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

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

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…)

 

Goodbye Spaceboy


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that English musician/icon/Goblin King David Bowie passed away last week at age 69 from cancer. (As if that weren’t sad enough, Alan Rickman, the talented English actor who portrayed–among other memorable roles–misunderstood Potions professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise, also passed away. At age 69. From cancer.) I’m not usually one for getting emotional about “celebrity” deaths–then again, this is the first time that someone well-known I actually really liked has died. I mean, when you’ve spent hours upon hours listening to someone’s music, feeling feels (I’m sorry, I’m not good with the words today) and getting inspired, it’s hard not to feel sad. Bowie is an artist who seemed larger than life, but his death was sort of a weird reminder that he was mortal, just like the rest of us. He’s left quite an impact over the years, a legacy I’m sure will endure far beyond his death.

There’s been a huge outpouring of grief over his passing and support for his family over social media, which, of course, not just any normal person would get, and I hope it brings some comfort to Iman and his kids–to know how many lives he touched. As a side note, I’ve found it a little strange that the press keeps calling his death “sudden.” For his fans, yes, it was unexpected, and I suppose that’s what they mean. But perhaps not for his family. An 18-month long battle with cancer is long and emotionally draining for all involved–and yet Bowie didn’t let it get in the way of creativity, of getting out one last album for his fans. That album, Blackstar, has become his first number 1 selling album here in the U.S., which is awesome but at the same time a little depressing. He had many other albums that deserved to get that spot, but death has that kind of effect on art.

I can’t say that, without Bowie, there would be no Reborn series, but it would probably be a somewhat different series. His songs and various stage and film personas have definitely inspired me, and will continue to do so. So, as my own little tribute to the Thin White Duke, here is a top ten list of my favorite Bowie songs. This was hard to compile, since I like most of his work. But I made myself pick 10 that mean something personal to me, or that I just simply love. Also, except for number 10, this list doesn’t include some of his collaborations that I like (like Placebo’s Without You I’m Nothing and the PSB remix of Hallo Spaceboy). They may not necessarily be everybody’s favorites or critical darlings, but this is my blog and my list, dammit. And feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

10. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

This is probably a random one, but for me, this is the song that started it all. Before I heard this delightful Bing Crosby/Bowie duet on the radio circa Christmas 2005 (yes, the radio, this was pre-YouTube/Pandora/Spotify), all I had heard about David Bowie was that he was kind of weird. But then I heard this angelic voice singing with Bing and was surprised, in a good way, to learn who it was.

9. Oh! You Pretty Things

Probably one of the main reasons I like Bowie so much is due to my love for science fiction and fantasy. Much of his work, particularly in the 70s, incorporated sci-fi themes and characters. Oh! You Pretty Things has a sci-fi/dystopian flavor to it coupled with a lively tune, and the lyrics are pretty catchy, too. (Anna and Peter sing a duet of it in Relapse, which was also a bit of foreshadowing for things to come in future books).

8. Life on Mars?

I think this is probably one of his more famous tunes, although perhaps an acquired taste. The lyrics string together a series of seemingly disjointed scenes, but together they create a picture of a young person trying to make sense out of the world and images around them.

7. Moonage Daydream

Just like all of the songs that made this list, Moonage Daydream is one of my personal favorites–the only thing is, I’m not even sure why, haha. I just love this song.

6. Underground

I couldn’t write a Bowie top ten list without including a song from the Labyrinth soundtrack. Although there are lots of gems on there (Magic Dance, When the World Falls Down, Within You), I decided I had to go with Underground. At the risk of sounding pretentious, this song, from the soundtrack of an 80s children’s fantasy movie, sounds better than most of the songs they play on the radio today, lol.

5. Five Years

As an urban fantasy/paranormal romance writer, it takes me 200+ pages to create the world and story I envision in my head. It takes Bowie 3-5 minutes, in songs like Five Years (below), and Drive-In Saturday (an honorable mention).

4. Modern Love

80s Bowie likely had a bit more widespread appeal than Ziggy Stardust, and–although there was a disappointing lack of space/aliens–his hits during this phase of his career were fun and catchy. Modern Love is my second favorite thing (Labyrinth is the first) Bowie did in the 80s.

