Monday, April 23, 2012

Canvas Skies by S.L. Wallace: Guest Post, excerpt


Price of a Bounty: Reliance on Citizens Makes Us Great #1
A Story of an Orwellian Dystopian Society

Keira Maddock lives in a dark future in which the Elite have everything and everyone else suffers. She is a survivor. Out of necessity, she has become a skilled seductress, thief and bounty hunter - a Freelancer. When a typical job goes awry, it changes everything. Alliances are formed, long kept secrets are revealed and lives are forever changed.

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Canvas Skies: Reliance on Citizens Makes Us Great #2
Greed. Power. Class division. Resistance.

While Guy and Keira navigate their way through a Terenian society that enforces the separation of classes, April is haunted by her past. Now known as Aimee LaFleur, she returns to Tkaron to open an art gallery. Everything seems to be going well, except for the nightmares.

Will they be able to close the Divide and rid their society of a severely corrupt Gov? Will Aimee ever be free? And who can be trusted?

In book two of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy, S.L. Wallace delves deeper into political intrigue as we examine the bonds that make us human, blending the genres of action, sci-fi, romance and political suspense.





Reliance on Citizens – A Self Publishing Odyssey
By: S. L. Wallace


One of the first questions people ask me when they discover that I'm a self published author is, “What got you into writing?” The next question often is something along the lines of, “Why did you decide to self publish?” or “Have you considered sending this to a publishing house?”


I never planned to be a writer or to become a published author.  It happened because I had something to say that I felt was important enough to share with an audience.  That's when the hard work began: getting my ideas down on paper, revising and editing.  Then nervousness set in as I sent my baby, Price of a Bounty, to a slew of beta readers.  Would my words be intriguing and entertaining enough for a wider audience?  Was all my hard work worth it?  As critiques, ideas and corrections trickled in, I continued to edit.  This was followed by the tedium of formatting.  And then, it was out there...and yes, it felt worth it.  So I jumped right back in and wrote the second part of the trilogy, Canvas Skies.


Price of a Bounty and Canvas Skies are about a future world that's not too far removed from our own.  These stories take place mostly in the city of Tkaron, in the realm of Terene, where some people are better off than others, and many look out only for themselves.  It's not that they're born selfish; it's a matter of survival that's encouraged by the current Gov.  We are introduced to characters on both sides of the class Divide.  As key characters begin to know each other on a deeper level, they begin to close the Divide, bringing Elite and Working Class together in an attempt to make a better world for everyone.  At its core, this is a trilogy about humanity.


I opted to self publish for a variety of reasons.  The first being that I want to retain all creative licensing rights to my books, my characters and the world in which they live.  I had something to say, and I don't want that message changed because of what market research tells us people will buy.  The truth is that people will buy what speaks to them.  Readers are smart enough to check out the free preview and decide whether or not they want to purchase a book.  I also like the flexibility that self publishing offers.  The only deadlines are those I set for myself which is really important because writing is not my day job.  Also, I'm able to take part in as much of the creation of my novels as I'd like.  I rely on beta readers to help me edit and polish my work, and I hired Carl Graves at Extended Imagery to create my cover art.  Otherwise, I took an active part in every step of the process, and I loved it!


The one thing I never expected when I began this journey, was the friendships I've made along the way.  I thought of writing as a solitary activity, and it can be, for those who want that, but there is so much support in the Indie Writing industry that I'm simply astounded.  There are writers' and readers' forums, FB support groups and individual authors who go out of their way to help each other.  That's what I've discovered I like best about self publishing.  It's all about the other people, about the humanity that is prevalent in our world.






Excerpt: Chapter 20 - Aimee: The Grand Opening
Note:   Keira Maddock often uses her alias, Kendra James.
April Maddock has returned from Mediterra with a new occupation and a new name, Aimee LaFleur.

