A Heart of Salt and Silver: Inspiration and Process

Do you ever struggle to turn your brain off when it’s time to sleep?

Like… it just keeps going, anxious and desperate to pick something apart, and all you want to do is sleep because you have things to do the next day and it’s already so late and it isn’t getting any earlier, except that it sort-of is because now it’s early morning instead of late at night, but that thought doesn’t really help, it only makes you more anxious, which only makes it harder to sleep.

That’s the kind of evening that A Heart of Salt & Silver is born of.

Or rather, a series of those nights.

You see, there’s this little thing that I do on nights like that, a little trick to calm my restless mind.

I curl up and close my eyes. I picture a character, just fabricate them on the spot. Then, I drop them down in the middle of my head and see where they end up. My brain starts scrambling to put together a world for them rather than scrambling to assemble a to-do list for the next three months.

And then, I just watch it play out in my mind, letting that character wander through some random scene, some random event.

And it centers my mind.

Gone are the worries of the day. Banished are the stressors that have yet to hit me, the arguments that I’ve never had and never will have that my brain insists on playing out.

All that remains is that character, that scene, that world.

And I relax.

And eventually, I fall asleep.

If I have several of these terrible nights in a row, or if I have one a few weeks later, and happen to like the person my mind conjured, I’ll pick the scene up where I left off. Because my mind is a bit of a steel trap for these things. I’ll pick up the thread, and follow it wherever it goes until I decide that I like it enough to start actually writing.

And that’s how I got this book.

I imagined Ness, this demi-demon hiding in plain sight, disguised in human form, out in the middle of the forest. I conjured a man being chased into the little meadow she was trying to relax in, crashing through brambles and sprawling across the ground. I pictured the bandits chasing after him, one of them even stabbing him.

Then, Ness unleashed hell.

And I had to write the book.

Now, I don’t plan my books. But of all my books, I knew less about this one when I started writing it than with any others, with the exception of my current WIP.

What I said above is all I had.

I didn’t know why Ness was trying to relax in that meadow or any of the things in her past that she was hiding from. I certainly didn’t know the route her thoughts were travelling or the… act she was about to attempt, laying there thinking about her ex, Nolan. I didn’t know Nolan was werewolf.

I didn’t know that the bandits weren’t bandits, that one was a vampire and the other his pledge, a Nether witch, or why Elias was wandering through a forest chock full of dangerous immortals to begin with.

I just knew that those lives all converged at that one point, and I wanted to figure out why.

So, I started writing.

I got a few chapters in and realized that one of the bandits was a vampire, so I had to go back and adjust the first chapter to reflect that. Then, a few chapters later, I realized that the “bandits” were assholes.

More adjustments in chapter one.

And it just kept going. I found out more about the characters’ internal lives and even the premise for the book in chapter two, or at least part of it. I started pulling at that thread, and quickly realized that I didn’t have the whole plot yet.

About halfway through the first draft, I had an epiphany about the characters, one that solved all the problems I was struggling with at that point. It, quite humbly, stared me in the eyes and demanded an entire rewrite of everything I had, including the complete elimination of a few chapters, one of which I’ll be sharing with you tomorrow.

Things just kept spiraling, and what I thought would be a simple romance novella that just happened to be set in a fantasy world with immortals quickly became a dark and gritty novel with stakes so high that their world could shatter and so many fucking love triangles that it was more like a square with an X inside.

Normally, I hate love triangles, but the story had many demands. They were just one of them.

And it actually ended up being one of my favorite character dynamics in any of my books, because it isn’t just a simple “Oh, no, two hotties are into me, how will I ever choose?” type thing. (Btw, if that’s what you like to read, go for it. It just isn’t my thing.)

These love triangles are rooted in genuine psychological and emotional struggles.

And if you’ve read any of my books, you know that psychological and emotional struggles are always at the heart of every story. They’re my bread and butter. They’re the thing that hooks me.

The ones in this book, though not the darkest I’ve ever written, certainly aren’t light.

But I love the way they turned out.

It’s been such an amazing journey getting this book written and edited and ready for you to read. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Release day is tomorrow! Can you believe it? I can’t.

I’ll be posting a deleted scene tomorrow around noon (CST) and going live on Instagram for a reading of the first chapter and a Q&A session. Follow here so you don’t miss it.

Preorders are available here.

And as always…

Keep writing. Keep reading.

Later.

Swimming Against the Current

Hi, guys!

I’ve been melting my brain with computer crap this week. There’s been one tech-related issue after another with the final uploads of The Gem of Meruna. Some of these issues were my fault. Some weren’t.

I don’t understand what happened or how they got fixed, but I *think* they’re fixed. Idk. I have another eproof waiting for me to look it over.

I’ve also decided to put my post-apocalyptic novel into 1st person rather than 3rd, so I’ve been working on a complete overhaul. A shit ton of sentences need nouns swapped for pronouns, pronouns swapped for different pronouns, and verbs conjugated differently.

It’s a mess.

But I’m almost halfway through.

I got just a touch of writing in on the prequel for The Regonia Chronicles.

Basically…I’m a chaotic mess jumping from one thing to another. Lol.

