An Unexpected Visit from the Science Fiction Muses

Hi, guys!

Exciting things are happening.

The week before last, I completely redid the cover for A Heart of Salt & Silver. I’m so happy with how it turned out. I have a few more steps before I can reveal it to you all, but it’s coming.

But last week, something happened that hasn’t happened in a long time.

The sci-fi muses visited me.

The Regonia Chronicles has been sitting on the back burner for a while, like… a long ass time.

But while at work, I was listening to music and came across a song that just… resonated with the story.

It had an epic sound to it, with lots of dips and crescendos.

And I just started picturing the scenes from the book as if they were in a movie trailer.

And now, for the first time in about a year, I want to jump back into writing that one.

It’s insane the effect that music can have on us, especially in creative endeavors. Finding that perfect song to listen to during a scene can really make the writing experience that much better.

It’s part of why I’m trying something new with The Regonia Chronicles. I’ve written a soundtrack into it.

The Regonians of Daen Tribe are very music oriented. it’s deeply rooted into their culture. So, of course, when they hear human music, it’s a big deal. They notice the songs, and check displays for what song is playing.

So, when they check, I put the song title and artist (and year, because in the human society of 3018, songs over 1,000 years old are completely free, songs over 500 years old can be downloaded in batches of 100 for a single credit, over 250 years old cost a credit for 50, etc., so the year is necessary for their pricing.)

I’ve timed them for my reading speed, which I know isn’t universal. I’ll have to look up average reading speeds and go from there later. I’ll also need to make the playlist public on Google Play at some point. But those are tasks for editing.

Of course, the songs aren’t necessary for the reading experience and have no bearing on the plot. The books can be read without ever looking up a single song.

But I kinda like that extra element.

And it’s just one more thing that makes me excited to jump back into that series.

I just need to push through the rest of Second to None, first.

And if i’m being honest, this thriller may well turn into a short story. I’m about halfway through the plot and sitting at about 10,500 words.

So, basically, I just need to keep that song around me, wrap up in it like a blanket, and hammer through the rest of Second to None before the sci-fi muses desert me, again.

Which means I have some fun times ahead of me. Second to None is about to get bloody. Those characters have a lot to deal with.

But compared to the shit going down in book two of The Regonia Chronicles…

Let’s just say those humans and aliens are facing down some serious shit.

For now, I’m going to jump back into Second to None and wreak absolute havoc on some characters that are only just beginning to see how fucked up one of their friends really is.

If you want a peak at just how dark the human soul can get, check out my recent release, World for the Broken. This dark post-apocalyptic romance gets into the nitty gritty of human emotion and resilience.

Check it out here: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Importance of Emotion: A Book Rant

Hi, guys!

It’s happened. I’ve fallen into a reading slump. It happens to every reader and writer at some point.

I’ve made it halfway into a book and just…lost interest.

But since I’ve been spending so much time analyzing my own writing lately, I was able to pinpoint exactly what made me lost interest.

Lack of emotion.

The book in particular (which I won’t name here) has tremendous world building, and a lot of it. But I’m not connecting with any of the characters on an emotional level, largely because the emotions aren’t the focus.

The author chose to focus more on showcasing the history of the world they built and the reason everything is the way it is and explanations of their gods and the pathways that characters walk and…all these other things that should take a back seat to the actual story.

It may very well build to something amazing, but if readers lose interest before they ever reach that amazing thing, then all the build up is for naught.

And don’t get me wrong. There were a couple really good, emotional scenes, but how far can just a couple of emotional scenes carry a reader?

For a story to be interesting, you need stakes. You need something on the line and a reason for the character to want it.

The overwhelming majority of the time, that means emotions are involved.

It doesn’t have to be some grand scale thing, some major adventure to be interesting. You don’t have to traverse multiple worlds to tell an interesting story. Hell, it can be the most basic premise in the world.

The thing that most often compels people to keep reading is emotion.

Okay, I’ll stop talking in circles and give you an example.

If I just say “Mary walked up the stairs in her Victorian home, old bones creaking as loudly as the wood she trod upon,” it might pique your interest.

But there’s nothing at stake. There’s no emotion to pull you in, just a potentially interesting setting.

She’s just some old biddy walking up the stairs.

But if i describe her desperation, describe the tears flooding the wrinkles on her face as she pushes herself up the stairs with all her might, if I show the pictures of her late husband on the wall, the husband she bought and remodeled that home with, if I tell you about the threat of the nursing home looming on the horizon, waiting for the day she can’t make it up those stairs to her bedroom…

If I show you the picture of her wedding day waiting for her on a little table on the landing to greet her, if she reaches out a hand and touches that picture and says, “I can stay with you one more day, love…”

That emotion MAKES the story.

It’s still just a story of one woman climbing the stairs.

But it has stakes. It hits you right in the feels.

And that is what keeps people reading.

