Here is another snippet from my upcoming series, Moderation Online. If you missed last month's snippet, check it out here.
CITY OF NEW EATON, Middle Rind
Kendall Barnes walked the streets of the Middle Rind with a giant knife and fork in his back pocket.
He emerged from a dirty alley into an avenue of cereal box and soda bottle skyscrapers lit up on every floor.
Rivers of people moved up and down the sidewalks. Walking alongside them were anthropomorphic candy bars, boxed dinners, doughnuts, and other processed foods, each with bright packaging and droopy eyes, adding artificial color to the area.
The humans smiled as they walked in half-struts, half-waddles, mumbling to themselves and licking their lips. Many were overweight and obese.
The foods (called Gourmans) were at least one to two feet taller than the humans and, with the exception of a few wide ones, were mostly skinny and lean. Some mingled with the humans, laughing and cracking jokes; others looked serious and as if they were on their way to somewhere important.
Enormous, three-story tall LED screens on every building streamed glitzy commercials fighting to catch the attention of the crowd.
In the street, traffic zipped by, each car and hovercycle leaving a trail of sparkling, colorful light behind it.
Kendall took in the busy street and snapped his fingers in a jazzy rhythm. He inhaled, taking in every delicious smell of his city, then he exhaled, smiling.
“Gonna be a good night.”
He had chosen his long white t-shirt, jean shorts, and green basketball shoes specifically for tonight. Under his shirt, he wore a smooth, golden chain that his friend, a french fry, had given him. He was determined to be the coolest-dressed black guy at the Festival of the Harvest.
Kendall skipped into the street and joined the flow of people. A TV dinner blimp floated overhead, casting an elongated shadow over everything below. A female voice echoed from a megaphone on the blimp’s bridge.
“Attention citizens: The Festival of the Harvest will begin shortly. Nonpareil Square will be closed to traffic for the rest of the evening. You may have also noticed pipes along the street . . .”
Kendall looked to his left and saw a line of green metal pipes rising up from a sewer grate. They ran parallel to the street and extended for several blocks to Nonpareil Square, where searchlights crisscrossed the dusk sky and music played from loudspeakers on the high-rises.
“Please be mindful of the pipes,” the voice said as the blimp finished crossing and the street brightened again.
Kendall had never seen the pipes before, and he wondered what they were for. As he walked past, he heard a strange bubbling sound coming from them.
An ad flashed on one of the screens and pulled him from his thoughts. A curvy blonde in a striped bathing suit appeared on the huge display. She smiled, ran her fingers through her hair, threw her head back, and laughed as bubbles rose around her. Green text scrolled across the screen: NUTRIZEEN. UNLOCK THE TRUE YOU.
Kendall swallowed and looked down at his stomach. He probably weighed three times as much as the woman on the screen. In New Eaton, being skinny was rare, but desired.
He rubbed his belly and said, “Heh heh. One of these days, I'm going to shed this negative six-pack.”
He had heard of people getting Nutrizeen injections that changed their lives completely. Their weight just fell off, leaving behind firm, fit, god-like bodies. The injections were invitation-only, and the Triumvirate claimed that they were still testing their effectiveness. Humans often talked about what they would do with brand new, athletic and fit bodies; it was a common topic around bars. Kendall himself often daydreamed about all the things he could do if he got an injection. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself with chiseled abs and thighs strong enough to crush a small watermelon. He saw himself on the beaches of Cola Bay, diving into the waves and swimming a mile without getting tired, then retiring to a beach house where he’d sit on the balcony with a drink in his hand and watch the sun sink into the clouds . . .
Three jets burst across the sky toward Nonpareil Square, shattering his fantasy with the thunderous roars of their engines.
Kendall put his hands over his ears and looked up at the huge, lumbering jail-ship shaped like a bag of chips that followed the jets. Then he joined everyone on the street as they cheered.
“There they are,” Kendall said, pumping his fists. “I'm ready to rock this festival, you best believe!”
He quickened his pace toward Nonpareil Square, and could feel the rest of the crowd doing the same.
Food City is Book 1 in the Moderation Online series, a new LitRPG series. Click here to grab your copy.
As always, if you’d like to support me, check out my Patreon page.
I'm back to my writing normal this month, especially compared to last month which was quiet for me. Lot of updates to give everyone!
I have just wrapped up Delicious Zeal, Book 3 of the Moderation Online series. The series is done and now available for sale. Check out the covers below:
Click here to grab Book 1 – Food City.
In other news, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year, mainly for my podcast listeners to follow along to see how I write a novel in one month with limited time & resources. Follow me here.
Finally, the novel I am writing during NaNoWriMo will be an urban fantasy centered on dreams & phobias, and a heroine who can control others' dreams. The cover will be done by next month's update, so I will be posting it then.
Special show this month! Jay & I recorded an episode for the Indie Author Fringe at the Frankfurt Book Fair called How to Be A Part-Time Author with Full-Time Results. We talk productivity, tools and pro writing techniques. —> https://selfpublishingadvice.org/beginners-self-publishing-podcast-part-time-author/.
