Retribution Release and Pre-Order


Writing your first novel is…hard. Publishing your first novel, whether you decide to go the traditional or self-publishing route, is hard. But do you know what’s at least equally as hard, if not harder?

Writing the next book. And the next. And the next.

I forget who this quote is ascribed to, but I’ve heard it said you never learn how to write a book – you only learn how to write this book. I’ve been thinking about that quote lately, and how true it is. I published the first edition of Reborn back in November of 2013. That’s…eight years ago, lol. It started out as a pretty simple idea: a story about a college-aged woman who runs into a man from her past. A tall, dark, handsome, broody man who is probably not human. And who is either her long-lost love or sworn enemy. Or a little bit of both.

I wondered who these two characters were. I wanted to root around their brains, find out what drove them, what scared them, what – and who – they wanted more than anything.

Then, quite suddenly, I didn’t have just Siobhan and Jasper anymore, these two fascinating but deeply flawed people. I had a whole world in my head I wanted to explore, a world where Greek mythology met Greek life but was also equal parts 90s syndicated sci-fi show and teen drama. If you would have asked me to describe Reborn when it first came out, I might have told you it was like Stargate SG-1 meets Greek (you know, the ABC Family – now Freeform – show from the late 2000s?). Which is honestly kind of accurate, but also who the heck would want to read that (besides me)?

If you’re new to the Reborn series, it’s essentially a modern retelling of the Eros and Psyche myth. My Psyche is Siobhan Elliot, a college student at the fictional Thurston University in Shadesburg (a Pittsburgh-esque city). My Eros is Jasper Hart, her hot teaching assistant for her World Myths and Legends class. The first two books in the series, Reborn and Relapse, mostly focus on their complicated, at times downright toxic, relationship, as well as Siobhan’s efforts to navigate this new world she finds herself in.

Pretty quickly, my ideas for the series expanded beyond Siobhan and Jasper’s story. It spawned two novellas and the third installment, Reclaim, which focused on a different main character: Siobhan’s sorority sister, Carly Dragonjac. While Siobhan’s interests began to clash a lot with her sorority’s, I think of Carly as the Gamma Lambda Phi sister who stayed. As Carly doesn’t have much of a family left, the sorority didn’t just become her home-away-from-home, but her home, period. And her storyline let me indulge one of my other favorite archetypes, the wicked (and sexy) trickster god. The fourth book, Retribution, picks up where both Siobhan and Carly’s stories left off and gives them a (mostly) happy resolution.

Oh, right. Did I mention I have a book coming out?

Going back to that quote at the beginning of the post, it took me four years (Reclaim was published in 2017) to learn how to write Retribution. Not that I was writing it that entire time. I was not. I did put out a novella in 2019, but mostly the ideas for the fourth book were marinating. And, sure, then there was a global pandemic in which I was like…okay, I’m at home way more than usual, there is literally no excuse now not to finish this book…

Although the major ideas and revelations in the book never changed, I think it would have been a much different book if I had forced myself to write it four years ago. It was always going to be about how Siobhan and Jasper both heal from their past traumas, how they finally find their way back to an authentic, healthy version of their relationship. But I was also thinking about several larger themes while I was writing it. For one: What would happen if our world was infiltrated by an alien civilization? (Slight spoiler alert: probably nothing good.)

And, in this era of movements like #MeToo, where we’re starting, as a society, to confront egregious abuses of power and privilege, I was thinking a lot about what we’re “allowed” or expected to feel as women. So, power is definitely one of the major themes in Retribution – confronting power imbalances, confronting those who abuse their power and, most importantly, reclaiming that power.

Now, there are definitely many light-hearted, fun, silly, sexy, and romantic moments in Retribution. But it does get rather dark at times. Rest assured, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I let my female characters experience the whole gamut of emotions: happiness, love, desire, fear, desperation, despair, regret, hate, resentment. Each main character has an inner darkness to confront. One learns to accept and live with it. One rises above it. One embraces it.

You can pre-order Retribution for Kindle on Amazon! It releases July 1, 2021. While you’re at it, add it on Goodreads. I am planning to give out a few review copies (.mobi or pdf only), so email me at slstacyauthor@gmail.com if you’re interested. Heidi’s gorgeous cover art and the book summary are below!

