Special Sneak Peek: Preface of Sakura

While most local Utah authors have heard parts of this emotional story, there are many of us out there that haven’t heard all of it. I’ve asked Paul Genesse to come to the blog today to share about his experience bringing Zachary Hill’s vision to life.

Paul has generously allowed me to share the preface to Sakura: Intellectual Property with you.

Cover of Sakura: Intellectual Property

From Paul –

Completing the Sakura novel for my deceased friend, Zachary Hill was a once in a lifetime project. Patrick Tracy and I took on this monumental task out of love for our friend. Below is the six-page preface I wrote. It’s the hardest five hours of writing in my life.

Preface to the Sakura: Intellectual Property Novel

by Paul Genesse

Zachary Hill will live forever in our hearts. He will also live on the pages of the many books he wrote and illustrated, and on the canvases he painted. Knowing him was an incredible blessing, and his sudden passing January 15, 2016, left his friends and family devastated and heartbroken.

Zach had so much to live for. He had finally met and married the love of his life, Mackenzie. Only a few days before their one-year wedding anniversary, he collapsed soon after arriving at work. CPR was performed, but he did not survive. A large blood clot had formed in his leg and traveled to his lungs. The pulmonary embolism took his life.

None of us wanted his story to end. There was so much more that was supposed to happen. He was only thirty-eight years old, and the best years were ahead of him. He was called back to his celestial home far too early.

At his wake, with tears in my eyes, I stood beside his open casket and made a vow to friends and family that his last book would be published. Six days before he left us, Zach told me he had finished the first draft. I agreed to be the editor, and together, we were going to develop Sakura into the best novel he’d ever written. He was so excited about this book, and his idea was brilliant. Set in a dystopian future Japan, Sakura, a heavy metal–singing android is hacked and turned into an assassin. She fights her programming, trying to stop a secret cabal who is taking over the world.

Creating Sakura’s unique character was arguably Zach’s greatest literary accomplishment, and her story needed to be told. Eight months after Zach’s death, Joshua Hill, Zach’s twin brother, completed a light edit on the manuscript and sent along the file, which was 378 pages (92,000 words) and had the working title Intellectual Property.

I couldn’t muster the courage to read it for some time. The pain was too raw. Every time I opened the document, I got choked up and was only able to read a few pages, which was Josh’s experience as well.

Also, I was in the middle of finishing book four and five in my Iron Dragon series and used that project to distract myself from the grief. Zach was a fan, and to keep myself going, I would think, “Zach would want me to finish.” I eventually completed book four and was 45,000 words into book five when I realized I needed to stop my project and work on Zach’s novel. If I didn’t, it would be more than three years before Zach’s last book came out.

I finally read the first draft and began the rewrite on March 5, 2017, finishing my first draft on December 31, 2017. I incorporated Zach’s prose and wrote a lot of my own, expanding the summary chapters he wrote into full-fledged scenes. The final novel grew from 93K to 156K. I had recruited my best friend, one of Zach’s great friends, Patrick M. Tracy to help. Pat is an expert on heavy metal, a guitar player, and an amazing writer who writes incredible emotional punches.

Pat and I were in a gaming group and writers’ group with Zach, and we bonded over many hours at Larry Correia’s house, playing samurai in our Legend of the Five Rings role-playing game campaign. Larry has written the foreword and I’m so grateful for his help getting the word out about this book.

I could not do this project alone. Patrick and I forged ahead with the full support of Josh and Zach’s extended family. We read that original draft and brainstormed about our approach to an early version of the manuscript, which explored the meaning of life, artificial intelligence, philosophy, theoretical computing, value higher than self, rebellion, and the true meaning of heavy metal.

The character and story were awesome, but it needed to be fleshed out, expanded, and structured. Zach’s process would have seen him rewrite it multiple times, and we had to imagine the directions he would have taken. Over the course of twenty-one months, Pat and I spent hundreds of hours brainstorming and working on the novel as we sent it back and forth to each other.