3. Rebel, Rebel

I think one of the reasons Bowie’s glam rock days have had such a lasting impact is that he showed people it’s okay to be “weird” (whatever that means to you). He was a voice for the outcasts of his generation, telling them “you’re not alone” in songs like Rock ‘n Roll Suicide. His most covered track (according to Wikipedia), Rebel, Rebel captures this spirit.  Also note his fabulous getup in this video.

2. Starman

Okay, so clearly Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust/glam rock days are my favorite. So many great songs, especially Starman.

1. Heroes

And, finally, my number 1 favorite song of all time, out of all the songs and all the musicians. Well, it might be tied with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but right now it has a slight edge. Heroes gives me chills and feels.

Tuesday Check In


Hi all, and happy almost July! 😉 This is just one of my quick check in posts. First off, I have another giveaway happening on Goodreads for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Relapse. It’s open to U.S. residents only through the end of the day on Sunday, July 5. (One day I’ll be able to offer these giveaways to readers abroad, when I have money or something.) You can enter here.

For my fellow indie authors, I thought I’d share the results of my first giveaway of Reborn through Goodreads. I’ve prattled on about marketing before on this blog, but really my basic marketing strategy so far is to try a bunch of things and see if they work, lol. Although I’m by no means an expert, I like to share what I find out in hopes that a fellow author might find it useful. I mean, that’s how I pick up all of my book pimping ideas–from seeing what both traditionally published and indie authors do, how they get the word out about their books. I wanted to try another avenue for my giveaways to reach a wider audience than my Facebook page (although I’ll continue to hold them on there, too). The fact that Facebook hides everything now has made it a little harder. Also, I may have read an article that said indie goddess superstar Colleen Hoover’s first novel made it big after she did a giveaway on Goodreads, lol. The skeptic in me realizes that probably a lot of people have tried this and have NOT become instant indie god/dess superstars. I’m pretty sure Colleen Hoover is made of magic.

Anyway, the point is that I tried it. Here’s what happened, and what you might notice, too, if you try it. 1. A lot of people will enter the giveaway. I’m not even sure how people find out about these things, but over the 5 day giveaway, I had 407 people enter, which didn’t seem too shabby. 2. Also, you’ll see a spike in the “to read” shelf for your book because I *think* Goodreads requires you to add it so you can enter the giveaway. 3. I had a few downloads and Goodreads ratings trickle in for Reborn, and picked up a couple more followers. What I don’t know yet is if the winner will actually rate/review the book after she reads it. It would be really awesome to get a review out of it–then again, I’m always wary of getting reviews on Goodreads. (I’m still bracing myself for the day when someone goes off on a long hate tangent about one of my books. As a woman writing fairly sexy books, I feel that this is somehow, unfortunately, inevitable. Though I guess, as they say, any publicity is good publicity…)

So, the jury is still out on whether the Goodreads giveaway will help with reviews and spreading the word about Reborn. Nevertheless, I opened up the giveaway for Relapse this week. I’ll write a follow-up post about all of this at some point. Otherwise, July’s experiment is to not do any other pricing promotions or anything like that (well, except for this giveaway). I play around with the prices of my books a lot, but for now they are going to remain steady. (FYI, Reborn is $1.99, and Relapse is $2.99. Both are now available through all ebook platforms.) I’m going to TRY to focus less on marketing, and more on writing.

Speaking of writing…I am writing, I swear. I have a lot of other life stuff going on right now (ch-ch-ch-ch-changes), but I’m fitting in some planning and writing here and there. I have some ideas for the titles of the rest of the series and pounded out a few book summaries last night. I don’t know if anyone else is like this, but sometimes it helps me to write a draft of a back cover-type book summary before I write the book. It helps me to be more focused from the start–otherwise, I end up having subplots galore. (I’m still afraid that sometimes Relapse has too many subplots…) For titles, I am attempting to stick to words starting with “re-” so that they have some sort of common thread, but was really drawing a blank for a while. I tried to brainstorm “r” words with my mom, the former English teacher, who also helps me edit, but all she came up with was “rutabaga.” I guess in the next book Siobhan could eat a magical rutabaga that gives her more special powers. (Don’t worry, I’m not calling the next book Rutabaga.)

“Siobhan and the Magical Rutabaga”

 

Otherwise, I’ve been spending my summer finishing up work with my current adviser, getting some reading in, and watching season four of Game of Thrones. (I know, I’m a little behind.) And Poldark on Masterpiece Theatre. Mostly because of Aidan Turner (who, by the way, also played Kili in the recent string of Hobbit movies). There are also a lot of other good things about the show, like some interesting characters and a plot and stuff.

