Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A pause for berevement

I just had the worst week of my entire life topped off with the passing of my beloved Mom. Regularly scheduled blogging will commence once I figure out how to live again with some semblance of normalcy. Squeeze your loved ones and make every moment count...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Heart of Annihilation

Today I have the honor of kicking off the blog tour for one fabulous book - Heart of Annihilation by C.R. Asay. A book with a very special place in my heart. C.R. is a member of my own writing group so I've watched and participated intimately through the entire creative process. I've read it countless times. It's amazing. But don't let my biased judgement be the only thing that sways you... it is an exciting and imaginative read that you don't want to miss. Especially if you love science fiction with a military twist and a strong female lead. Or maybe it's military with a science fiction twist? Just trust me and pick this one up.

When U.S. Army Specialist Kris Rose catches members of her unit stealing ammunition to kill aliens, she is forced to defend herself—with a freakish electrical charge shooting from her fingertips.

Shaken by her newly found power and hunted by vigilantes from her unit, Rose is forced away from her structured, military world and into a fight for her life. 

With the aid of her battle buddy, Corporal Thurmond, Rose sets out to learn more about the aliens under attack. In the process, she discovers her bizarre connection to a devastating threat to Earth—an alternate dimensional weapon called the Heart of Annihilation.

From a chuteless free-fall from 20,000 feet, to deadly bullet wounds and the unforgiving Sonoron Desert, Rose enters a world where aliens are real. And she may be one of them.

I sat down with C.R., otherwise known as Christauna, for an interview figuring I already knew all the answers. I was wrong... 
 Where did your idea for Heart of Annihilation come from? 
Heart of Annihilation grew very slowly. I wrote a scene about Specialist Rose facing down a greasy, redheaded lieutenant with an M16 and then I let it sit for weeks. Maybe months. I sure thought about it a lot. Why was she there? What put her in that situation? I’m honestly not sure exactly how it grew from there. I knew I wanted something sci-fi. I thought aliens. My husband suggested dimensions. We compromised. I wrote a lot of disconnected scenes but it wasn’t until over halfway through the book that I knew where I wanted my characters to end up. Then it was just a matter of revising over the course of 5-6 years, molding the story like a clay sculpture until it resembled what it is today. I will probably never again write a book the way I wrote Heart of Annihilation. This one is special. 
I remember that first scene well... And now here you are with a book you can hold in your hands. So cool! Every parent secretly has a favorite child - do you have a favorite character you love more than the rest?
 Yeah…Thurmond. Definitely. He’s just such a rock solid person and decent human being. He epitomizes how I see the U.S. soldier. He’s a hero. It also helps that he has a lot of the quirks and personality traits I see in my husband…
What is your secret to writing violence?
 You can’t pull any punches, no pun intended. Human beings are the best, most gracious creatures in the world, but they are also the vilest. Just turn on the news and you will see a lot of worst-case scenarios. When you’re writing a book that naturally contains a lot of violence, sometimes you need to look deep inside yourself and write what is most distasteful to you in order to elicit the same emotion in the reader.
I wrote the whole storyline for the character Caz Fisk in about two weeks of almost constant work. And I hated it. I hated sludging through her mind and wondering what hateful thing I was going to have to write next. It was a dark two weeks that left me in a sour mood and short tempered with my children. Editing those sections later wasn’t as bad as the writing, but having to channel her violence was very unpleasant. And they turned out great.
Caz is actually my favorite character - because she's so gritty and violent. You nailed it. Is this a stand-alone or is there more to come?
I anticipate this to be a 3-4 book series (I’m aiming for 3). The second book, working title Miss Risk, is complete in rough draft form. Book 3 is in the early stages of drafting.
How long did it take you to write Heart of Annihilation?
Write or edit? The writing probably took about a year. The editing/revising? More like five years. That’s not normal, even for me, but Heart of Annihilation is the first novel I wrote and so it was the one on which I learned the writing process. Usually an author will abandon their training novel and just write a new one in order to grow as a writer. The plot and characters in Heart of Annihilation were so compelling to me that I couldn’t let them go. So I revised into publication.
I like the sound of that: "training novel". I might have to steal the term. What exactly is your writing process?
When I have an idea I will let it roll around in my head for days, weeks, sometimes months, gathering more ideas to it, adding some characters, even some structure until one day the starting sentence will form in my mind and I have to race to my computer to get it down. Once it’s down the rest follows fairly quickly. I don’t outline. I write by the seat of my pants and revise heavily in the aftermath.
I’m surrounded by “pantsers”! What is your favorite part of being an author?
Watching characters come to life. All the plots and magic systems in the world are no match for a flesh and blood character who is so real you wish you could meet him/her. Although preferably not at night in a dark alley with some --
Okay, let's not go there... Least favorite part?
The actual writing. No really, it’s a painful process. Exhilarating at times, but more often frustrating and hard. I love revising afterwards but the actual writing exhausts me and causes giant sweat rings to form under my arms.
Sweat rings are very un-ladylike. Knowing that's your least favorite part, what keeps you motivated to write?
The potential thrill of introducing characters to others and creating an experience of wonder in readers.
What else have you written?
I have a haunted house horror story I’m working on called Project Specter. I’m really excited about this one. I also have a couple of anthology pieces coming soon. One is to support TADSAW (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior), which will be out on Veterans Day 2014. The second is for Utah Fantasy Authors, with all contributors being local authors including a certain someone whom I’ve visiting today *wink, wink*.
Hey, no spoilers!! We’re talking about you, remember? How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?
With an insane amount of persistence and work. I have rejections from literary agents and publishers piled to the ceiling. Each and every one took turns crushing my spirit allowing me to be reborn from the ashes better than before. I learned, I worked, and I dreamed until I was able to make my dream a reality.
Being an author takes some pretty tough skin.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Never stop learning and improving your craft. Don’t settle or take the easy route. There is no easy route. “Good enough” is not good enough. Find a way to make it better. Set your sites high and never stop aiming for exactly what you want. A book is a work of art. Make sure yours eventually matches your vision.
Great advice. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your journey?
That I can do hard things. Like really hard things. I have ADHD which makes some of the simplest tasks in the world seem like Everest. But I can scale it. Having this book come out will forever attest to my ability to overcome my disability and be just as successful as I aspire to be.
Wow, I had no idea. Now I understand the tears when you held your baby in your hands for the first time. Are there more books we can look forward to? And if so, when?
I’m aiming for the release of book 2 summer 2015 with the 3rd book to follow in 2016.
I'm looking forward to finding out where the story takes us from here. You've built such an interesting world of inter-dimensional politics driven by compelling characters who each have their own agendas. Okay, I kind of already know but I'm sure anyone who reads Heart of Annihilation will want to know, too. Membership in a writing group does have its perks. Even better than an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) is getting to see something as it is created... But I digress.
Where can readers find and connect with you?
Like my Facebook page and Goodreads page to get news of giveaways and forthcoming books.
You can also check out my website and my blog