My short golden dress brushed against my legs as I moved around the room.  The lighting enhanced the pieces, making each stand out, bringing each to glory.  When I reached the sound system and pressed “play,” a smooth classical melody provided the finishing touch.
“It's perfect!”
I turned toward Keira.  “I agree.  Thank you so much for being here tonight.”
“Are you practicing your lines?”  She smiled and handed me an official looking black leather folder.
“Maybe a little.  Is everything ready?”
“It looks like it.  The caterers are.”  Keira tilted her head toward the back room.
“Alright then.  This is it!”  I walked over to the front door and released the lock.  Not five minutes later, the first of the artists arrived.
“Kendra, come here.  I'd like you to meet Hisoka Watanabe.  He painted the picture we were talking about the other day.”  Keira didn't turn to look at the painting titled “Rainy Day.”  Instead, she remained intent upon the artist.  She smiled and held out her hand.
Hisoka paled slightly.  “It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss...”
Keira didn't speak.
“Miss James,” I finished.
Keira lowered her hand without receiving the expected handshake.
My brows furrowed.  “I'll just leave you two to get acquainted.”
As I walked away, I heard Keira's voice.  “Mr. Burke will be here tonight too.  Don't act so surprised when you see him.”
The Burkes were fashionably late.  They paused inside the open doorway, observing the full gallery.  A cool evening breeze meandered by and made my skirt dance.  Guy turned to close the door.
Keira was on the other side of the room talking with an artist by the name of Natalie Kozlovsky.  Her specialty was sculptures made from copper wire and glass beads.  Keira was studying one in particular.  It was a unique and beautiful piece.  She completely ignored the latest arrivals.
Guy began with introductions.  “Miss LaFleur, this is my father, Richard Burke, president of Burke Investments.”  Mr. Burke, Sr. stood tall at well over six feet and had straight jet black hair and penetrating blue eyes.
I took his hand and bowed my head.  “Thank you for your assistance in making tonight possible.  I must have taken up a good deal of your son's time.”
“I'd say it was time well spent, wouldn't you?”  His gaze never left my face.  I felt like a mouse about to be devoured by a bobcat.  A shiver ran all the way down to my toes as I realized, this man is a predator.
I signaled to one of the caterers, eager for a distraction.  A young woman appeared at our side, offering drinks.
Wine glass in hand, Guy continued, “This is my mother, Beatrice.  She has always been supportive of the arts.”  A shimmering blue evening gown enhanced Mrs. Burke's tall slender frame.  A sprig of tiny white flowers was nestled tastefully in her sandy brown hair.
I smiled warmly at Guy's mother.  “Mrs. Burke, you might enjoy the three paintings in the front display.  They were created by a local artist named Hisoka Watanabe.”
“Hm,” was Guy's only response.
“Thank you.”  Beatrice turned to her husband and curled her hand into the crook of his arm.  “Richard dear, let's begin in the front and work our way around.”
The next person through the door was a surprise.  “Thank you for coming, Mr. Delaney.  It's nice to see you again.”
He removed his coat and threw it over his arm.  “The place looks wonderful.  Your hard work has certainly paid off.”
“I hope so.  There haven't been any sales yet.”
“Where did you get your training, if I may ask?”
“At the Art Institute of Parisio.  I'm from Mediterra.”  My voice faltered when I noticed that Guy's father was staring at me from across the room.  Brody didn't seem aware of my discomfort.
“So you're new in town?”
I nodded lamely.
“You'll have sales,” he assured me.  “Let me be the first.”
Mr. Burke flew from my thoughts.  “But you couldn't possibly know what you want yet!”
Brody smiled and asked, “Which piece is your favorite?”
“That one.”  I pointed to the sculpture Keira had been admiring.  I noticed that she was now on the opposite side of the room.  Guy had drifted away from his parents and was moving closer to her.  “Would you like to meet the artist?”  I returned my attention to Brody.
“I would love to!”
A minute later, I was introducing him to artist Natalie Kozlovsky.  By the time I pulled myself away, Keira and Guy were in the middle of a friendly discussion.  His parents had noticed and were heading in their direction.  I moved closer too, pretending to adjust the label next to a nearby painting.
“Richard,” his father said as he put a hand on Guy's shoulder.  It was the only prompting Guy needed.
He turned toward his parents, keeping Keira at his side.  “Mother, Father, I would like you to meet Miss Kendra James from Vanover.  She and Miss LaFleur met in Parisio.  They're roommates.”
“Roommates?” Beatrice Burke asked.
