Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How "Call Me Zhenya" Came to Be

This week, I'm going to spend some time talking about my Kindle Scout book, Call Me Zhenya, and how I came to write it. Next week, I'll be encore-posting some blog posts I did over at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers about Kindle Scout and the Scouting process. I hope you'll enjoy a peek inside my creative process (aka--KK's brain is freakin' weird).

You might get tired of seeing this cover.
I won't. It's pretty. *pets*

The seed idea for this book hit me several years ago. I was watching an episode of Angel (first-run--I told you it's been a while...), during the Season Four arc when Angelus was unleashed. There's a scene where Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (STILL BITTER, JOSS WHEDON) breaks Faith out of prison so she can go do her vampire-slaying thang. She was in prison voluntarily, atoning for her sins from way back in Season One (and Season Four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but they needed her, so she took a fancy dive through a glass window and high-tailed it out with Wes. (Which, frankly, any lady in her right mind would do, because, hello, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.)

That scene got me thinking. What if a spy were in prison voluntarily, taking a hit for something that happened in an operation that wasn't her fault? That evolved into having her there for protective custody. Then another spy comes to let her out. And what if that spy were the man who betrayed her? Or the man who killed her lover?

The idea sat in my ideas folder for a long time, just called "Spy Girl." I'd thought about writing it to submit to a specific publisher, but then the line at that publisher was discontinued before I got the manuscript underway. So it continued to incubate.
Evgeni Malkin, Russian Werewolf Spy

A few years later, my BFF and I were talking about story ideas, hockey player fic, and specifically Evgeni Malkin. (This was the same type of conversation that led to me writing Blood on the Ice, which started with "Vampire hockey. Go.") At some point, one of us said, "Evgeni Malkin, Russian Werewolf Spy." Maybe she said it, maybe I did--I don't actually remember. But that made me start thinking about "Spy Girl" again, and suddenly the whole story fell into place. The Spy Girl, inspired by Faith, became Anna, who's been sitting in a prison in Barrow, Alaska for two years under what she was told would be temporary protective custody. Then along comes Evgeni Belyakov, Russian Werewolf Spy, an assassin who's been having second thoughts about an assignment he was involved in two years ago. Poking around in places he wasn't supposed to, he found out things he shouldn't have. And now he's going to atone by breaking Anna out of prison. Because if she stays there, the Agency that promised to protect her is going to kill her to prevent the information inside her genetically enhanced superbrain from falling into enemy hands.

So that's the story of the story. I hope you'll take a minute to drop by and vote. I had a hell of a lot of fun writing this book, and I think you'll have a hell of a lot of fun reading it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Big Announcement! New Book on Kindle Scout!

I’ve got a new book ready to go, and I need your help!

Over the past few months, I’ve been getting a manuscript ready to submit to Kindle Scout. Scout is a platform on Kindle where readers get to help Amazon decide what books to publish. It’s a little like Kickstarter, in that your votes are part of the process that gets the book picked for publication, but you don’t have to pledge money. All you have to do is vote.

At the end of the voting period, if my book is chosen and you voted for it, you’ll automatically get a free copy. If it’s not chosen, I’ll make it available at a low introductory price as soon as possible after the voting closes, and I’ll have a contest to give away a few free copies.

So I need your votes! The campaign runs for thirty days. Here’s the URL—go check out the excerpt and add me to your Scouting list!

He'll risk his own humanity to save her life.
Short-term protective custody, they said. But two years later, Anna Slaten—and the data locked inside her enhanced brain—is still behind bars.

Evgeni Belyakov seeks atonement. Two years ago, the wolf shifter/assassin did what he was ordered to do. Since then, he’s learned the ugly truth about the Agency. And that Anna is next on their hit list. But saving her could mean risking everything. His heart. His secrets. And surrendering control to the most dangerous creature of all. His wolf.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reading Challenges for 2016

I didn't quite finish the reading challenge I chose for last year, but I started a little late, so I'm not too worried about that. I also read a few books I didn't report on here, so I came closer than it looked.

