Son of a Pitch Contest Entry!

Dear AGENT,

I found you through #MSWL and want to share my YA fantasy novel, MOONSTRUCK, complete at 74,000 words. Fans of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo may enjoy the world building and looming darkness in MOONSTRUCK.

The gods have prophesized annihilation to Moriah’s sunless, seaside village.

Moriah has only one lunar cycle left until her village is destroyed. While her religion has always demanded sacrifice, she has never believed in torturing animals or shedding blood for a burnt offering. When a new interpretation of an ancient prophecy demands the Ultimate Sacrifice, her village’s High Priest, Mercury, chooses the boy she loves to die as an offering to the gods.

Moriah defies Mercury’s ruling and sets out on a quest to become the next Priestess, hoping to acquire sacred magic and defeat him. She is aided only by her best friend, as Mercury controls the villagers’ minds through a magical herb. As the village rallies around the approaching human sacrifice, Mercury moves up the day of the offering. Moriah realizes she must decipher the true meaning of sacrifice before she loses everyone and everything she’s ever loved.

I am a full-time proofreader, part-time copywriter, and all-the-time coffee drinker. My short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have been published in Strong Verse, Typehouse Literary Magazine and more. I was one of twelve authors selected by Nova Ren Suma to attend “A Week in Residency” at the Writing Barn in November.

Thank you for your consideration,

Dani Nicole
www.daninicoleauthor.com
www.levelupfangirl.com

 

CHAPTER 1 – THE CALL

As I climb Mount Halex, I look out at my sparkling village and wish I could save it.

I’ve explored it all as a gatherer. From the glowing seaside shrubs to our thick forests enchanted with sacred light. I’ve swum in the crushing presence of the gods’ magic my entire life.

But I’ve never climbed this mountain, clinging to ropes that threaten to snap. I’ve never risked my life to gather the sacred zyca fruits.

Until now.

All I can do is try to breathe through the suffocating cold, and remember what it feels like to be warm. My best friend climbs next to me, groaning with every pull upward. I imagine her hands are dry and cracked like mine. Our work gloves were too slick for climbing, and without them, my blood pools up around the rope and stains it. I’ll leave my mark on this mountain, one way or another.

I can’t hear much over the wind, but Larah’s breath is ragged. She seems so delicate here. Small frame, small arms, small hands. Not many know her true power. Her true ferocity.

But I do.

“We’re almost there,” I shout, hoping I’m right. The wind impossibly roars louder and any hope of conversation dies.

Death.

It’s a word that means less every day. I’ve always known about the Prophecy, but sometimes it doesn’t feel real. Still, I can hardly glance at the moon. I don’t want it to know how much I miss the sunlight—that yellow glow and warmth. During this season of Rymna, the sun never rises, and the moon reigns with majestic, taunting power.

Some say it knows our weaknesses. Some say we must sacrifice to the god of the moon to appease him. I’m not sure what I believe anymore.

 

 

What to Do When You Feel Like the World Sucks

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I’ll be frank here: some bad shit has happened over the past week. Year. Lifetime. Whatever your parameters, life occasionally gets confusing and wretched, and you may even feel like the world you love has turned against you.

People handle this crushing and crippling feeling in various ways. I like to dialogue issues. Some like to avoid news (I’ve done that, too). Some start petitions or withdraw or eat their feelings or live in a state of fear or even denial. There is no right way to process grief, in my opinion. It is such an individual process. But the truth is that when some of us hurt, our society—our world—hurts.

So if you need to see something great happen, here are some great ways to start it yourself.

  1. Donate to Your Favorite Cause

What is important to you? Issues like global warming, pollution, insufficient education, hunger, thirst, disease and more (and more) exist in our world. Take time to research some nonprofits or movements you agree with, and see how you can help. Any gift will help, and donating will make you feel better. Subscribe to newsletters to see what positive changes charities are making in the world.

  1. Volunteer Time

Your time is invaluable, so spend it tutoring a middle school student, reading to a child in preschool, building homes overseas or working pro bono. Use your skills to change the world. Use your body by donating blood or plasma. Use your belongings by donating unwanted clothes, unopened food, etc. You can make a difference.

