Monday, October 24, 2016

Guest Post: Influences from Books, Games, and TV

Guest Post by Hayley Stone

Something you will immediately notice about the following list is that the majority of my influences are not, in fact, books.

It’s not because I don’t find books inspiring, or because there aren’t amazing post-apocalyptic books out there (hello, Alas, Babylon and On the Beach), but mostly due to the fact that I digest books in a way that is different from the way I digest other media. With a focus on technique and structure, my inner editor kicks in, and I sometimes lose the forest for the trees while reading. Movies, shows, and video games are more likely to stick with me due to the visual component, and because I’m less obsessed with the method of delivery.

Speaking of video games, I am a huge proponent of their storytelling capacity; they immerse you in a unique and interactive way that no other fictional medium does. When you feel you are part of the story, how can that not leave a lasting impression?

So here are my top 5 influences, in no particular order:

1. The Hunger Games series

This was the book series that not only brought me back into the YA fold for a time, but also inspired my switch from writing third person to first. I loved the subtlety of the world-building, with the dystopian elements remaining crucial to the plot but never seeming shoehorned in. The characters are the stars more than the premise, as they should be—and this is something I always try to keep in mind with my own writing, too. A lot of series tried to accomplish what Suzanne Collins did with THG, but I don’t think any of them managed to do what she did.

2. BioShock

BioShock nails the chilling ambiance of a ruined civilization—it just happens to take place in a secret underwater city, while the rest of the world above remains fine. The isolated dystopian/post-apocalyptic experience was something that stuck with me. And in hindsight, I wonder now if my instinct to set Machinations and its sequel in an underground base was inspired by the city of Rapture. If so… good call, subconscious! Good call.

3. The Walking Dead

This is perhaps one of the most well-known examples of a post-apocalyptic setting to date, and had a lot of influence on me since the show came out right as I was first experimenting with a post-apocalyptic story (also a zombie apocalypse, by total coincidence). The Walking Dead showcases humanity and inhumanity in equal measure, and while overall I find it a little too cynical, it has undeniably influenced my perception of what the end of the world might look like.

4. The Fallout series

In addition to being two of my all-time favorite games, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas further inspired my love of the post-apocalyptic genre, and gave me a lot to consider when crafting my own post-apocalyptic world. Unlike the others on the list (with the exception of BioShock), the Fallout games can be fairly lonely as you wander the wasteland, scavenging and getting into fights. The emptiness of the landscape combined with all the hints of former civilization serve as both warning and hope; what was could be again.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale

Last, but certainly not least, Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian tale completely altered the way I viewed the genre and literature as a whole. It’s certainly one of the most affecting pieces of fiction I’ve ever read—disturbing and entirely too possible, especially when you hear the views of certain political extremists today. While my work does not parallel hers in any obvious way, I hope that the emotion resonates just as clearly.

At the end of the day, post-apocalyptic fiction appeals to our base instinct to survive while dystopian asks, at what cost? How far are we willing to go down the rabbit hole, how many freedoms are we willing to trade, all for some perceived safety? It’s an idea as relevant today as it was in the 50s, when nuclear fears were part of everyday life, and I look forward to exploring more of the same themes in the future.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Happy Writing News!

I have some really wonderful news.

But first I have to share the bad news I never shared.

Back in mid-August, I split from my literary agent. No drama. That relationship had simply run its course and it was time to move forward.

Okay, so I was a little sad, yes. I spent some time wallowing.

And then I opened my Macbook and got to work. I had a new manuscript and notes from CPs. This being the first manuscript I plotted BEFORE drafting, I had less to do revision-wise than I expected. It was already a second or third draft, so I did some tweaking here and there, wrote a query, and dove back into that wonderful slush pile swimming pool.

Wonderful may be sugarcoating it.

Just a bit.

See, when you have already had a literary agent and suddenly you are looking for a literary agent, it feels a bit like this...

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But this is 2016, y'all. This is my Year of Daring. I wasn't going to sit the bench when I had come so close to scoring a touchdown... or a homerun... or I don't know.

I'm not good at sports. I'm good at writing.

If my dreams don't come true, it won't be because I gave up on them. That much I know.

So I started sending queries for the new project and three weeks later I had an offer of representation.

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Last time, it took me about six months to get an offer, but those three weeks felt every bit as long as the previous six month experience. Time is relative when you are begging someone to love your book as much as you love your book.