Anyway, those are all of the updates I have. Happy Fourth of July, and enjoy the long weekend!

 

Checking In


This is just a short post to say hi and Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the day with your loved ones. And, if you’re a fellow single lady (or gent), make sure to treat yourself!

I wanted to use up my last free day while Relapse is enrolled in KDP Select, so it’s free through the end of the day today! It’s the perfect read for Valentine’s Day…well, if you like your romances dark with a side of twisted. You can download it here and add it on Goodreads here.

Have anything special planned for the day! Feel free to share in the comments! I have a lot of work to do today, so I’m living vicariously through you. 😉

rose quote

Character Profile: Jimmy Wallace


With only a few weeks left until Relapse releases on Tuesday, December 2, let’s get reacquainted with some of the characters.

I thought I already had a profile up for Jimmy, but I guess I must have taken it down at some point. You probably remember Jimmy as Siobhan’s old flame from high school. Their love starts to rekindle in Reborn, but Siobhan’s growing attraction for Jasper gets in the way. I guess, if you include Max, Reborn sort of has a love quadrangle. Things get even more complicated in Relapse when Apate decides to make Jimmy her latest boy toy. So, really, it’s a love…web? A web of love and lies…

Jimmy
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

James (Jimmy) Wallace

Age: Early twenties

Hometown: Laurel, Pennsylvania

Occupation: Bartender; lead singer of punk rock band Search and Destroy

Physical Description: Short, dark brown hair; hazel eyes; square jaw; lips usually set in a stubborn pout; aversion to wearing shirts

Species: Demigod

Relationship Status: It’s complicated

Other relationships:

Goals:

  • To be a famous rock star
  • To repair his relationship with high school sweetheart Siobhan

Obstacles:

  • His rocky history with Siobhan
  • Siobhan has other suitors: Max, but the real obstacle is Jasper

Strengths:

  • Talented musician and singer
  • Supernatural healing abilities
  • Trustworthy
  • Funny/a goofball (likes doing impressions)

Flaws:

  • Impulsive (wild stage antics, cuts himself during performances)
  • Rock star ego

Hobbies:

  • Performing
  • Partying

Inspiration: Iggy Pop

Who would play him in a movie: There really isn’t an actor who resembles the Jimmy I have pictured in my head, but my best pick would be Glee’s Mark Salling.

*****

My heart beats wildly in my chest. “Friends do not hug like this.”

Jimmy moves one of his hands to my chin so that he can tilt it up. “Friends don’t kiss like this, either.”

Influences


Only two more weeks until Relapse comes out…..eek!!!!! Why did I decide to release it right after Thanksgiving again? Oh, right, because I love you guys, and I want you to have something to read over winter break. 😉

Before we go on with today’s post, I thought I’d mention I got a little (very, very little) writing done this weekend…335 words, to be exact. I’m working on a novella from Anna’s POV. The novella takes place somewhat parallel to the events in Reborn. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with it, or if it will become part of the next book. I’m mainly doing it to find her voice and flesh out her back story, since I want to incorporate more from her POV in future books.

But, anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. I want to talk about influences: the authors, themes, and types of characters I’ve become obsessed with over the years. This may turn into a two-part post…we shall see…

1. Mischief and Mayhem

As a reader and writer, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that there could be these otherworldly, always mischievous (and often malevolent) beings sort of lurking in the background, in worlds adjacent to our own, influencing it in ways we don’t realize. (Or sometimes, as they do in Reborn, they get very mixed up in our world.) It’s a totally freaky, even creepy idea–one I think is so much fun to explore in fiction, but nothing I actually believe in real life. When I was first playing around with the story that would eventually become Reborn, this is the concept I knew I wanted to capture. I wanted my supernatural beings to be volatile, mischievous, and manipulative–characteristics often embodied by The Fair Folk. I’m talking about the devious Fair Folk of Irish lore, or like Puck et al in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not the Disney fairies like Tinker Bell, lol. To be quite honest, I don’t know a lot about Irish folklore besides what I’ve seen other authors use–and they’ve incorporated it quite well already into works of fiction, so I wanted to do something a little different.

