Inspiration for Reclaim


When I first conceived the Reborn series, it was just supposed to be a trilogy, and it was just supposed to be about Siobhan and Jasper.

But as I was writing Relapse, I realized other characters in this world had their own, complex stories to tell. One of those characters is, of course, Carly. I’ll address my plans for the rest of the series in a future post, but today I’d like to share with you some of the things that inspired the third installment Reclaim, which releases February 15 (and is available for pre-order now!).

Reclaim initially came out of me psychoanalyzing my own book (Relapse), lol. I try not to censor what comes out of my head when I write (I don’t take something out else unless I truly hate it, it doesn’t make sense, or it ends up really not working). Although I make rough outlines for my books, the characters tend to take the story where they want it to go, and who am I to force them to go another way. (This probably won’t make any sense to you unless you are also a writer, haha.)

That being said…I didn’t like where I had left Carly at the end of that book. (Also, if you haven’t read the first two books yet, this is your obligatory spoiler alert.)

spoilers

Damseling

If you recall, Carly’s plot thread in Relapse ended with her realizing there was literally no way she (and Dolos) could get out of Pandora without help. Up until that point, Carly had been more proactive thinking about ways to get out, but eventually she had to accept that it wasn’t going to happen. They had to wait to be rescued.

Then, things got even worse for Carly. She’s part Olympian, but also part human, and so was weakening at a much faster rate than Dolos. She was dying, but Dolos used his ability to create illusions to distract her, and to lessen her pain. I don’t regret writing it that way because I wanted to show that, despite the act he showed to the world, Dolos was, deep down, a good guy, and he cared about Carly, a lot. I like writing those “awwwwww” moments that also kind of make you want to cry and give you lots of feels. (As a romance reader and writer, I enjoy those moments where you realize just how much the hero loves the heroine, and the lengths he’ll go to protect her. But thinking about it a little more deeply, this can sometimes be at the expense of the female character’s autonomy.)

As you know, at the end of Relapse, Siobhan did come to their rescue, and Carly was freed. Woot! Hooray!

Sure, Carly had a moment of weakness, and needed the help of a friend, but I didn’t want to keep her in that position. So I decided to center the next installment around her and how she would…ahem…reclaim her power.

Although I keep the details vague, you also get the sense in Carly’s part of Relapse that, as a child, she was the victim of abuse at the hands of her stepfather. In Reclaim, Carly gets an opportunity to confront this dark period in her life and some of the ways it’s still affecting her. And, just like Siobhan seems to have some pretty unique halfling abilities, Carly taps into a unique power of her own.

Let the Games Begin!

One thing you may remember about Dolos from Relapse is he likes playing games. (Whether he likes playing fairly is another story…) Games are also a theme in Reclaim.

By the way, Dolos’s alter ego is inspired by a combination of Jareth from Labyrinth and Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game trilogy (who probably also has a bit of Jareth in him). There’s enough of a twist on it that my book isn’t TFG fanfiction, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Smith’s influence on my writing. As you’ll see, the opening quote in Reclaim is from the first TFG book, The Hunter: “Sometimes you can’t return good for evil; sometimes evil simply has to be stopped.”

A year ago, when I was first planning out this book and thinking about this theme of games, I remember looking up game theory on Wikipedia. Which took me to a page on pursuit-evasion games, like the princess and monster game. This got me further thinking about portrayals of girls and women in video games, TV shows, movies…basically any form of media…although it is getting better, and at least people are acknowledging and talking about it. So Reclaim became a story about “princess” Carly, battling her own monsters–literal and figurative–and, ultimately, owning her own power.

It’s also just a fun book with some sexy scenes, some fight scenes, and lots of witty banter. 😉

Reclaim releases February 15, 2017.

reclaimcover

New Plan (and Other Important Updates)


If you’re seeing this, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and happy (and safe) New Year! This is my first post of 2017 and, although lots (and by lots, I mean two) exciting things are happening, Reborn series-wise, at the beginning of 2017, I am revising my publishing plan, so please bear with me.

reclaimcoverFirst of all, as an indie author, I’m probably never going to try to set a release date more than a month or two in advance, ever. Again. (For my fellow indie authors, what is your typical self-publishing approach? How far in advance do you set release dates and start marketing? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!) Obviously, big publishers plan ahead like this, but it’s not really working for lil old me. Unless you don’t care that I’ve changed the release date for Reclaim what feels like a bajillion times. (Or maybe no one’s noticed…)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to set general goals of when things will go out. After I publish Reclaim, for example, the fourth book will probably come out beginning of 2018. But I’m not setting exact dates anymore until it gets closer, because I end up feeling bad for inevitably pushing them back.

Reborn was the first book, so it was kind of natural that I waited until I’d had a few people read it and made changes and then decided to plop it up on Amazon. I had already started the sequel at the time, so thinking about when it might get released wasn’t as big of a deal either. I had a pretty good idea.

The bad-ish news: In case you don’t know where this is going, I’m changing the release date for Reclaim, again. It was supposed to be next week, and that’s not happening. I’m only pushing it back by a few weeks, but the release date is sort of a moving target. It will likely be in early February, though, and I will probably have a better sense of this next week.

Even a couple of months ago, when I set the January date, I didn’t know I’d be starting a new job this soon. Believe me, I’m happy I am, lol, but as a result I’m shifting things around. Not to mention I started this job with co-teaching a class and working on a grant that’s due in a few weeks, plus finishing up manuscripts from my previous position.