The waiting is over and now the real work begins. I will be going back into my revision cave. There is cutting to be done. There is rewriting to be done. There is dreaming and plotting and scribbling and changing to be done.

I love it.

I am excited to announce that I am now represented by the fabulous Amy Tipton of Signature Literary.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Don't Want to Be Inspiring

Here's the thing...

I don't want to be inspiring and strong.

I doubt you do either.

My friend's husband died this week. She isn't the first of my friends to lose their spouse or their child or their parent or their friend.

When people are living in difficult situations, we call them inspiring and strong.

Look how she has come through this hard time. Look how she has done everything in her power to survive this, to thrive in this, to help her family, to make this child's life better.

Look at how, when he falls, he gets back up again. Look at how he keeps trying in the face of failure.



But how many of us want to be that kind of an inspiration?

I'd rather keep my husband, my kids, my parents, my friends. I'd rather my kids soar through life as compassionate and beautiful people without ever having to actually suffer.

I don't want to actually suffer.

But we will. We all will suffer somehow and some way. We can't truly live without facing hardships and setbacks, big and little and in between.

As E. E. Cummings said, "Unbeing dead isn’t being alive."

If we are going to live, we are going to suffer.

Some of us will be inspiring.

Some of us will be strong.

But I am sorry we have to be.

I am sorry my friend is suffering this week, that her kids are mourning the loss of their father. I am sorry that she will not wake up next to the man she loves ever again.

She is inspiring.

She is strong.

I wish she didn't have to be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


The high-intensity sci-fi thriller series that began with Machinations continues as reincarnated insurgent Rhona Long faces off against the one enemy she can’t outwit: her own clone.

The machines believed their extermination of the human race would be over as quickly as it began. They were wrong. As the war against extinction intensifies, people are beginning to gain the upper hand.

Commander Rhona Long understands survival better than most. Killed in combat, she was brought back to life using her DNA, and she’s forged a new, even more powerful identity. Now the leader of the resistance, she’s determined to ensure the machines are shut down for good.

But victory is elusive. The machines have a new technology designed to overcome humanity’s most advanced weaponry. Despite Rhona’s peacekeeping efforts, former nations are feuding over resources as old power struggles resurface. Worse, someone inside the resistance is sabotaging the human cause—someone who, from all appearances, seems to be Rhona . . . or her exact replica.

Praise for Machinations:

"A tension-filled story of loss, loyalty, and forgiveness, with abundant Terminator-style shoot-em-up scenes and a snarky, kickass female warrior. I inhaled it!”
Jennifer Foehner Wells, bestselling author of Fluency

“This violent, bloody, romantic tale is full of awesome mechanical foes and authentic characters you love or hate, like real people . . . The nuances of the title promise more than meets the eye, and the prose delivers.”
- Perihelion

“An SF techno-thriller with heart and soul.”
Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver

Machinations is an action-packed SF thriller loaded with fantastic characters and gut-wrenching emotional twists. [. . .] The prose is stunning, the action is non-stop.”
Linnea Sinclair, RITA Award-winning author of Gabriel’s Ghost

Machinations is a thrilling fusion of action and heartbreak, with quick pacing, rich characters, and a one-of-a-kind story. A great debut.”
G.T. Almasi, author of Blades of Winter

Purchase your copy of Counterpart today!

And don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads!


Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with video game characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento. Counterpart is her second novel, and a choice for Amazon’s Best Sci-fi and Fantasy Books of the Month for October.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Books Open Doors... and Minds

I'm going to start taking photos of the books we read before I return them to the library. Then, I can scroll through my phone to remember them for this post series. I am sure there were other books I intended to write about here, but my mind has blanked on what they were.

Shh! We Have a Planby Chris Haughton

This has been one of my favorite books to read in my preschool classroom. I really need to buy a copy to keep on hand, since I had to return this one to the library. Not only did my fours love it, but even my threes were hooked. All of the kids would lean forward and make the "shhhh" sound and say "we have a plan." It is the most engaged I have ever seen my threes. The repetition and simple illustrations (that one pop of bright color for the bird is perfect) combine to make this all kinds of awesome.