I think Karen Marie Moning’s Fae are the best–but, as she is my favorite author, I’m probably biased. In Moning’s Highlander and Fever series, the Fae are arrogant, devious, and lethally seductive. Back in the day, I wrote a book review of The Immortal Highlander–my absolute favorite of her Highlander romance novels. Immortal’s antihero, Adam Black, is a good example of this type of character, although he’s not mischievous in a cruel way. The Seelie Queen places a curse on Adam that strips him of his immortality and makes him invisible. His is a hopeless case until he meets Gabby, a sidhe-seer–gifted with seeing beyond the glamour used by the Fae, and the only one who can see Adam. Since Gabby seems to be his only hope, Adam ingratiates himself into Gabby’s life and eventually convinces her to help him. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this book, but I remember Adam perched on Gabby’s desk at her law firm while she tried to get work done, nagging her. Obviously, that kind of behavior would be super creepy and annoying in real life, but the love-hate dynamic between Adam and Gabby made for a very entertaining book. It didn’t help that Adam’s glamour was that of a sexy Scottish Highlander, making it almost impossible for Gabby to resist him.

Moning went on to write the Fever series–a sexy urban fantasy series in which the walls between our world and that of the Fae become even thinner. The Immortal Highlander isn’t an official prequel to the Fever series, but it’s definitely where her books about time-traveling, sexy Scottish Highlanders start to get much darker, and it sets up the conflict for her later books. I think the Fever series was a pretty daring one–primarily, I’d call it an urban fantasy, but Moning combines elements of a bunch of different genres and just makes it work so well (mystery, sci-fi, romance, and they’re funny as hell). I’d say for marketing purposes, it’s a good strategy to choose one or maybe two genres that your work fits into, but her books have taught me that it’s okay to push the limits of a genre and mix things up a bit.

A very much related type of character is:

2. The Trickster

You didn’t really think you’d get through this post without a picture of Hiddles, did you?

The Trickster is, according to TV Tropes, which I can’t stop reading lately, a type of character that “plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior.” This is definitely related to what I’ve described above, but I’m separating them out. We can depict these qualities in an entire race, like the Fair Folk (or the Olympians…), or in an individual character (whose peers may or may not embody these traits). I prefer the darker, more anti-hero-ish tricksters who use outright manipulation and deception to get what they want, without (much) remorse. They also pretty much pop in and out of places and situations as they like without a whole lot of consideration for rules or puny humans other people. Recent examples include Rumpelstiltskin on ABC’s Once Upon A Time and Loki in the Thor franchise. Another classic example (teehee) is Jareth from Labyrinth.

One of my other favorite trickster types is Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game. I’ve most definitely fan-girled over this trilogy before on this blog, but it’s one of my all-time favs. One of my friends introduced me to L.J. Smith back in freshman year or so of high school, and my life was changed, forever. (Dramatic much?) These books were already ten years old or so when I originally read them, and now…yes, I just confirmed on Wikipedia, The Forbidden Game is twenty years old. Aaaaaand now I officially feel old.

Anyway, I reread them this summer (they were first published as separate books, but since they’re short, they’re published now in an omnibus edition), and…they were still good. Sure, they’re written at about a middle school reading level, and, since they are so short, I noticed some of the repetition. Smith is a fan of the epithet, which, in  a longer book, may help you remember each character–but, in a shorter book, it gets repetitive. Even so, there’s just something about Smith’s writing I’ve always loved. It almost has a beat to it–like poetry.

The Forbidden Game is an urban fantasy trilogy with a tiny blonde-haired, green-eyed protagonist named Jenny Thornton. Jenny starts out as an innocent, naive girl still dependent on her childhood sweetheart, Tom. (I mean, Tom’s nickname for her is Thorny. You don’t get any more disgustingly cute than that.) There’s mystery and magic from the start of Book One, The Hunter, when Jenny, who is being followed by two delinquent-types, takes refuge in a strange store called “More Games.” She buys a game in a plain white box, simply called “The Game,” from the even stranger boy running the shop. Of course, with his white-blonde hair and otherworldly blue eyes, he’s über attractive–and, despite his seeming indifference towards her, Jenny feels a strange connection to him.