Thanks for visiting, Christauna, and for another fabulous book for my shelf. Folks, I've seen the swag planned for giveaways and it is even cooler once you've read the book. So what are you waiting for?

You can buy Heart of Annihilation at the following retailers:


If you'd like a chance to win your own free copy, you can enter by commenting on this blog post! Rafflecopter will then pick a random winner next week. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
C. R. Asay joined the Utah National Guard at the age of seventeen. After spending time in the 625th Military Police Corp she transferred to the 19th Special Forces group as a counterintelligence agent. She retired from the military after marrying her best friend and graduating from college so that she could embark on the most exciting adventure of all; being a mom.
The short story version of her first novel, Heart of Annihilation, earned an honorable mention from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. C. R. Asay currently resides in West Jordan, Utah, with her husband, four children, and a dog. There is always a dog.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Life without judgement

It has been almost two years since my brush with death changed everything about how I live my life. The difference in myself was very stark this past weekend at the annual family reunion with my mom's extended family. All the cousins who were my best friends growing up - and still are - plus their spouses and kids all gather at a resort with a water park and spend the weekend playing in the sun together. It is always a blast and I always have a fabulous time but usually it is accompanied with lots of internal stress and dialogue about having to be in a bathing suit around others who are more "-er" than me... younger, thinner, prettier. You get the picture.

This year was different. This year I never once looked in the mirror with a critical eye - or at all come to think about it. Nor did I constantly look for strategic ways of sitting so I looked better (as if that way even exists since your body is your body regardless of how you sit). I just had fun with my kids without a care in the world. No cover-up included!

We spent hours - literally - walking back up the hill and the stairs to the top of the water slides, all the adults taking turns sliding with all the different kids - my own, my nieces and nephews and my cousin's kids whatever they would be called in the genealogical sense. Several times I thought with gratitude about how far I'd come in a year - from being physically incapable of it to rocking all the cardio without losing my breath in the process.

It made me think about all the people I'd ever compared myself to in the past to make myself feel better and wonder what things they could say they had overcome to just be where they were. Kind of humbling when you think about it...

A month ago I had my yoga world rocked to the very foundation. Weeks later, I'm still discovering things in my practice that are transforming and growing from that one ah-ha moment when I realized that I don't use my entire foot for anything. It occurred to me this morning, while my 147 pound yoga instructor sat on my sacrum to illustrate how to stretch my straddle deeper, that if you'd told me three years ago that yoga could still be fresh and new every week that I wouldn't have believed a word. And that the old Terra might have given up after that ah-ha moment because the inner voice would have convinced me that I was no good at yoga. Instead I've left all expectations of everything at the door and find joy in the newness of re-learning every pose differently. As I always say, yoga is a journey not a destination. I'm consciously having to take my own advice not to judge myself against anything - including myself from four weeks ago when I never used my heels. Now I know how people can practice yoga for a lifetime and I love how every trip to the mat brings new insights about myself - all because I leave the judgement out of it.

The biggest hope I have is that my girls will see me just as their mom and remember only how much fun they had doing things with me. I already know they don't see me as I see myself. Once I called myself fat and my oldest looked at me funny and said "you're not fat, Mom." Which stopped me in my tracks. If you haven't read this article about When Your Mother Says She's Fat , or watched this ad about doing things "like a girl", check them out. They both helped me see where I was my own worst enemy in putting myself down because I didn't measure up in the areas society focuses on.

In the grand scheme of things it is more important to live every moment regardless of how we feel about ourselves - especially when faced with the reality that every day might be your last. If you wait to enjoy life until you've lost that last 20 pounds (or fill in the blank with your own demons) it might be too late to make the memories you are putting off. Your kids could be too old, you could be too old, or the opportunities could have passed you by. Make every moment of every day count, no matter what. And leave the judgement out of it!