If you haven't noticed, I am in the process of a branding update. I've learned quite a bit since I started publishing in 2014. I am rebranding many of my old series with new covers to give them a refresh. You'll notice a consistent look:
My author name at the top, book title at the bottom. While each series is different (with different designers usually), the feel is consistent, which is a subtle change that I will be implementing moving forward. I'm doing this with the long-term goal of a unified library, where everything looks consistent to new and existing readers. Additionally, my long-term goal is to branch out into audiobooks, and having a consistent look goes a long way with readers in that format.
Also, I aced my law school midterm, so that's exciting!
Aside from that, thanks for reading this month. Next month I'll have new covers and a new series reveal.
Here's a snippet from my newly renovated upcoming series, Moderation Online (formerly known as Eaten). Cover will be ready later this month. Enjoy!
EARTH, North America, 2067
“Dr. Brotherton, while I appreciate that you're using breakthrough technology to treat my husband, I'm not so sure that a video game will cure him.”
Dr. Peter Brotherton suppressed a sigh as an African-American woman dabbed her moist eyes with a tissue. Two children clung to her dress with worried looks on their faces.
Through the hospital waiting room window, rain fell slanted across the blustery sky, and moonlight bathed the hospital grounds below in a pale gray.
It had been raining for the last week. Dr. Brotherton wished for sunlight, clear air, and a blue sky in which to give the bad news. But the rain fell, a relentless staccato against an undertone of thunder.
“I understand how you feel,” Dr. Brotherton said, choosing his words carefully.
Jamilla Barnes sobbed, heaving loudly. She was obese, with a round face and long dreadlocks.
Dr. Brotherton let her cry. He felt for her, like he did for all of his patients’ families, but his heart stopped breaking for them many years ago. He clasped his hands together and spoke softly.
“Your husband suffered a massive heart attack. We were able to stabilize him, but he has not woken up yet.”
“When will he wake up?” Jamilla asked.
“It’s hard to say,” Dr. Brotherton said. “It could be days, weeks, or months.”
Jamilla shook her head and wiped her eyes. “I’d like to see him.”
“I’m happy to let you in the room,” Dr. Brotherton said, “but I need to warn you about what you’re about to see.”
Here came the bad news.
The news no one ever wanted to hear because it sounded so strange.
And he was going to give it for the twentieth time this week. With no coffee in his system, no painkillers to deaden the sharp edge of burnout.
“Kendall is already inside the video game,” Dr. Brotherton said. “We have him hooked up to it, so there a lot of wires and technological things in the room.”
“My husband has a heart attack and you put him in a video game?” Jamilla asked.
Dr. Brotherton pursed his lips. “It’s deeper than than that. Come with me.”
Kendall Barnes was an obese black man who lie in a spacious hospital room. He was hooked up to a ventilator.
A coal-black VR headset lay over his eyes. A heart rate monitor blinked over the space where the eyes were. A long wire connected it to a server in the wall, which glittered behind a glass panel. Monitoring screens were mounted all over the room, measuring brain function, sleep patterns, and heart rate.
For Brotherton, this wasn’t anything new. Kendall looked like the wave of a thousand patients he’d seen this year. Obese, diabetic, lucky to be alive.
“All over the world, we have seen an epidemic,” Dr. Brotherton said. “I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but we’ve been seeing heart-related diseases killing people, almost as if a time bomb exploded.”
Poor choice of words.
“It's not like we haven't treated heart disease, but this is worse. It's devastating,” Dr. Brotherton said. “The medical societies of the world have committed to stopping this, so they partnered with gaming companies, and leading psychologists. They developed a virtual reality game experience, and we are hooking up victims’ brains to it.”
“I don’t understand,” Jamilla said, caressing Kendall’s forehead. “I signed the consent papers, but I wasn't aware of—”
“It’s quite simple,” Brotherton said. “It really is, Mrs. Barnes. In order for Kendall to live with heart disease, he’s got to make drastic lifestyle changes. But we’ve been telling patients this for decades and it hasn’t worked. This virtual reality experience—called Moderation Online—immerses them in a world that teaches them the importance of eating right. It's an ingenious game design that subconsciously steers patients into making nutritional decisions at the neural level. We have seen a tremendous amount of success from initial tests. We see drastic weight loss and lasting good habits.”
Jamilla buried her head in Kendall’s chest.
“I’ve been told it’s a paradise,” Dr. Brotherton said. “The science behind it is to take healthy foods such as vegetables, turn them into characters, and assign them names and personalities. Have you ever heard of role-playing games, Mrs. Barnes?”
Food City is Book 1 in the Moderation Online LitRPG series. It is a fantasy that takes place in the world of food. Click here to sign up for my email list so you can know when it launches.
As always, if you’d like to support me, check out my Patreon page.
Quiet times this month!