*****

Siobhan has returned from a seven-month stint in Pandora to a world that’s falling apart. Literally.

She doesn’t care, though, about the holes in the walls between the worlds. Or that, according to a prophecy, she’s the only one who can stop Eric and his halfling army from taking over Olympus. All Siobhan wants now is to get back to some semblance of normalcy in life, and in her relationship with Jasper.

Meanwhile, combat training is Carly’s new normal. But while Gamma Lambda Phi prepares for certain war, she grapples with missing memories and a forgotten power. And just when a possibility for new love presents itself, an old flame is rekindled.

Electra is the new general of Eric’s army, but it’s a tenuous command. She is caught between love and fear, sanity and madness, a desire for absolution and a thirst for vengeance…

In the game of the gods, anything goes, and nothing is what it seems. And in this conclusion to the Reborn saga, these three women will learn just how far they’re willing to go to win.

Retro Book Review: Tithe


Happy Wednesday! As I announced last week, I thought writing some “retro” book reviews would be a fun summer goal for keeping the blog going. Last week, I did a re-read of Dark Visions by L.J. Smith (review here). This week, I’m reviewing Tithe by one of my new favorites, Holly Black.

Tithe is the first book in Black’s Modern Faerie Tales trilogy, originally published back in 2002 (which is very nearly 20 years ago? oh my…). Recently, the Modern Faerie Tales have been reissued with some gorgeous new covers. I would have been in middle school when Tithe first came out, but for whatever reason, Holly Black was not on my radar back then. The first book of hers I read was The Cruel Prince, and after that, I was hooked on her beautiful, brutal faery world and its characters.

Tithe is also excellent, although not for the faint of heart, I suppose. It’s a fairly dark, gritty urban fantasy, and, although it is a YA series, the Modern Faerie Tales deal with some pretty heavy issues. Black’s spin on the world of the fae is equal parts beautiful and cruel, pleasurable and painful. Its teen MCs are imperfect, its parents range from being selfish to downright neglectful, and no one is safe from the capricious, deadly fae.

At the beginning of Tithe, Kaye Fierch is on the road with her mother, a musician who survives paycheck to paycheck, and gig to gig. But a nearly fatal clash with one of her mother’s bandmates sends them packing for Kaye’s grandmother’s house in New Jersey. Kaye hasn’t been to school in years and, despite her grandmother’s insistence, isn’t about to go back now. She smokes, stays out too late, and is generally a bit aimless. In New Jersey, she reconnects with an old friend, Janet, and Janet’s loner brother, Cornelius (Corny) Stone.

Their New Jersey is one of abandoned warehouses, dark alleyways, and underground raves. But it’s also a world many of the solitary fae – faeries who have been exiled from the Seelie or Unseelie courts – call home. Kaye remembers some imaginary friends she made as a kid. In Tithe, those once imaginary friends turn out to be all too real and know the truth about who Kaye really is. Kaye’s journey is one of self-discovery, of survival as the human and fae worlds collide. And of new love in the form of white-haired Roiben, a Seelie knight who has been traded to serve the Unseelie queen as a show of peace between the two courts.

I am giving Tithe five stars. I love to read (and write) imperfect characters, and Kaye certainly fits the bill. I think some readers, and some perhaps concerned with what teens are reading, balk a bit when the character isn’t some sort of role model. But I don’t believe all characters, even those in YA books, are obligated to be role models. In fact, there are likely many teens out there who may relate to Kaye, a girl from a poor family, with a somewhat neglectful parent and a poor track record at school. Those teens have stories, too. And those teens need to see characters like Kaye who are overcoming odds and discovering their own strengths.

Also, Roiben sounds hot. So there’s that.

If you’re a fan of the fae, urban fantasy, and don’t mind it with a large helping of romantic horror, I recommend Tithe! In the coming weeks, I will also be reviewing the second two books, Valiant and Ironside. I am officially hooked on Holly Black!

Retro Book Review: Dark Visions


Context: I’ve decided to write some “retro” book reviews this summer. I’m defining retro as any book originally published more than 15 years ago. For all you L.J. Smith fans who may or may not be out there, today I’m reviewing a classic: Dark Visions.