In any case, I'm doing a reading challenge again this year, but with different rules. First, I picked several different lists, including the one from last year, and I'm going to work on all of them. Second, I can't buy a book or get a book from the library specifically for the challenge. I have to find all the books from what I already own. Considering I have like nine bajillion quadloogle books, between my electronic hoarding habits and my overfull bookshelves, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

I set everything up in a journal for this year. I don't really do much in the way of journaling anymore, so this is just a book where I'm keeping notes on things that happen, books I read, movies I see, etc. Also it's a good place to keep track of just how many times I've seen Star Wars in the theater this year (I'm trying to break a personal record...).

Some pictures:

 So far in 2016 I've finished The Martian, Pinocchio, and Smuggler's Run (a Star Wars tie-in book). I've got a couple more books underway. I also signed up for the Goodreads challenge at a book per week, so I'm already behind--because of course I am.

Friday, January 8, 2016

New Year, New Ventures

I can’t believe it’s a new year already. It seems like they go faster and faster.

Last year was a pretty good year, and I hope that trend continues. I’m trying some new things for the new year, and I hope you’ll join me for the fun.

Mostly for this year, I want to focus on finishing things I left unfinished. Partial manuscripts will get evaluated, and if I still feel they’re worth the effort, I’ll finish them up and look into distributing or submitting them.

I’ve also set up a Patreon page to help get some of these orphan stories to readers who’ll hopefully enjoy them. If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s a little like Kickstarter, except it’s for ongoing projects rather than one big project. There are rewards at different levels, and lots of fun stuff I’m planning to integrate into the project as it progresses. Check it out at patreon.com/katrienaknights.

If you’re not on my newsletter mailing list, please consider joining for updates and news. I’m also getting ready to add a special gift for anyone who joins—a .pdf file of a couple of short stories and some excerpts from other, longer works. If you join before I get the gift ready, you'll get it as soon as I get it all sorted, so don't worry about missing out. You can join using the form below.  I promise not to spam you—I’m hoping this year to get something out in the newsletter about once a month.

I hope you had a fantastic 2015, and I hope 2016 brings you even more great things.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Another Reading Challenge Update

Here's where I am so far on the reading challenge:

Added this time are:

1. A book I've been meaning to read. I read Rocks of Ages by Stephen Jay Gould, which has been on my reading list for a VERY long time. It's a fascinating breakdown of the unnecessary "feud" between religion and science, how it came about, and the history behind it. I found it particularly interesting (and also disheartening) given that this issue has actually intensified since the book was initially published.

2. A book that was originally written in a different language. Haruki Murakami, The Strange Library. I picked this one up because it looked like it might have a Neil Gaiman-y feel, and it did, but it didn't have that thoroughly satisfying "I've read this before, maybe in another lifetime" feeling that so much of Gaiman's work has. I'm guessing the book is more rooted in Japanese mythology, because duh, the author is Japanese, and that might be why, since I'm not as familiar with that mythology. But I don't know. In any case, an interesting book, though the knife-twist on the last page seemed unnecessary.

3. A book recommended by someone with great taste. Haruki Murakami again, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. My BFF recommended this one. It was a quick and easy read, but with depth to it, and it's more--or at least as much--about life and writing as it is about running.

If anyone else is working on this list, I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It's All in Your Head

This is a flash fiction piece written for the Creative Writing Ink prompt for August 26. Fellow writers--take a look at the link and see if anything sparks your muse!

It’s All in Your Head

She wears the headphones for a reason. They drown out all the sounds in her head—the random thoughts and wayward musings of everyone around her. She blasts the music so loud sometimes people give her the side-eye. Without it, though, she couldn’t function. There would be no room in her head for herself.

It doesn’t drown out him, though.

He’s been following her for three days. She’s never seen him, but she can sense him. Somehow the background noise that is his roving brain eases past the blast of screamo and dubstep that constantly inhabits her skull. It’s a soft voice, so she’s not sure how it manages to find her in the midst of the chaos, but somehow it does.

Mostly it’s a low murmur, like white noise, a burbling river. Like those music tracks you get to help you fall asleep—the ones that don’t wok for her because they aren’t loud enough. But sometimes there are words.

I see you.

It doesn’t scare her as much as maybe it should. She’s used to weird things going on around her, both inside and outside her head. She’s lived with that her whole life. But even if it doesn’t scare her, not really, it puts her on edge. Why is he here? What does he want? Is he even a he?

Three days. And after breakfast today, when she realizes she hasn’t heard him, she wonders where he is.