Honestly, it's nice to have a quiet month for a change. I always feel that I have to recharge after a series. Usually takes me about 2 weeks to get back into gear, and I'm just starting to do it now.
My LitRPG series is going well. I'm about 1/3 through Book 3, which is the final book in the series. It will probably take me a little longer to finish this one, as it will be in the 60,000-70,000 range, and my first semester of law school classes is pretty rough. But it's all good, and it's coming together VERY nicely.
In other news, I've sent my Galaxy Mavericks short story off to the editor. It will be included in an upcoming space opera anthology. I know, I know…I keep teasing it, but it's going to be awesome!
Another great episode of The Beginners' Self-Publishing Salon with Jay Artale. This month, we talk about book covers! This is one of my favorite topics to talk about, and my book covers have gotten considerably better as my career has progressed—I'm by no means an expert, but I do know what to look for and how to work with a designer.
Law school is going great. It's exactly what I expected, so in many respects I was well-prepared for it.
And if that weren't enough, I've taken a new job as well! So that is always fun, juggling life, school, and writing. But it's one of the things I do best. If anything, it will be another challenge for me to keep the writing going, which is something I've done pretty good at these last four years. And it makes me more of an expert on the topic.
Thanks for tuning in this month. Next month I will have the first new covers of my LitRPG series!
This month is a snippet from my first novel, Magic Souls, which has received a new cover and a new launch.
It was the morning of the biggest presentation of my legal career, and I spent ten minutes practicing my speech in front of a potted ficus. The bronze faces of the partners stared down at me from the wall, and I tried to imagine my face among them. If my presentation went well, I’d become a mid-level associate at the Hanover Law Firm—the most prestigious law firm in the city—and I’d finally get my own office instead of having to share a cubicle.
I hurried through the hall, swung into the conference room, and discovered that the meeting had begun without me. The partners sat around a long cedar table, watching a plasma TV mounted on the wall. They swiveled their heads toward me.
“You’re late, Bebe,” said Annette Farwell, my arch-nemesis with stilettos and perky breasts. Her designer suit made my blouse and skirt look like consignment items. She wasn’t supposed to be in this meeting. She smirked at me from the head of the table, lacing her fingers together so that everyone could see her glittering maroon nails. “I’ve been working on this case for six months, and I don’t appreciate you interrupting my presentation.”
My PowerPoint slides hovered on the TV screen. Only at the Hanover Law Firm were the partners so busy that they couldn’t tell when attorneys were stealing cases from each other.
I nearly turned green when I saw Tucker Salinas sitting at the table. He looked sexy in his black suit and red tie, and I could smell his lavender cologne across the room. His wavy hair and brown skin made him stick out in the room full of pasty white people like me.
“Wasn’t this your case, Bebe?” he said.
Annette raised her voice to cover mine. “Of course Bebe helped me. When she wasn’t on Facebook, she was wonderful. But time management is her weakness. It’s just like her to be late.”
I wanted to say, I’m late because you rescheduled the meeting without telling me, but what came out was something between a pout and a nervous laugh.
The managing partner shot up. “That’s all I need. It’s a tough decision—both of you do a great job. But on the basis of this case, Annette, we’re going to go ahead and promote you to mid-level associate. Bebe, we’ll discuss your performance at a later date.”
Annette draped her palms over her mouth and sucked in air. “I can’t thank you enough for recognizing my hard work.” She schmoozed around the room, shaking everyone’s hands. The partners ignored me as they filed out, and when I tried to meet Tucker’s eyes, he looked through me, too.
“It’s nothing personal,” Annette said after the last attorney left. She primped her bun with one hand and packed her portfolio with the other. “You’ll get your promotion in due time.”
I blocked the door. “You stole my case.”
“It’s so nice to finally hear you speak. I couldn’t tell if you were shocked, or if you were participating in one of your silent vegan protests again.”
“This is wrong, Annette. You never worked on this case.”
“You shouldn’t have left your computer unlocked.”
“You’re committing fraud.”
“You’re the fraud.” Annette stepped toward me. “And if you think I’m a bitch now,” she said, “I dare you to tell the partners. Then I can tell them how you broke company protocol and kissed Tucker Salinas.”
“How do you know that?”
Sure, I had kissed him. I’d had too many cocktails at happy hour—super embarrassing—but he hadn’t kissed me back.
Annette saw me thinking and laughed. “You know the rules. Any kind of personal contact is grounds for termination. I’ll make you wish that you’d dropped out of law school like you should have, and wonder why you didn’t major in English, spend the rest of your life writing erotica, and contribute to society in some meaningful way other than being a tool for my personal advancement. Go on,” she said, pointing to the door, “tell the partners.”
I didn’t know what to say. Annette pushed me aside and slammed the door behind her, leaving me alone with the lingering smell of cologne, legal pads, and betrayal.
Magic Souls is an interactive urban fantasy styled after Choose Your Own Adventures, but for grown ups with a storyline that changes as you read it. Click here to relive your childhood.
As always, if you'd like to support me, check out my Patreon page.