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Sneak Peek of Distant Horizon – Chapter Two (Sections Two and Three)!

As we get closer to the release day of Distant Horizon (October 27th!), I’ve been working on the final touches! I’ve been reading the printed proof copy for errors…

dh-proof-copy-1 dh-proof-copy-2

See? There’s the book!

And I’ve been setting up promotional items for the upcoming book blitz that will take place once Distant Horizon is published.

(Want to participate in the book blitz? Click here!)

And, of course, I like to provide teasers of the upcoming book. So here’s the second part of Distant Horizon, Chapter Two, for your enjoyment. 🙂

(You can read the first chapter by clicking here.)

(Or you can read the first section of chapter two by clicking here.)

Chapter Two

(Section Two and Three)

“Come on, Jenna—this is perfect. You need the points; I get a good name in, and if the commander remembers me when I graduate, he might recommend me to international Special Forces!” With a smooth swipe of his hand, Lance pushed the straggling strands of his brown hair from his eyes and then brushed his shirt free of wrinkles. I took a step back, eyeing him cautiously. Lance stood straighter, more proper than before.

“Well, what do you think?” he asked. “Think I’ll make a good impression?”

“You look… nice,” I said halfheartedly. “I’m sure he’ll consider you.”

Lance beamed. “Awesome!”

“Yeah, awesome,” I mumbled. I shouldered my backpack uneasily as Lance headed for his security class. He could probably get into a regional team and be charged with the wonderful task of protecting gossipy leaders, but regional agents were stationed all over the world. If he got recruited, I might never see him again.

I hunched my shoulders and hurried to calculus. I could almost swear the agents wandering around campus were watching me. Throughout class, when I should have been focusing on logarithms, all I could think about was the agents’ dark visors, their stern postures, and how they were tasked with protecting the Community against all kinds of threats, including theophrenia.

I pictured the agents escorting Galina into the back of the van. What if I never saw her again? What if she couldn’t be cured?

Needless to say, I bombed the calc test.

I returned to my dorm room, dejected, and switched my materials to the Basics of Agronomy and Horticulture. At least this was a class I enjoyed. When I lived at my parents’ house, I spent what free time I had in the backyard or the community garden cultivating herbs and vegetables. Whenever I was worried about how I’d do on my core graduation tests, gardening was the most efficient way for me to relax.

I trailed my fingers through the leaves of the potted spider plant on my desk. If only plants could understand people. Plants wouldn’t tell anyone about not taking the pills, or failing a computer class, or—

The stem of a spiderette wrapped around my finger and wriggled beneath my palm. I yelped and yanked my hand away.

The plant just moved.

Not only that, but spiderette stems were stiff, not malleable like a vine. They shouldn’t be able to wrap around my finger even if plants could move of their own accord.

I stared at the plant, but it seemed the same as before. Just a normal stem in a normal pot.

I swallowed hard. I could not be hallucinating. Not this close to the Health Scan. I grabbed my bag and stuffed the books inside, then rushed out the door. I was stressed and needed lunch; that was all.

Downstairs, the spicy aroma of sloppy joes mingled with the antiseptic stench of cleaning supplies used in the cafeteria. My stomach churned. Bad idea coming to the cafeteria. Really bad idea. I should’ve just taken the pill and been done with it. Maybe I would’ve gotten accustomed to the lack of focus. I could still go back and take the pill. Maybe—

I stopped short at the lunch table.

“You okay?” Lance stabbed his fork into a half-eaten sandwich. “You’re pale. Maybe you should see the nurse.”

“No!” I gripped the loose ends of my backpack tight. Lance gave me a puzzled look. I shut my mouth, then set my backpack in its proper place under the chair. “It’s just… I failed the calc test.”

He cocked his head with a knowing grin. “Sure you did—you won’t have the results until after the Health Scan. You know, you’re starting to sound like Tim.” His smirk turned into an amused smile. “Want me to get you a plate?”

“Go ahead,” I said, and he left me alone at the table. I traced the spot where the stem had wrapped around my finger. My blood pounded in my ears, mingling with the messy roar of the cafeteria. The stress of the upcoming scan was getting to me—bad. Hallucinations were the first sign of theophrenia. If someone had theophrenia, they’d have hallucinations and delusions of grandeur, and eventually, they’d die. But theophrenia was supposed to be a thing of the past. Contained.

