Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Xenofreak Nation by Melissa Conway

Xenofreak Nation
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Illegally bioengineered animal skin grafts have replaced tattoos in popularity, giving rise to a unique criminal demographic: Xenofreaks. Bryn Vega is kidnapped because of her father's anti-xeno activities, thrusting her into the hard-core underground xenofreak society. She must overcome betrayal and decide whom to trust in a world where the line between good and evil is a matter of perspective...

I grew up in the California bay area until my family moved ot northern Idaho when I was in high school. I went to college there and then moved to sunny San Diego, where my heart remains even though we are now located in southeastern Washington state. Moving to a less desirable locale gave me the opportunity to leave my job as an executive secretary in order to write full time (which is to say, I write when the duties of wife and mother allow). My college background is in advertising art, so I dabble in the digital arts. I'm a big fan of genealogy, antiques, nutrition, and all things 3D animation.

She opened her eyes to the dark interior of a vehicle. The steady hum of an engine and constant bouncing motion told her they were moving. Right away she remembered this wasn’t the first time she’d awakened. There’d been a grey room somewhere and masked people, and restraints on her arms and legs. Each time she’d come to, she weakly protested against the pain. She’d been scared, angry, and then nothing.

The motion stopped and sometime later, not long, she thought, she heard doors opening. A fresh breeze, the first she’d felt in some time, cooled her hot face. Silent, shadowy figures appeared on either side of her. The dimly lit studded metal ceiling of the vehicle seemed to slide disorientingly over her until the night sky appeared and she realized the figures had pulled her out. She tried to move her head, but it was weighed down somehow. The sound of slamming doors was followed by the revving of the engine. She breathed in a wave of exhaust fumes as the vehicle departed.

“Hello?” she tried to call out, but her throat constricted. She swallowed a few times to lubricate it, but her mouth was too dry. Moving her hands, she found them unbound at last.
Realization dawned. They’d released her. She drew a shuddering breath and felt the sting of tears, but didn’t pause to indulge them. Hands shaking, she reached up to her head. It was wrapped in thick layers of what felt like gauze. She lowered her hands to whatever she was resting on and carefully levered herself into a sitting position.

She was on a sidewalk on a deserted street in the dark space between two orange streetlights. They’d dumped her, stretcher and all. Slowly, she moved first one leg and then the other off the side of the stretcher. Her clothes and shoes were gone, but they’d dressed her in a hospital gown and paper booties. Dizzy and nauseous, she slid to her feet.

Bryn wanted to run, but was physically incapable of more than keeping herself upright. Turning her head was a challenge, so she twisted her torso to look up the street and then down. One way looked more promising than the other; a large, well-lit building beaconed. Walking unaided was out of the question, however, so she gritted her teeth and began pushing the stretcher.

It was a long, slow journey, but soon after she began, a lighted sign came into view and spurred her on: Middleborough Hospital. The shuffling of her feet had long since worn the paper booties away when she reached the emergency room entrance. A man in blue scrubs came through the sliding glass doors and glanced her way.

“Help me,” she said.

Interview with Melissa Conway

What will readers like about your book? 
The concept of animal skin grafts as tattoos and the culture that develops around the practice is unique. I don't take an ethical stand for or against it in the narrative; that's up to the reader to decide. Plus, the story is action-packed, with just enough romance to satisfy female readers but not turn off the boys! 

Why did you self publish? 
I had an agent, but felt like I was going to be a white-haired old granny by the time I was traditionally published.

What is your writing process? 
I get an idea and chew on the concept for awhile before sitting down and writing by the seat of my pants.
How long does it take you to write your first draft? It takes me around six months to write a full-length novel, give or take a month.

What inspired you to write this particular story? 
I think it started with the notion of a person getting wings attached and how that might be possible from a bioengineering standpoint, but to be honest, I don't recall the specifics. It was a nebulous concept for some months before taking on form and substance in my mind.

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