Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing Prompt: Song Lyrics

I'm posting writing prompts once a week to help those with writer's block or those searching for new ideas. This week, we explore the musical realm.

This is a prompt that I've used before. Death Cab for Cutie's "Song for Kelly Huckaby" was the inspiration for my short story, Song for Megan Leclare, featured in Beyond Home. These lyrics inspired the short story about a young woman reminiscing about a road trip she took with an old boyfriend:

"Photographs of the best time you had, 
windows smugded by the speed.
Leaving home with our bags from Iron Street,
as morning turned into California,
And smoke trailed from the butt of my cigarette."
~Death Cab for Cutie, 'Song for Kelly Huckaby'

I've posted six more song lyrics below (a few of them from lesser known artists from the Pacific Northwest area!) and I think some of them could spur on some really awesome stories. Let me know if you come up with anything!

“I don’t need a bullet
‘cause I don’t have a gun.
I don’t need a gun
‘cause I’ve got too much love.
And I have got enough love
to save the world.
I have got enough hate
to start a war.”

~Tonya Gilmore, ‘Gun’


“I’ve started a new beginning
suspiciously like the old one.”

~Typhoon, ‘Starting Over (Bad Habits)’


“I’ve got my finger on the trigger,
but somehow you’re still alive.”
~Ezza Rose, ‘Trigger’
“‘Cause you and me have stood the test of time
and proved that we will make it out all right.”

~The Wedding, ‘Revelation’


“I want to change the world.
Instead I sleep.
I want to believe in more than you and me,
but all that I know is I'm breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.”

~Ingrid Michaelson, ‘Keep Breathing’


“And I know it's easy to say,
but it's harder to feel this way.
And I miss you more than I should,
but I thought I could,
can't get my mind off of you.”

~Joshua Radin, ‘The Fear You Won’t Fall’


“Daddy's ghost behind you.
Sleeping dog beside you.
You're a poem of mystery.
You're the prayer inside me.”

~Iron & Wine, ‘Faded From the Winter’

Oh, and look up these artists if you haven't listened to them before. They're all awesome! Keep writing!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How My Characters Celebrate Their Independence

How do my characters celebrate their independence on this holiday?

Well. . .in The Protectors series, there isn't a 4th of July since it's not set in America. Or on Earth. But there is Victory Day and it's pretty much the same thing.


From Promising Light: 

Victory Day was Grace’s favorite time of the year. The celebrations spread through the country of Haltar, and its capital Renaul filled with people. The city square was bustling with activity. Grace had to hold onto Jocelyn’s elbow as they weaved through the crowds.

Entertainers stood on every street corner, competing for attention. One man was juggling dozens of oranges, another was doing magic tricks, and a trio of children, probably siblings, were singing the customary songs of the holiday. The smells of exotic food hung in the air. Merchants yelled out, hawking their mirrors, dresses, weapons, fabrics, and more.

Beggars with dirt on their noses, their clothes only rags, moved from person to person as they searched for change. When Grace stopped to give them money, her friend Jocelyn rolled her eyes. She grabbed Grace’s hand and pulled her along. “You’re going to empty your purse if you’re not careful.”

Grace smiled at Jocelyn, squeezing her hand. She wanted to tell her all about what had happened between her and Dar, but she feared her friend wouldn’t understand. She’d be offended Grace didn’t tell her in the first place, of course, since they’d shared nearly everything with each other since they were four years old. Plus it would be hard to admit he’d left her so easily.

She also didn’t want to bring it all up again. It’d been two weeks, and this was her first real chance to distract herself from Dar’s departure. 


From Fire and Light: 

The fireworks lit up the sky, and the sparks showered down, lighting up the faces around him. Evan leaned towards Sierra and whispered, “Hey, do you want to see these from a better view?”

She looked at him with keen eyes. “Sure.”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. “We’ll be right back,” he told his dad. He led her out of the crowd, her hand warm in his. He loved the little moments he could have with her like this. He was glad she’d decided to stay with them tonight instead of going back to the castle with Dar and his parents.

He took her to a small hill by the festival grounds, which was where they were setting the fireworks off. They had to sneak around a caravan of gypsies before they hiked up the hill. From the top, the fireworks seemed so much larger. Their vibrant colors filled the black sky. He sat down on the grass and patted the spot next to him for Sierra.

Grinning, she sat down. “This is great!”

He lay down, which made it seem like there was nothing in the world but the fireworks. He couldn’t see the festival grounds or anyone around him. Just the starry sky ignited with sparks and shapes.

She lay next to him, her shoulder pressing against his.

“So, how was your first Victory Day?” he asked.

“It was really fun. I had so much to eat, and Alastor bought me a new scarf. Oh, and the fire dancers were so amazing. Did you have fun?”

“I did.” He’d worked most of the day, but when his parents gave him breaks from the booth, he walked around with the others. He felt the necklace in his pocket. “I got you something.”


I love the 4th of July and as you can see, my love for the holiday has leaked through to Victory Day in The Protectors series! Have fun, everyone, and be safe :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Writing Prompt: Music

This blog features writing prompts twice a week for those stuck, those with writer's block, or those searching for new and creative ideas.

For this Tuesday's writing prompt, we're exploring music. I've chosen some instrumentals and embedded the video below. Push play and free write. Let the music carry the story and set the mood. Don't stop to edit or erase until the song is done.

Ljósið (previously known as Let Yourself Feel) from Esteban Diácono on Vimeo.
(the song is by Olafur Arnalds)

(La Dispute by Yann Tiersen)

(Dream is Collapsing by Hans Zimmer)

(Célébration à une Nouvelle Vie by Chaz Knapp)

(Exodus by Two Steps From Hell)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dialogue Exercise

This is another exercise from my fiction workshop class. The assignment was to start a story with dialogue, but it ended up being kind of self-contained.



“What on earth happened to you?”

“Nothing, Mom, I’m fine—”

“Bullshit. Whose blood is that?”

“Not mine.”

“That doesn’t answer my question. Here, let me do that.”


“You have to stop getting in fights, Alex. We’re going to get evicted.”

“It’s not me, it’s them—ow!”

“Oh, come on, it’s just a cut lip.”

“Shit, Mom.”

“Put this on your cheek. Tell me what happened this time.”



“Just people being dicks.”



“Your hair’s getting so long.”

“I guess.”

“You’re looking more like your dad every day.”


“Where are you going?”


“You’re actually doing it today?”

“Gotta balance the universe out or something, right?”

“I thought you didn’t believe that.”

“I do, but you know what, I was in the right. They started it. They always do.”

“Then why do you feel like you need to do your homework to balance it out?”

“Shit, I don’t know, because you’re pissed?”

“I’m not pissed, I’m just—”

“Disappointed, I know. I’m not living up to my potential, I know. You sound like those teachers in Grandma’s movies.”

“I’m not disappointed in you. I just don’t want you to end up like your dad.”

“I don’t even know him! God, you make problems out of nothing—”

“How can you say this is nothing? This is the third fight this month, Alex, and I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine. They were calling you—forget it.”

“What? They were calling me what?”

“They were just being dicks, okay?”


“I’m going to go do my homework.”

“Okay. I love you.”

“Yeah, you, too.”

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer
ARC from Net Galley. Publication date: August 28th 2012.

Another addicting read from Brigid Kemmerer that adds to the nonstop action and romance of the Elementals. Compelling characters, an exciting plot, and intense romance. Yes, I loved this one just as much as the first! I was super lucky to get an ARC from the publisher -- thank you, Kensington!

So, Spark is a bit different from Storm, mostly because Gabriel and Layne are a lot different than Chris and Becca. But it's just as addicting!

The story was really neat. Fires are popping up all over town and Gabriel, being a Fire Elemental, is blamed for it when in actuality he's trying to help people escape. He's also trying to catch back up in math since his new substitute teacher caught on to him and Nick swapping places when a test came up. Tying it all together is girl in his class named Layne who is driving him crazy as he tries to figure her out. There is a lot of stuff going on, actually, but those are the big things.