“Jenna?” An elbow brushed my shoulder and I jumped. Tim stood beside me, holding a plate of steamed broccoli. “Are you okay?”

Not really, no. But I couldn’t tell him the real reason I was worried. “I bombed the calc test,” I said.

Tim cringed and took his seat. “Ouch.” He stirred his fork through the broccoli, wrinkling his nose and making a face. But I’d never seen him put something back if it was good for him, and he took a bite. “Lance said you can make up yesterday’s points.”

“Maybe, if I get an audience.”

Tim pulled his tablet from his pocket and sat it beside the plate, then flipped through the screens with a swipe of his finger. He showed me a photograph of the commander next to his transport ship. “Do you think he’ll autograph this for me?”

I nodded weakly. I never did understand autographs, though most E-Leadership members were happy to give them. Lady Winters never signed them, though, and when Master Matoska made a rare appearance, he only did so if the signing was on his schedule.

A plate of food slid in front of me. “I got you extra broccoli,” Lance said.

Warmth flooded my chest. Unlike Tim, I actually liked broccoli—and Lance knew me well.

I smiled. “Thanks.”

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After lunch, I excused myself early to slip outside. I had a few minutes before the next meeting, plenty of time for a walk to clear my head. The sun stole through the clouds in the courtyard and lent warmth to the chilly afternoon. Students swarmed the flagpole at the center of campus, waving tablets and books in the fresh air.

A tell-tale safari hat rode across the crowd and my breath caught in my throat. Unlike Lady Black, who often used her revealing outfits to stand out from the rest of us, Commander Rick did not flaunt his “attractiveness.” He always went for regal attire—except for that safari hat he always wore—and his word was absolutely, positively good. If he said he would do something, we could bet our efficiency points he’d do it—not that betting was in any way efficient.

I took a step back, my chest tight. I wasn’t ready to ask the commander questions. What if I got the interview, but they had to do the scan first?

I turned to take the long way around campus, but nearly collided with a confident woman as she passed me on the sidewalk. She nimbly stepped aside, then glanced at me, surprised. Wisps of dark hair tickled her face, and her green eyes were complimented by the antique, diamond and brass pendant she wore on her chest, the same kind of pendant members of international E-Leadership wore.

“Lady Black?” I stared at her, dumbfounded. She had to have been cold. Her dress was impractical—it twisted and shimmered in a harsh gust of wind, and her skin was pale where the silky black dress revealed far more of her chest than normal citizens would ever show. She opened her mouth to speak, but I skittered away before any words could be exchanged.

I didn’t check to see if anyone had seen us before I ducked into the closest building. Once inside, I pressed my hands against the stone wall and caught my breath. Too close. What if I’d said something about the pills in a moment of panic? I half expected an agent to come waltzing through the glass doors and ask why I hadn’t reported my earlier hallucination.

I took a deep breath, ignoring the puzzled stares of passing students. Though I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching, no agent came to question me. I waited for my nerves to calm, and then headed back to the dorms for the afternoon meeting.


Like what you read? Want to find out what happens next?

Pre-Order Distant Horizon today!
Amazon – Amazon UK – B&N – Kobo – iTunes – Smashwords

You can also find Distant Horizon on Goodreads.

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I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂


Filed under Business Ventures, Writing

Thoughts on Publishing- DH Proof Copy Ordered, New Author Photo, and Next Sneak Peek from Distant Horizon!

I got the proof copy of Distant Horizon ordered! Woot!

I should get the printed proof sometime next week, which should give me enough time to do a final proofread before uploading the final files, sitting back… and working on promo materials. Well… it’s a start. 🙂

I would have had the proof copy ordered a couple days ago except that Createspace apparently doesn’t do well with transparent PNG images in PDFs (I’m testing out transparent images in the ebook files, and had simply let them transfer over. That didn’t work out well, as they turned into gray blocks). So I went back and redid the divider images, which ended up being easier than I thought because I found an article explaining how to find and replace images in Word. But be warned: those conversion problems don’t show up on the digital proofer until after you submit your files for review. So it’s a good idea to check the digital version again before ordering a print copy.