I was originally introduced to L.J. Smith in middle school, when my friend handed me The Forbidden Game and said, “I think you’ll like this. Julian is hot.” LOL. Every few years, the nostalgia hits me, and I re-read TFG or Dark Visions, mostly because they’re my favorites, but also because I own them.

I’m not saying Dark Visions is perfect or anything. It was an older book even when I read it for the first time (it’s nearly as old as me). Although I do like L.J. Smith’s writing style, I can’t lie that the characters in Dark Visions sound like something out of a 1950s movie. Honestly, some of it has not aged well. But it’s still one of my favorite comfort reads.

Dark Visions is a trilogy (the three books are often found together now in an omnibus edition) following Kaitlyn Fairchild, a teen artist whose drawings are often prophetic. Because of her spooky powers, she feels out of place in her small town and is sort of viewed as the town “witch.” Then, destiny comes knocking when she’s recruited to an institute for psychics in San Francisco, where she joins four other teen psychics (Rob, Gabriel, Anna, and Lewis) to learn to hone her abilities. It becomes quickly apparent, though, that nothing is as it initially seems at the institute, and its enigmatic leader, Mr. Zetes, has recruited them for more nefarious purposes.

The first book in the trilogy focuses on Kait’s time at the institute and getting to know the other psychics. For the first time, she feels like she has real friends, and even falls in love for the first time, with psychic healer Rob. Unfortunately, she – and basically everybody, lol – butts heads with Gabriel, the bad boy of the bunch who may or may not have murdered someone.

Okay, maybe I just like these books because of Gabriel? L.J. Smith has always done misunderstood, broody antihero very well. Her books also tend to feature a central love triangle, between the main heroine, a well-liked golden boy (who is not without his own flaws), and a Broody McBroodypants. In Dark Visions, we of course have the Rob-Kait-Gabriel love triangle, with both guys appealing to different sides of Kait. I had sort of forgotten this until I re-read it (and this may be a bit of a spoiler, but these books are 30-years-old…), but it does come with the lesson that your first love won’t necessarily be your last, or only, love – and that you can love people in different ways. Which, duh…but still, I think it’s a nice lesson to impart, especially for teen readers. When you’re young, breaking up with someone can feel like the end of the world, but it’s definitely not. I promise you, you will love again, lol.

Part of the reason that Dark Visions (and L.J. Smith’s other books) might be so memorable/important to me, is because – back at the time I first read them – YA was not nearly the behemoth genre it is now. The YA section of our local library was several shelves against a wall crammed with delightfully pulp-y paperbacks. It was right before YA started to get really big in the mid- to late-2000s. Back then, I also read a lot of V.C. Andrews, which probably could be considered YA by today’s standards (perhaps except for all the, uh, incest…), it just wasn’t marketed as such at the time. I think it’s great there are so many options and subgenres of YA now. So many choices for teens! And for older millennials like me who read/write YA. Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, but I think much of the reason L.J. Smith’s books will always hold a special place in my heart.

I just got some of Holly Black’s older books from the library (curbside pickup has been my best friend during the pandemic), so I think doing these types of retro reviews will be one of my summer projects. For now, happy Friday eve – and happy reading!

Pieces of Me


This post by H.N. Sieverding about Resembling Your Characters got me thinking about the pieces of me, both the obvious and not so obvious, sprinkled throughout the Reborn series.

There’s the saying to “write what you know” – and in many ways I definitely did that in Reborn. Siobhan and I have several superficial similarities and differences. At one time, we were both blonde. Although, as I was just joking about with Ms. Sieverding, my highlights have grown out during the pandemic, so my natural brown hair is showing now. My hubby likes to tease me about it, but he says he loves my hair/me either way. (Good answer.) Siobhan is short, whereas I’m on the taller side.

Our backgrounds are probably the most similar thing. Like Siobhan, I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania (and Shadesburg is my fictional version of Pittsburgh). She also loves science, but I made her a biology major instead of chemistry. We were both in sororities. Luckily, my sorority’s president and adviser were not capricious Greek goddesses (as far as I know). Probably the biggest difference, personality-wise, is that I made Siobhan way more outgoing than I am. She also tends to blurt things out without thinking, whereas I am more cautious about what I want to say (or at least try to be).