I don’t mean (or maybe I do?) to play the “I’m busy” card. We’re all busy with different things. But for my sanity, I need to push it back. And anyway, it’s not like I’m saying “woops, sorry, it’s actually not coming out until next year” or something. A few weeks helps me out alot.

Where I’m at: I had a friend who enjoyed the previous two books beta test Reclaim for me, and she loved it! (Which is a good sign. If you liked the first two books, you will probably like this one.) She had some comments I need to incorporate–nothing major, but she definitely pointed out a few things I think other people would notice. My editor (/my other friend) is helping me with more detailed edits. It’s in her hands right now, and I want her to take her time with it. She also has other things on her plate but helps me out with this because she’s awesome like that. 😉

The better news: I do, however, have the bandwidth to publish Revenge in the next week or two. The old version was previously posted here, but I took it down and made some changes (mostly to the ending). It will be available for Kindle and the other e-book platforms through Smashwords. This is easier for me to get up now because it’s pretty much done. As a novella, it’s simply shorter, and I’ve already made all of the edits to it I want to make. I also have some awesome cover art for it, made by my fabulous graphic designer Heidi.

Revenge will only be available in e-book format (in other words, no paperback version). It will also include an unreleased excerpt, likely about Anna and Eric.

To wrap this up, I’d thought I’d share my official to-do list with you, the same one staring up at me from my laptop screen, as further self-motivation:

-Read over Revenge one last time
-Format Rev. for Smashwords (shouldn’t take me too long since it’s already formatted for Kindle, just tweaking), publish
-Incorporate Y. and L.’s edits into Reclaim
-Upload pdf of Reclaim cover, order proof
-Format Reclaim for Kindle, Smashwords, publish!

Then it will be time to regroup, update my book notes, and let you all know the official plan for the rest of the series!

You can check back here or my Facebook page for updates on these two major projects. Happy 2017!

Add Revenge on Goodreads.

Add Reclaim on Goodreads.

 

 

 

WIP Wednesday December 14, 2016


This won’t be a long update post today, but I just wanted to let you all know I finished all of the edits/rewrites I wanted to make for Reclaim!

IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

christmas-unicorn

Lol, but seriously, I’m really excited. I’m definitely on track now to release this thing end of January (January 24, 2017, to be exact).

I’m going to order the proof of the paperback version soon to check that out. It will make it easier for me to read through it one last time. Hopefully I don’t realize there’s some catastrophic, super obvious plot hole that I missed during the rewrites. I don’t mind if there are little things people don’t like about it (you can’t please everyone), but I hope I don’t catch any glaring errors at this point, gahhh. There shouldn’t be. I’m just being paranoid.

Anyway, I’ll let a few friends read it and help me with edits, but other than that it’s pretty close to being done. So get excited!

I’m going to try to go on a social media detox during the holidays, but I’ll be back in January and will probably be super annoying about promoting this thing.

In the meantime, you can read the first chapter of Reclaim here, and another fun excerpt here.

Until then, happy holidays, and happy reading!

~S.L.

Excerpt: Scarefest


An early Thanksgiving “gift” for all of you, my lovely readers: the first full chapter of Reclaim!

No one has read this yet (so…feel special? lol), and this is of course before the final copy edit. And I guess it could still change a little bit between now and January, but probably not drastically since it’s mainly set up and reminding you about things that went down in Relapse. (And, if you haven’t read the first two books, spoilers abound.) In any case, hope you enjoy!

(You can read another excerpt here.)

*****

“Lower your elbow,” Alec says. Placing one hand on my waist, he gently coaxes my elbow down with the other. I stiffen under the intimate contact, and he pulls away quickly, taking a step to the side. “You were never going to hit any with your arm sticking out like that.”

Smiling, I glance at him out of the corner of my eye. “It’s just balloon darts, Alec.”

He sighs, crossing his arms. “I know. Sorry. I have a bit of a competitive streak, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“I haven’t.” Returning my gaze to the wall of brightly colored balloons, I align the tip of the dart with a red one in the upper right corner. With a flick of my wrist, I send the dart whizzing toward my target—and straight into the empty patch of corkboard next to it. The next two meet the same fate.

“Fudge,” I say, throwing my arms up in defeat. “There goes my career as a professional darts player. Your turn.”

Alec scoops up three additional darts from the counter and assumes a wide-legged stance, expertly lining up the first dart with the board. He pulls his arm back and snaps it forward again, the dart a silver and black blur as it flies through the air. It bounces off the board, dropping to the ground.

“I may have used a little too much force,” he admits.

I nod in agreement. “Just a little.”

His second dart doesn’t fare much better, getting lodged in the corkboard like all three of mine did. “Maybe you should just stick to football,” I tell him.

As if to prove me wrong, the third successfully punctures a blue balloon with a loud pop that makes me jump, even though I saw it coming.

Alec pumps his fist. “Score!”

Rolling his eyes, the attendant turns to check the tag  underneath the shriveled remains of the balloon. After rummaging underneath the counter, he tosses a neon orange bouncy ball in Alec’s direction. Alec catches it in one hand, promptly dropping it into mine. “I was hoping to win you a giant stuffed animal, but I guess this will have to do.”

“I will cherish it always,” I say, stuffing it into my pocket.

“Another round?” the attendant asks us, looking hopeful as he holds up three more darts. Alec and I glance at each other, then back at the attendant, shaking our heads politely. Heaving a sigh, he turns his back to us, moving to replace the broken balloon.

“Let’s go on some rides,” Alec says to me as we walk away from the game booth.

I shake my head. “Not tonight. I should probably get going,” I realize, checking the time on my cell phone.

“Come on. One ride. How about the Iron Demon?”