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In other news, Isaac and I now have an author photo!

Isaac and Stephanie Flint - Author Photo

I already had one for myself, which I used in Magic’s Stealing, and that’s the same one that I use for social media. But I wanted one that showed both Isaac and myself for our joint projects.

So we went to the same area where we shot my first author photo, waited for the golden light of the day (and mostly missed it, due to my temporarily breaking the tripod while trying to extend one of the legs), and set up the camera on a (fixed) tripod with the timer. I wore the same outfit I wore for the previous photo, which I’ve also started to wear when I go to various events.

So… look for our new author photo on our website, Infinitas Publishing, as well as in the author section of Distant Horizon. 🙂

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Since we’re rapidly approaching the release date of our upcoming book, I thought I’d share another sneak peek from Distant Horizon. I’m planning on releasing the first six chapters over the course of the pre-release period. 😉

(You can read the first chapter by clicking here.)

Chapter Two

(Section One)

Brisk October air snapped against my cheeks. Gray clouds obscured an even grayer sky, casting a dull shadow across the courtyard and the stone buildings, which loomed overhead with their tall domes and steep, towering columns.

I always admired the imposing structures because they had survived the plague. So many things hadn’t. But these bits of history I could touch with my fingertips: statues worn smooth with time, their copper turned green from rain, and best of all, the ivy that snuck through the cracks of a time-ravaged campus.

Lance and I were headed for our first morning class when a low, steady drone rumbled overhead. Lance yanked my sleeve. “Look!”

A well-decorated airship peeked through the heavy clouds. Brass, gold, and bronze ornamental railing adorned its gondola and complimented the high, arched windows. Elegant frames decorated the rotors with artistic flourishes. The symbol on its side was the Lady of the Cog: a crimson half-cog rising like a sun, embellished with the silhouette of a lady perched across the spoke-like rays.

My breath caught in my throat. The only people who used the Lady of the Cog belonged to International E-Leadership—the highest-ranking officials of the Community. Maybe Lady Winters was paying us a visit. She was one of the few leaders actually worth the speeches she gave. As Head of Efficiency, she made sure the Health Scans were thorough and that our international laboratories advanced. Maybe she was coming to tell us that she had made an advance against the plague, and I wouldn’t have to worry about the Health Scan anymore.

“That’s Commander Rick’s airship!” Lance grinned, his cheeks rosy from the wind.

I raised an eyebrow. “The commander?”

“Maybe he’s coming to visit. Let’s get to class—we might find out more there!” He dragged me down the sidewalk through the early crowd. Once inside, we took our seats in the second row. The first row was already filled—apparently in similar anticipation.

Professor Dragomirov smiled at everyone’s enthusiasm and put an image of the seventy-year-old commander on the giant touch screen at the front of the classroom. The chatter quieted as she spread her hands along the wrinkles in her uniform and puffed out her chest with pride.

“Tomorrow, Commander Rick is delivering a speech to our university regarding the upcoming Health Scan. Be advised, I will assign extra efficiency points to those who can secure an interview with the commander and produce a two-page report regarding his efforts in the security and efficiency of our modern society.”

More chatter erupted at the news. Lance grinned and nudged my shoulder. “It’s your lucky day.”

Lucky? If I accidentally let slip that I didn’t take the pills around the commander, I would not only be booted out of college, but out of the Community.

“Miss Nickleson?”

I jerked to attention at my name. Professor Dragomirov tapped the screen beside her. On it was an image of a tower with a gleaming set of windows. The whole thing was shaped like an absurdly unsafe letter “F.”

I blinked. “Yes?”

“Where was the final rebel base in Australia located when Commander Rick ended the resistance against the Community?”

Two locations popped into my head at the mention of Australia, and I knew Sydney wasn’t it.

“The Northern Territory?” I suggested. Hopefully she didn’t want the name of the actual town.

The professor smiled, switching the image on the touch screen to reveal a map. “Correct. Located near what used to be Birdum, Australia, the tower and its surrounding city thrived from those who threatened the Community’s security.”

She went on to repeat the same history lesson we’d heard since primary school: how our founding father, Lord Black, died infiltrating that tower, and how Commander Rick took his place, stomped out the Oriental Alliance and the remaining rebellions, declared world peace, and became the living embodiment of the Community and its virtues.

