-down building; Helena was eccentric that way. Everybody knew about Helena’s apartment (dating from the Golden Age of 2034), Helena’s pets (one parrot, one snake, and one black cat), and Helena’s odd habits. Everybody except the Witch, who probably saw an elderly woman in a tattered coat headed to an ancient apartment and figured she was easy prey.

The crime scene was a mess, as usual. But a few things struck me right away. “Notice anything?”

“You mean, the killer spared the animals?”

I nodded. “Locked them up in the bathroom. Before or after the murder?”

Sol focused intently. “Before,” he said. “No trace of blood, not even blood mist, on the animals at all. Which is really…”

“Look!” I cried, pointing at something.

“What is it?”

“That light…” I began. But the light I’d seen outside the window of the apartment faded away like a will-o-the-wisp over a windswept moor.

“You saw a light?”

“Yes. Greenish. Purple edges.”

Sol met my eyes--the ones on the front of my face. “It’s the right coloration. But we’re twelve stories up.” He went to the window, and then to a sliding door that led out to a patio.

I followed. “Careful,” I warned.

His dark eyes were already scanning the cityscape below us, the buildings dark and eerie like ancient trees in a haunted forest. “Blood residue. And nothing else. She went out this way. Might have been watching us. But she’s gone now.”

“So she can fly. Terrific,” I muttered as we reentered the apartment.

One of the team’s low-level mages cleared her throat. “Excuse me,” she said.

“Go ahead, Pam.”

“There’s a doll here on the sofa. Bloodsoaked. But there’s a hologram recording.” She pressed the doll’s midsection and the recording played.

“If you can see this, I’m dead,” the hologram of Helena Anston said. “I had some qualms about inviting my guest here tonight. She’s a fascinating woman. Not human, though I never mind that.”

Sol and I exchanged glances. “Foolish of her,” he said.

The recording continued. “She claims to be an ancient spirit with great knowledge of demonology, the subject of my next book. I am almost sure she is what she claims to be. Almost. But she asked me to put my pets in another room while she visits. Just in case she has evil designs, I’m leaving this message, along with the address of the place where we met.”

The hologram showed letters floating in the air. Carousel Club, they read; an address followed. My link to the datasphere told us the place was a dive, frequented by the downtrodden. Sol and I exchanged glances; it was all too likely the Witch was using this place to mark and stalk her victims. She may even have talked more than one of them to inviting her into their homes.

Our stakeout location was less than ideal: a dusty window across the street belonging to an erstwhile undertaker who’d been arrested for fraud. A grandiose coffin and some decrepit silk flowers still occupied the space behind the window. My joke to Sol about a place for him to nap fell flat; he called me a racist.

We took up our positions every night for a week, not knowing how soon the creature would need to eat again or how long it would take her to mark down a victim. There were cameras trained on the front of the Carousel Club as well, but cameras can be misleading when it comes to aliens (and they’re useless for most supernaturals). A few times we saw odd-looking women enter and leave the place alone, but each of them turned out to be depressingly human (except for one werewolf, but she was a depressingly normal werewolf).

“I wonder if she’s given up the place,” Sol said one night, peering out into the darkness.

“Shh.” I said.

“What?”

“That woman. The one who just left. I didn’t see her enter. And she’s not so much walking as she is slithering.”

Sol focused. “I think she may be our girl. But let’s wait until she’s well out of sight and examine the alley for traces of her.”

After investigating the alley, we went into the Carousel Club ourselves, posing as a slightly-intoxicated and nearly-broke couple. We managed to talk to several of the regular patrons, all of whom had noticed our mystery woman at one time or another. One of them had seen her with a woman matching Helena Anston’s description.

Outside, we compared notes. “Of the seven people who remembered her, three just thought she was a normal human,” Sol said.

“People aren’t observant. It’s nothing new. But the other four said something was definitely off.”

“The sailor thought she was a Huli Jung.”

“He just wanted to impress us with his knowledge of nine-tailed fox women. I was more interested in the girl who thought she was a Gorgon. She’s not, but I think she probably does radiate power and cause fear.”

