The Gem of Meruna: The Inspiration…And the Winners

Hi, guys!

It’s giveaway time, bitches!

But first, I want to talk a little bit about what brought me to this point.

I’ve talked before about the reason I’m rereleasing The Gem of Meruna (vanity press, not understanding anything anout the publishing world, etc.). Today, I want to talk about the inspiration for the story and the process of fleshing it out from there.

So, this story started out as a dream. I woke one day with visions of a girl with vivid purple eyes venturing through a dangerous forest and riding a massive (several stories tall) pure-white stag. In my dream, she was after a magical Gem that perfectly matched the color of her eyes.

But I didn’t know why.

That part wasn’t in the dream.

Now, since I tend toward the macabre, my conscious mind filled in corrupted animals controlled by a vicious dictator, slaughtering people left and right. That’s enough to motivate someone to want change.

But I needed a reason for Kiluna, specifically, to try to change things.

And that’s where her grandmother’s part of the story came in, with tales of the world before they lived in fear, tales of a magical Gem that could right their world…tales that no one else dared speak.

But Kiluna’s grandmother told her all these beautiful stories, told her that things could be better.

And thus, our heroine and her quest were born.

Of course, the story has blood and action, because my stories always have that. And romance, because I fucking love romance in my books.

But anyway…

This has been a hell of a journey. From start to finish, this book took about 4 months to write, but it’s been years coming back from the nightmare of the vanity press. For so long, I contemplated just shoving it in a dark corner and forgetting that it existed, mainly out of frustration and not knowing my options.

But I’m so glad to finally have this book out on the market in a state that doesn’t embarrass me. The original was woefully under-edited, but now that’s fixed.

It was so difficult to restrain myself during edits though. My style has changed a lot since the original release, and the temptation to make it conform to my new style was definitely there.

But that would have required a near-total rewrite.

Which felt a bit like cheating.

For the sake of not making it so that everyone who bought the original would feel the need to buy the new one to know the new story, I did no story edits. Only grammar/spelling stuff. I cut redundancies and tightened up sentences, but left the story as it was originally intended.

And now, with all the irritations of the vanity press finally behind me, I can move into the new decade with confidence.

And let me tell you, 2020 will be a big year, if I have anything to say about it. Lol.

I’ll be releasing World for the Broken and at least one (maybe two) high fantasy romances.

But for now, the thing that brought you here…

The giveaway winners…

*drum roll*

The winner from Facebook is Erin Brown and from Instagram, we have Taryn Chester. Both will receive a signed hardback copy of The Gem of Meruna along with all the accompanying book swag!

The grand prize winner, receiving swag, a signed hardback copy of The Gem of Meruna, and a signed copy of Annabelle, drawn from my email subscribers, is Rae Watson!

Congratulations to all of you!

I’ll message the winners individually later today (it’s fairly late, I just got off a 12 hour shift, and have to get up early), and I’ll need addresses to ship the prizes to. If I don’t receive a response within three days, I’ll have to choose a different winner.

For everyone else, pre-orders are still open until tomorrow.

Because holy freaking crap, release day is tomorrow!

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why we need “controversial” books

Hi, guys!

There’s a trend here lately, leaning our society toward sensitivity, and it’s creeping into literature. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for being thoughtful in your actions and your words. There’s no reason to hurt people unnecessarily.

It’s just that…there have been a lot of books throughout time, especially lately, that have been considered controversial.

But let’s be real here.

Sometimes…that’s exactly what we need.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Books about tyrannical governments can show us if our own government is…maybe taking advantage of its citizens.

A book about suicide might be the one that cues someone into the signs their secretly suicidal friend is sending out. That might be the book that gets someone the help they need.

Maybe someone in denial about the abusive, manipulative tendencies of their partner will read a book that features an abusive relationship and identify with the character.

Maybe they’ll be in denial about it still…until they hear someone else comment on how abusive and manipulative the love interest was, citing little behaviors that the real life person is dealing with on a daily basis but minimizing and hiding from others. Or until the love interest gets a little more abusive and kills the MC. (Or if you want a happy ending, maybe they try to kill the MC, but the MC fights back for the first time, and wins. Who knows.)