Nice resume, if I hadn’t heard it a dozen times before. I would’ve preferred that we spent our class learning something new, like who developed the treatment for theophrenia. I glanced at my book, then at the professor. She was paying more attention to her lecture than to the rest of the class, so I flipped to the back of the book, searching the index for “t” until I found theophrenia listed with a dozen page numbers.

I already knew that the first known treatment for theophrenia came shortly after EYEnet’s formation and that once the Community was established in 2027, the treatment was made routine. Occasional outbreaks of the disease—like the one that killed my grandparents—were common. While most of the book had information I’d read before, it added that Lady Bridget Winters had a hand in creating the most recent treatment—the one which effectively contained the threat in 2065.

A few pages later, I found the answer to my question. Apparently, Lady Winters’ predecessor, Doctor Sanders, had developed adominogen with funding from international E-Leadership—the original founders of EYEnet. The book went on to discuss the Community’s rise across the globe, but offered little else regarding the treatment.

I frowned and rested my cheek against my knuckles. Theophrenia was supposed to be dormant, but the book said the plague was only contained. That explained how Galina failed the scan. But most diseases only needed a single vaccination to offer a lifetime of immunity, so why did we take the pills on a daily basis? Did the pills have to be adjusted for various strains of the disease?

I flipped to the next passage, only half-listening as Professor Dragomirov went on about Commander Rick’s military prowess. It was thanks to his leadership that theophrenia was contained five years after he took power. He understood how people with theophrenia thought, and he personally assembled the best teams to seek out the last rebel hideouts. Despite my grandparents’ preference not to talk about their past, I’d managed to weasel a few pre-Community stories from them. Their tales about those who were infected mostly ended in chaos and destruction. The infected were paranoid and hard to catch. Crazy. They thought they could command the elements, and often took extreme measures to try manifesting their beliefs. They’d light themselves on fire, leap from tall buildings to prove they could fly…

I closed the book as the professor wrapped up her lecture. There was nothing about why we took the pill daily. The book was only a history book, and all it told me was the same lesson I’d heard since my year four teacher explained that E-Leadership created peace in the world, and that we should all be thankful the days of the plague were over.


Like what you read? Want to find out what happens next?

Pre-Order Distant Horizon today!
Amazon – Amazon UK – B&N – Kobo – iTunes – Smashwords

You can also find Distant Horizon on Goodreads.

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I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – Literary Doppelgangers

You know those times when you’re writing a story, and you think you’ve finally created a character that’s at least a little bit different… and then you find their literary doppelganger?

That character which just seems far closer than you would have liked?

While watching Jessica Jones (which is an awesome show, by the way), one of the things that struck me and Isaac was the similarities between the villain of the show, Killgrave, and Brainmaster, the villain of our story, Distant Horizon.

They’re definitely different, but they do have some striking similarities (except that Killgrave is just so much more evil… An absolutely fascinating character, but evil). Note: I have only seen the show, so I’m not sure how he compares from the comics.

First, let’s take a look at Killgrave.

Killgrave has mind control powers. He can walk up to a person, tell them to do something, and they’ll do it. His powers have a time limit (12 hours), and a limited range. He’s obsessed with Jessica Jones, trying to win her back after she finally managed to escape his grasp. He doesn’t mind leaving behind a body count just to get Jessica to move in closer as she tries to stop him. (But he doesn’t do the dirty work. No. He comes up with creative ways for other people to kill each other or themselves… and leaves an even bigger mess for Jessica to clean up).

Also, he wears a purple suit. Kind of his style.

Now, let’s take a look at Brainmaster, from the story Isaac and I are working on.

Brainmaster has telepathy, which, in our story, equates to three possible options… mind reading, mind control, or communication via thought. Powerful characters can do all three. We see her doing all three of these things, but one of her trademark moves is taking control of characters by implanting suggestions in their brains… some of which cause them to attack others or themselves.

And she wears purple robes.

(This is where I was cringing watching Jessica Jones. Killgrave, also a mind controller, has a purple suit. I’d never even heard of his character (at least, not other than a single cartoon episode of X-Men with a very different version of him) until a few weeks ago.

