Life on Mars

I’m writing this from the frigid tundra of Chicago where the current temperature is -16°F. Yesterday morning, it was -21 with a wind chill of -50! My city is about the same temperature as the surface of Mars.

While I write about strong characters, I’m not an adrenaline junkie myself.  🙂 I did not venture outside yesterday. The cold is so brutal that you can get frostbite in under 10 minutes. I’m beyond grateful to have a safe, warm home.

There is beauty in extremes. Lake Michigan, which is a few degrees above freezing, appears to boil like a cauldron. Steam rises from the surface in roiling waves as water meets the arctic subzero air.

I read a lot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, and it is eerie to see Chicago looking abandoned. Schools and businesses have closed. Train and air service has stopped, and very few cars are on the road. Nearly everyone stays inside their homes.

Recently, I read Birdbox. In the book, everyone hides inside their homes. It struck me as eerie to have the same type of situation here. Thankfully, it’s just 48 hours. The forecast is for warmer times ahead. I’m very grateful.

Birdbox is fantastic, and I highly recommend the book (grab it here). Read it before you watch the movie if possible. I’m also reading Cinder, a retelling of Cinderella but with a cyborg. I love it so far. Find it here.

What are you reading lately? Leave a comment below.

In writing news, I finished the Authors on a Train short story with my co-author. We had so much fun writing together. It’s a horror tale that contains voodoo and ritualistic magic. We channeled our inner Stephen Kings! I’ll let you know when the book is available.

Meanwhile, I continue making progress with Salvage (Book 4 in the Rogue Spark series). I am excited to be nearing the finish line. I had hoped to make the book available in January, but it’s taking longer than expected. Look for an announcement by the end of February.

Here’s a glimpse of the cover. What do you think?

Salvage Cameron Coral

After Salvage, I will plot a new series that I’m excited about. Ideas are brewing. I’m also planning more short stories since I had so much fun with the New Orleans story. Exciting times ahead!
On March 2nd, I’ll be attending the Tucson Festival of Books. Let me know if you live in the area and want to stop by my booth or meet up. My Dad and stepmom live in southern Arizona, and I enjoy getting the chance to hang out with them for a few days. We like hiking in the nearby mountains and canyons.
I hope you are staying warm wherever you are in the world. I look forward to sharing more exciting news with you soon.

Intentions For a New Year

A new year stretches out in front of us. Do you feel excited about a fresh year? Or do waves of anxiety wash over you as you think about your to-do list?

I admit to experiencing excitement tinged with a bit of freaking out, but that’s my Type A personality kicking in. 🙂

I hope your 2019 is off to a blissful start. My year has been busy so far, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon!

Did you set goals or resolutions? It’s okay if you didn’t.

Instead of goals this year, I have 3 intentions:

1. Creativity
Write more! I have several books planned this year. I’m nearly done with Book 4 in the Rogue Spark series. I can’t wait to share Ida’s next adventure with you. Look for that in February.

Check out this cool mug my husband gifted me:

Create Every Day

2. Freedom
My consulting business has been busy! January and February are my peak times. Starting in March, I’ll be changing the way I operate with the goal of spending less time consulting and more time writing and launching my books.

I became a writer to try to fill my life with creativity and have more freedom to pursue the things I enjoy. I hope to bring a lot more freedom to my life in the coming years!

3. Collaboration
In November, I traveled with 7 other authors on a train from Chicago to New Orleans. I wrote a short story with another author, and we had a blast! The story will be published as part of The Authors on a Train anthology, and I’ll let you know when it’s available.

In fact, I loved co-writing so much that I plan to do more of it. I don’t have anything to announce yet officially, but I’m excited about the upcoming possibilities to work with other authors.

Here are a few pics from that trip.

On November 11th, eight authors boarded the train in Chicago, ready to begin a new adventure…

Authors on a train

 

We slept in sleeper train compartments. When we woke, we were somewhere in Mississippi! The train’s beautiful observation car made daydreaming easy…

Authors on a train

We arrived in New Orleans where we spent the week writing and touring the sites.

Anne Rice’s (former) house!…

Anne Rice house

 

This gallery painting captivated me. New Orleans is full of history, culture, and art.