We’ve never worked harder or longer on a book. This was a big deal for us, and we felt our self-imposed pressure to capture Zach’s vision. Some of Zach’s original prose is still in this novel, and the overall story is his, as are the characters, but we had to redream the dream, figure out what Zach would have done, and stay true to his vision as we took first-draft scenes and polished them. We had moments of self-doubt, but we persevered in the end.

We took on this project because we love Zach and wanted to honor him. It was also a way for us to grieve and come together and bring hope to his family and friends. We did it for them, and we did it for free.

All the profit from this project goes to Mackenzie, Zach’s widow. Zach’s father, George Hill Sr., Patrick Tracy, and I funded this. Many others donated their time and energy to help complete the book, as it takes a team. We were able to hire an amazing artist, Sarah Steigers, who did the cover and interior illustrations, and who spent so much extra time getting things just right. She made Sakura and the characters come to life, and her work is stunning.

Devon Dorrity’s cover design is also incredible, and we are so fortunate for his support, guidance, and expertise. Bradley Beaulieu’s development editing took this to the next level, and Jennie Stevens’s copyediting was awesome. The layout by Caryn Larrinaga in the high-quality, limited edition, signed, and numbered hardcover will make the entire book a work of art.

The support we’ve received has been wonderful, and this is the best and most important project of my life. We believe that Zach would love all of this, and we’ve felt him encouraging us along the way. He’s probably looking down on us, wearing his trademark “Elvis glasses,” which he wore in Iraq and for years upon returning home. He led a fascinating life, and his experiences led him to this story. His gentle soul and big heart are embodied by the title character of his novel, Sakura. As you read, you may see some similarities.

George Hill IV, Zach’s eldest brother wrote this passage: “He was an artist, a historian, a teacher, a two-tour combat veteran, and a prolific writer. He was a true warrior poet who always sought peace. He loved to play games and spend time with his family and friends. Zach was also a traveler. He adventured in other countries. He served his two-year mission for his church in Mexico, and he taught English in Japan and spent time in Italy. He served his country in the darkest places in Iraq and was a legitimate war hero. Now he’s gone to the Undiscovered Country. While he’s away from us for the time being, we know we will see him again.”

Until then, we celebrate his life and his final creative work. Sakura: Intellectual Property is a project born of love. This novel brings together fiction and music in a unique way. This is a love letter to heavy metal, and Sakura is always thinking about music. The playlists at the beginning of each of the chapters contain songs by bands that Zach loved. We also added tracks that resonated with the story and helped us see the way forward.

Fans of heavy metal who are immersed in the culture may understand this at a deeper level, but casual fans will also read the song titles and album names and understand the relational meaning in the text. There are so many little nuggets hidden in this book that relate to Zach’s life, including the numeric designation of the army units he served in, along with music and movies he loved.

Follow the link to the Sakura channel on YouTube (link here) to listen to each of the playlists for the chapters. As you read, you can listen to the corresponding playlist. Many of the songs are mentioned in the chapter and go along with the text in tone and meaning. For copyright reasons, we were unable to use any of the real lyrics in the book, but we wrote parody lyrics of some songs if they are mentioned at all. We also wrote songs, and Callie Stoker recorded one of them in the studio of the legendary Craig Nybo. Please listen to it when it occurs in the book.

So many people have given their time and energy to this project, and we are determined to make it an artistic and commercial success—for Zach, for Mackenzie, and all his friends and family. We would love to sell the rights for this to be made into a manga, an anime, or a live-action movie. Any profit would go to Mackenzie. Please get in touch if you can help us or have contacts who could.

Thank you for your support and for reading this book. We need your reviews and especially need you to tell your friends about this. We want to get the word out to everyone who might be interested, anyone who wants to rock and go on a heavy metal thrill ride.

Through his writing, Zachary Hill will always be remembered. We invite you to take this journey to future Japan to find out, once and for all, if rock ’n’ roll can save the world. We believe it can.