I liked the chance we had to see into Gabriel's head. In Storm, he seems like kind of a hothead and in Spark, we see some of his motivation, some of what he's thinking and going through. I felt bad for him, but there were also times when I wanted to smack him upside the head. I think that's a sign of great characterization, when you can love and hate someone at the same time. Just like in real life.

Gabriel and Layne had really good chemistry. They were kind of all over the place, highs and lows, but their personalities made for a relationship like that. They're both kind of headstrong and stubborn and they were super cute together. I liked Layne and how she was different from Becca, being more reserved and having more secrets. I loved even the minor characters that Brigid Kemmerer introduces, especially Simon.

And the plot, like I said, was so addicting! Something new was always happening, whether it was something kind of character-driven like Gabriel and Layne getting to know each other, or something bigger and more intense, like another fire. I like how Kemmerer balances that all out, the characters and the action. She's one of my favorite new authors this year.

I'll be honest, I'm not that thrilled that the next book is about Hunter. I don't know, I can't get a read on that guy. I want to like him but he always seems to be looking out for himself. Maybe I'll like him more after Spirit. Which I still can't wait for, even if it is about Hunter.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Writing Prompt: 36 Minute Short Story

I'm back with another writing prompt idea for anyone stuck, anyone with writer's block, or anyone just looking for a new idea! This is something I heard about from the folks in my writing group. We randomly pulled cards from a few different decks (one deck was "setting", another "character") then from our four cards, wrote a short story in 36 minutes. 

Now, I'm not 100% sure how to do this random thing, so here's what we're going to do for the blog setup.

For your CHARACTER ADJECTIVE, choose a number from 1 to 5. 
For your CHARACTER NOUN, choose a number from 6 to 10. 
For your SETTING, choose a number from 11 to 15.
For your PROP, choose a number from 16 to 20. 
For your ACTION, choose a number from 21 to 25. 

I know it's kind of weird, but bear with me! And choose the numbers before you go on and see the lists. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Day at the Beach in Barcelona

I'm taking a fiction workshop at my school this summer. I thought I'd post some of the exercises I'm doing. This is a one-page autobiography based on one event in my life.


The beach in Barcelona is beautiful. The deep blue water stretches out for miles on either side of us. To the left of us, a group of friends gathers on towels. They’re fully clothed, not here to swim but just to enjoy the sun. I’m wearing my bathing suit, but the water is colder than I expected and I can’t stay in it for long before I decide I’d rather lay in the sun with my book. Behind us, a couple plays badminton, both of them shirtless. We thought we’d avoided the nude beach, but even here, women sit around, shirtless, nonchalant.

For what has to be the tenth time, an Arab man passes by, saying, “Agua, cerveza, cold water, cold beer.” He has a rhythm to the words, and we try to avoid his eyes every time he walks by, trying to sell his goods. When we first got here, we declined him, but then Chris bought a beer from another man with a backpack selling drinks, so now he feels guilty. His beer sits open next to me, not in a paper bag like it would be back home.

Chris strums his ukulele, the twangy sound mixing with the crashing waves on the beach only a hundred feet away. His ukulele reminds me of Hawaii and its long, warm days and his visit, that week when I fell even more in love with him. It reminds me of the iPod he got for me when we first started dating and the Beirut songs I listened to as I jogged around the neighborhood, passing freshly manicured lawns and plumeria trees. I love that he picked the instrument up and brought it on our trip to Spain. I love traveling with him, seeing these new places and experiencing them with him. I know that in a couple months, we’ll be reflecting on all we did and saw and we’ll get that bug again to go somewhere. We’ll save up, eating top ramen for a couple months until we can travel to a new place and make more memories.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Writing Prompt: Fantasy Art

You are so lucky. I've decided to post prompts every Friday AND Tuesday. These writing prompts should help get your creative juices flowing and battle writer's block. Find new ideas or add to your existing stories!

This week, I've decided to feature some fantasy art. I have attributed the proper artist and I expect you to do the same if you repost this photo anywhere. This is their very hard work and they deserve to be credited for such talent! Click through for the listing on deviantart if you want to comment or support them.

Use these photos to spur on a story. Ask yourself: who is this person? What are they going through? How did they come to the point in the picture? What's happening?

CREDIT: Jessica at Enchanted Whispers

CREDIT: Lienwyn

CREDIT: burari

CREDIT: michalivan


Friday, June 22, 2012

Writing Prompt: Last Sentences

Hey, everyone! I know there are tons of writing prompts all over the internet, but sometimes we still need some creativity boosts. Writer's block can get in the way, we can be pressed for time or creativity. So here's the start of a regular feature on the blog where I'll post prompts to get your creative juices flowing!

This week, I thought it would be neat to do last sentences instead of first sentences. See if you can incorporate these last sentences into your next short story, novella, or even novel!

1. Things hadn’t changed at all.

2. Rebecca dropped the key into the river and watched as it disappeared in the rushing, frantic water.

3. Sometimes, she still wondered if he thought about her.

4. That was the last time he saw her.

5. I never made that mistake again.

6. We got lost.

7. We visited him in prison as often as we could until he died of a heart attack two years before his release date.

8. She whistled as she walked away from me forever.

9. He was too tall, anyway.

10. I could never fix the thermostat after that.

11. That concert was the best night of my life.

12. I almost picked up her crutch and bashed her across the skull with it, but somehow, I refrained.

13. The shock of electricity reminded me I was still alive, still vulnerable, still susceptible to hurt, even death.

14. He looked at her like she’d said something novel, like he’d never heard such a wonderful thing.

15. The scars never truly went away.

16. “Oh, sure, right after I invent the Internet.”

17. We decided to go to the 1920s in Paris.

18. Nothing could keep them apart, no matter how much they hated each other.

19. The stars were bright that night, almost blinding.

20. And finally, somehow, she fell asleep.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Navigating Ebook Publishers

As ebooks and ereaders become more and more popular, we're seeing a lot of new ebook publishers pop up. Ebook publishers are generally independent publishers (unconnected with "the Big Six") who deal primarily with ebooks, though some publishers will have a POD option for novels. In this day and age, how is an author to know that an ebook publisher is trustworthy? Try these handy tips if you found a new ebook publisher you're not sure about.

Look at the website
When you find an ebook publisher's website, ask yourself:
-- Is this website professional? If the website looks sloppy and has lots of errors, how will they treat your cover design or your editing?
-- Can I find all the information I need easily, or does it seem like they're hiding some things? Some information should be easily seen, and you shouldn't have to hunt it down.
-- Is this a website I would mind sending friends, family, and fans to? Your publisher should not embarrass you, you should be proud of them!
--This is an important one: Is the ebook publisher's website targeting readers or writers? If they're brand new, they may need to target writers in order to get submissions and build their catalog. But if they have been around for a while and have some books out, they should be marketing those books! A publisher is for readers, not writers. They shouldn't be trying to make money off of writers, for sure. If you're asked to pay anything, run the other way. That's vanity publishing, and if you truly want to follow that route, at least go with an established vanity publisher instead of someone brand new.

Look at the staff
There should be bios for the staff members somewhere on the website. You should know who you will be submitting your work to and who you'd be working with should they choose to publish your book. Check out:
-- Positions: how many editors do they have? What kind? Do they have any publicists or marketing associates? Do they hire a cover artists or do they go freelance?
-- Experience: what kind of experience does the staff have? Experience in publishing? In writing? Are they just authors who thought it would be fun to start a publisher?
-- Google those names if you feel like you don't have enough information about them. See if you can find them on social networks and see how they act in the public sphere. What kinds of books do they read? Are they authors themselves?