“I hate roller coasters…in case you’ve forgotten,” I add with a smirk.

He gives an apologetic shrug. “I kind of did. The haunted house, then,” he suggests, pointing behind me.

“No way. It’s too creepy,” I tell him, shivering at the mere thought of it. The haunted house consists of five or so dark, eerie rooms where an assortment of hideous characters lurk in the shadows, waiting to jump out and scare you. From the outside, it looks like an old, black clapboard house where an evil witch might live. I picture her inside, hunched over a large cauldron filled with a bubbling green potion. She kicks back her head and cackles, and I can almost hear the maniacal sound of it spilling from the windows, echoing in the empty alley beyond.

Alec sounds exasperated when he says, “It’s meant to scare little kids. Not us.”

“There’s a room full of clowns, Alec. Clowns. I’m not going in there.”

“Never mind. Sorry I mentioned it.” I catch him rolling his eyes before he turns away from me. “So, no roller coasters, and no haunted houses. Then how about the…”

His words become background noise as I stare into the alley next to the house—looking for what, I don’t know. The lights from the rides don’t seem to reach this corner of the park, where shadows gather like a thick, dark fog. But if I look hard enough, I can almost see the faint silhouettes of two people through the haze. Another shiver runs down my spine, but this time it’s not from fear, or even the cold autumn air. Anticipation coursing through me, I take a reflexive step toward the alley.

“Carly?” Alec puts a hand on my shoulder. “You okay?” His concerned voice breaks the trance. Shaking myself, I look up at him, smiling.

“I’m fine,” I insist. “It’s getting late. Let’s just go.” As we walk away, I take one last look at the alley, but the figures I thought I saw in the shadows are gone. Feeling strangely disappointed, I turn back around.

“I’m sorry about before. At the dart game,” Alec says. I assume he’s talking about that brief, awkward moment when he tried to adjust my throwing arm. “It was habit. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s okay,” I assure him. “I can understand that. It hasn’t been that long since…” I trail off, watching our shoes hit the pavement in sync as we walk through the amusement park. Waves of patrons stream past us in the opposite direction, talking and laughing loudly, cotton candy in hand.

“No, it hasn’t,” he agrees. “Carly, I…” When I look over at him, he’s avoiding my gaze, kicking a chunk of gravel along as we walk.

“Alec.” I stop in the middle of the street, forcing a couple of kids to go around us. “Why did you ask me here tonight?”

Alec pauses and holds my gaze steady. “I…I guess I just thought that maybe…” He takes a step closer to me. “I still care about you, Carly. I want to get back together. I—I thought you might want the same thing.”

At first, I’m too stunned to speak. I shake my head slowly, sounding apologetic but firm when I finally say, “No. I’m sorry, Alec, but I don’t.”

“No,” he echoes sadly. “Well, I guess I sort of expected that. But I have to ask—why?”

Why?” Feeling flustered, I try to remember why I even agreed to meet Alec at Playland in the first place. I should have realized when he “wanted to talk,” it was about getting back together. Instead of thinking it through, I had jumped at the opportunity to get out of the sorority house, which I hadn’t left in days. Hot, angry tears sting the backs of my eyes, ready to burn their way down my cheeks. “You can’t be serious. You dumped me in front of the entire Greek Quad—then had the nerve to ask for your lavalier back.”

“Carly, I was trying to—”

“And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, your fraternity sacrificed me to bring one of your brothers back!” I didn’t know it at the time—didn’t know why the Sigma Iota brothers lured me to their basement and forced me through the portal that took me to Pandora, the space between universes. It wasn’t until later that I found out it was an exchange, a way to bring one of their leaders back from Olympus while maintaining the balance between our worlds.

“Yes, my fraternity! Not me!” He takes a step closer to me. I remember a time not so long ago when he would come up to me and scoop me into his arms, and I would rest my head on one of his broad shoulders. Now, he leaves a sliver of space between us, a few feet that feel like a mile. His golden skin looks paler than usual, pulled tightly across angular cheekbones. He lifts his hands as though to reach for mine, then brings them back to his sides. His dark eyes fill with tears. “I tried to stop them, Carly.”

“What about afterwards? You didn’t come after me or even try to get help. You weren’t at the ritual when the others came to rescue me—”

“I had no idea they were going after you—”

“Stop it!” I shriek. A few of the people standing in line at the rubber duck game look over at us curiously. “Stop making excuses,” I say, lowering my voice. “There’s nothing you can say to make this better.”

Alec nods, seeming to accept this. “I get it. I do, and I’m…sorry. I really am sorry.”

“Me, too.” I shudder as a biting wind blows through the park, cutting through my denim jacket. It whips a lock of Alec’s black hair across his forehead. I dig my hands into my pockets, resisting the impulse to smooth it back.

“I shouldn’t have asked you out tonight,” he continues. “I should have known…plus, if my brothers find out…” He glances over his shoulder as though expecting one of his Sigma Iota brothers to appear behind him.

“I won’t tell if you won’t. Well, I guess I’ll see you around,” I say, turning to go.

“Just tell me,” Alec says, and I turn back around to face him, “there isn’t someone else.”

I roll my eyes. “Because the only possible reason I could have of not getting back together with you is that I met someone.”

He sighs in frustration. “That’s not what I meant.”

I open my mouth, entertaining, for a moment, the idea of telling him everything about my time in Pandora—about the other prisoner, my only companion in that dark, never-ending abyss. Then, the final words he spoke to me resurface, piercing through me all over again like a flurry of tiny darts.

