Not all prisons are made from concrete and razor wire…

I’ve written some dark fiction in my day. And my most recent novel, Scorched Earth, is no exception. But I still think the darkest thing I’ve ever written–and am ever likely to write–remains Down the Brink.

The novel takes the concept of for-profit prisons, sets it in the near future, and then adds something to the business model that I hope never happens in real life. I’ll leave it at that lest I give away the plot!

My narrator for the audiobook, Daniel Dorse, summed it up well. He had read through the novel to prepare his performance, and commented thusly: “ain’t you just a ray of sunshine!”

Yep, that’s me. For-profit prisons, firestorms, broken food chains, mind control, human clones, BigPharma gone bad. You name it, I can find the darkside…

Happy Halloween!

Down the Brink–audiobook

Down the Brink–ebook

Down the Brink by [Lisa von Biela]

So, it’s been a while…for a lot of things…

Hello out there…

I realize it’s been quite a while since I posted anything here.  There just hasn’t been much to post about, and I’m no good at posting for the sake of posting.  I posted about the release of my newest novel, Scorched Earth, when it came out last fall.  Then Australia pretty much caught on fire, and I posted about that–how I thought Scorched Earth was perhaps a little far-fetched as I wrote it, and how the fires in Australia were proving me wrong.  I figured no way could an area the size of the Nebraska panhandle *really* burn down.  And I’m being proven wrong again by the fires right now in California, Washington, Oregon, and elsewhere.  

I started a new novel back in December.  This would be my 11th title overall.  I decided to try a new approach.  As some of you may know, I’m a dedicated outliner.  I plan out my plots, the timing, and so forth before I begin drafting.  Why?  A lot of reasons.  For one, the nature of my plots often demands that I have the timing of events right.  I’d rather do that in an outline than while wrangling a novel-length manuscript.  Another important reason is to give myself an easy-to-pick-up roadmap so if I get tied up with work or other things I can easily jump back in where I left off in the draft and get moving.  For this one, I decided to try pantsing it.  Why not, right?

So I started a novel where the protagonist is on the road, fleeing something, trying to get somewhere.  The country around her is deserted, a wasteland (she’s in the Midwest right now, where there should be plenty of farming activity).  I like what I’ve written so far, but I didn’t decide at the outset what the underlying problem was.  And so I got stuck, despite a good start.  It’s at a point where I need to know what she’s running from/to.

And the the pandemic hit.  I am fortunate to be able to work from home and stay safe.  But, to be honest, it’s making it even harder to pick up on writing this novel.  Those of you familiar with my work know I tend toward the dystopian on a regular basis.  And right now, I just can’t seem to muster the urge to write dystopian when it seems like dystopia is all around us.  I’ve not given up on the novel, but I am feeling stalled out.  

Do people even want to read dystopian novels in this environment?  I don’t know.  I do know I just can’t find it in me to switch to writing romance novels!

Meanwhile, I’ve been spending time with this little beauty…started playing dulcimer almost two years ago, then picked up a Fender acoustic guitar last December.  And then this…love my shell pink Strat!  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have a long way to go…still very much learning, so no gigs for me!)

Strat shoot from NEF to JPEG

A question for fellow authors and readers…

I have a question for my fellow authors and readers. A long time ago (in a prior life), my doctor (at the time) told me that he really loved Pat Conroy’s writing, that the descriptions were so gorgeous. I read Prince of Tides and remember enjoying it. I started The Great Santini the other day and am blown away by the stunning descriptions. Really fantastic. But…
 
When I write, I only write through one character’s POV at a time. I write vivid descriptions, but I have to write them in that character’s voice. I’d love to free myself to write lyrical descriptions as Conroy does, but that would not be true to the voice of my typical characters. He’s obviously writing as the omniscient narrator and describing as he pleases.
 
Fellow authors/readers, what are your thoughts on the matter? What do you prefer to write? What do you prefer to read?

I’m back at the ITW Thriller Roundtable for the next couple of weeks…

Check out this week’s topic:  ITW Thriller Roundtable June 4-11, 2018

Reflections on 5 years as a published novelist

I like to keep track of anniversaries.  I’m just that kind of person.  I like to think back on where I was, compare it to where I am now, that sort of thing.  Some anniversaries, of course, are more momentous than others.  And this is one of them.

Five years ago today, my very first novel (THE GENESIS CODE) came out.  I never thought I’d see that day, and I remember how excited I was (pretty much giddy with hope and dreams, as I recall).  I had been writing short stories, getting some publications and honing my skills, since 2000 or so.  Then around 2003/2004, I decided to try writing a full-length novel.  I had a story, but no publisher in mind.  I’d never attempted a work of that length.  I just wanted to do it, do the best I could, and see what happened.

