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.

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.

Progress Report!

Hi, guys!

I’ve done something I maybe shouldn’t have. Or maybe I should have. Who knows.

At any rate, I’m excited about it. Lol.

I started writing a new story.

Yes, I should continue writing my sci-fi series, and I will. But it’s going back on the back burner for the time being. I’ll still add to it and work on it as I go, but this other story is calling me.

You see, I’m not a technology person. I’m a magic person.

I’d much rather plan out a magic system and create gods than calculate space travel times mid-writing session. There’s a reason most of my books are high fantasy.

I just love magic.

I love the idea of being more than just…human. That’s why the humans in most of my fantasy novels have access to magic or abilities. That’s why I write about humanoids (elves, orcs, and races I make up).

It’s also why this new story has NO HUMANS

.The characters are humanoids. They have pointed ears because I fucking love pointed ears. But they also have antlers and access to magic and all sorts of awesome shit.

I mean, these people redesign a fucking landscape, and I’m excited about it.
I know that doesn’t sound as epic as it actually is in the book, but I promise, it’s to die for.

Btw, after this book comes out, reread this blog. I promise that joke will hit differently. Lol.

You may think I’m a bit twisted for it.

But let’s be fair. If you read any of my books, you probably think I’m a bit twisted.

Anyway, the point is, sometimes you just have to write what you want to write. And this story is what I want to write.

I’m not condoning the abandonment of every project after it loses the “oooh shiny” effect of a new story. You do actually need to finish stories.

Which means actually writing them.

But I’m always worried that it’ll show through if I’m writing one story while my heart beats in another.

And I know I’ll knock this one out pretty quickly because it’s a fantasy romance story and I fucking love fantasy and romance. Plus, all the major scenes have already played through my mind.

I’m already 5,000 words deep (started handwriting eight days ago, started typing six days ago). The world is built, the Gods and magic system are in place, both mortal races have been created, and the main cast is assembled.

I have a title and ideas for the cover. I even made a little thing on Canva, stockpiling images I’m going to photoshop together for the cover. Lol.
And a kickass playlist is under way with songs specifically chosen for the story.

Basically, I’m pumped!

I’ve been in a loop of editing for months, trying to prep all my stockpiled manuscripts for release now that I’m officially self-publishing everything. I’ve done a round of editing on one story, then another, then another, then went back, and started the loop again, and then threw in a round of edits on a different one and…

Well, I’ve been feeling like an editor rather than an author. (Really, I’m a broke self-published author, which means I have to be an entire publishing company rolled into one person.)

But I was feeling like a fraud, like I wasn’t a real author because I was spending so much time editing and so little time writing.

I was even worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything or that I wouldn’t be able to write it if I did come up with an idea.

Yeah, I worked on The Regonia Chronicles off and on to keep the insanity at bay. (Seriously. Writing, creating worlds calms my anxiety. It gives my overactive mind something to focus on besides how terribly every aspect of my life could go wrong. ) The bits and pieces I wrote for Regonia, the chapters I added helped.

But the creative energy has been building.

And now, it’s all pouring out. Lol.

Don’t worry though.

I’m not screeching to a halt with my release prep. I’m still editing and all that.

The edits on Where Darkness Leads are pretty in depth, honestly. I wrote that one several years ago and I’ve learned a lot since I wrote it. Which is good for the stuff I’m working on now and for my edits.

But it also means that this round of editing is going to take some time.

Where Darkness Leads is going to take some serious work to whip it into release-ready shape, and…I have to write, too. I can’t just edit for months on end.

That ain’t me.

So, this super ambitious “release one of my stockpiled manuscripts every three months” plan I came up with (btw, I never officially announced that tentative release schedule, but that’s roughly what it was going to be) will likely have to be a bit more spaced out.

All beta reader feedback for Salt and Silver (to be retitled later, but this one has the wolf shifters and the demi-demon MC) has been received and considered. Necessary adjustments have been made.

I have all the swag I ordered for The Gem of Meruna, but I’m waiting for my book order to get here before I announce the giveaway. Holiday rush and all that means that the printing is slow and the shipping slower.

But it’s coming.

As with the giveaway when Soul Bearer released, winners will be chosen from Facebook, Instagram, and my email subscribers. And yes, there will be an extra prize for the winner chosen from my email subscriber list.

I’ll be officially announcing the new title for my post-apocalyptic story later this week. Once I do a final sweep for typos, I’ll be formatting, adjusting the cover size for final page counts, and revealing the cover to all you lovelies!

Keep an eye out for it. I’m pretty psyched about how it turned out (much thanks to my husband and my writing friends for all their feedback during the cover creation process, btw).

After that, I’ll have an official release date and set it up for preorder.

If you’ve been looking for a dark, dark, DARK post-apocalyptic romance novel, this is the one for you. Just saying. A book group I’m in requires a list of triggers on any book posts, so I was thinking through the list…and it’s almost all the triggers.

That wasn’t my intention when writing it, but that’s what happened. I didn’t even realize it until thinking through the list, either.

So…yeah. Readers beware, I guess? Lol.

Whew…that was a lot. As you can tell, I’ve been incredibly busy. They’ve been cutting back a little on overtime at work, so that’s helped me get stuff done. But it’s still been a hell of an undertaking.

But you know what?

I’m making my dream happen.

So I’m going to keep pushing and doing…all things bookish.

Just as you should do what you need to do to make your dreams happen.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.