That being said, although I was writing what I knew, I wouldn’t say Siobhan is me. She doesn’t make the same decisions I would. At the end of the day, I am trying to explore a character who isn’t you or me. I think sometimes, the author is purposefully doing this so you as the reader can insert yourself in the action or fantasy. (And, not to drag this series or anything, but Ana in Fifty Shades of Gray is sort of like that.) Not that there wouldn’t be aspects you can/can’t relate to with Siobhan or my other characters, but they go through their own changes as the series goes on.

Well, that was already a bit of a tangent. So, what other pieces of me have I inserted into the books? Personality-wise, I am probably more like Carly. I think at one point in the third book she mentions living in her head a lot – as a writer, that is definitely me, haha. I made her a math major because heroines with STEM-related interests are still not something I see a lot of in young adult books. Her obsession with 80s music and movies is also 100% me, lol. As is her close relationship to her grandmother when she was younger.

That’s where the similarities end, I think. It’s difficult for pieces of yourself to not end up in your work, whether it’s intentional or not. And while I think it can be important for authors to put themselves in shoes that are not their own (otherwise, you’re going to write about the same character/story over and over again), we also need to be cognizant of whether you are/aren’t the right person to do a certain storyline justice. Especially when you’re coming from a point-of-view that’s typically the majority or more privileged perspective. That’s another aside that could be an entire post of its own, but I just wanted to qualify that here.

I was also trying to decide if there is a male character in Reborn most like me? Jimmy is the punk rocker among the group, and I do love a lot of the music I have him reference (The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, David Bowie). Like, every book I write always has to have some not-so-subtle Bowie reference, bahaha. I guess Dolos and I have the whole vivid imagination thing in common, although he takes it to a whole new level (and I am not a trickster god, that I am aware of).

So, there you have it! Probably more information than you ever wanted to know about what parts of me ended up in the Reborn series. But I hope you enjoyed it!

Sale: Reborn Series Box Set


The Reborn Series Box Set (containing the first three books and two novellas) is on sale for Kindle! Grab yours here before it goes back to its regular price on Wednesday. Get caught up before the conclusion to the series, Retribution, hits this summer! 😉

******

Siobhan Elliot’s World Myths and Legends class was supposed to be an easy way to get elective credit. Instead, she gets an unexpected—and unwanted—blast from the past in the form of the course’s handsome teaching assistant, Jasper Hart. He puts the cliché tall, dark and handsome to shame, but that’s the least of Siobhan’s worries. Because she’s met him before.

And he’s definitely not human.

Back then, their brief encounter left her with a unique but uncontrollable power, forever altering her young adult life. Now, the only person who can tell her the truth about who—and what—she really is doesn’t seem to remember her.

Even so, Jasper’s return opens a whole new world to Siobhan, one straight from the pages of her World Myths and Legends textbook. Her already bizarre life is about to be turned upside down, and nothing—not even her sorority, Gamma Lambda Phi—is left untouched. A world where Greek mythology meets Greek life, legendary lovers reunite, and nothing is what it seems.

And that’s just the beginning. This Reborn Series box set features the first three books in the series (REBORN, RELAPSE, and RECLAIM) and two bonus novellas (REVENGE and RECTIFY).

Great Expectations


[Note: As with most of my blog posts, this one jumps around a bit, so beware of some potential Queen of Nothing spoilers toward the end.]

Since I finished the (fourth? fifth?) draft of Retribution, I’ve been thinking a lot about my self-publishing journey. Things I’m satisfied with, things I might have done differently, and things I’ve learned along the way.

I published the first edition of Reborn back in…2013?! Sometimes, it’s hard to believe this has been an eight-year journey. Back then, I was still a grad student, and had somehow gotten it into my brain that being a self-published author was going to be a great, even lucrative, side hustle. And many things about it have been great (even if that second expectation was a bit of a stretch, lol).