At least, in my case.

That’s why my books are so emotional, because that’s what I look for in a book.

Yeah, they have adventure and usually magic and world building (I tend to write epic high fantasy romance, after all). But the emotion is what makes the story.

It’s that little thing that makes the characters, and thus the story, real.

Never underestimate the power of emotion in books. It can be the difference between a mediocre book and one that absolutely blows people away.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing self-sabotaging characters

Hi, guys!

Last week, I talked about writing believable romance and compelling chemistry, exploring the things that might draw two people together.

But if one of the people involved tends toward self-sabotage, the normal conventions no longer apply and relationships tend toward… dysfunctional.

If you’re writing a self-sabotaging character, it isn’t enough to just put them in a bad relationship. You need to understand why they’re there, so you can write them, and the ensuing relationship, accurately.

There are several types of people who do this. People who fear change and sabotage opportunities to prevent change. People who want to make others feel better about themselves.

And the most common, which is the one we’ll be talking about today, people with catastrophically low self-esteem.

People who genuinely hate themselves or feel intrinsically broken, perhaps due to trauma or a broken home or depression/anxiety, aren’t likely to look for someone who would be good for them. There’s a reason so many people end up in shitty, abusive relationships.

They don’t value themselves worth the effort of improvement or worth taking a good person off the market. They probably don’t even realize what they’re doing to themselves, but they’re seeking the shitty treatment they think they deserve.

At such a low point, something small might be enough to draw them in. Attention of any kind from someone who has even one quality they like, even something small like an outgoing nature, a cool tattoo, or good fashion sense, might be enough to draw them in.

Why?

Because they’re surprised they got attention or compassion from anyone.

And since they’re getting attention from someone, which is more than they think they deserve to begin with, they overlook glaring faults (drug abuse, cheating, domestic abuse, etc.) with ease. There’s a good chance they’ll internalize all of that, blaming themselves for their partner’s philandering or the abuse.

They’re likely to push good people away and seek out shitheads. Meeting someone good isn’t going to magically fix them or show them that they deserve happiness.

Until they learn to value themselves (which takes a hell of a lot of time and work), they won’t seek a functional relationship.

And that may very well be their downfall.

These characters can be absolutely heartbreaking to write, partly because it’s all too real. Far too many people destroy their own chances at happiness simply because they don’t believe themselves worthy of it.

So, if you decide to write one of these characters, keep these things in mind. It will be one hell of a journey, with a lot of time spent in darkness.

Now, on to the progress report. I’ve come to realize that Second to None may end up being a novella. I tend to write far shorter than the average length, regardless of genre. I write very punchy stories, sparing very little time for fluff.

I use my characters to build my world and vice versa, something I explained in a previous blog, which I’ll link below. (Ignore the progress report at the end of that one, because so much has happened since then that it’s irrelevant.)

Now, fantasy tends toward an average of 110,000 words (roughly), but mine lean toward an average of 70,000 or 80,000. Thrillers tend to be about 70,000 words.

So, with my writing style, I expect Second to None to total around 40,000 words. I’m currently sitting at about 7,500 words.

I’ve also made some strides toward releasing A Heart of Salt & Silver, and I’ve been reveling in the recent release of World for the Broken. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, it’s available wherever books are sold. (Amazon link: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken )

For now, I’m going to keep working away on editing Allmother Rising and writing Second to None.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S.- Here’s the link for the blog explaining the concept of using your world to build your characters and using characters to build the world.

Writing Compelling Chemistry

Hi, guys!

As you all likely know (since you’re here), I like writing romance into my books. It just makes a book feel more… well-rounded. After all, the vast majority of people want companionship, even in the most trying times.

Hell, especially in trying times.

But writing romance isn’t as simple as just throwing two attractive characters together and writing a scene with them kissing. That works for a one-off sex scene or a continuing, strictly sexual relationship.

But if you’re writing romance, chemistry is important.

There needs to be a reason for them to get together. Something has to draw them together.

So, today we’re discussing how to write good (aka believable) romance.

It all comes down to your characters and their personalities. (Yeah! More psych stuff!)

To write truly good chemistry, you have to know what your character is looking for in a partner.

And a lot of that comes down to what people think of themselves.

People have a tendency to seek out people who embody qualities they either like about themselves or wish they possessed.

An introvert who’s tired of always failing to reach out might like an extrovert because they admire that outgoing spirit and wish they could be more like them. Or if they’re sick of being pressured to go out and do more social things, they might like a fellow introvert because they understand the desire to stay in or the social anxiety and the overthinking that plagues them.

Extroverts might flock to other extroverts so they can go party all the time with a kindred spirit. Or if they’re starting to feel reckless and foolhardy, they might seek someone more reserved as a sort of balancing act. Maybe they admire the thoughtful nature of someone who spends all their time thinking through all the possible outcomes of every situation.