Now, the main topic of this blog. We’re getting heavy this week.

Today, I want to discuss the value of books, and art in general.

Yes, books are a form of art. I’ve seen some debate about that, though I’m not sure why. Literature is one of the arts.

You combine skill, talent, and creativity to put something brand new into the world, something that resonates with people emotionally or challenges their viewpoints. That is art.

This means that writers are artists.

Now, I’m lucky when it comes to this (though I’m not really lucky in any other way).

I was always terrified that if I pursued writing, no one would believe in me or support me. I fully expected for everyone (even the most supportive people I know) to shit on my dreams.

It turns out…I’m really the only one who doesn’t always believe in me or my abilities.

My husband, my family, and my friends are unbelievably supportive. They acknowledge what I’m doing as something that I should be doing. (Thank you guys, btw. Seriously.)

But I know that not everyone gets that lucky.

A lot of writers get absolutely no support from their friends and family. They get mocked for their passion, and that takes a hell of a toll on a person. I see so many writers getting down on themselves in writing groups because the people closest to them don’t believe in what they’re doing.

And it saddens me.

So, for everyone out there who deals with being belittled, this is for you.

First and foremost, writing is an art and a science. There’s so much to learn to do it well, and so much creativity goes into it. It’s hard work. It takes dedication and skill and talent and time and effort and strength.

You have to be brave in order to put yourself out there, to let others read your work.

It takes SO MUCH to write a book.

And you’re doing it!

So whether anyone you know in person agrees or not, if they’re saying it’s easy and anyone could make stuff up, know that writing is an accomplishment, in and of itself. It is hard work. Having an idea isn’t enough. Everyone has ideas. Writing requires going deeper.

And you’re freaking doing it.

Second, the world would be fucking garbage (more so than it already is) if there were no artists. Again, yes, writers are artists. (That does include you.)

A world without art would be excruciating. There would be no books or paintings or statues. Obviously.

There would also be no music. Or movies. Or television shows.

Clothes would be boring and functional, made in whatever color/fabric is cheapest or easiest to get hold of. The same goes for shoes.

Makeup wouldn’t be a thing.

Furniture and buildings and cars would be completely functional. There would be no aesthetically pleasing aspects intentionally built into them. No designer would spend hours getting a single sweeping line correct, just to make it look good.

Cheap and efficient. That’s all we’d have.

Life without art would be terrible.

Which means we need books. And someone has to write them.

Now, as if the need for art in the world weren’t enough, we need books because people enjoy them. That, alone, gives them value.

Books help people escape. They help people learn about the world and themselves. Books challenge worldviews.

Whether your book is fluffy or hard-hitting, whether it has some deeper meaning or is meant to entertain…

It has value.

Thus, the process of writing it has value.

If you enjoy writing, if writing teaches you something about the world or yourself, that means it has value.

All the people who try to belittle your efforts simply don’t understand the root of it, the need for books or writing. That doesn’t mean they’re right.

It doesn’t mean your work is less important or less valuable.

It certainly doesn’t mean you should stop your work.

So keep going. Keep writing.

It doesn’t matter if your family says it’s a waste of time. Wanting approval or support is understandable, and going it alone (at least until you find your tribe of writer friends) is difficult.

But you’re creating something new. That takes guts and work.

As long as you’re still doing the things you need to do in order to survive (i.e. keeping a roof over your head, eating, sleeping…ya know, stuff like that) then how you spend the rest of your time is up to you.

So long as you know that your book is valuable, that’s enough reason to keep going.

And on that unusually positive note, I’ll draw this to a close.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Journey of the Mind

For those of you who don’t know me, I thought I’d take a moment to tell you a little about myself.

Writing is something I’ve enjoyed for a long time, and though I’ve only recently garnered the confidence to pursue it professionally. Throughout my life, I’ve come across so many stumbling blocks, that even the thought of counting them up is exhausting. Now, I’m determined to use all hardships, funneling them into my books.

When not writing, I indulge in a great many hobbies. Everything from reading to archery, from video games and Dungeons and Dragons to learning survival tactics. I even have my very own project car, though I still need a great deal of help doing anything with it. By and large, I have more hobbies than I have time for, especially since I also work full time in a factory.

My husband and I have an abundance of pets, some indoor, some outdoor. While I love our dog like a son, I find that, when it comes to any other animal, I am definitely a cat person. (A fact which, I’m sure, will be greeted with mixed reviews.) I prefer tea over coffee, any day of the week, another controversial fact, and I have an unbelievably insatiable sweet tooth.

Now, to bring it back around to the whole point of this website: my writing.

I LOVE writing. I genuinely enjoy getting to know my characters, and building the worlds they live in. I even sometimes feel guilty for the great tragedies I inflict upon them, of which there are many. For added realism, I tend to pick qualities I possess or experiences from my own life to build characters around. (I’ll let you all try to determine which are from my personal experience.) It’s fun for me to exaggerate these traits, and set them up against each other on the page. 

More importantly, it pulls the words off the page, shaping them into actual people. It makes the world I build with two-dimensional words that much more real for me, and, hopefully, for you, too.