The Other Place is Available for Preorder!

After a long and daunting struggle, release day for The Other Place is almost here. You can preorder the book in either Kindle or paperback format, and read the story of Justin, a young man with schizophrenia trying to find his place in the world.

It’s not easy being a person like Justin, but I think you’ll find a lot of beauty and wisdom in his life, and in the way his mind works.

I hope you read and enjoy this book.

Kindle Preorder

Paperback Preorder

Coming soon in The Other Place Series

I just wanted to swing on by here and tell y’all that I’ve officially signed contract addendums on the remaining installments in The Other Place Series. First will come a novella from Arty’s point of view entitled Love and War (yes, I know it’s a similar title to Love or Money, but it just fits so well.) The last part of the saga is a full-length novel from Justin’s point of view entitled Synchronicity. I don’t have release dates yet, but I’ll  let you know.

The second book in the series, entitled The Other Place, comes out on July 5, in just a few days! This is a book from the point of view of Justin, the Kid in the Park in The Hustle. Justin is schizophrenic, so you might think this book would be darker than The Hustle, but actually it’s not. Not even close, really. Justin has his struggles, but he lives a beautiful life. The Other Place is a book for all ages, whereas The Hustle is for the 18+ crowd.

You don’t have to have read The Hustle in order to read The Other Place, but it does add depth to the story. You can read them in reverse order, as well.

I really hope you read and love these books. I put a lot into them.

Find my books on Amazon.

Invisible Friend Jesus vs. The Universe

“People say life is a beautiful gift, but it’s hard to believe that sometimes.”

I sit with my back against the trunk of a Russian olive. The breeze rasps through the bunch grass and sage, kicking up spirals of dust. I’d come out into the middle of nowhere, because of how sometimes society and all the things people build start to jumble up in a mishmash of wrong shapes and smells.

Invisible Friend Jesus sits next to me, the hems of his white slacks fluttering around his bare ankles.

“The universe exploded out of nothing,” I say. “I mean, a point of infinite density. It’s the same thing as nothing, because of how infinity and nothingness are two sides of the same Mobius strip. So it exploded out of nothing and has been falling apart ever since.”

I pluck a stalk of yarrow and weave it between my fingers. “Life on earth arose because of molecular forces and the way chemistry has to work. Carbon chains put themselves together and had to keep putting themselves together more and more because that’s the way things react. Life arose out of the dust, an elaborate house of cards. Plants and animals and people are just elaborate constructions of chemistry and entropy, eating themselves up in violent exothermic reactions and turning it all into heat until one day there will be nothingness again.”

Invisible Friend Jesus squints into the distance. The sun washes out the landscape like an overexposed photograph.

I strip a leaf from the yarrow plant, its limp, fleshy stem shredding to ribbons. “Chemistry put us together and put our brains together. Brain chemistry dictates how we act, and how we put the world together for ourselves. The way my brain functions makes it so that I don’t fit in other people’s construction of the world. They batter my world apart like bullies kicking over sand castles, but I still can’t rebuild my universe the way they want me to. I don’t fit in their machinations; that’s why I can’t affect the world. I’m like a cog without a machine. I can’t turn anything. I can barely control myself.”

I toss the yarrow into the sand. “But it doesn’t matter. We exploded out of nothing, and we’ll return to nothing again. Life is a faint flame flickering in the void. Consciousness and self-awareness are just dreams within a dream. Any sense or beauty we create dissolves into the ether, the way the entire cosmic firmament will eventually fizzle into oblivion, dying its heat death when the chemicals have done all the reacting they can do, energy spreads too thin, and gravity stretches space-time flat.”

I draw a circle in the ashy dirt, but it isn’t very round because the pebbles get in the way of my finger. “I try to believe in God, but it’s hard to believe in anything like that. God is a brick in the world people have built for themselves, because they feel like it will fall apart if He isn’t there. But that whole illusion could crumble and nothing would change, because it wasn’t real to begin with.”

I clutch the cross around my neck. The silver plate is rubbed off, showing the cheap brass beneath it. The chain is tarnished and all tangled up with my hair. I glance over.

I expect Invisible Friend Jesus to have disappeared, but he’s still there, squinting at me with his little smile.