Reflecting on how long it’s been since I published the first novel in this series, I occasionally get frustrated with myself for having taken so long to write the last book. I mean, it’s not so bad, because the last series novella was published in 2019. But still. The series’ conclusion has been a long time coming. I think this era of binge is making us used to wanting/having everything now.

Looking back at my drafts, I started Retribution back in 2017, but didn’t really begin to work on it in earnest until 2020. If I had published it four years ago, it would have, in many ways, likely been a very different book. In the end, I think the wait was probably worth it.

But, I digress. What I’ve actually been thinking about this weekend are expectations – namely, reader expectations. And why I’ve been trying to do some rebranding/recategorizing of the series. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot over the past nearly a decade, lol. One thing I’ve had to learn is that my novels aren’t really paranormal romances.

Does the Reborn series have strong paranormal elements? 100%, yes. Obviously. Does it have romantic themes? Um…sure? Yes? If you like your romance with a very large dose of mutual emotional manipulation and exploitation. Enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies-again-but-maybe-lovers-what-the-hell-are-we-doing.

What I’m really trying to say is, Reborn (and my other books) don’t follow the conventions readers of the romance genre typically expect. And by the way, I’m not dragging the romance genre, at all. I especially love a good Regency romance, and often it’s comforting to pick something up and know exactly what you’re in for (perhaps particularly after The-Year-That-Must-Not-Be-Named). In hindsight, all of this seems pretty obvious to me, but at the time I was publishing Reborn, it just wasn’t. Which made for some pretty confusing reviews from people who were expecting certain things but getting something completely different.

I’m mostly calling them romantic fantasies now, but I’m not even sure that’s a great fit. They are sort of urban fantasies, too (in the way Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series is). Occasionally someone will mention loving the books while not loving with, or agreeing with, some of the characters, and that’s…fine. I didn’t go into this thinking I was writing inherently likeable people, ha. Jasper’s hot in the first book but kind of a jerk (I like to think he’s come a long way since then). In so many young adult-ish books (but not all!), the main female character is the pretty-but-doesn’t-realize-how-pretty type, and maybe not a complete outcast, but not one of the popular kids, either. Siobhan knows she’s pretty, she’s a former cheerleader, and now, in college, she’s in a (purposefully stereotypical, at least in the beginning) sorority. If you like her…great! But if you don’t, I’m also not too surprised.

That all being said, I really did try to give my characters a lot of closure in Retribution. As far as the events go, there is some bitter to go along with the sweet, but the main couples get their HEAs. That was always where Siobhan and Jasper were headed, it was simply going to take them awhile to get there. They needed time to heal (and getting to the point they are at now wouldn’t have made sense without that).

I guess I was also thinking about reader expectations this weekend because I just finished Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series. Which was AMAZING, by the way. I have been raving about it to anyone who will listen to me, which, in these days of social distancing, is mostly my husband. Anyway, as the trilogy is told from only Jude’s point-of-view, you get a sort of very narrow perspective of things. And from what Ms. Black is showing you, you know Jude isn’t always grasping the full picture, but you’re also kind of relying on her. This is my convoluted way of saying that, even though the author was obviously setting Jude and Cardan up for their HEA, there were moments when I was reading the last book that I was just like IF CARDAN AND JUDE DON’T END UP TOGETHER I AM GOING TO RAGE. Even though I KNEW they had to, right? Right???

So, if you’ve managed to hang on for these past eight years, I hope the wait will end up being worth it! I’m excited to bring the conclusion of Siobhan, Jasper et al.’s journey to you this summer. And, if you’re just discovering the Reborn series, I hope this explains a bit more about what I was going for. If you’re looking for virtuous love interests, insta-happiness, and nice endings tied up in a neat little bow, I think that’s great! But please look elsewhere.

If you’re looking for something a little darker, a little sexier, a little more wicked, I think I’ve got just the thing… 😉

Love Triangles


Hello dearies, and happy 2021! It’s been a strange year, to say the least, but I wish you all health and happiness in this new year! I spent my holiday vacation binging (bingeing?) season 2 of The Mandalorian with hubby (SO AMAZINGLY GOOD) and starting season 3 of my current guilty pleasure, Hannibal. (Very Christmas-y, I know.)