So, you’ll need to analyze the personalities of your characters. What do they like about themselves? What do they hate about themselves? Drop them in a room with someone who embodies the former and stands in contrast to the latter, and they’ll probably feel a spark.

But there’s more to it than that. That initial spark only goes so far. We’re capable of analyzing ourselves and our motives, as well as the motives of others.

Which complicates things.

To a degree, most people look for someone with similar values. At least, when it comes to the things that are most important to them.

The vast majority of people don’t want to spend all their time arguing with their partner.

If they’re a passionate rebel who genuinely hates the leaders of the realm, they probably won’t fall for the leader of the realm.

They might, but it’s going to come down to some SERIOUS character development, plot lines, and world building to overcome something like that. (Maybe the leader is being blackmailed, maybe they’re being controlled via magic, maybe they just don’t know the effects their actions are having on their people and come around to the cause after learning about it. Maybe the rebel learns that the leader is justified in their actions, sparing the people some greater hardship that they just aren’t aware of until they get close to the leader.)

Similarly, a devout, evangelical christian probably isn’t going to fall in love with an atheist who openly looks down on religious folks. They might. But it’s going to take some serious work on your part to write them together.

But all bets are off when it comes to self-sabotage.

And since that leaves the realm of chemistry and romance, I’ll leave that for next week.

Now, if you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been making shit tons of progress since getting laid off work.

A Heart of Salt & Silver is off for proofreading, and I been designing merch for it. I started another round of edits on Allmother Rising and started writing a dark romantic thriller this week. I have the prologue and a couple chapters written.

And even though I thought I knew the general premise of the entire story, the characters are developing a little differently than expected. As per usual.

But that just keeps it interesting.

Come back next week for another update and for some tidbits about writing a self-sabotaging character. Follow me on social media (links below) for more updates, memes, and cat pictures.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How To Write Morally Grey Characters

Hi, guys!

Last week, we talked about unreliable narrators, which are an absolute joy to write. This week, we’re talking about another fun one. Morally grey characters.

People who do bad things for good reasons. People whose actions you might hate, but whose motives…you completely understand.

These characters might make you squirm a bit. They might show you a darker side of yourself. They show you things that you might have the potential to do if pushed just enough.

Vigilantes rank pretty fucking high on this list, as do angels of death (doctors or nurses killing patients that have no quality of life).

An angel of death might have heard her patients wishing for death. She might hate the constraints of their particular government holding those patients back from the euthanasia they wish for.

Eco terrorists fully believe in their cause when they blow up pipelines. They don’t want nature to take any more hits because of our burgeoning society.

Hell, one of the most recognizable characters in literature and theatre is a morally grey character. Ever heard of Robin Hood? I bet you have. He steals all the goddamn time, but because he’s stealing from corrupt, rich people and giving it to poor people, that makes us all see him as the hero.

But he’s still a thief. He’s just a thief with a code.

In my novella, Annabelle, I explore this exact thing, this criminal with a code. Annabelle is a vigilante, but her motives are pretty hard to argue with. The resulting novella is pure catharsis, because she does the terrible, terrible things so many of us have wished to do.

I mean, she kills rapists.

And while murder isn’t something we typically condone, that motive, that drive is hard to argue with.

It puts the reader into a morally grey area where they struggle to see someone who is obviously doing something bad…as a bad person.

And the biggest thing you need to remember to write that type of character successfully is that they do not see their actions as evil.

They one hundred percent believe in their cause.

If they’ve been pushed far enough to do something like this, there likely won’t be much doubt left in their mind that this is the right thing for them to do. Even if they fully acknowledge the fact that others might disagree. They likely think those who disagree are uninformed or blind. They may think their opposition terrible and evil.

But they don’t see themselves as bad.

They probably see themselves as a hero, as a person doing something that needs done.

That mindset will shape their life.

It will shape their relationships.

If they’re charismatic, they might pull people to their cause. If not, they might have a huge secret, something that keeps them slinking through shadows in the middle of the night and distancing themselves from others during the day. If they’re egotistical, they might look down on anyone who disagrees, which would put a LOT of strain on personal relationships with anyone who isn’t an absolute fanatic for their particular brand of morality.

But there will be decidedly little internal conflict over committing whatever terrible acts your particular morally grey character is into.

If you’re curious about Annabelle or just want an example, the novella is available on Amazon (free in Kindle Unlimited) at this link:

http://mybook.to/AnnabelleElexisBell

Now, to catch you up on my latest projects.

I’ve officially finished the first round of edits on Allmother Rising, and it’s now sitting on the back burner so I can come back for another round with fresh eyes. Then, it’ll be going to beta readers.

I also finished the last round of my edits on my dark supernatural high fantasy romance, A Heart of Salt & Silver! It goes off for proofreading this week, and then I’ll be moving forward to formatting.