Maybe that’ll show the real life person that they need to do something about their own life before it’s too late.

A book about sexual abuse might show someone that they’re not alone and give them the courage to reach out. Knowing I wasn’t alone was all it took for me to tell someone what happened to me.

My point is, not all books need to be about role models who learn lessons from every experience in their life. Not all books have to feature relationships that are #goals or love interests worthy of being a book boyfriend.

Sometimes literature needs to show us the grit, the worst case scenario.

Sometimes it takes seeing the bad to realize what we need to do to fix our own lives, and books are a safe way to do that.

Sometimes books are meant to show us the less pleasant option.

Other times, they’re just meant to be realistic.

People have flaws. People make mistakes.

People do bad things and hurt the ones they care about.

It happens, whether it should or shouldn’t.

It’s part of being human.

So stop banning books because they aren’t fluffy enough. Stop banning books or shaming authors for having the guts to write about difficult topics or mean people or abusive relationships.

Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need in our books.

To show us what not to do or put up with. To challenge how we see things.

Now, the is rant over…Lol.

Guys, The Gem of Meruna rereleases in just a week and a half! I’m so excited to have this book out the way it should have been released the first time. It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s finally going to be made right.

Don’t forget to preoder your copy!

I will be hosting a giveaway, I’m just waiting for the books to get here before I officially open the entries. Just in case they get damaged or lost in the holiday mail or something.

So stay tuned. As soon as the giveaway copies get here, I’ll be announcing it. There will be stickers and magnets and bookmarks to accompany them. As with the Soul Bearer giveaway, the winner chosen from my email subscriber list will get a copy of my novella, Annabelle, as well.

(I just got a freaking amazing review for that one from Magic Book Corner, btw. If you haven’t yet, check out themagicbookcorner.com for loads of book reviews.)

Anyway, I’ve been busily editing Where Darkness Leads and hammering away at writing my new story, as well. I started on some formatting for World for the Broken.

All in all, last week was super busy.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why my book title had to change…

Hi, guys!

I finally announced the official title for World for the Broken this past week, and today, I thought I’d explain why I changed the title, to begin with.

Originally, World for the Broken was called After.

It was simple and easy to remember. It fit with the post-apocalyptic theme as well as the themes of coping and resilience.

But then the After series by Anna Todd hit it big. Then, it became controversial and absolutely blew up.

And I knew my novel would be buried under the avalanche of posts about her books.

I wen’t back and forth on whether to change my title or not. I toyed with the idea of keeping the title simply to have it show up in the same searches, but the people looking for her books (contemporary romance, possibly YA)…probably aren’t looking for a visceral, intensely dark post-apocalyptic romance.

Then, when I came up with World for the Broken, I fell in love with it. This title stands out quite a bit more. Obviously, it still fits the post-apocalyptic narrative.

And I’m so glad I changed it.

I had a similar thing happen with Salt and Silver. Not exactly the same, because the title wasn’t exactly the same. And the other book has yet to be released.

But I want my books to be unique, just like any other author.

So, here are a few quick tricks for making sure you have a good title for your book.

First of all, get feedback.

Just like every other aspect of writing, working in a vacuum without any outside influence isn’t the best idea. You need more eyes on your work and more opinions than just your own.

If you have a few potential titles in mind, don’t be afraid to ask other writers or perhaps book club members for their opinion. They know books. Of course, it’s best if they know the genre you’re working in, but ask away.

Second, think about which one embodies your book best. Genre, themes, and all.

Abandon catchy and trendy for just a second and dare to twist words around for effect. Words are so versatile. Double meanings abound. Maybe use a contradictory double meaning to your benefit, if both meanings fit your book.

Swap words around. Try synonyms. Try different variations of whatever you’ve come up with.