Six Writing Tips that Work Across Styles and Genres

Simple(ish) tricks to make any style of writing better

I’ve done a lot of critiquing, beta reading, and professional editing. I work with people who write in all different styles and genres—even ones vastly different from any I usually write—and I’ve learned to appreciate them all on their own merits.

I see a lot of writing advice out there, and a great deal of it frustrates me, because it amounts to a style critique rather than sound writing advice, especially if applied indiscriminately. This sort of writing advice tries to regiment style and can impede creativity.

There are some pieces of advice, however, that I’ve found work across all styles and genres. These are some of the tips and tricks I use when writing and editing my own work as well as pretty much every other piece I look at. It’s the stuff that always seems to make writing better (although there are exceptions…I broke some of these same rules when writing in Justin’s schizophrenic character voice in The Other Place and its sequel. There are always times to break every rule, as long as you’re doing it on purpose.)

So, with that small caveat, here are six things I’ve found (almost) always improve all types of writing:

  1. Avoid dialogue tags whenever possible.

This is a common piece of writing advice that is sound, on most occasions. If you only have two people in the conversation, you don’t need a dialogue tag with every line of the conversation, because readers understand who’s talking as long as they’re oriented now and again.

You can also use action tags in the place of dialogue tags. Action tags usually precede the dialogue (though they can come after), and describe something a character is doing while they speak. Action tags are super great because they can perform quadruple duty: let us know who is speaking, develop character, create a mood or vibe, and put a vivid image in the reader’s mind. For instance:

“I just don’t know,” Marla said.

As opposed to:

Marla chiseled the dried blood from beneath her fingernails with her hunting knife. “I just don’t know.”

Of course, if you’ve already let us know that she’s cleaning her nails, choose another image. Also be careful of saying things like, “She smiled” or “She cocked an eyebrow”; I myself am guilty of overusing these action tags, and often they don’t add anything, and/or are already implied by the dialogue. In those cases, sometimes the normal dialogue tag is better.

  1. Adjectives and adverbs are okay; redundancy isn’t.

If the adjective or adverb is already implied by the scene, dialogue, or action, you don’t need to use it. For instance:

The bright Southern California sun shone intensely on their faces.

Neither “bright” nor “intensely” are really needed here, and don’t add much as to style, either (you probably don’t even need “on their faces” in most cases, if you want to get technical.) Or:

“We need to get out of here!” she yelled urgently.

You really just need the dialogue there, without the “yelled” or the “urgently”.

However:

He leaned on the dented bumper of his car, eyeing her lustily.

Both “dented” and “lustily” add something here, if we don’t already know those things from context.

  1. Description is fine, but diagraming is generally not.

I love it when the author creates a bizarre, beautiful, or bleak image that sticks with me. However, I get really confused and any image in my head is destroyed whenever I read something like this:

The house was three stories tall, with three rows of five windows off to the right of the main entrance, and three rows of eight windows to the left of the entrance. The front door was tall and stately, a double door, with carved frescoes of cherubs and nymphs all along the edges.  Inside, a hallway led off in front to the state rooms. Another to the right led to the ballroom, which had windows on one side and framed mirrors on half of the other walls, with portraits on the other half.  A large, curved staircase…

You get what I’m going for. This happens even in traditionally-published novels more than I like to say.

The point of writing is to give readers an image; a feeling; an idea of what’s going on. Their imaginations will fill in the rest. In fact, you need to let readers’ imaginations do the rest, because that’s part of the fun of reading. They don’t need to see exactly what you’re seeing, they just need enough to get their own picture. In the passage above, the idea the writer is trying to convey is of a grand, old-style mansion. You can give us this impression with little images dropped here and there throughout the dialogue and action, preferably when the characters interact with their surroundings. We don’t need a layout of the house, especially all at once.

  1. Inner dialogue and exposition are fine, but be careful of telling the reader stuff they already know, or don’t need to know.

He pressed his lips to hers. She gave a little gasp, and her body melted into his. I want him so badly, she thought. I’ve never felt like this before about anyone.

Now, you can get away with a lot of inner dialogue and exposition, especially in romance, but in the above passage, we don’t need that inner thought at all. Even if we do perhaps, in some cases, need to see that thought once, we don’t need it every time he kisses her. We actually feel the moment and the romantic tension more if the inner dialogue is mostly implied by the characters and the situation, and left to the imagination.