“I’m a liar, Carly. You said so yourself. And you were right all along…I tricked you. I wanted to play with you a little while longer. And you let me…”

I shake my head. “No. There’s no one else.”

Alec looks relieved. “There’s no one else in my life, either.”

“I hope you find someone, Alec,” I tell him, my voice small. “I hope one day you find her—the woman of your dreams.”

“I hope you find the woman of your dreams, too,” Alec says in a half-hearted attempt to lighten the mood.

I laugh despite myself. “And I hope one day we can be friends. You know, when our houses stop this whole mortal enemies thing.”

He nods. “No matter what happens, I consider you a friend, Carly.”

“Goodbye, Alec.” Unsure of what else to say, I leave him standing next to the booth with the rubber duck game, feeling his eyes on me as I walk away.

I head back toward the park entrance, passing other game booths and rides along the way. Lights flash all around me, brightening the night sky in brief bursts of color. The late night crowd at Playland is mostly composed of people on dates and cliques of rowdy teenagers. Like the group currently loitering off to one side of the arched entryway. The boys are wearing shirts with band or beer logos on the front, pants hanging loose over their boxers. The girls have on shiny tops that don’t come down quite far enough over their form-fitting leggings. None of them are wearing jackets, preferring to look cool over appropriately dressed for the middle of October.

I feel wistful as I watch them talking and laughing, passing a large bag of kettle corn back and forth. I missed out on those carefree years, my adolescence filled with secrets and silence instead of friendships and laughter. Back then, I felt older than my sixteen years, already jaded. Now, watching this group of teenagers, I realize just how young I really was.

“BOO!” a voice bellows in my ear. I jump, letting out a scream to rival those coming from the Iron Demon, and spin around to find a figure in a black, hooded cloak looking just as startled as I am.

“Someone’s a little jumpy,” a muffled male voice says from behind the hood. Shaking his head, he walks away to join the zombie smoking a cigarette over by the ticket booth. The teens with the kettle corn are pointing at me, laughing. Heat rises to my cheeks, and I look away from them. I had forgotten Playland was in the midst of Scarefest, its month-long Halloween event. The zombie and the grim reaper must work at the haunted house.

Glancing around for an escape route, I spot a dark purple tent across the way, the signpost outside of it advertising:

Madam Moira

World-renowned fortuneteller

Divines your future for a $10 donation

I crack a smile at the word “donation.” Nevertheless, I hurry in that direction, avoiding the amused glances and mocking laughter still being thrown my way. For ten bucks, I’m not sure Madam Moira could tell me all that much, but maybe she could at least tell me if I’m going to ace the Concepts of Math midterm I haven’t studied for.

I slip inside the tent to find a hunched figure, draped in a midnight blue cloak, sitting at a foldout table littered with flickering black candles. Directly in front of her is a crystal ball mounted on an iron stand, seeming to emanate a light of its own.

“Who dares to disturb the meditation of Madam Moira?” a dramatic voice says from beneath the cloak. A hand rises to knock back the hood, revealing a tumble of black curls and two dark brown eyes set in an olive-toned face. Madam Moira gestures for me to sit, her large gold hoop earrings swaying from the movement. I take the other chair quickly.

“Ten dollars for a basic reading,” Moira says, holding her hand out expectantly. Her nails are fake, painted a glittery black with a clear gem adorning each tip. I get some money out of my purse, laying the bills in her outstretched palm. Her fingers close immediately over them, cramming them into the velvet pouch on her lap.

“What is your name, child?” she asks me, full, red lips curving into a tranquil smile. I try to hide my amusement at the question. Some psychic she is.

“Carly.” I shift uncomfortably in the chair. The seat is covered with a lumpy gold cushion that makes me feel like I’m sitting on a Jell-O mold.

“Carly,” she repeats thoughtfully. “Daughter of the true gods.” I go still at the words, forgetting the cushion situation. “Tell me, Carly. What has brought you to seek the guidance of Madam Moira?”

Carly,” I begin, mocking her use of the third person, “would like to know what the future holds.”

Moira nods knowingly. “Before we proceed, I must warn you: I do not sugarcoat my readings,” she says, arching a thick, well-shaped eyebrow. She has a faint, unfamiliar accent—must be another part of her act. “Many think they want to know what the future holds. But you may not like what you find there. Would you still like to proceed?”

Of course—I just paid you ten dollars, I think to myself, but all I do is nod, encouraging her to continue.

“Very well.” Moira’s piercing eyes shift to the crystal ball. She stirs the air above it with a flourish of her hands. “You have recently returned from a perilous journey,” she continues, glancing up at me. I give her another nod. “Journey” is pretty vague, even a perilous one. That could mean anything. It could refer to my trip to the grocery store this morning and the truck that almost backed into my car in the parking lot.

Creases burrow across her forehead as she peers into the ball. “I see a field. An endless field with tall, green grass. A great wall surrounding a city. An elderly man, standing guard.” Madam Moira pauses for effect. My heart starts to pound, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.

“I also see a…forest.” I don’t know if I’m imagining it or not, but it looks like the light inside the glass ball is starting to swirl. “And a creature—a gorgeous creature with a shining mane and a glittering”—she squints as though even she doesn’t quite believe what she’s seeing—“horn. A great, gaping pit of fire, mountains looming in the distance.” Moira blinks a few times, wavering in her chair. “I’m sorry. I’m only getting snapshots—everything is so jumbled and disjointed. Now, there’s a room—a dark room with stone walls and an iron throne—”

“That’s enough,” I say, standing up so quickly I almost knock the chair over. Concentration broken, Moira shifts her gaze to me, looking taken aback. “I mean…that’s okay. None of that matters, anyway. It’s in my past…not my future.” I turn to go, unable to listen to this a moment longer—to her abbreviated version of everything that happened in Pandora, an adventure that turned out to be nothing more than a fancy trick.