All told, I’m looking to have this one out later this year, so I’ll begin introducing the characters soon. Which I’m fucking excited for. Ness, Nolan, and Elias make a fucking mess of themselves, despite the fact that two of three are total badasses. Lol.

But for now, it’s time to dive into writing another book. And this one’s going to be a thriller….

Mwahahahahahahaha.

But I’m torn. I have two story options. One is partially written from years ago, the other is brand new.

At any rate, I’ll dive into one of them tonight.

Now, go forth.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing an Unreliable Narrator

Hi, guys!

Today, we’re talking about something that can be really fun to write.

Unreliable narrators.

They can lead a reader down a pretty wild path, and they’re not terribly difficult to write as long as you stick to their personality. You can write them in just about any style, whether you write as if an outside source is telling the story or from the perspective of a character.

Personally, I prefer first person, present tense, which drops you right into the mind of the main character. Everything is seen through their eyes, experienced through the lens through which they view the world.

And if you strive for any level of realism, your characters, much like real people, will NOT see themselves 100% accurately. Whether they have low self-esteem or are overly cocky, whether they have body dysmorphia or Stockholm syndrome, depression or maybe they’re just your average Joe…

They almost certainly are not perfectly self-aware.

On average, people rank themselves as being above average. Which is statistically impossible.

And yet, we all have something, some little thing we hate about ourselves that we focus on way too much and try to overcompensate for.

We all have some strange little thing that we learned in childhood that we thought was just… how everyone did things. And we don’t even think twice about it until we meet someone who has no idea what the fuck we’re talking about.

And if your characters are realistic, they’ll have all these little quirks, too.

Much like real people, their perception of themselves colors how they see the world, making their view of the world rather skewed, as well.

Which is where we get unreliable narrators.

Some personal bias they hold casts shadows on certain things, painting them as terrible or perhaps ignoring them completely, while putting too much praise on other things.

Maybe the character is racist, and they describe people with negative or positive traits depending on their race, regardless of the truth.

Maybe your character grew up rich in a happy home, and now, they don’t see any of the problems in their world until some other character pulls the blinders off and forces them to see their actions and their world for what it is.

I won’t say what story this character is in because spoilers (hell, I’m not even going to tell you their gender), but I’ve written one with full-on Stockholm syndrome. It shapes their entire perception of themselves, their world, their religion, their peers. Literally everything is shaded by this veil over their eyes, and it takes the entire story for them to see the truth.

In order to pull off an unreliable narrator, you have to dive deep into their mind. You have to stick to your guns and write everything how they would see it, not how it actually is. You have to know how it actually is, as the writer, then write it how that character would see it.

Only when that “Ah-Ha” moment hits do you really show the world and the character for what it is. Then, the reader can think back over it, and see what actually happened and how things were actually going down.

You need to find a balance with the details you put in before that eureka moment, though. There needs to be enough accurate detail for the reader to see it properly later on, but not so much that it stands out like a sore thumb at the time.

Beta readers, critique partners, and editors can help with finding that perfect balance.

And so can studying psychology.

The mind is a maze laced with mines, dead ends, and trap doors. It holds pitfalls and skylights placed directly under the balcony of someone else’s apartment, blocking the light. Its full to the brim with steep descents and hairpin turns.

Memories, constantly relived or questioned by others, can be shifted and tweaked. Things lie forgotten in our past.

It’s a mess.

And it paints a mess across the entire world.

Personal bias makes us all a little unreliable, so it makes sense for a narrator to be unreliable, as well. And it can make for a hell of a twist in a book.

So, have fun with it. Write a character that doesn’t see the world accurately every now and then.

Now, as for what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been getting so much done while I’ve been laid off from work. I finished writing Allmother Rising, finished a round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, and did a complete round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver. I’m almost through the first round of edits for Allmother Rising, and I just started the last round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver this past weekend. It goes off for proofreading next month.

I also got a finalized design for the cover for A Heart of Salt & Silver, which is super exciting. I have to adjust the size of it after formatting the manuscript for trims sizes and all that, but the design is done.

And if you somehow didn’t see it, World for the Broken is officially out, now! As of last Tuesday, it’s out there for you all to read. You can order it wherever books are sold, but here’s the Amazon link:

mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

Anyway, it’s time for even more editing. : )

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

World for the Broken: Behind the Scenes

Hi, guys!

Holy shit, it’s almost release day! It’s freaking tomorrow!!!!

*gasp*

I can hardly believe that, as of tomorrow, I’ll have FOUR books published. I’m ecstatic.

And in honor of release day, I wanted to share the origin of this gut-wrenching book.

It all started…with the trailer for an erotic film. Which is ironic since an actual sex scene is one of the only triggers not included in the book, even though a brothel features pretty heavily in the plot.

It was a high end, story driven one (obviously, since it had a damn trailer). Anyway, the trailer consisted of a girl wearing heavy furs and old-timey clothes tromping through the snow on a mountain side until she passed out. Then, some guy, also wearing furs and medieval clothes, found her and carried her to safety.