That night, Jenny, Tom, and the rest of their friends start to play The Game, setting up a paper house and drawing their worst nightmares on sheets of paper. The next thing they know, they’re inside the paper mansion, transported there by the cyberpunk boy from the More Games store. His name is Julian, and he’s the youngest of an ancient race called The Shadow Men. In order to win Julian’s twisted game, Jenny and her friends must confront their worst fears–and, if they lose The Game, they lose their lives. Julian is a predator and master of manipulation (and very Jareth-esque). Of course, as the series goes on, you find out that Julian maybe isn’t the ultimate big bad he claims to be.

The Forbidden Game includes one of L.J. Smith’s favorite themes (and, okay, one of mine): the love triangle. Ms. Smith’s love triangle is usually set up as the relatively innocent girl caught between the good guy/hero type and the seemingly bad boy/antihero. In this case, Jenny’s good guy is Tom, and Jenny’s bad boy is Julian. Jenny knows that sweet and caring Tom is the guy for her, but she can’t help but be tempted by Julian’s beauty and charisma. These books are also about obsessive love: Julian is obsessed with Jenny and will do anything to have her.

Which brings us to one of my other favorite topics, and the final one for tonight:

3. Forbidden Desires

Two of my favorite themes in fiction are sin and temptation (well, what is perceived to be sinful by that character). Often, this takes the form of fairly-innocent-girl-gets-tempted-by-dark-sexy-mysterious-man’s-dark-world-of-…..darkness…..okay, I’m becoming less and less articulate as this post goes on, but you get the gist. 😉 Let’s just call it forbidden love/lust. This theme probably at least in part stems from the idea of sex as a sinful or evil act–perhaps a very Western/Christian notion. In some of these stories, the innocent heroine, initially intrigued by the sexy, devilish antihero, ultimately resists temptation and does the “right” thing. Going further with this interpretation, maybe it has something to do with the antiquated notion that women retain their virtue and innocence for as long as possible. And, even though I don’t agree with that, it’s a fun theme to explore in fiction. This is probably why Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was big on writing about sin, temptation, and the hypocrisy of the Puritans, remains one of my favorite classical authors.

Like I said, The Forbidden Game is the perfect example of this. Throughout the series, Jenny has to battle against her attraction to Julian in order to do the right thing and save her friends. But Julian’s influence on her isn’t all bad: Jenny transforms from the innocent girl who still relies on her boyfriend for everything into a more independent and confident young woman who thinks for herself. This theme of the allure of darkness is also a major theme in the musical The Phantom of the Opera. And in a certain 80s children’s fantasy movie.

With the relatively recent explosion in popularly of paranormal romance and other darker forms of romance and fantasy, the above types of characters and themes are fairly common right now–although not every author approaches them in quite the same way. These otherworldly characters, whether they’re the Fae, gods, fallen angels, vampires, etc., may be charming and alluring, but they’re also cunning, dangerous, predatory, and don’t play by our (human) rules. Of late, they’re also typically inhumanly beautiful, which further emphasizes their almost irresistible pull and maybe plays a little bit into the notion that not everything attractive is good for you.

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When I think of what a paranormal romance is–just what exactly the genre encompasses–these types of characters and themes are what come to my mind. I think everybody is a little bit different with regards to this. Although many paranormal romances still have that major, initial element of forbidden love, some authors go on to develop a story that is a little more traditionally romantic/lovey dovey, and it’s this type of story a lot of readers are used to now. Since I’ve been marketing Reborn as a paranormal romance, I think a few people have been confused by how I chose to approach Siobhan and Jasper’s relationship. It’s not traditionally romantic–it’s passionate and intense, but also a roller-coaster ride, and even a bit scary at times. That’s because the, er, “classic” paranormal romances, like L.J. Smith’s work, combine themes from the romance and horror genres. I’m not even sure “romance” is the right word, except that it captures the passionate relationship between the two lead characters. But these stories are also about temptation, forbidden desires, obsessive “love,” good and evil, dominance and submission, predator and prey. The settings are dark, mysterious, and sinister–as are some of the characters.