But, anyway, this post isn’t about any of that (even though this blog will be converting to a Mads Mikkelsen stan account very shortly…). The last book I read for 2020 has got me thinking about love triangles.

Now, some people really hate love triangles. I’m not in that camp – occasionally, I love a good, ol’ fashioned love triangle, especially if it’s done well, or if there’s a twist on it. There was one in the first two books of my Reborn series (Siobhan/Jasper/Jimmy), although I think my novella Rectify put a nail in that coffin. I realized there was a rather accidental one after I finished writing the third book, but I also put a twist on this in the next installment, Retribution. 😉 Sorry for the book plug, but I couldn’t resist…

The reason I’m thinking love triangles today, though, is because the book I just read did one…poorly. And I’ve been pondering why it didn’t work for me.

The book is Finale, the third book in Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series. Now, I’m definitely not here to bash this series. I enjoyed the first two books, and I generally liked the magical, whimsical world of games and deception Ms. Garber created. But in the second and third books, there was a love triangle between one of the main heroines, Donatella (Tella) Dragna, Legend (the gamemaster of Caraval), and Jacks/the Prince of Hearts (one of the Fates, the major supernatural/god-like race in the series).

Now, Legend and Jacks are both villainous types in these books. And it’s potentially interesting for the heroine to be caught between two villains (as long as she’s not merely their pawn). But it fell really flat for me, to the point where I was wondering…what is the point? Jacks is kind of a vivid, intriguing character, but why is he here? Why does this love triangle even exist? Even as a villain (or antihero), it would work if he serves as a foil to Legend, or gives Tella something Legend can’t. But most of the time, he’s just kind of there, being cruel and capricious, and Tella seems attracted to him for no reason. Legend goes through more of a character change than Jacks, but even that didn’t have as hard of a punch as it should have.

So, what does make a good love triangle? This example might show my, ahem, age, but I always liked the way L.J. Smith approached them in her novels back in the day. I still think and talk about her books…a lot (Exhibit A). Lol. They’re like thirty years old. It’s fine. But in her books, there was always a light-darkness theme going on with the love triangles her heroines found themselves in. In The Forbidden Game trilogy, Jenny was in love with Tom, her high school sweetheart, who represented light and safety to her. But the part of her that’s growing up, and possibly growing out of Tom, is intrigued by the danger and mystery trickster god Julian offers, despite his darkness. The books aren’t even that long, but Ms. Smith manages to show how Tom isn’t always the safety net Jenny has come to depend on, and how Julian isn’t all that he seems, either. They both offer her something she wants, even if those sides of her are in conflict.

For this next section, if you don’t want spoilers for The Infernal Devices, Splintered, or A Court of Thorns and Roses series, I would stop reading…right about…now.

The other twist on YA love triangles that seems to have become popular in recent years is that…it’s quite possible…to love more than one person during your life? I know it seems crazy, but it’s true! All kidding aside, I think this is an important message for teen audiences. And it makes for a better story! In Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy, Tessa marries Will, and they have a very happy life together. But as he’s a shadowhunter and she has demon blood, she outlives him. Long after he’s gone, she reunites with Jem, the other love of her life. There’s a similar theme in A.G. Howard’s Alice in Wonderland-inspired trilogy, Splintered.

I’ve just decided I don’t want to spoil Sarah J. Maas’s ACOTAR series, but if you want to read a trilogy where all of your expectations after reading the first book are completely upended, in the best way possible, READ THESE BOOKS. IMMEDIATELY. Books don’t have to have a message, but I think this series does. It’s an important one and not incorporated in a “preach-y” way or anything like that.

I guess if this post has any sort of conclusion or advice, and isn’t simply me rambling, it’s this. Love triangles can be fun! They don’t have to be super complex or convey some sort of message, but each love interest should offer the central character something he or she wants – or fulfill them in some way – the other person can’t, emotionally or otherwise. It will be more interesting if each of the three characters has very clear internal and external motivations, especially if they come into conflict (and beyond just the fact you have two people fighting over the same person). Or, you know, they should at least be different in some way, and not basically the same person, lol.

Any thoughts about love triangles? I would love to hear them below!

Author Newsletter


Happy…Tuesday, dearies. (I had to double-check that it was, indeed, Tuesday before I typed that.)