Look at the terms
It's rare that the publisher will have a contract online, but they should at least have something on their website about what formats they publish in (print or ebook, for example) and how royalties will be divided (how much the author earns and how much the publisher keeps). If this isn't available on the website, don't hesitate to e-mail someone and ask. I'd also ask why it wasn't available.

If you submit a book and you're offered a contract, comb through that thing with a fine-tooth comb! Here is an extremely condensed list of things to look for:
-- Rights. What rights/license are you granting the publisher and for how long? What is the geographic scope?
-- Copyright. Who will register it and when?
-- Manuscript delivery. When are you expected to deliver the manuscript? What editing do they provide?
-- Payment. Is there an advance? Royalties? How are these royalties calculated? For example, net and gross and cover are all different prices and thus will give you different royalties. How often are you paid royalties? Is the publisher required to send you accounting statements?
-- Publication itself. Look for a duty to publish, advertising/promotion, galleys, method of publication.
-- Termination. What are the terms for reversion of rights?

Ebook publishers should be willing to answer questions you have and possibly negotiate the contract. Do your research and know what you're signing because that is a legally binding document and if doesn't matter if "you didn't know", you signed it and you have to stick to it.

For more information, check out Writer Beware's post on contracts or this checklist written by attorney Lloyd J. Jassin (for publishers).

Look at any existing books in the catalog
Obviously, since there are new publishers all the time, some publishers don't have books released yet. But for those who do, find those books and be ruthlessly brutal and honest in regards to those books.
-- Genre: is the publisher accepting all books (and possibly spreading themselves too thin) or are they targeting a niche where they can be more effective?
-- Cover art: do these covers match up with other books in the genre? Does it look like they were made with paint or have they invested in the marketing package of their books?
-- Blurb and sample: are there errors? Do the blurbs and samples snag you? Have they carefully edited and proofread their work or do they throw books up in the hopes of making some money?
-- Distribution: are the books available on a variety of e-retailers, or only a few? Where will they distribute your book?
-- Reviews: search for reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs. What do readers think of these books? Have any readers read these books?
-- Marketing: A simple Google search with the title and author will tell you how much marketing work the publisher has done. If only a couple of the results are for this book, reconsider what this publisher will be willing to do to publicize your book.

The important thing to remember is not to rush into something. This is your hard work and it should be presented in the best way possible. Take your time with publishers and make sure it's what you want.

Personally, I'm a content editor with a new ebook publisher called Entranced Publishing, and of course I fully endorse them. I believe Entranced is dedicated to producing quality books for readers and that they'll use honesty and professionalism in their dealings. Drop by the website if you want and see if we might be a good fit for your novel. Oh, and a small disclaimer: this post does not represent Entranced view's, only my own.

Here are some places to check up on publishers:
Absolute Write's Bewards, Recommendations & Background Checks
Preditors & Editors
Writer Beware

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 

Published 2012, hardback edition, library copy (but I'm getting my own asap!!)

This is one of those books that pulls you in, makes you fall in love, then tears your heart out. It's one that doesn't care about your feelings or your fragile heart. It also doesn't care what else is going on in your life, it demands to be read and enjoyed, no matter who you live with or what they want. It's a book that is honest, funny, loving, sad, and beautiful. The characters are real and you miss them the moment you're done with the book. Their struggles become your own. The writing describes so many things so well, the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl and the streets of Amsterdam and the beauty of life. 

I feel kind of pretentious just writing this review, but I can't believe that books like this exist. Books like this make me question why I even write. Why even try when it won't be this good? But books like this also give me inspiration to write. They fill me with this passion for words and stories and the things we can create with our language. This book takes spot on the shelf of my favorites right next to The Things They Carried and The Book Thief

In short, it's a book that I loved for so many different reasons, and I hope you do, too

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Published 2012, hardcover, library copy.

Whenever I hover between 4 or 5 stars, 4 or 5 stars, I choose 4 stars because I feel like if it was a 5 star book for me, I would know! So, I'll say 4.5 stars :)

The situation in this post-apocalyptic Chicago quickly escalates as factions take sides and Tris and her friends fight to stay safe. Tris is dealing with the aftermath of the Erudite-controlled attack on Abnegation at the end of Divergent and the choices that she made. She and Tobias start off strong, but secrets and reckless decisions threaten to tear them apart. By the end of this book, I was on the edge of my seat as the climax approached and things kept escalating. 

This was a great sequel to Divergent. I know a lot of people complained that Tris was moody and depressed, but come on, this was nothing compared to Katniss in Mockingjay. Tris was still pretty awesome. Reckless, yes, but I love the girl. And let's be honest, it's not often that highly commercial fiction like this has a distinguishable main character that couldn't be identified as any generic female reader. Tris, though? She's smart and perceptive and brave and loyal and funny and she went through so much at the end of the last book, she was bound to be messed up in this one. 

One thing that bugged me was Tobias and Tris' insistence to keep secrets from each other. That got a bit old. 

Aside from all of this, the escalation in the plot was intense. You see so many different characters and ambitions fighting for what they believe is right, and things just go downhill as everyone clamors for control. At times, I have a hard time remembering all the various characters in the series -- took me a while to remember who exactly Uriah, Zeke, Lynn, Marlene, Christina, Will, and Edward were. Lots of names to attach to faces! Some of her minor characters are very distinct, like Marcus or Johanna, but some needed more work (like all the Dauntless kids Tris' age). But by the end of this book, I feel like I have a better grasp on them. 

And that ending?! Wow. I knew it was going to be some cliffhanger because for some reason I read the last sentence (I used to do that all the time then I stopped because I was afraid of spoiling myself). 

So, yeah, when's the next one come out? XD

Cover thoughts: LOVE these covers. The skyline of Chicago with the single image of the tree is awesome. I can't wait to see the next one!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Published 2011, US hardback edition (not pictured), library copy.

Wow! I've heard so much about this book and I'm so glad I read it.

Laini Taylor's beautiful writing + a unique fantasy world + a Romeo and Juliet love story = an amazing novel!

The story moves along at a great pace -- so much happens and the characters go through so much. Karou is an awesome protagonist -- curious determined, funny, but she also feels like something is missing in her. She grew up with a group of chimaera -- creatures from fantasy stories, made up of various animals. She doesn't know where they came from or where she herself came from, and the arrival of a mysterious seraphim drastically changes her life.

The characters and the world work together to make an entrancing story. There is so much going on -- romance, the war, family, loyalty. The fantasy/magic world is unique, both dark and creative, drawing from folklore and religions but also injecting new life and original ideas.

The romance is phenomenal! I find myself look for more romance in my books than I used to, and this one was not lacking. There is so much chemistry, love, and heartbreak, all wrapped up in Taylor's beautiful writing.

The ending tied so much together yet at the same time was a semi-cliffhanger. September can't get here fast enough!

Cover thoughts: Everyone loved the US cover, but I thought it was kind of. . .sloppy. I actually thought it was a self-published book for a while. I like the UK cover much more (the one pictured).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn
Published 2011, Kindle edition.

I liked this book, but something it keeping me from giving it 4 stars. The premise is very cool. In a future America, everyone can read minds and communicate with one another through a kind of mindspeak. Except for our main character Kira. She hasn't gone through the change yet, making her a zero and a social outcast. When she meets a mysterious boy named Simon, though, she finds out she's actually a jacker and she can control people through their minds, and she's not alone. . .

The writing is crisp and clear, and the story interesting. The second half is full of twists and turns and revelations. i think where the book was lacking, though, was in characterization. The story/plot itself was cool, but Kira, Simon, Raf -- they felt more two-dimensional than full-fledged characters. 

Kira does go through a lot and she's the most fully-fleshed character, but still I couldn't get a gull grasp on her. She was very determined and pretty badass towards the end, but when I try to picture Kira in the real world or another context, I can't. I'm not 100% what makes her tick, what she would be like if she weren't in danger all the time. 