And for some reason, the idea of someone finding someone near-dead in the snow just stuck with me.

I’d been in a post-apocalyptic headspace for a while, so I shifted it to that rather than a fantasy setting.

Of course, I didn’t want the baggage of “Is he going to kill me or worse?” hanging over the love interest, what with the potential hostage situation, so I flipped the genders. I don’t particularly enjoy writing women who fall in love with men after thinking they might kill or rape them.

So, Chloe found Christian bleeding in the snow. Then, I just needed a reason for him to be there, which is where Karen (Christian’s sister-in-law), Jesse (Christian’s late brother), and Tate (Christian’s nephew) came in. I built the world around them, unintentionally throwing nearly ever potential trigger into the book.

I never even ended up watching the erotic film that inspired the story. Hell, it didn’t even get made. It just stayed a trailer.

This book sits so close to home, literally and figuratively. It’s set in Southern Illinois, aka the place I’ve lived my entire life. I took some liberties with town names and distances between them, but ya know…creative license and all that.

It’s also deeply emotional. So many of my own experiences have gone into this one. Of course, the experiences were changed to fit the story, some exaggerated, some downplayed with the burden split across multiple characters. And some things were just experiences I dealt with secondhand during my internship days getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Regardless, a lot went into this novel.

There were a lot of teary-eyed typing sessions. Some all-out blubbering. Sometimes over sad things and sometimes over sweet, touching scenes.

Some of the dialogue is pulled from real life to give the characters that extra bit of realism.

I’d even been getting into survival stuff a little heavier just before I wrote it. Over the course of about six months leading up to it, I took up archery, learned to clean fish, bought a pistol (.45 baby desert eagle…Chloe happens to prefer a .45 in the story), and brushed up on shooting. I put together bug-out bags and jumped into (very, very mild) prepping.

And then, I got the idea for this post-apocalyptic novel, and I realized most of my research was done.

As I said, sooooooo much went into this one.

If you want to learn more about the characters, check out the #WorldForTheBrokenWednesday on Instagram for all my character profiles and several excerpts from the story.

Preorders are still available everywhere until midnight, at which point you can just straight up buy this motherfucker.

Check it out on amazon at: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

I’ve got one hell of a blog tour lineup coming, with some chances to win free books (signed hardbacks!) and custom book swag.

Follow me on social media or subscribe right here for all the updates on the giveaways and tour information. (Links down below)

Keep reading. Keep writing. (And keep your eyes peeled. You never know where inspiration will come from.)

Later.

Treat yo’self

Hi, guys!

If you follow me on social media, you know that, as of a couple days ago, I finished writing Allmother Rising! This one took just under 4 and a half months (126 days, but short ass February fucked up the months.) It’s freaking amazing to have another book under my belt.

But the thing with finishing a first draft is that…there’s the initial lull of “what now?” that follows (quite similar to a book hangover when reading) and then there’s all the editing and the formatting and the cover design and then the metadata and the copyright and all that other stuff that needs done next.

But.

It’s important to take a second to appreciate the gravity of what’s just been accomplished, whether it’s your first book or your thirtieth book.

Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, still.

But people, events, worlds (if you write fantasy or science fiction) have just been created out of literal thin air. Synapses fired in your brain, and you moved your fingers over a keyboard, and magically, ideas and entire fictional lives exist.

And that is a magnificent thing deserving of celebration.

Normally, whenever I finish a book, my husband and I go out to eat to celebrate. I’m not sure if you’ve taken a look at the world lately, but that isn’t an option.

So, a massive, juicy grilled steak, grilled corn on the cob, and asparagus with a cold can of soda and Community playing on tv was the celebration this time around.

But that’s me.

I’m a major fan of red meat, specifically steak, so that’s a pretty special thing for me.

You can have cake or treat yourself to a new book. Buy yourself something special or take an extra long bubble bath (with salts and candles and bath bombs galore).

The point is, take a second to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Look at what you’ve done and give yourself credit for it.

Celebrate where you’re at and how far you’ve come, regardless of how far you still have to go.

Because you’re doing things. And, to paraphrase John Mulaney, it’s so much easier to not do things.

For all of you out there kicking ass during Camp NaNoWriMo, celebrate the fact that you’re doing something with your time that most people only ever talk about. Everyone says they want to write a book, many say they could write a book if they ever had the time (which frustrates me to no end, and I did a whole blog about having time, link below if you’re interested).

But you’re actually doing it.

You’re not just talk. You’re not a hack or a poser.

You’re writing a goddamn book.

Soak it in. Really appreciate that. Because it’s huge.

Celebrate this, you magnificent do-er of things.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

(Ignore the progress updates in the linked blog below, because both those books are already published. Lol.)