Okay. It’s time to go back for the catchy, trendy shit. Consider it briefly. After all, trends are trendy for a reason. People like them. And they work. Look at titles within your genre. Is there a pattern that tends to pop up a lot?

There are a lot of books out there that are “blank of blank” (City of Ember, Crown of Conspiracy, House of Night). Lots of book titles lately have just been a list of three things in the book, often with the first two obviously fitting together but the third being “random.”

Do those formats fit your book? If they do, use the shit out of them.

They obviously work.

Now, the advice lots of writers hate when it comes to the actual book, itself. Cut unnecessary words. For the love of everything good, there’s a reason book titles aren’t usually a full paragraph. It’s too hard to remember and no one wants to type a 14 word title into a search bar to pull up a book they heard about and were sorta interested in but wanted to look it up to learn more about it.

There’s a good chance that’ll drive away buyers that were on the fence.

Last but certainly not least, type it into amazon or google. Make sure there aren’t an absolute fuck ton of results. If there are, I don’t care how good your title is…you probably need to change it.

If a couple hundred things come up, your brand new book is not going to be at the top of the results. Not without a shit load of work on search engine optimization, a ton of build up before launch, and probably some paid ads.

Believe me.

I didn’t think about it when I titled my novella, Annabelle, and it DOES NOT show up unless it’s typed in with my first and last name.

Because…well, you know. Ghosty-possession movies or something. Some doll. I don’t know. Lol. I don’t watch horror movies often, so I haven’t watched them.

Anyway.

Picking a title is hard. I know.

But it’s important. Which means it’s worth doing it well.

Now, to hold myself accountable for the past week…

I’ve been alternating between knocking out some more edits on Where Darkness Leads and writing my new novel. I think I wrote about…3,000 words? So, nowhere near as much as I wanted to. That was only two good writing sessions.

But I have to keep editing so I can get these other books out. Lol.

I also sketched a quick map for the new story, made a gif and a trailer for The Gem of Meruna. I’ll be unveiling the trailer soon. I already posted the non-looped video from the gif.

All in all, not a bad week.

For now though, I’m exhausted. Work was…well, exhausting. Lol. It’s time for me to sign off and get some sleep.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Info Dumps and Why Not to Write Them

Hi, guys!

This week, we’re talking about info dumps.

What are they? Why do they suck ass? How can you avoid them?

Basically, an info dump happens when an author takes a break from the story to describe everything in the known universe.

From the color of the curtains (blue maybe?) to the person the MC bought them from and why they still have them up even though they don’t match the new carpet. From the rotational period of the world (high fantasy or science fiction) to the shape of the leaves.

Or maybe it’s important for the reader to know every single scar and pimple the MC has to make them relatable.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You can write a lot of detail and do it well.

It isn’t my personal style, at all. I prefer to cut my stories to the bone and see how the blood wicks across the page. I give relevant details for character development, plot development, and world building, but little else. I like my stories punchy.

But you can be detailed and write well.

The problem comes in when you decide to give all the detail…all at once.

That bogs down the story. Even the best plot can only carry so much weight. After so much detail, it gets too heavy and the story just kinda…drags the dead weight of the details behind it until all of its energy is depleted and it just slows to a crawl and eventually falls over dead.

Most readers can only tolerate a certain amount of description lobbed at their face in a single paragraph. Too much, and they get tired of it.

Is your character going to walk into a room in the middle of a gunfight and pause to survey the crown molding, the stain of the table, and the fabric of the couch in the next room (just barely visible through a doorway framed by elaborate, hand-carved original trim)?

No.

Are they going to space out during their true love’s heartfelt confession…to admire the blades of grass beneath their lover’s feet and how it bends in the breeze, the bark on the trees around them mottling sunlight and shadow, and every cloud in the sky (which happen to be shaped like their mother and their first grade teacher?

Fuck no.

They’re going to pay attention to the important things going on around them. If you’re in an action scene or a love scene (two of my favorite types of scenes), get the necessary description out of the way relative to the action.