This is just a quick post to announce my new author newsletter. It has been on my mind to start one for some time, but I guess it took a pandemic for me to actually do it…

I’ll be moving most of my book announcements to the newsletter and also plan to share exclusive excerpts and such from works-in-progress. Sign up below so you don’t miss anything! As always, we will only use your information to send you book-related updates and marketing via the newsletter, and we won’t share your information with others.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And happy reading. ❤

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2020 Vision


Hello, dearies.

Preparing to write a decade in review post, I’ve been looking over some of my past blog posts. I started this blog on June 16, 2012. 2012! So, it’s not quite ten years old, yet…but getting up there. These past few years, I haven’t put as much energy into this blog as I used to. It has become more of a place for readers to stop and get some additional info about the Reborn series and ongoing projects, rather than a blog I update regularly. Still, eight years ago, I started The Urge to Write to get back into something I loved: writing.

Thinking about the head space I was in when I started this blog eight years ago compared to the one I’m in now, I have to laugh at myself. I was only in my early 20s, worrying that I hadn’t done/accomplished anything. Worried that I’d picked the wrong thing in graduate school and having (justified or not) a quarter life crisis. I didn’t really understand then that life, careers, dreams…they’re all a marathon, not a sprint.

I started off the decade graduating from college with a chemistry degree. And, although my education and other experiences as an undergrad were certainly valuable, I knew I didn’t want to work as a chemist in a lab forever. We were also in the midst of a huge recession, so I decided to stay in school and work on a master’s degree in a field I hoped would open more doors. Soon after graduating, my college sweetheart and I also broke up, which was very hard on me (in retrospect, both of us). But, while working on my master’s, I found a research adviser I really enjoyed working with and decided to stay and do a PhD in the same department.

Then, came the first plot twist of the 2010s: my adviser accepted a faculty position at a different university. Which was absolutely the best decision for her, as her new department would be a much better fit for her research niche. So, no hard feelings there. She even offered that I come with her, but I would have had to apply to that department’s program, and, although I enjoyed the research I was doing, I didn’t want my degree in that concentration. (My master’s and PhD are in environmental health.) I was still finishing required coursework and hadn’t picked a dissertation topic yet, so it’s not like I had to start completely over or anything. But I did feel a bit adrift. Almost no one else in our department did the type of work I’d been doing (a lot of them were doing more toxicology-related work in wet labs, and I was doing epidemiology/stats), and a lot of people didn’t have funding.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I started this blog. Thankfully, a few faculty members did take me under their wing, and I found a great group/adviser to work with. It wasn’t always perfect, but, especially looking back, it was exactly the place I needed to be. And, knowing people who had *much* worse things happen to them in grad school, I’m able to contextualize it now.

Still, at the time I had this persistent worry that I had “picked the wrong the thing” and that somehow my entire life/career was now committed to this one “wrong thing”. Because what happened, to, you know, following your dreams? Your passion? I’ve always loved books, loved to write. “Shouldn’t I be doing that, then?” entitled twenty-something me would ponder. (Because, as I also now recognize, following your dreams is a privilege a lot of people don’t have. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it or make a change in your life when something isn’t what you want – if you have the means, you absolutely should! But just to recognize it.)

Thus, Reborn was…born. It went through a few title changes before it became Reborn. I posted the original draft to this blog. I since deleted it after I self-published it, so I can’t verify this, but I’m sure it was bad. Really bad. It was written in Mountain Dew Code Red-fueled bursts of creativity after work and on the weekends, usually late at night, because I somehow used to function on an insane and unhealthy sleep schedule. Later, I revised it, paying more attention to, you know, actual story structure, character arcs, and fleshing out the mythology/world. The first edition was published in November of 2013. This November, Reborn will be seven years old!

It is too easy for me to look back and say, why the heck couldn’t I have finished the last book *before* 2020 hit? But, self-publishing the final book (about Siobhan, at least) is my next goal. I’m not going to look back with regret. Because you know what? In these past seven years, I wrote three books and two novellas in the Reborn series. To those who don’t like writing or writers who haven’t published yet, that might seem like a lot. To writers that are more prolific, that might seem like nothing. But for me, it was a huge accomplishment.