That aside, like I said, this was a very neat read. Great world building, very cool science fiction, and some awesome action!

Cover thoughts: I love it. The hand and the eyes work together for a great composition!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summertime and the living's easy

What am I excited for this summer? Well, I'm so glad you asked. . .

1. Shifting Light comes to more retailers
Shifting Light had a small stint Kindle Select, but it will soon be coming to B&N, the iBookstore, and more retailers! And a little birdie tells me it might be free for a while in celebration. . .

2. Camp Nanowrimo 
I'm going camping this summer! My goal is 50,000 words -- some of that will be to wrap up the sequel of Promising Light, and some of it will be for exclusive short stories from The Protectors series. If you're a writer, come join in on the fun:

3. Title and Cover reveal for the sequel to Promising Light
For those of you who have read Promising Light, aren't you just itching to see the cover? Or even hear the title? Well, stay tuned because the title will be announced here soon and there will be quite a few blogs involved in the cover reveal.

4. Burning Light (The Protectors Prequels Omnibus Edition) Paperback
The omnibus edition of the Protectors prequels is available NOW as an ebook on Amazon for $3.49 but I'm excited for the paperback! It's got such a pretty cover, i love the contrast between black and red.

5. Summer Splash Blog Hop
I don't have any links or details yet, but just know this: July 16th-31st there will be a huge giveaway on the blog! Ebooks, paperbacks, maybe some bookmarks and gift cards. There might even be a few copies of the sequel to Promising Light up for grabs, plus exclusive short stories for those who sign up for my newsletter. There will also be dozens of other blogs participating, too, so you will be able to get lots of goodies!

6. Tent City's semi-tour
Well, it's not really a tour, but my husband's band will be playing nearly a dozen shows this summer all over Salem, Portland, and other places in the area. You should definitely check them out! They're on Facebook and Bandcamp. Here's a song of theirs from their album The Valley in Autumn (psst: the second verse is totally about me).

7. Summer Classes
I'm taking a few summer classes and they're pretty neat -- Web Design, Business E-Commerce, and Social Psychology. Plus they're all online so I can make my own schedule. Plus I might have a job! But I don't want to add that to the list in case I jinx it.

8. JoshuaFest
I'm going to this music festival in Sacramento to see Five Iron Frenzy!! Yeah, that's right, they're back! Didn't think I'd ever see them live again. But even better than that, I get to go camping and hang out with my family. My parents and all my sisters are going to be there! If only we could fly my brothers in from Texas and NYC. . .

9. Books!
Particularly Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Borrowed Ember by Samantha Young. A lot of the books I was eagerly waiting for this year already came out (Hallowed by Cynthia Hand, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, Intangible by J. Meyers).

There are other little things, like the sun and going swimming and getting a new bathing suit and barbecues and camping and going to the Newport Aquarium and the 4th of July. . .but these are the big ones. What are you excited for this summer?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

Published 2012, library copy, hardcover.  

Summary from Goodreads:

Maya and her friends--all of whom have supernatural powers--have been kidnapped after fleeing from a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set, and after a terrifying helicopter crash they find themselves pursued by evildoers in the Vancouver Island wilderness.

This is a sequel to The Gathering, during which Maya finds out about her skin-walking abilities (aka she can change into a cougar) and uncovers a few mysteries about her small town of St. Cloud.

What's neat is this is part of the Darkest Powers series, so there's lot of experimentation with paranormal genetics and kids. And I think we'll see Chloe and Derek and his friends in the next book!

I really like Maya and her friends. Daniel is definitely awesome. This is one of the only times I could see a love triangle and approve of it. He's so nice and supportive and funny. But I love their friendship, too.

What I've noticed about some of her books, especially the second book in a series (The Calling and The Awakening), not that much happens plot-wise. They walk and run and try to escape and find a cabin and talk a lot. But it's still interesting to me, it's stuff I like reading. She's always revealing things and developing the characters. I read it in two sittings and I liked it.

I'm excited for the next one, when the two groups will meet each other and hopefully come out with the upper hand. And they probably will. I mean, we've got a necromancer, a werewolf, a witch, a sorcerer, a couple were-cougars, and whatever Daniel is (bendanati or something, I don't know). I wonder if Cody has anything going for him. Oh, and I love this cover, the girl is gorgeous!

Check it out if you like her stuff!

Friday, May 18, 2012

New Release! The End of Light, a Protectors prequel novella

The End of Light, the third novella in the Protectors prequels, is now available for $2.99!

Coming SOON to the iBookstore and B&N!

Two and a half years after the events of Fire and Light, an elder of the shape changers comes to Shyra with life-changing news. She's had a vision, and in it, Sashe and Sierra break the curse the Protectors set on their family — by becoming pregnant. Yet a pregnancy hasn’t been carried to full-term for eight years, and many women have died from the curse.

Sierra, Sashe, and their husbands must decide whether to trust the elders and risk their lives for a chance at breaking the curse. And when a spy reveals the vision to the Protectors, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Third novella (about 34,000 words or 115 pages) in the Protectors prequels. Set two years before Promising Light and two and a half years after Fire and Light.

Read a sample right now!


Sashe nodded with appreciation as she scooped up the coins to go back into the Cosa-protected safe. Another good month. She wasn’t sure what she’d be doing without this jewelry shop. The trips around the country, the new designs she made, the orders from nobles and even royals—all small things that kept her motivated. Sometimes it seemed silly, but she’d had this shop for nearly four years now. She’d opened it up when the other women her age had started to have children.

She tucked the money away safely and stood to look out the window. The trees were sprouting new life as the seasons changed, the temperature getting higher as spring came—one of her favorite times of the year.

Magnus squealed as he flung the door open and ran inside. Sashe glanced over to see his sister rushing in and shouting something about little brothers. Magnus cackled with delight, running behind Sashe. His sister Karyn stopped in front of Sashe, put her hands on her hips, and glared at him.
Magnus hugged Sashe from behind, peeking around her hip.

Sashe couldn’t help the smile spreading on her face and put her hands on Magnus’s. “What did you do now?” she asked, glancing back at him.

Magnus grinned. “Nothing.”

“You liar.” Karyn huffed. “He tried to cut my hair while I was sleeping!” She held up a lock of her dark hair, hanging out of her ribbon. “Sashe, how do younger brothers survive us? I can’t stand him.”

Sashe chuckled. “They give us strength to endure anything. And Magnus, you should never touch a woman’s hair.”

Karyn’s anger faded just a bit as that comment. She’d just turned thirteen and loved to be called a woman. She sat down in one of the chairs and pointed at Magnus. “If you ever touch my hair again, I’ll tell mother what you do with all the food she gives you to take to Old Harold.”

Magnus laughed. “You would never!” He sidestepped her grab for him and dashed out of the shop.

“Don’t go too far,” Sashe called after him. She was watching the two of them because their father was traveling with Dar’s parents to and from Belisha. Gangs of Protectors lived in each big city, and many of them carried out crimes against shape changers and were rarely punished for them. So, when Avialies traveled, they went in large groups and brought a Thieran with them, just in case anything happened.

The caravan was due to return today. Sashe was glad since Seth and Evan had gone with them for protection and she and Sierra were driving themselves—and each other—mad with worry. She’d miss watching after Karyn and Magnus, but they spent a lot of time with her even when their father was home. Their mother had been pregnant when the curse was cast eight years ago and she’d died just a few days later. They’d moved here with their father a couple years ago when their father was given work on Damon and Lina’s orchard.

Karyn tugged on Sashe’s arm. “Can you braid my hair? The way you do Sierra’s?”

Sashe smiled. “Of course.” She walked behind the chair and pulled Karyn’s hair out of its ribbon.

The door opened again, and Sierra walked inside. “Afternoon,” she said, chewing on her bottom lip.

“Hello, Sierra,” Karyn said.