  1. Spread Stories of Love

It’s important to know what’s going on, but not just the bad things. You’ll have to dig to find stories about people saving each other or doing something selfless, but they are out there! It’s such an easy way to balance out some of the heartache. Even a little.

  1. Teach Peace

You cannot change other people. You cannot eliminate radical or hateful behavior of any person, race, religion, age, gender, etc. But you can lead by example. People look up to you, whether it’s a child, sibling, co-worker, or even spouse. You are a leader by the way you live your life. So live it peacefully. Extend grace and love. Don’t be quick to anger.

The world sucks sometimes. But people like you and I can change that.

What are some ways you make your world a better place?

Can We Talk About Spiders?

Which came first, the Spider Boss or the RPG?

Since this blog is dedicated to all facets of nerdom and fangirldom, let’s branch out of fantasy novels and talk about something entirely different.

Fantasy video games.

Cover your eyes for a sec. Covered? OK, I have a confession. I’ve never played a Zelda game before. Until last night, when I booted up the N64 version on my DS. *Uncover eyes.*

So I’m playing Zelda, and it’s of course amazing. But the very first set of dungeons and boss battle result in none other than GIANT EFFING SPIDERS. To quote Ron Weasley, “Follow the spiders? Why can’t it be follow the butterflies?!”

link.jpgBut think about it — giant killer butterfly? It would lure you in like, “Oh I am so pretty and gentle. I am the Mother Theresa of insects.” Then … WHA-BAM. You are dead, which in a video game somehow means you actually die, while all of the monsters around you can regen. (More on that in a separate rant-style post.)

The thing is, Zelda was probably one of the first, or at least not the last, video games to have this go-to dungeon boss monster. And it’s true for books, too. Villains become uniform, and soon you’re reading about Voldemort who’s just renamed Moldevort, and is literally just SO different. Right. Once someone establishes a great villain or creature, you see it everywhere.

Think of “real” fantasy creatures: werewolves, vampires, wizards, fae, wyverns, dragons. We all accept these as real in a fantasy world, but why do we use the same ones? I think there’s a sense of familiarity with these common species. The same goes with villains. We all understand the villain who wants power, money, dominion, immortality, etc.

It’s almost impossible to give a villain a goal that doesn’t lump itself into one of those categories, and it really goes back to human nature. Those are all ambitions we are tempted, and sometimes controlled, by.

There’s a theory that there are less than 30 plots in the entire world of literature. In a way, that’s true. Most stories involve a hero, a quest, a discovery, etc. That’s what makes them great.

The trick with writing is to make a common story unique by changing the way you accomplish that plot — and that villain’s motivation.

Zelda was never an original concept in its entirety, and though it’s an older game, its predecessors probably had similarities (obtain important items to save princess/world). The point is, it’s incredibly fleshed out with world-building, dialogue, imagery/visuals, music and more. Just like a great book.

Sometimes Writing Pays (So Stop Hating on the English Majors)

Sometimes I have so many projects going on that I just stare at my computer and think about what I opened it to write. But working freelance, full-time and creatively works for me, because it gives me the financial backing to fulfill my dream.

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Photo Cred: Lauren Pezzullo

When I went to UT Austin to pursue an English degree, I had a lot of self-righteous people tell me I wouldn’t go anywhere with that. I always told them, this is what I love. This is what I’ve always loved. Sure, I’ve thought about being a designer, an architect, a lawyer and a teacher. But nothing rang true more than putting words on paper.

So I found a career path in proofreading. I struggled with the fact that it’s not a corporate-climbing position, but you know what? I don’t need that. I make a living, and I work hard every day. At night, I take freelance gigs for the extra money, and mostly because I’m being paid to write.

It’s a great feeling when people want to purchase your talent. I will never stop smiling at an “I loved it!” email on the first draft. And sometimes it’s hard to work an eight- to ten- hour day and add a few more on the end. But it’s always worth it.