—Paul Genesse

December 2, 2018

Link to the Sakura Novel Page

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Free Fiction Sample, “Imprint” by Nicholas Adams

It’s Friday, which means I get to bring you samples, interviews, and articles from new voices around the world. Today, I have a special treat for you. Friend and fellow author, Nicholas Adams, has given me permission to share the first chapter of his novella “Imprint” a hard sci-fi with a medical twist.

In return, I got to go have fun and answer interview questions on his blog. Go here to check it out.

Cover of Imprint

First Chapter Sample of Imprint, a Novella

by Nicholas Adams

Malcolm slammed his fist against the mirror. “I’m telling you, Warden. The process isn’t ready yet!”

From under the spider web of fractured reflections, the older man’s image steepled his fingertips. “Now that you’ve gotten that out of your system, would you mind repositioning me so I can see you clearly?”

Malcolm sighed, defeated. He swiped a finger across the broken glass. The floating screen glided across the mirror’s surface to rest within the last unblemished area.

“Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way,” the man in the mirror glowered over his thick-lensed glasses, “let me remind you of the conditions of your exile.”

Malcolm braced himself for the full version of the warden’s favorite speech. “Your prior technological breakthrough caused the outbreak,” he began as if reading from a teleprompter, “and in spite of your synthetic organs’ success in treating life-threatening illnesses–,”

“You mean lifestyle threatening illnesses,” Malcolm interjected.

The warden interlocked his fingers and lowered them onto the black marble desktop, clearing his throat in frustration. “Be that as it may, it was your flawed technology that caused the disease that now threatens to wipe out humanity. And therefore, having been charged with attempted genocide, you have been isolated above the Arctic Circle because you promised the world you could fix this.”

Malcolm pounded his bruised knuckles against the lavatory’s cold, metal countertop. “I know, I know! But I need more time. And Cynthiana is the only remaining test subject. All the others died before I could make the bio-synthetic interface work. There are just too many variables. But, I think I’m getting closer. I just need more time!”

The Warden glanced somewhere off-screen and nodded to his unseen associate. “Time is not something of which you have an abundance. Get to work Doctor. We’ll be looking forward to your next progress report.”

Malcolm’s eyes automatically drifted to the calendar hovering below the warden’s image. Seven Days.

The Warden leaned over to press the button that would end their video-call but paused with his arm hanging in the air. “If you don’t have something significant to report,” he said not looking at Malcolm, “I’m afraid I’ll have to recommend that your exile will end, and we’ll begin the proceedings to schedule your execution.”

Malcolm slammed both palms on the broken mirror. “But, my wife’s condition. She’s terminal. You’ll be sentencing her to death too!”

“No, Doctor Silvestra, you’ve already done that.”

Before Malcolm could respond the warden’s image blinked out of existence, leaving him alone with only his anguished thoughts.

It’s all my fault. I’ve killed her. I’ve killed them all.

Malcolm’s shoulders quaked, as stifled tears dripped into the stainless steel sink. The flood of anguish pressing against the emotional dam broke through.

I can’t lose her. I just can’t. The rest of the planet be damned, but I can’t lose her.

Staring past his reflection, Malcolm spotted the ornately framed award hanging over his cluttered workbench. His stomach twisted. Several years before, when he received the plaque, he felt only pride and achievement.

Now, however, the image only served to remind him of his failure to keep a promise to Cynthiana; to completely restore her health, or, at least, free from her scars and debilitating pain.

Lettering under the bas-relief sculpture seemed to mock him. His eyes scanned the plaque, landing on the keywords that seemed to highlight his failure. Life Sciences Award, Innovative Breakthrough, Synthetic Organ Replacement.

The fancy words reminded him of his triumph—the 3D Nano-Modeling machine that built other devices on a microscopic level. Building on his wife’s work in Neural-Mapping, together they developed artificial organs that could mimic its natural functions.