I wasn’t alone in Pandora, although I didn’t know my prison had a name at first. I thought I was trapped in an eerie, dark palace, held captive by a mercurial, white-haired prince. He sent me on what turned out to be a pointless quest to win my freedom. On my journey, I was tested three times. A test of the mind to enter the city. One of strength to get across a burning chasm. A final test of the heart to choose my own freedom and getting home to my sorority sisters over an imposter Alec. As it turned out, the entire journey had been a distraction created by the prince, who wasn’t a prince or my captor at all, but a fellow prisoner.

“I see a boy.” Moira’s lilting voice brings me back to the present. “A boy with two faces.”

“Who told you all of this?” I ask, sitting down again. “Was my roommate here? This isn’t funny, Victoria!” I say loudly, just in case she’s hiding somewhere, watching me make a fool of myself.

“You care about him,” Moira says, eyes sad.

A tear escapes down my cheek. I wipe it quickly away. “It doesn’t matter. He’s gone. He left me.” I’m not really being fair to Dolos, Moira’s boy with two faces. One, the face of the blonde prince holding me captive—the other green-eyed and dark-haired. The real Dolos, the god of trickery and deceit. When we were rescued from Pandora, I returned home, and so did he, as I found out later. Even though I had already suspected as much, it had taken me awhile to truly digest it—to accept I would never see him again.

“He is not gone,” Moira assures me. “He’s just in hiding.”

I shake my head. “But that would mean—”

“You have known so much loss in such little time,” Moira interrupts me, shaking her head gravely. “A sister in jeopardy. Trapped.”

“Yes!” I cry out, nodding eagerly for her to continue, despite the abrupt change of topic. “Siobhan. Is she okay? Is she alive?”  My sorority sister, Siobhan, was the one who braved Pandora to rescue us. Once I was safely out, she never came back through the portal, and Victoria and the others ran out of time, forced to close it behind her.

“She is hanging on.”

“Do we save her?” I lean forward into the table. “We have to get her out of there. She’s important.”

Moira’s eyes take on a sudden intensity when she replies, “You’re both important.”

I shake my head. “You don’t understand. She saved me, and I think she’s going to save all of us—the whole world, even. We need her.”

“Siobhan is the sword. You are the shield.”

Her cryptic words do nothing to reassure me. “What the heck is that supposed to mean?”

Instead of answering me, she says, “You need to save the others, first. They are trapped in a different way. Transformed.”

As Victoria updated me upon my return, Hera had spied on our sorority, deeming us unfit to perform our duties as guardians of the wall between universes. As punishment, she turned my sisters into doves.

“Will we be able to save them, too? Change them back?” Moira nods. “How?” I press her.

“Before the day is done, go to the place where three become one.”

“I don’t need another riddle.” I had my fill of them in Pandora. “You’re going to have to give me more than that.”

“You will embark on a dangerous quest.” Moira points a long, manicured fingernail at me. “Sacrifices will be made. Prices will be paid.”

“I think we’ve had to make plenty of sacrifices already,” I say, anger suddenly surging through me.

“You will have to choose.”

“Choose? Choose what?”

“Your sisters or your lover.”

“I think I’ve heard enough.” This time when I stand up, I send the chair clattering to the ground. I was right in the first place. Madam Moira is nothing but an actress. And a mediocre one at that. She got lucky with her guesses. Although I’m not a complete nonbeliever—some people probably are psychic, have “the sight,” whatever you want to call it–but certainly not some ten dollar fortuneteller at an amusement park.

“I warned you,” Madam Moira calls out behind me. “The future isn’t always an easy thing to hear.”

“Neither are your lies,” I tell her without looking back.

“The beast is coming.”

The words stop me in my tracks. Not just the words—Moira’s voice has changed. It’s deep and distorted, like someone or something else is speaking through her. I should bolt from the tent, but fear keeps my feet nailed to the ground. I twist my head slowly to look back over my shoulder, afraid of what I will find when I do, but overcome with an unshakable curiosity.

Moira’s eyes have rolled into the back of her head, leaving only the whites and a spider’s web of red lines. “It rises again,” she bellows. “It returns for the hunt. To devour its prey.”

“What beast?” I ask her, voice quivering. Forcing myself into motion, I back away slowly, unable to take my eyes off of her.

“The beast is alive. It is close. So close.”

“Where is it?” Suddenly, my back hits the wall of the tent, stopping me from going any further. The material gives way as I sink further and further into it. “What does it want?”

Moira fixes her white gaze on me. “You.”

reclaimcover

WIP Wednesday: September 7, 2016


This is probably going to be a short and sweet update, but I got excited this week because I’ve actually made substantial progress editing Reclaim! As I’m sure you could tell if you follow this blog, I was getting discouraged for a while, but now I’m pumped again to put this book out into the world! I’m about 70% done with the edits I want to make, which means I can still put the book out this year, haha. I know, I know…I’m slow. I mean, I know people who have written more books than I’ve been able to edit this summer, and it’s been taking me forever to get this book where I want it to be. But now I’m finally, slowly but surely, reaching that point.

I had announced a few weeks back that I was delaying the publication date a bit (to December 6, 2016). If I’m happy with it before then, I’ll try to release it earlier, but for now expect it to come out in December.