Otherwise, it’ll just slow the scene down. These are scenes that are supposed to have people on the edge of their seat, gripping the book white-knuckle tight.

Not rubbing the bridge of their nose as their eyes cross while rereading the same paragraph for a millionth time because the detail is so convoluted they can’t focus. Or worse, skipping whole paragraphs because it’s useless to the plot.

Obviously, that’s not what you want.

But how can you avoid it?

First of all, give your readers some credit. People are intuitive. They pick up on things.

If your character settles in to watch some tv, you don’t have to tell us that they pick up the remote and press the red power button and watch the screen blink to life. You don’t have to describe what’s on every channel they flip through or the layout of the menu.

If you say that your character turns on the tv and flips through channels searching for something to watch…that’s good enough.

If your MC is sitting down, people will assume they used a remote. Almost all power buttons on remotes are red. If this one isn’t, it probably doesn’t matter, as far as the plot is concerned.

If they’re flipping through channels, clearly what’s on screen isn’t interesting to your MC.

Why would it be interesting to your reader?

Unnecessary details slow the story down for absolutely no reason. Cut a few out, and your story will benefit from it.

Basically, get to the fucking point.

Now, I mentioned describing things relative to the action. This is what separates a good detailed story from a bad detailed story, if you were wondering.

Describe things in relation to the character. Instead of pretending that you can step back from the story to describe the room while your characters just stand there…

Describe things relative to the character.

Why use one paragraph (or, god forbid, an entire page) to describe the decadently framed windows, the early morning sky beyond, and marble floors with rich mineral veins, then another paragraph to say that your character is pacing across the floor (the material of which was all important a moment ago, but now apparently doesn’t matter)?

Instead, maybe show them pacing across marble floors, backlit by the grey dawn streaming in through an extravagantly framed window.

That tells us that they’re restless, but in a fancy place.

Perhaps you’re writing a thriller. Instead of spending page after page describing the way the shadows bend in the night, blending into the evening itself (redundancy), then spending more pages telling us that the person is terrified of getting caught…

Tell us about the floorboards that creak beneath their feet, raising hairs on the back of their neck and churning their stomach. Maybe show us a nervous glance over their shoulder, rendered useless by the cloak of night which has fallen around them.

So, not quite so fancy because creaky wood floors rather than marble, and they’re trying not to get caught.

Still all the detail. Packed with all the feels.

But you’re not slowing your story (or your reader) down.

Maybe you just introduced a character and you’re struggling to avoid stopping to describe every detail about them. Do it in terms of their actions. Are they frustrated? Maybe they ball their hands into fists in their long silky hair, staring at the inky strands that sweep forward over hunched shoulders.

That tells your reader that the character has long black hair, and it’s soft as fuck. It also tells the reader that the MC is fast approaching a breaking point.

My point is, you can throw in a bunch of details and still have a good story. The key is to multitask. Don’t throw all the description in at the same time. You want to punctuate it with actions or speech.

I briefly mentioned another aspect of the multitasking thing in another blog, so I’ll recap it quickly here.

In Salt and Silver (new title coming soon), one of the MCs, Ness, is a demi-demon. That tells the reader a lot of things. It means that there are demons, and they can interact with (i.e. breed with) humans. Since people in that world know demons exist, because they can do it with them, that will affect how they look at the world.

Calling them demons and demi-demons sets up a contrast, implying that there are also gods in that universe and the people probably know they exist. Otherwise, why would the demons be called demons? If the humans didn’t know the gods existed, they would call the demons gods.

Had I made up a name for her race, I would have needed to explain that Ness’ race opposes another race of super powerful immortals and that both races have the ability to interact with the mortal realm.

I then would have needed to explain that the people saw Ness’ race as being bad and the other race as good.

But demi-demon explains all of that in a single word. No need for paragraph after paragraph of exposition. No need to stop the scene to describe the workings of their world.

Something so simple as a single word choice can be used to tell the reader a lot (coming back to that whole giving your readers credit and allowing their intuition to fill in some of the details). That allows you to keep moving forward without slowing the reader down.