“Hi, Karyn,” Sierra replied. She glanced back outside, wringing her hands. “They should be back today.”

She’d tried to talk the men into letting her go, but of course, they hadn’t seen much point in taking a woman who wasn’t a shape changer.

Sashe held back a laugh as she finished combing through Karyn’s hair. Evan was one of the only things Sierra worried about. Usually, she took things in stride, sure things would work themselves out, knowing that worrying would solve nothing. Not so with Evan and his trips out of the country.

Her worry was sometimes intuition that something bad would happen. Jeshro had sent Evan, Seth, and Dar on some stupid mission a couple months ago, and Sierra had talked Sashe into following them. A couple days later, they would have been killed if not for Sierra and Sashe. The two of them said they saved their lives; the men would say they helped, but of course they would have been just fine had they not showed up. Sierra wanted to follow them again this time, but they were traveling with a group of nearly ten people.

“Anytime now,” Sashe said. “Sierra, grab me some hair ornaments.”

Karyn gasped. “For me?”

“Get some to match her dress,” Sashe said.

Sierra brought over some of the hair ornaments Sashe sold to nobles in Renaul. Karyn’s father wasn’t particularly wealthy, but Karyn worked for Matilda’s mother as often as she could so she could buy fabrics for her family. And Karyn occasionally had enough hours to buy a beautiful dress, such as the one she wore right now, a lavender-colored dress with long sleeves and a line of pearls along the top. Sashe wove lavender beads into her hair and finished her braid.

“You look beautiful,” Sierra said with a grin. She handed Karyn a mirror.

“Oh, thank you, Sashe!” Karyn said as she marveled at her hair through the reflection. “It’s beautiful.” She turned and flung her arms around Sashe. Sashe hugged her back and let out a small sigh as she thought about how much she’d love a daughter of her own.

“If Magnus does anything to your hair again, I’ll take care of him,” Sashe promised.

“You understand.” Karyn pulled away and stroked Sashe’s hair. She was tall for a thirteen year old, almost to Sashe’s height.

Magnus came running inside. “They’re back!”

Sashe smiled. They’d been gone for a week—too long to be away from Seth. They left the shop, Sashe locking up after them, and walked down the road towards Dar’s manor. Within a few minutes, they were in the courtyard where the caravan was unloading. Sashe saw Jeshro and Lisbeth, the elders from Belisha. She didn’t know they were coming. She searched for Seth, but only saw Evan and Sierra kissing in front of everyone.

Strong arms wrapped around her, making her jump. Seth’s soft laugh sent a breath of air and a chill down her neck. She grinned and turned in his arms to look up at him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and he kissed her softly on the lips. Unlike Evan and Sierra, they didn’t go any farther than that. Though Sashe wouldn’t have minded one bit.

“I’m glad you’re back home,” she said.

“Me, too.” Seth tugged her close. “This is right where I belong.”

Jeshro and Lisbeth greeted her, saying they were in Renaul for a little while to visit with the Avialies here. Jeshro was a large, strong man. The only indicator of his age was his white hair and the wrinkles on his face and hands. Lisbeth was much the same, though there was a slowness to her step.

Sashe smiled tightly, nodding and acting as polite as she could. Whenever the two came around, they usually asked Seth, Evan, and Dar to go on dangerous missions: rescuing kidnapped Avialies, investigating powerful Thierans who may have cast the curse. Truth be told, she hadn’t quite forgiven Jeshro for the incident a couple months ago.


If you're interested in a review copy, don't hesitate to e-mail me at emilyannward at yahoo dot com!

Also, if you haven't read the prequel novellas yet, Shifting Light will be free next weekend 5/26 and 5/27 in time for some Memorial Day reading. So keep an eye out for that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness

The three books in the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness:
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and The Answer
Monsters of Men

This science fiction young adult trilogy has a dash of dystopian and romance. I was lucky enough to score the first book on Amazon for 99 cents, and oh. my. gosh. In Todd's world, you can hear men's noise. Their thoughts, their dreams, their hopes. Instead of neat phrases like some mind reading stories go, Noise is a mass of pictures and feelings and words, and you can't escape it. Todd lives in Prentisstown and there are no more women. The virus killed them all. But suddenly when he sees some kind of silence near the swamp and tells his family about it, his life is turned upside down. When he meets Viola, the only girl he's ever met, he can't hear her Noise. They're forced to run from the Mayor of Prentisstown and a priest who claims Viola is some kind of sacrifice. Having never been out of Prentisstown, Todd has no idea where he's going, so they have to rely on one another as they flee to Haven.

And that's just the first book. It seriously gets amazing from there on out. I won't give off anything. I'll save that for my individual Goodreads reviews. I just wanted to tout the entire series here on my blog because it is AMAZING.

At first, it took me a little while to get used to Todd's voice. It's first person and almost stream-of-consciousness. Very similar to the Noise, actually. He's been raised in a farming village so he sounds a bit like a hick and he can't read very much, either. But after a bit, I eased right into it. Ness is great with voice and his writing is fast-paced. At high tension moments, you honestly can't read the words quickly enough.  And there are a lot of those. This has so much adventure and action and high stakes.

At first, you're not really sure why the Mayor and the other men of Prentisstown are following Todd and Viola, why they're so set on getting Todd and making him a man. But as Todd and Viola meet more people on their world, Todd (and the reader) realizes that Prentisstown has a lot of secrets in their dark past, and Todd has been kept in the dark about a lot of things. It was almost frustrating because it takes forever to get any answers in the first book -- everyone seems intent on lying to, or at least keeping the truth from, Todd. But things come together in the end and in the second and third book.

This series deals with a lot of things. There are themes of colonialism and conquering indigenous people, anarchy and terrorism and political control, and a lot more. But even though these are prevalent themes, I never felt like Ness was preaching at me or something. I was wrapped up in the story, in the characters and their struggles. I ended up loving Todd and Viola so much. This world was so amazing and different, especially with the Noise and the Spackle and. . .just wow! This series needs more attention, in my opinion. It's a great scifi/dystopian young adult series with a lot of adventure and a lot of heart.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Published 2010, paperback, library copy.

This is a mystery with a dash of supernatural. Violet can hear echoes of the murdered: sometimes sounds, sometimes sights. Usually it manifests itself in dead animals killed by her cat, but when she was eight years old, she found a dead girl buried in the woods. And now in her small town, more dead girls are turning up, leading them to think there's a serial killer in their midst.

There's also a lot of romance thrown in. Violet has blooming feelings for her best friend, Jay, and struggles with whether he feels the same way or not.

I had a hard time deciding how to review this book. I am torn between 3 and 4 stars, but I think in the end, I'll say 3. Goodreads rating says "I liked it" and I did. I read it in one day, over some car rides, and late into the night. It had some good romance -- I'm a sucker for best friends falling for each other. The suspense was pretty good, too. Towards the end, I was seriously into the story. It was really neat how the author dealt with echoes, how they weren't just sounds, but taste and smell and sight, too. The alternating viewpoint between Violet and the killer was cool because you got to see into the mind of this disturbing guy just looking for the next thrill.

I think where it failed, though, was characterization. Other than Violet and Jay, everyone felt kind of flat to me. Even Violet and Jay, at times, weren't too strong. I liked how they interacted and Jay was a great love interest, but I'm not sure if I could just place them in a world other than their own and know how they'd act. The prose was kind of simple, too. I read through it so quickly, it wasn't very poetry and didn't have a lot of great lines. Just very clear cut, here's the story and that's it.

I did like how Violet was tough and determined, but she was still vulnerable at times. She could cry or really be head over heels for Jay, but she didn't beat herself up about it. She didn't try to be Wonder Woman and the author didn't try to make her like that. A lot of the YA fiction I read have these impossibly tough female characters that never show an ounce of fragility. Maybe that's because there have been so many doormat female characters in YA. I do appreciate a tough girl, but I also like someone I can relate to, who would break down at the sight of a dead body or cry about a guy she liked.