World for the Broken: First chapter reveal

Hi, guys!

It’s so close to release day! Just 13 days… An unlucky day for a chapter reveal? Or perfect considering the terrible luck these characters have?

Either way, I won’t keep you waiting. Here’s the first chapter of my dark post-apocalyptic romance, World for the Broken. (Reader discretion advised. This book might hurt.)

Chapter 1

Christian

Snow crunches beneath feet, not far from my aching head. Dazed, I wonder how I could have let someone get so close. I try to lift my face from winter’s blanket, but the world threatens to fall out from under me with even the slightest movement. Head pounding, I struggle to center myself. Holding as still as humanly possible, I strain my ears to pick out the size of my newest friends.

A trickle of warmth slips through my hair, dripping over my scalp and down my forehead. It’s almost pleasant, except for the little voice in the back of my mind telling me that it shouldn’t be there. As if for emphasis, a cold wind sweeps over my back, the only part of me visible above the snow. Warmth has no place here.

I remember how to open my eyes, lifting my head as I do so, and see red swirling before my gaze. The ground tilts and whirls, mixing melting snow and blood in psychedelic patterns. I slam my eyes shut once more, letting my head fall to the ground. My face splashes in the watered-down blood.

My blood.

Another foot breaches the snow with a crunch. The danger that I’m in screams back into focus, so loudly my skull aches with it. Or maybe that’s just the head wound talking.

Fucking get it together, Christian.

I growl inwardly, but I’m excited that I can piece even that together amidst the agony bursting across my scalp.

Are these more of The Wolf’s men, come to finish the job?

Then, it all comes back to me, hitting like a ton of bricks. Tate, Jesse, Karen…Are they safe? I don’t know, don’t remember much, and that scares me.

We’d been on the run, having escaped Breyerville two and a half days ago with The Wolf’s Fangs dogging our heels every second. Poor Tate, just four years old, was terrified to fall asleep, as were we all. He’d only done so to the tune of Karen’s voice, singing a soft lullaby, nearly whispering through choking fear.

What if The Fangs were close? What if they heard her song?

What if they found us?

Then, the blizzard hit and made our tracks impossible to miss. The Fangs found us within a day of the first flakes falling. The scene bursts across my eyelids, like some horrible version of the instant replay used in sporting events back before the war.

We’d just stopped so Tate could go to the bathroom, which took an unfortunate amount of time given the layers the poor kid was wearing, and we were about to set off again. Not that we really knew where we were going.

Just…away.

Away from Breyerville and the brothel Karen was forced into. Away from The Wolf and his cronies, demanding payment and tribute from all locked within his stupid walls. The walls we all helped him build, back when he seemed like a decent human being, someone we could trust to help lead us through the end of the world.

Funny thing about the apocalypse, that. It brings out what’s hiding underneath the surface. Given time and power, The Wolf revealed his true nature, evil incarnate.

The Fangs found us unaware. Karen and Jesse had been arguing again, with Jesse lobbing some new unfair accusation at his poor wife. I’d been a little worried, thinking I may have to step in again and…calm my brother down.

Tate clung to his mother, burying his face in her legs. Her hands covered his ears, trying to spare him the worst of the argument, even as he shielded his eyes with tiny hands.

We heard the gun go off, loud and close. Instinctively, instantly, I ducked. A habit I wish I hadn’t had the opportunity, or the need, to cultivate. Another crack and a bullet meant for me sailed over my head.

A third shot was attempted, presumably to correct their mistake in thinking I wouldn’t drop to the ground. But the hammer fell, and the gun merely clicked. Empty. Luckily, they haven’t figured out how to reload their own ammo.

Before my eyes, my little brother fell. With a small hole in his forehead, blood trickling from it, Jesse landed in a crumpled heap. Thankfully, he was facing the sky. I’d rather Tate remember his father’s dead eyes than the state the back of his skull must have been in.

Four Fangs rushed us, giving me no chance to mourn.

One ripped Tate from Karen’s grasp and threw the kicking, screaming little boy into the snow. Heart racing, all thought gone from my mind, I threw myself upon The Fang whose boot hung in the air, poised above Tate’s head, and we went flying into a snowdrift.

I righted myself first, climbing atop the man, and pummeled him with everything in me. Rage filled me and boiled over. I remember the blood splattering across my face, some my own as my knuckles tore open a bit more with each hit, but mostly from The Fang, a dirty looking man with five o’clock shadow on his entire head. His hood fell back, and the scarf that covered half his face was soggy with blood.

Below each eye, the tattoos of fangs marked him as a bona fide member of The Wolf’s Fangs. The quality of the first tattoos meant he’d been a member for a while. Since before they ran out of traditional ink a year and a half ago and had to start making their own. Since before the legitimate tattoo gun broke a year ago, and they had to do it the old-fashioned way. He’d been a Fang for at least a year and a half. Maybe longer.