If you’ve read Reborn, you may see now how the above ideas have influenced it. My Olympians are, for the most part, volatile, capricious, mischievous, and manipulative. And even the ones that aren’t completely devious have a dark side (as the tagline for Relapse says, everybody has one…although perhaps not quite to the extent that my characters do, lol). Siobhan isn’t completely innocent in the conventional sense, but she’s a bit of a small-town girl thrown, thanks to Jasper, into the darker, alluring world of the Olympians. Jasper is her forbidden fruit–Siobhan knows he’s dangerous, but is tempted all the same (and Jasper will go to any lengths to keep her). And, unlike the strong, “virtuous” ladies described above, Siobhan isn’t as good at resisting temptation. In Relapse, Siobhan’s struggle against this forbidden world is taken to a new level as she begins to realize she’s more like the manipulative, control-freak Olympians than she thought. As a final tease, you’ll also meet a new character in Relapse–a sexy, silly, trickster-type like Jareth or Julian. I’m excited for you to meet him. 😉

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The Journey So Far


I’m trying to write at least a post per week leading up to release day. This post is in part a reflection of my self-publishing journey so far; I’ll also share some things that I’ve learned along the way and offer what I hope will be helpful advice. I’m not an expert, but I can tell you what worked for me, and what didn’t. I hope some of my tips will work for you, too. 🙂

I started this blog in the summer of 2012…looking back at my old posts, it was June 6, 2012, to be exact. I wanted to get back into creative writing, and a blog seemed as good a way as any to do so. I had tried blogging once before, in undergrad–I created a Blogspot blog, where I posted a young adult sci-fi book I had written (and had been rewriting since high school) chapter by chapter. I don’t think anyone ever read it, lol. I didn’t know how to direct traffic to it. I’ve found WordPress to be a lot more straightforward as far as networking with other bloggers goes, but that’s just me. Anyway, I started out on this blog, The Urge to Write, by posting random excerpts from stories I had written, book reviews, and pretty much anything else I felt like. Eventually I made a little blog schedule…which I have since abandoned…but it worked pretty well at the time. I accumulated some WordPress followers and started a Facebook page so my friends and family could follow along, too, if they wanted (and, for some reason, many of them did, and I feel so blessed!).

cover for rebornfinalI also posted the earliest draft of Reborn, a chapter per week. At the time, it was called The Fallen. (I’m glad I changed the title, because, among other reasons, there’s a pretty popular YA series out right now called Fallen.) I can’t say publishing it on my blog was the best decision ever–but I don’t really regret it, either. On the one hand, it was a really, really, really rough draft and wasn’t ready to see the light of day. I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. I didn’t even have all of the mythology ironed out yet. (The Eros and Psyche back story–which obviously turned out to be kinda important to the book–was something I went back and added later.) On the other hand, a few people read it and liked it, and it forced me to write every week.

Eventually, I took it down from the blog, but continued to work on it and refine it. My goal was to do something with it, whether that was going the more traditional route or self-publishing it. After a half-hearted attempted  at trying to get an agent by sending out a handful of pretty terrible query letters, I decided to do the self-publishing thing. I realized there was, unfortunately, stigma attached to it, but I thought, if I did it right, it would help me build a readership base. I didn’t know what to expect. Well…that’s not entirely true. What I expected was that Reborn would languish on Amazon and sell two copies or so after months and months and months.

OK–here comes the bragging part. Somehow, miraculously, that’s not what happened. Well, maybe it isn’t so much a miracle as partially the result of the various marketing strategies I experimented with (see below). Most of it’s probably due to Heidi’s awesome cover art, which is the first thing people see. And I think I wrote a pretty intriguing book summary. The rest of it’s due to taking advantage of Amazon’s free promotional tool. Reborn hit Amazon’s free bestsellers list; it peaked at #15 in New Adult and College Romance and #16 in Paranormal & Urban Fantasy. That was unexpected and super cool. (Of course, it also makes me really nervous. I mean, even if Relapse didn’t do as well, it would be fine, but still…..) Including the free copies, I’ve sold over 4000 copies of Reborn, and over 1000 paid copies. Considering I had really low expectations, it’s been really overwhelming.

Now, here comes the what I’ve learned/advice part (in no particular order):

1. It’s not going to be easy. It’s like the saying goes: Anything worth doing isn’t going to be easy. I’m an impatient person, so accepting that this wasn’t going to be an easy undertaking (if done right) was a big step for me. There was a point when I was tempted to just throw the original version of Reborn up on Amazon because it seemed so easy. Obviously, I’m glad I didn’t…when I reread it I realized how much work it needed, and I got some valuable input from beta readers and such that I was able to incorporate. I’m just saying: The temptation to put up an unfinished product will be there, but you must resist! I appreciate all that Amazon’s done to make self-publishing easier for independent authors, but I don’t like that they overemphasize the “easy” aspect in all of their marketing materials. Yes, maybe getting your book up there is relatively easy, but you have to realize and accept that there’s going to be a lot of work leading up to that moment. (On a side note, it’s not as simple as Amazon makes it out to be. You have to strictly adhere to their formatting guidelines and then check the previews to make sure it’s going to look good on someone’s Kindle screen. No, it’s not rocket science, but it takes up a little bit of time.)