The cool thing is, my creative life is coming together, too. I feel like I’ve earned my wings after getting into a week-long residency, garnering agent attention, pitching at conferences and putting my words out into the world. It doesn’t matter when I get an agent or when I get published. The point is — I’m living the dream.

The dream they said would never pay.

What the F*** is a resolution? (And other thoughts about 2016)

So it’s a new year, and it’s that time when you question what you did over the last year and really hope it was something great.

Granted, I can hardly remember if I fed my cat without looking at his food bowl, but sure, Facebook, take me down memory lane. Anyone who knows me (KNOWS I’M AWESOME MWUAHAHAHA. JUST KIDDING) … knows that I’ve had some pretty rough years. But this yearly recap was full of love, fluffy things, family, and the loss of a fluffy thing.

It was also full of writing and reading.

And any year with those loves of mine is a good year. So once you finally remember what you’ve done with your life over the last 365 days, you’re expected to resolve to be better, healthier and less of a douche bag.

Well.

There’s a lot of flack about resolutions out there. I even saw a candy ad that was like, “Hey, we know you’re not going to keep that resolution. Eat this candy.”

So resolutions, good idea, or the Donald Trump of holiday traditions? (If you’re a Trump supporter, I’m sorry I’m not sorry.)

The thing is — the pressure to immediately top last year is a little intense. That’s almost like slapping 2015 in the face, screaming it wasn’t good enough, it never put down the toilet seat, and it had horrid morning breath.

It’s okay to celebrate your year. The you that happened last year.

But it’s not horrible to look forward either.

So what the f*** is a resolution? Optimism. It’s not always a hard-set goal with a color-coded spreadsheet. It’s not always a make-or-break arrangement, where if you eat that candy you’re just shitty at living. It’s not that black and white, and it’s all gray. (If you mention a “romance” book here, just go.)

A resolution is APPRECIATION for who you were last year. It’s a celebration of you. It’s looking forward with your headlights to see twists and turns in the cliché metaphorical road.

It’s you … continuing to be awesome. So make goals. Even call them resolutions. Even check in at the gym or take pictures of your floss container or your straight-A report card. NEVER stop celebrating your accomplishments.

But have grace with yourself when you fall short of your own goals, and remember who you really are, regardless of a checklist.

Love, Loss and Everything in Between (From Flipped Desks to Mascara-Stained Pillows)

I lost my kitty this weekend. I had to say goodbye after eight years. It wasn’t an entirely happy eight years. At times, it was miserable and defeating, and people wondered why I did it.

And then, just like that, it ended. An almost decade-long part of my life vanished behind a door at the animal clinic.

And I was left with emptiness, but hope too. Hope that a void could be replaced with warmth.

love.jpgMany people consoled me, but one of my clients said … “The bad news? It doesn’t get any easier. That’s the life of an animal lover.”

It may seem pessimistic, but it isn’t. It really hit home with me, in so many areas of life. As human beings we embrace love and passion knowing we can lose it.

When it comes to writing, we embrace a volatile and fickle path that has many yesses and infinite nos. We may be accepted only to be rejected. We may be published only to be discontinued. There is no final door to disappear through. There is no steady, yet reliable void or sense of grief. There is hope, then despair, then feeling lost.

The bad news?

It doesn’t get easier. This is the life of passion. Of love. Of embracing what you don’t know for what you know you need. For what your heart calls out to.

Is it worth it in the end?

This is the life of an animal lover.
This is the life of an anything lover.

The Retrieval: Flash Fiction by Dani Nicole

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Inspiration: br, DeviantART by DelilahWoolf

The Retrieval
by Dani Nicole

Republished from passtheprose.com

Sit still. Cross your legs. Breathe every few seconds.

Gram’s instructions are etched in my mind. Act normal. Act human. Don’t let them know what you really are.

I flatten my skirt. I’ve never worn one before. Is it supposed to be so short? Is it too short?

Breathe.

It feels nice to breathe. Sends a cold chill to my lungs that’s converted into a hot air release. There’s something soothing, rhythmic about it. Like music. Inhale. Yes, that feels nice. Exhale.