Also, giving backstory or detail that doesn’t even play into the story is a double no-no. Backstories on minor characters that only appear once in the book; memories of events that aren’t relevant; long descriptions of job duties when the whole of the novel takes place while the character is on vacation—these sorts of things are often dead weight that slow pacing and bore readers.

  1. You don’t need to say something using the fewest words possible, but avoid repeating yourself, or telling something you’ve already shown.

Some people can go on and on and on without losing the reader, because their style is engaging for one reason or another. Not all of us are exclusively into the Spartan style of writing. But, even if you’re prone to wordiness, you don’t need to say things more than once. For instance:

She drove quickly down the road. She was in a hurry. She was late for a meeting, and would be in trouble with her boss.

Those three sentences basically convey the same idea a bunch of times.  You could say the same thing by showing her honking her horn and swearing at traffic, and letting us know by context that she’s on her way to a meeting; or if nothing else by saying something like She drove like a maniac to get to the meeting.

Or:

She hated chocolate pie. She poked at the chocolate pie with her fork, wrinkling her nose. “I hate chocolate pie.”

You really just need the action there. You could also have the dialogue if character-appropriate, but the first sentence should never be there. It just tells before it shows, and thus reduces the impact of showing.

  1. Avoid sensory words such as “saw” “heard” “smelled” or “felt” as much as possible.

This is the hardest one. The trick here is to put the reader in the story; you do this by  describing what’s going on instead of saying so-and-so saw or heard it going on. For instance:

Jeremy smelled jasmine.

As opposed to:

The scent of jasmine wafted over him.

The second makes you feel more like you’re there, right? Sometimes you need the sensory tag for emphasis; for instance, if your main character is in the other room and can’t see the door opening, you can’t say the door opened. You have to say they heard the door opening…or you could say The door creaked as it opened, or something, if appropriate. Also, I use the saw tag when I want to make it clear someone is noticing something that they were not meant to notice. Abraham saw Fred tuck his shirt over the butt of his pistol. That makes it clearer that it didn’t just happen, it happened surreptitiously.

The “feel” tag is harder to remove. It’s best if you can write the scene so it’s obvious what someone would be feeling. If you’ve done your character development, scene setting, and dialogue right, this is often possible. But, at times, you really do have to say things like George felt like she’d hung him by his nuts from the flagpole. There’s just no other way to get the point across and keep the reader along for the ride.

What writing tips and tricks do you use? I’d love to hear them. I’d also love to argue with you if you don’t agree with some of mine 🙂

Elizabeth Roderick is the author of two published novels, with more upcoming. She is a professional freelance editor.

*COVER REVEAL* for THE OTHER PLACE !!!

HERE IS MY LOVELY COVER! Thank you so much to Redbird Designs!

THE OTHER PLACE by Elizabeth Roderick

Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Cover Designer: REDBIRD DESIGNS
Tagline: Sometimes the ones they call crazy are the sanest… 
[[[ SYNOPSIS ]]]

Living in Justin Flaherty’s mind has never been easy. Unfortunately, things are about to get much worse…

At eighteen years old, most guys are chasing girls or dreams. Justin, on the other hand, wants to draw and be left alone. He’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but it’s more than that. He’s in tune with the Dark Energy that surrounds us all, and can see how it controls people’s actions. Sometimes, the Dark Energy will give him visions, to help him on the road to enlightenment.

When his mother hooks up with a Baptist preacher named David who believes Justin’s schizophrenia can be cured with prayer, Justin knows he has to get out—or risk involuntary commitment in a religious facility.