The number of fangs tattooed beneath his eyes, rimming the socket, denoted how many times this particular Fang had bitten for his master. Four beneath one eye, and five under the other. Nine times, he’d killed for The Wolf.

Another Fang followed, crushing snow beneath sprinting feet, leaving the other two struggling to contain Karen’s fury, all 5’4” of it. They shouldn’t have separated mother and child. Swearing and screaming and flesh-hitting-flesh rang out behind me, with Tate crying in the snow not far off to the right.

“Stay there, Tate!” I screamed, sending another fist into the face of the man who would have killed my nephew.

Anger almost got the best of me, and I momentarily lost track of the assailant approaching me at full tilt. As the Fang beneath me faded, head lolling to the side in death, I sprang to my feet. I spun, just in time for another Fang to barrel into me, a palmed blade ready to sink into my flesh.

Back down into the drift I went, and this time, I didn’t come out on top. The Fang hadn’t expected me to turn, so his blade merely gashed my side, rather than digging in. Unbelievable luck.

Twisted up in the cloth of my jacket, the spin also jerked the knife from my assailant, sending it flying off somewhere. A miracle.

But that’s where the good news ended.

With something clenched tightly in his fist, packing it for rigidity, The Fang landed a solid blow, unfortunately, located squarely on my temple thanks to the awkward way we landed.

I nearly passed out then and there, retaining only enough consciousness to hear Karen scream out, “Stop! I’ll go with you if you just stop! Leave my baby alone!” Tears choked her voice, but it carried, nonetheless. All motion stopped, even the man sitting atop my chest stilled, unafraid of his seriously dazed victim.

“Please,” Karen begged. “Please, just…we won’t cause any more problems. Just…don’t hurt him.” I heard her slump to her knees, heard the rustle of fabric, and Tate’s whimpering as she pulled him to her breast.

I saw the grizzled Fang standing behind her spit into the snow, mostly blood. Bright red gashes lined his face, leaking openly. He jerked his chin up at the man on top of me, and my chest got lighter as The Fang heaved himself onto his feet.

Karen’s hands clutched at her son, pressing him tightly against her. Her pale face was rosy with the cold, and her long, black hair tumbled in a tangled heap, spilling free from the hood of her jacket, partially concealing Tate from view. Between her hair and his too-big jacket, I couldn’t see the boy’s face.

Rather than walking away, my assailant turned toward me. With black eyes rimmed with seven fangs and a cruel smile lurking beneath them, he pulled his foot back and slammed it into the left side of my head.

I remember the pain, arcing through every synapse, filling every cell of my body. I remember curling onto my side, watching through eyes barely open, clouded with the blood that dripped into them, as Karen and Tate were led away, sobbing. All our packs were gathered up and taken, as well.

Now, lying broken in the snow, the reality of their absence wallops me, leaving me breathless and gasping.

They’re gone. All three of them. Jesse is dead. Karen and Tate…who knows. Will they kill Tate? Or use him against Karen to keep her pliable?

Disgust burns within me at the thought, simmering beneath the icy hands of agony as they steadily rip my heart to shreds.

And what of me?

I’d been so sure I would die, even as I slumped sideways, rolling onto my stomach. The snow fell around me, sapping the warmth from my body. When darkness took me, I thought it the end.

But now, shockingly gentle hands roll me over, and the ground tips beneath me. Stomach roiling, I worry I may vomit, but manage to hold myself together. Barely. My eyelids flutter, stars exploding in my vision.

A shadow takes form, just beyond the starbursts. A woman.

Brilliant red hair tumbles forward, hanging in loose waves just above my face. A gloved hand pulls the scarf down from her nose and full mouth, revealing pale cheeks flushed with cold. Meanwhile, surprise registers in her shining emerald eyes. Turning her head to the side, she speaks in a voice that sounds a hell of a lot like salvation. “He’s alive.”

She leans forward, no doubt getting her pretty hair dirty with the blood that coats my face as the delicate strands brush my skin.

“Can you hear me?” she asks, very gently.

I nod. Sort of. The motion upsets my already spinning equilibrium even more, and my eyes fall shut, robbing me of the sight of her.

“Please,” I murmur.

But what could I ask? Please save them? Please help me?

She owes me nothing. She and her companions will likely take whatever they can from me, from Jesse’s corpse, from the body of the Fang that I killed. They’ll desert me, likely take the shirt from my back.

Why wouldn’t they?

Before I can ask her anything, the darkness claims me again.

*****

I am so excited to finally share this with you all, and to get this book out. It sits so close to home, literally and figuratively. It’s set in Southern Illinois, aka the place I’ve lived my entire life. I took some liberties with town names and distances between them, but ya know…creative license and all that.