Newspaper clippings covering his wall displayed headlines from around the globe. Phrases like Miracle, Saves the Life, and Cure for Death seemed to stand out like random street lamps in a darkened city.

Other news articles littering the wall reminded him of what he now fought against; a plague of biblical proportions. Headlines reading Mystery, Deadly, Burn Victims, and Horrific glared at him. The mainstream media sensationalized the outbreak by calling it The Scald.

Malcolm seemed to be the only one who actually understood where the plague came from; his Nano-modeler, v.8.14.

Long before he saw the correlation between his machine and the outbreak, The Scald had already sentenced anyone with an artificial organ to a slow, painful death.

With his newest Nano-modeler, v.10.27, Malcolm began his exile, with Cynthiana and a dozen dying volunteers at a self-sufficient research bunker in the Northwest Territories.

The collapse of civilization seemed to take only a matter of weeks. Accusations of bio-warfare crossed every known geographic and political border until the truth of Malcolm’s plague became public knowledge.

Riots, looting, and doomsday prophets littered the streets around the world. Malcolm barely got Cynthiana and himself to the bunker before the bombs fell, dooming the planet in a nuclear winter.

However, how the world ended no longer mattered to him. Not since The Scald ravaged his wife. Not even the failed experiments and deaths of the other subjects made an impact on him.

Cynthiana’s body yielded to the lesions faster than any recorded case, forcing her to remain in a pool of bio-nutrient gel 24 hours a day. The Scald had inflicted a rare side effect on her; three-quarters of her body became paralyzed and unresponsive to any stimuli.

Malcolm could not help flashing back to the days before The Scald took away her independence.

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If you enjoyed this first chapter you can find the rest of the story on Amazon: Imprint, by Nicholas Adams. I also hear you can score a copy if you sign up for his newsletter. 🙂

Want more free stuff? Check out Nicholas’s freebies page.
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The enigmatic Nicholas Adams

About today’s guest:

Nicholas Adams grew up in the small, rural town of Boring, OR with his six brothers and sisters.

After graduating from High School in Gresham, OR he attended BYU-ID and received his Associates Degree in Pre-Med. From there he returned to Portland, OR and attended Portland State University where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology/Pre-Med before changing his career track to Architecture.

He completed his second Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture at Portland State University before going on to achieve his Master of Architecture Degree from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT.

After his graduation he and his wife moved to the Phoenix Arizona area where they adopted four children over the next eight years.

Nicholas currently lives in the Salt Lake City area where he is an Associate member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the League of Utah Writers.

His other interests include movies, singing and motorcycles.

Connect with Nicholas:

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Fiction Friday: The Man in the Cupboard pt. 4

Well ol’ Mike Finnegen is back at it again in this installment of the Man in the Cupboard series, hope you like it!

To start at the beginning of the series, click here.

To go to part three, click here.

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The plastic spoon bounced across the tile floor, scattering drops of milk and soggy cereal along the way.  Baby Thomas belly laughed as Kimberly, once again, retrieved the spoon and gave it back with a sigh.  She knew he was hungry, he had been climbing her legs and pushing her around the kitchen for the past twenty minutes, all while screaming and shrieking.  He sounded for all the world like a distressed guinea pig.

“Come on buddy, this isn’t a game.  Eat a few bites.” She waved a different spoon under his nose. “Please?”

With a squeal of laughter he lobbed his spoon across the kitchen once again.  Kimberly picked it up again and this time tossed it into the sink. “No more games buddy, it’s time to eat.”

Thomas let out a wail and stretched out his pudgy fingers towards the sink as far as his high chair would allow.  Clearly breakfast wasn’t going to happen, at least not right now.

Kimberly pulled the angry baby out of his chair and hauled him over to the sink to wipe him down. He grabbed at anything his stubby arms could reach, wildly flailing in all directions. After a few swipes of the washrag she set him down. He sped off as fast as his wobbly legs could carry him.