After a brush with incarceration, Justin takes off to San Francisco, where his drawings are not just noticed, but admired…

Justin’s bizarre and beautiful drawings create a stir in the art world. Meanwhile, he’s homeless, couch surfing, and trapped in a continuous battle with his mental illness. His salvation is a girl named Liria Czetski with a shady past. They’d met a year ago, and she’s appeared in his visions ever since. It turns out Liria has been sharing those visions, something that is a surprise to everyone but Justin…

When secrets surface, Justin is forced to realize that being a genius has a downside. Surrounded by people who want to exploit his talent, he must fight not only for his career and freedom, but perhaps for his life…

[[[[ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ]]]]
ELIZABETH RODERICK grew up as a barefoot ruffian on a fruit orchard near Yakima, in the eastern part of Washington State. After weathering the grunge revolution and devolution in Olympia, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, she recently moved to the (very, very) small town of Shandon, California: a small cluster of houses amidst the vineyards of the Central Coast.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and worked for many years as a paralegal and translator. She went on to study chemistry, physics, and higher mathematics, with the goal of becoming a research chemist, but was eventually forced to concede that graduate school would require too much time away from her husband and daughter, and that–despite her good-enough grades –she was perhaps the wrong kind of nerd for such pursuits, being more the type that likes to dress in cloaks and hauberks rather than lab coats and goggles.
She is a musician and songwriter, and has played in many bands. She’s rocked pretty much every instrument, including some she doesn’t even know the real names for, but mostly guitar, bass and keyboards. She has two albums of her own, which you can listen to at pimentointhehole.com. She writes fiction novels for young adults and adults, as well as short stories, and keeps an active blog at pimentointhehole.com/blog.

Magical Realism and Realistic Magic: How Stories Come Alive and Keep Us Alive

The three books in my Other Place series are magical realism books. The reason for this, technically, is that the main characters experience shared dreams and sometimes foray into psychotic states.

I have a hard time calling that magical realism. Shared psychosis is real. I’ve seen it, and I’ve experienced it; not at quite the level my characters do, but pretty close.

The part of the series that seems magical to me is the overarching story. Many plot events are larger-than-life and fantastical. All the elements in the “real world” and the “dream world” fit together perfectly in a way that makes sense and is orderly.

That’s because an outside power is organizing them (me), and because there are a limited number of characters in the plot to affect events. If your life starts having a plotline that coherent, it’s either time to get your medication adjusted or go to church: the meddlesome Old Testament God is back and he’s got his eye on you.

Human beings create order where there is none. We constantly tell ourselves stories about the world in order to simplify and make sense of it. This process is what keeps us alive.

Our need to create order stems from an animal need for survival and procreation. We build houses, plow the earth into neat rows for crops, and comb our hair in order to get laid and have a safe, hospitable place to replicate our genes.  However, our need for order has far outstripped what is needed for those basic purposes. We essentially are in a battle against the unknown: we’re trying to organize the chaos into something we can understand and manage. We’re trying to build walls to keep out death.

That is because man cannot survive on bread alone. We have self-awareness and the ability to reason. Without claws and fur, we need to figure things out to survive. We do that by making connections between events and outcomes. But we make a lot of connections that don’t necessarily exist in a physical sense. Those false connections can take on such meaning in the context of a culture, however, that they affect human behavior a lot more than physical stimuli. Sometimes this results in whole groups of people being organized out of existence, because there’s no place for them in someone’s scheme of things, but often they work to our advantage.

These ethereal connections are based in our survival instinct, also, and in many ways they keep us alive. Our laws and moral sense—all of them stories about what is acceptable human behavior and what isn’t—make us feel safer and more comfortable, more in control of ourselves and surroundings, and can keep people from acting too much out of fear or anger. We also have rituals to help us through grief, trauma, and loss. This helps us make sense of the weirdness of life, so that we don’t go insane.

Most of us lose the thread of our cultural story sometimes, though. We look around and wonder WTF is going on in this crazy world, and why anyone even bothers trying to survive in a place that’s so messed up. Other animals don’t have to worry about this existential shit—this is our gift for being conscious, self-aware creatures. Happy birthday.

After those moments of angst, however, the great majority of people are able to pick up the common thread again and move on. Some of us have a harder time with that.

I’ve been diagnosed with all sorts of fairly insane-sounding disorders. If you ask me, my mind just works a certain way, and usually the only major disadvantage to that is how it can bring me into conflict with others’ story about the world.

On good days, I trundle through as well as anyone else, laughing at mindless television shows and finding beauty in the little things. I still feel like I’m a minor character in someone else’s story, but I can play along well enough.