Authors on a Train

In December, I spent time putting my house in order—literally. I organized my home from top to bottom, and I’m happy to report it’s 98% done!

Projects I’d wanted to do for years finally got done. Now, I feel refreshed, and the clutter in my life has been drastically reduced, leaving my head clear to focus on writing and dreaming up new worlds.

I’m so excited for the year stretching out in front of us. What are your goals for 2019? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below!

Author Interview: Cameron Coral

Meet Cameron Coral, Sci-fi and Fantasy author

Recently I was interviewed on a sci-fi podcast. Here’s a glimpse into my life for those of you who don’t know me well yet.

 

mother of dragonsQ: On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you?


Maybe a 6 or 7?? In terms of outward appearances and behavior, I’m pretty average:-) But on the inside…

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the dark side of things: vampires, zombies, aliens.

I collect wigs and do cosplay at sci-fi conventions. I have a pet sock monkey that I often talk to–that’s probably the weirdest thing about me.

Q: If you could send a message to yourself 10 years ago, what would you tell the younger you?


Start writing! I spent a long time thinking it was too difficult to write and too challenging to get published. I was a workaholic 10 years ago and also quite unhealthy. I would tell myself to work less, create more.


Q: Describe the process behind how you come up with stories.



I come up with a character first. I like to let that character start to develop a personality. Then I think of an unusual situation to put them in.

Q: Where do you get your best ideas?

I get a lot of ideas from movies and TV. I find that a lot of ideas stem from stuff I watched ages ago as a kid. Or, I’ll start with an idea that’s a mish-mash and play with it to see what happens. For example, what happens when the Terminator meets Thelma & Louise?

robots are awesome
Source: Blade Runner | by abductit

My original idea for Ida Sarek and my Rogue Spark series was Bladerunner meets La Femme Nikita.

Sometimes I use writing prompts. I think that’s an excellent way for new authors to start playing with ideas.

Q: What books have inspired you?


I read my first Stephen King book when I was eight years old—Salem’s Lot. I recently re-read it and was enthralled. The Stand is my favorite book. My sci-fi is inspired by books like Ender’s Game, Neuromancer, and Why Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I love long series, too. A Song of Ice and Fire is among my favorites. Recently, I’m reading The Expanse series by James SA Corey because I’m obsessed with the show and binged all three seasons.

My dystopian leanings are inspired by Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler, among others. I read The Power by Naomi Alderman this year and highly recommend it.

Q: How do your values show up in your work?



I’m a huge believer in respect for all life and all walks of life regardless of gender, age, race, sexual preference. I suppose this shows up in my books because I write about robots who are programmed to obey and a species of animal-human hybrids and how they struggle with equality.

I always like to root for the underdog, and that shows up in my work.

When I write, I think about the transformation of a character. Ida starts out as feisty and rebellious, but she’s up against tough opponents and thrust into this world where she has no control. She also a huge secret. There were side effects from the DNA experiments, and she becomes very protective of the physical changes that have happened to her. And she can’t get close to anyone or have a normal relationship and friends because they might rat her out. As the series moves along, she comes to find that she has to lean on other people and trust them and that starts her down a path of personal transformation.

Q: Who was your toughest critic, and how did you grow and change from that experience?



I was lucky to find a fantastic editor who helped my writing improve dramatically. The first few editors I had didn’t challenge me enough. I think it’s imperative for writers to hire a structural/content editor. I know it’s expensive at first, but it will seriously improve your writing ability.

It hurts when you get a red-inked copy back when you worked so hard on your manuscript. But you need to go through that process. I practice “deliberate editing.” I keep a log of the common mistakes I make and add them to a self-editing checklist, so I prevent myself from making those same mistakes again.

Q: What would you like people to know about you and your writing?

When you read my books or follow me as an author, you’ll find strong female characters. I like to say:

In Future Worlds, Strong Women Fight the Toughest Battles.

Rogue Spark

My character, Ida is an amalgamation of lots of badass characters like Ripley, Katniss, Molly Millions, Kara Thrace. You’ll find strong, resilient women in my books. I like to keep the pages turning with lots of fast-paced action.