In my opinion, if you think any of this is “easy,” you’re doing something wrong.

2. Tell people about it. “It” being your book, of course. This is probably the hardest step for most writers. Many writers are introverts and may not feel comfortable with marketing their work, putting themselves out there. I’d say I’m an introvert because I like doing intellectual or creative solo activities and I sort of live in my head a lot. I definitely have hermit tendencies, lol! But I’m not the type of person who’s afraid to put themselves out there or talk about my work–or talk in front of people, for that matter. So maybe I’m not a true introvert. In any case, you may have to dig up some courage to market your book(s) because, otherwise, people simply won’t know about it or how/where to find it. This advice goes for any author,not just self-published. I’ve heard that a lot of the promotional responsibilities fall to authors just starting out, even when they have a publisher. Maybe you think your book should just be able to stand on its own–and, if it’s a good book, people will find it and read it. That’s a nice thought, but, if potential readers don’t even know your book exists or where to find it, they’re not going to read it.

As far as social media goes, Facebook and this blog have worked the best for me. This blog was a great way to connect with fellow authors and book reviewers, and it’s also how I found my incredible graphic designer! My Facebook page enabled me to update my family and friends about this blog and, later, Reborn, and I’ve managed to build up a small following on there–mostly by following other Facebook book club pages and pimping my page there. Twitter has worked out ok, I guess. I have over 700 followers on there, but except for a handful of people, I’m not sure it’s very meaningful–at least not yet. There are a lot of spam profiles on Twitter. Twitter seems best for, again, networking with authors and book reviewers. (By the way, when you’re first starting out, a lot of the people who are going to read your book are also writers.) Fellow authors: I’d like to know which social media platforms have worked for you, so please share in the comments!

Goodreads is another platform you can use, although don’t stalk your ratings/reviews on there unless you have a thick skin. Then again, if you’re going to do this and put your work out there, you’re going to have to

3. Grow a pair. Haha, I’m just being blunt. But, seriously, you’re going to have to. Because, even though I’ve interacted with a lot of nice, supportive authors, bloggers, and reviewers out there, there are a lot of @$$holes on the Internet, too relapsecover(as you may be aware of from reading any comments section to basically any article on the Internet, ever). You might think you’ll be able to handle it well–that first time someone criticizes your work–and, hey, maybe you will. But I don’t think most people (writers) are like that. Now, I have noticed that, in the indie author world, people don’t seem like they think anyone should ever criticize their work, ever (I’m talking about helpful criticism here that might actually help you develop as a writer). I mean, no matter what you do in life, no matter what you choose to pursue, someone out there is going to disagree with it/criticize it/have something to say about it. Or maybe because I’m in grad school I just go into everything now expecting to get shot down. To be honest, this is why sometimes I find the atmosphere of the indie world to be a little thin-skinned.

That being said, the first time you get a bad review , it probably won’t be from a fellow author or a book reviewer, and it’s most likely not going to be the helpful kind of criticism that helps you improve your craft. It’s going to be someone venting about how your heroine is a slut and that, ugh, there are cheerleaders and sorority girls in this book! 😉 Yep…I can’t help you there. The book is simply not for you. And you have two hands and a keyboard and can vent about whatever you like on Goodreads, Tumblr, whatever. The anonymity of the Internet gives everyone the urge to vent.

Then again, knowing/accepting this isn’t going to make handling bad reviews any easier. You’ve dedicated precious time between work/school/your family/whatever to perfecting your novel, and in two minutes someone finds a way to shoot it down. I’m not sure I have a great advice on how to handle it, except to be ready for it…and maybe don’t stalk your reviews (especially on Goodreads, which has a lot of trolls). It’s hard to resist, though…I don’t do a very good job of it. The best way I’ve found to deal with it is to vent to my family and friends…and also to incorporate it into my book somehow, lol. Yes, I got a few people who, in so many words, called Siobhan a slut…and so several side characters in Relapse make snide comments about Siobhan’s love life/how many boyfriends she has. (I don’t cast these people in the best light…let’s stop calling women sluts, ‘k?) I’m not saying my approach is going to change any minds–and I’m not trying to–I’m just putting it to creative use rather than continuing to mope about it.