As far as other updates go, the gofundme campaign is still up if you are willing and able to make a small contribution (the green button to donate is on the right side of this page). 🙂 Thanks to those of you who have already been able to do so. I’m $75 dollars from the halfway point–once I hit $250, I’ll post the first half of chapter one to the blog, and the rest of it once I reach my $500 goal!

If you aren’t able to donate, that’s of course okay, too! You can also support the Reborn series by taking a minute or two to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or by nagging the author (a.k.a. me) about when the next book is coming out. (Because it’s nice to know that there are people out there excited to read it! I hear from a few of you from time to time, so thank you for the kind words and encouragement.)

Thanks again for following along, and happy reading!

Upcoming Cover Reveal and Updates


I like to try to check in at least once a month, even if I don’t have a lot of new updates (which has been the case for the last several months or so, lol). My only major update has usually been “I’m still working on the edits to Reclaim…I swear…” I always think I’m going to be further along with it than I am, but honestly these things just take time. I feel a little nervous that I haven’t let anyone read it yet, but I’m trying to get it into a form that I’m not too embarrassed to let people read yet, haha.

I’m not even changing that much, but there is one kind of important thing that I realized wasn’t working and desperately needed to fix. Last week I was really struggling with how to do that and was feeling frustrated and whiny. I don’t usually like to whine in my blog posts (at least I don’t think I do…), so that’s why I held off on an update post until I was over it. Luckily, over the weekend inspiration struck, and I feel like the edits are going smoothly again. Right now the release date is set for October 25th, 2016…I’m keeping it that way for now; if I do end up pushing it back, it won’t be too much further out (maybe like November). I’m not going to put something out that I don’t think is ready, but one of the nice things about being indie is that I have complete control over the schedule (muahahahaha!). So I could probably still do everything that needs to be done in five-ish months…

Also, I totally put revisions to Revenge, the short story I posted on here last October, and publishing it as an e-book on the back burner. I figure I’ll go back to it once I’m feeling more confident about Reclaim, but right now book three is the priority.

That all being said, I do have one important/exciting announcement! I’ve finally set a date for the cover reveal, which will be on Thursday, June 30th. If you are a book blogger/author/reviewer and would like to participate, please fill out this form (it’s also pinned to the top of my Facebook page for the next few weeks). I won’t share your information with anyone, and all I really need is your blog or web site link so that I can send out links to everyone participating–it’ll be like a blog hop. You can sign up until Sunday June 26th.

Thanks for following along, and happy Thursday. 😛

 

Add Reclaim on Goodreads.

WIP Wednesday: The Mess


I was at a lecture a few weeks ago given by historical fiction author Geraldine Brooks. Not really what this post is about, but, if you ever get the chance, I recommend going to hear her talk. To be honest, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, and I had never really heard of her before I went to hear her speak–I really just went because she’s a writer and it sounded interesting. (I was apparently the only one who didn’t know who she was, though. The place was packed.) She used to be a journalist covering the Middle East so, in addition to talking about her recent novel The Secret Chord, she had a lot of stories and insight to share.

Anyway, something else she said stuck with me. She said someone asked her author friend once what her writing process was, and her friend replied something like: “Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess…..art.”

Of course, you had to be there, but when she said it, everybody laughed–many writers in the room knowingly. Because often that’s what it feels like. You start out with the “word vomit”–just getting the words down on paper, not worrying too much about egregious grammar mistakes, typos, or the giant, gaping plot hole you might not catch until later. The first draft–and the second, maybe even the third–can be something of a mess. What Ms. Brooks said reminded me of another quote about first drafts, attributed to Shannon Hale, that I like: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” (I love that one.)

That’s what I’m doing right now. Around the end of February, I finished the first complete draft of Reclaim, and now I’m cleaning it up, trying to build sand castles. And it is a bit of a mess. (I mean, I found a part toward the beginning introducing a plot thread I had decided early on to take out. So I didn’t carry it through the rest of the book, but that little section was still in there. It was very satisfying to just highlight, hit “delete,” and move on.)

I’m not actually changing anything major. Although I had an outline for the book, the characters had minds of their own and–as they always do–took the story in some unexpected directions. But I like where they took me, what they revealed about themselves and the essence of the story.

But there are edits to make, and sometimes I feel like it’s going to take me forever. I get discouraged. Frustrated. Especially when other work takes over and I have to put book writing/editing on the back burner for a few weeks. It usually ends up being a good thing when I take a break from it. My subconscious has a chance to sort out some of the issues that have been nagging me, and I go back to it feeling refreshed. But it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty when I can’t work on it every single day.

Thanks for following along, and I’ll continue to check in monthly as the journey to book three continues. I do have the cover, so we’ll do a cover reveal at some point, in a few weeks or so. If you’re happening upon my blog for the first time, you can find out more about my books and WIPs under the “My Books” tab on the main menu. Until next time, happy reading!

~S.L.

 

WIP Wednesday February 10, 2016


Hello dearies! I have finally made enough progress on the ever mysterious Book Three that I felt a short update post was warranted.

I managed to keep my “resolution” of writing about 500-1000 words per day in January. At the beginning of January, the book was at about 38,000 words, and now it sits at around 75K!!! (So, that means I added about 37K to it in the month of January at a pace of about 1200 words per day. What really happened is that some days I wrote nothing, and other days I pumped out entire chapters.) This means it will probably end up being the same length or a little longer than Relapse, which was my original goal. Yay goals.