The story was interesting enough that I'll probably check out the next book. If you're looking for a quick read with some good mystery and tasty romance, you should, too!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Author Interview: Christiana Miller

This week, we have paranormal author Christiana Miller for our author interview. Her books include:

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (paranormal)
A Tale of 3 Witches (paranormal novelette)
Every Witch Way But Wicked (paranormal anthology)

You can find her on:

Her website

Her books are available on Amazon.

Fill in the blanks: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead is like [book/movie/TV show] meets [a different book/movie/TV show].
It's really not like anything else I've read. It would be like... Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie meets The Witches Bible by Janet and Stewart Ferrar.

Do you remember the first story you ever finished? If so, tell us about it.
Yes. It was a Christmas story about an old man and his horse. The man was alone in life, he had lost his entire family, and now he was out in the snow with his horse, while a blizzard swirled around them. It was a happy story as far as the man was concerned -- he died in the snow storm, and was reunited with his loved ones. I was 10 at the time and it was for a Christmas story contest in one of the equine newspapers.

What's your favorite part about the writing process?
Having written! I have the hardest time with the rough draft, but once it's down I love rewriting. I can happily rewrite for years. My favorite part of the writing, however, is creating the characters and writing their dialogue.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?
It takes 10,000 hours to master your craft. So, you can either write a little bit here and there and spread that 10,000 hours over the course of your lifetime, or you can sit your butt in a chair and put the work in now.

You're stranded on a deserted island, and you can only bring one person with you. It can be someone dead or alive, but it has to be a real person (no fictional characters!). Who is it and why?
Dang. I was going to bring MacGyver, so he could get us off the dang island! I'd bring someone who could build a boat out of trees and a radio out of coconuts, navigate by stars and spear predatory sharks. So I'd look through NASA's scientist database for the strongest/smartest scientist I could find. But if you're asking who I could happily spend the rest of my life talking to, it would be my daughter. She's pretty awesome.

You get to go to Disneyworld with one of your characters. Who do you choose and why?
Hmmm. Well, Gus would be the most fun, but he'd probably get me arrested, or at the very least, banned from Disneyland. Tillie could scare our way to the front of all the lines, but that wouldn't be fun for anyone else. So, I'd probably go with Mara. She'd be fun and less likely to cause a major ruckus.

You get to travel to the country of your choice for one week with any fictional character of your choice (not your own). Who do you choose, where do you go, and why?
Indiana Jones. We go to Greece or England and have an archeological adventure in either the Parthenon or Stonehenge. Or maybe I'll go with the Ghostbusters team (the movie, not the TV show) to New Orleans, where we have a comic paranormal adventure.

The world's scientists have just released the first time machine, and you've been chosen to get a free ride (with assurance that you'll be able to come back, of course ;). To when do you go and why?
Late 1800s to meet Emma Goldman. She's a pretty awesome character. I've written a play about her and she features pretty strongly in one of my historical scripts.

Recommend a self-published book to the readers. Not your own ;)
J.R. Rain's Samantha Moon series. Barbra Annino's Opal Fire series. Bonnie Turner's brilliant book "Down the Memory Hole." There's so much good work right now in the in indy-published world!

It's Saturday night. Where are you most likely to be?
At home, curled up on the couch with my baby girl. Unless I'm out and about, doing research!

If you weren't writing, what would you be doing with your time instead?
Looking for a day job while wishing I could be a stay-at-home mom. Actually, even if I wasn't a writer, I'd probably be working on behalf of writers.

What do you want readers to come away with after reading your books?
The desire to read more about Gus and Mara and their wacky world!

Christiana, your books sound very fun! Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In My Mailbox

I don't do these that often, but I've been getting some crazy good books lately, so here we go!

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- one of those books that you hear so much about and have somehow never read. Hoping to read it before I get back from California. This is the actual edition I got, too. I love the cover. Wish she'd put it on Kindle, but let's be honest, I probably wouldn't buy it if it was over seven bucks.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See -- got this for $3 at the bookstore today! I liked Amy Tan's books, and it seems like they're similar. The movie looked neat, though the trailer was cheesy.

Scorched Skies by Samantha Young -- second in her Smokeless Fire series. Really unique fantasy! Heh, I may or may not have signed up for a free trial with Amazon Prime to get free shipping on something I bought and looked through the Prime Lending Library and saw this book and nearly died.

Shades of Blood by Samantha Young -- last in the Warriors of Ankh series :( If you haven't checked out this author yet and you like YA or fantasy or paranormal, what are you waiting for? GO!

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (seriously, what kind of name is that) -- I got this for only TWENTY-FIVE CENTS!

Tortured by Caragh M. O'Brien -- a bridge story between Birthmarked and Prized.

On Little Wings by Regina Sirois -- a free download. Contemporary/literary. Such a pretty cover!

Rex Rising by Chrystalla Thoma -- YA fantasy/science fiction with a male protagonist. Looks good! The only time I will allow the use of Bleeding Cowboys font: when it's used for ONE letter rather than the whole thing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Books This Far into 2012

Okay, I haven't been very good about posting book reviews this year. I've been reading like a madwoman, but for some reason the thought of sitting down and writing a long review is tiring! So I thought I'd sum up pretty quickly what I've read so far this year.

My favorites so far have been:

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: Very creative fantasy debut. I haven't yet been able to get into the sequel, and that thing is huge so I didn't have a chance to finish before returning it to the library. This reminds me that I need to see if it's in paperback yet. . .

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand: GREAT sequel to Unearthly! I was up all one night reading it. I cannot wait for the third one, but I'm going to be really sad because I don't want this series to end.

Intangible by J. Meyers: A self-published urban fantasy, also by a debut author. It sucked me in. I loved the characters, loved the storyline. It was like Cassandra Claire without the caricatures that remind me too much of her fanfiction. Love, love, loved it!

Blood Will Tell
by Samantha Young: The beginning of the Warriors of Ankh story. A dark fantasy for upper-YA. Strong female protagonist, unique fantasy world building. I'm off to buy the third book in the series right now! (the second is Blood Past, the third Shades of Blood)

Out of the Norm
Genres or formats I don't typically read

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves: This is a mainstream novel with strong hints of romance. I really liked the characters and seeing how they survived in what seemed like impossible situations. 

Numbers by Rachel Ward: I listened to this as an audio book, and the voice actress (is that was you call her?) was awesome. It was a really neat concept. I might read the second one, but I think it's a different main character, so we'll see.

Untraceable by SR Johannes: A thriller/adventure novel that reminded of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or The Calling by Kelley Armstrong sans scifi or fantasy. Great mix of action, mystery, and romance. 

Increasingly becoming one of my favorite genres!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Wow, this guy can tell a story that puts you on the edge of your seat! About halfway through, I was tired of all the questions and little answers. Looks like the next book will be like that, too, but he's a great storyteller. 

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien: Beautiful prose, great characters, romance that developed over time, a great weaving of flashback and present day -- just a great book all around! Loved Gaia and Leon and can't wait to read the next one. 

Across the Universe by Beth Revis: Not sure if this really fits here, but I wanted to mention it. Fascinating murder mystery mixed with science fiction and dystopian-like society on an isolated spaceship. The next one is out and begging for me to read it!

Currently Reading

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa: Why isn't it as good as the first one? :( I think it's because I feel like this romance is being forced on me when I just don't feel it. Still, this writer really has amazing world building and detailed, beautiful settings.

Glimpse by Stacey Wallace Benefiel: Sadly another YA example of romance I feel jumps from "crush" to "twoo wuv" too quickly. But Zellie's voice is hilarious and I like reading about her and her life. 

To see all my reviews (lately they've only been a paragraph or so long), you can visit me on Goodreads

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Author Interview: Adam M. Johnson

The author I'm interviewing today has a unique novel out called Loud, Disorderly & Boisterous.  It's currently available on Amazon.