Other times, everything most people see as reality seems to me like it’s a movie projected on a thin veil that could be ripped away at any second. Life seems so weird that I figure I must be missing something, because the ways people act make no sense to me. I can’t suspend disbelief well enough to participate in my cultural story very well.

On bad days, that veil gets ripped completely away. All those stories we tell ourselves to keep ourselves alive and procreating cease to have meaning. I have to struggle to even maintain the basic-survival notion that I need to stay alive for my kid. The sense I’m missing something that others have, or failing to understand something that they do understand, is much stronger. I figure that’s why they keep living when it is so pointless to do so. I think most people reading this can identify with that feeling on some level.

Here is where I lose most of you, though. On the very worst days—few and far between, thank God—all those stories we tell ourselves disappear so completely from my consciousness and my poor brain starts making up completely new stories to make sense of my surroundings. That means that you and I could be looking at exactly the same thing but our brains would interpret it in completely different ways, so it’s very hard for me to effectively communicate with anyone. My brain making up these stories is a survival technique because, like I said, these stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world are how we are able to function. The stories my brain makes up are actually generally no more ludicrous than the ones supposedly sane people make up, but they are inconsistent with our cultural narrative and so make me vulnerable. My brain’s survival technique makes it more likely that I’ll be hurt or killed—written out of society’s plotline because there’s no part for me.

Psychotic people are much more likely to hurt themselves than others. We are probably less of a threat, on average, than non-psychotic people. But we are much more likely to be hurt or killed by others than non-psychotic people are. You all know, I trust, your propensity to shy away from psychotic people under the (almost always false) impression that they are dangerous. I’m a five-foot-tall female, so people rarely consider me dangerous, but I’ve been taken advantage of, physically and emotionally hurt, and abandoned because of my propensity to believe my own story. Those people thought they were justified in their behavior: they thought they were helping me, or protecting themselves. They were the delusional ones, in my opinion, but to each their own.

My friend/partner Phoenix, who has schizophrenia, is six-foot-three and well-muscled, but as gentle as they come. He has been beaten into a coma just for talking what other people saw as “nonsense”. He’s been arrested for having a nonviolent psychotic episode in his own yard. And he’s been nearly shot by police, simply because his brain lost the thread of the common narrative and started making up a different story, even though he posed no credible threat to anyone.

As soon as Phoenix and I walked into each other’s lives, I felt like I’d finally found another human being on a deserted planet. Even when I think I’m dead and that everyone else is a spirit trying to guide me into the afterlife; or that everyone else knows something I don’t; I know Phoenix is real and that he’s usually living in the same story I am. And that makes it a lot easier.

This is what is called shared psychosis.

Anyone who follows me on social media knows about Phoenix. I wrote him into a novel after having a short conversation with him, and ended up extrapolating what little I knew of him into a well-rounded character—Justin, from the Other Place series. Justin isn’t Phoenix, but when I felt the compulsion to seek Phoenix out again (after the novels were already drafted) there were spine-tingling similarities. And, after I knew him, the similarities in character seemed to extend to similarities in plot.

These connections, real or imagined, form a more coherent plotline than I usually see in real life. It seems at times our lives are intimately connected with my writing. In fact, Phoenix gets mad if I write about something that would cause harm to either of us if it came true. For his benefit, I try to loosely correlate those plot points with stuff that’s already happened, or else write about characters so wildly different from us that the connection is harder to make. Or I just don’t tell him my plotlines, because I don’t think the connection between them and our lives is as close as he does. Or I usually don’t, anyway.

Once, when I lost the thread, I began to believe I could make my dreams reality through the force of belief, and that I had the power to completely organize our lives through my writing. I thought that I was meant to write the Other Place series in order to give people a window into what it’s like to be psychotic, so people like us would be more acceptable to society. I might make some money off of my stories, too, so Phoenix and I could have something to survive on.

I believed that, like in the books, the physical world and the world in our minds were orderly, and fit together seamlessly. Essentially, I believed I could write us into society’s narrative.

Just as further illustration of how deep shared psychosis can go, I also thought, during that episode, that Phoenix and I could hear each other’s thoughts—that our connection in the real world was as intense as in the books. He says that part was true, but I can’t remember what we said out loud and what we thought, so I can’t call him on his bullshit. I do know that we’re often able to follow one another’s thoughts without speaking, and start conversations in the middle; we pick up on cues from each other that other people completely misunderstand. Other people do this, too. If you know someone well, you can follow their plotline well enough to gauge their thoughts even at a distance, at least at times. Telepathy isn’t too far off. My story isn’t much crazier than most.

