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

And I thought I was writing fiction…

Apparently not.

My newest novel, Scorched Earth, takes a look at what it might be like to live in extreme drought conditions.  What would day-to-day life be like?  The economy?  I envisioned the criminalization of water waste, massive unchecked wildfires large enough to engulf the Nebraska panhandle, and more.  My characters, Jake and Lexi and their baby daughter Ava, are forced to flee their home–fast–when a huge fire takes aim at their town.  They think life will be better in California, and take off through Nevada with a hasty plan.  Let’s just say things don’t go as planned for them…

I started writing this novel back in early 2017, wrapped it up and sent it to my publisher about a year ago.  When I started on the book, big fires were certainly in the news–but nothing like the mega-fires we’re seeing in so many places, and especially in California right now.

I really thought I was writing something a bit over the top, a dystopian near-future novel.  Fiction.  It frightens and saddens me that it isn’t so fictional after all.  My heart goes out to all the people affected and all the firefighters putting their lives on the line.

My 10th title, Scorched Earth, has arrived!

Well, mostly.  The paperback was released today on Amazon, and the ebook is available for preorder, should be available mid-September.

I’m very excited about this book.  I began working on it in early 2017, wanted to do a climate-change/drought-related thriller this time around.  I had no way to know it would become as topical as it has, with all the horrendous, tragic fires that have taken place in the meantime.

I hope you check it out…and that you have pleasant dreams…or not!

Find it on Amazon

Scorched Earth cover

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?

ITW Giveaways for 3 of my titles…NOW!

I’m running giveaways for signed paperback copies of several of my more recent titles right now on the International Thriller Writers site.

Contest ends midnight PST on May 20, 2018.

All you need to do is post a comment.  I’ll pick the winners at random and sign/send out the books.  Good luck!

For MOON OVER RUIN

For DOWN THE BRINK

For INCIDENTAL FINDINGS, a Nikki Avalon thriller

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

“The making of”…SKINSHIFT

This is a little piece I wrote about how my novella SKINSHIFT came to be.  It’s actually a rather creepy story unto itself.   This piece was published in DarkFuse magazine at SKINSHIFT’s original launch.  SKINSHIFT was recently re-released by Crossroad Press and is available in ebook form at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and more.

INSPIRATION STRIKES IN THE STRANGEST PLACES

What would you do?  Would you stay—or would you be too scared?

Forget cruises, fancy destinations, and anything involving a commercial airplane.  Give me a good road trip any day!  My boyfriend and I have driven through quite a lot of the Lower 48 over the years, with a ton of pictures to prove it.  We love to hit the back roads, to find the unusual and the weird.  The weirder, the better.

In the summer of 2013, we were roaming through the middle of nowhere (Middle of Nowhere being one of our favorite spots), hunting for a campsite we’d seen on our map app—when we had cell reception, that is.  By this point, there was no signal to be had, so we were off the grid, incommunicado, and hoping for the best.

After heading down a lonely dirt road for a while with nothing at all on either side, we saw what looked like a site amongst some trees and turned toward it.  The remains of what appeared to be a cow skeleton lay scattered right at the turnoff.  We pulled in farther, and lo and behold, there was a weathered old picnic table.  And not another soul in sight.  Not a vehicle.  Not nothing.  We’d found our place to stay for the night.

We started unloading the camping gear and getting the feel of the place.  There were some menacing-looking biting flies around, but nothing too bad.  We had a table (albeit a little the worse for wear), a fire ring, a nearby stream, trees surrounding the site, and what appeared to be an ancient wooden outhouse a short distance away at the end of a narrow path.  And we had it all to ourselves.  Cool.

Then we noticed the bonus feature:  skulls.  Skulls of all kinds.  In all sorts of places.

There was one on the picnic table that appeared to be from a deer-like creature.  Just sitting there on the far end, facing us, as if it’d been expecting guests.  There was what appeared to be a horse skull and another sheep- or elk-like creature’s skull fastened to the birch next to the site.  A bovine-looking skull lay on the ground on the other side of the picnic table.  Hung on another tree were more elongated skulls, like wolf or fox.  All the skulls were well-cleaned and in excellent condition.

While we were standing there trying to make sense of what we were seeing, something made a loud bang.  I nearly jumped out of my skin before realizing it was just the outhouse door slamming.  I hoped it was just due to wind.

But there wasn’t any wind.

Never did figure out why it picked right then to bang like that.

We stood very still and listened as hard as we could for sounds of humans, animals, anything.  What if some survivalist type had taken over the site and we’d walked into what he considered home?  We didn’t see any other sites nearby.  This certainly wasn’t an organized and patrolled campground by any stretch of the imagination.  But there was nothing more.  Nothing but the buzz of some big black flies and the sound of the nearby creek coursing over stones and logs.

When had these skulls been left there?  By whom?  And why?  We stalked around, looking for answers and finding none.  Eventually, we decided whoever’d left them wasn’t going to join us—or at least we hoped not.  So, after watching some bats flit around for a while, we settled in for the night.  Nothing bad happened, and we left everything as we found it when we left the next day.

Of course, now a seed was planted in my head.  How could I not use this as the germ for a new tale?  At the time, I was still in the midst of writing BLOCKBUSTER, so I had to set the idea aside for a while.  When I wrapped BLOCKBUSTER up in early 2014, I decided I wanted to do something shorter—a novella—and I just had to use the skulls in there somehow.  And so began the concept for SKINSHIFT.

The skulls made an inspiring image, a great start, but they were only that:  a start.  How to build a story around them?  What characters would I create, and what role would the skulls play?  As I noodled it around in my head, a character came to mind.  Dominic Donato.  He’s not a good man.  In fact, he’s a rather evil man.  He begins the story alone, injured and abandoned in the Mojave Desert, seething with rage and hell-bent on revenge.

Dominic learns some powerful new skills, skills that enable him to survive his ordeal, to convert his rage into action, and the skulls figure into this.  And that’s as much of a spoiler as you’re going to get out of me.  I hope you enjoy SKINSHIFT, and that it makes you think twice the next time you’re driving along a desolate desert road and you see a vulture circling high in the air.  You’d better watch out.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As always, thank you for your support and thanks for reading!

Pleasant dreams—or not,

Lisa von Biela