Which makes it more likely for them to be sucked into it.

So please, be as descriptive as you do or don’t want to be, but don’t write a bunch of info dumps. You can do better than that, I promise.

Now, to fill you in on what I’ve been up to. I hammered through a lot of editing on Where Darkness Leads this past week. It’s going to take a lot more work, but it’ll get there.

I also put together a book trailer for Soul Bearer (which gave me practice for making one for The Gem of Meruna). I’ll be sharing the Soul Bearer one with you guys on Tuesday. Excited? I freaking am.

And I got a new scene written for The Last Settlers (prequel in the Regonia Chronicles) and brainstormed new story ideas.

But for now, I’ll let you all get back to your own writing journeys, hopefully with a little bit more knowledge to help you along your way.

Come back next week, same time, same place, for more writing advice and adventures. Subscribe if you want notified first when I post blogs, run sales, or hold giveaways. (Hint hint. I do have another book release coming up, maybe there will be a giveaway with extra stuff for email subscribers…)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Importance of Being Self Aware as an Author

Hi, guys!

As writers, we have to do a lot of analyzing. Our characters, the worlds they live in, our plots…All these things are thrown under the microscope.

But we should probably analyze ourselves, too.

See, there’s this thing that happens sometimes in writing called wish fulfillment. It happens when writers don’t analyze themselves or their plots or characters, and end up blatantly writing themselves into the story.

A lot of the these types of stories end up being corny and either predictable or statistically unbelievable.

And usually…not that fun to read.

So look at yourself. And look at your characters.

Now, look at you.

And now your character.

Are you just looking at yourself repeatedly?

If you are, you might have more problems in your story than you currently think.

I’ll be honest, my first full length novel likely held a lot of this, but was mercifully swept away by electricity. Back before cloud storage was so prevalent (circa 2008), the laptop and the external hard drive the story was backed up on…both fried.

So I’ve been spared the horrors of my first novel. Lol.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t give your characters experiences from your life and still have a good story. Often times, it helps, lending the story and characters a bit more realism.

But if your character is a carbon copy of you, you’re probably going to write a story that just bends to your whims, whether it makes sense or not.

That breeds plot holes.

A lot of them.

Because fiction has to make sense, and our little whims rarely consider logic.

If your character just happens to be the chosen one, okay. That’s a fantastic trope.

If everyone they know magically accepts them after hating their guts for literally their entire lives…eh…maybe okay. Depends on how much they need your chosen one. The stakes better be damn high.

But even then, there will probably still be some people who don’t like them.

The bad guy who’s been a bad guy for their whole life and completely outmatches your protagonist in every way isn’t going to change everything about themselves and bend to the whims of your protagonist just because it’s the end of the book and the romance tidied itself up so now you just want to resolve the other issues super quick.

Nah. Shit don’t work like that.

If they meet someone on their adventure and fall in love? Okay. I love a good story that also has romance.

If that person magically fixes literally all of your protagonist’s problems? Nah.

Life doesn’t work that way.

And unless you’re writing for Disney, that’s not gonna fly in your book.

People will pick that shit apart.

A good partner, a good love interest for a story will help them deal with things, help them see the good in themselves. But if they just magically fix all the problems in the protagonist’s life, that’s not realistic, and…is your protagonist even in love with them? Or are they in love with how easy that person makes their life?

A.K.A….How easy you wish someone would make your life?

So look at yourself and look at your story in reference to yourself.

If your book has a lot of things that are just too convenient but you like them…maybe you need to adjust it a bit.

Because the characters aren’t you. What you like and what you want in your real life has no bearing over the story.

So…maybe take a personality test? There are tons online. See if the results also describe your character to a t. If they do…maybe look a little deeper at the rest of your story.

Analyzing yourself will give you some practice for when you turn your critical eye on your characters.

Now, as for being critical…

I’ve been editing a lot. I finally finished the 3rd person to 1st person conversion of my post-apocalyptic novel. I’ll be telling you guys the official new title soon, perhaps with a little teaser of what the cover will look like.