Adam M. Johnson, ladies and gentlemen!

Fill in the blanks: [My book above] is like [book/movie/TV show] meets [a different book/movie/TV show].
Loud, Disorderly & Boisterous is like A Princess Bride meets The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

What's the first sentence of this book?
New tutors came on Tuesdays.

What's the last?
“I can’t think of a reason in the world.”

Do you remember the first story you ever finished? If so, tell us about it.
If memory serves a first grader's idea of a sword and sorcery epic that I wound up giving to my first grade teacher.

How has your writing changed since you first started writing?
It has ceased to be utterly dreadful. (Or at least I hope that it's ceased to be utterly dreadful.) I think I'm slowly sauntering towards a more overtly literary style than was the case a few years ago. At any rate the paragraphs have been getting longer.

What's your favorite part about the writing process?
Those moments when a really clever solution to an otherwise intractable problem suddenly falls out of the jumbled assortment of neurons in my head. Also when you go back and really enjoy something that you've written it's one of the finer feelings in the world.

Did you ever write fanfiction? If so, for what fandoms?
Sigh. When I was ten the first really earnest stab I took at writing a novel may have been 'Star Wars' related. It was still better than 'The Phantom Menace' though.

You get to travel to the country of your choice for one week with any fictional character of your choice (not your own). Who do you choose, where do you go, and why?
Japan, with Chewbacca the Wookie. I'm just guessing that wandering around with a Wookie in tow would make any situation awesome.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?
From Cormac McCarthy (not, alas, in person): "Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing."

For better or worse, writing a novel is often a long, hard slog--sometimes you have to remind yourself that this is simply the price you must pay to produce something worthwhile.

You get to go to Disneyworld with one of your characters. Who do you choose and why?
Why the charming and delightful title character/heroine of course. In terms of being good amusement park company, many of the book's other characters suffer from the slight handicap of being at least slightly evil and coming from a century when regular bathing was frowned upon.

The world's scientists have just released the first time machine, and you've been chosen to get a free ride (with assurance that you'll be able to come back, of course ;). To when do you go and why?
Being an optimist I'd much prefer to head into the future... Let's see what craziness is happening by 2112... Alternately though it might make more sense to just head back a decade and tell some family members to bet the ranch on Apple stock...

What's your favorite book, whether self-published or traditionally published?
Probably my two favorite books would be Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.

It's Saturday night. Where are you most likely to be?
In a bookstore.

Thanks, Adam! Go on and check out his book, people! It sure looks like a fun one!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Russian Tour: Shield the Heart by TK Richardson

Yay, I am excited to host TK Richardson during her blog tour for her book, Shield the Heart! Check out this unique setting in Russia, and enjoy all the stops along the way! There's even a chance to win a Kindle Fire!

Here's TK!


Hi Emily, thanks for hosting this stop on the blog tour for Shield the Heart!

The theme for this blog tour is a little different and I hope all of you will enjoy it. It’s titled ‘A Russian Tour’ because each day during the blog tour we’ll explore the Russian cities and historical sites that are the backdrop for my new YA novel Shield the Heart.

Sometimes the setting of a novel is so interesting and unique that it deserves a closer look, and that’s why I thought this blog tour would be so much fun. ‘A Russian Tour’ will give my readers a chance to get a better view of where everything in Shield the Heart takes place.

After all, these are the places that have inspired me, and I hope they inspire all of you, too.

Today on our itinerary we’re visiting Optina Monastery!

To follow along each day and visit some of the places found in Shield the Heart, be sure to follow the blog tour.

Okay, onto our destination!

Оптина пустынь

Optina Monastery is situated near Kozelsk Russia and this hermitage has been a huge inspiration to me while writing Shield the Heart. In fact, what I discovered was amazing! Not only did it fit perfectly in Shield the Heart, but I feel like it was meant to be in the story. Originally introduced in the first book, Return the Heart, this monastery is revealed more in depth in Shield the Heart.

“Optina Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox Monastery for men. In the 19th century, the Optina was the most important spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and served as the model for several other monasteries. It was particularly renowned as the centre of Russian staretsdom.”

The images alone are enough to inspire someone to look deeper at it and draw from it. In fact, Optina Monastery was visited by people of renown for spiritual guidance. Writers, philosophers, and even heads of state traveled here in search of spiritual answers and in search of the ‘Russian Soul’.

“Most of the monastery buildings were erected at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, when the monastery was being renovated as a centre of Russian staretsdom. In 1821, a hermitage for startsy was established 1,300 ft away from the monastery. The startsy attracted crowds of devout Christians to Kozelsk. Among others, Optina Pustyn was visited by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vasily Zhukovsky, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, and Leo Tolstoy.”

You may wonder how an old, Russian monastery fits into a young adult novel that centers around a girl with a special gift, an ancient Russian prophecy, and one life changing choice. Although I can’t tell you how it fits into the story, I can tell you the main character, Lilly, is drawn to Optina Monastery in ways that surprise even her.

To find out more I hope you’ll read the story!

Character quote~
The almost too beautiful and seemingly intangible monastery hidden in the trees was surrounded by police officers. The one place that pulled me in was crawling with people who would pull me away. ~Lilly Paige, Shield the Heart

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini tour of Optina Monastery. Be sure to follow us to our next destination. Tomorrow on the blog tour we’ll visit Moskovsky Train Station!

Emily, thanks again for hosting me on the blog tour. I hope you and your blog followers enjoy my new release!

One Gift, One Prophecy, One Choice

Shield the Heart

(Note: This book is part of a series. Book #1 Return the Heart. Book #2 Shield the Heart.)

What if the battle was in your heart?

Lilly’s gift of reading the heart seemed like a curse, but when she discovered her gift was linked to an old, Russian prophecy it changed everything. What she never questioned, though, was her own heart.

When the prophecy pulls Lilly back to Russia and demands to be fulfilled she is torn between love and loyalty. She must make the most difficult decision of her life and choose between the two. But Lilly’s decision is farther reaching than even she is willing to acknowledge. It stretches from East to West - from the past to the future.

Lilly discovers there’s more to the old prophecy than she realized and enemy forces are bent on stopping it from unfolding.

One thing is certain - there will be casualties. And sparing those closest to her may be impossible. While Seth attempts to shield Lilly from the truth, Nikolai reveals secrets that could change everything.

As Lilly falls into the arms of Russia she must decide: will love or loyalty reign? And can she live with the consequences? Two sides compete for Lilly’s heart and she must find the answers she needs before her enemies find her.

Shield the Heart, by T.K. Richardson, is the riveting second book in the series and takes Lilly deeper into Russia’s mysterious past… and her future.

Available in paperback and ebook (click the cover to go to Amazon).

About the author~

T.K. Richardson is the author of YA books Return the Heart, Shield the Heart, Simmer: Recipes for the Teen Palate, and Love, Me: Anthology of Short Stories. She is the founder of Partners In, a program that donates books to children in the foster care system. She also hosts Compass eBooks and runs The Writers Resource Directory, a great site for writers filled with publishing and writing links, tips and advice. Her next books are due out later this year. Find out more at

[note: all images are from google ]

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Announcing the release of Shifting Light!

The first prequel novella for The Protectors series is now available!

When a new boy moves to town, Sashe realizes how suddenly her life is about to change. Though non-magic themselves, she and her sister have grown up with shape changers, and now a deadly foe is out to banish the shape changing magic from the country. The Protectors have the ear of the king and they've cast a curse on the shape changers designed to slowly kill them off.

Sashe is forced to consider her survival when a friend of hers is killed because her father refused to help the Protectors. She's slowly falling for the new boy, but she must choose whether she and her sister can stay with the shape changers with their dangerous future. Should they decide to stay, how will they protect themselves against such powerful enemies?