“He’s a fiesty one isn’t he?” asked a quiet voice above the sink.

Kimberly found Mike lounging on the windowsill, soaking in the morning sun. “Of the three he’s always been a bit of a free spirit.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with him.” She picked up the washrag from the sink, rinsed it out, and began the process of wiping down the kitchen.

“He’d make a right nice pup, much better than a wee lad if your askin’ me.” The tiny tinker swung his cane in the direction Thomas had run off.  “I could do it fer ya, it’s not a bother.”

“You’ll not be changing Thomas into a puppy,” she said with a sigh, “at least not today.  I still love him, even when it’s tough.”  She turned towards him, one hand on a hip. “You can’t really turn people into animals can you?”

Mike blushed. “Well no, not really.  But I know of one who can. It’s a nasty business that is. Not worth it if you ask me.”

“And why’s that?”

“Involves black magic.” He went to spit but stopped when he saw Kimberly’s glare. “It’s not natural, no one should get mixed up in it.  Those who do…” He shuddered. “We’ll let’s just say nothing good comes of it.”

Something crashed to the floor in the next room where Thomas played.  Kimberly tossed the washrag into the sink. “I guess I’d better go check on him, he’s been too quiet, means he’s up to no good.”

In the next room Thomas was gleefully unloading the shelves.  Behind him, scattered all over the floor, was the big box of blocks.

“Well at least he didn’t hurt himself.” Kimberly said as she sat and started collecting the blocks, she wiggled one in the air.  “Hey, Thomas, wanna play blocks?”

Thomas turned and looked at the block only to turn back and pull down another stack of books.  He wore such a look of concentration, like this was his job and how dare she interrupt him.

“Thomas! You stop that, you naughty baby.” She snatched him away from the shelf and stuck him in her lap where he squirmed to get free. “Oh no you don’t.” She laughed and tickled his tummy.

Mike appeared in a poof of smoke on one of the higher shelves, out of the baby’s reach. Thomas stopped his wiggling and stared at the tiny man, wide eyed, mouth open.

“I thought you said none of them could see you.”

“Didn’t think they could, I know the older ones can’t for sure.  This wee one, however, well he’s as bald as an egg.  Guess there’s ginger in there after all.” He gave a half laugh. “Relax, it’s not like its a bad thing.”

Kimberly ran her hand over Thomas’z fuzz covered head. He twisted his neck to look at her and fell over in her lap. “What do we do now?”

“Nothin’. There’s nothin’ wrong.  Lots of kids have imaginary friends growin’ up.  His will just be a bit more real than others.”

“Won’t that cause problems down the road?”

“I suppose. But we don’t have much choice do we?” He shrugged. “It’s not like we can stop him from seeing me.  And I can’t be always hiding from him either. I say we start him young.”

Kimberly looked up at the little tinker sitting on the edge of the shelf and smiled. “I suppose it’s better than having him turned into a puppy. For now.”

“Most definitely.”

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For the next part, click here!

 

Fiction Friday: Izis of Velchi

At last I’m going to share part of a fantasy story with you.  This tale was meant to be a short story but as with most fantasy pieces I set out to create, it has grown during the course of the writing and now is begging to be part of something much bigger.  I like it enough that it might become part of the novel trilogy I’m writing.  Enjoy!

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The fickle breeze of Autumn carried the scent of brittle leaves and the promise of early snow.  It teased the deep hood of Lianea’s cloak and spun her earth colored hair into ribbons as she walked the ancient pathway.  Here, folded deep within the Velchin wood, she sought a cure for the illness plaguing her village and her dear brother Liandro.

As she drew closer to the glade the sky grew darker, the air pressed up against her, stealing her breath.  She clutched the handle of the short dagger she wore at her waist, knowing it would do her no good but reassuring all the same. With each step the dark press of air grew more eager, more oppressive. The village elder had warned her that there would be forces that would try to stop her from crossing into the glade, that she must not give them heed.