Because the cover is designed, just not sized properly. I’ll have to make adjustments to it when I format the manuscript. (I won’t know how many pages it’ll have for each trim size until after that, and that affects the spine width. Just FYI, in case anyone was curious about how that little portion of publishing works.)

Anyway, to cleanse my palate a bit before making final tweaks to this one and doing formatting, I jumped into edits of Where Darkness Leads.

Anyway, I’ve kept you all away from your NaNoWriMo projects long enough. (Yes, that’s a hint.)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Many Much Thanks

Hello, all!

First off, I’ve got some news about the rerelease of The Gem of Meruna. I’m not going to do a full edit, or any extra editing, really. If I do, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to redo the copyright registration. So, unless I find a shit ton of errors as I’m going through it (picking out excerpts for marketing and doing the formatting), I’m going to leave it alone.

It’s already been edited and published in its current state, so it’s fine. I have to keep telling myself that, because I’m sorely tempted to do a major overhaul. You see, for whatever fucking reason, I wrote it in past tense.

Which…isn’t like any of my other stuff.

I don’t know why I did it.

But I did.

And I want so badly to switch it to present tense.

But the idea of redoing the copyright registration is less appealing than leaving it how I intended it from the start.

So, that speeds up the rerelease process. All I have to do is format and pick excerpts. New cover art is under way. Then, I can order proofs, and pick ARC readers. (That’s when I’ll set a release date, btw.)

I just want to do this right.

The first time around was such a mess, and I knew nothing about the publishing industry or what it takes to make it as an author, at the time. Not that I know all the ins and outs of this industry, now, but I know a hell of a lot more than I did five years ago. (I know that if a publisher is going to charge you to print your book, run the other way, as fast as possible.)

And not that I’m “making it” as an author, just yet, either. My day job is still 100% necessary. But one day, I’d like writing to be my job.

So I have to take the steps to do this right. This time, and with all my future book releases.

Of course, it helps that I’ve found a lot of writing friends online. I’ve learned so much from the people in the writing groups I’ve joined recently.

Which brings me to my next subject.

Thank you for reading this.

I start all of my blogs as if I’m addressing a lot of people, and I always assume that to be false. It doesn’t seem real that anyone would want to read my silly little ramblings, and I just assume that maybe three people read these blogs.

But, here lately, people have been mentioning stuff from my blogs in conversations and comments and messages…

I kinda had one of those “Holy shit, maybe I can actually do this” moments when I realized people are actually reading my blogs. I genuinely had no idea. The only comments I get are spam from gambling websites and shit. Lol. Obviously, those get deleted. (You guys know you can comment, right? Ask questions, say things, whatever.)

Anyway, author platforms, including blogs, are super important for connecting with readers and for networking and meeting other writers. I’m not great with technology, or socializing, so it typically feels pretty alien to me, like I’m flailing my arms and shouting at the screen and…not really getting anywhere.

So, to those of you who read these posts, those who comment or message on Instagram or Facebook, who talk to me in person about my books and my blog, and especially those of you who’ve read my books, those who’ve taken the time to leave reviews…Thank you!

Thank you, so freaking much!

I always doubt myself and my ability to get anywhere with my writing, but the support you’ve all shown me makes me think it might be possible. It means the world to me.

To friends and family, to my husband, letting me rant and ramble about books and publishing…Thank you! I need to vent and hear my ideas out loud, sometimes, so thanks for putting up with it all. Lol.

Well, for now, I think I’m going to sign off, and get some sleep. I had another 12 hour shift today, and I really pushed myself. I built 12 hours worth of tires in 9 hours, and it really took it out of me.

I just wanted to get this posted before bed because, well, that’s my routine. Plus, I’ll be out running errands all day when I get up, so there won’t be time.

I’ll be back next Sunday night/Monday morning. I’m on Instagram and Facebook through the week, though. And, I’m trying to get stuff up and going, so my Amazon author page is in the works, as well. Links are down below.

For now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.