For better or worse, I have a hard time feeling satisfied, at least as far as work or career-related things go. (Maybe this is, overall, not a good thing, although it can be a good motivator in a lot of ways…) But in these, my five book babies, I’m giving myself a huge pat on the back. I love this world, these characters, and I don’t regret the sleepless nights/procrastinating other obligations/periods of time of being basically a hermit that allowed me to share them with all of you.

But life is, of course, more than these types of accomplishments. We are more than our jobs, our careers, even our dreams. I’m not saying that these aren’t or can’t be good things – only that one thing doesn’t define who we are. And if it does, maybe it shouldn’t. I didn’t “pick the wrong thing” in grad school. Maybe some people do, but in hindsight, I don’t think I did. I think I’m a scientist who also likes to write. And when I look back at graduate school, I don’t (always) think about the slog that comes before you defend your dissertation (and, yes, it can feel like a slog). I think about the dear colleagues and friends I made a long the way – I still collaborate and am friends with many of them.

In the latter half of this decade, I moved to New England, then back to Pittsburgh for several years, then, quite recently, back to New England. Time flies, time motivates us, and time also heals. Time changes and shapes us. If we’re lucky, we can still find a way back to the people we care about, no matter how much time or how many miles separate us. Time healed all wounds from that break up at the beginning of the decade. Gradually, we became friends again; we opened our hearts again. And (plot twist?) in August of 2019, we got married. 🙂

I don’t know what the next decade will bring. I’m sure there will be ups and downs, highs and lows. I could talk about career goals, writing goals, family goals – and, yes, I have all of those. But, through it all, I want to find joy and gratitude in the small things, the everyday things. I frequently fall into the trap of “I’ll be happy when…” “Things will be different/better when…” My only new year’s resolution is to work toward these things while finding happiness in what I have now, not in far-off, unpredictable future land. I think the best any of us can do, in large or small ways, is to try to leave the world a better place than how we found it.

Okay, that last thought is from A Court of Wings and Ruin, which I just finished last night. (Some things don’t change, like my love for a good YA fantasy.) But I liked it, and it’s also true.

So, here’s to 2020! To love, laughter, dancing like no one is watching and all the cliches. Reading all the books, doing all the things. Probably somewhere in there we should stop climate change. Okay, I’m done – for now. 😉

Super Secret Project


As I was giving this web site a much needed makeover, I realized I hadn’t written a post since…December 2018?! *Gasps*

And to be honest, I don’t really have the compulsion to blog as much as I used to (although I could probably do a bit better than once every ten months…). I mostly want this web site to be a place where people can find out more about the Reborn series, and what I’m currently working on, all in one place.

I do have a few more books planned for the Reborn series. The first wraps up Siobhan’s (and Carly’s) stories from the previous three books. I also have a partial draft of a stand-alone, Halloween novel that takes place in the Reborn world. I thought I’d be able to get that out for this Halloween, but I’m pushing it back again. (Sorry about that, but I had a wonderful, whirlwind of a summer getting married and moving!)

Also, I have a super secret WIP that has kind of taken precedence. I’ve been working on it on and off for a long time, and it just needs to get done. But I’m excited about it! There’s really no reason for it to be super secret, except that it’s not part of the Reborn series, and I’m not ready to talk much about it yet. I will say it’s a YA science fiction novel with some romance and a lot of drama. (Think Riverdale…with aliens. LOL.)

In any case, you know I like to share playlists of the songs I’m listening to while I’m working on a project. So, here you go…my super angsty, YA book playlist (with YouTube links).

In retrospect, there is a lot of Billie Eilish on here. I’m an adult.

Bad Guy – Billie Eilish

Bubblegum B*tch – Marina (formerly & The Diamonds)

Girls Like You – The Naked and Famous

Starry Eyed – Ellie Goulding

Lock You Up – Charli XCX

Shampain – Marina (side note: this is the best music video ever)

Bury A Friend – Billie Eilish

One Of A Kind – Placebo

Indie Rokkers – MGMT

Teen Idle – Marina

Emotional – Charli XCX

Ocean Eyes – Billie Eilish

E.T. – Katy Perry