And, whatever you do, don’t do the reverse catfishing thing that one author did to the person that gave her a bad review. I’m not even linking to the author’s article on here because she went way too far and mentioned way too many personal details about the true identity of the reviewer (even if she didn’t mention any specific names).

4. Become Amazon’s bitch (at least at first). I’m borrowing the phrase Amazon’s bitch from Mr. Tom Benson. (I hope you don’t mind, Tom.) You can read about his self-publishing experiences on Amazon here and here. Besides everything else I’ve talked about so far, utilizing Amazon’s free promotion deal, which gives you up to 5 days of offering your book for free for Kindle (assuming that number hasn’t changed since I used it), enabled readers to take a chance on a new author (me) with no strings attached. There are also a lot of Twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, etc. that scour Amazon for free books and promote them without you having to do anything (except make your book free). The only downside is, in order to use Amazon’s countdown deals or free promotion, the electronic version of your book has to be exclusive to Amazon for three months (hence, you are “Amazon’s bitch,” lol). Which might sound like a bad thing, except, as a self-published author, most of your sales are going to come from Amazon, anyway. Reborn was exclusive to Amazon for the first three months or so, then I uploaded it to Smashwords, which in turn makes it available to Barnes and Noble (Nook), the iTunes book store, Scribd, etc. I’ve made a little under $5 from all of these other sites combined.

Do whatever works best for you, but I would seriously consider being exclusive to Amazon for the first few months, especially if you’re just starting out.

5. Edit, edit, edit. I also get the sense sometimes that some indie authors place less importance on the editing part than the writing part. And get offended when a reviewer mentions it. Polishing your story for spelling/grammatical errors/typos is just as important as any other aspect of the process. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when I’m reading something. I don’t bother to mention it in my own reviews of fellow indie author’s work–because I notice a lot of avoidable errors in all of them. Yes, I’m reading critically, but there are usually a lot more in self-published books than traditionally published ones. This is a tough area, too, because, let’s face it, a lot of writers don’t have the money to hire an editor at first, or even a copy editor. And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using Amazon’s editing service, although I don’t speak from experience–it just seems like a bad idea to send your precious book off to some faceless editor you haven’t built a relationship with.

But at least have more than yourself read over it, even friends and family that are sticklers for picking out these kinds of mistakes. Make it as polished as possible. Your book is, essentially, a product–don’t sell someone a bad product. Don’t sell something for $4.99 that isn’t finished and still has a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes.

(As another aside, even when multiple people read over your book, a few mistakes are of course going to slip through the cracks. Poor editing is one of my biggest pet peeves, and yet I noticed the other day, when I was looking something up in Reborn, there’s a typo in chapter one–it says “titled” instead of “tilted.” It made me cringe. I’ll go back and fix it, at some point…..)

6. Be patient. I said this before, and I’ll say it again. Building up an audience is going to take time. Just have patience and keep on writing. It’s great to have people to write for, but remember to still write for yourself–because it’s something you love to do.

And, last but not least:

7. Don’t give up! 🙂 Even if your first book sells two copies in two years…even if it has a one star average on Goodreads…don’t give up. Just keep learning, keep improving your craft, keep writing!!!

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I hope some of this, at least, was helpful! If you’ve gotten to this point, thanks for “listening” to me babble. And get excited, because Relapse releases December 2, 2014! You can read the prologue here.

Relapse Playlist


Just for fun, here’s a playlist of the songs I was listening to while I was writing Relapse. Links take you to YouTube.

I guess I really like Placebo…

1. “My Sweet Prince” by Placebo

2. “G.U.Y.” by Lady Gaga

3. “Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie

4. “Cars” by Gary Numan

5. “Bad” by U2

6. “Shout” by Tears for Fears

7. “In the Cold Light of Morning” by Placebo

8. “Shady” by Adam Lambert

9. “Meds” by Placebo

10. “Goodness Gracious” by Ellie Goulding

11. “Blind” by Placebo

12. “Pretty When You Cry” by VAST

13. “Devil Inside” by INXS