Q: What is the weirdest question you’ve been asked?



I was on a podcast once where I was asked, “What’s your favorite sound?” I said the ocean.

Q: What is one thing few people know about you?

This is going to sound weird, but in high school, I interned at the USDA, and I spent my time dissecting moths and hooking up their tiny abdomens to this complicated machine that dripped peptides into their stomachs. I think there’s an entomology story in me somewhere based on that time!

Q: What are you interested in that most people find boring?



I’m highly organized! I love keeping spreadsheets and lists. I think many people would find that boring if they’re not into productivity like I am.

Q: What, other than writing, do you get excited to wake up and do?

kickboxing
Check out my awesome skeleton kickboxing shirt!

Kickboxing! I started going to a  gym earlier this year, and I love it. As a writer, I’m always sitting, so it’s a great way to get out of the house and get moving. It’s improved the way I write about fight scenes as well because it’s helped me better understand the mechanics of kicking and punching.

Q: Who is a person who has inspired you and why?



My Dad is 73, and he’s an ass kicker physically and mentally. He’s been a role model for how I want to age gracefully. He and my stepmom are super active and constantly curious people. I’ve had family members with problems like dementia, Alzheimer’s and I think a lot about brain health. How you eat and making sure you’re keeping your brain healthy and active are so important.

Q: If you could wave a magic wand and change your life or the world, what would you wish for?



Unlimited wishes! Ha:-) I’m pretty damn grateful to be alive and living in these times. I’d love to have smashing success as an author and get my books out to millions of people. But I realize it’s a long haul, and I’m lucky to be able to write and use the Internet to connect with readers. We live in truly amazing times.

I wish the world would be more peaceful. I wish there were better education access for all children–boys and girls globally. We can’t forget the lessons learned from our history, or we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Q: What is something on your bucket list that you have yet to do?



I’ve traveled a lot but I’ve never spent time in Paris, and it’s a city I’ve always dreamed about visiting. I’ll get there one of these days.

Q: What quality or trait do you wish you had more of and why?

I wish I were a more extroverted person. Like many writers, I’m an introvert who is uncomfortable being in the spotlight in front of large groups. I wish speaking in front of groups came more naturally to me. I have to work really hard at it.

Ode to GLOW

Netflix GLOW

The Friday school bell rings, and I jump from my seat, race out the classroom door, and merge into a hall packed with giddy kids primed for the weekend. A grin spreads across my face as I envision sixty hours of freedom stretching before me.

I can’t wait for Saturday morning TV because my favorite show airs at 10 am:

GLOW (The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling).

As I race home along the winding streets of my neighborhood, I fly past the ice cream truck. Not today. My mind is occupied with thoughts of the next day’s matches, the costumes, and most importantly, who will emerge victorious from the fierce finale—the ultimate showdown—the Battle Royale.

That night, I don’t argue about bedtime. My mother doesn’t really know what I’m watching in the mornings, but it keeps me happy and obedient, so she doesn’t ask questions.

Saturday morning arrives. Daybreak. I pour myself a bowl of Chex cereal, top it off with milk, and settle in front of the TV. After a few hours of cartoons, the magical time arrives.

Finally.

My precious GLOW. What could be better?

Twenty or so women rapping, performing sketch comedy, and leaping through the air, dropkicking their opponents.

I’m ten years old, and GLOW is the pinnacle of my week. In a 1980s house without cable TV, the show is raw and outrageous, like nothing I’ve ever seen.

I want to be strong like the wrestlers.

And as pretty (the makeup is unreal).

Good girls. Bad girls. Should I pick a side?

Yes. I’m team bad girl.

Netflix GLOW
Source: https://www.pexels.com/@postiglioni

My favorite character is Dementia. Each week, she’s wheeled out in a steel cage. In case that’s not strong enough to control her ferocity, she also wears a straight jacket.

The Heavy Metal Sisters stomp into the ring in all their glory. Glitter and spiked chains highlight their outrageous outfits.

Then there’s Colonel Ninotchka—the arch villain—with her thick Russian accent and red leotard. She looks like the female version of Dolph Lundgren from the Rocky IV movie.