“Except in her victims. She must charm them somehow. Or perhaps mesmerize is a better word.”

“Probably.”

Back at Grimoire, Sol and I spent some time visiting with Helena Anston’s pets, who were being looked after by an excitable group of interns. Then we sat down to hash out a plan. “I don’t like it,” I said at last.

“Which part?”

“You know which part.”

Sol raised one sharp eyebrow at me. “Just because you’re the one who usually ends up alone with the creature…”

“You’re seventy-five percent human,” I reminded him. “What if she ignores the other twenty-five percent?”

Sol shrugged. “Then I’ll give her indigestion.”

“Sol…”

“It’s not like you to be this jumpy. This is way less risky than taking down that tribe of sorcerers who used Old Magick last spring. What’s eating you?”

I winced at the expression. “There’s still too much we don’t know.”

“Do we have a choice?”

I thought for a microsecond while my processors whirred. “No. But even my system doesn’t like our odds.”

I crouched in the shadows beside Sol’s refrigerator. Its humming unnerved me. The fact that it was full of vials of human blood did not; Sol only needed it once a week as a tonic, and his supply was contributed by kind-hearted volunteers.

I’d been in communication with our team throughout the night. Everything was going according to plan. Sol had met our mysterious woman--she called herself Violet--and had fallen into conversation with her. He made up a story of hardship, and it wasn’t too surprising when she invited herself back to his place. This was her method, it seemed.

Sol’s electric lock beeped and the door opened. “...being evicted at the end of the month,” I heard Sol say. “I’m looking for a cheaper place.”

In the shadows I saw him press a button, and a bank of artificial candles illuminated the room with dim light.

“I can barely see.” Violet’s voice set my teeth on edge. “Can’t we turn on more lights?”

“I’m a nocturnal kind of guy,” Sol said with a laugh.

“I know,” Violet said. The door slammed behind her. “You’re not entirely my type. But you may be edible. Your friend in the shadows isn’t." She pressed a switch, and the apartment flooded with light. “Let’s stop this charade,” she said, gesturing to me. I came forward, noting carefully her false hair, her thick makeup, and the other tricks she’d used to make herself appear human. “Beings here haven’t changed much, in the centuries I was asleep in our last pod,” she said. “You think you can stop me?”

“We’ll try, anyway,” Sol said.

“Sure you will.” Her mouth stretched into a terrifying facsimile of a smile. “A couple of misfits, thinking they’ve figured things out. But I’m rather certain you’ve guessed wrong.”

I pushed a button; a small cage door behind me in the kitchen opened. There was a rustle of wings as Helena’s pet parrot flew out.

Violet laughed; it was a horrible gurgle. “Wrong! Oh, wrong. I knew it.”

She stepped backward. From the back of the tall chair just behind her Helena Anston’s black cat leaped to her shoulder, snarling and scratching and biting at her face.

Violet could not be said to have screamed; the sound coming out of her was nothing like a human scream. But she toppled to the ground as the little black cat leapt backward, still arched into a battle pose, still growling. Violet twitched and was still.

“Disposal team!” I cried, my voice sharp. I wasn’t sure she was dead.

The team rushed in and took care of things. Absently I caught the parrot and restored it to the cage, but Sol held the little cat tightly, nuzzling the top of its head with his chin. “Good girl, Midnight,” he cooed at her.

Much later, over drinks at our favorite bar, I quizzed him. “Midnight?”

“It was on her tag. I’m keeping her; Helena didn’t have family. The other two pets have found homes too.” He took a drink. “You were quick to figure out it was the cat she was afraid of.”

“She’s not the first alien to find cats toxic,” I reminded him. “Most planets have snakes and birds, so it was a logical guess. Of course, we had all three there in the apartment just in case.”

“A successful mission. Cheers,” he said, raising his glass and clinking mine. Then he smiled. It was the particular lopsided grin, showing just one fang, that he usually displayed when he was really happy about something. Human girls love it. To tell you the truth--I do, too.