It’s also deeply emotional. So many of my own experiences have gone into this one. Of course, the experiences were changed to fit the story, some exaggerated, some downplayed with the burden split across multiple characters. And some things were just experiences I dealt with secondhand during my internship days getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Regardless, a lot went into this novel, and I’m pumped to share it with you.

If you haven’t preordered your copy yet, all the purchase links are down below.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Amazon: http://mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/world-for-the-broken-elexis-bell/1136379380?ean=9781951335069

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/world-for-the-broken

Booksamillion: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/World-Broken/Elexis-Bell/9781951335076?id=7678409965374

All my books: http://www.amazon.com/author/elexis_bell http://www.elexisbell.com/my-published-works/

Book Research: Sometimes Google isn’t enough

Hi, guys!

We all know writing requires research, sometimes into unexpected subjects. I never thought my writing would require calculating space travel times and learning how bears show affection.

But here we are.

But there are things we need to research that can’t be found in a half an hour on Google.

Over the years, I’ve indulged quite a few hobbies. I’ve always been that person who got interested in what her friends were interested in. I never had my own thing (didn’t have the guts to) until recently. I’ve been writing creatively for over a decade and a half, but only recently did I begin to take it seriously.

And now, I’m grateful for all those other hobbies and still intend to collect a few more.

Because some things just need to be experienced firsthand.

For instance, before I ever picked up a bow, I assumed that the arm pulling back on the bowstring would get tired first. Nope. The other one does. It still has the tension of the bow being drawn, plus it’s holding the weight of the bow straight out from your body. Under tension.

Before ever setting foot into a garage, I never thought about the unbelievable strain working on a lowered car puts on your back. It’s much more comfortable to just plant your feet real fuckin’ wide and bring yourself down low enough to lean on the fender (with a microfiber cloth between you and the car…You don’t want to scratch the paint, you monster.)

Before I cleaned a fish for the first time, I assumed breaking a neck would be a simple trick of leverage. *shakes head* Nope. I’m pretty strong, and I struggled, hard.

Now, I do have a thin layer of insulation (thank you soda and candy) but I have trouble finding non-sweatshirt material jackets that fit me because my fucking arms are too big for women’s jackets. But I still had to hand that fish off to someone stronger and more experienced. I did clean it afterward, though, and it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Before getting into manual labor, I never truly knew the meaning of “farm strong,” because yes, it’s a fucking thing. Outdoorsy, hunting/fishing/farming types are probably pretty fucking strong, even if they have a belly from home-cooked goodies and beer. Because they have to be.

And while we’re at it, factories do not work the way you think. In theory, they should be streamlined and clean and smooth running, but they’re run for profit. Anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be fixed, won’t be.

Running a machine with a broken or malfunctioning part means that other parts have to be made to function in ways they aren’t meant to in order to pick up the slack. Which causes a domino effect of quirks and other malfunctions, and gives each machine their own unique “personalities.”

Before getting into video games, I didn’t realize Console vs. PC is a thing in the gaming world, with a lot of elitism involved. I also never realized that pre-built, store-bought gaming computers are never going to be as good as what can be built by the gamers themselves. So they build them, upgrading parts every so often or just building from scratch every few years.

To anyone who isn’t tech savvy (i.e. me), 3d printers can seem like magic. And just like magic, there are so many ways it can go wrong. Machinery malfunctions and improperly heated beds, errors or missing chunks in G-code, prints not sticking to the bed, filament breakage or clogging…The list goes on.

Drawing can be unbelievably messy if you’re using charcoal. And believe it or not, drawing a naked model in a room full of people…not awkward and certainly not sexual.

My point is, these aren’t things I learned from Google. These are things that came from personal experience.

They’re little quirks of doing something that aren’t strictly necessary in a generic how-to guide, but they make the experience human.

You don’t have to be an expert at everything your characters do. But maybe give their interests a shot.

(The legal ones, anyway. I don’t need any lawyers coming for me saying I encouraged their clients to try whatever they did.)

At the very least, ask someone who does those things. There are tons of real people in writing groups online, and stuff like this is where the massive Facebook groups, like Fiction Writing, really shine.

That’s where I learned that cremations of obese people can result in grease fires that get the fire department called over the amount of smoke. The former mortician answering questions in the group noted a preference to cremate larger people at night, for that reason.

So don’t spend every second of your life hunched over your keyboard. You need to experience things in order to write the little details that make your characters more realistic.

You need to live and be a well-rounded human being in order to write characters that seem real and well-rounded.

So get out there and try a new hobby. Your characters (and your readers) will thank you for it.

Now, if you haven’t noticed, we’re getting closer and closer to the release of World for the Broken. April 21st is just around the corner, barely over two weeks away.

If you haven’t preordered, you totally should. (You can do so here: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken )

I’ll be posting a special blog this Wednesday containing the ENTIRE first chapter. So, if you want a sneak peek before you order your copy or if you’ve already ordered and want to read a bit ahead of time, you’ll get your chance in a couple of days.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.