Afterward, I practice wrestling moves with my friends. We lunge across my childhood living room toward each other, bouncing against imaginary ropes. I reach out, arm straight as a pipe, and I hit Sara with a mock clothesline. She falls to the ground, and I grab her leg, lifting it up as I knick her in the back of the thigh. Again and again, just like Palestina.

She clutches her side, laughs, and climbs to her feet. And we reenact the latest episode again and again until we grow tired and run outside to play a game.

I remain obsessed with GLOW for another year before I outgrow it, my attention falling prey to boys, MTV, and music.

Twenty-five years pass, and I think of GLOW, search for it on the Internet, and wonder, “Whatever happened to that hilarious women’s wrestling show?”

Then Netflix launches the fictional series, GLOW in 2017, and I’m in heaven. The show delivers a nostalgia cocktail of excellent storytelling, fine acting, and all the glittery makeup and glam of the original.

The producers deliver a solid second season—better than the first if that’s possible. Episode eight is my favorite thus far because they create a full-length GLOW episode. Want a glimpse of what got this ten-year-old leaping out of bed on Saturday mornings? Watch The Good Twin.

You won’t be disappointed. Maybe you’ll even want to be strong.

And pretty.

And a bit naughty.

I won’t laugh if you practice your wrestling moves in your living room. I’ll be there, too, ready to clobber you with my clothesline hook.

Now, where’s my straightjacket?

*******

I have a new series coming in September 2018! It’s called Rogue Spark, and I think you’ll love it. Sign up to my email list so you get all my updates.

In future worlds, strong women fight the toughest battles.

Rogue Spark

The Verse [Dystopian Political Satire Flash Fiction]

The Verse flash fiction political satire. What does the future look like? Cameron Coral

Every year, I enter the NYC Midnight flash fiction story contest in which I have 48 hours to write a 1,000-word story.

How does it work?

There are four rounds. In July, you receive an email at 11:59 pm on a Friday night. The clock starts ticking, and you have 48 hours to write an original story.

But not just any story—you’re assigned a specific set of prompts:

1) Genre – the story style

2) Setting – a place where the majority of your story should take place.

3) Object – a random thing that must appear in your writing.

Participants are assigned into random groups, so there’s lots of variation in the prompts. Judges review the stories and award points. Everyone advances to Challenge #2, but only the top entries move on to compete in Challenges 3 and 4.

Last year, I wrote a fairy tale and an action story. This year, my first round prompt was:

1) Political Satire

2) Liquor store

3) A flip chart.

I’ve never written political satire! It was difficult to come up with ideas in such a short amount of time.

But I appreciated the challenge. My first draft ended up too dystopian!! It was grim. I was going for a Fahrenheit 451 vibe.

The story hardly qualified as political satire, so I rewrote it. My husband and parents served as hapless beta readers.

Draft number two was still too dark! I finally came up with a third and final draft, which I’ve shared below with you.

I’d love to know what you think. Please leave a comment below or email me: cameroncoralauthor@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

**

The Verse

“Which window, again?”

“The left one,” Rik repeated over his shoulder as his daughter examined the poster containing the daily special: $20 off a case of Truth Enhancer wine. Ever since her implant, her short-term memory had shrunk to the size of a comma.

Inside the narrow supply closet, he grabbed the stepladder, then eyed the black duffel bag wedged high on the top shelf.

The pack contained his sleeping bag and enough supplies to last three days. A few times a year, he camped solo in Purgatory Chasm. The forest preserve was his refuge. Not a blasted wi-fi signal around for fifty miles.

Rik carried the ladder to the front of the store.

Janice rolled her eyes and climbed up to hang the poster. “I can’t believe you won’t switch to a digital display. Not FAIR!”

A bell chimed, startling Rik. “What’s that?”

Perched atop the ladder, Janice giggled. “Points I just earned for using one of the President’s snarkiest catchphrases.”

Rik watched as a cartoon smiling face floated down to him like a bubble. He swiped it away with his arm. “Your damn brain implant generates emoticons?

“Brain Enhancement. Don’t be such a hater.” Another bell sounded.