February will be my major editing month so that it can be fit for beta readers’ eyes. I know there’s a section of Part One that is a MESS because I got fed up with editing it and just decided to worry about it later. Later is now. Also, I’m sure that–even though I’m currently feeling super happy about everything I wrote–I will inevitably want to go back and change a bunch of things. But, at least now I have words on pages to work with, instead of just a bunch of blank pages. There’s nothing really major I would change about the basic plot threads at this point. Some sections will need augmenting, while others will need pruning or cutting altogether.

That being said, there are a few things I’m already worried about with this book, before anyone else has even read it: 1) that it’s not sexy enough, and 2) that it’s sad (the two are not necessarily related…unless you are sad that it’s not sexy enough).

Although my books have a lot of other appealing qualities (if I do say so myself), I think my readers have begun to expect a certain level of sexiness from them, for obvious reasons. And I still consider this series, as a whole, to be more of an erotic urban fantasy series. But, as you know, this is Carly’s book, and she’s not as…liberated?…as Siobhan is. Siobhan is very attuned to the sensual, while Carly’s darker past has made her almost the opposite, except maybe around one particular guy. That’s not to say that there aren’t sexy parts in this book–there just probably aren’t as many as the first two books. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I should wait and see what my betas think of it first. I definitely want to stay true to her character, though, and not just amp up the eroticism for its own sake, if that makes any sense.

About the second point (it being too sad)…I should say no more for now, lol. Sorry. I’m probably a terrible person for even bringing it up.

Overall, though, I’m excited about it, and I think my readers will enjoy it. Book Three will give you plenty of “feels.” I just have to keep plugging away at the edits.

And while I’m doing so, I will try to pick out a short excerpt or two to post. It’s been a long time since I posted any teasers, and I’m dying to share one with you. I was hoping to post something fun this weekend for Valentine’s Day, but it might not be from this book. I’ll have to go back through the random things I’ve written to see if there’s anything romantic enough, ha. (My writing has been a little darker lately, so I’m not making any promises.)

Happy early Valentine’s Day, and–if you’re living in a state getting hit by the arctic blast coming this weekend–stay warm! (Or, if you already live somewhere warm…eff you. Just kidding…)

 

WIP Wednesday for October 14, 2015


Transcript:

Hey guys, for my monthly update post, I’ve decided to do a vlog. I have a few general updates about what I’ve been working on, and then I have a special announcement just in time for Halloween!

First off, as many of you know, I’ve primarily been working on book three in the Reborn series. This is “Carly’s book” as I’ve been calling it. It’s told entirely from Carly’s POV at this point. Right now, it still doesn’t have a firm title. I had a title I thought I liked and then decided I didn’t, so it’s back to being “Carly’s book,” but I know I’ll figure it out! I was working on it pretty steadily for awhile, and then I sort of took a brief break from it. I’ve sort of been hopping around projects recently, but right now it stands at around 38K, so it’s about a little more than a third of the way done, I think. I like to split my books up into three parts, so that means right now that part one is finished, plus a little more. I had mentioned on the announcements part of my blog that I was aiming for a 2016 release date, which I’m still definitely on track for. To be honest, I’m aiming right now for a release date sometime in October of next year, which I know is a long time to wait, but for whatever reason–to go along with the theme and the atmosphere in Carly’s book–I’m planning to release it around Halloween. But, I am also a very impatient person, so if it’s ready before then–if it’s edited and has a pretty cover and I feel like it’s ready to go, I will try to release it before then. But it will still likely come out next fall.

As I’ve said, I’ve been hopping between projects, and another project I’ve started is a book from Anna’s point-of-view–mostly from Anna’s point-of-view, I should say. I’ve always wanted to write a book that focused on her. As you might remember in Reborn and Relapse, she is Siobhan’s good friend from high school, and in Reborn they have sort of a reunion and reconciliation–there are a lot of “r-e” words that could be possible titles I guess. Anyway, I had ideas for it but have always struggled to start it. Well, I finally wrote a beginning for it that I liked. So, right now, it’s in the very preliminary stages. I don’t really know where it’s going–I have no idea when I would even release it–maybe, if all goes well, around the same time as the third book. We’ll see. This would also a book that I think would be told partially from Peter’s point-of-view. I think it would be really fun to get inside Peter’s head–he’s a fun character, and there’s a lot more you’ll find out about him in upcoming books besides him just being sort of the comic relief and Anna’s friend and Jimmy’s bandmate. But, anyway, like I said, very preliminary, could be some exciting stuff.

But, the special announcement I wanted to tell you all tonight is that I have a little surprise planned for the week of Halloween. Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I wanted to do something cool for it, and I’ve been working on a short story to celebrate the season. “The season”–I make it sound like Christmas, but it’s Halloween, and that’s okay because I love Halloween, and I want you all to be in the spirit of Halloween, too. It’s a little ghost story–like I said, just a short story set in the Reborn world, and it’s told from Rebecca’s perspective. You might remember that Rebecca is in one of the other sororities on Siobhan’s campus, Alpha Rho. The Alpha Rhos and Gamma Lambda Phis don’t really get along, but this short story is focusing solely on them. It’s bringing some closure to their plot arc in the first two books.

If you’ve read Reborn, you know that one of the Alpha Rho sisters dies toward the end, and this is where the ghost story comes in, and it’s a story about sisterhood and forgiveness. It’s about 4600 words right now. I’m hoping it will be about 10,000 words when I’m ready to publish it. And by publish it, I mean it will actually only appear on my blog. They’re short installments, so it should be easy to read on your computer, and…I think that’s just about it. I’ll start releasing the installments on Sunday, October 25th. So it has sort of 10 short chapters that I’ll release one or two at a time over the course of the week leading up to Halloween. It’s not going to be super scary or anything, just a little dark–maybe a little sinister–nothing that’s going to give you nightmares. At least I hope not.