Blink.

I smack my eyelids shut, pressing too hard and wrinkling my eyes. That doesn’t look natural. Look natural. I try it again, slower. My eyes squeeze shut for a millisecond, then release. My vision is clearer, fresher.

I can see the waiting room again. A great light with dangling crystals hangs above me. I’m sitting in a stiff chair, my feet resting on the smooth stone floor, grey and swirling up the walls.

“He’ll be just another moment,” the receptionist says.

“Thank you.” Use an even voice. I clear my throat. “Thanks.” Shorter words make it easier.

“Would you like anything to drink?”

Accept food and beverages. Let them see you eat.

“Sure, do you have… coffee?” The foreign word dances on my tongue. Co-ffee.

“Cream and sugar?”

I don’t understand the question. “Yes, please.” Always be courteous. Always be sincere.

She returns with a steaming cup, stirring it with a spoon. I thank her and she returns to her seat behind a desk. I sip and wait for the taste to hit me.

Co-ffee. I can tell that coffee is bitter, but masked by the cream and sugar, it’s sweet. A slightly exotic flavor, though everything on Earth is exotic to me. It reminds me of the drink back home, Kasa – steamed leaves in water. I wish we had sugar in Algammon.

But then again, there are a lot of things I wish were different about Algammon. Dragons. Death tolls. Phasing. Retrievals…

“Mr. Datwood is ready for you miss LaGrange,” the receptionist says.

I gave her my human ancestor’s last name. Raghdatav is not a typical surname in this world.

She leads me down a long hallway to a set of black doors. She doesn’t open them. Instead, she glances nervously and tries to conceal her emotion, but I don’t miss the single bead of sweat on her forehead, the tremble in her hands, the acceleration of her breathing.

When she leaves, I place a hand on the metal bar to open the door. I take a breath in for comfort, and release it.

Inside, he sits at his desk, hunched over a notepad. He writes and doesn’t look up.

“Miss LaGrange,” he says. “What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to check on the Lieberman Estate. What’s the condition of the mansion?”

He swallows emphatically. “The… the Lieberman Estate?”

“Yes.”

“It’s well… it’s been vacant for years. Certainly attracted some tourism though, with all the… odd things happening there.”

I tilt my head. “Odd things?”

He laughs, a higher pitch than I suspect is normal. “Oh you know how stories are…”

I set my co-ffee on his desk. “Tell them to me.”

“I’m not saying I believe any of this. I’m just an investor. But the stories say… how the stories go…. People disappear there. No one knows where they go. But they never come back. I figure it’s just a kidnapping or something, but people are insistent on something more…. supernatural.”

I don’t understand the world “supernatural,” so I nod, encouraging him to continue.

“You see… the rumors say people are taken, by other people who look just like you and me. They lure them into the house and then they both disappear.”

“That seems supernatural,” I say, trying out his word.

He laughs. “But I don’t believe any of it.” His heartbeat accelerates; he swallows and reaches for his glass of water. Sometimes humans lie.

“Are you interested in investing in the Lieberman Estate?” he asks, wiping water from his mouth.

“Indeed. But there’s a specific investment involved with the estate I’m most interested in.”

“What’s that?”

I smile, then stand, careful not to stand too straight. I let my shoulders slump a bit and try to take even steps. As I come near his chair, his eyes widen. He’s surprised. I’m not acting normal. I might not even be acting human.

I rest my hands on his armrests and lean into him, stopping inches from his face. I can feel his breath on my lips, on my cheeks.

“The investment I’m interested in is you.”

He swallows again, and I grab his shoulders.

With a hard pull, we are travelling. Across the border of his life and mine, propelled forward through a vacuum tunnel. I hold his shoulders as he kicks and screams. Our momentum makes my hair fly in a million directions. Our velocity presses against my body.

When we land, we fall into a heap. He scrambles, observing his new world with wide eyes. Across the lake, a dragon breathes fire into an open field.

“Wh– Where are we?” he asks, his voice trembling.

“Algammon.” I say, smiling.

And never forget to bring the human back.