He sighed and scanned the empty parking lot outside. Damn the Versers. Since the election, he’d warned Janice against the “upgrade.” But she was stubborn and tried to convince him the Verser party wasn’t so extreme. He clung to the hope that maybe things wouldn’t be so bad.

The pundits had predicted mediocrity. Certainly, nobody had expected the newly elected administration to unveil a neuro-communications breakthrough, a new Internet they called the Verse.

Just a quick twenty-minute appointment was all it took for the government to insert its proprietary nano-chip into your occipital lobe. Then, presto! You were always ON. Never again would you miss a presidential chirp or a heartwarming video of kittens snuggling with tortoises.

After America’s favorite television health expert, Dr. Borgus, endorsed the program, people lined up in droves. The suicide rate dropped. Loneliness didn’t exist when your constant companion was the hum of millions of people tapped into your neural networks.

Janice stopped attending high school. Rik had been furious. “School is for losers,” she cried. “If I go, I’ll fall behind on all the latest snap-chirp videos!”

“What the heck is snap-twerp? Can’t you record it and watch later?”

“Dad! Recording? Videos disappear in eight minutes. Duh!” A frowning face suddenly floated in the air before him.

His customers had shaken their heads in amazement at the prospect of letting the government inside their heads. “Not us. No way!” But as the public grew swayed by the mounting celebrity endorsements, even his most skeptical customers succumbed.

Afterward, they came by the store and only spoke in soundbites and emojis.

“How ya doing, Bernard?” Rik asked one of his long-term patrons.

“Things are better than ever. The economy is ROARING. Wow!”

After similar exchanges, Rik avoided small talk. Instead, he grunted, rang up their purchases, and shuffled them out as quickly as possible. Their implants meant they only half-listened to his comments about the weather anyway.

He prayed for an alternative. But the only other party had flubbed the election, and their influence weakened every day since President West rose to power.

How could you win against a platform that promised seamless connectivity at the speed of thought? “A new frontier of innovation,” West declared during his victory speech. “And available for a low monthly payment plan. Chips for EVERYONE. Even illegals.”

Life had made sense. Janice would take over the shop one day. But he’d never predicted the sudden political change. Post-implant, his customers didn’t consume as much alcohol as before because they were occupied with making up snappy zingers. His business had practically been wiped out overnight.

Late afternoons, Rik used to share an Irish coffee with Mr. Jones who owned the dry cleaner next door. Post-election, both had expressed dismay at the state of affairs. But Jones got the chip a few days ago, and Rik didn’t join him outside on their shared sidewalk anymore, preferring to busy himself drawing new posters of the daily deals that decorated his storefront.

Janice had begged him to install flashy digital window displays. “These are all the rage. Businesses that have them double, even quadruple their sales. The signs are hooked into the Verse, so thousands of people see your specials instantly.”

But he preferred to illustrate his banners with magic marker on an old-fashioned flip chart. ‘Keep it simple, stupid,’ had been his motto since opening twenty-five years ago. Now stupid seemed to surround him.

Janice descended the ladder, and he surveyed her work. “Good job, pumpkin.”

“Ugh. Paper. It’s like the stone age.” A blank look crossed her features, and she tilted her head as if listening.

“Janice?” Her vacant stare persisted. A bored look, common among teenagers, their attention stolen by screens. Rik waved a hand in front of her face before she came to and met his gaze.

“You okay?” he asked before trotting behind the counter and wiping it with a rag. He yearned for simpler times–before implants tapped into a person’s brain, distilling every thought into pictures and soundbites.

She opened her mouth as if to speak, but a croak emerged. Her eyes widened, and she snapped her mouth shut.

“Honey?

She nodded and pretended to zip her lips together. Then she pointed at a string of floating emoticons.

Rik squinted at the shimmering icons: An eye, a heart, and a finger pointed at him.

“I should have taken you away from here. Canada,” he said, pouring himself a whiskey.

She blinked and flashed him a poop emoji.

“So long, baby girl,” Rik kissed her forehead.

He swigged his drink, feeling its warmth swell in his chest before collecting the camping pack from the closet and stepping out the back door.