“Yes,” Keira's eyes darkened.  “After the car crash, and then my parents...”  She began to tear up.  “I needed somewhere to stay, and I didn't want to stay alone.”
“Oh, you poor thing.”  Guy's mother actually sounded concerned.
“Parisio?” Mr. Burke's deep voice cut in.  “Do you have family there?”
“Yes.  While I was there, I took some classes at the Art Institute.  My mother had hoped I would develop some skills.  She thought it would be a good hobby for me.  Unfortunately, it isn't one of my talents.”
Was Keira actually looking demure?  I'd never really had the chance to watch her work before.
Brody was at my side again.  “She's a good actress.”
I nodded.
“Is she a true friend?”
“The best,” I assured him.
“I can hardly wait to meet her,” he hinted.
Keira had told me she'd had to break off the friendship for his safety.  Did he really mean to forgo her sacrifice?  Was that why he was here tonight?  I turned to look at him.
“I need a sold sign.  Natalie said you have them.”
“Oh, yes.  Here you go.”
“She healed up nicely, didn't she?”
“What?”
“From the gunshot wound.  You'd never know by looking at her.”
I returned my attention to Keira.
Brody paid for Natalie's sculpture and moved away to post the sign.  Then he went to study a painting closer to Guy and Keira.  A short while later, they were all talking like old friends, and I was once again left standing alone.
I moved around the room socializing with each of the artists in turn.  Brody's prediction had come true.  Paintings and sculptures alike were selling.  Tomorrow, I would carefully package the artwork and hire a delivery service, but tonight, tonight was for mingling.
I was in the middle of a conversation with Hisoka when I noticed Brody standing nearby.  Hisoka was telling me about his plans for a series of paintings featuring prominent Gov buildings throughout Tkaron, but Brody was clearly waiting for me.  As soon as we hit a natural break in the conversation, I politely excused myself.  I was interested in hearing more about Hisoka's inspiration for his artwork, but we could talk about that later.
Brody smiled as I approached.  “I wish you the best of luck with your business, Miss LaFleur.”
“Thank you.”  Although my back was to him, I could feel Hisoka's gaze.
“May I take you out to lunch tomorrow, to celebrate?”
“Um, I guess that would be all right.  What time?”
“I'll pick you up at noon.  Will you be here?”
“Yes, I'll see you at noon then.”
He nodded once and turned to go.  I watched as Brody walked out the front door and into the darkness beyond.  Only when he was gone did I return to my conversation with Hisoka.  Again, I felt that someone was watching me.  I turned to see Beatrice Burke scolding her husband.
An hour later, only a handful of people remained.  The caterers were just about done cleaning up and needed to be paid.  The artists were huddled in a corner near the door, talking amongst themselves.  They also needed to be paid.  Guy hadn't left Keira's side since he'd introduced her to his parents.  At some point in the evening, Keira had told me that he'd “graciously offered to drive us home,” so they were waiting for me.  His parents were still present, and I remembered that they had arrived with him.
I paid the caterers for a job well done and sent them on their way.  Then I figured out how much I owed each of the artists.  Finally, I locked  up what was left in the safe in back.  Guy had assured me it was top of the line.  The gats would be nearly as safe there as if they were in a bank vault.
I was gathering my coat and purse from the back room when I heard a slight noise from the doorway.  I spun around.  It was Hisoka.
“Would you like to join us?”  He spoke quietly.
“Us?” I pushed one arm into the sleeve of my white spring jacket.  Hisoka stepped forward and helped me with the other.  He was standing close, but it wasn't uncomfortable in the least.
“Yes.”  He never broke eye contact as he tilted his head toward the other artists who were waiting near the front door.  “We're going out for some dessert before heading home.  You should join us.  After all, our success tonight is because of you.”
I smiled shyly.  “No, no.  It's because of all of you.  Your talent is what brought the people here tonight.”
“No,” he disagreed.  “Your talents are what brought them here.  Hopefully, our talents will keep them coming back.  So, will you join us?”  He stepped away, leaving the decision entirely up to me.
I began to shake my head, no, but then I looked past him.  Guy's father was once again staring at me.  I reached for Hisoka's arm.







S. L. Wallace is a full time teacher in an upper elementary Montessori classroom, a full time parent of a precocious and creative two year-old, and when she's not hanging out with friends (playing volleyball, role-playing D&D or Serenity, or hosting weekly B5 dinners), she squeezes in some time to write.

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