Unfortunately, the physical world intrudes into our plotlines more in reality than it does in books. We’re not the only ones in control of events, and the story isn’t just about us as individuals. I, for one, do believe there is a coherent overarching plotline, but one of the ways almost sure to drive me over the edge to one extent or another is trying to figure out what it is and how it works. It’s too big for my brain to understand completely, so it cuts it into bite-sized pieces. This can result in some fairly out-there plots.

Maybe the Other Place series will create some order in my personal narrative, though. Maybe I’ve captured enough of the truth within our human experience to make my books compelling to people. I do know that this belief has been a driving force in my life, and makes me work hard to gain more control over my personal plotline. It’s made me feel like I have purpose, and like there might finally be a comfortable place for me in society’s narrative. Whether I’m ultimately called crazy, or just a heavy dreamer that made her dreams come true, all depends on how my life story goes from here on out.

The first book in the Other Place series, entitled The Hustle, released on 5/31/16. The second book, The Other Place, releases on 7/5/16. The third and final installment (Synchronicity) is in the process of final revision.

Find The Other Place Series on Amazon.

 

 

 

*COVER REVEAL* Saved by a Soldier by Alison Mello

Saved by a Soldier
Alison Mello
(Love Conquers Life, #1)
Published by: Limitless Publishing
Publication date: June 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance

Patricia Ann Fitzgerald is no man’s arm candy…

Refusing to entertain her mother’s ridiculous notion that she should become the perfect little housewife for her ex-boyfriend Ben, Patty escapes to her father’s lake house to focus on what matters most to her. She has to break through her writer’s block and start her next book.

Medically discharged from the service and suffering from PTSD, Carter Montgomery is still trying to get his life back in order…

When Carter’s father Jackson suggests a week at the lake, it’s not only so he can gain a little clarity about his future. Jackson has other plans for his recovering son, intending for him to watch over his best friend’s daughter while she’s on a solo writing retreat—an idea that doesn’t please Carter at all.

Patty finds it hard to get any work done when her attention keeps diverting to the handsome stranger next door…

Patty is persuaded to attend a charity event, despite knowing her ex will be in attendance. When Ben rudely interrupts Patty’s dance with her father and drags her off the floor, Carter is quick to intervene. He’s tired of admiring Patty from afar, and refuses to see her treated that way. Ready to ditch the stuffy event, Patty escapes with her savior someplace where they can finally talk.

Ben always gets what he wants, and he isn’t willing to let Patty slip away…

Patty fights to preserve her blooming relationship with Carter from the critical eyes of her mother and the scheming ways of her ex. Will Carter manage to get his life back in order in time to save Patty from the life she never wanted?

Add to Goodreads

*Cover designed by Deranged Doctor Design*

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00006]


Author Bio:

Alison Mello is a wife and stay at home mom to a wonderful little boy. She lives with her amazing family in Massachusetts. She loves playing soccer, basketball and football with her son.

After having her son, Alison started reading again and fell in love with Contemporary Romance. Reading made her happy and gave her something to do when she had downtime. As she started to read more, she started to noticed things she really enjoyed in a book and things she didn’t. She began to have ideas for writing one of her own. One day she literally woke up and started writing. She realized that if there was ever a time for her to write, it was now. She had a part time job to give her something to do. The hours at work were slow and she was bored with what she was doing, so while her son was off enjoying his friends over summer vacation she got started.

Alison finished the first book in two weeks and decided that she really enjoyed writing, so she kept going. She already had ideas in mind for books two and three, so she kept writing. That is how the Learning to Love Series was born. Somewhere along the line, one of my Beta readers convinced me that Michael, a character from Finding Love, needed his own story. That is when Alison added the fourth and final book. Alison hopes you enjoy her books as much as she enjoyed writing them.

She’s so glad she started this writing journey and hopes you will stay with her for the ride. Chasing Dreams is scheduled to release in April and the first two books of the Love Conquers Life series will be out this summer!

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