Again, it’s about Rebecca, the Alpha Rhos, Genie, and it’s called Revenge. And I’ll start posting it Sunday, October 25th, so last week of the month, all the way up to Halloween. I hope you’re excited for it. I just thought it would be a little treat in between time while I know you’re waiting for book three to come out. I’ll try to keep posting updates monthly. I used to blog a lot more than I do. I haven’t really been doing that lately, just haven’t been in the mood as much lately, also a time thing. But I definitely can manage monthly check-ins. So, until then, happy reading, and Happy Halloween!

WIP Wednesday for September 2


So, it’s been two months since my last brief update post, and…one year since my last “official” WIP (work-in-progress) Wednesday post, lol. I haven’t been completely unproductive during that time…I just haven’t been blogging as much. I recently posted a short update to the “My Books” section of this blog, so some of this is a repeat of that. I originally created WIP Wednesday to keep you all updated as to what I’m working on. Since I sort of disappeared (well, from social media) for the last few months, I think we’re due for an update.

However, I’m not going to blog as consistently as I used to so I can concentrate on writing instead. When you self-publish, you have to play writer (obviously), but also editor and promoter, in addition to all of those annoying little things I wish I could delegate to someone else, ha (mostly the layout/formatting stuff). Thankfully, I have several beta readers as well as some smart friends and family members who help me edit. It’s always a good idea to have a fresh set of eyes read your work, even though I still give it a final read through for final touches. My point is…and yes, I promise there is a point to my rambling about this…sometimes these roles start to blend together, and activities like promotion start to take over from the most important part: the writing. So this fall, it’s all about the writing–the characters, the relationships, the world-building, resolving old conflicts, creating new ones, and–one of my favorites–the plot twist.

Right now, I’m working on the third installment of the Reborn series, which takes a break from Siobhan and Jasper’s rollercoaster of a relationship to focus on Siobhan’s sorority sister, Carly. It doesn’t have a title yet…I have one in mind, but it still might change so I’m resisting the urge to share it yet. Without giving away too many spoilers from Relapse, there’s a time jump toward the end where clearly a lot of stuff went down, and you find out what that stuff was in Book Three. This is the story of how Carly saves her sorority, learning the hard way that becoming a leader means making some tough choices and personal sacrifices. Carly really comes into her own in this book. In Reborn, she’s just one of Siobhan’s sorority sisters, quick with a sarcastic comeback but easily talked into things by her friends. She faces some personal demons in Relapse and comes out of her shell a little bit, opening herself up to the possibility of love. In Book Three, Carly meets every challenge and obstacle with determination and courage. And, unlike some of the other characters, Carly isn’t as easily seduced by the promise of power or thrill of danger.

Book Three also continues the story of Carly’s relationship with the trickster god Dolos, although, like many of the relationships in this series, it gets very rocky. In Relapse, their relationship took a pivotal step forward–in this book, it will take about ten steps back. I’m just warning you, haha. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t often like reading or writing about relationships in which the characters end up happily ever after with  everything tied up in a neat little bow in the end. I’m much more interested in the will-they-or-won’t-they part, or even the should-they-or-shouldn’t-they. (One example is Elena and Damon’s relationship in The Vampire Diaries. They had the same dynamic in the book, but right now I’m thinking about the TV show. I much preferred it when Elena was with Stefan lusting after Damon from afar, lol. It’s the whole forbidden/temptation aspect: Damon is Stefan’s brother, and usually the bad one out of the two. As soon as Elena and Damon finally got together, I was bored.) Just thought I’d let you all know where I’m coming from with this. It’s the way I’m writing right now…that could change in the future. Also, I hope that, in future books, all of my characters will get their happy endings. (But, sometimes, the messy ending is the ending, and it’s up to the reader to imagine where it could have gone/where he or she would want it to go. Isn’t that what fanfiction is for?)

I’m about 16,000 words into this project. I don’t really have a word count goal for it, except that it will be a little longer than Reborn, perhaps a bit shorter than Relapse. I used to think it was going to be a novella until I realized all of the places I could take it. It took me awhile to really get this project underway, but in the end, I’m glad that I waited. I’ve worked out a lot of the plot kinks in my head, and it’s going in a much better direction now than it would have if I would have started writing it a few months ago. I have the major conflicts and turning points in mind, but right now I’m just writing without using much of an outline, just seeing where the characters and story want to take me. They usually end up going in another direction, anyway, even when I do try to use an outline…

My other goal is to do more bouncing between projects so you don’t have to wait a bajillion years for the next installment to release. I myself am a very impatient person, and I know how frustrating it can be to wait. I also know you may be wondering where I’m going with Siobhan’s story–what makes her so unique compared to the other halflings, and whether she’ll bounce back from the darkness she succumbed to at the end of Relapse. So I’m getting that project underway, soon, too.

But get excited for Carly’s book, because it’s going to be awesome, and will probably incorporate more elements from gothic fiction and horror than its predecessors do. Most of it takes place as night, and some of it after-hours at a creepy amusement park. I’m listening mostly to Melanie Martinez’s Cry Baby album while I’m writing this, which just has so many awesome songs on it, my favorite of which is below. She’s just my new favorite person.

In other news: You can now follow me on Pinterest! It was supposed to be so I could save inspirational pins for characters, places, fashion, etc., but right now it seems my Tom Hiddleston board is seeing the most action…..

*****

Melanie Martinez, “Soap”