First novella (nearly 22,000 words or 75 pages) in the Protectors prequels. Set ten years before Promising Light and two years before Fire and Light.

Currently available on Amazon for $1.99.

If you haven't read Promising Light, you can read the prequel novellas first. The next prequel novellas, Fire and Light and The End of Light, will be available before the end of March. I recommending reading all three before Promising Light, or reading Promising Light first. If you read Shifting Light, then jump ahead to Promising Light, you'll be spoiled about the events in the other two novellas and the sudden shift in time may be jarring (Promising Light is ten years later, but together the novellas elapse over eight years). Of course, you're the reader, so you can choose!

So, if you've liked any of the excerpts across the blog or if the synopsis snags your eye, please check out Shifting Light for only $1.99.

The Protectors: O for Outstanding

O for Outstanding
Grace and Prince William meet Childress, the owner of Childress' Traveling Circus. 

Childress paused. “Perhaps I can give you a short tour, introduce you to some of the performers. Everyone’s busy packing up, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet the prince.” He looked at Grace. “And his lovely escort.”

“Lady Grace,” Grace said, curtsying. 

“And you enjoyed yourself?”

“Oh, yes, it was wonderful!” 

“Well, follow me. I’m sure we can find some of those performers around here.” Childress led them into the activity of the crew and took them first to the snake charmer. He did a trick for them with his boa constrictor, and Grace positioned herself behind William warily. 

Childress found the acrobats lounging and smoking by the stables. They seemed impossibly thin and graceful even with the pipes and smell of tobacco lingering in the air. 

~Promising Light, Book One of the series

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Protectors: N for Never

N for Never
Grace asks her father if he believes in magic.

“Father, you’ve traveled more than I,” Grace said. “Does true magic exist?”

Father’s eyebrows knitted together, and he stared at her. His hesitant pause told her much more than his words. “What do you mean?”

She shrugged, dropping some seed into the birdcage. “I stopped by a booth today, and the woman there told me tall tales of healers and shape changers.”

His hands clenched into fists, and she held her breath. “That’s all they were,” he said. “Tall tales.”

Grace glanced at Kyler. “Remember when Lady Phoresa saw that man at the circus who made his hand invisible?” 

“They just trick your eyes,” Father said, waving his hand.

“She said shape changers were from Shyra,” Grace said, trying to sound casual. “You’ve visited to Shyra a lot. You’ve never seen anything like that?”

Father shook his head. “No, Grace. It doesn’t exist.” He patted her on her shoulder. “Don’t worry about things like that. You’ll be with the prince on his trip in a week.” 

“To Nyad.” Grace smiled. “I remember when you used to tell us about magical creatures who lived in Mumbar Jungle.” 

Father chuckled, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Stories to get you to sleep. Which is exactly what I need right now. Goodnight, Grace.” He kissed her on the forehead, a surprisingly gentle gesture for her father. “I’m proud of you.”

~Promising Light, Book One of the series

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Author Interview: Cora Buhlert

This week, I have the prolific author Cora Buhlert here on the blog. She has quite a few short stories and novelettes for you to check out:

Countdown to Death, pulp thriller novelette
El Carnicero, historical romance novelette
Flying Bombs, pulp thriller novelette
Hostage to Passion, historical romance novelette
Letters from the Dark Side, dark fantasy short fiction collection
Outlaw Love, western short story
Rites of Passage, fantasy short story
Shape No. 8, spy fiction short story
The Kiss of the Executioner's Blade, historical romance short story
The Other Side of the Curtain, spy fiction novelette
The Spiked Death, pulp action novelette
Whaler, science fiction short story

Visit her Amazon author page, her author website or her publishing website

On to the interview!

A magician has cursed your next reader so they can read only one of your books. Which book do you choose for them and why?
Countdown to Death, the first of my novelettes about the Silencer, a masked avenger in the style of the 1930s pulps.

As for why, I'm very fond of this story. Besides, it's a real page turner.

What's the first sentence of this book?
“SILENCER TO FACE HANGMAN” the headline screamed.

What's the last?
“But this mask,” she said, “really ruins the complexion.”

Fill in the blanks: [My book above] is like [book/movie/TV show] meets [a different book/movie/TV show].
Countdown to Death is like the Spider pulp series of the 1930s and 1940s meets 24. And I don't even like 24.

The world's scientists have just released the first time machine, and you've been chosen to get a free ride (with assurance that you'll be able to come back, of course ;). To when do you go and why?
I have a whole list of places I'd like to visit in that case. I'd like to go to Hamburg St. Pauli in 1960 and see the Beatles playing in the Star Club on the Reeperbahn before they were famous. I'd like to go on the second to last voyage of the Hindenburg, because Zeppelins are awesome and that was the last chance to enjoy a Zeppelin trip. I'd like to go to the Globe Theatre and see Shakespeare performing live on stage. I'd like to go to the assembly rooms in Bath in the early 19th century to enjoy some Regency atmosphere and have a chat with Jane Austen. I'd like to go to Blackpool in the early 1960s and see Freddie Frinton and May Warden performing their classic skit Dinner for One live in one of the many clubs there. I'd like to spend a night dancing at Studio 54 at the height of the disco era. And sometimes I'd just love to walk into a shop or department store in the past and buy some now priceless antique trinket (china, figurines, jewelery, dolls) when it was new.

You get to travel to the country of your choice for one week with any fictional character of your choice (not your own). Who do you choose, where do you go, and why?
I'd go traveling the Canadian Rockies with Wolverine from the X-Men. I used to be a huge X-Men fan and Wolverine was always my favourite character. As for the Canadian Rockies, the scenery must be amazing and besides, it's Wolverine's homeland, so he should know his way around.

Do you remember the first story you ever finished? If so, tell us about it.
I have a couple of very early unfinished stories, including one with a flying red sportscar from outer space kidnapping two teenagers. But the first story I actually finished was something about a girl walking into a mad scientist's lair and getting turned into a monster plant, which is then subsequently chopped up into a salad. She wakes up and everything turns out to be just a nightmare. But the really icky salad she's served for breakfast sure looks familiar...

Which book of yours was the hardest to write? Why?
Probably The Other Side of the Curtain, my spy fiction novelette set in 1960s East Germany. I had to ask the print magazine, where the story first appeared, for a deadline extension, because I just couldn't get it finished.

Interestingly enough, The Other Side of the Curtain is also the most personal of my published stories, because a lot of what Shoushan and Zane experience during their trip to East Germany is based on my own experiences visiting my great aunt in East Germany in the 1980s. Minus the run-in with Stasi agents, of course. I suspect the blurring between memory and fiction made the story difficult to write.

Which book of yours did you have the most fun writing? Why?
Either my humorous spy short story Shape No. 8 or Cartoony Justice, a funny fantasy short story coming soon. Shape No. 8 is the sort of story that just writes itself. Ditto for Cartoony Justice, plus it gave me the chance to turn the fictional stand-in for a certain kind of person I really don't like into a singing, dancing banana. Who wouldn't enjoy that?

Did you ever write fanfiction? If so, for what fandoms?
In pre-internet times, before I knew that there was such a thing as fanfiction and that I wasn't the only weirdo to make up stories about my favourite characters, I wrote a bit of fanfiction. I wrote about Star Wars, the X-Men and long forgotten animated cartoons such as MASK or Defenders of the Earth. I also wrote some crossovers between different fandoms, but no slash.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?
Write every day, unless you're dead or in a coma. But set your minimum daily wordcount so low (my target is writing at least 100 words of new fiction per day) that you can make it even when you're ill or tired or terribly busy with life.

Unfortunately, I forgot where I found that bit of advice. But my productivity skyrocketed ever since I implemented that policy.

What do you want readers to come away with after reading your books?
I want them to come away with a smile on their faces and their pulse pounding and perhaps having a few thoughts provoked.

Thanks, Cora! I enjoyed your answers to my cooky questions :)