These characters are different, but they do have similarities. Both have mind control powers. Both haunt the main characters (Jessica has traumatic flashbacks of Killgrave, Jenna has traumatic memories that Brainmaster plants in her head), and both wear purple. Maybe it’s because of the idea that the color purple often reflects royalty and power. (There’s an interesting web page about the historical uses of the color purple here).

For characters who are meant to be powerful, it makes sense to have them wearing purple.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to post a short scene from Distant Horizon, one where we get to see Brainmaster for the first time.

Note: This scene has been truncated to minimize spoilers.

I pushed the door open.

Inside, a lady wearing a flowing, deep purple robe stood at the end of a long metal table. Her robes were fringed by golden swirls and thick, bold lining. Part of her white hair was rolled into an elaborate bun; the rest cascaded to her shoulders.

The lady’s eyes narrowed and her face contorted into wrinkles. She wore just enough eyeliner to accentuate her fierce eyes, and her nails were painted a gold that matched her outfit. More than most leaders, she was dressed for appearance.

Beside her, an elderly woman with graying hair was bound to the chair. Her shoulders were slumped and her head lolled back.

Go away.

I jumped. I hadn’t heard anything, but it was clear that the woman standing with her manicured hand on the corner of the woman’s chair had spoken. She lifted her chin and scowled.

“Let her go.” I tightened my grip on my spear.

Brainmaster smirked and slid her nail along the edge of the chair. Something forced me– my mind– away.

I couldn’t move. My arms were frozen in place.

She smiled and brushed back a wisp of white hair. Drop the spear. Close the door behind you. Take a seat. She gestured to the chair, a slow, elegant motion.

I dropped the spear, took a seat. Listened.

A slow smile crawled across her cheeks. She gestured to the woman in the chair. “The true plague is disobedience. It makes our society inefficient. This woman is a traitor. She spreads the plague by her presence. She’s a lost cause. Kill her.”

I stood, vines uncoiling from my arms, and walked the length of the table. Power pulsed through my vines, urging me to take control. To let them flourish. To use them.

The traitor turned her head, her eyes half-shut.

“She’s the true monster,” Brainmaster murmured. “A threat to everything we hold dear.”

I wrapped my vines around the woman’s throat. Felt their pressure against her skin. Closed them tight. The woman coughed, gasping, but I didn’t let go.

Funny thing, Nickleson. Do you ever wonder how a beast feels when it’s given orders? Is this what you want?

I stared at the dying woman, confused.

A beast is such a mindless thing. You could be so much more.

The woman sputtered and fell limp. Her head lolled.

A chill clawed through my spine.

She was dead.

I’d killed her.

And that’s where I’m going to leave that scene…


Brainmaster. Yeah, she likes messing with people’s minds. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed watching Killgrave’s character so much.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂 Have you ever written a character, then found their literary doppelganger?



Filed under Writing

Sneak Peek – Battle Decks

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you may know that my husband, Isaac, and I are starting a publishing company for our stories and games. Well, I’ve talked a lot about the stories, but today I’m going to give you a peek into one of our games-in-progress: Battle Decks.

I’m not going to give a whole lot of detail on the game just yet, but I will say this: it’s a fantasy pseudo-steampunk table-top card game, where there are two battling factions and your goal is to take out the opponent’s hero cards. We’re considering the catch-phrase of “Dragons, dinosaurs, and dirigibles, oh my!”SBibb - Battle Decks Sneek Peek

Anyway, at this point in time, we have the basic mechanics of the game, stand-in cards, and we’ve played it on and off between ourselves over the past couple years. Currently, we’re in the process of creating the art for the actual cards. For the typical card, Isaac creates the base image with pencil on sketchbook paper. Then I go in and add the details, smoothing out the line art in the process. We then scan the page onto the computer. I retouch the pencil art in Photoshop CS6. Isaac does the basic coloring. Then I do the final touch-ups to the coloring and shade the image. That completes the basic art, up to the point we add them to their actual cards.

We’ve already ordered one proof of the first few cards, and there are tweaks to be made for readability. But it’s coming along, slowly but surely. There might be a set of stories planned around this game, too…

Your sneak peek is one character from each faction. 🙂

SBibb - Battle Decks Sneek Peek

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