It took something like two and a half years.  I started and restarted.  I got stuck along the way.  I had characters box themselves into corners that didn’t work.  It felt very much like getting into a small boat, launching off into the ocean, and losing sight of land–and hoping I made it safely to some undetermined destination.  But I eventually finished it, felt it was the best I could do.

Then law school happened.  I decided to leave IT behind and attend full time beginning back in 2006.  And I had time for nothing else during those three years (well, more than that, if you count the summer of studying for the bar exam, then the relocation, etc.).  So I stopped writing fiction and the manuscript sat.  I only shopped it to a few places during that time.  Nothing happened and I had pretty much resigned myself to it never seeing the light of day.

Then one day, Greg Gifune posted on Facebook that DarkFuse was looking for novels.  Long story short, I submitted it, and DarkFuse published it five years ago today.

A lot has happened since then.  I’ve written a number of novels (medical/tech/legal thrillers) and novellas (horror and supernatural).  DarkFuse published most of them before shutting down last year.  Crossroad Press picked me up and republished all my backlist, as well as a couple of completed titles DarkFuse hadn’t gotten to yet.  I self-published a novella last year.  And I’m busy with the fourth draft of my current novel-in-progress.  All this while working full time.  So now I have a total of nine titles out, one in the works, and ideas for more.

I wonder what the next five years will bring.  Will my style change?  Will my subjects or genres change?  (One thing’s for sure:  you’ll see no romance novels from me!)  Will my series character in INCIDENTAL FINDINGS (Nikki Avalon) take off and launch a whole stack of novels?

It’ll be interesting to see what I write on the next major anniversary.  At least I hope so!

Thanks for reading,

Lisa

 

Check out my author page at Crossroad Press…

As things stand right now, I have 9 titles published, 8 of them with Crossroad Press.  The exception is my novella, Moon Over Ruin, which I self-published on Amazon last year.  Crossroad Press sets up its author pages in a rather cool way.  By choosing under Options, you can pick the source of the ebook:  Amazon, Apple, Kobo, BN, or Smashwords.  Whatever suits your fancy, all tidy in one place.

Here it is, my Author Page at Crossroad Press

Thanks for reading!

Lisa

Crossroad Press, my new publisher…

As some of you may know, my prior publisher, DarkFuse, shut down last year.  I will always be grateful to them for taking me on, publishing my debut novel, as well as several other novels and novellas while I was with them.

Crossroad Press picked me up last summer.  Since then, they have re-released all my prior DarkFuse titles, as well as released two new novels that I’d completed for DarkFuse, but which didn’t get released before the shutdown.  They’ve even published an audiobook of THE GENESIS CODE!

I just wanted to share some Crossroad Press links.  I have an author page there, with all my books listed.  They have their own store–plus you can purchase the titles at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and more.

As always, thanks for reading!

The Crossroad Press Store

My Crossroad Press Author Page

Greetings, 2018!

Well, here it is.  2018.  I always try to imagine what every new year will hold.  And let’s just say, I’m no oracle!  2017 had its surprises–good, bad, and in between.

On the publishing front, I kicked off 2017 by self-pubbing a novella that I’d originally written at a particular market’s invitation.  They declined the final product, so I took the bull by the horns and published it last New Year’s Day.  That’s my little thriller, Moon Over Ruin.  It’s set (mainly) in an abandoned resort we ran across on a trip to Canada a couple of years ago that got caught in my mind.

Then, around the beginning of summer, my long-time publisher, DarkFuse, closed down.  They reverted rights to me, but this of course meant my titles went off-market.  I had 6 titles with them at the time, and 2 completed manuscripts that had not yet been published.  I was very fortunate to join up with Crossroad Press soon afterward.  So far, they’ve republished my 4 novel-length works (with new cover art) and one of my previously unpublished titles (Down the Brink).  And, they published an audiobook of The Genesis Code!  The 2 novellas (Ash and Bone and Skinshift) and the other previously unpublished work (Incidental Findings) are in the works and will be out soon.  Meanwhile, I’m in the second draft of a novel-in-progress that concerns a drought of historical proportions and a young family’s desperate escape from a mega-fire into…even worse things.

This has been a big year for my artwork, too.  I picked up some cheap watercolors a couple of years ago and started dabbling around (I hadn’t painted/drawn in some years).  One thing led to another, and I also got involved with colored pencils about a year ago.  My skills have noticeably progressed, and I’ve posted work on RedBubble and Pixels.  Made a couple of small sales, too.  I also drew a blue and gold macaw with colored pencils and donated the image to Zazu’s House Parrot Sanctuary for use on their Pixels site.  I hope it’s sold a lot for them!

On the travel front, I’ve had some mighty interesting/contrasting trips!  In the summer, we returned to Canada, and took a flight to the icefields in Kluane National Park.  We actually landed on a huge icefield (see the picture below) in a Helio Courier.  Awesome!  Then in November, we visited Death Valley National Park, parts of which are well below sea level.  So from high-altitude snow to low-altitude desert, all in the same year.  Not sure how to top that!