Not very dedicated, are you? Stalk me for three days and then give up? Weak.

She starts her car and heads in to work. Sometimes she can drive without the headphones on, but not always. Today she sets them on the passenger seat and gives it a try. She knows from experience that cops will pull you over if they see you driving with headphones on. And somehow, the movement of the car eases the cacophony in her head. It’s a respite of sorts.

Today it’s surprisingly quiet, at least once she gets onto the highway. She takes a slow, relieved breath and leaves the headphones where they are. Sometimes the music is as disturbing as the voices.
Where is he? she wonders idly. If she can hear him, can he hear her? Is he, maybe, on the highway with her right now?

She gets that feeling—that weird itch even normal people get when somebody’s watching them. She looks to the left, at the car coming up beside her in the passing lane. The driver looks right back at her and smiles.

God. It’s him. Is it him? She shoots her attention back to the road in front of her. She doesn’t dare look at him again, but that face is burned into her memory now, emblazoned on her retinas.
Black hair. Blue eyes. Cheekbones that could cut glass. And then she hears the whisper.

I see you. I’ll talk to you soon. Soon.

What do you what? she demands in her head, though her lips move to match the words. Why are you following me?

But there’s no answer.
* * *
After work she heads downtown. It’s raining, and it’s dark—the sun goes down early this time of year. It gets quieter downtown as it gets later. Soon there are only a few people here and there. The din dies down, but it’s more fractured. Many of the people who linger in the streets after dark are broken. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, PTSD—she’s heard it all.

This time, though, the headphones are as much to strangle her own thoughts as to drown out everyone else’s. It was a difficult day at work, overhearing her boss thinking about firing her because she’s withdrawn, antisocial, and what is it with the damn headphones every damn day? For some reason she couldn’t block him out, not all the way. It’s never been like that before, and she can’t figure out what changed to make it happen.

The temperatures have dropped with the darkness and the rain, and the cold against her face feels good. She shoves her hands deep into her pockets and ducks her head, just walking.

Suddenly a hand touches her shoulder.

She spins, and he’s right there.

Black hair. Blue eyes. Cheekbones that could cut glass.

“We need to talk,” he says, and smiles.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Reading Challenge 2015: Update

I've been busy this summer, and I have some more posts to make regarding my Colorado Bucket List, but first how about some updates on that reading challenge?

Here's a reminder of the things that were on the list:

I already posted about a book in a genre I don't typically read (my choice here kind of felt like a cheat, but oh well). Now I can add a book from my childhood (okay, more than one book from my childhood).

I'm currently working on a book recommended by someone with great taste and a book that was originally written in a different language (technically the first book could also be the second book, but I think I'm going to split them up because again, that would be cheating...). I've also finished a book I've been meaning to read (for about 15 years or more), and I'll report on that one later.

So here are the books:

First, a book from my childhood. In this case, I not only read a book from my childhood, but the book from my childhood, as in the exact same paperback, which I stole from my mom when I was visiting recently (okay, I didn't really steal it cause I asked first). Here's the book:

I read a lot of Andre Norton when I was a kid. And by a lot I mean A LOT. This book is about a dude who specializes in gemstones, the freaky-weird stone he inherits from his father, and his telepathic cat-critter Eet. I remember pretending to be Murdoc Jern and hunting through the front yard for cool-looking rocks, but I didn't actually remember much of the book. Except for Eet. Telepathic cats tend to stick with you.

I also re-read The Beast Master, which was one of my favs. I had a bigtime crush on Hosteen Storm, and I remember crouching over my typewriter writing a story that was a total ripoff of this book when I was probably 10 or so. Here's that original paperback from when I read it as a kid, although I did the reread on audiobook because I saw it at the library and thought, Wow, I didn't know you could get Andre Norton audiobooks!

I enjoyed reading both of these, though I liked The Beast Master more. I think it was because The Zero Stone, is written in first person, and Norton's style, which is a bit sticky and overwrought at the best of times, is even moreso in first person. I'd still like to read the sequel, and I've already started the sequel to The Beast Master. I also discovered the series was extended starting fairly recently with a new Beast Master and her adventures. Somehow I don't really want to read those, though. Hosteen Storm will always be the Beast Master to me.