Sam and Dave Dig a Holeby Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen

I picked this one up when I saw Klassen was the illustrator. I'm a sucker for his work. All of the kids, threes and fours, loved this one. One of my fours begs for it, and he was really sad when I returned it to the library. I will have to check it out again soon. My kids loved pointing out the giant diamonds and telling Sam and Dave to keep digging.

Open Very Carefully: A Book with Biteby Nick Bromley
illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne

This one was a fun read for the kids. It's not one they beg for or even asked me to read again, but they did enjoy it. I liked the parts where we had to rock the book to make the crocodile go to sleep and shake the book to try to get him out. I asked the kids, "What would you have done if the crocodile had fallen out and landed right here on our carpet?" They giggled.

Iggy Peck Architectby Andrea Beaty
illustrated by David Roberts

This has been one of my favorites. I love the rhyme that works without being typical cheesy preschool rhymes. I love that it introduces my kids to architecture as a possible career. I have put the two similar books from this author on hold at the library. I want my class to hear about careers and see how wide open their future is. They can be anything. Building Legos isn't just play, it is also a possibility for their whole life. That may seem lofty, but books can open doors. Books can open minds. Who knows what stays with a kid. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

This Cup

This cup.

I love it.

It isn't the kind of mug I normally drink out of. Most of the time, I use a travel mug, even at home, because I am prone to getting lost in my book or a task and then finding my coffee gone cold. I'm also clumsy. I like my coffee cups to have lids, for that reason.

But some mornings call for a cup with a handle and steam rising and the image of a cup of coffee... know what I mean? It's not just the drink itself, it's the atmosphere of morning coffee... the book and the natural light seeping through blinds on my window.

It's a ritual, this cup of coffee.

This cup is different from my other mugs. It has no bright colors, no literary quotes, no sarcastic phrases etched on the side. It is not like the Aerosmith mug I bought after facing fear and riding Rock N Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios. It is not like the Shakespeare mug I won at a writing conference in Memphis. It is not like the mug from last year's mug swap, with the bookshelf painted on the side and the words "just this."

This mug is plain.

It is brown.

Why has it become my favorite?

There's something about the feel of the clay that molded this mug. It is soft in my hands, smooth to my touch. The warmth fills it in a certain way.

My husband chose this cup for me.

It feels like his hands in mine... warm and somehow smooth but also rough, earthen, real.

When I sip from this plain brown mug, it feels anything but plain. It feels like home, like love, like luck.

In two months, we will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. I still love that man, the kind of man who can look past all of my usual brightness, all of my sarcasm and intellectual snobbery, and see the part of me that is a plain brown mug, smooth and rough, made of earth and water and love.

I am still so in love with that man.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Evangelism Sometimes Uses Words

It is my last day in Honduras. I’m sitting on the back porch of Clinica de Esperanza. Around me, people are digging and planting, moving dirt and piling rocks.


I used to think evangelism was all about talking (the cliché phrase: I’d like to tell you about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ). It brought up images of street preachers and TV preachers and tracts. None of those things excite me. I don’t relate to those methods of sharing the Gospel.

But I do enjoy talking about my faith in authentic, transparent and organic conversations. At the same time, I don’t want to force a conversation on anyone.

Honduras has changed things for me. I no longer equate evangelism with converting people via preaching or a five-step guide to salvation. When you nail the last nail and open the door to a family’s new home, you see Jesus lighting up their faces, and there it is.


James 1:27 comes to mind. I love it in pretty much every translation of the Bible, but it especially hits home in the Message:

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

I carried the Spirit of Christ in my tool belt during the month of July (el mes de julio). I lifted the Spirit into children as I held them and loved them and read books with them. I prayed in Spanglish by the bed of a child in a hospital, hands on a mother’s shoulders, Jesus all around us.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

I’ve thought about that a lot while serving in Honduras. In Tegucigalpa and the surrounding communities, the name of JesuChristo is well-known. There are churches everywhere. People know about God, about the right and wrong of things. They know who Jesus is. What they don’t know is…


He gave His hands and His feet also.


He gave us.

And every time we feed, clothe, or shelter a person, we give them Jesus. We pour Him out of us and into the hungry and the naked, the homeless and the loveless.


Evangelism sometimes uses hammers and nails, donated shoes, cotton candy and popcorn machines, cinder blocks and concrete, games of tag, airport terminals, and long conversations in government offices.

Sometimes it uses those things.

Always, always, always…

It uses us.


This post was originally published on Middle Places.

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