So, a big thank you to my readers and those who have purchased my art, and to everyone reading this, best wishes for 2018!

Greetings 2018

The Making of: BLOCKBUSTER

BLOCKBUSTER:  THE FUTURE OF PATHOGENS?*

Lots of things scare me, some more than others.  While this can be mighty inconvenient in daily life, it does give me plenty of writing ideas.  See?  There’s a silver lining in just about anything if you look hard enough.

Several of my biggest fears play starring roles in my BigPharma thriller, BLOCKBUSTER.  For one thing, it scares the bejeepers out of me that some very nasty pathogenic bacteria have become resistant to our arsenal of antibiotics, and that more will likely follow.  So, what if a bacteria got loose that was readily transmitted and extremely deadly—and was resistant to all available antibiotics?  Well, that’s part of what happens in BLOCKBUSTER.  The idea scares me so much that as I was writing the book, if I happened to feel a simple itch on my toe, for example, a part of me would begin to panic because of what happens in the novel.  Can you imagine how frightening it would be if something like that started spreading, and no existing antibiotic could fight it?  Talk about being fresh out of bullets.

Just so you know, I actually completed the manuscript long before the recent Ebola crisis that made the news a couple of years ago.  Though a virus, Ebola shares some characteristics with the bacterial disease(s) in BLOCKBUSTER, in that there is no particular cure, and that it is incredibly vicious and deadly.  However, Ebola is far less communicable than the diseases in BLOCKBUSTER, and because it’s a virus, antibiotics aren’t helpful anyway (except perhaps as prevention for secondary bacterial infections).  When I “created” the diseases in BLOCKBUSTER, I deliberately combined the pathology of MRSA (the flesh-eating bacteria) with the terrible internal ravages of Ebola (and some more grisly features for good measure).  I find it hard to imagine a more terrifying communicable disease.

On another level, I’m scared of disease in general, of being ill and in a hospital, under treatment, and fearing for my life.  I’m sure most people are.  In BLOCKBUSTER, that fear is magnified by the strict quarantine procedures necessitated by the nature of the disease.  What would it be like to be gravely ill and in a quarantine chamber—with no human contact whatsoever—just when you’re at your most vulnerable and frightened?  Unfortunately, that very thing plays out in an Ebola outbreak.  The disease itself is horrific enough, but to be denied even the slightest bit of human comfort is unimaginably heartbreaking—though necessary.

As some of my readers may know, I edited a weekly email newsletter for biotech attorneys, the BioBlurb, through much of my time in law school.  I’d gather stories from the week centered on the legal and ethical issues of various biotech developments—and I’d insert my own snarky little comments that my readers really enjoyed.  On one level, it was fun to do and I learned a lot about what was going on in the biotech world.  On another level, it provided all manner of novel fodder to my twisted little brain.  But alas, in law school, there was little time for anything but…law school.  So all those ideas fermented in the back of my head.  And now I get to reap the benefits of all that fermentation.  BLOCKBUSTER didn’t stem from any one particular story, but from a sort of gestalt of the stories, together with a “what if” question about a particular form of corruption.

Another thing that shaped BLOCKBUSTER is an annoying bit of reality:  it takes a long, long time to develop a new drug and bring it to market.  There are early trials, false starts, human trials (if you even get that far), FDA approvals, and all the activities needed to actually produce and distribute the eventual drug.  If I’d adhered to that reality in the book, readers would have passed out from boredom by page 4.  I had to do something about this!  So, I decided to set it 10 years in the future, and “create” a very lovely and enviable piece of lab equipment that fast-tracks the drug development process, and even eliminates the need for human trials—the fabulous Pathosym.  Such equipment isn’t totally without a basis in reality, however.  There are prototype testing devices “on a chip” for certain things.  I just took the concept a whole lot further.  And this is why writing fiction is so, well, empowering.

And because I’d set the story 10 years out, I couldn’t just slap a fancy piece of equipment in the lab and stop there.  I needed to envision future versions of normal, everyday electronics that we take for granted.  Most such items in the book are either on their way or are based in some part on reality.  For example, wristwatch computers are becoming a reality, or at least early versions of them.  I just imagined something more mature and put it in the book—the PortiComm.  These things had to feel like fairly natural extensions of current devices that might be real 10 years out.  They were meant more as part of the environment, the “set” as it were, rather than stars of the show, like the lab equipment.

BLOCKBUSTER was a fun book to write:  lots of biotech, high-tech, skullduggery, greed, and things going horribly awry.  I hope you enjoy it…and that you have lots of antibacterial scrub handy.  You’re going to need it.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa von Biela

*Originally published in DarkFuse Magazine when BLOCKBUSTER was first released.

Blockbuster on Amazon

Blockbuster on Smashwords