She forced her way through the stone archway and as she passed the darkness lifted. Inside the small glade stood an alter and statue of Izis, goddess of knowledge of the past and future, one hand cupped before her, the other over her heart.  The green veined marble had been worn by the wind and weather, moss grew along the folds of her long robe..  Lianea felt the statues eyes upon her as soon as she had entered.

As prescribed by the elder, Lianea lit the tallow candle and cupped her hand around it as she set it into the small hole in the low alter.  The flame seemed too weak in the failing light, too fragile for such a task.  The townspeople had said the same about her when she demanded to leave and seek help.

On either side of the candle she set the four required items, a blue feather, the blood of a dying man, a silver coin, and a rose crystal from the mines of Turah.  This last she admired in the flickering candle light, never having imagined that a place filled with such sorrow would contain a wealth of something so beautiful.  There in Turah her guide had met his untimely end when he stumbled and fell from one of the high ledges in the mine. She set the crystal next to the vial filled with his blood.

Dusky twilight filtered through the branches as the moon made its journey across the blanketed sky.  Lianea recited the first incantation as she poured the dark contents of the vial into the hands of Izis. As she did, a cold mist trickled into the glade.  While reciting the second incantation she dipped the feather in the blood and then used it to draw the broken circle slashed with five lines, a symbol of submission and humility.  The mist gathered around the statue, boiling and churning at Lianea’s feet.

With the third and final incantation she held the silver coin to the flame until it stung her fingertips and then pressed it into her outstretched wrist.  She clenched her teeth, holding back a gasp of pain as the coin burned a circle into her skin.  Izis required a token of suffering.  As she spoke, the mist drew itself up around the statue, covering it like a shroud. It pulled the flame from the candle into itself until it began to glow with its own ghostly light.

Lianea’s heart raced, screaming at her to flee the clearing as the once statue came to life before her.  She willed her feet to stay firm, she could not fail, not after coming so far. Liandro needed her to be strong. She placed the rose crystal in the palm of her hand and the other hand over her heart, the last offering.

A voice whispered through the trees. “Too long have I waited for an offering from the children of this world, too long.” The voice trailed off, but the presence of the spirit of Izis remained strong, studying Lianea. “You have suffered much child, I feel it within you. Speak your request. If it is within my power, I will grant it.”

Lianea drew in a breath, she was the last hope for Liandro and all those of her village who had fallen ill. If she failed, the sickness would claim them all, herself included.  “Oh Great One, the people of my village are dying of a sickness.  The elders have never seen it’s like. I petitioned them to leave and seek help.”

The mist rose up around Lianea, brushing her face. The gesture reminded her of times when her mother would stroke her cheek to sooth her. As the mist touched her a flood of images from the last few weeks filled her mind.  People crying, clutching wives, fathers, and children in their arms before returning them to the earth.  So many. Dark bruises covering arms, legs, and faces. People moaning, consumed by fever. Her own brother, pale and listless on his cot.

Lianea sagged to her knees, overwhelmed.  The mist withdrew.

“There is hope little one. I will grant you knowledge of those who can help.  You must seek them out.”

The mist rose towards Lianea’s face once more and she flinched as it brushed her skin. This time images of people she had never met and towns she had never visited filled her mind, teaching her and filling her with a peace she hadn’t known since before the sickness began. She knew what she had to do.

…to be continued…

Summer Giveaway Hop 2013!

Welcome Blog Hoppers! 

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This blog is for readers and lovers of the written word. Here you will find stories, humorous essays, and other interesting tidbits that I feel like sharing.  Here are some of my favorite posts:

Everything I need to know about life I learned from Spongebob

Soccer and Herding Cats

Being a Mom and a Writer

Of course, many of you came by for the fabulous giveaway!  I’m giving away an autographed writer’s notebook, two fancy pens, and a handmade wire bookmark!

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Click on the link below to enter for your chance to win!

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Click here to see all the other awesome blogs participating and giving away great stuff!